NFC East: Vince Young

The Denver Broncos have won the offseason title and free agency is not even four days old.

John Elway signed safety T.J. Ward to a four-year, $23 million deal that guarantees him $14 million. He stole cornerback Aqib Talib away from the New England Patriots with a six-year, $57 million deal that guarantees him $26 million. Then he thanked the Dallas Cowboys for their cap woes and unwillingness to pay DeMarcus Ware and signed Ware to a three-year, $30 million deal that includes $20 million guaranteed.

Ware will make $250,000 more with the Broncos this year than he would have with the Cowboys.

Add those three to an offense that will still put up points even if Eric Decker leaves and Denver should be viewed as the favorites in the AFC.

In fact, they might look like a "Dream …" Sorry. Got something stuck in my throat. "A Dream …" Man, there it goes again.

One more time: A dream team.

Could the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles serve as a reminder that a "dream team" doesn’t mean a Super Bowl team?

To refresh: The Eagles loaded up with Jason Babin (five years, $28 million), Cullen Jenkins (five years, $25 million) and Nnamdi Asomugha (five years, $60 million). They traded Kevin Kolb and got Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in return. They added serviceable pieces in Ronnie Brown and Evan Mathis turned out to be a steal.

Then they signed Vince Young, who came up with the dream-team tag.

And Philadelphia finished 8-8.

The Broncos have Peyton Manning, so it’s hard to see an 8-8 season. But what happens if Manning gets hurt?
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Former Ennis (Texas) High School and Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell was released by Green Bay on Saturday. The move will push former Texas star quarterback Vince Young into a backup role behind Aaron Rodgers.

The possibility of Harrell coming to the Dallas Cowboys has been ruled out by a source. Currently, the Cowboys have four quarterbacks on their training camp roster, Tony Romo, Kyle Orton, Nick Stephens and Alex Tanney.

At this stage, the Cowboys seem content to keep just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. But retaining one for the practice squad is a possibility.

Harrell, who was inducted into the Texas High School Hall of Fame earlier this year, won a Class 4A state title at Ennis in 2001. At Texas Tech, he threw for 15,793 yards and 134 touchdowns, with 34 interceptions. In 2008, he won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
Morning. Hey, did you see Vince Young signed with the Packers? Good for him. I'll always remember with fondness and gratitude the contribution he made to the NFC East blog during his brief but remarkably newsy time in our division. May all of his and his team's dreams come true.

On to the links.

New York Giants

Hakeem Nicks said he plans to practice today, after missing last week's practices with a groin injury, and that he's well aware of how much he has riding on a healthy 2013 season.

What can something as simple as an autograph from a professional athlete mean to a fan? Giants punter Steve Weatherford found out, if he didn't know already.

Philadelphia Eagles

The plan is for top draft pick Lane Johnson to play right tackle in Philadelphia this year but left tackle in the long run or in a pinch, which is why he's working at both spots during this training camp.

The signing of Felix Jones could have been the end for reserve running back Chris Polk's time with the Eagles, but Polk has responded with a strong camp as he works to hold off Jones and defend his spot.

Washington Redskins

Two key veterans -- DeAngelo Hall and Brandon Meriweather -- returned to Redskins practice from their injuries. It appears the Redskins dodged a bullet with Hall, whose sprained ankle seemed more worrisome at the time than it turned out to be.

With Robert Griffin III still working his way back from knee surgery, it's going to be Kirk Cousins under center for the Redskins in their preseason games. His teammates are comfortable with that.

Dallas Cowboys

Todd Archer examines the ways in which Sunday's preseason opener was different for Jason Garrett with Bill Callahan calling the offensive plays.

Jared Green, the son of Redskins great Darrell Green, is a long shot to make the Cowboys' roster as a wide receiver, but he and his dad are working on it.
Philadelphia Eagles

SB Nation takes a look at the "interesting, albeit not terribly exciting, cast of characters" in the Eagles' quarterback competition. About right. Lots of arguments over this issue lately, but I think the important thing for Eagles fans is to keep standards and expectations low no matter who wins it. They're going to hand off. A lot.

Oh, and in case you were wondering who Snoop Lion thought the quarterback for the Eagles should be, you can click here. Hint: It's Michael Vick.

Washington Redskins

Kirk Cousins has a book coming out next week. (Yes, really.) In it, he writes of a lot of things, including the moment he found out he was being drafted by the Redskins. As he has discussed a few times, he wasn't as thrilled as he expected to be.

