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Friday, September 11, 2009

2009 NFC EAST team Previews

A NFL team, can generally expect for 25 to 50 percent of its roster to change year to year. Player gains , losses, coaching changes, scheme and system changes all drastically affect the team that actually plays on Sundays. So here is the scoop on what all your teams are going though coming into the new season.

NFC EAST- Probably still toughest division in football

Philadelphia 12-4
Dallas 11-5
NYG 10-6
Washington 7-9

Philadelphia Eagles

- Predicted finish 12-4 and making it to the superbowl
-overview- probably the most talented and deep roster in the NFL now. Have done everything but win the big one. Perennial groomsmen need to take the plunge.McNHabb may never get the credit he deserves unless they win a superbowl.


Coaching- Andy Reid's children's problems didn't end his career as I once feared it would. He's still running the west coast offense and overseeing the show in Philly. The big news here is the loss of zone blitz mastermind ,and one of the leagues best defensive coordinators, Jim Johnson. Johnson protege San McDermott has big shoes to fill, and his ability to call the right scheme at the right time will be crucial to this teams success or failure.

OFFENSE

QB- Donovan McNabb is the most unappreciated player in football. The man has taken them to 5 NFC championship games, including 4 in a row at one point , and a super bowl . Strong armed and elusive in the pocket, his only weakness is occasional inaccuracy on short passes, but his good points overwhelmingly outweigh the bad. Spreads the ball around the field ,extends plays and just makes things happen .Strong armed, and can make any throw in the route tree. Fleet of foot, although he doesn't run as much as he used to, and has become injury prone enough to make it unlikely now. It's a shame becuase he isn't at his best when the pocket collapses, and his running ability used to make teams reluctant to blitz him up the middle.Has great touch on the deep ball. Is one of the games 5 best real life QB's and deserves the respect that comes with it. Adding Michael Vick could be problematic. Philly fans are notoriously rough on QB'S( and have been hard on McNabb in the past) and everyone has a bad game now and then. The calls for Vick will happen at some time, although they will be probably be undeserved. Vick is exciting and probably still the games best running QB,but hopefully he will be strictly used as a distraction,decoy, for trick plays ,and to run the wildcat at this time. Vick was never very accurate,and usually used him strong arm to sail passes out of the reach of would be receivers. I see no reason why 2 years in jail should change that, and that time may have caused him to lose a step. Expect Reid to be smart and stick with McNabb this time, and for McNabb to work through any difficulties and prove his worth yet again. History could end categorizing Mcnabb with Danny White( although I think that's unfair as White never got to the super bowl despite 3 NFC championship games) or rank him along with John Elway if they win it all.

O-Line- With the addition of Jason Peter and Stacy Andrews I expected Philly to boast one of the 3( if not the) best O-line in the game. Constant injuries this pre season, including the still fully unexplained( is it mental or his back? ) problems with Shawn Andrews , have prevented this unit from all playing together yet. Peters was the best LT in football 2 years ago and hopefully his new contract will spur him back to that level. Mauler Shawn Andrews was the NFL's best drive blocking guard and if he can get it together expect him to be a exceptional RT as well. He has a possible career threatening back injury though. Jamall Jackson is a smart consistent center who makes all the calls .Stacy Andrews is a OK at RG ,since it allows his brother to move to right tackle and upgrade that position,abut he is only about average for the position. Todd Herremens is above average if off the field issues don't keep him from the game. Smart veteran with sound technique in most phases of the game. Could probably play RT if needed, and always has his head on a swivel, but LT long term might be a stretch. Strong backups in former big time prospects Max Jean Giles and Winston Justice would start for a lot of teams, although Justice has showed he is a better fit at RT . Gilles is strictly a road grader now, but thats what most right guards do anyway. If this starting unit all see the field at the same team for the majority of the season expect Philly's offense to click , and their run game to improve a ton. Jason Peters is a former college TE who was converted to LT and still has the feet and athleticism of a TE, despite his OT size.Was the best OT in football in 07 , but last year held out, came in late, and even when he worked himself into shape he wasn't as good as the year before. As great as he has shown himself capable of being , his technique still needs work. His quickness, physicality, ability to recover,fantastic feet, and motor really made him special . Is the most physically gifted LT in the NFL and his run blocking at the point of attack was still top notch last year, but he needs a return to 07 form as a blindside protector. Backup C-G Nick Cole is the stockiest O-lineman in the league. 6 feet 350! Try getting under those pads. He has actually played well in the run game when given a chance and is a valuable backup.who need work on his slide/shuffle. Even plays FB on some short yardage plays.

Tight ends- Brent Celek Came up big for Philly in the post season and the departure of LJ Smith only makes him a more valuable. Still relatively unproven but Donovan has always liked to throw to the tight end on 3rd down. Is not a a guy who is going to break a lot short throws into 50 yard TD's, but will move the chains, and be a reliable red zone target. Also doesn't have the injury rep that Smith carried and has a burst. Veteran former Tampa Bay starter Alex Smith is now his backup and is above average in that role. Neither is an exceptional blocker and they would probably be best suited to move Herremans out to TE, and make him tackle eligible, on short yardage and have Gilles take his place at LG.

Wide Receivers- Desean Jackson is ready to break out and assume the # 1 receivers role, and is ahuge deep threat. Runs crisp routes , but can struggle in press coverage becuase of his lack of size. Strong hands and explosive after the catch, b ut he has tendency for alligator arms in tight spots.First round pick Jeremy Maclin should provide another deep threat even as he learns the offense and is bigger than Jackson. Both have good hands and Oakland will not only regret taking Heyward-Bey over Crabtree, but Maclin as well. Injury prone Kevin Curtis seems to come up with with a few big games a year, and it best suited to a # 3 receiver slot role,and is probably just a starter till Maclin gets the offense down. Jason Avant is a smart sure handed receiver and only a lack of burst keeps him from being a stud starter. Runs greta routes and sets up defenders well ,but still has trouble separating becuase of his lack of burst.Best hands on a team of sure handed gusy though. Perennial underachiever Reggie Brown will probably do just enough to keep a roster spot and Hank Baskett is most known for marrying one of Hugh Hefners ex girlfriends right now. Jackson's improvement and Maclin's addition should give McNabb more options and make this team scarier.

Running back-Brian Westbrook is still one of the better backs in the NFL when healthy ,but he has lot of miles on his tires,and has now hit the magical 30 years of age. I have a feeling Philly may come to regret the contract extension they gave him last season. Runs the screen as good as anyone, is a great receiver out of the backfield, and is threat to bust a big one anytime he touches the ball.Once he started going vertical quickly his career took off. More quick than fast but runs to daylight. A smart if not overly physical pass protector. LeSean "shady" McCoy looks to be a similar player and should take some of the load from him if he can pick up the offense quickly , butthats not a given. Once he starts going vertical quicker he will be bigger part of the offense, but has done too much dancing in the backfield in the preseason.Don't be surprised if by the end of the season they find away to get both on the field at the same time with regularity, or are splitting the carries evenly. New fullback Leonard Weaver is actually a significant pickup for them. He is a good blocker, receiver and runner.

