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NFL: NFC East season preview

We take a look at each division before the start of the 2014 season, with this feature examining the NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Is this the year Dallas achieves a record other than 8-8? Very possibly, but not in the direction they’d hope. The weakest part of Dallas’ roster is likely to be their defence after several key names were lost through free agency or injury. Defensive end, Demarcus Ware had to be let go during the offseason and linebacker Sean Lee will sit out the year with a torn ACL he sustained in training. The Cowboys defence was poor during the preseason and their lack of depth doesn’t bode well should they lose players to injury early on in the season. Dallas’ offence by contrast is likely to be the team’s workhorse if they are to salvage a winning record. Quarterback Tony Romo is looking healthy and had a strong preseason. Paired with wide receiver Dez Bryant, Romo appears to be on track to have a good season barring no significant injury which has plagued his output in the past. First round draft pick Zach Martin also bolsters an already loaded offensive line that should reduce the pressure on Romo. Whichever way the Cowboys season goes, Jerry Jones has clearly made a concerted effort to give Romo the pieces he needs to succeed. If it doesn’t pay off, the long time owner may start to rue passing on Johnny Manziel.

New York Giants

After starting 0-6 in 2013, the Giants finished the season strongly enough to save Tom Coughlin’s job and at least keep the conversation alive that Eli Manning could be considered ‘elite’. To ensure the same start doesn’t happen again, New York have radically change their offensive system, bringing in former Green Bay quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo to help Manning recover from last year. However, change does not always bring the desired results as McAdoo and Manning have looked miles apart this preseason. Nevertheless, preseason games mean next to nothing and all can be recovered before their season is decided. Playmaker Victor Cruz also gives the Giants a go to receiving threat that many teams would be desperate to have so Manning is not without weapon. New York has also upgraded their defence with the signings of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond, both of which compliment Antrel Rolle in the second secondary. What remains the biggest question mark is just how quickly Manning and the rest of his offence can grasp the new system brought in by McAdoo. The Giants’ defence appears to be a well put together unit that has the ability to threaten high octane offences, but without the chemistry between quarterback and coordinator, Tom Coughlin’s defence may find itself out on the field rather a lot this season.


Washington Redskins

Despite each NFL team needing a 53 man roster to win the Super Bowl, Washington’s season starts and finishes on the performance of their quarterback, Robert Griffin III.  The third year pro took the league by storm in his rookie season but was plagued by injuries last year, being forced to sit out the final three games to ensure he didn’t injure himself any further. With new head coach Jay Gruden mentoring Griffin this season, what becomes most imperative is that Griffin remains healthy. Washington invested heavily to draft Griffin in 2012 and his athletic ability has done him no favours in reducing his injury risk. Moreover, Griffin has shown little to no effort this preseason to protect himself from injury, displaying the same rookie tendencies that leaves him exposed to knee bending tackles. The positives are that Gruden has significantly upgraded the offence by bringing in wide receivers Desean Jackson and Andre Roberts. Backup quarterback Kirk Cousins is also a viable option should Washington be forced to compete without Griffin.


Philadelphia Eagles

Year two of the Chip Kelly era in Philadelphia looks set to be a positive one. Their greatest strength; the rest of their division. The Eagles have very little to compete with in terms of the rest of the NFC East and what Chip Kelly has done effectively throughout the offseason is keep the same players that made last season a success. Kelly’s offence is built on speed, not just in terms of between plays but also after the ball is snapped. By bringing in Darren Sproles at running back to compliment LeSean McCoy, Kelly appears determined to make his team even faster than they were last season. Exactly what affect the departure of Desean Jackson will have on the Egales remains to be seen, however it appears to have been a calculated risk Chip Kelly was prepared to make. Nick Foles has yet to be confirmed the Eagles definitive future despite an impressive 119.2 passer rating and 8-2 record as a starter in 2013. Kelly has also made sure his team have a legitimate backup in Mark Sanchez should things go sour. Their greatest strength however remains the rest of their division as neither New York, Dallas appear to possess a roster with quite as much depth and versatility as the Eagles. Washington has the potential to challenge Philadelphia but relies too greatly on their quarterback, a mistake the Eagles appear to be trying not to make themselves.