Belly Up’s own, Kaleb McChesney, wrote a piece on the AFC East and their most significant question mark heading into the 2022-23 season. Looking at every NFL team, there’s bound to be at least one aspect of their roster with more questions than answers. And since Kaleb chose to cover the AFC East, I figured it’s only right that I cover the NFC East. The Cowboys ran away with the East in 2022, but if history’s told us anything, it’s that the NFC East is incredibly unpredictable. With that being said, let’s get into The Burning Question for Every NFC East Team!
Philidelphia Eagles: Can Jalen Hurts Take The “Leap?”
Third-year quarterback Jalen Hurts 2022 season left many surprised. In 2022, he led the Eagle’s vaunted running game to a 9-8 record and snuck into the playoffs with a rookie head coach. After getting bounced in the first round, however, the Eagles knew they needed to make some upgrades this off-season. After trading for Titans star wide receiver AJ Brown, the Eagle’s offense has two-headed monster potential. The Eagles running game isn’t going anywhere as long as Hurts is the quarterback. However, thus far, with Jalen Hurts at the helm, the Eagle’s passing game leaves a lot to be desired.
In his two seasons with the Eagles, Jalen Hurts is completing 59% of his passes, averages 7.3 yards per attempt, 140.2 yards per game, and has thrown 22 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Even if we exclude his bizarre rookie season, his numbers don’t get much better, if at all. To win the NFC East, Jalen Hurts can be the same player he was last season. To make real noise in the NFL playoffs, however, he has to become a more efficient passer and utilize his receivers. See Lamar Jackson with the Ravens and why they haven’t gone much farther.
By all accounts, Jalen Hurts is a great leader, a hard worker, and has all the physical gifts you could want in today’s game. But as we’ve seen with quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Lamar Jackson, or even Jimmy Garoppolo, the inability to consistently throw the ball will ruin your chances of competing for a championship.
New York Giants: Last Chance for Daniel Jones?
Daniel Jones showed great flashes during his rookie campaign, but since then has been a disaster. He has surprising mobility, a nice arm, and has prototypical size for an NFL starting quarterback. Even the Giants seem to feel they’ve failed him more than he did them. But none of that matters if Daniel Jones doesn’t show significant growth from what we’ve seen in the past two seasons. The numbers he’s put up since his rookie season, regardless of circumstance, are downright awful.
If we combine his 2021 and 2022 seasons, these are his passing stats in 25 games played.
5,371 yards passing, 63.4% completion rate, 21 touchdown passes to 17 interceptions, and 6.6 yards per attempt
Some would argue that due to his offensive line and various head coaches, Jones was never given a chance to succeed. That may be true, but when it comes to the NFL, not many quarterbacks get perfect situations. Outside of his rookie year, this is Jones’s best shot to show the NFL world what he can do. The Giants have a top-five receiving core in terms of money allocated, good running backs, and hired a new offensive coach in Brian Daboll.
The Giants aren’t winning anything this season, but they must see substantial growth from Daniel Jones. Afterall, this’ll be year four, and a contract extension is looming. If Jones doesn’t show signs of turning the corner, the Giants will likely draft a quarterback in this coming NFL draft to replace him.
Dallas Cowboys: Can Mike McCarthy Overcome His Coaching Woes?
Regardless of whether Dak Prescott is fully healthy or not, the Cowboys need Mike McCarthy to fix his shortcomings as a head coach. Among active NFL head coaches, Mike McCarthy’s clock management and decision-making seemingly get called into question every week. Luckily for the Cowboys, they play in the NFC East and have arguably the best overall roster in their division. But like the Eagles, winning the NFC East is one thing, but winning multiple playoff games is another. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, despite the talent of their roster, it’s hard to win at the ultimate level despite a bad head coach.
Aaron Rodgers has played three seasons since Mike McCarthy parted ways with the Packers. And since then, Rodgers has won an average of 13 games per season with back-to-back MVPs. Given that McCarthy called plays, you can make the argument that Rodgers and the team were actively being held back by their head coach. It’s a questionable hire to bring in a guy who, based on recent events, appears to have made his team worse. But for Jerry Jones, hiring a guy who won’t talk back like Mike McCarthy was too easy a choice.
Dak Prescott is easily the best quarterback in the division, and typically when you have the best quarterback, you win your division. But when you have a head coach who, on any given Sunday, can be your best friend or your worst enemy, your team has a noticeable ceiling.
Washington Commanders: Carson Wentz? Or Carson Wince?
The Washington Commanders are going into the 2022 season with a new identity and a new quarterback in Carson Wentz. Wentz has had a rough go since his (almost) MVP campaign in 2017. Since then, he’s either battled injury or battled with himself. After getting traded to the Colts in 2021, everyone thought the pairing of he and head coach Frank Reich (his former offensive coordinator) would be a match made in heaven. But just one season later, he finds himself in Washington, hoping to save his career.
Carson Wentz, like Daniel Jones, has the size, athleticism, and arm to be an elite NFL quarterback. But like Daniel Jones, turnovers, poor decision-making, and injuries have kept Wentz from recapturing his 2017 form. Maybe injuries and what happened towards the end of his Eagles-stint have psychologically hurt him, but the Commanders need Wentz to be at his best. The Commanders have a great offensive line, nice running backs, a number-one receiver in Terry McLaurin, and a defense that was humbled last year after an elite 2020 season. If the Commander’s defense can return to form, and Wentz can ever recapture even 80% of what he was in 2017, this Washington team will be dangerous.
But of course, that’s a big IF.