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SCHEIN'S NINE: What I learned at summer camp

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Adam Schein

Adam Schein hosts the "Sirius Blitz" on Sirius NFL Radio from 11-3 ET. He also co-hosts "Loudmouths" on Sports Net New York every weeknight at 6 ET. He is a weekly columnist, files weekly video reports and makes NFL picks "video style" for FOXSports.com.

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Aaah. Summer camp. Pure heat, humidity and excitement for the upcoming season. You never know what you are going to see on a training camp tour. I saw our own Czar at Eagles camp, with thousands of fans chanting his name in the rain during practice. (Or they could've been watching McNabb. Either way.) We traveled to the Saints, Eagles, Redskins and Ravens camps this past week. So we give you the Schein's Nine — strong takes on what I learned at summer camp. 1. Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas will live up to the expectations

I gave Reggie Bush a chance to set the record straight. I asked, "Everyone has an opinion. How would you characterize your NFL career thus far?" His response was telling: "I'd call it average. But trust me, there will be a different answer when you ask me next year." Bush is happy, healthy and distraction-free (he didn't mention Ms. Kardashian by name, but I will) for perhaps the first time in his NFL career. And the "average" label fuels him. Reggie Bush will get his touches. Both Drew Brees and Coach Sean Payton stressed that to me on a hot day in New Orleans. Bush says his goal is to "cause headaches" for defenses and defensive coordinators. Look, he is never going to run the ball between the tackles like John Riggins. But I firmly believe Bush will have the best year of his career in 2009, getting 12-15 carries a game, being a main target for Brees either split out wide or as a receiver out of the backfield and getting an increased role on special teams, something he desires. And the presence of Pierre Thomas lets Bush use his skill set and not try to be something he's not. Thomas has the ability to score touchdowns and move the chains on third downs. Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis believe in Thomas' talent and work ethic to the extent that they didn't bring in another back when they let Deuce McAllister go. Thomas tells us he wants to make these aforementioned decision-makers look brilliant. Drew Brees had a season for the ages and the Saints were average. They lacked balance. It not only hurt the offense, it kept the defense off the field. Bush, who has been good as a pro, will have a breakout season. Thomas will become a fixture in Payton's offense. 2. Jon Vilma is the Drew Brees of the Saints defense

I had to ask Saints DE Will Smith, guest No. 16 of 17 on our Sirius NFL Radio show from Saints camp, if he was reading from a script when he became the fourth player to say, "Jon Vilma is the Drew Brees of this defense." Smith got serious after the indoors afternoon practice and pointed across the field. Sure enough, there was Vilma working with two young linebackers on the jugs machine catching balls, similiar to the scene of Brees tossing the pigskins to Lance Moore after the morning session. It went noted that Smith and fellow longtime Saints defensive end Charles Grant were two of the four players who named Vilma as the leader. For a defense that has sorely lacked teeth and consistency, Vilma is the perfect extension of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams on the field. Vilma is thrilled to be in New Orleans. Vilma tells us that unlike last year, a season where he played great en route to earning a long-term deal with the Saints, he doesn't even think about his health, which cut short his 2007 season in New York with the Jets. Vilma doesn't get enough credit for being a star. His growth was stunted in New York when Eric Mangini miscast him as a 3-4 linebacker. And then he got hurt. Williams' aggressive nature, mirroring that of Payton as an offensive play-caller, will make a huge difference. GM Mickey Loomis beefed up the talent in the defensive backfield. But it will be Vilma's play and leadership that will make all the difference. 3. Haloti Ngata will be my pick for Defensive Player of the Year

I love this cat. He received one of my two votes at tackle for the Associated Press first team last year. And that was a season where the mad scientist Rex Ryan was seemingly doing 1,000 different things with the freakishly athletic 345-pound man. With Rex taking his act to New York to run the Jets, new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison plans on using more of a four-man front and putting a greater emphasis on Ngata sacking the quarterback. Ngata is already the ultimate blend of size, savvy and speed on the line. When pressed for a number of sacks this year, the run stuffer said he would get at least eight. When that happens, it will make Ngata the game's ultimate force on defense. 4. Cam Cameron is the most important person in the Ravens organization this season

The questions, seemingly, for the Ravens offense are rather endless.

