Author: Frank Schwab

John Elway will give opinion on Broncos QBs, but Vance Joseph will decide

All quarterback competitions have some level of complication, but the Denver Broncos’ battle might be on the high end of that spectrum.

It’s not enough that Trevor Siemian vs. Paxton Lynch has been the talk of Denver all offseason. The topic of conversation as the Broncos reported to camp on Wednesday was who will pick the winner.

[Read our three biggest questions the Broncos face in training camp here.]

According to Andrew Mason of the Broncos’ web site, coach Vance Joseph said it will be “a group decision – mine and the [coaching] staff and obviously John [Elway] is going to have impact.” All major decisions like that are, to some degree, “a group decision,” but the inclusion of Elway is notable. Joseph is a rookie head coach, hired by Elway, and Elway basically is synonymous with the Broncos and could run for office in Colorado tomorrow and win almost unanimously.

Elway didn’t deny that he’ll have input in whether Siemian or Lynch starts Week 1, saying he’d give his opinion but “ultimately it’s Vance’s choice,” via Mason.

This could get uncomfortable. Perhaps Siemian or Lynch will make the decision obvious. Siemian will begin the first practice with the first team, but Lynch will alternate reps. If there’s no separation, it will be a tough call for Joseph. There has been plenty of speculation that Elway prefers Lynch – who he drafted in the first round last season after a trade up. If that’s true, and there’s a split among the group that will decide, things could get interesting.

Siemian did fine as a first-time starter last season, throwing for 3,401 yards and 18 touchdowns in 14 games. But the former seventh-round pick isn’t viewed as having the same upside as Lynch, who is big and has a great arm but didn’t impress in two starts as a rookie last season.

The Broncos are the best team in the NFL with a true quarterback competition, and it’s likely to drag on through most of training camp. It’s the second straight season the Broncos have dealt with questions at quarterback through August.

A lot of tension in the building will be avoided if Siemian or Lynch do so well there’s no question about who the starter should be. If not, those group meetings might be pretty interesting.

Trevor Siemian begins camp with a slight edge in the battle to start at quarterback. (AP)
Trevor Siemian begins camp with a slight edge in the battle to start at quarterback. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!
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Tom Brady got a perfect 99 'Madden' rating, but who's top rookie?

You can’t put a guy on the “Madden” cover and not give him a great rating in the game.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who is battling the “Madden” curse by appearing on the cover of this year’s edition of the popular video game, got a perfect 99 rating from EA Sports. Go ahead Patriots haters, get the angst out of your system now.

Tom Brady has a perfect
Tom Brady has a perfect “Madden” rating this year. (Twitter.com/EAMaddenNFL)

Coming in second was Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at 98. You might think Rodgers is better but hey, he’s not on the cover.

The most interesting part of the annual “Madden” release, after we find out who made the cover, is usually how the rookies are ranked. Among all rookies, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett had the highest rating, at 83. That makes sense since he was the first pick. The top offensive rookie was a surprise: Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard. The 19th overall pick had an 82 rating, beating out Jacksonville Jaguars Leonard Fournette, the fourth pick, who was an 81. Must be some Alabama fans among the programmers, or someone expecting Howard to have a big rookie season. Fournette thought he would be a 97 overall and was comically disappointed at some of his ratings, so he probably doesn’t agree with being behind Howard.

Football is getting closer, as teams report to training camp, but we still have about six weeks before a game that counts. So we’ll have to settle for virtual NFL football until then.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!
Follow @YahooSchwab

Detroit Lions training camp: Three questions facing the team

The NFL season is inching closer. Through July, Shutdown Corner will examine three big questions for each NFL team as it heads to training camp.

DETROIT LIONS
Report date: July 24 for rookies, July 29 for veterans
Where: Allen Park, Michigan

1. Is Ameer Abdullah healthy and ready to help the running game? 

Abdullah is a fine talent. If you watched last season’s “All or Nothing” you know the Arizona Cardinals desperately wanted him in the second round of the 2015 draft. After the Lions took Abdullah, the Cardinals settled on David Johnson in the third round. Abdullah was OK as a rookie and primed for a bigger role last season, but a Lisfranc foot injury limited him to two games last season. He says he was back to 100 percent early in the offseason, and in very limited duty last season he averaged 5.6 yards per rush and 11.4 yards per reception. Abdullah couldn’t sustain those averages over 16 games but he can be a huge help to a Lions running game that was practically invisible without him. He needs to get through camp healthy first, though.

