Dallas Cowboys: matt barkley

Rapid Reaction: Dallas Cowboys

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
4:11
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LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' 24-23 victory over the Washington Redskins:

What it means for the Cowboys: They’re alive. For the third straight year, the Cowboys will play a Week 17 game for the right to win the NFC East and make the playoffs. Somehow.

Trailing 23-14, the Cowboys rallied on Tony Romo's 10-yard touchdown throw to DeMarco Murray on a fourth-and-goal play with 1:08 to go. The defense was able to come up with a stop, and now the Cowboys welcome the Philadelphia Eagles to AT&T Stadium next week to try to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Cowboys are 5-0 in the NFC East for the first time since 1998 and snapped a two-game losing streak.

It was not pretty, but it will do. It also continued to show the team’s ability to bounce back from tough losses. The Cowboys did it earlier in the season against the Redskins after their 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos, and they did it after their 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions when they beat the Minnesota Vikings.

Stock watch: Terrance Williams, rising. On the winning drive, Williams caught two passes for 66 yards, including a 51-yarder that set up Murray’s touchdown catch. Williams finished the day with four catches for 84 yards, which is his second-most in a game this season.

Murray hits mark: It should have happened last week against the Green Bay Packers, but DeMarco Murray went over 1,000 yards on the season with a 43-yard run in the second quarter.

Murray finished with 96 yards on 22 carries and enters the final game of the season with 1,073 yards, which is even more impressive considering he missed two games earlier in the season with a knee injury. He is the first Cowboys running back with 1,000 yards in a season since Julius Jones had 1,084 in 2006. Murray also had his ninth rushing touchdown of the season when he bulled his way in from the 3 on the Cowboys’ first drive. It’s the most rushing touchdowns by a Dallas back since Marion Barber had 10 in 2007.

Oh, by the way, he scored the winning touchdown.

Defense comes up with stops: The offense did the defense no favors by starting out the second half with turnovers on consecutive possessions that led to Washington touchdowns and a 20-14 lead.

The Cowboys were able to overcome a bad penalty by J.J. Wilcox on a third-down play to hold Washington to a field goal, then came up with the only punt of the second half when Orlando Scandrick broke up a Kirk Cousins pass to Pierre Garcon. They also flustered Cousins into poor throws on the final drive.

What’s next: The Cowboys close the regular season at AT&T Stadium against the Eagles. The Cowboys beat Philadelphia 17-3 on Oct. 20 at Lincoln Financial Field with what was their best defensive effort of the season. They kept LeSean McCoy in check (55 yards), limited Nick Foles to 80 yards passing before knocking him out of the game and intercepted Matt Barkley three times in the fourth quarter.

Jason Garrett not surprised by Giants turnaround

November, 19, 2013
11/19/13
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IRVING, Texas – After a 0-6 start to the season, the New York Giants find themselves back in playoff contention thanks to four straight wins.

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is not surprised at the turnaround.

“They’re a good football team,” Garrett said. “They’ve been a good football team for a long time, they’ve got a lot of good players. They’re doing what winning teams do, and I don’t think that’s anything of a surprise or a revelation at all. When you play winning football and you have talented players on your team and you’re well coached, typically you’re going to win more than you don’t.”

Eli Manning has played better. In the first six games he was intercepted 15 times, including three against the Cowboys. In the last four games he has been intercepted just twice. They have allowed just 47 points in their last four games with linebacker Jon Beason playing like he did in his time with the Carolina Panthers and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul playing more like he did two years ago.

The competition as certainly helped as well. The Giants played the Minnesota Vikings with Josh Freeman at quarterback. Matt Barkley started for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Oakland Raiders are, well, the Raiders though they have improved some. Last week the Giants got the Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers.

Still, the Giants are hot and the Cowboys aren’t.

“I think it’s really important to focus on what the task is every week,” Garrett said. “You play these games one game at a time. Certainly when you’re feeling good about yourself, that’s a positive thing. But the best teams, the best players are the ones that take each situation independently of the other one and do it to the best of their ability. That’s why you play one game at a time in this league. Anything you did last week really doesn’t have that much of an impact in what you’re doing this week. It’s a clean slate. It happens within ballgames play after play after play. The teams and players who are able to do that, who are mentally strong enough to do that, put the last one behind them and focus on this one, are the ones that typically do the best.”

Five Wonders: D with plenty left to prove

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
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IRVING, Texas -- For the first time this season Five Wonders comes with the Dallas Cowboys on a winning streak.

I wonder if they can make it three in a row Sunday against the Detroit Lions. They have not won three in a row since Weeks 13-15 last season.

On to the Wonders:

[+] EnlargeBarry Church and Morris Claiborne
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys had three picks off of backup quarterback Matt Barkley.
• The Cowboys defense deserves a ton of credit for limiting Philadelphia to just 278 yards, but I wonder how much Nick Foles and Matt Barkley played into the result. When the Cowboys have faced upper echelon throwers, they have struggled. Philip Rivers lit them up. So did Peyton Manning. And Eli Manning threw for 450 yards against them in the opener. Sam Bradford was bad. Alex Smith was economical but hardly impressive. Robert Griffin III was erratic. And this week the Cowboys get Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. He can spin it as well as any quarterback in the NFL and has some guy named Calvin Johnson to throw it to. The change in the Dallas defense the last two games -- at least against the pass -- has been more man coverage. It’s time for the Cowboys defense to show they can handle a top-flight passer and not just the average quarterbacks. There are more top-flight quarterbacks on the schedule the rest of the way in Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler (provided he’s healthy). And there are also the rematches with Eli Manning and Griffin. The defense has performed better, but it’s not like it has arrived yet either.