It's not completely ridiculous to expect Jordan Reed to contribute as a rookie, but it's important to remember the Redskins look at him more as a long-term project than an immediate-impact guy. He's likely to have plenty of growing pains.

Dallas Cowboys

Third-round pick Terrance Williams agreed with the Cowboys on a four-year contract. The Cowboys plan to use Williams in three-receiver sets as a deep threat on the outside with Miles Austin playing the slot position while they and Dez Bryant are on the field together.

There's been some talk of the Cowboys bringing in Vince Young as a backup quarterback. I agree with Tim Cowlishaw, who says no. Even if it made sense from a football standpoint, I don't see how you sign Tony Romo to a $100 million contract and then create a situation in which the Texas fans who already don't appreciate it him would immediately start calling for a less qualified player to replace him.

New York Giants

Giants punter Steve Weatherford has played for both of the New York teams, but he says his time with the Giants has been so far superior to his time with the Jets that he'd "play for free," and he has bad memories of working with former Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told an elementary school assembly that he's not a Giants or Jets fan but rather a Cowboys fan. I still like his chances in November.
Washington Redskins

With the Redskins on the verge of their first division title since 1999, Dan Daly writes that there's still a lot we don't know about this team. Dan thinks the most important thing for them Sunday night in the division title game against Dallas will be maintaining balance on offense.

Liked this Rick Maese story on Michael Irvin and Darrell Green, two great veterans of past Cowboys-Redskins tussles who have evolved from fierce rivals into good friends.

Dallas Cowboys

What's at stake for the Cowboys on Sunday night? Todd Archer writes that the chance they have is one to write an entirely new story -- one that will keep, at least for a little while, their detractors from saying "same old Cowboys."

DeMarcus Ware's elbow huts, and his shoulder keeps popping out of its socket. He's going to play Sunday night anyway, even though that latter problem could require offseason surgery.

New York Giants

A lot of people have been doing a lot of looking ahead with the Giants the past couple of days -- looking ahead to 2013. This blog pleads guilty to doing some of that. But as Mathias Kiwanuka reminds us, the Giants' 2012 season isn't over yet. And while they need four games to break their way Sunday, including their own, the Giants believe anything's possible.

The Giants' biggest problem this year, on both sides of the ball, has been a lack of the kinds of big plays that were their hallmark during their Super Bowl run.

Philadelphia Eagles

All of the talk has been about head coach Andy Reid, who could be out as soon as Monday. But expect changes on the rest of the coaching staff, too, with veteran assistants likely on the chopping block as well.

Michael Vick's last game in East Rutherford was the miracle comeback against the Giants in December of 2010. (It was Vince Young who beat the Giants in MetLife Stadium last year, remember.) Much has changed for Vick since that day, and as Zach Berman writes, that change hasn't been good.
The idea of Michael Vick returning to the Philadelphia Eagles next year seems far-fetched. If he wants to come back, he's likely to have to accept a drastically reduced salary and either a backup role or a training camp competition with Nick Foles for the starting quarterback job. And with Andy Reid looking as though he'll be out as head coach, there's no way for Vick or anyone else to forecast what will happen with the Eagles in 2013.

Vick
However, if he is on his way out, it looks as though Vick will get one more chance to start and win a game for the Eagles. Foles, the rookie who has started the past six games while the Eagles try to evaluate him as a part of their future, broke his right hand in Sunday's loss to the Redskins. And while he somehow finished the game and nearly tied it at the end of the fourth quarter, Foles will not play this week, Reid announced Monday.

It's likely that Vick, who wasn't even active Sunday even though he's been cleared to return from the concussion that sidelined him earlier in the season, will get the Week 17 start against the New York Giants over Trent Edwards. The Eagles have won eight of their past nine games against the Giants, who need to win Sunday (and get help from other games' results) in order to reach the playoffs. Vick was the quarterback when the Eagles beat the Giants in September in Philadelphia, but he lost to them in Philly last year and backup Vince Young led the Eagles to victory in MetLife Stadium.

As for Foles, this obviously robs the Eagles of one game's worth of their chance to evaluate his long-term prospects. But it also puts Sunday's game in a different light. Foles made some pretty bad throws in the second half of that game, including missing an open Jeremy Maclin in the end zone for what would have been the game-tying touchdown. The fact that his throwing hand was broken obviously mitigates that and will factor into the coaches' evaluation. I think Foles has shown some good signs, especially in terms of pocket mobility and patience on third down. But I don't know how the Eagles can know for sure, based on what they've seen, that he's a guy on whom they can hang their future. Once the head coaching position is addressed, I have to believe the Eagles will explore options at quarterback this offseason, even if it's just for depth and camp competition.

