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NFC East Outlook: Quarterbacks

Kevin Brady

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NFC East Outlook: Quarterbacks

Given it is the offseason, this becomes a valuable time to look around the league and analyze who the Cowboys will be up against in their upcoming campaign.

Of course, the most important off all their match ups come within their own division, as they play each of their hated rivals twice per year. Because of this, understanding what the strengths and weaknesses of each NFC East foe are, and where the Cowboys stack up in the divisional hierarchy is important.

Today, I kick off an important offseason series, providing an overview of each position group around the NFC East. To start the series off, we will examine arguably the most important position in football, the quarterbacks.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys: Ranking Top 5 Most Indispensable Players 5

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 01: Dak Prescott #4 warms up before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on January 1, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Let's start with the obvious.

Now that former franchise quarterback Tony Romo has retired, the Dallas Cowboys are officially Dak Prescott's team. After taking the league by storm in 2016, Prescott looks to improve further and continue his dominance during his sophomore season.

Behind Dak, the Cowboys depth chart gets pretty thin.

Kellen Moore is the current backup quarterback in Dallas, though some have speculated Romo to be the team's emergency option. Though there are some others currently on the roster, most notably former Florida Gator Austin Appleby, Dallas is most likely to only keep two QBs on their final roster.

New York Giants

Fantasy Football - #FantasyFootball Hot Sauce/Weak Sauce and Waiver Wire Adds for Week 9 2

Sep 25, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) prepares to throw the ball during the first half against the Washington Redskinds at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

For what seems like the one hundredth year in a row, Eli Manning is the starting quarterback of the New York Giants. A Super Bowl champion, Manning is beloved by much of the Giants fan base, but has clearly seen his play decline a bit over the years.

Still, with an abundance of weapons on the outside Manning should have little trouble ripping through most NFL defenses this year.

Behind Manning sits former New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith. While Smith had a rough go of it with the Jets, there is a chance he can resurrect his career as the backup for Manning.

The Giants also added California quarterback Davis Webb in the third round of this year's NFL Draft, and many have speculated he will be the heir to Manning's New York throne.

Washington Redskins

NFC East - Washington Redskins Use Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag on Kirk Cousins 2

In this photo taken Oct. 25, 2015, Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Landover, Md. If Kirkthrows an interception in a game, he throws a second, and the Washington Redskins lose. If Cousins plays a pick-free game, the Redskins win. It really is that simple so far this season. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Though it seemed he wouldn't be through much of the offseason, Kirk Cousins remains the starting quarterback in Washington for 2017.

Cousins has gained much fanfare over the last two years, but is probably the third best starting quarterback in the division by my own rankings. After losing both Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon this offseason, it should be interesting to see how Cousins plays in 2017.

Former Texas Longhorn Colt McCoy sits as the QB2 in Washington behind Cousins, with Nate Sudfeld fighting for the third roster spot.

As a whole, the Redskins quarterback situation is solid, with a pretty good starter and serviceable backup as well.

Philadelphia Eagles

Tyrone Crawford, Carson Wentz, Eagles

Finally, we have Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Philly traded up to select Wentz second overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, and while they think they have found their franchise quarterback of the future, some critics are not-so-sure. Considering they went in the same draft, the inherent rivalry between Wentz and Cowboys QB Dak Prescott will be a ton of fun to watch through the years.

The Eagles also brought Nick Foles home to Philly to be the backup quarterback this season. Overall, Philly must depend on a young guy to get it done in 2017, but Wentz did flash signs of being worthy of such a high selection during his rookie season.

How I Rank Them

To me, this is pretty simple. While Eli Manning is the veteran of this group, and Kirk Cousins has been a good starter over the last two seasons, Dak Prescott is the best and most talented quarterback in this division.

As an overall quarterback situation, I like what Washington has going for them with the best backup QB in the NFC East. Still, Dak Prescott should be the best starter out of the bunch in 2017, and is in the most comfortable situation offensively.

