NFC East: John Beck

Twitter mailbag: Kirk Cousins' value

December, 15, 2012
It is Week 3 of the Twitter mailbag and it seems to be working quite well. At various times during the week I have solicited submissions at the @ESPN_NFCEast Twitter account, but at any time you can tweet a question using the hashtag #nfceastmail and I will see it. I pick a few each week and answer them best I can. Like this, see?

@gotfanhood: Do you see the Skins trading Cousins for picks down the road?

@ESPN_NFCEast: The Washington Redskins picked quarterback Kirk Cousins in the fourth round because Mike Shanahan liked his abilities and thought he'd make a good backup quarterback to Robert Griffin III in his system. After last season, when he toggled between Rex Grossman and John Beck with rotten results, Shanahan knew he could have taken an offensive linemen or some such "need" position in that round. But as he put it when I asked about it during minicamp, "How often do you find a quarterback you like in the fourth round?" So the primary reason Cousins was taken was to back up Griffin, and he might well get the start Sunday if Griffin can't go. However, the answer to your question is that Shanahan would be thrilled if he could develop Cousins in a backup role and trade him for a high pick or something of value in a couple of years, the way the Eagles did with Kevin Kolb last summer. It is undoubtedly in the back of Shanahan's mind that this is a possible outcome, as long as Griffin stays healthy and Cousins shows something in preseason and his relief work.

@StashingtonDC: Do you see Colt Anderson as a solution for the Eagles at S?

@ESPN_NFCEast: I don't think Anderson fits the "solution" category for the Philadelphia Eagles at safety, but he has played surprisingly well the last couple of weeks as the Eagles have needed him to fill in due to injuries. We all know what Anderson brings on special teams, but until this point he'd shown nothing to warrant any kind of role on the defense. But now that he has, it helps the Eagles' offseason plans to know he can play it and that they have some depth there. Helps their leverage with free agents, maybe makes them think twice about reaching for that position in the draft, knowing they at least have somebody who can do a competent job. If nothing else, even if they have two new starters there next year, knowing Anderson is a capable backup helps them construct the rest of their roster.

@jbeansy217: What would you suggest be done with Doug Free? Should he be traded, does he have value and should we just bench him?

@ESPN_NFCEast: Well, the Dallas Cowboys won't be able to trade underperforming tackle Doug Free for anything of legitimate value, since he's had two bad years in a row now. And cutting him will cost them. I believe the cap hit is $8.35 million, though I think they could split that up over two years if they wait until June 1 to cut him. They obviously saw something in him once -- in his 2010 contract season, to be precise -- to make them think he could be a top tackle. And he's only 28 years old, so it's not as though he's done. Maybe another offseason with Bill Callahan helps, but this is a tough call. To bench him and pay him that kind of salary while he works out his problems is almost as tough a pill to swallow as paying him not to pay. I think that June 1 cut is the most likely scenario.

@Bliz_Atl: if Bradshaw is inactive do nyg take kr duties from Wilson? He's so dangerous. But there's a reason no starting rbs return kicks

@ESPN_NFCEast: New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw will be inactive for Sunday's game in Atlanta, and the plan is to start rookie David Wilson in his place, with newly signed veterans Ryan Torain and Kregg Lumpkin as backups. So the question is, if Wilson's now a starting running back, does it make sense to keep him on kick returns? I think the answer for Sunday is yes. He's been so good on kick returns that you really weaken yourself there if you take him out. I think spelling Wilson for a series or two with Lumpkin or Torain is a much better way to get him rest than to replace him on kickoff returns with Jerrel Jernigan or whoever else would be next in line there. Wilson is young and certainly hasn't been overworked this year. If you were talking about a full season, or even a month or two, I could see giving Wilson a break on returns. But I don't think having him return three or four kickoffs a game is going to hurt his ability to deliver as a running back. I don't see Wilson having the same kind of game he had against the Saints, by the way. He's got great talent but is still unpolished, and I expect that to show up if he gets 20-plus carries against one of the top 31 rush defenses in the league.

Thanks for all of the questions. Talk to you again next week.
Happy Wednesday. Let's get you caught up on some of the transaction and other news that went down late in the day Tuesday with a heaping helping of your morning links.

Dallas Cowboys

While much of the talk about DeMarco Murray has been about his tough running and his somewhat disconcerting love of contact, Todd Archer writes that it's important to take note of the second-year Cowboys running back's football intelligence, too. Murray is a big key to this offense -- a fearless running back who, like quarterback Tony Romo, can help the Cowboys succeed in spite of their offensive line issues. They need to keep him healthy.

Jerry Jones remembers that the Redskins nearly beat the Cowboys twice last season when Washington's quarterbacks were Rex Grossman and John Beck. And after watching Robert Griffin III's debut Sunday, Jones says he's not looking forward to seeing the Redskins this year or in the years to come.

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan says that, when considering the kinds of run plays they wanted to design for Griffin, the Redskins' coaching staff watched tapes not only of Griffin's college games but also 2011 tapes of running quarterbacks Cam Newton of Carolina and Tim Tebow of Denver.

