NFL

NFL training camp 2019: NFC East preview

By Sports Desk July 17, 2019

The NFC East has seen a lot of movement during the offseason, including huge contract news at the defending division champions the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants losing Odell Beckham Jr.

Let's not forget the murkiness surrounding the Washington Redskins' quarterback situation, and whether Carson Wentz will manage to stay healthy throughout the season for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Cowboys play a more difficult first-place schedule in 2019, while the Eagles look to return to the form that made them Super Bowl champions two seasons ago.

Here's the outlook for the NFC East heading into training camp:

 

TEAM ON THE RISE:

Dallas Cowboys

Are the Cowboys back? They went 10-6 last season to win the division as wide receiver Amari Cooper burst onto the scene in Dallas after he was acquired from the Oakland Raiders. The Cowboys went on to win a playoff game for the first time in four years.

But after a wild-card win over the Seattle Seahawks, they lost in the divisional round to the Los Angeles Rams, keeping the relative heat on coach Jason Garrett.

Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence – who has 34 sacks in five NFL seasons – was signed to a massive five-year, $105million deal, and the team has promised quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott new contracts. How that plays out could affect the season, on the field and off it. 

The team also promoted Kellen Moore to offensive coordinator after a successful season as the team's quarterbacks coach. All the pieces are there for success – the Cowboys simply need to execute.

TEAM ON THE DECLINE:

New York Giants

The Giants have been on the slide, and this year isn't going to be any different.

As previously noted, they ended up trading Beckham to the Cleveland Browns after their relationship soured and included defensive end Olivier Vernon in that deal. Also, Landon Collins left for the Redskins. 

The Giants also pained their fan base when they drafted a quarterback in Daniel Jones with the No. 6 pick in this year's draft but said they still plan on using the ageing Eli Manning, 38.

Essentially, the Giants will have a lot to prove because of their offseason decisions, and in a competitive division, there is no room for error.

ROOKIES TO WATCH:

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Redskins: The team's quarterback situation was in crisis mode last season – Alex Smith suffered a horrifying leg injury that might have derailed his career, and backup Colt McCoy went out a short time later with a broken leg. The Redskins were smart in drafting Haskins out of Ohio State, and apparently he's impressed in offseason work. Technically Case Keenum, who was traded to Washington, is slated to be the starter, but if he flounders in his first couple of starts, the job could belong to Haskins.

Daniel Jones, QB, Giants: How will the Giants use Jones? Many were perplexed over why he was taken so early in the draft, even though the Giants said they planned to use Manning for at least another season. If the Giants are subpar for the first few games, will Jones be subbed in? Or will he sit the entire season as Manning, whose QB rating has dipped the past three seasons, tries to recapture his Super Bowl touch? How the Giants handle their QB situation will be worth watching.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT:

Jordan Howard

The Eagles struggled running the ball last season, finishing 28th in the league, after Jay Ajayi was injured and had to rely heavily on the receiving corps to get things done. That looks to change this season, with the team getting Howard from the Chicago Bears. Before last year, Howard was part of an explosive ground attack in Chicago, running for more than 1,000 yards in 2016 and 2017, but last season new Bears coach Matt Nagy's offensive scheme didn't use him as frequently. Given the need to give Wentz a break and protect him from further injuries, Howard will need to step up and prove to be a productive and reliable back.

KEY INJURIES:

Derrius Guice, knee: The Redskins running back didn't even get a chance to play last year after he tore his ACL in preseason, and a reported hamstring injury causes questions as training camp rolls around. Guice downplayed the hamstring tweak, but the real test will be when he takes the field for his first game. Will he be able to blaze through defenses like he did at LSU?

Carson Wentz, back: The Eagles quarterback said he was almost 100 per cent before June's minicamp after he went down late last season with a fracture in his back, but it marks the second season in a row that Wentz has missed the playoffs due to injury. The question remains if Wentz can remain healthy for an entire season. Without safety net Nick Foles as backup, Wentz will need to be the one to lead the Eagles to the playoffs.

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    Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury expects Michael Crabtree to be a major contributor following his arrival.

    The Cardinals signed wide receiver Crabtree to a one-year deal, reportedly worth $5.5million on Wednesday.

    First-year Cardinals coach Kingsbury discussed the team's decision to sign Crabtree – who swapped the Baltimore Ravens for Arizona – when he met with reporters on Thursday.

    "I think he's been a very productive player in this league," Kingsbury said at his news conference. "Very savvy, mentally tough player, plays physical, brings a lot for our young receivers to learn from and be around.

    "We're excited about him. ... Super competitive. Still has a real desire to play and play at a high level."

    Crabtree, spent last season with the Ravens, catching 54 passes for 607 yards and three touchdowns. He has also played for the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders during his 10-year career. 

