NFC East: Matt Leinart
Of all the football games I've ever watched, the Dallas Cowboys' 3-0 preseason victory over the Oakland Raiders on Monday night was definitely ... well, it was one of them. It was a sluggish, poorly played game by two teams that obviously weren't at full strength or interested in showing a national TV audience very much of their playbooks. At the time it ended, nine Major League Baseball teams had outscored the two NFL teams' combined total.
But it was a game a defensive coordinator could love, and surely Dallas' Rob Ryan will use it as a rallying point for his defense in the days and weeks to come. As we say all the time here, there is little or no predictive value in any of these games. Some teams game-plan for them, many don't, and there's no way to really know what you're watching in terms of who's trying and who's not. But if you're a defensive coordinator, you'd better believe you can hold up a 3-0 victory and shout at your guys about what they're capable of if they play hard. Can't hurt, could help, you know.
The Cowboys' offense ... won't have as much fun watching film of this one. Let's get to what we saw from the Cowboys in Oakland on Monday night.
1. The interior of the offensive line is not good right now, and it affects everything the offense tries to do. Tony Romo had no time to throw, DeMarco Murray had no room to run and the No. 3 wide receiver candidates who were running with the first team had no opportunity to show what they could do. David Arkin started at center in place of the injured Phil Costa, and in the first half he got abused by Tommy Kelly for one sack and was also called for holding. The good news for Arkin is that he didn't botch any snaps, and he did look better as he continued to play into the third quarter (and the Raiders kept taking out first-team and second-team defensive players). Mackenzy Bernadeau, who started at right guard, is likely to get snaps at center in upcoming preseason games, but since he's coming off an injury the Cowboys are trying to work him in at guard to get him acclimated. Derrick Dockery started at left guard, and Ronald Leary struggled with the second and third teams. Now, the key things to remember are (a) this isn't news and (b) preseason games are about figuring out what you need to improve. There's no reason to think the Cowboys' offensive line will look worse at any point this year than it does right now, and they've known for a while that they have issues there. If they can get Costa and Nate Livings and Bernadeau healthy, they'll at least have the crew with which they planned to go into the season. I'm just not sure that's good enough -- or that they have anything behind the starters that can help in case of injury. And it's worth mentioning that right tackle Doug Free didn't look good either.
2. Andre Holmes had a good night. Of those No. 3 wide receiver candidates, Holmes stood out the most, with 40 yards on three catches. Holmes' asset is his size, and he looks like he's doing a good job of using his big body to shield the ball from defenders and make catches in traffic. Long way to go and a lot to see, but Holmes helped his case. Kevin Ogletree likely remains the favorite and got the first crack at it, starting in place of the injured Miles Austin. Ogletree caught the only ball thrown his way, for 12 yards, and had a goofy moment when he fell on his face trying to make a block and slipping on the infield dirt at the Oakland Coliseum. Expect to see more from Dwayne Harris, Tim Benford, Cole Beasley and Danny Coale in upcoming games. Beasley was the slot receiver with the first-team offense but didn't see any action. Interesting that Dez Bryant did start in spite of his hamstring injury and made one excellent 24-yard catch before taking a seat.
3. The defense did look fired-up and kind of deep in spots. Defensive end Marcus Spears played like a man who knows he needs to win a roster spot. Safety Gerald Sensabaugh came up with an early interception on a play on which cornerback Orlando Scandrick had his man well covered. Kyle Wilber showed some ability to generate pressure on Matt Leinart on a third-down play, though he did leave the game with a broken thumb. Tyrone Crawford pushed the pocket a little bit during his time in there. And I think that inside linebacker spot is going to be a real strength, as Sean Lee and Bruce Carter both looked good. Yes, the Raiders ran the ball effectively against the first-team defense, but that first-team defense was without starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff as well as defensive end Jason Hatcher and outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. So I imagine they'll be better once those guys are on the field.
4. Not-so-special teams. The Cowboys were called for penalties on two punts and one field goal attempt, each time allowing the Raiders to keep the ball. That needs to be tightened up, clearly, and it's the kind of thing that just infuriates coaches in these preseason games.
