Four Downs
Offseason analysis of the NFL, division by division

Four Downs: NFC East

Best player available analysis by Sean McCormick
Remainder of Four Downs by Bill Barnwell

(Ed. note: For this round of Four Downs, we're pleased to present Sean McCormick's "Best Player Available" analysis for each division, along with the usual gang commenting on other moves by each team before and since the draft. The reasoning behind BPA analysis is explained in this article. Each player drafted is listed along with his position on four different independent draft boards and the Best Player Available according to each of those boards. Please note that two of these boards only ranked 100 players.)

Dallas Cowboys

Pick Player Player Rankings Best Player Available
18 LB Bobby Carpenter 18, 23, 27, 33 OT Winston Justice (3), DB Jimmy Williams
53 TE Anthony Fasano 53, 63, 74, UR DB Richard Marshall (2), OT Eric Winston, DB Ashton Youboty
92 DE Jason Hatcher 151, 176, UR, UR G Max Jean-Gilles, DB Ko Simpson, DT Gabe Watson, DB Darnell Bing
125 WR Skyler Green 153, 211, UR, UR OT Jonathan Scott, DE Mark Anderson, DB DeMario Minter, DT Babatunde Oshinowo
138 DB Pat Watkins 55, 93, UR, UR OT Jonathan Scott, DE Mark Anderson, DB DeMario Minter, DT Babatunde Oshinowo
182 DT Montavious Stanley 92, 127, 149, UR DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall
211 OT Pat McQuistan UR, UR, UR, UR DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall
224 OT E.J. Whitley 211, UR, UR, UR DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall

Bill Parcells has a long history of bringing in familiar players whenever he takes a new job. Now that he has been coaching for over two decades, it was perhaps inevitable that Parcells would take the next step and draft the children of his ex-players. So long as you are getting decent value on the pick, the strategy makes a good deal of sense. When a first-round pick flops, it often isn't because of a lack of physical talent but rather because of character issues of one sort or another. Parcells knows exactly what he is getting in Bobby Carpenter: a smart, technically sound linebacker who plays within the context of the game plan. Carpenter will be the anchor that allows DeMarcus Ware to concentrate on attacking the quarterback. Complementary starters are usually taken in the second or third round, but with Dallas having put together an excellent defensive draft last year, they had the luxury of bypassing players with higher ceilings for one with a high floor.

Anthony Fasano is another player Parcells has a thick dossier on. Fasano is a sound blocker and an excellent short-to-intermediate receiver who has drawn comparison to fellow Golden Domer Mark Bavaro. He has an impressive work ethic and comes with experience in Dallas' offensive system. Again, there were players with higher grades available at the position, but none came with the Charlie Weis seal of approval. Parcells believes that a two-tight end set is now better able to generate mismatches than a three-receiver set, and the expectation is that Fasano will be able to share the field effectively with Jason Witten.

While Dallas may have sacrificed some upside with their first day picks, they did find some good value on the second day with Pat Watkins and Montavious Stanley. Watkins is a bit taller than the norm for a safety, and his size gives him the ability to match up well in coverage against tight ends and big wide receivers. He'll contribute immediately in red zone packages and on special teams. Stanley is a traditional two-down tackle who can stuff the run and provide the occasional bull rush. He's a good enough athlete to rotate in at any of the three defensive line spots, but his future is probably at nose tackle.

Recent Free Agent Signings

Not wanting the abrasiveness of Terrell Owens to be the only thing irritating Bill Parcells' immaculate sunburn, the Cowboys added Mike Vanderjagt to be their kicker for the 2006 season. Adding a proven veteran kicker is a little bit of a sea change for the Cowboys, who haven't had a veteran kicker start the season for them since 1994 (Eddie Murray, who was ancient then and would come back to the Cowboys five years later).

Readers of Football Outsiders know how we feel about the fungibility of kickers not named "Adam Vinatieri" or "David Akers." The advantage the Cowboys got by spending the league minimum on a kicker allowed them to funnel that money toward depth elsewhere. Sure, those minimum-salary kickers were bad, but that's a function of Dallas scouting, not a lack of kickers on the market. Just ask Rob Bironas or Matt Bryant.

With the signing of Vanderjagt, the Cowboys are getting a kicker who was very accurate last (regular) season, but has also been an absolute cypher on kickoffs over the last three seasons, ranking 30th in our ratings for kickoff value in 2003 and 32nd in 2004. He did not even attempt a kickoff in 2005. It begs the question whether, for the veteran minimum, a 50-year-old Eddie Murray might not be a better value. Granted, it doesn't beg very hard.

Undrafted Free Agents to Watch

The Cowboys signed three linebackers: John Saldi from Texas Tech, Oliver Hoyte of North Carolina State, and Virginia's Kai Parham. Parham declared as a junior for the draft and promptly found that no one was actually terribly interested in drafting him. With the Cowboys linebacking corps lacking depth even after the drafting of Bobby Carpenter, expect Parham to stick as a nickel linebacker. Saldi, the son of former Cowboys tight end Jay Saldi, seems mostly like a bone being thrown to a local guy. Then again, his father went from being an undrafted free agent himself to earning a NFL pension.

The Cowboys also signed Yale quarterback Jeff Mroz; in his pre-draft diary, Mroz notes the success of Ryan Fitzpatrick (as in "3rd-worst in QB DVOA in 2005" Ryan Fitzpatrick) as a motivator for him, and even manages to get a Rob Johnson dig in. The report on his pre-draft pro day notes, "He threw the ball well, but was pushed for time as the scouts were hurrying to get across town to anther pro day being held at the University of Pittsburgh." If the scouts are bailing on your workout because they want to beat the traffic, well, let's just say you should become familiar with the fine eating establishments of Albany, Macon, and Bossier-Shreveport.

New York Giants

Pick Player Player Rankings Best Player Available
32 DE Mathias Kiwanuka 20, 31, 40, 48 OT Winston Justice (3), DB Jimmy Williams
44 WR Sinorice Moss 35, 36, 36, 36 RB LenDale White (2), OT Eric Winston, DB Ashton Youboty
96 LB Gerris Wilkerson 64, 86, 94, 96 G Max Jean-Gilles, DB Ko Simpson, DT Gabe Watson, DB Darnell Bing
124 DE Barry Cofield 90, 98, 107,115 OT Jonathan Scott, DE Mark Anderson, DB DeMario Minter, DT Babatunde Oshinowo
129 OT Guy Whimper 98, 141, 155, UR OT Jonathan Scott, DE Mark Anderson, DB DeMario Minter, DT Babatunde Oshinowo
158 DB Charlie Peprah 164, 207, UR, UR DT Babtunde Oshinowo (3), DE Mark Anderson
232 DB Gerrick McPhearson 143, 171, UR, UR DB Dee Webb (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall

The Giants have gotten more aggressive in recent years about positioning themselves to grab players they like at value, and they continued that trend this year, sliding down seven spots to land Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka and then trading up in the second round to take Sinorice Moss. Opinions were split on Kiwanuka, whose stock tumbled somewhat after D'Brickashaw Ferguson toyed with him during Senior Bowl week. Kiwanuka has terrific physical tools, but he plays too upright and without leverage. Boston College has a bit of a reputation for not adequately developing its prospects, and it's likely that a few years with Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora will improve Kiwanuka's technique tremendously. With Umenyiora and the talented Justin Tuck already on hand to pick up the slack should Strahan start to fade, the Giants didn't have a pressing need for a pass rusher, but they stuck by their board and took the player who they clearly felt was the best available.

While several of the boards weren't big on the Kiwanuka pick, they were unanimous in applauding the trade up for Sinorice Moss. Moss is a similar player to his older brother Santana, but his lack of production at the college level makes him a riskier selection. Moss will duke it out with Tim Carter for the right to have Eli Manning point at him in the huddle and say, "You go deep." He didn't handle the return duties at Miami, but Moss has the talent to be a quality punt and kickoff returner.

New York continued to find good value with just about every selection; four of their final five picks were steals on at least one of the draft boards. Gerris Wilkerson bounced around between defensive end, middle linebacker and outside linebacker, but with enough reps he could develop into a force on the weakside. Barry Cofield didn't make many plays at Northwestern, but he can stack at the point of attack. The Giants need bodies along the interior line with the departure of Kendrick Clancy, and Cofield figures to work his way onto the field during run downs. He may even challenge the disappointing William Joseph for a starting spot.

New York may have found some cornerback depth at the bottom of the draft with Maryland's Gerrick McPhearson. McPhearson's instincts are suspect but he has great athleticism. He probably won't amount to more than a nickel or dime back, but with the loss of Will Allen and Will Peterson, the team needs all the depth it can get at the position.

Recent Free Agent Signings

After shopping his services around the league and finding that he wasn't going to get the $10 million bonus he and his agents were asking for (a situation which, if you are so inclined, you can feel free to refer to as being "Postonized"), LaVar Arrington suddenly decided that he was willing to take a physical with the Giants. When that physical revealed that they'd only have to stuff a $5 million bonus into Arrington's pockets, the Giants had themselves a new starting outside linebacker.

What's interesting is that Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis is switching Arrington from the weak side to the strong side, feeling he's a better fit there. Tim Lewis knows more than I do about football. A lot more. That being said, Arrington's biggest weakness is his propensity to fall for play fakes, something that will only be exacerbated if it results in Jason Witten being open for a 15-yard gain.

The Giants also acquired some veteran depth, adding former Packers center Grey Ruegamer, former starting Giant linebacker Brandon Short -- who may take over on the weak side -- tight end Boo Williams, and former Bills quarterback Rob Johnson. Right. Read that again. Rob Johnson. The guy who hasn't been in the league since 2003, when he was one of the 47 quarterbacks who threw passes for the Raiders that year. Rob Johnson has become so irrelevant that an "I'm Feeling Lucky" Google search for Rob Johnson brings up the webpage of Rob Johnson, Ohio's premier rock guitar instrumentalist. Pro Football Prospectus 2006 features one last reminder of the awful mistake the Bills made by playing Johnson over Doug Flutie, and Johnson has been mostly injured and out of football since then. It is pretty much unfathomable that he got a gig without a Len Pasquarelli/Jason Whitlock Jeff George-level hype job. Maybe he will teach Jared Lorenzen pilates or something.

Undrafted Free Agents to Watch

The Giants only added a couple of undrafted free agents immediately after the draft, one of which was George Mason power forward Jai Lewis. Listed by the Giants at 6'5", 292, Lewis is being slotted in as a offensive tackle for the time being. A recent glut of signings revealed very few hopefuls for 2006 roster spots but, if you have a moment, pray for the continued success of former Oregon State defensive tackle Sir Henry Anderson. Yes -- Sir Henry Anderson. He will compete with Junior Ioane for a role as a backup run-stuffer.

Philadelphia Eagles

Pick Player Player Rankings Best Player Available
14 DT Broderick Bunkley 8, 9, 9, 10 DT Broderick Bunkley (4)
39 OT Winston Justice 10, 12, 12, 15 OT Winston Justice (4)
71 DE Chris Gocong 86, 212, UR, UR TE Leonard Pope, DB Ko Simpson, DT Gabe Watson, DB Darnell Bing
99 G Max-Jean Gilles 40, 48, 50, 61 G Max Jean-Gilles, DB Ko Simpson, DT Gabe Watson, DB Darnell Bing
109 WR Jason Avant 85, 114, 115, UR WR Demetrius Williams, DE Mark Anderson, DB DeMario Minter, DT Babatunde Oshinowo
147 WR Jeremy Bloom 181, 187, UR, UR DT Babatunde Oshinowo (2), DE Mark Anderson, DB DeMario Minter
168 LB Omar Gaither 102, 190, UR, UR DT Babatunde Oshinowo (3), DE Mark Anderson
204 DT LaJuan Ramsey UR, UR, UR, UR DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall

Boom. Boom. Cough. Boom. Perhaps no team's draft graded out better on the four boards than Philadelphia's. The Eagles got good value with almost every pick, but they were particularly impressive early on, taking the consensus best player available with both their first- and second-round picks. Broderick Bunkley turned a lot of heads at the combine with his chiseled physique, his 40 reps on the bench, and his impressive athleticism. Justice also tested well, and the feeling before the draft was that he would go in the top fifteen despite his uneven form at USC. Several mock drafts had the Eagles choosing between the two players, but in the end they landed both.

