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  • The defending Super Bowl champions add pieces for the returning Carson Wentz, while both Dallas and Washington lack true No. 1 receiver options. Also, staying true to his form, Giants new GM Dave Gettleman upgraded the offensive line to protect Eli Manning for at least one more season.
By Jenny Vrentas
June 19, 2018

DALLAS COWBOYS

2017 Record: 9–7
Crucial veteran additions: WR Allen Hurns, WR/RB Tavon Austin, OT Cam Fleming, DE Kony Ealy
Crucial veteran losses: WR Dez Bryant, TE Jason Witten, G Jonathan Cooper, CB Orlando Scandrick, LB Anthony Hitchens
2018 NFL draft picks and grades

What improved?

The Cowboys doubled-down on their offensive line, the unit that has been their greatest strength the past few seasons. They made Zack Martin the league’s highest-paid guard last week, signing him to a six-year, $84 million extension; drafted Connor Williams in the second round to start at left guard, replacing Cooper; and signed Fleming as a versatile back-up.

What needs work?

In less than a month’s time this offseason, Dak Prescott lost his top two targets, when Bryant was released and Witten retired, so the hodge-podge Dallas receiving corps is going with the “prove the world wrong” approach, per the Dallas Morning News. But without a clear No. 1 receiver, and the security of a player like Witten, who will be the difference-makers for Prescott to throw to on the outside?

What can we expect?

The Cowboys look a lot different from the 2016 team that went 13-3 en route to earning the NFC’s No. 1 seed. But the team hopes its strengths from that year are the same: The offensive line and RB Ezekiel Elliott, playing a full season in 2018 after being suspended for six games last year, as the result of domestic violence allegations from a former girlfriend. Bryant’s release hinted at some of the tension that was under the surface during the 2017 season, and whether Jerry Jones says it or not, head coach Jason Garrett, entering his eighth year with just three winning seasons and a single postseason victory, is on the hot seat.

Fact/tidbit/piece of news learned from OTAs/minicamp: DT David Irving, who recorded seven sacks in eight games last season, will be suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season for violating the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse. It’s the second straight year Irving will be suspended for one-quarter of the season, the latest development in a tumultuous offseason for Irving, who missed much of the offseason program dealing with what he called “family issues.”

Best offseason tweet from a team’s player or coach:

GRADE: C


NEW YORK GIANTS

2017 Record: 3–13
Crucial veteran additions: LT Nate Solder, LB Alec Ogletree, RB Jonathan Stewart, LB Kareem Martin
Crucial veteran losses: G Justin Pugh, C Weston Richburg, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
2018 NFL draft picks and grades

What improved?

Staying true to his love for the "hog mollies," GM Dave Gettleman’s immediate priority was addressing the Giants’ offensive line. Landing Solder was the Giants’ biggest move of the offseason, and they followed it up by drafting Will Hernandez, who is likely to start at left guard this season. Solder not only upgrades the level of play on a unit that was the team’s most glaring weakness last year, but he’s also taken on a mentor role to Ereck Flowers, the 2015 first-round pick who’s underachieved in his first three seasons.

What needs work?

The Giants passed on the chance to use the No. 2 overall pick on Eli Manning’s successor. That decision confirmed they believe Manning, 37, still has a few more good years to play. It also said that they viewed RB Saquon Barkley as a generational talent, more than any of the draft-eligible QBs. But if Manning doesn’t have a good year in ’18, with a beefed-up offensive line and an impressive stable of weapons, that decision is prime to be second-guessed.

What can we expect?

It’s safe to expect 2018 will go better for the Giants than the team’s ’17 season that went off the rails in pretty much every possible way—from Odell Beckham Jr.’s injury to locker-room discord to the firings of Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese. Under new head coach Pat Shurmur, the Giants have adopted a “clean slate” attitude that should be beneficial for key players like Beckham, Flowers and Eli Apple. Now how much better will 2018 be? Much falls on Manning to affirm the organization’s confidence in him and lead an offense with much-improved talent to a much-improved performance.

Fact/tidbit/piece of news learned from OTAs/minicamp: Beckham was running at full speed and without hesitation after fracturing his left ankle in October, per the New York beat writers in attendance. Now the focus turns to the big question of the offseason: Will the Giants and Beckham work out a contract extension before the start of the 2018 season?

