Thursday, August 9, 2012

Water Cooler Briefings: NFC East

As of 7:30 PM ET tonight, with five games in progress, the NFL’s preseason will be in full swing.  To get you ready for the regular season, I’ll soon start writing posts about how the game of football is played and some basic rules. 

Until then, though, I'm arming you with information you need to follow some of the major stories around the league—the ones that are sure to become water cooler and grill-side talk among coworkers and neighbors, respectively.  In a series I’m calling “Water Cooler Briefings,” we’ll look at the major training camp storylines of each NFL team, by division.  Since I live in Northern Virginia, heart of the Washington Redskins market, we’re starting today with the NFC East.


Robert Griffin III.  RG3.  The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor University and second overall pick of the 2012 draft is THE story in our nation’s capital.  That’s it—not the presidential election, not the spiraling national debt, not the Chick-fil-A debate.  Nope.  RG3.  To understand why, consider that, in the last twenty years, the Redskins have had twenty-two different starting quarterbacks—and ten in the last ten seasons.   Is a rotating door at the QB position unusual?  For comparison, let’s look at the QB histories of some other NFL teams in the same 20-year span (I’ve also noted the Super Bowl winning seasons of each team during the same 20 years):

·   The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants (2007, 2011):  ten different QB starters, and only four in the last ten years;

·    The AFC Champion New England Patriots (2001, 2003 and 2004):  eight starters (and that includes the 1992 season, when four different players started at QB), with only two in the last ten years (really, only one, but in 2008 Matt Cassel replaced Tom Brady when he was injured in the first game of the season); and

·   Indianapolis Colts (2006):   Before last season, which Peyton Manning missed because of surgery to repair a lingering neck injury, Peyton was the Colt’s only starting quarterback since the 1998 season.  Of course, we all know he made the move to the Denver Broncos in the offseason.

The Redskins last won a Super Bowl to cap off the 1991 season—right before the start of our 20-year snapshot.  Washington’s fans and the media are hungry for a consistent presence at quarterback, and the collective hopes are all on this bright, charismatic and talented rookie.


Unfortunately, the big story with Philadelphia isn’t about the competition at a particular position or the arrival of a big-shot rookie.  Their story has become the death of Andy Reid’s oldest son, Garrett Reid.  Garrett, 29, had been assisting the team’s strength and conditioning coach and was found dead in his dorm room at training camp on Sunday.  Wanting the team to continue business as usual, and saying that it’s what Garrett would have wanted, Andy Reid returned to camp Wednesday and plans to coach the team in its first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight.  Troubles in the Reid family have been well documented in the past few years:  in 2007 Garrett and a younger brother, Britt, were both arrested in the same day in two separate incidents, and both struggled with drug use (Garrett also dealt drugs).  Andy Reid took a leave of absence from the team in the 2007 offseason to focus on his family.  As the regular season approaches, expect his team to rally around Reid, but one has to wonder how much mental and emotional energy Andy will have to give in the coming weeks and months.

Back to football, though, one point of intrigue to watch is who will become quarterback Michael Vick’s backup.  This might not seem like a hot button issue, but it is an important one for the Eagles.  Vick has missed three games in each of the last two seasons because of injury.  Currently, it’s a three-way race for the likely two spots:  veteran Trent Edwards, rookie Nick Foles and Mike Kafka, the Eagles’ fourth round pick in the 2010 draft.  Right now, Kafka is listed as the primary backup, while Foles is listed on the depth chart as the third quarterback and Edwards is fourth (so he might not even make the team). 

UPDATE:  In Thursday night's preseason game, Mike Kafka broke his nonthrowing hand when a Steeler stepped on it.  Kafka is expected to be out for three weeks.  Nick Foles (and not Trent Edwards), who performed well against the Steelers, is taking snaps with the second team as he moves up the depth chart fromt he #3 QB to #2 while Kafka heals.  Eagles fans got a scare, and a reminder of the importance of the backup, when Vick injured the thumb on his throwing hand from hitting a teammate's helmet on the follow-through of a throw.  X-rays revealed no problems with the hand.


The Cowboys always keep things interesting.  From owner Jerry Jones (left) predicting a beat-down of division rival New York Giants in the season opener to cornerback Dez Bryant's domestic violence arrest, the 'Boys have been keeping the news wires buzzing.  On the field, though, the big story in Big D is injuries.  The team’s injured list has swollen (no pun intended) to eighteen players, half of which are starters.  Among the notable starters on the injured list are cornerback Mike Jenkins, defensive lineman Marcus Spears and wide receiver Miles Austin.  Clearly, fans should be concerned about the starters getting healthy, but it will also be interesting to see if players further down the depth chart, or guys just hoping to make the team, will take advantage of the extra field time in their absence.  One position battle to watch:  wide receiver, where the competition for the #3 spot is tight.


As with Dallas, injuries raise some concern for the Giants, but not nearly on the same scale.  Their injury woes are focused, for practical purposes on the wide receiver position.  Therefore, as with the Cowboys, the wide receiver battle will be interesting to watch.  The Giants lost Mario Manningham in free agency and Hakeem Nicks is still recovering from a fractured foot.  Dominick Hixon is a clear replacement for Nicks, but it will be hard to pick another starter among the young guys who are performing well in camp so far, like first round pick David Wilson and undrafted rookie David Douglas (#19, above), who wowed fans and media with a spectacular grab against the defense during camp.  Douglas’ catch, a diving grab down the sideline on the end of a wobbly pass that shouldn’t have been catchable, is the highlight of Eagles’ camp so far, but he has been impressing head coach Tom Coughlin all during camp. 


Of course, I would remiss if I didn't mention one of the biggest league storylines of the week.  In the Chargers-Packers game Thursday night, history will be made as a woman will take the field for the first time in the NFL--as an official.  Shannon Eastin (right) is one of the replacement officials hired by the league in place of the veteran officials with whom the NFL is in a contract dispute.  Currently officiating in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the second-highest level in college football, Shannon has 16 years of officiating experience and trains football and basketball officials through her own company.  She will be at the line judge position, so keep an eye out for her.  I know I'll be rooting for her from the safety of my couch! 

Click here to read’s article about Shannon Eastin. 

For a counterpoint, click here to read an op ed by former NFL head of officials Mike Pereira, discussing why Eastin is overstepping a more deserving trailblazer who is a victim of the officials’ lockout.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have a question you want answered, a correction or a comment?