Tha Sports Junkies 101

2016 NFC East Projected Order Of Finish

Keith Allison via Flickr


In 2015, the NFC East proved just how worthless preseason predictions are. The Dallas Cowboys struggled mightily without Tony Romo. Chip Kelly was fired from the Philadelphia Eagles after a disappointing season.

Tom Coughlin resigned after the Giants failed to make the playoffs, for the fourth straight year. The Washington Redskins were thought to be one of worst teams in the NFL, but defied expectations with its second division title in four years.

The return of Tony Romo has the Cowboys hopeful for a return to the playoffs. In Washington, the Redskins will get the opportunity to see just how much Kirk Cousins is worth. While the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles welcome in new head coaches.

1) Washington Redskins

2015 Record: 9-7

Major Addition: Kirk Cousins (Franchise Tag)

Major Loss: Junior Gallete (Torn Achilles)

Analysis: General Manager Scot McCloughan and the Redskins are looking to build off last season’s 9-7 campaign, that produced a NFC East championship. Kirk Cousins blossomed from game manager, to one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL down the stretch last season. Optimism is rampant at Redskins Park, and for good reason.

Pound for pound, the Redskins have the best receiving core in the league.  Jamison Crowder proved his value as a slot receiver as a rookie last season. Jordan Reed is a matchup nightmare, Desean Jackson is the best deep threat in the league, Pierre Garcon is as tough as they come, and rookie Josh Doctson is the big-bodied specimen the Skins have lacked for years.

Second year back Matt Jones, is one that will be a household name by season’s end. As a rookie, it was an adjustment to the NFL for Jones. He fumbled five times, and missed the final three regular season games, and playoff game to injury. However, he provides an added element to the Redskins offense.

He’s a big bruising back, with deceptive speed. He was solid out of the backfield, with 25 catches for 304 yards. Jones averaged 16 yards a catch as a 6’2 230 lb running back. His 78-yard touchdown against the Saints last season, was his biggest highlight. Against the Rams in week two, he exploded for 19 carries with 123 yards, and two touchdowns.

Scot McCloughan has compared Matt Jones, to the recently retired Marshawn Lynch. McCloughan was a Senior personnel executive, when the Seahawks traded for Lynch, in 2010.

Record for 2016-10-6

The Redskins were a 9-7 football team, that just so happened to win a weak division in 2015. However, this team made tremendous strides in Scot McCloughan‘s first year. The knock on Kirk Cousins last season, was that he didn’t beat a team with a winning record. Look for that to change week one, when the Redskins host the Steelers on Monday Night Football.

The defense is improved, especially in the secondary. Deangelo Hall has made a seamless transition to safety, Bashaud Breeland was the Skins best defensive player last year, and Josh Norman adds a new dimension of “attitude” to the group.

The pass rush took a major blow, after news broke of Junior Gallete’s second torn Achilles, in as many offseasons. Preston Smith came on strong towards the end of the season, and led all rookies with eight sacks. Ryan Kerrigan is just another stud from the first round, 2011 class. Chris Baker performed at a Pro Bowl level last season as well.

One area of concern is however is the rush defense. Last season, the Skins allowed a glaring 4.8 yards per carry, and ranked 26th in rushing yards allowed, with 122.6.

Strength of Schedule:NT-17th

2) Dallas Cowboys

2015 Record: 4-12

Major Addition: Tony Romo (return from injury)

Major Loss: Rolando McClain (10 game suspension)

Analysis: 2015 was an absolute train wreck for the Dallas Cowboys. Both Dez Bryant and Tony Romo missed extensive time due to injuries, and the offense just didn’t have enough firepower. The defense, played well at times, but lacked game changing plays. This season, the Cowboys appear poised for a comeback.

Tony Romo is back for his 14th season, and is aiming to lead the Cowboys atop the NFC East. Romo gets a bad rap at times, but his impact on the Dallas Cowboys simply cant be ignored. Dez Bryant is a consensus top-5 receiver, Cole Beasley is a viable slot receiver, and Terrance Williams is a solid number two. The ageless Jason Witten, is the last of a dying breed at tight end.

Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot, may have a realistic chance of making the Pro Bowl in his first season. The Cowboys have the best offensive line in the game. Four of five of their starting lineman are first round picks. Jerry Jones clearly has prioritized the o-line. In 2014, Demarco Murray broke the Cowboys’ single season rushing record, in large part to the offensive line. Darren McFadden finished fourth in the NFL in rushing this past season, with nearly 1,100 yards.

Elliot is the perfect back to run behind this Cowboys o-line. He runs with a mean streak, is a patient runner, and is a three down back. He was a workhorse at Ohio State, and has the makings to be a star (pun intended). The Eagles, Giants, and Redskins, all struggled last season stopping the run, finishing in the bottom third of the league. Ezekiel Elliot, is bad news for NFC East foes.

Record for 2016: 9-7

It’s unfortunate that the Cowboys will struggle defensively. They possess a high octane offense, but are strapped for talent on the defensive of the ball. Sean Lee is the best player on the defense, but other than him, they lack play-makers on that side of the ball.

Look for Tony Romo and the offense, to win the bulk of the games this season. Defensive ends Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, are both suspended for the first four games. Reports now indicated Gregory faces a ten game ban because of another failed drug test. Ryan Russell and Benson Mayowa  are expected to provide the pass rush, in the absence of Lawrence and Gregory. Linebacker Rolando McClain is also suspended for the first 10 games. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are average, at best.

