NFC East: Macho Harris

NFC East links: Roseman set for draft

April, 21, 2011
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Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin on the Cowboys in the draft: "You can always bank on Jerry Jones looking to trade out. That’s his history; he doesn’t want to draft; he doesn’t want that pick; he’d rather have quantity than quality."

SI.com's Don Banks isn't pleased with what he calls the NFL's "love affair" with the Cowboys.

New York Giants

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke for 30 minutes on Wednesday with Giants season-ticket holders.

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman discusses his approach in working a draft that precedes free agency.

The Eagles are following the lead of the Giants in allowing season-ticket holders the chance to defer the second half of their ticket payment until the league announces there will be a season in 2011.

Washington Redskins

The Washington Post's Mike Jones on some of the quirks that go along with holding a minicamp with only 30 players: "The circumstances weren’t perfect. At times defensive lineman Kedric Golston lined up at free safety to help out free safety Macho Harris, and at one point, nose tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu went on a pass route so linebacker Rob Jackson had someone to cover."

Is Jake Locker a good fit for the Redskins? Two NFL analysts seem to think so.

Final Word: NFC East

December, 24, 2010
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16 games:

Can the Giants shake off last Sunday's devastating loss to the Eagles? Giants quarterback Eli Manning requested time alone with his teammates Monday, and coach Tom Coughlin was happy to oblige. His speech was short, but it grabbed everyone's attention. Defensive tackle Barry Cofield told me Thursday that he couldn't believe how much energy he saw in the locker room this week. The Giants have done a nice job of recognizing their obvious failure late in last Sunday's game and then moving on to Green Bay. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has tried to get his unit to come out with a sense of urgency in recent weeks, and I think you'll see that against the Packers on Sunday afternoon. New York will want to take the crowd out of the game as soon as possible.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
AP Photo/Evan PinkusEli Manning held a players-only meeting on Monday to address the failures of Sunday's loss to Philadelphia and to get the team focused on Green Bay.
Can Eagles cornerback Dimitri Patterson bounce back from an embarrassing performance against the Giants? Patterson has played well at times this season, but the Giants' wide receivers made him look silly in the first half. The Vikings still have firepower at receiver, so it will be interesting to see what happens if Patterson gets matched up with Sidney Rice. "I'm looking forward to it," Patterson said Friday. "As far as I'm concerned, that was two quarters, three plays, however you want to look at it. I finished that game, I came back in the second half. And I will finish the rest of the season." I think Patterson will do a lot better this week because the Eagles will likely have a better pass rush against the Vikings' offensive line.

Jason Garrett needs this win to finalize his campaign to become permanent head coach. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted last week that a loss to the Washington Redskins would've given him pause about Garrett's future. But the Cowboys pulled out a 33-30 win with a late field goal, so Jones didn't have to worry about that. Dallas should dominate the Cardinals, who are playing with a rookie quarterback. If the Cardinals somehow pull off a Christmas miracle and beat the Cowboys, fans will call for Jon Gruden and Jeff Fisher as the next head coach. But I'd be really surprised if the Cowboys found a way to lose this game.

Eli Manning needs to have a big-time game in Green Bay. As I wrote in Thursday's column, Manning has struggled in December throughout much of his career (14-16). He played well against the Eagles last week, but still has a good shot at leading the league in interceptions. The good news for Giants fans is that Manning has wonderful memories of Lambeau Field. He's said that he actually enjoyed winning the '07 NFC Championship Game (played in Jan. '08) more than the Super Bowl. Those wins helped define his career, and I think he'll draw on that experience from three seasons ago in beating the Packers on Sunday.

Can Mike Shanahan get something accomplished in Jacksonville? We learned Friday that Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (hamstring, groin) will miss a game for the first time in his NFL career. Orakpo will be replaced by Rob Jackson, who will make the first start of his career. And there's also a chance that Kevin Barnes and Macho Harris could be the starting safeties. Reed Doughty is out with a concussion and Kareem Moore will be a game-time decision. I don't know if the Skins have much hope of winning, but Shanahan will have a chance to evaluate some young players. And it will be interesting to see how Rex Grossman performs following his excellent second half against the Dallas Cowboys. Shanahan will make massive roster changes this offseason, but a few players could help their cause with strong performances against Jacksonville.

Philadelphia Eagles cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
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Check here for a full list of the Philadelphia Eagles' roster moves.

Biggest surprise: At the last minute, the Eagles were able to move Stacy Andrews and his reduced (but still too large) salary to the Seahawks for a seventh-round pick in 2011. Andrews had been a huge disappointment for the Eagles and now they feel fortunate to receive anything in return for him. Of the cuts, safety Quintin Demps was probably the biggest surprise. He ended up in Andy Reid's doghouse last season, but he made strides this offseason in having a better attitude. But with rookie Nate Allen claiming the starting safety spot, Demps apparently became expendable. He was a decent return man, but not good enough to warrant a roster spot. Guard Max Jean-Gilles was released, but he'll be brought back Sunday. The Eagles missed the 6 p.m. ET trade deadline on Andrews, so that's why that happened with Jean-Gilles.

