It has been a busy offseason thus far for the NFC East. A franchise QB was traded to a division foe and multiple new faces will be introduced to the Black and Blue Division. I wanted to take a look at what the teams of the NFC East have done to improve and make some way too early East predictions.
2009 Record: 4-12
NFC East Record: 0-6 (4th)
QB Todd Collins
RB Anthony Alridge
RB Ladell Betts
RB Quinton Ganther
RB P.J. Hill
RB Marcus Mason
FB Rock Cartwright
FB Eddie Williams
WR Marko Mitchell
WR Antwaan Randle El
WR James Robinson
OG Randy Thomas
DT Cornelius Griffin
DT Anthony Montgomery
CB Fred Smoot
QB Rex Grossman
RB Ryan Torain
WR Joey Galloway
WR Bobby Wade
WR Roydell Williams
WR Marques Hagans
TE Sean Ryan
OG Kory Lichtensteiger
OL Artis Hicks
NT Maake Kemoeatu
DL Adam Carriker
DT Anthony Bryant
DT Howard Green
DT Greg Peterson
DE Darrion Scott
LB Chris Draft
CB Philip Buchanon
PK Justin Medlock
The 2009 season was one to forget for the Redskins. The offense averaged 16.6 points per game and only managed 94.4 yards on the ground. Exit Jim Zorn, enter Mike Shanahan. Shanahan was then able to bring his son in to coach the offense and Jim Haslett to coach the defense.
The Redskins then proceeded to clean house. The offensive line was a sieve last year, so Chris Samuels and Randy Thomas were not asked to come back for 2010. Jason Campbell has never been trusted in D.C., so the Redskins trade for Philly QB Donavan McNabb. Campbell has been shipped off to Oakland
The Skins also signed RB’s Willie Parker and Larry Johnson to deals, pairing them up with Clinton Portis. The hope is Shanahan can work his RB magic to prolong the careers of these aging backs.
Defensively, the Redskins were respectable. They gave up 21 points per game, but some of those points can be attributed to the poor offensive play. New coordinator Jim Haslett is said to be making some scheme changes – moving to a 3-4 scheme – to increase turnovers. Albert Haynesworth, who has not reported to mini-camps, is a distraction.
In the draft, the Redskins drafted three offensive linemen. OT Trent Williams was taken in the first round, and will likely be the starter at LT when the season opens. Center Erik Cook (7th round) and OT Selvish Capers (7th round) are late round picks who could push for playing time as well. After taking Williams with the fourth overall pick, the Redskins had to nearly 100 picks to select LB Perry Riley. Riley will probably play ILB in the 3-4. The Redskins also selected TE Dennis Morris (6th round) and WR Terrance Austin (7th round).
The Redskins have upgraded several key positions. McNabb is an upgrade over Campbell, but is not the long-term answer. There has been an infusion of youth along the offensive line, and Johnson and Parker may have enough left in the tank to help Portis strengthen the running game. However, as Cowboy fans know, the transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 does not happen overnight. There will be growing pains. Add in a new offensive scheme and a new head coach and this seems like a transition year for the Redskins. Expect an up and down season from the Redskins, they’ll probably struggle early as they have to play the Cowboys, Texans, Eagles, Green Bay and the Colts early in the season. The fans may be quick to turn on the aging vets and impatient with the younger players if they start the season 1-5 (they do play the Rams).
Overall, I don’t see 2010 being a good year for Washington. They’ll be looking up at the rest of the NFC East again. They could however, be a sleeper team in 2012.
Prediction: 5-11, 4th in NFC East
2009 Record: 11-5
NFC East Record : 4-2 (2nd)
—T Shawn Andrews (released/failed physical).
—DE Chris Clemons (traded Seahawks).
—WR Kevin Curtis (released).
—LB Chris Gocong (traded Browns).
—DE Darren Howard (released).
—S Sean Jones: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
—QB Donovan McNabb (traded Redskins).
—*TE Alex Smith: Not tendered as RFA/Brown; 1 yr, terms unknown.
