NFC East: Chris Wilson
Feeling good: In spite of the losses of defensive end Adam Carriker and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo to season-ending injuries, the Redskins ought to be able to get pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton today. Washington has depth on the line to cover for the Carriker loss, and they like the potential of Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson to help fill the Orakpo void. But even if they're going to need time to adjust, Cincinnati doesn't offer the stiffest first test. The Bengals have struggled in pass protection this year, and Dalton isn't the most mobile of quarterbacks. The Redskins' defense needs to create pressure up front due to concerns in the secondary, and they should be able to rely on that formula to their benefit today, even without those two key players.
Cause for concern: The Bengals' defensive weak spot is in the secondary, where corners Leon Hall and Nate Clements have struggled in the early going. But the Redskins are not at full strength in their wide receiver corps, and the likely absence of top wideout Pierre Garcon will limit Robert Griffin III's ability to beat Cincinnati deep. If the Bengals can keep the Redskins in a short-yardage offensive game plan, the advantage swings their way, especially with defensive end Carlos Dunlap likely returning from injury to play in this game.
Philadelphia Eagles (2-0)
So they asked Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg if he might get more conservative with his offense, given the turnover problems the Eagles have had so far and how well the defense is playing, and Mornhinweg answered as though his questioner had three heads. The premise of Tim MacManus' analysis of this seems to be that it would be wise for the Eagles to go more conservative, a la the San Francisco 49ers. My feeling on that is that, if the 49ers had the kinds of offensive players the Eagles have, they wouldn't run a conservative offense either.
Speaking of those high-octane Eagles offensive players, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was back at practice Thursday, though he was limited and it remains to be seen whether, how much or how well he'll play Sunday in Arizona with his hip still bugging him.
New York Giants (2-1)
Giants safety Antrel Rolle said after the game that he didn't expect to miss any time as a result of the left knee injury he suffered when he banged into a camera along the sideline in the end zone late in Thursday night's game. Obviously, the "laceration" the team announced is the least of the concerns here. I'm sure Rolle will have the knee checked for ligament damage, and that the Giants won't breathe easy until they're assure there isn't any.
How did the Giants get Cam Newton off his game? They blitzed him. ESPN Stats & Information has the numbers that show Newton was far less effective Thursday night when the Giants sent five or more pass rushers. I think what's especially impressive about this is the discipline all of the Giants' pass-rushers showed in staying vigilant, even once they were in the backfield, against the run. Carolina's a run-first team, and the Giants made sure to respect that even as they went after its second-year quarterback.
Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
Tony Romo is not down on Dez Bryant after Bryant's poor showing in Seattle. Romo insists he believes in Bryant as one of his top targets and that Bryant will have big games this year. Romo either believes this or is trying to be a leader and stand behind one of his key guys in a time of need. Or both. Could be both. Actually, it probably is both. Bryant had a bad game. He'll be fine.
Another of Romo's top targets, tight end Jason Witten, remains encouraged in spite of a slow start that just has to have something to do with his preseason spleen laceration, wouldn't you think?
Washington Redskins (1-1)
John Keim explains the ways in which the Redskins plan to try to replace Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker, their two defensive starters who suffered season-ending injuries in Sunday's loss in St. Louis. Jarvis Jenkins, their 2011 second-round draft pick, is the obvious replacement for Carriker, while Chris Wilson and Rob Jackson will share the unenviable task of trying to replace Orakpo.
Rookie running back Alfred Morris drives a 1991 Mazda 626 that's worth about $1,000. Parks it in the players' parking lot next to the sportscars and giant SUVs. Says it keeps him grounded. There are photos and everything. He calls it his "Bentley."
Griffin was 11-for-17 for 74 yards and a touchdown. He missed on three deep throws down the field, but at least one appeared to be the fault of his wide receiver, and he showed quite a bit otherwise. On the four-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss, Griffin moved out to the right side extremely quickly, showing his speed and preventing the Indianapolis defense from reacting in time to do anything about it. Griffin continues to show poise and confidence and doesn't get rattled when things don't go exactly as planned. Those are key qualities that, along with his talent and athleticism, bode well for his ability to handle NFL life in his rookie season and beyond.
