Dallas Cowboys: rueben randle

Eight in the Box: WR status check

March, 30, 2013
3/30/13
10:00
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NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How do the Cowboys look at wide receiver and what still needs to be done?

Dallas Cowboys: Dez Bryant broke out in a huge way in the second half of his third NFL season and finished the year with 92 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. If he can keep himself in one piece, he's one of the top wideouts in the league. Miles Austin is the perfect complement on the other side -- good enough that defenses have to pay attention to him but not the kind of guy who's going to complain if Bryant gets more catches. Austin has to keep his hamstrings healthy, and if he does the Cowboys have a top one-two wide receiver combo. Dwayne Harris came on strong last year as a No. 3 wide receiver, and guys such as Cole Beasley and Danny Coale could provide intriguing depth. Dallas could look to add a veteran wide receiver to its mix heading into training camp in case the young guys don't produce, but it's not a high-priority issue.

To see what the other NFC East teams look like at WR, click here.

All-NFC East Team: Week 8 update

October, 31, 2012
10/31/12
10:29
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None of the NFC East's quarterbacks played especially well this weekend, so there's no change at the most scrutinized position on our All-Division Team. We did have some changes this week, including an interesting one at outside linebacker and the first in quite a while on the offensive line.

More on all of that later. First, the disclaimer that no one will read: This is an All-Division Team based on overall season performance to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply a rundown of the best individual performances from the past week. That's why Cedric Thornton isn't on it.

Here's this week's update to the team, and my explanations are at the bottom:

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (Last week: Griffin)

Running back: Alfred Morris, Redskins (Morris)

Wide receiver: Victor Cruz, New York Giants; Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys (Cruz, DeSean Jackson)

Tight end: Jason Witten, Cowboys (Martellus Bennett)

Fullback: Henry Hynoski, Giants (Hynoski)

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Right guard: Chris Chester, Redskins (Chris Snee)

Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles (Herremans)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys (Pierre-Paul, Hatcher)

Defensive tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Linval Joseph, Giants (Jenkins, Joseph)

Outside linebacker: DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, Cowboys (Ware, Ryan Kerrigan)

Inside linebacker: Sean Lee, Cowboys; DeMeco Ryans, Eagles (Lee, Ryans)

Cornerback: Prince Amukamara, Giants; Josh Wilson, Redskins (Amukamara, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie)

Safety: Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown, Giants (Rolle, Brown)

Kicker: Lawrence Tynes, Giants (Tynes)

Punter: Sav Rocca, Redskins (Rocca)

Kick returner: David Wilson, Giants (Wilson)

Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Rueben Randle)
  • How good are the Cowboys' linebackers? They occupy three of the four linebacker spots on this week's team, and one of them didn't even play this week and is out for the season with a foot injury. Lee won't be on this list forever, and the guy who's pushing hardest for his spot is Washington's Perry Riley, but his overall body of work this season is still better than that of any inside linebacker in the division but Ryans, so in spite of his injury he keeps the spot.
  • As for outside linebacker, yeah. Kerrigan was one of the best defensive players in the league in September. He was not the same player in October, and Spencer has played at an extremely high level. He still doesn't get as much pressure on the quarterback as you'd like your 3-4 outside linebackers to get, but he's a wonder in the run game. And with Lee out, especially, that's invaluable.
  • Austin has kind of been threatening Jackson's spot at wide receiver for a while now, and with the Eagles' passing game going nowhere Jackson (who's having perhaps his finest season as a receiver) slips behind him. They have an identical number of catches (34), and Austin has 37 more yards and three more touchdowns.
  • Washington's Darrel Young was a fixture at the fullback spot last year and early this year, but what Hynoski is doing as a blocker in New York is on another level. He and Bennett have been huge in the run game, though Witten takes over Bennett's tight end spot this week due to the rapidly increasing gap in their relative productivity as receivers.
  • Been thinking for a while about Chester at right guard, and watching his performance against the Steelers on Sunday finally convinced me to pull the trigger. Almost pulled it at left tackle, too, where the Giants' Will Beatty has been excellent.
  • Josh Wilson got his cornerback spot after Rodgers-Cromartie's lousy game Sunday. Wilson overall has been much better this year than that one play at the end of the Giants' loss showed. He lost his spot last week to Amukamara, and now he's back at the expense of another September star whose October was less inspiring.
  • If I needed a big kick made and I had to pick someone in the division, I'd pick Dallas' Dan Bailey. He's also better than Tynes is on kickoffs. But Tynes has attempted 12 more field goals, made 11 more field goals and kicked 10 more extra points than Bailey has this year. He's almost doubled him in each category. Tynes is having an excellent season, and the sheer volume of opportunity he's received and cashed in puts him well ahead of the rest of the division's kickers.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

