NFC East: Omar Gaither
The Eagles have two starting linebackers scheduled to be up for free agency in Stewart Bradley and Ernie Sims. Maybe neither will be brought back. Bradley is a very solid player, but his durability has to be a major stumbling block when discussing a long-term deal after a severe knee injury in 2009 and a serious elbow injury last season. He started in the middle and did a nice job, although I tend to think this big-bodied linebacker would be best suited on the strong side. But when right, Bradley can be a force -- so Philadelphia has a tough choice with him. And its team doctors surely will have a lot of input in that football decision.
As a rookie, Jamar Chaney did a pretty nice job as Bradley’s replacement in the middle, but is probably only a two-down player. As for Sims, watching him play can be maddening. He is athletic, but plays with very little recognition or discipline. So adding starting-caliber linebackers might be in order for the Eagles. But they have some interesting guys to go along with Chaney in Moise Fokou, Akeem Jordan, Omar Gaither and Keenan Clayton.
Fokou can play either outside linebacker spot and is an exceptional special-teams player. Although he might not be the ideal starter, Fokou has a lot of value to Philadelphia and isn’t a liability in any phase on defense. Jordan also can hold his own at linebacker, but isn’t special in this regard. Gaither and was much better in 2009 than last season and there is still hope for his career. Like Gaither, Jordan did play quite well in 2009, though. Clayton has great speed and can be a factor on throwing downs, but probably isn’t suited to handle the pounding of an every down backer. But Clayton is intriguing for sure. Maybe he could thrive on the weak side if given ample opportunity.
A difference-maker added at linebacker could do this defense a lot of good, but I don’t consider it a move that absolutely must be made.
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No big surprises on the inactives list. Eagles veteran linebacker Omar Gaither is inactive for only the second time this season, so that's a little interesting. And I'll also tell you that rookie Jamar Chaney out of Mississippi State has been getting some extra work in practice and you could possibly see him spell Stewart Bradley at middle linebacker.
As we already knew, Marion Barber is inactive for this game. The Cowboys will go with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. I'd expect for Choice to touch the ball at least 18 times in this game. That is, unless the Eagles get an early lead and Jason Garrett is forced to abandon the run.
Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg always script out the first 15 plays or so. The Eagles are one of the best teams in the league at scoring on their first possession. If the Cowboys' defense can get off the field on the first drive, it would be an early confidence builder.
Tomorrow's talker: Kolb remains the starter, but everyone will be talking about Michael Vick's performance. He won this game for the Eagles. Even though the Lions sacked him several times, he extended a lot of plays with his legs and delivered excellent passes. Vick never lost his poise and tried to press things when the Eagles fell behind. He played like the veteran quarterback he is and that's why he'll be a starter somewhere in the NFL next season. Should he remain the starter for the Eagles? I don't think so.
Goat: Once left tackle Jason Peters suffered an ankle injury, the Eagles were in a world of hurt up front. Kolb can move around but he obviously won't be able to race around as much as Vick. I think everyone on defense deserves some blame for Lions rookie Jahvid Best having such a huge day. I noticed Brodrick Bunkley getting stopped at the line of scrimmage a time or two and it looked like Omar Gaither had a tough time shedding blockers on some of those Best runs and catches.
What I didn't like: The Eagles fell asleep at the wheel with a big lead. Good teams don't let that happen. The Lions have enough talent at the skill positions to make some big plays and the Eagles should have shut the door.
What's next: If you can beat the Jaguars on the road to get to 2-1, then you have the huge Donovan McNabb homecoming the following weekend. All eyes will be on Kevin Kolb this week as he prepares to relaunch his season. Hopefully he has put that first half out of his mind.
Are the Cowboys a Super Bowl team? At least one publication seems to think so.
Stephen Bowen is doing what he can to earn more playing time this season.
New York Giants
The Giants and Jets will take a look at the FieldTurf installed at new Meadowlands stadium in light of the injury that will cost Domenik Hixon the 2010 season.
Mathias Kiwanuka says a friendly rivalry with Osi Umenyiora can exist in their battle for the starting defensive end job.
Linebacker Omar Gaither made a surprise visit to Lebanon Valley College Wednesday as a part of the NFL's Fuel Up to Play 60 program.
Philly.com's Sheil Kapadia shares five thoughts on the Eagles' offense.
There weren't too many kind words shared when Albert Haynesworth's name was brought up on Wednesday.
In non-Haynesworth developments, the Redskins canceled their first minicamp practice because of a thunderstorm in the area.
