NFC East: LaDainian Tomlinson

It's Friday, folks, and that means you can expect your normal Friday goodies -- Fired-Up Friday debate, a video mailbag, and the latest NFC East entry in our "Dream Team of Tomorrow" project. I may not be around all day to mix it up with y'all in the comments (as I'm trying to sneak in a day or two off before the lockout ends and those become unattainable), but I won't leave you hanging on content. I'd never do that to you. You want proof? Here, right on time, are your links:

Dallas Cowboys

Calvin Watkins texted me Thursday morning to complain that I hadn't linked to him in the Breakfast Links. I pointed out that I had, in fact, done so on each of the previous two days, but Calvin was inconsolable. So, since I can't stand to see a grown man cry, here's Calvin's call for the Cowboys to scrap San Antonio and hold their training camp at home in Irving, Texas. He makes a good case, but that would represent a dramatic change in plans for a team that usually likes to hold its training camp in more than one time zone.

Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers of the Packers refused to sign a Dallas Cowboys hat that an autograph-seeking fan handed him at this charity golf tournament that he and Tony Romo and a bunch of other celebrities are playing in. It's okay, though, because the Packers fan who was interviewed about it said it was.

New York Giants

Da'Rel Scott, the running back the Giants took in the seventh round, couldn't tell LaDainian Tomlinson that he was his favorite player as a kid. But he told Mike Garafolo, who spoke to Scott about what it was like to work out with Tomlinson this summer.

John Brennan of The Record took a look at which Giants fans are making out well and which fans aren't when they go to re-sell their personal seat licenses. The answer: Depends on where the seats are located. Interesting look at an issue that's caught a lot of people's attention in this area over the past couple of years.

Philadelphia Eagles

Been lots of talk about how the lockout will affect the rookies who haven't been able to spend any time working out with their coaches or teammates. But Les Bowen looks at the ways in which all this time off will affect second-year guys, such as Eagles linebacker Jamar Chaney and backup quarterback Mike Kafka, who are expecting this to be a big step-forward season. From Chaney: "Usually by the time training camp comes around, you pretty much already know the defense." But not this year, Jamar. Not this year.

The Eagles' team site recently took a look at the safety position, mentioning rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett, Kurt Coleman and the oft-forgotten Marlin Jackson as possible starters opposite Nate Allen. Assuming, of course, as they do not, that Allen is healthy. It seems as if the Eagles think they have enough coverage at the position that they can get away with releasing Quintin Mikell and not making this a free-agent priority. But maybe we'll see soon.

Washington Redskins

Nice job by BurgundyBlog.com getting Redskins first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan to sit for an interview, though I must admit I don't remember any journalism classes in which we were told it was OK to tell your interview subject you were about to urinate in your pants. Seriously, Kerrigan plays along and BB draws out some nice stuff about the transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker as well as Kerrigan's technique for forcing fumbles. Good stuff for Redskins fans to chew on as they continue to await the end of the lockout.

Former Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell weighed in recently on the current quarterback controversy in Washington, saying Donovan McNabb has acted like a pro by keeping his opinions to himself and adding, "Truth be told, I'm glad I wasn't put in that kind of situation."

Happy Friday, everybody. That's the news and I am out of here.

Cowboys-Chargers observation deck

August, 22, 2010
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I thought the most significant thing to come out of Saturday's preseason game was the debut of Cowboys rookie linebacker Sean Lee in Dallas' 16-14 victory against San Diego. The second-round pick made back to back plays in the fourth quarter to shut down the Chargers' short-yardage running game. I wondered how he'd react to game speed, but it didn't seem to faze him. Watching him fight off a lead blocker and then tackle the tailback on his own was the most impressive play of the evening.

