New York Giants cut-down analysis

August, 26, 2014
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Most significant move: Marcus Harris had done enough to make the New York Giants at wide receiver, but he suffered an injury in Friday's preseason game and has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. The Giants and Harris said Friday his injury was to his shoulder, but in placing him on IR on Tuesday they announced it as a hip injury. Harris will have to miss the entire 2014 season. The injury and resulting move open up a spot for someone such as Corey Washington or Preston Parker to make the team at receiver. Veteran wide receiver Mario Manningham, who continues to struggle with a knee injury, also survived Tuesday's cuts, though he remains likely to be cut when the roster is reduced to 53 on Saturday.

Injuries change the plan: Usually, players cut in this first wave aren't practice squad candidates, but guys such as Charles James and Jerome Cunningham could be exceptions. The Giants certainly didn't want to cut James on Tuesday. But they've had so many injuries on the offensive line in the past week -- Geoff Schwartz, Brandon Mosley, James Brewer, Charles Brown -- that they find themselves having to keep back-of-the-roster offensive linemen (A) so that they have enough to use in Thursday's preseason finale and (B) in case one of them (Rogers Gaines?) ends up having to be on the final roster. So there could be an offensive lineman or two cut Saturday who's a less likely practice squad candidate than someone who was cut Tuesday.

Giants' cuts: K Brandon McManus, CB Charles James, TE Xavier Grimble, TE Jerome Cunningham, LB Spencer Adkins, DE Emmanuel Dieke, LB Justin Anderson, S Kyle Sebetic, CB Ross Weaver, WR Travis Harvey, OL John Sullen, S C.J. Barnett, DT Everett Dawkins, S Cooper Taylor (placed on season-ending injured reserve), WR Marcus Harris (placed on season-ending injured reserve).

Tony Romo back on practice field

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
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IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo returned to the practice field Tuesday after sitting out Monday’s workout to rest his surgically repaired back.

Romo
Romo went through individual drills during the portion of practice open to the media.

Romo will not play Thursday against the Denver Broncos, and the Cowboys won't have a full practice again until Saturday as they up their preparation for the Sept. 7 opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

Running back Joseph Randle (oblique), wide receiver Dwayne Harris (hip, ankle), cornerback B.W. Webb (hip flexor) and safety Jakar Hamilton (hamstring) were doing rehab work on the side, as was defensive tackle Terrell McClain. Defensive end George Selvie (shoulder), cornerback Justin Green (hamstring), safety Johnny Thomas and tackle Darrion Weems (shoulder) were not spotted on the practice field.

The Cowboys have to make 13 roster moves by 3 p.m. Tuesday to reach the 75-man roster limit. Three players are likely headed to injured reserve: Ben Gardner (shoulder), DeVonte Holloman (neck) and Jordan Najvar (Achilles).
IRVING, Texas -- It took the Dallas Cowboys a while to figure out the importance of a strong offensive line, but they got it right when they took Tyron Smith with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft.

That worked so well that the Cowboys took offensive linemen Travis Frederick and Zack Martin in the first round the past two seasons. Many now consider the Cowboys' line among the best in the NFL, with a chance to grow into the best for a number of years.

Smith was the first pick of Jason Garrett’s tenure as coach. He was named to his first Pro Bowl last season and was a second-team All Pro. Last month he signed a $110 million contract extension that guaranteed him $40 million.

Smith, who does not turn 24 until December, said after signing the megadeal that he will "do my best not to let them down."

Smith checks in at No. 40 in ESPN’s #NFLRank list. Eight voters gave Smith a perfect 10, and only two offensive linemen had more: Joe Thomas and Alex Mack.

"We talk about building a program and building a football team, and he was the first player that we took three years ago in that draft," Garrett said. "He's just been everything we've wanted to build this program and this team around. His work ethic is fantastic. His mental and physical toughness are as good as I've been around. He just continues to grow and develop as a player. Technically, he's getting better. He's getting bigger and stronger. And he's just tough, competitive. He's what you want on your football team at a really, really important position."

