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NFC East preview: Eagles look for more consistency after disappointing season

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson in action during an NFL football practice.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson takes part in a team practice session.
(Chris Szagola / Associated Press)
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A team-by-team look at the NFC East and the predicted order of finish in the division.

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1. Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz passes in practice.
(Chris Szagola / Associated Press)

2019 | 9-7, 1st in East

Last year in playoffs | 2019

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WHAT HAPPENED LAST SEASON

With offseason acquisitions that included DeSean Jackson and Jordan Howard, the Eagles had high hopes of getting back to the Super Bowl. Instead, they sputtered along — lose two, win two, lose two, win two — although they did get some traction at the end of the season despite having to go deep into their depth chart. But they were one-and-done in the playoffs.

PINNING THEIR HOPES ON

Carson Wentz. Wentz got hot at the end of last season — guiding the Eagles to four consecutive victories — and will be looking to carry that momentum into this fall. The Eagles added versatile Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts to the mix, so they have some interesting options when they get down near the goal line.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Miles Sanders. As a rookie, he led the team with 818 yards rushing and showed explosiveness, turning one carry into a 65-yard touchdown. He improved as the year went on.

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2. Dallas Cowboys

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Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott passes in practice.
(LM Otero / Associated Press)

2019 | 8-8, 2nd in East

Last year in playoffs | 2018

WHAT HAPPENED LAST SEASON

An 8-8 finish spelled the end for coach Jason Garrett, as the Cowboys were a mediocre team in a middling division. They lost four of their last six games, although they did finish with a home win against Washington. In Dallas, that counts for something.

PINNING THEIR HOPES ON

Mike McCarthy. The former top man in Green Bay, McCarthy is the eighth coach under owner Jerry Jones but only the second with a Super Bowl victory to his name. Even though the head coach is new, the offensive coordinator is the same. The Cowboys are sticking with Kellen Moore.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Dak Prescott. Is Dallas going to back up the Brinks truck for its quarterback? Prescott is 40-24 as a starter and put up bigger passing numbers last season, but he has yet to prove he can carry that consistency into the postseason. Andy Dalton is now peering over his shoulder.

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3. Washington

Washington quarterback Alex Smith throws during practice.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

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2019 | 3-13, 4th in East

Last year in playoffs | 2015

WHAT HAPPENED LAST SEASON

Washington stumbled out of the gate by losing its first five games, the club’s worst start since 2001. That led to the firing of coach Jay Gruden, who was replaced by interim coach Bill Callahan. The rest of the housecleaning came at the end of the 3-13 season.

PINNING THEIR HOPES ON

Ron Rivera. Although his time had run its course after 8½ seasons as head coach of the Carolina Panthers, including a trip to the Super Bowl in 2016, Rivera is a widely respected coach looking to bring some stability to a wobbly franchise. His first move was to hire Jack Del Rio as defensive coordinator, one of several areas in need of an overhaul.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Alex Smith. Smith is the early front-runner for comeback player of the year considering the way he has returned from a cover-your-eyes gruesome leg injury. Washington sure needs to figure it out at quarterback.

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4. New York Giants

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley runs the ball during practice.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

2019 | 4-12, 3rd in East

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Last year in playoffs | 2016

WHAT HAPPENED LAST SEASON

Over the last three seasons, the Giants have won 12 games — and that includes a 4-12 campaign last year that cost Pat Shurmur his head coaching job. In comes former special teams coach Joe Judge, who will look to build around quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley.

PINNING THEIR HOPES ON

Barkley. He cooled last season after a sensational rookie year, but Barkley remains an elite talent. He was slowed by ankle problems in 2019 but finished strong, with 301 yards rushing and 121 receiving in his final two games.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Andrew Thomas. With starting left tackle Nate Solder opting out because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a vacancy at that critical position for Thomas, the No. 4 overall pick and outstanding tackle from the University of Georgia. He’ll get the difficult task of protecting the blind side of Jones.