Now, let's look at some of other aspects of the Cowboys' win:
  • Nice job by cornerback Terence Newman bouncing back from getting burned to undercut a route and intercept Philip Rivers in the first quarter. This defense looks a lot more opportunistic after three preseason games.
  • The Cowboys better hope Ryan Mathews is the second coming of LaDainian Tomlinson, because he made them look bad at times Saturday night. The Chargers were able to run down hill with all three of their main backs. Wade Phillips' defense will have to work on tackling this week, because it kept bouncing off Chargers running backs. I've been a fan of Mike Tolbert's ever since he came out of Coastal Carolina. Impossible to bring him down if you go high, and Orlando Scandrick learned that lesson the hard way.
  • I didn't like the looks of Gerald Sensabaugh's left shoulder injury. Keith Brooking injured his right shoulder and said it was a "mild AC strain." Neither injury is serious, but don't be shocked if they sit out the final two preseason games.
  • I know that Tony Romo had linebacker Stephen Cooper closing in on him, but you can't throw that pass into the middle of the field. You'd rather see Romo take the sack in that situation, and he admitted that after the game. It wasn't a great night for Romo and the offense, but the red-zone touchdown pass to Miles Austin was a thing of beauty. Romo throws that back-shoulder fade as well as any quarterback in the league right now.
  • Norv Turner burned the Cowboys with those little slip screens to Darren Sproles. He used the Cowboys' speed against them by letting DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer come free before dumping the ball over their heads. Not even Brooking could make a play in the open field as Sproles raced for daylight.
  • Marion Barber and Felix Jones aren't doing much in the preseason games. Jones needs to turn some of those runs upfield quicker instead of gliding down the line of scrimmage, hoping to find a seam.
  • Rookie free-agent safety Danny McCray has become a special teams phenom. I saw him make at least three tackles in coverage. He's already among the Cowboys' top two or three special-teams players, and he's not finished climbing.
  • It's fun watching left tackle Doug Free get out in space on screen passes. He flattened a defender to lead the way for Barber's 8-yard reception.
  • Let's give offensive tackle Robert Brewster his due. He certainly had some help at right tackle when Romo was on the field, but I thought he played pretty well. And when he moved over to the left side, Brewster did a nice job of anchoring and giving Jon Kitna a clean pocket. Backup center Phil Costa also receives kudos for some excellent work. He does a nice job on those middle screens. He's been the under-the-radar star of the offensive line in this camp. Mark that down somewhere.
  • Spencer is pretty much impossible to block right now. He had one sack wiped out because of defensive holding, but he was constantly in the face of Rivers or Billy Volek. He's poised to have a huge season.
  • During my time in Oxnard, Calif., last week, I kept telling you guys that Martellus Bennett could be a threat in the red zone. Well, Kitna realized that Saturday night. Bennett was a nice third-down option for both Romo and Kitna. He's an enormous target who is too big for safeties to cover and too fast for linebackers. That might have been the best all-around game I've seen him play in a Cowboys uniform. Let's see if he can take it to the regular season.
  • Linebacker Leon Williams didn't help himself by missing a tackle in the backfield on Tolbert. And fellow linebacker Victor Butler helped himself big time with a strip sack in the second half that led to the game-winning safety. Butler has had an excellent camp.
  • Cornerback Cletis Gordon's the biggest surprise from this camp. The former Charger snagged an interception with his right hand while running step for step with a wide receiver in the second half. If you count practice, I think he has at least 14 interceptions this preseason.
  • I like how rookie running back Lonyae Miller runs the ball. He played better than Herb Donaldson on Saturday. I'd try to get Miller on the practice squad. I'm sure he wanted to show off for his former Fresno State teammate Mathews.

Is new Meadowlands turf an injury issue?

June, 18, 2010
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Virtually in concert, the New York Jets praised the FieldTurf in the new Meadowlands stadium after Wednesday's public practice.

A day earlier, New York Giants receiver Domenik Hixon suffered a season-ending knee injury when he crumpled to the ground untouched on a punt return.

The Giants seem less certain than the Jets about the artificial surface's culpability.

"I was right there when it happened and I saw it right away," Giants safety Antrel Rolle told ESPNNewYork.com reporter Ohm Youngmisuk on Thursday. "And I was, like, 'Damn, it don't look good.' He didn't make a cut or anything. It just got caught in the turf."

