NFC East: Clint Sintim

Sintim
I know, right? I'll bet a lot of you forgot all about linebacker Clint Sintim, the first of the New York Giants' two second-round picks in the 2009 draft. He hasn't played since blowing out his right knee for the second time in the 2011 preseason. And as Ohm Youngmisuk writes, he isn't planning to play ever again:
Sintim wrote on Facebook: I never actually announced it but I am officially retired from the game of football. I want to thank everyone who supported me throughout my movement but it was honestly time for me to walk away from the game. Ambition should not be limited to a sport and in my case it is not. "Continue to chase your dreams with the awareness of obstacles....You may not always be able to dictate your path.....but your response to change is always mental!!"---------------->@ClintSintim52

Sintim finishes his pro career with 33 tackles and one sack.

Why is this relevant to the blog on May 6, 2013? Well, because it's May 6 for one thing. But also because we've been talking a lot about the Giants' linebacker situation, and Sintim is a recent example of the Giants using a relatively valuable resource (the 45th pick in the draft) on a linebacker who didn't pan out. Part of the reason the Giants are thin at the position is that they don't usually make it a priority during the player-acquisition portion of the offseason, and part of it is that several of the guys they've worked to acquire (Sintim and Keith Rivers are two examples) haven't developed or performed the way the Giants hoped they would, either because of injury or for other reasons.

As we mentioned in the links this morning, part of the reason the Giants undervalue linebacker is that they're a 4-3 team that's using its base front less and less as the years go on and passing offenses continue to find ways to put more passing-game personnel on the field. The Giants think it wiser to invest in the defensive line and the secondary. But it says something that they once thought enough of Sintim to use such a relatively high pick on him, and you do wonder what might have been if he had stayed healthy.

And yes, the other second-round pick they had that year was tackle Will Beatty.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Good morning, as the NFC East blog is now coming to you live from the training camp home of the Super Bowl champion Giants. I hope that, wherever you are reading this, the storms missed you and you're OK. I present your Friday links in order of my training camp itinerary.

New York Giants

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who had foot surgery in late May, will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list. So will defensive tackle Chris Canty, tight end Travis Beckum and linebacker Clint Sintim. No surprises among that group, and nothing new on Nicks, which is good news. The Giants initially expected him to be ready around mid-August and that remains the timetable. He's had no setbacks and still expects to play in the season opener 40 days from today.

On the day players reported to training camp, Tom Coughlin said his question was "Which team are we?" Meaning, are they the team that was 7-7 in its first 14 games last year or the team that won the next six after that, including the Super Bowl? The Giants' mission is to improve on last year's 9-7 regular-season record with the help of the confidence they gained from playing like the best team in the league once the playoffs began. It's clear Coughlin wants the team to remember the tough times, too.

Washington Redskins

Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall says rookie Robert Griffin III is "probably the worst quarterback in our division" because "he hasn't taken a snap." Fair enough. Hall's keeping it real. The Redskins have high hopes for Griffin, and Hall likes him a lot. The point is that he's a rookie, the division's other three quarterbacks are very good and accomplished, and everyone needs to remember that Griffin is at the beginning of something, no matter how great they may expect it to ultimately be.

John Keim's practice report from Thursday is exhaustive, which is no surprise if you're a regular reader of John's. He says Tyler Polumbus got first-team snaps at right tackle with Jammal Brown out, but I imagine there'll be a competition at that spot if Brown can't get health. There's lots of stuff in there about almost everyone on the roster. Enjoy.

Philadelphia Eagles

Tight end Brent Celek has a sprained knee and had to miss part of Thursday's practice. He says it's not a problem, and Celek has earned the benefit of the doubt on his ability to handle pain and injury. Right after last season ended, he had hip surgery and sports hernia surgery. Still, all of that would seem to at least be part of the reason they were looking at Visanthe Shiancoe last week before he signed with the Patriots.

And if the president of the United States wants Michael Vick to slide, Vick says, he'll slide.

Dallas Cowboys

Jean-Jacques Taylor isn't buying the Cowboys as contenders in 2012, but he is buying into Jason Garrett's program. He says Garrett is patiently and methodically building something he believes can sustain itself for a long time. It's an interesting perspective. You want your leaders to have vision, and there's no doubting what kind of team Garrett wants to have. He may not have it yet, but JJT thinks he's moving in the right direction. If the Cowboys miss the playoffs again, there will be people calling for heads to roll. But if they show improvement on defense and on the offensive line, it's likely to be seen inside the organization as progress.

Jerry Jones believes the improvements in the secondary and on the offensive line will help the Cowboys specifically in their NFC East matchups. Dallas beat the Redskins twice last year in very close games but went a combined 0-4 against the Eagles and the Giants.
Continuing our team-by-team series on the history of the specific draft picks each NFC East team has this year, we take a look today at the Dallas Cowboys, who have eight picks in this year's draft.

Turning up some interesting trivia in these. For instance, the Cowboys have the 186th pick, which produced Deacon Jones, and the 152nd pick, with which the Houston Texans last year took a quarterback who a few months later started their first two playoff games in franchise history.

PICK 14 (14th pick, first round)

Last five players taken

2011 -- Robert Quinn, DE, Rams

2010 -- Earl Thomas, S, Seahawks

2009 -- Malcolm Jenkins, DB, Saints

2008 -- Chris Williams, T, Bears

2007 -- Darrelle Revis, CB, Jets

Cowboys' history of No. 14 picks

The Cowboys have never had the No. 14 pick.

