NFC East: Brandon Pettigrew
The news of the day: The Giants had to adjust Wednesday's practice to account for the fact that only 43 of the 53 members of their active roster were physically able to participate. The missing 10 included wide receiver Victor Cruz, who left Sunday's game with a concussion and a knee sprain and seems extremely unlikely to play this Sunday in Detroit. If Cruz can't go, that likely means more slot-receiver work for Jerrel Jernigan, though he too was out Wednesday with a knee injury. The Giants also are dealing, as usual, with injuries on the offensive line.
Behind enemy lines: The Lions are dealing with injuries as well, though they didn't practice Wednesday since they were still recovering from a Monday night game. The biggest injury issue they have is an ankle injury to tight end Brandon Pettigrew, whose potential absence would reduce the explosiveness of quarterback Matthew Stafford and the passing game.
Around the division: Redskins linebacker London Fletcher announced Wednesday that he's likely to retire at season's end. That would mean his final game would be Dec. 29 against the Giants at MetLife Stadium. Fletcher's been a tremendous and somewhat underrated player for the Redskins, Bills and Rams, never missing a game, consistently ranking among the league leaders in tackles and serving as a leader everywhere he's been. This is what Giants quarterback Eli Manning had to say about Fletcher when I asked about him on Wednesday: "London, he's been a tremendous player and a great competitor. I've loved going against him twice a year just because you know you're going to get a smart player who's always going to challenge you and always going to bring his best game. I have great respect for him, and I guess you can be happy to not be facing him twice a year anymore because he makes it tough on you. He's one of the great guys in the NFL, a great competitor, and I admire what he's done."
Around the league: Yes, I did it. I put a kicker in the No. 10 spot on this week's MVP Watch. And I think Justin Tucker deserves the recognition.
One thing they do every week that I enjoy is their "Five Star Question," where they pose a question about the upcoming game and five different writers post their answer to it. It's on there now, though you may have to scroll down a bit to find the posts. This week's question is, "Will the Cowboys hold Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford under his average of 325.6 yards passing per game?"
Four of the five panelists said no. Only one -- Todd Archer -- said yes:
If we learned anything from 2010, it is that pressure makes a secondary better. The Cowboys will pressure Stafford, who has been sacked five times this season, into quicker throws. Left tackle Jeff Backus struggled last week vs. Minnesota’s Jared Allen, and the Lions have not seen such a diverse pass rush yet.
Stafford might throw for big yards with Calvin Johnson having an advantage on the Cowboys’ cornerbacks, but he will not reach his average.
I think it's fair to make both points Todd makes in his post -- that the Cowboys will be the best defense the Lions have faced thus far and that the Lions' offense will be the stiffest test yet for the Cowboys' surprisingly strong starting defense. But it's the latter point on which I'd like to focus, since this is the NFC East blog and Kevin Seifert is better qualified to evaluate whether the Lions are for real.
Pressure is one thing, and it's something at which the Cowboys are very good. But the Lions' offense isn't just about Stafford-to-Johnson. They use the screen game well. They like to get running back Jahvid Best out on the edge and throw it to him. Stafford has games where he throws like crazy to tight end Brandon Pettigrew. They throw and throw and throw in a million different ways, and their goal is to find the one that works. If the pressure is too intense to give Johnson time to get open downfield, Stafford has other, closer options and the wherewithal to find them.
That means Cowboys outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, so outstanding at getting into the backfield, are going to have to showcase their underrated run-stopping abilities Sunday. It means more reliance on NFC Defensive Player of the Month Sean Lee and his ballhawking ability. If the Cowboys' defense stops the Lions Sunday, it will have been because of those one-on-one battles at the second level, where Stafford's safety valves operate. Those are the matchups I'm watching in this game. I know they can't stop Calvin Johnson, because no one can. And I know they can get pressure on Stafford, because other teams have. What I don't know is what will happen once Stafford sees the pressure and reacts to it. That's where the Cowboys need to be focused Sunday, if they want to stop the 3-0 Lions.
The NFC East did pretty well in this survey, ranking second among the eight divisions for return (so far) on its investment in 2009 first-round picks. The Cowboys didn't have a first-rounder that year, but the Redskins took Brian Orakpo 13th overall, the Eagles took Jeremy Maclin 19th and the Giants took Hakeem Nicks 29th. All three have been strong contributors at least and outright stars at times, and all three look poised to get even better in the short term and the long.
The only division that fared better in these rankings was the NFC North. The Packers had two picks in the '09 first round and spent them on B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews, whom you may have enjoyed watching win the Super Bowl a couple of months back. The Lions picked Matthew Stafford and Brandon Pettigrew, two key cogs in their offense when Stafford is healthy. And the Vikings got Percy Harvin. The Bears didn't have a first-rounder that year, but I think it's safe to say that the North's haul beats the East's in terms of volume and because of the aforementioned Packers Super Bowl title.
The reviews on this could change over the next few years, of course, but for now you have to believe the Giants, Redskins and Eagles are happy with the way that 2009 first round went.