    "We like what we've seen on tape," Kingsbury said. "[Cardinals general manager] Steve [Keim] feels really good about it, talking to other coaches and how he's continuing to get better and we think he comes in and provides depth right away. So, we're looking forward to getting him here and getting him out there."

    Crabtree will be competing for the second spot on the Cardinals' depth chart behind veteran Larry Fitzgerald.

    "I know he'll bring some value to our group," Fitzgerald said.

    The Cardinals have two preseason games remaining before they host the Detroit Lions in week one action on September 8.

     

  • Packers, Raiders play on shortened field because of hole in end zone Packers, Raiders play on shortened field because of hole in end zone

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    IG Field typically serves as a Canadian Football League (CFL) venue and when the field's goalposts were moved to accommodate an NFL game, a hole was left in the end zone. 

    Team and league representatives examined the hole alongside officials before deciding on the modified conditions for Thursday's game.

    They ultimately decided to eliminate kick-offs from the contest. Both teams will start with the ball at the 25-yard line instead.

    An NFL spokesman said in a statement: "Tonight's game is being played on a reconfigured field. The field met the mandatory practices for the maintenance of surfaces for NFL games based on an inspection yesterday.

    "Concerns arose today surrounding the area where the Blue Bombers' goal posts were previously located. The 10-yard line will function as the goal line at this game. In lieu of kick-offs, the ball will be placed at the 15-yard line."

    Some thought star Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers would make his preseason debut against Oakland. 

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  • NFL news and notes: Elliott gets an offer, Cardinals and Eagles in rare trade NFL news and notes: Elliott gets an offer, Cardinals and Eagles in rare trade

    Multiple players have yet to report to their respective teams just two weeks before the NFL regular-season opener, but one could be nearing a resolution.

    Meanwhile, another player may not be available for at least a few weeks, and maybe more, after getting into some legal trouble.

     

    Three things that matter

    Chung indicted on cocaine possession charge

    The New England Patriots safety was summoned by a New Hampshire grand jury on the charge, a Class B felony in the state that carries a fine of up to $2,000 and a potential prison term of up to seven years. Even if Patrick Chung is found not guilty of the charge, which stems from June, he will likely face discipline from the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

    "We are aware of the reports regarding Patrick Chung. We will not be commenting while his judicial proceedings take place," a statement from the Patriots read.

    Chung was absent from practice Wednesday ahead of Thursday's preseason meeting with the Carolina Panthers after previously wearing a red non-contact jersey throughout training camp as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.

    He is scheduled to be arraigned August 28, one day before New England wrap up exhibition play against the New York Giants.

    Cowboys offer to make Elliott among highest-paid RBs

    The question is: will he take it? The contract, rumoured to be worth more than Todd Gurley's but less than Le'Veon Bell's, would reportedly net Ezekiel Elliott between $13.135million and $14.375m per year with the Dallas Cowboys.

    Elliott has remained a holdout throughout the preseason over his contract dispute and racked up more than $900,000 in fines for not reporting to training camp. He recently returned to Texas after training in Mexico, but the situation soured this week as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joked about his absence.

    We will see what Elliott's agent has to say about the proposal.

    Arizona swap with Philly in rare player-for-player trade

    The Arizona Cardinals dealt safety Rudy Ford to the Philadelphia Eagles for defensive tackle Bruce Hector. Ford, a sixth-round pick out of Auburn in the 2017 draft, has played 23 games with Arizona over his first two seasons. Hector signed for Philadelphia as an undrafted free agent in 2018 before earning a spot on the team's practice squad. He played eight games as a rookie last season.

    Two things that don't matter

    Steelers name Sherman interim WR coach

    The move comes in the wake of the unexpected death of former wide receiver coach Darryl Drake earlier this month. Drake, who was 62, was in his second season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his passing took a toll on his players.

    Sherman has not coached since he retired following the 2015 season, but the 67-year-old brings four decades of coaching experience at both the college and professional level to the table. He even served as offensive coordinator for the Steelers in 1998.

    Detroit doubles down on Harrison

    The Detroit Lions signed the defensive tackle to a one-year extension worth a reported $11m, which would bring Damon Harrison's guaranteed money to $12 million between 2019-20. 

    The All-Pro defender was traded from the Giants to the Lions midway through last season, bringing his total to 17 games played in 2018. He had 31 tackles with New York before adding 50 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 10 games for Detroit.

    One video you have to see

    Ryan Shazier is getting ready to go back to school next week but found time to give an update on his spinal rehabilitation. He has progressed to box jumps!

    Thursday's tweet of the day

    Antonio Brown could not help but take a shot at his former fan base after a report claimed HBO's "Hard Knocks" ratings in Pittsburgh were triple the national average.

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