Around the NFL

NFC East projected starters: Team-by-team breakdown

*With the NFL draft in the rearview mirror, Around the NFL will project starting lineups with tasty position battle nuggets for all 32 teams. The NFC East is up first. *

Dallas Cowboys

Projected Starters

* Offense*

QB: Tony Romo

WR1: Dez Bryant

RT: Doug Free

Defense

OLB: Sean Lee

» It's anyone's guess who will start at defensive end for the Cowboys while Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence serve four-game suspensions to start the season (Lawrence's suspension remains under appeal).

We project Tyrone Crawford to move outside to defensive end. He's played there before and the team's depth at defensive tackle is a little better with third-round pick Maliek Collins and free-agent addition Cedric Thornton from the Eagles. Coach Jason Garrett has also talked up Terrell McClain as a candidate for big snaps at nose tackle.

» The team's pass rush is going to be a problem early in the year (and all season if Lawrence and Gregory don't stay healthy). We put fifth-year pro Jack Crawford in a temporary starting spot for now, but the Cowboys will be rotating a lot of players through the spot. Fourth-round pick Charles Tapper will get snaps. The team could use a three-man line more often, and we'd be surprised if they don't add a veteran free agent or two.

» The defense has plenty of questions. But that starting lineup on offense looks loaded on paper (Just ask Jerry Jones. Or any Cowboys fan). You could argue the Cowboys have better than average starters at every position except for Terrance Williams and La'el Collins, who has major room to grow.

» The secondary is surprisingly stagnant, especially at cornerback. There are big injury and performance questions around Orlando Scandrick, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr. There is no depth after that trio. Wide receiver is another spot where the fall-off is steep after the starters.

» With Ezekiel Elliott entrenched as a three-down starter, Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden will be competing for a backup job. With Lance Dunbar likely a gameday lock because of his third down and special teams skills, Morris could wind up sending McFadden to the inactive list.

Philadelphia Eagles

Projected Starters

Offense

TE1: Zack Ertz

Defense

CB2: Eric Rowe

» Sam Bradford knew he had no leverage, and was smart to show back up to work. The Eagles have maintained all along he was their starter and we believe them. Expect Eagles fans to chant for Carson Wentz around Week 3. And then chant for Chase Daniel in Week 5.

» Connor Barwin was on the NFL Network "Top 100 players" list a year ago and will be a huge part of a rotation with Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham at defensive end. We gave Curry the nod as a starter because of the massive new contract he received after Jim Schwartz was hired to change the Eagles into a 4-3 defense. Barwin is changing positions, but the starter tag should be meaningless because Schwartz has so many options to mix and match. Curry can also move inside on passing downs.

» The Eagles would probably prefer to have more competition at cornerback. Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe look locked in as starters and the team could use more depth.

» We projected third-round pick Isaac Seumalo to win the starting left guard over Allen Barbre, who would have a nice contract for a backup. Between free agency (Stefen Wisniewski) and the draft, the Eagles have terrific offensive line depth.

» Wide receiver is far less exciting. Nelson Agholor's only competition after a disappointing rookie year comes from Rueben Randle and Josh Huff. Agholar is one Chip Kelly pickup the Eagles have no choice but to stick with. To put it another way: The Eagles figure to use two tight end sets plenty to keep their best players on the field.

» The Eagles are counting on Ryan Mathews to stay healthy. Rookie Wendell Smallwood should compete with Darren Sproles for snaps behind him.

New York Giants

Projected Starters

Offense

WR3 Sterling Shephard

Defense

CB3: Eli Apple

» We considered not including Victor Cruz. After two lost seasons, fellow Around The NFL writer Chris Wesseling refuses to acknowledge Cruz's existence as a corporeal entity. But the Giants guaranteed Cruz $2.4 million in order to facilitate a pay cut. He is a fairly safe bet to make the team even if he doesn't look like the same player. Then again, there's always a chance Cruz just can't stay on the field and the Giants swallow the money.

» It would be an even bigger upset if Cruz was on the team in 2017, when his salary jacks back up again. The Giants essentially drafted Cruz's replacement in Sterling Shepard. Whether Shephard lines up in the slot every down or not, he'll be a big part of the offense.

» Third-round pick Darian Thompson has a great chance to start as a rookie because the Giants are so thin at safety. The Giants want to move Landon Collins into more of a "box safety" role, although that was Thompson's profile coming out of school, too. This position could still be a mess, although the team has three young players -- Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson and Mykkele Thompson -- who missed all of last season.

» No. 10 overall pick Eli Apple played on the outside at rookie minicamp. That's also where Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie play, but the Giants should find a way to get their best players on the field. Apple could wind up learning slot cornerback in time.

» We put three cornerbacks as starters in part because linebacker is a mess. Free-agent pickup Keenan Robinson is the best guess to start in the middle, although Jasper Brinkley and Kelvin Sheppard are options. This has been a trouble spot seemingly since Antonio Pierce retired. Devon Kennard is the only other promising linebacker on the roster and he's struggled to stay healthy.

» It was a surprise the Giants didn't address the right side of their offensive line in the draft. More veterans could be on the way.

Washington Redskins

Projected Starters

Offense

Defense

» Josh Doctson is one of our favorite offensive players in the draft, yet we couldn't find a spot for him with the starters in Washington. Doctson is best suited on the outside, and Jamison Crowder was a revelation in the slot last year. Perhaps Doctson will perform so well in camp the Redskins will look to trade Pierre Garcon or DeSean Jackson. Both starters are in the last year of their contracts and the Redskins will find snaps for Doctson.

» There's a lot going on with the Redskins' defense, which feels like a boom-or-bust group. Perhaps seven starting jobs are up for grabs, including two on the defensive line.

» We decided to put second-round pick Su'a Cravens in the starting lineup because he's more talented than holdover Duke Ihenacho or free-agent pickup David Bruton. Cravens, who expects to play linebacker in Washington's dime packages, is listed as a safety by the Redskins. The Redskins will want to get his flexibility on the field.

» Chris Baker is the only sure starter on the defensive line. They don't really have a natural nose tackle except for perhaps fifth-round pick Matthew Ioannidis. Kendall Reyes could wind up starting at end. So could Trent Murphy, who is making the transition from outside linebacker.

General manager Scot McCloughan loves building teams from the inside out, so it's a little surprising how underwhelming this defensive line is. At least the Redskins have a lot of numbers, if not high-level starters.

» Perry Riley needs to beat out Mason Foster (or Will Compton) for a starting job or risk being asked to take a pay cut at inside linebacker. Guard Shawn Lauvao is another player who could be released if he doesn't win a starting role.

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