NFC East teams look to plug holes via draft

The plot has thickened in the NFC East.

The Redskins have a new look with coach Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb.
The Redskins have a new look with coach Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb.

The Eagles shook up the division, trading Donovan McNabb to the Redskins. Dealing a starting quarterback to a division rival? That’s gutsy. But the Redskins also gambled, giving up valuable draft picks and putting McNabb behind a shaky offensive line.

"The Redskins boxed themselves into a corner," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said during a conference call. "When you commit three or four years to McNabb, you better use that fourth pick on an offensive tackle."

With the NFL draft less than two weeks away, here is a closer look at the ever-changing, always-competitive NFC East.

Cowboys

Key moves: They released left tackle Flozell Adams and safety Ken Hamlin.

Draft needs: Offensive line and safety need to be addressed. With the 27th pick, possible targets include South Florida safety Nate Allen, USC offensive tackle Charles Brown and USC safety Taylor Mays.

"In the second round they could get a safety, maybe Allen, Morgan Burnett from Georgia Tech, maybe Major Wright from Florida," Kiper said. "As a former tight end, Brown is very athletic. You wish he had a little more explosiveness, but he’s a guy I think could be a very good pass blocker."

Status: Still the team to beat, but they could regret letting Adams go.

Eagles

Key moves: Kevin Kolb is the new starting quarterback, and veterans McNabb, guard Shawn Andrews, cornerback Sheldon Brown, linebacker Chris Gocong and running back Brian Westbrook are gone.

"They’re rebuilding, and they’re going young," McNabb said. "I never knew 33 years old was old, but I guess I’m too old."

Draft needs: With 11 picks, including three in the top 55, the Eagles hope to rebuild a defense that slipped in 2009. Cornerbacks Kareem Jackson of Alabama and Kyle Wilson of Boise State, along with Allen and Mays, should be on their radar.

"They have a lot of choices, and they need a lot of help in the secondary," Kiper said. "Front and center for me at No. 24 would be Maurkice Pouncey, the center-guard out of Florida. If he’s gone, then Philadelphia is probably looking for a corner. Then come back in the early second round with the pick from Washington and maybe look at Major Wright, the safety from Florida, or Nate Allen.

"They have some holes, and they have the draft choices. Andy Reid is big on the draft. He studies the draft, he really loves the draft process."

Status: They are talented but have many question marks.

Giants

The Giants addressed their secondary needs by signing Antrel Rolle.
The Giants addressed their secondary needs by signing Antrel Rolle.

Key moves: They signed safety Antrel Rolle, cut linebacker Antonio Pierce and replaced fired defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan with Perry Fewell.

Draft needs: They’ll be looking for linebacker help, and they could find it by taking Rolando McClain of Alabama or Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri at No. 15.

Status: A contender if their defense improves.

Redskins

Key moves: They added McNabb, head coach Mike Shanahan, general manager Bruce Allen and running backs Larry Johnson and Willie Parker.

Draft needs: Did we say offensive line? Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung is an obvious choice at No. 4 if available.

"Everyone assumes we’re going to address the offensive line because it was clearly a problem for us last year," tight end Chris Cooley said. "In some way, shape or form, whether it’s free agency or trade, we’re obviously going to address that position. I don’t think anyone is going to panic at any time in April saying, ‘We don’t have our guy right now.’ We’ll get someone that fills that spot."

Status: They could be one of the NFL’s most improved teams if they provide McNabb adequate protection.

Clifton Brown is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

The plot has thickened in the NFC East.

The Redskins have a new look with coach Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb.
The Redskins have a new look with coach Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb.

The Eagles shook up the division, trading Donovan McNabb to the Redskins. Dealing a starting quarterback to a division rival? That’s gutsy. But the Redskins also gambled, giving up valuable draft picks and putting McNabb behind a shaky offensive line.

"The Redskins boxed themselves into a corner," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said during a conference call. "When you commit three or four years to McNabb, you better use that fourth pick on an offensive tackle."

With the NFL draft less than two weeks away, here is a closer look at the ever-changing, always-competitive NFC East.

Cowboys

Key moves: They released left tackle Flozell Adams and safety Ken Hamlin.

Draft needs: Offensive line and safety need to be addressed. With the 27th pick, possible targets include South Florida safety Nate Allen, USC offensive tackle Charles Brown and USC safety Taylor Mays.

"In the second round they could get a safety, maybe Allen, Morgan Burnett from Georgia Tech, maybe Major Wright from Florida," Kiper said. "As a former tight end, Brown is very athletic. You wish he had a little more explosiveness, but he’s a guy I think could be a very good pass blocker."

Status: Still the team to beat, but they could regret letting Adams go.

Eagles

Key moves: Kevin Kolb is the new starting quarterback, and veterans McNabb, guard Shawn Andrews, cornerback Sheldon Brown, linebacker Chris Gocong and running back Brian Westbrook are gone.

"They’re rebuilding, and they’re going young," McNabb said. "I never knew 33 years old was old, but I guess I’m too old."

Draft needs: With 11 picks, including three in the top 55, the Eagles hope to rebuild a defense that slipped in 2009. Cornerbacks Kareem Jackson of Alabama and Kyle Wilson of Boise State, along with Allen and Mays, should be on their radar.

"They have a lot of choices, and they need a lot of help in the secondary," Kiper said. "Front and center for me at No. 24 would be Maurkice Pouncey, the center-guard out of Florida. If he’s gone, then Philadelphia is probably looking for a corner. Then come back in the early second round with the pick from Washington and maybe look at Major Wright, the safety from Florida, or Nate Allen.

"They have some holes, and they have the draft choices. Andy Reid is big on the draft. He studies the draft, he really loves the draft process."

Status: They are talented but have many question marks.

Giants

The Giants addressed their secondary needs by signing Antrel Rolle.
The Giants addressed their secondary needs by signing Antrel Rolle.

Key moves: They signed safety Antrel Rolle, cut linebacker Antonio Pierce and replaced fired defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan with Perry Fewell.

Draft needs: They’ll be looking for linebacker help, and they could find it by taking Rolando McClain of Alabama or Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri at No. 15.

Status: A contender if their defense improves.

Redskins

Key moves: They added McNabb, head coach Mike Shanahan, general manager Bruce Allen and running backs Larry Johnson and Willie Parker.

Draft needs: Did we say offensive line? Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung is an obvious choice at No. 4 if available.

"Everyone assumes we’re going to address the offensive line because it was clearly a problem for us last year," tight end Chris Cooley said. "In some way, shape or form, whether it’s free agency or trade, we’re obviously going to address that position. I don’t think anyone is going to panic at any time in April saying, ‘We don’t have our guy right now.’ We’ll get someone that fills that spot."

Status: They could be one of the NFL’s most improved teams if they provide McNabb adequate protection.

Clifton Brown is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

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