2004 NFL SEASON PREVIEW – NFC EAST
(Listed in order of 2003 finish)
BB: Bill Barnwell : ED: Ed Agner : PR: Phil Rippa
ED: Caveat: Phil and Bill are sad little Giants fans. Since I am a pathetic Raiders fan – and seemingly the only person in this little speck of the world who’s not a fan of an NFC East team – it only seemed appropriate that I handle this duty. God help me.
PR: Yeah, I am still uncertain if rationale thought is going to come during the time I am writing this. You have all been warned.
(2003 record: 12-4, lost in the NFC Championship Game)
Key Additions: LB Jeremiah Trotter, LB Dhani Jones, DE Jevon Kearse, WR Terrell Owens, LB Hugh Douglas, QB Jeff Blake
Key Losses: RB Duce Staley, LB Carlos Emmons, DE Marco Coleman, QB A.J. Feeley, CB Bobby Taylor, WR James Thrash, CB Troy Vincent, G John Welbourn, DE Brandon Whiting, G Bobbie Williams, N.D. Kalu (IR)
ED: I heard something about the Eagles picking up a WR who is supposed to get them over the hump of the NFC title ga– Ah. Yes. Some guy named Owens. Boy was that a messy series of paperwork shuffling/transactions/non-transactions that I will probably never ever understand. Anyway, you can’t complain about the Owens pick up if you’re an Eagles fan – unless he goes down with a horrific injury or something (No. I’m not trying to jinx T.O. If I had magic jinxing power I wouldn’t waste it on this conference, let alone this division). Whether or not Owens will help the Eagles is not a question. How far he and the Eagles offense can carry the team is the real question.
BB: Well, they brought in Tim Duncan who should be good for 20 and 10…ok, that’s a tired joke. This isn’t exactly my strong point here or anything.
PR: Sadly, he didn’t even last long enough on the time for that joke to even have relevance. Kinda like the other Tim Duncan’s summer. I pour a 40 for the Dream Team. Or something. I have no point.
BB: Really the Dream Team doesn’t, either.
ED: Offensively, the Eagles are possibly bringing out their best ever unit in Andy Reid’s tenure. Sure, I’ve seen some goobers talk about how the Eagles will miss the – Yes – VETERAN PRESENCE~! of Duce Staley but, as much as I like Duce, let’s face it: thanks to age, injury and workload issues the man is this close to qualifying as a member of the 2005 Oakland Raiders backfield. *sigh* Rotating Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook and one of the younger runners in the Eagles roster (Reno Mahe or Thomas Tapeh) should provide the same results that the Eagles had with the three-headed monster of ‘03.
BB: Mahe and Tapeh’s names just SOUND ineffectual so I’m not sure how that’s going to work. The Eagles running back hydra was fantastic last year, and while it makes fantasy heads hurt, it gets the job done for them.
PR: Buckhalter going down for the season a) lead to me making the same joke about Bill drafting him the last time he was a cripple over and over again. b) signing Dorsey Levens which made me laugh. Aww… poor little declining skills. (This one was only a passing fancy) c) gave the job to the man who should have it in the first place – Brian Westbrook. Westbrook singlehandly carried the Eagles last year. I was there live when he was singularly stood on the Giants chest and repeatedly drove the stake into the heart of their season… for all 80 yards. Oof… the NFL where someone can contribute almost 1400 all purpose yards and 11 touchdowns isn’t your #1 guy is a NFL that I am quite unfamiliar with. I guess Andy Reid is too busy trying to scheme an onside kick against the Giants Week One.
BB: NFL Coaches that would not realize Andy Reid is going to do an onside kick on the first play of the season: Mike Martz, Norv Turner, Butch Davis. Former coaches: Bill Callahan, Sam Wyche, Gregg Williams, Jim Fassel, Ray Handley…you get the idea.
PR: Jack Del Rio, Mike Malarky, and Jim Mora, Jr. would be baffled too. Heck, I am not even sure Mike Malarky could find the field without an escort.
ED: Actually having a WR that McNabb can throw to will do wonders for opening up the running game, too. Any and all questions you might have about the Eagles offense will revolve entirely around the revamped right side of their O-line and…that…I can’t answer. But hey, McNabb is fast and it’s not like his blind side is the iffy part of the line so…meh. The O will suffice.
PR: What are you talking about Ed? They have FEDEX FREDDIE MITCHELL!!!! HE ALWAYS DELIVERS!!! FOURTH AND 26!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am ashamed…
BB: Did someone actually give Freddie Mitchell the nickname FedEx? And if so – are you sure they meant “he always delivers” and not “mail it in”?
ED: For the first time in ages, the REAL questions about the Eagles arise on the defensive side of things as the linebacker and secondary corps look real suspect going into the season.
BB: Isn’t that when you’re supposed to sign Bryan Cox?
ED: The key move on defense is supposedly the pick up of Jevon Kearse and – hmm, let me look at my calendar – Yes. It IS 2004. Hmm. Been awhile since Kearse’s been healthy/good, hasn’t it? A $16 million bonus, eh? Jevon will get used to the boos, I reckon. In recent years, the Eagles hid the weaknesses of their D-line by blitzing a ton with their LB and safeties. But now with suspect LB and especially cornerback units, the Eagles are giving lip service about how Kearse’s pass rush will supplant the blitzes, allowing the safeties to stay back and help the kid CB’s to prevent possible blown coverage’s. Oh yeah, that could be ugly. Very-very ugly.
BB: It always seemed to me like Kearse had like half a good season and a great playoffs his rookie season and he’s been coasting on it ever since. Yeah – and the funny thing is – Kevin Carter’s done the same thing. Ah, that was a fun Super Bowl. And is the Eagles defensive coordinator the football equivalent of THE MULLETED GENIUS?!?!? I personally think so.
