Each offseason NFL teams have to reload via the draft, free agency or trades. With these moves bring new issues every year, which is part of the reason fans love the build-up to the next season. In this series of blogs I’ll address an issue facing each team in the NFL. Some may be bigger than others and some teams may have more issues to deal with as well, but I’ll only focus on one for now. Let’s take a look at the NFC East.
The Cowboys always seem to be in the mix but for some reason they just can't get the job done come playoff time. Dallas will once again compete for the NFC East title in 2012. The other thing Dallas is known for is making headlines. I'm sure owner Jerry Jones would like this headline come January: Cowboys win playoff game. Quarterback Tony Romo hasn't done too well come playoff time, which has led some analysts to say the Cowboys should move on and look for another quarterback to lead the team to a championship. I'm not a big Romo fan, but think fans turn on him too quick. I know he's won just one playoff game over the course of his career.
He has to stay focused throughout the year and get this monkey off his back. I think the biggest challenge for Romo this season will be distributing the football. In 2011 only five players recorded receiving touchdowns. Romo threw 31 of the 33 touchdowns for the Cowboys. Laurent Robinson – now a Jaguar – was the recipient of 11 of them. Will Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin be able to pick up the slack for the loss of Robinson. Even though Robinson wasn't the best receiver on the team last year, his absence will definitely leave a void in the offense. If Bryant continues to progress and Austin can bounce back from nagging hamstring issues the Cowboys should be able to find the postseason.
The defending Super Bowl champions, the Giants, won the NFC East last
year with a 9-7 record. This year will much more difficult as the rest
of the teams in the division have gotten better. The Giants have lost
some key pieces to that championship team during the offseason and have a
few holes to fill. Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs both bolted to
San Francisco, leaving a void on the roster. New York is hoping rookie
running back David Wilson can be an instant contributor as Ahmad
Bradshaw's backup in 2012. Wilson rumbled for 1,709 yards and nine
touchdowns for Virginia Tech in 2011, so he could be a nice compliment
Wilson lasted until the final pick in the first round of
April's draft. Some thought he might go higher, but the Giants were
extremely happy with him falling to them. Wilson will have to battle D.J. Ware for carries, and I'm sure Wilson will end up on the winning side of that contest. The only other option for New York would be to go out and bring in a veteran back in free agency, but I don't feel the G-Men will do that. I'm not saying Bradshaw can't be a legitimate No. 1 back in the NFL, but we all know how important backups are and significant injuries always pop up at some point in the season. Bradshaw had ankle issues last year and if he's not 100 percent, the Giants may be wishing they made an offer to Jacobs.
Philadelphia has all the pieces in place to be a Super Bowl contender. They were one of the best all-around teams in the league last year, but struggled to a disappointing 8-8 record. The self-proclaimed ‘Dream Team' stumbled out of the gates and eventually won the final games of the season to get to .500. Some may say this team was overconfident. Some may say they were selfish or have selfish players on the roster. But no matter who is on the team or which player steps up, the one person that has to have some sort of control over all the players – big names and small – is the coach. And Andy Reid, as good of a coach that he is, couldn't get a handle on all of the personalities and the team's productivity was directly affected.
Reid is one of the better coaches in the league. He's a player's coach and seems to be well respected. But with some talented teams in the past he's only made it to one Super Bowl and the Eagles lost. I'm not blaming Reid for the lack of success last year, but he never seemed to be on top of his game. Vince Young saying the Eagles front office had organized a ‘Dream Team' was just boneheaded. DeSean Jackson was more worried about getting paid than winning, which didn't help the cause either. Toss in the fact that the defense allowed more than 30 points in five of the eight losses isn't too reassuring either. This squad has some issues, but as long as Reid takes control of all the egos and get everyone on the same page, the Eagles should find a way to get into the playoffs and make a run for a championship.
As for the Redskins, they feel they finally have a franchise quarterback in Robert Griffin III. Washington still has Rex Grossman on the roster, but I can't see them going with a veteran that is mediocre at best over a rookie they targeted and moved up in the draft for. I'm not normally one to throw a rookie to the wolves his first season, but I don't think the Redskins have too much of a choice. If they go with Grossman, and he struggles the fans will want Griffin. Just think about the Tim Tebow situation in Denver, only on a greater scale. Washington wants to be relevant again and Griffin has already done that without even taking a snap.
Griffin should improve Washington's record and outlook this year, but they won't be sitting at the top of the division just yet. If Griffin accepts the leadership role on this team and the rest of the players – especially the veterans – buy into him, this squad could be dangerous. But when push comes to shove, the Redskins will need everyone to get on board or risk suffering through another lackluster season. So the biggest question mark entering the season is which quarterback to turn to and how the veterans will take following a rookie. Only time will tell as the NFL season is fast approaching.
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