Sunday, August 9, 2009

2009 NFC East Preview

The NFC East has a reputation of being the most competitive division in the NFL, and 2009 shouldn’t be any different. There is no love lost between the four teams and you’re guaranteed a hard-hitting, knock-down affair when they meet on a given Sunday. The New York Giants have been the top dog of the division by winning the NFC East three out of the last four seasons.
In order of finish:

1. Philadelphia Eagles
Last year, the Eagles quietly entered the playoffs and ended up making a big splash as they were one play away from making the Super Bowl. This off-season, team management decided to surround QB Donovan McNabb with better talent. They bulked up their offensive line (T Jason Peters) to keep McNabb upright all season, added offensive weapons (RB LeSean McCoy and WR Jeremy Maclin) through the draft and replaced an aging safety (Brian Dawkins) in their secondary with younger, more athletic player (Sean Jones). This season looks promising, but it could fall apart if one of their aging stars goes down with an injury. RB Brian Westbrook is a lock to miss games and off-season ankle surgery could jeopardize his start to the season.

2. New York Giants
Heading into the holidays, the Giants were the favorites to win last year’s Super Bowl. Then WR Plaxico Burress shot himself and their offense never recovered from his lost. Going into 2009, the offense might take another step back with the lost of WR Amani Toomer and RB Derrick Ward via free agency. A lack of a playmaker could make QB Eli Manning’s interception percentage go up and his completion rate go down for the coming season. Rookie WR Hakeem Nicks could have a major impact if Brother Eli can get comfortable throwing the football to him. The Giants defensive line could spend a lot of time in the opposing team’s backfield, with a healthy Osi Umenyiora and the free agent acquisitions of Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard being added to a unit that already includes Pro Bowler Justin Tuck.

3. Dallas Cowboys
After a disappointing end to their season, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said goodbye to Pacman Jones and TO, but not to head coach Wade Phillips, as he will be on the hot seat all season. QB Tony Romo needs to stop being a celebrity and try to become a NFL quarterback this season. Calling more plays for his partners in the backfield could relieve some pressure from him. Marion Barber is a bruising runner with great hands, Felix Jones has game-changing speed, and both could become central figures in the Cowboys’ offense this season. Their secondary is the biggest weakness on the squad. After trading CB Anthony Henry to Detroit, the Cowboys will have five youngsters compete for his starting position. LB Keith Brooking is a great free agent acquisition, as he played under Phillips during their time together in Atlanta and fully understands his defensive philosophy.

4. Washington Redskins
This off-season per the norm, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder opened his checkbook once again and signed DT Albert Haynesworth and CB DeAngelo Hall to large free agent contracts. Haynesworth is the key signing, as he is a run-stuffer that can also pressure the quarterback. It is impossible to block him with one lineman, so look for the sack numbers of DEs Phillip Daniels and Andre Carter to increase this season. Jason Campbell is a good quarterback, but he lacks offensive weapons that can get yards after the catch. Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El are regressing in their skills to separate themselves from defenders. The Redskins will need one of their young receivers to have a breakout season. If not, it could diminish their hopes of making the playoffs.

Written By Thomas Conroy