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Published September 14, 2023
2023 Season Outlook: NFC East
Written by Alex C.
If you went up the street asking people which teams wield the most obnoxious fanbases, you could bet good money that the answer would lie in this division. The teams residing within the NFC East are notorious for their regular season success with an inability to follow-up in the post-season – unless you’re Eli Manning or Nick Foles. It brings a smile to every football fan’s face when these teams come up short annually – especially when it’s the Cowboys.
Though postseason struggles have become standard protocol, NFC East teams are hard beasts to battle throughout the regular season. Believe it when we say that this division is truly unpredictable – these teams could sneakily snatch the crown at any given moment, even if they appear close to their wit’s end. With tales of tragedy and triumph on each team’s trail, it’s going to be very interesting seeing how the NFC East is going to unfold in the 2023 season.
Previous Record – 14-3
The infamous Super Bowl losers. Its sad to see Philly’s season end to a last-minute holding call in the biggest game – but in all fairness, that same defense allowed twenty-four points in the second half.
They were a walking buzzsaw for the greater half of the season and that dominance was able to continue into the post-season. Jalen Hurts emerged as a star in the process, looking to be the heir to a McNabb or Vick with his play heavily emulating their styles. Not to mention, the robbery of A.J. Brown from the Titans in the previous off-season went exactly how Philly mapped it out. Almost everything that could go right with the Eagles went according to plan until the team fell flat on their face in the Super Bowl. Now, with a botched list of roster losses and the toughest schedule heading into the 2023 season, they wield a lot of pressure to run it back.
Whether you think so or not, the 2022 Eagles were one of those perfect teams you see placed together for a very short time period. However, they were faced with a difficult task of attempting to retain all of their players who looked to enter free agency. They were able to prevent Jason Kelce and Brandon Graham from retiring as well as re-siging James Bradburry, Darius Slay Jr., and Fletcher Cox. The two big losses that the Eagles faced were safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, both of whom played pivotal roles on the defense last season and secured themselves as potential threats come the playoffs. It seemed like the loss of these figures combined with the hefty contracts handed out – one of which making Jalen Hurts the highest paid quarterback in the league for a few weeks – would have the Eagles clawing their way back to contention. However, Philly’s general manager – Howie Rosman – has mastered the cap and let all the right pieces fall into place, especially during the draft.
Speaking of the draft, Philadephia emerged as the unanimous winner of the 2023 NFL Draft – well, if there was a title of such. Shockingly enough, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter fell to the Eagles at the ninth spot after he was projected to be taken immediately off the board. Eight teams allowed this powerhouse of a pick to drop to one of the most loaded defenses in the league, where he can thrive with reliable vets in his corner. Philly was also successfully able to pick up another Georgia product who was a difference maker on a suffocating defense in linebacker Nolan Smith. To top things off, they picked a final member of the Goergia defense with cornerback Kelee RIngo. The Eagles couldn’t have asked for a better draft as they walked away with three main pieces from a championship-winning defense. There’s no doubt that these rookies will blossom as they’re surrounded by some of the best defensive players in the league, simultaneously receiving guidance from a passionate roster of individuals.
The main question to ask after the Super Bowl loss is – can the Eagles run it back? You never really hear about one of these star-studded teams making the big game following a loss in the previous season, but they face little to no deep competition in the NFC conference. The only team that could pose a threat in the off-season is the 49ers, and we’ve yet to see these two blockbuster rosters play a completely healthy game. You could also throw in the Cowboys or a dark horse contender – like the Seahawks or Lions – but for now, the Eagles have the NFC on lock. If they can rise up and succeed while going through the NFL’s hardest schedule, then another Super Bowl appearance is possibly on the horizon.
Season Outlook Grade – A+
Previous Record – 12-5
The sole thing that bonds footballs fans together no matter who they support is simultaneously seeing “America’s team” fall short every year in the most embarrassing ways. Don’t get it twisted, as the Cowboys pose a serious threat in the regular season – but Dallas is far beyond their good ol’ days of consistent postseason success. While the overwhelming hate that they receive is definitely warranted, consider if a different team name was slapped on this roster. You would see more and more people call them a serious Super Bowl contender, especially with the work they put in throughout the offseason.
The biggest, widely known loss came in the form of running back Ezekiel Elliott getting cut from the team. Elliott played a big part in helping Dallas bounce back from an off-year and solidified himself as a household name with the squad. His deal with the Cowboys, however, was one of the defining contracts that contributed towards the collapse of the running back market, especially as his play dwindled down. With Pollard looking to get a new deal – which was eventually secured – it was time for the team to cut ties with Zeke after this past season. Dallas also lost tight-end Dalton Schultz to free-agency, an offensive player who rose to the occasion when needed but didn’t wield the flashy stats to show for it. They did some good digging for some additions though, as the team picked up receiver Bradin Cooks to add some assistance on offense and corner Stephon Gilmore to help out Trevon Diggs in the secondary. It was a lot going on for Dallas this offseason – especially with Pollard engaging in the simultaneous running-back holdouts – but the Cowboys took some solid steps at improving their already-strong roster.
Their effort throughout the 2023 NFL draft was solid, more or less. Their first pick in Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith wasn’t really ideal given the fact he was chosen a bit prematurely, but he could help out in an iffy defensive front. Dallas also ran with Michigan tight-end Luke Schoonmaker, who will look to contribute in a developing tight-end room – however, there were definitely better selections that they could’ve ran with at that position. Though his size created some question marks surrounding his potential in this league, running back Deuce Vaughn was a great pick, especially considering how late he was taken off the board. The Cowboys draft could’ve went better in different areas, but it was a valiant effort overall – nothing to raise chaos about.
