NFC East: 2013 preseason reaction Week 4

Observation deck: Redskins-Buccaneers

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
12:52
AM ET

 
Highlights from the Washington Redskins' 30-12 preseason finale win at Tampa Bay. They ended the preseason 4-0:

1. Robert Griffin III tweeted that he had been cleared to play by Dr. James Andrews, but then coach Mike Shanahan said the doc had a couple concerns. And that Shanahan would meet with Griffin over the weekend to discuss the situation. OK, I do not think this is just a ploy by Shanahan to keep the Eagles guessing, especially because the decision could come early in the week -- and if you’re Philly, you’re prepping for Griffin regardless. Much easier to adjust to a non-read-option attack than vice versa if Kirk Cousins has to play. Shanahan, though, is huge on gaining any little advantage. Still, it’s legit for Shanahan to want to see another week of practice, if that is the case. Just know that if this is the case, there will be more probing into the coach-player dynamic. Maybe Shanahan just wanted to remind everyone who controlled the decision.

2. But if it’s Andrews who has the concerns, then no one can blame Shanahan if he wants to take a little more time to evaluate -- or if he ultimately chooses to sit Griffin for the opener. There is, wrongly, a belief that Shanahan and the Redskins have rushed Griffin back. The kid hasn’t played in a game yet and, despite being cleared for practice at the start of camp, did not take any 11-on-11 reps until three weeks in. So, no, they have not rushed him back. When you see Griffin, you see someone who if not 100 percent is very close. If he were limping or missing practices and then it was announced he would play in the opener, then, OK, he’s being rushed. Now? Even if he plays I don’t think he would have been rushed. There’s one person who was rushing here; because of it he’s put himself on the verge of meeting his goal to play in the opener.

3. What are the concerns? Could be as simple as: Learn how to take care of yourself on the field. The coaches have preached this to Griffin for a while and, despite perception, he did learn last year. After his concussion he ran out of bounds at a much higher percentage than before. But when it’s a key situation he will try to grab every yard possible, turning upfield instead of running out of bounds. Have said this several times, but Griffin needs to learn how to keep the defenses guessing when scrambling by keeping the ball alive -- pump-faking as he approaches the line, or even beyond. Cousins did this a couple times against Pittsburgh. But Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger did it as well, even getting linebacker London Fletcher to jump in the air after Roethlisberger had crossed the line of scrimmage. It’s just another way for Griffin to protect himself.

4. Chris Thompson’s speed and playmaking ability will earn him a roster spot. Shanahan praised him earlier in the week, excused his fumbles and called them correctable and said he’d keep getting better. Read between the lines. Then Thompson returns a punt 69 yards for a touchdown. Whether or not he ends up as the main returner immediately is irrelevant; he still needs refining in this role. But it just shows what he’s capable of doing. Thompson was extra patient on the return, a trait he showed last week too. He’s good at pausing, forcing the coverage to commit and then spotting the opening. What I like about his running style: the ability to cut sharply and the fact that he’s always leaning forward when cutting up through the hole. For a little guy, he never gets knocked back.

5. Thompson also picked up a defensive linemen coming on a third-down stunt. Really liked how he attacked the block. The coaches like when you’re willing to handle this task, and Thompson did not back down at all. Made a good block, too. He deserves a roster spot; he understands how to run with the ball in this system. Thompson did misjudge a punt, not getting a good read on the ball and falling slightly forward as he caught it. He can work on catching punts in practice, as he has been doing.

6. The question is, did Evan Royster do enough to warrant a roster spot. I did not think entering the game that he would earn a job. And I think it comes down to him and Keiland Williams. For a while I thought the Redskins would keep only four backs because neither one of the rookies had shown anything in camp. Thompson was in and out of the lineup. But the past week or so changed my mind, and it looks like five backs could earn spots. It would be deserved, too, if you’re keeping the best 53. While Royster ran well, I still wonder how he fits. I know if something happened to Alfred Morris, Royster would be a good alternative. But if nothing happens? Then what does Royster do? Williams is a better special-teamer and that could still make the difference. I will say, Royster’s touchdown run was all him. Josh LeRibeus pulled but didn’t move anyone, and two defenders popped Royster, who bounced outside to his right and cut up for the score. By the way, on his 31-yard run I liked the subtle block by tight end Fred Davis. Royster started left and cut back to the right, the same side Davis was on. He was engaged with the backside linebacker, a block he didn’t always sustain last year. This time he did and it proved to be a pivotal one as Royster cut back.

