NFC East: andre holmes

Brandon Carr rebounds with late pick

November, 28, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Brandon Carr admittedly struggled in the first half against the Oakland Raiders.

That most of it came against former Cowboys practice squad wide receiver Andre Holmes made it worse to fans who expect more out of the $50 million cornerback.

But when it mattered most Thursday, Carr came up with the biggest play of the game for the Dallas defense in a 31-24 victory.

Leading 28-21 the defense buckled when Holmes caught a 35-yard pass from quarterback Matt McGloin to the Dallas 21. Two plays later from the 20 McGloin chose to go at Carr with Jacoby Ford running a go route down the sideline.

“He just threw it up and they’d got enough big balls on us throughout the game,” Carr said. “I figured it was time to go ahead and make a play and shift the momentum.”

Carr was able to out-jump Ford for the ball to come down with his third interception of the season. The Cowboys’ offense then drove 79 yards on 14 plays, eating up 6 minutes and 43 seconds before settling for a 19-yard field goal by Dan Bailey with 1:56 to play.

In the first half Holmes was able to beat Carr down the sideline on a similar play to the Cowboys' 1 after a replay review overturned what had been a touchdown.

“I was playing off this time,” Carr said. “Just good ball placement by the quarterback. He read it and threw it to his big guys to go up and leap for the ball.”

Tested a second time, Carr would not get fooled again.

“Just keep playing,” coach Jason Garrett said. “It’s the nature of the league, cornerbacks isolated out on islands. The quarterbacks and receivers in this league are good. The other guys, they’re going to win sometimes ... B-Carr just kind of hung in there and kept battling and eventually he made the play in the end zone. It was a big play for us.”

Dallas Cowboys cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
Click here for the complete list of Dallas Cowboys roster moves.

Most significant move: When the Cowboys drafted wide receiver Danny Coale in the fifth round, some thought he might get himself into the No. 3 wide receiver mix. The fact that he could not says a lot about the wide receivers the Cowboys already had and that they kept at the cut deadline. Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes and Cole Beasley all performed admirably in training camp and in preseason games while competing for reps and jobs, and because of that, not only was Coale expendable, but the Cowboys feel a lot better about their wide receiver depth going into the season than they might have felt a few months ago.

Onward and upward: Adrian Hamilton, the undrafted pass-rusher who had the big numbers last year at Prairie View A&M, looked like a potentially helpful guy, and his ability to get to the quarterback is likely to make him interesting to some other team. The main reason he didn't make the Cowboys' roster was probably his inability to help on special teams. But he looked like a playmaker when on the field, and I wouldn't be surprised if he drew some interest. ... It's a surprise to some that third quarterback Stephen McGee was kept, but he could be the first one to go if the Cowboys add an offensive lineman off someone else's cut list.

What's next: Other than potentially adding to their offensive line depth or looking for upgrades there, there's not much for the Cowboys to do at this point. And the acquisition of Ryan Cook from Miami in exchange for a seventh-round pick early Friday addressed the offensive line depth by adding a versatile backup who can play center, which David Arkin can't yet do. I think they might take a look at a veteran center such as Dan Koppen, who was cut by the Patriots and probably would be an upgrade over starter Phil Costa. But they like Costa and believe he can improve, and they don't appear to be ready to give up on him at this point. Which is fine. I think the Cowboys are focused more on the long term anyway.

What I'll be watching: Rams-Cowboys

August, 25, 2012
The Dallas Cowboys play their third preseason game of 2012 at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday against the St. Louis Rams in Arlington, Texas. Here's what I'll be watching...

Most closely: The backup wide receivers. With Miles Austin and Dez Bryant (not to mention tight end Jason Witten) out with injuries, I'm very interested to see who catches Tony Romo's passes in this game. Kevin Ogletree has been the standout among the No. 3 wide receiver candidates so far this preseason, but Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes, Cole Beasley and others are still in the mix and should get opportunities with the first-team offense tonight. It's still audition time for those guys, and with this likely to be Romo's final preseason game of the year, it's probably their best chance to show their stuff.

On the other side of the ball: The defense looks to be getting healthy, as nose tackle Jay Ratliff, defensive end Jason Hatcher and linebacker Anthony Spencer all have a chance to see their first preseason action. The Cowboys have struggled a bit against the run in the preseason so far, but Hatcher and Spencer are two of their best run defenders, and Ratliff's presence in the middle of the defensive line should shore things up there. Seeing the starting defense on the field together all at the same time will be encouraging to Cowboys fans, and it should be interesting to see who gets the bulk of the playing time at that defensive end spot opposite Hatcher. Some roster decisions looming over there.

