NFC East: Mike Holmgren

Of Mike Holmgren and sour grapes

March, 15, 2012
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I play fantasy football. I know a lot of you guys do, too. You ever have a trade go down in your league that really ticked you off because you thought you'd made a better offer and the guy just wanted to make a deal with his friend or his brother or his cousin or something like that?

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezCleveland president Mike Holmgren says the Redskins had an advantage in completing their trade with the Rams for the No. 2 pick in the draft, expected to be used for QB Robert Griffin III.
Yeah, that's pretty much what Cleveland Browns team president Mike Holmgren says happened with the trade between the St. Louis Rams and the Washington Redskins that allowed the Redskins to move up to the No. 2 pick in this year's draft. Jamison Hensley has the rundown on the AFC North blog:
In a conference call with Browns season-ticket holders today, Holmgren said "a very close relationship" between the Rams and Redskins prevented Cleveland from moving two spots up in the draft. Holmgren didn't go into specifics about the relationship, but it's well-known that Rams coach Jeff Fisher and Redskins coach Mike Shanahan are close friends.

Click through to that Cleveland.com link, and you'll see Holmgren further explain that he's "not sure any offer was going to be good enough. We were very aggressive and it didn't work. Rest assured, we were aggressively involved in that."

Couple of issues with this. First of all, Holmgren won't elaborate on what his offer was, which is silly if he really thinks it was better. Presumably, it was an offer of picks and not players, so he doesn't have to be worried about any of his players being upset that he tried to trade them. If you really think your offer was better, let's hear what it was and we can judge for ourselves. If you're right, it'll only help make your case.

Second, what are we here? Six years old? You didn't get the deal, Mike. It happens. I can understand that you need to sell the idea to your fans that you tried as hard as you could to solve your glaring quarterback problem by moving up to get Robert Griffin III. But there were other teams interested, and you didn't get it. Sometimes in life, things don't work out the way we want them to. Doesn't do much good to whine about it.

And third, even if what he says is 100 percent accurate, so what? Aren't personal relationships a reasonable and acceptable tool to assist in business transactions? If Shanahan has a close relationship with Fisher and the people who run the Rams, and as a result he knows how to appeal to them or is otherwise more likely to convince them to do a deal, then good for him. It means that, somewhere along the line, he did something that laid the groundwork to allow him to get business done down the road. Happens in sports and any other business in the world, and there's nothing wrong with it.

The Rams got an absolute haul from the Redskins -- three first-round picks and a second-round pick for one first. If Holmgren was going to beat that, it wasn't going to be by much. And even if he did, the Rams got more than fair value for their pick. Good for them, good for the Redskins and too bad for the Browns, who are just going to have to look elsewhere for a quarterback. Because those are the breaks.

Who's next for the Cowboys?

November, 8, 2010
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Owners typically hire a new coach with the opposite demeanor of the old coach.

For Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, it’s uncertain whether he will follow tradition in replacing Wade Phillips and new interim head coach Jason Garrett after the season. Phillips has always been a coach who creates a positive, supportive environment for players, which has led to criticism his teams sometimes were undisciplined.

The logical move would be to hire a disciplinarian, as Jones did in 2003 when he chose Bill Parcells to replace Dave Campo. Logic would point to a big-name coach with winning experience.

Although successful, the Parcells experience was tough on Jones. Parcells wanted a big voice in personnel. Jones likes to pick the players and have coaches teach them. That’s why Bill Cowher -- perhaps the biggest winning name available -- probably won’t get the job. Since leaving the Steelers, Cowher has been looking for a head-coaching job that pays top dollar on a franchise that has an elite quarterback. Like Parcells, Cowher wants control of the personnel office. That’s why he probably isn’t a fit. Remember, Jones could have hired Mike Shanahan during the offseason but decided to stay with Phillips. Expect Garrett to be interviewed, but I don't think he will get this job.

