A Look at the NFC East

by Marc Narducci; Photo Marc Narducci | Sep 6, 2016
A Look at the NFC East The NFC East has experienced a recent facelift with both the Eagles and Dallas starting rookie quarterbacks. That leaves the two teams with established quarterbacks, the New York Giants and Washington Redskins likely to battle it out. Here is our look at the NFC East, with the predicted order of finish. 1.)Washington (9-7)
Many felt that Washington QB Kirk Cousins had a fluke season, but the Redskins didn't allow him to leave, slapping the $19.9 million franchise tag on him. While many people don't feel the former fourth round pick is worth that much money, it's only for a year and Washington would be in big trouble without him. Last year he was the most accurate passer in the NFL, completing 69.8 percent of his passes. He threw for 4,166 yards, 29 TDs and 11 interceptions. If Cousins does that again, it will be difficult to dethrone Washington. The Redskins have one of the emerging tight ends in Jordan Reed (87 receptions, 952 yards, 11 TDs) and former Eagle DeSean Jackson leads a solid receiving corps. A key will be whether the Skins can run the ball with the departure of Alfred Morris, now with the Cowboys. The defense is questionable, although signing cornerback Josh Norman as a free agent from Carolina should boost the secondary.

2.) NY Giants (6-10)
The Giants would be the favorites if their offensive line didn't have so many perceived holes. That said, New York should be a serious challenger for the division. Eli Manning still makes too many ill-advised throws but he did have 35 touchdown passes compared to 14 interceptions last year. The Giants also have one of the best receiving corps led by Odell Beckham (96 receptions, 1,450 yards, 13 TDS), among the top five receivers in the game. Rookie Sterling Shepard, a second round pick from Oklahoma, will make a serious impact and a key will be getting Victor Cruz to remain healthy after missing the last year and a half due to injury. New York beefed up its defense through free agency, including the addition of defensive lineman Oliver Vernon, a free agent from the Miami Dolphins. If the defense can improve and the offensive line keep Manning upright, this will be a dangerous team.

3.) Dallas Cowboys (4-12)
Quarterback Tony Romo is out once again with a back injury and his return isn't known. The Cowboys have been thrilled with fourth round pick Dak Prescott from Mississippi State, who will start in place of Romo. This preseason Prescott completed 39 of 50 passes (78 percent) for 454 yards, 5 TDs and no interceptions. He also ran for two scores. If there was an NFL preseason MVP, he'd be it. The problem is that he faced all the vanilla preseason defenses. How he reacts against teams game-planning for him, remains to be seen. If he doesn't turn the ball over, the Dallas offense should be formidable. Rookie Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State could gain 1,500 yards running behind the best offensive line in the division (and maybe the NFL). Morris comes over from the Redskins to add depth to the running game. Dez Bryant was limited to five games due to injury, but if healthy he is among the elite receivers in the NFL. The Dallas defense has plenty of holes and the Cowboys hope they can control the clock with the running game and keep their defense off the field for long stretches.

4.) Eagles (7-9)
Last week's trade of Sam Bradford to Minnesota means the Eagles will have to overachieve to contend, although it's possible. Rookie Carson Wentz will start and he got just one preseason game under his belt before hurting his ribs. Wentz, like Prescott, will be learning on the job, but the difference is that the Dallas rookie quarterback has many more weapons. The Eagles receivers might be the least talented group in the NFL, although Jordan Matthews, who grabbed 152 passes in his first two seasons, is a solid contributor from the slot. Tight end Zach Ertz is expected to take the next step after catching 75 passes for 853 yards and 2 TDs. Darren Spoles is an explosive punt returner and gives Wentz a major weapon in the passing game out of the backfield. The reason the Eagles can't be written off is that they likely have the best defense in the division, led by Fletcher Cox, coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance. Cox leads a defensive line that can put serious heat on opposing passers. The Eagles have to hope their defense, under new coordinator Jim Schwartz, can carry the team while Wentz and the offense get their feet wet.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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