Thursday, September 3, 2009

'09 NFL Predictions - NFC East

1) Philadelphia Eagles
(2008 record: 9-6-1, 2nd place, Wild Card)

Offense –
The Eagles finished last year on a strong note, winning 3 of their last 4 regular season games and coming within one win of returning to the Super Bowl. There are a few new faces in town, but the Eagles look ready to make another run at a championship. Donovan McNabb got a nice kick in the butt with an in-season benching and ended the regular season on a 9-1 TD-INT run. He also got a new two year deal this offseason which should make him happy. In ’08, McNabb three for more yards than he had in any of his 9 previous seasons and threw more TDs than he has since ’04. He’ll turn 32 in season and with the weapons he has at his disposal, shouldn’t show any significant signs of decline. Enter Michael Vick. The ex-con was added to the fray and could be one heck of an addition or one heck of a mistake. Expect things to be eventful in Philly as there’s seemingly already a controversy brewing with McNabb himself reportedly putting an end to Vicks’ Philly preseason debut. If Donovan lets him, Andy Reid is going to use Vick in a variety of ways. Kevin Kolb is still somewhat in the picture, but his poor showing last year in limited time didn’t make a good impression on the coaching staff……….Brian Westbrook battled knee and ankle injuries last season and started to show some chinks in his armor, finishing with his lowest numbers in 3 years. He’s slowly getting into action this preseason, and the Eagles hedged their bets by drafting LeSean McCoy from Pittsburgh in the second round. McCoy is a well-rounded back who can play all 3 downs. What I liked most about him at Pitt was how quickly he got to the edge. I know it was college ball, but he should make a really nice transition to the pros. It shouldn’t be any surprise if Brian Westbrook misses a game or two since he’s never played an entire 16 game season incident free, so McCoy will likely be counted on quite a bit in his rookie year. The Eagles brought in Leonard Weaver who’s been a successful short yardage back during his career……….In a fine, yet spotty, rookie season, DeSean Jackson demonstrated the skills that justified his high pre-draft ranking, finishing third in the division in both receptions and yards (behind Santana Moss and Terrell Owens in both categories) at the WR position in ’08. Given Brian Westbrook’s age and health, I expect the Eagles to feature Jackson even more in ’08. He has the speed to break nearly every play and should benefit from having a year with McNabb under his belt. He’ll make more than his share of highlight plays this season. Kevin Curtis missed 7 games last year and is slow to get going this season recovering from offseason sports hernia surgery. If he can’t get on the field, that would mean more snaps for first rounder (should have been a Buc) Jeremy Maclin. Like Jackson, Maclin brings explosive versatility as a receiver who can line up in multiple spots and play a role in the return game. Jason Avant, Reggie Brown (who disappeared last season), and possibly Hank Baskett will be worked in as well. Brent Celek performed more than admirably when LJ Smith (who left for Baltimore) was off the field, and he’s got the starting TE job in ’09……….The Eagles made some decent upgrades at tackle this offseason, replacing their longtime bookends, Tra Thomas and John Runyan, with Jason Peters and Shawn Andrews. Peters came over from Buffalo for the 28th pick in the draft to replace Thomas at LT. Like Thomas, he excels in pass protection, but Peters is a noticeably better run blocker than the man he’s replacing at this point in their careers. Shawn Andrews kicks outside from RG to RT this year in order to make room from his brother Stacy who came over from Cincinnati. LG Todd Herremans is dealing with a foot injury this preseason, so the versatile Nick Cole or Max Jean-Giles could start the year in his place. Like his brother Shawn, Stacey should benefit from a position switch. Stacey played RT in Cincinnati, but the Eagles are kicking him inside where he can use his massive girth to be a force on the interior. He should give them a boost in the run game; something that’s needed after a fairly disappointing season running the ball. Jamaal Jackson looks to return at center and will likely be the weak link of this bunch.

