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NFL Pro Football 2009 NFC East Preview

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Fearless Rick's NFL Preview - NFC EAST

Rick Gagliano | August 2, 2009

NFC EAST - Predicted order of finish and (predicted record)

Philadelphia Eagles (12-4): Mark down Sunday, November 15 as a key date for the Eagles. They play at San Diego that day, and if they are 4-4 or better and win, they could run the table and finish 12-4 or 11-5 and should win the division.

In 2008, the Eagles went 4-1 in their final five regular season games, culminating in a 44-6 slaughter of the Cowboys that secured the a Wild Card berth. After smashing through Minnesota and the Giants, the Eagles finally fell in the NFC Championship to the Cardinals, 32-25, but head into 2009 as a serious Super Bowl contender.

Two departures could hurt the Eagles' chances seriously, though the team will have all of preseason in which to work through the emotional loss of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who succumbed to melanoma skin cancer just as training camp was about to open and will be nearly impossible to replace. Johnson's defensive scheming was legendary, but his replacement, Sean McDermott, was a student of Johnson's as secondary coach and will employ many of his tactics.

Also missing will be safety Brian Dawkins, who took the free agency route to Denver. A couple of Quintins, Mikell and Demps, will handle the safety positions, while Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown cover the corners.

The Eagles will have one of the best defenses in the league if an on-field leader emerges and the players jell around McDermott's defense. Though the front line and linebackers are not a sack-happy bunch, they are young, athletic and have many interchangeable parts capable of confusing opponents.

Offensively, it's the Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook show once again, though this year the Eagles have some additional weapons, like tight end Brent Celek, who is emerging as a talented receiver and wide reciever Jeremy Macklin, the Eagles' top draft choice out of Missouri. Macklin may crack the starting lineup with slick SeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis. A big addition in the blocking and running scheme is fullback Leonard Weaver from Seattle.

Despite the loss of Dawkins and Johnson, the Eagles, who have been to the NFC championship five times under coach Andy Reid, may finally have all the elements needed to not only capture the division, but also go after the top prize.

New York Giants (10-6): In 2008, the Giants took the division with a 12-4 record, but after a bye week, were dumped by the Eagles in their first playoff game, 23-11. Winning the division and getting past traditional nemeses proved to be two different things.

The division proved to be the second-best in the conference with 38 wins, behind the heady South, which led the NFL with 40 wins. League-wise, the NFC East was tied with the AFC East and AFC Central in games won, and the division looks to be among the best in the league again.

Returning for New York are the key mainstays of their offense: Eli Manning at QB and Brandon Jacobs at running back, but after that the picture becomes murkier, after the unflattering departure of Plaxico Burress and the off-season trade of running back Derrick Ward. Without Burress, the Giants didn't have a dominant wideout in the closing weeks of the regular season and it hurt them in the playoffs as they were forced to depend upon the running game. That isn't likely to change in '09, with Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon projected as starters, though the Giants will use just about everyone and anyone on their bench in the offense.

Defensively, the Giants made significant moves in the off-season to bolster an already solid unit, picking up linebackers Chris Canty and Michael Boley, and tackle Rocky Bernard via free agency. With a healthy Osi Umenyiora and improved play from Mathias Kiwanuka, the Giants will be solid up front and likely to lead the league in sacks. That should help out the secondary, which lacks a shutdown corner, but is well-schooled and seldom gets beat deep.

The Giants may be better than they were last season, but so will the Eagles. New York should challenge for the division, and at least get a wild card slot.

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Dallas Cowboys (8-8): With Terrell Owens having departed for the cool lakeside in Buffalo, Dallas will surely have fewer disruptions in the locker room and in the press, but replacing a player of TO's caliber is a tall order and the Cowboys seek to do it with Roy Williams, who came over in a trade from Detroit in 2008, but only caught 19 balls for 198 yards in 10 games. Williams will be the go-to end, but QB Tony Romo will likely employ tight end Jason Whiten (81 receptions for 952 yards in '08) as his main target.

What certainly should improve for Dallas is their running game, as a trio of talented backs take turns in the Cowboy backfield. Felix Jones missed the final ten games of 2008 with injuries, but returns this season fully healthy and will team with Marion Barber at running back. The surprise could be Tashard Choice, who was a bruiser at Georgia Tech and rushed 92 times for 472 yards last season. Dallas may enter 2009 as a run-first type of offense, with plenty of firepower in reserve in the passing game.

The Cowboy defense became porous near the end of the 2008 season, one reason the Cowboys went 1-3 down the stretch, missing the playoffs despite a 9-7 record. Their poor showing late in the season is cause for concern heading into '09, but Dallas shuffled off safety Roy Williams and corner Anthony Henry. Gerald Sensabaugh arrives from Jacksonville to replace Williams, but the duo of Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman at the corners is questionable. Up front, the Cowboys have DeMarcus Ware to terrorize opposing QBs and add Igor Olshansky at right end, but the overall 3-4 scheme may be vulnerable to the run.

Romo will have plenty of options on offense, but the defense is likely to be a letdown in Dallas. Just making the playoffs might be too much to ask, as an easy early schedule leads to a final five weeks at the Giants, home for San Diego, at New Orleans, at Washington and home for Philadelphia.

Washington Redskins (6-10): In 2008, the Redskins did everything they were supposed to do and still finished last in the division with an 8-8 record. Completing the regular season at .500 was no accident, but the 2-6 finish after a solid 6-2 start was a huge disappointment. As the season wore on, so did many of their players, especially running back Clinton Portis, who took a beating in '09, rushing for only 259 of his 1487 yards in the last four games.

Quarterback Jason Campbell improved, though his numbers - 3245 yards, 13 TD, 6 INT - ranked near the bottom of NFL starters. Campbell is a good, though not great, quarterback, and that seems to be the main problem for the Redskins: their talent level is just a notch below the rest of the division and much of the league.

At wide receiver, aging veterans Antwaan Randle El and Santana Moss lack the speed to be deep threats, and Washington finds itself relying on tight end Chris Cooley for first downs all too often. Portis needs more and more frequent breathers, but backups Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright aren't exactly game-breakers.

On defense, the Redskins are a solid veteran bunch which will benefit from the addition of monster tackle Albert Haynesworth, who received a blockbuster contract to come over from Tennessee. This defense stacks up well against any offense, but they're likely to be on the field too much as the Washington offense is prone to sputters and spurts instead of sustained drives.

The Redskins will be a competitive team, but watch out for another second half letdown, if they are even in contention. Their first seven games include meetings with the Rams, Lions, Bucs and Chiefs. If they can win all of those and manage a 1-2 record against the Giants, Panthers and Eagles, they might be in good shape for their bye week in Week 8. The schedule gets tougher, though, especially in the final three weeks: home against the Giants and Cowboys and at San Diego. 8-8 may prove to be a bar set too high this year.

Copyright 2008, 2009, 2010 Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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