Tuesday, July 21, 2015

2015 NFL Preview: NFC East

As I noted previously, we're getting close to the time when actual, meaningful football gets played in the Fall.  Because of this I've spent some time analyzing all the teams in 2015 for both the NFL and College Football.

Introduction

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West


Next: NFC East


Philadelphia Eagles

Projected Record  10-6  First place

There are so many people this year who are doubting on Chip Kelley. I, however, am not one of them.  While I don't think the Eagles will be "great" I also don't think that they'll be awful, probably just good enough to win a relatively weak division and make the playoffs once again. If anything, I think the Eagles will be better offensively this year when you consider that Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray are upgrades over Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy respectively.

The current group of WR's is going to rely heavily on USC draft pick Nelson Agholor, who I think will be in strong contention for NFL offensive rookie of the year.  Overall I think Kelley is getting real close to having 'his' group of players installed and the results on the field are going to show it.

Defensively I think the Eagles will be fast, active, and not able to turn the ball over too much.  This is why I think that their record will only be 10-6 and not something better. I think this team is going to struggle a little bit out of the gate, but will get things rolling in the latter part of the season.

If the Eagles do stumble worse than I think they will, look for......

Dallas Cowboys

Projected Record   9-7  Second place

I have two questions about the Dallas Cowboys offensively this year.  One, can Tony Romo keep his 13-year veteran body healthy and two, who's going to make up for DeMarco Murray's offensive production?

If either Romo goes down, or the Cowboys can't figure out a way to run the ball, then 9 wins might be optimistic. If anything I see this as being generous to the Cowboys and assuming everything goes as planned.  It's possible that Darren McFadden stays healthy and remembers that he was once considered a top running back, or that Seastrunk is what some people seem to think he is.  Regardless, with Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and a host of young, talented receivers, look for the Cowboys to be more pass-happy this year, which means that Romo will have multiple opportunities to turn the ball over, as is his wont. One thing going for the Cowboys is a very, very good offensive line which should, at least, keep Romo upright.

Defensively Dallas has talent, but are going to miss Greg Hardy for a couple of games. However, Sean Lee and Ronaldo McClain are two very good LB's and the Cowboys probably have the best collective group of defensive backs in the division.  Until they get Hardy fully back however, I think rushing the passer will be difficult for the Cowboys.

Jason Garrett, the Cowboys head coach, is not someone who generates a ton of trust in his big game coaching ability. And Jerry Jones is not a GM that generates much confidence in his talent evaluation. All that said, the Cowboys have been doing a better job with talent evaluation and Garrett has been doing just enough to keep themselves in playoff contention the last couple of years. Will they stay in contention this year? I doubt it.

The good news for the Cowboys is that, even if they stumble, they shouldn't fall behind the......

New York Giants

Projected Record   7-9    Third place

Every year we're subjected to the same NY Giants questions "Is this the year Tom Caughlin gets fired, Is Eli Manning an elite quarterback?  For me, the answers here are pretty clear. 'Yes' and 'No'.

Eli is an OK quarterback, and he has two very good WR's to throw the ball to in Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. What the Giants are lacking is a competent O-Line, and a running back who might be able to run the ball consistently.  When you're as limited as the Giants are at the QB position, running the ball will be key.

Defensively the Giants are an ageing, mediocre mess. It's clear that free agency defections and poor drafting have depleted this team greatly, and I don't see much changing that anytime soon. The Giants have drafted defensive talent poorly, and I'm not that excited about their haul this year either.

To my mind this is the year that Tom Caughlin finally gets let go by the organization, they need a massive revamping of their roster, and I don't think he's the one to pull it off.

If they don't start getting better fast they're going to be looking up at the.....


Washington Redskins

Projected Record  5-11 Fourth Place

I'm not optimistic about the Redskins chances, either to keep their nickname long-term or for the current administration to turn the team around.  2nd year coach Jay Gruden reminds me a lot of Joe Philbin, a man who's going to be a much better coordinator than he will be a head coach.

The Redskins biggest problem lies at QB, where I think the owner's insistence on force-feeding RG III into the starting line-up despite the fact that Griffith's skill set is less suited to Gruden's offense than is backup QB Kirk Cousins.  As long as Daniel Snyder continues to push for Griffith as starter, as many have insinuated that he is, then I don't see them having sustained success. As for the rest of the offense I think that Alfred Morris is a sold starting RB, but the Redskins have depth concerns behind him, the WR group is solid, if not spectacular. Garcon and Jackson are good, not great starting WR, but I see some difficulties with depth and the 3rd WR slot.  The offensive line is fair, but far from the Hogs of old.

Defensively the team from Washington is struggling outside of the corner position, where DeAngelo Hall and Chris Culliver are a good pair.  I do like the defensive end tandem of Ricky-Jean Francios and Frank Kearse but, again, they need backup help. The defensive tackles are sketchy, at best. They'll need to improve rapidly for the Redskins to be successful.  The linebacking group is so weak that the Redskins training camp roster looks like an open tryout.


Of all the picks that I've made this year it's this division about which I'm the most unsure. The Eagles are an unknown but I'm willing to give Kelley the benefit of the doubt based on his past performance. The Cowboys, Giants and Redskins seem to be teams facing major rebuilding projects in the future. In fact, I think this division is a lot closer to being viewed the weakest in the conference than it is the strongest in the conference.

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