5. Miscellany: Adrian Hamilton, the undrafted linebacker who had 20.5 sacks at Prairie View last year, looked active and quick. Remains to be seen whether he has the size and speed to play against NFL offenses. ... Rookie tight end James Hanna showed good hands as a receiver and looked good on kick coverage. ... Dwayne Harris was called for holding and, yeah, that can work against a guy who's trying to get a job as a No. 3 wide receiver. ... Yes, you like what you see from Victor Butler, as you always do in August. Still need to see whether and how the coaches find more ways to get him on the field once the real games begin. ... Seemed like punter Chris Jones was fine.
I don't think Leinart wants any part of backing up the durable Manning. He's played behind Kurt Warner and he was hoping to get his career off the ground with the Cardinals this season. Now it looks like Derek Anderson is the odds-on favorite to win that job.
Leinart was a brilliant college quarterback who's never displayed the commitment it takes to make it in the NFL. I don't see him being a good fit for Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin at all. David Carr flamed out in Houston before joining the Giants, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. With Leinart, you get the impression that he has a sense of entitlement based on his paycheck and college success. The Giants don't need a guy like that in their locker room.
Let Chan Gailey deal with Leinart.
Zach R. from Fayetteville, Ark., wants to spice up the Pro Bowl: Basically my idea is that we scrap the whole NFC vs. AFC and have true all-star teams. After all the Pro Bowlers are selected, the two coaching staffs that are in place for the game get to basically have a draft to determine the teams that will play in the event. It would give the fans a chance to see mixtures of players never thought possible! How awesome would it be if Tony Romo was throwing bombs to Andre Johnson or Peyton Manning handing it off to Adrian Peterson? And the fact that the mixture of players on each team would change each year would make each year's Pro Bowl unique. I just thought I would throw the idea out there and see what you think.
Mosley: Zach, thanks for putting so much thought into salvaging the worst of the four "major" all-star games. I would vote to scrap the entire concept of a Pro Bowl. There's at least some interest in the baseball and basketball all-star games because they happen during the regular season. By the time the Pro Bowl arrives each season, we don't really have much of an appetite for an all-star game (yes, I know the ratings were good for us). And moving the game to the weekend before the Super Bowl only seemed to encourage more cancellations from players. I sort of like your suggestion about mixing up AFC and NFC players, though. It would certainly spice things up to have the coaches from both sides participate in a draft. It would also give us another announcement show for TV.
Glenn from Hanover, Pa., has a question about Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick: Matt, what do you think of the probabilty of the following scenario in Philly: Eagles trade McNabb and Vick this year for draft picks. Kevin Kolb is the starter in 2010 and Jeff Garcia is brought in to be the veteran backup. That's the plan that makes the most sense to me. And a little known stat: Kolb is the only QB in NFL history to throw for over 300 yards in his first two NFL starts. He can move the offense and I believe he is more of a typical West Coast QB than McNabb .
Mosley: I think there's a better chance of the Eagles moving Vick than McNabb at this point. They don't want to pay Vick $5 million in 2010 to be a Wildcat quarterback. If the Eagles can land a third or fourth-rounder for Vick, they'd have to feel pretty good about things. If no one wants to trade for Vick, then you have a decision to make. I think the Eagles will demand a first-rounder for McNabb. So will they eventually settle for a second-round pick from either the Cardinals or the Favre-less Vikings? That remains to be seen. At this point, I think there's a 70 percent chance McNabb plays quarterback for the Eagles in 2010.
Champ from D.C. also has a McNabb question: Mosley, respect your work very much, so just one important question. You often indicate that you see Mcnabb somewhere other than Philly in 2010. I don't know about you but this makes no sense for one completely obvious reason. Who is going to replace him? Kevin Kolb threw six interceptions in two games. Meanwhile, Mcnabb is top three all-time in touchdown-to-INT ratio. There aren't any better options on the market. With all the pieces in place (on the offensive side, anyway), why do you think Andy Reid would do something stupid like let Mcnabb walk away? You can't leave the most important position on a team to an unkown during a time like this. Bottom line: Mcnabb is the best option we have, and letting him walk away now (he sitll has a few years in him) isn't the Eagles style. They'll wait 'til his play declines to not renew his contract and let him walk away (see also: Dawkins, Brian/Douglas, Hugh/Trotter, Jeremiah/Sheppard, Lito).
Mosley: First off, Kolb threw only three interceptions in his two starts in '09 and they all came in one game against the Saints. He actually put up solid numbers in a loss to the Saints and a win over the Chiefs. That's not enough to make the Eagles think that Kolb could take over and basically pick up where McNabb left off, but it's certainly a positive sign. And it's not like the Eagles are simply going to let McNabb "walk away." They'll only trade him if they can find a team willing to send them a high draft pick. Both McNabb and Kolb are entering the final year of their contracts. You don't want McNabb as a lame-duck quarterback. It just doesn't make sense. That's why it wouldn't completely surprise me if the Eagles ended up dealing him.
Dave from somwhere in Texas has a Redskins question: Matt, you have been vocal about the Redskins' Jason Campbell needing a change of scenery. How about Campbell going to the Cardinals for Matt Leinart? Jason is a pretty good pocket passer and Leinart is a better quarterback in play action, making him a good fit with Shanahan.
Mosley: I don't think that would be a wise move by the Redskins. Campbell put up decent numbers during a season in which the Skins may have had the worst offensive line in the league. Leinart's failed to live up to his first-round pedigree and I wouldn't give up a proven player such as Campbell for a guy who hasn't accomplished anything in the league. Let's remember that it was Leinart being a bust that cleared the way for Warner to cement his future Hall of Fame status. (And yes, I think he'll eventually get in the HOF, although not on the first ballot.)
Jason from Bryn Mawr, Pa., is concerned about Asante Samuel: Matt, although I thought Brian Baldinger was horrible as an in-game analyst, he does a very nice job breaking down game film and presenting his findings on weekly radio shows. I heard him on with Ray Didinger last week discussing the Eagles defensive woes. Surprisingly, he mentioned that the Eagles will need to take action with Asante Samuel, because he plays the game to suit his own purposes and not the teams. Very interesting. There is no doubt Samuels is a top cornerback in the league, but Baldinger's point was that when you watch the film of all the games, Samuel constantly puts the team in bad situations due to his route jumping to pad his INTs. Sure, he may have nine INTs, but he makes 30 to 40 plays that hurt the team.
Mosley: Jason, I think it's a fair point by Baldinger. And you saw Samuel try to jump a route in last night's Pro Bowl game and get beat on a deep ball. His knack for reading the quarterback is a pretty remarkable but his reluctance to make tackles is what frustrates a lot of Eagles fans. You saw him early in the Pro Bowl game allow some nice gains on the screen because he wanted no part of the tackle. Just a very soft player when it comes to making tackles. But when you make nine interceptions, you have a little more leeway in the toughness category. I do think the Eagles would be wise to draft another cornerback in the first round. With Sheldon Brown staggered by injuries and Samuel's refusal to tackle, you have plenty of room for improvement. I would argue that drafting a cornerback is more important than selecting a safety for the Eagles.
Anton from Montreal has a question about Flozell Adams: Hey Matt, do you think Flozell Adams, because of his strengh, could move over to the right side and let Doug Free, who is more of a finesse player, play on the left side of the o-line? I was very frustrated with colombo this season and thought Free and Adams both outplayed him.
Mosley: I don't see that happening, Anton. Adams has played left tackle for many years now, so he'd be reluctant to make the switch. And Colombo was playing pretty well before his leg injury knocked him out for seven games. I think he'll come back strong in 2010, so there's really no need to move Adams to the right side.
