Washington won a watered-down NFC East last season with a 9-7 record. Philadelphia finished second at 7-9 and promptly fired its head coach, as did New York (6-10). Dallas (4-12) brought up the rear, but most are expecting a big rebound from the Cowboys. For Dallas to return to the top of the division, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant will need to stay healthy while the defense can’t afford to take too big of a step back even though it will be missing several key pieces early because of suspensions.
Elsewhere Doug Pederson has replaced Chip Kelly as the Eagles look to start over and lay the groundwork for No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz to take over at quarterback. Bob McAdoo has the difficult task of filling Tom Coughlin’s shoes with the Giants, but team invested heavily in free agency on defense to help with the transition. Washington added its own big-name free agent in All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, but it’s quarterback Kirk Cousins everyone will be watching as he’s playing under the one-year franchise tender following his breakthrough 2015 campaign.
In order to get an accurate assessment of how the NFC East looks entering the 2016 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles and Redskins.
Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.
“Once again, the Cowboys are at the mercy of Tony Romo’s durability. Dallas can’t expect Kellen Moore to be “the guy” at quarterback if Romo gets hurt again and, while Dak Prescott is a good athlete who is getting better as a passer, it’s a lot to ask a rookie to play coming from a spread system in college."
"Running back Ezekiel Elliott is going to do really well there and help Romo in a big way."
"There just wasn’t a weakness in Elliott when we tried to find it coming into the draft. He has dynamic ability because he’s fast, can run with power, has good hands and can protect in pass-pro."
"The offensive line is probably the best in the league because they’ve invested a lot into it. Most lines have one or two good guys but they have three in (LT) Tyron Smith, (RG) Zack Martin and (C) Travis Frederick."
"That being said, (LG) La’el Collins needs to play better and right tackle is the weak link."
"This is a weakened defense because the top two ends [DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and Rolando McClain] are entering the season suspended for the first four games. Where are they going to get the pass rush?"
"The Cowboys could have used more help at corner instead of waiting until the sixth round to pick a guy [Purdue’s Anthony Brown]. Although he’s an effective nickel corner, Orlando Scandrick has to prove he can come back from his knee injury. Brandon Carr is another year older and Morris Claiborne has never gotten it done.”
“This is an average team, although I like the fact they’ve improved their defense and have a quarterback who can win."
"Eli Manning has had his bouts of inconsistency, but he’s won throughout his whole career and the franchise is going to live and die by how he plays."
"They don’t have a superstar at running back, but all of their RBs fill a role with Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams as power guys and Shane Vereen providing the pass-catching on third downs."
"The offensive line is not great, especially at right tackle with Marshall Newhouse and right guard with John Jerry."
"Who’s going to be the other wide receiver besides Odell Beckham Jr.? Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard was a good pick in Round 2 and should be the slot receiver, but is Victor Cruz going to be able to come back from his leg issues? They’ve got a bunch of average guys besides that."
"Keep an eye on sixth-round pick Jerell Adams because he adds juice to the tight end group."
"The defensive line will obviously be much better because they’ve spent so much money on it with Olivier Vernon, Damon “Snacks” Harrison and Jason Pierre-Paul but they’re still lacking athletic inside pass rushers."
"You would hope a third-round pick would be ready to step up but [end] Owa Odighizuwa didn’t do a whole lot and may never."
"The linebackers are terrible and the weak link of the defense with Devon Kennard the best of the group.”
“The quarterback is going to be the big deal there, because is Sam Bradford going to be able to hold the fort until Carson Wentz is ready?"
"The other question is whether Bradford is still going to be around at the start of the season even if he doesn’t want to be there."
"Chase Daniel is a good backup who got overpaid. If he’s your starter full-time this season, good luck."
"There is no front-line running back. Ryan Mathews is big and can run but has ball-security issues and injury issues while Darren Sproles is another year older (33)."
"Jordan Matthews is a nice player and Nelson Agholor was OK last year, but this team doesn’t have a No. 1 wide receiver who scares you."
"Tight end Zach Ertz should show more of a vertical presence in Doug Pederson’s offense, and Brent Celek is still a good possession-type."
"The offensive line should be good this season after last year’s mess."
"The wide-nine system that new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is putting in should benefit an undersized guy like Brandon Graham."
"The Eagles paid a lot to keep Vinny Curry, but he’s really talented and gives some valuable inside pass-rush presence."
"Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks are good starting linebackers if they can stay healthy but Nigel Bradham was only average in Buffalo."
"If Nolan Carroll is now the No. 1 cornerback like it looked following the draft, the Eagles are in trouble.”
“It’s still too early to tell whether Kirk Cousins is the real deal at quarterback."
"He cut down on the negative plays last year and gives them some hope but I’m not ready to say he’s a franchise guy until I see him do it again for another year."
"They’re doing everything to try and help Kirk with a deep wide receiving corps and Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis at tight end."
"Matt Jones should be able to build on a good rookie season because he’s a big, physical downhill runner who fits what Jay Gruden wants at running back."
"Bill Callahan’s value as offensive line coach was apparent with the improvement of (RT) Morgan Moses and (LG) Spencer Long and quick development of Brandon Scherff at right guard."
"Ryan Kerrigan and a healthy Junior Galette [Editor’s note: Galette tore his Achilles tendon prior to the start of the training camp and is out for the season] should generate some noise in the pass rush."
"Josh Norman really filled the need for a No. 1 cornerback and allowed them to focus on another area early in the draft, which they did when they took wide receiver Josh Doctson in Round 1."
"I’ve got my doubts about the safeties because DeAngelo Hall doesn’t really hit people and his range is getting less expansive while David Bruton and Duke Ihenacho are essentially the same player — great on special teams but not great in coverage."
"Su’a Cravens may be an option but I’m not a huge fan. Some people say he could be a Deone Bucannon-type as a safety/linebacker hybrid but I don’t see it in this guy.”