Preseason Watchlist - NFC East
By Jason Wood
July 26th, 2010

Dallas Cowboys

  • Link: http://www.dallascowboys.com/fans/camp.cfm
  • Location: Alamodome (San Antonio, TX) / Marriott Residence Inn (Oxnard, CA)
  • Dates: July 24 (Rooks & Vets) - August 6 (TX) / August 14 - August 27 (CA)
  • Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)
  • The Cowboys will be busier than most this preseason as they not only play five preseason games including the Hall of Fame Game, but they are also splitting their training camp between the Alamodome and Oxnard, CA. The Cowboys have lofty expectations this year after getting over the playoff hump last season. This camp will largely be about reinforcing what they already know, with most starters returning from a division winning unit a year ago. As one of the first teams to start camp, it's impressive to think that Dallas already has all its rookies under contract, including 1st round WR Dez Bryant.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • 8/08 - Cincinnati (8:00 PM Eastern)
  • 8/12 - Oakland (9:00 PM Eastern)
  • 8/21 - @San Diego (9:00 PM Eastern)
  • 8/28 - @Houston (8:00 PM Eastern)
  • 9/02 - Miami (8:00 PM Eastern)
  • What We're Watching

  • Replacing LT Flozell Adams - Long-time fixture Flozell Adams was cut this offseason as the Cowboys felt he was no longer living up to his reputation and contract. Last year he allowed 8 sacks and committed 13 penalties, so the bar isn't as high as some believe in terms of finding a replacement. Dallas will give 4th year tackle Doug Free the chance to take over but not without first beating out Alex Barron, who the Cowboys acquired via trade from St. Louis.

  • Defining the RB workload - The Cowboys have an embarrassment of riches at tailback, with three players who would probably start on many NFL teams. Some believe this will be the year that Felix Jones overtakes Marion Barber and becomes the focal point of the running game, but Barber is an intense and proud veteran who played most of last season with a torn quadriceps. Fantasy owners will be clamoring for any indication of how the workload will be divided. Entering camp, more fantasy owners are betting on Jones (RB21) than Barber (RB26).

  • WRs Dez Bryant vs. Roy Williams - Rookie Dez Bryant was the first 1st-rounder to sign a contract and will be in camp on time, a huge plus as he attempts to earn a major role in one of the NFC's best offenses. Bryant has the skills and pedigree to be a long-time starter opposite Miles Austin, but the Cowboys won't push inconsistent Roy Williams aside for the sake of it. Don't be surprised if Bryant wins the job in camp, but it's not the foregone conclusion some may think.

  • FS Battle: Hamlin vs. Ball - The Cowboys expect Alan Ball to start at free safety, but last year's 5th rounder Michael Hamlin has opened eyes and could get the nod with a strong camp. Either way, the Cowboys will spend a lot of time working on their pass defense after a 20th place finish last season.

  • Is PK David Buehler the answer? - Dallas enters camp with only David Buehler on the roster, a surprising decision considering Buehler has never kicked an NFL field goal. He made the team last year as a kickoff specialist, but will have to be spot on in camp to not invite some veteran competition.

  • New York Giants

  • Link: http://www.giants.com/news/headlines/story.asp?story_id=44067
  • Location: University of Albany (Albany, NY)
  • Dates: August 1 (Rooks & Vets) - August 20
  • Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)
  • New York starts training camp on the later side, waiting until August to head to the University of Albany. After a few seasons of a more relaxed pace, expect camp to be intense this year as HC Tom Coughlin and his assistants look to avoid back-to-back subpar seasons. New defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will work hard to reestablish the Giants defense as a plus, after completely falling apart over the final 11 games of 2009. There are plenty of other camp battles this year, on both sides of the ball. This will be one of the more fascinating camps to track.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • 8/16 - @New York Jets (8:00 PM Eastern)
  • 8/21 - Pittsburgh (7:00 PM Eastern)
  • 8/28 - @Baltimore (7:30 PM Eastern)
  • 9/02 - New England (7:00 PM Eastern)
  • What We're Watching

  • Deciphering the RB situation - Neither Ahmad Bradshaw nor Brandon Jacobs were able to carry the load last year and both had offseason surgeries. Yet the Giants were content to bring them back this year and hope for a different outcome. Fantasy owners still believe Jacobs (RB25) will outperform Bradshaw (RB35) but given their injury histories, the potential is there for one of them to be a huge fantasy steal if they get a preponderance of the workload.

