During the month of August, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be breaking down every division in the league by position. This article contains a position-by-position breakdown of the NFC East defenses The breakdown will contain “the best” at each unit followed by “the rest” in descending order.
Offense Article: 2021 NFC East Offense Breakdown by Position
The Best: Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott is the proven best quarterback in the NFC East. Prescott should be on the shortlist for dark horse MVP candidates this upcoming season. Before his injury in 2020, Prescott was on pace for over 6,000 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. Prescott has continued to improve each season in the NFL and should continue on that trajectory if he remains healthy. The Dallas Cowboys offense is one of, if not the most explosive units in the NFL.
The Rest: Washington Football Team, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants
Next on this list is Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Washington Football Team. Fitzpatrick stacked up over 2,000 passing yards with 13 touchdowns in nine games played in 2020. This veteran journeyman is entering into his 17th season of an up and down career. Last season with the Dolphins, Fitzpatrick was clearly the best option ahead of Tua Tagovailoa with Brian Flores benching Tagovailoa for Fitzpatrick late in games twice to give Miami the best chance to win. Tagovailoa, who replaced Fitzpatrick in the middle of the season, struggled to run the offense and is expected to take a big step forward in 2021. Fitzpatrick brings a gunslinger mentality and veteran leadership into a loaded wide receiver room in Washington.
The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles are neck and neck for third and fourth in the division regarding quarterbacks. Jalen Hurts is coming off a solid end to his rookie season and Daniel Jones has yet to put together a solid season as a starter in New York. Jones is at a pivotal point in his career. Jones has to take a big step forward for the Giants to compete for a playoff spot. Hurts is ahead of him on this list because he has youth and more running potential on his side. Both the Eagles and Giants have big question marks at the most important NFL position: quarterback.
The Best: Dallas Cowboys
Dallas has the best running back room in the NFC with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Dallas is first place here because of depth, not solely talent. Anyone who watches football should be skeptical of Elliott this season. Analysts and casual fans around the league are fading the former Ohio State running back–and for good reason. Elliott struggled mightily last season after Dak Prescott was injured. Pollard showcased his talent late in the season with a great performance against the San Francisco 49ers. If Elliott struggles this season, Pollard could earn a larger role. The Cowboys are blessed to have a backup that would start for many of the teams in the NFL.
The Rest: New York Giants, Washington Football Team, Philadelphia Eagles
Perhaps the best running back of the group is Saquon Barkley. Barkley is an electric back who can make a touchdown out of nothing. When healthy he is arguably the best running back in the NFL. Next on the list is the Washington Football Team. Antonio Gibson is a favorite breakout candidate of the year and a dark horse pick for fantasy football’s top-scoring running back. Gibson is a young star who is eager to lead his team back to the playoffs.
The Eagles round out the running back category in the last position with the weakest talent. Miles Sanders is the lead back in Philadelphia on an offense that is picked to struggle. Sanders is very talented himself. However, he finds himself in a very talented division with a second-year quarterback, struggling offensive line, and likely facing poor game scripts. The Eagles are projected to struggle in the NFL this season and being behind on the scoreboard should result in a lot of passing rather than running the ball for the Eagles.
Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin make up one of the best RB-WR duos in the NFL 🔥 pic.twitter.com/5IRFtuDmfZ
— PFF (@PFF) August 20, 2021
The Best: Dallas Cowboys
Dallas is leading another category as they boast the best wide receivers in the NFC East, probably the NFL. Amari Cooper is coming off a year where he struggled, largely due to the injury to his elite quarterback. During the first five games with Prescott healthy, Cooper was on pace for a career year. CeeDee Lamb is entering his second year and playing from the slot. He is another player on the shortlist for breakout player of the year. The Former Sooner is poised to make a big jump and become receiving royalty if Prescott stays healthy in 2021.
Michael Gallup is the third receiver in this explosive offense. Gallup is skilled enough to play as a wide receiver one or two in most offenses in the NFL. In 2019 he racked up 1,107 yards and six touchdowns on 66 receptions. Dallas does not have the most skilled players at the position but has the depth to compete with anyone in the NFC East or in the NFL. Their tremendous depth and potential with Lamb separate them from the rest of the division.
