Summer Scramble 2010: NFC East Players to Watch
Coming July 9: NFC East Burning Questions, Bold Predictions
Dallas Cowboys -- Doug Free
The Cowboys didn't make a lot of major changes to a team that finished the 2009 regular season as hot as any and will be among the preseason Super Bowl favorites in 2010. But one big change was the release of left tackle Flozell Adams, who by the middle of last season had cemented a reputation as a faded talent that was getting by mainly with the aid of uncalled holding penalties. His replacement looks as if it will be Free, who played well in seven games as the fill-in for injured right tackle Marc Colombo in 2009. Assuming he makes the starting lineup, Free would be the only Cowboys offensive lineman under the age of 30. Dallas is hoping his experience as a starter on the opposite side gives him a leg up on learning the schemes and the tendencies of his linemates. If he slips up in training camp, he could face a challenge from Alex Barron.
New York Giants -- Kenny Phillips
The Giants' defense fell apart so completely last year that it's hard to pinpoint one player or one area responsible. But many people around the league cite the early season-ending injury to safety Phillips as the biggest problem the Giants faced in 2009. They simply had nobody who could replace him as a leader and a playmaker in the secondary. New York went out and signed Antrel Rolle on the first weekend of free agency, and brought in veteran Deon Grant to add depth at the safety position, so the Giants would appear to be covered if Phillips can't make it back right away. But Giants people will tell you that their preference is to have all of those players available and Phillips playing as many snaps as he can as a starter at the position where he appeared poised to make a breakthrough before injury intervened.
Philadelphia Eagles -- Kevin Kolb
When they dealt longtime QB Donovan McNabb to division rival Washington, the Eagles effectively went all-in on Kolb. Their theory is that it makes sense to develop their young quarterback of the future along with fresh-faced skill-position players LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek. And that's a sound theory. The question is what kind of impact the decision will have on the Eagles' chances in 2010.
Early returns indicate that the Philly receivers are enjoying Kolb, who throws a more accurate ball than McNabb did, and has a stronger arm. But the real answers on Kolb won't come until the regular season, when we see how he does as a decision-maker under pressure, as an improviser on the run and as a leader in the huddle. Those are the areas in which McNabb excelled for so long. And now that Kolb is the starter, those are the attributes he needs to have -- or obtain quickly -- if the Eagles are to contend and rebuild at the same time.
Washington Redskins -- Trent Williams
For all of the grief that former QB Jason Campbell took, it was the offensive line that was the real disaster in Washington last year. Having made the big trade for McNabb, the Redskins spent the No. 4 overall pick in the draft on Williams, the massive Oklahoma tackle who will slot in on the left side of the line with the mission of protecting McNabb's blind side. The team also acquired veteran tackle Jamaal Brown, but it looks as if their plan is to play him on the right side and allow Williams to jump in feet-first on the left. Williams is a key element, not just to this Redskins season, but also to the future. The line was in such terrible shape that the rebuilding process is likely to take more than one year. They want Williams to be the centerpiece of that rebuilding.