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- Breaking Down the NFC East: 2007

Chris Pokorny July 31, 2007
Chris Pokorny
PFC Owner & Writer

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After projecting two of the AFC's divisions, it's time to shift to the NFC where the competition should be fierce this season, especially in the NFC East. Plenty of things happened with each them, although I'd look forward to this being the most talked about division in football for the second year in a row. Last year, the Eagles created a huge buzz with Jeff Garcia's performance, the Cowboys were back into contention with the Tony Romo effect, and the Giants were in collapse mode under Tom Coughlin. How will things turn out this year in the division?

1. Philadelphia Eagles - The basis of predictions often depend on the assumed health of the quarterback, and that's the case here. The Eagles were able to survive after Donovan McNabb's injury last year because they basically had another veteran starting quarterback as their backup in Jeff Garcia. If something happens to McNabb this year, it'll be about the development of Kevin Kolb rather than the possibility of contending. The Eagles lost Donte Stallworth in the offseason, a man that provided a boost to the team's receiving group. The Eagles are hoping that Kevin Curtis, who has quietly done very well as a slot receiver and part-time starter with the Rams for several years, will fill Stallworth's gap.

The bread and butter of Philadelphia's offense will be Brian Westbrook again. Teams have tried to stop Westbrook for several years and have failed for the most part. Until that threat is neutralized, McNabb will not have any issues at quarterback because the option is always there. There's not much you can complain about in regards to the offense, because Andy Reid's system always puts points on the board.

The Eagles' run defense struggled last year in a division that was filled with depth at the running back position. The run defense may be in for more trouble this year, as they're relying on veterans Jevon Kearse and Takeo Spikes to perform at a high-level, something that's a crapshoot considering their age and health. Montae Reagor and Ian Scott add depth to the defensive line, while the secondary doesn't have anything to worry about. The only complaint you can have about the Eagles this year is the fact that they ended up not having a first-round pick to compensate from last year's lackluster effort from Brodrick Bunkley.

2. Dallas Cowboys - Excluding the dismissal of head coach Bill Parcells, the only significant thing that Dallas did during the offseason was acquire the Cleveland Browns' first-round pick for next season. Whether or not Wade Phillips makes much of a difference in his first year as head coach is difficult to guage. I'm expecting almost a duplicate effort all around from the Cowboys as last season, except for the fact that Tony Romo is starting the year at quarterback.

Romo made headlines last year by having several big starts in a row, but eventually faded towards the end of the season. When Romo is on the field, he makes decisions on the fly based on his natural instincts. That's the way Romo plays, and when you have that in a quarterback, the team is bound to have some offensive miscues at times. Terrell Owens can't keep quiet for an entire season, meaning if things get frustrated, he'll still let his opinion be known. Julius Jones and Marion Barber are both solid running backs, but the team may need to find a better way to use both backs. There were too many times last season that the backs were used too often in favor of the other one.

If Phillips is going to correct one thing, it has to be the development of the secondary. Terrence Newman and Roy Williams were supposed to be Pro Bowl caliber players to lead the secondary, but the group was flat out embarrassed at times last season. Veteran safety Ken Hamlin has the potential to help out. For a team that has drafted so many "impact" defensive players, it's about time that everybody comes together and lives up to their potential. The Cowboys will be neck and neck with the Eagles again this year and will probably hold the division lead back and forth. In the end, Dallas will fall just shy of the division champions.

3. Washington Redskins - Between all the quarterback changes in the NFC East last season, don't forget that Jason Campbell took over for Mark Brunell mid-way through the season and did exceptionally well. After sitting on the bench for an entire season, Campbell seemed to have the mentality of how to manage a game, particularly knowing when to throw the ball deep for a surprise score. Campbell threw for 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 7 games. Most of those games came without Clinton Portis at running back.

Portis is the Redskins' starting running back, but Ladell Betts took advantage of his injury last year, running for over 1,000 yards with a 4.7 yards-per-carry average. Betts provided a spark to the Redskins offense when there were no other weapons available. Santana Moss took a big step backwards in production last year, much like Steve Smith over on the Carolina Panthers. The Redskins still failed to add any impact receivers besides Moss, which will prevent Campbell from reaching his full potential this year. The Redskins were able to make the postseason two years ago in a similar offense though, so if the Redskins are to spoil either Dallas or Philadelphia, they'll need help from the defense.

Last year, the Redskins defense was atrocious, ranking 31st in the league overall. With that poor of a ranking, a defense usually needs a major overhaul. In some cases, several new players can make a significant difference if they all click at a high level. That's what the Redskins are attempting this year after drafting safety LaRon Landry and signing free agent linebacker London Fletcher. Landry and Sean Taylor can combine for possibly the best safety combination in football. While Landry and Fletcher were big signings for the Redskins, Joe Gibbs will need another year of work to move past seven wins this year.

4. New York Giants - I don't care how much talent this team has: they will still be a complete mess. There's no way that team chemistry has improved from last season with all of the egos on this team. Eli Manning will never be able to flourish into the type of player that his brother is unless he has the support from his teammates.

Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey have attitude problems on a weekly basis. Tiki Barber, one of the best players in the NFL, retired. The offensive line didn't get any better than it was last season. The only thing I'm envisioning with the Giants are a highlight reel of bloopers to be aired on a weekly basis. If the NFL came in and gutted this team and allowed each player to sign with a different team, there would be a market for half of the players because they are very talented still. When you group these particular individuals together though, it just isn't going to work.

The biggest mess could be at the running back position. Brandon Jacobs has always been a goal line back, and Reuben Droughns clearly lost several steps last year in Cleveland. There will be games where the Giants are able to hold things together long enough, probably early in the year. As soon as things can rough again though, the Giants are going to find themselves at the bottom of the division with a new head coach next year. If that man happen to be Bill Cowher, be may actually be the type of coach that can keep all of these egos on one team and keep them under control. Unfortunately, that does nothing for the Giants this year.

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