  • Is Willis McGahee focused and healthy?
  • Is the offensive line going to gel?
  • Do the Ravens have enough at the receiver position? After initially bristling at the question in a joking sort of way, even John Harbaugh admitted he isn't sure of the answers. Wide receiver Derrick Mason is back and the veteran, who many think is the elite route-runner in the NFL, is the rock. But will Justin Harper, who's turned heads with great catches but flattened expectations with drops on easy plays, make the team and become reliable? Can Kelly Washington live up to his talent? Will it click for Demetrius Williams? Is Mark Clayton healthy? Will the talented tight ends Todd Heap and L.J. Smith stay on the field to be reliable enough and potentially dominant? Yet, there is a wonderful feeling of confidence because of the way Cam Cameron puts his players in position to succeed. Watching him work during practice is quite impressive. Cameron and Hue Jackson are a great combination as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. Cameron did an excellent job keeping defenses off balance last year. It's why Joe Flacco is in prime position to take a major step forward after a great rookie season. Prediction: Cameron gets the most out of Heap and Smith (think about how he used the tight end in San Diego), Matt Birk helps out the offensive line, Flacco becomes a budding star as a opposed to a game manager, and Ray Rice has a breakout season. Cam Cameron is just that good and the players, like they did in San Diego, rave about him. 5. The Stewart Bradley injury in Philly is a huge deal

    I think the Eagles starting middle linebacker is an excellent player who was only getting better. And the Eagles were relying on Bradley to provide needed leadership, especially now that Brian Dawkins flew the coup. This leaves a major void in the middle of the Philly defense. I don't believe young Joe Mays will be the answer. And while general manager Tom Heckert made a nice pick-up with vet Matt Wilhelm, that still represents a major drop-off. 6. The Brian Westbrook injury isn't

    After practice on Sunday, Westbrook had a playful game of catch with Andy Reid and then ran on the side field with a ball in his hands. Nobody we talked to, from Heckert to Reid to Donovan McNabb, seemed concerned about Westbrook's recovery from clean-up surgery. I doubt he'll do much of anything in the preseason and he shouldn't. Westbrook is one of the biggest weapons on offense in the entire league. And the dirty little secret is that he really doesn't need to practice like other players. Plus, LeSean McCoy is going to get 10 carries a game. The baby-faced back, a second- round pick out of Pittsburgh, is going to be a stud. According to Reid, McCoy has really opened eyes at camp. And Heckert admits that if Jeremy Maclin was off the board, the Eagles would've picked McCoy in the first round. The Eagles passing attack should be the best we've seen since McNabb came to Philly. Kevin Curtis is 100 percent healthy. Reid tells us that DeSean Jackson is having a great camp and that another incredible jump after a big-time rookie season is likely. Third-down weapons Brent Celek and Jason Avant, plus Hank Baskett and Reggie Brown, give McNabb some major receiver depth. The Eagles can ease the talented Westbrook back without hurting the club. 7. Jason Campbell needs to grow a pair

    Those aren't my words. They were spoken by tight end Chris Cooley on Monday. And Campbell didn't take offense to the notion. There seems to be a theme from last year's Redskins season that Campbell was way too conservative, often times checking down for no reason. The theories are endless, ranging from protecting his streak without a pick to a learning curve in Jim Zorn's offense. Campbell told us that this year, a make-or-break contract season in Washington, he is going to have a "let it rip mentality." And in watching practice, he most certainly did. Zorn says he sees a comfort level in Campbell. And Campbell promises he won't be afraid of the pick this season. Plus, Campbell has asserted himself as a team leader this offseason and in training camp. In chatting up Campbell, Zorn and Vinny Cerrato, everyone is on the same page on the Jay Cutler flirtation. It was an opportunity to bring in a top-10 quarterback and it was pursued. Campbell says, "Look, I know they looked at him. They didn't make the trade. If I dwelled on it, that would be selfish." I believe in Campbell. I do think he's a proven winner on the collegiate level. But the pressure is going to be at an all-time high in D.C. this year. While I think Campbell will develop what Cooley wants to see, I don't like the right side of the offensive line or the receivers, and that will hurt the quarterback. 8. The Washington defense will be ranked lower this year, but will be more dominant

