Every Saturday, we do this mailbag thing, where I go through and take questions -- one for each team, generally. This week, I have to say, the mailbag's a little thin. I know it's been a slow week, but those happen. I still need the questions. Step up your game, mailbaggers! (Just kidding. You guys know I love you no matter what. And reading through some of these mailbag questions, I really mean no matter what.)
James from Blacksburg, Va., is a Virginia Tech student and a fan of cornerback Jayron Hosley, the third-round pick of the New York Giants. He's enjoying the publicity Hosley is getting as a candidate for the nickel cornerback spot with the Super Bowl champs, but he wonders if it's not fairer to assume that second-year cornerback Prince Amukamara (last year's first-round pick) should be expected to take a bigger 2012 leap than Hosley.
Dan Graziano: Yes, James. People tend to be prisoners of the moment, and for that reason this year's picks seem more exciting at this point than maybe last year's do -- especially when last year's is someone like Amukamara, who didn't make the kind of impact fans might have expected him to make as a rookie. But assuming he's over his foot problems, and given a full season and offseason in a Giants organization that likes to stress player development, yes, I would expect Amukamara to make a major leap forward and have a better chance of contributing on defense this year than Hosley should in his first year with the Giants. Just the way things work there. Also, by the way, I was covering the Yankees in March of 2008 when they went to play that game at Virginia Tech. Loved the campus. Beautiful, with all of the "Hokie Stone" buildings. That was a special day.
Mark from Bossier City, La., is "concerned the Dallas Cowboys did not do enough to address their weaknesses in the interior of both their lines," and says he thinks specifically of the way the Cowboys were dominated on the interior of the offensive and defensive lines in the two late-season games against the Giants that effectively cost Dallas the division title.
DG: Yeah, I think your concern is legitimate, Mark. On the defensive side, they remain committed to Jay Ratliff at nose tackle (as opposed to moving him to defensive end), and the big problem with Ratliff is the way he wears down late in the season. If someone like Josh Brent can take a step forward and give Ratliff more of a breather earlier in the year, they might get to December with Ratliff still playing his best. Part of the problem in those two Giants games was that Ratliff was banged up. As for the offense, they like the two guards they drafted last year -- David Arkin and Bill Nagy -- and they specifically targeted free agents Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau this year. So while, as you point out, Livings and Bernadeau don't come with the most stellar resumes, there's something about both guys they think can work for them. They believe that something will emerge in training camp from the deep mix of guards they've brought in over the past two offseasons, and they might be right. My issue is that I think center was their biggest problem last season, and I don't know yet whether Nagy or Bernadeau can be an upgrade over Phil Costa if they decide Costa's still not good enough.
Jeff from Gainesville, Va., wrote in with a number of questions, but the one I'm going to address is about the Washington Redskins' running back situation. Jeff thinks that, with Tim Hightower still unsigned and Roy Helu and Evan Royster each entering just his second season, that it looks as though two or three backs will share the load and perhaps rookie Alfred Morris will move to fullback.
DG: Not sure what the plans are for Morris, but I agree that you can expect to see a couple of different backs rotate in and out of the "starting" role for the Redskins in 2012. Mike Shanahan's record on this front makes that an easy prediction. I know that they consider Hightower the most complete back of the bunch and the preferred starter if he re-signs and proves healthy. But there's plenty they like about both Helu and Royster, and at various times this year I'd expect to see either or both of them as a major factor. As any fantasy football player will tell you, there's no way to know from week to week which Shanahan back to expect.
Alex from Iowa wants to know if Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver Marvin McNutt could be "Jason Avant 2.0," since "he's slightly bigger and faster with the possibility that he can develop even better hands."
DG: Sure, Alex. While Avant's been a valuable contributor at times over the past couple of years, he has yet to seize an opportunity to jump up to the next level when injuries/suspensions/whatever have thrust those upon him. They obviously see something they like in McNutt, and I believe that the Eagles' wide receiver picture behind DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin is wide open. I would not be surprised if a rookie got and took advantage of an opportunity to earn significant playing time, especially considering that tight end Brent Celek might be needed more as a blocker due to the injury to left tackle Jason Peters.
That's this week's mailbag, but we can do better. By Wednesday of next week, I want to be looking through this mailbag and seeing so many questions that I have to do a midweek mailbag as well as a weekend one. Maybe a video one, too. Remember those? Let's go, folks. Keep the questions coming!