Quite recently we've talked about how the Philadelphia Eagles rank in various aspects compared to other NFL teams. Just as
meaningless? important is to see where the Eagles NFC East foes rank. When it compares to defensive front sevens, the Eagles are neither near the top or the bottom of the NFL. They're probably closer to the middle.
Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, and Bennie Logan seem like a very talented group up front. Connor Barwin is a great JACK outside linebacker and Trent Cole is aging but still remains a very good run defender and average pass rusher. On the inside, the Eagles have another aging veteran in DeMeco Ryans and next to him is a young and erratic talent in Mychal Kendricks.
As far the rest of the NFC East, it doesn't look so good. Mike Tanier of SportsOnEarth recently reviewed the NFL's front sevens and two familiar teams finished in the bottom five.
At No. 32, the Cowboys' front seven ranks as the worst in the entire NFL.
The Cowboys lost DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and (in the saddest, most ridiculous minicamp story of the year) Sean Lee from a defense that allowed 2,056 rushing yards and recorded just 36 sacks last year. Henry Melton arrives as a younger, more system-suited replacement for Hatcher, but everything else is a shambles. Bruce Carter, Justin Durant and DeVonte Holloman form the most anonymous linebacker corps in the league, and only Carter has any significant starting experience. Anthony Spencer may start the season on the PUP list as he battles back from microfracture surgery on his knee. And of course, the Cowboys are so cap-stressed that they wouldn't be able to sign a veteran reinforcement, even if one becomes available this late in the offseason.
The wisest thing the Cowboys could do is insert rookies Demarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens into the rotation quickly and let them learn on the job. The Cowboys did not get into this predicament by doing the wise thing. But they are so thin and talent-poor that they may not have a choice.
It looks like Dallas will really have to rely on their offense to carry them through games. The Cowboys had such a bad defense last season and somehow they managed to lose their three best players from that unit.
The Giants didn't rank as poorly as the Cowboys did but were still near the bottom at No. 29 overall.
Losing Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck is going to hurt. Joseph was a mountainous presence inside, and while Tuck's competitive fire was starting to look like the barbecue pit after a long weekend, he could still ramp it up and dominate in short stretches. Youngsters Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore hope to step up, and Robert Ayers provides some depth as a rotation defender, but that is not a fair exchange, at least this year. Jason Pierre-Paul is either a Comeback Player of the Year candidate or vaporware.
The Giants line has gotten younger, but the linebackers have gotten older. The plucky late-round and free agent rookies of the 2011 Super Bowl run are still here -- Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, Jacquian Williams -- and they still would look much better as a special teams brigade than as regular contributors (though Paysinger has become a decent run defender). Jon Beason is back after his 2013 rebirth, while Jameel McClain arrives to test the theory that if your idea to improve your defense involves someone from the 2012 Ravens, you need a much better idea.
The Giants defense recorded just 33 sacks last year, 14 of them from linemen who are now gone. Most of the team's rebuilding resources went to the offense. Maybe Hankins and Moore will pay dividends in a year or two, but they will need additional reinforcements, particularly at linebacker.
Unlike Dallas, the Giants seem to have some young players with potential. That linebacker corps is thoroughly unimpressive, however.
If these units are as bad in 2014 as Tanier makes them out to be, that's a very good sign for an Eagles offense that finished as one of the best in the NFL last season. It also helps to reenforce the idea that the NFC East is once again up for grabs.