NFC East: Jason Babin

The Denver Broncos have won the offseason title and free agency is not even four days old.

John Elway signed safety T.J. Ward to a four-year, $23 million deal that guarantees him $14 million. He stole cornerback Aqib Talib away from the New England Patriots with a six-year, $57 million deal that guarantees him $26 million. Then he thanked the Dallas Cowboys for their cap woes and unwillingness to pay DeMarcus Ware and signed Ware to a three-year, $30 million deal that includes $20 million guaranteed.

Ware will make $250,000 more with the Broncos this year than he would have with the Cowboys.

Add those three to an offense that will still put up points even if Eric Decker leaves and Denver should be viewed as the favorites in the AFC.

In fact, they might look like a "Dream …" Sorry. Got something stuck in my throat. "A Dream …" Man, there it goes again.

One more time: A dream team.

Could the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles serve as a reminder that a "dream team" doesn’t mean a Super Bowl team?

To refresh: The Eagles loaded up with Jason Babin (five years, $28 million), Cullen Jenkins (five years, $25 million) and Nnamdi Asomugha (five years, $60 million). They traded Kevin Kolb and got Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in return. They added serviceable pieces in Ronnie Brown and Evan Mathis turned out to be a steal.

Then they signed Vince Young, who came up with the dream-team tag.

And Philadelphia finished 8-8.

The Broncos have Peyton Manning, so it’s hard to see an 8-8 season. But what happens if Manning gets hurt?
PHILADELPHIA -- The good news for Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly is he doesn’t have to spend the next couple months traveling to high school kids’ homes and recruiting them.

The bad news?

"It’s a different league," Kelly said. "This isn't recruiting where you can go out and offer and try to get them to come. There's a selection in the draft process and we're not going to pick until the 22nd [spot in the first round]. There's 21 other guys that we may covet, but we don't have an opportunity to get them."

If a team drafted 22d every year and did well, it could be awfully good. Based on the last 10 years, drafting only players taken between No. 22 and No. 32 (the end of the first round), a team could have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, wide receivers Dez Bryant and Santonio Holmes, running backs Steven Jackson and Chris Johnson, linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, safety Brandon Meriweather and defensive linemen Cameron Jordan and Sharrif Floyd.

You could do worse. Plenty of teams did do worse. Cleveland took two quarterbacks, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden, at No. 22.

Later we’ll look at some possible players the Eagles could consider at No. 22 in this year’s draft. For now, here’s a quick look at the 22nd pick in each of the past 10 NFL drafts, along with a few players that were on the board at the time (I didn’t go beyond the end of the first round out of fairness; just looking at first-round graded players):

2013: Cornerback Desmond Trufant from Washington, selected by Atlanta.

On the board: Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, WR/Returner Cordarrelle Patterson, defensive end Datone Jones.

2012: Quarterback Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State, selected by Cleveland.

On the board: Linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Nick Perry, running back Doug Martin.

2011: Offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo from Boston College, selected by Indianapolis.

On the board: Offensive lineman Danny Watkins, defensive end Cameron Jordan, running back Mark Ingram.

2010: Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas from Georgia Tech, selected by Denver.

On the board: Wide receiver Dez Bryant, quarterback Tim Tebow, cornerback Devin McCourty.

2009: Wide receiver Percy Harvin from Florida, selected by Minnesota.

On the board: Offensive tackle Michael Oher, cornerback Vontae Davis, linebacker Clay Matthews.

2008: RB Felix Jones from Arkansas, selected by Dallas.

On the board: Running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Johnson, cornerback Mike Jenkins.

2007: Quarterback Brady Quinn from Notre Dame, selected by Cleveland.

On the board: Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, safety Brandon Meriweather, linebackers Jon Beason and Anthony Spencer, offensive tackle Joe Staley.

2006: Linebacker Manny Lawson from N.C. State, selected by San Francisco.

On the board: Offensive lineman Davin Joseph, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, running back DeAngelo Williams, defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka.

2005: Wide receiver Mark Clayton from Oklahoma, selected by Baltimore.

On the board: Cornerback Fabian Washington, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Roddy White.

2004: Quarterback J.P. Losman from Tulane, selected by Buffalo.

On the board: Defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs, running back Steven Jackson, defensive end Jason Babin.

