NFC East: Names To Watch In First Preseason Games

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The Giants have already played a preseason game, but the real preseason begins starting Thursday night. The entire NFC East will play some preseason football this weekend – including New York, who hosts Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

The Cowboys are currently en route to San Diego to face the Chargers on Thursday. Earlier in the evening, the Redskins will get their first kind of game action during the Jay Gruden era against New England. The Eagles are sandwiched between those three games with a Friday night road trip to face the Bears.

I'm not going to make too much of any of this, as well I shouldn't. We know how limited the Cowboys' starters will be in San Diego, and it's right to assume the rest of the division will follow suit.

I'll still be keeping an eye on a handful of players and positions around the division during this first batch of games.

Namely:

Jordan MatthewsI wrote a lot about Matthews when he was a candidate to be drafted by the Cowboys, and I wrote about him this spring when he turned heads at Eagles OTAs. As of right now, Riley Cooper is in a walking boot with an ankle injury and Jeremy Maclin was held out of practice because of soreness in his legs.

Matthews is a rookie, and the guys above him don't figure to play much against the Bears – if at all. I hope he'll get a decent amount of work in his debut, and we'll get a clearer idea of what to expect from a guy the Eagles are hoping can help replace DeSean Jackson.

As a bonus, I'll throw in fellow rookie receiver Josh Huff. The Oregon standout was one of my pet cats to be drafted by Dallas in May, but he became a third-round pickup by the Eagles. Again, due to a shortage at the position, the rookie will hopefully get plenty of looks. [embedded_ad]

Israel IdonijeIdonije is one of those guys who moves the needle because his name is recognizable. He registered 28 sacks during a long career with the Chicago Bears, which is why it drew interest when the Giants added him to their defensive line earlier this week.

What might be lost in that thought process is how uninspiring Idonije's time with the Detroit Lions was. The Lions signed him last season, and he played in 15 games with a paltry seven tackles on the season. He went back to Chicago in the offseason and failed to make it through the offseason program before he was released.

The Giants need someone to step up and replace the losses of Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck on their defensive line. The odds that it's going to be Idonije over the likes of Damontre Moore seem long, but that looked like the case for George Selvie and the Cowboys at this time last year. Perhaps the 33-year-old Idonije can resuscitate the last bit of his career before retirement.

So Many Backup QuarterbacksDon't count on seeing the stars of the position this weekend.

Tony Romo is sitting. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Robert Griffin III will probably only play 8-10 snaps against New England. My best guess is Nick Foles get a similar, if slightly larger, workload against the Bears. The Giants' game against Pittsburgh will be Eli Manning's second of the preseason, but their preseason is five-games long, and Manning seems unlikely to play more than a couple of series.

There's a silver lining here, though: I don't know if there's a more experienced group of backup quarterbacks than the ones plying their trade in the NFC East.

Six of the 10 non-starting quarterbacks in the NFC East -- Brandon Weeden, Caleb Hanie, Colt McCoy, Kirk Cousins, Curtis Painter and Mark Sanchez – have starting experience in this league. That means we'll be seeing a lot of experienced players getting extensive snaps in the coming games.

Cousins is probably the most-intriguing of the bunch, simply because the Redskins could opt to use him a trade bait. That seems incredibly unlikely to happen, but if it does, it will be because McCoy does enough to prove himself worthy of a backup job.

The main point, though: it's pretty rare to see this much experience among the likes of the non-starting quarterbacks in the preseason. Make fun of Sanchez all you want, but he should be able to provide more entertaining viewing than an undrafted rookie.

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