September 11, 2011
Have the Eagles assembled the "Dream Team," or is this another fantasy football roster built to disappoint?
That's just one of the pressing questions heading into this NFL season.
A few of the others:
Did the lockout truly favor those teams with an established coach and quarterback?
Or can the teams that really had to cram in this compressed offseason make the grade?
Will the Peyton Manning saga be a pain in the neck for the Colts all season?
The Seahawks made the 2010 playoffs at 7-9; is the NFC West still the NFC Worst?
The Panthers' Cam Newton looked very good in the preseason. Will this top pick follow in the cleat-steps of fellow No. 1s Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford, or will he go the way of JaMarcus Russell and Alex Smith?
Will a franchise that never has won the Super Bowl — maybe the Chargers, Eagles, Falcons, Lions or Texans — finally hoist the Lombardi Trophy?
Which team will make a beeline for the bottom of the league and be in position to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck?
There are several new rules and points of emphasis this season:
•Unnecessary roughness: Illegal "launching" — a player leaving both feet before contact to spring upward into an opponent and delivering a blow to any part of the helmet — has been banned. Also, roughing-the-passer rules have been clarified so hits to the passer's head by a defender's hands, arms or other body parts will not result in a penalty unless they are forcible blows.
•Kickoffs: The league has moved kickoffs up 5 yards to the 35 to promote touchbacks and safety.
•Instant replay: The replay official will review all scoring plays.
•Dead-ball personal fouls: If a team commits a dead-ball personal foul at the end of a half, that penalty will now be enforced on the opening kickoff of the third quarter.
Familiar players who have switched teams (new team/old team):
Nnamdi Asomugha, CB (Eagles/Raiders): More of a shutdown corner than a big playmaker, Asomugha has a total of two interceptions in the last three years.
Plaxico Burress, WR (Jets/Giants): Burress, recently released from prison, is an upgrade from Braylon Edwards, but can he stay healthy after his hiatus from the NFL?
Reggie Bush, RB (Dolphins/Saints): Bush had some splashy plays for the Saints, but he never rushed for as much as 600 yards in a season.
Kerry Collins, QB (Colts/Titans): The Colts coaxed Collins out of retirement to fill in for the injured Peyton Manning.
Braylon Edwards, WR (49ers/Jets): If Jim Harbaugh is going to develop a quarterback, he has to give him some targets.
Ray Edwards, DE (Falcons/Vikings): Falcons needed a pass rusher, and Jamaal Anderson, a first-rounder in 2007, wasn't getting the job done.
Shaun Ellis, DE (Patriots/Jets): Rex Ryan was not at all pleased Ellis signed with the Patriots, upgrading their pass rush.
Lee Evans, WR (Ravens/Bills): The Ravens traded for deep threat Evans after losing Derrick Mason and Todd Heap in free agency.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB (Titans/Seahawks): Hasselbeck, who turned down an offer to stay in Seattle, can help groom rookie Jake Locker.
Albert Haynesworth, DT (Patriots/Redskins): Haynesworth says he's happy in New England. Maybe Bill Belichick can find the dominant player Mike Shanahan couldn't.
Tim Hightower, RB (Redskins/Cardinals): The Redskins traded for Hightower, who ran for 1,733 yards and 23 TDs over the last three seasons.
Tarvaris Jackson, QB (Seahawks/Vikings): In Seattle, Jackson was reunited with Darrell Bevell, his offensive coordinator with the Vikings.
Kevin Kolb, QB (Cardinals/Eagles): Kolb didn't get much of a chance in Philadelphia after Michael Vick stepped in. Arizona gives him that.
Derrick Mason, WR (Jets/Ravens): Mason knows Rex Ryan from their Baltimore days.
Donovan McNabb, QB (Vikings/Redskins): McNabb is a bridge quarterback — albeit a good one — until rookie Christian Ponder is ready.
Chad Ochocinco, WR (Patriots/Bengals): Maybe the Patriots can squeeze a couple more good years out of Ochocinco, the way they did with Randy Moss.
Sidney Rice, WR (Seahawks/Vikings): They might not have an elite quarterback, but the Seahawks have a top-notch receiver in Rice.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB (Eagles/Cardinals): Rodgers-Cromartie is the third Pro Bowl corner on a team that now has Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel.
Steve Smith, WR (Eagles/Giants): Smith, a talented possession receiver, is coming off knee surgery.
Darren Sproles, RB (Saints/Chargers): Sproles gives the Saints an outstanding returner and change-of-speed back to complement Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram.
Ricky Williams, RB (Ravens/Dolphins): Ray Rice had a career-high 370 touches last season. The Ravens needed a solid veteran for depth.
Vince Young, QB (Eagles/Titans): Michael Vick has played one 16-game season in his career. Young is a playmaking backup plan.
Can the Packers defend their Lombardi Trophy? It's not easy. Only eight times in the last 45 years have Super Bowl champions come back the following season to win it all, with three other teams losing in the title game. The last to repeat were the 2003-04 Patriots.
How the previous 10 champions fared the following season:
2001RavensLost in playoffs
2004PatriotsWon Super Bowl
2005Patriots Lost in playoffs
2007ColtsLost in playoffs
2008Giants Lost in playoffs
2010SaintsLost in playoffs
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