7. Quarterback Pat White made some more plays which, considering his layoff from the NFL, isn’t too bad. But he still hasn’t shown that he can be a consistent or solid passer in the league. He did throw a nice out to Skye Dawson, a low zinger into tight coverage. He seems to be more comfortable when he’s outside the pocket. He threw an interception because he never saw the linebacker. Yeah, White stared at the receiver, but on a slant sometimes that’s what it takes on a quick route. He just failed to see the defender. On that same series he missed badly over the middle and should have been intercepted then, too. Yes, White’s touchdown run was nice, but the one thing everyone knew about him before he came to the NFL was that he could run. Can he pass out of the zone read? He didn’t do it this preseason. Can he throw any touch passes? Didn’t do that either. Or drop it in over the top of a linebacker down the middle – and in front of the safety? Nope. In other words, he has a long ways to go, as he should. I would not keep him.

8. Brandon Meriweather showed enough to make you think he’ll be fine for the season opener. Shanahan seemed pleased afterward with what he saw. Meriweather did not make a huge impact, but that wasn’t surprising given the layoff. He just needed to be active around the ball and prove he can still run well. He was generally around the ball and stuck his nose in the action when appropriate. The Redskins could use what he adds. I remember a corner blitz from the numbers against Philadelphia last season that I’m guessing they don’t run if not for Meriweather. Why? Because he had the speed to rotate and cover a speed guy like DeSean Jackson. That’s why it’s important to see how well he was running against the Bucs Thursday night. Meriweather needs to stay healthy.

9. Once again, safety Bacarri Rambo tackled well, especially in the open field. Before I get to that, I like how active Rambo is, whether it’s deep or playing near the line of scrimmage. I liked that he makes quick reads and breaks when playing the curl/flat drop zone. Last week he broke up a pass to C.J. Spiller, and this time Rambo tackled the tight end. Give Rambo credit for getting there before they can do anything with the ball. On one open-field tackle Rambo approached, broke down and then attacked and made the play. It’s too bad he didn’t really see any legitimate quarterbacks the past two games so he could get tested downfield. But he licked the one problem he had early on. Those missed tackles could turn out to be the biggest plays he made this season – just because of what he learned and how it helped him improve.

10. OK, this is the last observation so we’ll combine a few into one with a little rapid fire. I thought Chris Baker played a terrific game, showing a lot of strength (as did Phillip Merling). Liked what Bryan Kehl did; active and avoided some blocks to make plays. Brandon Jenkins is a raw pass-rusher. Got inside the tackle on one rush, coming out of a three-point stance. Did see him get wide on one other time but often quiet. Was not impressed with tackle Tom Compton early in the game; knocked over on the first play; allowed pressure on the third play and later in the game he whiffed on one pass set, expecting the defender to either bull rush or engage. Instead he went around the edge. Right tackle Tony Pashos was fine, though he allowed a pressure. Leonard Hankerson dropped another ball. He’s an improved route runner, but those hands. … And will Dez Briscoe’s catch and run help him enough to get a spot as the No. 6 receiver? Briscoe’s hands were inconsistent during training camp so that matters, too. It’ll probably come down to keeping a sixth receiver or an 11th defensive back or a ninth offensive lineman. Good play by David Amerson; right spot, right time on the overthrow. Jose Gumbs had a couple good pops, though I wonder on his downfield hit if it could have been better. He hit the receiver with his right shoulder, but he could have taken the guys head off with a big hit (afraid of drawing a fine perhaps?).

Observation deck: Cowboys-Texans

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
11:12
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas – For the first time since 2001, the Dallas Cowboys finished the preseason with a losing record following their 24-6 defeat to the Houston Texans.

The Cowboys finished 2-3 in the preseason, just as they did in 2001 -- but must hope they will not have a 5-11 season as they did then under Dave Campo.

If they do, things will have gone horribly wrong, and owner/general manager Jerry Jones will clean house … except for himself.

What it means: Nothing, really.

The Cowboys gave all of their healthy regulars the night off. Technically, Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Bruce Carter, Sean Lee, Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Orlando Scandrick, Justin Durant, Will Allen, Barry Church, Tyron Smith, Jason Hatcher, Nick Hayden, George Selvie, Doug Free and Travis Frederick did some conditioning work ahead the game, before turning into spectators.

Houston gashed the Cowboys on the ground with 120 yards rushing in the first quarter, punishing the right side of the defense with backs Cierre Wood and Dennis Johnson.

Parnell gets a look: One potential starter on opening night against the Giants started: right tackle Jermey Parnell. He played a few series, and it was no coincidence that the Cowboys called six consecutive running plays to open the game.

Four of them went to Parnell’s side of the field.

A hamstring injury kept him out of the first three preseason games; Parnell played into the third quarter last week versus Cincinnati. The coaches wanted to get him more work in case he does have to start Sept. 8 against the Giants.

Injury update: Morris Claiborne will enter the regular season without any work in a preseason game. He practiced Monday and Tuesday, but Dallas coaches did not believe it was necessary for the second-year cornerback to get just a few plays against the Texans.

He made it through practice without a problem and was fine during pregame running.

Guard Ronald Leary also took part in the conditioning work before the game. He had his knee scoped Aug. 16 and the Cowboys believe he will be ready to take on the Giants. Getting in some running was at least a positive sign for him; meanwhile, defensive end Anthony Spencer, who had a knee scope July 25, was not among the group running before the game.

What’s next? The Cowboys will have to get to the 53-man roster limit by Saturday. Most of the decisions are probably pretty easy, but injuries will factor into a few. Also, look for Dallas to troll the waiver wire for some help along the offensive and defensive lines, at cornerback and perhaps linebacker, too. The full-time preparation for the New York Giants starts Monday when the Cowboys get back to practice.

 
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. –- The New York Giants suffered yet another significant preseason injury Thursday, as running back Andre Brown broke his left leg during the Giants' 28-20 loss to the New England Patriots.

What it means: One week after losing safety Stevie Brown for the season to a torn ACL in a preseason game, Andre Brown breaks his left leg. It’s the same leg on which Andre fractured his fibula against the Packers on Nov. 25 last year. The Giants said Andre could have returned that season if they made it to the Super Bowl, so he could be a candidate for the injured reserve/"designated to return" spot that would allow him to come back after eight weeks.

Andre Brown’s injury is a blow to the running game. Coach Tom Coughlin wanted a one-two punch with David Wilson and Brown, who is the Giants’ most well-rounded running back. Brown could run with power and speed and catch out of the backfield and was the team’s best pass-protecting back. The team will now have to depend on and trust Wilson even more. Seventh-round pick Michael Cox might move up to the backup spot. Ryan Torain’s and Da’Rel Scott’s chances of making the team have increased with Saturday’s final cuts looming.

The Giants could also always look outside and see what is available, especially after teams make final cuts on Saturday.

More injuries: Brown wasn’t the only Giant to suffer an injury. Backup safety Tyler Sash suffered a concussion, and the Giants were already smarting there with the loss of Stevie Brown for the year. With Will Hill having to serve a four-game suspension to start the regular season, the Giants can’t afford to lose Sash for an extended amount of time. Rookie Cooper Taylor will be behind starters Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy if Sash has to miss time.

Also, tight end Adrien Robinson suffered an injury to what appeared to be his left foot. The severity of the injury wasn’t immediately known. Already this preseason, the Giants have watched starters such as Victor Cruz (heel), David Baas (left MCL), David Diehl (thumb) and the two Browns suffer injuries in preseason games.

Offense awakens: On a very small side note, the starting offense finished the preseason strong by scoring a touchdown in the red zone. After struggling in the preseason inside the opponent’s 20, Eli Manning orchestrated a 10-play, 91-yard drive that resulted in a 3-yard touchdown strike to Hakeem Nicks.

Manning opened the drive with a 37-yard completion to Louis Murphy. Manning also hit tight end Brandon Myers on a 10-yard gain, and Wilson had a 16-yard run as well on the drive.

One more time: Several Giants tried to make a final impression in the last preseason game. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson looked good, applying pressure to the quarterback several times and getting a sack and a half. Patterson might have solidified a roster spot with that performance. Marvin Austin, a second-round pick in 2011, might be fighting for a roster spot.

Middle linebacker Mark Herzlich also had a strong outing, snatching an interception off a deflection right before it hit the turf. Defensive ends Matt Broha, Justin Trattou and Adewale Ojomo all had sacks on Tim Tebow as well.

What’s next: The Giants will make final cuts on Saturday and play in Dallas in the season opener on Sept. 8.

