Examining the Washington Redskins' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)

Jay Gruden only had two quarterbacks in each of his three seasons with Cincinnati, but Griffin still needs to prove his durability. So nothing has changed since the original posting. If something happened to Griffin, they would still be in good shape with Cousins and McCoy. If they go with two then McCoy gets left off.

Running backs (4)

It's really hard to tell with running backs until the games begin. But, thus far, Chris Thompson has been more impressive than Lache Seastrunk -- though the latter has different speed and flashy moves. I do have a hard time seeing Seastrunk end up being cut so there's a good chance they keep five backs. If Seastrunk has a quiet preseason then they could stash him on the practice squad. Also, Thompson must prove his durability. In the end that will be the deciding factor. Thompson's ability to catch is better at this point, but his pass protection skills are questionable. Seastrunk has to grow here. By keeping four here, the Redskins can go with an extra player at another spot. This means Evan Royster is on the outs, but he doesn’t give the Redskins anything they don’t have in better players. He is insurance only.

Receivers (6)

I still don't think Leonard Hankerson will be ready to start the season on the active roster. I wonder about Robinson, but not the others. While some undrafted free agents have looked good in practice, I learned long ago not to go overboard until you see them in games. Robinson has had a quiet camp in too many regards.

Tight ends (3)

Rookie tight end Ted Bolser had a good day Saturday, or at least a good couple of plays. He looks better than in the spring, which is a good sign. He's still learning the details of blocking, etc., and it could be hard to keep four tight ends this year. Bolser is a good candidate for the practice squad.

Offensive line (10)

In reality, I could see them keeping only nine offensive linemen. At this point it's hard to know which one would be cut. They're not cutting the rookies of course. And LeRibeus looks much better than last summer (working at both guard spots). Compton is a little surprise, but they like him as well and he's looked solid for the most part. I also would be concerned if they needed a backup tackle; not sold that Moses would be ready.

Defensive line (6)

This one is fluid as well because it depends in part on Bowen’s health. I like Chris Neild and so do they, but can they keep him? Golston is more versatile and a key player on special teams, but he’s also 30 and they must get younger at some point. But he still helps in too many ways. Clifton Geathers and Neild will factor in here.

Linebackers (9)

I wasn't going to include Brandon Jenkins this week (easy to say, right?) because he did not take any step up from the spring. Just frustrated the coaches too much. For now I'm going with Jackson, but I don't think that's a lock by any means. Adrian Robinson is one to watch here. The tough call is inside. They really like Will Compton and I think he somehow finds his way onto the roster. But this needs to develop. I think there will be an interesting decision made inside.

Cornerbacks (5)
Chase Minnifield remains eligible for the practice squad and has looked solid in camp. Richard Crawford is coming off a knee injury and needs time to get his game back. The one benefit for Crawford is that he can play in the slot; they need depth at that spot. Breeland has worked there as well however.

Safeties (4)

I did not include Rambo on the original list, but did so now. Why? I haven't seen Trenton Robinson do anything and for now Rambo is working with the second defense. Therefore, I'm going with him for now. Akeem Davis still looks like a practice squader.

Specialists (3)

The Forbath selection is based on never having seen rookie Zach Hocker kick in an NFL game. That's what I said in the original post and nothing has changed. If Hocker is consistent this summer and shows a strong leg, then he can win the job. Thus far he's looked good.
Projecting the New York Giants' 53-man roster after the first week of training camp:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
The Giants didn't like carrying three quarterbacks last year. They did so because they drafted Nassib as a fourth-round project with the thought that he wouldn't be active for any games as a rookie. But this year, they've come out and said that Nassib needs to win the No. 2 job. He worked as the clear No. 2 ahead of Curtis Painter in OTAs and minicamp, and I think he'd have to fall flat on his face in order to lose the job. He's looked terrible so far, but so has the rest of the work-in-progress offense. If Manning goes down, the Giants are cooked anyway, whether it's Painter or Nassib behind him. So they might as well keep developing the kid unless he's totally incompetent.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Five running backs feels like a lot, so Hillis or 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Cox had to go. It's possible the Giants carry five and Williams could start out as this year's Nassib -- a fourth-rounder who's inactive for at least a little while as he gets his feet wet in the NFL with an eye toward a contribution further down the road. If someone gets hurt, Cox or Kendall Gaskins could find his way onto the team.

FULLBACK (1)

It's a camp battle between Hynoski and John Conner, but the Giants won't keep both. And they've been lining tight ends up in the backfield enough early in camp that you start to wonder whether they'll keep a fullback at all. If they do, my hunch is that Hynoski has shown enough ability to produce with the ball in his hands that he'll get the edge in Ben McAdoo's new offense ahead of Conner as long as he's healthy.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

Trindon Holliday doesn't offer much in the passing game, and it's possible he could get squeezed out if the team decides Beckham, Quintin Demps and either Randle or Jernigan are enough to handle return responsibilities. The Giants signed Holliday before they drafted Beckham, after all. At this point, guys like Corey Washington, Marcus Harris and Preston Parker have shown more than Holliday as receivers, and Parker is another guy they feel they can use on returns.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

In spite of the lack of quality experienced options, McAdoo's offense does appear to want to use the tight end a lot. Some Giants fans are hoping an outside name or two can replace some of the ones on this list, but as of now, this is what they have, and they'll hope something decent comes of it. They are eager to see what Robinson can do if he can ever keep himself healthy, and they love what Donnell showed them last year on special teams and think he deserves the reward of an opportunity here.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are injury and health concerns with Beatty and Jerry, but both have been on the field a bit early -- Beatty moreso than the team expected. The Giants signed Brown and Jerry as veteran backups. They like Mosley's upside, and right now he's running with the first team at right guard. He could lose that spot to Jerry or Richburg, but the valuable camp reps will likely make him a useful backup at the very least.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

I thought about undrafted Kelcy Quarles for one of the defensive tackle spots, but the Giants love what they're seeing from Kuhn and Patterson early in camp. Patterson and Jenkins project as starters right now, with Kuhn and Hankins in the rotation behind them.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Kennard's been so good so far that, if they only keep five, you wonder about Paysinger's spot a little it. Williams looks like the starter at the weakside spot, even in the base defense, as long as he can stay healthy. And Kennard is a first-teamer right now on the strong side with McClain manning the middle in place of the injured Beason. Herzlich is on the team for special teams, where he has great value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

It helps the numbers that Jayron Hosley will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season for a drug violation. If he does make the team, the Giants will have to clear a spot for him in Week 5. This group could also swell if the Giants decide they need to keep sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson and/or Charles James for special teams. It's going to be tough to make the Giants' roster as a corner this summer. If one of those guys makes it.

SAFETIES (5)

It's going to be tricky to get fifth-round pick Berhe on this roster, but the Giants like him enough to make room at the expense of someone like Brewer on the offensive line or Charles James at cornerback.

SPECIALISTS (3)

The kicker competition is legitimate between Brown and Brandon McManus, and McManus has looked great so far on field goals and kickoffs. I thought about flipping them, but I'll give it another week before making that move. The other two spots here are in stone barring injury.
IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)


Romo's health will be something that will be monitored throughout camp and perhaps it could force the Cowboys to carry a third quarterback on the 53-man roster as insurance. That would benefit Caleb Hanie, who joined the team in April, or undrafted rooke Dustin Vaughan. The Cowboys haven't kept three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster since 2011, but they don't want to get caught needing a quarterback if something were to happen to Romo and Weeden had to start. For now, however, the plan is to stick with two on the 53.

RUNNING BACKS (4)



Murray had a fumble on his second carry of team drills, but ball security has not been an issue for him in his career. Dunbar has shown up well. Randle's vision and quick feet give him an edge, to me, in this system. He makes it to the hole quicker than Ryan Williams, who is built a little more powerfully. Both players will have to work on pass protection. The fullback role remains in Clutts' possession. It's been too early to see much from the fullbacks.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)


These five remain unchanged, but Jamar Newsome bears some watching as camp goes on. He looks the part. He has decent speed and he has decent hands. It will be interesting to see how he handles the preseason games.

TIGHT ENDS (3)



The Cowboys added Dallas Walker before coming to camp, but he is more about saving the legs of the top three guys. There is a clear gap from Hanna and Walker and Jordan Najvar. I believe the Cowboys will still be looking for more of a blocker as camp goes on.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)


Nwaneri takes the final spot over Brian Clarke from the first projection to open camp. This will likely flip flop throughout camp and the preseason. A lot of it will depend on injuries among the top eight linemen and cost. If a younger player emerges, like Clarke or Ronald Patrick, then they could win that last spot. Leary is battling a hamstring strain that has kept him out the first few days of camp, so Bernadeau is getting the jump on the left guard position with the first team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

Sticking with the same 10 players for now. Gardner injured his shoulder in the first practice and could need some time to heal before he gets back to practice. That could hurt his chances and help somebody like a Ben Bass or Caesar Rayford. Coleman could be the latest of the Cowboys' undrafted finds. He is active but before we get too carried away we need to see how he performs against better than backup competition.

