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NFC + EAST

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DALLAS COWBOYS 13--3

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE LINEMAN

GREG HARDY turned out to be a locker room cancer in 2015 (to say nothing of his off-field résumé), and the Cowboys chose not to bring the defensive end back in '16. The drug problems that led the gifted Randy Gregory to fall to the second round in the '15 draft persisted, and the D-end was suspended for 14 games in '16. (Now he's banned for all of '17.) DeMarcus Lawrence, a second-round pick in '14 at end, has suffered back problems. Clearly it's time for Dallas's front office to stop with the high-risk bargain hunting and just pay the premium for a quality defensive lineman. Coordinator Rod Marinelli's classic 4--3 scheme depends on production from the guys up front.

NEW YORK GIANTS 11--5

PRIMARY NEED: RUNNING BACK

THE GIANTS may have the NFL's simplest offensive scheme: They rely on their wide receivers making plays. And because they get the ball out quickly, they're not overly dependent on pass protection—they don't need to pony up for high-priced linemen. But consider how this impacts the run-blocking: In a scheme that requires only mid-tier linemen, that deploys no fullback and often just one tight end, a ballcarrier must create his own yards. That means New York must invest some capital in a quality back or two—otherwise the O winds up ranking 30th in yards per carry, as this one did with Rashad Jennings in 2016.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 7--9

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

DOWN FIVE late in a Week 14 game against the Redskins, the Eagles faced repeated must-throw scenarios—and yet they played with two wideouts and two tight ends. Almost any other team would have lined up three WRs and one TE—especially if their tight end options were Zach Ertz and career backup Trey Burton. But most other teams aren't limited by a receiving corps featuring slowpokes like Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor, or by an athletically gifted but unrefined route-runner like Dorial Green-Beckham. Philadelphia has to remedy this situation, and of these three receivers, Agholor is the one most needing to be replaced. Neither of the other two should sleep soundly though.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS 8-7-1

PRIMARY NEED: SAFETY

THE REDSKINS never got settled at safety last season, and now they have expiring contracts to deal with. Duke Ihenacho and Donte Whitner—both quality run supporters but vulnerable pass defenders—may not be re-signed. DeAngelo Hall's deal is up after the 2017 season; considering that he's 33 and coming off a right-ACL injury, Washington may take the $4.25 million in cap savings (against $813,000 in dead money) to dump him. Converted corner Will Blackmon is worth keeping, but he's also in the final year of his deal. If intriguing '16 second-round pick Su'a Cravens is earmarked to play more linebacker—he did so mostly in sub packages as a rookie—the Redskins could need two new starting safeties.