NFL 2010: NFC East Premature Predictions
1. Cowboys: 9-12 Ws
2. Giants: 8-10 Ws
3. Redskins: 7-9 Ws
4. Eagles: 6-9 Ws
The Cowboys have the best team on paper. They have still question marks, but fewer than other NFC East teams.
Romo is still the QB, and he's undoubtedly a top 10 guy. At receiver, they have Miles Austin coming into his second year with Roy Williams, who, despite being unworthy of the first-, third- and sixth-round picks given up for him, is a solid No. 2. In the slot they have Patrick Crayton and Kevin Ogletree, with Dez Bryant as the X-factor. At tight end Jason Witten is the best in the game, and John Philips is a great blocker. If Martellus Bennett can play to his potential, he could make the Dallas offense even more explosive.
In the backfield, the three-headed monster of Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice is in the top 2 in the NFL (the Panthers being the potential No. 1). If Jones stays relatively healthy, it will be tough to stop Dallas' ground game with their massive O-line. Speaking of which, some argue the loss of Flozell Adams will greatly hurt them, but Doug Free played pretty well at right tackle and if he does the same at left tackle, there should be no drop off from the "Hotel." The current right tackle, Marc Colombo, is solid when healthy, and they have three very good run blockers on the interior with Andre Gurode, Kyle Kosier and Leonard Davis.
On defense, Dallas' defensive ends are fairly average, but nose tackle Jay Ratliff is dominant at times. The combination of him, DeMarcus Ware, and Anthony Spencer are lethal considering it's impossible to double all of them. On the interior, Keith Brooking revitalised his career in the 3-4, while Bradie James is very solid. They added depth at the position in the second round of the draft this year by taking Sean Lee, an interior linebacker out of Penn State.
At cornerback, Mike Jenkins improved exponentially in Year Two, while Terence Newman was healthy for the whole year for the first time in a long time. Dallas could do with a free safety, and while Gerald Sensabaugh is merely average, they get enough pressure to prevent this from being too much of an issue.
New York Giants
The Giants offense is very good. The three-receiver set of Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith is scary, especially with Eli Manning throwing them the ball. At tight end, Kevin Boss beasts people in the run game and is a serviceable receiver.
In Ahmad Bradshaw they have a very solid receiving back. It is fair to say Brandon Jacobs had a down year in 2009, and it will be important for him to have a come back year if the G-men are to challenge for the division. On the line Chris Snee, Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert, and Kareem McKenzie vary between very good and competent, but David Diehl hasn't make a particularly smooth transition to left tackle. 2009 second-round pick William Beatty could challenge this year.
The Giants put a huge amount of resources into their D this season. On the line they added Jason Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph via the draft and still have Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Justin Tuck. Tuck is a great left defensive end, but either Osi will have to return to form or JPP will have to step up to give them the pass rush they need from the front four in Perry Fewell's new Tampa 2 defense. The defensive tackles last year were fairly poor, so Joseph will also need to adjust to the NFL quickly to shore up this group.
Danny Clark is solid at strongside linebacker for the Giants, but there is a mix-and-match at the other position. Michael Boley struggled with injuries in the 4-3 in his first year in the Big Apple. Jonathan Goff and Chase Blackburn should compete with new Giant interior linebacker Philip Dillard for the middle spot.
At cornerback, Corey Webster will need to return to his form from the Super Bowl year because he was simply dominant that year. Terrell Thomas had a very good year in 2009, and Bruce Johnson rounds out the trio nicely. Antrel Rolle is vastly overpaid considering he is a pretty average NFL safety, but he improves the Giants secondary to no end. If Kenny Philips can recover quickly and return to 2008 , Giants will be set in the secondary. Michael Johnson should not be a starter.
The Redskins finally acquired a top quarterback with the trade for Donovan McNabb. He also has some solid weapons in wide receiver Santana Moss, and tight ends Chris Cooley and Fred Davis. The 'Skins also have potential in third-year wide receivers Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas.
