NFC East Offseason Update
By: Alex Dittmar
2014 Season Summary
The Dallas Cowboys surprised the league by capturing the division with a 12-4 record behind record setting rushing by Demarco Murray and an unexpectedly solid defense. The Philadelphia Eagles did not make the jump many expected in year two under coach Chip Kelly, finishing at 10-6 and just missing out on the playoffs. At the bottom of the division, the New York Giants and Washington did not have much going for them, finishing 6-10 and 4-12 respectively. With the big free agents all signed, now is the time to start looking at how the rosters are shaping up as we head into draft season.
4. Washington (4-12) This team struggled thanks in large part to injuries and inconsistency at the quarterback position, going through three different QBs over the course of the season. Coach Jay Gruden showed some reservations about the teams supposed franchise QB Robert Griffin III even when he returned from injury, while Kirk Cousins totally flamed out and Colt McCoy showed some promise, but then got hurt and probably isn’t a long-term solution as he nears age 30. Losing big contributors like OLB Brian Orakpo and CB DeAngelo Hall also contributed to a tough season overall. They have a lot of needs to address on the field, as well as off the field concerns surrounding the team name and Jay Gruden’s disconnect with the front office. Overall this offseason has shown a commitment to improving the defense, adding key contributors along the line and two new starters in the secondary (as seen below).
- NT Terrance Knighton
- DT Stephen Paea
- CB Chris Culliver
- DE Ricky-Jean Francois
- S Jeron Johnson
- LB Brian Orakpo (Tennessee Titans)
- OT Tyler Polumbus (Unsigned)
- WR Leonard Hankerson (Atlanta Falcons)
- Guard – The interior of that offensive line is weak, honestly the whole line is, but they have a big need there with the struggles of Shawn Lauvao and Chris Chester on the way out next season.
- Offensive Tackle – Speaking of the whole line being weak, other than Trent Williams they don’t have much on the outside either, so they need to have a full overhaul of that unit.
- Linebacker – Orakpo is out the door, leaving a big hole for a pass rushing OLB. They may have added depth along the D-line that will be helpful, there is still a big need in that LB unit.
Potential First Round Picks 1.5: DE/OLB Randy Gregory (Nebraska); DE Dante Fowler (Florida); S Landon Collins (Alabama)
3. New York Giants (6-10) Not a lot went right for the Giants this past year, but one thing certainly did. Odell Beckham Jr. was a diamond in the rough, having an unbelievable season with 91 receptions, 1,305 yards and 12 TDs after missing the first four games of the season due to injury. They were the definition of streaky, with their 6 wins coming in two separate three game win streaks, all by 10 points or more. But then they had a shut out against the Eagles and a big loss to Indy on the other side of the coin. Going forward they look for more consistency in their effort. They did not lose very much over the course of this offseason, but they also haven’t added much. The inactivity has to be frustrating to a fan base that saw an underperforming team a year ago. Key Signings
- DE Jason Pierre-Paul (franchise tag)
- RB Shane Vereen
- DE George Selvie
- G Dallas Reynolds
- WR Dwayne Harris
- S Antrel Rolle (Chicago Bears)
- CB Walter Thurmond (Philadelphia Eagles)
- Safety – Three of their safeties from a year ago are going to be free agents, so they need to look to re-sign at least one or two in this weak market then look to add depth at the position. Losing Antrel Rolle just makes the need even more pressing.
- Offensive Line – I leave this vague thanks to the mobility of Justin Pugh, who can play either guard or tackle. Ultimately this team needs one more guy to really fill out the line, and it can be a guard or a tackle.
