This will be part of a series of eight articles where I briefly go over the teams’ offseason moves and their drafts (which will not be factored in that heavily unless I feel the two teams were on equal footing prior to the draft). I will also list these teams in the order I predict they will finish and give a range of wins that each team can expect next year.
The Cowboys did it, they finally did it. They won a playoff game for the first time in thirteen years, crushing the Eagles in Dallas. However, the euphoria of beating the Eagles was quickly erased the next week when the Cowboys got destroyed in Minnesota even when they went into what was termed “desperation mode.” Wade Philips will be retained for another year, which I am not sure is exactly a positive. Romo finally finished a season strong which is something that he was often criticized for not doing. However, this team which has the ability to possibly make a Super Bowl run has a few holes. Flozell Adams had an atrocious 2009 season which was highlighted by his week 2 tripping of Giants defensive end Justin Tuck and guard Kyle Kosier could stand to be upgraded as well. Safety Ken Hamlin was also released and the Cowboys needed to find a suitable compliment to Miles Austin who emerged as a number one wide receiver as Jerry Jones predicted he would. An inside linebacker to replace the ancient Keith Brooking would also be very beneficial to the Cowboys.
The Cowboys did not sign any free agents so they had to replenish their roster through the draft. The Cowboys were able to pick up wide receiver Dez Bryant, inside linebacker Sean Lee and free safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah with their draft picks which should be able to shore up some of their major holes. While the Cowboys did also draft a tackle in Sam Young, I seriously doubt he is the answer considering how awful he was at Notre Dame.
The Cowboys, like the rest of the NFC East has a very tough 2010 schedule. Aside from their six divisional games, the Cowboys also have play the NFC North and the AFC South as well as the Cardinals and the Saints. Cowboys fans can expect 9-11 wins in 2010 and a likely divisional title.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles had a very tumultuous 2009 season, which began before the season started when defensive coordinator Jimmy Johnson lost his battle with cancer. Needless to say that the defense suffered, and it was compounded by middle linebacker Stewart Bradley’s season ending injury in preseason play. The Eagles offense was explosive though as DeSean Jackson proved to be almost impossible to cover and Brent Celek had a breakout season as well, and this is with McNabb out for a few games and future starting quarterback (read: 2010 season), Kevin Kolb taking the reins of the offense for more than two games. However there are still a lot of question marks about this team. After trading the aging cornerback Sheldon Brown to the Browns, the Eagles have little opposite of Asante Samuel. Their outside linebackers are poor and really need to be upgraded. They also need a defensive end opposite of Trent Cole to be able to generate pressure on the opposing quarterback. Also Eagles fans may revolt if Macho Harris starts at free safety again. Finally, their offensive line needs some serious help after releasing Shawn Andrews and Jammal Jackson’s ACL injury, which will cause him to be limited in 2010 (not to mention that Stacy Andrews was horrific last year). A running back to compliment LeSean McCoy would help the Eagles as well.
The Eagles traded away Chris Gocong and Sheldon Brown to the Browns in exchange for draft picks. They then traded for Daryll Tapp from the Seahawks, who while an okay pass rusher should be adept at setting the edge against the run. The Eagles then traded quarterback Donovan McNabb to the Redskins for a draft pick. Finally the Eagles resigned fullback Leonard Weaver and signed Mike Bell to help complement LeSean McCoy. The Eagles then drafted a bunch of defensive ends, to eliminate that issue, including Brandon Graham who is a pass rushing specialist. They also dealt with their free safety issue by drafting Nate Allen in the second round. Running back Charles Scott could be an effective complement to LeSean McCoy. The linebacker issues (no Ernie Sims is not the answer) have not been adequately addressed and their run defense will be questionable next year as Bunkley and Patterson are both undersized. They also failed to address their cornerback issue which could be an issue when they play high powered passing offenses like New York, Dallas, Indy, Green Bay, Minnesota, Houston, etc. Their offensive line will remain an issue, but the real question mark is how does Kevin Kolb do, as he is starting his third NFL game to open the 2010 season
Like the Cowboys, the Eagles have a brutal 2010 schedule as the Eagles have to play the NFC North and the AFC South as well as San Francisco and Atlanta. If Kolb is at least as good as McNabb, who is well into the twilight of his career, was last year, Eagles fans can expect 8-10 wins and a possible wild card berth.