Ameer Abdullah can provide a boost to a bad Lions running game. (AP)
Ameer Abdullah can provide a boost to a bad Lions running game. (AP)

2. Is Ezekiel Ansah healthy and ready to help the pass rush?

Notice a trend? Ansah established himself as one of the best defensive ends in football two seasons ago, picking up 14.5 sacks. Last season he had just two sacks in 13 games. Ansah was never right after suffering a high ankle sprain early in the season. Presumably Ansah has shaken that off, but no player is more important to the defense. Ansah is Detroit’s pass rush. Ansah has extra motivation to get back to his Pro Bowl level: He can become a free agent after this season. If he plays like he did in 2015, he’ll be one of the hottest players on the market. First, he needs to have a strong and healthy camp.

[Pressing Questions: Fantasy outlook on the Lions]

3. Is this finally Eric Ebron’s breakout season? 

Ebron, who Lions fans can tell you was drafted 10th overall in 2014 two picks before Odell Beckham Jr., has steadily improved. But we haven’t seen the type of season that made him such an enticing prospect coming out of North Carolina. Ebron posted career highs with 61 catches and 711 yards last season, but only scored once. He had some very good games and disappeared for others. The next step for Ebron will be finding consistency, and also finding the end zone more often. Anquan Boldin scored eight times last season for Detroit and he’s gone, so there’s a great opportunity for Ebron to fill that red-zone void.

PREVIOUS TRAINING CAMP PREVIEWS

Cowboys | Texans | Bears | Broncos | Steelers | Saints | Jets | Eagles | Bills | Buccaneers | Cardinals | Titans | Raiders | Giants | Packers | Dolphins | Ravens | 49ers | Chiefs | Redskins | Jaguars | Panthers | Rams | Browns | Patriots | ChargersVikings | Falcons | Bengals

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!
Follow @YahooSchwab

2017 NFL Preview: Does this Seahawks core have one great run left?

Shutdown Corner is previewing all 32 teams as we get ready for the NFL season, counting down the teams one per weekday in reverse order of our initial 2017 power rankings. No. 1 will be revealed on Aug. 2, the day before the Hall of Fame Game kicks off the preseason.

The Seattle Seahawks have been a consistent force in the NFL for five seasons. They’ve won 56 games, three division titles, two NFC championships and a Super Bowl. For anyone but the New England Patriots, that’s great.

That run has come with mostly the same core of players. That also means the Seahawks are aging, at least in NFL terms.

Russell Wilson will be 29 years old during this season. Doug Baldwin will be 29, too. Jimmy Graham will be 31, as will Cliff Avril. Michael Bennett will turn 32. The three stars of the “Legion of Boom,” cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, will be 29, 29 and 28 respectively. Linebacker Bobby Wagner is the young man of the group at just 27.

There’s some younger talent on the depth chart, and the Seahawks could get a few more years out of each of those stars. It’s not like they’re that old. But there should be some urgency. This great Seahawks run has an expiration date, and it might be coming sooner than we expect. Maybe we saw the first signs of a small decline last season.

The Seahawks weren’t the Seahawks last season. They were good but not dominant. Their point differential, which never slipped below plus-140 from 2012-2015, was plus-62. Their final ranking at Football Outsiders, based on their DVOA per-play metric, was ninth in the NFL after finishing first four straight seasons. Three of the 2012-15 Seahawks teams finished among the 10 best teams Football Outsiders has ever tracked, which tracks back to 1989. On the surface the Seahawks had a fine year. They won 10 games, took the NFC West crown and won a playoff game. But last season was a significant step back for Seattle, which has set a really high bar. That continued in the playoffs. After winning a playoff game against a Detroit Lions team that was a fairly weak wild-card entry, the Seahawks were dismantled by the Atlanta Falcons. After Seattle scored the opening touchdown, the Falcons scored 26 of the next 29 points. These Seahawks have rarely been outmatched like they were against the Falcons.

Injuries, particularly ones to Wilson early and Thomas late, affected Seattle last season. That’s a reasonable excuse for some of the struggles (and “struggles” is relative, because most teams would be thrilled with the 2016 Seahawks’ season). The offseason drama, with Sherman trade rumors the team was happy to talk about and then a story that some defensive players resent how Wilson is treated, wasn’t a great sign. However, the outspoken Seahawks operate a bit differently than any other team, so it’s probably not as big of a deal as it might be elsewhere.

Nobody is figuring on the Seahawks fading away this season. However, it’s worth wondering if their run of truly dominant teams is over.

The best guess is the Seahawks still have one more run left in them, at least. The offensive line is bad, but Wilson is used to it. Perhaps Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls can replace what Marshawn Lynch did when Seattle was really clicking. Doug Baldwin has erased any doubts he’s a top receiver. The Seahawks still have a great defense.

When I termed the Seahawks a “dynasty” a couple years ago, some people scoffed. But in the current NFL, what Seattle has done over the past five years at least comes close to dynasty status. They’ve had an amazing run of great football. Another championship would solidify this Seahawks run as at least a mini-dynasty. If they’re going to get that second Super Bowl ring they might want to hurry, because we might have started to see some signs of decline.