If I think of it: DeMarco Murray's touches have been very limited this preseason, and Dallas doesn't want to risk injury to the running back on whom it plans to rely on a great deal this year. Murray will probably get more carries in this game, but don't expect to see very much of him. I'll be looking at Morris Claiborne again at cornerback, as he's going to have to hit the ground running if the defense is to function the way they want it to. And of course, the offensive line, whose struggles have been the story of the preseason. Are they getting healthier and/or better there?
The Dallas Cowboys play their second preseason game of the year tonight in San Diego against the Chargers. The game is at 9 pm ET, 8 pm CT and 6 pm PT. Here's a look at what I'll be watching...

Most closely: Offensive productivity. Yes, the offensive line is the big issue with the Cowboys these days. But even if it improves, it's never going to be a strength. The Cowboys will need to be able to produce in back of a substandard line in 2012. Tony Romo will have to complete passes anyway. DeMarco Murray will have to find holes anyway. So I'm interested to see what the Cowboys come up with as a way to move the ball while the line is struggling as badly as it is this preseason. It's not going to be easy with Miles Austin and Jason Witten injured and out, but the Cowboys will be looking for signs of offensive life that didn't show up in the preseason opener Monday in Oakland.

On the other side of the ball: Well, Morris Claiborne, of course. The rookie cornerback on whom the Cowboys spent their first two draft picks in April looks set to make his preseason debut. And considering that the key part of Dallas' plan to fix its defense is to rely on Claiborne and free-agent pickup Brandon Carr to lock down receivers in man coverage, San Diego offers a nifty first test. Top pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware is out with a hamstring injury, because those were apparently contagious in Oxnard this year, so if the secondary really can help the pass rush look better, this would be a good time to show it. My guess is that the Chargers will go right after Claiborne to test him out, so we should get a chance to see what he's got.

If I think of it: Safety play, with Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh both looking good so far. Could be a surprise strength... Third wide receiver candidates, of course. Andre Holmes showed something in the first game... More of Tyrone Crawford as a situational pass-rusher.

No, Cowboys don't want Chad Johnson

August, 15, 2012
Sometimes I just have to shake my head.

Every time a player of whom anyone has ever heard of gets cut, fans want to know if their team will go and sign him. So I guess it's no real shock that Dallas Cowboys fans, unnecessarily panicked about the No. 3 wide receiver situation, would ask whether the team would be interested in former Dolphins receiver Chad Johnson. The Dolphins, who need receivers about 500 times worse than the Cowboys do, just released Johnson after he was arrested last weekend on domestic violence charges. And while he would make no sense whatsoever for the Cowboys to even consider, somehow Jason Garrett found himself answering a question about his team's interest in Wednesday's news conference. Per Tim MacMahon:
"We haven't had any discussions about Chad Johnson," Garrett said.

Rough translation: There is a zero percent chance of Ochocinco joining the Cowboys.

Seriously, folks. Enough. Nothing's changed since the last time Johnson was on the market except his last name and his police record. Only one of those changed for the better, and it wasn't the right one. There's no chance whatsoever that the Cowboys, who already have Dez Bryant, would want to have to stand there and explain why they seem to be collecting receivers who've been arrested on domestic violence charges in the past couple of months.

Johnson also has not become any younger since the last time he was available, nor has he been a good NFL player since 2009. There's nothing whatsoever to suggest that he's a better option than Kevin Ogletree or Andre Holmes or Cole Beasley or any of the other guys currently competing for the Cowboys' No. 3 receiver spot. He's not good, he's a huge potential headache, and there would be no reason for the Cowboys to even consider it. I doubt they did, and I have no problem believing Garrett spoke for the entire organization when he shot it down without hesitation.

No word on whether he was also asked if they had any interest in Isaac Bruce or Rod Smith.

Here's some actual, real, relevant news about the Cowboys' receiving corps.

Observation deck: Cowboys-Raiders

August, 14, 2012

Of all the football games I've ever watched, the Dallas Cowboys' 3-0 preseason victory over the Oakland Raiders on Monday night was definitely ... well, it was one of them. It was a sluggish, poorly played game by two teams that obviously weren't at full strength or interested in showing a national TV audience very much of their playbooks. At the time it ended, nine Major League Baseball teams had outscored the two NFL teams' combined total.

But it was a game a defensive coordinator could love, and surely Dallas' Rob Ryan will use it as a rallying point for his defense in the days and weeks to come. As we say all the time here, there is little or no predictive value in any of these games. Some teams game-plan for them, many don't, and there's no way to really know what you're watching in terms of who's trying and who's not. But if you're a defensive coordinator, you'd better believe you can hold up a 3-0 victory and shout at your guys about what they're capable of if they play hard. Can't hurt, could help, you know.

