Eagles Wake-Up Call: State Of the NFC East
Today’s question comes from reader Kevin, via email:
Who in the NFC East has the most issues before camp?
This question happened to come before the Cowboys and Dez Bryant agreed to terms on a new contract, but now seems like a good time to take a look at strengths and weaknesses within the division.
Dallas Cowboys – The strength last year was obviously the run game. The Cowboys still have their offensive line intact, but will they be able to dominate on the ground with Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden? That’s the obvious question that needs to be answered, but I’m not sure how much we’ll learn until the regular season begins.
The Cowboys ranked fourth overall offensively in DVOA last year – third in rushing and fourth in passing. With Tony Romo coming off a season in which he posted a career best 113.2 passer rating and Bryant back in the fold, the offense should still be pretty good.
The defense is a bigger question. Dallas added big names in Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory and CB Byron Jones this offseason. Corner is a tough position to transition easily from college to the pros. Gregory is largely an unknown. And Hardy will sit out the first four games. There was a lot of smoke and mirrors with this defense in 2014, as the Cowboys ranked 22nd defensively in DVOA.
Bovada has the Dallas at +125 to win the NFC East, the favorites within the division.
Philadelphia Eagles – We’ve been over their strengths and weaknesses on multiple occasions so we’ll keep it brief. The Eagles have question marks at quarterback, guard and safety. They should have an excellent front seven, a formidable pass rush and depth at running back.
There’s a lot that needs to be figured out in August. How does Sam Bradford look? Are the offensive line options good enough? Can Walter Thurmond play safety? And will Eric Rowe push for a starting job?
Bovada has the Birds at +180 to win the division, second behind Dallas.
New York Giants – From Week 3 on, Eli Manning threw 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. The Giants ranked 12th in passing DVOA and could be better in their second season under Ben McAdoo, especially if they can get a full season out of Odell Beckham Jr.
The offensive line is a major question mark, and the Giants were unable to get the ground game going last year (23rd in DVOA).
Defensively, they’re counting on Steve Spagnuolo to improve a unit that ranked 24th in DVOA a year ago, but the talent is definitely a question mark. The Jason Pierre-Paul saga is the one to keep an eye on in August, but this team has issues on the back end as well.
The Giants are +300 to win the division.
Washington – They were a complete mess a year ago, ranking 28th offensively in DVOA and 27th defensively. Perhaps Scot McCloughlan can get them going in the right direction, but the Jay Gruden/Robert Griffin III combination seems more likely to end in disaster than anything else in 2015.
Defensively, Washington just doesn’t have much to hang its hat on. Of the teams in the NFC East, it clearly has the most question marks, as reflected by Bovada’s odds (+1400).
To answer Kevin’s question, every team has issues going into camp. But the Eagles are probably the team whose outlook will be most affected by what happens in August.
WHAT YOU MISSED
The reasoning behind the Sam Bradford trade, expectations for Nolan Carroll and thoughts on rookie playing time in this week’s mailbag.
“We’re looking for non-impostors.” Cory Undlin focusing on press coverage. Can new Eagles DBs coach make a difference?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jimmy Kempski of the Philly Voice offers thoughts on the Giants, including their offensive line:
The Giants will be without starting LT Will Beatty for the season, after he tore his pectoral muscle lifting weights.
As a result, rookie first-round pick Ereck Flowers will be asked to start immediately at LT, and it was thought that Justin Pugh would slide back out to his previous spot at RT. However, Pugh’s 32″ arms were the shortest of any offensive tackle competing at the Combine since 1999.
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz offers thoughts on the Chip Kelly/Jimmy Johnson conversation:
That isn’t to say if you suddenly take risks you are going to win. You have to keep them in your arsenal, though. And they can’t be “safe” risks. You don’t go for it on 4th/1 at the opponents 39 and think of that as a risk. If you fail, the opponent is still on his side of the field. Go for it when the other team isn’t expecting it…from your 39. That’s a risk. You make that call because you have prepared your players on how to execute the play properly and think they’ll do it. You expect the play to work, but you’re willing to deal with the circumstances if it fails.
Risk might be a personnel move or a coaching hire. It might involve who you draft or the kind of scheme you run. Kelly has taken plenty of risks since coming to Philly. More have worked than failed, but this year will be the real test with the moves that brought in Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Kiko Alonso, and Byron Maxwell, as well as the non-moves that led to Allen Barbre at LG, a competition at RG and Walter Thurmond playing FS.
Not all of those moves are going to work. And yet if one or two pans out better than hoped, that might help put this team over the hump.
Tucker has more on local product Rasheed Bailey.