PR: Oh, it’s not like there isn’t other chaos with the ends. N.D. Kalu blew out his knee and is gone for the season. The Eagles went out and signed Hugh Douglas who wasn’t able to brown nose enough to Jack Del Rio to keep his job in Jacksonville. That signing isn’t that horrific since Douglas comes cheap, is familiar with the schemes and well, won’t be playing every down. Plus Jerome McDougle is still around. Hey! He was from Miami and the #15 pick. He can’t stink. Right? RIGHT???
BB: Yeah, but Hugh Douglas can’t chop wood. And for all the first rounders Miami’s produced over the last few years…how many have really been successful NFL players?
BB: Nothing, really, compares to last year’s runner-up for ESPN NFL Moment of the Year when Suzy Kolber (who also features in the winner) caught Kearse hitting on some girl in the stands. She proceeds to confront Kearse, who explains his actions by talking about how they need to support the fans and show that they care and all that, while Kolber says “Yeah – how about going over and talking one of the fat guys with no shirts on?” I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jevon Kearse angrier in my entire life and I can assure you that if you want to get him motivated to play all you need to do is cock-block him. Of course – if you don’t know what the moment of the year was, you need to go to another website pretty fast. All I’m saying is I wish we had video clips! like an AVI or a MPG! of Joe Namath HITTING on Suzy Kolber, saying “I want to kiss you!” There, the stats will go up now.
ED: And the suspect LB and secondary units? Replacing Emmons with the return of Trotter and/or the signing of Dhani Jones is…umm…interesting. Well, there’s your VETERAN PRESENCE~!, I guess. I assume all those head injuries made Bill Romanowski forget how to return Andy Reid’s phone calls or something. Football phone? Me got football phone?
BB: I think Bill Romanowski was probably busy with Andrea Kremer but I suppose you can answer the phone if she doesn’t mind.
PR: The delusional part of me would like to believe that Jones is just part of that elaborate trap the Giants set by letting their entire starting linebacker group sign with other NFC East teams (okay, 2 out of 3, work with me here). I mean Dhani Jones was fine last year for the first time. But I was always leery of guys where it took me three seasons to make them a productive player in Madden. Of course, Emmons signing with the Giants could be part of the Eagles elaborate plot. Look how it worked for them in getting them to sign Brian Mitchell and the Skins to suffer through a couple years of Jeremiah Trotter.
BB: You can’t forget about Jessie Armstead, Phil. I think that there are all kinds of coups and counter-coups going on in the linebacking corps of the NFL. The only way it’s solved? Ray Lewis stabs each and every one.
ED: And you’ve gotta give the Eagles mad props (I’m soooooo down – if this was 1989. Do the humpty-hump!) for having the courage to let the aging Vincent and Taylor go since we all now how VETERAN PRESENCE~! is the most powerful force in the sports world. (If you love something let it free and…Aww, fergetit.) And replacing Vincent and Taylor with men too short to even be stand-ins for Tom Cruise – in Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown – takes Buddy Ryan-type guts. Now, the same as it was with Buddy, guts does not equal brains, however. I see Minnesota’s on the Eagles schedule this year. Randy Moss fantasy owners had to go get a new favorite sock and a bottle of Canola after seeing that. I’m thinking Brian Dawkins may get 3 billion tackles this year.
PR: Randy Moss, tiny corners, new rules cracking down on illegal contact. Aww…. the Freak is going to need like 19 sacks or that will get ugly.
BB: I don’t know, I think Vincent and Taylor were really good in Madden last year so letting them go might not have been the best idea.
PR: I still think Vincent and Taylor should have tried to market themselves as a package. Like how Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles were doing it. Wait, that didn’t work for them either. Nevermind. I also want to see Brandon Pinderhughes play just to see the equipment managers futile attempts to fit his entire name on a jersey.
BB: Or how Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya did it. Which got them on the same team and eliminated from the playoffs and now hockey’s on strike and they’re going to have to get real jobs with the salaries they’ll make next year. Whoops.
ED: So yeah, what we’re looking at is the Eagles playing AFC football. Hey, I love me some AFC football. Sure do. Of course, I am aware of the problems the AFC has trying to play NFC football, but I am a fool so don’t listen to me. But if you’re an Eagles fan, you MIGHT wanna listen to two coaches in the NFC East who did pretty well smacking the crap out of AFC teams in Super Bowl’s past. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the Eagles are probably good enough – especially offensively – to compete for a post-season berth. But I wouldn’t put money on this team getting over the NFC title game hump with THAT defense.
PR: Getting back to the Eagles schedule for a moment. They catch a break in that for the most part, all their toughest games are at home (Minnesota, Carolina, Baltimore, Green Bay). The hardest road game is a Christmas Weekend game at St. Louis. I think they will take that over having to play a Dec. game in Green Bay. Of course, they play in the wackiest division in the world. They will survive on owning the Redskins and Eagles, so those four wins will give them the crown regardless of the Giants games. Hear that Philly, you can let us win those two. Ugh…
(2003 record: 10-6, lost in NFC Wild Card round)
Key Additions: RB Eddie George, WR Keyshawn Johnson, DE Marcellus Wiley, QB Vinny Testaverde, E-5 Drew Henson, DT Chad Eaton
Key Losses: CB Mario Edwards, DT Ebenezer Ekuban, WR Joey Galloway, RB Troy Hambrick, K–er QB(?) Quincy Carter, RB Aveion Cason
BB: I am not really inclined to think that Eddie George is so much of an addition. Stupid fantasy killer.