Observation deck: Eagles-Jets

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
10:15
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It is probably a mistake to read too much into the Philadelphia Eagles' 27-20 preseason-ending loss to the New York Jets, but let’s do it, anyway. Here, with all due awareness of the relative lack of meaning, are some observations:


  • Maybe the most significant thing that happened for the Eagles was the hamstring injury that sent tight end James Casey to the locker room in the first half. The severity wasn’t immediately known (and given Chip Kelly’s casual approach to dispensing injury info, may never be known), but staying healthy is the No. 1 priority in a fourth preseason game. So an injury to a guy expected to be a key part of the offense can’t be good.
  • This one last chance to impress before roster cuts resulted in more impact defensive plays than in the first three preseason games combined. If coordinator Bill Davis is looking for reserves who can step in and make an impact, he had to like what he saw from:

-- Inside linebacker Emmanuel Acho, who sacked Jets QB Matt Simms on a blitz, played solidly against the run and forced a Konrad Reuland fumble in the second quarter. In the first half alone, Acho was credited with eight tackles. Acquired from Cleveland in the Dion Lewis trade, Acho sure looks like the third-best ILB on the team right now behind starters DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks.

-- Brandon Graham, who bull-rushed Simms on the Jets’ first possession and wrapped him up in the end zone. Simms threw the ball away, an intentional-grounding play that resulted in a safety. Graham still needs work on his pass drops (an understatement), but he can get to the QB from the OLB spot.

-- Chris McCoy, who started at the ROLB spot and tormented Jets tackle Jason Smith. McCoy dropped an interception on the first play from scrimmage -- a negative, sure, but he was in position to make it -- and sacked Simms for a 6-yard loss on the third play. McCoy got around Smith and hit Simms from behind, knocking the ball loose.

-- Everette Brown, the guy singled out by Pro Football Focus for his play against Jacksonville, ended the first half by sacking Simms and knocking the ball out of his hands when the Jets were in the red zone. Eagles fans would recognize the failure to get even a field-goal attempt from Marty Mornhinweg’s days as Andy Reid’s lieutenant.

  • On the other side, a few of the veterans who are trying to stick just did not impress. Safety Nate Allen gave up a 23-yard completion to Zach Rogers on a third-and-19 play. He had decent coverage on Michael Campbell on a later Jets possession, but did not make any real impact. Of course, neither did fifth-round pick Earl Wolff, who started alongside Allen.
  • Inside linebacker Casey Matthews had a very rough night. If he makes the team, it is going to be because he’s that valuable on special teams. Matthews had gap control and a chance to tackle Kahlil Bell in the backfield, but ran into a teammate instead. Bell ran into the end zone for an all-too-easy 8-yard TD. Matthews had a defensive holding penalty two plays before that.
  • The only significant competition on the offensive side is for the backup spots along the line. With the starters sidelined, it was interesting to see who Chip Kelly lined up out there. Allen Barbre, who played two games at left tackle in place of Jason Peters, was at left guard. Undrafted rookie Matt Tobin, a 6-foot-6, 300-pounder from Iowa, started at left tackle. With Dennis Kelly expected to miss at least a couple of regular-season games because of a back injury, there is an opportunity for a backup tackle. Michael Bamiro, the massive but raw rookie from Stony Brook, started at left tackle. He looked massive and raw, especially in the early going. Danny Watkins was at right guard. He looked like Danny Watkins. Julian Vandervelde looks very much like he’ll make the team as the backup center.
  • There was no reason to ponder whether Nick Foles should have been given a longer opportunity to compete for the starting QB job. He did not have a great game. But then, he was playing behind a dreadful offensive line against a Jets defense that blitzed more than usual in the preseason. It was also clear that Kelly was using as little of his offense as possible. Foles fumbled the ball away on the first series. He succeeded in finishing the game, and the preseason, without an injury.
  • By the second half, when Matt Barkley took over at QB, the line had settled in a little bit. Barkley engineered a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. On the downside, he threw the Kevin Kolb-patented pick-six with two minutes left in the game. Barkley didn't get enough on an out to Jeff Maehl. Antonio Allen stepped in, intercepted and returned it for a TD.
  • In the midst of a sea of vanilla, Kelly suddenly called one of the triple-option plays the Eagles frequently ran in a recent practice. Foles faked a handoff, started running to his left, then whipped an overhand lateral to wide receiver Greg Salas. Surprised Kelly put that on film. Also, that play seems certain to result in a turnover at some point.
  • The injury plague continued at cornerback. Trevard Lindley limped off the field in the third quarter with a right ankle sprain. The Eagles have two corners, Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes, sidelined with broken hands. They are so thin there that safety Kurt Coleman was playing corner even before Lindley went down.
  • Speaking of which, Coleman would seem to be one of the guys on the bubble here. The fact that he played both safety and cornerback could help his case for making the team. You never know when you’re going to be caught short in a game. On the other hand, it could mean Coleman is so far out of the running at safety that Kelly and Davis weren’t interested in seeing him there.
  • If the cutdown to 75 was an indicator, Kelly is likely to do most of his roster work Friday, the day before the deadline to reach 53.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider