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An Early Look at the NFC

We have been waiting and waiting for months. Now the wait is just about over. The Cowboys report to training camp tomorrow and their first practice is Saturday. As the next week goes by all the other teams will also open up training camps and most will have their sights set on Super Bowl XLV in Cowboys Stadium next February. It’s the start of a new season with new hopes and dreams. So who are the favorites in 2010 and who will be the disappointments? Here is an early look at the NFC.

NFC Favorites

  1. New Orleans. The Saints need to be at the top of the list simply because they are the defending Champions. Someone needs to knock them off the top of the mountain. As far as talent and leadership the Saints are no different from last season. They are explosive on offense, which helps when it comes to their 25th ranked defense.
  2. Minnesota.They are rated above the Cowboys because of how easily they beat the Cowboys in the playoffs. Most people are tired of the so called “Favre Watch”, but if he comes back they will still have a potent offense. If Favre shocks everyone and retires, then the Vikings as a team fall a few spots in the rankings. Their defensive line is one of the best, if not the best in the league, but their secondary is suspect at times.
  3. Dallas. No major changes for the Cowboys during the off-season. They have the talent in place on offense and defense to go along with some playoff experience. Tony Romo had a great 2009 season, minus the Giants game early in the season. I think the offensive line will be fine with Doug Free taking over for Flozell Adams. The major question is how will Alan Ball be at safety?
  4. Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers has become one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He has a lot of offensive weapons to choose from as long as his offensive line can protect him. The defense played very well last season as they went from a 4-3 to a 3-4. A few losses in 2010 on defense like Johnny Jolly and Aaron Kampman may hurt them.
  5. NY Giants.I tried my best to find another team in the NFC I could put at number five, but I kept coming back to the Giants. Eli Manning seems to always find the open receiver when he needs a big play and they Giants have a lot of weapons at receiver. Was Brandon Jacobs really hurt in 2009? That will be the big question for this offense in 2010. The defense just seemed to give up last season as they allowed over 40 points in three of the last four games. That prompted the Giants to hire new defensive coordinator in Perry Fewell.

 

Disappointments

  1. Philadelphia.Franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb was traded in the off-season. No more Brian Westbrook in the backfield. I think the Eagles are going to take a step back in 2010. They are handing the offense to unproven quarterback Kevin Kolb. Their defense is not the force it once was as the Cowboys showed in beating them in back-to-back weeks, outscoring the Eagles 58-14.
  2. Arizona.The Cardinals lost their heart when Kurt Warner retired after last season. Matt Leinart has done nothing that says he can lead this team. They also lost dependable receiver Anquan Boldin to free agency. The defense lost a few pieces as well with the departures of linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Antrel Rolle.
  3. Chicago.I’ve read a lot of good things about the Bears this off-season. How Jay Cutler is going to be better now that new offensive coordinator Mark Martz is there. How the signing of Chester Taylor and Julius Peppers has improved the team. But head coach Lovie Smith likes to run the ball and Mike Martz likes to throw the ball. Could be an issue as the season moves along and the winter weather enters the picture. The question is also whether Peppers really wants to be in Chicago or was it the money that attracted him there?

Interesting

  1. Detroit.I’m interested in seeing the Lions this season. I know they have combined for only two wins the last two seasons, but this team has some talent. Especially on offense with Matthew Stafford going into his second season and Calvin Johnson becoming one of the best receivers in the league. Stafford also has a quality tight end in Tony Scheffler to go to now. The Lions drafted speedy Jahvid Best to ignite the running game. On defense they added cornerback Chris Houston, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and defensive tackle Corey Williams through free agency. The Lions also added defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was the second overall pick in the draft.

FORWARD PROGRESS: Weapons Of A Different Breed

Forward Progress

Training camp is finally here! Rejoice Cowboys fans! Another beginning will soon be upon us, and this is the first step along the lengthy journey of the season. You win in December and in playoff games and in Superbowls by preparing both physically and mentally here in late July and August. I didn’t get a chance to hear much of the “State of the Cowboys” address by Owner Jones and Coach Wade, but let’s be honest, I don’t think I missed a whole lot other than some cliche’s and some hopeful optimism, not that there is anything wrong with that. I must admit that it is hard to be so close, yet so far away from real football. In a way, I am going to have to fight through a lot of the things that are going to be brought up and mused upon over the course of the next 3 or 4 weeks. You know, the usual suspects: Can Romo win in December? How will the offense perform without Terrell Owens? Can Wade get his players to stay motivated? Blah, blah, blah! I understand that the media has a job to do, but I am just not interested in the same ole, same ole.

Some of the things that I am looking forward to finding out over the course of training camp will be how the new additions to the defense are going to fit in, who will win the number two spot at wide receiver and maybe, just maybe, get a glimpse at how Jason Garrett plans to manage all of his unique weapons.

Ah yes, Mr. Garrett and his weapons. I can’t think of a Cowboys team in the past with a more unique set of offensive weapons than this 2009 outfit. It will be a challenge and a delicate balance to efficiently use all of the running backs and tight ends, as well as develop the chemistry and timing between Romo and Roy Williams and the rest of the receivers. I am excited to see what Garrett can do with this group. I still have confidence in Garrett, I think he did have some challenges and obstacles dealing with Owens last year and in the end I believe that it affected his play calling and game planning. That is just my opinion, nothing more, nothing less.

I think that the best thing for Garrett, Romo and the entire franchise would be to have the heart and soul and identity of this team actually be the running game. If you are able to establish the run week in and week out, then it makes everything else so much easier. You can control time of possession, and gain valuable field position by churning out those first downs. Honestly, if we are unable to establish THIS team’s running game than there will have to be major changes in many areas next off-season. The extremely well compensated offensive line, led by Leonard Davis, are just flat out going to have to open some holes and then let the three headed monster do it’s thing. We have 3 backs who could arguably be starters for almost 20 other NFL teams at least. There are other great backs in the league, but I can’t think of any teams who would turn down Marion Barber or Felix Jones, and very few who would not like to have a guy like Tashard Choice somewhere in the mix. All that being said, there are no excuses to not dominate in the running game this year.

Once we soften up the line of scrimmage, we can open up our can of beans and rice! We should be able to carve up the middle of the field as well as any team in the league with our dynamic tight ends. We have the top tight end in all of football in Jason Witten, who also will contribute to the running game with his solid blocking, and then the young, explosive Marty B as his sidekick. This will be one of the most exciting things to watch this year for me. It’s not exactly rocket science here. When it’s third down and six, look for Beans and Rice.

And then, when it’s time to really put it on them, as my boy Nate the Cowboy Ninja would say, just dial 9-11. Romo to Roy Williams, and don’t forget Miles Austin, Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd. This is where the majority of the big gains will and should come from and if the running game is established and the middle of the field has been softened up by the tight ends, it will be easy pickings for an accurate passer like Romo.

Man, just looking at all of the options gets me really excited, we have the weapons. It’s time to optimize them and, bottom line, that’s on the shoulders’ of the coordinator.

Cowboys Fan for Life – TD