Defense –
Sadly, the Eagles will be without their longtime defensive coordinator Jim Johnson when the season starts. The innovative and successful coach died of melanoma in late July. He’ll be missed. I called for a big year from Trent Cole last season, but it didn’t happen. His results weren’t anything to get upset about. They just weren’t the real bust out I was expecting. Maybe this year. At the other DE spot is veteran Juqua Parker. Reserve Victor Abiamiri is dealing with a torn pectoral muscle, but he’s going to be rotating in when fully recovered. I’m not predicting a huge year from him, but he’ll take Parker’s job before the year is out; higher ceiling. Darren Howard and Chris Clemson figure in as well. The tackles are strong too. Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson are very solid against the run and do a good job of giving Cole and Parker one-on-one matchups. Second year man Trevor Laws is a solid rotational guy and 3rd down rusher. Their line is deep……….The Eagles were dealt a big blow with the loss of MLB Stewart Bradley with a torn ACL. He was on the verge of a really big season. In his place, Joe Mays and Omar Gaither will try to fill his shoes. When you consider the loss of Johnson as well, that might be a larger than expected chore. Outside are two unknown but quality linebackers in Akeem Jordan and Chris Cocong. Veteran Matt Wilhelm was signed to provide depth……….The Eagles have a deep secondary which allowed them to make a couple of moves this offseason. Lito Sheppard was dealt to the Jets, and they can now deal with his contractual unhappiness. Asante Samuel is the best of the bunch, and he is reunited with former Patriots teammate Ellis Hobbs who was acquired during the offseason. Hobbs will provide depth behind the other starter, Sheldon Brown. Samuel gets most of the media attention, but Sheldon is solid as well. Nickel man Joselio Hanson was re-signed at a hefty price this offseason. They’re pretty stacked at corner, and that doesn’t even include Jack Ikegwuonu who sat out last year. The second change was the release of SS Brian Dawkins. In shades of John Lynch in Tampa, Eagle fans lose a favorite to the Broncos. Dawkins would love to repeat Lynch’s post-Tampa success. Quintins Demps and Mikkel start at safety with Mikkel taking Dawkins’ spot. Sean Jones is a versatile veteran who has experience at both safety spots. 5th round pick Victor Harris is being worked at safety and trying to earn a roster spot in a deep deep secondary.

They’re pretty loaded. Westbrook’s situation certainly needs to be watched, as does the how the defense performs early on without Bradley and more importantly Jim Johnson. I think they make another run at Super Bowl appearance.

