NFC East: Cory Procter
ESPN.com New York Giants reporter Dan Graziano makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: at Detroit Lions
The Giants are coming off a mess of a preseason, undermanned and overwhelmed, with the offensive line still a mess and the new offense not clicking at all. No one will pick them to win this game. Except me. Prediction: Win
Week 2: Arizona Cardinals
This one's a comedown off the Week 1 surprise, as Arizona's banged-up defense still manages to flummox Eli Manning and collect a few interceptions. It's a bummer of a home opener as reality begins to set in. Prediction: Loss
Week 3: Houston Texans
Houston's defense is as liable as Arizona's to make life miserable for Manning and the offensive line. But Houston has bigger questions on offense than even the Giants, and this is a win for the New York defense against Ryan Fitzpatrick. Prediction: Win
Week 4: at Washington Redskins
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
The pattern continues, and the Giants overcome two Osi Umenyiora sacks to outscore the Falcons with a furious Manning comeback in the final minutes. The Giants poke their heads over the .500 mark as they make the turn into the most brutal stretch of their schedule. Prediction: Win
Week 6: at Philadelphia Eagles
The Giants don't have Matt Barkley to kick around this time when they visit the City of Brotherly Love. Chip Kelly and the Eagles show them what a truly innovative offense looks like. Prediction: Loss
Week 7: at Dallas Cowboys
The season-long debate about what gives when an anemic Giants offense meets a pathetic Cowboys defense tilts in Dallas' favor in the first meeting. Tony Romo & Co. have more than enough weapons to outscore Manning and his bunch, and the Giants hit the bye with a 3-4 record. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Indianapolis Colts
After a long break before the Monday night home game, the Giants get taken apart by Andrew Luck, Hakeem Nicks & Co. at MetLife Stadium for a third straight loss. The offense is starting to run more smoothly, but it still doesn't have enough playmakers to outscore one of the league's better offenses. Prediction: Loss
Week 10: at Seattle Seahawks
You're kidding, right? Prediction: Loss
Week 11: San Francisco 49ers
The Giants have obviously handled the Niners in recent years and in some high-profile situations. But by this point in the season, San Francisco's defense is back to full strength, and the 49ers can't afford to lose ground to the Seahawks by failing to beat the team Seattle just beat the week before. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: Dallas Cowboys
A sixth straight loss is by no means out of the question here, as Romo and his crew still have the potential to outscore anyone in a given week. But from this far out, I'll forecast that something goes wrong for Romo late in this game, and the Giants get a gift. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at Jacksonville Jaguars
This is where the schedule starts to soften up, when the Giants start playing teams that insist on not starting their best quarterback. It's unfortunate they're 4-7 at this point and just about out of the playoff hunt, but they will get it going against the bottom-feeders. Prediction: Win
Week 14: at Tennessee Titans
I think the Titans are going to be dreadful this year, and by December they won't be very difficult for anyone to beat, even at home. A third straight victory keeps the Giants' hopes alive. Prediction: Win
Week 15: Washington Redskins
Have to be honest: The NFC East is so unpredictable that, when doing these predictions, I just decided to give the Giants a 3-3 division record with victories in all three home games and losses in all three road games. It's as fair a way as any to do it, I believe. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at St. Louis Rams
After moving back to .500 with four straight wins, the season falls apart at the hands of the St. Louis pass rush. An offensive line that has once again been the Giants' biggest problem all year can't protect Manning in a must-win game. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: Philadelphia Eagles
Tom Coughlin's teams can always find a way to play for pride. The Giants' playoff hopes are extinguished, but they still manage to end the season on a high note and with a .500 record. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 8-8
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.
PHILADELPHIA -- Cowboys Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode missed most of that last series with an injury and was replaced by Cory Procter. When Tony Romo and Procter started practicing the snap exchange, the ball ended up on the ground once, causing the crowd to mock them.
We'll keep you posted on Gurode. That would be a serious problem if he can't return. The Eagles are strong up the middle with Brod Bunkley and Mike Patterson. And there's a good chance the ball ends up on the ground at some point. I don't why the Eagles keep putting LeSean McCoy in situations where he's blocking DeMarcus Ware. Also, Donovan McNabb has to get rid of that ball sooner on the screen pass.
