NFC East Division Preview


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Will the Eagles be able to reclaim the NFC East Title in 2020?

Jack Markowski, The Delphi Editor

The NFC East was arguably the worst division in football last season.

The Eagles finished in first place with a record of 9-7 while the Cowboys finished just behind them at 8-8, while the Giants and Redskins followed their recent trend of being the bottom-feeders with records of 4-12 and 3-13 respectively. However, all 4 teams improved this offseason and the division should be more competitive than it has been the last few seasons.

4): Washington Redskins

2019 Record: 3-13

2020 Projected Record: 5-11

The Redskins underwent major changes this offseason, firing their controversial GM, Bruce Smith, and promoting Kyle Smith to VP of Player Personnel to replace him. Ron Rivera was hired after a surprise firing towards the end of the 2019 season from his spot with the Carolina Panthers, giving the Redskins an accomplished leader who could help turn things around quickly in the nation’s capital. 

The team didn’t make any flashy moves in free agency this offseason, but they brought back a solid starting slot CB Kendall Fuller and signed veteran LB Thomas Davis, a 37-year old LB that spent most of his career in Carolina with Rivera, who will bring much-needed veteran leadership to an otherwise young locker room.

They were low on picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, but they added a generational talent in #2 overall pick EDGE Chase Young, who will join an already stacked front-7 for the Redskins. In addition, they bet on upside with their 3rd-round pick in HB Antonio Gibson, who was a versatile playmaker at Memphis and will add a different element to an offense that desperately needs it. 

The 2020-21 season looks like it will be another one under the “rebuilding” category for the Redskins, but things are looking up for the franchise. The defense has a chance to be one of the league’s strongest and will be led by a dominant defensive line headed by Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Ryan Kerrigan and the young pass-rushing duo of Chase Young and Montez Sweat. However, the offense makes me question the ceiling of this year’s team.

The skill positions are below-average in talent and are filled with largely undeveloped players, and when undeveloped QB Dwayne Haskins is added to the equation, the offense has an extremely low floor. I think that the additions of Ron Rivera and Chase Young are significant and will give the team more wins than they had a year ago by themselves, but I can’t see a scenario in which they compete for either the division title or a Wild Card spot, even with the addition of a new playoff team in each conference this year. 

3): New York Giants

2019 Record: 4-12

2020 Projected Record: 7-9 

The Giants shook things up this offseason, as most of the coaching staff from 2019 was let go. This led to Joe Judge, the Patriots’ special teams coordinator and WRs coach, being hired in what was a surprise move at the time. He brought along longtime Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as his offensive coordinator and Patrick Graham, who was the Dolphins defensive coordinator last season, to fill the same position for the Giants. 

New York came into the offseason with many needs, primarily on the defensive side of the ball as they gave up the 3rd-most points in the league last season. They spent big money on a veteran cornerback in James Bradberry, who they hope will bring leadership and stability to a secondary that had major issues last year. In addition, they signed MLB Blake Martinez to a $30 million contract, who has to prove that he can play in coverage and become someone that the defense can count on, as fans didn’t see much of that during his time with the Green Bay Packers. 

The Giants have had trouble building a strong offensive line since their last Super Bowl run in 2011, but this year’s Draft provided hope that they can flip the script. They took technically-sound Georgia LT Andrew Thomas with the #4 overall pick, and followed that up by taking a lengthy project with a lot of potential at right tackle in Matt Peart during the 3rd-Round. Those two have a real chance to be starters for the next decade for New York, and the Giants did well to sure up the O-Line during a single draft. 

Much like the Redskins, the future looks bright for the Giants. They have found franchise players at both the QB and RB position in Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, and with the addition of their new offensive line prospects, the offense has a chance to be special with the likes of TE Evan Engram and WR Sterling Shepard. The defense remains the main issue for the team, but the addition of Bradberry, Martinez and rookie FS Xavier McKinney, they should see at least some improvement from last season. New York could be a sneaky good team this season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were in the hunt for that final Wild Card spot. 