Best offseason tweet from a team’s player or coach

GRADE: B


Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

2017 Record: 13-3
Crucial veteran additions: DE Michael Bennett, DT Haloti Ngata, WR Mike Wallace
Crucial veteran losses: RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Torrey Smith, TE Trey Burton, TE Brent Celek, DT Beau Allen, DE Vinny Curry, CB Patrick Robinson, LB Mychal Kendricks
2018 NFL draft picks and grades

What improved?

The Eagles have a nice group of pass-catchers. Top receiver Alshon Jeffery is on his way back from offseason rotator-cuff surgery, but the Eagles offset some of their losses with players who may end up being bigger contributors. Mike Wallace replaced Torrey Smith as the deep threat, and TE Dallas Goedert, drafted in the second round after the team lost Celek and Burton, can be an immediate red-zone target. 

What needs work?

One of the Eagles’ greatest assets last season was a triumvirate of former college and pro QBs shepherding the offense, in head coach Doug Pederson, offensive coordinator Frank Reich and QBs coach John DeFilippo. Two of the three are now coaching elsewhere, with Reich as the head coach in Indianapolis and DeFilippo as the offensive coordinator in Minnesota. That’s not to say this is an area that necessarily needs work as Pederson is still leading the way, but there’s always a period of adjustment when losing important voices in the QB room.

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What can we expect?

The defending Super Bowl champions returned for their offseason program with Pederson preaching a “new normal,” carrying forward the success of last season. The Eagles have had the usual post-Super Bowl turnover on their roster, and they also have many key players returning from injuries, from QB Carson Wentz to LB Jordan Hicks to LT Jason Peters. The way Wentz played in 2017 before his injury looked like the kind of QB play that would set Philadelphia up to be contenders for years to come—but just in case, as he rehabs from his season-ending ACL tear, the Eagles declined to trade Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. The coach, the QBs and the strong locker room foundation that carried the Eagles to a championship last season set them up for success in 2018.

Fact/tidbit/piece of news learned from OTAs/minicamp: Carson Wentz looks really good throwing the football. With no setbacks so far, Wentz has stuck to his goal of being ready to play Week 1 against the Falcons, nine months after tearing his left ACL.

Best offseason tweet from a team’s player or coach

GRADE: B


WASHINGTON REDSKINS

2017 Record: 7-9
Crucial veteran additions: QB Alex Smith, WR Paul Richardson, LB Pernell McPhee, CB Orlando Scandrick
Crucial veteran losses: QB Kirk Cousins, C Spencer Long, WR Ryan Grant, WR Terrelle Pryor, LB Trent Murphy, CB Kendall Fuller, S Su’a Cravens
2018 NFL draft picks and grades

What improved?

Last season, Washington’s run defense ranked dead last in the NFL. But the defensive line might be the strongest position group on the roster, anchored by two Alabama defensive tackles selected in the first round in back-to-back years. Pairing Jonathan Allen, returning this year from his season-ending foot injury, with Daron Payne and fifth-round pick Tim Settle, should strengthen the front and open up opportunities for Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith off the edge.

What needs work?

Washington spent $40 million on Paul Richardson, and are banking on Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder to take big steps forward this season. But that’s a gamble. None of the three has produced a 1,000-yard receiving season, and with TE Jordan Reed’s health a perennial question mark, QB Alex Smith doesn’t have nearly the weapons he did in Kansas City.

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Can Alex Smith Turn Around Washington’s Misfortunes? Players, Coaches and Fans Are Hopeful

What can we expect?

Washington was never ready to commit to QB Kirk Cousins in the way that Minnesota did this offseason, so the team pulled off a surprising trade in late January for Smith. The big question entering this season is, Will Smith be an upgrade at QB? The 34-year-old has led his team to the playoffs four of the past five seasons and is coming off the best season of his career, but he also comes to a team without the same supporting cast that he had with Andy Reid, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and co.

Fact/tidbit/piece of news learned from OTAs/minicamp: After an injury-plagued 2017 season, head coach Jay Gruden is making changes with an eye on player health. Among them: Changing the training camp schedule to hold practices in the morning and walk-throughs in the afternoon, the reverse of what Gruden has done in the past, to give players more time to recover.

Best offseason tweet from a team’s player or coach

Kendall Fuller’s live Twitter reaction upon finding out that he was the unnamed player in the Alex Smith trade.

GRADE: C

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