Hall of Famers picked No. 14

Jim Kelly (1983), Gino Marchetti (1952), Len Ford (1948, AAFC)

Other notables

Jeremy Shockey (2002), Eddie George (1996), Dick Stanfel (1951)

PICK 45 (13th pick, round 2)

Last five players taken

2011 -- Rahim Moore, DB, Broncos

2010 -- Zane Beadles, G, Broncos

2009 -- Clint Sintim, LB, Giants

2008 -- Jordon Dizon, LB, Lions

2007 -- Dwayne Jarrett, WR, Panthers

Cowboys' history of No. 45 picks

1968 -- Dave McDaniels

Hall of Famers picked No. 45

Dave Casper (1974)

PICK 81 (19th pick, third round)

Last five players taken

2011 --DeMarcus Van Dyke, DB, Raiders

2010 -- Earl Mitchell, DT, Texans

2009 -- Roy Miller, DT, Buccaneers

2008 -- Early Doucet, WR, Cardinals

2007 -- Jay Alford, DT, Giants

Cowboys' history of No. 81 picks

1984 -- Fred Cornwell

1982 -- Jim Eliopulos

1981 -- Glenn Titensor

1977 -- Val Belcher

Hall of Famers picked No. 81

None, though Art Shell was the 80th pick in 1968 and Joe Montana was the 82nd in 1979.

PICK 113 (18th pick, round four)

Last five players picked

2011 -- Chimdi Chekwa, DB, Raiders

2010 -- Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots

2009 -- Vaughn Martin, DT, Chargers

2008 -- Dwight Lowery, CB, Jets

2007 -- Brian Smith, DE, Jaguars

Cowboys' history of No. 113 picks

1989 -- Keith Jennings

1984 -- Steve Pelluer

1975 -- Kyle Davis

Hall of Famers picked No. 113

None. But Steve Largent was picked 117th in 1976 and George Blanda was picked 119th in 1949.

PICK 135 (40th pick, fourth round)

Last five players picked

2011 --Ricky Stanzi, QB, Chiefs

2010 -- Dominique Franks, DB, Falcons

2009 -- Troy Kropog, T, Titans

2008 -- Josh Sitton, G, Packers

2007 -- Joe Cohen, DT, 49ers

Cowboys' history of No. 135 picks

1983 -- Chuck McSwain

Hall of Famers picked No. 135

None. Closest were Jackie Smith and Roger Staubach, who were picked No. 129 in 1963 and 1964, respectively.

PICK 152 (17th pick, round 5)

Last five players picked

2011 -- T.J. Yates, QB, Texans

2010 -- Otis Hudson, G, Bengals

2009 -- James Casey, TE, Texans

2008 -- Letroy Guion, DT, Vikings

2007 -- Antonio Johnson, DT, Titans

Cowboys' history of No. 152 picks

1984 -- Eugene Lockhart

1969 -- Rick Shaw

Hall of Famers taken No. 152

None. Closest I found was Arnie Weinmeister, No. 166 in 1945.

PICK 186 (16th pick, round 6)

Last five players taken

2011 -- D.J. Smith, LB, Packers

2010 -- Clifton Geathers, DE, Browns

2009 -- Robert Henson, LB, Redskins

2008 -- Colt Brennan, QB, Redskins

2007 -- Thomas Clayton, RB, 49ers

Cowboys' history of No. 186 pick

2003 -- Zuriel Smith

1976 -- Greg Schaum

Hall of Famers picked No. 186

Deacon Jones (1961)

PICK 222 (15th pick, round 7)

Last five players taken

2011 -- Anthony Gaitor, DB, Buccaneers

2010 -- Marc Mariani, WR, Titans

2009 -- Pat McAfee, P, Colts

2008 -- Chester Adams, G, Bears

2007 -- Derek Schouman, FB, Bills

Cowboys' history of No. 222 picks

1984 -- Mike Revell

1978 -- Homer Butler

Hall of Famers picked No. 222

None. Closest was Andy Robustelli, picked 228th in 1951

Difference-makers: Chase Blackburn

January, 12, 2012
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The New York Giants you see before you -- a team that has made it to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs -- are not the same New York Giants we watched for most of this season. Their enthusiasm and effectiveness bear little, if any, resemblance to that of the team that lost five of six games from mid-November to mid-December. What's the difference? Well, there are many. And each day this week, leading up to the playoff game Sunday in Green Bay, we'll take a look at a player or players who have helped turn these Giants from a mid-pack pretender to a Final Eight contender.

Today: LB Chase Blackburn

Blackburn
The Giants decided not to bring back Blackburn last offseason opting instead to go with a rookie corps at linebacker even once Jonathan Goff and Clint Sintim went down with preseason injuries. But the November injuries to Michael Boley and Mark Herzlich were too much, and so the Giants called their old friend and brought him back Nov. 29. He started the very next game -- the one against the Packers on Dec. 4 -- and came up with an interception of Aaron Rodgers. He wasn't even on the flip card yet, and he wasn't wearing his old uniform number. A week earlier, he was working out the details of a substitute math teaching gig in Ohio. It's possible his was the most surprising interception Rodgers threw all season.