Bunkley will have the more immediate impact. He plays with great anticipation and a high motor, and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson figures to pair him with last year's first round pick Mike Patterson to form an undersized but disruptive interior line. Bunkley will rotate with Darwin Walker, but as he gains experience he figures to win more of the playing time.

Justice will spend the year apprenticing behind Tra Thomas. While some character concerns undoubtedly contributed to Justice's slide, the more pressing issue was probably Justice's tendency to do just enough to get by. A tackle with his measureables should eliminate his man on almost every play, but Justice was one of the least consistent players on the Trojans offensive line. Thomas had to shed an underachiever label coming out of Florida State, and Philadelphia would be very happy to get a similar level of production from Justice.

The Chris Gocong selection didn't go over well with the boards, but it was cleverly done nonetheless, as the Jets were poised to take Gocong with the 71st pick before receiving the trade offer. The Jets were on the phone with Gocong and told him to hold on, they'd be drafting him in a few spots; instead, the Eagles promptly snatched Gocong. The Cal Poly product was highly sought as a DE/OLB hybrid by teams employing a 3-4 defense, but Philadelphia will try him out at strongside linebacker.

After the Gocong blip, Philadelphia went back to grabbing recognizable names, generally at good value. Max Jean-Gilles was considered the top guard prospect for much of the pre-draft period, but concerns about his weight pushed him down. Jean-Gilles is immoveable when he gets set, and he has quick feet for such a big man. If he doesn't eat himself out of the league, Jean-Gilles could be a nice addition to the offensive line.

Jason Avant was productive at Michigan, but he doesn't have the quickness to consistently separate from defenders. He should help carry on the Philadelphia tradition of fielding nothing but #2 receivers. Jeremy Bloom will work in as a slot receiver and return man. The Olympic skier impressed scouts with his willingness to compete at the combine shortly after returning from the Winter Games.

Recent Free Agent Signings

The Eagles have made some moves to tidy up their depth after the injury-riddled fiasco that was their 2005, adding quarterback Jeff Garcia, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, and defensive tackle Ed Jasper to one-year deals. Choosing a city that despises Terrell Owens was a good decision by Garcia's agent. Of course, finagling a five-year deal for Donovan McNabb to appear on the cover of Madden would've been an even better one.

The Eagles seem to be pretty set for the season at this point, hoping that the lack of Corey Simon and Owens-related drama in training camp will allow them a solid camp and preparation for the season. Expect them to grab a powerful running back as one of the training camp leftovers to provide a change of pace to Brian Westbrook, Reno Mahe, and Ryan Moats.

Undrafted Free Agents to Watch

Having mined Villanova's skill position players once for Westbrook, Philadelphia went back to the well by signing wide receiver J.J. Outlaw. An Eagles fan as a child, Outlaw will have to make the team on his special-teams skills. With 13 receivers on the squad and maybe three players (Reggie Brown, Greg Lewis, and Todd Pinkston) guaranteed spots, the fight between ten guys for the last two spots is worthy of an "Ultimate Fighter"-type show with Fred Barnett and Freddie Solomon as team coaches. Michael Gasperson will steal everyone's beanie, and it will be a good time for everyone involved.

Washington Redskins

Pick Player Player Rankings Best Player Available
35 LB Roger McIntosh 51, 77, 83, 96 OT Winston Justice (3), DB Jimmy Williams
153 DT Anthony Montgomery 275, UR, UR, UR DT Babatunde Oshinowo (3), DE Mark Anderson
173 DB Reed Doughty 174, UR, UR, UR DT Babtunde Oshinowo (3), RB Andre Hall
196 DT Kedric Golston 174, 195, UR, UR DT Rod Wright (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall
230 G Kili Lefotu UR, UR, UR, UR DB Dee Webb (2), DE Stanley McClover, RB Andre Hall
250 LB Kevin Simon 239, 244, UR, UR RB Andre Hall (2), DB Anwar Phillips (2)

On its face the decision to trade up for Miami linebacker Roger McIntosh looks like one of the worst decisions in the draft. Washington gave away a sixth-round pick and a future second-rounder so they could move up and take a player that every single board felt was more of a late second/early third round prospect. It's likely that the Redskins wanted to find an impact linebacker to replace LaVar Arrington and felt that there was a sizeable drop-off at the position after McIntosh, but even so, the price seems exorbitant. No team has exercised as few picks as Washington over the past five years, and needlessly trading away future picks will ensure that the trend continues.

That's not to say that McIntosh is a poor prospect. He's been limited by injuries, but when healthy he's a smooth and explosive linebacker with the coverage skills to stay on the field in passing situations. McIntosh may well fit Gregg Williams' scheme, but he's going to have to do more than just fit in order to justify the expensive trade up -- he's going to have to dominate.

Washington didn't have another pick until the fifth round, when they chose Minnesota defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery. There were a few scouts who liked Montgomery's consistent effort, but none of the boards felt he was especially good value. The other picks had a bit more support, as Reed Doughty, Kedric Golston and Kevin Simon were all minor steals on at least one draft board. Doughty is a true strong safety, effective in run support but with questionable coverage skills. He should make an impact on special teams.

Golston had injury problems at Georgia that limited his production, but if he can stay healthy he has the ability to hold up at the point of attack and to pressure the quarterback. He's not the physical specimen that Rod Wright is, but he'll be able to contribute this year. Kevin Simon is another player who dropped because of injury concerns, but he was extremely productive when he was on the field. Simon doesn't have the speed to handle tight ends or running backs in coverage, but he could find a role as a two-down middle linebacker.

Recent Free Agent Signings

The Redskins strategy has been the same for several years now: identify targets of interest, (sometimes) wait for free agent signing period to open up, sign with financial prejudice. Since Al Bogdan covered the Redskins' 2006 signing spree in the last NFC East Four Downs, the only addition the Redskins have made is nabbing cornerback Kenny Wright from the Jaguars. Wright will compete with Ade Jimoh to be the Skins' nickel back next season.

Undrafted Free Agents to Watch

With the Redskins carrying so much dead money on their cap, they become more and more reliant on the production of undrafted and minimum-cost free agents each year. While their starters are usually the pick of the year's free agent pool, the shiny veneer is paid for by a lack of depth, particularly on defense. Of the 11 guys listed as primary backups on the depth chart, six were undrafted free agents from the last three years. In that vein, the Redskins added four defensive players who may see time on the Redskins defense this year. Cornerbacks Chijoke Onyenegecha (Oklahoma) and Chris Hawkins (Marshall) could win spots in a wide-open Redskins secondary.

Comments

276 comments, Last at 08 Aug 2006, 11:08am

1 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Expect them to grab a powerful running back as one of the training camp leftovers to provide a change of pace to Brian Westbrook, Reno Mahe, and Ryan Moats.

Not likely. Mahe isn't the 3rd RB: Bruce Perry is. Mahe's always been more of a special teams guy, and I've got a strong feeling that he might not make the team this year.

For a short-yardage back, they'll probably use Perry. He's built a bit stockier than Westbrook (5'9", 213 lbs vs 5'8", 203 lbs). Perry bounced on and off the roster last year, but when they finally put him on in the Washington game, he had a nice game (4.7 ypc, with a long of 11).

2 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Perry's listed (on Ourlads) at 5'8" 200; Mahe, 5'9" 212. Moats is 5'8" 210. That would make him their smallest back.

Even on the NFL site Mahe and Moats have ten pounds on Perry.

Then again - running type is probably more important than size. It just seems like the Eagles would be a little behooved to go out and get a situational back who's 220.

3 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Trust me, as someone who's seen all three players in person without pads, Moats is NOT bigger than Perry or Westbrook. He is TINY. Perry is a hard straight-ahead runner who may well prove adept at short yardage. Moats may prove capable as well, I expect a big-time emergence of Ryan Moats this season. The running game focus for the Eagles this offseason has come on the offensive line, not the backs. Even The Bus isn't an effective short-yardage back when he's running straight into five guys at the line of scrimmage.

The Eagles do also have 220-lb. training camp perennial Correll Buckhalter hanging around until his annual knee injury. He's proven a talented runner and very adept goal-line back when he's actually on the field, which is thus far 40% of his career.

4 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Yes, they would. However, they would rather gamble that Correll Buckhalter, who hasn't played a meaningful snap in at least three years can be the big back. Rumor is that they're waiting for the Jags to cut Fred Taylor and I'm not sure which is the worse idea.

5 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

That would make him their smallest back.

Except that he put on 13 pounds since then. He's at 213 pounds right now.

6 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Reference for that. I'll try to find the original article where it talks about him putting on a bit more weight, but that might take a bit. The measurements on NFL.com, philadelphiaeagles.com, etc. are all from last year.

7 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

#4 - two years for Buckhalter, not three. And unlike previous years, they're not counting on anything. The last two seasons, Buckhalter was the preseason #2 back. This year he's listed as the #4 or 5 at best going into camp.

Followup to all the weight talk - I don't know why people bother to go by listed NFL weights. A lot of those are probably still combine measurements. I remember last year Corey Simon was listed at like 303 or something. Meanwhile his number was falling off the front of his jersey because the seams burst.

8 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

A lot of those are probably still combine measurements. I remember last year Corey Simon was listed at like 303 or something. Meanwhile his number was falling off the front of his jersey because the seams burst.

even better corey simon was wearing tights with zippers on the ankles b/c he was too fat to fit the regular ones during the bengals game last year.

9 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

also is whoever wrote this column a cowboys fan, he doesn't rip dallas for drafting an o-lineman like justice in the first round, when they gave up 50 sacks last year. then credits them for taking a player like bobby carpenter whose is familiar to parcells but rips the redskins for getting mcintosh from miami who if you haven't noticed, a sh**load of redskins went to miami and can therefore speak for mcintosh's character as well. And don't give me that 6th round this year and 2nd round pick next year crap, the titans have had the most draft picks out of any team the last three years and where has that gotten them, nowhere.

10 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

as an eagles fan, i found it encouraging that in the recent draft seemed to focus on the future of them team with the pick-ups on the OL, even though i was hoping they would pick up one of the higher rated receivers left on the board. it seems in recent years that their WR scouting seems to be poor in measuring talent, anyone else have any insight as to why? or reasoning in contrast?

11 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re #9: I will agree that someone here is clearly showing a very strong bias... but I don't think it's the author of the story.

12 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Ah man, i thought i was disguising the fact that i'm redskins homer but you figured me out kibbles, your a very smart man... well except for the fact your a broncos fan.

13 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re: #12 - You have to admit that Kibbles also knows the difference between "your" and "you're". That should more than make up for the fact that he's a Broncos (won 2 Supes in the past 10 years) fan.

14 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

These Four Downs article are nice... except I'm getting sick of seeing the same players at BPA... and sick of projecting draft pick performance. The nice part about them is the information on other teams... and the comments from us diehard fans.

I doubt any of those UDFA rookies in the secondary see extensive time other than on special teams. Typically their rookies don't play until the middle of the season, and that's high round draft picks. Defensive secondary is quite a concern still... they are pretty thin at S.

I hope next season the BPA analysis from 2 years ago gets looked at to see if those players ended up being the best.

Anyway, this division is a dead heat... I can't believe how over-rated the Eagles are. They've gotten a complete mulligan for last year's performance, but have an aging team that might be demolished if the youth influx from the past 3 drafts doesn't live up to expectations. We'll see if the final weeks help/hinder their development.

Anyway, I'm working on some type of Guest Article that won't be done for ~ 2 months . Aaron, you must have quite a wife to go out and write a book and go on a book tour plus keep this website somewhat updated, with an infant at home.

15 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I'm pretty sure Lavar has played WLB and SSLB at various points in his career. I thought Gregg Williams switched him to WLB, after he came over. Arrington made the Pro-Bowl as SSLB early in his career.

I just think the Giants will bring Lavar off the edge as a rusher most of the time and won't give him many assignments to blow. He's good when he guesses right, but brutal when wrong (See 20 yard pass he gave up to Gates to set up LT2 run in OT).

