We are almost at the halfway point of the season in the NFL (with there now being 18 weeks in a year we have an official break point), and plenty of teams have already played eight games which is just under half of the new 17. Three teams with eight contests under their belt reside in the NFC East and they don’t even have eight wins between them. While the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Football Team, and New York Giants all continue to flounder, the Dallas Cowboys are riding a six-game winning streak.
As we do every week Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Gowton and I discussed the state of the division on the latest episode of the NFC East Mixtape. This is a unique podcast at SB Nation as it is accessible on both BGN’s and BTB’s podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to the Blogging The Boys podcast network wherever you get your podcasts. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here. As you can see by this post’s headline Brandon’s confidence in the Cowboys this season is rather high!
The division is obviously lacking in success when it comes to wins this season, but there is going to be a lot of heavy draft capital belonging to Cowboys rivals in 2022. At present time six of the top 11 picks in next year’s draft belong to the three teams by way of their own standings and the standings of teams who’s picks they own.
At least they have that going for them.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-5)
Many believed that the Detroit Lions would get their first taste of victory against Philadelphia this past week, but credit the Eagles for having their way with one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Things aren’t exactly going well for the Eagles at the moment, but they are a bit more stable than both Washington and New York. This season was never going to be one of serious success for them as it was all about the future.
Much of whatever the Eagles will be in 2022 and beyond will have to do with their upcoming draft capital, but it will also have to do with wide receiver DeVonta Smith. Plenty of Eagles fans thought that Smith would be the star wide receiver of this class, Brandon Gowton likened him to Justin Jefferson in terms of how teams maybe overlooked them in the draft process, but Ja’Marr Chase has clearly been superior.
Expectations for DeVonta Smith were higher than they have been for any Eagles rookie since at least Carson Wentz in 2016. The 10th overall pick was coming off a Heisman campaign, national championship and arguably one of the best wide receiver seasons in college history. He came to the team as, basically, the surefire number one receiver with every single fan, player and coach anticipating an immediate impact on what has been an underperforming and undynamic passing game.
The bar that was set in spring and summer has not been met. Not even DeVonta Smith would say he has lived up to lofty goals and expectations. The rookie receiver has not been a consistent, week to week threat in the passing game and he has had many moments where he had costly drops and losses against physical coverage. Eight games in, and it is obvious that Smith is not the rookie of the year candidate and instant game-changer everyone wanted him to be: Especially when you contrast his career start with rookie peer Ja’Marr Chase, who has transformed the Bengals passing game and given hope to a young, rebuilding franchise.
However, and this is a big however, DeVonta Smith is still clearly the future of the Eagles passing game. Despite his inability to have a Ja’Marr Chase/Justin Jefferson/Odell Beckham type rookie season, DeVonta Smith is still clearly a talented player who is producing in the Eagles offense. For one, he leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. He has surpassed Jalen Reagor’s sixteen game rookie yardage total in half as many games and, when he’s at his best, looks like the best receiver the Eagles have had in a decade. His route running is already advanced and he has shown a lot more after the catch then anyone could’ve asked for. DeVonta Smith is still very much a good player at this early stage in his career, and there is plenty of reason to be hopeful for the rest of his rookie season and beyond.
There was a sector of Eagles fans who also desperately wanted CeeDee Lamb a year ago (funny how that worked out!) only for the team to actually pass on the aforementioned Justin Jefferson in favor of Jalen Reagor. Smith certainly looks more promising than him, but in a perfect Eagles world he would have shown more by this point.
Ultimately the reason for Smith’s lack of offensive explosion might be quarterback Jalen Hurts. Philadelphia winning last week likely bought him more time, but it doesn’t seem out of the question for the Eagles to potentially start Gardner Minshew at a certain point this year. If 2021 is all about evaluating the state of things for the sake of future knowledge, why not see what Minshew can do with their staff?
Up Next: Los Angeles Chargers (4-3)
Washington Football Team (2-6)
It was amazing that anybody picked Washington to win the NFC East in full seriousness this past offseason. Forget the fact that it has been over a decade and a half since any team won this division in consecutive seasons, but Washington was the primary benefit of a number of things in 2020.