"I think he'll know who No. 93 is this time," Blackburn said earlier this week.

Blackburn's return has brought stability to the Giants' middle linebacker position, which never attained that following the Goff injury. Rookies Greg Jones, Jacquian Williams and Herzlich all took their turns in the middle, but things remained unsettled, as they often do with rookies, and the Giants suffered for it. Had Herzlich not injured his ankle, they might have continued to roll with the rookies. They take the middle linebacker off the field on passing downs anyway, and they don't view it as the most essential position in their defensive scheme.

But having Blackburn back and manning the middle has helped in ways the Giants didn't foresee. The most important element he brings is familiarity. He's played here before. He knows the scheme, the system, the terminology.

"Think about it," Boley said. "You bring in a guy in Week 13 and he's never been here before, he has to spend a lot of time just learning what things are called. He's catching up. But with Chase, there was no catching up. The stuff we do is exactly the same as it was when he was here before. So he just slid right in."

The Giants' defense still runs off the big guys up front -- the four-man pass rush. And the play of the secondary is likely to matter more and get more attention this week in the playoff game in Green Bay. But Blackburn's contribution since he arrived Week 13 has been quietly significant, if for no other reason that it's allowed the Giants to stop moving pieces around as much as they were before he returned. He's made plays. He's fit in. He's been everything the Giants needed when they went out looking for a substitute linebacker in late November. And more, almost certainly, than they expected.
Good morning in the East. It is the day before the start of the NFL's regular season, and four days before the start of play in our favorite division. It is raining, still, and I think the old man next door just got home with two giraffes and two hippos. But as far as I know, no one in East Rutherford has torn a knee ligament yet today. So we hit the links.

Dallas Cowboys

One of the things ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer is wondering this week is whether size was the main reason the Cowboys brought in reserve offensive lineman Derrick Dockery. Rookie left guard Bill Nagy has played well, but Dockery has at least 25 pounds on him, and Nagy did on occasion get overpowered by big interior defensive linemen in the preseason. Nagy may need time to get stronger before he can be a regular starter in the league, and Dockery could be the fallback if that progress doesn't happen quickly enough.

Clarence Hill says Dez Bryant's rookie contract might not be sufficient to help him overcome his personal financial problems. Sheesh. Not sure what you do about that. Tough to believe an NFL team would re-work a guy's contract just because he can't pay his bills. Dez is going to have to perform if that's to be his solution.

New York Giants

Sure, they could bring in a veteran like Kawika Mitchell to add to their depth. But if the Giants are going to replace injured linebackers Jonathan Goff and Clint Sintim, they're most likely going to do it with rookies.

Jake Ballard did the Giants a favor at cutdown time last year, and they did right by him. Now, with Kevin Boss gone off to Oakland and Travis Beckum yet to impress as his replacement, Ballard is listed as the starting tight end on this week's depth chart. He has a chance to win the job because no one else has yet.

Philadelphia Eagles

Former Eagle Terrell Owens says that, if he were DeSean Jackson, he wouldn't play Sunday without a new contract. The Eagles and their fans are surely glad, in this case, that Jackson is not Owens, as they need him to play Sunday. In turn, Jackson hopes the Eagles reward his decision by continuing to work on the new contract he wants.

Meet Eagles left guard Evan Mathis, who thinks he may have helped himself get that starting job through the use of Twitter.

Washington Redskins

Lots of mystery surrounding the health status of Redskins safety LaRon Landry, who doesn't look as if he'll be playing Sunday when the team opens the season against the Giants. Should be interesting to hear Landry address some of these details he's been hinting about on Twitter.

And lots of opportunity for the large group of receivers remaining on the Redskins' roster after cutdown day. It will be interesting to see if the Redskins have another move or two up their sleeves, because at least three of the wide receivers they kept aren't special-teamers, and I'm pretty sure they intend to run the ball a lot.

Have a lovely day.

Giants' Jonathan Goff out for season

September, 6, 2011
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The New York Giants' injury situation may have reached the point of absurdity.

Multiple reports have surfaced Tuesday afternoon that Jonathan Goff, the Giants' starting middle linebacker, has a torn ACL and will miss the entire 2011-12 season. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports via Twitter that the team is planning to sign former Giants linebacker Kawika Mitchell to replace him.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Goff
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger via US PresswireThe Giants reportedly lost Jonathan Goff for the season to a torn ACL.
This is really ridiculous now, and you have to wonder how much more of this the Giants can possibly take. They've already lost starting cornerback Terrell Thomas and backup linebacker Clint Sintim for the year with ACL injuries. Cornerback and first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara is out for the first month or so with a broken foot. Defensive tackle and second-round pick Marvin Austin is out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora is coming off knee surgery and will miss at least the first week and probably more. And that's just the defensive damage report. On offense, they're reasonably healthy but did lose wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Kevin Boss to free agency and didn't replace either one.

The Giants have maintained all along that their developmental depth was strong and they would be able to handle injuries, but the fact is their relatively inactive offseason and the injuries that have dogged them since the lockout ended have left them thin at several key spots, none more so now than linebacker. They believed they were set with Goff, Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka as starters, and the four reserve linebackers they kept when they made their cuts Saturday were all rookies. Now, it looks as though they could bring in Mitchell, who played for the Giants in 2007 and for Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell in 2008-09 when both were in Buffalo, to add some veteran presence. But Mitchell isn't a middle linebacker. So if he's there to add depth and not to man the middle, you could see a rookie such as Greg Jones or Mark Herzlich get some time at that middle spot, or the Giants might look again to the waiver wire for someone like Keith Bulluck or Lofa Tatupu.

