Darlings of national television stations, the NFC East produced some of the sloppiest games of 2015. The quartet ranked squarely at the bottom of Around The NFL's offseason power rankings in 2016, in part because the division lacks potential for a dominant power and is littered with rosters full of holes and deep-seeded question marks.
After years of upheaval, the Washington Redskins enter as the team with the most stability under Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins -- who would have thought! The New York Giants kicked out their two-time Super Bowl winning coach, but kept most of his staff. The Philadelphia Eagles ended Chip Kelly's reign and are trying to recreate the Andy Reid-era. The Dallas Cowboys watched Tony Romo miss most of the season with injuries that crippled their campaign, but have yet to improve the mediocrity behind him.
With stability at quarterback, a young running back who has the talent -- if not consistent play -- to be a star, and improved play in the trenches, the Redskins find themselves atop an unsteady pile in the NFC East. However, every roster in the division screams for help. The reality is that the overall talent on all four rosters lands squarely in mediocrity. So while the football won't be pretty in 2016, the race for the title will likely come down to the wire again.
Last offseason, Jay Gruden declared Robert Griffin III the team's starting quarterback. Now this is clearly Kirk Cousins' team. With the RGIII era officially over, Cousins won't have to deal with looking over his shoulder or answering questions about a divided quarterback room. The 27-year-old signal-caller played stellar down the stretch last season, propelling Washington to the division title. In his second full season leading Gruden's offense, the quarterback will try to prove he's worth a big contract extension.
It's Cousins' offense, but it's clearly Matt Jones' backfield. Washington signaled faith in the second-year running back, letting Alfred Morris walk uncontested in free agency. Gruden believes the power back can overcome a rollercoaster rookie season, which included bouts with fumbles, to carry the load. The coach admitted the move is a gamble, but if Jones becomes consistent he should be the best back in the division.
»The Redskins are littered with questions along the interior of their defensive line. Terrance Knighton is gone, Jason Hatcher was released and Stephen Paea is coming off a season-ending injury. With Kendric Golston the top option at nose tackle, a defensive tackle is a desperate need for general manager Scot McCloughan in the upcoming draft. It's no surprise NFL.com draft analysts have mocked the likes of Andrew Billings, Chris Jones and A'Shawn Robinson to Washington.
»With Dashon Goldson jettisoned and Chris Culliver coming off injury, the Redskins have big questions in the back seven, especially safety. DeAngelo Hall made a good transition, Duke Ihenacho is coming off injury and Kyshoen Jarrett showed promise and could see more time dropping into the slot in certain formations. The Redskins could use youth at safety and a third corner in the draft.
**»**Jamison Crowder showed flashes of promise as a rookie and should earn more snaps in Year 2. But at whose expense? It was reported that the team could extendPierre Garcon's contract to lower his cap number. Garcon has been lost in the mix in two years under Gruden. With the need for a big-body at the position, the team visited with Anquan Boldin, but didn't sign him. The Redskins could look to the draft to answer their need for size at receiver.
The Eagles scrapped the Chip Kelly experiment after three seasons, turning to Andy Reid confidant Doug Pederson. With Howie Roseman brought back from the wilderness, Philadelphia has attempted to wipe away the remnants of the Kelly era, trading DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso. It's as if Philly wished the past three years never happened.
Sam Bradford was re-signed, but quarterback Chase Daniel was brought in to add experience in Pederson's system and competition. The Eagles insist the underwhelming Bradford is the starter, but we'll find out in training camp whether he can hold the gig. Adding guard Brandon Brooks and center Stefen Wisniewski for depth will help whichever quarterback wins the starting gig.
»Nolan Carroll's re-signing could be key if he returns healthy, but the Eagles need corner depth with Maxwell gone. Pederson pointed to adding a corner in the draft as one of the team's necessities. A player like Vernon Hargreaves could help boost a defense that gave up 36 passing touchdowns last season.
»With Jason Peters getting long in the tooth and dealing with injuries, finding a young tackle in the draft should be paramount.