2) New York Giants
(2008 record: 12-4, 1st place, #1 seed in NFC)
Offense –
Losing at home to the Eagles in their first playoff game wasn’t exactly how the Giants wanted to end the season. Strong play on the field was overshadowed by Plaxico Burress’ off field issues. The Rifleman is gone, but I’m sure they’ll be some kind of drama with the Giants this year. What won’t get dramatic is Eli Manning’s contract situation. Lil bro signed his own $100 million deal this preseason, so finances certainly won’t be Eli’s problem. The Giants’ QB did a really nice job of cutting down on mental mistakes last year, putting up the best completion percentage and TD-INT ratios of his career. With the lack of an elite receiving target, Eli will be tested this season. The Giants better hope he does because they’re one Bernard Pollard hit away from David Carr taking meaningful snaps……….One half of the Smash and Dash (my name for them) combo is playing in Tampa this year. Brandon Jacobs returns, ready to run over defenders like a Mack truck. The guy couldn’t catch a cold, but not what they’re paying him to do. With Ward moving on, Ahmad Bradshaw steps into the #2 role. He brings breakaway speed and elusiveness in short spaces. I don’t think he’s as durable or as sound a pass catcher as Ward is, but he brings explosiveness. Danny Ware has had himself a fine preseason and looks to be #3 on the depth chart. 4th round pick Andre Brown is already lost for the year with a torn Achilles……….The Giants may not have Burress’ drama to deal with in ’09, but they also don’t have a legit #1 receiver. They’re going to need couple of guys to step up their roles. Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith get the first looks. Smith led the team in receptions last year with 57. He’s very likely to do it again. The question is, who’s going to score touchdowns? Sinorice Moss is still here, but he has 2 career TD in 3 years. They both came last year against the Seahawks. The Giants spent 1st and 3rd round draft picks on Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden. Nicks is the more physical receiver who makes crazy catches, and Barden is the small school physical freak who should give the Giants an immediate red zone threat. At TE, Kevin Boss doesn’t get the headlines Jeremy Shockey does, but he did lead the Giants in receiving TDs last year with 6……….New York led the league in rushing yards per attempt and game. In addition to returning that high powered unit, they spent a second round pick on William Beatty, an athletic LT from U Conn. He’s an athletic tackle with good feet who needs to get a little stronger, and considering this starting unit, he won’t be rushed onto the field. The versatile David Diehl is the starter at that spot, and he’s the only player in Giants’ history to start all 96 games in his first 6 seasons. He can play guard or tackle and has more drive than talent. Nothing wrong with that in his case. Kareem McKenzie occupies a lot of space on the right side. He’s not flawless, but he’s pretty much exactly what you look for in a RT. Very strong, few mistakes, and creates holes. Veteran LG Rich Seubert is the longest tenured Giant, and Chris Snee was a Pro Bowl RG in ’08. Seubert has dealt with more than his share of injures as a pro, but he’s the nasty, aggressive run blocking guard who gives the run game a big boost. Snee is more athletic than his LG counterpart and plays sound assignment football. Lining up in the middle again is 10th year veteran Shaun O’Hara. They may have lost Derrick Ward, but they didn’t lose any of their road graters. Expect them to be one of the most dominant running teams in the league yet again.

Defense –
The Giants field the best 3 man combination at defensive end. Headlining the group is Justin Tuck, a Pro Bowl starter who racked up 12 sacks last season despite playing the last bit of it with bone spurs. Speed rusher Osi Umenyiora returns to the field after tearing up his knee last season. He’s like a free agent signing. The third leg of this rotation is Mathias Kiwanuka, the versatile defender who has played effectively at both DE and SLB. Chris Canty was brought in from Dallas to give them another 300 pounder up front. This will be Canty’s first year in a 4-3 defense, and while he is slated to play inside and out, he’s got to heal his torn hamstring first. Barry Cofield is a solid run stuffer. Rocky Bernard adds depth, and while I’m not a big fan of his game, he’ll be surrounded by a ton of talent. Rounding out the defensive line depth is Fred Robbins, the 10 year vet recovering from microfracture surgery……….Antonio Piece looks to avoid any legal trouble as a result of his involvement in Plaxico Burress’ case. If so, he’ll look to lead the Giants in tackles for a 4th year in a row. Michael Boley looks like a great signing so far. In addition to being their only player on the PUP list (recovering from hip flexor surgery), he’s been suspended a game for an off-field battery arrest. When he finally gets on the field he’ll play the WLB spot. I think he’s more hype than anything. Studs don’t get outplayed by and benched in favor of rookies. 10 year vet Danny Clark and 2nd round pick Clint Sintim will share time at SLB……….Corey Webster is their top corner, and he was extended prior to the end of last year. What’s with everyone getting hurt this preseason? Aaron Ross is the other starting corner, and he recently came down with a hamstring injury. Nickelback Terrell Thomas will slide in the starting lineup should it be necessary. Kenny Phillips is a safety that plays with controlled aggression. The rookie played behind James Butler last year, but he headed to St. Louis. Phillips should be a force this year. Next to him at the other safety spot is Michael Johnson, a nice find in the 7th round of the ’07 draft. Neither one is a great cover guy, but they don’t have to be.

The main reason I have them finishing behind the Eagles is because of the receiver situation. I have no doubt they’ll still be able to run and defend as they’re known for doing, but when they need the points, will a receiver step up and score?

