Tag Archives: Kirk Cousins

2017 NFC East Projections

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X-Philadelphia Eagles 11-5

2016 was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Philadelphia Eagles as they were beginning life with a new head coach in Doug Pederson as well as a new starting quarterback in Carson Wentz. But whereas that the expectations were not that high for Philadelphia, they came out of the gate like gangbusters by winning their first three games. But with Wentz taking his lumps as a rookie quarterback, the losses began to show up for the Eagles. However the Eagles would remain a tough out in spite of the fact that they finished in last place in the NFC East. But Philadelphia’s last place finish was deceiving as they went 7-9 which included picking up victories over both the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys who survived the riggers of the division en route to earning a playoff berth. And as Wentz is only going to get better, while the Eagles did a solid job in regards to putting a quality team around him heading into a new season, there is plenty to like about this team.

Carson Wentz

Wentz’s transition to the National Football League was made easier in part due to the fact that he played in a pro-style offense collegiately for the North Dakota State Bison, while now playing for a head coach in Pederson who himself played in the NFL adds to his transition. Wentz had his fair share of ups and downs as a rookie which was evident by him throwing 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, but he was able to hang in there and take his lumps. Through it all Wentz displayed solid pocket awareness and in the process the youngster was able to earn the respect of his teammates.

Now as Wentz’s sophomore campaign is beginning, credit to the Eagles front office in regards to putting talent around him on the offensive side of the football. This off-season saw Philadelphia and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery agree on a one-year deal for $14 million. At 6’3″, 218 lbs., Jeffery gives the Eagles a play maker at the wide receiver position which is something that they’ve lacked over the past few seasons. When healthy Jeffery can be one of the most productive receivers in football, however the operative term is when he is healthy. Over the last two years Jeffery has missed 11 games to either injury or suspension, but the fact that he only signed a one-year deal should put him in line to be extra motivated this season.

The past three years have seen running back LeGarrette Blount be a big contributor to a pair of Super Bowl Championships for the New England Patriots. But as much as Blount enjoyed his time winning with the Patriots, he decided that is was time for him to have a change of scenery. Blount is coming off of his best season in the National Football League as he gained 1,161 yards on the ground last year, while also leading the league in rushing touchdowns with 18. And Blount’s presence in Philadelphia should help to boost an Eagles rushing attack which was already 11th in the NFL last into possibility being a top-five unit.

The Eagles already had a solid offensive line and they received a boost during the off-season by signing guard Chance Warmack. Warmack may have never lived up to his full potential with the Tennessee Titans who made him a first-round pick in 2013, but now he has the opportunity to be on an Eagles offensive line which includes right tackle Lane Johnson as well as left tackle Jason Peters who is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection.

Philadelphia was only able to generate 34 sacks on defense last season, however their defensive line has been upgraded during the off-season. The Eagles used their first-round pick on defensive end Derek Barnett who has the potential to be an anchor on the defensive line for years to come, while they also signed veteran defensive end Chris Long. Like Blount, Long was a member of the Patriots Super Bowl Championship team last season, and his postseason experience as well as knowledge of what it takes to rush the passer will be a vital for an Eagles team that is looking to become a contender in 2017.

Malcolm Jenkins

Strong safety Malcolm Jenkins continues to be a leader on the defensive side of the football, but Phiiladelphia will need young players such as cornerback Jalen Mills who is in his second year in the National Football League to be able to step up and take his game to the next level.

Two of Philadelphia’s first three games are within the NFC East, and a strong a strong start could put them in line for their first division title since 2013.

Y-New York Giants 10-6

The 2016 National Football League saw the beginning of the Ben McAdoo era as the head coach of the New York Giants. Under McAdoo, the Giants went 11-5 for their first playoff berth since their last Super Bowl Title in 2011. There were many positives for the Giants which included having a stingy defense as well as going 7-1 at MetLife Stadium. But New York would be one-and-done in the playoffs as a slew of dropped passes along with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers would prove to be too much for them as they were eliminated in the NFC Wild Card Game. But as a new NFL season is set to begin, will the Giants be able to do something that they’ve been unable to do since 2008 which is to make the postseason in consecutive years?

Eli Manning

One of McAdoo’s luxuries is that he has Eli Manning as his starting quarterback. Throughout Manning’s National Football League career he has had his detractors as he has led the league in interceptions three separate times. However Manning is 108-91 as starting quarterback and he’s also the most prolific quarterback in Giants franchise history. Manning is closing in on becoming just the seventh player in NFL history to pass for 50,000 career yards, while he still has the pocket awareness as well as the arm strength to get it done at the age of 36.

But even though that Manning is coming off of the sixth 4,000-yard passing season of his National Football League career, the Giants were still 17th in the league in passing. The Giants offense was inconsistent at times last year; especially in the red zone.

John Mara

Giants general manager Jerry Reese has attempted to remedy this by upgrading Manning’s passing options. In free agency, the Giants signed wide receiver Brandon Marhsall who gives them size at the position. At 6’5″, 232 lbs., Marhsall is a matchup nightmare for most defensive backs in the National Football League due to his size and sheer athleticism. And this size should pay dividends for New York and Manning as the quarterback will definitely lean on him in the red zone in jump ball situations. The Giants will be the fifth NFL team that Marshall has suited up for, and when this season comes to an end, he will more than likely find himself in the NFL’s all-time top-20 list for receiving yards.

The Giants would also use a first-round pick in this past spring’s National Football League Draft on tight end Evan Engram. Since the Giants traded tight end Jeremy Shockey to the New Orleans Saints in 2008, they have used a “tight end by committee” approach which has not worked that often. And by not having a quality option at the tight end position, it has taken away from the Giants ability to have a more effective offense.

