Since 2005, no team has won back-to-back division titles in the NFC East. More often than not, the race comes down to the last week or two of the season. Odds are that in 2018, the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins will produce another dogfight on the way to the playoffs.
Over the last 13 seasons, the Cowboys and Eagles have each won four NFC East titles. The Giants have won three, and Washington is unsurprisingly last with two.
2018 comes with the additional intrigue of the Eagles being the defending Super Bowl Champions. If the NFC East's history wasn't scary enough, the history of how teams fare in the season after winning the big one isn't pretty.
All this points to the usual reality that the NFC East is wide open. 2017 was an unusually down year; Philadelphia won the division by four games. But Dallas, New York, and Washington are all poised to improve and hopefully make things much more interesting.
With the Eagles kicking off the season later tonight, let's examine the Cowboys' division rivals and how they're looking heading into the season.
New York Giants
Last year was a disaster for the G-Men. Losing Odell Beckham Jr. and general disarray under the misguidance of Ben McAdoo sent them into a 3-13 spiral.
For their suffering, the Giants got the second pick in this year's draft and used it on Running Back Saquon Barkley. Since the Cowboys took Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in 2016, a new trend of top RB prospects going high in the draft has begun. New York is hoping that Barkley can have the same impact on their offense that Zeke brought to Dallas.
The decision to stick with 37-year-old Eli Manning at quarterback wasn't a slam dunk, and the Barkley pick had a lot to do with trying to take pressure off their aged passer. New York has been diligent in adding offensive weapons with Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, but it's been a while since they had a running game which could carry the offensive load.
To that end, the Giants did a lot this offseason to work on their offensive line. They signed free agents Patrick Omameh and Nate Solder, then spent a second-round pick on Will Hernandez. But even with that work, they still have their own Chaz Green at right tackle in Ereck Flowers.
Defense is a question mark as well. There are still some great pieces like Safety Landon Collins and DT Damon Harrison, but DE Jason Pierre-Paul is gone and Oliver Vernon enters the season injured. Eli Apple and Janoris Jenkins are a solid but beatable tandem at cornerback.
Last year the Giants were dysfunctional, but they booted McAdoo and are hoping Pat Shurmur will provide both an offensive spark and better overall leadership. This is definitely not a 3-13 team given their talent, but did last year's woes do lasting damage? If they struggle early, will New York fall apart again?
There is no doubt that the Eagles are still Carson Wentz' team, but when will he return to duty? Until then, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles will try to continue last year's run.
Philly has done a good job of avoiding a true QB controversy. No matter what Foles does to start the year, it is clear that Wentz will get his job back when he's healthy. If anything, the Eagles have an incredible luxury of allowing Carson to heal fully and not feeling much pressure to rush him back.
What could change that is if an offseason of praise and raised expectations have an adverse effect on Foles. Throughout his career, Nick has performed well as the underdog but not when teams counted on him to carry over his success.
Unlike some defending champions, though, the Eagles have been able to bring back nearly all of their talent from last year. Philly remains a young, dangerous team with both established stars and emerging talent. They are well-equipped to keep competing at a high level.
You could say this about any NFL team, but it really will come down to quarterback. Can Foles keep producing? If not, how quickly can they get Wentz back out there?
Last year, Philadelphia had an unusually easy road in the NFC East. The Cowboys were held back by injuries and the Ezekiel Elliott situation. The Giants plummeted from the issues we've already discussed. And Washington was their typical middling selves.
2018 won't be so easy. The Cowboys and Giants should definitely be better, and we'll discuss Washington more in a moment. Along with that, Philly now faces the huge challenge of trying repeat as Super Bowl Champions. The underdog status is over.
The financial war with Kirk Cousins finally ended, and Washington decided to try to keep things afloat with veteran Alex Smith instead of going into a full rebuild. How will that decision pan out in 2018?