Russell Wilson struggled with some injuries last season. (AP)
Russell Wilson struggled with some injuries last season. (AP)

I didn’t like the signing of offensive lineman Luke Joeckel. It was just one year and $8 million but there haven’t been any signs Joeckel is a good NFL lineman. We’ll see if Seattle can fix him. Running back Eddie Lacy was the only other signing of more than $2 million a year, and he’s a fine one-year flier at $4.25 million. I thought getting former Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Bradley McDougald on a one-year, $1.8 million deal was smart. The Seahawks had no first-round pick, but perhaps the team’s second-round picks, defensive tackle Malik McDowell and center Ethan Pocic, play to that level. McDowell in particular is an intriguing talent. We all knew the Seahawks had to spend a ton to keep their stars together and it would affect their flexibility in free agency at some point. We’re seeing that now. Grade: D

The 2016 New England Patriots went 14-1, including playoffs, with Tom Brady in the lineup. Their one loss was at home to the Seahawks. That game, with Russell Wilson throwing for 348 yards and three touchdowns and the defense playing well and forcing a couple turnovers, was a reminder that Seattle can beat anyone. That Seahawks team wasn’t always on display last season, but that win showed what this group is capable of.

The Seahawks’ clear weakness is their offensive line. George Fant was inserted at left tackle during last season, and made his first start since pee-wee football. He didn’t play football in high school or his first four years at Western Kentucky, where he was a power forward before picking up football for a year at the end. Fant is an awesome, fun story, and it’s also incredible the Seahawks’ situation on the offensive line was so bad they had to turn to a power forward at left tackle. The signing of Jaguars first-round bust Luke Joeckel reinforces their belief that they can take average talent and have offensive line coach Tom Cable make them better. That approach hasn’t worked lately, and it’s a reason Russell Wilson is usually running for his life. The Seahawks’ line still looks poor on paper, and that’s the weakness of this team.

Russell Wilson suffered an ankle injury in Week 1, a knee injury in Week 3 that should have kept him out for multiple games (he never missed a start) and a pectoral injury in late October. It’s hard to say if or when he was healthy last season, though it’s fair to say he definitely wasn’t healthy in the first couple months. That’s why it’s meaningful to look at what Wilson did from November on. In those nine games he threw 16 touchdowns with nine interceptions, with 2,407 yards. If you take out two clunkers against the Buccaneers and Packers, he had 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. After posting 44 rushing yards in Seattle’s first seven games, he had 215 in the last nine. While you can’t just ignore the bad games, especially late in the season, Wilson should earn the benefit of the doubt by now. When he was reasonably healthy he usually played very well. Assuming he’s healthy (and Seattle’s offensive line might prevent that), Wilson should again be among the best quarterbacks in football.

Don’t underestimate how the loss of safety Earl Thomas affected the defense late last season. Thomas looks like a future Hall of Famer, and his presence allows Seattle’s defense to be very aggressive in front of him. Thomas roams the middle and erases plenty of mistakes because he’s smart and can get to any deep pass. Thomas broke his leg last season, an injury so devastating he considered retiring. There’s no reason to believe Thomas won’t be back to his normal self, and with him back the Seahawks’ fantastic defense gets even better.

From Yahoo’s Liz Loza: “I may want my six-month-old to sleep through the night, but that doesn’t mean she won’t wake the whole household screaming at 3 a.m. Similarly, Seattle would like to make C.J. Prosise their primary pass-catching back, but a few glaring impediments exist. Most notably, the presence of Tyler Lockett. Both gadget players have an over-lapping skill-set, which means these two tyros may cannibalize each other’s opportunities. Given the number of red flags (adding O-line efficacy, inexperience, and durability concerns to the pile), I don’t plan on reaching for Prosise.” [Check out Yahoo’s Pressing Questions for the fantasy outlook on the Seahawks.]

[Fantasy Football is open! Sign up now]


The Seahawks had a pretty easy schedule last season, and it gets even easier this year. According to football analyst Warren Sharp, who uses Las Vegas over/under win total projections to determine strength of schedule, the Seahawks have the second-easiest schedule in the NFL (Jacksonville has the easiest). Seattle plays only four games against teams Las Vegas projects to be in the top 10, Sharp said. Seattle might not be the same dominant team it was early in its run, but an exceptionally soft schedule means they’re a great bet to get back to the playoffs.

HOW GOOD ARE THE SEAHAWKS’ SKILL POSITION PLAYERS?

