NFC East: Nick Cole

Breakfast links: Back to full strength

October, 25, 2011
10/25/11
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No more byes in the NFC East this year, and all four teams are back in action this week. The Redskins head up to Canada to play the Bills in a stop-the-bleeding game. The Giants host Miami in the final game before their schedule turns into a meat grinder. And in the marquee matchup of the week, the Cowboys visit the Eagles in a game that could help determine the direction this division takes for the rest of the season. Lots going on, so you'd better make sure and get your links.

New York Giants

Justin Tuck, Chris Snee, Brandon Jacobs, Prince Amukamara... you name him, he practiced for the suddenly very healthy-looking Giants on Monday. The return of Tuck in particular would be very unsettling news for the winless Miami Dolphins team that's coming to the Meadowlands on Sunday to face a rested and refreshed bunch of Giants.

Eli Manning offered his post-bye thoughts on everything from the Dolphins to the Giants' upcoming schedule to pumpkin-picking to the way the Colts are playing without his brother in his latest weekly radio spot on ESPN-1050 in New York.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Garrett said he's not ready to name DeMarco Murray the starter for Sunday's game against the Eagles, but come on. I'd be less surprised if Garrett asked me to start the game than I will if Tashard Choice got the assignment.

Re-signing Montrae Holland worked out Sunday, and he'll remain a starter for the time being, but the Cowboys still could use some additional offensive line depth, and to that end they will take a look at former Eagle Nick Cole.

Washington Redskins

As the Redskins' season begins to leak oil, Sally Jenkins writes that it's on the remaining healthy players to make a stand and stop things from slipping away. They can surely beat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday if they get back to playing defense the way they did in their first four games. And if they do, they're 4-3 and still in the mix. The key for Washington may be to remember the basic building-block stuff at which they were so good before their bye week.

Winning Sunday would also help the Redskins combat this growing "Same Old Skins" buzz that seems to be building around them. A win would avoid what Dan Daly says would be Washington's 17th losing streak of three games or longer in the past 11 seasons.

Philadelphia Eagles

John Smallwood writes that the Cowboys-Eagles rivalry has lost some luster, at least in Philadelphia. I guess I'll take his word for it, since he lives there and I don't. But sheesh, this week's game feels pretty huge, doesn't it?

The Eagles may get some reinforcements for the Cowboys game, as Trent Cole, Jason Peters and (get this) Brandon Graham were back at practice Monday. Could be a nice boost to both lines, though think fans would be happier to see a couple of healthy linebackers who haven't been around before show up and practice.

It's Tuesday, so we'll have our weekly chat at noon. We'll have Stock Watch. We'll have Power Rankings. We'll have ourselves a time, I promise.
Tuesday is a big day on the ESPN.com NFL page. To make sure you have the energy to power your way through it, let's make sure you get your links.

New York Giants

Injured defensive end Justin Tuck says he's "confident" he'll play in the Giants' next game, which is the week after next against the Dolphins. Tuck has endured a lot of frustration connected with his neck injury, including missed games and surprise criticism from former teammate Antonio Pierce. He desperately wants to play, and while the Giants are getting strong defensive end play from Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul in his absence, there's no denying they're a better defense when he's in there.

The Giants are hoping to get a lot of people back from injury when they return from their bye week. The list, according to Tom Canavan, includes right guard Chris Snee, running back Brandon Jacobs, receiver Ramses Barden and rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara. Now, the first two, sure. But Barden? We'll believe he's a factor once he's finally on the field and contributing. And while everybody's been excited about Amukamara since draft day, it's worth remembering that he's still a rookie who had one NFL practice before his injury and will be playing, I believe, with screws in his surgically repaired foot. His presence could help snap some people (Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant in particular) back into their more appropriate roles, but I think expectations for Amukamara should be a little more tempered than they seem to be at this point.

Washington Redskins

The play of the Redskins' offensive line has been a major reason for their success this year, and with left guard Kory Lichtensteiger out for the year and left tackle Trent Williams likely out a few weeks, they have some shuffling to do. As coach Mike Shanahan pointed out, the Lichtensteiger injury is especially tough, since he was playing "at a very high level," and I'm interested to see what impact this has on the Redskins' run game the rest of the way.

LaVar Arrington has some advice for Rex Grossman if he does get another shot at the Redskins' starting quarterback job. LaVar thinks Grossman should stop making predictions and let his play on the field do the talking for him. Of course, having watched him play Sunday, I wonder if maybe that's what Grossman was afraid of doing all along.

Dallas Cowboys

Todd Archer's got a source saying Felix Jones could miss 2-to-4 weeks with a high ankle sprain. This would be a tough to overcome for a Cowboys team struggling to find its offensive identity. Jones' preseason performance was a real reason for optimism as the Cowboys' season began last month, but he's been unable to build off of it, and for the time being the run game looks to be in the hands of Tashard Choice and DeMarco Murray.