LINEBACKER (7)

I don't like carrying seven linebackers right now, but I'm sticking with it. McClain took second-team middle linebacker snaps, which was surprising considering he was not with the club in the offseason. The Cowboys will give him every chance to show his potential and are hoping the talent is there. He made a tackle on his first snap in team run drills, shaking off a block and bringing down the runner.

CORNERBACK (5)


Carr has not been at camp as he tended to his ailing mother. Claiborne came out as fired up as he had been in his first two years on the first practice. He knows the importance of the season. For now I've got five corners, but I'm going to look to see if it is worth keeping a sixth. Tyler Patmon and B.W. Webb would be in that mix.

SAFETY (5)

Dixon gets the final spot, but he would be out if I do go with six corners for the next projection. And he also needs to watch undrafted rookie Ryan Smith. He's splitting time on the third team with Dixon right now. This spot won't shake out until the preseason ends.

SPECIALISTS (3)


No change here. Not sure there will be a change all camp.

Cowboys Camp Report: Day 4

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
10:20
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Dallas Cowboys training camp:
  • Tony Romo averaged just 7.2 yards per attempt in 2013 as the field shrunk on the Cowboys. Through two padded practices Romo is looking to get the ball down the field. On the first play of team drills he connected with Dez Bryant on a deep ball after Bryant left cornerback Morris Claiborne. In seven-on-seven drills he led Terrance Williams for a big gain with Williams out-jumping B.W. Webb for the completion and getting his feet down before he went out of bounds. In team and seven-on-seven drills Romo completed 13-of-17 passes. He was intercepted for the first time in camp when Devin Street slipped, allowing Sterling Moore to make the pick.
  • DeMarco Murray showed a burst of speed on a run up the middle of the Cowboys’ nickel defense that had running backs coach Gary Brown oohing and aahing. After seeing the hole open in front of him, Murray accelerated through the line untouched and then received some down-field blocking help from Bryant. Later in third-down drills, Murray caught a Romo dump off for a first down working his way through cornerback Orlando Scandrick for the pickup.
  • Injuries are always a worry early in camp and the Cowboys lost Matt Johnson (hamstring), Terrell McClain (ankle) and DeVonte Holloman (dehydration), and it could have been worse. Safety Jeff Heath jammed his right wrist while attempting to tackle Lance Dunbar on a run. He was examined by the medical staff and was able to return after a tape job. Bruce Carter left briefly during one-on-one drills with a sore knee but he returned and said after practice he was OK.
  • There could be something of a rotation in the battle to be the Cowboys’ third running back. Ryan Williams took the third-team snaps over Joseph Randle, who took that work on Saturday. Williams showed great patience on a screen pass from Brandon Weeden in third-down drills. He nearly came up with a Dustin Vaughan throw on a wheel route after beating linebacker Dontavis Sapp down the sideline, but the pass was just out of his diving reach.
  • Dan Bailey made five of six kicks in his first live work of training camp. Bailey made kicks from 34, 38, 41, 44 and 48 yards. His one miss came from 51 yards in which he hooked the ball left. An interesting note with the first-team field goal protection team: center Travis Frederick lined up as the left wing. Normally that position has been reserved for a tight end or defensive lineman. And for some reason the Cowboys keep Witten on the field goal unit as the right wing.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Head coach Jason Garrett pretty much guaranteed an elite performance by Dez Bryant during Sunday’s practice.

Bryant
Bryant
Garrett made sure to get under Bryant’s skin the previous afternoon, throwing another log on the Pro Bowl receiver’s competitive fire. The head coach loudly provided some intentionally inaccurate color commentary after Bryant got wide open but was overthrown on a pass during 1-on-1s, barking that cornerback Orlando Scandrick had kicked Bryant’s butt on the rep.

“I had my reasons for saying what I said, and so, Dez Bryant’s going to be ready to go today,” Garrett said before Sunday’s practice. “Trust me.”

Not exactly a bold prediction, but it proved to be true.

Bryant actually got off to a bit of a slow start in 1-on-1s, as cornerback Morris Claiborne had pass breakups on their first two reps. Claiborne would have been called for holding on a curl route, but he made a nice play to bat away a deep ball on the second throw.

That didn’t sit well with Bryant, who responded in spectacular fashion, torching Claiborne on a slant-and-go the next time they matched up.

