The NFC East comes down to two teams really. It came down to the Eagles and Cowboys the last two years and it should be more of that this season. The Eagles and Chip Kelly were the noisiest team in this division during the offseason, which isn’t always a good thing. Chip revamped a lot of his team like a mad scientist so who knows if it will work. The Boys lost their leading rusher and will be a missing a few guys on defense. The Giants will look to have all their skill positions healthy all at once this year. The Redskins are well the Redskins; we will get a littler deeper into all these teams in this preview.
The Chip Kelly experiment pays off in a big way if they get back to the playoffs and win the division. Winning the division might be the only way to get to the postseason with how good the rest of the conference is. Chip Kelly shocked the NFL world with trading top back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for another ex-Duck Kiko Alonso. Kelly also traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford with the Rams. He let Jeremy Maclin walk and sign with the Chiefs and also cut Evan Mathis. He then went out and retained Mark Sanchez, and added Demarco Murray, Ryan Matthews, Byron Maxwell and last but not least Tim FREAKING Tebow. If you didn’t notice a lot of those players have had some injury concerns so far in their career. The big ones are the biggest names of Murray and Bradford. Murray is coming off like 9 million carries with the Boys so how that affects him this year will be watched very carefully. It looks to be Sam Bradford’s job to lose, but he has to stay healthy. Sammy boy hasn’t done that in a long long time so we will see. If these guys can stay on the field then I think hands down this is the best team in the NFC Eest. Chip did protect his big guns though in signing Matthews, Marky Mark, and Tebow. He gives himself a little insurance if they do suffer an injury. The Eagles also have a nice duo in the making with Jordan Matthews and 1st round draft pick Nelson Agholor at the wide-out position. Chip will want to play fast and they should have the weapons to do it.
The defense which should be the best in this division adds some great talent in Kiko and Maxwell. This defense also returns Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Mychal Kendricks, and Conner Barwin. They also drafted hybrid safety/corner Eric Rowe in the 2nd round of this year’s draft. Like his offense, Chip Kelly wants his defense at high speeds. The players he has now can let him play at that speed especially with his boy Kiko running the show in the middle.
X-Factor: I might be cheating by picking two of them but the ex-Sooners will be the key to Chip’s season. Murray and Bradford will need to stay healthy because they can perform at a high level. We have seen Murray do it all last year and have seen glimpses of it with Sam. If healthy this team can do some great things, but if Mark is running the show with Matthews behind him it’s a downgrade. It might not be that big of a downgrade but it could be big enough to lose the division by a game again. Or Chip can just let Tebow spin and win the Super Bowl!! John 3:16
The Boys got back to the playoffs last year behind easily the best offensive line in the league. The Cowboys have themselves a young core of guys that look to be dominant for a while. The whole gang is back together with Romo, Dez, Cole, Terrance, and Jason. The only one missing is Demarco, who is eating at Geno’s right now. The Boys will have to rely on a stable of backs including Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, and Lance Dunbar. I’m a big fan of Randle but he is no Murray. Jerry Jones is hoping that his massive o-line can make any back look great. They certainly can make room for these guys, but it’s up to them after that. Even with the o-line providing Mack truck lanes to run through the drop off from Murray to Randle will be felt. That means more pressure on Romo and that back of his. Last year they were the 3rd best in the league in passing efficiency, so they will need to continue that. Also it means more action for the very high paid Dez Bryant. That is a good thing, but I just hope he hasn’t lost some of his edge with being paid and being very very happy. An angry Dez always showed up on Sundays.
This defense improved big-time last year from going to historically bad to just pretty bad. This defense has already lost top corner Orlando Scandrick for the year with an ACL tear. They also will be playing without with Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain for a few games due to suspension. Those loses right there will put a lot of pressure on this side of the ball. There is a bright side as Sean Lee and talented Mo Claiborne are back from injuries. They also will have 1st round pick corner Byron Jones and 2nd rounder Randy “smoke weed everyday” Gregory out there trying to step up.
X-Factor: The X-factor for this team will be the defense. They will need to continue to improve or they will be in some trouble. Last year the Boys ran so often and well that the defense wasn’t on the field a whole lot. It might be a slightly different offense with no Demarco. Romo and the boys might have to sling it a few more times. If this defense can’t get off the field and are giving up points, I don’t know if Romo is up for many shoot outs this year.
The Giants had a down year last year and were banged up much of the season. Odell Beckhma Jr missed half the year with an injury but still won the Rookie of the Year. That’s how I feel about this entire offense honestly. If this offense can stay healthy then they have one of the all-around better offenses. OBJ, Rashad Jennings, Victor Cruz, and Ruben Randle all are big time weapons but need to stay on the field. Eli Manning struggled early but really came on at the end especially when OBJ came back. The one thing that isn’t good at all is the o-line. They have had problems up-front for a few years now. The Giants hope they got some help with drafting big Ereck Flowers in the 1st round out of Da U. They also added Shane Vereen catching back specialist. He will be a big help on 3rd downs for Eli this year. If the o-line can give space and time for a heathy rest of the offense, they can be very good, if not more of the same of last year.
The defense is a couple of fingers short in the front seven. JPP went crazy on July 4th and blew off his fingers with a firework, not the only player to do that this year by the way. Even with his loss of fingers JPP needs to get back to being JPP. The reunion with DC Steve Spagnuolo should help this defense and the pass rushers on this squad. The years the Giants won titles were helped with a slew of rushers that caused havoc. Spags will have JPP, Mathias Kiwanuka and a sleeper in Damontre Moore. Moore was a big time prospect coming out for the 2013 draft. He was being rated as high as a top 15 pick at first for his pass rushing abilities, but fell drastically as the draft got closer. He went in the 3rd round probably to the best team possibly in how they just turn out rushing ends. They also drafted safety Landon Collins and DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa this year in rounds 2 and 3. Both of these guys could be playing from week 1 more so for Collins. The Giants also have Jon Beason aka the Beast to run the show in the middle. Spags has a lot to work with this year and will need to get creative to cause his havoc.
X-Factor: I think this offense will be very good and stay healthy but the huge factor is JPP. Jason Pierre-Paul needs to get back to his dominate ways if the G-Men want to get back to the postseason. This league is a passing league, and a way to stop that is pass rushers. He was an elite pass rusher and needs to get that back to help this defense and get the ball back to a pretty solid offense.
I will keep this quick, the Redskins need to change their name and the team isn’t very good. Their best o-lineman in Trent Williams is hurt. Their QB and coach never seem to be on the same page. I actually like Alfred Morris and their wide-outs in Jordan Reed, Niles Paul (even though Paul was a punk on this year’s Hard Knocks episode), DeSean Jackson, and Pierre Garcon. The o-line and QB are a mess on this team and their owner. Things need to change top to bottom for this organization.
The defense was okay against the run but hard to watch against the pass. They did add DE Preston Smith in the draft, and DL Stephen Pea/ Ricky Jean-Francois and Chris Culliver/Dashon Goldson in the secondary. Those are all solid adds but not a real difference maker in their like the guy they lost in free agency Brian Orakpo. I don’t see a huge improvement on this side of the ball and another long year for Washington.
X-Factor: Its simple RGIII needs to get that magic back. He was tremendous his rookie year and then has just lost his swagger. We have all seen RGIII perform at a high level but not in a while. If he can get that back this offense turns a 180 because they have weapons to work with.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : George