Our division preview Q and A sessions continue with the NFC East, home of three Super Bowl head coaches … and Wade Phillips.
But while the Cowboys might have the least-pedigreed head coach, they do seem to have the eye of our four experts, who all seem to unanimously agree that …
Oh, wait, this is just a teaser. Better read on to find out exactly what they think.
Who’s your breakout player for 2010?
Ben Stockwell: Ma‘ake Kemoeatu. This would be more a re-emergence than a breakout, but the older Kemoeatu is the perfect nose tackle and should anchor a strong defensive front for the Redskins as they shift to the 3-4. Kemoeatu’s presence is one of the reasons that coach Mike Shanahan has been able to play hardball with Albert Haynesworth.
Neil Hornsby: I know that Eagles DLE Victor Abiamiri will miss the first six games of the year as he recovers from microfracture surgery, but assuming he returns healthy he’s got a big second half in him. He gets good pressure but also held up well against the run too and would give Philadelphia a pair of stud defensive ends when paired with Trent Cole.
Khaled Elsayed: Entering his third year I think Mike Jenkins may have the kind of ability that makes him one of the few cornerbacks able to join the Shutdown Cornerback club. I’m a big believer in the third year being when you can expect players to really start realizing all their potential, and Jenkins is primed for this after finishing 11th in our coverage rankings. He can leap a lot closer to the top if he can get more consistent.
Sam Monson: Darius Reynaud. Reynaud was thrown in with the Sage Rosenfels trade to the Giants and he gives them a legit return man. With experience at HB and WR, he’s also versatile playmaker with the ball in his hands.
The over-under lines for season win totals in the division are: Dallas, 9.5, Philadelphia, 8.5, NY Giants, 8, Washington, 7.5. On which team would you put your theoretical $100?
Neil: I’m going over on the Cowboys, which tells you just how much I like the balance of the Dallas team.
Khaled: I’m really sold on Dallas as having the most talented set of players. Solid at quarterback, deep at running back, talent at wideout and an offensive line that should be better than it was last year (when it was good, when healthy). Complete and balanced offense, and the defense is just as good. A potential shutdown cornerback in Mike Jenkins, the best set of outside linebackers in the league and plenty of other excellent players in the front seven like Jay Ratliff. Dallas is a 10-win team at least in my mind.
Sam: Run away. The entire division is within two wins of each other (7.5 for Washington, 8 NYG, 8.5 Philly, 9.5 for Dallas), there’s no way I would risk $100 on any of the over/unders in this division.
Ben: Philadelphia, under. How good is Kevin Kolb? Can he run the Eagles’ offense to win football games? Kolb isn’t McNabb and LeSean McCoy isn’t Brian Westbrook, growing pains for the Eagles in 2010.
What do you see as the positional strength of the division?
Neil: This is a relatively straightforward choice now that the O-line in Philly is struggling with injury and Washington’s disintegrated last year. The East is about defensive lines and a fearsome array of pass-rushers coming from both sides for every team. This is providing, of course, that you can allow me to include DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter given they nominally play LB.
Khaled: Pass-rushers. I don’t think I have room under the word-count limit to talk about how many great pass-rushers there are in this division — and if the training camp reports are remotely accurate, Philly’s Brandon Graham is going to join the list.
Ben: Tight end. Jason Witten and Kevin Boss are excellent all-around players and then you have the receiving threat of Bren Celek, Fred Davis and Chris Cooley. Matchup problems galore for NFC East defensive coordinators with this group of players.
Sam: Ben just had to be different. Sorry, but it’s pass-rushers.
Who is going to make the playoffs from the division, and do they have a shot to win it all?
Khaled: I think Dallas wins the division and I’m thinking the Cowboys will win the whole thing. Why not? Their pass protection is better by default, and they have all the impact skill players you could want on both sides of the ball. I’m going to say they’re the only team from this division that makes the playoffs because of the strength of other divisions, but wouldn’t surprise me to see the Eagles do well if Kolb is efficient or for the Giants to bounce back.
Neil: The Cowboys win this division easily and definitely have the ability to go the distance.
Ben: It’s the Cowboys only for this year in the East, they have the offense and the defense with few question marks to step away from the competition this year. With the monkey off their back with last year’s playoff win there’s no reason they can’t go all the way this year.
Sam: The Cowboys have the most complete roster in the division, but it’s such a tough division only one team makes it out. Dallas wins one, then gets beaten by a better squad.