Orlando Scandrick is the Boys‘ best defensive back, when healthy. Scandrick missed all of last season to a torn ACL, but he’ll get to cover Dez Bryant early, and often in camp. 2015 first round pick, Byron Jones has now transitioned to safety, so the Cowboys could keep Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne at cornerback.

Strength of Schedule: T-27th

3) New York Giants

2015 Record: 6-10

Major Addition: Olivier Vernon

Major Loss: Tom Coughlin (Resigned)

Analysis: For quite some time, Tom Coughlin, and Eli Manning were one of the more decorated head coach-quarterback duo’s in the NFL. The two Super Bowls they have, came at the expensive of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. This past offseason, offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo was promoted to head coach. The move looks to be a seamless one for the Giants.

They keep their offensive system in place, and Eli Manning is able to build off his career year. In 2015. Manning threw for nearly 4,500 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. To go along with a 93.6 passer rating.

Quarterback play was far from the team’s worries last year. The defense was a unit among the league’s worst. The Giants ranked 32nd in total defense, 30th in points per game, and 31st in yards per play.

To upgrade the porous defense, the Giants doled out $108.6 million dollars in guaranteed money to cornerback Janoris Jenkins, defensive tackle Damon Harrison, and defensive tackle Olivier Vernon. They also added Eli Apple, with the 10th overall pick in the draft.

Sure the Giants overpaid for three players that never made the Pro Bowl. However, they’ve shown a commitment to improving the defense.

Other than Odell Beckham Jr. , Eli Manning lacks true receiving threats. Sterling Shepard is one that coaches are raving about. Offensive coordinator, Mike Sullivan spoke highly of the rookie out of Oklahoma, in June.

“Sterling Shepard has demonstrated an explosiveness and ability to make tough catches.”

Record for 2016: 8-8

General manager Jerry Resse’s job almost certainly has to be on the line this season. $108.6 million dollars is an exorbitant amount of money on three players who’ve never been to the Pro Bowl. However, the Giants are much improved defensively.

This team will only go as far as he’ll take them, but football is a team game. If the defense can generate a pass rush, and force turnovers, that will be more than enough to boost the the Giants playoff chances.

Eli Manning is like a wine that gets better with age. You simply can’t count out the “G-Men” as contenders in the NFC East. As long as Manning is at quarterback.

Strength of Schedule: T-30

4) Philadelphia Eagles

2015 Record: 7-9

Major Addition: Fletcher Cox (Re-signed in July)

Major Loss: Demarco Murray (Traded to Titans)

Analysis: The Philadelphia Eagles were one the most disappointing team’s in the NFL in 2015. During Chip Kelly’s first two years, the Eagles finished with consecutive 10-6 seasons. A large part of that success was due to the Eagles offense. The Eagles were a top-5 offense statistically in 13′ and 14′. (2nd and 5th respectively)

Kelly ultimately ruined the Philadelphia Eagles with various personnel moves, that consequently led to his termination. He and the Eagles front office let Jeremy Maclin walk in free agency, then he traded Lesean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills. He brought in Demarco Murray from Dallas, but the move wasn’t a fit as far as the “x’s and o’s”. He also traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford. Foles made the Pro Bowl in 2013.

On defense, the Eagles signed cornerback Byron Maxwell to a six-year, $63 million dollar deal, with 31 million dollars in the form of guaranteed money. They also acquired linebacker Kiko Alonzo, in the Bills trade with Lesean McCoy. Both players were traded to the Miami Dolphins this offseason.

Howie Roseman and owner Jeff Lurie brought in Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, to become the next head coach. Pederson served under Eagles great Andy Reid with the Chiefs.

In Kansas City, Pederson coordinated an offense, that finished ninth in scoring and sixth in rushing. The Eagles spent the most money on quarterbacks during free agency. They re-signed Sam Bradford, to a two-year. 35 million dollar deal, and gave Chase Daniel seven million dollars a year to essentially be a backup quarterback. The Eagles also traded up in the draft to select Carson Wentz, with the second overall pick.

Regardless of who is at quarterback this season, expect tight end Zach Ertz to build upon his breakout season last year. He posted similar numbers to Travis Kelce, and Kelce was a big part of the Chiefs’ passing attack. Pederson utilized Kelce in a myriad of ways, in 2015 and he was one of the league’s most effective TE’s. He even earned the moniker “Baby Gronk“. The Eagles resigned Ertz to a five-year 42 million dollar deal, with 21 million in guarantees.

The Eagles offensive line should be much improved this season with the signings of Brand0n Brooks, and Stefen Wisniewski. The interior of the Eagles o-line was atrocious last season, and Brooks and Wisniewski are instant upgrades. They both add toughness and consistency to the interior.

Record for 2016: 7-9

The Eagles are switching back to the 4-3 defense, and its a move in the right direction. Jim Schwartz brings his attacking wide-9 scheme to a solid front seven. Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin, and Fletcher Cox are a disruptive group, and they all excel at penetrating gaps.

Mychal Kendricks and Jordan Hicks are two of the more athletically-gifted linebackers in the NFL, and the latter has the makings of a star. Both players just need to stay healthy.

The Eagles also have an outstanding safety tandem in Malcolm Jenkins, and the newly signed Rodney McLeod. Jenkins was one of the better safeties in the NFL last season. McLeod tallied four interceptions, and three forced fumbles last season with the Rams.

Although the Eagles will be much improved defensively, the NFL remains a quarterback driven league. Unlike Sam Bradford, The other three quarterbacks in the NFC East have led their teams to the playoff appearances. The city of “Brotherly Love” should expect to wait another season for that first Lombardi trophy.

Strength of Schedule: 26th