Once again it is only going to be a small matter of time before the minicamps are done and training camp is going underway for each and all of the NFL teams. VAVEL USA is starting a series of roundtables doing some divisional previews, starting with the NFC East, to get everyone's minds back on the right track for the best season of them all, football season.
1. Who is the best quarterback in the division and why?
Jamie Boal--Without question the best quarterback in the NFC East plays in Dallas. Tony Romo is coming off a fantastic season, throwing for 3,705 yards, 34 touchdown passes and was one controversial and now infamous overturned completion away from defeating the Green Bay Packers and leading the Cowboys to their first NFC Championship game since 1995. A big part of the Cowboys success last year was Romo’s ability to cut down on his turnovers, committing just 9 interceptions last season. Looking at the field of quarterbacks in this division, Eli Manning is coming off two losing seasons in a row ending both 7-9 and a horrible 6-10 respectively. Turnovers have been a major issue for the two time Super Bowl Champion, throwing for 48 touchdown passes along with an awful 41 interceptions. I was not the only one confused when the Eagles traded for Sam Bradford and to be honest I am still left scratching my head. It is tough to place Bradford on the list as he is yet to play a snap in an Eagles jersey but what more can be said about a quarterback with only seven starts under his belt in the past two seasons? The former St Louis Rams starter is coming off his second torn ACL in two years and is somewhat of an enigma at this point. And of course, the less said about the disaster that is Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins, the better. Tony Romo is streaks ahead of everyone in this division.
Jon Fox--Tony Romo is the best quarterback almost by default. The Redskins' situation is a bit of a mess, who knows with the Eagles, and Eli Manning is getting long in the tooth. The Cowboys have some semblance of stability in Romo and he clearly is still in his prime. This isn't a slight at Eli Manning's play, he had a great 2014 but it's hard to get past Romo's 34/9 TD/INT ratio or his QB rating which was 20 points higher than Manning's.
Bryan Castillo--Tony Romo is the best quarterback in the NFC East and last season it wasn’t even close. Romo was an MVP candidate last season and had one of his best seasons in his career and certainly his most efficient. Also he doesn’t have much competition in the division outside of Eli Manning who has struggled and become a turnover machine after winning his second Super Bowl. Credit to Eli though the Giants offense has not helped and he came on strong towards the end of last season with the emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. RGIII has not shown that he can stay healthy or become a consistent pocket quarterback ever since his rookie season, lots to prove. Sam Bradford is likely to be the Eagles starting quarterback for game 1 and while he has talent he has yet to complete a fully healthy season. Lastly this’ll be the first off-season in years that Tony Romo will have had no surgeries or rehabbing to complete, expect a stronger Tony Romo this season.
Richard Sena--In a vacuum, I view Tony Romo as the best quarterback in the division due to his relative consistency and supporting cast. Eli Manning is right there with him when he's on his game, but lacks the consistency and will play behind a turbulent offensive line in 2015. With all that said, I believe Sam Bradford could easily have the beat year of anyone else in the division. The Eagles will likely have a strong run game to pair with a very quarterback friendly system and tempo.
Noel Alberto--The best quarterback in the NFC East is without a doubt Tony Romo. The Cowboys signal-caller proved last season he can perform in crunch time with a sensational win-loss record in not just clutch situations, but also in the months of December and January as well. Out of all four, maybe five quarterbacks in the division, he’s the one that performs consistently throughout the season which is why he gets the nod.
Jarrod Taylor--Tony Romo is hands down the best quarterback in the NFC East, sure Eli has had better moments with two rings, But Romo has more ability. While my opinion isn't exactly unbiased due to my love of a quarterback with the gunslinger mentality, Romo's ability to escape pressure and keep his eyes down field has been the Cowboys rock during his tenure. Brett Favre was who Romo molded his game after growing up and on every Sunday it shines through in both the good ways and the bad.
Caleb Wahlgren--Statistically, it would be completely foolish to choose anyone other than Tony Romo for this spot. But, what is the most important thing for a quarterback to do? In my opinion, a quarterback is the biggest deciding factor in whether or not his team wins the game. That is why I am choosing Eli Manning for the best quarterback in the division. My mind may change by the end of the year, but I simply cannot choose a quarterback who has yet to even appear in a NFC Championship Game compared to a man who has won two Super Bowls. Plus, I believe that if you put Eli Manning into the Cowboys offense, that he would actually do better than Tony Romo, because he would have the best offensive line he has never had, the best wide receiver he has never had in Dez Bryant, and a consistent pass catching tight end he has never had in Jason Witten. I didn't think coming into this I was going to pick Eli, but sometimes these discussions come down to big wins and to rings, which is why Joe Montana is better than Dan Marino, and why Eli Manning is currently still better than Tony Romo.
