The NFC East was the worst division in the NFL in 2020 by a solid margin, sending a 7-9 division champion to the playoffs. You might think these teams’ struggles would lead the front offices to overhaul their squads; instead, they’ve mostly focused on adding to the existing teams while also allowing for internal progression. Washington won the division in 2020 but must know that improvement will be needed for 2021, as a below-.500 record probably won’t cut it again. They’ve added Ryan Fitzpatrick to upgrade the QB position but have kept the team relatively stable around him. Dallas will be expecting to contend this season with Dak Prescott returning at QB and their superb supporting cast almost entirely returning. The Giants return QB Daniel Jones and have added more weapons around him to try to speed up his development. Lastly, the Eagles have turned the reins over to Jalen Hurts after trading Carson Wentz, and they return most of his targets, with a few additions as well. Will this division be improved in 2021, or will we have another sub-.500 division winner?
Roster Moves through July 9th
Washington Football Team
- Overall Targets Returning: 93.4% (535/573) (4th)
- WR Targets Returning: 88.5% (262/296) (10th)
- TE Targets Returning: 96.6% (112/116) (9th)
- RB/FB Targets Returning: 100% (161/161) (T-1st)
Washington returns almost all its key receivers, with Dontrelle Inman and Robert Foster being the two losses with targets in 2020. They targeted the position quite heavily, though, adding Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries in FA and Dyami Brown and Dax Milne through the draft. The additions at WR are likely to see significantly more targets than the departed two receivers did in 2020, and though returning receivers will see dips to account for it, an increased share for the position is likely. Jeremy Sprinkle and Marcus Baugh both departed at the TE position, but combined for only 4 targets in 2020, so neither is a significant loss. John Bates was drafted in the 4th round and should be expected to compete heavily with Temarrick Hemingway and Ricky Seals-Jones for the backup TE job, though Logan Thomas will command most of the targets as the starter. At RB, J.D. McKissic, Antonio Gibson and Peyton Barber all return, with only depth additions like Jaret Patterson as a UDFA. McKissic was far and away the leader at the position in targets in 2020 and likely will be again, though Gibson may see an increase that cuts into that share. Overall, Washington will probably be throwing the ball more in 2021 now that they should hopefully have a much-improved passing attack with more weapons and Fitzpatrick under center.
New York Giants
- Overall Targets Returning: 73.4% (376/500) (19th)
- WR Targets Returning: 77.9% (218/280) (18th)
- TE Targets Returning: 100% (136/136) (T-1st)
- RB/FB Targets Returning: 14.5% (12/83) (32nd)
The Giants are another team whose additions at the WR position will fill a much larger role than their departures seem to open up. Golden Tate and Damien Ratley are the departing receivers, and while Tate had a pretty sizable role, it doesn’t compare to what is expected of their acquisitions. The Giants signed Kenny Golladay and John Ross in FA and drafted Kadarius Toney in the first round. They clearly placed an emphasis on the position, which will likely mean more targets to go around, but also a dip for some returnees who will slide on the depth chart from these moves. Golladay should be expected to be the WR1 when healthy, with Toney and Ross seemingly backups but likely to still fill roles. At the TE position, the Giants return every target from last season, but add Kyle Rudolph, likely to be their primary backup behind 2020 team target leader Evan Engram. The acquisition of Rudolph probably means that Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo will see diminished roles in the offense. Running back sees a huge vacancy for the offense that is mostly due to Saquon Barkley’s injury in 2020. Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman and Devonta Freeman all had larger roles than would’ve been expected because of that injury, and all three are gone. Behind Barkley on the depth chart are Devontae Booker and Corey Clement, but Barkley should be expected to carry most of the load when fully healthy, though he may miss the start of the season.
- Overall Targets Returning: 97.4% (601/617) (2nd)
- WR Targets Returning: 100% (399/399) (T-1st)
- TE Targets Returning: 85.7% (90/105) (14th)
- RB/FB Targets Returning: 100% (111/111) (T-1st)
Coming off a disappointing 2020 season marred by a devastating injury to QB Dak Prescott, the Cowboys have gambled on the talent they already had, with minimal losses and additions. It’s not too difficult to see why, as Prescott was on pace to break the single-season passing yards record before his injury. Dallas returns every WR and RB that had a target in 2020, and the offense should look quite similar as a result. Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup will lead the WR room, as all three had over 100 targets in 2020 and should again if they stay healthy. Behind them are Cedric Wilson and Noah Brown, who had 52 targets combined in 2020 as well as fifth round draft pick Simi Fehoko, who will add even further depth. At RB, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard return as the only RBs to see a target in 2020. Their dynamic should be similar with Elliott as the lead back and Pollard as his backup, with Rico Dowdle returning as a very low-usage third RB. Tight end is where Dallas’ one loss is, as Blake Bell departed in FA. Dallas does return Dalton Schultz who played a huge role last season, as well as Blake Jarwin, whose injury allowed for that. Schultz and Jarwin will both play a role in the offense, but it is Jarwin that is expected by most to be the starter. This Dallas offense should be among the best in the league when healthy, and most of that stems from their overwhelming passing attack.
- Overall Targets Returning: 91.3% (512/561) (7th)
- WR Targets Returning: 85.4% (251/294) (14th)
- TE Targets Returning: 100% (169/169) (T-1st)
- RB/FB Targets Returning: 93.8% (91/97) (10th)
Philadelphia has undergone something of a youth movement at the WR position this offseason, with veteran DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery leaving, as well as Deontay Burnett. DeVonta Smith is the only addition of significance, but his addition is very significant. After being selected with the 10th pick coming off a Heisman Trophy in 2020, he is expected to be their WR1 and lead the position and likely the team in targets. TE is an extremely interesting position for Philadelphia, as many expected them to look to trade Ertz to move Goedert into the unquestioned TE1 with Richard Rodgers as his backup, but that hasn’t happened yet. It still could, but until it does, they have three TEs that will see 30+ targets, with Ertz and Goedert likely to both see much more than that. At RB, Corey Clement is the only departure, and he was already a distant third on the depth chart. Fifth-round draft pick Kenneth Gainwell will likely fill that role, with Jordan Howard supplying further depth to support the duo of Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. Sanders should be expected to be the lead back, but Scott will still have a key role in the offense.