NFC East: Jay Alford
- Dez Bryant is getting closer to returning to the practice field, according to ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon.
- Jerry Jones wants Bill Parcells to see Cowboys Stadium in person, writes DallasNews.com's Todd Archer.
- Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says Jay Ratliff has emerged as an off-the-field leader.
- Dallas Morning News sidebar specialist Gerry Fraley says the Cowboys will play it close to the vest Saturday night.
- Paul Domowitch of the Daily News says the owners have the most to gain from an 18-game regular-season schedule, which may have something to do with them constantly pushing that agenda.
- Bob Ford of the Inquirer is trying to crunch the numbers at linebacker.
- Les Bowen says there are jobs at stake in tonight's preseason tilt with the Chiefs.
- Les will have his eye on Todd Herremans and Mike Bell this evening.
- Jonathan Tamari of the Inquirer offers this preview for tonight's game.
- Rhett Bomar has closed the gap on Jim Sorgi, according to the Daily News.
- Kevin Boss spoke to New York's 1050 ESPN about his training camp.
- Brian Lewis seems to indicate that Sinorice Moss is in denial about the possibility of losing his roster spot.
- Defensive tackle Jay Alford is pushing his surgically repaired knee to the limit, writes the Star-Ledgers' mad tweeter Mike Garafolo.
- Lorenzo Alexander says that Clinton Portis is taking his job seriously under the Mike Shanahan regime.
- Safeties Reed Doughty and Chris Horton have been through a lot together during a relatively short period of time.
- Some interesting thoughts from Trevor Pryce on the Shanahan-Albert Haynesworth feud.
One of our Canadian readers, Anton, has a question regarding the Cowboys' defensive line: Hey Matt, I just had a thought about the Cowboys: Since they have at least four quality defensive ends (Olshansky, Spears, Hatcher and Bowen) but have little depth behind Jay Ratliff at nose tackle, why don't they move one of those players to defensive tackle?
Mosley: Anton, it takes a unique player to fill the nose tackle spot in the Wade Phillips 3-4. Jay Ratliff has such a high motor that he rarely comes off the field. In some of the sub-packages, Bowen and Hatcher can move inside. But I agree that the Cowboys could use more depth at the position. Be interesting to see what happens if Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick makes it to No. 27 in the first round. Pretty versatile player and the Cowboys certainly like him.
Hunter in Anchorage has a Skins trade proposal: I'm surprised that the Redskins haven't talked to the Bills about a trade scenario that includes Jason Campbell for Marshawn Lynch. Wouldn't he be a lot better option for RB than the Skins most recent pickups of Larry Johnson and Willie Parker?
Mosley: Lynch is younger and more talented than Johnson and Parker, but he also carries some baggage. I think Mike Shanahan really has to watch who he brings into this locker room. I still wonder if bringing the petulant Johnson into the fold was the right move. If a trade's completed with the Bills for Campbell, I think it will involve a draft pick. Watch what happens at No. 9 for the Bills. If they take Jimmy Clausen, we'll have our answer. That would eliminate a potential landing spot for Campbell. I still think the Panthers would be wise to trade for Campbell, but apparently they're going to ride this out with Matt Moore.
Constantine from London wonders if the Giants might be interested in Albert Haynesworth: Big BIG fan of the blog, read it EVERYDAY! Huge Giants fan from the UK and would like your opinion on something. Reportedly the Redskins want a second-round pick for Haynesworth now that they've paid his bonus. With the Giants being interested in him during free agency last year, would they spend a second on him? I think they should. We'll cover our most pressing need (MLB) in the first round, and since getting Rolle and Grant in free agency, we need a big defensive tackle -- especially as Jay Alford is coming off a torn ACL. Your thoughts?
Mosley: First of all, love your use of the CAPS button. Second, I'm afraid the Donovan McNabb trade has skewed the way we look at everything in the Beast. Now it seems possible that a team might trade a former All-Pro defensive tackle to a division rival for a second-round pick. And by the way, I have not seen a report with anything as specific as what you're suggesting. I've written that I think the Redskins might settle for a second-rounder for Haynesworth, but that's more of a gut feeling. And despite Mike Shanahan's apparent disgust with Haynesworth, I don't think he wants him playing for the Giants. I think he would immediately make the Giants better on the defensive line. If you're Giants general manager Jerry Reese, you make that deal in a heartbeat.
Robert in Austin has the final word on our "owners gone wild" segment: Really, the owner of an NFL team seen mocking a former NFL head coaching legend? As a child, the Cowboys were seen as one of the classiest organizations in the NFL. Great ownership (Clint Murchison), management (Tex Schramm) and coaching (Tom Landry). Oh no more, as Jerry Jones in his short stint as owner has made the Cowboys a laughingstock from an ownership and management standpoint. The tone at the top for the Cowboys is horrible. An owner who drove out one coach because he could find "500 coaches to coach this team to a Super Bowl," and now mocking one of the great NFL coaches in the league who resurrected the football team? This incident makes me envious of the Steelers, a truly class organization.
Mosley: Hmm... It's an interesting time for a Cowboys fan to be envious of the Steelers. I didn't get the feeling that Art Rooney II felt particularly proud while delivering that public rebuke of Ben Roethlisberger on Thursday. And by the way, Jones has owned the Cowboys for 22 years now. That's not exactly a "short stint." I've been highly critical of him over the years, but I don't see this whole video incident as that big a deal. Jones likes Bill Parcells and I didn't hear anything in that video to make me think otherwise. He's made some awful moves over the past two decades (Roy Williams, Joey Galloway come to mind), but to say he's turned the organization into a "laughingstock" seems a bit harsh. OK, I'm getting tired of defending the man. Let's put this story to bed.
Patrick from Arkansas has an Eagles question: Hey, with the draft picks the Eagles have gotten in recent trades, do you think it's possible that they trade up to get someone like Eric Berry? They have already worked him out. Your thoughts?
Mosley: Berry's a rare talent at safety. The Eagles would have to sacrifice much of their draft to move up that far. In fact, I'm not sure the No. 24 and No. 37 would get you close enough to Berry. (I'm scrambling for my trade chart as we speak.) It's much more likely the Eagles stay right there at No. 24 and select a cornerback such as Boise State's Kyle Wilson. I also think USC's Taylor Mays will be available, but there are a lot of concerns about his ability to make plays on the ball. OK, let's do this again soon. You guys have been on fire lately.
|Jim O'Connor/US Presswire|
|The New York Giants' depth at defensive line has been tested this season, but part of the team's culture is playing through pain.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
If the New York Giants were the sort of team that made excuses, it would be on about six or seven by now. But that's not the way Tom Coughlin runs his locker room -- and it's why all the adulation for the flavors of the month (Vikings, Saints) doesn't really affect my belief that the Giants are still the team to beat in the NFC.
When I made my annual pilgrimage to Albany, N.Y., for Giants training camp in August, Coughlin was in a foul mood -- even by his standards. He wasn't pleased that key players such as Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks and Aaron Ross were missing valuable practices. And in one classic Coughlin moment, he actually requested that reporters stop talking up the alleged depth his team along the defensive line. Only a day before, my own editors had strongly suggested a column on how the Giants might have the deepest front four rotation in the NFL.
Coughlin was afraid that his players were reading the NFC East blog and other lesser-known publications. He was right on the money because important players began dropping on what seemed like a daily basis. Chris Canty, a big-money free agent from the Cowboys, never really made it out of the gates with a hamstring tear and he's only played in one game this season. Jay Alford, a valuable member of the team's defensive tackle rotation, is out for the season.
The Giants haven't had both regular first-string cornerbacks on the field this season and nickel corner Kevin Dockery just returned from his own hamstring issue. Safety Kenny Phillips was poised to have a Pro Bowl-worthy season, in my opinion, but his campaign ended after two games. He'll have to undergo microfracture surgery on his knee.
Heading into a Week 5 game against the Raiders, the Giants will be without starting linebacker Michael Boley and quarterback Eli Manning is questionable with plantar fasciitis. But the funny thing about this is that no one, including the team's fan base, seems to be panicking.
