Eye On the Enemy: NFC East Roundup

Cowboys Line

The Cowboys lack an elite pass rusher, something they’ve had in their best years.

For the next several Sundays, we’ll take a spin around the NFC East to check in on what’s going on with some of the Eagles’ division rivals.

DALLAS COWBOYS




Jon Machota of SportsDayDFW.com says who he thinks will be Dallas' biggest defensive playmaker this season:

[Bruce] Carter will certainly be in position to make a lot of plays but I'm going to go with DeMarcus Lawrence. I think he's going to be pretty good at getting to the passer in his first season. Who knows, maybe he'll pick up 5-6 sacks, force a few fumbles and pressure the QB into throwing a few interceptions.

A star pass rusher is what the Cowboys are missing this year, according to Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com:

All that’s left is defensive end George Selvie, coming off a career-high seven-sack season, 2014 second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence from Boise State and most likely Henry Melton at defensive tackle, coming off ACL surgery.

None of these players has the star power of Ware, who was the Cowboys’ No. 1 defensive player for numerous seasons.

Watkins says Dez Bryant isn't a top-three receiver in the NFL in his Twitter mailbag:

Here's my Top 3: Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson. Fitzgerald might have slowed down a bit, but he remains a solid route runner and is one of the best at just snatching the ball. Marshall and Johnson are big targets who demand double teams. Dez Bryant is great at snatching the ball from defenders, and I expect his route running and his abilities to read defenses to improve. You saw last season he was able to make adjustments as the game progressed. He's a physical freak of nature, and he's tough and plays hard through nagging injuries. I expect another big season from Bryant.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Jordan Raanan of NJ.com gives statistic expectations for first-round draft pick Odell Beckham:

"[Draft picks] better all contribute right away, whether it be on special teams, defense, offense, whatever it is they're going to be," coach Tom Coughlin said after the first round. "There's no waiting around in this game today."

Given Coughlin's statement and Beckham's draft position, the general assumption is that he will immediately jump into the spot vacated by Hakeem Nicks (beating out Jerrel Jernigan for a starting spot) and won't miss a beat. In fact, most seem to think he'll immediately do better than Nicks' disappointing 2013 season. Nicks had 56 receptions for 896 yards and no touchdowns last year.

Cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta thinks this is the deepest group he's ever had, Conor Orr of the Star-Ledger notes:

"We’ve got 10 quality corners right now in the program," he said. "Trumaine [McBride] did a tremendous job for us starting the second half of the season. Prince [Amukamara] had a very good year for us. Bringing in two guys that started in the Super Bowl obviously helps. Zack Bowman started on Chicago’s defense, a very good defense. There are five guys that have a lot of NFL experience on good defenses and good football teams so that is huge. And Jayron [Hosley] played a number of snaps for us, so did Charles James so we have great depth and we have some good young kids, Travis Howard, we have Ross Weaver, we drafted Bennett Jackson. We have great depth at that position, the deepest I’ve ever had in my years in the league."

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com on the linebacking core minus Jon Beason and more in his latest Twitter mailbag:

With Jon Beason nursing a foot injury, the starting middle linebacker in training camp (and probably for Week 1) is going to be Jameel McClain. He projects as the starting strongside linebacker if Beason's healthy, but he's taking over in the middle while he's not. Jacquian Williams is the front-runner for the starting weakside linebacker spot, and the strongside position should belong to either Spencer Paysinger or rookie Devon Kennard, who impressed coaches with his minicamp performance.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

CSNWashington.com's Redskins experts think Roy Helu and Niles Paul will be Washington's breakout players this year:

I suspect [Jay] Gruden is going to find a way to get the ball into Helu’s hands (a lot) more often, particularly through the air. Why? Look at Gruden’s history with the Bengals. Last season, dual-threat running back Giovani Bernard was a focal point of the Cincinnati offense, hauling in 56 passes for 514 yards and rushing for 695 yards on 170 carries. I’m not saying Helu is as good as Bernard or that Helu can replicate Bernard's numbers. But Gruden loves players that he can get creative with, and Helu has proved in the past that he can thrive when deployed properly.

Robert Griffin III was at fault for nearly a quarter of his sacks last season, Mark Bullock of the Washington Post writes:

Having rewatched every sack from the past season, I credited [Tyler Polumbus] with five allowed, which did rank worst along the offensive line (Trent Williams and Will Montgomery both gave up four, to give some perspective). However, failed protection schemes accounted for eight sacks, and I had Robert Griffin III at fault for 10 of the total 43 allowed.

Many of Polumbus’s problems in pass protection come from his hand placement. He can struggle to get his hands on the chest of the defender to control the block.

