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In the NFC East, It All Comes Down to QBs

The NFC East has always been one of the league's premiere divisions, featuring some of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports.

In 2007, the NFC East could undergo a transition that bears watching in the short and long term.

And it all starts with the quarterback position.

Now more than ever, the future of the division this year and beyond could hinge on which of the teams' four starting quarterbacks emerges in 2007. In some respects, all four quarterbacks are at a crossroads in their careers.

The Redskins have a youngster in 2005 draft pick Jason Campbell who has shown flashes in seven NFL starts.

The Cowboys have turned over the reins to Tony Romo, who was a mid-season sensation last year but sputtered down the stretch.

The Giants have stayed the course with 2004 top draft pick Eli Manning, but he has struggled with consistency.

Only the Eagles start a veteran in Donovan McNabb, but he has been slowed by injuries--including a torn knee ligament--each of the last two years.

Here's a look at the four NFC East quarterbacks--in alphabetical order--and their outlook for the 2007 season:


Campbell is the Redskins' unquestioned starter heading into training camp.

Last year, Campbell took over for Mark Brunell midseason and finished out the year amid a disappointing 5-11 campaign. In seven games, he completed 53.1 percent of his passes for 1,297 yards, 10 touchdowns in six interceptions.

He was aided by a strong running game and the emergence of running back Ladell Betts down the stretch.

Campbell struggled at times as he adjusted to the NFL level. But in the season finale against the New York Giants, it appeared he turned a corner as he completed 14-of-15 second-half passes to help lead the Redskins to a near-comeback win.

By all accounts, the third-year quarterback has turned in a strong offseason--but he doesn't face blitzes from linebackers and defensive backs in practice. His true test will come once the season starts, when defenses give him different looks.

The Redskins have invested plenty in the 25-year-old Campbell, and they hope it pays dividends sooner rather than later.

His steady play could be the key to the Redskins' 2007 season.


Manning is a three-year NFL veteran and it appears he is already at a crossroads in his career.

He has started 39 consecutive games and led the Giants to the playoffs each of the last two years. In his career, he has completed 54.1 percent of his passes for 8,049 yards, 54 touchdowns and 44 interceptions.

Last season, Manning guided the Giants to a 6-2 start, but the team was beset by injuries and faltered down the stretch, finishing at 8-8. Manning's inconsistent play, particularly in fourth quarters, was blamed by many. His 18 interceptions were fourth most by a starting quarterback.

Still, it was good enough for a playoff berth, and Manning played well in the Giants' 23-20 postseason loss to the Eagles.

Perhaps the biggest question mark is whether Manning's laid-back personality is a good fit for the Big Apple. New York can be a tough place for any young quarterback.

Given Manning's pedigree--he's the younger brother of Super Bowl champion Peyton--he also must deal with high expectations.


Since 2000, McNabb has been one of the dominant players in the NFC East. He guided the Eagles to four consecutive NFC Championship game appearances and a Super Bowl appearance in 2004.

His 2005 season was cut short by a sports hernia injury and last year he suffered a knee ligament injury in Week 10. The Eagles went on to win the NFC East behind Jeff Garcia, who is now in Tampa Bay.

McNabb posted solid numbers in 2006, completing 180-of-316 passes for 2,647 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions.

McNabb remains the most accomplished NFC East quarterback, and at 30 years old he is still in his prime. With McNabb at the helm, the Eagles are in "win-now" mode.

But it appears team officials have begun the process of finding his replacement. To the surprise of many, the team drafted rookie Kevin Kolb in the second round of last April's draft.

McNabb has admitted he was surprised at the Kolb pick. Certainly, Kolb won't replace McNabb anytime soon, but if McNabb struggles in returning from his knee injury, fans could start chanting for Kolb or popular backup A.J. Feeley.


Romo seemingly came out of nowhere last season. Replacing Drew Bledsoe midseason last year, Romo had the hype and the stats to back it up.

He completed a remarkable 65.3 percent of his passes for 2,903 yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. In the intangibles department, Romo showed poise, mobility and a surprising confidence.

Did it all come too soon for the 27-year-old Romo?

Romo and the Cowboys struggled down the stretch, as Dallas lost three of their last four regular-season games to fall out of first place in the NFC East and finish at 9-7.

Disaster struck in the Cowboys' Wild Card playoff game at Seattle. Romo mishandled the ball while holding for a potential game-winning field goal in the final minutes.

In off-season work, Romo's confidence has been unwavering. But once the 2007 season approaches, he will have to deal with questions of how last season unraveled.

Romo is entering only his second season as a starter, and he'll have a new offense to learn, too. If he falters, former Redskin Brad Johnson is on hand as a backup.

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