ED: Hmm. Well, unless Jerry Jones’ new newest face falls off as he mugs for the cameras, things can’t go too much worse for the Cowboys, can they? And would that even be a bad thing, now that I think of it?
PR: They could be Dolphins fans I guess. Or Eagles fans. Or Redskins fans.
ED: Anyhoo – Hmm. IIIIIIIII, as a Raider fan, have heard many a joke about aged players. Shoot, I’ve probably told more of them than I’ve heard. I would rattle off a bunch of ‘em right now, but since the Cowboys have Bill Parcells still in place, I know old players tend to only suck under inept management, so those jokes probably don’t apply here. *sigh* Sutpid Raiders. (Aww, I misspelled “stupid” just then. Why does God like to enact revenge on only me?) OK, where was I? Oh yes, so the ‘Boys let Troy Hambrick go (Stupid Raiders!) and replaced him with Eddie George. OK. Someone’s gotta have a freakier face than Jerry Jones in the Big D, I reckon. And since Shannon Sharpe was Deionizing himself for CBS, Eddie had to do. So be it. Oh, and then came training camp when Quincy Carter reportedly wanted to introduce Bill Parcells to a couple of his leettle friends and – Boom! Out went Quincy in favor of big offseason QB pick-up, Vinny Testaverde. Ordinarily, a Titanic joke would be apt, but, of course, Parcells is the coach, so it isn’t.
PR: It is going to take me a little bit to work up my hate on the Cowboys right now. I mean Parcells being there will always take the edge off for me and the fact that they now have Drew Henson, as I stated several times before, means the Yanks don’t. This is a good thing. We just hope they don’t put any groups of Jerry’s “Miracle Kids” in the front row or anything. INCOMING!
ED: And of course, when you get down to brass tacks, as funny as the QB and RB moves may seem to those of us who…well, OK, I can’t laugh since I’m a Raider fan (Stupid Raiders!)…anyway, as peculiar as those moves may seem to anyone who isn’t a Raider fan, fact is, the Cowboys actually upgraded themselves with both moves. That doesn’t mean that Eddie and Vinny are any kinds of world-beaters in the oh-four. That just means that Hambrick and Carter…were…not…very…good. Sooooooooo not very good.
BB: I am maybe just a little bit bitter about this – but I would rather have Hambrick than Eddie George at this point. Eddie George’s YPC over the last four years: 3.7, 3.0, 3.4, 3.3. Hambrick’s been at 4.7, 5.1, 4.0, and 3.5. Chris Brown, George’s backup, was at 3.9 in his rookie season. The point is there’s not much left in George’s tank – even if you say that the motivation of Parcells is going to push him up some.
PR: Parcells passing on Steven Jackson and then selecting Julius Jones was… not surprising for those of us familiar with many years of Parcells drafting. Considering Steven Jackson looks like he is going to run for about a trillion yards after he cripples Marshall Faulk, the signing of Eddie George might have been a little easier to fathom. Of course, the fact that Cardinals now sign any RB that Dallas casts aside – this might be an amazing setup.
ED: Number of whacks in the head with a baseball bat Ricky Ray’s agent deserves for talking his client into signing with the Jets instead of Dallas, a team he could possibly play for (out of 5): 3.
BB: I am going to concur with this.
PR: I personally think that number needs to be a 5 since Carter’s release and the fact that the rumors at the end of training camp were that Tony Romo might end up being the starter at the start of the season. I believe the words you are looking for are “impending disaster”.
BB: Tony Roma? Mmm…the easiest jokes are the funniest.
ED: And of course, I’ve failed to mention Dallas’ pick-up of the greatest wide receiver in the history of wide receivers – and if you don’t believe me just ask him…or ESPN…or FOX…or too many people who should know better: Keyshawn Johnson. Yes, Dallas got themselves a Lombardi Trophy when they picked up the black Steve Largent. OK, that’s not fair. Keyshawn actually takes hits unlike a certain Oklahoma senator did in his overrated NFL career.
PR: I wonder how many Steve Largent overrated comments it is going to take us to get people to understand this. Or for them to buy airfare and try and find us. Yup, my name is Pete Stein and I live in NYC. That’s right. Stein. In New York City. Nope, there is only one or two of them there. Bring it fatboy! (Did I cross enough lines with that joke? Do I need to throw in another Bob Ojeda speedboat one? Am I over as a writer yet?)
BB: I know I personally am aghast right now.
ED: Keyshawn is the…umm…black Ricky Proehl, maybe? Naw, Ricky Proehl has SCRAP~! What the Cowboys got is a slow overpaid, overhyped, temperamental possession receiver who isn’t afraid to…you know, suck and blame everyone else for it. Yipee! I’m shocked he’s not a Raider. (Stupid Raiders!) Oh sure, I’ve heard alllllllll about how Keyshawn played wonderfully for Parcells, catching passes from Testaverde in New York – during the Clinton administration. Somehow, I am foolish enough not to think that’s the most applicable thing in the world today. I suck because I KNOW Keyshawn will probably be great for Dallas since Parcells is coach and I am a Raider fan and life is unfair.
BB: And then of course there is Antonio Bryant, who is essentially Keyshawn with less talent. Parcells seems…uninterested.
PR: If only this offseason had been the Hard Knocks season. Not that the Jaguars aren’t bringing the goods on Inside Training Camp but I would have paid several, several dollars to see the Bryant/Parcells throw down. It’s kinda fun to realize that Terry Glenn is the most stable receiver on the team.
BB: Maybe part of the “Make Terry Glenn feel important and wanted” strategy, this time around, is to make everyone else around him crazy so that he’ll think to himself – “Hey – I am the most stable person here!”
