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Six Things About the NFC East

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Formerly the “NFC Beast,” the NFC East has been closer to the “NFC Least” thus far this year. Each team has played terrible football for long stretches of the season and it doesn’t appear like any team really wants or deserves to win this division.

The Dallas Cowboys are hopeless because of the rash of injuries to their star quarterback Tony Romo. The Philadelphia Eagles alternate from being ready to fire head coach Chip Kelly to beating the New England Patriots. The New York Giants are as inconsistent as they come and the Washington Redskins are terrible when they aren’t at home.

For years, the NFC East was home to the most competitive division in the NFL; however, this season the only discernable competition has to do with which team will have the highest pick in the NFL draft.

With that in mind, let’s take a look about six things you should know about the NFC East.

Chip Kelly Has A Great Scheme, But He Is A Terrible Talent Evaluator

If the Eagles were in any other division, they would have no shot at making the playoffs; however, in the NFC East, they are tied for the lead in the division with a good shot of making the playoffs. Coming into this season, the Eagles were thought to be a team contending for the NFC crown and possibly the Super Bowl; nevertheless, it has become abundantly clear that the Eagles are devoid of any  real talent outside of the front seven on defense.

That falls squarely on the shoulders of Kelly, who is responsible for coaching and acquiring the talent for the franchise. The decisions to part ways with LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and Evan Mathis, plus the acquisition of players like DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell have crippled the Eagles from a talent perspective.

The only reason the Eagles are 5-7 and not 2-10 is because of how great of a coach Kelly is scheme wise. He is still on the cutting edge offensively and his front seven on defense is good enough to get them wins. Sam Bradford is an inept quarterback, but Kelly somehow makes him look decent at times.

For the Eagles future, the best course of action would be to take away the general manager duties from Kelly and allow him to just focus on being a head coach.

The New York Giants Need A Pass Rush In The Worst Way

The New York Giants’ offense has been extremely explosive for most of the year, which should be good enough for them to at least be hovering around .500. However, the defense has been their Achilles heel for the entire season. The primary reason that side of the ball has been so inept is because of their lack of pass rush.

As a team, the Giants only have 15 sacks, which ranks them second to last in the NFL. This puts a ton of pressure on the linebackers and secondary in coverage. Also, this allows teams to open up their passing playbooks and utilize longer developing pass plays that are supposed to stretch the field more.

A pass rush is a great equalizer for a team with an average secondary, but the Giants’ lack of pass rush, only exacerbates the problems they have on the back end of their defense.

The Giants’ offense gives them the opportunity to win any game, but their defense is the reason why they will lose more than they should.

Time For The Dallas Cowboys To Find Tony Romo’s Heir

If there is one thing you can take from the Cowboys’ season, it is that they are not prepared for life without Tony Romo, which may be coming quicker than many expected. Even when Romo was healthy, he threw for just five touchdowns and seven interceptions and he never really looked himself other then small glimpses of brilliance.

With all the injuries Romo has suffered, whether it’s his back, ribs or collarbone, you have to wonder if he is one the same path as Peyton Manning. Even if he isn’t and he does have a couple good seasons left, it is time for the Cowboys to find his heir.

The Cowboys go about doing this in a couple of ways. First they could grab a young quarterback who is on the outs with his current team. Players like Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel could be available this offseason and they all have the talent to be very good quarterbacks in the NFL.

The other option is to look into the draft where they could have their pick of the litter at quarterback, depending on their draft position.

Whoever the Cowboys acquire will at least sit for a year, which will give them ample time to develop that player and get him accustomed to their system.

Whatever the case is, it’s time to look for the next great Cowboys quarterback.

Kirk Cousins Has Been Pretty Good

There was a lot made about the benching of Robert Griffin III during the preseason, but it appears as though the switch to Kirk Cousins has been a good one. Cousins has been able to maximize the Redskins’ offensive output by playing to their strengths.

The Redskins are a team that looks to establish the run, which makes play-action an extremely important variable for Washington. Cousins has been the best quarterback in the NFL on play-action, which has allowed the Redskins to move the ball, despite a ton of talent on offense.

Now, Cousins has still had his fair share of struggles, particularly on the road, but the fact that the Redskins are tied for first place in the NFC East, no matter how bad the division has been, is truly remarkable.

Cousins epitomizes the idea that he isn’t a quarterback you want to build around, but he is a quarterback that you can win with behind center.

Dallas’ Offensive Line Haven’t Lived Up To Expectations, But They’re Still Really Good

Before the season, the Cowboys’ offensive line were thought to be good enough that it didn’t matter who was at running back, they would be productive regardless. 12 games into the season and it has become apparent that isn’t the case. The Cowboys ranked 16th in rushing, which isn’t even close to where they should be with the talent on their offensive line.

Despite those facts, the Cowboys offensive line has been one of the best in the NFL. Tyron Smith is the highest graded offensive tackle, Travis Frederick is the highest graded center, Zack Martin is in the top-five graded guards and the offensive line as a whole is second in pass-blocking efficiency, which measures pressure allowed on a per-snap basis with weighting toward sacks allowed, per Pro Football Focus.

Despite some lapses, Smith has been one of the better offensive tackles in football this year. He has been the most dominant run-blocking tackle and he has good in pass protection. La’el Collins has had his struggles, but he has shown flashes of greatness with his power and nasty demeanor. Frederick has been the most consistent player on the offensive line as he has consistently played at a high level all year. Zack Martin has continued to be the best young guard in football while Doug Free has been up and down throughout the year.

The Cowboys have one of the youngest offensive lines in football that just so happens to be one of the best as well. They have a bright future together and they will make it easier on whoever  the Cowboys transition to when Romo is out of the picture.

The Philadelphia Eagles Have The Best Shot To Win A Game In The Playoffs

In reality, none of the teams in the NFC East deserve to go to the playoffs. They have all been bad and awful to watch for most of this season, but if there was one team who could win a playoff game, it would be the Eagles.

The Eagles showcased this with their win against the New England Patriots, the favorite to win the AFC. Fletcher Cox and the Eagles front seven is good enough to dominate opponents for stretches of games. Furthermore, if the Eagles offense plays well early and gets hot, they can score with the best of them.

Darren Sproles is a game-changer on offense and special teams and he can make a handful of plays that can change a game in the Eagles favor.

The Eagles have been extremely inconsistent this season and they likely won’t win a playoff game if they do make it that far, but they do have the best chance, which tells you a lot about the “NFC Least.”


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com