The Giants didn’t draft Engram for his blocking ability as he was used as more of an H-back in college for the Mississippi Rebels, but what he gives New York is a fluid receiver at the tight end position. And aside from the fact that Engram attended the same college that Manning did, he could become one of the quarterback’s favorite options in the passing game this year.

Odell Beckham Jr.

But you can’t talk too much about the Giants offense without mentioning the exploits of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. In just three years with the Giants, Beckham is making a strong case to be recognized as the most prolific wide receiver in Giants franchise history. Beckham has already racked up 4,122 receiving yards and 35 touchdowns while getting the Pro Bowl nod in each of his three seasons. Beckham has become the most polarizing and exciting player that the Giants have employed since Hall of Fame outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor, and his rare combination of speed as well as elusiveness have made him one of the best wide receivers in the National Football League. Beckham falls into that category of being a “coverage buster” as it doesn’t matter if teams want to give him extra attention because he still finds a way to make the catch. But if opposing defenses want to pay too much attention to Beckham this year, the Giants have options in their passing game such as Marshall, Engram, and wide receiver Sterling Shepard who can make them pay.

There was a time when the Giants were primarily known for their ability to run the football, however they’ve now built a reputation the National Football League for the inability of their ground game. You have to go back to 2012 to find the last time that the Giants had a ball carrier gain at least 1,000 in a season, while they were 29th in the NFL last season in regards to rushing.

The Giants will once again use a running back by committee. But between Paul Perkins, Orleans Darkwa, and Shane Vereen, if one of these running backs gets hot for the ground attack, it would not surprise me to see McAdoo stick with the guy who is getting it done.

Ben McAdoo

McAdoo’s offensive system is all about Manning getting the football out quickly which doesn’t put as much stress on the offensive line. Manning was sacked 21 times last year which was his lowest total since 2012. However for the Giants offense to be as productive as their potential adds up to, the offensive line must find to step up in big situations.

In 2015, the Giants used a first-round pick on left tackle Ereck Flowers. The Giants immediately plugged Flowers in at left tackle, but throughout his brief stint in the National Football League, he has lacked the footwork necessary to be a successful left tackle. And in order for Manning to find Beckham and Marshall for those big pass plays, it all starts with Flowers being able to protect Manning’s blindside.

Defensively the Giants were tenth in the National Football League as Steve Spagnuolo began his second stint as the team’s defensive coordinator. Spagnuolo’s first stint with New York was predicated by his ability to consistently create pressure with his defense. As a team the Giants had 35 sacks last year, but they knew how to consistently create pressure; sometimes with just their front four.

Damon Harrison

The Giants lost defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins in free agency as he signed with the Indianapolis Colts, but they still have a formidable defensive line which features defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison along with defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon.

New York has not had a strong linebacking unit in years, but they possess arguably the best secondary in the National Football League. The Giants were 23rd in the NFL in passing yards allowed, however they were second in the league in points allowed per game at 17.8. The Giants had a “bend, but don’t break” mentality as they stiffened in the red zone. And as cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie led the team in interceptions with 6, while strong safety Landon Collins has 5, along with the coverage ability of cornerback Janoris Jenkins, the Giants secondary dubbed themselves the NYPD (New York Pass Defense). This unit could get better, while Collins who barely missed out on being the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 is making his case to be recognized as the best safety in the game.

McAdoo was somewhat able to fly under the radar in 2016, but it will be important for him to bring all of the talent that the Giants have together in 2017 for a potential Super Bowl run.

Y-Dallas Cowboys 10-6

It’s been a topsy-turvy ride for the Dallas Cowboys as in 2014 they would go 12-4 to win the NFC East which was followed by them going 4-12 in 2015. Dallas would then respond by going 13-3 last year to not only win the NFC East again, but they also finished with the best record in the NFC. However the Cowboys would be one-and-done in the postseason as they fell at home to the Green Bay Packers, and you have to go back to the 1995 National Football League season to find the last time that they made it past the divisional round of the playoffs. The Cowboys enter this season with a very exciting team, but will they have enough in their arsenal to live up to the Super Bowl expectations that have been thrust upon them?

Ezekiel Elliot

The Cowboys expected running back Ezekiel Elliot to have a strong impact in 2016 after they used the fourth overall pick in the National Football League Draft on him. Elliot was able to burst onto the scene as he led the NFL in rushing with 1,631 rushing yards, while he drew comparisons to Hall of Fame running backs in Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith who also played for the Cowboys. Elliot provided Dallas with a “home-run hitter” at the running back position as he was always a step away from breaking a big play. And in the process Elliot was able to make Cowboys owner/president Jerry Jones look like a genius after investing several first-round picks into his offensive line and coming to his senses by putting an explosive ball carrier behind the line after he let running back DeMarco Murray leave as a free agent in 2014.

Elliot was the engine for the Cowboys offense as he carried the football 322 times. And in the process his ability helps the passing game in Dallas due to the fact that opposing defenses must consistently focus on him.

Like Elliot, quarterback Dak Prescott was a part of the Cowboys draft class in 2016. But unlike Elliot, Prescott didn’t enter the National Football League with as much fanfare. Dallas used a fourth-round selection on Prescott who was simply expected to simply be a backup to starting quarterback Tony Romo. However when Romo suffered a compression fracture in his back during the preseason, the starting quarterback job became Prescott’s to lose.

Dak Prescott

After the Cowboys lost their first game with Prescott as their starting quarterback, Dallas would reel off 11 consecutive wins as they became the team to beat in the NFC. Prescott was not going to overtake Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers or New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in order to be the top signal caller in the National Football League, but he was still effective due to his smarts. Prescott learned very quickly to allow the game to come to him which means not trying to win by himself. Prescott is not a “game manager” but he is someone who knows how to put the football into the hands of the play makers around which has seen him draw comparisons to another former Cowboys quarterback in Troy Aikman.

