NFC East: Johnnie Lee Higgins

Philadelphia Eagles cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
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Click here for a complete list of the Philadelphia Eagles' roster moves.

Surprise move: It's not a huge surprise that nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson was released, considering how deep the Eagles were at cornerback after their frenzied first week of free agency. But I do think people are surprised that they couldn't get anything for him in a trade before releasing him. It seems no team wanted to compensate the Eagles and also assume Hanson's contract, which had $7.6 million left over the next three years. He was an extremely effective nickel corner last year and surely will end up on someone's roster (Cleveland? Arizona? St. Louis? The Giants?) before long.

It was a bit of a surprise to see the Eagles cut defensive tackles Anthony Hargrove and Derek Landri and keep Cedric Thornton, but ultimately I guess they believed Landri and Hargrove weren't big enough to play the position in Jim Washburn's scheme. Very small but very effective former CFL star Phillip Hunt made the team at defensive end, though. And cutting Sinorice Moss and Johnnie Lee Higgins leaves the Eagles looking for help in the return game.

No-brainers: Keeping five safeties (Jarrad Page, Kurt Coleman, Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Colt Anderson) and six linebackers (Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney, Moise Fokou, Akeem Jordan, Brian Rolle and Keenan Clayton) makes some sense because they have questions at those positions and will hold onto depth until they sort out roles. Tight end Donald Lee probably can help someone, but with all of the options the Eagles have at receiver, there isn't much room in the game plan for many two-tight end sets. Mike McGlynn started 14 games for the Eagles last year, but it was clear from the start of camp that there was no place for him on the new offensive line.

What's next: The Eagles are likely to poke around and look for help at linebacker and kick returner, but they're set at almost every position and extremely deep at most. If I'm their front office, I begin focusing my attention on whatever potential resolution there might be to the DeSean Jackson contract situation.

Breakfast links: Skins change course

August, 4, 2011
8/04/11
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Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys signed safety Abram Elam to a one-year, $2.5 million contract, reuniting him with new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Ryan should move Jay Ratliff back to defensive end, his natural position, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Mac Engel.

Demarcus Ware responded to criticism from NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp, who recently said Ware is "not going to lead a pack of ants to a picnic in his own back yard," saying, "I saw [Sapp's comments], but I'm getting ready for the season, so it really didn't bother me."

New York Giants

Tight end Kevin Boss was in Oakland Wednesday working out for the Raiders, who are scrambling to replace Zach Miller.

The New York Post's Paul Schwartz looks at the escalating feud between Osi Umenyiora and the Giants.

After signing a two-year incentive-laden contract, Mathias Kiwanuka may become more important to the team with Umenyiora’s status in jeopardy.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles reached out and made a one-year contract offer to Randy Moss -- after he had filed his retirement papers.

While the Eagles' splashier signings get all the attention, it could be the lower-profile additions -- Ryan Harris, Ronnie Brown, Evan Mathis and Johnnie Lee Higgins -- that have the bigger impact on Eagles, writes the Inquirer's Bob Ford.

Why did Ronnie Brown choose the Eagles? Brown: "It's not so much the financial standpoint. It's more about winning and putting myself in a situation where I'd be on a team that made [winning] a priority."

Washington Redskins

The Redskins have changed course and avoided the splashy moves they made in past seasons. "I hope we're the most boringest team in the whole NFL," Brian Orakpo said.

Barry Cofield is ready to take on his new role as a nose tackle in the 3-4 scheme.
Little bit late Friday night with our daily roundup of the free-agency day in the NFC East because, well, it's been a bit of a nutty day overall. But you're not here to read about my day. You're here to ask, of whichever team is your favorite, the following question: So, how was your day?

Dallas Cowboys?

"Infuriating." It seemed as if the Cowboys put their entire offseason plan on hold for a day because Jerry Jones decided he wanted to try and get Nnamdi Asomugha. Then it seemed, for a fleeting second when the Jets dropped out of the running just before dinnertime, as if they might have actually gotten him. Then they found out that they didn't get him. Then they found out that he'd signed in the division, with the Eagles. That's a bad day, folks. And the re-signing of Marcus Spears didn't seem like it was enough to make anybody any happier. The Cowboys still need two starting safeties and another starting defensive end, and there remain several good options on the market at both spots. So now that Asomugha is elsewhere, they can re-focus on filling needs and smoothing over the surely hurt feelings of the cornerbacks on their roster.

New York Giants?