DEFENSE

D-LINE- Penetrating defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Broderick Bunkley are solid ,with Bunkley having the potential for greatness. Bunkley is a size, speed, explosion package who started to come into his own last season, but has never consistently dominated the way his talent would seem to forecast. High motor Patterson reminds me of former Lion great Jerry Ball, and uses his lack height to his advantage when he gets under O-lineman pads on a regular basis. Definitely a run stopper with a limited pass rush repertoire. Trent Cole is a above average pass rusher but needs to improve holding the point of attack and edge against the more physical LT's he sees . Despite that he still makes penty of plays in the run game and his motor is unquestioned. His sack total declined some last season, but that was partly due to more attention from Offensive coordinators .He has the speed to make some plays on the back side and try's to stack at the point ,but gets moved around by the better run blocking LT's. Can run the arc and has quick first step.Only Jason Witten gives has given him any trouble as a TE .While a DE should always be able to beat a TE , Witten is as good as it gets in that department, and Cole still gets the majority of wins, Darren Howard is mostly a situational pass rusher these days,and actually got the majority of his 10 and half sacks form the inside on passing downs last season. Raw Victor Abiamiri is mostly a run stuffer at this point but he's still young and learning but has moved into the starting lineup . Veteran Juqua Parker was the guy carrying the weed in the car with Herremans and that may have affected his status with the team ,although it is more likely Abiamiri just improved in the off season .Isn't starting now ,but he has outplayed the starter in the past and made his way into the starting lineup before. Last years second round pick DT Trevor Laws is a probably a future starter and will be a part of the D-line rotation. Has a great motor and a nasty streak.Antonio Dixon was just claimed of waivers from the red skins and is a small school guy with potential. Former bust Jason Babin may be able to help out on passing downs, but he is still a better athlete than football player after 4 years in the league, and we are all waiting for someone to find a way to unleash his obvious talent.

Linebackers-If their defense has a weakness at a position this is it. Last seasons leading tackler Stewart Bradley is out for the season and his athleticism and toughness will be sorely missed . WILL linebacker Akeem Jordan is a self made man.A small school undrafted free agent makes good type story. Jordan took the starting job of the guy who is replacing Bradley at MLB,Omar Gaither. Gaither, who in the past lost the starting MLB job to Bradley, then lost the starting WILL job to Jordan is still a smart (although relatively young) veteran presence. It would be better to have him as backup to all 3 starting positions , or starting somewhere else than the middle . Gaither is sort if a jack of all trades,master of none LB currently. Big athletic Chris Gocong is also a player on the rise. Has the abilty to make things happen whenever he's on the field, although his biggest contribution has been on special teams so far . Stocky Joe Mays was passed over to replace Bradley but is still very young, and since he has never made a tackle in the NFL it seems the right choice. Veteran special teams standout Tracy White and rookie Moise Fokou are expected to mostly just contribute on special teams right now.

Secondary- The loss of future HOFer Brian Dawkins from a leadership standpoint is hard to calculate and guys are going to have to step up and fill that void . Even though Dawkins had lost a step or 2 he still made some plays and his intelligence will be missed. Asante Samuel is a legit playmaker .He will gamble some and give up the occasional big play, but will make more positive ones, and make QB's wary of throwing near him.If only he was more agressive in run support. Underrated Sheldon Brown is a slightyly above average corner and just needs to avoid letting contract squabbles affect him on the field, but he will never be the big takeaway threat Samuel's is. Nickleback Ellis Hobbs could start for a lot of teams and is a decent extra corner, but hasn't shown the abilty to be much more yet. SS Quintin Mikell has improved every year in the league and will need to take a leadership role among the safety's. One of the rare SS's who is solid against both the run and pass.Rookie Macho Harris won the starting free safety's job. Mostly played corner in college and a rookie? Even if he has the potential for greatness you need to expect some speed bumps along the road at best. As a whole a good group , but Harris has big shoes to fill, and you can bet offenses will test him early and often.

Special teams -New special teams coach Ted Dasher ran a good group in Cleveland ,and has been with Philly before although not in this role. If they allow both Deasean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to be their primary returners they could be special. K David Akers is still one of the leagues best . Former rugby player Sac Rocca is a little above average, but could lay a hit on a returner with his 265 pound frame if given the chance, just ask Roscoe Parrish.

Dallas Cowboys- Predicted finish 11-5 ,and finally winning another playoff game.

Overview- make or break year. If they don't win a playoff game, Phillips is gone and maybe Jerry finally takes a back seat to a big time coach again. He would pay Cowher if necessary and would have to give up the reins if he did. Question - If you are a Dallas fan do you want them to succeed? If they do Jerry just keeps thinking his way is best. His insistence in thinking he knows more than he does has been the main reason Dallas has not won a playoff game in awhile. At first Jerry seemed content to let Parcell's run the show and take credit for Bill's moves . Then overruled him on TO,and his me first attitude eventually affected the team as it always does, . You can't fault Jerry for wanting to win and he's willing to spend to do it, which not all owners are . You can fault him for wanting the credit for winning more than he does just wanting to win .Sound like anyone? Maybe that kinship is why he was so close to TO. Just because Jerry knows enough about football to coach a high school team doesn't mean he can coach in the NFL like he believes.This team needs more accountability and it all starts with Jerry Jones. they need to get back to fundamentals. They have the talent to win it all, but make more stupid mistakes, penalties, and tackle worse than any team who have ever won a superbowl. Back to basics and win a playoff game or another disappointing season and Jerry off the throne. You choose.

Coaching- Jerry Jones is really the head coach because he actually uses the authority ( that most owners, GM's and team presidents would never use ) to affect how the head coach runs the team. Wade Phillips is basically the assistant head coach -defense- and Jason Garret is the assistant head coach- offense. I am not saying he calls down to the sidelines (ala Al Davis ) and makes them change a play,but Jerry has allowed players to go over his coaches head in the past few years and undermined their authority. Jerry created the TO monster and all the troubles that caused. He seems to be taking a back seat (at least publicly )and Wade is trying to be more forceful, but we still don't really know if Phillips has a normal head coaches authority and I doubt it personally.JasonGarret went from wunderkind to whipping boy last year,but it was at least partially deserved,. Garret needs to stop calling passing plays when they are unnecessary, and start being less predictable in his run play selection. Maybe his former QB career has affected his brain, or he is just trying to make Romo look better.If you have first and goal at the 5 yard line you should be able to run it in on one of the 3 downs with this huge O-line and stable of running backs , baring a penalty.He also has a penchant for calling the exact same play multiple times in short yardage. He has a penchant for inexplicably calling pass plays on first down in these situations. It also doesn't hurt to call a draw (or screen) when you are 3rd and long and already in field goal range. If you don't get the 1rst , at least you get the 3. If you throw a deep pass and it is picked you get nada .His star is on the decline right now, after being the hottest young coaching commodity before the 08 season, and he would be wise to go with a more conservative game plan if he wants to someday be the Dallas head coach. I will say this for him.If he makes the adjustments to the adjustments that have been made to him , he could be special. Also he has a no-nonsense demeanor and is the kind of coach who will hold players accountable if he ever gets the head gig, basically he's the anti Wade Phillips so who nows where this is going.

