videoLANDOVER, Md. -- The difficult part now for the Washington Redskins is knowing where to begin. So many areas deserve attention. When you finish with four wins, a year after winning only three games, no quick fix exists. That’s the first thing the Redskins must realize.

If the Redskins think there is a quick solution, that a good free-agent class and draft will make all the difference, then they’ll delude themselves into thinking, once again, that they’re at a level they’re clearly not. They need to finally build a foundation that can lead to consecutive winning seasons, something they haven’t had since 1996-97. They can start the process this offseason. But it won’t be a quick one because it’s something they haven’t succeeded at in the recent past.

After the Redskins lost 44-17 to Dallas on Sunday, wrapping up a 4-12 season, coach Jay Gruden was asked how far they were from the Cowboys -- the best in the NFC East.

“They’re 12-4 and we’re 4-12, so right now, we’re far away,” Gruden said. “They’re going to the playoffs, we’re not. We’re not very close to them right now.”

Yes, the Redskins beat Dallas earlier in the season. But after that game, Washington lost six straight and seven of eight. This isn’t about splitting a series with a team, it’s about consistency week in and week out. And the Redskins just don’t do anything consistently. Not in a positive way, that is.

They began the season wondering what sort of coach Gruden would be, and what sort of quarterback Robert Griffin III would be. They end the season with the same questions. Gruden may or may not grow into a good coach; this season did not show that he would. What it did show is that he needs more help, whether from the roster or his staff.

Griffin didn’t show what the Redskins needed, either. Now he’ll enter the last year of his rookie contract with serious doubts about the future. But his issues have been documented, and all this season showed was that he’s not the answer. He’s far from the only problem. And Griffin isn't the one building the roster.

The Redskins have an offense that is transitioning between systems, from what Mike Shanahan used to do to what Gruden would prefer. He wants a more power-oriented attack but has an O-line that was built for something else.

The team ended the year with no real identity. There were a lot of returning starters (all but one spot) from a team that went 3-13. The reality was that it wasn’t just the previous staff that wasn’t good enough, it was the roster. That’s why players are dreading this offseason, knowing there could be a turnover approaching half the roster.

“That’s a scary thought,” Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen said.

But it’s also a necessary one.

“We do have to face a lot of things,” Gruden said. “It’s a matter of a whole team retool, and looking at everybody and everything and figuring out what we can do.”

This season turned out to be one long preseason as Gruden figured out what these players were about, who he wanted to keep and what he wanted to add. Thing is, the organization -- those here long before Gruden -- felt this was a roster worthy of something entering the season.

“We have to go to the drawing board and figure out who we’ll be on offense and who we’ll be on defense and who we will be special teams-wise,” safety Ryan Clark said. “Once we figure that out, then you know what you need to accomplish that goal. That’s tough on your first year as a coach. You get what’s already there. Now you can start trying to put your imprint on the team and make it your team, and that’s what Jay will try to do.”

The other issue involves defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Yes, there’s doubt about his future. It’s not about this year, one in which the defense had a lot more to overcome. It’s about the last five. You don’t have a four-win season without some sort of scapegoat. Again, there’s fear among assistants over what might happen. Gruden will meet with general manager Bruce Allen at some point and go over the coaching staff and decide what must be done. It’ll take a little time.

So much needs to change in Washington. But not all the players were downcast about the future.

“I’m not concerned,” Redskins tackle Trent Williams said. “We have a very talented team. It was the first year in a new system. We definitely have the talent to turn it around and be one of the better teams in the league. But it’s way easier said than done.”

Do the Redskins really have that much talent, or do they just have some big-name parts that don’t always fit together? The Skins have missed on too many free agents and too many draft picks and can’t afford another offseason of the same. If it happens again, they’ll be back in this same spot next season.

LeSean McCoy wants to return

December, 28, 2014
Dec 28
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A year ago at this time, wide receiver DeSean Jackson had no idea he'd just played his last game as an Eagle. It took three months for Chip Kelly to shock Jackson -- not to mention Philadelphia Eagles fans and everyone else -- by releasing him.

Running back LeSean McCoy was as surprised as everyone else when Jackson left. That's why he doesn't know whether he'll be back with the team that drafted him in 2009.

"I'm an Eagle," McCoy said. "I love it here. I've been very, very, very productive here. I have a great relationship with my coaches and with the owner, Mr. [Jeff] Lurie. We'll see what happens. It's a business. Anything can happen. I know that. I'm sure we can work something out. They know how I feel about them and I know how they feel about me."

McCoy's contract runs through 2017. Next year, he is scheduled to make $9.75 million. His salary drops to $6.9 million in 2016. McCoy said his willingness to restructure his contract "depends on how they want to do it. I'll do whatever it takes. I feel good, I feel young. We've got some time for that."

McCoy had the best season of his career in 2013, rushing for an NFL-high 1,607 yards. This season, his numbers were down. There were reasons for that, though. Injuries along the offensive line hampered the Eagles' running game in the first half of the season.

"From outsiders to you guys, nobody cares who's hurt, nobody cares what's the problem," McCoy said. "They see the numbers. That's what matters. I learned that. It doesn't matter what happens or why it happens. That's what I learned."

McCoy finished with 1,319 rushing yards this season. He was selected for the Pro Bowl again. He is only 26 years old, so there is every reason to believe he can be as productive as he was last season.

That can't be said about Chris Polk or Darren Sproles, the other running backs under contract. Last season, the Eagles were able to part with Jackson because they had Jeremy Maclin coming back from his torn ACL. Maclin caught 85 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

So McCoy is likely to be back, but he knows that no one is safe.

"I'd be lying if I said I never thought of it," McCoy said. "I really don't know. I feel like I've played well here for a long time. Whatever happens is going to happen. It's something you think about. You definitely do. In this league, nothing is guaranteed."
videoEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw for 429 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles secondary Sunday. Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caught 12 passes for 185 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown. Reuben Randle added six catches for 158 yards.

For all that, it felt as if the Eagles defense played better than it had in recent weeks in a 34-26 victory. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher, who became a lightning rod after surrendering three touchdowns to Dez Bryant and 50-yard receptions to DeSean Jackson, was sidelined by a hip injury sustained in practice last week.

Nolan Carroll replaced Fletcher. Rookie Jaylen Watkins, who hadn’t played a defensive snap in the first 15 games, stepped into Carroll’s usual spot.

“They did a good job,” Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “They got beat a couple times and they made some plays. It’s a starting point.”

That sounds odd after the last game of the season, but it’s true. Fletcher’s contract expires after this season. There’s every reason to expect him to move on. The other starting cornerback, Cary Williams, has one season left on his deal. He is scheduled to make $6.5 million in 2015, with a salary cap hit of $8.1 million. Even if he had a great season, the Eagles might be looking to reduce that number. As it is, Williams could also be gone.

“I want to be back,” Williams said. “If I’m not back, that’s life in the National Football League.”

The Eagles had the worst overall pass defense in the league last year. They moved up to 25th this season, but they were last in the league when it came to passes over 40 yards. They gave up two more Sunday to finish with 18 40-plus-yard plays.

“Great front seven,” Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said. “Outstanding improvement on [defense] all over, except for giving up the big ball. You can’t do it.”

During the game, Davis had Williams follow Beckham around the field. That’s a switch from the Eagles’ usual approach, where each cornerback remains on one side of the field.

“I knew I was going to have Jaylen in at dime and I knew Nolan was going to be matching up,” Davis said. “Those guys haven’t played corner all year in the games. I figured the best thing was, let’s get Cary to Beckham and we’ll double and bracket and give help where we need to give help.”

Randle beat Carroll and safety Nate Allen for a 43-yard gain the first quarter. The coverage was good, but as often has happened this year, neither defensive player reacted well when the ball came down.

Watkins fell when Beckham gave him a double move. Beckham caught a pass from Manning, eluded safety Malcolm Jenkins and went for a 63-yard touchdown. Carroll was out for a stretch with a head injury. Until he was cleared, Watkins moved to the outside corner spot.

“We used more nickel than we usually do,” Davis said. “We used more dime than we usually do. We just didn’t go a good enough job.”
LANDOVER, Md. -- Jason Garrett talked about the look the Washington Redskins gave on the first four kickoffs of the game that gave the Dallas Cowboys a tip that an onside kick might work. A product of hours of film study and practice field preparation was there to be had.

That's just coachspeak.

There was more than just a look when Garrett approved an onside kick try after the Cowboys took a 20-7 lead in the second quarter.

It was about sending a message. It was about taking the game. It was about telling the Redskins you have no chance on this day in what turned out to be a 44-17 win. It was telling the rest of the NFC that the Cowboys are a serious contender for a spot in Super Bow XLIX.

It was a gutsy call even with a 13-point lead.

"He's not much of a risk-taker when it comes to playing the game or calling calls, but he knew we had to get that momentum," safety Barry Church said.

Church recovered the onside kick. Seven plays later, DeMarco Murray had a 9-yard touchdown run and the Cowboys had a 27-7 lead.

The Redskins closed to within 10 points in the fourth quarter, but the game was essentially decided on the Cowboys' first five offensive possessions when they scored three touchdowns and two field goals.

