On Thursday evening, the New York Giants were priming for their first preseason game of the season. They were resigned with the fact that there was a legitimate chance they would be the worst offense in the NFC East this year. There is no terrible shame in that. Dallas and Washington have potentially elite groups. Philadelphia also pulled major moves to improve its group from last season. With the questions surrounding Eli Manning, the running game, and the offensive line, fourth-best in the division may have been where this unit was headed.
On Friday afternoon, that picture looks awfully different.
The situation changed with news that Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliot would be suspended six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Six games is nearly 40 percent of the regular season. For a team that already saw a couple of changes in its previously peerless offensive line, Elliot was supposed to be the bell cow back that covered for all shortcomings. Now, Dallas will have six games (pending Zeke’s likely appeal) of Darren McFadden. You know who is happy to hear that? Giants fans!
McFadden and backup Alfred Morris are fine, but if Elliot is really out for six games, the Cowboys offense suddenly looks incredibly mediocre. Instead of a multifaceted attack, it looks more like Dak to Dez and prepare the punting team.
Just a few hours later, the offense in Philadelphia also saw upheaval; this change was on purpose though. The Eagles traded their top wide receiver, Jordan Matthews, along with a 2018 third-round pick, to Buffalo for corner Ronald Darby. There is no question that this move greatly helps what could be a prolific defense. It also leaves the Philly offense in quite a precarious spot.
Now, instead of relying on Matthews to create some consistency in the offense with Carson Wentz, this is essentially an entirely new group from last season. Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and LeGarrette Blount could be really good here…maybe. We don’t know how they will gel with Wentz. We don’t know what Smith and Blount have left, or if Jeffery will stay healthy. Matthews wasn’t exciting, but he was consistently good and reliable. Eagles fans get on Matthews for his drops, but he had at least 65 catches, 100 targets, and 800 yards in each of his first three seasons in the league. That is unbelievable production. According to ESPN, the reception and yardage plateaus have only happened four other times in the history of the sport.
Neither the Cowboys news nor the Philadelphia move is a death sentence for that team. However, everything that has gone down Friday has certainly altered the outlook of the offenses in the NFC East. New York looked like it was playing catch-up to these other teams just one day ago. Now, who knows. Maybe this is the group that will bring the most reliability and play-making outside of Washington.