The Cowboys' offense ... won't have as much fun watching film of this one. Let's get to what we saw from the Cowboys in Oakland on Monday night.

1. The interior of the offensive line is not good right now, and it affects everything the offense tries to do. Tony Romo had no time to throw, DeMarco Murray had no room to run and the No. 3 wide receiver candidates who were running with the first team had no opportunity to show what they could do. David Arkin started at center in place of the injured Phil Costa, and in the first half he got abused by Tommy Kelly for one sack and was also called for holding. The good news for Arkin is that he didn't botch any snaps, and he did look better as he continued to play into the third quarter (and the Raiders kept taking out first-team and second-team defensive players). Mackenzy Bernadeau, who started at right guard, is likely to get snaps at center in upcoming preseason games, but since he's coming off an injury the Cowboys are trying to work him in at guard to get him acclimated. Derrick Dockery started at left guard, and Ronald Leary struggled with the second and third teams. Now, the key things to remember are (a) this isn't news and (b) preseason games are about figuring out what you need to improve. There's no reason to think the Cowboys' offensive line will look worse at any point this year than it does right now, and they've known for a while that they have issues there. If they can get Costa and Nate Livings and Bernadeau healthy, they'll at least have the crew with which they planned to go into the season. I'm just not sure that's good enough -- or that they have anything behind the starters that can help in case of injury. And it's worth mentioning that right tackle Doug Free didn't look good either.

2. Andre Holmes had a good night. Of those No. 3 wide receiver candidates, Holmes stood out the most, with 40 yards on three catches. Holmes' asset is his size, and he looks like he's doing a good job of using his big body to shield the ball from defenders and make catches in traffic. Long way to go and a lot to see, but Holmes helped his case. Kevin Ogletree likely remains the favorite and got the first crack at it, starting in place of the injured Miles Austin. Ogletree caught the only ball thrown his way, for 12 yards, and had a goofy moment when he fell on his face trying to make a block and slipping on the infield dirt at the Oakland Coliseum. Expect to see more from Dwayne Harris, Tim Benford, Cole Beasley and Danny Coale in upcoming games. Beasley was the slot receiver with the first-team offense but didn't see any action. Interesting that Dez Bryant did start in spite of his hamstring injury and made one excellent 24-yard catch before taking a seat.

3. The defense did look fired-up and kind of deep in spots. Defensive end Marcus Spears played like a man who knows he needs to win a roster spot. Safety Gerald Sensabaugh came up with an early interception on a play on which cornerback Orlando Scandrick had his man well covered. Kyle Wilber showed some ability to generate pressure on Matt Leinart on a third-down play, though he did leave the game with a broken thumb. Tyrone Crawford pushed the pocket a little bit during his time in there. And I think that inside linebacker spot is going to be a real strength, as Sean Lee and Bruce Carter both looked good. Yes, the Raiders ran the ball effectively against the first-team defense, but that first-team defense was without starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff as well as defensive end Jason Hatcher and outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. So I imagine they'll be better once those guys are on the field.

4. Not-so-special teams. The Cowboys were called for penalties on two punts and one field goal attempt, each time allowing the Raiders to keep the ball. That needs to be tightened up, clearly, and it's the kind of thing that just infuriates coaches in these preseason games.

5. Miscellany: Adrian Hamilton, the undrafted linebacker who had 20.5 sacks at Prairie View last year, looked active and quick. Remains to be seen whether he has the size and speed to play against NFL offenses. ... Rookie tight end James Hanna showed good hands as a receiver and looked good on kick coverage. ... Dwayne Harris was called for holding and, yeah, that can work against a guy who's trying to get a job as a No. 3 wide receiver. ... Yes, you like what you see from Victor Butler, as you always do in August. Still need to see whether and how the coaches find more ways to get him on the field once the real games begin. ... Seemed like punter Chris Jones was fine.

What to watch for: Cowboys-Raiders

August, 13, 2012
The Dallas Cowboys open their preseason schedule against the Oakland Raiders on Monday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. Here are a couple of things to look for as the 2012 Cowboys take the field against a hostile opponent for the first time:

1. The offensive line: It looks as though David Arkin will start at center in place of injured Phil Costa. Center and guard are two positions of great concern for the Cowboys. Even healthy, Costa wasn't very good last year, and Arkin has no experience at the position outside of the practice reps he's been taking in Oxnard for the past two weeks. You'll see some of Harland Gunn (also learning the position), and if free-agent signee Mackenzy Bernadeau is healthy and active for the game, he could get some center snaps as well. The Cowboys also need to find answers at guard, where Bernadeau and Nate Livings were brought in to help, but Livings has been hurt and isn't likely to play. Keep an eye on undrafted Ronald Leary, who's been getting a lot of first-team snaps at guard and is someone the coaches like. Also watch left tackle Tyron Smith, a great talent who's making the switch from right tackle in his second NFL season. See if he's got that footwork down yet.

