NFC East: Redskins

Maybe it was out of need; maybe it was about finding a gem. Most likely it was a little of both. Regardless, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has kept an undrafted free agent in two of his first three camps in Washington. It’ll be tougher this year because the Redskins are deeper than they were in 2010 when tight end Logan Paulsen, returner Brandon Banks and running back Keiland Williams all made the cut. A year later tackle Willie Smith made the roster. Paulsen has developed into a solid blocker and Williams, noted for his special teams play, is on the bubble. Banks and Smith are gone.

Last season? Nobody made it -- though if Chase Minnifield had stayed healthy he would have. Then again, if he had been healthy before the draft he'd have been a third-round pick at worst. The Redskins had drafted 21 players in 2011 and ’12 combined, making it tougher for an undrafted free agent to earn a spot. It’ll be more of the same this year, but here’s a breakdown of this year’s group:
  1. Receivers: Skye Dawson (TCU), Nick Williams (Connecticut), Chip Reeves (Troy). Dawson impressed in training camp with his quickness and sharp cuts, leading to success in one-on-one drills vs. cornerbacks (a drill set up for receivers to look good). When they got to 11-on-11 work, Dawson did not show up as much. He’s one of four players who worked at kick returner Tuesday, along with Niles Paul, Evan Royster and Williams. So Dawson and Williams will have a chance to make noise more so than Reeves. Both still have a long way to go.
  2. Linebackers: Will Compton (Nebraska), Melvin Burdette (UAB) and Jeremy Kimbrough (Appalachian State). None of them have flashed in a big way during training camp, though it’s obvious that Kimbrough, arrives with some pop, something the coaches have noticed. He’s listed at 5-foot-11, which might be a little generous. The Redskins need depth inside, but several players are ahead of this group. It’ll be tough for anyone here. But it’s always good to stash a young linebacker or two on practice squad.
  3. Tight ends: Emmanuel Ogbuehi (Georgia State). He will not make the roster simply because the four guys ahead of him will (provided they all stay healthy). And even if one of them gets hurt the Redskins likely would go with three tight ends and keep an extra player elsewhere. Ogbuehi’s hands aren’t the most consistent, but he is athletic – he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds and has a 35-inch vertical. He has decent strength. He’s the definition of raw.
  4. Offensive line: tackle Xavier Nixon (Florida), guards Jacolby Ashworth (Houston) and Tevita Stevens (Utah). Nixon has a name because he played at Florida, but he has a long ways to go. He is just not ready to play tackle (he’s worked on the left side) in the NFL and would ideally need at least a year on practice squad (or more). Ashworth and Stevens are behind players the Redskins drafted a year ago (Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis, both of whom still project to backups). All three of these undrafteds are major longshots.
If you weren't around for our NFC East chat today...well, where were you?

Don't worry. I've got you covered with some highlights:

Kevin from New Jersey: What kind of shape do you think Plaxico will be when he gets out of the clink? At his age he is not going to be given a lot of time to get back into it. Will he be worth a gamble?

Dan Graziano: Word is, his weight is down but his conditioning is top-notch. (I always assume that happens in prison -- what else do they have to do but work out?) I think he'll be worth a gamble for a team (Philly?) that has good WRs and can use him as a situational guy rather than a No. 1, 10-catch-per-game WR.

Tim from New Haven, CT: Dan, do you think the Giants will be active in getting a linebacker when free agency begins, or do you believe they will stick with Goff as the starting linebacker?

Dan Graziano: Tim, they've been so stubborn about linebacker the past couple of years, basically treating it as a non-need when it's clearly a spot where they're vulnerable and getting hurt. I believe they SHOULD be aggressive in looking for a linebacker, but everything they do seems so focused on pass rush and secondary that it wouldn't surprise me to see them ignore LB again and go with what they have.

Todd from Charleston, SC: Hey, do you get the feeling the Redskins are trying to tank this year for Andrew Luck? I've been seeing or reading this all over the web.

Dan Graziano: I sincerely doubt that, and I still think the 2011 QB story for them has yet to be written. But next year's draft class is QB-rich at the top, and if you were, hypothetically, a team that didn't think your long-term answer was on the current market, it might be tempting to do the stopgap thing this year knowing that the long-term answer might only be a year away.

Mark from Baltimore: Who do you think will be the better player in 5 years, Brandon Graham or JPP?

Dan Graziano: Love this question. I'm going with Jason Pierre-Paul because he's healthier now and Graham's development might be delayed by injury. But it's a GREAT question and debate. Good job, Mark. Keep em coming.

Todd from PA (via mobile): Who do you think is the starting RB in Dallas next year? I know the money is on Felix Jones but something tells me that Murray kid could steal the show.