• Right guard Brian Waters has helped cement the interior of the offensive line this season. It has not always been perfect, but it’s been solid and that’s not always been the case for the Cowboys the last few seasons. Waters is 36. I wonder if he wants to play again as a 37 year old. The Cowboys signed Waters to a one-year deal before the season started and allowed him to work in slowly before taking over the starting spot. If Waters wants to play again -- and it’s a question I’ll try to ask him this week -- I would bet the Cowboys would want him. There will have to be some assurances that he will take part in the offseason or training camp for sure. The proximity to his home should make a difference if he wants to play. I don’t know how big that “if” is, but the younger players have learned a lot from Waters and so have the more veteran guys. He helps with the shotgun snap by tapping rookie Travis Frederick. He has the strength to hold up at the point of attack. He doesn’t move as well as he once did, but he’s not just a phone booth guy either.

• Entering the game against the Philadelphia Eagles, DeMarco Murray had the highest percentage of rushing yards of a team in the league with 428 of the Cowboys’ 509 rushing yards. That percentage went down since he missed the Eagles’ game, and I wonder if the Cowboys will continue to use Joseph Randle in a role once Murray comes back from the knee injury. Murray has had a good 2013 season, but if Randle can lessen the burden, then the fresher Murray will be. We don’t know how Murray will handle a large amount of carries. He has never had more than 164 in a season because of injuries. Randle showed some decent vision against the Eagles and he was secure with the ball. He has more make-you-miss than Murray as well. Murray will still be the Cowboys’ bell cow in the running game, but if Randle can offer more than just a change of pace it makes sense to keep him involved in the game plan.

• I wonder if Dwayne Harris' punt return opportunities will be limited for the rest of the season. It would be the ultimate sign of respect from the opposition. Philadelphia’s Donnie Jones made sure Harris would not be a factor. His punts were high and outside the numbers, limiting where Harris could go if he chose to return a punt. As a result Harris averaged just 4.6 yards per punt return and had to use a fair catch signal twice. If this continues -- and if teams are smart it will -- then Harris will have to remain patient. Jason Garrett loves Harris’ decision making, but he knows there could come a time where Harris might try to make something out of nothing. That can only lead to trouble. Harris is a major weapon and the Eagles made sure he would not beat them the way he beat the Washington Redskins the previous week.

• I wonder if Edgar Jones knows just how much people will be paying attention to his recovery from sports hernia surgery. The Cowboys put him on the short-term injured reserve list, meaning he is out for eight weeks and can return Dec. 15 against the Green Bay Packers. Last December, the Cowboys chose not to place Jay Ratliff on injured reserve after he had sports hernia surgery because they hoped he would be able to return for a possible playoff run. Ratliff’s agent contended the surgery was more severe than the typical sports hernia, but I contend that if the Cowboys believed it would be a 12-month recovery they would have put him on injured reserve immediately last year. All surgeries are different. All rehab times are different. Terence Newman was back in five weeks from a sports hernia surgery a few years ago. Jones’ surgery was performed by the same doctor as Ratliff as well. If you’re wondering why the Cowboys used the one-time IR designation on Jones, then remember that the team was running out of time to use it and hope a player can be back in the regular season.

Monte Kiffin gets better of Chip Kelly

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
7:18
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Kiffin-Kelly AP Photo/Matt RourkeCowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, right, succeeded in slowing down Chip Kelly's offense.
PHILADELPHIA -- Leading up to Dallas' game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, maybe you heard that Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin had some tough times against Chip Kelly in the Pac-12.

Kiffin heard it.

“It seems like I remember that,” Kiffin smiled.

The numbers from the three meetings were staggering.

When Kelly was the coach at Oregon, the Ducks averaged 50 points and 601 yards in three games against USC when Kiffin was the Trojans' defensive coordinator. Oregon scored 62 points and had 730 yards last year against USC.

So, of course, when Kiffin and Kelly had their first NFL meeting on Sunday, Kiffin’s defense gave up only a field goal in the Cowboys' 17-3 victory against the Eagles.

It makes perfect sense, right?

Dallas' defense had allowed 1,456 yards in its three previous games. This was a defense that did not force a punt two weeks ago against the Denver Broncos and allowed 216 rushing yards last week to the Washington Redskins. Plus, the defense was without DE DeMarcus Ware, who missed the first game of his career with a quadriceps strain.

Dallas' defense was going against an offense that became only the second offense in NFL history to put up at least 1,500 yards passing and 1,050 yards rushing in six games. This defense was going against an offense that had the NFL’s leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, and that put up at least 400 yards in each of its first six games, only the fourth team in league history to do that.

And on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, Kiffin’s defense gave up only 278 yards, sacked quarterback Nick Foles three times, and intercepted backup QB Matt Barkley three times (all in the fourth quarter).