Obviously the NFC East as a whole was terrible, but their primary competitor (Dallas) was devastated by injuries. The Football Team strung together wins against backup-level teams (that started a lot of backup quarterbacks) and really thought they had something because they won a division with a 7-9 record (partly thanks to their seventh and final win coming from a team that threw the game to them!).
It seems that reality is starting to catch up with those who had this line of thought.
I’m tempted to say that Mayhew, Hurney, Rivera and the coaching staff need to go, and that the rebranding should take place with a new, young, dynamic coaching staff, but, honestly, I have no idea how the Snyders could hope to attract that person (a young, dynamic head coach) to Washington. There are worse places to be (Houston), but not many. The ownership problem that has been apparent for fifteen years or more can’t be solved, and that prevents the organization from being able to solve other problems.
That probably makes Ron Rivera untouchable for another season or two, at least. Probably all we can look forward to at the end of this season is the ritual sacrifice of a coordinator or two as the coaching staff ‘refresh’ that will accompany the rebrand, and we may not even get that. Even if it takes place, it’s unlikely to lead to any meaningful change.
It’s frustrating as hell to know that we’re about to undertake a once-in-a-century rebrand of the franchise, and to realize that because we’re cursed with a horrid owner, it will turn out to be an opportunity wasted.
I had been extremely stoked for what this rebranding opportunity would mean for Washington when I believed in Jason Wright and Ron Rivera enough to believe that they could make it all work in spite of the Snyders.
However, having seen the dog’s breakfast that Jason Wright’s team made of the Sean Taylor number retirement, and the absolute wasteland that seems to be Ron Rivera’s plan for turning this talented roster into a talented football team, I’ve lost all the belief that I had been filled with until a month ago.
The game in Denver was the final straw for me.
I’ve given up on the 2021 season; I no longer believe that the current executives and coaches can manage the massive opportunity before us with the rebrand. We are in the Snyder purgatory, and there is no way out.
While the name ‘The Washington Football Team’ is one that some people think works for the franchise their official rebrand is in fact slated for 2022. There is definitely logic to the organization fully hitting the restart then with a new staff and front office, but as Hogs Haven notes, it isn’t exactly going to be easy to convince the most sought-after candidates in the world to tie themselves to a place that has been filled with almost nothing but controversy recently.
How the Football Team lost to Denver despite breaking the Broncos 35-yard line a number of different times is a feat that only they could pull off. Well, maybe the Giants could as well.
Up Next: BYE
New York Giants (2-6)
Speaking of! Joe Judge did everything he could to lose Monday night’s game for New York. The Kansas City Chiefs are not the powerhouse we have known them to be for the last several years, but the Giants were on the road on Monday and had an opportunity to steal a win, one that would have been significant for their organization. Nevertheless, Joe Judge acted supremely conservative and let the Chiefs get back to .500 while his team continues to flounder.
What’s more is that Judge (who’s team continues to rack up personal fouls despite an apparent commitment to playing the game in an extremely tight way) is now deflecting blame for his franchise’s ineptitude. Judge noted after his team’s latest loss that they have apparently been dealing with headset issues - for two months - and that he hopes things are resolved quickly. Alrighty.
Where Washington is coming off of a division title and Philadelphia won an actual title a few years ago, the Giants are stuck right in the middle of a world of pain. They have yet to have three wins through eight games in each of the last five seasons and reality is starting to set in.
It would be easy to feel good about the Giants’ performance Monday. They nearly defeated a team that was in the Super Bowl the past two seasons, winning it two years ago. They denied Kansas City the dominant sort of “reset” victory many Chiefs fans might have hoped for.
I’m certain that Judge’s post-game press conference was filled with comments about week-to-week improvement and how the game provided a lot to build on. I don’t have the transcripts yet, but I don’t really need them to know what he’ll say.
Reality is, though, the Giants are 2-6. Monday night was yet another Giants’ loss that should have been a Giants’ victory.
There really isn’t anything to feel good about.
Unfortunately we will be treated to another Giants game on primetime in a couple of weeks as they will play on Monday night again, this time against the team that defeated the Chiefs in the most recent Super Bowl, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hopefully Joe Judge’s headset is working by then.
Up Next: Las Vegas Raiders (5-2)