NFC East: Darryl Tapp

Lack of pressure hurts Redskins again

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
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The Washington Redskins failed to apply enough pressure on Tony Romo throughout the game Sunday, but especially on the final drive. In the past they have taken more chances against him by blitzing in late-game situations. It failed in a loss at Dallas two years ago. It worked in forcing an interception in last season's regular-season finale.

But there were no blitzes on the final drive. And the Redskins’ four-man rush failed, once again, to produce. Romo was never even hit on the final series. Is that Jim Haslett’s fault? Don’t know; I do know that in the past coach Mike Shanahan will make defensive calls -- or at least say what he wants run.

Anyway, here’s a look at Dallas’ winning drive and how much time Romo had to throw.
  • [+] EnlargeTony Romo
    Greg Fiume/Getty ImagesTony Romo's ability to extend plays hurt the Redskins on Dallas' game-winning touchdown drive.
    First-and-10, Dallas 13-yard line. The Redskins rush four, with linebacker Darryl Tapp, aligned on the left outside Ryan Kerrigan, stunting to the middle. Romo unloaded a pass to receiver Terrance Williams in 2.4 seconds. Romo was not close to being hit.
  • Second-and-10, Dallas 13: Tapp lined up on the right side, this time with Kerrigan still on the left. Both looped inside through the interior. Both actually had decent push, too, but the ends -- Barry Cofield and Chris Baker -- failed to generate any push, so the pocket remained clean enough. After 3.8 seconds, Romo connected with Williams, facing man coverage from corner David Amerson, for 15 yards.
  • First-and-10, Dallas 28: Tapp again was on the right side. He tried a spin move against left tackle Tyron Smith, but it did nothing. There was little pressure. But after 3.3 seconds, Romo threw incomplete to Dez Bryant as cornerback DeAngelo Hall tipped the ball away.
  • Second-and-10, Dallas 28: This was the killer, but it shows why extending a play is so vital. The Redskins showed seven at the line, as they had done a couple times throughout the game. They had run various plays off this look, which resulted in pressures or at least some confusion by the Dallas front. Not this time. Tapp aligned over the right guard and about a half yard deeper than the others along the front and just inside Kerrigan. Safety Brandon Meriweather was outside Kerrigan. But they only rushed four, with Kerrigan and Tapp running a little stunt. Kerrigan moved to the inside, but Tapp did not get too wide nor did he generate any push. With no contain rush on the outside, Romo could escape to his right and, after 5.1 seconds, unleash a 51-yard pass to Williams. It did not help that cornerback Josh Wilson slipped and fell on the play.
  • First-and-10, Redskins’ 21: Tough one to defend with any amount of rushers as Romo threw a smoke route to Bryant on the right side (in 0.9 seconds). Hall missed the tackle and Bryant gained 17 yards.
  • Fourth-and-goal, Redskins’ 10: This was a basic four-man rush, with all four running straight up field. There was no real pressure, but Romo did not have any open targets, either. Baker started to drive the right guard back for the start of a solid rush. But Baker lost his footing and a gap was created for Romo to run through. Kerrigan was lined up wide left and was chipped by the running back. He then rushed contain. Meanwhile, after Baker fell, Romo ran through the opening and hit DeMarco Murray for the winning touchdown. Romo extended the play for 5.0 seconds.

Redskins UFAs face possible Fed Ex finale

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
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We know Sunday will be London Fletcher’s last home game. The Washington Redskins have 15 other players who could be appearing in their last home game as well because of their pending free agency. If there’s a new coach, there could be a mass exodus. But for now I’ll stick with the pending unrestricted free agents currently on the active roster.

[+] EnlargeBrian Orakpo
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsBrian Orakpo will be the most expensive player to re-sign of the Redskins' soon-to-be unrestricted free agents.
Linebacker Brian Orakpo: He views himself as an elite linebacker, which means he’ll want to get paid like one. Last year’s top free agent at outside linebacker was Paul Kruger, who received $8.2 million per year with $20 million guaranteed and signing bonuses totaling $12.85 million. Orakpo is better. Whether or not you think he’s elite, in a passing league it’s tough to let good pass-rushers walk, especially if you plan to stick with a 3-4.

Tight end Fred Davis: Hard to see why he’d want to return, especially if the head coach remains. Yes, he’d be good insurance given questions about Jordan Reed’s durability but that’s not what Davis wants. He wants to start. I can't imagine him getting a big deal after the past couple of years of suspension, injuries and now questions about his work ethic.

Linebacker Perry Riley: If you’re staying in a 3-4, you keep him around. You’re already going to have a transition at the other spot; it’s good to have someone who knows the defense. He’s flawed, but steady and won’t cost too much.

Defensive lineman Chris Baker: He’s talented, but inconsistent. He makes plays because of his penetration, but sometimes misses plays because he’s so intent on getting upfield. A nice backup.

Linebacker Darryl Tapp: Looked good this summer, but hasn’t played a whole lot this season. Not a great pass-rusher from this spot, but strong. Not an all-around linebacker. A good backup, but the Redskins would do well to find younger backup linebackers who can excel on special teams.

Linebacker Rob Jackson: If they lose Orakpo, could Jackson be a good alternative? He certainly won’t cost as much, but he’s also not as good. He’s worth keeping as a primary backup, but Jackson should first look for a starting job elsewhere based on his 2012 film.

Quarterback Rex Grossman: All depends on the coaching staff and what happens with Kirk Cousins. If Grossman is your third quarterback, you’re in good shape. But it wouldn’t stun me if the Redskins start looking for another No. 3, perhaps a younger player they can groom into a solid No. 2 for 2015 when it’s hard to imagine both Cousins and Robert Griffin III still being on the roster.

Corner E.J. Biggers: Offers versatility and would be cheap. Just a backup.

Receiver Santana Moss: He’s been an excellent Redskin and a personal favorite because he’s always available after games and during the week, win or lose, since joining the team in 2005. But his productivity has waned; at 35 (in June) that will continue. Tough to see him returning. If this staff stays in place, next year’s slot could be Leonard Hankerson, but because of his injury they’ll need some insurance in case he’s not ready. Perhaps that’s how Moss returns, but with a new staff? Don’t see it. He deserves kudos from the crowd Sunday for a career well done in Washington.

Receiver Josh Morgan: There’s little reason to bring him back; he hasn’t been productive and his blocking has been inconsistent.

Safety Reed Doughty: If there’s a new staff, sometimes guys like Doughty -- valuable special-teamers and role players -- get lost in the shuffle. But he’s worth keeping around because of what he does.

