By: Steve Johnson
Eli Manning is a 2 time super bowl winner, so the Giants get the top spot here despite having Geno Smith and Josh Johnson as backups. Eli is getting up there in age and will be overtaken by the young guys soon enough, but with the weapons they added he’s still the top guy.
If this was based solely on talent these rankings would be totally different, but Kirk Cousins continues to prove the doubters wrong passing for 2 straight 4,000 yard/25+ TD/65+ completion % seasons. It’ll be interesting to see what impact losing Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay will have on him.
Wentz, is the most talented QB in the division, but he needs to prove it. Adding Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, and having a healthy O-line should help him do that. The Eagles also have the most proven backup in the division in Nick Foles.
Dak Prescott had a great year last year, but he was somewhere in between a proven QB and a game manager in my opinion. The argument of team wins for a QB is a lazy one, especially when you don’t use win/loss as an argument for any other position. I want my QB to win me games, not to not lose them, Dak is an interesting player going into 2017.
Ezekiel Elliott is the best back in the division and it’s not even close. Add in veterans Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris, and you easily have the best RB group in the division, maybe the league. Elliott getting suspended (which I think he will be) would be detrimental to the team.
The Eagles added LeGarrette Blount in free agency and drafted scatback Donnel Pumphrey this offseason. Expect the Eagles to use Pumphrey and Sproles at the same time, with either one in the slot at times. Wendell Smallwood is still in the mix, but needs a good camp and preseason to see any type of playing time.
Rob Kelly came out of no where to lead the Redskins in rushing last year, taking the job from Matt Jones, who seems to be buried on their depth chart going into 2017. They still have pass catcher Chris Thompson and drafted Samaje Perine, out of Oklahoma, but this group is a huge question mark.
If you thought the Redskins have question marks at running back, have you seen the Giants? Paul Perkins takes over as the starter, as the team opted not to resign Rashad Jennings. They drafted Wayne Gallman out of Clemson and still have Shane Vereen lingering until he gets hurt again.
The Giants, might have one of the best receiving groups in the NFL. They added Brandon Marshall in free agency and drafted TE Evan Engram. Pair them with OBJ and Sterling Sheppard and you easily have the best receiving group in the division.
The Skins passing attack has been one of the tops in the league the past few years, but I think it could take a hit with the loss of Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay, and the departures of Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, both left via free agency. They do get back first round pick Josh Doctson, and added Terrelle Pryor in free agency, but you have to have some doubts that they can keep it going. I put them slightly above the Eagles and Cowboys, due to Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed being complete monsters in the middle of the field.
Adding Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith were huge for the progression of Carson Wentz. They also added Mack Hollins, who should contribute immediately in the red zone and on special teams, and Shelton Gibson in the draft. Former first round pick Nelson Agholor needs to step it up, especially with the Jordan Matthews battling injuries already. Finally having some legitimate outside threats should open the middle for TE Zach Ertz.
Cole Beasley led the Cowboys in targets, receptions, and yards last year…that cannot happen again if they want to keep their title as best in the divison. Dez Bryant was banged up for most of the year and ended up missing 3 games, he turned it on at the end of the year but can he stay healthy this year? Terrance Williams is nothing special and is probably the worst starting WR in the divison and somebody needs to overtake that starting role. Witten is as old as dirt, but still provides Prescott with a big body across the middle. The Cowboys drafted Ryan Switzer, and he should take some snaps away from Beasley. Putting the Cowboys 4th in a division with great receiving groups isn’t a knock, this division is stacked with pass catchers.
Many argue blindy that the Cowboys have the best offensive line in football. Whether that is the case or not, the Cowboys line will have more question marks than it has in years past. They lost guard Ronald Leary in free agency and Doug Free retired. Although neither of those players were anything special, in fact they were the 2 weak links along the line, the chemistry the entire line developed cannot be questioned. La’el Collins, who was projected as a first round pick prior to the debacle that left him undrafted in 2015, steps in at right tackle. I still have them ranked as the best OL in the division, but it’s July and anything can happen.
The Eagles and Cowboys offensive lines are closer than people think. PFF ranked the Eagles as the best offensive line heading into 2017. Getting right tackle Lane Johnson back is huge, as they are a different offense when he’s on the field. Chance Warmack was added in free agency to provide depth. Keep an eye on 2nd year player Isaac Seumalo, who could compete to start at either LG or C.
The Redskins have become a very solid offensive line under Bill Callahan. Brandon Scherff has lived up to being the 5th overall pick in the 2015 draft. Trent Williams and Morgan Moses are massive maulers on the outside.
I don’t think the Giants line is as bad as people say it is, but it’s definitely the worst in the division. Philadephia hater Justin Pugh headlines the underrated group. Former top 10 pick Ereck Flowers is in a make it or break it year and needs to turn things around.
Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul is one of the best DE combos in the game today. Damon “snacks” Harrison is one of the premier inside linemen in the league and gobbles up blockers, which is what Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo loves to help his defense rush the passer.