Here's what I'm seeing on DeSean Jackson. The Cowboys have Terence Newman on him at the line of scrimmage and then Sensabaugh's taking him over the top. At least that's what I've seen the last couple plays. McCoy has a nice burst. The Cowboys took Newman off the field for one play to give him a quick breather. Scary for the Cowboys that Sensabaugh's spending time on the sideline.
Eagles left tackle Jason Peters (ankle) has returned to the game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
The Cowboys closed out the preseason Friday with a heart-stopping 35-31 victory over the Vikings. OK, maybe no one's heart stopped, but there were some fairly interesting things to discuss following the game. Some players sealed roster spots. Others simply confirmed their tickets out of Dallas. Now let's take a look at my Cowboys-Vikings observations. And yes, I'm absolutely thrilled to be writing my final commentary on a preseason game.
- Second-year tight end Martellus Bennett was the offensive star of this game. He led the team in receiving during the preseason and he added three more catches for 51 yards in the first quarter. At 6-6, he offers Tony Romo and Jon Kitna a big strike zone. And he's very graceful in making catches. On his 31-yard catch on the opening drive, he positioned his body perfectly to shield the ball from the safety. Witten and Bennett have to be considered the top tight end duo in the NFC (and maybe the entire league) heading into the season. I also liked how Bennett sold that he was blocking down on the Kitna waggle, and then he bolted out to the right to provide an easy target. Bennett's poised for a breakout season -- and one Dallas columnist flew all the way to Minneapolis to chart his progress.
- Kevin Ogletree, welcome to the 53-man roster. Not that I had any doubt heading into this game, but the free-agent rookie out of Virginia validated all the praise he's received in the preseason with a nice catch on third down and a 5-yard touchdown on the Cowboys' first drive. He's a smooth route runner who has a knack for getting wide open in the end zone. When the Vikings busted coverage, Ogletree came racing across the back of the end zone for the touchdown.
- Some people will say that Ogletree took Isaiah Stanback's spot on the roster. But even if Ogletree hadn't flashed, Stanback needed to go. He finished with one catch in the preseason -- and he fumbled that one. He started against the Vikings on Friday, but I don't think Jon Kitna ever looked his way. Stanback also muffed a couple of kickoff returns. He's obviously an excellent athlete, but it really doesn't translate to anything on the field. I'd be shocked if he's not one of the cuts Saturday.
- Why can't Jon Kitna take a snap from center? We've been over this before. Kitna and Cory Procter had problems, so the Cowboys tried another center (Duke Preston) Friday. This time, Kitna left the snap on the ground and the Vikings recovered. Kitna still has a live arm, but he has to figure out what's going on with the snaps. It's almost like a mental thing at this point. By my count, Kitna has been involved in at least four botched snaps. You don't want to overreact to anything that happens in the preseason, but it certainly has to be something the Cowboys are concerned about.
- Oops, someone forgot to tell Steve Octavien he wasn't supposed to make the team. The former Cornhusker looks small (6-0, 238) when he lines up at outside linebacker, but he has a knack for getting to the quarterback. He and fellow rookie Victor Butler could be called upon to give DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer a rest at some point. If that happens, I really like Octavien's chances. He has really good instincts and his quickness was giving the Vikings' reserve left tackle fits.
- Patrick Watkins isn't going anywhere. I thought the former Florida State player was on his way out early in camp. But on Friday, he was Cowboys' best defensive player on the field. Wasn't even close. He finished with seven tackles, a blocked field goal and an interception return for a touchdown. He had the best first half of his career, and then he backed it up in the third quarter. At 6-5, you always thought Watkins could cause problems for wide receivers. But he's only started showing that recently. With Friday's performance, there's no way you can keep him off the 53-man roster.
- The reserve offensive linemen seem to be penalized at the worst-possible moments. A promising drive in the first quarter was interrupted by a Doug Free holding penalty. The play nullified a first-down run for Tashard Choice. On another play in the first half, Pat McQuistan tackled a defender right in front of the officials. Easiest call of the game. That wiped out a nifty run by Tashard Choice -- and it was so unnecessary. McQuistan was completely out of the play. It's maddening watching these two guys. The first time Kitna was stripped, it was because McQuistan hesitated for a moment to look inside and then let a Vikings defensive end beat him to the outside on a speed rush.
