NFC East: Jabar Gaffney

Good morning. Did you ever sit in front of your computer and know you needed to type something but you just couldn't come up with anything good? Yeah, in my business you can't afford to have that problem. So I'm going to keep this part here real short today and just say something about links.

Dallas Cowboys

Top draft pick Morris Claiborne is going to wear No. 24 for the Cowboys, and that's a number that has some defensive-back history to it in Dallas. Everson Walls likes the idea of Claiborne wearing his old number, and I guess it's a good thing the Cowboys don't do anything to put any undue pressure on their young guys.

Calvin Watkins thinks that the draft picks of Tyrone Crawford and Kyle Wilber, each of whom projects as a pass-rusher, indicate that the team is trying to formulate a long-range backup plan in case Anthony Spencer doesn't make enough pass-rush strides this year and they need to move on. It doesn't look as though either of those picks is in line to make any real impact this year, but they believe one or both of them can develop into a stand-up outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense, and if that's the case, one of them could eventually replace Spencer.

New York Giants

Eli Manning's turn as host of "Saturday Night Live" comes this weekend. (I'll leave you to guess which day.) His big brother hosted it once upon a time, back when he was the big name in that family, and he spoke with the New York Daily News about what he thinks will help make his brother better at this than a lot of people might think.

Giants 101 ponders the difference between Mario Manningham and Rueben Randle as well as the difference between Brandon Jacobs and David Wilson, and reaches the conclusion that the Giants might be less explosive in the passing game but more so in the running game as a result of those changes.

Philadelphia Eagles

Jonathan Tamari breaks down five offseason position battles on the Eagles' roster, including starting safety, backup quarterback and (of course) linebacker. Safety is the one on which I think everyone has their eye. Can the young guys the Eagles drafted high in 2010 and 2011 emerge as viable starters in 2012?

Dave Spadaro is ... well, he's flat-out jacked up about what he sees on the Eagles' defensive line for this year. And while this is no surprise, coming as it does from Dave on the team's official website, when he starts listing the names at defensive tackle and defensive end, it does start to look awfully impressive.

Washington Redskins

Jason Reid writes that the Kirk Cousins pick was a "risky but necessary" backup plan for Robert Griffin III, and that it doesn't have the same characteristics of last year's training camp quarterback controversy between Rex Grossman and John Beck. And you know what? When Jason puts it that way, that's kind of all you need to hear, right? Was there really anything wrong with upgrading two quarterback spots?

Some of Jabar Gaffney's 2011 numbers -- he led the team in catches and receiving yards -- were good enough to make you wonder why they cut him Tuesday. But John Keim says the number the Redskins looked at was his 2.7 yards average yards after catch, and they believe they can do better than that from the flanker spot with Josh Morgan and/or Leonard Hankerson in 2012.
Of the Dallas Cowboys' late-round draft picks, the one that seems to be drawing the most attention right now is Virginia Tech wide receiver Danny Coale. I think it's because people have heard of him and because he plays a position at which the Cowboys have an opening. Laurent Robinson, the out-of-nowhere No. 3 wide receiver who caught 11 touchdown passes for the Cowboys in 2011, has moved on to Jacksonville, and the competition he left behind for that spot is somewhat uninspiring, which is why -- as Calvin Watkins writes -- the team's fifth-round draft pick may have a shot:
As it stands, Coale will battle Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris and Raymond Radway for the two open receiver spots. The Cowboys could use five receivers in 2012 if needed. (We don't believe Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are in danger of not making the roster).

What I'm told about Coale by scouts (who like him a great deal) is that he knows how to get open, knows how to find the ball in traffic and has excellent hands. These would all seem to be great assets, but those same scouts caution that Coale is a bit undersized (6-feet, 200 pounds) and may struggle against the bigger, more physical defenders he's going to face as he adjusts to the NFL level. That's why I caution against expecting too much out of Coale too soon. He's a fifth-round pick, after all, and if he does make an impact as a rookie that'd be one heck of a story.

Some people have suggested to me on Twitter that Coale compares to Wes Welker. I think this is a lazy (and somewhat insulting) comparison to make, and I think it's made because Coale is white and not very big. Coale actually lists as three inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than Welker, who by the way is one of the best players in the entire league. If Coale does turn out to be even half as good as Welker, the Cowboys will have grabbed a huge steal in the fifth round. I doubt that even their most optimistic forecasts imagine that.

If we can put both feet on the ground about this for a moment, the odds are that Coale helps on special teams in 2012 and finds his way into the receiver mix here and there as he learns the pro game and adjusts to a new level of difficulty. If he makes good progress, you could be looking at a guy who becomes a reliable receiver for the Cowboys in 2013 or 2014, and that'd be excellent. If you find a starter in Round Five at any position, you've done something really impressive. But look, for example, at Bryant, a former first-r0under who's as skilled and physically dominant as any receiver in the league. He's still developing after two seasons as a starter. It takes time at that position.

