NFC East: Keith Bulluck

Giants back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
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NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Giants didn't hold as many player workouts as some other teams did during the lockout, but quarterback Eli Manning organized a few camps here and there, and did some work in various locations with some of his receivers. The good thing for the Giants is that they're bringing back the same coaching personnel they had last year and won't have to spend an inordinate amount of time learning any big new schemes. They're a veteran team that knows how to get itself ready for the season, and Manning and the other team leaders have basically trusted that the guys were keeping themselves in shape and would be ready to go whenever the lockout ended. We'll find out whether that trust was justified.

Biggest challenge: The Giants' biggest post-lockout challenge is in the front office, where contracts must be signed for several key free agents of their own before they can hit the market and figure out what they need. Ahmad Bradshaw, Mathias Kiwanuka, Steve Smith, Kevin Boss and Barry Cofield are among the key 2009 and 2010 contributors who can be free agents, and it's unlikely the Giants will be able to keep them all. Of that group, Cofield is the most likely to leave, as they consider him more replaceable than Kiwanuka and their key offensive players. It'll be interesting to see whether another team comes hard after Boss and/or Bradshaw, because losing one or both of those guys could dramatically alter the Giants' offseason priority list. And then there's the Osi Umenyiora issue. He says he wants a new contract or a trade. They can and probably will tell him, "Tough luck," but if they do, they have to wonder how much trouble he'll make for them in training camp.

Bill of health: There are a number of health and injury issues worth watching as the Giants get back to business. Smith is coming off a major knee injury, and they don't know how ready he'll be. He's a key component in the passing game, and Manning looked a bit lost at times last year when Smith wasn't available to him. The offensive line also had health issues in 2010, and it's an aging unit that probably could use a reinforcement or two in free agency, lest the health problems flare up again and threaten to sink a whole season. Being a veteran team is likely to help the Giants from a readiness standpoint in this shortened offseason, but with age and experience come other potential pitfalls. The Giants will need to make sure to ease some guys into training camp so they don't end up hurt.

Key players without contracts for 2011: TE Kevin Boss, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, LB Keith Bulluck, DT Barry Cofield, S Deon Grant, DE Mathias Kiwanuka, C/G Adam Koets, WR Steve Smith.
Trolling a lockout-infected Internet for ... well, any content at all, really, I came across this Tim McManus rundown of the Eagles' linebacker situation. I think the Eagles are going to be big free-agency players on the defensive side of the ball, but a lot of the speculation so far has focused on the secondary (they need a cornerback, will likely pursue Nnamdi Asomugha and may have to replace safety Quintin Mikell if he leaves) and the defensive line (where new line coach Jim Washburn will be asking for new toys, including maybe a pass-rushing end to play on the side opposite Trent Cole).

But as Tim points out, the linebackers' roles in the new defensive scheme are likely to change. With the plan apparently to "let the front four loose," the linebackers will have more responsibilities. That may mean -- especially if Stewart Bradley leaves -- that the Eagles will need to find a veteran who's comfortable handling more responsibilities than the young guys they have at the position might be.

For me, a big key to this whole Eagles linebacker situation is Jamar Chaney. If Bradley departs via free agency, Chaney likely takes over the middle linebacker spot. He played that spot well last year and showed signs that he might be able to handle it long term. And he's got the speed to cover a great deal of the field. If Bradley comes back, Chaney's an obvious fit at one of the other two spots. But the Eagles' decision on how badly they need a free-agent veteran who can handle the extra responsibility brought on by the fact that the line is apparently going to be invading backfields on every play could come down to how much of the new scheme Chaney grasps -- and how quickly he grasps it.

Tim throws Stephen Tulloch, Paul Posluszny, Barrett Ruud and Keith Bulluck out there as potential free-agent names. I might add Manny Lawson to the list, and there will be other options if the Eagles decide they need to hit the market. My guess is that they're planning to spend big at corner and maybe on the line, so they might be in the market for a lower-tier veteran who can help the young guys along with the new scheme. Maybe a guy like Bulluck, who might wear down as the season goes along, makes sense, thinking one or more of the younger guys might be an option in the second half.

Anyway, it's an issue. The Eagles will be putting together a new-looking defense once the lockout ends, and linebacker is just one of the positions they have to assess before they figure out how to fix it all.

Breakfast links: Labor chatter

June, 15, 2011
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The big news Tuesday seemed to be hope on the NFL labor front, which is what everybody wants, of course. But sometimes we can let the seeming approach of the thing we want get us more excited than we should actually be. Reports that a solution to the labor issues is close, or that the framework is in place, or that a deal could be done by Tuesday's owner's meetings are all premature and overly enthusiastic, according to the people I spoke with Tuesday.

Those people admit work is being done, and that finally, after years of posturing, there is actual negotiation taking place with each side apparently committed to the shared goal of an eventual deal. And that is positive. But one of the people I spoke with Tuesday, who's connected to and knowledgeable of the situation, told me people are underestimating how much work remains, and that even if progress continues to be made at the rate it has over the past week or so, the process will be long and likely include more setbacks before a final solution is reached.