PR: The Tight Ends are also an integral part of a Parcells offense – well actually, this would be a Maurice Carthon which is essentially a Parcells offense – and Dallas has a group that I like. Dan Campbell splitting from Jeremy Shockey last year is something I still haven’t gotten over. Jason Witten showed some flashes that he could be a solid NFC TE. At the very least, both can provide some additional blocking to prevent Big D from playing chuck ‘n’ duck.
BB: If just for the crappy hair alone the Campbell/Shockey split is a sad, sad story. Maybe he just doesn’t like mothers and daughters together.
ED: But all the humor (intentional and unintentional – and God, I didn’t even go into the Antonio Bryant or Julius Jones hilarity) about the Cowboys offense is overshadowed by the humor that is their O-line. PEEEEEE-U! Oh man, Flozell Adams could legally change his name to Jesus if he can keep that line together and keep Drew Henson from only playing garbage time. I’ve not seen Flozell walk on water nor have I seen him sink, but I have a hunch that he won’t be skipping across the Rio Bravo anytime soon.
PR: It’s fun reading all the stories about how Larry Allen is going to be great again. Mind you this is the same Larry Allen the Cowboys were desperate to move in the offseason. (And the fact that Larry Allen wanted to get traded to the Raiders is even more beautiful – sorry Ed.) This is also the same Allen who was woefully out of shape last year and is still carrying 325 lbs on a creaky frame that is another year older.
BB: Let’s just say that I don’t have too high of hopes for the Cowboys rushing attack this year. I think maybe patching together a line of five clones of the fat kid from “Varsity Blues” might be better. But that’s just me.
PR: Aww… and then they would all get concussed. Maybe the fat Samoan from Necessary Roughness. Or the fat kid from Little Giants. Or the sumo and black twins from The Replacments. Uh-oh… I just started that debate again. Stupid federal agent.
BB: I am still waiting for your implementation of the Annexation of Puerto Rico for each of the 847 NFL teams.
ED: As sad and funny as the Cowboys offense is, fact is that the Cowboys didn’t have a good offense last year and still made the playoffs. Defense-defense-defense. It ain’t pretty to watch – at least for me – but it works. And no coach is better than Parcells at successfully riding a good defense – and that will be his M.O. again this year. The ‘Boys supposedly upgraded their anemic pass rush with the addition of Marcellus Wiley (though he was last a good pass rusher when Jevon Kearse deserved his “Freak” label) but lost safety Darren Woodsen for at least the first four games of the season with a back injury. Betwixt and between the Cowboys still have a nice core of players at linebacker, strong safety and up the middle of the defensive front. Ergo, you won’t run much on Dallas but you will have a decent shot at chucking the ball on them. In a conference with Philadelphia and Washington(maybe), who figure to have at least passable passing games, that’s a major weakness.
PR: I don’t think it is going to be as easy to throw the ball all over the field as Ed thinks. Yeah, Woodsen’s injury is rough and Mario Edwards left but they still have Roy Williams and Terrence Newman around to ridiculously showboat after breaking up a pass. The bigger problem is that the Cowboys have no pass rush so the secondary has to try and cover for four years before La’Roi Glover waddles over to the QB.
BB: You would think teams might look at Dallas and be like – hey! Dexter Coakley! Dat Nguyen! Maybe drafting smallish linebackers ISN’T the worst thing in the world! But nope.
ED: Dallas was blessed with a moderately easy schedule (Must. Control. Desire. To. Scream. NFL Conspiracy.), so there won’t be the complete disaster that some have screamed about since Quincy Carter decided to do his best Michael Irvin impersonation. The Boys will bring the boring ball control game and try to win with defense and do pretty well. But this isn’t a team to get excited about in any way – unless Parcells has another heart attack or Jerry Jones’ face falls off or something.
PR: I am too lazy to look it up but I really hope that I don’t have to hear about the Cowboys playing teams coming off byes again. In reality, the most important part of their schedule is the last three games, where they play nothing but NFC East rivals.
BB: Where is TMQ? Why isn’t he bothered by this?
BB: Personally I’d want to see Bill Parcells chest cavity give way and his heart explode into a ball of white heat, taking off Jerry Jones’ last eight faces in the process and revealing that he’s really Jock Ewing. But that is just me.
(2003 record: 5-11, missed the playoffs)
Key Additions: The second coming of Joe Gibbs, LB Micheal Barrow, CB Ralph Brown, QB Mark Brunell, DE Phillip Daniels, DE Cornelius Griffin, DB Walt Harris, RB Clinton Portis, C Cory Raymer, CB Shawn Springs, WR James Thrash, LB Marcus Washington, P Tom Tupa
Key Losses: LB Jeremiah Trotter, LB Jessie Armstead, CB Champ Bailey, WR Patrick Johnson, DE Bruce Smith, TE Byron Chamberlain, DT Martin Chase, DT Lionel Dalton, RB Trung Candidate, TE Zeron Flemister, OG Dave Fiore, P Bryan Barker
PR: Sadly, the jokes and rumors you have heard about the fans down here drinking the Kool-Aid when Joe Gibbs are 100% true. My best friend called me the next day and immediately proclaimed “THE SKINS WILL WIN THE SUPER BOWL THIS YEAR!” You can’t even make this stuff up.
ED: Of the millions of questions I always have about the NFL’s farcical salary cap, why do so many of them revolve around the Redskins and how Daniel Snyder can sign everyone like George Steinbrenner trying to cheese off the Red Sox in December? Meh. Freakin’ commie NFL. Mmm, artificial parity! Dig it!
