Is the NFC East a Fearsome Foursome, filled with peril at every turn heading into this 2010 off-season, or has the stamp of Best Division In Football fallen a little bit short? And how do the Eagles fit into the picture after dominating the East for most of 2000-2009? Let's take a look at some of the high-level questions for each team now that all four are finished for 2009 ...
DALLAS COWBOYSGiven their two wins over the Eagles to close out the '09 season, the Cowboys appear to be the team to beat in the East moving forward. Dallas boasts an impressive roster and by winning a playoff game, the Cowboys rid themselves of a long-standing ghost.
That doesn't mean all is peachy for the Cowboys, of course.
There is the matter of extending head coach Wade Phillips' contract, something that appears to be a formality at this point. Is he the right man for the job? It certainly appears Phillips will have the opportunity as reports have surfaced that he will receive a three-year contract extension.
The first order of business is to rebuild the offensive line, which is aging from the edges in. Both left tackle Flozell Adams and right tackle Marc Colombo had their ups and downs and will at the very least have challenges to hold on to their jobs -- Doug Free is expected to push for a starting spot on either side next season.
Otherwise, the Cowboys appear to have a pretty solid lineup. They have to decide what to do with wide receiver Roy Williams, who has been a massive disappointment since Dallas traded for him a few seasons ago. The offense has depth at running back and tight end, and Miles Austin is a Pro Bowl talent at wide receiver with plenty of good years in front of him.
Defensively, the pieces are in place. Dallas enjoyed a remarkably injury-free season and could look to add a replacement for inside linebacker Keith Brooking and some added talent in the secondary.
At this point, there are no major pieces missing in Dallas, but after the shellacking the Cowboys absorbed on Sunday at Minnesota, they need to look hard at what they have and wonder where it all went wrong against the Vikings.
NEW YORK GIANTSHead coach Tom Coughlin quickly made a major change to his coaching staff when he fired defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan and replaced him with Perry Fewell, who long ago was Coughlin's defensive backs coach when the two were in Jacksonville together. Fewell has a massive job ahead, given the Giants' season-long struggles. New York allowed a whopping 31 touchdown passes last year and at times the Giants were equally porous against the run.
Where to start for New York? Well, the secondary was a disaster, so a good cover corner or two would be a plus. Most mock drafts have the Giants selecting a linebacker in the first round, and that would help the defense, too. The once-awesome pass rush did not play consistent pressure football in 2009 and players like end Osi Umenyiora must be evaluated after poor seasons.
Whether it was the scheme Sheridan ran or the lack of personnel on the field, New York's defense this past season was horrible, and that is the expected emphasis of the Giants' months ahead.
The offense had moments of greatness until the late-season meltdown. The offensive line struggled and running back Brandon Jacobs was not the downhill force he had been in years past. Quarterback Eli Manning generally had a strong season, statistically, throwing to a group of young and very talented receivers that will threaten the NFC East defenses for many seasons.
The Giants have a history of rebounding after poor seasons, so to count them out for 2010 is foolish. There is some work to be done, but expect New York to contend in the division next season.
WASHINGTON REDSKINSAnother new coach, Mike Shanahan, runs the football program under Daniel Snyder and this is going to be one of the more interesting teams to watch. Washington's defense was really good for most of 2009, but that didn't stop the Redskins from making wholesale changes to its defensive coaching staff.
There are so many questions Shanahan has to answer, starting with the quarterback position. Jason Campbell's status has been a huge issue for years in Washington, so much so that it would be shocking if the Redskins went in another direction other than quarterback in the first round of the April 22 draft (day one). Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is a name that has been mentioned frequently in mock drafts as Shanahan looks to make his mark with the Redskins.
There are more needs, however. The Redskins have an aging, ineffective offensive line that completely crippled anything Campbell tried to do. Washington figures to be a major player in free agency with needs just about everywhere on offense and some concerns about age in a couple of defensive areas.
How long will it take Shanahan, who didn't exactly tear things up in Denver in his last few seasons, to turn Washington into a playoff-contending team? He seems to have the backing of Snyder, but we know how things have bumped along for the Redskins throughout the years.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLESAfter making one major move already -- adding special teams coordinator Bobby April -- the Eagles have a very direct agenda ahead. They must address the departure of General Manager Tom Heckert, who left to join the Browns in a similar capacity. No public announcement has been made on that front.
As for the on-the-field part of things, the Eagles have to make some decisions at the quarterback position -- Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick are all under contract through 2010; will they all come back in the final year of their contracts? -- and running back -- is Brian Westbrook returning? -- and then they have to get down to business and improve a football team that went 11-5 despite some heavy injuries and left a sour taste at the end of the season with back-to-back losses at Dallas.
The Eagles need the defense to add some pieces, and they have to make sure they have the right players lined up tackle to tackle along the offensive line. The skill positions are young and talented, although depth at running back is a must should Westbrook not play as an Eagle next season.
The bottom line for the division is that, at this point, it appears that Dallas, the Eagles and the Giants lead the way, with Washington in a rebuilding phase. But it is only January. The picture could look different in March after a couple of weeks in free agency and in May after the teams see how their draft appears at first glance.
Each team has work to do, and as much as the on-field part of things determines winners and losers during the season, so does the success of these very crucial months.