Capsule summaries of teams from the NFL's NFC East
Teams listed in predicted order of finish
New York Giants
Coach: Jim Fassel (5th year, 39-28-1)
Last Season: 12-4, NFC champion, 1st NFC East
Key additions: DE Kenny Holmes.
Key losses: DE Cedric Jones, P Brad Maynard, TE Pete Mitchell, DT Christian Peter, LB Ryan Phillips.
Top draft picks: CB Will Allen (1st round), CB Will Peterson (2nd)
Offense: Kerry Collins has emerged as New York's best quarterback since Phil Simms. He played perhaps the best game of his career against Minnesota in the NFC championship game with five touchdowns, then possibly the worst of his career against Baltimore in the Super Bowl with four interceptions. Collins' powerful arm and a solid receiving corps led by Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard allows offensive coordinator Sean Payton to concoct aggressive gameplans. However, Hilliard underwent surgery on his right big toe and may not be available until the second or third week of the season. Tiki Barber, one of the league's most versatile running backs with 1,006 rushing yards and 70 catches, missed the preseason with a broken left hand but will be ready for the start of the regular season. Ron Dayne slimmed down to 245 pounds, 13 less than he carried last season, and will be expected to take some of the workload off Barber. An aging left side of the offensive line with 38-year-old tackle Lomas Brown and 35-year-old guard Glenn Parker is a source of concern.
Defense: The addition of free agent defensive end Kenny Holmes gives the Giants perhaps the best front four in the NFL. Holmes, a major upgrade over Cedric Jones at right end, is expected to complement Pro Bowl left end Michael Strahan the same way he complemented Jevon Kearse in Tennessee. Defensive tackle Keith Hamilton had a career-high 10 sacks last season, beating out Strahan by a half. The Giants think second-year tackle Cornelius Griffin will turn into a star. Moved up in the first round to select Syracuse cornerback Will Allen in the hopes he will unseat Dave Thomas at left corner. Made Jason Sehorn the NFL's highest-paid cornerback and the Giants love their hard-hitting safety tandem of Shaun Williams and Sam Garnes. Weakside linebacker Jessie Armstead, a Pro Bowler the last four years, is the soul of the defense. Second-year player Brandon Short replaces Ryan Phillips at strongside linebacker.
Special Teams: New coach, new kicker and new punter after this unit clearly was the team's weakest link last season. Fred Von Appen is the new special teams coach. Went to training camp with Jaret Holmes and John Markham as their kickers, but ended up signing 41-year-old Morten Andersen. Unproven Rodney Williams won the punting job after Brad Maynard left as a free agent. Receiver Ron Dixon returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the postseason. But Barber probably should be spared of the punt return duties for durability purposes.
Will have successful season if: Collins continues to develop, Dayne does not wear down like he did last season and the front four lives up to its billing.
Schedule: Have seven games against playoff teams from a year ago, including Monday night affairs at Denver (season opener) and Minnesota. Host Philadelphia on Monday, Oct. 22 and close the season against the Eagles on Dec. 30.
Overview: Tough schedule will make it difficult to match last year's 12-4, but are capable of winning 10-11 games and repeating as division champs.
Coach: Andy Reid (3rd year, 17-17)
Last Season: 11-5, NFC Wild Card, 2nd NFC East
Key additions: DE N.D. Kalu, G-C Jim Pyne, WR James Thrash.
Key losses: LB James Darling, WR Charles Johnson, DE Mike Mamula, WR Torrance Small.
Top draft picks: WR Freddie Mitchell (1st round), LB Quinton Caver (2nd).
Offense: No player meant more to his team than quarterback Donovan McNabb meant to the Eagles last season. He accounted for 76 percent of the offense and carried the team to the playoffs. This year, McNabb will get help from running back Duce Staley, who suffered a foot injury that sidelined him for the last 11 regular season games and the playoffs last season. Staley might not rush for 1,200-plus yards like he did in 1999, but the Eagles are hoping for a 1,000-yard season and about 50-60 catches. The receivers are younger and faster. Coach Reid released veterans Charles Johnson and Torrance Small and replaced them with free agent James Thrash and first-round pick Freddie Mitchell. Second-year receiver Todd Pinkston was impressive in camp. Offensive line is solid with Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan at the tackles and tight end Chad Lewis caught 69 passes last season.
Defense: No NFC team allowed less points than the Eagles last season. Have arguably the NFC's best secondary with Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor at the corners and Brian Dawkins at free safety. End Hugh Douglas and tackle Corey Simon combined for 24 1/2 sacks to lead a defensive line which produced 43 sacks. Waived Mike Mamula and signed N.D. Kalu. Middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter led the team in tackles and earned his Pro Bowl invitation. Strongside linebacker Carlos Emmons may be the team's most underrated player.
