NFC East: Jon Runyan

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Warren Sapp was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year. Former New York Giants defensive lineman Michael Strahan was not. This apparently has not settled whatever issues Sapp has with Strahan, which appear to be significant.

In an interview with Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune, Sapp asserted that Strahan was not as good a player as Sapp's former teammate, Simeon Rice. Sapp is apparently annoyed that Strahan gets considered for the Hall of Fame and Rice does not. He thinks The New Regis benefited from playing against weaker competition:
"[Rice] didn't rush the worst lineman,'' said Sapp, who beat out Strahan for a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013. "You know the right tackle is the worst of the five. Strahan played right end his first four years. When they were putting the label on him as a bust, they put 'B-U-S . OK, let's transition him on the other side and see if he can play in his fourth year.'

"They put him at right end and he couldn't do it, so they moved him to the weak guy. One-on-one with the (Eagles right tackle) Jon Runyans for eight quarters every year. Sim won't ever have his name brought up (for the Hall of Fame), and that's a shame. He's one of the best pass rushers I've ever encountered in my life.''

I mean, sure. Rice was great. But why you gotta run down Strahan to make that point? Let alone poor Jon Runyan. What did he ever do to anyone? Is this some sort of political vendetta?

Anyway, this isn't the first time tensions have flared up between these two, as Kaufman's story points out. I couldn't tell you why Sapp has it in for Strahan. Maybe he wishes it was him interviewing celebrities every morning next to Kelly Ripa. I'd just be guessing. But it sure is funny. And a bit odd that a guy who's about to go into the Hall of Fame is still worried about comparisons like this. You won, dude. You're in the Hall of Fame. Try and enjoy it a little, huh?

Thursday Morning Beastlines

November, 4, 2010
Let's look at some of the top stories around the division this morning:


McNabb talks transition

June, 4, 2010
Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb (still looks like a misprint) joined ESPN 980 in D.C. to talk about how the transition's going. McNabb basically said he was trying to "erase" the past 11 seasons in Philly and focus on his future with the Redskins. Thanks to for pointing me to this interview.

McNabb was asked to compare Mike Shanahan's offense to the one he ran in Philadelphia and I thought he gave a pretty interesting answer:
"The difference is it is really not the West Coast offense," told the Sport Fix show. "Every coach has their own form of the West Coast offense. There are some things that are different verbiage-wise. Here in this offense you are pretty much telling the receivers what route they are running. Also the protection of the line is different. So offensively for a quarterback, there is big change. When you have been a part of an offense for 11 years and now try to absorb a newer offense and concepts and what the mindset of these coaches have, it is tough. It is tough, but I have just been trying to put in that extra time, communicating with these coaches and just make sure when once we hit training camp, I have a better grasp and a better feel of what we like to do here."

I honestly believe the whole blocking scheme angle is really an underrated topic. McNabb spent so much time with offensive tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan over the years that he knew exactly where they would be on each play. He'll now have to adjust to a rookie playing at left tackle and either Stephon Heyer or Artis Hicks playing on the right side. And keep in mind that those players are also trying to learn Shanahan's scheme.

That's why I'm a bit reluctant to simply hand the Redskins six or seven extra wins this season based on McNabb's arrival. You guys have the same concerns or do you think I'm overreacting?

Skins interested in Flozell Adams

April, 7, 2010
As if the NFC East landscape hasn't changed enough, Redskins general manager Bruce Allen told Sirius on Monday that he's made contact with former Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams' agent, Jordan Woy.

"We have had a conversation with his agent," said Allen.

Unfortunately, there wasn't a follow-up question to press Allen on his interest level. Calvin Watkins of called Woy to see what was going on with Adams. Woy said it was "too early to tell" where his client would land. But you'd think there would be a decent market for a Pro Bowl left tackle who could probably start for another two seasons.

If the Redskins signed Adams, they might not feel the pressure to take Oklahoma State's Russell Okung at No. 4 overall. And they'd also have another player on the roster who'd be dying to prove that his former team made a big mistake. Donovan McNabb should be in Allen's office right now campaigning for Adams.