"Punterrific!" OK, no, that's not a word. But while the Giants were busy again, the only thing that really happened for them Friday was that they agreed to terms on a new deal with former Jets punter Steve Weatherford. He will surely replace the embattled Matt Dodge to the delight of Giants fans who refuse to forgive Dodge for that whole DeSean Jackson thing. Brandon Jacobs agreed to restructure his deal to help them re-sign Ahmad Bradshaw, but Bradshaw remains unsigned, along with Steve Smith and Kevin Boss. Plaxico Burress stopped by to visit Tom Coughlin, but then he went on to Pittsburgh and I still wonder if he's just using the Giants for leverage. Oh, and Osi Umenyiora is officially holding out, so that's fun. Any or all of these sticky situations could resolve themselves in the next day or so, but in the meantime, the best thing that happened for the Giants on Friday was the punterrific addition of Weatherford, which will have to do.

Philadelphia Eagles?

"Awesome." They sneaked in at the last minute and signed the best free agent on the market. They did it right when the Cowboys thought they were about to get him. A defense that was their weak spot last season now boasts a three-man cornerback rotation of Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. They also formally announced the addition of Jason Babin to the defensive line and a couple of under-the-radar moves in receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins and tight end Donald Lee. Eventually, they got around to announcing the signing of Vince Young to a one-year deal to serve as Michael Vick's backup. The Phillies were so inspired that they made their own big trade, and it was party time in Philadelphia. If they Eagles can beef up a bit at linebacker and find a backup running back, they'll be just about all set. They'll just need to find a way to make Jackson happy.

Washington Redskins?

"Quiet." Washington was the busiest team in the division all week until Friday, when they didn't make a move of major consequence. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan talked about what he sees as the looming quarterback competition between John Beck and Rex Grossman, which kind of reminded everybody that all the other moves the Redskins have been making could have a hard time helping too much in 2011. Washington still needs a right tackle, and I could see them making a move for Braylon Edwards before that situation resolves itself. But they'd been busy and effective all week, and there was nothing wrong with a quiet day for them.

My day? Well, I was right there with the rest of you, wondering how the Nnamdi thing would shake out and shocked when it took the final turn it took. I was watching Adam Schefter on "SportsCenter" when he got the news on his BlackBerry and broke it on the set, which was humorous. My day isn't over, either, as I have one more Eagles-related item to write before I can think about the pillow. But as always, I have enjoyed the interactions on Twitter and the work I do to try and keep you informed and entertained. I hope you're enjoying it too.

How was your day?

Cowboys' offense allergic to end zone

August, 13, 2010
8/13/10
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's too bad we can't get those 60 minutes of our lives back. The Cowboys' first-team offense once again failed in the red zone, and the backups didn't do any better in a 17-9 loss to the Raiders. With the Cowboys having played Sunday, it was obvious they didn't belong on the field Thursday night.

The defense certainly had its moments, but the story of the game (from my vantage point) is that Tony Romo was sacked three times and the running game was non-existent. Other than that, it was a wonderful night of football. The Cowboys have nine days before playing a preseason game in San Diego. Maybe we'll get a better feel for where this team is at that point. But in the interest of producing a blog entry before most of you arrive at work, here are a few observations from Thursday's contest:
[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/LM OteroTony Romo was sacked three times in Thursday's loss to Oakland.

