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Pro talk: state of the NFC East

Eric Rose, Practicum Writer

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As of the end of week 2, the NFC East appears to be the lovable disaster it was for much of the late 2000’s and early 2010’s: four of the most popular teams in the league battling out to see which one would somehow make the least mistakes and end up in the playoffs.

The Giants look atrocious. Scoring just 13 points in their first two games, it is no surprise they are 0-2. There are three constants in life: death, taxes, and Ereck Flowers letting a right end blow past him for a sack. The offensive line resembles that of wet toilet paper and traffic cones, causing Eli Manning to spend more time lying on the ground than looking for open receivers.

Odell Beckham, Jr., one of the league’s most dominant wide receivers, is battling through an injury and still seems to be the only bright side on the offensive end of the ball. The defense is trying to make up for the offense’s ineptitude, but they would have to perform like the 2000s Ravens to have a chance to win games this way.

The Cowboys are 1-1, but likely only because they got the free space in the center of the bingo card for their week 1 matchup against the aforementioned dumpster fire that is the New York Giants. Week 2 hit them like freight train, giving up 42 points in a blowout by the Denver Broncos. Despite his suspension being on hold for the time being, Ezekiel Elliot looked like he was sitting at home last Sunday when matched up against the Broncos remarkable front seven, racking up just 8 yards on 9 carries and giving up on plays before the whistle.

Dak Prescott’s inability to throw deep is mitigating the strengths of Dez Bryant and allows defenses to stack the box against the 2016 rushing leader. It also doesn’t help that an offensive line that created holes the size of Dallas last year is struggling to make the game easy. Maybe last year was a fluke?

Washington was able to bounce back from a week 1 loss to the Eagles by allowing Kirk Cousins to do what he does best: hand the ball off so he avoids throwing an interception. After throwing the ball 40 times against the Eagles, Cousins took a backseat to the running backs committee of Robert Kelley, Chris Thompson, and Semaje Perine, who pounded through an Aaron Donald-led Rams front seven for almost 240 yards and two scores. It’s important to note that the Rams are a perennially average football team, so the truth is that we have no idea what to think of Washington at this point in the season.

And now we arrive at the Eagles. They’re also 1-1, defeating the divisional rival Washington Football Team™ and losing a close game to the Chiefs one week removed from making Tom Brady look like Blake Bortles. Not bad! However, there is one huge problem that could derail this season quicker than the Eagles would like.

You know when you’re playing Madden and the computer scores once so you decide to run Four Verticals every play for the rest of the game? That’s Doug Pederson.

56-13 sounds like the score of a really bad college football game, but it’s actually the pass-run ratio in Sunday’s outing against the Chiefs. Simply put, this cannot become a trend if the Birds want to compete. With no looming threat of a rushing attack, defenses can focus their game plan around shutting down a second-year quarterback who appears to be making strides.

Pederson’s reliance on Carson Wentz and the passing game for virtually every down is going to destroy both the season and Wentz. Through two games, Wentz has thrown the ball 85 times, making him on pace to throw the ball 680 times this year, a number large enough to land him third all-time in pass attempts in a season. If Pederson’s not careful, his future as the head coach—and Wentz’s arm—could be hanging on by a thread.

In fairness to Pederson, the running game has looked bleak when given opportunities and the players simply aren’t that good. It is unacceptable for LeGarrette Blount to look like he’s running through quicksand when he receives a handoff. It is unacceptable for an offensive line with the talent that the Eagles have to not be able to create holes to get to the second level. It is unacceptable for the Eagles’ front office to come out of this year’s draft with seemingly the only running back that cannot contribute to their team, Donnell Pumphrey.

What is acceptable, however, is Jim Schwartz channeling his inner Jim Johnson and unleashing a defense that no team wants to play against. Despite injuries to the #1 cornerback Ronald Darby and starting safety Rodney McLeod, the Eagles’ defense has not yet fallen apart like they have in recent years. A front seven that includes Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Jordan Hicks and a seemingly reborn Mychal Kendricks has little competition around the league. Also, a secondary group that doesn’t come from the “Bradley Fletcher school of defense” is a sight to behold for Eagles fans.

So, while everyone in the NFC East appears to be having their fair share of issues, it is apparent that no team is going to run away with the division. The divisional bloodbath we’ve all grown to love is back and the next 15 weeks are undoubtedly going to be filled with sloppy play, trash talk, and endless hot takes on sports radio.

Eric Rose is a fourth-year student majoring in communications with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Pro talk: state of the NFC East