Thursday, August 5, 2010

NFC East Training Camp

NFC East

This Division should have its own Reality Show...new QB's in Philly and Washington...constant drama in Dallas...a Giants team that was the defending Champs last year only to have a 8-8 season

Super Bowl XLV will be played at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011...the Cowboys are looking to have Training Camp be their jump-off point to try and put together a season that will see them have a home game in the Super Bowl

On Offense the man running the show is QB Tony Romo...Romo is coming off of a terrific 2009 campaign...Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett will be using Training Camp to further develop Romo, but also to bring along 2nd year QB Stephen McGee, plus undrafted rookie Matt Nichols (Eastern Washington) to back-up Romo...Jon Kitna is also in Training Camp trying to show that he can still be an NFL back-up

Only the NFL Champs New Orleans had a better overall Offense than the 'Boys in '09...the running game features a trio of skilled RB's who will use Training Camp to sort out who is the featured back?...who is the short-yardage back?...who is the 3rd-down back?  to answer any of those questions the 'Boys have a lot of talent to work with...Marion Barber led the attack previously, but 3rd year RB's Felix Jones and Tashard Choice each showed that they were capable of handling an increased workload...each will be looking to improve further during Training Camp

Dez Bryant has STUD WR potential
The passing game, like the running game, was Top 10 in the NFL in '09...they add stud WR Dez Bryant (1st round OK State) to the mix...Dez's Training Camp is on hold currently as he suffered a high ankle sprain recently that will have him out for a few weeks, possibly the entire 2010 Training Camp...I consider this a huge blow as Romo and Bryant needed to use Camp as the stage to get their rhythm/timing together...the loss of Dez means that WR Roy Williams is back to being the #1 WR on this team...I am a believer that Williams is a significantly overrated WR...he is often injured and does not produce...witness his #'s with Dallas - in 2008 and 2009 Williams averaged 37 catches for 513 yards and 4 TD's, yet has a 6 year $54 million contract extension with the 'Boys(?)...that leaves veterans like Miles Austin and the disgruntled Patrick Crayton to pick up the slack until Bryant can return to show his skills...ask Toronto Raptors fans how things worked out with Reggie Evans' high ankle sprain...it took forever for Evans to return as that injury is such a tough injury to treat, and tough to accurately predict a timetable for a return to action...one constant for Dallas is the pass-and-catch combo of Romo to TE Jason Witten

The 2009 Dallas Cowboys Defense was also a Top 10 unit...only the Jets allowed fewer points in '09

On the D-Line Training Camp will be used by Wade Phillips (Defensive Coordinator playing a Head Coach on TV) to further develop guys like Igor Olshansky, Jason Hatcher, and Stephen Bowen...rookie Sean Lissemore (7th round William & Mary) will also try to get in the mix

The LB unit will be using Training Camp to continue the development of guys like Anthony Spencer, Victor Butler, and rookie Sean Lee (2nd round from OK State)

In the Secondary Training Camp will be used to try to improve this unit that ranked #20 last season vs the pass...rookie CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (4th round from IUP...Division II) and rookie Jamar Wall (6th round from Texas Tech) will join guys like Terence Newman,  Mike Jenkins, and Orlando Scandrick on this unit that tries to improve on just 11 INT's in 2009

On Special Teams it looks like 2nd year K David Buehler will be given the chance to be the guy in Training Camp...his career FG stats are zero made...zero attempted...hey good luck with that

New York
Hard to believe that the Giants are actually a tad under the radar this Training Camp...with all the press about the Cowboys, plus the whole Donovan McNabb going from Philly to Washington, the other 3 teams in the NFC East are hogging the sports chatter, but this Giants team has there own issues to concern themselves with

2009 was still a Top 10 year for this offense but it certainly took steps backwards from the 2008 Super Bowl unit

QB Eli Manning's #'s were better then ever, but he continues to struggle in the Red Zone...Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride must use Training Camp to add some plays, and a few wrinkles for Eli in goal-to-go situations...at back-up QB the Giants have signed Peyton Manning's long time understudy Jim Sorgi, plus also have 2nd year QB Rhett Bomar in Camp

RB Brandon Jacobs was hardly the Thunder we knew him as in '08...his 3.7 yards per carry was significantly lower than his 5.0 in 2007, and 2008...his TD's dropped from 15 in 2008 to just 5 last season...Ahmad Bradshaw returns from a trio of ankle surgeries to use Training Camp as his first test on that ankle...Danny Ware also looks to get healthy, as does 2nd year RB Andre Brown...a TON of talent here, but all of them have health concerns

WR Steve Smith
The WR spot looks to be in good hands...perhaps underrated hands...Steve Smith is your quantity guy (his 107 catches last year is more than any Giants player ever) then throw in young talent like Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, and 6'6" Ramses Barden...again we say a TON of talent here...between these guys and TE Kevin Boss someone will have to step up as a reliable go-to threat for Eli in the Red Zone

On Defense the new Coordinator is former Head Coach of Toronto's own Buffalo Bills Perry Fewell...