Corner Josh Wilson: He’s been fine in the slot, doing a nice job against the run from this position. That’s important. But he’s 28 and descending. Not everyone likes small corners, so a new staff could go in a different direction. I have a tough time seeing him return, especially as a starter.

Corner DeAngelo Hall: He made big plays in the first half of the season, though he’s been quiet lately. When playing off man or zone he’s not as effective. He’s also 30. If the Redskins keep only one of Hall or Wilson, then the former is more productive. They have so many areas to address that they might not be able to find all the answers in free agency or the draft. I don’t know if David Amerson will be a quality starter, but a second-round pick in Year 2 should be one of your top two. I’d pair him with a younger veteran via free agency who is still ascending and can be the lead guy.

Linebacker Nick Barnett: Not a good alternative to Fletcher because of his coverage skills. A good guy in the locker room and a pro, but he turns 33 in May. And if you’re not going to start, you’d better do well on special teams. Not his strength.

Center J.D. Walton: They just claimed him off waivers. He’s a former starter worth checking out; the Redskins need stronger center play.

Redskins' Fred Davis inactive again

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis was put on the inactive list for Thursday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. This time it will cost him.

Davis
Davis needed to be active for 12 games this season in order to collect a $500,000 bonus. The initial reason for that bonus was because of Davis' Achilles' injury that ended is 2012 season. The Redskins wanted to protect themselves if he couldn't play much this season -- and reward him if he could. Davis has been a healthy inactive the past four games; he sat out one game because of a sprained ankle.

The emergence of rookie Jordan Reed, who leads all NFL rookies with 38 receptions, and the fact that Davis does not play special teams have kept him inactive. Niles Paul is actually the fourth tight end, but he is active because of his special-teams performance.

There weren't any surprises among the other inactives: quarterback Rex Grossman, running back Chris Thompson, safety Jose Gumbs, offensive lineman Josh LeRibeus, linebacker Brandon Jenkins and nose tackle Chris Neild. Jenkins was active last week as the Redskins wanted more speed in the pass rush. Thursday, veteran Darryl Tapp will be active instead.

Redskins film review: Defense

August, 25, 2013
8/25/13
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After watching the 30-7 win over Buffalo again, here are some thoughts on the Redskins' defense:
  • Saw this during the game, but wanted to see how often they ran the front with Brandon Jenkins, Ryan Kerrigan, Darryl Tapp and Brian Orakpo as their front four. Turns out they used that look three times with mixed success. Jenkins recorded a sack the first time, getting pushed to the ground but showing athleticism by reaching out to grab a panicked Kevin Kolb. Seriously, Kolb escaped as if he faced imminent danger; he did not. He put his head down and tried to run wide and Jenkins got him. I can’t believe anyone ever traded a player and a second-round pick for him. The second time they used that front was a third and 12 and David Amerson extended the drive with a facemask penalty. The front applied no pressure. They used it on a third-and-3, which is usually a passing down but against that front you could justify some sort of run. Did it work this time? Well, yes and no. The Bills kept in seven to block and there were four blockers against Kerrigan and Orakpo, both on the right side. Kolb ran for a first down after leaving the pocket. So the rush occupied blockers; the coverage prevented a pass but the Bills still managed a first down.
  • That look works because Kerrigan and Tapp are comfortable playing inside, both having converted from defensive end. Both are strong enough and play with good leverage. But this is obviously designed for pass rushes and provides the Redskins more creative looks -- without blitzing. Jenkins, though, was easily blocked by the right tackle.
  • How much did the fast pace hurt Washington? It really didn’t. The Redskins were quick with subs; on one play, Tapp ran from the sidelines to the huddle less than six seconds after the whistle blew. The fastest the Bills got off a snap after the whistle blew was 18.8 seconds. The Redskins weren’t fooled: Orakpo took two steps up then dropped into coverage and broke up a second-down pass. The next snap came 31.4 seconds later and the Redskins were able to switch from their base front to the fast nickel with Jenkins and Tapp entering. The Redskins’ first defense changed their front on eight different occasions and never looked lost. Tapp has been one of the more pleasant surprises this summer.
  • The one time where I thought the fast pace hurt was at the end of Buffalo’s scoring drive. They had to keep the same front in the game – a big nickel with Kerrigan, Kedric Golston, Stephen Bowen and Orakpo – for four consecutive plays. They got the next play off in 20.3, 26.1 and 20.6 seconds, respectively. The final one was a touchdown of course against a tiring front.
  • The Bills also ran a set of their own run-pass option plays in this sequence, showing a bubble screen to one side and a run option the other way. They opted for the run on C.J. Spiller’s 19-yard gain – the numbers dictated the outside would be blocked and it was. All Spiller had to do was beat David Amerson and he did. On Spiller’s touchdown, they called for a bubble right. But, knowing he had six blockers to take on six defenders in the box, Kolb handed it to Spiller for an easy score.
  • The Redskins used their base front seven times, with Chris Neild handling nose duties for injured Barry Cofield. Neild was fine. Helped make a play with good leverage, getting under the blocker’s pads and helping make a tackle. On four runs versus Washington’s base coverage, the Bills managed nine yards.
  • I like the subtleties of the pass rush because they make a huge difference. And here’s how players, and scheme, can free defenders up even in a four-man rush. When Bowen and Orakpo are on the same side if Bowen rushes inside the guard then the guard can chip him and slide back out to help the tackle if Orakpo shoots inside. That’s what happened on the game’s first play, though Orakpo still had a hand in Kolb’s face. But later Bowen started rushing at the outside shoulder of the guard. This guaranteed Orakpo one-on-one with the tackle and the center looking to help. It did not result in a sack, but it did lead to a quick dump-off over the middle. Just something to look for at times.
  • The Bills rarely threw anything downfield against the starters, except for two shots versus Josh Wilson – one of which he was beaten on and drew a pass interference penalty and the other he had played perfectly and was interfered with. Their longest completion against the starters was for 11 yards on third and 15. Every other pass against the starters was for six yards or less. That’s the result of having Jeff Tuel enter the game in the first quarter because of Kolb’s concussion. That, of course, makes it tough to measure just how good the defense was but the Bills played starters at every other spot into the third quarter.
  • It’s really hard to tell about coverage off a TV feed; actually, it’s almost impossible unless they give you a full-field shot. So it’s hard to say how the young guys played in most of their coverages. David Amerson clearly got beat off a double move in the second quarter; he was lulled by Tuel wanting to throw a quick out the other way, but corner E.J. Biggers’ coverage changed that plan. So Tuel went back to the other side at receiver T.J. Graham, who had raced past Amerson and drew a 42-yard pass interference penalty. The Bills had mostly been throwing short all game, but Amerson still needed better eye discipline on that one.
  • Amerson continued to show a willingness to tackle, but he did miss Spiller on a 19-yard run, allowing him to get wide. That’s a no-no for the corner. He also missed a tackle on a play in which Bryan Kehl forced a fumble. But earlier on that same drive Amerson had made two tackles. There’s still a lot of learning going on here; it’s good that Josh Wilson returned. It allows Amerson to grow without the pressures of having to start. Plus, it would be difficult to have two rookies starting in the secondary, at least initially. The secondary remains a work in progress; some good signs and some not so good.
  • Safety Bacarri Rambo had a better tackling game, as I wrote about in my observations. It wasn’t the same looks that he faced in the first two games in terms of a dangerous back in the open field. It could have been had he not made a good, quick read on Spiller and forced an incompletion with his hit. He was decisive and drove at his inside hip, a good angle. The good news for the Redskins is that Rambo didn’t miss any tackles. He just needs to be reliable back there. I don’t know whether this means his tackling issues are resolved -- I’m guessing there are more lessons to be learned – but it was a good game for him to gain confidence. In coverage, the one play that stood out was the near interception. I did not see Rambo after the game to ask him this but I wonder if he didn’t quite trust his eyes on this play. He saw Tuel looking at Stevie Johnson and hesitated. When he broke he was just a little late. But he showed his playmaker mentality by going for the ball.
  • Linebacker Brandon Jenkins’ pass rushes were mixed. He had a sack, though it wasn’t as if he beat the tackle on the play. He’s clearly still trying to figure out what works best for him at this level; even saw him throw in a hesitation move similar to one you’d see in basketball, with an exaggerated step. It failed. But he did have a couple good rushes, including one in which he lowered his right shoulder into the tackle, then controlled him to the inside for a pressure. Two plays later he learned a lesson on awareness. As he tried to get wide of the tackle, Spiller knocked him to the ground with a block. But I really liked some of what I saw of Jenkins on special teams. He was the first one down on a kick return, shooting through an opening and nearly making a great play, though he was nudged a little off his path at the end. On the next kickoff, he blew up the blocker and the returner, Marquise Goodwin ended up tripping over him. This is where I really like Jenkins early in the season.
  • Said it last week, but will say it again: I really like linebacker Will Compton, a rookie undrafted free agent. He’s worth keeping on the practice squad; decisive reads and showed quickness to the hole, beating the blockers. He and Bryan Kehl did a good job with the second unit. So, too, did Rob Jackson against starting offensive tackle Cordy Glenn. Jackson had two nice pass rushes and set the edge well; he did lose backside contain on one Spiller run in which he reversed field. And Darryl Tapp continues to play well. He’s just a strong dude, especially in the lower half. When tight end Lee Smith would try to engage him, Tapp did a great job keeping his lower half bent enough to slightly explode into Smith’s pads and not lose any ground.
  • Corner Chase Minnifield continues to improve and play physical. Even before Richard Crawford’s injury it was real tough to see Minnifield being cut. Because of his aggressive hands, Minnifield plays receiver’s blocks with good leverage. He came up aggressively on a pass to the fullback (though he was the one knocked down on his hit). And Minnifield played the “robber” play well, coming off the outside receiver to the inside one but dropping a poorly-thrown ball.

