Where do the Redskins stand in the NFC East?
With the main part of NFL free agency over, I thought it would be a good time to look at where the Redskins stand in the NFC East. Last year was a down year for the NFC East as the Redskins and Giants combined to go 7-25. Things weren’t much better at the top as the Cowboys managed just an 8-8 record and the Eagles won the division at just 9-7. Now the question is how do things look heading into the draft?
The Eagles offense is still led by Carson Wentz who was up-and-down in 2019, but remains a good starting QB. He’s protected by one of the best offensive lines in the league and the premier unit in the NFC East. Andre Dillard has big shoes to fill at LT, but the former 1st round pick should be able to handle it.
Among skill positions the Eagles are a bit thin at WR as Alshon Jeffery and Desean Jackson were injured and inconsistent a year ago. Second year WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside needs to step up in a big way. Greg Ward emerged late in the year, but there is a question if he can repeat that performance.
What they lack in wide receiver production the Eagles make up for with their tight ends of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. They are the best combo in the league and are both major offensive threats. Second year back Miles Sanders looks to build on a promising rookie year. Depth is a concern at running back, and will likely see a veteran and or rookie added to the mix.
The Eagles made a big splash in free agency signing Javon Hargrave to join Fletcher Cox and a hopefully healthy Malik Jackson in the middle of the defensive line. Their edge talent isn’t as strong but Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett are at least solid, with decent depth options. Their off-ball linebacker group is unspectacular, but fairly athletic. Nate Gerry is the best of the group, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add someone in the draft.
The secondary looked like a major weakness at the start of the offseason, particularly after the Eagles parted ways with Malcolm Jenkins. Now after a trade for Darius Slay and signings of Nickell Robey-Coleman and Will Parks, it looks like a pretty deep group. They still need some of their young corners like Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas to step up, but this shouldn’t be the liability it was a year ago.
Dak Prescott is back on the Franchise Tag, and he remains the best QB in the division and a top 10 quality QB in the league. Elliott is back at running back and gives Dallas one of the top 3 backs in the league. Tony Pollard emerged as a solid back-up/receiving back for the Cowboys a year ago, giving Dallas even more options on offense.
With Amari Cooper re-signing and pairing with Michael Gallup the Cowboys have one of the better top pairing of receivers in the league. Randall Cobb left in free agency, so the slot role is a bit up in the air. The Cowboys also lost Jason Witten in free agency and opted to stay in house re-signing Blake Jarwin. Jarwin was solid in a number 2 TE role, but it remains to be seen if he can take over the number 1 role.
The Cowboys lost a key cog in their offensive line when Travis Fredrick retired, but they still have one of the better units around the league when healthy. Joe Looney or last year’s 3rd rd pick Connor McGovern should get first crack at the center role.
Though the Cowboys had to let some defensive linemen leave in free agency, they did a nice job replacing them with Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe. The pair of former first rounders remain quality players though should be rotated more often than earlier in their career. Demarcus Lawrence has shown the ability to be a game changing edge in the past, but had just 5 sacks a year ago. Expect Dallas to look to add an edge rusher early in the draft. The Cowboys linebacker group is one of the best units in the league.
In the secondary the Cowboys had some big losses including star corner Byron Jones. They did add HaHa Clinton-Dix at safety, but this is a group that Dallas needs to address in the draft.
Daniel Jones had a rough rookie season, where he put up big numbers vs some bad opponents, but was a turnover machine vs anyone else. Jones does benefit by having one of the better skill groups in the league, led by running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley is one of the best playmakers in the league, so expect the Giants to try to feature him as much as possible.
At wide receiver the Giants have a strong trio of Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and impressive late round rookie Darius Slayton. They lack a true number 1, but have three good options to threaten a defense with. Evan Engram gives the Giants one of the more athletic tight ends in the league. When all five of Tate, Shepard, Slayton, Engram and Barkley are on the field at once, defenses are going to struggle.