He knows what it's like to play behind veteran offensive tackles. Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan kept him on his feet for a lot of years in Philly. As it stands now, McNabb could end up operating behind a rookie left tackle and Stephon Heyer on the right side. And who's going to play right guard? Mike Williams?

Right now, the offensive line is the only reason I'm not ready to call the Skins a playoff contender. But signing Adams might make me rethink that position. Let's ponder that thought in the "comments" section.

Tap the brakes on Redskins playoff talk

April, 5, 2010
Pardon me for not getting caught up in the apparent playoff euphoria that is sweeping Redskins Park. My esteemed colleague and pal John Clayton has elevated the Washington Redskins to "co-favorite" status, along with the Dallas Cowboys, to win the NFC East.

Sorry, but I'm not there yet. Clayton points out that the addition of Brett Favre to the Vikings added 5.7 points per game and took them from 10 to 12 wins (and an NFC title game appearance).

My issue with that comparison is that McNabb won't have anywhere near the talent surrounding him Favre enjoyed. The Vikings had the best running back in the league heading into the 2009 season. The Redskins counter with a stable of running backs who each peaked about four years ago. I realize Clinton Portis was good in 2008 but he faded late.

Let's not act like drafting Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung in this month's draft is going to completely fix one of the worst offensive lines in the league. What, did you guys get excited about that Artis Hicks signing? He couldn't start for the Vikings last season but I guess he'll get the Redskins to the next level.

By trading for McNabb, Shanahan is acting as if the Redskins are prepared to win now. You don't pay an aging quarterback $11.2 million in 2010 to be a stopgap player. To me, this smacks of the old Dan Snyder way of doing business. McNabb is a blockbuster name like, say, Deion Sanders or Bruce Smith. It sounds like another expensive shortcut, albeit a highly-intriguing one.

But let's not forget McNabb finished his 2009 campaign by playing miserably in back-to-back losses to the Cowboys. Are the Redskins a better team with McNabb at quarterback? Of course they are. But it's hard to imagine him making a seven-win difference -- and that's what it would probably take to challenge for a division title. Clayton immediately has the Redskins passing the Eagles with this move.

"As for the Eagles, who were 11-5 last season, the pressure falls on the unproven quarterback Kevin Kolb," writes Clayton. "With this being his first year as the full-time starter, we can expect a two- or three-win drop in the Eagles' record because first-year starters have difficulty winning close games. The Packers experienced that after they traded Favre to the New York Jets for a second-round choice in 2008. Even though Aaron Rodgers threw for more than 4,000 yards in 2008, he struggled in the fourth quarter of close games, and the Packers dropped from 13-3 to 6-10."

Again, the good news for Eagles fans is that McNabb isn't exactly inheriting the Fun Bunch. Santana Moss still has breakaway speed, but he needs time to get open. And let's not act like McNabb is the same guy who once kept a play alive for 14 seconds on "Monday Night Football" against the Cowboys. In Philadelphia, McNabb played the majority of his career with offensive tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. He'll likely be breaking in a rookie on his blindside in 2010 and the pedestrian Stephon Heyer will man the right side.

This is certainly a fascinating trade in terms of its impact on two franchises, but to say that Washington and Dallas are the co-favorites in the division is a pretty big stretch.

Eagles can't afford to wait for playoff push

November, 12, 2009
Andy ReidAP Photo/Matt RourkeAndy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles know their typical late-season surge might not be enough to reach the playoffs this year.

On the surface, a 5-3 record puts a team in the thick of the NFC playoff race. But it's safe to say the Eagles are at a critical juncture in the season.

In the decade since Andy Reid took over, the Eagles have been notoriously slow starters. Even when they were making annual visits to the NFC title game, there were slow starts. In 2003, the Eagles began the season 2-3 before finishing 12-4 and losing to the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game.

The 2004 Super Bowl team was the exception with a 7-0 start, and that may have been the most talented roster top to bottom in the organization's history. (Joe Banner prefers the '09 team).

A lot of us predicted great things for the '09 Eagles based on the arrival of Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters and rookies Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy. But our point of reference -- an improbable trip to the '08 NFC title game -- is faulty at best. It's easy to forget that the '08 team dropped a road game to a bad Bears team and then had an embarrassing tie with the Bengals in November.