2. What new player to the division is going to have the biggest impact for his team?
Jamie Boal--Philadelphia have been the talk of the league with some of their acquisitions but for me the Dallas Cowboys newest running back will have the biggest impact on his team next season. Run DMC aka Darren McFadden, has some big shoes to fill as Dallas’ star running back DeMarco Murray left for division rival Philadelphia coming off a fantastic year for the Cowboys. Dallas have faith in their new tail back though, so much so that he was signed the very next day after DeMarco walked out. McFadden has been average at best the past few seasons totaling 3.4 yards per carry on a bad Oakland Raiders team and has also been hit with his fair share of injuries as well, struggling with nagging foot problems. However they may be behind him, as the 27 year old played an entire season last year, starting in 12 games for the Raiders. Although replacing Murray is seemingly impossible, this is certainly the season that McFadden could turn his career around. Working with a great quarterback in Tony Romo as well as having one of the best offensive lines in the league blocking for him, I think this will be a breakout year for the former Oakland Raider.
Jon Fox--Nelson Agholor will have the most impact of any new player to the division. He's a perfect fit for the Eagles: he can slash from the slot and will earn the ball from Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews. Also, Chip Kelly's offense has been lacking this kind of Z receiver since DeSean Jackson left for DC. If this was "who is the best new player for any NFC east team" then the answer would be DeMarco Murray, but he's not new to the NFC east.
Bryan Castillo--New Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy will have the biggest impact on his new team because he fills the biggest need in the offseason, pass rushing. Dallas was near the bottom of the league in rushing the quarterback last season and Hardy is immense talent that brings a strong presence to their defensive line which can shadow some of their questions in the secondary. Of course there’s his suspension appeal that is still in process but one thing is certain, he’ll be available for the stretch run minimally and perhaps give the Cowboys that push they need for a potential playoff run. DeMarco Murray to Philly was a close second but they already had a good running back in LeSean McCoy to begin with.
Richard Sena--Considering quarterback is usually the most important position on a game in, game out, basis, I anticipate that Sam Bradford will be the most impactful newcomer in the NFC East. The biggest caveat is clearly Bradford's health, but if he can stay healthy, the Eagles should realistically compete for the division title by year's end. The reason for my optimism in Bradford is that he'll finally be in an offense that allows him to play to his strengths (tempo, accuracy, and downfield velocity) while hiding his weaknesses (pocket presence and anticipation).
Noel Alberto--The player that is new to the division that will have the biggest impact is Byron Maxwell. Why you ask? Well without Cary Williams there to get torched by Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham, Maxwell will do a phenomenal job to keep them in check.
Jarrod Taylor--While not a new player exactly, DeMarco Murray has the chance to make the biggest impact on a new team in the division. The Cowboys stud was allowed to walk at the end of the season and made his new home with the most hated franchise in Dallas. With the workload he handled last season for his now rival team who knows how close to the top of his game he will be, but if he his close to 100% all season he could change the face of the division.
Caleb Wahlgren--Players in the NFL are consistently coming in and having an impact as rookies or as veterans. While I am rather eager to see what Shane Vereen can do for the Giants, I am going with the Cowboys second round pick named Randy Gregory. Dallas needs a lot of help on defense, as they did improve a lot last season, but they simply are not at the level of a Championship defense. One thing for certain is that Gregory will have a significant impact as a pass rusher, after falling in the draft dramatically after failing a drug test for marijuana.
3. Who is the best running back in the division and why?
Jamie Boal--Despite what I predict will be a breakout year for the previously mentioned McFadden, DeMarco Murray is still the best running back in this division. In fact looking at the field, it’s not even close. Murray set a Dallas Cowboys franchise record last season, rushing for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns on 392 total carries and will replace LeSean McCoy as the Eagles primary weapon on the ground. There are some good backs in the NFC East, with Redskins Alfred Morris having a solid first few years in the NFL thus far. Rushing for over 1000 yards per season, the Redskins running back is off to a great start in his career, however his numbers have dropped each year. The Giants also acquired Shane Vereen from the Seattle Seahawks to combine with Rashad Jennings in their backfield, both of whom have not been a regular number one option at their position. It is yet to be seen what to make of the Cowboys situation at the running back spot since losing Murray, as Joseph Randle is still very young and Darren McFadden is a gamble. No one holds a candle to Murray here and he holds the title of best running back in the NFC East.
Jon Fox--DeMarco Murray switched teams but he's still the best running back in the division. The only competition he has is Alfred Morris but it looks like Washington is going to start phasing him out for Matt Jones. Morris also isn't the complete back that Murray is-DeMarco is clearly better on 3rd downs and pass blocking than Morris is. This isn't a slight at the Dallas and New York RB situations, but those both have too many question marks.