Breakfast links: False starts in Dallas

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
8:00
AM ET
You got questions, I got links.

Dallas Cowboys

Among Calvin Watkins' observations from Sunday's game is a very interesting suggestion that the false-start penalties might not be completely the fault of the men committing them. Calvin writes that a large part of the problem is that backup center Ryan Cook, who arrived in the final week of preseason and is playing in place of injured starter Phil Costa, is having trouble with Tony Romo's cadence. Man. I know we've discussed the idea of whether Bill Callahan can help this line improve as the year goes along, but there are serious, fundamental problems he's dealing with, and he has some work to do just to bring it up to baseline acceptable. Callahan is coaching a remedial-level offensive line.

With Barry Church done for the season, the Cowboys have signed safety Eric Frampton, a career special-teamer whose presence could free up Danny McCray to play on the defense more. This shows that there are no very good solutions out there at safety at this point in the season, and the Cowboys are going to have to mix and match to replace Church.

Philadelphia Eagles

Second-year punter Chas Henry had a great first week but wasn't good in Week 2 or Week 3, so he's out and former Cowboys punter Mat McBriar (who lost the job to Henry in camp) is back in and fired up about it. People were asking me on Twitter if the Eagles were trying to "send a message" by cutting Henry after their first loss of the year. I think they were just trying to improve their punting.

Jeff McLane went to the tape (and the stopwatch) to address the questions of whether and why Michael Vick holds onto the ball too long. His findings are interesting, and as usual there's plenty of blame to go around.

New York Giants

The Giants hate that the Eagles have beaten them seven out of the past eight times, and the taste of the most recent loss -- last December's home loss to Vince Young -- lingers for an angry bunch that's hoping to take care of business against its rivals Sunday night in Philadelphia.

The expectation among those who cover the Giants is that Ahmad Bradshaw will reclaim his starting running back job now that he's healthy again, but we're all eager to hear what Tom Coughlin has to say, starting today, about how the carries will be divvied and what role remains for super-sub Andre Brown the rest of the year.

Washington Redskins

The NFL is expected to fine Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan $25,000 for his outburst against the officials at the end of Sunday's game. As I wrote here Monday, the league has no choice but to stand behind its officials, regardless of the job they're doing, as long as they insist on perpetrating the replacement-officials farce. Also, Shanahan was way out of line. That combination of stuff means a big fine for Kyle.

One of the big stories this week in Washington is the number of hits rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has been taking as he's running around and directing the Redskins' frantic-but-productive offense. Stephen Whyno takes a look at the issue.
There is legitimate concern around the Philadelphia Eagles about what would happen if starting quarterback Michael Vick went down with an injury. The current backups are third-year man Mike Kafka, veteran Trent Edwards and rookie Nick Foles. The likelihood at this point is that, if Vick had to come out of a game or miss a game with an injury, Kafka would be first in line ahead of Edwards, who didn't play in the NFL last season.

Nick Fierro spoke with Eagles quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson, who says he thinks Kafka is ready for the role of backup to Vick, and Nick sounds as though he's buying into the idea:
Kafka has the leadership tools as well. Remember, it was he, not Vick, who was the driving force behind the player-organized workouts in Marlton, N.J., during last year's labor stoppage, and his command of the offense is as good or better than any quarterback going into his third season as offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has ever seen.

Now, if Vick were to go down for all or most of the season, it might be a different story. But for a couple of games or stretches during games when Vick might be dinged, don't expect the offense to malfunction that much just because a less talented quarterback like Kafka will run the show.

The Eagles have a good enough system and, more importantly, more than good enough talent at the other positions to remain effective.

That's the key thing to remember here. Those who fear the Eagles just ignored the backup quarterback spot this offseason might be focusing on the wrong thing. The Eagles believe in Mornhinweg, and in their system, and in the idea that a quarterback whose talents they like should be ready, by his third year in that system, to run the offense. Kafka fits that description, and as the Eagles surveyed other options for backup quarterback this offseason, they clearly didn't find anyone they thought would be better able to handle the task than Kafka would.

