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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Ask and ye shall receive an NFC East mailbag. This one's been a long time coming and I appreciate your patience -- as always. I've made my annual pilgrimage to this delightful community (Bethlehem, Pa.) about an hour or so north of Philly and I'm prepared to talk all things Eagles for two consecutive days. But in the interest of a wider audience, I'm fielding mailbag questions on all four teams this morning. OK, let's start emptying the bag:
Bernard F. from Grand Prairie is concerned about the Eagles' depth at TE: Hey Matt, I am a huge Eagles fan living in Dallas. I think the Eagles may need to sign a tight end who will be released when the teams begin to cut players. Maybe a veteran tight end who can run down the seam.
Mosley: Bernard, the Eagles acted quickly in signing a free-agent rookie named Rob Myers, but you can bet that they will be watching the waiver wire pretty closely as we go along. No word on whether Jeff Thomason would leave his construction job again to help out the Eagles. But before you get too worked about Cornelius Ingram's season-ending knee injury, I don't believe the Eagles expected him to be a major contributor during his rookie season. For now, Myers is simply a training camp body who can eat up some reps. If the right player becomes available, Andy Reid will make a move. There's a former University of Houston player in Cowboys camp named Rodney Hannah who's probably not going to make the team. The Eagles know about him and they're impressed with his athleticism and 6-6 frame. That's just a thought.
Bill Moseley from Dallas is concerned about a certain former Cowboys receiver being mentioned too much: Matt, why does the media keep making T.O. the story when he's not. Stephen A. did it in 2004 when my Eagles made the Super Bowl while T.O. was hurt and you're doing it now. There are far more compelling stories to write than "Phillips takes jab at Owens."
Mosley: It's tough when your own family members start turning on you! Bill, I believe the Cowboys' release of T.O. was one of the biggest stories of the offseason and now it's interesting to see how the Cowboys compensate for his monster numbers. I don't think we've spent a ton of time on T.O. this offseason -- as evidenced by us pretty much ignoring his television projects. But when the mild-mannered Wade Phillips takes a little jab at T.O., I certainly think it's worth a blog entry. And judging by the response on the Beast, many of the readers agreed with me. But I understand your point. We'll try not to overdo with T.O. But if he says something about the Cowboys -- and you know he'll continue to do that -- we probably need to account for it. Thanks! Tell the other cousins I said hey.
Russ K. from Boston thinks the Beast has been a little Cowboys heavy recently -- and he's not alone: First of all, can you lay off the Cowboys a bit? It seems like every other link and article is about the Cowboys. Is it because the Cowboys get that much more media coverage? I find that hard to believe. Second, as a Giants fan I feel bittersweet about the Eli signing. I'm glad they signed him but I don't see how he got top quarterback money. He's barely a top five quarterback in my opinion. Did the Giants overpaying Eli ruin their chances to re-sign other players like Justin Tuck?
Mosley: I hear you loud and clear, Russ. When I'm in Cowboys camp, you're going to read a ton about the Cowboys. Beginning on Monday, you'll ready two solid days of Eagles coverage followed by my visits to the Giants' and Redskins' camps. We'll try to balance things out a little more for you guys, and I appreciate all the feedback -- even if it's negative. Regarding Manning's contract, I think that's the going rate for a top five or six quarterback in the league -- especially one who owns a Super Bowl ring. Nothing about those numbers surprised me that much. In fact, I thought the guaranteed portion might come in a little higher. Manning basically earned this money during a four-game stretch at the end of the '07 season. And he didn't do anything last year -- at least in my mind -- to lower his value.
Jason from Bryn Mawr, Pa., exceeded our word limit (150), but we'll give him some latitude since he made some interesting points: Matt, while the following statements may be true: "the Cowboys may have one of the most overrated offensive lines in the league", "the scary part is the Cowboys' lack of depth along the line", and "they've done a poor job drafting and developing offensive linemen over the years", the exact same quotes can be used in your pending camp review of the Philadelphia Eagles, yet I believe you ranked the Eagles as the best O-line in the Beast. It's unfathomable that many seem to be ready to return the Andrews Brothers to elite status when both missed all of last season. One (Stacy) was never elite to begin with and the other (Shawn) either has zero desire to play or has a back that won't allow him to play any longer. I am willing to grant Peters some benefit of the doubt, but am I willing to put all faith in a guy that openly admitted to less effort because he was upset at his contract status?! The Eagles' O-line also lacks the tremendous leadership and continuity provided by Runyan and Thomas. If the criteria works for one team, it should consistently apply to all.
Mosley: I admit the Eagles are having some issues on the offensive line right now, and that could certainly knock them down to the second or third best line in the division. But Stacy Andrews didn't miss all of last season. He started 15 games for the Bengals. Shawn Andrews missed most of the season, and you're correct to be very worried about his status. But the Eagles have done a better job of drafting and developing young linemen than the Cowboys. It's not even close. They took Shawn Andrews in the first round in '04 and he's been a three-time Pro Bowler. The Eagles signed Jamaal Jackson to a free-agent rookie contract in '03 and he's been the starter since '06. And starting guard Todd Herremans was a pretty good find in the fourth round of the '05 draft. Winston Justice was obviously a complete bust, but the Cowboys certainly have the lead in that category. They drafted Andre Gurode in '02 -- and that's pretty much it. Peters and Andrews are younger and much more athletic than Thomas and Runyan. But yes, the lack of cont
inuity is a fair point.
Chris from Clinton, Utah, has an Eagles question: Mr. Mosley, seeing that Stewart Bradley is now injured, do you think that the Eagles will pick up Derrick Brooks to play the right outside backer position and move Omar Gaither to the middle linebacker position like he was two years ago?