No-brainers: I lot of folks were pulling for Chad Hall as a return man, but he simply didn't have enough success in the preseason. Wide receiver Jordan Norwood catches everything, so he'll be a good practice squad candidate. Tight end Cornelius Ingram will probably make it through to the practice squad as well. You knew it was a bad sign for Macho Harris recently when he was bouncing between positions. Looked like a player at this time last year but he never took the next step.

What's next: General manager Howie Roseman will be on the hunt for safeties and cornerbacks. I like the trade for defensive end Antwan Barnes from the Ravens. He was an excellent fourth-round pick for the Ravens in '07 and he has a lot of explosion coming off the edge. He'll be a good fit in the Eagles' up-the-field pass-rush, according to some AFC scouts I spoke to Saturday. Unlike the Cowboys, I think the Eagles will continue to churn the bottom of this roster. We'll keep you posted throughout the rest of the holiday weekend. It's interesting that the Eagles kept six cornerbacks and the Cowboys three. The Eagles only kept two tight ends, so they'll be looking around for help at that position.

On the radar: Uncertainty at safety

June, 17, 2010
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NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

When examining the landscape of the NFC East, it is somewhat surprising how many issues there are across the board at the safety position. Let’s take a quick overview of the situation while remembering that this is a division that features tight ends such as Jason Witten and Brent Celek, a lot of firepower at the wide receiver position and a fine foursome of passers to attack safeties at the third level.

In Dallas, Gerald Sensabaugh looks entrenched as the starting strong safety, while Alan Ball will do battle with Mike Hamlin at free safety, with the long shot of rookie Akwasi Owusu-Ansah factoring in here as well.

Sensabaugh is probably the best safety on the roster, but his coverage skills are average. He is best against the run, but it should be noted that he played a large portion of the season with a broken thumb. Everyone else is really an unknown, other than Pat Watkins, but Watkins has proved to be someone not worth getting excited about. Ball is small and has more of a cornerback skill set than that of your typical safety.

[+] EnlargeAntrel Rolle
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesThe Giants, who signed Antrel Rolle to a $37 million deal, should have the best situation at safety in the division.
The Giants were horrendous at safety last season and obviously some of that had to do with the brutal knee injury to Kenny Phillips, who looked like a real up-and-comer before he got hurt. It’s hard to speculate if Phillips will be ready for this season or if he will be the same player when he does return, but the Giants were quite proactive in their approach to the position.

Though they spent a lot of money to acquire him, I commend the signing of Antrel Rolle. He is extremely talented and entered the league as a highly touted cornerback prospect. While already a very good player, he should only improve with more reps at free safety, where he will start for the Giants. His ability to read the play from the deep middle does need work though.

If Phillips cannot man the strong safety spot, the job would go to either Deon Grant, recently signed as a free agent, or Michael Johnson, who had a rough year in 2009 and makes too many errors with his assignments. New York also used a third-round pick on Chad Jones, a player with a lot of ability. His game seems best suited for free safety, but he has the body to play closer to the line of scrimmage.

While New York was probably the worst off in this division at safety last year, I expect them to be the best of the four in 2010. You have to commend their aggressive approach to fixing a problem. And although all these moves seem to indicate that New York is seriously worried about Phillips’ recovery, it also should be noted that new defensive coordinator Percy Fewell used a lot of three-safety sets with the Bills and that could carry over to the Giants this year.

Philadelphia also was proactive in improving its free safety position, but an Achilles injury to Marlin Jackson took him out of the equation. Second-round pick Nate Allen also is a fine-looking prospect for this position. That is a lot of pressure to put on a rookie -- especially in this division -- but Allen has the skills to handle it. What is worrisome, however, is how well he will handle the mental aspects of the position, which can be taxing.

The Eagles are set at strong safety with Quintin Mikell, who is a very solid all-around safety who is asked to do many things in an attacking scheme -- and does just about everything well. With Jackson’s injury, depth here is a major concern, although Macho Harris could potentially move back to free safety if needed. Still, the Eagles are not real deep at cornerback either, which gives me some pause about their sub package defenses. If we lined up today, I would attack this defense with three- and four-wide receiver sets until the secondary proved it could handle the stress.

Like their counterparts in the division, the Redskins have questions at safety as well. I see three decent safeties -- one with loads of ability -- but all three are more strong safety types. The player with loads of ability is LaRon Landry, who will handle the starting strong safety spot. Landry was overwhelming coming out of college, but certainly has not lived up to his draft position. As the Redskins move to a 3-4 scheme, maybe Landry will see more of a versatile role, such as the one Pittsburgh uses with Troy Polamalu. Landry has reportedly bulked up for the role, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how it affects his movement skills. He really struggled in deep coverage, but I am predicting a breakout season for him.

Neither Chris Horton nor Reed Doughty is the ideal fit at free safety. Doughty fits the mold better and should get the nod, but he isn’t going to make anyone forget about Sean Taylor in terms of his physical skill set. He plays the run better than the pass. This safety situation could lead to a lot of big plays deep downfield against the Redskins.

There are some good football players at safety in this division and there are others with a lot of ability who could flourish in 2010. But it does surprise me that three of the four teams -- Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington -- do not appear interested in adding a true centerfield type in Oshiomogho Atogwe. And while there are questions across the board at safety, for the most part, the teams in the NFC East can really rush the passer -- which of course can make problems on the backend disappear.

