Monday evening blitz package
December, 13, 2010
By Matt Mosley | ESPN.com
While we watch Giants-Vikings, let's take a peek at some of the issues that came out of Sunday's games in the Beast:
- The running game took a major step back against the Eagles. Felix Jones averaged 3.2 yards on 13 carries. He repeatedly slammed into Eagles defenders and had a hard time finding any creases. Part of that is Antonio Dixon and Mike Patterson playing so well in the middle, but the interior of the Cowboys' offensive line did a really poor job moving their feet. Tashard Choice and Jones never really had a chance to get a head of steam. And a week after having a breakout performance against the Colts, Choice only had eight touches against the Eagles. That really doesn't make any sense.
- I'm not sure what has happened to Miles Austin. The Cowboys are now paying Austin like a No. 1 receiver, but he's faded ever since Jon Kitna took over as quarterback. I realize that Kitna doesn't throw the ball down the field as much as Tony Romo, but it's not like Austin is only a vertical player. That looked like a hot read over the middle last night that glanced off Austin's hands for an Eagles interception. The ball appeared to surprise him, and I'm not sure why. He has too many drops and he's not taking advantage of his few opportunities. Jason Garrett has to figure out a way to get Austin going again. Surely the receivers haven't fallen apart because Dez Bryant's out of the lineup. It's not like he was putting up huge numbers over the past month.
- I have to mention this every week. Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg have to do a better job protecting their quarterback. I realize that some of that's on reserve right tackle King Dunlap and right guard Max Jean-Gilles, but the Eagles might want to mix in a few more runs in the first half. Everyone waits to see if Vick is going to get up when he takes those huge hits from DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff. If the Eagles want to make a deep playoff run, they have to find better ways to keep their quarterback clean. And by the way, I agree with Reid that a flag should have been thrown when Vick was hit out of bounds. That's about as angry as you'll see Reid on the sideline.
- LeSean McCoy is becoming one of the most complete backs in the league. McCoy is nearly impossible to tackle in the open field. He has excellent hands and he does a superb job making defenders miss. But he showed late in Sunday night's game that he can also put his head down and run with power. This guy deserves to be in the Pro Bowl.
- The Eagles have lost two big-time players in middle linebacker Stewart Bradley and defensive end Brandon Graham. Juqua Parker can step in and take a lot of Graham's plays, but it's going to be tough to replace Bradley. The Eagles will put Graham on injured reserve, but they'll wait for Bradley (dislocated elbow) to return for the playoffs -- if they qualify of course. Seventh-round pick Jamar Chaney out of Mississippi State will get the first crack to replace Bradley. He did a pretty nice job against the Cowboys in emergency duty Sunday night and I think he'll be able to hold the fort. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was smart to get Chaney some reps with the first-team defense last week. I think that paid off in Sunday's 30-27 win over the Cowboys.
- The Redskins have to wonder if they're cursed. Just when you thought things couldn't be any more agonizing for the Skins, Hunter Smith drops a snap on a conversion attempt that would've sent the game to overtime. The Redskins have to deal with special teams gaffes on a weekly basis. They had another great return by Brandon Banks wiped out by a penalty and kicker Graham Gano missed 24 and 34-yard field goals. The Redskins didn't cut him, but it's probably a matter of time since he's injured.
- Ryan Torain ran for 158 yards in the first half. The running back, who had been out with hamstring issues, was virtually unstoppable. But the Skins faltered in the red zone. The Bucs apparently made some significant adjustments at halftime and Torain was a non-factor in the second half. Kyle Shanahan needs to keep calling Torain's number the rest of the season and test his durability. If he runs like he did in the first half, he can be part of the solution next season.
- You have to feel bad for LaRon Landry going on injured reserve. He just couldn't turn the corner with this Achilles' tendon injury. And he was having the best season of his career by a long shot. Landry had really flourished in Jim Haslett's new 3-4 scheme and was on the verge of earning a Pro Bowl invitation. He'll likely still be the defensive MVP for the Redskins.