Around the NFC: Camp rumblings

Now that minicamps have ended, there is optimism around the NFL with players returning from injury. But as training camp draws near, position battles are the talk of the town and many players are poised to make a jump up the depth charts. Here is news from each camp in the NFC.

Arizona Cardinals – On the offensive side of the ball, veteran RB Marcel Shipp (ankle/leg) was back on the field during off-season workouts last week. Shipp was able to run and cut without any problems but looked to lack explosiveness with his runs. That should come by the time training camp starts for veterans on July 31.

WR Larry Fitzgerald looks completely over his season-long ankle injury from his rookie campaign. Fitzgerald routinely has won battles in practice against the defensive backs.

New offensive coordinator Keith Rowan has been adding more shifts and motion to the game plan. He's taking a page from the Chiefs and Rams' play book. Rowan's offense will be similar to both of those teams' offenses. By moving his receivers around, it makes them harder to cover.

Defensively, first-round pick CB Antrel Rolle is starting to show progress in his knowledge of the defensive system and in his coverage responsibilities. Rolle struggled big time during early workouts in man-off coverage but is starting to progress in that area.

Atlanta Falcons – Practice observers have noted that new starting MLB Edgerton Hartwell has really brought an emotional presence to the defense that may have been lacking previously. He can regularly be seen pumping up his other defensive teammates during off-season workouts.

Carolina Panthers – The contract extension signed by veteran S Mike Minter may signify that rookie S Thomas Davis will be seeing more time at strong-side linebacker in the future. Veteran LB Brandon Short, who is slated to be the starter on the strong side this season, played inside in college at Penn State and has been playing out of position on the pro level. Davis is the kind of physical player that could make an impact at the position.

Chicago Bears – Third-year WR Justin Gage looked to be in the doghouse with former offensive coordinator Terry Shea last season. That's not the case under new offensive coordinator Ron Turner. Gage is not only competing for the starting job, but those close to the team say he's expected to win the training camp battle between him and second-year WR Bernard Berrian. Third-year WR Bobby Wade is also competing for the job but is expected to wind up as their third receiver this season.

Dallas Cowboys – One of the big reasons why head coach Bill Parcells is working veteran OL Larry Allen at right tackle is because Allen showed up to their off-season workouts in the best shape he's been in the last few years at this time. Parcells has asked Allen to get in better shape since he took over the job a few years ago and Allen finally heeded his request.

Detroit Lions – The signing of veteran CB R.W. McQuarters adds to the team's strong depth at the position. In fact, the Lions already had six players who will be competing for roster spots at cornerback. McQuarters saw time at safety with the Bears last season so it's very possible he plays in sub packages at that position in order to get on the field. McQuarters also will serve as insurance at cornerback and as a punt returner should the team continue to have PR Eddie Drummond out of camp or if he gets hurt.

New Orleans Saints – Despite striking out in signing veteran WR Az-Zahir Hakim, the team is expected to continue to look for another receiver to compete for the No. 3 job against second-year WR Devery Henderson. The team also expressed interest in New England WR Troy Brown before he re-signed with them. Interestingly, Brown was offered more money to sign with the Saints.

Philadelphia Eagles – The team is excited with the progress of several players after watching them in off-season workouts and their recent minicamp.

As expected, RB Correll Buckhalter (knee) participated in their June minicamp and didn't look limited during practice. Buckhalter should go full tilt during training camp.

Third-year WR Billy McMullen impressed practice observers with his hands and route running in last week's minicamp. McMullen has been one of the stars in the past two training camps on the offensive side of the ball but then has disappeared in pre-season and regular-season games. McMullen, if he makes the team, will likely man the No.5 spot on the depth chart.

Second-year defensive ends Jamaal Green and Jerome McDougle (former college teammates too) raised their level of play big-time in workouts. McDougle is slated to start at right end and Green will vie for playing time, likely as the fourth end.

Rookie S Sean Considine has done quite well in coverage and has picked off several passes.

San Francisco 49ers – Even though second-year WR Derrick Hamilton (knee) will likely miss the entire season, former first-round WR Rashaun Woods still hasn't moved up the depth chart. WR P.J. Fleck, a former undrafted free agent, has moved up to the third spot. Woods never seemed to gain the confidence of the former coaching staff and doesn't look to have done so with the new one.

Seattle Seahawks – Fourth-year TE Jerramy Stevens showed up to the team's off-season workouts in perhaps the best shape of his career. Practice observers note that he is practicing with a renewed confidence.

While the battle for the No. 2 job is essentially between veterans Jerome Pathon and Joe Jurevicius, it's Pathon who's expected to enter training camp with the edge. Both veteran receivers have seen time in the slot and out wide in workouts thus far. Jurevicius gives the team badly needed size though since former No. 2 WR Koren Robinson is no longer with the club.

St. Louis Rams – Both veteran RB Marshall Faulk and second-year RB Steven Jackson showed up to the team's off-season workouts in pretty good shape. Both look to be down in weight.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – New offensive tackle Lance Nimmo received interest around the league before the Buccaneers claimed him off of waivers. The Colts and Seahawks, according to a league source, also put in claims for him.

Washington Redskins – Third-year WR Taylor Jacobs will compete against veteran WR David Patten for the No. 2 job in training camp. Despite Patten's pricey free agent contract, Jacobs will get a fair shot to win the job. In fact, sources say the team remains very high on Jacobs and believes he would complement new No. 1 WR Santana Moss very well. Jacobs has put together solid off-season workouts for the second straight year.

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