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Guys to watch in the NFC East

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Guys to watch in the NFC East

Postby kanezfan11 » Fri Aug 20, 2004 8:23 pm

Just read this article on Yahoo, seemed interesting. Cris Carter thought the division would finish 1. Philly 2. Dallas 3. Wash 4. NY -- do you guys agree?

NFC East: Tough neighborhood

by Cris Carter, Yahoo! Sports
August 20, 2004

The NFC East is always a tight and hard-fought division. This season it will be even more so after a busy offseason and the return of Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs. The Eagles won't be able to run away from the competition even though they have far superior talent.

As it was in my day, home-field advantage will mean a lot in the NFC East. I remember how hard it was to play in Philadelphia, Washington and New York. There is just no way as a player to go in there thinking you will dominate. In order to win this division, the Eagles will have to win at home and steal a couple on the road.

Philadelphia Eagles (Last season: 12-4, 1st)

Players to watch: Terrell Owens
There are a number of players to watch in Philadelphia. I don't necessarily think it is on the field, but rather off of it. The first one that comes to mind is Owens. He is going to be the bell cow for this offense and Philadelphia is counting on him to take the pressure off Donovan McNabb. But what kind of body language will Owens have and what message will he send to his teammates? Everyone will be watching.

Owens did the smart thing by forcing the trade to Philadelphia because he went to a similar offensive system. I wouldn't be surprised if he caught over 100 passes this season and had his normal 10-15 touchdowns.

Burning question: Will Brian Westbrook continue to develop?
Now that McNabb has Owens, Westbrook can round out a dominant offense. The Eagles will give him some carries and throw to him out of the backfield. Westbrook has made his mark as an explosive return man, but he has more to give.

Bottom line:
The Eagles did lose a number of players this offseason, but they should be better after adding a talented pass rusher like Jevon Kearse and a weapon like Owens. There is no better defensive end in the league than Kearse and he should realize his potential in Philadelphia. And Owens is in a good situation with the Eagles, going to an offensive system similar to the 49ers. That should help him avoid the up-and-down performances that we often see when superstars switch teams.

Dallas Cowboys (Last season: 10-6, 2nd)

Players to watch: Eddie George and Vinny Testaverde
Can these two veterans provide the leadership the Cowboys have sorely missed? Dallas hasn't had a featured running back since Emmitt Smith and hasn't had a leader at quarterback since Troy Aikman. Now the Cowboys have both with George and Testaverde – two veterans who have the chance to take a good young team to the next level.

Parcells has always attracted veterans because he doesn't put them in situations in which they have to perform outside of their ability. These two are a perfect fit for a Parcells system.

Burning question: Can Keyshawn Johnson find the end zone?
If Johnson can get back to the touchdown output that he had with the New York Jets under Parcells, the Cowboys offense has a chance to match its dominant defense. Their defense, possibly the best in the NFL, has kept them competitive. Johnson is a great receiver underneath and should excel in the red zone. If that happens, Terry Glenn will be more effective as a deep threat, George will have more room to run and the Cowboys could challenge the Eagles.

Bottom line:
Parcells did an excellent job in his first season and Dallas' players have completely bought into his system. The second season is when he really takes full control and makes headway. He has the veterans to lead a good young team. But can those older players stay healthy and effective?

Washington Redskins (Last season: 5-11, 3rd)

Player to watch: Joe Gibbs
He's not a player, but Gibbs is the man to watch in Washington. Has the league changed that much during his 11-year absence? And can he develop a dominant rushing game with Clinton Portis? He will find some differences once Week 1 rolls around, but they won't be too much to overcome. Fans in Washington should be excited because they have a good leader and a winner in Gibbs.

Burning question: Can the secondary live up to its potential?
New arrivals Shawn Springs and first-round draft pick Sean Taylor have the potential to be great. The Seattle Seahawks gave up on Springs and now the former first-round pick has the chance to start over in Washington. Taylor is one of the most exciting and talented safeties to come into the league in the last 10 years. Can this duo make up for the loss of Champ Bailey and be a dominant secondary?

Bottom line:
Players in Washington are excited entering the season with Gibbs in charge. He is a proven commodity and brings immediate credibility. Former coach Steve Spurrier brought a great college resume, but that doesn't always carry over to the NFL. The players didn't seem to believe in the program he was running. But now the players know that Gibbs is in control instead of owner Daniel Snyder.

New York Giants (Last season: 4-12, 4th)

Player to watch: Kurt Warner
Everyone will have their eyes on rookie Eli Manning, but they won't see him unless Warner begins to falter. If that happens, it won't take long for coach Tom Coughlin to pull the trigger and put Manning in there.