“Sometimes you get them,” Kiffin said. "[Sometimes] they get you. He got us pretty good at Southern Cal. We did get him one year when we were up at Oregon, but even that was a 38-35 game so it still was a shootout. But, no, he’s a great coach. It’s one of those days. You’re going to have days like that.”

The Cowboys' defense had days like that against QB Philip Rivers and then Peyton Manning and the Redskins’ running game, so much so that some questioned whether Kiffin still had it at 73 years old. Kelly’s offense seemed to be coming at the wrong time.

“If it was personal, he did a good job of hiding it,” safety Barry Church said. “He didn’t say anything about this own past with Chip Kelly, but he had a great game plan this week and we were able to execute.”

The plan was simple: contain McCoy and harass WR DeSean Jackson.

“When you become a good defense, you play fast and you know what you are doing,” Kiffin said. “Like I say, you see a little, you see a lot. You see a lot, you see nothing. Well, we were seeing a lot earlier in the year. We were seeing a lot, but we weren’t seeing anything. Just see a little bit, read your keys, and you have a chance to see better.”

McCoy carried 18 times for 55 yards and did not have a run longer than 10 yards. Jackson, who was shadowed most of the game by CB Brandon Carr, caught three passes for 16 yards. Philadelphia converted on only four of 22 third-down tries.

It helped that Foles was off target and his receivers were unable to make some catches they would normally make. It helped that that the Cowboys held the ball for 36 minutes, 13 seconds to keep the Eagles from getting any sort of rhythm.

“I heard stories about him at USC struggling with that particular offense, but when you sprint to the football, I mean, it makes things a lot easier,” defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said. “We got 11 guys sprinting to the football and that’s what we did.”

Eight in the Box: NFC East camp battles

July, 26, 2013
7/26/13
12:00
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NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

One key positional battle for each NFC East team as training camps get underway.

Dallas Cowboys: No. 2 tight end

The Cowboys used a second-round pick on tight end Gavin Escobar, even though starting tight end Jason Witten isn't going anywhere, and they liked what James Hanna showed as a receiver during his 2012 rookie season. They also signed veteran Dante Rosario and continue to look out for a more blocking-oriented tight end. What this all means is that the Cowboys would like to use more two-tight end sets in 2013 (and presumably beyond), largely eliminating the fullback position from their offense and offering quarterback Tony Romo a greater variety of options in the passing game. Training camp will help reveal the depth chart and the ways in which these guys all can expect to be used. Was Escobar drafted because they liked his ability to do something specific? Can Hanna hold him off for reps? How does Rosario factor into the mix? Change is afoot in the Cowboys' offense, and the tight end position is a big part of it.

New York Giants: Starting running back

David Wilson, their first-round pick from the 2012 draft, emerged as an electrifying kick returner in his rookie season and flashed big-play ability out of the backfield. He is the odds-on favorite to seize the starting running back role following the team's release of Ahmad Bradshaw. But, as is often the case, things aren't that simple. The Giants liked Andre Brown a lot as a goal-line back last season and used him a couple of times as a starter, with some success. He's back, and he doesn't intend to hand the job to Wilson without a fight. The Giants' backfield depth chart also includes veteran Ryan Torain, third-year fan favorite Da'Rel Scott and rookie Michael Cox. And these are the Giants, remember -- a pass-first offensive team that needs its running backs to pick up the blitz and help keep Eli Manning safe. Wilson offers the most upside as a runner, but it's entirely possible he could lose the starting job to a better blocker during this camp.

Philadelphia Eagles: Starting quarterback

What else is there? This is the big story of the Eagles' camp and will be one of the big stories in the NFL for the next month. Veteran Michael Vick has the experience, the foot speed and the arm strength, but new coach Chip Kelly wants a quarterback who can avoid turnovers, get rid of the ball quickly and make good, fast decisions in tight spots. These have not been Vick's strengths, which is likely why he faces a challenge from second-year quarterback Nick Foles and maybe even rookie Matt Barkley or veteran backup Dennis Dixon. Vick has to show that he's capable of running Kelly's offense the way Kelly wants it run -- and that he won't revert to his career-long tendencies to try to extend plays and make something happen with pure athleticism. If he can rein it in and operate the offense efficiently, it's his job. If he can't, one of the younger guys could snatch it from him and cost him his roster spot entirely.

Washington Redskins: No. 2 wide receiver

This would be the "Z" receiver in the Redskins' offense. Pierre Garcon plays the "X" position -- the outside receiver who lines up on the line of scrimmage. Santana Moss likely plays the slot again. The "Z" is the outside receiver opposite Garcon -- the "flanker" who lines up off the line of scrimmage to keep the tight end eligible and motions to different parts of the formation if that's called for. The candidates here are Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan and Aldrick Robinson. Morgan is the most polished and well rounded of this group, but he has trouble staying healthy. Hankerson is the one the coaches believe has the most upside, but he hasn't been able to develop consistency in his game. If he could, he'd be a valuable piece, because the Redskins believe they can use him in the slot as well. Robinson showed a lot of potential as a favored deep threat last season for Robert Griffin III, but he also has a lot to learn before he's a complete enough player to be used reliably here. Watch to see if Hankerson shows drastic Year 3 improvement in camp. If he does, it's likely his spot to lose, especially if Morgan is banged up as usual.