Prescott has the luxury of not only handing off to Elliot, but he also can pass the football to a talented trio of wide receivers in Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, and Terrance Williams, while you cannot overlook the ageless one at tight end in Jason Witten who even at the age of 35 can still split the seams in a defense with the best of them. Witten continues to be “Steady Eddie” in the Cowboys offense, and by the end of the season he’ll be in the top five of the National Football League’s all-time list for receptions.

The current Cowboys offensive line might not be as good as the unit from the 1990’s which changed the game, but these guys are still very effective. The Dallas offensive line is littered with first-round selections which includes left tackle Tyron Smith. And as long as this unit can continue to effectively open holes for Elliot, pass protection for Prescott will be easier due to opponents being so conscience of the Cowboys running game.

For Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, he must find a way for his unit to wreak more havoc in order to offset the team’s explosive offense. Strong safety Barry Church led Dallas in interceptions last season with only 2, and he is no longer with the club, while no Cowboys defender was able to record at least 10 sacks last year.

Jaylon Smith

Dallas should get a boost in their front seven with middle linebacker Jaylon Smith returning from injury. Smith would have been a first-round pick last year had it not been for him tearing ligaments in both his ACL and LCL during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. The Cowboys would draft Smith in the second round last year due to his potential when healthy. And after Smith sat out the entire 2016 National Football League season while recovering, he is ready to be an impact player this year.

Dallas’ pass rush has the potential to be solid if everyone is able to get on the same page. There is potential in defensive end Taco Charlton who Dallas selected in the first round this year, but this team needs more depth in regards to pass rushers, and thus it is important for the Cowboys to get both defensive end Randy Gregory as well as defensive end Damontre Moore back as they are both currently suspended by the National Football League.

It will also be important for the Cowboys to create pressure with their front seven as the team’s secondary still has question marks after they were 26th in the National Football League last year in pass defense. And as this unit lacks play makers, the Cowboys could be susceptible to the deep ball.

The Cowboys will continue have one of the better special teams units in the National Football League due to the strong right leg of kicker Dan Bailey. In six years with the Cowboys, Bailey has become one of the most accurate kickers in league history which has also seen him make 24-of-35 attempts from beyond 50 yards. And that powerful and accurate leg of Bailey should help to win a few games for the Cowboys here in 2016.

After the Cowboys had the best record in the NFC last year, they have to be ready to take every opponent’s best punch. However all of the Cowboys losses last year came within the NFC East as it will be very tough for them to repeat as division champs.

Washington Redskins 6-10

Ever since the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 1991 National Football League season, things have gotten away from this once proud franchise. The Redskins only have six playoff appearances to their credit since then with just three postseason victories. Washington would come out of nowhere to win the NFC East in 2015, but when the expectations rose for them last year, they hung in there until the final week of the regular season when a loss to the New York Giants eliminated them from postseason contention. Now as Redskins head coach Jay Gruden and his team look to bounce back this year, they’ll have their work cut out for them with a team that will be much different from the squad that took the field last season.

Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins has been the Redskins starting quarterback for the last two years, but his relationship with the organization has been contentious at best. After Cousins set a Redskins record by passing for 4,166 yards in 2015, the organization used the franchise tag on him for 2016. And after Cousins and Washington could not come to an agreement on a long-term deal, he went out last season and passed for 4,917 yards.

Cousins and the Redskins would continue to have problems as the team allowed his top two wide receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to leave in free agency. Cousins was reluctant to sign his franchise tender as he was seeking to be traded to the San Francisco 49ers, but his request would not be obliged. Cousins is still on the Redskins roster, but generally nothing good comes when there is an unhappy camper on the team.

Terrelle Pryor

Cousins’ new go-to-guy in passing will be wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. Pryor initially entered the National Football League as a quarterback, but he was converted to wide receiver. Last year Pryor led the Cleveland Browns in receptions (77), and receiving yards (1,007). At 6’6″, 240 lbs., Pryor is an imposing figure, but it will be important for him to get onto the same page with Cousins early.

Tight end Jordan Reed will also be important to Washington’s passing game. Reed is listed as a tight end, but Gruden tends to use him in the H-back mode as he can do a little bit of everything. However Reed must find a way to stay on the field as he has never appeared in all 16 games during his five-year career in the National Football League.

But as sharp as Cousins can be in the passing game, he can’t do it by himself and the Redskins need their running game to improve in order to provide some balance. Last year Washington was 21st in the National Football League which is not going to cut if they intend to win the NFC East. Running back Robert Kelley should receive the bulk of the carries for the ‘Skins, but keep an eye on rookie running back Semaje Perine who at 5’11, 236 lbs., was a load to bring down during his collegiate career with the Oklahoma Sooners.

It’s been some time since Washington was solid on defense which included them being 28th in total defense last season. The Redskins defense suffered a huge blow when outside linebacker Trent Murphy was lost in the preseason to a torn ACL. As a rookie in 2016, strong safety Su’a Cravens showed the promise of being a difference maker, but now the Redskins are without his services as he is flirting with retiring. Washington still has outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan who has tallied a combined 34 sacks over the last three years, as well as cornerback Josh Norman who is solid in coverage. However not having having more play makers on this side of the football will makes things tougher for Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

In 2015, Gruden had the Redskins headed in the right direction, but things have gotten away from him rather quickly as another losing campaign appears to be on the horizon.

