Sat, 16 Jan 2021

Training camp primer: NFC East

Field Level Media
07 Aug 2020, 10:19 GMT+10

NFC East

(listed in predicted order of finish)

Dallas Cowboys

Projected 2020 record: 11-5

2019 record: 8-8

2019 summary: The offense clicked as well as anyone could have hoped under new coordinator Kellen Moore, but untimely hiccups and defensive inconsistency led to a pair of three-game losing streaks. After a finish outside the playoffs, longtime head coach Jason Garrett was not retained.

Key additions: WR CeeDee Lamb, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Dontari Poe, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, QB Andy Dalton, CB Trevon Diggs, DT Neville Gallimore, K Greg Zuerlein

Noteworthy losses: C Travis Frederick, CB Byron Jones, DE Robert Quinn, WR Randall Cobb, DE Michael Bennett, DT Maliek Collins, TE Jason Witten, S Jeff Heath, G Xavier Su'a-Filo

Cause for concern: Quinn looked rejuvenated in 2019, landing him a big contract in Chicago, and other talented defenders in Jones, Bennett and Collins are all gone. There's enough depth to survive at cornerback, but the pass rush opposite DeMarcus Lawrence might need a boost.

Position battle worth watching: Frederick wasn't quite himself in 2019, but his retirement was nonetheless a blow. Who will replace him? Connor McGovern, a 2019 third-rounder who missed his rookie campaign due to injury, will try to unseat veteran Joe Looney, while fourth-round rookie Tyler Biadasz could factor.

Over-Under win total from PointsBet: 9.5

The Cowboys are a classic candidate to improve, as their 8-8 record last season belied a terrific plus-113 point differential. There are several questions still to answer, but they have the talent to hit double-digit wins with ease.

2020 forecast: It's unclear how much new head coach Mike McCarthy will influence the offense, but a loaded unit should continue to thrive with CeeDee Lamb's arrival. Dak Prescott is still playing for a payday, and Ezekiel Elliott should be in better shape. Dallas' ceiling depends on new coordinator Mike Nolan's defense, but the Cowboys should battle the Eagles for the division title.

Philadelphia Eagles

Projected 2020 record: 10-6

2019 record: 9-7

2019 summary: An offense ravaged by injuries struggled to move the ball, but Carson Wentz Co. won four straight to close the season and claim the NFC East. Wentz, however, was concussed early in what would be a season-ending playoff loss to the Seahawks.

Key additions: CB Darius Slay, DT Javon Hargrave, WR Jalen Reagor, CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, S Will Parks, QB Jalen Hurts, LB Jatavis Brown

Noteworthy losses: S Malcolm Jenkins, RB Jordan Howard, DE Vinny Curry, CB Ronald Darby, OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai, DT Tim Jernigan, WR Nelson Agholor, LB Nigel Bradham, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill

Cause for concern: Once one of the league's best, the offensive line is showing cracks. Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks (Achilles) is out for the year, and the contingency plan -- veteran left tackle Jason Peters re-signed to switch to right guard -- is risky. Peters' replacement, Andre Dillard, was shaky as a first-round rookie last season, and center Jason Kelce will turn 33 in November.

Position battle worth watching: After scraping the bottom of the barrel last season, the Eagles have options at wideout, but Alshon Jeffery's health (foot) leaves a few roles up for grabs. First-round rookie Jalen Reagor should start, but he fits best in the slot or as the Z receiver, which is DeSean Jackson's nominal spot. JJ Arcega-Whiteside is built to play the X but underwhelmed as a rookie. Greg Ward and rookie John Hightower could also factor in.

Over-Under win total from PointsBet: 9.5

A decimated roster made it to nine wins a year ago, and the Eagles are clearly improved, so we feel good about the over. That said, Brooks' injury was a big blow, and several other key players have a history of getting hurt, so it's not without risk.

2020 forecast: Wentz got much-needed weapons, and the defense added difference makers up front (Hargrave) and on the back end (Slay). If the reconfigured O-line clicks, Wentz could return to a Pro Bowl level and Philadelphia could be a Super Bowl contender. Still, the Eagles' variance is high, as Wentz and Jackson have worrisome injury histories, and Fletcher Cox showed signs of decline in 2019.

