NFC East Roundup: Elliott Denies Accusations

Also: Is Eli Manning on a decline at age 35?

Photo by: USA Today Sports.

Photo by: USA Today Sports.

With training camps around the NFC East opening this week, let’s take a spin around the division to see what’s going on with the other three teams:

In Dallas, rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott denies domestic violence accusations from a Columbus, Ohio woman, according to Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News.

The woman, who said she was Elliott’s girlfriend and has lived with him, claimed that Elliott struck her multiple times over the last week. She also alleged that the former Ohio State star assaulted her while she sat in the driver’s seat of her car at 2:35 a.m. Friday, Elliott’s 21st birthday.

Elliott was not arrested and no charges were filed because of the woman’s statements conflicting with those made by Elliott and witnesses, according to the Columbus police.

Elliott has told those close to him that the woman was upset because he wanted to end the relationship, a source told The News. The source also said Elliott has saved text messages from the woman that indicate she will punish him if he breaks up with her. The alleged texts have not been made public.

The addition of Microsoft Surface tablets to the sidelines have made the NFL able to evolve with the times, writes Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

The technological advancements have changed game days, too. The NFL and Microsoft entered into an agreement before the 2014 season to have Surface tablets on every sideline, aimed at replacing and advancing the black-and-white printouts of years past.

The tablets are weather proof and provide still photos from various angles for coaches and players. The league experimented with tablets allowing video during last seasons Pro Bowl, but a proposal to include video for the upcoming season was tabled in May at a quarterly meeting.

Instead, teams will only have access to photos in the upcoming season. But the NFL is among the more advanced leagues in sports.

Cowboys Training Camp opens up July 29th in Oxnard, California.

In the Big Apple, the Giants’ running back situation is as muddy as the Eagles’, and there’s not set No. 1 back, writes Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.

One of the strangest and ill-fated decisions the Giants made last season was to go with a running back by committee that never really worked and only served to keep the running game out of sync. Only when they finally let Rashad Jennings become something of a workhorse late in the season did the rushing attack start to consistently work.

So was the committee [Ben] McAdoo’s idea or [Tom] Coughlin’s? And regardless, will McAdoo ditch it and use a more sensible approach? The spring offered no hints, especially with so many running backs on the roster – including Jennings, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa, newly signed Bobby Rainey and fifth-round draft pick Paul Perkins.

The best approach would be to make it Jennings’ job to lose, but McAdoo has praised Williams and believes he’s primed for a bounce-back year. It’s possible those two could compete and/or split the workload, with Vereen as the third-down back. The Giants are also high on Perkins, though at the moment it’s hard to figure where he fits.

At 35, quarterback Eli Manning is not on a decline, opines John Fennelly of

The analysis does not tell the whole story of why some of these numbers have remained stagnant or have sagged. One main reason for the decrease has been the absence of WR Victor Cruz, who has missed a full season and a half due to knee and calf injuries. Cruz was one of the NFL’s top playmakers. Without him, the Giants have had had to shorten their routes, leading to a reduction in depth of targets.

The addition of pass-catching RB Shane Vereen, whose 81 targets were third on the club last season behind WRs Beckham (158) and Rueben Randle (90), also shortens the depth-per-target number.

Another factor is the quick drop Manning has been forced to take in order to cut down on sacks and QB hits. The offensive line has been in rebuilding mode the past few seasons and McAdoo has stressed that Manning deliver the ball quicker after the snap, so not to absorb a pounding every week.

This season should be different, however. The club has more confidence in its offensive line and more weapons at its disposal even without Randle, who has moved on to Philadelphia.

Manning will be looking deeper downfield more often now that the club has Cruz back and have added rookie WR Sterling Shepard to compliment Beckham on the outside. The Giants also hope for better tight end play with Larry Donnell cleared for duty, Will Tye returning and rookie Jerell Adams, a seam-splitter, projected to see action as well.

Giants Training Camp gets started July 28th in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

And in the nation’s capital, Washington will need to improve on their average of 3.7 yards-per-carry from last season, which was 29th in the league, according to JP Finlay of CSN Mid-Atlantic.

One team that did not have a bad season, New England, also averaged 3.7 YPC, the same as the Redskins. The difference between Washington and New England, however, the Patriots ran the ball nearly 50 times less than the Redskins.

Perhaps that is the key to an improved Redskins run game: less emphasis.

When Washington played its best late last season, the team morphed into a high-octane passing attack, with Kirk Cousins and Jordan Reed leading a precision offense built through the air. In the Redskins most important victory of the season, a 38-24 win in Philadelphia to seal the NFC East in late December, the Redskins gained only 67 yards on the ground. Alfred Morris ran the ball 17 times in that game, and gained just 49 yards. Meanwhile, Cousins passed for 365 yards and four touchdowns.

The NFL is known as a copycat league, so maybe it’s time for the Redskins to look at what New England does well and mirror it. That starts with letting Tom Brady pass, and then pass some more. Do not be confused, this is not to compare Brady to Cousins, but merely to look at the most efficient way both the ‘Skins and Patriots offense move the ball. New England knows their key to points is through the air; Washington needs to learn that.

Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post writes about cornerback Josh Norman and his roots in rural South Carolina.

Before he was the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL, signing a five-year deal worth $75 million in April, before he was a first-team all-pro and before he was name-dropped by Jay-Z on DJ Khaled’s “I Got the Keys” track, Norman was just another scrawny Greenwood kid. The second-youngest of five brothers, nicknamed “5 Strong,” with two parents rooted in their Christian faith, the Norman family grew up 90 minutes west of Columbia in Greenwood, the town that now has a population of more than 23,000 people.

They lived in a double-wide trailer on a few acres where Norman and his brothers shared a room sleeping on bunk twin beds. They had to twist around the antenna out back to get a signal strong enough to receive a few TV channels. Their first basketball hoop was a plyboard and a tire rim nailed to an oak tree. What they lacked in material possessions, they made up in competitive spirit. It’s the same one Norman displayed for four seasons with the Carolina Panthers.

Everything was a game with bragging rights on the line. He received tough love from his older brothers playing “throw-up-tackle” football, an aggressive game they all loved, where Norman had to outrun his siblings from one end zone to the other to avoid what was likely a brutal takedown.

“That’s why we call ourselves “5 Strong” because we grew up in that trailer, in that environment, where we was right there on top of each other,” said Marrio Norman, the third-oldest brother. “Every man fend for themselves. That’s what gave us that mentality.”

The defending NFC East champs open up their Training Camp July 27th in Richmond, Virginia.