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Monday, August 16, 2010


The most competitive division in the NFC.




The Redskins reinvented themselves this off-season.  Dan Snyder canned Jim Zorn in favor of Mike Shanahan giving Skins fans hope for the future.  Dan also appears to have taken a hands-off approach, letting Shanahan do his thing.  Unfortunately, Shanahan's affinity for older free agents is similar to Snyder's.  The Skins went from the second oldest team in the league to the oldest.  McNabb was certainly the highest profile acquisition, however solidifying the line with number 1 pick Trent Williams and trading for former Saints tackle Jamal Charles will prove to have the most effect.  The tight end combo of Chris Cooley and Fred Davis is among the league's best and Mike Shanahan's famed zone blocking scheme requires a lot of 2 tight end sets.  The combo of Portis, Parker, and Johnson could prove to be the offense's Achilles heel.  All 3 struggled to produce last season but the Skins hope there is still some tread on those tires.  The wide-outs simply aren't very good.  Moss needs someone to take the pressure off of him and he's lost a step.  Devin Thomas shows flashes but has yet to become a consistently productive receiver.  We are all waiting for Malcolm Kelly to develop.  Don't hold your breath.


The defense converted to a 3-4 and pissed off Haynesworth in the process.  It's impossible to say how the Haynesworth situation will turn out, but if he acts like a professional and contributes, you could have a very stout defensive front on your hands.  Orakpo is an enormous talent.  After this season the Redskins front office is hoping people are talking about him as we do DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen.  How long can London Fletcher keep putting up productive years?  The secondary is lacking.  LaRon Landry preformed erratically and Carlos Rodgers has difficulty keeping pace with small quick receivers such as DeSean Jackson.  Jim Haslett will try to reinvigorate the defense but questions in the secondary may plague the Skins all years.



DALLAS COWBOYS:  (11-5 2009) 

Tony Romo took much better care of the ball last year.  Unfortunately, his touchdown numbers dropped along with the turnovers.  When he's given time in the pocket, and Jason Garret acknowledges the running game, no one can stop this offense.  Dez Bryant, a hot pick for rookie of the year honors, joins an already deep receiving corps.  Bryant's addition also puts added pressure on Roy Williams to put up or shut up.  The Cowboys let their longest tenured player go in releasing Flozell Adams.  Doug Free played well at right tackle for the injured Marc Columbo last year but was destroyed at Minnesota in his only start on the left side.  Alex Barron was acquired from the Rams as an insurance policy on Free but the Cowboys will struggle if any of these aging linemen go down.  America's Team has a deep backfield.  Similar to the Barber Julius Jones situation a few seasons ago, Felix Jones will ascend to the role of primary running back even if he isn't the official starter.  Barber trimmed down in the off-season and has worked on avoiding unnecessary hits but his bruising style has led to injuries in each of the past two seasons and his production has suffered.  Tashard Choice should see more action this season meaning even less carries for Barber.  Choice will not stay with the Cowboys after this season so each opportunity will serve as an audition.  The Boys also have the luxury of depth at tight end.  Jason Witten is an all pro, nothing more to say.  John Phillips emerged as a reliable possession receiver and blocker out of the University of Virginia last season.   Unfortunately, Phillips suffered a season ending injury in the preseason opener. Marty Bennett remains an enigma.  He has all of the potential to become the next Antonio Gates yet mysteriously underachieves at everything except indecent exposure. 


Defensively, this group looks very similar to last year's squad.  All pro DeMarcus Ware anchors a very solid pass rush.  Last season, Anthony Spencer came on late and, along with Ratlif, gives the Cowboys 3 solid pass rushing threats.  James and Brooking add veteran leadership and savvy in the middle.  The secondary has dogged this team for years.  They have talent at the corners.  Mike Jenkins has developed into a top-flight corner and Newman remains serviceable (if he can avoid injury). The big unknown for this team is the Safety position.  Alan Ball, a converted corner, will start the year.  Ball has excellent coverage skill but lacks the size you expect from the position.  If he does anything other than rack up late hit penalties, he's an improvement over Ken Hamlin.  Gerald Sensabaugh was signed as an afterthought last season but earned his way into an extension.  He'll blow coverage every now and again but he does very well against the run.



The Eagles showed what they thought of McNabb when they dealt him to a division rival.  Kevin Kolb has looked good and woefully overwhelmed in his limited appearances for the Eagles.  He lacks the arm strength and mobility McNabb brought but makes up for those deficiencies with accuracy.  Kolb sports a tremendous group of receivers.   DeSean Jackson poses a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. Jeremy Maclin emerged as a legitimate threat in his rookie campaign and Brent Celek has become Jason Witten 2.0.  3rd receiver Jason Avant should be on everyone’s radar.  He’s very good and will see a slew of single coverage this season.  LeSean McCoy preformed well last year after Westbrook went down but can he pull the load all year?  Can the Offensive line regain its form after a dreadful 2009?  Andy Reid sure hopes so.  The NFC East boasts some of the best pass rushers in the league (DeMarcus Ware, Brian Orakpo et. al.).  The Eagles also must face Jared Allen and Dwight Freeney.  All that receiving talent will be rendered moot if the Eagles cannot keep Kolb upright.


The Eagles gambled on Marlin Jackson’s health.  The gamble did not pay off.  Jackson will not play this season.  Fortunately, Nate Allen appears to have exorcised the ghost of Brian Dawkins.  The addition of Allen should provide Asante Samuel with even more confidence to flag down interceptions.  Trent Cole will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.  Romo, McNabb, and Manning must account for Cole each time they drop back.  The primary issue for the team concerns the rest of the defensive front.  A washed up Ernie Sims joins Akeem Jordan and Co. in the linebacker corps.  While they have a couple of stars, the Eagles leave much to be desired on the defensive side of the ball.

NEW YORK GIANTS:  (8-8  2009) 

The Giants hope to return to their Super Bowl form but give little reason to think they will.  Eli Manning put up career numbers last year, but for this team to be successful Manning's numbers should be lower and less "fantasy-like" because the Giants will be a run-first offense.  Brandon Jacobs did not have the same power and reckless abandon of years gone by.  Bradshaw is the steam’s best runner but Tom Coughlin doesn’t appear to have realized this yet. The receiving corps highlights the offense.  Hakeem Nicks surfaced as the team’s deep threat.  Steve Smith compliments Nicks well as a reliable route runner and possession receiver.  Kevin Boss made NY fans forget all about Jeremy Shockey and his American flag tattoo.  Mario Manningham poses a threat but performs too inconsistently to make a week in and week out impact. 


The departure of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to the Rams hurt the Giants more than anticipated.  NY promoted his understudy only to fire him after the 2009 season.  The Giants drafted Jason Pierre Paul.  From all accounts, Pierre Paul has as much potential as any defensive player in the draft.  I predict Pierre Paul will show flashes of this potential but struggle to consistently produce.  A healthy Chris Canty should begin to earn the lucrative contract he was given last season and Antrel Rolle will sure-up a leaky secondary.  The Giants will struggle to keep up with their NFC East brethren, all of which have improved. 

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