In the second of eight NFL instalments, we take a look at the always dramatic NFC East. This division seemingly creates more headlines than any other division in football. Today we are focused solely with on-field issues.
Key Player: LeSean McCoy
Last Season: 10-6,1st in the division, lost in the Wild Card round.
Philadelphia’s first season under NFL rookie head coach Chip Kelly will be remembered for many reasons. The debate surrounding whether or not Kelly’s fast paced system will translate to success in the NFL was put to rest, it can succeed.
Last season also saw the emergence of Nick Foles as a good starting QB in the NFL. The best news for the Eagles last season was LeSean McCoy leading the league in rushing and yards from scrimmage.
The past off-season has been an interesting one for the Eagles. They let veteran QB Mike Vick move on, which is no great surprise given how Nick Foles played last year.
The biggest shock was allowing DeSean Jackson, a speedy receiver, who seemed a perfect fit for this offensive system, to leave. The organisation had question marks about his character, and Chip Kelly feels that he has enough weapons in place for the offence to succeed. Only time will tell if allowing D-Jax to move on was good business.
There is every reason to believe LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles will continue to thrive in Chip Kelly’s fast paced offence. NFL defences tend to figure out gimmick offences quite quickly (Miami’s wildcat of 2008, or the read-option of 2012), but Chip Kelly’s offence is less gimmicky and has more of a structured system.
Prediction: In a weak NFC East I expect the Eagles to win ten games and make the play-offs for the second straight season.
Key Player: Dez Bryant
Last Season: 8-8, 2nd in division, missed play-offs.
Another off-season filled with stories about owner Jerry Jones for ‘America’s Team’, the Dallas Cowboys. Entering the draft the word was that Jones had high praise for the most talked about prospect Johnny Manziel. The Cowboys had an opportunity to land Manziel with their first round pick, but they passed. That means another season with Tony Romo at the helm. Dallas fans don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Romo shows glimpses of being one of the very best QB’s in the NFL. He has games where he looks like a Peyton Manning category of player. Unfortunately when it comes to the big moments, Romo almost always seems to make the wrong play.
The formula this season for the Cowboys needs to be look for Dez Bryant early and often. Bryant is coming off the back of two very strong seasons. New offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has plans in place to make Bryant’s 2014 season the best of his career.
The Cowboys are the most talked about team in media circles, and usually for the antics of owner Jerry Jones, the uncertainty of head coach Jason Garrett’s job, or the lacklustre play of Tony Romo. The Cowboys have the talent in all three phases of the game to succeed in this division (although the season ending injury to Sean Lee seriously hurts their defence).
Prediction: If ‘America’s Team’ can keep the side-line circus quiet they might just be able to sneak into the play-offs with nine or ten wins.
New York Giants
Key Player: Eli Manning
Last Season: 7-9, 3rd in division, missed play-offs.
There are numerous candidates for the Giant’s key player coming into this season. The Giants are similar to the Cowboys in that they have a lot of talent, they just need to put all the pieces together this year. After winning his second Super Bowl in a five-year span in 2012 there was talk around the league of Eli Manning being one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL.
Following his 2013 season there is no such suggestions any more. The blame for last season does not fall on Manning alone. New York had no running game, Hakeem Nicks was a shadow of his former self and the same can be said for Jason Pierre-Paul on defence.
This season Manning has a new running back in Rashard Jennings from Oakland. Manning has new options at wide receiver in the returning Mario Manningham and rookie Odell Beckham Jr. There is no reason all these pieces cannot gel to make the Giant’s offence a potent attack once again. The only question remains is can Manning run the offence successfully.
Success on defence for the Giants starts and ends with Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP needs to put pressure on opposing QB’s. If JPP can hurry up the other teams QB, his secondary contains players like Prince Amukamara , Antrel Rolle and Dominique Rodgers Cromartie who can all make plays on the ball. If JPP and his friends up front can’t create pressure it will place a lot of pressure on Manning and the offence to score almost every possession.
Prediction: I think New York has a similar season to last year, missing the play-offs, but playing slightly better football.
Key Player: Alfred Morris
Last Season: 3-13, 4th in division, missed play-offs.
Last season Washington (whose name is a contentious issue at the moment) rushed QB Robert Griffin III back from a knee injury to start the season. Griffin had not participated in training camp and looked like he had not fully recovered from the injury.
This season Griffin is coming in off a full recovery and a full training camp so Washington’s fortunes look better. However the key to Washington’s success still lies with RB Alfred Morris.
Morris has been in the top four rushing in both of his seasons in the league. Morris needs to continue to operate at a high level to allow Washington control the time of possession battle and take pressure off RG3.
More good news for Washington’s offence is the addition of DeSean Jackson from rivals Philadelphia. Jackson gives RG3 a genuine deep threat for the first time in his career, which should complement Pierre Garcon well. This season looks much brighter offensively for Washington.
Washington’s defence still has a number of question marks. Can they create pressure on the opposing QB? Have they filled in the holes in the secondary? Who will fill the leadership hole left by the retirement of London Fletcher?
Prediction: If Washington manages to answer the defensive questions successfully they have an outside shot at 10 wins and a playoff berth.
Eoin Purcell, Pundit Arena.
Read More About: alfred morris, dallas cowboys, desean jackson, dez bryant, eli manning, jerry jones, johnny manziel, lasean mccoy, new york giants, nfc east, NFL, nfl news, philadelphia egles, robert griffin iii, tony romo, Top Story, washington redskins