Summertime... and the division’s easy
Training camps around the league open this week as 31 teams enter the season with high hopes, and the Los Angeles Rams hope to go 8-8. The wretchedness of the NFC East means every team has a chance to win the division and host a playoff game against a real team that will embarrass them. Here’s some things we’re keeping an eye on when camps open up.
Most exciting camp battle: Backup QB. It’s just a matter of time before Curt Cousins reverts to the Curt Cousins of
old the first half of the 2015 season and starts throwing multiple interceptions game after game. At that point, Jay Gruden will bench him because Jay Gruden loves giving awful white QBs playing time. Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld will battle it out to see who comes off the bench first unless Rex Grossman suddenly winds up on the team, though it doesn’t matter that much because they’ll all get benched at some point.
Offensive player to watch: Matt Jones. The presumptive starter at running back averaged a pathetic 3.4 yards per carry last year, which was worse than DeMarco Murray. He also fumbled a ton, despite being just 34th in the league in carries, he was 4th among RBs in fumbles. Can Jones magically hold on to the ball and advance it beyond the line of scrimmage?
Defensive player to watch: Who signs a 28 year old with one good season of play behind a dominant front to a huge contract? Of course the Redskins do, it’s their thing. Josh Norman was really, really good last year. But so were Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and Kawann Short.
Off-field story line to watch: Dan Snyder sycophant Chris Cooley’s continued detachment from reality.
“The team is so the Seattle Seahawks of 2012, with a little bit more experience at quarterback and maybe a little less talent on defense,” Cooley later said. “They’re winning 11 games, I’ll tell you that, and I’ll give you this as a bold prediction: 12 won’t surprise me. I’m going to say it right now, June 30, before anyone else gets into this, before anyone else jumps on this bandwagon: they’re winning 11 games. They’re winning the division.”
Most exciting camp battle: Kicker! Or maybe long snapper! Possibly left guard! It sure as hell ain’t QB, where the #2 pick will be the third stringer because the Eagles just had to sign Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. Well at least they have the best third string QB in the league now. That’s something.
Offensive player to watch: Carson Wentz, because if it all goes to plan the most playing time he will get this year will be in the preseason. So enjoy it while you can.
Defensive player to watch: Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham. All three are good enough players to start and yet none of them have been quality starters at 4-3 DE. What we expect to be a position of strength might be bad (not good) actually.
Off-field story line to watch: Will Michael Irvin be at Eagles training camp and if so will he interview Tim Hauck.
New York Giants
Most exciting camp battle: Running back. The running game is in consistent decline in the NFL and the Giants have been well ahead of the pack by spending next to no resources on running backs and fittingly getting no production on the ground. Last season Rashad Jennings, Orleans Dawka, Andre Williams and Ben Vereen combined for 5 TDs, the second worst total in the league. This year Rashad Jennings, Orleans Dawka, Andre Williams, Ben Vereen, Bobby Rainey, Paul Perkins, Peyton Hillis, Brandon Jacobs, David Wilson, Andre Brown, Amhad Bradshaw, Kregg Lumpkin and Dave Meggett on a work-release program will battle for the job of falling forward into the Giants terrible offensive line. Should be exciting stuff.
Offensive player to watch: Victor Cruz. Remember when he was good? Yeah I remember 2011 too.
Defensive player to watch: After signing a contract that made him the highest paid DE in NFL history, will Oliver Vernon completely mail it in or just be his usual “good but nowhere near great” self that made that contract an immediate joke?
Off-field story line to watch: Just judging by his facial expressions, Ben McAdoo has trouble understanding words.
Ben McAdoo looks like the head of sanitation for Flavortown pic.twitter.com/pMfb1a44KA— Dave Mangels (@Southern_Philly) January 13, 2016
Now he’s being tasked with leading 90 men, only four or five of whom can play at an NFL level. This seems like a big ask.
Most exciting camp battle: Defensive end. With Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence both suspended for the first 4 games, and Cowboys co-career sack leader Rolando McClain suspended for 10, the already anemic pass rush has nobody you have have heard of vying for starting jobs. Can someone step up? Benson Mayowa has played for more teams (3) than he has sacks (2), David Irving has 0.5 career sacks which means he once touched a QB while a teammate sacked him, and Jack Crawford is best known as Clarice Starling’s boss. 4th round pick Charles Tapper’s best NFL comparison is Jack Crawford, so while the Cowboys are no-deep at DE, they are two-deep at Jack Crawford. Mike McAdoo is the most accomplished pass rusher on the Cowboys with 11 sacks in 2015. In the Arena League.
Offensive player to watch: Kellen Moore. The Cowboys’ season rests on him, because Tony Romo will not make it through the season unscathed. Can Moore out perform the backups of previous years: Jon Kitna, Kyle Orton, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore?
Defensive player to watch: Nobody.
Off-field story line to watch: Can the extra “first round pick” the Cowboys picked up this year do better than the extra “first round picks” they picked up last year?
In efforts to always be better, the Cowboys have hired Scott Sehnert from Auburn as nutritionist. That's like having an extra 1st rd pick.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) June 14, 2016