From NFC Least to NFC Beast l Reimagining the NFL Division by Division – Let me take a guess: this is your team’s year to win it all.
Dallas Cowboys fans have been saying that every year since 1996, which coincidentally was the last time they won the Super Bowl.
Like it or not, every division is going to have its surprises, the usual superiors, some mediocrity, and a bunch of disappointments— not your team, though. They will dominate this year.
Today, we are going to hypothesize who teams in the NFC East would target if every team had the opportunity to pry one player away from a separate team and how it would transform their franchise.
Strap in, but remember, this is all imaginative; do not get your hopes up (yet).
The Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles made the switch to rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts late in a December matchup with the Green Bay Packers, and continued to roll with the Oklahoma product by way of Alabama for the final four games of the season. This switch in direction prompted Carson Wentz to depart for Indianapolis, and the Birds released deep threat DeSean Jackson.
Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, running back Kerryon Johnson and wide receiver DeVonta Smith are a few notable names that were acquired by Phili during the offseason, and although this helps fill some holes, it is hard to see them climbing to the top of the division ladder next season.
The overwhelming concern for the Eagles next season is their porous offensive line that allowed 65 sacks last season, 130% more than the second-place trio of the Washington Football Team, New York Giants and Houston Texans (50 sacks allowed).
The Eagles are weakest along the left side, also known as the blind side, which is largely responsible for the league-worst sacks allowed total. Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson have ten Pro Bowls appearances between them, leaving left tackle Andre Dillard and left guard Isaac Seumalo as the odd men out.
The perfect fill-in for the Eagles would guard Quenton Nelson of the Indianapolis Colts, a three-year veteran that has been selected to the Pro Bowl and the NFL’s First-Team every year that he has been a professional.
Nelson has played 3,262 offensive snaps in the NFL and has allowed a total of three sacks, two of which came during his rookie season. Standing at 6-foot-5, 330 pounds, the Notre Dame grad is virtually unmovable off the line of scrimmage.
Put a dynamic quarterback like Hurts behind four Pro Bowlers with his newly added weapons, and the Eagles would wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Howie Roseman, do your job as General Manager and get on it!
This one is tough; the Cowboys only prefer to pay players that are big in name but small in play and demand contracts way over their market value.
All jokes aside, the Cowboys have, on paper, one of the best skill position groups in the entire league. Dak Prescott has the luxury of throwing to three 1,000-yard-caliber receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb. Ezekiel Elliot may not have the explosion that he did in his rookie season which saw him finish in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting, but he should still be capable of producing when put in the right situation.
Dallas was victimized by newly-extended defensive players Demarcus Lawrence and Jaylon Smith falling short of their contract-year production, and the entire defense turned into one of the worst in franchise history. “America’s Team” allowed the second-most rushing yards and were bottom-10 in interceptions, third-down defense and total yards.
There is no real obvious answer on the defensive side for Dallas: they need help in their secondary at both the safety and cornerback positions and lack a real menace on the front line giving the hypothetical front office flexibility with its decision.
Based on the fact that Dallas’ pair of starting defensive lineman, Neville Gallimore and Tyrsten Hill, had half a sack between them last season, this mastermind would slap Aaron Donald right into the heart of the line.
The current Los Angeles Ram has won three of the past four Defensive Player of the Year awards and is universally recognized as the game’s best defensive player. Donald accrued 13.5 sacks over the course of last season, a mark that would give him 43.5% of Dallas’ 31 total as a team.
We joked earlier that Dallas has an affinity to dish out large contracts lately, and although Donald is one of the highest-paid in his profession, he would be worth every penny for this Dallas team.
New York Giants
Voted by nobody other than this guy as most likely to recreate the butt fumble, quarterback Daniel Jones leads this franchise that has failed to successfully transition out of the few good Eli Manning years; and the bad Eli Manning years.
The Giants were exceptional defensively last season and got even better as the year went on, leading them to a 6-5 record after they began 0-5.
New York had to play without Saquon Barkley for all but two games, placing even more responsibility on Jones and thereby hindering their chance at succeeding.
The Giants did not exactly have the best offensive line themselves: as mentioned earlier, they allowed the second-most sacks in the league and could not run the ball to any great effect. Even still, the chance has to be made under center.
Daniel Jones has a career stat-line of 38 touchdowns to 27 turnovers (22 interceptions, five fumbles) and has been sacked 83 times in 27 games, showing that for all of the deficiencies within his protection, he has not demonstrated a feel for the game.
Taking the system and type of weapons available to him in this offense, as well as the overall ambition of the Giants and inexperienced Head Coach Joe Judge, the perfect quarterback for this team would be Josh Allen.
Allen is a young and ascending quarterback that will not demand immediate excellence but will excite New York’s enormous market and help improve the overall play of the offense around him.
Allen was second in last year’s MVP voting and has shown an ability to get it done with his legs as well as his arm, a quality that will greatly behoove him given the Giants’ struggles to run the ball last season. He has also shown that he is comfortable handling expectations in New York, albeit more northerly, and would be the best option to change the fortunes of the franchise. You are welcome, Giants fans.
Washington Football Team
What player screams “I want to represent a team with no mascot” more than future idealized member of Washington, Derwin James? Nobody, right?
Washington may have a placeholder at QB with Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he will be happy to go bombs away to 4.3 guys Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel with the safety net of Logan Thomas underneath, and that will be enough for the WFT offense to succeed.
If the rich truly get richer, adding James to one of the league’s best defenses should make perfect sense. Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio plays an aggressive 4-3 system and relies on speed and toughness from his players, qualities that James has in bucketloads.
With a rough injury history, a loaded contract and diminished quality in recent times, Landon Collins will have to bite the bullet and let James shine in his starting spot at strong safety.
James missed last season with a torn meniscus in the same knee that he had already injured while at Florida State, and was held out of all contests as a result. However, James is a youthful 24 years old and would round out what would be a tremendously talented defense, featuring Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Kendall Fuller and, of course, the man himself.
This move would be enough to establish Washington as clear owners of the league’s best defense, and it would carry them further into the playoffs than they have been in decades.
Of all of these hypothesized moves, Washington’s probably makes them the best, while Dallas’s would improve their record the most.
As far as Washington, they are the defending champions of the division and would be adding the league’s best safety to their team while upgrading at receiver and quarterback this offseason: based on that logic, it is hard not to put them atop the reimagined NFC.
Dallas is one great defensive year away from potentially competing for a Super Bowl, especially since they were previously thought to be contenders even without Donald on the line.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.