By: Armando Perez
Every year, during the NFL pre-season, fans have a sense of optimism. Some fans hope for their rookie quarterback to be the next Peyton Manning. Others hope their new head coach will be the next Bill Belichick. From the moment OTA’s (organized team activities) start, there is great anticipation for the NFL season. It is amazing that the NFL dominates the sports media, talk shows and Twitter for 8 months out of the year. Here is my NFC East Preview
NFC East- The NFC East hasn’t had a back to back division winner since the Philadelphia Eagles did it in 2003-04. Over the past few years there has been four different division Champions.
2011- New York Giants
2012- Washington Redskins
2013- Philadelphia Eagles
2014- Dallas Cowboys
Dallas lost star running back DeMarco Murray to the Philadelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly’s squad has seen a major roster turnover in the coach’s first season as the team’s chief player personnel man. The Giants are looking to make a playoff run. New York has missed the playoffs 5 out of the last 6 years.
Philadelphia Eagles (Last year…10-6 This year 11-5)- Chip Kelly has won 21 games in two seasons as the Eagles head coach. Yet, he is under more scrutiny and more pressure than any other coach in the NFC East. Kelly has brought in Sam Bradford (QB), DeMarco Murray (RB), Ryan Mathews (RB), Kiko Alonso (LB). Philly lead the NFC with 49 sacks last year. They can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and the addition of Alonso should solidify that defense. When the Eagles trading running back Lesean McCoy, fans and the media came out in full force to criticize Kelly. How did the head coach respond? He acquired DeMarco Murray from the Dallas Cowboys via free agency. Murray is only 27 years old and last season he led the NFL in rushing (1,845 yard) and was the NFL offensive player of the year. Not only did Kelly upgrade his running back position by adding Murray, he took away the Cowboys number one offensive option. It was a brilliant move. The Biggest question mark coming into this season will be the Eagles starting quarterback. If Sam Bradford can stay healthy (and that is a big “IF”) the Eagles should win their division.
Dallas Cowboys (Last year 12-4 … This year 10-6) – The Cowboys had an amazing season last year. If Dez Bryant’s controversial reception was ruled a catch, (against the Green Bay Packers) Dallas could have been playing in the NFC Championship. Tony Romo had the best season of his career. In 2014, Romo completed 69.9% of his passes, had 34 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. Over the past three years Romo has been in the top 3 in 4th quarter comeback victories. For those who think Romo is not an elite quarterback, you are sadly mistaken. He has all the tools to take a team to a Super Bowl. The Dallas Cowboys offensive line has developed into one of the best lines in all of football. The team will be hard pressed to replace DeMarco Murray. He had 2,261 all-purpose yards last year as their featured back. The biggest weakness of the Cowboys is their pass defense. Dallas was ranked 26th against the pass last year. Adding Greg Hardy will help them but Both Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr have struggled a great deal at cornerback. With the Eagles and Giants expected to have a high powered offenses, Dallas could struggle and give up a ton of points. They were able to negate some of their defensive liabilities last year by controlling the ball with the running game and taking time off the clock. Without Murray, they may not be able to do that.
New York Giants (Last Year 6-10… This year… 9-7)- Eli Manning is coming off the best season of his career. He put up career highs in completion percentage (63.1), passing yards (4,410) and touchdowns (30). Eli did all this with Victor Cruz injured and rookie of the year Odell Beckham Jr only playing in 12 games. Beckham Jr had 91 catches, 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. Shane Vereen should be a welcomed addition in the Giants passing game. Vereen caught 52 passes last year with the New England Patriots. The Giants will be without pass rushing defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul because of a 4th of July accident. Apparently Paul, damaged his index finger, and it had to be amputated. Doctors have reported that losing an index finger can leave a person with 30% less grip and strength. No one knows how this will affect JPP on the field or in the weight room. The Giants will have to find away under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. If not, their linebackers and secondary will be under a ton of pressure to make plays. For the Giants to win games they will have to be good situationally on defense and score over 28 points per game. If they can do that, they have an outside shot of making the playoffs. There are no more excuses for head coach Tom Coughlin, they have made changes on their coaching staff bringing in offensive coordinator, Ben McAdoo and Spagnuolo this year. If the Giants miss the playoffs it will be the 6th time in 7 years. That is not getting it done and Coughlin will be out of a job.
Washington Redskins (Last year 4-12… This year…6-10) The Redskins strength lies in their defensive line. They have talent and depth. . The additions of Stephen Paea, Terrance Knighton and Ricky Jean-Francois should really help this season. Washington has a below average secondary so they must put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Robert Griffin III hasn’t been the same since his rookie year. He is just 5-15 in his last 20 starts. He doesn’t seem to want to run the ball anymore and struggles to read defenses. Late last year, teams were stacking the box and challenging him to throw over the top. Head coach Jay Gruden seems to have closed the book on RGIII. If it weren’t for Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who seems to be enamored by Griffin, Washington would be starting Kirk Cousins. This is a make a break year for Griffin either he produces or he will find himself on another team. I predict that latter to happen by next season.
This is a division where the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys could all get hot and go on a 5-6 game winning streak. I like Chip Kelly as the best coach in this division and that is why I give the Eagles the slight edge. Murray should rush for at least 1,500 yards and that should carry the Eagles to their second division title in 3 years.
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