Said receiver Steve Smith of the turf: "I thought it was real slippery. We were all slipping and stuff. Hopefully it settles in when more people do stuff on it."

Giants general manager Jerry Reese said the FieldTurf wasn't to blame. FieldTurf spokesman Chip Namias also refuted Rolle's opinion.

"With all due and sincere respect to Antrel Rolle, who is a wonderful player, he is simply not medically trained or qualified to make such a statement," Namias said. "The people who run NFL teams are ultra conscientious, and there's a very good reason why 21 of the 32 member clubs use FieldTurf."

Rolle also complained about the surface being hot on the bottoms of his feet and claimed several of his teammates had a similar experience. Slippage was another concern.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin stopped short at blaming the turf, but suggested it was an issue.

"You can speculate on whatever you want," Coughlin said. "Fact of the matter is it was an injury that occurred when he was not hit. He was running up the field and we are just going to leave it at that."

The Jets acted plenty confident in the surface Wednesday. Quarterback Mark Sanchez, recovering from offseason knee surgery, participated fully in the workout.

"The turf is great," Sanchez said of the turf. "I didn’t have any slippage. [Antonio] Cromartie did, but he’s so athletic that he’s like when a dog falls, they get up so quick, you almost don’t see it."

Jets punter Steve Weatherford and outside linebacker Calvin Pace raved about the turf. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson told me "It's a fast track. Guys are going to really enjoy playing on it." Cornerback Darrelle Revis noted it could stand to be broken in more.

"It's new turf," Jets inside linebacker Bart Scott said. "It takes a while for this stuff to harden up and mat down. There's going to be loose rubber until you run over it a couple times. ... But you just have to make the adjustment. Early on you may have to go with shorter spikes, and then as it hardens up you can go with longer spikes.

"But I think it's still top-notch. It's soft. It's level. There's no divots. There's no seams. You just have to break it in."

What the Eagles are demanding for McNabb

March, 26, 2010
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The Philadelphia Eagles will only consider trading quarterback Donovan McNabb if the deal includes a pick among the top 42 in April's draft, according to the Associated Press. The Raiders, Bills and Rams each have two picks among the top 42, and all of them need help at quarterback.

Of that group, I think McNabb would prefer the Rams because of his familiarity with their coaching staff. Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur served as quarterbacks coach for the Eagles and head coach Steve Spagnuolo was a secondary coach under Jim Johnson in Philly. We won't know if the Minnesota Vikings are in play until Brett Favre makes a decision regarding his future.

The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that McNabb's first choice would be the Vikings, which makes sense. Minnesota head coach Brad Childress was the offensive coordinator for the Eagles and he runs the West Coast offense that McNabb's accustomed to. It would be a nice fit, but the Eagles can't afford to sit around and wait on Favre. According to the Inquirer report, McNabb's not thrilled about going to the Rams, Bills or Raiders. And why would he be? The only upshot to any of those teams is that McNabb could probably sign a lucrative extension, including a healthy signing bonus.

We'll keep you posted on any developments as the day unfolds.

Does Larry Johnson have anything left?

March, 12, 2010
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Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is gambling that former Chiefs running back Larry Johnson will be so thankful to have a job that he won't be a distraction in the locker room. I'm not so sure that Johnson's ability warrants taking that type of risk.

In 2005 and 2006, Johnson was one of the two or three best backs in the league. He had back-to-back 1,700-yard seasons, but in '06, he had a staggering 416 carries. He's basically never recovered from taking all that punishment. So I wouldn't look at him like a typical 30-year-old running back. In fact, I think players in his age bracket such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Willie Parker, Brian Westbrook and Thomas Jones all have more tread left than Johnson.

He's a power back who's not a great change-of-pace back for the Redskins, unless they actually want someone slower than Clinton Portis. Here's what Johnson told ESPN 980 Thursday evening:

"There hasn't been a real good running back tandem in the league [for a while]," said Johnson. "There's always been one guy or three guys. It'd be just like how me and Priest Holmes was way back in the day. It'd be nice to be able to play aside somebody like that."