- Wade Phillips had to enjoy watching backup nose tackle Junior Siavii blow a third-and-short play for the Vikings late in the first quarter. Siavii held his own for most of the game. Nothing flashy, but he clogs up the middle. Completely different style than starter Jay Ratliff, who uses his speed and quickness.
- It's way too late, but we finally had a Manny Johnson sighting. The former Sooner was taken by the Cowboys in the seventh round, but Johnson never made much of an impression during training camp. He made a nice grab along the sideline for 11 yards. And he also showed his speed on special teams. He might be a good practice squad candidate.
- Is it just me or was Bobby Carpenter really unimpressive in the first half? I try to watch Carpenter on running plays and he's always getting pushed at least five yards backwards. He's still not aggressive enough in taking on blockers and I wouldn't trust him to play an entire game -- if something happens to one of the starting inside linebackers. He simply gets caught inside way too much. The Vikings had a long touchdown drive in the first half and I thought Carpenter was exposed in a big way. It was like the Cowboys wanted no part of Vikings reserve running back Ian Johnson.
- Still too early to panic about the special teams? Joe DeCamillis' unit allowed a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown. But in DeCamillis' defense, Jesse Holley and Scott Chandler were in great position to make a tackle. Obviously things didn't work out. This is happening way too much. Sort of similar to last season's unit, but I think the Cowboys will get it turned around early in the regular season. It's not like the special teams had any continuity in a game like that.
- We saw good Mike Mickens and bad Mike Mickens on Friday. It's obvious the seventh-rounder out of Cincinnati is talented, but he's taking too many chances. What he has to learn is that going for an interception and missing can end up costing you about 50 yards. But on the next play after he allowed a big gain, he came back and broke up a pass. I think he'll be a good player eventually. Way too early to count on him at this point.
- I almost forgot Watkins' play near the goal line. He recovered nicely to tackle Sage Rosenfels for a loss when the Vikings went for it on fourth down. Watkins bit on the original play, but he quickly made up the ground and dragged Rosenfels down. Outstanding play.
- I think rookie tight end John Phillips has a little something. He did a great job of competing for the ball on the Hail Mary at the end of the first half. That play didn't lead to anything, but it was nice to see that he had a little explosiveness.
- Who were you guys impressed with? Let me hear from you. And remember that we'll have full cut-down day coverage beginning at 6 p.m. ET. Thanks for joining us.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
The Cowboys' starters had a 10-3 lead over the 49ers' starters at halftime, but the reserves weren't able to protect the lead. The 20-13 loss to San Francisco didn't really matter, although a local TV station in Dallas led its newscast with the following words: "The Cowboys' preseason winning streak in their new stadium is over."
Hey, it was good while it lasted. Since the game wasn't televised nationally, I'll try to give you a little more analysis than usual. You'll be relieved to know that neither punter banged a punt off the 90-foot-high video board during Saturday's preseason game. San Francisco punter Andy Lee made contact with the board before the game, but he admitted that he was trying to hit a moon shot.
Now that the dream of a perfect (home) preseason is over, let's take a look at what happened against the 49ers:
I think Kevin Ogletree, a rookie free-agent receiver out of Virginia, deserves the lead note. I don't think many people gave Ogletree a chance to make the team heading into training camp, but he kept making plays in practice. And unlike a lot of rookies, he was able to take those solid plays into the preseason games. During the Cowboys' first possession of the game, Ogletree used excellent body control coming out of his break to get some separation from Pro Bowl cornerback Nate Clements. And on the same drive, he ran a crossing route before catching a perfectly thrown ball from Tony Romo. There's no way you can keep the guy off the roster. Right now, he's running better routes than some of the more experienced wide receivers such as Miles Austin -- and Romo's looking for him a lot. In Washington, there's Marko Mitchell. In Dallas, it's Ogletree. Isaiah Stanback had a fumble in Saturday's game and he doesn't look as smooth as Ogletree. I'd be shocked if Stanback makes the final roster.
Why is everyone in the '09 draft class getting injured? Offensive tackle Robert Brewster and linebacker Brandon Williams are already out for the season. And on Saturday, rookie safety Michael Hamlin suffered a broken right wrist and linebacker Jason Williams had to leave the game with a sprained ankle. The Cowboys expect Hamlin to miss six weeks. The coaching staff loved Hamlin's ball skills and he catches the ball like a wide receiver. At this rate, the Cowboys will have a special-teams unit comprised mostly of starters at some point.