He can't throw like Vick, but almost no one can. He can't run like Vick, but absolutely no other quarterback can. If Kafka is playing and Vick isn't, the Eagles likely will call different plays. But given the talent he'd have around him, as long as he doesn't pull a Vince Young and start throwing interceptions all over the place, it's possible to believe a game or two with Kafka at the helm wouldn't be a complete disaster.
Good morning, and welcome to a week for which we've been waiting quite a long time. The Eagles' rookies reported for training camp Sunday, and by the end of this week each of our teams will have held at least one training-camp practice. I begin my tour of the division's four camps with a stop in Albany to see the Super Bowl champion Giants on Friday and Saturday. It is a sign that the long, dull summer is nearing an end and that real NFL football looms around the next couple of corners. You are welcome to be excited. And to enjoy your links.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles had hoped to have defensive tackle Mike Patterson back for the start of camp, but his recovery from January brain surgery is being watched closely by doctors, who have recommended he skip training camp and possibly sit out a few months for the sake of his own health. Obviously, the team wouldn't rush him anyway, since we're talking about potential brain injury here, but the Eagles have the luxury of being loaded at defensive tackle and can start Antonio Dixon, Derek Landri or first-round draft pick Fletcher Cox in Patterson's place.

Michael Vick isn't backing off last week's comments about the Eagles' potential to build a dynasty. Heck, he's not backing off of Vince Young's ill-advised "Dream Team" comment from last summer. Hey, look, you guys know how I feel about this, but I also think it's good that a team and its leaders don't care what the outside world thinks. Vick gets points for that. And while the only thing that matters now is whether he delivers on the big talk, he seems to know that, too.

Washington Redskins

One of the areas on which we'll have our eye when the Redskins open camp later this week is the tight end position. Mark Maske breaks down the questions facing Fred Davis, Chris Cooley and Niles Paul.

Another such area is the wide receiver position, where the Redskins have a few guys coming off of injuries and looking to use the coming weeks to show how healthy they are and convince the coaches they can be starters. Rich Campbell breaks down the questions facing Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan.

Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo made it clear last week that he was standing behind troubled receiver Dez Bryant and would do what he could to support him. Tim MacMahon thinks that should put to rest any questions about Romo as the Cowboys' team leader. The Romo-Bryant relationship is an interesting one. Bryant speaks of Romo in reverent tones, as though he'd follow him anywhere. Romo seems to understand the way the young players in the locker room view him, and that a guy like Bryant wants and needs to be led by him.

Tom Orsborn, taking his cue from Michael Irvin, thinks the Cowboys' priority needs to be helping Bryant, not deciding whether to cut ties with him just yet. Hmmm. Interesting take. Feels familiar ...

New York Giants

Veteran safety Deon Grant told his hometown paper he expects to re-sign with the Giants at some point during training camp. We have discussed this possibility here, and it obviously makes sense. The question is not whether the Giants would like to have Grant back, since they like him a great deal, but rather what role they have for him in their 2012 defense.

And no, this isn't about football, but I got a kick out of ESPNNewYork.com's interview with Michael Boley about his Call of Duty obsession. I guess who among us hasn't played a video game until the sun came up, and sometimes it's fun to see these guys as great big kids.

Every year after a team wins the Super Bowl, one of the storylines the next morning is about whether that team can win it again and whether it can become a "dynasty." They are quite rare, these sports dynasties, so regardless of how things look in the light of one championship, the answer in reality usually turns out to be no. But it's fair, after a team wins its first championship, to wonder how many more it might be able to win.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has taken this one step further. According to CSNPhilly.com, Vick is talking up the Eagles as a potential dynasty before they've won even a single title.
"When I look at our football team and what we have on paper, I think about when I was growing up and the great San Francisco 49er teams, the great Green Bay Packer teams, and the great Dallas Cowboy teams, how they just positioned themselves to compete and be one of the best teams out there," Vick said.

"I think we have a chance to be that. I think we have a chance to develop a dynasty."

Sure they do. The Eagles look great on paper. Talented. Deep. Young. If they were coming off a Super Bowl title and had this exact same roster, there'd be stories written and in-depth analyses done of their potential to become a dynasty. But they're not. They're coming off a very disappointing 8-8 season with basically the same group of players. And from 8-8, you don't need to be thinking dynasty. You need to be thinking about winning one championship first. Heck, if you're the Eagles right now, you need to be thinking about trying to make the playoffs.

So that's the problem here. This isn't about whether what Vick said was accurate. It's not about whether he should be confident in his team. His confidence in his team is earnest and, I believe, justified. I think the Eagles will be a very good team this year. But I, Vick and many others believed the same last year, and for all of their talent, they too often played like a bunch of underachieving losers in big spots. Coming off of 2011, I would have expected this group of Eagles to be humble, to eschew any grand talk and to be speaking mainly -- if not only -- of the difficulty of the 2012 task that lies ahead of them and the very hard work they need to do to complete it.

