2014 record: 12-4, 1st NFC East
Key additions: Darren McFadden, Greg Hardy, A.J. Jenkins
Key losses: Jermey Parnell, DeMarco Murray, Bruce Carter
Top draft pick: Byron Maxwell
The Good: Dallas’ offensive line is one of the league’s best and will continue to propel this offense. Additionally, the Cowboys had a stellar draft obtaining great value in the second round with Randy Gregory and landing La’El Collins as an undrafted free agent. Additionally, Dez Bryant was the No. 4 wide receiver and Jason Witten was second only to Rob Gronkowski at tight end.
The Bad: The Cowboys lost a top-five running back in DeMarco Murray and replaced him with Darren McFadden, a bottom-five rusher. Additionally, Dallas’ secondary continues to be a weak link, especially in the wake of the Orlando Scandrick injury. The hope is that rookie Byron Maxwell can make an immediate impact.
The Ugly: Defensive tackle Nick Hayden was the bottom-ranked player at his position in the league. It is surprising that Dallas made no attempt to replace him during the offseason.
Dallas’ defense played much better than expected last season, but it’ll be a tall order for them to repeat on a tougher schedule. Quarterback Tony Romo excelled in 2014 due to a quality running game, but unless Joseph Randle emerges as a bell cow, it is doubtful he will see the same success. The NFC East is far from the brutal division it once was, and Dallas should be able to repeat as champions, but don’t expect another 12-4 campaign. In the draft, Dallas could target Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings or Alabama tailback Derrick Henry.
New York Giants
2014 record: 6-10, 3rd NFC East
Key additions: Marshall Newhouse, Jeromy Miles, J.T. Thomas, Brandon Meriweather
Key losses: Antrel Rolle, Peyton Hillis, J.D. Walton
Top draft pick: Ereck Flowers
The Good: Even without Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants have a great defensive line. Robert Ayers had a career year and Johnathan Hankins is a stud at defensive tackle. Odell Beckham Jr. exceeded expectations at wide receiver last year, finishing as the No. 3 wideout in the league despite missing the first four games. Beckham did not receive a negative grade in any game last season. Henry Hynoski was also the No. 2 fullback in the NFL last year.
The Bad: Rashad Jennings played poorly in his first season with the Giants, finishing with a -3.3 grade, 36th out of 57 qualified running backs. Special teams is also a weak point as John Brown and Steve Weatherford combined for a grade of 0.2.
The Ugly: The Giants offensive line is in bad shape. Rookie Ereck Flowers will be protecting Eli Manning’s blindside and Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg and Marshall Newhouse all received negative grades last season. Geoff Schwartz receive positive grades at guard last year, but played just 93 snaps and was placed on injured reserve twice.
New York has the most balanced team in this division, but with Pierre-Paul out, the lack of a quality running game and a poor offensive line, the Giants will struggle throughout the season. The Giants could be surprisingly competitive, but unless the running game and offensive line improves, they can only go so far. New York could take a page from Dallas’ book a rebuild their offensive line with early draft picks. Offensive tackles Spencer Drango (Baylor) and Jack Conklin (Michigan State) could be available when the Giants are on the clock.
2014 record: 9-7, 2nd NFC East
Key additions: DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Byron Maxwell, Sam Bradford, Kiko Alonso
Key losses: Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, Evan Mathis, Jeremy Maclin
Top draft pick: Nelson Agholor
The Good: Philadelphia may have the best defense in this division. Brandon Graham was quietly the third-best 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL and Fletcher Cox’s 30.5 grade ranked him fifth among 3-4 defensive ends. On offense, Jason Peters was the top tackle in the NFL, and Philadelphia went from having LeSean McCoy, who was the third-worst running back in football last season according to Pro Football Focus, to bringing in DeMarco Murray, who was ranked fifth.
The Bad: They Eagles traded away Nick Foles to St. Louis and brought in the oft-injured Sam Bradford. Don’t expect him to be the starting quarterback all season. Mark Sanchez, who will replace Bradford when he does get injured, was the 27th ranked passer last year with a grade of -9.8.
The Ugly: There are injury prone players all across this roster. Along with Bradford, Murray and his backup, Ryan Mathews, have a lengthy history of injuries. Inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans is coming off of an Achille injury and newly acquired lineback Kiko Alonso is recovering from an ACL tear.
Philadelphia may have more talent than Dallas, but they don’t have it together at quarterback and the injury history of several players on the roster will hold them back. Additionally, cutting Evan Mathis makes a big impact on their offensive line. The secondary is the weak link on this team, especially in the wake of the Barrett Boykin trade. Expect the Eagles to scout Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey and Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller in the draft.
2014 record: 4-12, 4th place NFC East
Key additions: Ricky Jean-Francois, Dashon Goldson, Stephen Paea, Terrance Knighton
Key losses: Brian Orakpo, Brandon Meriweather, Ryan Clark, Roy Helu
Top draft pick: Brandon Scherff
The Good: Washington spent wisely in free agency, adding Stephen Paea and Terrance Knighton to shore up the defensive line. The duo finished 11th and 12th out of 81 qualified defensive tackle. The team also replaced David Amerson, the worst cornerback in football last year, with former 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver. Ryan Kerrigan was also a top 5 3-4 outside linebacker, ending the year with a grade of 19.3.
The Bad: This quarterback situation is still a mess. Robert Griffin III is out and Head Coach Jay Gruden is ready to move on from him, but owner Dan Snyder won’t allow it. The Redskins also have talent all across their front seven except for inside linebacker, where Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley are among the worst starting inside linebacker combinations in the league. Alfred Morris is also a below-average back, ending 2014 with a -6.2 grade.
The Ugly: Dashon Goldson was the second worst safety in football last season, barely ahead of Ryan Clark, the man he is replacing. To make matters worse, the Redskins are moving Goldson away from his natural of strong safety and moving him to free safety.
Washington is stuck in a transition year. Griffin is in the final year of his contract and is unlikely to return. Until Washington is able to rid themselves of Griffin, they won’t be able to compete. Expect this team to spend another season in the basement of the NFC East. Connor Cook (Michigan State), Christian Hackenburg (Penn State) and Cardale Jones (Ohio State) are three signal callers could be available when Washington is on the clock next year, but buyer beware, this looks like a weak year for quarterbacks.