After wave of Cowboy moves, do Eagles still dominate NFC East?
NFC East Reporter
For most of last season, the Philadelphia Eagles threatened to run away with the NFL’s top division. And if Jalen Hurts hadn’t gotten injured and missed two of his last three games, that’s exactly what he could have done.
Right now, though, the Eagles look a bit more vulnerable. They’ve already lost seven starters from their roster this offseason, along with their coordinators on both sides of the ball. They are still dangerous, no doubt. But they certainly look set to take at least one small step back in 2023.
But will it even matter? Has anyone in the NFC East actually closed the gap?
The answer to that is: Maybe… at least a little. But as good as the division was overall last season, only one other team positioned itself this offseason to really make a run for the division title. And if Dak Prescott can stay healthy and lower his interceptions next season, the Cowboys just might give the Eagles everything they can handle.
Giants and Commanders? They could be better. But they’re just not there yet.
The Cowboys, of course, were close last season, with a 12-5 record and an overtime loss at Jacksonville in Week 15, which really made for an interesting divisional run over the past two weeks. And now they’re unquestionably better after meeting their two biggest needs — a No. 2 receiver and a No. 2 cornerback — with bold offseason trades.
The Cowboys got receiver CeeDee Lamb the support he desperately needed by sending fifth- and sixth-round draft picks to Houston for the speedy Brandin Cooks. And they bolstered their secondary by sending a fifth-round pick to Indianapolis for five-time Pro Bowl corner Stephon Gilmore. Lamb, Cooks and a healthy Michael Gallup could be a really dangerous receiving body. And with Gilmore, Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland, the Cowboys now have as good and deep a cornerback corps as any team in the league.
They have issues, like everyone else in the division. They have to hope Jake Ferguson or Peyton Hendershot can step in now that tight end Dalton Schultz is in Houston. And they need running back Tony Pollard fully recovered from his broken leg and torn ligaments in his ankle so he can carry an even heavier load now that Ezekiel Elliott is gone.
But if Cooks gives Dallas’ offense the boost it needs and helps Prescott cut his 15-worst interceptions in the NFL, and if Gilmore can help a defense that once had one of the best assists in the league, the Cowboys are at the very least a 12-win team again. Maybe more. And maybe that will be enough.
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America’s Team has had a busy offseason. Joy Taylor, LeSean McCoy, Ric Bucher and TJ Houshmandzadeh rate the Cowboys’ moves.
It certainly brings them closer to Philadelphia than the Giants and Commanders are, though both have also improved in their own ways. The Giants in particular made some really big additions, considering how their passing offense stumbled behind one of the worst receiving bodies in the league. This offseason, they made sure Daniel Jones, their $160 million quarterback, will have better weapons in 2023, signing Parris Campbell and Jamison Crowder and trading for Darren Waller.
But while it’s better than what the Giants had last year, it’s still, easily, the fourth-best pass-catching weapon group in the four-team division. Their numbers will improve, no doubt, especially if Jones really is who the Giants think he is. And maybe they’ll help him out more by adding a No. 1 receiver in the draft. But right now, as their roster stands, they’re only marginally better than they were a year ago. That still makes them a .500 team, more or less a game anyway.
That’s probably even better than the Commanders, who probably have more offensive talent but have the most questionable quarterback situation in the league. Never mind that they re-signed defensive tackle Daron Payne and rebuilt their offensive line in free agency. Everything for Washington hinges on the development of quarterback Sam Howell, who made exactly one NFL start.
It’s hard to imagine him leading a run at a division title in just his second year in the league.
Which brings the NFC East right back to where it was last year, with the Eagles and Cowboys leading the way. Last season, it took Hurts an injury to really end the race. There was no doubt that the Eagles were the best team in the division.
They could still be the best team in the division this season. But the improved Cowboys should at least be able to make sure they don’t run away with it.
Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him on Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.
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