The emergence of Doug Baldwin as a legitimate No. 1 receiver over the last two seasons has been a huge boost to the offense. So was the reemergence of tight end Jimmy Graham as one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Graham’s 923 yards ranked third among NFL tight ends. There are two big questions, however: Can the Eddie Lacy/Thomas Rawls combination revive a running game that slipped last season without Marshawn Lynch? And who steps up as a No. 2 receiver after Baldwin? Lacy was very good his first two seasons but injuries and conditioning have hampered him the last two seasons. Rawls had a surprising rookie season but last season wasn’t as good, as he was working back from a serious leg injury and then fractured his fibula in Week 2. Both backs are capable of big things, but they both have major questions. Receiver Tyler Lockett could be a great complement alongside Baldwin, but suffered a serious leg injury last season that could affect his speed and quickness. Jermaine Kearse and Paul Richardson will have to step up if Lockett doesn’t come back strong.

Seattle has the talent to win a Super Bowl. If we assume last year’s slump was due to Russell Wilson’s injuries early in the season and Earl Thomas’ absence late, we can talk ourselves into Seattle jumping right back to its 2012-15 levels. This is a team that went on the road and beat the Patriots last season. This is still a championship contender.

Russell Wilson should have sat out some games last season with his injuries. He’s tough, and the Seahawks were a bit lucky he didn’t suffer an injury he couldn’t play through. However, Wilson’s injury issues didn’t scare the team into a major overhaul of the offensive line. For almost any team, the true worst-case scenario involves a quarterback injury. Because of the Seahawks’ line, it’s a real worry for Seattle. If Wilson goes down, backup Trevone Boykin isn’t keeping the Seahawks near the top of the NFC. Maybe there’s another worst-case scenario that involves many of the Seahawks’ older veterans hitting a wall at the same time, but the biggest concern is Wilson playing behind a leaky offensive line.

I like the Arizona Cardinals to be better than last season, but a soft schedule makes the Seahawks a runaway favorite in the NFC West. Winning a division title is not the goal for the Seahawks, however. The Seahawks have the elite talent to go on another long playoff run. It’s crucial for the Seahawks to get home-field advantage (a Week 1 game at the Green Bay Packers might end up being very important in that race) because Seattle is always tough to beat at home. Seattle is capable of winning enough games with a favorable schedule to get the No. 1 seed. I’m not picking them to get the NFC’s best record because I think a few teams have passed them by, but it’s still a dangerous team that will be better than it was last season.

32. New York Jets
31. Cleveland Browns
30. San Francisco 49ers
29. Chicago Bears
28. Los Angeles Rams
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
26. Detroit Lions
25. Houston Texans
24. Buffalo Bills
23. Indianapolis Colts
22. Baltimore Ravens
21. Los Angeles Chargers
20. Minnesota Vikings
19. New Orleans Saints
18. Washington Redskins
17. Philadelphia Eagles
16. Miami Dolphins
15. Cincinnati Bengals
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
13. Arizona Cardinals
12. Denver Broncos
11. Tennessee Titans
10. Carolina Panthers
9. Oakland Raiders
8. Kansas City Chiefs
7. New York Giants

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!
Follow @YahooSchwab

Cowboys and Jason Garrett look foolish in Lucky Whitehead fiasco

For some reason, after years of collecting players with off-field issues and putting up with their behavior, the Dallas Cowboys wanted to send a message by cutting receiver Lucky Whitehead.

They sent a message, all right. It just wasn’t the one they wanted.

Among all the players on the Cowboys roster dealing with suspensions and off-field issues, the team ended up cutting the guy who was innocent. The Prince William County (Va.) Police Department rescinded a warrant for Whitehead’s arrest on Tuesday. The Cowboys cut Whitehead on Monday after a shoplifting charge, then the police said Tuesday it was mistaken identity. Classic mixup.

The Cowboys have shown unrelenting patience for so many other players, and could have kept Whitehead with just a little bit of patience in his case. Dumping Whitehead is not going to hurt the Cowboys’ Super Bowl chances, but it is funny.

And to double down on the humor, coach Jason Garrett – you may remember him from Monday’s press conference where he laughably said, “We have built this team with great character guys” – could only manage to repeat the same vanilla phrase when asked about the Whitehead fiasco.

“Yesterday we made a decision we deemed to be in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys,” Garrett said. “We’re standing by that decision and we’re going to move on.”

But wasn’t that decision based on false information?

“Yesterday we made a decision we thought was in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys,” Garrett said. “We’re going to stand by that decision and we’re going to move on.”

Give the media that covers the Cowboys credit: They wouldn’t let up. Garrett was asked if it was fair to Whitehead to just say the same thing over and over.

“It’s the truth,” Garrett said. “We made a decision we thought was in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys.”

Then, in classic Texas fashion, someone asked, “Do you have some people working for the Dallas Cowboys that are just too stupid to work for this team?” Garrett wasn’t fazed, sticking with the Bill Belichick “We’re on to Cincinnati”/Marshawn Lynch “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” repetitive script.

