Four Downs: NFC East

Four Downs: NFC East

by Sean McCormick

Dallas Cowboys

Biggest Hole: Free Safety

There are two obvious areas for the Cowboys to address, offensive line and safety, and the approach the team takes will reveal a lot about their expectation level for the upcoming season. There are no immediate holes on the offensive line -- it turned in a superlative performance last year, ranking third in Adjusted Line Yards -- but with all five starters above the age of 30, it is only a question of time until the dam begins to break. (You could argue that it started breaking under the pressure of the Minnesota defensive line in the playoffs.) However, there's also a hole at free safety. If the offensive line can turn back time and perform at an elite level again, free safety may be the only hole standing between the Cowboys and a prime place as a Super Bowl contender. Will the club chase after short term success at the expense of positional value by looking at a safety to plug in, or will they add a quality reserve to the offensive line who would be capable of pushing for a starting spot if one of the veterans starts to fade?

If the choice is a safety, there will likely be two radically different players available when it is Dallas' turn to pick. USC's Taylor Mays is an oversized safety who hits like a linebacker but whose draft stock dropped last year as his difficulties in coverage were exposed. In contrast, Texas' Earl Thomas is an undersized playmaker in the Bob Sanders mold. With visions of Roy Williams still firmly in Jerry Jones' mind, expect the Cowboys to go with the local product as they look to upgrade their coverage skills and their overall playmaking in the secondary.

Free Agency Recap

If you are a Cowboys fan and you've been sealed away in a cryogenic chamber since the night before free agency started, don't worry; you haven't missed a thing. Dallas placed prohibitive tenders on Miles Austin, Gerald Sensabaugh, and Marcus Spears, then sat back and watched as other teams fought over the thin free-agent class. To date, the only acquisition is wide receiver Titus Ryan, who spent last season playing for Winnipeg in the CFL and falls strictly under the category of camp body. While there might be a few additions after the team sees how the draft shakes out, expect nothing more than some veteran depth. The starting lineups are essentially set.

New York Giants

Biggest Holes: Middle Linebacker

The release of long-time veteran Antonio Pierce opened up a gaping hole in the middle of the defense that has yet to be addressed. The Giants have consistently been a team that drafts for size/speed combinations and that believes in positional value, going back to the days of George Young and Bill Parcells. With the hiring of Perry Fewell as defensive coordinator, it's not entirely clear if the team will continue the Giants tradition or if they will move to the smaller, rangier linebackers that flourish in a Tampa-2 scheme. Either way, New York needs to add some talent at the middle linebacker spot, where third-year man Bryan Kehl (three career starts) currently sits atop the depth chart.

The team hasn't drafted a linebacker in the first round since Carl Banks in 1984, a streak that may come to an end this April. Alabama's Rolando McClain is the top middle linebacker in this year's draft class, a prospect who compares closely to 49ers stud Patrick Willis. Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese attended McClain's pro day and came away impressed. At 258 pounds, McClain fits the old-school Giant mold, but does he have the speed to fit in Fewell's scheme? The Giants have an affinity for Big Ten players, and should they pass on McClain (or if he is already gone when the team picks at 15), they could look to add someone like Penn State's Sean Lee or Iowa's Pat Angerer in the middle rounds.

Free Agency Recap

The major addition was Antrel Rolle, whom the Giants scooped up with a five-year, $37-million contract (with $18 million guaranteed) as soon as he hit the open market. In this writer's opinion, Rolle is not worthy of that contract; he is coming off a season where his Stop Rate against both the run (26 percent) and the pass (30 percent) were among the worst in the league. That said, the pickings were particularly slim for teams looking to upgrade their secondaries through free agency, and Rolle was the most talented safety available. The Giants let David Carr move on to San Francisco and replaced him with Manning family caddy Jim Sorgi.

Philadelphia Eagles

Biggest Hole: Outside Linebacker

There is no question that Will Witherspoon was a luxury at $5 million per season, but that did not make his release any less surprising. Philadelphia's depth at linebacker was tested heavily last season, but the group was surprisingly resilient -- the Eagles stuffed 23 percent of all opponent runs and were sixth-best in the league in surrendering second-level yardage. Still, it seems risky to assume that Stewart Bradley will return to form one year after tearing his ACL, that Akeem Jordan and Moise Fokou will develop, and that Omar Gaither will suffice for depth at all three positions. Chris Gocong, who always seemed an odd fit as a 4-3 SAM (strongside linebacker), seems to have fallen out of favor. There were no attractive options in free agency -- Witherspoon became the top outside linebacker available with his release -- so upgrades will have to come through the draft.

Much like their neighbors to the north, the Eagles simply don't use first-round picks on linebackers. You have to go back to the selection of Jerry Robinson in 1979 to find the last time Philadelphia broke the trend. So it's a good bet that players like Missouri's Sean Witherspoon and Alabama's Ronaldo McClain are not serious considerations early in the draft. TCU's Daryl Washington would be a very natural fit in the second round.

Free Agency Recap

With the trade of Donovan McNabb to Washington for a second-round pick in 2010 and either a third- or fourth-rounder in 2011, the Eagles have shut the window on one of the most sustained periods of success in team history. Or have they? While periods of team success are often tied to a single quarterback, San Francisco demonstrated that it was possible to maintain a high level of play while transitioning from one quarterback to another -- just so long as the new quarterback is the right one. Steve Young was more than capable of picking up where Joe Montana left off, and the 49ers dynasty rolled on for another eight years. In Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers is in good position to continue the success the Packers experienced under Brett Favre for some time. If Kevin Kolb has the goods -- and there are certainly reasons to think he might -- the transition might go very smoothly, as Philadelphia has some dynamic offensive talent for Kolb to work with.

Quarterbacks aside, there was a great deal of coming and going in Philadelphia, as the team parted ways with long-time franchise faces in Brian Westbrook and Shawn Andrews, as well as veterans like Kevin Curtis, Darren Howard, Jason Babin, Reggie Brown and Sean Jones. The Eagles have maintained their competitive edge by cutting players a year too soon rather than a year too late, but even by the team's standards, the turnover was unusually high.

The Eagles didn't simply trim down -- they added players as well. Former Indianapolis corner Marlin Jackson may replace Sheldon Brown, or could move to safety with the Eagles using more of Joselio Hanson instead. Mike Bell was signed to split carries with LeSean McCoy, but McCoy will remain the starter. To address the weakness at left defensive end, the team traded Chris Clemons and a fourth-round draft pick to Seattle for Darryl Tapp.

Washington Redskins

Biggest Hole: Left tackle

Draft analysts like to say after a team drafts a top offensive lineman that now the team won't have to worry about that position for another ten years. It often doesn't work out that way, but that's exactly what the Redskins got when they selected Chris Samuels with the third pick of the 2000 draft. Samuels missed only four games in his first eight seasons, and he accumulated six Pro Bowl invitations during that time. But in 2008, Samuels began to break down. He missed fifteen games over the last two seasons thanks to a neck and spinal injury that ultimately forced him to announce his retirement in early March, and even when he played, Samuels was largely ineffective.

Washington hasn't selected a tackle prospect in the draft since 2004, a streak that will almost certainly come to an end in April. The only question is whether that pick will be the number four overall. Oklahoma State's Russell Okung is the consensus top tackle prospect in the draft, and there is a good chance he will be there for the Redskins. He compares favorably to D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who went fourth overall in 2006 to the Jets. Like Ferguson, Okung might take a few years to get his strength up before he is ready to be an elite player, but there is no question he would be a major and immediate upgrade. Should Detroit opt for Okung, the Redskins could look at the next tier of tackles, which includes Iowa's Bryan Bulaga, Oklahoma's Trent Williams and Rutgers' Anthony Davis, or they might try to move up into the back end of round one for someone like USC's Charles Brown.

Free Agency Recap

Mike Shanahan's decision to trade for Donovan McNabb draws immediate parallels to the situation he inherited in Denver with John Elway. Like McNabb, Elway was considered a guy who couldn't get his team over the hump, a tremendously talented underachiever who was now on the downside of his career. Elway, of course, went on to win two Super Bowls with Shanahan while directing one of the league's best offenses. It remains to be seen if lightning will strike twice (we have our doubts about just how much of an upgrade the Redskins are really getting), but it's very clear that the acquisition of McNabb will dramatically impact the team's approach to the draft. Any talk of drafting Jimmy Clausen or trading up for Sam Bradford is over, and Russell Okung becomes the prohibitive favorite to be Washington's pick.

After showing tremendous discipline in the first week of free agency, Daniel Snyder broke down and threw some money at a broken-down Larry Johnson. We're not sure if it was Johnson's -19.8% DVOA or his miserable 38 percent Success Rate that won Snyder and new GM Bruce Allen over, but whatever it was, Redskins fans should be glad it isn't in greater supply. In fairness, the three-year, $3.5-million contract is fairly harmless by Redskins standards, and if Johnson continues to fall on his face, there is nothing to stop the team from cutting ties after a single season. Washington also added Ma'ake Kemoeatu to pair with Albert Haynesworth, and the team added Rex Grossman to replace Todd Collins as the primary backup quarterback.


156 comments, Last at 16 Apr 2010, 9:53pm

4 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Actually, considering that you mention Chris Gocong as being out of favor, but no mention of him being traded, this article has the feel of something written a few weeks ago that had a little Mcnabb analysis thrown in at the last minute.

150 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Very strange article. You mention that that all the Cowboys' OL starters are over 30. This is no longer the case, which makes me think this was written before the Flozell Adams / Ken Hamlin cuts. However, you identify FS as the Cowboys' biggest hole, which means that this was definitely written AFTER the Hamlin cut. What's going on? Seems very sloppy.

Also, the Cowboys pick at #27 overall. They have no shot-- like, no shot whatsoever-- at Earl Thomas. Even the most casual draft fan knows this.

2 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Did the McNabbstakes distract you into missing Flozell Adams getting cut?

3 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I really would be suprised if Earl Thomas was available when Dallas pick, I don't think he'll lasst past 15, even if he did wouldn't the Niners or the Texans take him before Dallas? And no mention of Flozell Adam's release, Doug Free, really?

Is there a legitimate reason to compare McClain to Willis? McClain is 20 lbs bigger and .3 of a second slower, don't get me wrong, I like Mclain. However, a better comparison would be Levon Kirkland or Jerimiah Trotter.

Am I the only person that thinks the Eagles will be a worse team this year. Their youth movement will almost certainly benefit in the long term but now I look at their offense and see one receiver that scares me and on defense they have a good end and a good corner. As a side they look (to me) a long way from the sides that had Dawkins, Vincent and Taylor in the secondary. Kolb has yet to play for long enough for defensive coordinators to get a good look at him and force him to adjust. The least I'd expect is for Kolb to struggle in the mid season and cost the Eagles a few wins, which could be enough to see them miss the playoffs.

7 Re: Four Downs: NFC East


No doubt Eagles are worse on quarterback, offensive line, defensive line depth, and secondary from last year and no significant improvement in any other area....

12 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

It's reasonable to expect Maclin and Jackson to improve a bit (though how much better will Jackson really get?) as they are young players but I can't see any other cause for improvement there. The change in quarterback will almost certainly have some impact and as I expect Kolb to play at a lower level than a guy who was a pro-bowl level player for ten years I'm not sure any improvement by the receivers will translate to production on the field.

13 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I think Maclin is the best receiver from last year's class. They have a legitimate chance for a Jimmy Smith - Keenan McCardell kind of thing on that team. Mcnabb was a pro-bowler at throwing to his RB's and at the feet of his WR's.

23 Re: Four Downs: NFC East


His pro-rated-to-16-games numbers would be:
70 receptions, 909 yards, 3 TD.

The touchdown figure is low, but the other two are really good for a rookie, especially considering he was catching balls from Alex Smith in a run-first offense.

24 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Watched him miss all the minicamps and training camp and walk into the NFL after six games and proceed to catch everything thrown and look every bit like the game changing player some people projected him to be despite no preseason experience and having played in the spread in college. The guy is going to be dominant quite possibly as soon as next year. He has amazing hands, runs great routes, runs very well with the ball in his hands and can make circus catches look routine. If I were a GM with him on my team I wouldn't trade him for two Maclins. I probably wouldn't trade him for Jackson.

33 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I think I agree with you... Jackson is AMAZING right now, but I don't think he can really get much better, only worse. Maybe he could improve his routes but right now he's so small and quick... that's his entire game. He had the same number of receptions his sophomore year as his rookie year, but his ypc went up 4 yards.... we all saw how explosive he was last year, can he really get any more explosive? I don't really see how that's possible. Once his speed and quickness slips with injury or age I don't see him having the size to extend his career that extra 3-4 years. He sure is fun to watch now though.

EDIT, whoops meant to reply to Karl Cuba...

35 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

yeah, Maclin definitely has more upside than Jackson. I remain dubious that Jackson can repeat last year's YPC, let alone improve on it. And he's such a little guy I hate seeing him go over the middle, so I don't want him to develop an intermediate game...

53 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Heh, it came off as sarcasm, but I was being honest; I just never saw him play last year. I knew he was productive in his half season, but didn't know if that was just production because no one else was around or production because he's the real deal. Apparently the latter? He's 6' something, which is nice. Coming out of college I thought he could at least have a Jerry Porter/Muhsin Muhammad type career. I gather those who saw him play in the pros think better than that?

DeSean Jackson strikes me as a Lee Evans type waterbug receiver who is really great as long as there's a great possession receiver or two on the team. Evans' career really took a dive without that, so Jackson has to be glad that Maclin is stepping up. Maclin is actually a fast guy too, but not as extreme as Jackson.

106 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

who was the possession guy the bills lost that turned lee evans career upside down? peerless price? The bills never had an elite possession guy with evans on the team. moulds was already too old and no other guy has even been worth mentioning

41 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I think its worth saying, last years WR class seems crazy good right now. Harvin, Crabtree, Maclin, Nicks? Wow. And to think the raiders picked DHB at the top....

26 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

wow! harvin ,Nicks,crabtree all had better #s alot less games for crabtree. and these teams run the ball alot more then the eagles.but thats like telling Andy R. to have a saled

79 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Harvin and Nicks also play for teams that throw the ball to their backs/tight ends/third receivers a lot less. Every passing play designed to get the ball to McCoy, Celek, Weaver, Avant, or Westbrook was one that didn't go to Maclin.

I'm not saying Maclin was the best receiver in last year's draft class, but I watched him all year, and he's pretty damn good. Given that he's only 21, he's almost certain to get better as well. I do think the Eagles will at best tread water offensively this year, because there will be some bumps in transitioning the offense to the more typical WCO short passing attack that suits Kolb's skills, but as a fan I have zero worries about the team's talent level at the offensive skill positions aside from some uncertainty about Kolb. Assuming the offensive line stays healthy, they should be able to score some points.

Defense is another matter - they definitely need to bring in some young talent there. Even if they draft heavily for defense, and hit on all their high picks (5 of the first 87), it'll probably be a year before those players develop and contribute. An Asante Samuel-Ellis Hobbs-Macho Harris-Quintin Mikell secondary scares me, particularly going up against teams like the Cowboys.

81 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Plays aren't made to get someone the ball. They're diagrammed to get anyone the ball in a given situation. Going from read 1 to 2 to 3 or dump off.
Of course you have small ball plays and deeper plays, but the idea is that by the time you know the defense, you know who should be open.

I agree that the offense is very young and very talented and that the eagles offense should make a run for the super bowl within 1 or 2 years depending on how good Kolb is.
From what I've seen, I like him and he shouldn't be a liability at all.

120 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Plays aren't made to get someone the ball.

Acknowledged. What I was saying is that the Vikings and Giants run more two-and three-man routes and use more max protection than the Eagles do, and that Harvin and Nicks were hence more likely to be primary reads on any given play than Maclin was. The Eagles' offense last year most often used Jackson as its primary target on deep first reads and Celek on short-and-intermediate ones, with a heavy dose of situational plays designed to get the ball to a particular player that wasn't one of the wide receivers (screens, pick routes, etc.) I really don't recall Maclin being a primary target all that much. From what I saw of the Giants Steve Smith was most often the primary target, but after him it tended to be either Boss or Nicks. And while I didn't watch the Vikings much, in the games I did see they were constantly running plays on which Harvin was the primary option, including lots of receiver screens and the like. Hence, the fact that both guys put up numbers superior to those of Maclin doesn't mean that they're necessarily superior players.

121 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"Plays aren't made to get someone the ball."

Except for the ones that are. Like the ones marked "Jackson" on Andy/Marty's play sheet.

127 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I wonder - and I don't have an answer, rather just thinking aloud - is there any truth to that statement?

It would be a good thing for an enterprising statistician to analyze.

Do sophomore slumps occur with any more frequency than bad years at any other point in a players career? This is exactly the sort of conventional wisdom which FO was created to debunk (or confirm as the case may be). Is there truth there? Or is it an old wives tale?

14 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

No doubt that they're worse at QB? I have at least some doubt - I think there's a chance that Kolb will be better than McNabb would have been.

18 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

There's also the chance that Kolb will be much worse than McNabb, he's never played long enough for anybody to be sure. That's why it's a risk for the Eagles, he might stink half the year.

As a fan of the 49ers, who play the Eagles this season, I think we have a much better chance of a win with Kolb at qb for the Eagles. I've seen McNabb back there and he killed us every time.

80 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

he's never played long enough for anybody to be sure.

Sure he has. The Eagles have seen him play 5-6 days a week for 16 weeks for 3 years. You haven't seen him, but they certainly have.

The Eagles wouldn't've traded McNabb if they weren't sure that Kolb would be at least average. It simply wouldn't've happened. It's been what, 10-15 years since the last time a backup QB for a team with an above-average QB didn't come off the bench after years of sitting and play well.