The Eagles, of all teams, should know better. After backup quarterback Vince Young's ill-considered "Dream Team" comment last August came to mockingly define the flop the 2011 Eagles became, one would think Vick and his bunch would go out of their way not to say things like Vick said Tuesday. Why give people another reason to mock you? Why risk feeding into the public perception that all you are is a team full of good-looking names on a roster sheet that thinks it's better than it is? Why invite the LeBron James/Miami Heat comparisons again so soon after that burned you?

But even if public perception doesn't matter -- even if the Eagles don't give a rat's hind parts what the rest of the world thinks of them -- this is still the wrong thing to be talking about. If it's even in the Eagles' minds that they might someday be a 49ers-level dynasty, then their eyes are on the horizon when they need to be on their feet. The most important thing for the Eagles right now is the hard, nitty-gritty work they need to do to make sure they're better than 8-8 this year -- that they make good on their paper promise and knock off the defending division and Super Bowl champion Giants. That's not going to be easy, and if a dynastic destiny does await them down the road, there are dozens of very challenging hurdles they have to clear before they should even be thinking that way.

At a different point in the CSNPhilly interview, Vick said this:
"I think just getting to the postseason right now is our focus," he said. "The Super Bowl is going to come if it's meant to happen. Some of the best teams have some of the best luck. Maybe we'll have some of that. I think our focus needs to be one game at a time, just getting into the postseason."

Which really dovetails with the dynasty talk and offers evidence for those who want to believe that Vick's focus is where it needs to be right now. And maybe it is. Maybe the talk of dynasties is just something that's occurred to him in his downtime and he's able to shove it right out of his head when it's time to get to work. Eagles fans certainly hope so, because all of them are painfully aware that their team has never won even one Super Bowl. Eagles fans would be happy to talk dynasty at the appropriate time, because the appropriate time is after you win your first one.

In the meantime, though, one summer after "Dream Team" and a few months after 8-8, the Eagles weren't supposed to be about talk anymore. We won't and can't know how good the Eagles really are until we see them on the field and find out whether they're going to fall apart in the fourth quarter, over and over again, the way they did last year. The 2012 Eagles are a prove-it team, not a talk-about-it team. And talk of dynasties shows they're still thinking about the wrong thing.
Happy Tuesday here in the NFC East. We've got a full day planned, with a chat and a bunch of other mid-June NFL goodies. But we start as always with links.

Philadelphia Eagles

First-round draft pick Fletcher Cox has agreed to a four-year contract with the Eagles, which means he'll be in training camp on time like all of the other draft picks who haven't signed yet but surely will some time in the next six weeks. Cox also spoke with the media on a conference call and talked about his chances to start and the ways in which he has improved in the offseason. Cox could open the season as a starter, but it's no sure thing given the Eagles' depth at defensive tackle.

Sheil Kapadia takes a look at the Eagles' fourth-quarter numbers from last year. The basics are that they were awful, and that Vince Young led more fourth-quarter comebacks than Michael Vick did. The Eagles know what they need to do better. Right now it's just about waiting three months to see whether they can actually do it.

Washington Redskins

Yeah, it's time for kicker updates. And no, Graham Gano's job in Washington is not safe. The Redskins brought in Neil Rackers either to replace him or spur him to great things, and it'll be a long time before we see which one of those things happens. Gano held off veteran challengers last year, so don't rule him out just yet.

This one's from last week, but it's about Rob Jackson, who's probably the first option at outside linebacker for the Redskins if one of their starters gets hurt. It's another example of a position at which the Redskins feel they have more depth than they did last year, if only because of the added experience some of their backup players now have.

Dallas Cowboys

I wrote Monday that the Eagles should take a run at Browns quarterback Colt McCoy if he really is available for a sixth-round or seventh-round pick. Tim MacMahon thinks the Cowboys should try and get him. I wrote Eagles because I believe their backup quarterback situation is more dire than Dallas' is, but Tim's point is a good one. The Cowboys are more likely to let go of Stephen McGee at this point than the Eagles are to give up on Mike Kafka.

Dez Bryant will be the guy on whom all eyes are locked once Cowboys training camp starts, and he's getting good reviews all over -- including the all-important one from starting quarterback Tony Romo.