Controlling their destiny last December, the Eagles recorded a shameful loss to a Redskins team that had already imploded. That team needed a miracle on the final Sunday of the season, and that's exactly what the Raiders delivered with a win at Tampa Bay that put the Eagles back in playoff contention.

You think the Eagles might someday realize that wins in October and November might actually make life easier, but there are clear signs they haven't gotten the message. There's not a single excuse for how a team with this much talent can go on the road and lose to Tom Cable's Raiders.

Reid will finish his career as one of the winningest coaches in league history, but that doesn't cancel out the fact that his teams play with a remarkable lack of focus at times. Even with all of his West Coast genius, Reid still makes stunningly poor decisions in managing games. After losses, he always mutters something about needing to put his team in better positions to succeed. But he almost never offers actual explanations for why his teams seem to have at least one or two disastrous losses in the first three months of the season.

And because you can only beat your head against the wall so many times after Reid news conferences, let me float a theory that may or may not hold water. During all those runs to NFC title games earlier this decade, Reid had enough veteran leaders in the locker room who could seemingly flip a switch at the midway point and help lead the Eagles to NFC titles.

Players such as Bobby Taylor, Troy Vincent, Brian Dawkins and Jon Runyan helped Reid create an atmosphere devoid of panic. But you'll notice that two names from that list -- Dawkins and Runyan -- played their final seasons with the Eagles in '08. And longtime left tackle Tra Thomas was allowed to enter free agency, making room for the celebrated trade for Peters. A former team leader, Jeremiah Trotter, has returned to the team but a lot players in the locker room aren't familiar with his previous work.

The current leaders of this team -- Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Quintin Mikell -- are doing the best they can, but they find themselves surrounded by youngsters. Some of that's a good thing because it's obvious that DeSean Jackson, Maclin and McCoy are the future of this team. But because of injuries at some key spots, the Eagles are being forced to get even younger. We haven't seen cornerback Dimitri Patterson in weeks because of injuries, but he's probably about to become the nickel cornerback in the absence of the suspended Joselio Hanson.

The Eagles have had an abundance of injuries along the offensive line and at linebacker, but other teams are dealing with similar situations. I think, more than ever, the Eagles need a coach who constantly stays on top of his players. Is Reid that guy? Well, I don't think he has much choice right now.

I've heard former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson say that there are a handful of players in every NFL locker room who are capable of motivating themselves. Johnson says that coaches have to take care of the other 48 players on the roster each week.

It's not too late for the Eagles to make one of their patented runs toward the playoffs. But they can't afford to wait as long as they usually do.

Beast exclusive: A visit with Barry Cofield

October, 31, 2009
Posted by's Matt Mosley

Defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora get a lot of attention, but the mainstay of the Giants' defensive line since '06 has been defensive tackle Barry Cofield. He was taken in the fourth round out of Northwestern in '06 and he immediately became a starter. In his four years with the club, he's started all but one game. On Friday, the Beast had an opportunity to spend about 15 minutes on the phone with Cofield.

Barry, you guys aren't used to two-game losing streaks. What's this feel like?

Cofield: There are certain expectations around here and we don't handle losing too well. It's not a normal thing to be dealing with, and on top of that, we're going to Philly. I know you've written about last season's phone incident [with Donovan McNabb] and it's not like that's the most respectable thing a guy can do. But it's not like we need that for motivation. We're always going to want to kill Donovan McNabb -- even if he's the nicest guy in the world.

 Larry French/Getty Images
 Barry Cofield is looking forward to Sunday’s matchup with the Eagles in Philadelphia.
Because of your close proximity to the Eagles, does this rivalry mean even more to you?

Cofield: I think [the defensive line] puts the Cowboys and the Eagles in the same category. I've played against the Eagles eight times in three years, so I'm pretty familiar with them. We know each other's schemes really well so you can just go out and play.

The Eagles have added some weapons to their offense. Do you see Andy Reid doing anything different than in the past?

