Earlier this offseason, we ranked all four NFC East teams based on how strongly we felt about each squad's chances headed into 2012. Now, we're breaking things down on more of a micro scale. Here's how we view the running games within the division.
LeSean McCoy has averaged five yards per carry the last two seasons, and he led the league in touchdowns and broken tackles in 2011. He's one of the three best backs in football, and he only turned 24 this week. The line takes a hit with Jason Peters gone, but they're still fantastic at the guard and center positions.
This depends on DeMarco Murray, obviously. As a rookie, Murray was superb. But we've seen that from many rookie backs over the years, and there are injury concerns with him too.
The Cowboys also have quite a shaky interior offensive line. Regardless, they still averaged a solid 4.4 yards per carry and managed to get some decent efforts from Felix Jones in 2011.
This is a boom-or-bust situation, but I'm leaning boom.
It doesn't seem to matter who's lining up in the Redskins' backfield. Tim Hightower was a monster last August, but he struggled early in the year before getting hurt. Roy Helu was a monster last December, but he suffered a similar fate too. Then there was Evan Royster, who was a revelation late.
The 2011 numbers weren't good, but that had to do with the fact that the 'Skins sucked at passing the football and didn't have any luck with injuries. They should be average at worst this year.
The pieces are actually in place for the Giants to have even more success on the ground than the Cowboys or Redskins, but I'm not prepared to move them ahead at this stage. No way, not after they averaged a league-low 3.5 yards per carry last season. I don't trust Ahmad Bradshaw to stay healthy, I don't know what to expect from David Wilson and I certainly don't have any faith in that offensive line.
In all four cases, we're still talking about supporting casts. Never forget that, in this division, it's all about the quarterbacks, the men who catch passes from those quarterbacks and the guys in charge of hitting those quarterbacks.