Maybe I'm a little biased, but his play last year earned him this top spot to me.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. George_Johnson

    June 4, 2017 at 1:07 am

    I think K Moore is a solid 2nd team backup but with limited experience and reps. I wouldn’t be surprised if K Moore out played Dak Prescott in preseason games. With Dak Prescott and K Moore, the Dallas Cowboys may have the best QB team in the NFC east. What K Moore needs to get critics off his back is to be able to play and prove himself. This almost happened last year, but may never happen. K Moore’s performance in three and one half games in 2015 was mediocre overall but this was his first time playing against 1st team defenses with limited reps to get ready. Per S Linehan he did some really good things and was able to move the ball but made too many mistakes. Before criticizing this performance it needs to be compared to other starting QBs in the NFL for their first three and one half games.

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2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch

Kevin Brady

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Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL's Top 10 Rookies

As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.

It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.

Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.

No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.

Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season

This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.

There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.

Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.

Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.



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Star Blog

What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?

Kevin Brady

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.

Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.

They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?

Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.

Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.

Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.

Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.

Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.

This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.

The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.



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Star Blog

3 Things We Learned About The Dallas Cowboys In 2018

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1
AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

Coming into the 2018 season, loads of questions surrounded the Dallas Cowboys and the future of their roster.

Could their defense stay intact when the annual Sean Lee injury occurred? Was Kris Richard going to lead the Cowboys young secondary to places we thought they could be? And would Dak Prescott earn a contact extension and become the official franchise quarterback of America's Team.

Of course, there are tons of other questions that may have gone unanswered, but these three critical areas seem to find clarity in 2018.

Leighton Vander Esch And Jaylon Smith Are Legit

The Dallas Cowboys caught a lot of flack for their selection both of these linebackers, each for different reasons.

When they snagged Jaylon Smith in the second round of the 2016 draft, it was still unknown to the public if Smith could ever even play football again. When they took Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall last April, fans questioned how valuable an off-ball linebacker would be on a defense that already had Sean Lee.

Well, after their first full season together, it's easy to say that both Vander Esch and Smith are the linebacker options of the future in Dallas. Named to the Pro Bowl during his rookie season, Vander Esch took the world by storm in 2018. When Lee went down, he was there to not only fill his shoes, but to outplay the veteran all year long.

What is fun to consider is that as good as Vander Esch was this season, Jaylon Smith might be even better. Both posses insane sideline to sideline pursuit ability, and are some of the surest tacklers in all of football.

Watching these two grow together will be a pleasure over the coming seasons.

Their Young Secondary Is Coming Together

Like their linebackers, the Dallas Cowboys secondary is a young group, who fans are excited to watch grow throughout the years. It seemed like more pressure sat on the shoulders of young cornerbacks Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie than of Smith and Vander Esch, however.

With Kris Richard joining the staff and making the decision to move Jones to cornerback full time, it was do-or-die for the former first round pick. Byron Jones answered all the doubters, earning not only a Pro Bowl selection but also First Team All Pro honors for his performance.

Opposite him, Awuzie had a rough start to his sophomore campaign. While typically right there in coverage, wide outs too often made contested catches over him. Over the final few weeks of the year, however, that changed and Awuzie played some of the best football yet.

Xavier Woods, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis (in much fewer snaps) all had fantastic seasons as well, giving the Cowboys great hope and confidence in their secondary moving forward. They may need to add another safety during the offseason, however, though Jeff Heath remains more than just a viable option.

Dak Prescott Is Here To Stay

Whether or not you think it's justified, Dak Prescott is the quarterback of the future in Dallas. And he earned that right the back-half of 2018 and during the postseason. After a shaky start to his 3rd season, Prescott turned things around nicely, leading the Cowboys to a 7-1 finish to the regular season.

Prescott played the best football of his young career down the stretch, and showed just how valuable he is both on the field and in the locker room. It seemed like every game he made 2-3 winning plays that put the Cowboys over the top that afternoon.

Dak is going to get a contract extension, and will be locked in as a Cowboy for the foreseeable future, and with the way he played the final 10 games of his season, I can't second guess this decision much at all.



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