  • Is WR Hakeem Nicks ready for ascendancy? - Nicks played well as a rookie but his numbers were even better than they seemed when you realize he played on a broken toe for the entire season. Now healthy, and with a full preseason to build on, Nicks should easily distance himself from Mario Manningham in camp. But what fantasy owners want to see is evidence that he can be an elite receiver, someone capable of performing at a Top 15 level and possibly even scoring more fantasy points than Steve Smith.

  • Is LB Keith Bulluck still an impact defender? - On the eve of training camp the Giants signed Keith Bulluck to solve their problem at middle linebacker. The 10-year veteran was an 8-year starter in Tennessee but is coming off ACL surgery and not yet 100%. Can this career outside linebacker be the answer in the middle, or will the Giants have to go back to the original plan of letting Jonathan Goff, Phillip Dillard and Chase Blackburn fight for the job?

  • Are S Kenny Phillips and CB Aaron Ross healthy? - It's no coincidence that the Giants defense became a sieve after Kenny Phillips was lost for the season. The Giants are counting on him to return to form and pair with free agent Antrel Rolle to reshape the defensive backfield. Aaron Ross is also a vital component to the CB mix.

  • Replacing Domenik Hixon - The Giants released Domenik Hixon after he suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason, which leaves a gaping hole in the return game. Hixon was responsible for the majority of the team's punt and return yardage. Training camp will be a spirited battle between a host of players, with Sinorice Moss probably being the clubhouse favorite particularly because he may be a long shot to make the roster otherwise.

  • Philadelphia Eagles

  • Link: http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/news/TrainingCamp.html
  • Location: Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA)
  • Dates: July 26 (Rooks), July 29 (Vets) - August 17
  • Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)
  • The Eagles head to Lehigh University for the 15th consecutive preseason with a lot more questions than is typical of an Andy Reid team. There are position battles shaping up on both sides of the ball, as well as the little matter of a new starting quarterback. Are the Eagles rebuilding or reloading? We'll find out soon enough.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • 8/13 - Jacksonville (7:30 PM Eastern)
  • 8/20 - @Cincinnati (8:00 PM Eastern)
  • 8/27 - @Kansas City (8:00 PM Eastern)
  • 9/02 - New York Jets (7:30 PM Eastern)
  • What We're Watching

  • QB Kevin Kolb's time has come - The Eagles have committed to Kevin Kolb after trading Donovan McNabb to the Redskins and re-working Kolb's deal, but fans won't tolerate learning on the job. Kolb is expected to be as good, if not more efficient executing Andy Reid's classic West Coast offense than McNabb was. That's enormous pressure.

  • Can RB LeSean McCoy be a full-time player? - LeSean McCoy had moments as a rookie but we simply don't know if he's got what it takes to play the major role the Eagles were hoping for when drafting him as Brian Westbrook's replacement. The key for McCoy in camp is proving he can pass block, something he was woefully inadequate at last year.

  • Replacing C Jamaal Jackson - Jackson thinks he'll be ready for Week One but that's an optimistic timetable for his recovery from knee surgery. Three players will wage a battle in camp for the job as Nick Cole (Jackson's replacement last year) will need to hold off A.Q. Shipley and Mike McGlynn.

  • Finding a starter opposite DE Trent Cole - You would think a team that finished 3rd in the league with 44 sacks wouldn't have a question mark at defensive end, but the Eagles are very much looking for either Darryl Tapp or rookie Brandon Graham to push Juqua Parker for the starting left end position.

