By Christian Binder, WSOE Sports
Dallas Cowboys (2008 Record: 9-7)
-Key Additions: QB Jon Kitna, LB Keith Brooking, DE Igor Olshansky, S Gerald Sensabaugh
-Key Losses: QB Brad Johnson, WR Terrell Owens, CB Anthony Henry, S Roy Williams, CB Adam “Pacman” Jones, LB Greg Ellis, LB Zach Thomas, DE/LB Chris Canty
I like to consider the Cowboys the Yankees of the NFL. Much like the Yankees, the Cowboys will be debuting a new $1.15 billion stadium this year. And the economists say we’re in a recession! Needless to say, the Cowboys are looking to improve upon last year’s disappointing season. However, it won’t be easy. The Cowboys are hoping that last year’s midseason acquisition, WR Roy Williams (pictured far right), will step up and fill the big shoes left by Terrell Owens. He certainly was a bust last year. The Cowboys will also have to hope that the secondary plays well without the leadership and smash-mouth (or break-neck, if you prefer) play of safety Roy Williams, who was released by the team. Jon Kitna is an obvious upgrade over Brad Johnson, which is good since Tony Romo (pictured right) may need some help every now and then. The additions of Keith Brooking and Igor Olshansky definitely shore up the front seven after losing several starters from last year’s team. This is a team to watch, but the NFC East is wide open, so a playoff berth is not guaranteed.
New York Giants (2008 Record: 12-4)
-Key Additions: LB Michael Boley, WR Hakeem Nicks, DE/LB Chris Canty
-Key Losses: WR Plaxico Burress
Big Blue has all the reason in the world to feel like they can win the NFC East again this year and make a Super Bowl run. Last year’s team was built upon a strong defense and solid running game, both of which remain in tact. The smash-and-dash combo of RBs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw will provide Eli Manning plenty of protection in the passing game. Speaking of which, Eli has his work cut out for him. Since Plaxico Burress is most likely going to be watching the season from his prison cell, the Giants are left without a true number one receiver. Sure, that’s what they drafted Hakeem Nicks for, but he is a rookie and liable to make mistakes. Behind Nicks (pictured center), there are a slew of receivers, but they don’t have that much experience. Domenik Hixon will be expected to play a large role in the passing game, as will TE Kevin Boss. The defense just got better with the additions of Boley and Canty and with Osi Umenyiora returning from a knee injury, this should be one tough defense to score against.
Philadelphia Eagles (2008 Record: 9-6-1)
-Key Additions: WR Jeremy Maclin, RB LeSean McCoy
-Key Losses: S Brian Dawkins, CB Lito Sheppard, OT Jon Runyan, RB Correll Buckhalter
It’s been a tough few years in Philly and it hasn’t gotten any better this offseason. The Eagles recently lost defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, as he lost his battle with cancer. Andy Reid has had family issues over the last couple seasons. The Eagles enter this season without arguably their most influential team leader, Brian Dawkins, who bolted for Denver in free agency. Coupled with the loss of Lito Sheppard in a trade to the New York Jets, the Eagles’ secondary is looking weak. Donovan McNabb should be happy, though. His wish for a speedy receiver was finally granted when the Eagles drafted Jeremy Maclin (pictured right) out of Missouri with the 19th overall pick in this year’s draft. Also, LeSean McCoy has looked fantastic in training camp, allowing fans to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there is a capable backup for the oft-injured Brian Westbrook. Don’t count the Eagles out, though, because they always seem to find a way to win.
Washington Redskins (2008 record: 8-8)
-Key Additions: DT Albert Haynesworth, G Derrick Dockery, P Hunter Smith, DE Brian Orakpo
-Key Losses: DE Jason Taylor, CB Shawn Springs
The Redskins made progress in Jim Zorn’s first year as head coach, though taking a step back in the wins column. The only real question mark on this team is QB. You never know which Jason Campbell will show up week-to-week. Campbell is not a prolific quarterback and probably isn’t the long-term answer the ‘Skins are looking for. He is more of a game manager, doing just enough to get along. The Redskins will rely on defense this year, as evidenced by the additions of Albert Haynesworth (pictured left) and Brian Orakpo. So far in camp, the defense has been dominating the offense, and that will probably be the case for most of the year. If Clinton Portis can stay healthy all year, which could take some pressure off of Campbell to perform, the offense has a shot to be above-average. However, they will need production from sophomore WR Malcolm Kelly so that WR Antwaan Randle-El can be featured more in the slot receiver role. The Redskins have a shot at improving on last year’s record and it’s not out of the question that every team in the NFC East could have a winning record come year’s end.