86 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

He has two terrible half games in relief of McNabb, a poor game against the Saints and a very good game against a hapless Chiefs team. Whenever defensive coordinators are asked, they say it takes at least three games to get a good read on his tendencies and build a decent game plan for him. He hasn't been through that process yet. Most young quarterbacks start the season strong, then defensive coordinators exploit their habits and finally, if they're going to succeed in the long term, they come back stronger. I think Kolb will be good, as he has a great coaching staff and pretty good personnel around him but the chance exists that he won't be the player the Eagles saw in practice and it's likely he will be more inconsistent than the veteran McNabb. I wouldn't take the risk of missing the playoffs this year, even if it's only reduced by 20% or so.

97 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Most decent young quarterbacks start that way. Plenty of lousy young quarterbacks don't even have the 'surprise factor' success

98 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Whenever defensive coordinators are asked, they say it takes at least three games to get a good read on his tendencies and build a decent game plan for him. He hasn't been through that process yet.

Yes, he has. With the Eagles. He's had way more than the equivalent of three games with them. Again, what backup QB on a successful team that's sat for a few years and is replacing a very good QB hasn't worked out recently? There's a long track record of success for guys like that.

Heck, even with less successful QBs being replaced, or even slightly worse teams - obviously Aaron Rodgers is the best example, but you've also got, say, Rivers and Garrard. They let Brees go because they knew Rivers would be fine and Brees's shoulder was iffy, and they let Leftwich go because they knew Garrard was equal or better in practice (that's not to say Garrard's elite, but it's safe to say he's better).

It's fine and dandy for fans to say "he could be a total bust!" (and I'm not saying that's what you're saying) but, seriously - they've seen him in preseason games, in multiple real games, and a ton in practice. You've got a former coach for an elite defense (Harbaugh, who had no incentive to promote the guy) who said that in practice, he was picking them apart.

Basically, I just don't think the Eagles would've made such a risky move without being sure. And they've certainly had the time to be sure. I'm not suggesting the Eagles don't make mistakes, mind you - but given they've had this much time to evaluate the situation, I don't think they would have. Really, they've got no serious investment in Kolb at all - if they were unsure at all, the smart thing would've been to keep McNabb and trade Kolb.

100 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Football history is littered with quarterbacks that were great in practice but couldn't translate improvement in practice to gameday. Similarly, there are plenty of ex coaches who thought they knew something about a player but didn't.

As I've said I do think Kolb will succeed, he has sound mechanics, is well coached and has a decent surrounding cast but your assertion is that his time with the Eagles means that he won't suffer the usual boom-bust-recovery pattern of young quarterbacks. I don't think you have any evidence for this, practices are not a complete substitute for games.

104 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

In the little time I've seen him play, I'd say he did very well and could be an NFL QB.
He's a Pennington, a Rivers. He's a Rogers.

114 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Football history is littered with quarterbacks that were great in practice but couldn't translate improvement in practice to gameday.

Name them. If football history is littered with them, it should be easy, right? The last one that anyone could mention in a previous thread was Todd Collins taking over for Jim Kelly in 1997. And that one isn't even the same, either, since Kelly and the Bills offense were pretty awful in 1996 and I'm not sure if it was the team's choice or Kelly's choice why he retired after 1996.

Whereas it was really, really easy to find examples of QBs on good teams who'd been on the bench for a few years and the team chose to move forward with that QB who did well.

125 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

This is silly, you're trying to suggest that I'm saying something that I haven't said. If you really don't think Kolb will experience growing pains then good for you, I'm done.

138 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Of course it's easier to remember famous quarterbacks than ones who never made it. Why is that a surprise?

I'm no football historian, but even I can remember guys like John Beck and Troy Smith, who sat on the bench for a while and have never panned out to anything, despite high hopes.

I know something more about the franchise I follow, the 49ers, and just in the past few years we've had a bunch of quarterbacks like that: Elvis Grbac, Glenn Dorsey, Giovanni Caramazzi. For different reasons they all had high hopes, they were all on the bench for years, and they all flamed out.

Grumble, grumble, if football is littered with them it should be easy, grumble. Who remembers nobodies? Why in God's name would it be easy to remember unspectacular failures?

139 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Nonono. I'm not suggesting QBs that sit on the bench are guaranteed success. The Ravens didn't choose Troy Smith over Steve McNair - McNair retired. And after McNair retired, they drafted Joe Flacco in the first round. There couldn't be a clearer sign that the Ravens didn't believe in Smith as a future starting QB.

I don't know why you suggested John Beck. They drafted Beck in 2007, traded for Pennington in 2008, and released Beck in 2009. Again - absolutely no signs of confidence in Beck whatsoever.

Just to make it clear - you're looking for backup QBs that a successful team (the team, not the fans) showed that they preferred over the starter, by releasing or trading the starter - maybe if the starter retires, but that's always dicey. That's not true in the least for Smith, Beck, Grbac, Dorsey (I'm assuming you mean Ken, not Glenn, who's a DE), and Caramazzi. In each of those cases, the team drafted the QB, and he didn't pan out, and they released him after a year or two (or three).

Why in God's name would it be easy to remember unspectacular failures?

You're not looking for unspectacular failures, you're looking for spectacular failures. It shouldn't be hard to remember a team that replaces a franchise QB with a disaster that they had been grooming for years. But looking at history, that doesn't happen. Teams fall apart when they don't have a replacement plan for an above-average QB, which happens all too often.

140 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Beck and Smith were also both victims of regime change, I don' think they count. Mueller/Cameron drafted Beck and Parcells/Sporano gave him the boot. Ozzie Newsome drafted Smith but that was under Billick. Also, Joe Flacco wasn't on anybody's radar at that point, was he? First thing the Ravens did when Harbaugh took over as HC was draft a new QB. And still Smith was pretty much going to get his shot to be the (seat warmer) starter until he got sick. The new guy took the reins and never looked back.

143 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

In reply to by Pat (filler) (not verified)

odd that we can only name the good quarterbacks over the bad ones....

but ill play your game. This year there are two to look at, kolb and whitehurst. Remember when drew hensen was the guy for the cowboys? Wasnt rob johnson supposed to be great? These guys were given a chance. What about jake the snake? Or chris simms. These guys all took over at places and were at one point the answer. Brooks bollinger. I guess all im saying is that the duds are harder to remember because they werent as good. And a lot of it is opinion whether these guys were given a shot to succeed and were great practice quarterbacks. Most fans wouldnt suggest that they thought these guys would do good but most of the cases the franchises invested in them in a similar fashion to kolb.

144 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

i admit to having a huge soft spot for jake the snake but i'll argue that he doesn't belong in the brooks bollinger / drew henson / chris simms category. he at least impressed people enough to play long enough to amass 150+ tds, even if he had 150 + ints (some of them left handed) too. and he did ok in the playoffs a few times. and he had a righteous beard. and he gave it all up for competitive handball and to tool around in his pickup in idaho. how can you not love that?

147 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

In reply to by Big Johnson (not verified)

I would love for you to explain to me how a QB that San Diego traded away was being shown any confidence by San Diego's coaching staff. Whitehurst could be complete crap - Carroll and the Seahawks are going by what little they've seen of him in preseason and college. It's basically the same as the draft.

"Remember when drew hensen was the guy for the cowboys?"

Let me be clear about the Kolb situation. The Eagles had an average-to-above average QB in McNabb. They had seen enough from Kolb in practice for 3 years to believe that he was better or equal to McNabb (i.e. average or above average). So they gave up the QB that they had.

This isn't close to the Henson, Bollinger, or Simms situations. It's exactly the same as Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, and David Garrard. It's close to Jay Cutler replacing Jake Plummer and Eli Manning replacing Kurt Warner, although those are both stretches since Warner/Plummer weren't playing well and it was Cutler/Manning's first year.

Yes, I'm aware that coaches routinely say they have "full confidence" in someone. I think everyone knows it's total bull half of the time. But if someone jumps the starter on the depth chart, that's a fair indication that the coach believes the player is equal to or better than the starter. And virtually every time a coach thinks a backup QB is better/equal to an above-average starter, the backup QB succeeds.

148 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

In reply to by Pat (filler) (not verified)

I happen to agree with you on your assessment of every player listed. The whitehurst isnt that the chargers had confidence in him... its that another team has seen tape of his college/preseason and gave up a lot for just a hunch. They definately like what they have seen from him.

If kolb works out (which i think he will) he will fit into the aaron rodgers rivers and garrard category. If he doesnt, he will fit into the henson bollinger and simms category. Its all relative to how he performs from here on out

152 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"...if someone jumps the starter on the depth chart, that's a fair indication that the coach believes the player is equal to or better than the starter."

You realize that hardly ever happens, right, when the starter is really good? But stated this explicitly, it's easy to find plenty of examples where the backup was a relative failure.

Billy Joe Tolliver (over Warren Moon)
David Klingler (over Boomer Esiason)
Joe Kapp (over Fran Tarkenton)
Rob Johnson (over Doug Flutie)
Marc Wilson (over Kenny Stabler)
Rodney Peete (over Randall Cunningham)

etc., etc., etc.

How's that for virutally every time?

Any wonder these examples don't leap to mind?

My methodology: look for instances where great quarterbacks were replaced by their backups. (This doesn't happen very often.) How did those backups do? How did the men they replace do?

153 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Klingler/Esiason works.

