As training camp approaches, we take a look at the players on each team who will be most heavily scrutinized. The list contains a fair amount of quarterbacks — no stunner there — but we tried to highlight as many non-QBs as we could. The players highlighted range from rookies to veterans with 10 or more years of experience.
In the fifth of an eight-part series, we look at the NFC East from the 2011 order of finish:
Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Bradshaw is coming off a subpar season, and the Giants drafted their running back of the future in first-rounder David Wilson, who reminds some observers of Tiki Barber in terms of style. Bradshaw’s feet are a constant issue (he had offseason surgery on his right foot for a stress fracture), he never practices and running back is such a young man’s position that if Wilson is impressive there could be a very quick changing of the guard. Bradshaw, 26, has come up big in some critical situations for the Giants, but their loyalty to the former seventh-round pick will last only so long if he can’t stay healthy and produce.
Others worth mentioning: TE Martellus Bennett, CB Prince Amukamara.
Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne
The Cowboys made a bold move to trade up in Round One to land a player few saw the team going after. On paper, it appears to be a brilliant stroke, landing a player whose press-coverage skills could be a perfect fit on a defense that needed far better coverage on the back end. But the move carries risk, too, and recent first-round corners haven’t universally provided immediate results. If Claiborne, who possibly could utilize his return skills as well, is a first-year success opposite Brandon Carr, the team could have vastly different returns on defense and a lot more pressure from the front.
Others worth mentioning: OLB Anthony Spencer, OLT Tyron Smith.
Eagles QB Michael Vick
This might be Vick’s final chance to prove he can lead the Eagles on a championship run. Although his contract runs through 2016, the team can cut ties after this season and not be too damaged financially. The pieces are there for Vick and the Eagles to win a lot of games. Yes, many of those pieces carry over from last season’s recreation of the Hindenburg, but the team won its last four games as the defense rounded into form and the offense evolved and cut down on critical mistakes. If Vick can use his dangerous offensive weapons, take better care of the ball and stay healthy, he could have one of his finest seasons.
Others worth mentioning: CB Nnamdi Asomugha, OLT Demetress Bell.
Redskins QB Robert Griffin III
The hype, before Griffin has taken a snap of significance, has been off the charts. Griffin is being viewed as more than a franchise quarterback; he is being hailed as a savior, an idol and an icon. Much like with Cam Newton in Carolina last season, Griffin’s effect on the Redskins’ offense could be dramatic and dynamic. He faces some tough challenges with the NFC East’s defenses, but the good news is that he has a bit of a grace period to get up to speed with only one divisional game through nine games. Still, the enormous pressure on this mature young man’s shoulders could lead to some rough patches on the team's road to respectability.
Others worth mentioning: ORT Jammal Brown, S Tanard Jackson.