X-Division Winner

Y-Wild Card

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

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Failing To Get Out Of Their Own Way

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The glory days of the Washington Redskins were from 1981-1992 when they won three Super Bowl Championships. But since Joe Gibbs ended his first run as the head coach of the Redskins in 1992, things have been sketchy at best for this franchise. Since 1992, Washington only has three division titles and two playoff victories. And each time that the Redskins appear to be putting something together, it quickly dissipates.

In 2002, the Redskins hired Steve Spurrier to be their new head coach after he had a successful run as the head football coach for the Florida Gators. Spurrier was supposed to revolutionize the Redskins offense. But in two years in D.C., Spurrier’s record was 12-20. Redskins owner Dan Snyder then reached out to Gibbs to return to the team in 2004, but in four years he was unable to return Washington to glory. In 2012, Washington traded up to the second overall pick in the National Football League Draft to select quarterback Robert Griffin III. As a rookie, RG3 would set the NFL on fire due to his athleticism, however after he suffered a knee injury towards the end of that season, he would never be the same player with the team.

Kirk Cousins

The same year that the Redskins drafted Griffin, they also used a fourth-round selection on quarterback Kirk Cousins. Coming out of college Griffin had the sizzle, but Cousins was the more polished pro passer. In Cousins’ first three years he would see sporadic action behind Griffin. However following Washington’s 4-12 campaign in 2014, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden made the decision to make Cousins his full-time starting quarterback.

In 2015, Cousins would become a popular man amongst the folks in D.C. as he set a single-season passing mark for the Redskins as he threw for 4,166 yards en route to helping Washington win the NFC East for the first time since 2012. This past season Cousins would take it a step further as he threw for 4,917 yards, but he was unable to get the ‘Skins back to the postseason.

Cousins was set to become a free agent until the Redskins slapped the dreaded franchise tag on him for the second consecutive year. Cousins appears to be the long-term answer at quarterback in Washington, however the organization has not done right by him.

After the franchise tag was attached to Cousins, he has asked the team to be traded due to the fact that the top two wide receivers for the Redskins from 2016 won’t be returning next season. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon who led Washington in receiving yards last season with 1,041 is joining the San Francisco 49ers, while wide receiver DeSean Jackson who was second on the team with 1,005 receiving yards will now be a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was doubtful that Washington was going to be able to sign both players, but there was optimism that they’d be able to retain at least one. However both will be suiting up for new teams which has not made Cousins happy as 2,046 receiving yards from last season is out the door. And now it will take a lot of smoothing over by the Redskins to make things right with Cousins.

Dan Snyder

But this shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that has followed the Redskins since Snyder became the owner in 1999. Under Snyder, Washington has employed eight different head coaches, while they’ve had 16 different starting quarterbacks. Snyder has tried to bring Washington a winner and each time he has failed.

Just because Cousins wants a trade doesn’t mean that the Redskins are going to oblige him, but they are rolling the dice more than ever. The Redskins are now going to have to overpay Cousins if they want to keep him happy as his frustrations could make for a media firestorm. Cousins has been able to navigate Gruden’s offense with success and the last thing that the head coach can afford to do is to start over at the quarterback position.

Now the Redskins are going to have figure out how to address their wide receiver situation between the draft and free agency as their top returning wide receiver from last season is Jamison Crowder with 847 yards. But much of what Crowder was able to do was based off of the ability of Jackson and Garcon, along the attention that they attracted.

After making the postseason in 2015, the Redskins missed out on consecutive playoff appearances by just one win last season. And instead of improving off of that, Washington is headed backwards. When Gibbs was in his heyday, he won three Super Bowl Titles with three different quarterbacks as he is the only head coach in National Football League history to do so. Gibbs was able to do this because he had a solid system in place, but since that time the Redskins have been an organization that is typically in disarray which is once again front and center.

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2016 NFC East Projections

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X-Dallas Cowboys 9-7

After winning the NFC East in 2014, the bar of expectations for the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2015 National Football League season increased. But when quarterback Tony Romo suffered a broken clavicle last September, the Cowboys chances went up in smoke. Dallas would go 4-12 for their worst season since 1989 and they are now hopeful for a quick turnaround.

Ezekiel Elliot

With a porous season for the Cowboys, it resulted in them gaining the fourth overall pick in the National Football League Draft which led to them selecting former Ohio State Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot is a home-run hitter at the running back position that is always on the verge of breaking a big play. Elliot will run behind an offensive line that is one of the biggest and physical groups in football as they are reminiscent of Dallas’ line in the 1990’s.

Left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick are developing into two of the better players at their respective positions, and guard La’el Collins has the potential to be a Pro Bowl selection this year. And this offensive line will be very important as they must find a way to protect Romo.

Like Romo, wide receiver Dez Bryant is looking to bounce back after an injury hampered his 2015 campaign. Bryant only appeared in nine games last season due to a foot injury and his presence is vital for any success that the Cowboys intend on having. But Bryant has had to deal with his fair share of feet and ankle injuries and you have to wonder if he’ll begin to lose some of his speed and explosiveness. However having Bryant on the field opens things up for the other Cowboys wide receivers such as Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams who then tend to get more one-on-one coverage on them.

But the Cowboys chances simply come down to the health of Romo. Collarbone and clavicle injuries have been taking their toll on Romo who is one or two good hits away from having to bid farewell to the National Football League. And unfortunately for the Cowboys, they don’t have any insurance behind Romo as they have not used a first-round pick on a quarterback since selecting Troy Aikman in 1989.

Defensive for the Cowboys, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones took some chances on some players and it has recently come back to bite him in the rear end. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, middle linebacker Rolando McClain, and defensive end Randy Gregory are facing suspensions from the National Football League this year as each player was expected to have an impact on that side of the football for Dallas.