John Keim of ESPN.com addresses whether Redskin fans should be concerned about Griffin's accuracy:

Concerned? Not sure I'd go that far. I don't think he's going to turn into a Peyton Manning pinpoint accuracy guy (have said this before, but one general manager I spoke to before the '12 draft was worried about Griffin's intermediate accuracy). Griffin can succeed without being that sort of quarterback because of his ability to extend plays. He also can be a big-play quarterback with his ability to throw deep (which was not a strength last year, but was in 2012). But I think the concern would be if the Redskins want him to become just a pocket passer. They said that's not the case, and though that's what they did this spring, part of that was done because he needs to develop in this area.

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  • All Prose

    In my humble opinion… (Assuming injuries dont destroy any of the teams in the division). The Eagles (#1), and Skins (#2) compete for the division (edge to the Birds). This is aided by the Skins weaker schedule. And is only possible if Jay Gruden can implement his system and have his offense come together as a unit.
    The Giants finish 3rd in the East. Simply not enough talent to compete with the Eagles or Skins.
    And the Cowboys are the bottom of the barrell. Rebuilding and proud of it. This year they finish 4th in the East.

    • JosephR2225

      You’re higher on the Redskins than I am. I think they aren’t as good as they looked in 2012 and aren’t as bad as they looked in 2013, but I’m guessing they are a 6-7 win team. The Giants had a really good defense last season (6th in DVOA) so if they can get the turnovers under control, I think they look like the Eagles biggest competitor.

      • All Things Bad@ss

        Why do you think the Skins are worse now than in 2012? If Robert returns to form, I think they could be very dangerous. They’ve improved in nearly every area, minus the loss of Fletcher, with a nasty receiving corps and backs. There are actually quite a few parallels between us and them: an abundance of offensive weapons, a less than desirable D, a QB with quite a few question marks, and a HC early in their tenure. I’m perfectly happy having the VaGinats and ‘Girls sink into obscurity in favor of a top Skins rival for a few years. I think we’ll win the East, but I agree with Prose that it’ll be the Skins on our heels …

    • Travis

      I don’t understand everyone’s obsession with the Skins. They have potential sure. But so does every other team in the NFL at this point. But I’m thinking DeSean will start getting upset when he runs deep and RG3 tries to extend the play and gets sacked or underthrows him.

      • myeaglescantwin

        the Washington redskins are a waste of two awesome OLB’s.

        maybe we can grind them into the dirt and convince one of them suckers to sign with us next year.

    • Kev_H

      How do the Redskins have a weaker schedule?

      • Warhound

        They don’t. They play the #3 teams in each of the two NFC divisions that the NFC East doesn’t square off against. The Eagles play the two 1st place teams. However, the ‘Skins play the Eagles twice while the Eagles get to play the ‘Skins.

        • myeaglescantwin

          what does that last line mean

  • Dominik

    “CSNWashington.com’s Redskins experts think Roy Helu and Niles Paul will be Washington’s breakout players this year:”

    Even if Helu has a breakout year (he is a good receiving RB and Gruden likes those, so I get the point), that means fewer touches for Morris and that means that the good thing about Shannys Offense, his Zone Blocking scheme with the RB bruiser Morris, would be obsolete. Could life with that, to be honest with you.

    It would be more important to the Skins if their TE/WR (since he can’t block anything) Jordan Reed makes a leap. He had his moments last season. Garcon and Reed over the middle, DJax deep – if RGIII is protected (that’s a big if) and makes the right reads (another big if), that could be dangerous in a WCO like Gruden calls it.

    Biggest problem, by far, is the Redskins Defense, which had no major injuries last year, sucked badly and didn’t improve a lot via FA or Draft. That’s the reason I’ll watch the Giants closely this year, imho, they’re our biggest rival for the NFCE crown.

    The Skins and the Cowboys are dangerous on Offense, but I don’t see how they want to compete on Defense. The Giants actually had a pretty decent Defense last year (since they added Beason) and I think it’s possible Eli improves, and therefore this offense. He has weapons with Cruz, Beckham and Manningham, but he must have better protection (that’s the weak side for the Giants, I think). Another problem for the Giants could be their Running Game. They were awful last year and only added Andre Williams in the 4th round and Rashad Jennings, if I didn’t miss something.

    Also: keep doing this segment, guys. I love it.

    • Eagles1018

      The giants, because of their defense, will be our biggest challenge in the east. I look at all of us playing the NFC west and I think we can steal a game their (niners maybe?) where other teams won’t. Strength of schedule obviously hurts us the most because we play the 1st place teams (GB, Carolina). So it will be interesting. I think everyone can agree the Cowboys should bring up the rear.

      • Mr.Budz

        I feel the Giants aren’t good enough in the trenches to compete, but you never know with that team. Dallas has a much better offense that will win them more games than the Giants defense.

        • Eagles1018

          Assuming that Eli will throw another 20 something INTs is not realistic. Their offense will be better this year. A great offense? Perhaps no. But likely serviceable

          • Mr.Budz

            I don’t disagree with that. Their offensive line was terrible along with their run game and were barely improved upon during the offseason.