5 things to watch: Eagles-Jaguars

August, 24, 2013
8/24/13
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The suspense at quarterback is over, but there are still some interesting things to look for when the Philadelphia Eagles play the Jacksonville Jaguars tonight in Jacksonville. Here is a handy user’s guide to the proceedings:


  • Now that he has the starting job, how will Michael Vick fare in what figures to be the closest thing to regular-season action he’ll see before opening day? Chip Kelly isn’t going to unveil his entire playbook, but he does need to see Vick work the no-huddle offense and run some more complex plays. Under new head coach Gus Bradley -- who was in Philadelphia to interview with the Eagles when Kelly suddenly accepted the head coaching job -- the Jaguars' defense will likely show a bit more complexity, as well.‘Twas the blitz that derailed Vick after his 2010 burst of excellence. It is the blitz he is going to have to solve if he’s going to thrive in Kelly’s offense.
  • Over the years, the Eagles have had plenty of first-round offensive tackles who looked like they were in slow-motion in their first preseason. Lane Johnson, the No. 4 overall pick, has not. He hasn’t been perfect, but he has been very solid.“It’s great to know where Lane is now is a starting point,” left guard Evan Mathis said. “It’s a great starting point.”

    Johnson will have to deal with former Eagles defensive end Jason Babin, who goes all-out for the quarterback on every snap. That should be a good test, since learning to pass-block at this level is the biggest adjustment for a young offensive lineman.
  • There is plenty to watch along the offensive line. Jason Peters plays in his first game since the end of the 2011 season. The big left tackle has to get a feel for Kelly’s scheme, as well as rushing to the line of scrimmage after every play. Since he has a knack for getting downfield on run plays, that could be an adjustment. And then there is Danny Watkins. The former first-round pick didn’t play last week because of a concussion. When right guard Todd Herremans missed practice this week because of a sore knee, it was Allen Barbre, not Watkins, who practiced in his place. There’s no other way to put it: Watkins is fighting for his NFL career at this point.
  • It will also be intriguing to watch how Kelly deploys his tight ends. They figure to be a big part of this offense, but the entire group caught just four passes for 57 yards against Carolina last week. James Casey, the free agent brought in from Houston, wasn’t even targeted. Kelly isn’t going to show his hand, of course, but we’re hungry for every clue about how this offense is going to look in the regular season. There might be a few more clues in this game.
  • And yes, the Eagles have a defense. For all the fascination around Kelly and the offense, Bill Davis’ squad will have much to say about how this season goes. Last week, Davis gave linebacker Mychal Kendricks some opportunities to blitz. He is likely to test a few more of his guys, especially the safeties, in order to see exactly what they’ll be capable of once the real game-planning starts.It would be nice for Davis, and for Eagles fans, to see a big play or two by anyone in the secondary.

In the final minutes before the start of NFL free agency, the Philadelphia Eagles announced that they released veteran cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

The move was expected for a long time, as Asomugha was scheduled to make $15 million this year and has been a disappointment during his two years in Philadelphia. The Eagles still have to pay him $4 million of that money, which will count against the salary cap, but the $11 million savings puts the Eagles about $44 million under the salary cap with free agency about to begin.

There was a chance the Eagles could have restructured Asomugha's deal or negotiated a pay cut, but it never seemed as though that was their preferred course of action. And in truth, it's probably for the best. Asomugha wasn't a bad player for the Eagles, but he was brought in to be an excellent one -- one of the very best cornerbacks in the entire league -- and he was not that. Moreover, he stands as the No. 1 symbol of a two-year period in Eagles franchise history gone very wrong.

Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin were the headline free agents of the Eagles' 2011 offseason, and all are gone after a two-year stretch in which the Eagles went 12-20 and fired longtime head coach Andy Reid. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a high-profile trade acquisition that same offseason, is an unrestricted free agent and looks unlikely to return. Under new head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles are better off distancing themselves from all of the disappointment and bad feelings of the past two years, and starting as fresh as possible. The one hiccup in that effort is the retention of quarterback Michael Vick, but Kelly appears to have determined that he didn't have any better 2013 options at quarterback.

Don't cry for Asomugha. He's getting the $4 million from the Eagles free and clear, plus whatever he gets from whatever new team signs him. His reputation as an elite cornerback may have been tarnished by what went on in Philadelphia, but he's still a good player, and some team is likely to view him as someone who can be had as a bargain in the belief that things can only get better from here.
Graham
Tim McManus spoke on the phone with the Philadelphia Eagles' Brandon Graham, who says he's losing weight in an effort to get ready to play 3-4 outside linebacker in the Eagles' new defense:
"I think linebacker is where I’m going to be -- outside linebacker,” said Graham in a phone conversations with Birds 24/7.

Graham says he played at around 270-275 last season. He is in the process of trying to get down to around 260 so he can move better in space.

It has been a while, but the former first-round pick does have some experience at linebacker. He played MIKE in high school at Crockett Technical, and was considered one of the top linebacker prospects in the country by his senior season.