In the secondary, cornerback Morris Claiborne has nine lives and he might be on his ninth life with the Cowboys as it simply has not worked out for him in Dallas. But cornerback/safety Byron Jones could be ready to step into a leadership role on that side of the football.

Kicker Dan Bailey has been a key cog for the Cowboys in recent years as he is almost automatic from within 55 yards, and more importantly he has a strong leg to get it done when the temperature changes which will be big for Dallas’ chances of getting to the postseason.

Jason Garrett

For Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, he and his squad have a chance to get on the right foot as they’ll host the New York Giants in Week 1 before traveling to face the Washington Redskins in Week 2. The Redskins won the NFC East last year and the Cowboys definitely want to try to set the tone for themselves in 2016 with a strong start within the division.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Giants 9-7

There will definitely be a different feel to the New York Giants this year as for the first time since 2003, Tom Coughlin is not the team’s head coach. Coughlin was at the forefront of one of the greatest stretches in Giants franchise history, but after three consecutive losing seasons and not making the postseason since 2011, he was relieved of his duties at the end of the 2015 National Football League season. But if you’ve watched the Giants over the past two years, you saw the writing on the wall when Ben McAdoo was hired to be the team’s offensive coordinator in 2014. McAdoo has been groomed to be the Giants head coach and the time is now for him to have his opportunity.

Eli Manning

For Giants quarterback Eli Manning, he is hands down the most prolific quarterback in the 92-year history of the franchise. But what has hurt Manning recently is that the Giants have not put the most talented team around him. However Manning is entering his third season working with McAdoo which should benefit him and the Giants offense.

One thing that will definitely help Manning is wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. In just two years in the National Football League, Beckham has already amassed 2,755 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns as he is on the fast track to becoming the best wide receiver in the history of the Giants.

But the Giants will holding their breath on wide receiver Victor Cruz who has been hit with the injury bug over the last two years. In 2014, Cruz suffered a torn patellar tendon, while a calf injury kept him out for the entire 2015 National Football League season. The deck is stacked against him as far as having the same explosiveness that made him an overnight sensation in 2011, however the key for him is to be healthy.

Sterling Shepard

In the second round of the 2016 National Football League Draft, the Giants selected wide receiver Sterling Shepard who is Cruz with the explosiveness. The last few years have seen Shepard be one of the most dynamic wide receivers on the college football scene and it shouldn’t take him that long to become a favorite of Manning; especially on third down.

However as good as Beckham, Cruz, and Shepard can be, they are all smaller wide receivers which doesn’t help the Giants in the red zone where they need a big, physical receiver, or tight end. The Giants haven’t had a wide receiver with that presence since Hakeem Nicks in 2011, and they’ve lacked a player with that ability at tight end since Jeremy Shockey who last played with the team in 2007. However the Giants believe in their combination at tight end in Will Tye and Larry Donnell to be good options for Manning.

Under McAdoo, Manning has worked on getting the football out quicker which has taken away some stress from the Giants offensive line. But after having so much continuity on the offensive line from 2005-2012, the Giants have spent the past few years getting younger and more athletic. The Giants have used first-round picks on left tackle Ereck Flowers and guard Justin Pugh who along with center Weston Richburg need to become consistent contributors on the offensive line in 2016 if New York’s offense is going to have some success.

Defensively in 2015, the Giants never got on track as they were the worst unit in the National Football League. It was ten times easier for opponents to navigate their way through the Giants defense than traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike as they simply couldn’t stop anyone. As Steve Spagnuolo is in the second year of his second stint as Giants defensive coordinator, he is looking to get the unit back to what he had in 2007 when they made life tough for opposing quarterbacks en route to winning the Super Bowl.

A fireworks incident appeared ready to derail the career of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul who played last year in spite of losing two fingers. Pierre-Paul played with a “club” on his right hand, and although that he was able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, he was unable to record sacks. Pierre-Paul had a surgery on his hand this off-season that means no more club for him on his right hand, but he will still be fighting an uphill battle to tally quarterback sacks.

To offset Pierre-Paul, Giants general manager Jerry Reese went out and spent big in free agency on the defensive side of the football. The Giants signed defensive end Olivier Vernon to a five-year contract that could potentially be worth $85 million. In four seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Vernon had 29 sacks, but with the contract that he signed, the folks in the Tri-State Area want to see him become a great pass rusher in the mode of Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan.

Aside from Vernon, the Giants also signed defensive tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins to big deals this off-season, while using their first-round pick on cornerback Eli Apple. The additions of Jenkins and Apple give the Giants much needed depth in the secondary as veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could be the team’s nickel cornerback, or Apple could assume that role as he gets his feet wet.

Landon Collins

After a solid rookie season in 2015, strong safety Landon Collins could be ready to take a bigger role defensively as he showed flashes last year of being a game changer which will be vital if the Giants are going to end their playoff drought.

The Giants linebacking core has been weak in recent years and this is a unit that has been searching for a leader since Antonio Pierce retired in 2009. And it will once again be a patch work unit here in 2016 which will hurt New York’s chances.

It seems like just about each National Football League season in recent years has the Giants opening with the Dallas Cowboys and that will be the same in 2016 when New York travels to AT&T Stadium to get things started in a few weeks. But the pressure will be on Reese to get the Giants to the playoffs for the first time since winning Super Bowl 46 as he has run out of people to fire and team co-owner John Mara wants to see some positive results from his team.

Washington Redskins 6-10

The Washington Redskins found themselves as one of the pleasant surprises during the 2015 National Football League season as they came out of nowhere to win the NFC East. But the Redskins will begin 2016 looking to do something that they have not done since 1992 which is to make the playoffs in consecutive years. And to give you an idea of how long that has been, it was the last year of Joe Gibbs’ initial run as Redskins head coach, while the team still also called RFK Stadium home.