The Giants are 4-0 and they actually appear to be gaining steam as they continue this crash course toward an intriguing Week 6 matchup with the Saints in New Orleans. In order to try to understand why this team seems almost to embrace adversity, I tracked down Pro Bowl defensive end and soon-to-be proud father Justin Tuck on Thursday afternoon.
"There's just a resiliency about this team that's hard to describe," Tuck said. "When someone else goes down with an injury, it's almost like we try to play our season for them."
Tuck could barely move his left shoulder after he was tripped by Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams late in the first half and it appeared that he would have to miss at least one game. Instead, he "harnessed up" his shoulder and played eight snaps in a 24-0 shutout of the Buccaneers in Week 3.
"I knew I couldn't go the whole game, but I thought my teammates could use a breather every now and then," Tuck said. "I would've felt bad if I couldn't give them that opportunity."
Coughlin feels horrible for his players when they're injured for extended periods, but you'll never hear him or anyone else in the locker room use that as an excuse. In fact, Coughlin's passed out T-shirts to his players in the past that say, "Talk is Cheap...Play the Game!" Tuck and some of his teammates might think some of Coughlin's methods are a little corny but that doesn't mean they don't believe in them.
"Coughlin's earned the right to do anything he wanted when we won that Super Bowl," Tuck said. "He could come up with something completely off-the-wall and we'd all be standing in line to do whatever it was. That's the way we run this place. We don't play the excuse game around here."
On Thursday, Tuck predicted that Manning would find a way to be on the field Sunday. He said he "just knows the guy" and really doesn't have much doubt that Manning will find a way to play through the pain in his foot.
"I keep telling him, 'Eli, you haven't ever been mobile anyway. Just get out there and play football.'" Tuck said. "And I think he'll find a way."
It's the Giants' way.
Adam Schefter reports on the injury status of Eli Manning and the chances of him playing on Sunday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Admit it. Some of you felt sorry for the Redskins when the NFL's diabolical schedule makers sent them to the Meadowlands to open the season for the second consecutive year. The Giants were still holding Super Bowl XLII ceremonies right up to kickoff last September, and then they punctuated the evening by devouring the Redskins' lifeless offense.
The Skins' newbie head coach, Jim Zorn, looked like he was in over his head, but now he's returning to Giants Stadium with more experience and a much-improved roster -- at least in my opinion. As we countdown the hours to Sunday's game, let's take a look at my Five Things To Watch (If You're So Inclined).
|Geoff Burke/US Presswire|
|The Redskins expect Jason Campbell to be more comfortable in his second year in Jim Zorn's offense.|
We'll actually see Albert Haynesworth line up in a meaningful game. This is not a guy who needs a lot of reps in the preseason. I expect him to be a disruptive force from the opening snap. Haynesworth isn't in Washington to collect a lot of sacks, although that would certainly be nice. He's one of the rare players in the game who demands constant attention. When he's fresh, there' s no one in the league who can block him one-on-one. Haynesworth prides himself in occupying two or three blockers throughout the game, which should benefit the Redskins' pass-rushers. Even though he's lining up at linebacker, you'll see rookie Brian Orakpo move to defensive end on passing downs. Haynesworth told me recently that he and Orakpo have been devising their own little games at the line of scrimmage. The two of them can put a lot of pressure on the Giants' offense. You'll see Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride call a lot of slants and wide receiver screens in an attempt to combat the Redskins' pass rush. For the Redskins to have any chance of winning this game, they need to be dominant on defense. And they now have the personnel to get it done.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Biggest surprise: I guess Sinorice Moss actually making the team would qualify as somewhat of a surprise. He thought his days with the team were numbered, but he had two touchdowns in the Giants' final preseason game. The fact that Moss and Derek Hagan are both on the final roster is pretty surprising. The Giants now have seven receivers on the 53-man roster. That could certainly change if they make a move before the season opener or immediately after. I'm mildly surprised by Darcy Johnson making the team over Mike Matthews, who has played in every game the past two seasons. Matthews was traded to New England for a conditional draft choice. Johnson has more athleticism and his blocking's improved. Interesting to see the Giants release both Rhett Bomar and Andre' Woodson. They were both pretty bad in the final preseason game. I'm sure general manager Jerry Reese will try to sneak Bomar through to the practice squad. I'm a little surprised about former Penn State defensive end Maurice Evans getting cut. I don't think the Giants will be able to get him on the practice squad.