During the past few years, the Cowboys have talked about wanting to run the ball more, but that never really panned out. Since making the playoffs in 2009, the Cowboys' rushing attempts have decreased in each of the past four seasons, bottoming out at 336 attempts last season.

Even with a playcaller with a passing-game bent in Scott Linehan, the Cowboys have shown more of a willingness this preseason to run the ball.

And they have run it to the left side with success. In plays run to the left tackle, the Cowboys have averaged 6.36 yards per rush this preseason. Last season, they averaged 5.28 yards per rush to the left, which was seventh-best in the NFL.

The Cowboys need Smith -- and the line -- to play at a high level in 2014 for a couple of reasons. They need to protect quarterback Tony Romo, and they need to protect the defense.

A better running game means Romo is passing less and not subject to as many hits, which is essential coming off a back surgery. A better running game means the defense won’t be on the field as much. The Cowboys’ defense lacks star power and playmakers. The hopes are low for the unit entering the season, but the offense can make life easier for coordinator Rod Marinelli by controlling the ball.

The Cowboys want Smith to be the point person.
Jason WittenAP Photo/James D SmithJason Witten has done much more than put up Hall of Fame-worthy numbers, the Cowboys say.
IRVING, Texas -- Jason Witten is the conscience of the Dallas Cowboys.

When he speaks to the team, players listen intently. He makes them laugh. He excites them. He brings them to tears. The grind of playing professional football matters to Witten perhaps more than it should and definitely more than it does to most.

New teammates look at him reverentially and almost fearfully; they know they need to earn his trust to gain acceptance. Older teammates look to him for guidance on or off the field. Opponents respect him for his talent and professionalism.

For the front office and coaches, Witten’s combination of determination, dedication and hard work almost make him a cliché. He has set a standard that few can match with nine Pro Bowls. Only Hall of Famers Bob Lilly, Mel Renfro and Larry Allen have played in more Pro Bowls as Cowboys than Witten. With 21 catches this season, he would join Tony Gonzalez as the only tight ends in NFL history with at least 900 receptions.

Witten was named the NFL’s Man of the Year in 2012 and serves as the Cowboys’ rep to the NFL Players Association.

Although most sit on every word from Witten and the 11-year veteran rarely talks about himself, several members at different levels of the organization were asked about Witten and his impact on the franchise.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
Tom Pennington/Getty Images"I don't know if I respect anybody as much as I respect Jason Witten," Dez Bryant said.
The students

Wide receiver Dez Bryant, Witten’s teammate since 2010

"It’s amazing the way that he moves. I can’t believe it. He’s big [6-foot-6, 261 pounds] and, like, he’s real shifty. He gets in and out of his breaks so quick. I watch him, like I really pay attention to him and still try to figure out how he does it. Witt is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, persons in this world. He’s helped me so much just by being around him with not one word spoken. It’s just his presence. The way that he works, I feel like I have to do that. I have to follow that kind of person if I want to be right on or off the field. He’s played a big part in my life. I don’t know if I respect anybody as much as I respect Jason Witten."

Running back DeMarco Murray, Witten’s teammate since 2011

"I’ve spent a lot of time with him this offseason and in the past, and every day I’m picking his brain still like I’m a rookie again because he’s a perfect example of being a pro, being a great person. He’s someone you model your game after and you model yourself as a person after as well. He does it the right way, and you can see it from the 11 or 12 years he’s been in the league, and this looks like this is his first training camp. He’s just like a kid in a candy store when it comes to football. All the individual accolades, it’s meaningless for him. He never talks about it. He never wants that. All he wants is a Super Bowl. That’s something you can respect about a person with the great attitude he has, the great selflessness he has as a person, as a teammate. I’ll run through a wall for that guy."

