Dak Prescott

Examining the critical issue for each NFC East team

Examining the critical issue for each NFC East team

You could make a strong case from head to toe, the NFC East is the best division in the NFL. Some may argue the NFC South, but in these parts, we are locked in on the division the Eagles call home. So let’s dive deep into the No. 1 issue for each team entering the 2017 season.

Eagles: Pass rush
We begin, naturally, with the Eagles. As has been Howie Roseman’s style since his return from exile, it was an extremely busy offseason for his club. Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Ronald Darby were added to the team that went 7-9 last season. All are major upgrades from what inhabited those positions last year. 

So while I fully expect Carson Wentz and the Birds' offense to be much improved, the key to the season lies with the men up front on defense. Pass rush is the name of the game if the Eagles want to reach their first postseason since 2013. Jim Schwartz's unit was tied for 16th in the NFL in sacks – and middle of the pack isn't going to cut it again this year. A strong pass rush cures a lot of ills, specifically a secondary that, despite the addition of Darby, has major questions at cornerback. 

The NFC East is loaded with talent at receiver, not to mention the Eagles' out-of-division foes. Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan will be a force inside, but the Eagles' defensive ends need to get to the QB. If that group, including rookie Derek Barnett – the best natural pass rusher of the lot – delivers, the Eagles are a playoff team.

Cowboys: Elliott's suspension
The Cowboys have a lot of talent on offense, but Ezekiel Elliott is the straw that stirs Jerry Jones' Johnny Walker Blue. A judge blocked Elliott's six-game suspension Friday that will set the stage for the battle to play out in court. If Elliott ends up on the wrong end of a final verdict and has to miss games, what is the trickle-down effect on the rest of that offense? Dak Prescott was great in his rookie year, but he attempted only 459 passes. Compare that to Wentz's 607, and you see the impact the NFL’s leading rusher had on the entire unit. Prescott had a 23/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio last year. An ineffective run game could cause him to throw more and increase the odds of a turnover. 

Giants: Running game
Much like the Cowboys, the Giants' return to the postseason could hinge on their running game. New York spent lavishly and wisely on defense heading into last season and it paid off in a big way. But the Giants ranked 29th in rushing. Can Paul Perkins or rookie Wayne Gallman become a consistent force? And perhaps the bigger issue is can their offensive line open up the holes? Eli Manning is now 36, and despite excellent weapons to throw to, a balance will be the key for Old Man Eli.

Redskins: New-look wideouts
To the Birds' opponent Sunday, the Redskins. They lost two productive receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. No one in the NovaCare Complex is shedding any tears over their departures (see story). Now in their place for the Redskins is a much bigger and stronger pairing in Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson. The question is can Pryor, the converted quarterback who burst onto the scene last year in Cleveland and signed a surprisingly low one-year deal, deliver in his new surroundings? And what kind of leap can Doctson, who played in just two games his rookie year because of an Achilles injury, make now that he’s a starter?  

Week 1 prediction: The Eagles beat the Redskins, 24-22, in a game that will come down to the final possession.           

Dallas Cowboys season preview: New faces but with same choking hazards

Dallas Cowboys season preview: New faces but with same choking hazards

Before the Eagles set off on what is sure to be a 100-year dynasty of NFC East championships, we’ll take a look at each of their divisional rivals and what they’ve got that could potentially derail the Birds' seemingly surefire destiny.

We’ll start with the Dallas Cowboys, a team whose fan base boasts Lebron James, Clayton Kershaw and your least favorite Facebook friend from high school.

Dallas Cowboys

What happened last season
Let’s just skip to the part where the Cowboys choked in the playoffs again. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott gave the Cowboys' offense a new look but an old feel, as Jerry Jones’ squad went 13-3 in the regular season (good enough for best record in the NFC) and then were beaten at home by a massively-depleted Green Bay squad … which was just fantastic, ‘cause Chris Christie’s autumn had been jolly enough.