The Giants big issue on offense is their line, which has seen major struggles at offensive tackle and center. Their guard play is pretty strong and the expectation is the Giants could draft a top tier OL with their top pick.
New York has one of the better interior defensive line groups in the league. Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, Dexter Lawrence, BJ Hill and Austin Johnson give the Giants the ability to match-up versus anyone and keep guys fresh. Their edge group is a greater concern as their top sack leader left in free agency and Kyler Fackrell and Lorenzo Carter are just solid at best. Adding Blake Martinez helps their inside linebacker group a good bit, but they could use more help.
In the secondary the Giants added James Bradberry to a group that already has Jabrill Peppers and last year’s 1st round pick Deandre Baker. Other young defensive backs Julian Love, Sam Beal and Grant Haley need to step up. It also wouldn’t be surprising if another veteran was added as well.
It was not a good situation for rookie QB Dwayne Haskins a year ago. The Redskins were already a team lacking offensive weapons and things got worse as Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis with both out for most of the season. As were both running backs Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson. Add in Trent Williams holdout and Brandon Scherff missing 5 weeks, and it was a recipe for disaster. Despite all of that Haskins did show some promise as the season wore on. The hope is he can start to really develop in year two to reach his potential.
The concern is not much has changed on offense. The wide receiver group is pretty bare behind Terry McLaurin. Logan Thomas is a better tight end than what the Redskins had a year ago, but not by much. The offensive line still is likely to be without Trent Williams and now Ereck Flowers (one of the few bright spots last season) is gone.
The only area that looks better than a season ago is running back. Where a pair of depth signings added to Bryce Love, Guice and Adrian Peterson at least give the team the depth they need.
It doesn’t get much better than the trio of Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis and Da’Ron Payne in the interior of the Redskins line. Tim Settle is a solid back-up option as well. At the Edge the Redskins should see a bounceback from Ryan Kerrigan (who still had pretty decent peripheral numbers), and a potential breakout from Montez Sweat. Sweat got off to a slow start a year ago, but he was spending way too many snaps in coverage. With a move to a 4-3, his natural strength and speed should be more of a factor. If that’s not enough, it’s still pretty likely the Redskins add Chase Young to the mix.
With the move to the 4-3 the Redskins really only had Shaun Dion-Hamilton and Cole Holcomb on the roster. They re-signed Jon Bostic, and added Thomas Davis and Kevin Pierre-Louis as well. While as a group they are likely below average, there is enough speed and tackling ability where they could be passable. I’d still expect them to look to add upside in the draft, but they now at least don’t have as much of a pressing need.
The Redskins secondary is in a rough spot. Landon Collins is one of the best in the box safeties in the league, but beyond that it’s pretty thin. Kendall Fuller is a solid-to-good starting corner, but he’s at his best in the slot. Fabian Moreau, Ronald Dary and Jimmy Moreland aren’t exactly the ideal corner group you want. Sean Davis is the top option for free safety, but he struggled mightily in Pittsburgh.
While the Eagles and Cowboys are still incomplete teams, they do appear to be well ahead of the Giants and Redskins. Philadelphia especially has seemed to add more than they’ve lost this offseason and looks to be the most complete all-around team. The Cowboys probably have the best overall offense in the division, and will need to try to win high scoring games.
The Giants and Redskins are clearly behind those two teams, and it looks like a gap might be forming between the two rebuilding clubs. The Giants are clearly stronger at RB, WR and TE. Offensive line is probably slightly favored in the Redskins direction now, but if New York adds an offensive tackle in the first round that flips their way as well.
Defensively both teams have very strong interior defensive lines, and their off ball linebacker groups are roughly the same as well. Redskins have a clear advantage at edge rusher, which will only grow if they select Chase Young. In the secondary though the Giants have a clear advantage (though still relatively weak), over the Redskins.
Obviously the biggest factor is quarterback play. For developing young QBs who both struggled last year, the Giants are supporting their guy more.