Smith is one of the underappreciated quarterbacks in the NFL. He is efficient and provides a dual threat with mobility, even at age 34. But he's not an electric passer in an increasingly high-scoring, pass-focused league.
Alex has flourished with Andy Reid in Kansas City, but now he joins a much less proven coach in Jay Gruden. Will Gruden's system work for Smith the same way it did for Cousins, or will we find out that the QB was carrying the coach?
Hurting the chance for success is a lack of offensive weaponry. Their best one, Tight End Jordan Reed, can't stay healthy. Failed experiments at receiver and a lack of investment at running back has left them without much firepower. Things were bad enough that they're now kicking the tires on Adrian Peterson.
Like the Giants, Washington has some great players on defense but also several holes. Ryan Kerrigan and Zach Brown are studs at linebacker. Josh Norman has a big reputation and mouth, but is he still an elite corner at age 30?
Washington went 7-9 last year, so even minor improvement could put them into contention. But the change at quarterback just might be a downgrade, and improvement from the Giants could drive Washington back down into the NFC East basement.
~ ~ ~
In the end, the unexpected and unpredictable will likely decide the NFC East. September's favorites can easily wind up with next April's high draft picks if a few things go wrong. The difference between 10-6 and 6-10 is much slimmer than most people realize.
After going 9-7 last year despite their own roster issues, the Dallas Cowboys are poised to return to contention. They have questions marks, just like most teams, but the potential is there for big things.
Coming out of the NFC East is its own challenge. It's tough, competitive standard is why only two of the last 22 Super Bowl winners have come from our division. NFC East teams don't get to waltz into the playoffs every year like the Patriots, Steelers, and some others do.
But that said, I wouldn't have it any other way. Part of what makes every season so exciting is knowing how much every game counts, and that's truer in our division than others.
2018 is looking like another tough, competitive year in the NFC East. All of our rivals have a case to be contenders this year.
Did we expect anything less?
Cowboys en Español: La Afortunada Llegada de Randall Cobb
Tras la partida del veterano Cole Beasley, los Dallas Cowboys tenían un hueco preocupante en la posición de receptor abierto. Incluso después de obtener a Amari Cooper la temporada pasada y el tener a un jugador joven y talentoso en Michael Gallup, el equipo tenía que hacer algo para reemplazar a Beasley como el receptor de slot en la ofensiva. Beasley fue increíble en su trabajo durante su carrera en Dallas, pero la administración nunca estuvo cerca de igualar las ofertas que recibió de los Buffalo Bills. Afortunadamente, ya encontraron el hombre para el trabajo.
A pesar de estar muy callados en la primera semana de agencia libre, los Cowboys empiezan a verse involucrados con varios jugadores disponibles. Su contratación más importante hasta el momento es sin duda la del ex WR de los Green Bay Packers, Randall Cobb.
Hace unos años, Cobb atrapó el balón que terminó el partido de playoffs entre los Packers y los Cowboys minutos después de que la recepción de Dez Bryant fuera revocada. En 2019, vestirá la estrella.
Si bien es difícil argumentar que en este momento Cobb es mejor jugador que Cole Beasley, el contrato que la administración le dio al nuevo integrante del equipo es muy razonable. El ex-Packer jugará bajo un contrato por un año y cinco millones de dólares. Lo que preocupa a muchos sobre Cobb es su salud, ya que en 2018 sólo jugó nueve partidos. Sin embargo, su carrera no ha estado plagada de lesiones como muchos lo asumen.
Cobb será un titular en esta ofensiva que utilizará su habilidad para ganar en rutas rápidas. Sus manos son muy confiables y le dará a Dak Prescott otra arma en el juego aéreo. Simple y sencillamente una muy buena contratación de los Dallas Cowboys.
¿Robert Quinn, Por Favor?
