Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
We will preview one of the NFL’s worst divisions last year in the NFC East. Being the only division to have all 4 teams win a Super Bowl, the NFC East use to be one of the elite divisions top to bottom. These days, mediocrity is a word to describe this division. Young QBs, young coaches and more are some of the reasons for the lack of strength. We will break this division down team by team to see who will come out on top.
Photo Credit: The Spun
Last Year Finish: 6-10
Key Additions: Keanu Neal – LB (from Falcons), Micah Parsons – LB (Rd. 1, No. 12 – Penn State), Kelvin Joseph – CB (Rd. 2, No. 44 – Kentucky)
Key Losses: QB Andy Dalton (to Bears), CB Chidobe Awuzie (to Bengals), DE Aldon Smith (to Seahawks), S Xavier Woods (to Vikings), OT Cameron Erving (to Panthers)
Outlook: The Dallas Cowboys were last year’s preseason pick to win the division with first year head coach Mike McCarthy and the most talent on the field. But Dak Prescott’s season ending injury sent the season in a tailspin. Dak was on pace to put up record numbers in an MVP campaign until that Week 4 injury against the Giants. But Dak Prescott is back and so are the expectations in Big D.
While I mentioned some key additions and losses, arguably the biggest addition to the team is defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The offense is full of stars, but the defense was historically bad in 2020. Mike Nolan was a McCarthy hire, against all wishes, then ended up being a disaster. The defense must improve to be a real threat.
Ezekiel Elliot signed a massive extension last year then proceeded to have his worst year in the pros. Elliot was fumble prone and finished under 1,000 years for only the second time in his career. But keep in mind he played 10 games in 2017 when he finished under 1,000 yards. He has come into camp in better shape and looks to bounce back. However, a healthier offensive line also might help the running game bounce back. Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins missed a combined 36 games last season and should give a boost to the overall offense (Martin however has just tested positive for COVID).
This is clearly the most talented team in the division, and a healthy Dak Prescott should be able to cover up any defensive woes and vault to the top of the division. They will be just good enough to take the division away from Washington and New York. However, not good enough to get Jerry’s World an appearance in the Super Bowl which is their curse for the last 10 years.
Prediction: 11-6 record
Washington Football Team
Photo Credit: NFL Mocks
Last Year Finish: 7-9
Key Additions: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (from Dolphins), WR Curtis Samuel (from Panthers), WR Adam Humphries (from Titans), CB William Jackson (from Bengals), LB Jamin Davis (Rd. 1, No. 19 – Kentucky), WR Dyami Brown (Rd. 3, No. 82 – North Carolina)
Key Losses: CB Ronald Darby (to Broncos), QB Alex Smith (Retired)
Outlook: The Washington Football Team took advantage of the injuries to the Cowboys, took control of the wide-open NFC East to sneak into the playoffs in 2020. Washington sports the best defense in the division with one of the most talented defensive lines in the league lead be 2nd year sensation Chase Young.
Despite being a playoff team, there were huge question marks at the QB position. Gone is former first round draft pick QB Dwayne Haskins and enter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitz-Magic or Fitz-Tragic is the popular nicknames for this veteran QB and he will hold Washington’s playoff fortunes in his hands. The offense will run though breakout WR Terry McLaurin as he looks to build on the 134 targets from his rookie season.
Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissick will be the two headed monster in the backfield, but if they have as many catches as last season then the offense will struggle. Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries are sneaky good additions and should be able to stretch the field for a team that has been desperately looking for WR threats. Don’t forget about Washington’s offensive line as they were one of the strongest in the league and will provide much needed protection for Fitzpatrick.
The defense is one of the best, anchored by 4 former first round picks. Chase Young and Montez Sweat (team-high 9 sacks in 2020) are a lethal combo off the edge. Meanwhile, tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen in the middle make it difficult to run on Washington. I look for Washington to have a better season than 2020, but it won’t be enough to get into the playoffs.
Prediction: 9-8 record
Photo Credit: Yahoo!
Last Year Finish: 4-11-1
Key Additions: WR DeVonta Smith (Rd. 1, No. 10 – Alabama), RB Kerryon Johnson (from Lions), QB Joe Flacco (from Jets), CB Zech McPhearson (Rd. 4, No. 123 – Texas Tech), QB Gardner Minshew (from Jaguars)
Key Losses: QB Carson Wentz (to Colts), WR DeSean Jackson (to Rams), WR Alshon Jeffery (FA), S Jalen Mills (to Patriots)
Outlook: The Philadelphia Eagles were not a very talented team and had a season of drama from the head coach to the QB. Gone is former franchise QB Carson Wentz and head coach Doug Peterson. The former was the only coach to ever bring a Super Bowl title to the City of Brotherly Love. This is now QB Jalen Hurts’ team and first year head coach Nick Sirianni’s mess to clean up.
