With rosters in place and training camps inching closer, it is time to evaluate what we know about each team. In this series, TGH will predict where each team will land in their division, and whether or not they will be in contention for the playoffs. Today, the NFC East predictions are up.
First Place – Dallas Cowboys
Apart from a few defensive holes and a slight decline on the offensive line, the Cowboys’ roster is inarguably close to top tier. This is why their 8-8 campaign last season was so disappointing.
But, in an effort to wash that taste out of their mouth, Dallas has hired Super Bowl-winning coach Mike McCarthy to change the culture. McCarthy will serve as the quarterback whisperer to Dak Prescott, who just signed a franchise tag worth $31.4 million.
The big changes this season came via the front seven. After losing nine players on the front end of the defense, Dallas supplemented them with three veteran free agent signings and two draft picks. The likes of Dontari Poe, Gerald McCoy and Aldon Smith should fill in nicely, if not plug all of the holes the unit had.
The Cowboys’ first round draft pick was CeeDee Lamb, a top flight wide receiver talent out of Alabama. Drafting him first could be seen as a bit controversial, because wide receiver was not a need for Dallas, but it seems to be the Cowboys’ game plan to win shootouts. With Ezekiel Elliott and a newly-tendered Amari Cooper in the fold, they may just get away with that plan.
In any case, there are two things that are sure-fire about Dallas’ 2020 season. They should be better than 8-8, and the Eagles will give them a fight for the NFC East championship. The roster edge goes in the Cowboys’ favor, however, and a decorated head coach with a chip on his shoulder moves the needle further.
Second Place – Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles had, maybe, the worst injury luck in the entire NFL last season, and still managed to win the division and make the playoffs. At certain points, Carson Wentz was throwing to fourth-string receivers and announcers were questioning whether 40-year-old quarterback Josh McCown would have to line up out wide.
Regardless, they pulled it off thanks to subpar competition at the bottom of the conference and an extremely clutch win over the Cowboys in Week 16. But, Wentz was injured once again in their only playoff game, adding to his pedigree of not being able to finish out a season.
With all of that in mind, clearly wide receiver was on the shopping list for Philadelphia in the offseason. Unfortunately, after losing Nelson Agholor and drafting Jalen Reagor their net gain at the position was about zero. They did draft receivers at picks number 168 and 200, but the only way they may see the field in 2020 is if there is another plague of injuries like last season.
Their free agent signings were not terrible, but it is hard to see any of their new players, with the exception of Javon Hargrave, making a huge impact. Jalen Hurts was an interesting choice for Philadelphia’s second round selection, considering Wentz’s injury history. But on paper, Hurts does not fit their style of play.
All in all, the Eagles sort of just treaded water in the offseason. Their roster and coaching is obviously good enough to carry them to a narrow division win last year, but the Cowboys retooled things in a big way. It is hard to see them overcoming that without some big head-to-head wins.
Third Place – New York Giants
New York is entering the post-Eli era in 2020. For the first time since he was drafted in 2003, Eli Manning will not be on the roster. He was given a send-off in a final regular season game against Philadelphia after Daniel Jones suffered an injury, then quietly retired in January.
Focusing on the future, however, the Giants hired Joe Judge as their new head coach. Judge was previously the New England Patriots’ special teams coach and will cut his teeth with the Giants this season. It was not a flashy hire, but he did spend eight seasons with the Patriots’ dynasty, so he has credentials.
The Giants’ biggest signings were Blake Martinez, the NFL’s leading tackler in 2019, and James Bradberry, a true cover corner who matches up well with about any receiver. Dion Lewis also came over from the Titans, which should take pressure off of Saquon Barkley. He fits well in that role after backing up Derrick Henry in 2019.
Their first three draft picks all made complete sense from a team need perspective. Andrew Thomas, the tackle from Georgia, was the best on the board at the fourth overall pick and the Giants did not miss their shot. Xavier McKinney is a streaky safety out of Alabama but has nothing but potential. And their third rounder, Matt Peart, gives New York some offensive line depth.
Judge deserves the benefit of the doubt in his first year coaching. Jones is slowly moving forward and Barkley is still a certified bell cow back. This roster cannot contend, but the Giants can continue to claw upwards out of the cellar this season.
Fourth Place – Washington (team name TBD)
Washington earned the second overall pick in the 2020 draft with a record of 3-13 after a truly tumultuous year. There were coaching changes, controversies over selfies, holdouts due to medical issues not being treated properly and the list goes on.
But now Washington has Chase Young, a freakishly athletic defensive end and a coach with two super bowl appearances under his belt, Ron Rivera. They may even have a new team name after FedEx and other minority shareholders are threatening to pull their support over an antiquated and racist team moniker.
Their draft was not overly impressive, but second running back selection Antonio Gibson could be an interesting piece behind Adrian Peterson. Offensive lineman Brandon Scherff, a reliable and talented guard, has been franchise tagged. But that is about it. There is not a lot else to talk about other than Jack Del Rio signing as their defensive coordinator.
Washington is careening toward another fourth place finish with their lack of talent. Sure, Dwayne Haskins should take a step forward and the defense will absolutely be better under Rivera and Del Rio. But there are not enough pieces in place to compete in any significant way. If they end up third in the NFC East, it will be because they dominate their matchups against the Giants.
Featured Image courtesy of Ron Jenkins/Associated Press
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