Luck was 14-for-23 for 151 yards and a beautiful 31-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton. His test was tougher, since the Redskins' defense played better in this game than the Colts' defense did and he faced intense pressure on nearly every play, but he looked very good. Neither rookie quarterback showed anything to make his team feel any less excited about its future.
Here's what else I saw from the Redskins in this game:
- The Redskins' defense is going to be about pressure up front. The defensive line and linebackers look very active and aggressive, even with Brian Orakpo out with an injury, and they did a very good job of disrupting things for Luck and for the Colts' run game in the backfield. When the Redskins drop a lot of guys into coverage, as they did on the Colts' final drive of the first half, their weaknesses are exposed. And when the quarterback avoids the rush, as Luck did on his touchdown throw, the Redskins could have problems downfield. On that play, safety Madieu Williams was in single coverage on the wide receiver, and it was a mismatch.
- That said, safety Tanard Jackson looked excellent. Starting in place of an injured Brandon Meriweather at strong safety, Jackson looked good in run support, made some nice tackles and knocked away the Hail Mary attempt at the end of the first half. Jackson could beat out Williams for the starting free safety spot. He's a favorite of secondary coach Raheem Morris from their time together in Tampa Bay, and his issues have all been off-the-field, not on. A couple of secondary players made good plays at or behind the line of scrimmage, including cornerback Josh Wilson and safety DeJon Gomes. The issues are down the field, not up front.
- Rob Jackson was the starting outside linebacker in place of Orakpo, but Chris Wilson quickly replaced him and had a great game that included a third-quarter sack of Chandler Harnish for a safety.
- On offense, rookie Alfred Morris got the start at running back again and looked very good. He carried the ball 14 times for 107 yards and a touchdown. He's exactly the kind of runner Mike Shanahan likes -- he makes one cut and gets up the field -- but he's also got some nice moves once up the field and that forward body lean you've heard so much about that helps him pick up extra yards. He needs to improve in pass protection before the Redskins feel great about him, but he looked good throwing blocks in Saturday's game, and it's clear that's a matter of reps and not ability or willingness. Tim Hightower is still the coaches' preferred starter at running back, and he looked lively as he got 28 yards on five carries in his first game action since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last October. But they're bringing Hightower back slowly, and with Roy Helu and Evan Royster both nursing injuries, the chances are improving that Morris will be the starter for the Sept. 9 regular-season opener in New Orleans. I still expect each of those four to start at some point this year, assuming they all get/stay healthy.
- Brandon Banks was returning kicks again in the second half, but it cannot be a good sign for Banks' roster chances that Niles Paul returned kickoffs and Moss returned punts in the first half. Banks was told he'd have to make the team as a wide receiver, not just a return man, and it does not appear as though he's done that, so they're probably looking at other return options to see what they have.
- The Redskins' offensive line did a very good job in the run game, and we've seen it look worse in pass protection, though the Colts did have success early with an interior pass rush against Will Montgomery and backup left guard Maurice Hurt. That might get better once Kory Lichtensteiger is back healthy, but it's something to watch. For what it's worth, Griffin seems to handle the rush well. Doesn't get flustered when forced out of the pocket, keeps his eyes downfield, etc.
- Josh Morgan looked better than Leonard Hankerson, who had a bad drop and slowed down for some reason on a deep throw from Griffin that fell incomplete. I think the coaches would like to line up with Hankerson and Pierre Garcon as their starting wide receivers, but Morgan could surpass Hankerson if he stays healthy and keeps making plays.