Here are the main candidates for the Cowboys’ job:

Jon Gruden, former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gruden is the perfect choice, but there is more of a chance he will stay in broadcasting until at least 2012. Should Gruden decide to coach in 2011, Mike Holmgren of the Cleveland Browns could be after him, but Jones will be all over him. Gruden, who signed a multiyear extension with ESPN last November, has a brilliant offensive mind. He is a master of the West Coast offense, but he also orchestrates a well-structured running attack. Some of Gruden’s run schemes are the most innovative in football. Gruden would be a nice mentor for Tony Romo. Though he can be tough on veteran quarterbacks, Gruden got the best out of Rich Gannon when he was with the Raiders and Brad Johnson when he was with the Bucs. This could be Gruden’s job to lose, but don’t be surprised if he passes on the opportunity.

John Fox, Carolina Panthers head coach: There would be no better compromise candidate than Fox. He’s a winner. He fits in Dallas because he doesn’t demand control of personnel. He’s a coach’s coach. Fox, in the last year of his contract with the Panthers, has taken players given to him in Carolina and made the most of the situation. With Jones, Fox would be getting an owner who isn’t afraid to spend and keep a talented team together. Fox is considered a players’ coach, but he is organized and runs a disciplined operation in which players enjoy the experience.

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals head coach: Lewis, whose contract is up after the season, has won two division titles for Mike Brown in Cincinnati. He would like more control of personnel in Cincinnati. Although he might not get that control in Dallas, coaching for one of the best brands in sports is highly appealing. Jones knows Lewis well from their time together on the Competition Committee.

Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator: Frazier is one of the league’s hotter assistant coaches, but it’s debatable whether Jones will go for an assistant. Phillips was the Chargers’ defensive coordinator when Jones hired him as Dallas’ head coach. Phillips’ head-coaching experience in Denver and Buffalo appealed to Jones. This would be Frazier’s first chance to be a head coach.

Ron Rivera, San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator: Rivera was a hot name a few years ago when he was the Chicago Bears 'defensive coordinator. He’s getting hot again because of the work he has done in San Diego, which has the league’s second-ranked defense. Rivera took a chance in joining the Chargers to learn the 3-4 scheme. Even though the talent base of the Chargers has dropped off the past couple of years, Rivera has put together creative schemes.

Mike Zimmer, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator: A former position coach and defensive coordinator in Dallas, Zimmer is disciplined and aggressive, and players like playing for him. And Jones knows him, a big plus.

Redskins' QB Campbell signs tender

April, 12, 2010
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As expected, Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell signed his one-year tender offer of $3.1 million Monday, but he's still hoping the club can trade him. Campbell will not report to this weekend's three-day voluntary minicamp, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Coach Mike Shanahan has said the club will not release Campbell. If a trade goes down, look for it to happen during the upcoming draft. If a team's willing to send over a fourth-round pick, I think the Redskins would pull the trigger. They already have Rex Grossman on the roster, so keeping Campbell on the roster seems like overkill. It also seems like a tough situation for a 28-year-old guy like Campbell who actually put up decent numbers in '09 behind an awful offensive line.

Let's hope Shanahan and Bruce Allen find a trading partner during the draft. We'll keep you posted on any developments. It seems like the Bills or 49ers would be wise to trade for Campbell. And if I'm Mike Holmgren in Cleveland, I'd much prefer to start Campbell over Jake Delhomme.

Holmgren sounds off on McNabb

February, 25, 2010
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Most NFL general managers and head coaches try to be in and out of the Lucas Oil Field media room as quickly as possible, but Browns president Mike Holmgren is the exception. The former Packers and Seahawks coach appeared out of nowhere earlier this afternoon, wearing the largest Browns parka I've seen since Sam Rutigliano prowled the sidelines at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

Holmgren isn't scheduled to address reporters until Friday, so no one really knows why he was working the room. But knowing that he's one of the most interesting -- and patient -- guys in the NFL, I decided to pepper him with a few Donovan McNabb questions. Holmgren recently hired former Eagles general manager Tom Heckert to take over the same role in Cleveland. There's been speculation that the Browns might try to make a play for McNabb or even his backup, Kevin Kolb.

Of course, Holmgren can't field that type of question because it could be viewed as tampering. But I did ask him what he thought about the fact that a lot of Eagles fans are ready to see McNabb go.

"I'm astounded by that," Holmgren told me. "I'm like most of the folks around the league. With all that he's done for that team over the long haul...I guess part of it's that he hasn't been able to get over the hump [and win a Super Bowl]."