16 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

It's Shreveport-Bossier, not the other way around. That area still sucks, but at least acknowledge the more famous of the two when talking about that area.

That I'm standing up for a city in Louisiana which is north of I-10 is saying a lot, by the way.

17 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Who, exactly, is overrating the Eagles? If you look at all the early prognostications, there are more last-place predictions than first.

They do deserve a mulligan for a year in which absolutely everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. That's not to say they don't have holes, but if McNabb is healthy, they have as good of a chance to win the division as anybody.

18 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re #14

Yeah, I guess the Eagles will have problems if nobody from three drafts pans out. I'll give you that. The Eagles are only aging in the sense that time is in fact moving forward for all things. They're quite young at CB, DT, OL, WR, TE, and RB. And the other positions aren't exactly old. The oldest starters are OT's William (aka Tra) Thomas and John Runyan, and the Eagles have already drafted their replacements in Winston Justice, Shawn Andrews, and Todd Herremans. McNabb, Trotter, Kearse, and Howard are pushing 30, but that's not panic time. The Eagles have been steadily turning over from the early Reid/McNabb era of '00-'03. It's largely a new team now with McNabb, Dawkins, and Akers the major holdovers.

19 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

This should be a great division to watch this season. Every one of these teams could be a threat to run deep into the playoffs. A few Giants-related comments:

Re: William Joseph

I really feel that Joseph has been unfairly stuck with the 'draft bust' label. True, he didn't do much in his first couple of years (DTs usually don't), but over the last 2 seasons, he's been impressive when he's healthy.

Re: Arrington's position

I am also a bit alarmed by Arrington playing the Sam spot. Besides the concerns over his lapses in coverage, it leaves the team with a bit of a hole at WLB. They're left with 2 old, converted SLBs (Carlos Emmons and Brandon Short) as the top of the depth chart. The rookie Wilkerson is really the only natural WLB on the roster.

20 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

The nfc east is a tough division but i think i know exactly what will happen.

New York: New York has a great defense with the aquisition of sam madision and lavar arrington, but along with that, they got a great offense too, tiki barber coming off an 1860 yard season and eli manning maturing and throwing too shockey, buress, and toomer, not to mention sinorice moss. they also got a record setting usi umenyora and michael strahan, and with strahan getting old, they drafted his replacement, too bad they got a tough schedule though.

Washington: The redskins also have a great team, but they made more offensive improvements, rather than defensive. nevertheless they are going to do great this year, they got the passing game, the rushing game, and the defense, they got everything.

Philadelphia: The Eagles are not doing so hot this year. i think they will do bad. they got no offense except for one man and a pretty good defense. i expect them to do worse this year. sorry mcnabb, but your time is UP!

Dallas: I think dallas might have gotten the best offseason with competition from the giants. They got TERRELL OWENS! their offense is going to be amazing and their defense shall be quite adequate. you are looking at a team to make a superbowl run, they didnt win the division, so they will have an easier schdule than they should have.

Overall, this is how i think the NFC EAST will pan out.

Dallas -12-4
Washington -11-5
New York -10-6
Philadelphia-4-12

21 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

RE# 20 Eagles Assessment.

4-12??? They didn't even do that last year with 14 injuries including their starting QB.

Dallas blows especially without a decent O-line ( they gave up 50 sacks last year) that they didn't upgrade in the off-season.

22 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

RE 21. That's not *exactly* true about Dallas. It's perhaps not the sexiest off-season move, but they picked up TE Ryan Hannam. Who destroyed pro-bowler Kyle Vanden Bosch in his game against the Titans. The guy blocks, and while he's not exactly going to leave flaming footprints when he runs he can catch the occasional pass. Does it make up for Larry Allen, no. But if the Cowboys go with a lot of 2 TE sets, there's going to be some feast and famine going on. With a kicker, better defense, another gap for their running game, TO, and another year of experienced for the inexperienced on their O-Line, that might be enough.

WRT the Giants, I'd worry about DT for them. Clancy was a reinforced concrete wall (covered in spikes and venomous snakes) last year if Football Outsiders articles are to be believed. How good is their Strong Saftey when he's all alone against the likes of Clinton Portis, Warrick Dunn or Shaun Alexander with their choice cuts? Cause Arrington guessing wrong behind DTs who aren't getting it done is probably how that ends up.

23 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re #20: Say Whaaat!... Totally wrong. Go back to fantasy football. Outside of their season ending inter-divisional records, there are two keys to winning this division: NFC South and AFC South. All four NFC East teams have a game against Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Indy and Jacksonville. Whoever has the better record against these five teams will be the division champion.
Division ends up like this:
Dall : 10-6
NY : 10-6
Wash : 9-7
Phila : 9-7
This is gonna be one tight divisional race. All of their schedule are roughly the same, although I think the NY -Seattle game in week 3 is huge.

24 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

It’s Shreveport-Bossier, not the other way around. That area still sucks, but at least acknowledge the more famous of the two when talking about that area.

I was talking about the AF2 team, which is Bossier-Shreveport.

25 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Interestingly enough, most Cowboys fans were shocked when Fasano went in the second round, as opposed to Winston or Jean-Gilles. They had (apparently) gaping needs on the offensive line, so why draft an (apparent) backup tight end?

This is the classic drafting for need argument, and since a divisional rival took both of those offensive linemen, we'll get to see over the next few years who was correct.

26 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

In both attack and defense of the Giants:

Picking Up Arrington - Good idea. I thought after they signed Brandon Short they had given up on him, but hey, things happen.

Drafting Kiwanuka - Ernie Acorsi is great and all, but you can have too many pass rushers. I mean, besides LaVarrrrr, there's Strahan, Osi, and last year's 2nd rounder Justin Tuck, who I like. Since there were no decent DTs worth picking up at #32, someone should've thought to pick up a backup to the aging Mr. False Start.

Drafting Sinorice Moss - THEN WHY'D YOU GIVE TIM CARTER AND DAVID TYREE EXTENSIONS? Couldn't we have drafted him and not given Carter an extension? At least we know who the five recievers will be.

Not Doing Anything At Defensive Tackle - I have two words: Antonio Pierce. We'll be fine.

With that said... Giants win division. 16-0. I'm only as biased as #9.

27 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Well okay then, as long as you aren't more biased than that.

28 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

#23: All of the teams look like they should be around 10-6 or 9-7 right now, but it's doubtful that it's going to be that cloes in the end. Some sort of disaster will probably kill one of the teams, allowing the other three to beat up on it. For example, a season-ending injury to Tiki Barber could cost NY four games. Tiki's somewhat replaceable in the running game, but he's a crucial safety blanket for Manning in the passing game.

It doesn't even have to be an injury. A single offensive lineman playing poorly can kill the whole unit, and destroy an entire season.

29 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

#20: The Eagles are not likely to win a Super Bowl this year, but they aren't going 4-12, either.

30 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

#26:

Tyree was extended to play special teams, not to be the 3rd wideout. Carter was re-signed (rather cheaply, I might add) because the team didn't know that they'd be able to get a player of Moss's caliber in the draft. Plus, you don't just hand the 3rd WR job to a rookie without some credible competition in camp.

And I wouldn't be so glib about the DT situation. Even the best MLBs struggle when a Guard is coming free at them on every running play. And, as much as I like Pierce, he doesn't have the strength of a Harry Carson-style MLB to break through blocks.

I think the 3-technique tackle postition is fine with Joseph & Robbins. The question is whether the team has a 1-technique tackle who can stand up to two blockers on running plays. Cofield, Robbins, Ioane, Damane Duckett, and Jonas Seawright will all get their shot; hopefully the coaches can craft a viable rotation out of that crowd.

31 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

but have an aging team that might be demolished if the youth influx from the past 3 drafts doesn’t live up to expectations.

Um. You know, we've posted this elsewhere, but the Eagles have the youngest starting lineup of any team in the NFC East, both in terms of real age and number of years experience.

The "youth influx" from the last 3 drafts already has lived up to expectations - namely Westbrook, Sheppard, Brown, Lewis, etc. The only part of their team which is getting older without a proven backup (proven, mind you, not drafted) behind him is free safety.

Aging Eagles? Please.

32 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

The eagles are a horriblle team! they barely got to 6-10 last year, i would be very suprised if the have a winning season this year.

also, i agree that the cowboys shouldve traded up to get winston justice with their second round pick and then maybe get fasano if he slips, or another blocking tight end with good hands. thee cowboys have a solid tight end in jason witten and i think they shouldve worked a lot on their defense as well. their defense and offensive line are the only things that prevent them from breaking this season open, because they have an excellent offense with T.O who also gives Julius Jones space to breathe and Terry Glenn more man to man coverage, also jason witten should get some more catches in and drew bledsoe may have a career season as hhis career comes to an end soon.

i dont know if they drafted a QB lately, but in next years draft i definately suggest picking one up. i dont think theyve had a great qb since TROY AIKMAN AND ROGER STOUBACH!

i dont see any reason why the giants arent a playoff team except for the fact of their tough schedule.

the redskins need to work on their defense a little, and they'll be back in the playoff hunt.

33 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

The oldest starters are OT’s William (aka Tra) Thomas and John Runyan

Philly's oldest starter is Brian Dawkins, followed by Runyan.

Dawkins's replacement isn't on the roster, but he likely still has a few years left anyway, and replacing a possible Hall of Fame player isn't exactly easy.

34 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

The Giants look real good on offense, but they are gonna miss Will Allen in the secondary

35 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I don't want to scare the Giants fans or anything, but history has not been kind to running backs the year after they've rushed for 1800 yards of more. It's been done 16 times in league history, including twice last year, and on average the back's yardage declined almost 800 yards, from 1941 yards to 1143. The team on which he played declined from 10 wins to less than eight. The encouraging news, if you're a Giants fan, is that on four of the 16 occasions the team actually improved the next year. If Manning continues to develop, along with the young players from the good drafts of the last few years, I can see them maintaining or even improving on their record.

However, despite the fact I greatly respect Tiki Barber, given his age and the history of the other backs, there's plenty of cause for concern.

36 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

as an non-nfc east fan my uneducated prediction is that the redskins end up finishing in last place. it seems to me that brunell has very little left in the tank and doesn't perform well when injured. behind him is jason campbell who has very little experience to speak of.

i also think that the giants will decline a bit from last year. their schedule is slightly harder, and i don't think that tiki will repeat his fantastic 2005 season, instead declining modestly. any slip in tiki's performance could be offset by an improvement in eli's play but i am not overly confident in that.

i expect the cowboys to play roughly equal to how they performed last year. which in my estimation was good but not great football.

i think the eagle will rebound very well from last year and will win the division again. that prediction hinges upon an improvement from the WR corps which is probably as realistic as expecting andy reid to convert to falun gong.

i will now head for the digitized hills and await the righteous indignation of matthew furtek and stephen yang.

37 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Honestly, the thing that cracks me up is people convinced that any of the teams will have a bad year next year. Here's a hint: if you're convinced that one of these teams will fall apart next year, you're strongly biased for or against one of the teams. The NFC East is going to be won on injuries and luck.

Note that I'm not saying that one of the teams won't fall apart. One probably will. But there's no way of knowing which one beforehand, as it'll be injuries that do it.

38 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

#30: You're absolutely right about Antonio Pierce and David Tyree. The only odd thing that struck me about David Tyree's extension was that after he got signed he repeated several times about how much he wanted to be a reciever, although he only gets about 10 catches a season. The Tim Carter thing does strike me as odd, though. I know the draft is unpredictable, but they had to have known they were at least looking at upgrading the position. Couldn't they have just given him a one-year thing?

#35: Meh. I am unperturbed. I mean, how much better did the other three teams ACTUALLY become? The Gmen now have a stronger secondary and linebacker corps. The Redskins did improve. The Cowboys? Their fans have already cleared up that their O-Line sucks.

Sucky O-Line, meet Umenyiora (I can't even spell that right), Strahan, Arrrrington, Justin Tuck, and Kiwanuka. You want 50 sacks? I got ya 50 sacks right here. Giants and Washington make it to the round of 16 against Franc-

DAMN YOU WORLD CUP!!

And #30? You didn't mention the Lord of Oakland, Sir Henry Anderson.

39 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

#37 - That's what I thought about the AFC North.