Hmm...I don't quite see Portis-Johnson rivaling Holmes-Johnson. And it's funny to hear Johnson recall that pairing with such fondness. Johnson and Holmes did not have a good relationship in Kansas City. In fact, Johnson once told a few of us on a conference call before a Cowboys-Chiefs game that Holmes had not been a mentor to him at all.

Johnson was brilliant for two seasons in the league. But the last time he truly helped a team was 2006. I don't see Johnson being happy about playing second-fiddle to Portis, but that's what he'll be asked to do. This will go down as the first highly questionable signing by the Redskins.

Just because they apparently got Johnson on the cheap doesn't make it a good decision.

Who's still out there in free agency?

March, 12, 2010
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Now that we're a week into the free agency period, let's step back and see which unrestricted free agents are still on the board. Philadelphia Daily News NFL columnist Paul Domowitch has compiled a helpful list that includes his top five players at each position. Ben Watson is no longer leading the tight ends list because he signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Cleveland Browns, according to (who else?) ESPN's Adam Schefter. And wide receiver Hank Baskett just signed a one-year contract to return to the Eagles.

Working off Domowitch's list, I'll offer my top remaining unrestricted free agent at each position:

Quarterback

Jake Delhomme, Panthers

Running back

LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers

Wide receiver

Terrell Owens, Bills

Note: The 29-year-old Josh Reed would be a lot less of a headache.

Tight end

Randy McMichael, Rams

Note: McMichael is 30 but he's capable of scoring five or six touchdowns in the right offense.

Offensive tackle

Mike Gandy, Cardinals

Guard

Ryan Lilja, Colts

Center

Kevin Mawae, Titans

Defensive end

Charles Grant, Saints

Defensive tackle

Jimmy Kennedy, Vikings

Inside linebacker

Larry Foote, Lions

Outside linebacker

Keith Bulluck, Titans

Note: Even at age 32, a highly productive player

Cornerback

Rod Hood, Titans

Note: What a weak, weak group. I used to like Dre Bly, but he's a declining player

Safety

Darren Sharper, Saints

Note: The Giants treat Antrel Rolle like some sort of All Pro while Sharper is on the street. I know Sharper is getting long in the tooth, but he can still play. The Broncos went after an aging Brian Dawkins. Some team should do the same with Sharper. Cowboys, anyone?

Skins re-sign Rabach, release 10

March, 4, 2010
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So much for Redskins general manager Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan easing their way into free agency. The Skins began a major overhaul of their roster Thursday evening, re-signing Casey Rabach to a three-year contract but releasing 10 other players.

Rabach

Rabach

The other three teams in the NFC East have extended tenders to players but none of them rivaled the Redskins in terms of purging their rosters. Veteran guard Randy Thomas and wide receiver Antwaan Randle El were the most notable releases. It's not surprising the Redskins would release them, but the timing is certainly interesting. Shanahan has talked about improving from within, but now he'll also have to look elsewhere for help.

Rabach agreed to a three-year contract worth $12.3 million, according to ESPN's John Clayton. It's obvious the veteran center placed more emphasis on security than money by not testing the free-agency waters. The Redskins also released former starting cornerback Fred Smoot as well as veteran backup running backs Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright, who was a valuable specials teams player. Cartwright was also a vocal leader on the team but apparently that wasn't enough to convince Shanahan.

Basically Clinton Portis is the last running back left standing, although that will change via free agency or the draft. Keep in mind that Shanahan is a great admirer of LaDainian Tomlinson after playing against him for so many years in the AFC West. No matter what you think of the Skins' moves, no one can say they weren't decisive Thursday.

"Obviously, it's a day of change for the Redskins," Allen told reporters at Redskins Park earlier this evening.

Last year at this time, the Redskins were paying huge money to defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in free agency. This time around, the Redskins appear to be more interested in creating vacancies.

What's in Mosley's combine mailbag?

February, 28, 2010
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INDIANAPOLIS -- As promised, I'm about to deliver my annual combine mailbag, which will feature news and nuggets related to every team in the division. I've spent four days talking to draft prospects, coaches, agents and scouts. Now it's time for you guys to pick my brain. This shouldn't take long.

Casey from West Liberty, W.Va., is concerned about the Cowboys' WR situation: Please tell me that Dallas is considering other options at wide receiver aside from Roy Williams at this point. You've got to think that if you can get Anquan Boldin for a second rounder at this point you pull the trigger, don't you?

Mosley: So we're back around to Boldin trade scenarios? I'd missed those days so much. I think the Cowboys would be better off adding a wide receiver via the draft. It looks like second-year player Kevin Ogletree could develop into a No. 2 or 3 receiver if he's given enough attention. That's why I don't think the Cowboys need to select someone such as Golden Tate at No. 27 overall. Let's remember that Miles Austin and Ogletree were both undrafted. And Patrick Crayton has had a very nice career after being selected in the seventh round. There's no pressure to send a second-round pick to the Cardinals for Boldin. He wants to be a No. 1 receiver. That's not going to happen in Dallas, where Austin's quickly become the main man. And you also have the highest paid No. 2 receiver in the game in Williams.


Mike from Richmond, Va., has a question about the Skins' RBs situation: So I hear Thomas Jones is going to be released. Do you think this is someone the Redskins would be interested in? Everyone is saying how much Shanny likes LT. I would think Jones would still have more in the tank. Thoughts?

Mosley: Everyone who's saying that Mike Shanahan loves LaDainian Tomlinson is exactly right, Mike. I think the coach has immense respect for Tomlinson after being battered by the running back in the AFC West. As AFC West blogger Bill Williamson told me this past week, Shanahan always covets players who have stuck it to him in the past. That said, I think you're correct to say that Jones has more left in the tank. He's arrived at that magic age where his skills begin to decline, but he could still be effective as a complementary back. Would he be happy splitting carries with Clinton Portis in Washington? Well, he may not have a choice. Honestly, I think Chester Taylor might be a better fit than Jones in Washington.


Joseph from Bloomer, Wis., wants to talk about the Eagles' plans for free agency: Matt, what do you think the chances are that the Eagles make a big splash in free agency this offseason? Do they make a serious run for Julius Peppers? What about Darren Sproles? (I know there's more serious needs than RB, but he might fit in nicely.) Is there someone else on their radar that we're not hearing about? Do they go after someone big or do they stick with their usual M.O. and try to build through the draft? And how do you see the potential uncapped year affecting how the Eagles go about business? It seems like the majority of teams are going to do the opposite of what most initially expected and limit their spending as opposed to going all "NY Yankees" on the league. Thanks for the excellent offseason coverage!

Mosley: New general manager Howie Roseman opted not to speak with the media during the combine, so I can only go on what I'm hearing from other folks from the organization. I'd be surprised if the Eagles threw a bunch of money at Peppers. They know what it's like to sink a ton of money into an elite pass-rusher and basically come up empty. (See Jevon Kearse). There's a concern from people who've been around Peppers that he doesn't truly love the game. Something tells me that Andy Reid and president Joe Banner, the true power brokers, aren't looking to get into business with a guy like Peppers. I think it's more likely the Eagles will look for a pass-rusher in the draft. But I'd try to find a starting safety via a trade or free agency. It's a lot to ask of a rookie to step in and start at safety. Just ask Macho Harris about that. Even if you select someone like Taylor Mays or Nate Allen, it's not like you feel great at the position immediately. As long as you don't have to spend wildly, I'd go after someone like Darren Sharper from the Saints. He's getting older, but he's still a highly productive player. I've read the stuff about how Tracy Porter was the key to that secondary, but you'd be crazy to think the Saints would've made it to the Super Bowl without Sharper.


(Read full post)

Where does Portis stand with Skins?

