Despite the preseason euphoria in the Washington area over the newlook Redskins, the NFC East should come down to a race between Philadelphia, the defending NFC champion, and Dallas, which has looked ragged and complacent at times in the preseason.
Philadelphia's main concern is replacing one key player each on offense and defense. Coach Dick Vermeil has made two minor trades since fullback Leroy Harris suffered two broken bones in his left arm in the preseason. He was the nan the Eagles relied on for short yardage and to block for halfback Wilbert Montgomery.
Louie Giammona is probably not the answer. Neither is strong, fast Perry Harrington, who still can't read defenses enough to keep quarterback Ron Jaworski from getting swarmed in a blitz.
On defense, 10 starters are back. But linebacker Bill Bergey is on the injured reserve list, probably for the season. Still, the Eagles are deep. And, if AL Chesley, the former University of Pittsburgh and Eastern High School standout, can't replace Bergey, then Reggie Wilkes, who started as a rookie three years ago, will take over the position.
Philadelphia could use one more offensive lineman (to replace retired Woody Peoples) and another receiver. But without being picky, the Eagles are solid. Jaworski-to-Harold Carmichael looked as good as ever in the preseason.
Jaworski, who threw for 3,529 yards last season, was the conference's top-rated quarterback with a 90.9 rating.
The Eagles should be the class of the division, nudging out Dallas, because the Cowboy's secondary could be easy pickings. Aaron Mitchell; Benny Barnes and Steve Wilson, a Howard University product, don't scare too many people. Veteran safeties Charlie Waters and randy Hughes are injured and may not be factors this season. The way to beat Dallas, obviously, is with the pass.
That may be the Cowboy's only weakness. Both lines are fearsome. The defensive front of Harvey Martin, Ed Jones, John Dutton and Randy White may be the best in the league, helping the secondary somewhat. The offensive line last season gave quarterback Danny White enough time to pass for 28 touchdowns in his first year as a starting quarterback. This year, it is imperative that White cut back on his 25 interceptions.
Every year, fullback Robert Newhouse (now 31) is supposed to be beaten out by somebody, but, again, he starts in Coach Tom Landry's backfield. That will free Ron Springs to become a specially back; replacing Newhouse or Tony Dorsett when necessary.
The St Louis Cardinals shouldn't be as bad as last season because they had a good draft and probably won't have as many injuries. The St. Louis linebackers had trouble the last two years, so the club drafted E. J. Junior, who will provide immediate help.
The Cardinal defense was 24th in a 28-team league last season and 26th against the pass.
The Cardinals often have slumped when quarterback Jim Hart no longer can take the pounding his offensive line allows. This year, if the 37-year-old Hart is sidelined, Neil Lomax, a highly touted rookie from Division if Portland State, is waiting.
Running back ottis Anderson may be overworked by midseason. Coach Jim Hanifan has promised to open up his offense, though, and let Anderson do some of his running after catching passes.
It doesn't help that one-fourth of the St. Louis players are over 30.
The Giants might be exciting because they have Phil Simms throwing the ball 30 times' a game. But Simms was sacked 47 times last season and knocked out of several games.
Many of the Giants' woes last season were casused by injury, with 35 players on injured reserve during the season. The team finished lower in more categories than any other in the NFL.