So in the end, while there's more hope than ever of training camps and the season starting on time, it's still far from guaranteed, and I wouldn't expect any big, happy announcements today.

Meanwhile, we link:

Dallas Cowboys

Jean-Jacques Taylor hopes Tony Romo learned some things from Dirk Nowitzki during the Mavericks' run to the NBA title. Taylor falls into the "championships are all that matter" camp, which was discussed at some length in the comments section under yesterday's links. I have said many times that I consider that an overly simplistic way of assessing a player's career, and I think in this case it underestimates how much more Nowitzki had already accomplished in his career than Romo has in his, even before the title. Taylor raises some decent points here, but the central, underlying one is that Romo's book hasn't been completely written yet, and there is time for him to change the tone, tenor and content of the story. I'm just not sure he needed to see the Dallas Mavericks win a championship in order to realize how important it is to win one.

Todd Archer predicts, based on the results of the player voting so far, that DeMarcus Ware will finish between 10th and 15th on the NFL Network's list of the 100 best players in the league. I predict that it'll be a long, long time before somebody finds a way to stretch out a story the way the NFL Network has with this list.

New York Giants

Give Perry Fewell credit. The Giants' defensive coordinator is passionate about his job and determined to do it well. But he's not pulling anybody's leg about whether he wants to be a head coach again someday. He wants it bad.

Keith Bulluck says he'd like to sign with the Giants, Lions or Patriots once the lockout is over. He said the Giants are on the list because "they gave me an opportunity to come and continue my career, really get healthy, where I needed to be." And that is true, but I'm not sure the on-field results from 2010 made the Giants as interested in bringing Bulluck back as he may be in returning.

Philadelphia Eagles

Les Bowen went up to British Columbia to do the Danny Watkins firefighter story, which is well worth a read. Looking at the NFL through the eyes of people who don't generally think about it very much is always interesting for those of us who think about is so much. Les tells the Watkins story from the perspective of people who knew him before the NFL was even on the radar.

Sheil Kapadia missed the Plaxico Burress release while on his honeymoon (good for him), but he joins the chorus of Philadelphia media who think Riley Cooper can do the same job for far less hassle.

Washington Redskins

Mike Jones writes that Trent Williams and LaRon Landry haven't attended any of the workouts organized this offseason by and for Redskins players. It never stops, right? I always find it ridiculous when coaches get on players for missing "voluntary" offseason workouts, and now ... I mean, have there ever been workouts more "voluntary" than these? Someday, we may be able to go back and track how much of this stuff meant. But as of now, I just can't get too worked up about taking attendance at these practices. Heck, maybe they couldn't find the workout.

I did enjoy this item, though, on John Beck scouting rookie teammates by finding clips of them on YouTube.

Enjoy your morning. Hope it's as sunny where you are as it is here. We'll be back later to talk broken tackles and whatever else ends up being on your mind, my mind and the news wire today.

Breaking down the LBs: Giants

April, 5, 2011
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Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson examines the linebackers of each NFC East team. Today: New York Giants.

I recently went into detail on my thoughts regarding the Giants’ linebacker corps in the NFC East Biggest Weakness series, but overall I see this group as a very middle-of-the road unit that could benefit a ton from the addition of a star player. But adding just another average player or mediocre starter doesn’t accomplish much for New York this offseason.

Jonathan Goff is easy to like and has come a long way. He could potentially play on the outside, but he has also proved to be a heck of a run-stopper in the middle. Michael Boley seems to have found his niche as a nickel linebacker and can struggle on running downs, which makes him a fine complement to Goff. But unfortunately, New York has had to play both of the field together too much of the time, which leaves one linebacker spot vulnerable versus the run or pass.

Free agent-to-be Keith Bulluck will most likely be elsewhere next season, but could have value at a discount price if the Giants bring him back. One wild card for the Giants is Clint Sintim. Sintim needs to stay healthy, but he has talent -- although his talent might be best suited at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme instead of the even front that New York employs. Phillip Dillard, a rookie last season, struggled on special teams and barely saw the field on defense. He is a true middle linebacker who looks like just a depth player at this early stage of his career.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

Giants' biggest weakness: Linebacker

March, 15, 2011
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Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson examines the biggest weakness of each NFC East team and offers some potential solutions.

[+] EnlargeMartez Wilson
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireIllinois linebacker Martez Wilson has the kind of versatility that would make him a good fit in the Giants' defensive scheme.
After a rich tradition at the position, the Giants have lacked star power at linebacker for some time now. If New York is to address its linebacking corps, I think they have to take the theory of going big -- with a real difference-maker -- or not bothering at all.

They could really use a game changer on the second level. Jonathan Goff was great versus the run, and Michael Boley played the pass quite well, but both players could potentially take their respective games up yet another level with a stud to round out the starting three. I had high hopes for Clint Sintim, but he hardly saw the field and then finished the season on injured reserve after a serious knee injury. Maybe there is still hope, though. Keith Bulluck is a free agent, and his time in the league is coming to an end. I consider Mathias Kiwanuka more defensive end than linebacker, but it seems unlikely that he will be re-signed. Goff is best in the middle and as a two-down player, but he could be effective outside as well if New York were to sign a free agent like Tennessee’s Stephen Tulloch or Buffalo’s Paul Posluszny. But adding an outside linebacker is the more logical move.

