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Plenty of reasons for optimism

Editor's note: PFW breaks down each team heading into training camp and gives a reason for optimism. In addition to the reasons for optimism, you can click on the links below to see each team's most significant change, cause for concern and training camp battle to watch.

NFC East

Reason for optimism: It's the second season under Bill Parcells, and the coach
has never failed to improve by at least three wins in his second year with
three other teams. That might be unrealistic, but the team has addressed
problem areas at quarterback, running back, offensive line and defensive
end. More on Cowboys camp.

Reason for optimism: The team has loaded up with 21 veteran free agents,
focusing on two big trouble areas -- the offensive and defensive lines. There
are also two high-profile quarterbacks, two-time MVP Kurt Warner and No. 1
pick Eli Manning, gunning for the starter's role. Most of the offensive
playmakers from a playoff team two years ago are still here. More on Giants camp.

Reason for optimism: The core of a team that has reached the NFC
championship game the past three seasons is back, and there is good depth at
most positions. Andy Reid and his impressive coaching staff have one of the
best weapons in quarterback Donovan McNabb and a team that is hungry and driven to
meet its Super Bowl goals. More on Eagles camp.

Reason for optimism: Gibbs has quite an impressive array of offensive
talent, including a running game again -- something it had given away when it
let Stephen Davis go -- in the form of Clinton Portis. Add veteran quarterback Mark
Brunell
and a number of other veteran additions, and the Redskins could be
one of the most improved teams in the NFL. More on Redskins camp.

NFC North

Reason for optimism: General manager Jerry Angelo fortified the offensive
line and signed running back Thomas Jones to go with a solid bunch of young core
players on both sides of the ball. More on Bears camp.

Reason for optimism: Detroit finished 2003 strong, upsetting the
playoff-bound Rams in the season finale. The defense, minus its ranking,
played well, considering many reserves were forced into regular roles. More on Lions camp.

Reason for optimism: The Packers return all 11 offensive starters and eight
defensive starters (not counting Mike McKenzie) from a team that narrowly missed
an NFC championship-game bid. In addition, running back Ahman Green was an MVP
candidate, and a shaky defense has the potential to get better in a hurry
because of its youth. More on Packers camp.

Reason for optimism: The league's top-ranked offense returns 10 starters,
including what head coach Mike Tice dubbed a fully healthy Michael Bennett
at running back. The one newcomer is No. 2 wide receiver Marcus Robinson, the first
legitimate complement Randy Moss has worked with since Cris Carter left.
Moss and quarterback Daunte Culpepper are coming off Pro Bowl seasons. More on Vikings camp.

NFC South

Reason for optimism: The presence of offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp and
offensive line coach Alex Gibbs has the Falcons working at a much higher level than they
have in the past. The duo is known for its work ethic, and the players have
quickly bought into bringing the same intensity to the field. The Falcons
also are anxious to wash the bad taste of last season out of their mouths. More on Falcons camp.

Reason for optimism: The Panthers are coming off an appearance in the Super
Bowl and have their young core of players locked up for years to come. The
defensive front seven returns intact, and the return of linebacker Mark Fields from
his battle with cancer should provide an emotional lift. The team also seems
hungry to prove that last year was not a fluke. More on Panthers camp.

Reason for optimism: Head coach Jim Haslett is using a no-nonsense,
zero-tolerance approach in the locker room this season, and the players seem
to sense his urgency. Following three straight seasons of failing to make
the playoffs, everyone in the organization believes the team is ready to
take the next step, especially considering that the Saints made few major
changes in terms of personnel during the offseason. More on Saints camp.

Reason for optimism: The Buccaneers aren't a bad football team. They just
got off to a rough start and had some injuries that doomed them last season.
Head coach Jon Gruden has brought in a lot of new blood to start fresh, but
it is veteran blood that knows how to play in the NFL. The team also
addressed glaring problems with the offensive line and special teams. More on Bucs camp.

NFC West

Reason for optimism: Taking into account top draft pick Larry Fitzgerald's
pro potential, fellow wide receiver Anquan Boldin's great success in his rookie
campaign and Dennis Green's impressive track record on offense, it's a good bet the
Cardinals will put a lot more points on the scoreboard this season -- even
with relatively inexperienced Josh McCown at quarterback. More on Cardinals camp.

Reason for optimism: The Niners' brain trust genuinely believes quality
youth will be served, with a number of draft picks expected to make their
presence felt right away. In addition, while the offense has been gutted,
the defense -- anchored by talented players such as outside linebacker Julian Peterson, defensive end
Andre Carter, strong safety Tony Parrish and cornerback Ahmed Plummer -- just might be the best
in the NFC West. More on 49ers camp.

Reason for optimism: Aside from defensive end Grant Wistrom and defensive tackle Brian Young, all the
players who made key contributions on both sides of the ball for last year's
12-4 playoff team are back. In addition, with running back Marshall Faulk expected to
be fully recovered from clean-up surgery on his knee, there are no real
injury concerns heading into camp. More on Rams camp.

Reason for optimism: There isn't an offense in the league that has as many
weapons as the Seahawks, and all of them return healthy, in addition to
being a year wiser. The defense, meanwhile, which improved from 28th to 19th
in its first year under the direction of Ray Rhodes, has become younger and
faster. More on Seahawks camp.