NFC East breakdown
September 3, 2012Eastern Indiana Sports
The NFC East has three of the league’s most talented quarterbacks—Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Michael Vick—and it might be welcoming another in rookie Robert Griffin III. This is the only division that’s home to two coaches (Tom Coughlin and Mike Shanahan) who have won multiple Super Bowls, and Andy Reid has an impressive resume himself.
The New York Giants won it all last season, and the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins went to great lengths to get better this offseason. Only one game separated New York from Dallas and Philadelphia in 2011, and it wouldn’t be surprising if whoever comes out of that trio makes the Super Bowl this season. With Griffin, Washington hopes it’s not too far behind.
The big questions
Will the Giants be able to hold off the competition? Let’s start with the known: Barring injury, New York’s standout strengths—Manning’s passing and the front four pass rush—already have it at a championship level. Better health and an improved secondary will be vital in maintaining the Giants’ edge; both of those became issues when projected starting corner Terrell Thomas injured his knee at the beginning of training camp. They’ll also have to maintain their focus. Last time they won the Super Bowl, after the 2007 season, they followed it with a division title but then were beaten soundly by the rival Eagles in the divisional playoffs.
Will lower expectations put the Eagles at ease? They entered last season as the Dream Team, but the fact they share a division with the reigning Super Bowl champions should have them refocused. They have the talent. Vick said this offseason that the Eagles have the potential to be a dynasty; he needs to be the one to move them in that direction.
Can the Cowboys put all their pieces together? Romo is getting older. Jerry Jones is getting antsier. There remains a lot of talent in Dallas, but the clock is ticking for the team’s current core to win a championship. Offensively, familiar faces such as Romo and Jason Witten will get help from dynamic second-year back DeMarco Murray. Defensively, rookie corner Morris Claiborne will provide a spark. An injection of youth is what the team needed to find life as a contender.
How much will Robert Griffin III impact the Redskins as a rookie? The team swept the Giants last season, even with a mess at quarterback, but the Redskins didn’t do much outside of that. Griffin is a quick player and a fast learner, but even with his jaw-dropping passing and running abilities, it will take him a while to live up to the hype. Still, he should help narrow the considerable gap between the Redskins and the other three teams in the division.
Is this the league’s toughest division? Yes. It always gets that kind of pub because of the big-market, high-profile teams that play in the East, but it’s warranted. There are loaded rosters, Super Bowl-credentialed coaches and high-profile owners. The Giants and Eagles have been tough to topple because they’re so well-run, but the Cowboys and Redskins will hold their own.