Special Teams: Ageless Brian Mitchell was the only player to return a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown last season. David Akers made 29 of 33 field goals, including eight of 11 from beyond 40 yards, and was solid on kickoffs. Sean Landeta returns for his 19th NFL season and remains one of the league's top directional punters.
Will have successful season if: Staley stays healthy and the young receivers make a contribution.
Schedule: First two games are home against St. Louis and at Tampa Bay. Play Monday night at the New York Giants on Oct. 22 and Thursday night at Kansas City on Nov. 29. Close with a home game against the Giants on Dec. 30.
Overview: Must find a way to beat the Giants if they hope to win the NFC East and make it to the Super Bowl. Have lost nine straight to the Giants, including a 20-10 defeat in the playoffs.
Coach: Marty Schottenheimer (1st year, 145-85 career)
Last season: 8-8, 3rd NFC East
Key additions: QB Tony Banks, KR Michael Bates, FB Donnell Bennett, G Matt Campbell, K Brett Conway, CB Donovan Greer, LB Robert Jones, WR Kevin Lockett, S Keith Lyle, G Dave Szott.
Key losses: WR Albert Connell, FB Larry Centers, WR Irving Fryar, QB Brad Johnson, G Tre' Johnson, DE N.D. Kalu, CB Deion Sanders, G Keith Sims, LB Derek Smith, DT Dana Stubblefield, WR James Thrash.
Top draft picks: WR Rod Gardner (1st round), CB Fred Smoot (2nd).
Offense: Schottenheimer is a conservative, run-oriented coach who may have problems co-existing with quarterback Jeff George. With a workhorse like Stephen Davis, who has rushed for more than 2,700 yards over the last two seasons, Schottenheimer will pound away. George has been bothered by tendinitis in his throwing shoulder. He may have trouble running coordinator Jimmy Raye's West Coast offense. Tony Banks, who was waived by Dallas in trainig camp, is the backup quarterback. Wide receiver Michael Westbrook missed most of last season with a torn ACL. He is entering the final year of his contract which should be enough incentive. Opted for tall receiver Rod Gardner in the first round as an inviting target in the West Coast offense ahead of speedy Santana Moss. Strong at the tackles with the young tandem of Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen, but shaky in the interior of the line.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, cornerback Deion Sanders and defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield are gone, but 38-year-old Bruce Smith and 40-year-old cornerback Darrell Green are still around. Smith was bothered by a sprained shoulder in the preseason. Kenard Lang slides in from end to replace Stubblefield at tackle alongside Dan Wilkinson. Were ranked just 22nd against the run last year and will have Kevin Mitchell and Robert Jones at middle linebacker to replace Derek Smith, who signed with San Francisco. New defensive coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer, Marty's brother, is coming up with schemes to better utilize strongside linebacker LaVar Arrington, the second overall pick in the 2000 draft. Champ Bailey is one of the league's top young cornerbacks and the best player on defense. With Sanders gone, Green, free agent signee Donovan Greer and second-round pick Fred Smoot can play corner or nickel back.
Special Teams: Used five kickers last year and lost four games on missed field goals in the final seconds. That cost Norv Turner his job. Ironically, the Redskins have brought back Brett Conway, who was cut early last season after suffering a groin injury. Signed punter Bryan Barker as a free agent. After paying the price last year for their decision to cut returner Brian Mitchell, the Redskins signed perennial Pro Bowler Michael Bates.
Will have successful season if: George recovers from his tendinitis problem and adjusts to the West Coast offense, Gardner makes an immediate impact and the defense improves against the run.
Schedule: Open at San Diego where former coach Norv Turner is the offensive coordinator. Play at Green Bay (Sept. 24) and Dallas (Oct. 15) on Monday night. Aside from division rivals New York and Philadelphia, the lone game against a playoff team from last season is at Denver on Nov. 18.
Overview: Optimism reigns in the nation's capital with Schottenheimer in charge, but another 8-8 season is likely for the Redskins.
Coach: Dave Campo (2nd year, 5-11)
Last season: 5-11, 4th NFC East
Key additions: RB John Avery, WR Darren Chiaverini
Key losses: QB Troy Aikman, QB Randall Cunningham, DT Chad Hennings, DT Leon Lett, WR James McKnight, CB Ryan McNeil, DT Alonzo Spellman, T Erik Williams.
Top draft picks: QB Quincy Carter (2nd round), S Tony Dixon (2nd).