QB-Romo has the at once enviable and unfortunate honor of being the QB of "Americas team". No matter what he does its blown out of proportion. Has a great game and he's Staubach. Has abad game and he's Babe Laufenberg. Girlfriend gets blamed for a loss because a camera caught her on TV, even though she had been to previous games they won and the cameras just didn't catch her. A little above average arm, but only average size. Instinctive and extends the play on a regular basis. Needs to throw the ball away more when theirs nothing there and temper his Favre-ish tendencies . Makes Big plays- good and bad-but a little more to the good. Has a tendency to throw off his back foot when pressure comes up the middle, but when he sets his feet he is right on.Can be really accurate, then completely wild from one series to the next. Needs to be more like Eli Manning than Brett Favre- Efficient and solid. If Dallas really does stick to running the ball the way the say they are, he should have a better real football player season, instead of being known more for his fantasy football stats. My bet is he will shine when he can just throw to the open man, instead of being coerced to throw to TO. The huddle is his without Owens chirping all day and clogging up the works. Reminds me of a bigger Fran Tarketon right now.Jon Kitna is a huge upgrade at # 2 QB (NFL's best backup Qb) and should be starting somewhere. If Romo misses 4 games I could still see Dallas going 3-1 or 2-2 depending on who they are playing . Last years backup Brad Jhonson was done and played like it when Romo went down. 4th round pick McGee has all the measurables , but still needs to learn how to play QB . Has long term potential but Dallas is in trouble if he's in the game this year.

O-line- A massive unit. Great at straight ahead drive blocking, but none are above average at the second level except the center Gurode. Overrated as pass blockers and are prone to mental errors . Only Andre Gurode is an above average pass blocker now, but the rest still seem to get confused more then they should at this stage of their careers. RT Marco Columbo is a mauler in the run game ,but struggles with quicker rushers on passing downs at times. When he locks and extends his arms it is all over for the defender , but he is stiff and not a natural knee bender.With his injury history the end could come quick .RG Davis wasn't a fit at LT in AZ ,but has mostly been a stud at RG. Plays violent and beats up defenders ,not only on runs, but even in passing downs with his hand punch. If Adams goes down and he has to move back to LT expect Dallas to run the ball even more, as he doesn't belong on an island.When he pulls he knocks people down even if he is running too high.Moves the pile as good as anyone and has very long arms when he extends, but has too many random concentration lapses in the passing game.Wore down a bit late last season and could be in better condition. Center Andre Gurode is one of the leagues top 5 centers but doesn't play as mean as he could . Better on double teams and coming in from the side then heads up in the run game, but he can move the line of scrimage even if it's a 3-4 NT 1 v 1. Also can play guard if it's needed. A solid pass protector ,but not as cerebral as most centers making lines calls, and he and Romo still have trouble with the shotgun snap too much.Uses his hands very well in pass pro and rarely gets beat straight up , but can get outquiked on occasion . Good technique run blocking but not as physical as you would expect from a guy his size. LG Kyle Kosier returns to the starting lineup after a injury marred 08. Probably the most consistent choice of the available candidates at LG,but Dallas needs to upgrade here.Best as backup at multiple positions. Is a grinder and decent football player , but a subpar athlete who gets his hands outside too much. LT Adams is a savvy veteran ,but has lost 2 steps. Still great if he locks on, but is prone to penalties and seems to let at least one guy run completely free each game. Has trouble beating the rusher to the spot now and trying to cheat his way there has left him exposed.Used to be a better pass blocker, but now is best in the run game and can engulf smaller defenders.Is now injury prone, stiff, and wears down badly as the season lengthens.Adams is still a average NFL LT, but you never know when hes' going to just hit the wall completely. I think it will be late this year, or next at the latest.Would be a better fit at LG currently, as he can't deal with speed rushers on an island anymore.Age, injury, his height, his inability to be a natural knee bender, and some deafness have all contributed to him also leading the league in penalties. Corey Procter is a below average backup at guard or center. Doug Free and Pat McQuistan need to show they can be the eventual replacements for Adams or Columbo now,or they probably won't have a job next year. Free is still a better athlete than football player and has the physical attributes of Eric Steinbach of Cleveland oe Eric Winston of Texas, but has yet to show the consistent toughness or aggression they both do. Tentative too often when on island as it seems he's till thinking too much. May be a better fit at LG, but won't beat out Kosier till he gets tougher in a phone booth.He's still the most likely to be the first guy off the bench if anyone but Gurode goes down and his upside is higher than anyone on the entire line. McQuistan is like a more athletic Kosier. Limited but try's hard, although not as savvy as the veteran. Montrea Holland is only good for short yardage and lost the LG battle due to his inability to stay off the ground. Dallas has done a bad job drafting lineman recently and Gurode was the last successful lineman they have drafted still with the team. Despite having the longest arms across the board of any O-line I have ever seen, if Dallas runs the ball more they will playing to this units strength.

Tight ends-Jason Witten is the leagues best all around tight end. Doesn't have great top speed,but runs great routes and finds the holes in coverage. Good hands and the best blocker of all NFL starting TE's. Has a finishers mentality in the run and passing game, and the only starting TE who regularly blocks DE's 1 v 1 with a high success rate. Adept at double moves up the field and coming back for the ball to help Romo when a play breaks down. Not the fastest guy but gets open a lot anyway. Not very elusive after the catch but if he build up steam he's hard to bring down. Martellus Bennett has the talent to be a force and Dallas will run a lot of 2 TE sets this season. Supposed to have matured this off season after some very public displays of immaturity last year .Great goal line target and he has chance to breakout this year, but that's entirely up to him. Speed , size, improving hands and blocking all point to his rise . Immaturity and concentration lapses make me question it.Rookie John Phillps probably won't see the field in the regular offense much this season but has potential , especially as a blockerand red zone target.

Wide Receivers- Roy E.Williams is in a highly publicized hot seat this year. Dallas will give him every chance to justify his big contract and the price they paid to get him. Has all the tools and all reports are that he got in better shape and spent the offseason building a familiarity with Romo. Remember that he had over 1300 yards receiving and made the pro bowl 3 years ago. Is in his prime and needs to step up and be the man this year. A big possession receiver who has good top speed, but takes awhile to build up to it. Strong hands and a good run blocker, which will be vastly appreciated in this offense, but does sometimes run before he's secured the ball. Didn't take well to pressure last year and the pressure will be even greater this season. Patrick Crayton really should be a # 3 receiver,and talks to much in the media for a guy who hasn't done a lot in the NFL. Is supposed to have great hands, but he is prone to big drops at big times, and mental errors. If he catches it, he has a definite burst and is elusive, but there is no way he should be a starter on this team right now. If he was a legit # 2 they never would have went after Williams in the first place. As a # 3 he's solid, but I think he is incapable of anything more. Also inconsistent punt returner. When he catches it he can go the distance , but often makes the wrong decision when to field a punt, as had some costly miscues because of it. A willing blocker despite his lack of size, so at least his effort can't be questioned, and he did play better in the past when he was a # 3. Miles Austin is supposed to develop as their new deep threat and has the ability,but has repeatedly been injured every time he has been given the chance. Has a legit shot to supplant Crayton as a starter, and is the closest thing to Owens this offense now has. A big receiver, explosive deep threat , with average hands, who runs like a deer after the catch. Also in his free agent walk year and Dallas tendered him as a 2nd round pick .Sam Hurd is similar to Austin but I think he will never be a starter here, as he is even more injury prone than Austin .At least he excels on special teams. Miles is also just a little bigger, stronger and faster than Hurd . Rookie undrafted free agent Kevin Ogletree was the surprise of camp and needs to prove himself on special teams and on the practice field to see the field as anything more. Romo has made a point to mention him though.He is a burner who reminds me of a younger Anthony Gonzalez from Indy.