Tolliver/Moon, Wilson/Stabler, Kapp/Tarkenton, Peete/Cunningham don't - none of those guys were backups to the guy they replaced. They were all acquired the same year the former starter left the team.

Johnson over Flutie is tough because Johnson was a league-retread and significantly older than a rookie - there was plenty of evidence that Johnson wasn't much more than replacement-level, but they just apparently ignored it.

So that's somewhere between one and three examples in, what, 20 years? My list was three in the past 5 years, and that was just off the top of my head. There's Montana/Young, of course, Jaworski/Cunningham, and Zorn/Krieg. A few times the team kept the original starter around for a few years afterwards - Kitna/Palmer, and Anderson/Esiason - which could count, although it's not that much of a risk to take to just start some guy over a guy you still have on the team.

It's definitely true it doesn't happen often, but that's because it usually takes more than just a few years to find an above-average QB.

155 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Good point about some of those guys not being backups to the guys they replaced.

Of course, due to time constraints, I was looking only at Hall-of-Fame-quality quarterbacks, excluding quarterbacks that were merely above average. It's harder to find little-known failures than famous successes. I'd never even heard of Marc Wilson, forgot all about David Klingler.

I think our perception is warped because there have been a few prominent and successful exchanges like this recently -- Rivers/Brees, Rodgers/Favre. Those are out of the ordinary. What's the average frequency of that kind of success? Once every five years?

156 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I think our perception is warped because there have been a few prominent and successful exchanges like this recently -- Rivers/Brees, Rodgers/Favre. Those are out of the ordinary. What's the average frequency of that kind of success? Once every five years?

Yeah, about. But if teams were completely ignorant as to whether or not a backup was good or not, you'd expect the failures to outnumber the successes by like, a factor of 3 or 4. And they don't.

If anything, teams tend to be overcautious about starting backups. They tend to go bring in veterans or draft a high pick overall to start when they lose an above-average starter, by choice or not (Miami acquiring Fiedler, the Jets drafting Sanchez after letting Favre go, the Vikings with Culpepper, etc.).

That's why I don't think the high apparent success rate is that surprising. You've got a rare event (a team having two viable QBs) coupled with a risky move (getting rid of one of those QBs) by a normally cautious team. The only reason teams are going to choose the *wrong* QB in that case is money (which could've been a reason why Esiason was traded, too).

And the Eagles had *no* monetary incentive to prefer either one - that's why the people who keep saying "the Eagles had to find out what they had in Kolb" drive me nuts. No, they didn't. If they weren't sure about him, the right thing to do is keep McNabb and trade Kolb. He was a second round pick, not a top-10 pick. They get tossed out all the time - Brohm, Beck, Stanton, etc.

We might think it's risky, but we don't have the same information the team does.

151 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Doug Johnson, the backup to Michael Vick that the Falcons had supreme confidence in when Vick broke his ankle in 2003. That confidence ended up being unfounded.

154 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Yes, they had so much confidence in him that he didn't see the field until the starter broke his leg. Therefore, they thought he was worse than the starter. He was. So apparently their assessment was right.

27 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

How are they worse on o-line and d-line depth? No one seriously expected Shawn Andrews to ever play another down for the Eagles again after he came last summer in with more of the same ailments that had kept him off the field significantly already. They traded Clemons for Tapp, but are otherwise exactly the same - only now they know Dixon should definitely be the primary DT rotation guy.

The secondary is worse, but their two best LB's (Bradley and Gaither) will be back on the field. Having Bradley back alone (he should've made the Prow Bowl in 2008) is a huge upgrade.

As for QB, the Eagles passing offense was ranked #12 in DVOA (compared to a #5 ranked rushing DVOA). Avant, Maclin and Jackson all ranked in the Top 32 in DVOA, Celek is clearly a great player (#5 in DYAR, #10 in DVOA)... McNabb had weak DVOA - he ranked #20. It's pretty clear what the weak link on offense was last year... Now, whether Kolb is the solution or not, a change was finally needed at QB (I say finally because I don't think McNabb was the weak link until late-2008 through 2009.)

The secondary is the only area in which the Eagles are "no doubt" worse. Everything else is exactly the same or yet to be proven better or worse...

55 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

This logic seems illogic.

So, because the passcatchers ranked (fairly) high in DVOA, the weak link was the person throwing them the ball? How does that make sense?

Furthermore, WR DVOA ranking "in the Top 32" is dubious evidence for this weaklink-QB argument when the QB himself ranked "in the Top 32." In fact, the WRs all ranked somewhere between 20 and 31.

Furthermore, have you noticed, perchance, the correlation between the highranked QBs and highranked WRs? Have you solved the cause of this correlation? Does Jackson's ranking at 20 show that he is a below-average #1 receiver, or that he had a below average QB throwing him the ball? Or is this more complicated than that?

Is Schaub, with his #6 DVOA, a better QB than Andre Johnson is a WR, because the latter is #13? Is Sidney Rice better than Brett Favre? Doesn't Adrian Peterson have something to do with the numbers of both?

Numbers are fun to throw around, but they must be thrown around with a logic that obtains.

60 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Avant ranked #11 in DVOA. So, they ranked #11-32. I think it's hard to judge wide recievers by themselves (e.g. is Boldin getting easier coverage because teams are concentrating on Fitzgerald?) and so I grouped the Top-3 Eagles wideouts together. I put the QB as the weak link because his numbers were worse than the players around him, the passing offense was a weak point despite good WR's and a good TE - who logically, is to blame there, looking at the numbers? According to the numbers McNabb played worse than the his WR's, his TE and Loeanrd Weaver: that's why he's the weak link.

If you want to blame McCoy or Reggie Brown for the Eagles struggles because they had terrible numbers, I'll hear you out. But McCoy being terrible and WR's still succeeding only hurts your argument. Something needed to change in the Eagles passing game because it was the weak point of their offense, both in my subjective estimation and according to FO's number. McNabb had the worst numbers of everyone involved in the passing game, who should I blame? Really, I'd love to know: the passing offense needed to be fixed and a coaching change wasn't going to happen. What should they have done?

66 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Well, putting the three Eagle QB's performances together gives around 352 for 598 passing for 4100 yards and 27 TD against 11 INTs. That's a pretty decent season for a quarterback. McNabb's numbers were about that good over the games he played.

Some of his receivers performed better than others, but his overall performance was actually very good. DVOA doesn't love him quite like it used to because the Eagles were more of a big-play offense this year.

68 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

It was big play offense primarily because McNabb demonstrated a below average ability to consistently generate anything beyond big plays. The Eagles passing offense ranked #12 according to FO (vs #5 for rushing). It was a (comparative) weakness. Which piece should have been changed for improvement? I will also accept "LeSean McCoy" for the answer. RB's don't really experience much improvement beyond their rookie seasons and he stank.

107 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

yeah mccoy really did stink. im surprised he is the hands down starter at runningback for the eagles. runningbacks seem to show if they will be good or not very quickly and hes only proven that he sucks. Big uphill battle for him

69 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Ah...I goofed the numbers. In my haste to pull them, I looked at DYAR.

But the basic point remains the same, is even bolstered, I think. The #1 receiver in the offense was ranked #29, not #20. Yes, Avant ranked highest, but he's clearly the third receiver, and while we'd both love for it to be the answer, "throw more to Avant" doesn't seem like the solution (though I hope it turns out to be part of it). Time will tell if Jackson is capable of more than his boom-or-bust play last year. Maclin, as a rookie, was predictably boom-or-bust (more boom than most rookies).

I'm not arguing that either one--the receivers or the quarterback--is better; I'm simply saying that I don't see how using the DVOA rankings identifies McNabb as the weak link. He threw more passes to Jackson than to anyone else. No one seems to be arguing that Jackson isn't "amazing," and yet his DVOA ranking is lower than McNabb's. I wouldn't argue that Jackson isn't amazing, in the exact definition of the word. What he doesn't seem to be is versatile. We'll see if that changes. What the offense didn't have was consistent lineplay, a consistent running game, and a consistent possession receiver. Maybe the latter is McNabb's fault: maybe that guy was on the field and McNabb didn't identify him, or did identify him and didn't get him the ball (bad throws etc.). Or maybe that guy wasn't on the field.

That the QB's DVOA ranking sits somewhere in the middle of the range of his WRs' rankings makes sense. But it doesn't prove whether or not he's playing better than they are.

76 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

ugh - you either reversed positions or we are saying the same thing: I don't think Avant being #11 in DVOA and higher than Jackson by a good amount mean he is, therefore, better: I'm saying Avant's numbers are probably bolstered by Jackson commanding the defense's attention. Therefore, all 3 WR's having good numbers speaks to all of them having talent. McNabb having significantly lower numbers than his WR's and TE's would seem to indicate they are good, a well above-average UNIT as far as the primary recievers are concerned but that he's operating below their level. McNabb's numbers are decisively lower: what should be changed about the offense? The running game was well above average and they only inconsistency in their offense wasn't in the running game: it was in McNabb's atrocious 3rd down numbers (his 1st and 2nd down numbers were good). Also, I'm not simply offering the rating - I'm offering analysis as well... McNabb was not a highly ranked QB last year - he on the bad side of middle of the pack among starters. The WR's and TE were all well above average among starters.