Claiborne was toast as soon as Bryant made the double move, having bitten hard on the slant. Claiborne was at least 15 yards behind Bryant as he caught the pass and sprinted into the end zone.

In team drills later in the practice, Bryant put another highlight on the reel at Claiborne’s expense, burning him on a go route for what would have been another long score.

Claiborne had taunted Terrance Williams during 1-on-1 drills Saturday, shouting that they better bring Bryant over to compete against him.

Be careful what you wish for, especially after the head coach has been talking trash to the No. 1 receiver.

Eagles Camp Report: Day 2

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
9:00
PM ET
PHILADELPHIA -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Philadelphia Eagles training camp:
  • It isn't always easy to make sense of a fast-paced Chip Kelly practice in real time. But there were some interesting things going on Sunday afternoon. Matt Barkley, who is supposed to be competing with Mark Sanchez for the No. 2 quarterback job, may actually be competing with G.J. Kinne for the No. 3 slot. Kinne, who has been throwing the ball well, was third throughout most of Sunday's session. Last year, Kinne was cut during training camp but he finished the season on the Eagles' practice squad. Barkley has an advantage as a fourth-round pick from last year, but Kelly always says there is open competition for every job.
  • Kelly's practices are broken up by intermittent teaching periods. On Sunday, those mostly turned into water breaks. Weather forecasts had called for a cooler day with rain throughout the morning and afternoon. But it was sunny and reached 90 degrees, with high humidity. The players didn't have pads on, but they were feeling the heat.
  • The best evidence of the heat was the first scuffle of camp. Linebacker Trent Cole took a little shot at running back LeSean McCoy, knocking McCoy down. McCoy, who felt the defense has been a bit liberal in the amount of contact dished out, came back at Cole. The two wrestled before teammates got involved and separated them. Cole and McCoy were joking about the whole thing by the end of practice.
  • Kelly confirmed Saturday that the Eagles will not tackle to the ground during practice sessions. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said that's typical, "because of the way you expose too many people to injury on a daily basis." But it is Davis' job to teach sound tackling technique despite those limitations. "A lot of that is body placement," Davis said. "If you can continually work on putting your head in front of the ball carrier, as opposed to behind -- I think one of the biggest problems we had last year when I broke down the tackling issues was our head placement was always behind the ball carrier, leaving all arm tackles." Davis said the Eagles improved their technique during the season "and we have to build on where we left off at the end of the season."
  • First-round pick Marcus Smith continues to run with the third team at left outside linebacker -- the Jack linebacker position -- behind Connor Barwin and Bryan Braman. "They come at their own pace," Davis said. "We give them every opportunity to teach and grow them. … Marcus is a very hard worker and a very intelligent guy and very athletic. So you have a bunch of characteristics you look for in all Eagles players. He cares a lot about the game. One of the biggest things that attracted us to him was that Louisville and (coach) Charlie Strong's defense is a lot like ours, and the way they used him is a lot the way we use our Jack position."

Redskins Camp Report: Day 4

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
7:45
PM ET
RICHMOND, VA. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Washington Redskins training camp:
  • The Redskins made their first cut of camp, releasing second-year linebacker Brandon Jenkins after a rugged start to camp. He had a particularly tough day, getting chewed out a couple times by his position coach Brian Baker for his pass rushes. Though Rob Jackson is a veteran it’s not a lock that he’ll automatically be the fourth outside linebacker. Adrian Robinson looked good Sunday, for example. “We like the play of the guys behind him,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of the release. “We thought the earlier we make that move to give Brandon a chance to go somewhere else would be beneficial to him.” The Redskins still have a roster spot available and will bring in some free agents Monday, including defensive end Everette Brown (as first reported by NBC-Channel 4).
  • Along with releasing Jenkins, the Redskins took offensive lineman Maurice Hurt off the physically unable to perform list. Hurt failed his physical and at the time Gruden said Hurt was out of shape, but said after further review “something wasn’t right and we wanted to make sure he was healthy.” But he declined to say what wasn’t right, but did say Hurt’s weight was fine. Hurt will have a tough time making the roster regardless.
  • Redskins owner Dan Snyder made his first appearance at training camp Sunday morning, a departure from last season when he was more present. Snyder used to be a staple at training camp practices. On a dreary day, the Redskins drew 6,668 fans in attendance on Military Appreciation Day.
  • Not sure what will get the players more jacked up: Going in full pads with more live hitting Monday morning or the fact that the walk-through that afternoon was cancelled. The Redskins never had live drills where there “might be some tackling involved,” Gruden said. As for giving the players the afternoon off, with an off day Tuesday, Gruden said, “I’m tired of looking at them and I want them out of the building for a few hours.”
  • Quarterback Robert Griffin III had one of his better throws in camp Sunday morning, tossing a deep out over corner E.J. Biggers to receiver Ryan Grant. Griffin got away with a couple passes that should have been intercepted, but were dropped. Griffin has cut down on the number of times he’s taken off from the pocket as camp has progressed (and it’s not always on him as to why he runs). He did take off one time and showed good speed getting around the edge, with linebacker Brian Orakpo in pursuit, but did not have room to do much other than get out of bounds. Also liked when Griffin whipped a pass underneath to tight end Jordan Reed, showing torque that he didn’t always display in 2013.