February, 27, 2010
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INDIANAPOLIS -- A lot of folks are focused on the Washingon Redskins' quarterback situation, but there's also some intrigue at running back. On Friday, coach Mike Shanahan did not want to discuss Clinton Portis' future with the club but he's made it clear that he needs to see a committment from all his players in the offseason program. As some of you know, Portis' offseason "workouts" have often taken place in South Florida.

"Let's not talk about Clinton," Shanahan said when asked about Portis' offseason plans. "Let's talk about everybody on the Washington Redskins. Let's not focus on one guy. I want everybody to be as good a football player as they can be. I want all the guys on our football team to make a commitment in the offseason to work, and work extremely hard. That's how we're gonna get better as a team ... It's very important to show your teammates exactly how hard you work and how dedicated you are to the program."

After Shanahan left the podium Friday, I asked him about any potential interest in former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Shanahan didn't say anything definitive, but he indicated that he and Tomlinson are close friends who stay in contact. I wouldn't be shocked to see Tomlinson end up on the Redskins' roster.

Shanahan knows what a QB looks like

February, 26, 2010
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Mike ShanahanAP Photo/Darron CummingsNew Redskins coach Mike Shanahan held court with the media at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday.

INDIANAPOLIS -- For years, Mike Shanahan hasn't had a presence at the NFL combine. Even with Broncos beat writers staking out every exit of his hotel, Shanahan's stealth-like approach allowed him to get in and out of Indy without being noticed.

That's what made his appearance Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium so unusual. He arrived at 10:45 a.m. ET and spent more than an hour visiting with reporters and other bystanders. At one point, Shanahan said, "Two more questions, guys." Then he stayed and did one-on-ones for the next 30 minutes. I'm not saying Shanahan's going to turn into an open book, but it's obvious that he's now the face of the Washington Redskins.

Now, if he'd just come out and tell us who he's going to take with the No. 4 pick in April's draft. Shanahan was predictably coy with most of his answers, although he didn't hide his passion for free-agent running back LaDainian Tomlinson when I broached the topic.

But the main thing on everyone's mind is the quarterback situation in Washington. Shanahan didn't exactly give incumbent starter Jason Campbell a ringing endorsement Friday, although he expressed his "admiration" for the way Campbell overcame so much adversity in '09 -- namely preserving most of his body parts while playing behind an injury-ravaged offensive line. Shanahan confirmed that the Skins will offer Campbell, a restricted free agent, a tender that probably will have first- and third-round compensation attached. If he signs the tender, Campbell would make $3.268 million in 2010 -- otherwise known as Sage Rosenfels money.

[+] EnlargeJason Campbell
Geoff Burke/US PresswireThe Redskins will offer Jason Campbell a tender for 2010, which is not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Campbell is well within his rights to wonder why the Redskins would ask him to potentially start at quarterback while paying him second-string money. And while he's the ultimate team player -- as evidenced by his behavior last offseason while owner Dan Snyder fawned over other quarterbacks -- there's a chance Campbell could decide not to sign the tender and skip Shanahan's offseason workouts. General manager Bruce Allen is scheduled to meet with Campbell's agent Joel Segal during the combine, according to a league source. Maybe they'll flesh out some of the details. For now, though, Campbell's focused on remaining the starter in 2010.

"No matter who they take, I plan on winning the starting job," Campbell told me Friday. "My plan is to come out and have a great year."

Shanahan has had the good fortune of working with Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Steve Young and John Elway in the past. He knows better than anyone that this is a quarterback's league and that's what led him to trade the 15th and 68th overall picks in the '06 draft to move up and select Jay Cutler at No. 11. He made this move despite the fact that Jake Plummer had led the Broncos to the '05 AFC Championship Game. And by November of the '06 season, Shanahan had made Cutler the full-time starter.

I'm told that Shanahan became obsessed with getting a new quarterback after spending a lot of time with Peyton Manning during Pro Bowl week five years ago. He couldn't believe that Manning was actually studying for the Pro Bowl, something that a free spirit such as Plummer might avoid.