New York Giants

Terrell Thomas expects to be one of the Giants' starting cornerbacks once training camp starts. Ohm Youngmisuk expects the Giants to take it slowly with Thomas as he continues to work his way back from last summer's ACL injury. I think Ohm's prediction is the more likely one to come true, though they both agree that Thomas is a starter come Week 1 assuming he stays healthy.

If there's a threat to Thomas' playing time other than his own knee, it's 2011 first-round pick Prince Amukamara, who expects to be a factor in the cornerback mix for the Giants this year now that he's healthy and has an NFL season under his belt.
Nnamdi AsomughaRich Schultz /Getty ImagesThe Eagles will be counting on Nnamdi Asomugha to be a shutdown CB again in 2012.
The Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick is under the most pressure of any player in the NFC East this year -- and the most pressure of any quarterback in the entire NFL. I have written this many times and will continue to write it because I believe it sincerely. Everything is in place for Vick to have a big year with the Eagles, and if he fails -- if he's as sloppy with turnovers as he was this past September, say, or if he breaks his ribs in the first quarter of a game and doesn't tell anyone until after the game is lost -- blame will smother him, and the Eagles will enter the next offseason re-evaluating their plans at quarterback.

But none of this means that Vick is alone in this predicament. He is, in fact, surrounded by people in similar circumstances. Coming off their 2011 flop, the Eagles have a slew of players on their roster with a great deal to prove in 2012. So in the interest of fairness, and not harping on the same guy over and over again, I present the five non-Vick Eagles with the most to prove this year:

5. DeMeco Ryans, MLB. Ryans comes with a great résumé and all kinds of stirring testimonials about what a great player and leader he was with the Texans before his 2010 injury. But he also comes with questions such as: Is he fully recovered from that injury? Can he still be a three-down middle linebacker, as the Eagles need him to be? Why did the Texans trade him for so little? The likely answers to those questions are yes, yes and because they totally changed their defense, and he no longer fit. But Eagles fans don't go in for promises. They're going to need to see Ryans perform the way they've been told he can -- on the field and in the locker room. My money says he'll do it, but if he does not, he'll be the target of criticism and scorn.

4. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB. A year ago, they traded backup quarterback Kevin Kolb for him, and now they don't appear to have a backup quarterback. A couple of months ago, they traded starting cornerback Asante Samuel in part because they believed Rodgers-Cromartie was capable of being a starter. But Samuel is a very good player and had fans, and no matter how much financial sense that deal made, the Eagles still dealt him for a seventh-round pick in an obvious dump. Rodgers-Cromartie will be eligible for free agency at the end of this season, so he's already playing under that pressure. But if he doesn't play well, people are going to be asking a lot of questions about why they dumped Samuel just before a win-now season.

3. Brandon Graham, DE. He was the Eagles' first-round pick in 2010. They traded up to take him, thinking they were getting a disruptive pass-rusher who could step in right away and make a difference. Instead, he got hurt and has had trouble seeing the field consistently. Through no fault of Graham's, the New York Giants took Jason Pierre-Paul two picks later, and he has already become one of the best pass-rushers in the league. This continues to hang over the Eagles' heads, as they have so far received almost nothing from Graham. He will have to push for playing time behind starting defensive ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin, but in today's NFL there's obviously room for a third pass-rusher to make an impact. Graham has to stay healthy and make himself a factor in that rotation, or he's going to be carrying the "bust" label around Philadelphia for a long time.

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesDeSean Jackson has shown the ability to be one of the NFL's top big-play threats.
2. DeSean Jackson, WR. The dazzling dual threat of 2008-10 seems a distant memory. Jackson is no longer a feared return man, and he disappeared too many times in the offense last year. He has admitted on several occasions that his contract situation bothered him and distracted him from performing the way he and the Eagles believe he should perform. But the contract issue is settled now, as Jackson is signed long-term. And whether or not they use him on punt returns the way they used to, the Eagles need Jackson to be the game-breaking wide receiver he appeared to be for most of his first three seasons in the league. It's not enough for him to be a downfield decoy who holds safeties back and opens up opportunities for Vick in the middle of the field. Jackson has to do a better job of getting open and allowing Vick chances to get the ball to him. Because as we all know, once Jackson has the ball, incredible things can happen.

1. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB. The words "Dream Team" will stand forever as an ironic reminder of the failed 2011 season. Asomugha wasn't the one who foolishly uttered them (that was Vince Young, who's long gone), but he is the symbol of the high-hopes offseason the Eagles had in 2011. The biggest name among the free agents they brought in for what they hoped would be a Super Bowl run last year, Asomugha struggled in a new scheme and on a new coast. He was brought in not to be merely good but rather to be one of the best shutdown corners in the league. That is the standard at which he must perform in 2012, or he'll have to carry the label of free-agent bust in a town that doesn't take kindly to them.

What these players all have going for them is that they're very talented and well-coached and surrounded by talent all over the field. But in some ways, that only adds to the pressure they face. This is a big and important year in Philadelphia, and much is expected. There's more than enough pressure to go around.
What will you remember most about Vince Young's time as the Philadelphia Eagles' backup quarterback?

Will you remember him coming in for an injured Michael Vick in Week 6 in Washington and throwing just one pass, which was intercepted?

How about the Seattle game, in which he threw four interceptions and fumbled once in the loss that ensured that the Eagles could not have a winning 2011 season?

Or the New England game the week before that, in which he passed for 400 yards, rushed for 40, threw only one interception, and yet somehow the Eagles managed to lose by 18 points?

Perhaps you're the glass-half-full sort, and you'll remember that Young somehow overcame three interceptions to lead a fourth-quarter drive and beat the eventual Super Bowl champions.

Come on. Who are we kidding? You might or might not remember any or all of those games, but we all know what you and everyone else will forever remember about Young with the Eagles -- the indelible imprint he left on the glum history of Philadelphia sports. Years from now, when you are reminded that Young did in fact play for the Eagles, you'll remember that, in his introductory news conference, when he was asked what he thought of all of the free-agent signings the team was making, he replied, "Dream Team," opening a too-easy avenue for ridicule of an Eagles team that would ultimately fail to meet any of its preseason expectations. That's what you'll remember about Young. He was the guy who said "Dream Team."

Anyway, it's a slow day, and Young signed with the Bills, which are the two reasons I wrote this post. I hope you enjoyed it.
Michael VickRich Schultz/Getty ImagesThe Eagles and QB Michael Vick failed to meet expectations last season. Will 2012 be different?
Have you heard? The Philadelphia Eagles are having a great offseason. Yeah, again. They settled the DeSean Jackson contract mess, extended deals for a few key veterans, stole middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans from the Texans and, according to many analysts, may have had the best draft of any team in the league. If the season were starting today, I guarantee they'd be the most popular pick to win the NFC East, ahead of the Super Bowl champion Giants and everyone else.

But me, I'm not so sure. I need to see it from the quarterback.

Michael Vick will enter the 2012 season under more pressure than any other quarterback in the NFL. The Eagles have told anyone who'll listen that they believe last year's team was too talented to go 8-8, that it got better as the year went along and that the four-game winning streak that closed their season can have a carryover effect into 2012. But no matter how true any of those assertions turn out to be, it's still going to be up to Vick to cash them in.

The defense took a lot of the heat for the Eagles' 2011 disappointment, and early on it did struggle to come together. But it finished eighth in the league in fewest yards allowed and tied for the league lead in sacks. If the defense does that again, it's going to be tough to blame whatever goes wrong on that side of the ball.

It was on the offensive side that Vick turned the ball over 14 times during last year's 3-6 start, coughed up the Arizona game by playing with broken ribs and not telling anyone and then missed three games during which backup Vince Young threw enough interceptions to make Vick look like the world champion of darts. Vick was as responsible for the Eagles' flop of a season as anyone else was, and it's worth making a point of that as the Eagles look ahead to 2012 with high hopes. Because that word -- "responsible" -- is the one the Eagles would most like Vick to keep in mind.

[+] EnlargeJay Ratliff
Eric Hartline/US PresswireMichael Vick is an explosive runner, but he must stay healthy for the Eagles to be a title contender.
The Eagles don't need Vick to be the dazzling, electrified, high-speed wonder he was in 2010. It'd be nice, but no one expects him to repeat that once-in-a-lifetime performance and no one ever did. What the Eagles wanted from Vick in 2011 was to evolve a bit as a top-level quarterback -- to assume more responsibility for the offense, not to mention the ball and his own body. Vick has undeniable athletic talent of a sort no one else in the league could ever dream. But what he has yet to do is take that critical next step that transforms quarterback talent into quarterback success.

