As teams prepare for the first preseason games, here's the NFC East news that caught my eye this week:
- Former Giants QB Phil Simms sparked a debate about the Hall of Fame credentials of Eli Manning with some rather innocuous comments that Manning and coach Tom Coughlin would be in the Hall someday. Somehow that morphed into a conversation about whether Manning would make the Hall if never played another game. My take: No. He's a terrific QB and those two Super Bowl rings count for a lot, but he's really only had two superior regular seasons. Considering the gaudy stats being posted by other QBs in this pass-happy era, I think Eli has more work to do before making the Hall of Fame.
- It seems like just about everyone is awaiting some actual information about Terrell Thomas's knee. Thomas tore his ACL last year and missed the season. He re-injured the knee in camp, and while initial reports said he'd torn the ACL again, the latest is that no one seems to know. Stay tuned.
- Running back Ahmad Bradshaw underwent a stem cell treatment to his oft-injured feet, and says those feet feel better than they have in years.
- WR Hakeem Nicks says he's still on schedule for a mid-August return from offseason foot surgery.
- Head coach Andy Reid's 29-year old son, Garrett, was found dead in his room at Eagles training camp Sunday morning. Few details are available on cause. Police said there was "no suspicious activity" in his room. Garrett struggled with substance abuse and was incarcerated for a high-speed car crash in 2007. He was reportedly attempting to chart a new path in his life, and was working with the team's strength and conditioning staff. My condolences to the Reid family and Eagles fans.
- The Eagles continue to be a model of proper cap management. They've largely turned their roster over in the past 3-4 years, and even with last offseason's free agent spending binge, they're still under the cap by about $14.5 million this year. The new CBA allows teams to "roll over" unused cap space to the next season, so the Eagles are in great position to re-sign their own players AND have the resources to attract top free agents from other teams.
- Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha wasn't happy with his performance last season, and reportedly is working hard to be back among the game's elite DBs this season. He told reporters this week that he likes the look and feel of this year's training camp more than he did last year, and that he especially likes the changes to the team's coverage schemes. The team is expected to play more man-to-man and less zone.
- The Eagles are adding some shorter routes to DeSean Jackson's repertoire for this season. Teams had some success last year taking away deeper stuff that had been his specialty. Jackson also anticipates having less punt return responsibility as he focuses more attention on playing receiver.
- The injury bug has bitten Philly's defensive line. Trent Cole is out with a shoulder injury; Jason Babin with a calf problem. Both are expected to be back in time for the regular season.
- Safety Tyler Sash received a four-game suspension for violating the league's performance enhancing drug policy. Shockingly, the PEDs got into Sash's system without him knowing how -- just like everyone else who gets caught.
- The Cowboys are counting heavily on first round pick Morris Claiborne. Dallas fans were understandably scared when news emerged that he hurt his knee Saturday. Good news on Sunday, however: the injury is a minor sprain of the MCL and he's likely to miss only a few practices.
- Owner Jerry Jones made news this week for telling fans they should come out to see the Cowboys, "beat the Giants' asses." Which immediately (and predictably) put Giants fans in a snit. The predictability of the reaction doesn't make it any less stupid. Jones was speaking at a pep rally.
- Felix Jones, Andre Holmes and Brodney Pool failed their conditioning tests at the start of training camp.
- Competition is good for a team. Witness the dramatic change in WR Santana Moss, whose production has dropped the past couple years. Moss admitted this week that his weight had crept over 200 pounds and that he was slower as a result. This offseason, the Skins signed Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, and Moss got the message. He arrived at camp 16 pounds lighter and has impressed coaches and younger receivers in training camp. Washington expects to use him in the slot this year, though he could see action on the flanks as well.
- Diminutive returner Brandon Banks was told he needed to win a job at receiver to make the roster this year. His performance at receiver in camp: a mixed bag. He burned the secondary on a deep throw from Rex Grossman, which was great. On a slant from Robert Griffin III, Banks' lack of size was a problem and the ball was intercepted. The 6-2 Leonard Hankerson made the catch on a similar play.
- Tight end Chris Cooley managed to stay healthy through the first week of practice, which is a positive. Reports are that he's markedly slower than he was in previous years, which is worrisome because he never had much speed in the first place. He's making catches, but isn't a threat to do anything with the ball after the catch. Don't be shocked if Cooley fails to make the team.
- Defensive end Kentwan Balmer has torpedoed his NFL career by walking out of Redskins training camp without explaining why or communicating with the team in any way. He pulled the same stunt on the 49ers in 2010, which led to San Fran trading him to Seattle. No way Mike Shanahan lets him return to team.
- No shock to hear mixed reports from camp about RGIII. Griffin appears to be having rookie struggles in the passing game -- some indecisiveness and holding the ball too long. However, the Skins are installing rollouts, bootlegs, designed QB runs, and pass/run/pitch options for Griffin. The "system" may look quite a bit different than it did with Donovan McNabb or Rex Grossman under center.
- Speaking of Griffin, one story I liked was that Washington put his locker next to middle linebacker London Fletcher's.
- I wrote in the offseason about Washington's plan to convert Niles Paul from WR to TE. The biggest concern, of course, was his ability to block some of the elite pass-rushers. Enter Cooley, who told Paul that it was all about technique, and then has spent time working with Paul on that technique.
- The Skins entered training camp worried about offensive line depth, and then immediately lost Jammal Brown (hip, again) and Kory Lichtensteiger (knee, again). The team expects both to be back in time for the season opener, but the team also seemed to think that both were recovered from their injuries before training camp began. In the meantime, Maurice Hurt will take over at left guard, while mid-season street free agent pickup Tyler Polumbus will be the right tackle.
- Trent Williams has impressed in training camp with his exceptional conditioning and performance. The only Skins pass rusher who has gotten past him was Brian Orakpo, who beat him on a speed rush.
- Orakpo and last year's first round pick Ryan Kerrigan will be switching sides this season. That might be an interesting wrinkle to throw at opposing offenses.
- Tim Hightower, last year's starting running back, still isn't fully participating in practice as he works his way back from the major knee injury he suffered early last season. Evan Royster has been getting the bulk of the first-team reps. Roy Helu and rookie Alfred Morris have looked good in the backfield, as well.