Eight in the Box: Key offseasons

May, 10, 2013
5/10/13
2:00
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NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a key player from each NFC East team who needs to show something in offseason sessions:

Dallas Cowboys: DT Jay Ratliff

He missed 10 games in 2012 due to injury. He cursed out the team's owner after a game. He got busted for driving under the influence mere weeks after friend and defensive linemate Jerry Brown was killed in an accident for which friend and defensive linemate Josh Brent is facing intoxication manslaughter charges. He costs $4.072 million against the salary cap for a team that struggled all offseason to find cap room. It's kind of a miracle Ratliff is still on the roster. One of the reasons the Cowboys decided to switch to a 4-3 defensive alignment was their belief that Ratliff would thrive as one of two defensive tackles in Monte Kiffin's defense, and in order to overcome all of the good reasons they have to get rid of him, Ratliff could stand to look as healthy and dominant as possible this offseason on that defensive line.

New York Giants: RB David Wilson

The Giants let Brandon Jacobs leave as a free agent last offseason and released Ahmad Bradshaw this offseason, which means their running game has been completely overhauled. Wilson, their 2012 first-round draft pick, needs to be a big part of what that running game becomes this year. He showed last season that he has a quick burst and big-play capability, and he became a force on kick returns. Wilson should get the opportunity this offseason to show that he can handle the responsibilities of a No. 1 feature running back. With the Giants, those responsibilities include blitz pickup and pass-protection duties. If Wilson shows advancement in those areas and the ability to handle regular carries, he could keep Andre Brown in a goal-line role and decrease the team's need to find a third-down back with Bradshaw-like blocking ability. If not, the Giants could be tinkering with their run game all year.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Michael Vick

Vick is the clear favorite to win the Eagles' starting quarterback job. He has considerably more NFL experience and more 2013 upside than any of his challengers. He still has the arm strength, the speed and the athleticism to offer the Eagles something at the quarterback position that no other team in the league has -- the stuff that has made coach after coach dream of what's possible since he was lighting it up at Virginia Tech. However, Vick will turn 33 next month and also has a well-established reputation as an injury-prone, turnover-prone risk-taker who holds the ball way too long and doesn't read defenses effectively. New Eagles coach Chip Kelly has said he needs a quarterback who can make quick decisions and unload the ball in a hurry. Vick will surely get the chance to show he can do that, and it's possible a scaled-down offense that leans more on the run game than Andy Reid's did will help. But if Vick struggles in the preseason with his decision-making and timing, he could lose the job to Nick Foles or Matt Barkley or Dennis Dixon. And if that happens, he could lose his roster spot, too.

Washington Redskins: LB Brian Orakpo

After a second consecutive season ended early due to a pectoral muscle injury, the Redskins' 2009 first-round pick finds himself having to prove something that was never an issue in his first two seasons -- that he can stay healthy. By now, Orakpo was supposed to have established himself as a disruptive pass-rushing force on par with the best in the league. He hasn't been able to do that, in large part because of those injuries. He has one year left on his contract, and there has been talk that he could get an extension prior to the start of the season, which is an appealing idea to the Redskins since they likely could get him at something of a discount due to the injuries. But if he struggles with health or effectiveness in the preseason, that's liable to make the Redskins think twice about a preseason extension, and to turn 2013 into a make-or-break year for Orakpo.

Cowboys sign quarterback Aaron Corp

May, 7, 2013
5/07/13
4:08
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The Dallas Cowboys signed quarterback Aaron Corp on Tuesday.

PODCAST
Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss potential past conflicts between Jason Garrett and Tony Romo regarding Romo's involvement in the offense and what changes will be made in the 2013 season.

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Corp joins Tony Romo, Kyle Orton and Nick Stephens on the roster.

The Cowboys signed Corp as a camp body, but if he can make an impression, perhaps he can earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

Corp signed with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Richmond following the 2012 NFL draft. He was released in the spring of May 2012 and remained out of football until re-signing with Buffalo in February. The Bills released him again on April 29.

Corp played at USC in 2007 and redshirted. He was USC's third quarterback in 2008, appearing in five games, before winning the starting job in the spring of 2009. Corp cracked the top of his left fibula in fall camp that year and Matt Barkley won the starting job. Corp transferred to Richmond in 2010 and started the first five games before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

In 2011, Corp threw for 2,682 yards and 17 touchdowns. He set an NCAA FCS single-game record for completion percentage, completing 91.2 percent of his throws (31-of-34) against Towson State.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

With the draft in the rearview mirror, what is the most pressing issue on each NFC East team’s agenda?

Dallas Cowboys: Figure out right tackle.

The Cowboys bolstered their offensive line with the first-round pick of Wisconsin center/guard Travis Frederick, but the line needs more help, and right tackle is the spot that most needs addressing. Doug Free has been a disappointment since signing his big free-agent deal before the 2011 season, and while the Cowboys have said they liked the way Free and Jermey Parnell worked in rotation late last season, they'd be better off finding someone reliable and leaving him in there every play. Tyson Clabo and Eric Winston remain available on the free-agent market, and the Cowboys seem to prefer Clabo. They have enough cap room to sign one of them, but it seems they'd first like to figure out what to do with Free. Will he take a pay cut and stay as a backup? They could just cut him and save $7 million, but the savings wouldn't kick in until June 1 and the Cowboys don't like to admit mistakes or part with their guys. Expect something to change with Free, if only his salary, and the Cowboys to bring in a replacement at some point this offseason.

