NFC East: Primed for Competition
The NFC East is one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL year in, and year out. Dallas, Philadelphia, New York, and Washington are home to some of the best franchises in the league, and the division itself almost always accounts for two, if not three, of the NFC's playoff spots.
I recent years, there has been a three-way battle for the division title between Dallas, Philadelphia, and New York, but trades, acquisitions, and front office moves have shaken things up in the NFC East, and set the stage for parity in 2010.
2009 record: 11-5
The Cowboys were finally able to get the playoff monkey off of their back by winning their first playoff game since 1996. Dallas has been one of the most talented teams in the NFL for several years, and they were finally able translate that talent into success in 2009.
Dallas' stable of running backs, which includes Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice, provided a powerful, balanced rushing attack for the Cowboys, and the emergence of Miles Austin sparked the team's passing game. The Cowboys added another weapon to their offensive arsenal in the recent draft by picking up Dez Bryant, the former wide receiver from Oklahoma State.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the Cowboys' 2009 campaign was the play of their defensive unit. Dallas' defensive came up with big plays and stops last season, and it will need to continue to do so in 2010 if it's going to live up to their potential and make a playoff run.
New York Giants
2009 record: 8-8
The Giants finished the 2009 season in disappointing fashion, losing eight of their last 11 games after starting the season with five consecutive wins.
Running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw were unable to provide the bruising run-game that many Giants fans expected, and down the stretch New York's defense was atrocious.
A bright-spot in the season was the emergence of New York's young and talented receiving corps. Steve Smith had over 100 receptions for the first time in his career, while he more than doubled his receiving yards from 2008. Along with Smith, second-year receiver Mario Manningham and rookie receiver Hakeem Nicks contributed 1,612 yards receiving and 11 combined.
With the development of Manningham and Nicks, the Giants transformed what was one of the thinnest receiving corps in the league, to one of the most explosive and dangerous.
The Giants addressed their defensive woes in the draft by picking up five defensive players: Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, USF); Linval Joseph (DT, East Carolina); Chad Jones (S, LSU); Philip Dillard (ILB, Nebraska); Adrian Tracy (OLB, William & Mary).
2009 record: 11-5
The Kevin Kolb Era in Philadelphia began after the Eagles made on of the biggest moves of the offseason by trading franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb to inter-division rival Washington.
McNabb's departure will impact the team in the locker room greatly, but perhaps not as much on the field as many would imagine. Kolb will have to adjust to being the starting quarterback, and there will undoubtedly be some growing pains. Kolb has looked good in his time on the field, and he has had a opportunity to sit and be mentored by on of the league's elite quarterbacks for several years.
Fortunately for Kolb, he has plenty of young talent around him to throw to including, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Brent Celek.
The Eagles lost veteran leadership with the departure of Brian Dawkins two years ago, and now with McNabb in Washington, perhaps the biggest question the Eagles have is who will fill the teams leadership void.
2009 record: 4-12
Washington made a blockbuster move by trading for McNabb. McNabb's arrival will bring veteran leadership and play-making ability to the team, but McNabb doesn't possess nearly the talent around him in Washington.
Although McNabb will make the receivers around him better, Washington did not have a running back with more than 500 yards rushing, and teams will focus a lot of energy on keying on the pass when they meet the Redskins.
The Redskins would be a contender in other divisions, but with the quality of the teams in the NFC East, it will be hard for them to challenge for the division title while they are missing so many pieces.
However, Shanahan and McNabb may be just what the Redskins need to launch themselves back into relevancy in the NFC East.