NFC East betting preview: Can the Cowboys get it together?
Last season, no division appeared as bleak as the NFC East — or as some called it, the “NFC Least.”
The Dallas Cowboys once again stumbled, despite a loaded roster, and dropped a crucial Week 16 matchup against Philadelphia, which allowed the injury-laden Eagles to steal their playoff spot.
The Cowboys' and Eagles' issues paled in comparison to those that plagued the 4-12 New York Giants and the Washington Football Team (3-13).
That’s all a part of the past, though, as the NFL trudges forward — albeit, under unusual circumstances — and is scheduled to kick off the 2020 season Sept. 10.
To get you ready for football, let’s examine the outlook for each team in the NFC East.
2019 record: 9-7
Key additions: CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB Darius Slay, WR Jalen Reagor, QB Jalen Hurts
Key departures: WR Nelson Agholor, RB Jordan Howard, WR Marquise Goodwin (2020 opt-out), CB Ronald Darby
For the first time since his rookie campaign, quarterback Carson Wentz made it through the entire regular season without missing a game in 2019. He steered clear of the injury bug (until his concussion in the playoffs) that bit the rest of the Eagles offense.
Running back Jordan Howard missed six games, while receivers Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and DeSean Jackson sat a total of 24.
Agholor and Howard signed with Las Vegas and Miami, respectively, in the offseason. Rookie Jalen Reagor (611 yards, five touchdowns in 2019 at TCU) will slip into Agholor’s place on the depth chart and compete for catches with a healthy Jackson and Jeffery, plus tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.
After Zach Ertz lacerated his kidney against the Cowboys, Dallas Goedert took over the game 🔥— Thomas R. Petersen 🦅 (@thomasrp93) July 27, 2020
- 9 catches, 91 yards, TD
- 6 first downs conversions
- 2nd highest 2019 receiving grade of any Eagles WR/TE
Just scratching the surface.#Eagles pic.twitter.com/D7Hig9Fb4Z
The Eagles traded for former 49ers wideout Marquise Goodwin, but he has since opted out of the 2020 season, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The top-ranked Eagles offensive line (according to Pro Football Focus) will undergo some changes but retain the core of its unit. Aging left tackle Jason Peters re-signed with the Eagles as a right guard (a position he hasn’t played), while second-year tackle Andre Dillard will take over Peters’ former position.
This team is a contender once again in 2020, but as we've witnessed in the recent past, injuries can quickly turn this roster upside down.
2019 record: 8-8
Key additions: HC Mike McCarthy, WR CeeDee Lamb, DT Gerald McCoy, NT Dontari Poe, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Key departures: WR Randall Cobb, C Travis Frederick, LB Robert Quinn, CB Bryon Jones, TE Jason Witten
If you glance at the numbers from 2019, it hardly makes sense the Cowboys finished 8-8.
New coordinator Kellen Moore turned Dallas’ offense into a high-powered machine that ranked first in total yards (431.5 per game), second in passing (296.9 YPG), and fifth in rushing (134.6 YPG).
The defense wasn’t all that bad, either. It held opposing offenses to 327 yards per game (ninth in the NFL).
With another season of mediocrity in Dallas, Jerry Jones fired nine-year head coach Jason Garrett and brought in former Packers coach Mike McCarthy to lead America’s team.
McCarthy retained Moore but hired Saints linebackers coach Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator. Nolan will work with a new group that includes tackles Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, plus safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
#Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy on offense: “The individual that's had to learn the most has been myself. It's been a brand new language, particularly with the run game, for everybody. The protection is a different language and the passing game, as much as we could carry over, we did."— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) August 8, 2020
Robert Quinn (11 1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles) and Byron Jones (46 tackles, one FF) hit free agency and raked in serious cash to play elsewhere. Veteran tight end Jason Witten found a short-term deal with the Raiders, and wide receiver Randall Cobb left for Houston, which makes way for rookie CeeDee Lamb.
The rest of the offense is mostly intact.
There’s no good reason why the Cowboys aren’t a more dominant force in the league. We’ll find out if coaching truly was their downfall when McCarthy and his staff attempt to breathe new life into the team.
New York Giants
2019 record: 4-12
Key additions: HC Joe Judge, CB James Bradberry, RT Andrew Thomas, S Xavier McKinney, LT Matt Peart
Key departures: LT Nate Solder (2020 opt-out), CB Janoris Jenkins, WR Cody Latimer
The Daniel Jones experiment got off to a rocky start in 2019, as the rookie finished with 3,027 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions through 13 games. He also committed a league-high 18 fumbles and got sacked 38 times.
There’s no Eli Manning to guide the young gun from the sidelines, now that the former franchise QB retired. The team picked up Colt McCoy as Jones' backup and built up the middling offensive line through the 2020 draft.
The Giants selected Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas with the fourth-overall pick and picked up UConn offensive tackle Matt Peart in the third round, who will step in for Nate Solder, another 2020 opt-out. Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler return at left and right guard, while Spencer Pulley is expected to start at center.
Dave Gettleman said the Giants spent a lot of time on this. "We want to fix this offensive line once and for all!" Thomas is a step in the right direction.— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) April 24, 2020
The offense ranked in the bottom 10 in yardage but may see an uptick with a healthy Saquon Barkley, who missed three games in 2019 with an ankle sprain.
New York’s defense had a tougher season. The unit was one of the worst in the league and surrendered the fifth-most passing yards (264.1 YPG) and third-most points (28.2).
Cornerback James Bradberry (65 tackles, three interceptions in 2019) signed a three-year, $45 million contract with New York in free agency. The Giants also inked a three-year deal with inside linebacker Blake Martinez (155 tackles, three sacks, and one interception with Green Bay last season) and drafted Alabama safety Xavier McKinney in the second round.
Joe Judge will try to put the pieces together in his first stint as an NFL head coach. He hired Garrett as his offensive coordinator and Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Patrick Graham for the same role in New York.
Washington Football Team
2019 record: 3-13
Key additions: HC Ron Rivera, DC Jack Del Rio, DE Chase Young, LB Thomas Davis
Key departures: LG Ereck Flowers, CB Josh Norman, RB Derrius Guice
Washington lacks far more than a nickname heading into the 2020 season.
After a 3-13 record in 2019 — which saw head coach Jay Gruden’s tenure come to an end in midseason — Washington didn’t add many pieces that inspire hope.
The team ranked last in passing yards (175.8) and points per game (16.6), while the defense could hardly stop the run.
On the bright side, the pass rush tallied the 10th-most sacks (47), and 35-year-old Adrian Peterson (898 yards, five touchdowns) kept the run game afloat.
The quarterback situation created chaos last year, as rookie Dwayne Haskins rotated with Case Keenum and Colt McCoy in the starting lineup.
Haskins, a first-round pick from Ohio State, completed 58.6% of his passes for 1,365 yards, seven touchdowns, and as many interceptions. He is expected to start Week 1, with former Panthers QB Kyle Allen and Alex Smith waiting in the wings.
Haskins once again won’t have much to throw to. His college teammate, Terry McLaurin, looked impressive last year, with 919 yards and seven scores. Outside of McLaurin, Washington will rely on Kelvin Harmon (365 yards) and Trey Quinn (198 yards, one TD).
New head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio assumed quite the task with this rebuild project. Don’t expect it to happen overnight.