Projected Starters  

 

NFC East projected starters: Eli has weapons and line questions

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Gregg Rosenthal will project post-draft starting lineups for all 32 teams, because it's May and he misses football. The NFC East is below:

Dallas Cowboys

QB: Dak Prescott
RB: Ezekiel Elliott
WR: Dez Bryant
WR: Cole Beasley
WR: Terrance Williams
TE: Jason Witten
LT: Tyron Smith
LG: Jonathan Cooper
C: Travis Frederick
RG: Zack Martin
RT: La'el Collins

DE: Demarcus Lawrence
DT: Tyrone Crawford
DT: Maliek Collins
DE: Taco Charlton
OLB: Anthony Hitchens
MLB: Sean Lee
CB: Orlando Scandrick
CB: Nolan Carroll
CB: Anthony Brown
S: Byron Jones
S: Jeff Heath

» The Cowboys' offensive line faces more questions entering the season than usual, although most teams would love to have these sort of high-class problems. Dallas' three All-Pro linemen (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin) remain intact, but left guard is a weak spot and the team will try third-year pro La'el Collins at right tackle.

» Terrance Williams was re-signed to play opposite Dez Bryant, but Cole Beasley is listed as the No. 2 receiver above because he's more integral to the offense.

» The Cowboys spent most of their draft trying to fill holes created in March. Taco Charlton has a good chance to start as a rookie, essentially in the role Randy Gregory was supposed to play before his suspension. The Cowboys drafted four players in the secondary to replace the four key contributors that left in free agency. Dallas could desperately use second- and third-round cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis to make an early impact and upgrade a middling group.

» There is more depth on the defensive line overall, with David Irving and Cedric Thornton not listed above. But there is still not much edge-rushing presence, and the middle of the team's run defense looks soft. That's a rough combination to overcome.

» Second-year pro Jaylon Smith is not listed as a starter coming off a serious knee injury complicated by nerve damage. The Cowboys would love him to fortify a thin linebacker depth chart for them, but his status is a total mystery until proven otherwise.

New York Giants

QB: Eli Manning
RB: Paul Perkins
WR: Odell Beckham Jr.
WR: Sterling Shepard
WR: Brandon Marshall
TE: Evan Engram
LT: Ereck Flowers
LG: Justin Pugh
C: Weston Richburg
RG: D.J. Fluker
RT: Bobby Hart

DE: Jason Pierre-Paul
DT: Damon Harrison
DT: Dalvin Tomlinson
DE: Olivier Vernon
MLB: Keenan Robinson
OLB: Devon Kennard
CB: Janoris Jenkins
CB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
CB: Eli Apple
S: Landon Collins
S: Darian Thompson

» This is the best receiver group of Eli Manning's career, and he's had some sweet ones. Manning just needs to prove he can still hit the deep pass, and the Giants need to do a better job protecting him ...

» The Giants surprisingly didn't touch their offensive line until the sixth round of the draft. They are publicly hoping that their young tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart take huge leaps in 2017 or all the offensive talent in the building could go to waste. Another option would be for free-agent pickup D.J. Fluker to take over for Hart at right tackle, with John Jerry at right guard.

» Tight end Evan Engram was a surprising selection in the first round if only because the team is already stocked with receivers from the slot. Engram is not so different in size or skill set than Brandon Marshall. It will be fascinating to see how the Giants deploy Engram, Marshall and Sterling Shepard together, with Engram possibly a part-time player as a rookie.

» Paul Perkins might still have some competition from a veteran free-agent pickup. Perkins' best games last year came when teams were begging the Giants to run out of shotgun.

» New York could be the best run-stopping team in football with Damon Harrison and second-round pick Dalvin Tomlinson playing next to each other. JPP and Olivier Vernon are excellent run stuffers at defensive end, too.

» The Giants go cheap at linebacker year after year. It's a strategy they can pull off when the defensive line and secondary are both so loaded.