40 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

38: In a sense, it doesn't matter how much the other teams improved (and I think all four improved). Losing 800 rushing yards is the equivalent of losing 80 points over the course of a season, and that's a huge loss to overcome.

I hear the chorus about how Dallas is going to give up 50 sacks this year all the time, and frankly I have to wonder if those people have any idea what their talking about. Prior to Flozell Adam's injury in week six, the offense was doing fine, and had given up 13 sacks in the first six games, even while starting a sixth round rookie at right tackle. Not great, but not awful. It was only after perennial underachiever (and since departed) Torrin Tucker entered the lineup that the wheels fell off: 36 sacks in the last ten games.

This year Adams will be back, Pettiti returns in (reportedly) better condition and certainly more experienced, and free agent Jason Fabini will at least add depth, if not win the right tackle job outright.

Larry Allen was a significant loss, but to anyone who watched the offensive line, they knew he whiffed far too many times. Marco Rivera was recovering from a major back injury last year, and while it's uncertain he'll return to his former Pro Bowl level, I don't think he'll be any worse than last season.

Is the offensive line a concern for the Cowboys? Sure. But to blithely assume that a) it sucks, and b) they'll give up 50 sacks this year, betrays more about the lack of knowledge of the observer (if not outright bias) than anything else.

41 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

anyone ever hear of a one man offense, i sure havent! and thats exactly whats going to happen to the eagles. mcnabb is a one man show! and if he gets injured, POOP, 0-16 the eagles shall go.

i have always said the nfc east is the strongest division, and i think they shall have three teams in the playoffs this season. its possible right? cowboys go 13-3, redskins go 12-4, giants go 11-5? they'll take the two wild card spots and let other teams battle it out.

Let me tell you my season predictions.

Colts
Dolphins
Bengals
Chiefs
Patriots
Steelers
Panthers
Cowboys
Bears
Seahawks
Buccaneers
Redskins

Those are my playoff predictions, they are very close to last years with some few changes, but i dont see any reason why the colts shouldnt win the division

42 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

and if he gets injured, POOP, 0-16 the eagles shall go.

So... apparently only the Giants would be fine with Rob Johnson, Jared Lorenzen or Tim Hasselbeck, the Cowboys with Drew Henson, and the Redskins with Jason Campbell?

Okay, Campbell, they might be okay with (but maybe not). But every team sucks horribly when they lose their starting QB.

43 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Just when I thought Stephen Yang's posts couldn't get any better, he incorporates the word 'poop'.

44 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

#35. Despite the carries and yards Tiki has accumulated the past 4 years, I don't think his age is really a factor. Tiki averaged 8.5 carries/game his first 5 seasons in the NFL. That's much less early career wear and tear than you usually see from top flight backs. From whay I've read, the Giants want to dramatically increase Brandon Jacobs' playing time in 2006. I think injuries will be a major factor in who wins the division. In order to win the division... the Giants must play up to potential CONSISTENTLY, the Redskins must keep Brunell healthy, the Eagles must revert to the great defensive squads of 2001-04, and the Cowboys must keep Drew Bledsoe off his back.

45 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

#40: "In a sense, it doesn’t matter how much the other teams improved (and I think all four improved). Losing 800 rushing yards is the equivalent of losing 80 points over the course of a season, and that’s a huge loss to overcome."

Just because the RB loses the yardage doesn't mean that the team will. Most of the dropoff in those statistics is due to an injury of one kind or another to the feature back. A backup, given the same number of carries, can probably get at least 70% of the yardage that the star would, so the impact isn't nearly as dire as you suggest. (And a median figure would be more useful than an average-- a handful of players who missed the all of the next season are probably skewing the average.)

However, I do think you're right that the concerns about the Dallas O-line are overblown. Petitti & Fabini aren't great, but if Adams is back and fully healed, they can compensate for the relative weakness of the right side schematically.

46 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Before we all go crazy talking about the Giants incredible defensive line - and this is coming from a Giants fan - this is a team that ranked 22nd in Adjusted Sack Rate last year.

47 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

#45 - You can't simply ignore the backs who got hurt and didn't play the next season because that's one of the side effects. That sort of workload eventually leads to more injuries.

48 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

By the way, did anyone notice the list of backup quarterbacks I listed above?

Are those honestly the quarterbacks that the Giants are going into the season with? Are they insane? Johnson, Lorenzen, and Hasselbeck?

Dallas's backups look pretty awful too. Those teams are in a lot of trouble if the starting quarterback goes down for much time at all.

Wait, wait - I just got the image of Terrell Owens having Drew Henson throwing to him. Oh, that'd be just hilarious.

49 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Well, Pat, if your dream is against the Giants, you know that Owens will be open over the middle -- because Will Demps will blow the coverage.

50 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

The nice thing about it is that it's not a crazy dream. At least in the Giants' defense, Manning's young, so there's not a serious injury worry there. With the Cowboys, I'm really surprised that with a 34 year old QB, the most experienced backup QB on the roster is the one that the head coach thinks is crap.

Then again, I'd have to rate Drew Henson as better than any of Lorenzen, Hasselbeck, or Rob Johnson.

51 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

#50. Based on what exactly would you rate Henson ahead of the Giants' backups? Henson/Romo is really no better than Lorenzen/Hasselbeck/Johnson. Let's put it this way, if any team in the division gets a QB injury, they're screwed. Jeff Garcia sounds great, but he was terrible the past 2 seasons. Todd Collins is a career backup and Jason Campbell is a rookie. The only way you can win with a rookie in this league is to only throw the ball 12-15 times a game.

52 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

RE:41 Does Westbrook not count in the offense? Or LJ Smith? Your "analysis" is laughable, bordering on being a troll. I'm onboard with Pat, there is no way anyone could predict the winner of this division until the games start. Injuries and luck. going 3-3 this year in the division for any of these teams might win the division.

53 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Although I agree with you regarding the Eagles' abilities, it is a mathematical impossibility for 3-3 to be the best record in a 4-team division, unless all the teams finish 3-3, which would then eliminate its potential use as a tiebreaker.

54 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

#50. Based on what exactly would you rate Henson ahead of the Giants’ backups?

The fact that Henson has at least thrown a pass for the team he plays for.

Let’s put it this way, if any team in the division gets a QB injury, they’re screwed.

If the QB is out for the season, yes. If the QB is only out for the rest of say, one game, likely not. If I have to rely on Jeff Garcia for one game, that's a little more comforting than relying on Jared Lorenzen.

Jeff Garcia sounds great, but he was terrible the past 2 seasons.

All backup QBs are horrible. If you have to rely on them for a season, you're in deep trouble. One or two games, though, and it's not so bad - see the Steelers in 2005, for instance.

That being said, Garcia has definitely been the "least awful" of any of the backup QBs in the NFC East. By a few thousand miles: Garcia's been about the definition of "replacement level", which is fantastic for a backup QB.

55 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Don't wanna mess up the jokes, but Tony Romo is the backup in Dallas, not Drew Henson. And Parcells sounds pretty damned definite about that.

I have to assume that losing the first string quarterback would be bad for any team. I remember it was one of the things that really (reluctantly) impressed me about Andy Reid and the Eagles a couple of years ago. I seem to remember them being down to the third string QB (Detmer) and still winning.

Not too many Tom Brady's in waiting out there.

56 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Feeley was the backup QB who won a bunch a few years ago, not Detmer. Detmer came in in 2002 and positively ripped things up. It was fairly insane, and this was versus San Francisco, who in 2002 were still a pretty decent team. He then dislocated his shoulder in that game.

Still though, I always thought it was great that Philly had two quarterbacks on the MNF horse trailer.

Don’t wanna mess up the jokes, but Tony Romo is the backup in Dallas, not Drew Henson. And Parcells sounds pretty damned definite about that.

That's why I said above "the most experienced QB is the one the coach hates the most." What scares me is the selection of quarterbacks that the Giants and Cowboys have all sound like 3rd QBs to me, not 2nd. The Redskins get a pass because Campbell's a future hopeful, but there's just no excuse for backin up a 34-year old with a guy who's sole NFL experience has come in the preseason and who you don't have a lot of hope for in terms of maximum upside anyway.

57 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"All backup QBs are horrible. If you have to rely on them for a season, you’re in deep trouble."

I don't know about that. Worked out okay for me.

59 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Young rookie != backup QB. Brady's a fair response. Roethlisberger isn't. That's why the Redskins get a pass for Campbell.

I don't think that the Giants think Jared Lorenzen is the next great QB.

60 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

it is a mathematical impossibility for 3-3 to be the best record in a 4-team division, unless all the teams finish 3-3, which would then eliminate its potential use as a tiebreaker.

Good point. Guess I got a little carried away with driving home the point of equality in the division. In any case, I'm hoping the Eagles can get a 4-2 mark in the division at least.

61 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Now you've got me thinking -- this new setup has devalued divisional games some, to the point where even a 4-2 record is not enough to be a tiebreaker, except in one instance. To follow:

Philly finishes 4-2, say, in the division. There must be a total of 12 wins in any 4-team division, so the remaining teams must win the other eight. Given that we are using whole numbers, if one team is 1-5, the other two are 4-2 and 3-3, tying one with Philly. If one team is 2-4, the others must be either 4-2 and 2-4 again, or they will both be 3-3, which is the only scenario where a 4-2 record will win the division outright.

I'm no statistical maven, but I'll say that is becasue 3/4 of the team's games are now played outside the division. Basically, the NFC East will be won by playing the NFC South, North and West, unless you happen to go 5-1 in the East. Then you're a lock.

And stop piling on my buddy Keith for getting Feeley and Detmer mixed up. Do you know how hard it is for a Cowboy fan to respect ANYTHING about Philly? :)

62 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Scary to say but after seeing the jokers employed by these teams the Bears are one of the few teams in decent shape if the starter goes down this time around. They don't take much of a step back at all, though that's probably as much an indictment of Grossman as it speaks to the quality of Griese. That said, Griese is substantially than the gallery of horrors employed in the East. No more Captain Neckbeard (at least we hope) this time around.

63 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re: Giants backup QB

I've seen a bunch of articles that have suggested the Giants will audition Jay Fiedler once he's healthy enough to throw. Tim Hasselbeck's days with the Giants are numbered.

64 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I agree. Most every team in the league is done if the starting QB blows an ACL in training camp, or whatever. Brady and Rothlisberger were examples of young, unproven QBs stepping up their games and coming up big.

65 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Travis:

That's what I would figure, really - especially after seeing Coughlin dance around defending his current QB corps. And to me, that would make a lot of sense.

What about Dallas? Anyone hear anything there, or are they seriously thinking Tony Romo/Drew Henson is good enough if Bledsoe gets a little woozy from a sack?

I agree. Most every team in the league is done if the starting QB blows an ACL in training camp

Yeah, but that's not what you need a backup QB for. It's not that uncommon - or that bad - to lose a QB for a set of downs, or maybe even an entire half. You'd like to not have to sacrifice an entire game in those situations.

66 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

ok look people. if a team loses their starting QB, they usually are in bad shape, the eagles are in 10 times worse shape!!! because they have a one man show! the falcons are similar but matt schaub has shown signs of being a pretty good QB.

anyways without donovan mcnabb, the eagles are a horrible team. westbrook gets injured, and they have no wider recievers! if that happens to dallas, they'll be ok because of terrell owens making it easier for henson or romo and julius jones to take off the pressure.

the redskins have jason campbell who could be ok, and has valuable recievers and a good back to hand off to. 1500 yards the last two seasons for MR. PORTIS

and the giants are a solid team. the eagles are all over the place!!! you think tom brady wouldve been tom brady playing for a mediocre team?? no he was playing for a play off team like dallas, washington, and new york, and i havent seen the eagles in the playoffs for like 20 years! am i right,? am i right?

i kid, i kid, they got killed in the superbowl

67 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

One way you can be sure that when the starting QB gets injured your team is still competitive is by having a great defense and a joke of an offense. Look at the Bears last year and the Ravens for the past 6.

68 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Pat,
I think 1 team get knocked out due to luck and 1 team knocked out due to injuries... similar to last year.