And Calvin Watkins engages in some speculation about players the Cowboys could potentially bring in to address their injury-wracked offensive line situation, including former Cowboy Montrae Holland and former Eagle Nick Cole. Again, speculation by Calvin, as he admits, but things do seem to be getting a bit thin up front. Again.

Philadelphia Eagles

Because Sheil Kapadia is Sheil Kapadia, he took a detailed look at each of the 12 run plays the Redskins ran against the Eagles on Sunday and identified what the Eagles did, play by play, to stop the run. The upshot is that they didn't use as much "Wide 9" on the defensive line as they'd been using all season. The Eagles' coaches have explained that they tightened their line formations because they believed that to be the best way to combat the Redskins' zone-blocking run scheme. If you're an Eagles fan, it's got to be nice to know the coaches are willing to be flexible and not too stubborn to tinker with their philosophy when the situation calls for it.

And Jeff McLane muses on whether the Eagles could make a move in advance of Tuesday's trade deadline. Jeff points out the Eagles' obvious depth at cornerback, and surely they could trade from that group to address an area of need such as linebacker. And he mentions the depth on the defensive line as well, especially considering the possibility that it could get Brandon Graham back at some point after the bye. So we'll see. The Eagles could deal from strength if they were so inclined.

You know the Tuesday drill. We'll do our chat at noon ET. We'll have Power Rankings. We'll have Stock Watch. We'll have various other goodies sprinkled throughout the day. So keep coming back. We'll make it worth your while. I promise.

Inside Michael Vick's moment in time

August, 24, 2011
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We have an occasional feature here called "Inside a Moment in Time" -- a very cool graphic feature that shows a picture from a big game or moment and allows you to click on every player in the picture to get that player's thoughts on what was going through his mind at that moment in time.

Why do I bring this up? Well, we have done one on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and the huge game he had against the Washington Redskins on that Monday night last year that we all surely remember well. The link is here, and if you have time I recommend clicking through to hear and read the thoughts of everyone in the photo of Vick running into the end zone for a touchdown in that game. That includes Vick and Eagles offensive linemen Jason Peters, Todd Herremans and Nick Cole, as well as Redskins defensive players DeAngelo Hall, Lorenzo Alexander, Rocky McIntosh and Andre Carter, all of whom were very good sports about the thing.

It was a fun project to work on and, I think, a fun feature to check out if you have a few minutes.

NFC East free-agency breakdown

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

A look at the free-agent priorities for each NFC East team:

Dallas Cowboys

1. Re-sign left tackle Doug Free. He is coming off his first season as starting left tackle, but Free handled the move well and is viewed as the starting left tackle of the Cowboys' future. More importantly, with rookie Tyron Smith slated to start at right tackle and probably not yet ready to play on the left side, Free is the Cowboys' left tackle of the present. If he were to go elsewhere, the Cowboys would be scrambling to find a tackle, and it could mess with all of the other plans they need to make and execute before training camp begins. Expect Free to draw lots of interest, and his price tag to be higher than the Cowboys probably were hoping.

2. Fill holes in the secondary. The plan seems to be to move Alan Ball back to cornerback, so while you'll hear the Cowboys connected to free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, they're more likely to focus on bringing in a safety or two. There's a chance they re-sign their own guy, Gerald Sensabaugh, and then go get a free agent such as Eric Weddle, Michael Huff or Quintin Mikell. But if Sensabaugh were to leave, Dallas would be in the difficult position of having to sign two safeties.

3. Find defensive ends. With Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher set to be free agents, the Cowboys need a couple of starters at defensive end, too. They could bring both guys back, but it's not as if the defensive line was a position of strength for Dallas in 2010, so they'll probably at least look elsewhere. The Packers' Cullen Jenkins would be a nice fit, though there will be competition for him from within the division, as you'll see below in the Redskins' section.

Top five free agents: OT Free, G Kyle Kosier, DE Bowen, DE Hatcher, S Sensabaugh

New York Giants

1. Figure out which of their own guys to keep. With Ahmad Bradshaw, Barry Cofield, Mathias Kiwanuka, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss all set to potentially go free, the Giants have to prioritize and figure out which guys they're keeping. The top priority is probably going to be Bradshaw, an emerging star at running back, and it appears they'll let Cofield walk while trying to bring back Boss. They think the injury situations with Kiwanuka and Smith will help keep those guys' prices reasonable. But before the Giants hit the market, they'll need to get their own free-agent house in order.

