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NFC East 2013 Preview: Washington Redskins Not Just Battling Dallas Cowboys
Year in and year out proves that there is probably no more competitive division in the NFL than the stacked NFC East. Early signs say fans can expect more of the same. Whether the reigning champion Washington Redskins can repeat is the big question. With a lot of worries lingering about their star quarterback, it seems like the perfect chance for the other three teams to stake a claim early in 2013.
Philadelphia Eagles - Chip Kelly show begins with quarterback derby
To replace a coach like Andy Reid who had so much success, the Philadelphia Eagles knew they needed a name with star power that could keep fans invested in the team looking towards the future. They didn't disappoint. Chip Kelly comes in after setting college football fields ablaze with his speedy, innovative offense. Huge chunks of the Eagles roster has already been overturned with new pieces like tackle Lane Johnson and defensive end Connor Barwin joining the ranks. Excitement is somewhat limited but interest in the team is sky high as the Kelly Experience will kick start 2013 with a wide open battle for the starting quarterback job.
Michael Vick remains an early favorite but his hold on the job is nowhere near secure. In addition to backup Nick Foles, who replaced him last season, the Eagles brought in former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon from Pittsburgh and then made a big splash by taking USC quarterback Matt Barkley in the fourth round of the draft. Any one of these players could rise up to challenge for the job. It all depends on what Kelly is looking for, which nobody exactly knows. That is part of the intrigue, and is a reason the Eagles are so hard to predict for the coming season.
New York Giants - Eli Manning dealing with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks
Having several talented weapons is a luxury most of the time for quarterbacks. On the other hand it can become a big problem when two of them sit in the last year of their contract at the same time. That is the reality facing the New York Giants. Quarterback Eli Manning knows his success in 2013 hinges on having Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz on the field with him. So far both receivers have made that difficult. Each chose to hold out from off-season minicamp practices. Cruz eventually signed his restricted contract tender but appears no closer to a long-term deal. Nicks returned as well, insisting his absence wasn't contract related. Either way the Giants have a problem on their hands. Looking ahead to 2014 they could have enough salary cap space to sign both players but it might take either some contract restructuring or one of them taking less money than they want. That is almost always a recipe for disaster. With uncertainty on the depth chart behind them, New York must do everything possible to satisfy both players if they want to keep up in the division.
Dallas Cowboys - Tony Romo may battle growing pains of the defense
Most quarterbacks over 30-years old don't get fat, new contracts unless they win a Super Bowl, or even a playoff game. Somehow Tony Romo defied the odds and got a six-year deal worth $108 million at age 33. Experts called Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys crazy for doing so. Now it seems the decision had a method to the madness. Not only does Dallas have no succession plan in place if Romo decided to test free agency, but a massive shift in defensive schemes will put considerably more pressure on the offense to carry the load. Having a veteran like Romo under center is a big help, regardless of his lacking ability to finish. Two-straight 8-8 seasons linger with fans but the team is confident in their quarterback. Romo is tough, athletic and experienced. His protection should be better than in 2012 and his favorite receiver Dez Bryant is blossoming into a star. If young players like Travis Frederick and Gavin Escobar can step up, then Dallas has the talent to compete.
Washington Redskins - All eyes are on knee of Robert Griffin III
Everything appeared pointed up for the Washington Redskins. They beat Dallas for the division title then had the Seattle Seahawks on the ropes in the wild card round of the playoffs. Then Robert Griffin III tore his ACL. Now the 2013 prospects for the team seem cloudy at best. Free agency and the draft offered little comfort due to prior commitments and penalties. All hope for the season seems to hinge on how quickly RGIII can return to the form that won him Rookie of the Year. They do have an able backup in Kirk Cousins who seems good enough to start on other teams and the defense should get big boosts from the return of Brian Orakpo and the arrival of rookie corner David Amerson. Whether that is enough to keep the Redskins in control in a division like the NFC East is impossible to answer. Though early gut feelings are filled with doubt.