NFC East: Eagles

It's never too early to talk fantasy

July, 1, 2009
7/01/09
4:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

It looks like ESPN.com's Matthew Berry is cranking up his fantasy football coverage in his latest column. In his current mock draft, Berry has Michael Turner going No. 1 overall and Adrian Peterson No. 2. I wouldn't endorse that particular order, but at least Berry's willing to go out on a limb.

On his love/hate list, he thinks Tony Romo would have excellent value in the fourth or fifth round of a draft -- depending on the size of your league. I guess that means Berry thinks either Roy Williams or Miles Austin will put up solid numbers -- or maybe both.

He also likes the Eagles' LeSean McCoy and the Giants' Domenik Hixon as late-round pickups. And that seems like pretty sound advice to me. The suggestion out of left field was Redskins wide receiver Malcolm Kelly. Berry thinks he'd be a good pickup in a "super-deep league."

So who does Berry "hate" in the NFC East? Giants quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants' defense. Really? I sort of get Manning because he doesn't put up ridiculous numbers like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Romo are capable of. But I think the Giants' D will have a big season in terms of sacks and turnovers. Kenny Phillips is about to have a seven-interception season.

Read Berry's column and let me know what you think.

Witten wants to play through pain

October, 28, 2008
10/28/08
9:23
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Witten

It doesn't surprise me that tight end Jason Witten is lobbying to play against the Giants with a broken rib Sunday. I did an interview with him in 2003 in which he was mumbling because he had two steel plates in his broken jaw.

The injury kept him out of one game, but he returned to the field the following week. Witten has already been in pain because of a shoulder injury that's required pain-killing injections, but he refused to let it keep him off the field.

The best course of action would be for Witten to sit out Sunday's game and then use the bye week to recover before the Redskins game. But that's not how he operates. With Brad Johnson basically throwing medicine balls, the Cowboys desperately need Witten as a receiver and blocker.

If he can't go, second-round draft pick Martellus Bennett out of Texas A&M will take over as the starter. Bennett is talented, but he'd be a huge drop-off from Witten. Without Witten, Tony Romo, Felix Jones and Kyle Kosier, the Cowboys would be in big trouble in the Meadowlands.

Wait, they're already in big trouble.

NFC Beast Power Rankings

October, 28, 2008
10/28/08
9:59
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

In a few hours, we'll launch the Week 9 ESPN.com power rankings. This will give you a unique opportunity to freak out over something that has no bearing on anything. Now, please rise and put your hands together for this week's NFC Beast rankings (which you're not supposed to be seeing right now).

2. Giants -- Now that was a statement game in Pittsburgh. The Giants had every reason to lose that game, what with the goal-line stand by the Steelers. But the Giants kept destroying Ben Roethlisberger, and in the end, a special teams snafu by the Steelers put them in position to win the game. Oh, and Eli Manning is ridiculously clutch.

4. Redskins -- Yes, I know they struggled in Detroit, but they found a way to win. If you haven't realized it yet, the Redskins don't blow teams out. They simply wear them down with a relentless running game. And quarterback Jason Campbell rarely makes mistakes.

8. Eagles -- You knew they'd come back with a vengeance after the bye. Brian Westbrook is one of the best players in the league, and he can carry a team when he's healthy. Well, he's healthy.

11. Cowboys -- That was a season-saving win against the Bucs -- at least for another week. Cowboys face the Giants in the Meadowlands with Brad Johnson. Talk about scary.

Did Phillips save his job?

October, 27, 2008
10/27/08
11:23
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

I don't think Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was prepared to fire coach Wade Phillips had the team lost to the Bucs on Sunday, but at 4-4, he would've been in desperation mode. Instead, the Cowboys escaped with a 13-9 victory, and Phillips received the game ball from Jones.

"Quite a few people had our coach fired this week, but it was never going to happen," Jones told Peter King. "No one's as responsible for this win as him."

As I wrote in my game column Sunday, Jones took several stabs at paying Phillips a compliment after the game, but a lot of it came across as back-handed. In four different media sessions, he attempted to say that Phillips had been making head coaches look good for years. He was pointing out that Phillips made himself look good in Sunday's 13-9 win, but the praise seemed a bit forced. Jones knows this team's playoff hopes are hanging by a thread as it prepares for a trip to the Meadowlands this weekend.

