NFC East roundup: Cowboys running in circles?

Our look around the NFC East includes whether the Cowboys can move on without DeMarco Murray and handle the season-ending injury loss to corner Orlando Scandrick.

Look no further for a quick look at the NFC East. We broke down the ups and downs from around the division as the Preseason rumbles on.

Dallas Cowboys:

What’s Good – The six-point performance against the Niners in week two of the preseason has many fans up in arms. It was a pitiful display of football, but there is a bright side for “America’s Team." The Cowboys have been rolling with a philosophy of sitting the starters in the early games, so all of what you saw in last Sunday’s game was not representative of how the Cowboys will look in the regular season. Tony Romo had only one pass attempt, and the offensive line didn’t feature the players is will on September 13. Avoiding giving the starters playing time has done two good things for Dallas: limiting injury potential, and giving more playing time to the young guys and backups.

What’s Bad – Cornerback Orlando Scandrick's season-ending injury during Tuesday's practice is the most recent and perhaps biggest loss for the Cowboys since last season, but nobody should forget about the departure of DeMarco Murray for a team that relied heavily on the ground game last season. The offensive line is still arguably the best in the league, but without a strong back to lean on, the offense will be one-dimensional. The primary candidates to win the starting job are Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden. Randle has looked dynamic enough in the running game, but has not held his own as a pass protector, which is a major hindrance in an offense that works best when its receivers have time to get down the field. Though McFadden is a better all-around back without any major holes in his game, he’s about as durable as a piece of tissue dipped in water. I’d be surprised to see him stay healthy the whole year in any kind of significant role. The reality is the Cowboys have no back that can handle a featured role, which could be a problem considering how well the offense worked under a heavy run game. Ray Rice isn’t the only option, but unless the Boys take a chance on him or another free agent, their offense won’t be nearly as effective as last season.

Are You Kidding Me? – The preseason is half over and the Cowboys are leading the league in total defense (yards allowed) and pass defense (passing yards allowed). Interesting. Though Dallas has struggled mightily against the pass in recent years, through two weeks they’ve given up only 57 yards per game through the air along with 202 yards per game in total. It’s preseason so obviously the implications are watered down, but no one would’ve predicted Dallas to be atop the rankings at this point. Losing Scandrick puts a huge hole in the secondary.

Philadelphia Eagles:

What’s Good – A lot has gone right for Philly in the first half of the preseason. With an impressive total of 76 points through two games, every part of the offense has been clicking. In particular, the quarterback situation has looked to be a lock for the season, even if the starter, Sam Bradford, gets injured. The Eagles functioned at a high level last season even with Mark Sanchez at the helm, which means that not so good QBs can fit into Chip Kelly’s dangerous offensive system if they’re the right type of player. In addition to solid play from Bradford in week 2, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, and, dare I say it, Tim Tebow have looked sharp. Backup quarterback play could be key in 2015, given Bradford’s history of health issues, so the Eagles are thrilled to see such a deep reserve of passers to call on.

What’s Bad– After yet another offseason full of tremendous hype, tight end Zach Ertz sustained an injury a few weeks ago, and his return for the opener is questionable after receiving core muscle surgery. He preformed incredibly well as a receiver leading up to the injury during team practices, and was in competition to secure the starting job over Brent Celek, who has far less potential to be an offensive threat, despite his reputation as the better all-around player. While the coaching staff expected Ertz to continue to improve as a blocker before he got hurt, his absence from the preseason means a likely reduced role for the third year tight end come the regular season.

Are You Kidding Me? – No one is safe! The ever-present question that has plagued pro football for the last few seasons has been asked once again. “Is Joe Flacco elite?” Such is a beast that cannot be tackled, yet it was still posed to Eagles coach Chip Kelly after the team’s joint practice with the Ravens last Thursday. His answer was a resounding “yes,” which is debatable considering Flacco wasn’t in the top ten of the league in any of the major statistical categories for passing. The bigger issue though, is that no one, not even a coach in a different conference than the Ravens, can escape giving an opinion on the age old-conundrum that has sparked countless quarrels.

New York Giants:

What’s Good – As one of the lesser units in the league, the Giants O-line has been crippled the last few seasons by injuries and poor play, but things are looking up after two preseason games. The starting unit is coming together after New York intelligently spent high draft picks on offensive linemen in each of the last three drafts. Justin Pugh and Eric Flowers, both first rounders, will take over at left guard and left tackle, while second rounder Weston Richburg will man the center slot. Marshall Newhouse, a veteran tackle, seems to have the right end of the line secured, while a fierce competition between Geoff Schwartz and John Jerry will produce a more than reliable right guard. All in all the Giants have few question marks heading into the season, which is key to have on an NFL O-line, which benefits from limited personnel tweaks.

What’s Bad – The first team passing offense has looked strangely reminiscent of the pre-Odell Beckham days in New York. The former LSU breakout has been targeted a fair amount, but has yet to catch a pass. Eli Manning has also struggled as he’s compiled only 68 yards on eight completions out of 22 pass attempts. His rating is a dismal 45.3. While there’s no need to panic, the lack of production from a unit that was considered to be a strong suit of the team should have Giants fans concerned.

Are You Kidding Me? – According to Odell Beckham, the Jags’ defensive backs were “gunning” for him rather than going for the ball on plays where they could’ve made a play. As it seems, the Jacksonville safeties, namely Sergio Brown, did seem to have a bull's-eye on Beckham’s back, but the young receiver shouldn’t let it get to him. Though ODB is entering only his second year in the league, he’s already developed a reputation as an emotional guy. Fighting back with Brown last Sunday only reinforced that notion. It also didn’t help that Beckham clearly pulled up on some plays on which he was afraid of getting, at the expense of an incomplete pass. Beckham was targeted five times in the game but didn’t make a catch. It’ll be important for the young talent to learn to keep cool during games, or defenses will look to get into his head by bringing his emotions into it.

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