NFC East: Duke Preston

NFC East: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
9:49
AM ET
Dallas Cowboys

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.

Philadelphia Eagles

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.

Washington Redskins

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.

Cowboys-Vikings: The inactives

January, 17, 2010
1/17/10
12:02
PM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Greetings from the Metrodome, where fans have just been warned that pyrotechnics will be used throughout the game. This is somewhat concerning to me, but I'll just roll with it for now.

Now let's look at today's inactives list. No surprises here. For the Cowboys, special teams ace Pat Watkins has returned from a sprained knee and he replaces rookie safety Michael Hamlin on the active list.

Cowboys: Emergency QB Stephen McGee, CB Cletis Gordon, S Michael Hamlin, LB Jason Williams, G Montrae Holland, C Duke Preston, T Pat McQuistan, LB Curtis Johnson

Vikings: Emergency QB Sage Rosenfels, WR Jaymar Johnson, CB Karl Paymah, TE Garrett Mills, LB J Leman, C Jon Cooper, DE Jayme Mitchell, DT Letroy Guion

Cowboys-Eagles inactives: Vick the backup

January, 9, 2010
1/09/10
6:54
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- As we've already told you, Michael Vick is active for tonight's game and I would expect for him to play a fairly significant role in the game plan. The Cowboys spent more time in the film room preparing for Vick this week because they felt like the Eagles would be in more of a desperation mode in this game. Now let's take a look at the inactives for both teams:

Cowboys: QB Stephen McGee, S Pat Watkins, CB Cletis Gordon, LB Jason Williams, G Montrae Holland, C/G Duke Preston, T Pat McQuistan, LB Curtis Johnson

Eagles: QB Kevin Kolb, CB Geoffrey Pope, FS Quintin Demps, T King Dunlap, C Dallas Reynolds, WR Kevin Curtis, TE Martin Rucker, DT Trevor Laws

Haynesworth officially out against Cowboys

November, 22, 2009
11/22/09
12:13
PM ET
We've been hearing it all morning, but the Redskins have made it official that defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth will not play today against the Cowboys. It's obviously a huge blow for a team that depends on Haynesworth to be a disruptive force in the middle of the defense.

Haynesworth
Haynesworth will be replaced at defensive tackle by Kedric Golston. But here's the one silver lining: A former NFL scout just informed me that he thinks the Cowboys will be able to play a "pocket-controlled" game, which means they'll have a better opportunity to keep Tony Romo from extending plays with his feet.

The thought is that Haynesworth is so disruptive that he would force Romo to constantly leave the pocket. But that's about the only positive news I can offer Redskins fans right now.

In other news, Fred Smoot will start in place of Carlos Rogers at cornerback for the Redskins. Rogers was pulled for a series last week against the Broncos and he was pretty vocal about it.

Here are the other inactives:

Cowboys: QB Stephen McGee (emergency), S Ken Hamlin, CB Allen Rossum, LB Jason Williams, G Montrae Holland, C/G Duke Preston, T Marc Colombo, LB Curtis Johnson

Redskins: CB Kevin Barnes, RB Clinton Portis, FB Eddie Williams, TE Chris Cooley, LB Robert Henson, T Mike Williams, DT Albert Haynesworth, DE Renaldo Wynn

It's official: Westbrook's out

November, 8, 2009
11/08/09
7:31
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles running back Brian Westbrook (concussion) is officially inactive for tonight's game against the Cowboys. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Westbrook would not play earlier today.

Here are the rest of the Eagles inactives: CB Dimitri Patterson, RB P.J. Hill, RB Brian Westbrook, LB Chris Gocong, G Max Jean-Gilles, G Mike McGlynn, WR Kevin Curtis, DE Victor Abiamiri.