Very often, of course, those of us who do this kind of voting are criticized for our decisions. Very often, we are told that sportswriters aren't qualified to make such decisions, and that it should be left to the players, because who would know better than the players who's truly good at the games they themselves play?
That argument sounds good the first time you hear it, but unfortunately it doesn't hold up. When players are asked to vote on these things, we see that they bring their own issues to it. Bias. Personal grudges. Shortsightedness. Many are simply too close to their fellow players to be able to make reasoned decisions about how to rank them against each other.
The point? Ah, yes. You'll be wanting that. My point today is about this list the NFL Network did where it asked the players to rank the top 100 players of 2011. Specifically, my point is about the fact that Giants quarterback Eli Manning isn't in that top 100. This, as it has been suggested to me several times over the past couple of days by readers, is absurd, and these readers want to know how it could possibly happen. How could NFL players really leave Manning off this list and put Josh Freeman and Donovan McNabb on it?
It's a very good question, and I don't have the answer. For that, you need to ask the players who voted. I have a guess, of course, and that guess is "money."
Players in all sports use money to rank themselves against each other. If Player A makes more money than Player B does, but Player B believes he's better than Player A is, Player B begins to think irrationally about Player A -- to focus on the things about Player A he deems insufficient. To say things like, "Player A isn't that good," or "Player A is overrated." Eli Manning made big news back in 2009 when he signed a contract that made him (for a time) the league's highest-paid quarterback. Players remember that, and they probably still think Eli makes more money than he should. They may even be correct. But in spite of the interceptions and whatever other deficiencies you may perceive about Eli Manning, he belonged on that list somewhere.
On, then, to the links:
Offensive lineman James Brewer, picked by the Giants in the fourth round last month, is relieved that the league canceled the rookie symposium, Paul Schwartz writes. Why? Well, because Brewer figures he doesn't need it. "I don't think I need someone to tell me not to hit women and stuff like that. I think I kind of know that already," Brewer tells Schwartz. Charming.
Speaking of Giants saying dumb things, Mike Vaccaro took issue with former Giant Tiki Barber comparing himself to Anne Frank, and I can't say as I blame Mike. Can't think of too many ex-athletes who've made themselves look more completely foolish with their immediate post-career behavior than Tiki has.
Rainer Sabin doesn't expect the Cowboys to be one of the teams in danger of being fined for players making too many excessive or flagrant hits. Under new rules passed this week, the league can fine a team if it decides there's a pattern of that team's behavior in violation of the crackdown on dangerous hits. But Sabin points out that only four Cowboys players were fined at all for such infractions in 2010 and only one -- Anthony Spencer -- was banged more than once. There's a joke in here somewhere.
Football Outsiders ranks the Cowboys' 2009 trade of three draft picks to the Lions for Roy Williams as the ninth-worst trade of the past 25 years. This is an Insider article, so if you're not an Insider just call me and I'll give you my password so you can read it. But in case I don't answer, know that it points out that the Lions didn't exactly use those picks to build the foundations of a dynasty. They got Brandon Pettigrew with the first-rounder, and they like him, but the third- and fifth-rounders turned into Derrick Williams and Aaron Brown. The point, from the Cowboys' end, is that they may well could have used at least one of those picks on someone who might have helped them more in 2009 and 2010 than Roy Williams did.
Checking in from Eagles player workouts, Jeff McLane reports that Mike Kafka is "ready to take the next step" and be Michael Vick's backup if Kevin Kolb is traded. That's nice, and I know they like Kafka as a developmental guy. But with Vick an injury risk, if the Eagles trade Kolb they'll need to bring in a backup they believe can start now and give them a chance to win games. It's unlikely they feel that way about Kafka right now. Matt Williamson thinks Vince Young is a great fit in Philly as Vick's backup, and I believe that might just be a perfect arrangement. Surely, Andy Reid and the Eagles don't fear their own ability to coach something out of Young's talent so that it's there when/if they need it.
Jeff's been busy (thankfully) doing things other than providing updates from player-organized workouts. He offers this nice profile of Jaiquawn Jarrett and his upbringing in basketball-crazed Brooklyn.
I did not know that the Redskins' first-round pick, Ryan Kerrigan, was deaf in his left ear. Clearly, this isn't an issue that detracts from his ability to play football, since he was able to do that well enough at Purdue to become a first-round NFL draft pick. But it's an interesting story of a kid who had something rough happen to him when he was 8 years old and managed to overcome it. I like those stories.
Speaking of overcoming things, Brandon Banks tells CSN Washington he's 90 percent healthy and enjoying being on the field for workouts three months after he was stabbed outside a D.C. nightclub.
All right. That's enough. Have a good day out there, everybody, and don't get captured.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
The NFC Beast chat this morning drew more than 15,000 readers -- give or take 14,000. It was a time where we came together to answer the most pressing draft-related questions, such as, "What will Baylor do to protect Robert Griffin now that Jason Smith is with the Rams?"
