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NFL preview 2017: NFC East outlook

As a rookie, Dak Prescott led Dallas to

As a rookie, Dak Prescott led Dallas to a 13-3 record in 2016. Photo Credit: EPA / LARRY W. SMITH

NEW YORK GIANTS

COACH: Ben McAdoo

2nd season (11-5, .688)

LAST SEASON: 11-5, 2nd place

PLAYOFFS: lost to Green Bay, 38-13, in wild card

OUTLOOK: Last year, GM Jerry Reese addressed the defense, adding free agent difference-makers Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins. This year, he added to the offense with free agents Brandon Marshall and Rhett Ellison and first-round tight end Evan Engram in hopes of helping Eli Manning, who was under siege for much of last season. The one big if: the offensive line, which played poorly last year. But if that group improves – and there’s reason to believe it can – then this could be a special season for the Giants. At the very least, it can be a playoff year. And maybe a Super one.

 

DALLAS COWBOYS

COACH: Jason Garrett

8th season (58-46, .558)

LAST SEASON: 13-3, 1st place

PLAYOFFS: lost to Green Bay, 34-31, in division playoff

OUTLOOK: It was an extraordinary bounce-back season for the Cowboys in 2016, as they went from last to first thanks to the brilliant play of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. But history shows teams that experience a tremendous leap forward one season often regress the next year. The Cowboys will be an important test case for that, especially considering Elliott’s looming suspension for domestic violence, a sanction he is appealing. Prescott has already shown veteran resourcefulness, so his performance will be the major key. The defense overachieved last year, and it will have to be more of the same for Dallas to make it back to the playoffs.

 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

COACH: Doug Pederson

2nd season (7-9, .438)

LAST SEASON: 7-9, 4th place

OUTLOOK: Carson Wentz was so good as a rookie that the Eagles wasted no time anointing him as the starter and trading Sam Bradford to Minnesota for a first-round pick. Wentz showed plenty of potential in 2016, although he also made his share of mistakes. It was a quantum leap from college to the pros, but now that he’s used to the NFL game, Wentz should flourish, especially now that he has receivers Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery. On defense, the front seven is among the best in the league, and includes Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham. Cornerback depth is a problem. Look for the Eagles to show significant improvement, and with a couple of breaks get in position for a wild card playoff berth.

 

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

COACH: Jay Gruden

4th season (21-26-1, .448)

LAST SEASON: 8-7-1, 3rd place

OUTLOOK: It’s a transition year of sorts in Washington, which is one reason Kirk Cousins wasn’t ready to commit to a long-term contract and instead is playing out the year on the one-year franchise tag. He lost receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to free agency, although the Redskins hope 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson and Browns free agent Terrelle Pryor can pick up the slack. Jordan Reed is a big-time tight end. Josh Norman is the most recognizable player on a defense that is mostly non-descript. But the Redskins hope new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, who replaces the ineffective Joe Barry, can help improve a group with limited talent.

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