Dallas Cowboys: NFC playoffs

We end our five-day NFC East Beat Writers series by talking to The Beast, Matt Mosley, who does ESPN.com's NFC East Blog. Matt took some time from his crazy schedule (yes, I'm being disingenuous) to breakdown the entire division for us.

Five things you should worry about in the NFC East:

Marion Barber.Sorry, but I haven't bought into the Marion Barber bounce-back storyline this offseason. He looks leaner and quicker, but I'm afraid he already has the body of a 30-year-old back. This whole quadriceps tear revelation from running backs coach Skip Peete seems like a way of covering up Barber's lack of production in '09.

Eagles secondary. I think the Eagles have to be worried about this. You have the non-tackling Asante Samuel paired with Ellis Hobbs, who is coming off a neck injury. I think this team will miss the reliable Sheldon Brown. And while rookie safety Nate Allen has a promising future, he's about to get thrown into a tough situation.

Giants middle linebacker. Who are the Giants going to start here? Phillip Dillard's a talented rookie, but this would be a big leap for him. Jonathan Goff has some ability, but he's still an unknown at this point. Michael Boley will be the only starting linebacker with a lot of experience. I think Giants fans have cause for worry.

Redskins running backs.The Redskins have a backfield composed of players who peaked in '06. Mike Shanahan has always valued veteran players, but he's outdone himself with the combination of Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker. What, was Mike Anderson not available?

Cowboys kicker. The Cowboys are rolling the dice with David Buehler as the placekicker. Why do they have so much confidence in this kid? I would not break camp without John Carney or Matt Stover hanging around.

Five things not to worry about in the NFC East:

Kevin Kolb.Stop worrying about the Eagles quarterback from Stephenville, Texas. He's already earned a ton of respect in the Eagles' locker room and he's surrounded with big-time talent at receiver. The former Houston Cougar isn't afraid of the moment. I expect him to have an excellent season.

Doug Free. As I've tried to tell ESPN 103.3's Randy Galloway over and over, it's OK to trust Free. Longtime Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams had an excellent run, but I don't think you'll see a big drop in production. Scouts tell me Free's an excellent "foot athlete," so I have a good feeling about this one.

Donovan McNabb.McNabb will put up big numbers in Mike Shanahan's offense. If this offensive line can give him a little time, McNabb will be able to elevate the play of wide receivers Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas. Shanahan will commit to the running game, and that's not something McNabb's used to. I think he'll benefit in a big way.

Osi Umenyiora.I think folks are spending too much time worrying about Umenyiora's state of mind. He's too talented to take a back seat in Perry Fewell's defense. I smell a 12-sack season for Osi.

Alan Ball.I've been on the fence about Ball, the Cowboys projected starter at safety, this offseason, but coaches and scouts have finally convinced me that he's going to be fine. He's much more of a ballhawk than Ken Hamlin, and that's something this secondary sorely needs. But I reserve the right to change my mind before the season.

NFC East Beat Writers series: Eagles

June, 30, 2010
6/30/10
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We welcome you to Day 3 of our series on the NFC East. We're a little late, and for that we apologize. Today we look at the Eagles, a team that lost three times to the Cowboys last season. And with that we talked to Philadelphia Inquirer Eagles beat writer Jeff McLane.


Five things to worry about

1. Offensive line. There are questions at each spot. Tackle Jason Peters wasn't great and Winston Justice was solid but he has to show he's more than a pass blocker. Jamaal Jackson is coming back from ACL surgery and might miss part of camp. I don't think I can count on him. Nick Cole had problems in the Dallas game snapping the ball. A lot of question marks.

2. Cornerback. Asante Samuel on one side, but teams showed beause he didn't play press coveage they can do some double-screens to give him problems. Ellis Hobbs replaces Sheldon Brown. The Eagles seem to think if they can get to the passer it's going to be OK.

3. Free safety. Nate Allen is an upgrade from Macho Harris, who moved to corner. Allen will compete with Quintin Demps.

4. Strong side linebacker. Not sure if Moise Fokou is big enough and he's not great in pass coverage. Stewart Bradley is another player who might come back and do something.

5. Coaching. Andy Reid has got a little pressure on him just because Donovan McNabb is not here anymore. I'm sure people want to see if he can win without Donovan. It's the biggest test of Andy's career.


Five things not to worry about:

Wide receiver. They've got DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Maclin will be better than last year. And when you add Jason Avant, you might have the best slot receiver in the league. I think they got one of the better wide receiver corps in the NFC East.

Tight end. Brent Celek can only get better. It's a little worrysome about the backups. Clay Harbor and Cornelius Ingram both have issues. Ingram hasn't played in almost three years because of two torn ACLs.

Defensive end. Trent Cole and Juqua Parker are solid, and adding Brandon Graham makes this a position of strength. They made defensive end a priority in the offseason and they felt like they needed to get to the quarterback. I think Graham will be a playmaker.

Quarterback. I know it's the No. 1 question coming in, but they are a lot more worried about other things than this. Kevin Kolb has been in the system for three years and he's developed a rapport with the wide receivers. I think Kolb will do pretty well.

5. David Akers. He's as good as it gets. A couple of down years, but he's rejuvenated.

Tony Romo won't hold in 2010

February, 23, 2010
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The goal for the 2010 season is to fix the field goal kicker. The Cowboys hired Chris Boniol as a kicking consultant to work with David Buehler.

But Tony Romo won't hold for Buehler or whomever wins the kicking job in 2010.

Romo took over the holder's spot when then-kicker Nick Folk complained about the placements of punter Mat McBriar.