Regardless, five days from the regular-season opener in Washington, the Giants had hoped their rotten injury luck was behind them for this year. There is a lot of talent on their roster, and especially on their defense. But they're reaching the point where you have to wonder if this is too many injuries to overcome. I've never been big on Goff as a starting middle linebacker, but he was their starter. Without him, they will scramble, and likely be worse than they would have been with him. If this was the first of these injuries, it'd be easy to say sure, they can take it. But it's not. Far from it.

Observation deck: Giants-Patriots

September, 2, 2011
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OK, there are a number of reasons this took all day and you don't want to hear any of them. It suffices to say I am ecstatic to be done watching preseason football for another year and more ready than ever for the real thing.

As for our New York Giants, who finished their preseason by scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter for a meaningless 18-17 victory over the Patriots in New England ... I don't know. I'm trying to be open-minded about what I see, but what I see with the Giants is almost all disheartening. They just do a lot of things wrong. And yes, it was all backups Thursday night, and if David Carr ends up playing significant minutes at quarterback they're cooked anyway. But there were a couple of things that could matter if they leak into the regular season, and I'm 100 percent certain the Giants' coaching staff feels the same way.

For example, when one of your biggest areas of concern is special teams and you get banged for an illegal wedge penalty on the return of the opening kickoff, that's not a good thing. When you're trying to find a No. 3 receiver and one of the candidates (Domenik Hixon, in this case) fumbles on the first play from scrimmage, that's not a good thing. When you're trying to use a rookie punt returner and the kid can't catch the ball, that's not a good thing.

The Giants had holding penalties and illegal-hands-to-the-face penalties that stopped offensive momentum. They had another significant injury, this one a season-ending ACL tear for linebacker Clint Sintim. They fumbled at the Patriots' 1-yard line. They're effectively playing without a useful tight end. Tom Coughlin's challenges aren't even working.

Now, I continue to believe preseason doesn't mean anything -- that it has no predictive value at all in terms of what will happen once the real season starts. The Giants could snap awake nine days from now and start playing well enough to make everyone forget how inept in so many facets of the game they looked in the preseason. But what we have right now to evaluate is what they've done over the past month, and not even the most myopically optimistic Giants fan can credibly say the preseason went well for them.

Some specifics on what I saw in the Giants' (mercifully) final preseason game of this year:

1. Give Jerrel Jernigan credit for toughing it out. And give the Giants credit for sticking with the rookie even as he continues to struggle with the most critical part of punt returns -- actually catching the ball. He ripped off a 42-yard return on his first chance of the night, which showed why they're giving him all of these chances. But then he muffed two in a row, and there's all kinds of footage of Coughlin and Aaron Ross and everybody you can think of working with Jernigan on the correct form to use when catching a punt. I guess I wonder how hard it is to learn something like this and why they believed he'd be a good punt returner if he didn't already know it. But once the ball is in his hands, it's clear Jernigan can do some things with it. So it appears as though they'll keep giving him chances, even if it could cost them early on. The night had a happy ending for Jernigan, as he made a tremendous catch on the two-point conversion pass that sealed the victory. You had to feel good for the guy, after the month he's had.

2. Tyler Sash looks like an athlete. The rookie safety looked quick and nimble and decisive as he came up with two sacks (one of which forced a fumble) and moved well all over the field. There were a couple of times where Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense ran some tricky looks that caught Sash out of position, but that's bound to happen and there are worse things than getting schooled by Brady in a preseason game. You still get the lesson, and it doesn't count against your record.

3. I like Da'Rel Scott better than Andre Brown. It's not personal. I don't even know Andre Brown. I'm just talking about what they look like when they run. Brown looks fine when he has room to run, but he doesn't blow you away as anything special and he doesn't look as though he does much to make it difficult to tackle him. Scott seems to have more speed, keeps his feet moving better and runs with more determination. He earned those 65 yards he got on that fake-punt touchdown, and with cuts looming tomorrow, that's the kind of play that makes it hard for a coaching staff to keep a guy off the roster.

4. I like Devin Thomas, too. Specifically, I like what he does after he catches the ball. He seems to know where his feet are and what he needs to do to find the sideline or the extra yard or two he needs. He seems like he knows how to keep his body between the ball and the defender and protect it while making those moves. He's got the skills in the return game, and the speed, but I was surprised how much I liked him Thursday night as a receiver.

5. The Sintim injury hurts. But there are rookies to take his spot, and it might help someone like Mark Herzlich or Spencer Paysinger make the roster and/or claim more playing time. The Giants liked the way Sintim had been playing, and he was their clear first option off the bench in the case of an injury to one of their starting linebackers. Now it's not as cut-and-dried, and they'll hope somebody from the rookie group can step in when they need to spell a starter.

Breakfast links: Another Giants injury

September, 2, 2011
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Good morning to ya. Special shout-out to the Giants and Cowboys fans, and a promise that I haven't forgotten you and will be doing "Observation Deck" for your teams' Thursday night game at some point today. Problem was, all four NFC East games were on at the same time and I haven't had time to watch them all yet. The posts on the Redskins and the Eagles are up, though, if you feel like doing some scouting.

