Having checked out the NFL AFC, Jon E. Bagg takes a look at the NFL NFC line-up, starting with the East.
The East is the NFL’s red meat division. New coach Chip Kelly has big shoes to fill now that Andy Reid finally bit the dust with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly is a rookie and he’s surely going to find that being a virgin in the most brutal division in the NFL will be a debilitating challenge. Daniel Snyder has dug deep in the pocket to stock his Redskins’ defensive line with proven warriors. Consequently, they are in with their first honest chance to break the Giants and Cowboys oligarchy for the first time in a while. The Giants’ only big problem is their tendency to repeatedly depend upon Eli Manning’s dive-bomber offense and that, maybe – I’ve said this before and been way wrong – their defensive line is getting old. Can Dallas protect Tony ‘the Italian Tin Man’ Romo? Well, not last season and things don’t seem to have changed much. A bevy of young running talent may be on the brink, however. It’s the division where the most finesse players get hurt, so count on nothing!
Washington Redskins: I know; I’ve done this before. Last season the Skins defensive line gave up nigh on 1800 yards over the season. They have spent big to cure that ill. Head Coach Mike Shanahan and his son Kyle, the team’s offensive coordinator, have been plotting out a practical skill-set to suit Robert Griffin III, back out from a year of injury, and 2012’s most fantastic Skins rookie back in memory, Alfred Morris, who ran more than 128 yards per game. This could be the team to do it all. Brian Orakpo is a warrior at the back and the biggest question to ask is about their secondary defensive line when the playoffs come. I think they’re a year away. Bagg predicts: 10-6.
New York Giants: In a three-team race, the Giants hold the trump card via the presence of Eli Manning. A rebuilt defensive line that looked so weak last season now boasts the presence of free agent tackles Mike ‘Ouch!’ Patterson and Cullen Jenkins. The word out of camp is that the newly drafted middle linebacker Jonathan Hankins is a beast. Sure, their pass-rush isn’t what it used to be, but QB Manning is older and more cunning. When the chips are down, cliché or no, these guys produce. Write them off altogether and you’ll regret it. Prediction 8-8.
Dallas Cowboys: Celebrity serial groupie Tony Romo takes a lot of media heat, more often than not for all the wrong reasons. The real question is whether their new defensive coach Monte Kiffin is capable of building a defensive line with enough talent and moxy to protect Romo when he goes a-roamin’? This Tampa-2 thing that Howie and Jimmy liked to rave about when Kiffin improved the Buccaneers so drastically may still need the right horses. But, really, just how used to their QB’s so-called ‘eccentricities’ are the Cowboys offensive line? Romo: He just needs some love. Bagg says 8-8.
Philadelphia Eagles: Rookie coach Chip Kelly was successful in a college situation and the powers-that-be concluded he’d be the perfect geek brain to set QB Michael Vick free. The fast-break offense that was so successful at the University of Oregon is still a one-trick-pony in the Rottweiler-eat-dog world of the NFL. More to the point, can the defensive line that old coach Andy Reid was forever tinkering with protect Vick and his high-energy lateral pocket? One thing is for sure, if the injury-prone Vick goes down, there is a void of talent behind him. You can only go to the well with the Hurry-Up offense so many times. What Kelly does with the in between plays is a conundrum. A sad 4-12.
Next up: NFC NFL North.