The Redskins have placed long-snapper Nick Sundberg, who played the second half of Sunday's game with a broken left arm, on injured reserve/designated to return. That's the new IR, that doesn't require the player to sit out the season. Sundberg must miss at least eight games. His replacement is former Colts long-snapper Justin Snow.

Philadelphia Eagles

You are now free to call 2011 second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett a bust if you so choose. Despite opportunities to contribute at safety during his time in Philadelphia, Jarrett failed to show much of anything, and he was cut Tuesday so that the team might bring back wide receiver Mardy Gilyard. Thin at receiver due to injuries to Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper, the Eagles decided it was more important to have an option at wide receiver this week than it was to maintain whatever depth Jarrett might represent at safety. A missed special-teams tackle in Sunday's game may have been the last straw for Jarrett.

Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson donated $50,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project and spent the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks hanging out with some of the soldiers the organization works to help. Good work, DeSean.

New York Giants

Left tackle Will Beatty is hoping he gets cleared to start and play Sunday against the Buccaneers. He says he's ready to go because he's been working against the Giants' excellent defensive ends in practice. But he wasn't OK to start the season opener, at least not according to the team, and so he waits to find out.

Victor Cruz says he knows he's a marked man after his breakout 2011 season. And he understands he had a bad game in the season opener on Wednesday. But it's about looking forward, and Cruz and the Giants insist they're better prepared this week.

Redskins Camp Watch

July, 24, 2012
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing of which I'm certain: Competition. The Redskins have their quarterback in Robert Griffin III, but they still need to build an offense around him. And they're addressing potential weaknesses by bringing in a lot of people to compete for certain spots and hoping that competition breeds quality starters. At wide receiver, veteran Santana Moss will compete with Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan for snaps opposite Pierre Garcon. At running back, Tim Hightower's 2011 knee injury opens up competition between him, Roy Helu and Evan Royster. There's competition at tight end, where Fred Davis is the No. 1, but converted wide receiver Niles Paul threatens the playing time (and maybe the roster spot) of mainstay Chris Cooley.

The defense seems much more set, especially the front seven. But there's some competition at safety, where Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams aren't the safest projected starters in the league. Coach Mike Shanahan's goal for this offseason was to make his roster deeper, and he believes he has done that. But he's still working to build something long-term in Washington, and while the Redskins do appear to be deeper than they've been at any point during Shanahan's tenure, they still need to identify starters at some key spots.

One thing that might happen: There's a real chance for Moss to re-establish himself as a good starting wide receiver. After the team signed two wide receivers in the first hour of free agency, the Redskins' coaches reached out to Moss to make it clear (in case it wasn't already) that his spot on the roster wasn't safe. They didn't think he looked right last year and told him he needed to lose weight, get in shape and get back his pre-2011 focus. Moss did that, showing up to OTAs having lost 15 pounds, and seems determined to hang on to a starting spot.

It helps Moss that he can play the slot, but unless Hankerson or Morgan gets healthy and dazzles 'em in training camp, Moss right now projects as the starter opposite Garcon. While Moss is 33 years old, he had 93 catches and 1,115 yards just two years ago and could be a huge help to Griffin and the younger receivers on the roster. But it's clear he's not hanging around just to mentor guys who are trying to take his job. Moss believes he can still play and will be determined to prove he still deserves to be a starter.

One thing we won't see: A quarterback controversy. Last year at this time, all eyes were on QBs Rex Grossman and John Beck as the Redskins entered camp without an anointed starter at the most important position on the field. This year, Beck is gone and Grossman has returned as Griffin's backup. Rookie Kirk Cousins is also in camp, but there's a clear pecking order and no doubt as to which quarterback is in control of the team. The Redskins traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick for Griffin and just signed him for $21 million. They will do everything they can to make sure he succeeds, and that includes making it clear from the very start that he faces no pressure in terms of job security.

Now, Griffin is a rookie who will face growing pains, as they all do. And he must do the job in order to keep the job. But there's little doubt around Redskins Park that he'll be able to start right away, and barring injury there doesn't seem to be any way he could lose the starting quarterback job before the beginning of the regular season. A rookie quarterback can't ever offer certainty, but the Redskins have established some stability at quarterback as they get ready to open camp this week.
Good morning, denizens of the NFC East blog. We roll on into another offseason Thursday, mining quotes and notes from charity golf tournaments and rookie minicamps for discussion points. And links, of course. Can't forget the links.

Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones says the team is not planning to trade Mike Jenkins and that he actually hopes Dallas can sign him long term. I believe the first part, but I believe that it's a result of a realization that there isn't much of a market for Jenkins right now. I don't believe the second part one bit. Not with as much as they've committed to Brandon Carr and are about to commit to Morris Claiborne. I mean, I'm sure they'd keep Jenkins long term for the right price, but not for what Jenkins likely believes he's worth on the open market. I think they're wise to keep Jenkins for this year, because depth at that position is a good thing. But I don't see how it works beyond this year unless he continues to struggle with injuries and they can get him at a big discount.

Jones also says he's confident about the Cowboys' and Redskins' chances in the hearings that begin today on the salary-cap penalties. I know I wrote in the original Wednesday breakfast links that the hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, and I apologize for the mistake. I wish I had a better excuse than the fact that I didn't know what day it was. I'm caught up now, though. So don't worry.