The neighbor

Mackenzy Bernadeau, Witten’s teammate since 2012

"Being in the locker next to him, you get to learn more about a guy. I’ve always respected him as a man and as a player, but just seeing the way he carries himself, brings himself to work every day, how passionate and enthusiastic he is about the team, he’s an emotional guy when he’s in the game. As a teammate, you better be right. If you’re not on the right page, he’s going to make sure you’re on the right page. Very competitive. Passionate about everything he does from lifting to running. He’s a team player. He’s a guy you can talk to, hang with, crack jokes with, but when it comes time to work, he’ll be ready to work and he expects everybody else to work. He’ll get in your face, but you know when you look in his eyes he means business and he’s ready to go. He plays that way, prepares that way for a game, for a practice. You see it just every day in his walk."

The position coach

Mike Pope, first year as Cowboys tight ends coach, 32nd year in the NFL

"He’s incredible. … He only has one gear, and he’s an intense and fierce competitor. He just never wants to lose anything. I don’t care what it is. You run a sideline route in two-minute, and the official says he’s this short of the first down, he goes haywire. He is different than some guys I’ve had who can do that out here and be a great human being when they step across the sideline. I’ve had a few that couldn’t do that. They were great on this side of the sideline, but they’re not very good over there. But he’s all things to all people. The other thing is his knowledge of football. He’s got a quarterback’s knowledge of football. He knows so much about what’s going on. Very seldom, it’s rare if he misses something. If it’s new, he might take a rep or two. He’s got the vastness of all this offense for all these years, and it has changed some, but there’s a lot of plays gone through his library in the years he’s played. But he’s just a brilliant football guy. He really is."

[+] EnlargeJason Witten
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsJason Witten's work ethic surely hasn't gone unnoticed by Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones.
The owner

Jerry Jones, Cowboys owner and general manager since 1989

"He’s a marvel. He’s a marvel. It’s funny, he was a subject for us visiting [in camp], and just, we were watching him down there in some specific drills, and he just executed every drill as though he were executing against the New York Giants. Just to perfection to his ability to do it. And it’s really, he’s a special guy. He’s certainly in the top-five player … person … on any level of the NFL that I’ve been associated with in the 25 years in the NFL. Period. Across the board."

The trainer

Jim Maurer, Cowboys’ athletic trainer for the past 25 years

"There’s a lot of great players that have been through here, but he’s definitely got great football traits. Personally, from a medical side, you’re always wanting a guy that’s going to beat the odds every once in a while. Not necessarily with the things he’s had to beat with the ruptured spleen, but any injury, and Jason has always been the consummate professional as far as getting all the treatment he needs, asking us more questions to do whatever else we can do. A lot of guys do that. He’s not the only one, but for some reason he responds really well to everything and comes back. And not just comes back to play but comes back to play great. That’s immeasurable. I don’t know how many more of those guys are out there or will ever be out there."

The weight coach

Brett Bech, Cowboys' assistant strength and conditioning coach

"What people see on Sunday is a culmination of what starts probably in early February for him. Even this late in his career, he’s looking to improve himself physically, mentally. He never stops watching film. He takes notes feverishly. I sit right next to him in team meetings, and he’s always writing. Even the most general thing, he’ll write it in his notebook, circle it and put stars around it. For instance, ball security, five points of contact, which I’m sure he’s heard since he was a freshman in college. But we’re doing it a couple of weeks ago and he’s writing in his notebook, ‘Five points of contact,’ with stars all around it, and it’s probably the 15th time he’s been doing it, but it’s that attention to detail. In the weight room he’s always looking for ways to get his hips more flexible or to stay in peak physical condition with different ways of training, whether it’s altitude training or just interval training. He’s always asking about his technique or coming in and doing extra stuff. He knows his numbers as well as we do -- body fat and his vertical jump. He works his butt off, and it shows. I think the younger guys see that, and I’ll use him as an example. Him and a few other guys as an example of there’s a reason he’s making Pro Bowls in his 12th year because he works like this. If he didn’t, he may be a pretty good player. He may be one of our better guys. But he’s a household name because of his approach."
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant will not mix business with pleasure.