There is work to done in Training Camp for this D...middle-of-the-pack unit last year which got worse-and-worse as the season progressed...only 2 teams in the entire NFL allowed more points in '09

sack for Jason Pierre-Paul
The pass rush that was instrumental in the 2008 Super Bowl run was non-existent in 2009...Fewell will need to light a fire under the D-Line and use Training Camp to develop a guy like rookie Jason Pierre-Paul (1st rounder from South Florida)...Pierre-Paul joins a group of talent that is looking to get healthy in 2010...guys like Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Jay Alford, Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard, and Mathias Kiwanuka all looking for increased playing time and increased effectiveness by getting back on track health-wise

The LB crew also is in need of health...gone is Antonio Pierce meaning more of an opportunity to lead the D for LB Michael Boley if he can be healthy consistently...

In the Secondary DB's like Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, Bruce Johnson, Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, Terrell Thomas, John Busing, Deon Grant, Michael Johnson, plus rookie Chad Jones (3rd round LSU)

On Special Teams Matt Dodge was drafted in the 7th round from East Carolina and will look to win the Punting job in Training Camp

For years the Eagles offense was Donovan McNabb throwing to decent, at best, WR's...entering the 2010 Training Camp this team is flush with young/explosive talent at the WR position, but McNabb has been jettisoned to Washington...DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Macklin are both young stud WR's...Jackson is already a Pro Bowl player who had 8 TD's of 50+ yards in '09...young TE Brent Celek is also a stud...Jason Avant and Mr Kendra Wilkinson aka Hank Baskett will also look to add to this unit...same goes for rookie WR Riley Cooper (5th round Florida)

 The QB entrusted in running this offense is QB Kevin Kolb...Kolb takes over after serving as capable back-up to McNabb for the last 3 years...he set NFL passing records in his first 2 starts with Philly last season...overall career #'s of 4 TD's and 7 INT's are certainly underwhelming though...to have Michael Vick as your #2 QB is a major swing-and-a-miss...when Vick was tossed from the NFL several years ago you would not have wanted him running your offense then...and that was in a controlled environment like the Dome in Hotlanta...now years later he is back, in a horrible climate for his skills and likely 5 years beyond being able to be an NFL QB...in a specific formation like the Wildcat perhaps you can still get Vick a few snaps, but to have him be your #2 guy on the depth chart is bad...I will be watching Training Camp to see if rookie QB Mike Kafka (4th round Northwestern) can climb the depth chart and surpass Vick...as it is entirely possible that Philly has completely mis-managed/mis-evaluated the QB position I will also wonder if Kafka can surpass Kolb at some point

RB LeSean McCoy plays catch me if you can
While I have my doubts on Andy Reid's ability to evaluate QB's, I certainly can appreciate the talent he has provided to the RB position going forward...2nd year player LeSean McCoy looks like the real McCoy...BIG future for this speedster...in Training Camp he will be teamed with free agent Mike Bell and outstanding FB Leonard Weaver to form Philly's 2010 rushing attack...rookie RB Charles Scott (6th round LSU) will try to throw his helmet in the mix too...

To protect everyone mentioned above will be an Offensive Line looking to gel much better than they did in 2009...guys like Jason Peters, Stacy Andrews, Winston Justice, Nick Cole, Mike McGlynn, and A.Q. Shipley will all have a chance to fit into the O-Line rotation...

