All roads for NFC supremacy run through Philadelphia. Despite issues with wide receiver Terrell Owens, the Eagles again should be the class of not only the NFC East, but the entire National Football Conference.
Philadelphia lost players during the off-season, but none who were considered a main-stay until releasing starting defensive tackle Corey Simon this past week. Simon will be replaced with a rotation of lineman (Hollis Thomas starts), who are good enough to have the Philadelphia coaching staff thinking it could be an improvement.
Backup running back Correll Buckhalter was lost for the season due to knee surgery, but the team quickly signed Lamar Gordon (released by Miami) as a backup to Brian Westbrook. The professionalism of the Philadelphia organization and the leadership within the coaching ranks should keep the Owens issues under control long enough for the Eagles to again be a dominant force.
The Cowboys head into the 2005 season relatively healthy and there is plenty of excitement in Dallas, despite the active downplaying of hopes by head coach Bill Parcells. As always, Parcells tries to limit the enthusiasm surrounding his teams and this one is no different.
In training camp, the offensive line has been gradually improving and should supply ample time for immobile Drew Bledsoe to get rid of the football. Still, there are concerns about the right tackle position where rookie Rob Petitti will start. Running back Junior Jones could become a star in 2005, and the team has weapons in the passing game, aided by the recent addition of Peerless Price.
Defensively, rookie DeMarcus Ware has plenty to learn, but shows the explosive ability coming off the corner Parcells loves. Questions in the secondary, especially at safety opposite Roy Williams, have the team concerned.
Head coach Tom Coughlin is quietly putting his personal stamp on the roster. Eli Manning is his quarterback and the team has added weapons for Peyton's younger brother to work with (a healthy Jeremy Shockey and Plaxico Burress).
The offensive line is improved with the addition of tackle Kareem McKenzie, and a year under the belt of Manning will result in greater effectiveness for the offense, which will be diversified in 2005, barring any significant injuries.
Defensively, the addition of middle linebacker Antonio Pierce was a coup for the Giants in the offseason. Pierce could quickly become one of the top-three players at the position and is a significant upgrade over the departed Kevin Lewis.
The hope was for an improved offense heading into the 2005 season. The reality remains to be seen.
Quarterback Patrick Ramsey could be taking his last ride as the starter in Washington. Ramsey did not have a good preseason and basically won the competition by default over the competitive and aging Mark Brunell and inexperienced rookie Jason Campbell.
Again in 2005, the Redskin defense will carry this team, though there are concerns at cornerback where veteran Walt Harris and rookie Carlos Rogers replace the departed Fred Smoot. Outside linebacker LeVar Arrington returns from knee surgery and should be ready to go in the season opener