“I’ll stand by the statement I made,” Garrett said. “We made a decision yesterday that we thought was in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys. We’re going to stand by … ”

Ah, you know how it ends. It went on like that for a while. Reporters would pull the string on Garrett, and he’d repeat the same phrase. About the only time Garrett went off script was when he said, “We know a lot of things about our players that you guys don’t know.” He also said it was in Whitehead’s best interest to have a clean slate.

In fairness, it wasn’t just one incident that led to Whitehead’s release, as Yahoo’s Charles Robinson reported.

#Cowboys Lucky Whitehead release was cumulative, I’m told. Just the totality of dumb stuff this offseason. Far too high maintenance.

— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) July 24, 2017

But the final straw for Whitehead turned out to be something he didn’t even do. Even for that Cowboys, that’s amazing.

Everything is magnified around the Cowboys. The market can’t get enough Cowboys news, and owner Jerry Jones loves the attention. Small stories on other teams become headlines in Dallas. But the Cowboys don’t help themselves at times, drafting and signing players who have significant red flags and predictably keep getting in trouble.

And when the Cowboys finally decided to get tough and do something about a player who got in trouble, they ended up in an absurd situation in which they cut a player who was a victim of mistaken identity. Now the NFL gets to point and laugh for a while. After some of that, Coach Garrett, then we can move on.

The Cowboys cut WR Lucky Whitehead, then police rescinded a warrant for Whitehead due to mistaken identity. (AP)
The Cowboys cut WR Lucky Whitehead, then police rescinded a warrant for Whitehead due to mistaken identity. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!
Follow @YahooSchwab

Cowboys OL La'el Collins, who slipped out of the draft, gets his huge payday

When offensive lineman La’el Collins fell out of the 2015 draft, as a police investigation swirled around him, he lost out on millions of dollars.

The Dallas Cowboys signed Collins as an undrafted free agent, and after two seasons they’ve given Collins the payday he should have had after the draft. Mike Garafolo of NFL Network said Collins got a two-year contract extension worth $15.4 million, a very nice deal for a player with only two seasons of experience. You’d have to think the Cowboys wanted to pay Collins back for picking them two years ago after he went undrafted. Many teams were after Collins, but he chose Dallas. It looks like a smart call now.

Collins’ story was one of the strangest in recent NFL draft history. He was wanted for questioning by the Baton Rouge Police Department in the shooting death of his former girlfriend Brittney Mills, but Collins was never named a suspect. He passed a polygraph test and a paternity test found that the child Mills was carrying was not Collins’ child. When news broke that police wanted to talk to Collins, he left the draft in Chicago to go back to Louisiana. He was projected as a first-round pick but fell completely out of the draft. Despite never being charged with any wrongdoing, he lost out on the experience of a lifetime at the draft.

Collins didn’t dwell on it, and has become a key member of a fantastic Cowboys line. Dallas is planning to move Collins from guard to right tackle this season, and his importance on the Cowboys continues to grow. And after a couple years making relative peanuts to what he should have made after the draft, Collins’ paycheck matches his ability.

Cowboys offensive lineman La'el Collins got a two-year contract extension from the Cowboys. (AP)
Cowboys offensive lineman La’el Collins got a two-year contract extension from the Cowboys. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!
Follow @YahooSchwab

2017 NFL Preview: If offense improves, Giants can go to a Super Bowl

Shutdown Corner is previewing all 32 teams as we get ready for the NFL season, counting down the teams one per weekday in reverse order of our initial 2017 power rankings. No. 1 will be revealed on Aug. 2, the day before the Hall of Fame Game kicks off the preseason.

Eli Manning never ages. He looks about the same now as he did his rookie season with the New York Giants. It sneaks up on you that he’s 36 years old.

It’s possible last season we started to see cracks in Manning’s game. His numbers were down in many key areas. He averaged 4,423 yards and 32.5 touchdowns in 2014-15, and had 4,027 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. His interceptions went up from 14 in 2014-15 to 16 last year. His passer rating the last three seasons: 92.1, 93.6, 86.0. It wasn’t a collapse. But at Manning’s age, it’s worth noting.

Here’s the funny thing: The Giants took off as a team even as the offense struggled. The Giants went 11-5 and made the playoffs after a 2-3 start. They swept the Dallas Cowboys. It was a good season, and an improved defense was the reason.

That defense, for the most part, returns. Now imagine if the offense jumps up to being above average. We’d be looking at a Super Bowl contender. There are plenty of reasons to believe the offense can rebound.

Ben McAdoo moved over from offensive coordinator to head coach last season. He was a rookie head coach, and the job is much different. He wouldn’t have been in the middle of the Josh Brown controversy as offensive coordinator, for one easy example. McAdoo, who strangely won’t acknowledge he calls plays, got predictable in his play-calling (NJ.com did a great job pointing out how the Giants had almost no creativity in their personnel groupings) and the offense was stale. Maybe McAdoo still struggles with play-calling duties, because being a head coach in the New York market is still hard. But it’s possible McAdoo does better juggling both jobs. McAdoo orchestrated productive offenses when he was coordinator in 2014 and 2015.