2. Get at least one linebacker. The Giants have ignored this position over the past couple of years, and they seem to believe Jonathan Goff can handle the middle linebacker spot. They'd probably be better off moving him back outside and exploring the middle linebacker market, which includes Stephen Tulloch, Barrett Ruud and Paul Posluszny. But if they're set on keeping Goff in the middle, perhaps someone such as Manny Lawson or Nick Barnett could be a fit. It's one thing not to prioritize a position, but it's another to ignore it completely, and the Giants have been doing that with linebacker, to their detriment.

3. Some offensive line insurance. There were lots of injuries along the line in New York last season, and although it didn't kill them, it was a potential sign of things to come. The Giants hope Will Beatty will soon be ready to take over at left tackle for a declining David Diehl, but they must watch out for the health of Shaun O'Hara at center. And if they have to cut Shawn Andrews to sign some other guys, they'll need to replace him with a tackle who can provide depth.

Top five free agents: RB Bradshaw, DE/LB Kiwanuka, TE Boss, DT Cofield, WR Smith

Philadelphia Eagles

1. Settle the Kevin Kolb situation. If they can get the great deal for him that most believe they can (i.e., a first-round pick plus), the Eagles will deal Kolb and look for a reliable backup quarterback who can play if and when Michael Vick gets hurt. If they can't get good value for Kolb, they'll probably keep him to serve as said reliable backup. A trade is most likely, but whatever happens, the Eagles will probably settle this soon after the league year begins.

2. Sign a cornerback. The starting spot opposite Asante Samuel is open, and no one on the current roster appears able to fill it. That's why you've heard, and will continue to hear, the Eagles connected with Asomugha. Philadelphia must rank among his most likely destinations at this point. If they don't get him, they'll look down the list at guys such as Johnathan Joseph, Ike Taylor and Antonio Cromartie. And there's a chance they could get a cornerback for Kolb. But they'll get one somewhere.

3. Re-sign Stewart Bradley. Sure, they could let Bradley go and play Jamar Chaney at middle linebacker. Chaney looked, at least, capable in that spot last season and may be the Eagles' future at the position. But if Bradley leaves, the Eagles' problems will be about more than just the alignment of the linebackers. They'll actually be short on bodies and will need to play the free-agent field to find a replacement. Bradley's had injury problems, but when healthy, he's the Eagles' best linebacker and could be a key cog in whatever new defensive alignment Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn are cooking up.

Top five free agents: LB Bradley, S Mikell, G Nick Cole, RB Jerome Harrison, CB Ellis Hobbs

Washington Redskins

1. Fill out the defensive line. Whether they add a free-agent nose tackle such as Aubrayo Franklin or look at defensive end options like Jenkins, the Redskins must figure who their starting defensive linemen are. They like their linebacking corps, and although they also need a cornerback, they love their safeties with Oshiomogho Atogwe in the fold next to LaRon Landry. But their good, young outside linebackers will need big, space-eating ends in front of them to open up lanes to the passer. And they'll also need to get some sort of pass rush from the line, whether it's from the nose or the ends.

2. Re-sign Santana Moss. The Redskins are making noise about pursuing a big-time wideout such as Santonio Holmes or Sidney Rice. But the reality is that it's going to be tough to convince receivers to sign in Washington while they're not viewed as a contender and the quarterback situation remains so cloudy. Moss likes it in Washington. The Redskins like him. And he's a nice guy to have around to help out young receivers Anthony Armstrong and Leonard Hankerson -- not to mention inexperienced quarterback John Beck.

3. Resolve the Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth situations. They don't want either player on the team anymore, but the question is how to get rid of them. They might be able to dump McNabb for a late-round draft pick, but if they can't, they'll probably just cut him and let him find his next job on his own. Haynesworth has trade value in a league where many 4-3 teams are looking for interior defensive line help. Don't expect the Redskins to cut Haynesworth, because they don't want to do him any favors and they don't want him free to sign with former Tennessee D-line coach Washburn in Philadelphia. If they can't get value for him, don't be surprised if Haynesworth remains on the team all season and has a hard time getting into games.

Top five free agents: WR Moss, OT Jammal Brown, CB Carlos Rogers, LB Rocky McIntosh, QB Rex Grossman

Eagles back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
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NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Eagles held a series of player-organized workouts throughout the summer, but quarterback Michael Vick was only there for a couple of days' worth, opting most of the time to work out on his own. They have a new defensive coordinator in Juan Castillo (who was their offensive line coach) and a new defensive line coach in Jim Washburn, so there are likely to be new aspects of the defense they'll have to learn quickly once the coaches can get their hands on them.

