Today is day five of the NFL preview and is the first time I will talk about the NFC. Today I will be talking about a division which makes a lot of headlines in the offseason, the NFC East. In the words of Mills Lane, “let’s get it on!”
4th- Washington Redskins
I like the selection of Robert Griffin but did the Redskins give up too much for him? Like most rookie quarterbacks, Griffin will have his share of highlights and bonehead plays. Griffin has some decent weapons around him but I feel they are still one explosive receiver away from making this offense dynamic. I like Santana Moss still being on this team and Pierre Garcon will make a nice number two but I feel they overpaid for him. Fred Davis is a top ten tight end so I look for him and RGIII to develop a nice relationship. Who is going to be the starting running back on this team? Evan Royster or Roy Helu? Whoever it is they need to be consistent because last year’s rank of 25th in rushing won’t cut it for a Mike Shanahan coached team. Also former fourth round pick Trent Williams needs to stay healthy and continue to improve to prove to everyone why he was selected so high.
This defense has an absolute stud of a pass rusher in Brian Orakpo. In his three seasons Orakpo has never had less than 8.5 sacks. Fellow outside linebacker, Ryan Kerrigan had a nice rookie season with 7.5 sacks, add London Fletcher to the mix and the Redskins have a very good trio of linebackers in the 3-4. I like this Redskins defense but they must improve on their 18th ranked rush defense. With Tanard Jackson suspended for the whole year because of substance abuse it leaves Brandon Meriweather to start at strong safety. This is Meriweather’s third team in three years. He needs to be a difference maker in that secondary along Deangelo Hall.
Win meter- 5-7- Not enough weapons yet to make a playoff run.
Biggest question- Can the Redskins show enough improvement for Mike Shanahan to stay off the hot seat?
One of the most hated and loved teams in all sports, the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys are one of the most talked about teams in the offseason every season but what they have done on the field the last few seasons has not brought much positive feedback. When you look at this team on paper, they look ready to make a playoff run every year and just looking at their offense it is easy to see why their is excitement in Dallas. Receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant form a very talented duo but can both stay healthy? And can Dez Bryant avoid anymore brush-ups with the law? If they can these two will be exciting to watch. A cause for concern is the spleen injury for the all-pro tight end Jason Witten could keep him out of the opener. He is a tough player so hopefully he can get back on the field soon. Tony Romo. What can I say about Romo? He puts up great stats and does some great impromptu plays but I am not sure if this guy will ever be able to win the big game. Finally the run game needs to keep the pressure off Romo. I love Demarco Murray but him and Felix Jones need to stay healthy.
The Cowboys upgraded their secondary which was the weak point of the defense last year by signing Brandon Carr and drafting LSU’s Morris Claiborne. These two guys will need to be studs in the secondary to ignite a very average secondary around them. The Cowboys linebacking core ranks in the tops of the league with all-pro DeMarcus Ware and the young inside linebacker Sean Lee who is a tackling machine. The cowboys brought in Dan Connor from Carolina and franchised Anthony Spencer so look for the linebackers to be the backbone of this defense. Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff suffered a sprained ankle which could sideline him for a few weeks so someone needs to step up on the d-line.
Win meter- 7-9, lose to many close games
Biggest question- Can this team get over the hurdle and win big games?
2nd- Philadelphia Eagles
Ah the Philadelphia Eagles. Or in Vince Youngian, “the Dream Team”. Or in Mike Vickian, “a potential dynasty”. The Eagles are another one of these NFC East teams who dominate headlines in the offseason but need to prove it on the field. I think this year the Eagles will be a much better team as long as they follow a few things. First, Vick needs to stay healthy and either get down or out of bounds to actually play in all 16 games (only done it once). Second, this team needs to cut down on turnovers. Vick had 16 turnovers in 13 games by himself last year. This is an offense which has a ridiculous amount of speed and athleticism. Desean Jackson is happy now since he signed a monster deal in the offseason. Jeremy Maclin is back and healthy and Lesean McCoy is one of the top three running backs in the league. I see this team getting a wild card spot because Vick will miss some costly games.
The Eagles defense was great at harassing quarterbacks all season long racking up fifty sacks. Jason Babin led the way with 18 proving he was not a one year fluke. However the Eagles were only able to get 15 interceptions and were ranked 16th against the run. Someone needs to step up in the secondary and make more plays. The drafting of defensive tackle Fletcher Cox should help improve the run defense. I also like the drafting of Vinny Curry out of Marshall. Curry will be just another pass rushing threat that the Eagles seem to have an endless supply of. I believe the Eagles also got a steal when they traded for Houston Texans linebacker, DeMeco Ryans.
Win meter- 9-11
Biggest Question- Can the rest of this team step up when/if Mike Vick gets hurt and misses a few games?
1st-New York Giants
Even though they are an afterthought to the Jets and Eli Manning is the third most talked about QB in the city of New York the Giants are the ones who are bringing home the hardware. The defending Super Bowl champs went on a tear at the end of last season and just never looked back. If you look at the rankings of this team you would be shocked they were even a Super Bowl contender. They were dead last in rushing, 29th against the pass and 19th against the run. However what the Giants did well was pass the ball. And with weapons like Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz it was easy to see why this team did as well as they did. Cruz’s emergence made sure defenses couldn’t focus on just Hakeem Nicks. Where this offense does need to improve at is the run game. Ahmad Bradshaw is a good running back but he needs to stay healthy. First round pick David Wilson out of Virginia Tech could provide a nice burst to this offense. They also need a legit tight end to take the place of Jake Ballard who is in New England and Travis Beckum who is on the PUP.
The Giants defense boasts one of the most feared defensive fronts in the entire league. Their nascar formation which features Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul and Matthias Kiwanuka all putting their hand on the ground is such a miss-match for most o-lines. I like the secondary that the Giants have but they need to cut down on the big plays and the yardage they give up. I want to see Prince Amukamara stay healthy and develop into a number one corner. If they cut down on the big plays given up this team will be right up there to repeat.
win meter- 10-12
Biggest question- Can this team get off to a fast start instead of playing catch up?