Matt from Charlotte, N.C., wants to discuss the draft from a Giants perspective: Love the blog, Matt. Thank you for making my workday that much less productive. Kiper had the Giants going with Carlos Dunlap with the No. 15 pick in his first mock draft. I know a lot will change by the time of the draft but am I the only one that thinks this is crazy? The Giants have a glaring need at ILB and Safety, and I could see them going OL or DT if there are any studs out there but DE? Kiwi was unhappy this year being a backup and rightfully so as he'd be a starter on most teams. I understand it was a bad pass rush this year but with two former Pro Bowlers and Kiwi, why would the Giants even consider a DE in the first three rounds?
Mosley: Matt, thanks for making us a part of your non-productivity. I don't think you can ever have enough pressure players, so I wouldn't have any problem with the Giants taking Dunlap at No. 15. But I think it's more likely that the Giants will take someone such as safety Taylor Mays. He's a big guy (6-3, 230) who has the chance to be an intimidating player. I'm told that Mays didn't have a great week at the Senior Bowl, but teams loved the fact that he showed up to compete. The Giants aren't going to start drafting based on need because it doesn't go along with their philosophy. But if the best player on the board happens to match up with their biggest need, there you go. I think Mays is a player they really like. But I also think offensive lineman Mike Iupati out of Idaho is someone who intrigues general manager Jerry Reese.
2. Arizona Cardinals: If Kurt Warner retires, which he's expected to do, the Cardinals would be in the mix. Matt Leinart hasn't done anything to convince coaches or fans that he's ready to take over the team. You'd be safer going with McNabb.
3. Cleveland Browns: The new general manager is Tom Heckert, who spent years with McNabb in Philly. I also know that Heckert's a huge supporter of Kevin Kolb. And the Browns wouldn't have to give up quite as much for an unproven quarterback such as Kolb.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Greetings from University of Phoenix Stadium, where the roof is still closed even though it's gorgeous outside. I can see ESPN's Ed Werder visiting with Troy Aikman at midfield as we speak.
Ed hit the ground running this morning with a ton of fresh information on the Adam "Pacman" Jones situation. Werder reports that Jones apologized to his teammates Friday for the distraction he caused by engaging in a fistfight with his team-hired bodyguard earlier in the week. Wade Phillips addressed the team Friday and then he and his staff left the practice field so that Pacman could address the team in private.
Werder also reports that team captain Bradie James had a one-on-one visit with Pacman, who has informed teammates that Tuesday night's scuffle with bodyguard Tommy Jones was even more violent than previously reported. (It's amazing that only a ceramic umbrella on a bathroom vanity was damaged).
James said that Pacman was extremely focused during the week and desperately wants to repay his teammates for their support. I'm sure owner Jerry Jones would like for all of this to simply go away -- hence his efficiently run internal investigation that resulted in no disciplinary action.
Jerry went on his weekly radio show Friday and once again attempted to pin the blame on Tommy Jones. And, yes, it's becoming difficult to keep up with the Joneses in this story.
In somewhat related news, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner told Werder that Pacman has not been around the ball in coverage much this season and that he's confident he'll have success throwing in his direction. Is this not delicious?
You have the 37-year-old Warner basically calling out Pacman right before an important NFC matchup. The one thing I've been told is that the Cowboys cornerbacks will try to play more press coverage in this game than usual in an effort to make Warner hold the ball. If it works, linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis will have a better shot at hitting Warner.
The Cowboys came to Glendale two years ago and quarterback Tony Romo had a big game. The one painful memory from that game was Ellis rupturing his Achilles' tendon. In a side note that may or may not interest you, the 2006 game marked the first time Tony left tickets at Will Call for one of Jessica Simpson's family members.
So much more to come. If you're a Cardinals fan, Mike Sando's NFC West blog is up and running. If you're interested in the Cowboys, stay right here. I'm watching Tony Romo throw crossing routes to Patrick Crayton on one half of the field and Matt Leinart is throwing fades to Larry Fitzgerald on the other.
Kurt Warner just took the field and he's launching pass after pass to Steve Breaston in the corner of the end zone. Not sure how he throws such crisp passes in a heavy gray sweatshirt.