- You'll laugh, but Rex Grossman looked good, especially when he threw it to Dezmon Briscoe (who's making a late push for a roster spot himself). Grossman finished the game 8-for-8 for 127 yards and two touchdowns against the backup defense of one of the league's worst teams. Somebody asked me on Twitter if the Redskins might cut Grossman and just go with rookies Griffin and Kirk Cousins at quarterback, but why? Grossman knows the offense, can help the rookies learn it, and when he's not throwing interceptions he runs it quite well. He's the perfect backup for the 2012 Redskins.
The Redskins moved to a 3-4 scheme last season, but London Fletcher wasn’t fazed by the scheme change and just kept up his steady pace. He is a true professional and one of the most consistent linebackers of this generation. The Redskins could lose Rocky McIntosh in free agency. McIntosh started next to Fletcher on the inside, and a change of scenery and scheme could do him well, as I think he fits a 4-3 front better than Washington’s 3-4.
On the outside, Brian Orakpo again showed why he can become one of the better pass-rushers in the league, but he wasn’t the same player during the second half of the season. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the problems that Orakpo had versus the run this year. There was little to get excited about opposite Orakpo, and adding another outside linebacker who can get after the quarterback might free Orakpo up to really wreak some havoc. This is a major need.
For the second time in his career, Andre Carter showed that he is not a fit in an odd front. He could be playing elsewhere next season, and for the most part, was replaced by Lorenzo Alexander. A liability as a pass-rusher and in coverage, Alexander is best suited as a backup on the outside and as a core special-teamer rather than in a starting role.
Others worth mentioning are Perry Riley and H.B. Blades on the inside and Chris Wilson and Rob Jackson on the outside. The undersized Blades is an extremely poor-man’s version of Fletcher and had a solid 2009 campaign. Wilson is a pretty good special-teams player and shows promise as a pass-rusher. Jackson could get a chance at more snaps going forward.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
Wide receiver Roy Williams has lofty expectations heading into the 2010 season.
Dez Bryant is putting in extra practice time fielding punts.
Tony Romo shares his thoughts on the status of his offensive line.
New York Giants
Osi Umenyiora says he is “ready to roll” for the team’s OTAs.
Could Plaxico Burress return to the Giants some day? Giants co-owner Steve Tisch wouldn’t rule it out.
The Eagles have reportedly signed rookie defensive tackle Boo Robinson.
The team has formally announced the dates for the start of training camp.
It doesn’t appear there will be a resolution to the Albert Haynesworth situation anytime soon.
The position changes Brian Orakpo and Chris Wilson made a year ago have given them a head start on the 2010 season.
Potential unrestricted free agents: G Montrae Holland
Potential restricted free agents: NT Junior Siavii, WR Miles Austin, DE Stephen Bowen, CB Cletis Gordon, DE Jason Hatcher, WR Sam Hurd, T Pat McQuistan, C Duke Preston, G Cory Procter, S Gerald Sensabaugh, DE Marcus Spears, S Pat Watkins, K Shaun Suisham.
What to expect: Anything is possible with Jerry Jones in charge, and the Cowboys could make a big splash after an underwhelming offseason a year ago. But in terms of team needs and what is required to take the next step, Dallas really doesn’t need much. A big-time impact safety makes some sense and could make a very good defense great, but that might be a project for the draft in a trade-up scenario for someone like Earl Thomas. But Darren Sharper might pique their interest. They also need to get younger along the offensive line, particularly at tackle, but that seems like a draft-day project, too. Maybe Jones gets real aggressive in the wide receiver market, as Roy Williams certainly is not living up to his billing, but the Cowboys are still rather stacked with pass-catchers. All in all, this is a team that is sitting pretty and doesn’t have a prominent unrestricted free agent who is poised to leave.
New York Giants
Potential unrestricted free agents: QB David Carr, LB Danny Clark, P Jeff Feagles, DT Fred Robbins
Potential restricted free agents: WR Domenik Hixon, TE Darcy Johnson, DE Dave Tollefson, G Kevin Boothe, S C.C. Brown, DT Barry Cofield, CB Kevin Dockery, WR Derek Hagan, WR Sinorice Moss, T Guy Whimper, LB Gerris Wilkinson.