My bet is still that the Cowboys add a veteran receiver to this mix before or during camp as the market begins to flood with them. The Redskins released Jabar Gaffney on Tuesday, and a short time later the Texans released Jacoby Jones. I don't know if either of those guys makes sense to or for the Cowboys, but the point is that there will be options, and opportunities to find the next Robinson if he doesn't turn out to currently live on the Cowboys' roster. As for Danny Coale, there's real potential there, but I think the best thing the Cowboys and their fans can do is to be patient and see what comes of it.
Jabar Gaffney led the Washington Redskins in catches and receiving yards last year. On Tuesday, the Redskins released him. This might seem incongruous, but it speaks to where the Redskins are in their franchise building process.

Gaffney, who caught 68 passes for 947 yards in 2011 from the Redskins' quarterback combination of Rex Grossman and John Beck, isn't part of the future plans for the offense. The Redskins signed free-agent wide receivers Pierre Garcon (25 years old) and Josh Morgan (26) in advance of drafting quarterback Robert Griffin III (22) with the second pick in the draft. Gaffney isn't an old man by any means at 31, but the Redskins want to put a receiving corps around Griffin that can grow and flourish with him as he develops as an NFL quarterback.

Why not cut Santana Moss, who turns 33 next month and had a worse year than Gaffney had? Well, one reason is that the Redskins believe Moss will be better as the slot receiver with guys like Garcon, Morgan and second-year man Leonard Hankerson on the outside, where Gaffney's role is likely (they hope) going to be filled by Garcon, who offers more big-play potential.

The Redskins like Gaffney and appreciate the production he gave them last year. They just don't see much value in having him around going forward as they develop their young offense around their new star quarterback. He was a 2011 stopgap, kind of like Grossman was at quarterback. They're not cutting him because of anything he said or did on Twitter a couple of weeks back. They're not cutting him because they don't think he's any good. They're cutting him because he doesn't fit there anymore.

And yeah, to answer a question I know I'll get 1,000 times in the next couple of days, I believe the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to take a look at him.
One week from tonight, young men in suits will hug the NFL commissioner and put on brightly colored caps on a stage at Radio City Music Hall. Just one more week. Can you make it that long? I know what'll help. Links.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten says that the lesson he and the Cowboys can learn from last year's Giants is that "you've got to be your best at key times." He also said a lot of the right things about the Cowboys having to prove stuff and having plenty of leaders, etc. You know. We'll see.

Stanford offensive lineman David DeCastro visited the Cowboys on Wednesday. His initially planned visit was scratched due to the heavy storms that rolled through the Dallas area a couple of weeks back. DeCastro was a popular pick for the Cowboys once upon a time in mock drafts, and I guess he still could technically be the pick. But the Cowboys seem more interested in taking a defensive player, and Michael Brockers was the Wednesday visitor more likely to be taken at No. 14, I would think.

New York Giants

Ohm's latest Giants draft preview looks at wide receiver. The Giants have two top-line starters in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, but Ohm lists some of the internal candidates who could replace Mario Manningham as well as some names the Giants could look at in the first or later rounds of the draft if they decide to add to their depth at that position.

Left tackle, right tackle, left guard, whatever. David Diehl doesn't know which position the Giants will ask him to play in 2012, and he doesn't care, either.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles drafted for need last year, particularly in using their second-round pick on a reach for safety Jaiquawn Jarrett. But as Paul Domowitch writes, Philly would rather go back to a best-player-available approach this year. Makes sense, especially early. The Eagles have few clear immediate positional needs, and some of the ones they do have (linebacker, backup running back) are spots where value can be found in later rounds.

DeSean Jackson says he thinks Eagles fans "deserve" for the team to win them a Super Bowl title. Funny. My experience tells me that's exactly what Eagles fans think, too!

Washington Redskins

Jabar Gaffney says he's been told to stay away from voluntary workouts while the Redskins attempt to trade him. Gaffney thinks this has something to do with a profane Twitter rant he went on last week, and he continues to deny that it was actually him doing the ranting. I have no idea on that last point, but to the first: I'm pretty sure this has a lot more to do with the fact that the Redskins are overloaded at receiver and trying to get something for a guy who's unlikely to get another 947 yards this year before they have to cut him.

Want to know what the Redskins are up to this week during the conditioning-only portion of voluntary offseason workouts? Yeah, that's right: Pilates.

Redskins looking for more YAC?

March, 16, 2012
Something about the Washington Redskins' signings of wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan struck me earlier in the week, so I went back to the transcript of my interview with Mike Shanahan from December and found this quote about what he was looking for in a wide receiver:
"We've got to get a wide receiver that's a playmaker. You've got to have a No. 1, no question about it. We have [Santana] Moss and [Jabar] Gaffney, who's going to be right at 1,000 yards, but you're still looking for that guy that can go the distance and make plays, running the ball on a short shallow cross and go the distance. Everybody's looking for that."

Garcon has not, to this point in his career, been a No. 1. But he's young enough that the Redskins hope he can be. And he brings something to the table that touches on the latter part of that quote. He averaged 5.2 yards after the catch in 2011, and has averaged 5.1 yards after the catch for his career. Morgan averaged 6.8 yards after the catch on his mere 15 receptions in 2011, and his career average is 5.7.

Those are strong numbers, especially compared to the 4.4 YAC average Moss put up last season (down a full yard from his 2010 number) and Gaffney's 2.9. Shanahan's looking for receivers who can help out his rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, by making plays when they get the ball in their hands. And in Garcon and Morgan, he sees a couple such guys.

