By Ralph Vacchiano (FOX Sports activities NFC East author) and David Helman (FOX Sports activities Dallas Cowboys author)
The NFC East has been two issues in recent times — weak and unpredictable. Up to now 4 seasons, solely two division groups have received greater than 9 video games, and the six that made the playoffs produced solely two postseason wins.
And there may be parity constructed into their badness. There hasn’t been a repeat division champion since 2004 — a league-record span of 18 years.
So sure, the Dallas Cowboys appeared like the category of the division final 12 months, posting a splashy, 12-5 document earlier than their first-round wipeout towards the San Francisco 49ers. However the re-loaded Philadelphia Eagles, contemporary off a 9-8 season (and 6-2 end) are proper on their heels. And in a division that produced a 7-9 champion simply two seasons in the past, depend out the Washington Commanders and New York Giants at your personal danger.
It is a division the place something can occur, and never all of will probably be good. This is a take a look at the contenders and the pretenders, a few of which may find yourself being the identical.
Overview: When the Eagles began 3-6 final season, the complete metropolis was screaming for a re-do on the hiring of head coach Nick Sirianni and the drafting of quarterback Jalen Hurts. Then one thing magical occurred. They went on a 6-2 run to complete the season and made the playoffs. Out of the blue, Philadelphia was a metropolis with Tremendous Bowl goals.
Possibly that is a little bit untimely, contemplating they did not face a single playoff staff in that 6-2 run. However past the hysteria, there’s a lot to love about this Eagles staff. They’re constructed the way in which winners are sometimes constructed — with energy alongside the offensive and defensive strains. And GM Howie Roseman has been aggressive about including expertise, whether or not it is via large trades for WR A.J. Brown and CB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, or large signings of gamers reminiscent of edge rusher Haason Reddick and cornerback James Bradberry.
It has left them feeling loaded, particularly if Hurts can shortly grow to be the participant they consider he might be. He’ll once more be a part of a robust dashing assault, however now, with the addition of Brown, he is obtained some severe weapons within the passing recreation. Hurts has Brown, final 12 months’s No. 1 decide in DeVonta Smith and tight finish Dallas Goedert. The group is not very deep, however on the floor it is fairly good.
All of the elements are there for the Eagles to be a harmful staff within the NFC East, and perhaps even a sneaky contender in a convention with out many clear powerhouse groups. After all, that is provided that Hurts actually can take that subsequent step, and if the second half of final season wasn’t only a large fluke.
Dallas Cowboys or Philadelphia Eagles to win the NFC East
The Philadelphia Eagles have been getting quite a lot of hype since buying and selling for DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Which raises the query: Who will win the NFC East?
Strengths: They had been the No. 1 dashing staff within the NFL final season, however they did it with out the normal, workhorse again. The truth is, Hurts (784 yards, 10 touchdowns) was their main rusher. They’d’ve gotten extra from RB Miles Sanders (754), however he was damage loads and missed 5 video games (and notably missed time with a hamstring damage this summer season). Additionally they obtained triple-digit yards from three different backs — Boston Scott (373), Jordan Howard (406) and Kenneth Gainwell (291). Are Sanders, Scott or Gainwell (Howard is gone) ok to function? Possibly it does not matter. Their line is powerful they usually all run nicely, and if Hurts and Brown can open up the passing recreation there ought to be room to run much more.
Breakout Participant: Goedert had a strong 56 catches for 830 yards and 4 touchdowns final season, which is spectacular underneath the circumstances. He break up tight finish duties with Zach Ertz for the primary six video games final season. After that, he was actually the No. 2 possibility within the offense, drawing loads of defensive consideration behind a small receiver in Smith, who hardly ever labored the center of the sphere. Now he is the person at tight finish, and Brown was acquired to attract away protection. The massive, powerful and speedy Goedert ought to have much more room to work, and his numbers may go manner up.
Win-Loss prediction: When a staff can run like they’ll, dominate the strains of scrimmage, and probably rush the passer if Reddick lives as much as his contract, they’ll win quite a lot of video games — particularly in a weak division. The important thing to what number of video games they win is Hurts. Betting on him taking a leap within the second season underneath Sirianni appears clever, as a result of he was efficient and harmful final 12 months whereas making an attempt to study a brand new scheme in his first 12 months as a starter. Now he is aware of the performs, has buddy in Brown as a weapon, and loads of items round him. He could possibly be a Professional Bowler. And the Eagles could possibly be good. Prediction: 10-7.
Overview: We’re about to search out out simply how a lot Dak Prescott can do for this franchise.
That is the thought surrounding the Dallas Cowboys after an offseason you can justifiably name horrific. There was the teaching drama of January and February, after a disappointing playoff exit, and it was instantly adopted by main roster attrition. Amari Cooper was traded, La’el Collins was lower and several other big-time members of final 12 months’s staff moved on in free company.
