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Training Camp Primer: NFC East

Sam Spiegelman breaks down all the major storylines in the NFC East as NFL training camps get underway.

Robert Griffin
Robert Griffin

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Veterans report to NFL training camps as early as Saturday, and by the week’s end every team will be back to the business of football.

XN Sports will be previewing each division prior to the start of training camp to give the major storylines for each of the 32 NFL teams as they begin their camps.

Here’s the XN Sports Training Camp Primer for the NFC East:

Dallas Cowboys

Sean Lee is out for the year, but who can step up in his absence? Justin Durant will seemingly have the first shot, then rookie Anthony Hitchens and newly acquired Rolando McClain round out the depth chart. This is already a questionable unit, and this loss hurts even more.

Is Tony Romo healthy? According to reports, he said he’s feeling better than he did last year at this time when he underwent a back operation. He’ll have to shoulder the offensive load, so he must be at 100 percent.

Who will step up opposite Dez Bryant? Terrance Williams surfaced onto the scene in 2013, but now that Miles Austin is out of the picture, Devin Street, Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris are all vying to be the third option. Which player can be a difference-maker?

What should we expect out of Jeremy Mincey or Demarcus Lawrence? The free-agent signee and first-round pick were brought in to ease the loss of DeMarcus Ware. That production is hard to replicate.

Will the Cowboys secondary improve? The team didn’t add many new pieces in the offseason except for a handful of seventh-round picks and undrafted free agents.

New York Giants

Does Eli Manning bounce back? New York revamped its backfield, bolstered its offensive line, and added Odell Beckham Jr. to the mix.

Speaking of Beckham, is this the best Giants wide receiving corps in years? With Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle in place, with first-rounder Beckham, the Giants have one of the best three-deep receiving units in the NFL.

Is Rashad Jennings the starter, or can David Wilson return — healthy — and retake his job? And will a Jennings-Wilson duo resemble the power running games of previous Tom Coughlin teams?

Will the Giants rediscover a pass rush? Jason Pierre-Paul hasn’t been himself in two years, and now youngsters Damontre Moore and Johnathan Hankins have larger roles.

If Jon Beason isn’t ready for Week 1, who’s going to fill his shoes? Jameel McClain is a career special teamer, but Spencer Paysinger has started there before. How much does Beason’s absence hurt the new-look Giants D?

Philadelphia Eagles

How’s Jeremy Maclin‘s health? He hasn’t been healthy for a full season since 2010, and with DeSean Jackson out of the picture, the Eagles need to find a true No. 1 wideout. Maclin is playing for a new deal and is the veteran of the bunch. He needs to succeed.

Is Jordan Matthews the real deal? He’s been the talk of Eagles OTAs all summer, even drawing comparisons to Terrell Owens.

Can Zach Ertz find a greater role in the offense? We pegged Ertz as one of the best up-and-coming tight ends in the NFL, giving Philly another weapon in their already dynamic passing attack.

Can first-round pick Marcus Smith crack the starting lineup? Connor Barwin stands in front of him on the depth chart, but if he or Trent Cole are unproductive, can Smith step in their place?

Last year’s first-rounder Lane Johnson was suspended for four games for using PEDs. How much does Dennis Kelly filling in at right tackle hurt?

Washington Redskins

The obvious question: does Robert Griffin III return to form? He’s in a new offense under first-year coach Jay Gruden, and all indications are the former Offensive Rookie of the Year is back to full health.

What is DeSean Jackson‘s role? He’s been a deep threat his whole career, but does he or Pierre Garcon fit into A.J. Green‘s role in Gruden’s offense? Along with Andre Roberts, this is one of the best receiving corps in the NFL.

Will Jordan Reed be able to avoid another concussion? Reed is one of the most promising young tight ends in the league, but concussions stymied his rookie season and have bothered him throughout his career. If healthy, he gives RGIII a solid fourth option.

Is the Redskins pass-rush back? Brian Orakpo is healthy, and Ryan Kerrigan thrived in his absence. Along with Jarvis Jenkins and Jason Hatcher, it’s a very formidable front seven.

Does the mascot controversy become a distraction? The players are bound to be asked about the Redskins logo and name, but can they dodge the bullets?

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