Dear Mosley: The Giants-Cowboys edition
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
After visiting with several Cowboys and Giants players Wednesday, it occurred to me that it might be time to empty the NFC Beast mailbag. In the wake of the Shootout in the Latin Quarter, you guys have been prolific. I plowed through 2,000 questions and I'm planning to answer at least eight.
The Giants are returning to the site (Texas Stadium) of one of their greatest conquests of 2007. We have a lot of ground to cover, so this concludes the introductory portion of the mailbag:
John in Coppell, Texas, has the first word: Matt, love your work! I was wondering if there were any fines levied against the Steelers player whose bush-league play may have cost Pacman Jones the rest of his season. And how do you think the Cowboys will recover from such a brutal game?
Mosley: John, at the time this column was published worldwide, no one had been fined for the scrum that broke out following Jones' muffed punt. I think you're referring to the player (Andre Frazier?) who dragged Pacman out of the pile. It may have been unnecessary, but I'd be surprised if it rose to the level of a fine. Regarding your other question, it was certainly a punishing game. I asked one of my research assistants to find out how teams performed the week after playing the Steelers, and here's what he found. The teams were a combined 4-8 the week after playing the mighty Steelers. And that list included some decent teams: Philly, Baltimore, Washington (after a bye), San Diego (just go with it). Good question, John. Hope to see you at the Coppell Deli soon.
Let's go to Hari on a cell phone in Atlanta: I know the Giants suspended him for the rest of the season, but was Plaxico Burress physically unable to play or was that simply the diagnosis the doctors came up with? Either way, the dominant season the Giants were having is coming to an end, and they will have a very difficult time repeating. Can you tell me how teams will defend the Giants differently?
Mosley: The Giants' team doctors said it would have taken Burress four to six weeks to recover from the gunshot wound in his thigh. If they were fabricating that number, Burress would find an independent doctor to say otherwise and the NFL Players' Association could file another grievance. I believe the Giants' medical staff is telling the truth.
In the past, the Cowboys have double-teamed Burress throughout the game. His absence will free them up to play more man-to-man coverage. I also think you'll see Wade Phillips stack eight or nine guys near the line of scrimmage. He'll sell out to stop the run and dare Eli Manning to beat him deep with Amani Toomer and Domenik Hixon. Here's what Phillips told the New York media about this topic Wednesday:
"Any time you have a great player that is not there, I think the other team is going to change what they do a little bit," said Phillips. "We are going to play; we are going to double guys, certainly. But it is not going to be every play like we tried to do against Plaxico."
The Cowboys would never say this publicly, but they really like their matchups with Terence Newman on Hixon and Anthony Henry on Toomer. In the nickel, rookie Orlando Scandrick could end up on Steve Smith. You'll see a lot of press coverage from the Cowboys on Sunday. They want to get a good jam so that the pass-rushers will have a little extra time to hurry Eli Manning.
Matt from Denver, welcome to the Mailbag: Why is it that Antonio Pierce helped a man commit a felony, and hid the gun which caused the felony, yet wasn't suspended? Pacman Jones gets in an argument with someone, which if were any other player in the league, it wouldn't have even been spoken of, and gets suspended for four games. I know he's walking a tight rope, but isn't Goodell being a hypocrite? And do you think the distractions have affected Pierce's play?
Mosley: Matt, Roger Goodell looks at these things on a case-by-case basis. Pierce didn't have any marks on his off-the-field record. Pacman lost the benefit of the doubt long ago and should thank his lucky stars he got a second chance this season. It sounds like there are some mitigating factors that Pierce's attorney will use. He immediately called the Giants' medical staff and then rushed Burress to the hospital. It certainly sounds like he messed up by transporting the gun across state lines, but we still don't have all the details. Pierce has been an exemplary player and human being. I don't think Goodell is being a hypocrite for not suspending him.
Pierce is the emotional leader of the defense, but something was missing Sunday. You can't help but think that the scrutiny he's been under affected his preparation. He got burned by Brian Westbrook on a 40-yard touchdown catch and he had a couple of penalties. That said, I expect him to play well against the Cowboys.
Rodney in Burleson, Texas, what's on your mind? Hi Matt, Love your column. I am looking for a bodyguard. Do you know of any who might be recently unemployed? Also, is there any truth to the rumor that Jerry Jones will trade T.O. to the Giants for Plaxico Burress after the season is over? Jerry can personally fill out Plax's gun application form. Thanks.
