Last year, the NFC East had a combined record of 23-40-1. With a 36% winning percentage, the division became the laughingstock of the league, with a division champion that boasted a losing record. The division will try to turn things around in 2021 and they just might accomplish it. The Dallas Cowboys are the favorites to take the division title, but they might not be the most improved team of the offseason.
That title goes to the Washington Football Team, according to The Athletic’s Robert Mays.
In his article, Mays ranks the Top 5 most improved teams of the offseason, including free agency and the NFL Draft. Washington ranks #1 on the list and quite frankly, it’s unsurprising.
Consider where Washington stood after their brief playoffs adventure. Despite having one of the best defensive fronts in the league, they lacked an answer at the most important position in the sport.
By signing 38-year-old journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington doesn’t get a long-term answer. But at least, they get a veteran who can start games and at the very least, be a more effective passer than Alex Smith and Dwayne Haskins last season. Washington finished last in passing DVOA in 2020.
Now, not only do they get Fitzpatrick but also add Curtis Samuel to complement Terry McLaurin at wide receiver.
Plus, Ron Rivera & Co. have rebuilt the offensive line in the short term. Washington drafted offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, who could start in the NFL inside or outside right away. I’m not sure we should consider Ereck Flowers a significant upgrade, but he’s been better since moving inside and paired with Charles Leno, they have plenty of options.
WFT OL adds LG Ereck Flowers and LT Charles Leno Jr. in span of about two weeks
Cornelius Lucas, last year's starter at LT, was also Leno's backup in Chicago. Other solid depth pieces include iOL Wes Schweitzer, 2020 4th-rounder Saahdiq Charles
Quality unit for Fitzmagic https://t.co/ZAa8V2ha9r
— Brad Spielberger (@PFF_Brad) May 12, 2021
As for the defense, Washington didn’t need any major improvements, but they add a couple of solid pieces to the formula. Rookie linebacker Jamin Davis will complement a productive defensive line in the second level and William Jackson III provides necessary help in the secondary.
Is Washington the Cowboys’ biggest threat?
The NFC East is difficult to predict and it has been for a long time. After all, no team has won the division title in back-to-back years since 2004, the longest streak in the NFL. However, it does look like the reigning champion is the biggest threat to the Cowboys.
Dallas might not have made any key acquisitions in free agency and their Draft class might not be among the league’s best. However, they’re one of the most improved teams in the league if you consider getting healthier an improvement.
In 2021, the Cowboys get back their starting quarterback, right tackle, and left tackle. It will be a different Cowboys team and a different NFC East.
But what Washington has on defense probably makes them the biggest threat to the Cowboys. With a talented offense, Dallas will try to win games by putting close to 30 points on the board per game. If there’s one defense positioned to make that task difficult for the Cowboys, it’s Washington’s.
The Giants have also improved by adding Kenny Golladay, Kadarious Toney, Adoree Jackson and, Azeez Ojulari. Even the Eagles could be a surprise team in the division if Jalen Hurts makes a significant sophomore jump under a new head coach.
Whoever ends up taking the division crown, a more competitive NFC East should be expected in 2021.
Featured Image Via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports