Dallas Cowboys: bryce brown
Today we look at Rounds 4-7:
Fourth round (No. 119 overall)
2009 S D.J. Moore, Chicago
2010 LB A.J. Edds, Miami
2011 RB Delone Carter, Indianapolis
2012 LB Keenan Robinson, Washington
2013 S Phillip Thomas, Washington
Notable: Moore has played in 47 games -- three starts -- in his career and has two interceptions. He might be the best pick. Carter had 499 yards in two years with the Colts and was with Jacksonville last season. The Redskins have not gotten much from their last two fourth-rounders. Thomas suffered a foot injury in the preseason and was on injured reserve in 2013. Robinson has torn both pectoral muscles in his first two seasons.
Fifth round (No. 158)
2009 LB Cody Glenn, Washington
2010 C Matt Tennant, New Orleans
2011 DB Jermale Hines, St. Louis
2012 DE Jack Crawford, Oakland
2013 TE Luke Willson, Seattle
Notable: Crawford played in 15 games last season for the Raiders but does not have a sack yet in his career. Willson played in every game last season for the Seahawks and caught 20 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown. Glenn, Tennant and Hines are out of the NFL.
Seventh round (No. 229)
2009 WR Manuel Johnson, Dallas
2010 C Erik Cook, Washington
2011 DB Jonathan Nelson, St. Louis
2012 RB Bryce Brown, Philadelphia
2013 DL Everett Dawkins, Minnesota
Notable: Johnson kicked around mostly on the practice squad for the Cowboys. Dawkins spent a brief stint with the Cowboys last season. Brown is a talented runner but he’s behind LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. Cook’s older brother, Ryan, spent the last two seasons with the Cowboys.
Seventh round (No. 231)
2009 DB Jamarca Sanford, Minnesota
2010 OT Selvish Capers, Washington
2011 DL Frank Kearse, Miami
2012 WR Toney Clemons, Pittsburgh
2013 DE Ty Powell, Seattle
Notable: Kearse is with the Cowboys and could be a rotation player in 2014 after spending a few weeks with the team last season. Powell is now with the Buffalo Bills. Clemons caught three passes for 41 yards last year for Jacksonville and is now with Carolina.
Seventh round (No. 238)
2009 DB Stoney Woodson, NY Giants
2010 DT Ricardo Mathews, Indianapolis
2011 TE Daniel Hardy, Tampa Bay
2012 WR Junior Hemingway, Kansas City
2013 WR Aaron Mellette, Baltimore
Notable: Mathews is the most accomplished player and signed as a free agent with Houston after making six starts for the Colts. Hemingway caught 13 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns last season. He caught one pass for 10 yards vs. the Cowboys.
Seventh round (No. 248)
2009 TE Cameron Morrah, Seattle
2010 DT Kade Weston, New England
2011 DB Eric Hagg, Cleveland
2012 OL Kelvin Beachum, Pittsburgh
2013 S Daimion Stafford, Tennesse
Notable: Beachum has worked into a starting role with the Steelers after his career at SMU. He started 12 of 15 games in 2013. Hagg and Morrah are now teammates in Denver.
Seventh round (No. 251)
2009 WR Derek Kinder, Chicago
2010 DB Stevie Brown, Oakland
2011 DB Tommie Campbell, Tennessee
2012 K John Potter, Buffalo
2013 OL T.J. Johnson, Cincinnati
Notable: Brown found a home with the New York Giants in 2012 and had a two-interception game against the Cowboys. He did not play last year because of a knee injury but re-signed with the Giants in March.
Seventh round (No. 254)
2009 OL Trevor Canfield, Arizona
2010 LB Josh Hull, St. Louis
2011 DL Cheta Ozougwu, Houston
2012 No selection
2013 TE Justice Cunningham, Indianapolis
Notable: Ozougwu was Mr. Irrelevant and is now with the Bears. He had one sack in seven games last year. Cunningham made it to the Colts active roster last year but was a late-season pickup by St. Louis. Hull recently signed with New England and has mostly been a special teamer.
