Like a weekly lunch buffet special, the NFL preseason will give you plenty to chew on. To whet our appetites, here is a brief outline of what to watch for in the coming weeks. Reason, well there’s value in paying attention to the preseason and training camp battles. If not, you may become last year’s fantasy owner who drafted Donald Brown and Darrius Heyward-Bey and overlooked Ray Rice and Miles Austin.
Let’s discuss the NFC East’s Cowboys, Giants, Eagles and Redskins:
- The right Choice How much we see of Tashard Choice could spell doom for Marion Barber and his followers. Felix Jones appears to have played himself into more first- and second-down carries, so it figures the third down rep is up for grabs, even if Dallas decides to use Barber in the “closer” role. I’m thinking Choice’s, once an early season Heisman candidate at Georgia Tech, big play ability just may give him an edge.
- Roy or ROY? It’s as simple as it appears. We certainly don’t expect ESPN to promote this as breaking news. Roy Williams has one last shot to showcase himself as a starting wide receiver. Dez Bryant, a potential Rookie of the Year, has one clear shot to encourage Jerry Jones to swallow his money tied into “noodle arms.” All it takes is one good training camp by Bryant. I’m sure Detroit would love to have Roy Boy back.
- Drawing a line in the sand As convincing a defensive rush could’ve been, the Vikings proved in the playoffs how impotent the Cowboys offensive line can be. As a result, the front line will be a major point of emphasis this preseason. Keep an eye on how the line — first-, second- and third-string — handle preseason pressure. If the Cowboys can’t block in training camp, what are they going to do when the lights go on?
New York Giants
- On bended knee The running game went in the tank with Brandon Jacobs’s bum knee. Don’t figure to see much of him this preseason; however the battle behind him will be worth watching. Ahmad Bradshaw also has injury issues, which could hamper his ascension up the depth chart. In fact, most of the running corps spent time in the mash unit. Simply a healthy training camp may signal victory for this once dominating running team.
- Fountain of youth Steve Smith did his part, now it’s up to the rest of the group to cut their baby teeth and play big boy football. Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks appear to be on the verge, but only one can fit into that No. 2 slot. Whoever comes out the more consistent will be the guy to target come draft day.
- Who’s the Boss? With Manningham’s hands, Jacobs’s knee, Bradshaw’s feet and Smith’s size; the Giants sure could use a reliable red zone target. Kevin Boss, you’d like to apply? We’ll see how the interview goes in the next couple of weeks.
- The apprentice Everyone is anticipating seeing if Kevin Kolb can transition into the starting position without any problems. I doubt we’ll see as much as we would like of this green quarterback, but even the slightest sense of confusion or lack of trust among receivers will raise flags. We may start to see Philly do what it should’ve done years ago, run the ball a little more.
- Weaving a bigger basket When Leonard Weaver played at Carson-Newman he … na, I’m not going to pretend. I doubt very few folks paid much attention to Weaver until he started busting off 10-yard bursts late last season in relief of LeSean McCoy’s tired legs. I have a feeling Weaver made an impression on Andy Reid, who has had time now to devise some passing plays for this athletic fullback. We may see an eclipse of one or two potential widgets this preseason that just may make Weaver an interesting red zone specialist?
- Intro to Chemistry One thing I always admired about Donovan McNabb was how well he threw the deep ball. I’m sure DeSean Jackson would agree. Now, will Kolb admire it as much to pay homage to the skill? If not, Jackson could end up being a bust this season. Keep in mind throwing deep is much more than having a gun for an arm. It’s arc, timing and anticipation. Let’s revisit this discussion after Kolb’s first few deep tosses this preseason.
- Balancing the budget Among the biggest debates in Washington always centers on budget issues, which can extend to the football field this season. On paper, the Redskins have a lot of revenue coming in with talent throughout the receiving corps. How that translates from passing drills to a new offense to a new quarterback to live action against an opposing defense will determine if Washington overestimated its spending.
- Cooley hand Luke As popular as Chris Cooley is on the Internet and within the media, it all depends on how cool Donovan McNabb finds him to be. While the receivers fight for attention, McNabb could easily find comfort in the TE, as he did in Philly. Only problem, Cooley not only has injury issues to battle but a talented understudy in Fred Davis to boot.
- BP oil spill Mike Shanahan’s first move may be to cap the leaking oil in his backfield. If this was 2005, the Redskins would be in awesome shape with Larry Johnson, Clinton Portis and Willie Parker. Unfortunately, those odometers aren’t rolling back. How the reps are handled will be key in trying to guess how this rotation will at least play out early in the season.
Jay-Mo’s other preseason previews: