Jump to content
Washington Football Team Logo

AP: STILL THE ONE: Eagles have enough talent to make a run


Recommended Posts

STILL THE ONE: Eagles have enough talent to make a run



Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells have five Super Bowl victories between them. Tom Coughlin took an expansion franchise in Jacksonville and had it in the AFC championship game in its second year.

The NFC East, however, belongs to Andy Reid.

Reid took over the Eagles in 1999, went 5-11 with Donovan McNabb as a rookie and is 46-18 since, not counting the playoffs. The only stain on his record is three straight losses in NFC title games and even that is a dubious blemish - give him credit for getting back there every year.

With the addition of Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse, the Eagles have more than a decent shot at making the NFC championship game again, although it would be considered another disaster in Philly if they stop there. Never mind winning the NFC East - that seems easy. Reid, his players and the city will be satisfied with nothing less than the Eagles' first NFL title in 44 years.

First things first.

The Eagles are clearly the class of the NFC East, winners of the last three division titles and probably up against weaker opposition than last season. Dallas, which finished 10-6 and made the playoffs in Parcells' first season, could take a step back; Washington, 5-11, has a long way to go even under Gibbs; and the Giants are rebuilding under Coughlin.

So Philadelphia it is, with Owens giving McNabb the first premier receiver he has had.

"I feel very comfortable back there with T.O.," McNabb said. "We are doing some different things now. I think that we've been able to understand exactly what we are doing and know what we are seeing out there."

There are two negatives in Philadelphia.

One is the loss of cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor to free agency, especially Vincent, a leader in the locker room whose influence was the exact opposite of Owens' in San Francisco. The second is injuries: Defensive end N.D. Kalu and running back Correll Buckhalter are out for the season, and a dozen other players are banged up.

But Kearse can be a devastating pass rusher when healthy (and he has been this summer), and Owens is the one thing the Eagles have lacked - a No. 1 receiver for McNabb. The load at running back now falls on Brian Westbrook, who is more suited for spot duty.

The main problem on defense will be at cornerback, where youngsters Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown step in for Taylor and Vincent. It doesn't help that Brian Dawkins, one of the game's best safeties and the leader of the secondary, has been a training camp casualty.

The rest of the division can bask in the glory of its coaches.

Among them, Reid, Gibbs, Parcells and Coughlin are 427-274-1, with five Super Bowl wins, seven Super Bowl appearances and 13 championship-game appearances. And their record would be even better if they hadn't struggled in their first seasons, Parcells with the Giants and Patriots, Reid in 1999, and Coughlin with a first-year expansion team.

Gibbs also struggled early with the Redskins. They were 0-5 in 1981, his first season, but finished 8-8, then won the Super Bowl the next season.

So Washington fans have made a savior out of Gibbs, who coached the Redskins to three Super Bowl titles in his first tenure (1981-92). This year, his presence alone should improve the team, although past spending sprees by owner Daniel Snyder have come to nothing under Norv Turner, Marty Schottenheimer and Steve Spurrier.

Gibbs has some weapons, and the biggest upgrade has been at running back with the addition of Clinton Portis, who rushed for 3,099 yards in two years with Denver. But Portis came at a steep price when the Redskins surrendered Champ Bailey, one of the league's best cornerbacks.

Bailey will be replaced by another free agent, Shawn Springs. But the key to the defense will be linebacker LaVar Arrington, whom Gibbs and his assistants plan to turn loose to rush the passer.

Another off-season acquisition, Mark Brunell, won the starting quarterback's job from incumbent Patrick Ramsey. Laveranues Coles is a first-rate wide receiver, but the offense could be hurt because of a season-ending Achilles'-tendon injury to right tackle Jon Jansen, probably the team's best offensive lineman.

Dallas will begin the season with Vinny Testaverde, 40, at quarterback after Parcells cut Quincy Carter, last year's starter. Behind Testaverde is Drew Henson, who is promising but spent the last three seasons playing baseball.

Two other old-timers will play big roles in the offense: running back Eddie George, signed after being cut by Tennessee, and wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, benched in Tampa Bay and obtained in a trade for Joey Galloway. Johnson played for Parcells with the Jets and may still be effective, but George, who will turn 31 next month, is on the downside of his career - he has averaged 342 carries a season in eight years and just 3.3 yards a carry the last three seasons.

As with any Parcells' team, the defense is solid, although safety Darren Woodson, the last player from the team that won three Super Bowls in the '90s, is out after back surgery.

The Giants entered last season with Super Bowl hopes and finished 4-12, in large part because of a horrible offensive line and a spate of injuries. Coughlin was brought in to replace Jim Fassel and instill discipline to a team that went 0-8 and clearly quit in the second half of the season.

The Giants have more than 20 new players, including six new starters among the defensive front seven, but the offensive line doesn't seem markedly better.

The center of attention has been quarterback, where the Giants traded for Eli Manning, the top pick in the draft, and brought in Kurt Warner, a two-time MVP, to break him in. Warner's experience and Manning's inexperience were painfully evident in an exhibition against the blitzing Jets, and Warner was chosen to start the season.

The best news of the preseason has been the re-emergence of Ron Dayne, kept inactive by Fassel all of last season. He has averaged more than 7 yards a carry in the preseason and could be a major help for the overworked Tiki Barber and for Warner.

"It's the choice that is in the best interest of the New York Giants," Coughlin said when he picked Warner as the starter. "And we'll go from there."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...