Since the hiring of new head coach Chip Kelly, and a little more since the hiring of defensive coordinator Bill Davis, there has been much speculation as to roles in the Eagles' new defense. While it seems apparent that they plan to play some version of a 3-4 alignment, the defense is likely to be something of a hybrid. And whether Graham or Trent Cole or Vinny Curry plays upright or with his hand in the ground and how much pass-rush responsibility each of them has all remains to be worked out. Kelly and Davis have wisely declined to spell out specific plans for the defense until they get into minicamps and training camp and can accurately assess the ways in which their personnel fits what they want to do on defense.

Graham played extremely well last year when given a chance, especially after taking over for Jason Babin as a starting 4-3 defensive end. Finding out whether he has the ability to stand up and play outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment is worth the Eagles' time, and the weight loss that will help him and them do that is likely to be an asset to Graham as he works to remain versatile in the new scheme.

Eagles' 'Dream Team' being dismantled

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
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The Philadelphia Eagles announced Monday that they have released defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who was one of the significant free agents they signed in their famous 2011 offseason spending spree. Jenkins was set to cost $5.5 million against the salary cap this year and leaves just $1.5 million in "dead money," so he clears some room for the Eagles under the cap. But the Eagles already were projected to be under the cap, so the move likely is about not wanting to pay a 32-year-old defensive lineman that much money at a time when a new coach and defensive coordinator are coming in and changing the plan drastically on defense.

It also is not likely the last such move the Eagles will make. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who was thought to be the prize of that year's free-agent class, is carrying a huge cap number for 2013 after two mostly disappointing seasons in Philadelphia. If he doesn't agree to a pay cut, Asomugha is likely to be released as well. Whether the Eagles need cap room or not, the Jenkins move shows they're willing to make veteran cuts for other reasons.

Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was acquired via trade that same offseason, is an unrestricted free agent, and it remains to be seen whether the Eagles will try to bring him back. It's unlikely they'll get themselves into a bidding war to keep him if he hits the open market.

Perhaps the least heralded of the 2011 acquisitions has been the best. Guard Evan Mathis, who signed a new free-agent contract with the Eagles last offseason after a superb first season in Philadelphia, was an afterthought amid the big signings and trades in August of '11, but it's entirely possible that when the dust settles on this offseason's moves, he'll be the only one left standing. Defensive end Jason Babin was released during the 2012 season.

Jenkins likely could have made the switch from 4-3 defensive tackle to 3-4 defensive end in the scheme the Eagles appear to be installing. He had experience playing in a 3-4 in Green Bay prior to his time in Philadelphia. But the Eagles have other options for those spots, including Mike Patterson and 2012 first-round pick Fletcher Cox, and likely decided Jenkins was a luxury.

Because I know people will ask, yes, I think Jenkins is still a good player who can help someone. And I think he'd be a fine fit for the New York Giants or the Dallas Cowboys, who run 4-3 defenses and could use someone of Jenkins' versatility and pass-rush ability. Whether those teams will agree with me remains to be seen, but, yes, I think he could help either of them.

UPDATE (4:32 p.m. ET): The Eagles announced later Monday that they also have released Patterson, which saves another $3 million in cap room and obviously eliminates him as a replacement option for Jenkins. The Eagles' starting defensive line at this point projects to be Cox, Cedric Thornton and Antonio Dixon, although they're likely to look for upgrades in free agency and in the draft.

Breakfast links: Eagles shut out

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
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I swear if I hear the word "snub" one more time I'm keeping all the links for myself...

Washington Redskins

Here's a really good Barry Svrluga feature on Pierre Garcon, the free-agent wide receiver whose return from a foot injury has been as big a reason as any for the Redskins' second-half surge.

After carrying the ball just two times for just 4 yards in Sunday's victory over the Eagles, Robert Griffin III says his running game will be a greater part of his arsenal in this week's division title game against the Cowboys. Now, it's possible that's just what the Redskins want the Cowboys to think, but the way I understand Griffin's knee injury is that it should be improving every week and be getting close to full strength here in the next week or so.

Dallas Cowboys

Jean-Jacques Taylor writes that Jason Garrett has earned another season as Cowboys coach regardless of what happens Sunday night, and as you guys know I agree completely. I thought this was an 8-8 Cowboys team before all of the injuries hit. The fact that they'll be at least that and still could be a 9-7 division champion tells me the man has done a good job.

Those of us who covered the Super Bowl in Dallas a couple of years ago are shocked -- shocked! -- that the Cowboys were unable to clear their practice fields of ice and snow so they could practice outdoors Wednesday. Way I remember it, that place handles winter weather so well...