I asked Holmgren whether he thinks McNabb could play as long as Brett Favre or Kurt Warner, and he sort of hesitated.

"It's looking like, physically, he could play a long time," said Holmgren. "But he's a guy that when he loses the ability to move around, it'll probably be near the end."

I asked Holmgren whether Heckert was trying to convince him to start signing Eagles players.

"Heckert's driving me crazy," joked Holmgren.

It was obvious that Holmgren has a huge appreciation for McNabb's body of work. Does that mean he's willing to trade the No. 7 pick overall for McNabb? That seems pretty far-fetched to me. Heckert is a big fan of Kolb's but it's unlikely the Eagles would trade him at this point. Even if the Browns were willing to give up a second-round pick for Kolb, I still don't think the Eagles do it.

Cerrato's out in D.C., so what's next?

December, 17, 2009
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I think fans in Washington had almost given up on the idea of Redskins executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato leaving the team after all these years. And let's not for a minute pretend that this was his decision, although the club is officially calling this a resignation.

[+] EnlargeVinny Cerrato
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesVinny Cerrato was first hired by the Skins in 1999.
Cerrato and owner Dan Snyder have been the best of friends over the past decade. Marty Schottenheimer once ran Cerrato off for a season but Snyder quickly fired the coach and re-hired Cerrato to head up his personnel department. I thought Cerrato's best bet for keeping his job was for the club to make a run at Mike Shanahan, the man he once worked with in San Francisco.

But as I've suggested in this space and in numerous chats this season, the dynamic between Snyder and Cerrato had changed this season. With each loss, Snyder became increasingly frustrated with his right-hand man. On the surface, Cerrato's idea to bring in Sherm Lewis as the playcaller has actually helped the offense. But it was still an embarrassing situation once Lewis revealed to the organization that he'd been calling bingo at a senior citizens center. It emphasized how removed from football he'd been over the past five years and it gave critics even more ammunition with which to go after the Redskins organization.

Cerrato did some good things over the past decade. Obviously, it looks like linebacker Brian Orakpo is going to be a good player for a long time and Cerrato was the driving force behind signing All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in free agency. Unfortunately, though, Cerrato will be remembered for not addressing the offensive line over the years. It's an area that has failed the Redskins over the past decade, in part, because of inattention to it in the draft. Snyder's approach was to throw big money at free agents and largely ignore the importance of the draft. Cerrato was the man who carried out the plan.

I think Snyder probably saw the Browns pursuit of Mike Holmgren and realized that he couldn't waste any more time. I'm not saying he's going after Holmgren, but he knows he needs to start laying the groundwork for a new regime. That's probably why he went ahead and made the move with three games left.

"Of course, I am disappointed with this year's results, but I strongly believe that with outstanding draft picks and encouraging performance by our younger players, we have laid a strong foundation for the franchise," Cerrato said in the statement Thursday.

He mentioned Joe Gibbs, Greg Blache and Sherm Lewis as coaches he enjoyed working with but noticeably left off Jim Zorn. We'll be back with more analysis throughout the day.

What's in Mosley's Mailbag?

November, 13, 2009
11/13/09
12:41
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Just spoke with Redskins executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato on the phone. Sounds like he thinks the Skins are poised for an upset win. We can discuss Skins-Broncos, Cowboys-Packers or Eagles-Chargers. It's really up to you guys. Welcome back to the Mailbag, a place where we can say how we really feel about each other. Continue for reading for nuggets that will change and enhance your life:

Dan from Swedesboro, N.J., would like to know why the Eagles' Joselio Hanson was suspended for doing virtually the same thing that players from Minnesota and New Orleans were doing.

Mosley: Dan, it's a fair question. That's exactly the point that attorney David Cornwell made on Hanson's behalf. It appears that the players' union and owners will at some point in the future agree to reduce the punishment for players who test positive for using diuretics. Cornwell has said that Hanson took a pill before last season's NFC title game because he was feeling "bloated" and that pill turned out to be a diuretic. It certainly doesn't seem fair that Hanson's suspended while the StarCaps players continue to stay on the field, but the Eagles cornerback's appeal was denied. But let's at least point out that players don't really have an excuse for taking a pill if they're not 100 percent sure what it is. It's not like the whole diuretics angle is a new one. Hanson needed to be more vigilant in finding out what he was taking. Or maybe he should simply avoid Chinese food before games in the future.


