The NFC East is considered by some to be the toughest division in the NFL. Last season, though, it was a division of disappointments.
The Giants were not the same without Burress as they lost in the first playoff game, Dallas was a favorite to go all the way but could not even make the playoffs, and the Redskins started off well then floundered, so the Eagles snuck in and stole the fire. Can the NFC East regain its dominance?
At 6-2 the Washington Redskins were looking like they would be making another appearance in the playoffs. The defense was shutting down opponents for the most part and the offense was able to score just enough points to get the victory.
Then something happened as the defense did not change, but the offense struggled as it only scored more than 20 points once the rest of the season resulting in an 8-8 record and a trip to the couch for the playoffs.
Quarterback Jason Campbell looked like the quarterback the Redskins had hoped for in the first half of the season, but the second half was a different story. The running game struggled as Clinton Portis struggled to stay healthy. This season Campbell needs to show he can be the leader and prove management wrong for looking at adding another quarterback.
Clinton Portis was the hottest back in the league in the first half of the season. Fullback Mike Sellers helped lead the way as Portis ran through defense after defense. In the second half, he was bothered by injuries and gained less than 600 yards in the second half.
It also did not help that this was when the Redskins faced the meat of their schedule with teams like the Steelers, Ravens, and Giants which all are top of the league in run defense. Portis is expected to duplicate his first half performance, except this time it will last all season.
The defense this year needs to be good. Last season it was great in that it gave up more than 24 points only once which would have made the Lions a winning team. This year the defense has been given a huge upgrade, or so they hope.
The defensive line will be the strength as it contains last season’s best tackle in Albert Haynesworth. The $100 million man is a disruptive force which will draw two maybe even three blockers which will free up the linebackers and the rest of the line.
Tackle Cornelius Griffin might have his best year yet as he will see one blocker at most, and first round pick Brian Orakpo should be a fiend when it comes to rushing the passer as he has all the intangibles to be one of the best. He will provide the pressure that Jason Taylor had failed to do.
The linebackers lost both talent and experience with the departure of Marcus Washington. It will be up to London Fletcher to lead the group and help Blades and McIntosh use a strong line to get to the quarterback.
The linebackers will also be able to drop back more often due to the improved line which should help with the slants and tight ends that the NFC East is known for.
The secondary lost Shawn Springs, but it is prepared. Carlos Rogers and DeAngelo Hall both stepped up last season and are ready to shut down any receiver duo in the division. Hall needs to play like he did in the second half last season as he was granted a huge contract.
Safeties Landry and Horton could be one of the league’s best groups as Landry is ready to be the dominant safety and Horton is the ball hawking surprise who earned his spot last season.
The offensive line was good last season, but once the season was over it became a mess. Kendall was replaced by newly acquired Derrick Dockery which is an upgrade, but the only one. Jansen, Samuels, and Thomas all are coming back from injuries.
Samuels did go to the Pro Bowl, but it came with a price as his ACL needed to be repaired. The line will need to prove that these injuries will not hinder them against the tough NFC East lines like those of the Eagles and Giants.
The receivers have shown that they have talent, but they do not seem to use it. Santana Moss is still the No. 1 receiver, but he was not nearly as dominant last season as in previous years. Randel El is getting older and does not seem to be a threat unless it is a trick play.
The Redskins rarely had draft picks up to a couple years ago and it shows the front office is out of practice. The Skins drafted Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas both of whom are great talents, but their talents have not transitioned to the NFL. This is the year they need to step up as reliable targets for Campbell.
Tight end Chris Cooley is one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Last season, though, he caught one touchdown and it was not even from a quarterback. He is too big a weapon in the offense to have only one touchdown.
Clinton Portis is a No. 1 back, but if he stays healthy he can be the best back in the NFL, if he stays healthy.
Santana Moss is no longer the threat he used to be, but he is the No. 1 in Washington. He should be drafted as a high-end No. 2 as Campbell could rely on him more this season.
Chris Cooley is still a No. 1 tight end. It is almost impossible that he will go another season with only one touchdown with all the touches he gets.
The sleeper is Devin Thomas. He should beat out Kelly for the No. 2 spot and finally use his speed to get down field.