3) Dallas Cowboys
(2008 record: 9-7, 3rd place)
Offense –
Tony Romo rid himself of two headaches this offseason. One whines, cries, and is an attention whore. The other is Jessica Simpson. If he wasn’t before, Romo is now the centerpiece of the organization. Patience will wear thin if he doesn’t start winning in the postseason (0-2 in his career). He missed 3 games with a thumb injury and watched his TD total drop from 36 in ’07 to 26. Losing Owens doesn’t help, but the cupboard isn’t exactly bare. Expect the Cowboys to make things easier on him this year. Wouldn’t you if you had their backfield? Jon Kitna is one year removed from a 4000 yard passing season, and while he’s 36, he provides a passable short term (very short term) option behind Romo. 4th round pick Stephen McGee is an tough, athletic QB with the ability to make plays outside the pocket. He only had 3 starts last year at Texas A&M, so considering his needed development, he’s in the right place to be gradually worked along……….The Cowboys were forced to find out just how deep they were last year when rookie speedster Felix Jones went on IR in November with a torn toe ligament and hamstring. The toe is going to be something to watch this year as the Cowboys will certainly be looking to implement their ’08 gameplan that they were forced to modify. I see the Cowboys looking to get him 200 carries this year. Fellow rookie Tashard Choice stepped in and wowed a ton of people rushing for over 5 yards a carry in nearly 100 totes. He’s a well-rounded back who demonstrated the ability to be an early down back if necessary. Choice earned a lot of respect in a November loss at Pittsburgh totaling over 150 yards in the game against the eventual Super Bowl champion defense. He’s not going to go unused this year. As good as these guys are, they’re both sitting behind Marion Barber. The Golden Gopher is a punishing runner, and his game is even more impressive when you consider he’s only 220 pounds. He could start for most teams in the league, but I think this combination of running talent is an ideal situation. Jerry Jones didn’t ask my opinion, but if it were me, I’d feature Barber heavily in the first half of games, having him wear defenses down, while also sprinkling Felix Jones in here and there getting him at least 10 first half touches. I’d give Barber the first two series, and then put Choice out there for one. Repeat that for the whole first half. Jones would get another 10+ second half touches, but I’d probably use most of them in the fourth. For the third quarter I’d invert the plan, giving Choice the 2-1 ratio. Then in the fourth quarter, really go predominantly with Barber and mix in the majority of Jones’ second half touches. The defense should be really worn down at that point, and you’ve still got a fresh Felix Jones with the ability to bust one or two late against weary tacklers. This spreading the wealth formula keeps every back fresh and gets them involved enough not to be stale……….Roy Williams gets a chance to prove he wasn’t a waste of 3 draft picks and $45 million. The former Horn contributed a disappointing 1 touchdown and failed to catch at least 4 passes in any of his 10 games as a Cowboy. Things won’t get any easier without Owens to draw the attention of the secondary. In Williams’ defense, he was dealing with a plantar fascia injury and having to learn a new playbook. Still, a receiver with his natural talent should have been able to put up at least one big game. No excuses this year. Opposite him is capable receiver Patrick Crayton. I look for him to top his career year of ’07 where he caught 50 passes and scored 7 touchdowns. Part of that is my lack of confidence in Williams, but I think Romo is going to look his way a lot. Sam Hurd and Miles Austin will compete for catches. The guy likely to lead them in catches is TE Jason Witten. Romo’s buddy has caught 177 passes the last two years, great numbers for a WR. With Owens gone, maybe they don’t need to have any more of those secret meetings. He’s one of, if not the most reliable TE in football, and that won’t change this year. Martellus Bennett, the 2nd year man from Texas A&M, is another large pass catcher, and he’s expected to be on the field early and often this year. They Cowboys will need production from both of their tight ends……….Flozell Adams earned his 5th trip to the Pro Bowl in 6 years and is a beast of a man on the left side. He’s been as reliable and durable as they come, having started in 167 of the 171 games in which he’s played, but he is 34 years old. Joining him up front are two fellow Pro Bowlers: center Andre Geruode and RG Leonard Davis. Geruode has represented the Cowboys in the Pro Bowl three years in a row and is the glue that holds this group together. Davis has settled in quite nicely at guard in Dallas, albeit expensively. The former Arizona Cardinal is 2 for 2 in Pro Bowls as a Cowboy. Playing at RG allows him to do what he does best, maul in short space. Massive Marc Colombo returns at RT with a four year contract extension, and Kyle Kosier rounds out the group at LG. He played in only 3 games last year due to foot injuries. The Cowboys drafted Robert Brewster out of Ball State in the 3rd round, and the Cowboys will look to groom him as Adams’ replacement.

