The storyline heading into last season focused on if Dallas could be the first team to host a Super Bowl. We all know how that turned out. Aside from Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware (and perhaps the flashes shown by Dez Bryant), the entire team appeared to regress. The o-line got old, the secondary self-destructed, and Marion Barber died. New coach Jason Garrett did keep things competitive over the last half of the season, which says a lot about the man. The squad could have easily mailed it in.
Garrett brings a steady hand to a team that needs it. The Princeton educated coach played under Jimmy Johnson. Johnson’s style of discipline and independence (from Jerry) brought the team its last tastes of glory. To bring the charisma of Johnson into the fold, Dallas signed Rob Ryan to coach the defense. The defense, which ranked among the franchises worst ever last season, sorely needed a shot of bravado. Dallas also took a very conservative approach to free agency; cutting under-performers such as Marion Barber’s corpse, Roy Williams, and Marc Columbo, and re-signing the likes of Doug Free, Kyle Kosier and Marcus Spears. The offense will perform well with Felix Jones, DeMarco Murray & Co. handling the run attack and as long as Romo stays upright, Austin and Bryant should both have nice seasons. If Marty Bennett can finally emerge as a legitimate threat to compliment all-pro Jason Witten, the passing game will be among the league’s best. Defensively…who knows…The secondary is counting on Terrance Newman to stay healthy, Mike Jenkins to bounce back and Alan Ball to stay away. I could see another 6-10 year just as easily as a 11-5 year. I say 9-7 and they miss the playoffs, but stay competitive in every game.
Fantasy Sleeper: RB DeMarco Murray
Mike Shanahan’s first season in Washington went about as well as every other Dan Synder hire. I suppose the biggest lesson learned from the 2010 season for the Redskins was “If a division rival (who you play twice a year) wants to trade you their starting quarterback, you might want to decline.” The off field dramas, from the McNabb out of shape issue to the adventures of Albert Haynesworth, proved more interesting than anything happening during the games.
The Redskins have put together a solid secondary. They bulked up their defensive unit signing Safety AJ Otogwae and CB Josh Wilson to an already formidable secondary group, stole up-and-comer DE Stephen Bowen from Dallas and used their first two draft picks on OLB Ryan Kerrigan and DL Jarvis Jenkins. I love what their doing on defense but is it enough to compensate for their issues on offense? To improve the locker room, the Skins dealt 100 million dollar man and alleged sex offender Albert Haynesworth and cut the slumping Clinton Portis. Washington brought in RB Tim Hightower as Portis’ replacement. Hightower started well in Arizona then trailed off. I seriously doubt he will make waves in the NFC East. Santana Moss remains the most potent weapon on the offensive side of the ball and Fred Davis appears poised to have a breakout season (especially in the likely event Cooley goes down). However, who will get the ball to them? John Beck, who looked great in the game he won in Miami (the only game he won in Miami) and Rex Grossman are the top QB’s for this team. In a quarterback driven league, the Redskins do not appear to have a starting caliber quarterback on the roster. Expect good things on defense and hideous things on offense.
Fantasy Sleeper: TE Fred Davis
New York Giants:
The team appeared poised to make a run at a championship coming into last season. However, in true Tom Coughlin form, wild swings between good football and bad football led this team home come playoff time. Consistently inconsistent play occurred at all levels of the team and it does not appear the Giants did a lot to address their issues in the off-season and lost a couple of keys to their past success.
The departure of TE Kevin Boss likely hurts the worst. Boss proved a reliable and consistent target for Eli Manning. I was shocked to see the Raiders steal him away so easily. There’s still a good deal of talent around Manning. Hakeem Nicks is a fantastic receiver and the Ahmad Bradshaw/Brandon Jacobs combo give the Giants a fighting chance in any game. Defensively, the Umenyiora saga drags on and the team lost its number one draft pick to injury indefinitely (Prince Amukamara). I see the team struggling throughout the year with the pendulum swinging towards bad football more often than it does towards good football. Ultimately, Tom Coughlin loses his job at year’s end and the team enters a rebuilding process on the defensive side of the ball.
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Mario Manningham
The Eagles entered 2010 with dreams of the Kevin Kolb era. Those quickly faded into oblivion and the Michael Vick redemption tour took center stage. The Eagles with McCoy, Jackson, and Vick appeared unstoppable at times last season. Vick played like some 13 year old Madden junkie was controlling him. Defensively, they played an inconsistent brand of football. Rookie Safety Nate Allen flashed potential and Asante Samuel pieced together another pro bowl year, but overall they lacked an identity. This lack of identity paired with the wear-down of Vick ultimately led to their demise.
Everyone knows the Eagles won the off-season. On paper, they appear the number one contender to unseat the current NFL champion Packers. The Eagles ended free agency loaded with names: Cullen Jenkins, Nnamdi Asomugha, Ronnie Brown, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jason Babin, Vince Young, Steve Smith and the list goes on. Rarely does this methodology work out. However, Andy Reid runs a tight ship and the Eagles count themselves among the best run organizations in the NFL. Michael Vick’s health will determine the fate of the Eagles. If he can stay healthy, and I mean at full strength not dinged up all year, the sky is the limit. Vince Young is a nice insurance policy and could whether the storm but he’s simply not prepared to take the team for a deep playoff run. With a healthy Michael Vick, the Eagles are clearly the class of the division and perhaps the conference.
Prediction: 12-4Fantasy Sleeper: WR Jason Avant