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NFL.com: Part 2: Answering the burning questions


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Part 2: Answering the burning questions

By Cris Collinsworth

Special to NFL.com


Collinsworth: Answering the burning questions (Part I)

(Aug. 27, 2004) -- Last week, I answered the first half of my 10 burning questions of the preseason. Here is the second half.

6. Who should start at quarterback for the Giants, Kurt Warner or Eli Manning ?

This is a tough question. I worked the Giants-Panthers broadcast for FOX last week and I was really impressed with the work Manning did against Carolina, which I consider one of the top defenses in the NFL -- especially with the return of Mark Fields. I was really impressed with Manning's poise on the field.

You can't go wrong with starting either guy, but if I had to make a call today, I would go with Warner. Manning still has a chance to win the job, but I would still go with Warner. That would buy a little time for Manning to learn on the job and for the team to settle its offensive line situation.

Plus, I would not want to start Manning at Philadelphia in the first week against Jim Johnson's defense. Johnson is one of the best defensive coordinators and the Eagles have a dominating defense, led by newly acquired Jevon Kearse. I would rather pick my spot with Manning.

Jimmy Johnson said during the studio broadcast that he would start Manning just like he started Troy Aikman when he was a rookie.

But the Giants would be admitting this is a rebuilding year if they started Manning on opening day. I believe it's true this is a rebuilding year for the Giants; I don't see them competing for a playoff spot, especially in the NFC East. But you owe it to the veterans like Michael Strahan to at least try to win some of these early games with Warner. I just don't think you can tell your fan base you are rebuilding on opening day.

7. Can Terrell Owens help the Eagles take the next step to the Super Bowl?

Sure he can. Just look at his performance last week against Baltimore. With all that Owens went through with the Ravens this offseason -- and the war of words with Ray Lewis -- he still went out and caught a touchdown bomb on the Eagles' first play from scrimmage with the entire Ravens team focusing on him.

But the most important thing about Owens is the easy completions he creates for quarterback Donovan McNabb. Owens works the middle to create more open space and easier throws for McNabb. Every year it seems the critics knock McNabb's accuracy, but Owens will make any quarterback more accurate with his big body and long arms.

Owens also will have a positive impact on Todd Pinkston. I never felt Pinkston was a No. 1 receiver, but he's a pretty good No. 2. He is a deep threat. Pinkston, despite the NFC Championship Game, played pretty well for the Eagles down the stretch. The team now has plenty of weapons to work with, including Brian Westbrook.

8. Is Cincinnati doing the right thing by starting Carson Palmer?

I saw Palmer play this weekend and I was pretty impressed with how he marched up and down the field against New England's No. 1 defense. I'm excited about what he can do. Rudi Johnson also looked like he hadn't missed a step from last season. Corey Dillon is a huge addition for New England but won't be missed in Cincinnati, thanks to Johnson.

The defense also looks improved. Duane Clemons, who signed with the team last season, looks really good. The secondary looks a lot better. Marvin Lewis' fingerprints are all over this defense.

It's exciting in Cincinnati. The Bengals have a chance to win the division and make some noise in the playoffs. The Bengals can play with anybody, including the Patriots. That's saying something for a team that has struggled as much as the Bengals in past years.

9. How harmful was Philip Rivers' holdout in San Diego?

I think this was a huge mistake on the part of Rivers and his agent and everybody associated with that situation. The Chargers have some blame too. San Diego, in essence, said Rivers was its top pick, which allowed Rivers' agents to ask for top dollar.

These contract negotiations remind me of a quote from former Senate minority leader Everett Dirksen, who said during the 1960s, "A billion here, a billon there, pretty soon you are talking about real money." I don't know if a million here or a million there is going to break the bank, but it has certainly cost Rivers a year's development, even though he has finally signed.

The Chargers will now look to Drew Brees, who is playing well in the preseason. But this clearly was a year the Chargers had planned on giving to Rivers to learn on the job. Much like Aikman in his first season, the Chargers were going to let him grow in the position and get ready for the following season.

But now it looks like that won't happen, and it's too bad. The franchise has struggled in recent years; it didn't need this sideshow.

10. You were one of the few to predict the Cowboys' rise to success last season. Who is your surprise pick for this season?

Expectations are high in Washington with the addition of RB Clinton Portis in the backfield.


I like the Washington Redskins and the Minnesota Vikings, though I'm not sure how much of a surprise that is. Like I mentioned last week, I think Joe Gibbs is one of the top coaches of all time. The offense, with Mark Brunell, Clinton Portis and assistant coach Joe Bugel, will be much better. Unlike the Redskins of a year ago, the quarterback will not get hit.

The defense, which didn't play well last year, will be much better despite the loss of Champ Bailey. Gregg Williams was the most sought-after defensive coordinator in the league this year, and Gibbs got him. Phillip Daniels, Cornelius Griffin and Marcus Washington will take a below-average front seven and create one that can stop the run and greatly increase the pressure on the quarterback.

My expectations for the Redskins probably are as high as the fans' are in Washington.

The Vikings are so good offensively in the skill positions. They have a "wow" factor based on the number of points this team can score.

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss are in the prime of their careers. Michael Bennett is really good. Plus the team signed Marcus Robinson to take some pressure off Moss. Even with an injury to center Matt Birk, this team is really good offensively.

The biggest question for the Vikings has been the defense. They are the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFC. But they do have some help. First-round draft pick Kenechi Udeze and 2003 top draft pick Kevin Williams should really improve the defensive line. The club also signed cornerback Antoine Winfield from Buffalo to improve the secondary.

If the Vikings defense can be merely average, the fans in Minnesota could be booking rooms this winter in Jacksonville.

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