If Cory Procter wants to make this team, he has to find a way to successfully snap the ball to Jon Kitna. I'm not sure what the problem is with these two, but it's been happening since early in camp. On Saturday, a botched snap ended what had been a promising Cowboys drive. Kitna's not going anywhere, so it's up to Procter to figure out the problem. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett doesn't show a lot of emotion on the sideline, but you could tell he was upset with the play.
Courtney Brown's trying to learn how to play cornerback on the fly -- and it's not working out so well. That was a really bad pass interference when he basically face-guarded Jason Hill and then made some contact. That's one of the main plays that helped the 49ers win the game. I realize there's a learning curve for learing a new position, but Brown's running out of time.
That was Leonard Davis getting flagged for the holding penalty on Nick Folk's 49-yard field goal. You can't let that happen in the regular season. I didn't get to see a replay of what Davis did, but you have to be doing quite a bit to get noticed during a field goal attempt.
Defensive end Jason Hatcher must've been reading our blog. I basically said that Hatcher had been non-existent for much of the preseason. But he played a lot better Saturday. I saw him beat Alex Boone for a sack. I'm not familiar with Boone's body of work, but I know that Hatcher overwhelmed him at the line of scrimmage.
Also in the bad, bad penalty category was rookie DeAngelo Smith's horse collar tackle. I realize it's hard to bring someone down from behind without grabbing for their shoulder pads, but Smith will have to figure it out. Watching him in that No. 31 jersey reminded me of the man who inspired the horse collar penalty, Cincinnati Bengals safety Roy Williams.
Jay Ratliff is one of the quickest interior linemen in the league. On one play, 49ers guard Chilo Rachal didn't know what to do with Ratliff as he raced past him. Inside linebacker Bradie James and Ratliff teamed up to put consistent pressure on 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill. Wade Phillips is going to have a difficult time taking Ratliff off the field, but he needs to keep him fresh. I do not like the Cowboys' depth behind Ratliff at all.
That was very generous of the announcers on our local CBS affiliate to say that an upset stomach may have led to a Martellus Bennett drop. I don't think Bennett needs any apologists. He's extremely confident, but he does need to hold onto the ball. His drop in the first half was unacceptable. Everyone's going to drop the ball, but I didn't like how lethargic Bennett looked during Saturday's game.
I thought the Cowboys' first-team defense did an excellent job against the 49ers' version of the Wildcat fo
rmation. At times, defensive end Marcus Spears doesn't get off the ball quickly enough. But he did a really nice job of stuffing the run up the middle out of the Wildcat. Very heady player.
Late in the first quarter, I hear local TV anchor and former Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg say that Romo's still "very early in his career" and that he's close to becoming a "really, really elite guy." On the next play, Romo fired an ill-advised pass that was easily picked off by safety Mark Roman. The Cowboys quarterback admitted after the game that he should've taken the sack and lived to see another down. Romo's doing a much better job of protecting the football in the pocket, but he still has to watch his throws. He gets careless with the ball -- and he could've been picked off by Dre' Bly on another play. And when is it OK to stop using the "he's early in his career" defense of Romo? He's been the starter since taking over for Drew Bledsoe six games into the '06 season. Now it's '09 and Romo's pushing 30. He can't play the "inexperienced" card any longer.
I think Keith Brooking's going to be a better fit than Zach Thomas in this defense. Brooking appears to be more physical than Thomas and he's putting some heat on the quarterback. The combination of James and Brooking at the inside backer spots already looks good.
Austin is too talented to remain in the shadows. I've been concerned about the lack of production Austin's had in the preseason. I love the way he blocks in the running game, but he has to get back to being a deep threat. Austin should've had the catch on the sideline in the first half. And later, he stumbled during a route, which nearly caused an interception. Austin bounced back and made a nifty catch on a ball thrown behind him. He needs to do more of that.
How dynamic is Felix Jones? I think he's on the verge of becoming one of the most elusive running backs in the league. He almost broke a 94-yard touchdown in the first half. He eluded a defender at the line of scrimmage and then he froze another player before darting into a clearing. (Shades of Tony D. in Minneapolis). The safety made a shoestring tackle on Jones, but it was still an exciting run. He's one of those rare players who can make a run of any distance seem entertaining.