No one seems to be projecting it, but a sleeper first-round pick for the Giants could be Illinois’ Martez Wilson. Wilson could be exactly the type of versatile and dynamic guy New York needs. To me, Wilson best fits as a outside linebacker in the Giants’ scheme and could be moved all over the formation, including maybe putting his hand on the ground off the edge on throwing downs at times. His pass-rush ability is very intriguing. UCLA’s Akeem Ayers could be that type of player as well, but I wouldn’t take him unless the Giants were to trade down from their spot in Round 1. In the second round, North Carolina’s Bruce Carter could provide a major athletic upgrade on the outside.

The Giants could get by without a huge upgrade at linebacker, and it could be argued that the offensive line is the bigger weakness, but just imagine this defense if you added a real difference-maker to the second level.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
Keith Bulluck doesn’t know where he will be playing football next season.

For now, the Giants linebacker, whose contract is up, hopes there is football to be played soon.

“My hopes were that it would be settled,” Bulluck said on "SportsCenter" shortly after the NFL Players Association filed for decertification, ending negotiations with the NFL for now. “I was just hoping that it would be settled so football can go on as normal.”

Bulluck said he understands why the players association decertified.

“I think that it was a step by the union to kind of show that we mean business,” Bulluck said. “The mediation and negotiation had been going on for quite some time and they’ve been looming over the past several months. I think that’s the first step to show that we are not being treated fairly and we need to make action to maybe get our point across.”

Where things go from here gets a lot more complicated now that the NFLPA has effectively disbanded the union, allowing it the opportunity to sue under antitrust laws if there is a lockout.

“To be honest, I really don’t know,” Bulluck said when asked about what he knows when the issue moves to court. “I think that a lot of us as players were kind of just getting the information as it comes because right now we are not really around our facilities, we are not around our players’ reps.”

“We are not really in the middle of it,” he added. “The players that are really in the middle of it and understand are the reps that are in Washington DC around everything that is going on. They have all the information and I am sure they are still getting it and will try to get it to everyone else as soon as possible.”

Bulluck has repeatedly said that he would like to return to the Giants. He was able to return to the field from ACL surgery last season but he never fully regained his old form.

“Everywhere you go, fans, they know you are a football player, ask you what is going on,” Bulluck said. “And you don’t have much information to tell them but for the fans, for the rookies, for the second, third-year guys that are trying to learn the system and be a part of this great league and go out there and make plays and become superstars, I think that hurts them the most, definitely for sure.”

Giants regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
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NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 12
Preseason Power Ranking: 19

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireEli Manning's league-leading 25 interceptions is one reason the Giants are not in the playoffs.
Biggest surprise: That quarterback Eli Manning threw 25 interceptions. For whatever reason, Manning tried to do too much with the ball this season. He certainly had some unlucky breaks with tipped balls, but he also made some ridiculous decisions, such as throwing the ball into the end zone against the Titans with his left arm -- and getting picked. The Giants are still firmly in Manning's corner, but he needs to figure out that it's OK to occasionally throw the ball way. Manning did manage 31 touchdown passes, but that interception total is what a lot of Giants fans are discussing.

Biggest disappointment: This Giants will look back on several moments during the 2010 season and kick themselves for not capitalizing on opportunities. I know coach Tom Coughlin's still scratching his head over how his team was physically whipped in Green Bay with a playoff bid on the line. It's like the players didn't have a full appreciation for what was at stake, and that's a major disappointment to everyone in the organization. Losing defensive end/linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka was also a huge disappointment. He was probably defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's most versatile player. The Giants did a nice job of managing injuries at receiver and on the offensive line, but Kiwanuka's the type of player who's virtually impossible to replace.

Biggest need: The Giants have to continue adding depth at the linebacker position. If former second-round draft pick Clint Sintim isn't going to emerge as a starter, it's time to find someone else. Keith Bulluck isn't going to cut it over the long haul. Jonathan Goff was steady at middle linebacker, but the Giants need to surround him with more talent. GM Jerry Reese will be looking for some of the top linebackers coming out of college. On offense, the Giants need another reliable tight end and an offensive tackle. If David Diehl is going to move inside to left guard permanently, the club has to decide if Will Beatty is the long-term answer at left tackle. Surely the team won't bet on Shawn Andrews staying healthy based on his track record with the Eagles and his brief time with the Giants. And kudos to Rich Seubert for filling in nicely for Shaun O'Hara at center and then slipping over to left guard, which is his preferred spot.

Team MVP: If Hakeem Nicks hadn't been injured late in the season, I think he would've been in the mix. But defensive end Justin Tuck would be my pick. He had 11.5 sacks and six forced fumbles to go along with Osi Umenyiora's league-record 10 forced fumbles.

Worst moment: When you blow a 21-point lead with eight minutes to go in a game, I'd have to think it deserves "worst moment" status. The New York Giants were in position to take control of the NFC East after dominating a Week 15 game against the Eagles for three and a half quarters. But Michael Vick led one of the most exciting comebacks in years. DeSean Jackson capped it off with a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown when punter Matt Dodge failed to get the ball out of bounds. That was truly the worst moment of the season for the Giants.

