Thursday, May 6, 2010
How I See It: NFC East Stock Watch
By Dan Graziano
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Dallas Cowboys' offensive line: Obviously, there's a big question mark at left tackle with Doug Free taking over for Flozell Adams. Free did an excellent job at right tackle when Marc Colombo went down with a leg injury. But his only experience at left tackle came in an emergency situation against the Vikings in the playoffs. I actually think Free will be a solid left tackle, but it's not going to happen overnight. And no one's talking about the fact that Leonard Davis had a poor season at right guard by his standards. Throw in the fact that Colombo's returning from a serious injury and you have the makings of a shaky offensive line.
Now that Free's starting at left tackle, who's supposed to be the "swing" player who backs up both tackle spots? I posed that question to offensive line coach Hudson Houck recently and he sort of struggled for an answer. Pat McQuistan might be in the mix, but he's never really mastered any position. And Jerry Jones has been throwing out Montrae Holland's name. Good luck with that. There's also the scenario where Davis would move to one of the tackle spots if necessary.
The Cowboys have been incredibly fortunate with injuries the last few years, but they should not count on that trend to continue. Right now, the depth along the offensive line is a major issue.
Stewart Bradley, Eagles middle linebacker: I'm not sure we truly appreciated Bradley's immense talent until the Eagles were embarrassed in back-to-back games at Cowboys Stadium last season. He's the rare player who can take on enormous blockers and also match speedy tight ends and running backs in space. Bradley was on his way to becoming a perennial Pro Bowl player before his knee injury in last year's training camp. But by all accounts, he's not suffering any lingering affects from ACL surgery.
The late Jim Johnson loved Bradley because he was able to quickly diagnose what opposing teams were trying to accomplish. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott tried his best to patch together a defense last season, but without Bradley, the Eagles were in trouble from the start. There's a swagger that the former Nebraska player brings to the field. Everyone talks about the Eagles' youth movement, but Bradley's sort of an old soul.
His return should provide a huge boost and he'll make young players such as Moise Fokou feel a lot more comfortable. I know that safety Quintin Mikell felt all alone at times last season. With Bradley on the field, the Eagles' defense gets an automatic upgrade.