Normally, the NFC East is one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, but the 2020 season saw them stoop to a new low. The New York Giants were at the bottom of a lowly NFC East until Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott broke his ankle and was forced to miss the rest of the campaign. The Giants inched forward, overcoming Washington twice and pushing for a playoff spot, just barely missing the mark (thanks, Evan…).
However, the embarrassment that the division put forth last year will not be replicated, as a Giants made significant improvements to both sides of the ball, and each of their interdivisional opponents did the same.
The question is, who is the favorite to win the NFC East in 2021 based on their improvements and coaching staff? Some might argue the Giants are in a position to take the step forward, as they added Kenny Golladay, John Ross, Kyle Rudolph, and Kadarius Toney to their offense this off-season. In addition, they are expected to gain back Saquon Barkley after tearing his ACL early last season.
With all of their offensive additions, quarterback Daniel Jones theoretically should take a big step in the right direction, but itâ€™s easier said than done. The Giants had the 31st ranked offense in points per game and 31st ranked pass-blocking unit in the trenches.
We can make the assumption that they will have a more productive offense next year with the coaching staff changes, including the addition of Russ Callaway, who Ed Orgeron called LSUâ€™s “secret weapon.” They also elevated Freddie Kitchens to a senior offense of advisor role, so he will have a bigger say in developing plays and concepts. This will no longer be a Jason Garrett run offense but a collaborative effort driven by analytics end creativity. Golladay did say, after all, he loved the â€œvisionâ€ of the offense, specifically after speaking with head coach Joe Judge and Garrett in person.
Should the New York Giants be favored in the NFC East?
1.) Washington Football Team
Washington cannot be overlooked, as they added Curtis Samuel in FA and Kentucky LB Jamin Davis in the draft to bolster both sides of the football. The biggest question is quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who routinely benched on a yearly basis for inconsistent play. Fitzpatrick has portrayed moments of magic in the past, but after taking a full season of battering, his performance degrades quickly. The Giants shouldnâ€™t be too worried about Washingtonâ€™s new quarterback, especially with a lockdown defense and the addition of pass rusher Azeez Ojulari.
Washingtonâ€™s defense is what they should be worried about, as they allowed just 304.6 yards per game, which ranked second-best in the NFL. They were 4th in points allowed and 2nd in passing yards allowed. They have one of the best defenses in the league, but the Giants made adequate changes to help expose their weaknesses and take advantage of a more creative playbook.
Considering Washington has struggled to win games against the Giants the past few years, despite having one of the worst offenses in the NFL, I feel comfortable heading into the season with our current roster.
2.) Dallas Cowboys
Dallas had a historically bad defense in 2020 and did a little to upgrade their secondary. They drafted Kelvin Joseph out of Kentucky to take over a starting CB role, but the other defensive back they were targeting was UCB DB Aaron Robinson, who the Giants traded up to snag in the third round.
Aside from a questionable secondary, they lost pass rusher Alden Smith, which leaves them with DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory as their primary defensive ends. They did add linebackers, Micah Parsons and Jabrill Cox, so they have a few youthful pieces to work with.
Dallas is always a competitive team when it comes to the Giants and the NFC East, so they will be no pushover. However, the Giants do you have the personnel to lock down their high-octane offense and overwhelm their inexperienced defense.
3.) Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have a few major questions on their roster as well, especially when it comes to quarterback. It seems as if they are rolling with Jalen Hurts, and that experiment could fail quickly if theyâ€™re not careful. Hurts had nine fumbles in just four starts last year, so unless he takes a significant step forward, the Giants will have an advantage over the young passer.
Philadelphia’s defense is also thin in the secondary, as they elected to draft DeVonta Smith instead of a corner to bolster their unit. Their primary corners are Avonte Maddox and Darius Slay. Maddox struggled in 2020, posting a 37.1 overall coverage grade per PFF. He allowed 395 yards and two touchdowns, missing 14.6% of his tackles. He had major issues holding up in coverage, and the Eagles are taking a big risk in their secondary if they continue to start him. They do have a solid pass rush, which could disrupt the Giants, having passed on drafting a lineman this year. Nonetheless, the Eagles have far too many issues to count, and the roster is extremely thin at positions of necessity. I believe they are the weakest team in the NFC East this year.
Overall, I think Washington and the Giants are neck and neck at the top of the division, as nobody knows how Prescott will return from his broken ankle and how long it will take him to return to form. In addition, their defense didnâ€™t improve much in the secondary, despite drafting two quality linebackers in Parsons and Cox.
If the Giants’ offense plays to potential and the defense holds up in coverage, they could easily have the best team in the NFC East. With a relatively light schedule this year, thereâ€™s a reason for optimism heading into the 2021 season.