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NFC Teams with New Looks

   by Bryan Leonard - 08/12/2010

NFL Preseason is approaching. Time for players, coaches and teams to turn over a new leaf. General managers have hired some new coaches, while coaches have added some offensive and defensive assistants to try and improve things. Here's a look at some changes to look for with some teams in preseason.

Redskins (4-12 SU, 7-8-1 ATS in 2009): Mike Shanahan comes aboard, a coach Bill Belichick has said many times is the best in the league. He certainly is an above average offensive coach, and that will only help what has been an anemic Washington offense. Adding 33-year old QB Donovan McNabb was also a great move, so you won’t recognize the Redskins for 2010, and that’s a good thing, off of a miserable 4-12 campaign.
McNabb had a strong 2009 season for the Eagles with 22 TDs, 10 picks and 3,553 yards. After suffering through an abysmal campaign in 2009, the Redskins’ offensive line has three new starters, including left tackle and No. 1 pick Trent Williams, while the running game is deep, adding RBs Larry Johnson and Willie Parker. To shore up the line the Redskins grabbed tackle Trent Williams with the No. 4 pick in the draft (Oklahoma). The Redskins continued the makeover by acquiring New Orleans Saints tackle Jammal Brown, a two-time Pro Bowler, in a trade.
A season ago, the Redskins allowed more sacks than all but two NFL teams and adding new bodies to the offensive line was an offseason priority for the team. Washington’s wide receivers are either unproven, coming off injuries or past their primes, so more emphasis is being placed on tight ends Chris Cooley and Fred Davis. Getting a healthy TE Chris Cooley back will help, too. Cooley is coming off a broken ankle that limited him to seven games in 2009, and he amassed a career-high 849 receiving yards in ’08. Shanahan has very impressive numbers, even in August, with a 42-26 SU, 37-26-3 ATS mark (16-9 SU, 14-10-1 ATS his last three preseasons).

Eagles: Andy Reid made the biggest move of the winter, trading away QB Donovan McNabb because of salary cap concerns, turning things over to 25-year old QB Kevin Kolb. He will turn 26 at the end of preseason. Kolb (4 TDs, 3 picks) started in Weeks 2 and 3 last year for an injured McNabb and became the first quarterback to exceed 300 yards passing in his first two starts. But his big numbers against the Saints came in a fruitless comeback effort. His passing accuracy makes him a nice fit for Reid’s West Coast system, and has a lot of strong weapons to work with.
Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was thrust into the position last year after the unfortunate passing of longtime DC Jim Johnson. They were not as sharp, ranked 12th in total defense and 19th in points allowed (21.1 ppg). They’ve made changes this offseason. DE Brodrick Bunkley (Florida State) and Mike Patterson anchor a young line, they add LB Ernie Sims (Lions) and they went wild in the draft taking nine players. DE Brandon Graham was taken (Michigan) in the first round with the No. 13 overall pick, and South Florida safety Nate Allen was taken in round 2.
The secondary has a lot of changes for 2010. They traded CB Shelden Brown and CB Ellis Hobbs is coming off neck surgery, so Marlin Jackson (Colts) comes aboard. Note that Philadelphia is a rather remarkable 52-35-1 SU, 52-36 ATS on the road the last nine years!

Bears: After adding gunslinger QB Jay Cutler a year ago, the Bears continue the makeover for 2010 as the offense adds offensive coordinator like Mike Martz. As the Bears work to install Mike Martz’s new offense, there could be some more playing time in preseason for the starters.
Martz announced that the starting O-lineup looks about set. Roberto Garza is at left guard and Lance Louis, a seventh-round draft pick in 2009, is the right guard. Frank Omiyale will play right tackle and left tackle is Chris Williams. Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked 35 times in 2009, and he’ll have deeper drops now, putting more pressure on the men in front of him.
The Bears haven’t had a good O-line and ranked 29th in rushing last fall (93.3 yards per game), so one wonders if the Bears will be a pass-happy team in 2010 under Martz. The defense adds DE Julius Peppers and the 30-year old is being asked to upgrade a weak pass rush, off a season with 10.5 sacks in Carolina. Oddsmakers make low totals on the Bears now because of their defensive reputation, but note Chicago is 34-27-1 “over” the total the last four seasons.

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