Practicing Long Division: The 2014 Offseason Of Dallas And Their NFC East Rivals

Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY S

The NFC East teams have undergone a few modifications over the offseason. Here's a quick look at where they stood and where they've changed.

It's been a while since we checked in with our rivals. What's new in the land of the NFC East? Here's a snapshot for all three of the teams that Dallas will be fighting for the division crown between the months of September and January. No NFC East team has won consecutive division crowns since the '04 Eagles repeated. Of course, Dallas has the distinction of losing three straight division championship games, so either they're due, or they're hopeless. Glass half full!

Dallas Cowboys

Final 2013 Record: 8-8 (2nd)

Final game failure for the third consecutive year. The Cowboys have finished 8-8 three consecutive years under Jason Garrett, who has a career head coaching record of 29-27. The team will switch defensive coordinators from Monte Kiffin to Rod Marinelli, and bring in Scott Linehan to take over the passing game coordination and the play-calling.

For all the grief over Dallas' D, most of the rankings were similar to their 2012 counterparts save for the yardage allowed.

Dallas lost a lot, their three best players from one of the worst defenses in the league is going to be difficult. Not only that, but they have to depend on a career-best year from so many different players that remaining competitive will be a tough task. You can see how Dallas would be competitive in most games, but whether or not they can shake those gut-wrenching loss habits will remain to be seen.  It's not out of the question, but I would put this team closer to Washington's level than I would to Philadelphia's... and I don't think Philly is all that awesome either.

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How Dallas finished the 2013 season (2012 ranking in parentheses):

Off Yds / G Off. Pts / G Def Yds / Gm Def Pts / Gm
Total 341.1 (374.6) 27.4 (23.5) 415.3 (355.4) 27.0 (25)
Rank 16th (6) 5th (15) 32nd (19) 26th (24)
ADV ANY/A EPA Pass Rating DVOA
Offense 6.6 (9th) 93.5 (9th) 95.7 (7th) 7.5% (11th)
Defense 7.0 (27th) 126.4 (28th) 96.0 (26th) 13.8% (30th)

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A quick look at some of the advanced metrics listed above. ANY/A is one of the better metrics that measures the overall productivity of a team's offense. (Passing Yards - Sack Yards + 20*PassTDs-45*Interceptions) / (Passing Attempts + Times Sacked). EPA is the difference between the Expected Points (EP) at the start of a play and the EP at the end of the play. EP is the value of the current down, distance, and field position situation in terms of future expected net point advantage. Total EPA basically measures the grand total of individual play production of a team and is explained in great detail here. DVOA data (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) percentages measure how well a team did against that specific opponent based on how the average team would do in the exact same down/distance/score/time scenarios. For a deeper explanation of this metric, go here.

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What Dallas has done this offseason:

NFL Draft

1.16 Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
2.02 Demarcus Lawrence, DE , Boise St.
4.19 Anthony Hitchens, LB , Iowa
5.06 Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh
7.16 Ben Gardner, DE , Stanford
7.23 Will Smith, LB , Texas Tech
7.33 Ahmad Dixon, S , Baylor
7.36 Ken Bishop, DT , Northern Illinois
7.39 Terrance Mitchell, DB , Oregon

Key Arrivals

DT Henry Melton, DE Jeremy Mincey, DT Terrell McClain, QB Brandon Weeden

Key Departures

DT Jason Hatcher, DE DeMarcus Ware, WR Miles Austin

Washington Redskins

Final 2013 Record: 3-13 (4th)

I've said it so many times, the only reason that Dallas had the 'historically bad' defense in 2013 was because the Redskins special teams was the worst since time was invented. It simply meant opposing offenses had less field to march to score against the team from Washington!

The return to full health of Robert Griffin at quarterback could make this an interesting team offensively though. Even though Pierre Garcon is a volume player, there's no doubt the offense could be very potent with the addition of field-stretcher DeSean Jackson. Their line still isn't good, though, and neither are the other two facets of the team.

Washington's statistical rankings dropped like a ton of bricks in all offensive categories; and yes, offensive is used in both senses of the word.

I project Washington to flirt with .500 and end up third in the NFC East.

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How Washington finished the 2013 season:

Off Yds / G Off. Pts / G Def Yds / Gm Def Pts / Gm
Total 369.7 (383.6) 20.9 (27.2) 354.1 (377.7) 29.9 (24.2)
Rank 9th (5) 23rd (4) 30th (28) 30th (22)
ADV ANY/A EPA Pass Rating DVOA
Offense 5.0 (22nd) -16.9 (24th) 76.1 (23rd) -10.0% (23rd)
Defense 6.8 (25th) 67.9 (23rd) 96.1 (27th) 4.2% (21st)

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What Washington has done this offseason:

NFL Draft

2.15 Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
3.02 Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
3.14 Spencer Long, OG, Nebraska
4.02 Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson
5.02 Ryan Grant, WR , Tulane
6.10 Lache Seastrunk, RB , Baylor
7.02 Ted Bolser, TE, Indiana
7.13 Zach Hocker, K, Arkansas

Key Arrivals

DE Jason Hatcher, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Andre Roberts, CB Tracy Porter, S Ryan Clark, LB Darryl Sharpton

Key Departures

LB London Fletcher, OL Will Montgomery, DE Adam Carriker

New York Giants

Final 2013 Record: 7-9 (3rd)

The Giants had a miserable season that never got off the ground, losing their first six games. Even as they were going 7-3 down the stretch, there was still the maddening inconsistency of Eli Manning, who endured what Tony Romo has suffered through in the past; a shoddy offensive line. I'm not going to say it's karma for all the Giants fan that claimed they've had the better quarterback all these years, but it hopefully opened their eyes as to what a quality quarterback looks like with no team surrounding him.