No-brainers: Cornerback DeAndre Wright looked OK early in camp, but he was exposed in the preseason. The Giants love to keep draft picks, but I'm not sure Wright will even be considered for the practice squad. He was outplayed by an undrafted player named Bruce Johnson, who made the 53-man roster. I also think safety Travonti Johnson is a no-brainer. Every time I looked up, Johnson was giving up a deep ball. And he didn't bring enough on special teams.
What's next: The Giants will be scouring the waiver wires to see who ends up getting cut along the offensive and defensive lines. With defensive tackle Jay Alford out for the year and Chris Canty still nursing a hamstring injury, I think Reese will keep his eye on some rookes who were released from other teams. And it's not like they have tremendous depth on the offensive line. I think Cliff Louis had every chance to make the team, but he made far too many mental mistakes. And the penalties didn't help. Glad to see defensive tackle Dave Tollefson grab one of the final spots. Interesting to see Leger Douzable make the roster. He may have been the last man in -- or maybe it's Hagan.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Through various news outlets (including this one), the Giants' cuts have been trickling in all afternoon. Here's what the Daily News was reporting as of 5:10 p.m. ET. No huge surprises, but it does look like the Giants will release reserve quarterbacks Andre Woodson and Rhett Bomar. General manager had indicated that Woodson was having the better training camp, but the former Kentucky player wasn't able to take it to the field in preseason.
After spending a fifth-round pick on Bomar, I'm sure the Giants would like to get him through to the practice squad. It's a bit of a surprise the Giants kept Darcy Johnson over Mike Matthews, who was the better blocker. I watched Johnson limp through a practice in Albany and sort of wrote him off.
We'll see if the Giants try to get defensive end Maurice Evans through to the practice squad. He sort of flashed early in training camp, but we haven't heard much from him lately. Not a surprise that cornerback DeAndre Wright will probably be released. He received a lot of opportunities, but he gave up too many big plays.
The Giants will put defensive tackle Jay Alford on injured reserve and then put linebacker Michael Boley on the suspended list. And don't think this will be a "final" 53-man roster. Jerry Reese will watch the waiver wire closely and see if he can add some depth in the defensive line.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Giants coach Tom Coughlin just told reporters via conference call that defensive tackle Jay Alford will miss the entire season with a torn medial collateral ligament and a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament. It's another setback for a defense that has really struggled keeping players on the field this preseason. Now we'll have to see what type of progress Chris Canty makes with his hamstring.
"Jay at first was down because he really had a good spring and fall," Coughlin said. "It's a shame a young guy who has worked his tail off would have his season taken away. But at the same time it's a learning experience. And we're hoping his morale comes back up. The challenge for all players who go through this is the rehab. Based on the way he dedicated himself, I'm sure he'll be serious in his rehab."
This is one of the reasons why general manager Jerry Reese brought in Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty in free agency. The defensive line (Fred Robbins, Alford, Justin Tuck) wore down last season. We'll keep our eye on this situation. Certainly not the news Giants fans wanted to hear this afternoon.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
I've seen the Giants practicing against each other in person. I was eager to see how they would look against another team -- and a pretty good one at that. Are you ready for some "Monday Night Football" preseason observations? I thought so.
- I was watching defensive end Osi Umenyiora pretty closely on the Giants' first defensive series against Carolina. No matter what he says, I'm sure it will be a relief to have this first game under his belt after coming back from the knee injury. On third down, the Giants tried a stunt, but Umenyiora got stoned on the inside. The Panthers had the deep ball open, but Jake Delhomme threw an awful pass. One other thing that caught my attention early in the game: Safety Michael Johnson looked fast on a blitz that led a Delhomme incompletion.
