It always comes down to the quarterback, at least in the NFC East. This season is no different, so which team’s storyline is best? We rank the division.
Over the past month or so, ESPN released an article detailing the most important storylines of 2019 for each team. They asked their staff of team beat writers to define what the biggest storylines were for each team in the upcoming season. Then we read them all and now we’re ranking them. As the offseason continues and we get nearer to the 2019 NFL regular season, let’s tackle these stories division by division — today concerning the NFC East — and answer two questions.
1. Which team has the best story? (“Best” means whatever you want it to mean.)
2. Which story is least likely to become a dominant tale of the season?
Two brothers from New York, Dan Salem and Todd Salem, debate the NFC East in today’s NFL Sports Debate.
Dallas Cowboys – Can the Cowboys take the next step?
New York Giants – When will we see Daniel Jones?
Philadelphia Eagles – Can Carson Wentz stay healthy?
Washington Redskins – Can Jay Gruden save his job while starting a rookie quarterback?
Todd Salem: This division, even more so than others, is all about the quarterback stories. The best quarterback in the division remains Wentz in Philadelphia. That makes his and the Eagles’ story the best. This team is not very far removed from the one that won the championship. All it will take for a plausible shot at a second ring is a healthy season from Wentz.
Everything hinges on that, especially with the offseason departure of backup/playoff hero Nick Foles. Another injury for Wentz knocks the Eagles completely out of the playoff picture. A full, good season from him puts them in the upper echelon of the sport. His health is everything.
Dan Salem: Although I’m not a Giants fan, I find the story in New York to be the best. Daniel Jones should start at some point this season, but Eli Manning has everything to say about this. If he shrugs off Father Time and bounces back behind a revitalized offensive line, what is going to force him to the bench? Will losing be enough to sit the face of the franchise and a two time Super Bowl winner? Doing so cost the last Giants’ coach his job.
In principle, Jones should start by Oct. 1. But New York is not the worst team in its own division and has a favorable early schedule. After screwing up the rebuild last season, the Giants can’t afford to screw up a winning formula by handing the ball to their rookie quarterback. Manning is not on thin ice, although he should be. Jones is not a lock to play at all this year, although he should be. I’m excited.
Least Likely Storyline
Todd Salem: Dallas’ attempt at taking the next step is kind of bland and innocuous, but this is a 2018 division winner who is attempting to get over the hump of the top of the conference. The Cowboys’ story is going to be about the team’s plausible heights within the conference. Daniel Jones is going to hang over everything in New York, for good and for bad. I don’t see that story going away at all.
Things are different in Washington. The hopeful rookie isn’t trying to replace a franchise hero. Dwayne Haskins should get his shot pretty early over Case Keenum. And once that happens, doesn’t it grant Gruden more time? The storyline is proven false by its own admission. Starting a rookie quarterback saves Gruden’s job. That makes this a non-story right from the get-go.
Dan Salem: Starting a rookie quarterback does not and will not save Jay Gruden’s job. Just last season, the New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns all fired their head coaches with rookie quarterbacks starting for their teams. This makes the story in Washington at least interesting and certainly not a dead issue. It will linger all year.
So will the story in Philadelphia, although Wentz has yet to actually stay healthy. The Eagles overcame his injuries two seasons in a row, so whether or not he plays all 16 games, Philadelphia is the team to beat in the NFC East.
This leaves the story in Dallas as the least likely and most dead already. The Cowboys are in a make or break year, but the division is mostly unchanged. Philadelphia is better. What makes Dallas better? I have no reason to believe they will “get over the hump” so to speak. This has been a winning team several years running. Will they win enough games to save Jason Garrett‘s job? That is the real question to ask.