New York Giants

Chad Jones had hoped to be on the field with Giants players at this weekend's rookie minicamp, but he still hasn't been cleared to do so. Jones' comeback from his car accident remains an admirable story for which everyone's rooting, but this is a reminder that the road back isn't easy and remains long.

As the rookie signings continue to roll in, the Giants have locked up tight end Adrien Robinson, their fourth-round pick. Ohm's rookie preview touched on Robinson recently. He's a high-upside project the Giants hope can achieve his considerable athletic potential under the tutelage of their tight ends coach, Mike Pope.

Philadelphia Eagles

Jeremy Maclin turns 24 years old Friday, and a year ago he was dealing with worrisome medical issues that limited his offseason conditioning work. Maclin and the Eagles hope that this offseason goes more smoothly and that the result is the kind of exciting, productive and fully healthy season he was hoping to have in 2011.

Here's Greg Cosell of NFL Films writing about Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and the steps he needs to take as a quarterback if he and the Eagles are to accomplish their goals in 2012. It's similar to some of the stuff we've been discussing on here about Vick lately -- about how he needs to better devote himself to the quarterback position as a "highly disciplined craft."

Washington Redskins

The Redskins are looking for almost anyone who can play tight end. A couple of weeks back, we learned that second-year wide receiver Niles Paul was taking reps at tight end. Now, it seems linebacker Lorenzo Alexander has been doing some work there. Got to think the Alexander stuff is just in-case-of-emergency stuff, but none of this portends wonderful things for Chris Cooley, whose position on the team was already wobbly to begin with due to his salary and recent history of injuries.

What else, what else ... Oh, John Beck found work. The Houston Texans signed him. Yeah, I know, but it's a slow day and I know Redskins fans have a soft spot in their heart for Beck and the promise he showed in ... which preseason game was that again last year? Jeez, that seems like a while ago.
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.

The John Beck era comes to an end

April, 28, 2012
Once the Washington Redskins used two of their first four picks in this year's NFL draft on quarterbacks, you had to figure ol' John Beck was in trouble, and ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Beck has indeed been released.

Beck was a competitor for the Redskins' starting quarterback job last summer in training camp, losing out to Rex Grossman. He started three games in the middle of the 2011 season due to Grossman's interception problems, but the Redskins lost those three games by a combined score of 75-31, and Beck lost the job to Grossman once again.

With Grossman re-signed to a one-year contract and the Redskins having drafted Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins so far in this draft, there was no more room for Beck, a nice guy who didn't have what it took and likely will live as a sad punchline in the memory of Redskins fans.
McNabb/ShanahanMaxwell Kruger/US PresswireNo, QB Donovan McNabb's time in Washington with coach Mike Shanahan wasn't typically pleasant.
If you saw Donovan McNabb on "First Take" today, you know what this is about. If you haven't, here's the clip. McNabb, the former Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins quarterback, was asked if he thinks Robert Griffin III is a good fit for the Redskins, who are likely to take him with the No. 2 pick in the draft four weeks from today. This was a perfectly teed-up Titleist of a question for McNabb, whose time in Washington was tumultuous to say the least, and he swung hard:
"No. I say that because a lot of times, ego gets too involved when it comes to being in Washington. Here's a guy coming out who's very talented, mobile, strong-armed. We've already heard he's intelligent. Football mind. Are you going to cater the offense around his talents and what he's able to do? Or are you going to bring the Houston offense with Matt Schaub over to him and have him kind of be embedded into that?"

The last part is a clear reference to Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and the idea that he tried to fit McNabb into the offensive system he brought with him from the Texans. But there's more:
"We talk so much about Mike Shanahan and the things that he was able to do in Denver. Well, I have a couple of names for you that Mike Shanahan, quarterbacks he's coached and the lack of success that he's had. We have John Beck, who as 0-4. Rex Grossman, 6-11. Jay Cutler, who was his prized possession, 17-20. Jake Plummer, a guy who had success, led them to the AFC Championship against Pittsburgh and then benched him the next year because he wouldn't do what he wanted him to do pretty much. Brian Griese, who was supposed to be the heir apparent to John Elway and hasn't had a lot of success."

To his credit, Skip Bayless asked McNabb if he had an ax to grind. And to his credit, the first two words of McNabb's response were accurate:
"I do but I don't. The whole deal about it is, we hear so much about players who move on somewhere, how the next year will be a lot better. Give him a chance to learn the offense and understand what we do. I never got that chance. And a lot of people haven't."

My inclination is to tread carefully here, since there's obviously a far greater chance that McNabb spends this next football season in those Bristol studios than on a football field. But the plain fact is, the guy needs a mirror.

McNabb makes some fair points about Mike Shanahan and the lack of success he's had as a head coach with quarterbacks other than Elway. He makes some fair points about egos, and I don't think there's anyone who doubts that Shanahan has a big one. He himself might even admit to that. He's a head football coach. The list of men who are those and don't have egos is a pretty short list.