2. The wide receivers. With starters Miles Austin (out) and Dez Bryant (game-time decision) beset by hamstring injuries, Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes, Cole Beasley, Danny Coale and a host of others will get significant reps. The No. 3 receiver position is open, and the coaches will be watching to see who stands out as a route-runner, a blocker and a pass-catcher from that group. They'll probably have starting quarterback Tony Romo for only one or two series, but backup Kyle Orton is good enough that coaches will be able to evaluate receivers with him throwing them the ball as well.

3. The defensive line. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff is also out with an injury, so all three line spots are offering auditions tonight. Jason Hatcher seems set as a starting end, but the other end spot could go to anyone from the group of Kenyon Coleman, Marcus Spears, Sean Lissemore and Clifton Geathers. And with Ratliff out, Josh Brent has a chance to show what he can do with significant playing time inside. With third-round pick Tyrone Crawford a sure thing to stick as a pass-rush specialist and projected future starter, not everyone from this group is going to make the roster.

4. The rest of the defense. Sean Lee looks as though he's ready to pick up where he left off as an emerging star, but there's a good fight going on between Dan Connor and Bruce Carter for the other inside linebacker spot. Barry Church has won himself a job as a starting safety with a big camp, so this is a chance for him to show everyone he's taken a big step if indeed he has. And while Morris Claiborne and Mike Jenkins are out with injuries, this will be the first look for a lot of Cowboys fans at free-agent cornerback Brandon Carr, who's so far been everything the Cowboys expected.

Cowboys have priorities straight

August, 12, 2012
Couple of reports from Dallas Cowboys camp out there in California on Saturday. One says wide receiver Dez Bryant has caught Miles Austin's hamstring flu and will join Austin on the sideline for Monday night's preseason opener in Oakland. This is the one that will have people shouting they need to sign a veteran wide receiver, and even invoking the name of Plaxico Burress.

But they're not doing that, and they shouldn't. What the Cowboys are doing instead is taking the level-headed view that the quarterback can't throw the ball to any receiver unless he can successfully get it from the center. And since they're very short these days on centers who can get the quarterback the ball, this other report says they're bringing in former Eagles center Jamaal Jackson for a workout.

Not having Austin and Bryant on Monday will be fine for the Cowboys, as their young No. 3 wide receiver candidates will all get chances to work with Tony Romo and the rest of the first-team offense. That's the best way for guys like Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and the rest of that crew to show what they can do, and the Cowboys' current plan at receiver is to see what those guys can do and whether they have the solution internally. The Giants operate like this, and people laud them for it. Now that the Cowboys are trying it, they're supposedly overlooking some big need. Whatever. They'll be fine at No. 3 receiver. They found someone last year and he was great. They'll find someone again.

The bigger concern is the interior of the offensive line, where injuries have eliminated several of the candidates to back up and/or supplant starting center Phil Costa and stripped much of the Cowboys' planned depth. Now Costa is hurt as well, and that means David Arkin is the starting center Monday, and from what we've seen out there in practice, that means Romo's not going to get a lot of clean snaps.

Not really Arkin's fault. He's never played center and is learning on the job. Jackson, however, has started 72 career NFL games. Only one since 2009, but still. He knows how to snap the ball to the quarterback. And at this point, the Cowboys' standards at that position have dropped pretty far. Jackson makes sense if he's healthy and in any kind of shape, and I guess we'll find out about that today.

Receiver can wait. As long as Austin and Bryant can get healthy in the next 24 days, they don't need to go out and augment that position. Preseason is for finding out what you have, and they have candidates for that position. They don't have candidates for center. So what they're doing today is smartly assessing and addressing a need.
OXNARD, Calif. -- I was going to start off writing about the Dallas Cowboys' center position, but it's such a beautiful night here I just feel too good to start off with a negative. So we'll get to center, but I'm going to start with the defensive line.