What's in Mosley's New Year's mailbag?

January, 1, 2011
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I know most of you are enjoying bowl games and family today, but let's take a quick peek at the pressing issues in the NFC East. And thanks for your patience last Saturday as the Mailbag observed Christmas:

Bobby from Dallas, what's on your mind? I am a faithful reader of yours and love your ability to see through smoke and mirrors of Jerry World. Given Jerry's history with the draft and his stated dislike for paying top-ten salaries, do you think he will trade down and pick up an extra first-round pick. If he did, I think this would be one of the smartest moves he has made in a while. We need some serious help in the secondary and on the O-line.

Mosley: Bobby, thanks for your commitment to the Beast blog. If the season ended today, the Cowboys would have the sixth pick in the draft. I think you're correct in saying that Jerry Jones wouldn't want to pay that type of money, but trading down isn't always an option. You have to be sitting on a player (quarterback) whom a team, say the Redskins, desperately wants. If the Cowboys can trade out of the top 10, then I think an offensive lineman would certainly be in the mix. But it's not like this organization needs to get enamored with one position in the draft. The Cowboys need help at safety, cornerback, defensive end, offensive line and special teams. This will be a draft where Jones is trying to accumulate additional picks, as he always does. But the trick is finding a team that is willing to move into the top 10. With a possible lockout on the horizon, teams will likely be more cautious than ever about the future. And that's why I think the Cowboys may have to remain at No. 6.


Constantine from London wants to talk Big Blue: Hi Matt. Religious reader of the blog, but from your view what has been wrong with my G-Men this year? We have a good team, upgraded well in the offseason, but for some reason we've just collapsed. From a neutral perspective, what have you seen? And as for the draft what players/positions should we start with first?

Mosley: Constantine, a lot of folks say that reading this blog is nearly a religious experience, so you're definitely onto something. I think the Giants were still in good shape until there were eight minutes left in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago. I thought this team had the leadership and character to bounce back against the Packers in Green Bay, but things didn't work out. When a team collapses at the end of the season, it's always easy to point to the head coach. But this feels a lot different than the '09 collapse. I still think the Giants have the makings of a formidable team. Regarding the draft, it's important for general manager Jerry Reese to keep identifying linebackers. Clint Sintim should be a starter by now, but he couldn't seize the opportunity. Keith Bulluck's a stop-gap player, so it's time to add more talent. I also think the Giants have to keep looking at cornerbacks in the draft. They've done a nice job of creating depth at the safety position, but I think they need to do the same thing at corner. It's not like this roster lacks for talent, but you can't be complacent. If rookie Jason Pierre-Paul can continue to improve, he'll be able to challenge Osi Umenyiora for a starting role in the near future. And New York needs to go ahead and make some decisions on the offensive line. I wouldn't trust Shawn Andrews enough to be a major part of the future, so you have to see who's ready to play left tackle. If that's Will Beatty, then it's time to move David Diehl to left guard full-time. I think drafting another offensive tackle needs to be a priority as well as a tight end to play opposite Kevin Boss. The Giants have had to get by with Bear Pascoe this season as a tight end/fullback. I know they've had a lot of injuries at tight end, but that's one of the reasons it's time to draft an additional player at that position.


Mark B. is stationed in Korea and he has a message for Jerry Jones: I know you have a red phone direct line to Jerry Jones, so please give him a tremendous Thanks! from personnel stationed in Korea for sending the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders here. It was a great morale boost for our young troops and my young daughters loved the clinic and show. Happy New Year to you and your family. Love the blog and your stories.

Mosley: Mark, I owe Jones a call on the red phone this very afternoon, so I'll pass along that message. The Cowboys Cheerleaders have reportedly had a much more successful season than the team they support. Happy New Year to the men and women all over the world who are serving our country in the military.


Bucky from Georgia has an Eagles trade proposal: Matt, last offseason when the Eagles were listening to trade offers for Donovan McNabb, I heard a lot of rumors that the Oakland Raiders were offering the Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Do you think the Eagles could trade Kevin Kolb this offseason for Nnamdi? The Raiders will get a young franchise quaterback and the Eagles will fill the biggest hole on their defense and have the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. Sounds like a win-win, right?

Mosley: I'm a Asomugha fan from way back, but I don't think Eagles general manager Howie Roseman wants to take on the cornerback's contract. He signed a three-year contract worth $45.3 million in Feb. 2009, so the Eagles would be on the hook for the final season of that deal. The Eagles believe they can possibly land a first-round draft choice for Kolb based on his pedigree and the way he's performed in a handful of starts. And given how desperate teams such as the Vikings and Cardinals need a quarterback, the Eagles may find a trading partner. The Eagles certainly respect Asomugha as a player, but they're not going to take on that contract.


Andy from Manhattan Beach thinks we've overlooked Santana Moss: Hey Matt, I was reading your Pro Bowl analysis and was wondering if we could talk about Santana Moss for a minute or two. While he doesn't have the monster TDs (6) or the most yards (10th statistically for 1041 yards), his yards after the catch are crazy (438)! Considering that he is basically the only wide receiver on a Redskins team in desperate need of players at skill positions, don't you think we could at least give him a pat on the back?