2): Philadelphia Eagles 

2019 Record: 9-7

2020 Record: 9-7

Philadelphia didn’t change much from last season, but they didn’t have to. They won the NFC East at 9-7 despite their offense being riddled with injuries, but they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Seattle Seahawks following an early exit by Carson Wentz. He’ll return this year and has a revamped receiving core around him that should provide him the help he rarely received last season, and that might just be enough to give the Eagles a playoff spot. 

DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey, two of the team’s starting receivers heading into last season, rarely saw the field as they battled injuries. Players like Greg Ward and J.J Arcega-Whiteside were thrown into the fire, and it went about as well as fans would expect. Jeffery and Jackson will return this season, but now they will be joined by 1st-round pick Jalen Reagor, who has breakaway speed and is an athletic freak, and Marquise Goodwin, another explosive player with track speed who has struggled to stay healthy. TE Zack Ertz will be returning as well as RB Miles Sanders, and with a strong offensive line headed by RT Lane Johnson and C Jason Kelce still in place, the offense has a chance to put up major points week in and week out. 

The defense definitely has its soft spots, but you won’t find that upfront. The addition of Javon Hargrave from the Steelers gives them yet another dynamic playmaker to put next to Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, while players like Malik Jackson and Derek Barnett should be able to leave their mark as well.

The secondary got better with the addition of shutdown corner Darius Slay, who they acquired via trade from the Detroit Lions, and Nickell Robey-Coleman, a multi-year starter for the Los Angeles Rams. The LB position, however, is incredibly weak and the loss of star safety Malcolm Jenkins at the backend could come back to haunt them. This unit looks to be solid, but it won’t be the reason they make the playoffs. 

The Eagles offense can now come at defenses from all angles. The D-Line will be the focal point of the defensive line and should be able to both stop the run and rush the passer at an effective rate, but almost every group behind them has question marks. Carson Wentz should be in the MVP conversation this fall, and if he can live up to the hype, there’s no reason the Eagles couldn’t win the division or at least earn a Wild Card spot and make another deep postseason run. 

1): Dallas Cowboys

2019 Record: 8-8

2020 Record Projection: 10-6

The Cowboys started the offseason by letting go of HC Jason Garrett, who had held that position since 2010. There had been some frustration building up because of the Cowboys’ inability to make any sort of playoff run despite having one of the more talented rosters in the league, which led to Garrett being fired and Mike McCarthy being brought in. McCarthy was the head coach of the Packers from 2006 to 2018 and won a Super Bowl during his time there. Dallas hopes that he can get another one, and they have a legitimate reason to believe it can happen.

Dallas had arguably the best offseason in the NFL, excelling in both free agency and the Draft. They added productive veteran defensive tackles in Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe while also adding FS Ha Ha Clinton Dix to an otherwise weak secondary. During the draft, they stole WR CeeDee Lamb out of Oklahoma at #17 to pair with Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper, who resigned with the Cowboys after being a free agent for $100 million over 5 years. In the 4th round, they got a steal in C Tyler Biadasz, who will come in and replace former All-Pro Travis Frederick after he retired this offseason. They then took EDGE Bradlee Anae in the 6th round, who was someone that was projected to be taken in the 3rd or 4th round at worst leading up to the Draft. They also added some developmental prospects at the cornerback position in Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson, as well as an amazing athlete at DT in Neville Gallimore. 

The big story coming into the season for Dallas is QB Dak Prescott. He will be playing under the franchise tag this season after not signing an extension this offseason. He will become a free agent next year if the two sides can’t come to an agreement, which is something to watch for. He led the #1 passing offense last season and put up career highs in passing yards and TDs, and those totals should grow with the amount of weapons he has. Along with the three-headed monster at WR and the fantastic O-Line, he has Ezekiel Elliott, one of the top running backs in the league. Everything is in place for Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense to have another extremely successful season, which could put pressure on the front office to get something done. 

The Cowboys did everything right during the off-season and have set themselves up for a playoff berth and possible run. The offense looks to be lethal and the defense should be solid despite the loss of shut-down CB Byron Jones to the Dolphins. Fans will see if the new coaching staff really was the answer all along to get the Cowboys deep into the playoffs, and it seems likely that it is.