Eye On the Enemy: NFC East Roundup

DeMarco Murray

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 the Dallas Morning News ranks the Cowboys' 53-man roster, with Tony Romo slotted at number three:

Romo was very good during his 15 games last season. He tossed 31 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions. His average per attempt and completion percentage were down but Romo showed he can still be very effective as he enters his mid 30s. The biggest concern surrounding the Cowboys’ franchise QB is how his back will hold up after having two surgeries in two years.

Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News analyzes the third-most important position on the Cowboys' defense:

[Jason] Hatcher signed in the offseason with Washington, leaving the Cowboys looking for another pass-rushing defensive tackle would could play their key 3-technique spot.

The Cowboys signed free agent defensive tackle Henry Melton from Chicago to fill Hatcher’s void. Melton played the same spot for the Bears under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator. The Cowboys hope Melton can return to his 2012 Pro Bowl form, but he won’t be able to practice until training camp while still recovering from surgery to repair a torn left anterior cruciate ligament that limited him to only three games last year.

Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com takes a look at the best and worst case scenarios for DeMarco Murray:

When he plays well, the Cowboys play well. It’s as simple as that. The Cowboys have to use him more. Health will be an issue. He has yet to play a full season. But the Cowboys must use Murray more in the second halves of games and in the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter of games last season, he carried just 43 times for 207 yards. In the second halves of games last season, he carried just 89 times for 391 yards. In the first halves, he carried 128 times for 730 yards and eight touchdowns. For his career, he has 104 carries in the fourth quarter for 505 yards. With a defense that will need a lot of help, the Cowboys will have to finish off games by pounding the ball to kill the clock.

NEW YORK GIANTS

The Giants have the best safeties in the division, according to Jordan Raanan of NJ.com:

How is it possible that the Giants dumped perhaps the best safety in the division, Will Hill, and still were atop these rankings? Well, because the other top safety in the division remains on the Giants roster.

[Antrel] Rolle made the Pro Bowl last season after a tremendous year. Still with some gas left in the tank, he’s hands-down the best safety in the NFC East right now. Paired with Stevie Brown, who had a solid year in 2012 before blowing out his knee last summer, the Giants should be fine, if Brown’s knee holds up. [Quintin] Demps, [Cooper] Taylor and [Nat] Berhe also give coach Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell some interesting options in their three-safety sets, or just in case Brown falters.

Justin Anderson is one player you should know heading into training camp, says Conor Orr of the Star-Ledger:

We'll be paying attention to the linebacker spot, especially with Jon Beason uncertain for the season-opener. Behind Beason, we have Jameel McClain, who is one season removed from a career-changing spinal injury. We have Mark Herzlich, who struggled in a similar role last year and we have Spencer Paysinger, a more realistic backup option, though he's better suited on the outside. We've written about Dan Fox, another undrafted free agent who is angling to make the roster, but it's worth considering Anderson, too.

New York finally has some options to improve their return game, writes Paul Schwartz of the New York Post:

There’s a new wave of returners on the scene as the Giants uncharacteristically added talent to specifically address this glaring need. Heck, they took to free agency to sign Trindon Holliday, a 5-foot-5 sparkplug whose only discernible skill is taking back kickoffs and punts. The signing of safety Quintin Demps comes with the added benefit of his wonderful ability on kickoff returns and the front-office types went gaga, waxing poetic about the way rookie first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr., a receiver, can change a game as a returner. There’s another addition of sorts, as David Wilson, after playing in only five games last season, appears primed to make a comeback following neck surgery; as a rookie in 2012 he was a dynamic kick returner.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Tanard Jackson's suspension raises more questions at safety, notes John Keim of ESPN.com:

Regardless, the Redskins likely will keep five safeties (they could always go with six corners and four safeties; or six and five. The ability of some of the corners to be more versatile in coverage helps). They almost have to sign another safety (yes, Reed Doughty is still unsigned though as of late Thursday morning he had not yet been contacted by the Redskins but he has been in talks with other teams; Jose Gumbs remains unsigned for that matter). What’s clear: It’s not a deep position, with many question marks. That was true before Jackson’s suspension as he was a question mark as well, considering he hadn't played in two seasons.

Mike Jones of the Washington Post introduces the man trying to turn around the Redskins' special teams, Ben Kotwica:

Special teams play ranked among the lowest of the lowlights during Washington’s 3-13 campaign in 2013.

Keith Burns never could find the right buttons to push as the first-year coordinator who took over for the long-time, well-respected firecracker of a special teams coach, Danny Smith. Burns struggled to find willing participants to round out his units. Some players disagreed with his philosophies and schemes, and that led to arguments in meeting rooms and sometimes on the sidelines. During one heated exchange, Burns challenged a player to fight him.

CSNWashington.com's Redskins experts discuss who will return punts for the team:

As we’ve established, oh, about a hundred times, special teams were an unmitigated disaster last season, from both a coaching and personnel standpoint. And the revolving door at punt returner was emblematic of those struggles. Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, Chris Thompson and Nick Williams each handled the duties at one time or another. In the end, the Redskins wound up ranked 28th in average per return (6.4 yards), had just one return of 20 or more yards and no touchdowns. As a result, there will be a change in 2014.

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  • JosephR2225

    According to Machota’s list, the ten best players on the Cowboys include a QB coming off back surgery, a DT coming off an ACL repair, a rookie guard, and a kicker.

    This is going to be a good year.

