NFC East: Pat Williams
NFC East teams in need
Redskins: Not sure if you heard or not, but Albert Haynesworth balked last year at the idea of playing nose tackle in Jim Haslett's new 3-4 defense. And since they weren't able to find a non-Haynesworth answer in 2010, the Skins remain on the lookout for someone who can fill that crucial role on their defensive line. Haslett's scheme puts a premium on versatility, which means he likes to be able to shift the defensive linemen around depending on the play and the responsibilities it requires. But that said, a big, dominant nose tackle would be a nice anchor for the pieces that are still being put in place.
AP Photo/Paul SakumaIf the Redskins want to spend the money, Aubrayo Franklin would be a nice fit for their 3-4 defense.
Eagles: Antonio Dixon is an emerging star, and the team believes new defensive line coach Jim Washburn will coach improvement out of Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson and Trevor Laws. I don't get the sense that Philadelphia considers this a position of need, though there has been some noise about Washburn wanting to reunite with Haynesworth, who was a star for him when both were in Tennessee.
Top five potential unrestricted free-agent defensive tackles.
1. Aubrayo Franklin. The top available 3-4 nose tackle in this class, Franklin would be a perfect fit for Washington and is almost certainly at the very top of its wish list. The 49ers will attempt to keep him, but the Redskins have money to spend.
2. Cofield. It's unclear what the Giants intend to do about Cofield, who believes the drafting of Austin is a sign that they plan to move on. It could be, or it could have been just a way to give them coverage in case he leaves and some leverage in their contract negotiations. With Mathias Kiwanuka and offensive keys such as Ahmad Bradshaw, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss needing new deals, the Giants will have to make some tough choices, and parting ways with Cofield could be one of them.
3. Brandon Mebane. A 4-3 run-stopper who showed enough as a pass-rusher to play on three downs in Seattle last year, Mebane will have to prove his legs are fully healthy. But assuming he does, he'll be right there with Cofield as 4-3 teams look to beef up inside.
4. Anthony Adams. He might not be on the open market for very long. The Bears' decision to cut teammate Tommie Harris in March was likely tied to their efforts to re-sign their best run-stuffing defensive lineman.
5. Pat Williams. He's 38 years old and this time last year was talking retirement. But there's no doubt that the longtime Vikings star could help a contending team that could put him into a rotation that would ease the burden on his body. You also have to think he could help as a mentor for young defensive linemen. At the right cost, he might fit what the Eagles or Giants are looking for, if those teams do end up looking for defensive tackle help.
Predictions that mean nothing: Redskins sign Franklin, Giants bring back Cofield, Eagles add a cheaper veteran such as Williams (if he's cheap) or Remi Ayodele.
Well, Judd Zugland of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune asked Williams if he remembered Brooking's reaction, and miracle of miracles, he does.
"We don't care what Brooking says ... If he wants to cry like a little baby, he'll cry like a little baby," Williams said to Zulgad.
I'll try to track down Brooking via text and see if he has a response, but I imagine he'll leave this one alone. Surely these teams don't need extra motivation to get motivated for what basically amounts to an elimination game for the playoffs. I don't have the number in front of me, but my gut tells me 1-4 teams don't normally make the playoffs.
Go about your day in peace.
Vikings nose tackle Pat Williams, meanwhile, said Brooking was lucky to escape the Minnesota sideline in one piece.
“We don’t care what Keith Brooking says,” Williams said. “He was about to get his ass whupped on our sideline over there. It don’t matter. Nobody said anything when they blew out the Eagles [the past two weeks]. It’s the playoffs. It ain’t no regular-season game. If you lose, you go home. We take no pity on them. Do they expect us to? I don’t care about no Brooking. He can say whatever he wants to say.”
To recap: Ahead 27-3 late in the fourth quarter, Childress left his starters in the game. The Cowboys gave up the ball on downs at their 37-yard line with 5:26 remaining, and the Vikings threw three passes on their ensuing six-play drive. The final one was an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on fourth-and-3 with 1:55 remaining.
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said the Vikings ran up the score. Said Brooking: “I thought it was classless. I thought it was B.S. Granted, we get paid to stop them, but we had zero timeouts left. I didn’t think there was any call for that.”
Told of Brooking’s comments, Shiancoe laughed and said: “OK, we apologize. I’m sorry. Better?”
The Vikings certainly didn’t need that score to win the game, and I stand by what I wrote after the game. But do the Cowboys have a right to be upset? Did they run it up the past two weeks on Philadelphia? Don’t forget that Childress and Eagles coach Andy Reid remain close friends.
Feel free to weigh in both this post and over at SportsNation.
I can't recall a playoff meeting that has featured two teams that are so evenly matched. And since I've been fascinated by Seifert's accounts of the Williams Wall, I reached out to former Packers, Eagles, Jaguars and Cowboys scout Bryan Broaddus (now with 103.3 ESPN in Dallas) to find out more. Here's what he said about Kevin Williams:
"[Kevin] Williams plays the 3 technique over the guard and is a real handful to deal with not only because of his power but his outstanding quickness. One of Williams' best moves is his spin move where he takes the blocker to one side then quickly works the other way, all the time moving up the field. Williams will line up on either side, but will most likely see more action over left guard Kyle Kosier because he doesn’t have the mass of right guard Leonard Davis. Kosier did have his struggles as a one-on-one blocker with the powerful Albert Haynesworth."
So each team has an All-Pro defensive tackle (Kevin Williams and Jay Ratliff) and pass-rusher (Jared Allen and DeMarcus Ware). This has to be one of the most intriguing divisional playoff games in years. And the Beast will be there to bring you all the action.
And by the way, here is Broaddus' scouting report on Allen: "Allen is an interesting rusher because he doesn’t give the tackles much of a hitting surface. Allen really does a nice job of getting the corner by getting his shoulder past the blocker, then relentlessly chasing the ball. When Allen does get in trouble is when he misses his rush and takes the blocker down the middle. Allen is not a powerful player and if Flozell Adams can consistently set to make him rush down the middle, he could have a very good day. Just a side note: In years past, Adams has struggled when you give him help. There has been times where he is not quite sure where his help was in relation to the block and it has given him problems."
MINNEAPOLIS -- We're a little more than an hour away from kickoff and a herd of sportswriters just blitzed a spread of chicken strips located five feet away from my laptop.
On the field, Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel came out about 30 minutes ago and worked on getting in out of breaks. Sal Paolantonio had already reported that Samuel was going to play, and the inactives list that just floated across my desk backed that up.
There was a buzz (perhaps food-related) that went through the press box when Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams showed up on the inactives list. The Vikings were counting on Williams to return this week, so it's certainly a setback. Fred "South Beach" Evans will take Williams' place in the starting lineup.
For an Eagles' fandom and media corps obsessed with Andy Reid's anti-run stance, this is good news. Just like he did against the Giants last month, it would be wise for Reid to feed the ball to Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter.
In other news, I'm pleased to be dual-blogging with NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert today. I'm also sitting next to Hall of Fame NFL writer and my former office mate Rick "Goose" Gosselin, who has at least 17 highlighters and one of the most complicated looking charts I've seen.
OK, I'm about to dive inside the ESPN Stats & Analysis database. Wish me luck.