If you ask the Cowboys fans, they’ll use every possible tactic to convince you it’s their year as with each and every season. Peel back the obnoxious behavior and it’s quite clear that this team actually wields the potential to go far in the post-season, but at this point we’re all familiar with the yearly protocol Dallas goes through. Whether it’s Dak or the coaching staff, the blame is hard to pinpoint given the organization as a whole collapses come playoff time. Dak has a reputation for being a turnover machine – and while Cowboys fans could bring up every stat about his turnover rate or QBR percentage, it doesn’t help how inconvenient it is when Dak gives up the ball. He’s not the terrible quarterback that the media – mainly social media – paints him as, but if he could get it together and deliver a consistent string of performances in the post-season, this squad can easily go toe-to-toe with any team in the league.
But this is the Cowboys we’re talking about – so enjoy the ride to another hilarious playoff exit.
Season Outlook Grade – A-
New York Giants
Previous Record – 9-7-1
Nobody could’ve expected the New York Giants to start off as strong as they did last season. The hiring of head coach Brian Daboll worked wonders on the team as they managed to squeeze their way into the playoffs and pull off an upset win against the three-seed Minnesota Vikings. The same Giants squad that strung together a sad series of losing records was now on the road to success – but one can’t help but wonder if this team has reached their peak or not. Sure, they contain its fair share of talent across different positions, but it’s easy to spot the flaws on this supernatural roster. The receiving room is mediocre at best – and it’s not like Daniel Jones is the most spectacular quarterback to watch.
Unlike some organizations, the Giants are completely aware of their strengths and weaknesses and put together a convincing effort throughout the offseason to acknowledge these flaws. The G-Men made a lot of veteran additions all throughout the roster, including moves for receiver Parris Campbell, defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, linebacker Bobby Okereke and safety Bobby McCain. Their best move was a high-way robbery trade for tight-end Darren Waller to which the Giants only gave up a third-round pick. This wasn’t their only lucky move, as the Cardinals also gave up hybrid defender Isaiah Simmons for a measly seventh-rounder. There was also the situation in which star running back Saquon Barkley threatened to sit out until the Giants met his demands for a new contract. This added a stressful tone to the team’s offseason as Barkley played a major role on leading the offense last season, but the two parties were eventually able to reach an agreement.
The Giants had an amazing draft that went over a lot of heads during the process. Their first pick was used on Maryland corner Deonte Banks – arguably the most athletic corner in the class – who shines in man coverage and wields the traits to develop into an amazing player. In addition, they picked up Tennessee receiver Jaylin Hyatt at great value in the third round. Hyatt was one of the best wideouts in the draft – ranked around the top five in receiving scouting reports – and looks to add a much needed spark in the Giants receiving room. There’s a lot of promise surrounding these rookies, as they have the potential to help elevate the team back to glory – but there’s still a fair share of questionable aspects surrounding this roster.
One of the biggest narratives clouding the Giants was the debate between Daniel Jones’ extension and whether the team should’ve used that money to pay Saquon Barkley instead. This led to Barkley sitting out from all team-related activities until got the contract he wanted. Obviously, this put a damper on the team – which translated to their Week 1 matchup against the Cowboys – but New York still wields the potential to grow into a consistent playoff contender. Jones isn’t the most reliable quarterback when it comes to ball security, but he can usually play well enough for four quarters to rally a team to victory. There’s still a chance for the G-Men but all they can hope for is that this talented roster is able to blossom into the bonafide contender they planned to nurture.
Season Outlook Grade – B-
Previous Record – 8-8-1
It’s crazy to think that a groundless Washington team was a game away from making the playoffs in 2022. They had talent on both ends of the ball, but were held back from contention due to very uninspiring quarterback play from Carson Wentz and the usual tone-deaf operations from Dan Snyder. There’s still a lot to figure out, but the organization took a big step forward when Snyder was able to sell the team in July of 2023. With a new owner looking to bring Washington back to glory and a Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator in Eric Bieniemy boarding the ship, it’s all up to Ron Rivera to prove he’s capable of creating a winning squad.
The Commanders didn’t really get a whole lot done in the off-season, but many big decisions were settled in that time frame. First thing on the list was to decide is if they were going to pick up Chase Young’s fifth-year option. The defensive end out of Ohio State put on a stellar rookie campaign, hoisting the coveted AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. Sadly, injuries derailed his trajectory immensely and Young has yet to play longer than ten games a season since, leading the Commanders to decline his option. Next on the list was the issue at quarterback, given the team’s struggles to find success with Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke, who both left in free agency. This prompted them to take a wild chance on 2022 fifth-rounder Sam Howell to step up as QB1. Washington also picked up long-time backup Jacoby Brissett to play behind Howell as he develops, but the expectation is that Bieniemy will play the biggest role in his development.
Washington’s draft day was pretty quiet aside from their first-round pick. The team settled on Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes, which caused a lot of confusion due to them passing up the draft’s most highly anticipated corner – Christian Gonzalez. Forbes looks to help elevate a solid secondary, contributing in a key moment of Washington’s Week 1 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. The Commanders took a few more picks on defense and the offensive line, but there wasn’t much more noise throughout the draft.
Washington is in a weird position as they gear up to enter the 2023 season, but nothing could be worse than the past twenty-plus years with Dan Snyder. Now that Snyder is finally out, all signs point to whether Rivera is capable of commanding this team’s future. The defensive-minded coach has great bones in a well-grounded defensive unit, but the offense is a different story. They have more weapons on offense than many give them credit for, but it’s all about how first-year starter Howell can perform with the resources provided. It was a rough start for the young quarterback, as he struggled with some iffy turnovers and had Brissett take over in the middle of the game – however, there were flashes of a quarterback that could get the job done. If he can play at a consistent pace, limit turnovers and work on decision-making, then Washington may have something special in this UNC product.
Season Outlook Grade – C+