Redskins defense: What we've learned

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
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After watching the Redskins’ 24-13 victory over Pittsburgh on Monday, here’s what stood out:
  • It was easy to see how dominant nose tackle Barry Cofield was at times Monday night. It was even deeper than I realized. Two years ago the Redskins coaches predicted Cofield would soon be the NFL’s best nose tackle. I’m not going so far as to say that he is, but I will say he’s improved and now combines athleticism, quickness and brains. Anyway, on the first series he had consecutive plays in which he made a crucial contribution even if it wasn’t a flashy one. First, he was cocked to his right over the center. At the snap, he squared up with center Maurkice Pouncey. As the play went to Cofield’s left, he turned and gained leverage on Pouncey, pushing him back as he ran to that side and made the tackle. On the next play, he and Stephen Bowen both occupied two defenders as linebacker London Fletcher stepped into the hole. Bowen broke free to make the tackle as one of his blockers headed to Fletcher.
  • [+] EnlargeBarry Cofield
    Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsWill a strong summer for Washington's Barry Cofield lead to a big regular season?
    On the second series, Cofield made his mark on two other plays, courtesy of swim moves past Pouncey. The center whiffed on his first block attempt. And the second one occurred on linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s interception for a touchdown. Cofield was into the backfield fast with another swim move. It’s hard to imagine teams having much success against him on a consistent basis with just one blocker. The same is true of Bowen -- and one of them more often than not will be singled up in pass-rush situations. Cofield got Pouncey again on a swim move -- Pouncey’s hands were low and slow (that motto works for brisket; not blocking Cofield). By the way, my thoughts haven’t changed on Kerrigan since watching the film. A good night.
  • I focused on this in my Ten Observations as well, but it’s really intriguing to see what the Redskins can do with their pass rush and how they can mix and match and create different looks. I love Kerrigan inside in some -- not all -- rush situations because of his quickness off the ball and his ability to play with leverage from his defensive-end days. Just a good changeup. And I like that they can mix and match: one play Kerrigan is over the right guard with Bowen over the left guard. It might be the opposite on the next play, giving that player a quality rusher with different strengths. Washington can rush Kerrigan and another linebacker from a four-point stance, with one standing up. It’ll be more effective with Brian Orakpo, naturally, but it works well thus far because of the various looks. What the Redskins are not having to do, yet, is send extra rushers out of necessity.
  • They did have one alignment in which they used five linebackers and two defensive linemen. Kerrigan was at left end with Brandon Jenkins at right end and Darryl Tapp inside to his left. The Steelers gained nine yards with a quick pass. But it was a first-down play, so it was an example of the Redskins perhaps trying to generate extra push with an early-down pass rush. It helps that Tapp is a former defensive end, albeit in a 4-3 (where the ends can be sometimes 30 pounds lighter than a 3-4 end).
  • Forgot to ask David Amerson about this play, but was reminded of it watching the game again on a 20-yard pass play (the DeJon Gomes late hit). Amerson did not get a good re-route on the receiver and then failed to drop deep enough in the cover-2 look, leaving quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with an easy throwing lane. Amerson, though, continues to look like a future starter. When? He still has a lot to learn and prove, but he’s moving at the right pace. He’s willing to play physical and even though he missed on one tackle -- keep the head up -- he’s not shying from this role.
  • Corner Chase Minnifield was beaten deep by Markus Wheaton on one play, on which he made the tackle. In practices, Minnifield seemed to be beaten more when in off-man coverage, as he was playing here, than in press man. It’s probably because he’s good at disrupting the timing of a play. On the 45-yard gain, it really was just a straight go route with a minimal double move. But Minnifield handled press duties well and I liked how he shed one block from a receiver to make a tackle. Minnifield was aggressive with his hands and was able to control the receiver (Wheaton). You can always work with toughness.
  • Bacarri Rambo is coming up almost trying not to miss the ball carrier rather than to hit him. That was noticeable when Jose Gumbs delivered a few hits while playing in the middle. There was no hesitation. But Rambo is breaking down too much and his angles are off enough that the combination has equaled trouble for him. Rambo isn’t the only one who has struggled with angles, but he is the rookie starting at a spot where he needs to be a sure tackler. During camp Rambo looked like he belonged, and that he was good at correcting his mental mistakes. But one of the areas that’s tough to measure is how he’ll come up versus the run. With LeSean McCoy up in Week 1, the Redskins can’t afford a free safety still learning how to master the proper angles. I like that Rambo forced a fumble after one of his misses (a play in which Rob Jackson blew up the tight end and forced the back into a tough spot). But his struggles illustrate why it's a hard transition. He just needs to be a fast learner, as the coaches say he is in other situations.
  • Ends Chris Baker and Phillip Merling both had strong fourth quarters, but they should. I’d be worried about them if they didn’t; Merling is a veteran while Baker is expected to make the roster. Merling plays with power while Baker’s game is trying to get upfield. I like what Kedric Golston brings at end. I haven’t asked the coaches this directly, but to me it’s a no-brainer to start Golston during Jarvis Jenkins’ four-game suspension. Golston has played well and understands everything this position demands.
  • Saw a mixed night from rookie linebacker Brandon Jenkins, who continues to show enough as a pass-rusher. He has a quick get-off at the snap, but what he showed Monday was the ability to play with power, too. Late in the game he knocked lineman Kelvin Beachum off balance by driving into his pads. Earlier, Jenkins affected a throw again by getting his hands into the chest of the left tackle and moving him back. He wasn’t really close to a sack, but he did generate some push. Jenkins had a tough time on a couple plays getting off blocks against the run. Jenkins lined up in a standup position as well as with his hand in the ground. He had success rushing from both ways -- early in the game, against Pittsburgh’s first O-line, Jenkins, standing up, got his right arm into the chest of right tackle Marcus Gilbert and pushed him back. Jenkins does not play with as much power as Tapp, but it was an aspect of his game that flashed Monday.
  • The Redskins still need inside linebacking depth, but that doesn’t mean a guy like Will Compton has no value. I’d definitely keep him on the practice squad. He strikes me as the sort of player who eventually will make it and last a few years.