On the offensive line, left tackle was shored up with the addition of Trent Williams (although it remains to be seen how well he fairs). The 'Skins have hardly any other players on the O-line, but head coach Mike Shanahan has proved time and again he can create a solid unit with a distinct lack of talent under his Zone Blocking Scheme.
Clinton Portis still has some left in the tank, and the addition of Willie Parker should help with receiving out of the backfield. Washington's offense is solid and, despite a poor line, McNabb has never had a running game to work with so it won't be too disastrous if the ground game continues to struggle in DC.
On defense, just like Dallas, the trio of Albert Haynesworth, Brian Orakpo, and Andre Carter are pass-rushing demons. Similar again to Dallas, there is an apparent lack of talent at the 5 technique, but some of Washington's defensive tackles, such as Phillip Daniels and Kedric Golston, might be able to successfully translate there.
London Fletcher-Baker is still the player most worthy of a Pro Bowl berth to have never made one and his versatility should allow him to thrive in the 3-4. Who plays the other interior position is still up in the air. Reports indicate Rocky McIntosh is on the trade block.
On the back end Carlos Rogers isn't bad, but DeAngelo Hall continues to struggle. Corner should certainly be a concern for 'Skins fans. At safety, LaRon Landry attracts a whole load of criticism, and he deserved it into 2009. However he showed the ability to be great in his rookie year so it's too early to give up on him just yet. Reed Doughty is severely underrated and Chris Horton is a serviceable backup.
It is not just the play of Kevin Kolb Eagles fans should be wary of, but, perhaps even more so, of their defense. Kolb is surrounded by playmakers in wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant. He is great friends and has a great rapport with Brent Celek, and he has Cornelius Ingram returning from injury along with newly drafted Clay Harbor.
In the backfield, Leonard Weaver is the prototypical, all-purpose fullback who does everything well, but LeSean McCoy must lift his game to make opposing defenses fear the ground game. McCoy has a tendency to delay at the hole trying to bounce to the sidelines. He is also only an average receiver and certainly has nothing on Brian Westbrook in terms of running routes. The Eagles also added Mike Bell, but he is of poor quality. The Saints had one of the best interior lines in the NFL last year (certainly better than the Eagles), but he managed less the four yards-per-carry. Eagles' fans hope Charles Scott will make the team and help in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
On the offensive line, Jason Peters and Winston Justice are very solid offensive tackles, but there are significant questions at right guard and center. Todd Herremans is a dominant left guard, but because Stacy Andrews is still a question mark and Jamaal Jackson is injured, Nick Cole or Mike McGlynn will have to show something previously unseen to fill the void of one of the better NFL centers.
On the defensive side the line is stacked. Trent Cole, Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson, and Darryl Tapp are a formidable force against the run. Then the rotation of Antonio Dixon, Juqua Parker, Brandon Graham, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Trevor Laws, and Victor Abiamiri provide quality depth and pass rush potential.
The linebacker group still remains a question mark, though, despite numerous additions. Ernie Sims should not be on an NFL roster, and it appears he has been given the early nod over solid starter Akeem Jordan. Stewart Bradley is returning from an ACL injury, as is versatile backup Omar Gaither. At strongside linebacker the Eagles have Moise Fokou, Alex Hall, and Ricky Sapp, but none of them are particularly experienced and must prove they can both defend the run and cover the pass. The Eagles will need strong contributions from new players to be set at linebacker.
The biggest hole on the whole team however is probably at cornerback. Asante Samuel was exposed as a weak tackler and gambler last year, while Ellis Hobbs is a poor starter coming off a serious neck/back injury. Joselio Hason, Trevard Lindley, and even free safety Macho Harris will fight for the right cornerback job, but they all have serious deficiencies. At strong safety, the Eagles are set with Quintin Mikell (although he is getting on in age), and free safety has second-round pick Nate Allen added to the mix with former Colt Marlin Jackson and Quintin Demps. The Eagles really hope Allen wins the job to shore up a position of weakness.
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