Dan Graziano: I think the Cowboys are at their best when they rotate backs and let the situation dictate who should get the ball. It's on the coaching staff to sell to these guys that it doesn't matter who's the "starter," that they all have different roles and jobs and all will play when they should. And then it's on the coaching staff to rotate them correctly.

Mr. W from Dallas: I keep hearing of the possibilty of Haynesworth to the Eagles...any seriousness to this?

Dan Graziano: The Eagles always surprise. But their new D-line coach is Jim Washburn, who was Albert's D-line coach in Tennessee. So, we will speculate. I think he'd be an awesome addition for them. So much so that, if I were the Redskins, I'd make sure it didn't happen.

Thanks to all who participated. Each of you is tied for first in my top ten readers poll. We'll do this again next week.

It's never too early to talk fantasy

July, 1, 2009
7/01/09
4:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

It looks like ESPN.com's Matthew Berry is cranking up his fantasy football coverage in his latest column. In his current mock draft, Berry has Michael Turner going No. 1 overall and Adrian Peterson No. 2. I wouldn't endorse that particular order, but at least Berry's willing to go out on a limb.

On his love/hate list, he thinks Tony Romo would have excellent value in the fourth or fifth round of a draft -- depending on the size of your league. I guess that means Berry thinks either Roy Williams or Miles Austin will put up solid numbers -- or maybe both.

He also likes the Eagles' LeSean McCoy and the Giants' Domenik Hixon as late-round pickups. And that seems like pretty sound advice to me. The suggestion out of left field was Redskins wide receiver Malcolm Kelly. Berry thinks he'd be a good pickup in a "super-deep league."

So who does Berry "hate" in the NFC East? Giants quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants' defense. Really? I sort of get Manning because he doesn't put up ridiculous numbers like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Romo are capable of. But I think the Giants' D will have a big season in terms of sacks and turnovers. Kenny Phillips is about to have a seven-interception season.

Read Berry's column and let me know what you think.

Witten wants to play through pain

October, 28, 2008
10/28/08
9:23
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Witten

It doesn't surprise me that tight end Jason Witten is lobbying to play against the Giants with a broken rib Sunday. I did an interview with him in 2003 in which he was mumbling because he had two steel plates in his broken jaw.

The injury kept him out of one game, but he returned to the field the following week. Witten has already been in pain because of a shoulder injury that's required pain-killing injections, but he refused to let it keep him off the field.

The best course of action would be for Witten to sit out Sunday's game and then use the bye week to recover before the Redskins game. But that's not how he operates. With Brad Johnson basically throwing medicine balls, the Cowboys desperately need Witten as a receiver and blocker.

If he can't go, second-round draft pick Martellus Bennett out of Texas A&M will take over as the starter. Bennett is talented, but he'd be a huge drop-off from Witten. Without Witten, Tony Romo, Felix Jones and Kyle Kosier, the Cowboys would be in big trouble in the Meadowlands.

Wait, they're already in big trouble.

NFC Beast Power Rankings

October, 28, 2008
10/28/08
9:59
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

In a few hours, we'll launch the Week 9 ESPN.com power rankings. This will give you a unique opportunity to freak out over something that has no bearing on anything. Now, please rise and put your hands together for this week's NFC Beast rankings (which you're not supposed to be seeing right now).

2. Giants -- Now that was a statement game in Pittsburgh. The Giants had every reason to lose that game, what with the goal-line stand by the Steelers. But the Giants kept destroying Ben Roethlisberger, and in the end, a special teams snafu by the Steelers put them in position to win the game. Oh, and Eli Manning is ridiculously clutch.

4. Redskins -- Yes, I know they struggled in Detroit, but they found a way to win. If you haven't realized it yet, the Redskins don't blow teams out. They simply wear them down with a relentless running game. And quarterback Jason Campbell rarely makes mistakes.

8. Eagles -- You knew they'd come back with a vengeance after the bye. Brian Westbrook is one of the best players in the league, and he can carry a team when he's healthy. Well, he's healthy.

11. Cowboys -- That was a season-saving win against the Bucs -- at least for another week. Cowboys face the Giants in the Meadowlands with Brad Johnson. Talk about scary.

Did Phillips save his job?

October, 27, 2008
10/27/08
11:23
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

I don't think Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was prepared to fire coach Wade Phillips had the team lost to the Bucs on Sunday, but at 4-4, he would've been in desperation mode. Instead, the Cowboys escaped with a 13-9 victory, and Phillips received the game ball from Jones.

"Quite a few people had our coach fired this week, but it was never going to happen," Jones told Peter King. "No one's as responsible for this win as him."

As I wrote in my game column Sunday, Jones took several stabs at paying Phillips a compliment after the game, but a lot of it came across as back-handed. In four different media sessions, he attempted to say that Phillips had been making head coaches look good for years. He was pointing out that Phillips made himself look good in Sunday's 13-9 win, but the praise seemed a bit forced. Jones knows this team's playoff hopes are hanging by a thread as it prepares for a trip to the Meadowlands this weekend.

