The division of disappointment in 2020, the NFC East had a very real chance to send the first ever 6-10 division winner to the playoffs until Washington eked out a win over the Nate Sudfeld-led Eagles. From the outset, this looks like a division that’s counting on continuity to breed improvement, with three of the four starting quarterbacks in at least year two with their team and Washington making a short-term move with Ryan Fitzpatrick. But do the numbers bear that thought out?
Washington Football Team
Offensive Snaps Retained: 90.55% (3rd in NFL)
Defensive Snaps Retained: 80.90% (9th in NFL)
Consistency is the name of the game for the 2020 NFC East champions. Although they had the third-worst total offense last year, Washington is seemingly putting that on their QB situation, switching out Alex Smith (42.15% of snaps) and Dwayne Haskins (39.30%) for Ryan Fitzpatrick and potentially a draft pick. TE Jeremy Sprinkle (20.02%) is the only other offensive player of note, but the team has upgraded their skill positions with the signings of WRs Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries. The majority of the defensive turnover comes down to losing CB Ronald Darby (95.89%), but replacing a couple of rotational front defenders in LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (48.42%) and DE Ryan Kerrigan (37.99%) could be the focus in the draft. Team leader Thomas Davis (13.11%) retired and DE Ryan Anderson (13.88%) signed with the Giants, but this team is returning nearly the entire outfit using the savings at the QB position.
New York Giants
Offensive Snaps Retained: 70.48% (24th in NFL)
Defensive Snaps Retained: 82.93% (8th in NFL)
This is what you would expect to see from a team that blossomed defensively but couldn’t put up enough points to compete, holding their opponents below 30 points in 14 games but scoring that many only once. DT Dalvin Tomlinson (60.31%) is an underrated loss to the interior and LB Kyler Fackrell (55.73%) can no longer provide help off the edge, but the core of the defense is back. A few bit defenders in CB Ryan Lewis (24.84%) and LB David Mayo (17.69%) are also making way for an infusion of youth, but this defense should only improve. The offense will hope to say the same, but key losses in every room are going to put the pressure on Daniel Jones and the coaching staff to get everybody on the same page. The loss of 16-game starters in OG Kevin Zeitler (98.82%) and OT Cameron Fleming (89.93%) are going to force some adjustments, while WR Golden Tate (41.86%) and QB Colt McCoy (14.31%) are veterans leaving the locker room. The RB position was a turnstile for most of last season, and the turnover at the position has reflected that with Wayne Gallman (38.60%), Dion Lewis (30.01%) and Alfred Morris (10.96%) all still unsigned. It seems clear that the unit is looking to control the clock on the ground and support their defense, but will that be enough if the division doesn’t lose every starting quarterback to injury this year?
Offensive Snaps Retained: 83.94% (8th in NFL)
Defensive Snaps Retained: 66.91% (23rd in NFL)
The Cowboys were living out every kid’s video game dream early last season, playing the highest-scoring football in recent memory with a loaded offense and a franchise-tagged QB on pace for almost 6,000 passing yards through five games. Of course, it all came crumbling down with Dak Prescott’s injury, and the Cowboys were left wondering what could have been. Fortunately for Dallas, that offense is almost entirely running it back with C Joe Looney (66.61% of snaps) and QB Andy Dalton (54.14%) the most notable departures, but both replaced by injury returnees. OT Cam Erving (24.32%) and TE Blake Bell (31.30%) are both leaving their own holes in the offense, leaving that gamer to wonder – could they, would they, draft Kyle Pitts? New DC Dan Quinn will surely be hoping for some support to replace the heavy hits his unit has taken in free agency. S Xavier Woods (89.35%), CB Chidobe Awuzie (40.79%) and CB Daryl Worley (23.56%) aren’t returning, leaving a new-look secondary while the defensive line takes its own losses in DE Aldon Smith (73.01%), DE Tyrone Crawford (40.25%), DE Everson Griffen (25.36%) and DT Eli Ankou (16.79%). Add to that the departed stylings of LBs Joe Thomas (36.91%) and 11-year Cowboy Sean Lee (16.34%), meaning Quinn is going to have to work for his paycheck. The healthy return of Prescott (and his new deal) should at least give the defense a buffer to improve throughout the season and peak by the end of the year.
Offensive Snaps Retained: 82.65% (10th in NFL)
Defensive Snaps Retained: 68.44% (22nd in NFL)
Showing their commitment to Jalen Hurts as the starting quarterback by trading down from their first-round pick, the Eagles are gambling that he can improve the 26th-overall scoring offense with the benefit of a full offseason as the starter. Although QB Carson Wentz (71.59% of snaps) is the biggest departure by snaps, legendary Philadelphia OT Jason Peters (44.96%) also doesn’t seem to be returning as the team clears out older players like TE Richard Rodgers (24.25%), WR Alshon Jeffrey (17.88%) and WR DeSean Jackson (15.84%). Dealing with a tight cap situation, the Eagles have done well to give Hurts a familiar supporting cast, even without the space to upgrade it. Retaining the defense has been more of an issue. S Jalen Mills (91.92%) led the team in defensive snaps, but joins CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (55.54%), LB Duke Riley (51.63%) and DT Malik Jackson (48.82%) out the door. The departures of LB Nathan Gerry (43.47%), DE Vinny Curry (28.13%) and CB Cre’von LeBlanc could also require some late draft attention. It will be tough to improve on a tight cap in 2021, but new head coach Nick Sirianni seems to be the man for the job.
SEE ALSO: Snaps Lost archive