Eddie Royal, whom the Redskins pursued before he agreed to terms with the Chargers on Thursday night, doesn't exactly fit the profile. He was a 3.7 YAC guy on his 19 catches in 2011, and is 4.7 for his career. But the Redskins believed he was a guy who could man the slot position for them and help in the return game. Moss remains on the roster for now and can work the slot, but if the Redskins are looking to get younger and are in the market for another wide receiver after Royal jilted them, you might want to look at some of the YAC numbers of the remaining available free agents to determine possible targets.

Arizona's Early Doucet averaged 6.4 yards after the catch in 2011. New England's Deion Branch averaged 6.5. Cincinnati's Jerome Simpson averaged 5.4. These aren't names that will fire up the season-ticket phone lines, but Shanahan clearly has specific reasons he targets certain free agents, and this year that YAC number seems to be a big factor for him with wide receivers.
ASHBURN, Va. -- Everyone knows the Washington Redskins need a quarterback. Head coach Mike Shanahan might not want to come out and say he needs to fix quarterback this offseason, since he doesn't want to insult the players he currently has at the position. But in a wide-ranging interview in his office Friday, he did acknowledge that it would be good to have a "franchise" guy.

"Everybody wants a franchise quarterback," Shanahan said. "Every team you talk to, if you don't have a franchise quarterback, everybody's looking for a franchise quarterback. I understand. If you're in this business long enough, you understand that everybody wants a Peyton Manning, a Drew Brees, a Tom Brady, and rightfully so. If they're out there, you try and get one. And if they're not, you go with what you have and try and get it done."

I pointed out to Shanahan that part of the problem is that there aren't 32 guys in the world who fit that description. He smiled.

"Not everybody understands that," he said.

I left Shanahan's office with the definite impression that the Redskins would look at every conceivable available option at quarterback this offseason -- drafting one, trading up to get an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III if they need to, or even looking at the possibility of bringing in Manning if the Colts let him go as expected and he can prove he's healthy. Shanahan didn't really discuss any of those specific names, and I didn't expect him to, but every time I raised a specific possibility, he made it clear they'll look at all options.

As for other needs, let's go to your questions.

Jason from Washington, D.C. checked into the mailbag last week and wanted me to ask Shanahan what was "the most glaring positional need" for the Redskins to address in the draft or free agency.

Mike Shanahan: "We've got to get a wide receiver that's a playmaker. You've got to have a No. 1, no question about it. We've got [Santana] Moss, and [Jabar] Gaffney, who's going to be right at 1,000 yards. But you're still looking for a guy that can go the distance and make plays, running on a short shallow cross and go the distance. Everybody's looking for that."

Later in the interview, the topic of rookie wide receiver Leonard Hankerson came up. Hankerson missed the final seven weeks of the season with a hip injury, but Shanahan's eyes got big when he talked about him.

MS: "I think he's got a chance to be the guy. Health is what we don't know. He's got the hip. But we're hoping he's going to be that guy. You can see in practice where he's a natural. Big. The thing that separates guys at No. 1 is when they can beat bump coverage and they don't have to slow down to beat it. They're able to keep their speed and be able to get by somebody. He's got that."

Of course, if the Redskins are looking for a No. 1 receiver for next year, it's unlikely they'll be willing to take a chance that Hankerson could come that quickly. There are some potential free-agent options in guys like Dwayne Bowe, Stevie Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Vincent Jackson. And if the Redskisn decide to take a receiver instead of a quarterback in the first round, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is the top option.

Bill from Maryland submitted a question asking what Shanahan's plans are for free agency, and he responded that they'd be similar to what they were last year, when they targeted a couple of specific guys with specific characteristics -- Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Josh Wilson -- at some need positions.

MS: "We'll try and do the same thing this year -- take a look at a couple of upgrades on defense, a couple of upgrades on offense. Guys that have proven themselves, who aren't too old, that we think are still hungry in that 26-, 27-, 28-year-old range. That's what we'd like to target in free agency if we can get those guys, and then try to target everything else in the draft."

So there you go. That's your fun homework assignment for this week. Go look at the lists of prospective free agents and find guys in that 26-28-year-old range who play positions like safety and offensive line and wide receiver and see if you can figure out who they might be targeting. I will of course do what I can to find out more, but it sounds like we can start piecing some possibilities together no?

Lots more to come all this week from my Shanahan interview, including more of your questions.

All-NFC East Team: Week 17 update

December, 28, 2011
I don't vote on the Pro Bowl rosters. I'm not a fan, a coach or a player, and those are the three groups that combine to make those decisions. So if you look at this week's edition of the NFC East All-Division Team, and some players who didn't make the Pro Bowl are listed where players who did make the Pro Bowl aren't, that's because this here team has one voter. And this voters disagrees with some of the decisions those voters made. Including the first one on this week's list.

But first, the disclaimer no one ever reads: This is an All-Division Team based on overall performance this year to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply a list of awards for this week's performance. That's why Evan Royster isn't on it.