Highlights from the Washington Redskins' 24-13 preseason win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

1. It’s a good thing Barry Cofield's hand injury isn’t more serious and shouldn’t keep him out of any regular-season games. Cofield has looked exceptional in camp and was particularly good versus the Steelers. He twice beat Maurkice Pouncey with a swim move past his left shoulder and was disruptive in the backfield. What’s becoming clear is that Cofield and Stephen Bowen will receive fewer double teams with an improved rush from the linebackers, forcing extra attention. The more the Redskins can collapse the pocket, the better off they will be. On Cofield’s sack, one reason he was able to get there was because of an extra push by Bowen and end Kedric Golston (who is having an excellent camp). Cofield relied on athleticism to get him through his first season at nose tackle; now he’s using quickness and smarts. His ability to read plays has definitely improved. Combine that with his speed and he could be a major pest for offensive lines.

2. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan heard someone yelling to watch for the screen -- he thinks it was London Fletcher. But Kerrigan deserves credit for reading his clues as well, something he’s done an excellent job of since entering the league. It makes a difference. He noticed the tackle trying to lure him a little deeper and he saw the angle of the back coming out. So Kerrigan stopped, backed up a little and timed his jump. Just a smart play. Kerrigan’s growth in this defense is a big reason why the pass rush should be better. He lined up at right tackle, left tackle and left outside linebacker. The Redskins can pair him next to a speed linebacker (Brandon Jenkins) or a powerful one (Darryl Tapp). More importantly, they can throw a changeup to guards inside because of his speed. Kerrigan’s rush when aligned wide was also good. He did a better job getting into the tackle, closing any space between he and the tackle, and allowing him to use a quick rip move and then to strip the ball for a fumble. He took a more direct path to the quarterback -- too often when aligned over the tackle he goes too straight upfield; this time, he went more toward the quarterback.

3. The Redskins have committed 18 penalties in the first two preseason games, with three unnecessary roughness penalties in the first half (two by DeJon Gomes). Even Fletcher was called for one, on the second play from scrimmage. Fletcher pushed Pouncey to the ground drawing the foul (for some reason, I initially thought it was the tight end, but it was indeed the center). As a captain, he must be more mindful of his actions. Nobody knows this more than Fletcher.

4. Thus far, the Redskins have shown an ability to rush the passer in various ways -- without needing to resort to extra rushers. Will that continue? We’ll find out. But they applied pressure Monday night with four-man rushes from their base linemen as well as from their nickel set, tapping into their versatility at linebacker. Oh, and they did it without Brian Orakpo as well. One reason Orakpo was not missed? Darryl Tapp. The veteran is one of the more surprising players this summer, mostly because he was a veteran changing positions and that’s not easy to do. But Tapp played with the strength that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett talked about the other day. He did a nice job setting the edge against the run and was able to move left tackle Mike Adams off line with a big left-handed slap. All power. Tapp also drew a hold on Adams with a spin move. He’s not the same threat as Orakpo, clearly, but Tapp has improved. There was one rush early that still illustrated Orakpo’s importance by his absence. Rookie Brandon Jenkins rushed too wide on the left side and Tapp was a bit upfield. Kerrigan got a decent push at left tackle, but Bowen was double teamed inside and generated no pressure. Thanks to good coverage, Ben Roethlisberger was limited to a two-yard scramble. With issues in the secondary, whether from injuries or youth, the pass rush needs to be a major factor, especially early in the season while those problems are being corrected.