    • Dr. Killinger

      The ‘Boys are going to be an unmitigated disaster this season. Seriously, this is probably a 3 or 4 win team. Going to be fun to watch the images of JJ squirm in his seat while he watches his team burn.

      • Tikkit

        While I think their win total is probably going to be more, JJ watching his team burn sounds like fun

    • anon

      eh, our best WR is coming off an ACL, our starting LT out 4 games for PEDs, dropped our best WR, our first round pick is not even a starter. We can look bad to fans of other teams.

      Boys still have romo a top 5 WR and a top 10 RB. We could barely beat a kyle orton led cowboys team with the worst D in history last year. I think they’ll be terrible, but you never know.

      • Reasonableeaglefan

        8-8

        • anon

          that’s gotta be a miserable place to be.

          • Reasonableeaglefan

            Does Demarco scare anyone? The guy is always hurt. Their D should be an all-time bad unit. I’m talking a real dumpster fire. Romo is who we thought he was. Online should be better, but I’m not sure it’s going to be great. Dez and Witten are always tough, but I think they give up a ton of points and would be lucky not to finish 4th in the division.

          • RIP illa

            Does Demarco scare anyone?
            Damion Square!!!

          • Reasonableeaglefan

            Lol. That deserves so many upvotes.

          • Richard Colton

            I had finally put that out of my head too. Thanks Illa.

          • Max Lightfoot

            Long live Jerry Jones!

          • Max Lightfoot

            Note to the person below whose comment was deleted. It’s called sarcasm – maybe you heard of it. Or not.

        • Andy124

          I think that streak ends this year.

          • Reasonableeaglefan

            7-9??

          • Andy124

            I think 4 to 6 wins would be the most likely scenario.

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      • Dominik

        I hear you. If you think about the Cowboys Offense, they are really good (on paper, at least). A top 10 QB, a top 5 (top 3?) LT, a top 5 (top 3?) WR, a top 5 TE, a top 15 RB. You can work with that, no doubt. Especially since they invested in the rest of the O-Line, too.

        It’s the D that makes me think we don’t have to fear them. Of course, I’m not telling anyone anything new here. It’s just that we shouldn’t forget that we had a horrible Defense last year on paper. They turned out the be better than we thought (still not elite, of course), and had a great run during the second part of the season.

        Considering the D, you have to give them a Marinelli bonus, too. That guy is one hell of an assistant coach. I don’t think they have the talent to overcome this, even with Marinelli, but don’t forget that he makes his players better.

        • Daniel Spector

          That horrible D somehow has our number.

      • Joe L

        Lane is our starting RT.

      • John E. Zang

        The problem is you’re looking at them on paper. Even with all that you said about their offense you can’t forget they are a team without character and leadership so we can safely assume they won’t be overachievers. They’re a team that’s been out of whack for years because of their Jerry Jones business model. If they go on a losing streak I don’t think they can possibly turn it around.

        • anon

          Not disagreeing at all. Just seeing it from cowboy’s fans POV.

      • dnabrice

        Don’t think there’s a lot to your argument.

        It’s our starting RT that’s out, and he’s arguably the weakest link on
        the line anyway. Sure, WR is a little bit of a worry, but we’ll see how much that effects things. Shady leads the way.

        The fact that our first round pick isn’t a starter is a sign that the team is actually good.

        Issue with the Cowboys is their defense. It was horrible last year, and only lost 3 of it’s best players in the offseason. Yes, they’ll have a prolific offense, but we’ll still outscore them.

        • anon

          Just being devil’s advocate. Arguable whether Lane or Todd is the weakest link. But it’s one of the most important parts of the OL that’s going to be filled with a backup.

          Make no mistake I think we’re on paper and in reality the best team in the East.

      • myeaglescantwin

        someone with reason.

        i’ve been seeing more and more of “16-0 Fans” on this site. Thanks for bringing us back to reality.

    • Reasonableeaglefan

      That was a fun little exercise. Trying to think of the cowboys 10 best players. Hint Sean Lee is hurt and one is a kicker

  • Tikkit

    When the best S’s in the division are the Giants S’s then the divisions S situation sucks.

    • MediaMike

      And the fact that Rolle was a pro-bowler, and actually deserved it, tells you how badly that position has become in the NFL. There aren’t but 5 or 6 actual good safeties in the NFL.

      • dnabrice

        And we could have had the best one…..

  • Dominik

    In the first halves, he carried 128 times for 730 yards and eight
    touchdowns. For his career, he has 104 carries in the fourth quarter for
    505 yards.

    So, Murray has 24 carries and 225 yards more in first halves last season than in the fourth quarter in his whole career. Classic Cowboys move.

    • anon

      That 2012 Andy Reid style. They obviously feel like they should give Tony the ball in the 4th, especially in september.

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  • 76mustang

    The Cowboys start with Niners, Titans, Rams, Saints, Texans, Seahawks – so they face defenses ranked 1, 4, 5, 7, 14, & 15 from 2013. When you factor in the physicality, I could see the Cowboys needing to rely on their depth early in the season.

  • JofreyRice

    Demarco Murray is so overrated. Block well for him and he’s productive, but not a creative runner, at all. And he’s hurt a lot.

    • Kaedwon

      I’d say he’s rated about right, but yeah Murray has a hard time staying on the field.
      The bottom line is that Dallas could score 35 points a game and still go 5-11. Their D really is that bad.