The Giants 2009 season was a tale of two parts. The first part they went 5-0 and dominated the lousy competition they faced, with the exception of Dallas. However, starting with the New Orleans game, teams realized that they could easily throw on the Giants due to a lackluster pass rush and some of the worst safety play that I have ever seen from Michael Johnson, Aaron Rouse and the infamous CC Brown, and the Giants went 3-8 in their final eleven games, including the final two games when the Giants quickly gave up when the playoffs were on the line. Needless to say, the Giants come in to 2010 with a ton of issues. The Giants had to ascertain if Kenny Philips would be coming back and if not they had to get two new safeties as none of Rouse. They also need a new middle linebacker as the defense suffered when Antonio Pierce was out of the lineup. They had to reevaluate the defensive end position to see if they still think that Tuck and Osi are the answer at that position. They need a defensive tackle to replace the departed Fred Robbins and an outside linebacker to replace Danny Clark. Not to mention they have offensive needs as well, such as a left tackle to replace the human sieve known as David Diehl. The best thing that can be said about the Giants this year was that Eli Manning had a spectacular season and Steve Smith really stepped up, as well as the dismissal of horrific defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan.
The Giants made one major free agent signing and that was to overpay for safety Antrel Rolle, who is a mediocre safety but got overpaid due to the thin free agent market. While he is an upgrade over CC Brown and Aaron Rouse he is not anything spectacular. The Giants then had a very risky draft by drafting Jason-Pierre Paul who is a very raw defensive end with a huge upside, but had negligible college production. He will be one of those picks that will either be what the world considers a great player or what Al Davis considers a great player. They took Linvell Joseph in the second round to fill Fred Robbins’ shoes. They took another safety, Chad Jones, in round three, which means that Philips may be in worse shape than people think. The linebackers and offensive tackle positions were neglected.
The Giants like the rest of the NFC East has a brutal schedule in 2010. Along with having to play Philadelphia and Dallas twice, they have tough games against Minnesota, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee, and Carolina. Giants fans can expect 7-9 wins in 2010.
The Washington Redskins 2009 season can be easily represented by one play. In their home game against the Giants, coach Jim Zorn called for a swinging gate play on special teams that was supposed to be a fake field goal. After a timeout called by the Giants to adapt to this odd play the Redskins ran this play again, which resulted in the play miserably failed and the ‘quarterback’ got killed. The Redskins 2009 campaign was an unmitigated disaster, in particular the offense, which was so bad that a guy who was calling Bingo in September was brought in part way through the season to be the offensive coordinator. The defense was not bad. The end of the season saw the hiring of GM Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan. However, Mike Shanahan is bringing the 3-4 defense with him which means that the defensive side of the ball also needs some work. Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter have to make the transition to 3-4 outside linebacker from 4-3 defensive end which is tough for a lot of players. Haynesworth is going to have to be a ridiculously overpaid defensive end, which will likely not fit his skill set. Linebacker London Fletcher will have to transition over to inside linebacker. Plus, safety LaRon Landry is an awful fit at free safety and needs to be replaced with a true free safety. And that is not touching on the offensive needs. The Redskins clearly do not think Jason Campbell is the answer at quarterback so they had to get a new one. Their offensive line is a mess and only left guard Dockery and center Rabach are serviceable. The remainder of the line needs to be upgraded as well as the running back position. However, it is Dan Snyder during a year without a salary cap so one more Snyder spending spree will be coming, right?
Oddly enough, the Redskins did not really bring in that many free agents. They made a huge splash by trading for Donovan McNabb, which alleviates the need to draft a quarterback this year in a weak class. They added some depth to the cornerback position by signing Philip Buchanon and signed a nose tackle in Ma’ake Kemoeatu. Other than that and signing a few washed up running backs who will not fix their running back issue, Washington did little in free agency. Their draft was not much better as while Washington acquired a left tackle in Trent Williams, they did not have the picks to acquire additional starters and instead had to draft projects. Still having Donovan McNabb and some coaching stability will greatly help this franchise.
The Redskins have few winnable games this year. They may be able to take one or two games in divisional play as well as possibly games against the Bears, Lions, Jaguars, Rams and Buccaneers. Redskins fans can expect another very long season as the Redskins will probably win 5-7 games in 2010.