All-NFC East Team: Week 7 update

October, 24, 2012
10/24/12
1:16
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Not a lot of changes this week to the All-Division Team. Only two, I think, and neither one is the quarterback. Both Robert Griffin III and Eli Manning are playing at an extremely high level right now, and yes, I thought about using the fact that Manning won the game against Griffin's team as the tiebreaker. But as I watched that game Sunday, for those three hours, the best player on that field was not the two-time Super Bowl MVP. He got the last laugh, sure. And everyone who reads this blog regularly knows how I feel about Manning. But as of this moment, he's a notch behind Griffin for the starting quarterback spot on the All-NFC East Team. I think this is the first week all year in which they haven't switched places, so it's that close.

Before we go on, the disclaimer that no one will read: This is an all-division team based on overall season performance to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply a position-by-position list of those who played the best this week. That's why Santana Moss isn't on it.

So as I said, only two changes this week. Not the most exciting week we've had with this. I'll explain those two changes, and offer some insight on which players nearly changed my mind, after I give you the team:

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (Last week: Griffin)

Running back: Alfred Morris, Redskins (Morris)

Wide receiver: Victor Cruz, New York Giants; DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles (Cruz, Jackson)

Tight end: Martellus Bennett, Giants (Brent Celek)

Fullback: Henry Hynoski, Giants (Hynoski)

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)

Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles (Herremans)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys (Pierre-Paul, Hatcher)

Defensive tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Linval Joseph, Giants (Jenkins, Joseph)

Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins; DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys (Kerrigan, Ware)

Inside linebacker: Sean Lee, Cowboys; DeMeco Ryans, Eagles (Lee, Ryans)

Cornerback: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles, Prince Amukamara, Giants (Rodgers-Cromartie, Josh Wilson)

Safety: Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown, Giants (Rolle, Brown)

Kicker: Lawrence Tynes, Giants (Tynes)

Punter: Sav Rocca, Redskins (Rocca)

Kick returner: David Wilson, Giants (Wilson)

Punt returner: Rueben Randle, Giants (Randle)
  • Bennett had the big game catching the ball, yes, and Celek was off, but Bennett was close behind to begin with. What he and Hynoski are doing as blockers, in the run game and the passing game, is absolutely invaluable to the way the Giants are playing right now.
  • And yes, Amukamara is the best cornerback in the division at this moment. Wilson is having a fine season, the final play of Sunday's game notwithstanding, but Amukamara has done absolutely nothing wrong since returning from his injuries. With Corey Webster having a down year and the Giants' secondary in need of a boost, he's performing like a first-round pick.
  • Williams holds down his spot at left tackle after holding off Pierre-Paul all day Sunday. He's playing left tackle as well as anyone in the league. His closest competition in this division is the Giants' Will Beatty.
  • Looked at Nate Livings for left guard and Chris Chester for right guard, but I still have each a notch below the guy listed at his spot. Herremans hasn't been great, but you don't have to be to beat out Doug Free, Sean Locklear and Tyler Polumbus. I did think Polumbus played a good game Sunday. But again, year-long list.
  • Thought about Miles Austin over Jackson at that receiver spot but didn't pull the trigger. Another big Ahmad Bradshaw game could have threatened Morris at running back, because of what Bradshaw brings as a blocker. But Morris is the clear running back leader in this division right now.
  • Kerrigan's had two kinda bad games in a row, and I thought about putting Dallas' Anthony Spencer there instead. (He got a sack!) Will monitor this in the coming weeks to see if Kerrigan returns to his dominant early season form.
  • I didn't think Rolle or Brown looked remarkably impressive Sunday (Brown's interception notwithstanding), but I really don't see who deserves to have taken the spots from them. Maybe Nate Allen? Meh.
  • And finally, Lee is obviously not long for this inside linebacker spot, as he's out for the year with a foot injury. The leading candidate to take the spot at this moment is Washington's Perry Riley, but we'll see how the potential replacements play in the coming weeks. It's not ridiculous to think that Lee could hold the spot for a week or two without playing. That's how good he's been.

As ever, I welcome your thoughts.