The Giants’ personnel is better this season. Brandon Marshall is an upgrade at receiver, even at age 33. First-round pick Evan Engram is listed at a tight end but he has the ability to line up anywhere and be a great weapon in the offense. The running game can’t get worse than it was last season. And the Giants still have Odell Beckham, one of the best players in the NFL.

Now we’re back to Manning. Perhaps the running game still stinks, the offensive line isn’t much better and Manning continues to fade due to age. None of that would be surprising. While Manning has never been a great quarterback (aside from two Super Bowl runs, which is fairly important), he has been good for a long time. I figure on him bouncing back, and the Giants’ offense improving with him. And if the Giants’ offense improves from below average – it was 22nd in Football Outsiders’ DVOA per-play metric while ranking 24th in yards per pass play and 30th in yards per rushing attempt – this will be a really good team. They finished 11-5 while finishing 26th in points scored. The Giants should score more this season, and perhaps much more. And remember, they match up well against the Cowboys in the NFC East.

The Giants’ defense is legit. Last year’s playoff appearance wasn’t a fluke, even though they benefitted from a great record in close games. I think they’ll be just as good this season, and maybe even better. Manning has one more run in him before he really starts showing his age.

After last offseason’s spending spree, anything the Giants did this year was going to be anticlimactic. But they did fine. Brandon Marshall was the big-name signing, and he’ll help. I’d have taken David Njoku over Evan Engram, but I see Engram’s appeal. The only contract the Giants gave out that was more than two years was to blocking tight end Rhett Ellison, who got four years and $18 million. Having Ellison and Engram could help coach Ben McAdoo be more creative with his personnel groupings. New York didn’t lose much in free agency. Receiver Victor Cruz was the biggest name to leave, though defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins was the most important loss. Grade: C

When someone tells you spending big in free agency never works in the NFL, show them the 2016 Giants. The Giants shelled out $203.8 million, $113.8 of which was guaranteed, to acquire defensive end Olivier Vernon, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, nose tackle Damon Harrison and to retain defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. The defense took off. All four of those players had nice seasons in 2016. New York ranked in the NFL’s top five in points allowed (second), first downs allowed (fifth), passing touchdowns allowed (second), interceptions (fourth), rushing yards (third), rushing touchdowns (fifth), rushing yards per attempt (second) and in the top 10 in yards allowed (10th) and yards per passing attempt (tied for seventh). The defense was amazing last season and it has almost all of the key pieces back.

With a defense that good, you’d like to be able to run the ball and play some complementary football. The Giants could not run the ball last season and didn’t do much to improve the running game in the offseason. The hope is that 2016 fifth-round pick Paul Perkins takes on a bigger role and is just as efficient as he was with limited carries as a rookie. He averaged 4.1 yards per attempt and was a good receiver out of the backfield. Perkins should be better than last year’s starter Rashad Jennings, but that doesn’t mean he’ll turn the Giants’ running game into a strength. Another obstacle to an improved running game is a poor offensive line. The Giants didn’t do much to address that this offseason.

Eli Manning has slowly been climbing up some all-time passing lists. That’s what happens when you play 13 years and never miss a start due to injury. Manning is seventh in NFL history with 320 touchdown passes and eighth with 48,218 yards. If Manning is near his typical numbers this season he’ll pass Warren Moon and John Elway for the No. 6 spot in passing yards. He’ll pass Fran Tarkenton for sixth all-time on the touchdowns list with 23 more scores. We can debate Manning’s Pro Football Hall of Fame credentials, but he’s going to crack the top six in all-time passing yards and passing touchdowns with two Super Bowl rings. Playing in a major market doesn’t hurt either. He’ll be in the Hall of Fame someday, whether or not you believe he belongs.

There’s really no doubt about this one. Odell Beckham has become a rare superstar. That hasn’t always been a good thing, but no matter how much drama surrounds Beckham, he always produces. Beckham’s 95.9 receiving yards per game ranks second in NFL history to Julio Jones’ 96.3. Calvin Johnson is third, miles away at 86.1. Beckham’s yards per game dropped to “only” 85.4 last season. It had to be easier defending him (relatively speaking, it’s never easy defending Beckham) knowing the Giants had little depth at receiver. Having Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram and promising second-year slot receiver Sterling Shepard to take some defensive pressure should increase Beckham’s efficiency.