Bryan Castillo--Philadelphia Eagles running back, DeMarco Murray is the best back in the NFC East because he has the best overall package and attributes. He’s able to be a power back that’ll find the hole and plow through while also being able to catch out of the backfield. He’s also an above average pass blocker, the biggest question mark surrounding him is if he can stay healthy coming off such a heavy workload last season. Also don’t sleep on Alfred Morris who’s had 3 straight 1000+ rushing yard seasons and is only 26 years old entering the season.
Richard Sena--Even though DeMarco Murray will be wearing midnight green instead of Dallas blue, he still retains the tent pole position in the NFC East. Chip Kelly's fast tempo zone blocking scheme plans to feature Murray in a starring role, even with Ryan Matthews playing a prominent supporting role. Murray probably won't duplicate his torrid 2015 numbers, but he'll still be a highly effective bell cow for the Eagle's offense.
Noel Alberto--Best running back is without a doubt DeMarco Murray. The ex-Cowboys, now Eagles running back knows how to make defenders miss, read defenders, and can hit the hole hard. The offensive line in Philly is not like the one he had in Dallas, but he should still be able to reach 1200 yards barring injury.
Jarrod Taylor--Also, the best running back in the division is Murray by a mile. With all the touches he had last season it's going to be interesting to see if he can remain the best back at the end of the season. Joey Randle for the Dallas Cowboys is a back that was over shadowed by Murray last year, but this guy has a real shot to dethrone Murray this go around. If Randle does succeed in taking the mantle from Murray it will be testament to the Cowboys O-line.
Caleb Wahlgren--Looking at the running backs, I know that no one is going to like this selection that I am planning on making. Simply because I am going with a home run hitter that can take it to the house any time he touches the ball. That is why I am selecting Darren Sproles. He is shifty and elusive, which is why he is the kick and punt returner for the Philadelphia Eagles. But he can also have a strong impact catching the ball out of the backfield or taking a handoff and getting a lot of yards.
4. Who is the best receiver in the division and why?
Jamie Boal--Despite an amazing rookie year from Odell Beckham Jr, the Cowboys Dez Bryant is still the best receiver in the division. Unlike the other previously mentioned spots, the NFC East is stacked with talent out wide. Not only is Bryant the best receiver in the division, he is certainly in the argument for best in the league. The 26 year old wide out had one of the best years of his career going for 1,320 yards and averaging 15 yards per catch with 16 touchdowns. ODB had a historic year, setting Giants franchise records in rookie receiving yards, total receptions in a season and is the only rookie in Giants history with 3 or more touchdown passes in a single game. However, it is yet to be seen if the rookie can keep up the standard he set for himself last year as I give the nod to Dez based on his track record in Dallas. Washington have some great weapons in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon and despite the horrible quarterback situation, the former still managed to be productive. Jackson finished the year with 1,169 yards on 56 receptions and 6 touchdowns. Garcon on the other hand had a significant drop in numbers from the prior year in Washington finishing with 752 total yards and 3 touchdowns. The Eagles receiving core of Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Riley Cooper come in at a decisive fourth in this division, as Chip Kelly has gone with youth. If the Redskins solve their quarterback problem I think DeSean could give Dez a run for his money here but as it stands, the Cowboys have the best receiver in number 88.
Jon Fox--Best WR: Dez Bryant. Odell Beckham Jr could surpass him in time, but one amazing rookie season doesn't beat out a consistently great player who always puts up big numbers even in big games. Bryant is the only receiver in the division worthy of a Larry Fitzgerald type contract (which he should get soon). The only opponent that Dez Bryant can't defeat is himself, and that ultimately might be his downfall.
Bryan Castillo--Odell Beckham Jr. stormed onto the scene last season with a spectacular rookie season, but make no question about it, Dez Bryant is the best wide receiver in this division. Experience plays a big part in this as Bryant is more polished in his route running and reading defensive coverages. Bryant is able to use his physicality to create separation and go up for jump balls as well as anybody. One-on-one coverage is like Christmas morning for the Cowboys star who constantly sees double teams on a per game basis. Odell Beckham Jr. is certainly making a case for himself but Dez Bryant is still the best receiver in this division and one of the best in the league.
Richard Sena--Even with the emergence of Odell Beckham, Dez Bryant remains the best receiver heading into 2015. A big part of why Dallas virtually led the league in red zone touchdown efficiency has to do with Bryant's potency inside the 20s. Teams that can convert touchdowns instead of field goals find success in the NFL, which is something the Packers learned the hard way in the NFCCG.
