Can any team in the division match up against the defending champs? Scouts size up the Cowboys, Eagles, Giants and Redskins
Philadelphia is the reigning Super Bowl champion and the Eagles will be tough to dethrone in the NFC East, especially if Carson Wentz is able to pick up where he left off before tearing his ACL in Week 14 last season. But don't forget he shares a quarterback room with a Super Bowl MVP.
Elsewhere in the division, Dallas will look different on offense with no Dez Bryant or Jason Witten catching passes from Dak Prescott. Eli Manning is still running the Giants' offense, but he'll have a new running back and left tackle as New York looks to bounce back behind new head coach Pat Shurmur. Washington and Kirk Cousins finally parted ways, as the Redskins traded for Alex Smith and hope the playoff-tested veteran can help lead this team to the postseason.
In order to get an accurate assessment of how the NFC East looks entering the 2018 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.
"As many anticipated, with a distracted and unavailable Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys were not the same team nor was Dak Prescott the same quarterback in 2017. Prescott was not as accurate or as safe with the football."
"Arguably, the best players on their team include three offensive linemen, none of whom handles the ball. [Guard] Zack Martin performs at an extremely high level, as do [center] Travis Frederick and [tackle] Tyron Smith, when he’s healthy."
"Prescott was forced to make a ton of tight-window throws because neither Jason Witten nor Dez Bryant could get much separation. Witten, after an amazingly consistent career, now heads to the broadcast booth, and Bryant was released."
"Terrance Williams is no more than a No. 3 receiver, but so is Cole Beasley as a slot, so draft picks Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz will have tons of pressure to produce."
"[Defensive end] Demarcus Lawrence is under the franchise tag because he is a game-changer."
"The Cowboys lost [linebacker] Anthony Hitchens and released Orlando Scandrick during free agency, so the hope is that both Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith can stay healthy. Leighton Vander Esch is a prospect with huge potential. Blessed with length, speed and instincts, he is versatile enough to play inside or outside in this 4-3 scheme."
"Their three rookies in the secondary held up well last year -- Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods all flashed legit NFL ability."
"If Elliott can stay on the field, their sub-standard set of skill players might have a chance, and while the frontline talent at other positions is good enough to compete for the division, they are really an 8-8 kind of team."
"The Giants had a Murphy’s Law kind of season in 2017 and both head coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese were shown the door in January. Enter Pat Shurmur and Dave Gettleman, and together they have to figure out how much longer Eli Manning can play effectively and how to fix an embattled offensive line."
"When they signed Nate Solder to a big deal, that signaled their belief in Eli to be their QB for at least '18 and '19."
"The Solder signing will allow them to get Ereck Flowers moved from the left to the right side of the line, which might help him be a better player. Weston Richburg left for San Francisco and Justin Pugh departed to Arizona, so they were fortunate to get [guard] Will Hernandez in the second round. He is a powerhouse on the inside and should be able to secure the bottom of the pocket for Manning."
"Saquon Barkley is good enough to make the entire line better -- he’s that talented and should be a huge difference-maker for them."
"The defensive front was not really their problem as [Damon] Snacks Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul all turned in solid campaigns, but the linebackers were a mess, and the secondary had an up-and-down campaign."
"Alec Ogletree is an upgrade as a three-down linebacker."
"Landon Collins is a tremendous football player, but they let Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie walk, and Eli Apple is no lock to step in as a starter."
"With the addition of Barkley and Solder being added as the left tackle, if Manning stays upright, the Giants could have an efficient turnaround. Otherwise, they might be in for a long rebuilding era."
"The improvement of the Eagles happened at warp speed when you consider the performance of head coach Doug Pederson and his team. They added tough-minded players and more speed to their defense and continued to build around Carson Wentz. Incredibly, they overcame the loss of Wentz and [tackle] Jason Peters on offense and then turned to Nick Foles for their magical finish."
"On paper, little will change with the roster."
"Peters will return to his position, while Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson all played at a high level in 2017."
"Zach Ertz took a step back in performance last season, so the selection of [tight end] Dallas Goedert made a ton of sense."
"They moved on from Torrey Smith and signed Mike Wallace, but Alshon Jeffery was inked to an extension, and Nelson Agholor finally took a big step forward in reaching his potential."
"The Eagles stole one in the Jay Ajayi trade, and Corey Clement went from undrafted free agent to significant contributor as a rookie."
"They couldn’t hold on to Vinny Curry, so he signed with the Bucs, but they did ink Michael Bennett, so only time will tell if his personality can fit in with this locker room."
"Nigel Bradham was an important re-signing for them."
"Sidney Jones should challenge Jalen Mills for the starting corner spot opposite Ronald Darby, but regardless, Philadelphia has plenty of pass rushers combined with plenty of cover people."
"And, oh by the way, Wentz returns after his MVP-level season was cut short by injury."
"GM Howie Roseman has this team set up to contend for multiple Super Bowls over the next decade."
"Bruce Allen and Co. pulled a rabbit out of the proverbial hat when they agreed to a trade for Alex Smith from Kansas City as the replacement for Kirk Cousins. The Cousins saga couldn’t end soon enough for the Redskins because they were never convinced that he was an elite player. Smith should fit well with the Jay Gruden offense, but he needs a better run game."
"On sheer ability, they were lucky when Derrius Guice was available in the second round, but reported off-field concerns precipitated his drop."
"They signed Paul Richardson, but they still hope Josh Doctson can emerge as their No. 1 receiver. Jamison Crowder has quietly put together a quality career and is reliable in the slot."
"The offensive line has two top-flight performers in Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff, but questions remain at the other spots."
"When Jordan Reed is healthy, he is a big-time talent, but that has not been very often, and he’s missed way too much time in his career."
"Defensively, Washington is better on paper than on the field, but Ryan Kerrigan continues to play at a high level. He is one of the more underrated players in the league."
"The linebackers are suspect in the box, but Preston Smith is reliable, never misses a game and has a bunch of sacks."
"D.J. Swearinger played surprisingly well in 2017, and they are hoping Orlando Scandrick has something left in the tank after arriving from Dallas."
"If Smith delivers and the run defense improves, they could better last year’s 7-9 mark, but not by much. I don’t think this is a playoff team."