Aaron from Candor, NY wants to know if Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer is a bust and if he should be replaced by rookie Victor Butler. He'd also like to know if Spencer's struggles have led to DeMarcus Ware's relatively low sack total.

Mosley: Aaron, I'm not going to use the "bust" word for Spencer just yet. It's not like he's been turned into a nickel linebacker (Bob Carpenter) at this point. Spencer has actually held up really well against the run this season and he's put some pressure on the quarterback. But yes, he was drafted in the first round to be a dynamic pass-rusher who can collect at least 10 sacks per season. That hasn't happened. He's not at "bust" status yet, but check back with me at the end of the year. And I don't think Butler should start, but he's definiely earned some more snaps. In limited action, he's had three sacks. The play he made against Donovan McNabb on Sunday night helped preserve the win for the Cowboys. He's been highly productive so far. Why not give the man some more reps?


Stephen Kogon from the great state of Maryland says that we "ain't seen nothing yet" if the Redskins retain Vinny Cerrato at the end of the season. Stephen thinks the fan base would rebel at that point.

Mosley: I spoke to Cerrato via phone this morning. In the past, I would've said that Dan Snyder would keep Cerrato around no matter how the team finishes, but I'm sensing a new level of disgust from the owner. Not specifically with Cerrato, but with the entire situation. I think he realizes that fans have lost faith in pretty much anyone in a management position. Snyder and Cerrato settled for Jim Zorn as a head coach because they ran out of other options. They looked pretty smart in the first half of the 2008 season, but they were close to firing Zorn by the end of the season. Cerrato hasn't told me this, but I think his best chance of remaining with the organization is for Snyder to hire Mike Shanahan as head coach. Cerrato and Shanahan worked together in San Francisco and have a good relationship. If any of the other big names took the job (Cowher, Gruden, Holmgren), Cerrato could find himself without a job. But the last time Snyder "fired" Cerrato, he was only in exile for a season. That was the Marty Schottenheimer regime.


Andrew from New York is concerned that I haven't spent enough time this week analyzing "the three incorrect spots" in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys-Eagles game.

Mosley: Andrew, the only spot that looked wrong to me at the time was the fouth-and-one play where Donovan McNabb went with the quarterback sneak. NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira admitted that he would've moved the ball forward a few inches, which may have given the Eagles a first down on a crucial drive. But here's why I haven't made a huge deal about that spot: The Eagles had a second-and-1 that went for no gain followed by a third-and-1 that went for no gain. Those didn't look like bad spots to me, they looked like poorly executed plays. If the Eagles can't come up with a play that results in a 1-yard gain on two (and perhaps three) consecutive plays, how much sympathy do they deserve? I sense that some Eagles fans agree with me on this point. Over the past few years, Andy Reid teams have not been good in short-yardage situations. They'd been better this season -- until last Sunday night. So anyway, that's why I didn't spend much time taking up the Eagles' cause this week.


Bardo from Utah, you get the final word today because you bring up a great name: Regarding Veterans Day, not many stories on former New York Giants Al Blozis. Sad that he's a forgotten man today... Al played tackle for the Giants in 1944. He had also held the world record for the shot put at the time. Shortly after losing the Packers in the 1944 title game, Al left for Europe and directly to the Battle of the Bulge. Al was a Lieutenant and killed in his first patrol. I wish someone could spread more info on this real hero. Thanks!

Mosley: On Dec. 2, 1945, here's what was written in the official game program for the Giants-Eagles game:

This last day of the professional football season at the Polo Grounds is dedicated by the Giants to two of their teammates who lost their lives in the war, Al Blozis, who died in the Vosges Mountains and Jack Lummus who was killed on Iwo Jima.

Al and Jack were splendid men. That they also were grand fellows and fine football players now, alas, is only incidental. The Giants miss them. They miss their fellowship, they miss the tone these men lent to the clubhouse and field ensemble. Today plaques commemorating their deeds are unveiled here at the Polo Grounds.

