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Thursday, June 18, 2009
The Replacements: NFC East


Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

A look at the key loss and his replacement for each team in the division:

Dallas Cowboys

 Owens
 Williams

Who's out: Terrell Owens, WR, cut and signed with Bills.

Who's in: Roy Williams, WR

Outlook: Williams was acquired so that he could complement T.O., but that thought was abandoned when Jerry Jones released T.O. after the season.

Williams becomes the de facto No. 1 receiver -- and he'll face enormous pressure. His '08 campaign was shaky at best, but he'll get every opportunity to shine this season. In my mind, 65 catches for 850 yards and eight touchdowns sounds about right.

Williams needs Miles Austin to continue to develop as the potential No. 2 receiver. Austin's speed could open things up for Williams to work the middle of the field. Williams has been frustrated by all the doubters, but they're not going anywhere -- unless he helps take the Cowboys to a playoff game. 

New York Giants

 Burress
 Nicks

Who's out: Plaxico Burress, WR, free agent awaiting trial

Who's in: Hakeem Nicks, WR

Outlook: The Giants won't ask Nicks to immediately replace Burress -- and they shouldn't. Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith should be able to hold the fort while Nicks gets up to speed.

But Nicks is too much of a playmaker to redshirt. At some point this season, he'll be called on to play a significant role. I think Eli Manning is relieved to not have the Plax drama hanging over his head this offseason.

I know that rookie Ramses Barden has a body type more like Burress', but he's more of a project at this point. Early in the season, the Giants will lean heavily on the running game. That should buy Nicks and Barden some time to grow up. 

Philadelphia Eagles

 Thomas
 Peters

Who's out: Tra Thomas, LT, cut and signed with Jaguars

Who's in: Jason Peters, LT

Outlook: The trade for Peters jump-started the offseason. Yes, he gave up too many sacks last season in Buffalo, but he'll bounce back this season.

He finally feels appreciated, and I think he'll turn into one of the best in the league. You also have to remember the loss of Brian Dawkins. But Quintin Mikell is a pretty solid replacement. You get younger, although Dawkins' influence in the locker room will be missed.

Peters should make the Eagles a better running team -- immediately. Now, we just need to see how Brian Westbrook bounces back from a couple of offseason surgeries. 

Washington Redskins

 Jansen
 Heyer

Who's out: Jon Jansen, RT, cut and signed with Lions

Who's in: Stephon Heyer, RT

Outlook: The Redskins didn't really have any major losses, although Shawn Springs was a very solid presence in the locker room.

Springs was still talented, but he couldn't stay on the field because of injuries. Jansen gave the Redskins almost a decade of service, but he had no business starting this season.

Right tackle is Heyer's job to lose, and I think he'll nail it down in training camp. It's still a potential soft spot for this offense, though. Heyer has excellent size and pretty good feet for a big guy. But I'm not convinced he's the long-term answer.