NFC East: Chris Henry
Taylor was away from his teammates at the time of his death because he was recovering from an injury. I think the fact that he hadn't been around his teammates as much as usual made it harder for them to accept what had happened. Because Henry was on injured reserve and wasn't required to be around his teammates all the time, I'm sure they're going through something similar.
Redskins players such as former University of Miami stars Clinton Portis and Santana Moss took it harder than anyone because of the special bond that players from The U enjoy. Moss was having a difficult season and he was almost inconsolable after Taylor's death.
Taylor, 24 at the time of his death, was a more accomplished player than Henry. And he didn't have a particularly troubled past -- as some people portrayed it to be at the time. One of the most important things that former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs did was allow his players time to grieve. He encouraged everyone to talk about Taylor. I recall hearing that safeties coach Steve Jackson could barely make it through team meetings. But all the tears from the coaches definitely brought the team closer together.
After a last-second loss to the Bills, the team flew to attend Taylor's funeral. Todd Collins had become the quarterback because of an injury to Jason Campbell. The Redskins went on an improbable winning streak and somehow made the playoffs. I know they used their pain and their love for Taylor to drive them during those weeks. I always think it seems trite, and even downright insensitive, when we immediately start talking about how teams are going to rally around a tragic situation. I don't look it at that way. But I do think the Redskins played with more passion the rest of the way in order to honor their fallen teammate.
It was one of Gibbs' finest moments in a Hall of Fame career. He let players see him grieving -- and that was important. It let them know that it was OK to open up to each other and put a voice to what they were feeling. With the death of Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's wife, Vikki, and now this tragedy, the Bengals are a team that has seen a ridiculous amount of adversity. I think this is a group that performs at a high level no matter what the circumstances.
But I do think that the Bengals will face a lot of things this week and next that are nearly impossible to prepare for. I think coach Marvin Lewis would be wise to give Gibbs a call. He's one of the few coaches out there who could relate to how Lewis is feeling right now.
"I know he was a changed man, so this hurt me," Andrews said. "I know there were some negative things in his past, but he did an amazing turnaround in the last year and a half. Once the team signed him back, you could see it in his face that he was glad to be back and ready to restart his career and do the right things for his family and the team."
Added Pope: "It's just kind of hard to believe. Contrary to what everybody believed, he had a good heart. Everybody wants to judge people, but everybody gets into trouble in your life. He genuinely made a conscious effort, not only for himself, but also for his kids, to turn his life around. Cincinnati stuck with him and he was really doing that."
Obviously, there are a lot of folks in the Redskins organization who can relate to what the Bengals are going through today. The shocking death of Sean Taylor two years ago is still fresh in the minds of his former teammates. I remember how former coach Joe Gibbs allowed his players time to grieve in the weeks after Taylor's death. It's not like he'd ever prepared for something like that, but Gibbs made a huge impact on his players by grieving in front of them. This thought that football coaches and players have to remain stoic and tough at all times was dismissed and the Redskins bonded like never before.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
In search of a spark in the running game, the Redskins will reportedly work out former Titans second-round pick Chris Henry on Tuesday. Clinton Portis turned in a courageous performance Sunday, but it's obvious that he needs some help. I'm not sure Henry's the answer, but he's certainly worth a look. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean also reported the Henry tryout.
To say Henry was a bust is an understatement. He didn't even stand out when he was at Arizona, and he was drafted on the basis of an amazing performance at the combine. Redskins offensive coordinator Sherman Smith was Henry's position coach with the Titans, so maybe he knows something the rest of us don't.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
My apologies for not dipping into the mailbag this past week. I had 386 well-written questions and threats waiting on me earlier this afternoon. Since I'm currently sitting in the media room at Redskins Park, I'll focus on the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys. You guys have been incredibly "patient" while I've been embedded with the Redskins the last three days.
Joshua from Philly writes: Thanks for addressing the professional "sports analysts" in your blog today. It's "cute" that some people will tell a professional he knows nothing about his profession. But I digress. As a Philly fan, I would love if you could address not only our chances in the most competitive (not the best) division in football. Best and worst scenarios. Also, I feel that the receiver situation is fine. The Eagles have never had a top flight receiver or receiving corps excluding the T.O. years.
Mosley: Joshua, appreciate the kind words. I really should've stayed out of it this morning, but hey, I'm human. Regarding your Eagles, I've had them as a playoff dark horse (doesn't sound right) since the end of last season. I just think the Andy Reid family situation set a really bad tone for the 2007 season. And Donovan McNabb was obviously not himself coming back from the ACL.
