NFC East Outlook for 2014 Season
Issue   |   Wed, 04/16/2014 - 00:35

Over the past few decades, the NFC East (comprised of the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles) has been one of, if not the most dynamic divisions in football. Last season, however, it was arguably the worst. The division’s lack of success in 2013 can be attributed to the fact that they had to play against the best division in the NFL last year, the AFC West. There were three playoff teams in the AFC West last year, (the maximum amount of playoff teams from any given division) including the 9-7 San Diego Chargers, the 11-5 Kansas City Chiefs, and the 13-3 AFC Champion Denver Broncos. Given the incredibly difficult schedule that the NFC East faced last season and the offseason acquisitions being made by each team in the division (especially the Redskins and the Giants), 2013 may soon be simply written off as an anomaly in terms of the division’s lackluster showing. In 2014, the NFC East looks bound to be as dominant a division as ever, quite possibly with up to 3 teams in playoff contention by the end of the regular season. Here’s the breakdown for each squad heading into 2014.

Let’s start in the nation’s capital. In 2013, The Washington Redskins were, in a word, pathetic. Following an impressive 2012 campaign in which then-rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III led the ‘Skins to a 10-6, division clinching season, Washington fell to 3-13 last year. They had a porous defense, and Griffin took a step back following surgery on both his torn ACL and MCL in the offseason, but it is still hard to fathom how they were that bad. Fortunately for them, the talent is still there, and they have only been adding to it with a couple flashy transactions in the past few weeks. The biggest news is the signing of former Philadelphia Eagle, Desean Jackson. While the Redskins forked over a hefty sum for the speedy wide receiver (a three-year $24 million deal), the acquisition should prove to be well worth the money. Jackson is coming off the best season of his young career, posting 83 receptions for 1,332 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns (both career highs). Having Desean play alongside wide receiver Pierre Garcon (another special talent in his own) should be a matchup nightmare for most defenses. In addition to bolstering their offense, the ‘Skins have made some offseason attempts to patch up their less than stellar defense. Washington signed former Dallas Cowboy defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, as well as former Pittsburgh Steeler safety Ryan Clark. These acquisitions alone will not fix Washington’s broken defense (as Ryan Clark may not have much left in the tank as he will be turning 35 next season), but they will surely help aid a defense that could use as much repair as possible. Additionally, snagging Jason Hatcher from the Cowboys and Desean Jackson from the Eagles not only benefits the Redskins by improving their roster, but also by stealing talent from other division rivals. All in all, its safe to say the ‘Skins are in for a much better outing this upcoming season than they produced in 2013.

Moving down south, let’s assess the progress of the Dallas Cowboys this offseason. The Cowboys have epitomized mediocrity since the new millennium, making the postseason just 4 out of the last 14 years. The past three years they have been on the cusp of making the playoffs up until the last week of the regular season, but have lost in three consecutive week 17 “win and in” games to miss the postseason. This offseason has not been very eventful for Dallas, as they were dealing with limited cap space following the 2013 season. The most important move for the Cowboys has been the loss of elite defensive end Demarcus Ware, who recently signed with the Denver Broncos. The cowboys also released wide receiver Miles Austin, who has been hobbled with injuries the past couple of seasons. Their major acquisition has been formed Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden to back up their franchise tag, Tony Romo. While the Cowboys roster may have actually worsened this offseason, it is difficult to envision them not displaying some improvement in 2014. Talent-wise, this team is as good as any, and if Dallas can finally conquer their late season struggles, they can be a dangerous team.

Shifting back up to the northeast, the New York Giants have had their most active free agency period in recent history. New York will have a completely new look in 2014, which can only be beneficial following an abysmal 2013 season. Some big losses include the injury prone wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (to the Indianapolis Colts) and 2-time Giants Super Bowl Champion defensive end Justin Tuck (to the Oakland Raiders). To fill those gaps, the Giants signed former Denver Broncos defensive end Robert Ayers, and they look to acquire a wide receiver early in the draft next month to replace Nicks. The Giants’ major acquisitions have been focused on two specific team needs: offensive line, and defensive secondary. These two areas were the Giants’ greatest weaknesses in the 2013 season, as the offensive line gave up a league high 58 sacks, while the pass defense was subpar as well. The offensive line additions include former Denver Broncos center J.D. Walton, and former Kansas City Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz. The intriguing acquisitions were in the secondary, as New York added former Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond, as well as superstar cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (who played for the Broncos last season). If the defensive line can muster a decent pass rush despite the loss of Justin Tuck, the New York Giants should have a revamped defense in 2014. Expect them to certainly be relevant again in 2014.

Finally, let’s turn our attention to the only NFC East team that had a respectable season in 2013: the Philadelphia Eagles. Under new head coach Chip Kelly, and a surprisingly outstanding season by quarterback Nick Foles (who replaced the injured Michael Vick mid-season), the Eagles clinched the NFC East last season with a 10-6 record. The Eagles have now lost 3-time pro bowler Desean Jackson, but there is still plenty of talent on their roster. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will be returning from injury, and an emerging talent in Riley Cooper will be playing alongside him at wideout. Additionally, the Eagles scooped up the nifty running back Darren Sproles during free agency, who will spell all pro running back Lesean McCoy, while also providing some help in the passing game. If Nick Foles can play anywhere near the level he did last season, the Eagles will still have quite the explosive offense, even with the loss of Desean Jackson. As of now, Philly still looks like the favorites to win the division in 2014.