For all the bad things said about the NFC East last season, the division produced two playoff teams as both the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles made the dance. All four teams made big off-season moves as well, in hopes of securing a division title that has rotated homes every year since 2004. The Giants used high pedigree draft picks to select cornerstones, the Eagles made big trades and free agent acquisitions, the Commanders found a new QB and Dallas re-signed multiple impact players from a division winner.
The first goal of every team is to win their division. This is the easiest way to ensure a playoff berth and a chance at a run for the Super Bowl. Which team built the best roster though? This series is a position-by-position breakdown of what each organization is bringing to the competition. The most important players in the game, the quarterback position, kick things off.
New York Giants: Daniel Jones
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Jones comes in last amongst quarterbacks in the division. Selected sixth overall in 2019, Jones had a promising rookie season. It wasn’t spectacular, but he had his career highs in attempts, yards, touchdowns and QBR as a rookie. Since then, he just never seemed to show big improvements.
Jones has been so bad the Giants declined to pick up his fifth-year option and he is playing for his job in New York this season. It doesn’t help that he has never finished a full season, his star running back hasn’t been healthy since his rookie season and the team overall hasn’t hit on their offensive additions in the draft or free agency. Neither tight end Evan Engram nor wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay have had the big impact the team hoped for.
A change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered for Jones, who has a solid dual-threat ability if he landed in the right place to better utilize his skills. In this division, with this team, Jones is last amongst starting quarterbacks.
Washington Commanders: Carson Wentz
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In 2017, just five seasons ago, it would be hard to convince anybody that Wentz wasn’t going to be the star QB of the future for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles and Cowboys fanbases would argue about which team had the best QB between Wentz and Dak Prescott.
In 2022, Prescott is signed on as the franchise QB of the Cowboys, while Wentz has been traded away from the Eagles, then was sent packing by the Indianapolis Colts after just one season. This might be his last stop as a starting QB, returning to the NFC East with the Commanders.
The 2017 season for Wentz seems an anomaly at this point, but Wentz has put up good numbers as a starter in every year except the 2020 season. In those three seasons he averaged 3,558 yards, 25 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. Those are numbers teams can win with, and the Commanders are hoping he can do just enough to win games behind a defense that needs a bounce back year but should be very good on paper.
If the defense goes back to their 2020 form, and Wentz can have a solid year, the offense should be good enough to make the Commanders a contender for the division. Weapons like WRs Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, TE Logan Thomas, RB Antonio Gibson, and rookie first-round WR Jahan Dotson should help bring the best out of Wentz, but will that be enough to compete with the Eagles and the Cowboys in the NFC East?
Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Hurts
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There are some, even amongst Eagles fans, who might argue Wentz belongs ahead of Hurts due to his limited ability in the passing game. Gardner Minshew II had two starts last season and was better on average than Hurts as a passer. He had a significantly higher completion percentage, a much better touchdown percentage, a better touchdown to interception average, better average yards per attempt, an almost 20-point higher quarterback rating and a much higher QBR as well. What makes Hurts the second-best QB in the division then? It’s simple, he was the Eagles best running back.
That isn’t hyperbole either. Behind a top offensive line unit, Hurts had more rush attempts than Miles Sanders, more yards, and scored ten touchdowns to Sanders zero. This mix of competent passer and very good rushing option can still win games in the NFL.
In a Tim Tebow style, the Eagles can run, control the clock, keep their own defense fresh, and wear down the opposing defense in the process. The Eagles wins might not be seen directly in relation to how Hurts throws the ball, but his rushing ability is a catalyst to Philadelphia’s success.
The way the Eagles win is going to be limited with Hurts. If an opponent gets a large lead, then Philadelphia could struggle, but combining for 3,928 total yards, 26 scores, and nine interceptions are very good numbers for any QB.
Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott
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The opposition will tell the team they are facing which players they fear by how they game plan to try to stop them. Prescott is the best QB in the NFC East because he is the only one capable of what he did the first six weeks of the season. He started the year on an MVP pace, breaking records in New England against the Patriots and maybe the greatest defensive mind of all time. After that game, Prescott was on a 17-game pace of 5,136 yards, 45 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. That’s 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns more than the actual MVP Aaron Rodgers finished with.
After the Patriots game, Dallas saw a new strategy from defensive coordinators most games. They were going to eliminate Prescott as much as possible. Allowing looks that dared the Cowboys to run the ball and taking away the big play with a shell coverage over the top was the most impactful way defenses could try to stop the Dallas QB. While the team ended the season as the top yardage and scoring offense, it was obvious to everyone watching Prescott wasn’t the same MVP caliber QB in the second half of the season.
One full year away from the devastating ankle injury suffered in 2020, the question will be how close to the MVP level of play Prescott can match. If he can play that well again, it might be a competition for the MVP of the league, instead of just the best in the NFC East. Can the team counter the defensive strategies they saw the last half of the year, and open up the field for Prescott to dominate once more? Only time will tell, but those game plans are put in place for a reason, because of the ability for Prescott to play like an MVP, and that is why he is clearly the top QB in the NFC East.
Like most divisions, the NFC East will likely be decided by which team has the best quarterback play at the end of the season. The Giants likely aren’t a factor in the division due to their QB situation and lack of overall talent. The Eagles will have a say because of their domination of the trenches, and Jalen Hurts’ unique ability in the run game. The Commanders are hoping Wentz can be good enough to win games playing with a great defense.
The Cowboys are the odds-on favorite to repeat as the division champs. Prescott is 25-6 against the NFC East and is hoping to win the division yet again as the Dallas Cowboys QB and move on to add playoff success to his resume.