The quarterbacks who become great in the NFL are the ones who treat the position as a craft to be perpetually honed and refined. Vick had that opportunity in 2011 as a clear starter on a team that surrounded him with brilliant weapons. At the urging of new offensive line coach Howard Mudd, who prefers things to work this way, Vick was for the first time in his Eagles career given the responsibility of calling the protection at the line of scrimmage -- of reading the defense before the snap and calling out the assignments for the linemen based on what he saw. At the beginning of the year, it caused confusion, as one might expect. But even as the year went on, Vick struggled to get in sync with his line.

Part of that is the style with which he plays -- running around behind the line, determined to keep plays alive past a point at which most quarterbacks would have thrown the ball out of bounds. But that's part of this responsibility theme, too. Part of Vick's maturation as a quarterback needs to include knowing what he should and shouldn't try -- and when. If he becomes more responsible about knowing the right and wrong times to take chances, that'll help his protection, his turnovers and his health.

And he has to take care of those last two things above all else. No team can afford to turn the ball over as much as the Eagles in did in 2011, and the Eagles can't afford to play without Vick. As proud as they are of their draft, last year's free agency and the depth of talent on their roster, they're not a contender if Mike Kafka or Nick Foles or Trent Edwards is the guy taking the snaps for an extended period of time. Just as they weren't a contender last year when Young was under center. The Eagles' offense is built around Vick and must run through him or it's not going to operate on the level required of a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

So the pressure on Vick isn't just to win -- it's to be responsible. To think more carefully about his throws and his other on-field decisions. To keep the big picture in mind. If he can do this -- if he can take these next critical steps in his development as a quarterback, even at the age of 32, Vick is good enough to cash in his opportunity. He's good enough to pilot an offense that has Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy to playoff glory. He's good enough to come up with that signature game-winning fourth-quarter drive his résumé still lacks. He's got the talent and he's got everything in place around him to help him succeed. But once the curtain goes up on this 2012 season, it's going to be on Vick himself to make sure he does. It may well be the best and last chance he ever gets.
Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are one of nine teams opening rookie minicamps Friday, and the occasion gave Calvin Watkins reason to remember Dez Bryant's rookie minicamp from two years ago -- and to write this post about the big things the Cowboys are expecting from Bryant in this, his third NFL season.

David Moore believes that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has quietly been allowing his son, Stephen Jones, more and more control of the team's day-to-day operations for a number of years now -- mainly because Jerry was so preoccupied with the building of the new stadium for some of those years -- and that Stephen and Jason Garrett are now in charge of most of the football decisions. I can't speak to the Jerry vs. Stephen dynamic as well as David can, but I do think the past two offseasons reflect an increasing level of control for Garrett over roster and coaching staff decisions.

New York Giants

The Giants' rookie camp isn't until next week, but Ohm Youngmisuk's already taking a look at the rookies, beginning with this snapshot of first-round running back David Wilson. The Giants likely have higher hopes for Wilson than do these Scouts Inc. reports, but he'll have to separate himself from that Da'Rel Scott/D.J. Ware mix in the offseason in order to have a role befitting a first-round pick.

Clark Judge thinks the Ravens should call the Giants and do a deal for Osi Umenyiora in the wake of the Terrell Suggs injury. I'm sure they will make that call, and I do believe Umenyiora could play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. But the Giants can and will ask for a lot in return for Umenyiora, whom they control cheaply for next year. They don't fear any distraction he and his contract dispute might bring. They're not desperate to move him. The Ravens are going to need to come strong (possibly with a first-round or second-round pick) if they want to pry him away. Especially because the Giants know they're desperate.

Philadelphia Eagles

Forget last year, Nick Fierro writes. This Eagles' offseason has been so good that the result is a roster that appears to be in better shape than any in memory.

Vince Young -- who spent a weird 2011 season as Michael Vick's backup, started three games while Vick was hurt, and will forever be remembered for foolishly saying the words "dream team" when asked about the Eagles' 2011 run of free-agent signings -- impressed some people in a recent workout for the Buffalo Bills. It's true. I'm told Young didn't throw one single interception during his workout in Buffalo.

Washington Redskins

As the Redskins begin their rookie minicamp Friday, Mark Maske of the Washington Post looks at what type of contract the team will end up giving to first-round draft pick Robert Griffin III, given the CBA's new restrictions on rookie contracts.

In John Keim's latest email report, he checks in with SMU coach June Jones, who says he thought offensive lineman Josh LeRibeus would go in the second round, not the third, where the Redskins picked him. Some people felt the pick was a reach, but due to their zone-blocking scheme the Redskins evaluate linemen a little differently and targeted LeRibeus.

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