NEW GLOUCESTER, ME - The Dragons franchise history can be divided into two eras. 1. The Pre-Peyton Manning era in which the Dragons were year in and year out, the embarrassment of the league. And 2. The Peyton Manning era in which they won two Super Bowls and 4 Division Championships. The third era is about to begin: The Post-Manning era. Critics of the trade say the franchise will return to pre-Peyton Manning form. Proponents say the deal had to be done in order to advance the franchise beyond mediocrity.
Is there such a thing as a fantasy player being too good for his own good? Dragon's owner Jon Kinsman will tell you "yes." With Manning, the Dragons were stuck in mediocrity. The team hasn't won more than 7 games in a season since 2001 but hasn't lost more than 6 either. Worst of all, the team wasn't putting itself in a position to win championships or draft in the Top 5 and get young talent. Manning was single-handedly winning games and preventing the team from losing enough games to draft a Julius or Kevin, and instead having to settle on the Jones that time forgot - Greg. With the Dragons aging faster than Steve Dugas, Kinsman felt the change had to be made.
Biggest Question Facing Owner Jon Kinsman
Is this a rebuilding year? The Dragons might be the best team in the lowly NFC East but realistically they are only about the 8th or 9th best team in the league. Kinsman could go for the NFC East Division Title or he could focus on trading his veterans and developing his younger players while taking a back seat this season. History would indicate that the NFC East is no prize to be won in the first place. No NFC East team has advanced to the NFC Championship since 2001. Look for Kinsman to continue to rebuild the Dragons throughout the year.
Tiki the Magic Dragon?
The key acquisition in the Manning deal was Tiki Barber. Coming off his best season ever with 110 points, Barber will have to match those totals this season if the Dragons plan on competing in the up-for-grabs NFC East. Barber could lose some goal line carries to rookie Brandon Jacobs but Barber is an all-around back and will find ways to earn his points.
Pennington, Barber, Moulds, Jackson, Ward, Smith, Graham, Toomer
The Dragons have a quintet of WRs that are coming off of sub-par years. If Eric Moulds, Rod Smith, Amani Toomer, Darrell Jackson and Hines Ward can pick-up their productions the Dragons will win the NFC East. The backfield after Barber is among the worst in the league. Marshall Faulk will see playing time on bye weeks. Pennington will be better than average at QB but won't put up 4 TD games. L.J. Smith is just a notch below fellow NFC Tight Ends Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates.
6-7; 2nd NFC West