I was critical of the Cowboys' draft in general, and my feelings on third-round pick Tyrone Crawford were that they'd picked a guy who couldn't help them this year -- a project defensive end for a 3-4 defense when they'd already traded their second-round pick and still had 2012 needs to address. But watching Crawford practice -- watching him in drills against the likes of Tyron Smith -- it's easy to see how the Cowboys could indeed find a role for him this year as a situational pass-rusher in nickel or dime packages. I asked Cowboys coach Jason Garrett about Crawford and this year, and this is what he told me:

[+] EnlargeTyrone Crawford
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezThird-round pick Tyrone Crawford has impressed during training camp.
"The vision we had for him in Year 1 was, 'Come in here and be a contributor as a pass-rush guy, and then we feel like you can be big enough to play the five-technique in our base defense.' We loved his relentless nature. Passionate kid still learning the game of football. His body's going to get bigger. He's going to get stronger. He has position traits to be a starter in the future, and right now he can have a role for us because we potentially like how he can rush the passer in a third-down situation."

Crawford is listed at 285 pounds, and most of the rest of the defensive linemen on the Cowboys' roster exceed 300. So they will need to see him bulk up before he can be a starter for them. But rushing the passer is a lot about speed, instinct and determination, and Crawford doesn't need to bulk up in order to deliver in that aspect of the game. So keep an eye out for how they deploy him on third downs. Could be that I was (hope you're sitting down!) wrong about that one.

Some other things I saw/heard/noticed/surmised during my second and final day at Cowboys training camp:

  • As great as the Cowboys' skill-position players are, they're going to have a hard time being productive if the center can't get the ball to the quarterback. And the Cowboys' centers... well, they struggle with that. Starter Phil Costa had trouble with it last year. The guys they thought would push Costa for the job this camp -- Mackenzy Bernadeau, Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski -- are all hurt. David Arkin, a guard who's never played center before, has been getting snaps there, but he was so bad Tuesday that they had to take him out of his spot as the second-team center, replace him with Harland Gunn (another guard they're trying out at center) and use Costa, the starter, as the third-team center. It was, to use a highly technical football term, not good. Bernadeau did do some work early in position drills and could start practicing later in the week, but Kowalski and Nagy don't look as though they'll factor into this mix in the preseason. Cowboys player personnel director Stephen Jones acknowledged after the practice that it was ugly, but he said he has high hopes for Bernadeau as a real option and that they weren't yet in the market for a free-agent center.
  • Bernadeau and Gunn stayed after practice to work on snaps on the side.
  • Fifth-round pick Danny Coale did a lot of work in individual wide receiver drills as well as punt return drills, though he was still held out of 11-on-11s as he recovers from his injury. He also could return to practice later in the week. Garrett didn't list him among the No. 3 wide receiver candidates earlier in the day, but it's possible he could work his way into the mix as the year goes along.
  • The guys Garrett did list were Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes and Dwayne Harris. He was making a point that Miles Austin's ability to play an inside slot position as well as play on the outside gives the Cowboys leeway when picking their No. 3, as they don't need it to be one or the other. He said they look at Ogletree and Harris as guys who can play both inside and outside while Holmes profiles more as an outside guy.
  • Austin, incidentally, is still out with a hamstring injury, but this is not being deemed serious because it's not as though Austin has a history of missing time with hamstring injuries. Wait. What? Oh.
  • After briefly leaving camp and coming back at the team's request, Cole Beasley continued to look good as a wide receiver and catching punts. Not sure if he can push himself into the mix, but he's playing very well.
  • DeMarco Murray looks fantastic, running with vision and power and showing no signs of the ankle injury that ended his 2011 season early.
  • And yeah, I could gush some more about how good Dez Bryant looks, but I feel like I've done enough of that. Just... I mean... if you don't want to draft him for your fantasy team, I'll be happy to scoop him up one pick later, is all I'm saying.
  • I head home to New Jersey on Wednesday, but Cowboys Camp Confidential is scheduled to run Friday and I have a bunch more stuff from Cowboys camp to share with you over the coming days and probably into next week. If the posts are a little light tomorrow, you'll know my plane doesn't have WiFi.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- A new month and a new locale for the NFC East blog, which drove Tuesday night through Gettysburg and Harrisburg and goodness-knows-how-many other burgs to arrive here. I will be checking out the training camp of the dynastically-minded Philadelphia Eagles the next two days, but you know you'll still be getting plenty of my leftover reporting from Giants camp and Redskins camp while I'm here. (I head to Cowboys camp Monday and Tuesday). You also know you can always count on the links.

Philadelphia Eagles

Much of the focus and analysis of the 2012 Eagles' secondary has focused on the likely benefit of playing Nnamdi Asomugha more in man coverage, where he excelled as a Raider. But moving Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the outside full-time is also likely to have major benefits, as Geoff Mosher explains.