Noel Alberto--Best receiver is a close one, but I’m going with Dez Bryant on this one. Des has the size, speed, and power that no one else has in the division. Odell Beckham comes in a close second, but kind of has to tone down the showboating at times to prove he is more than just out there for show.
Jarrod Taylor--Dez Bryant has been and will continue to be the best Wide Receiver in the NFC East. While he will have a serious contender to the throne this season with Odell Beckham Jr. gaining another year of experience with the Giants. The size and strength of Dez Bryant keeps him on top, not many relievers can block as well as they catch the ball and still make a move on a four yard stop route and take it all the way. It will be a fireworks show when the Giants and Cowboys get together this year.
Caleb Wahlgren--I don't think this is even really a debate. Dez Bryant is the best receiver in the division. Unfortunately for the Redskins and Eagles, they don't a receiver to be mentioned in the same breath as Bryant. While the Giants do have Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz, if his return from injury goes well, They are just not at the same level as Dez. Call this as close to a no brainer as there can be on this list.
5. The Dallas Cowboys won the division in 2014. Will they win it again in 2015 or which team do you think will dethrone them for their own divisional title and why?
Jamie Boal--It’s back to back division titles for the Cowboys and I think a deep playoff run could be on the cards. DeMarco Murray was a big loss but with one of the best offensive lines in the league, Tony Romo should have plenty of time to make plays all year and McFadden should have a solid season on the ground. For me, there is too much uncertainty in the Eagles quarterback situation right now and I just don’t have faith in Sam Bradford’s health (or Mark Sanchez & Tim Tebow at all for that matter). The Redskins are a well-documented mess and even if RGIII can stay on the field, which is a massive if at this point, it is unclear whether he can live up to the level he set his rookie year. The Giants are looking to bounce back from two horrible seasons but unless Manning can control his turnovers there is no chance of them turning things around, especially with no solid option at running back to help take on some of the offensive load. I’m going with Romo and the Cowboys to take the NFC East in 2015 by a wide margin.
Jon Fox--Dallas should go into training camp as a slight favorite to win the division but they'll have the Giants and Eagles nipping at their heels. It will be close and will come down to how much Dallas misses Bill Callahan running their offensive line. The Eagles have the most talent in the division, but that does a team little good if they can't all get on the same page. The Giants have talent, but they're very thin in too many places so a spate of injuries would derail them completely. The Redskins are still in rebuilding mode.
Bryan Castillo-- The Dallas Cowboys will repeat as division champions because of one main reason, Tony Romo. They may have lost their star running back in DeMarco Murray but they still have the best quarterback in the division in Romo. Their offensive line only got better with the addition of rookie La’el Collins and their defensive will be vastly improved especially on the defensive line with second round draft pick Randy Gregory and the addition of Greg Hardy. I think the New York Giants with all their new offensive weapons can give the Cowboys a run for their money but questions on their offensive line still make them suspect. The Eagles added DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews and bolstered their defense with Byron Maxwell at cornerback but with big questions remaining at quarterback it’s hard to see them winning the NFC East. The Washington Redskins still have question marks on offense mainly concerning RGIII’s development, may be another subpar year for Redskins fans.
Richard Sena--Dallas proved a lot of doubters wrong when they transformed what was an all-time bad defense into a passable group in 2015. Without any notable veteran additions, I do not believe Dallas' defense will hold up to 2014 standards. The Eagles, conversely, have made a number of notable additions on both sides of the ball and should see a substantial surge on defense. Clearly the biggest variable is Bradford's health, which will be the biggest determiner of their 2015 success. Injuries notwithstanding, I see the Eagles as the 2015 divisional champs.
Noel Alberto--I think the Cowboys retain the division again this year just edging out the Eagles. Albeit the loss of Murray hurts, their new backs should be able to carry the load while splitting carries. They made the right moves on defense which will be slightly improved.
Jarrod Taylor--Dallas won the division title last season because the best quarterback in the division finally found some help. While Romo can stand toe to toe with the likes of Manning in a gun slinging contest, it is much easier to put teams away with five mountains blocking for a wrecking ball. This year will be no different, the NFL is a league made for quarterbacks and this year the Cowboys still have the best person under center. With that said I would keep an eye on the Giants this year, they pose the biggest threat to the reigning champions.
Caleb Wahlgren--Dallas will win the division again with one major caveat. The Eagles had cut Evan Mathis and I believe the Eagles could win the division with Crazy Chip making decisions that just don't always make sense to everyone outside of the organization. I just don't know if Sam Bradford can stay healthy and play at a high level for 16 games. He looked good last preseason before he was hurt, but he is again rehabbing an injury and who knows how well they actually will perform with injuries. Dallas will win because they have better depth and should still be able to run the ball behind a stable of backs instead of relying mainly on Murray, since Murray has left.