Cleat Geeks

REDskin Zone: NFC East Preview

The NFC East wasn’t its historically dominant self in 2015 and really hasn’t been for a number of years. And it again doesn’t figure to be anywhere near the toughest division in professional football again in 2016.NFCeastCenter

But what it may lack in quality, the division is making up for in intrigue, as storied rivalries, new faces and key injuries have left the East wide open this season.

We talk about the Redskins every week here in the REDskin Zone and will give a more comprehensive season preview next week. So here this week is a look at the three familiar foes they’ll have to beat to claim a second straight division title.

 

Dallas Cowboys

Last year: 4-12

See the Redskins: at Washington Sept. 18 (week 2), at Dallas Nov. 24 (week 12, Thanksgiving Day)

CowboysLogoThe Cowboys had perhaps the best talent across the board in the division last year but were gutted by the injuries to quarterback Tony Romo. His backups went only 1-11 in games they started, ruining the Cowboys’ chances but leaving everyone to say “with Romo they’ll be the favorites in 2016.”

And then, one big hit to Romo’s lower back in last week’s preseason game in Seattle and “poof” the Cowboys are right back in the same boat. The veteran is expected to miss 8 to 10 weeks with a fractured vertebra, meaning his return would come around mid-season.

That leaves Dallas, apparently, with a rookie backfield of quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. Both are battle-tested from power conference games, Prescott as a multi-year starter at Mississippi State and Elliott with the powerhouse Ohio State squad.

But the NFL is a whole new level, to say the least, even with all the talent they’re surrounded by on offense.

Defensively, the Cowboys are dealing with several injuries and suspensions. But they still have the likes of defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, veteran linebacker Sean Lee and solid play at corner with veterans Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.

 

New York Giants

Last Year: 6-10

See the Redskins: At New York Sept. 25 (week 3), At Washington Jan. 1 (week 17)

GiantLogoThe Tom Coughlin era seemed like it might never end in New York, but it finally did. Enter Ben McAdoo, former Giants offensive coordinator to try to take the team back up the ladder.

Any conversation about NYG starts with veteran quarterback Eli Manning, who looks to have an improved group to throw to with an apparently healthier Victor Cruz and a promising rookie in Oklahoma product Sterling Shepard.

The run game will be a question, and the defense has some work to do also, although it has some talented playmakers in ends Jason Pierre-Paul and free agent acquisition Olivier Vernon and another free agent pickup at corner in Janoris Jenkins.

This still figures to be a team that will have to win some shootouts to think about postseason.

 

Philadelphia Eagles

Last year: 7-9

See the Redskins: At Washington Oct. 16 (week 6), At Philadelphia Dec. 11 (week 14)

Eagles-logoThe Chip Kelly era more or less became a dumpster fire in Philadelphia, with angry Eagle fans happy to pour on more gasoline.

Now they too have a new head coach in former quarterback Doug Pederson and a high draft pick at quarterback in Carson Wentz. But he’ll start the season behind Sam Bradford, who ruffled many in Philly by asking for a trade in the offseason. We’ll see what his reception is like from the Philly faithful after the first couple of interceptions.

The Eagles aren’t devoid of talent, though. Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles still have some life left at running back, there is a solid core at wide receiver for whoever is throwing the ball, and Fletcher Cox is as good as they come up front on the defensive side.

And in a division as wide-open as this one, the Eagles aren’t that far away from making an impact.

 

Week 3 preseason – Washington 21, Buffalo 16

The Redskins’ dress rehearsal was a solid night for starting quarterback Kirk Cousins. After a couple of first-quarter wobbles, Cousins threw three second-quarter touchdown passes, to Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon and Ryan Grant.

The Redskin defense hung on at the finish for their second preseason win, as Kendall Fuller intercepted E.J. Manuel in the end zone to cap the game.

The bad news: yet another running back went down, as rookie Keith Marshall suffered an early elbow injury, leaving undrafted rookies Robert Kelley and Mack Brown to most of the running on the night. Marshall joins projected starter Matt Jones on the sideline. Jones is expected back for the season opener while Marshall is projected to be out maybe 3 to 4 more weeks.

KeithMarshall2

 

Preseason Week 4 – at Tampa Bay, Thursday, Sept. 1

The last position battles and roster spots will be on the line for the Redskins and the Bucs as they finish up preseason play in a Thursday night tilt.

Beyond that, it’s a week that means nothing more than keeping front-line players healthy for when the games start to count for real in another week.

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