Observation deck: Eagles OTAs

June, 8, 2010
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PHILADELPHIA -- How much can one man overreact to a single OTA session? Well, we're about to find out. I've spent the past several hours observing and talking to Eagles players and administrators. You can read about my conversation with quarterback Kevin Kolb in Thursday's column. I also spent time with first-round pick Brandon Graham and general manager Howie Roseman. Tight end Brent Celek is next on the agenda. Now, here are some quick-hit observations after a day with the Eagles:

  • It doesn't take long to realize which team the Eagles are gunning for in the NFC East. On one wall in his new office, Roseman has the Dallas Cowboys' depth chart posted. (Looks like Doug Free and Alex Barron are co-starters). Roseman says the Eagles aren't obsessing with the Cowboys, but those last two losses aren't far from his mind. For the record, he has the Saints' and Colts' depth charts posted next to the Cowboys'. "That's who we have to go through based on last season," said Roseman.
  • Rookie safety Nate Allen looks a lot bigger than what I imagined. He's listed at 6-1, 210 pounds. And I'm told that he's beefing up as we speak. Roseman and coach Andy Reid love the fact that Allen played quarterback in high school and they believe he has the aptitude to make an immediate impact. Roseman expressed disappointment over Marlin Jackson's season-ending injury, but he added, "We didn't take a guy at No. 37 to be on the sideline. We drafted him there so that he could play immediately." Still, Roseman was watching film of a veteran safety who's currently on the street when I entered his office. The Eagles aren't planning to sign anyone immediately, but they'll be ready if someone else is injured.
  • Former Florida tight end Cornelius Ingram, who is returning from an ACL tear, is an impressive looking player. He's been a little shaky with his hands, but he could be an enormous target for Kevin Kolb. When he opened up on one play down the seam, he appeared to have pretty good speed. I think having a second tight end to go along with the talented Celek would help the Eagles. Right now, the Redskins appear to have the best tandem in the division with Chris Cooley and Fred Davis.
  • Former Florida standout Riley Cooper doesn't look like a fifth-round pick. He was plucking throws from Kolb no matter where he put them, and he and Hank Baskett had excellent days. I'm told, though, that Jeremy Maclin put on a show Monday. He's added some muscle to his lanky frame and people within the organization believe he's about to make a similar leap to what DeSean Jackson did in his second season.
  • Roseman headed me off at the pass before I could ask about Jackson's absence. He would only say that Jackson's had an excellent offseason and that this week's workouts were "voluntary." Kevin Kolb was very complimentary of Jackson, but he did note that his absence allowed a couple other receivers to flash this week. I asked Kolb if he knew Jackson was planning to skip this week. He paused and said, "I had an inclination." He added that he was sure Jackson had "a good explanation." ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Jackson's absence wasn't related to concerns about his contract. But we haven't been given any other explanation.
  • I had no clue it was this gorgeous in Philly in early June. If Reid could've guranteed Jackson this 78-degree weather, perhaps he wouldn't have retreated to Southern California, where's he reportedly spending the week.
  • Baskett was the MVP of today's session. He made several tough catches in traffic, including an acrobatic play along the sideline with three defensive backs in the area. Kolb simply threw it up high and Baskett made a play.
  • Speaking of Kolb, he's been remarkably sharp this week. He and Celek are close friends, and they've brought that chemistry to the field. He fired a pass down the middle of the field that Celek collected without ever having to break stride. There are going to be throws that Kolb doesn't make as well as Donovan McNabb, but he's showing excellent touch on passes in the middle of the field. And the fact that he's hitting his targets in stride will give them an opportunity to make plays. Kolb said he's never been a position before in which he had this many reliable targets. By the way, Jason Avant might be one of the most underrated players in the game. He catches everything, and he's capable of making the spectacular play as well.
  • Former LSU running back Charles Scott has good quickness, but he'll have to work on his concentration. On a screen pass, he was looking upfield and dropped the ball.
  • I still have my doubts about Moise Fokou as a starter at linebacker, but he was excellent in coverage Tuesday. He raced down the center of the field and broke up a pass to Celek 25 yards from the line of scrimmage. It was a big-time play and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was the first to rush over and congratulate him. Keep your eye on seventh-round pick Jamar Chaney out of Mississippi State. That's the one guy Roseman kept bringing up. The Eagles couldn't believe they were able to get him at that point in the draft. And so far, he looks like he belongs.
  • The Eagles have made first-round pick Brandon Graham a highlight tape of some of the top defensive ends in the league who share his relatively small frame. He's become a big fan of Denver's Elvis Dumervil and he's trying to take some of his moves to the practice field. Graham already knows how to get leverage, but he's used to offensive tackles taking angles against him. He said it's been adjustment to face tackles who are dropping straight back. It's made it more difficult to turn the corner, so he's trying to refine his inside moves. Graham's calling his new move the "chop, dip and rip."
  • With Asante Samuel absent this week and Ellis Hobbs sitting out team drills because of a neck injury, Dimitri Patterson and Joselio Hanson were the starting cornerbacks. Macho Harris also received plenty of reps at cornerback. And if you're looking for a darkhorse in training camp, check out the redemption of safety Quintin Demps. He was in the dog house with Reid last season, in part, because of his mouth. Now, he's taking a much more mature approach and I think he could earn some playing time. Former secondary coach Brian Stewart told me last season that Demps had immense potential, but he didn't take advantage of his opportunities. At this point, he's saying all the right things. And Roseman and Reid have both taken notice.
  • This is my first time to attend an Eagles practice when Donovan McNabb wasn't present. Very strange to look out there and see Kolb running the show with the first team. But he doesn't seem fazed by all the hoopla surrounding the trade. You can sense how much respect he has from his teammates as he walks around the facility. Some of the rookies actually seem a little nervous around him, which is a bit odd given his lack of experience. But he sort of has a swagger to him that suggests he's ready for this challenge. I'll have a lot more on Kolb in Thursday's column. His college coach, Art Briles, dropped by to see him last week and gave him a few pointers on throwing to his right. Much, much more to come.
PHILADELPHIA -- About midway through the Eagles’ practice Tuesday, everything stopped. The only sound was the low hum of the practice facility exhaust fans, sucking the humid air into the steamy South Philadelphia atmosphere.