Biggest challenge: Constructing that defense. The Eagles need a new cornerback to play alongside Asante Samuel, and they'll probably aim high and try to get Nnamdi Asomugha. It appears as though they're ready to let Quintin Mikell walk, since they appear to think rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett is ready to start right away opposite Nate Allen. But they could add a veteran there to work with the young guys or in case Allen's not fully healthy. They also need to figure out the linebacker situation around potential free agent Stewart Bradley. And Washburn will lobby to add a pass-rushing end and maybe another piece or two along the line. Before the Eagles can set about installing anything new on defense, they'll need to know who the players are who'll be responsible for putting the plans into action.

Vick's backup: The Eagles' first order of post-lockout business is expected to be the trade of backup quarterback Kevin Kolb. Assuming they can get the return for Kolb that most people seem to believe they can (a first-rounder plus, or maybe an established cornerback or linebacker), they'll ship him out of town to Arizona or Seattle or whichever team comes with the best offer. But after that, they'll need to find a veteran quarterback to sit behind Vick and step in if and when the starter gets hurt. Vick has never played a full 16-game season, and his style lends itself to potential injury. And while they like Mike Kafka long-term, he's probably not as ready as Kolb would be to step in and win a game if Vick can't go. Look for the Eagles to explore several possibilities for this role, including the Titans' Vince Young, who might be a perfect fit.

Key players without contracts for 2011: K David Akers, LB Stewart Bradley, G Nick Cole, RB Jerome Harrison, CB Ellis Hobbs, LB Akeem Jordan, S Quintin Mikell, P Sav Rocca, LB Ernie Sims
We live and die with our incremental updates because they're all we have, and I know some people wrote to express worry over the fact that the players didn't approve the new labor deal Wednesday. Breath deeply, people. We know where this is going and how it will end. Semantics and details are all that remain, and I still believe free agency starts next week. Meantime, at least we have links.

Dallas Cowboys

Charean Williams has a nice story about the lockout's impact on the friendship between Jason Witten and Cowboys tight ends coach John Garrett, who do charity work together but haven't been able to really talk with each other this summer.

And Leon Lett is back! Yeah, he's going to be an assistant defensive line coach once training camp starts. When will that be? Well, if all goes according to plan with the labor deal, one week from today.

New York Giants

Giants 101 mulls offensive linemen, and suggests the Saints' Jermon Bushrod and the Colts' Charlie Johnson as possible options should the Giants want to add depth. That's what I'm talking about, really. Those kinds of pieces -- versatile, experienced, cheaper than Shawn Andrews. They don't want to invest in a new left tackle because they're already invested in the idea that Will Beatty can be that. If he's not, maybe they hit that position hard next year.

Tom Coughlin dropped in as a surprise guest speaker at a fifth-grade D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony in Park Ridge, N.J., on Wednesday. Maybe the kind of thing he wouldn't have been able to do in a normal offseason, right? Silver Lining Dept. on line one?

Philadelphia Eagles

You want an example of the difference a year makes? Michael Vick now has nutrition companies fighting with each other to use him to endorse their products.

Geoff Mosher weighed in on the possible outcomes for the Eagles' various free agents. Nothing too surprising in Geoff's predictions, though I find it interesting that he has Nick Cole leaving and Max Jean-Gilles staying. I kind of thought Cole was a guy they planned to keep, but apparently he and his belly don't fit Howard Mudd's mold of leaner offensive linemen.

Washington Redskins

Mike Jones' series continues with a look at Redskins with the most to prove on special teams. He thinks it's possible Graham Gano could get some competition in training camp if he doesn't show improved accuracy. The Redskins lost five games last year by a field goal or less, and Gano missed 11 field goals

And guess who's planning to be in training camp once it opens? That's right. Big Al Haynesworth. Get your stopwatches ready, folks. It's conditioning-test time!

Back with more later. I've got to go take a conditional vote on a proposed breakfast pending the resolution of some outstanding grapefruit.

Breakfast links: More labor thaw

June, 29, 2011
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See, to me, this can only be a good sign. The fact that the NFLPA would ask commissioner Roger Goodell -- and that he would agree -- to speak to rookies at the rookie symposium the NFLPA is having in lieu of the one the league canceled because of the lockout heralds a new level of trust between the two parties. It gives you reason to believe the optimism that the latest round of talks will lead to a new labor deal and an on-time start to the season may not be misplaced.

What I'm interested to see is this: If there's no actual deal -- i.e., a signed document establishing the work rules for the league for the next three, five, eight, however many years -- within a couple of weeks, but during that time the two sides make significant enough progress that they know what those rules are going to be and all that remains are formalities, could the league year start anyway? The owners, theoretically, have the ability to lift the lockout any time they want to. Could they do that in the absence of a formal, finalized contract with the players and just hold free agency under rules to which they mutually agree as part of their settlement talks?

