Ezekiel Elliott, Jaylon Smith among Cowboys’ camp storylines
Training camp preview: A capsule look at the NFC East
The grind returns for NFL veterans. Training camp opens this week for the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys, who kick off the preseason schedule in the Hall of Fame Game, and next week for the rest of the league. Things are about to get serious.
Although players for months either have been with their teammates during light offseason workouts and organized team activities or trained privately, the opening of camp means the regular season is fast approaching. Everything ratchets up. Rookies trying to impress coaches, position battles, roster spots to be won — it all happens during camp.
Teams hope to have most questions answered before camp breaks. Today we look at the NFC East, in order of predicted finish this season.
Training camp location: River Ridge Playing Fields, Oxnard, California
Report dates: Rookies, July 17; veterans, July 22
Look out for this guy: As a rookie last season, Ezekiel Elliott was the NFL’s best running back. With a season of experience, don’t be surprised if the 2016 league rushing champion tops 2,000 yards. Only seven players in NFL history have accomplished the feat, with Adrian Peterson in 2012 the last runner to do it. Zeke could get there, too — as long as he doesn’t get tripped up off the field. Elliott was involved in an incident at a bar Sunday night and also is under investigation stemming from a 2016 domestic violence accusation against him.
Camp watch: With the 34th pick in the 2016 draft, the Cowboys selected linebacker Jaylon Smith out of Notre Dame despite the fact that Smith suffered a serious knee injury during his final college game. Smith missed his entire rookie season while Cowboys doctors and trainers worked to get his knee right again. Now, Smith is recovered. That’s good news for the Cowboys, who are counting on Smith to contribute a lot this season.
New York Giants
Training camp location: Quest Diagnostics Training Center, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Report dates: Rookies and veterans, July 27
Look out of this guy: In only his second season, Landon Collins emerged as arguably the NFL’s best safety. Few defensive players at any position were equally as effective — Collins shined against both the run and pass — and there’s no question about who’s the leader of the Giants’ defensive backfield.
Camp watch: Eventually, superstar Odell Beckham Jr. figures to become the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver. But Beckham, who’s still working under his relatively modest rookie contract, doesn’t have much leverage now. Will he be a happy camper?
Training camp location: NovaCare Complex, Philadelphia
Report dates: Rookies, July 24; veterans, July 26
Look out for these guys: Wide receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith were brought in to give second-year passer Carson Wentz a couple of big-time targets. Eagles management believes Jeffrey and Smith will transform the team’s offense from so-so to top-notch. Wentz is even talking about the Eagles going from worst to first in the division.
Camp watch: During his college days at Tennessee, first-rounder Derek Barnett broke the school sack record of Reggie White, an Eagles legend. The Eagles are hopeful the defensive end gets off to a Reggie White-type start in camp.
Training camp location: Bon Secours, Richmond, Virginia
Report dates: Both rookies and veterans, July 26
Look out for these guys: The Redskins took a big chance with their receiving corps, letting veteran standouts Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson walk in free agency. Their replacements? Former first-round pick Josh Doctson, who missed all but two games last season because of a lingering Achilles problem, and converted quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who had 1,000 yards receiving for the Cleveland Browns last season but is still considered raw at the position.
Camp watch: The Redskins have been awful on defense, so they looked to the University of Alabama for help. Washington used its first two picks to select former Crimson Tide players: defensive tackle Jonathan Allen and linebacker Ryan Anderson. The Redskins need both to be big-time performers from the opening kickoff.
NEXT: NFC North