Other than the quarterback, which player could each NFC East team least afford to lose to injury? Here's a look:
Dallas Cowboys: OT Tyron Smith
Smith is a great talent in his own right, a rising 22-year-old star who's quick and strong and physical enough to develop into one of the league's top tackles. His issues with penalties last season likely can be blamed on the transition from right to left tackle, and because he won't even turn 23 until Week 15 of this coming season, it's fair to believe he'll only get better. But what makes him truly indispensable is how much better he is than anyone else on the Cowboys' offensive line. Dallas has tried to patch together its line with second-tier talent for quite a while now, and it's become a major annual weakness. Using a first-round pick on Smith in 2011 and another on center Travis Frederick this year shows that it's finally willing to address it by spending more significant resources, but there's still a big drop-off in talent level to the Doug Frees, Nate Livingses and Mackenzey Bernadeaus in the room. If the Dallas line had to play without Smith, the weaknesses of the other linemen would become more apparent and more damaging.
New York Giants: WR Hakeem Nicks
We saw what happened to the offense last season when Nicks was either missing time or playing hurt. As great as Eli Manning and Victor Cruz are, Nicks at the No. 1 wideout spot is a major, versatile weapon who makes the offense function at a higher level when he's on the field. The Giants' running back corps this season is unproven, and they have a new tight end, as usual, so the wide receivers have to be the guys on whom Manning can rely. And then there's this off-field matter to consider: Nicks is the Giants' main leverage in their ongoing contract negotiations with Cruz. If Nicks is healthy and great, they can get away with offering Cruz less because he's less of a player. But if Nicks is hurt, their need to keep Cruz gets more dire, and he's likely to demand and get more.
Philadelphia Eagles: RB LeSean McCoy
When McCoy went down with an injury in the second half of last season, backup Bryce Brown showed plenty of explosiveness and big-play ability. Unfortunately, he also showed a disturbing tendency to fumble the ball at the worst possible times. Even if Brown were more reliable, McCoy would be a difficult player to replace. His running style is unique among the star running backs in the league today -- no one makes quicker cuts or finds holes more efficiently. And considering how questionable the Eagles' quarterback situation is and the extent to which Chip Kelly's offense is expected to lean on the run game and the short-passing game, there's no player on the Eagles' offense more important to their point-scoring prospects this season than their star running back.
Washington Redskins: NT Barry Cofield
The popular Redskins answer when I put this question on Twitter on Thursday was left tackle Trent Williams. And while I agree that Williams is an outstanding player whose absence would hurt the offense and Robert Griffin III, I also think Griffin's running ability at quarterback helps the Redskins combat whatever issues the offensive line may have. So in a close call, I'm giving this to Cofield, whose impact on the Redskins' 3-4 defense at the nose tackle position is a bit underappreciated. It seemed like an odd fit when the Redskins signed Cofield to play nose tackle, a position he hadn't played in the NFL, but his strength, athleticism and leadership have helped him grow quickly into one of the best nose tackles in the league and a vital piece on Washington's defensive line. If the Redskins lost Cofield, they could find someone to plug up the middle, but whoever it is wouldn't bring the same kind of speed and versatility. Cofield makes plays in the backfield that other interior defensive linemen can't make.
How does each NFC East team look at running back, and what still needs to be done?
After a season in which they ranked third in the league in passing yards and 31st in rushing yards, the Cowboys seek greater balance in their offense. Any balance, actually. The starting running back remains DeMarco Murray, whose toughness and physical style give the Cowboys an extra dimension when he's on the field. Murray's problem is staying on the field, as he's had to miss nine games over his first two NFL seasons due to injury. The team let Felix Jones leave as a free agent and drafted Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle in the fifth round. It's no coincidence that Randle is a back who didn't miss a single game in his college career. The Cowboys needed someone durable and reliable to back up Murray, who's already struggling with hamstring problems this offseason, and neither Lance Dunbar nor Phillip Tanner showed enough in limited work last year to prove he was the backup they needed. What the Cowboys need at running back is to get and keep Murray as healthy as possible and to get Randle up to speed so he's ready to step in when he's inevitably needed as the fill-in starter.