Cofield: Andy Reid's still the braintrust. We'll see a lot of different formations and it's a team that has a lot of gadgets. But you're right, they have some new faces. They're exceptionally fast and they've also made a lot of changes up front. Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas were nasty guys. They were the cornerstones of that offense. Runyan was a mauler and some people thought he was dirty. Now they have a smaller guy in [Winston] Justice and converted tight end in Jason Peters on the left side.

How important will it be to get Chris Canty and Michael Boley back on the field?

Cofield: We look really forward to getting those guys back, but I really don't know when it will happen. [Tom] Coughlin doesn't tell us because he probably doesn't want me to leak it to guys like you.

Have you spent a lot of time preparing for the Eagles' Wildcat formation?

Cofield: They ran it with [Brian] Westbrook last year, so we've seen some of it before. We've gone back and studies some of the plays they ran in the preseason. If they don't use [the Wildcat] this week, they're not saving it for anyone else. This is the game you'd want to do it all.

What's the most important thing in mind when facing a quarterback like Donovan McNabb?

Cofield: With McNabb, you have to get him to the ground. You pretty much have to treat him like a running back and it's important to wrap up his legs and drag him to the ground. If you don't, he's strong enough to shake tackles.

Have you guys gone back and looked at that '07 game where Winston Justice had so much trouble against Umenyiora?

Cofield: Definitely. Our position coach Mike Waufle had breakdowns that go all the way back to '04. They have a new wrinkle here and there, but they still have their bread and butter. We don't focus so much on entire games. We look back at a lot of plays. But to get back to Justice, he's definitely come into his own since that '07 game.

What do you make of the Eagles' fans?

Cofield: They are some of the rudest fans that you'll meet. But they're almost some of the most passionate. We've had our team bus egged, we've been flipped off and we've seen some bare [rears]. It's a different kind of atmosphere, that's for sure.

Mosley: I know you think the Beast spends too much time praising Tuck, so I'm glad you were able to join us for a few minutes.

Changing of the guards for Eagles

October, 23, 2009
Posted by's Matt Mosley

On Friday, Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg told reporters that he thought guard Todd Herremans (foot) could play a full 60 minutes against the Redskins. Herremans is returning from foot surgery and he says he's not interested in a rotation system.

It looks like Herremans will start at left guard and Nick Cole, who'd replaced Herremans, will move over to right guard. Left tackle Jason Peters (knee) will start the game, but he's still not 100 percent. If something happens to him during the game, there's a good chance Herremans would slide over to left tackle and be replaced by Cole at left guard. That would likely cause Max Jean-Gilles to take over at right guard. Does that make sense?

And does anyone know what happened to Stacy Andrews? Everyone assumed that he would be the full-time right guard, but the guy can't even beat out Jean-Gilles. And I don't mean that as a knock on Jean-Gilles. It's just that the Eagles actually spent some free-agency money on Andrews, and they're not getting much of a return.

The fact that Herremans is the backup left tackle tells you everything you need to know about King Dunlap. In other news, Winston Justice hasn't been a picture of consistency at right tackle. When will Jon Runyan get the call? With the signing of Jeremiah Trotter, it looks like the Eagles are trying to host an '06 team reunion. It would be impolite to leave Runyan off the invitation list -- especially after witnessing the work of Dunlap and Justice. They'd make a great law firm marquee, but as NFL tackles, they're not much to look at.

OK, that's all I have for today -- unless a special edition of the Vinny Cerrato radio show breaks out on ESPN 980 this evening. I'll check back with you guys tomorrow afternoon.

Andrews is done for the year

September, 15, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

Hope this one didn't catch you by surprise: Eagles right tackle Shawn Andrews has been placed on injured reserve and will miss the season, according to the Inquirer's blog. After missing most of the '08 season with a back injury, the Eagles had expected Andrews to return to his Pro Bowl form in '09. But he tweaked his back early in training camp and only briefly returned to the lineup before being sidelined before the first game.

Andrews' release will clear up a roster spot for the newly signed backup quarterback Jeff Garcia. Winston Justice becomes the full-time starter at right tackle and don't be surprised if Andy Reid signs veteran Jon Runyan in the next day or so. Runyan has worked out with the Chiefs, Eagles and Bills in the past week. His preference would obviously be to sign with the Eagles.