Running backs- Draw, draw, draw. A staple of the Dallas running game with any back on the field. The best running back trio in the NFL. 3 distinctly different guys whose' running styles compliment each other. Marion Barber hits the hole like his dreadlocks are on fire and his only way to put them out is to run forward. Seems to seek out contact to much but punishes defenders on a regular basis. Has a burst in the short area but definitely lacks long speed. Violent pass blocker and greatly improved receiver. Always seems to be going downhill with force.At his best when Dallas has the lead in the 2nd half and he can wear defenses down even more . If they actually use a rotation this year he can last a lot longer , but right now his violent and occasional upright running style could limit his careers length.Felix Jones is definitely a home run hitter. Fits best in a Reggie Bush type role although Felix is more stout . If he's getting 12-15 touches running /receiving and returning kicks Dallas will be happy . Led the league in yards per carry last year before going down with an injury. Was Darren McFaddens backfield mate at Arkansas and I don't think he could ever hold up over a full season as 20 carry a game guy. Explosive with great vision and speed, but he needs to stay healthy for Dallas to be a contender. Trys hard as a blocker and even makes decent decisions , but lacks physicality doing it and can get run over in protection.Tashard Choice is in between the 2. Strong( but not as strong as Barber) between the tackles and fast( but lacks Jones home run abilty) enough to take the job from the other two. Could start for a lot of teams and might be the next Derrick Ward when his rookie contract is up. Produced whenever he got a chance to play last year and Dallas has shown a wildcat look with him in the preseason, but immaturity issues have reportedly dogged him in the locker room and with the coachihg staff. FB Deon Anderson is a good lead blocker when called upon, but rarely sees the field because Dallas runs so many 2 TE sets.

D-Line-Jay Ratliff is the only standout on this unit. Should really be a 3-4 end , but is serviceable at the point of attack at NT,and Dallas doesn't have anyone on the roster who has proven they can take that NT job and allow Jay to move over to end. One of the leagues best interior pass rushers and broke out last season on his way to the pro bowl. Unblock-able 1 v 1 and penetrates all game if you try to block him that way .Slides all up and down the line of scrimmage with a relentless motor, and will even pursue backside if needed. Marcus Spears has never played well enough to justify his 1rst round draft status, but is still above average against the run. Needs to perfect more pass rush techniques than the bull rush ( he tries others at least but the results are inconsistent) when rushing the passer. Free agent addition Igor Olshansky is as stout a 3-4 end against the run as their is in the NFL, but like Spears is mostly just a bull rusher in there passing game at this point. Gorilla strong and plays mean, but is a 2 down player.Junior Saivii has made a return to the league to back up Ratliff at NT and will probably be a part of their goal line D. Jason Hatcher has the potential to be a starter and will probably replace Olshanky on obvious passing downs but he is streaky and doesn't hold up well agaist the run. Stephen Bowen has made strides and while he is a backup currently, he has worked himself into the D-line rotation and may take the place of Spears if he leaves as free agent. Good at most things but great at nothing except motor. Versatile enough to play DT in the 4-3 or 3-4 DE.

Linebackers- teams that run the 3-4 need big fast linebackers and Dallas has the best one in the game right now.Last seasons sack leader DeMarcus Ware has no weaknesses. Strong at the point ,holds the edge and chases downplays from behind in the run game. Runs right by LT's game after game and beats double teams to pressure the QB with regularity. Only Dwight Freeney is quicker off the ball. Has even become pretty good in coverage when its' necessary , bit he rarely has to do it. Still needs to perfect some more pass rush moves,as he mostly just runs the arc to the outside & bullrushes, but is a legit franchise player. Will be probably be the NFL's highest paid defender before the season is over, but the quicker he gets his contract the better for him, as his sack total should decline this year. The loss of Ellis and Canty will not only mean even more double teams but less QB's flushed to him. Former 1rst round pick Anthony Spencer is being counted on to replace Greg Ellis this year. Needs to stay healthy and show he can win enough one on ones to take the pressure of Ware. Also needs vast improvement in coverage,but has flashed pass rush skills in limited playing time, even though he tends to get pressure more than actual sacks. Stout against the run, but prone to playing out of his role . Underrated Bradie James probably should have made the pro bowl last season, at least as an alternate. Drastic improvement when blitzing last year and had 8 sacks.Smart, good tackler, hits hard, can take on a lineman coming up, and is the leader of the defense. More quick than fast in coverage but plays his zone pretty well, and has improved in pass coverage every year in the league . Has little chance 1 on 1 vs a fast TE though. Reminds me a lot of a younger James Farrior . Former pro bowler Keith Brooking is a nice upgrade over Zach Thomas( not really big enough for a 3-4 MLB anymore and Zach had lost a step) and he had great seasons playing under Wade Philips in ATL in the past. Still a solid starter ,good tackler, and savvy veteran .A thumper between the tackles and scrapes well, but not as quick as he used to be in the open field. Knows his assignments and has good instincts against the pass, but doesn't have the speed to be in on passing downs unless they are in zone. A fiery competitor and was a locker room leader in Atlanta. Having 2 MLB's with high football IQ's will allow Dallas to do lot of scheming , stunting, and A gap blitzes. So far Bobby Carpenter has been a bust as a # 1 pick ,and needs to at least take over Kevin Burnetts spot on passing downs to remain in Dallas next year.Always seems just a tad tentative and unsure no matter what he's doing, but he phsical abilty is there.Rookies Jason Williams , Victor Butler and second year pro Steve Octavien are still learning the 3-4 and are mostly special teamers right now. Butler showed pass rush abilty in the preseason after making the switch from college 4-3 end to 3-4 OLB.Was a top notch special teamer in college.Williams is an elite athlete but is still learning to play LB. A former SS who still runs like one and just needs to learn this defense. Could help on nickel now, but is projected to be a future starter at WILB in the 3-4 or WLB in the 4-3.Octavien has more time in this scheme, but seems just a step slow ,and a tad short to push anyone for a starting job anytime soon.

