Complete NFC East Preview
Here is a look at what you can expect from the Eagles, Giants, Skins’ and Cowboys this season…
The Eagles are set up well for their first-ever Super Bowl defense, thanks to the return of just about every significant contributor from the 2017 team. The only losses that could really hurt are offensive coordinator Frank Reich (new head coach in Indy) and QBs coach John DeFilippo (new Vikings OC).
When healthy — and he should be early in the season — QB Carson Wentz is a top-10 NFL passer (at least) and a great leader. He prolongs plays and gets the ball downfield. Having Nick Foles as a backup is a great thing, but this is Wentz’s team. He is surrounded by a deep collection of skill-position contributors who make it extremely difficult to focus on any one player.
The defense is built around getting pressure on the passer, and that’s what it does. The Eagles are outstanding at invading enemy pockets with just four rushers, and that makes the coverage schemes more sound and harder to exploit.
This is a deep, talented team buttressed by an outstanding organization that fills needs at all times with bold moves. Expect continued contention and plenty of excitement for a city still getting used to being atop the NFL mountain.
Jason Garrett kept his job, but most of his assistant coaches departed. Coordinators Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli return, so the offense and defense remain the same. But after a disappointing non-playoff season, Garrett is back on the hot seat. He has only two playoff appearances and one postseason win in seven full seasons as head coach. The Cowboys took some losses in the offseason, but they’re hoping that makes for better chemistry and more victories during the season.
New York Giants
So, are the Giants really a contender, or is the new regime just fooling itself? The truth is somewhere between their 3-13 mess from last year and their somewhat-lucky 11-5 from 2016. A lot of last year was about health (their offensive line and receiving corps were decimated), so a little better luck there (especially with WR Odell Beckham Jr) could go a long way. Same for the attitude adjustment that comes with a new coach.
In the end it all comes down to two things: QB Eli Manning and the men in front of him. The offensive line looks better on paper, though far from dominant and not deep. With better protection, Manning should thrive, but that’s a big question mark. So, too, is Manning. The Giants are convinced that his problems of the last two years were mostly O-line related. They still believe he has good arm strength and all the ability that once made him elite.
They better be right. If they’re not, then last year was just the beginning of an ugly end. But Manning should get a boost from better protection and a deeper array of weapons. The Giants don’t look like a championship contender yet, but a return to mediocrity would at least be a step in the right direction.
The Redskins have given fans little reason to believe in them of late. The franchise is 64-95-1 over the past 10 seasons, with six last-place NFC East finishes in that span, and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005. And on top of everything else, they now must deal with the problem of having the defending Super Bowl champions in their division, and just a couple hours north on I-95.
Unlike those Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins appear to occupy that crowded, murky middle ground — fitting for a franchise that has averaged exactly eight wins the past three seasons — of teams good enough to contend for a playoff spot, but also a few key injuries away from a collapse. That was largely the story of their 2017, as they placed a whopping 20 players on injured reserve and never put together a consistent stretch of games.
Can 2018 be different? Once again, they have given fans just enough reason to believe that it can. In Alex Smith, the Redskins have a proven, playoff-tested quarterback. In Derrius Guice, they have arguably their most complete back since the days of Clinton Portis. And in Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne and others, they have perhaps their most talented group of young, front-seven defenders in years. But because it’s the Redskins, everyone will be waiting for things to go terribly wrong. As famous fan Dale Earnhardt Jr. told The Washington Post in April, “We just want to be relevant again.”