Andrews has been a huge disappointment to the club since he missed training camp last year while dealing with depression. He's a talented player, but his commitment to football has been in question for a while now.

Last year, Reid kept a spot open for Andrews after he underwent back surgery. But at this point, the coach has had enough. I think it's the right move for the team. Better to cut your losses now than have the Andrews roller coaster going the entire season. You try to see if Justice is the real deal and bring in Runyan to provide insurance.

NFC East: Final Word

September, 11, 2009
Posted by's Matt Mosley

Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend's games:

The Eagles appear to be in disarray heading into Week 1: And this has nothing to do with Michael Vick. Shawn Andrews missed Thursday's practice and Andy Reid ducked out a back exit to avoid reporters. And on Friday, Reid ruled Andrews out of Sunday's game. Oh, and Brian Westbrook's name showed up on the injury list with a knee issue. So let's get this thing started. Until he proves otherwise, Winston Justice is a huge question mark at right tackle. I wouldn't trust him over there for a second. After the game, Reid won't be able to sign veteran free-agent right tackle Jon Runyan quickly enough. This is not a good way to start the season -- especially against a pretty solid Panthers pass rush. Can the Eagles slow down DeAngelo Williams on defense? That's the other big question I have. He's a phenomenal running back. This is feeling more and more like a loss.

 Rich Kane/US Presswire
 Time for Eli Manning to show he deserves the rich contract extension he received in August.
Jason Campbell is going to play really well against the Giants on Sunday: OK, there I said it. He's done an amazing job of staying focused through a lot of offseason adversity. And it helps that the Giants are banged up in the secondary. Someone named Bruce Johnson may see a lot of time at the nickel spot. If that's the case, look for Campbell to put up some nice numbers. I think Terrell Thomas could struggle with Malcolm Kelly. I really do. Let's keep an eye on that matchup.

Can the Cowboys win with a strong defense and running game? We're about to find out. Surely Jason Garrett will lean on Marion Barber and Felix Jones in the running game. It just makes too much sense. I think early success in the running game will inspire this offensive line. Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo can be dominant at times. Garrett needs to let that happen. It will also be interesting to see the unveiling of the two-tight end package with Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett. I think it will be a focal point for the offense, and the Bucs don't have enough personnel to account for both Witten and Marty B.

Eli Manning's about to earn that enormous paycheck: I think we've overblown the whole situation at wide receiver. The Giants are deep at running back and they have a very talented young tight end in Kevin Boss. Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon will do the job until Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden are ready to take over. I think Nicks could be starting before we make it to October -- especially if Smith and Hixon sputter out of the gate. But Manning's going to be very accurate this season, and he'll show why he deserves to be called an elite quarterback.

Here's a little secret about Eagles-Panthers: The Panthers won't be able to cover DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek. If the offensive line can give Donovan McNabb just a little time, Jackson and Celek will have big games. Celek's sort of the guy no one's talking about. He's quietly becoming a lot more like Chris Cooley and Jason Witten than people think. He's improved his route running and he's going to make tough catches. The playoff experience was huge for him. Look for big things. Have a wonderful NFL weekend. Compliments of the Beast!

Eagles' RT Andrews ruled out against Panthers

September, 11, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

Remember all that bravado from Shawn Andrews about how he would be ready for the season opener? Strike that. Eagles coach Andy Reid said Andrews would miss the game with a back injury and that he's not sure about the player's status the rest of the way.

“Well, right now we’ll just see," Reid said. "It’s important that it calms down and we’ll go from there. We’ll just see how it responds here."

But later in Friday's news conference, Reid indicated that Winston Justice could "absolutely" win the starting job at right tackle. I think that's a pretty clear challenge to Andrews that he needs to sink or swim. Part of the reason his big brother, Stacy, was signed was to make Shawn feel more comfortable. But having a family member around hasn't kept the younger Andrews on the field.