But McNabb this morning was using a platform to grind his ax, plain and simple. My quickie evaluation of him on TV is that he'll be an excellent NFL analyst as long as he's talking about people he hates. His breakdown of the situation in Washington as it pertained to him ignores these elements:

  • He was benched by Eagles coach Andy Reid in 2008 and traded by Reid after the 2009 season to a team that the Eagles play twice a year. Clearly, there were some issues with McNabb even before he got to Washington. You don't trade your starting quarterback to a division rival if you think the guy is still worth having.
  • Three separate Redskins people who were with the team during McNabb's only season there have told me that the issue with McNabb was that he didn't want to put in the work during the week. Yes, the system in Washington was different from the one he was used to in Philadelphia, but that McNabb's response to that was to shut down and refuse to learn or practice it. One of those three people told me Shanahan was aware, before making the trade, that McNabb had developed the reputation over his final few seasons in Philadelphia of not wanting to put in the work during the week, but that Shanahan believed he could light a fire under McNabb.
  • Shanahan was not able to light that fire, and McNabb lost his job to Rex Grossman during the 2010 season. Rex Grossman, folks. Didn't lose the job to Johnny Unitas or Joe Montana. Couldn't play or practice well enough to fend off a challenge from Rex Grossman.
  • The Redskins traded McNabb prior to the 2011 season to the Minnesota Vikings for a sixth-round pick. McNabb must not have liked the egos or the system in Minnesota, either, since he played just six games there before losing the job to rookie Christian Ponder, then demanded his release later in the season after being demoted to the scout team.
  • No one picked him up off waivers.
  • No one has signed him so far this offseason.
  • There has been not one report of any team being interested in signing him.

McNabb's career is almost certainly over, and he's clearly bitter about the way it ended. The Shanahans certainly made some mistakes in handling the McNabb situation and said some things that embarrassed a proud veteran and left him very angry. They are not blameless here. But neither is McNabb, and if he's going to sit there and say things like he said this morning on "First Take," he'd do himself and the rest of us a favor if he uttered maybe just one or two words about his own role in the way things turned out for him in Washington.

It's possible, after all, that Griffin will be excellent in Washington. There's nothing anyone's heard about the young man to indicate he's unwilling to work or learn anything new.
Good morning in the East, where spring has sprung early and the roster tinkering is in full swing. What will Wednesday bring? More signings? Another surprise trade? All we know for sure is it starts with links.

Dallas Cowboys

New Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr said one of the things that convinced him to sign with Dallas was an in-person sales pitch from DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, Sean Lee and Miles Austin, all of whom attended the dinner at which the team's brass treated Carr at Cowboys Stadium on his free-agent recruiting visit. The $26.5 million guaranteed surely didn't hurt, either.

Troy Aikman says he thinks Tony Romo is already a better quarterback than he ever was, which surely comes as a surprise to those who wanted the Cowboys to sign Peyton Manning or wish they would trade Romo for Tim Tebow.

New York Giants

Ahmad Bradshaw says his fractured foot has healed completely and that he believes he can handle a workload similar to the one he had in 2010. That would be especially nice if his friend Brandon Jacobs finds work elsewhere, as it appears he will. But I'd still expect the Giants to bring in some veteran running back to help spell Bradshaw just in case.

I'm sick of banging my head against my desk every morning looking for a second Giants link. Nobody who covers or blogs about the Giants is writing anything right now unless the Giants sign someone or one of their guys signs somewhere else. Since that didn't happen Tuesday, there's nothing out there. Go ahead, check for yourselves. I'm open to suggestions. You guys tell me what the second Giants link should be. I can't find it.

Philadelphia Eagles

Jonathan Tamari likes the deal for linebacker DeMeco Ryans. And while Jonathan does bring up a couple of the reasons to wonder how they got him so cheap, the fact is it's an impossible deal to dislike. Ryans was a great player for Houston before his Achilles injury and will be nearly two full years removed from it (and still just 28 years old) when the 2012 season starts. Houston wasn't using him enough to justify what they were paying him, because they were taking him off the field in nickel situations in the sub packages in their new 3-4 defensive scheme. The Eagles saw a guy who was being undervalued by his team but would fill the biggest need on theirs, and they snagged him. Good for them. If it doesn't work out, they lost a fourth-round draft pick. But there's no doubt Ryan is better than anything they had at linebacker in 2011.

Players on the Eagles are excited about the move and players on the Texans are bummed out about it, as Les Bowen writes. That tells you a great deal.

Washington Redskins

Free-agent quarterback Josh Johnson, late of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will visit the Redskins on Wednesday. When this news broke Tuesday night, people were asking why, and I don't see what the great mystery is. You need to be at least three-deep at quarterback, and Johnson as the No. 3 (or the No. 2, if he can pass Rex Grossman on the depth chart) seems like a heck of a lot better option than paying John Beck $1 million. Why not take a look? Quarterback is a position at which it's important to be as good and as deep as you can possibly be. And remember, as excited as everyone is about Robert Griffin III, he is going to be a rookie. He'll need good backups.

The Redskins also re-signed Kory Lichtensteiger, who was playing very well for them at left guard last year before blowing out his knee in that completely disastrous Week 6 loss to the Eagles in which everyone got hurt and Grossman got benched for Beck. They still need to upgrade at right tackle, and if Lichtensteiger isn't fully healthy they still need to be looking for help on the interior. But they were happy with what Lichtensteiger was giving them before his injury, so he's back.

