In the National Football League, there is normally a team that reigns supreme over a single division or the whole league, but hat concept hasn’t stayed true over the last decade of NFL football, especially in the National Conference East. In this division, there wasn’t a repeat conference champion for the entire 2010s. The teams that always shuffle around in the NFC East are the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Washington Football Team (formerly the Redskins).
Let’s review the 2020 season of the collective worst division in football last season. The New York Giants were hoping for a big season from Daniel Jones. He was able to sit behind and study under Giants legend, Eli Manning, and in his second year, he led the Giants to a six-win and ten-loss season. Jones had his highlights, and lowlights, but he did what he could with what was around him.
The Washington Football Team drafted defensive end, Chase Young, out of Ohio State University. He turned out to be a massive addition for the team and helped their defense, but that’s not where their issues were. There were offensive issues. Throughout the season, they had four different quarterbacks. Even with those struggles, they ended up winning the division with a nine-win and seven-loss season.
The Dallas Cowboys, who were a train wreck, managed to squeak out six wins with their injury-riddled roster. This Cowboys team was riddled with season-ending injuries to many of their starters, like offensive lineman Tyron Smith and La’el Collins. However, the most notable injury was quarterback Dak Prescott, who broke his ankle, and missed the season. Their team overall needed improvements to be as good as years past.
Lastly, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted quarterback, Jalen Hurts, knowing that Carson Wentz was on his way out of Philly. Their offensive line (which seems to be a trend) also had major struggles this season not with injuries, but with almost their entire line being above 30 years old. Along with age, injuries also caught up with their cornerstone rookie offensive lineman, Andre Dillard, who missed the entire season, and standout receiver Marquise Goodwin who missed the entire season. Overall, the rest of the division needs major improvements if they wish to become a dominant team in the NFL.
Fly, Eagles Fly?
Let’s start with the bottom of the bottom of the barrel, the Philadelphia Eagles. Heading into the 2020 season last year, the Eagles were expected to be second, or third, in the NFC East. They sat at four wins and 11 losses which puts them last in the division, and tied for 28th in the league with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Eagles made many moves to try and revamp their aging roster. Starting with their draft picks in the 2021 NFL draft, first round they drafted Heisman, a winning wide receiver, DeVonta Smith, from the University of Alabama, along with Smith’s teammate center, Landon Dickerson, in the second round.
In free agency, the Eagles didn’t sign many big names, but they managed to sign former Vikings defensive back Anthony Harris, and former Washington pass rusher, Ryan Kerrigan. Harris adds experience needed to help teach the younger defensive backs that the Eagles have. Harris also brings good man and zone coverage to cover any hole the Eagles’ secondary may have. Kerrigan brings useful pass-rushing, and run-stopping ability to an aging defensive line that’s in need of help.
How bout them Cowboys?
“How ‘bout them Cowboys?” The phrase was used back when the Dallas Cowboys were a top team in the NFL. Last season they were tied for second in the division with six wins and 10 losses which puts them tied at 26th in the league with the New York Giants, and San Francisco 49ers.
The Cowboys were only a few pieces away from being a top 10 team in the league, but couldn’t hit that mark with their injury-riddled roster last season. Starting with franchise pieces, the team put their franchise tag on their star quarterback Dak Prescott on March 4, 2021. Not even a week later, on March 8, 2021, the Cowboys and Dak came to an agreement on a new deal: a 4-year contract worth $160 million.
In the 2021 NFL draft, they drafted defensive pieces to help their team. In the first round with the 12th overall pick, they chose Penn State star linebacker Micah Parsons which adds more depth to their linebacker room. Other notable players drafted by them were defensive lineman, Osa Odighizuwa, from UCLA in the third round, and linebacker, Jabril Cox, from LSU in the fourth round.
The Cowboys didn’t really sign anyone in free agency because many of the players they needed were already under contract. They signed Keanu Kneal, who previously played for the Atlanta Falcons after being drafted to them in 2017. This addition gives them another player who is coming into their best years playing-wise and also gives them a player with a relentless motor who won’t stop until the play is over.