Defense –
Former Charger Igor Olshansky is reunited with Wade Phillips and replaces Chris Canty at RE. Olshansky had a solid 5 years in San Diego, but they were content with his departure. Marcus Spears is entering a contract season and hasn’t exactly met expectations during his Cowboy tenure. He’s reportedly in shape this year, but I think Dallas is going to be hurting up front with little QB pressure from either end. Jason Hatcher will see time as well. The best player up front is Jay Ratliff, a first time Pro Bowler last year who totaled an impressive 7.5 sacks in a big 4th season. I worry about the two guys at end, and they’d be in tough shape if anything were to happen to Ratliff……….OLB DeMarcus Ware is among the best in football at what he does. The guy has gotten better in each of his 4 years in Dallas, and if he continues that progression, no one is going to be able to stop him. Can he top 20 sacks? A fourth Pro Bowl is a given. Opposite him is Anthony Spencer, the 3rd year player from Purdue who, with Greg Ellis moving on to Oakland, is getting a chance to show what he’s got. I liked his athleticism and ability to apply constant pressure to the passer when he was in college. Jason Williams, a guy I really liked for the Bucs, was added in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. He’s a really big sleeper from Western Illinois who is extremely active and physical. Williams is in a great place develop behind some talented starters. The Cowboys added Victor Strong-Butler in the 4th round, and with his ability to frequently make plays behind the line of scrimmage, he could end up quite a steal in short time. Keith Brooking comes over from Atlanta to replace Zach Thomas. Brooking is another free agent addition who has a history with Wade Phillips dating back to the ’02 and ’03 seasons in Atlanta. He’s not a big step in the youth direction, but he’s reliable, having posted 8 straight 100 tackle seasons. Bradie James has led the Cowboys in tackles the last 4 seasons, and while he’s a steady, consistent performer, it’s disheartening that Bobby Carpenter hasn’t been able to become a full time starter. I really liked him coming out of Ohio State, but after 3 years, he’s been nothing other than a nickel backer and special teams player. Maybe he needs a change of scenery……….The Cowboys made a couple of necessary (and some might say overdue) moves in getting rid of 3 members of their secondary. Adam Jones has spare time to make it rain as he sits ignored in free agency. Being a turd will do that to you. Dallas needs Terrance Newman to have a healthy season for the first time in three years. When he’s healthy, he’s hard to beat. Opposite him, 1st round pick from last season Mike Jenkins is getting first crack at winning the job ahead of ’08 5th rounder, Orlando Scandrick. Go figure. I wasn’t a big Jenkins fan when he came out. Yes, he has sound cover skills, but there’s more to playing corner than that; too inconsistent. Scandrick was arguably the more impressive player last year; displaying the tough, instinctive style of play he developed at Boise State. For the second year in a row, the Cowboys drafted 2 corners. DeAngelo Smith (Cincinnati) has nice size and plays aggressively, but he’s not great in man coverage. Because of that, expect him to play predominantly at safety. Everyone knew Mike Mickens (Louisville) had some knee issues entering the draft, but I still can’t believe he lasted until the 7th round. He’s a very reliable run support who isn’t afraid to lay a helmet on someone. He doesn’t have great speed, but he’s done a fine job developing consistent technique and seldom gets beat. At safety, Gerald Sensabaugh takes over the SS position for the departed Roy Williams. He’s pretty physical and will team with Ken Hamlin to make a pretty average safety duo. Michael (no relation) Hamlin was drafted this year, and he’s a heady run supporter who lacks speed. Courtney Brown has barely seen the field in his first two years.

