The NFC East is no longer the beast of the NFL it once was. The Giants, Cowboys, and Redskins are shadows of their former selves, but the Eagles appear in the midst of a resurgence under the tutelage of offensive-guru Chip Kelly.
None of the teams in the division on the surface appear to have the talent to compete with the upper echelons of the stacked NFC, but as the division’s own Big Blue Wrecking Crew has proven on multiple occasions in the past, anything can happen. The biggest storyline going into the season for the division is DeSean Jackson who was deemed not to be a Chip Kelly “guy.” So much so that the talismanic, albeit controversial receiver now will be toiling his trade in Washington.
Speaking of Washington it appears the Redskins has rightfully been deemed too racist to be considered a team nickname. However, across other sports there are nicknames and logos with racial undertones that no one seems to have a problem with (Chiefs, Braves, Blackhawks, etc.). The NFL projects to have seven black NFL starting quarterbacks, and with the implementation of the “Rooney Rule”, minorities have ascended to head coaching positions. The Redskins may change their franchise name, but they will not change their standing in the NFC East from last season.
The Redskins will not lose eleven-in-a-row like they managed to last season, but the basement of the division is where they will likely finish. If they want to transcend that position they have to perform better within the division. Last season they lost all six division games they played.
America’s most popular team continues to be saddled with the country’s most disliked owner, and most controversial quarterback. Statistically Tony Romo is an elite quarterback, and in the fourth quarter one of the top 3 quarterbacks in the NFL. He took the worst defensive team of the last 40 years to 8-8, and the Cowboy’s defense could be even worse this year. There is no Hatcher, Ware, or Sean Lee.
Romo’s contract is up at the end of the season, and is there any player in all of sports who needs a change of scenery more than Romo? Jerry Jones has repeatedly stated he does not regret passing on Johnny Football, but is anything farther from the truth? Expect status quo with the Cowboys as they finish 8-8, miss the playoffs, and re-sign Romo to do the same for another five seasons. At least they began to address the offensive line.
The Giants are a team with a talented roster, but a complete lack of identity. The defensive-line is in shambles, and the run-game is punchless. David Wilson may be forced to retire, and Jason Pierre-Paul is one of the most overrated players in the league.
Odell Beckham Jr. is a welcome edition for Eli Manning who has regressed each of the last three seasons. There is no doubting Manning has the necessary “clutch” gene, but that does not hide the fact that the Ole Miss product is prone to stretches of head-scratching, wild inaccuracy. The Giants are a .500 team aided by a weak division. However, is the division weak enough to propel Big Blue into the playoffs?
Much of that will depend on how the offense adapts to Bob McAdoo’s new West Coast offensive scheme. The goal is for Manning to complete 70% of his passes, but maybe a good starting point is less than 25 interceptions. However, I do think Manning will drastically improve and the Giants’ secondary projects to be one of the best in the league. Statistically the secondary is burdened by a complete lack of pass-rush. If Perry Fewell can reignite the pass-rush the Giants could be a pest for the division-favorite Eagles.
The Chip Kelly era enters its’ second season in the City of Brotherly Love. Expectations for Nick Foles are sky high after his highly impressive rookie campaign, but a drop-off has to be expected. Furthermore, match-up nightmare DeSean Jackson is gone, and no one knows what to expect of the returning Jeremy Maclin. Riley Cooper whose racist antics made him a better fit for the Redskins improved immensely last season, and if he continues to impress he may become Foles’ favorite target. Jordan Matthews has impressed in the start of his NFL career.
Overshadowed by Foles performance last season was how well the Eagles’ defense performed. Expected to be a weakness, the Eagles defense became the team’s greatest strength. The Eagles blitz more than any other team in the league, and how well first round draft pick Marcus Smith plays this season could be the difference in a game or two this season. The Eagles have to take advantage of a week division to try and get to 11 or 12 wins.