Reid acknowledged that he worked out free-agent veteran Jon Runyan on Thursday and said he wanted a "firsthand" look at how his former player was progressing after offseason microfracture surgery. Reid didn't want to comment on how Runyan performed, but it's likely the Eagles will try to sign him after the first game.

Meanwhile, Brian Westbrook practiced Friday, but then left early. Reid said that Westbrook would be ready to go Sunday. He also indicated that Michael Vick would make the road trip in order to spend more time with his new teammates.

So all in all, things seem pretty normal for the Eagles.

Trusting Shawn Andrews can be dangerous

September, 11, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

So here we are two days before the start of the regular season and Eagles right tackle Shawn Andrews is missing practice because of a balky back. Please tell me this isn't catching you by surprise. Even dating back to the owners' meeting in Dana Point, Calif., I thought it was strange to hear Andy Reid express so much confidence in Andrews.

This is a guy who acknowledged dealing with depression heading into the '08 season and then missed 14 games because of back surgery. I thought the Eagles did an admirable job of trying to help Andrews work through his issues, but now they're coming across as pretty naive.

Reid and president Joe Banner were so hopeful about Andrews' comeback that they didn't bother to bring in an adequate backup. And despite what you may have read during training camp, Winston Justice is not an adequate replacement. He basically launched Osi Umenyiora's Pro Bowl campaign in 2007 and he's never really recovered from that dreadful performance -- at least in my opinion.

Phil Sheridan of the Inquirer has an excellent column this morning on the weird scene at the Eagles' practice facility Thursday. Sheridan referenced a "pact" that Reid supposedly made with reporters (perhaps without their knowledge) that the coach would be the one to deliver the details on injuries. He didn't want -- horror of horrors -- reporters calling players on their cell phones. But on Thursday, Reid took a different exit at NovaCare and the Eagles closed down the locker room to reporters. If this isn't a crisis, it sure feels like one.

Les Bowen of the Daily News has a detailed story of Thursday's events right here. Oh, and star running back Brian Westbrook (knee) also showed up on the injury report Thursday. Maybe everything will return to normal today -- but it's not something I'd put money on.

Runyan says he is ready to play

September, 10, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

Jon Runyan told me his workout with the Eagles went "really well" this morning. Runyan, who underwent microfracture surgery on his knee in the offseason, said his knee has felt great during workouts with the Chiefs and Eagles this week.

"This is the best my knee has felt since last November," Runyan said. "I don't think it will be a problem."

With today's news that right tackle Shawn Andrews (back) missed practice, Runyan could be joining the Eagles sooner rather than later. I'm sure the Eagles would like to wait until after the season opener to sign Runyan so they would not have to guarantee his salary as a vested veteran. If Andrews can't play Sunday, Winston Justice would be the likely starter.

Timing is critical because three AFC teams, including the Chiefs, have shown a strong interest in him. Runyan is scheduled to fly to Buffalo tonight and work out for the Bills in the morning. The Bills just released their starting left tackle and are faced with the prospect of starting a second-year player who didn't play a down last season.

Thursday Beastlines: Cowboys and Eagles edition

September, 10, 2009
Posted by's Matt Mosley

  • Great idea by Les Bowen to go back and analyze all the Eagle's moves since last January.

Runyan spotted on Eagles' property

September, 10, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

Jon Runyan, one of the best offensive tackles in Eagles history, was back on campus Thursday to work out for coach Andy Reid, according to the Inquirer. Runyan worked out in front of Reid, offensive line coach Juan Castillo and general manager Tom Heckert, according to the report.

The Beast has a call in to Runyan to see how the workout went. It's unlikely the Eagles would sign Runyan before the season opener because his vested veteran status would require the club to guarantee his 2009 salary. I'm sure Reid wanted to see for himself whether Runyan is close to full strength after offseason microfracture surgery. Runyan is intent on playing this season -- no matter where he ends up.

Runyan worked out for the Chiefs earlier this week, but obviously he would prefer to return to his longtime team.

"I wouldn't have done the surgery and all this rehab if I wasn't going to play," Runyan told me via phone early last week. "I'm going to play somewhere."

Reid and Runyan have a great relationship, but the coach has been tight-lipped regarding his plans for Runyan.