The hits have saved coming all the way in which as much as this month. Tyron Smith has been sidelined by a knee damage till a minimum of December, additional shuffling an offensive line that already appeared like a query mark. The Cowboys introduced in 40-year-old Jason Peters to offset the loss, they usually’ll ask rookie Tyler Smith to begin at left sort out early within the season.
That leaves Prescott to make do with much less. True, he nonetheless has CeeDee Lamb, in addition to Ezekiel Elliott and a strong tight finish in Dalton Schultz. However the supporting forged seems decidedly worse than the one which received 12 video games and the NFC East final season — even when the Cowboys do not need to admit that.
No matter how the roster seems, the expectations are all the time going to be excessive in Dallas. If the Cowboys are going to satisfy them, it’s going to be largely on Prescott to have his greatest season up to now.
Strengths: This feels bizarre to kind, however the Cowboys could possibly depend on a robust protection whereas they kind out their points on offense.
Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence are again, and the additions of Dante Fowler Jr., Anthony Barr and rookie defensive finish Sam Williams would possibly make this the scariest Dallas cross rush we have seen in a decade. On the again finish, each key member of final 12 months’s secondary is again — most notably Trevon Diggs, who led the league with 11 interceptions final season.
Historical past suggests the Cowboys aren’t going to steer the league in takeaways two years in a row, however it is a unit with quite a lot of expertise. Extra importantly, it is a group that additionally returns defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who was a scorching head teaching candidate after turning the Cowboys into one of many league’s greatest defenses final season.
Cowboys have ‘no excuses’ with Prescott, Parsons & dominant protection
Dak Prescott and Micah Parsons will look to steer the Dallas Cowboys to back-to-back NFC East crowns for the primary time since 1996.
That mixture of teaching and personnel ought to hold them in nearly each recreation they play.
Breakout Participant: Is it dishonest to name Schultz a breakout participant? The man is already taking part in on a $10.9 million franchise tag, so he is clearly fairly good. However he seems to be primed to make a fair larger leap.
We already know Schultz is one in every of Prescott’s favourite targets, however now he is featured in an offense that abruptly has far fewer playmakers. With opposing defenses keying on Lamb, the chance is there for Schultz to ascertain himself as one of many recreation’s most efficient tight ends.
Win-Loss prediction: It is wonderful the way in which one damage can change your opinion of a staff. With Tyron Smith wholesome and taking part in at a Professional Bowl stage, this appeared like a staff able to profitable 10 video games and a second straight NFC East title. Possibly that is nonetheless doable, however the margin for error seems loads thinner than it did two weeks in the past. My greatest guess is the Cowboys handle a couple of .500 document, and we’ll see if that is ok for the division crown. Prediction: 9-8.
Overview: When the Commanders introduced in Ron Rivera in 2020, there was hope he would finish their period of chaos and dysfunction and restore luster and respectability to the franchise. And perhaps sometime he’ll.
However his first two seasons have been a bizarre swirl of instability. They did win the division in his first 12 months, nevertheless it was with a 7-9 document. Final season they had been 7-10, which led them to a frantic offseason seek for a brand new quarterback. They landed on Carson Wentz, who comes from Indianapolis (and earlier than that, Philadelphia) as broken items.
He’ll even be the sixth beginning quarterback in Rivera’s two seasons.
That is loopy, but when their large gamble on Wentz — $28 million this 12 months alone, in addition to important Day 2 draft fairness — pays off, the turnaround could possibly be fast. They have some good weapons round him. Receiver Terry McLaurin is an ignored gem who had 77 catches for 1,053 yards final season though Professional Soccer Focus indicated solely 62.7 % of balls thrown to him had been catchable. They have working again in Antonio Gibson, a possible weapon in tight finish Logan Thomas and perhaps extra assist if receiver Curtis Samuel is wholesome and first-rounder Jahan Dotson can contribute shortly, too.
The protection is a little bit questionable, particularly with Chase Younger out the primary 4 weeks. However the staff’s fortunes hinge on Wentz. He is put up good numbers at his previous two stops, however with loads of baggage. He may, nevertheless, present stability to a franchise that has torn via 10 totally different beginning quarterbacks over the previous 4 seasons.
Commanders QB coach on Carson Wentz: “He’s hungry for football”
We’re starting to get an inside take a look at how Carson Wentz would possibly match with the Washington Commanders.
Strengths: They’ve a robust and numerous working again group and the potential to have one of many NFL’s greatest working video games. Gibson is a perfect lead again (1,037 dashing yards final season), and he and J.D. McKissic mixed for 85 catches for 691 yards final 12 months. They hoped to get much more energy from rookie Brian Robinson, however he was shot within the leg in a theft try late in camp. He’s anticipated to get better absolutely, however might be out a minimum of the primary 4 video games.