To me it seems like all of Philadelphians yutes are concentrated on the offensive and defensive lines. Speaking as a Redskin fan, Westbrook doesn't scare me like he should, neither does Reggie Brown. I just don't see the offensive weapons to go with McNabb.

Dallas' season depends on keeping Bledsoe upright. Not easy to do when you look at the other teams defenses.

The Giants and Redskins have to stay the course... although you wonder about Barber and Portis taking a beating through the season... were all the RBs banged up from the NFC east last year (save Barber?).

Not so sure backup QB would be Jason Campbell at this point. Todd Collins could be a better fit for that offense. Who knows, because training camp hasn't arrived... but I have absolute faith Gibbs is not going into the season with a scrub at QB. He's paranoid about that type of thing... probably ever since Theissman was put on the path towards becoming a broadcaster.

The only thing we can all agree on is the hatred each team has for the others and it's going to be fun to watch.

69 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Tom Kelso #61:

To say that winning the NFC East depends on the record against the AFC and NFC South is a little off base or going 5-1.

Last year, outside division records were:

Giants 7-3
Eagles 6-4
Cowboys 6-4
Redskins 5-5

But the Eagles weren't "close" to winning the division by being just one game back of the Giants in non-divisional games, nor were the Redskins way out of it, because division records were:

Redskins 5-1
Giants 4-2
Cowboys 3-3
Eagles 0-6

Frankly, last year was really a strange year in the division because of the record of the Eagles (good out of the division, terrible within it). Had they just gone 2-4 in the division (winning, say, the flukey losses in the 2nd match-ups against the Cowboys and Giants), the Redskins would have won the division, and the Cowboys would have been in last place.

The most likely outcome of the division, however, is going to be less parity than last year, because it is highly unlikely the Eagles are going to lose all six division games again. People always read way too much into the last year's results in projecting a coming year.

70 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Speaking as a Redskin fan, Westbrook doesn’t scare me like he should, neither does Reggie Brown. I just don’t see the offensive weapons to go with McNabb.

That's because we're apparently too far removed from 2003. McNabb's always been spreading things around. That's what he does. It's fine. It works.

And why does everyone forget Todd Pinkston, anyway? He had a really good 2004, and that's not even counting all the pass interference penalties he drew. Pinkston's proven himself to be a really good deep threat - even in 2003, he had 5 40+ yard catches (6 in 2004). That's a big part of the offense that was missing last year.

Everyone likes to pretend the Eagles don't have any offense after the disaster that was the latter half of 2005. But it's not like their offense was bad in the first half. You should know that - McNabb put up 300 yards passing against the Redskins without Owens.

If he had actually been able to move without feeling his insides rip apart, they probably would've won that game.

Not so sure backup QB would be Jason Campbell at this point. Todd Collins could be a better fit for that offense

My God! Is Campbell ever going to get a chance? They basically trade the farm to get the guy as if he's in demand by every team in the country, and then leave him at emergency quarterback for two years?

71 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Incidentally, I'd also like to point out that Philly was still the best last place team in the league according to DVOA, and that's with half a season of a disaster on both offense (2nd half of the season) and special teams, which most people forget.

Honestly, in an NFC East thread, I don't get why Philly's being brushed off. The Giants had to go to OT to beat Philly. Dallas needed a late turnover, and so did Washington (twice). Without Owens in all of those games - and with Mike McMahon under center for two of them.

It's not like Philly just got bulldozed over every game. They were like a wounded bear all year.

72 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re: 71

I think Philly has a good chance in this division. I like Dallas a little more, but I've got a lot of confidence in Reid keeping Philly playing at a very high level.

I think Washington will also be good, but making the playoffs again will depend on Brunell playing as well as last year. I'm skeptical.

I'm guessing the Giants will take a step back. How far are they into the Coughlin shelf life?

73 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

My guess is that Dallas felt that since they kickoff coverage unit has been very good under Parcells the last three years, they could get away with Vandy's kickoffs. They couldn't afford to keep having awful FG kicking, especially since Texas Stadium has been the easiest place to kick field goals at in the last four years. On top of that, there's a decent chance Keith Davis could return to special teams full times, and they added Rocky Boiman for ST help and will return guys like Kevin Burnett, Terrence Copper and Scott Shanle. One guy to watch out for? Jason Hatcher. The guy is a beast.

74 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Matthew Furtek,
I can see where as a Redskins fan you don't share the same optimism about the Eagles offense that I (as an Eagles fan) does. But I would be really scared if Brunell went down this year. Collins may fit in the system, but if he gets in there, Portis will need to carry the load until teams respect him to connect with the recievers. Not only that, but 2 of your 3 WR's are new to the system and one (Llyod) has loads of talent, but sticks of butter for hands.

BTW, if Collins is a better fit for the system than Campbell, then why did they pay so much to draft him? Just curious.

All in all, I think that every NFC East game is going to be a dogfight, no one should blow out the opposition, which will make this a great season to watch.

75 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

So Stephen Yang, are you a Dallas fan or a Redskins fan? Based on your "analysis" I would go with Dallas, but your incoherent bias against Philly could make you either.

btw, how effective is TO going to be when Bledsoe is backpeddling to throw or getting sandwiched on the turf? Dallas still had O-line issues that will hamper their overall effectiveness.

76 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I agree with post 75, you can have as many superstar receivers as you can get and you can get the best QB available to throw them the ball but if the offensive line cannot be relied on to keep him upright for long enough to throw the football then the offense is going nowhere. With as immobile a QB as Dallas have I cannot see them getting any better without a major improvement in their offensive line.

Every team in this division has potential issues and I belive it will be won by the team who stays healthiest and gets a few breaks along the way. I expect Philadelphia to improve after injuries derailled their season last year outside that all the other teams could (in my opinion) go either way it is far too early to tell what will happen.

That said could we please end all talk of three teams from any one division making the playoffs. This would require the rest of the teams in the conferencve to be equally horrible and I just cannot see it happening.

77 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"That said could we please end all talk of three teams from any one division making the playoffs. This would require the rest of the teams in the conferencve to be equally horrible and I just cannot see it happening."

I agree it's unlikely, but looking at the NFC (and conceding that things can change wildly from year-to-year), I can't see a wild-card coming out of the North or the West. So I'd say there's a decent (10-20%) chance that three teams in the East (or the South) could make the playoffs.

78 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

My guess is that Dallas felt that since they kickoff coverage unit has been very good under Parcells the last three years, they could get away with Vandy’s kickoffs.

Wait, wait: they aren't talking about Vanderjagt actually kicking off, are they? I thought the punter could kick off!

No team can get away with Vanderjagt's kicking. None. His last kickoff bounced to the 35. Philly's long snapper had a longer kickoff. Regardless of how good the kick coverage is, Vanderjagt kicking off = better than average starting field position for opponents.

79 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Drew,
My pessimism is based largely on the 2 games played last year. Westbrook bottled up (although Reggie Brown went off), followed by a feel good playoff clinching victory in the end of the season (against a McNabb-less undermanned team).

As a fan those are huge victories when you consider recent Redskin success against Philly. McNabb had always been a magician, but in the one game he didn't get it done. More important than actually stopping the Philly offense was breaking the defense down with some good drives and even one of my favorite Portis runs of the season. I've felt like every game against Philadelphia since Spurrier was something like 28-6 or 30-14... or some game against replacements that Ramsey pilfers away with a dumb interception.

Don't get me wrong about Campbell... preseason will tell if he's ready, and all indications are he's going to play a lot in preseason. Last year he was hindered by the whole Ramsey-Brunell competition. Ramsey played long stretches in the 2nd half. Whoever steps in won't be a huge step down from Brunell.

I believe adding Lloyd, Randel-El, and getting a healthy Patten in will go leaps and bounds towards providing Campbell enough weapons to be effective when he comes in. Defensives won't be able to key in on Porits, and even their 4th WR would be a little dangerous. I'm drooling to think about what Saunders can do with a better set of WRs than he had in KC.

Gibbs has always used his talent well. When he had Riggins, the 'Skins were largely a running team. When the Posse came along... their passing game took off (that stats might be surprising).

This might be the most talented offense Gibbs has to work with. Whereas Philadelphia has surrounded a star QB with decent talent, Washington has surrounded a decent QB with all-star talent. It's going to be hard to double team Moss and put 8 men in the box when the 'Skins are running so many 3 WR formations.

Even if Portis or one of the WRs go down, there is more than enough depth to make up for it.

Sure their offensive line is thin, but it was last year as well (Randy Thomas going down really hurt them).

It's going to be fun to watch... even if we're all rooting for different teams and get a bit defensive.

80 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

We ARE too far removed from 2003, Pat. No one remembers that the Eagles went to the NFC championship game with Pinkston and Mitchell as their starting wide recievers. Brown is definitely an upgrade over Mitchell. Besides that we've got LJ Smith starting at TE instead of Chad Lewis, and a couple of OLine changes. So how is this offence not dangerous? Oh yeah, because all anyone can remember is TO in the last couple of years and now that he's gone suddenly the Eagles have no weapons.

We'll see.

81 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

My pessimism is based largely on the 2 games played last year.

Wait, so why are you pessimistic about the Eagles again? Two struggles against a team that was laden with injuries and still, in the end, Philly was still very in it in the fourth quarter in both games.

Incidentally, as for bottling up Westbrook: 17 runs, 24 yards definitely sucks: but 4 catches, 55 yards is a little more punch. In total, 21 touches, 79 yards isn't fantastic: but in comparison, Portis was 24 touches, 75 yards.

More important than actually stopping the Philly offense was breaking the defense down with some good drives and even one of my favorite Portis runs of the season.

Well, Portis was pretty contained (just like Westbrook was) in the first game. In the second game, though, the defense really was halfhearted. They were missing Sheppard and Kearse, which left them with a weakened secondary and a nonexistent pass rush (as teams managed to get enough scouting info on Cole), which meant all of the linebackers were staying in short coverage.

End result? Well, it worked, for a while. Brunell went 9/25, but Portis got a decent amount of yardage. That being said, though, the Redskins only scored 10 points not off of turnovers, and even those 10 points only came from long bombs (linebackers don't help much there).

I don't really think it was "breaking down" the defense. It was just a defense missing its biggest threat - a pass rush - trying to compensate.

82 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I think the two most likely teams to fall off in the east are the Giants and the Cowboys. On paper, all the teams are very similiar right now and people are saying the Boys have shored up their O-line - but they just don't have the depth there. Injuries WILL happen, and if any happen to the Cowboys O-line, they might be screwed.

Tiki Barber also isn't going to run for 1800 yards. He had an MVP caliber season last year and to a lot of people, was the real MVP since he didn't gain his yards against Arizona, San Francisco, St Louis (all twice) and Houston. The division is too talented to let him run the way he did last year - let alone factoring in age, carries, and prior cases of this happening. Eli will need to improve to make up for the less production.

I think going into the season, you have to like the Skins or the Eagles. I think Brunell will be on the bench at some point, but I think Jason Campbell will be a very good player. The Eagles have a lot of depth, are young, and its unlikely they're entire team will be injured again.

83 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

My pessimism is based largely on the 2 games played last year. Westbrook bottled up (although Reggie Brown went off), followed by a feel good playoff clinching victory in the end of the season (against a McNabb-less undermanned team).

Understandable, but remember that the Eagles were in both games till the end, as Pat mentioned, and for that last game half the O-line for the Eagles was rookies filling in.

I believe adding Lloyd, Randel-El, and getting a healthy Patten in will go leaps and bounds towards providing Campbell enough weapons to be effective when he comes in. Defensives won’t be able to key in on Porits, and even their 4th WR would be a little dangerous. I’m drooling to think about what Saunders can do with a better set of WRs than he had in KC.

Gibbs has always used his talent well. When he had Riggins, the ‘Skins were largely a running team. When the Posse came along… their passing game took off (that stats might be surprising).

gibbs is at least learning that Portis isn't Riggins and he can't pound him inside all the time. That being said, I still don't believe that Gibbs used his receivers beyond Moss and Cooley all that well.

