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Tuesday, November 1, 2011
NFC East Stock Watch

By Dan Graziano

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Redskins' offense. The injuries to the left side of the offensive line appear to have rendered the Washington Redskins helpless on offense. They gave up nine sacks Sunday to a Buffalo team that had collected only four sacks -- total -- in its first six games. It's impossible to grade John Beck as the replacement for Rex Grossman at quarterback because it doesn't appear he has enough time to do anything back there. They can't get the run game going with Ryan Torain and Roy Helu, so they picked up former Cowboys running back Tashard Choice this week hoping maybe he could help. The end result of all of this was the first-ever shutout of a Mike Shanahan-coached team and a frightening ongoing situation in which the offensive ineptitude is requiring the defense to be on the field too long. The Redskins have to find a way to sustain drives, or we could see repeats of Sunday's debacle.

2. Rob Ryan. It was a rough week for the Dallas Cowboys' first-year defensive coordinator. His defense was trampled by a Philadelphia Eagles team he'd derided as the "all-hype team." He lost breakout star linebacker Sean Lee to a wrist injury and starting cornerback Mike Jenkins to a hamstring injury. Ryan's defense had a great first half of the season prior to Sunday night, but it appears fresh new challenges await. The Eagles put a lot of informative stuff on tape about how to attack the middle of the Dallas defense without Lee, and even though the Cowboys are heading into the soft second half of their schedule, a 3-4 record leaves them little margin for error going forward.

3. Giants' running game. Rather than build off of Ahmad Bradshaw's first 100-yard game of the season, the Giants' 30th-ranked rushing offense regressed in Sunday's victory over the winless Dolphins. The Giants rushed for 58 yards on 23 carries as Eli Manning had to put the ball in the air 45 times to lead the Giants from behind. The problem appears to be the line, which is getting no push and opening very few holes in the run game. The Giants' line has done well in pass protection this year, but it appears to get pushed around on running downs, and Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs are just slamming into large men at the line of scrimmage. The Giants are heading into the tough part of their schedule now and will need to fix this in order to maintain their early-season success.

Eli Manning
Eli Manning remained cool under pressure while rallying the Giants on Sunday.
RISING

1. Manning. The flip side of that last bit is that Manning is playing like an MVP candidate this year, limiting mistakes, making good decisions and acting like the reliable veteran leader the Giants need him to be. One of the things the Giants love about Manning is his consistency. He never misses a game, and perhaps more important, he's always the same guy from game to game and play to play. He doesn't get rattled or upset when his team is, say, way behind one of the worst teams in the league and shooting itself in the foot with red zone penalties. He just brings everybody back to where they need to be, makes plays and finds ways to win. Add in the fact that he seems to have his interception issues fixed this year, and you have -- dare we say it -- an elite NFL quarterback.

2. LeSean McCoy. It's tough to imagine how much more he can "rise," but if anybody didn't think McCoy was a star when this season began, he's answered whatever questions may have been lingering. After carrying the ball 28 times for 126 yards against the Redskins two weeks earlier, McCoy followed up with 185 yards on 30 carries in Sunday night's domination of the Cowboys (who'd come into the game with the best run defense in the league). It remains to be seen whether the Eagles will continue to lean on McCoy that much. To hear Andy Reid and the coaches tell it, there will be games in which it makes more sense to pass all night. But what they know about McCoy after the past two games is that he's the kind of player who doesn't mind taking the ball -- a lot -- and grinding out clock when that's what needs to be done. That should serve the Eagles well as they attempt to climb back into contention.

3. Juan Castillo. The Eagles' much-maligned former offensive line coach and current defensive coordinator is getting a lot of credit this week after the job his defense did against Dallas. Sure, the Cowboys had the ball for only 18 total minutes in the game, but during those 18 minutes we saw a rejuvenated Nnamdi Asomugha making plays all over the field, a fully healthy defensive line shifting up looks to successfully confuse Tony Romo and a suddenly much more comfortable Jamar Chaney solidifying things at the middle linebacker spot. Castillo is saying it only made sense that it would take time for everything to come together on defense with so many new players and new coaches working together to establish a new scheme. If he's right, the Eagles are going to be tough to beat the rest of the way. They'll just have to hope that 1-4 start didn't knock them all the way out.