Secondary- Despite leading the league in sacks last year, and forcing a lot of fumbles, Dallas intercepted very few passes last season. With the quicker Orlando Scandrick & Mike Jenkins taking the place of Anthony Henry & Pacman Jones ,Dallas should improve in this area.Ken Hamlin regressed in 08 ( pro bowl season in 07) and missed some huge tackles that directly led to Dallas losses last year. Good at keeping the offense from getting behind him and is still an above average free safety, but watching a normally reliable tackler put his head down and miss tackles makes me squirm. Needs to provide a few more big hits as well. New SS Gerald Sensabaugh is a thumper and Dallas needs a guy who wants to stick his nose in the box at SS, but is only average in coverage and wrapping up on tackles. Kind of like a cheaper salaried Roy L.Williams before he lost his confidence. Veteran Terrence Newman is still among the leagues top 20 corners and is well rounded. However he seems to always be nicked up and has missed games and been limited in others due to injury the last 2 years. Also doesn't pick off as many balls as you would think , but is a willing and strong tackler. Flips his hips with the best of them and can turn and run with anyone when healthy.Fights for every ball in the air and only struggles with the biggest receivers down field. His age,salary, and recent slew of injuries show that Dallas should really be grooming someone in case he hits the wall soon. 08 1rst round pick Mike Jenkins had a up and down rookie season and seemed to be outplayed by 5th round pick Orlando Scandrick at times, but his good times definitely outweighed the bad. Jenkins needs to be more physical but has big play skills and the speed to run with anyone. Scandrick is even faster and plays with a chip on shoulder,but lacks Jenkins bulk & height. They are sharing the starting RCB role opposite Newman , but with so much nickel and dime defenses being run these days both should spend a lot of time on the field. Jenkins has a much higher upside and Dallas hopes he wins the job outright. Big Pat Watkins is mostly known for his special teams prowess and has struck out a few times in a starting role at safety.Isn't as physical as you would think a 6"4' 220pound safety would be, and that's why he isn't a starter. Versatile Alan Ball gives them depth at both corner and safety,and is still young enough to at least develop into a nickel back in time.

Special teams- Joe Decamillis survived the cowboys practice facility collapse and is being called on to make this unit more disciplined and aggressive . Dallas special teams units not only were prone to giving up the big play,but also had a lot of key penalties. Felix Jones coming back to help Miles Austin returning kicks is a huge bonus to the team. Rookie David Buehler will provide more depth on kickoffs but o7 pro bowler Nick Folk is still the main place kicker,and justifiably so . Did have off season hip surgery , which is a little bit of worry, and is breaking in anew holder. Former pro bowl punter Mac McBriar returns again and is the top 10 at his position league wide.Patrick Crayton is inconsistent on punt returns. Breaks a big one and then fumbles the next. His fair catch choices are also questionable.

New York Giants
-Predicted finish- 10-6 and making the playoffs. Best pass rush in the league is transitioning to life without Steve Spagnouolo and Plaxico Burress. Probably a year away from contending for the superbowl again.

Coaching- The gentler kinder Tom Coughlin is still a tough coach. Once on the verge of a team insurrection and on the edge of being fired ,Coughlin led his team to the Lombardi trophy 2 seasons ago. Instills discipline ,blue collar work ethic ,and a team first attitude much like former mentor Bill Parcells. With scheme and blitz calling genius Steve Spagnuolo gone, incoming coordinator Bill Sheridan is on the hot seat. Has done a great job with the giants line backing core in the past but he really needs to prove that Spags isn't irreplaceable.

OFFENSE

QB- Will never put up the same kind of numbers as brother Peyton, but isn't asked to try. Just needs to drive the bus and not lose the game. Has most of the same physical attributes( big bros arm is a little stronger) of Peyton, but even if he could do the same damage throwing ,we will never know because of the offense he's in and the weapons he lacks . Doesn't try to force the ball down field when no ones open and is calm in the pocket. Reads defenses well, good arm, and throws the ball away rather than taking risk most of the time. Has good feet in the pocket , but won't be running anywhere down field often. Is accurate,but that's one thing Peyton definitely does better, especially deep. Seems unflappable and quiet which is good for a guy playing in New York. Backup David Carr ( and former # 1 pick bust) David Carr may always be hearing footsteps after all the shots he took in Houston. That kind of mental scarring takes time to wear off and being Eli's backup for awhile probably can't hurt.It would be interesting to see how he could do with a line thisgood years after the scene of the crime.

O-line- Another predominantly run blocking unit in the NFC beast, and one of the 5 best O-line units in the NFL. LT David Diehl has settled in to being an average left tackle after starting his career at guard. Still a good run blocker, but not a mauler. More of a technician ,who's only major weakness is speed rushers on the outside, and his performance against Demarcus Ware alone last season kept him from sniffing pro bowl buzz . Still a decent LT overall and Ware gives a lot of people fits.Still would be an exceptional LG in my opinion though, instead of just a decent LT. Coughlin son-in-law Chris Snee may be the heir to Steve Hutchinson as the leagues best OG. Does everything at least above average, but is not a candidate to move out to OT as he struggles with pass rushers if the splits are too wide. Punishing drive, second level and pulling blocker. Expect Snee to be at the pro bowl for years to come. Veteran RT Kareem McKenzie has found his niche after going from the Jets to Giants, and LT to RT. A much better RT than LT who prefers to run block, but still did a good job in the pasing game. Perfect fit for this team and among the league better RT's last year. C Shaun Ohara reminds me of former cowboy Mark Stepnowski. Smart technical center who's at his best on double teams and chipping to the second level off the double team. Nothing special as a pass blocker ,but makes the line calls well and keeps his head on a swivel. LG Rich Seubert works well in tandem with the center and is a classic overachiever. High motor and just barely good enough to get the job done in line. Better when uncovered ,as he is one of the leagues better down the field blockers, and pulls extremely well. Can't drive bigger DT's anywhere 1 v1 ,and needs to get stronger. Might be a better fit in an Alex Gibbs zone blocking scheme as he doesn't seem to fit this offense.Journeyman Tutan Reyes is a former starter , at ,multiple positions, for multiple teams. The kind of veteran every team needs to succeed. Should probably step in a starter if anyone but the C goes down, as he has the experience to step right in if needed and not make a major blunder . Kevin Boothe has the talent to start for this team eventually , but hasn't shown enough to take a job yet. 2nd round pick William Beatty is probably going to groomed to replace the aging McKenzie and he is also better blocking for the run than the pass, but possesses all the measurables to be a LT. If Diehl struggles with speed rushers continue he could end up back at LG, with Beatty taking over the blindside.

Tight ends- Kevin Boss lacks the explosion of his predecessor Shockey, but also isn't the disruptive locker room force Shockey was. Has developed into a solid target for Eli and I see no reason why he shouldn't keep getting better. However, the lack of a proven deep threat in NY could hamper his room to make plays underneath. Was a viable red zone target last season. The NYG always run first, and he will probably see less balls. Smart willing blocker , but needs to bulk up a bit, and could play nastier. Backup TE Darcy Jhonson seems to have the ability , but hasn't shown much in actual games despite the giants running a lot of 2 TE sets last year. Expect 3rd round pick Travis Beckum to supplant Johnson soon. Freakish athlete that could have went as high as the first round if he came out a year earlier. Looks like a big receiver as he has rangy look for a TE. Suffered a variety of injuries his senior year, but tried to play through the hamstring ones, until a broken leg ended his season. High energy( balls out ) player that has the will to succeed. Needs to bulk up but is a willing blocker. Raw but with a ton of potential . Like a shorter Martelus Bennett.