The offense needed to improve in the passing game: give me a suggestion other than replacing McNabb or McCoy.

112 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

You should try taking your own advice to heart.

A typical NFL team has 1 starting QB, ipso fatso McNabb at #20 is below the median at QB.

However, NFL teams have 2 starting WR's, so the Eagles had 3 WR's who rated as above the median for a starter. Likewise, Celek was above the median at TE.

Considering that the running game was #5 in DVOA, and the receivers and TE were all above the median, it seems fair to say that McNabb(below the median at his position) was the weak offensive link.

Where's the inconsistency ?

46 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

We'll see how every move they made will pan out.

But the primary reason for optimism is youth. A 3rd and 2nd year players at WR who are already good, a 4th year TE, a 2nd year RB + Weaver and Kolb... With a bit of (Cowboys) luck we'll be able to play less than 4 different starting OL combination over the season, which would help mightily. Those are building blocks for a potential top 5 offense for years.

On defense, lots of question marks of course, but you hope some young players will have breakout seasons (my picks : Macho Harris and Jordan).

They also have an awful lot of ammo in a draft considered as one of deepest in years, so while next year will probably not be a great year, this team has (if Kolb proves to be at least above average, which I think he will be) a very, very bright future.

54 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I'm glad somebody else has some faith in Harris - I feel Eagles fans are already writing him off as a bust (which is insane)

57 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I know I am, and I stand by that projection.

When I saw him in college, I saw a guy who looked like a very good college player who didn't look to be fast enough to play in the pros.

As much as 40 times are borderline-worthless, watching him run a "4.65" or whatever it was, essentially revealed that he doesn't have the top-end speed that a corner needs to have in the pros.

He was then immediately moved to safety - again, re-enforcing my existing belief that he wasn't fast tnough.

At safety he tried hard but seemed completely lost, and still simply didn't show the physical talent to suggest that he might some day grow into the position.

He tries hard. There is nothing wrong with his work ethic. But he's the defensive version of Reno Mahe.

61 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Ouch. Mahe at least had really good punt return numbers one year - can they at least get that from Harris? I'm looking for a silver-lining here...

67 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I honestly, deeply believe he'll prove you wrong. Plus, you're really harsh on your evaluation of his play last year, he had some good moments (see the Atlanta game, where he was really good throughout the game, like against Gonzalez in coverage). Keep in mind that he started at FS, a new position, from Day 1 which is a very rare feat for an Eagles DB.

I think that at worst he'll be a solid to good Nickle CB / 3rd safety. I guess we'll see Dean, but let me say that you'll regret your comparison with Mahe (good old Reno that led the league in PR yards..)

For the record, as an Eagles fan, I think Maclin won't be as good as Crabtree, who I think will soon be a top 5 WR in the NFL. Bonus points : I prefer Hakeem Nicks to Maclin, too, but that's just because I like the Boldin/Nicks/A.Been in this draft kind of WR.

142 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

There were alot, and I mean ALOT, of Eagles Fans who wrote off Celek and said he was horrible, not a starting caliber TE, and was lucky to be on the team...etc. Now, those same idiots are singing a completely different toon. Unfortunately, it is often the loudest and least informed fans who are heard most often. I agree and I think Macho is another one of those players who will have people singing a different song in the future.

Now on to Kolb...many who are passing judgement on Kolb have little or no clue as to his abilities. This is the NFL and big business not some Pop Warner organization. The FO has apparently seen enough of Kolb (the last 3 years) to evaluate his talents and feel that he is future QB of the franchise. I don't work in the Eagles front office and I am not an NFL coach, so I will have to defer to their evaluation. I think the Eagles Offense will be fine provided the OL is healthy. Will Kolb make mistakes? Most assuredly...but all young QB's do and so do the seasoned Vets. He will probably throw more INTs than McNabb because the ball won't be thrown at the receivers feet. Are the days of the 50-60yrd bomb to Jackson gone? Probably, but I think Kolb will make intermediate throws that McNabb can only dream of making which will result in more big plays via YAC...but again, that's just my opinion. Time will only tell and all this stuff you are reading today is really just conjecture and suppostion.

94 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

In reply to by Blah Blah Blah (not verified)

"No doubt Eagles are worse on quarterback, offensive line, defensive line depth, and secondary from last year and no significant improvement in any other area...."

This is an incredibly presumptive statement to make. How do you know that Kevin Kolb will be worse than Donovan McNabb in 2010? He might, or he might be better. McNabb was not a top-10 quarterback last year, he was merely above-average. He didn't set the bar extremely high.

How is defensive line depth worse if they cut two unproductive situational pass-rushers and instead replaced them with a far more solid run-stuffing DE in Tapp? Tapp is a great young player and could easily have a breakout season next year - I think that's an upgrade over two aging situational players in Clemons and Howard.

15 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I was going to make the same point about Thomas: he's likely to be the second DB chosen, with an outside chance of sneaking into the top ten. I would be ecstatic if he was still around when the Texans pick at #20, and staggered if they didn't take him were he available. There's simply no chance he lasts long enough for Dallas to pick him without trading up.

Also, I think the DTs (McCoy especially) are going to go later than people think. LT is just a much higher value position - I wouldn't be totally surprised if both Detroit and Tampa went OT, and I certainly don't expect Okung to be there for the Redskins at 4.

39 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Why what? Why do I think the OTs will go a bit earlier than people expect, and DTs a bit later? Essentially, because the contracts top three picks receive make drafting a defensive tackle at that spot a very risky proposition indeed. They would essentially have to be pretty much the best player in the league at that position over the life of the contract to not be overpaid. Suh may be such a freakish prospect that that risk is justified, but going for an OT, where he only has to be maybe the tenth best player at his position to justify the salary is a lot less risky. Also, both teams have young quarterbacks who they hope will be the future of the franchise, and neither has an especially wonderful blindside protector to keep that existing investment safe. It may not be such a glaring need as DT (especially for the Bucs) but it is a need.

70 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Sorry, I was just subconsciously quoting Terminator 2 I guess.
I think the 2 DTs are such a talent that both the Bux (looking for a DT for a long time) and the Lions have looked into Suh and McCoy, they already signed Vandenbosch so they see D-line as a point of emphasis.

77 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Ndamukong Suh is a machine. He cannot be bargained with. He cannot be reasoned with. He does not feel pity, or fear, or remorse, and he absolutely will not stop until you are dead. Do you get me?

128 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I know the future! And on April 22, 2010, anyone without a top three draft pick IS GONNA HAVE A REAL BAD DAY!!!! GET IT?!?!?!?

30 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Also, I think as an Eagles fan, I have my expectations for this year really scaled back - if we can make the playoffs this year, that's great. I'm actually fine with a 7-9 or 6-10 season, so long as it looks like there's a coherent strategy moving forward. Trading McNabb and starting Kolb is a coherent move in terms of the future. Dropping an ailing Sheldon Brown also can be construed to make sense, provided they address CB in the draft. Going with Macho Harris at S makes sense if 2011 matters as much or more than 2010. I know as a 49er's fan, making the playoffs would probably make you very happy, but that's just not where I'm at as a fan. They closed the McNabb Superbowl window definitively - I'm happy to watch them set the stage for the Kolb, Maclin, Celek, Stewart Bradley, Trent Cole team for one season before "costing them the playoffs" gets me bent out of shape...

Also, I just can't watch McNabb lose a game single-handedly in his particular style ever again. I just can't. It's too painful and those Cowboys blowouts... something had to change at QB or I was going to skip watching 2010. I couldn't ever again watch McNabb get ice cold and start throwing the ball into the ground in front of wide open receivers, or overthrow deep passes, then smile, clap his hands and laugh. I just couldn't do it. I'm happy to watch Kevin Kolb throw 3 interceptions a game or get his slant routes picked off or engage in whatever style of as-of-yet-undetermined failure becomes his signature, I'm perfectly happy to just watch a DIFFERENT KIND of failure.

32 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

When you haven't been in the playoffs for eight years the kind of failure that happens in the playoffs would be welcomed. Definitively, for the 49ers: January failure beats the September, October, November and december failure, those failures get depressing. I can see where you are coming from but I think you might miss McNabb's awfulness now that it's gone.

34 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

He's not awful. I don't mean that at all - he's still above average (8.9% DVOA - not bad.) I just can't watch his weaknesses manifest on the field anymore. Especially irksome is that he smiles and laughs after terrible throws. When Kolb threw his second INT in the New Orleans game, I thought he was going to stab somebody on the sideline or punch himself in the face. It actually felt nice to see the EAGLES QB visibly upset by a bad play.

Give me 8 years out the playoffs, though, and I'm sure I'll be of a completely different mindset. Anyway, McNabb isn't bad, I just personally couldn't muster up the will to watch him play in an Eagles uniform ever again. Also, losing to the Cowboys twice in back-to-back blowouts is unforgivable - I'm not sure a 49er fan would ever understand... I'm fine with 2-14 next year so long as it's two blow-out wins over the Cowboys...

42 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"I'm not sure a 49er fan would ever understand..."

Ahem, 1992 and 1993, the scumbags cost us two superbowls.

