The NFC East once again became a war of attrition in 2015. A winning record was all it took for the Redskins to lock up their first division title since 2012. The division has no shortage of talent though, and a barrage of injuries could have been partly to blame for the underwhelming performances across the board.
Washington has to make a decision regarding pending free agent Kirk Cousins, while both Philadelphia and the New York Giants hired new head coaches after the season. Dallas is hoping for better health for Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, but the Cowboys have other issues to address this offseason. Some potential answers for all four teams could come in the upcoming draft. So what are the biggest needs these teams will look to fill come April 28-30?
2015 Snapshot: The Cowboys are in an interesting position as their record this past season is not truly indicative of their talent level. A handful of key players missing significant time due to injury caused a team that was 12-4 in 2014 to flip the script and go 4-12 in 2015. Tony Romo was out for the majority of the season and proved to be impossible to replace. On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys run defense and pass rushing were both well below average in 2015. They finished 23rd in run defense and 25th in sacks. Even with these issues the Dallas secondary managed to finish top five in the NFL in both touchdowns and yards allowed.
Biggest Needs: The Cowboys now find themselves with a top-five pick in the 2016 draft which can secure them a guy that makes an immediate difference. However, the Cowboys could also elect to address a long-term need in hopes that they return to playoff form when their current roster gets healthy. A defensive end that could pressure the quarterback more consistently would be a smart pick. Another option could be to ensure continued success in the secondary by taking a cornerback. With Morris Claiborne entering free agency and Brandon Carr set to do the same next offseason, perhaps they can avoid paying both by drafting a young stud to replace them.
First-round pick: No. 4 overall
Potential Picks: If Joey Bosa gets past San Diego, the Cowboys will take him. Other options include Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey and Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III, an elite pair of NFL-ready cornerbacks. Lastly, given Tony Romo’s grocery list of injuries at this point in his career, do not be surprised if the Cowboys take a quarterback here to sit behind Romo for a few years and learn the NFL game.
New York Giants
2015 Snapshot: The New York Giants had a very up and down season, finishing 6-10 on the year and missing the playoffs for the fourth straight time. In five of their 10 losses, the Giants held the lead with less than two minutes remaining. The Giants were incapable of closing out games, and one huge reason for that was their atrocious secondary and pass rush. The Giants finished dead last in the NFL in passing yards allowed, and were one of only three teams to not reach the 25 sack plateau.
Biggest Needs: The Giants haven’t used a first-round pick on a defensive player since 2011, coincidentally the same year they most recently made the playoffs. The Giants lost too many games late, as opposing offenses could storm down the field in less than two minutes with ease. To correct this issue the Giants need to draft a defensive player with the No. 10 pick, ideally a defensive end or a corner. Addressing the cornerback position would also be a very good idea.
First-round pick: No. 10 overall
Potential Picks: After dealing with Jason Pierre-Paul’s fireworks fiasco, they should consider a replacement in Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah. Another defensive lineman the Giants could go after is Robert Nkemdiche, however they must decide if his talent overrides his off-the-field issues, and I believe given the recent JPP madness the team will stay away. I imagine Jalen Ramsey and Vernon Hargreaves III will be taken prior to the No. 10 spot, if not the Giants must capitalize. Another corner with serious potential they can turn to here is Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander.
2015 Snapshot: Chip Kelly made several offseason moves prior to the season that left a lot of players and fans puzzled. With the dismissal of LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin, Kelly had a lot to prove about his GM abilities and his system. Altogether, his plan fell flat on its face. The Eagles added Byron Maxwell last summer and supplied him with a hefty six-year, $63 million contract. He started the year so poorly he almost got benched, but prior to an injury late in the season he managed to play some decent football. The same can be said about DeMarco Murray’s efforts throughout much of 2015, but he averaged over five yards per carry and scored a touchdown in Weeks 16 and 17. After finishing 7-9, Kelly was dismissed as the Eagles are hoping for a fresh start under new head coach Doug Pederson.
Biggest Needs: The Eagles are a few years away from being competitive. Now may be the time to address the quarterback position down the road, as Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez have proven they are not viable options long-term. They could also build a solid offensive line before acquiring the gunslinger of the future to keep him upright and healthy whenever he does arrive. Lastly, they cannot go wrong drafting defense this year. The Eagles gave up the most rushing yards in the NFL last season, so a big nose tackle would go a long way in turning this defense around.
First-round pick: No. 13 overall
Potential Picks: The Eagles could take a shot at North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz or Memphis’ Paxton Lynch. Both are big, physical quarterbacks with strong arms. Furthermore, both need some fine-tuning and a few years to develop into starting NFL quarterbacks. An offensive lineman worth taking with the No. 13 overall pick would be Ohio State’s Taylor Decker. Finally, if they go the defensive route, Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson would be a guaranteed improvement.
2015 Snapshot: After all of the dust settled last offseason in Washington, the RG3 era was over and this was officially Kirk Cousins’ team. Following a slow start to the season, the Redskins set a franchise record by rallying from a 24-point deficit against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7. They used this momentum heading into their bye week to refocus, and they went 6-3 to end their season with tough losses at New England and at Carolina. Still a 9-7 record was good enough to win the division, although Green Bay handled Washington rather easily (35-18) on the road in the wild card game. As lethal as Cousins was throwing the ball, the Redskins' defense was unable to consistently make enough stops for this team to be considered a legitimate contender.
Biggest Needs: The Redskins had the worst run defense and second worst passing defense amongst all playoff teams. A nose tackle that can clog up the middle would be tremendously helpful in Washington.
First-round pick: No. 21 overall
Potential Picks: If Alabama’s Jarran Reed is still available at pick No. 21 he can be the big guy that demands attention in the middle. Penn State’s Austin Johnson has very similar capabilities, and both players can make life a lot easier for their defensive line counterparts. A different route for Washington could be to select a safety that excels against the run. Duke’s Jeremy Cash has good size (6-1, 210) and could help shorten the opposition’s run plays as well as help in pass coverage.