BB: The way I figure it – the Redskins sign these guys to long-term contracts with their bonuses spread out over five or six years and the salaries backloaded so that bigger salaries are paid out later in the contract, as I believe all contracts are. Then, when the players get cut in two seasons, their salaries come off the books. What remains are the bonuses. The bonuses are just now beginning to add up, leaving the Redskins in cap trouble that’s going to become a fiasco starting…oh…next year.
PR: The reason the Redskins PR machine has explained it is that all the Skins figured out some goofy loophole where after like three years signing bonuses become like roster bonuses so they don’t count against the cap if the person is wacked. Basically, they think they are brilliant. Lots of other GMs think they are full of it. Me – I would get more upset if the players that actually gave a billion dollars to, performed. Ah memories of Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith and Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkerson and Rob Johnson and Jeff George.
ED: I will miss Steve Spurrier and all his unintentional comedy a WHOOLLLLE bunch. Yes I will. But I am not a Redskins fan, so…your mileage may vary. Bringing back Joe Gibbs has lead to the creation of a cottage industry of people playing armchair head shrinker as to how effective his comeback can be. See, there’s George Bush bringing jobs to America. So, shut up all of youse before I report alla ya’ll as un-American. U-S-A. Wait, Phil wants to replace me with an Indian who will work cheaper? But-but, I work for free! Aww, crap! Please, please, Phil, let me keep THIS job! Please! I’ll pay you! Yeah! YEAH! I’ll…what?
BB: I dunno how big the outsourcing market is for Ohio natives who hate OSU football. But I guess we can find someone.
PR: I am certainly not the person to talk to about finding anyone a job.
ED: Ahem. All the doubt about the Gibbs II era is a whole lot of hot air. Sure, it’s been…Good God! 12 years! Really? Sweet Jesus, where did my youth go? I need some time to weep in a darkened corner before I go on, please….There. A little better. So…(God, 12 years! So many dashed dreams! So much wasted time! So…unfair! Where did my life go? Where went the love? The joy? The flexible….Oh.) OK. Ahem…So, in 12 years (God!), I highly doubt Gibbs has forgot how to carve up defenses and tear apart opposing offenses with the basics that Gibbs always brought to the table. Gibbs will be just fine, people. Just relax and watch him go. Jeez. Oh sure, all that time in the NASCAR circuit will probably have Gibbs tempted to make too many left turns with the running game, but could that be any worse than Steve Spurrier’s play calling? I think not. 12 years. 12 years.
BB: I think the problem is not that Gibbs is going to be terrible – but the way people are talking, the Redskins have already locked up a playoff spot. This team has some significant problems. The Redskins decided throwing salt in Patrick Ramsey’s wounds wasn’t enough – they decided to pour in some pepper, some cayenne, some hot sauce, and maybe some salsa. Mark Brunell…Mark Brunell was not effective in Jacksonville for the past two years. I have no reason to believe that he will be successful in Washington. The Portis/Gardner/Coles troika at the skill positions is a pretty solid combination, and if the Skins can actually find a TE who can take some of the heat off of them (yeah – Kellen Winslow would’ve fit right about here), the Redskins would have one of the better offenses in football.
PR: I fall into the camp of people who don’t think the Skins wideouts are a great as everyone thinks they are. Coles got off to a hot start last year but cooled off in part due to a nagging toe injury (that isn’t fully healed yet) and the fact that any Washington QB was trying to throw from the seat of his pants. As far as the TE position, yeah Kellen Winslow is going to be a good player but (and I am probably about to piss off our four readers) Sean Taylor > Kellen Winslow. Especially in terms of what the Skins needs were. I mean, Gibbs wants his Tight End to play more out that wacky H-Back position and K2 did not fit that type of player. And throwing to a TE takes a back seat when guys are running sprints past Matt Bowen (I think we are all familiar with how overrated white secondary guys not named Adam Archuleta are). Wow, I am rambling. God, I hate this team.
BB: Just imagine if THEY had Shockey and the Giants didn’t.
ED: Of course, Joe Gibbs has never had to deal with Daniel Snyder before. That’s gonna be a obstacle, I reckon. Thematically, I see the season going one of two ways: 1) a competitive team that plays hard and falls just short allowing Gibbs to see which of Snyder’s disasters needs to become Raiders (Stupid Raiders!) so he can retool in the offseason with the team he wants; or 2) a team that vastly overachieves all season before a playoff stumble and an ugly cap-disaster mess of an offseason where Gibbs has to fight Snyder to make the Skins crap into Raiders (Stupid Raiders!). I imagine Skins fans will take either scenario over everything else of the last 12 years (12 years!) and either way, no matter what happens in November, Gibbs will be the best leader in Washington D.C. all over again.
BB: And the Raiders will suck. Wheeee!
PR: The thing I am most eager to see if Gibbs understands is that he can no longer put 87 players on the practice squad. Man, he used to stash thousands upon thousands of guys on there. The other great thing was that when Gibbs decided he was coming back he immediately called his old boys to get them to be assistants. The big names were Gregg Williams (Assistant Head Coach – Defense) and Joe Bugel (Assistant Head Coach – Offense). Could Gibbs have picked a bigger batch of failed NFL head coaches? Did Rich Kottie not return his phone calls? Heck, even Earnest Byner was brought it to coach the running backs. Of course, my favorite hire of the offseason. DeWayne Walker was hired to be the Secondary/Cornerbacks coach. Walker was the in the same position with the Giants for the last two years. I will let you make your own judgments there.
BB: Yeah I am not blaming Walker on that one. Stupid Jason Sehorn.