NFC East: What to watch for in OTAs

May, 21, 2012
5/21/12
10:22
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John Clayton has a preview of some of the hot issues teams face as organized team activities (or OTAs) begin this week. The only NFC East mentions in his piece are about the Philadelphia Eagles, and they are this one:
The Eagles signed Demetress Bell to replace left tackle Jason Peters, who is out for the season after tearing his Achilles twice. Bell was previously Peters' replacement in Buffalo but didn't stand out.

and this one:
Dream Team, take two: The Eagles were the winners of the 2011 offseason but losers when they underachieved last season and didn't make the playoffs. The key to OTAs is seeing whether they are going in the right direction on defense. Last year, they brought in man-to-man specialists Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and played them in zone. Andy Reid brought in secondary coach Todd Bowles to help defensive coordinator Juan Castillo sort out the plan in the secondary and see whether the Eagles can match up better with the talent on hand.

And yeah, as was the case when the 2011 season started, I think it's fair to say the Eagles will be the most compelling national story out of our division. Much is expected, and given the way they flopped last year, they'll be under even more scrutiny this year.

But we deal with all four teams equally here, so playing off of John's column, I figured it'd be a good idea to pick something to watch for each of our other three teams this week. Remember that these offseason workouts are voluntary, so not all of the players we're looking at will necessarily be on the field. The Redskins' OTAs begin today, the Eagles and Cowboys start theirs Tuesday and the Giants get on the field Wednesday.

Dallas Cowboys

Lining up the line: The injury that will keep free-agent guard Mackenzy Bernadeau out for the spring and summer deprives the Cowboys of a chance they were expecting to see Bernadeau at center. It also removes him temporarily from the offseason competition for one of the guard spots, and will give players such as David Arkin, Bill Nagy, Nate Livings and Kevin Kowalski a head-start on him as they get an early chance to show the coaches what they can do.

New York Giants

The replacements: The Giants have to figure some things out on the line as well, and they'll take a look this offseason at whether Will Beatty is making progress as the starting left tackle and whether veteran David Diehl is the solution at right tackle with Kareem McKenzie gone. But they also want to see whether first-round pick David Wilson can replace running back Brandon Jacobs, whether second-round pick Rueben Randle can emerge from the crowd hoping to replace wide receiver Mario Manningham, and whether Terrell Thomas and/or Prince Amukamara is healthy enough to replace cornerback Aaron Ross.

Washington Redskins

Here, catch! We know rookie Robert Griffin III is the guy who'll be throwing the ball for the Redskins -- now and, ideally, for the long-term future. But Washington still needs to sort out who's going to catch it. Free-agent signees Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan are obviously going to get the first shot at prominent roles in the receiving corps, and the coaching staff remains excited about 2011 rookie Leonard Hankerson. But veteran Santana Moss will also push for a role, and there are several holdovers at the wide receiver spot who will look to catch the coaches' attention this offseason so as not to get lost in the shuffle. And that doesn't even take into account tight end Fred Davis, who was the Redskins' best receiver last year.

NFC East draft analysis

April, 28, 2012
4/28/12
8:24
PM ET
NFC draft analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


The only NFC East team that didn't trade up in the first round is the one that just won the Super Bowl. That gives you a sense of how hungry the division's other three teams are to catch the New York Giants and take their shot at the Lombardi Trophy they were holding up in Indianapolis a few months ago.

The Washington Redskins made their trade-up a month early, dealing away three first-round picks and this year's second-rounder in order to secure the man they believe will be their franchise quarterback. The Dallas Cowboys made theirs Thursday night, when they decided it was worth spending their first- and second-round picks this year to secure the best defensive player in the draft. And the Eagles made theirs a short time later, when the defensive tackle they wanted, Fletcher Cox, fell further than they expected him to fall and the price to move up and get him became reasonable.

But after the top half of the first round, the NFC East teams' drafts went very different ways. The Cowboys, in need of 2012 help at various places on the roster, oddly began picking project players and unknown safeties. The Redskins made some head-scratchers in the middle rounds before getting workmanlike about their offensive line late. And the Eagles had one of those drafts where everything seemed to be falling their way. Time will tell, of course, and there's no way right now to know how any of these players will perform. But here are some thoughts on how it looks in the very early post-draft light.

