Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Frozen East

Right, time to tackle the focus of NFC East training camps. And I hear by promise no more Favre talk until the first regular season game, unless by some miracle he decides to attend training camp. So let's crack on: Philadelphia Eagles Well there's an obvious place to start here; Kevin Kolb. With the entire offense laid in his hands, it's time to find out just what Kolb is made of. It's believed that compared to McNabb, Kolb will be better able to handle the short passing aspects of the 'West Coast Offense' that the Eagles use. Certainly this was McNabbs downfall. Despite having a great arm, he often lacked the touch necessary on some of the shorter throws and struggled at times with his short to intermediate accuracy. Kolb is supposed to be the polar opposite. For Kolb it's all about getting into rhythm with his receiving corps and developing that natural sense of timing that is so essential to 'West Coast' QBs (and all QBs in my opinion, but that can be an uphill battle). It remains to be seen how he will handle the possibility of being intermittently plucked from the field on 3rd downs and short yardage situations in favour of Vick, assuming that Andy Reid continues with this practice. Two other key questions exist though. How will the Eagles running game get on this year? And how will the defense respond in its second year under D-coordinator Sean McDermott? On the running backs front, much will depend on FB Leonard Weaver to carry on where he left off last year. Defensively, questions abound surrounding the D-line, which was furnished with four new draft picks this year, one of whom the Eagles traded up to get (Brandon Graham) (I also like Jeff Owens, taken in the seventh round). Is this the signal for whole sale changes or just building for the future? I imagine the Eagles will spend a healthy amount of camp time working on getting that anaemic run game going to ease the pressure off Kolb and there will be some furious battles for those starting D-line spots. New York Giants Offensively, the Giants are in pretty good shape. Brandon Jacobs needs to get his mojo back and start contributing more, but other than that the Giants are pretty solid. I still question Eli Mannings status as a top tier QB and I still wonder if his attempts to become an all seeing, all knowing, audible machine like his brother aren't going to hurt the team in the long run, but generally you can't complain that much about this unit. Ohhhh but you can about the defense! And as long time readers know, I like nothing more than a good moan and complain. There are three key areas the Giants need to focus on during training camp: D-line, Linebackers and the Secondary. So yeah, the whole lot. Up front Umenyiora, Tuck, Canty and Kiwanuka need to step up big this year. With rookie Jason Pierre-Paul lurking in the background, it's time for this group to step up and make a difference once more for the Giants. This becomes even more important considering what's going on behind them. With the retirement of Antonio Pierce the Giants just lost their defensive leader. While the addition of Keith Bulluck fills the hole to some degree, if he is going to be calling the signals then he needs to spend the large duration of training camp grabbing his team mates by the balls and asserting his authority. He has approximately one month to get to grips with the defensive system and all its adjustments ready for game time. That's a lot to ask of one player and the danger is that come week 3 or 4, there will be too many chiefs and not enough Indians. Or too many cooks spoil the broth. Etc. You get the gist. On the back end, the injury to Kenny Philips has just basically made Antrel Rolle the new de facto play maker that everyone will look to for some big plays. That's a lot to heap on a guy who has only just walked into town. It is vital that over the coming weeks he slots in seamlessly with all the other defensive pieces. In short, the Giants have got a ton of work to get through and not enough time to do it. Dallas Cowboys Well at least we know who will be the two top receivers in Dallas going into week 1. But who will be the starting running back? This could be one of the more interesting camp battles. Barber still has power but it's obvious he doesn't have the explosive speed of Felix Jones or Tashard Choice, with Jones being the most likely of the two to realistically challenge him. The question is whether Jones can step up this August and prove that he is ready to assume the main role, relegating Barber largely to third down and short yardage status. I imagine Wade Phillips will be watching this clash intensely. Someone who has more of a 'free' hand is Doug Free (see what I did there? My talents are wasted). Free is assuming the left tackle spot and must step up to the plate sharpish, or else Romo will be getting the telephone book out and looking up the number of a good back surgeon. And Free will be looking for a new team. Other than that, the 'Boys are looking in good shape and are hotly tipped for a trip to the big one. With the Super Bowl being held in Dallas, this would be a handy f*%£ing time for them to deliver on the hype. It might help their cause somewhat if the secondary were given a crash course in proper tackling, one of their biggest flaws in my opinion. Washington Redskins Christ, where do we start? McNabb? Many would argue that even with guys like DeSean Jackson he still couldn't get it done in Philadelphia, so how is moving to a team that boasts Santana Moss and Joey Galloway as numbers one and two on the receiving depth chart going to help? The time then for Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas has arrived. Expect Shanahan to demand that these two previous second rounders start earning their keep. The 'Skins must get their passing game going (the development of TE Fred Davis will help), because their rushing attack sure as heck isn't going to cut it. Clinton Portis last year was not the Portis we are used to. Will linking up again with Shanahan and his run heavy version of the WCO turn things around? ...... I'm not convinced. Nor am I convinced by the signing of Larry Johnson, who went from 3 yards a carry behind the Chiefs line to have a pretty good year behind the Bengals line. But then the Bengals line last year could have made me into a 4.5 yard per carry RB. Washingtons line? ........ I'm not convinced. Scooping free agent Guard Artis Hicks was a big help though. There is of course one last hope. My man Willie Parker. Parker is 29 and the moniker 'fast' Willie Parker should probably be changed to 'Almost as fast' Willie Parker. But let's not forget something key here; Parker was the number one in Pittsburgh last year until his injury which allowed Rashard Mendehall to sneak in and steal the starting spot. And it's not like he blew a knee or an ankle which is usually the kiss of death for a RB. It was turf toe. Parker can still get it done and I hope for his sake he gets the chance to do it. I'm rooting for you Willie (no jokes please). Now, defense. Haynesworth. Still not passed conditioning test due to knee trouble = bad news for Washington. Whatever you think of Haynesworth, he is a great 3 technique tackle . It remains to be seen how well he will perform as the Nose in a 3-4 front, if he even agrees to do it. Why Shanahan can't just stop being a c**k and move him to DE, letting him play in his favoured 3 technique home with the excellent Brian Orakpo rushing from behind him is beyond me. It seems the most logical choice in order to please all parties. Haynesworth gets to play in his favoured role and Shanahan gets a great D-line playing happy. Well, as happy as Albert Haynesworth can be. Other than that minor (major?) glitch, the Redskins D is in fine shape for the coming year. It all depends now on whether Shanahan (both of them) can coax something resembling a respectable points score out of his offense. The O-line and receivers must take the brunt of the pain throughout camp. Expect them to be pushed hard to make the necessary improvements to get this team off its butt and back in the hunt for a divisional title. ------ So, that's the NFC East wrapped up finally. NFC South is next, probably tomorrow providing all is well. But before we part ways I'd like to draw your attention to the buzz coming out of 49ers training camp surrounding FB Brit Miller, who has been laying people out left, right and center during various drills, as well as catching a pass over the middle for a TD during 7 on 7s. I'd then like to point you back to an article I wrote in March.... .... highlighting Miller as a keeper. I do this only so that if Miller has the kind of season I think he will, I have proof that back in March I f***ing called it. Have a great day everyone.

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