ED: The Skins themselves? Well, offensively, you have an overpaid, badly-aging QB and a kid who should be the QB who’s had the hell beaten out of him the last two seasons. Steve Spurrier wouldn’t have known which one to go with, Joe Gibbs WILL know – well, more than likely, Brunell will get crippled to make Gibbs’ life easier, but let’s not complicate things, OK? Patrick Ramsey isn’t the second coming that many made him out to be, but he can be solid enough – if he’s not on his back every play.
PR: All that will matter is that Brunell will get fired up to make Tom Coughlin look bad in two games and then I will cry and cry and cry.
BB: And then Tom Coughlin will beat your ass.
ED: Making the offense (and blocking assignments) simpler and more run-oriented will help keep the QB’s healthy – but can it keep Clinton Portis healthy? That’s the million dollar question, really. Portis isn’t your typical Gibbs workhorse back and there’s not a lot of depth at RB behind him. Odds aren’t good that Portis can hold up and odds are even worse that someone can fill in admirably for him. When your future hinges on Ladell Betts, chances are you’re not looking at dominating the league.
PR: Don’t get all giddy over the blocking just yet. Bugel’s “Dirtbags” (yeesh – I hate that as much as the Hogs already) still are trying to figure out how to play together. That task wasn’t made any easier when Jon Jansen was lost for the season in the first preseason game. Randy Thomas, probably the best member of the line, has been fighting injuries too. And Chris Samuels continues to be overrated… and fighting injuries too.
BB: Madden LOVES this line, though.
ED: When forced into passing, it’s not the prettiest picture in the world. For all of Spurrier’s love of the passing game, the Skins sure aren’t deep at receiver. If the Skins only had some U of FLA WR’s to…OK. I’ll stop. The Skins are looking at Darnerien McCants to sorta fill the Monk role, with Laveranues Coles playing the Charlie Brown spot and Rod Gardner trying to…not be Rod Gardner or something. I dunno, you try to figure out Rod Gardner. I don’t care enough to bother. This ain’t The Fun Bunch, but it sure beats all that U of FLA mess Spurrier brought to D.C.
BB: Ed apparently disagrees with my assessment of the Redskins offense and I am not one to argue with my elders so I will just shake my head and flip him the bird when he turns around.
PR: Well, I didn’t either but Ed and I also think Art Monk should be in the Hall of Fame and since we didn’t play football and don’t like the flashy showboaters, what do we know? Stupid football.
ED: Not surprisingly, Gibbs brought in a small army of TE’s/H-back type guys bring the smashmouth and I make a mental note to watch NFC East games only if I need sleep badly and there’s no National League baseball on. MODERNIST!
BB: Couldn’t we get Joe Buck to call Redskin games? Actually – couldn’t we get Joe Buck to play TE for the Redskins?
ED: On the defensive side of things…well, we shall truly see if Joe Gibbs has retained his genius. The line is porous and lacking in true pass rushers but at least Bruce Smith is gone so I won’t be tempted to kill. Redskins linebacker #56 will finally have to prove he’s worth the hype and huge contract but the improvement of the linebacking corps (on paper anyway) should allow #56 to concentrate on pass rushing so the rest of his game is not exposed.
BB: LB Redskins is a question mark because I think LB Redskins’ temperament isn’t suited to a Joe Gibbs style of discipline – while he’s not Tom Coughlin or anything, LB Redskins is going to have to earn his request to earn $40 or $50 million more on the contract he signed…last year.
PR: While the Arrington jokes make me laugh, the fact that neither Ed nor Bill brought up the Redskins signing half the Giants defense saddens me. Yet, they did. Michael Barrow is the new MLB while Cornelius Griffin will supposedly provide some pressure on the quarterback. Heck, they even signed Ralph Brown. (Joe Gibbs, despite being out of the league forever, realized that having Ralph Brown in the secondary wasn’t a good idea and since released him.) The Barrow signing should come as no shock as Vinny Cerrato loves to persue starting UFA MLBs from the other teams in the division (That Trotter signing really panned out). Now, Barrow has yet to step foot on the field so the Giants refusing to keep paying him a lot of money might not have been the worst decision this offseason. Griffin immediately became the best front four guy the Redskins had. That isn’t saying a ton because he is pretty much playing with a bunch of guys who should gathering shopping carts in the Costco parking lot.
BB: Come on – NEBRASKA PEDIGREE!!!
ED: In the secondary, the loss of Champ Bailey will be deeply felt as the Skins are paper thin and unstable everywhere in the D-backfield but at Fred Smoot’s corner spot and possibly rookie headcase, safety Sean Taylor. The Skins will be better defensively thanks to the Skins finally having a man in charge who can actually coach, but the talent base is questionable.
BB: When Fred Smoot isn’t the most insane person in your defensive backfield, your team has major emotional problems.
PR: I still don’t know who is more overrated – Champ Bailey or Lavar Arrington? The struggles of my daily life. Thankfully, Fred Smoot appears ready to fill in for the now departed Champ in that debate. Granted it was only preseason, but Smoot’s excuse of “we were playing a lot of zone” to explain why Torry Holt had like 300 receiving yards against him made me laugh. Shawn Springs was a decent little pickup for the secondary. I have already made my Matt Bowen comments. They will still probably limit Amani Toomer to one catch and Kurt Warner will throw 8 picks Week 2. Yup, I believe that taste in my mouth would be called bile.
BB: Remember – your gall bladder is supposed to stay shut at all times. The expectations dropping dramatically for Springs should spur him into a pretty good year.
ED: The return of Joe Gibbs made my Dad happy since the thought of Mark Moseley making a comeback made an old man really happy. When I told my Dad that the last time I saw Moseley, he was big enough to play on the D-line, Dad just smiled even broader. And really, if Moseley could play a little nose tackle, would that be the worst thing in the world for the Skins? I dunno, I’m just asking.