New York Giants
The Giants let starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw depart via free agency, a difficult choice necessitated by salary and health concerns. That likely leaves the running game in the hands of 2012 first-round draft pick David Wilson, who opened eyes as a big-play threat and a kick returner in his rookie season, and Andre Brown, who functioned as a reliable goal-line back before an injury ended his season. Either should be able to handle full-time starter duties, and it's likely the team will split carries somewhat between them anyway. What the Giants need to do is establish whether Wilson and/or Brown can handle the pass-blocking duties at which Bradshaw excelled for so long. If one of them demonstrates superior performance in blitz pickup, that's likely to give him the edge for playing time over the other. With fullback Henry Hynoski out now with a knee injury, and with excellent run-blocking tight end Martellus Bennett now a Chicago Bear, the Giants remain on the lookout for reliable blocking backs. The recent injury to Tim Hightower shows that, and it remains to be seen whether Ryan Torain, Da'Rel Scott or seventh-round draft pick Michael Cox can be part of the solution.
Every prediction about Chip Kelly's offense claims certainty that the Eagles will use the run game and the screen game more this year than they did in the past. LeSean McCoy remains the starter, and one of the best running backs in the league when healthy. Bryce Brown showed when McCoy got injured last year that he could handle starter's responsibilities brilliantly, but his fumble problems obviously must be overcome if he's to be trusted with significant carries. The Eagles signed Cowboys castoff Felix Jones for depth, and they still have Chris Polk, so the candidates for carries are plentiful this offseason. What remains for the Eagles is to establish the manner in which they'll distribute those carries (and catches) among their backs in an offense that will try to run as many plays as possible every game.
Sixth-round pick Alfred Morris came from the back of the depth chart last offseason to overtake Hightower, Roy Helu and Evan Royster to claim the starting running back job, and he quite literally ran with it. A perfect fit in Mike Shanahan's one-cut zone-blocking run schemes, Morris finished second in the NFL with 1,613 rushing yards as a rookie and delivered a 200-yard, three-touchdown masterpiece in the regular-season finale/division-title game against the Cowboys. Shanahan does love to play the volume game at running back, and he still has Helu and Royster as well as late-round 2013 draft picks Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison. What remains for the Redskins is to figure out the pecking order behind Morris and work to find ways to use the talent they have at running back to ease some of the physical pressure on quarterback Robert Griffin III. It's also important to note that Washington was able to re-sign fullback Darrel Young, a key figure in a run game that led the league with 169.3 yards per game in 2012.
Assuming they move on from Felix Jones, the Cowboys will be in the market for a running back who can spell starter DeMarco Murray and, if need be, replace him when he gets injured. Unlike Calvin, I actually think someone like Turner or former Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw would work here. They need someone who's used to carrying the load, since it doesn't appear as though they can count on Murray lasting a whole season. And even if he did, they'd need someone who can replace him for long stretches during the game in order to help keep him healthy. I understand the temptation for a speed back as a change of pace, but Jones was supposed to be that and it didn't work. Why not a veteran grinder who runs with power and is used to playing in a passing offense? Someone like Phillip Tanner or Lance Dunbar could develop into what they need behind Murray, but it's not a bad idea to bring in someone with experience just in case they don't.
New York Giants
After cutting Bradshaw, the Giants appear set to go with second-year man David Wilson as the lead back and, assuming they re-sign him, Andre Brown as the goal-line guy. Maybe Brown's duties increase over what they were last year behind Bradshaw. And maybe Wilson isn't (a) ready or (b) the right kind of back to handle the running and pass-protection responsibilities in the Giants' offense. They ended the season with guys like Ryan Torain and Kregg Lumpkin on the roster for depth, and they could go back to one or both of them. I imagine they'll give Wilson the shot at the lead-back role, but they'll want to be protected in case he can't handle it. So don't be surprised if they bring a few backs to camp that you've heard of.
The Eagles look pretty well set with LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown as electric playmakers in the backfield. They also still have Dion Lewis and Chris Polk kicking around for depth. I don't see this as a need area for the Eagles this offseason.
As Mike points out in that link up there, it appears the Redskins would like to find someone who can fill in for workhorse starter Alfred Morris on third downs. That could certainly be Roy Helu if he could manage to stay healthy, but to this point he has not done that, and Mike Shanahan will surely want to bring four or more backs to camp for depth and competition purposes. As great as Morris' rookie season was -- and it was fantastic -- this is a position at which Shanahan has a well-known history of trying to stay ahead of the curve. If the Redskins' running game hierarchy is altered in 2013 from what it was in its very successful 2012, it would not be a surprise.
There were 2,035 plays in the Cowboys’ 2012 season, but some are considerably more memorable than others - and it doesn’t matter whether they went for Cowboys or against them.
What if Dez Bryant's pinkie hadn’t come down out of bounds against the New York Giants in the final minute? Or what if a Washington safety hadn’t knocked the ball out of Bryant’s arms, breaking up an apparent touchdown, in the fourth quarter on Thanksgiving Day?
What if Eric Frampton had recovered New Orleans receiver Marques Colston's fumble instead of tight end Jimmy Graham?
If, if, if. That’s the story of the NFL every year.
A play here or there and the Cowboys would’ve made the playoffs. It’s the reason Garrett is forever saying every play in every game matters.
“It allows you to argue your point to your players that it’s really really close each and every week in this league,” Garrett said. "All these things that happened to us this year where plays went against us.
"If that play had been different we would’ve won that game. Or, similarly, plays that went for us that helped us win ballgames. There were a number of those too. It’s the nature of the NFL.”
Without further ado, let's continue the countdown:
No. 8: Morris Claiborne's fumble return
Score: Dallas, 31-27
Time: 4:03 left in fourth quarter
Taylor's Take: Bryce Brown had ripped through the Cowboys’ defense for more than 150 yards, so their four-point lead felt tenuous. But as Brown burst through yet another hole, nose tackle Josh Brent dragged him down and poked the ball loose. Morris Claiborne scooped it up and sprinted untouched into the end zone for the game-clinching touchdown.
Season Impact: Having lost the week before to Washington, dropping their record to 6-6, the Cowboys were essentially in a must-win situation. Philadelphia, playing without Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson, made Brown the focal point of the offense -- and he nearly delivered a win. The Cowboys’ inability to stop the run proved to be a harbinger.
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 14:
Rookies making history. The Washington Redskins are the first team in NFL history to feature both a 2,000-yard rookie passer (Robert Griffin III) and a 1,000-yard rookie rusher (Alfred Morris). Griffin is poised to join Morris as a 1,000-yard rusher if he can average 71.5 rushing yards per game the rest of the way. Griffin already is just the fourth player in league history to pass for at least 2,500 yards and rush for at least 700 yards in a single season, joining Cam Newton (2011), Michael Vick (2002) and Randall Cunningham (1990). The Redskins are 6-6 and pushing for a playoff spot, and the success or failure of the rookie engines of their offense over the final four games could determine whether they can get in.
Flipping the rookie script? Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Bryce Brown has been more impressive since taking over for concussed starter LeSean McCoy than rookie quarterback Nick Foles has been filling in for concussed starter Vick. But that could change this week in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are allowing just 82.3 yards per game on the ground this season, the lowest figure in the NFL. They are allowing an NFL-high 309.4 yards per game through the air, which could turn out to be historically bad. No team in NFL history has allowed an average of 300 or more passing yards per game over a full season. So Foles has a chance for his best game yet, while Brown is likely to find the going tougher this week.