Blozis joined the Giants in 1942 after winning fame in football and as the world's champion shot putter at Georgetown. Big Al (he weighed 250 and stood 6-6) did well in his freshman year with the pros. In his second he won all league tackle honors. After the 1943 gridiron campaign, the North Bergen, N. J. giant got into the Army the hard way. He had been turned down several times because of his size. After winning his gold bars, Al received special permission to play with the Giants the last three 1944 games. His gridiron farewell was December 17, when the Giants opposed the Green Bay Packers for the title. Two days later Al was on his way to the front.

1st Lt. Lummus was killed in an infantry-tank attack which broke one of Japan's final and most stubborn lines of resistance on Iwo Jima. The following year, On May 5, 1946 Harry S. Truman, President of the United States, signed the Citation awarding posthumously the Medal of Honor to First Lieutenant Jack Lummus.

Cerrato endorses Lewis on our pregame show

October, 26, 2009
10/26/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

LANDOVER, Md. -- Now for something completely different. Redskins executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato told frequent Beast contributor Sal Paolantonio that he has confidence in new playcaller Sherm Lewis. I'm sure this endorsement has nothing to do with the fact that Cerrato's the one who made the curious move. Sal Pal asked Cerrato why he had so much confidence in the former bingo caller.

"I think his history, Sal," Cerrato said. "The guy's got four Super Bowl rings, he's got 20-some years in this offense. He started with Bill Walsh, the originator of the offense. He's worked with Mike Holmgren; Jim [Zorn] worked a lot with Mike Holmgren. So he's got the experience. To me, Sal, it's like riding a bike. You don't ride a bike for a couple of years, you get back on, it's easy to ride a bike."

OK, I feel better about the Skins' chances.

The latest from Redskins Park

October, 19, 2009
10/19/09
11:14
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

NEW ORLEANS -- I'm racing to the airport as we speak, but wanted to update you on the developing situation in Ashburn, Va., where coach Jim Zorn will address reporters at 12:25 p.m. ET. A league source has indicated to me that Zorn will announce that 67-year-old Sherman Lewis is taking over play-calling duties.

As we discussed last night, executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato told Zorn after the loss to the Chiefs that he had too much on his plate and needed to let someone else call the plays. According to the Redskins public relations office, Zorn didn't disagree with Cerrato.

Of course, Zorn's been calling this offense since the beginning of '08. Lewis arrived on the scene as a mysterious "offensive consultant" Oct. 6. The last time he called a play was with the Packers in 1999. He was a highly respected offensive coordinator on Mike Holmgren's Green Bay teams, but it's not like he has a wealth of experience calling plays.

As I said last night, Redskins owner Dan Snyder should go ahead and just fire Zorn rather than subject him to further humiliation. I'm not sure what they'll be able to strip him of next. Zorn's handled all this with a lot of grace, but he'd be better off walking away at this point.

OK, I have a plane to catch. We'll talk when I get back to Dallas.

Overreaction Monday

November, 24, 2008
11/24/08
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Cowboys

Eagles

Giants

Redskins

Are defenses catching up with the Z Man?

November, 18, 2008
11/18/08
12:48
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

There's a theory making its way around the NFC that Redskins coach Jim Zorn's West Coast offense is much easier to defend the second time around. Obviously the Giants didn't have a problem in Week 1, but that was before the Redskins racked up four consecutive wins, including road victories over the Cowboys and Eagles.

Zorn

Ryan O'Halloran does a really nice job covering the Redskins for the Washington Times, and he pointed to some disturbing numbers this morning:

"In the past five games, the Redskins are 2-3 and averaging 30 fewer yards and seven fewer points [than the first five games]. The most telling statistics: eight turnovers and 18 sacks allowed."

Zorn said Monday that the Redskins were "treading water," and they needed to start swimming. So far this season, the Redskins have responded well to adversity, but it's not like this is a two-week lull. When the Redskins lose, Zorn talks about how the team wasn't able to run enough plays for Jason Campbell to find his rhythm. But at some point, Zorn has to set the tempo from the very first play. Coaches who spend the whole game trying to set something up for later tend to have short stays in the business. But Zorn doesn't believe that teams are catching up with his tendencies.

