We continue our division-by-division preview for the upcoming 2010 NFL season with the NFC East.
Read on to see what our expert writers have to say about the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins. What does the future hold for Donovan McNabb and his new team and Kevin Kolb entering his first year as a starter?
Read on to find out:
Dallas Cowboys (1)
With the Super Bowl in Dallas this season, the Cowboys are setting their sights on playing into February this season and have a very realistic chance of doing so. As if the Cowboys didn’t already have enough offensive weapons, enigmatic rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant fell into their laps in the April draft and the team couldn’t be more thrilled. Despite handing a huge contract to incumbent wide receiver Roy Williams, Bryant is expected to take over the starting job sooner rather than later.
Quarterback Tony Romo has more reliable options than any other quarterback in the league. Breakout star wide receiver Miles Austin seems primed to continue his high level of production while tight end Jason Witten should have a much better year than last season. Even running back Marion Barber is healthy for the first time in recent memory, and pairing him with running back Felix Jones and running back Tashard Choice makes the Dallas backfield especially potent as well.
The ‘Boys are lined up to have one of their most promising seasons in recent memory, and perhaps this is finally the year that Romo puts the Seattle fumble behind him and makes effectively silences his critics with a Super Bowl victory.
New York Giants (2)
After starting last season 4-0, the Giants went just 4-8 over the final 12 to finish a very disappointing 8-8 for the season. Many believed that Coach Tom Coughlin would be on the hot seat following such a disastrous meltdown, but he’s still at the helm as the 2010 season is preparing to get under way.
The defense, which was supposed to be a point of strength, struggled tremendously in its first year without ex-coordinator (and now Rams head coach) Steve Spagnuolo. Exposed at almost every defensive position, it became clear that the Giants needed to use the offseason to not only upgrade the talent on the defensive side, but also re-invent the defensive game plan. New coordinator Perry Fewell has a very stable past and should be able to get increased production from his unit this offseason.
The team drafted defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul as an heir apparent for veteran Osi Umenyiora as well as big defensive tackle Linval Joseph to help plug a big hole up the middle. Combine the infusion of new talent with already-promising youngsters like linebackers Jonathan Goff and Clint Sintim. The team also went out and signed playmaking safety Antrel Rolle, and if they can get any production from safety Kenny Phillips (microfracture), the Giants defense will be much improved from last season’s disaster.
Quarterback Eli Manning has legitimate receiving weapons in Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, & Mario Manningham as well as developing tight end Kevin Boss. Couple that with a reportedly healthy running back tandem of Brandon Jacobs & Ahmad Bradshaw, and the Giants certainly look like a team that’s capable of winning 10+ games in 2010.
Philadelphia Eagles (3)
The Kevin Kolb era in Philadelphia was officially underway when the Eagles traded the former face of the franchise, Donovan McNabb, to the division rival Redskins. The Eagles have a lot of young talent on both offense & defense, so this team is hoping that their potential will equate to production, but as many have learned, that is not always the case.
Having said that, the Eagles could be one of the most potent offensive teams in the entire NFL. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is the definition of a human highlight reel with his combination of freak speed and athleticism, while wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will excel in his role as a possession receiver. Let’s not forget about tight end Brent Celek who broke onto the scene last year, and I’m sure that he’s one Eagle that doesn’t mind too much about the change at quarterback considering that he and Kolb are road roommates.
In addition, running back LeSean McCoy is primed to have a much bigger role following the departure of another Eagles legend in Brian Westbrook. McCoy is in the similar mold as Westbrook, but he’s much younger, faster, and has the explosiveness about him that the veteran lost a couple of seasons ago.
The Eagles biggest question mark will be on the defensive side of the ball where they will be forced to line up against big, physical wideouts that may very well overmatch them. The Eagles seem to always have a productive D-Line, but outside of that there are question marks all over the defense in Philadelphia. This is a team that is not going to win many 12-10 games; but is rather one designed to win the offensive blowouts with other high-scoring juggernauts.
Washington Redskins (4)
The 2009 season exposed the Redskins for exactly what they were: a dysfunctional franchise that was incapable of winning games. Give owner Dan Snyder credit for finally realizing that the Jason Campbell era in Washington was never going to lead them to a Super Bowl, even if it was a couple of years too late.
Now with leader quarterback Donovan McNabb in the fold, the ‘Skins are already heading in a better direction than they ever were at any point in ’09-10. Pair that with the hiring of legendary coach Mike Shanahan, and it appears that the ‘Skins are actually trying to build something.
Despite a rather tumultuous offseason with defensive tackle Albert Haynseworth, if the ‘Skins are going to be anything more than a six win team in ’10-’11, it’s going to have to be with improved play from the defensive unit. The Redskins have some really nice pieces on the defensive side: linebacker Brian Orakpo, safety LaRon Landry, cornerback Carlos Rogers, linebacker London Fletcher, & nose tackle Adam Carriker. Shanahan will have to light a fire under these guys in order to make the defensive unit a bit more cohesive, but if anyone can surmount that task, the legendary coach is the man for the job.
The biggest area of concern here is the running back situation: Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, Ryan Torain, & Willie Parker are all competing for carries. Let’s remember, that Portis is only 29, and appears to be re-energized by Shanahan’s presence in the locker room once again. However, he is 28th on the all-time carries list, so he does have more tread on his tires than the usual 29 year old RB might.
While Johnson showed flashes of productivity last season after joining the ‘Skins, it would be a mistake to think he can be relied on to produce like he once did over a full season. Like all Shanahan teams in the past, I expect the Redskins to ride the hot hand once the regular season rolls around, but look for Portis to get the first crack.
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