Lawlor: Who poses the biggest threat in the NFC East?

Six of the 16 games in the upcoming season will be played against the Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins. With that in mind, let's take a look at those teams and where they stand heading into the 2019 season.

Dallas Cowboys

2018 Record: 10-6 (1st in NFC East, Lost to Rams in Divisional Round)

Key Additions: WR Randall Cobb, DT Christian Covington, DE Kerry Hyder, S George Iloka, DE Robert Quinn, TE Jason Witten

Key Losses: WR Cole Beasley, RB Rod Smith, TE Geoff Swaim, LB Damien Wilson

Top Draft Picks: DT Trysten Hill, G Connor McGovern, RB Tony Pollard

Dallas won the division last year, which is good and bad news for the Cowboys. The bad news is that no team has repeated as NFC East champs since the Eagles won four straight titles from 2001-04.

The Cowboys were 22nd in the league in yards and points last year. They should be better with the return of center Travis Frederick and having receiver Amari Cooper around for a whole season. Randall Cobb will take over as the team's slot receiver. He could be an upgrade over Cole Beasley, if he can stay healthy. Rookie Tony Pollard gives the team an interesting offensive weapon. He can make plays as a runner, receiver, or returner.

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott remain the big stars. Prescott is entering his fourth season as the starter, so he's got good experience. This is the best surrounding cast he's had to work with in his young career. It is up to Prescott to be more consistent as a passer for the offense to reach its potential. Elliott is one of the best running backs in the league. If he can avoid off-field issues, Elliott should post big numbers once again.

The Dallas defense could be one of the best in the league. They finished in the top 10 in points and yards allowed last year. They have the best trio of linebackers in the NFL. They have a dynamic edge rusher in Demarcus Lawrence. They are deep at defensive tackle.

The only question up front is depth at defensive end. Veteran Robert Quinn has to show he can still pressure the quarterback. Taco Charlton has four sacks in two years and hasn't been the player Dallas expected. A couple of rookies will battle to get into the rotation. An injury to Lawrence would be devastating.

The secondary is good, but lacks a playmaker at safety. Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath are effective starters, but they combined for just three interceptions and two forced fumbles last year.

Dallas should be a playoff team once again. The Cowboys do have a nice collection of talent. It's great to see the rivalry in full force.

This is how the NFC East looks on paper. We'll have to wait and see how things play out.

New York Giants

2018 Record: 5-11 (4th in NFC East)

Key Additions: S Antoine Bethea, LB Markus Golden, S Jabrill Peppers, DT Olsen Pierre, T Mike Remmers, RB Rod Smith, WR Golden Tate, G Kevin Zeitler

Key Losses: LB Connor Barwin, WR Odell Beckham, Jr., G Jamon Brown, S Landon Collins, DE Mario Edwards, DE Josh Mauro, S Curtis Riley, LB Olivier Vernon, CB B.W. Webb, DE Kerry Wynn

Top Draft Picks: QB Daniel Jones, DT Dexter Lawrence, CB Deandre Baker

The Giants went 5-11 last year and finished last in the NFC East. Most people expected the Giants to focus on rebuilding by adding young talent and looking to the future. The Giants don't seem to see things that way.

Eli Manning is back for his 16th NFL season. Outsiders don't get this. They think the Giants should be playing young guys. The Giants want to win now. They see Manning as a two-time Super Bowl Champ who still has something left in the tank.

Recent history suggests otherwise. If you focus on winning, Manning has only posted one winning season in the past six years. As for stats, he has 149 touchdown passes (ninth in NFL) in that stretch, but a league-high 95 interceptions. Manning hasn't had a passer rating above 94 in his entire career.

The Giants have averaged 20th in the league in points scored over that period. Can he turn things around at 38 years old?

The Giants think things will be different this year. They traded away Odell Beckham, Jr., who was immensely talented, but also volatile and tough to manage. The team signed Golden Tate, a veteran receiver who isn't explosive like Beckham, but more of a team guy as we saw with the Eagles at the end of last season. The hope is that there will be better offensive chemistry to make up for dropping a notch in talent.

Improved offensive line play is a must. The Giants traded for Kevin Zeitler, an above-average guard who can come in and help right away.

There is no question about running back Saquon Barkley. He is one of the best players in the league and showed incredible talent as a rookie. Better blocking would make him even more difficult to defend. Barkley did a lot of his damage on his own in 2018.

General manager Dave Gettleman thinks a star running back, veteran quarterback, and an improved offensive line will be enough to get the Giants' offense back on track.

You need weapons in the passing game. Tate and Sterling Shepard aren't dynamic receivers. Evan Engram is a good tight end. The Giants need Corey Coleman to finally live up to his potential or rookie Darius Slayton to surprise everyone. They need their pass catchers to overachieve. Anyone who watched the 2016 Eagles saw that without quality options at receiver, you have a limited passing game.

The Giants' defense finished in the bottom third of the league in points and yards allowed. They traded away their best pass rusher (Olivier Vernon) and getting to the quarterback was a weak spot last year (30 sacks, tied for 30th in the NFL).

They did draft a big defensive lineman (Dexter Lawrence), an edge rusher (Oshane Ximines), and a good cover corner (Deandre Baker). Those players can help the defense right away, but it doesn't seem likely that all three will. That's asking a lot.

Head coach Pat Shurmur is back for his second season with the Giants. He has never won more than five games in an NFL season as a head coach.

Washington Redskins

2018 Record: 7-9 (3rd in NFC East)

Key Additions: S Landon Collins, T Ereck Flowers, QB Case Keenum, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Key Losses: LB Zach Brown, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, WR Jamison Crowder, DL Stacy McGee, G Ty Nsekhe, LB Preston Smith

Top Draft Picks: QB Dwayne Haskins, DE Montez Sweat, WR Terry McLaurin

The Redskins are the real mystery team in the division.

They finished 2018 with a 7-9 record, but were 6-3 at one point. Key injuries just devastated them down the stretch.

The biggest question in Washington is who will be the quarterback? Alex Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury last fall and his football future remains in doubt. Colt McCoy is atop the depth chart for now and Washington acquired Case Keenum in a trade.

Washington used the 15th pick in the draft to select Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State. Haskins only started for one season in college, but he has big-time talent. He threw 50 touchdown passes last year and led the Buckeyes to a 13-1 record. This is the kind of guy you build a team around.

It would make a lot of sense to turn the team over to the talented rookie, but coach Jay Gruden is feeling pressure to win now. The Redskins haven't been to the playoffs since 2012. Do you go with the more talented quarterback or the more experienced quarterback?

The offense struggled mightily last year, in part due to injuries. They should improve this year with running back Derrius Guice and wide receiver Paul Richardson returning from injury.

The front seven on defense could be outstanding. Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan give the team a pair of explosive edge rushers. The secondary should be solid and the addition of Landon Collins will help the team's run defense.

Washington has some good, young talent in place. How quickly it comes together will determine whether or not it will be a strong playoff contender.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. You can also find his work at IgglesBlitz.com where he is the site's editor.

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