They took the game by the throat early and did not let go.

In the words that have come to symbolize this team from the start of organized team activities in May, minicamp in June, training camp in July and August and the start of the regular season in September, the Cowboys finished the fight with their dismantling of the Redskins.

Throughout the week Garrett was questioned about the wisdom of playing his starters in a game that would have little effect on their playoff seed.

Murray is not yet two weeks removed from a broken left hand. Tony Romo has played most of the year with a sore back. Jason Witten sprained his knee last week. Just about everybody had something that bothered them Sunday.

But they played anyway.

"We're playing to win the game," Romo said.

Romo didn't come out until the fourth quarter after throwing 34 passes, the most he has had in a game since Week 5. Murray still had 20 carries, reaching 100 yards for the 12th time in a game during the season. He also set the franchise record for rushing yards in a season with 1,845 yards. Dez Bryant set the team record for touchdown catches in a season with 16 thanks to grabs of 65 and 23 yards in the first quarter.

"They keep fighting for each other," Garrett said of his players. "That has been a big mantra for us right from the start and they demonstrated it day in and day out in practice and in the games we have played. We talk a lot about being your best regardless of circumstances. Don't tell me what the circumstances are. Good, bad or indifferent, go be your best. Be your best individually so we can be our best collectively."

The Cowboys can look back at several defining moments during this 12-4 season: winning at Seattle in October, Romo's toughness playing through two transverse process fractures in London, blowing a 21-point lead at Philadelphia only to recover and win on the road in December, Murray playing six days after hand surgery last week … Sunday's onside kick.

"It just makes us want to play that much harder for him, just knowing that he can, shoot, risk the whole game on an onside kick for us," Church said. "We know he has our back and he probably would've taken the blame if something happened and they took it down the field and grabbed the momentum. Just knowing that he has our back like that, just makes us want to play that much harder for him."

One fight has ended. Another is beginning.

"This is what we worked for and winning the division is the first goal because it's an opportunity to play in the playoffs," Garrett said. "I'm excited to see who we play and when we'll play them and get ready for those challenges. This is a lot of hard work by everybody to get to this point, so it's time to take advantage of that."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and safety and defensive captain Antrel Rolle both stuck up for embattled defensive coordinator Perry Fewell on Sunday, following the Giants' 34-26 season-ending loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Giants entered the final week of the season ranked fifth-to-last in total yards allowed. And the final performance against Philadelphia wasn't very impressive, either. But when asked if he would like to see his coaching staff return intact, Coughlin said, "Yes, but I'm not going to say anything more about that or anything else today."

There's still a chance Coughlin could be dismissed, with the Giants missing the playoffs for the third year in a row and finishing 6-10 -- their worst record since Coughlin's first year at the helm, 2004.

But the more likely scenario is saying goodbye to Fewell, although that is far from a given.

Rolle went ever farther in Fewell's defense.

"I have full confidence in Perry, and I know what kind of coach Perry is," Rolle said. "I know when he’s at his best, I know when he’s not at his best. I also know how to work with him -- I’ve been his dog for four years, I’ve been his fill-in guy. I love to work with Perry."

Of course, Rolle may not be here next year, either -- the 32-year-old will be a free agent this offseason. The former All-Pro has been a key contributor on the field and leader in the locker room the past five years, but had a subpar season in 2014.

"I've been through this process once before, and I think you just have to take it in stride," Rolle said. "If this was my last game as a Giant, I'm very appreciative, I wouldn't change anything for the world. I've had a wonderful five years here, and I gave the team every single inch that I had, I gave 'em every single thing that I had."

"I definitely want to stay here," Rolle added. "I feel like we're building something. Although we haven't had the season that we wanted to have, I think we're still building something."

Another key player who may not be back is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who also will be a free agent. Pierre-Paul came on strong late, with nine sacks in the final five games of the season -- capped off by two against the Eagles on Sunday. He finished with 12.5 sacks, by far his highest total since he posted 16.5 in 2011, his second year in the league.

Pierre-Paul is younger than Rolle (he'll turn 26 on New Year's Day), and more important at this stage of their respective careers. But he'll also cost a lot more money. He played well against the run the whole season. The question is, was that the real pass-rushing JPP we saw the final five weeks, or just a flash in the pan?

"I don't know what changed. I am trying to figure it out myself," Pierre-Paul said of the last five games. "I am playing better. I had to step up big time. I wouldn't say I wasn't stepping up the first couple of weeks. Injuries, man. I fought through 'em, I got healthy, and I have been on a roll. That's the game of football, you never know."

Pierre-Paul did miss a little practice time with a shoulder injury this season, but he played in all 16 games. He said in recent weeks that he wants to stay with the Giants, reiterated that Sunday, and sounded cautiously optimistic that the game wasn't his final one with Big Blue.

"I am pretty sure it is probably not," Pierre-Paul said. "Like I said Friday, I don't know what the future holds. But I went out there and played great today, my teammates played great, but we didn't play great enough to win this game."

Pierre-Paul may have been great, but some of his teammates certainly weren't. And now it's time to assess them all.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Every football season answers questions. Every football season raises questions. For the Philadelphia Eagles, there are more questions than answers after going 10-6 for the second consecutive year under head coach Chip Kelly.

Last year’s 10-6 was earned with a 7-1 second-half run, an NFC East title and a first-round playoff berth. This year, the 10-6 record was settled for after the Eagles were sitting at 9-3 and in control of the NFC East race. All the Eagles accomplished Sunday was to end the three-game losing streak that robbed their season of its luster.

The biggest question they face is the biggest question there is for a football team: Do they have a quarterback capable of taking them where they want to go? Normally, if you’re asking that question, the answer is no.

The Eagles are asking that question.

A year ago, they thought Nick Foles might be the guy. After half a season, they have more reasons to doubt Foles than to believe in him. The fractured collarbone that cut his season in half also robbed the Eagles of eight valuable games to see Foles develop.

“It’s very hard to answer that until you accomplish it,” Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said after Sunday’s 34-26 win over the New York Giants. “You can point to people that have accomplished it: Aaron [Rodgers] and Tom [Brady] and Peyton [Manning] and those guys. That’s the elite of the NFL. Until you’ve accomplished that, you can’t say you have it.”

Rodgers, Brady and Manning are not going to be available this offseason. The question is whether Kelly’s approach will backfire on the Eagles. He attempted to start winning games right away with the personnel he inherited. Foles replaced Michael Vick last season, and was replaced by Mark Sanchez this season.

Kelly’s predecessor, Andy Reid, did it the other way. He drafted Donovan McNabb at the top of his first draft and built the team around him. By Year 2, Reid’s Eagles were 11-5 and going to the postseason.

“You’ve always got to make that position the most important and do whatever you can to be the best at that position that you can,” Lurie said. “There’s a scarcity of quarterbacks. Let’s face it. There’s a lot of teams that really struggle at that position. You’ve always got to try to win big and focus on that position at all times.”

Lurie cited Kelly and his staff and a “terrific young nucleus” of players as reasons to believe the Eagles are on the way toward being Super Bowl contenders.

“There are key areas that are the difference between good and great,” Lurie said. “That’s the hardest thing. You’ve got to go from good to great. We’re at the good. We don’t want that. We want to be great. That’s where we’ve simply got to be better.”

They will have to be better at quarterback. Can Foles return to the level of play he sustained for two months last season? Or was his turnover-prone performance this season a truer reflection of his status? Lurie pointed out that Foles was hampered by injuries to his offensive line, and that’s true. It would have been helpful for Kelly to see Foles play these last eight games, after the line settled in.

That didn’t happen. Kelly said last week that he will have to evaluate Foles on the information available and decide where to go from there. Sanchez signed a one-year deal and is free to pursue a starting opportunity somewhere else. It is doubtful the Eagles will be offering him that.

A year ago, the Eagles’ regular-season finale was in Dallas. They beat the Cowboys to claim the NFC East title. Foles played well in the playoff loss to New Orleans, then was named MVP of his first Pro Bowl. The Eagles seemed to have a quarterback they could believe in.

A year later, there are more questions -- about Foles, about Kelly, about all of them. The offensive line, perhaps the strongest part of the team last year, suddenly looks to be a bit on the older side. Jason Peters (32), Evan Mathis (33) and Todd Herremans (32) only have so much football left to play. The defense, which appeared better midway through the season, came apart at the seams over the last month.

This year’s draft class, with the exception of second-round wide receiver Jordan Matthews, did not do much to improve the team. That makes it fair to wonder how much next year’s rookies can realistically be expected to contribute.

But all of those problems are fixable. The hardest thing in the NFL is finding that elite, championship-caliber quarterback.

Going into his third season, Kelly does not appear any closer to filling that hole than he was the day he got here.

“It’s not easy,” Lurie said. “You’ve got to catch a break. You’re always faced with that. Every team is faced with that. We didn’t go from Peyton to [Andrew] Luck, let’s put it that way.”

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The moments following the end of their 6-10 season were not, the New York Giants decided, the time to talk in depth about the future. Asked whether he thought the team was headed in the right direction and whether he wanted to be back, coach Tom Coughlin said he wouldn't address the latter but, "I think it's headed in the right direction, yeah."