However, until McDermott figures out how to stop that sprint draw the Eagles are going to struggle versus the Cowboys and it's hard to blame McNabb for that.

44 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Stopping the sprint draw would be great, but they're not going to win any games scoring zero points - and very few games scoring only 7 points (or 14 if you think a 70-yard trick play featuring Michael Vick is something that can be repeated in the playoffs.)

Anyway, just imagine if they were in your division those years (remember, those Eagles teams were title contenders in the early 90's) and not only did they knock you out of the playoffs, they trounced you twice a year. And you didn't win a Championship in 1994. Yeah...

95 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"However, until McDermott figures out how to stop that sprint draw the Eagles are going to struggle versus the Cowboys and it's hard to blame McNabb for that."

Rotating three situational pass-rushers in and out of the LDE position the entire season was one of the main reasons that weakness was expoitable in the Eagles' defense last year.

I fully expect the left side of the defensive line to be more consistenly resilient against the run in 2010 with the addition of Daryl Tapp, who is extremely solid against the run.

45 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Go watch the "In Their Own Words" McNabb show on Hulu. See Reid take an upset young McNabb aside and say, repeatedly, "Never let them see you frustrated." Then prepare yourself for Kolb's version of the claplaugh.

49 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I just watched that yesterday! It made me nostalgic for McNabb in a lot of ways: I definitely am not one of those Eagles fans that have been screaming for his head for years. Elite QB's are a rare commodity and McNabb definitely has earned HOF consideration - he's always been a class act and has been everything you can ask for...

But still, the clap-laugh and the too self-conscious sideline joking were always things I hated. Hopefully, Kolb takes the advice, but is just stoic or something...

56 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

If he's stoic, though, we can predict the angry outpourings about it now--not yours, not mine, of course: "Give us a quarterback who feels something, anything!"

I'm with you to an extent. Dawkins anger and frustration after losses was one of things I found most endearing.

62 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Yeah, in the Superbowl, I felt like Dawkins on the sidelines in the 4th quarter, he was the only one who losing the game was going to devastate. Everybody looked bummed, but Dawkins seemed like he was willing to die trying to pull out an improbable win. And then defense did make the 3 and 1 stop and get the offense the ball back...

83 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

As an Eagles fan, I was never particularly bothered by McNabb's demeanor. What did bother me is his inconsistency. He throws a great deep ball, but he has a tendency to spray the ball around in spurts on his short and intermediate throws, and it's incredibly frustrating to see your offense go three-and-out on four straight possessions because the quarterback is in a funk and keeps throwing at his receivers shoestrings or firing three yards behind guys who are wide-open on crossing patterns, while the other team goes up 13-0 because they get the ball in primo field position possession after possession. That kind of feast-or-famine offense works fine against lousy teams, because they will fail to convert the field position you give them and you'll be able to hit on 3 or 4 big plays a game no matter what if you keep firing. Sometimes, though, you have to be able to chip away consistently, and that's not something McNabb has ever been good at doing with his arm. When he was younger, you could count on him to convert three or four 3rd-and-6 plus situations per game with his legs, by either running for the marker himself or scrambling around until somebody busted a coverage, but he no longer has that ability, and the deficiencies in his passing game have become that much more glaring as a result. He pretty consistently flails against elite defenses at this point, and winning the Super Bowl almost always requires beating at least one elite defense. Hence I have concluded that the Eagles were not going to win a Super Bowl with McNabb, and it was time to move on.

I expect Kolb to throw more interceptions and fewer long touchdowns than McNabb. However, I also think he'll put together more sustained drives, produce more YAC opportunities for his receivers, and be more efficient in the red zone (another area in which McNabb is below average). He'll have his growing pains for sure, and a 7-9 type season is not out of the question - in a few years however I think it will be apparent that the Eagles got the better end of this trade.

103 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Longtime McNabb supporter and the past two years pretty much convinced me of this also. Poster is spot on about the inability to consistently sustain drives. Also agree with the assessment that the birds may be due for a 7-9 season next year but it's the right move to make. Going into the offseason I thought if they could get a 2 plus anything (player, future pick), they should pull the trigger.

115 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

It really is worth noting that it's a very high 2. It really wouldn't take that much to package another pick with it and move into low round 1 area - or, if they're really skilled, they could trade back a few picks from the first pick and use what they get to move up to the end of round 1 with the other 2. But having two picks in quick succession in that specific area of the draft is just really, really advantageous for the Eagles.

That's part of the reason why I think it's such a bad trade for the Skins. Before they traded for McNabb, they had two high-value positions of very high need (T, QB) which is a great position to be in when you're near the top of the draft and have that high second, because it gives you a bigger pool to choose from if something weird happens, and if you end up having to go with a high-value position that's not so high need (say, defensive lineman) you've still got that high second to grab someone who's got a good chance of being a solid starter anyway.

Now, it's a much, much riskier draft position. They need a tackle, they've only got one first-day pick (and in fact only 1 pick until round 4!), which means they're pretty much forced. If there's no tackle they think who's worth it, they either reach for someone (and thus waste the resources that are supposed to help them recover) or try to trade down with a partner who *knows* they're bent over a barrel.

134 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Wait, wait, wait - so the Redskins made acquiring a veteran on the downside of his career a priority over building through the draft!? I deeply shocked and saddened...

137 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Exactly. Which means all of those people who thought that the hiring of Allen and Shanahan and Cerrato going bye bye meant something? Sorry, better luck next owner.

145 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Is in't it a little earlier to make such a statement after just one trade, especially one quite a lot of, if not majority of the people think would be more beneficial to Redskins then Eagles. And it could even be beneficial to both parties as in Brees/Rivers kind of way.

149 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Not the media I follow. I was not referring to media anyway. Most of the FO readers were usually critical of Redskin's free agency moves.
But hey if you must form opinions just now and cannot wait for some more time before seeing supporting evidence, well, go ahead.

135 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

As a Redskins fan, I think it's pretty obvious now that when you apply objective analysis, the Eagles come out comfortably ahead. I mean, how crappy would Kolb have to play to make this trade bad for the Eagles? Replacement level w/no hope of future prospects? Get benched for Vick 9 games in?

The Redskins basically have one year to make this work. Back in 2004, it seemed like a really high price to throw a 3rd rounder to the Jags for Mark Brunell, and his first season was beyond awful...but eventually the Redskins got some value out of the trade. If McNabb struggles to stay healthy this year, and there is a labor stoppage in 2011, you can pretty much close the book on this trade at that point.

59 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

The Texans might take Earl Thomas. I don't see the 49ers reaching for him with one of their picks, not with so many perfectly reasonable linemen available on both sides of the ball.

That said, Taylor Mays might be a very playable alternative to Thomas for the Cowboys. He's a bit of a workout warrior, and he's an SS, not a FS, but that's not necessarily a huge problem (while he and Sensabaugh are both naturally strong safeties, they have different skills and Dallas could move the smaller Sensabaugh to the safety position with more coverage responsibilities on any given down). Mays also might well be available at the Cowboys' pick, and he would certainly fit the Roy Williams profile.

64 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Well if the 49ers landed Anthony Davis with the 13th pick and Thomas was there with the 17th I hope they'd take him. Alternatively, if the top four tackles have gone and Thomas is there they could take him at 13.

As for Mays, I actually think the only thing he'll be able to do is play free safety in a single high scheme. Let everything happen in front of him and then make the tackle. Make him change direction at all and he's sunk, have a look at the footage of him doing drills at the combine, he changes direction like a cow on rollerskates.

9 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Yes, this article went in just before the flurry of cuts/trades/general craziness took place in the NFC East. The release of Adams and Hamlin makes the question of OL or safety a more pressing one for Dallas, but in a lot of ways it probably doesn't change the way they are thinking. If they are comfortable with Doug Free (and you have to assume that they are, as no one is going to leave their LT spot hanging in air), they are still going to have to add depth and to bring in a player who can either challenge for Free's job or for Columbo's. I think they would still prefer to add Earl Thomas, but recent reports suggest that Thomas might well not be available when it's Dallas' turn to pick. Would they rather have Taylor Mays or a second-tier tackle (or a first-tier interior player)? Probably the latter.

11 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Ah Hah! Another incorrect statement! The Bills left their LT spot hanging before last season, so take that mister smartypants!

BTW thanks for the article timeline info, it clears things up.

10 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Here here to the commenters who think this was written a while ago and had McNabb's trade tacked on.

People don't doubt the Skins improved at QB with McNabb over Campbell unless you are an FO writer and need to cover for JC every single article. Couldnt the Skins sign Flozell at LT and then draft Okung and start him at right to ease his transitin to LT in the NFL and suddenly the Skins O-line looks much better?

31 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

At this point, I'm not sure I buy it. I agree with Bill Simmons that in last two games of the playoffs, he was like a HR hitter who just couldn't hit singles or otherwise get on base. There were games last year where it was painful to watch him: the Oakland game was depressing as shit. He's getting old and I honestly have no idea how much of his problems last year were age-related decline: very few Qb's that have his accuracy issues last as long as he did in the NFL, so there's no one really to compare him to. He was a rushing Qb who added a few years onto his career as a pocket passer. Now, he's struggling with intermediate and deep passes. He never could hit the short timing routes. I'm not sure where that leaves him or how quickly he'll become a liability. Moving to a more rush-based team (i.e. any other team in the league) might help, but it might make the situation worse: his traditionally low completion percentage means fewer home runs and there's not much else he's good for at this point...