I hate to oversell things, but this chat certainly felt like one of the most important things to happen at ESPN.com in the noon ET hour. Feel free to read at your own leisure. And here's a prime example of what took place in the SportsNation chat room, which sounds creepier than it really is:
Yatin (LA): While I think Jeremy Maclin can be a great WR in time, isn't he just too similar to DeSean Jackson? Wouldn't the Eagles have been better off taking an over-the-middle threat like Brandon Pettigrew?
Matt Mosley: (12:08 PM ET ) Yatin: I've been on the Pettigrew bandwagon for months (perhaps years), but I don't have a big problem with the Maclin pick. They saw some unbelievable value at No. 19 so they moved up and took him. Maclin was only available because Al Davis is infatuated with 40 times, and that bumped Michael Crabtree and Maclin down. Maclin's the second best receiver in this draft behind Crabtree. I don't care if he has the exact same dimensions as Jackson (Maclin's a little taller). If you have two excellent young speedsters, you can find a way to deploy them. If the Eagles had taken Pettigrew, a lot of Eagles would still be screaming about not having enough weapons at receiver. It's hard to say that right now. And the Eagles had so much success with Jackson last season, it's hard to blame them for taking another rookie receiver.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
NEW YORK -- Andy Reid and the Eagles are ruining one of the most enduring story lines in the league. Year after year, we hear complaints from fans -- and a certain quarterback -- that Philadelphia hasn't surrounded Donovan McNabb with enough weapons.
On Saturday, the Eagles continued an offensive overhaul that could give them one of the most explosive units in football. Maybe McNabb's reported demands have paid off, because in one week's time, the Eagles have added an elite left tackle, another dynamic wide receiver and a legitimate backup (and someday replacement) for Brian Westbrook. Fans and local writers had put out an edict that the Eagles had to take a running back in the first round -- especially after the No. 28 pick was shipped to Buffalo.
|The Eagles were thrilled to add a receiving threat like Jeremy Maclin with the No. 19 pick.|
But when the Eagles saw Knowshon Moreno go off the board nine spots ahead of them and then Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin started a fall, the strategy changed. By moving up two spots to No. 19 from 21, the Eagles added another dangerous wide receiver (and a return man) to complement DeSean Jackson. The Eagles didn't even bother getting to know Maclin because they figured he'd be long gone, but then again, they probably should've counted on Al Davis falling in love with Darrius Heyward-Bey's 40-yard dash time.
I personally wanted the Eagles to take Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew, but there's a good argument to be made for Maclin having much more of an impact. As Andy Reid admitted, the Eagles didn't feel like they had a tremendous need at wide receiver. But when a rare talent falls in your lap, you better be there to accept the gift.
"As a receiver he was the most productive receiver in the country and all around when you add special teams in there," said Reid. "You look at his hands, his ability to catch football, he didn't drop footballs. You look at his ability getting in and out of breaks. They have a vertical game that they've worked on and then quick-hitch routes that they do in their offense. He has the ability to stop and start, which is important, and the ability to get in and out of breaks, which I think is important as well. We just thought he was an all-around good player."
The Eagles could have easily panicked and taken UConn's Donald Brown, who is a nice player. But they would have been fixated on a need instead of taking the best value. The Eagles bided their time in the second round and then pounced on former Pittsburgh running back LeSean McCoy, who reminds a lot of folks of Westbrook. He has tremendous lateral speed, and most importantly, he is an instinctive runner. In the Eagles' offense, you can't have a player lumbering around looking for the right angle. You need someone who can find seams in a zone-blocking scheme.
McCoy has already played in a pro-style offense, so he won't have to make a huge adjustment. The Cowboys, Giants and Eagles all feature running backs who were taken in the third round or later. I never understood the belief that the Eagles had to have a running back in the first round, and apparently Reid had the same thought.
Last year, the Eagles took a chance on Jackson, a guy whom numerous teams had crossed off their lists because of character concerns. So far, Jackson has been very successul. And I think Maclin actually has the higher ceiling. The Eagles were a little slow getting out of the blocks this offseason, but they're showing a nice kick. Somewhere (perhaps Scottsdale) McNabb is smiling.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
For the second consecutive year, the Eagles have used a Day 1 pick on a wide receiver. After trading up to No. 19 from No. 21, the Eagles took Missouri's Jeremy Maclin. Most people thought the Eagles should take a running back in the first round, but most folks didn't see Maclin slipping to No. 19. ESPN.com had him as the No. 11-rated player in the draft. Now he'll line up with another speedster in DeSean Jackson. It's certainly a surprise, but that doesn't mean it's a bad move.
As I've stated several times, the Eagles should've been compelled to take a running back in the first round. And once Knowshon Moreno went to the Broncos at No. 12, I think they shifted directions. Do I think Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew would've been the right pick at No. 21? You bet, but the Lions took him at No. 20, so it doesn't matter.
With Jackson, Maclin, Kevin Curtis and Jason Avant, I think the Eagles could have the most dangerous receiving corps in the NFC East. Donovan McNabb has to be thrilled with this pick. We may find out that the Eagles tried to trade out of the pick in order to get UConn running back Donald Brown later in the first round, but Maclin's a good pick.
And what's the deal with the Browns? They're stacking up sixth-round choices at an alarming rate.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
NEW YORK -- Of the nine players at Radio City Music Hall, I definitely think defensive end Brian Orakpo is the most imposing. He woke up this morning and decided to lift some weights with Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith. The in-house emcee (didn't catch his name and you wouldn't know it anyway) asked Orakpo to sing "Hail to the Redskins!" He responded by saying, "Brian Orakpo's coming to Washington." His news conference begins in two minutes, so I'm headed that way. What do you think the Eagles will do at No. 21? Moreno's off the board and Chris "Beanie" Wells is not a good fit. Do you reach for UConn's Donald Brown or do you do the sensible thing and take Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew?
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
|Mark Cunningham/Getty Images|
|The Eagles might be better off waiting until the middle rounds to pick a running back. Shonn Greene is one possibility.|
As we prepare to finalize the Beast draft board, which oddly enough looks almost exactly like Todd McShay's, something keeps bothering me. Yes, I know that Eagles fans and their local reporters have all but assured us the club will take a running back in the first round, but I'm still not buying it.
Maybe it has something to do with the Eagles not taking a running back in the first round since Keith Byars in 1986. Or perhaps it's the fact they recently gave All-Pro running back Brian Westbrook, a third-round pick in 2002, a long-term extension. I know he turns 30 this September, but it seems a bit premature to start planning his retirement party.
Even the Philadelphia Daily News' esteemed NFL columnist, Paul Domowitch, has issued a running back guarantee in the first round, although the Eagles had two picks at the time. The thought is the Eagles will select either Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno or Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells with that No. 21 overall pick. My response to that is, "Why?"
If you don't think talented running backs grow on trees, you haven't looked around the NFC East lately. Over the last couple seasons, the Giants have had one of the best stable of running backs in the league. Starter Brandon Jacobs was taken in the fourth round out of Southern Illinois. His backup the past two seasons, Derrick Ward, was taken by the Jets in the seventh round in 2004, and he signed a four-year, $17 million contract with Tampa Bay thos offseason. And the man dubbed "Fire" in the Giants' version of "Earth, Wind and Fire," Ahmad Bradshaw, was the 250th pick in the 2007 draft.
The Cowboys are led by feature back Marion Barber (fourth-rounder), and former Georgia Tech star Tashard Choice (fourth round) appears to be an excellent complementary piece to Barber and first-rounder Felix Jones. When you throw in Westbrook, three of the top four running backs in the division were taken in the third round or later.
|An inside look at tight end Brandon Pettigrew from Oklahoma State.|
And if we're being too provincial, let's take a look at a team like the San Diego Chargers that has hit on backs like Michael Turner (fifth round) and Darren Sproles (fourth round). I could bring up the ultimate second-day guy in Terrell Davis, but this is starting to feel like overkill. (Priest Holmes anyone?)
So, explain to me again why the Eagles have to take a running back in the first round Saturday? In my mind, it would be a luxury pick, which is OK if you don't have a specific need at any position. But I happen to think the Eagles would be foolish to call Brent Celek their No. 1 tight end and just move on down the road -- especially with a potentially elite player such as Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew sitting there. There, I've said it. I would take Pettigrew before either of the top running backs (Moreno and Wells). You might even be able to trade down a spot or two and still end up with Pettigrew.
In his latest seven-round mock draft, Todd McShay has Wells going to the Chargers at No. 16 overall and Moreno going to the Eagles at No. 21. I think most Eagles fans would be pleased with that result, but I think the Eagles would be better off taking someone like Iowa's Shonn Greene in the third round. Both Moreno and Greene have excellent instincts and would be good fits in the Eagles' zone running game. I've talked to scouts who've said that Wells would be much better suited in a power running game that features more angle blocking. And if you don't like my man Greene, take a look at LeSean McCoy in the second round. I just don't see a huge separation between the first-, second- or third-round running backs. Now if you want to refute some of the things I'm saying, check out this Bob Brookover story in the Philly Inquirer.
Though management hasn't admitted as much, perhaps the Eagles are a little gun shy about waiting on a running back this year because of their recent past. Spending third-round picks on Ryan Moats in 2005 and Tony Hunt in 2007 didn't exactly work out -- and so far the Lorenzo Booker experiment (acquired in a trade) isn't faring much better. Maybe they think it's time to end the 23-year streak of not taking a back in the first round.
In my mind, the Eagles are better off waiting at running back. This time of year, I talk to a lot of scouts. But sometimes it's important to talk to the men who are actually going to coach these players. I wanted to know why running backs seem to have an easier time making the transition to the NFL than other position players -- and why you can find so many of them throughout the draft.
"I think it's because that's where you put your best athletes," said the Jets' new running backs coach, Anthony Lynn. "The running back position is more instinctive than any of the other spots. That's something you can't coach. You either have it or you don't. And for whatever reason, the guys who have it aren't confined to the top of the draft."
