NFC East Preseason Capsules
NFC preseason capsules, by division:
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-7)
OPEN CAMP: July 25, Philadelphia.
LAST YEAR: Went from worst to first in Chip Kelly’s first year as coach, lost first-round playoff game to New Orleans. Kelly’s fast-paced, up-tempo offense set several club records, with All-Pro RB LeSean McCoy and Pro Bowl QB Nick Foles leading way. Foles had spectacular sophomore season after filling in when Michael Vick was injured in Week 5. Defense came long way after terrible first month, but struggled in playoff loss.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Ss Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Maragos; RB Darren Sproles; CB Nolan Carroll; LB Marcus Smith; QB Mark Sanchez; WRs Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: WR DeSean Jackson; QB coach Bill Lazor.
CAMP NEEDS: Find way to replace Jackson and RT Lane Johnson. Jackson, three-time Pro Bowler, team’s best deep threat and most accomplished receiver was released in March, signed with Washington. Jeremy Maclin, who missed last year with ACL injury, returns and should help. Rookies Matthews and Huff also will be counted on to fill void. Johnson, No. 4 overall pick in 2013, suspended for first four regular-season games for violating NFL’s PEDs policy.
EXPECTATIONS: Eagles should enter season as team to beat in NFC East. But key to success is largely dependent on whether Foles is the real thing. Foles threw 29 touchdowns and only two interceptions in 11 starts, including playoffs, and had third-highest passer rating (119.2) in NFL history. Defense needs to show improvement for the Eagles to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
DALLAS COWBOYS (8-8)
OPEN CAMP: July 24, Oxnard, California.
LAST YEAR: Cowboys finished third straight 8-8 season with third consecutive loss in finale against NFC East foe with playoff berth on line. Eagles beat them in 2013.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: OL Zack Martin; DE DeMarcus Lawrence; DTs Henry Melton and Terrell McClain; passing game coordinator Scott Linehan.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: LB Sean Lee; DE DeMarcus Ware; DT Jason Hatcher.
CAMP NEEDS: Top priority is replacement for MLB Lee (torn ACL); is that player on roster? Justin Durant enters camp as starter, fourth-round pick Anthony Hitchens and second-year player DeVonte Holloman also in mix. QB Tony Romo enters camp without having worked any competitive situations for second straight offseason, but he’s much further along with latest back issue. Overhaul of defensive line kicks into high gear, with rookie second-rounder Lawrence possible heir to Ware, free agent Melton trying to show he’s recovered from knee surgery.
EXPECTATIONS: Cowboys are without two best players from defense that was worst in league and gave up most yards in franchise history, so hard to imagine anything better than another 8-8. With coach Jason Garrett in final year of contract, anything less than postseason berth could mean Jerry Jones is looking for eighth head coach in 25 years as owner. Dallas had one head coach (Tom Landry) in franchise’s first 29 years.
NEW YORK GIANTS (7-9)
OPEN CAMP: July 21, East Rutherford, New Jersey.
LAST YEAR: Began season losing six games, eliminating chances for playoffs. Defense got stronger with addition of LB Jon Beason, but offense was sporadic as Eli Manning led NFL with 27 interceptions and had meager 69.4 QB rating. Running game sputtered because of injuries, inconsistent line.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: CBs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond and Zack Bowman; DE Robert Ayers; LB Jameel McClain; RB Rashad Jennings; OLs Geoff Schwartz, John Jerry and J.D. Walton; WRs Odell Beckham Jr., and Mario Manningham; KR Trindon Holliday.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: DE Justin Tuck; OL Kevin Boothe; WR Hakeem Nicks; DT Linval Joseph; offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.
CAMP NEEDS: Get Manning back on track and familiar with deeper corps of receivers, and comfortable with new coordinator Ben McAdoo’s schemes. See if Jennings can carry load as top RB, and if David Wilson can return from neck injury. Solidify OL. Find out when Beason can return from right foot injury and seek his replacements just in case.
EXPECTATIONS: Hopes remain high after going 7-3 following horrendous start. But there are lots of new faces on Tom Coughlin’s roster, and it could take time for everything to jell. Still, NFC East has no dominant team, so Giants will be thinking playoffs from outset.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-13)
OPEN CAMP: July 23, Richmond, Virginia.
LAST YEAR: Tension between coach Mike Shanahan and franchise QB Robert Griffin III imploded into worst record since 1994. Season ended with eight-game losing streak, with Shanahan making one last power play by benching Griffin for final three games. Shanahan was fired and replaced by rookie NFL head coach Jay Gruden.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Gruden; WRs DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts; DE Jason Hatcher; S Ryan Clark; Gs Shawn Lauvao and Spencer Long; CB Tracy Porter; LB Trent Murphy; OT Morgan Moses.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: LB London Fletcher; CB Josh Wilson; WR Joshua Morgan; C Will Montgomery; S Reed Doughty; TE Fred Davis.
CAMP NEEDS: Learn Gruden’s offense. Get Hatcher (left knee surgery) healthy. Find out if Clark, who turns 35 in October, can still play. Get a gauge on how soon draft picks Moses and Long will be ready to start. Stamp out any and all residual bad feelings from Shanahan era.
EXPECTATIONS: Gruden is new coach, but franchise revolves around Griffin, who has talent to lead team to a championship. It will be intriguing to see how he handles leadership role with Shanahan gone. There’s no shortage of offensive talent around him – Jackson, WR Pierre Garcon, RB Alfred Morris, TE Jordan Reed – but defense has its questions marks. It’s long way back from 3-13, but Redskins should at least take steps in right direction.
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