If not, we have links.

Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones said after Thursday's game that undrafted running back Phillip Tanner will be on the team. Tanner looked great all preseason and earned a spot. The question is what this means for the Cowboys at running back. Is there a chance Tashard Choice gets traded, or even cut? Or do they go with four tailbacks -- Felix Jones, DeMarco Murray, Choice and Tanner? Jones' comments made it sound as though they were expecting to carry all four, but he didn't commit to that and some things could still need to be sorted out there.

Really crummy break for receiver Raymond Radway, who broke his leg going up for the ball with three seconds left in the final preseason game. I don't know if Radway would have made the team or not, but he showed some things early in the preseason, and it's a shame to see a guy suffer that level of injury on a play as completely meaningless as that one.

New York Giants

And speaking of crummy breaks, what an awful thing to have happen to Giants linebacker Clint Sintim, who was coming off a torn ACL in his right knee and may have torn it again Thursday night. At the very least, Tom Coughlin said, Sintim has a torn patella tendon and is out for the year. This is just the latest in a string of significant injuries to the Giants' defense this preseason and it obviously hurts their depth at linebacker, where they didn't have a lot to begin with. But mainly, you really feel for Sintim, who was apparently pretty emotional about it in the locker room after the game.

Undrafted linebacker Mark Herzlich picked up a sack and has impressed the Giants' coaching staff this preseason. He's not a sure thing, but he's certainly got a very good chance of making the final roster and could even be helped by the Sintim injury, though his most likely contribution is more likely to be on special teams.

Philadelphia Eagles

Andy Reid continues to express confidence in rookie kicker Alex Henery, who didn't have the greatest night Thursday. I don't imagine the Eagles will go out and look for a veteran kicker at this point, partly because the Cowboys seem to have signed them all anyway, but also because they're kind of all-in with Henery after releasing David Akers to make room for the rookie.

Danny Watkins talked his way into Thursday night's lineup and looked... like a rookie, again, writes Jeff McLane. This is what the Eagles have at starting right guard heading into this season -- a guy who's still learning, getting better and making mistakes along the way.

Washington Redskins

Jason Reid says John Beck has all the votes he needs to be the Redskins' starting quarterback. Basically, Jason says, the only vote that counts is Mike Shanahan's. And Jason has wisely been reading this thing correctly all along. Shanahan wanted Beck to show he wouldn't be a complete mess if he got the job. Surely, in spite of Thursday's downer, Beck has shown that. They like his speed, his athleticism, his quick release and the decision-making ability he's shown. Lots of people watched Thursday and thought Rex Grossman had won the job already. I still think it's Beck, and has been Beck all along.

Oh, and earlier Thursday, the Redskins announced plans for a new indoor practice facility that will keep them from having to scrounge for a college facility or some other place to use when the weather prevents them from practicing outdoors, as it did four times last year. This is a nifty new 20th-century notion for the Skins. I hear they're also planning to put more than one bar on the face masks this year...

OK, back to watching these awful final preseason games. I do this for you guys, you know, because I love you. And for no other reason.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- So if you were wondering whether the New York Giants planned to sign somebody to help out at linebacker, your answer might be that they already did. Linebackers coach Jim Hermann spoke after this morning's walk-through of Mathias Kiwanuka, who was in the defensive end rotation last season but will apparently play linebacker on first and second downs in 2011.

"Yup, we re-signed him and he's going to play linebacker," Hermann said. "He's got some adjusting to do because he's been away from it, but when he came here at first he played there some. He's such a physical guy. That's what I love about him. He brings a physical part to the game. Against the run, he'll be a hard guy to move out of the hole."

Hermann said "all bets are off" on third downs, where the Giants will use Kiwanuka wherever they believe he's in the best position to pressure the quarterback. But in base packages, it appears as though the main contributors at defensive end will be Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and, assuming he gets his contract situation worked out, Osi Umenyiora.

Hermann also said the decision on Kiwanuka had nothing to do with dissatisfaction with Clint Sintim, who would seem to have been the likely outside linebacker starter opposite Michael Boley with Jonathan Goff manning the middle. Hermann said he believed the move would give the Giants quality depth and the ability to put a quality starter on the field if one of the linebackers who started the game got injured.

"Really, to me, they're all interchangeable," Hermann said. "They should be able to play all the positions."

The Giants have had enough trouble, due to cap concerns, signing their own free agents. They were able to bring back Kiwanuka and running back Ahmad Bradshaw, but they lost Kevin Boss and Barry Cofield and are still trying to re-sign receiver Steve Smith. So it was always unlikely that they could hit the free-agent linebacker market and address their biggest need on the defensive side of the ball. Kiwanuka helps because of his athleticism and versatility, and if that leaves them short on depth at defensive end, then that's the way the salary cap says it has to be. As they're doing on the offensive line with Will Beatty as the starting left tackle, they'll trust that they've developed Pierre-Paul to the point where he can be a meaningful contributor on the defensive line. When you can't go outside the organization to find improvements, you have to hope you can find them on your own roster. The Giants believe they've drafted, coached and developed well enough over the past few years that their roster will provide it.
One more for the week in our continuing series of position-by-position looks at the proposed four-year unrestricted free agency and its potential impact on the NFC East. We turn our attention now to the inside linebacker position, where the Cowboys seem set, but the division's other three teams all could be looking for help depending on other developments.