Mosley: I didn't put Moss in my "was robbed" category in the Pro Bowl analysis, but he has had a solid season considering the circumstances. I've long admired the way Moss continues to play at a high level even when his quarterback or team is struggling. Moss told me during training camp that '09 may have been his best season in the NFL despite his numbers being down. He's a wide receiver who always puts winning above any personal stats or accolades. And that's why I just gave him a "pat on the back."

Happy New Year to everyone who stopped down to read this mailbag!

A Giant injury report

November, 3, 2010
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The New York Giants are actually in much better shape from an injury standpoint coming off the bye week. The only real setback is center Shaun O'Hara's mild Lisfranc sprain in his right foot, which probably doesn't feel too "mild" when he puts 300 pounds on it.

Ohm Youngmisuk from ESPNNewYork.com has the full injury report, as delivered to reporters this morning by coach Tom Coughlin. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora's knee injury will limit him in practice this week, but that's been going on every week. The best news for Giants fans is that wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, kicker Lawrence Tynes and linebacker Keith Bulluck didn't even show up on the pre-practice injury list.

Final Word: NFC East

September, 24, 2010
9/24/10
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 3:

Rediscovering the run. The Dallas Cowboys are determined to run the football against the Houston Texans on Sunday in an effort to keep Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson off the field. Offensive line coach Hudson Houck has gone back to the basics with his guys in order to have them mentally prepared and to stop getting penalties. I think you'll see a different Leonard Davis against the Texans. He hasn't been moving his feet enough and it's allowing way too much penetration. This will be a hostile environment and an adequate running game would make life easier on Tony Romo.

[+] EnlargeKeith Bulluck
AP Photo/Evan PinkusKeith Bulluck will face the Titans for the first time since leaving Tennessee after 10 seasons.
Rolle with it. Now that Giants safety Antrel Rolle has called everyone out after two games with the organization, where do we go from here? Rolle came off looking like a selfish jerk complaining that Tom Coughlin likes to arrive at games too early. Now, defensive end Justin Tuck is trying to nip this thing in the bud. I think the defensive line will have a huge game against the Titans. The big thing is maintaining gap responsibility. If Jonathan Goff doesn't show enough discipline, Titans running back Chris Johnson will make the Giants pay. Keep your eye on Giants linebacker Keith Bulluck in this game. He can't let his emotions get the best of him against his former team. I think he'll do a good job of helping Goff make the proper adjustments because he knows this offense so well.

Rediscovering the run, Part II. The Washington Redskins will attempt to find some semblance of a running game against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. I loved watching film of Skins left tackle Trent Williams from last Sunday's game against the Texans. His roll blocks were giving Mario Williams & Co. fits. This may be the week where Clinton Portis finds some room on the back side. And if that happens, Donovan McNabb should have success in the play-action game. Santana Moss could go off against the Rams. I like how offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is moving him around quite a bit. I think he's most dangerous in the slot. Look for Shanahan to dial up some double moves from Moss, who is playing with a lot of confidence right now. I'm also anxious to see how DeAngelo Hall's defense plays.

Vick's renaissance. I heard something about a quarterback change for the Eagles this week. Expect the Jacksonville Jaguars to bring a lot of pressure up the middle against Eagles center Mike McGlynn. The inexperienced player had trouble making calls against the Detroit Lions and the Jags will try to confuse him again this week. Andy Reid acts as if Michael Vick is having the greatest stretch in league history. I'm anxious to see how Vick performs against a team that has reviewed his six quarters. And if he stinks up the joint, will Reid think about flip-flopping again? Fortunately for Reid, most of the national media has rushed to his defense.

Containing Andre Johnson. It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys approach the Texans wide receiver in this game. They've had some success shutting down top receivers such as Carolina's Steve Smith and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson in the past, but Johnson's better than both of those players. The Texans love to get Johnson on the move and try to hit him on crossing routes. It will be more important than ever to finish tackles Sunday. When Terence Newman couldn't tackle Devin Hester, the Bears wideout raced down the sideline to set up a touchdown in the fourth quarter. One of our most devoted readers, Darren Woodson, told me before the season that tackling would be a problem for this secondary. And I'm afraid Woody was onto something. Please enjoy the games this weekend and let me know if there's anything else I can do for you.

Wednesday Beastlines: McNabb angst

August, 25, 2010
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Let's take a quick spin around the division this morning and look at the top headlines. I'll be away from the blog working on our ESPN.com preview section most of the day, but Scouts Inc. stalwart Matt Williamson will make an appearance on the Beast at 1 p.m. ET to discuss offensive line continuity:

Cowboys

Eagles

Giants

Redskins

  • Don't be shocked if the Redskins release Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, writes Reid.

Giants-Steelers observation deck

August, 22, 2010
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You don't want to read too much into a preseason game, but Perry Fewell's unit looked pretty solid in the New York Giants' 24-17 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Perhaps inspired by his starting role, defensive end Osi Umenyiora was dominant against the run. Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka teamed up to cause some big-time minus plays against the Steelers' first-team offense.

