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Cowboys receivers are most Beast of the NFC East

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

 

The reputation of the Beast was born in the 1980s through mid-‘90s when Super Bowls were won by the San Francisco 49ers and whoever won the NFC East.

That was oh so last century. The NFC Beast is still considered a competitive division. The New York Giants restored some of its luster, but no one calls the Beast toughest in the league anymore.

Every Beast team has questionable secondaries. Its O-lines are not the muscular, dominant units of Gibbs and Parcells. There’s one other area where NFC East teams are not so beastly – wide receiver.

Long time Hog Heaven readers are familiar with our 6-7-8-9-10-11 benchmark for evaluating receiving corps. It’s a memory device for measuring a team’s No. 2 and the No. 1 receiver. The benchmark applies to wide receivers only. Tight ends do not count

The benchmark order is Receptions-Touchdowns-Yards. A No. 2 wide-out should deliver 60 catches, seven touchdowns and 800 yards for his team. The No. 1 receiver should deliver 90 catches, 10 TDs and 1,100 yards. The more overage, the better the performance. The greater the shortfall, the poorer the performance.

Hog Heaven took a second look at the 2012 stats for NFC East receivers. Well, what else is there to do between the NFL Draft and training camp?

To go by the 6-7-8-9-10-11 benchmark, NFC East receivers were not very beastly, with one exception. Dez Bryant delivered the best Cowboys receiver performance since Terrell Owens in 2007. The 13-3 Cowboys won the division (and then were ambushed by the Giants in route to a Super Bowl win).   

Bryant’s growth makes Dallas the biggest threat to Washington’s defense of its division crown.

Duck and cover.

Hog Heaven readers are gagging over that one sentence. I understand, but Dallas stands out in performance against the benchmark. It takes only a modest projection for the 2013 season to see the Cowboys passing game as the division’s most formidable, especially against Beastly secondaries.

Bill Belichick’s two tight end sets are changing the passing game. Former Broncos GM Ted Sundquist wrote that teams began to upgrade tight ends because they presented better value as receivers than wide receivers. So Hog Heaven is throwing in raw stats for tight ends, but not measuring them against the benchmark. Tight ends are icing on the cake. There still must be cake. Here’s a synopsis of NFC East receivers against the benchmark.

Dallas Cowboys

PLAYER

REC

TDS

YDS

REC

TDS

YDS

REC

TDS

YDS

 

6

7

8

9

10

11

M. Austin

66

6

943

 

 

 

 

 

 

D. Bryant

 

 

 

92

12

1382

 

 

 

J. Witten (TE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

110

3

1039

    

Dez Bryant’s refusal to carry Roy Williams helmet during his rookie preseason always troubled me. Whatever his potential, Williams hadn’t paid his dues to refuse the Cowboys initiation into their football family. Bryant was clearly drafted to replace Williams who would carry his under-performance to the Bears. Ironically, it was Bryant’s family assault charge that might have cleared his head.

It took something big to make the point to Bryant. Assaulting your mother is never excusable, but Bryant’s background is uniquely troubling. He twisted his head straight just in time to have a monster season. Bryant is the only Beast receiver to hit the No. 1 benchmarks (9-10-11). Miles Austin hit the No. 2 benchmarks.

How dare Hog Heaven call TE Jason Witten the Cowboys’ weak point when he caught 110 passes, 73 percent of the balls thrown to him. Well, three touchdowns out of 150 attempts to him is failure of the first order. No wonder Tony Romo will have a larger voice in forming game plans and OC Bill Callahan will call the plays.

We aren’t awarding the division to Dallas, but we don’t think Bryant’s performance is a fluke. A Cowboys improvement over their 8-8 record is easily achievable.    

New York Giants

Giants receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks

PLAYER

REC

TDS

YDS

REC

TDS

YDS

REC

TDS

YDS

 

6

7

8

9

10

11

H. Nicks

53

3

692

 

 

 

 

 

 

V. Cruz

 

 

 

86

10

1092

 

 

 

M. Bennett (TE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

55

5

626

 

Sez here that Victor Cruz wants to be paid like a No. 1 receiver, but that the Giants consider Hakeem Nicks No. 1 and they want to pay Cruz like the No. 2 man. The Giants better take a second look at the chart above.

Only Robert Griffin III’s knee is more questionable within the division than Nicks’ knee. Nicks barely met some of the benchmarks for a No. 1 in 2010 and 2011. He was short of the No. 2 benchmarks last season. When Nicks is healthy and on his game, he and Cruz may be the best one-two punch of all Beast receivers. Knees and hands are the two big question marks about him.