Wide receivers- This group needs someone to step up big if the giants are going to make a run. Steve Smith is the returning reception leader(57), but really looks to just be a solid # 2 possession type receiver so far . Runs crisp routes & has good hands ,but isn't very big or fast. Domenik Hixon is still raw, but plays his heart out. After last preseason I thought he would be the # 2 in New york but I overestimated his learning curve. One of the best special teamers they have and plays receiver with the same fearlessness. Needs to work on his craft and I think he will be a productive starter someday, but is miscast as a # 1 receiver right now. Mario Manningham's rookie season didn't show much. Quick in the short area and explosive after the catch, but needs to toughen up and buckle down in his work ethic. Former 1rst round bust Sinorice Moss is strictly a returner and back of the depth chart guy. 3rd round pick Ramses Barden looks a lot like Plaxico and I expect the giants are going to do everything they can to try to make him into the same type of weapon. Needs polish but is an intriguing prospect. 1rst round pick Hakeem Nick is the most talented of the bunch and if hes in shape and healthy has a good shot to end the season a starter if he works hard enough. Only size speed combo in a group of guys that only seem to have one or the other,although Nicks long speed is questionable. However he is quick in the short area,has strong hands, and is willing to go over the middle. Somebody here needs to show they can be the go to guy.

Running back- Bruising tailback Brandon Jacobs brings all of 260+ pounds to bear when running. Sort of like a new school John Riggins and you will actually see NFL players deliberately avoid contact with him if you watch closely. Even though he seems to be be dishing out most of the punishment has missed 8 full games and parts of others the last 2 years. Backs who run like him have a tendency to hit the wall sooner rather than later. As good as it gets at the goal line and actually displays some nifty moves at times. Being 6'4' works against him as it just highlights his up right running style and he takes his share of big hits . Needs a 3rd down back to complimentary him as he is a subpar( has shown slight improvement) receiver out of the backfield and makes some bad decision in pass protection. If he played all 16 games I would expect him to lead the league in rushing TD's. Ahmad Bradshaw is a scat back with a lot of wiggle. Finds holes and is a nice change of pace from Jacobs. Good catching passes out of the backfield ,but while he is smarter in his choices in pass pro than Jacobs , he still needs work blocking.If he's healthy he could be a 1000 yard back. Rookie Andre Brown was expected to take some of the load that departing Derrick Ward shouldered last season, but was lost for the year with a injury. Big back Danny Ware needs to step up and take that slack , but hasn't shown he can be anything more than a short yardage back yet. FB Madison Hedgecock looks like a small guard and hits like one when he connects. Almost looks like a special teams wedge buster when he hits the whole to block .Seems to end up on the ground a bit too much and outright whiffs on his blocks at least twice a game. When blocking in line or between the tackles he punishes defenders as they can't miss him, but needs to play more in control and with his head up till contact. Has made strides as a pass catcher, but I would be shocked if he combined for 30 catches and carries . Hes there to block first and foremost. If Jacobs goes down for an extended period of time this year they are in trouble.

DEFENSE

D-Line- Possess the likely best DL rotation in the NFL. Tuck, Osi, and Kiwanuka all are deserving of double teams on passing downs and there aren't enough blockers to go around. Tuck is among the leagues 5 best DE's and is also great rushing from the DT position . Stepped up huge when Osi went down and assumed a mantle of leadership when future HOFer Strahan retired. Is great at everything. Only weakness is a tendency to stand up at the line when tired, but he rarely does it. One of those guys who makes everyone around him better and can play anywhere on the line in a 4-3 if needed. Osi Umenyora was at the top of his game when he hurt his knee and missed all of o8. Definitely better on the right side as his variety of pass rush moves are his biggest strength. Can hold the point 1 on 1 aginst weaker LT's, but struggles in the run game against double teams. If he returns to form he is one of the leagues better( top 10) 4-3 ends, but isn't as complete a player as Tuck is, or Strahan was in his prime. When I have to even make that statement it shows you what an embarrassment of riches the Giants have . Barry Cofield looks like a guy who could be a 3-4 NT or 5 technique end. Holds the point against the double team well and stacks the line to protect the guys behind him. Seems to be improving year by year in all facets, but the bull rush is still his primary pass rush strategy. Collapses the pocket . Don't be surprised if a 3-4 team pays him big $ when he is a free agent. Reminds me of Ty Warren of NE. DT Fred Robbins is a big intelligent veteran leader on the inside. One of the best DT's in the league with his spacing and execution of stunts. Seems to get better with age and make plays at the biggest times. Free agent acquisition Chris Canty isn't needed but I am sure he will be welcomed in New York. Made his name as 3-4 end fighting off double teams in Dallas. Long arms he uses to redirect , distract and occasionally deflect passes. Plays hard on every snap and uses his height to his advantage well as he is a natural knee bender, but can still see whats going on in the back field . Not the most innovative pass rusher , but I think he will bat even more passes down rushing on the inside on a regular basis . Not a completely new position as he often moved inside on passing downs in Dallas. Collapses the pocket and keeps the QB from stepping up. FA agent Rocky Bernard is a penetrating DT with a predilection for blowing up plays in the backfield . Agile for a big man, but not strong at the point. Seems to always be trying to get by the OL, which is great when rushing the passer, but gets you washed out or occasionally pancaked when your not. Will probably be more of pass rushing and run blitz specialist in New Yorks deep rotation. Mathias Kiwanuka is a physical freak that I think belongs as a rush LB in a 3-4. Still at his best when rushing the passer or chasing plays from behind. Has also played LB in a 4-3 , but needs to be a 4-3 RDE or 3-4 ROLB to make the best use of his skills.

Linebackers- Antonio Peirce leads this unsung unit. Instinctive heady player who usually seems to be at the right place at the right time. Unquestioned leader and QB of the defense and calls the defensive signals. Willing to take on anyone, but isn't big enough to stack guards and O-lineman all game. Rarely needs to as his line protects him well. Not the fastest guy but has a good motor. At his best on 1rst and second down, as he lacks the speed and fluidity for coverage. FA agent acquisition Michale Boley is a fast chase type weakside backer. Great in coverage and still runs like a safety. Has been hurt most of camp and is suspended to start the season, but expect him to start on the weak side when healthy. Chase Blackburn could fit as a run stuffer in a 3-4 or 4-3. One of the giants best special teams players and he plays with reckless abandon. The kind of strong side backer that is willing and able to blow up the guard in the hole. A tick too slow against the pass, but is smart enough to be somewhat effective in coverage. Danny Clark is a similar player to Blackburn, but is more experienced and even worse in coverage. Has the size and fearless streak to play the strongside in the 3-4 on first and second down. Will probably end up as primarily a goal line D player when Boley returns, as Clark will probably move to the strong side then. 2nd round pick Clint Sintim was primarily a strong side 3-4 OLB & 4-3 end in college. Wasn't a need pick but taking the best player available may work out for them ,as I expect him to be a starter somewhere in a year or 2. Sintim is also another guy adept at rushing the passer. Zak Deossie is primarily a long snapper and special teams standout.

