Written By: Charles Vakassian
Image Via NFL Analysis Network
Another year has gone by, another season of failure within the NFC East. Sure, Philly and Dallas made it into the playoffs but were immediately knocked out in the Wild Card. Washington was a mess, and the Giants were a disgrace to the game of football. The once-proud NFC East is now in essence a dumpster fire, where teams fight to see who will be the least bad year after year.
In this article, we will take a look at each team, their biggest off-season needs, and the best way to fill them
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The Cowboys were able to bounce back from a 6-10 2020 and go 12-5 this past year. They were quickly bounced by San Francisco in the Wild Card Game, as head coach Mike McCarthy signed off on a questionable QB sneak with 14 seconds left and no timeouts, which cost Dallas a chance at another play and a win. The Cowboys were boosted this year by a resurgent defense, as Dan Quinn, helped by rookie stud Micah Parsons, led the way. The Cowboys forced almost two turnovers per game, the best mark in the NFL. Dak Prescott also had a huge bounce-back year, throwing for over 4400 yards and 37 touchdowns.
The Cowboys could use some help in the trenches, as Randy Gregory is set to hit the free-agent market. Linebacker may be a need as well, as Leighton Vander Esch is set to be a free agent, and Micah Parsons could use a running mate. If they wish to address these positions in free agency, they will be hard-pressed to do so, as they have a lot of salaries tied up in some high priced players (Zeke Elliot, Amari Cooper, Demarcus Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Zack Martin, La'el Collins, Tyron Smith). Those seven players account for around $150M against the cap, more than half of Dallas’ total cap for the whole roster. The Cowboys will have to stock up in the draft. Their first-round draft pick is locked in at 24, and some potential targets could be Nakobe Dean, Jermaine Johnson, and Perrion Winfrey.
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The Eagles certainly outperformed expectations coming into this year, but met an early postseason demise at the hands of Tom Brady and the Bucs. A closer look at this team reveals that all of their wins came against teams who finished below .500, so perhaps the 2021 season was a gift by the schedule makers?
The Eagles were anchored by their running game, as they totaled over 2700 rushing yards as a team, most of those by QB Jalen Hurts and RB Miles Sanders. The passing game was simply abysmal, to say the least. On defense, Darius Slay anchored a strong secondary, but the edges and middle of the field were weak spots.
Even after drafting Devonta Smith with their first-round pick last year, the Eagles desperately need wide receivers, as everyone else at the position is an abject failure. Edge rusher/defensive end is a spot Philly must address, as Derek Barnett will be a free agent, and Fletcher Cox is getting older. The Eagles have the ultimate luxury of three first-round draft picks. They own the Colt’s first-rounder as a result of the Carson Wentz trade, and they own the Dolphins’ first-rounder as a result of a draft-day trade last year. They will pick at 15,16 and 19. Some guys they can go after in the draft include Devin Lloyd, Chris Olave, Jameson Williams, David Ojabo, and Christian Harris.
Washington Football Team
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Washington was a team that had high expectations coming into the season, as they fought tooth and claw to win an awful NFC East in 2020. They signed old reliable Ryan Fitzpatrick to a contract to be their stopgap QB, but then he suffered a season-ending injury in his first game with the team. As a result, Taylor Heinicke had to step in and be the team’s starter. He struggled, for the most part, throwing for only 20 TDs and getting picked off 15 times. Tight End Logan Thomas suffered an ACL injury and was knocked out most of the year as well, taking away an important piece on the offense. Washington’s defense also took a step back, and young stud Chase Young had a lost season with an ACL injury. Jonathan Allen had a very good year, collecting nine sacks and being an interior force. Rookie Jaimin Davis flashed here and there as well, but overall the defense regressed.
First and foremost, Washington needs a QB. If I had to guess, I would say they grab a stopgap in free agency, and then go get a long term starter in the 2023 draft, where the crop of quarterback talent will be much richer than it is this year. Some names to watch will be Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota. Offensive line help will be important too, as Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff will be entering free agency, and the tackle positions are far from secure, as Charles Leno and Sam Cosmi struggled throughout the season. Players who could be available at pick 11 include Charles Cross, Kenyon Green, and Tyler Linderbaum. Later in the draft, guys like Trevor Penning, Nicholas Petit-Frere, and Zion Johnson could be available. Washington could also use secondary help, as Kendall Fuller needs a running mate at the corner. Names to watch include Kaiir Elam, Ahmad Gardner, and Daxton Hill. Finally, if Washington does decide to get their QB of the future now, watch out for Matt Corral out of Ole Miss. He has an absolute cannon and has the athleticism and IQ to succeed in the NFL.
New York Giants
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Dumpster fire would be the appropriate words to describe the 2021 season for the Giants. A GM who thought rebuilding and winning can coexist. A head coach who shouted nonsense and talked himself out of a job. Injuries upon injuries upon injuries. All of this snowballed into a 4-13 finish, including a six-game losing streak to end the year, with each loss being by 10 or more points. The icing on the cake was the play calling, where Joe Judge decided to call a QB sneak inside his own 5 TWICE, to avoid a safety. He was more conservative than Ted Cruz, a tough feat to top. Pathetic doesn’t even begin to describe it. Bright spots were tough to find on this team, that’s for sure. Andrew Thomas was a rock at left tackle, allowing only one sack. Xavier McKinney broke out in his second season, with over 90 tackles and five interceptions. Azeez Ojulari racked up eight sacks in his rookie season. Kadarius Toney flashed his skill set when he could stay healthy, with an amazing 10 catch, 189-yard performance in Week 5. Other than that, the entire team was an abject disaster. Daniel Jones turned the ball over just as frequently as his other two seasons, and couldn’t stay healthy. The offensive line was an absolute mess, with injuries to two starters at the beginning of the year, and the subs were brutal. When Blake Martinez went down with an injury early on, the defense lost a huge playmaker and run stopper, and struggled to stop opposing running backs. James Bradberry took a step back as well. The wide receivers were a mess, with all of them getting hurt at one time or another.
The Giants need four new starters on the offensive line, an edge rusher, a playmaking linebacker, a tight end, a safety, and maybe even a wide receiver. They will have to be bargain bin shoppers in free agency, as Dave Gettleman and Kevin Abrams put this team in salary cap hell with multiple bad contracts/overpays. Even with cutting some players to free salary (Riley Dixon, Kyle Rudolph, Sterling Shepard), the Giants will not be able to plug too many holes in free agency. Pending what the market shaped up as, they could look at someone like Laken Tomlinson to fill a hole at guard, and maybe David Njoku for a tight end. The rest will have to come from the draft. The only good news is that the Giants own two top 10 picks, as a result of the Bears trading up to grab Justin Fields last year. Players they should seriously consider include Ikem Okenwu and Evan Neal at tackle, as well as Kenyon Green and Tyler Linderbaum on the interior. George Karlaftis is an edge rusher who will draw interest as well. If Kayvon Thibodeaux or Aidan Hutchinson falls to pick 5, the Giants better run that pick in faster than Usain Bolt. Kyle Hamilton must warrant a look as well, as he is a true playmaker at safety, a better version of Isaiah Simmons. In the next couple rounds, watch for Chad Muma at linebacker, John Metchie at WR, and Jalen Wydermyer for TE.