With a new general manager in charge, new faces throughout the lineup as well as new assistant coaches bringing new ideas to the table, the Redskins are a team in transition. Between now and the start of training camp, CSNWashington.com reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the top questions facing Jay Gruden and Co. as they prepare for the season.
Which team is the biggest threat to win the NFC East?
There wasn’t much parity in this division a year ago. The Cowboys amassed as many wins as anyone in the NFL and clinched the division title with a game remaining. Eagles were good, but not good enough to make the playoffs. The Giants and Redskins? Well, they managed to combine for the Eagles’ win total of 10. Will there be any late-season suspense in 2015? And who’ll be left standing when the dust settles?
El-Bashir: I think the Cowboys are going to miss DeMarco Murray—a lot. I also think last year’s rushing champion is going to enjoy a couple of mammoth days against Jerry Jones and his former team. And I know I might be in the minority on this, but I actually do think Chip Kelly knew what he was doing when he went out and got 10 new starters this offseason.
I also feel the Cowboys are headed in the wrong direction. The loss of Murray and running game guru Bill Callahan—to division rivals, nonetheless—will hurt. Tony Romo is 35 and if Dez Bryant doesn’t get a new deal before this week’s deadline, that could pose another problem.
As for the Redskins, I’m expecting Robert Griffin III to enjoy a (small) resurgence and for the retooled defense to help propel them closer to the middle of the pack in terms of wins. Seven or eight seems about right.
I’m less bullish about the Giants’ fortunes, even though I do like the appointment of Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator. New York’s win total has declined each of the past three seasons and the little bit they’ve done this offseason doesn’t suggest to me that a significant turnaround is in the offing.
So to recap, I've got the NFC East unfolding like this: Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins and Giants.
Tandler: The easy, chalk answer here is the defending division champ Cowboys or the shuffled Eagles. But let’s look at the other division team.
The Giants seem to be in a state of turmoil. Their franchise player and best pass rusher, Jason-Pierre Paul, just lost a finger and suffered a broken thumb in a dumb accident. His status for the start of the season is in question as is his ability to be fully effective working with a missing digit. The may start rookie Ereck Flowers at left tackle as starter Will Beatty will miss most if not all of the season with a torn pectoral muscle he suffered in May. With the three-year decline in win totals that Tarik noted, Tom Coughlin’s seat may be getting a bit warm.
So it would not be surprising at all if the Giants make a serious Super Bowl run, right? All it would take would be a few well-timed prayers from Eli to Beckham and they’re on their way.
OK, seriously, while I’d like to predict that the Cowboys will go in the tank this year I think they will be just fine with that strong offensive line and a defense bolstered by the additions of pass rushers Greg Hardy, who now will miss only four games, and Randy Gregory, and the return of linebacker Sean Lee. Oh, and don’t forget Tony Romo, who led the NFL in passer rating and yards per pass attempt.
I’m not nearly impressed by the Eagles as Tarik is. Kelly has too many jobs for a third-year coach with both coaching and personnel duties. His biggest mistake will end up being the reliance on Sam Bradford to stay healthy enough to be a starting QB.
So I’m going to line them up with the Cowboys win the division, the Giants finishing second and the Eagles edging the Redskins for third place.
Previously on Redskins offseason Q&A:
- Who will start at strong safety?
- Who will return punts and kickoffs?
- Who will be the third down back?
- Which rookie will have the most impact?
- How will the carries be divvied up?
- What will the QB depth chart look like?
- Who will the third running back be?
- Which free agent will have the most impact?
- Which new assistant coach will have the biggest impact?