Corey Washington stood out the most this offseason.**
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -
As good as Corey Washington was, I'm going to go with the guy throwing him the football: Eli Manning, who showed as strong of an arm as I've seen from him throughout his career, and he was extremely accurate whenever we saw him throw. Manning is poised for a monster season.* *
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -Eli Manning looked as good as ever, but a franchise quarterback is never going to be unnoticed. So I'm saying Washington because he set the stage for next month when he will try to climb up the very steep wide receiver depth chart in training camp. With Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. limited in the spring, Washington took advantage and flashed what we saw last preseason. And this year he's determined to show he's more than a jump-ball receiver.
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LANCE MEDOW: Fact -Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also stood out to me, but they were a very close second to Corey Washington, who seemed to make play after play every single practice. When players in front of you on the depth chart are sidelined, you have to take advantage of the additional reps and that's exactly what Washington did on a consistent basis while Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr looked on. Washington built a very strong rapport with Eli Manning over the last few weeks and Manning even acknowledged that during his recent media sessions, based on what he's seen from Washington in the classroom and on the field. Ever since the undrafted wide receiver made his presence felt during the 2014 preseason, Washington has been labeled by many as a valuable red zone target, but this offseason he showed much more versatility when his number was called.
Eli will set a career high in completion %.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -
Last year, Eli Manning set a career high with a 63.1% completion percentage, and I
expect him to improve on that mark this year. Shane Vereen's presence should provide an opportunity for some efficient pass attempts, which should lead to a better completion percentage. Victor Cruz's return in the slot should give Manning another reliable target. Eli could hit 65% this year if the running game picks up and he isn't asked to carry the full load.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -There's no reason to think he won't do it again this year with a full season of offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system under his belt. Add in improvements on the offensive line, the return of Cruz and the signing of Shane Vereen, who set the Super Bowl record for most receptions by a running back in February with New England, and you'll see that number climb even closer to the 70 percent mark that every quarterback aims for each season.
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*LANCE MEDOW: Fact - *That's exactly what Eli Manning did in his first year running Ben McAdoo's offense as he completed 63.1% of his passes. If he accomplished that feat as he was getting a feel for a new offense, you would assume the numbers across the board should improve. Plus, with Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings healthy and the addition of Shane Vereen as a nice security blanket or what McAdoo calls "a quarterback's best friend," Manning will have a wealth of targets for high percentage passes. An improved running game should help that cause as well as defenses won't be able to focus on just one facet of the Giants' offense. Setting a career-high in the same category in consecutive years is no easy task, but considering the results were impressive during year one and Manning is surrounded by versatile personnel, he's in a good position to surpass last season's completion percentage.
The NFC East has been the best QB division over the last decade.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -
In the end, this comes down to the AFC North and the NFC East. Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco anchor the AFC North, while Eli Manning and Tony Romo are the flag bearers for the NFC East. Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton then compare to Donovon McNabb, Michael Vick and Nick Foles. The Browns and Redskins both have had a lot of changes at the position. I know Roethlisberger and Flacco have more Super Bowls, but I'll go with the NFC East since Palmer had a lot of injury issues, Dalton has struggled, and Flacco didn't join the Ravens until 2008.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -At any given time, you have multiple Pro Bowl-caliber players at the position in the
division. Additionally, it's been one of the most stable groups with longtime starters in Manning, Romo, and back to McNabb. And if you need a tiebreaker, it's the only division with two Super Bowl MVP awards at the position in that timespan (both Manning).
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -Over the last decade, most divisions have had just one team show continuity and consistency at the quarterback position: AFC East (Patriots – Tom Brady), AFC South (Colts – Peyton Manning/Andrew Luck), AFC West (Chargers – Philip Rivers), NFC North (Packers – Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers), NFC South (Saints – Drew Brees) and NFC West (Rams – Marc Bulger/Sam Bradford). That leaves the AFC North as the only legitimate competitor to the NFC East. Ben Roethlisberger has been a mainstay in Pittsburgh, the Bengals made a fairly smooth transition from Carson Palmer to Andy Dalton and Baltimore has benefited from Joe Flacco's emergence. However, Flacco didn't arrive in Baltimore till 2008 and the Browns have had a revolving door at quarterback. That's why I give the NFC East the edge. Like Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Tony Romo have been running the shows in New York and Dallas, respectively, over the last decade (try finding another division that can say that about two of its quarterbacks). While the Eagles have had some movement at QB, there has been consistency because they've relied on veterans such as Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick. Washington is the only wildcard as six different quarterbacks have led the team in passing over the last ten years.
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The NFC East will have a winning record over the AFC East in 2015.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -
This is going to be the classic offense vs. defense inter-conference battle. The Jets and Bills should have two of the top defenses in the league, while the Cowboys and Giants should be two of the best offenses. The Patriots are well rounded, and so are the Dolphins. The Eagles are a mystery and the Redskins are in the middle of a transition. I believe Washington is the worst of the eight teams, and their struggles will give the edge to the AFC East.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -In addition to producing the Super Bowl champion, the AFC East had three teams with eight or more wins last year, while the NFC counterpart had just two. And the AFC East only looks to be on the rise, especially defensively with offseason personnel moves and coaching changes. But all that matters for the Giants are the four on their schedule, beginning with the Bills in Week 4.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -Last season, all four AFC East teams ranked in the top 13 in total defense. In comparison, all four NFC East teams ranked 19 or lower in the same category. When it comes to total offense, the NFC East boasted four teams in the top 13; the four teams in the AFC East were scattered across the rankings as high as 11th (Patriots) and as low as 26th (Bills). Based on those numbers, this battle will likely come down to whether you believe defense beats offense or vice versa. I lean toward the former. The defenses throughout the AFC East have essentially stayed the same or all improved. Miami added Ndamukong Suh in free agency, the Jets signed Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie to revamp their secondary, the Bills led the league in sacks in 2014 and have all their key pass rushers returning, and while the Patriots lost a few members of the secondary, they have a strong track record in filling voids. When you look at the offenses in the NFC East, the Giants and Cowboys should pick up where they left off in 2014, but the Eagles and Redskins have a few question marks. Philadelphia parted ways with Nick Foles, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy and Evan Mathis and is hoping Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews stay healthy, and Washington needs Robert Griffin III to return to his rookie form. Those questions give the AFC East the edge in the head to head battle.