New York Giants

Justin Tuck promises he'll play Sunday. No word on if he'll sack the quarterback if he does. The Giants appear to have stopped doing that.

Hakeem Nicks says he might not be able to play in the season finale against the Eagles, though, and it's possible that an extremely frustrating season that has seen Nicks unable to get or stay healthy has concluded one game early.

Philadelphia Eagles

The last time prior to this year that the Eagles didn't have a single Pro Bowler was, somewhat ironically, the last year before Andy Reid was their head coach.

Jason Babin says the Eagles are "a big socialistic system," and while I have no idea what on Earth he means by that or if he really believes he's making sense, I found it funny enough to include here.


The Philadelphia Eagles began the day with a 7:10 am ET announcement that they'd relieved defensive line coach Jim Washburn of his duties with four games left in his second season on the job. Odd timing, both today and in the greater scheme of things, and it obviously makes you think there's something behind the move other than trying to make the team play better over the season's final four games.

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Washburn's "act had gotten tired":
Washburn had become a "cancer" around the team, according to one Eagles source, the situation becoming worse when defensive end Jason Babin was released last week.

And Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com reported via Twitter that Washburn had become "disruptive and difficult," and that things had worsened last week after the release of Babin, who was something of a pet project for Washburn.

[+] EnlargeJim Washburn
Andrew Weber/US PresswireThe Eagles defense thrived under Jim Washburn's "Wide 9" scheme in 2011, but this season has been a different story.
So there's your answer to "What's the point of doing something like this now?" If a guy's disruptive and difficult, a guy can get fired. In any line of work. Things are ugly and tense enough around the 3-9 Eagles these days without everybody having to worry whether the defensive line coach is going to pitch a fit about roster decisions.

Eagles head coach Andy Reid brought in Washburn at the start of 2011 as part of a series of high-profile coaching changes. Washburn came in with the reputation as being one of the best defensive line coaches in the league, and he installed the "Wide 9" defense, in which the ends line up extremely wide and pursue the passer with abandon. The Eagles tied for the league lead with 50 sacks in 2011, and Babin had 18 of them. And while the defense was too leaky in the middle, the Eagles believed they'd fixed that problem this year by adding middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and streamlining their coverage schemes.

None of it worked. The coverage has been terrible, the safeties unqualified to support the Wide-9 front. Ryans has been very good, but defensive ends such as Babin and Trent Cole, who thrived in Washburn's system in 2011, have struggled to produce in 2012. Babin was cut last week because he wasn't playing well and the team wanted to give his playing time to 2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham. Babin's career as a pass-rusher took off in 2010, when he played for Washburn in Tennessee, and he followed Washburn to Philadelphia in 2011. The two are close, and Washburn is proud of the production he was able to get out of Babin in those two seasons. Cutting Babin appeared to be a public admission that the Wide 9 had failed in Philadelphia, and it appears Washburn took exception to that.

So he's out, and replaced with Tommy Brasher, who held this same role with the Eagles in 1985 and from 1999-2005. With Reid himself all but certain to be fired at the end of this terribly disappointing season, Brasher is a caretaker. The new coach, whoever he is, will pick his staff. Washburn wasn't likely to be a part of it anyway. And yeah, he could have ridden out the season with the rest of them, but apparently his mere presence around the team had become too much to bear.
Welcome to the debut of our new (and hopefully improved) Twitter mailbag. I took submissions on Thursday at the @ESPN_NFCEast account with the hashtag #NFCEastmail, and it seemed to work pretty well. Here are a few of your questions.

@jaramillov: Who do you think the #Redskins could go after in the free agency to fix their secondary?

@ESPN_NFCEast: The biggest name and best target, for me, is Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd, who's the kind of ball hawk who would really bolster their coverage. The Washington Redskins need some help at cornerback as well, but I think someone with Byrd's athleticism would help everybody on the defense. They don't really have a coverage safety right now, and he's as good as they get. He's also 26 years old, which means he's in the age group Mike Shanahan likes to target in free agency. I wouldn't be surprised if Byrd were high on the Redskins' priority list, though our man James Walker reports that Buffalo is already trying to lock him up.

@WinnrsUseThDoor: With two new additions at RB, do Giants lean on David Wilson to fill Andre Brown's role or do it by committee?