Philadelphia Eagles

QB: Carson Wentz
RB: LeGarrette Blount
WR: Alshon Jeffery
WR: Jordan Matthews
WR: Torrey Smith
TE: Zach Ertz
LT: Jason Peters
LG: Isaac Seumalo
C: Jason Kelce
RG: Brandon Brooks
RT: Lane Johnson

DE: Brandon Graham
DT: Fletcher Cox
DT: Timmy Jernigan
DE: Derek Barnett
OLB: Nigel Bradham
ILB: Jordan Hicks
OLB: Mychal Kendricks
CB: Jalen Mills
CB: Patrick Robinson
S: Rodney McLeod
S: Malcolm Jenkins

» The Eagles are hopeful that second-year pro Wendell Smallwood can step up in his second season, although it's clear there is no traditional "workhorse" back here. That includes LeGarrette Blount, added to handle early downs and short-yardage work. Look for Blount to share duties with Smallwood and 13-year veteran Darren Sproles, in what is expected to be his last season. This is a group that gives Eagles coach Doug Pederson great flexibility.

» The backfield is only one corner of an Eagles depth chart that feels unfinished. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks, wide receiver Jordan Matthews and center Jason Kelce have been subjects of trade rumors that haven't gone away. General manager Howie Roseman is not afraid to make deals and he's built a roster full of flexibility to make changes. (Kelce is the most logical to still get traded.)

» The offensive line is especially deep. Not listed here: Chance Warmack, Allen Barbre and Stefen Wisniewski, who have started a lot of games between them.

» Torrey Smith is the favorite to win the No. 3 receiver job, but he has to show well in camp because his contract contains very little guaranteed money.

» The overhaul on the defensive line was dramatic. Chris Long and Vinny Curry will add to the defensive end rotation, but I included first-round pick Derek Barnett as a starter in the Eagles' best-case scenario. Timmy Jernigan could be one of the steals of the offseason, obtained in a cheap trade.

» Like the Cowboys, the Eagles drafted cornerbacks in the second and third rounds to bolster a weak position. Second-round pick Sidney Jones was a long-term gamble as he's coming off a torn Achilles tendon.

Washington Redskins

QB: Kirk Cousins
RB: Samaje Perine
WR: Terrelle Pryor
WR: Jamison Crowder
WR: Josh Doctson
TE: Jordan Reed
LT: Trent Williams
LG: Shawn Lauvao
C: Spencer Long
RG: Brandon Scherff
RT: Morgan Moses

DE: Jonathan Allen
DT: Terrell McClain
DE: Stacy McGee
OLB: Ryan Kerrigan
ILB: Zach Brown
ILB: Will Compton
OLB: Preston Smith
CB: Josh Norman
CB: Bashaud Breeland
S: D.J. Swearinger
S: Su'a Cravens

» It hurts to demote "Fat Rob" Kelley for this exercise because the Tulane product is such a fun player to watch. But Redskins coach Jay Gruden entered the offseason vocally wanting to upgrade the position. While Samaje Perine was a fourth-round pick, he is essentially a more dynamic version of Kelley.

» A strong argument could be made to list underrated passing-down back Chris Thompson as the starter. He led the backfield in snaps last season with 487 and that number should only grow. This is going to be a committee.

» Give former general manager Scot McCloughan some credit for the Redskins offensive line exceeding expectations last season, even when Trent Williams was hurt. Ty Nsekhe, Williams' backup, is one of the more talented reserves in football. This group is greater than the sum of its parts.

» Losing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon hurts. But no one is crying for Kirk Cousins, with Thompson, Jordan Reed, Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson to throw to. Pryor and Doctson are the keys here. They both have "No. 1 receiver" upside, but also have a whiff of boom-or-bust to them.

» It's hard to overstate the defensive transformation. The Redskins changed coordinators and more than half of the starting unit (if this projection proves correct).

» The defensive line was completely remade. First-round pick Jonathan Allen could prove to be a steal, while the Redskins are counting a lot on Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain, two players who weren't exactly standouts on their previous teams. McClain can play defensive end and likely will be part of a deep interior rotation, too.

» Safety is another position with completely new starters. With Su'a Cravens transitioning back to safety, this should be a fun duo to watch fly around the field.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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