Jackson
All eyes were on fallen free safety Marlin Jackson, who took off his gloves and threw them to the artificial surface in disgust. Jackson, a former Colts cornerback who is recovering from reconstructive surgery in both knees and trying to adjust to his new role as the Eagles’ starting free safety, then got up and was helped to the sideline, where he leaned his head against the gray wall and starting wailing in frustration and pain.

Practice quickly resumed after Jackson left the field and it was next man up -- rookie Nate Allen, the Eagles’ second-round draft pick. Not an ideal situation.

After practice, the Eagles announced that Jackson had suffered an ankle injury -- not another knee blowout -- which was of some relief. But the way Jackson reacted, it was clear the injury was serious, meaning the Eagles’ first great experiment to fix a defense that underachieved in 2009 has suffered a serious setback. (Note: Jackson ruptured his Achilles tendon and is out for the season.)

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was asked what this means for the free safety position. He just shook his head, obviously upset about the injury to Jackson, who was signed to a one-year free-agent deal and attacked his new position with consistent vigor and a constant smile.

"We’ll just have to see what happens with Marlin," said McDermott, not sounding too optimistic.

Without Jackson, the Eagles may be forced to submit a rookie to the rigors of the free safety spot for the second straight year. After perennial Pro Bowler Brian Dawkins was allowed to leave for Denver last spring, the Eagles tried converting rookie corner Macho Harris into a free safety. That didn’t work. Veterans Quintin Demps and Sean Jones were given a shot. Nothing worked.

At least Allen played safety at South Florida. But McDermott’s defense is very aggressive -- the Eagles blitzed on 41 percent of the called pass plays last year, sixth most in the league -- and often leaves the secondary vulnerable to big plays. Breaking down protection only works if you protect the house on the back end, and the Eagles gave up 15 touchdown passes off the blitz last year, second most in the league.

After practice, Allen was surrounded by reporters trying to measure his reaction to Jackson’s injury.

"All I know right now is I’ve got a lot of work to do," said Allen. "I’ve got a lot to learn. I’ve got to learn the whole system. So much of it is blurry. I need to get it down so I can play fast. That’s the point. That’s what you want to do."

The learning curve for Allen just got a lot steeper.

What's in Mosley's Mailbag?

May, 28, 2010
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Things got a little stale in the mailbag while I was on "vacation" last week. We've surpassed the 9,000-question mark, in part, because I can't bear to delete your heartfelt thoughts/threats. Let's have a fresh start today:

Danny from New York is worried about his Eagles being left out of the mix: Give the Eagles some love, or at least a couple of posts, please. I've counted three legitimate posts in around two weeks or so. You just wrote about the Cowboys' free safety issue with Alan Ball, but what about the Eagles' free safety situation with the all-out competition between second-rounder Nate Allen, Quintin Demps, Macho Harris and Marlin Jackson? Are you really going to avoid one of the most competitive and important battles on a perennial contender from the division you cover?

Mosley: Danny, thanks for your concern. I'm planning to fly to Philly for the next minicamp and take a long look at that safety battle. In the meantime, I promise not to write another column on Ball -- as tough as that will be. But let me save you some worry. Allen's going to emerge as the starter. Jackson is a versatile guy who can help out the Eagles if his knee's right, but Allen has the athleticism and smarts to lock down the starting job. Don't doubt me on this one, Danny.


Carroll from Frisco, Texas, has a Cowboys question: Matt, I love your blog, and when Galloway shuts up enough to let you talk, your radio show here in Dallas is great as well.Yesterday y'all talked about the starting RB position for the Cowboys. Do you think Jerry Jones' recent comments on Barber's performance during OTAs is a bait to increase trade interest around the league? I just find it odd that he has reversed his perspective on the starting role after he was so supportive of Felix Jones.

Mosley: Thanks for your kind words, Carroll. We're working with Galloway on making more room for the NFC East blog. Regarding Jones' quotes about Barber, I never put too much stock into what he's saying in the offseason. This is the same guy who kept telling us that Roy Williams was having an excellent offseason at this time last year. He may have simply wanted to give Barber a pat on the back since he's been sort of beat up by the media and opposing teams. No matter who starts, Jones will get the bulk of the work. He's the most dynamic back for the Cowboys and Jason Garrett has to find a way to get him plenty of touches.