    Allow me to explain. Quick quiz: Name the four top-ranked defenses in the NFL last year. Did you put Washington fourth? And the reason you didn't is because this defense didn't change games with sacks or picks. It's the reason they brought in star defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth as a big- ticket (literally and figuratively) free agent and wisely spent their first-round pick on Brian Orakpo, who will play linebacker and then end on third down to aid the pass rush. Haynesworth tells us that he hears the skeptics say that he will lay down now that he got paid and swears that won't be the case. The presence of Haynesworth will help Washington pressure the quarterback. And DeAngelo Hall is a 'Skins cornerback for an entire season. I think Hall can get back to his Pro Bowl form. The ranking might drop this year, but I firmly believe Greg Blache's defense will make a stronger impact. 9. A not-so-random collection of thoughts from the road ...

  • Says one opinionated NFLer who would know, "The Jets got a future star in Mark Sanchez, but I'd start Kellen Clemens for at least the first four games with that schedule."
  • Jon Gruden was at Saints camp when we were there and according to the players gave an inspiring pep talk to the players. And Peyton is going to install a "Gruden package."
  • Peyton had some fun with me for giving him a "5" on Memorial Day when we released our organizational rankings here on FOXSports.com. He quipped, "Adam, at least a 7. You aren't taking the 5 home after midnight. At least a 7!"
  • Brightsen's restaurant in New Orleans is fantastic. Get the seafood platter and the bisque.
  • Malcolm Jenkins, Jabari Greer, Darren Sharper and a healthy Tracy Porter are going to really aid the Saints defensive backfield.
  • The crowd turnout at Ravens camp on a Monday and Tuesday was sensational.
  • I hope fans think they are witnessing a living legend every time they see Ed Reed play.
  • The healthy returns of Kelly Gregg and Dawan Landry are the most underrated storylines for Baltimore this year. It's going to make a huge difference on defense.
  • I have no confidence in Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas and Fred Davis taking the necessary steps for the 'Skins. I witnessed Davis drop a pass for a touchdown.
  • Andy Reid has lost a lot of weight and looks great.
  • While I am concerned about the Bradley injury, I am very concerned about the injuries and chemistry on the Eagles offensive line.
  • Ellis Hobbs stresses he was hurt all last year in New England. The new Philly corner will be a weapon for the Eagles on special teams and as a third corner.
  • If the Redskins don't make the playoffs, Mike Shanahan will be the first coach Dan Snyder turns to. Your emails in response to Schein's Nine will be read on FOXSports.com "video style" in the SCHEIN BOX. Adam Schein has joined the Twitter craze. Follow him and get the latest updates on his work at FOXSports.com, SNY and Sirius NFL Radio at www.twitter.com/AdamSchein.
  • Tagged: Bears, Saints, Jets, Eagles, Redskins, Ravens, Darren Sharper, Matt Birk, Deuce McAllister, Donovan McNabb, Drew Brees, Todd Heap, Kelly Gregg, Charles Grant, Kevin Curtis, Albert Haynesworth, Brian Westbrook, Ed Reed, Willis McGahee, Matt Wilhelm, DeAngelo Hall, Will Smith, Chris Cooley, Jabari Greer, Mark Clayton, Jason Campbell, Reggie Brown, Lance Moore, Reggie Bush, Jay Cutler, Haloti Ngata, Kellen Clemens, Jason Avant, Demetrius Williams, Dawan Landry, Hank Baskett, Brent Celek, Stewart Bradley, Pierre Thomas, Joe Flacco, Devin Thomas, Tracy Porter, Fred Davis, Malcolm Kelly, Ray Rice, Joe Mays, Justin Harper, Mark Sanchez, Brian Orakpo, Jeremy Maclin

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