Here are my quick-hit observations from Saturday's rumble in New Meadowlands Stadium:
  • I don't think the final numbers for quarterback Rhett Bomar -- 13-of-26 for 167 yards -- tell the whole story of his evening. Though he had one awful interception on a tipped ball, I liked the way he used his legs to extend plays. Bomar's capable of making something happen when a play breaks down, and that's the main reason the Giants should keep him around at least one more season. He obviously has a lot more upside than Jim Sorgi, but you'd have a hard time trusting Bomar if Eli Manning was out for more than two weeks in the regular season.
  • Nice interception by cornerback Corey Webster against Ben Roethlisberger. Webster has his confidence back, and he's playing with a swagger. Those are the types of plays that galvanize a defense. I think Fewell's done an excellent job of restoring confidence in all of these cornerbacks.
  • Hakeem Nicks can't get drawn into a fight four plays into a game. Football fights with helmets on seem so redundant. And when you get tossed from a game that early, it can put your teammates in a bind. I'm sure Tom Coughlin will have a long visit with Nicks about that play.
  • The Giants gave their old pal Flozell Adams fits at his right tackle spot. Tuck gained a small measure of revenge for that shoulder injury that Adams gave him last season by blowing past the aging player at least twice, once with a nice spin move. I liked how Fewell kept moving players around before the play. I think it confused the Steelers' offensive line.
  • Steve Smith made a Victor Cruz-like catch along the sideline for 45 yards from Bomar. He turned what could've been an interception into a big gain. Cruz entered the game in the second quarter to a loud "Cruuuuuuz!" chant. But he struggled against the Steelers. The muffed punt inside the 10-yard line was tough to watch. Looked like he let the ball bounce off his knee. Just a really clumsy effort. But this will give him a chance to bounce back from a little adversity.
  • Linebacker Keith Bulluck was only in there for a handful of plays, but I liked when he came racing through to drop Rashard Mendenhall near the line of scrimmage. Bulluck had two tackles and looked good calling out the signals during his short time on the field.
  • It's fun watching Ahmad Bradshaw run the football now that he's healthy. He has a nice blend of power and speed. As I said last week, Bradshaw's the feature back on this team. He and Brandon Jacobs seem to have a great rapport, so hopefully things won't be too awkward. But I think it will be tough for Jacobs to watch Bradshaw get 18-20 carries in a game while he receives 8-9. That's going to happen.
  • Excellent job by defensive tackle Rocky Bernard on the goal-line stand at the end of the first quarter. He showed a lot of power on that play, and I think it's something Fewell can build on.
  • Aaron Ross' 44-yard punt return was a thing of beauty. And don't be too worried about Steelers punter Daniel Sepulveda fighting off blockers to make the tackle. As a Ray Guy Award-winner at Baylor, Sepulveda was known for his punishing hits.
  • I'm hoping Bruce Johnson was supposed to have help from safety Michael Greco on that 68-yard touchdown. That was way too easy, and it brought back memories of matchups against New Orleans and Philly last season.
  • Adrien Tracy was pretty active down the stretch and ended up with nine tackles. Regarding safety John Busing, I'm not overly impressed. He's always arriving a split-second late, and I'm being generous with that estimate.
  • Phillip Dillard's a little eager at times against the run, and you'll see him overpursue. But I do like the energy he brings to the field.
  • The thing I like about Bomar the most is that he gets the ball out of there quickly. He'll change arm angles and fire a ball into a tight window like he did to Sinorice Moss in the second half. The numbers weren't that great, but I sort of admired how he stood in there and took some hits. And he was fearless when it came to running for first downs. Maybe a bit too fearless for Coughlin's taste.
  • I saw rookie defensive tackle Linval Joseph run a nice little twist with Kiwanuka on one play in the first half. Joseph's going to be starting by the end of the season.

Clint Sintim starting to catch on?

August, 15, 2010
8/15/10
4:38
PM ET
The New York Giants needed linebacker Clint Sintim to help stop the bleeding during last season's stunning fall from NFC East supremacy. And honestly, the rookie wasn't up to the task.

As ESPNNewYork.com's Jane McManus writes today, Sintim is poised to lock up the strongside spot. He's had a relatively quiet training camp, but his position coach says that he's done some nice things that might not jump out at a divisional blogger in town for a couple days.

"Clint's a young man who a year ago was the first time he's ever played back off the ball and looking into the backfield for the keys and reads, and it was foreign to him," said linebackers coach Jim Herrmann. "I feel like so far this camp, that has improved every day. To me that was our biggest thing. When he and I sat down I said, 'This is where you need to improve,' and he's done a good job with that."

General manager Jerry Reese has always told me that Sintim could be a star in the league, but the former Virginia standout didn't really distinguish himself in his rookie season. Now, it appears that Sintim's playing with a lot more confidence. And as McManus notes, the arrival of veteran Keith Bulluck should be a great thing for Sintim. Danny Clark was an excellent guy in the locker room, but it's different when a young player's trying to take your spot.

Bulluck's competing at middle linebacker, so I don't think he'll hold anything back. I also think you'll enjoy reading about Sintim's major at Virginia. I smell a Thursday column in the near future.

