Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

NFL Preview: NFC East

2004 Standings:

Philadelphia: 13-3
N.Y. Giants: 6-10
Dallas: 6-10
Washington: 6-10

Overview:
What a joke. You know, a lot of people ragged on the NFC West, and for good reason. However, there is no way that this division, overall, was better then the NFC West. Just a terrible conference after Philadelphia. By the way, the Eagles have several glaring question marks heading into this season, but still are the NFC favorites to return to the Super Bowl. None of the other teams have much of a prayer of making it to the postseason. Eli Manning has looked mediocre in New York, Dallas has an improved defense, but Drew Bledsoe does not an offense make, and Joe Gibbs must be wondering why he came out of retirement for the mess he inherited in Washington.

Philadelphia:
What an offseason! Thankfully I got to hear about them every single day, or I wouldn't have known that T.O. is a jerk (still is), Corey Simon doesn't want to be an Eagle (and how isn't), and Brian Westbrook wanted a new contract (and got one). There is a ton of pressure on this team, and the year will not be considered a success without a Super Bowl ring. Is that ring possible, with everything that has gone on? Absolutely. Is a Super Bowl trip an inevitability in a weak conference? Absolutely not.

Key Losses: DT Corey Simon, RB Dorsey Levens, DE Derrick Burgess, WR Freddie Mitchell, LB Nate Wayne, G Jermane Mayberry, LB Ike Reese

Key Additions: QB Mike McMahon, DT Mike Patterson

Offense: Forget all the hype about T.O. and Donovan McNabb. Once the season starts, if they remain healthy, they will be up to the task. The only problem might be the lack of any semblance of a wide receiver corps BEYOND T.O. I mean, they have no one! Freddy Mitchell is gone, and Todd Pinkston is out for the season. That means the second wide receiver is.... Greg Lewis, he of 17 receptions and 183 yards. Ouch. T.O. will be seeing a LOT of double coverage, unless Lewis really steps up. The rest of the offense will not experience any significant downturn. Donovan has improved as a passing quarter back every single year, though his performance in the Super Bowl was simply horrible. Expect him to depend on his legs a little more this year without a dependable passing game. Brian Westbrook is a playmaker who can run and catch, providing Donovan an underneath target. This team won't depend on their offense to win games anyways, but their offense shouldn't LOSE them too many games.

Gavin: Obviously Owens and McNabb will be the stars, but as Colin mentioned, I am so unimpressed with the rest of the receiver corps. Freddie Mitchell might have had a huge mouth, but he did catch the ball, and Pinkston (although a wuss over the middle) was a dependable performer. Greg Lewis just isn't the answer. Depth is also a large concern at tailback. Westbrook is a fairly small back, and if Philadelphia rests too much on him he could develop an injury problem. With Buckhalter out again, there is nothing to give Westbrook a spell. This should be a fairly consistent offense (and it will be against the garbage in this division) but nothing special.

Defense: Every year Philadelphia inputs new parts, and every year the end result is the same. This defense just is incredible. Much love should go to defensive coordinator Jim Johnson and his innovative all-blitz, all-the-time schemes. This year will provide him another year to prove his genuis, because several larges pieces of the vaunted Eagles defense will be missing, including all-world DT Corey Simon and effective linebacker Nate Wayne. The loss of Corey Simon seems to be lessened by the great preseason by rookie DT Mike Patterson, who the Eagles believe will easily step in and provide that needed punch in the middle. Few people remember that the Eagles defense began last season with a huge problem: They couldn't stop the run. Their savior was ye old Jeremiah Trotter, who used his girth for good instead of evil. I know I didn't see Trotter returning to playmaker form, and I'm not convinced that he can keep it up for another season. More pressure will be on Simoneau, who has been great against the pass, but inconsistent against the run. Another huge surprise last year was the amazing play by the baby Eagle cornerbacks Lito Shepperd and Sheldon Brown. That doesn't seem to be an anomoly. One on one coverage means more blitzes and more opportunities for beasts like Jevon Kearse and Jerome McDougle. This defense has a few questions, sure, but I expect it to be it's usual dominating self by Week 3 or 4.

Gavin: I doubted this defense last season and paid for it with each standout performance. I'm not going to make the same mistake this year. Until Jim Johnson is stopped this will be a top ten defense. Their schemes are always innovative, and with those young corners they are able to put incredible amounts of pressure on opposing QBs. Seriously, this is a stud secondary, one that all four could have made the Pro Bowl last year. Trotter should have been a Seahawk last offseason, and is back to being a beast in the middle. Of course Jevon Kearse will be good. Corey Simon will be missed, but Philly does have excellent depth. This is a defense that will carry them to 11 wins.

