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Taking A Look At The NFC East

Posted Jul 6, 2017

It is the Every Team Has A Chance Division. The NFC East shapes up to be one of the best in the NFL this season, and also a division that features four teams that have a chance to win. That’s nothing new, of course, for there has been no repeat winner in the NFC East since the Eagles of 2003-04 ...

It is the Every Team Has A Chance Division. The NFC East shapes up to be one of the best in the NFL this season, and also a division that features four teams that have a chance to win. That’s nothing new, of course, for there has been no repeat winner in the NFC East since the Eagles of 2003-04.

So, then, with Training Camp full-team practices three weeks away, the NFC East is up for grabs. That’s fair to say, right? Dallas is the team to beat after its impressive regular season in 2016, and with a young and very talented group on offense, the Cowboys are formidable in parts of their roster. The New York Giants boast one of the most dangerous groups of wide receivers for quarterback Eli Manning and return an outstanding defense virtually intact. Washington has endured some tumult in the offseason, but the offense in Washington is varied and outstanding.

The Eagles? They began the Doug Pederson-Carson Wentz Era in 2016 with a 7-9 record, encouraging in many ways and frustrating in others, and they went out in the offseason and added some pieces to bolster both sides of the football. Can players like wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, running back LeGarrette Blount, defensive ends Chris Long and Derek Barnett, and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan make immediate and highly productive impacts?

It’s time to think about the season to come, really think about it, as everything for the Eagles starts in the NFC East. Here is the division, minus the Eagles, at a glance ...

DALLAS COWBOYS

Overview: Led by rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys took the NFC East by storm last year with a 13-3 record and a division crown. The Cowboys return much of their core – a strong offensive line and a great running game with Elliott emerging as one of the league’s best. There are plenty of questions about this team, namely this: Can they play at such a high level again now that the league has a book on Prescott, who was brilliant last season with only four interceptions against 23 touchdown passes. For a rookie, he showed great poise.

Biggest Strength: The offense features Elliott, the fourth pick in the 2016 draft, who rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Elliott is the total package of power, speed, and moves. He runs with intelligence and has good ball security. Elliott also has the benefit of running behind a terrific offensive line, and the Dallas offense starts with Elliott toting the rock and it goes from there. If you want to beat Dallas, you need to contain Elliott and put pressure on Prescott to win the game.

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Biggest Concern: Dallas performed beyond many observers’ expectations by ranking fifth in scoring defense last season. But there are concerns heading into the summer. Pass rusher David Irving has been suspended for the opening four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Starting strongside linebacker Damien Wilson was arrested earlier in the week on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and former Eagle Nolan Carroll was arrested for suspicion of driving while intoxicated. How much of an impact will those incidents have on the Dallas D?

NEW YORK GIANTS

Overview: Under first-year head coach Ben McAdoo, the Giants won 11 games and reached the postseason. They are led by two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning at quarterback. He continues to play at a high level at the age of 36. New York retooled its defense last year and that side of the ball led the way. The Giants are a team to watch in the NFC.

Biggest Strength: It’s hard to say a wide receiver trio of Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Brandon Marshall isn’t the strength of the team, but the Giants are very well stocked on defense in Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme. New York isn’t elite at getting to the quarterback, but the secondary is outstanding. Landon Collins is one of the game’s best safeties and cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie played outstanding football together.

Biggest Concern: Can the Giants run the football effectively enough to make a postseason bid? Second-year man Paul Perkins is the leading candidate to get the most carries, with rookie Wayne Gallman expected to contribute. The Giants aren’t great along the offensive line and it hurts them in the run game. New York can only get so far being a one-dimensional offense.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Overview: Washington is a tough team to figure. An 8-7-1 season during which a late collapse cost a postseason spot morphed into a troubling offseason and now Washington is still trying to figure out its situation at quarterback. Will they sign Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal? This is a team searching for stability.

Biggest Strength: Washington set franchise records for total offensive net yards and in yards per game (403.4 yards) last season. The Redskins have one of the better offensive lines in the league, led by Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams and Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff. All five starters return. Washington is going to be difficult to beat at the line of scrimmage. There is talent at the skill positions, even with a new group of starters at wide receiver.

Biggest Concern: As good as the offense was last year, the defense was just as poor. So Washington invested in the defense, bringing in linebacker Zach Brown, safety D.J. Swearinger, and linemen Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee. How quickly can the new personnel mesh? Where is the pass rush? Is Josh Norman an elite cornerback? Cousins' contract situation is a concern, but from a personnel standpoint, it’s all about the defense.

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