The Eagles blitzed on just 18 percent of their plays last year (second-lowest figure in the league), Sheil Kapadia writes. And since they tied for the league lead in sacks anyway, don't expect that number to go up very much. The defensive scheme implemented last year by Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn relies on the four defensive linemen to create pressure on the quarterback, and the Eagles have the linemen to pull it off.

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking run game works best with a versatile, heavily involved fullback in the backfield, so Darrel Young's hamstring strain is not good news. Shanahan said after practice Tuesday that Young would likely miss one to two weeks with the injury. That could give rookie Alfred Morris a chance to show his versatility, as he's said he'll play fullback if needed, but the Redskins have been using him in the tailback rotation and he's actually got a shot to emerge from camp as the starting tailback. (Hey, who doesn't?)

You can't watch Redskins practice these days and not notice some of the option offense they're running with Robert Griffin III at quarterback. It looked to me as though Roy Helu was most often the running back when they went to the option, but I didn't keep close track of that. I'm sure they'll run some option at some point with Griffin, but the impression I get is that they're just trying to throw everything at him right now and determine which stuff he can handle and run the best.

Dallas Cowboys

The Bill Nagy injury is disappointing for the Cowboys because Kevin Kowalski and Mackenzy Bernadeau are already hurt and that leaves pretty much no one to push Phil Costa at center. And even if they didn't want to replace Costa as their starting center, the Cowboys were hoping to throw some competition at him and maybe help him get better. That is not, currently, an option.

Calvin Watkins is calling Felix Jones, Andre Holmes and Brodney Pool -- the three Cowboys players who failed their camp-opening conditioning test -- "The Big Three," which I personally find hilarious. Anyway, he says there's a chance they get to run the thing again today. I hope they pass it. No one needs an Albert Haynesworth situation here.

New York Giants

Giants safety Tyler Sash got suspended for four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy and offered the same lame excuse everyone's using nowadays. Doesn't matter whether he's lying or not, Sash has already lost his appeal. I just marvel that every single guy who ever gets suspended for performance-enhancers is always innocent. No one ever comes out and says, "Yeah, I did it. I messed up. I'm sorry. Won't happen again." Anyway, between this and Terrell Thomas' fresh ACL injury, the likelihood of a Deon Grant return does seem to be increasing, no?

Gary Myers seems to believe that Jerry Jones' trash talking at a fan pep rally earlier this week will somehow "wake up" the Giants and enable them to beat the Cowboys in 2012. Couple of things. First, I was not aware that the Giants were not awake. Second, I just want to throw out the possibility that, if the Giants beat the Cowboys in 2012, it might have something to do with their having better players. For goodness' sake, people, it was a pep rally. Jones didn't break into the Giants' locker room and start telling all of the players they stink. It was a pep rally.
ASHBURN, Va. -- Good morning. More fun stuff to come here at Redskins camp today, then it's off to Eagles camp tomorrow as training camp 2012 rolls along here on the NFC East blog. Got to stop and get some links, though.

New York Giants

Should Terrell Thomas have to miss significant time with his latest knee injury, a lot of new responsibility will fall on second-year cornerback Prince Amukamara, the Giants' first-round pick in the 2011 draft. Ohm's practice report from Monday tells us that Amukamara has been looking good.

Paul Schwartz is reporting that Thomas' ACL is only partially torn, though the Giants are saying he'll likely have arthroscopic surgery to determine the extent of the injury to the ligament he's torn twice in the past. It's unclear what a partial tear would mean in terms of Thomas' availability, though the possibility of his missing a second consecutive season is in play.

Philadelphia Eagles

What Mike Kafka lacks in on-field NFL experience he has been attempting to make up for by studying, Martin Frank writes. Kafka goes into the season as the primary backup for Eagles starting quarterback Michael Vick. And while the Eagles are used to having a backup with more experience, they say they believe Kafka is ready to handle the job in his third year in their system.

Those wondering if one of the rookie running backs would be taking over as LeSean McCoy's backup should know that second-year man Dion Lewis appears determined to be that and is drawing rave reviews so far in training camp.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins didn't have a second-round pick this year, but they're getting last year's second-round pick back. Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins tore his ACL in the preseason last year and missed his entire rookie season. Now, he's a part of the defensive line rotation and believes he can be a help to the pass rush up front.

Dan Daly believes the Redskins, like a lot of teams, are going to a running back-by-committee approach, and Dan seems to think that's a fine idea. Mike Shanahan has said he'd prefer to identify one starter rather than shuttle backs in and out throughout the game, but given what the Redskins have at the position, he might find that he can't have it the way he wants.