@ESPN_NFCEast: Tom Coughlin indicated that one or both of Ryan Torain or Kregg Lumpkin could see action this week, but since they're both new to the New York Giants' system it appears Wilson will serve as the primary backup to Ahmad Bradshaw. That's not really your question, though, as "Andre Brown's" role was more than just backup. Brown was the goal-line back (eight touchdown runs this year) and got some early-down work throughout the game due to Bradshaw's ongoing injury issues. I would expect Bradshaw to get the goal-line carries that were going to Brown, and Wilson to spell Bradshaw on early downs at other places on the field. The reason the Giants like Wilson is his explosiveness and big-play ability, so rather than use him to pick up tough, between-tackles yardage, look for them to give him the ball in spots from which he might be able to break a big play.

@gianacopulos: Garrett has yet to prove he's the right coach for the DC. We know Jones likes him but do you think he's the one?

@ESPN_NFCEast: This question refers to my stock answer when asked whether Jason Garrett is on the "hot seat" as coach of the Dallas Cowboys. I always say no, because Cowboys owner Jerry Jones likes Garrett, think he's doing a good job (he's still got a winning record as a head coach, at 18-17, after all) and views him as part of the ongoing team-building project in which the Cowboys believe themselves to be engaged. But this question is about whether I think Jones is correct in sticking with Garrett and believing he's the right guy to coach the Cowboys. My opinion is that Garrett is still a young coach who's learning on the job, and that can obviously look ugly at times. But I think he's shown improvement in the areas for which he most often gets criticized, and I think the players buy into him as a leader. So if Jones is looking for evidence to support his belief that Garrett will be a good NFL head coach, he can find it. One thing I hear a lot is that Garrett wouldn't be on a lot of other teams' short lists for coordinator or certainly head-coach jobs if Jones fired him tomorrow, and that's true. He remains unproven and unexciting, and he would not be getting anything like the chance he's getting in Dallas if not for his relationship with Jones. So I guess, like a lot of people around the league, I don't personally see what Jones sees that makes him so encouraged about Garrett. I have to credit Jones, an owner with a reputation for impatience, for sticking to his guns and applying the lessons he says he's learned about the value of patience and continuity in the leadership positions. But, yeah, there is cause to wonder whether Garrett was the right guy on whom to apply those particular lessons.

@michugana: Can you explain the Babin release in more detail? Why not wait and trade him? Philly is far under the cap.

@ESPN_NFCEast: The Philadelphia Eagles were far under the cap this year, but their preseason projections showed them to be over the cap next year by as much as they were under it this year. So it's not as though they could just carry Jason Babin in the hope that someone would take him off their hands. But as for why they cut him this week, there were a number of reasons. The biggest was Brandon Graham, the 2010 first-round draft pick who's playing extremely well in limited time and deserves the look he's about to get as a starting defensive end. If the Eagles' plan was to give Graham more playing time, then Babin would have had to go to the bench. And once you're putting Babin on the bench, it's worth questioning why you'd even have him on the team in the first place. This is a guy who's only ever done one thing well -- sack the quarterback. If he's not out there getting something like the 18 sacks he got in 2011, (or even the 12.5 he got in 2010 with Tennessee), he's just not real useful. I don't know for sure that he was a detrimental locker-room presence, but at best he was a keep-to-himself guy who didn't help out in any kind of veteran leadership role. Total one-trick pony who wasn't going to be on next year's team anyway, and with their depth at defensive line they simply don't need him around anymore. And I don't think they could have got anything of value in a trade. The only coach for whom Babin's ever performed at anything resembling an elite level is Jim Washburn, who was his defensive line coach with the Titans in 2010 and the past two years in Philadelphia. Unless some team was going to hire Washburn too, it's doubtful the Eagles could have sold Babin as much more than the so-so guy he's been this year. This was a case of just being done with a guy and cutting the cord. Didn't cost them a dime.

Thanks for the submissions. We'll do this again next week. I think it's much more manageable than the old way.

Andy Reid deserves to leave with dignity

November, 29, 2012
11/29/12
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Andy ReidRob Carr/Getty ImagesAndy Reid has coached a winning team during most of his tenure in Philadelphia, but the past two seasons have him on the hot seat.

The anger is understandable. Given the way the past two Philadelphia Eagles seasons have gone, it's completely reasonable for fans to be angry. Andy Reid assembled a roster and presented it as capable of winning the Super Bowl they crave above all else, and it instead turned out to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. It's a colossal failure worthy of costing the man his job, and it appears as though it will do just that.

The Andy fatigue is understandable, too. Fourteen years is a long time to be one team's head coach in this day and age. There are Eagles fans who were too young to read or speak when Reid took over the job and are now old enough to feel real-fan pain and disappointment. If Reid is the only Eagles coach you've ever known, or the only one you can really remember, it's reasonable just to wish for a different voice or a new public face of the franchise. After 14 years, no one can say the Eagles and their fans haven't been patient.

