As NFL training camps begin to look more “normal,” with players getting on the field with their teams for the first time on Friday and pads set to come on for the first time on Aug. 17, there seems to be a natural sense of optimism around every team.
Even with the positive thought that every team is undefeated at this point in the season, the NFC East figures to be a two-team race between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. Those franchises have won the division in six of the past seven years and should follow the same path in 2020. The New York Giants and Washington Football Team have new head coaches and are at different places when it comes to their roster building compared to their division counterparts.
With that in mind, NFC East reporters John Keim (Washington), Jordan Raanan (Giants), Tim McManus (Eagles) and Todd Archer (Cowboys) take a look at what would constitute a successful 2020 season for each team.
Simple — get to the playoffs. There have been previous Cowboys’ seasons that have had “Super Bowl or bust” feelings to them, but considering coach Mike McCarthy did not have a traditional offseason to fully implement his program, the expectations should be dialed back. McCarthy’s résumé is better than any new NFL head coach this season. He went to the playoffs nine times with the Green Bay Packers, a conference title four times and won a Super Bowl. The Cowboys have not made it to an NFC Championship Game or Super Bowl since 1995.
There is talent, especially on offense with quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, wide receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, and offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Zack Martin. There are questions on defense — pass rush and the ability to take the ball away — but the Cowboys might be able to mask some of those issues with a prolific offense.
The Cowboys had similar talent on offense and questions on defense a year ago and missed the playoffs, leading to the hiring of McCarthy. While some might have Super Bowl thoughts, just getting to the tournament is a more proper expectation. — Archer
New York Giants
The Giants are in the midst of a rebuild, even if that is not what they want to call it, and this is effectively Year 2, but with a new head coach.
Coach Joe Judge made it clear throughout the interview process that this would be a process, so the Giants’ success isn’t going to be dictated solely by wins and losses or by making the playoffs. If the Giants go 7-9 or 8-8 and second-year quarterback Daniel Jones makes strides, it would be a significant step in the right direction. If the defense went from being one of the league’s worst to a middle-of-the-road unit, that would be welcomed, as well.
On paper in the NFC East, there are the Cowboys and Eagles on one level. The Giants and Washington fall well below those two, at least talent-wise. All the Giants need to do in order for the 2020 season to be a success is just be competitive in games. They have the worst record of any team in the NFL over the past three seasons (12-36) and have not beaten the Cowboys or Eagles since late in the 2016 season. The bar isn’t especially high; the Giants just need make progress in an unprecedented and unpredictable 2020 season. — Raanan
A division title and a playoff win are what it will take for the Eagles to be considered a success in 2020.
The Eagles feel they have a much-improved roster from the one they fielded in a wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks in January. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is healthy, Darius Slay was added to the secondary, they beefed up the defensive front with the Javon Hargrave signing, and spent much of their draft capital on speedy wide receivers, led by 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor. The Eagles hope continuity will carry them a long way as the rest of the division breaks in new coaching staffs under the most unique of circumstances.
There are enough questions around the team to resist the most bullish of predictions: Is Andre Dillard ready to take over left tackle? Can they fill the voids left by safety Malcolm Jenkins and guard Brandon Brooks? Can they generate a steady pass rush off the edge?
Fending off the Cowboys to secure a third NFC title in four years would be another feather in the cap of coach Doug Pederson. But the season will not be a success unless quarterback Carson Wentz gets his first playoff victory. His postseason debut was cut short by a concussion last season, and he missed the playoffs the previous two years because of injury. He needs to finish the 2020 campaign on his own terms, and with at least one playoff win under his belt. — McManus
Washington Football Team
Washington coach Ron Rivera goes in depth on the culture he wants to instill and his surprise when he learned of the Washington Post article detailing sexual harassment by former members of the organization.
This team will prove a success in 2020 if quarterback Dwayne Haskins develops and the defense shows signs of being a top unit, led by rookie end Chase Young. There are other factors, too, that would make it a successful season: how the offensive line performs, for example.
But this season won’t be about the win-loss record as much as it will be about how the team progresses under first-year coach Ron Rivera. They’re not set up for instant success, not in a year when they had no offseason practices and a shortened summer with no preseason games. Washington knows a slow start could be inevitable, but that a strong finish will be necessary.
If Haskins establishes himself, this team can cross one question off its list. If not, Washington could be searching for another QB in the spring. And if the defense, led by the line, performs, then the team knows it has a young group that could be good for a few years. — Keim