It sounds easy, but it may not be. Remember, these are not collective bargaining-talks that are going on right now. These are settlement talks on the antitrust suit the players filed against the league. If the owners were to lift the lockout and have free agency, even under mutually agreed-to rules, they'd have to be 100 percent sure they weren't putting themselves at risk of being guilty of an antitrust violation. I imagine they'd have to get a promise in writing from the players that the players wouldn't pursue legal action against them as a result of anything that happens during the free-agent period.

So it may be that they need to dot all I's and cross all T's on the new labor agreement before free agency and the league year can start. But if that's not the case -- if they can get close enough to a finalized deal that they feel they can start the league year and training camps on time -- at least now it looks as if there's a decent enough relationship between the two sides that they could work that, and eventually all of this, out.

In the meantime, as ever, we link:

Dallas Cowboys

Calvin Watkins and the gang at ESPNDallas.com have been looking at potential free-agent targets for Dallas. Today, Calvin brings up Eagles guard Nick Cole as a potential Kyle Kosier replacement. His theory is that he's younger and versatile and might be more worthy of a long-term deal than will Kosier. Calvin knows the Cowboys. Even if he is really a baseball writer at heart.

Oh and Gerry Fraley has this item about former Cowboys coach Barry Switzer's foray into the wine business. Love the part about him describing his rural Arkansas childhood home on the label. Priceless.

New York Giants

Lots of people ask about Barry Cofield, and the Giants have a number of free-agent concerns once the lockout ends. Cofield himself doesn't sound like a man who expects to be back in New York. "I think they think I'm a good player," Cofield told the New York Post. "Obviously they don't view me as indispensable. They place a premium on certain positions. Let's be honest, defensive end is the name of the game in New York." He's certainly right about that, but that doesn't mean they don't appreciate a defensive tackle who can get to the quarterback. The question is whether the Giants feel they have enough in guys like Linval Joseph and Marvin Austin to replace Cofield if they focus on other concerns. He seems to feel as though that's the idea.

Eli Manning worked out with Hakeem Nicks and rookie receiver Jerrel Jernigan last week at Duke University, according to The Star-Ledger. Priceless time with QB1 for Jernigan, who could theoretically be asked to do more if he shows something and if Steve Smith isn't fully healthy.

Philadelphia Eagles

In light of the recent news on Terrell Owens, Sheil Kapadia wonders if Andy Reid's biggest football regret would be not finding a way for Owens and Donovan McNabb to coexist after their relationship blew up in the wake of their Super Bowl appearance -- if the magic that landed them in the big game could have been extended if Owens' stay in Philly had been as well.

The Eagles' team site breaks down the running backs, wondering as we all are whether Jerome Harrison will return as LeSean McCoy's backup. They do agree, however, that if he doesn't, Dion Lewis isn't the answer there. Expect the Eagles to re-sign Harrison or find a veteran replacement.

Washington Redskins

Rookie Ryan Kerrigan spoke about the challenges he's facing transitioning from college defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL -- especially with no coaches around to tell him if he's doing it correctly.

Redskins.com takes a gander at the right guard spot and whether Will Montgomery looks like the starter there this year. Montgomery also would seem to loom as an option at center should the team decide to part ways with Casey Rabach. Upshot is, Washington may be looking for interior line help.

Go get 'em.

Eagles go heavy on offensive line

September, 19, 2010
9/19/10
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With the loss of center Jamaal Jackson for the season, the Philadelphia Eagles will be forced to take more offensive linemen to the game. As the Inquirer points out. Guards Reggie Wells and Max Jean-Gilles, both inactive last Sunday, will dress against the Lions.

If Mike McGlynn runs into trouble at center, Nick Cole will move from his right guard spot and likely be replaced by Jean-Gilles. Because of the offensive line situation, veteran defensive end Darryl Tapp is having trouble finding a uniform on Sundays. And we're still waiting to see third-round pick Daniel Te'o Nesheim take the field in the regular season.

The Eagles and Cowboys are both one loss away from full-out panic mode. I'm in Arlington, Texas, for Bears-Cowboys, but I'll have one eye on Eagles-Lions.

Andy Reid: Jamaal Jackson will start

September, 5, 2010
9/05/10
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Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid said Sunday he expects Jamaal Jackson to start at center against the Green Bay Packers unless there's a "setback." Jackson has made a remarkably quick recovery from a serious knee injury and Reid talked about what his return means to the Eagles.

"This is what we have. We have good depth, so it allows Jamaal to get back in there and give it a shot here," Reid said on Sunday. "As long as he feels strong and good about it and the doctor feels good about it, then we go that direction. Again, if he tires or fatigues at all, we’ve got Mike McGlynn, who’s taken great snaps in there and we feel very confident that he could step in and play. Nick hasn’t played in the preseason, so if he were to get fatigued, we’ve got Reggie [Wells] there, we’ve got [G] Max [Jean-Gilles] there. We’ve got people that have played in positions that we feel very comfortable with to step in and play."