Do the Giants have anyone left?

August, 11, 2010
8/11/10
11:58
AM ET
I just finished reading ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk's injury list for this morning's Giants practice, and the worst news is that Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee has joined the list with what appears to be a knee injury. He's sitting out Wednesday's practice along with the following players:

CB Corey Webster (glute), WR Steve Smith (groin), WR Sinorice Moss (groin), TE Kevin Boss (ankle/hamstring), TE Travis Beckum (hamstring), TE Jake Ballard (hamstring), TE Scott Chandler (hip), G Kevin Boothe (pectoral), DE Osi Umenyiora (hip), LB Keith Bulluck (knee), S Kenny Phillips (knee) and WR Hakeem Nicks (toe/knee).

Bear Pascoe is the first-string tight end Wednesday by default. At this point, the Giants are having to use reserve linemen to line up at the position. I'm glad I interviewed Tom Coughlin early in camp because all these injuries put him in a bad mood.

The good news is that Rich Seubert (hand) did return to practice this morning. We'll keep our eye on this Snee situation. He's become the Giants' best offensive lineman over the past couple of seasons.

Camp Confidential: New York Giants

August, 3, 2010
8/03/10
1:00
PM ET
ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 16

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The New York Giants are going through an identity crisis. Just when we had them pegged as a perennial playoff team, they went out and lost eight games in one season.

There are plenty of players on the roster who own Super Bowl rings from the '07 season, but some of them also took the field in disgraceful losses to the Panthers and Vikings to close out '09. Coach Tom Coughlin seemed invincible two years ago, but it's not a stretch to say that his job's on the line heading into this season. Co-owner John Mara has suggested that's not the case, but it's hard to envision Coughlin surviving another .500 season.

The good news for Giants fans is that Coughlin's been here before, and he's come out on the other side. He told me Monday that two books he read over the summer -- a biography of Harry Truman and a remarkable story involving four Navy SEALs -- have had a profound effect on him. He'll spend the next three weeks in training camp attempting to inspire his players to be "uncommonly good."

"I don't remember anyone saying I was on the hot seat when we were 5-0," he said Monday. "But believe me, the most intense pressure comes from within. The outside stuff doesn't affect me."

Coughlin has personally challenged veteran players such as defensive end Justin Tuck to get out of their comfort zones and take larger leadership roles. He also brought in fiery defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to create more energy on the practice field. The former Bills assistant can be heard from across the University at Albany campus shouting at his players and he even tried to throw a block for cornerback Corey Webster during an interception return Monday.

"With our group of players, a coach has to do something phenomenal for us to wholeheartedly follow you," Tuck told me Monday. "[Fewell] had to win our trust. But every day, he shows us how much he loves the game with his actions. And when you see a guy with that much energy, it's hard not to get behind him."

Shortly after Fewell was hired, Tuck stopped by his office to say hello. When he walked into the room, he said Fewell grabbed a marker and started drawing plays on the board.

"He went through a bunch of different scenarios and then asked me how I thought they might work this season," said Tuck. "I got more and more excited as he talked about all the possibilities."

Tuck didn't want to give too much away, but he did disclose that one of the scenarios involved him and Osi Umenyiora both playing linebacker at the same time. But keep that confidential if you would.

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeOsi Umenyiora
Rich Kane/Icon SMIOsi Umenyiora is in a battle to regain his job as a starter.
1. What happens if Osi Umenyiora doesn't win back his starting job? For the first two days of camp, Umenyiora was all smiles. He's only practicing once a day in order to manage his hip injury, but he doesn't think the injury will keep him out of any games. Umenyiora's a prideful player who felt humiliated by losing his job to Mathias Kiwanuka last season.

The good thing is that Fewell's going to be up front with all of his players and let them know where they stand. Coughlin remembers how the Giants came at teams with waves of pass-rushers in '07 and '08. Tuck, Umenyiora, Kiwanuka and first-round rookie Jason Pierre-Paul have the talent to be a special group. But last year players along the defensive line started trying to do too much individually and didn't play as a unit. I don't see any circumstance where Umenyiora embraces a reserve role, so that will put the coaching staff in an interesting situation. My guess is that Umenyiora meets the challenge and wins back his job.

"Osi's in for a fight because Kiwi's not going to back down," said Tuck. "Those two are going to push each other and I think that's a good thing."

2. Is former second-round pick Will Beatty ready to take over at left tackle?

Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese love creating competition and it's going to be interesting to see if David Diehl can hold onto his left tackle spot. The good news for Diehl is that he's going to end up starting on the offensive line no matter what happens in that competition. Coughlin's going to do whatever's best for the team, and I think that will ultimately be Beatty at left tackle and Diehl at left guard. Beatty, a second-year player, has shown a lot of quickness in the first three practices of training camp.

It won't be a completely smooth transition, but I believe he has the athletic ability and size to succeed at left tackle. The Giants have had a lot of continuity along the offensive line, but that won't keep Coughlin from pulling the trigger on a move. In talking to Reese, I get the feeling he's enjoying this competition quite a bit.