"We're moving the ball, but we're not maintaining our composure so we can get our quarterback in a rhythm, so we can get our receivers downfield," Zorn said. "Those are the things I'm talking about -- that consistent blocking groove, both run and pass, so we can do what we want. I think it's us more than catching up with our ideas."

But whatever the case may be, Zorn needs to fix things in a hurry. He's preparing to face his former boss and mentor Mike Holmgren. And if anyone knows Zorn's tendencies, it's Holmgren. And, yes, I know the Seahawks are in a bad place right now. But I don't smell a blowout coming.

Audibles: NFC East Week 9 preview

October, 31, 2008
10/31/08
4:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Dallas Cowboys (5-3) vs. New York Giants (6-1), 4:15 p.m. ET

Giants coach Tom Coughlin bristled when asked if his team might experience a letdown because of the absence of so many key players for the Cowboys. This rivalry has heated up over the past three seasons, and Coughlin won't allow his players to take the Cowboys lightly just because the soft-tossing Brad Johnson is under center.

If Johnson can't at least pose a threat of throwing more than 15 yards downfield, Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will keep eight players in the box in order to stop running back Marion Barber. Defensive end Justin Tuck has an unbelievably quick first step, and he'll try to get inside position on right tackle Marc Colombo. If the Cowboys don't have Jason Witten (ribs), rookie Martellus Bennett will have to help block Tuck. If the Cowboys worry too much about Tuck, defensive tackle Fred Robbins and defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka will harass Johnson.

If the Cowboys fall behind early, backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger might replace Johnson. Wade Phillips is hoping that Johnson can play mistake-free football and complete an occasional pass downfield. The Cowboys are coming off an oustanding defensive performance. Look for safety Ken Hamlin to be active in the blitz packages, and I think you'll even see a corner blitz in this game. The defensive line and linebackers have to maintain gap control to slow down running backs Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward.

Quarterback Eli Manning is playing with a ton of confidence, and he'll throw a couple of deep balls early to test the Cowboys' inexperienced secondary. The Cowboys are simply trying to get to the bye. It's almost like they've accepted a loss Sunday, so I'm anticipating a lopsided final score.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) vs. Seattle Seahawks (2-5), 4:15 p.m.

This is huge for both teams. You have to try pretty hard to play yourself out of the weak NFC West -- and the Seahawks have done their best. Eagles coach Andy Reid served under Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren in Green Bay and the two men have a great deal of respect for each other. That said, Reid's preparing to deliver a waxing to the outmanned Seahawks.

Without Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback, there's only so much the Seahawks' offense can do. Seneca Wallace can move around a little bit, but his lack of arm strength really hinders any downfield passing game. And the only team that can run on Philly these days is Washington with Clinton Portis. Julius Jones has put up decent numbers, but he won't be a factor in Sunday's game.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb will be glad to see Reggie Brown return to the lineup. Brown has been out the past two games with a groin injury. He and Kevin Curtis complement each other nicely and DeSean Jackson gives the Eagles a legitimate downfield threat and a solid punt returner.

It's tough to win at Qwest Field, but the Eagles are getting ready to batter Wallace. With a healthy McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook, the Eagles have too much firepower for the Seahawks.

Washington Redskins (6-2) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2), 8:30 p.m. ET, Monday

The NFC East owns the Steelers so far this season. By my count, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked a combined 13 times by the Eagles (8) and Giants (5). The Redskins don't have a dynamic pass rush, but they do an excellent job of stiffening when teams get near the goal line.

Cornerbacks Carlos Rogers, Fred Smoot and Shawn Springs have been strong in press coverage, which will make it tough for Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes to get off the line of scrimmage. Springs is banged up, but the other corners should be up to the task. The Steelers' offensive line hasn't
been very impressive, and the team doesn't have a healthy running back to help compensate for that right now.

On offense, Redskins running back Clinton Portis is in the middle of a remarkable stretch. He has run for 120 yards or more in five consecutive games. And what's even more impressive is it's the second time in his career he's pulled that off. Left tackle Chris Samuels has been slowed by a knee injury, which could hamper the running game. The Redskins love to run a play called "90 press lead" on which Portis starts right and then cuts back to the left behind fullback Mike Sellers. If you see Portis tugging on the back of Sellers' jersey, it's a great sign for the Redskins.

