Today’s question: The Giants and Redskins have new defensive coordinators (even if Steve Spagnuolo has been there before) and the Eagles have made big changes to their defense, but have they done enough to compete with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and the Dallas Cowboys' running game?
Dan Graziano, New York Giants: I hate to sound like a broken record, but no, I don’t think the NFC East defenses are equipped to handle the offenses of the Cowboys, Eagles or even the Giants. New coordinators notwithstanding, the Giants haven’t made enough personnel upgrades on defense to make anyone think they’re going to be any better at stopping Romo & Co. than they were last year. Sure, Jon Beason and Prince Amukamara are back from injuries, but there are big questions on that defensive line, nothing but questions at safety and the cornerback depth isn’t what it was a year ago. Spagnuolo is going to have to be a magician to turn this into a top defense, and even if he can, I don’t see how it happens right away.
Phil Sheridan, Philadelphia Eagles: The answer to this will go a long way toward determining the outcome of the division race this season. The Eagles were competing with those guys in 2014. They got the better of the game in Dallas, when Romo’s back was bothering him. They fell short in the rematch, when Romo and Bryant hooked up for three touchdowns against the Eagles’ wobbly secondary.
That secondary is pretty much gone; only safety Malcolm Jenkins remains. Chip Kelly also hired a new defensive backs coach, former Denver Broncos assistant Cory Undlin. With a new approach and new players, it will be fascinating to see if the Eagles are markedly better. They almost can’t be any worse.
But if the revamped secondary is only marginally better, or even about the same, the Eagles are going to struggle against the Cowboys (and also the Giants, whose offense looks pretty darn good). Kelly’s emphasis on renovating his defense was understandable. The secondary’s collapse last year cost the Eagles a shot at the playoffs. But that secondary was built through free agency. This year, aside from Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond, the Eagles are trying to build a secondary through the draft. It might take a little while to show improvement.
John Keim, Washington Redskins: They had better: The Giants, Redskins and Eagles all ranked in the lower half of the NFL defensively. None of them ranked above 20th in total yards or 22nd in points allowed per game last season. The Redskins potentially have better personnel than they’ve had the past two seasons, when they had mixed results against this group, but the renewed emphasis on the run game changed Dallas’ offense. I'm not sure many teams can deal with that weaponry. The ground game should still be formidable, which makes the passing game even more dangerous. But in the Redskins’ case they should be more disciplined defensively and better at the details. They have a better corner to deal with Bryant (they like to be physical with him and Chris Culliver fits right in) and they have a run-stopping nose tackle in Terrance Knighton. But I still don’t know about their coverage against tight ends. One way the Redskins can deal with this offense is to do what Dallas did a year ago: control the game on the ground and limit how much the defense is on the field.