They should be a run heavy team this year, taking few risks on offense. That might not please the Dallas fans, but IMO it’s their best chance to be successful. I worry that their ends won’t produce enough to let Ratliff get loose, and the corner situation isn’t ideal. Newman has to stay healthy.

4) Washington Redskins
(2008 record: 8-8, 4th place)

Offense –
I really don’t like this team. Jason Campbell heads into the final year of his deal and a season that I think will be his last in Washington. He’s had about 50 offensive coordinators in his 3 years with the Skins and has struggled to develop as a big time threat at QB. His numbers have gotten better each year, and while he finished with a 62.3 completion percentage, you’re not going to win many titles when your QB has a 13-6 TD-INT ratio. Campbell’s has again struggled this preseason, but with Todd Collins and Colt Brennan as his backups, he’s going to get a lot of leeway. He should again take his lumps in the divisional matchups, but with games against the AFC West, he’ll have opportunities to make more than a few good throws. I wish him well, but I’m not holding my breath.……….Clinton Portis has had well over 300 carries in 4 of the last 5 seasons, continuing to take the ball 20-25 times a game. At 28 years of age and having accumulated over 2,000 career carries, a full 16 game season might not be in the cards. Portis is one of the truest workhorse backs in the game, but he only got into the endzone 9 times last year. On a team that struggles to make plays, their best player needs to get in the endzone with little more frequency. Ladell Betts is one of the best (and most underutilized) backups in the game. No one is going to mistake him for Portis, but Betts has a nice all-round game and could (as he did in ’06) step in for Portis on a lengthy basis. Whether CP stays healthy or not, I expect the Skins to make Betts much more a part of the plan than he has been the last two years; if for nothing else than to reduce the number of hits Portis takes. Having Pro Bowl fullback Mike Sellars blowing up holes for them definitely helps……….In the receiving game, the Skins have a tight end who will get a lot of targets, one clear reliable receiver, and the rest of the bunch are big question marks. Sound familiar? Santana Moss is their #1, and last year he put up 1,000 yards for the first time since ’05. At 30 years of age, does he still have more in him, or have we seen what we’re going to get? He’ll need to get in the endzone more than 6 times this year if Washington wants to win many games. I’ve never been a big Antwaan Randle El fan and think he’s a #3 at best. The Skins need both draft picks from last year, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, to take a big step this season with the latter looking to have the advantage at this point. I liked both of those guys last year and still think they can have productive careers, especially Thomas. Tight end Chris Cooley led the team in receptions with 83 but only scored 1 TD the entire season. He had to block more than he or the Skins would have preferred, and that limited his opportunities to make big plays. I don’t see much improvement from the line or any receivers stepping up, so I’m not sure how much Cooley’s role with change in ’09……….Washington is very very thin up front. One of the game’s best, Chris Samuels, returns to his familiar position at LT. He “earned” his 6th Pro Bowl last season but is entering ’09 attempting to recover from triceps and knee issues. Portis gets a lot of yards running to Samuels’ side. After two years in Buffalo, Derrick Dockery returns to man the spot to Samuels’ right. He’s an improvement over Pete Kendall, the 13 year vet who manned that position in his absence, but he’s not without faults. He’s not athletic and is more of an occupier than a road grater. At center is Casey Rabach, a very dependable center, who is one of the better linemen that not a lot of people know about. Randy Thomas is another punisher in the run game, but at 33, the injuries (knee, neck) are starting to mount. At RT, the new starter may be 8 years younger than the previous starter, but I don’t see an improvement going from Jon Jansen to Stephon Heyer; not a high ceiling. Again, they’re not deep at all up front, so the starters need to stay healthy, especially Samuels and Thomas.