  • The Cowboys were 0-for-4 in red zone efficiency, including a quick trip inside the 20 before Romo was sacked for a 9-yard loss. Dallas gave up six sacks in the game, three on Romo. The most disturbing to me was seeing Raiders defensive end Matt Shaughnessy beat Doug Free on a speed rush and then drag down Romo with one arm. Free was with Shaughnessy the whole time on the play, but he never delivered a solid punch. Shaughnessy's a nice second-year player out of Wisconsin, but he's not Trent Cole, Justin Tuck and Brian Orakpo. Free needs to clean things up before he meets any of those players. At least two of the three sacks on Romo were coverage sacks. He needs to do a better job of unloading the ball in those situations.
  • Linebackers Bradie James and Keith Brooking were both excellent in coverage in the first quarter. James was throwing his body all over the place and Brooking was superb in not letting anyone get separation from him. Brooking still moves really well. I hope Sean Lee is watching Brooking's every move right now. The rookie needs to get past this quadriceps injury and return to the practice field. Otherwise, he's not going to have a chance to earn time in sub packages. Bobby Carpenter was replacing Brooking in the nickel last season, but right now I wouldn't replace him with anyone.
  • Raiders safety Tyvon Branch was a mismatch for Jason Witten. The Pro Bowl tight end got plenty of separation and Romo hit him in stride for a big play on the first drive.
  • Miles Austin made a beautiful adjustment to a ball thrown slightly behind him in the first quarter for a 24-yard catch. Austin brought a lot of energy to the field Thursday and ran some excellent routes. On the twisting grab, he beat cornerback Chris Johnson. The Raiders are vulnerable on that side of the field.
  • Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston had one of the sacks on Romo. He was able to sneak in the backside and crunch the quarterback. Romo didn't feel the pressure coming on the play. He just seemed content to stay in the pocket, and that wasn't helping matters. Of course, everyone in the stadium gasped when he took off running up the middle of the field on one play.
  • It was a good night for kicker David Buehler. He nailed a 42-yard field goal and then connected on two short ones. He also recorded three touchbacks. The 42-yarder was a good sign because that's a distance that plagued the team during a miserable stretch in '09. Buehler has all the confidence in the world. If he'll trust his leg, the distance will be there.
  • Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick might be the best tackler of all the defensive backs. He does a really nice job of wrapping up and you don't see guys bounce off him. Scandrick decked wide receiver Louis Murphy early in the game. Then he absorbed a blow from James. The Cowboys were flying to the ball early.
  • The running game was awful, but I did see Marion Barber put a nice little move on cornerback Stanford Routt in the first quarter. He froze Routt with a little stutter-step. Barber stumbled after that and only gained 2 yards.
  • Romo and Austin have tremendous chemistry on the slant. On a third-down play, Austin got Johnson on his hip and then made a nice grab across the middle. Even when cornerbacks see it coming, they have an awful time getting inside position.
  • All the goodwill that Kevin Ogletree earned in the offseason is being wasted early in the preseason. He's not making contested catches and it just seems like there's a lack of concentration. I still think he'll make the roster as the fifth receiver, but he hasn't seized some of these extra repetitions that were created by Dez Bryant's absence.
  • Linebacker Victor Butler picked up a personal foul on a punt return. The officials will not have any tolerance this season for those blindside hits on defenseless players. There's just too much of a risk for head and neck injuries. Butler must have better awareness on that play.
  • In the first quarter, cornerback Terence Newman closed quickly to break up a Jason Campbell throw in the flat. Newman was in position to make the interception, but he opted for knocking down the ball with one arm. It was a very instinctive play and it caught Campbell by surprise.
  • Free-agent rookie Bryan McCann out of SMU had one really nice punt return (28 yards) late in the second quarter when he allowed Ogletree to set him up with a good block. McCann's also getting a lot of opportunities with the second-team defense. He was late on a Campbell throw to Murphy, but you can tell that he's not far away from making those plays. I get the sense that Wade Phillips is really pulling for McCann.
  • I was eager to see how former third-round draft pick Robert Brewster performed at left tackle against the Raiders. And once again, he turned in a dud. Not even the optimistic Phillips will be able to praise Brewster after Thursday's showing. His feet are stuck in neutral and there's absolutely no anchor. When you watch him, he's getting pushed directly toward the quarterback. He's most susceptible to an outside speed rush right now, and that's not a good sign. Brewster will keep getting chances, but I thought that was a poor showing. Brewster was also penalized for grabbing a defensive end as he raced past.
  • Butler does an excellent job getting pressure on the quarterback. He's so much more consistent this season in causing problems for the offensive line. And the other linebacker who caught my eye Thursday was Leon Williams. He's just a really tough player who brings some attitude to the field. Inside linebacker Jason Williams is still a work in progress, but he did race through and make a nice play against running back Michael Bush.
  • Safety Mike Hamlin suffered a neck strain and a concussion in the third quarter, according to ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon. Some folks in the organization thought Hamlin might challenge Alan Ball for the starting role, but that hasn't happened so far in camp. The good news for the Cowboys is that Hamlin was the only player injured. That's a lot different situation than what took place against the Bengals.
  • Roy Williams and Romo weren't on the same page in the first quarter. On one play, Romo rolled right and wanted Williams to come back to him. Williams sort of posted up the cornerback along the sideline and hoped for the best. There wasn't any rhythm to his routes against the Raiders. By the way, Bryant gave Williams and the rest of the receivers some new shoes.
  • In one of the Cowboys' four trips inside the red zone, Jon Kitna rolled right and threw to Deon Anderson in the flat. It was a poorly conceived play on fourth-and-1. Linebacker Thomas Howard applied the pressure to Kitna.
  • I thought safety Danny McCray did a really nice job hustling over to break up a deep ball to Johnnie Lee Higgins. McCray's been a camp phenom, and I'm eager to see if he can keep it up in Oxnard, Calif., next week. The Beast will be on the ground in Oxnard beginning Sunday evening.
  • The Cowboys were 3-for-16 on third down. The lack of a running game put the Cowboys in third-and-long situations far too often. Losing in the preseason isn't a big issue, but this red zone issue is something that goes back to last season. The Cowboys need a touchdown from the first-team offense against the Chargers next Saturday.
  • Guard Pat McQuistan simply doesn't play with any power. Every time I watch him, he's getting thrown toward the quarterback. It's about time to move on without him. The Cowboys have invested a lot of time in him, but I don't think he'll ever be a starter. And he doesn't seem like a reliable backup. On the other hand, I like the backup center, Phil Costa. The guy will stand his ground and he seems to have a little attitude. Give me that guy over McQuistan any day. I also liked the way rookie Sam Young played.

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