Overhyped Myth: This is the DEFINITION of overhype. The T.O. situation will mean BUPKUS once the season starts. I don't even know why this is still getting ink. T.O. needs the Eagles. The Eagles need T.O. Many yards and touchdowns will follow.

Understated Reality: The Eagles will be playing this season under a tremendous amount of pressure. Either they become the champions of the NFL or they have failed. Period. It remains to be seen how that pressure will affect them as a unit, especially if they lose a few games in a row. Fortunately for them, this division is weak enough that they could probably win the division with an 8-8 record, so their march towards the postseason will continue unabated.

General Prognosis: Well, they will make the postseason, and should be one of the top 2 seeds. Beyond that.... they are the favorite to reach the Super Bowl, but I'm not convinced. This is the new NFL. If you aren't named New England, the best team is usually not the winning team. My best guess is yet another NFC Championship game in Philadelphia, but the ride will end there once again for the Eagles.

Early Season Game I'm Looking Forward To: Monday night, Sept 12, at Atlanta. This will be an early statement game about the real talent gap between these two teams, and should take a lot of the luster away from the Falcons.

New York:
Now we move on to the rest of the division, also called..... the dregs. The Giants are hoping that Plaxico Burress, Eli Manning, and a non-fumbling Tiki Barber can carry them into a wildcard berth, but they don't seem to understand that the rest of that team, especially the offensive line, is a non-factor. Sure, Michael Strahan might be able to get a few sacks, but no one is scared of that defense. The Giants are still a few years away from competing seriously for a playoff spot, and would be fighting for last place if Washington wasn't absolutely terrible.

Key Losses: RB Ron Dayne, DT Lance Legree, QB Kurt Warner, CB Terry Cousin, TE Marcellus Rivers, WR Ike Hilliard, PK Steve Christie, DT Norman Hand, DE Keith Washington, OL Barry Stokes

Key Additions: LB Antonio Pierce, T Kareem McKenzie, WR Plaxico Burress, PK Jay Feely, DT Kendrick Clancy, T Bob Whitfield, QB Tim Hasselbeck

Offense: More like offensive, unless Eli Manning changes his name to Peyton, switches teams with Peyton, and has Peyton change his name to Eli. You get the picture (and yes, I will use this same joke with EVERY OTHER TEAM IN THIS DIVISION). The NFC East should issue an apology to NFL fans for the offense they will be seeing from this division. It is an abomination that the priest from "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" should look into instead of making a crappy movie. I mean, this NFC East offense demons are destroying watchable football! Come on! Tiki Barber held on to the football last year, and racked up some big yards, but I've never really believed in him since his career started. Maurice Morris just seems like a better feature back. Plaxico will be pining for Gentle Ben before September is over, as Eli has just not looked ready. His progression has been slowed by what is, by general acclaim, possibly the worst offensive line in football. Archie Manning should fine himself for making his son spurn San Diego for the bright lights of the Big Apple. His son will find his extremely rich posterior on the turf numerous times, which will result in skittishness and some bad decisions and progressions. At least Shockey's a playmaker, right? Right?

Gavin: Thankfully Colin has to write the rest of this preview. These offenses are WEAK. Tiki Barber had a career year and is one year older. Can he keep it up? I'm not drafting him as a fantasy back. Can Plaxico Burress be a number one receiver? Not convinced. Of course, as Colin writes, this all depends on the growth of Eli Manning. Plenty of growth will be needed behind this weak sauce offensive line.

Defense: I hope that the Giants fans like Michael Strahan, because he will be the only reason to look forward for the Giants defense to appear on the field. Well, that's not quite true. MLB Antonio Pierce had over 100 tackles last year, and should provide some good leadership on the field. But still.... blah. The coverage is below adequate, as both Will Peterson and Will Allen had times where opposing offenses ate them for breakfast. Let me be honest. I don't like the Giants, and I never have. I admit that I am not a huge expert on this unit, but whenever I watched the Giants last year, that defense couldn't stop anyone. In fact, in every one of their 10 losses, the defense allowed 27 points a game. I just don't see marked improvement at any aspect of this defense. There needs to be an infusion of new blood, injecting life into a team that has been dull and boring the last couple of years. This is another team that will cause my hand to immediately grab the remote if they are on television.

Gavin: We still on this team? Can't we write about Family Guy?