Mosley: Rodney, I can loan you mine for a week or so. And there's also a guy named Tommy Jones who became available recently. There's absolutely no truth to your trade scenario (if you're being serious). Burress for T.O. straight up wouldn't work. Tom Coughlin would never go for Owens, in part, because he's talked to Bill Parcells too much about the receiver. But I think Plaxico would embrace our kinder, gentler gun laws. Why do you think Tank Johnson was in such a hurry to get here?
Cliff in New York goes with a Redskins-Giants combo question: Matt, I cannot say enough about the wonderful job you've done with the blog this season. I'm a diehard Redskins fan, but I'm beginning to feel that as long as Dan Snyder owns the team and runs it through his proxy, Vinny Cerrato, things will never change with this organization. Regarding Jason Campbell -- I think you need to dig a little deeper with him. He has some of the worst mechanics I have ever seen in a starting QB. He never looks comfortable under center, and by the time he executes his drop back, the time to throw the ball has
come and gone. He has an extremely slow release as well. Take a look at him and compare his drop back and release to Tony Romo or Jay Cutler for instance. The comparison will shock you. Todd Collins came in last year, and with the same exact team, made it seem as if the 'Skins finally had an offense. We are beginning to see why Joe Gibbs kept Campbell on the bench for so long -- he's the biggest problem with the offense, with the line a very close second. A wonderful human being, but a below average quarterback. And since I'm based in New York, what do you think Eli Manning will do against the Cowboys on Sunday?
Mosley: Cliff, your kind words have indeed inspired me to dig deeper into Jason Campbell's mechanics. I agree that Campbell, an avid reader of this blog, takes too many sacks and can't seem to pull the trigger at times. But hold off on Todd Collins Part Deux. Campell's receivers aren't getting much separation and teams are selling out to stop Clinton Portis. Campbell needs better weapons at the wide receiver position. Santana Moss will go through brilliant stretches and then disappear for a few weeks. Whiffing (so far) on those two second-round receivers and the tight end has been tough. The best player in the draft is the seventh-rounder from UCLA, Chris Horton. That's not the way it's supposed to work.
The weather in Dallas calls for clear skies and 65-degree weather Sunday. Both quarterbacks have a chance to have strong showings. The Cowboys' defensive coaches think they can rattle Manning. This is a game where Phillips could call for a lot more exotic blitzes. Not having to prepare for Plaxico Burress and possibly Brandon Jacobs should allow the Cowboys to be a little more aggressive. Manning will still throw the occasional interception if he's forced out of rhythm. I actually think both quarterbacks could have big games. Manning's not the type of player who has back-to-back bad games.
Matt in Charlottesville is looking out for me: Matt, Seriously. I know earlier in your ESPN career people were bad-mouthing you and calling you a homer whenever you wrote anything positive about Dallas, but now you are too far in the other direction. Why the heck do you keep ripping on the Boys? If one only read your writing, one would think Dallas was 0-16 and the worst franchise in the league. Gotta work the middle line both ways, bud.
Mosley: I will remain neutral on the Cowboys for the remainder of this column.
Ernie in Dallas, you're up: Matt, regarding Jerry Jones' questioning of Marion Barber's toughness, I think it's a PR setup for a potential off-season move. I think they really like Choice. He looked fantastic against the Steelers. He ran really well in tight spaces, he was patient and followed his blockers into the lanes. He's a big back who may not be as bruising as Barber, but he's shiftier and maybe has a bit more speed. I like Barber a lot, but a Choice-Felix Jones duo next year may be just as effective as Barber-Jones was this year, for a lot less money. Think they're contemplating trading Barber? He's still a big name with a big reputation -- he may merit something significant in return. Does that sound plausible, or am I just being an ignorant Cow-sheep like all the rest of them?
Mosley: Ernie, go easy on the lunch-time margaritas at Mia's. The Cowboys just signed Barber to a long-term contract. They're not going to trade him. We've seen Tashard Choice perform well in one game, and Felix Jones didn't pick up a ton of experience before being injured. And if you're thinking about putting someone on the market, questioning his toughness seems like a bad move. In conclusion, I'd like whatever you're having.
Robert G. from Bloomfield, N.J., let's talk Giants-Cowboys: Matt, I have not e-mailed you since your days working for the Dallas Morning News. Hope all is well with you and your family. In my opinion the biggest problem in big D is offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. I have watched all season how this guy just does not get it. What they should have done is let him go and pay Cam Cameron to run the offense. But Jerry Jones again overvaluing talent and not being a good judge of talent. Hope you are happier in Bristol than in Dallas. One more thing: How do you see the Garrett vs. [Steve[ Spagnuolo matchup working out?