    • myeaglescantwin

      that giants OL should be easily dealt with.
      sh-Eli will spend most of the season running for his life with that stupid look on his face, then pout all the way to the sidelines.

      I’ll bet he throws at least 15 int’s this year trying to force passes in 2.5 seconds.

  • paul from nc

    Eagles 9-7
    Giants 8-8
    Skins 6-10
    Cowboys 5-11

    I think the Giants will be our biggest threat. Strength of schedule will make a difference and the Giants D is decent. If Eli has one of his “up” years, they might take the division, but I doubt it.

    • Kev_H

      According to the official NFL strength of schedule ranking based on opponent 2013 W-L record: Washington (17th), Dallas (18th), Eagles (20th), Giants (26th).

      Games against teams with 9 or more wins: Dallas (7), New York (6), Washington (6) ,Eagles (5). No team in the NFL is scheduled to play fewer than 4 teams with 9 or more wins. Teams in the NFC and AFC wests all have at least 8 and as many as 10.

      For 2013 it was: Washington (18th), Eagles (20th), Giants (24th), Cowboys (25th)

      Given that you can’t really predict strength of schedule in the NFL from one season to the next and that the Eagles’ schedule doesn’t seem to be discernibly tougher or easier based on the numbers and facts that do exist, I don’t see how one could plausibly say “Strength of schedule will make a difference” at this point.

  • Ben

    I don’t see any team in the NFC East being able to pose a threat to the Eagles this coming season.
    Eli led the league in INT’s last year and unless they have a magical season where everything went their way then we should beat them handily.
    The Skins were so bad last season that they can only get better but not good enough to pose any kind of threat.
    The Cowboys need help. The only reason they can compete is Tony Romo.
    As much as I hate to admit it, he’s a great QB and can put a team on his back and win games they might have otherwise lost.
    The problem with the Cowboys is their Owner/GM, Jerry Jones clearly does not value depth which is why the wheels fall off late in the season, time and time again.
    We should own this division once again and could easily go undefeated against these teams. That’s six wins if we play our best Football and injuries don’t happen.
    So if we can get six more wins outside of our division that’s 12 wins and I feel confident we can get to 12-4 and perhaps even more.

    • anon

      everything went wrong for the giants last year yet they rallied to 7-9. we were only 10-6 and we had a lot of things going for us. i think its a battle this year, like every year and they’ll have an easier schedule.

      • Jason

        I would disagree that everything went wrong for them. They had a three game stretch where they faced Josh Freeman in his first game, Matt Barkley and Scott Tolzein. They had some bad breaks, sure. But, not everything went against them

      • Kev_H

        How many quarterbacks did they have to use?

    • myeaglescantwin

      when was the last time a QB even came close to Eli’s int record from last season??

      No team has a “proven” QB that struggled like that.
      any other player would have been benched somewhere are 15-20 ints hahahah
      god i dislike that turd.

      • myeaglescantwin

        Eli is tied for 19th with 27 last year.
        He appears on the list again @ 25 int’s…

        two seasons account for 52 int’s.. that’s unbelievable.
        “yeah i am a top 10 QB. I’m on of the elite.”

        Elite, you keep saying this word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

        • myeaglescantwin

  • Mr. Wu

    I keep forgetting the Giants got ODB….I have a feeling we are going to hate that

    • Joe L

      Yea he’s going to be a headache for a while. The best we can hope for is that Eli keeps tailing off and he suffers from bad QB play.

  • Travis

    I’m comforted knowing that the Giants DB coach is on crack. You do not have 10 quality CB’s on your team right now. Idiot.

    • TripSquadMonopoly

      Thank you for this. Ridiculous. And I bet their #1 corner is DRC lol…

      • myeaglescantwin

        that’s what my buddy, a vaGiants fan, was pumped about “DRC!! one of the fastest corners in the league”

        i know it’s not shady’s game, but i’d like to see a toss sweep right at DRC and just truck him.
        We do that 2 or 3 times in the beginning of the game, & that softy will quit

    • johnr

      Saying you have 10 quality CB’s is coach speak for “we have no standout players.” Glad the opposition is feeling okay about themselves now cause it won’t be pretty for them when the season starts.

    • Ian Farley

      Quantity over quality. I think he meant “we have the most depth of mediocrity at CB I have ever seen”

  • Ian Farley

    Reading this makes me feel really good about at least a 5-1 division record.

    Dallas…. hoping a second round DE is there BEST player.
    Giants… have a collection of 10 CB`s who cant start for anyone else.
    Skins… arent worried about protecting the QB after giving up 43 sacks! And are going to feature roy helu….

    I mean come on….these teams have nothing to hang their hat on. At least philly can say they will have a top 5 offense again, the leagues best back, and an improving defense. Where did any of those teams get “better”…..?

  • LA Mike

    NFC East competition doesn’t have a lot of all-pro talent and the coaching staffs are “re-treads” especially the OCs.

    Eagles should win five of six inter-divsion.