The NFC East is full of compelling training camp stories heading into the 2021 NFL season. It’s not a particularly… potent… division. At least, it has not been recently. However, the NFC East has an incredible history, and it’s almost always a compelling finishing stretch. After all, no NFC East team has repeated as the division winner since the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004. You know what that means, Washington fans.
NFC East training camp storylines
Each team in the NFC East has question marks regarding their rosters. What are the biggest stories surrounding each franchise as we approach the 2021 season?
America’s Team. The Star. Everlasting disappointment. The story goes the same as every team, every season. High hopes and big names to start the year before something inevitably goes wrong. Yet, Dak Prescott is back for 2021 after brutally breaking his ankle in Week 5 last year against the New York Giants. He would be the NFC East training camp storyline if there was just one.
Prescott was on pace for an astronomically high passing output in 2020 before the injury. Fans will be waiting with bated breath as Prescott drops back in the pocket.
Still, the biggest storyline surrounding the Cowboys is with their defense. In particular, what is going to happen at the linebacker position? They now have Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, Keanu Neal, Micah Parsons, and Jabril Cox. How is that rotation going to work? Who is going to play what roles? Who ends up starting by the end of the NFC East training camp slate?
New York Giants
The Giants are a fascinating team. Their defense appears solid, but their results didn’t necessarily match our perceptions of them in 2020. But we also — I think rightly — believe in defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
Although there is always a chance Azeez Ojulari breaks out as a rookie, they still lack a legitimate outside rusher. Nevertheless, if Leonard Williams can replicate his outstanding 2020 campaign, it’ll help free others for production as he collapses the center of the pocket.
There are three big offensive training camp storylines for the Giants out of the NFC East. What kind of progression from Daniel Jones are we going to see in 2021? Can they patch together an interior offensive line good enough to keep Jones off the ground? Outside of Kenny Golladay, what will this receiving corps look like on Sundays? There are five names that garner attention outside of Golladay. That’s going to be the main thing I keep my eyes on.
What does Jalen Hurts have in him? That’s really what the Eagles’ season comes down to. They have a talented right side of the offensive line. They also drafted Landon Dickerson, who could be one of the biggest steals of the entire draft at the left guard spot if he can remain healthy.
But can Andre Dillard or Jordan Mailata get the job done at left tackle? Can the rest of the Eagles’ offensive line besides Dickerson stay healthy?
There are doubters of the NFL’s version of the “Slim Reaper.” The Eagles worked their way around the NFL Draft board to end up with DeVonta Smith. I think he’ll make most naysayers into believers by the time the NFC East training camp slate finishes. Outside of that, Jalen Reagor has to stay healthy and prove his own doubters wrong. Has he become a more complete receiver since his final season at TCU?
But in all reality, all eyes will be on No. 2 when the Eagles hit training camp. Hurts struggled as a rookie thrust into the starting role because a former second-overall pick had a catastrophic meltdown. Hurts generated one of the worst off-target throw percentages in the NFL last season. The problem with judging him solely off his rookie season is that he had very little help from his supporting cast.
Washington Football Team
Washington got better during the offseason. As a team from top to bottom, they might be the best in the division. However, they aren’t heading into 2021 as the division favorites because they were not able to enter a bidding war for Prescott, who the Cowboys never allowed to see the light of free agency.
Instead, they ended up with THE journeyman NFL starter at quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick silently enjoyed a solid 2020 season, despite throwing 8 interceptions in his nine games (seven starts) for the Miami Dolphins. Whether he is Fitzmagic or Fitztragic at the moment, he’s always a treat to watch play the game.
Seeing how much pressure Curtis Samuel can take off Terry McLaurin will be a fascinating sight. Will McLaurin continue to put up big-time production and simply become more efficient? Or, will his overall production lag behind a bit with the addition of a second functional pass catcher outside of tight end Logan Thomas and their running backs?
Antonio Gibson is going to be a problem for the NFC East, and the evidence of that will come out of training camp. His athleticism is unbelievable for his size, and he is still very much in the learning process of becoming an actual running back. Remember, Gibson was a legitimate slot wide receiver in his time at Memphis who occasionally got some carries. Thus, the sky is the limit for him as a runner.
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