(Eli Manning photo courtesy of the New York Giants)
(Dez Bryant photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
Talk of Fame Network
Once upon a time the NFC East was the division that all others aspired to be. From 1990 through 1993, the East captured four consecutive Super Bowls by three different franchises. The Giants won in 1990, the Redskins in 1991 and the Cowboys in 1992-93.
No longer, though.
The only NFC East team to win a Super Bowl since 2000 has been the New York Giants—and they’ve done it twice. The East is now in the throes of mediocrity, with a 9-7 record good enough for division honors in 2015. But the Cowboys are again healthy, and the Giants have reloaded on defense with hopes of giving the defending division champion Redskins a run in 2016.
And that’s the topic of our weekly Talk of Fame Network poll – who’s the best team in the NFC East this season? Here are your options:
Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys staged a stunning first-to-worst reversal from 2014 to 2015, falling from a 12-4 and a division crown in 2014 to 4-12 in 2015. There were a couple obvious reasons for the decline. First, the Cowboys let NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray with his 2,261 yards of offensive production leave in free agency. Second, the Cowboys couldn’t stay healthy. QB Tony Romo, the NFL passing champion in 2014, missed 12 games, and Pro Bowl WR Dez Bryant missed seven. Romo and Bryant are both back and in good health, and the Cowboys hope to replace the Murray production with first-round draft pick Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State. Ten-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten also is back along with the best offensive line in football. But offense isn’t the problem. Defense is. The Cowboys finished last in the NFL in takeaways (11) a year ago and 25th in sacks. The Cowboys did little to upgrade that unit this offseason and will be without starting ends (and their two best pass rushers) DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory for the first four games of the season with NFL suspensions.
(Tony Romo photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
New York Giants. Tom Coughlin and his two Super Bowl rings are out, and GM Jerry Reese is feeling the heat. The Giants haven’t qualified for the playoffs since winning their last Super Bowl in 2011, so Ben McAdoo has been promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach. Despite a 6-10 record a year ago, McAdoo fielded a Top 10 offense with a rejuvenated Eli Manning passing for 4,400 yards, with 35 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions. Like the Cowboys, though, defense was the problem. The Giants finished dead last on that side of the ball in 2015, allowing 442 points. So Reese went on a spending spree in free agency, signing a pass rusher (Olivier Vernon) for $85 million, a cornerback (Janoris Jenkins) for $62.5 million and a run-stuffing tackle (Damon Harrison) for $46.2 million. The Giants also drafted a cornerback (Eli Apple of Ohio State) in the first round and a safety (Darian Thompson of Boise State) in the third.
Philadelphia Eagles. Like the Giants, the Eagles made a coaching change after a losing (7-9) season, replacing Chip Kelly with Doug Pederson. He’s an Andy Reid protégé, and the Eagles gave him a promising young quarterback to develop in Carson Wentz. But Wentz came at a steep price. Philadelphia sent the Tennessee Titans five premium draft picks for the right to select Wentz second overall. And the Eagles are asking him to take a huge step from the NCAA FCS (North Dakota State) to the NFL. Philadelphia also did what they could this offseason to divest itself of a Kelly-built roster, cutting LB Demeco Ryans and trading RB DeMarco Murray, LB Kiko Alonso, CB Byron Maxwell and QB Mark Sanchez. Philadelphia’s two key offseason additions in free agency were guard Brandon Brooks from Houston and QB Chase Daniel from Kansas City. The Eagles had only one other draft pick in the first four rounds and spent it on guard Isaac Seumalo in the third round.
Washington Redskins. The emergence of Kirk Cousins at quarterback stabilized the offense. At least the Redskins hope it was an emergence and a stabilization – they slapped a $19 million franchise tag on Cousins for the 2016 season. He passed for 4,100 yards, with 29 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions in his first year as an NFL starter. If he takes the next step in his development, Washington could be in good offensive hands for years to come. The Redskins already have one of the game’s best tight ends in Jordan Reed, who caught 87 passes with 11 touchdowns last season to lead the team, and GM Scot McCloughan also signed veteran Pro Bowl TE Vernon Davis to fortify the position. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan did a marvelous job with a young blocking front a year ago, and DeSean Jackson will be back to stretch defenses. But the division-wide problem on defense also plagues the Redskins, who finished 28th on that side of the ball in 2015. But Washington signed Pro Bowl CB Josh Norman in free agency and took a couple of defensive playmakers, LB Su’a Cravens and CB Kendall Fuller, with premium draft picks.
(Josh Norman photo courtesy of the Carolina Panthers)