But all of that said and understood, there are other things to consider as Reid's time as Eagles coach nears its end. One of those is the form that the ending will eventually take. This will be no ordinary firing, and it shouldn't be, because this is no ordinary coach, no ordinary tenure and no ordinary owner-coach relationship. Reid is the best coach the Eagles have ever had, and has accomplished much during his time in Philadelphia. His exit deserves to be handled with class, and he deserves to leave with his dignity intact.

Those who want Reid out now, this very minute, before the season's end, are misguided for several reasons. First, there is the question of what good it would do to fire him now. There's no hot young candidate on the coaching staff with whom the Eagles could replace him -- no clear successor who'd benefit from a five-game head start. If the Eagles fired Reid now, they'd replace him with Marty Mornhinweg or Todd Bowles, effectively moving from one lame duck to another. The only way you can approve of that is if all you want is blood -- for someone to visibly pay for the incomprehensible fact that the Eagles are 3-8 and haven't won since September. And while I know that sentiment is out there (evidenced by the glee with which Jason Babin's release and exile to Jacksonville were greeted this week) it should not, in this case, be allowed to carry the day.

[+] EnlargeEagles fans
AP Photo/James D SmithA vocal segment of Eagles fans have run out of patience with Andy Reid.
Anyway, it requires more responsibility and accountability to finish out this wreck of a season than it would to be relieved of the headache. That's the main reason Reid himself wants to see it through, and he's earned that right. Maybe not over the past two years, but absolutely over his first 12. Lest anyone forget, Reid's first 12 years in Philadelphia included nine winning seasons (six in which he won at least 11 games), seven division titles, 10 playoff victories and an NFC championship. There's no one whose name isn't Belichick who can claim a record like that during the same period of time.

The bulk of Reid's tenure brought continual happiness to Eagles fans. For more than a decade, Eagles fans could rest assured that they had one of the very best teams in the league. They could plan playoff tailgate parties well in advance, talk trash to their friends who were fans of rival teams deep into January. No, Reid did not deliver that Super Bowl title, which is what many Eagles fans will tell you is the only thing that matters. But there's a lot to be said about a four-month and five-month feeling that your team is one of the ones with the best shot at it. Reid's teams gave you that feeling pretty much every year until the past two.

Which is why, when this season ends and it's time for Reid and the Eagles to part ways, the right thing to do will be to refrain from jeering and ridiculing him for the mess of the past two seasons but rather to applaud those first 12. The flops of 2011 and 2012, along with Reid's failure to win a Super Bowl, surely hurt him far more than they hurt any of the team's fans. To imagine that he wouldn't have loved to deliver that championship, to ignore the tireless, grueling, sometimes desperate work he did to try to make it happen, is to shun any kind of realistic perspective. There is a significant segment of the Eagles' fan population that, even through its present anger, appreciates and always will appreciate what Reid gave to the team and the city. Some of those folks even understand that you can't will a Super Bowl title -- that there's too much chance and circumstance involved, that worse coaches than Reid have won championships, just as better coaches than Reid have failed to do so. The best you can do is build an organization that finds itself in position to take a run at it every year and hope that it eventually works out. Reid surely did, and many Eagles fans understand that. Those are the voices Reid deserves to hear on his way out the door.

When owner Jeffrey Lurie announces that Reid will no longer be the Eagles' coach, Lurie is likely to be emotional. He's likely to express a strong positive feeling for the man who's coached his team for the past 14 years as well as a deep, shared sadness that Reid couldn't pull off what they all dreamed of together. Lurie is likely to focus, as he should, on the successes of the first 12 years and not the failures of the past two. If he does that, and if the fans can shake off their anger for a few minutes and join him, then Andy Reid will get the exit from Philadelphia that he's earned.
New York Giants

The Giants are viewing Monday night's game against the Redskins as a chance to "create separation" in the NFC East, and indeed that's what it is. A victory would put them three games ahead of Washington with four to play (and give them the head-to-head tiebreaker) and either two or three ahead of Dallas, depending on what happens Sunday night in the Cowboys-Eagles game. The Giants haven't been the best at creating separation in recent years when they've had chances to do so. Could this year be different?

Antrel Rolle has said more than once he prefers to stay at safety, but the nice thing about Rolle is that he's not going to complain if the team wants to move him around. He played a bunch of cornerback, actually, in Sunday night's victory over the Packers, and he says he likes winning more than playing safety, which is music to the coaches' ears.

