"New year, new me" is an age-old adage that doesn't often apply to the NFC East, or at least not three of the four teams therein, but the division has seen more shakeup in 2020 than any other in the NFL. Dallas Cowboys parting ways with longtime head coach Jason Garrett only to see him sign on with the New York Giants as offensive coordinator -- the latter bucking big-name candidates to sign Joe Judge as head coach -- the Washington Redskins replacing Jay Gruden with the well-respected Ron Rivera, and the Cowboys matching that move in landing a whale in Mike McCarthy., including the
With the new heads of state in place, the questions now center around each team's ability to become the big dog in the division, and one that carries a Super Bowl bite versus simply a loud regular season bark only to tuck tail in the postseason. The Philadelphia Eagles are the most recent hoisters of the Lombardi trophy, which is why Doug Pederson remains firmly secured in his seat while the other three clubs underwent an upheaval, but that doesn't mean they have everything figured out. Given glaring questions on both sides of the ball, they have their work cut out for them as well.
Let's take a look at the most important question each NFC East team must answer in 2020, if any are to emerge as a serious threat to the Kansas City Chiefs' throne.
Cowboys: Has Mike McCarthy truly evolved over his already-proven resumé?
The culture of football analytics initially took umbrage with McCarthy's talk of having somehow evolved to embrace it as a tool to improve upon his coaching prowess, and immediately aimed a skeptical eye at the claim. The Super Bowl-winning head coach was given just as much of an audible "hmph" when it was reported by CBS Sports, at the time of the hiring, that owner Jerry Jones would grant McCarthy a ton of power to sculpt the coaching staff, roster and the playbook going forward. Five months later, all but a minor portion of both factions have conceded to the glaring changes made -- including an analytics staff having been established in Dallas and the new-look approach to both free agency and the NFL draft.
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And although McCarthy mostly cleaned house in the coaching staff, replacing bodies with more proven ones, he opted to retain Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator on the heels of a Cowboys offensive about-face. All told, it appears the usually heavy handed and old school minded coach is looking to marry his hard-nosed approach with the youthful creativity designed to win in today's NFL. Currently stocked with an upgraded defense and an offense staged for furious lethality, if McCarthy's year off from football in 2019 has indeed been one of introspection and growth, then the Cowboys might finally do more than just turn the corner.
, and the city it resides in.
Eagles: Can Carson Wentz stay on the field for the whole ride?
Before you go crowning the Cowboys, however, it's best you take a look at what's going on on Philadelphia. Granted, they'll have to now contend with CeeDee Lamb having been added to the No. 1 offense in the league, but they're not without their own arsenal of weapons to help them do just that. Before glancing at the defensive side of the ball though, it's paramount we discuss the durability issues on Wentz, because the Eagles will rise or fall based upon his health. That's been the case as of late, obviously, and while they were wise enough to have Nick Foles available to step in and deliver them a Super Bowl two seasons ago, Wentz missed the entire playoff ride that year and another several games in 2018 due to injury -- his list of NFL injuries having now included his back, head, hand and knee.
In his first career playoff appearance last season, he was knocked out of the game with a concussion after attempting only one pass, and the Eagles went on to lose to the Seahawks when 40-year-old backup Josh McCown couldn't channel any Foles Magic. There's simply no denying Wentz has the ability to be an elite quarterback in the NFL, but there's a reason the club used their 2020 second-round pick on Jalen Hurts and not another position of extreme need. No matter how they spin it, Hurts provides them insurance, but what he doesn't provide is the professional football experience required to make a deep playoff run.
The Eagles are expected to push the Cowboys to the brink atop the NFC East, but Wentz has to stay on the field for it to happen.
Giants: Is Jason Garrett good for Daniel Jones, or simply Saquon Barkley's checkbook?
Yes, the Giants have a chance of dragging down the Cowboys and the Eagles, but first they'll need to figure out what version of Garrett they're getting in 2020. Head coach Joe Judge, who himself has no experience as an NFL head coach, is willing to defer to Garrett on the structuring and execution of the team's offense -- Dak Prescott.. If the Giants are employing a Garrett who learned a lot about creativity in his one-year stretch of Moore being the coordinator for the Cowboys, there might be enough wrinkles to help Daniel Jones improve upon his uneven rookie debut, and it's possible when considering Garrett helped mold the careers of both Tony Romo and
On the other side of the coin, the Cowboys offense excelled more often when others like Bill Callahan and Moore called the plays, Garrett opting far too often to allow Scott Linehan to hammer away with Ezekiel Elliott even when the opposing defense wouldn't allow it. Judges speaks of Garrett's ability to game plan, which is fair, but he's also shown an inability to consistently adapt, which could get Big Blue in tough spots during the second half of games. Garrett will be key in developing Jones and having another all-world halfback in the backfield does take pressure off the young QB, but if the part of the Cowboys offense the Giants find similar is a brazen disregard for the passing attack, it'll be another long season in New York.
It would, however, raise the asking price of Barkley, who's set to begin contract negotiations soon and will ultimately surpass Christian McCaffrey (and Ezekiel Elliott before him) as the highest-paid running back in NFL history.
Redskins: Have Ron Rivera and Washington done enough to help Dwayne Haskins flourish in Year 2?
Rivera is the perfect hire for the Redskins -- a team desperately in need of both a culture change and one grasping desperately at the chance to turn around their perennially unproductive ways. Both tasks are familiar to Rivera, who did the very same thing in Charlotte for the Carolina Panthers, but the mess he's being asked to mop up in Washington might take more than a few months to get it smelling like Fabuloso. Adding Chase Young to an already stacked defensive front will serve them very well, but there are still questions about the secondary and if the team has done enough to help Dwayne Haskins prosper in 2020.
An internal power struggle hampered Haskins' ability to get on the field in Year 1 and by the time he was awarded the throne, the season was too far gone and the former first-round pick didn't have enough reps to put him in position to succeed. Now entering the first full offseason as the team's starter, he does so with the Redskins still needing to identify the No. 2 complement to Terry McLaurin, and who their definitive starter is at running back. They could justifiably lean on Adrian Peterson one final time, but the fact there are now seven bodies in that rotation shows they're still trying to figure it all out. Haskins had seven interceptions to his seven touchdowns in 2019, but shows promise. In a recent interview, via NFL.com, former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer says the young upstart needs both an elite culture and elite supporting cast to excel -- accusing many of blaming Haskins for what he views as rabid dysfunction within the Redskins organization.
One of those things has arrived in Washington, by way of Rivera, but the jury will be out for the foreseeable future on the latter.