Forbes lists the Cowboys as one of the most profitable franchises in all of sports, and they must be doing it by charging for non-refundable deposits on NFC Championship tickets. Hey-oh! Even Alex Ovechkin looks at their postseason record and starts to giggle. The characters change, but the story arc remains the same … like an episode of Scooby-Doo, but the laugh track is more realistic.

What about the offseason?
Tony Romo retired. Two-fifths of the offensive line was replaced. And the entire secondary had to be rebuilt, including (drumroll please) former cause-of-my-raised-blood-pressure Nolan Carroll! Because he’s done so well against Odell Beckham Jr. in the past, the Cowboys just couldn’t pass him up. Jones signing Carroll is like Dr. Alan Grant getting off Isla Nubar, then immediately hiring the electric-fence people to do his home security.

But the biggest story is the six-game suspension of Elliott for domestic abuse. You can read all the details of this horrible situation here. Worth noting is that while Elliott was being investigated for domestic abuse he was caught on camera sexually assaulting a woman. That’s like Donald Trump having a secret meeting with Vladimir Putin while being investigated for having secret meetings with Putin, or Anthony Weiner sending lewd photos on Twitter after leaving office in disgrace for sending lewd photos on Twitter. Really, Elliot should just retire and run for sheriff of Texas now.  

Jones, meanwhile, is defending Elliott, because of course he is. Remember two years ago when he was the only owner in football willing to pay Greg Hardy? Jones would sell his grandkids to the Dothraki if it gave the Cowboys a better chance of winning a Lombardi. Somehow, someway, he continues to give Texas oil men a bad name.

What’ll happen this season (best-case scenario)
Elliott comes back from his (potentially shortened) suspension and picks up right where he left off. The offensive line, despite two new additions, continues its freakish streak of good health. Prescott takes a step forward in his sophomore year and makes all Philly residents hate that we gave up picks for Carson Wentz. Jason Witten starts taking that Maria Sharapova drug to reverse aging. The defense overachieves again. And the Cowboys become the first NFC East team since the 2004 Iggles to win the division in back-to-back years. 

What’ll happen this season (worst-case scenario)
The suspension throws off Zeke’s entire season. The O-line, with two new dudes, becomes a problem (either due to ineffectiveness or injury or La’el Collins' inability to stop holding people). Prescott, who was an unhyped fourth-round pick just a year ago, can’t replicate his rookie season without a killer offensive line and top-shelf rushing attack, while Witten follows his buddy Romo into the sunset. Meanwhile, Christie gets kicked out of Drumthwacket and has to move in with Jones in what becomes FOX’s worst reality show ever (coming this fall!).

Conclusion
It seems more likely than not the Cowboys are in line for a step back this season. Sure, it doesn’t take a leap of the imagination to picture them in the postseason again this year … but imagining them winning a playoff game requires a tremendous amount of high-grade acid.

Dak Prescott says Cowboys will win the NFC East

Dak Prescott says Cowboys will win the NFC East

Maybe DeAngelo Williams was on to something.

As a quick refresher: he basically said the other day that the Cowboys and their fans get big heads during the regular season then tend to crumble in the playoffs (if they make it there).

Welp, Dak Prescott was asked on the ESPYs red carpet for his take on the NFC East this coming season and didn't disappoint.

"We’re the Cowboys. We’re gonna win the NFC East," Prescott said.

I don't have a real problem with Prescott response though. He's the leader of a team that won its division last season. Is he not supposed to be confident again this season?

Let's compare that to what Carson Wentz said this morning on 94 WIP.

"Our goal is to win the NFC East and we believe we have the guys to do it," Wentz said.

Pretty similar!

As PFT pointed out, Prescott was chosen as "Best Breakthrough Athlete" at the ESPYs, which must not have seen Joel Embiid play basketball for 31 games last season.

OddShark.com currently has the Cowboys as a pretty strong favorite to take the East at +110, followed by the Giants at +180, Eagles at +300 and Redskins at +450.

You can watch Dak's ESPY acceptance speech below.