Not going to be a Brees. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is 4-0 with 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his four career games against the New York Giants, who host the Saints on Sunday in New Jersey. ESPN Stats & Info tells me the 11 touchdowns are tied for the most any player has had against a team that has not intercepted him. Drew Bledsoe had 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his career against the Cardinals. Of course, the Giants could be catching Brees at the right time. He threw five interceptions and no touchdowns in Week 13 against the Falcons in Atlanta. It broke a league-record streak of 54 consecutive games in which Brees had thrown at least one touchdown pass.
On the ground. Neither the Saints nor the Giants have been very good at stopping opposing runners in the backfield. New Orleans is allowing an average of 3.4 yards per rush before initial contact, which is the second-highest figure in the league, while New York's 3.2 yards allowed per rush before initial contact is third worst in the league. So Ahmad Bradshaw and whichever Saints running backs are active this week could have an easier time than usual making it to at least the line of scrimmage.
Claiborne's score sealed the game for the Cowboys, giving them a 38-27 lead at the time, but it was Brent's play that led to it.
Out of 28 snaps on Sunday night, Brent had two tackles, faced constant double-teams and of course forced the fumble. Brent is getting extensive playing time with Jay Ratliff out with a groin injury for the second consecutive game.
"He’s really matured as a player," coach Jason Garrett said of Brent. "He’s been a spot player for us in the past, a handful of snaps here and there in each of the ballgames, but because Ratliff has been out for a large part of the season, he’s played a lot more. He’s matured a lot. That can happen with players. You give them an opportunity to play more and some guys expose themselves and some guys rise up and become better players and prove to you that, ‘Hey, I can be a starter in this league.’ I think he’s shown that."
Brent has position flexibility because he's also played some defensive end because of injuries to Sean Lissemore and Kenyon Coleman. But with Ratliff out mainly, he's missed a total of six games because of injuries, Brent's value has risen with the Cowboys.
"He’s a natural nose tackle," Garrett said of Brent. "He’s a two-gapping nose tackle, that’s the body type, but he’s also a pretty good athlete. He can make plays from side to side. I think he’s grown every week. I think he’s taken advantage of the opportunity we’ve given him."
For the first time since the last time they faced Philadelphia, the Cowboys had a competent rushing attack. The return of DeMarco Murray after a six-week absence certainly helped. He finished with 83 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, but Murray was more effective than the numbers indicated, considering he lost 11 yards on his last carry. Murray still appeared tentative at times, but his presence allowed Jason Garrett to call a balanced game for a change. Felix Jones (seven carries, 26 yards) was a nonfactor in a change-of-pace role.
Once he got some protection, Tony Romo was perfect. He completed all 10 of his passes in the second half for 169 yards and three touchdowns, finishing the game with 303 yards on 22-of-27 passing. Dez Bryant dominated again despite not getting a ball thrown to him for the first 27 minutes, catching six passes for 98 yards and two tackle-breaking touchdowns. Jason Witten caught six passes for 108 yards, making a couple of plays downfield instead of just moving the chains. Miles Austin only caught two balls, but they were both important: a 19-yard gain on a scoring drive and a 27-yard touchdown.
The Cowboys couldn't stop rookie seventh-round pick Bryce Brown for most of the game. He rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Dion Lewis also averaged seven yards a pop on his two carries. Just imagine how ugly it would have been if Pro Bowl tailback LeSean McCoy had been healthy. The Cowboys' two leading tacklers, inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, are out for the season, but there are no excuses for looking that bad against an Eagles offense with even more injury issues. Morris Claiborne's fumble return for a touchdown was big, but it doesn't save the defense from a failing grade.
Nick Foles arrived at Cowboys Stadium as a struggling rookie backup quarterback. You wouldn't have been able to tell by watching this game. The Cowboys let the third-round pick get comfortable in the pocket and he picked them apart for 251 yards and a touchdown without committing a turnover. Cornerback Brandon Carr, the $50 million man, never saw the ball on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper. Victor Butler recorded the Cowboys' lone sack, marking the second straight week that Pro Bowl pass rusher DeMarcus Ware was shut out.
