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State of the NFC East: Anticipating the first week of the preseason for every team

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By: RJ Ochoa

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

We will get our first glimpse of every NFC East team this week.

The Dallas Cowboys played a preseason game last week, but they were the only team within the entire conference to taste the preseason before the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. We have now arrived at the first actual week of the preseason which means everybody is about to finally start to dance.

Most of the division will have finished their games come Friday night. Both Washington and Philadelphia play on Thursday, Dallas plays on Friday night, while New York will play on Saturday evening. It’s nice to have so many football options once again.

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As there is NFC East football happening this week we obviously have some things to look forward to within the division. Brandon Gowton from Bleeding Green Nation and I discussed things we are looking forward to seeing from each team on the latest episode of the NFC East Mixtape which you can listen to right above this paragraph.

How is each team feeling with an actual game on the horizon?

Philadelphia Eagles: Monitoring another rookie offensive playmaker

Eagles first-round pick DeVonta Smith is out for a bit which means that the team doesn’t have an opportunity to see the rookie that is drawing the most hype at the moment, however, there is another name turning heads.

Philadelphia took running back Kenneth Gainwell in the fifth round and he is apparently causing quite the stir at camp. From our friends at Bleeding Green Nation:

With DeVonta Smith out of the lineup, there is simultaneous disappointment about the rookie debut of an exciting offensive player and the concern that the Eagles are thin when it comes to playmakers on that side of the ball.

Luckily, Kenneth Gainwell has reportedly been a spark in practice and the offensive staff is comfortable moving him around and deploying him all over the field. Gainwell has stood out as a pass catcher, both out of the backfield and lining up as a receiver. Even with the Eagles deep backfield, Gainwell should see plenty of time on the field against Pittsburgh. The question will be how creative they get with his usage and what he does when he sees the football.

Hopefully he can reignite some excitement about having young playmakers while providing a valuable piece to the offense.

The Eagles backfield seemingly belonged to Miles Sanders when preparations for this season first began, but perhaps Gainwell can carve out a role for himself.

Washington Football Team: Could the duo sack record be in jeopardy?

We all know that Washington has a great defense and specifically a stout defensive front. It is likely that this is the strongest point of their team this season, and if it is, then life will be much easier for their offense.

One of the goals that Montez Sweat and Chase Young have is a bit of a unique one. They apparently are looking to break the sack record held by a duo in the NFL.

In case you are wondering the record for a duo is 39 sacks by Chris Doleman and Keith Millard as members of the 1989 Minnesota Vikings. Sweat had nine last season while Young had 7.5 so they would have to improve quite a bit in order to topple the Vikings from long ago, but as mentioned they are very talented so anything is possible.

It doesn’t hurt that there is now a 17th game, by the way.

New York Giants: Andrew Thomas is a storyline to pay attention to

When we think of the Giants and how they have drafted in recent years we tend to only think about the more high-profile position players: Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and Kadarious Toney this year.

While it was just last year it is a bit forgotten that the G-Men drafted a tackle in the first round of 2020 in Andrew Thomas. Big Blue View wrote about the most interesting Giants entering this season and listed Thomas at number five.

The Giants had their choice of four top-tier offensive tackles with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft a year ago. They chose Thomas. While the other three — Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Wills — had rookie seasons ranging from good to outstanding, Thomas struggled. The advanced data from Pro Football Focus indicates that Thomas might have even been the league’s worst offensive tackle a season ago.

Can he be better than that — make that, much better than that — in his sophomore season? Can he close the gap on the other three first-round tackles and make the Giants think they were right to believe Thomas could turn out to be their long-term answer at left tackle? They need him to be.

I have said before that I believe Thomas is the one player who can change the narrative regarding the Giants’ beleaguered offensive line. Let’s see if he does.

If Thomas isn’t making strides this season then the Giants are going to have some issues, although they seemingly have a few already with all of their retirements. People are making a big deal about the number of players who have retired from their organization in recent weeks, and it feels like that isn’t just a coincidence.

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