By the end of July, NFL training camps will be fully underway. Each team will have questions to answer in terms of their starting lineups. Which teams have the most pressure on them? What are the important positional battles to keep an eye on? This article attempts to answer both of these questions, and how they relate to the NFC East.
Philadelphia Eagles: Running Back
Philadelphia’s running game was a huge issue last season. The Eagles were only able to accumulate 1,570 rushing yards in 2018, a total which ranked 28th in the NFL. However, what really impeded their success on the ground was the health of their personnel. Their designated starter, Jay Ajayi, was only able to play in 4 games before tearing his ACL last October.
This year, Doug Peterson and his coaching staff have bigger expectations for their running corps, trading for Pro Bowler Jordan Howard in late March. Howard has been one of the steadiest running backs in the league for the past 3 years, averaging better than 1,100 yards per season, and coach Peterson is expecting him to bring that same consistency to the Eagles backfield. Although, no matter what his previous production was, Howard’s position in Philly will have to be earned. Howard will be competing with 2nd round pick Miles Sanders and 2-year veteran Corey Clement for the role of starting running back.
At this point in time, it appears as though the starting job is Howard’s to lose. But, given the success that rookie running backs have had in recent seasons, do not be surprised if Sanders is given the opportunity to claim the job as starter. As for Clement, it is difficult to see him having a big role on offense, but if the Eagles are once again plagued by injuries, the 24-year-old could very well be thrown into the fire.
Washington Redskins: Quarterback
Washington’s quarterback battle might be one of the most interesting position duels in the NFL this year. After Alex Smith’s horrific injury in 2018, coach Jay Gruden and his staff were left to find the future of their franchise, this time in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Leading up to the draft, almost everyone expected the New York Giants to select Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins with the Number 6 overall pick. Instead, Haskins began to slip out of the top 10 and eventually was (grabbed) by the Redskins with the 15th pick. This was a surprising steal for a franchise that has been without a star since their failed experiment with Robert Griffin III. In his final season at Ohio State, Dwayne Haskins put up eye-popping numbers, leading all of collegiate football with 4,831 passing yards and 50 touchdowns and finished 3rd in the Heisman voting. This year, the 22-year-old Haskins will do his best to transition into a starting role in Washington, but he will have some stiff competition.
Case Keenum, an NFL journeyman and 6-year veteran, was traded to the Redskins at the beginning of the offseason, and will be looking to show what he is capable of, in terms of experience and ability to learn a playbook like the back of his hand. The pressure will definitely be on coach Gruden to determine who is best suited to lead the team this season.
New York Giants: Quarterback
It has been stated that Eli Manning will be the Giants starter when the 2019 NFL season begins in the fall. At 38-years-old, the amount of gas left in Manning’s tank is up for debate. Even though he had an acceptable season in 2018, throwing 21 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions, Manning will begin his 16th year in the NFL without his superstar target, Odell Beckham Jr., who was traded to the Browns.
In any case, Manning had much better numbers last season than any other quarterback on the Giants’ roster. Yet, it is no secret that Manning’s days as a high-level starter are behind him. New York is in need of a long-term prospect, and they need him now.
Giants fans all over the world expected this year’s draft to be the perfect opportunity to look to the future, given the collection of eligible quarterbacks. However, the Giants shockingly selected Daniel Jones out of Duke with the 6th overall pick, much to the chagrin of their supporters. General manager Dave Gettleman has been quoted saying that Jones reminded him of Manning and his older brother Peyton, both soon-to-be Hall of Famers.
Even though Jones has been dubbed the starter of the future, he may very well not be ready to start this season. He and Manning will surely compete for the position throughout training camp, but neither player will have much margin for error. New York is a demanding market, and their fans will demand for offensive production.
Dallas Cowboys: No.2 Wide Receiver
Ever since their resurgence in 2016, the Dallas Cowboys have been considered a contender to win the NFC East. In their prominent years, the Cowboys have been known for their talented offensive units. But this year, their offense will need to answer a great deal of questions, specifically related to their pass-catchers.
Beyond Amari Cooper, the 4th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft who has proven himself to be a star-caliber wide receiver, Dallas’s talent at receiver has run dry. Dak Prescott is a capable and poised passer, but in order for the team succeed, they will need to find a player to draw some of the defensive attention away from Cooper in the passing game.
Some people believe that the former Green Bay Packer, Randall Cobb, will fit perfectly into that role, while others believe that a taller, deep-ball threats like Michael Gallup and Allen Hurns are more suited to be Prescott’s second option.