Dallas Cowboys

Felix Jones, Andre Holmes and Brodney Pool all failed their camp-opening conditioning tests and won't be able to practice until they pass it. As Calvin Watkins writes, it's obviously surprising when players report to camp and aren't in good enough shape to run 60 yards in 8 seconds. It's especially puzzling if you're a guy like Holmes, who's supposedly trying out for that No. 3 wide receiver spot, or a guy like Pool, who's got competition for the starting safety spot and might not make the roster if he doesn't win it.

Oh, and cornerback Mike Jenkins says he never requested a trade. Whatever. Tomorrow, he plans to show everyone video evidence of the existence of the Tooth Fairy.
We continue our position-by-position analysis of the teams in the NFC East with a look at the Dallas Cowboys' wide receivers.

Projected starters: Miles Austin, Dez Bryant

Reserves: Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes, Raymond Radway, Danny Coale

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireDez Bryant has shown potential during his first two seasons but has yet to breakout.
Potential strength: As I wrote earlier Monday about the Eagles, the Cowboys' strength at wide receiver is that their starters have the potential to be among the very best in the league. Austin struggled with hamstring injuries last year, and Bryant is a third-year player whose first two years have seen plenty of understandable development issues. But if Austin can stay healthy, and if you buy into the old theory about third-year wide receivers taking big steps forward, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo could be picking between two of the best receivers in the NFL on any given play.

Potential weakness: There has been plenty of concern expressed about that No. 3 receiver spot, which was filled so surprisingly ably by Laurent Robinson last year. Unless they find a veteran in the bargain bin as they did last season with Robinson, the Cowboys are going to let the guys on their roster fight it out for that spot. It's a pretty uninspiring group, but Ogletree is probably the favorite as he's the most experienced of the bunch. Harris has earned good reviews for his work in the slot during organized team activities but has struggled on special teams, and that's going to be a factor as well in determining who gets the final wide receiver spots. Coale was an intriguing possibility as a late-round draft pick, but an injury is going to keep him out for most of the offseason program and he may need a year to develop at the NFL level before he can be a reliable No. 3 wide receiver.

Keep an eye on: Holmes. He seems to be a favorite of Jerry Jones' when Jones speaks publicly about the No. 3 wide receiver situation. He was a scout teamer last year and was an undrafted player out of college, but Jones has a soft spot for those and so, likely, does Romo, who was undrafted himself. Again, if a guy like Holmes can make an impression on special teams, he could put himself in position to get more of an opportunity to show what he can do in the offense. And opportunity may be the only thing one of these guys needs to break through and offer more than is expected of them. If no one does, the Cowboys likely just lean harder on tight end Jason Witten as a No. 3 receiver -- something that would be even easier to do if Austin and Bryant play to the top of their abilities.
You wouldn't expect Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to be playing favorites among the candidates for the team's No. 3 wide receiver spot, and he's not. According to Tim MacMahon, Romo has a very basic blueprint for anyone from that group of candidates wishing to assume the role of Laurent Robinson replacement:
"We want somebody to come in and grab that spot," Romo said during the first week of OTAs. "Guys have got to work their butt off. They've got to develop a rapport with me and they've got to know the offense. When they do that, they'll have a great chance, because we've got some guys who have some ability in this room."

Say whatever you want about Romo, but anyone who rises from the ranks of the undrafted to become the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys knows something about hard work. And he's right -- assuming they don't find a bargain-bin veteran the way they did last year with Robinson, the winner of the offseason competition between Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Raymond Radway, Dwayne Harris and Danny Coale is likely to be the one who works the hardest and performs the best on the field.

Romo will have a role here as well, and he understands it's part of his responsibility to help develop that next No. 3 wide receiver, whoever he may be. It's not as though there's no track record here. Wide receivers have developed and developed quickly with Romo. Robinson and Miles Austin stand as examples of this, and while fans may not be satisfied with the speed of Dez Bryant's development, he has been a very productive young player and he speaks about Romo with something like reverence. As is the case in New York, where young receivers spend time in the Friday meeting room watching Eli Manning watch film and listening to him break down plays, any Cowboys receiver who wants more catches would do well to stick close to Romo and soak up whatever he has to offer. The thing that made Robinson so productive last year was the confidence Romo had in him, and that's a direct result of practice-field and film-room chemistry.
We roll on, into another May week that will bring OTAs and more offseason fun here on the NFC East blog. And with a hat tip to Justin from B-More, we'll start varying the order of the links this week.

Washington Redskins

Tim Hightower played the free-agent field, sure, but he says Washington was always "home" and where he wanted to be all along. Now that he's home, of course, the question is whether he's healthy enough to hold up as the Redskins' starting running back.