Romo doesn't like to hold, especially after he botched one in a playoff loss to Seattle in the 2006 season.

Romo had no problems holding for Folk last year, but it's now clear the Cowboys will look elsewhere for a holder.

"Tony did a nice job when he came in,” special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said Tuesday. “We want to get that situation handled as much as possible. We like for [Romo] not to be the holder.”

So who could be the holder?

* Patrick Crayton, former college quarterback.

* Jon Kitna, who has never done it before but is the backup quarterback.

* McBriar, who did it last year.

Saints players dress up as bellhops

February, 1, 2010
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Yes, this is a Cowboys blog, and we'll get to some Cowboys stuff later this week.

But several Saints players who arrived here early for the Pro Bowl met their teammates at the team hotel dressed up as bellhops on a rainy Monday.

"For about half-an-hour today, those Pro Bowl players earned some pretty good tips with our players getting off the bus and handling the luggage," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They did a good job. We're always one to steal a pretty good idea. I think Bill Walsh a long time ago had a pretty good idea, and we just took it like one of his offensive plays and ran with it."

Saints quarterback Drew Brees thought linebacker Jonathan Vilma came up with the idea.

Tony Romo, Felix Jones still going

January, 9, 2010
1/09/10
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The previous score of 34-7 would have made it easier to shut down Tony Romo and Felix Jones, but at 34-14, Romo remains under center. Hey, a 13-year playoff victory drought doesn't die easily and the Cowboys are taking no chances.

At least Tashard Choice is carrying some of the rushing load to give Jones, who has a career-high 140 yards on 13 carries, a break.

Romo has the Cowboys a nice, methodical drive that's moving the chains and eating the clocks. Less than nine minutes are left now and Dallas has the ball at the 50.

Wait, Roy who?

January, 9, 2010
1/09/10
8:23
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams is showing up big in tonight's playoff game against the Eagles. Where's this been all season?

Williams has five catches for 59 yards and there's still 3:39 left in the first half. He needs one more catch to tie his season-best of six catches on Dec. 6 at the Giants. He had 60 receiving yards in that game. Williams had one 100-yard receiving game this season in the loss at Green Bay and he's hit 60 or more just six times.

Barber wearing helmet, not playing

January, 9, 2010
1/09/10
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Running back Marion Barber has three carries for 4 yards, but he hasn't seen the field since the Cowboys' second series. Barber entered the game with a bruised left knee, so speculation is that he's banged it up. His availability for the rest of the game is uncertain.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, they have two guys named Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. Choice just gave the Cowboys a 14-7 lead on a 1-yard dive. He has four carries for 15 yards and a catch for 6 yards. Jones is having another good game against the Eagles with six carries for 41 yards, plus a reception for 30 yards.

TE Phillips growing up

January, 9, 2010
1/09/10
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rookie tight end John Phillips is a quiet man, but his production is getting louder as the season wears on. Coaches have clearly had confidence him from the beginning, employing him in three tight-end sets and limited other work, but he's getting more involved, evidenced by his touchdown catch to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead 51 seconds into the second quarter.

Phillips caught just two balls after the Dec. 6 game at New York. Since, he's had six, three against New Orleans for 40 yards, two last week against these Eagles and now this 1-yarder from Tony Romo. It was Phillips' first career touchdown.

Martellus Bennett hasn't caught a pass since Dec. 6. He was inactive with a concussion the next two weeks, but went catch-less against Washington and Philly. Bennett has no TDs and 15 receptions on the season.

McBriar pinning Eagles deep

January, 9, 2010
1/09/10
7:29
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mat McBriar, arguably the game's best punter, has pinned the Eagles at their own 10 and 5 on his first two punts. It's giving the Cowboys' defense the ability to be extremely aggressive, but the offense has puttered out on two drives in Philly territory.

Still, keep this up and the Cowboys defense will either force a mistake or the offense will finally take advantage of a short field.

Williams shaken up

January, 9, 2010
1/09/10
7:15
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Already with two catches, Roy Williams came out after the second one for 15 yards. He was bent over on the sideline with some medical attention around him. Kevin Ogletree is getting some play. In fact, he just caught a ball and took it near the goal line, but Jason Witten was called for holding, bringing the play back.

Roy has returned, lined up wide on second-and-23.

News & views: Choice to practice

January, 7, 2010
1/07/10
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IRVING -- Wade Phillips said the plan is for backup running back Tashard Choice (post concussion syndrome) to practice on Thursday after missing Tuesday and Wednesday's sessions.

Staring right tackle Marc Colombo (ankle and leg) will also practice and will start. But Doug Free, who started seven games for Colombo as he recovered from injuries, could also play.

"We have to substitute some for him," Phillips said of Colombo.

Safety Pat Watkins (knee) should practice some and is a game-time decision.

Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has made some biting comments about the Cowboys in the last few days. You can go here for the breakdown.

Phillips said he's not concerned about it.
"That's fine. What tells is the game itself and we all know that," Phillips said. "The verbal words don't do it a whole lot, it's the war on the field that makes a difference and hopefully we will respond that way."

This will be kicker Shaun Suisham's second career playoff game. In 2007, while playing for the Redskins, Suisham missed a 30-yard field goal at Seattle.

Now, Suisham gets another chance at the playoffs. He said he's confident in his abilities, but in the last regular season game of the season, Suisham went 1-for-2, missing a 30 yarder.

The lack of playoff experience is a issue.

"This is what we're going with," Phillips said of the kicker. "Just have to go on what the guy has done and what we feel. It's always a concern. I think he's working hard, that's what he's doing."

Phillips has a cold that has hit the coaching staff, but not the players.

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