Things are not going well around the division early in the 2021 NFL season.
The Philadelphia Eagles have had their share of injury issues the past few seasons, and perhaps their health heading into the season is part of the reason they were the only NFC East team to get a win in Week 1.
Washington lost their starting quarterback, Dallas has been forced to put a few important players on IR, and the Giants are still missing their starting tight end. Still, there’s a lot of football left, and division games will kick off in Week 2 when the Washington Football Team hosts the New York Giants.
Here’s a little bit about what happened around the NFC East in Week 1 and what’s in store for Week 2. (RELATED CONTENT: Check out the newest episode of The NFC East Mixtape, which lives on both the Bleeding Green Nation and Blogging The Boys podcast feeds.)
Washington Football Team
Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was knocked out of Sunday’s opener early in the first half with a hip injury, which ended up forcing him onto IR as he’s expected to miss 6 to 8 weeks. In the meantime, the offense is now Taylor Heinicke’s, the 28-year-old journeyman whose played in just 9 games over his four-year career, including when he took over for Fitzpatrick in Week 1. Heinicke finished the game 11-of-15 for 122 yards and one touchdown, and the quarterback also avoided any turnovers or sacks.
The team is firmly standing being Heinicke and hasn’t lost hope for what was expected to be one of their best seasons in a while.
DE Chase Young on his confidence in QB Taylor Heinicke: “He could start on any other team in the league.”
— Sam Fortier (@Sam4TR) September 14, 2021
They’ll need Heinicke to get up to speed quickly as the Football Team hosts the Giants for their first division game of the season… on a short week… in a Thursday Night Football primetime event. Sure, they still have five other division games to bounce back if needed, but there’s a certain tone set from that first NFC East matchup.
New York Giants
Speaking of the Giants, they lost their home opener to what was supposed to be a very beatable Denver Broncos team, 13-27. The good news for New York: they saw the return of Saquon Barkley, and Sterling Shephard had a nice showing. The bad news: fans left early, Joe Judge lost a timeout due to a poor decision, playcalling was ‘meh’ at best, and Daniel Jones had another red-zone fumble.
After the game, head coach Joe Judge admitted the fans deserved more than what the team had given them.
“We’ve got to play better, we have to coach better and put our players in positions to make more plays. I’d like to go ahead and thank the fans for coming out and obviously this was an atmosphere that we’ve been waiting for for some time. They were great today. We have to earn their cheers, they were very supportive, they were great, it was great energy in the stadium. We got to do something more as a team to make them want to go ahead and stay into the game longer than they can and give us their support. Well, that’s something we have to earn.”
Judge also talked about the team focusing on limiting penalties and turnovers ahead of Thursday night’s game against Washington. The Giants have won the past five meeting against the Football Team and are hoping to continue that streak — however, Washington is the reigning division champion, so it might be harder for them than in years past.
New York will also be without starting tight end Evan Engram for the second straight game, and will also miss starting left guard Shane Lemieux and linebacker/special teamer Cam Brown.
The Cowboys opened the 2021 NFL season with a Thursday Night Football game against the Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and subsequently got their first regular season loss of the year. It wasn’t an embarrassing loss, and it was to Tom Brady and the Bucs, so it would’ve been easy to move on from and turn things around in Week 2.
But then, following the game, starting WR Michael Gallup was placed on IR and is now expected to miss 3 to 5 weeks, RT La’el Collins was hit with a five-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy — Collins never tested positive, but was cited for failure to appear seven times for testing. The right tackle is appealing the suspension saying he had mitigating circumstances for each, and according to CBS Sports, has been tested roughly 10 times a month for the past 18 months, which does seem a bit excessive.
As if losing Gallup and Collins wasn’t enough, DeMarcus Lawrence, their top defender, reportedly broke him foot during Tuesday’s practice and will miss considerable time.
BGN’s Brandon Gowton broke down why that’s a big problem for the Cowboys defense heading into Week 2:
“Lawrence has led Dallas in sacks in three out of their last four seasons. The Cowboys don’t have much in the way of proven pass rushing talent outside of him. There will be more pressure on Randy Gregory, who’s often been unavailable in the past, to step up with Lawrence out. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Gregory recently tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss their Week 2 game against the Los Angeles Chargers. And the Bolts just so happened to have the NFL’s best pass protecting offensive line in Week 1.”