BB: I think the worst thing in the world for the Skins would be the Expos moving to Washington and taking their fans away. Now – Nick Johnson – there’s a man who can play a little nose tackle.
NEW YORK GIANTS
(2003 record: 4-12, missed the playoffs)
Key Additions: HC/Dictator Tom Coughlin, QB Hurt Warner, QB-wife Brenda Warner, DE Lorenzo Bromell, CB Terry Cousin, OL, DT Martin Chase, LB Carlos Emmons, LB Barrett Green, DT Norman Hand, C Shaun O’Hara, DT Fred Robbins, OT Barry Stokes, K Steve Christie
Key Losses: LB Michael Barrow, OT Chris Bober, CB Ralph Brown, QB(?) Kerry Collins, WR Ron Dixon, QB Jason Garrett, DE Cornelius Griffin, DT Keith Hamilton, OT Mike Hollis, DE Kenny Holmes, LB Dhani Jones, RB Dorsey Levens, RB/KR Brian Mitchell, LB Brandon Short, LS Carson Dach, OT Barry Stokes (IR)
PR: Pass… ah, if it were only that simple. Not swearing through this will be the real trick.
PR: I was not in favor of the Tom Coughlin hire. I was willing to give it a chance. That probably lasted until the first press conference. They decided they needed to get the poorest of the poor man’s Bill Parcells, a man who had already spurned them for the job once. Because that is what the team needed, someone who hates injured players so much that he basically will play them until their leg splinters all over the field, someone who will then berate said player in the media, someone who force the players to enter and exit the field is something straight out of Starlight Express because that is what wins football games – being able to run out on the field IN UNISON!! The Giants needed this man because they “didn’t want to wait to hire a coach” and because, well, Coughlin is white. I hate to say it but maybe the folks in NY just didn’t even want to consider Romeo Crennel or even, heck, Art Shell for reasons other than “not wanting to wait”. Nope, we got the guy who, of course, wanted the job now because he wasn’t doing anything else. I… I… need to stop now.
ED: Number of whacks in the head with a baseball bat Ricky Ray’s agent deserves for talking his client into signing with the Jets instead of the Giants, a team he could possibly play for (out of 5): 4.
BB: Oh – I see – this is going to be a running joke. Let’s see how it goes.
PR: Considering the big fat question mark that the offensive line is – I think Ricky Ray should get a pass on this one. I certainly wouldn’t want to line up before this rag-tag group.
PR: The line kinda broke down like this. Luke Pettigout is back at LT and he is one of the best, when 100%, which is virtually never. Luke also likes to hold… a lot. Left Guard became a mess. Rich Seubert is still recovering from his broken leg (seeing that live was… unpleasant) and is on the PUP list. So the Giants gave a bunch of money to sign Barry Stokes (from the Browns). Stokes is now out for the season after hurting his butt – no I am not making that up. So NY traded for Jason Whittle from Tampa Bay. I like the move but wacky Tom Coughlin still hasn’t announced where folks are playing. It appears that Whittle will start at LG even though he had started at RG for the Giants before. The RG will be Coughlin’s son-in-law… err… second round pick (yeah, that doesn’t look good) Chris Snee. David Diehl will try to hold down the RT job and the new center is, also from the Browns, Shawn O’Hara. I don’t get too giddy about castoffs from the Cleveland Browns offensive line.
ED: Umm…There has to be some sort of cosmic force that made all of us here at VP.com fans of 4-12 teams with bleak futures. I’m certain of it. I’m guessing it’s the same cosmic force that made Eli Manning the mopiest young man this side vintage Morrissey – or Hamlet, at the very least. This is the same cosmic force that will make Robert Gallery the 21st century Tony Mandarich. The football gods hate us, yes, but at least we’ve seen our teams win in our lifetimes so… Ahh, misty, water-colored memories. Looking over the Giants prospects, I’m not certain if it’s worse being a Giants fan or a Raiders fan. Sure, the Raiders have the Chargers to keep them from being last in their division. But the Raiders now have the Giants’ ex-cancer, Kerry Collins, so that’s a kinda push. Of course, the Giants picked up the Warner family, but the Raiders picked up Warren Sapp’s bloated corpse in response. And while I’m no Tom Coughlin fan, at least he’s not Norv Turner. Yeah, there’s a reason we here at VP.com will despise football with a passion this year.
BB: And if Marcellus Wiley crashes into our side/To die on the blind side/Is such a heavenly way to die? Personally – I’d rather worry about Gallery becoming Mandarich than have to deal with Eli Manning. And do you, Ed, think that the Giants are just trying to one-up the Raiders? Is this some sort of Jackass competition? Who wins? Not the American public.
ED: But on the bright side for the Giants, at least they’re in a situation of rebuilding. Well, that’s mostly the vibe coming off them – which is better than the vibe the Raiders are giving off. If Tom Coughlin is a smart man, he lets the Giants take a beating this season in an effort to get a top draft pi– Oh. Right. A top draft pick for the Chargers. Ahem. Let’s move on.
BB: That hurts.
PR: Just wait till we get to the AFC West, old man.
ED: The real tough thing about writing this Giants preview is that, at least on offense, everything went wrong for them in pretty much every facet of the game last year. You can see where things couldn’t possibly be any worse, yet there’s no good reason to expect that last year was just an aberration and everything will fine this year. Getting rid of Kerry Collins could only be a good thing, in the end, but maybe not if your only QB solutions for this year are the crippled Warner or forcing Manning into the fire. Tiki Barber was fumbletastic and inconsistent last year – and, yes, a good part of the inconsistency can be chalked up to a crippled offensive line – and you know he can’t be that bad, but why would you think he’d rebound given his age and the beatings he’s taken over the years? And the prospect of giving Ron Dayne more playing time…well, I don’t want to make Bill and Phil cry any more than necessary.
