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NFL training camp: NFC East team-by-team preview

Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys attempts

Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys attempts a catch over Sam Shields #37 of the Green Bay Packers during the 2015 NFC divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field on Jan. 11, 2015 in Green Bay, Wis. Initially ruled a catch, the call was reversed upon review. Credit: Getty Images / Mike McGinnis


OPEN CAMP: July 29, Oxnard, California.

LAST YEAR: Ended three-year rut of 8-8 finishes with NFC East title and beat Detroit for first playoff win since 2009. Lost to Green Bay in divisional round. Tony Romo had most efficient season of career with big assist from NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray, who signed with division rival Philadelphia as free agent. Defense masked weak pass rush and significantly improved over 2013.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: DEs Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory; CB Byron Jones; LB Jasper Brinkley; OL La'el Collins.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: Murray; DE George Selvie; LBs Bruce Carter and Justin Durant; WR/KR Dwayne Harris; CB Sterling Moore.

CAMP NEEDS: Now that WR Dez Bryant has long-term contract and won't hold out, biggest story will be on battle to replace Murray. Third-year back Joseph Randle has early nod, but former Oakland top 10 pick Darren McFadden will get look, along with oft-injured Ryan Williams, healthy after spending last season on Cowboys' practice squad. Defense will be watching for ways to get through four-game suspensions to start season for Hardy (domestic violence) and LB Rolando McClain (substance abuse).

EXPECTATIONS: Even without Murray, Cowboys thinking Super Bowl after feeling they were pretty close considering key role played by Bryant catch that wasn't in loss to Packers. If running game struggles, Romo could be back in difficult spot of carrying offense. That has led to disappointments for years. LB Sean Lee returns after missing last season with knee injury, and defense should have better pass rush between Hardy and promising second-year player DeMarcus Lawrence, among others.


OPEN CAMP: Aug. 2, Philadelphia.

LAST YEAR: Missed playoffs after 9-3 start. Despite several injuries on offense, still had no trouble moving ball and scoring points in Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense behind Mark Sanchez. But couldn't overcome turnovers and poor defense. Kelly took control of personnel decisions in offseason and overhauled roster by trading, releasing or not re-signing five starters on offense and four on defense.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QBs Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow; RBs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews; LB Kiko Alonso; CB Byron Maxwell; WR Nelson Agholor; DBs Walter Thurmond and Eric Rowe.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: WR Jeremy Maclin; RB LeSean McCoy; QB Nick Foles; LG Evan Mathis; LB Trent Cole; RG Todd Herremans.

CAMP NEEDS: Get Bradford healthy and acclimated to offense. No. 1 overall pick of 2010 hasn't played regular-season game since 2013 following two ACL operations. Build chemistry with new faces on both sides of ball. Find replacement for Mathis, two-time Pro Bowl guard released in contract dispute. Choose starting CB alongside Maxwell, who got big bucks to leave Seattle and be top dog in secondary.

EXPECTATIONS: Eagles have talent to contend in NFC East even though many guys are playing together for first time. Key to success is Bradford's health and defense's improvement. Murray, Mathews and Darren Sproles will take pressure off QB and give Kelly option to make it run-first offense. New-look secondary has to contain stud receivers in division.


OPEN CAMP: July 30, East Rutherford, New Jersey.

LAST YEAR: Another bad early stretch led to second straight losing season and third year in row out of playoffs. Injuries and porous defense were big contributors in seven-game losing streak. Offense came on under new coordinator Ben McAdoo, aided by emergence of rookie Odell Beckham Jr. as one of NFL's game-breaking receivers.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo; RB Shane Vereen; S Landon Collins; OTs Ereck Flowers and Marshall Newhouse; WR-special teamer Dwayne Harris; DE George Selvie; DT Kenrick Ellis.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: Ss Antrel Rolle and Quintin Demps; LT Will Beatty; LB Jacquain Williams; DE Mathias Kiwanuka, CAMP NEEDS: With starters Rolle and Demps gone, safety spots are wide open. Collins will get one and Cooper Taylor, Nat Berhe and rookie Mykkele Thompson -- all without an NFL start -- vie for other. OL is major question mark. With Beatty (pectoral) out first half of season, Flowers has to take over at LT, leaving RT unsettled and assistant coach Pat Flaherty looking for his best five. One hope is Vereen becomes Eli Manning's third-down back.

EXPECTATIONS: Make or break year for Tom Coughlin. West Coast offense can be really good if Victor Cruz comes back from second knee surgery, everyone stays healthy and juggled offensive line gets running game going. Defense will be key as "Spags" starts his second tour in New Jersey. It was bad last year against and gave up way too many big plays. Playoffs? Maybe.


OPEN CAMP: July 29, Richmond, Virginia.

LAST YEAR: In Jay Gruden's first season as NFL head coach, Redskins stayed right where they were: last in NFC East, spot they've resided in for six of past seven years. Quarterback Robert Griffin III got benched by Gruden, and publicly criticized, too, for what coach said were fundamental problems. With revolving door at QB -- Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy also started games -- offense was up and down, while defense couldn't stop anyone.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: GM Scot McCloughan; OL coach Bill Callahan; QB coach Matt Cavanaugh; defensive coordinator Joe Barry; RT Brandon Scherff; DLs Terrance Knighton, Stephen Paea, Ricky Jean-Francois; CB Chris Culliver; S Dashon Goldson.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: LB Brian Orakpo; RB Roy Helu Jr.

CAMP NEEDS: Get Griffin going in right direction again. After taking league by storm and earning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2012, RG3 has taken several big steps backward, thanks in part to injuries and inconsistent play. Defense also needs to improve in significant way, especially secondary.

EXPECTATIONS: No one is expecting much from team that went 7-25 over last two years. Gruden and Griffin need to get on same page. Barry needs to work wonders with defense. Team needs to get better everywhere, with hope that most significant offseason change has nothing to do with who gets on field during games this season. Instead, it could be that there finally is an adult in charge of picking talent: new GM McCloughan.


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