The NFC East has been the most unpredictable division in the NFL, especially when it comes to determining a champion. There has been no repeat division winner in the NFC East for 18 consecutive seasons -- an NFL record. The Philadelphia Eagles were the last repeat champions of the NFC East, winning four straight division championships from 2001 through 2004, showcasing the incredible parity every season.
After years of being a candidate for the worst division in football, the NFC East turned the tide in 2022. All four teams finished .500 or better and three made the postseason. Those three teams (Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants) each made the divisional round, the first division to have three teams make the final eight since the NFC Central in 1997.
The best division last season was the NFC East, and there's no guarantee the Eagles will repeat as division champions. The Eagles got better, but so did the Cowboys and Giants as both teams look to take the next step and emerge as a Super Bowl contender. The Washington Commanders have a strong roster, but quarterback uncertainty has clouded the franchise since Kirk Cousins departed five years ago.
As the NFC East faces a brutal schedule in 2023 with all four teams a threat to win the division, these are the burning questions each team must answer if they are going to claim the division crown.
Eagles: Will Howie Roseman make a post-June 1 move to improve at linebacker?
The state of the linebacker position in Philadelphia is worse than what the team had in Super Bowl LVII (which was a pretty good group). T.J. Edwards signed with the Chicago Bears in free agency and Kyzir White went to the Arizona Cardinals, leaving the Eagles without both their starting off-ball linebackers from last season.
Nakobe Dean was always in line to fill one of those spots after the 2022 third-round pick spent his rookie year in a reserve role. Whether Dean will play the MIKE or not has not been determined, but he's in line for that role. Dean played just 34 snaps last season, but recorded a tackle on 38.2% of those snaps -- displaying a knack for finding the football.
The Eagles also signed Nicholas Morrow to a one-year contract after the departure of Edwards and White, and he's in line to start with Dean. Morrow finished with a career-high 116 tackles while playing in all 17 games for the Bears last season and 13.9% of Morrow's stops against the run resulted in a tackle. Morrow did have 13 missed tackles as he is more suited defending the pass than stopping the run.
Philadelphia doesn't have proven depth at linebacker either, with Christian Elliss and Shaun Bradley to compete for playing time. Elliss and Bradley stayed on the roster, thanks to their performance on special teams in 2022, and both will have an opportunity for an expanded role on the depth chart. The Eagles were high on 2020 third-round pick Davion Taylor over the last two years, but injuries have limited him to just nine games over that span (no games played in 2022).
As general manager of a team with Super Bowl hopes, Howie Roseman isn't likely to wait around and let this roster develop at off-ball linebacker with just one proven veteran in Morrow. It wouldn't be surprising to see Roseman work out a post-June 1 trade or sign a player that was released by another team.
There's just too much uncertainty for Roseman to let the position slide, especially in a new defense under Sean Desai.
Cowboys: Will Mike McCarthy calling plays be the solution for Dak Prescott's turnover woes?
The Cowboys have won 12 games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1994 and 1995, while making the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 2006 and 2007. Dallas made the divisional round of the playoffs and was one of the best teams in the NFL in 2022. They accomplished all this despite Dak Prescott arguably being the most turnover-prone quarterback in football.
Prescott was the first player in NFL history to lead (or co-lead) the league in interceptions despite missing five-plus games. Prescott had 15 interceptions in 12 games last season, while finishing dead last in interception rate (3.8%). His completion percentage (66.2%) was also the lowest it's been in four seasons. The two interceptions Prescott threw in the playoffs ended up costing Dallas in a 19-12 loss to the 49ers, extending the Cowboys' NFC Championship game drought to 27 seasons.
Dallas moved on from Kellen Moore this offseason in favor of Mike McCarthy calling plays, something he hasn't done since 2018. The Cowboys turned the ball over 23 times in 2022, mostly because of Prescott (they had 20 turnovers in 2021 and 26 in 2020, so this has been a problem).
McCarthy has emphasized he will run the ball more to counter Prescott's turnover woes (Prescott is one of nine quarterbacks to average 35 passing attempts per game over the last two years). Even with the Cowboys no longer having Ezekiel Elliott and despite Tony Pollard's hip injury, McCarthy vows to run the ball more.
What if McCarthy can't run the ball like he wants and reverses course? Dallas also added Brandin Cooks to go with CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, giving Prescott another throwing option and McCarthy more of a willingness to keep his pass catchers happy. Improvements on a surprising offensive line from 2022 will certainly go a long way towards helping Prescott, too.
It seems like the plan to end Prescott's turnover woes this offseason is reducing the number of pass plays. McCarthy will have to come up with backup plans for a quarterback who wasn't turnover prone until last season in case "Plan A" doesn't work out.
Giants: Did they actually improve on the offensive line?
The Giants were praised for their offseason (and rightfully so). Being able to sign Daniel Jones and keep Saquon Barkley on the franchise tag was critical, along with getting Jones some valuable pass-catching options in Darren Waller, Parris Campbell and Jamison Crowder in free agency. They also added Jalin Hyatt in the draft and re-signed Darius Slayton, adding to the group already in place with Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard, and Wan'Dale Robinson.
The skill positions have improved, but what did New York do to make the offensive line better? The Giants had one of the worst offensive lines in football last season, which showed in the divisional playoff loss to the Eagles. Jones was pressured 16 times and was sacked five, as the Eagles had a pressure percentage of 45.7%.
New York allowed 49 sacks last season -- tied for fifth most in the NFL -- and the sack percentage of 8.6% was sixth worst. The pressure percentage allowed per dropback of 43.4% was worst in the NFL. Jones was also hit 48 times, tied for 10th most in the NFL.
What did the Giants do to improve the unit? Andrew Thomas had a breakout year at left tackle and is becoming one of the top players at his position. Ben Bredeson is the projected starter left guard after Nick Gates departed, while Mark Glowinski is at right guard and Evan Neal at right tackle. The right side of the offensive line wasn't going to change after the Giants signed Glowinski in free agency last year and drafted Neal in the top 10 in the same offseason.
New York lost Jon Feliciano at center in free agency, but drafted John Michael Schmitz in the second round. Schmitz is going to start at center and should handle the pressure in the A-gap. That will make the interior of the offensive line better and should ease the pressure on Bredeson and Glowinski, yet there are still concerns if Schmitz is enough to improve the unit.
The offensive line gets massively better if Neal takes a gigantic leap in Year 2 compared to the liability he was at right tackle his rookie season. There's a lot of pressure on Neal and Schmitz to make this line in the upper echelon of the league, a lot to handle for two players with a combined one year of NFL experience heading into the 2023 season.
Commanders: Who will be the starting quarterback come Week 1?
The Commanders will be entering the 2023 season with their seventh different starting quarterback entering Week 1, tied for the longest streak in NFL history. Their 12 different starting quarterbacks since the start of the 2018 season is the most in the NFL. Still, the Commanders finished last season with an above-.500 record despite playing Carson Wentz, Taylor Heinicke, and Sam Howell.
Only Howell remains of the three, as the 2022 fifth-round pick made his first career start in Week 18 of last season. Howell played well in an upset of the Dallas Cowboys, who still had an opportunity to win the NFC East while Washington was eliminated. That was enough for Washington to move forward with Howell competing for the starting quarterback job in a revamped offense under Eric Bieniemy.
While the Commanders plan to go forward with Howell, Washington signed Jacoby Brissett in free agency to compete for the starting job. Brissett played well filling in for Deshaun Watson with the Cleveland Browns last season while Watson was serving his suspension, and his 48 starts certainly give him the experience edge over Howell.
Have the Commanders seen enough of Howell in one start, where he went 11 of 19 for 169 yards with a touchdown, to give him the starting job? They want -- and believe -- Howell is the guy. Brissett will compete for the job, but he is likely the No. 2 quarterback unless Howell has a poor training camp.
If Washington sits Howell at any point, the Commanders are back to square one. This team has a talented roster, but doesn't have a stable quarterback situation like the rest of the division. A lot is riding on Howell to take this team to the playoffs, including Ron Rivera's job.