New York Giants: Resolve the Victor Cruz situation.

Cruz is a restricted free agent with whom the Giants have so far been unable to reach agreement on a long-term contract extension. No team signed him to an offer sheet, which means the next step for Cruz is to decide whether to report to camp when he's required to or hold out. He could sign his tender, play this season for $2.879 million and hit the open market next year, but that leaves him at risk for an injury that could drastically reduce his value. He could accept the Giants' current offer, which reports say is in excess of $7 million per year. Or he could hold out and force the Giants to see what life is like without him. Complicating the matter is that the Giants also have to worry about the contract status of their other star wide receiver, Hakeem Nicks, whose deal runs out at the end of the 2013 season.

Philadelphia Eagles: Pick a quarterback.

New head coach Chip Kelly has amassed a number of interesting options. He has veteran Michael Vick, who was the starter last season until he got injured. He has second-year man Nick Foles, who took over last year when Vick got hurt. He has career backup Dennis Dixon, whose final year at the University of Oregon was Kelly's first as the Ducks' offensive coordinator. And he has former USC star Matt Barkley, for whom the Eagles traded up in the fourth round of last week's NFL draft. Kelly's plan is to throw them all into the offseason and training-camp mix and see who wins the job, and it couldn't be called a huge surprise if any of them did. The most interesting case, however, is that of Vick, who's the current favorite to be the starter but likely would be released if he were to lose the job to one of his younger counterparts.

Washington Redskins: Make sure to get Robert Griffin III healthy.

The Redskins' dynamic young quarterback, who was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year, is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery he had in January as a result of the injury he suffered in the Redskins' playoff loss. It's Griffin's second major reconstruction on the same knee. And while all reports have indicated that his recovery is progressing well, he and the Redskins must apply the lessons learned when they left him in that playoff game too long and take his recovery as slowly and responsibly as possible. In Kirk Cousins, they have a capable backup they like who can manage the offense through the offseason and even into September if need be. Griffin's long-term health is the most important thing to the Redskins' franchise right now, and managing his recovery through these summer months is organizational priority No. 1.

NFC East draft analysis

April, 29, 2013
4/29/13
10:30
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NFC draft analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The draft started off heavy in the NFC East, as the three teams with first-round picks this year used them on offensive linemen. And while there were a few little surprises and treats along the way, it never really got hot. All four of the division's teams had workmanlike drafts that balanced need and value and didn't stray into any of the juicy storylines. No Manti Te'o, Geno Smith or Tyrann Mathieu for us.

PODCAST
Chuck Cooperstein, Matt Mosley and Glenn "Stretch" Smith discuss the Cowboys' draft picks and who was influencing Jerry Jones' decisions.

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There was a trade-down in the first round, as the Dallas Cowboys moved out of a No. 18 spot they didn't like and still managed to get their first-round offensive lineman, while adding a third-rounder to the mix. There were two trade-ups in the fourth round, as the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants maneuvered to add quarterbacks in surprising moves. And there were the Washington Redskins, without a first-rounder but fine with it because they have Robert Griffin III, who waited it out and got two talented safeties in the late rounds for a secondary that needs rebuilding.

We'll be breaking this all down for days and weeks and months, but here's a quick early look at the way the 2013 draft went in the NFC East.

BEST MOVE

In the absence of any earth-shaking moves in the early rounds by NFC East teams, I'm going to have to go with the Eagles taking tackle Lane Johnson at No. 4. They probably could have traded down and out of the pick, but this was a draft in which six offensive linemen went in the first 11 picks, and the value of the third-best tackle with the fourth pick was worth hanging in there. After what happened to their offensive line with injuries in 2012, the Eagles were wise to load up there, taking an athletic player who can start at right tackle right away and maybe move to left tackle down the road once Jason Peters is done. It also helps that Johnson is the kind of lineman who can move. If Chip Kelly plans to run a lot of read-option, or even a lot of bubble screens, Johnson's ability to get out and block at the second level is going to be a big help.

Also considered: The Eagles' trade-up for quarterback Matt Barkley at the top of the fourth round. ... The Redskins' getting two quality safeties in the fourth and sixth rounds in Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo. ... The Cowboys trading down in the first round and getting wide receiver Terrance Williams with the third-round pick they added in that deal.

RISKIEST MOVE

[+] Enlarge
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireDamontre Moore put up impressive numbers at Texas A&M, but he has to disspell concerns over his work ethic and attitude at the next level.
There weren't any real big risks taken by NFC East teams with their most valuable picks in the first and second rounds, I didn't think. So I'm going with defensive end Damontre Moore, who went to the Giants in the third round. Moore is a big-time talent with big-time production numbers in college -- 12.5 sacks last year, 26.5 over the past three. But there are good reasons a player as good as he is was still there at pick No. 81, and in Moore's case those reasons include a marijuana bust and a reputation as a young man who struggles with attitude and work ethic.

Now, Moore is just 20 years old, and it's wrong to assume anyone that age will always be what he has been so far. But Moore is the player from this draft whose job it is to bolster the future of the Giants' pass rush with Osi Umenyiora gone and Justin Tuck aging. If he's a solid citizen and produces the way he did at Texas A&M, he's going to be a steal. If he's an attitude case who doesn't take to coaching and causes problems, the Giants are going to have to keep looking for long-term solutions at defensive end in the next several drafts. A third-round pick isn't too much to risk on a player with Moore's potential, but it's a pick with which the Giants could have found help elsewhere. So if he does flop, they will regret it.

MOST SURPRISING MOVE

The Eagles pulled the surprise of Day 3, moving up three spots to the top of the fourth round, where they selected USC quarterback Matt Barkley. Most analysts were convinced Kelly would seek a fast, athletic, running quarterback when he finally pulled the trigger on that position, but Barkley was a pro-style pocket passer at USC and doesn't fit the "system" everyone seems to be assuming Kelly is determined to run now that he's in the pros. As you know if you read this blog regularly, I think that's hogwash and that Kelly is smart enough to know that the best way to coach is to find talented players and figure out the best way to coach them -- not come wading in with your own "system" and only look for players who fit it.

Kelly knows Barkley from coaching against him in college, and Barkley is a guy who a year ago was thought of as a possible No. 1 overall pick. If 2012 was just a bad year for him and he ends up being a good NFL quarterback, nobody's going to care that he can't run the read-option. For a fourth-round pick and a seventh-round pick, which is what it cost the Eagles to move up and take him, it's a worthwhile risk. And it leaves Kelly with a lot of options at the most important position on his team as he begins his first offseason as an NFL coach.

The Giants pulled a surprise of their own later in the round, trading up six picks to select Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib to develop behind Eli Manning. The 32-year-old Manning hasn't missed a game since 2004, so it's unlikely Nassib sees the field anytime soon. But the Giants decided it was time to start thinking down the road at the position.

FILE IT AWAY

I liked the Cowboys' first round more than most people did, because I thought they absolutely needed to come out of that round with an offensive lineman, and they did. And while Travis Frederick may have been a reach at 31, reaching for an offensive lineman wasn't a bad move for this particular team in a draft in which eight offensive linemen went in the top 20 picks. They traded down from 18 and got the pick that netted Frederick and the third-round pick that netted wide receiver Terrance Williams, and they like that pair better than they liked what was available to them at 18.

But they won't have to look far to remember what might have been. The Giants took Syracuse offensive lineman Justin Pugh at 19, which means the Cowboys could have stayed put and picked up a better-regarded lineman than Frederick (though, obviously, not also get Williams in the third). If Pugh turns out to be a great player for the Giants and Frederick flops in Dallas, the Cowboys could end up regretting the Day 1 trade-down in the long run.
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys draft is over but not forgotten, so there’s no time like now than to wonder about things that did and did not happen.

On to 5 Wonders:

** If the Cowboys are going to be a predominantly two-tight end team, like they say they are, then I wonder if they should have taken Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert at No. 18 and risked the chance that Travis Frederick would be there at No. 47. If they had gone that route, they would have had the best tight end and best center in the draft with their top two picks. The Cowboys had their eyes on Justin Pugh with the No. 31 pick, but he went to the New York Giants at No. 19. They felt Frederick was the final offensive lineman in the draft capable of being a Day 1 starter and did not want to risk losing him or waiting until the second round. That’s a draft for need, which is OK at that point, but Eifert will be somebody worth watching for the next few years.

SportsNation

What's your overall grade for the Cowboys' draft?

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Discuss (Total votes: 26,955)

** I wonder if the Cowboys will alter how they will evaluate defensive lineman after what happened with Sharrif Floyd. He was among the top-10 players on their board, perhaps the highest rated defensive player, and he was staring them in the face with the 18th pick. And they passed on him. Then you hear about the kid’s arm length and lack of sacks. Well, those were things everybody knew before the draft. What it came down to was scheme fit and Floyd wasn’t deemed to fit in what the Cowboys wanted in 4-3 tackles. Had they stuck with the 3-4, then I can almost guarantee they would have selected him. If a player is not a scheme fit, then he just can’t be that high on their draft board.

** I wonder if Jerry Jones understands how even in points of praise he can also hurt. Take Tony Romo as an example. On Friday, Jones said Romo played a part in the selections of Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams in the second and third rounds. Jones was attempting to show Romo was all-in. Well, what about the current players on the roster at those positions. Should they now think Romo didn’t like them as much? And then Jones said part of the quarterback’s new megadeal meant he had to spend “Peyton Manning time” at the facility. For those who questioned Romo’s commitment, that was all they needed to further their belief that Romo was not fully vested when Romo has always been a “football junkie.”

PODCAST
Did Jerry Jones call out Tony Romo? Fitzsimmons & Durrett react to exclusive audio of Jones talking about the quarterback's increased role, who will be calling plays for the Cowboys and the Peyton Manning-like time he anticipates Romo putting in.