Overhyped Myth: Eli Manning is ready to make "The Leap". Not from what I've seen, plus that injury he suffered against Carolina in the preseason might come back to haunt him. I haven't been a fan of this Manning after he engineered the draft day move to New York. I thought that was a classless thing to do, plus it was a horrible decision. Manning was not worth the price New York paid. He might prove me wrong, but I doubt it.

Understated Reality: This offense will not achieve consistent results until that offensive line is overhauled. Kareem McKenzie is NOT an overhaul. Every aspect of an offense revolves around a quality offensive line. Teams like Kansas City or Indianapolis would not have nearly as good of an offense without their respective, incredible, O-Lines.

General Prognosis: 6-10 sounds like the charm to me, though it wouldn't surprise me if NY only wins 4-5. The defense will lose some games, and the offense will lose some games. That's a prescription for suckage.

Early Season Game I'm Looking Forward To: Sept. 25 at San Diego. Chargers fans will have an incredible opportunity to boo the hell out of Eli. I know I'll try to watch this game and boo a little myself.

Gavin: BOOOOOOOOOOOO

Dallas:
So much love has been given this offseason to the Cowboys that I have wondered if Jerry Jones has opened his pocketbooks and bribed several prominent columnists. To be honest, the hype has been ridiculous. This is an improved team, but not a drastically improved team, and they should struggle to reach the .500 mark, even with their weak schedule.

Key Losses: RB Richie Anderson, LB Dexter Coakley, RB Eddie George, QB Vinny Testeverde, DE Marcellus Wiley, S Darren Woodson

Key Additions: QB Drew Bledsoe, NT Jason Ferguson, CB Aaron Glenn, CB Anthony Henry, G Marco Rivera, LB/DE Demarcus Ware

Offense: Let me get this straight. People really think that Drew Bledsoe is going to march into Dallas, become the Drew Bledsoe of 10 years ago, and lead the Cowboys to 10 wins? Drew Bledsoe? Absolutely not. Fortunately for the Cowboys, the offense should revolve around improving running back Julius Jones, who gashed several teams last year, including the Seahawks. He has speed, but he also has a tough gear in him that can break several tackles on a given run. I like him, and he will ensure that this offense doesn't out and out reek. He will be helped by the offensive line, led by Larry Allen, who had a better season last year then he had had in years. Marco Rivera helped the Packers be a big running team for years, and he will do the same for the Cowboys. Where this team will struggle is through the air. Not only is Drew Bledsoe past his prime, but who is he throwing the ball to? Keyshawn Johnson? Terry Glenn? Well, Jason Witten is a nice target at the TE position, but the rest of the passing combo are, like, about 100 years old combined. This is no gamebreaker, and there is noone there to stretch the field. This has shown throughout the preseason, where teams like the Cardinals stacked the box and blitzed constantly, putting Bledsoe immediatey on his heels and putting the offense solely in the hands of Jones. This will still be an overall weakness for this team.

Gavin: Let's put this all in words columnists can understand... DALLAS SHOULD HAVE DRAFTED SOME OFFENSE. How on earth is this pile of aged crap supposed to be competitive? These are all names one could have been excited about ten years ago. Keyshawn Johnson? Wasn't he a Jet? Terry Glenn? Wasn't he a Patriot? Man, are there going to be a lot of disappointed prognosticators out there (note: this all should be down there in the overhyped myth as well). This is mediocre.

Defense: Two years ago this team had the #1 defense in the NFL. Last year? #16. Ouch. That's a drop, and the losses of Coakley and Wiley will hurt. What won't hurt is the addition of Demarcus Ware, who looks like an absolute stud. Holy cow. The interception of Matt Hasselback was unreal. He was two steps behind TE Jerremy Stevens, immediately closed the gap and dove in front of Stevens, snatching the ball out of the air. I was sold on this guy as of that moment. He could have the same sort of impact as Julius Peppers has with Carolina, and I'm not just saying that. I don't even like the Cowboys, but I like this kid that much. Because of him alone, this defense has the chance to improve from last year, probably ending at a spot from #9 to #12. MLB Dat Nguyen is a solid, though undersized, middle linebacker who is constantly flying to the ball. The secondary is, well, ok, as CB Terrence Newman has never really reached his potential and S Roy Williams sometimes seems to be looking for the big hits and missing some routes or just plain being beat. Reminds me a lot of John Lynch when he played for Tampa Bay. If Parcells has any real impact on this team, you will see it on the defense. I expect them to play with a lot of fire this year, and will win at least a few games for this team. However, this all depends if the defense can gel into the new 3-4 scheme, which might take a little while.