The Eagles were not happy with where their Defensive Line was last season, so in the offseason they traded for DT Timmy Jernigan, signed DE Chris Long, and drafted DE Derek Barnett and DT Elijah Qualls. Brandon Graham needs to finish his hurries, he put constant pressure on the QB but only managed 5.5 sacks. Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry need to prove they’re worth the money they got, not showing up for OTAs int the spring didn’t help Cox’s cause. The Eagles want to get after the QBs in their division, and they will.
Somehow Jonathan Allen fell to the Redskins at the 17th pick in the 2017 draft, which they desparately needed given their current DL group. The Redskins are the only team in the division to run an odd front, so I didn’t mention Ryan Kerrigan in this group, even though he’s a pass rushing specialist.
The Cowboys were already weak at D-Line before David Irving’s 4 game suspension. Add in Randy Gregory, who is looking more and more like he’ll never get on the field. They drafted Taco Charlton out of Michigan, but in my eyes he’s far from a finished product.
As mentioned above, I count Ryan Kerrigan as a linebacker for this article. He’s as steady as it gets at the OLB postion which helps the Redskins lead this group among the NFC East. The Redskins also drafted Ryan Anderson out of Alabama, and he’ll be asked to contribute immediately with Trent Murphy suspended.
Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham were both really solid last year. Mychal Kendricks….not so much. Surprisingly they didn’t really address this position in the offseason. I have them as the 2nd best LB group in the division, but mostly because the LBs in the NFC East are probably the weakest position group.
I’m a huge Sean Lee fan, probably the only Cowboy I don’t despise. He plays the game like you’d expect out of a Penn State linebacker. The Cowboys defense is determined by if he is healthy or not. Injured second year LB Jaylon Smith, who the Cowboys took in last years draft, is a very intriguing player. If he can get healthy, one can only imagine he’ll contribute immediately.
The Giants linebackers is one of the weakest position groups in all of the NFC East. They can get by with what they have being that they have a great DL and Secondary, but you go to imagine they need more from this group in order to make a deep playoff run. They didn’t have a single LB with over 60 tackles, Jonathan Casillas and Devon Kennard lead the group here.
The Giants lead the pack here….by a lot. Landon Collins completely turned his career around last year finishing with 100 tackles, 5 interceptions and 4 sacks. Janoris Jenkins turned out to be one of the best free agent signings of the year. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is back again this year, and expect 2nd year player Eli Apple to take the next step. Combine this secondary with an elite pass rush and the Giants are looking pretty scary this year.
Josh Norman isn’t the dominant player he was in Carolina, because he’s not surrounded by the same talent, but he’s still a great corner. Bashaud Breeland will have rookie Fabian Moreau looking over his shoulder for playing time. They also acquired D.J. Swearinger in free agency from Arizona.
Malcom Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are a pretty good safety tandem, but that’s about it in the Eagles secondary. The Eagles signed a veteran CB (for what seems like the 10th straight year) in Patrick Robinson, but he’s on his 4th team in as many years. The Eagles drafted Rasul Douglas, who led the NCAA in interceptions in 2016, to play along side 2nd year player Jalen Mills. 2017 2nd round pick Sidney Jones, will be worked back slowly and might not play at all this year.
The Cowboys lost a lot of players in their secondary from an already bad group in 2016. Replacing them with Nolan Carroll won’t fix it either. They drafted 4 secondary players in May’s draft, but I don’t see any of them as day one starters on the outside. Athletic freak Byron Jones needs to take the next step in order to make this group even mediocre.
Caleb Strugis was a huge surprise last year for the Eagles, going 35 for 41, including 24 for 24 inside 40. Donnie Jones, isn’t the punter he was a few years ago but he’s still solid. Darren Sproles is a threat to house kicks every time he touches the ball. The Eagles have one of the better overall special teams in the league.
Dan Bailey is one of the most accurate kickers in the history of the game. But the Cowboys special team units outside of Bailey, are average at best.
Jamison Crowder is an absolute weapon on punt returns. The Redskins are just average every where else though.
Dwayne Harris is a stud on special teams, whether that’s returning kicks or a gunner, he simply makes plays, Dallas misses him. I’ll be honest, I have no idea who Aldrick Rosas is, but he’s the Giants kicker.
Before I dive into the NFC East coaching staff, I think it should be mentioned that none of these head coaches are very good, so I’m basing this off of a combination of assistants and head coaches.
Jason Garrett surprised a lot of people last year, including myself. With that being said, I don’t think he’s a very good head coach, the presence of Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli bump them up to 1.
Ben McAdoo also surprised a lot of people in his first year. I thought it was a mistake that they let him take over as head coach. He has some room for improvement but having Spags coach the defense is extremely underrated.
I’m pretty confident that Doug Pederson doesn’t really have a clue. Having Frank Reich and Jim Schwartz coaching by his side is very helpful. Dave Fipp is one of the best special teams coaches in the league. The Eagles blocked other teams from interviewing John DeFilippo for a reason, he’s a very bright young mind and the Eagles didn’t want to let him get away from Carson Wentz
As mentioned above in QB and WR breakdowns, losing Sean McVay hurts, how much? We’ll see. I somewhat like Jay Gruden, but he’s still unproven in my eyes. We’ll see how he handles losing one of the best offensive assistants in the game.