Kirk Cousins

In 2015, Kirk Cousins shocked many skeptics (myself included) to have the finest passing season of any Redskins quarterback to date. Cousins passed for 4,196 yards and 29 touchdowns as his famous catchphrase “you like that” was right at the forefront. The emergence of Cousins would see the Redskins part with quarterback Robert Griffin III who was the second overall pick of the 2012 National Football League Draft. Ironically Cousins was a seventh-round selection that year, but he was the one that was more prepared for the pro-style offense that Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is running. But the biggest question around Cousins entering the upcoming season is whether or not that last year was a fluke, or is he ready to become the Redskins franchise quarterback?

The Redskins allowed running back Alfred Morris to leave in free agency which means that running back Matt Jones will have an increased role this year in the team’s rushing attack. Morris was the team’s leading rusher last year with just 751 and Washington cannot afford to have an imbalance on offense like they did in 2015.

Tight end Jordan Reed and wide receiver Pierre Garcon should once again be the recipient of the majority of Cousins passes, but the Redskins must find a way to incorporate wide receiver DeSean Jackson into the offense more. Jackson missed six games last year due to injury and and Washington needs him to be healthy as he is their deep threat at wide receiver.

Last year under defensive coordinator Joe Barry, the Redskins defense was a no-named band of brothers. But there will be some swagger in D.C. this year with the addition of cornerback Josh Norman. In four years with the Carolina Panthers, Norman developed a reputation around the National Football League as a solid cover corner. However we’ll soon find out if what we’ve seen from Norman was his ability, or the fact that he played behind a solid front seven with the Panthers.

Washington will have the luxury of beginning the upcoming season with consecutive home games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. But it will be tough for the Redskins to once again find the formula that worked so fluidly for them in 2015.

Philadelphia Eagles 6-10

Jeffrey Lurie

After nearly three years of seeing the Chip Kelly experiment destroy his locker room, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie decided to make a change. Lurie had gotten away from what had made his Eagles successful when he fired longtime head coach Andy Reid in 2012, in favor of a college coach in Kelly. Kelly tried to run the Eagles in the same mode that he ran his college program with the Oregon Ducks, but in the National Football League he didn’t realize that he was dealing with grown men. Lurie gave Kelly full autonomy over all personnel decisions which was a recipe for disaster. But Lurie saw the ills of his ways and he has decided to go back to the formula that made his Eagles a perennial playoff contender in the 2000’s.

With the termination of Kelly, Howie Roseman who is the Eagles executive vice president of football operations is now back to being the main decision maker when it comes to the team’s personnel moves. Roseman’s first order of business was to hire Doug Pederson as the Eagles new head coach. Pederson is very familiar with the Eagles family as he played for them as well as serving as an assistant coach under Reid.

Doug Pederson

Pederson is looking to rebuild the Eagles from the ground up and the first order of business for him was to find a franchise quarterback. At the 2016 National Football League Draft, the Eagles moved up to the second overall spot to select quarterback Carson Wentz. At 6’5″ 237 lbs., Wentz has the size to be a solid NFL quarterback, along with a strong arm. But Wentz has a tough task ahead of him as he looks to win over the fans in Philadelphia who’ve been known to be rather hostile.

However the Eagles are going about in the right way as Wentz is not expected to begin the season under center for the Eagles as he’ll have a clipboard in his hands, and an earpiece in his ear. Sam Bradford was the Eagles starting quarterback in 2015, and even though that the writing is on the wall as far as him not being in the long term plans of Philadelphia, he isn’t ready to give up the starter’s role without a fight.

It’s best that the Eagles are not ready to throw Wentz to the wolves as they don’t have a solid running game to protect him. The Eagles will more than likely employ a running back by committee system with Ryan Matthews and Kenjon Barner more than likely getting the bulk of the carries.

Zach Ertz

Philadelphia does have some young talent to catch the football in wide receiver Jordan Matthews and tight Zach Ertz who should once again be able to click with Bradford in the passing game. And it also didn’t hurt that the Eagles recently acquired wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham from the Tennessee Titans. Green-Beckham has immense potential, but it is just a matter of him becoming consistent.

The Eagles defense has been undersized in recent years with Kelly at the helm, but there will be a new brand of physical and aggressive football under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. The Eagles were 30th in the National Football League last year in total defense and in order for them to improve, safety Malcolm Jenkins cannot lead this unit in tackles for a second consecutive year. The Eagles have veteran pass rushers in defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and defensive end Connor Barwin who must get after opposing quarterbacks and possibly force some turnovers.

The Eagles will more than likely be fighting an uphill battle in 2016, but Pederson is in the process of laying the foundation for his time in Philadelphia.

X-Division Winner

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

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2015 NFC East Projections

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X-Dallas Cowboys 10-6

The bar of expectations will be a little bit higher for the Dallas Cowboys this season. The Cowboys are coming off of their first NFC East Title since 2009 and they feel like they have a team that is capable of winning the Super Bowl.

In 2014, the Cowboys had the second best rushing attack in the NFL and they still like their chances this season in spite of not having running back DeMarco Murray. Last season Murray led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 rushing yards, but the Cowboys elected to let him leave Dallas as a free agent which led him to signing with the rival Philadelphia Eagles. Murray has been replaced on the Cowboys roster by running back Darren McFadden. McFadden was the fourth overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders and he has never lived up to his potential: more importantly, McFadden has never been able to stay healthy as he has only appeared in all 16 regular season games once in his seven-year NFL career. And although McFadden is 28-years old, he appears to have already lost some of his explosiveness as a runner.