Giants Camp Report: Day 5

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
7:00
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • Much better day for the offense Sunday, the team's first day in full pads. They ran a couple of nice short screen passes from Eli Manning to Rueben Randle early in the team period. Victor Cruz made a tough diving catch along the sideline. Rookie Andre Williams looked good slipping through the line on a couple of carries. Tight end Kellen Davis made a nice catch in coverage from Ryan Nassib, who also threw a touchdown to Marcus Harris and was generally much more accurate than he'd been so far. As coach Tom Coughlin says, it's slow progress and there's a lot to learn. But after the way the defense dominated Friday, it was nice for the Sunday crowd of about 3,500 to watch the offense have some fun.
  • Cornerback Walter Thurmond is on Cruz a lot, possibly because he's the slot corner and Cruz is the slot receiver. But Thurmond can stay with guys on the outside as well. I had a scout tell me during the spring that Thurmond is "elite" as a slot corner but more than capable if he has to fill in as a starter as well, and you can see why. He doesn't give up in coverage. When the quarterbacks were throwing deep balls and it was corners vs. wide receivers one-on-one, he knocked the ball away from Cruz. In that same drill, I saw Dominque Rodgers Cromartie break up a long pass to Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan catch one against Prince Amukamara.
  • First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) fielded some punts but did no running and did not practice with the team otherwise. Coughlin is growing frustrated with the situation. In addition to Beckham, WR/KR Trindon Holliday sat out with some sort of leg injury and TE Xavier Grimble sat out with a hamstring injury.
  • Andre Williams got through the line again later, delivering a shot to linebacker Mark Herzlich along the way. But defensive tackle Markus Kuhn was waiting for him and laid him out without even leaving his feet. Kuhn is quite large.
  • Brandon Mosley continues to take all of the first-team snaps at right guard. Coughlin grumbled a bit when asked about the progress of John Jerry from spring knee surgery, saying "I hope today was better than Friday," but Jerry is still quite limited and you have to think all the reps Mosley is getting set Mosley up well if it's a competition for the spot.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The NFL wasn't the first place Rashad Jennings found himself overlooked. By the time he'd been a seventh-round pick and a backup to Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville and Darren McFadden in Oakland, Jennings had already made his peace with the idea that nothing was going to come easy for him.

"I've never stopped growing," the New York Giants' new starting running back said before a practice last week. "I had to, because when I was a little, short, fat, overweight kid, dorky with glasses, I had to figure something out. It's a blessing not to be the most talented guy when you roll out of bed, not to be the fastest guy. It keeps that chip on your shoulder."

Jennings
Signing the 29-year-old Jennings was one of the first things the Giants did in their incredibly busy free-agent season. Rather than let the market sort itself out, they jumped to get Jennings, who tore them up a bit as Oakland's starter in Week 10 last year and impressed them as someone who hasn't yet had a chance to showcase his full range of skills because he's played behind others. They see him as a do-everything type of back, who can carry a starter's workload, can catch the ball out of the backfield and can be used at the goal line as well.

Now, he may not have to do all of those things, because right now they have David Wilson and Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis as options as well. And if everyone stays healthy, the running back group should be deep enough to help the coaches keep everyone fresh and put them in the best possible positions to succeed. But Jennings is ready for whatever they want to throw at him.

"This opportunity is great," Jennings said. "I have prepared to start every day since I've entered the league. I've been like that since college. I am not taking this for granted. I'm humble."

He looks good on the field so far in training camp in a variety of roles. He seems to have fit in quite nicely in the locker room. He has an engaging personality and a great deal of confidence, which he says is brought on by his devotion to year-round training and nutrition.

