So both free agency and the draft are in the books, and for the most part, you now know how rosters of the Washington Redskins and their three closest rivals will look next season. So ponder it for a second … who’ll win the division?
If you need a hand, here are the updated depth charts from the four division teams:
The Redskins have had a pretty good offseason. If not for DeSean Jackson leaving Philadelphia for Washington, I’d probably expect the Eagles to be the class of the division again, with the other three teams in that netherworld between 6-10 if a lot goes wrong and 10-6 if a lot goes right. With that move, though, all four division teams seem to be in that area. There’s not a whole lot separating them — they each have a ton of potential but need a lot to go right. So it should be another fun year, even if no NFC East team is great.
Here’s a cursory look at each.
Dallas was celebrated for doing the prudent thing on draft day, taking tackle Zack Martin instead of quarterback Johnny Manziel, but they weren’t prudent in Rounds 2-3, making that trade with Washington to move up for defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys have solidified the leaky line in front of QB Tony Romo, and offense still drives this team. When healthy, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are tough to stop. But the Cowboys still are expecting new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to clean up the mess that was the worst defense in the league by almost 18 yards a game. (By points, they were only 26th). He’s got some studs to work with, like linebacker Sean Lee and cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, but it doesn’t look like he’s got enough to field playoff-caliber defense, even after drafting seven players for that side of the ball. So Dallas’s star-studded offense is going to have to carry them.
In New York, first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. is something of a replacement for departed wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, and second-round center Weston Richburg helps solidify the offensive line. The Giants were sneaky good in free agency, bolstering the secondary with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond III, which makes sense in a division with Romo, Robert Griffin III and Nick Foles as opposing quarterbacks. But it’s hard to believe the Giants are division-title contenders if their own quarterback, Eli Manning, is as off his game as he was last season, when he threw 27 intereceptions and 18 touchdown passes, and completed 57.5% of his passes, his lowest figure since 2007. His passer rating was 69.4, his lowest since his rookie year in 2004, but if he’s back in the neighborhood of 30 TD passes, 15 INTs and 61% completions, it’ll be a sign that the Giants are back. And considering they started 0-6 last season but won seven of their final 10, and presumably got better in the offseason, you can’t count them out.
Philadelphia is in a strange spot. Without the self-inflicted loss of Jackson, their offseason looks about perfect. With it, you wonder what the heck they were thinking, and begin to question some of their other choices. The Eagles spent free agency and the draft getting players that would work in Chip Kelly and Billy Davis’s systems, for Year 2 of their regime. Some regression for Foles is expected; it’s not realistic to expect the quarterback, who threw 27 touchdown passes and two interceptions in 13 games, to produce another 119.2 passer rating. Especially without Jackson. The wide receivers Philadelphia drafted, Jordan Mathews and Josh Huff, might have to produce right away from the slot, but Jeremy Maclin returns from a missed season and Darren Sproles comes over from the Saints to give the offense some weapons. The Eagles’ defense wasn’t great last uear, but it didn’t lose any key contributors and added FS Malcolm Jenkins and OLB Marcus Smith in the offseason and heads into the second season being a 3-4. Philly won seven of its last eight before a two-point playoff loss to New Orleans, and it was 9-1 when Foles was the leading passer, but it still feels like this team is one injury to RB LeSean McCoy or any of his starting five offensive linemen away from being just okay.
Washington, well you already know how you feel about them. But objectively speaking, the team underperformed at 3-13 last season. It has a new coach, made nearly 20 free-agent signings or key player re-signings. Coaches don’t always succeed in their first season, but in this case, there’s almost nowhere to go but up. If Jay Gruden gets the best out of a happier, healthier Robert Griffin III, and the bad defense is adequate, the Redskins could be in the division title mix.
Those are just some thoughts to jog yours for the payoff poll question:
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