Washington Redskins

Pierre Garcon still has pain in his foot, but he's determined to make it through the whole season in spite of it. I'd say the way Garcon played on Thanksgiving, after only three days off following the Eagles game, indicates that he's got a chance.

The old saying about closing the barn door after the horse gets out may apply here, but Redskins left tackle Trent Williams is planning to wear thigh pads for Monday night's game. The good thing for Washington is that Williams will be healthy enough to play at all, after he bruised that thigh on Thanksgiving.

Dallas Cowboys

I have long been a proponent of the idea that there's value in sticking to the run game even when it's not working, and I've written as much about this year's Cowboys. But Tim MacMahon makes the interesting point that this might not apply when the offensive line is as wrecked as Dallas' line is, and that if they can't find success running the ball once DeMarco Murray comes back, they might be better off just giving up and throwing. Murray did return to practice Wednesday.

Vince Agnew appears to be the guy who'll take over for the injured Orlando Scandrick as the Cowboys' slot cornerback, mainly because of the wealth of experience he has playing the position.

Philadelphia Eagles

This Jeff McLane notebook reports that defensive line coach Jim Washburn wasn't happy with the release of Jason Babin (who was claimed by the Jaguars on Wednesday night, by the way) and that Evan Mathis is a candidate to play center if Dallas Reynolds can't play Sunday. In that scenario, Danny Watkins could be the left guard.

2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham, who has played very well in limited action, is in line to replace Babin as a starting defensive end.
New York Giants

Rookie David Wilson says the biggest difference this week is that he knows he's going to get an opportunity, whereas in prior weeks he was merely hoping for one. With Andre Brown out, Wilson is the No. 2 running back on the Giants' depth chart behind the banged-up Ahmad Bradshaw, and he'll get some reps.

The knee injury that knocked Kenny Phillips out of Sunday's game -- the same knee that had cost him the previous six games -- is not serious enough to keep him from playing against the Redskins on Monday night. So says Phillips, at least.

Washington Redskins

Left tackle Trent Williams played hurt on Thanksgiving, and he's still dealing with a thigh injury he hopes isn't serious enough to keep him out of Monday night's game against the Giants. Williams is having a great year and is essential to the Redskins' chances of keeping the Giants' pass rush off of Robert Griffin III.

Fred Davis is out for the year, and Chris Cooley has been a non-factor since re-signing, but the Redskins are still getting production out of the tight-end position.

Dallas Cowboys

Ed Werder reports that Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin, who left the Thanksgiving Day game with a hip injury, will be ready to play Sunday night against the Eagles. Austin has been able to stay healthy since the start of the regular season, which is something of a bonus for the Cowboys since they're used to having to deal with Austin injuries most years.

Remember Kevin Ogletree's big Week 1 performance against the Giants in New Jersey? Yeah, well, he'll always have that. He's been passed on the depth chart by Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley, and the snap counts from Thanksgiving show no need to go back to Ogletree at this point.

Philadelphia Eagles

John Gonzalez wonders why no one seems to have any sympathy for Andy Reid in Philadelphia, considering that he's obviously enduring a tough time and has done a great deal for the Eagles organization. It's a worthwhile point to ponder amid the inevitably of the end of Reid's time with the team.

And Bob Ford thinks the cutting of Jason Babin was just more scapegoating and that Babin shouldn't be the only one to get kicked off the team. Bob has a point, but there are few positions at which the Eagles are deep enough, as they are at defensive end, to allow for such a move this soon.

Stunner: Eagles cut Jason Babin

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
3:35
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Defensive end Jason Babin had 18 sacks for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. More sacks than anyone in the league but DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen. He was a critical part of an Eagles pass rush that tied for the league lead in sacks and entered the 2012 season expecting to pressure opposing quarterbacks even more than it had last year.

Babin
But nothing has gone right for the Eagles this year, including the pass rush. And with the Eagles on a seven-game losing streak and 3-8 for the season, the team announced Tuesday afternoon that it has released Babin.

"We appreciate everything that Jason has given this team over the last couple of years," Eagles coach Andy Reid said in a team news release. "We wish him all the best as he continues his career. By releasing him today, this gives us an opportunity to give more playing time to some of the younger guys in the defensive line rotation."

The Eagles do have a lot of defensive ends, and second-round pick Vinny Curry was active Monday night for the first time all year. If they plan to give more playing time to Curry, Brandon Graham and others moving forward, that time was likely to come at the expense of Babin, who has just six sacks so far this year. And it was unlikely that Babin would be back in Philadelphia next season. But it's still a surprise to see them cut him with five games left in the season.

