NFC East team needs

Posted March 04, 2010 @ 5:38 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

Updated April 8, 2010 @ 12:30 p.m. ET

Last in a series of analyses of team needs, by division.

Dallas Cowboys

No obvious need here, with Tony Romo coming off perhaps his best season. Jon Kitna is a solid backup with at least another year left, and No. 3 Stephen McGee has promise. It shouldn't be a shocker if another QB was brought in to push McGee, who had a rough preseason last year.

Running backs: The Cowboys have a wealth of riches with Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, but there is some growing speculation that the team might try to trade one of them for help elsewhere. If they stand pat, the position needs no depth. But if they deal one: with Barber or Choice the most likely to go: it would open a position for a second-tier free agent or a mid-round draft pick.

Receivers: This is a position with two standouts in TE Jason Witten and WR Miles Austin and one big unknown in WR Roy Williams. Because of Williams' salary, the Cowboys likely will give him another year to prove himself and work on his rapport with Romo, but the Cowboys have to be prepared to move on. Kevin Ogletree holds promise, and Patrick Crayton has had his moments, but the team could consider adding another wideout. At tight end, Witten, Martellus Bennett and John Phillips are a strong trio, but Bennett must continue to mature and become more consistent.

Offensive line: This unit suffered through a miserable playoff loss against the Vikings, which prompted many to label this to be the team's biggest shortcoming. Yes, the Cowboys need help at tackle after cutting OLT Flozell Adams, but Doug Free is an intriguing talent who will get the first crack at the job. OGs Kyle Kosier and Leonard Davis and C Andre Gurode are all turning 32 this year, so other spots need help, too, even with promising Robert Brewster figuring in somewhere.

Defensive line: Marcus Spears is a restricted free agent who had a solid season in 2009. However, it's unclear whether the Cowboys are willing to pay him long term the way he wants. Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen are valuable reserves, though their starting potential is a matter of conjecture. Another 3-4 nose tackle to give Jay Ratliff a few snaps off also would be nice.

Linebackers: The need is probably slightly greater inside than outside, considering the team drafted Victor Butler and Brandon Williams last year as backups for DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Inside, Bradie James and Keith Brooking were strong last season, but long-term replacements must be groomed. Jason Williams, last year's top pick, also is projected inside. This is not a major need area.

Defensive backs: Although SS Gerald Sensabaugh had a solid first season in Dallas, FS Ken Hamlin's play regressed and he was cut. The team could look to take a safety in Round One if the right one is there, and a big hitter with range ould be what they target. Cornerback is three deep with Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick, but Jerry Jones would not shy away from drafting another one.

Special teams: The biggest need is at kicker, where the team had trouble last season with Nick Folk and Shaun Suisham. David Buehler, a 2009 fifth-round pick, could vie for the spot, but the team almost certainly will bring in competition. If Felix Jones assumes more of an offensive role, a kickoff returner also would be on the wish list.

Summary: The Cowboys haven't gone hog wild in free agency despite the lack of a salary cap. Even though Jones can outspend almost any owner on players, there just hasn't been enough premier talent out there to justify spending so much. The draft should be how the team makes its biggest improvements.


New York Giants

Eli Manning should be the starter for several more years, and the team has essentially swapped David Carr for Jim Sorgi as the backup. Rhett Bomar, last year's fifth-round draft pick, will be in the mix, but he could get some competition. Last season, the Giants kept two quarterbacks on the roster for the season, but they won't rule out adding a third.

Running backs: The team didn't run the ball last season like it typically does, but it's in good hands with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw as the top two options, backed up by DJ Ware and Andre Brown, who spent last season on injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles tendon. FB Madison Hedgecock is a pro, but last season was not his best. This is not a real trouble area despite the downtick in production.

Receivers: With Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, the Giants have a very strong top three and depth with Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden as good alternatives with size. This is a group that should dominate the NFC East for the next few years. The Giants are not as stocked at tight end, but Kevin Boss is a good, young player with upside, Travis Beckum has some receiving skills, and Bear Pascoe intrigues the team as a blocker.

Offensive line: A young tackle will be on the shopping list. OLT David Diehl's future is likely at guard, whether he believes so or not. And though William Beatty filled in nicely last season and could replace ORT Kareem McKenzie, there's not enough depth. C Shaun O'Hara is a solid pivot who has a good rapport with Manning, but his replacement must be groomed. Recent picks Guy Whimper and Adam Koets haven't panned out as planned.

