1) AARON JONES WILL RUSH FOR LESS THAN 900 YARDS
This has very little to do with Jones and almost everything to do with the state of the offense. The right side of the line is going to really miss tackle Bryan Bulaga, who was quietly the unit’s best run blocker a year ago. And without a legitimate No. 2 wide receiver and/or a starting-caliber tight end, defenses are going to be able to keep an extra man in the box on a fairly regular basis. Plus, there’s a decent chance second-round draft pick AJ Dillon will see an expanded role as the season moves along. All of this adds up to less rushing yards for Jones, although it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he improves by about 15 catches and 150 yards as a receiver.
2) RASHAN GARY WILL HAVE MORE SACKS THAN PRESTON SMITH
Considering Smith had 10 more sacks than Gary a year ago, this prediction would seem more ridiculous than bold. But it’s important to remember that Smith averaged only 6 sacks a season with Washington from 2015 to 2018. With an offseason to prepare, I’m guessing offensive tackles will do a much better job against an edge rusher with good but not elite physical skills. As for Gary, he’s just too talented not to get at least 7 sacks with increased playing time. And like Smith, he’ll greatly benefit from rushing alongside rising stars Za’Darius Smith and Kenny Clark, who combined for 19.5 sacks and over 120 hurries a year ago.
3) MARCEDES LEWIS WILL PLAY THE MOST SNAPS AT TIGHT END
This seems insane when you consider that Lewis is 36 and almost retired a year ago, but who’s better than him at the position? Jace Sternberger had another quiet summer, Robert Tonyan has 14 catches in 27 games, and Josiah Deguara is a rookie who figures to line up more at fullback. Plus, Lewis is the best blocker on an offense that wants to run the ball a lot more this season. I’m not saying it’s a good idea to have the second-oldest player on the team logging 600 or more snaps; I’m just saying it could very well happen.
4) KEVIN KING WILL GO TO THE PRO BOWL
I’m in no way suggesting that King is better than Jaire Alexander, but going to the Pro Bowl is often more about statistics than actual performance, and I can see the fourth-year cornerback putting up impressive numbers this season. Opposing quarterbacks will look to avoid Alexander, and that should mean plenty of opportunities for King to make plays. He had 5 interceptions last season, and that number could go up, especially when you factor in what figures to be a relentless pass rush. And if that number does go up, he’ll probably find himself in Las Vegas in late January and the recipient of a massive new contract in March.
5) DALLAS WILL WIN MORE GAMES THAN GREEN BAY
Considering the Packers won five more games than the Cowboys last season, this also seems more ridiculous than bold. But new coach Mike McCarthy is taking over a very talented roster, and he’ll benefit from playing in what looks to be a weak division. Meanwhile, the Packers will have to deal with the always tough Vikings and what I expect to be improved teams in Detroit and Chicago. To that end, it’s important to remember that Green Bay’s four wins over the Lions and Bears last season were by a total of only 19 points.
Needless to say, these bold predictions are based on the players staying healthy. Jones probably won’t rush for over 900 yards if he misses multiple games. Gary probably won’t have more sacks than Preston Smith if he misses multiple games. Lewis probably won’t play more snaps than the other tight ends if he misses multiple games. King probably won’t go to the Pro Bowl if he misses multiple games. And the Cowboys probably won’t win more games than the Packers if… nevermind, I think this one happens no matter what.