Eli from Washington has an Albert Haynesworth question: Hi Matt, love the beast coverage! I was wondering, with all the talk of Haynesworth being unhappy as a gap-control nose tackle, that Jim Haslett does not want to play to his strengths. Why is it that the new Skins brain trust does not want to use him as the Cowboys use Jay Ratliff and allow Albert to get after the quarterback? What is it about the Cowboys' 3-4 allows them to use their NT this way? Thanks very much for informing us optimistic fans here in DC.

Mosley: Eli, thanks for stopping by this week. It's sort of hard to know what Haslett has in store for Haynesworth if the guy refuses to drop by Redskins Park. Haslett's pretty flexible with his 3-4 concepts, so there's a chance he'd use Haynesworth like Ratliff at times. Let him shoot the gap and try to make a play. But for the most part, Haslett wants his nose tackle taking on double teams and allowing linebackers to swarm to the ball. You think London Fletcher will be good to go if Haynesworth's jumping around the center to get to the quarterback? No, I don't either. But again, we don't know exactly how Haslett would use Haynesworth because the guy's not around. I have to believe that he'd play him some as a 3-4 defensive end, and I think Haynesworth would do a good job at that spot. But he's falling more and more behind every day. And he's also losing the P.R. battle with Mike Shanahan.


Jim M. from New York has some interesting news to share: Hey Matt, just FYI: In case you were wondering what Amani Toomer is up to lately, he plays in my weeknight hockey league in Wallington, N.J. I burned him on the way to two goals last night. Just sayin... Love the blog. Jim.

Mosley: Jim, on behalf of the blog, we're really proud to hear about your big night against Amani. Here's a photo of Amani and Boomer Esiason at a charity hockey game from six years ago. And some of you might find it interesting that Toomer's father is the scoreboard operator for the Raiders.


Peter from NYC has some Giants questions: In your last chat someone compared the inexperienced Giants receiving corps at this time last year and the criticism they were getting to the current situation at linebacker. The receivers turned out well and he thought we should give the benefit of the doubt with regards to the linebackers because they were right about the receivers. You mentioned that you wouldn't give a defense that bad last year the benefit of the doubt. While I agree with your sentiment, I think there is more to why they don't deserve the benefit of the doubt and why that comparison doesn't hold water. The wide receivers may have been inexperienced, but the fact is that since 2007, they spent a second-round pick on Steve Smith, a third-round pick on Mario Manningham in 2008, third-round pick on Ramses Barden in 2009 and a first-round pick on Hakeem Nicks in 2009. The talent is there. Meanwhile, the only pick higher than a fourth-round pick in that time spent on a linebacker was a second rounder they spent on Clint Sintim in 2009. The talent simply doesn't seem to be there at linebacker. Why are they sticking with this linebacking corps? Why didn't they make a stronger effort to trade for Kirk Morrison?

Mosley: You raise an excellent point, Peter. In some ways, the Giants had given the receiving position so much attention that several guys had to become busts for things to not work out. That's not to minimize the fine work that Smith and Nicks are doing, but the teams obviously has more depth concerns at linebacker.

Fortunately for the Giants, I think rookie middle linebacker Phillip Dillard is the real deal. He came on strong last season at Nebraska and he's looked like he belongs in workouts. But middle linebacker is still a huge question mark. And it's not like Sintim's some type of veteran. The most experienced starter, Michael Boley, didn't exactly light it up after signing with the Giants in free agency. But his ability to cover tight ends and running backs in space makes him a valuable commodity. The Giants made the decision to beef up their front four rather than to overreact to the need at linebacker. We'll soon find out whether they made the right choice

Philadelphia Eagles' weakness: Cornerback

May, 19, 2010
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NFC East Weaknesses: Cowboys (5/17) | Giants (5/18) | Eagles (5/19) | Redskins (5/20)

The Philadelphia Eagles have revamped their roster -- out with the old and in with the new. This could be a transition year for Philadelphia, but this is an exceptional organization and looks to have fortified its roster in many spots. While the Eagles might not be an elite contender, I don’t expect this team to turn into a losing organization in 2010.

Marlin Jackson
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThe Eagles acquired Marlin Jackson in free agency.
The Eagles had a wealth of draft picks, but didn’t address their cornerback need until the fourth round, despite sending starter Sheldon Brown to the Browns prior to the draft. They did improve their stable of pass-rushers, and obviously that should help the cornerbacks in coverage.

Marlin Jackson, a cornerback in Indianapolis, was signed in free agency. If second-round pick Nate Allen can grab a hold of the starting free safety spot, Jackson could once again get reps at corner, but he is coming off a serious injury and wasn’t the quickest or fastest cover man to begin with. Safety is probably his best fit at this point. Asante Samuel is set as one starter and is a very good player. He makes plenty of big plays, but he is also a liability against the run and can be too risky at times.

The other candidates to play opposite Samuel and as the top option as the nickel corner are Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson, Macho Harris and fourth-round pick Trevard Lindley. Hobbs is undersized, but feisty and fast. Hanson and Harris haven’t shown themselves to be starting material, and Lindley is not very physical. In addition to being a rookie, he is coming off a serious injury.

Things could be worse at corner, no question about it, but it does seem safe to say that the Eagles' opponents are going to dictate matchups by utilizing three- and four-wide receiver sets and making Philadelphia put average backend players on the field while shuffling front-seven talent to the sideline. With their talent at the wideout position, the Cowboys and Giants should particularly look to this strategy against their divisional rival.

The Big Question: Eagles whiff at CB?

April, 27, 2010
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NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Did the Philadelphia Eagles wheel and deal themselves out of a quality cornerback?

[+] EnlargeGraham
Eric Bronson/Icon SMIThe Eagles filled a void by drafting Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham, but they still have questions at cornerback.
If nothing else, new Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was entertaining while running his first draft alongside coach Andy Reid. Even the stoic Reid admitted to being impressed with the way Roseman moved up and down the draft board.

I've talked to some scouts who thought the Eagles "reached" a bit in moving up 11 spots to land Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham. But Roseman and Reid obviously decided that Graham was the best fit scheme-wise as a pass-rusher and they didn't want to take the chance of losing him. The fact they gave up two third-rounders to move from No. 24 to No. 13 was almost forgotten as Roseman basically tried to commandeer the fourth round. The Eagles once again extended a helping hand to a division foe in flipping picks with the Cowboys in the second round. The Cowboys took Penn State linebacker Sean Lee, who's expected to eventually take over for Keith Brooking at inside linebacker.

I think Graham and South Florida safety Nate Allen were both solid choices for the Eagles, but it concerns me they couldn't find a potential starter at cornerback. Veteran Marlin Jackson, signed in free agency, has experience at cornerback, but he's probably more comfortable at safety after tearing the ACL in each knee the past two years. Asante Samuel's a perennial Pro Bowler, but he's one of the least willing tacklers in the league.

The projected starter on the other side, Ellis Hobbs, is returning from a neck injury. I thought the Eagles needed more depth at cornerback in this draft, but they only came up with fourth-rounder Trevard Lindley out of Kentucky. Had Lindley come out after the '08 season, he probably would have gone in the second round. But the cornerback suffered a high ankle sprain last year and had a challenging senior season.

"He got banged-up this year,'' Reid said Saturday. "He had a high ankle sprain and that can kind of put a damper on a college season, and that's what happened. It happened early and he never really got over it, but he didn't want to stop playing, which showed me something."

Good to know, but it doesn't really address the issue that Miles Austin and Jason Witten ran roughshod over this secondary at the end of the '09 season. Even Roy Williams stumbled into daylight a couple times against this unit. Reid seems to think that players such as Macho Harris and Joselio Hanson can help patch together a decent group of cornerbacks. But that's a scary proposition when you know that the Giants and Cowboys both have big-time weapons on the outside. And the Redskins happened to acquire a quarterback who has been successful with inferior talent at wide receiver before. (I'd give Santana Moss the edge over Freddie Mitchell.)

I think the Eagles certainly improved their roster this past weekend, but cornerback is still a position of need. If you want to poke holes in Roseman's first draft, I'd start with that position.

Draft Watch: NFC East

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
12:00
PM ET
NFC Recent History: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Recent history.

Dallas Cowboys

One of the reasons the Cowboys don't have any glaring needs (other than place-kicker) is that they hit on some picks in '07 and '08. And of course, you can't discount what Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland accomplished in stocking this team with talent from 2003 to 2006. Owner Jerry Jones has spent a lot of his money on defense, and in the first round in '07 he turned to Purdue outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, who was brilliant down the stretch in '09. In 2008, the Cowboys found a running back and a cornerback in the first round. Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins could both be stars in the league for years. Because of the Roy Williams trade in '08, the '09 draft was pretty much a wash. The Cowboys tried to land special-teams standouts who could hopefully play their way into larger roles. Other than kickoff specialist David Buehler, the '09 draft is still a mystery. With the 27th pick in next month's draft, the Cowboys don't have to reach for any position. I know they're hoping to see a couple of cornerbacks slip in the first round and it would be nice to add a linebacker. But there are no glaring needs heading into the draft, and that puts Dallas in an enviable position. But if you study trends over the past seven years or so, you'd have to expect the Cowboys to go with a defensive player in the first round.

New York Giants

The Giants can't rest on their laurels of that outstanding class of '07. When you land a quality running back such as Ahmad Bradshaw in the seventh round, you're on a roll. And general manager Jerry Reese will always be remembered for a class that included Aaron Ross, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss. It was an immediate impact draft, and the Giants need another one in April. In '08, the Giants took a safety and cornerback with their first two picks. Safety Kenny Phillips out of Miami has the talent to become a Pro Bowler if he can recover from a serious knee injury, and cornerback Terrell Thomas was one of the few defenders who played well in '08. The Giants selected wide receiver Mario Manningham in the third round, but the '08 draft was about creating depth on defense. It's hard to nail down a trend with Reese and his scouting staff because they're pretty patient about waiting for the right players. They rarely get obsessed with a certain position, although linebacker is certainly a big need in April. I expect the Giants to stay right where they are at No. 15 and select a talented player. But I promise you that Reese hasn't committed to taking a linebacker.