(Read full post)

Redskins quick hit thoughts

August, 18, 2013
8/18/13
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  1. It’s hard to imagine Redskins coach Mike Shanahan ignoring a recommendation from Dr. James Andrews to sit Robert Griffin III until after the Week 5 bye, as a report from Philadelphia TV and radio reporter Howard Eskin suggested. Eskin tweeted Saturday that sources told him Shanahan would play Griffin in Week 1 despite Andrews’ recommendation. A high-ranking team official had told ESPN earlier in the week that they’re still not sure if Griffin will play in the opener. So their minds are not yet made up about his return. Multiple Redskins sources, including a high-ranking team official, denied that Andrews had recommended Griffin sit out the first four games and return after the Week 5 bye.
  2. [+] EnlargeRobert Griffin
    Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesAll indications show that Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is not rushing quarterback Robert Griffin III to the field.
    Of course, the Redskins have reason to debunk that report. But part of it doesn’t mesh with how this situation has unfolded. Shanahan has been cautious throughout Griffin’s recovery, making sure he’s not doing too much and that he’s sticking by his plan -- hence Griffin’s frustration. Shanahan was burned last year by placing too much trust in Griffin when it comes to his injuries. And if Shanahan went against the doctor’s orders on this one and something happened to Griffin’s knee, he’d be out of a job. One factor to note in all this: The coaches have a lot of confidence in second-year quarterback Kirk Cousins. If Griffin is not ready they won't be shy about turning to Cousins. It decreases the need to rush Griffin, too.
  3. The best rookie in camp was corner David Amerson. That shouldn’t be a surprise considering he was a second-round pick, but he had flaws in his game last year that made him, in some minds, a questionable choice. I know Bacarri Rambo is the one rookie projected to start and he’s done a nice job being in the right spot most of the time. But Amerson is the one who looks like he could be really good, if he continues to play with more discipline than he showed at NC State last year.
  4. Here’s what ESPN NFL Insider Louis Riddick, who played six years in the NFL and served as a scout and then executive for both Washington and Philadelphia, said of Amerson after watching him in the preseason opener: “David Amerson jumped out at me. I struggled with David as far as college evaluations were concerned, as many did. In 2012 he looked like a very undisciplined, gambling, take-chances player that wasn’t playing to the integrity of the defense. A guy who I didn’t think showed the testing numbers that he had, as far as 40-time, vertical ability and short-area closing quickness, in 2012. That stuff showed up against Tennessee. I saw a very aggressive kid.” Amerson did not look nearly as physical at NC State as he was in the preseason opener. If he continues to play this way and keeps progressing, as he has throughout camp, it will be hard to eventually keep him out of the starting lineup.
  5. It’s hard to say who really jumped out on offense because some players won’t get much of a chance to in the preseason games (Alfred Morris, for example, because running backs are tested far more in games). But what was noticeable was how much Cousins is throwing with confidence. There are throws Cousins won’t hesitate on that others would be afraid to make -- seam routes into tight windows, for example. This can get him into trouble at times, too, with interceptions. But he’s definitely made progress.
  6. I was disappointed that receiver Leonard Hankerson did not show more progress in camp as far as consistently catching the ball. Seemed like there were too many drops by him, often because he’s turning his head too soon to get upfield. The starting receivers are rather firm with Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. Santana Moss is a quality slot receiver. After that? Inconsistency.
  7. Here’s what defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said about corner Chase Minnifield on Thursday: “Chase Minnifield really has come on. He’s played well. I feel good about Chase, obviously for missing two years of football with two ACLs. You can tell his dad played football and he’s been around it his whole life. He’s just kind of a natural football player. I kind of like him because the guy missed two years and came back and he’s going to get better and better every day.” If you’re wondering about Minnifield’s chances of making the team, read that quote again. He has the feistiness coaches like and plays with no fear. With starters DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson unsigned for next season, it’s good to have young options. The big question remains: Will they keep six corners and, perhaps, five safeties? They might need to keep five safeties just because of Brandon Meriweather’s health. But 11 defensive backs is a lot. They could get away with that, however, for the first four weeks with two defensive players -- end Jarvis Jenkins and linebacker Rob Jackson -- suspended. That gives the Redskins flexibility early, and four more weeks to sort out the roster. Their versatility at corner helps: in various looks players such as DeAngelo Hall can play a safety role. Sometimes it's as the strong safety in a cover-3 look, for example. It gives them more speed on the field.
  8. And another one from Haslett, this time on veteran linebacker Darryl Tapp, making the transition from defensive end: “Darryl is getting better every day for a guy that’s played with his hand down in the dirt his whole life? All of the sudden he’s standing up now, he’s dropping, he’s covering, he’s rushing, he’s doing a number of different things -- It’s kind of amazing that he can pick things up this fast. He is a force in the run game. I feel sorry for tight ends when they practice against him because he just beats the heck out of tight ends -- he’s awesome that way. And he’s getting better in coverage. Loves the game, studies, doesn’t like making mistakes, great to be around. I mean, I love the guy. If he makes a mistake, he gives you that look like he’s going to kill you [laughs]. I love being around the guy I think the guy’s going to be a heck of a player -- already has been, but will be in this system.”
  9. So, yeah, Tapp appears to be in good shape, too (though it will be interesting to see what they do when Rob Jackson returns from his four-game suspension). Tapp will rush from a four-point stance on occasion and, like rookie Brandon Jenkins, I’d expect him to focus more on rushing. Tapp does play with strength vs. tight ends, though I did see rookie Jordan Reed drive him back on one block in practice. Perhaps that says more about Reed’s development as a blocker. Tapp did steamroll pulling guard Josh LeRibeus on one play this week, running him over en route to the ball. LeRibeus, though, had one of the more disappointing camps.
  10. It’ll be interesting to see what Chip Kelly will do in Philadelphia. Story after story from Philly suggests that quarterback Michael Vick is looking more like he did in 2010 -- when he played at a high level -- just from a comfort level in the pocket. Of course, nobody has yet game planned for the Eagles’ offense so let’s please keep things in check just a little bit. Kelly’s system simplifies life for the quarterback, but what will happen when not facing a vanilla defense and the choices for the quarterback aren’t as simple? That’s when you’ll learn whether the offense and the quarterback truly are operating at a high level. And what has landed Vick in trouble in the past are blitzes and holding onto the ball too long thanks to creative coverage schemes.
  11. That said, Kelly is not afraid to be creative with alignments, having already shown four tight end sets in the preseason and from various formations. It’ll force defenses into interesting dilemmas with how they cover that look -- and because of the speed at which they want to play, a defense could be stuck with that same grouping for a couple plays.
  12. The more I see of Jordan Reed the more I like. He simply makes catches many other tight ends can’t because of his athleticism. With Reed, Fred Davis and Niles Paul, the Redskins have three tight ends with versatility and speed. The Eagles won’t be the only ones who can create mismatches with more than two tight ends on the field.
  13. I know the Redskins under Mike Shanahan have always kept at least six receivers on the 53-man roster, but can they afford to do so again? It’s hard to make a case that they have six receivers who warrant a spot -- Dez Briscoe has been inconsistent here; Donte Stallworth banged up. Three years ago the Redskins kept six wideouts, but one was return specialist Brandon Banks. The past two years they kept eight and seven, respectively. A lot will depend on what they must do at other positions. But with multiple receiving threats at tight end, increasing the versatility of the offense, it lessens the need to keep more at receiver. I’m still not sold they’ll only keep five, but there are reasons it could -- and perhaps should -- happen.
  14. By the way, how far have them come at upgrading this position? One of their starting wideouts in 2010 was a cashing-the-paycheck Joey Galloway. They also had Devin Thomas, Roydell Williams, Anthony Armstrong and Santana Moss. Only Moss remains. And, since the 2010 season, those other four wideouts have combined for 13 catches.
Hogs Haven has a bit of a profile of Washington Redskins rookie linebacker Brandon Jenkins, and this jumped out at me because Jenkins was a player Mike Shanahan brought up when I was in Shanahan's office last week talking about this year's defense. Shanahan believes Jenkins can be a help to the pass rush right away as a standup outside linebacker in the team's 3-4 defense. He said Jenkins "looks like an excellent pass-rusher," and sounded as though he'd been more impressed than he expected to be during the offseason workout program. Jenkins is coming off a foot injury that ended his final season at Florida State, but he was able to participate in offseason workouts for the Redskins. Here's what Hogs Haven says:
Jenkins will have to compete with an already very talented group of outside linebackers for playing time this season. It’s tough to imagine him starting a game with Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, and Rob Jackson ahead of him on the depth chart as long as they are healthy. Because of the devastating nature of his injury, Jenkins may not be healthy enough to play at the beginning of the 2013 season, although his health is improving. He could end up being red-shirted his rookie year and have to focus on getting healthy.