16 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

If Washington was to take that approach, I would think they would go the other way around, with Okung at left and Adams at right. Okung is underweight and will likely be a better pass blocker than run blocker early on, while Adams is slowing but still big and strong, thus fitting in better at right tackle.

For my part, I have no doubt that the Skins have improved at quarterback quite a bit, but they need to make a number of immediate moves to shore up the offense around McNabb and thereby realize maximum returns on their investment. That means at minimum a new left tackle, and hopefully a Mike Shannahan special at running back, a late round guy who comes in and provides immediate production.

20 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I agree with this assessment. I am shocked that Washington hasn't taken a run at Terrell Owens. Dan Snyder must realize how great those two were together... But seriously, Washington can't invest in wideouts right now because they have to let their previous investment develop. I think that Kelly and Thomas might well have Sidney Rice level jumps in production with McNabb (certainly McNabb is a better quarterback than Brett Favre at this point in their careers, whatever Terrell Owens says). And I think Campbell and Tarvaris Jackson are comparable.

Russell Okung is a no brainer if he's available, and otherwise they should either trade down or just bite the bullet and take Bulaga.

36 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

The NFL Network did an interview with McNabb where they asked him about the possibility of the Redskins signing that veteran receiver Donovan used to throw to who hasn't yet found a team:

Fast forward to about 4:30 in the video.

84 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

certainly McNabb is a better quarterback than Brett Favre at this point in their careers

What makes you so sure of that?

2009 08.9% 39.0%
2008 15.6% -2.2%
2007 08.2% 28.0%

guess which DVOA belongs to which player.

90 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Column 1 is McNabb, 2 is Favre. Favre had one bad year from injury and was far superior to McNabb in the others. Don't those columns prove that Favre certainly has a far higher upside at this point? 15.6% DVOA for a QB is not spectacular and that's the best McNabb has had to offer in the past few year (alsp, please note that in 2008 McNabb's rushing DVOA was dismal - 2nd to worst in the league for QB's just ahead of... ahem... Brett Favre?)

With Favre there's injury risk (as with McNabb), but McNabb has had mediocre numbers for 3 years running...

21 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I think you cannot logically combine 2 statements:

1)The biggest hole the Eagles have is at OLB; and
2)They do not and will not make extraordinary efforts (i.e., star free agents or early draft picks) to patch it.

If 2 is true, then the LB need is not that big. I would say cornerback is by far #1 need. And there will always be linemen on either side that Andy Reid will want to take in large numbers (high picks, low picks, Rookie FAs) to see who will work out.

25 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Well, Reid has been consistently proven to be illogical about LB, particularly OLB. Every year, it's a problem and every year he doesn't seem to care. It's their biggest hole and history shows that Reid has very little interest in addressing it.

I think you're right, though: it's very hard to imagine them not taking a CB and a lineman with 2 of those first 4 picks (or using some of those picks to trade up and take ONLY a CB and a lineman.)

37 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Here's an interesting blog post on the difference between Jim Johnson and Sean McDermott's defensive schemes:

47 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

that's a great piece - thanks for that. I keep wondering when I'm going to get a handle on McD as his own entity and not just as "Jim Johnson's heir." That piece certainly sheds some light... I think him taking over Johnson and his effect on the team is the under-reported Eagles story of the last year...

52 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I define it (at least) as having a clear starter now that Gocong is gone. And having someone other than the extremely average Omar Gaither at WILL.

I don't think LB's are good first round value picks. But who is going to even play SAM?

58 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

If we still don't have a clear starter, or at least a clearly defined plan of some sort, come July, then there will be cause for concern.

I suspect that Reid believes he has his next Mark Simineau (for better and for worse) in Hall. I also suspect that one of those 2nd or 3rd round picks will be used on a SAM, and that Reid will essentially announce an open competition between those two and Fokou for the spot.

That's not what most Eagles fans want to hear, but I wouldn't take issue with that plan.

72 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

It just seems like the same old recipe for mediocrity that he's always gone with...

Eagles' Defense DVOA Ranks:

2006 - 9th
2007 - 9th
2008 - 3rd
2009 - 6th

It's been five years since the Eagles have had a defense outside the top ten. If that's mediocrity, I'll take it. LB is not nearly as big a problem as the secondary.

75 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I meant mediocrity at LB, not defense in general. But those 9th and 6th ranked teams would've been elite with good LB's. Unsurprisingly, 2008 featured their most talented LB since Trotter playing at the top of his game and they were elite. Also, their rush defense is always below average - maybe better LB's would help? I mean that as question, I'm not sure how much Johnson's blitz packages would have always come at the expense of smothering rush defense...

(the only reasonable explanation that you could be defending such a iffy situation at LB is that you, Alex51, are Alex Hall...)

88 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I meant mediocrity at LB, not defense in general.

Ok, but my point is that if their mediocre LBs don't keep them from being a good defense, then it must not be that big of a problem. If their secondary were also mediocre, that would keep them from being a good defense. That's the area they need to address.

Also, their rush defense is always below average

Since when?

Eagles' Rush Defense DVOA Rank:

2005 - 3rd
2006 - 12th
2007 - 6th
2008 - 3rd
2009 - 12th

(the only reasonable explanation that you could be defending such a iffy situation at LB is that you, Alex51, are Alex Hall...)

I'm not defending the situation at LB, I'm dismissing it as irrelevant. The Eagles always have an iffy situation at LB. They've been able to get away with it because their D-Line and secondary have been consistently excellent. The problem going into this year is that the secondary might not be that good, which would leave them with two below average units. That would spell disaster. What they need to do is draft at least one or two DBs early in the draft. If they get a couple good DBs, they might end up with a very good secondary. Combine that with their always excellent D-Line, and they would still be a top-ten defense even if the LBs suck. And just for the record, I'm not Alex Hall, nor do I think he's likely to be very good, but I don't care, because the Eagles could practically start me at LB and still have a good defense if they fix their secondary.

Now, don't get me wrong. I would not object to the Eagles drafting a LB or two in rounds 3-7 to challenge for starting spots or provide better depth. It would be nice for the Eagles to have above average LBs. Wierd, but definitely something I could get used to. But that shouldn't be the priority on defense. Fixing the secondary has to be the first priority for the Eagles in this draft.

91 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Doesn't having the 12th ranked rushing DVOA in 2006 & 2009 and then getting killed in the playoffs because of that weakness constitute a problem that's highly relevant? I think 2008, Bradley at his peak, competent players on either side of him - that's what they should be aiming for. But right now, SAM is a disaster and there's absolutely no depth, so the fantasy of repeating 2008's near perfect injury luck, hoping that Bradley is immediate back to form after a serious injury, the same for Gaither and that something falls into place at SAM... well, have fun watching them get bounced in the divisional round by the Vikings or Saints or Cowboys run the ball at will, complete slants behind an LB one step too slow in a zone and easily block the blitzing OLB because he's a mediocre player...

The secondary has simple fix: get a solid #2 CB. That's it. That's not a huge problem. They have a great #1 CB, a great S, an over-qualified nickel-back. 3 out of the 5 main secondary positions are in fantastic shape. They have utility depth with Marlon Jackson being able to fill in at both S & CB. They have a 2nd year guy in the other S slot - hoping he matures (and plays all year like he did in the Atlanta game), is not a bad plan. Really, the #2 CB is the weak point and, oh my gosh, they have 4 picks in the first 87, perhaps they good draft a CB (or 2). Secondary is not the problem, it wasn't the problem last year, it won't be this year. Bet on it.

LB is shaping up to once again be the problem... And it's not just that the starters are bad - they have zero depth. Do you really want to see Trotter on the field again?

96 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

How is SAM a disaster? They have Fokou who showed promise last season at the position and got Alex Hall in the Brown trade. Both are young, talented and probably will be joined by a draft pick or released vet to add to the competition. Do they have a primo experienced starter? No, but great SAM LB are very hard to find--unique skill set to be able to set the edge with power yet run like a gazelle with the hybrid TE/WR now in the league. You make it sound like the Eagles should have just snapped their fingers after Emmons left and whoosh! another elite SAM LB emerges from the cake...

You seem to have a thing for Gaither, but he backs up WIL and MLB and has shown when healthy he can be at least a temporary fix at one of those. Bradley obviously will show some rust after returning from the ACL, but he is a good young MLB. At WIL, the starter most likely will be Jordan who also has shown good play when healthy.

The problem last year had nothing to do with was injuries at LB. We lost Bradley, Gaither, Jordan and Gocong for varying lengths of time. In essence we lost all our starters and our main backup. What team goes 7-8 deep at LB?? No one...thus we had to trade for Spoon, bring back Trot etc. to plug holes and be able to field a defense.

Plus you seem to forget the draft has not even happened nor more possible cuts of vets from other teams...I fully expect the Eagles to draft 1-2 LB and probably will be looking at the wire to see if any capable vets come free.