Leading Questions: NFC East

February, 16, 2012
With the offseason in full swing, let’s take a look at one major question facing each NFC East team as they begin preparations for the 2012 season:


Do they have too much work to do?

It's possible that we expect too much from the Cowboys. Their skill-position talent on offense makes them an easy team to like going into the season. Few teams are as good as they are at quarterback and wide receiver, and if DeMarco Murray comes back healthy, they look pretty good at running back, too.

But the offseason needs for the Cowboys are myriad. They need guards and a center. They need cornerbacks and safeties. They need a pass-rushing outside linebacker to complement DeMarcus Ware. They could stand to beef up on the defensive line.

That's a lot of needs, and it's fair to wonder whether they'll be able to fill them all adequately and construct a 2012 contender. That they were a contender (heck, a leader) in the NFC East right up until the end of the 2011 season leads one to believe they necessarily should be thought of as one again for 2012. But the division was, for the first time ever, won with only nine wins. And the way the Cowboys played defense and protected Tony Romo during their 1-4 finish was more alarming than the 7-4 record was encouraging.


What to do with Osi Umenyiora?

The Giants have other issues, sure. They need to work on the offensive line. They need to find a tight end. They need to make individual decisions on players like Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham. But for a team that believes the pass rush is the cornerstone of good defense, the Osi question is a fair one on which to focus right now.

Last summer, when he had two years left on his contract, Umenyiora was obviously unhappy. He sat out training camp practices. He sought (and received) permission to find a team willing to trade for him. He called GM Jerry Reese a liar in a sworn affidavit as part of one of the lockout lawsuits. The Giants never blinked, and in the end Umenyiora returned and became a major contributor to their Super Bowl run.

Now, he has one year left on the contract he hates, and the Giants must decide what to do. Sign him long term, as he wants? Trade him now, while his value is high coming off the Super Bowl and his postseason performance? Or stand pat again and force him to play out his contract, running the risk that he'll be more resolute in his protests and holdouts this time around?

The emergence of Jason Pierre-Paul at defensive end opposite Justin Tuck gives the Giants leverage, but at the same time, they were much better when all three of those guys were healthy and in the lineup together.


Is a full offseason really what they need?

Last August, after the lockout ended, the Eagles signed a bunch of free agents to play for a revamped coaching staff with a lot of new ideas about how to play defense and offensive line. The party line in Philadelphia now is that this was all too much too soon, and that the Eagles' 3-6 start was due in large part to the inability of all of these new pieces to get on the same page in the absence of an offseason program.

They played well at the end of the season, they point out. Heck, they played well at the beginning of the season, too -- they just couldn't hold a lead. So we'll see whether a real offseason of OTAs and minicamps all spring and summer helps everyone relax and get the most out of a talented roster.

We'll see whether it helps quarterback Michael Vick better handle the new responsibilities he took on in 2011, such as changing the protection at the line of scrimmage. We'll see whether the sting of 2011's disappointment can propel the Eagles to great things in 2012, or if it's all a bunch of hooey and they were never that good in the first place.


Who's the quarterback?

Rex Grossman can't come back as anything other than the backup, and John Beck ... well, just ... no.

The Redskins have many needs, but none as big as this one. Picking sixth in the draft, they'll need to trade up (and outbid other teams to do so) if they want Robert Griffin III, who's the best all-around option and a potential franchise quarterback.

But if trading up means dealing away multiple first-round picks and making it difficult for them to address areas such as wide receiver, offensive line and the secondary, it might not be the wisest course of action. That would necessitate a free-agent pursuit of someone like Kyle Orton, Matt Flynn or -- if they can be convinced he's fully healthy -- Peyton Manning.

Redskins fans aren't likely to be happy with an imperfect, short-term solution. But only one team is going to get Griffin, and if the Redskins are not that team, they need to spend their resources on a No. 1 receiver and help for the line.

They have about $47 million in cap room and the ability to fill enough holes that plugging in a healthy Manning could make them a 2012 contender. And if that's the way they go, there's always a Matt Barkley or Landry Jones-type option next year.
Today's all about the love, folks. No hate. No anger. No bitterness or name-calling on the blog today, please. For one day, let's make it all about the love. By now you know I love you all equally. I show this daily, through links.

New York Giants

How much do the Giants love Brandon Jacobs? Maybe more importantly, how much does Jacobs love the Giants? Jacobs says he'd like to stay with the Giants and would be willing to restructure his contract to do so "as long as it's fair." He's got a $500,000 roster bonus and a $4.4 million base salary coming this year, and the Giants right now are about $7.25 million over the projected salary cap. Jacobs restructured his deal last year to help the Giants re-sign friend and backfield mate Ahmad Bradshaw. Will he be willing to give back $2 million or $2.5 million of that base salary this year to stay? He wants to stay in New York and mentioned the Jets as a possibility if the Giants let him go. That makes a lot of sense both ways, which is just one more reason it was so silly of Jacobs to go after Rex Ryan after the Christmas Eve game. But I don't know. Maybe that made Ryan like him more. We'll see.