Babin will be available on waivers to be claimed by any NFL team, and my guess is he's unlikely to clear. Teams are always on the hunt for pass-rushers, and a 4-3 defensive end guy who's healthy and coming off an 18-sack season is sure to find employment somewhere. If he does clear waivers, I imagine he'll sign somewhere soon.

I wouldn't be 100 percent sure, however, that whoever picks Babin up should expect to get the same kind of production he delivered for defensive line coach Jim Washburn in 2011 and in 2010, when he had 12.5 sacks while he and Washburn were together in Tennessee. On multiple occasions, Babin has spoken openly about the reason he and Washburn clicked so well -- namely, that Washburn identified the thing Babin does best and encouraged him to focus exclusively on that. If there's a team out there that needs a defensive end who will charge hard after the passer on every play but isn't likely to play the run well or do much besides sell out for sacks, Babin will be a fit. Again, my guess is that there is more than one team looking for someone who can do that one thing he does as well as he does it.

How you feeling? Eagles-Lions

October, 14, 2012
10/14/12
11:20
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As the Philadelphia Eagles prepare to take on the Detroit Lions at 1 p.m. ET at Lincoln Financial Field, here's one reason for Eagles fans to feel good and one reason for concern.

Feeling good: This could be the week the Eagles' defensive line breaks its sack-free game streak. The Lions are a pass-first offense for whom the running game is practically an afterthought, and so the Eagles' defensive ends should be able to get after quarterback Matthew Stafford pretty much any time they want. Jason Babin and Trent Cole are dying to get on track after the Eagles have gone two games in a row without a sack, and Stafford offers a relatively stationary target they can be fairly confident is going to be in the pocket with the ball when they get there.

Cause for concern: Calvin Johnson. The Lions' top wide receiver is a matchup nightmare for any defensive back in the league, and there's no obvious plan for the Eagles in terms of covering him. Nnamdi Asomugha is no longer the type of corner who can just pin himself to Johnson and take him out of the game one-on-one. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has the speed but maybe not the size to handle Johnson. If they leave Brandon Boykin alone with him over the middle, that's asking for trouble. The Eagles will need to come up with a way of covering Johnson, and likely will have to adjust and alter the plan as the game goes along.
I sincerely wish this for all of you: If ever you decide you need to take a day completely off from Twitter because you can sort of see your breaking point speeding toward you, I hope it's the day on which some idiotic controversy erupts on there about whether Tony Romo hung up on his conference call with the Baltimore Ravens beat writers. I can't remember the last time I felt so justified about a decision in retrospect.

Links.

Philadelphia Eagles

Very nice story from Marcus Hayes on Eagles rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks and where he came from. Kendricks had a poor game against the Steelers last week, but over the first four weeks of the season he was one of the league's best linebackers and a key to the Eagles' fast start on defense.

Jason Babin and Trent Cole are looking all over the place for answers to why the Eagles' defensive line isn't getting any sacks these days. Babin even called his dad to ask what he thought about it.

New York Giants

Victor Cruz didn't like that Carlos Rogers imitated his salsa touchdown dance last year and says he hopes he doesn't do it again. Rogers said he would, because he likes it. But later, when told that Cruz considered it a tribute to his late grandmother, Rogers said he'd been unaware of that and that the information changes his view of the whole thing. So it sounds like this is all civil now.

The Giants won the NFC Championship Game in San Francisco in January, but the offensive line remembers it as a game in which Eli Manning took way too many hits. They vow this time it will be different. The Giants' line has played very well this year, especially since Will Beatty got healthy and became the starting left tackle again. But the 49ers' pass rush is considerably tougher than any they have faced so far.

Dallas Cowboys

The defense missed linebacker Anthony Spencer in Week 4 against the Bears, and they may have to play without him again Sunday in Baltimore, Spencer continues to miss practice due to a pectoral muscle injury.

The Cowboys cannot keep their punters healthy. Their punter is hurt and the punter they signed to replace him his hurt. Ironically, the punter they had last year that they really liked but let go of because they didn't think he could stay healthy is healthy and punting for the Eagles. Anyway, the Cowboys are probably going to need to find another new punter by Sunday.

Washington Redskins

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, who suffered a concussion in Sunday's loss to Atlanta, returned to the practice field Wednesday and says everything is going well in his attempt to recover in time to play Sunday against Minnesota. Still has to pass more tests as the week goes along, but the early indicators are positive on Griffin's status for Sunday.

Kent Babb, in consultation with folks around the NFL, explores the idea of how and how long Griffin can continue to play the way he plays if he wants to avoid further head injuries.

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