Camp Outlook: NFC

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Camp Outlook: NFC

Postby ANT7088 » Sun Jul 25, 2004 9:38 am

Training camps open this week with a major focus on the East, where Super Bowl winning coaches Bill Parcells (Cowboys) and Joe Gibbs (Redskins) will battle respected leaders Andy Reid (Eagles) and Tom Coughlin (Giants) for the division title and wild card spots.

Gibbs, 63, led the Redskins to three Super Bowl titles before leaving football for auto racing after the 1992 season. He was a success as owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, winning two Winston Cup titles.

Now he's after another football title and figures he's just the guy to get Washington revved up again.

Like Parcells, who left the game only to return to the Cowboys last season, Gibbs had to take another shot.

"The desire to coach has always been with me, even after being away from the game for 11 years," Gibbs said when he was hired in January.

The Redskins were 5-11 last season, but a list of 10 things to watch in the NFC has to start with them.

Snyder Might Be Right

In Washington, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, an admitted meddler, may have finally been cured by what could turn out to be his most masterful move of all.

Snyder has empowered Gibbs, the icon he idolized as a child. Gibbs is beloved in Washington. Snyder is simply tolerated and he knows it.

Year 2: Parcells At Work

The transformation of the Cowboys into a playoff team in Parcells' first season was remarkable. The team's top-ranked defense overcame the offense's shortcomings.

Now the offense has quarterbacks Drew Henson and Vinny Testaverde. Familiar with Testaverde from their time together with the Jets, Parcells will feel more comfortable than he did with Quincy Carter.

Falcon Quest

Michael Vick threw 100 passes for the Falcons in 2003, 14 fewer than Kurt Kittner. They were 3-1 when Vick started and 2-10 when he didn't. That's the story of Atlanta's 5-11 season.

Perhaps Jim Mora Jr., their energetic rookie coach, knows how to keep Vick on the run and healthy. If he doesn't, the Falcons have no chance.

What's With The Vikings?

No team in the NFL has been so talented and so disappointing as the Vikings. They began last season 6-0, then lost seven of their final 10 and missed the playoffs on a last-second, fourth-down touchdown pass in Arizona on the season's final play.

The problem has been on defense. And now the organization turns to Ted Cottrell, the former Jets defensive coordinator, who will be Minnesota's fifth defensive coordinator since 1999.

Is Warner Still Warner?

The Giants will spend most of the season adjusting to the demanding Coughlin. The process will likely end with another dramatic roster turnaround before 2005. But one of the keys to their success in 2004 will be the play of quarterback Kurt Warner, the two-time league MVP with the Rams, who is attempting to rebuild his career while helping Eli Manning.

If he fails and the Giants need to force feed Manning, the results could be disappointing both short and long term.

The Eagles Get A T.O.

Six receivers in the NFC had more catches than Terrell Owens (80) last season, including Steve Smith of the Panthers and Laveraneus Coles of the Redskins. Owens couldn't wait to get out of San Francisco and away from quarterback Jeff Garcia, who now plays for the Browns.

Now we'll see how it all works out. James Thrash led the Eagles with 49 catches in 2003, even though Donovan McNabb threw for 3,216 yards. This may be the Eagles' final run at a Super Bowl with this current roster and it will be up to Owens to make the difference or keep quiet once and for all.

Repeat Performance

In his second year as coach, John Fox lifted the Panthers to the Super Bowl with the power of inspiration, defense and by utilizing adequate offensive players such as quarterback Jake Delhomme.

But getting back to the Super Bowl is more difficult than getting there the first time. The Panthers have basically kept their roster intact. and signed former Giants linebackers Jessie Armstead and Brandon Short.

The Rams Will Pass

Marc Bulger's $9 million signing bonus hopefully makes him the solution to Mike Martz's problems. He better be since the often-injured Chris Chandler is next in line at quarterback.

But a greater sign that the franchise is in transition is on defense. Coordinator Lovie Smith now coaches the Bears and defensive end Grant Wistrom plays for the Seahawks and it's unlikely free agent Sean Moran (49ers), who had two sacks last season, will be an adequate replacement.

Lions Share

Things should continue to improve in Detroit now that rookie Roy Williams will line up next to Charles Rogers, giving Joey Harrington two of the NFL's swiftest receivers.

The Lions should also benefit from a great draft and with the signings of center Damien Woody (Patriots), safety Brock Marion (Dolphins) and cornerback Fernando Bryant (Jaguars).

Every season features a Cinderella team. Why not the Lions?

Days Gone By

The once proud San Francisco 49ers may have the most holes in the NFL. Good thing the Cardinals are in the same division.

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