If the Eagles stay at No. 21 Saturday, they'll have a decision to make at running back. My suggestion is that they stick to tradition -- and wait.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
I just spent an hour participating in a live ESPN Radio mock draft in which callers made the selections. The Redskins lucked into former Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo at No. 13, the Eagles took Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells and the Giants selected Rutgers wide receiver Kenny Britt. I know the Redskins are in love with Orakpo, but it's hard for me to imagine him dropping to 13. I think the Eagles will be tempted to trade down a few spots and take Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew. And I wouldn't have any problem with that. Pettigrew will be a starter in this league for the next 10 years.
The Giants know Britt really well because they've been watching him closely at Rutgers. I read where Peter King called him flaky, but then, have you ever met a wide receiver who's not a bit flaky?
Anyway, Newark Star-Ledger Giants beat man Mike Garafolo, who usually has the pulse of the team, chose Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis with that No. 29 pick. He made the pick for an NFL.com mock draft, and he did so after several wide receivers went off the board. Here's his explanation for taking the middle linebacker.
Laurinaitis seems to be a consistent player, an excellent tackler who doesn't shy away from contact, a "student of the game" (sorry for the cliche) and a guy who simply loves to play footbal. If that's not a description of exactly what you want from a middle linebacker, I don't know what is. And if that's not the description of a Tom Coughlin player, again, somebody needs to point me in another direction.
I also heard Michigan State QB Brian Hoyer on Sirius/XM NFL Radio yesterday saying Laurinaitis is as good as anyone at reading and diagnosing the play, knowing what's coming and putting himself and his teammates in the right spot to make a play. Sound like anybody you know? Anybody that currently wears No. 58 for the Giants?
Look, I don't think Pierce's 2008 season was nearly as bad as many believe. He was highlighted and seemingly exploited by Brian Westbrook on a few plays, but I've spoken at length about those plays being total team breakdowns, not individual mistakes by Pierce. And I also think he did a good job keeping a banged-up defense together. The big problem with the '08 Giants down the stretch was not the defense. No way.
Garafolo goes on to say that Laurinaitis could be an effective backup until Antonio Pierce's career with the Giants ends. But I'm not sure you need to worry about drafting Pierce's replacement in the first round. Especially when you could draft a receiver such as Britt or Hakeem Nicks who could eventually become No. 1 receivers. I know it's a popular theory, but count me among the group that fears the Ohio State linebacker. Just ask the Cowboys and Packers about taking those guys in the first round. Bob Carpenter is a backup in Dallas and A.J. Hawk hasn't really turned into anything special. Anyone remember Andy Katzenmoyer?
Anyone agree with Garafolo's pick? Disagree?
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Oh wait, you guys do that anyway! But we're providing another wonderful second-guessing opportunity with today's NFL blog network mock draft. We took a very scientific approach to this draft, which required NFC West blogger/database manager Mike Sando to spend most of his day Tuesday calling the other seven bloggers and demanding they make selections on the spot.
Unfortunately, things didn't turn out anything like the Beast mock draft, which is set to be released in Times Square at noon ET on Friday. Sando took Virginia left tackle Eugene Monroe at No. 2 for the Rams -- but that wouldn't happen. If the Lions go ahead and take quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Rams won't even flinch before taking former Baylor Bear Jason Smith.
In our mock draft, Sanchez falls all the way to Denver at No. 12. On Saturday, I'd bet at least three of my NFL draft magazines (purchased yesterday) that Sanchez doesn't make it past the Seahawks at No. 4. But since we're focused on the Beast, I thought linebacker Brian Cushing was a no-brainer at No. 13. He'll start immediately, and I think he'll give the team another pass-rushing threat. Yes, the Redskins were hoping that Brian Orakpo or Aaron Maybin slipped to 13, but Cushing should be an outstanding player for them.
The Eagles watched their guy Knowshon Moreno go to the Lions at No. 20, so they panicked and took the next best running back in Chris "Beanie" Wells. In reality, I would've tried to trade down a few slots and selected tight end Brandon Pettigrew out of Oklahoma State. Tremendous, tremendous player. The Eagles may say that Brent Celek's The Man, but that would change once Pettigrew showed up on the club's South Philly campus.
I have the Giants taking Rutgers wide receiver Kenny Britt at No. 29. There will be a run on wide receivers right before this pick, and Britt's a guy the Giants have liked for a long time. What happens if the Giants trade for Braylon Edwards? We may find out. Everyone assumes the Giants will have to give up a ('09) first-rounder for him. But general manager Jerry Reese has some other options. Trust me. Just this once.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
If the Eagles are able to complete a trade with Buffalo for left tackle Jason Peters, I think it's a significant upgrade. Not to take anything away from Tra Thomas, but Peters is an elite player who has a chance to become the best left tackle in the game.
There's a tradition in the NFL of college tight ends becoming effective offensive tackles. Cowboys Hall of Famer Rayfield Wright comes to mind. Peters and the much-improved Todd Herremans should form one of the best left sides in the league. And now the Eagles have filled both offensive tackle spots, don't be surprised to see them go after a center in the draft. Head coach Andy Reid dropped some hints in that direction during the NFC coaches' breakfast last month.