This might be the most talented offense Gibbs has to work with. Whereas Philadelphia has surrounded a star QB with decent talent, Washington has surrounded a decent QB with all-star talent. It’s going to be hard to double team Moss and put 8 men in the box when the ‘Skins are running so many 3 WR formations.
Here is where aI disagree most. I don't see him running 3 WR sets, mostly cause I think Lloyd won't be used like a 2, but Randel-El will be. Also, regarding Philly's talent level, it may be decent talent, but there are some all-stars there and the important thing is that they play well as a team. that is the biggest beef I have with the 'Skins is Snyder's annual attempt to build a pro-bowl team.

Even if Portis or one of the WRs go down, there is more than enough depth to make up for it. Yeah, there is decent depth with Betts and the WR's, but if you guys lose a lineman, it would be a big problem.

It’s going to be fun to watch… even if we’re all rooting for different teams and get a bit defensive.

Absolutely. I don't mean to come off sounding offended, nor do I try to offend. This is the only place I can come where fans of all teams for the most part are level headed and realistic. No blind homers and only a few trolls.

84 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re: The comedic stylings of Stephen Yang

Wow, you’re a real genius (and apparently so am I since I just posted this over in the NFC North Four Downs thread). Of course the Eagles are going to suck without Owens. How could we have all forgotten all the stud wide receivers McNabb’s been throwing to his entire career.

Pre-Torn Ovaries:

2003
WRs: James Thrash/Todd Pinkston
Record: 12-4; NFC East Champ; NFC Champ. Appearance

2002
WRs: James Thrash/Todd Pinkston
Record: 12-4 (6 games minus McNabb); NFC East Champ; NFC Champ. Appearance

2001
WRs: James Thrash/Todd Pinkston
Record: 11-5; NFC East Champ; NFC Champ. Appearance

2000 (McNabb’s first as a starter)
WRs: Charles Johnson/Torrence Small
Record: 11-5; NFC East Runner-up; Won Wild Card Playoff Game

85 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

All that matters is that the Eagles get two shots to destroy T.O.'s career like they did to Irving! LOL!

86 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

84 - Don't forget 2004 playoffs w/o TO. Got to the Super Bowl with Pinkston, Mitchell & Lewis. Were the Eagles better with TO - definitely. But they still had enough to get by without him. To overcome the mediocrity at WR, Westbrook needs to stay healthy (maybe 5+ per game for Moats, maybe Buckhalter, or even Staley comes back); AND Donovan needs to run much more than he has the past 2 years - at least enough to keep D's on their guard.

The key for the NFC East this year could be play against the NFC South. Everyone's talking about how tough the East is, rightfully so, but the South is Strong. With NO adding by subtracting (Haslett, Brooks) and by adding (Brees, Bush), there's not an easy game in the bunch. You'd benchmark 2-2 vs that division and anything above or below that may decide your fate...

At least this season will be a ton of fun for the NFC East. A few years back it was getting kind of boring. I can't wait.

88 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

YOU'RE ALL WRONG. WRONG I SAY! WRONG! THE EAGLES ARE A TERRIBLE TEAM, NOT AS TERRIBLE AS THE 49ERS, BUT THATS A DIFFERENT THREAD. THE COWBOYS ARE GOING TO WIN THIS DIVISION, AND IF THEY DONT, THEN THE REDSKINS SHALL, BUT I DOUBT IT BECAUSE THEY LOST LAVAR ARRINGTON BUT THEY DID ADD ADAM ARCHULETA SO I THINK EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT FINE FOR THE REDSKINS. IF THE COWBOYS CAN GET A GUARD OR A TACKLE WHO IS WORTH MENTIONING, YOU ARE LOOKING AT A SUPERBOWL TEAM. JUST LOOK AT THE STEELERS, THERE ARE NO PARTICULAR STARS ON THE STEELERS, BUT THEY HAVE NO HOLES IN THEIR OFFENSE, DEFENSE, OR SPECIAL TEAMS. THEY ARE JUST A SOLID TEAM, AND SOLID TEAMS WIN SUPERBOWLS.

THE SEAHAWKS, HOWEVER HAVE A SOLID TEAM, PLUS EXTRAORDINARY TALENT AT RB, S, LB, TO NAME A FEW. I THINK THE SEAHAWKS WILL BE BACK IN THE PLAYOFFS AND POSSIBLY IN THE SUPERBOWL. I THINK THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME WILL BE THE SEAHAWKS VS. THE COWBOYS, WITH TERRELL OWENS EITHER GETTING INJURED OR SHUT DOWN, AND SHAUN ALEXANDER SCORING A FEW TDS, WITH HASSLEBECK WITH A RATING OF 120+

THE EAGLES ARE GETTING EXPONENTIALLY WORSE NEXT YEAR. I GURANTEE IT.

89 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

EXPONENTIALLY WORSE

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

90 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Stephen Yang, your comments constitute some of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever read. At no point in your rambling, incoherent comments have you been even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone who has read your comments is now dumber for having read them.

91 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re #90: Thats not true! I just finished reading his last post and I don't think I is dummer 4 raeding NEting he rote. Add to dat, um.....1 sec plz kthx....hmm.....

Anywho, as much as it kills me to say this, being a Giants fan and all, the Eagles are certainly not as weak as a lot of people are making them out to be. I can say for certain that with the Giants's schedule, if they win the division they would have earned it.

92 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Eagles did look like a great draft, and Washington had another of their terrible drafts.

The other picks had a bit more support, as Reed Doughty, Kedric Golston and Kevin Simon were all minor steals on at least one draft board.

According to the boards, Reed Doughty was more a reach than a steal.

93 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I still have more coaches than you! And with the 10,000 seats we adding to FedEx field this year we'll make a killing selling hubble telescope replicas to see the field (from around the large support structures).

94 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re: #90 Well put, love the Billy Madison reference. Btw, FO can we get a Stephen Yang version of the troll template to use? If I wasn't swamped at work I'd do it myself, but I need something in call caps that would allow me to name great players on a team, reference a team that isn't built the same way, then use the circular logic to say that the first great team is going to lose because they are built using stars. Oh and the Eagles have to suck apparently.
Follow all that? :)

95 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re: 88
THE COWBOYS ARE GOING TO WIN THIS DIVISION, AND IF THEY DONT, THEN THE REDSKINS SHALL, BUT I DOUBT IT BECAUSE THEY LOST LAVAR ARRINGTON BUT THEY DID ADD ADAM ARCHULETA SO I THINK EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT FINE FOR THE REDSKINS.

That sentence ran on for so long that I ran out of breath even though I was reading it silently. Heavens, you don't so much speak the language as you chew on it and spit it out. Look, here's a shiny sixpence if you'll keep your mouth shut and go away.

96 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"JUST LOOK AT THE STEELERS, THERE ARE NO PARTICULAR STARS ON THE STEELERS"

I can't believe I'm actually responding to this (if just reading a Stephen Yang post makes one dumber, what of responding of one?), but anyway....

If, at a minimum, Roethlesberger, Ward and Polamalu (not to mention Faneca, Farrior, Porter) aren't "stars", I'm not sure what the term means. Once you define a "star" as one of the 5 or so most headline grabbing players in the league (Manning, Brady, Moss, TO, Favre, maybe Vick/McNabb/Ray Lewis), you really have to include those guys. To put it another way, if you were to put together a list of the 50 "best" players in the NFL (to the extent that comparing players across different positions is a worthwhile exercise), I'd be shocked not to see those three not on there. Well, maybe if *you* were putting together the list I wouldn't be, but let's assume someone with a basic level of football knowledge was putting together the list.

97 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"Once you define a “star�"

Once = Unless

98 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

He called Pittsburgh players underrated and good, get him!

99 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re: 98, FYI, I'm not a Steelers fan. I'm simply saying that the adage that stars are overrated and all you need is a solid "team" to win Super Bowls is not really borne out by the facts. The clear majority of Super Bowl winners featured at least a couple of players who were among the best in the league at their position. Like I said, perhaps they're not "stars" if you're talking about publicity, but that doesn't make Richard Seymour, Jonathan Ogden or Derrick Brooks any less valuble (to use three recent examples from SB winners).

You could make the case that the 01 Pats didn't really have any stars and I'd probably agree with you, but time has shown that they really did have several great players, they just weren't recognized as such at the time.

100 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Like I said, perhaps they’re not “stars� if you’re talking about publicity

Even that doesn't stack up with regard to the Steelers. The Jerome Bettis butt-kissing and Roethlisberger marketing was at insane levels last year in the media. I think it's safe to say that there were quite a few "public" stars on the Steelers.

101 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

RE: 93
Have you ever been to FedEX field? There isn't a bad seat in the house. I've forgotten my glasses and still been able to see from the upper deck.

102 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Firstly, the "steelers are underrated" comment was in reference to an article written back in 04 on this site where MDS praised the members of the Steelers defense, which cause a backlash of vitrol from many self-proclaimed Steeler fans.
Secondly, the 01 Pats had a half-dozen players who were in the top five at thier position, and at least two legitimate "stars." This isn't actually refuting anything Steve said, but I just had to say it anyways.

103 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Dude these are the playoff teams
(i always get at leaast 11 out of 12 right)

New England
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis
Denver
Kansas city
Baltimore

New york
minnesota
carolina
seattle
dallas
arizona

last year i was 12 for 12

104 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Kansas City? Minnesota? No Philly? I think you're not going to go 11/12 this time.

105 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

RE: 9

McIntosh cost them 2 2nds and a 6th. Ridiculous. He was not worth that.

106 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

New England
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis
Denver

Kansas city - You think that without Al Saunders and Vermeil they can outlast Martyball?

Baltimore - you're pinning a lot of hope on McNair....

New york
minnesota - lol, um no.
carolina
seattle
dallas
arizona

interesting choices. i think ARI and STL are a toss up for 2nd in the West.

And I would love to see Miami challenge the Pats, but that is more of a wish than anything else.

107 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

RE: 20

The nfc east is a tough division but i think i know exactly what will happen.

You know exactly what will happen? I'd be willing to wager a lot of money on the stuff you said NOT happening.

108 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

The average NFL team scores 20 pts a game therefore a....
Def win = 20 pts or less
Off win = 20 pts or more

Last Year
Philly-7 def wins,8 off wins...neither unit got much better but, they have a favorable schedule with their last place finish
Dallas-11 def wins,10 off wins....both units seemed to have improved this off season
Washington-11 def wins,8 off wins....Gregg William's defense is the best in the division no matter who he plugs in until proven otherwise, improvements at wr position and new coach enough to spark a better offense?????Probably didnt get worse
NYG- 8 def wins,13 off wins...offense = tiki barber = old, is Eli good enough not to need him....This is an 8-8 team if they dont have a spectacular offense

Not going to far out on a limb, I would have to call Dallas the favorite to win the division. They were right there last year and have gotten better with the kicking game, and at WR.

I think this division will be lucky to have another playoff team. If only because the other teams will beat up on each other too much.

The wild card is the Redskins Passing game.

The Redskins have the best oline, the best wr core, and the best defense IMO. If they produce in the passing game then they have the best offense to go along with the best defense. They went 5-1 in division play last year with only one steal. They went 0-4 in the AFC with several unlucky breaks. Was that a ceiling 10-6 year or the floor?

As a Redskins homer I'm praying for the passing game to come along but am not counting any chickens. I think the boys are the best team going into the season.

109 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

RE: 41

mcnabb is a one man show! and if he gets injured, POOP, 0-16 the eagles shall go.

I guarantee the Eagles will not go 0-16.

Hey, where did we get this ying-yang? Can we mark "RETURN TO SENDER"?

110 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Philly-7 def wins,8 off wins…neither unit got much better but, they have a favorable schedule with their last place finish

Whew! It's good of you to tell us that neither unit got much better.

Otherwise we might've been fooled by the fact that of the starters by the end of the season last year, on defense, 5/11 will be different, and on offense, 7/11 will be different. Crazy us, thinking that Pro Bowl players will be an improvement over backups and first-year rookies.

111 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

RE: 108

Last Year
Philly-7 def wins,8 off wins…neither unit got much better

I know this has been said over and over again. But I think it has been made pretty clear that /both/ units have gotten much better! From what I hear, Donovan McNabb, David Akers, Brian Westbrook, Darwin Walker, Sheldon Brown, Javon Kearse, Jerome McDougle, Dirk Johnson, and Dexter Wynn are /all/ better, while Todd Pinkston, Lito Sheppard, Tra Thomas, Hank Fraley, and Thomas Tapeh expect to be all better by training camp.

