The NFC East has not been the powerhouse it once was over the last few years. Despite that, the division remains competitive and has had a different division winner every year since the 2004 season. The New York Giants also were able to scrape together a Super Bowl Championship just 3 years ago.
Bucky Brooks has been doing a million different lists during the offseason to try to keep us entertained, or angry, depending on where he placed your team/players. This week, he's looking at the 8 NFL divisions and where their offenses and defenses rank. First up is his look at the offenses by division, and our division definitely falls into the NFC (B)East category here, despite whatever it is that the Giants are planning on putting on the field this year.
The Cowboys' offense is expected to be the saving grace of the team, and their only chance at making 8-8 again this year, as long as Tony Romo can stay healthy. Brooks' adds in Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray, but they have both had their own injury concerns over the past few years. The Cowboys have invested heavily in their OL over the past 4 drafts to protect Romo.
The Eagles and Chip Kelly unveiled their new offense last season, and the league will definitely be looking to slow it down this year. The Eagles have a good OL(minus Lane Johnson for the first 4 games), one of the top RBs in the league, and a QB coming off of a very good season. But there are still question marks here with the WR corps, the OLs age and depth, and Foles ability to sustain an incredible TD-turnover ratio.
The Giants offense last season was an abomination and probably should have been put out of it's misery by the 6th week. Eli Manning was an interception and Manningface machine last year, their running game was non-existent, their TEs were never there, and their OL suffered injuries. This year they have a new Offensive Coordinator in Ben McAdoo, a new system to help Eli Manning throw to the right colored jerseys, a 1st round WR rookie, and a pair of new RBs. Their OL has been patched together and has huge question marks all over it.
We all know what's going on with the Redskins offense. They have a QB in RGIII who is coming off of an average season that saw him sit out the last 3 games of the season to "protect him from injury". Now, with more time removed from his 2nd ACL surgery, the hope is RGIII will be back to his 2012 performance, but with a less risky playing style. The team also added DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts at WR, and they have Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed, and Alfred Morris returning. They have the potential to be explosive if the offensive line can play at even an average level this year.
1) NFC East The NFC East has been pegged for mediocrity by some observers, but there's no denying the offensive firepower that currently resides within this division. The NFC East houses four talented quarterbacks: Eli Manning (two-time Super Bowl MVP), Tony Romo (three-time Pro Bowler), Nick Foles (2013 Pro Bowler) and Robert Griffin III (2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year). Yet, the division also features three spectacular runners (LeSean McCoy, Alfred Morris and DeMarco Murray) capable of single-handedly taking over games. Not to mention, the division now has the league's most explosive receiving corps in Washington, as well as a number of individual pass catchers who make it hard for defensive coordinators to sleep at night (see: Dez Bryant and Victor Cruz). Factor in Eagles coach Chip Kelly's innovative offensive scheme -- which seems to be inspiring the rest of the division to push the pace -- and it's clear the NFC East is the epicenter of offensive football in 2014.
Now onto the defense, the Achilles heel of the NFC (L)East. If you formed a defense from the division's best players, you might be able to find an NFL team that would be able to field a better defense on Sundays. Brooks ranks the division as the worst in the league at defense.
Let's start with the snake-bitten Cowboys and we'll keep it short and sweet here. The Cowboys have the potential to be the worst defense ever this season...ever. We've gone over their losses in free agency from last year(Ware, Hatcher), and their losses to injury this year(Lee, Lawrence, Gardner), and their recent suspension(Scandrick). They have a handful of players currently injured who could help them when they return(Melton, Spencer), but it's still a mess. Dallas media is calling it the worse defense in 20 years, and it's hard to argue with that.
The Giants defense bailed their offense out in the 2nd half of the season last year, and finished respectably in some statistical categories. This didn't stop the team from heavily hitting the free agent market to upgrade the team. The Giants probably have the best secondary in the division after adding Walter Thurmond III and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the offseason. But they lost one of their best players on defense when Will Hill got suspended for the 3rd straight season and was released(picked up by the Ravens). JPP is reportedly looking better after a back injury had been limiting him. They have young pass rushers that need to step up to replace their older players, and their LBs are always a question mark.
The Eagles defense has the task of being on the field more than most defenses in the league due to Chip Kelly's style and the pace of his offense. Their pass rush and secondary remains a question mark. They added Marcus Smith in the first round at LB, but still have an aging Trent Cole in place. They added Malcolm Jenkins at safety who has been hit or miss, and they have Cary Williams who is inconsistent. The best player in their secondary is Brandon Boykin, but Chip Kelly likes his CBs to be taller to meet the growing height of WRs in the league. Defensive Coordinator Billy Davis did better than expected last season with what he had to work with, but he, along with the other DCs in the division, face some potent offenses this year.
The Redskins are in a similar, but not as catastrophically bad, situation as the Cowboys. A potentially explosive offense paired with a potentially crippling defense. The Redskins made some moves to improve their defense but they still have a long way to go to stop the top offenses in the league. They retained DC Jim Haslett, a move that was widely panned in the fanbase. They signed Jason Hatcher to improve the pass rush, but he hasn't been a full participant in practice since having his knee scoped following OTAs. Defensive line age and depth need to be addressed soon and could affect this season. Ryan Clark was brought in to help the safety spot this year, but their are concerns about Meriweather and Clark as the starting safeties this year. David Amerson is making a huge leap this year at CB and will be paired with DeAngelo Hall, who is coming off of his best season in Washington. Tracy Porter is slated to be the slot cornerback but has been handled gently following his offseason shoulder surgery. The Redskins will have Keenan Robinson, who's never started a game, manning the Mike Linebacker position. The team needs a lot of things to go right, and Jim Haslett to use the strengths he has on defense to mask some of the weaknesses. Get ready for a lot of shootouts this year.
8) NFC East The "NFC Least" label certainly applies here, based on the lack of defensive resistance displayed across the division last season. Three of the four teams finished in the bottom half of the league in total defense (with the New York Giants being the lone outlier), and every defense surrendered at least 23.9 points per game. This is why the NFC East is so lightly regarded entering the new season, despite the division's clear offensive prowess. The forecast remains bleak on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in Dallas, where the dismissal of DeMarcus Ware and a season-ending injury to Sean Lee have left the Cowboys without leadership or playmaking ability. The Washington Redskins hope some offseason additions (headlined by DE Jason Hatcher) can help reduce last year's ghastly points-per-game figure of 29.9. The Philadelphia Eagles are counting on upgrades in the secondary (Malcolm Jenkins) and pass rush (first-round draft pick Marcus Smith) to cut down on the big plays that plagued the unit in 2013. For the G-Men, the return of a healthy Jason Pierre-Paul could make all the difference in the world. The former Pro Bowler was an absolute force of nature a few years back. The revitalized presence of Pierre-Paul -- who is still just 25 -- should create playmaking opportunities for the young defenders coordinator Perry Fewell is trying to break in this season.