Philadelphia Eagles

In the 2007 draft, the Eagles drafted their future (presumably) quarterback in Kevin Kolb. Then they landed starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley in the third round and superb tight end Brent Celek in the fifth. Defensive end Victor Abiamiri has never really lived up to his second-round status and running back Tony Hunt was an outright bust from the start. The Eagles tried to bolster their defensive line in '08, but Trevor Laws has been a disappointment and Bryan Smith is nowhere to be found. The draft was saved by a wide receiver out of Cal named DeSean Jackson. He's become one of the most feared offensive players in the game. The Eagles continued to covet speed and quickness on offense in '09 by drafting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy. They also hit on late-round pick Moise Fokou, who could emerge as an outstanding special-teams player -- if he'll stop getting penalties. The Eagles haven't done enough in the draft to bolster their secondary over the past three years. It's time to start drafting cornerbacks and safeties a little earlier. Macho Harris and Quintin Demps have been decent finds, but you can't just throw them out there as starters. It's time for the Eagles to use premium picks on the defensive side of the ball if they want to close the gap with the Cowboys. To be clear, it's time to find someone who can cover Jason Witten and Miles Austin.

Washington Redskins

With new coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen, this organization is headed in a different direction. We haven't seen any of the splashy moves in free agency that owner Dan Snyder loved. In the past, the Redskins rarely had a lot of picks in the draft. They took safety LaRon Landry in '07, but he's never really met expectations. He obviously has a lot of physical gifts but his habit of biting on double moves gets the Skins in big trouble. In '08, Snyder and Vinny Cerrato turned to the offensive side of the ball and spent their three second-round picks on two receivers and a tight end. The verdict's still out on the '08 draft, but tight end Fred Davis emerged as a consistent threat when Chris Cooley was injured last season. And Devin Thomas has rare speed and quickness as a wideout. Now, he needs to continue showing maturity. With the addition of pass-rusher Brian Orakpo in '09, the Redskins landed a Pro Bowl player. Now it's time to start drafting offensive and defensive linemen. That's the trend that stands out over the past decade. The Redskins didn't build in the trenches, and they've paid the price. With the No. 4 pick, Shanahan will be tempted to take a left tackle. Especially if Sam Bradford's already gone. And it's hard to go wrong with either Russell Okung or Bryan Bulaga.

Safety Jackson to visit Eagles today

March, 9, 2010
3/09/10
3:59
PM ET
The Philadelphia Eagles have announced that former Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson will stop by the club's practice facility for a visit this afternoon. The cornerback/safety visited the Ravens this morning, but he obviously left the building without signing a contract.

Since the Eagles are making Jackson available to the media Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. ET, something tells me there's a good chance they aim to sign him. Jackson is coming off a serious knee injury, so I'm sure the Eagles will put him through a rigorous physical. But if the 26-year-old is cleared by team doctors, the signing makes total sense.

Jackson would be expected to start opposite Quintin Mikell at free safety. He's missed a lot of time the past two seasons with the Colts, but he was an ascending player before the injuries. Many have speculated the Eagles would select a safety in April's draft, but I think it's their preference to find a veteran starter such as Jackson. Last year's combination of Quintin Demps/Macho Harris/Sean Jones didn't exactly work out, which is to say it was a complete failure.

The Eagles need a safety who can potentially cover talented tight ends such as Jason Witten and Chris Cooley. As Les Bowen of the Daily News reminded me, SI.com's Peter King made the following statement about Jackson in his Monday Morning Quarterback column:
"I'm doing a thorough physical on free agent cornerback Marlin Jackson, dumped by the Colts," said King. "And unless I think his knee won't allow him to start the season, I'm moving aggressively to sign him. He's now missed much of the past two years with injuries, but he's a smart 26-year-old corner the Colts thought so highly of that they picked him in the first round five years ago. Worth the risk. He'll visit the Eagles and Ravens this week, and I'd be surprised if he were unemployed Friday."

Unless something shows up on the physical, I'd expect for Jackson to sign with the Eagles on Wednesday. And make sure you read to the bottom of Bowen's blog entry for a great line about Drew Rosenhaus.

What's in Mosley's combine mailbag?

February, 28, 2010
2/28/10
4:02
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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)

Draft Watch: NFC East

February, 17, 2010
2/17/10
12:00
PM ET
NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: biggest team needs.

Dallas Cowboys

I had a chance to visit with owner Jerry Jones on ESPN 103.3 in Dallas-Fort Worth on Tuesday and he made it pretty clear that he's not feeling pressure to fill any certain positions. In some ways, the Cowboys will be rolling out two draft classes in 2010. The '09 class was taken out by a wide variety of injuries, so Jones is anxious to see how some of those players respond. Jones didn't confirm this, but I've been told that the scouting department is taking a long look at the safety position with the No. 27 pick overall. The organization is disappointed in the play of Ken Hamlin and it's time to start looking for his eventual replacement. Alan Ball has looked good at times, but I'm not sure he's ready for full-time duty. The Cowboys also would like to add depth along the offensive line. Doug Free emerged as a solid contributor in '09, but the team needs to continue drafting and developing young linemen. I'm not sure where the Cowboys will find a place-kicker, but it's certainly a major need. In fact, it's probably their biggest need heading into the 2010 season.

New York Giants

The Giants have to figure out what went wrong on defense and start adding talent. Linebacker Clint Sintim is a player from the '09 draft who's expected to take a major step this offseason. And there's also speculation that the Giants could go after Karlos Dansby in free agency. The Cardinals linebacker would give the Giants much-needed speed and power. You also have a major need at safety. The Giants were burned when Kenny Phillips went down with a season-ending knee injury after Week 2. C.C. Brown flamed out as Phillips' replacement and Aaron Rouse wasn't a lot better. You cannot enter the '10 season on a wing and a prayer that Phillips will stay healthy. The Giants will have plenty of options at No. 15. I wouldn't rule out a linebacker with that pick. But if a talented offensive tackle is available, general manager Jerry Reese will be ready to pull the trigger.