- Tom Coughlin had to be thrilled to see Marion Manningham go 21 yards on that first punt return. He reversed field and the Panthers broke outside containment. Manningham has had a solid camp and that play certainly won't hurt his chances of making the team. Manningham followed that up with a nifty 13-yard catch on a route that required great timing between him and Eli Manning. Unfortunately, the play was wiped out on an illegal motion penalty.
- Umenyiora doesn't look like he's lost a step at all. Early in the game he beat Jordan Gross on a speed rush and knocked the ball out of Jake Delhomme's hand. In other news, Terrell Thomas is going to have to do a better job against the run. He had a shot at DeAngelo Williams in the backfield early in the game and let him get away. Defensive tackle Jay Alford also got off to a quick start. He's the one who made Umenyiora's play on Delhomme possible. The Panthers' offensive line couldn't give Delhomme anything resembling a clean pocket.
- On Brandon Jacobs' 22-yard rumble in the first quarter, left tackle David Diehl had an excellent kickout block. Also some good blocking downfield by starting wide receiver Domenik Hixon. Jacobs looks faster to me than at any point in his career. The quick screen to Hixon on the second drive was a thing of beauty. Panthers played right into the Giants' hands with the blitz.
- Ahmad Bradshaw followed an excellent block by Tutan Reyes on his 19-yard touchdown run. Bradshaw made the Panthers' first-team defense look helpless when he froze a linebacker with one move before running over a safety. Not much wrong with that scoring drive at all. I think Bradshaw's up to the challenge of holding off Danny Ware for the backup running back spot. He's elusive and he has more power than we give him credit for.
- Not sure Tom Coughlin wants David Carr going airborne to get a first down in the second quarter of the first preseason game. But Jon Gruden loved the play. Carr looks pretty comfortable running the offense.
- Not a good sign that Lawrence Tynes misses a 43-yard field goal, but he did have plenty of distance and just missed it to the right. I think Coughlin has a close eye on Tynes after watching him miss most of the '08 season with an injury.
- Tom Coughlin has to be frustrated with the blocked punt before halftime. How in the world did the Giants let a guy come free from the left side. Bryan Kehl picked up the player next to him. Heads up play by Jeff Feagles to knock that ball out of the back of the end zone.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Before he left for an extended vacation, Newark Star-Ledger Giants beat writer Mike Garafolo dropped off some questionnaires to key players. Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck was asked to name the "under-the-radar breakout player" in 2009. Here's what he came up with:
"Jay Alford. Listen to our lineup in nickel: Kiwi [Mathias Kiwanuka] at left end, Jay at left tackle, me at right tackle, Osi [Umenyiora] at right end. Who are they not going to double-team there? [Alford?] Exactly. Plus, he got his eye fixed, so that'll cut his reaction time in half."
Alford reportedly had a lazy eye surgically repaired this offseason, so it appears that Tuck was jabbing him with the proverbial sharp stick. So, so much more to come. What an exciting time in the NFL.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
The Rams actually hung in this game for three quarters, but then the Giants buried them with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Eli Manning was 20 of 29 for 260 yards and three touchdowns, but the story of the game was the Giants' swarming defense. In the first two weeks of the season, the losses of Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan haven't hampered the club's pass rush.
The Giants finished with six sacks, and defensive end Justin Tuck continued his Pro Bowl campaign with two sacks and an interception return for a touchdown. It's not like Tuck came out nowhere (he had 10 sacks last season), but he's emerging as one of the top defensive players in the NFC East.
The once vaunted Rams offense was held to 201 total yards, and they only made it close in the second half because of a miracle catch by Torry Holt that made it 20-13. The Giants responded with a long touchdown drive and we were reminded why Ahmad Bradshaw is such a weapon when he took a swing pass from Manning 18 yards for a touchdown.
Tom Coughlin was worried to death about this game -- and for good reason. This is obviously a bad Rams team, but Coughlin knew there was an opportunity for a letdown. His offense, though, gashed the Rams with Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward on the ground.
Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo constantly rotated his talented defensive linemen, with defensive tackles Jay Alford and Fred Robbins combining for three sacks. Instead of worrying about players who aren't available, other players have raised their level of play.