No questioning David Diehl's love for the game. Not after he played the final month or so of the season with a broken left hand. Diehl had surgery Monday and tweeted out some X-rays of the new spiderweb of screws in his finger. Love the loopy post-surgery guys tweeting X-rays. One of my favorite Twitter fads.

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles fans would love to see their team pick a linebacker in the first round, even if they know history indicates that's got almost no chance of happening. Les Bowen caught up with Boston College's Luke Kuechly, who's the name most commonly connected with the Eagles in mock drafts these days.

Regardless of whether they improve the linebacking corps, the Eagles' coaches would love to see the cornerbacks tackle better in 2012 than they did in 2011. As Bleeding Green Nation learned by checking Pro Football Focus' year-end rankings, the Eagles had some of the worst-tackling cornerbacks in the league last year. Nnamdi Asomugha ranked as the second-worst tackling corner in the league. On a day that wasn't all about the love, we might point out that that's not very good.

Dallas Cowboys

Joe Baker loved catching passes from quarterback Jason Garrett when the two were teammates at Princeton in the late 1980s, and now he's come to Dallas to work for Garrett the head coach. Baker joins the coaching staff as an assistant secondary coach, teaming with Jerome Henderson to try and improve one of the Cowboys' worst-performing 2011 units.

Nobody loved the experience of the Super Bowl in Dallas-Forth Worth, but Jerry Jones would love to try again and is expected to bid for the 2016 game, which would be the 50th Super Bowl or (blech) Super Bowl L. Jones will get another Super Bowl, there is no doubt. Roger Goodell has said many times that the stadium is the most important element of a Super Bowl bid, and no one's got a stadium half as sweet as Jones'. We can all only hope that he and the surrounding communities do a better job of handling the whole thing the next time around, and that if they have a freak February ice storm they at least have some salt or sand on hand to get the darn stuff off the highways.

Washington Redskins

Jason Reid doesn't love the idea of the Redskins pursuing Peyton Manning, and his basic argument is a familiar one -- the Redskins need to be thinking about the future. But I continue to ask to those who put forth this argument: Wouldn't trading up to get Robert Griffin III be potentially more detrimental to the Redskins' future than using all of those picks to fill other needs and then plugging in one of the best quarterbacks in history? Describing Manning as a "fading star" is shortsighted. He was an MVP candidate two years ago and missed this past year with an injury. If he's healthy, and if they can't deal up for Griffin at a reasonable price, there's no good reason not to go all-out after Manning.

Finally, how can you not love John Beck, who still thinks his chance is coming and that he'll take full advantage of it? Never mind that it came and he didn't. The guy is just really positive, upbeat and confident -- even in the face of incredible evidence to the contrary. He's the perfect guy for a day that's all about the love.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Somebody wanted a Washington Redskins post. Hey, so do I. But when nothing's going on, nothing's going on. It hasn't been this hard to find Redskins topics since the lockout. But after I got back from the Madonna news conference, I found this item from the Washington Examiner, which attempts to shoot down all of the silly reasons people are coming up with to insist that either the Redskins won't pursue Peyton Manning or that he wouldn't want to play for them.

It's well done, especially insofar as it addresses flimsy, eight-year-old speculation that Manning wouldn't want to play in the same division as his brother. (Seriously, people. Do you think that's really still true if it ever was? Both guys are pretty well established at this point.) But this is the one I really want to address specifically:
5. The Redskins don't do business this way anymore This one is true. But isn't the clock ticking on the Shanahan regime? And doesn't the owner have an itch he's dying to scratch?

I don't think the clock is, actually, ticking on the Mike Shanahan regime. He's entering the third-year of a five-year contract, and the aforementioned owner has, to this point, kept his contractual promise to remain in the background and allow Shanahan and Bruce Allen to build the team their way. There's nothing to indicate that's about to change.

Furthermore, signing Manning wouldn't represent a reversion by the Redskins to their "old way" of doing business. It would, if Manning is healthy, potentially represent the best possible short-term solution to their biggest short-term problem. They need a quarterback, Rex Grossman and John Beck aren't good enough, and even if they were, the two of them together aren't half as good as Peyton Bleeping Manning.

And yes, quarterback is a long-term problem for the Redskins, too. Signing Manning wouldn't help that. But if Shanahan can't find his franchise quarterback in this year's draft or free-agent market, what's so wrong about filling the Redskins' many other needs via those avenues and bringing in one of the best quarterbacks in the game to hold the place until they find the franchise guy?

All I know is, it's a weird world when people are thinking up reasons their team shouldn't want Peyton Manning. If he's healthy, he's going to help someone win games next year. Why wouldn't you want it to be your team?

Redskins regular-season wrap-up

January, 4, 2012
NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 26
Preseason Power Ranking: 28

[+] EnlargeLondon Fletcher
Brad Mills/US PresswireLinebacker London Fletcher was his usual reliable self for the Redskins in 2011.
Biggest surprise: Rookie running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster, who combined for five 100-yard rushing games in the final stretch of the season. Helu had three of them, and once Helu got hurt, Royster had two. The Redskins were able to run the ball effectively early in the season, too, with original starter Tim Hightower. And if Hightower can come back from his ACL injury, running back should be a position of remarkable depth and quality for the Redskins as they head into 2012.

