NFL 2012: NFC East Preview Capsules
NEW YORK GIANTS (13-7)
New Faces: TE Martellus Bennett, T Sean Locklear, LB Keith Rivers, RB David Wilson (first-round pick), WR Rueben Randle and CB Jayron Hosley.
Key Losses: OT Kareem McKenzie, CB Aaron Ross, DE Dave Tollefson, TE Jake Ballard, WR Mario Manningham, RB Brandon Jacobs.
Strengths: Coming off career-best year, two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning seems to be getting better. With Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, the defensive line might be finest in league; that makes Corey Webster-led secondary better. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks give Manning 1-2 punch at wide receiver and Randle is going to surprise many in rookie season.
Weaknesses: While the offensive line protects Manning well, it did nothing with running game last season, finishing last in NFL. Only time run game looked good in preseason was with Wilson in backfield. With TE Jake Ballard gone, free agent signee Martellus Bennett needs to step up. Early injuries to Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara have thinned depth at cornerback.
Expectations: Many think Giants were lucky to win second Super Bowl in five years with late-season rush. Guess what? They have talent to do it again, especially if Manning stays healthy and D-line makes life miserable for opposing QB. If Wilson runs as well as he did against Bears, watch out.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (8-8)
New faces: MLB DeMeco Ryans, LB Mychal Kendricks, DT Fletcher Cox (first-round pick), QB Nick Foles, S O.J. Atogwe, P Mat McBriar.
Key losses: LT Jason Peters (injury), CB Asante Samuel.
Strengths: Eagles have dynamic offense led by QB Michael Vick, All-Pro RB LeSean McCoy and WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Four offensive linemen return, which helps continuity. Defensive line deep and really gets after QBs. Eagles have nice mix of veterans and young talented players.
Weaknesses: Offensive line has to make up for loss of its best player, Peters, and protect Vick, who is prone to injury. Defense needs to step up in second year under coordinator Juan Castillo, who seemed overmatched at times last season. Revamped LBs have to show more consistency and make an impact.
Expectations: Tragedy struck Eagles when Garrett Reid, son of coach Andy Reid, died during training camp. Players rallied around the coach and several dedicated the season to the memory of Garrett. And, after nine playoff appearances, five trips to the NFC title game and one Super Bowl loss in Reid's 14 seasons, fans and the organization feel nothing short of hoisting Vince Lombardi Trophy will be good enough.
DALLAS COWBOYS (8-8)
New faces: CB Brandon Carr, CB Morris Claiborne (first-round pick), QB Kyle Orton, FB Lawrence Vickers, OL Mackenzy Bernadeau, OL Nate Livings, LB Dan Connor.
Key losses: WR Laurent Robinson, CB Terrence Newman, TE Martellus Bennett, LB Keith Brooking, LB Bradie James.
Strengths: DeMarcus Ware, the perennial Pro Bowl LB with 99 1/2 career sacks, 19 1/2 last season, and a defense with year under coordinator Rob Ryan. Additions of free agent Carr and Claiborne strengthen secondary. QB Tony Romo coming off one of best seasons - 4,184 yards passing with 31 TDs and 10 interceptions.
Weaknesses: Depth at receiver behind hamstrung Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Robinson excelled his one season with Romo as a No. 3 receiver, but turned that into a big free-agent deal elsewhere. Austin dealt with hamstring issues again during preseason after missing six games last year. Cowboys tried to upgrade offensive line with additions of free agents Bernadeau and Livings. But both had injury issues, the starting tackles switched sides and expected starting center Phil Costa was hurt throughout preseason.
Expectations: Owner Jerry Jones opened camp talking about return to glory days of his early ownership, when Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four-year span. Jones, who turns 70 in October, may still have to wait a little longer. Cowboys, with one postseason win the past 15 seasons, could make it back to playoffs. But getting Jones' fourth Super Bowl title - sixth in franchise history - probably a stretch.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (5-11)
New faces: QB Robert Griffin III (first-round pick), WR Pierre Garcon, WR Josh Morgan, S Brandon Meriweather, S Madieu Williams, CB Cedric Griffin, G Josh Leribeus, RB Alfred Morris, K Billy Cundiff
Key losses: S LaRon Landry, S Oshiomogho Atogwe, WR Jabar Gaffney, QB John Beck, K Graham Gano, TE Chris Cooley.
Strengths: Defensive front seven looks solid, with ageless LB London Fletcher anchoring unit hitting stride in third year of coordinator Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme. DE Jarvis Jenkins, who missed rookie year with injury, makes line deeper and stronger. Offenses will find it hard to account for outside LBs Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, who between them should post impressive sack total. TE Fred Davis is a keeper, if he can avoid more off-the-field problems. Rookie QB Griffin will be joy to watch as he learns pro game.
Weaknesses: Coach Mike Shanahan likes to say he has more depth, but that could translate into lots of backup talent and not enough starting talent at some positions. No substantial upgrade to offensive line that has allowed 40 sacks each of the last three years, and RT Jammal Brown is sidelined again after hip surgery. None of RBs has ever rushed for 1,000 yards in a season, and 33-year-old Santana Moss is only WR with 1,000 yards receiving in a season. New SS Meriweather and Williams are reclamation projects.
Expectations: RGIII. RGIII. RGIII. Season is all about rookie and his learning curve. Redskins appear headed for fifth consecutive last-place finish in NFC East, but at least they'll be entertaining as marketable, fleet-footed rookie with strong arm begins career that might just resuscitate franchise.
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