Jason Campbell is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league right now. He still hasn't thrown an interception in the first eight games of the season. And that's not because he's overly conservative. The Steelers will try to bring pressure from outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. But the Redskins will counter that with a steady diet of running plays.

Reid thinks Holmgren might return

October, 28, 2008
10/28/08
5:53
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Eagles coach Andy Reid said he hasn't given much thought to facing his mentor Mike Holmgren for perhaps the final time. That is, he's not convinced Holmgren is finished coaching.

"I really haven't thought about that, but I know that he's had a great career," Reid said. "I said this before when I worked for him, that I had a hard time believing that anybody did it better than him. I don't think he's changed. I think he's maintained his intensity. I know he's passionate about the game. I know it won't be easy for him walking away from it on his terms there. That's never an easy thing. Hopefully he gets back in. Hopefully he takes a little time off and then gets back into the game because I think he's great for the game. I think for about two hours there though, he and I won't care about that. We'll just care about getting after each other and playing the game."

By the nature of the business, most coaches make a few enemies along the way. But I've never heard anyone say a negative word about Holmgren. Pretty remarkable guy.

Andy Reid news conference transcript

October, 27, 2008
10/27/08
7:06
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Posted by ESPN.cm's Matt Mosley

Opening Remarks:
"Again, I've said this before, anytime you can win in the National Football League, that's a good thing. Then, we go back and we critique it from there, the pluses and the minuses, and try to take care of the minuses, make sure that we get them better.

It was nice to see the defense step up like they did against the run game and what I thought was a good combination team, run and pass. I thought with [Falcons RB Michael] Turner, being the back that he was, I thought the defense did a nice job there. It's good to get the turnovers. We've struggled with that the past couple of years, and we're doing well in that category and really can even improve on that. We had opportunities, [CB] Asante [Samuel] was around the ball all day yesterday and had a couple of opportunities that he would like to have back where he was able to get his hands on the ball and wasn't able to get it, but he sure played a good game.

Our third-down defense, I think was strong. The guys played well. They were 6 for 16, somewhere in that area there. I just thought we did a good job of getting off the field. I thought [CB] Lito [Sheppard] had a nice game. We talked about the interception, the play before that he had the pass interference, and to put us in that position. Rather than hang his head or pout about that, he geared it up and came back in there and made a big play. That's what competition is all about. Those are the things that you look for, and I was proud of him for that.

Offensively, I thought we started slow, but we finished the right way. Again, I thought [QB] Donovan [McNabb], he had a couple of throws there in the beginning that he would like to have back, but after he settled down there, he did a heck of a job. With [RB Brian] Westbrook, it was great to get Brian back. I thought he just played his heart out both in the pass game and the run game. It almost looked like he got stronger as the game went on. I know he was a little fatigued in the fourth quarter, but he looked even stronger there than he did prior to that. Then, [FB Dan] Klecko continues to improve. He did some real nice things both blocking, you saw the catch that he had even though it was brought back, he had a nice grab there. Then, obviously, if Brian is gaining all of those yards, the offensive line has to be doing something out there and they did a nice job in the run game there.

Then, special teams; [K] David [Akers] had a couple more field goals. Then, it was nice to get [LB] Tracy White in there. Tracy had a tackle early. I thought he was very effective on the [special] teams units there."

On the goal line offense and whether he sees anything specific that is keeping them out of the end zone:

"I do. There are some things that we have to get better at. I know that's not answering your question there, but I don't think we need to answer that publicly. But there are some things that are being done, and we got a couple of them done, so we need to make sure we straighten that out and get it right."

On whether it is scheme that they're working on or guys getting their assignments right:
"It's a little bit of each. I'll always take the responsibility for that. I can put these guys in better spots. Then, they have to take care of business from there."

On whether the no-huddle call before the quarterback sneak was something that helped the Falcons execute the play:
"Yeah, possibly. That's a possibility. Again, you make those calls, but again, it's important to make the right call. Then, it's important to execute that call. We all have a little piece of that."

