- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Back for more from the Twitter mailbag, which I think is proving a much more efficient way of taking and answering your questions than the old mailbag was. (I haven't even checked that thing in weeks. Don't miss it.) I've solicited questions on my @ESPN_NFCEast account a couple of times, but if you have a question you don't need to wait to be asked. Just use the hashtag #NFCEastMail, anytime during the week, and I'll see it. I promise.
@sjaramillov: what changes were made @halftime so the skins' D looked halfway decent against the Gmen? And do they keep it up?
@ESPN_NFCEast: The Washington Redskins made two key defensive adjustments at halftime of Monday Night's comeback victory against the New York Giants. First, they switched to more man-to-man coverage in the secondary. This was risky due to the mismatches the Giants' receivers have against their defensive backs physically, but the zone they were playing was allowing Eli Manning too many options, especially since they weren't generating pressure against him. This leads to the second adjustment, which was apparently to let outside linebacker Rob Jackson loose in the pass rush at Jackson's request. Jackson has enough speed to rush from the outside, but hasn't been deployed in exactly this way since the Brian Orakpo injury. The success he had getting pressure on Manning in the second half Monday could lead to more opportunities for him to rush the passer in the coming weeks.
@ChrisSca: Due to the bad defenses the NYG will see, (NO, BAL, and PHI) do you think Eli will get back on track?
@ESPN_NFCEast: You list three of the Giants' remaining four opponents. The New Orleans Saints have the league's No. 32-ranked defense. The Baltimore Ravens are No. 25, and the Philadelphia Eagles are No. 17, though their numbers have been almost incomprehensibly horrendous since Todd Bowles took over as defensive coordinator in Week 7. The other opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, rank No. 18 in total defense, so it's not as though they're going to see the '85 Bears in that game either. I do think Manning will improve as the season wraps up. I think he showed a lot in the Green Bay game, and I think we have four games' worth of evidence over the past two years to show us that the Redskins just befuddle him, so we might be able to call Monday Night's game a blip. One thing to watch, though, is the health of wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who showed up on the injury report late this week with a knee injury. If Nicks can't play at something close to full health, that will limit what Manning can do.
@jbeansy217: should Ratliff move to DE? Or should switch to 4-3?
@ESPN_NFCEast: The Dallas Cowboys consistently resist the idea of moving nose tackle Jay Ratliff to defensive end, where the theory is that he might hold up better physically once relieved from the punishment he takes playing on the inside. They think the interior pass rush they're able to generate when Ratliff plays is too big a part of what they want to do on defense, and the fact is, when Ratliff does play, you see the difference. But the larger fact is that Ratliff is missing too much time, and that's hurting more than his presence inside is helping when he's actually in the game. I think he needs to move outside, and the way Josh Brent has played this year should convince the Cowboys that they have an adequate replacement for Ratliff if they make that move. As for Dallas moving to a 4-3, I can't see it happening as long as Rob Ryan is the coordinator. Or really as long as DeMarcus Ware is there. I'm sure Ware could succeed as a 4-3 defensive end with his hand in the dirt, but he's so brilliant and successful as a standup outside linebacker in the 3-4 that it's worth building a defense around him in that role. He's that caliber of player, that everything should work off of him.
@times_yours: Dan, watched any tape on Dennis Kelly? If he impresses the rest of the way, does Herreman's move back inside next year?
@ESPN_NFCEast: Kelly has performed very well since moving to right tackle for the Eagles once Todd Herremans got hurt. Kelly has helped the protection, augmented an already strong run-blocking unit and, I think, benefited from the presence of veteran guard Jake Scott in the lineup next to him. And there's already some chatter in Philadelphia about the possibility of Herremans moving back inside next year and leaving Kelly at tackle. My guess is that they'll assess their needs and fit Herremans in accordingly. He got the contract extension, in part, because they believed he could play any line position for them. And if they like Kelly at tackle going into next year, I'm sure neither the team nor Herremans will blink at the idea of playing Herremans at guard.
@mcontrerasjr: Do you see the Giants losing 3 out of their last 4?
@ESPN_NFCEast: No. I think they win at least two.
@In__Vader: how long can RGIII survive running the pistol offense?
@ESPN_NFCEast: I think at lot of that's overblown, and I think the plan is for the offense to evolve.
@BigHeadMex: If you are drafting for one game - which NFC east QB do you pick first?
@ESPN_NFCEast: The one with the two Super Bowl MVP awards.
@lanelewis12: what do you attribute the most to disappointing cowboys season? Injuries? Coaching? Talent? Or just a bad team?
@ESPN_NFCEast: I think the Cowboys are having exactly the season any reasonable preseason expectation should have had for them -- .500. Not a bad team, not a great one either.
Enjoyed it, folks. Keep em coming.