Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Eagles Will Soar in the NFC East

The NFC East is a two team race where one of the teams doesn’t really have a chance. The Philadelphia Eagles along with that Atlanta Falcons will be the cream of the crop and the Eagles will win the division hands down. Here is a team by team look at the NFC East.

DALLAS COWBOYS Projected Finish 10-6 (2nd)
KEY QUESTION: How far can Drew Bledsoe take the Cowboys?

Bledsoe will be the seventh QB to start a game for the Cowboys since Troy Aikman left after the 2000 season. He will be the best QB that the Cowboys have put under center since Aikman as well. Bledsoe’s success depends on how the offensive line holds up for him, because he is slower than molasses, and how well Julius Jones runs. The keys to the success of the O-line are Larry Allen who had a great season last year and Flozell Adams who did not.

The Cowboys have solid targets at receiver with Terry Glenn, Keyshawn Johnson and Quincy Morgan. This trio of receivers allows the Cowboys to be both big and fast, and when you add tight end Jason Witten, Bledose will not have a problem finding targets if he has time.

On defense the Cowboys really helped themselves through the draft and free agency. Rookies Demarcus Ware and Marcus Spears will give the defensive line a boost along with the addition of Jason Ferguson.

In the secondary the Cowboys signed corner backs Anthony Henry and Aaron Glenn. Look for Henry to line up opposite field of Terrence Newman and Glenn to play the nickel. Hard hitting safety Roy Williams will move to strong safety which will give him more opportunities to make plays closer to the line of scrimmage.

KEY LOSSES: FB Richie Anderson, LB Dexter Coakley, RB Eddie George, QB Vinny Testaverde, DE Marcellus Wiley, S Darren Woodson.

KEY SIGNINGS: QB Drew Bledsoe, DT Jason Ferguson, CB Aaron Glenn, CB Anthony Henry, G Marco Rivera.

NEW YORK GIANTS Projected Finish 7-9 (4th)
KEY QUESTION: Is Eli Manning ready to lead the team?

Manning struggled last season living up to his namesake and will have to take huge strides to keep from doing the same this season. The Giants cannot afford for him to start 1-6 like he did last season when he took over for Kurt Warner. They added Plaxico Burress at WR which is an upgrade from the departed Ike Hilliard. The offensive line gave up 52 sacks last season and should improve on that this year because they won’t have Kurt Warner (sacked 24 times) holding the ball forever back there.

Running back Tiki Barber was the heart and soul of the Giants offense last season scoring almost half of the teams touchdowns while rushing for over 2,000 yards and finishing second in receiving yards. Look for him to get some help this season from Burress and a healthy Jeremy Shockey.

Michael Strahan will continue to be the leader on defense but who is going to line up next to him. Keith Washington and Norman Hand are both gone and leave big gaps in what could now be the weakest unit on the team. Look for Strahan’s numbers to go down this season and the Giants defense to struggle.

KEY LOSSES: K Steve Christie, CB Terry Cousin, RB Ron Dayne, DT Norman Hand, WR Ike Hilliard, DT Lance Legree, S Omar Stoutmire, DE Keith Washington.

KEY SIGNINGS: WR Plaxico Burress, K Jay Feely, QB Jim Miller, QB Tim Hassellbeck, LB Antonio Pierce.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES Projected Finish 14-2 (1st)
KEY QUESTION: Can Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens create on-field chemistry?

T.O. seems to make people not like him. No one can question his talent, but everyone can question his character. Owens has left a trail of bitter people from San Francisco to Baltimore and now Philadelphia. Last season much attention was given to the relationship between McNabb and his #1 receiver. There is no question that the two of them make up one of the most dangerous passing duos in the NFL, but I don’t think that they have fooled anyone on the fact that these two guys don’t get along. Their chemistry is the key to the Eagles making it back to the Super Bowl. Both McNabb and Owens have enough competitive drive to play hard and do what it takes to win. Just don’t look for them to go out and celebrate together.

This is the same team that won the NFC Championship last season and they should be just as good, if not better. RB Dorsey Levens retired, but they still have Brian Westbrook who will line up all over the field. They lost LB and Nate Wayne, but had a strong draft on defense including DT Mike Patterson from USC and LB Matt McCoy from San Diego State.

QB Jeff Blake, DE Derrick Burgess, RB Dorsey Levens, LB Ike Reese, WR Freddie Mitchell, LB Nate Wayne.


WASHINGTON REDSKINS Projected Finish 7-9 (3rd)
KEY QUESTION: Will the Skins buy into Joe Gibbs coaching philosophy?

Last season the Redskins looked undisciplined and were not able to get things going offensively. Gibbs is known for empowering other people to succeed and is a great manager, but the Redskins have been known recently to be underachievers.

Offense will be a problem again this season for Washington. They are solid at running back with Clinton Portis, but that is it. Patrick Ramsey has struggled to take over as the leader of the offense and with rookie Jason Campbell now on the team this could be Ramsey’s last chance to prove he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL, but he could have a hard time trying to find someone to get the ball to. The Redskins lost their best receiver from last season in Laveranues Coles but signed Santana Moss and David Patten. Patten and Moss are great #2 receivers, but neither is a solid #1.

On defense the Redskins are going to be solid again. The line will be anchored by tackle Cornelius Griffen and they are hoping for defensive end Phillip Daniels to stay healthy. The linebackers were the strongest part of the defense last season and have everyone back this season as well as the hope for a healthy LaVar Arrington. In the secondary look for rookie Carlos Rogers to make an immediate impact at corner, and Sean Taylor to develop in to one of the leagues best safeties if he can stay out of trouble off the field.

KEY LOSSES: WR Laveranues Coles, LB Antonio Pierce, CB Fred Smoot.

KEY SIGNINGS: WR Santanna Moss, WR David Patten, C Casey Rabach.


Philadelphia Eagles 14-2
Dallas Cowboys 10-6
Washington Redskins 7-9
New York Giants 7-9