Quarterback: Tony Romo, Cowboys (Last week: Romo)

Running back: LeSean McCoy, Eagles (McCoy)

Wide receiver: Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, Giants (Cruz, Nicks)

Tight end: Jason Witten, Cowboys (Witten)

Fullback: Darrel Young, Redskins (Tony Fiammetta)

Left tackle: Jason Peters, Eagles (Peters)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Right guard: Kyle Kosier, Cowboys (Kosier)

Right tackle: Tyron Smith, Cowboys (Smith)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Trent Cole, Eagles (Pierre-Paul, Cole)

Defensive tackle: Jay Ratliff, Cowboys; Cullen Jenkins, Eagles (Ratliff, Jenkins)

Outside linebacker: DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys; Brian Orakpo, Redskins (Ware, Orakpo)

Inside linebacker: London Fletcher, Redskins; Sean Lee, Cowboys (Fletcher, Lee)

Cornerback: Asante Samuel, Eagles; Corey Webster, Giants (Samuel, Josh Wilson)

Safety: Kenny Phillips, Giants; O.J. Atogwe, Redskins (Phillips, Atogwe)

Kicker: Dan Bailey, Cowboys (Bailey)

Punter: Steve Weatherford, Giants (Weatherford)

Kick returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Banks)

Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Banks)
  • Yes, Romo over Eli Manning. The numbers are better. Same number of wins. One more game to settle it, if they both want to play their best. Manning may have made the Pro Bowl on yardage numbers and his five fourth-quarter comebacks, but Romo has played the position better this year. Slightly.
  • Webster can have his cornerback spot back. He was fantastic Saturday, and in a weak field has been much more good than bad this season.
  • And while I, like a lot of people, got caught up in the Fiammetta hype. But Young has been a mauler all season at fullback, and it says something that three different Redskins running backs have had 100-yard games this season. (And that doesn't count original starter Tim Hightower, whose season high was 96.)
  • Cole over Jason Babin. We've been over this and over this. I'll take the better player. You can have the guy with the most sacks. Babin's year is sensational, but he's not the best defensive end on his own team. And as great as he is, he's not one of the two best in his division.
  • One final thought, at wide receiver: The Redskins' Jabar Gaffney is making a run at this team. If Nicks keeps dropping balls or misses this week's game with the hamstring injury that popped up on this morning's injury report, Gaffney could make a run at his spot. The numbers are getting close.

Okay, so what'd I get wrong?

Wrap-up: Vikings 33, Redskins 26

December, 24, 2011

A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' disappointing 33-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in their final home game of the season:

What it means: The Redskins have lost at least 10 games for the third season in a row, and much of the good feeling that accompanied last week's victory over the New York Giants has to have ebbed a bit. This was a Vikings team whose star running back and rookie quarterback left the game with injuries, and the Redskins' defense was nonetheless powerless to stop backups Toby Gerhart and Joe Webb.

Credit where due: Jabar Gaffney had six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown to continue a very strong season that hasn't received much attention because of the circumstances in which he plays. If he's a Redskin next year, he'll be an asset to whoever they use at quarterback. He's up to 919 receiving yards for the season.

Another rookie runner: With Roy Helu hurting, Mike Shanahan gave the start at running back to Helu's fellow rookie, Evan Royster. And Royster did a lot to back up the notion that running backs are interchangeable in the Shanahan offense. He had 132 yards on 19 carries and gives the Redskins and their fans another thing to feel good about as they look ahead to what they might be able to piece together on offense next year if they can get a quarterback.

Something had to give: The battle of the interception streaks went to the Vikings, who picked off a Rex Grossman pass in the fourth quarter. That broke a streak of nine consecutive games in which the Vikings' defense had not intercepted a pass. And it extended Grossman's personal streak to 11 straight games with at least one interception. Grossman had a fine statistical game otherwise, completing 26-of-40 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns.

What's next: The Redskins will try to match last season's win total when they finish their season next Sunday afternoon against the Eagles in Philadelphia.

All-NFC East Team: Week 16 update

December, 21, 2011
You can't have as bad a game as Eli Manning had Sunday and keep your spot on the NFC East All-Division Team. Not when your closest competition is playing at such a high level. So we switch quarterbacks again this week, with Tony Romo ascendant. This has been a very close race all year, but statistically Romo is now pulling away. He's well ahead in passer rating and completion percentage. He has six fewer interceptions and one more win. All Manning has on him is yards and a head-to-head victory in which Romo played extremely well. So it's Romo with two weeks to go.

The disclaimer that no one will read: This is an All-Division Team based on overall performance this year to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply a list of the top performers from this past week. That's why Brent Celek isn't on it. Romo vs. Manning has been a running debate all year, and the main reason Romo has the QB spot this week isn't their relative Week 15 performances but rather the fact that Romo's season has been better than Manning's. Week 15 may have nudged him back ahead, but it's not the sole reason for the change.

I'll get to more explanations after the list.