Cowboys inactives: Stephen McGee -- emergency QB, CB Allen Rossum, S Michael Hamlin, LB Steve Octavien, LB Jason Williams, G Montrae Holland, C Duke Preston, T Pat McQuistan

One thing to note is that the Eagles are keeping all three quarterbacks active for tonight's game. For the past couple weeks, Kevin Kolb had been serving as the emergency quarterback. Might be a sign that the Eagles intend on using the Wildcat formation with Michael Vick more than usual. I'll keep you posted.

Update: Here’s a statement from Eagles athletic trainer Rick Burkholder regarding Westbrook’s injury: “On Friday afternoon, Brian began experiencing symptoms of a mild headache. From that point forward, we had Brian reevaluated by [team internist] Dr. Gary Dorshimer and we put him through extensive testing. Even though those tests were determined to be negative, we all thought it would be in the best interests of Brian and the team that he should be deactivated for tonight’s game. We will continue to evaluate Brian this week.”

On Friday, coach Andy Reid indicated that he simply wanted to get running back LeSean McCoy some extra reps. It’s not often we receive a statement from an athletic trainer only minutes before a game.

Live from Cowboys Stadium: It's Falcons-Cowboys!

October, 25, 2009
10/25/09
3:32
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Hello and welcome to today's live blogging experience. I'll be bouncing back and forth between the Beast and NFL Nation Live. Fortunately, we'll have this game covered from every angle. NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas has you covered from the Falcons' standpoint and I'll try to take care of the Cowboys' angles.

We're also pleased to have ESPNDallas writers Calvin Watkins and Tim MacMahon in the house. No surprises on the inactives, but I'll give them to you anyway:

Cowboys: Emergency QB Stephen McGee, S Mike Hamlin, LB Jason Williams, G Montrae Holland, C/G Duke Preston, T Pat McQuistan, WR Kevin Ogletree, LB Curtis Johnson

Falcons: Emergency QB John Parker Wilson, S William Moore, RB Jerious Norwood, FB Ovie Mughelli, S Antoine Harris, OT Garrett Reynolds, G Quinn Ojinnaka

I'll be paying close attention to Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams the first time he takes a shot. I think it's important for him to catch an early ball and take a hit. Once he does that, I think he'll be ready to go. The Falcons are under-staffed in the secondary today and I've always thought cornerback Chris Houston was a little soft.

Cowboys-Broncos: The inactives

October, 4, 2009
10/04/09
3:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


DENVER -- Cowboys coaches and athletic trainers were gathered around running back Marion Barber (left quad) as he worked out a couple hours before the game. The Beast reported last night that Tashard Choice would get the majority of the carries. And unless Barber made some incredible progress, I expect that to hold up.

Here are the inactives for both teams:

Cowboys: QB Stephen McGee (emer.), RB Felix Jones, S Mike Hamlin, G Montrae Holland, C Duke Preston, T Pat McQuistan, WR Kevin Ogletree LB Curtis Johnson

Broncos: QB Tom Brandstater (emer.), CB Alphonso Smith, ILB/FB Spencer Larsen, G/C Ben Hamilton, DL Chris Baker, T Brandon Gorin, WR Brandon Lloyd, OLB/DE Jarvis Moss

Barber will sit this one out

September, 28, 2009
9/28/09
7:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


ARLINGTON, Texas -- As we've been predicting all week, Cowboys running back Marion Barber will be inactive tonight against the Panthers. Owner Jerry Jones all but ruled him out this afternoon, and now it's clear that Felix Jones and Tashard Choice will get the majority of the carries.

Here are the rest of the Cowboys' inactives: QB Stephen McGee (emergency), S Mike Hamlin, LB Jason Williams, G Montrae Holland, C/G Duke Preston, T Pat McQuistan, WR Kevin Ogletree

For the Panthers: QB A.J. Feeley (emergency), RB Tyrell Sutton, S Chris Harris, FB Brad Hoover, LB Na'il Diggs, T Garry Williams, G Duke Robinson, DE Everette Brown

Cowboys-Vikings: What did we learn?

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
3:27
AM ET

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.

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