One of the NFL’s most competitive divisions since the league’s inception, the NFC East has now developed into one of the weaker groups in recent memory. With no repeating champion since the 2003-2004 Philadelphia Eagles, the annual race for the division crown has become a wide-open journey for a guaranteed playoff spot.
In this exercise, we push quarterbacks to the side, as Jalen Hurts (PHI), Daniel Jones (NYG), Ryan Fitzpatrick (WSH), and Dak Prescott (DAL) each are deemed irrelevant as we dive into which individual roster is best suited for success (sans QB) as we head into the 2021 campaign.
Let’s take a closer look.
In order, here is how the NFC East’s four illustrious franchises stack up heading into training camp.
Washington Football Team
Built from the inside-out with five former first-round picks within their projected front seven, it’s no secret the burgundy and gold hang their hat on their ability to get after the passer, wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. Led by Chase Young and Montez Sweat on the edge, Washington’s prowess and pedigree along their defensive line has developed into one of, if not the best, front four in all of football. The addition of versatile linebacker Jamin Davis via the 2021 NFL Draft and free-agent headliner William Jackson III on the outside as the team’s de facto top corner could be the final puzzle pieces to what could represent the team’s most dominant defense since the glory days of the ’80s-’90s under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
On offense, the team has attempted to address the loss of All-Pro Trent Williams over the last couple of seasons with a variety of talents, but has ultimately gone with a snap-by-snap approach to who ultimately rounds out the left side of the line on game day. And now, with longtime veteran Morgan Moses gone, Washington will inherently start a variety of new faces along a line tasked with leading the way for second-year talent Antonio Gibson, who is poised for a breakout sophomore campaign.
Out wide, Terry McLaurin needs no introduction—and neither does Curtis Samuel. The two burners on the perimeter could prove to be a lethal pairing considering McLaurin’s progression into one of the league’s elite young pass-catchers and Samuel’s ability to work throughout the formation as the ultimate chess piece within an ever-developing Scott Turner-led offensive unit. Quarterback-turned-tight end Logan Thomas and 2021 third-round selection Dyami Brown round out an impressive group of weapons, while veteran addition Adam Humphries and third-year man Cam Sims fight for snaps.
As mentioned previously, there hasn’t been a repeating champion within the division in nearly 20 seasons. The NFC East victors in 2020, Washington could flip the script and repeat, taking the next step toward reaching NFL glory. They have all the pieces necessary.
New York Giants
Similarly built to their inter-division foes in the nation’s capital, the Giants’ success this fall will stem from the success of their defense. Highlighted by one of the top corners in football in James Bradberry and a dynamic, versatile front three in Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, and 1-technique Danny Shelton, they lead the way for a talented group of linebackers that now includes Azeez Ojulari, a quick-twitched edge rusher who is line to surprise many after his slip into the middle of the second round.
As much attention will be drawn to the defensive side of the ball, Saquon Barkley’s return along with the free-agent adds of Kenny Golladay and Devontae Booker should dramatically boost one of the more turnover-prone offenses in football.
But, that topic is for another time.
The return of 2020 COVID-19 opt-out Nate Solder helps shore up the left side of a rather underwhelming front five, but Barkley’s presence and playmaking talent both in the run and pass game should sway the attention off the line to the pure bliss that is Barkley with the football in his hands. If healthy, he has all the makings of one of the league’s most productive ball carriers.
Whew, what an abysmal 2020 season it was in Dallas. But, nevertheless, we trudge forward.
With the division’s, and arguably the conference’s, top group of weapons on the perimeter in Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup, the Cowboys’ offense is primed to return to pre-Prescott injury form, tasked with lighting up the scoreboard from week-to-week. While the offensive line still has the household names you’re familiar with in Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and La’el Collins, their ability to stay on the football field for a full 17-game, or more, season remains a major question.
On defense, the unit remains in shambles as do-it-all team executive Jerry Jones failed to address his pressing needs on defense despite using eight of his 11 draft picks on the defensive side of the football. How does that happen you may ask? Let me explain.
With linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch already in place, although with questions of their own ability, adding Micah Parsons in the first round and Jabril Cox in the fourth simply didn’t make sense with glaring issues at corner. Kelvin Joseph, a talented corner out of Kentucky, served as the Cowboys’ second-round addition—but many, including myself, believe his scheme fit in Dallas may not align with his role as a future back-four defender.
It was a questionable draft process, at best, and it has inherently denoted Dallas as a team that will live or die by the success of its offense. If all fails and the injury bug strikes again, things could look drastically different for the Cowboys heading into 2022.
It’s full steam ahead aboard Nick Sirianni’s rebuild, as the Eagles head into camp with a sparkling new talent out wide in 2020 Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith to deflect from what is one of the league’s weakest rosters in relation to fundamental talent. With an aging front five, a limited backfield presence, and an unproven group of targets on the perimeter, not much is expected out of the Eagles offense compared to its divisional foes. On paper, the trio of Smith, running back Miles Sanders, and wideout Jalen Reagor could develop into a formidable offensive force for Sirianni, but that’s just it, their actual roles and production are a question and a clear view has yet to become available into the exact offense Sirianni will deploy in relation to the development of his young core of talent.
Defensively, a lack of talent is overwhelmingly apparent, but, let’s stay on track.
A now aging front four serves as the core for what could be one of the worst units in football, as newly minted defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon attempts to weld talent together to form an NFL-caliber group. A unit in charge of stifling a loaded group of inter-division offenses seems out of the cards for a team set to pair an under-performing Darius Slay with Avonte Maddox at corner, while a roaming group of linebackers in Shaun Bradley, Alex Singleton, and Eric Wilson make up the nucleus of their defense.
The signing of veterans Anthony Harris and Ryan Kerrigan were nice additions in the offseason, as Harris is expected to play a majority of the snaps alongside Rodney McLeod at the apex of Gannon’s defense, and Kerrigan, for now, will work rotationally along the front four, but they just aren’t a unit projected to make a drastic impact to keep the Eagles in games. Rather, they could be the cause of Philadelphia’s lack of success.
Arik Gilbert Doesn’t Need Big Workload To Be A Top NFL Draft Pick
- Aug 22, 2022
2023 NFL Mock Draft: Marino 1.0
- Aug 22, 2022