NFC East teams in need

Giants: They've overlooked the linebacker spot in general for the past couple of years, and as a result there are a few ways they could go. They could stick with Jonathan Goff in the middle and beef up on the outside, or they could sign a good middle linebacker and move Goff outside, where he'd probably be an upgrade over Clint Sintim. There are a lot of potential middle linebacker targets for the Giants, if this is the time they finally decide to get serious about it.

Redskins: Washington could be fine even with Rocky McIntosh leaving, because there's a chance Lorenzo Alexander has to move inside anyway to make room for top draft pick Ryan Kerrigan. But after they address needs on the defensive line, there's a chance they could look to add depth here.

Eagles: Hard to imagine this is a major priority for them, since even if Stewart Bradley leaves they can probably just leave Jamar Chaney in the middle. But if Bradley leaves and they decide Chaney's better on the outside, there will be some interesting options for them on the middle linebacker market.

Top five potential unrestricted free-agent inside linebackers

1. Stephen Tulloch. Likely out in Tennessee because they fear he'll cost too much to keep, the 26-year-old Tulloch is the cream of this particular crop. He's a bit small, but he has great range and has shown the ability to handle the middle linebacker's responsibilities for the Titans. Lots of people expect former Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, now the Lions' head coach, to be Tulloch's most aggressive pursuer as he continues to build a monster defense in Detroit.

2. Barrett Ruud. The question is how much responsibility he bore for the Buccaneers' miserable run defense in 2010. It's possible he was dragged down by those around him and he'll rebound with a big 2011. But his chances at a big free-agent deal certainly took a hit with his step-back 2010 campaign.

3. Paul Posluszny. The Bills will work to keep him, and there's some thought that he's better off as an inside guy in a 3-4 scheme than as the middle man in a 4-3. But we've heard the Giants connected to him a lot, so it's possible he's a name on their list of targets for their middle spot.

4. Kevin Burnett. Had a career season in San Diego, and the Chargers will try everything they can to re-sign him. It's more likely that his teammate, Stephen Cooper, will be free, and while slightly older than Burnett, Cooper could still be a helpful piece for a 3-4 team looking for help on the inside.

5. Bradley. If he still wants to play in the middle, and if he can convince teams he's fully recovered from his knee surgery, Bradley could leave Philadelphia in free agency. Will be interesting to see if the Eagles commit to keeping him in the middle and if that helps convince him to stay.

Predictions that mean nothing: Giants sign Ruud after Tulloch's price goes too high for their liking. Redskins stand pat or move further down this list (Dhani Jones?) as they focus on greater needs in the secondary and along the line. Eagles keep Bradley and play Chaney on the outside to start the season.
We continue to take a position-by-position look at potential four-year unrestricted free agency and the way it could impact the offseason plans of the teams in the NFC East. We did cornerbacks and running backs Wednesday, and today we're taking a look at outside linebackers. The division's 3-4 defenses appear set at those spots with DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer in Dallas and Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan in Washington, so we'll focus on the 4-3 teams along the I-95 corridor. The pool has been diminished as teams have placed franchise designations on top players such as LaMarr Woodley, Chad Greenway and Kamerion Wimbley, but there are still options available for the Eagles and Giants to bolster weak spots.

NFC East teams in need

Giants: Linebacker is a muddy situation for the Giants. If they sign a middle linebacker, they could move Jonathan Goff to the outside and lessen their need there. And assuming they bring back Mathias Kiwanuka, who's been something of a Swiss army knife on the defense, they might be able to get by with Clint Sintim and Michael Boley at the starting outside linebacker spots. But neither Sintim nor Boley is a sure thing, and while the Giants have ignored this position over the past couple of years, they would do well to keep their minds open to the possibility of an upgrade.

Eagles: Either Jamar Chaney or Stewart Bradley will man the middle, with the other (assuming Bradley re-signs) taking one of the outside spots. But that doesn't mean the Eagles couldn't use more depth at this spot. They'll have a chance to get creative, perhaps signing a guy for the middle and using Chaney on the outside. But Chaney showed a lot in that middle linebacker spot last year and they'd do well to think about adding outside pieces around him.

Top five potential unrestricted free-agent outside linebackers:

[+] EnlargeCarolina's James Anderson
Chuck Cook/US PresswireCarolina's James Anderson is the top free-agent target among outside linebackers.
1. James Anderson. Had a very good year on the strong side for Carolina, which isn't likely to offer him much to stay. If the Giants were to get serious about the position (and if they didn't have so many other free agency issues at other positions), Anderson would be a great fix for their strong side linebacker void. Carolina teammate Thomas Davis is another name who could attract interest, but Davis is coming off an injury and might be more affordable for the Panthers to retain.

2. Manny Lawson. The 49ers could let him walk, and Lawson is a hyper-athletic, multi-purpose linebacker who can play the run and pressure the passer. His sack numbers haven't been great, but he grades out well as a disruptive force in backfields. Could be a great answer for the Eagles on the weak side.

3. Rocky McIntosh. He didn't like or fit into the Redskins' new 3-4 scheme last year, and he's likely better off playing the pass from the weak side in a 4-3. Also would be a helpful guy in Philadelphia, and he might could be had relatively cheap.

