How the Eagles stack up against the NFC East

With just a few months to go before the 2017 NFL season starts, here is how Philly compares to the rest of their division.
The Eagles might not be favorites to win the NFC East, but the numbers suggest they can be competitive. (Photo: Getty Images)

The NFC East is starting to draw some “best-in-the-NFL” chatter. To be sure, it’s a tall task to go against an AFC West division that hosts the Chiefs, Raiders, and Broncos. But the division that produced a 13-3 champion and 11-5 wild card team in 2016 might be up to the challenge.

We know how they finished last season (Dallas, New York, Washington, Philadelphia, in case you don’t) but now that free agency and the draft are in the books, how are they shaping up for 2017? Let’s take a position-by-position look at where the Eagles stack up against their closest rivals.

 

 

 

Quarterback

  1. Washington
  2. New York
  3. Dallas
  4. Philadelphia

This isn’t a slight on Carson Wentz. The promising second-year quarterback is behind Dak Prescott, who went 13-3 as a rookie last season, a two-time Super Bowl champion and MVP, and (despite the contractual issues) Kirk Cousins, who brings an added threat as a runner that Eli Manning doesn’t (hence their positions.) Wentz can move up this list, but being at the bottom doesn’t make this a problem area for the Eagles.

 

 

 

Running Back

  1. Dallas
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Washington
  4. New York

In the same way being at the bottom of the quarterback list wasn’t a cause for concern, being high up on this list isn’t exactly a cry for celebration - unless you’re the Cowboys, who have the best young back in the league: Ezekiel Elliott. LeGarrette Blount was a great signing for the Eagles, and the combined strengths of he and Darren Sproles are more impressive than anything Washington or the Giants can offer. Washington pips third place because rookie Samaje Perine is more exciting than anything on New York’s roster.

 

Receiving

  1. New York
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Washington
  4. Dallas

The Giants collection of pass catchers is scary. Moving on, the Eagles certainly rank highly here for one of the worst units in the league a season ago. Adding Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and Mack Collins to Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz should prove the difference. Meanwhile, Washington was losing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, but adding Terrelle Pryor with Jordan Reed and some depth keeps them ahead of Dallas, where Dez Bryant has just 81 catches over the last two seasons.

 

Offensive Line

  1. Dallas
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Washington
  4. New York

Dallas has some questions to answer after losing Doug Free to retirement and Ronald Leary to the Broncos, but the line’s pedigree remains intact. The Eagles should be well served by Lane Johnson’s return at right tackle, though the exact depth chart at left guard and center remains murky. The top three teams on this list are a cut above what the Giants have to offer, which may be as much reason for their struggles in the running game as any recent collection of backs.

 

Defensive Line

  1. Philadelphia
  2. New York
  3. Dallas
  4. Washington

Much of the off-season excitement in Philadelphia has been centered on the defensive line and pass rush, and for good reason. Brandon Graham’s name continues to appear on lists of players deserving recognition, and Fletcher Cox’s name continues to appear on lists of players receiving it. Add Derek Barnett, Timmy Jernigan, stir, you’re in good shape. Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon are no slouches. The other two teams in the division leave a lot to be desired, but Washington may have truly found a draft steal when they took Jonathan Allen with the 17th pick.

 

Linebacker

  1. Washington
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Dallas
  4. New York

Washington adding Zach Brown to patrol the middle while Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy wreak havoc on quarterbacks was just rude. Jordan Hicks is a budding superstar and if Nigel Bradham can stay on the field, these two could keep the Eagles in good shape for a long time. But their depth is perilously thin. Sean Lee played in the most games (15) he has since 2011 last season, and had a career high in tackles (145.) He’s the key to Dallas’ entire defense.

 

Secondary

  1. New York
  2. Washington
  3. Philadelphia
  4. Dallas

Buying a defense paid off for the Giants and nowhere more than in the secondary. Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played at a Pro-Bowl level alongside Landon Collins, whom has already staked his claim as the league’s next great safety. Josh Norman’s first season in Washington had its ups and downs, but no corner on Philadelphia or Dallas’ rosters can compare. The Cowboys secondary seriously out-performed the Eagles last season, but almost every member is gone. Both teams drafted cornerbacks in the second and third rounds; their final rankings could come down to which set of rookies perform better.

 

Special Teams

  1. Philadelphia
  2. Dallas
  3. Washington
  4. New York

The Eagles have been towards the top of league rankings in this aspect of the game for several years now, and the core that has put them there remains intact. The biggest question mark going forward is options in the return game besides Darren Sproles, but Wendell Smallwood had the teams lone return touchdown in 2016. The Cowboys took a step forward last season (funny how that ties in with winning games) and Dan Bailey was perfect inside 40 yards (and on extra points.) The Giants are hoping Aldrick Rosas will be a long-term solution at kicker after going through more than one in 2016.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Average all these rankings together, and it tells you the Eagles are the best team in the division:

  1. Philadelphia - 2.125
  2. Washington - 2.5
  3. Dallas - 2.625
  4. New York - 2.75

So that shows you how stupid math is.

 
 
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