102 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Doesn't having the 12th ranked rushing DVOA in 2006 & 2009 and then getting killed in the playoffs because of that weakness constitute a problem that's highly relevant?

On the Eagles Defense, the LBs are the weakest unit, and have been for a long time. Agreed. And yes, in bad years, that was one factor that kept them from making long playoff runs. However, if they don't fix the secondary, they won't make the playoffs at all. That's why it's a bigger need. Having less than stellar LBs won't keep the team out of the playoffs. Having a less than stellar secondary will.

I think 2008, Bradley at his peak, competent players on either side of him - that's what they should be aiming for.

Sure, that would be great. I'd love to see that. But only if they first fix the secondary.

The secondary has simple fix: get a solid #2 CB. That's it. That's not a huge problem.

Yeah, but getting that #2 CB, especially one that can replace Sheldon Brown, usually takes a first day draft pick. Getting decent LBs is a lot easier to do late in the draft.

They have a 2nd year guy in the other S slot - hoping he matures (and plays all year like he did in the Atlanta game), is not a bad plan.

It's not a great plan either. Macho Harris, awesome name aside, didn't light the world on fire last year as a safety. Now, it'd be great if he developed into a good safety, but it's not something that they should count on. They should be drafting someone to compete with/replace him, so that if their second year, fifth round pick doesn't develop, they won't be left with a big hole in the middle of the secondary.

Really, the #2 CB is the weak point and, oh my gosh, they have 4 picks in the first 87, perhaps they good draft a CB (or 2).

They'd better do that. And get a good FS in case Macho Harris doesn't work out. That would constitute "fixing the secondary". If they do that on the first day of the draft, they can spend a few late round picks on LBs, to shore up some of the weakest parts there, and add depth. That'd be a fine plan for the draft.

I have no problem with them drafting LBs, as long as they do it with late round picks. The first two rounds should be dedicated to fixing the secondary, and maybe getting a lineman.

105 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Here's the thing, though: according to FO: the Eagles had the 5th ranked pass defense, despite the injuries and constant shuffling of players last year. How much is losing Sheldon Brown going to drop them? Is losing one arguably Pro-Bowl caliber player going to cause them to drop so far that they won't make the playoffs? Because they're otherwise fielding the exact same secondary. But if they don't fix the LB's, they only move they've made to fix last year's problems (which heavily contributed to losing the division title, a first-round bye, a home playoff game and then actually get bounced from the playoffs) is to wait for an injured MLB to come back. That's a bad situation. Also, I strongly disagree that Fokou showed promise: he and Joe Mays both looked embarrasingly lost out on the field and I dread them getting any more playing time. For those of you who think Harris was a liability, I strongly suggest you go back and watch Fokou on a play-by-play basis: he had no idea what he was doing. Sure, go for S depth in draft, but don't give up on Harris and don't make S a priority - it just shouldn't be. OLB and CB are the big needs for this team...

For the record: Samuels/Mikell/Harris/Hobbs/Hanson is not a bad starting nickel secondary. It's way better than most teams in the league. Then they even have a little depth with Marlon Jackson. If they go with Jordan/injury-hobbled Bradley/Fokou at LB, that's below almost every team in the league. Seriously: that's like a Detriot-esque squad. And God help them if anyone gets injured...

116 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Is losing one arguably Pro-Bowl caliber player going to cause them to drop so far that they won't make the playoffs?

Quality != depth. See: Redskins, Washington. It's easy to have an elite unit that becomes mediocre or worse when forced to put a sub-par player in place of a very good one. Just because they weren't that bad last year doesn't mean they're resilient to losing players. They weren't a deep secondary last year - it just didn't affect them because they were (relatively) healthy.

131 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

They lost Hobbs and Hanson - their #3 & #4 CB's - for a quarter of a season at virtually the same time. In The San Diego game, they were starting street free agents. They didn't have terrible injury luck, but again - Brown is only 1 guy and they added Marlon Jackson for depth. Do you really think they're going to lose 2 CB's for 4 or more games this? It's possible, but it won't be more than last year when they were a Top ranked passing defense... and, again, the fix is simple: draft a CB with one of those first 4 picks. They'll have depth with at CB and will be able to bring a younger player along without forcing him to start or, if they hit the jackpot, start him on Day 1.

The solution to LB is much trickier: hope Bradley comes back at full health after a significant knee injury, hope Gaither comes back from his injury to provide LB depth, decide whether to go with Fokou or Hall (and hope they are NFL caliber - something neither seems anywhere close to being), hope Jordan improves and still draft a LB (or 2) to provide depth and have a rookie to bring along or challenge for a starting spot. But, I forgot: you were fine with Trotter and Gocong on the field at the same time, so clearly you're fine with literally anything.

Just keep Trotter and Gocong in mind: so much of the Eagles (not very large) weakness in the passing game (not just the running game) came from the LB's - having terrible (not mediocre, not average) LB's only makes Mikell and Harris' jobs all the harder. And, hell, wouldn't you prefer the LB's not get caught out of position on outside runs leaving only - gulp - Asante Samuel to make the tackle? Eagles were #16 in passes to RB's last year...

87 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I don't think it's so much that he's illogical about addressing it as that he's failed to acquire legitimate talent at the position when he's tried to address it. Quinton Caver, Matt McCoy, and Chris Gocong were all high draft picks at OLB, and Carlos Emmons, Nate Wayne, Dhani Jones, and Mark Simoneau were all relatively high-profile free agency signings. Unfortunately none of them except Emmons turned out to be able to play.

92 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Everyone's too hard on Jones and Simoneau - Jones always had elite pass coverage numbers according to FO. Not just good, but top of the league among all LB's, not just OLB's. Simoneau was so-so, but good enough to go on the be productive in New Orleans, something which some of their current LB's (aside from Bradley) would be able to do. I'd kill for a unit at the level of Simoneau-Trotter-Jones. That's a unit that will help you win, not just be one that might avoid losing the game (which is the best we can hope for in 2010.)

I agree with your point more or less, though: it's been a long time since they've found a player, especially in the draft at LB. Matt McCoy remains my all-time least favorite Eagle.

118 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Everyone's too hard on Jones and Simoneau

I'll give you that neither Simoneau nor Jones were horrible. However, their ability in pass coverage was counterbalanced by their deficiencies against the run - those were years when stopping power running attacks was the main weakness of the Eagles' D, and while part of that was on the defensive line, having 235 pound guys as your starting LBs also contributed.

Matt McCoy remains my all-time least favorite Eagle.

Worse than L.J. Smith? Ouch. If not for 4th-and-26, I'd also rank FredEx ahead of him on my list.

132 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

L.J. Smith was irritating but at least had marginal business being on the field. He was bad at a lot of things, but pretty good at some others. McCoy was a debacle: there was not one thing he did at an NFL-average level. Sean Considine was another "least favorite" of mine. Mitchell was at least funny - that counts for something. That and 4th & 26th, of course. Vaughn Hepbron and Hershell Walker used to drive me nuts as well - just give it to Garner! And then brought in Ricky Watters. I guess I should've been angry at the coaches, but man did I hate it when Hepbron got the ball...

I'll give you that Jones/Simoneau were only viable when they brought back Trot to anchor the middle. That LB mix was pretty darn good - and a nice mix: good coverage guys and an absolute force of nature in run defense.

22 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

So Washington chose the one year to refrain from big ticket items in FA when there is no cap, they don't have an offensive line and a 34 year old QB was traded.

The Skins probably paid fair market price for McNabb. The move just doesn't make sense from the perspective of the success cycle. One could see the team get to .500 with some coaching and luck, like Gibbs second tour. But the talent on the team is spotty, in that there's not much individual talent that could elevate people around them or a coherent unit that's elite. It's hard to see any superbowl possibilities on this kind of team anytime soon.

40 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"San Francisco demonstrated that it was possible to maintain a high level of play while transitioning from one quarterback to another -- just so long as the new quarterback is the right one."

If by "right one" you mean one of the greatest QB's of all-time, then yes they demonstrated that.

119 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

The fact remains that Jeff Garcia was a pretty good quarterback for them. Not as good as Steve Young, granted, but certainly a top-10 NFL quarterback. While I don't expect Kolb to be a Hall-of-Famer, I don't think that kind of ceiling is at all unreasonable for him.

43 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Regardless of whether or not they intend to go short-term or long-term this offseason, since Jerry Jones drafted the team in 1989, they have never drafted an OL in the first round. I'd be surprised if that changes.

51 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Anyway, looking at the division changes, so far it seems to be:

Redskins are the most improved (but aren't they always paper champs in April?)
Cowboys stay more or less the same, good position to repeat division title.
Eagles take the most risks, have glaring holes on d.
Giants stay more or less the same: they have holes on d and sign a mediocre safety.

Think the Giants could be in for a rough season if they defense plays like it did in the second half of the season (is a new coordinator enough?) If Kolb pays off and they find some secondary help in the draft, the Eagles should be able to play at the same level as last year. No reason to think the Cowboys aren't the cream, unless Willie Parker, Larry Johnson and Donovan McNabb have good years left in them...