Gavin: After the aforementioned draft, the same prognosticators seem to think that Bill Parcells has his "guys" and the Cowboys will be unstoppable. Sure didn't look like that against the Hawks (minus those plays by DeMarcus Ware). They just don't have enough playmakers. They are weak in the middle. They are weak at linebacker. They are weak in the secondary. But they are Parcell's "guys". That should be enough.

Overhyped Myth: What else? The return of Drew Bledsoe does NOT vaunt this team into the stratosphere anymore then Eddie George did LAST year. His time is past, and no Parcells magic will change that. Face it. Old NFL quarterback's skills decrease over time, even when your name is Brett Favre. Bledsoe hasn't been elite for years and years, and he has looked terrible this preseason.

Understated Reality: This might be the last year for Bill Parcells if this team struggles again. I doubt that he will want to continue coaching a mediocre team, especially if he realizes, as he should, that this team is stuck in 6-10 and 7-9 land and will be for years.

General Prognosis: They'll win anywhere from 5-7 games, but they won't be vying for a playoff berth. They just aren't good enough offensively, and their defense, while improved, will not be a shutdown defense in the vein of Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.

Early Season Game I'm Looking Forward To: Sept 19 against Washington. Both teams are terrible, but Cowboys/Redskins games have a lot of passion behind them, and it's nice to see Parcells against Gibbs in any setting.

Washington:
Speaking of Joe Gibbs, why in the world did he leave NASCAR? Is Clinton Portis ready to rumble? Is that offensive line worth anything at all? Is Patrick Ramsey, FINALLY, ready to take the reins and lead the offense? Can the defense keep it up? Are there any more big questions surrounding this team?

Key Losses: WR Laveraneus Coles, RB Chad Morton, LB Antonio Pierce, CB Fred Smoot, WR Rod Gardner

Key Additions: CB Atrell Hawkins, WR Santana Moss, LB Warrick Holdman, WR David Patten

Offense: Ugh. It's hard for me to even write a paragraph about this offense. Patrick Ramsey. Has any quarterback been jerked around as much as Ramsey? It finally appears that he is it, and that might help him reach the tantalizing potential that Redskins fans has seen glimpses of. He has been known to be extremely accurate, though not recently, and, unlike Brunell, he has actual arm strength. His job becomes a lot easier if Clinton Portis wakes up and regains the form that made him one of the top-3 backs in the NFL. Clinton Portis absolutely killed my fantasy football team last year, so I hold a lot of resentment against him. He was gaining about 2 yards a carry with no touchdowns. Just nothing. I don't see anything to convince me that this will magically improve. The offensive line is about the same, though the return of T Jon Jansen from injury will be a massive help. The wide receiving corps completely revamped in what is probably a wash. Moss out, Coles in. Gardner out, Patten in. That's about the same, though it will be interesting to see how Patten responds to being more of the focus of the passing attack. In the end, though, I just can't see how this offense will become good. They were pathetic, and they probably will remain pathetic.

Gavin: Washington should write a letter of apology to NFL fans for the offense they are going to throw out there.

Defense: Now here is, or at least was, a great defense. To be honest with you, I have no idea how they achieved that. Shawn Springs is your #1 CB, and he has lost a few steps over the years with all his injury problems. S Sean Taylor is just weird, and the Redskins have considered already just dumping him. LB Levar Arrington has a ton of hype surrounding him, but has never put it all together on the field. DE Phillip Daniels is, well, Phillip Daniels, no one that should be counted on for a consistent rush. So again, I ask you, how was this defense dominant? I don't have any idea how to properly analyze this unit. It is one of the most baffling I have seen in doing these team capsules. Gavin, add something here, because I am stumped.

Gavin: The defense sure better be something, because otherwise this team will struggle to win four games.

Overhyped Myth: Clinton Portis is back and ready to shine. No, Portis is back and ready to get 1,200 yards and 6 touchdowns. That isn't what the Redskins thought they were paying for.

Understated Reality: The offense should improve, but the defense should sink back to the mediocre middle. That should result in very similar W/L results from last year.

General Prognosis: If anyone can do great things with this team, I would trust Joe Gibbs. But he really has low-quality talent at several positions, and the coaching staff isn't omnipotent. I don't see a lot of change for this season.

Early Season Game I'm Looking Forward To: The same Cowboys game, simply because that's the only time I would want to watch either of these teams.

Conclusion:
The Eagles. That's it. Try to put these other teams out of your mind.

posted by colin_hesse @ 2:51 PM  0 comments

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