NFC East: Darius Reynaud

And a good morning to you all. Lovely one here in northern New Jersey as I head back to Giants camp for another day of interviews there. When I arrive, I expect to find the team ... looking pretty much the same as it did Wednesday.

Yeah, Steve Smith left to sign with the Eagles. No, that's not a good thing for the Giants, who'd hoped to re-sign him. But they were already preparing for life without him, since they didn't expect him to return from his knee injury and contribute right away. It's a tough break for the Giants, who haven't had a very successful free-agency period. It's another score for the Eagles, who have had the most successful one of any team in the league. But I think it's easy to lose sight of the fact that not every team has to kill it in free agency in order to be a good team.

I get called out here very often for being only negative/never positive about the Giants. This criticism is unfair and inaccurate, of course, and I fully expect this missive to be forgotten the next time a Giants fan wants to get on me for writing something about the team that isn't 100 percent positive. But the Giants, remember, won 10 games last year. Their starting lineup is loaded with very good players on offense and defense. Eli Manning is a top-10 quarterback, Hakeem Nicks is emerging as a top young receiver and they remain stacked in the running game. The defensive line, led by Justin Tuck, is also deep and talented, and the starting secondary looks stellar in practice. If they keep their key guys healthy, the fact that they couldn't get anything done in free agency shouldn't stop them from being a playoff contender.

Are there concerns? Of course there are. There are unknowns at tight end, and No. 3 receiver, and left tackle and linebacker. There's little depth behind that starting secondary and in other key spots on the roster. It's entirely possible that the cap concerns that cost them Smith, Kevin Boss, Plaxico Burress and anyone else they were hoping to get rise up and hurt them at some point in the season.

But that's not what's guaranteed to happen. The Giants believe in grooming and developing their own players. And if they've done a good job of grooming William Beatty, Jason Pierre-Paul, Travis Beckum, Linval Joseph, Domenik Hixon and guys like that, then that'll mean they didn't have as much work to do in free agency in the first place. It's a lot to count on, but that's where the Giants are right now. Some of the young guys who've been working their way toward starter's roles have to be ready to take them on. If they're not, the Giants could have problems. But if they are, there are enough established good players on the team to shake off an unsuccessful summer and still have a successful autumn.

More Giants

Ralph Vacchiano continues to believe that Osi Umenyiora's visit to a knee specialist today portends an end to his contract dispute with the Giants. Ralph could be right, but as he points out, there's a chance the specialist backs up Umenyiora's claims of a knee injury, in which case the stalemate continues and things get uglier before they get better. Umenyiora is without a leg to stand on in this dispute, and it's possible he has come (or is coming) to the realization that it's time to let it go and get back on the field. But we'll see what the doctor says.

There is opportunity in the Giants' receiving corps right now, and Darius Reynaud had the best practice of anyone Wednesday. Mike Garafolo spoke with Reynaud about what drives him. (I mean what drives Reynaud, not Garafolo. It's rage that drives Garafolo. Pure rage. And coffee.)

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have a game tonight! A preseason opener against the Broncos. Expect the rookies on the offensive line to get more snaps than the rest of the starters, and expect David Buehler and Dan Bailey to alternate kick attempts as Jason Garrett works to sort out that sticky-but-important issue.

And while several key players will miss the game with injuries, it sounds as if the Cowboys expect to get Jay Ratliff, Mike Jenkins, Andre Gurode, Keith Brooking, Tashard Choice and DeMarco Murray back when they resume practice Saturday in Dallas. Terence Newman is the only one of the critical injuries that seems long-term at the moment, as he's out through the preseason at the very least.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have a game tonight! That's right, after all of this they still have to play. All eyes will be on the starting cornerbacks, at least while the starters are in the game. Paul Domowitch writes that the Eagles would do best to keep all three of the trio of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and to use Asomugha in the slot while all three are on the field. Based on the conversations I had while in Eagles camp last week, it sounds as though Paul will get his wish.

As for the Philly side of the Steve Smith signing, Jeff McLane writes that it had nothing to do with the health of Jeremy Maclin, who still hasn't practiced or said why not. And I'm sure Jeff's sources are telling him the truth. But the fact is, whether it was part of their motivation or not, having Smith on the roster will, once he's healthy, give the team some coverage if Maclin does have any health issues. It also will give them some increased leverage in their contract talks with DeSean Jackson -- or coverage if they can't come to an agreement with him and he walks after the season. Depth is good and useful for many reasons, and the Eagles clearly have a great deal of depth right now -- at receiver and elsewhere.

Washington Redskins

One of the places where the Redskins have a little depth is at tight end, which is good, because this Chris Cooley knee injury is starting to sound like a serious concern. Cooley won't play Friday night, and it sounds as though quarterback John Beck's groin injury will keep that particular rocket from launching right away as well. So you'll see Rex Grossman throwing to Fred Davis. Among others.

I wrote about this a week or so ago and people were aghast, but yes, there is a chance that the Redskins don't start first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan at outside linebacker in the first week of the season. Why? Well, in case he's not ready, simple as that. They do still have Lorenzo Alexander, who played the position last year and can handle it while Kerrigan gets up to speed. They're deep at linebacker as well as tight end. So it would make more sense to take advantage of that, than to rush a kid who might not yet be ready, right?

Anyway, going to be a long day, folks. Final camp interviews at Giants include, I am told, some head-coach time with Tom Coughlin. Got a column running this afternoon on new Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and the nutty way he carries himself at practice. And I'll be up late watching the Eagles and Cowboys games and writing those up for you here. So right now I'm going to go for a run and get some coffee so we can get this thing started off the right way.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tom Coughlin had been working his New York Giants out in the evenings here at the Meadowlands, with practices running from 6 pm to 8 pm ET throughout the first week and a half of training camp. But Coughlin changed it up Wednesday moving practice up to 1:30 pm because, he said, it hadn't been hot enough for those evening sessions.