Football is Bryant's first love, his true passion. It's also his job, his means of supporting an extended family that endured poverty as he grew up in the East Texas town of Lufkin.

Bryant will not allow the business side to bleed over into the game he loves. He refuses to let finances blur his focus on football.

The determination to avoid any potential distractions is why Bryant has set a deadline of sorts on his contract discussions with the Cowboys. If Jerry Jones hasn't made Bryant one of the richest receivers in NFL history by the beginning of the regular season, Bryant will put the negotiations on ice until next offseason.

Some players can balance the business and passion parts of the game. For example, Tony Romo and DeMarcus Ware performed well before signing rich midseason extensions with the Cowboys in recent years.

That's not the way Bryant is wired.

"Once the season starts, I'm all in," Bryant said. "I've got this team to worry about. ...The work that I put in, the love, the real love, the real passion that I have for this game overtakes everything."

Be honest. You might have worried that Bryant, whose personality is politely described as passionate and harshly described as volatile, would feel slighted by the slow progress of his contract talks and let that light an emotional fuse.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
AP Photo/James D SmithCowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant says his end goal is to "be a part of a championship team."
Heck, Bryant readily acknowledges he equates respect to contract figures, and he's done everything but buy a billboard declaring that he deserves to be paid like an elite receiver. (And he's right.)

Bryant also said it'd "be a problem" if he felt disrespected. Good thing he's matured so much during his four seasons in the league -- thanks in large part to a support system put in place by Jerry Jones -- and has the perspective to know that business isn't personal.

Does Bryant feel disrespected?

"Do I like the wait? No," said Bryant, who wore a Jordan brand hat that read "RE2PECT" honoring retiring New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter throughout training camp, perhaps as a subtle message to the Dallas front office. "But do I understand the wait? Yeah, I understand it. I understand it clearly.

"But at the same time, the No. 1 goal for me is me out here with my teammates going to war with them. That's exactly what I'm focused on."

Bryant doesn't lay awake at night thinking about how he'll spend the fortune he's going to make in the near future. If he loses sleep, it's because he's never played in an NFL playoff game. That competitive spirit is what fuels his relentless work ethic.

That work ethic -- as well as the fact that the worst-case scenario is the Cowboys use the franchise tag and pay him more than $12 million per year the next two seasons -- is why Bryant doesn't worry much about his contract talks.

The way he sees the situation is awfully simple. If he keeps producing like an elite receiver, he'll be paid like one soon enough. If that requires proving his worth again this season, so be it.

"I'm going to keep doing it," Bryant said. "I'm going to keep proving that I'm that.

"At the end of the day, like I said, my goal is to be a part of a championship team. I honestly feel like I just don't bring my talent, God-given, to the Cowboys. It's more than that. I love showing some of these players what respect really is, having each other's back, going to war with that person, respecting that person so much where you're afraid to mess up. That's what I'm about. That's when you win. That's when you win."

That's all Bryant wants to worry about once the season starts. His priorities are in the right place.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- By 4 p.m. ET today, the Dallas Cowboys will need to cut 13 players to reach the NFL's 75-man limit.

If executive vice president Stephen Jones had his way, teams would not have two cuts in the final week of the preseason. He would rather to see teams cut from the 90-man roster limit to 53 players after the final preseason game.

Jones said the subject has been broached by the NFL's competition committee, on which he serves.

"There's reasons but I think ultimately it may go there sooner than later," Jones said.

And those reasons would be?