PR: I have zero idea what Ron Dayne did to make Coughlin sorta fall in love with him. This seems to me to be one of those “How many times to you have to put your hand in the fire before your realize it hurts and to stop doing it?” routines. Of course, first two games are against divisional opponents. Yeah – that is the perfect time to experiment.
BB: Literally – picking Gallery was the easiest slam-dunk of the draft for the Giants. It couldn’t have been any simpler – your line is terrible. Draft the best offensive lineman in the draft who’s a value at your selection? No. Draft a quarterback, trade your (adequate) quarterback away, and sign a bunch of mediocre veterans to man the line – since, after all, you got to the Super Bowl with the same type of line a few years ago. The thing is, though, that the Giants got to the Super Bowl DESPITE that offensive line – NOT because of it. Why is the concept of despite so hard to understand?
PR: Because Ernie Acorsi is having a big fat late-life crisis as he is seeing those around him decaying and dying and he is trying to etch out some sort of legacy in the NFL. He couldn’t get over the failure that was his inability to bring John Elway to Indianapolis and he figured that he needed to get it “right” at least once come hell or high water. (I wonder if Acorsi had nightmares of the Yankees promoting Elway with campaigns that featured the buck-tooth Hall of Famer in crazy poses with phrases such as “Take A Bite Out of the Big Apple”. I know I am going to know.) How every team in the league didn’t try to take advantage of this is beyond me? You saw how the Chargers bent the Giants over like was Deliverence and that this a team that has ZERO clue how to run itself. I swear I was watching the 2004 Draft in like bullet time. That is the only way it can be explained how ESPN was able to announce all the draft picks given away just to acquire Manning when the Chargers HAD NO LEVERAGE WHATSOEVER!!!
ED: Fortunately, the Giants have nice receiving threats in Toomer, Hilliard and Shockey. They’ll need all three to be healthy and, if so, given the state of the defensive secondaries in this division, they alone can keep the Giants in many games. But of course, that brings to mind the ultimate question about the Giants – can any of the Giants QB’s get the ball to their receivers thanks to a highly questionable offensive line? I dunno. I can’t see the line being as bad as last year BUT I have no reason to believe they’ll be improved enough over last year. But at least Tom Coughlin got his son-in-law a job so…let’s move on.
PR: Shockey didn’t play the entire preseason and amazingly didn’t get called a homo by Coughlin, though I think he strongly implied it at times. I like me some Tim Carter and I much prefer him to be the #3 guy instead of David Tyree. Madden is also making me fall in love with rookie Jamaar Taylor. Of course, in Madden, all players are fully recovered from injuries when the season starts. Still, Taylor might be a steal if he can play at 100%. Still, unless some starts playing WAY over their head, I don’t know how productive these guys will be.
BB: How hard is it to get a Quality Control job? Or a cross-checker? What do these guys do? Why isn’t there a Jayson Stark for football? Actually – better that there’s not.
ED: Defensively, you still have Strahan on the line and a bunch of run-stopper guys who should be adequate at best. Other than Strahan, there won’t be a lot of pass rush coming from up front but that’s supposed to be partially made up for by the pick-up of pass-rushing LB Barrett Green. The Carlos Emmons pick-up was maybe the best move of the off-season for the Giants – at least in the short term, if he’s fully-recovered from the broken leg last season.
PR: I so wanna believe Carlos Emmons will be a good signing. He has to be at least on the same level as Dhani Jones – right?? RIGHT??? (humor me here). The fact that Keith Washington is still on the team is saddening. At least, the FINALLY dumped Kenny Holmes.
ED: The key to the success of the Giants defense lies in the secondary, as the corner’s, Peterson and Allen, need to stay healthy so the Giants can blitz to make up for the weak pass rush up front. If you’re a Giants fan, you’ve gotta feel OK about the defense – or at least better about the D than you do the O.
BB: Considering Allen had a crippling foot injury and there’s already rumors about him not being fully recovered – let’s just say I’m not too confident about that. Omar Stoutmire’s gotta be a free agent, right?
PR: I should have used number of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties Terrell Owens draws on Allen and the Wills as the Week 1 tiebreaker. I suck.
PR: The new thing that Coughlin has done, aside from taking the Curt Schilling approach towards hurt players, is that even seconds before the first game, he hadn’t named the starters for several key positions. And that is in addition, to bringing in a new kicker AFTER the preseason was over. See, it all has to be a MYSTERY, OOOHHHHHH!!!!! Yeah, this won’t mess with morale too much. Nope, not at all.
ED: This season will be better than last – well, it would have to be, right? But yet again, the questionable offensive line will make for interesting times. And really, if there’s a QB who deserves to be behind a questionable offensive line, isn’t it Warner?
BB: Yeah, Brenda deserves hers.
PR: Yeah, just due to the schedule, they SHOULD get 4 wins. Heck, they better get more than 4 wins (I think we covered the fiasco that was giving up next year’s #1 already so let’s change the subject.). The season could be over by the end of Week 2. Starting 0-2 is bad enough. Starting 0-2 with two losses in the division. Kill me. I figure the Giants can steal two games within the division. Then with games against Cleveland, Chicago and Arizona, they could get to 5 wins. The rest of the time – Yikes! Actually, the comfort that is knowing that the Chargers will take another QB with this Top 5 selection is what will get me through the day.