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NFL 2014 preview: Eagles will hold back Giants in NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles will be the team to beat in the NFC East this season
Quarterback Nick Foles will look for a repeat of his stellar 2013 season with the Philadelphia Eagles

The combination of Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy will lead the Philadelphia Eagles to another first-place finish in the NFC East. Eli Manning will have to overcome numerous challenges with the New York Giants this season, but they should still finish ahead of the defensively deficient Dallas Cowboys. Coach Jay Gruden won't turn around Washington in a single season.

The predicted order of finish:

1. PHILADELPHIA
2013 | 10-6, 1st in East
Last year in playoffs | 2013

Going all the way: Quarterback Nick Foles is coming off an unbelievable season (27 touchdowns, two passes intercepted). If he can come close to that type of efficiency, the Eagles will be golden. LeSean McCoy is the defending rushing champion and is the game’s most devastating cutback runner. If Jason Peters isn’t the best left tackle in football, he’s certainly in the conversation.

They’re doomed: Poor safety play has been Philadelphia’s bugaboo since the departure of Brian Dawkins, and it remains to be seen if Malcolm Jenkins will be the answer. The era of DeSean Jackson is over and, although Darren Sproles will produce, the Eagles probably won’t get as many forehead-slapping explosive plays.

Now hear this: “I’m taking Foles. Not even close. Russell Wilson is just . . . because of that system he is in.”  — Ron Jaworski, ESPN analyst and former Eagles quarterback, on whether he’d take Foles or Seattle’s Russell Wilson

2. NEW YORK GIANTS
2013 | 7-9, 3rd in East
Last year in playoffs | 2011

Going all the way: After a decade in the same offense, Eli Manning is working out the kinks in a new one, and it hasn’t been pretty. Still, he’s a quarterback with two Super Bowl rings, and he’s got some good weapons around him, including receiver Victor Cruz and capable running backs Rashad Jennings and rookie Andre Williams. The secondary is improved with the addition of Walter Thurmond III and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

They’re doomed: The offensive line was hurt by guard Chris Snee’s retirement and a foot injury to guard Geoff Schwartz. There’s a vacuum at tight end, and the hamstring injury to first-round receiver Odell Beckham Jr., thought of as a game-breaker, has everyone frustrated.

Now hear this: “There are two guys on our team that have to play really well and it’s Eli Manning and Jason Pierre-Paul. If those guys play well, I think we’ve got a chance to be really good.” — Jerry Reese, general manager

3. DALLAS
2013 | 8-8, 2nd in East
Last year in playoffs | 2009

Going all the way: The Cowboys are going to be in a lot of shootouts, and they are built to put a lot of points on the board. A sturdy offensive line, featuring three first-rounders, should create ample time for Tony Romo and push open holes for DeMarco Murray. Dez Bryant is an elite playmaker, and Terrance Williams is headed that way.

They’re doomed: There’s no D in Dallas. The three best defensive players from last season are gone — defensive linemen DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher are elsewhere, and linebacker Sean Lee is out for the season with a bad knee. What’s more, secondary leader Orlando Scandrick is suspended for the first four games. There’s a lot of pressure on defensive tackle Henry Melton, who spent training camp recovering from a torn ACL.

Now hear this: “The positive part is we have a younger team, way younger than it was three years ago. We think that’s a good thing.”  — Jason Garrett, coach

4. WASHINGTON
2013 | 3-13, 4th in East
Last year in playoffs | 2012

Going all the way: There's offensive talent galore, starting with quarterback Robert Griffin III. Pierre Garcon reeled in 113 catches last season, a franchise record, and running back Alfred Morris has rushed for 2,888 yards in his first two seasons. Jordan Reed set a club record for receiving yards by a rookie tight end, even though he missed the last six games. Add receiver DeSean Jackson into that mix, and there won’t be enough footballs to go around.

They’re doomed: First-time Coach Jay Gruden faces a big task turning around a franchise that has finished last every year but one since 2008. Griffin looked like a rookie this summer, tentative at times, careless at others. The kick coverage teams were a disaster last season.

Now hear this: “Kirk Cousins has played much better at the quarterback position than Robert Griffin III has.” — Joe Theismann, Washington great, on the quarterback play this summer.

Times staff writer Austin Knoblauch contributed to this post.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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