"Access to players from other teams is something that's probably been out there forever, ‘Hey, don't let people hide players, horde players. Let them have a chance to go somewhere else. Let other teams have access to them.' But in my mind we're not talking about a group of players that are really that meaningful. That's probably a bad word but at the end of the day (not) that sought after. Very meaningful because they could be very helpful in this fourth game. Some people have a very firm feeling that you ought to have these cuts and ought to have access to players and clubs shouldn't be able to hold players. I respect that. Everyone has their own view but think at some point that could change."

In getting from 88 players after cutting defensive end Martez Wilson and fullback J.C. Copeland on Monday, the Cowboys have to weigh who is healthy enough to play in Thursday's preseason finale vs. the Denver Broncos and who is not. As a result, they may have to cut a player they would normally keep at a position of strength in order to have enough players available to play in the game.

Having so many players made available in a short period of time could raise issues after the final cuts, but Jones does not think it would be unworkable.

"There's a lot of mechanics involved in it, and they're legitimate," Jones said. "I don't want to say it's not legitimate but at the end of the day I would be on the side that you ought to cut them at one time. And I think we can work through all the logistics, the physicals and everything that goes with it. But that's one man's opinion and we put a lot of work and a lot of thought process into that and you certainly respect the people you work on the committee with and certainly respect where it might end up in terms of a vote but it wouldn't surprise me at some point if that changes."
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dez Bryant will not be playing for another team in 2015. He will be a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

Bryant
Bryant
Heck, the Cowboys can ensure he will be a member of their team through 2017 if they want to use the franchise tag in each of the next three seasons. It would be pricey, especially that last season in which he would be paid the quarterback's franchise tag price, but doable.

Ultimately the Cowboys and Bryant will come to an agreement on a long-term deal. Now that Bryant has put a deadline on the talks, maybe things start to heat up this week, leading up to the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Cowboy and Bryant's agent, Eugene Parker, have a long and productive working relationship. Anything is possible. The Cowboys moved pretty quickly to get Tyron Smith to sign a 10-year deal worth $110 million in March.

Bridging the gap between what the Cowboys believe Bryant is (a top-10 receiver) and what Bryant believes he is (top three?) has taken some time. The Cowboys aren't afraid to pay players, as evidenced by Smith's contract, but they want to have some protections in place should things not work out.

For all of the maturation Bryant has shown on and off the field there has to be some concern among the Cowboys' front office that when the phone rings at 2 a.m. something has happened with Bryant. If they didn't have that worry, this deal would have been done by now.

With Smith, the Cowboys felt more than comfortable giving him $40 million guaranteed, especially considering they can get out of the deal after two years at minimal cost.

The Cowboys don't doubt Bryant will have a big year in 2014. If it costs them more money to sign him in 2015, then so be it.

But remember, Bryant isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
ARLINGTON, Texas – Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones have no worries about the state of Tony Romo's back.

Romo
Romo did not practice on Monday, two days after he was sacked three times and hit once more in a preseason loss to the Miami Dolphins. Coach Jason Garrett said the team wanted to give Romo the day off because of a light practice.

"No issue with his back at all," Jerry Jones said. "As a matter of fact, we all were pleased that he got the kind of test that he got and he is too. There is no issue after being sacked three times there."

Said Stephen Jones, "Still management (of the recovery from surgery). No residual."

The Cowboys will practice Tuesday and have a light workout on Wednesday before taking on the Denver Broncos in Thursday in their preseason finale. If Romo, who will not play against the Broncos, does not practice on Tuesday, the earliest he would return to the practice field would be Saturday.

"I think any owner takes a cringe anytime the quarterback gets hit hard, healthy, not healthy, whatever the situation is," Stephen Jones said. "But that's our game and keep your fingers crossed and hope they hold up."

Stephen Jones said the condition of Romo's back would "not necessarily," be a factor in the team's decision to keep a third quarterback on the 53-man roster. Undrafted rookie Dustin Vaughan is the leading contender behind backup Brandon Weeden.
Jason Garrett really does love Ahmad Dixon's physical style on the football field. He just doesn't want the rookie playing recklessly.