Possible, but it didn't sound that way to me when I was in Ashburn. As for the issue of reps, yes, clearly Orakpo and Kerrigan are the starters at outside linebacker, and the defense is built to help those guys get to the quarterback. But Jackson showed enough as a pass-rusher while filling in for the injured Orakpo last year that the team was already working on ways to use him either as part of a rotation or get him on the field with those two in passing downs -- basically creative ways to make sure he got to continue to contribute. With Jackson suspended for the first four games of the year, it's possible that someone like Jenkins or former Eagle Darryl Tapp could factor into the pass-rush plans early in the season -- even with Orakpo back and fully operational.

NFC East Thursday roundup

March, 28, 2013
3/28/13
5:05
PM ET
Several of our division's teams have made moves today that aren't significant enough to warrant their own posts, but I know you guys want to talk about them so I figured I'd throw them all together in a late-afternoon stew of a post and see what you thought. Hope it doesn't smell too bad.

Item No. 1: Philadelphia Eagles trade fullback Stanley Havili to the Colts for defensive end Clifton Geathers.

Basically, the Eagles traded a guy they weren't going to use for a guy they might possibly use. Havili became expendable after the signing of James Casey, who can line up at fullback or tight end (or wide receiver, actually; he's a versatile guy). So they ship him off and get back something of which they need more -- a body for the defensive line. I have no idea if the 6-foot-7, 325-pound Geathers makes the roster, or how much he'd play if he did. I'll bet the Eagles don't know either. But they did know they had too many fullbacks and not enough defensive linemen, so why not? They saw something in Geathers they liked enough to trade a spare part for him.

Item No. 2: Washington Redskins sign former Eagles pass-rusher Darryl Tapp.

Tapp wasn't going to be a fit in the Eagles' new defense, especially if it's going to run as much 3-4 as we all think it will. For the Redskins, Tapp profiles as a situational pass-rusher from the outside linebacker position. It's possible they see him as someone who can fill in for reserve outside linebacker Rob Jackson while Jackson serves his four-game drug suspension at the start of the season. It's also possible he gets beaten out by someone in training camp and doesn't make the team. Again, these aren't huge moves we're talking about here.

Item No. 3: New York Giants check out former Redskins running back Tim Hightower, according to the New York Daily News.

Ralph Vacchiano reported that Hightower would visit the Giants, who have David Wilson, Andre Brown and Ryan Torain on the roster at running back but are always looking for depth at that position. If his knee is healthy, Hightower is the kind of back the Giants would like. He's known as an excellent pass-protection back and can catch the ball out of the backfield on screen plays. Those are two things the Giants lost when they cut Ahmad Bradshaw. I don't know if they like Hightower, if he's healthy or if he'll end up on the roster. But he could fill a hole or two, and it's worth their time to find out what he's got.
I have attempted another "all-22" breakdown using the NFL Game Rewind app, and this time I went through Sunday night's game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles with a specific focus on the left tackles. I will have a post up later today on the Eagles' Demetress Bell, but this post here focuses on the very strong work by Giants left tackle Will Beatty, particularly against Eagles star defensive end Trent Cole.

Beatty, you may recall, was the Giants' starting left tackle for the first 10 games last year, and had some mixed results before an eye injury ended his season prematurely. Back injuries plagued his offseason, and his inability to get healthy cost him his starting job at the start of this season. But an injury to David Diehl forced the Giants to reshuffle, and it appears Beatty has reclaimed the starting left tackle role as a result.

[+] EnlargeWill Beatty
Howard Smith/US PresswireGiants tackle Will Beatty (65) blocks during the first quarter against the Eagles in their Week 4 game.
To me, he looks considerably stronger and more confident as a blocker than he did in 2011. I saw a lot of reaching and grabbing and late-reacting last year. Sunday night against Cole, his footwork was consistent and he held up very well strength-wise against one of the toughest defensive linemen in the league. Cole has a variety of moves out of his Wide-9 four-point stance, but the one that really stands out is the one on which he tries to go through the lineman, bursting off the line and into the tackle with shocking force. There are plenty of tackles in the league Cole can knock over with this move, and at the very least he can rattle them and beat them around the edge while they are dazed. Beatty wasn't having any. He took those big shots from Cole (I noticed it specifically on a seven-yard Eli Manning pass to Domenik Hixon toward the end of the first half and again on a five-yard pass to Ramses Barden on the Giants' first play of the second half) and stood his ground.

Some of the numbers from what I saw:
  • Beatty plays 68 snaps. On 26 of those, he has a tight end lined up next to him. On two others, he has two tight ends with him. Which means he was by himself on 40 of his 68 plays.
  • He ends up blocking Cole by himself, without any help or chipping from anyone else, 31 times. He should get hazard pay for this. Cole is a relentless nightmare to block. However, I only counted five plays out of those 31 on which I'd say Cole beat him. And there were only a couple of those that matters to the outcome of the play. Their final matchup of the night, which will go down as the Barden offensive pass interference play, has to be a satisfying capper for Beatty on a tough but very good night, as he flattens Cole and takes him to the ground.
  • He ends up blocking Darryl Tapp one-on-one eight times, and Tapp has no chance against him.