This list obviously doesn't include any players who managed to stay /healthy/ last season, some of whom (mainly last year's rookie class) I expect will show at least moderate improvement from last year to this year.

112 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Mike, I love the Eagles as much as anyone, but waving Dexter Wynn and Thomas Tapeh in the faces of doubters isn't exactly making a strong case.

113 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

OK, OBVIOUSLY A LOT OF PEOPLE DOUBT MY REASONING. UFORTUNATELY I CAN ONLY POST ONCE OR TWICE A DAY, BUT HERE I GO. BTW THE CAPS JUST MAKES ME HEARD AND IS MORE CONVIENIENT SO I DONT HAVE TO KEEP PRESSING THE SHIFT KEY.

NEXT, THE COWBOYS ARE WINNING THIS DIVISION. END OF STORY. TERRELL OWENS IS A WINNER, HE WILL MAKE THE COWBOYS A SUPERBOWL TEAM.

NEXT, THE VIKINGS ARE A HORRIBLE TEAM. THERES NO WAY THEY'RE MAKING THE PLAYOFFS, KANSAS CITY HAS A SHOT, BUT ARIZONA DOES NOT. ARIZONA IS A GOOD TEAM, THAT MADE A LOT OF IMPROVEMENTS LAST OFFSEASON, BUT THEY NEED TO MAKE THAT LINE A LITTLE BETTER, AND MAKE THEIR DEFENSE A LITTLE BETTER AND THEY WILL BE A PLAYOFF TEAM.

THE RAVENS ARE NOT GOING TO BE IN THE PLAYOFFS. THEIR OFFENSE IS WEAK AND ONE MAN ISNT GOING TO CHANGE EVERYTHING. STEVE MCNAIR IS NOT THAT GOOD, AND HE IS WELL PAST HIS PRIME.

WHAT I SAID ABOUT THE STEELERS IS TRUE.
THEY HAVE NO REAL STARS, JUST A BUNCH OF VERY GOOD PLAYERS, BUT NO STARS, AND NO HOLES EITHER.

BEN ROETHLISBERGER, HINES WARD, WILLIE PARKER, ALAN FANECA, AND JAMES FARRIOR DIDNT MAKE THE PRO BOWL. ONLY THREE STEELERS MADE THE PRO BOWL: JEFF HARTINGS, JOEY PORTER, CASEY HAMPTON,(WHO WAS ONLY THERE AS A INJURY REPLACEMENT) TROY POLOMALU. OH AND MAY I MENTION HARTINGS, AND PORTER, AND HAMPTON TOO WERE BOTH RESERVES??

POLOMALU IS A PRETTY GOOD PLAYER AND I DO CONSIDER HIM ONE OF THE BEST SAFETIES, BUT HE IS THE ONLY STEELER I CONSIDER A STAR.

OH AND I THINK MIAMI IS GOING TO BE IN THE PLAYOFFS, THEY HAVE A GOOD QB, GOOD WR, AND OVERALL A SOLID TEAM.

114 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Okay, now I'm definitely convinced there's no reason not to have an all caps filter. It's either spam, or someone who wants to use a cheap gimmick to be heard rather than actual interesting points.

115 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

BTW THE CAPS JUST MAKES ME HEARD AND IS MORE CONVIENIENT SO I DONT HAVE TO KEEP PRESSING THE SHIFT KEY.

No, it just makes you sound like the [redacted] that you are.

This is sheer lunacy.

116 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re 115, Sid, if that 'sentence' you quoted didn't make you laugh you are a robot. A robot incapable of crying at Steel Magnolias.

117 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

No, of course it made me laugh. But he didn't mean it to be humorous.

118 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

re: 116 Another robot on this board! After the whole robo-team debates I think we will need to move this forum to the AV room after chess club.

119 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

RE: 113 "THE COWBOYS ARE WINNING THIS DIVISION. END OF STORY. TERRELL OWENS IS A WINNER, HE WILL MAKE THE COWBOYS A SUPERBOWL TEAM."

Yang, Your lack of football knowledge is only surpassed by your lack of typing skills and grasp of the English language...LOL!

T.O. has been in the league since 1996...have any idea how many Superbowl rings he wears?

He’ll be in a wheelchair way before Superbowl Sunday, most likely October 8th!

120 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re: Stephen Yang — 6/22/2006 @ 12:08 am (NFC East Four Downs Thread)
NEXT, THE VIKINGS ARE A HORRIBLE TEAM. THERES NO WAY THEY’RE MAKING THE PLAYOFFS, KANSAS CITY HAS A SHOT, BUT ARIZONA DOES NOT.

Re: Stephen Yang — 6/22/2006 @ 12:28 am (NFC North Four Downs Thread)
BUT THE CARDINALS DEFINATELY HAVE A SHOT AT THE PLAYOFFS WITH EDGERRIN JAMES RUNNING THE BALL.

Did I miss some huge trade that took place early this morning???

121 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

It's fun to read Mr. Yang's post with a "Billy Mays Filter".

122 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

As soon as I see an all-caps post, I just skip it. It's not worth the headache. I guess it's not a bad thing. All-caps posting is a great way for someone to inform me up front that their post is worthless and I can save valubable minutes of my life by ignoring it.

123 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

arrg. you guys have forced me to this. now instead of all capital, its all tiny. thanks to you guys not wanting to listen to my keen ideas. arizona does have a shot in the playoffs, but its not a very big one. seattle is definately going to win the division, without a doubt.

terrell owens is a great wide receiver, and just because he doesnt have a superbowl ring, doesnt mean that he sucks and is unworthy. he is getting dallas into the playoffs.

124 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

You forgot to sign that one "William Yin".

125 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

terrell owens is a great wide receiver, and just because he doesnt have a superbowl ring

No, but the fact that he's been in the league since 1996 means that he's old.

I really wouldn't be surprised if this was the year that the shine started wearing off of Terrell Owens. DVOA wasn't too keen on Owens last year, and he was only ever playing with McNabb throwing to him, and I don't buy that he would perform half-assed just because he's pissed. He's too competitive for that.

126 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I was under the impression that the Redskins record against the NFC East was 5-1 last year. What I'm hearing is that two me-first guys named Terrel and Lavar are going to change all that?

127 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re:126

IIRC, like three of those five wins (maybe it was only two, but still...) were miracles. Sure, a win is a win. But if you're going to look at a team's record to try and extrapolate how they'll fare this coming season you also have to look at how that record was achieved.

128 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I'd say three were really lucky breaks - the first Dallas win, and both Philly wins. The other wins were pretty solid.

Here "lucky" = "hinged on basically one or two very rare plays". I think it's fair to say that if you change one play that happens very rarely to a play that happens often and the team goes from winning to losing, that's a lucky win.

That's not to discredit the Redskins at all, but the Atlanta Falcons can tell you what happens if you rely on rare events happening to you to win.

129 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I’d say three were really lucky breaks - the first Dallas win, and both Philly wins. The other wins were pretty solid.

(And the 1 loss was an extraordinarily solid 36-0.)

130 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

the eagles arent going to do good. period. the giants, redskins, and cowboys are going to do better. this is why the nfc east is the strongest division. it features 3 playoff teams, and one almost playoff team. (eagles)

131 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

the eagles arent going to do good. period.

Whew! Can't argue with that argument. Rock solid deduction, there.

132 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

look. the eagles have no RB, and no WR. brian westbrook cant carry the load!

brian dawkins is getting old. the eagles are decomposing.

this bird has flown.

133 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"It begs the question whether, for the veteran minimum, a 50-year-old Eddie Murray might not be a better value. Granted, it doesn’t beg very hard."

Begging the question does not mean that someone should ask the question. Begging the question is an informal logical fallacy caused wherein the point you are trying to prove is assumed in your argument. I thought the Football Outsiders were supposed to be more informed than the Terry Bradshaw's of the world.

Otherwise, that was a great article.

134 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I just want to thank Stephen Yang for the he's provided to this thread.

135 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Re: 133

And I thought the Football Outsiders readers were supposed to be intelligent enough to comprehend a joke when they read one.

Otherwise, great post.

136 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

look. the eagles have no RB, and no WR. brian westbrook cant carry the load!

The Eagles went to the NFC Championship in the 2003 postseason, with worse receivers than they have now, and Westbrook injured.

That doean't mean they'll do so this year, but McNabb and Reid have also taken a collection of inanimate carbon rods at receiver to the NFC Championship after 2001 and 2002, and went to Superbowl XXXIX with T.O. splitting time between a hyperbaric chamber and cheering from the sidlines as Fabulous Freddie Mitchell & Co. won the playoff games.

Brian Dawkins may be getting old, but he's still quite effective, and the rest of the team is fairly young.

Reports of their decomposition are greatly exaggerated.

137 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

look. the eagles have no RB, and no WR. brian westbrook cant carry the load!

Yeah, because no team has ever rode its defense to the Super Bowl with a lackluster offense.

Oh, wait...

brian dawkins is getting old. the eagles are decomposing.

1: Dawkins made the Pro Bowl last year as an alternate. Clearly the coaches and players still think he's fine.

2: Dawkins is a little less than two months older than Terrell Owens, but Owens will carry the Cowboys to the playoffs, and Dawkins will break down? Even though safety is a position where speed (which you lose with age) is much less important than wide receiver? That's some consistent logic right there.

3: You can name one player on their defense who's getting old (because, uh, there's no one else even near Dawkins), and the entire defense is decomposing?

Yeah, I'm missing something.

138 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Brian Dawkins may be getting old, but he’s still quite effective, and the rest of the team is fairly young.

Defense is the youngest in the NFC East, by a wide margin.

Offense is young too, although the Redskins have a freaking young offense. Their defense is another story.

139 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

My last post should have read "I'd like to thank Stephen Wang for the [b]humor[/b] he's provided to this thread."

140 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

What Eagles fans seem to be conveniently forgetting in their analysis of the glory days is how they managed to get to those title games. They did it during a period when the rest of their division was GARBAGE. Easy to win the division and have a shot in the playoffs when you're going against Schotty, Spurrier, Dave Campo, Parcells in his first year back, Fassel when his team gave up on him, and Coughlin before his team bought into what he was doing. I'll give them credit for what they did after making the playoffs, but let's face it - their road to get there wasn't exactly all that daunting the past few years.

The division ain't like that anymore. Reid actually has some coaching competition. The talent level of the competition has grown. And the Eagles' attempts to keep up in the arms race only worked for one year, then backfired last year thanks to typical T.O. crap and Kearse injuries.

Can the Eagles rebound this year? Sure they can. But please, don't look at their poo-poo WRs and lack of a power runner and say "Well, they did it before with crappy WRs, so they can do it again." That was then. This is now. And with those wideouts and that running game, they have to hope for some surprise performances to go from playoff contender to SB contender.

141 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I'm not trying to deliberately tweak Eagles fans. All I'm saying is that, on paper, they seem to have the most question marks. The Giants' question seems to be Eli and the secondary. The Redskins? Brunell and depth. The Cowboys? Offensive line and secondary.

But the Eagles? Wide receivers, o-line, d-line and 1-2 LB spots. They lacked a lot of things last year, and it wasn't just due to injuries; they had one of the lowest sack totals in the NFL, and without their typically-fierce pass rush the secondary got exposed. Losing Burgess and Simon hurt a LOT more than anyone anticipated.

Now the question is: will the Eagles' draft class pick up the slack? Because their FA signings probably won't be enough. If it does, the Eagles will be golden. If not, it'll be another long year. I think a conference title game loss is the absolute ceiling for the Eagles this year -- and that's only if everything goes perfectly. By contrast, I can see all the other NFC East teams having a shot at the SB title if everything works out for them.

142 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Philly won their division from 2001-2004.

2001 DVOA Rank - 2
2002 DVOA Rank - 3
2003 DVOA Rank - 9
2004 DVOA Rank - 4

Yeah, the only reason why they made the NFCCG and Superbowl is because the rest of their division sucked.

