Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC East [Print without images]

Friday, September 9, 2011
Breakfast links: Worry time for Tuck?

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

You may have heard something about the New York Giants having suffered some injuries on defense during the preseason. It's been in all the papers, as the old saying goes. But while the injuries have been damaging and costly and a couple have been to starters, to this point none has sidelined one of the team's major bedrock superstars.

This latest might be different.

Giants defensive end Justin Tuck did not practice Thursday and is still feeling the effects of a neck injury he suffered a week and a half ago in a preseason game against the Jets. And while he's not concerned about this neck injury being as bad as what Peyton Manning is going through or even what teammate Mathias Kiwanuka went through last year, he's not going to take any chances with it and said there's a chance he might have to sit out Sunday's season opener in Washington.

Look, as banged-up as the Giants are and as good as the Redskins looked in preseason, I still like the Giants to beat the Redskins on Sunday, as you'll learn later today when you see my predictions. But if Tuck doesn't play, that changes things. His would be a significant enough absence to make the Giants a below-average team on defense and throw any one of their games into question. Tuck represents the heart of what the Giants defense is all about -- that fearsome front and pass rush. And he's not just their best pass-rusher, he's also their leader and their most reliable player. Any game he misses will be a tough one for the Giants to win. Not that they can't -- just that his would be the toughest injury so far to overcome. Surely, on top of all of the other injuries they've had, it would be a crusher.

More Giants

On a positive note, running back Brandon Jacobs says he's "never, ever, ever felt this good" coming out of training camp. Jacobs looked fantastic, in practice and in games, during the preseason and it's not farfetched to think that he could play his way into a larger share of carries than he had last year. If Ahmad Bradshaw's fumble problems were to surface again, he'd have reason to worry.

As they commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Giants' "fan mosaic" is a pretty cool thing of which you can grab yourself a very small piece.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys' Wednesday knee injuries looked a decent bit better a day later, as cornerback Mike Jenkins practiced and right tackle Tyron Smith didn't but hasn't yet been ruled out of Sunday's game. Jenkins looks as if he's good to go Sunday, which would be a big deal for a defense that's been learning a new coordinator and a new scheme for the past month without either of its starting corners -- Jenkins or Terence Newman. And if you click on that link back there and read down a bit, you'll see things are looking up for Newman, too.

Jason Garrett likes the line he says Tony Romo is walking between his technical development as a quarterback and staying true to his nature and his talent. We tend to look at these mid-career quarterbacks as already determined -- as though they are and always will be what they have been to this point. In truth, the great quarterbacks are the ones who treat the position as a craft to be honed and work to do that through the middle and latter parts of their careers. Romo is a top quarterback on talent, and if he's the kind of guy who's going to put in the time necessary to always be improving at the key aspects of his craft, he will get even better. We do not and cannot yet know how that's going to go. Only time will tell.

Philadelphia Eagles

While most of the attention has for good reason been on DeSean Jackson and his desire for a contract extension during his free-agent walk year, running back LeSean McCoy could be in line for a big payday if he has a big year. Obviously, the number of talented young offensive players they have is one of the reasons the Eagles have been slow to extend Jackson. They're going to have to make some choices.

At the start of training camp, the Eagles and Nnamdi Asomugha said they'd like to be able to move their star cornerback around the field into different positions and situations, rather than leave him on the outside to shut down one receiver. It sounds as though that's still the case, and that you could see Asomugha in a variety of cornerback roles Sunday and beyond.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins know they need to play better than they have in recent games against the Giants. Barry Cofield may know that better than anyone else, having just switched sides in this rivalry through free agency. We'll see. There were games the past two years where it looked as though the Redskins weren't even trying against the Giants. I do not expect that to be the case Sunday. Atmosphere and attitude a little different around the Skins this year.

Reed Doughty is no LaRon Landry, but as backup plans go at safety, the Redskins believe they're lucky to have him.

Enjoy the rest of the day and the weekend, everyone. Only 255  more NFL regular-season games to go.