You have heard it before: the NFC East has not had a repeat division champion since the 2003 & 2004 NFL seasons. It has the most Super Bowl victories out of any division, and now is the only one in which all four teams have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
The NFC East is one of the most competitive and hard-fought divisions in football. We spend a lot of time here at Eagles Frenzy looking at one of those four teams in particular, but let’s take a deep dive into the other three for the upcoming 2018 season:
2017 Record: 7-9
2017 NFC East Finish: 3rd
2017 Record Against the Eagles: 0-2
Injuries, free agent busts and disappointment; a Washington football trifecta as old as time itself. Starting the season 2-2, Washington dropped seven of their final twelve games to miss the playoffs for the second straight year. Terrelle Pryor bet on himself and lost big, signing a 1 year, $8 million dollar ‘prove it’ deal that yielded 20 catches across 9 games; a far-cry in production when compared to the similar deal that Alshon Jeffrey signed that same off-season. Pryor finished the season on IR, and that became the narrative for many of the starters that Washington was supposed to ride to the playoffs.
Star tight end Jordan Reed, running backs Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley, first-round draft pick Jonathan Allen, linebacker Mason Foster, safety Su’a Cravens and offensive linemen Trent Williams and Spencer Long were just some of the key contributors that finished the season on IR. After a week 7 loss to Philadelphia, Washington lost nine starters to injury, including 4 (!) on the offensive line. This lead to this honest quote from head coach Jay Gruden:
“If we’d go out to practice tomorrow, I don’t know who my left tackle would be. I really don’t have one right now.”
What will Eagles’ fans remember from this Redskins season? Two plays. The first is the Eagles’ maiden touchdown of their championship season. I remember seeing this, and after a prolonged victory dance/lap around the living room, getting very excited. Not because we had gone up 7-0, but because we were clearly witnessing a generational talent in Wentz and that Agholor had caught a ball.
The second play came to define the strength and elusiveness that Wentz demonstrated throughout his MVP-caliber season. Take it away, Houdini.
What’s the same?
Fifth-year head coach Jay Gruden returns, bringing back defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, the latter who replaced 2018 NFL Head Coach of the Year Sean McVay as OC in 2017. Team President Bruce Allen will resume his unofficial role as general manager following the very public firing of Scot McCloughan for alleged alcoholism in 2017.
The team will be looking to the return of injured starters and draft picks to stabilize a defense that finished 20th in Defensive DVOA in 2017 per Football Outsiders. Three-time Pro Bowler outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan will be again tasked with anchoring the aggressive-minded defense.
While witnessing the futile contract negotiations between Kirk Cousins and the team every off-season that would inevitably end in a franchise tag was entertaining, it’s a relief to see it is finally over. Cousins screaming ‘HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW?’ and patting former GM Scot McGloughan on the head on-field after a stellar performance against the Packers in 2016 will long remain my favorite player negotiation tool/power-move of all time.
Washington traded for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith in January, letting veteran Kirk Cousins walk to the Vikings for the 3 year, $84 million, fully guaranteed (!) contract he could never get with the Skins. Smith had a Pro Bowl season under Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s ‘spread coast’ hybrid offense in 2017, setting career highs in yards (4042), touchdowns (26) and Passer Rating (104.7). Long criticized for his ultra-conservative style of play, characterized by an unwillingness to push the ball down the field, Smith consistently utilized the deep ball last season to his star pass-catchers Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
Smith and the offensive-minded Gruden will be tasked with replicating his 2017 output, assisted by receivers Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder who will be joined by deep-threat Paul Richardson from Seattle. However it might be the tight ends who could make the most impact on offense for Washington in 2018. Smith’s tight ends have always found tremendous statistical success throughout his career. Even if Jordan Reed cannot stay on the field, Smith will have former-49ers teammate Vernon Davis at his disposal.
Washington did not overhaul its defense in free agency or trades this off-season. Instead, this defensive unit will have a ‘new’ look if the starters can simply stay off IR. A big ask for this team in recent seasons.
It already hasn’t been a great start for the team in the injury department, with their promising starting rookie running back Derrius Guice out for the season after tearing his ACL in the first preseason game.
Las Vegas Westgate SuperBook win total: 7
You can check out our preview of the New York Giants here.