Obviously Shanahan's not going to tip his hand at this point, but you can guarantee that he already has a strong opinion on the top quarterbacks in this draft. I asked him how much college football he watched during his season away from the game and he admitted that it was more than usual. And you can bet that he was paying particular attention to Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford before he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Shanahan said he plans on going to the pro days for both of those quarterbacks.

"You just look at the film," said Shanahan, referring to Bradford. "He's played enough that people should have a strong opinion."

Of course, there's a decent chance Bradford will be off the board when the Redskins pick at No. 4. The St. Louis Rams could use a franchise quarterback about now. That leaves Clausen in the mix and perhaps Texas' Colt McCoy in the second round.

I think Shanahan definitely respects what Campbell has done with the Redskins, but the coach's track record suggests he's going to try to make a splash in this draft. And no matter how much you like offensive tackles Russell Okung or Bryan Bulaga, the game's not about the left tackle.

On Friday, Shanahan didn't say anything particularly revealing, but in a lot of ways, his past speaks for itself.

Podcasts: The future of Westbrook, LT

February, 24, 2010
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Former Giants RB Joe Morris discusses the futures of LaDainian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook and how free agency has made non-guaranteed contracts more viable.

Len Pasquarelli talks about the career span of a RB and the futures of LaDainian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook.

McNabb: 'This is a down day'

February, 23, 2010
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Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb expressed his thoughts on a smart-phone video this afternoon:

McNabb
McNabb
"A great player, a great leader and a hard worker," McNabb said. "[I hope] for nothing but good things for him for the rest of his life. I’ve talked to him on many occasions and he can continue to play this game and play it at a high level, so good luck to Brian. I know this is a down day for all of us because he is a great friend of mine, but I know things will work out for him."

When the Eagles released linebacker Jeremiah Trotter a few years ago, McNabb used the occasion to grouse about management. But given his present contract situation, I don't think McNabb will go that route this time around. And by the way, it's hard for me to imagine LaDainian Tomlinson and Westbrook in different uniforms. It's almost like seeing Emmitt Smith in a Cardinals jersey.

What does Westbrook's release mean?

February, 23, 2010
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In a perfect world for the Philadelphia Eagles, running back LeSean McCoy would have spent at least two seasons serving as Brian Westbrook's understudy. Westbrook, the ultimate professional, wasn't able to participate in the 2009 training camp at Lehigh but he made sure his roommate, McCoy, knew exactly what was expected of him.

[+] EnlargeBrian Westbrook
Hunter Martin/Getty ImagesThe Eagles lost another veteran leader when they released Westbrook.
That tutorial program came to an abrupt halt Tuesday when the Eagles announced the release of Westbrook after eight seasons. McCoy will have to take it from here. And honestly, no one should be shocked at the news of Westbrook's release at age 30. He only played in eight games last season because of two concussions, and his production dipped remarkably when he was on the field. The Eagles owed Westbrook more than $7 million in 2010, and there's simply no way to justify paying that type of money to a player with so many injury risks.

Westbrook's career in Philly may have ended abruptly, but he gave the Eagles some brilliant seasons. He doesn't have a long list of Pro Bowls (two) next to his name but his stamp on the organization is undeniable. For a long stretch, he was the Eagles' most dangerous weapon. His ability to hurt you as a ball carrier or a receiver made him a rare player in the league. His destruction of the Giants late in the 2008 season -- namely Antonio Pierce -- caused general manager Jerry Reese to sign free-agent linebacker Michael Boley. Westbrook's presence alone affected defensive coordinators because they always had to account for him.

Westbrook will think long and hard before putting on his helmet again for another team. He expressed his fear of being affected by head injuries on a long-term basis. That may end up overriding his desire to continue in the NFL. This is a very prideful man, so he's not going to be happy getting seven or eight touches per game as a third-down back. And it's hard to imagine a team seeing him as anything more than that given his injury history. The Redskins could give him a spin, but I'm not sure pairing Clinton Portis with Westbrook is a good idea. OK, I know it's not a good idea.

