2005 Pigskin Preview
Strap in and hang on. A new NFL season is here and it guarantees all the hard-hitting action you crave. Which teams will make it to Detroit and Super Bowl XL? Our gridiron guru takes a closer look.
From the Print Edition:
Emeril Lagasse, Sept/Oct 2005
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4. Denver Broncos
Coach Mike Shanahan must be a UPS man believing in the company's slogan: "What can Brown do for you?" He signed four underachieving defensive players from Cleveland—tackles Gerard Warren and Michael Myers and ends Courtney Brown and Ebenezer Ekuban. Shanahan also raised eyebrows by drafting running back Maurice Clarett in the third round after being out of football for two years while sending Reuben Droughns and his 1,240 rushing yards to Cleveland. Quarterback Jake Plummer set a club record with 4,089 yards, but again failed to win a playoff game. Wide receivers Rod Smith (79 receptions, 1,144 yards) and Ashley Lelie (54 receptions, 1,084 yards) are prime targets, but the Broncos lack depth. Newly signed Jerry Rice would help more if he were 10 years younger.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
here's trouble in the City of Brotherly Love and it has nothing to do with Allen Iverson. Wide receiver Terrell Owens, who set a club record with 14 touchdowns, was a no-show at minicamp as he demanded a new contract and then took a jab at quarterback Donovan McNabb, saying, "I wasn't the guy who got tired in the Super Bowl." McNabb, who had a big year (3,875 yards, 31 touchdowns, 104.7 rating), refused to get into it with Owens, but the relationship is strained. With Freddie Mitchell released, McNabb needs another receiver and may have gotten him with the second-round draft pick, Georgia's Reggie Brown. Amazingly, the Eagles were well under the cap, but didn't sign anyone of note in free agency. Still, with Owens, McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook, and elite defensive coordinator Jimmy Johnson, they're solid enough to win the division for an unprecedented fifth straight time.
2. Dallas Cowboys
Coach Bill Parcells has a penchant for bringing back former players, which is why quarterback Drew Bledsoe, after three lackluster years in Buffalo, is replacing quarterback Vinny Testaverde. It's also why Drew Henson remains at the backup spot. Parcells appears to have solved his running back problems with Julius Jones, so he's turned his attention to the other side of the ball after the Cowboys were lassoed defensively, giving up 405 points and 31 touchdown passes. He zeroed in on the draft to install a new 3-4 defense and came away with six defensive players, including LSU defensive end Marcus Spears and Troy outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who reminds the Tuna of Lawrence Taylor. Parcells, in the third season of a four-year contract, is getting itchy.
3. New York Giants
The coming of Eli Manning didn't play too well on Broadway. Coach Tom Coughlin drew criticism for replacing Kurt Warner (5-4 at the time) with Manning, who won his only game the last week of the season. The Giants brought in wide receiver Plaxico Burress and tackle Kareem McKenzie to help his development, but it may not be enough. If it wasn't for running back Tiki Barber, who led the NFL in total yards from scrimmage with 2,096 and was second in the NFC in rushing with 1,518 yards, the Giants wouldn't have won six games. Manning needs more help from tight end Jeremy Shockey and a starting wide receiver corps that had zero touchdown catches in 2004. But even if the passing game improves, the chances of the Giants winning their division this season are slim.
4. Washington Redskins
The hysteria generated by the return of Joe Gibbs after being away for 13 seasons didn't live up to expectations. Major offensive woes contributed to a 6-10 year, the first losing season in Gibbs's Hall of Fame career. The biggest downfall was at quarterback, where Mark Brunell flopped. Even running back Clinton Portis had an average year (at least for him) with only 1,315 yards, a 3.8-yard-per-carry average and five touchdowns. The offense was so inept that it failed to score more than 18 points in any of its first 11 games. Wide receivers Santana Moss and David Patten are key additions, but if quarterbacks Patrick Ramsey or Jason Campbell, the Redskins' No. 1 pick out of Auburn, can't deliver, Gibbs might motor back to NASCAR sooner than expected.
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