Twelve years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles finished 13-3 to claim their fourth straight NFC East crown. Since then, each team in the division has managed to win it, but none of them have done it in consecutive seasons.
Be it injuries to key players, Super Bowl hangovers or bad free agency decisions coupled with poor drafts, most of the division champs from the previous season had a difficult time securing a winning record, let alone another division crown. For the first time in 14 years, however, it appears that the stars may have aligned just right, and the 2015 NFC East winning Washington Redskins have a legitimate shot at taking the top spot for a second straight year.
While some of their chances have to do with their own offseason moves and culture being built at Redskins Park (more on that later), the current state of the other three teams in the division is also a big factor.
While the Dallas Cowboys are the “safe” pick to win the division with the return of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, and the addition of first-round pick Ezekiel Elliott, they certainly aren’t a lock to go from worst to first. Romo hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2012, and even if Bryant stays healthy and Elliott is a beast on the ground, the ‘Boys may not even be able to field a competent defense thanks to suspensions of several key players.
The New York Giants look good on paper with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. leading the offense and a defense built through a break-the-bank free agency approach (spending more than $105 million on three players), but there are still a lot of question marks with them. Can those new players live up to their contracts? Can the unit gel quickly? And will new Head Coach Ben McAdoo get more out of Eli Manning than Tom Coughlin was able to the last few seasons?
Then you have the last team to accomplish the apparent daunting task of winning this division in consecutive years in The Philadelphia Eagles. Talk about a mess. They either have three starting quarterbacks in Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel and first-round pick Carson Wentz, or they have a QB with a confidence problem (Bradford), a career backup who looks good in short stretches (Daniel) and a draft pick from a small school who has to make a big jump to be ready for the pro game (Wentz). In other words, they don’t really have any. There are questions surrounding all the ability of most skill players on offense and everyone on defense not named Fletcher Cox or Malcolm Jenkins.
That leaves defending division champ Washington. They have a potential franchise quarterback under contract. They have offensive skill players that former GM Charley Casserly thinks could be the best in the league and others seem to agree that the unit has potency. They have a defense that should be improved with the return of a healthy Ryan Kerrigan and the emergence of second-year pass rusher Preston Smith; and they also added arguably the best cornerback in the league.
While the Redskins aren’t without concerns, they appear to have fewer questions, better team chemistry and less obstacles standing between them and a division crown. Sounds like a recipe for success, and the first team in more than a decade to repeat as NFC East champs.
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