3. Can the Giants re-establish the running game?

[+] EnlargeBradshaw
Geoff Burke/US PresswireA healthy Ahmad Bradshaw could see more carries in 2010.
Of all the things that went wrong last season, the lack of a consistent running game might have been the thing that disappointed Coughlin the most.

The Giants went from the No. 1 rushing team in the league in '08 to a No. 17 ranking in '09. They averaged almost a full yard less per carry in '09, which put too much pressure on Eli Manning and the passing game.

Tiki Barber told me early last season that he'd advised Brandon Jacobs to learn how to protect his body more on runs. It may have been solid advice, but Jacobs appeared tentative in '09 and began to doubt himself as the season unfolded. If he looks tentative early in this season, I believe a healthy Ahmad Bradshaw will be prepared to take over as the featured back.

I've been impressed with how quick and decisive he's looked in camp. And Andre Brown appears to have regained his speed after missing last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Brown should be a good change-of-pace back and he has soft hands that could make him a decent option on third down.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

I think the most pleasant surprise so far is the Giants appear to have a ton of competition at cornerback. Aaron Ross missed so much time last year because of hamstring issues that he sort of faded out of the picture. Now, he's getting his hands on lots of footballs and he's regained that quickness that we saw a couple seasons ago. The problem for him is that Terrell Thomas and Webster have both been excellent in this camp. Webster was a disappointment last season, but he's been one of the best players in camp through three practices.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

It's hard to give up on someone after three practices, so I'll go with an injured player in safety Kenny Phillips. He has an excellent attitude, but the fact that he's on the physically unable to perform list isn't a great sign. He was on the verge of stardom before a serious knee condition required microfracture surgery. The Giants brought in plenty of insurance for Phillips this season, but it would be really disappointing if he's not able to make a full recovery.

OBSERVATION DECK
[+] EnlargeKeith Bulluck
AP Photo/Mike GrollLinebacker Keith Bulluck (53) has looked comfortable in the early stages of camp.

  • If you think the Giants are going to slowly bring along Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph, think again. They want Joseph breathing down Rocky Bernard's neck this season. And so far, Joseph's done a tremendous job soaking up a lot of information. But when Coughlin's standing a few feet away, Joseph had better know when he's supposed to be in a drill. Reese told me Monday afternoon that Pierre-Paul and Joseph have to help out immediately.
  • I thought former Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck would look a little stiff since he hasn't done any live scrimmaging since his ACL surgery last December. Instead, he's moved around really well and seems to be comfortable in Fewell's defense.
  • Second-year tight end Travis Beckum's going to get every opportunity in the world to contribute, but it's not good to flat-out drop a ball when Rhett Bomar threads the needle in team drills.
  • Defensive end Dave Tollefson is one of those steady players who refuses to go away. Nothing flashy, but he's relentless in pursuing the quarterback. I noticed that he's added a little inside spin move to his game. Some of the young offensive linemen haven't known what to do with him.
  • Sixth-round draft pick Adrian Tracy is a fish out of water at linebacker. The former William & Mary defensive end has some athleticism, but he could use a redshirt (practice squad) year.
  • Former Cowboys defensive end Chris Canty is in remarkable condition in this camp. Even Coughlin marveled at how Canty breezed through sprints. Canty has some close friends with the Cowboys (Jay Ratliff, Stephen Bowen, Jason Hatcher) and he'd like to send a message that Jerry Jones made a mistake in letting him walk.
  • I've given up trying to cut Sinorice Moss. I already have him on my 2013 projected Giants roster. It's crowded at receiver again, but the little guy won't go away. And he had a really nice day Monday.
  • If Ramses Barden ever finds a way to take his practices to the games, the Giants will have a remarkable weapon in the red zone. Manning told me Monday that Barden has won him over. He has some Plaxico Burress-like tendencies -- and I'm talking about the good tendencies. Even when he's covered, Barden has a knack for making catches. He's just an enormous target.
  • Reese refuses to give up on linebacker Gerris Wilkinson. The former Georgia Tech player has teased the Giants with his athleticism, but his career has been hampered by injuries and inconsistency.
  • Fullback Madison Hedgecock has a little competition in rookie Jerome Johnson. Hedgecock drops way too many passes. If Johnson shows anything in the passing game, this thing could get interesting.
  • I don't know if he'll hold off Bulluck, but middle linebacker Jonathan Goff looks so much more confident to me in this camp. He's doing a great job communicating and he's done a nice job in coverage.
  • Clint Sintim went through some growing pains last season, but he looks the part of a starter now. He hasn't let any of the Giants' misdirection plays fool him.
  • Either Antrel Rolle is really, really good at safety or I spent too much time watching C.C. Brown and Aaron Rouse chasing cars last season. I think Rolle's an excellent fit for Fewell's defense. If Phillips can return to form, he and Rolle could be one of the best tandems in the league. Deon Grant was a good pickup because of his durability. He just doesn't miss any games, and the Giants need more of those players.
  • I know Steve Smith had a breakout season, but Hakeem Nicks looks like a No. 1 wide receiver to me. I thought it was telling that he was the one receiver whom Manning asked to join him at the Manning Passing Academy. Those two are putting on a show early in camp.

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