On Defence the Eagles have a lot of work to do in Training Camp...there are a lot of young players to look at here...Andy Reid is always great at dialing up a vaunted pass rush...he drafts, and coaches to it...it is a priority for him...2010 draft was no exception...witness the talent he has incoming through the draft...DE Brandon Graham (1st round Michigan) DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (3rd round Washington) DE Ricky Sapp (goooood player - a steal in the 5th round out of Clemson) DT Jeff Owens (7th round Georgia) with LB`s Keenan Clayton (4th round Oklahoma) and Jamar Chaney (7th round Mississippi State)...all that talent, plus in the Secondary guys like Nate Allen (2nd round Safety from South Florida) and Trevard Lindley (4th round CB from Kentucky)...a TON of potential here...guys that will be contributing to the Eagles long after the Andy Reid era has concluded

Training Camp is also an opportunity for guys like LB Stewart Bradley to return from injury...Bradley showed in '08 that he is a beast...LB's Omar Gathier and Akeem Jordan will be using Training Camp to try to return to full health...also LB Moise Fokou will need to continue his development

In the Secondary we looked at the rookies added to the mix, but guys like Macho Harris will have to continue to improve...also Ellis Hobbs returns from injury...look for Marlin Jackson and Quentin Demps to use Training Camp to show their worth too

Kick Returner is a lock with stud DeSean Jackson stealing the show

new coach Mike Shanahan with new QB McNabb
No team in this Division has more to gain through Training Camp than this Redskins team...everything is new...coaches, players etc...

QB Jason Campbell is gone...good riddance say `Skins fans...in 52 games started by Campbell was the winning QB only 20 times vs 32 losses...QB Donovan McNabb is in...McNabb was a Pro Bowl QB in 2009 for the 6th time in his career vs 0 for Campbell...McNabb has 161 more TD`s than Campbell...where I am going with this is that the 'Skins made a major upgrade at this position...reminds us of Favre with Minny in 2009...reminds us of Rich Gannon going to the Raiders...Training Camp is the first look for Donovan at his new targets on offense

TE Chris Cooley returns from injury (stud)...he will be paired at TE with up-and-comer Fred Davis and the two should provide McNabb with goal line targets...

New Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan will use Training Camp to figure how to better utilize WR's like Santana Moss, Devin Thomas, and Malcolm Kelly...plus vets like Joey Galloway, Mike Furrey, and Bobby Wade (all were free-agent signings)...Training Camp will also be our first look at 2010 7th round pick Terrence Austin (UCLA)

If the running game can dial up the ol' time machine then this unit is spectacular...Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, and Fast Willie Parker were all at their best, and amongst NFL elite a few years ago...now Shanahan and Sons are hoping the trio can provide a nice RB-by-committee attack...only a hand full of teams ran the ball worse than Washington in 2009...1st round stud OT Trent Williams (#4 overall from Oklahoma and a sure-fire stud) will certainly go a long way in helping the running game (and of course in protected McNabb)

B I G Trent Williams
Rookies Eric Cook (7th round New Mexico) and Selvish Capers (also 7th round - West Va) will try to show in Training Camp that they, along with Williams, can be added to the O-Line to improve the depth...the 'Skins have struggled mightily to protect the QB for a while now...if Shanahan could improve just 1 area in Training Camp I bet he would choose the O-Line...we know Shanahan wants very specific things from his O-Line...he loves a running game where the O-Line sets up cutback lanes for his RB's...a lot of Zone blocking too...remember in Denver it did not matter who the RB was, it was the O-Line that really did the work and set-up the running game's success

On D the 'Skins join the Buffalo Bills as the 2 teams using Training Camp to implement new schemes...Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett will be switching the unit from a 4-3 base D to a 3-4 base D...we know this has already caused an issue with the Incredible Sulk aka Albert Haynesworth...when Fat Albert cashed a $21 million cheque a few weeks ago he had no problem with the transformation, but he sure does now...what a joke this guy is turning into...let's move on shall we...the new 3-4 is a nice fit for rookie LB Perry Riley who may have been a nice pick for Washington in the 4th round...

Speaking of LB's Rocky McIntosh, Brian Orakpo, H.B. Blades, Lorenzo Alexander, Chris Draft, Robert Henson, London Fletcher, Chris Wilson will all be given an opportunity in Camp to show that they can contribute to this unit

The Secondary needs work...Haslett is hoping that a 3-4 will provide the DB's a better opportunity to sit in a zone and pick-off passes...only a few teams had fewer INT's than this unit in '09...newcomer Phillip Buchanon should get a chance in Camp to show that he can contribute...Carlos Rogers and DeAngelo Hall will have to improve too...'Skins also have young DB's like Justin Tryon and Byron Westbrook looking to improve through Training Camp too

On Special Teams new Punter Josh Bidwell returns to the NFL after an injury-filled 2009...the Kick Returner duties may go to rookie Terrence Austin (Austin runs a 4.38 40-yard dash)

NFC North, and all AFC Divisions are below...scroll down...NFC South and West en route...send me your thoughts at craig.ballard@hotmail.com