NFC East preview

Ethan Sample

Sport’s Blogger

@ethanjsample

With the lack of a running game and a weak defense, Washington will struggle in the NFC East this season. (Keith Allison, Flickr)
With the lack of a running game and a weak defense, Washington will struggle in the NFC East this season.
(Keith Allison, Flickr)

Washington Redskins

After scraping their way to have a winning record at 9-7, the Redskins shouldn’t be proud of their total performance. Offensively, the ball will revolve around quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins played well, racking up 4,166 passing yards and a 69.8 percent completion rate. Therefore, it’s safe to say the Redskins are going to pass the ball a lot. With pass-catchers such as Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder, it’s possible to have a good pass game. While the passing game was strong, Washington didn’t fair so well running the ball, and it seems it has done little to improve on it. Washington’s defense was ranked 12th out of 16 in the NFC. The Redskins will struggle to run the ball successfully, but they can be a team that can beat you through the air. Defensively, the Redskins may prove to be weak.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles’ 7-9 record is something they will try to correct this season. Quarterback Sam Bradford, who threw for 3,725 yards and 19 touchdowns, will lead the Philadelphia offense. The offensive line must improve. It allowed Bradford to be sacked 28 times last season. With the release of running back DeMarco Murray, the Eagles will look to throw the ball more. Running backs Darren Sproles and Ryan Matthews, who rushed for a combined 856 yards last season, will form a dynamic tag team behind the line of scrimmage. Tight end Zach Ertz and receiver Jordan Matthews will be at the forefront of the passing game. Also, the signing of receiver Reuben Randle will be interesting. The defense finished the season with a 14th overall defensive rank and is looking to improve from last year’s struggle. With the return of some of its better playmakers, such as safety Malcom Jenkins and linebacker Mychal Kendricks, the defense hopes to shore up the pass and rush defense this season.

New York Giants

It is clear that being ranked as the league’s worst defense had a part to play in how the season turned out for the Giants. The Giants will attempt to correct the direction of a secondary unit that allowed  420.3 yards of offense a game. Drafting cornerback Eli Apple of Ohio State in the first round was a start. Offensively, it will be exciting to see how receiver Sterling Shepard plays. Eli Manning will command the offense and target receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham, who hauled in 1,451 yards last season. He is expected to have another good season. On the ground, the Giants will continue to feed running back Rashad Jennings. If the offensive line can protect Manning, the Giants’ offense will be great. The offensive line allowed 27 sacks and generated only 4.4 yards per carry last season. Expect the Giants to have a good pass game and exceptional pass defense this season.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys’ 4-12 record can be looked at negatively or positively. The Cowboys were 3-1 when Tony Romo started under center last season. As long as he can stay healthy, Dallas has reason for optimism this season. Romo will look to target tight end Jason Witten, and receivers Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams. The Cowboys also hope to spice up their run game with first round draft pick Ezekiel Elliot. Defensively, the Cowboys were ranked ninth in the NFC last season. Safety Barry Church and linebacker Sean Lee look to lead the defense again this year. Expect a strong run game from Elliot, and if Romo stays healthy, a productive offense.

ozone@ocolly.com

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