Interesting storylines abound in the NFC East
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings. Tony Romo makes the most money. RG3 is arguably the most talented.
Nick Foles? Well, he just might be the best quarterback in the NFC East.
"I'm not trying to be someone else, I'm just taking it in stride," Foles said. "This year is a little different, and there's going to be a little more on my plate, but it's just been a gradual growth through the last couple years to get to this point. And then I just have to continue to grow each and every day and have fun doing it."
Foles had one of the best statistical seasons in NFL history as he led the Philadelphia Eagles to a division title in his sophomore season and Chip Kelly's first as coach. Foles replaced Michael Vick in October, went 8-2 as the starter and finished with 29 touchdown passes and two interceptions in 11 starts, including a playoff loss to New Orleans. He set an NFL record for best TD/interception ratio and his passer rating of 119.2 was the third highest in NFL history.
Manning is coming off his worst season for the Giants, who went 7-9. He threw a league-high 27 interceptions and had a dismal 69.4 passer rating. Romo is coming back from surgery for a herniated disk that sidelined him for the Cowboys' winner-take-all season finale against the Eagles. Robert Griffin III struggled in his return from an ACL injury after a fantastic rookie season and the Redskins went 3-13, costing coach Mike Shanahan his job.
This division may only have one team finish with a winning record, and 9-7 might get the crown. So whichever quarterback has the best regular season among the four could make the difference.
Some things to know about the NFC East:
REPLACING D-JAX: Kelly made the boldest move of his short tenure when he released three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson after the best season of his career. The Eagles couldn't even get a low-round draft pick for Jackson, so they cut him. Kelly never explained the move, but Jackson's hefty contract and me-first attitude are probably why.
They're counting on Jeremy Maclin to return to form after knee surgery cost him all of last season. They're hoping Riley Cooper builds on his breakout year. They need rookie Jordan Matthews to contribute right away. Second-year tight end Zach Ertz has big potential, and the versatile Darren Sproles, acquired from New Orleans, could end up replacing some of Jackson's touches.
EIGHT IS ENOUGH: Jay Gruden is the eighth head coach employed by owner Dan Snyder in 16 years in Washington. A former Arena League quarterback who ran Cincinnati's offense for three seasons, Gruden brings a West Coast style along with a reputation for being a players' coach. Getting along with RG3 is one thing. Figuring out how to win games is a tougher task.
The Redskins have plenty of playmakers on offense with Jackson joining Alfred Morris (2,888 yards rushing in 2012-13), Pierre Garcon (NFL-high 113 catches in 2013) and Jordan Reed (45 catches in nine games). Defense is another story. The Redskins need productive seasons from some of their 30-something veterans on D.
NEW-LOOK GIANTS: The Giants were big players in free agency for a change. They signed 19 veteran free agents, including 10 on offense. Running back Rashad Jennings moves into a starting role, and cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond bolstered the secondary. The Giants finished strong, going 7-3 after an 0-6 start. Their defense made a turnaround after Jon Beason was acquired from Carolina at midseason. But the middle linebacker has been sidelined by a foot injury. On offense, the rushing attack suffered a blow when David Wilson had to retire because of a neck injury. The Giants will need a lot of Manning to Victor Cruz this season.
DOOMED DEFENSE: Remember the Doomsday Defenses that led Dallas to a pair of Super Bowl titles in the 1960s and 70s? These Cowboys are far from it. The league's most porous defense in 2013 lost its best player for the season when linebacker Sean Lee had knee surgery in the offseason. DeMarcus Ware, the franchise's career sacks leader, was released in March. Last year's sacks leader Jason Hatcher left for Washington. There are issues in the secondary because of injuries, and cornerback Orlando Scandrick is out for the first four games for a drug suspension. A revamped defensive line is currently missing the two biggest offseason acquisitions: free agent tackle Henry Melton and rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, a second-round pick. They have a lot of work to do when they're healthy after giving up 415.3 yards per game last year.
Predicted order of finish:
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