NFC East inside intel: Vital rookies, key position battles, juicy subplots

Charley Casserly spent three decades in the NFL, starting as an unpaid intern and ultimately serving as general manager of the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans, snagging three Super Bowl rings along the way. During his rise up the scouting ranks and eventual entry into the front office, Casserly made connections across the league -- lasting connections that extend to this day and provide rare access to the team-building process.

In the Inside Intel series, our resident GM mines his sources across the league to relay the inside word on impact rookies, prominent position battles and remaining questions. You'll find the NFC East intel below.

Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys
2019 record: 8-8

IMPACT ROOKIES

CeeDee Lamb, wide receiver: A steal for Dallas at No. 17 overall, Lamb is a complete receiver with excellent run-after-the-catch ability. There's a chance the Oklahoma product starts out in the slot, but he but could eventually be the Cowboys' best wideout -- maybe as early as this season. The question is: At what point will Lamb become the receiver defenses double-team?

Trevon Diggs, cornerback: The Cowboys had a first-round grade on Diggs, but they were able to nab him midway through Round 2 (No. 51 overall). He's expected to play a lot this year -- in fact, he should seriously compete for a starting job -- but whether he leapfrogs veterans Chidobe Awuzie and Anthony Brown depends on his consistency in training camp and the preseason.

KEY POSITION BATTLES

Table inside Article
Position
C/LG Connor Williams Joe Looney Connor McGovern
CB1/CB2 Trevon Diggs Chidobe Awuzie Anthony Brown

Both the center and left guard starting jobs are up for grabs, along with two starting CB spots. Expect the odd man out at corner to still get playing time.

ONE ADDITIONAL STORYLINE

What effect will new head coach Mike McCarthy have on the offense? McCarthy made a statement in his introductory press conference that his philosophies will be adaptable to the Cowboys' personnel in all three phases (offense, defense, special teams). He did the same in Green Bay when he adjusted his offense to the personnel toward the end of Brett Favre's career. With McCarthy often implementing the West Coast principles of the short passing game, it's logical to think we'll see the same in Big D -- especially with the addition of Lamb, who's a terror with the ball in his hands. Plus, we can expect a steady dose of deep shots to Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Lamb off play-action.

New York Giants
New York Giants
2019 record: 4-12

IMPACT ROOKIES

Andrew Thomas, offensive tackle: Thomas is a nasty tackle with the right demeanor and temperament. He was highly productive vs. the SEC's top pass rushers, and he'll be an immediate starter for New York.

Xavier McKinney, safety: McKinney is the complete package as a defender who can play free safety, strong safety and nickel linebacker. He has the range and instincts of a free safety, the tackling ability of a strong safety and the coverage skills to take on tight ends. He'll compete for a starting position and has the potential to become the QB of the defense.

KEY POSITION BATTLES

Table inside Article
Position
LT/RT Andrew Thomas Nate Solder Matt Peart Cameron Fleming
C Shane Lemieux Nick Gates Spencer Pulley
ILB2 David Mayo Devante Downs Josiah Tauaefa Mark McLaurin T.J. Brunson Ryan Connelly Dominique Ross
CB2 Corey Ballentine Deandre Baker Sam Beal Darnay Holmes

Blake Martinez will start at one ILB position, but the second is wide open. The same applies at cornerback, with the four players above vying for a spot opposite James Bradberry. One other position to make note of is kicker, after Aldrick Rosas' recent arrest. He still remains on the roster, but things could change.

ONE ADDITIONAL STORYLINE

How much will Daniel Jones develop in Year 2? The Giants are emphasizing two areas of focus for the 23-year-old quarterback: decreasing his turnovers and executing the offense. With Jones coming off a rookie campaign in which he had 23 giveaways (including a whopping 11 lost fumbles), new coordinator Jason Garrett's offense should help the passer cut down on fumbles by getting the ball out quickly. One of the reasons Jones fumbled so many times in 2019 (18 total): He was looking to make big plays downfield, taking his hand off the ball to "reload" and making himself vulnerable to defenders. Jones has the offseason to learn how to read the defense quicker and to know when to get the ball out. Protecting the ball will be stressed in practice with more drills. The more comfortable Jones becomes with the offense, the more he can focus on simply executing it, and not trying to win the game by himself.

Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles
2019 record: 9-7

IMPACT ROOKIES

Jalen Reagor, wide receiver: A deep threat with excellent speed, the first-round pick will start behind DeSean Jackson on the depth chart and will be ready to take over if the injury-prone Jackson misses more time. In the meantime, Reagor will likely get action in the slot and as a punt and kickoff returner. The Eagles expect big plays from him early and often.

Jalen Hurts, quarterback: Look for Hurts to be involved in packages that take advantage of his running and play-action pass ability -- similar to how Lamar Jackson and Taysom Hill have been used in the past. Senior offensive consultant Marty Mornhinweg, who was with Baltimore during Jackson's rookie year, will certainly have insight on how Hurts can best be used in the Eagles' offense.

KEY POSITION BATTLES

Table inside Article
Position
RG Matt Pryor Veteran might be signed

The Eagles' right guard position is in flux after Pro Bowler Brandon Brooks suffered an Achilles injury last week. I'd expect Philly to at least consider signing a veteran player to compete with Matt Pryor for the job.

ONE ADDITIONAL STORYLINE

How will Andre Dillard do in his first season as starting LT? The team's 2019 first-round pick is replacing nine-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters. The Eagles were happy with how Dillard played at right tackle last year, but they want him to improve his strength and run blocking. It's understandable that Dillard still needs work in the ground game, as he wasn't asked to run-block much in Washington State's pass-happy spread offense. This improvement will need to happen in training camp. Protecting injury-prone Carson Wentz's blind side is one of the most important duties for this team.

Washington Redskins
Washington Redskins
2019 record: 3-13

IMPACT ROOKIES

Chase Young, edge rusher: A complete player, Young can set the edge to stop the run, and he has the speed to win on the outside and the quickness to win on the inside. Look for Washington to use a rotation system, with Young getting 40-50 snaps per game while playing on both the left and right sides of the line.

KEY POSITION BATTLES

Table inside Article
Position
TE1/TE2 Logan Thomas Richard Rodgers Jeremy Sprinkle Caleb Wilson Hale Hentges Marcus Baugh Thaddeus Moss
LG Wes Schweitzer Wes Martin Saahdiq Charles
LT Cornelius Lucas Geron Christian Saahdiq Charles
OLB Cole Holcomb Kevin Pierre-Louis
CB1/CB2/CB3 Kendall Fuller Ronald Darby Fabian Moreau Jimmy Moreland Aaron Colvin

With a long list of tight ends on the roster, Washington should find two starters by the time camp is complete. The same goes for the cornerback position, as Ron Rivera is looking for three starters out of this group.

ONE ADDITIONAL STORYLINE

Who is the starting quarterback? The Redskins have a competitive QB room that includes Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen and Alex Smith, whose recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. Smith seemingly still has a ways to go, as Rivera said the veteran needs to be able to protect himself on the field before he'll be under center for the team. This offseason, the Redskins are looking for Haskins to show he can be a leader and is committed to being the best. On the field, they want to see improvement in his pre-snap reads, footwork/accuracy, ball security and general decision-making. It's promising, then, that Haskins has dedicated his offseason to trimming down and becoming "a man about my business," but then there's Allen, who came from Carolina with Rivera, and showed flashes as a starter early in 2019.

Related Content

Gamepass_vert_web_r

See all the Action

Replay every game all season.