But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett are counting on McFadden having a productive season in 2015 due to the fact that Dallas arguably possesses the best offensive line in the National Football League. Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith is emerging as one of the best left tackles in football as he is an anchor for this unit.

Tony Romo

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is coming off of a year where he only threw 9 interceptions, but that can be credited to the fact that Dallas was able to run the football extremely effectively. The Cowboys still have quality guys to catch the football in tight end Jason Witten along with wide receivers Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley. But Romo has a history of throwing interceptions and he also cannot afford to take too many sacks due to his bad back.

The Cowboys are looking to get more out of their pass rush as they only tallied 28 sacks last year. The Cowboys drafted defensive end Randy Gregory in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft while they signed former Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy. But Hardy will miss the first four games of the upcoming NFL season as the result of a league suspension for domestic violence; however he feels that he has what it takes to become a leader for the Cowboys.

At linebacker, the Cowboys have some potential as long as key players are able to stay healthy. In the last three years linebacker Sean Lee has only played in 17 games as knee injuries have limited him, but he is back in 2015 looking to contribute for the Cowboys. After being the eighth overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Raiders, middle linebacker Rolando McClain became an afterthought. But after a disappointing stint with the Raiders and Baltimore Ravens, McClain began to live up his potential last year with the Cowboys. However the Cowboys will be without McClain’s services for the first four games of 2015 due to a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs.

Morris Claiborne

The Cowboys appeared ready to give up cornerback Morris Claiborne as they used their first round pick this past spring on cornerback Byron Jones whom they expect to be an immediate impact player in the secondary. The Cowboys also have veteran cornerbacks in Brandon Carr who will team with Claiborne after cornerback Orlando Scandrick was put on injured reserve with a torn ACL. But this Cowboys secondary will rely on the front seven of the defense to create pressure which could lead to interceptions.

The Cowboys first two games of the NFL season will see them take on the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles. But with no team expected to run away with the NFC East, a slow start wouldn’t hurt the Cowboys while a fast start will have them sitting pretty.

Y-New York Giants 10-6

The New York Giants are coming off of consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 2004 and this is a team that is itching to once again become relevant in the National Football League. Quarterback Eli Manning is set to embark on his 12th season with the Giants and his second under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. McAdoo came to the Giants last year after a stint as the Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach and he brought with him a new offense that relies on Manning getting the football out quicker. Manning did improve under McAdoo as he had a career-high in completion percentage last season of 63.1 and he threw 30 touchdown passes for just the second time in his career. But even with that, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and McAdoo are hopeful that Manning’s numbers will improve in 2015. Manning is set up to have a big season due to the fact that he is entering the last year of his contract and with the Giants prepared to allow him to play it out, the two-time Super Bowl MVP should be locked in under center.

Odell Beckham Jr.

As 2014 progressed, the Giants offense came on as Manning built a rapport with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham had a rookie season for the ages as in just 12 games he tallied 91 receptions for 1,305 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. Beckham became the first Giants rookie since Jeremy Shockey in 2002 to be named as the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. But as good as Beckham’s rookie season was, there is room for improvement and the Giants are hopeful that he can avoid both the sophomore and Madden cover jinxes in 2015. Beckham is looking to team with wide receiver Victor Cruz who himself is attempting to return from a torn patellar tendon that forced him to miss the final ten games of the season. Cruz is 28-years old and the Giants are hopeful that he still has some explosiveness in his body that has propelled him into being one of the best slot receivers in the game. Giants wide receiver Rueben Randle has continued to improve in his first three seasons and he and “Big Blue” are hopeful that he can have a Pro Bowl caliber campaign in 2015. Throughout his NFL career, Manning has had a thing to “make” tight ends which should benefit tight Larry Donnell who is looking to be more than just an overnight sensation.

These aren’t your father’s Giants as the past few seasons have seen New York become one of worst the rushing squads in the National Football League. The Giants were 23rd in the NFL last season in rushing and it appears that it will be a running-back-by-committee in 2015. Running back Andre Williams showed flashes of being an every down back in his rookie season of 2014, but under Coughlin, blitz pickup and the ability to read defenses is just as important as what you do with the football. And if Coughlin doesn’t trust his running backs, they don’t play. The Giants signed former New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen to team with Williams and veteran running back Rashad Jennings in New York’s backfield. Vereen has been good at catching passes out of the backfield and this three-headed monster has the potential to be effective for the Giants in 2015.

For the Giants to be a playoff team in 2015, they’ll need consistency from their offensive line this season. Things didn’t get started on the right foot for the Giants when offensive tackle Will Beatty suffered a torn pectoral muscle which will sideline him for a portion of the upcoming season. Beatty has protected Manning’s blindside for the past few seasons at left tackle as he has had a ton of responsibility placed on him. Giants general manager Jerry Reese used the team’s first round pick in the NFL Draft this past spring on offensive tackle Ereck Flowers. Flowers was expected to be the Giants left tackle of the future and he would be eased into things this season by starting off at right tackle. But Beatty’s injury means that it will baptism by fire for Flowers who will have to prove his worth at left tackle to begin the season against some of the top defensive ends in the game. The Giants and McAdoo will more than likely slide their protection more to give Flowers some help as he gets adjusted at left tackle and more importantly, to protecting Manning. Justin Pugh has shifted to right guard while the Giants are hopeful that 2014 second round pick Weston Richburg is ready for the responsibilities that come with being an NFL center.

Steve Spagnuolo

Defensively the Giants are happy to welcome back a familiar face. From 2007-2008, Steve Spagnuolo was the Giants defensive coordinator and he made a name for himself in helping New York upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 42. Spagnuolo is back with the Giants as he will look to use his famed “NASCAR” package where he puts three or four defensive ends on the field in passing situations. And luckily for the Giants and Spagnuolo, they have the horses to get it done.

