FOX Sports Exclusive
SCHEIN'S NINE: What I learned at summer camp
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
The questions, seemingly, for the Ravens offense are rather endless.
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.
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.
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 ...