Secondary- A talented unit but lacking in depth. Aaron Ross is ever improving as a physical bump and run CB. Best in press coverage and can run with all but the fastest receivers. Has the abilty to play cover 2 but needs to be a better form tackler. Big hitter who is still young and I expect a pro bowl or 2 for him some day. Corey Webster is another physical guy and is at his best on the line bumping and pressing. Occassionly needs safety help over the top as he lacks top end speed, but he cab stay on the hip of most WR's. Plays smart and goes for the ball. 2nd year player Terrel Thomas is a future starter and even started a playoff game last year ,after a slow start due to injury. Seems to be a 50/50 mix of the 2 starters, but a little younger. Physical on the line and ready and willing against the run, but still has a lot to learn to take over as a starter . Also a significant contributor on special teams as a rookie. Kevin Dockery is a decent nickel corner ,but may lose that role to Thomas this season, as he is a bit undersized . Will probably be on the field plenty with all the dime defense and injuries in the NFL and also contribute on special teams. Undrafted rookie free agent Bruce Johnson had a good camp & pre season and has the athletic abilty to be a prospect once he gets coached up. 08 # 1 pick Kenny Phillips actually started 3 games last year when it was all said and done. This offseason he added some muscle , spent his time learning his craft, and seems poised for a breakout. May even be the player we saw as a junior at Miami very quickly. Athletically gifted and now just needs to make his mental game match the physical skills . SS Micheal Johnson is primarily a run stuffer at present. Still needs work in coverage and goes for the ball when given a chance at it . Decent long speed , tackler , and size with the abilty to put on another 15 pounds without losing any speed. Not ass quick in the short area. CC Brown is a former starter who missed a lot of o8 with an injury. Great luxury as a backup and I expect him to make the decision difficult for the giants. Also primarily a in the box safety before the injury and has coverage issues.


Special teams- Last year John Carney made the pro bowl as the giants kicker but he is gone now. Lawrence Tynes returns after a injury ruined o8, and while hes made some clutch kicks he has also missed plenty. Long time veteran Punter Jeff Feagles also made the pro bowl and is mostly known for his precise directional kicks.Long sapper Zak Deossie made the pro bowl as well and contributed plenty of tackles on special teams. Special teams coach Tom Quinn must be doing something right as his coverage units are top notch. They could use more big plays returning and would be served well if Sinorice Moss could stay on the field and join Hixon returning kicks. Manningham has the short area quickness to find the seam on punt returns if Hixon is injured. Danny Ware also might be given a chance to help out returning kicks.

Washington Redskins

- Predicted finish 7-9
- Overview when the O-lines injuries and age catch up with them I expect them to falter down the stretch . Coukd make the playoffs if they were in another division but they are in the NFC beast.

Coaching- Jim Zorn has been tested by players and an owner who has flirted with other coaches. Installed the west coast offense and Jason Campbell has had 2 season with it now. Probably needs the team to win a playoff game to keep his job under the impatient Daniel Snyder. Zorn is still in charge of the offense .Defensive coordinator produced in his first year on the job and I expect the defense to be even better this year. God forbid Dallas and Washington both miss the playoffs or the bidding war for Bill Cowher could be legendary. Mike Shanahan is a possible consolation prize for the loser.

OFFENSE

QB- Jason Campbell has it all on the line this season. He's a FA after the year, his owner pursued both Jay Cutler, was in talks to trade up for Mark Sanchez, and has made it absolutely clear that he has to produce now. Campbell has had the unfortunate abilty to switch offensive coordinators every year since he got to college. He started the year strong on 08 bit tailed off badly down the stretch. Possesses every the physical attributes to be successful but it just hasn't all clicked for him yet. Part of that was due to a injury marred and ineffective O-line and the lack of development from young receivers, but part was on him.Needs a little gunslinger in him as he isn't at his best when a play breaks down. This is a put up and get paid or shut up and probably go somewhere else season for Jason. Todd Collins is a veteran backup with a fair amount of starting experience if needed.

O-line- Chris Samuels is the only pro bowl caliber blocker they have and he is past his prime . Once one of the best 3 LT's in the league he is still above average, but is wearing down with age . Excellent down field and off the double team. Good run & pass blocking and only struggles with the best rushers and strongest run stuffers . The 4 games he missed last year showed how valuable he still is. Derrick Dockery returns from purgatory in Buffalo and luckily escaped the temptation of strangling TO, but he stil gets to keep a lot of FA money. Another massive mauling gurd who plays with a mean streak. Tends to play off balance at times as he leans too much instead of sinking his hips . Reminds me of Larry Allen at the end of his career as he is dominant in the phone booth but struggles in space. Has the potential for more , but I doubt he will ever make a pro bowl. C Casey Rabach is smart but needs to add more bulk. Plays hard and is technically proficient, but is only above average on double team sand at the second level. That's nothing to sneeze at but I expected him to be a above avg. by now . Is 6"4" and should be able to pack on 15-2o pounds of muscle to help him deal with the bigger DT's. Randy Thomas is a veteran pros pro and gets the most out of what he has left. Heady player who still an above average guard due to hard work, and very effective at the second level. RT Stephon Heyer is a big strong youngster with a lot to learn. Plays mean but out of control, and I think he would be a better fit a guard. Former Big time bust ( # 4 overall to Buffalo in 02) actually made the team as a reserve. I have always thought he should have been a NT in a 3-4 as he's a physical beast who doesn't have the feet to play OT,and his weight wouldn't be as much of an issue there. Chad Rhinehart can play both T and g and will be probably develop into a starter by next year. C/G backup Will Montgomery has the look of a career backup , although he has started games in the past in the NFL. 3rd year pro and Swing tackle D'Anthony Batiste has shown enough potential for teams to keep thinking they can develop him into a NFL starter. This unit will determine how the redskins season goes. All are better blocking for the run instead of the pass.On the whole they are average , but with their age and injury history ,I see this unit as the main reason this team will not make the playoffs.

Tight Ends- Chris Cooley is possibly the worst blocking starting NFL tight end I've ever seen. Should always be taken off the field in short yardage situations, unless the are running play action . Similar to former Cowboy Jay Novacek, as he's a big WR who plays tight end. Unlike Novacek, Cooley tends to break more tackles and is better at getting extra yardage. Massive injuries to the WASH OL the last couple of years has made Cooley one of Campbell's primary receiving targets. Since WA didn't really upgrade their OL this off season and many of the vet OL are a year older, expect this trend to continue this year. 08 2nd round pick Fred Davis rookie season was a bust. Was expected to give the skins a more complete TE and at least contribute more on 2 TE sets than he did. Other than long speed he has all the tools but he needs to step up now, and the redskins definitely need a more willing blocker . Not really sure why Todd Yoder still is listed as # 2 ( I blame Davis not stepping up more I guess) on their depth chart, as he is just average everywhere, but at least he doesn't make a lot of mistakes when called upon.

Wide Receivers- Santana Moss still has explosive speed and good hands. But Campbell is his QB and without a healthy line he won't be used as much as he deserves. Which Campbell will show up this season will have a huge influence on Santana's numbers. WA drafted 2 receivers in the 2nd round last year and both have made huge strides this off-season and early in the pre-season. WA would probably prefer that Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly stepped up and at least allowed Moss to play the slot in a lot of 3 wide receiver sets. Kelly is a big Marcus Colston type player. Sure handed and uses his body to shield defenders well even though he doesn't get the most separation and lacks that extra gear. Perfect for the west coast offense as he can break tackles and drag defenders to move the chains. Tall and will win jump balls which should help in the red zone. The question is when will the player we saw at Oklahoma show up in Washington?Devin Thomas is also a big WC offense guy but he has more speed and is more likely to break a long one than Kelly. Not as physical ,as he could be off the line and only had one big year in college, but extremely physically gifted . Still a tad raw running routes but has the speed to contribute on end arounds and in the return game.He needs to reach his potential soon or the one year wonder whispers will start. Both also possess the size to block in the run game and while Kelly is more polished here, Thomas is bit nastier blocking. Antwann Randle El is still a savvy vet, but probably never should have risen above being a #3 slot receiver and special teams returner anyway. Kind of like a poor mans Wes Welker with less explosion. Small school 7th round pick Marko Mitchel made the team and is strictly a developmental guy who may help out on special teams right now.