In a halftime interview on local TV, Stephen Jones said the Cowboys would be looking for reinforcements at linebacker. They could wait until next Saturday and see who gets cut. Or they could try to make a trade this week. The Cowboys need someone who can rush the passer and I'm not sure if their latest addition, Tearrius George, is up to the task.
When he's healthy, Terence Newman's still an elite corner. He made an excellent play on the ball when the 49ers tried to go to Josh Morgan in the first half. And his 43-yard punt return had to please Jerry Jones. The owner's been looking for a dynamic return man for years. Maybe Newman's a guy who can return a couple punts per game.
Jason Witten is the best tight end in football right now. End of discussion. He's an excellent route runner, but the part of the game that has steadily improved is his blocking. He buried a 49ers defensive end on a fourth-and-1 play in the first half. Witten's just really smart with how he sets up his blocks. He engaged with the defensive end for a split second and then he turned him inside and shoved him to the ground. Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo also had nice blocks, but it was Witten who sealed off the player with the best chance to make a play.
I still don't think Doug Free's ready to start at left tackle in a pinch, but he has looked a lot better. And by the way, kudos to Davis for a pancake block on a running play in the first half. He cleared the way for a Felix Jones touchdown run. With Free, you can see that's he's improved a lot with his footwork -- and he's pretty aggressive. I just don't know if he's ready to go one-on-one with Osi Umenyiora or Justin Tuck. And throw in Trent Cole while we're at it.
It was interesting to see Marion Barber do all the legwork on the Cowboys' touchdown drive and then get replaced by Jones near the goal line. Jones looks more and more like a featured back to me every day. He just doesn't have a weakness. I was impressed with how he lowered his shoulder and banged his way into the end zone.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
SAN ANTONIO -- The second day of Cowboys training camp was much more physical. Running back Marion Barber punished anyone who tried to take him on and a rookie linebacker by the name of Victor Butler was all over the field. I'm prepared to touch on some of the position battles and other things that are going on inside the Alamodome, home to the poorest lighting in sports.
- I've been as impressed with second-year running back Tashard Choice as anyone in camp. Running backs coach Skip Peete told me Wednesday that Choice was one of the most complete backs in the nation when he was at Georgia Tech, but there were questions about his speed. On Thursday, he used his acceleration to race away from linebackers and safeties. If I had to pick a player who's performed the best after three practices, I'd have to go with Choice. After talking to Peete for a while, I think Choice is a guy who could play three or four series per game -- especially if he gets hot.
|AP Photo/Eric Gay|
|Marion Barber and the other Cowboys running backs have looked dangerous early on in camp.|
- Marion Barber appears to be lighter, in part, because he actually dropped five pounds. He's still administering punishment to linebackers, but he appears to have a little more wiggle than I recall at this point in camp. If you're wanting to get excited about something, let me suggest this team's three running backs. Felix Jones is showing that he could have a big impact in the passing game. He didn't catch the ball a lot at Arkansas, but he has pretty good hands from what I've gathered. For those of you who keep asking, I haven't seen any Wildcat formation plays to this point in camp.
- I want to see more of Victor Butler, the fourth-round player out of Oregon State. He had 12 sacks his senior season at Oregon State, and he was all over the Cowboys' quarterbacks in Thursday's morning practice. He appears to be pretty quick off the edge and he actually showed some nice versatility in dropping back in coverage to make plays. In the morning practice, Butler was the guy constantly catching my eye.
- After observing three practices, I'm convinced the Cowboys could be in big trouble if any of their offensive linemen go down with injury. Pat McQuistan looked completely helpless through much of Thursday's practices. And the worst part is that he got worse with each rep. He freaked out when DeMarcus Ware lined up over him and had a false start. Doug Free, a former third-round pick, looked a little better in the one-on-one drills I watched, but he's not ready to step in for left tackle Flozell Adams if something happens. Cory Procter's a guy that can get you through a couple of games at center or guard, but he needs to stay in that role. This team has done a very poor job of drafting and developing offensive linemen. They took Andre Gurode out of Colorado in the second round in 2002. They've been striking out ever since.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
In case you somehow missed it, three Cowboys offensive linemen formed a heavy metal band called Free Reign about a year ago, and they've now signed a recording contract with Riot Entertainment.
Former Bears first-round pick and starting right tackle Marc Colombo is the lead singer-rhytm guitarist, guard Leonard Davis plays the bass guitar and guard Cory Procter's on drums. A childhood friend of Davis', Justin Chapman, recently joined the band as the lead guitarist.