But is it? And more importantly, is that the right point of view for the Giants to take as they begin their offseason evaluations?

Coughlin's micro focus is one of his coaching strengths. His ability to lock in on one week's preparation at a time and block out external noise ensures that his teams are generally well-prepared for their games. And if your focus is on each individual game, you could certainly talk yourself into thinking that the Giants are moving in the right direction. The offense looked much better in December against weak opponents. Eli Manning had a fine statistical season. Odell Beckham Jr. would get anyone excited about the future.

"You look at the games we lost, and we really feel like we beat ourselves," running back Rashad Jennings said. "And when that's the case, you know you can fix it."

[+] EnlargeGiants Selfie
Alex Goodlett/Getty ImagesIf the Giants take a hard look at themselves this offseason, they'll see they still have a long way to go to get back to a championship level.
The problem is, that game-to-game micro focus can distract from the big picture. And for the Giants right now, the big picture is one of disappointment and mediocrity. Their regular-season records the past six years are 8-8, 10-6, 9-7, 9-7, 7-9 and 6-10. Even if you add in the 4-0 postseason record that followed the 2011 season, Coughlin is still just 53-47 over the past six years -- not a record that screams "headed in the right direction."

The case for keeping Coughlin isn't necessarily that much stronger than the case for moving on. Before settling their heads once more on the pillow of status quo, the people who run the Giants need to make an honest evaluation about where their franchise stands and how much work they have to do to return it to a championship level.

For example: Coughlin seemed to be delivering a message, postgame, in support of embattled defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, whose unit ranked near the bottom of the NFL. Unsolicited, Coughlin said, "Defensively, I think we had a good plan and that the plan was well-taught." And while he has the right to defend (and choose) his own staff, the takeaway was clearly that there's a disconnect between Coughlin's evaluation of Fewell and the public perception that Fewell is a goner. If the front office and ownership believe Fewell must be replaced, there could be a fight over that between them and Coughlin in the coming days.

Which, again, is fine. These decisions shouldn't come without careful, even painful consideration. Fewell's a good guy and a good coach, but the performance of the defense this year and in recent years is the kind that gets coordinators fired. An honest self-evaluation should lead the Giants to do on defense what they did last offseason on offense: Overhaul the whole thing. Refresh it. Bring in a new coordinator, a new scheme and rebuild it with new people in key positions. It may be too extreme to say the defense is "broken," as John Mara said the offense was a year ago, but at best it's stale. The Giants trade on the idea of stability in leadership roles, and in general that's a good and too-unusual way to operate. But it can't be a crutch that keeps you from making tough decisions when they need to be made.

The Giants should be looking at absolutely everything and everyone with a critical eye. It makes no sense that the job status of GM Jerry Reese, with his draft record, isn't even questioned. It shouldn't be automatic that Coughlin, who has won playoff games in only two of his 11 Giants seasons, returns just because the Giants don't want to be a team that fires coaches. And if performance dictates otherwise, it shouldn't be a slam-dunk that Fewell or special-teams coordinator Tom Quinn comes back just because Coughlin likes coaching with them.

Huge decisions loom about player personnel, of course, at the end of all of this. They can't get lulled to sleep by the fact that the offensive line was a bit better in December than it was in September. All offensive lines are. The Giants' line still needs better players. They need to overhaul the pass rush -- the Giants' sack total was inflated by a strong finish -- either around a re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul or around a viable playmaking replacement. They need to address safety and linebacker, look honestly at the run game and decide what the best thing is to do about Manning and his contract.

It's entirely possible that losing Sunday's game was a good thing for the Giants. Something about 6-10 feels a lot worse than 7-9, and if that reminds them of how much work they really have to do on this work-in-progress roster, then good. Because no matter how much they may want to convince themselves they're headed in the right direction, the Giants can't lose sight of how far they are away from where they want to be.