Biggest disappointment: The drug suspensions that cost left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Fred Davis the final four games of the season. The two young stars were having fantastic seasons, and the manner in which they were suspended called into question not only their intelligence but their commitment to the team. The Redskins want to consider both of those positions developing strengths as they move into a brighter future, and right now they are left to hope this turns out to be a lesson learned rather than a sign of more trouble to come.

Biggest need: Quarterback. Not that much was expected, but Rex Grossman threw 20 interceptions in 13 starts, and John Beck was an utter disaster in the three games he started in Grossman's place. The disappointment fans feel about quarterback comes from the fact that the team didn't do more to address it last offseason, and upgrading over what they have at that position now must be an offseason priority if the Redskins are going to continue to make the progress they insist they made in 2011.

Team MVP: London Fletcher. The veteran inside linebacker was running offseason player workouts during the lockout, keeping a sheet of paper with some of the team's 3-4 defense plays from 2010 in his pocket and calling them out as they ran through drills on their own. Once the season began, the 37-year-old wonder brought it every game, leading the NFL in tackles for the season, helping with the development of young players like Perry Riley and Ryan Kerrigan and setting an everyday, every-week example as the best, most intense, most focused and most prepared player on the team. Having Fletcher is like having a coach on the field in addition to a great player, and there's no wonder why Shanahan has called bringing back the potential free agent a top priority.

The other side of the ball: The Redskins did a lot of fine work rebuilding their defense in the 2011 offseason, bringing in players such as Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen and Josh Wilson while drafting Kerrigan. But while they may still need to add a piece or two in the secondary, depending on what happens with DeAngelo Hall and LaRon Landry, the Redskins' focus this offseason is likely to be on offense. They need a quarterback, a No. 1 receiver and some more beef on the offensive line.
ASHBURN, Va. -- One of the most common criticisms of Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan is that he's a slave to his own offensive "system," and more interested in finding players who fit that system than in finding the best possible players and constructing a system around them. Shanahan has heard this criticism, and when I brought it up in my interview with him last week, this is what he had to say about it:

"It's kind of funny, because when I had Steve Young and we had to run a West Coast offense [in San Francisco], and Steve was so much different than Joe Montana, you know, it was different. And then [John] Elway -- Elway didn't want to run the five-step drop. We were in a shotgun formation all the time. He hated the West Coast offense of three- and five-step drops, so with John it was a seven-step drop and a lot of shotgun. And then we wind up getting a guy like Jake Plummer, and of course Jake... totally different. He had to be outside the pocket, all those quarterback keeps, boots, none of the drop-back, none of the seven-step drop. He was good on the run, good on the play action, but the drop-back wasn't his game.

"So what you've always got to do is, whatever quarterback you have, you adjust your system to your players. The one thing I think I have been categorized with is the zone blocking scheme. People say, 'Oh, he loves the zone blocking scheme.' So I think I've been stereotyped there, relative to the running game. But in the passing game, if people look at what we've done in different places, they're gong to say, 'Oh, he adjusts the passing game to the quarterback.' Like with Rex [Grossman]. You can't run quarterback keeps with Rex, but you can do it with John [Beck]. So whatever somebody can do, you try to adjust accordingly."

Omar from Washington, D.C., sent in several questions for Shanahan last week, and one of the ones I used was about his relationship with his son, Kyle, who is his offensive coordinator. Omar wanted to know what Mike Shanahan thought of the criticism Kyle receives and how he feels his son has progressed in the role.

Mike Shanahan: "The important thing is that your coordinator knows what he's doing. Until you see a coordinator in meetings, or how he runs the meeting ... you're not really sure until you see him under the gun -- running game, passing game, installation of the run, installation of the pass, how he shows film, how he relates to the team. So that's where it's been very ... I shouldn't say a surprise, but it's natural for him, and it's easy to see that he understands the game. He can handle himself in any meeting, and until you see that as a coach, you just don't know, especially when it's your son. But he was very natural at that right away, so I became very comfortable with him, because I knew he knew what he was doing."

I told Shanahan that I often get questions from fans about whether Kyle will be fired, and that I generally respond to them by pointing out that Kyle's father is his boss and that a firing is therefore unlikely. He seemed to agree with my assessment, but here's what he had to say about the criticisms and the coaching staff in general:

MS: "I think what I've always been able to do is look at things very objectively in terms of where we're at. So when somebody says, 'Hey, your offense sucks,' I go, 'Hey, wait a minute. You look at my body of work over the last 27 years, we're No. 1.' And we’re going to continue to be up there. And I also know what it takes to have a good offense, in terms of coaches and personnel, and we're gong to get there, on both sides of it. And if I have a bad coach, I'm going to make changes, and if I don’t have the right personnel, I'm going to make changes. And we're going to get that thing fixed the right way."

Wendell Washington from Landover, Md., wanted me to ask the elder Shanahan about Redskins owner Dan Snyder -- specifically, whether Snyder has bought into Shanahan's belief that the way to build a long-term winner is through the draft rather than free agency and is sticking to his promise to let Shanahan do it his way.

