The NFC East is Up for Grabs
The NFC East hosts some of the most historic and intense rivalries in the game. In the last thirty years, the Dallas Cowboys have won eight divisional titles, the New York Giants seven, the Philadelphia Eagles six, the Washington Redskins six and there have been three ties. What does this mean? The East holds no bottom feeders and the divisional title is up for grabs for the team who wants it most.
In terms of business, the Cowboys, Eagles, Giants and Redskins are among the top seven most valuable teams in the league. Approximately a third of the nationally televised NFL games this season feature at least one NFC East team. These teams are either loved or hated and losing comes at a hefty price. So who’s going to come out on top? Your guess is as good as mine.
New York Giants
When Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg last year, the entire team felt the pain. They lost three out of their last four games and struggled in the playoffs. The New York Giants cleaned house in the off season and are now without their top two receivers, Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer.
A big concern for New York is filling these gigantic holes. Tight end Kevin Boss could play a bigger role this year as quarterback Eli Manning’s safety blanket, but that won’t be enough.
Drafting North Carolina’s Hakeem Nixon and trading up for third round pick Ramses Barden out of Cal Poly was a good start. Trades for Anquan Boldin and Braylon Edwards didn’t progress and expectations for the rookies are high. Though inexperienced and unproven, their contribution will weigh heavily on the teams success this season.
With the loss of running back Derrick Ward in the off-season, the Giants need to secure a rushing attack. Ward ran for a total 1066 yards last year and his shoes will be hard to fill. Can Ahmad Bradshaw step up to the number two position? If not, the Giants will run into some trouble this year.
The Giants’ defense is as strong as ever with a healthy Osi Umenyiora back on the field. Other additions include defensive end Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard and Michael Boley. I would be seriously surprised if the Giants don’t have the best pass rush in the NFL.
With training camp around the corner, the Giants need to find Manning’s much needed target downfield and a viable replacement for Ward. If they can fill these holes early, the Giants should be set for another playoff run.
Things haven’t changed much for the Philadelphia Eagles. They’ve filled some holes and on paper seem to have only gotten better.
An aging Brian Westbrook needs some downtime for his surgically repaired knee and he’ll have that with the additions of veteran fullback Leonard Weaver and rookie running back LeSean McCoy.
Two-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters and guard Stacy Andrews strengthen the offensive line and should help to add some much needed protection for quarterback Donovan McNabb. This will create opportunities for rising receiver DeSean Jackson to make more of an impact this year.
The biggest challenge the Eagles will face this season is the loss of two veteran leaders on the team. After 12 seasons, Brian Dawkins parted ways with the team and is headed to Denver. He was a natural motivator and this will be huge loss both on the field and in the locker room.
Another setback is the indefinite leave of absence for defensive coordinator Jim Johnson due to his medical treatment for cancer. However, if Sean McDermott can step in with the same aggressive and attacking style the Eagles should see some post season action.
After their humiliating loss to the Eagles in the last game of the regular season, it was obvious that the Dallas Cowboys needed to make some serious changes. They started with the most disruptive and cut wide receiver Terrell Owens in an effort to add some stability to the locker room.
With that stability comes a very deep hole that will be hard for the likes of receivers Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton to fill. Returning running back Felix Jones will be a good change of pace and will take some of the pressure off quarterback Tony Romo to throw the ball downfield, but I’m not sure that will be enough.
On the defensive side, the signings of linebacker Keith Brooking, defensive end Igor Olshansky and safety Gerald Sensabaugh will add strength and youth to the defense. DeMarcus Ware is the beast of the East and these additions will only make them bigger and better.
What this team needs most is a boost in confidence. They have some of the best talent in the division, but lack leadership. Who will step up? Romo needs to take control of his team and owner Jerry Jones needs to keep the Cowboys out of the headlines. Without direction this team and its fans will continue to look dazed and confused.
In typical Daniel Snyder fashion, the Redskins had the biggest signing of the off season in defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Adding to an already stacked line, defensive end Brian Orakpu was drafted in the first round and should be able to make an early contribution this season. These moves will help to generate a much needed pass rush.
Guard Derrick Dockery begins his second stint with the Redskins this year and should add some protection for quarterback Jason Campbell. However, the offensive line is old and injury prone and remains a big concern.
The Redskins biggest question mark comes in the form of Campbell. A fairly public interest in Jay Cutler and an attempt to trade up to draft quarterback Mark Sanchez will only put doubts in the mind of this young quarterback. Campbell doesn’t lose games, but he doesn’t necessarily win them either. He’s a game manager with a strong arm and has shown improvement from one season to the next.
The Redskins passing game suffered most last year because the draft class had little to no impact. One of those receivers needs to step up this season or the team will continue to struggle. There is no doubt the defense will be great, but the Redskins will be relying on offense to move them from an average team to a team in playoff contention.