Davis' wife gave him a bass guitar and an amp soon after they were married. The guitar sat in a closet in his Chandler, Ariz., home for a couple of years until he decided to give it a try in March '08. Three guitars later, Davis appears to be on the right track.
Davis was kind enough to join us on Dallas-Fort Worth's 103.3 ESPN "Galloway and Company" show Wednesday. Here's the exclusive audio.
And for those of you who freak out every time I write about something non-football related, we also talked to Davis about the '09 season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Trimming the Cowboys' roster to 53 in late May seems like a silly exercise -- but that didn't stop DallasNews.com's senior blogger Tim MacMahon. Take a look at what MacMahon came up with, and see how it matches up with your final 53. Oh wait, you haven't done yours yet?
MacMahon's list looks pretty solid to me. He has 11 of the club's 12 draft picks being on the final roster. I'm not sure what that says about the Cowboys. In my mind, it means that Wade Phillips has finally admitted that it's hard to win with poor play on special teams. That was his undoing in Buffalo (firing Bruce DeHaven), and we'll see if he's waited too late in Dallas.
I think fifth-round safeties Michael Hamlin and DeAngelo Smith have made excellent first impressions with the coaching staff. Safeties coach Brett Maxie told me Tuesday that Hamlin is soaking up information quicker than most rookies he's coached. And both players have good ball skills, something this team has been missing in recent years.
MacMahon has Isaiah Stanback making the team, but I don't think that will happen. He might be intriguing as a Wildcat quarterback, but he can't stay on the field because of injuries. Former Sooner Travis Wilson will have a shot at being the fifth receiver. I think Manuel Johnson and Kevin Ogletree could be good practice squad candidates.
And the depth along the offensive line is so uninspiring. Cory Procter or Montrae Holland can get you through some games at guard, but after that it's a crapshoot. Doug Free should give thanks each day that the club hasn't been able to develop another young lineman to force him off the roster. The Cowboys have done a lot of things right in the draft. Drafting talented offensive linemen isn't one of them. Maybe Robert Brewster out of Ball State will change that, but I have my doubts.
Do you guys see any major/minor surprises happening during the trimming process? Have fun churning the bottom of the roster. No one loves that phrase more than Bill Parcells. Never thought I'd miss him, but ...
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Cool story in Sunday's Dallas Morning News about Cowboys guard Cory Procter's friendship with a disabled Iowa farmer. Having known Procter for the past four years, it didn't surprise me that he would go out of his way to inspire someone.
And he also finds time to sing in a heavy metal band with two other Cowboys. Here's a recent review of "Bam Bam" Procter's band.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
- If you're trying to determine who the Cowboys will select at No. 51, I'd memorize the names on this list from Todd Archer. And the tight end from Rice, James Casey, is a guy the Cowboys' personnel department loves. It's just that the team's sort of stacked at that position right now.
- The Cowboys re-signed guard/center Cory Procter on Thursday.
- Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis and the immortal Cory Procter are in a heavy metal band called Free Reign. Who knew?
- Former Cowboys nose tackle arrested on drug charges.
- Archer makes the argument that Tony Romo's better than Jay Cutler. And I wouldn't argue.
- The Cowboys and Rangers have agreed to share parking spots.
- Les Bowen of the Daily News shares his thoughts on Bama offensive tackle Andre Smith.
- Rich Hofmann has an interesting theory on how the Phillies' World Series title has caused Eagles fans to become even more demanding.
- Sounds like Brian Dawkins isn't having a tough time making the transition to Denver.
- Kellen Winslow Jr. says Braylon Edwards would fit the Giants to a "T."
- Tom Rock of Newsday has more on Edwards.
- Mark Maske said not trying (and not getting) Jay Cutler could be "ruinous" to the Redskins organization. Uh-oh.
- Let the healing process begin in Washington.
- Excellent column by Michael Wilbon talking about how the Redskins always covet other teams' players.
- Dan Daly says the Bears saved the Redskins from themselves.
- David Elfin of the Washington Times says the Redskins have to regroup now.
- So where do the Redskins go from here? Jason LaCanfora of Redskins Insider fame has the answer.