From Yahoo’s Brad Evans: “Paul Perkins is in the ‘biggest offseason winner’ conversation, but it doesn’t mean you should overreach for his services in fantasy (77.8 ADP, RB30). Many banked on the front office to address the backfield high in the draft or ink LeGarrette Blount to a short-term deal. Neither happened. As a result, the second-year rusher is in a prime spot to fill the role Rashad Jennings held last season, a gig that yielded 16.6 touches per game. Fantasy is all about opportunity and Perkins certainly has a viable one. However, his secondary profile induces vomiting. Last year, he evaded just 1.4 tackles per game, ranked No. 67 in juke rate and No. 65 in catch percentage. With Shane Vereen locked into the Giants’ third-down role and rookie Wayne Gallman in the conversation, Perkins isn’t the high-volume mid-draft savior some fantasy “experts” would lead you to believe.” [Check out Yahoo’s Pressing Questions for the fantasy outlook on the Giants.]

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Last season safety Landon Collins became the first player in NFL history with at least 100 solo tackles, two sacks, five interceptions and 12 passes defensed in a season. It was a remarkable season from a player who struggled at times as a rookie. The Giants spent a lot of money in free agency last year to improve the defense, but the biggest reason for the huge improvement might have been Collins’ All-Pro season. He’s just 23 years old and might make a run at NFL defensive player of the year this season.

CAN JASON PIERRE-PAUL BE EVEN BETTER IN 2017? 

Jason Pierre-Paul was still a question mark last season, and that’s why he was working on a one-year deal. He proved he was all the way back from an infamous fireworks accident, getting seven sacks in 12 games. He was peaking in midseason, with 5.5 sacks in his final two full games, including three sacks in an amazing game against the Cleveland Browns.

“I think I dominated every game I played last year, not just the Cleveland game,” Pierre-Paul said, according to the New York Post. “I looked back on the tape, and I saw a player who’s just only getting better from the year before.”

Pierre-Paul cashed in with a four-year, $62 million deal. He missed the final portion of last season due to sports hernia surgery, but all reports say he looks healthy. If he can pick up where he left off when he got hurt last season, he can be one of the best defensive ends in football. We’ve seen him play at that level before.

It’s worth repeating: The Giants went 11-5 while finishing 26th in the NFL in points scored. Two seasons ago, with many of the same players, the Giants finished sixth in points scored. What if the Giants, after making improvements in the offseason, can get close to that level on offense again? We’re looking at a team that can make a Super Bowl.

The Giants were 8-3 in games decided by seven points or less last season, and 4-1 in games decided by three points or less. Sometimes there’s not much difference between 8-8 and 11-5 in the NFL. The defense will be good again, but maybe there’s some regression after such a huge improvement. And the offense isn’t guaranteed to turn things around with coach Ben McAdoo stretched too thin. The Giants finished 6-10 in 2014 and 2015 and while the defense will likely prevent a return to that level, the Giants could miss the playoffs in a tough division.

I like the Giants this season, and I like their bravado. Landon Collins shot right back when he heard Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott proclaim that Dallas would win the NFC East.

“They do not control the East,” Collins said, via NJ.com. “That’s over with. We’re going to have a run for it, but they’re not going to win. I can tell you that much. We’re definitely going to take over.”

He might be right. The Giants’ defense is rock solid and the offense should rebound to at least the middle of the NFL pack. It’s hard to believe, but a team in New York is actually flying under the radar a bit. The Cowboys are getting a lot of attention, but nobody should be surprised if the Giants take the NFC East title from them.

32. New York Jets
31. Cleveland Browns
30. San Francisco 49ers
29. Chicago Bears
28. Los Angeles Rams
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
26. Detroit Lions
25. Houston Texans
24. Buffalo Bills
23. Indianapolis Colts
22. Baltimore Ravens
21. Los Angeles Chargers
20. Minnesota Vikings
19. New Orleans Saints
18. Washington Redskins
17. Philadelphia Eagles
16. Miami Dolphins
15. Cincinnati Bengals
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
13. Arizona Cardinals
12. Denver Broncos
11. Tennessee Titans
10. Carolina Panthers
9. Oakland Raiders
8. Kansas City Chiefs

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!
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Robert Griffin III sighting: QB gets first visit of offseason, with Chargers

It has been a while since Robert Griffin III’s name was brought up in NFL news.

After a long, quiet offseason for the former NFL offensive rookie of the year, Griffin finally has his first free-agent visit. He’ll visit the Los Angeles Chargers on Tuesday, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Schefter reported that Griffin had another visit lined up but canceled it when the Chargers agreed to bring him in. That seems unwise, but it might be a sign of Griffin’s confidence that a deal with Los Angeles will get done.

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After a mediocre season with the Cleveland Browns last season, Griffin was cut and nobody came calling. Griffin is just 27 years old and was the No. 2 overall pick in 2012. He had one of the greatest rookie seasons ever with the Washington Redskins, but blew out his ACL in a playoff game and hasn’t been the same since.