The Giants run a good organization. They have talent to seize the division when rivals fail. Hog Heaven expects they will resolve contract issues for both players. We don’t see Nicks wasting his contract year either. That’s good news for the Giants, bad news to the division.

Washington Redskins

Santana Moss, Photo credit: Ed Sheahin, Twitter: @NFLSkins

PLAYER

REC

TDS

YDS

REC

TDS

YDS

REC

TDS

YDS

 

6

7

8

9

10

11

S. Moss

41

8

573

 

 

 

 

 

 

P. Garćon

 

 

 

44

4

673

 

 

 

F. Davis (TE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

0

325

   

Santana Moss shall go down as one of the greatest Redskins receivers in history, but shouldn’t Leonard Hankerson or Joshua Morgan show up as No. 2 instead of Moss? Yes. Yes they should have. Therein lays our quandary.

Washington won the division with the 20th-ranked passing offense in yards. Yards aren’t the complete story. The Redskins tied for 13th for passing scores, in good company with the 49ers, Seahawks and Ravens. Robert Griffin III made everyone, including the coaches, look better. The ball-control ground game hid shortfalls in the receiving corps. Defenses will adjust. They always do.

Washington’s top two receivers failed the Hog Heaven benchmark. Yes, injuries took their toll, but when you project Pierre Garćon’s stats to a full year’s performance, the numbers (70 receptions, 6 TDs, 1012 yards) are still short of the benchmark. At least Garćon shows better on video than on paper. If Moss again shows up as the second best receiver, something is seriously wrong with the rest of the receiving corps.

Roll Fred Davis’ and Logan Paulsen’s stats together and you match Brent Celek’s (Phi) performance. Tight end performance is not part of this benchmark, but that’s where the Redskins can make up for shortfalls elsewhere. We are waiting for a true breakout season by Fred Davis. This has to be the year.

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson

PLAYER

REC

TDS

YDS

REC

TDS

YDS

REC

TDS

YDS

 

6

7

8

9

10

11

D. Jackson

45

2

700

 

 

 

 

 

 

J. Macklin

 

 

 

69

7

856

 

 

 

B. Celek (TE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

57

1

684

 

Andy Reid was doomed before the season started. Watching the Eagles slow motion train wreck was painful, and I say that as a Redskins fan. Losing left tackle Jason Peters for the season rolled through the Eagles like diarrhea. They left a trail of stink everywhere.

Nick Foles’ audition matched Michael Vick’s passing performance. That was easy because Vick wasn’t very good. Philly lost 15 rushing touchdowns in 2012 from LeSean McCoy’s 2011 scoring. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were far from the dynamic receivers they once were.

Peters is back, but Reid is gone. New head coach Chip Kelly left the Oregon Ducks ahead of NCAA investigations. Neither the Eagles nor their fans care about that. What they want is for Kelly to install that potent offense he employed at Oregon.

He has the tools to do it. Philadelphia’s O-line should be healthier if nothing else. Kelly can make the most of Shady McCoy. We don’t know his choice for quarterback, but Kelly is a second chance, of sorts, for Vick.

Neither Dan Reeves nor Jim Mora could transform Vick into a pro passer. The Falcons imported college coach Bobby Petrino to install a college offense Vick could run. Vick’s midnight hobby, the real reason he failed with Reeves and Mora, caught up with him. He never had the chance to run Petrino’s offense.

Enter another college coach and Vick gets another crack at that situation. Or not. Kelly saw Foles in the PAC-12, usually during Oregon’s kick-butt wins over Arizona. Vick and Foles split time with the first team during the OTAs. Either Kelly hasn’t made his choice about quarterback, or he’s following the Jets’ lead and sending a message to last year’s starter, and to everyone else (Looking at you, DeSean Jackson).

That makes it impossible to project anything about Eagles receivers before preseason. Kelly has to show his his scheme, pick a quarterback, mix in the run game, which will be different than Reid’s run-pass mix, and then he must jiggle pass distribution to the receivers.

Philadelphia’s receivers are capable, but there are too many moving parts to guess how much better they might be, or how much time they need to do it. That’s why I ranked them last.

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Anthony Brown

About Anthony Brown

Lifelong Redskins fan and blogger about football and life since 2004. Joined MVN's Hog Heaven blog in 2005 and then moved Redskins Hog Heaven to Bolguin Network. Believes that the course of a season is pre-ordained by management decisions made during the offseason. Can occasionally be found on the This Given Sunday blog and he does guest posts.

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