That's what he did Saturday night, and it resulted in a a key 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness that helped Miami score it's winning touchdown. Garrett said the coaching staff told Dixon to play smarter.

It's not a request.

"They're going to call those types of plays," Garrett said. "We impressed upon him the importance of understanding where the NFL is on these rules and they're going to call them.

"It's the same with defensive holding and it's the same with offensive holding. Penalties are being called all over the league and everyone just has to understand what the atmosphere is."

After the game, a defiant Dixon said he wasn't changing his style. On Monday afternoon his stance had softened.

Perhaps, Garrett's hard stance on the penalty changed the rookie safety's mind.

"You want your team to be physical, but you want them to play within the rules," Garrett said. "There are some great examples of him being physical and doing it right way all over the tape on defense and special teams.

"We're not going to have those types of penalties. We understand the balance. He's not the first player in this situation. There are a lot of physical players in this league who have to somehow, some way be physical but do it within the confines of the rules."

No surprise on Brandon Meriweather

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
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ASHBURN, Va. -- From the moment Brandon Meriweather returned to the Washington Redskins in free agency, this outcome was always a possibility. So when he was suspended on Monday for two games for another illegal hit, it's no surprise. There's just disappointment that this day arrived before the season even started. Not to mention more questions: How long will it be before his hits land him in trouble again? How many more games might he miss? Can he now play 14 games without another suspension?

Meriweather insists he has tried to alter his style. The Redskins, his teammates in particular and some coaches, insist it was not an illegal hit. But the problem is: Meriweather's history left him no benefit of the doubt. His teammates might see him lowering his shoulder and trying to change his ways; the NFL sees contact between his helmet and Torrey Smith's facemask. The NFL's judgment is the only one that matters.

Meriweather worked with fellow safety Ryan Clark on trying to alter his tackling. In the same game, when Clark drilled tight end Dennis Pitta, forcing his helmet off, the Redskins' safety turned his shoulder as he approached. There was no doubt he led with the shoulder. Meriweather's hit left too much doubt; the Ravens likely would say there was no doubt in the first place.

For Meriweather, though, he has been suspended once already for his hits and fined five times. He will not get the benefit of any doubt. It's a tough rule for safeties in particular, players coming up hard to hit receivers. But it's the rule and numerous players have adjusted to this new way of life. If Meriweather can't adjust more than he says he has, then this will arise again. He makes bang-bang plays and sometimes it's hard to fully think about what you're going to do; you react and old habits surface.

And the real problem for Washington is that its safety position is precarious. Meriweather was playing well this summer, having returned to strong safety. He had a big hit earlier against Baltimore running back Bernard Pierce off a well-timed blitz. Meriweather was playing fast. But for the Redskins, he's a cross-your-fingers guy because of his reputation. Playing 16 games was going to be difficult for that reason. That's a hard way to live for a team.

Which all leads us to, of course, that the Redskins needed a strong backup plan. Do they have one? The guy they hoped would be Meriweather's backup, Phillip Thomas, can't stay healthy. He missed two weeks with a hamstring injury earlier this summer and now has a bad foot. Oh, it just so happens to be the same foot that he had surgery on a year ago after suffering a Lisfranc injury. He has also never played in an NFL game.

The Redskins also have Bacarri Rambo, who has played much better this summer after struggling as a rookie. He started at free safety last season, but the Redskins' defense requires their safeties to be somewhat interchangeable. He filled in some with the first team when Meriweather missed a couple practices this summer.

It's not a great situation for Meriweather. But it's also not surprising -- nor will it be if it happens again.
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have had only four winless preseasons in their illustrious history that began in 1960.

Jason Garrett is not obsessed with avoiding a fifth - and that’s a good thing. He’s much more concerned with evaluating players and ensuring he gets the right 53 players on the roster.