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**Over the last two years every team in the NFC East has looked at a quarterback-of-the-future/present in the draft. Washington did it last year with Robert Griffin III and also took Kirk Cousins. Philadelphia traded up for the top pick of the fourth round to take Matt Barkley a year after they took Nick Foles. The New York Giants grabbed Ryan Nassib in the fourth round. And the Cowboys chose to pass on the position. Again. Romo turned 33 recently. Kyle Orton is signed through 2014. I wonder if next year is the year the Cowboys look to the quarterback position. No, I do. Really. I had no problem with the club not taking a QB this year, but had Barkley, Nassib and Tyler Wilson dropped to them in the fourth round, I wonder if they would have pulled the trigger this year. Since they passed on Landry Jones, I think we know he wasn’t their guy. Is it too early to think about A.J. McCarron or Aaron Murray or any other QB? And, yes, I realize Johnny Manziel could be draft eligible. A quick aside: For those wondering why the Cowboys didn’t go after Tyler Bray, think about it. His coach, Derek Dooley, is on this staff now. Don’t you think the team would need to know all (stress all) there would be to know? And if the kid panned out at Tennessee, then Dooley would still be the Vols coach.

** I hope Marcus Lattimore turns into a great success. His story would be a terrific inspiration for everybody. But he wasn’t what the Cowboys needed. I wonder if people realize San Francisco was able to take a flier on Lattimore, who is coming back from a horrific knee injury, because it had so many picks. The Niners had the opportunity to offer up a redshirt year for Lattimore. The Cowboys, who entered the draft with six picks and added one through a trade with the Niners, didn’t. They needed a running back to help right now and they got Joseph Randle in the fifth round. If Lattimore becomes a star, then good for San Francisco but I would not use that as a knock on how the Cowboys ran their draft.

QB wasn't a priority for Cowboys

April, 27, 2013
4/27/13
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IRVING, Texas -- With Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson and Landry Jones available in the fourth round Saturday, it looked like the Cowboys could have had to chance to do something they don’t do often and draft a quarterback.

By the time they picked at No. 114, only Jones was available and he went to Pittsburgh with the next pick.

Barkley went No. 98 to Philadelphia, Nassib went to the New York Giants at No. 110 and Wilson went to Oakland at No. 112.

The last quarterback the Cowboys drafted was Stephen McGee (fourth round) in 2009. Since 1990 the Cowboys have drafted only three quarterbacks: Bill Musgrave (1991), Quincy Carter (2001) and McGee.

The Cowboys have Tony Romo, who turned 33 earlier in the week, Kyle Orton and Nick Stephens on the roster and agreed to a deal with undrafted rookie Dalton Williams on Saturday.

“I think every team wants to develop a quarterback,” coach Jason Garrett said. “You want a guy coming along. We feel really good about the quarterbacks we have on the roster right now and what their roles are. If one of those top guys had fallen further we would’ve had another conversation about it. We felt those guys were good players and maybe good value but maybe not for us where we were picking.”

W2W2: Draft Day 2 for the Cowboys

April, 26, 2013
4/26/13
8:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Here is a quick preview for Day 2 of the NFL draft.

PODCAST
Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the first round of the NFL draft.

Listen Listen
What to expect: The Cowboys have the 47th (second), 74th and 83rd (third round) selections of the draft. Don't expect a trade at this stage of the draft because the Cowboys, who entered the draft with six draft picks, made a deal Thursday night to get the extra selection they wanted.

Needs: Defensive line, defensive back, wide receiver, running back and offensive line are positions of need. The Cowboys picked up a center in Travis Frederick with the 31st overall selection, but there are still positions that need to be filled. There's a possibility the Cowboys will try to get a defensive lineman with one of their three picks Friday night.

Mel Kiper’s best available prospects: LB Manti Te’o, Notre Dame; RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama; QB Geno Smith, West Virginia; QB Matt Barkley, USC; S John Cyprien, FIU; TE Zach Ertz, Stanford; RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin; LB Kevin Minter, LSU; DT John Jenkins, Georgia; OT Menelik Watson, Florida St.

Cowboys best available: S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse; WR Terrance Williams, Baylor; DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State; RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin; T Terron Armstead, Arkansas Pine-Bluff.

Day 1 recap: The Cowboys moved from No. 18 to No. 31 and also grabbed a second-round selection in a trade with San Francisco. The Cowboys bypassed several key players, including defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who went to Minnesota at No. 23. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Floyd didn't fit the Cowboys' 4-3 scheme. Also, the team had a chance to move up, but Jones said there were two players who they coveted and they were gone by the 10th pick of the first round.

NFC East: Will the Cowboys draft a QB?

March, 2, 2013
3/02/13
11:00
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» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Welcome to Eight in the Box, an NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week’s topic: How each NFC East team needs to address the quarterback position.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys would like to sign starting quarterback Tony Romo to a long-term contract extension. Romo's deal expires at the end of 2013, and the Cowboys know there won't be any quarterbacks on next offseason's market who are as good as Romo is. They also would benefit from reducing his 2013 salary-cap number (about $16.8 million), and an extension beyond this year would allow them to do that by spreading signing bonus money out over future seasons. Romo will be 33 in April, and the backup quarterback is Kyle Orton, who's not a long-term solution. So there is a chance the Cowboys could try to find a quarterback in the middle rounds of the draft and start grooming him.

New York Giants: The Giants have one of the most stable quarterback situations in the entire league, as Eli Manning has not missed a game since becoming the starter during his 2004 rookie season. The Giants' plan for each season is founded in large part on Manning's durability and reliability. If he were to get hurt, they'd be more or less lost. Their preferred backup, David Carr, is an unrestricted free agent, and right now the only other quarterback on the roster is Curtis Painter (who coincidentally used to back up Manning's brother in Indianapolis). The Giants could stand to improve their backup quarterback situation, but unlike the Cowboys, they don't like to spend to do so.

