I don’t think it's breaking news that this division seems to be on the struggle bus through the first nine weeks of the NFL regular season. I’d say it’s a forgone conclusion that only one team from the NFC East gets into the expanded playoff format and that team is likely to get in with a sub-.500 record. I know, it’s not a surprise at this point, but the NFL is a better league as a whole when the NFC East is competitive. This division has iconic brands and franchises and many fans identify with the teams.
As I sit in the general manager’s chair, some things have jumped out at me that might lead to getting some answers if discussed internally. Awkward discussions, if held in the right vein, can be productive toward getting some things corrected. In this and every division, general managers and head coaches have to be “fix-it” guys and open to gathering information, asking tough questions and accepting change in order to turn their ship in the right direction or sustain success. As we all know, the definition of insanity, is to continue with the same decision-making processes and expect different results.
Let’s break down each team in the NFC East and evaluate them:
New York Giants:
1. QB Daniel Jones is actually fast, not just for a QB, but for an athlete overall. On Sunday night, he accelerated past Philadelphia Eagles defenders like a RB. Jones might, should get a few more RPO’s and some designed QB runs because he could be a solid weapon with his legs. He’s had two straight games without a turnover. The band is playing “who’d-a-thunk-it”?
2. Can you pay RB Saquon Barkley beyond 2021unless he develops as a threat in the passing game? With Barkley coming off ACL surgery earlier this year, I have my doubts. Even fully healthy, I have yet to see Barkley demonstrate the same skills as Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara or even Joe Mixon. Is he truly a three-down player/threat and worthy of top dollar?
3. Don’t forget about OT Nate Soldier, who played and started 16 games in 2019. Soldier opted out this year because of COVID-19. He should return to the Giants in 2021 fully rejuvenated.
4. The Giants have three wins and two of them are against the Washington Football Team. Their first victory was a gift from Washington’s head coach, Riverboat Ron Rivera. I think their record outside the division is what will be used to measure their progress over the remainder of this year.
1. I really don’t think QB Carson Wentz is the guy to blame for all of this team’s offensive problems. I see a grab bag of play calling, nothing being done by design, and Head Coach Doug Peterson really not wanting to run the ball. RB Miles Sanders averaged 5.7 yards per carry in their last game. Why not use him more so play action plays means something? Right now, the Eagles don’t have a game plan each week to win games.
2. This organization is 22-21-1 since winning Super Bowl LII. The Eagles have fallen in love with their own players and their team building has to be questioned because of it. If they thought they were a gadget player (Jalen Hurts, second round) away from returning to the top, they have mis-evaluated their roster. A pick that early in a draft, needs to be a starter for your team over a four/five-year period when he gets off the bus. I’m not sure this team has specific enough criteria as to what they want for skill sets at each position.
3. The Eagles currently have a roster that lacks speed and athletic ability. Did you see Giants QB Daniel Jones hit the accelerator and blow past Eagles defenders/secondary on his 34 yd TD run this past Sunday? There is incriminating evidence on video that suggests the Eagles lack team speed.
4. I like their little RB, Miles Sanders, and I think he’s critical to their success on offense. Their problem is, as Bill Parcells used to say, “little guys get hurt”. That’s not opinion, it’s almost always fact and the early returns on Sanders consistent availability is shaky at best.
Washington Football Team:
1. Does the head coach/ one voice structure work in this day and age? I’m a firm believer that two heads are better than one and discussion, with the questions that it brings, helps build a more solid consensus. History favors the differences in mindsets that come from two separate offices. The GM and the head coach, being two different people, and working together towards the same goals.
2. A prime example of this is how they are handling their QB situation. We all respect and admire the Alex Smith plight and story but is he the future of this team for the next five years? Has it already been decided that DeWayne Haskins is not the guy going forward? The worst thing that can happen for this franchise is to not know what they have at QB at the end of the season. At 2-7 currently, maybe they are waiting to mathematically fall out of the race before they reinstall Haskins as their QB for evaluation purposes? A big picture/long-term outlook needs to prevail at some point this season.
3. I’m not sold their offensive scheme scares anyone. Going into the Detroit game, they were ranked 27th in Total Offense. I’m not ready to put all the blame on the QB’s on this team.
4. This team currently ranked 30th in the NFL in special teams production. This just in, Special Teams are an important thing.
1. They must simplify their scheme on defense so that everyone knows exactly what they are doing. One way to never develop as a player is if that said player never knows what they are doing. Are their young players getting better?
2. Mike McCarthy HAS to trend toward his own offense and call the plays himself. It’s the best thing he does and how he earned his reputation. Why would you not allow him to utilize his number one asset?
3. The Cowboys organization must look in the mirror at how they set criteria for selecting players as it pertains to Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s schemes and not somebody else’s agenda. It’s a flawed process that has held them back for years.
4. If the Ezekiel Elliott investment is to ever be worth the money spent, he has to be a factor in the passing game. He should be featured on all three downs. It’s the one thing that can change this season. To me, he looks a little heavy and without juice/burst. Elliott needs to raise his conditioning level and the Cowboys play caller needs to use him in the passing game way more than we have seen so far. If he’s not a matchup nightmare for a LB, on 3rd downs, then he’s way overpaid.