2013/14 NFL Preview: NFC East
With the National Football League teams completing their OTA’s and preparing for the start of training camps in just about a month (the Dallas Cowboys start on July 21 and the Detroit Lions on July 23), it is time to start taking a look at the upcoming NFL season.
In this segment, we’ll take a look at the NFC’s East Division. By far the most competitive division last year, three of the four teams had a shot at the division crown on the final week of the season. It wasn’t until the Washington Redskins upended the Dallas Cowboys on the final Sunday night game of the season that the division champ was determined. Expect that same competitiveness this season, but with a bit different outcome than in 2012.
A team that has long been underachievers in this division, the Cowboys would have taken the division title last year had it not been for that final game loss to the Redskins. Quarterback Tony Romo was horrendous in that game, throwing three early interceptions that basically sealed their fate. So what was Romo’s punishment for that debacle? A new contract worth a guaranteed $55 million (never let it be said that owner/general manager Jerry Jones won’t go down with the ship).
The Cowboys did very little in the offseason, other than letting running back Felix Jones walk away and handing the running game to DeMarco Murray. The team also resigned linebacker Anthony Spencer for what was a middle of the road defense. Once again this year the Cowboys will live or die on the arm of Romo and his wide outs Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and tight end Jason Witten. The team has to make their run at the playoffs this year or it could spell the end of the Jason Garrett era in Dallas; they should have enough to at least make the playoffs by winning the NFC East.
Prediction: First (Record: 10-6)
Under the meteoric play of their rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Redskins survived to win the division in 2012 with their defeat of the Cowboys. Just as suddenly as he took them to the Promised Land, RGIII’s aggravation of his knee injury in their first playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks doomed them to a first round exit.
The only way that the Redskins will be able to mount a defense of their 2012 division crown will be with a completely healthy RGIII under center (or, more likely, in the shotgun). With some changes to his style of play, RGIII will be The Man in D. C. for years to come, but he will have to have such talented offensive players as running back Alfred Morris and his wide receiving corps of Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon and newcomer Devery Henderson (coming over from the New Orleans Saints) to take some of the weight off his shoulders.
The defense was serviceable enough to ride them to the NFC playoffs in 2012 and, without any big draft picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, little was done to improve this area of the game (the Redskins traded several picks to move up to take RGIII). They will be able to scratch out another winning record this year, but whether it is enough to get them to the playoffs will be the question.
Prediction: Second (Record: 9-7)
New York Giants
After leading the division for much of the 2012 season, the Giants faded down the stretch, a failure that led to them missing the playoffs one season after winning the Lombardi Trophy. Their late-season histrionics will have to be corrected if they are to make another run towards the playoffs in 2013.
Quarterback Eli Manning still is one of the brightest stars on the team and, with two Super Bowl rings, has shown he is clutch when it is time. What happened in 2012 is that his supporting cast wasn’t that clutch; wide receiver Victor Cruz (resigned after the season) will have to regain his “hungry” form that he had in the 2011 season and the running game will have to pick up some of the slack. That may be difficult as none of the RBs on the roster have more than four years’ experience in the league.
The defense is also going to be a question mark for this team. The loss of defensive end Osi Umenyiora and linebackers Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn will significantly deplete the once proud Giant D. If they can’t stop anybody, then they might not make the playoffs, leaving head coach Tom Coughlin to try to either rebuild the franchise or head off into the sunset of retirement.
Prediction: Third (Record: 9-7)
The final season of the tenure of former head coach Andy Reid was a disaster across the board for the Eagles. A season of quarterback roulette, a defense that couldn’t stop anyone and a general malaise with Reid led to his departure for Kansas City and the arrival of college football offensive wizard Chip Kelly from the University of Oregon to helm the Eagles.
Kelly’s frenetic offense needs the right quarterback to lead it and, with Michael Vick back in the fold, he should have that. Vick will have to ward off Nick Foles (who performed admirably while Vick recovered from a concussion in 2012) for the job (should do it easily) and, when he steps behind center, he has a wealth of talent around him. Two of the best at their positions, running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson, will be there to help provide more fuel for Kelly’s offensive schemes.
The defense took the major overhaul in the offseason with the departures of their highly respected corners in Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Not really replacing those two men will leave the Eagles trying to outscore opponents more than stopping them, leaving them at the bottom of the division again but with a better record than their 4-12 mark in 2012 and a bright future.
Prediction: Fourth (Record: 7-9)
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