So Garrett has no intention of playing quarterback Tony Romo or some of the Cowboys’ other key veterans just to increase the odds of winning and avoiding the Cowboys' first winless preseason since 2000.

They also went 0-5 in 1962, 1986 and 1998.

“We play the games to win there’s no question about that. That’s line 1,” Garrett said. “Having said that you have a lot of other objectives. The player rotation throughout the preseason indicates, to you, our No.1 job is to evaluate players and cut the team down the right way and make sure we give guys plenty of opportunities to show what they can do in those competitive game-like situations.

“Winning certainly matters. That’s why we keep score and do what we do, but in the preseason you want to make sure you’re accomplishing some other things as well.”

Giving running backs Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams opportunities to earn the job on the field or seeing Dustin Vaughan attempt to rally the third-team to a win ranks much higher on Garrett’s priority list than winning.

“Getting a third unit at the end of the game to drive the ball and kick a field goal or score a touchdown to win it is important,” Garrett said. “Those are great opportunities to evaluate individuals and groups of players.”

Besides, a winless preseason doesn’t equate to a disastrous season.

The Cowboys followed up their winless preseason in 1998 with a division title under first-year coach Chan Gailey. In the past five seasons, 13 NFL teams have had winless preseasons, but four still made the playoffs, including three division winners.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin said quarterback Eli Manning and the rest of the starters would play about 15-18 snaps in Thursday's preseason finale against the New England Patriots. It will be the fifth preseason game for Manning and most of the starters, who have spent this offseason trying to learn a new offense with so-far disappointing results.

Manning
"Sounds right," Manning said after Monday's practice. "I hadn't heard a number yet, so just preparing for them and for however much he wants to keep us in. But we expect to go out there and try to move the ball and see if we can do something. See if we can get into a good rhythm early in the game instead of having to wait until later."

The Giants' offense has struggled all preseason, and Manning hadn't thrown a touchdown pass until his final play of Friday night's preseason game against the New York Jets. That 15-yarder to Rueben Randle capped a successful two-minute-drill drive at the end of the first half of that game and left the Giants encouraged about their progress on offense.

"I think everybody knows what to do. It's just the pace it needs to be done, and everything done precisely," Manning said. "So every day we're trying to get better at that. We're making small steps. We're probably not all the way where we need to be, and I think there'll always be things we're going to improve on. It's not something you're going to master in four weeks. As the season goes on, we'll know what we do well, we'll progress, we'll put different things in."

The idea that the Giants will arrive at the regular season in two weeks without a full command of their new offense isn't shocking. It's even understandable. What's more alarming is the current state of the offensive personnel. Injuries on the already-questionable offensive line this week have resulted in new starters at both guard positions, and it's difficult for Manning to know for sure which five guys will be lining up in front of him two weeks from now in Detroit.

"Those might be the guys who are playing for us, so the more reps they can get together, the better it'll be," Manning said of the newly configured line, which has rookie Weston Richburg at left guard and John Jerry at right guard at the moment. "Making calls, guys communicating. We don't know who's going to be there that first game, so we've got to be ready and get a lot of guys ready to play. So it'll be good to work with this group. The more options we can have at offensive line to step into different roles, the better off we'll be."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's now been a week since the setback that wasn't a setback, and New York Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham still isn't practicing with the team. Obviously, this means the team's first-round draft pick won't play in Thursday's preseason finale against the Patriots, which means he won't have played in any of the Giants' five preseason games.

"He's not going to play," an obviously frustrated Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after Monday's practice, during which Beckham once again worked on a side field with the training staff. "Have you seen him practice? How about practicing first?"

Beckham's last full training camp practice was when he was still at LSU. He injured his hamstring in the first practice of Giants training camp July 22 and hasn't practiced in full with the team since. He returned to the field a bit a couple of weeks ago and was working his way into 11-on-11 drills, but then he hurt himself in practice again last Monday and hasn't practiced since.

"I think he's very frustrated," Coughlin said. "I think his whole personality's held in check because he's not able to do the things that he wants to do."

With Beckham out, the Giants have been using Jerrel Jernigan in his outside receiver spot. It's possible that preseason star Corey Washington could get a look there with the first team Thursday, but we thought that was possible last week and Washington didn't play until the fourth quarter against the Jets.

Obviously, Beckham's availability for the Sept. 8 "Monday Night Football" opener in Detroit is in serious doubt. The Giants don't like to rush rookies into action in the first place, and that's especially true when the rookie hasn't had a training camp.

In other Giants injury news:
  • Guard Geoff Schwartz was seeing a foot specialist Monday to determine the severity of his toe injury. The Giants should have news on Schwartz at some point early this week, but it's safe to assume he'll have to miss at least the first few games of the regular season, if not many more.
  • Guard Brandon Mosley missed a second straight day of practice due to a back injury and was getting examined by a doctor, according to Coughlin. John Jerry played with the first-team line in Mosley's right guard spot while rookie Weston Richburg manned Schwartz's left guard spot.
  • Offensive lineman James Brewer remains out with a back injury, which could damage his chances of making the 53-man roster. Brewer was on the bubble to begin with.
  • Return specialist Trindon Holliday also sat out of practice with a hamstring injury. Holliday did some individual work Sunday but did not appear to work at all Monday. With Holliday and Beckham both sidelined, the Giants are hurting at punt returner and may keep wide receiver Preston Parker because has experience in that role.
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' offensive line did not live up to the hype Saturday night.

A unit that's expected to be one of the strengths of the Cowboys -- and one of the elite O-lines in the league -- struggled against the Miami Dolphins' front seven. The Cowboys gained only 110 yards in the first half with the first-team offensive line in the game. The most concerning statistic was the three sacks the Cowboys allowed of Tony Romo.

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It was a rough enough performance that owner and general manager Jerry Jones openly wondered whether the offensive line that features three recent first-round picks should get some work in the preseason finale, a rarity for starters. That's unlikely to happen, but there's no question the line has a lot to clean up over the next two weeks of practice before the regular season begins.

"I think it's just about developing a rhythm and working together," center Travis Frederick said. "After seeing the film, it allows you to correct those errors that were made. I think they were really close. The things that were made were little issues and things that are easily cleaned up."

Added right tackle Doug Free, who allowed two sacks to Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake: "At times, we moved the ball well. A little bit of inconsistent play. The main thing is we've got to get the thing rolling rhythm-wise. That was the biggest problem we had. We've just got to get in a rhythm and play well."

Frederick said there were some technical mistakes, such as hand placement and foot placement. But the bigger issue was that the offensive linemen weren't on the same page too often.

"I think just a combination of things," head coach Jason Garrett said. "They have a good front. They have good individual rushers. A couple of times, there was a three-man game where they kind of came off the edge and we were a little slow reacting to that.

"But those are all good learning opportunities. They really are. You watch that tape and you see some good things where there was a lot of time for the quarterback to throw, then you see some individual plays with each of the guys that weren't good enough. But, again, great teaching and learning opportunities."
IRVING, Texas -- The absence of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo from Monday’s practice is not cause for alarm, according to coach Jason Garrett.

“The idea was to give him the opportunity, in a light practice, to collect himself and take the day off,” Garrett said.

The day off wasn’t necessarily due to the pounding Romo took in Saturday night’s preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. He was sacked three times and hit another time in his half of work during the loss, the first times that Romo has really been hit since undergoing back surgery in December to repair a herniated disk.

After the game and a session in the cold tub, Romo said he felt good. Garrett said Romo seemed no worse for the wear two days later.

“I think he’s doing OK,” Garrett said. “He seemed to hold up fairly well throughout that ballgame.”

Romo will have a few more days off after Tuesday’s practice, so he should be well-rested entering the first week of the regular season.

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