New York Giants

Projected 2020 record: 6-10

2019 record: 4-12

2019 summary: The Giants benched Eli Manning early in favor of rookie Daniel Jones, who showed bright spots amid a turnover-heavy rookie campaign. New York did win two of its last three, though that likely cost it top college pass-rusher Chase Young, who Washington took No. 2 overall.

Key additions: CB James Bradberry, OT Andrew Thomas, LB Blake Martinez, S Xavier McKinney, OLB Kyler Fackrell, OT Cameron Fleming, RB Dion Lewis, OT Matt Peart

Noteworthy losses: LT Nate Solder (opt-out), QB Eli Manning, LB Alec Ogletree, RT Mike Remmers, S Antoine Bethea, C Jon Halapio, LB Deone Bucannon, K Aldrick Rosas

Cause for concern: The Giants had only one player with more than 4.5 sacks or 13 QB hits (Markus Golden, 10 and 27) in 2019, but they didn't add much and brought back Golden only after he had few suitors in free agency. They must hope Lorenzo Carter or Oshane Ximines develops, as Fackrell is hardly dynamic off the edge.

Position battle worth watching: Solder has been a poor performer and a massive overpay at left tackle, but his opt-out leaves a major hole. Thomas will very likely fill it, but then who steps in at right tackle? The veteran Fleming should have the edge over Peart, an athletic third-round rookie who must get stronger.

Over-Under win total from PointsBet: 6.5

Good quarterbacks tend to make a leap in Year 2, so if you're a believer in Jones, we don't blame you for taking the over. But we see a few too many concerns on both sides of the ball to have high expectations in Joe Judge's first season as head coach.

2020 forecast: Judge and his Patriots-influenced staff aren't under pressure to win early, so Jones' development should be the top priority. The Giants will hope the QB returns with better ball security and awareness for pressure, but that's asking a lot behind an unsettled O-line, even if Thomas' transition is smooth. Jones does have a nice set of weapons, but the defense has significant question marks.

Washington Football Team

Projected 2020 record: 6-10

2019 record: 3-13

2019 summary: A tire fire from the start, Washington opened 0-5, leading to Jay Gruden's firing. Rookie QB Dwayne Haskins took longer to acclimate to the NFL than hoped, but he did show flashes before a Week 16 injury ended his season.

Key additions: DE Chase Young, DB Kendall Fuller, CB Ronald Darby, LB Thomas Davis, G Wes Schweitzer, OT Cornelius Lucas, S Sean Davis, QB Kyle Allen, RB/WR Antonio Gibson, OT Saahdiq Charles, WR Antonio Gandy Golden

Noteworthy losses: LT Trent Williams, TE Jordan Reed, CB Quinton Dunbar, CB Josh Norman, LT Donald Penn, TE Vernon Davis, G Ereck Flowers, WR Paul Richardson, RB Chris Thompson, QB Case Keenum

Cause for concern: Haskins made progress as a rookie, but he didn't get much help, and that doesn't seem to be changing. There's no remotely appealing option at left tackle, and Washington didn't add much of note at either wideout or tight end, apparently counting on development from Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims behind Terry McLaurin. Gibson could be a slot/gadget weapon, but the team plans to start him at running back.

Position battle worth watching: With Williams traded and Penn unsigned, the left tackle job is wide open. The veteran Lucas, 2018 third-rounder Geron Christian and rookie fourth-rounder Charles -- a talented but inconsistent prospect who slipped in the draft due to character concerns -- are the primary competitors, but signing another veteran might be wise.

Over-Under win total from PointsBet: 5.5

New head coach Ron Rivera brings a strong track record from Carolina, but he's got his work cut out for him as Washington tries to fix issues both on and off the field. There's certainly a path to seven or eight wins, but another three-win season seems just as likely. We'd pass on this one.

2020 forecast: Young's arrival could ignite the defense, which is loaded with talent up front and also has an intriguing set of playmakers in the secondary. But can that unit compensate if the offense is dead weight? Haskins flashes high-level processing and arm talent, but unless his slimmer self proves more mobile, he needs protection and weapons to produce. Washington doesn't have much of either at the moment.

--Field Level Media

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