4. Stephen Nicholas. The Falcons would like to keep him, but he might have a hard time cracking the starting lineup in Atlanta, so if there's a team out there that could park him on the strong side and use him to solidify their run defense (i.e., the Giants), he could bolt for greener pastures and/or more green.

5. Clint Session. Played only five games for the Colts last year because of injury. Session is quick and small but replaceable in Indianapolis, so he's likely to be on the market for teams looking for depth and versatility in the linebacking corps.

Predictions that mean nothing: Eagles sign McIntosh. Giants continue to overlook the position, maybe pursue a middle linebacker such as Paul Posluszny so they can move either him or Jonathan Goff to the outside, depending on how things look in training camp.

NFC East links: Calling out Clint Sintim

April, 22, 2011
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Dallas Cowboys

Tight end Jason Witten defends Tony Romo, saying the quarterback is "really being a leader and taking this opportunity [to organize team workouts] to leave his stamp on our team."

While there has been a lot of talk of the Cowboys getting together to train as a team during the lockout, nothing has happened yet.

New York Giants

General manager Jerry Reese has his eyes on Clint Sintim as someone who can really help New York's defense. Reese: "I think he needs to grow up and play like a second-round player that we think he is and give us that value and step in there and show us that he can be a starter for us and play quality football for us."

Reese admitted that he's had to change his thinking entering the draft because of the lockout.

Philadelphia Eagles

Paul Domowitch says it's more likely the Eagles will trade down from their current first-round draft slot (No. 23) than trade up, which is something the team has made a habit of doing in recent years.

Troy Vincent will be the Eagles' representative to announce the team's second-round pick at next week's draft.

Washington Redskins

Quarterback John Beck is doing what he can to be "the guy" for Washington in 2011.

You think you have an idea who the Redskins are going to take with their first-round pick next week? Hold on a second.

Breaking down the LBs: Giants

April, 5, 2011
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Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson examines the linebackers of each NFC East team. Today: New York Giants.

I recently went into detail on my thoughts regarding the Giants’ linebacker corps in the NFC East Biggest Weakness series, but overall I see this group as a very middle-of-the road unit that could benefit a ton from the addition of a star player. But adding just another average player or mediocre starter doesn’t accomplish much for New York this offseason.

Jonathan Goff is easy to like and has come a long way. He could potentially play on the outside, but he has also proved to be a heck of a run-stopper in the middle. Michael Boley seems to have found his niche as a nickel linebacker and can struggle on running downs, which makes him a fine complement to Goff. But unfortunately, New York has had to play both of the field together too much of the time, which leaves one linebacker spot vulnerable versus the run or pass.

Free agent-to-be Keith Bulluck will most likely be elsewhere next season, but could have value at a discount price if the Giants bring him back. One wild card for the Giants is Clint Sintim. Sintim needs to stay healthy, but he has talent -- although his talent might be best suited at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme instead of the even front that New York employs. Phillip Dillard, a rookie last season, struggled on special teams and barely saw the field on defense. He is a true middle linebacker who looks like just a depth player at this early stage of his career.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

Giants' biggest weakness: Linebacker

March, 15, 2011
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Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson examines the biggest weakness of each NFC East team and offers some potential solutions.

[+] EnlargeMartez Wilson
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireIllinois linebacker Martez Wilson has the kind of versatility that would make him a good fit in the Giants' defensive scheme.
After a rich tradition at the position, the Giants have lacked star power at linebacker for some time now. If New York is to address its linebacking corps, I think they have to take the theory of going big -- with a real difference-maker -- or not bothering at all.

They could really use a game changer on the second level. Jonathan Goff was great versus the run, and Michael Boley played the pass quite well, but both players could potentially take their respective games up yet another level with a stud to round out the starting three. I had high hopes for Clint Sintim, but he hardly saw the field and then finished the season on injured reserve after a serious knee injury. Maybe there is still hope, though. Keith Bulluck is a free agent, and his time in the league is coming to an end. I consider Mathias Kiwanuka more defensive end than linebacker, but it seems unlikely that he will be re-signed. Goff is best in the middle and as a two-down player, but he could be effective outside as well if New York were to sign a free agent like Tennessee’s Stephen Tulloch or Buffalo’s Paul Posluszny. But adding an outside linebacker is the more logical move.

No one seems to be projecting it, but a sleeper first-round pick for the Giants could be Illinois’ Martez Wilson. Wilson could be exactly the type of versatile and dynamic guy New York needs. To me, Wilson best fits as a outside linebacker in the Giants’ scheme and could be moved all over the formation, including maybe putting his hand on the ground off the edge on throwing downs at times. His pass-rush ability is very intriguing. UCLA’s Akeem Ayers could be that type of player as well, but I wouldn’t take him unless the Giants were to trade down from their spot in Round 1. In the second round, North Carolina’s Bruce Carter could provide a major athletic upgrade on the outside.

The Giants could get by without a huge upgrade at linebacker, and it could be argued that the offensive line is the bigger weakness, but just imagine this defense if you added a real difference-maker to the second level.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

What's in Mosley's New Year's mailbag?