143 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Spare me. Look at those coaches. You think those coaches were a match for Reid, fine. You think that division was so great, particularly in 2003, 2004 and 2005, fine. Be my guest. Spurrier, Fassel and Campo were terrific. Gibbs and Parcells needed no adjustment time. Yeah, right.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist - or one statistical measure that is far from the be-all-end-all of football analysis -- to figure out that Reid was far and away the class of coaching in the division before the rest caught up.

I never said it was the ONLY reason the Eagles made those title games. I said that it made the road to get there a hell of a lot easier. So stop putting words in my mouth and face the facts.

144 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Sorry, I meant to say 2001, 2002 and 2003.

145 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

They did it during a period when the rest of their division was GARBAGE.

Whew! Yeah, Parcells in his first year back - man, the Cowboys were terrible then. It wasn't like they went 10-6, split the series with Philly, and made the playoffs or anything.

But the Eagles? Wide receivers, o-line, d-line and 1-2 LB spots

You can stop at wide receiver.

Offensive line? Injuries caused problems last year, but that was a benefit rather than a drawback: it meant that the backups got properly evaluated in game time. Which means now they're going into next season with 5 experienced starting offensive linemen, 2 more who have started (recently) as well, and 2 high draft picks. What're the questions there? "Will William Thomas make the Pro Bowl again under his new name?"

Defensive line? I'll agree there are questions as to how they'll perform, but it's not like they haven't done enough to address the situation. Major free agency acquisition, top draft pick, and guys coming back from injury. Yeah, I think it's safe to say it's reasonable to expect them to be fine there. It's not like Philly sucks at defensive line evaluation.

Linebackers: Enough with the criticism of Dhani Jones. He was fine. He wasn't the problem. Total number of sacks from the SAM position since 2000: five. Hint: it's not the SAM's job to sack the QB. As for the WILL linebacker, there are three possible starters there: McCoy, Simoneau, or Barber. Any one of them would do fine - WILL's not that critical anyway.

Losing Burgess and Simon hurt a LOT more than anyone anticipated.

No. Having McDougle get shot was what hurt a lot more. McDougle had looked great in minicamp, and then was shot just before training camp started. Imagine losing a starting defensive end a month from now. Find me a team that wouldn't get hurt by that. That, and Darwin Walker wasn't anywhere near healthy most of the year, and you've got a situation where half the defensive line was ineffective.

146 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Losing Burgess hurt. It's hard to criticize the Eagles for letting him go, however. He had serious injuries in 3 of 4 seasons and the Raiders just threw insane money at him. The Eagles were wose last year for not having him and the defensive line's lack of pressure on the QB was the number one problem the team had last year, except for injuries. I'm not prepared to say that McDougle is anything special at all until I see him produce on the field. That being said, their D Lineman for this year are: Kearse, M. Patterson, Bunkley, D. Howard, Trent Cole and Darwin Walker. That's a group that has potential to be good to very good. They have added depth at LB, with S. Barber and Gocong, although LB is not very important within the scheme.

I think they are a playoff team this year, probably by wildcard. I think they win it all in 2007-8.

147 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

So Parcells had a first good year back, making it two good teams in the division. Congratulations, you win the prize. I notice you said nothing about how bad the other two teams were, or about how the 'Boys had average seasons after that first one.

There's no need to get defensive. I've given the Eagles all the credit they deserve for accomplishing what they did in recent years (particularly in the playoffs), and for all the suffering they went through last season where nothing went right.

Regardless, I stand by what I said about their weaknesses. After last season, those units are unproven. McDougle has yet to prove himself over the course of a regular season. Perhaps all their additions and recoveries will take them from worst in the league in sacks to near the top again. Perhaps it was just injuries that created the falloff in offensive line play. We just don't know yet. We won't know until they put the pads on and play some games.

Look, you could be completely right about their OL and DL. But until I actually see some EVIDENCE ON THE FIELD DURING THE SEASON, all you're doing is speculating. That's fair. You can "expect" anything you want to from the DL, linbackers and OL. All the Eagles have to do now is execute it.

Like I said, if everything breaks right for the Eagles, they will probably end up in the NFC title game. Remember back when the Redskins upgraded their defensive line with Stubblefield and Wilkinson? Remember when the Falcons got Peerless Price? When the Chiefs got Johnnie Morton? Remember how that worked out? Sometimes, even past production on a different pro team isn't enough to project how a player will do once they move and the season starts.

Every year, there are teams that perform above and below expectations. Almost any team could end up in either category this coming season. The Eagles are defiintely one of those teams in the middle. As is the rest of the division...but since the Eagles finished at the bottom last season with the flaws I listed, they get the lowest benefit of the doubt.

148 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

the ‘Boys had average seasons after that first one.

"Seasons" would imply more than one. They had one. 2004. They were better than average in 2005.

I notice you said nothing about how bad the other two teams were

Would you like me to point out that the Giants also went 10-6 and split the series with Philly in 2002? So let's recap: 2001: Philly, 3 mediocre teams, 1 bad team. 2002: Philly, 1 good team, 1 mediocre team, 1 bad team. 2003: Philly, 1 good team, 2 bad teams. 2004: Philly, 3 bad teams.

That's not what I would consider "garbage." Seems pretty normal.

Regardless, I stand by what I said about their weaknesses. After last season, those units are unproven.

You might want to reread what I said: the offensive line is proven. Was it bad in 2004? Uh, no. The offensive line in 2004 had a nice Every Play Counts about it entitled "He's Got All Kinds Of Time". The version in 2005 will be strictly better.

The defensive line is where they've spent the most effort in the offseason. Are there questions there? Sure. But they've done plenty to address them. It's not like Washington's defensive line depth, the Giants at defensive tackle, or the Cowboys offensive line. (Philly's worry of that variety are their WRs).

Criticizing the Eagles defensive line is like criticizing the Cowboys wide receivers. "Oh, yeah, you went out and got one of the best receivers in the game. But how do you know he's going to work out?"

McDougle has yet to prove himself over the course of a regular season

McDougle's a backup now. They went out and got Darren Howard, who proved himself pretty freaking good in New Orleans. And if you'd like to point out that Howard didn't have a good year last year, feel free - neither did Owens, and I think most people are content to believe that Owens will perform at a high level in Dallas.

all you’re doing is speculating.

Unless I missed something, we're all speculating. Terrell Owens could have the worst year of his life. Eli Manning could throw 40 interceptions. Brunell could explode during a two-QB trick play and take out Jason Campbell as well.

Philly wasn't even nearly as bad as you made them out to be last year:

Perhaps all their additions and recoveries will take them from worst in the league in sacks to near the top again.

Philly had 31 sacks last year, making them 26th in the league, not last. The worst team in the league last year in terms of sacks (adjusted for number of passing attempts) was Denver.

149 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I’m not prepared to say that McDougle is anything special at all until I see him produce on the field.

I wasn't suggesting he is, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was. The previous suggestion was "Losing Simon and Burgess hurt a lot more than anybody anticipated" - and that's where McDougle comes into play. It wasn't Burgess being lost to free agency that caused N.D. Kalu to be the nonexistent pass rush force of the first half of the season. It was McDougle getting shot.

Losing Simon didn't hurt much at all. Patterson had a perfectly good year.

Now, I'll admit that losing Burgess hurt in the sense that he's pretty much proved that he is one hell of a DE, but losing him wasn't the cause of the problems at DE.

150 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Again with the nitpicking -- yet at the end, you basically end up repeating the same points I made, casting them as somehow being in opposition to what I said.

"Would you like me to point out that the Giants also went 10-6 and split the series with Philly in 2002? So let’s recap: 2001: Philly, 3 mediocre teams, 1 bad team. 2002: Philly, 1 good team, 1 mediocre team, 1 bad team. 2003: Philly, 1 good team, 2 bad teams. 2004: Philly, 3 bad teams.

That’s not what I would consider “garbage.� Seems pretty normal."

Might I also point out -- yet again -- that the Eagles had BY FAR the best coaches during that span, besides Parcells? How is this even debatable? How can you not acknowledge this as the biggest reason for the Eagles' success? Even my friends who are Eagles fans accept this. It's a good thing. Why can't Eagles fans just accept this as a compliment and move on?

Plenty of mediocre to above-average teams with mediocre coaches finish seasons 10-6 and above. Exhibit A: Herm Edwards. Exhibit B: Schotty, particularly after he left the Browns. Which do you think is the better bet: a 10-6 team led by Schotty, Fassel, Turner or Coughlin? Or a team with the same record led by Reid? The Eagles coaching staff alone made them EASILY the class of the division. And they had arguably the single best player in the division, at the most important position (McNabb) to boot. But once they birds ran up against comparable talent and coaching (Gruden, Martz(?), Fox), things didn't go so smoothly.

There's more to evaluating a team than won-loss records - but of course, the Eagles dominated there too during that span. I'm not going to bother finding out strength of schedule or injury hitsories during that period; if you want to, be my guest.

You might want to reread what I said: the offensive line is proven. Was it bad in 2004? Uh, no. The offensive line in 2004 had a nice Every Play Counts about it entitled “He’s Got All Kinds Of Time�. The version in 2005 will be strictly better.

And you might want to re-read what I said. I don't care what they did in 2004, because I saw the debacle that was last year. Could they improve? Sure. WILL they improve? We'll see. But they've got to show me that last year was a fluke, and not the beginning of a trend. Those draft picks and reserves have to perform, or the show stops before it starts. Other teams in the division have more proven talent at those spots, aside from the Cowboys' o-line.

"The defensive line is where they’ve spent the most effort in the offseason. Are there questions there? Sure. But they’ve done plenty to address them. It’s not like Washington’s defensive line depth, the Giants at defensive tackle, or the Cowboys offensive line. (Philly’s worry of that variety are their WRs).

Criticizing the Eagles defensive line is like criticizing the Cowboys wide receivers. “Oh, yeah, you went out and got one of the best receivers in the game. But how do you know he’s going to work out?�

So Darren Howard and some draft picks is approximately the same as adding T.O. to Terry Glenn and Jason Witten? Don't make me laugh. Oh wait, too late. T.O. had a good to great 2005 during the time he was actually on the field. The Eagles decided not to play him any more. That can't be held against T.O.'s numbers. A strawman argument -- and a weak one at that.

D-line is not WR, where one player completely transforms your unit. Not usually, anyway. There are exceptions -- but not in this case. Darren Howard is really, really good. But he's not so amazing that his presence changes everything - which might be one reason why the Saints' all-around defense was so mediocre last season, despite his presence.

Unless I missed something, we’re all speculating. Terrell Owens could have the worst year of his life. Eli Manning could throw 40 interceptions. Brunell could explode during a two-QB trick play and take out Jason Campbell as well.

Which is exactly my point, of course. My other point was that the Eagles have slightly more ground to make up than the three teams who finished above them do. Most would call this a pretty reasonable conclusion, based on the events of last season. Then there's you.

"Philly had 31 sacks last year, making them 26th in the league, not last. The worst team in the league last year in terms of sacks (adjusted for number of passing attempts) was Denver."

Oh, so they were 26th! Wow. My bad. That's soooo much better than 32nd, I'm surprised they didn't make the playoffs! Again with the nitpicking. Sorry - I actually knew they weren't at the bottom, and I should have said MONG THE worst in the league in sacks." If I'd been wrong and they'd ranked, say, 20th, I'd understand your gripe. But proving that they were really bad and not the worst doesn't really amount to all that much, does it?

Enough with the nitpicking. I've given a lot of credit to the Eagles. Props, even. I'm just injecting a dose of reality into the fanboy predictions. Many other birds fans would agree that, based on their finish last season, the Eagles have to show that the events of 2005 were a blip rather than a trend.

That's what usually happens when your team completely implodes, both on and off the field. And make no mistake: despite all your excuses, justifications and legit reasons, that's exactly what happened to the 2005 Eagles.

They have to prove the issues were a sign of just wrong place, wrong time rather than an indictment of Reid's management style, Reid's personnel philosophy and McNabb's leadership. That we won't have former players getting into fistfights on behalf of current players after accusing them of faking injuries. That the Eagles' lack of a power runner and lack of significant WR play doesn't become a greater handicap, because the teams in their division aren't as easily exploited by the Eagles' west coast offense and McNabb's scrambling as they used to be.

People who love the Eagles are asking the same questions I am. Come September, we'll start to see what the answers are.