Preparing For War: The NFC East Shootout
Preparing for war:
The NFC east SHOOTOUT
There was never any love to begin with. In the environment that has been laid out before they arrived, the NFC East has been a battleground within its own confines. The passion is real, the Vet is real! Stars everywhere you can see, while others hail to a chief in the capitol. A gift from the French overlooks the division position wise, but over the last 5 years the same duck-hunt has been taking place. The hate isn't discriminate; its pure, natural and has been set in by deep wounds. Who can forget Desean Jackson torching the New York Giants off of a punt return late? Or snowballs being thrown at a Santa, only to see them prosper into a Super Bowl Champion? The Giants saving the NFL, by beating an undefeated team in the Super Bowl? Or a wide right kick to win another versus a great AFC opponent? Riggins hair, The Hogs, Gibbs; many powerful moments make a division the way it's seen and what it truly is.
The "NFC Least" has become the recent moniker due to not only record, but expectations unsuccessful. Though recent record shows that the NFC East hasn't met up to competition outside of the division, inside that path you'll find pure angst and dislike. But very few of these encounters, were low scoring affairs. The division has retooled. New toys at wideouts to Predators on the edge, rushing you. Some have hired shields and vests. There are many different ways to prepare for a shootout. Are the G-Men the first to rise, or are the natives clever enough to surprise the bird and the Cowboy in future duels. The grip at the top of this division is not as strong as you think, and no one in this division stays down and out forever. But when will the landscape of change occur; just look at the new crop of players inside the East. Besides impact, these players will make a statement.
The Dallas Cowboys carry the burden of being America's team. With over 20 years of failed expectations, a new dawn has risen. Unsigned quarterback Dak Prescott is the general on the field blessed with the burden of leading this high-powered offense to the next level. Armed with a $20 million dollar man in Amari Cooper, and bequeathed with a monster from Richmond Texas, in a future star with Cee Dee Lamb, one can sometimes forget that Micheal Gallup is often the forgotten man in this offense. Yet some like myself believe that he's due for a breakout; he is quite underrated on a team full of elite athletes. Blake Jarwin finally gets his time to finally shine as he now withholds the starting tight end role due to the departure of Jason Witten to Las Vegas. Tony Pollard from Memphis is more than capable of handling the rushing load. Last year he gained 455 rushing yards and 107 yards receiving in a secondary role behind the multi-time NFL leading rusher. Ezekiel Elliott is a freak; he contributed 1,777 yards of total offense last year. A combination of power and speed out of Ohio State; he secured his bounty last year, and makes Prescott's job a little easier inside of the division. New Coach Mike McCarthy wants to take this process a day at a time, and revive the dominance the Lone Star State once had on this division. Reinvigorated from his separation with the Green Bay Packers, he's been given the keys to a media Maserati. There are some question marks in the secondary of this defense, but another showdown has reared its ugly head amongst the soap opera that is the Dallas Cowboys; the addition of a rifle can shake up a power struggle between an underpaid quarterback and a prime financial organization. Andy Dalton, recently cut by Cincinnati, brings stability and constant horsepower to this offensive juggernaut. Was this a power move from Jerry Jones and the franchise, or is Jones just ahead of the curve with changing times?
Fly Eagles fly is what any true Philadelphian would say. With a recent and long-awaited Super Bowl and a playoff appearance 3 of the last 4 years, the Eagles have addressed their major flaw; the secondary. Darius Slay gets a fresh start in the NFC & Fletcher Cox is still the man in the trenches wreaking havoc. The defense looks to improve on a subpar performance last year. The offense is unique; with second and third stringers who can ball if necessary, Alshon Jeffrey, Desean Jackson and Arcega-Whiteside will be joined by a Horned Frog with the presence of Steve Smith. Jalen Raegor is a special wide receiver, albeit the option that was available in a wide receiver heavy draft. The bandits at tight end are arguably the best in the league. Dallas Goedert is a starter waiting in the wings if the All-Pro Zach Ertz were to ever stop being so reliable. In a down year, Ertz still posted superior tight end numbers among his many peers. The backfield has been a bit murky, but has seemed to find an identity with the Penn State product Miles Sanders. Boston Scott and Corey Clement compliment Sanders in the running game, and the addition of Adrian Killins from UCF guarantees explosions if Doug Pederson can use him properly. This team thrives on adversity and drama, but much has been said about their recent second round selection of Jalen Hurts. The quarterback from Alabama/Oklahoma is a bona fide starter if given the chance; and could possibly be the swiss army knife for an offense that could be potent with the proper pieces in place. Is Hurts a threat to Carson Wentz? That remains up to Carson Wentz. While Wentz does have a notion to get injured, when healthy he is still a top 10 choice in the league at the position. With the upcoming 17 game schedule looming, a dual quarterback system could be the winds of change in the NFL; having a viable backup isn't a burden but a blessing. The $100 million dollar man now knows that his replacement will be ready and willing to prove himself to the Philly faithful. Losing Jason Peters on the line may hurt, but it is up to Jason Kelce to show leadership upon protecting the franchise asset. Though the records of the past won't show it, this roster is capable of beating any team on any given Sunday.