Like the Redskins, the Giants offensive rankings dropped off a cliff compared to the 2012 version; I don't see where they did enough to rebound here.

The defense was more than respectable, however, and they seemed to have focused on improving the back end while the front seven  lost some key members. It will be interesting to see if they have to get bad to get worse. For my money, the 4th team in the east.

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How New York finished the 2013 season:

Off Yds / G Off. Pts / G Def Yds / Gm Def Pts / Gm
Total 307.5 (355.4) 18.4 (26.8) 332.2 (383.4) 23.9 (21.5)
Rank 28th (14) 28th (6) 8th (31) 18th (12)
ADV ANY/A EPA Pass Rating DVOA
Offense 4.4 (31st) -78.9 (31st) 67.6 (31st) -22.0% (31st)
Defense 5.1 (7th) -30.6 (5th) 78.3 (6th) -11.4% (6th)

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What New York has done this offseason:

NFL Draft

1.12 Odell Beckham, WR , LSU
2.11 Weston Richburg, C, Colorado St.
3.10 Jay Bromley, DT , Syracuse
4.13 Andre Williams, RB , Boston College
5.12 Nat Berhe, DB , San Diego St.
6.11 Bennett Jackson, CB , Notre Dame

Key Arrivals

CB Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie, CB Walter Thurmond, OG Geoff Scwartz, RB Rashad Jennings, C JD Walton

Key Departures

DT Linval Joseph, DE Justin Tuck, WR Hakeem Nicks, OL Kevin Boothe, OL David Bass, LB Keith Rivers, S Will Hill

Philadelphia Eagles

Final 2013 Record: 10-6 (1st)

Two Eagles, a father and his son, soar high above, dazzling in their display of majestic grandeur. They spread their wings wide, amazing everyone that looks overhead. Their beaks sparkle in the sunlight, their talons cast menacing shadows. As they dance in the sky, the father begins telling his son about the many places he's visited and awards that he's won. He tells tales of swooping through the Grand Canyon, soaring over the Rio Grande. He's perched above the Empire State building and the Washington Monument. He's allowed mere mortals to pretend to have tamed him, entering him in competition after competition. Best in breeds, longest wingspan, sharpest claws. He's been on TV and won Emmys, on Broadway and won Tonys. He's been in movies and won Oscars. He tells his son how he's done it all, won it all. As they land atop a branch for a rest, the son is in awe. He gazes up to his father and proudly asks him, "Daddy, have you ever won a Super Bowl?"

"No dummy, I'm an Eagle."

Yup, it's still funny.

What the Redskins and Giants lost from 2012 on offense, Philadelphia found. They made seismic leaps up the rankings in all offensive categories, and moved to decent in most defensive ones. Losing Jackson hurts this team, immensely, no doubt about it. Darren Sproles might already be past the time of being the Sproles we fear, that will be interesting. The key test, of course, will be the play of third-year man Nick Foles and whether he can duplicate the performances he had against the teams in the league not named the Dallas Cowboys.

Everything hinges on whether, with a full offseason to prepare for it, the rest of the league will do as good a job defending the Chip Kelly offense as Dallas' horrid defense did. If so, them falling back to earth is a near certainty. As of now, though, I think they are in the best position to take the crown... although no one has been capable of defending the title for years.

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How Philadelphia finished the 2013 season:

Off Yds / G Off. Pts / G Def Yds / Gm Def Pts / Gm
Total 442.0 (354.1) 27.6 (17.5) 394.0 (343.2) 23.9 (27.8)
Rank 2nd (15) 4th (29) 29th (15) 18th (29)
ADV ANY/A EPA Pass Rating DVOA
Offense 7.8 (2nd) 145.3 (4th) 102.7 (4th) 22.9% (3rd)
Defense 6.1 (19th) 47.2 (16th) 84.0 (15th) 4.9% (23rd)

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What Philadelphia has done this offseason:

NFL Draft

1.26 Marcus Smith, DE , Louisville
2.10 Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
3.22 Josh Huff, WR , Oregon
4.01 Jaylen Watkins, DB , Florida
5.01 Taylor Hart, DT , Oregon
5.22 Ed Reynolds, S , Stanford
7.09 Beau Allen, DL , Wisconsin

Key Arrivals

DB Malcolm Jenkins, RB Darren Sproles, DB Nolan Carroll, QB Mark Sanchez

Key Departures

WR DeSean Jackson, S Patrick Chung, QB Michael Vick

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