—RB Brian Westbrook (released).
—LB Will Witherspoon (released).
—*WR Hank Baskett: Not tendered as RFA by Colt; 1 yrs, terms unknown.
—*RB Mike Bell: RFA Saints (tendered at $1.176 million with no compensation); $1.7M/1 yr, $500,000 guaranteed; Saints did not match.
—LB Alex Hall (traded Browns).
—*CB Marlin Jackson: Not tendered as RFA by Colts; $6M/2 yrs.
—RB Martell Mallett: CFL FA; terms unknown.
—LB Ernie Sims (trade Lions).
—DE Darryl Tapp (trade Seahawks, new contract $9M/3 yrs, $3M SB).
For the Eagles, the season comes down to one question; is QB Kevin Kolb for real? Make no mistake; the Eagles are talented enough to win right now. They have young and explosive skill position players. Guys like LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin provide an dynamic offense for the Eagles. However, as Dallas showed last year, if you force the Eagles to drive the field and not give up the big play, their offense is average. The Eagles decided to part ways with longtime QB Donavan McNabb and hand the reigns to Kevin Kolb. In limited action Kolb has been impressive, but he has never had to start an NFL season as “the guy”.
In the draft, the Eagles went heavy on defense. They selected defensive players with nine out of their 13 draft picks and their first five picks were all on the defensive side of the ball. DE Brandon Graham (1st round) and S Nate Allen (2nd round) will be looked at to step in and immediately help out the Philly defense – which did not play up to their lofty standards in 2009. The Eagles gave up 21.1 points per game in 2009 and didn’t seem nearly as aggressive as they have been in years past. Philadelphia has added several young pass rushers for 2010 including Graham, DE Daniel Te’o Nesheim (3rd round) and DE Ricky Sapp (5th round). They also bolstered their LB depth with Keenan Clayton (4th round) and Jamar Chaney (7th round). In addition to Allen, the Eagles also drafted CB Trevard Lindley (4th round) and SS Kurt Coleman (7th round). QB Mike Kafka (4th round), TE Clay Harbor (4th round), WR Riley Cooper (5th round), RB Charles Scott (6th round) and DT Jeff Owens (7th round) round out the Eagles draft class.
Overall, the Eagles are young and talented; but I just get the feeling their young QB is going to hit some bumps in the road. Once defensive coordinators get some film on Kolb and have time to dissect his game, they’ll be able to prevent him from having 300 yard games. How Kolb adjusts will ultimately decide the Eagles fate in 2010, and history is not on the young QB’s side. The Eagles could start out hot, with games against Detroit and Jacksonville early on. But ultimately the learning curve will be too steep for Kolb in 2010.
Prediction: 8-8, 3rd in NFC East
2009 Record: 8-8
NFC East Record: 4-2 (3rd)
—DT Anthony Bryant (released).
—QB David Carr: UFA 49ers; $6.25M/2 yrs, $2M SB.
—*CB Kevin Dockery: Not tendered as RFA/Rams; $630,000/1 yr.
—P Jeff Feagles (retired), had re-signed as UFA; $900,000/1 yr.
—TE Darcy Johnson: Not tendered as RFA/Rams; $470,000/1 yr.
—LB Antonio Pierce (released/failed physical).
—DT Fred Robbins: UFA Rams; $11.25M/3 yrs, $3.395M RB 2010.
—S Aaron Rouse (released).
—S Deon Grant: FA Seahawks; $855,000/1 yr.
—QB Jim Sorgi: FA Colts; $1.152M/1 yr, $175,000 SB.
—OT Herb Taylor: Waivers Broncos.
The Giants are similar to the Eagles in their defense did not play up to previous standards. The Giants brought in a defensive coordinator, Perry Fewell, to invigorate a denfense that allowed 26.7 points per game last season. Antrel Rolle was signed to a monster contract to improve the safety position which was hit with the injury bug last year. The Giants offense was potent last year as they averaged over 25 points per game. However, the running game was as dominant as it has been in the past (114.8 yards per game.)
