NFC East Preseason Capsules Print
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Monday, 22 July 2013 14:34
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 NFC East preseason capsules (2012 records in parentheses):
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (10-6)
OPEN CAMP: July 25
LAST YEAR: Unique pass-and-run talents of Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III propelled franchise to first NFC East title in 13 years. Griffin was injured along way, however, and had reconstructive knee surgery after first-round playoff loss to Seattle. Redskins have indicated he's ahead of pace to return in time for regular season, and he has been cleared to practice by his doctors. Rookie RB Alfred Morris set franchise rushing record and finished second in NFL behind Adrian Peterson.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Rookie CB David Amerson, rookie TE Jordan Reed, rookie S Phillip Thomas, rookie S Bacarri Rambo, CB E.J. Biggers, WR Donte Stallworth, T Jeremy Trueblood, T Tony Pashos.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: LB Lorenzo Alexander, TE Chris Cooley.
CAMP NEEDS: Everything begins and ends with RG3, which means camp will be 24/7 vigil on state of his right knee. If there are no setbacks, Redskins will again have one of NFL's most exciting offenses. At least one draft pick DB - Amerson, Thomas or Rambo - needs to prove worthy of playing time immediately; defense ranked 30th against pass in 2012.
EXPECTATIONS: Coach Mike Shanahan did remarkable job keeping roster essentially intact, working creative deals to re-sign players after NFL implemented second half of $36 million salary cap penalty for previous overspending. Griffin, if healthy, should only improve in second year, although he'll have to adapt as defenses come up with new ways to stop zone-read attack. If secondary holds its own, Redskins should be in good shape to repeat as division champs.
NEW YORK GIANTS (9-7)
OPEN CAMP: July 26
LAST YEAR: Had another second-half swoon (3-5) and missed playoffs for second time in three years. They won Super Bowl in 2012. Defense was big culprit, giving up 60 plays of 20 yards or more and finishing 31st in league.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: TE Brandon Myers, PK Josh Brown, DT Cullen Jenkins, WR Louis Murphy, LB Aaron Curry, CB Aaron Ross.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, TE Martellus Bennett, PK Lawrence Tynes, DE Osi Umenyiora, DT Chris Canty, LB Michael Boley, LB Chase Blackburn, S Kenny Phillips.
CAMP NEEDS: RB David Wilson, first-round pick in 2012, has to prove he can replace Bradshaw. FB Henry Hynoski comes off knee surgery after minicamp injury in June. Jenkins and rookie DT Jonathan Hankins need to make middle stouter. Linebacking corps is unsettled with Boley and Blackburn gone. Mathias Kiwanuka steps in as he returns to DE as Jason Pierre-Paul recovers from back surgery.
EXPECTATIONS: Lots of ifs, but this is playoff team if defense returns to form. With Eli Manning, re-signed Victor Cruz and healthy Hakeem Nicks, New York will put up points, particularly if line keeps Manning clean. Giants allowed NFL-low 20 sacks in 2012. Defense must be opportunistic again after 35 takeaways last season.
DALLAS COWBOYS (8-8)
OPENED CAMP: July 21
LAST YEAR: Cowboys lost to NFC East rival in playoffs-or-bust finale for second straight year. This time it was Redskins with 28-18 win that extended Dallas' postseason drought to three years and four of past five. Second straight 8-8 season extended remarkable run of mediocrity: Dallas is 128-128 since start of 1997 season.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Rookies OL Travis Frederick, TE Gavin Escobar, WR Terrance Williams; defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: RB Felix Jones, DT Marcus Spears, WR Kevin Ogletree, S Gerald Sensabaugh.
CAMP NEEDS: Cowboys have to decide if Frederick, their first-round pick, is ready to be Tony Romo's center. Release of FB Lawrence Vickers a week before camp means Dallas will have to refine offense that often uses two tight ends. Also means establishing pecking order behind Jason Witten with second-round pick Gavin Escobar, veteran Dante Rosario and second-year player James Hanna. Jones' departure leaves no established backup to RB DeMarco Murray. Switching to 4-3 defense, DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer will continue transition to pure pass-rushing ends. After releasing Sensabaugh, Dallas has to settle on starters at safety with Barry Church and Matt Johnson coming off injuries.
EXPECTATIONS: Cowboys need to win now. Coach Jason Garrett's future probably depends on it. With offensive coordinator Bill Callahan taking over play-calling duties, Garrett can focus on game management, an occasional problem in each of his two full seasons. Romo has to show he deserved contract that made him highest-paid player in franchise history, with more guaranteed money than Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco got. If Dez Bryant continues to trend upward and Murray can stay healthy, Dallas can contend if offensive line improves. Kiffin's defense is simpler than predecessor Rob Ryan's and is supposed to create more turnovers. Linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are being counted on as playmakers.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-12)
OPEN CAMP: July 25
LAST YEAR: Eagles had worst season since 1998, going 4-12 to cost coach Andy Reid job after 14 years. Slew of injuries to key offensive players and porous overall defense turned 3-1 start into flop. Players seemingly quit on Reid during nine-game losing streak and some started questioning commitment of teammates.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Rookie RT Lane Johnson, rookie TE Zach Ertz, TE James Casey, rookie QB Matt Barkley, NT Isaac Sopoaga, LB Connor Barwin, CB Cary Williams, CB Bradley Fletcher, S Patrick Chung, S Kenny Phillips, P Donnie Jones.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB Nnamdi Asomugha, DT Cullen Jenkins, DT Mike Patterson.
CAMP NEEDS: Determining starting QB. Michael Vick and Nick Foles battled throughout spring practices, and rookie Barkley isn't out of contention. New coach Chip Kelly has implemented his unique offensive system since arrival from Oregon; does it translate to NFL, starting in real practices and preseason games? Eagles have plenty of new players and many starting spots up for grabs. Camp returns to Philadelphia after 17 years at Lehigh University.
EXPECTATIONS: Kelly has overhauled roster, changed atmosphere and invigorated stagnant organization. He's innovative, offense-minded coach with impressive track record and is getting paid to turn around Eagles quickly. Still, he may not have players it takes to lead them back to playoff contention in one season.
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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
 

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