NFL training camp 2019: NFC East preview
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:
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.
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.
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.