Big Blue Rising or Falling?
One of the oldest teams in the NFL started in 1925, they’ve had their ups and downs and 2020 was a definite down. At the end of the season, they ended with a six-win and 10 loss season which tied them, the San Francisco 49ers, and Dallas Cowboys all for second in the division.
The Giants took a huge blow almost immediately in the season, losing Saquon Barkley to an ACL tear in the third game of the season and starting offensive lineman, Nate Solder, who opted out of the 2020 season due to Covid-19. But, they made do with what they had: Daniel Jones had to step up and win games for a below-average Giants team. Luckily, the team drafted offensive lineman, Andrew Thomas, the year prior to filling in Solder’s role.
Let’s look at their off-season moves. In the 2021 NFL draft, the Giants had received the 20th pick in the first round, they used this opportunity to take Kadarius Toney, a wide receiver from the University of Florida. The other notable picks they made were edge rusher, Azeez Ojulari, from the University of Georgia in the second round, and cornerback, Aaron Robinson, from the University of Central Florida. These players all add depth and youth to their roster.
They also signed wide receivers, Kenny Golladay, from the Detroit Lions, and, John Ross, from the Cincinnati Bengals. Another Notable player they signed was tight end, Kyle Rudolph, from the Minnesota Vikings. All three of them give the Giants a veteran locker room presence with all of them being in the league for five or more years.
Golladay gives Daniel Jones a swiss army knife receiver who can run deep and break away from defenders, cut through the middle for mid-route or catch a short route and break downfield. Ross gives Jones a speedster who can burn defenders as a deep threat and not stop running. Rudolph gives Jones a second safety blanket in the red zone alongside Evan Engram; he also provides excellent run blocking from the tight end position.
The Washington Football Team had an interesting 2020. Firstly they had to rebrand because of their logo and former team name the redskins. But in good news for them, they will have a new team name in 2022. The WFT finished at the top of the NFC East with seven wins and nine losses. That record puts them at 25th in the NFL tied with the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, and Los Angeles Chargers.
The WFT made a surprising splash in the NFL last season by somehow making the playoffs in the no man’s land of the NFL. This is also one of the few times an NFL team has secured a playoff spot with a losing record. This team really rallied behind their defense with rookie standout defensive end Chase Young from Ohio State. Their offense was mainly geared around star wide receiver, Terry McLaurin, who got the nickname Scary Terry.
Let’s look at the additions they have made this off-season. In the 2021 NFL draft, they drafted what they needed: a linebacker and an offensive tackle. For their linebacker, they took Jamin Davis, from the University of Kentucky, with the 19th pick in the first round, and in the second round at pick 51, they picked Samuel Cosmi, from Texas. Both give them upgrades at spots on offense and defense.
In the off-season, the WFT signed and traded for players that they knew were going to contribute from day one. Those players were Curtis Samuel, from the Carolina Panthers, Ryan Fitzpatrick from almost every NFL team, and Ereck Flowers, from the Miami Dolphins.
Samuel is a veteran wide receiver who has had good seasons in the past and adds a quality receiver for whoever lines up under center for them. Fitzpatrick gives them a quarterback who is known to be magical on the field given his nickname Fitzmagic. But other than that, he gives them a QB who can win games and is a valuable game manager if they have a lead late in the game. Flowers gives the WFT an athletic left tackle who can really play on the left or right side and can be a powerful run blocker or lockdown pass protector.
In conclusion, this division is possibly the most confusing division in the league. The Giants play like they’re in 2012 winning super bowls again. The Cowboys run the ball and can’t be stopped. The Eagles look like super bowl winners during some games. The WFT is locking down everyone for one week. Then the next week none of the teams can score against the Jets. This division is always fun to watch because of how unpredictable the teams are. Out of these four who do you think will win this division at the end of the season?