It was an uneventful night for Joe DeCamillis' units until they gave the Eagles a chance to pull off an amazing comeback. How the heck can the Cowboys let Damaris Johnson return a punt 98 yards for a touchdown in the final minute? Brian Moorman outkicked his coverage, and it was a pretty pathetic display of terrible tacking after that point. At least Jason Witten recovered the ensuing onside kick. Kicker Dan Bailey made his only field goal attempt, a 39-yarder. Dwayne Harris' only opportunity in the return game was a 22-yard gain on a kickoff.
Once again, the Cowboys dug themselves a double-digit deficit in the first half. That has happened in five consecutive home games, which is a pretty clear indication that Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan struggle as game-planners or motivators or both. Garrett's decision to call a timeout with 45 seconds remaining in the first half and the Cowboys at the Eagles' 1-yard line backfired, leaving Philadelphia enough time to drive for a field goal. And why didn't Dez Bryant get a ball thrown to him for the first 27-plus minutes of the game? This win was far from a coaching masterpiece.
T5. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants (Mon.)
9. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
10. Eli Manning, Giants at Washington (Mon.)
I honestly think Romo's too low. The past two quarterbacks to play the Eagles have won NFC Offensive Player of the Week awards. Romo himself was 19-for-26 for 209 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles three weeks ago, but Philadelphia's pass defense has reached new depths since then. They're literally not covering anyone. On the flip side, neither Nick Foles nor Michael Vick is in this week's top 25. Vick looks to be out again with a concussion, and Foles isn't doing anything in his stead.
9. Alfred Morris, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)
13. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants at Washington (Mon.)
14. Bryce Brown, Eagles at Dallas
T27. Felix Jones, Cowboys vs. Eagles
41. David Wilson, Giants at Washington (Mon.)
43. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys vs. Eagles
I picked up Wilson in a league in which I've already secured a playoff spot, but I didn't do it because I expect him to assume Andre Brown's touchdown-maker role. I did it because of the reasonable chance he's the Giants' starting running back in at least one of the next four games. If you're desperate, you could use him this week on the off chance he breaks a big one, but Bradshaw's likely to get those goal-line carries Brown was getting, as long as he stays healthy. Speaking of healthy, it appears Murray might play Sunday night, but that situation is murky enough that I might stay away from it and just play the Cowboys passing-game guys this week against Philly. Especially since you might not know Murray's status until after all of the early games are over.
8. Dez Bryant, Cowboys vs. Eagles
T9. Victor Cruz, Giants at Washington (Mon.)
11. Hakeem Nicks, Giants at Washington (Mon.)
24. Pierre Garcon, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)
28. Miles Austin, Cowboys vs. Eagles
39. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles at Dallas
46. Santana Moss, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)
Nicks and Cruz are every-week musts, and the matchup against the Redskins' pass defense is enticing. But man, those Redskins have a way of giving the Giants' passing offense fits. Other than the one big play that won the Giants the Week 7 game, Manning hasn't thrown a touchdown pass against Washington over the past two seasons. Austin's low ranking is health-related, I have to assume. Ed Werder has been reporting this week that Austin will play, and if he does I would start him. Garcon as a low WR2/high WR3 in 12-team leagues seems about right, especially with 10 days' rest.
3. Jason Witten, Cowboys vs. Eagles
12. Martellus Bennett, Giants at Washington (Mon.)
22. Brent Celek, Eagles at Dallas
25. Logan Paulsen, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)
Starting to feel redundant, but yeah, Witten. If I'm trying to make the fantasy playoffs and I can start a guy who's going to be running pass routes against the Eagles, I'm going to start him.
1. Lawrence Tynes, Giants at Washington (Mon.)
9. Dan Bailey, Cowboys vs. Eagles
T17. Kai Forbath, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)
All of the division's kickers have been good, including unranked Alex Henery of Philadelphia. Tynes' team gives him the most chances, though.
9. Cowboys vs. Eagles
16. Giants at Washington (Mon.)
24. Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)
T27. Eagles at Dallas
Yeah, Cowboys are the only NFC East defense I'd start this week. But I'd feel pretty good about doing it.