The Rest: Washington Football Team, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles
The Washington Football Team is second in the division. Washington made additions in the offseason that have drastically improved their offense. Prior to signing Curtis Samuel, Terry McLaurin was one of the up-and-coming wide receivers looking to take the next step. McLaurin has elite speed and shows an uncanny ability to separate with break-away speed. Samuel revitalized his career last season with the Carolina Panthers racking up 851 yards receiving and 200 yards rushing with five total touchdowns. With Fitzpatrick at the helm, both McLaurin and Samuel are poised to abuse opposing secondaries in 2021.
After Washington is the New York Giants. The Giants wide receivers are very skilled as well. Sterling Shepard is a good slot receiver capable of moving the ball down the field. Darius Slayton is an underrated deep threat, another candidate looking for a breakout. The off-season addition of Kenny Golladay was a big move for the Giants. Signing the former Detroit Lions wide receiver solidified the wide receiver core after trading Odell Beckham Jr.
The Eagles are at the bottom of the barrel in the NFC East as far as wide receivers go. Jalen Reagor battled injuries part of last season, limiting him to only 11 starts. The Former TCU standout struggled when he was able to return to the field with only 396 yards and one touchdown. Greg Ward is the other returning starter. Ward showed flashes of talent last season but was largely unreliable.
Another name in the Eagles wide receiver core is Travis Fulgham. Fulgham was one of the most popular waiver wire additions for fantasy football at one point last season and looked as if he could lead the Eagles pass-catchers. Fulgham has since fallen to second-string wide receiver. The Eagles used the draft to commit to improving their skill at this position by adding DeVonta Smith. The Heisman Trophy winner could be the missing piece and could lead this wide receiving core, and the Eagles, out of the shadow of the Cowboys and the Washington Football Team.
The Best: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have the best tight ends in the NFC East. Both Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz are very skilled at the position. There has been some rumors that Ertz could be traded and opinions that Goedert would flourish without an elite tight end on his team to steal targets. Aside from the drama and the tight end position, the Eagles are the most skilled at the position. With their weak wide receiving core, the Eagles should run two tight end packages and take advantage of their size and athleticism.
The Rest: Washington Football Team, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants
Logan Thomas represents the Washington Football Team at second-best for the position. Thomas showed real potential to break out at a position devoid of talent outside the top tier. After Washington is Dallas. The Cowboys boast good depth with both Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. After Jarwin’s injury in 2020, Shultz stepped up and played well. Both guys are capable of helping Prescott and the Cowboys high-octane offense move the ball and can be dangerous red-zone threats.
The last team in this category is the New York Giants. The Evan Engram was once of the most exciting young prospects. As a rookie, Engram had 722 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Since his rookie season, Engram has yet to eclipse 700 yards again. Some of Engram’s issues can be pointed to poor quarterback play with an aging Eli Manning and Daniel Jones unable to efficiently push the ball down the field.
The Best: Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have the best offensive line in the NFC East led by Tyron Smith and Zack Martin. The Cowboys line is aging quickly, but still the most talented in the division. Dallas also returns La’el Collins and Connor Williams. Dallas will be looking for one more lineman to solidify their revamped line. Possible names to watch out for include Isaac Alarcón and Tyler Biadasz. The Offensive line is crucial for the Cowboys for a balanced offense protecting Prescott and opening running lanes for Elliott.
— NFL (@NFL) August 22, 2021
The Rest: Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Washington Football Team
After Dallas, the Washington Football Team has the most skilled offensive line. Washington returns four out of five starters on the offensive line. Washington lost Morgan Moses but replaced him with Charles Leno Jr., who could be an upgrade as the season goes on. This group is very talented and lead by one of the best linemen in the league in Brandon Scherff. With high aspirations for Gibson, all eyes will be on the offensive line to open up running lanes and protect Fitzpatrick for the rebuilt Washington offense. The Eagles have skilled linemen returning in Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce. Brandon Brooks is another starter who brings stability and veteran leadership to this former Super Bowl-winning football team.
The Giants offensive line struggled mightily last year and looks to do more of the same this year. The Giants skill players have a tall task ahead of them with the Giants sub-par offensive line. Daniel Jones expects to take a huge step forward this year but will struggle if the line is unable to protect him. There are already questions surrounding Barkley and his knee with him possibly missing the season opener. Barkley’s added injury woes ad extra pressure to the already struggling line. The lone bright spot on this line is Nate Solder. If the Giants are to compete for the NFC East, Solder has to lead the offensive line and protect the skill players in 2021.
Check out the 2021 NFC East Breakdown by Position: Defense.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images