- Defensive Tackle – Johnathan Hankins had a great year, but they need another big body alongside him
Potential First Round Picks 1.9: OT Brandon Scherff (Iowa); DT Danny Shelton (Washington); WR Kevin White (West Virginia); S Landon Collins (Alabama); CB Trae Waynes (Michigan State)
2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) It was a disappointing season for the Eagles despite the good record, however it was equal to their record from the year before and they fell short of the playoffs. Injuries were certainly a problem, with Nick Foles missing a considerable amount of the season, the offensive line getting banged up across the board, and their top two inside linebackers going down. The biggest problem, however, came from the secondary, who seemed unable to stop anyone down the stretch, getting destroyed by receiver after receiver. It was a tough season for the Eagles faithful, with many already questioning Chip Kelly, especially after decisions like releasing star WR Desean Jackson and the surprising decision to trade Lesean McCoy to the Bills for LB Kiko Alonso, then signing both Demarco Murray and Ryan Mathews to replace McCoy, letting Maclin walk to Kansas City, and trading for Sam Bradford. It’s been a busy offseason in Philadelphia, as Chip Kelly is taking advantage of his newfound control over the roster.
- RB Demarco Murray
- CB Byron Maxwell
- LB Kiko Alonso (trade with Buffalo Bills)
- QB Sam Bradford (trade with St. Louis Rams)
- RB Ryan Mathews
- RB Lesean McCoy (trade with Buffalo Bills)
- WR Jeremy Maclin (Kansas City Chiefs)
- LB Trent Cole (Indianapolis Colts)
- QB Nick Foles (trade with St. Louis Rams)
- G Todd Herremans (Indianapolis Colts)
- Safety – This was possibly the worst secondary in the league two years in a row, and Malcolm Jenkins was a nice addition last year, but he needs some help going forward.
- Offensive Guard – With the release of Todd Herremans, there is a whole to fill on the O-Line immediately, not just a need for youth for the future. There is also a lot of talk about trading Evan Mathis, which would leave them with no starting quality players at the position.
- Wide Receiver – With Maclin gone, there is no real receiving threat other than Jordan Matthews, who had a great rookie season a year ago, but spent almost his entire time in the slot. They need to add some type of impact talent on the outside.
Potential First Round Picks 1.20: QB Marcus Mariota (Oregon) (it would involve trading up obviously, but everyone is talking about it so why not me too?); S Landon Collins (Alabama); CB Marcus Peters (Washington); ILB/S Shaq Thompson (Washington); WR Devante Parker (Louisville)
1. Dallas Cowboys (12-4) Last year was filled with surprises for the Cowboys, winning the NFC East, having Demarco Murray lead the NFL in rushing behind one of the best offensive line units in the league, and turning a very bad defense into an adequate one despite losing their leading tackler, Sean Lee for the season. Dez Bryant emerged as an elite receiver, and if not for a questionable late-game no-catch call against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, the Cowboys could have made a run to the NFC Championship and possibly beyond since they had already beaten the Seahawks in Seattle earlier in the year. However, all good things must come to an end. With limited cap space and Dez Bryant and Demarco Murray both going into free agency, a decision had to be made about which of the two to keep for sure. The franchise tag was put on Dez Bryant, leaving Demarco Murray as the odd man out as he packed his bags and went to division rival Philadelphia, a huge hit to this team. Darren McFadden was brought in to replace him, but there is a clear talent downgrade offensively, and no big impact signings defensively (especially with Greg Hardy possibly still being unable to play).
- DE Greg Hardy
- RB Darren McFadden
- LB Jasper Brinkley
- CB Corey White
- FB Jed Collins
- RB Demarco Murray (Philadelphia Eagles)
- DT Henry Melton (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- LB Bruce Carter (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- LB Justin Durant (Atlanta Falcons)
- WR Dwayne Harris (New York Giants)
- Defensive Tackle – With Henry Melton moving elsewhere and Nick Hayden still unsigned, this team is desperate to fill a now gaping hole in the middle of that defense.
- Safety – Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox are not your ideal secondary members, and they have yet to address the problem.
- Running Back – Demarco Murray is gone, and they were able to bring in Darren McFadden, but McFadden has an injury history and having a second back would be nice for them. The draft may be the best place to look, especially with a late first round pick.
Potential First Round Picks: 1.27: RB Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin); RB Todd Gurley (Georgia); DE/OLB Bud Dupree (Kentucky); DE Arik Armstead (Oregon); CB Jalen Collins (LSU)