Quarterback: Tony Romo, Cowboys (Last week: Eli Manning)

Running back: LeSean McCoy, Eagles (McCoy)

Wide receiver: Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, Giants (Nicks, Cruz)

Tight end: Jason Witten, Cowboys (Witten)

Fullback: Tony Fiammetta, Cowboys (Fiammetta)

Left tackle: Jason Peters, Eagles (Peters)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Right guard: Kyle Kosier, Cowboys (Kosier)

Right tackle: Tyron Smith, Cowboys (Smith)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul Giants; Trent Cole, Eagles (Pierre-Paul, Cole)

Defensive tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Jay Ratliff, Cowboys (Jenkins, Ratliff)

Outside linebacker: DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys; Brian Orakpo, Redskins (Ware, Orakpo)

Inside linebacker: London Fletcher, Redskins; Sean Lee, Cowboys (Fletcher, Lee)

Cornerback: Josh Wilson, Redskins; Asante Samuel, Eagles (Wilson, Samuel)

Safety: Kenny Phillips, Giants, O.J. Atogwe, Redskins (Phillips, Gerald Sensabaugh)

Kicker: Dan Bailey, Cowboys (Bailey)

Punter: Steve Weatherford, Giants (Weatherford)

Kick returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Banks)

Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Banks)
  • I almost put Jason Babin in at defensive end. Everybody always complains about Babin not being on here, and with six sacks in two games he's now tied for the league lead in the category. He merits strong consideration, and he gets it every week. My question to those who don't like it is: Which guy do I bench for him? Cole's still the better all-around player on Babin's own team, still having the better all-around year, playing the run as well as the pass and drawing double-teams while Babin sells out for the sack on every play. And Pierre-Paul is basically the only thing the Giants have right now on defense, and he's been brilliant. So I put it to you, dear readers: Which of my starting DEs should be dropped for Babin? As of now, my answer is "neither." But he's getting real close. And it's no insult to the guy to rank him behind these two.
  • It was a tough week for Nicks and Cruz, but they're not being challenged, really. The Eagles' receivers continue to muddle along, and the Cowboys are spreading it out too much. Nicks and Cruz are leading the division in catches and, by a healthy margin, receiving yards. Their 2011 seasons have been the best by any receivers in the division. I will offer honorable mentions to Dallas' Dez Bryant, who's been very consistent, and Washington's Jabar Gaffney, who ranks third among division wideouts in catches with 58 and yards with 842.
  • You know how I feel about cornerback. Nobody in the division is playing it well. Thought about putting Corey Webster back in there, but whatever. He was covering Redskins receivers, and the Redskins picked up every third down. The Cowboys' secondary is a mess, too, which is why Atogwe got the safety spot this week over Sensabaugh. I almost put him in over Phillips, but I think Phillips' 2011 body of work is still better than Sensabaugh's. I've got my eye on that Giants' secondary, too, though. When you break down that much every week, everybody shares responsibility.

So what'd I get wrong?
Wednesday's links are actually Thursday's links this week because all of the games this week are on Saturday. I don't think that means we'll do predictions on Thursday, but I guess you never know. All we do know for sure is that we can count on our links, served hot and fresh and always right on time.

Dallas Cowboys

Tim MacMahon writes that one of the things that's helping everybody get along in the Cowboys' wide receiver corps is the strong relationships quarterback Tony Romo has helped forge among them and between himself and them. Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson each caught a touchdown pass in Saturday's victory over Tampa Bay, and there's no better way than that to keep wide receivers happy.

Running back Felix Jones missed Tuesday's practice with a hamstring injury, which is alarming since Sammy Morris is the only other tailback on the roster. I'm sure Cowboys fans would enjoy seeing Jones practice today. I promise to keep you posted.

New York Giants

Ed Valentine of Big Blue View is getting a little bit of a run in The New York Times' NFL blog in the days leading up to the big Giants-Jets game Saturday. On the topic of which team owns New York's heart, Ed offers a nice contrast between this historical basis for the feelings of Jets and Giants fans and concludes that whichever team is winning will turn out to be the answer.

Tom Coughlin strongly believes that leadership needs to come from within the locker room and that players need to be accountable for game-day performance, and he says he's leaning harder on his team's leaders this week and believes they will deliver.

Philadelphia Eagles

Geoff Mosher writes that the Ryan brothers seem to bring out the best in the Eagles' offense for some reason. Saturday's game against defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and the Cowboys will be the Eagles' third game this year and second in a row against a Ryan brother-coached defense. They whipped head coach Rex Ryan and the Jets Sunday in Philadelphia.

Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson aren't having the statistical seasons they would have liked or expected, but as Jeff McLane writes, they're finding other ways to chip in. Maclin's blocking, for instance. With the year LeSean McCoy has had, the Eagles are wise to lean more on him and de-emphasize the deep passing game, no matter how talented their wideouts are.

Washington Redskins

With the Redskins in need of a franchise quarterback this offseason, Amy Shipley takes a look at the process teams go through in trying to find one. Hint: It's not easy.

Rick Maese writes of Jabar Gaffney's emergence as the No. 1 receiving option for quarterback Rex Grossman. With Santana Moss having missed time with that broken hand and all of the tight ends having disappeared, Gaffney has indeed been one of Washington's constants this year. If he sticks around, he could be a big help to whoever the quarterback is in 2012.

Wrap up: Patriots 34, Redskins 27

December, 11, 2011
A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' hard-fought loss to the Patriots at FedEx Field on Sunday:

What it means: Pure heartbreak! The Redskins got as far as the New England 5-yard line in the final minute with a chance to tie it. But veteran receiver Santana Moss made two costly mistakes that prevented it from happening. Moss was flagged for an offensive pass interference penalty that moved the Redskins back to the 15, and then a Rex Grossman pass bounced off of Moss' hands and into those of Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo for the game-clinching interception. The Redskins fall to 4-9, ensuring them a third consecutive season with a losing record.

