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Will the Detroit Lions splash for a free agent pass rusher?

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The Detroit Lions appear to have a need for another pass rusher or two. Will the Motor City opt to make that kind of splash signing in free agency?

An effective pass rush is a cornerback’s best friend. And since the Detroit Lions opted to trade away their best cornerback, three-time Pro Bowler Darius Slay earlier this month, Motown could use an extra pass rusher or two.

Sure, the Lions signed former 2015 Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant via free agency this offseason. And Detroit could certainly use the third overall selection in the upcoming NFL draft to secure the position post-Slay as well. Regardless, pass rush is still a concern in Motown.

Last offseason, the Lions signed former New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers to a five-year, $90 million deal. In return, Flowers tied for the team lead with 7.0 sacks. That number wasn’t a surprise as he averaged that exact amount during his three previous seasons in New England.

Unfortunately, the defender who tied Flowers as the Lions’ sack leader last season, linebacker Devon Kennard, was up and released after the Lions inked another ex-Patriot free agent, Jamie Collins, the replace him. Collins recorded a career-high 7.0 sacks last season in his return to New England.

Despite essentially swapping one 7.0 sack linebacker for another, the Lions’ pass rush still struggled in 2019. The team recorded a total of 28 sacks last season, only six of which came from defensive linemen not named Flowers.

But the Lions still have an opportunity to bolster their pass rush as there are several big-name pass rushers still available entering the third week of free agency. The question is whether Detroit is willing to pay the price to acquire them.

Undoubtedly, the biggest name remaining in free agency is defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney. The first overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, Clowney posted a pedestrian 3.0 sacks in 13 games with the Seattle Seahawks last season. Yet, Pro Football Focus still gave him an overall grade of 87.3, his second year in a row to post a grade in the high eighties.

Having just turned 27-years old, Clowney has likely not played his best football yet. But Detroit would have to pay a premium to acquire him. Although the longer he’s on the open market, his price tag could drop.

Next: Top 5 former Lions who won a Super Bowl after leaving Detroit

A potential free-agent pass rusher that would seemingly make more sense for the Detroit Lions would be Everson Griffen. A 10-year veteran with their NFC North foes, Minnesota Vikings, the Detroit brass should be well aware of what the 32-year old defensive end is capable of. Coming off an 8.0 sack season in Minnesota, the Lions putting in a bid for Griffen’s services, even if only for a one-year deal, makes a lot of sense.

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Atlanta Falcons cannot afford to miss on early defensive draft picks

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With the loss of a few quality defensive players in free agency, the Atlanta Falcons must have defense as their number one priority in the NFL Draft if they plan to compete in 2020.

The NFL Draft just over a week away, as we’ll finally get to watch something new that is sports-related, rather than just reruns of games such as Super Bowl LI (luckily didn’t air in the Atlanta area). And with that, this draft specifically is huge for the Atlanta Falcons if they want to rebound from the back to back 7-9 campaigns.

This class is deep with defensive talent in both the front seven and secondary, and the Falcons need to add high impact players early.

Unfortunately, Atlanta’s front office has failed to adequately address defense early in the past 2 drafts. Let’s look at the defensive players chosen in the draft over the past 2 years:

2019

2018

Out of those six, only Oluokun and Cominsky had a PFF grade of 60.0 or better last season. Cominsky actually graded out at 82.1, finishing 23rd among all edge defenders, despite not having many traditional stats. He is definitely expected to have an “increased role” in 2020, as per Dan Quinn. Oluokun only had a grade of 62.7, but he showed some flashes of brilliance and is primed to take over a starting gig with the departure of De’Vondre Campbell in free agency.

The two “early picks” in the past 2 years have been Oliver and Senat, the former having two forgettable seasons, and the latter literally being forgotten by the coaching staff despite showing promise.

You can even look back at 2017, where the Falcons first two picks were Takk McKinley and Duke Riley. Duke Riley isn’t even with the team anymore after being shipped off to Philadelphia, and although Takk has had some great plays, he has constantly battled shoulder injuries as well as being picked over guys like Tre’Davious White and T.J. Watt.

The Falcons did make some good moves in free agency, such as signing Dante Fowler Jr. and resigning some good depth players like Tyeler Davison and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. However, they also lost guys like Adrian Clayborn, Desmond Trufant, and De’Vondre Campbell. This is what makes this draft so crucial, and the Falcons have to focus on defensive talent in the first 3 rounds specifically.