Mosley: Chris, Jim Johnson and the Eagles always favored younger, faster linebackers. That's why veterans such as Jeremiah Trotter were sent packing despite their leadership qualities. Brooks is an outstanding guy in the locker room, but the Eagles are more concerned about what guys can do on the field. The word on Brooks is that he's lost a step. That's not a good fit for Sean McDermott's defense. I'd be surprised to see a veteran like Brooks show up on the scene.
Nick from Sandy Hook, Conn., wants to talk about the Eagles' secondary: Hey Matt, before starting I'd like to note that Elizabeth Merrill's Jim Johnson piece was great and helped flesh out a man who'd spent most of his life avoiding fame and being known by his work. I'm wondering about that loss and the other tribulations (so many to choose from) and what you think they could do to the Eagles. The loss of Dawkins just excised the defense's emotional center. The loss of Stew Bradley sidelines one of the rising stars, the Maclin holdout makes him even less likely to contribute this year, and all that on top of Johnson. Do you think they're still a Super Bowl team, and does Reid have the leadership to turn those setbacks into determination?
Mosley: Nick, Elizabeth's an outstanding writer and I'm glad you mentioned the Johnson story. He obviously had a tremendous impact on the league. It's hard to project what sort of impact the loss of Johnson will have on the team, but I think he did such a great job teaching his young players that they'll be able to rally behind his replacement, Sean McDermott. I'm not going to overreact to Maclin missing a little more than a week of practices. I think he'll be up to speed by the end of the preseason. He's a highly intelligent guy, and he's a huge talent. And Reid pulled the right strings late in the '08 season, so he deserves the benefit of the doubt. I think the fact that Omar Gaither has been a starter for the Eagles really helps the situation. I'd be more worried if they were forced to lean completely on an inexperienced guy like Joe Mays.
Nirav from a county I didn't recognize wants to talk Redskins: I am a big fan of the Beast and read your blog daily. Thanks for the great work. My question is when the G-men won the Super Bowl two years ago, their defense seemed to get turnovers and create a short field for Eli and Co. With the additions of Haynesworth and Orakpo (who is looking great in camp by the way) and re-signing Hall, plus Landry and Horton at the safties and old reliable London, do you think the Skins have a chance to have a defense that can create turnovers, and thus, a short field for Jason Campbell and the Skins' offense?
Mosley: Well, that's why Albert Haynesworth and Brian Orakpo are in Washington. And yes, I think the Redskins can go from a solid defense to a dangerous defense. Everyone at Redskins Park will tell me this week about last season's top-five overall ranking on defense. But that's an empty ranking. Quarterbacks didn't fear the Skins because they didn't have any true threats coming off the edge. And the lack of pressure made it tough on the secondary. With Orakpo and Haynesworth collapsing the pocket, Hall, Horton, Landry and Rogers can take more chances. So yes, I think an improved defense could help make this a -- wait for it -- Campbell-friendly offense.
Josh M. from Eldorado, Texas, wonders why Miles Austin appears to be ahead of Sam Hurd at Cowboys camp: Why is Miles Austin ahead of Sam Hurd. The only thing I could think of is his speed. I was at training camp this past weekend and Hurd has some of the best hands on the team. I would rather have a guy in the game that could catch everything instead of out run everbody.
Mosley: Both of those guys have had excellent camps, Josh. And you're right about Austin's speed. He's really the only deep threat the Cowboys have, and he's also become a much better route runner. One more thing: Tony Romo absolutely loves him. I agree that Hurd has taken his game to the next level, but I think Austin's still ahead of him because of his big-strike ability. The Cowboys need a wide receiver on the field that teams fear -- or at least respect. The threat of Austin's speed can open things up in the running game.
Rob from Lake Worth, Fla., says I was right about something. Sir, step right up: Hey Matt, I was really hoping you would be wrong about Mike Williams. But Jason Reid is reporting that he is getting beat in drills by almost every defensive lineman he goes up against. Add to that his groin injury and things don't look too promising. Oh well. Keep up the good work.
Mosley: I think Williams' return is a cool story, but he's been out of the league way too long to be sharp at this point. And he carried around 450 pounds or so while he was out of the game. Even after shedding all the weight, your body's still going to suffer the effects of having been that large. Williams has shown a lot of determination, but anyone who thought he could challenge for significant playing time was being rather naive. I still think the Skins' offensive line is a huge concern.
Russell from Fort Worth wants to know about Jimmy Johnson's credentials for the Ring of Honor: How do you feel about Jimmy Johnson not being in the Cowboys' Ring of Honor? I mean...he is responsible for half of the Cowboys' Super Bowl titles. Some might say he is responsible for two or three of them. I say 2.5. Hasn't he earned the right to be enshrined among the greatest Cowboys? Also, why do you think Jerry Jones has decided not to induct anyone new this year? Wouldn't it be a great way to open the new stadium?
Mosley: One of the things that most of the Ring of Honor members have in common is longevity. Jimmy Johnson had an amazing run, but Jones' ego eventually got in the way. Johnson is the second greatest coach in Cowboys history behind Tom Landry, but there are others I'd like to see go in before him. And I agree with you that Jones should've put someone in this season. Before Jones puts Darren Woodson or Larry Allen in, I really wish he'd go back and take care of Drew Pearson. It's something the late Tex Schramm should've done a long time ago. And now Jones needs to right the wrong. Unfortunately, Pearson's penchant for being critical (honest) about the Cowboys hasn't helped. But again, he should go in before any of the younger guys.