Defensive line:
Once the unquestioned strength of the team, the D-line now features questions and concerns inside. Chris Canty should bounce back when healthy, and Jay Alford looked strong before suffering a torn ACL, but the rest of the interior needs improvement. Outside, Justin Tuck should be better at full health, but Osi Umenyiora is reaching a crossroads, and Mathias Kiwanuka has been a bit of an enigma. More depth and talent are needed.

Linebackers: MLB Antonio Pierce has been cut, leaving a big hole in the middle. Jonathan Goff hasn't done enough to earn the job there, so expect the Giants to seek help either from a veteran or a high draft pick. SLB Danny Clark could be the next veteran to go, and with Clint Sintim yet to show he's a full-time option, help could be needed outside. The Giants' most talented linebacker, Michael Boley, was hampered by myriad injuries his first season in New York.

Defensive backs: Much of this group fell apart when FS Kenny Phillips went down in Week Two, and his future very much is up in the air. The Giants signed safeties Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant as insurance against Phillips returning to full health immediately. Cornerback is in solid shape with Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross the top three, but the team always likes to add depth here, through the draft especially.

Special teams: P Jeff Feagles is aged but still quietly solid, even if his punting wasn't quite as good as in recent years, though he'll have competition with Australian P Jy Bond. The Giants will look to upgrade at kicker, or at least give competition to PK Lawrence Tynes. Hixon is a quality returner, but the Giants might want to ease his load with another option at either spot.

Summary: GM Jerry Reese has shown he’s aggressive and willing to do what needs to be done to improve the team in his short tenure. He and Tom Coughlin might have felt a bit burned after most of last year’s free-agent additions failed to pan out as expected. The team will look to move up or down to get their guy in the draft. They are in a strong position with the 15th pick in Round One and will look for an instant contributor.


Philadelphia Eagles

The trade of Donovan McNabb gives teh starting spot to Kevin Kolb. He's heading into the final year of his deal, though he and the team might come to an extension prior to the draft. It also is the final year of Michael Vick's current deal. Kolb and Vick will be 1-2, but the Eagles have hit the QB scouting trail hard this offseason and certainly will be interested in drafting one, perhaps high. A developmental quarterback with big long-term upside (Time Tebow?) makes sense, and with 11 picks heading into the draft, they can afford to take one in the first 2-3 rounds.

Running backs: The team could use a complement to promising LeSean McCoy with Brian Westbrook not returning. Eldra Buckley is mainly a goal-line option and special-teamer, so he's not really a consideration. FB Leonard Weaver is back, and he's versatile and can take handoffs from tailback but is best in a jack-of-all-trades role.

Receivers: There is not much need for help here, other than for depth. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant (a restricted free agent who likely will return) are a solid top-three wideouts, though Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown were cut. The Eagles could draft a rookie to compete with Hank Baskett for the No. 4 spot. At tight end, the Eagles could use a strong blocker to pair with Brent Celek, Cornelius Ingram and Martin Rucker, whom they apparently like.

Offensive line: The biggest issues appear to be at right guard and possibly center. ORG Stacy Andrews might be replaced by Nick Cole, but it's not clear if he's the long-term answer. And C Jamaal Jackson's late-season ACL injury is a concern; Cole might have to move over from guard to replace Jackson if Jackson's not ready for the start of the season. Shawn Andrews' release opens a spot up, and Andy Reid loves to fortify his lines of scrimmage, so it should shock no one if the Eagles beef up this area high in the draft. The great depth that once was here is no more.

Defensive line: The biggest void is a bookend pass rusher to go with Trent Cole, even with the addition of DE Darryl Tapp. The Eagles could go big here. The team missed out on DE Julius Peppers, and it appears that another strong contributor is needed. The depth inside is not bad, although DTs Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley did appear to tire by season's end.

Linebackers: If there's one area that stands as a big unknown, it's here. Expect MLB Stewart Bradley to reassume his position inside and as a big leader for the defense. There's an opening on the strong side, though Akeem Jordan could take over there with Will Witherspoon gone. Intriguing Alex Hall also could work at the "Sam" as a pass rusher. Omar Gaither has fallen out of favor as a starter, and Chris Gocong was dealt. More help is needed.

Defensive backs: The team probably will look to add a safety, even with the addition of Marlin Jackson. The team's struggles at the position made it tougher on Quintin Mikell to make plays. Macho Harris didn't fare well at free safety, but he could compete with Jackson or be moved to cornerback. That's also a position of need considering Ellis Hobbs' injury casting doubt on his readiness for next season and the trade of Sheldon Brown.

Special teams: The team has a number of return options with Jackson, Maclin, Harris, Quintin Demps and Hobbs, assuming Hobbs is healthy. The kicking is in strong hands with David Akers, who had a comeback season, and P Sav Rocca, though Rocca could get a run from Durant Brooks in camp. The coverage groups should be stronger with new special-teams coordinator Bobby April.

Summary: Everyone knew the Eagles were entering a crucial offseason, an the McNabb trade has been one of the biggest in franchise history. More work is yet to come, even after that. They also are expected to make some big noise on defense, and they have the ammo to add serious depth through the draft. The team has been willing to make trades on Draft Day, so don't rule out some wheeling and dealing.

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan found his immediate starting in Donovan McNabb, which means no rookie will be taken at the top of the draft. Jason Campbell now is on the outside, able to be moved for draft picks, which the team seriously lacks. And with the addition of backup Rex Grossman, the only possible addition here would be a young, developmental type. But with so few picks, the Redskins probably can't draft one until the final rounds.

Running backs: If it was 2006, the Redskins would be loaded with Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie OParker. Instead, Portis is an old 28 (he turns 29 in early September) with all the wear he has taken; Johnson's recent performance has fallen off precipitiously; and Parker was beaten out in Pittsburgh, lacking a second gear. Portis and Shanahan have a history, of course, but that doesn't guarantee he'll return. The team must find a young injection of life into the backfield, which doesn't feature any breakaway threats. Shanahan always has had a strong running game, buoyed by his zone-blocking scheme in Denver, so the team might look to follow his method of finding under-the-radar runners in the middle rounds of the draft.

Receivers: The team isn't completely satisfied with its production here, but a change of staff and system could help Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly to develop. Slot receiver is an open position now that Antwaan Randle El has been cut. Santana Moss remains a speed threat, and TEs Chris Cooley and Fred Davis should have success moving the chains. It's a position that could use some help, but it might not be as high on the priority list as others. A blocking tight end would be nice to pair with Cooley and Davis in the passing game.

Offensive line: A zone scheme doesn't mean the team can stick any lineman into the lineup and have success. But size and power are less important than quickness and footwork now. There are serious questions at left tackle, right tackle and right guard. OLT Chris Samuels has retired, ORT Stephon Heyer hasn't shown he can be a front-line starter, and ORG Randy Thomas has been cut. In truth, all five starting spots could be improved, but the priorities are at these spots. It's very likely the team will spend the No. 4 pick in the draft to find its left tackle, though moving down a few spots in Round One also is a strong possibility because of the depth at the position in this year's class.

Defensive line: With the Redskins expected to shift to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, finding the proper pieces up front will be critical. Albert Haynesworth has the size to play the nose, but he's best working in more space and likely would be an end; there also are rumors that Haynesworth might quietly be on the market with more than a few suitors interested. Would Anthony Montgomery or Kedric Golston fit inside if Ma'ake Kemoeatu is not healthy at the start of the season? There are also questions as to who would fit at the DE spots. This position needs some tweaking for the new scheme.

Linebackers: As on the line, the Redskins' personnel here better fits a 4-3 scheme. There are pieces to build around, such as OLB Brian Orakpo, who could make a seamless transition. But Andre Carter might not be great as an outside linebacker, which is what he played — and was not as effective as — in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme. Rocky McIntosh probably would project inside, and though London Fletcher is a great pro, he'd have a harder time taking on guards' blocks inside and fighting through the trash.

Defensive backs: DeAngelo Hall has a spot on the team, but Carlos Rogers might not be in the team's future plans. He might not be traded for draft picks, but you can't rule it out, either. Fred Smoot is replaced by Phillip Buchanon. Justin Tryon made strides and Kevin Barnes has upside, but must both show more. A free safety with range would allow LaRon Landry to fit closer to the line of scrimmage, where he is most effective.

Special teams: There will be a battle at kicker, and P Hunter Smith is an unrestricted free agent, so there will be a change in the kicking game. There also should be changes in the return game, with PR Antwaan Randle El and KR Rock Cartwright being let go.

Summary: Daniel Snyder scratched his itch to spend big in free agency by landing head coach Mike Shanahan and then trading for QB Donovan McNabb, solving an immediate need there. The lack of quality on the free-agent market and Shanahan's preference to build more steadily through the draft means the team would like to add picks, owning only four at the moment. With the No. 4 pick in the draft, the team either must find an instant starter, preferably at offensive tackle, or trade back a few spots (to collect more picks) and target the same position.


AFC West team needs | NFC North team needs | AFC South team needs | NFC South team needs | AFC North team needs | NFC West team needs | AFC East team needs


For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit