NFC East Notebook, Oct. 1: Finding flaws across the division

Patrick Smith

NFC East updates from Washington, Dallas and Philadelphia.

After years of being considered elite, the NFC East is arguably the weakest division in all of football. The New York Giants and Washington Redskins were considered to be the two best teams, but the two have combined for one win -- over the Oakland Raiders -- and the chances of making the postseason are slim to none.

Leading the NFC East are the Dallas Cowboys, who aren't impressing anybody too much but are just keeping their heads above water. And despite an eye-opening Week 1, the Philadelphia Eagles' defense has come back down to life, and Chip Kelly's squad looks to be no better than mediocre.

Dallas Cowboys (2-2)

The Cowboys aren't doing anything great, yet they remain atop the division. Taking a look at the Cowboys' points scored/points allowed total, the team is actually in a better position than it has been in the last two years.

Yet according to Pythagorean Formula, Blogging the Boys believes Dallas is only a 8-8 team this season. The theory is more accurate as the season progresses, but it has produced a result +/-2 wins of the actual total. Then again, it's not unheard of that the winner of the NFC East would only be .500.

So what's nagging the Cowboys? The numbers would indicate the running game. The team has strayed from DeMarco Murray and the running game, allowing opponents to play keepaway and win the time of possession battle.

That's not the only lessons learned from the loss on Sunday. The results show the receivers couldn't catch and the linebackers couldn't cover.

Three of the four Cowboys drops came on third downs, including one by Dez Bryant, who focused more on staying in bounds than securing the football.

The linebackers were beat by Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead. Sean Lee couldn't stop the Pro Bowl tight end, who had 10 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. Bruce Carter was tasked with containing Woodhead out of the backfield, but the back abused Carter, totaling five receptions for 54 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)

Not only are Giants' fans upset with their team's poor start. Eagles' fans are upset with their 1-3 team, as well.

While Philly sits at a 1-3, the Giants are 0-4, theoretically ahead in the Jadaveon Clowney race. Bleeding Green Nation fears the Giants could secure a top-three pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and pick Clowney or Teddy Bridgewater and usher in a whole new era of success in the Big Apple.

Well, the Eagles aren't too far behind. They're just days removed from a Mile High dismantling compliments of Peyton Manning. And in that loss, Pro Football Focus handed the defense a horrible grade.

Eleven defenders received negative grades after the loss. Cary Williams, Philly's big free-agent signing this offseason, earned a -3.8 grade, the worst among the secondary.

But it's all not so bad in the City of Brotherly Love.

Chip Kelly's offense could be on a historical pace, according to Philly.com. If the unit can improve its red-zone efficiency, cut down on penalty and turnovers, it would be able to continue yielding high yardage totals and score more points. The Eagles average 6.9 yards per play through four contests, .1 fewer than the Greatest Show on Turf.

Washington Redskins (1-3)

Hail to the Redskins after putting up a checkmark in the win column Sunday, beating the Raiders and their second-string quarterback, Matt Flynn.

Receiving much of the praise early on this season is not Robert Griffin III but a pair of pass rushers, Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo.

Kerrigan has tallied 18 solo tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles and three tackles for a loss so far, and looks poised for another stellar season in the Year 3. The Skins D has failed to impress and is just as responsible for the team's woes as the offense, but Kerrigan has been a bright spot.

As has Orakpo. The linebacker has been the recipient of some unwarranted criticism, but according to Pro Football Focus, ranks in the top 10 in the league among pressuring quarterback. His 2013 is better than Terrell Suggs' or Jason Pierre-Paul's, writes Hogs Haven.

Sticking with the good news in the nation's capital, running back Alfred Morris proclaims he is "fine" after injuring his ribs and that X-rays revealed no breaks. Morris could not say how long he'll be out for, but is grateful for a bye week and some time to rest before an Oct. 13 bout with Dallas.

Follow Sam on Twitter @SamSpiegs

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