"What separates guys as they continue to play is what they do in the offseason," Jennings said. "I train year-round. And the way I eat, the way I sleep, the nutrition, massage, M.A.T., chiropractor, all those little things. If it works a little, I want a lot of it."

I had to look up M.A.T., but I'm pretty sure he's referring to muscle activation techniques, which is a process that measures and develops the efficiency of a person's muscle contraction. This is a dude who is paying attention to his body and making sure it's in the best possible condition to take advantage of the opportunity now in front of him. He said sitting behind Jones-Drew and McFadden gave him time (and motivation) to work on his fitness, nutrition and wellness techniques, and that the timing of his opportunity to be a full-time starter has therefore actually worked out well.

"I got a chance to mature," Jennings said. "I got a chance to learn how to take care of my body, and I've been blessed to have a chance to allow my body to catch up with my maturity."

Now, those things are intersecting with opportunity. Jennings has a chance to be the man in the ground game for a Giants offense that's ready to look at lot different than it did last year. He's been waiting -- and working -- for this chance for a long time.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Three thoughts on Day 4 of Dallas Cowboys' training camp:

1) It was one play, just about as meaningless as can be, considering it was the first day players wore pads, but Morris Claiborne wanted to establish a tone.

Claiborne
First, he locked down Terrance Williams, forcing an incompletion. Then he jumped up and started woofing. Eventually, the players were separated.

It was the first time since he arrived that we’ve seen that type of feistiness from Claiborne.

Hey, whatever it takes. He’s been the epitome of a bust his first two seasons, allowing 70 completions in 117 attempts with only two interceptions and 13 pass deflections.

For a guy who was supposed to be the best defensive player in the 2012 draft that’s not nearly good enough.

Jason Garrett said he’s improved significantly during the offseason. It’s time for him to take it to the field.

Better secondary play is the fastest way for this defense to improve, since their pass rush remains suspect.

Smith
2) The Cowboys are moving closer to a long-term agreement with left tackle Tyron Smith, who’s going to deserve every nickel of whatever he gets.

Smith is man-handling the defensive ends on this roster, the way DeMarcus Ware used to destroy tackles, including Smith, during training camp.

Smith is only 23, so don’t be surprised if he signs a deal that’s nine or 10 years long. When he does, it’ll be interesting to see if Dez Bryant can continue to ignore his contract situation and play well.

After all, the club has already taken care of Sean Lee, who was drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft. Bryant was the Cowboys’ first-round pick.

3) Kyle Wilber spent his first two seasons bouncing around between outside linebacker in the 3-4 and weakside defensive end.

Injuries last season created some playing time for him at strongside linebacker and the Cowboys suddenly found a player.

Wilber has the strength to hold the edge and consistently force running plays inside, in part because of the time he spent at defensive end, and he made several important plays for the Cowboys last season.

He finished the season with 44 tackles and two sacks, while starting six games.

34

The Cowboys were tied for 25th in the NFL with 34 sacks. Only five teams had fewer.

Their sack total was 10 fewer than the average 2013 playoff team.

Teams that don’t get many sacks often say they’re overrated. Well, they’re not. Pressure is good, but sacks are a momentum-changer and usually result in a punt at the end of the drive.

You must rush the passer and put quarterbacks under duress, or it’s hard to force turnovers and win games.

The Cowboys are counting on defensive Henry Melton, who missed the last 13 games with a torn ACL, to provide pressure up the middle. He has been a terrific pass-rusher, and they need him to command double teams to help other players get to the quarterback.

Player to Watch: Gavin Escobar

The Cowboys wasted Escobar’s rookie season. Hopefully, they’ve learned their lesson.

It’s dumb to ask a tight end who should excel at working from the slot and creating mismatches with his size to be the same type of player as Jason Witten.

Escobar can help this team by making plays downfield and giving Tony Romo one more vertical threat.

He caught nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He can be a playmaker, if Scott Linehan gives him a chance to do it. If not, he’ll be a wasted pick.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Damontre Moore is something of a wild card on the New York Giants' defensive line this year. The 2013 third-round selection played little on defense last year as he worked to pick up the playbook, but he was a terror on special teams, showcasing his athleticism while blocking punts and laying out return men.

Moore
If Moore can make a big jump this year as a pass-rushing defensive end, it would be a significant boost to a Giants pass rush that's working to replace stalwart Justin Tuck and the team-leading 11 sacks he had last year. Moore is in the mix with veteran Mathias Kiwanuka and free-agent signee Robert Ayers for the defensive end spot opposite Jason Pierre-Paul, but if Moore develops quickly he offers more explosiveness and a higher ceiling than Kiwanuka and Ayers do.