Esta semana se reportó que el defensive end Robert Quinn estaba de visita en The Star, las instalaciones de los Dallas Cowboys. El DE no es un agente libre, siendo que aún está bajo contrato con los Miami Dolphins. Sin embargo, ambos equipos están en discusiones para llevar a cabo un trade por el caza cabezas de 28 años.
Después de que Randy Gregory volviera a recibir una suspensión, DE apareció entra las necesidades más urgentes del equipo y si no logran atender dicha necesidad previo al NFL Draft, tendrán que utilizar uno de sus primeros picks para conseguir un jugador que juegue opuesto a DeMarcus Lawrence.
Quinn, quien había jugado la mayoría de su carrera con los Rams, aún es joven y productivo. En las últimas dos temporadas ha logrado conseguir 15 sacks. De conseguirlo, los Cowboys tendrían que trabajar en una extensión para él.
Con un año en su contrato actual, no debe de ser muy caro conseguir un trade por él. Me atrevería a decir que la compensación que los Dolphins buscan por Quinn debe de estar en el rango de una selección cuarta y quinta ronda.
Parece un movimiento probable, pero no es difícil imaginar a otro equipo estando interesado en el jugador. Por lo pronto, sabemos que Quinn disfrutó su tiempo con Rod Marinelli y con el equipo de los Cowboys esta semana. Habrá que esperar para saber su destino.
DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line
The Cowboys got off to a busy start to week two of free agency on Monday, and capped it off by signing defensive lineman Kerry Hyder to a one year deal.
The former Detroit Lion could be classified as a "one year wonder" of sorts, but when you look closer at his career arc, you see that Hyder can provide upside at multiple positions across the Cowboys' defensive front.
After having 8 sacks and 19 quarterback hits as a defensive end in 2016, Hyder missed all of 2017 with an achilles injury. Last season, under new head coach Matt Patricia, Hyder was moved out of position and forced to play as a nose tackle and 5-technique more often.
So, the last time Hyder was healthy and playing in the role in he will likely fill in Dallas, he was productive. Yes that was a couple of seasons ago but it makes Hyder worth the one year deal he received from the Cowboys.
What exactly is that role, though?
I see Hyder primarily as a rotational 3-technique for the Cowboys. At just 270 pounds Hyder isn't going to play over the center often, and won't be very useful as a 1-technique against the run. He's at his best when lining on the outside shade of an offensive lineman, where he can use his get-off and quickness to create pressure.
Kerry Hyder can also fill in at defensive end if needed, especially when the Cowboys go into a nickel package. Hyder is similar to Tyrone Crawford in his ability to move inside and out, but is a bit better of a pass rusher than Crawford when at his best.
Hyder is a high energy, motor, and character defensive lineman who will fit right in with a Rod Marinelli unit. If it all clicks for Hyder and he regains his 2016 form, the Cowboys will have stolen an impressive pass rushing defensive lineman who can win from multiple positions.
If Hyder is actually a "one year wonder" who is more of his 2018-self with the Cowboys despite being put in a better role to succeed, Dallas can move on rather quickly because he is only on a one year deal.
This is a smart signing by the Cowboys front office as they look to re-tool their defensive line, and avoid being pigeon-holed into over-drafting at a certain position this Spring.
New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF
On Tuesday this week it became official the Cowboys would sign former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb to a one year deal worth an estimated $5 million. After his visit Monday morning, speculation around whether and when he would sign was swirling.
Cobb confirmed his intentions to join the Cowboys himself, and did so with some A+ GIF usage on Twitter.
In case you don't know, the GIF Cobb tweeted is Woody from Toy Story, emerging confidently and tipping his cap.
This was Cobb signaling that he his a Cowboy, and he appears excited to be joining America's Team. Cobb also received some social media love from his now former teammates in Green Bay, including wide receiver Davante Adams and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers had some parting words for new Cowboys WR Randall Cobb
Clearly Randall Cobb made an impact in Green Bay, both on and off the field. Let's hope he can replicate some of that in Dallas now that he has joined the Cowboys.
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