The Giants (6-1) and Redskins (6-2) are clearly the best teams in the division and the Eagles (4-3) looked like a rejuvenated team in a 27-14 win over the Falcons. If the Cowboys (5-3) went on another two-game losing skid, they'd pretty much fall out of the playoff race. That's why Sunday's win was so huge. The goal is to stay afloat until quarterback Tony Romo returns from injury.

And for one week, that's exactly what the Cowboys did.

Rapid Reaction: Eagles 27, Falcons 14

October, 26, 2008
10/26/08
8:45
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Huge win for the Eagles at home. You had the feeling running back Brian Westbrook would put up big numbers and he didn't disappoint. He used the bye week to recover from ankle and rib injuries, and he ran like a man possessed Sunday. He ran 22 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb wasn't all that efficient, but he made plays when he had to. He showed some speed on a 12-yard run and then he raced in for a 3-yard touchdown. It appears that Andy Reid isn't trying to protect him as much anymore -- and that's a good thing for Eagles fans.

Matt Ryan put up decent numbers with 277 yards and two touchdowns, but his two interceptions were big. Lito Sheppard and Asante Samuel each had an interception as the Eagles improved to 4-3 on the season. The Eagles now travel to Seattle, which blew out the 49ers on Sunday. If the Eagles beat Seattle, they have a great chance of overtaking the Cowboys in the standings next week.

It's hard to get a feel for this Eagles team, but they're definitely right in the thick of things in the playoff race.

Curtis will give Eagles more firepower

October, 25, 2008
10/25/08
7:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Andy Reid has declared wide receiver Kevin Curtis the starter for Sunday's game against the Falcons. It's hard to tell how effective Curtis will be after missing the past two months because of sports hernia surgery. In retrospect, tight end L.J. Smith probably came back too quickly from a similar injury last season and didn't make much of an impact.

But if Curtis is close to full strength, the Eagles now have a couple of big-play wide receivers in the starting lineup. And more importantly, Curtis is a player who Donovan McNabb has a lot of faith in.

"I've been proud of the guys who have stepped in," Curtis said. "The way they've played, we've had some success there. But it's always good to get the other guys back; getting them in there and letting them cut loose a little bit, too."

Curtis will provide McNabb with the veteran receiver he's been missing. Hank Baskett and DeSean Jackson have both played well, but Curtis brings more consistency. If McNabb has time in the pocket, he knows that Curtis will eventually come open. And it looks like the Eagles' bye week came at the best possible time.

This offense is mediocre when running back Brian Westbrook (ribs) doesn't play, although Correll Buckhalter filled in nicely against the 49ers. It will be important for Reid to make sure that Westbrook gets some rest. This is a huge game for the Eagles, but it's not the time to push Westbrook and risk further injury.

An NFC Beast special chatting engagement

October, 24, 2008
10/24/08
10:38
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Meet me in the usual spot today at noon ET. We'll discuss the Plaxico Burress injury, the Cowboys' demise on offense, the Redskins' trip to Detroit (watch out) and the Eagles' plan for stopping Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

A lot of you guys have been showing up late. Try to be on time today.

Tuesday Beastlines: Eagles collector's edition

October, 21, 2008
10/21/08
2:11
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Redskins take two for the road

October, 5, 2008
10/05/08
8:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

PHILADELPHIA -- It's hard to believe there was a time when we thought the Washington Redskins were the cellar dwellers in the NFC East. It has only been a month since they opened the Jim Zorn era with a stumbling 16-7 loss, but this isn't the same team.
 
 Paul Spinelli/Getty Images
 Clinton Portis rushed 29 times for 145 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles.

The Redskins completed a remarkable two-week swing with a 23-17 comeback victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field to improve to 4-1. This is no longer an upset-minded team. Quite simply, this has all the makings of a playoff team.

Washington withstood a furious start by the Eagles, and then spent the final three quarters dominating every aspect of the game. Eagles coach Andy Reid was left mumbling something about putting his team in the right position, which for now is dead last in the NFC East.

A week after gashing the Cowboys for 144 rushing yards, the Redskins picked up 203 against the Eagles. Philadelphia came into the game giving up 53.8 yards per game, but Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts combined for 70 in the first half alone. Portis finished with 29 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown.

With the Redskins facing fourth-and-1 at the Eagles' 38-yard line with 2:48 left, Zorn never hesitated to call Portis' number. The running back plowed forward for three yards to seal another huge division win. And when Zorn emerged from the visiting locker room later, Portis' family members were waiting on him.

"I hope you don't think I abused your son today," Zorn said to Portis' mother. Some of you might recall that Portis was critical of Zorn's play-calling after the loss to the New York Giants, but that game's now a distant memory.

On Sunday, the Redskins couldn't have asked for a worse start. The Eagles scored on their first possession, and following a Redskins three-and-out, rookie DeSean Jackson returned a punt 68 yards to give the Eagles a 14-0 lead.

That's when Zorn made an important decision. He stuck with a game plan that included a steady dose of running plays to the left side and passes to Chris Cooley. With the Eagles taking Santana Moss out of the game, quarterback Jason Campbell stayed calm and relied on other players.

"It would've been easy to get away from the game plan and get pass happy," Campbell told me after the game. "But it was too early for that. We had a good game plan, so we just decided to stick with it."

(Read full post)

What's Plax doing this weekend?

October, 5, 2008
10/05/08
1:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.coms' Matt Mosley

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Interesting story about Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress in this morning's New York Daily News. We've heard most of it before, but it's helpful to have all his transgressions in one place. As you'll see in the following quote, Burress' teammates didn't exactly rush to his defense:

"This wasn't the first time he broke the rules," one of Burress' teammates told the Daily News. "We all knew something had to be done."

According to one of his teammates, Plax is probably vacationing at his home in Fort Lauderdale.

Eagles lead the league in drops

October, 3, 2008
10/03/08
10:45
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Disturbing news for Eagles fans coming out of Pat Yasinskas' NFC South blog Thursday afternoon. Pat revealed (via Stats Inc.) that the Eagles are leading the NFL with 11 drops this season. The Lions and Broncos are tied for second place in this dubious category with 10 apiece.

So quick, let's try to justify this alarming number. For starters, only Jay Cutler (157) and Drew Brees (148) have attempted more passes than Donovan McNabb's 146. If you put it in the air that much, you're going to have some drops. The Eagles have also been without starters Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis most of the regular season. DeSean Jackson has been brilliant at times, but he's also had a couple of drops. I'll see if I can get the complete breakdown by player at some point today.

The Cowboys have seven drops and the Redskins and Giants are tied with five. Combined, the NFC East has dropped 28 balls, so they're one drop off the pace of the league-leading NFC North (29). I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I'm guessing Terrell Owens has at least four of the Cowboys' seven drops. He always seems to be among the league leaders in drops, but he still manages to put up big numbers.

Mosley Mailbag begins in 3-2-1

October, 3, 2008
10/03/08
9:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The American people have spoken. You want me to read your e-mails more than once a week, so I've hired a focus group to look into this and see if it's something we should consider.

But seriously, I appreciate the fact that NFC Beast readers are the most prolific group of the NFL Blog Network. It's with great pride and some trepidation that we once again try to clean out my Mailbag. Many of you (from the 214 area code) have demanded more Cowboys coverage, but I'm planning to spend a great deal of time on the other three teams in the division this week.

 
 Icon SMI
 If Chris Horton, left, keeps getting takeaways, coordinator Greg Blache will put up with some mistakes from the rookie.

Thanks for your eloquently phrased questions, but more importantly, for your honesty. The Mailbag has allowed us to meet on a quasi-personal level, and that's something we can build on. Surfing through your (favorable) comments is an edifying and lasting experience. I promise to only answer one (perhaps three) Big 12 questions in this edition.

Let's begin with Isaac from Maryland. Isaac, what's on your mind this morning? Really liking all this Chris Horton coverage, including your recent column. One article I read, might have been yours, stated that his interceptions have covered up his coverage mistakes on the field. (The Witten TD last week). Besides his interceptions, how is the rest of his game?