Next: NFL draft night can’t come soon enough for Atlanta Falcons nation

Arthur Blank has said on record that he expects the team to return to the playoffs in 2020, but for that to happen, the front office has to nail their first three picks to reinforce a disappointing defense.

 

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AFC East Roundup: What to know about Miami Dolphins heading into NFL Draft

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We had a chance to talk with Brian Miller of PhinPhanatic about the Miami Dolphins offseason and what to expect heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.

The AFC East is shifting with the departure of the Tom Brady and the division is likely going to be as competitive as it has been in nearly two decades. Recently, we had a chance to talk with Brian Miller to get insight about all things Miami Dolphins from the Bills’ latest signing to how the offseason has been and what to expect in the NFL Draft.

1. What can you tell about Bills fans about their recent signing of Evan Boehm? Is this a player Dolphins are going to miss?

I like Boehm. I actually was surprised that the Dolphins didn’t target him with another one year deal this off-season. While he wasn’t a dedicated starter last year, I thought he did well when put in. He has some growing to do and the Dolphins simply need to get better along the offensive line. Boehm was a fill in it appears so it’s hard to say where his ceiling is.

2. What free agent signing by the Dolphins do you think will have the biggest impact?

Kyle Van Noy is my favorite signing this off-season. He knows the Brian Flores defense well and I think he becomes the defensive leader on that side of the ball. He has terrific range and and can play well in coverage and attacking the passer. He also does well with setting the edge. He is obviously familiar with the AFC East so this is a rare inter-division signing that makes a lot of

sense.

3. Who do you think is going to be the starting QB for the Miami Dolphins in Week 1?

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter for 2020 and I don’t believe any QB drafted will change that. He took the team on his back last year and will at least start the first six to eight games before the job is handed to Josh Rosen or an incoming rookie. The QB situation in Miami is odd as we are not sure what they plan to do at the position.

4. Who are some draft prospects that you have seen that you think are perfect fits for the Miami Dolphins?

I really like Isaiah Simmons who more than likely will not be a Dolphins draft pick at five. I also really like Mechi Becton but he too will be gone by the time the Dolphins select at 18. Safety Xavier McKinney is a player I have been paying attention to. He fills a big need for the Dolphins after the release of Reshad Jones and also fits in well with Brian Flores who covets players in the secondary. I think this is a player that Miami will try and draft with one of their first round picks. The only thing that would make me think otherwise is that they have such huge needs along the offensive line.

5. What are realistic expectations for the Dolphins in the second season under head coach Brian Flores? 

I think the Miami Dolphins will be better than five wins but we are talking about 7 or 8 wins at best. Some predict the Dolphins to only win two games but I don’t see that as reasonable. The Dolphins are still young and they had a lot of coaching changes this off-season including both coordinators and a bunch of assistants as well.

Next: Bills start with cornerback in recent 7-Round Mock Draft

I think this off-season situation with the quarantine stuff is going to have a big impact as well. Flores is a coach that players like to play for but if they can’t be with him this off-season to learn what he expects from them, it might be difficult to find a rhythm early in the season.

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5 prospects the Panthers don’t want to see in the NFC South

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Yetur Gross-Matos Carolina Panthers

(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) Yetur Gross-Matos

The Carolina Panthers have their work cut out in the NFC South next season, which could be heightened with a number of new draft arrivals.

Things look bleak for the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South next season. All three opposing teams have real playoff ambitions and it has left the organization as something of an afterthought.

The New Orleans Saints have a powerhouse roster that has been significantly strengthened by the free-agent signing of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Sean Payton now has an embarrassment of riches to call upon for what could be Drew Brees’ final season as a professional.

Legendary quarterback, Tom Brady’s arrival within the division has also put the cat among the pigeons, so to speak. He hand-picked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a franchise he could potentially take to the next level and it is not hard to see why.

They have a strong defense, a decent offensive line, and a phenomenal wide receiver tandem in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. All signs point to the Bucs’ making a real run at things next season.

Although the Atlanta Falcons flattered to deceive once again last season, they are expected to turn things around quickly and this will represent another problem for the Panthers if the franchisee wants to improve on their 5-11 record.

With the potential of some promising college recruits entering the division in 2020, it could have serious ramifications on Carolina’s chances of turning their fortunes around.

Here are five players that the Panthers do not want to see end up in the NFC South next season.

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