NFL End of Season Grades: Teams Who Missed the Playoffs
Starting with the NFC East, we grade the teams whose 2020 NFL season ended early and look at what went wrong, how they can improve through free agency and how they might attack the 2021 NFL Draft.
By Tayyib Abu.
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The NFC East was the NFL’s worst division in 2020. Washington emerged victorious with a 7-9 record, that was enough to give them a playoff place. For the other three teams, it will be an offseason full of regret as they plan for next year. It’s time to assess what went wrong in their respective seasons.
NEW YORK GIANTS (6-10)
After an abysmal 1-7 start, the Giants hauled themselves into contention with a strong November. Ultimately, Big Blue fell at the finish line as they collapsed in December. Three consecutive defeats saw the Giants lose control of their destiny, a last gasp win over the Cowboys was not enough. A large part of the Giants’ struggles came on offense. They ranked 31st in points per game and 29th in passing yards. Those are ugly statistics for a team that lost Saquon Barkley in Week 2.
New York’s offense is bereft of any offensive stars without Barkley. Daniel Jones is still wildly inconsistent in the passing game. That’s not all his fault; his wideouts are not great. They can’t get separation, plus they lack speed. It forces Jones to throw into tight windows, that is where he struggles.
Positively, Andrew Thomas improved as the year went on, the offensive line is developing well. New York finished 19th in rushing yards, without Barkley. That should improve.
The defense was excellent for the Giants. The veterans meshed well to create a tough defense. Down the stretch, no offense blew away the Giants defense. There is a foundation on this side of the ball.
In conclusion, Joe Judge year displayed positives and negatives. The Giants still aren’t a contender. Nonetheless, the Giants are on the right path with Judge. The locker room is with him; now, they need the players.
END OF SEASON GRADE: C
Offseason positional needs: wide receiver, edge rusher, tight end, right tackle, cornerback.
Possible 2021 NFL draft targets: Jaylen Waddle (WR – pick 11 overall), Derion Kendrick (CB – pick 42 overall), Patrick Jones II (Edge – pick 76 overall).
DALLAS COWBOYS (6-10)
It was a bad year for the Cowboys. A disastrous defense was the bedrock to a 6-10 record. Dak Prescott’s superman performances were the only thing keeping Dallas competitive. Once Dak got hurt, the team sank. Andy Dalton got rocked which allowed Ben DiNucci a shot at quarterback. Once Dalton came back in the offense looked ok. Dallas even dragged themselves back into the NFC East title race.
The big problems came on the defensive side. The Dallas unit placed 28th in scoring defense. They finished 31st in rushing defense. Dallas was gashed on the ground every week. They must address that part of the team in the offseason.
Furthermore, Dallas needs to work on the ageing offensive line. That unit was dominant several ago; sadly, father time is catching up with them. If Prescott gets tagged, Dallas will need to invest in the offensive line.
Mike McCarthy looks safe for the foreseeable future; now, he needs a great draft allied with smart cap management. The Cowboys are facing potential cap Armageddon due to bloated contracts. It is almost impossible to shift those contracts, McCarthy needs to fire up the veterans while infusing youth into the team. That is a hard job. Unfortunately, for him, that doesn't matter in Dallas, they expect results. Dallas must improve next year.
END OF SEASON GRADE: D
Offseason positional needs: defensive tackle, tight end, safety, edge rusher, slot cornerback.
Possible 2021 NFL draft targets: Patrick Surtain (CB – pick 10 overall), Pat Freiermuth (TE – pick 44 overall), Tyler Shelvin (DT – pick 75 overall).
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-11-1)
Speaking of bloated contracts, the Eagles experienced a miserable season. Carson Wentz was finally benched for Jalen Hurts. Wentz’s play hit rock bottom this season. They needed to make the change. Hurts came in, and he did well. A win over the Saints was the highlight in his brief run as a starter. It looks as if Wentz’s Eagles career is over, Philadelphia will roll with Hurts next year.
Owner Jeff Lurie’s provided Doug Pederson with a lifeline. Pederson is required to be successful with Hurts. That means his playcalling needs to progress. He will need help from returning GM Howie Roseman. The GM will desperately want to rebuild this Eagles offense around Hurts. Philadelphia lacks elite playmakers at receiver, while tight-end Zack Ertz may move on. The Eagles offense now needs a complete overhaul.
The defense needs a new coordinator as Jim Schwartz announced he is taking a year away from the league. Like the offense, this unit requires a rebuild. The Super Bowl-winning defense now looks old. The secondary endured a difficult time while the linebackers are poor in coverage.
The Eagles need to redesign their team on both sides of the ball, the caveat to all that is that Wentz contract. Philly will leave a colossal amount of dead cap money if Wentz moves on. That makes it nigh on impossible for Philly to retool through free agency. They will lean on the draft as the key tentpole of the rebuild. Therefore, it will be a long process. Tough times await Eagles fans. Pederson and Roseman are lucky to come back, finishing bottom in this division is unacceptable.
END OF SEASON GRADE: E
Offseason positional needs: wide receiver, cornerback, interior offensive line, linebacker, running back.
Possible 2021 NFL draft targets: Ja’Marr Chase (WR – pick 6 overall), Alijah Vera-Tucker (iOL – pick 37 overall), Chazz Surratt (LB – pick 70 overall).
So which of these teams look most set to take a leap in 2021? Do any look like potential playoff contender? Who would you like your team to select in the 2021 NFL Draft? Let us know on Twitter or join our group on Facebook and start the debate!