Mosley: As founder and president of the Chris Horton fan club, rest assured that we'll continue to monitor the young man's progress. I'll admit that I only watched the play you mentioned twice but it seems the Redskins were worried about that wheel route (I love a good wheel route) Cowboys rookie Felix Jones was running down the left sideline. Marcus Washington got locked in one-on-one coverage with Witten, and that's a bad place for him to be. Witten sells him on a double-move, touchdown Cowboys. Witten was actually open several times in the second half, but the Cowboys had launched their T.O. appeasement program.

Listen, Horton will make a lot of mistakes. At one point, the Redskins had to pull him off the field against the Cowboys. But as Bill Parcells used to say about certain players, the ball always seems to find Horton. You need that type of player on the field. He's not going to be a great coverage guy, but there's not a lot of strong safeties who fit that description. Horton's pretty solid against the run, and he looks a bit lost in coverage at times. But if defensive coordinator Greg Blache keeps getting takeaways out of the rookie, he'll be willing to put up with the mistakes. Just a really neat kid who shares my passion for "Dexter," although don't send me an e-mail about the first episode. And I mean it.


Bryan from DC has been reading Pat Yasinskas' excellent NFC South blog: In Pat Yasinskas' blog it says Phily has dropped a league-leading 11 passes so far this year. Do you know who is the main culprit behind that statistic?

Mosley: Bryan, I'll track down my Stats Inc. password, and try to provide the breakdown on the NFC East blog later today. What I can tell you (after intensive research) is that Donovan McNabb has thrown the most passes in the division. His 146 attempts leads Tony Romo by seven, and the other two quarterbacks by 20 or more attempts (Eli's played one less game). The Eagles have had more opportunities to drop balls. Off the top of my head, I remember rookie DeSean Jackson having a big drop in the red zone against the Cowboys, which forced the Eagles to settle for a field goal.

But you have to cut the Eagles a little slack for beginning the season without their starting wideouts. If you put the ball in the air that many times, there will be some drops. Over the years, starter Reggie Brown and veteran Greg Lewis have dropped their fair share of passes. It shouldn't be surprising that Jason Avant and Hank Baskett also dropped a few balls. And throw L.J. Smith in there, too. For a guy who needed to be an impact player this season, he's been pretty quiet.


Sniper1532 writes: Way to go and attack the reports for the Cowboys. Wow, you guys (ESPN) only get worse, and people like you who just love to hate on the Cowboys and T.O., but that's OK. I stopped watching you guys a long time ago for this reason. You guys know what T.O. is gonna say when you ask questions like, "Did you get the ball enough?" I mean come on.

Mosley: Sniper, this e-mail actually warms my heart. The folks in the "Cowboys bias" camp never knew my reputation as an alleged "Cowboys hater," as you put it. If I can reach across the aisle (I watched the Palin-Biden debate), then we've reached some bipartisanship on the blog.

To your T.O. point, my colleague and good friend Ed Werder is the reporter who asked the question you referenced. There's a laughable premise that T.O. should somehow be protected from himself by people working in the media. T.O. has stated after several games that he didn't receive enough passes, which makes him a lot like most star receivers in this league. I'm not sure Ed phrased the question exactly like you did, but even if he did, what the heck's wrong with it? T.O. seemed visibly upset when he'd come to the sideline. This sort of behavior might lead a reporter to ask whether he felt like he was being used properly.

I've defended T.O. several times in the past and I'm taken him to task when I think he's in the wrong. This notion that we shouldn't take the chance of asking a question that might cause someone to say something that they will later be criticized for is ridiculous. Given T.O.'s history with quarterbacks, it makes sense to pursue this line of questioning. A reporter from the Cowboys' in-house Internet operation apparently accused Ed of lacking objectivity, which led to an entertaining exchange at Valley Ranch on Wednesday. And Sniper, I'm sorry if you've actually stopped watching ESPN. I'm certainly happy that you're still supporting ESPN.com.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Bears 24, Eagles 20

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
2:01
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

If the Eagles are a serious contender in the NFC East, they sure hid it well in Sunday night's 24-20 loss in Chicago. They fell to an inferior team, and in doing so, fell to 2-2 on the season. With the Giants at 3-0 and the Redskins and Cowboys tied at 3-1, Philadelphia has taken its place in the basement of the league's best division.