The Eagles have wiped the slate clean and Sirianni has declared that everyone must compete for a spot on this team, including Hurts. But no one in Philadelphia thinks it will be anyone other than Hurts starting at QB. The team recently traded for Gardner Minshew and the aged Joe Flacco is also “competing” for the job. But the future is with Hurts, so time to move forward. The Eagles moved on from WR DeSean Jackson, WR Alshon Jeffery and were expected to also move on from TE Zach Ertz (but he’s still on the team) in an effort to get younger. Sirianni frequently uses a 2 TE lineup, which would be why you would hang on to Ertz and emerging star TE Dallas Goedert.
First round pick WR DeVonta Smith is arguably the best WR in a deep draft and should make an immediate impact for the Eagles. 2nd year WR Jalen Reagor battled injuries and was a victim of poor QB play but he's a talent that should have a nice season on the other side. Miles Sanders is the No. 1 RB finally after a season with awesome average yards per carry (5.3 yard per carry), but his health was a concern after he missed 4 games last year. With Sanders in the backfield is Boston Scott and Kerryon Johnson to add depth.
Jonathan Gannon follows Sirianni from Indy as the new defensive coordinator. Gannon will looks to improve the 20th-ranked scoring defense from last year with a load of young talent as the Eagles used 6 draft picks on defense in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Eagles will need to shore up the backend of the secondary and plug holes in a secondary that yielded big plays. The Eagles signed free safety Anthony Harris and drafted 4th-round corner Zech McPhearson to join K'Von Wallace in fixing the secondary.
Ultimately, this offense has the potential to surprise or be ineffective with the youth. But building for the future starts somewhere and the Eagles are going to take their lumps. I don't see this being the year to challenge but the foundation looks to be set.
Prediction: 5-12 record
New York Giants
Photo Credit: NY Post
Last Year Finish: 6-10
Key Additions: WR Kenny Golladay (from Lions), WR Kadarius Toney (Rd. 1, No. 20 – Florida), RB Devontae Booker (from Raiders), LB Azeez Ojulari (Rd. 2, No. 50 – Georgia), CB Adoree' Jackson (from Titans)
Key Losses: DT Dalvin Tomlinson (to Vikings), WR Golden Tate (FA), G Kevin Zeitler (to Ravens)
Outlook: The New York Giants introduced a new head coach last year Joe Judge, who came out of no-where to win the job. The Giants, after a horrendous start, came out of no-where to challenge the Washington Football Team for the division crown. They ultimately came up short, but the hope in New York is that last season is a jump off point for better things to come. But…
Dave Gettleman has been Giants GM since 2017 and has been charged with fixing this team’s lack of talent, namely at the offensive line. After some time, the Giants are right were they started, with no talent at the offensive line. The draft picks and free agent signings of linemen have not yielded results. The 2021 preseason ended, and the Giants found themselves bringing in 3 more linemen via trades or signings. If OT Andrew Thomas and G Will Hernandez can take a giant leap forward, the Giants can make noise. Give the line credit, halfway through the 2020 season the line gelled and played better as the Giants put wins together. The return of Nate Solder should help stabilize this line but that’s a stretch. This line has potential but can also be a disaster.
This is Daniel Jones’ (I refuse to call him Danny Dimes) time to show what he has. After showing promise after a solid rookie season, year 2 was giant step backwards. The turnovers are still an issue, as Jones has accounted for 39 combined turnovers in 2 seasons (22 interceptions and 17 fumbles lost). Jones averages a turnover a game, that must stop. The return of Saquon Barkley is a much-needed boost to an offense that desperately needed a spark. Kenny Golladay was a surprise addition to the Giants as he signed a huge contract in the offseason. WR Sterling Sheppard, WR Darius Slayton, TE Evan Engram and rookie WR Kadarius Toney will give the Giants the best set of skill position players since 2011. Jones has no excuses (other than o-line play) to elevate this offense from one of the lowest scoring in the league.
One of the bright spots for the Giants was the play of the defense under first year defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. The loss of Dalvin Tomlinson was a game of numbers as they couldn’t afford to pay him and DT Leonard Williams. The addition of Logan Ryan mid-season really helped stabilize the defense that was anchored by LB Blake Martinez and Pro-Bowler James Bradberry. The offseason addition of CB Adoree' Jackson from Tennessee might be sneaky good if he bounces back. The only issue is the pass rush, can the Giants get pressure from the 4-down lineman without blitzing? Rookie LB Azeez Ojulari has a chance to start day one with Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines.
Ultimately, this team will go as far as the linemen on both sides will take them. They have a fairly high ceiling and a low floor because of the “what if” factor. But they will fall just short of the playoff push.
Prediction: 9-8 record