NFC East Training-Camp Battles
By Ken Zalis
We start our look at the NFC with the East.
There's not much drama in the Cowboys' camp, as the starters are secure. Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten make up the skill positions. Not many people will challenge them, but they do have some question marks. Can Murray and Austin stay healthy for all year? Witten, who is now out for a minimum of two weeks, does not seem to have any competition. The often-troubled Bryant has to live up to his talent and promise. Felix Jones remains a solid handcuff for Murray, but is often injured himself.
Name to remember: Wide receiver Cole Beasley has been impressive in camp.
New York Giants
This is another veteran team without much drama. The defending Super Bowl champs parted ways with running back Brandon Jacobs, now in San Francisco, so Ahmad Bradshaw (the fragile one) looks to get more work. He will be pushed by rookie David Wilson, who will figure in the mix to limit the workload on Bradshaw. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks make a solid wide receiver corps, with rookie Rueben Randle looking to make some noise himself this year. Tight end Martellus Bennett was brought in to give quarterback Eli Manning another weapon in the middle of the field.
Name to remember: D.J. Ware is currently the third-string running back, but one injury to Bradshaw would make him a 15-touches-per-game back, who excels in catching passes out of the backfield.
Again, there is no drama in Philly. Michael Vick is the quarterback, with 2011 Pro Bowl honoree LeSean McCoy the primary ball carrier. Wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are on the outside, with tight end Brent Celek in the middle. Yawn. Jason Avant is a solid No. 3 wide receiver and should get playing time, particularly if Jackson and Maclin get injured.
Name to remember: Running back Dion Lewis, who is McCoy's backup. McCoy has been one of the most durable backs in the NFL during the last few seasons, but if you are spending a pick in the top five on McCoy, you better know who his backup is. Now you do.
Now this is an interesting team. Robert Griffin III was drafted to bring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to Washington, D.C. He will start from jump street. At running back, with Mike Shanahan as the coach, this was going to be a mess eventually, so why not start out that way? Roy Helu Jr., Tim Hightower and Evan Royster all started at one time or another last year and all showed flashes of brilliance, yet as soon as you think you know the answer, Shanahan changes all the questions. Helu seems like the most talented of the group, but the coaching staff seems to feel Royster is a better fit for the offense. Hightower sat out of the first preseason game because of a knee injury and may not figure in the running back equation in the end. For now, it's Royster's job to lose. At wide receiver, Pierre Garcon was brought in to be the No. 1 guy, but has much to prove. Leonard Hankerson should have improved during the offseason, and there are high expectations for him. Santana Moss gives Griffin a veteran presence in the slot. Fred Davis is one hiccup away from being suspended for the year, but should beat out veteran Chris Cooley as the starting tight end.
Name to remember: Alfred Morris is a running back with a pulse and on the current roster, so he could get some playing time. Shanahan may even start him in Week One.
We'll return later during the week with a look at the NFC North.
Posted Aug. 15, 2012