Witten has been taking pain-killing injections for broken ribs before every game, but Clements appeared to hit him underneath the chin. Clements wasn't flagged for the penalty. He led with his shoulder, and it looked like a clean play.
In other injury news, rookie cornerback Mike Jenkins has left the game with a right hamstring injury and will not return. Cory Procter has replaced Kyle Kosier at left guard, but Kosier appears to be fine.
The 49ers just made it 32-16, but this game's been over for a long time.
IRVING, Texas -- I just returned to the Texas Stadium press box after spending a few minutes on the field with Redskins executive director of football operations Vinny Cerrato, who was a couple of steps away from owner Daniel Snyder. Cerrato told me today's outcome would all come down to how the offensive lines perform.
The Redskins will be without starting right tackle Stephon Heyer, which could mean a big day for Cowboys defensive end Greg Ellis. For the Cowboys, Cory Procter will replace starter Kyle Kosier for the third game this season.
Cerrato, who has a new weekly radio show on ESPN 980 in Washington, said the Redskins were well aware that a couple of Cowboys players had talked about how Jason Campbell "locks onto" receivers. That may have been the bulletin board material the Redskins have been looking for. And honestly, when did the threshold for trash talk get so low?
We're getting ready for introductions here in a few moments.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Now that we're three weeks into the season, some of you are starting to feel some anxiety about your teams. In some precincts (not in ours), fans are experiencing full-blown panic attacks.
Those poor Patriots were stunned by an ol' SEC trick that Dolphins quarterbacks coach David Lee had in his hip pocket. And Jets fans can't believe the Brett Favre honeymoon phase already has ended.
Teams in the NFC East have a combined 10-2 record. The word "panic" seems a little strong at this point, so we'll focus on potential "concerns."
The New York Giants (3-0) woke up with some concerns this morning. For reasons that we've yet to hear, star receiver Plaxico Burress decided to skip team meetings Monday. He also didn't pick up the phone when GM Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin started calling. He's now been suspended for the Oct. 5 game against the Seahawks.
This is no time to panic, but it's not a good sign when your top receiver decides to flake out. We'll continue to monitor the situation throughout the afternoon.
In Philly, it looks like running back Brian Westbrook will miss Sunday's game in Chicago with an ankle injury. Correll Buckhalter and Lorenzo Booker should do an adequate job filling in, so I don't advise anyone to push the panic button.
The Cowboys are once again missing starting left guard Kyle Kosier, but Cory Procter will do a nice job filling in. The Redskins will be without defensive end Jason Taylor against the Cowboys. You'd love to have your top pass rusher against a guy like Tony Romo, but based on Taylor's play so far this season, this isn't anything to get worked up about.
As I stated recently in a column, this the best division in football. Let's wait a week or two before anyone panics.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said moments ago that starting left guard Kyle Kosier re-aggravated an injury to his left foot late in Sunday night's game against the Packers and will be out for two to three more weeks. Kosier injured the foot last month, and last night was his first game back.
The injury occurred on the Cowboys' final drive -- after the outcome had already been decided. Cory Procter, who started the first two games of the season, will replace Kosier. Quite honestly, the Cowboys don't lose that much with Procter in the starting lineup.
Phillips didn't say anything about safety Pat Watkins, who left the game with a right shoulder injury and then played sparingly in the second half. Watkins, who replaced the injured Roy Williams, appeared to be in a significant amount of pain in the post-game locker room.
"He's a brute," Phillips said of Barber. "He's a force out there. I thought last year, he was [effective] because he was alternating, and he was fresh and strong at the end of the game. But I was wrong. He was fresh and strong at the end last night... He demoralizes the other team in a lot of ways."
Phillips also went out of his way to praise T.O. for chasing down Packers safety Nick Collins from behind after his 61-yard interception return.
IRVING, Texas -- I'm not believing this: Eagles rookie DeSean Jackson catches a long pass for what would have been a touchdown, but decided to celebrate after 59 yards, short of the end zone. It was an unbelievable play. Eagles got the ball on the 1-yard line because the play was blown dead.
Jackson is now credited with a 60-yard catch. One play later, Brian Westbrook flipped into the end zone. Something tells me that Andy Reid will have a long talk with Jackson about that play. It was one of the most careless things I've ever seen. Cowboys fans couldn't have been too shocked, though. No one will ever forget the Leon Lett fumble.
At this rate, the first team to 50 points wins.