There appears to be potential up front. The top three returning ends (Blain Padgett, Graysen Schantz, Brian Womac) combined for 19.5 tackles for loss and six sacks last year, and the top four returning tackles (Preston Gordon, Roe Wilkins, Carl Thompson, Zach Abercrumbia) combined for 12.5 and six, respectively. There isn’t enough size here — none of those ends are over 250 pounds, and only two of those tackles are over 280 — but the activity level could compensate.
Mario Lemieux Mens Jersey The biggest loss is probably McGaskey. He combined 11 tackles for loss with six passes defensed (a rare combination), and he was the only real play-maker in the back. Nickel back Destri White did have four tackles for loss, and three returnees had at least four passes defensed (four if you include sophomore Justin Bickham, who missed 2016), but there will need to be improvement there.
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Well, there will need to be improvement everywhere. Rice had the worst passing downs defense in the country even with a decent pass rush, and the Owls’ “strongest” primary rating was a No. 92 spot in Standard Downs S&P+. Even if the offense comes together, you don’t have a high ceiling with such a woeful defense. But we’ll see what better injuries luck can do.
Special teams made things neither better nor worse for Rice. The Owls were 87th in Special Teams S&P+ ranking between 54th and 96th in all five individual categories. The entire unit returns, so the extent that experience matters, it could boost the lineup a hair. But there probably won’t be significant shifts up or down here.
Kirk Cousins got slapped with the exclusive franchise tag on Tuesday, which ensures he remains with Washington ¡ª for now. Players react to the tag a great many ways. Some are angry and voice their displeasure, others act like it¡¯s no big deal. Cousins took a different route.