If not for a last-minute Victor Cruz touchdown, the Redskins would have gone a perfect 6-0 in the NFC East in 2012. Washington went on to win the division that season for the first time since 1999.
Last season was the polar opposite. The Redskins' 3-13 record included an 0-6 record in the middling NFC East.
Two of the Redskins' first four games in 2014 are against NFC East opponents. If they can keep their head above water through the fall, December will be a filled with drama: New York, Philadelphia and Dallas represent Washington's last three regular-season opponents.
Those who frequent this space are fairly well versed in what the Redskins have done this offseason to improve their roster. So how do they measure up against the rest of the division? Let's take a quick-hit look at each NFC East rival and then you can decide.
For three consecutive seasons, the Cowboys have had an opportunity to win the NFC East in Week 17. They've failed each time.
This offseason hasn't been kind to Big D, either. Salary-cap issues forced the Cowboys to release seven-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker/defensive end DeMarcus Ware. The cap also prevented Dallas from retaining Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, who signed with the Redskins.
Perhaps the biggest dagger, though, came in OTAs when middle linebacker Sean Lee—the heart and soul of the defense—tore his ACL. Keep in mind the Cowboys already ranked 32nd in the league last season in total defense.
Thirty-four-year-old quarterback Tony Romo should be full-go for training camp after offseason back surgery, according to ESPN.com's Calvin Watkins. Minus wide receiver Miles Austin, Romo's offensive cast largely remains unchanged. Dallas also boasts a formidable O-line and bolstered it further by selecting Notre Dame's Zack Martin in this year's NFL draft.
Last season, the Redskins lost their first matchup with the Cowboys 31-16 in Dallas. Quarterback Robert Griffin III struggled throughout, and the special teams inexplicably gave up an 86-yard punt return in the second quarter. The Redskins dropped the second game in Washington 24-23 with backup quarterback Kirk Cousins under center.
In 2014, the Redskins get their first crack at the Cowboys in Week 8 when they travel to AT&T Stadium for Monday Night Football. They'll also close the regular season with Dallas at FedEx Field.
When Griffin was healthy in 2012, he carved up the Cowboys. He faced Dallas only once last season, and his mobility was noticeably limited. A healthy Griffin coupled with speed all over the field to go with a power running game should give the leaky Cowboys defense fits in 2014.
Another nugget to store away is the success that cornerback DeAngelo Hall has had guarding Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. In his two meetings against the Redskins last season, Bryant caught only nine balls for 109 yards and a touchdown. Hall deserves a bulk of the credit for those pedestrian numbers.
At the very least, it's paramount for the Redskins to split this season's matchups with the Cowboys. Based on how this offseason has gone for Dallas, that task seems rather attainable.
After a disappointing 7-9 record and failing to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season, the New York Giants made some drastic changes this offseason.
Kevin Gilbride, Eli Manning's offensive coordinator since 2007, is out. In is Ben McAdoo, the former quarterbacks coach of the Green Bay Packers.
Not only is Manning learning a new system, he also has several new offensive teammates. Running back Rashad Jennings was brought in this offseason to improve the running game. Guard Geoff Schwartz and tackle John Jerry were signed to upgrade the offensive line. And LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was drafted No. 12 overall to replace Hakeem Nicks, who left New York to join the Indianapolis Colts.
The Giants also made a conscious effort to retool their secondary. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond join Prince Amukamara to form a three-headed monster at cornerback. All three have Super Bowl experience.
Despite the new additions, the Giants did lose a couple of valuable pieces from last season's defense. Defensive end Justin Tuck is now a member of the Oakland Raiders. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph signed for big money with the Minnesota Vikings. It's also worth noting that linebacker Jon Beason will likely miss training camp with a foot injury, according to NFL.com's Chris Wesseling.
Both games that the Redskins played against the Giants in 2013 were essentially meaningless. Washington lost the first game 24-17 at home in Week 13, dropping its record at the time to 3-9. The other loss came in a rainy, depressing glorified scrimmage in Week 17. Final score: 20-6.
Even if you take away last season, Washington's recent track record of success against the Giants is poor. The Redskins have only swept the G-Men in the regular season once since 1999, per The Football Database. This season, they'll host New York in Week 4 on Thursday Night Football before traveling to MetLife Stadium in Week 15.
The combination of a new offensive system and several new faces makes it difficult to gauge whether or not the Giants are viable contenders in the NFC East. While the Redskins have more than enough talent to beat Big Blue twice this season, the past fifteen years suggest that getting one is more than enough.
After winning the NFC East at 10-6 in his first season as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly seems to have settled nicely into the NFL.
Kelly decided this offseason that his fast-paced offense could do just fine without wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Despite his 82-catch, 1,300-plus-yard season, Jackson was released.
The Redskins then proceeded to pounce on Jackson faster than he could run a go route.
Even without Jackson, Philadelphia's offense is among the more explosive in the league. It still boasts running back LeSean McCoy in the backfield and also traded for the speedy Darren Sproles. Wide receiver Riley Cooper emerged as a reliable target for quarterback Nick Foles last season. Tight end Zach Ertz is expected to make a leap in his second year.
But wait, there's more.
Jeremy Maclin will be returning to the wide receiver corps this season after missing all of 2013 with a torn ACL. The Eagles also drafted wide receiver Jordan Matthews to further soften the blow of releasing Jackson.
Still, not everything is roses for the Eagles. Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News reported Monday that offensive tackle Lane Johnson will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season for using PEDs. The Redskins travel to Philadelphia in Week 3.
Teams that are successful in beating the Eagles in 2014 will likely have to score a lot of points. Philadelphia's defense ranked 29th overall in the NFL last season. The unit was stout against the run, but gave up 289.8 yards per game through the air, last in the league. Safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Nolan Carroll were signed this offseason to upgrade the secondary.
If you had to point to the one moment that signaled the beginning of the end for the 2013 Washington Redskins, it was Week 1 against the Eagles.
Washington's defense was shell-shocked by the Eagles' lightning-quick offense. Griffin, who had zero preseason reps, had no business being in an NFL football game. That 33-27 loss (and the game wasn't even that close) set the wheels in motion for what was one of the worst season's in franchise history.
The Redskins have a lot to prove this year, especially to the team that snatched their NFC East crown. Will a revitalized Griffin and the acquisition of Jackson be enough to get it back?
Kelly doesn't seem too worried.
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