Philadelphia Eagles

The back end of this defense needs help immediately. You can't just depend on Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown to get you through another season at cornerback. With that No. 24 pick, the Eagles should look long and hard at another cornerback. And obviously safety is a position of need. Quintin Mikell can't line up next to Macho Harris or Quintin Demps next season. The lack of a reliable safety really put the Eagles in a tough spot against teams with elite tight ends such as the Chargers and Cowboys. The Eagles also need to be on the lookout for another pressure player on defense. Trent Cole is one of the top defensive ends in the league, but he needs some consistent help. Defensive tackle is another need. I thought Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson looked tired late in the season. The Eagles can't afford for that to happen again. On offense, you have to figure out the Stacy Andrews situation. If you think Nick Cole can be a long-term answer at right guard, you have to think about releasing Andrews and his big salary.

Washington Redskins

If defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is going to make the transition to the 3-4 scheme, the Skins will have a different mindset in this draft. London Fletcher's a great player, but he wasn't made for the 3-4. It just won't work. The Skins will start looking for big thumpers at inside linebacker and excellent pass-rushers on the outside. Brian Orakpo should make a seamless transition to the new scheme, but I'm not so sure about Andre Carter. The Redskins also need to think about drafting cornerbacks and safeties. The back end of this defense needs to show major improvement. But obviously, all the talk will be about the quarterback position. I think Jason Campbell is a legitimate starter in this league, but Mike Shanahan has to go with the guy he's most comfortable with. That's why I think the Skins likely will stay at No. 4 and pick Sam Bradford. Then the Redskins have to start building an offensive line. The offensive line has suffered from years of draft neglect. It's time to start investing in the trenches.

Thursday Beastlines

December, 31, 2009
12/31/09
11:18
AM ET
Let's take a quick look at the NFC East's biggest storylines this morning:

Cowboys

Eagles

Giants

Redskins

How I See It: NFC East Stock Watch

December, 29, 2009
12/29/09
11:00
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

1. Albert Haynesworth, Redskins defensive tackle: He picked an interesting time to take a few shots at the organization that guaranteed him $41 million. Haynesworth, who hasn't been able to stay on the field because of an ankle injury, was sent home Christmas Day for being 20 minutes late to a meeting at Redskins Park. He then fired a few shots at defensive coordinator Greg Blache's scheme via The Washington Post that evening. Let's use a little common sense, Albert. Every one of these coaches will likely be gone in a couple of weeks. Does it really do any good to throw them under the bus at this point? Haynesworth's reputation as an elite defensive tackle has exceeded his actual production on the field this season. But at least he talks a good game.

2. Giants' D-line: It's hard to single out someone since the entire group has struggled this season. But at some point you have to have some pride in stopping the run. Allowing Jonathan Stewart to go for 206 rushing yards in the final game at Giants Stadium is embarrassing. And go ahead and throw in the linebackers, too. They look slow at times, and when they're in position to make a play, they miss tackles. Bill Sheridan will probably lose his job as defensive coordinator, but I put more responsibility on the players.

3. Macho Harris, Eagles safety: I normally give rookies a little grace, but Harris has played enough this season to be held to a higher standard. His hit on a defenseless receiver after an Asante Samuel interception helped put the Eagles in poor field position. And after the Broncos had trimmed the Eagles' lead to 10 points, Harris fumbled a kickoff return to give Denver another quick score. If you're going to give Harris meaningful playing time in the playoffs, he has to use better judgment.

Rising

[+] EnlargeJay Ratliff
AP Photo/Rob CarrJay Ratliff recorded two sacks in Sunday's win at Washington.
1. Jay Ratliff, Cowboys defensive tackle: He absolutely took over the game Sunday. He finished with two sacks but he also stuffed the Redskins' running game. Center Casey Rabach and the Skins' guards had no chance against Ratliff's power and speed. It's hard to imagine that this guy was a seventh-round draft pick. He's now one of the best defensive players in the league. Also a special mention here for Tony Romo, who had a superb December. If Roy Williams makes a play on the ball, Romo would've made it through the month without a single interception.

2. Brent Celek, Eagles tight end: He's emerged as one of Donovan McNabb's most reliable weapons. When the Broncos sold out to stop DeSean Jackson, it was Celek who burned them in the first half. He finished with four catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. And his one-handed catch in the center of the field was brilliant. Tony Gonzalez will probably get the most Pro Bowl votes in the NFC, but I think Jason Witten and Celek are playing at the highest level right now. Jackson gets most of the attention, but Celek's put up huge numbers this season.

3. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles wide receiver: The Eagles needed someone to make a big-time play at the end of the game and Maclin was up to the task. His 27-yard catch on the sideline with 59 seconds left against the Broncos put the Eagles in position to win the game, 30-27. He's made the adjustment from the spread offense in college to the West Coast offense a lot sooner than some of us expected. The combination of Jackson, Maclin and Jason Avant at wide receiver gives the Eagles one of the best groups in the league.

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