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NFC East: Camp stars and breakout players

Our weekly discussion with's NFC East sites focuses on those making names and stepping up their games during training camp.

The NFC East teams plain don't like other, but the sites that cover the Dallas CowboysNew York GiantsPhiladelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins get along just fine. Well, at least enough to put together weekly thoughts on the divisonal hot topics. With everyone deep into training camp, we wanted to get a sense of which players are making noise. Eventually all teams in the division will get involved, but for now, let's go with that classic rivalry...

Dallas Cowboys

Camp standout
There are several good candidates here, but given the fact that the Cowboys are looking for any good news when it comes to their pass rush we’ll focus on David Irving. The 6-foot-7, 273-pound end has been building toward this since an encouraging finish to his rookie season. He was a waiver claim for the Cowboys last year. Now he looks like he could be a starter at one of the end positions, thanks in part to the suspensions of Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence. But the rest of it is due to Irving’s play. Irving has the height to bat down passes, the quickness to get around offensive linemen and the power to play inside. He just doesn’t have the experience. He’s starting to put some of those pieces together, and they were on display in the Blue-White Scrimmage last Sunday. Now we’ll see if Irving can take the next step during the preseason. The Cowboys absolutely need it.
Early camp surprise
Andy Jones, the former Jacksonville University wide receiver, is turning heads every day. Signed as an undrafted free agent, the Cowboys liked him enough to foot him a $15,000 bonus and it’s paying off. Jones (6-foot-1, 214 pounds) seems to make a highlight reel play every day, including some impressive receptions in the Blue-White Scrimmage. His measurables don’t jump off the page at you, especially his 4.5 40 time. But he makes plays and knows how to use his body in coverage. Jones is competing for what would likely be the No. 5 receiver spot. Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are locks. Brice Butler would appear to be on track for No. 4. Lucky Whitehead — who also doubles as the team’s returner — Devin Street and Jones appear to be locked in a battle for No. 5. The preseason is vital if Jones wants to make the 53-man roster. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him working punts and kickoffs in preseason games to see if he can add value there. But so far Jones is impressing at every turn.

Washington Redskins

Camp standout
If we're talking the best player in camp, the case for cornerback Bashaud Breeland is real and spectacular. The third-year corner took on the challenge of stepping up his game now that Pro Bowler Josh Norman lives on the other side. However, allow me to define camp standout as someone who is exceeding expectations. In terms of practice, that means DeSean Jackson, who skipped every non-mandatory practice this offseason despite a disappointing 2015 season. Whether it's because he's in a contract year or he's heard the criticism over those missed practices or the birth of a new child, the speed receiver has played with a purpose in camp. The Redskins have a deep group of receivers and Jackson's all-or-nothing style remains. Still, he looks focused and ready for the season. Fantasy owners, take note. Defensive backs, you've been warned.
Early camp surprise
It's more fun if the answer is a rookie like running back Keith Marshallor some undrafted free agent like receiver Maurice Harris. That's not the case here, at least not yet. Instead, we're going with veteran CB Greg Toler. The 31-year-old signed with Washington as a free agent this offseason after a stint in Indianapolis. Though a decent player during his career, the sense was Toler might just be training camp depth after the Redskins gave free agent Josh Norman $75 million over five years and drafted Kendall Fuller in the third round. Those additions were on top of Breeland and Quinton Dunbar. Yet Toler is seemingly forcing his way onto the roster with one stellar pass coverage sequence after another. With Dashaun Phillips also in the mix, the Redskins might have no choice but to keep six defensive backs in Toler keeps this up.

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