At least one of Moore's defensive linemates has noticed major progress.

"His athleticism is hard to compare," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "But from where he was last year, technique-wise and some of the things he was doing to how he's come back in this camp, it's been amazing. How he's setting the edge in the run game. How he's transitioning to the pass, working on some of the techniques that he didn't have last year. He's really working hard and really improving."

That's the key for Moore, who's loaded with natural ability but needs to refine it if he's to be trusted with significant snaps on defense. What Jenkins said about setting the edge in the run game is especially important, since that was a huge part of Tuck's game and is also a strength of Ayers' game. If Moore is getting those techniques down, in addition to being able to fly to the quarterback, that could be a big surprise benefit.

"Yeah, he's taken a major step," Jenkins said. "He's just a lot more physical and holding his ground. You look at him now and he's a completely different player than you saw last year."

Could be just camp hype, but Jenkins volunteered this. He wasn't asked directly about Moore. Jenkins seems to legitimately think Moore stands out in terms of the amount of work he's done and the quality of it. Since those were the lingering questions about Moore after his rookie season, it has to be encouraging for the Giants and their fans to hear it.

Meriweather's hits always a worry

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
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RICHMOND, Va. -- They know he can’t hit a certain way. They also can’t promise that he won’t. And that’s going to be a season-long subplot for the Redskins and safety Brandon Meriweather.

Coach Jay Gruden half-joked Saturday that he was going to suspend Meriweather two practices for a hit. It’s another reminder to Meriweather to lower his target. The problem is, when instincts take over, it’s tough to know what’s going to happen. A hit deemed too violent might only be a few inches away from being a good one.

 Ryan Clark is right; football players, especially those on defense, must play with “reckless abandon.” But the bottom line is there are rules in place, and Meriweather flirts with danger in this area all the time.

“When you don’t play it full speed, when you don’t play it as physical as you could possibly play it, you leave yourself at a disadvantage,” Clark said.

When Meriweather returned after his one-game suspension last season, he did not draw another fine for any of his hits. At times he seemed to go lower; not all the time, however. But he’s going to have to do it the right way every game in order to stay on the field.

The issue here, too, is that the Redskins lack proven depth behind him. They liked how Phillip Thomas started to develop in camp last summer, but he suffered a Lisfranc injury in the first preseason game and needed surgery. Though he’s in camp and has been praised by the coaches, he’s never played in a real game. There’s no way to really know how he’d do if anything happened to Meriweather.

With Meriweather, the Redskins like to run certain blitzes from the corners knowing he has the speed to get to their vacant area. He plays with passion and brings energy and plays physical. Yes, he also takes chances and that’s gotten him in trouble with other teams.

What the Redskins need is for Meriweather to find stay aggressive, but also smart. Every hit he makes will be scrutinized. They say Meriweather has learned his lesson, yet it’s a topic that still comes up. There’s really no way to know if he has, but they do know this: The Redskins need him on the field.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Cole Beasley wants to prove he’s more than just a slot receiver after feeling like he’s been pigeonholed in his NFL career.

“That comes with being 5-8 and 175 pounds,” Beasley said.

 The Cowboys plan to give Beasley every opportunity to prove he can make plays as an outside receiver. It’s not just about expanding the role of a receiver who emerged as a significant contributor in his second NFL season, catching 39 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns. If Beasley can do more than just play in the slot, it opens up possibilities for the Cowboys coaches to create mismatches with their most dangerous weapon.

For the first few seasons of his NFL career, the Cowboys featured Dez Bryant solely as the X receiver, keeping his role as simple as possible. They moved him around some last season, and he’s mentally prepared for much more of that entering his fifth year, often working out of the slot in three-receiver sets with Beasley outside.

“I think there’s really no limit on what we can do with him, and I believe that,” receivers coach Derek Dooley said. “We started moving him around last year, and that’s the only way to continue to get him the production that he needs to get because defensive coordinators are too good. If they know where he’s going to be, it’s going to be a long Sunday.

“So the sky’s the limit. It’s a matter of repping. To your point, moving him into the slot, we’ve got to figure out what Cole’s role is, so that’s what we’re working through right now.”

It’s a challenge that Beasley embraces.

“I’d just say [I am] more confident after being in the last two seasons and getting some time to actually play,” Beasley said. “Knowing I can do it and knowing how good I can be, that really excites me. I wouldn’t say I’m a different player. I’d just say with more opportunities, I’ll get better and better.”