Warner is a streaky quarterback and he needs to start well. The Giants open with five tough games (at PHI, WAS, CLE, at GB, at DAL) which will really determine Warner's future. Can he get hot and return to his MVP form or is he just biding time for Manning?

Burning question: Is discipline enough?
Will Coughlin's discipline result in wins? I am sure the players initially will fight the discipline, but eventually they will buy into his system. Coughlin is a good coach and had success in Jacksonville. In the long run, the players will be better for it.

Bottom line:
The Giants will definitely have more discipline under Coughlin. But the coach can only do so much in preparing the team week-in, week-out. It is up to the players to make up their mind to turn it around. And the Giants have a long way to go.

Cris Carter is Yahoo! Sports' NFL analyst. Send him a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Last edited by kanezfan11 on Fri Aug 20, 2004 8:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Tyr » Fri Aug 20, 2004 8:40 pm

With the aging Vinny and Eddie holding down Dallas for the first quarter or half of the season until Parcells starts playing the talented JJ, I think Dallas might be in some offensive trouble this year.

With that being said, I'd saying Philly is (as usual) the surefire division champ.. but I would write the Skins off as too far behind them. The loss of Jansen will hurt, but I think the offense will mesh under the combined guidance of Gibbs and Bugel, and I think the Skins Defense has the potential to play like Baltimore's D, under the right conditions. How can you go wrong with Arrington, Barrow (when he's healthy), Taylor, Springs... In any case, I think the Skins could be a contendor this year for the divisional if the players start working together, even with the loss of Jansen.

Then again, I am a little bit biased.
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Postby goleafsgo96 » Fri Aug 20, 2004 8:44 pm

I think that Washington will finish ahead of Dallas this year, and the other 2 stay put.
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Postby kanezfan11 » Fri Aug 20, 2004 8:45 pm

Yeah, looking for the Giants to NOT finish in last this year, doubtful though. :-t
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Postby hawksfan896 » Fri Aug 20, 2004 8:51 pm

Obviously you gotta go with the Eagles, they might even have a chance at challenging the Seahawks for the NFC (doubt it though), then Washington with Portis before Dallas. But, if Warner plays decent (I know not likely, but everyone knows he is capable) they could put together an OK season. Eli is the future, but history shows he won't be able to do much this season, even if he starts fairly early in the year. Dallas is a huge question mark...I think my grandpa played with Vinny in a WWII rec league and Eddie George is...well, never mind.
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Postby Reills » Fri Aug 20, 2004 8:59 pm

I know E.George may not put up the TD's that much, but I'd be willing to bet he'll have 1000yds+!!!! So, don't dog him too bad!
Vinny can still at least throw a ball, i wouldn't consider him in a fantasy league.

I'll go out on a limb though w/predictions, since no one else will, and it sounds possible.

1st-Eli will run the show like marino did in his rookie season, cause its in his blood, 3 deep.
2nd-Portis will open up recievers, run all over the place and it'll be happy joy for gibbs and crew.
3rd-it just didn't fall in place for the T.O. show
4th-cause parcells deserves it for gettin' a bunch of oldies
(ignore my opening statement, since i picked them for last)
this will be wrong though probably
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Postby Tyr » Fri Aug 20, 2004 9:09 pm

I'm completely astounded that anyone would put the Giants first in their NFC East prediction.

Even if Eli can make things happen (which I'm sure he can) I don't think he'll be able to carry the team by himself.. and frankly, relying on Thunder and Lightning to make a return to their spectacular performance from a few years is.. well.. unlikely at best. Further.. where's their Defense? I'm sure Coughlin will whip them into shape, but I think he has a two or three year project on his hands. I expect to see them contending for #1 in the NFC East in 2007, but no sooner.

1) Philly (Iffy.. they might be a #2 under washington if TO can't get his act together.)
2) Washington (Maybe #1 but a likely #2 until the team matures under the new coaching staff.)
3) Dallas (Would be my #2 if EG and Vinny weren't holding down the team this year.)
4) New York (Undisputed #4 until Coughlin can nazi his boys into shape and Eli has a chance to mature.)
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Postby KingGhidra » Fri Aug 20, 2004 9:15 pm

Philly is the #1. Anything can happen with the other three teams. I wouldn't be surprised no matter which team finishes 2nd, but I think the Giants have the best shot.
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Postby deftdelivery » Fri Aug 20, 2004 11:14 pm

He really didn't predict much of anything...just matching last year's finish :-?
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Postby moochman » Fri Aug 20, 2004 11:23 pm

If all of the chicken littles are right and Westbrook can't hold up for a full season, what do you think of the Iggles chances without a RB? Myself, I'm thinking Westbrook will be relatively healthy all season and the Iggles will win the division by a couple games over the Cocaine Cowboys. Then the Skinz, but only because the VaGiants D won't stop anyone consistantly.
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