Defense –
Washington made the biggest, figuratively and literally, the biggest signing of the offseason bringing in Albert Haynesworth, recipient of a $100 million contract, from Tennessee. There’s no denying the man’s talents and huge mismatches he creates, but he’s gotten a reputation as an inconsistent defender who puts it on autopilot at times. Just ask Jason Brown. Will he be complacent now that he’s got his big contract? Cornelius Griffin lines up next to Haynesworth inside, but he’s coming off two consecutive poor seasons and will be pushed by rotational tackles Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston, a guy I liked coming out of Georgia. Golston will never be a star, but he’s talented enough to put up better years than he has so far. Jason Taylor headed back to Miami, and while he didn’t have a great ’08, his 3.5 sacks were tied for second on the team. Andre Carter returns at RE, but he’s an average end at this point. It doesn’t get any better on the other side as 36 year old Phillip Daniels returns after missing ’08 with a torn ACL. Neither one is going to help Haynesworth much. Renaldo Wynn joins his 3rd team in 3 years, returning to Washington as a reserve run stopper. One bright spot might be supplemental draft pick Jeremy Jarmon from Kentucky . The Skins lost next year’s 3rd rounder by selecting him, so he’ll get his chances. At this point he looks like he could develop into a solid run stuffer at end, but he’ll have to work a bit to become a serious pass rusher……….The Skins took freak Brian Orakpo with the 13th overall pick, and the extremely productive Longhorn DE is now lining up as a starting SLB. In college he was a monster in the weight room, with mind-boggling marks like a 515 bench, squat of over 600 pounds, and a 380 power clean. There isn’t much this man can’t lift, but can he make the transition from a college end to a professional OLB? He’s someone to watch closely this year. He has nice hips, holds his ground well, and does have some experience playing with his hand up. Orakpo replaces Marcus Washington who’s still looking for a job. Lining up next to Orakpo in the middle is the dependable London Fletcher. The veteran makes tackles everywhere he goes, and he’s led the Skins in that category in both of his years here. He might be 34, but the man has played in every single game of his 11 year career. Think Orakpo could learn something from him? HB Blades, a player who’s yet to become what the Skins had hoped he’d be, backs up Fletcher in the middle. Rounding out the LB trio is Rocky “ouch my knee hurts” McIntosh. If he can finally get some stability there, with the addition of Orakpo, McIntosh might impress a lot of people……….Shawn Springs was cut and snatched up by New England after the Skins (for some reason) gave DeAngelo Hall $55 million for 6 years with the first signing of the new football calendar year. I’m not at all a fan of this guy, especially his personality and “team?” attitude. He gets thrown on far too much and produces far too few interceptions for someone who makes the kind of money he does. Carlos Rogers, the starter at LC, has seen better days and is entering the last year of his contract. Fred Smoot is a little old for a 3rd corner, and I expect 3rd round pick Kevin Barnes to see the field a lot this year. Barnes will lay a solid pop every now and then, but having watched him play plenty in the ACC, I don’t think he’s a solid enough cover man or tackler to be a reliable starter. We’ll see. At FS, LaRon Landry is one of the best in the game and a tremendous sideline to sideline punishing defender. He’ll get plenty of opportunities back there. Starting next to him is Chris Horton, a guy I like a lot coming out of UCLA in ’08. He’s not the most gifted/talented guy in the game, but he’s very intelligent, plays within himself, and always gives 100%. I’m a big fan of this safety combination. They compliment each other nicely.

Not surprisingly, the Redskins have the most questions in the division. Replicating last year’s 8-8 might be a pipe dream, and I think it would take a massive collapse by Dallas, Philly, or New York for the Skins to have any feasible shot at not finishing in last place.

Division Awards
MVP (biggest key to his team’s success) – Marion Barber
Offensive POY (biggest “wow”) – DeSean Jackson
Defensive POY – DeMarcus Ware
Rookie of the Year – LeSean McCoy
Offensive Breakout Player – Ahmad Bradshaw (can’t give Jackson two awards)
Defensive Breakout Player – LaRon Landry (takes it up a notch)

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