Via: Philadelphia Sports Nation

The NFC East is once again up for grabs in 2021, especially after the disaster of a year that the 4 teams had last year.
The Washington Football team ended up with the division title after finishing 7-9, led by Dwayne Haskins and CPOY Alex Smith.

Washington’s defense was the story for the last year, and it’s only gotten better. The New York Giants lost Saquon Barkley early in the season and finished an unimpressive 6-10, which left them only 1 game out of an NFC East title. Daniel Jones or ‘Danny Dimes’ proved time and time again that he probably isn’t the long-term answer for the Giants. They have acquired some quality free agents like Kenny Golladay and Adoree Jackson, but I’m not sure Daniel Jones is the right guy to invest your future into.

Interestingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys limped to the finish line, finishing with the same record as the Giants at 6-10. Dak Prescott fractured his ankle in early October, which left him sidelined for the entire year. The Cowboys then strutted out a QB combination of Andy Dalton, Ben Dinucci, and even Garret Gilbert, who got the nod against the Steelers in November. With how terrible Dallas’ defense was, this was where most people predicted them to finish.

And finally, the team that finished in the last place in the NFC East in 2020, the Philadelphia Eagles. The story of 2020 has already been written for the Eagles, a year filled with injuries, constant change, and dysfunction from the front office down. The Eagles finished 4-11 and were able to secure the best draft position/capital in a year that was pretty much a wash for everyone else in the division. There really is no true outlier that has emerged from the NFC East in 2021.

The Cowboys are the presumed favorites considering Prescott will be back, but with a Dallas team that hasn’t really addressed some of their major defensive concerns, I’m not confident that they’ll be able to coast to 9-10 wins.

To get a better idea of which teams have the best quarterback situation heading into 2021, I decided to rank the NFC East quarterbacks and see where each team is positioned.

4th) Daniel Jones, New York Giants

Other than 1st place, this was the easiest decision to make for me. Daniel Jones was drafted in 2019 to replace Eli Manning and keep the Giants in playoff contention. In 2 years, Jones has failed to make the postseason or have a winning season. Part of this has been injuries to Saquon Barkley in his first 2 years and a supporting cast that’s below average. But at the end of the day, Jones is towards the bottom of the league in terms of quality QB play.

In 14 games in 2020, Jones posted 11 TDs, 10 INTs, and 210 y/g. Overall in his career, Jones is 8-18 as a starting quarterback and has 35 touchdowns with 22 interceptions, not to mention his 29 total fumbles, 17 of which have been lost. He has shown flashes of athleticism and speed, but overall I think he’s clearly the worst quarterback in the NFC East.

According to a NextGenStats report, Jones rated as the NFL’s best deep passer in 2020. He’s proven he’s a starter in the league; I’m not sure that he’s any better than any of the other NFC East quarterbacks.

The Giants showed some improvement in 2020, and with a defense that’ll rank in the upper half of the NFL, it will be up to Danny Dimes to play consistent, turnover-free football for 17 games; I personally don’t see that happening.

3rd) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington Football Team

2nd and 3rd in my rankings were definitely the most difficult to place. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the NFL journeyman, now at his 9th stop in the NFL, where he will be taking starting snaps. Fitzpatrick has reinvigorated his NFL career after starting 7 games for Tampa in 2019 and earning the nickname “Fitzmagic.” Since then, he has spent the last two seasons in Miami, where he has 33 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. In 2020 he routinely filled in for Tua Tagovailoa, who struggled after earning the starting job in Week 7.

By this point, everyone knows what to expect from Ryan Fitzpatrick. He’s an average NFL QB heading into the twilight of his 16 year NFL career. Sure, you know that Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t going to lose you football games single-handedly, but his ceiling is fairly low at this point in his career.

With a young and upcoming defense, Washington can become a real contender in this division to figure out their QB situation. Obviously, Fitzpatrick isn’t the long-term answer, but for me, he’s the 3rd best quarterback in the NFC East in 2021.

2nd) Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

Photo: Dallas Cowboys

Some people might disagree with me for putting Jalen Hurts over Fitzpatrick, but I think it’s pretty clear. The floor for Fitzpatrick might be a bit higher than Hurts, but I don’t think the ceiling of these two players is even comparable. It’s difficult to fully project Jalen Hurts’ productivity in 2021 because the sample size of games is still so small. In 4 starts in 2020, Hurts went 1-3, threw for 1061 with 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. The best example of what we could see from Hurts in the future was his start against the Saints in Week 13. He threw for 167 yards and a touchdown and ran 18 times for 106 yards in a surprising victory against a really good Saints team.

It’s clear the rushing upside for Hurts will be the key to success, and as he gets more starts under his belt, hopefully, his accuracy increases. He’s completed 77 of 148 throwing attempts which comes out to a 52% completion percentage. You’d definitely want to see this figure improve in 2021, but I think the new offensive scheme with Shane Steichen and Nick Sirianni will do wonders for his completion percentage.

With the offensive line getting healthy, Devonta Smith’s addition will give Hurts’ the best chance to succeed. More quick passes and screens will bode well for a young QB trying to find his legs in the NFL.

If Sirianni can unlock the rushing potential and continue to improve his throwing accuracy, Jalen Hurts can really surprise some people in 2021. As of right now, I believe that Jalen Hurts is the second-best quarterback in the NFC East.

1st) Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

I don’t think this one is much of a debate. Dak Prescott even returning from a devastating season-ending injury, is still by far and away from the best QB in the NFC East. In his career, Dak has thrown 106 touchdowns and 40 interceptions. He’s been able to maintain a 66% completion percentage and has thrown for almost 18,000 yards in 69 career starts. His analytical resume is pretty undeniable, but as always the Cowboys haven’t really been able to match his production on the defensive side of the ball.

In 2019, Dak threw for 4900 yards and 30 touchdowns and somehow finished 8-8. It looked like the same story until Week 5 of last year when he got injured. He had already thrown for 1800 yards and 9 touchdowns in his first 5 starts of 2020. Dak Prescott isn’t the problem in Dallas. It is and has been for a while, the painfully below-average defense of the Dallas Cowboys.

It appears to be a similar story this year, even with Dallas addressing their defense in the first round by selecting Micah Parsons from Penn State. The linebacker wasn’t necessarily the priority for a Dallas Cowboys secondary that ranked 28th in the NFL last year in points given up. Even with a below-average defense, I would still put my money on the Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC East this year.

They’re the most talented offensive team, and if Dak can stay healthy and return to form, I believe they’ll be in a position to win the division in December.

Closing Thoughts

It’s important to remember that no team has won back-to-back NFC East titles since 2004 when the Eagles won 4 in a row. So naturally, that makes me want to rule out Washington as an option, but there really are no guarantees. The NFC East is an enigma, and will always be one of the hardest divisions in football to break down and project. But it does help to understand better where these teams’ quarterbacks rank against each other and which teams are in a better position to compete for the division.

For a division that finished with a total record of 23-40 in 2020, it really is a toss-up for who will finish at the top.

It’s always a dogfight, so I expect nothing less from 2021, but in May of 2021, I think we have a good idea of where the NFC East quarterbacks rank in relation to each other.
The NFC East should be better in 2021, but hopefully, it’s just as entertaining as it was in 2020.

Featured Image: Dallas Cowboys
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