RG III report: Learning on the go

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
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RICHMOND, VA. -- His first two seasons overshadows this fact: Robert Griffin III is still a young quarterback. Which means there’s a constant learning curve for the third-year player.

 It happens every day in practice. On Friday, it poured throughout practice, and Griffin threw poorly missing targets with throws that weren't close. The entire offense was sloppy, but so was he. It rained again Sunday -- it had mostly stopped by the time practice began but the field was soggy. Griffin, aside from a couple throws, was better than he was two days ago and more accurate. A great day? No. A better day? Yes.

Another example: Griffin misread a blitz Saturday leading to a pick-six by corner DeAngelo Hall. Afterwards Griffin described what happened. After watching the film later that afternoon, he learned something else -- something coach Jay Gruden pointed out after reviewing the play as well. Griffin needed to hit tight end Jordan Reed, his primary target.

Instead, he looked off him too fast and went to his secondary target DeSean Jackson. But Hall, in a trap, stepped in front for the pick.

“Watching on film, Jordan was there and all I’ve got to do is throw to him and we move on to the next play,” Griffin said. “Those are the things you see when they bring those fire zone blitzes and buzzing guys out. Sometimes you can misplace the guy. I’ll never make that mistake again.

“It’s something you get used to seeing them bring a fire zone and rolling to a cover 2. You know they’ll probably miss Jordan underneath even though they’re buzzing out there and he’s breaking in. He’ll be open so that’s what you go to next time.”

Griffin
  As for the wet conditions, Griffin should have been intercepted on two occasions early in practice -- by linebacker Keenan Robinson and corner David Amerson. Both dropped picks. But overall Griffin threw much more consistently than in the rain Friday. He said they did little things such as change their quarterback towels more often; he did not put his glove on until practice started to make sure it stayed dry as long as possible to keep its grip.

“It was beneficial to have another day like today,” Griffin said.

Early in camp Griffin took off running too many times on pass plays. It wasn’t always because of him, but he’s the one with the ball in his hands. It happened more frequently the first couple days and did so once in full-team work Sunday morning on a third-and-11.

“You go back and look at that and see what it was,” Griffin said. “See if it’s an opportunity to get the ball out or if I need to make a decision and run sooner. We’ve gotten better over the last three days in that aspect of everyone being on the same page knowing where guys need to be.”
These are a lot of the lessons Griffin could not learn last year without an offseason and with only a couple weeks of practice before the opener.

He’s started 28 regular-season games in his career, but he won’t turn 25 until the offseason.

“If you look at the quarterbacks in the league, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, they’re all still learning,” Griffin said. “That’s the beauty of the game. The more you play, the more you will learn. I’m only 24. They have some experiences I don’t, and I have some experiences they don’t. At the end of the day we’re all learning.”
OXNARD, Calif. -- In some ways Lance Dunbar still carries himself as an undrafted running back from North Texas.

It doesn’t matter that this is his third training camp with the Dallas Cowboys. It doesn’t matter that he already has a role as the third-down back. It doesn’t matter that he could be a core player on special teams.

Dunbar
“I wouldn’t say I like it that way better, but it kind of pushes me, made me work harder, made me the guy I am today,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar is not established the way DeMarco Murray is established. He had just 30 carries last season and caught just seven passes before suffering a knee injury last Thanksgiving against the Oakland Raiders. But it was what Dunbar did in that game -- 12 carries, 82 yards; one catch, 12 yards -- that has many intrigued about his role in 2014.

“This league has kind of evolved into a two-back type league, meaning two marquee backs instead of that one bell cow,” coach Jason Garrett said. “That was the case in this league for a number of years, but very few teams have that one guy who is going to get it 25 times a game. We want to make sure DeMarco Murray gets his touches. We play well on offense, we play well as a team when we hand him the football so we’ll keep trying to do that, keep trying to get him the ball in the passing game too. But anybody who has followed our football team the last couple of years sees that Lance Dunbar can contribute and he continues to get better and better.”

Dunbar’s recovery from knee surgery went better than anybody could have expected. He was not limited in his offseason work and there won’t be any rest in training camp. Garrett said the scores Dunbar put up on tests – benching, squatting, change of direction drills, vertical jump - this spring were better than they were a year ago.

“I couldn’t feel sorry myself,” Dunbar said. “I had to do it myself to get better each and every day. I just pushed myself and I came back stronger and a better player.”

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