Thursday, August 23, 2007

Philadelphia Eagles

On Defense the Eagles lost several key players in their defensive front that were relied upon in the past few years of rebuilding and injuries. Whereas Darwin Walker, Shawn Barber, Jeremiah Trotter, and Dhani Jones will definetely be missed, the Eagles are counting on a revitalized Takeo Spikes to take over the middle leaving promising youngsters Omar Gaither and Chris Gocong to fill the void left around Spikes. It will certainly take time to develop the proper chemistry, but given that they acquired two experienced defensive tackles in Monte Reagor and Ian Scott--both from last season's Super Bowl teams--they should be able to overcome the loss of Darwin Walker who brought admirable energy and effort but was a small part of the reason that Philadelphia struggled against the run in the beginning of last season. All in all, Philadelphia has bolstered their defensive line but will need time for the entire front--including the young linebacking corps--to gel.
Meanwhile the past two seasons of injuries and rebuilding has resulted in an Offensive line that is both seasoned and experienced with depth. The Eagles bring back their entire offensive line in tact, consisting of William Thomas, Todd Herremans, Jamaal Jackson, Shawn Andrews, and Jon Runyan. Their line is backed up with youth and depth like in Max Jen-Gilles--who benefitted from game experience when starters went down last year. Andy Reid has a great coaching staff and is one of the leagues best coaches as witnessed by last year's success despite enduring a rebuilding season and injuries at various times during the season. Philadelphia should once again be a formidable foe in a tough division with Donovan McNabb returning. If he answers his critics and returns to his previous form, the Eagles should contend for the NFC East title.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dallas Cowboys

There is a preseason excitement abuzz among Dallas Cowboy fans everywhere after finding a bonafide quaterback in Tony Romo last season which resulted in a playoff run by the end of the season. But the real reason that the Cowboys have a clear shot at competing for the NFC East crown in 2007 is the nearly in-tact Defense returning from a successful 2006 campaign. At the point of attack is a seasoned defensive line anchored by Jason Ferguson. He is flanked, on each side, by Marcus Spears and Chris Canty, completing the defensive line as his bookend defensive ends. The defensive front was supposed to be composed of returning linebackers DeMarcus Ware, Alvin Ayodele, Bradie James, and Greg Ellis. However, Anthony Spencer--their first round draft choice out of Purdue, may be forced into action earlier than expected with the potentially career-ending injury to Greg Ellis to a torn achilles tendon suffered originally in November last year. His recovery hasn't been as complete as he wanted over 6 months later going into camp. While this may slow Dallas down in their competition in the already brutal NFC East, the Cowboys may still be a formidable force in wreaking havoc by the end of the season in the race for the division pendant.
This is because most of their Offensive Line also returns in-tact. They lose some valuable depth in offensive tackle Jason Fabini--lost to the Redskins, and center Al Johnson--lost to Arizona. However, Jerry Jones countered this loss by acquiring big Leonard Davis from the Arizona Cardinals to potentially augment the line at one of the guard spots. That will allow for the remaining spots to be filled by returning veterans, Flozell Adams, Kyle Kosier, Marc Columbo, and Andre Gurode, completing the rest of the offensive line. This could end up being a solid unit once Davis is integrated into the Dallas run and pass-blocking schemes. All in all, a promising season awaits the Cowboys, despite what looks to be a difficult division race, if they can avoid the injury bug and play reasonably consistent.

Monday, August 13, 2007

New York Giants

On the otherhand, the New York Giants had plenty of adversity both on their offensive line and their defensive front. Whereas I am suggesting that this type of adversity builds depth and helped propel teams like the Redskins and others to success in seasons after undergoing significant injuries, stability is a major factor as well. The Giants decided to overhaul some of their linebacking corps on Defense, shedding Carlos Emmons, Brandon Short, and Lavar Arrington among other key players who saw 1st team action. They added Kansas City Linebacker Kawika Mitchell to compensate but are planning a major project in coaching up Mathias Kiwanuka as the strongside Linebacker--the Sam. If Michael Strahan does indeed return, they developed enough depth in dealing with the loss of both Umenyiora and Strahan at various points in last year's season, to be a well seasoned defensive line. This should help cover for any growing pains going on behind the line with the linebacking corps gaining experience in the Giants scheme. The defense should get better as the season progresses and should be tough for offenses to crack.
The Offense should also eventually benefit from the development of depth after surviving injuries to 1st teamers last year. Rich Seubert, Grey Ruegamer, and Bob Whitfield all saw significant action and started some games last season. Whitfield is now gone but so is Luke Pettigout. Pettigout will not be as easily replaced so the Giants will undergo some changes on their offensive line, but they will have the benefit of starting training camp with the new lineup which may move Dave Diehl to tackle allowing for Rich Seubert to replace Diehl at left guard. Shaun O'Hara, Chris Snee, and Kareem McKenzie all return on the right side giving this line the potential to be a good one along with some seasoned depth. All in all--by the end of the season, the Giants may wreak more havoc in the NFC East--an already a tough division--than most pundits have prognosticated.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Washington Redskins Cont.

Washington Redskins
While conventional wisdom from the popular media would suggest that a shakeup is in order given the disastrous results from last year's personnel on the Defensive Front, the 'Skins avoided the panic of rebuilding their entire defense and stuck to their guns with last year's scheme and personnel. The resulting situation may not be as bad as some pundits who suggest that 'business as usual' will result in the same 'business as usual' results from last year's defense. At no point starting from August until nearly November, were the 2005 combination at DT of Griffin and Salave'a both healthy at the same time or play together. Instead the 'Skins went through the growing pains of developing the maturation of the two rookies Golsten and Montgomery--who played alongside Griffin at various points in the season depending upon health. The redevelopment of the defensive front at the point of attack was one of many reasons why the defense suddenly performed below 2005 levels of performance eventhough Archeluta was scapegoated for much of the blame by the coaching staff.
The Offense, on the otherhand, has some real vulnerabilities. During Joe Gibbs' previous tenures, challenges from adversity--particularly on the offensive line in terms of injuries--ended up strengthening the Hogs by not only developing depth, but by shaping them into a super bowl calibur offensive line. Several Hogs learned to play several different positions on the offensive line in order to overcome injuries and adversity. Last year would have been the perfect season in which this type of development could have strengthened the offensive line in terms of depth and performance. Many of the league's losing teams overcame injuries on their lines and bettered themselves as a result. Unfortunately, the Redskins were not among those teams. They endured last year's losing season with roughly the same starting five on the line in nearly every game. Certainly, various starters endured injuries and were nicked up at various times---but not enough to knock them out of the lineup. As a result of this, the Redskins are vulnerable in terms of depth on the offensive line. In addition, the loss of Derrick Dochery to the Buffalo Bills puts the 'Skins in a rebuilding position at the line as the opening of the 2007 season nears. Throw in the loss of Chris Samuels, and the Redskins may have some struggles with their power running game in early September. The fact that Samuels went down in early August may be a blessing in disguise in that, his loss at any other time during the season, would almost certainly disclosed their vulnerability in depth during more critical times in the season. The 'Skins might actually have stepped up their development of their offensive line depth during training camp as a result of being forced into a position where the backups are forced to step up.