1. Philadelphia Eagles
A few tweaks to the defense should keep them ahead of the curve in a winnable division.
2. New York Giants
This is a make or break year for Eli Manning if you can believe it.
3. Dallas Cowboys
Too many unknowns on defense with all that talent on offense going to waste.
4. Washington Redskins
A year to reset will do them a lot of good.
Head Coach: Chip Kelly
Key Position: Secondary – It certainly was a learning curve for Chip Kelly to make some adjustments to the NFL style of play, but he had the Eagles finish 2nd in the league in total offense in his first season as head coach. Now he’ll need to learn that in order to have success long term, you’ll have to have a defense to match the offense. The Eagles were the worst defense against the pass last year and part of that blame goes to the offense who would score too quickly and not allow the defense time to rest. Having Jenkins man the middle of the defense at safety was a good step in the right direction.
Key Acquisitions: CB Nolan Carroll (Miami Dolphins), S Malcolm Jenkins (New Orleans Saints), QB Mark Sanchez (New York Jets), RB Darren Sproles (New Orleans Saints)
Key Rookies: LB Marcus Smith, WR Jordan Matthews, WR Josh Huff
Head Coach: Tom Coughlin
Key Position: Running Back – If the Giants want to return to contention in the winnable NFC East, they’ll need to take some heat off of QB Eli Manning. With Rashad Jennings added to the fold it will help immensely this year. With the unexpected retirement of former 1st round pick David Wilson due to a neck injury, the depth took a hit, but rookie Andre Williams has deceptive speed to complement Jennings. With a new coordinator this season it could be just what Eli needs to get back into a groove.
Key Acquisitions: DE Robert Ayers (Denver Broncos), S Quintin Demps (Kansas City Chiefs), RB Rashad Jennings (Oakland Raiders), LB Jameel McClain (Baltimore Ravens), CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Denver Broncos), G Geoff Schwartz (Kansas City Chiefs), CB Walter Thurmond (Seattle Seahawks)
Key Rookies: WR Odell Beckham, C Weston Richburg, RB Andre Williams
Head Coach: Jason Garrett
Key Position: Defense – There is no doubt about how explosive the Cowboys are on offense. With the upheaval on defense this offseason I’m not sure they’ll be much of a factor. They’ll be lucky to finish with an 8-8 record considering that their secondary has the same personnel as last year. Getting a new coordinator in the offseason will help, but if you take away your top two pass rushers (DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher) you can’t expect much improvement.
Key Acquisitions: DT Henry Melton (Chicago Bears), DE Jeremy Mincey (Jacksonville Jaguars), QB Brandon Weeden (Cleveland Browns)
Key Rookies: G Zack Martin, DE Demarcus Lawrence
Head Coach: Jay Gruden (Cincinnati Bengals)
Key Position: Quarterback – With the insanity surrounding the quarterback position last season in Washington, this year should be completely different with a new head coach and philosophy in place. Griffin shouldn’t have any trouble this season being completely recovered from his knee injury almost two years ago. Even though his backup Kirk Cousins had a rough end to last season he is a capable quarterback that could bring assets to the Redskins in the future. The additions of Jackson and Roberts to the receiving corp will help immensely with Pierre Garcon already in place.
Key Acquisitions: S Ryan Clark (Pittsburgh Steelers), DL Clifton Geathers (Philadelphia Eagles), DL Jason Hatcher (Dallas Cowboys), WR DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia Eagles), LB Akeem Jordan (Kansas City Chiefs), G Shawn Lauvao (Cleveland Browns), CB Tracy Porter (Oakland Raiders), WR Andre Roberts (Arizona Cardinals),
Key Rookies: LB Trent Murphy