Earlier reports today had Washington limited at defensive end, after Phillip Daniels went down for the season. This prompted Washington management to seek a replacement and found one with the very talented, but unhappy, Jason Taylor. Taylor recorded 11 sacks last year, and joins a talented Washington squad.
On the defensive side of the ball, Washington ranked sixth in total defense, and third against the run. With added strength on the line, the Redskins will put more pressure on the opposing quarterback, help the secondary, and strengthen their already impressive rushing defense.
So what does this mean for the NFC East?
Dallas is weak at the receiver position after Terrell Owens. You know your receiving core may be a bit depleted if you are hoping that Terry Glenn and Jerry Jones play nice. It is still unproven how the offseason gamble on Adam Jones will pay off, which could make Dallas excel on special teams as well.
The Giants are the defending Super Bowl champions and cannot be overlooked. If the Giants from week 17 to the Super Bowl decide to play that way all season, they have to be seen as the favorite.
Can Eli Manning play that well all season? How will the Giants recreate the great defensive line pressure with the absence of the now-retired Michael Strahan? How these questions are answered will dictate the Giants success next season.
Almost entirely overlooked are the Philadelphia Eagles. They posted a lackluster 8-8 record last year, but their defense kept them in some games. Add to the defense the signing of Asante Samuel and the unit increases greatly. If McNabb can return and be healthy (something he has not done in recent years), and the Eagles can have consistent play from their receivers, they are also in contention.
Washington plays the role of the dark horse team in the division (as dark horse as you can be when you made the playoffs the previous year). With their starting quarterback returning, and a potentially strong draft class, the Redskins could play spoiler.
Jason Campbell returns to lead the team that thrived in his absence last year. Pressure will be alleviated with the presence of tight end Fred Davis, receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, in addition to the already strong Santana Moss and Chris Cooley. The Redskins also have a premier running back in Clinton Portis, and, if healthy, the backfield will be a major factor in any success in FedEx Field this year.
A division win is crucial for the Redskins and the other NFC East teams, more so in the past. In the previous two seasons, the NFC East produced three playoff teams each season.
This year, the Vikings and Packers in the NFC North are playoff contenders, and in the South, Tampa Bay and the disappointing Saints look to also play into January. The NFC West should field only the Seahawks, unless the Rams make an unbelievable jump to the playoff-caliber club that the franchise was believed to be before last year.
Overall, the Redskins now seem poised to make a run at winning their division and perhaps a deep run in the playoffs, with a strong defense, an adequate air attack, and a good running game. That formula sound familiar Giants' fans?