Offense shows heart: Clearly, the New England defense is abominable. But the number of personnel losses the Redskins have suffered this season should have rendered their offense incapable of moving the ball against almost anyone. This was not the case Sunday, as Grossman consistently found receivers when he needed to. No Fred Davis? No problem. Grossman completed passes to seven different receivers. Donte' Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney each went for more than 90 yards receiving, and Moss had more than 80. Roy Helu racked up a manly 126 yards on 27 carries. The balance on offense was remarkable -- 34 run plays and 35 pass plays. It was the fifth game this year in which the Redskins ran the ball on at least 40 percent of their offensive plays and the first such game that they lost. But considering they were playing without both starting tackles after Jammal Brown got hurt in warm-ups, it was probably the best the offense has looked all year. It outgained the Patriots 463 yards to 431.

Streak continues: The interception wasn't his fault, but it did extend Grossman's streak to nine straight games with at least one interception. He also lost a fumble in the end zone earlier in the game, and the Patriots recovered it for a touchdown.

Defense holds its own: The Redskins' defense gave up 27 points, but it held Tom Brady and the Patriots to 5-for-11 on third downs (while the Redskins' offense went 7-for-14 on third downs), and Josh Wilson's interception in the end zone set the Redskins up for their chance to tie the game. Brady looked to be at least a little bit off his game in the second half (for him, at least), and I imagine the Redskins were able to put some real defensive positives on film.

What's next: The Redskins travel to New Jersey on Sunday to play the New York Giants with a chance to mess up the Giants' season. They got New York's season off to a rotten start by beating them in Week 1 in Washington, and a victory next Sunday at the Meadowlands could severely damage, if not end, the Giants' playoff hopes.

Breakfast links: Deconstructing DeSean

November, 22, 2011
It is Tuesday, which means we chat, we Stock Watch and we Power Rank. But before we do any of that, we feast. On links.

Dallas Cowboys

Jay Ratliff tells Calvin Watkins that the loss in Philadelphia four weeks ago was, for the Cowboys, "a wakeup call, and we need to take things more serious and get out there and just do our jobs." They've not lost since, and as I wrote Monday, one of the keys for the Cowboys the rest of the way is their ability to maintain their seriousness of purpose.

The Landry Hat correctly points out that the Cowboys' running game was not itself without fullback Tony Fiammetta, who missed Sunday's game with an undisclosed illness and didn't practice Monday either. I thought it really showed up when they tried to run between the tackles (as you'd expect), and if Fiammetta has to miss another game Thursday, I'd expect the Cowboys to try and stretch the Dolphins' defense out and use DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones in space as much as possible. Long-term, though, they'll hope Fiammetta can come back from whatever it is that's bugging him, because their ability to pound the ball with Murray is one of the key reasons the offense was able to take off over the past few weeks.

New York Giants

Wow, the Giants were a cranky bunch on Monday. I mean, I was cranky, too, but I was under the impression that most of the Giants' players and coaches got more than four hours of sleep Sunday night after the game. I may have been wrong. They apparently pulled no punches in their team meetings. They used words like "irritated" when talking about the game. And Tom Coughlin took some shots at the people who had picked his team to win the game because the Eagles were using their backup quarterback. Grumpy Giants.

The hunt for bright spots from the loss has led many of the Giants' players to rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara, who had an interception in his first NFL game and ran LeSean McCoy out of bounds just short of the end zone on his 60-yard run that iced the game late in the fourth quarter. Good hustle, even if it had no real impact on the outcome.

Philadelphia Eagles

DeSean Jackson's contract push continues to not go exactly as he'd hoped, and his uneven performance Sunday night had fed into some of the old criticisms he can't shake. Bob Ford writes that Jackson has "soft hands, rock head," and somehow Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee decided, unprompted, to call Jackson a "punk" on Twitter during the game. Josh Scobee, for goodness' sake. On the flip side, Marcus Hayes believes the Eagles fed off Jackson's energy in Sunday's win.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Andy Reid says Michael Vick gets the starting quarterback job back from Vince Young once Vick is healthy again. He just doesn't know whether that means Sunday.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins are using rookie running back Roy Helu plenty, even if they're not using him as the "starter." Mike Shanahan says it's because he doesn't want to give the young man too much responsibility too soon, which makes some sense. This is a long-term project in Washington, remember.

Turns out Jabar Gaffney just joined Twitter last week, and he's already told a heckling fan to kill himself. That's quick work. I'm personally not a fan of Twitter hecklers -- mine or anyone else's -- but they're a fact of Twitter life, and pro athletes can't be running around telling the paying customers they have no lives and should kill themselves. Just let it go, Jabar. Just let it go.

Impact of Hightower, Moss injuries

October, 24, 2011
By now you've seen the news that Washington Redskins running back Tim Hightower is out for the season with a torn ACL and that the Redskins' top wide receiver, Santana Moss, will miss 5-to-7 weeks with a broken hand. These injuries will have impact in a variety of areas, so let's take a look at a couple of them.