What to expect: Big things could be in the works here, as there are already rumors swirling that New York could be a prime suitor for linebacker Karlos Dansby. An impact linebacker is certainly near the top of their wish list and Dansby fits the bill. Plus, he is extremely versatile. Getting faster on defense is a huge priority with new coordinator Perry Fewell stressing the ability to cover a lot of ground. However, Dansby isn’t really the thumper they need in the middle and is more of an outside linebacker for this system, although he would be great on passing downs. This is a group of decision-makers who might be starting to feel some heat, so do not rule out a big move or two.
Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Jason Babin, S Sean Jones, LB Jeremiah Trotter, LB Tracy White
Potential restricted free agents: LB Akeem Jordan, P Saverio Rocca, WR Jason Avant, C Nick Cole, LB Omar Gaither, LB Chris Gocong, CB Ellis Hobbs, G Max Jean-Gilles, TE Alex Smith, FB Leonard Weaver.
What to expect: There are questions on the offensive line, but overall, the Eagles are in a prime situation to improve their defense, particularly up front and at safety. Remember, they have quarterbacks to dangle as trade bait and really do not have any unrestricted guys that they need to bring back. This is a possible landing spot for Julius Peppers and he would be terrific on the opposite side of Trent Cole, who is among the most underrated players in the game and could blow up with someone taking pass protection attention away from his side. Count on the Eagles being aggressive in the free-agent and/or trade market. It might just be enough to get them that ever elusive Lombardi trophy. Stranger things have happened.
Potential unrestricted free agents: LS Ethan Albright, DE Phillip Daniels, T Levi Jones, C Casey Rabach,
P Hunter Smith, T Mike Williams, DE Renaldo Wynn, TE Todd Yoder.
Potential restricted free agents: DE Lorenzo Alexander, T Stephon Heyer, LB Chris Wilson, QB Jason Campbell, S Reed Doughty, DT Kedric Golston, LB Rocky McIntosh, DT Anthony Montgomery, C Will Montgomery, CB Carlos Rogers.
What to expect: This is a difficult team to get a grasp on in terms of what they might do in free agency, but I think it is safe to say that ownership will not hold Mike Shanahan and company back from opening up the check book and signing (and even overpaying) players whom they desire. It would be wise for Washington to have an excellent idea of what they are going to do with the fourth overall draft pick in terms of going quarterback or offensive tackle before really devising a free-agency plan. Rebuilding the offensive line is a must and Shanahan needs lighter, quicker (and younger) linemen than are on the roster. A running back they can trust wouldn’t hurt either, although it looks as though Clinton Portis will return, which they may regret. But don’t forget, this is a team that -- unwisely in my opinion -- is switching to a 3-4 scheme, so inside linebacker help is required, as are defensive linemen who fit the new scheme. The Redskins have a long wish list, but also have the ownership to endorse big spending when free agency opens.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Free agency is turning into old home week for the Redskins. First, they signed former guard Derrick Dockery and now they've welcomed back defensive end Renaldo Wynn. ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli confirmed the one-year deal for the 34-year-old Wynn, who played for the New York Giants in 2008. Wynn played for the Redskins from 2002-05 after beginning his career in Jacksonville.
He's certainly not an every-down player at this point in his career, but he gives the Redskins some much-needed depth behind Andre Carter and Phillip Daniels -- if they ever get around to re-signing him in free agency. Behind those players, the Redskins have Alex Buzbee (returning from an injury), Chris Wilson and Rob Jackson. Wynn's a player who can give you 10-15 defensive plays, and he's still fairly solid against the run. But if Albert Haynesworth turns Wynn into an elite pass-rusher at age 34, then he truly will be the best defensive player in the league.
It's easy to laugh and point to another aging player the Redskins are bringing in, but it looks like Wynn signed for the veteran minimum. If that's the case, this is probably a solid move. I know that some Eagles fans hated to see Wynn go, although they might not admit it now.
All in all, this is a smart move by the Redskins. Now about that right tackle spot?