January, 1, 2011
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I know most of you are enjoying bowl games and family today, but let's take a quick peek at the pressing issues in the NFC East. And thanks for your patience last Saturday as the Mailbag observed Christmas:

Bobby from Dallas, what's on your mind? I am a faithful reader of yours and love your ability to see through smoke and mirrors of Jerry World. Given Jerry's history with the draft and his stated dislike for paying top-ten salaries, do you think he will trade down and pick up an extra first-round pick. If he did, I think this would be one of the smartest moves he has made in a while. We need some serious help in the secondary and on the O-line.

Mosley: Bobby, thanks for your commitment to the Beast blog. If the season ended today, the Cowboys would have the sixth pick in the draft. I think you're correct in saying that Jerry Jones wouldn't want to pay that type of money, but trading down isn't always an option. You have to be sitting on a player (quarterback) whom a team, say the Redskins, desperately wants. If the Cowboys can trade out of the top 10, then I think an offensive lineman would certainly be in the mix. But it's not like this organization needs to get enamored with one position in the draft. The Cowboys need help at safety, cornerback, defensive end, offensive line and special teams. This will be a draft where Jones is trying to accumulate additional picks, as he always does. But the trick is finding a team that is willing to move into the top 10. With a possible lockout on the horizon, teams will likely be more cautious than ever about the future. And that's why I think the Cowboys may have to remain at No. 6.


Constantine from London wants to talk Big Blue: Hi Matt. Religious reader of the blog, but from your view what has been wrong with my G-Men this year? We have a good team, upgraded well in the offseason, but for some reason we've just collapsed. From a neutral perspective, what have you seen? And as for the draft what players/positions should we start with first?

Mosley: Constantine, a lot of folks say that reading this blog is nearly a religious experience, so you're definitely onto something. I think the Giants were still in good shape until there were eight minutes left in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago. I thought this team had the leadership and character to bounce back against the Packers in Green Bay, but things didn't work out. When a team collapses at the end of the season, it's always easy to point to the head coach. But this feels a lot different than the '09 collapse. I still think the Giants have the makings of a formidable team. Regarding the draft, it's important for general manager Jerry Reese to keep identifying linebackers. Clint Sintim should be a starter by now, but he couldn't seize the opportunity. Keith Bulluck's a stop-gap player, so it's time to add more talent. I also think the Giants have to keep looking at cornerbacks in the draft. They've done a nice job of creating depth at the safety position, but I think they need to do the same thing at corner. It's not like this roster lacks for talent, but you can't be complacent. If rookie Jason Pierre-Paul can continue to improve, he'll be able to challenge Osi Umenyiora for a starting role in the near future. And New York needs to go ahead and make some decisions on the offensive line. I wouldn't trust Shawn Andrews enough to be a major part of the future, so you have to see who's ready to play left tackle. If that's Will Beatty, then it's time to move David Diehl to left guard full-time. I think drafting another offensive tackle needs to be a priority as well as a tight end to play opposite Kevin Boss. The Giants have had to get by with Bear Pascoe this season as a tight end/fullback. I know they've had a lot of injuries at tight end, but that's one of the reasons it's time to draft an additional player at that position.


Mark B. is stationed in Korea and he has a message for Jerry Jones: I know you have a red phone direct line to Jerry Jones, so please give him a tremendous Thanks! from personnel stationed in Korea for sending the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders here. It was a great morale boost for our young troops and my young daughters loved the clinic and show. Happy New Year to you and your family. Love the blog and your stories.

Mosley: Mark, I owe Jones a call on the red phone this very afternoon, so I'll pass along that message. The Cowboys Cheerleaders have reportedly had a much more successful season than the team they support. Happy New Year to the men and women all over the world who are serving our country in the military.


Bucky from Georgia has an Eagles trade proposal: Matt, last offseason when the Eagles were listening to trade offers for Donovan McNabb, I heard a lot of rumors that the Oakland Raiders were offering the Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Do you think the Eagles could trade Kevin Kolb this offseason for Nnamdi? The Raiders will get a young franchise quaterback and the Eagles will fill the biggest hole on their defense and have the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. Sounds like a win-win, right?

Mosley: I'm a Asomugha fan from way back, but I don't think Eagles general manager Howie Roseman wants to take on the cornerback's contract. He signed a three-year contract worth $45.3 million in Feb. 2009, so the Eagles would be on the hook for the final season of that deal. The Eagles believe they can possibly land a first-round draft choice for Kolb based on his pedigree and the way he's performed in a handful of starts. And given how desperate teams such as the Vikings and Cardinals need a quarterback, the Eagles may find a trading partner. The Eagles certainly respect Asomugha as a player, but they're not going to take on that contract.


Andy from Manhattan Beach thinks we've overlooked Santana Moss: Hey Matt, I was reading your Pro Bowl analysis and was wondering if we could talk about Santana Moss for a minute or two. While he doesn't have the monster TDs (6) or the most yards (10th statistically for 1041 yards), his yards after the catch are crazy (438)! Considering that he is basically the only wide receiver on a Redskins team in desperate need of players at skill positions, don't you think we could at least give him a pat on the back?

Mosley: I didn't put Moss in my "was robbed" category in the Pro Bowl analysis, but he has had a solid season considering the circumstances. I've long admired the way Moss continues to play at a high level even when his quarterback or team is struggling. Moss told me during training camp that '09 may have been his best season in the NFL despite his numbers being down. He's a wide receiver who always puts winning above any personal stats or accolades. And that's why I just gave him a "pat on the back."

Happy New Year to everyone who stopped down to read this mailbag!

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