Though no team was excellent in 2012, the members of the NFC East never fail to compete until the end of the year and make things interesting along the way. The Washington Redskins, a surprise contender thanks to Robert Griffin III’s level of play at quarterback, only won their division and made the playoffs by beating the Dallas Cowboys in the last game of the NFL season; the New York Giants, through their usual ups and downs, fought till the end as well. Then there was the implosion that was the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the most talented 4-12 teams in recent league history. All of these teams have the potential to improve their records next season, but one of the keys is how each team does at Radio City Music Hall at the end of the month.
Dallas Cowboys (Last Season: 8-8; First Pick: 18th Overall; Number of Picks: 7)
Tony Romo was rewarded this offseason for his one career playoff win with a six-year, $108 million contract extension, with $55 million guaranteed. So we can assume they aren’t going to draft a quarterback this year, or anytime soon. If they want that investment to pan out, the Cowboys will need to make another investment, one in a first-round offensive lineman. Romo has proven to us that when he is under pressure, he makes more costly mistakes. He threw eight interceptions when under duress last season, most in the league. Dallas would benefit from either OT DJ Fluker (Alabama) or OG Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina) here. It would also do them well to draft a safety early on; Dallas’s 2012 safeties combined for just four interceptions, which was worst in the league. If they don’t take Fluker or Cooper in the first round, the Cowboys reportedly love Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. If they wait till Round Two to pick a safety, they could still end up with LSU’s Eric Reid, or, if they’re lucky, FIU’s Jonathan Cyprien.
New York Giants (Last Season: 9-7; First Pick: 19th Overall; Number of Picks: 8)
After another up-and-down year that ended without a playoff trip, the Giants need to recover and have a good draft in order to remain competitive with Washington and the others. This starts on the defense, which was 31st in the NFL, which was last out of all defenses that don’t belong to the New Orleans Saints. While some mock drafts have the Giants drafting inside linebackers like Alec Ogletree or (gasp) Manti Te’o, the loss of DE Osi Umenyiora to Atlanta and the injuries to DE Justin Tuck makes a pass-rushing defensive end their most pressing need. If Florida State DE Bjoern Werner is available, it should be a no-brainer for New York; if not, Texas DE Alex Okafor is also a viable option. The Giants can address their other needs in the next few rounds: yes, they need a tight end, but even if Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert is available at 19, the Giants can get better value for this less pressing need by drafting San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar or Stanford’s Zach Ertz later on. They will address linebacker and offensive line, too.
Philadelphia Eagles (Last Season: 4-12; First Pick: 4th Overall; Number of Picks: 9)
Andy Reid is still respected enough that he is expected to turn around the Kansas City Chiefs, his new employer. But Philadelphia had had enough of Reid, who had never coached the team to a worse record than last year. In comes Chip Kelly, which may turn out to be one of the best coach-team fits ever. Kelly ran a read-option spread offense at the University of Oregon, which utilizes speed at all offensive skill positions; the Eagles have Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin at Kelly’s disposal. Either Vick learns, succeeds in and thrives in the new offense, or the experiment probably goes to pot. But what should Kelly do with the fourth overall pick? The Eagles could definitely use a new left tackle to anchor this high-powered offensive scheme; this could be Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher or Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, depending on what Reid and Kansas City do at number one. Alternatively, Oregon LB Dion Jordan, someone Kelly coached and liked, could very well be available. Would Kelly pass up the opportunity to coach him in the pros? The Eagles also gave up more passing touchdowns than any team in the league in 2012 and could use new help at cornerback, now that Nnamdi Asomugha is gone. Southeastern Louisiana’s CB Robert Alford has been linked to the Eagles.
Washington Redskins (Last Season: 10-6; First Pick: 51st Overall; Number of Picks: 7)
The Redskins’ first pick is the 51st, not the 22nd, because they gave this year’s first-rounder to St. Louis as part of last year’s trade that positioned Washington number two overall in order to draft Robert Griffin III. Now if the team could trade up and draft a healthy new knee for RG3, they would. The biggest question for the Washington Redskins this season is whether Griffin can return to his Rookie of the Year form when he officially returns from injury, whether that be by Week One or not. But in the draft, Washington has other things to focus on. A new offensive tackle to help keep Griffin upright, someone like Oregon OT Kyle Long, would be good. Washington was also consistently burned in the secondary last year; they gave up 281.9 passing yards per game, third-worst in the league, and 31 passing touchdowns, tied for second-worst. A great value pick would be UConn CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, if he’s around at their third-round pick. The 6’1 corner could step up and potentially start early.