The Washington Redskins have been at or near the bottom of the division for far too long. Not having the issues as far as championships like their rivals the Eagles, the obstacles facing the nation's capital team were immense. A severed fanbase, an authoritative working environment, a medical staff that has lost the players trust, and a coaching staff that was inept. To say it nicely, changes needed to be made. With open doors, enter in the gambler known as Ron Rivera. Washington didn't lock him out of the building, and allowed Rivera to be the face of change for a team that has been an after-thought competition wise since the horrific injury to Alex Smith. The quarterback carousel has allegedly been solved; the 2019 selection of Dwayne Haskins has brought vitriol and animosity amongst many Redskin faithful. In his few starts last year, under Gruden he suffered; interceptions, bad play selection and sloppy play on both sides of the ball made Haskins an easy target. Once Jay Gruden was fired, Haskins started to show promise. Often an after thought, or the reason for debates among Redskin faithful, Haskins is a fire rod. Recent talks of a new quarterback taking over have been doused by Rivera, and his commitment to the restoration of the Redskins brand of football. His word is a promise to media and players alike, and the selection of Chase Young is just one of many changes to the Redskin defense. Montez Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, Reuben Foster and Jonathan Allen will bring a different taste of pain to opposing quarterbacks. Adding Kendall Fuller with Landon Collins mends a struggling secondary, and the wily experience of 16 year veteran Thomas Davis Sr. brings much needed knowledge to a mostly young team. Other than Ryan Kerrigan with 10 years out of Purdue, the defense is relatively young.
In order to reclaim a division, you have to acquire the proper weapons, and guard yourself from falling behind on ammunition. The running back room is crowded. Adrian Peterson is a hall of famer who can still produce, as he leads an extremely talented group. Derrius Guice has to prove that he can stay healthy, Bryce Love is a secret weapon if he could find a niche in this offense, but the draft selection of Antonio Gibson has brought mutli-dimensional options, a vest if you will, to the offense. A time bomb for big plays, Gibson could be the future at the position of running back or receiver. Speaking of receiver, the Ohio State Buckeye who was outshined in college by Parris Campbell has already made a name for himself in the league. The 32nd ranked wide receiver last year had 3 games over 100 yards receiving while only recovering a handful of targets. 7 touchdowns and 919 yards is not to blink at for a rookie; but one man can't do it alone. The Liberty Flames phenom Antonio Gandy-Golden is destined to be the difference maker Josh Doctson was supposed to become. The 6'4 220 pound matchup nightmare shows amazing promise; amassing 2,433 yards and 20 touchdowns in two seasons collegiately. His ability to win 50/50 balls will help Dwayne Haskins go downfield and take more chances. The receiving core, including Cody Latimer, is young and raw. Cam Sims and Kelvin Harmon look to exert their role into the rotation of offensive production. Other than Steven Sims and Jonathon Johnson, the rookie out of Missouri, all of the receivers are 6'0 or taller. The son of a hall of famer, LSU's Thaddeus Moss aims to become the security blanket at tight end that Haskins desperately needs.
The dirt that that has been thrown at or towards Dwayne Haskins already has a back log. Doubts from the fans, sports analyst and pundits have already dubbed the Ohio State product a bust. Undeserving of some of the criticism, the maturation process will be monitored closely by all; can Haskins take that next step to win over the Washington faithful? Hand picked by Daniel Snyder, expectations have been strapped to Haskins back since his arrival. Is the rest of the division sleeping on Washington's eventual potential, or is the basement the home for the dysfunctional franchise looking to restore dominance?
Gun fights can't exist without multiple bullets. Dave Gettleman has a history of taking shots. Not only at his opponents, but at players as well. Since leaving Carolina, he has constructed a roster full of questions and strange answers. The selection of Daniel Jones over Dwayne Haskins only adds gasoline in the Redskin/ Giant rivalry. Arguably the best running back in the league, Saquon Barkley is looking to improve his numbers, play, and status in the NFC East. The Penn State product hasn't disappointed, but new additions to a struggling offensive line can only make style of offense quicker on the draw. Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and an emerging star in Darius Slayton don't strike fear inside of a division full of weapons at that position. But the G-Men are a blue-collar franchise; they don't mind getting dirty to get the job done. Enforcing his own form of nasty, the number 4 selection of Andrew Thomas refortifies the pulse of the offensive line. Shane Lemieux is a top ranked interior lineman from Oregon, to assists the elders of Kevin Zeitler and Nate Solder upfront. Ironically, the best additions to the Giants have came on defense.
Oluwele Betiku Jr. from the Fighting Illini and Dexter Lawrence of Clemson bring youth of the defensive line. Kyler Fackrell and Blake Martinez will bring unison from Green Bay to the Big Apple at the linebacker position. The Carolina Panther turned Giant James Bradberry improves a struggling secondary. With new editions not known to most of the public, the secondary could be the best part of the defense. Darnay Holmes is a tremendously talented corner out of UCLA, who from the words of Deion Sanders himself, is NFL ready. Christian Angulo has been fighting since his days as a Cincinnati Bearcat, and has the ability to be a shutdown corner. Xavier McKinney and Jabril Peppers increase the IQ of the safeties on the field. The NFC East is a showdown amongst its members anytime they face each other.
The notion that the NFC East is the weakest in the NFC, is soon to be discarded by the new wave of talent inside of this historically layered division. Shootouts and surprises are always worth the price of admission. Have your weapons and hats ready; the NFC East is the best western in the NFL.