NFC East: 10 Rookies Who Will Steal the Show in 2015
The NFC East has been one of the most successful divisions in the NFL since 1970, with 20 NFC championships and 12 Super Bowl titles. The Eagles, Cowboys, Giants and Redskins boast some of the most loyal fanbases in football and expect greatness from their squads year after year.
In order to compete at the top of the division, the NFC East teams must be sure to draft elite talent to fulfill the needs of the team to remain in contention for a division title.
While some players take a couple of years to develop in the National Football League, many rookies of these teams are expected to have an immediate effect on their teams. Some of the factors that impacted this list are which players filled an important need on their new teams, how successful a season each player is expected to have and how successful their teams could be because of them.
The NFC East should be a slugfest for much of the year and might not be decided until the final week of play. Here are 10 rookies that will have the most impact and success in the NFC East this season.
10. Matt Jones (Washington Redskins)
With the quarterback situation still shaky in Washington, the Redskins will rely heavily on their running game once again in 2015.
Alfred Morris is certainly the top back after rushing for more than 1,000 yards last season, but Jones could be a great option in short-down situations. Though it might anger some fantasy football owners if Jones vultures a 3rd-and-short touchdowns from Morris, the former Florida RB will complement well in the running game.
Jones led the Gators in rushing in 2014 and will use his 6'2", 230-pound frame to barrel over any defender that gets in his way.
9. Brandon Scherff (Washington Redskins)
The Redskins might have reached a little when they drafted Iowa's Brandon Scherff as the fifth pick of the NFL draft. However, Washington was in the market for a young tackle and believe that Scherff is the man for the job.
At 319 pounds, Scherff remains strong and athletic and will create quite the wall for Washington's running game and for quarterback Robert Griffin III. Scherff can play wherever the Redskins need him and could be featured at tackle or guard on either side of the line.
In the video above, Jon Gruden raved about his brother's new offensive lineman and noted how physical and complete a player Scherff is.
8. La'el Collins (Dallas Cowboys)
La'el Collins came into the draft as a possible first-round talent out of LSU, but he went undrafted after some legal trouble scared many teams away. Enter the Cowboys, who snagged up the 315-pounder for three seasons.
To the naked eye, Collins appears to be a natural on the offensive line. His game is polished enough for a smooth transition into one of the best fronts in football and he could find himself as an immediate starter.
The expectations will be high for Collins, especially since the Cowboys are out to prove to the world that they can still run the ball, even without DeMarco Murray. He's impressed Dallas coaches so far and should continue to improve and be ready for opening day.
7. Jamison Crowder (Washington Redskins)
Jamison Crowder had more than 1,000 receiving yards and the most receptions in ACC history while helping to give Duke some recognition somewhere other than the basketball court.
Crowder will be a great option for RG III as a fourth receiver in the slot and could improve Washington's return game as well. He's got great footwork and explosive speed, and should help the Redskins in their quest to rediscover their passing game.
6. Ereck Flowers (New York Giants)
Much like Scherff, Ereck Flowers from the University of Miami might have been a reach for the New York Giants as the ninth pick in the draft, but don't tell that to Eli Manning.
The Giants have struggled to protect their quarterback for the last several seasons, which has hurt the passing and running games in the process. Flowers provides a much-needed upgrade to the line, but he will need to focus on refining his play in order to be ready for Week 1.
The 6'6", 320-pounder is projected to be the new left tackle and might take a few weeks to get acclimated to the speed of the NFL. Flowers has been a little banged up to start training camp but will surely be ready to get down to business when healthy enough.
5. Eric Rowe (Philadelphia Eagles)
Eric Rowe impressed the Eagles at the combine after finishing in the top five in several categories—so much so they traded up to get him in the draft.
Philadelphia was 31st in pass defense and definitely need to improve on that this season. Bowe gives the defense some height in the secondary and should match up nicely with new acquisition Byron Maxwell.
Rowe will find himself in the secondary pretty quickly, and he definitely has the skill set to help in single coverage or to provide double teams on some of the game's best wide receivers. He's most recently taken reps with the first team at training camp, so it shouldn't be long before Rowe gets a good feel for what is expected of him.
4. Randy Gregory (Dallas Cowboys)
While Dallas' offensive line was the strongest in football last season, the pass rush was sometimes non-existent on the defensive end.
Enter Randy Gregory, who will need to step up to the plate quickly while the Cowboys wait for the return of Greg Hardy. He can drop into coverage or rush the quarterback and makes a solid acquisition for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The 230-pounder out of Nebraska has enough athleticism to fit in to any defensive scheme and should give some headaches to opposing quarterbacks. And with No. 94 on his chest, Dallas fans would love to see Gregory fill the void that DeMarcus Ware left behind.
3. Byron Jones (Dallas Cowboys)
Byron Jones comes in at No. 3 behind Gregory as perhaps the most important addition to the Cowboys defense.
Jones is incredibly versatile and has already shown as much in training camp by playing in coverage against tight ends, lining up as the free safety or eyeing up receivers at cornerback.
The 6'1" rookie had 222 tackles and eight interceptions in four years at UCONN and will most likely fit in with Dallas' special teams unit as well. Jones will also benefit from being able to cover one of the best receivers in the game in Dez Bryant.
That early experience will certainly come in handy for Jones, whose success will be vital for the Cowboys defense in holding their own this season.
2. Nelson Agholor (Philadelphia Eagles)
Nelson Agholor has a lot to prove in Philadelphia, as some Eagles fans are probably still wishing his name was Marcus Mariota when drafted.
However, Agholor will be a great fit in Chip Kelly's offensive system and is a great replacement for Jeremy Maclin. He led USC in receptions and yards in his senior season and should carry over those numbers into the NFL. If the Eagles can find consistency at the quarterback position, Agholor has the possibility to lead all rookies in catches.
He can line up anywhere, both outside and in the slot. The 22-year-old will also see action returning punts and has the speed and footwork to put the Eagles in great position before the offense even takes the field.
Kelly's offensive schemes can be unpredictable, and so too will be Agholor—but in a good way, giving Philadelphia tremendous upside for the years to come. If it wasn't for the uncertainty at the quarterback position, Agholor would be No. 1 on this list.
1. Landon Collins (New York Giants)
The Giants will face some of the more high-powered offenses in the league when the Cowboys and Eagles come to town this season. Both teams beat New York twice last season and scored 27 or more points in each contest. The Giants are hoping to chance that result with Landon Collins.
Collins was the best in-the-box safety in the draft and for good reason. The 230-pounder was first-team All-American, a first-team All-SEC selection and led the team in tackles while playing for Alabama's Nick Saban.
The three safeties that started games for the Giants are gone, so to say that Collins fills a huge need at that position is an understatement. He's decisive and explosive while defending the run and can play in the deep middle for passing plays, making life uncomfortable for receivers coming across the field.
Collins will be expected to be an immediate leader for New York's defense and will be forced to learn quickly to the speed of the NFL game. While some teams have pegged him as a better defender in the run than in the pass, look for Collins to make several plays a game in open field.
Because of his immediate impact on defending the run and pass, the void he will fill at the safety position and the talent he showed at the collegiate level, Collins is ranked as the No. 1 rookie in the NFC East.