My favorite Beatty sequence is the Giants possession that begins with 9:55 left in the third quarter and results in the Victor Cruz touchdown catch. There are eight plays on the drive, and he's by himself on the left side for seven of them. The only exception is the second play, when Bennett motions to his side and Beatty goes inside and dominates Derek Landri. He gets Cole five times and Tapp twice on the drive, and the only play on which he doesn't dominate is the touchdown pass, on which Cole beats him a little bit with a spin move but Manning releases the ball too quickly for it to matter.

Beatty's best play on that drive is the first-and-10 from the Eagles' 34 on which Manning completes a 13-yard pass to Hixon. He's by himself on the left side, with Cole lined up super-wide with both hands on the ground. As the ball is snapped, Beatty keeps his eyes upfield for a moment to make sure the linebacker isn't coming. But as he does so, he's swinging his left leg and rotating his arms and shoulders out to anticipate Cole's wide rush. This enables him to get back in time to disrupt and block Cole while Manning finds Hixon on the left side of the field. The play showed instincts, intelligence and an ability to multi-task. This looks like the player the Giants believe can be their left tackle of the future, and he's leaps and bounds better than he was a year ago.

I did mark seven "bad plays" and one other possible mistake on Beatty's 68 snaps. But all seven of the bad plays were in the first half, so he seemed to get better as the game went along. And the bad plays were often the result of poor decisions and not his being overmatched. For example:
  • On the second play of the game, he goes the wrong way and ends up having to grab at linebacker Jamar Chaney, who assists on the tackle of Andre Brown.
  • Cole flat-out beats him on third-and-five on the Giants' second possession and again on third-and-three on their fourth, and Beatty reverts to his grabby ways. The first was called holding. The second could have been.
  • The Eagles successfully confuse Beatty on third-and-four from the Giants' 39-yard line in the second quarter. Cullen Jenkins is lined up as the defensive end on that side, and tight end Martellus Bennett handles him. Beatty kinds of drifts that way as if to help when he should be picking up linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who gets to Manning and helps force an incomplete pass.
  • And the possible mistake was on a first-and-10 run two plays before the Bear Pascoe touchdown. It looks to me as though he should be helping Bennett with Cole on the edge instead of helping Kevin Boothe with Landri inside, and Cole indeed beats Bennett to disrupt the play. But I don't know what the assignment was there.

All in all, though, a very good night from Beatty against as tough an opponent as he'll ever face. His improvement over 2011 is an outstanding sign for the Giants.

'Prove it' time for the Eagles' D line

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
3:13
PM ET

The Philadelphia Eagles believe the strength of their defense is their four-man defensive line and the pass rush it generates without help. They rotate eight or nine players to keep that line fresh and ferocious for 60 minutes. Starting ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin are the headliners who helped the Eagles post a league-leading 50 sacks last year, but they can get pressure from their defensive tackles, too, and having talented ends like Brandon Graham and Darryl Tapp as part of the rotation is a key to what they do. So far this year, Pro Football Focus rates the Eagles' pass rush the second-best in the league behind only that of the Seattle Seahawks. The Eagles' defensive line is legitimately one of the best in the NFL.

On the other side of the field Sunday night, however, will be the team that has perfected this method -- and won two Super Bowls with it -- over the past decade. The New York Giants, who visit Philadelphia for a huge division game this weekend, also live by the philosophy that the best way to play defense is to pressure the quarterback with the front four and drop seven into coverage. You wouldn't get anyone in Philadelphia to admit this, but the Eagles appear in some ways to be trying to copy the formula with which their division rivals have had such success. There are differences, especially in the way the Philadelphia defensive ends line up in Jim Washburn's "Wide 9" alignment. But the Eagles look at Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul with the belief that their guys are just as good.

Sunday night is a chance to show people. We have an ongoing debate on this blog about which of these defensive lines is better, and that debate is rooted in the idea that they are two of the best in the league. The Eagles want to be the best, and there's no better time to prove it than in a game against the reigning champs.

The Giants are likely to look their pass-rushing best Sunday night against Michael Vick and that banged-up Eagles offensive line. But the Eagles have an opportunity to put on a show of their own if they're able to harass Eli Manning into mistakes and win this key early-season divisional showdown. Sunday isn't likely to settle the debate, but it's a prime-time chance for the Eagles' defensive linemen to prove they belong in the discussion.
Dallas Cowboys

The next challenge for Kevin Ogletree, now that he's become an overnight sensation by starring in the nationally televised first NFL game of the season, is to handle a week and a half's worth of hype. Tim MacMahon writes that Ogletree and the Cowboys understand that.

Jason Witten came through Wednesday's game without any trouble in spite of the world's most famous lacerated spleen. With 10 days between games now, it seems Witten should be back to something close to his old self in time for the Cowboys' Week 2 trip to Seattle.

Washington Redskins

Heading into his third season as Redskins offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan finally feels as though he's got the tools he and the team need to succeed.

John Keim writes on the improvements Ryan Kerrigan has made in pass coverage. And because he's John Keim, he writes about several other things too, including the perceived viability of Alfred Morris as the lead back in the Redskins' running back committee.

Philadelphia Eagles

Darryl Tapp explained to Geoff Mosher why he took such a significant pay cut in order to remain on the Eagles' roster. People do like playing for Andy Reid, and there is a sense around the Eagles that everybody wants to fix what went wrong last year.

Bob Ford believes this is a no-lose season for Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who will either get to enjoy the success of a team in which he believes or will get to make a coaching change as fully supported by his fan base as any owner has ever made.

New York Giants

I understand that the life of a professional football player is probably pretty cool. That said, based on everything we've heard from Tom Coughlin since Wednesday night's game ended, I'm not sure I'd trade places with any of the current Giants players over the next week and a half.

David Wilson says he wasn't crying after the fumble, and truth be told the picture doesn't tell you unequivocally whether he was or not. But goodness gracious do things get made a big deal of in this time in which Wilson finds himself a rookie in the NFL.
Click here for a complete list of Philadelphia Eagles roster moves.

