Is Dallas ready to make a run at a Super Bowl? Scouts size up the Cowboys, Eagles, Giants and Redskins
The NFC East is shaping up to be a two-team race between Dallas and Philadelphia as the other two teams are going through rebuilds of varying degrees. The Cowboys are the defending division champions and have all of their key pieces back, but there are contract situations to address and this is a team with plenty of room for improvement. The Eagles are just a season separated from winning the Super Bowl and after undergoing some roster retooling this offseason they could be poised to make another championship run, provided Carson Wentz stays healthy.
The New York Giants and Washington Redskins both made significant moves in the offseason but are probably still be a year or two away from contending. Both teams drafted quarterbacks in the first round in Daniel Jones (Giants) and Dwayne Haskins (Redskins), but while Washington may be ready to throw its rookie signal-caller out there, New York doesn't seem eager to move on from Eli Manning just yet.
In order to get an accurate assessment of how the NFC East looks entering the 2019 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.
"With a healthy and fully focused Zeke Elliott, this team is a division winner; if he is not that way, then they are 8–8. In 2018, he ran for 1,434 yards and six touchdowns, while catching 77 passes and another three scores, which led to 10 wins and a division crown."
"You can argue that Dak Prescott played better overall in his third year as he increased his completion percentage (67.7) and threw only eight interceptions."
"Scott Linehan is out and Kellen Moore is in as the play-caller, so look for a controlled passing game with the ability to launch the football vertically."
"Jerry Jones and Co. gave up a No. 1 pick for Amari Cooper, and they are hoping his 53 receptions and six touchdowns was a preview of the future."
"Jason Witten returns from TV and will add the intangibles of leadership and preparation, but in no way does he run well enough to threaten a defense down the seam."
"Rod Marinelli does an amazing job with the D. Demarcus Lawrence signed a huge deal, and they traded for Robert Quinn (Dolphins) to shore up their pass rush, but wow, has Taco Charlton been a flop. He's too leggy and not twitched up enough to be effective."
"Jaylon Smith has made an incredible comeback as a multi-dimensional player. Sean Lee's health is always in question (only started five games in 2018), and Leighton Vander Esch proved to be a wise choice as a first-rounder."
"Byron Jones became a Pro Bowler with the move to cornerback, and Xavier Woods has bonafide NFL safety ability."
"It's a two-horse race in the East between the Cowboys and Eagles."
"The signing of Nate Solder and drafting of Saquon Barkley a year ago told everyone in the NFL that GM Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur believed they could win now while getting another two to three seasons from Eli Manning. Then, they traded Odell Beckham Jr. in March, after they extended him last August, and followed that up by selecting Duke QB Daniel Jones at No. 6. So are they now rebuilding? It's hard to tell."
"Eli is capable on designed plays, but he struggles without a clean pocket and off-script."
"The offensive line should be improved with Kevin Zeitler added at right guard, but they still need a better answer at right tackle."
"Evan Engram is their vertical threat in the middle of the field and on his way to being a star player, while Sterling Shepard and free agent Golden Tate should be able to work the underbelly of the defense." [Editor's note: Shepard broke his thumb early in training camp and may not be ready come Week 1 while Tate is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.]
"Their bigger issues are on defense where they finished near the bottom of the league in sacks. They drafted Dexter Lawrence from Clemson on the inside, and he will mix in with B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson. Other than Lorenzo Carter (four sacks and 10 QB hurries), their rush potential is meager."
"Janoris Jenkins has skills, but focus has always been a question mark, so they drafted Deandre Baker in the first round and Julian Love in the fourth. I think they will regret moving on from Landon Collins, who ended up in the division with Washington."
"It's hard to say they aren't half-in/half-out on starting over, but with Jones on board, at least they have their QB of the future in place."
"The Eagles tried to hold on to the success of 2017 by not tinkering with the roster very much; unfortunately, the post-Super Bowl letdown occurred when they wobbled through much of the season before trying to push the gas pedal in December."
"Nick Foles moves on to Jacksonville, but GM Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson are totally sold on the abilities and leadership of Carson Wentz. With Wentz still on his rookie deal, they know a transition is ahead for their roster with regard to contracts. Still, it has to be concerning that injuries have ended his first two seasons."
"They love Zach Ertz and for good reason. With his 116 receptions and eight touchdowns, he has been machine-like."
"The Golden Tate experiment was a miss, but Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and DeSean Jackson represent lots of variety."
"They traded for Jordan Howard and will have Corey Clement and Josh Adams in support roles."
"The OL is in excellent shape after they chose tackle Andre Dillard in the first round."
"Fletcher Cox is a dominant NFL player but needs more help from a healthy Derek Barnett and re-signed vet Brandon Graham. Roseman values pass rush, so while they traded Michael Bennett to the Patriots, he added Malik Jackson from the Jaguars and brought back Vinny Curry and Chris Long."
"It's make-or-break time for Sidney Jones, and Ronald Darby has to stay healthy in 2019, but Avonte Maddox was a pleasant surprise as a fourth-round pick."
"This division comes down to the Eagles and Cowboys and most likely will be decided by the health of Wentz."
"Personnel-wise, this is clearly the least talented team in the division."
"With the tragic injury to Alex Smith, they traded for Case Keenum and then drafted Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins."
"Keenum and his 26–28 record as a starter is a perfect match for his new team (31–32–1 since 2015). Haskins may get a chance to win the job in training camp, but he is especially young at the position."
"They are hopeful that Derrius Guice can return to his college form and become the focal point of their offense."
"The wide receiver group is a total mess with them still waiting on Josh Doctson to become a No. 1. Paul Richardson was a free agent washout, and Jamison Crowder exited to the Jets during free agency."
"Jordan Reed is their best offensive player, and he managed 54 catches despite missing three more games."
"The OL is adequate because of former first-rounders Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff." [Editor's note: Williams has yet to report to training camp because of a contract dispute with the team.]
"The defensive line is their best unit. Ryan Kerrigan has racked up 84.5 sacks in eight seasons and is finally getting his due outside the league's pro scouts. They bolted back into the first round for defensive end Montez Sweat, a freakish tester."
"Landon Collins was their big free agency splash when he signed for $45 million guaranteed. While he is an explosive hitter, his coverage tailed off in 2018 after he had posted eight interceptions in the previous three seasons. Can't imagine Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie having much left."
"I'm expecting that the Redskins take a step backwards and finish with less than six wins."