The Giant Insider Online

NFC East: With Witten Gone, Who Will Become the New Giant Killer?

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is gone, retired after 15 years of torturing the New York Giants and their fans. So is Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who the Giants usually got the better of in his stint in Washington. Also out of view are Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Mychal Thompson, who were salary cap casualties this offseason.

Outside of those moves, there have been few earth-shattering moves made by the other three teams in the NFC East. The Giants might be the most active of the bunch since the end of the 2017 season, and rightfully so. They needed to make wholesale changes.

Here are some new faces that promise to make their mark in the NFC East this season.

Alex Smith, QB, Washington

The Redskins were never in love with Cousins, hesitating to commit to him long-term. The Skins’ intentions became evident when they made the trade with Kansas City for Smith, who became expendable when the quarterback job was handed to second-year player Pat Mahomes.

Smith, at 34, is still a viable option at quarterback and head coach Jay Gruden seems to be pleased with the switch. Smith is a leader and a winner who protects the football and has been called a “game manager” by many, citing his high-percentage, low-risk, low turnover production and a 50-26 record as the Chiefs’ starter. That’s a stark contrast to Cousins, who could be explosive at times but had a career record of 26-30-1 in Washington.

Minnesota still had a high opinion of Cousins, inking him to an $84 million deal in free agency.

Michael Bennett, DE, Philadelphia

Bennett became a cap casualty of sorts in Seattle and was traded to the Eagles in March for wide receiver Marcus Johnson and a fifth-round draft pick. His off-field issues also led the Seahawks to rid themselves of him.

That didn’t stop the Eagles from bringing him aboard, however. They have a stacked defensive line already with Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Timmy Jernigan and Haloti Ngata. Bennett adds a high-energy veteran to the group who averages 30 tackles and 7-8 sacks per season.

In a rotational situation, Bennett should be more effective. This could be a hit-or-miss deal for the Eagles, but the way things have been going for them recently, it will likely be a hit.

Tavon Austin, WR, Dallas

The Los Angeles Rams never knew exactly what to do with the former first-round pick out of West Virginia. His size (5-foot-8, 180 pounds) may have had a lot to do with it. He did have some production on the offense and was primarily used on special teams as a returner.

Austin is the type of player owner Jerry Jones loves — fast, explosive and entertaining. Jones’ son, executive vice president Stephen Jones was quoted as saying that the team hopes to get the ball into Austin’s hands as much as possible; “a dozen to two dozen” times a game. That seems a bit high, but quarterback Dak Prescott is a believer as well.

“Coaches have a great plan, whether it’s getting him out of the backfield, lining him up at X, lining him up at Z, putting him in the slot,” Prescott said via the Dallas News. “He’s a guy we get the ball in his hands, he’ll score some points and get a bunch of yards in this offense.”

Rookies to Keep an Eye On….

Derrius Guice, RB, Washington…Guice was said to be on the Giants’ radar in Round 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft if they couldn’t land Saquon Barkley in Round 1. Washington selected the LSU star with the 59th overall selection and he is slated to become a starter right out of the gate. Initially, the Redskins saw Guice as a first and second round “banger,” but have since changed their tune after watching him catch the football out of the backfield at organized team activities (OTAs) and mini-camp. Washington has one the best receiving running backs in the NFL already in Chris Thompson, so the addition of Guice in an offense with short-passing expert Alex Smith at the helm will only enhance the Redskins’ ability to move the chains on third downs.

Dallas Goedert TE, Philadelphia…it’s only fitting the Eagles draft a tight end named Dallas to taunt the rival Cowboys. It was a peculiar pick by Philly since they already have the real deal at tight end in Zack Ertz, but having another big receiving target in their arsenal can only be a plus. The South Dakota State product compares favorably to Ertz, and at 6-foot-5 and 256 pounds will be an imposing slot and red zone option for Doug Pederson’s passing attack.  It may take time to get Goedert involved in the offense since he’s not considered an ‘in-line” tight end, meaning he’ll likely be used in packages than at the traditional tight end spot. Either way, the Eagles see his addition as piling on to an already fully-stocked roster.

Kyle Vander Esch, LB, Dallas…taken with the 19th overall pick by the Cowboys this spring out of Boise State, Vander Esch, 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, has been compared to Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher and former Redskins and Giants star Lavar Arrington by several scouts. That’s high praise. Vander Esch is scheduled to be the team’s strong side backer and complete Dallas’ superstar linebacking crew that currently sports Sean Lee at weakside linebacker and Jaylon Smith in the middle. The only issue with Vander Esch seems to be his health. He was flagged for neck issues by teams scouting him before the draft and he is currently dealing with a minor ankle injury that sidelined him during the team’s offseason program.

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