OUTLOOK: RB DeMarco Murray is gone, and the Cowboys have no obvious replacement as a centerpiece runner. But they will rely on their offensive line, which could be even better with the addition of undrafted G La’el Collins. If QB Tony Romo remains healthy and WR Dez Bryant is productive after being signed to a long-term contract, the offense should be fine and the Cowboys should stay at the top of the NFC East, as long as the defense doesn’t totally unravel.
IMPACT ADDITION: Owner Jerry Jones lamented the Cowboys’ lack of a premier pass rusher last season, wondering aloud at one point if that would cost his team a Super Bowl. The Cowboys got their pass rusher by signing talented but troubled DE Greg Hardy in the offseason, but they’ll have to wait for him to return from his suspension under the personal conduct policy.
FANCY STAT: 14
TD passes targeted 20 yards or more downfield by Romo.
OUTLOOK: The offense is loaded for QB Eli Manning’s second year in a West Coast system under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. Victor Cruz returns from a torn patellar tendon suffered last October to join Odell Beckham Jr. at wide receiver. Manning’s secondary receivers also are talented, and the arrival of RB Shane Vereen from New England gives him a pass-catching target out of the backfield. But are the offensive line and defense good enough to support the talent at the skill positions?
IMPACT ADDITION: Rookie T Ereck Flowers arrived with the ninth overall selection in the NFL draft. The Giants probably need the 6-foot-6, 329-pounder out of Miami to be very good, very soon if the offensive line is going to be reliable enough for the team to be an NFC playoff contender.
FANCY STAT: 127.6
Quarterback rating on passes thrown to Beckham last season.
OUTLOOK: Coach Chip Kelly made certain that the focus will be entirely on him by overseeing an offseason makeover that included the exits of QB Nick Foles, RB LeSean McCoy and WR Jeremy Maclin. Much could depend on the soundness of new QB Sam Bradford’s left knee as he returns from a twice-torn anterior cruciate ligament. Bradford was a promising passer in St. Louis when healthy. He just wasn’t healthy and in the lineup nearly often enough.
IMPACT ADDITION: RB DeMarco Murray changes teams within the division after the Cowboys didn’t use the franchise tag on him and failed to re-sign him in free agency. The reigning NFL rushing champion leaves behind a superb offensive line in Dallas but could continue to find plenty of room to run thanks to the Eagles’ fast-break offensive system.
FANCY STAT: 17.2
Percentage of offensive drives ending in a turnover, the highest in the NFL.
OUTLOOK: The switch to QB Kirk Cousins as the starter was swift and stunning after the team until recently seemed committed to finding out once and for all if Robert Griffin III could recapture his rookie-year glory. Coach Jay Gruden called Cousins his starter for the entire season. But that is a week-to-week designation in the NFL. Cousins must cut down on his interceptions, but he does have help around him. There are dangerous WRs in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. There is a reliable runner in Alfred Morris. The offensive line is improving. But will Cousins make it all work?
IMPACT ADDITION: The Redskins used the fifth pick in the NFL draft on Brandon Scherff, then moved him to guard after he opened camp at right tackle. There is room to wonder if Scherff was worth the high pick if he plays guard. But he should make the line better wherever he lines up.
FANCY STAT: Own 25.1
Average starting position on offense, the second worst in the NFL.
More from the NFL preview section :
AFC East: Maske’s preview | Greenberg’s
AFC West: Maske | Greenberg
AFC South: Maske | Greenberg
AFC North: Maske
NFC East: Maske
NFC West: Maske | Greenberg
NFC South: Maske | Greenberg
NFC North: Maske
Week 1 power rankings: Patriots No. 1 until someone proves otherwise