BEST MOVE

[+] EnlargeFletcher Cox
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireThe Eagles were able to move up to get their target, Fletcher Cox, without surrendering high draft picks.
Washington's trade to get quarterback Robert Griffin III and Dallas' trade to get Morris Claiborne were the headline-grabbers, and I believe that each team will be happy with its first-round pick. But the four high picks the Redskins gave up and the two high picks the Cowboys gave up keep me from labeling either of these the division's "best move" from this year's draft. Washington doesn't have another first-rounder until 2015. And Dallas, which needed help at multiple positions, spent its first two picks on a position they'd already addressed at great cost in free agency. Not enough value in either deal for it to be called a shrewd move.

So I'm giving this to the Eagles' deal to move up and get Cox. Philadelphia arrived at the draft Thursday convinced Cox was the player they wanted, and they believed they might have to move up to No. 6 or 7 to get him. To do that, they likely would have had to surrender at least one of their second-round picks, and they didn't want to pay either of those or their third. Once Cox fell to No. 12, the Eagles were able to move up by surrendering their first-rounder, a fourth-rounder and a seventh-rounder, securing the player they felt was their top target without giving up the picks they wanted to preserve. So while, yes, of course, I consider Griffin and Claiborne better players, I think the Eagles made the best first-round move of any NFC East team -- getting a player who can make a difference for them in the short-term as well as the long-term without handicapping themselves for the draft's second night.

On Friday, the Eagles converted their two second-round picks into a speedy outside linebacker (Mychal Kendricks) and a pass-rushing defensive end (Vinny Curry) and took the quarterback prospect they wanted (Nick Foles) in the third round. That Day 2 haul, compared with what the Cowboys and Redskins were able to get with their Day 2 picks, is what made the Eagles' trade-up the best overall move of the draft in the NFC East.

RISKIEST MOVE

This is a close contest between the two moves that lost out in the first category. It'd be easy to say Griffin, because he cost so much more. But I'm giving this to the Cowboys' trade-up to get Claiborne. It's a tough call, because I think Claiborne may be the best player any NFC East team got in this draft (barely, if at all, ahead of Griffin) and he cost less than Griffin did. But I'm basing this call on the circumstances specific to each team.

The Redskins are taking a big risk, sure, by picking a kid to be their franchise quarterback and telling him they don't have a first-round pick in either of the next two years with which to build around him. But the Redskins had no choice. Their need for Griffin was overwhelming, and they were right to let it overwhelm their priority list for this draft and the next two. Washington hasn't had a franchise quarterback in 20 years, and once they were convinced Griffin could be one, this was a risk worth taking for them.

I do not think, however, that Dallas' need for Claiborne was nearly as great as Washington's need for Griffin. Yes, the Cowboys' secondary was the obvious weak spot of their team last year -- the main reason they fell one game short of the Giants in the division race. But they'd already spent their big free-agent bucks on Brandon Carr and had Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick at cornerback. Does Claiborne have a good chance to be better than any of them? Yes. Could that happen as early as this year? You betcha. But with needs at safety, linebacker, defensive line and offensive line, the Cowboys should have conserved their picks to address multiple needs. They weren't one great cornerback away from being a championship team in 2012, and by trading their top two picks for Claiborne, and then picking project players and reaches the rest of the way, they decided to operate as though that were the case. It's a big risk, and if lingering weaknesses at those other spots do them in this season, they could regret it.

MOST SURPRISING MOVE

Without a doubt, it was the Redskins' selection of Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins with the seventh pick of the fourth round Saturday. It was Washington's third pick of the draft and the second that had been used on a quarterback. Their reasoning is that quarterback is a vitally important position at which it's impossible to be too deep, and as long as they make it clear to the players involved and to their fan base that Griffin is the starter and Cousins is the backup, it can work. They can develop Cousins in the backup role, have a player they like in reserve in case Griffin gets hurt and perhaps eventually trade him for something of great value in a league in which quarterbacks are the most prized commodities.

FILE IT AWAY

Nobody in this division does the draft better than the Giants, and it'll be worth remembering that the wide receiver (LSU's Rueben Randle) they picked at the end of the second round was a player they considered taking at the end of the first. Randle is a dynamic talent who now gets a chance to develop behind brilliant and selfless starting wideouts Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz and with the help of quarterback Eli Manning, who has an outstanding record of getting the best out of his receiving targets. Randle could not have been drafted into a better spot for his own development, and he could potentially be an immediate asset for the Giants in the passing game, because he can play the outside spot vacated by free-agent defector Mario Manningham and allow Cruz to stay in the slot position from which he exploded onto the scene in 2011. The Giants managed to combine need picks and value picks at almost every turn in this draft, and their second-rounder may turn out to be their biggest prize.

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