Offense: Emmitt Smith is 1,561 yards shy of passing Walter Payton as the NFL's all-time leading rusher, but he will not come close to that with opposing defenses set to stack the line. Smith is the last of "The Triplets" remaining with quarterback Troy Aikman following Michael Irvin into retirement. Second-round pick Quincy Carter out of Georgia was believed to be the quarterback of the future, but Tony Banks was waived in training camp and Carter will now get a baptism by fire. Like most rookies, Carter will have a difficult time reading defenses. Anthony Wright is the backup quarterback. The line is the strength of the offense despite the departure of right tackle Erik Williams. Pro Bowl left guard Larry Allen and center Mark Stepnoski are the anchors and Flozell Adams and Solomon Page are promising tackles. Speed receivers Joey Galloway and Rocket Ismail are coming off major knee injuries.
Defense: No team was worse against the run than the Cowboys, who became the first team in NFL history to have three opposing backs rush for 200 yards against them in a single season. Cap constraints made it virtually impossible to make any notable improvements on defense. Defensive ends Greg Ellis and Ebenezer Ekuban are promising pass rushers, but need to improve against the run. With Leon Lett and Chad Hennings gone, the Cowboys will go with younger defensive tackles in a rotation. Undersized middle linebacker Dat Nguyen gets pushed off the ball too easily. Weakside linebacker Dexter Coakley is the team's best defensive player. Cornerback is a major concern with the loss of Ryan McNeil. Izell Reese is making the switch from safety to cornerback and 2000 draft pick Mario Edwards will likely start at the other corner. Duane Hawthorne is the likely nickel back.
Special Teams: A strength with kicker Tim Seder and punter Micah Knorr. Both exceeded expectations as rookie free agents last year. Backup receivers Jason Tucker and Wayne McGarity return kicks and punts.
Will have successful season if: Carter develops rapidly and eases the pressure off Smith, Galloway and Ismail return to form and the defense somehow figures out a way to stop the run. Even then, the secondary is vulnerable.
Schedule: Host just one Monday night game on Oct. 15 against NFC East rival Washington. Play six games against West Coast teams -- two against Arizona and one each vs. Oakland, San Diego, Seattle and San Francisco.
Overview: Will be hard-pressed to match last season's total of five wins with a rookie quarterback.
Coach: Dave McGinnis (2nd year, 1st full year, 1-8)
Last Season: 3-13, 5th NFC East
Key additions: G Pete Kendall.
Key losses: G Lester Holmes, DT Tony McCoy, DE Simeon Rice, DT Mark Smith, DE Andre Wadsworth, CB Aeneas Williams.
Top draft picks: T Leonard Davis (1st round), DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (2nd), CB Michael Stone (2nd)
Offense: Invested heavily in rebuilding the offensive line. Selected guard-tackle Leonard Davis with the second overall pick in the draft and signed left guard Pete Kendall as a free agent. Will play the 370-pound Davis inside with L.J. Shelton and Anthony Clement at the tackle positions. Counting on the line to protect quarterback Jake Plummer, who has a 22-45 touchdown-interception ratio after a promising 1998 season. McGinnis brought back quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, who tutored Plummer in '98. Running backs Thomas Jones and Michael Pittman should also benefit from the huge line. Not many teams have a better trio of receivers than Arizona with David Boston, Rob Moore and Frank Sanders. Boston enjoyed a breakthrough year last season with 71 catches for 1,156 yards. Tight end is a weakness.
Defense: It wasn't so long ago that the Cards thought their front four of Andre Wadsworth, Eric Swann, Mark Smith and Simeon Rice would grow into one of the best in the NFL. Now they have to start from scratch. Selected Kyle Vanden Bosch of Nebraska in the second round and penciled him in to replace Rice at right end. Other projected starters -- end Brad Ottis and tackles Russell Davis and Barron Tanner -- have been cut by other teams. Right outside linebacker Rob Fredrickson is one of the NFL's most underrated players, but strongside linebacker has been a problem area. Six-time Pro Bowler Aeneas Williams is gone after manning the left corner spot for a decade.
Special Teams: Used a fourth-round pick on K Bill Gramatica, whose brother Martin kicks for Tampa Bay. Punter Scott Player was selected to the Pro Bowl last season. MarTay Jenkins emerged as one of the league's top kick returners.
Will have successful season if: Plummer starts to live up to his huge contract, the offensive line powers an effective running game and a miracle happens on defense.
Schedule: McGinnis will circle Oct. 14 on his calendar. That's when the Cards visit the Chicago Bears, who scheduled a news conference to announce McGinnis as their new coach in 1999. But McGinnis never agreed to contract terms and the whole deal was called off.
Overview: Offense should be exciting to watch, but the defense is a horror show. Look for 4-5 wins.