Tuesday, September 20, 2011
NFC East Stock Watch
By Dan Graziano
1. Quarterbacks, like flies. Serious injuries to the Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo and the Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick have called into question the status of each star quarterback for this week's games, potentially leaving those teams in the hands of Jon Kitna and Mike Kafka for key divisional matchups. The ability of the offensive lines in Dallas and Philadelphia to protect their quarterbacks was a question mark going into the season, and whenever they can get back on the field it's going to be important for them to be better protected from hits than they have been so far.
2. Giants' secondary. Sure, they won the game on "Monday Night Football" against the Rams, but the Giants certainly didn't inspire any confidence along the way. Tom Coughlin must be hoping his brief benching of Aaron Ross inspires Ross to play better, because they need more from him. He may be overexposed as a starter, but the Giants don't have a better option, at least until Prince Amukamara is back. And even once that happens, Amukamara will be a rookie who hasn't practiced and has a screw in his foot. Ross has to play like an NFL starter or the Giants will continue to give up yards downfield.
3. Tony Romo bashing. Does any player inspire more extreme opinions than the Cowboys' quarterback? A week ago, everybody was wondering if they'd ever win another game with goofy, clumsy Tony at quarterback. This week, he leads a comeback with broken ribs and he's a super tough guy everybody loves. Surely, this will swing back and forth between these two extremes for the rest of the season and perhaps Romo's career. But step back and look at the overall numbers, and it's easy to calm down and realize the Cowboys have a special talent playing quarterback for them. Sunday only helped prove that again.
Now fully healthy, WR Jeremy Maclin has the tools to have a career season in 2012.
1. Jeremy Maclin. Yeah, sure, he dropped the pass that would have extended the game late and given the Eagles a chance to win. But it also would have been his 14th catch of the game, and he had 171 receiving yards. After a quiet Week 1 that followed all of the health concerns he had in the offseason, people wondered if Maclin could be the impact guy the Eagles needed him to be in the passing game. But he clearly answered those questions with a dazzling Sunday night performance.
2. Rex Grossman and the Redskins' offense. One week can be a fluke. Two weeks gets your attention. And yeah, it was against a weak Arizona defense, but what jumps out at me is the efficiency with which the Redskins' offense runs. Grossman is spreading it around to six, seven, eight different receivers. They have depth at running back to support Tim Hightower if he wears down, as he did after a heavy first-half workload Sunday. And everybody seems invested in making the thing work with no egos. The schedule remains pretty soft for the Redskins for much of the year, and if Grossman can stay away from mistakes (or keep his head and recover from them as well as he did Sunday), this offense could be one of the surprises of the league.
3. Dan Bailey. The Cowboys' rookie kicker had a rough start to the game, missing a 21-yard field goal attempt. But he hit the big one at the end of regulation to tie it and the chip shot to win it in overtime. Anything that helps the Cowboys' confidence in their kicking game is a good thing for Dallas, especially as it looks as if they could be playing these heart-stopping affairs all year -- or at least until they're fully healthy, whenever that may be.