So how much better are the Eagles with Peters at left tackle? Well, I think having an elite left tackle is one of the greatest luxuries a team could have. Thomas certainly did a nice job, but Peters is a much more dominant (and younger) player. He's athletic enough to block some of the division's top pass rushers such as DeMarcus Ware, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. If there's a better left tackle currently playing in the Beast, feel free to provide a name. Here's how I would rank them: 1. Peters 2. David Diehl 3. Chris Samuels 4. Flozell Adams.
Under the Tony Sparano (offensive line) regime, Adams played like an elite left tackle at times. Now he appears to have trouble getting out of his stance. On Wednesday, I looked over the Eagles' schedule and predicted 10 wins. With Peters, I'm willing to give them another win -- and perhaps two.
The Eagles can now focus on landing a tight end and a running back (and perhaps a center) in next weekend's draft. A lot of folks seem convinced the Eagles will take a running back with that No. 21 pick. I've never been convinced of that -- and today's news hasn't changed my opinion. There's a better chance of the Eagles going after Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew than one of the top running backs.
So what about Anquan Boldin? I think the chances of him landing in Philly are pretty remote at this point. And that's not something Eagles fans should be all that upset about. DeSean Jackson's already an impact player, and now he should be more consistent. Kevin Curtis should be healthy and Jason Avant has become a lot more reliable as a third-down receiver. If someone like Brian Robiskie's hanging around in the second round, that's certainly a possibility.
Philadelphia Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann agrees that this trade is quite a coup for the Eagles. The Eagles have always built from the lines out -- so I guess this move shouldn't come as a surprise. It's so rare to find a 27-year-old Pro Bowler at one of the most important positions in the game. I need to revisit the NFC Beast schedules now.
Keep hitting "refresh" for more opinions on this trade.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
By this time next Thursday (it's officially 3 p.m. ET), I'll be boarding a flight to New York for the NFL draft. Through the magic of live-blogging, my plan is to take you to Radio City Music Hall with me. With that in mind, it's time to address Five Burning Draft Questions in The Beast:
1. Will Redskins owner Dan Snyder select USC quarterback Mark Sanchez?
Snyder and Cerrato met with Campbell, but that was simply window dressing. The club decided to take Campbell's trade value for a spin -- and it didn't like the results. After investing all this time (and a first-round pick) in Campbell, it's looking like the Redskins are ready to start all over with Sanchez, who dazzled scouts and innocent bystanders at his recent pro day. I think Snyder-Cerrato are suffering from a condition we're calling "RyanFlacconitis," which has caused front office types around the league to mistakenly think that pretty much any rookie quarterback with a solid background (Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco) can lead them to the playoffs. The best result for Redskins fans would be for Sanchez to go off the board before No. 13. I may be in the minority (shocker), but I'd love to see what Campbell could do in his second season with Zorn. Who knows? Maybe the Redskins let Sanchez learn for a season behind Campbell. On second thought, that will never happen.
2. What will the Giants and Eagles do at wide receiver?
3. What will the Cowboys do with the No. 51 pick?
Let's be honest. Not having a first-round pick makes the draft far less interesting. It's also made talk radio in Dallas much more of a challenge. In my Dallas Morning News days, I would've had seven mock drafts by now. But with the proliferation of mock drafts -- my pastor has one -- I've decided to take a year off. But anyway, the Cowboys aren't going to feel pressured to take any specific position at No. 51. The only way they take a quarterback is if Josh Freeman ends up in a free-fall. I'm hearing the Cowboys are in love with Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas, who is one of the best free safeties in this draft. He's 5-11, 202 pounds, but scouts say he plays much bigger than that. He's a tough run defender and his athletic ability (4.5 in the 40 and 37-inch vertical) is pretty impressive. The Cowboys signed Gerald Sensabaugh in free agency, but I think Delmas would be starting by midseason -- if not before. The other safety they really like is Darcel McBath out of Texas Tech. Excellent ball skills (eight interceptions) and he grew up in nearby Gainesville, Texas. Jerry Jones loves the homegrown kids. I'm not saying McBath's going at No. 51, but he's certainly a name to remember. In terms of receivers, the Cowboys think Brian Robiskie could be an effective receiver in the league for the next 10 years. If he's there at No. 51, they'd have a hard time passing him up.
4. Don't the Redskins need a pass-rusher?
Could all this talk about Mark Sanchez be a huge smokescreen? If so, the W
ashington Post has bitten hard. That's why I think there's definitely some interest in Sanchez, but it won't happen in the end. The 'Skins desperately need a right tackle and a defensive end. I certainly respect the work of grizzled veterans such as Phillip Daniels, Andre Carter and the immortal Renaldo Wynn. That said, Redskins fans are suffering from a condition widely known as "Haynesworth fever." There's a thought that you pay the guy $41 million in guaranteed money and he suddenly makes old men young again. Folks, Phil Daniels isn't going to return from a serious knee injury and suddenly have 10 sacks. The Redskins need to surround Haynesworth with talent in order to get their money's worth. That's why Snyder has to forget about a quarterback and find a way to get his hands on Brian Orakpo. Yes, I know some scouts struggle with recommending University of Texas kids because they've been pampered so much, but Orakpo is the real deal. I've been watching him manhandle Big 12 blockers for years. Snyder and Cerrato have to find a way to move up and get him.