Philadelphia Eagles: On the other end of the spectrum, once they add Arena Leaguer G.J. Kinne to the mix as they're reported to be doing, the Eagles will have five quarterbacks on their roster. The favorite to start is Michael Vick, though second-year man Nick Foles and career backup Dennis Dixon could factor into a training-camp competition. (Trent Edwards is likely the odd man out.) If Vick is to be the starter, the backup quarterback position becomes very important, as Vick obviously has a history of injuries. So the Eagles must figure out whether Foles or Dixon (or I guess Kinne) is the best option. The Eagles also could draft a quarterback with the No. 4 pick in April if they fall in love with someone like Geno Smith or Matt Barkley. New coach Chip Kelly is keeping his options open, which is a smart way to go in a market that presents him with few outstanding options.

Washington Redskins: All of the focus in Washington is on the recovery of starter Robert Griffin III from reconstructive knee surgery. In spite of his new adidas ad campaign that proclaims him "All in for Week 1," there is no way to project whether Griffin will be ready for the start of the season. If he's not, the starter's role will fall to Kirk Cousins, last year's fourth-round pick, who relieved Griffin three times and started one game for the Redskins in 2012. Look for Mike Shanahan to add a quarterback or two to the bench mix before training camp and the preseason arrive, as the Redskins will need depth while Griffin heals. Veteran Rex Grossman is someone the Redskins like having around and could factor into that depth mix if he doesn't find work somewhere else.

NFL scouting combine preview: NFC East

February, 19, 2013
2/19/13
11:26
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NFC combine preview: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation previews the 2013 scouting combine by identifying the most important thing for each team to learn about its greatest area of need.

Dallas Cowboys: The switch from a 3-4 defensive alignment to a 4-3, and the likelihood of losing Anthony Spencer to free agency, means the Cowboys' greatest need is on the defensive line. Is there a pass-rushing defensive end who will be available with the No. 18 overall pick? Is there a 1-technique nose tackle they could take in the first or second round who would allow them flexibility with other players on that line? Dallas also needs help on the offensive line and will be looking at the top guards. They traded up last year to get cornerback Morris Claiborne. Could they trade up for someone like Alabama guard Chance Warmack?

New York Giants: It's a good year for the Giants to employ their best-player-available philosophy with their No. 19 overall pick, because they have a number of positions of need. Osi Umenyiora has one foot out the door, and you know the Giants like to look at pass-rushers in the first round. But they could also go offensive line, linebacker, cornerback ... any number of ways, really. For the Giants, the combine will be about prioritizing their needs. Perhaps the interview process helps them figure out which player -- rather than which position -- is worthy of their first-round pick.

Philadelphia Eagles: Drafting No. 4 overall, the Eagles need a franchise difference-maker. Their first order of business is finding out whether their quarterback of the future is in this draft. But if guys like Geno Smith and Matt Barkley don't rise to fourth-pick worthiness, the Eagles will need a building-block piece at a vital position. Luke Joeckel at offensive tackle. Star Lotulelei for defensive line. Dee Milliner at cornerback. The Eagles will be able to pick almost anyone they want and probably get a great player as a consolation prize for their terrible season. Though their greatest roster needs right now appear to be on defense, they shouldn't shy away from using that fourth overall pick on a difference-making tackle or even a quarterback if they find one they love. Drafting in the top five isn't about filling an immediate need as much as it's about finding someone around whom you can build for the long term.

Washington Redskins: The Redskins traded their first-round pick in the Robert Griffin III deal and don't pick until No. 51 -- the 19th pick in the second round. This makes their scouting more challenging and their combine itinerary different from that of many other teams. There's no way for them to guess how the first 50 picks will go, so they must cast a wide net as they look for help at safety and cornerback. Fortunately for them, this draft appears deep with talented secondary players. The Redskins' mission this week will be to try to figure out which of the guys they like will still be available for them when it's finally their turn to pick.

Developing a quarterback is a must

February, 16, 2013
2/16/13
3:04
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IRVING, Texas -- The last quarterback the Cowboys tried to develop was Stephen McGee, who couldn't conform from a shotgun style to a traditional under the center formation.

There were other issues with McGee, arm strength and decision-making among them. However, the Cowboys' two main quarterbacks are Tony Romo and Kyle Orton. Nick Stephens, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound quarterback from Tarleton State, is on the futures roster. Stephens is more of a drop-back passer, and it's uncertain whether he'll be around in late July when training camp starts.

When the 2013 season starts, Romo will be 33 and most likely starting a three- to five-year contract. The future of the position is with Romo in the short term, but the big picture should have Cowboys fans and maybe to a larger extent the front office looking for a replacement for Romo in, say, 2015.

"You would like to have a young guy to try to bring along, certainly," quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said.

However, the April draft class at quarterback is very weak. Wilson said he would like to see all the quarterbacks throw at next week's national scouting combine to help with their stock.

One of the bigger names who is expected to throw is USC's Matt Barkley, who is coming off a shoulder injury that ended his 2012 season.

If the Cowboys want to move forward at the quarterback position, drafting a quarterback, regardless of whether the class is weak, should be a priority.

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