The NFL’s worst division has plenty of new kids – and coaches – on the block.
It still might not translate into much more success in 2020.
After combining for only 24 wins last season, the NFC East got three new coaches: Mike McCarthy (Cowboys), Ron Rivera (Redskins) and Joe Judge (Giants).
The division remains a two-team race between Dallas and reigning champion Philadelphia, but rebuilding New York and Washington are improving.
The Eagles, who edged the Cowboys with a 9-7 record last season, have the most stability. Coach Doug Pederson enters his fifth season with a Super Bowl victory, two NFC East crowns and three straight playoff appearances on his resume.
Philadelphia added speed in the draft, selecting receiver Jalen Reagor in the first round and John Hightower and Quez Watkins on Day 3. The Eagles addressed a big need once free agency opened by acquiring three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay from Detroit.
“When I look at our football team, when I look at the depth of our football team, and see where we are right now, it’s exciting,” says Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ personnel boss. “We have a good football team, and we can’t wait to get started.”
The Cowboys have the most talented offense in the division following the selection of Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb, who fell to pick No. 17, and re-signing Amari Cooper to a $100 million contract. Dallas lost cornerback Byron Jones in free agency, replaced him with second-round pick Trevon Diggs, a guy many mock drafts had the team taking in the first round.
The Giants, coming off a 4-12 season, beefed up their offensive line in the draft to give Daniel Jones more protection and open bigger holes for Saquon Barkley. They chose tackle Andrew Thomas at No. 4 overall, tackle Matt Peart in the third round, and guard Shane Lemieux in the fifth. New York upgraded its defense in free agency by signing cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez, placing a franchise tag on defensive tackle Leonard Williams and an unrestricted free agent tender on edge rusher Markus Golden.
The Redskins had an easy choice with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. Defensive end Chase Young joins the team’s three previous first-round picks on the line. Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne give Washington a front four that could be one of the league’s best for years. They’ll help keep the team close, but the offense has to catch up.
NO QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY
The most surprising and already most scrutinized pick of the draft among NFC East members belonged to Philadelphia. Despite other needs, the Eagles selected quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round. Carson Wentz is in his prime and received a contract extension with $108 million guaranteed last year, so Hurts isn’t coming in to challenge for a starting spot.
But the Eagles know the importance of having a talented backup. Nick Foles led the team to its first Super Bowl title after Wentz was injured in 2017, and a playoff victory after Wentz went down in 2018. Wentz carried an injury-depleted offense to the playoffs last year before suffering a concussion in the first quarter of a wild-card loss to Seattle. He was replaced by 40-year-old Josh McCown, who played through a torn hamstring and didn’t have Foles’ magic.
Dak Prescott has plenty of weapons around him and a coach who won a Super Bowl. All he needs is a new contract. The Cowboys put the franchise tag on Prescott while they try to agree on a long-term deal. They also drafted a potential understudy in quarterback Ben DiNucci and traded up for center Tyler Biadasz. Lamb joins Cooper and Michael Gallup, who had more than 1,100 yards receiving apiece last season.
YOU BE THE JUDGE
The most important addition the Giants made was hiring Judge, who has never run a team at the college or NFL level, but worked under Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. Judge won three Super Bowls with New England in eight years as an assistant and two titles at Alabama with Saban. The 38-year-old Judge has a tough task with a team that has won 12 games in the last three seasons. He’s got cornerstone players on offense in Jones, Barkley and Thomas.
The Redskins have had more head coaches (seven) than playoff appearances (five) in Daniel Snyder’s two decades of ownership. Counting on Rivera to help them end their run of futility isn’t a big gamble. Rivera spent the past nine seasons coaching the Panthers, and led them to four playoff appearances, including the Super Bowl in 2015. Rivera’s defense is stacked up front. It’s up to QB Dwayne Haskins, assuming he beats out veteran Kyle Allen, to lead the offense.
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