NFC East scouting report
1. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Coach: Norv Turner (7th year, 43-54-1)
Last playoff berth: 1999
Last division title: 1999
Last Super Bowl: 1991
1999 finish: 10-6
Starters gone: FS Leomont Evans (cut), P Matt Turk (trade).
Key additions: DE Bruce Smith, LB LaVar Arrington, CB Deion Sanders, S Mark Carrier, OT Chris Samuels, QB Jeff George, C Jay Leeuwenberg, RB Adrian Murrell, defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes.
Outlook: Redskins owner Daniel Snyder spent $100 million in salaries and bonuses to buy a Super Bowl championship, and he wants it now. Can the defense blend the egos of Sanders and Smith and still have room for Carrier, Rhodes, Arrington, and remaining veterans such as Dan Wilkinson and Dana Stubblefield? If so, the 'Skins could be unbeatable because they have done all you can to shore up a defense that was 23d or worse in nine defensive categories last season. That won't make it as potent as an offense that scored 443 points, but it should improve enough to make the Redskins more than division champions this time. Offensively, they have everything, including the best backup quarterback in the league in George. That assumes he stays a backup, which is what Turner wants. He believes in Brad Johnson, a deadly accurate thrower with a 64 percent completion percentage.
2. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Coach: Andy Reid (2d year, 5-11)
Last playoff berth: 1996
Last division title: 1988
Last Super Bowl: 1980
1999 finish: 5-11
Starters gone: C Steve Everitt (cut), DE Steve Martin (FA), WLB William Thomas (cut), K Norm Johnson (cut).
Key additions: FB Stanley Pritchett, OT Jon Runyan, DT Corey Simon, LB Carlos Emmons, KR Brian Mitchell, WR Todd Pinkston.
Outlook: Last year, quarterback Donovan McNabb started six games and averaged only 4.37 yards per pass attempt, worst in the league. But McNabb worked furiously on his game in the offseason, and the improvement this summer has been obvious. He's now the Eagles' leader, and they believe his 17-for-23 passing performance with three touchdowns against the first defense of the defending AFC champion Titans this summer was a warning to NFC East rivals that the Eagles are soaring. They already have a running back in Duce Staley, who gained 1,273 yards last year when every team in the league knew he was getting the ball. The receivers are reliable if unspectacular Charles Johnson and Torrance Small plus the lightning fast Pinkston. Free agent acquisition Jon Runyan is considered among the best run-blocking tackles in football. Defensively, the Eagles have some speed on their pass rush with Mike Mamula and Hugh Douglas, and Simon is being counted on to improve a run defense that finished 28th in the league.
3. DALLAS COWBOYS
Coach: Dave Campo (1st year)
Last playoff berth: 1999
Last division title: 1998
Last Super Bowl: 1995
1999 finish: 8-8
Starters gone: CB Deion Sanders (cut), LB Randall Godfrey (FA), DE Kavika Pittman (FA), G Everett McIver (cut), P Toby Gowin (FA).
Key additions: WR Joey Galloway, TE Jackie Harris, LB Joe Bowden, LB Barron Wortham, CB Ryan McNeil, OL Jorge Diaz, DE Demetrius Underwood, offensive coordinator Jack Reilly.
Outlook: The starting offense scored on eight of its 13 exhibition season possessions, and quarterback Troy Aikman believes it's because he's back in the Ernie Zampese-designed offense with Zampese disciple Jack Reilly as his new coordinator. Irvin is gone but there still is speed to burn at wide receiver with Rocket Ismail on one side and Galloway on the other. Just as important is the addition of Harris, a proven pass catcher. Add to that ageless Emmitt Smith running in an offense that can stretch defenses, and you may find Dallas scoring again. Problem is it may have to because the defense remains suspect. The line has potential if Leon Lett can keep himself out of trouble, Alonzo Spellman can put together back-to-back sane seasons, and young Greg Ellis and Ebenezer Ekuban show they were worth the high draft choices used to get them. An improved rush is key because the secondary will start rookie Kareem Larrimore for Kevin Smith and is suspect across the board.
4. NEW YORK GIANTS
Coach: Jim Fassel (4th year, 25-23-1)
Last playoff berth: 1997
Last division title: 1997
Last Super Bowl: 1990
1999 finish: 7-9
Starters gone: OT Roman Oben (FA), C Brian Williams (cut), FB Charles Way (retire), MLB Corey Widmer (cut), CB Phillippi Sparks (retire), CB Jeremy Lincoln (FA), FS Percy Ellsworth (FA).
Key additions: HB Ron Dayne, C Dusty Zeigler, OT Lomas Brown, OT Glenn Parker, LB Michael Barrow, CB Dave Thomas, QB Jason Garrett.
Outlook: The defense appears to be wearing out and No. 1 draft choice Dayne has not been wearing out defenses as the Giants hoped the Heisman Trophy winner would. Those are two big problems on a team that will have a new quarterback on opening day for the fourth straight season. Kerry Collins has looked like his old self this summer, reminding many of the player he was in 1996 when he led the Panthers to the NFC Championship game. He has two good weapons in emerging wide receivers Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard, but that doesn't mean there aren't problems. The offensive line has three new starters and Dayne has looked too slow to be as effective in the NFL as he was at Wisconsin. That's why Tiki Barber will get the ball for a while. Defense used to be the Giants' strong point, but it faded last season and the addition of middle linebacker Barrow and cornerback Thomas in free agency may not be enough to revitalize it.
5. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Coach: Vince Tobin (5th year, 27-39)
Last playoff berth: 1998
Last division title: 1975
Last Super Bowl: None
1999 finish: 6-10
Starters gone: G James Dexter (FA), C Aaron Graham (FA), WR Rob Moore (injury), HB Adrian Murrell (FA), DE Eric Swann (cut).
Key additions: RB Thomas Jones, C Mike Gruttadauria, DT Tony McCoy, K Cary Blanchard, LB Raleigh Thompson
Outlook: In two exhibition games this summer, the Cardinals lost seven players and their season. Biggest loss was wide receiver Rob Moore, the team's most dangerous player and a key to the offense. He's gone for the year, and nobody is going to replace him. The loss of Moore left the Cards with little flexibility and many problems since the receivers on hand - David Boston and Frank Sanders - are complementary players. After a 1998 season in which he seemed destined to be the league's next star, quarterback Jake Plummer had an injury- plagued '99 in which he threw the ball to the wrong team far too often after injuring his thumb and shoulder. He's playing better now that the thumb is fine, but he now has a sore arm. The running game was pitiful last year, averaging 75 yards a game. Defensively both ends are out, oft-injured All-Pro Swann is gone, and there's a huge hole at left linebacker.