Reid was complimentary of Stacy Andrews, but he indicated that Nick Cole was always going to start at right guard if Jackson made it back to play center. That's a nice thing to say about Cole, but I think the Eagles expected Andrews to win the job in training camp. Obviously that didn't pan out.

If they can stay healthy, the Eagles appear to be in pretty good shape on the offensive line.

Update: For no apparent reason, I had the Eagles opening with the Cowboys in this blog entry last night. My apologies.

Marty Mornhinweg: Bring on the blitz

August, 30, 2010
8/30/10
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Once a week, Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg meets with reporters. He's normally a little more forthcoming than Andy Reid, so it's a visit the local beat writers seem to enjoy. On Monday, Mornhinweg was quizzed about the lack of continuity on the offensive line and about how much responsibility the center has in picking up the blitz.

"Well, again, I’m not going to get into exactly how we do it, but we do an awful lot of things up front and it happens fast and it happens quick," said Mornhinweg. "We love people to blitz us. We want to be the best in the league against the blitz. We want to have a certain mentality with people blitzing us."

Translation: PLEASE try to cover DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin one-on-one in your blitz packages. Of course, it won't matter if Kevin Kolb's on his back before those receivers break free. A reporter also asked Mornhinweg whether Stacy Andrews would start at right guard against the Packers on Sept. 12. He wisely sidestepped that question.

"I’m not going to get into anybody starting this week or any of that stuff. It’s too far away," said the offensive coordinator. "But, yeah, he’s been our starter here."

Well, that doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement for Andrews. My guess is that Nick Cole will replace Andrews as the starter at right guard once Jamaal Jackson's ready to go at center.

Herremans will play Friday

August, 22, 2010
8/22/10
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The Philadelphia Eagles will welcome left guard Todd Herremans (foot) back to the lineup Friday in Kansas City, according to Andy Reid. That's great news for an offensive line that has struggled to create holes for the running game. Reid also shed light on the knee injury that has kept Nick Cole out of practice for the past few weeks.

"Nick’s a tough guy and I know that," Reid said. "Nick will go out there and push himself through, really, anything. That’s just the way he’s wired. This is me backing off on him. To make sure we keep the swelling out of that knee, that he continues to just rehab it and get that area strong around the knee, and then we’ll go from there. Until I feel that -- myself and [head athletic trainer] Rick [Burkholder] -- until we feel that that’s where it needs to be, I’m just going to hold back. I know what Nick can do. He got enough work in there. He’s in good shape and all that. He lost some weight and he’s in very good shape. That’s not what I’m worried about. I just want to make sure we’re smart with that knee."

Once Jamaal Jackson's ready to go at center, it will be interesting to see what happens with Cole. Don't be shocked if he replaces Stacy Andrews at right guard early in the season. Judging by his comments, it doesn't seem like Reid's thrilled with Andrews' work.

Camp Confidential: Philadelphia Eagles

August, 9, 2010
8/09/10
1:54
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ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 17

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- On a Tuesday afternoon last week, Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb watched one of his star wideouts, Jeremy Maclin, get carted off the field. The same thing had happened to DeSean Jackson a couple days earlier. You would think Kolb might be worried, but that's not an emotion that suits him. Kolb spent the three weeks before camp playing out every possible scenario in his mind so that setbacks like these wouldn't affect him.

"I tried to play out the good situations and the bad situations in my mind," Kolb told the NFC East blog. "I need to stay consistent as the quarterback of this team, so I imagined what all could go wrong and sort of told myself how I was going to react. Only 32 guys in the world that will get this opportunity, and I don't want the opportunity to pass me by."

If you were expecting a wide-eyed quarterback trying to grow into a job, you've come to the wrong place. Handed the task of following the best quarterback in the history of the franchise, Kolb just doesn't seem fazed. With Jackson and Maclin both out of Wednesday's practice, Kolb started firing balls to rookie Riley Cooper. Kolb entered the league in the same rookie class as linebacker Stewart Bradley and Brent Celek in 2007, and everyone's known those players would eventually take over the team in terms of leadership. But it was still stunning when the Eagles pulled the trigger on the biggest trade of the offseason.

Kolb has reached out to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to ask him about following an elite quarterback. And he's also struck up a texting friendship with Cowboys Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, which may make a few fans queasy. Recently, Kolb spent hours watching an old tape of Aikman because "he was unbelievably accurate."

Kolb is relishing the Eagles' new underdog role and he understands that a lot of that has to do with him being the starter. He understands there's added pressure playing quarterback in a city that seems to base its identity on how the Eagles are performing. But he seems to have the right temperament.