The Redskins' running game: This is where I actually expect the Hightower injury to have the least impact. Ryan Torain has been a better runner of the football than Hightower has this year, and the reasons Hightower got his starting job back Sunday once healthy again have less to do with his ability as a runner than they do with things addressed in the next paragraph. Torain can and will carry the load as long as he's healthy. If he does break down, as he has in the past, the Redskins like what rookie Roy Helu brings to the table. In this particular "next man up" scenario, the Redskins have plenty of men for the job.

The Redskins' passing game: The main reason Hightower was the starter ahead of Torain when Torain was running so much better was because Mike Shanahan liked what Hightower brought to the passing game. He's an excellent pass-blocking back and an excellent pass-catching back, and the Redskins' passing game will suffer for his absence. It goes without saying the passing game will suffer for the absence of Moss, who caught 93 passes for 1,115 yards in 2010 and has averaged 74 catches per season as a Redskin. They're deep at receiver, but not with anyone of Moss' experience level.

The Redskins' state of mind: The Redskins' early success was, in part, the result of the strong veteran leadership in their locker room. Moss, who has been a Redskins mainstay since 2005, was a big part of that. This might not be as significant as, say, losing London Fletcher would be to the defense. But if the Redskins' offense has a leader to whom it looks for guidance, Moss is probably it. Add in the fact that they've now lost two straight games after their feel-good 3-1 start and seen Moss, Hightower, tight end Chris Cooley and starting offensive linemen Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger go down with significant injuries the past two weeks. The good early vibes are going to be tough to sustain.

Fantasy football rosters across the land: I mean, I'm not made of stone here. I recognize these are real people in real pain and I wish them both well. But I also play fantasy football. I used to write a weekly column on trading in fantasy football for my previous employer. And I recognize the huge part it plays in the coverage of today's NFL. I recognize that a lot of you clicked on this link with fantasy football in mind. So here's my guess: Torain becomes the starting running back and remains so as long as he's healthy. Given the Redskins' schedule, he's a guy worth having on your team and probably starting. Helu needs to be on fantasy benches in case he gets some run as the starter at some point, which is above-average likely. And if you have really deep rosters, Evan Royster might even be worth stashing. As for receiver, everybody's going to say Jabar Gaffney, but I don't see his numbers (which have been pretty good and consistent this year, actually) changing that much for the Moss injury. I think tight end Fred Davis will continue to function as the No. 1 fantasy receiver on the Redskins.

That's pretty much all I've got on this for now. Your thoughts?
Yep, just another boring, predictable NFL Sunday. Tom Brady throws four interceptions and blows a three-touchdown lead. The Giants come back and beat the Eagles with big plays by Victor Cruz. The Lions, Bills, Packers and Redskins (pending Monday night's result) are the only undefeated teams in the league. Just like everybody predicted.

It continues to astound me that people go out, work hard and earn money only to turn around and bet it on NFL football games. It should be clear by now that the only thing you can count on are the links.

Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo says he's "good to go" against the Redskins on "Monday Night Football" on ESPN. Romo says he'll be dealing with the pain from his broken ribs for the next month, but that he'll be able to play Monday. Also good news for the Cowboys in there on Felix Jones and Dez Bryant, as it appears they'll play in the big division game against the Redskins as well.

The Cowboys' defense has been better in its first two games than many of us expected it to be right out of the gate under new coordinator Rob Ryan. In this story, I learned that they plan to pressure Rex Grossman Monday, that Ryan calls his outside pass rushers, DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, "the lizards" and that Ryan likes to say "hell" a lot.

New York Giants

Steve Politi writes, it was hard to like Victor Cruz's chances against Nnamdi Asomugha on the touchdown that put the Giants in the lead Sunday against the Eagles. Cruz is the unlikely hero who took advantage of a big opportunity Sunday with Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon out, and he's a neat story. Ian O'Connor has more on Cruz here.

Mike Mazzeo writes that Michael Boley made the biggest play of the game for the Giants' defense. In a year that has seen the Giants lose key piece after key piece on defense to injury, Boley has been doing nothing but making big plays. You know that cliche where they say, "Somebody just has to step up?" Well, Boley is that cliche come to life. He's having a great season so far.

Philadelphia Eagles

Jimmy Kempski has a video breakdown that shows the Giants have now beaten the Eagles on the exact same play two years in a row -- the pass to Brandon Jacobs up the sideline. Nice work by Kempski, and as he points out, bad job by the Eagles' defensive coaches not making poor Casey Matthews aware of the fact that the Giants had that play in their bag of tricks.

Andy Reid was terse and grumpy in his postgame news conference, which struck me as a little unfair. I mean, we weren't the ones who missed the tackles on Cruz. Anyway, Bob Ford has some fun with Reid, and thinks the Eagles' head coach has to take some blame for what happened at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.

Washington Redskins

Anthony Armstrong is hoping for a big encore to the big game he had for the Redskins last year in Dallas. We haven't heard much so far this year from Armstrong, who seems to be no better than the fourth option in the passing game behind Fred Davis, Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney, but Grossman completed passes to eight different guys last week, so you really never know.

