NFC East: 2014 NFL Preseason Week 4 Observation Deck

Observation Deck: Washington Redskins

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23

BALTIMORE -- It’s safe to say the Washington Redskins won’t be bummed about having their eight-game preseason winning streak snapped. It’s also safe to say they won’t be happy about what they showed in Saturday’s 23-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The first offense did not generate much, unless you include angst and impatience. The defense was hurt through the air. And there was a general blah to the Redskins’ starters performance.

Here are some other thoughts on the Redskins' third preseason game of the year:
  • The Redskins’ first-team offense continues to sputter, with zero touchdowns in nine full possessions (they also had a kneel down for a 10th possession). Their first two drives started at midfield and at the Ravens’ 42, and they managed just three points. There indeed are growing pains, but there were more pains than growing Saturday night. The line didn’t protect well enough and quarterback Robert Griffin III wasn’t good. There was too much indecision, which was exacerbated by protection that wasn’t good enough.
  • Griffin needed to have a game in which he calmed fears about his growing pains. Instead, he completed five-of-eight passes for 20 yards and did not always play like a confident quarterback. A lot will be made of backup Kirk Cousins, who looks more comfortable in the pocket -- it’s more his style. Cousins did lead two touchdown drives but fights bouts of inconsistency as well. The Redskins needed Griffin to show more this summer, just to prove he was developing in the pocket at the right pace. This really isn’t about Cousins, who has had good series and bad; it’s about Griffin and his development.
  • Rookie tackle Morgan Moses left the game with a third-quarter knee injury. He was down on the field for a few minutes, then walked off slowly with a limp. Moses had worked exclusively at right tackle Saturday and had started to show signs of development. There was no early word as to the extent of his injury. Linebacker Brian Orakpo sprained his ankle in the first quarter and did not return. The injury did not appear serious.
  • Washington’s first defense showed a better pass rush when Jason Hatcher was in the game. He played the first quarter and did a solid job for a guy who had not played yet this summer. But the Redskins’ pass rush didn’t do as much without Hatcher (or Orakpo).
  • The Redskins’ defense surrendered big plays in part because of missed tackles, one by Orakpo and another by corner DeAngelo Hall against receiver Steve Smith that turned into 30 yards. The Redskins had done a good job of cleaning up missed tackles with good pursuit to limit the yards after contact. That wasn’t the case Saturday. The Ravens did not run the ball well against Washington’s first defense (17 yards on 12 carries), but the passing game stung the Redskins (180 yards in the first half).

Observation Deck: Dallas Cowboys

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23

MIAMI -- After not getting hit in his 16 snaps of work during his preseason debut against the Baltimore Ravens last week, Tony Romo was sacked three times and hit once more in a half of work in the Dallas Cowboys' 25-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Saturday. It was a shaky performance by an offensive line that is supposed to be the strength of the team. Right tackle Doug Free struggled with Cameron Wake, who had two of the sacks. Olivier Vernon came from behind to drop Romo on the first sack, knocking the ball free, but the Cowboys recovered. Keeping the quarterback clean is a must for the Cowboys, considering Romo's back surgeries and age (34). He was sacked more than three times in just two of his 15 full games in 2013. In 32 first-half plays, Romo completed 10 of 18 passes for 87 yards. In his two preseason games, Romo completed 14 of 23 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. Here are some other thoughts on the Cowboys' third preseason game of the year:
  • For all of the worry about the pass defense, the Cowboys' run defense has been abysmal in the preseason. In three games they have allowed 503 on the ground. Considering their lack playmakers on pass defense, the run defense has to at least make it hard for opposing offenses. Miami had 45 yards rushing on its first series of the game, settling for a field goal. They allowed 93 yards in the first half. In a division with LeSean McCoy and Alfred Morris, the Cowboys must be tighter against the run.
  • Cornerback Brandon Carr played 17 snaps in his first preseason action, making a good third-down tackle on Lamar Miller on the first series. He gave up a 14-yard catch to Mike Wallace before his night ended after the first quarter. Orlando Scandrick played only outside cornerback, which allowed Sterling Moore to work the slot. With Scandrick to miss the first four games because of a suspension, Moore will need all the work he can get inside. Morris Claiborne did not play because of a shoulder injury but could see some action in the preseason finale against the Denver Broncos on Thursday.
  • The Cowboys continue to search for their linebacker trio. Rookie Anthony Hitchens was the first-team middle linebacker on base defense. Rolando McClain took over in the second quarter. With Hitchens on the field, Justin Durant moved to the weak side and Bruce Carter played the strong side. In the second quarter, Hitchens and Carter were the linebackers in the nickel defense and Durant went to the sideline.
  • Tyler Patmon earned an invite to Cowboys' training camp after a strong showing in the rookie minicamp. He might have earned a spot on the Cowboys' 53-man roster Saturday. Patmon had two interceptions and forced a fumble. Taking over for Carr in the second quarter, Patmon poked the ball free from Dion Sims that Barry Church recovered. He picked off Dolphins' starter Ryan Tannehill on the first drive of the third quarter. He might have solidified his spot with a 9-yard interception return for a touchdown of Matt Moore in the fourth quarter.
  • The Cowboys close the preseason Thursday against the Denver Broncos at AT&T Stadium.

Injuries can happen at any time to any player, and if the Philadelphia Eagles lose running back LeSean McCoy for an extended period their season would look a lot different without last season's league leading rusher.

After scoring on a 22-yard screen pass in the Eagles’ 31-21 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, McCoy went to the locker room for X-rays on his thumb, which were negative. That was the good news for McCoy, who did not return and should see his next action in the Eagles’ regular-season opener.

The better news, however, was that the Eagles did not change their plan. They ran the ball with Darren Sproles, one of their bigger offseason acquisitions, and Matthew Tucker in McCoy’s absence. They combined for 48 yards on 10 first-half carries, and Sproles had a 1-yard rushing touchdown. The Eagles finished with 182 yards on the ground.

Here are some other thoughts on the Eagles’ third preseason game of the year:
  • The Eagles allowed 76 points in their first two preseason games. The defense was much better against Ben Roethlisberger & Co., keeping them off the scoreboard in the first half with the starters on the field. Nolan Carroll had an interception after a Mychal Kendricks pressure. After Nick Foles was intercepted, the defense responded with a three-and-out highlighted by a Malcolm Jenkins' pass breakup. The pressure was better with first-round disappointment Brandon Graham coming up with a sack and surprise first-round pick Marcus Smith coming up with some plays early in the third quarter.
  • Not only did the Eagles appear to avoid a scare with the McCoy injury, it looks like they got some good news on Jeremy Maclin as well. In the second quarter Maclin appeared to hyperextend his right knee while making a cut and went to the ground. He missed last season with a torn right anterior cruciate ligament. Maclin, however, returned in the next series and caught a 9-yard pass. He caught six passes for 43 yards in the first half.
  • Foles had a ridiculous 27-touchdown, two-interception season in 2013. He has been intercepted three times in the preseason, but with tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek he will have the chance to make some easy throws in the middle of the field. The Eagles used the play-action a number of times to get the ball down the seams to his tight end. Celek had two catches for 41 yards and Ertz had two for 24 yards.
  • Philadelphia hopes Mark Sanchez never has to play because Foles is effective and healthy, but the former New York Jets quarterback continued his solid preseason. Sanchez directed two touchdown drives in the third quarter, completing 7 of 9 passes for 85 yards. In the preseason he has completed 25 of 31 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He looks healthy and much more decisive under Chip Kelly’s tutelage.
  • The Eagles close out the preseason Aug. 28 against the New York Jets.