The late Jim Johnson benched Gaither in favor of Akeem Jordan late in the '08 season. When Jeremiah Trotter was released before the '07 season, it was believed Gaither would be an upgrade at middle linebacker. But the young player has never looked comfortable as a starter. If he makes the team in 2010, he'll need to be a valuable part of Bobby April's special teams unit.
We'll keep you posted on the players who haven't signed their tenders. The versatile guard/center Nick Cole hasn't signed his tender at this point. I think the Eagles would be wise to pay Cole a little money and lock him up for a few seasons, but it doesn't look like it will happen before the April 15 deadline.
Potential unrestricted free agents: G Montrae Holland
Potential restricted free agents: NT Junior Siavii, WR Miles Austin, DE Stephen Bowen, CB Cletis Gordon, DE Jason Hatcher, WR Sam Hurd, T Pat McQuistan, C Duke Preston, G Cory Procter, S Gerald Sensabaugh, DE Marcus Spears, S Pat Watkins, K Shaun Suisham.
What to expect: Anything is possible with Jerry Jones in charge, and the Cowboys could make a big splash after an underwhelming offseason a year ago. But in terms of team needs and what is required to take the next step, Dallas really doesn’t need much. A big-time impact safety makes some sense and could make a very good defense great, but that might be a project for the draft in a trade-up scenario for someone like Earl Thomas. But Darren Sharper might pique their interest. They also need to get younger along the offensive line, particularly at tackle, but that seems like a draft-day project, too. Maybe Jones gets real aggressive in the wide receiver market, as Roy Williams certainly is not living up to his billing, but the Cowboys are still rather stacked with pass-catchers. All in all, this is a team that is sitting pretty and doesn’t have a prominent unrestricted free agent who is poised to leave.
New York Giants
Potential unrestricted free agents: QB David Carr, LB Danny Clark, P Jeff Feagles, DT Fred Robbins
Potential restricted free agents: WR Domenik Hixon, TE Darcy Johnson, DE Dave Tollefson, G Kevin Boothe, S C.C. Brown, DT Barry Cofield, CB Kevin Dockery, WR Derek Hagan, WR Sinorice Moss, T Guy Whimper, LB Gerris Wilkinson.
What to expect: Big things could be in the works here, as there are already rumors swirling that New York could be a prime suitor for linebacker Karlos Dansby. An impact linebacker is certainly near the top of their wish list and Dansby fits the bill. Plus, he is extremely versatile. Getting faster on defense is a huge priority with new coordinator Perry Fewell stressing the ability to cover a lot of ground. However, Dansby isn’t really the thumper they need in the middle and is more of an outside linebacker for this system, although he would be great on passing downs. This is a group of decision-makers who might be starting to feel some heat, so do not rule out a big move or two.
Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Jason Babin, S Sean Jones, LB Jeremiah Trotter, LB Tracy White
Potential restricted free agents: LB Akeem Jordan, P Saverio Rocca, WR Jason Avant, C Nick Cole, LB Omar Gaither, LB Chris Gocong, CB Ellis Hobbs, G Max Jean-Gilles, TE Alex Smith, FB Leonard Weaver.
What to expect: There are questions on the offensive line, but overall, the Eagles are in a prime situation to improve their defense, particularly up front and at safety. Remember, they have quarterbacks to dangle as trade bait and really do not have any unrestricted guys that they need to bring back. This is a possible landing spot for Julius Peppers and he would be terrific on the opposite side of Trent Cole, who is among the most underrated players in the game and could blow up with someone taking pass protection attention away from his side. Count on the Eagles being aggressive in the free-agent and/or trade market. It might just be enough to get them that ever elusive Lombardi trophy. Stranger things have happened.
Potential unrestricted free agents: LS Ethan Albright, DE Phillip Daniels, T Levi Jones, C Casey Rabach,
P Hunter Smith, T Mike Williams, DE Renaldo Wynn, TE Todd Yoder.
Potential restricted free agents: DE Lorenzo Alexander, T Stephon Heyer, LB Chris Wilson, QB Jason Campbell, S Reed Doughty, DT Kedric Golston, LB Rocky McIntosh, DT Anthony Montgomery, C Will Montgomery, CB Carlos Rogers.
What to expect: This is a difficult team to get a grasp on in terms of what they might do in free agency, but I think it is safe to say that ownership will not hold Mike Shanahan and company back from opening up the check book and signing (and even overpaying) players whom they desire. It would be wise for Washington to have an excellent idea of what they are going to do with the fourth overall draft pick in terms of going quarterback or offensive tackle before really devising a free-agency plan. Rebuilding the offensive line is a must and Shanahan needs lighter, quicker (and younger) linemen than are on the roster. A running back they can trust wouldn’t hurt either, although it looks as though Clinton Portis will return, which they may regret. But don’t forget, this is a team that -- unwisely in my opinion -- is switching to a 3-4 scheme, so inside linebacker help is required, as are defensive linemen who fit the new scheme. The Redskins have a long wish list, but also have the ownership to endorse big spending when free agency opens.
The numbers have obviously dipped in recent years because of all of the underclassmen coming out, but the Senior Bowl is still an important part of the evaluation process -- especially for the Philadelphia Eagles. Here's the breakdown from 2005-09:
In 2005, the first six players selected by NFC East teams were all on Senior Bowl rosters. In 2009, only three of the first 11 players picked by NFC East teams participated in Senior Bowl week. As we've already stated, this probably has a lot to do with the spike in underclassmen entering the draft. These players are not eligible for the "Senior" Bowl. We're also seeing some of the big-time seniors sit out the Senior Bowl because they feel like there's more to lose than to gain. That's why I admire a player like USC safety Taylor Mays showing up and competing in Mobile, Ala., this week.
For a somewhat unheralded player such as Idaho offensive lineman Mike Iupati, the Senior Bowl can provide a rare opportunity to compete against athletes from larger schools. Iupati has had a breakout week and some draft experts, including our own Todd McShay, think he could go in the first round.
Over the past five seasons, nine of the 17 first-round picks in the NFC East were on the Senior Bowl roster. That list includes DeMarcus Ware, Jason Campbell, Brodrick Bunkley, Mathias Kiwanuka and Anthony Spencer. Over the past few years, the Eagles have been pretty shrewd when it comes to identifying and tracking players who participated in the Senior Bowl:
Here's a great Excel spreadsheet if you're interested in finding out which players from the NFC East have participated in the Senior Bowl over the past five years. In 2009, the Giants selected linebacker Clint Sintim (Virginia) and offensive tackle Will Beatty (Connecticut) in the second round and Ramses Barden (Cal Poly) in the third. All three players participated in the Senior Bowl. And at least two of the players -- Beatty and Sintim -- could be starting in 2010.
LANDOVER, Md. -- Greetings from the biggest NFC East game of the evening. I've just been handed tonight's incactives, so let me pass them along:
Redskins: Kevin Barnes, Quinton Ganther, Robert Henson, Chris Samuels, Chad Rinehart, Marko Mitchell, Anthony Montgomery, Renaldo Wynn
Eagles: Kevin Kolb (third quarterback), Dimitri Patterson, Joe Mays, Mike McGlynn, Max Jean-Gilles, Kevin Curtis, Victor Abiamiri, Omar Gaither
Eagles coach Andy Reid obviously has a lot of faith that left guard Todd Herremans is fully recovered. I'll be interested to see if Stacy Andrews gets any reps at right guard. Something tells me that we won't see tonight.
In one day, linebacker Will Witherspoon gained three wins. But in being traded from the awful Rams to the "we're not sure" Eagles, Witherspoon will have to move from weak-side to middle linebacker. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has been giving Witherspoon a crash course since Tuesday's trade.
"I don't really say it's that difficult; the defenses are fairly similar, there's a lot of similar communication," Witherspoon told reporters in Philly on Thursday. "But at the same time, changing positions makes it a little bit different. I think I'll get a good grasp of things by the time I get to the game."
It speaks to the Eagles' desperation at middle linebacker that the slightly banged up Witherspoon would step right into the starting lineup. The alternative would be Jeremiah Trotter and he looked really slow against the Raiders on Sunday.
Omar Gaither will undergo season-ending Lisfranc surgery on his left foot and there's a good chance he'll never play another game for the Eagles. Gaither would've been an unrestricted free agent this offseason and he was hoping to play his way back into good standing in the league after being demoted in '08.
As if Eagles linebacker Omar Gaither needed another setback, he'll now undergo Lisfranc surgery on his injured foot and likely miss the rest of the season. The Eagles haven't announced that Gaither's being placed on injured reserve, but that's the logical next step.
Gaither will be replaced in the starting lineup by Will Witherspoon, who arrived in a trade deadline deal with the Rams on Tuesday. Jeremiah Trotter will continue to serve as the backup middle linebacker. At this point, Gaither has to be wondering what he'll have to endure next. He appeared to have a bright future when he replaced Trotter before the '07 season.
But Gaither lost his starting job to Akeem Jordan last season and he was only starting this season because Stewart Bradley was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. You have to credit the Eagles for trading for a pretty solid player in Witherspoon. I know he wasn't all that effective in '08 for the Rams, but he'll be surrounded with more talent on this Eagles team.
If you were scarred by watching Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter chase Raiders tight ends around the Black Hole on Sunday, I have some good news for you. The Eagles have acquired 29-year-old linebacker Will Witherspoon from the Rams in exchange for wide receiver Brandon Gibson and a fifth-round pick in 2010.
Witherspoon has been a very productive player since joining the Rams in 2006. He was a third-round pick by the Panthers in 2002 and he made 16 tackles in the Super Bowl for Carolina. The Eagles were in desperate need of a linebacker with Omar Gaither suffering from a foot injury and Trotter trying to get up to speed after being out of the league for two years.
Witherspoon injured his back and hip in Sunday's game, so I'm not sure what his status will be for Monday's game against the Eagles. But if he's anywhere close to healthy, the Eagles need him immediately. Why did the Rams give up a pretty good player for Gibson and a fifth-round pick? Well, obviously they were probably going to release him at the end of the season. Former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is in the process of changing that locker room in St. Louis.
Good move by the Eagles.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Here's a quick look at what folks around the country are saying about the Beast:
- Jacques Taylor of the Dallas Morning News says the Cowboys' close losses reflect how far they've fallen since '07.
- Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com says there is growing frustration among Cowboys wide receivers.
- Clarence E. Hill Jr. from the Star-Telegram takes us behind the Cowboys' receiving numbers.
- David Moore had a chance to catch up with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett on Wednesday.
- Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and ESPN 103.3 FM finally decided to go after Garrett.
- Cris Collinsworth and Phil Simms think the Cowboys should do a better job of protecting Tony Romo -- publicly and privately.
- Former Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders is back in the news.
Posted by ESPN's Sal Paolantonio
PHILADELPHIA --With the Phillies winning their third straight National League East title, the Eagles could use a conventional feel-good story after weeks of strange happenings. And there in the back of the locker room Wednesday, in his old stall, was a very familiar face, the ever-popular Jeremiah Trotter, donning his shoulder pads, grinning from ear to ear at the notion of an improbable third tour of duty in midnight green.
But Trotter provides another important ingredient that can only be measured by the size of his heart: passion and leadership. Does he think he was brought back -- after two years out of the game -- to fill the leadership void left when Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins was allowed to leave via free agency for Denver?
"Definitely," said Trotter, who is in his 11th NFL season. "Absolutely, this is a young team, and sometimes you need some veteran leadership. And I don't have to say anything. I intend to lead by example."
Trotter said that when he walked into the locker room Monday for his first day with the team in two years, "it was like I never left. I didn't say a thing. I just went back to work."
Two stalls down from Trotter is Omar Gaither, who is 6-foot-2, 235 and has proved to be just too small to plug the middle in Stewart's absence -- the Eagles are giving up 106 yards rushing per game. That's 15th in the league, and will not be good enough once the schedule gets tougher and the New York Giants roll in Nov. 1.
Gaither still has a role, but it's mostly on passing downs. It will be Trotter's job to hold the line on first and second down -- unless, of course, offensive coordinators try to exploit Trotter by throwing the football.
Trotter said his reconstructed right knee, which initially forced him to retire, has been responding well. "No swelling -- feels good," Trotter said.
But Reid reminded reporters that Trotter has not played in a game yet. And that will be the true test.
"We pushed him to exhaustion and everything in a bent-knee position, something that would make that thing swell up if it was going to swell up and it didn't," Reid said. "But to tell you that this is a normal situation, no, this isn't a normal situation. This is unusual. I'm taking it week by week and I think he is, too. I think he's excited to be here and he brings the energy, not that we didn't have energy, but he brings additional energy."
Sal Paolantonio is an ESPN bureau reporter based in Philadelphia.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook both returned to practice Monday, although neither player talked to reporters. Barring any setbacks, I think McNabb and Westbrook will start Sunday against the Bucs in Philly.
You'll be happy to know that the Beast is making its first trip of the regular season to see the Eagles on Sunday. I'm anxious to see how quickly defensive coordinator Sean McDermott can work Jeremiah Trotter into the mix at linebacker. Which player on the Eagles' roster outside of McNabb or Westbrook do you guys want to hear from this week. I'm thinking about lining up someone for a Wednesday interview.
Just let me know what you're thinking. I found it interesting that Omar Gaither was the only linebacker who didn't walk through the locker room Monday. He can't be thrilled that the Eagles are bringing back a 32-year-old guy to split time with him. But Gaither did learn a lot working under Trotter back in 2006.
In other news, starting left guard Todd Herremans is targeting Oct. 26 as the date he'll return. That happens to be a game against the Redskins.