Skip to main content

NFC East projected starters: Giants power up; Eagles locked in

Gregg Rosenthal will project post-draft starting lineups for all 32 teams -- because that's his idea of fun.

Dallas Cowboys

» The Cowboys are touting a committee approach at wideout, which is a nice way of saying they don't have any players who would be obvious starters on most other depth charts. The team is already talking up third-round pick Michael Gallup's chances of displacing one of the names above. He'll have a role.

» A preseason playmaker a year ago, Rico Gathers is a candidate to step up as the Cowboys' starting tight end, with Jason Witten retiring. The team's block-first veteran option, Geoff Swaim, is a better bet to get more snaps at the position.

» The Cowboys' offense will go as far as the offensive line takes it. They have more flexibility this season than usual to fill the two spots not held by their three perennial Pro Bowlers (Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick). Second-rounder Connor Williams is the favorite to start at left guard, but he could move to tackle. After a shaky 2017, La'el Collins could move back inside if Williams or former Patriots swingman Cam Fleming takes the right tackle job.

» There might not be a young quarterback with more riding on this season than Dak Prescott, and the third-year pro doesn't have a lot of receiving weapons to help him along the way. It's safe to expect the Cowboys to zig as a run-first outfit while most of the league zags, like the pass-happy Super Bowl champions.

» Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli would love last year's first-round pick, Taco Charlton, to step up as a starter at defensive end, but Charlton didn't show much as a rookie.

» Maliek Collinsbroke his foot at offseason workouts, further highlighting a thin defensive tackle position. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports that Collins had surgery on Monday and should be ready sometime in August -- though he's expected to start training camp on the PUP list.

» After he drew comparisons to Brian Urlacher, it's pretty safe to expect first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch to start at middle linebacker. That will likely lead 2016 second-round pick Jaylon Smith to be a part-time player on the strong side. By December last year, he was playing less than a third of the team's defensive snaps.

» This overhauled cornerback group could be sneaky good. Byron Jones is moving back to the position after two years at safety. Both Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis showed chops and upside for rookies late last year.

» Safety has to be an area of concern. Jeff Heath has given up a lot of big plays in Dallas. Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier, both recent sixth-round picks, showed promise down the stretch.

New York Giants

» There isn't a better, more explosive young RB-WR-WR-TE quartet in football than Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. Shepard and Engram are the keys here. They can't be covered one-on-one, and they're going to see a lot of single coverage, because of the attention Barkley and Beckham draw.

» I've seen writing on the Giants that considers Cody Latimer a lock to be the team's slot receiver. The Broncos basically begged Latimer to step into that role for four straight years, resulting in 35 career catches. I'm putting Roger Lewis as the No. 3 receiver for lack of other options. Wideout is one of a handful of positions on this roster that falls off a cliff quickly. (Cornerback and tackle are similar.)

» Ereck Flowers skipped the beginning of voluntary workouts in the wake of the Giants' decision to move him to right tackle, but he's back to work now. The Giants have already tried to deal him to no avail, so he's the favorite among some unproven options at the position.

» Trading Jason Pierre-Paulfor little return was a big risk. While JPP wasn't a natural fit in defensive coordinator James Bettcher's new 3-4 scheme, Big Blue could struggle to generate enough pass-rush pressure outside of what Olivier Vernon provides. The team is going to need push up front, considering the secondary depth.

» The Giants had one of the best cornerback groups in the league a few years ago. Now they have a 33-year-old Steelers castoff, William Gay, as the favorite for slot cornerback roles. Despite Eli Apple's tumultuous first two seasons, the Giants don't even have competition for the former first-round pick as a starter.

» There is enough top-shelf defensive talent in Vernon, Landon Collins, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins to give this group real upside. But it's a top-heavy roster, and it could take a year to fully make the transition to Bettcher's style of defense.

Philadelphia Eagles

» This was one of the easiest offensive depth charts to fill out, with virtually unquestioned starters at every position. Mike Wallace was one of the more underrated signings of the offseason, a significant upgrade on Torrey Smith. He'll play on the outside, with Nelson Agholor in the slot. Second-round pick Dallas Goedert also figures to get plenty of snaps at tight end.

» Jay Ajayi, who was dealt to the Eaglesin October, played fewer than half the team's snaps in the playoffs. While the departure of LeGarrette Blount and an offseason to learn coach Doug Pederson's offense will help his playing time, the Eagles are still very likely to use a committee approach at running back.

» This offensive line has size, talent and incredible continuity. Only health can prevent the group from being one of the league's best again.

» Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan's back surgery takes him out of the starting lineup for now. Michael Bennett is listed as a starter here because his versatility to play inside and out should earn him starter-worthy snaps. Haloti Ngata's presence is also more crucial with Jernigan not healthy.

» Derek Barnett's ascension to starter is likely. Last year's first-round pick showed flashes in 2017, although he was outplayed by former starter Vinny Curry and super-sub Chris Long, with the latter veteran remaining on the roster.

» QB Carson Wentz (ACL) isn't the only key Eagles player returning from injury. Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (ruptured Achilles), left tackle Jason Peters (ACL, MCL) and last year's second-round cornerback Sidney Jones (torn Achilles) should all add juice to the defending champions.

» This has to be the fifth straight year where linebacker Mychal Kendricks' roster spot isn't guaranteed, a remarkable streak for someone who has helped the Eagles win a lot of games.

UPDATE: Kendricks was released on May 22.

Washington Redskins

» This year's offense should be more fun to watch, despite the departure of Kirk Cousins at quarterback. Alex Smith is excellent as a runner after plays break down, but I'm mostly excited to see this group of skill-position talent play together if they can all stay healthy. That's a huge if, with Paul Richardson involved and Jordan Reed coming off two toe surgeries.

» Richardson and Josh Doctson will stretch the field vertically, opening up space for Reed, Jamison Crowder, Vernon Davis and passing-down back Chris Thompson to catch passes underneath. Coach Jay Gruden is one of the better play callers in football, and he has a ton of different flavors to mix in here.

» Rookie running back Derrius Guice is listed as the starter, although it wouldn't be a surprise if Thompson wound up with more snaps. Guice's burst and violent running style make him a perfect complement to Thompson's excellence in the screen game and on the edges.

» The team's last two first-round picks, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, are the only two listed "starters" in a fairly deep defensive line group that will rotate. Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee and Ziggy Hood are also in the mix.

» Cornerback is a position group to watch in training camp. Last year's third-round pick, Fabian Moreau, will be competing with Quinton Dunbar and free-agent addition Orlando Scandrick in a three-way battle for snaps.

» Gruden's decision to pass on hiring Wade Phillips in 2015 could continue to haunt the rest of his tenure. The overall defensive talent base is middle of the road and begs for a coach to scheme up pressure.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content