Most significant move: Mike Kafka went into training camp as the favorite to be the backup quarterback behind Michael Vick. But a combination of events led to Kafka's release Friday. First, he broke his hand in the first preseason game. Second, rookie Nick Foles impressed enough that the Eagles are now comfortable with him as their No. 2 quarterback. And third, Trent Edwards played well enough to convince the Eagles to keep him as a backup quarterback over Kafka. Backup quarterback is a significant position for the Eagles, as Vick has a history of missing games due to injury and there exists a strong chance that Foles and/or Edwards will have to start games for them this season. ... The answer to which defensive lineman had to go was defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, who was the final cut announced by the team shortly before 8 p.m. ET. That means Cedric Thornton and Darryl Tapp are still on the team, and the Eagles as of now have 10 defensive linemen.

Onward and upward: Nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson was cut on this day last year, too, but was immediately brought back at a lower salary. This year, that does not seem likely to happen. This time, it appears rookie Brandon Boykin beat out Hanson for the nickel corner spot, in part because he played well there and in part because of his usefulness as a returner and special-teams player. Hanson didn't have a great year in 2011, but he looked like a good nickel corner as recently as 2010 and likely could help someone. I wonder whether the Giants take a look, given their issues with health at cornerback.

What's next: Having cut both O.J. Atogwe (who couldn't stay healthy) and undrafted rookie Phillip Thomas, the Eagles are thin at safety. The only current backup to the starters is still-unproven Jaiquawn Jarrett, and even if they believed him capable, they'd want at least one more. Look for the Eagles to troll the list of other cuts to see whether there's someone out there who can help them beef up their bench a bit in the secondary.

UPDATE: Shortly after the cut deadline, the Eagles announced they'd acquired safety David Sims from the Browns for a conditional 2013 draft pick and released offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde.

Observation deck: Jets-Eagles

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
10:39
PM ET
Stop for a second. Take a deep breath. Now exhale, all the way. That's it. We're done with preseason football until 2013. Doesn't it feel awesome?

The NFC East's preseason finale was a 28-10 Eagles' exhibition victory over the New York Jets on Thursday night. None of the starters played, which didn't help the game's entertainment value, but kept any of them from getting hurt, which was the point. Those who did play obviously had their eye on Friday's 9 p.m. ET final roster cut deadline, and some of them were holding their final auditions for spots. These are their stories:
  • Trent Edwards, who was dropped by the Bills and Jaguars in 2010 and didn't play in the NFL last year, was an afterthought when training camp began. But he got a lot more preseason reps than expected after presumptive backup quarterback Mike Kafka broke his hand in the first game, and he played very well. Edwards played the final three quarters Thursday (after rookie Nick Foles, who's probably No. 2 behind Michael Vick after his own very strong preseason) and was 22-for-32 for 197 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles plan to keep only three of their quarterbacks, and with Vick and Foles both locks, that means it's a choice between Edwards and Kafka for the No. 3 spot. This is Kafka's third year in the system, and if the decision is to be based on more than just this preseason, he still has to have the edge. But if they saw enough from Edwards that they think he could run their offense if Vick went down, he could surprise. He definitely looks as though he can run the offense, but he has been playing against backups, obviously. And his reputation in Buffalo was as a "Captain Checkdown" type who didn't make it through progressions. First-team defenses play with more speed and could bring that back out if he were to appear in a real game. Worth considering.
  • Jaiquawn Jarrett played well at safety, and he looks safe as the backup to Nate Allen at strong safety. I think Jarrett has very good physical ability, and in a game like this that doesn't feature any game-planning, a player like Jarrett can look very good, seeking out ballcarriers and delivering big hits without getting tripped up by complex scheme or communication issues. But that's okay. Jarrett needed to show something, and he did. O.J. Atowge, on the other hand, who is slated to be Kurt Coleman's backup at free safety, got hurt again and will have an MRI on his hamstring Friday morning. Atogwe couldn't stay healthy with the Redskins last year either, and it's possible the Eagles will be hunting for safety help after the cuts come in Friday night.
  • I think Bryce Brown has shown enough to make the team as the No. 3 running back ahead of Chris Polk. I also think Polk has shown enough that some other team will pick him up and the Eagles won't be able to get him on the practice squad.
  • Brandon Graham and the defensive linemen getting called for offsides is something I think you should get used to. The Eagles want their defensive linemen to be hyper-aggressive, so they'll be offsides a lot. And some of them (Graham included) are quick enough off the ball to trick officials (replacement or otherwise) into thinking they're offsides even sometimes when they're not.
  • It was interesting that defensive tackle Antonio Dixon didn't play. It was also interesting that -- in his postgame news conference -- Eagles coach Andy Reid said he'd "seen enough of" Dixon. Couple of different ways to read that, and a few of them make you think Dixon is the odd man out when the tough defensive line cuts come Friday night. I have to think they've at least looked into trading Darryl Tapp and his $2.6 million salary. But whether they can pull that off or not, Dixon can't be having a restful night's sleep.
  • I liked Mardy Gilyard as a college player. I liked him in training camp when I was at Lehigh this summer. I liked him last night, when he doubled back and caught that duck Edwards threw into the end zone before anyone else saw it for a duck. With Damaris Johnson likely ahead of him as a receiver and a special teamer, I can't see how Gilyard makes the team. But maybe another team saw something they liked.
  • Something to remember: Derek Landri and Joselio Hanson were among last season's "final" roster cuts, and both ended up back on the team. So some of Friday's moves will be procedural. The Eagles have some high-level decisions to make and will be cutting some good players.
The Philadelphia Eagles on Monday put defensive tackle Mike Patterson on the reserve/non-football illness list as he continues his recovery from offseason brain surgery. That delays their decision on Patterson until at least Week 7 of the regular season and answers one of the questions regarding their numbers game at defensive line, where they may have too many quality players to keep. But it doesn't answer them all. As Bob Grotz writes here, there are still decisions to make in advance of Friday's roster cutdown deadline, and one of those decisions could end up being a trade or release of defensive end Darryl Tapp:
"There's going to be a job somewhere," Tapp said with a grin. "We're all focused on getting better right here."

Tapp is one of six defensive ends with a strong case to make the Eagles' roster. Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are locks, and Philip Hunt has played too well in preseason to cut. They also have a glut of defensive tackles, even if you don't count Patterson. Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox and Derek Landri are all pretty sure things, and Cedric Thornton has outplayed Antonio Dixon so far in camp. Based on performance, Dixon could be the most likely defensive lineman cut, but he does still have potential to be a prolific run-stuffer even if he doesn't contribute what the others contribute to the pass rush.

So that's 11 guys, and they can't keep more than 10 and probably have to get to nine. Jenkins' ability to play end as well as tackle means they could ditch or trade Tapp if they wanted to, and they'd get some cap relief from his $2.6 million salary, which obviously matters. I would think they could find a market for him if they decide he's not going to make their team.

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