The NFC East hasn’t had a repeat champion since the 2004 Eagles won their fourth consecutive division title. This is not the AFC East where the Patriots have won the division in all but two seasons since 2001. The NFC East is filled with teams that have legitimate heat with each other and love nothing more than getting over on the other.
NFC East teams, just like all teams, don’t come without their warts. So, what are the potential fatal flaws of the teams in the NFC East?
Fatal Flaw: The Front Office
Don’t let a potentially solid draft class fool you here, Washington’s front office is a mess. It’s a shame too because they were actually on the upward swing under Scot McCloughan. Regardless of circumstances that may or may not have led to his firing, the aftermath and folks around the league have deemed it shady at best. They now are back in the firm grips of Bruce Allen and that’s a mistake. Allen along with the owner Dan Snyder has been at the forefront of the organization’s worst decision making. Not all fatal flaws have to be on-field related but let’s tie this one in.
The decision to not lock up the quarterback is baffling. Kirk Cousins over the last two years has thrown for 9,083 yards, 54 touchdowns, has a completion percentage of 68.4, and a passer rating of 99.4. He also helped the team get out from under the Robert Griffin III and Mike Shanahan debacle. In the NFL, you have to have a good quarterback to have a chance. They’ve done nothing but show Cousins he’s not worthy of their support. Washington has the offensive firepower to contend but their front office is cause for concern for any real success like winning a championship in the near future. The trouble has been brewing and it’s not likely to end with Allen and Snyder tag-teaming it at the top.
Fatal Flaw: Commitment to Offense
The Eagles started off hot at 4-0 but only managed to win three games afterward. They really needed help in a bad way on offense because their receiving threats have been everything but threatening. They signed Alshon Jeffrey (one-year, $9.5M), Torrey Smith (three-year, $15M), and LeGarrette Blount (one-year, $1.25M) to help the young Carson Wentz. However, all of these deals seem a little too late for the players. Both Jeffrey and Smith are two and three years removed from their most productive years. Blount was very productive in New England but he’s 30-years old. Running backs at 30 are generally going to start a decline. All of these moves don’t seem like the right type of commitments. Also, you’re basically renting Jeffrey and Blount for one year in hopes they set it off. They’re hoping for quick returns from something that takes time. Offenses usually need time together to truly gel.
The Eagles waited until the fourth round to start drafting skill position players. Mack Hollins and Donnel Pumphrey are not exactly exciting the masses. What Philadelphia needed to do was show they’re committed to Carson Wentz by surrounding him with young talent long term. Instead, they leaned heavily in the draft on defense and want Wentz to make chicken salad out of what he has.
It doesn’t help that they have one of the least experienced head coaches who cost them games last year with his decisions. Remember 4th and 1 twice in one game against the Giants, leaving six points off the board and losing by five? Remember the outside run call for Ryan Matthews against Detroit to ice the game then instructing him to get out of bounds (he fumbled, they lost by one point)? Last but not least, remember the screen pass on 3rd and 8 snuffed out by Sean Lee, refusing to kick the 51-yarder, instead punting the game away losing in overtime?
New York Giants
Fatal Flaw: Offensive Line
New York has an issue that has plagued them for years and it’s not getting better. Last season, they average less than 20 points per game. How does that happen when you have Odell Beckham Jr and Sterling Shepard? What was their answer? We need Brandon Marshall and TE Evan Engram (first-round pick). No, what you need is help on the offensive line because your offensive drives are being killed with poor play. Signing a San Diego castoff in D.J. Fluker is not the answer and waiting until the sixth round to draft a lineman isn’t helping (Adam Bisnowaty).
Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl champion, we get it. He does his work in a west coast offense designed to get the ball out quickly. He’s also 36 years old and no quarterback is going to do well without a little time to get through his progressions. The New York Giants had 57 drives that went three-and-out (29.53% of their drives) which was the third-most in the NFL behind the Rams and 49ers. Another note, Eli has thrown double-digit interceptions in 12 of his 13 seasons behind center. That includes throwing 20 or more three times and leading the league in 2013 with 27 interceptions. He tied for the fourth-most interceptions thrown in 2016 (16 INTs) with the 27th ranked QBR at 51.8. He’s already a quarterback prone to mistakes. Throw in a leaky offensive line and it’s only going to magnify the problems.
Fatal Flaw: Inexperience/ Reshuffling
It’s great that the Cowboys are building a young and hungry team but in the short-term, that’s going to bring on some growing pains. Dallas has decided to reshuffle a few areas, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Sure, Orlando Scandrick and Nolan Carroll are veterans in the secondary but they’re not exactly pillars of great health. The Cowboys had to make their moves in the secondary and they drafted four defensive backs. As they try and create a back end of playmakers around Byron Jones, they’ll experience the ups and the downs that go along with it. Dallas was the 26th rated pass defense in the NFL last season, a change was needed but there are questions to be answered. Can they be better than that in 2017? They have to learn pretty quickly with teams like the Packers, Raiders, and Falcons on the schedule.
Dallas also has to do some reshuffling on their vaunted offensive line. Though La’el Collins is a better talent than Doug Free, he’s playing right tackle for the first time in his NFL career. Ronald Leary was an unsung hero for the Cowboys and he’s now gone to the Broncos. In his place will be a battle between a first-round flameout in Jonathan Cooper and a guy who has only played tackle with an extensive injury history in Chaz Green. As high as the hopes are for the Cowboys in 2017, they still have some questions to answer.
The NFL is filled with such parity and no team is perfect. Teams have won it all in this league even though they have had some huge flaws. The Atlanta Falcons represented the NFC in the Super Bowl despite being 25th in total defense giving up the sixth-most points. The Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009 with the best offense and 20th ranked defense. The Broncos struggled on offense in 2015 but won themselves the Lombardi with outstanding defense. Just because you have a huge flaw doesn’t mean it will necessarily be fatal, you can still accomplish great things.