Still, the Chargers are thin at quarterback behind Philip Rivers. Longtime backup Kellen Clemens is the only other established quarterback on the roster. If Griffin signs and can revive his career with a new team (we’ve heard that before) then it would give the Chargers an interesting backup option.

At very least bringing in Griffin might bring some preseason attention to the team as it makes an awkward transition from San Diego to Los Angeles.

Robert Griffin III has a meeting with the Chargers on Tuesday. (AP)
Robert Griffin III has a meeting with the Chargers on Tuesday. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!
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John Elway gets his new (enormous) deal to remain Broncos GM

The Denver Broncos never really had a choice. Whatever John Elway wanted to remain with the team, that’s what they had to pay.

Yet, contract negotiations dragged on longer than expected, to the point it started to make some Broncos fans nervous. It got done though, as Elway and the team agreed on Monday to a five-year deal that will run through 2021 according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter. The team announced the news Monday afternoon. Schefter said it’s expected to make Elway the highest paid general manager in the NFL.

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Whether Elway is the best GM in football is debatable, but he’s very good at his job and nobody is more strongly identified with an NFL team than Elway is with the Broncos. That was true when Elway retired in 1999, after two straight Super Bowl titles. Somehow, Elway’s stature in Colorado got even bigger the past few years.

When Elway was hired to run the Broncos’ front office, it was just as Josh McDaniels was shown the door. It looked like a public-relations move to appease a fan base that reached a low point with the many, many missteps McDaniels made. No great quarterback has ever been a great coach or general manager. But Elway did it.

When Elway landed Peyton Manning in free agency, it changed the franchise. In Manning’s four seasons, the Broncos won the AFC West four times, went to the Super Bowl twice and won Super Bowl 50. It wasn’t just adding Manning; Elway built a fantastic and deep roster with an aggressive approach to free agency. You can’t tell the story of Denver’s 1997, 1998 or 2015 Super Bowl championships without Elway being a focal point. Elway’s front office career will never eclipse his playing career, but he’s not bad at running a team either.

Now Broncos fans don’t have to worry about Elway going anywhere, not that he was ever going to leave. It’s impossible to imagine Elway with any other team.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!
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Minnesota Vikings training camp: Three questions facing the team

The NFL season is inching closer. Through July, Shutdown Corner will examine three big questions for each NFL team as it heads to training camp.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Report date: July 23 for rookies; July 26 for veterans
Where: Mankato, Minn.

1. Will we see Teddy Bridgewater this camp?

Bridgewater will likely start camp on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list after a horrific knee injury just before last season started. Bridgewater has done some work through the offseason, giving hope that he can be back on the practice field sooner rather than later. It would be a tremendous story after he missed all of last season. This is an important season for the Vikings and their quarterback situation, because Bridgewater and new starter Sam Bradford are both slated to be free agents after the season. Minnesota could make a clearer decision if they can see Bridgewater back on the practice field, at least.

[Check out Yahoo’s Pressing Questions for the fantasy outlook on the Vikings.]

2. Can Dalvin Cook lock up the starting job by Week 1?

The Vikings brought in two running backs to replace Adrian Peterson and help a running game that went nowhere last season. They signed former Oakland Raiders starter Latavius Murray, then took Cook in the second round of the draft. Cook was a tremendous college back at Florida State but didn’t test well at the combine and has some off-field concerns. That’s what caused his draft dip, but he’s still a fantastic talent. Murray is slowed by ankle surgery and will start camp on the PUP list. That gives Cook a great opportunity in training camp to secure the starting job from Week 1 on. Murray has more experience and has had NFL success, but Cook offers a much higher ceiling. If Cook ends up being the undisputed starter by the season opener, he might never relinquish the job.

Rookie running back Dalvin Cook will be one of the most-watched players in Vikings camp. (AP)
Rookie running back Dalvin Cook will be one of the most-watched players in Vikings camp. (AP)

3. Where have you gone, Laquon Treadwell?

Not every rookie receiver is Odell Beckham, but Treadwell was really disappointing after Minnesota took him in the first round last season. He played in just nine games (he was a healthy scratch a few times) and had one catch all season. The Vikings didn’t need Treadwell last season because they got good production from Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Also, coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t love using rookies. That’s fine, but if Treadwell doesn’t do anything this season then there’s real concern. Zimmer has had very positive things to say about Treadwell this offseason, perhaps building his confidence back up after a rough rookie year. Treadwell needs a good camp, so the coaches and Sam Bradford trust him when the regular season starts.

PREVIOUS TRAINING CAMP PREVIEWS

Cowboys | Texans | Bears | Broncos | Steelers | Saints | Jets | Eagles | Bills | Buccaneers | Cardinals | Titans | Raiders | Giants | Packers | Dolphins | Ravens | 49ers | Chiefs | Redskins | Jaguars | Panthers | Rams | Browns | Patriots

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!
Follow @YahooSchwab