"I played in front of 15,000 people when I was 15," said Kolb. "I think playing high school football in Texas gives you a good foundation. And now that I'm a little older, I think I'll be able to handle 70,000."

[+] EnlargeKevin Kolb
Brian Garfinkel/Icon SMIThe Eagles have high hopes for Kevin Kolb, who threw for more than 300 yards in each of his two starts last season.
THREE HOT ISSUES

1. Will this offensive line have any continuity heading into the season?

When the Eagles lost center Jamaal Jackson last year in the playoffs, the offensive line was in trouble. Nick Cole had done a nice job at right guard, but he was thrown into a bad situation at center. Jackson is still recovering from a knee injury and will likely be sidelined to start the season. Cole's been banged-up in practice and it's not like Mike McGlynn and A.Q. Shipley inspire a lot of confidence. The most consistent player on the offensive line last season, left guard Todd Herremans, has missed the first part of camp with a foot injury. You don't want Kolb lining up behind an offensive line that features a different player every week.

2. Do the Eagles have the best receiving corps in the league?

When Maclin and Jackson are healthy, the Eagles may have the most dangerous group in the league. Jason Avant is one of the best third receivers in the league, and he can bail out a quarterback on third down. Kolb's biggest strength is his accuracy. He knows how important it is to deliver the ball to Jackson and Maclin in stride. If you're wondering why this team seems to have such a quiet confidence, just look at these receivers. Throw in the fact that Kolb and Celek are best friends and you have the makings of a Tony Romo-Jason Witten combination.

[+] EnlargeAllen
Cliff Welch/Icon SMIThe Eagles hope Nate Allen is the answer at safety.
3. Can rookie Nate Allen solve the issues the Eagles had at safety?

The Eagles never recovered from the loss of Brian Dawkins via free agency last season. They tried just about everyone at his old position, but it was a nightmare. Allen has looked like a starter from the day he stepped off the bus. He's mature beyond his years and moves with a grace that belies his inexperience. I think the Eagles made great use of the Donovan McNabb pick (No. 37) in landing Allen. And the former South Florida star doesn't appear to feel any added pressure because of where he was taken. It's easy to see that he would've been starting in front of Marlin Jackson even if he'd remained healthy.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

I know it's tough to call a first-rounder a "surprise," but Brandon Graham has exceeded everyone's expectations. I love how he's spent time in the film room studying some of the shorter defensive ends around the league. And then he immediately takes some of the moves (Elvis Dumervil) to the field. The Eagles' offensive line doesn't know what to do with Graham, and I think other NFC East offensive tackles will have the same issue. Graham is learning how to use his arms at this level and he already gets incredibly low to the ground when he's turning the corner. He's been the story of camp in a lot of ways. Can't wait to see him in a game. And one more surprise: Ellis Hobbs is having an excellent camp after returning from a neck injury.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

There's nothing that really jumps out at this point other than the offensive line issues. But I'd like to see more from Darryl Tapp. The defensive end was hoping to jump-start his career after coming over in a trade from Seattle. He just looks out of place in Sean McDermott's defense right now. In the practice sessions I observed, he didn't really make anything happen.

[+] EnlargeRiley Cooper
Howard Smith/US PresswireRookie Riley Cooper has stepped up when called upon in training camp.
OBSERVATION DECK

  • Cooper is taking full advantage of the extra repetitions. He made the catch of the day last Wednesday when one of Kolb's passes was tipped by Tapp. Cooper cut off his route and made a diving catch in the flat. Seems like he's quickly becoming a fan favorite and he could actually play himself into the rotation this season. General manager Howie Roseman's a Florida grad, so look for the Gator connection to continue. I don't think Hank Baskett is long for this roster, but he and Kolb did hook up on a deep ball.
  • I talked to second-year running back LeSean McCoy about how he's improved his lower-body strength. He thinks he left a lot of yards on the field because he didn't break enough tackles. I think it's helping McCoy to have Duce Staley in camp serving a camp internship.
  • Rookie free safety Kurt Coleman out of Ohio State has made a favorable impression but was called for pass interference Wednesday when Kolb used an excellent play-action fake to free up McCoy down the sideline. You can tell that McCoy's going to show up in the passing game a lot more this season.
  • This is the only camp I've attended where fans tailgate in the parking lots between morning and afternoon practices. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seemed to get caught up in the moment when he remembered that he'd visited the Lehigh University campus when he was deciding on colleges a few years back.
  • Bradley destroyed Eldra Buckley when he made the mistake of trying to jump over a pile. And when Buckley made a catch in the flat, former Lions linebacker Ernie Sims lit him up. Sims stared down at him like Chuck Bednarik once did to Frank Gifford. As I noted in my observations last week, Andy Reid's team hits harder than any of the other teams in the division during camp. We're not simply talking about thuds. I'm talking about linebackers taking ball carriers to the ground. This is how things were done about 20 years ago across the league. Roseman told me that the Eagles felt like it was important to quickly introduce the rookies to how physical the league is.
  • I watched Reid take Kolb aside Wednesday and have a long conversation. I think he and McNabb had such an understanding that they rarely had to have a lot of long discussions. But I'm not saying that's a negative about Kolb. It seems like Reid's sort of rejuvenated by the thought of having to coach a quarterback all the way through practice. I remember Bill Parcells saying that about Romo all the time. "You have to coach him all the way through the game," Parcells would say. Reid didn't think that was a big deal when I brought it up, but it's obvious he's spending more time with Kolb. And the two seem to have a great rapport. In fact, Kolb already takes the sharp stick to Reid at times.