5. So what do the Eagles do with those two first-round picks?
Well, you could always send that No. 28 pick over to the Cardinals for Anquan Boldin. I don't think the Cardinals will come close to getting a Roy Williams deal, which is to say they won't get a first- and third-round pick for Boldin. And I think Boldin is much better receiver than Williams. Of course, there's always the chance the Eagles actually make those first-round picks. If Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher is there at No. 21, that's the direction Andy Reid will go. At No. 28, drafting Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew wouldn't surprise me at all. So what about running back, you ask? Well, I don't think the Eagles have to take someone in the first round -- especially when there are guys like Rashad Jennings out there in the second or third rounds. You can find productive backs in later rounds. Ask the Cowboys and Giants about that. And I seem to recall a man by the name of Westbrook who wasn't taken in the first round. This flies in the face of what Philly writers are saying, but you have to go out on a limb every now and then -- or every day for that matter.
If you have questions regarding this column, please feel free to utilize the Mailbag. I'm planning to spend a lot more time reading your mail in the coming days. Thanks for your continued support of The Beast.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
|Mark Sanchez talks about his game as he prepares for the 2009 draft.|
As many of you know, the NFL Blog Network never sleeps -- with the possible exception being Christmas. Hopefully this special edition of Matt's Mailbag will get you through the weekend. Thanks for being so prolific with your questions -- and threats.
Mike in Louisville, Colo., you have the first word: In Kiper's latest mock draft, he has the Redskins picking Mark Sanchez with the 13th pick. Why, why, WHY would the 'Skins pick Sanchez there? They need a starter with that pick and they already have a good starting quarterback. They need help on both lines. In fact, if all of their top choices are gone and Sanchez is still there, they should trade down in the first round and pick up a second round pick from someone who needs a quarterback more. And if the 'Skins were stupid enough to pick Sanchez there, does Jason Campbell's head explode?
Mosley: I think some folks might disagree with you on Campbell, although I'm not one of them. The Redskins are sitting there praying that Brian Orakpo from Texas slips to No. 13. My former colleague and world-famous draft expert Rick "Goose" Gosselin has Orakpo going to the Redskins in his first of three mock drafts. I don't think the Redskins will take Sanchez either, but keep in mind that Kiper is a Ravens season-ticket holder and he's also plugged in pretty closely to the Redskins. So let's not completely dismiss the most famous mocker of them all.
Josh from Lynchburg, Va., welcome to The Bag: Matt, all these bloggers keep talking about "true No. 1 receivers." Can you please explain what makes a receiver a true No. 1? Thanks, your blog is the best!
Mosley: As I heard former Cowboys great Drew Pearson point out recently, too many young players are handed "No. 1" status when they haven't done anything to earn it. When a defensive coordinator puts a game plan together, he has to select one or two players that could do the most damage. When you have to jam a receiver and then shade a safety over the top, I'd say the guy's a No. 1. It's basically the receiver who commands the most attention. Some teams don't have a No. 1 receiver (see the New York Jets), and some potentially have two on the roster (see the Arizona Cardinals).
Chris from Tuscon, what's on your mind sir? Don't you think you're being a little harsh with your criticism of Roy Williams in your recent article, "Which route will Beast take at receiver?" He was always a solid receiver in Detroit, and that by itself says a lot if you ask me. Williams was acquired by the Cowboys at about midseason, thrown into a whole new system with different terminology and then expected to put up Larry Fitzgerald-type numbers. I agree the 'Boys gave up too much to get him but I think we should at least give him this year before we pass judgment. I think he will surprise you.
Mosley: Based on where he was taken in the draft, Williams has had only one nice season during his six years in the league. That season came with an offensive coordinator (Mike Martz) who doesn't run the ball and a quarterback (Jon Kitna) who had a career season. You're suggesting that Williams' numbers are pretty solid considering that he plays for the Lions. I'm suggesting that his numbers should've been a lot better because the Lions were so bad. They're constantly playing from behind, which should've given Williams more opportunities to pad his numbers. In case you missed it, Troy Aikman recently said the Williams trade could potentially be one of the biggest busts "in NFL history." So no, I don't think I'm being especially harsh. And I never ran into anyone who expected Williams to be Larry Fitzgerald. The two aren't in the same stratosphere.
Elizabeth from Los Angeles is concerned about the Cowboys' kicking game: Hey Matt, I have a question regarding the Cowboys' new stadium. How high is the video board, and do you think that a punter could could hit the screen?
Mosley: Elizabeth, I asked Jerry Jones that exact question during my recent site visit, which appeared on "Monday Night Countdown" for at least 18 seconds. Jones assures me the 60-yard-long boards will be "out of play," but I'm not so sure. I haven't seen them suspended above the field yet, but Cowboys punter Mat McBriar gets incredible hang-time on his kicks. My guess is that Jones will send McBriar over to the stadium once his foot is healed and let him have a go at things. It might be awkward to punt while wearing a hardhat, but McBriar will be up to the task.