Injuries have limited Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul over the past few seasons which led him to being hit with the dreaded franchise tag as opposed to receiving a long-term deal. The Giants were hopeful that they would get the “JPP” in 2015 that was a one man gang in 2011 when he helped New York with the Super Bowl Title. But things changed drastically over the summer when Pierre-Paul had one of his fingers amputated as the result of a fireworks accident. Pierre-Paul has yet to sign his franchise tender and it is tough for anyone to anticipate him being the player that he once was. Veteran defensive end Robert Ayers is looking to bounce back from an injury filled 2014 while the Giants are hopeful that defensive end Damontre Moore is ready to become an every down player. The Giants drafted defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa in the third round this past spring and his athleticism gives him the potential to be an impact player.

But more than anything, the Giants are relying on potential impact players remaining healthy. The Giants acquired middle linebacker Jon Beason from the Carolina Panthers in 2013, and their defense is totally different when he has been on the field as he missed 12 games last year for New York. Beason has tremendous intelligence at middle linebacker and his presence on the field gives the Giants an attitude and swagger.

The Giants are also looking for their secondary to remain healthy as well. The presence of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie last year made cornerback Prince Amukamara step his game up as the Giants have a pair of underrated cornerbacks. After losing safety Antrel Rolle in free agency to the Chicago Bears, the Giants will be inexperienced a safety this year. Reese would select free safety Landon Collins in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft as he is expected to be an impact player, but there will more than likely be a learning curve involved.

Lately the National Football League has made it a habit of having the Giants begin the season against the Dallas Cowboys which will once again be the case in 2015. But the Giants need to make a push towards the postseason as it will hard for Reese and Coughlin to maintain their jobs without a trip to the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year.

Philadelphia Eagles 8-8

Chip Kelly

In two seasons as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly has produced an overall record of 20-12, but no victories in the postseason. In 2013, Kelly’s Eagles went 10-6 and won the NFC East. But last year the Eagles 10-6 record wasn’t even good enough for them to make the playoffs and by the looks of things, it will be very different for them in 2015.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has basically given Kelly free reign to do whatever he pleases with the roster in Philadelphia and that is basically what has happened. The Eagles have undergone a massive roster overhaul since Kelly took over and it’ll will be interesting to see how that will pan out for them in 2015.

Last year Kelly simply released wide receiver DeSean Jackson who would end up signing with the Washington Redskins. This year Kelly traded running back LeSean McCoy who is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher and still in the prime of his career to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for inside linebacker Kiko Alonso. The Eagles did sign running back DeMarco Murray who led the National Football League is rushing last season as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, but he has a history of being unable to stay healthy. The Eagles also allowed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to leave as a free agent and sign with the Kansas City Chiefs.┬áNow Kelly is hopeful that wide receiver Jordan Matthews is ready to emerge as the team’s top receiver in 2015 as he relies more on his system than the actual players that are in it.

The Eagles have two quarterbacks on their roster and it would not surprise me one bit if both were to take some snaps as the starter this year. It will more than likely be Sam Bradford who gets the nod to begin the season as the Eagles starting quarterback, but behind him there is Mark Sanchez. Bradford has never been able to stay healthy while quarterbacks in Kelly’s system have been unable to last a full season either as his system relies on his signal callers running with the football as well which leads to vicious hits from opposing defenders.

Defensively the Eagles are undersized which leads them to wearing down as the season goes along as they have struggled against teams that can effectively run the football and it will once again hinder them in 2015.

Three of the Eagles first six games will be against their NFC East rivals and where Philadelphia might be able to get off to a quick start, as the season goes along, they will wear down.

Washington Redskins 6-10

The younger generation of football fans that follow the Washington Redskins might not remember the team’s glory days. From 1981-1992, the Redskins won three Super Bowl Titles and they made the playoffs eight times with just losing season over that stretch. But since then the Redskins have become a laughing stock as they have only won two playoff games and since 2003, and they’ve had eight years in which they lost at least 10 games.

In order to turn things around in 2012, the Redskins mortgaged the future as they traded a slew of draft picks which included three, first-round picks to the St. Louis Rams for the second overall pick of the 2012 National Football League which Washington used to select quarterback Robert Griffin III. In 2012, Griffin took the NFL by storm as he led the Redskins to their first NFC East Title since 1999. But a knee injury towards the end of that season limited Griffin physically which lingered over into 2013. And now Griffin appears to be a shaken quarterback as he is lacking confidence. Jay Gruden is in his second year as the head coach of the Redskins and he has never fully committed to Griffin which means that upcoming National Football League season could be a ticking time bomb in D.C. And that fuse appears to have already been lit since Gruden will go with Kirk Cousins this year as the Redskins starting quarterback.

Alfred Morris

Alfred Morris is set to embark on his fourth season as the Redskins starting running back, but his production has dipped in each year due to the fact that Washington has not had consistent quarterback play.

The Redskins have a home-run hitter at wide receiver in DeSean Jackson who is still one of the fastest players in the NFL, but with Washington’s problems at quarterback along with questions on the offensive line, his production could be limited in 2015.

Joe Barry is set to begin his first season as the defensive coordinator of the Redskins. The Redskins will have plenty of size on their defensive line in the form of Terrance Knighton, Ricky Jean-Francois, Stephen Paea, and Jerrell Powe as they will look to free things up for linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy. Kerrigan is coming off of best season as an outside linebacker in the NFL as he recorded 13.5 sacks and the Redskins will need Murphy to offset his production as an edge rusher opposite him.

The last thing that the Redskins can afford is a slow start in 2015 which could signal the end for RGIII and Gruden in D.C.

X-Clinched Division

Y-Clinched Wild Card

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