In the draft, the Giants addressed the defensive side of the ball early and often. With their first round pick they selected DE Jason Pierre-Paul out of South Florida. Pierre-Paul is a talented, but raw, pass rusher who will probably only be as a situation rusher his rookie year. DT Linval Joseph (2nd round) was a late-riser on many draft boards and could compete for playing time early. S Chad Jones (3rd round) will be added depth at the safety position. LB Philip Dillard was selected in the 4th round, Dillard will compete for the MLB spot on the Giants. New York also addressed their offensive line with the selection of G Mitch Petrus in the fifth round. P Matt Dodge (7th round) will have to replace retired Jeff Feagles. DE Adrian Tracy (6th round) is another raw pass rusher the Giants added in the draft.
It seems the Giants are trying to duplicate their Super Bowl success by adding numerous pass rushers to their defensive line. Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, Chris Cany, Rocky Bernard and Pierre-Paul form arguably the most talented defensive line in the league. If this group can stay healthy and perform to their talent level, the Giants defense could be formidable again.
On offense the Giants seem to be solid across the board. Eli Manning has turned himself into a good QB and he has weapons in WR’s Mario Manninham, Sinorice Moss, Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw anchor the RB position and need to have better production for the Giants to be successful. It may take some time for the defense to gel, but if they do watch out for the Giants in 2010.
Prediction: 10-6 (2nd in NFC East)
2009 Record : 11-5
NFC East Record: 4-2 (1st)
—OT Flozell Adams (released).
—S Ken Hamlin (released).
—WR Titus Ryan: CFL FA; terms unknown.
The playoff loss to Minnesota highlighted Dallas’s needs along the offensive line. RT Marc Columbo was returning from injury and ineffective and Doug Free had to step in for Flozell Adams who was hurt during the game. The Viking pass ruch overwhelmed the Cowboys. The offseason has been relatively quiet for the Cowboys. They let go of veteran LT Flozell Adams and safety Ken Hamlin. They traded backup LB Bobby Carpenter for Rams OT Alex Barron. The season may hinge on whether the offensive line is able to keep Tony Romo clean and open up holes for the Cowboys three-headed rushing attack. Barron will come to training camp and compete with Doug Free and Marc Columbo for playing time. Barron has experience at both tackle positions. If nothing else, Barron provided much needed depth on the offensive line.
The defense looks to take the next step in 2010. At times the Cowboys defense looked dominating, especially down the stretch in 2009. Alan Ball and Mike Hamlin will initially be looked at to replace Ken Hamlin at the safety spot.
In the draft, Dallas selected WR Dez Bryant. There is no denying Bryant’s talent, but controversy seems to follow this kid wherever he goes. In Dez, the Cowboys may have gotten the steal of the first round. In the second round, the Cowboys selected Sean Lee. Lee will be looked at to backup both ILB positions and compete for the nickel LB job. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is a super athletic small school prospect who projects nicely to safety in the NFL. OL Sam Young (6th round), CB Jamar Wall (6th round) and Sean Lissemore (7th round) also were drafted.
Expectations are high in Dallas. Already there has been talk of a true home team for the Super Bowl in Arlington. The addition of Dez Bryant to an already explosive offense could be the beginning of a defensive coordinators worst nightmare. If young players are able to step their game up to the next level, the Cowboys can truly be considered a contender. The schedule is tough – as it is for all NFC East teams – especially in October and November for the 'Boys.
Prediction: 11-5 (1st in NFC East)
So to sum it up, I think the NFC East will not be as good as it has been in the past. The Redskins will improve, but still won’t be very good. The Eagles decision to pair up their young QB with their young playmakers means they take a step back this year, but was probably the right move for the future. The Giants rebound a bit, but I don’t trust their running game or their defense. The Cowboys have to stay healthy on the offensive line to be successful, but look like they are the class of the NFC East.
Well what do you think? Have the Cowboys done enough to defend the NFC East Crown. Has another team leapfrogged the ‘Boys? What are your way to early NFC East predictions?