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Friday, August 12, 2011
Breakfast links: Back in action

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

Well, it was fun to watch some football, wasn't it? At least for the first halves of the games, when there were players in there you could imagine playing on Sundays this fall. Good for the NFL for solving that pesky labor dispute and getting the preseason started on time. Good for Jason Garrett for going for two and for the Eagles' defense for preventing that last touchdown, because overtime in the preseason is about as lame a concept as there is. And good for you for getting your breakfast links.

Dallas Cowboys

Jean-Jacques Taylor writes that the Dallas defense, in its first game under Rob Ryan, looked like a defense that was still feeling its way into its new scheme. I agree completely, and with Marcus Spears' assertion that they're "not playing anywhere like we'll be playing later in the year." And I think you saw glimpses of some encouraging things, such as pressure Spears and Anthony Hatcher were able to generate, and that first play where DeMarcus Ware got his hand on a Kyle Orton pass. Ryan's never had a player like Ware before, and it'll be fun to see how he uses him. But let's be honest here: The Cowboys don't have all year to learn this stuff. Sure, they need to look better and more sure of themselves later this season than they do now, but they need to look a lot better in 30 days than they do now, too. At least they have some tape they can take back and work with.

David Buehler says he feels like the kicker job is his to lose. We'll see if Dan Bailey gets his chances next week. This could turn out to be one of the least inspiring position battles in NFL history.

New York Giants

Unless everybody on his side is just pulling our legs (still possible, but feeling less likely), it appears as though Osi Umenyiora has reached the point where he's realized his holdout is no longer doing him any good. The sense is that he'll be back at practice Monday, after he got his knee checked out  by a specialist Thursday and was apparently cleared. Good for Umenyiora if he was able to get any any extra money or incentives out of this, and good for the Giants for standing their ground when they didn't have to cave. He's an important player for them, and if he has a great year, he'll have more leverage next time around.

Lots of people had thoughts on Jerry Reese's odd news conference Thursday. These are Tara Sullivan's. Tara's point, a good one, is that Reese is perfectly within his rights to say you don't have to make a big free-agent splash to win, but that if you believe that you need to keep your own players. And in losing Steve Smith, Kevin Boss and Barry Cofield, Reese failed to do either thing: "The collateral damage has left coach Tom Coughlin with as thin a roster as he’s had in years, not a comfortable position for a man with two years left on his contract and a playoffs-or-bust mandate to get any more," Tara writes.

Philadelphia Eagles

As great as the Eagles looked in and felt after the preseason victory over Baltimore, there is growing concern about the health status of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who's headed back to St. Louis (which is home for him, I guess) for further tests on the medical condition the Eagles won't discuss in detail. Andy Reid continues to insist he believes Maclin will be there for the Eagles when the season begins, but he doesn't seem to have much evidence for that belief. The most important thing is that the young man is OK, of course, not whether he plays football again. But from a strictly football standpoint, a Maclin absence would mean a lot more of Jason Avant, who looks very good.

The Eagles will go into this high-hopes season with rookies at kicker and punter. And while Alex Henery and Chas Henry are decorated collegiate kickers, the fact that they're rookies will keep the spotlight on them all year. They passed their first test, it would seem.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins defense you'll see in the early part of Friday night's game against the Steelers should be much improved over last year's, but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett told Mike Jones that he's looking forward to a time when it's fully healthy. LaRon Landry is on the PUP list while he continues to recover from his Achilles injury, and fellow safety O.J. Atogwe could miss the game with a hamstring pull. Safety was to have been a position of strength for the Redskins, and so you can see why Haslett would want his starters on the field with the rest of the more questionable guys.

Lots of eyes will be on the rookie receivers tonight, and Deron Snyder offers a look at Leonard Hankerson, who's looked good in camp except for those pesky drops, which I imagine could continue to be an issue that holds him back.

One final note: Yes, Buffalo is putting Lee Evans on the market. Yes, you can make the case that all four of these teams could use a receiver. But don't overrate Lee Evans here, folks. The Giants don't need to get Lee Evans just because they lost Steve Smith. Evans is nothing like Smith. He's the opposite of Smith, really -- a burner who can't get open and has never lived up to his considerable potential. (And no, it's not all because Buffalo hasn't had a quarterback. Steven Johnson managed to have a great year there last year because he can shake receivers and find the ball before defenders do.) If your team gets this guy, the best you can hope is that they didn't trade much to get him and that a change of scenery helps. But don't get too nuts about it.

Anyway, catch you later on. Redskins game tonight, so I'll be on the Twitter during that and filing my impressions when it's over.