New Canaan checks in with a Giants question: I know the Giants are concerned about Braylon Edwards' drops, but of the three wide recievers they're looking at (Boldin,Johnson and Edwards), he seems like the best choice. He is the youngest in the group, and with a consistent quarterback he can play like he did in '07. And Ocho Cinco has some character issues, Boldin is not a real team guy (just ask Todd Haley). Isn't Edwards the safe bet?
Mosley: Since I've actually discussed Boldin with Haley, let me tell you that he would bring him to Kansas City in a heartbeat. Haley's a fiery guy who's been yelling at players on the sideline (and in practice) for years. The timing of Boldin's shouting match and subsequent pout was awful, but his teammates would never label him as a "non-team guy." I think the Giants would prefer Boldin to Edwards. And yes, Cinco appears to be a distant third.
Cameron from Philly writes: YES IT DOES BOTHER ME THAT THE EAGLES REFUSE TO GO OUT AND HELP DONAVON! OK, this is ridiculous that year after year the man has given this franchise a legitimate chance at a championship without that big-play receiver. If only the Eagles could give him this one valuable pick, the Eagles could very easily be front runners in the NFC east with their dominant defense and now their dynamic offense. Is Boldin still an option and if so what do the Eagles have to do?
Mosley: McNabb did have a
big-play receiver in 2004 and for part of '05, but we know how that ended. I think DeSean Jackson is already a "big-play" receiver, and I'm not so sure why everyone thinks the Eagles need another guy. If you draft another quality running back and perhaps a guy like Brandon Pettigrew from Oklahoma State at tight end, you'd be in nice shape on offense. The only think I'd worry about is left tackle -- and that's a pretty big worry. I think the Cardinals would want one of those first-round picks and probably a third. I don't think Andy Reid's going to sign off on that. Thanks so much for your questions. Keep'em coming.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Jack from Portland, Oregon writes: I like your blog on the NFC East. Redskins question: As a genious reporter, have you approached someone like Joe Gibbs to find out why Dan Synder is so reliant on [Vinny] Cerrato and why he doesn't get a top-notch GM? Maybe Snyder doesn't know how or who could make the team better?
Mosley: Jack, I talked to Gibbs a couple of times last season, but we didn't hit that topic. He has a great relationship with Snyder and he wouldn't take the risk of speaking poorly of someone who's close to the owner. I certainly know that Cerrato has a lot more power in the organization now that Gibbs is gone. And based on that second round in the '08 draft, Cerrato deserves to take some heat. But he and Snyder have been friends for a long time. It would take something dramatic for Snyder to change the power structure in the club's personnel department. Snyder has fired Cerrato once -- and that was when Marty Schottenheimer walked in the building. Once Schottenheimer was fired, Cerrato was right back in his office. So don't hold your breath for any changes.
Fhova left the following note in my mailbag: How come the Eagles cannot go for Hakeem Nicks? I know the primary aim will be to replace the O-line guys and maybe get a tight end. They already have depth in o-line and Reid has never picked a tight end in the first round. As far as running back goes, the top backs did not play the wide receiver/running back role in college like Westbrook and Buckhalter, so I doubt they'll take one in the first round.
Mosley: It wouldn't surprise me if the Eagles looked to trade down in the first round. You could package the No. 21 and 28 picks and move into the second round to select an offensive tackle. Depending on how far you move down, Eben Britton out of Arizona could be there or Oklahoma's enormous Phil Loadholt. I know that Todd McShay has the Eagles picking Brandon Pettigrew out of Oklahoma State at 21 and Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno at 28. That doesn't sound like the Eagles to me. You can find a complementary back in the later rounds of this draft. And there's a much bigger need at offensive tackle. And let's not go too crazy over the depth along the offensive line. I like how Nick Cole played at guard, but I'm not ready to call him a starter. We also need to see how Shawn Andrews comes back from a tumultuous 2008.
Matt P. dropped this note by the house last night: Hey Matt, love the blog, and thanks for answering my questions in the past. That being said, do you see Dallas making a splash at someone such as Ray Lewis in the free agency market? If so, do you believe it would make a difference in team chemistry in the locker room? I know Tony Romo may not believe in this, but I am sure it has much to do with the team's lack of execution.
Mosley: I don't see the Cowboys doing much of anything in free agency. Last season they brought in aging inside linebacker Zach Thomas, but he obviously didn't have the same leadership platform that he had with the Dolphins. Lewis would be much more vocal, but right now he's simply using the Cowboys to drive up his price. He wants no part of a locker room that has been splintered by Terrell Owens and the great enabler, Jerry Jones. He'll be right back in Baltimore when all is said and done. He knows the power of leverage and that's the only reason he's mentioning other teams right now. The Cowboys have a moderate level of interest in Lewis, but it's nothing that will cause them to break the bank.