Cowboys finish fight, on to next one

December, 28, 2014
Dec 28
LANDOVER, Maryland - Observed and heard in the locker room after the Dallas Cowboys’ 44-17 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday at FedEx Field.
  • Finish the fight: Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said there was no such thing as a meaningless game. Even if Sunday's victory doesn’t improve the Cowboys’ playoff standing, it was important to the coach to make sure the Cowboys entered the playoffs with a victory. With a 27-7 lead in the second quarter, the Cowboys took control early. “Our job was to take care of what we needed to take care of and control what we can control,” Garrett said. “That’s what we did, and we practiced the right way this week. I thought we played the right way today. A big part of today was how we started it. I thought we did a great job offensively, cashing in early. I thought we responded well after they made the big play and kept putting it on them.”
  • Murray
    Record-setters: On back-to-back plays, DeMarco Murray became the Cowboys’ single-season rushing leader and Dez Bryant set the single-season record for touchdown catches in a season. Murray finished with 100 yards on 20 carries to close the regular season with 1,845 yards. Emmitt Smith held the record with 1,773 yards in 1995. Bryant caught touchdown passes of 65 and 23 yards to give him 16 touchdowns -- one more than Terrell Owens recorded in 2007. But neither player cared much about the records. “We all know what we want at the end of the year,” Murray said. “Those records don’t mean much. We’re fighting for something bigger.”
  • Health update: Rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens left in the second quarter with a right high-ankle sprain. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said there is hope it is not as serious as some high-ankle sprains can be. Defensive tackle Henry Melton suffered a left knee injury and did not play in the second half. It is the same knee in which he tore his anterior cruciate ligament last year. Coach Jason Garrett and Jones were not sure of the severity. Linebacker Rolando McClain remained in Dallas with an illness. “He wanted to come, but by the time we were leaving [Saturday], nothing had really changed, so it was in the best interests of him and the football team not to be here,” Garrett said.

RGIII: 'I want to be here'

December, 28, 2014
Dec 28
LANDOVER, Md. -- Overheard and seen in the Washington Redskins' locker room after their 44-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys:

RGIII ready for offseason: Quarterback Robert Griffin III said he wants to return, despite all the craziness that has surrounded him the past two seasons. Griffin said he already has a plan for the offseason. “My focus is I want to be here,” said Griffin, who has one year remaining on his rookie contract. “I want to be here and help this team win, try to turn this thing around and change the culture around here. If coach Jay [Gruden] and this organization want me around, then I’ll be here. I’ll be ready to go.”

Last time? Two longtime veterans, Ryan Clark and Santana Moss, exited the locker room not knowing if they would play in the NFL again. Both are 35 and pending free agents. Although Clark was a starter this season, Moss was not; he wound up with eight receptions. Both said they’d like to play again, but both know the realities of the business. “You know how it works,” Clark said. “I can’t date a girl who thinks I’m ugly.” Another pending free agent, veteran Tyler Polumbus, posed for a picture in front of his locker with his child.

First-half issues: The game got away from Washington -- in a big way -- in the final 10 minutes. But it was equally bad in the first half. Although a lot of focus was on the offseason and what happens next, there were enough players and coaches upset about the first half, in which Dallas scored 27 points and the Redskins missed a lot of tackles. “It was bad,” Gruden said. “That first half was as bad as we’ve seen around here for a long time.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Philadelphia Eagles' 34-26 victory over the New York Giants:

Shadow over Shady: There were 4½ minutes left in a meaningless game when LeSean McCoy went down with an injury to his left knee. The Eagles’ Pro Bowl running back lay on his back on the artificial turf and pondered how much damage there was.

“I thought so [it was serious],” McCoy said. “I’ve been in that position before with my ankle.”

McCoy limped off and was examined by the medical staff. Before the game was over, he was lobbying coach Chip Kelly to return to the field. He did not, but that was a good sign.

Corner intrigue: Rookie cornerback Jaylen Watkins was pressed into action when Nolan Carroll, who was filling in for the injured Bradley Fletcher, was being examined for a concussion. Watkins made one nice play to break up a pass intended for Odell Beckham Jr. Later, though, Beckham beat Watkins with a double move and wound up with a 63-yard touchdown.

“When I’m lining up in front of him, I know the ball’s coming my way,” Watkins said.

Veteran Cary Williams was assigned to Beckham most of the game.

Good but not great: Eagles owner Jeff Lurie addressed reporters in the locker room.

“Gut-wrenching,” Lurie said. “I can’t remember in all my time any better motivated or better group of players.”

Lurie said the Eagles are “pretty close. I think we’ve got a really good nucleus of young players. It’s all in front of us. … We’ve just got to get better.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' season-ending 34-26 loss to the Eagles at MetLife Stadium:
  • Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't reject questions about his future, but he made it clear there were internal discussions to be had before he could deliver final answers. "I'm going to go about my business, just as I always do, unless I'm told otherwise," he said. Asked if he wanted his coaching staff to return intact, he said, "Yes, but I'm not going to say anything more about that or anything else today." Asked if he thought things were moving in the right direction and if he wanted to be back to oversee them in 2015, he said he would not answer the last part but added "I think it's headed in the right direction, yeah."
  • Coughlin said the reason rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. came out of the game late was that he was "vomiting and so on and so forth" on the sideline.
  • After a 12-catch, 185-yard, one-touchdown finale to his brilliant rookie season, Beckham said he was "looking forward to next year with a smile."
  • Jason Pierre-Paul, who is a free agent, said he would like to be back and that he would like Coughlin to return as well. "I look at Coach Coughlin as a dad," Pierre-Paul said. "You need someone like that on the team, otherwise it would be chaos." Pierre-Paul also endorsed defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, whose job status seems a bit more tenuous.
  • Owner John Mara and GM Jerry Reese declined comment after the game and likely will address the media Monday or Tuesday.

