Scouting the 2011 opponents: The NFC East

Scouting the 2011 opponents: The NFC East
February 1, 2011, 5:02 pm
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011 12:00 PM

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By Rich Tandler
Redskins Blogger
CSNwashington.com

The 2011 Washington Redskins will, as always, play a home and home set with each of the three other teams in the NFC East. Although the division was not the premiere group that many projected it to bejust the division champ Eagles made the playoffs. The Redskins struggled somewhat in the division last year although not as badly as they did in 2009 when they went 0-6. Washington opened the season with a 13-7 win over Dallas, a victory that lost some of its luster as the Cowboys miserable 1-7 start of the season unfolded. In Week 4 they knocked Mike Vick out of the game and won 17-12 in Donovan McNabbs return to Philly to move to 2-0 in the division. Things went downhill after that. Their next division game came in Week 10 and the Eagles blew their doors off 59-28 in the rematch at FedEx Field. When they went to the Meadowlands a few weeks later the score wasnt as bad but Washington was equally uncompetitive and lost to the Giants 31-7. Losses at Dallas (33-30) and to the Giants at FedEx Field (17-14) were closer but it added up to a 2-4 record in the division. So, if last year was an off year for the division and the Redskins still had a losing record they will have their work cut out for them against the division last year. Heres a look at the teams 2011prospects against the NFC East. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) Who are the real Cowboys? Is it the team that started off 1-7 before Jerry Jones decided to pull the plug on Wade Phillips? Or is it the one that went 5-3 in the second half of the season under Jason Garrett with starting quarterback Tony Romo watching John Kitna at the controls? It might stand to reason that with Garrett having a full offseason to change the culture away from that of the easy going Phillips that they should be better. However, it appears that we will have to make some changes if they are going to remain competitive. Their starters are getting old. Their average starter in 2010 was 29.2 years old, tied for the oldest in the NFL. Putting Romo (31 next year) in for Kitna (39) lowers the age somewhat. Still, if the Cowboys make no changes to their starting lineup they will average nearly 30 years a man in 2011. Their offensive line is a likely starting point for a youth movement. Tackle Doug Free is the kid of the group and he will be 28 (and an unrestricted free agent) next year. Guards Kyle Kozier (also a free agent to be) and Leonard Davis, tackle Marc Colombo and center Andre Gurode all will be 33. They werent that bad as a unit last year but they are unlikely to take a gamble that the fairly high level of play will continue. Defensively the Cowboys ranked 23rd and they will have to make decisions on such aging players as inside linebacker Keith Brooking (36) and Terence Newman (33). But they still have a solid front seven anchored by All-Pro outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and nose tackle Jay Ratliff. New York Giants (10-6) As they have every year since winning the Super Bowl after the 2007 season, the Giants stumbled down the stretch last year. The problems with finishing the year have led to them watching playoffs from home the last two seasons. Like the Cowboys, the Giants have some offensive linemen who are getting up there in years. Stalwarts like guard Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie will be 30 and center Shaun OHara will be 34. Injuries forced some changes in 2010 and expect to see more new faces there next year. The other elements of the Giants Super Bowl title, a solid stable of running backs and a stout defensive line will continue to be strengths. Quarterback Eli Manning did not have one of his better years, leading the league by throwing 25 interceptions. Those who watch the team regularly will tell you that an inordinate number of the picks went off of the hands of receivers. For some reason, some fans and media members were calling for Tom Coughlins job after the season. The Giants ownership was smart enough not to listen. He is, however, on the last year of his contract and although there were reports that he and the team would have discussions concerning an extension there is nothing done yet. Coughlin will have to deal with the pending free agency of defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, running back Ahmad Bradshaw, and tight end Kevin Boss. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) The Eagles are one of the youngest teams in the league. Quarterback Michael Vick, cornerback Assante Samuel, offensive tackle Jason Peter, and safety Quintin Mikell are the only starters who will be 30 next year. The Eagles still are looking for a defensive coordinator after firing Sean McDermott about a week after being eliminated from the playoffs. The Philly defense was in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories but they were particularly bad in the red zone. It seemed like some defensive coordinators started to figure out how to stop Vick as the year came to an end, or at least how to slow him down. The best scheme that Jim Haslett can conger up, however, wont do much good unless the Redskins get faster on defense. Vick is slated to be an unrestricted free agent but he will get the franchise tag from the Eagles. Starting right guard Max Jean-Giles will be a free agent and the organization will take a look at extending receiver DeSean Jackson before he hits the open market next year. You can reach Rich Tandler by email at RTandlerCSN@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter @RealRedskins. Rich also writes about the Skins at www.RealRedskins.com.