Hope springs eternal in the preseason, leading most fans to look for reasons why their favorite team will be great rather than brainstorming nightmare scenarios where their team is terrible.
But that’s not what we’re going to do here. Ahead of the final week of preseason and the first week of the 2021 campaign, it’s time to get a bit dark and look at how each team in the NFC East could find themselves outside the playoff picture by the end of the season.
First, up the hometown team.
Washington Football Team: Ryan Fitztragic
Washington made an indisputable upgrade at quarterback in the offseason by signing 37-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year contract, but there’s a reason he was available: he’s not perfect.
For every 300-yard, three-touchdown performance throughout Fitzpatrick’s career, there are games where he plays like the worst quarterback in the league. Washington’s defense carried them last season and should be improved after a few offseason additions. The offense was revamped with a number of new weapons, including Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown.
But if Washington gets more “Fitztragic” than “Fitzmagic,” it’s going to be incredibly difficult to capture back-to-back NFC East crowns.
New York Giants: Jason Garrett
The easy choice here is Daniel Jones and whether he can become the type of franchise quarterback to elevate the players around him and turn the Giants into contenders. But even after just two seasons in the NFL, it doesn’t feel realistic to expect that kind of leap from Jones anyway.
The chief concern for the Giants as a whole will be putting Jones and the bevy of offensive playmakers they’ve acquired over the years in a position to succeed. Can Jason Garrett be that guy? He certainly wasn’t last season as New York’s offensive coordinator and it wasn’t that long ago that he gave up all play-calling duties in Dallas to Kellen Moore.
Jones will likely draw the criticism or praise based on his performance, and rightfully so as he plays the game’s most important position. But it’s important to remember who’s calling the plays, and Garrett has done little to prove he’s good at it.
Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott’s health
Despite Dan Quinn’s arrival as defensive coordinator, the Cowboys are going to have to score a lot of points to win games this season. Dak Prescott’s return from a season-ending ankle injury was supposed to alleviate those concerns but he may not be 100%.
Prescott reportedly may not be “fully back” at any point this season from his ankle injury or the shoulder strain he suffered in training camp. If Prescott isn’t right and the offense struggles to push the ball downfield, it’ll put even more strain on an already vulnerable defensive unit.
Philadelphia Eagles: The passing game
The Eagles should have a pretty good defense anchored by their front four and solid offensive line (health permitting). They have solid depth at running back and a dual-threat quarterback in Jalen Hurts to boast a potentially dynamic ground attack.
But as we’ve learned in the NFL, the way to win is through the air and Philly hasn’t been the best in that area as of late. For all his flashes last season, Hurts was not an efficient passer. First-year head coach Nick Sirianni has never called plays the way he will in 2021, and DeVonta Smith represents the only reliable receiver the Eagles have, and we all know how volatile rookie wideouts can be.
If the Eagles struggle to move the ball on offense, and ultimately struggle to win games, it’s going to be because they can’t threaten defenses through the air.