Deron Snyder expresses a sentiment many people on both sides of Monday night's game are feeling: It's nice that a Cowboys-Redskins game feels like it means something again after what feels like a long time for this historically-bitter rivalry.

Folks, I'm flying Monday morning from Philadelphia to Dallas, so you won't see much of anything from me until maybe this afternoon when I'm settled into my press box seat at Cowboys Stadium. Meantime, scroll back and see what I had on the Giants-Eagles game from Sunday and the Redskins column I posted Sunday morning, if you haven't checked it out already. Check in with you from Big D.

Observation deck: Redskins-Buccaneers

September, 1, 2011
So, when you guys helped convince me to watch the Washington Redskins' game live and the other three on delay, you neglected to tell me the Redskins' game would be the longest one by a half-hour. Sheesh.

Aaaaanyway, this was clearly not John Beck's best work. The Redskins' 29-24 exhibition victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their final game of the 2011 NFL preseason was the worst of the three preseason performances Beck has turned in during his audition to be the Redskins' starting quarterback. He looked much better in each of the previous two games than he did Thursday night, when he was 10-for-21 for 108 yards and an interception.

The question, of course, is what it all means.

Certainly, if Beck's chances of being the starter were riding on his performance in this game, he didn't help himself. But I don't think he necessarily had to play well Thursday in order to win the job. As we have discussed many times on this blog, the competition between Beck and Rex Grossman is not as simple as a straight-up contest based on preseason performance. Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan do not view Beck and Grossman as equal quantities. They like Grossman and feel certain he can operate their offense. But they believe Beck offers more upside, and they wanted to use the preseason to help them gauge how he would handle the pressure of his opportunity.

Beck surely did that in the Redskins' second and third preseason games (after missing the first with a groin injury). And he showed a couple of things Thursday night, too. There was the 2nd-and-9 play where he dodged pressure up the middle and completed the pass for a first down. He hit a big third-down completion to Donte' Stallworth while taking a hit. He showed his obviously quick release and made a couple of smart decisions, including not throwing to Stallworth a couple of plays later when he saw that Stallworth was in double coverage.

But he also did some bad things, including a couple of bad-decision throws into crowds and the interception in the end zone. He looked as though he could have had a touchdown pass to Niles Paul, but he threw the ball to Paul's back shoulder while Paul was going up expecting the throw to be high. Not sure whose fault that was, but it didn't look good.

Now, Beck did play behind the Redskins' starting offensive line. But he didn't have starting wide receivers Santana Moss or Jabar Gaffney, who got the night off. And he had rookie running back Evan Royster, who's not the same factor in the passing game (as a blocker or receiver) as Tim Hightower is. It's hard for me to believe the Redskins' coaches would have sent Beck out there thinking he had to play well in this game to get the job and then not give him Moss or Gaffney to throw to.

Some time in the next nine days, Mike Shananan will name his starting quarterback for the Sept. 11 season opener against the Giants. I still believe, based on the conversations I had when I was at Redskins training camp and what I've seen in the preseason, that it'll be Beck because it's been Beck all along. But if it's not Beck, I don't think he lost the job Thursday night. And I seriously doubt it means he won't be the starter at any point (or even for the majority of the games) in 2011.

Some other observations from the Redskins' final preseason game:

1. Ryan Torain is a good running back. Hightower is sure to open the season as the Redskins' starting running back. But Torain, who missed the bulk of this preseason with a broken hand, will remain a threat to steal carries and maybe the job itself. Torain entered the game late in the first half after Royster started the game, and he ran with obvious power. Torain's issues have been health-related, and if he stays healthy and continues to show something in limited action, don't be surprised to see him get a turn as the starter at some point this season.

2. Josh Wilson got an interception on a nice leaping catch, and it had to feel good. Wilson was brought in to be a starting cornerback, but he's had injury issues this preseason and hasn't looked great when he's been in there. As good as the Redskins' defense has looked overall, Wilson must have enjoyed being a productive part of it going into the season. Still think the secondary as a whole will improve once the starting safeties are in there.

3. Oh yeah, Brandon Banks. After an injury-plagued preseason of his own, Banks got into Thursday's game and showed what he can do on returns, running one back 95 yards for a touchdown. He's so fast and such a sharp runner when he's got a head of steam, and as he crossed the goal line you couldn't help thinking, "Yeah, that gets the guy on the team." Then you saw the replays they were reviewing and that Banks hot-dogged it across the goal line and very nearly dropped the ball before crossing that goal line because of his hot-dogging. And even though the call wasn't overturned and he did get credited with the touchdown, you couldn't help thinking, "Yeah, that's why there's a chance a guy with that kind of speed and talent might not make the team." Good lesson for Banks. Would have been a better one if they'd taken away his touchdown.

4. Second-team defense. Guys like Keyaron Fox and Rob Jackson looked very fired-up and very effective, making you think the Redskins have some interesting depth on defense. But then you remember they're playing against backups on the Tampa Bay defense and that there's no way to know what you're really watching in preseason, and we'll just leave it at that.

The Redskins had a nice preseason. Stallworth's fingertip catch for the touchdown that sealed this meaningless win was a fun way to end it. The way they played this month should help their confidence. No idea if it means they'll have a good regular season. Right now they need to be thinking about how to beat the Giants. And yeah, settling on a quarterback.