»While Conor Barwin and Brandon Graham are good players who should transition well for Schwartz, they aren't traditional big-time edge rushers. Philly is in the market for a 4-3 edge rusher in the Ziggy Ansah-mold.
New York Giants
Tom Coughlin got scapegoated out of his coaching job -- even if he oddly continues to hang around the building -- but most of his former staff remained. Ben McAdoo took the helm, which should be good for Eli Manning's continuity. And despite coordinating one of the worst defensive units in the NFL last year, Steve Spagnuolo remains in charge.
General manager Jerry Reese, knowing he needs a big year to keep his job, spent heavily on the defense to help Spags. He spent big money on defensive linemen Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison, and kept Jason Pierre-Paul around for another year, giving the Giants one of the best defensive lines in the NFL-- on paper. Reese also added Janoris Jenkins to his secondary. Jenkins can be a shutdown corner, but also gives up big plays. If he does more of the latter than the former, his huge contract will be an albatross.
New York's huge splashes in free agency could look like genius moves in nine months, or it could look like a desperate organization striking out in a big way.
»Despite the additions on D, the Giants still need help across the board. Linebacker is the biggest need. Keenan Robinson isn't the answer long-term. Big Blue desperately needs speed across the linebacking corps. Adding a coverage safety alongside Landon Collins would help, but New York is already young at the position. Also, don't be surprised if Reese grabs an edge rusher on one of the first two days of the draft. We still have questions about JPP's future and Big Blue needs to groom youth on defense.
»The offensive line remains a big question mark -- as it has been for several seasons. Injuries aided to a poor season in 2015, but the Giants haven't done anything to upgrade. Will Beatty is gone after missing last season. New York needs Ereck Flowers to improve his play on the left side and add depth across the line. Replacing Marshall Newhouse at right tackle would be a start.
Not much has changed at Jerry's Playhouse. With little cap space, the Cowboys smartly remained tight-fisted, mainly re-signing several key players. Owner Jerry Jones insists his team was talented enough to compete for the division last season if Tony Romo had stayed healthy. None of the team's offseason moves decry that, but Jones still has major holes, especially on his defense.
On offense, Dallas added running back Alfred Morris, who could thrive in the Cowboys' blocking scheme. The veteran back is solid insurance if Darren McFadden loses his grip on his newfound health streak. Keeping Lance Dunbar as a passing-down back gives the Cowboys a solid trio, but none of them are game-changers.
Maybe the biggest change of the offseason for Dallas was walking away from the bad juju brought in by Greg Hardy. The pass rusher was a huge disappointment both on and off the field last season, and not worth one second of the headache he caused.
»The biggest holes on the Dallas roster remain on the defensive line. Randy Gregory is suspended four games to start the season. Dallas has solid pieces in Demarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford, but and additional edge rusher is -- once again -- a priority. Joey Bosa could be one answer in the draft.
»The Cowboys wanted to move on from Brandon Carr's massive contract, but swung and missed on each corner they brought in during free agency. Orlando Scandrick is coming off a season-long injury and Morris Claiborne has never played consistently well. With Byron Jones shifting to safety, the Cowboys could add a corner on day two of the draft.
»While McFadden proved he could carry the load and Morris is a solid fill-in, finding a running back of the future is vital. Many Cowboys fans are salivating at the thought of stud tailback Ezekiel Elliott rushing behind that offensive line in Dallas. Would Jones -- and those advising him, more importantly -- sign off on picking a running back in the top five? Or would they rather fill one of their bigger needs on defense?
»The question every Cowboys fan wants to know: When will Dallas start to groom a quarterback of the future? Tony Romo has several good years left in him, but Dallas didn't address the horrid depth at quarterback that crippled their season. Kellen Moore is smart and, by all accounts, a nice person, but he's not the answer. Not even close. The question shouldn't be if the Cowboys will draft a quarterback this year, it should be in what round. Given that Jones believes Dallas is a playoff-caliber team with a healthy Romo, it might be hard for the brass to justify using the No. 4 overall pick on a player who will be a backup for the next few years.