Rich Tandler takes a look at the depth chart at wide receiver and tight end, where the Redskins face potentially tough decisions with Santana Moss and Chris Cooley. Rich seems to figure each will stick around, but it's obviously not a sure thing for either one.

Dallas Cowboys

Deon Grant said the Cowboys were one of the teams interested in him. Calvin Watkins asked around and found out that wasn't true. As much as I like Grant, a personable fellow whose accessibility and insight helped a great deal with several stories and columns late last season, I'm inclined to believe Calvin here, since he has less incentive to make his up. This could have been a Giants link, too, since I'm sure the Giants haven't ruled out Grant. (Again, personable guy. Good to have around.) But Ohm didn't write about it and Calvin did, and these are the links.

The guy everyone's talking about this week as a potential Laurent Robinson replacement is Andre Holmes, and Tim MacMahon explains why that is.

New York Giants

Lawrence Taylor's Super Bowl XXV ring, which was put on sale by Taylor's son and not Taylor himself, fetched more than $230,000 at auction. There was some foolishness Saturday with Osi Umenyiora saying he'd buy it if he got to 500,000 Twitter followers. I saw it, didn't think it was worth interrupting a May Saturday over. Osi has been very entertaining on Twitter in his short time there so far, but if he thought he was going to get from 20,000 to 500,000 in a day, he doesn't understand it very well. I mean, jeez. He's not Justin Bieber.

Jorge Castillo did a nice feature on German-born 26-year-old Giants rookie Markus Kuhn, to whom the game of football is still relatively new.

Philadelphia Eagles

Bleeding Green Nation looks at the members of the Eagles' 2010 draft class for whom 2012 is a "make it or break it" year, including Brandon Graham and Nate Allen, who are expected to be major contributors this season.

Les Bowen has an interesting column on the possibly changing dynamics of the Eagles' front office, in particular the role of team president Joe Banner, who seems to have been largely absent from the LeSean McCoy negotiations.
Of the Dallas Cowboys' late-round draft picks, the one that seems to be drawing the most attention right now is Virginia Tech wide receiver Danny Coale. I think it's because people have heard of him and because he plays a position at which the Cowboys have an opening. Laurent Robinson, the out-of-nowhere No. 3 wide receiver who caught 11 touchdown passes for the Cowboys in 2011, has moved on to Jacksonville, and the competition he left behind for that spot is somewhat uninspiring, which is why -- as Calvin Watkins writes -- the team's fifth-round draft pick may have a shot:
As it stands, Coale will battle Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris and Raymond Radway for the two open receiver spots. The Cowboys could use five receivers in 2012 if needed. (We don't believe Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are in danger of not making the roster).

What I'm told about Coale by scouts (who like him a great deal) is that he knows how to get open, knows how to find the ball in traffic and has excellent hands. These would all seem to be great assets, but those same scouts caution that Coale is a bit undersized (6-feet, 200 pounds) and may struggle against the bigger, more physical defenders he's going to face as he adjusts to the NFL level. That's why I caution against expecting too much out of Coale too soon. He's a fifth-round pick, after all, and if he does make an impact as a rookie that'd be one heck of a story.

Some people have suggested to me on Twitter that Coale compares to Wes Welker. I think this is a lazy (and somewhat insulting) comparison to make, and I think it's made because Coale is white and not very big. Coale actually lists as three inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than Welker, who by the way is one of the best players in the entire league. If Coale does turn out to be even half as good as Welker, the Cowboys will have grabbed a huge steal in the fifth round. I doubt that even their most optimistic forecasts imagine that.

If we can put both feet on the ground about this for a moment, the odds are that Coale helps on special teams in 2012 and finds his way into the receiver mix here and there as he learns the pro game and adjusts to a new level of difficulty. If he makes good progress, you could be looking at a guy who becomes a reliable receiver for the Cowboys in 2013 or 2014, and that'd be excellent. If you find a starter in Round Five at any position, you've done something really impressive. But look, for example, at Bryant, a former first-r0under who's as skilled and physically dominant as any receiver in the league. He's still developing after two seasons as a starter. It takes time at that position.

My bet is still that the Cowboys add a veteran receiver to this mix before or during camp as the market begins to flood with them. The Redskins released Jabar Gaffney on Tuesday, and a short time later the Texans released Jacoby Jones. I don't know if either of those guys makes sense to or for the Cowboys, but the point is that there will be options, and opportunities to find the next Robinson if he doesn't turn out to currently live on the Cowboys' roster. As for Danny Coale, there's real potential there, but I think the best thing the Cowboys and their fans can do is to be patient and see what comes of it.