The other 2 teams in the NFC East seem to be much closer than the bookmakers believe, the Cowboys are third favourite to take the title at 5/2 while the Redskins are a very long shot at 10/1. Both teams are really a story of their respective Quarterbacks the Cowboys under Tony Romo have been perennial under achievers, mainly it has to be said because his offensive line has given him little or no protection since he became a starter in 2006. He has struggled to stay healthy as a result of the punishment he’s taken in the backfield, on average he’s been sacked 24 times a season as a starter and last season he was sacked a ridiculous 36 times. When he’s afforded time he can be a very productive Quarterback and with players like Felix Jones, Dez Bryant and the enigmatic Miles Austin the Cowboys, like the Eagles can potentially score a lot of points very quickly. The injury to Jason Whitten’s spleen is the worst news that Romo could have during preseason as the tight end not only provides Romo with a safety valve in the passing game but also with extra protection with his excellent blocking, added to the loss of Whitten is the departure of tight end Martellus Bennett to the Giants. On the defensive side of the ball the Cowboys have struggled in recent years with inconsistent play from their defensive backs so their drafting of the hugely exciting LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne combined with the signing of free agent Brandon Carr should bring some stability and help the Cowboys much vaunted pass rush apply some pressure to opposing offences.
The Redskins under Mike Shanahan have not been as competitive as his Denver teams were during his reign in the 1990’s and this must be concerning for both him and their owner Dan Snyder, at the end of the 2011 lock out all eyes were on Washington and the extortionate amount of money they had paid Albert Haynesworth and whether or not Haynesworth was willing to play in a defensive formation where he had little chance to add to his sack statistics. This season the only really talk surrounding the Redskins was which rookie Quarterback they would want to draft. They opted for Robert Griffin III (aka RG3) and everything points to them getting the new Cam Newton, Griffin is not the physical presence that Newton is but his football skills have not been questioned like Newton’s were all through his college career, RG3 is a very good passer and as an athlete he is unsurpassed in terms of rookie Quarterbacks, he was in contention for a spot in the USA’s 2012 Olympic team as a 400m hurdler and as a junior was ranked 5th in world as a 110m hurdler. Like the Cowboys the key to their offence’s success will be how well they can protect their Quarterback, with receivers like Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss and Leonard Hankerson combined with tight end’s Fred Davis and Chris Cooley the Redskins passing game could be a very dangerous weapon in a very offence dominated division, combined with an offensive backfield including Tim Hightower and Roy Helu the Redskins will surprise more than a few defences this season. Defensively the Redskins have some big names in their ranks and Brandon Merriweather may prove to be a great signing but, just like corner back DeAngelo Hall, Merriweather has been known to give away unnecessary penalties at inopportune times so the onus will be on senior players like London Fletcher and Madieu Williams to keep an eye on the new additions and a lid on their “enthusiasm”.