Mosley: Robert, I'm hoping to see Bristol someday. Hear it's nice this time of year. I'm not sure how you would've let Garrett go after the offense was superb for most of last season and the team finished 13-3. Cam Cameron landed on his feet, but it's not like 1-15 head coaches who are fired after one season are in huge demand. Regarding your question about Garrett vs. Spagnuolo, I think the Cowboys have to speed up their tempo. For some reason, they couldn't seem to get to the line of scrimmage quick enough and they were barely getting plays off in time. Romo treats the huddle like he's a pee wee coach. He goes around and instructs three or four players what to do. Get out of the huddle and run a stinkin' play. It looked like the Cowboys were out of sync for most of the game against the Steelers. Against the Giants, the Cowboys need to follow the blueprint Andy Reid just provided. Commit to the running game. Don't give up -- even if you start with eight carries for 10 yards. Keep banging away. Also, stop trying to appease T.O. Sometimes the Cowboys will go through stretches where their entire focus is getting T.O. going. Throw to the guy who's open. I'm told Jerry Jones ducked into Garrett's office this week and reminded him that Roy Williams is now on the roster. Let's see if the Cowboys will finally make a concerted effort to get him the ball -- on right-handed throws.
Mike from Aledo, Texas, has a beef with Wade Phillips: Mr. Mosley: I am originally from Grand Saline, so we probably prowled some of the same athletic fields in the past. I heard you on the radio the other day discussing the Cowboys who were sent home from practice. Having been a Marine officer for 25 years I feel qualified to say this: The lack of leadership these guys showed as well as lack of teams-men-ship they showed is what is driving you nuts. These are guys who were sent home due to age. But they also were supposed to show leadership due to their veteran age status. There was nothing wrong with taking the physical part of the day off, but there is something very wrong with leaving their teammates to execute the physical part of the workout without them. Presence can be leadership. Just being there supporting the others is teams-men-ship. Their lack of willingness to show their presence even when the head coach let them off can lead to underlying bitterness. This underlying bitterness can lead to lying down in the cold and wet misery if Sunday's game turns into a battle. Lastly, I think you will be surprised to find out that
the angst of the locker room will not be aimed at Coach Phillips but the supposed Veteran Leaders. He was trying to take care of them...they chose to take full advantage of it without giving back to the TEAM. They can rest and still be present. A "Ministry of Presence" from a chaplain's point of view. I used to do something like this to see where my Marines true heart was.
Mosley: Mike, I couldn't agree with you more. And you're right on the money with your assessment that special treatment lends itself to resentment from other players. I talked to two players who were shocked that five veterans were given the day off. Flozell Adams was four days away from starting next to left guard Montrae Holland for the second time in his career. It would be one thing if it were some type of grueling practice, but it was a glorified walk-through during which Pacman Jones wore Homer Simpson pajamas. Seriously. I'm not familiar with the term "teams-men-ship," but I'll soon be introducing it to my blogging colleagues. Thanks for your service to our country.
Jenny from Indy seems like an astute reader: Just wanted to say I loved your recent column on Plaxico Burress. You said it perfectly! How do you think his absence has affected his teammates, and will it keep the Giants out of the Super Bowl?
Mosley: The Giants can win the Super Bowl without Plaxico Burress, but he'll certainly be missed. As you saw in the NFC title game in Green Bay, Burress was unbelievable. He commands a lot of attention and he gives the Giants a huge target in the red zone. Why had Burress been somewhat ineffective this season? I think teams such as the Cowboys come into games saying, "Plaxico's not going to beat us."
But what that does is make life easier on Steve Smith, Amani Toomer and Domenik Hixon. The Giants have enough depth to pull this off, but Burress was a huge part of last season's run. Let's put it this way. Losing him is much worse than losing Jeremy Shockey. The Giants are going to try to run more hitches and slants to Hixon on Sunday night. They want to get him in space against Newman, but the Cowboys will take that matchup. Where the Giants could hurt the Cowboys is going after Anthony Henry.
If you remember one thing about this Mailbag, remember that Toomer's going to have a big game. He's great at finding soft spots in the secondary, and the Cowboys will provide him with a few. Here's one more guarantee: The Giants won't run on the Cowboys this time. Wade Phillips has vowed privately to do whatever it takes to slow down the Giants' vaunted running game. Making sure Brandon Jacobs doesn't play would be a good start -- except for my fantasy team.
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