The NFC East, arguably the toughest division in football, is expected to become even more crowded and competitive this season. All four teams have a legitimate shot at winning the division. They also have an equally legitimate shot at falling on their faces and ending up in the cellar.
The Redskins have revamped their defense this offseason coming off a schizophrenic 8-8 season. They started off last season 6-2, but went 2-6 the rest of the way, finishing in last place in the East. Improving the defense was obviously a prime target for them, despite the fact they were sixth in the NFL in points allowed per game. The Redskin offense, on the other hand, looks practically identical to what it was last year.
The team's first four picks in the draft were defensive players, with the top prize being DE Brian Orakpo from Texas. They also parted ways with DE Jason Taylor and CB Shawn Springs. The biggest addition, though, is DT Albert Haynesworth coming over from the Titans. He will have enormous pressure on him to live up to the seven year, $115 million contract he signed and be the stopgap in the middle of that defense.
The Eagles' biggest changes this offseason have been the people in front of QB Donovan McNabb. The offensive line has been much improved, with LT Jason Peters coming over in a trade with Buffalo and RT Stacy Andrews joining his brother Shawn on the right side of the line.
The team also helped McNabb out by drafting WR Jeremy Maclin in the first round and RB LeSean McCoy in the second. Maclin was expected to be taken a lot earlier than the Eagles' 19th pick and may be turn out to be a steal. A key departure on defense, though, is S Brian Dawkins signing with Denver. His replacement Sean Jones, who played with Cleveland last season, will have to take his place as one of the playmakers in that defense.
The Cowboys will have enormous pressure this season to live up to their potential entering their new $1.1 billion dollar stadium. Many changes were made in the offseason in order to change the makeup of the team. The two biggest departures are WR Terrell Owens and S Roy Williams, both of whom were cut. In addition, CB Anthony Henry was traded to the Lions for QB Jon Kitna, and DT Tank Johnson and LB Zach Thomas were not resigned.
The biggest problem with the Cowboys seems not to be their departures but their lack of replacements. DE Igor Olshansky will replace the departing DE Chris Canty and LB Keith Brooking will do the same for Thomas. But, they have not addressed their thin wide receiving corps or their weak secondary. These two areas will likely hurt the team the most in 2009.
Last, but not least, are the defending division champs, the Giants. They have a similar problem as the Cowboys, as their two best wide receivers, Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, will not be returning. Rookie Hakeem Nicks will help the cause, but the team will really have to get large contributions from former backups Steve Smith and Domenick Hixon.
Also departing on offense is RB Derrick Ward, but his loss should not be severe as they have two capable starters in Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.
On defense, DE Chris Canty, LB Michael Boley, and DT Rocky Bernard were the most prominent signings. There weren't too many departures on defense, with S Sammy Knight and CB Sam Madison the only notable ones. Their new defensive coordinator, Bill Sheridan, will have basically the same pieces Steve Spagnuolo had last year.