MS: "Oh yeah, he's been very good. He's been very good letting me do it the way you want to do it. Been very supportive. I said to him, 'If you don’t count on me being here five years, you shouldn't sign me. Because this isn't going to happen overnight. We've got a lot of work to do. This is an older football team.' But he's been good."

Later on, though, I asked what impact the fact of his 11-21 record in his first two seasons as Redskins coach has on his faith that he's building the team the right way.

MS: "You just know that you've got two more years to get the job done, because they never let you go through the five years. You get it done in four years or you're gone. But that's what I love about this profession -- the pressure of it, what goes with it. The thing that I enjoy is that I've got an owner that's going to give me a chance to be successful. And if I can't get it done in four years, even though I've got a five-year contract, then I shouldn't be here."

We're going to do this every day until I run out of stuff. Thanks again for your help with the interview, and I hope you're enjoying what we've got out of it so far.

How you feeling? Redskins-Eagles

January, 1, 2012
As you get ready for Sunday afternoon's season finale between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field, here's one reason for Redskins fans to feel good and one reason for Eagles fans to feel good.

Redskins feeling good: They should be able to run on the Eagles, who have yet to fully correct their early-season issues in the linebacking corps and have struggled to get help in the run game from the safety position as well. We'll see if rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett, who's known as a hard hitter, can make a difference at the second level as he gets the start due to injuries to regular starters. But the Redskins have been running the ball well lately no matter which rookie running back -- Roy Helu or Evan Royster -- is getting the carries, and they'll have a chance to run their offense the way they want to run it and control the game a little bit today.

Eagles feeling good: Having won three in a row, the Eagles are playing as well as they have at any point this year. They crushed the Redskins in Washington in Week 6, dealing the Skins several of the injuries that would sink their season. They surely have a psychological edge in this head-to-head matchup. They also pressure the passer extremely well and should be able to rattle Washington quarterback Rex Grossman into mistakes. Grossman leads the league with 19 interceptions, four of which came in that Week 6 loss to the Eagles that earned him a three-game benching in favor of John Beck.

Redskins' defense shows team's progress

December, 18, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If you're a Washington Redskins fan, you're looking for reasons to feel good. With a third straight losing season assured and the playoffs unattainable, it'd be easy to get down about the state of your team. And if you're team was playing the way, say, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing right now, you'd have every reason to be down.

But if you're a Redskins fan and you watched your team punch a hole in the New York Giants' playoff hopes with a 23-10 victory here Sunday, you can feel good about a number of things. You can feel good about your team's heart, which is impossible to question after they and not the Giants played like the team that had postseason goals. You can feel real good about the fact that the Redskins have the best defense in the NFC East. And while that may be a little bit like being the tallest dwarf, it's not a bad thing on which to build.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireThe Redskins were able to stop Eli Manning and the Giants for the second time this season.
"We're building something that will last longer than this season," said Redskins safety O.J. Atogwe, who signed with the Redskins as a free agent way back before the lockout hit. "We're building something for the future, and it starts with games like these where everybody comes together and believes in each other to the point where we're able to beat the best team in our division."

Actually, because of what the Redskins did to the Giants here on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys are the first-place team in the NFC East. But it's only by a game, and Atogwe's point was made. The Redskins went 2-0 against the Giants this season, and they did so by accomplishing something no one else has been able to accomplish in 2011. They made life miserable for Eli Manning. There have been only three games this year in which Manning has not thrown at least one touchdown pass -- the victory over the Bills and the two losses to the Redskins.

"It means a lot," Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said. "Last year, the Giants swept us. They've really been our nemesis around here for the last five years. But this year, so be able to sweep them, it means a lot."

To the Redskins, it justifiably means progress. They used to roll over in the Giants games. Now, they don't roll over for anyone. They are 5-9 in large part because of personnel deficiencies and a rash of injuries that would have shaken even a much deeper roster's chances. But they have not quit on their season, and they seem to understand the value of playing hard to the wire and building on the dramatic advances they have made on defense over the past calendar year.

"I think it's just our attitude," defensive end Adam Carriker said. "We expect to do well now. Last year, the first year switching from the 4-3 to the 3-4, I don't think we expected to perform well. Now, we believe we're good and we expect to play like it. Even last week against New England, yeah we gave up [34] points, but that team ran the two-minute drill all game. So if nothing else, we proved to ourselves we were in shape."

The Redskins are a remarkably positive 5-9 team, and the reason is because they can see and feel things getting better. There will be offseason work to do, of course, especially on the offensive side. But the work they did on the defense last offseason has shown up all year. As much as they struggled on offense during the short-lived John Beck era, as much as Rex Grossman has hurt them with turnovers, and as many guys as they've lost on offense to injury or suspension, the defense has been a reliable constant for the Redskins this season, and they are justifiably proud and encouraged by that.

"This is a team with character," Atogwe said. "Regardless of where we are in the standings or what point of the season it is, we're going to play with passion, we're going to play with integrity and we're going to play to win."

If you're a Redskins fan, you've got to feel good about that.