  • Who starts at strong-side linebacker? - Philly hasn't had a dominant collection of linebackers in a long time but have reason for optimism this year. Ernie Sims, acquired via trade, will be a fixture on the weak-side while Stewart Bradley should be 100% recovered from the season-ending injury that cost him all of last year. On the strong-side, Moise Fokou, Alex Hall and Akeem Jordan will wage a camp war for the job. Fokou is probably the favorite but Jordan played very well outside last year, and can't be discounted.

  • Are the guards healthy? - Both Todd Herremans and Stacy Andrews struggled last year through injuries and the Eagles desperately need them to bounce back with strong seasons. If either have difficulty participating in camp, the offensive line might not have the cohesion necessary to keep Kevin Kolb healthy.

  • Is S Nate Allen the answer? - No one thought replacing Brian Dawkins would be easy but last year the team had absolutely no answer. Early in the 2nd round the Eagles hope they found his long-term replacement in Nate Allen. Allen is expected to earn a starting job right away, which would make transitioning Macho Harris to CB more feasible.

  • Washington Redskins

  • Link: Redskins Training Camp Information
  • Location: Redskins Park (Ashburn, VA)
  • Dates: July 29 (Rooks & Vets) - August 19
  • Open to the public? - YES (free of charge)
  • The Redskins underwent as many changes this offseason as any team in the league. Mike Shanahan takes over as head coach, and he and his son Kyle will implement his version of the West Coast offense which also utilizes a zone-blocking run scheme. New defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will try to change the defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Oh, and there's the little matter of a new quarterback best known for spending the last decade beating up on the Skins.

    Preseason Game Schedule

  • 8/13 - Buffalo (7:30 PM Eastern)
  • 8/21 - Baltimore (7:00 PM Eastern)
  • 8/27 - @New York Jets (7:00 PM Eastern)
  • 9/02 - @Arizona (10:00 PM Eastern)
  • What We're Watching

  • QB Donovan McNabb takes the reins - Donovan McNabb has led the Eagles to the playoffs 8 times and now will try to bring his winning ways to a former division rival. McNabb must adjust to a new system, new coaches, new teammates and a new environment; and expectations are sky high.

  • RBs Clinton Portis vs. Larry Johnson - Ironic that Clinton Portis is reunited with the coach who traded him away in his prime, but that's exactly the situation he faces this year. Portis has to be on top of his game to hold onto the starting job, particularly because Shanahan has always thought highly of Larry Johnson. Fantasy owners will be watching the preseason intently to see if the coaches plan on giving one of these veterans the lion's share of the workload or if they'll be part of a dreaded committee.

  • Finding a WR2 - Neither Devin Thomas nor Malcolm Kelly have done enough to instill confidence, and with new coaches, both have to prove themselves all over again. While Santana Moss is safely entrenched as the WR1, can either Thomas or Kelly earn the starting job opposite him? If not, will the Redskins look to free agency?

  • TEs Chris Cooley vs. Fred Davis - Fantasy owners seem resolved that Chris Cooley will bounce back from last year's injury and return to his Top 10 fantasy ways. Yet Fred Davis played exceedingly well in Cooley's stead last year and it's illogical to think he won't have a chance to earn a major role. Might they both play in a base 2TE system? It's possible given the aforementioned WR situation.

  • Rebuilding the offensive line - The Redskins need to protect Donovan McNabb but the coaching staff has its work cut out for it in camp. Rookie Trent Williams is expected to lock down the left tackle job while offseason acquisition Jammal Brown will start on the right. Right guard Mike Williams will miss the season with blood clots, which means Chad Rinehart and Artis Hicks will battle for the honor.

  • Does DT Albert Haynesworth have a role with this team? - Albert Haynesworth has made life impossible this offseason and neither the coaches nor his teammates appear to want him back. But he's an immense talent and the Redskins have a huge financial investment in him. Is it possible for him to make amends? Unlikely, but don't rule anything out.

  • Solving the return game - The Skins averaged a woeful 4.8 yards per punt return in 2009 and only 21.7 yards per kickoff return. Last year's top returners (Antwaan Randle El and Rock Cartwright) are gone, which leaves a lot of players competing for the roles.

  • Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to wood@footballguys.com.

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