NFC East Roundup: Manning Hungry For Third Title

Also: Which cornerback says that this season will be the most important of his career?

Photo Credit: Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Jim O’Connor-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Giants opened up camp near MetLife Stadium at their training center in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Thursday. After watching older brother Peyton win his second Super Bowl in his final game, Eli Manning says that not winning a Super Bowl is like not eating, as Steve Serby from the New York Post reports.

When asked how he would describe that hunger, the quarterback said: “I’d describe it as I feel like I haven’t eaten dinner in four years, and I’m hungry. So, I’m ready to get back to the table and enjoy that. I’m working hard.”

That never changes. He has been a coach’s dream, a franchise dream, from the start. He may be 35 all of a sudden, but in the third year of an offense he has mastered and loves, and the promising return to the field at last by sight-for-sore-eyes Victor Cruz, and the prospect of rookie Sterling Shepard taking heat off supernova Odell Beckham Jr., it is hardly unrealistic to envision a career year for him.

Could Eli Manning be in the running for MVP?

“I think he can,” Cruz said. “I mean, obviously, if everyone pans out and we’re all out there helping him out, getting those healthy bodies on the field for him to throw to, I think he’s got a shot to really do some groundbreaking things, reach some numbers he’s probably never reached before. Us as receivers, we’re excited to just be that help that needs to get him to that elite elite level.”

Shepard and fellow rookie cornerback Eli Apple are being tested early on in camp, according to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News.

The baby-faced Shepard has impressed [Ben] McAdoo as “a young man who’s committed to his craft” and prioritizes “being a pro.” Shepard said he thinks his hands and consistent catching ability in mini-camps helped him climb the depth chart to opening training camp on the first-team offense opposite Beckham.

The Giants are one more Cruz injury away, though, from Shepard going from a luxury receiving weapon to a critical, every-down contributor — a lot of pressure for a rookie, no matter how high he’s been selected.

Shepard’s skills also are considered best suited for the slot, but with or without Cruz, considering this roster’s makeup, the 5-10, 194-pound wideout must be just as prepared to line up on the outside.

McAdoo similarly wants to see how Apple, a remarkably rangy corner at 6-1, 199 pounds, can handle the nickel corner position on the inside. Apple is more of an outside defender, which will come in handy if veteran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie goes down. But with Rodgers-Cromartie and free-agent signee Janoris Jenkins also on the field, someone will have to defend the slot, which at least could mean a rotation.

The Giants open up the preseason August 12 against the Miami Dolphins.

The defending NFC East champion Redskins opened up camp in Richmond, Virginia last week. With the departure of Alfred Morris to the rival Cowboys, Matt Jones and Chris Thompson will be ready to take reigns of the running game. Mike Jones of the Washington Post has more.

“It’s just how we are. We just love that underdog feeling,” Thompson said. “You play a little different. You act a little different. Your swag is a little different. I think that’s going to carry us the whole year. People say, ‘There’s no experience, and they don’t have enough.’ I say, ‘Just wait and see.’ ”

Thompson referred to the questions that loom over the Redskins’ running back unit entering the 2016 season. Gone is Alfred Morris, the three-time 1,000-yard rusher, whom the franchise allowed to walk (to Dallas no less) via free agency. Pierre Thomas, the versatile, nine-year veteran signed late last season, remains unsigned with no immediate plans on Washington’s part to bring him back.

General Manager Scot McCloughan, Coach Jay Gruden and running backs coach Randy Jordan have anointed Jones the starter and have pegged Thompson as the reliable — and oft-used — backup.

Bring it on, Jones and Thompson say.

“I just feel like that’s how it is in the NFL. You play a new role,” Jones said. “My role got bigger, Chris Thompson’s got bigger, and you accept it and take it as it comes. There’s no pressure at all. It’s something you deal with your whole life. When you get on the field, you’re playing ball. Why should there be pressure? I feel like I’ve prepared myself well to perform how I want to, how the coaches want me to. I took some lessons from last year into the offseason, and I feel I’ve prepared well.”

With Junior Galette out for the second straight season after tearing his right achilles tendon, the Redskins will have to turn to Preston Smith and a group of young outside linebackers with limited playing experience, pens Todd Dybas of the Washington Times.

“I was disappointed because I really wanted to play with him,” Smith said. “I know Junior is a hard-working guy and I think it happened while he was working out. I worked out with him a lot this offseason when I had the chance — it was really frequently week to week. He always went hard. I know him going so hard and the injury happening, I know he was doing what he loved when it happened. It didn’t happen just a mishap.”

If Smith saw on Snapchat that Galette was in Washington during the offseason, he’d reach out to see if they could workout. Now, he’s likely to start in Galette’s place.

“He loved the pass rush and I want to love the pass rush,” Smith said.

The depth is thin at outside linebacker without Galette, but the Redskins are committed to evaluating their younger players on the roster before considering outside help.

Outside linebacker Houston Bates made the practice squad in 2015 after signing as an undrafted free agent and played in 10 regular-season games, though mostly on special teams. Washington also has Lynden Trail and Willie Jefferson. Trail was twice on the Redskins’ practice squad last year. Jefferson recently played in the CFL before signing with Washington in January.

“We are going to look at our young guys here in the building that we’re excited about,” [Jay] Gruden said. “We still have some good pass-rushers sitting here, and they are going to have to produce.”

The Redskins open the preseason on the road against Atlanta on August 11.

And finally, the Cowboys made their annual trip to Oxnard, California on Friday. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick is returning to the team after missing all of last season tearing his ACL and MCL in his right knee in the final week of camp. As he talks with Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the 29-year-old says that it’s the most important year of his career.

The nine-year veteran is determined to come back better and stronger, better than in 2014 when was named the team’s defensive most valuable player.

Better than ever, he said.

“I’m ready to go,” Scandrick said. “I’m going to be smart and work myself back into this. But I’m 100 percent and I feel fantastic. There are no restrictions. My confidence is there.

“Everything I was able to do before, whether it was in the weight room or on the field, I have done it. I have done it at a better rate. I have done it at a higher efficiency. This season is my most important season. It is something I put a lot of work into. It’s been a long, long, long road. I’m excited about our team. I’m excited about going to training camp.”

The Cowboys are counting on Scandrick’s return to form, as well as his motivation to be better and hopefully boost a suspect defense that is heading into the season without three starters because of NFL suspensions.

After a 4-12 record last year and missing Dez Bryant and Tony Romo for periods of time, the team is going to be living in the now, writes Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.

“We’re going to focus on the good people that can be on the field and make plays for us,” Stephen Jones said.

That’s why both Stephen and Jerry Jones were curt in discussing [Rolando] McClain and [Randy] Gregory. When asked about McClain, who will serve his second suspension in two seasons, Stephen Jones responded, “He’s not here and we’ll move on.”

If they are not part of the current solution, they are no longer part of the current equation. That’s a welcome change. Don’t count on players you can’t count on.

And the club owner, minus his rose-colored glasses, seems finally at peace with that.

“I’m excited about where we’re at today,” Jerry Jones said. “We’ve got several challenges. We know where those are but they are far overshadowed by the positives of our returning players that we didn’t have last year. I had visions of sugar plums seeing No. 9 [Romo] roll out there. No. 88 [Bryant], No. 32 [Orlando Scandrick], No. 25 [Lance Dunbar] — we didn’t have these guys last year.

“We are not going to let a few setbacks, a few notable setbacks, deter the fact we are fortunate that we have many assets, and we’re going to put them on the playing field and win ball games with them.”

The Cowboys travel to take on the Los Angeles Rams in their preseason opener on August 13.