By Steve Silverman
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The Giants go into the 2013 season with their eyes wide open. They are no longer the odds-on favorites to rule the division as they were a year ago.
This team has plenty of issues, and even their strengths have question marks. Start off with a defense that may have been the single-most disappointing unit in the NFL last year. The Giants ranked 31st overall in yardage allowed and were a far cry from the defense that stopped the New England Patriots in the previous Super Bowl.
The Giants have to find their pass rush, improve dramatically in the secondary and figure out a way to stop the run.
There are issues on offense as well. Start off with Eli Manning's regular-season inconsistency and the health of the wide receivers.
Tom Coughlin has much to worry about, but when he looks around the NFC East, he can see that this once-formidable grouping has plenty of problems. If the Giants can figure a few things out on defense and the offense does not slip, the division could be theirs for the taking.
Here's a look at the issues faced by the other three teams in the division.
Dallas Cowboys – We could easily say the biggest problem the Cowboys have is intrusive Jerry Jones, but that's nothing new. However, Jones has a hand in nearly all the Cowboys' problem areas.
Start off with the offensive line. This has been a big problem for the Cowboys for the last five years. Jones has never given this area of the team the attention it deserves and that's why quarterback Tony Romo is often under duress.
Romo has proven to be one of the most inconsistent clutch quarterbacks in the NFL. It's not that Romo is bad, but his performance varies from week to week. He can be great against an excellent opponent and stink the joint out against a bad team. The issue is that Romo has been the man for the Cowboys since 2006, and that's more than long enough for a quarterback to show his true colors. He will never be the dominant winner that the Cowboys need him to be.
The defensive line is on the small side and it lacks depth. This will be an issue in the fourth quarter of games and in the second half of the season. They are going to get pushed around and the Cowboys are not going to be able to stop the run when they need to get the ball back.
Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles were their own worst enemies last season as they finished minus-24 on the turnover table. While head coach Chip Kelly had a new offense to install and teach, one might think that addressing this scenario would be one of his top priorities.
During the preseason, the Eagles have been turning the ball over with great frequency once again. They have just one takeaway and seven turnovers. Running back Bryce Brown is a talented breakaway runner, but he loves to put the ball on the ground at the most inopportune moments.
The Eagles' secondary looks awful. While they got rid of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, both overpriced disappointments, replacements Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams look fearful when asked to cover one-on-one and the safeties are nondescript. The Giants should have a field day against this defensive backfield when they host the Eagles in Week 5.
The other issue for the Eagles is the lack of a physical presence. This was once the calling card of this team, but Philadelphia was the worst tackling team in the league last year and they also failed far too frequently in short-yardage situations on offense. There's no reason to think that any of this has changed.
Washington Redskins – The Redskins are probably the best team on paper in the NFC East, as long as Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris are healthy. RGIII appears to be healthy for the opener vs. the Eagles and has reportedly been cutting on his surgical knee without any issues.
However, he puts his body at so much risk that you could see him getting hurt again. Morris was a powerhouse at running back last year with 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns, but what happens if Mike Shanahan has to turn to Evan Royster? That could be disastrous.
The other issue is the secondary. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall can make some big plays because he is a gambler, but he loses too many battles. Brandon Meriweather is coming back from a torn ACL and he will be tested frequently in early-season games. Rookies David Amerson, Philip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo are the Redskins' best hopes for improving the back end.
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