Rapid Reaction: Washington Redskins

December, 28, 2014
Dec 28
videoLANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' 44-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys:

What it means: The Redskins finished one game better than they did in 2013, but that’s not saying a whole lot. The last quarter against the Cowboys became a debacle and quite a capper to the season. A 4-12 record is still horrible, and now they have so many needs that this won’t be an easy fix. Since winning the NFC East in 2012, the Redskins are a combined 7-25. They haven’t done well in free agency and haven’t drafted well. It adds up to a roster in need of an overhaul. It also means we still don’t know whether Jay Gruden can be a good head coach, whether the Redskins have a quarterback and whether general manager Bruce Allen and his front office staff can put together a winning roster. And that’s the real problem: So many issues haven’t been resolved.

RG III report: It’s hard to blame Robert Griffin III for all that went wrong Sunday. He did not always get the ball out on time and he was off on some of his throws. But he also took a couple of sacks in which he did not have a lot of time to throw. The problem is, Griffin didn’t do a whole lot to suggest he should be anything other than a guy entering next season in a battle for a job. No matter what you think of Griffin, the Redskins are not a quarterback away from contention.

Stock report: CB David Amerson -- down. He had a tough season, then missed a tackle that led to Dez Bryant's 65-yard touchdown; he was beaten on another scoring pass and bit hard on a double move that led to a long reception by Terrance Williams. LT Trent Williams -- up. I know he exited the game with an ankle injury, but he threw a terrific block on DeSean Jackson's touchdown catch and run and did so again later on a Pierre Garcon screen. Williams also sprinted hard to make a tackle on an interception. He played hurt most of the second half of the season.

Game ball: Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan didn’t exactly finish with a great game. He was rather quiet as a pass-rusher, but for the season, he finished with 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. Kerrigan continued to improve as a pass-rusher because he never felt like he had arrived. He improved his paths to the quarterback, and it resulted in more pressure. He also had to do this without the benefit of a consistent rush on the other side or in the middle.

What’s next: A long offseason of rebuilding a roster, with questions about the future of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and a major focus on Griffin’s development.

Rapid Reaction: Dallas Cowboys

December, 28, 2014
Dec 28
videoLANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' 44-17 win against the Washington Redskins on Sunday at FedEx Field:

What it means: The Cowboys enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak and playing their best football of the season, which played a part in why coach Jason Garrett chose to use his regulars for as long as he did Sunday.

The Cowboys’ 12-4 record is their best since a 13-3 finish in 2007, when they had home-field advantage in the playoffs but lost in the divisional round. These Cowboys are hoping to have a better postseason showing than that team.

If they have the offensive efficiency they have displayed in this streak, they could be a tough out. On a day in which DeMarco Murray broke Emmitt Smith’s team record for rushing yards in a season and Dez Bryant broke Terrell Owens’ team mark for touchdown catches in a season, the Cowboys scored on their first five possessions to take a 27-7 lead.

Road warriors: For the second time in franchise history, the Cowboys finished with a perfect record on the road. The Cowboys were 7-0 away from home in 1968. This is their first 8-0 road finish, and they are the 11th team in NFL history to finish with a road record of 7-0 or better. In all likelihood the Cowboys will have to go on the road at some point in the playoffs. Why is their road record a good omen? Eight of the previous 10 teams to finish perfect on the road played in the Super Bowl or NFL Championship Game. Only three, however, came away with the title.

Game ball: There is a dilemma in choosing the Cowboys’ MVP for the season. Is it the NFL’s leading rusher, Murray, or quarterback Tony Romo, who has posted a career-high passer rating and completion percentage? This will likely hurt their candidacies in the league MVP vote as well. But Romo gets the nod because we saw what happened in the one game he did not play. The Cowboys’ offense was stagnant. In the final month, Murray’s numbers have slowed, but Romo’s productivity has increased with his best close to a season of his career. In a league that’s built around quarterback play, it’s hard to go against one who has thrown 34 touchdown passes to just nine interceptions.

