Breaking Down the NFC East: Power Rankings
The NFC East is the best division in the NFL. That is a fact. No questions about it. There is no need to get into statistics, because all four of these teams are Super Bowl contenders year in and year out. Let's examine each offense, defense, special teams, and the coaches to take a look at each team to see who the true "Beast of the East" is.
(1) Philadelphia Eagles—The Eagles have rebuilt their offense this offseason, with the acquisition of Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters from Buffalo. They also added Stacy Andrews, the brother of the Eagles Pro Bowl guard, Shawn Andrews. The Eagles added Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy through the draft, who should have an immediate impact in the offense.
Then comes Donovan McNabb, who endures criticism from the Philly faithful, but always puts the Eagles in a position for a playoff run.
The one downside of the Eagles offense is the wide receiver position, outside of DeSean Jackson, but they feel that has been solved with Maclin on the opposite side. Brian Westbrook is as good as they come and is the perfect fit for the offense. Andy Reid often gets into trouble when calling plays because he will get away from the run.
(2) New York Giants—The "Jints" come in second place, due to the fact their offense is the perfect complement to their defense. The grind-it-out style the Giants offense runs beats up on opposing defenses and wears them down.
The Giants line is regarded as one of the best in the league, which paves the way for Brandon Jacobs. He is the biggest running back in the league at 6'4'', 264 pounds.
After wearing down the defense with his bruising style, the Giants bring in a smaller, more agile back to make defenders miss, also known as Ahmad Bradshaw. Eli Manning, Super Bowl winning MVP, is at the helm of the offense and manages the game. Coming into this season, the Giants have unproven wide receivers but should be able to use short, intermediate routes to keep the defense honest.
(3) Dallas Cowboys—With the loss of Terrell Owens, the Cowboys offense falls solely on the shoulders of Tony Romo.
The Cowboys have a good running game with Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice, and a solid offensive line.
Roy Williams, who was acquired in a trade last off season is now the No. 1 receiver for Romo. Williams was a disappointment for the Cowboys last season after they gave up virtually their entire draft to obtain Williams.
Jason Witten is a great tight end, and gives Tony Romo a safety valve. Tony Romo is "America's" quarterback and dates Jessica Simpson, so it is tough for him not to be in the limelight.
With the pressure on this season, and with no Owens and all eyes on him, it should be interesting to see how Romo responds.
(4) Washington Redskins—There is no shame to be in this position, but the Redskins lack the offensive firepower the other teams have.
Clinton Portis is the main attraction of the offense, with Santana Moss and Chris Cooley playing as the sidekicks. Moss' speed is able to open up the field for the rest of the receivers, which allows them to get underneath the safeties and give Jason Campbell short intermediate targets. Chris Cooley is an H-back who creates mismatches between him and linebackers.
(1) New York Giants—The Giants' complex blitzing schemes are tough for offenses to decipher and they have playmakers throughout the entire defense.
On the defensive front, they boast Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, and recently acquired Chris Canty (from the Cowboys).
At linebacker, the Giants have a great run-stuffing middle linebacker in Antonio Pierce.
In the secondary, Corey Webster has turned into a shut-down corner opposite from Aaron Ross.
The Giants will have a top three defense this season, and they will carry the team.
(2) Washington Redskins—The big splash this offseason was the Redskins signing Albert Haynesworth, widely regarded as the best defensive tackle in the business.
Through the draft the Redskins further enhanced their defensive line acquiring Brian Orakpo with the 13th overall pick.
Laron Landry in the secondary has turned into one of the top young safeties in the league, and is a ball-hawk throughout the secondary. The Redskins rely on their defense to make plays and cause turnovers, and create a shorter field for the offense.
(3) Philadelphia Eagles—Jim Johnson has been a fixture in Philadelphia, and now with his recent battle with cancer, has had to take a leave of absence from the team.
With his blitzing style, the Eagles cause havoc on the opposing quarterbacks. The defensive front includes Juqua Parker and Trent Cole, who have become a presence throughout the entire league.
The secondary has Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown, who are both very good corners.
With the offseason loss of Brian Dawkins, who was the heart and soul of the defense, it should be interesting to see who will step up as the leader for the defense.
(4) Dallas Cowboys—The Cowboys have one of the best defensive players in the league, Demarcus Ware. Ware creates havoc for opposing offensive tackles and the offense always has to know where No. 94 is on the field.
Terence Newman struggled to stay healthy last season, but this season looks to regain his old form as a Pro Bowl cornerback.
The Cowboys are the only team in the division to run a 3-4 defense, and signed Keith Brooking to replace Zach Thomas.
The Cowboys may have the weakest defense in the division, but they can hold their own versus any offense.
Special Teams Rankings
(1) New York Giants—In 2008, the Giants sent their kicker (John Carney), their punter (Jeff Feagles), and their long snapper (Zak DeOssie) to the Pro Bowl. It is tough to argue there is a better special teams unit in the NFL.
Although they decided to not resign Carney during the offseason, the Giants have the man he replaced still on the roster, Lawrence Tynes.
Jeff Feagles is the best placement punter of all-time, as he often pins teams in their own 10.
Coach Coughlin emphasizes the importance of all three facets of the game. The Giants return game suffered when Domenik Hixon became an every-down wide receiver, but the Giants will look to find his replacement this training camp.
(2) Philadelphia Eagles—The Eagles special teams is one of the best in the league, which features return man DeSean Jackson. Jackson is an electric wide receiver that also returns punts. His speed, quickness, and elusiveness makes it tough for kickoff and punt teams to track him down.
David Akers might not be what he used to be, but still is very serviceable.
Sav Rocca has a big leg for a punter and is able to turn the field over on opposing teams.
(3) Dallas Cowboys—Nick Folk was a Pro Bowl kicker his rookie season, but has undergone hip surgery this offseason and his health is in question for training camp.
Miles Austin and Patrick Crayton returned the kicks and punts last season, but this season it could be new return men as both players will be asked to handle more wide receiver duties.
Mat McBriar has a strong leg, and he too is able to turn the field over. Field position is always very important in the NFC East battles.
(4) Washington Redskins—Antwaan Randle El has not lived up to all the money that Dan Snyder spent on him a few years back during the offseason. Randle El was supposed to be the perfect complement to Santana Moss at wide receiver and create havoc on special teams. Thus far, that hasn't happened.
Rock Cartwright, the No. 3 running back, is the kick return man, and is serviceable. The kicking game is handled by Shaun Suisham and the punter is Hunter Smith.
Coaching Staff Rankings
(1) New York Giants—The Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin is known for being a disciplinarian and can get under his players' skin very easily. However, he does things the right way, and the Giants players know Coughlin isn't going anywhere. It is tough for a team to rebel when they are winning.
(2) Philadelphia Eagles—Andy Reid could make a strong argument to be first on this list, but he doesn't have a Vince Lombardi trophy under his belt. Reid sometimes can get too fancy on offense and forgets about his running game, but overall the Eagles staff is as best as they come.
(3) Dallas Cowboys—The Cowboys rank ahead of the Redskins because of offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett. Garrett is known as an offensive guru and is expected to take over Wade Phillips' job when he either resigns or is fired. It is always tough to work under Jerry Jones, but Wade Phillips has been successful by being a "player's coach."
(4) Washington Redskins—2008 was Jim Zorn's rookie season as a head coach in the NFL, and started out with a bang. However, the team cooled off and his job was in question by the media. Owner Dan Snyder keeps a close watch on his head coach, and does not give much leeway for failure.
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