You can point out the fact that the Eagles were playing without top running back Brian Westbrook (ankle), tight end L.J. Smith and right guard Shawn Andrews on Sunday, but that's not a viable excuse. The Eagles had every opportunity to win the game -- despite their poor effort.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb (chest) wasn't efficient enough, and the running game was non-existent for much of the evening. Westbrook's not a bull around the goal line, but you have to like his chances better than Correll Buckhalter's.

The most alarming thing for this team is giving up almost 200 yards and three touchdowns to Bears quarterback Kyle Orton. There's no shame in giving up that type of output to Tony Romo, Eli Manning and Jason Campbell, but 200 is a season's worth of stats for Orton. The Eagles harassed him for four sacks, but it didn't matter.

Eagles injury report: McNabb and Westbrook hopeful

September, 24, 2008
9/24/08
4:58
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Lots of injury news coming out of Philly today, but most of it sounded fairly positive. I'm still not expecting running back Brian Westbrook (ankle) to play, but he was a lot more optimistic today than Monday.

"I'm optimistic about getting out there and being able to play," said Westbrook, who said Monday that he had something similar to a high ankle sprain. "I've definitely gotten better since Sunday."

Westbrook and quarterback Donovan McNabb (chest) did not practice Wednesday, but their absence didn't surprise anyone. Asked whether there was a chance he wouldn't play Sunday, McNabb responded, "No. There's not a chance in my head. I expect to be out there."

He said the injury feels worse today than it did during Sunday's game against the Steelers.

"I won't be getting hit this week; at least not until maybe Sunday. It's hard to say, I haven't thrown a ball since the game. We're obviously trying to stay away from that aspect of it and just continue to treat it and eliminate that soreness that's there now' and swelling. When the time comes, get out there and get ready to roll."

Tight end L.J. Smith and right guard Shawn Andrews both sat out Wednesday's practice with back injuries. I think both players will be game-time decisions Sunday. In other injury news, wide receiver Kevin Curtis (sports hernia) returned to practice, and Andy Reid hasn't ruled him out for Sunday's game.

Hard to imagine Westbrook playing Sunday

September, 23, 2008
9/23/08
1:22
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The Beast bureau in Philly has been monitoring the Brian Westbrook situation pretty closely the past couple days. As Les Bowen reports, Westbrook showed up for his weekly radio appearance last night and provided a few details.

He said the injury, which occurred on the first play of the second quarter, is "closer to being a high ankle sprain than anything else."

As you might expect, Eagles coach Andy Reid wasn't exactly tipping his hand on Westbrook's status Monday, saying it was "literally a day-to-day situation, and I'm sure it'll be a race to get him ready for Sunday."

But listening to Westbrook describe the injury doesn't offer a lot of hope for that he'll be ready for the Bears.

"I tried to jump over [Tra Thomas'] legs. My left foot came down on one of his legs, and my right foot got caught in the turf... it was painful, very painful."

Reid might continue to call Westbrook a game-time situation all week, but it's highly unlikely that he'll play him. Correll Buckhalter and Lorenzo Booker will receive the bulk of the playing time in Westbrook's absence. It's a great opportunity for Buckhalter, who knows a thing or three about dealing with injuries. I had a chance to sit down and visit with Buckhalter last month about how he views his career. Now in his eighth season, he's missed three entire seasons due to injury. His best year came in 2003, when he rushed for 542 yards and eight touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 133 yards and had a touchdown.

The Eagles drafted Westbrook a year after Buckhalter. It looked like the two players would be a lethal combination, but Buckhalter simply couldn't stay on the field.

"I still think I could be a feature back in this league," Buckhalter told me. "Even now, I still have the ability to be an every-down guy. It just hasn't worked out that way. This team still seems to value what I can give them, though, and that's something I appreciate."

It's remarkable that Buckhalter has been able to retain a lot of his speed despite the knee surgeries. It would've been interesting to see how his career had turned out without the knee surgeries. In 2003, Westbrook rushed for 613 yards, and Buckhalter had 542.

But for at least a week or two, Buckhalter will be the feature back again. It wouldn't surprise me if he puts up big numbers.

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