Stock watch: The Redskins scored on their third play from scrimmage on a 69-yard catch by DeSean Jackson. They didn’t reach the end zone again until 6:45 remained in the game. Cornerbacks Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr locked down the receivers. Bruce Carter had two interceptions, giving him five on the season. The defense had two fourth-down stops and did not allow a point in three of four red zone trips by Washington. Anthony Spencer capped it with a fumble return for a score after a Terrell McClain sack in the fourth quarter. They might not be pretty all the time, but they have been more effective than anybody could have imagined.

What’s next: Bring on the playoffs. The Cowboys have to wait for the afternoon games to finish before they will know their opponent or whether they will get a bye. They do know they will have at least one playoff game at AT&T Stadium.

Rapid Reaction: Philadelphia Eagles

December, 28, 2014
Dec 28
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' 34-26 win against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: Very little, and that was evident in the feel of the game from the beginning. It felt like an exhibition, or maybe a Pro Bowl, with players avoiding harm's way and trying to get to the offseason in one piece. For the Eagles, a win meant matching last season's 10-6 record and avoiding a step backward. It also meant avoiding a four-game losing streak to end the season. That just sounds bad. Still, there's no getting past the fact the Eagles lost three in a row at the worst possible time, dropping out of the playoff race after a 9-3 start.

Stock watch: Kicker Cody Parkey finished his rookie season on an upswing. A week after missing two field goals in the loss at Washington, Parkey kicked two field goals and three extra points to break the NFL rookie scoring record of 144, held since 1985 by Chicago Bears kicker Kevin Butler. Parkey's 149 points also broke the Eagles' franchise scoring record of 144, set by David Akers in 2008.

Return to sender: The Eagles got their 11th return touchdown of the season in the third quarter. Tight end James Casey broke through the center of the line and blocked a Steve Weatherford punt. The ball traveled past the line of scrimmage, where Bryan Braman tried to pick it up. He couldn't get a handle on it, but Trey Burton scooped the ball up and ran down the sideline 27 yards for the score. The Eagles' seven special teams touchdowns this season are the most since the 2007 Chicago Bears had seven. Their 11 return touchdowns are the third-most in NFL history. Seattle holds the NFL record with 13 return touchdowns in 1998.

Game ball: For the season, it goes to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. He was the most consistent player on an up-and-down offense, and continually produced despite the change at quarterback. Maclin's career-best numbers -- 85 catches, 1,318 yards, 10 touchdowns -- spared the Eagles a lot of grief about the release of DeSean Jackson.

What's next: The Eagles go into the offseason a little worse off than they were last year at this time. Chip Kelly's first season felt hopeful, and ended with a division title and a playoff appearance. His second ended with that three-game losing streak and serious questions about the quarterback position. Kelly has his work cut out for him this offseason.

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

December, 28, 2014
Dec 28
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' season-ending 34-26 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: The Giants finish the season 6-10, one game worse than last year and their worst record since 2004, when they were 6-10 in Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning's first season with the team.

Stock Watch: Giants' secondary, down. The Giants have been playing for some time with three of their top four cornerbacks on injured reserve. But Sunday's game against an Eagles team that plays offense considerably better than any other team the Giants played in December was a reminder that they still have a lot of work to do on defense. Eagles receivers were open all day against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie & Co., and simply waiting for everyone else to get healthy won't be a sufficient offseason game plan.

Airing it out: Manning threw 53 passes Sunday, completing 28 of them for 429 yards and a touchdown. Two Giants receivers -- rookie Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle -- went over 150 yards. Manning this season set career highs in completions, attempts and completion percentage. He reached 4,000 passing yards for the fourth time in his career, and he reached the 30-touchdown mark for only the second time in his career. He also finishes the season with 14 interceptions -- a little more than half of last year's league-leading and career-high total of 27.

Game ball: Today's game ball is a season team MVP award, and it goes to Beckham. He had 12 catches for 185 yards and a 63-yard touchdown Sunday to run his season totals to 91 catches, 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in only 12 games. He set an NFL record Sunday for the most receiving yards ever by a player in his first 12 games. There has been little doubt since Week 7 that he has been the best Giants player on the field in every game, and if you want to talk about "value," he has given Giants fans (and the world at large) a reason to watch otherwise meaningless Giants games for two months now. A special player whom many Giants fans will be very excited about heading into next year.

What's next: The Giants have missed the playoffs for the third year in a row and the fifth time in their last six seasons. They embark upon an offseason in which they're likely to overhaul their defense the way they overhauled their offense last year, with the biggest immediate decisions to be made about coordinator Perry Fewell and free-agent defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. They have a lot of work to do.