The thing that gave me confidence in the Eagles is the way they absolutely dismantled the Cowboys at Texas Stadium in December. The McNabb injury factor is always the first thing you have to bring up. If you can keep him healthy for an entire season, he and Brian Westbrook can lead this team back to the playoffs. Getting rid of Jevon Kearse and Takeo Spikes didn't hurt this defense one bit. I'm anxious to see how far the young linebackers (Bradley, Gocong, Gaither) have come since last season. The best-case scenario is the Eagles winning the NFC East (and obviously the Super Bowl). It could totally happen. The worst-case scenario is another McNabb injury, which could signal the beginning of the Kolb era.
Wilson from Workington, England writes: Matt, do you think the Cowboys defence (not a typo) will make significant progress from last year? Last year they were good, but I felt they needed to be more aggresive. Their corners played too far off the line on most occasions. Do you see them playing tighter this year? I feel that with the upgrade at corner, we could have the pesonnel to do this.
Mosley: Wilson, we're trying to beef up our British numbers. Thanks for your interest. The Cowboys are deeper at cornerback than any other position on the field. I think you will see more one-on-one coverage. And from what I've seen, young Adam Jones loves playing press coverage. Same goes for Terence Newman. Another interesting wrinkle will be how they use Anthony Henry. He'll be moved inside to cover tight ends one-on-one in passing situations. As Chris Cooley told me yesterday, when Jeremy Shockey lined up and ran roughshod over Roy Williams, every other team tried to follow a similar path. Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart isn't going to let that happen this season.
Ted from NYC writes: Back in January everyone at ESPN except Jeff Chadiha said the Giants were done. OK, they were against the odds, but even when it came down to analysis considering what they did to the Pats in Week 18, none of you gave them a chance. As each week in the playoffs passed, writers still had them dogged. The Giants were really the only team that had a shot at beating the Pats. When they beat Green Bay, I tallied up all the stats including intangibles during the playoffs and added them to week 18 and the odds were then really in favor of the Giants to win the Super Bowl. Granted, repeating will be tough, but don't think you're going to look any smarter if they don't.
Mosley: Ted, we appreciate you stopping by. But stop kissing up to Chadiha. Secretly he was telling me the Giants were SO done. I actually agree with you that folks are being too dismissive of the Giants. It's almost like we hold it against them that they got hot at the end of the season. They don't hand out Lombardis at the end of the regular season. So, yes, your team isn't getting enough respect in the various power rankings. If it makes you feel any better, I'm pretty sure I had the Giants No. 4 overall. And I still haven't sent in my predictions. With a great performance against the Lions on Thursday, their stock might soar. The Lions are a salty preseason team.
The loss of Jeremy Shockey, a couple of solid linebackers and a great defensive end certainly needs to be acknowledged, but I don't think it will keep the Giants out of the playoffs. We forget that Kiwanuka is a pretty nice player. He and the talented Justin Tuck can help make up for the loss of Strahan. I have the Cowboys and Giants neck and neck to win the East right now. By the way, if you're looking for more bulletin board material, watch "Hard Knocks" tonight. I'm sure someone will pop off. Wait, I think Patrick Crayton was questioning Packers management Wednesday. What a wise, young man.
Patrick in Charlottesville writes: What about ex-Bengal wide receiver Chris Henry ending up on the Cowboys or the Eagles? Both teams have a need for a legitimate No. 2 wide receiver?
Mosley: I love it how Dallas has become the de facto destination for all troubled players and their posses. No one with the organization has told me that they have any interest in Henry. But he and Adam Jones go way back, so at least he'd have a familiar face. Jerry Jones loves taking risks, but Henry's not the type player he's looking for. Jones wanted a legitimate star (Chad Johnson, Roy Williams, Anquan Boldin) to play opposite T.O. Henry has a lot of ability, as evidenced by his catch-to-touchdown ratio. But I don't think he'll end up with the Cowboys or Eagles. Philadelphia thinks that DeSean Jackson can make an immediate impact. Henry would be what some coaches call a "progress stopper."
If you're a Redskins fan, be looking for my exclusive interviews with Jason Taylor and Jason Campbell. Oddly enough, Campbell spent a day this summer fishing in one of Brett Favre's ponds in Mississippi. For more on that fishing trip, keep reading the NFC East blog.