Breakout Participant: McLaurin has someway managed to catch 164 passes for two,171 yards and 9 touchdowns over the previous two seasons with six totally different quarterbacks throwing him passes — and none doing it significantly nicely. He is likely one of the most underrated receivers within the NFL, and lots of consider he is obtained elite potential with the correct quarterback and scenario. Possibly that is it. Wentz has been up and down at occasions, however he is usually fairly correct and has , robust arm. McLaurin ought to be the largest beneficiary of that.
Win-Loss prediction: With higher quarterback play, the Commanders consider they might’ve been a playoff contender final season. That is most likely not true given their different points, particularly on protection, however there isn’t any doubt Wentz will present a lift. The Younger-less protection remains to be a giant situation, although, and their offensive line could possibly be an issue, too. Depth can be a giant concern. They need to be capable of transfer the ball and rating factors. That most likely retains them in playoff rivalry into December, however they’re going to most likely fall simply quick. Prediction: 8-9.
New York Giants
Overview: If it wasn’t already clear that this could be a rebuilding season, GM Joe Schoen issued a reminder on the finish of coaching camp when he declined to reply questions on expectations and stated as an alternative, “We’re going to do the best with what we have.”
That hardly inspiring message is as a result of he is aware of the reality — that his major job this season was to wash up a large number of a roster and wage cap left behind by former GM Dave Gettleman. There are holes all over the place, and he did not have the cash to fill them, which suggests this rebuilding course of was all the time going to take a number of years.
What have they got? A heck of a working again in Saquon Barkley, if he can keep wholesome. A veteran offensive line that ought to be higher than final season’s group, largely as a result of it could not probably be worse. Additionally they have a brand new coach in Brian Daboll who was a terrific play caller because the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Payments, although it stays to be seen if he’ll look as good with Daniel Jones as his quarterback.
Daniel Jones’ future, how Pete Carroll will fare post-Russell Wilson period
Bucky Brooks joins Colin Cowherd to debate Daniel Jones’ progress and whether or not he’ll show he’s the New York Giants’ franchise QB, together with how Pete Carroll will lead the Seattle Seahawks previous the Russell Wilson period.
If Jones is nice, if Barkley is wholesome, if receiver Kenny Golladay begins taking part in as much as his $72 million contract, if the road holds collectively, if rookie edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux recovers from his knee damage and performs just like the dominant cross rusher the Giants assume he’s, then they could possibly be an honest staff. However that is quite a lot of ifs for a staff that hasn’t seen a lot go proper the previous 10 seasons.
Strengths: It is actually arduous to search out one, nevertheless it may probably be their working recreation. Barkley is an All-Professional expertise who confirmed as a rookie that he is usually a harmful runner and a giant weapon within the passing recreation. However that was 4 years and lots of accidents in the past. He swears he is wholesome now that he is greater than a 12 months faraway from ACL surgical procedure, and he certain appeared good in camp this summer season. With a greater line in entrance of him, Barkley could possibly be an enormous weapon, which actually will assist out Jones.
Breakout Participant: WR Kadarius Toney, their first-round decide from a 12 months in the past, has an opportunity to be a famous person. However he comes with the identical caveat as everybody else — if he stays wholesome. He obtained off to a really sluggish begin due to accidents final season. When he was lastly able to play, he dazzled for 2 video games, together with a 10-catch, 189-yard efficiency in Dallas in Week 5. However he was by no means absolutely wholesome once more. And, maybe ominously, he was damage most of this summer season, too.
Win-Loss prediction: The Giants do not have a frightening schedule, so there’s a chance for them to be mediocre with just a bit enchancment in some key areas. A whole lot of that clearly hinges on well being, however a lot of it depends upon Jones, too. If he is the franchise quarterback they hope he’s, the Giants will be aggressive. If not, they’re going to be punting towards the 2023 draft fairly early. However the ceiling for this group seems like .500. And that is provided that every little thing goes proper. With the Giants, it hardly ever does. Prediction: 6-11.
Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports activities, overlaying the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the earlier six years overlaying the Giants and the Jets for SNY TV in New York, and earlier than that he spent 16 years overlaying the Giants and the NFL for the New York Day by day Information. A Lengthy Island, N.Y. native and graduate of Syracuse College, he will be discovered on Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.
David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports activities. He beforehand spent 9 seasons overlaying the Cowboys for the staff’s official web site. In 2018, he received a regional Emmy for his function in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” in regards to the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Observe him on Twitter @davidhelman_.
Get extra from Nationwide Soccer League Observe your favorites to get details about video games, information and extra.