"Football has to train in the heat, so we'll train in the heat," Coughlin said.

Thing is, the weather here is very pleasant today. There was some cloud cover throughout practice, and it wasn't very hot at all. Perhaps Coughlin will look into moving camp down to Texas if this continues.

Anyway, Osi Umenyiora hopped off his exercise bike and did some drills, "bad knee" and all. The Star-Ledger's photographer snapped a picture of Umenyiora doing a pass-rush drill on his own while his teammates practiced, and Ohm says Umenyiora will see a specialist on Thursday to have his knee checked out. Still not convinced the Giants are out of the woods on this one yet, as there's still lingering suspicion that Umenyiora is using the knee as an excuse not to practice while he sits out in protest of his contract situation. But the fact that he actually got on a field and did some footballish activity might indicate at least that he's thinking about practicing soon. We will, of course, continue to monitor.

The Giants announced that tight end Travis Beckum missed practice with a hamstring injury, which is really crummy news because it's the latest in a long string of evidence that some Wiccan cult has cast a spell on the Giants' tight end position similar to what they did to Pam the vampire in "True Blood." First, Kevin Boss left to sign with the Raiders. Then, Ben Patrick retired on them. Now, Beckum, their best receiving option at tight end, is out with a hamstring. If I were Coughlin, I wouldn't let Bear Pascoe out of my sight.

As for practice observations, Darius Reynaud had a great day at receiver, where there's obviously opportunity. Eli Manning seemed to be looking for a variety of different targets today, whereas Monday night I felt like he was always looking for Hakeem Nicks. Victor Cruz caught a touchdown pass from Sage Rosenfels and got tackled in the end zone after the catch by cornerback Michael Coe, who earned a stern talking-to from Coughlin after the play. Pascoe also dropped a touchdown pass he should have caught.

The stars of the day in team drills and one-on-ones were the starting secondary, especially safety Kenny Phillips and cornerback Corey Webster. And rookie defensive tackle Marvin Austin practiced after missing Monday with a hip injury. So the defensive line depth is looking better while the starting secondary looks strong.

More in the coming days from here, including Manning's thoughts on the 25 interceptions he threw last year and some thoughts from the principals in the daily battles Will Beatty and Jason Pierre-Paul have been fighting in the trenches as each prepares for a larger role in 2011.

Asante Samuel will play for Eagles

December, 19, 2010
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Eagles will be back to full strength at cornerback with the return of Pro Bowler Asante Samuel on Sunday against the New York Giants. Samuel was a game-time decision because of a knee injury, but he'll be ready to go. Dimitri Patterson will start on the other side and Joselio Hanson will go back to his nickel role.

The bad news for Eagles fans is that right tackle Winston Justice is once again inactive. He'll be replaced by King Dunlap at right tackle. And that means that Dunlap will see a steady diet of defensive end Justin Tuck in this game. Eagles new defensive end Derrick Burgess is also inactive. Rookie defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim should see some time in today's game. Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (foot) will also be ready to go today.

Giants inactives: RS/WR Darius Reynaud, DB Michael Coe, TE Jake Ballard, G Mitch Petrus, OL Jamon Meredith, WR Devin Thomas, DE Alex Hall, DT Linval Joseph

Eagles inactives: QB Mike Kafka, CB Brandon Hughes, LB Stewart Bradley, LB Keenan Clayton, T Austin Howard, DE Derrick Burgess, T Winston Justice, TE Garrett Mills

Will Blackmon handles returns for Giants

November, 7, 2010
The New York Giants ruled out return specialist Darius Reynaud for today's game in Seattle because of a hamstring injury and he'll be replaced by Will Blackmon. When he was with the Green Bay Packers in '08, Blackmon was pretty explosive returning punts. He had two punt returns for a touchdown that season, including one that covered 76 yards.

The Giants haven't been getting much out of Reynaud and they seemed ready to make a change even before Reynaud was injured. If Blackmon, who plays safety, can provide a spark in the return game, Reynaud will become expendable.

Beastlines: Why is Jones pinching pennies?

September, 8, 2010
Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News has a division preview and makes some predictions.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys expect Dez Bryant to be a star, but history says it's not going to happen overnight.

Considering there's no salary cap and the Cowboys could make a Super Bowl run this year, some of Jerry Jones' penny-pinching moves this offseason have been surprising, writes DMN's Jean-Jacques Taylor.

Jones explains his philosophy on cutting the Cowboys roster to 53 players.

Alan Ball still has a lot prove despite earning the starting safety job, writes the Star-Telegram's Clarence E. Hill.

New York Giants

Taxpayers in several cities are still paying for stadiums that no longer exist, but Giants Stadium "is the granddaddy of phantom facilities."

Keith Bulluck says he's ready to be the leader of the Giants defense.

Paul Schwartz grades the offense, defense and special teams and makes his predictions for the team. Schwartz foresees a return to the playoffs.

Archie Manning offers tough love for his son Eli.

Return specialist Darius Reynaud is settling in with the Giants.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Inquirer's John Gonzalez writes that the Andrews brothers "fleeced" the Eagles during their stay in Philly.

Five tough questions on the Eagles.

Kevin Kolb has faced some tough critics, but none harsher than his parents.

Kevin Callahan looks at the newest Eagles.

Trent Cole is excited about the additions the team has made on defense.

Washington Redskins

The Washington Post's Jason Reid says it's time for the Redskins to make a decision on Albert Haynesworth's future with the team. More Haynesworth trade talk.

The Post's Barry Svrluga looks at what fans can expect from Mike Shanahan's offensive system.

The Redskins' defense is "hyped" to take on the Cowboys.