The Eagles have lost another excellent leader in the locker room. It's one thing to replace Brian Dawkins and Westbrook on the field, but it's another to account for their veteran leadership. McCoy showed signs of being a dangerous runner last season -- especially when Andy Reid planned for him to be in the lineup. This is, above all, a financial decision but it's also a statement that McCoy needs to become the focal point of the running game -- or what passes for one in Philly.

The Eagles will likely select another running back in April's draft. And there's also some veteran options with Chester Taylor and LaDainian Tomlinson. Taylor probably has more in the tank because he hasn't taken the same type of pounding as Tomlinson. But my best guess is the Eagles will try to find a complementary back to McCoy in the draft. Keep DeSean Jackson's former teammate Jahvid Best in mind. Best will have to undergo rigorous medical testing at the combine because of a scary injury that took place last November.

Leonard Weaver's ability as a runner and receiver gives the Eagles some flexibility that other teams don't have. This is a sad day for Eagles fans, but it's something they had to see coming. The NFL is a young man's game and we're hit in the face with that fact every now and then.

Tuesday was one of those days.

Is Tomlinson headed for the Beast?

February, 23, 2010
2/23/10
10:59
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Now that future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson has been released by the San Diego Chargers, it will be interesting to see where he lands. Tomlinson told SI.com's Jim Trotter that his main goal is to join a contender. And most contenders generally have one thing in common.
"I do know that I would have to go to a team that has a [proven] quarterback," Tomlinson said. "A place where you know you have a chance to win because of the quarterback."

Trotter mentioned the Eagles, Patriots and Packers as potential fits for Tomlinson. If the Eagles signed Tomlinson, they'd likely release veteran Brian Westbrook. The two running backs are both in their early 30s and they've seen steep declines in their numbers. Would Tomlinson be that much of an upgrade over Westbrook at this point? I don't think so. And that's why the Eagles will probably steer clear of him.

The other team in the NFC East that might have some interest in Tomlinson is Washington. Coach Mike Shanahan has a great appreciation for Tomlinson because he coached in the same division for so many years. The Redskins are still trying to figure out what to do at quarterback and running back, though, which might make them less appealing to the former Chargers great.

Still, you could make the argument that Shanahan's presence alone will quickly turn the Redskins into a contender. And Tomlinson might not have as many options as one might think. I'm sure he'd love to reunite with Drew Brees in New Orleans, but that's also unlikely. The Patriots have made a living on signing players in the twilight of their careers, so that's a definite possibility.

But don't rule out the Houston Texans. After all, Ryan Moats was starting (and succeeding) at one point in '09. Gary Kubiak also has a great appreciation for LT from his time in the AFC West. Where do you guys think Tomlinson will land?

Cromartie to Boys doesn't make sense

February, 18, 2010
2/18/10
10:37
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The San Diego Chargers are shopping former first-round pick Antonio Cromartie, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. With LaDainian Tomlinson likely on his way out of town, the Chargers are in desperate need of help at running back. Darren Sproles is a dynamic player, but he's not ready to carry the load for an entire season.

Cromartie
Cromartie
There's been speculation that the Dallas Cowboys might be a viable trading partner because of their talented group of running backs. But as ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins points out, Cromartie wouldn't really be a good fit for the Cowboys. Mike Jenkins is on his way to becoming an All-Pro and Terence Newman was a replacement player in the Pro Bowl. Nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick came on strong in the second half of the season.

Cromartie would be a luxury item at this point. The Cowboys have a talented and inexpensive asset in former fourth-rounder Tashard Choice, but it just doesn't make sense to trade him for a cornerback. It's up to offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to do a better job using Choice in 2010. In fact, Garrett would be wise to take a look at how Sean Payton used his running backs in New Orleans.

I'm going to break away and write a column about the Skins' quarterbacks situation at some point today. You guys on board with that?

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