As we close in on training camp, the NFC East figures to be as competitive as ever. Of course, you have the NFL Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles leading the way heading into 2018. The offseason has been interesting for all four teams with changes with the rosters and the coaching staffs.
Who heads into training camp as the favorite in the NFC East? Let’s take a look, position by position.
Coaching – Philadelphia Eagles
Doug Pederson took over the head coaching job in Philadelphia in 2016. He is 20-12 in his first two seasons and led his team to a Super Bowl victory last season without regular season MVP candidate, Carson Wentz. That was the first Super Bowl win in franchise history. As an NFL head coach, being able to adjust on the fly is a big part of the job because there is going to injuries and adversity at every turn.
Quarterback – Philadelphia Eagles
The advantage at quarterback has to go to the Super Bowl champions. Carson Wentz was able to put up 33 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions in 2017 before having his season ended December 10th against the Los Angeles Rams with a torn ACL. Wentz has maintained that he plans to be ready week 1. If he isn’t, Nick Foles will look to build off his Super Bowl MVP performance until Wentz is ready.
Running Back – Dallas Cowboys
This one is pretty simple. While the Eagles have a pretty good backfield themselves with Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood, Ezekiel Elliott is arguably the best running back in football. He will be highly motivated to put a frustrating 2017 season behind him. Rod Smith emerged as a legit weapon out of the backfield while Zeke was forced to sit out and will have a role in 2018. Newly acquired Tavon Austin could see some snaps in the backfield as well.
Receivers/Tight Ends – Philadelphia Eagles
This one came down to the Giants and Eagles. For me, the tiebreaker is Carson Wentz.
For the Giants, the return of Odell Beckham Jr. alongside Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram gives Eli Manning plenty of weapons to work with.
Then, you go over to the Eagles and they have Alshon Jeffrey, Nelson Agholor and Mike Wallace at the receiver position. Zach Ertz emerged as one of the best tight ends in the game in 2017.
Offensive Line – Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys offensive line had a down year for their standards in 2017. That doesn’t change the fact that they are the best group in this division. They have resolved the contract issues with Zach Martin that went through most of the offseason. Rookie Connor Williams is expected to be the team’s starting left guard. The biggest question for this offensive line is the health of Tyron Smith.
Defensive Line – Philadelphia Eagles
The rich got richer this offseason. The Eagles defensive line already known as one the best in the game went out and added Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata to pair with guys they already had like Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham.
Linebackers – Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins don’t have much going for them these days but their linebacker core is one of the best in the business.
Ryan Kerrigan is one of the best edge rushers in the NFL. Kerrigan has never had less than 7.5 sacks in a season during his career and has eclipsed 10 sacks in 3 of the past 4 seasons.
Preston Smith recorded 8 sacks and two interceptions in 2017. While those numbers don’t jump off the screen, Smith is a versatile player that can rush the passer as well drop into coverage.
Secondary – Philadelphia Eagles
A lot went right for the Eagles in 2017, especially on defense. The Eagles finished fourth in yards and points allowed, sixth in yards allowed per play and third in points allowed per drive. The Eagles will have Sidney Jones for the entire year as well as Ronald Darby for the entire year. Their defensive line will also help them make a lot of plays on the back end.
Special Teams – Dallas Cowboys
Dan Bailey missed an uncharacteristic five kicks in 2017 and made the lowest percentage of kicks he has made in his career. Bailey says he feels “really good” heading into the 2018 season.
Chris Jones had 51.5% of his punts downed inside the 20 in 2017, which was the highest percentage of all punters in 2017. Jones is under contract through 2021.
What does this all mean?
A lot can happen between now and the start of the regular season and then throughout the season. On paper, the Eagles have a lot of advantages, but this will be a competitive division. The Giants and Redskins will be improved and the Cowboys figure to have Elliott for all 16 and a healthier Tyron.
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