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No Defense for the NFC East

Updated on September 30, 2014

Remember the days when the NFC East dominated the NFL with punishing defenses and consistently won Super Bowls? Well, if you're not of legal drinking age, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Heck, if you don't remember Mike Tyson as a boxer, you probably don't know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, there once was a time when the teams in the NFC East were known for their defensive prowess. Unfortunately, those days are long gone.

As a matter of fact, the NFC East was easily the worst division for defensive squads in the entire NFL last season. Sadly, the defensive prospects of the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Redskins aren't looking any better for the upcoming 2014 season.

Here are the NFC East teams' defensive rankings (Yards per game) for the 2013 season (Caution: this is not for the faint of heart):

2013 Defensive Rankings

Team
Overall
Passing
Rushing
Points Allowed Per Game
Cowboys
32
30
6
26
Eagles
29
32
10
18
Giants
8
10
19
17
Redskins
18
20
16
30
Turnover-Machine Eli Manning
Turnover-Machine Eli Manning | Source

That is a complete train-wreck of defensive ugliness. And it gets even uglier when you consider that only the Redskins pass rush wasn't at the absolute bottom of the NFL rankings. The Redskins ranked 13th in sack percentage (sacks per opposing dropbacks), with 6.55%. The Giants were 29th (5.35%), Eagles 31st (5.23%) and the Cowboys were 32nd (5.18%). For some perspective, the Panthers led the NFL in sack percentage at 9.63%.

Of course, you Giants fans out there might be asking how I can lump your defense in with the rest of the garbage units in the East, but there are some extenuating circumstances that led to the Giants defense not being nearly as bad statistically as their NFC East brethren, but those statistics are deceiving.

The main reason the Giants defense wasn't ranked as poorly is because their offense, led by turnover-machine Eli Manning (League-leading 27 INTs), had by far the worst offense in the division. That meant that opposing offenses were playing on a short field constantly.

Here are the offensive rankings from last season:

2013 Offensive Rankings

Team
Overall
Passing
Rushing
Points Scored Per Game
Cowboys
16
14
24
5
Eagles
2
9
1
4
Giants
28
19
29
28
Redskins
9
16
5
23

Eagles Gang Green Defense

L-R: Simmons, Eric Allen, Jerome Brown, Seth Joyner, Reggie White
L-R: Simmons, Eric Allen, Jerome Brown, Seth Joyner, Reggie White

Which NFC East team will have the best defense this season?

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Even though the Eagles had one of the top offenses in the NFL, and the No. 1 rushing offense, they still managed to rank dead last in time of possession. All those long passes for quick scoring drives didn't help their suspect defense get any rest. With the exception of the Redskins (10th), the rest of the division wasn't very good at holding onto the ball either. The Giants were ranked 24th in time of possession, while the Cowboys were 26th.

Now you might think that all four teams in the NFC East would have taken notice of this and improved their defenses dramatically this offseason. Somehow, that's not how it's worked out. I actually think all four teams could possibly have worse defenses this season.

Injured Dallas Cowboy Sean Lee
Injured Dallas Cowboy Sean Lee | Source

The Cowboys surrendered 6,645 total yards last season, which is the third-most ever allowed in NFL history. However, with all their defensive losses this offseason, I wouldn't be surprised if they broke the 1981 Baltimore Colts record of 7,042 yards allowed in a season. A bad Cowboys defense lost their best pass rusher in DeMarcus Ware, as a cap casualty. They lost their best run-stopper, Jason Hatcher to free agency. And they lost their best linebacker and team leader, Sean Lee, to a season-ending ACL injury. Meanwhile, all they did to improve a secondary that was the 30th ranked pass defense in the NFL was to draft safety Ahmad Dixon in the seventh round. Yes, it really could be a "historic" season for this Dallas defense.

The Eagles had the worst pass defense in the entire NFL last season and all they did is replace safety Patrick Chung with Malcolm Jenkins? Yes. Fortunately, for the Eagles, Jenkins looks like a perfect fit for defensive coordinator, Bill Davis' defense and Jenkins has already become a leader on the team. Heck, just subtracting Chung improves the defense. He was putrid. They also signed CB Nolan Carroll to add some depth behind ordinary starters Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. Brandon Boykin ably mans the slot, but he's too small to play on the outside. Carroll's signing will also lead to more nickel and dime packages, which will get DeMeco Ryans off the field more. Ryans led the NFL in defensive plays and was a liability in coverage. Bottom line; the Eagles should be better, but they couldn't really have gotten much worse.

They Brought the Pain

NY Giant Great Lawrence Taylor
NY Giant Great Lawrence Taylor | Source

The Giants may have a good defensive backfield, but their front seven is pitiful. The team let Justin Tuck, and his 11 sacks, leave in free agency and Jason Pierre-Paul has only 8.5 sacks the last two years combined. Mathias Kiwanuka was horrible last year and won't be any better this season. They also let DT Linval Joseph leave via free agency, which hurts both their pass rush and their run defense. The linebackers are terrible and John Beason is trying to return from a broken bone and torn ligaments in his foot and he was already a liability in coverage. And even though that secondary is good, expect free agent signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to turn out to be a bust. DRC has a long history of quitting on his team when things don't go well and the Giants won't be good this season.

Curiously, the Redskins decided to bring back almost the same exact defense, and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, that let up the third most points in the NFL last year. Besides adding Hatcher to the defensive line, their other big signing was safety Ryan Clark. Signing a safety who isn't very good in coverage for a defense that struggled against the pass seems like a bad move. And re-signing the overrated DeAngelo Hall doesn't seem like a great move either. Sure Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are fearsome pass rushers from the OLB spots, but the retirement of London Fletcher will hurt from a leadership standpoint and their options at ILB stink. Their top draft pick was OLB Trent Murphy, which makes no sense, since the strength of this defense is the OLB spot. So much for improving a bad defense by getting help from the draft.

Looking at these defenses, you get the sense that the NFC East will once again be home to some of the worst defenses in the entire NFL. Sure the Eagles and Redskins might be marginally better, but it looks like the Giants will be worse and those Cowboys might just be historically bad.

I know the NFL is all about high-scoring offense these days, but the Seattle Seahawks just routed the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl with a bone-crushing defense. You know, the kind of defense that used to be the calling card of the mighty NFC East.

But oh, how the mighty have fallen.

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    • jeolmoz2 profile image

      Julio E Olmo Sr 2 years ago from Florida, USA

      You're absolutely right, but defenses will prevail during the playoffs. The Legion of Boom decided the outcome of last year's Super Bowl in the First Quarter!

    • Bob Whalon profile image
      Author

      Bob Whalon 2 years ago from Souderton, PA

      The NFL seems to want to play flag football with no contact allowed. That's not football.

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