Big Question: Eagles happy with O-line?

June, 15, 2010
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NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Should the Eagles have done more to fortify their offensive line?

Somewhat surprisingly, despite a wealth of draft picks, Philadelphia didn’t make any major additions to its offensive line. The Eagles must feel quite comfortable with what they have despite Jamaal Jackson’s injury situation and the release of Shawn Andrews. So, let’s examine this situation more closely.

[+] EnlargeJason Peters
Walter G. Arce/Icon SMIWhile he's received some criticism since joining the Eagles, Jason Peters remains one of the better left tackles in the NFL.
Jackson is the best option at center, but he just recently started running and it wouldn’t be a shock if his knee injury landed him on the physically unable to perform list to start the season. Jackson was on the verge of establishing himself as one of the better centers in this league, particularly as a run-blocker, but this looks like Nick Cole’s job for the time being. Mike McGlynn has the ability to play center as well, but his best fit is at guard. Cole moves well and is good in protection, but isn’t nearly the pile-mover that Jackson is in the run game. But as backup centers go, you could do much worse than Cole until Jackson returns.

Stacy Andrews has been tough to count on of late, but if healthy, he will start at right guard. He also could move to right tackle if Winston Justice struggles at the position where Andrews’ brother Shawn used to play. Even if Andrews can’t be counted on, the guard depth is pretty strong with McGlynn and Max Jean-Gilles backing up Andrews and left guard Todd Herremans. Herremans is another player who, in a pinch, could slide over to right tackle, but he is quite sound at left guard. McGlynn is a potential up-and-comer who could surprise this year if needed.

Like Cole at center, Justice is better in protection than as a run-blocker. But that isn’t much of a problem in this pass-happy offense and overall, Justice was impressive in 2009. As noted above, there are backup plans in place if Justice struggles, but I fully expect him to hold down the fort at right tackle.

At left tackle, Jason Peters has caught a lot of heat since his arrival in Philadelphia, but I think he is still one of the very best tackles in the business. He has taken too many penalties and does have to be more consistent, but doing battle with the blindside edge-rushers in this division is no easy task. I have no concerns about Peters.

So, all in all, I am in the Eagles’ corner with their decision not to dedicate heavy resources to adding to their offensive line. There are some questions, but there are also some fallback options. I think this group will be fine.

Eagles begin final OTAs today

June, 7, 2010
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In case you missed it, I'll by flying to Philadelphia tonight to catch up with several Eagles players and coaches. The club will begin its final set of OTAs today and then break for the summer following Thursday's session. It looks like guard Todd Herremans (foot), running back LeSean McCoy (ankle) and Stewart Bradley (calf) could miss this week.

Coach Andy Reid doesn't seem particularly worried about any of those injuries, but Herremans is the one I'd keep a close eye on. It's the same left foot that caused him to miss the first five games of the '09 season. While Herremans is out, Max Jean-Gilles will fill in at left guard and Nick Cole remains at center. I'm told that Cole has dropped at least 10 pounds and has looked solid during the first three weeks of OTAs.

Andrews ready to start for Eagles?

May, 3, 2010
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As the Philadelphia Eagles wrapped up their minicamp Sunday, there was some discussion of Stacy Andrews' future at right guard. Everyone (including Andy Reid) pretty much assumed Andrews would be the starter at right guard in 2009, but he had trouble returning from a torn ACL and never made much of an impact. In fact, he played so sparingly that the Eagles asked him to take a significant pay cut -- and Andrews agreed.

"Last year, I was still rehabbing and really was getting no reps," Andrews told reporters Sunday. "The only thing I was getting was mental reps. This year, I'm there in it and going through everything. Getting a lot of reps, that's the main thing."

I ran into Eagles offensive line coach Juan Castillo at the combine in February and we had a good visit about Andrews. He has high hopes for Andrews and thinks he can be a dominant player. But I'm still not convinced that Andrews is a better option than Nick Cole, who performed admirably at the position last season.

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