Running backs- Clinton Portis is only 28 but he has taken the hits of a RB in his early 30's. Still runs hard and made himself into a every down back through hard work, but will lose even more 3rd down carries to Ladell Betts this season. Has added over 20 pounds of muscle since he came into the league and now is more a between the tackles guy compared to the breakaway only runner he was thought to be coming in . Has lost a step but still has enough speed to take it outside. Is always banged up but is a smart pass protector and decent receiver out of the backfield. Betts had the talent to be a starter somewhere and he showed it when Portis went down in 2006, but that window has probably closed for him unless Portis misses extended time again. More quick than fast and has less wiggle than Portis. At his best running inside. Good pass protector and receiver out of the backfield and Zorn has named him the 3rd down back for this season. FB Mike Sellers is still one of the leagues bigger fullbacks. Plays in control and doesn't blow up as many guys in the hole as he once did. but generally makes his block. Also a good receiver out of the backfield when he gets the chance but as a last resort running or receiving for Washington. Rock Cartwright is a stocky veteran runner who mostly contributes on special teams. Marcus Mason is strictly a possible developmental guy right now but could eventually take the role Cartwright has.

DEFENSE

D- line- Albert Haynesworth has come to make everybody on this defense better. A mammoth space eater in the middle who throws would be blockers round. Collapses the pocket and is explosive off the snap. Always seems to be banged up some, but he is always double teamed so its understandable, as he is unblock-able one on one by anybody in the NFL. He is as good as he wants to be, but how much wil he want withthat big contract already given? Cornelius Grififn is a solid veteran run stuffer who does a good job of stacking the line and allowing linebackers to make plays. Mostly a bullrusher when charging the QB, but has the power to push the pocket. Anthony Montgomery is former starter who hasn't developed as much as he should, but has the look of a 3-4 end to me . Big strong guy, but his technique is inconsistent. Kedric Gholston is another young former starter who needs to work on his technique. Has a tendency to stand up at the line and get pushed around. Needs to be coached up and dedicate himself to improving to even be a starting caliber DT. Andre Carter has been a good, but not great DE for a long time. To be fair he hasn't had anyone else to take way double teams on passing downs, but I expected him to have at least one ALL-PRO season by now. Now he does have help with Haynesworth. Has a variety of pass rush moves but has lost a little burst with time. Could use his hands better disengaging, especially versus the run and I always thought he could have packed on 10-15 pounds of muscle and still kept his explosion . If healthy expect him to have his best season with big Albert taking pressure away from him. 13 year Phillip Daniels pro missed all of 08 due to an injury. Gets off the ball quickly but has lost a step. Still one of the stronger ends in the game and holds the point against the double team well in the run game. Would probably be best suited to play the strong side DE in a 3-4 now as he doesn't disengage well anymore. Washington will be looking to replace him sooner than later on obvious passing down now. Renaldo Wynn is past his prime, no longer a starter, but still has something to offer. The kind of a vet a team needs to step up if there is a injury. Smart and technically sound. Lorenso Alexander is a squat penetrating D-lineman. Kind of like a poor mans Mike Patterson, although he's more versatile . Plays all over the D-line and even a little TE for blocking purposes. Will probably never be a full time starter but play a long time in the league due to his versatility . Rookie Jermey Jarmon is a developmental guy right now.

Linebackers- London Fetcher is one of the leagues more underrated defenders. Squatly built and brings a thump when he hits you. Uses his stocky build to get under blockers pads and stack and shed. Complete linebacker who even though he has lost a step makes up for it with his experience. Durable and I bet the rams are still kicking themselves for letting him get away. Can do almost anything except catch the ball and scrapes with the best of them.Leader and QB of the defense. WLB Rocky McIntosh is a speedy guy who chases down plays an moves through trash efficiently . Would probably best fit in a tampa 2 scheme with his speed and emerging pass defense. Could be a little bigger. The redskins got a steal when Brian Orapko fell to # 13 of the 1rst round. A college DE and and a occasional 3-4 OLB, the skins are planning on starting him at the 4-3 strongside LB spot. Despite the new position he made some noise in the preseason and is a beastly athlete. Will see some time with his hand on the ground at DE in obvious passing downs and blitz some from his SLB position. Raw in coverage and could be exploited till he becomes more familiar there, but I expect him to be a ferocious pass rusher. Expect him to get better every year and be a future superstar. HB Blades look a lot like London Fletcher and the skins surely hope he will develop into a similar player. but his main value will be on special teams right now. Is at his best playing the middle and lost his staring strong side job to Orapko. Can back up 2 positions and that helps. Speedy 6th round rookie Robert Henson needs time to develop and will mostly provide special team help this year. Former CFL player Chris Wilson has mostly been used as pass rush specialist at DE up till now, but is expected to learn some more linebacker this year.

Secondary- The strongest unit the redskins have. Aggressive former pro bowler Deangelo Hall returned to form once he left Oakland and joined the skins last season. Gambles a bit much but has the speed to make up for a lot of those gambles. Playmaker who wakes up with a chip on his shoulder. Carlos Rogers is a so0lid starter, but needs to be more physical against the run. Fights for the ball in the air and has good explosion breaking on the ball. 2nd year pro Chris Horton was the big surprise of the 08 skins. The rookie 7th rounder started 10 games at SS and was 3rd on the team in tackles. A classic in the box safety who provides strong run support. Still needs work in coverage but is a punishing hitter. Laron Landry looks to be a guy who could be starting the pro bowl soon, if he learns to play under control more. Better at SS than with the whole field in front of him. Big hitter and has become a better tackler since he joined the league, but he still seeks the big hit too often, instead of making sure he secures the tackle. Tall and thick with the speed to run with receivers. The kind of guy you want being the last line of defense for your team when he's playing disciplined. He might be an even better fit at strong safety where his aggressive tendencies would be more of a strength, but the tragic death of Sean Taylor caused the redskins to move him to FS ,even though Landry was phenomenal at SS as a rookie. Expect their interceptions to increase this year with an improved pass rush forcing opposing QB's into more mistakes .

Special teams- Shaun Suisham is subpar as a placekicker and just OK on kickoffs due to the height he generates. Veteran punter Hunter Smith is slightly above average but doesn't make mistakes. Randle El was once one of the best PR's in the game, but hasn't broke one for few years, and they rarely give Moss the chance to be a part of the return game anymore, even though he busted one last year in limited duty . Cartwright is nothing special on kicks, but Devin Thomas has the speed to make something happen if he gets the chance.special teams coach Danny Smith has produced mostly efficient units but few big plays.

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