(Read full post)

Alexander visiting the Redskins

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
10:33
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Former Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander will visit Redskins Park on Tuesday and will probably sign with Washington, according to ESPN.com's John Clayton and Mike Sando. The Redskins need an extra running because Ladell Betts suffered a knee injury against the Rams.

Alexander worked with Redskins head coach Jim Zorn and running backs coach Stump Mitchell when they were in Seattle. He had an excellent career in Seattle, but he was largely ineffective last season and was released by Mike Holmgren.

The main reason Alexander hasn't been able to find a job is because he's not a complementary-type back. He's not a third-down back because he rarely catches passes, and he's not considered a good blocker. If the Redskins sign him, he'll mainly be an insurance policy. Clinton Portis has been brilliant this season, but he might occasionally need a series off. Rock Cartwright is capable of eating up some carries, but he's also a valuable special teams player.

I wouldn't expect Alexander to have more than five carries in a game. He'll just be there in case Portis gets hurt.

Audibles: NFC East Week 5 preview

October, 3, 2008
10/03/08
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Cincinnati Bengals (0-4) at Dallas Cowboys (3-1), 4:15 p.m. ET

This should be the game that puts the Cowboys back on track following last Sunday's 26-24 loss to the Redskins.

Terrell Owens will have 100 yards and a couple of touchdowns by the time the first half ends. Then, the Cowboys can rediscover their running game with Marion Barber and Felix Jones in the second half. Tony Romo has been instructed to only check out of running plays if the Bengals put all 11 men on the line of scrimmage.

Chad Ocho Cinco said some outlandish things Wednesday in order to pump life into what looks like a dud of a game. The one thing the Cowboys have to fix is covering the deep ball. The Eagles, Packers and Redskins all hit on deep balls and Braylon Edwards dropped one that would've gone for a touchdown for the sadsack Browns.

The Cowboys will try to make life miserable for Carson Palmer, which won't be anything new for him. The Bengals did take the Giants to overtime in the Meadowlands two weeks ago, but they're about to run into an angry team. The Bengals don't have a running game, so they'll be one-dimensional from the start. The Cowboys are favored by 17, which is a huge number in the NFL. The one thing the Bengals have in their favor is that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer knows their personnel better than anyone. Cowboys get back in the winning column, and T.O. skips the "serious conversation" with Romo after the game.

Seattle Seahawks (1-2) at New York Giants (3-0), 1 p.m. ET

The Seahawks get starting receivers Bobby Engram and Deion Branch back for this game, but it won't matter. The Giants' defensive line will take quarterback Matt Hasselbeck out of rhythm early, and he'll hold the ball too long. He trusts Engram, but he won't click with Branch.

As Giants center Shaun O'Hara pointed out earlier this week, the Meadowlands crowd could play a big role in this one. A lot of fans remember that the Qwest Field crowd induced the Giants into 11 false starts three years ago. The Giants want their fans to be loud, in part, because Hasselbeck loves to audible at the line of scrimmage. He's been known to check into running plays on third-and-6, which has actually worked well against aggressive teams such as the Giants.

As Tom Coughlin pointed out Friday, the Seahawks have scored 31 points in the first quarter in the past two games. Mike Holmgren does a better job than anyone at scripting the first 15 plays. The only problem is that the Seahawks have only scored three points in the third quarter all season. OK, I've done entirely too much research. Let's move on.

Washington Redskins (3-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) 1 p.m. ET
Can the Redskins do it two weeks in a row? I think it's possible -- especially if Brian Westbrook isn't at full speed. And I don't think he will be. He finally made it through a full practice Friday, but he's still a game-time decision. Eagles middle linebacker Stewart Bradley told me earlier Friday that the Eagles will have 15 different blitz packages out of their base defense and 11 more in their situational packages. Folks that's 26 blitzes in one game.

The average defensive coordinator might install five or six blitzes heading into a game. Wait, am I bogging down? The bottom line is that defensive coordinator Jim Johnson wants to bring pressure from all over the field against Jason Campbell. The Redskins' quarterback has shown that he can burn you if you let him find any type of rhythm. The Eagles don't want to allow that. I'll be there for all the action.

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