If you clicked onto this article thinking that I would just blindly praise Bruce Allen and the executives in the organization, I am sorry to disappoint you. That article is for later. The basis of my "Division Winners by Default" argument focuses on how bad the rest of the NFC East looks right now. Everyone in this division was a mess before the off-season started, except for the Eagles…well kind of. Let the analysis begin!
Well, that was exactly what I expected a salary cap strapped NFL team to do. Absolutely nothing. The Cowboys were forced to released DeMarcus Ware due to his large contract, and now one of the Cowboys best defensive players in franchise history jumped ship for the Broncos. Aside from that being hilarious, it severely compromises an already weak Dallas defense. In addition to losing their defensive leader, the Cowboys also failed to re-sign Jason Hatcher. Hatcher was a Pro Bowl player last season, and was crucial to any pressure created by Monte Kiffin’s shaky 4-3 defense.
In addition to the lost free agents, the Cowboys have had serious injuries to major role players lately. Sean Lee is the best player left on the Cowboys defense, and he has struggled with injuries during his career. This is not a good sign for one of the worst defensive units in football. Their best offensive player, Tony Romo, has been beat up on during the past few seasons. Romo has had a shoulder injury, a rib injury, and a season ending back surgery since 2010 to now. Who knows if he can even make it through an NFL season anymore? He is not getting any younger and his contract just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
The Cowboys are currently cap strapped, lack a consistent offensive line (outside of left tackle of course), and they may have some issues re-signing Dez Bryant after his rookie deal runs out in 2014. Broke teams can’t afford number one receivers. A lot can change between now and negotiations time with Bryant, but things do not look good for the Cowboys.
On the bright side, the Cowboys were finally able to free themselves of Miles Austin. As my friend who is a Dallas Cowboys fan once said, "Miles Austin either needs to learn how to play football without hamstrings or he needs to get off my team!" We can count that as a win for them Cowboys.
The Giants have had some major issues since their big Super Bowl win against the Patriots in 2012. Their entire offensive line fell apart this past season. David Diehl is retiring, Will Beatty broke his leg at the end of the 2013 season, and Chris Snee might not be back with the Giants next season. Those offensive linemen were major role players on that offense, and their decline could help explain why Eli looked terrible last season. The Giants have almost signed a new offensive line this off-season.
Two of the biggest losses for the Giants were on the defensive line. The loss of Linval Joseph to the Vikings and Justin Tuck to the Raiders just leaves Jason Pierre-Paul all alone from his former Super Bowl winning defensive line. Half of Tuck’s sacks last season were getting to Robert Griffin III, so Tuck out of the division is good for the Redskins.
The Giants have added three former Denver Broncos players. They include cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive end Robert Ayers, and return ace Trindon Holliday. They also added former Raider Rashad Jennings to likely start over David Wilson. Wilson had a major injury and has a fumbling tendency. The Giants signed four offensive linemen, J.D. Walton, Geoff Schwartz, John Jerry, and Charles Brown. The Giants replaced Hakeem Nicks with former Giant Mario Manningham. While Rodgers-Cromartie played well last year, he has had some consistency issues in his career. Walter Thurmond is a good signing, but a player going from an extremely talented defense to a very porous one may not end the way the Giants would like. This looks like more of a rebuild than a roster a few players away from winning a Super Bowl again.
The Giants have so many roster problems, that I have not even talked about how many interceptions Manning threw last season. Yikes.
And here I was, listening to every Eagles fan talk about how great the Eagles offense is. How Chip Kelly is a genius. How this division belongs to the Eagles from now on. I wonder how those fans are feeling right now?
But lets start with the Eagles other issues before we get to the DeElephant in DeRoom. The Eagle’s defensive backs are very questionable, primarily their safeties. That sounds familiar for some reason, but I cannot put my finger on why…just kidding, I can. Anyways, their defense’s success depends on how much pressure they get. Trent Cole is a great player, but the Eagle’s defense is not loaded with front seven talent. Their defense played well for a stretch last season, but so did the Redskins’ defense in 2012. How did that work out for us in 2013?
Now, the grand DeFinale.
Cutting DeSean Jackson hurts the Eagles offense so much, that it is actually hilarious to me. DeSean Jackson’s speeds forces defenses to play honest, and double cover him before he scores a touchdown. The mere presence of DeSean helped Riley Cooper, who dropped 50% of the passes thrown to him last season, get wide open. DeSean created favorable one-on-one match-ups for LeSean McCoy to dodge his way around. McCoy thrives on space, and DeSean created some space for sure. Having talented receivers also makes a quarterback's life much easier, especially when your young signal caller would rather take a sack than risk throwing an interception. Releasing Jackson seems counter-productive to Kelly’s offensive philosophy: spread the field and move the ball. While I think Jeremy Maclin is a talented receiver (and I thought the Redskins were going to try and sign him in the off-season, actually), why would a front office cut a player that they know works in their offense for a player that they are not sure can work in their offense that is coming off of a major injury? It makes no sense.
I think time will tell if the Eagles and Chip Kelly were right that they did not need DeSean to run their fast paced spread offense. However, history may tell the tale of Chip Kelly’s hubris, thinking his offensive system is greater than the players who have to implement it. Coaches have made that mistake before, and it has cost them their jobs. This is not Oregon Chip, tossing aside good players because you do not like their temperament does not win championships. Getting the most out of every player, no matter who they are or where they come from, is how the great ones win. Especially when the player you deemed unworthy comes to a division rival. 5 bucks says the Eagle’s brass did not see that one coming.
A lot can happen between now and the NFL Draft, but the Redskins are winning free agency. I know the Redskins always seem to win free agency, but this year is different. The signings of Hatcher and Jackson are not the usual, and stupid, mega deals. This team looks to have a nasty offense next season. Hatcher and Orakpo in new hybrid-multiple fronts could lead to a great deal of pressure on opposing offenses (especially when the Cowboys and Giants have very questionable offensive lines). Since it is basically illegal for defensive backs to play real defense anymore, this defensive unit could just try to generate pressure and create turnovers.
The rest of the NFC East does not appear to be better than they were at the end of the 2013 season. I believe the other three teams in the NFC East in fact, got worse.
I am not saying the Redskins will win the NFC East, win the Super Bowl, and be the greatest team in NFL history. I know the Redskins still have many flaws similar to the rest of the division. Money is probably going to be tight around here with all the players we need to re-sign and we are going to lose some good players over the next few seasons. Our defensive backs are just as questionable as everyone else. Our offensive line is dicey at best, not including Trent Williams of course.
But someone has to win the NFC East next season, and all of the teams look pretty questionable.
Why not the Redskins?
Correction on 4/3: Riley Cooper did not have a 50% drop rate. He caught 47 out of 81 passes thrown to him last season. That is not the same thing as a drop.