The Giants (6-1) and Redskins (6-2) are clearly the best teams in the division and the Eagles (4-3) looked like a rejuvenated team in a 27-14 win over the Falcons. If the Cowboys (5-3) went on another two-game losing skid, they'd pretty much fall out of the playoff race. That's why Sunday's win was so huge. The goal is to stay afloat until quarterback Tony Romo returns from injury.

And for one week, that's exactly what the Cowboys did.

An NFC Beast special chatting engagement

October, 24, 2008
10/24/08
10:38
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Meet me in the usual spot today at noon ET. We'll discuss the Plaxico Burress injury, the Cowboys' demise on offense, the Redskins' trip to Detroit (watch out) and the Eagles' plan for stopping Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

A lot of you guys have been showing up late. Try to be on time today.

Portis credits Redskins' win to 'team ball'

October, 19, 2008
10/19/08
11:28
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

LANDOVER, Md. -- Redskins running back Clinton Portis had just completed one of his best days as a pro Sunday, but none of that mattered as the Browns lined up for a 54-yard field-goal attempt to send the game into overtime.

 
 Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
 Clinton Portis rushed for 175 yards and a TD, his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game.

Even though he'd punished the Browns for four quarters with 175 yards on 27 carries, Portis stood to be the goat if the Browns pulled off the comeback.

After a dramatic goal-line stand by the defense, the Redskins took over at their 3-yard line. As he had all night, Portis spotted a seam and bounced outside for what he thought was going to be a 97-yard touchdown run. But as he raced down the right sideline, Browns cornerback Eric Wright jabbed the ball out from behind.

"I gotta know better," said Portis, wearing the type of gold eyewear that can't be found at Sunglass Hut. "I was running wild and trying to dig. The guy just made a great play."

Asked how he felt when Phil Dawson's 54-yard attempt sailed wide right, Portis told a reporter to think of the "best relief you've had in your life."

Portis' turnover led to a Browns touchdown, and opened the door for Dawson's attempt. The Redskins held on for a 14-11 victory that helped ease some of the sting from last week's 19-17 home loss to the surging Rams.

Earlier in the week, Portis said he didn't know if a hip injury would allow him to play against the Browns. With backup Ladell Betts already out, Jim Zorn had to dial up former Seahawk Shaun Alexander, whose best days are well behind him.

Portis didn't practice all week, but he said a couple of massages helped enable him to play. And given the circumstances and the Redskins' lack of rhythm in the passing game Sunday, Zorn had to ride his best player.

"I think Clinton Portis is an absolute workhorse," Zorn said. "And our offensive line takes pride in that. I think teams are coming to stop our run, but we're staying with it."

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Rams 19, Redskins 17

October, 12, 2008
10/12/08
7:02
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

I guess we should've seen the letdown coming. After a remarkable four-game winning streak, which included division road wins over the Cowboys and Eagles, the Redskins lost to the winless Rams at home.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Washington (4-2) is the first team in NFL history to play its first five games without an offensive turnover. But that came crashing down in the first half Sunday, when the Redskins had two turnovers. The back-breaking turnover came late in the half when Redskins guard Pete Kendall plucked a deflected pass out of the air and then was stripped. The Rams returned the fumble for a touchdown to take a 10-7 halftime lead.

The play energized a team that seemed destined for a 0-5 record. Clinton Portis was able to gash the Rams defense, but the Redskins didn't take the lead until late in the fourth quarter.

Everything Jim Zorn has touched has turned to gold lately, but on Sunday, the Redskins looked like a team that was emotionally spent. Still, they had a chance to hang onto a 17-16 lead late in the game. Rams quarterback Marc Bulger found rookie wide receiver Donnie Avery for a 43-yard gain on third-and-13 from the St. Louis 41-yard line. Avery, one of the fastest players in the draft, somehow was in one-on-one coverage with nickel cornerback Leigh Torrence.

Former Seahawks kicker Josh Brown nailed a 49-yard field goal to win the game and help the Rams improve to 1-4. Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell wasn't awful, but he couldn't make enough plays to give the Redskins some cushion in the first half.

The good news for the Redskins is that they will host the Browns next Sunday and then travel to Detroit. There's still a great chance this team is 6-2 at the midway point, and I think most Redskins fans would've taken that at the first of the season.

I'm sure the Redskins are re-thinking their decision to go with rookie punter Durant Brooks over veteran Derrick Frost. Brooks had two pathetic punts Sunday, and that helped set up the offensively challenged Rams.

It's not wise to panic after one loss -- but the Redskins definitely made life a little tougher on themselves.

A conversation with Chris Samuels

October, 9, 2008
10/09/08
9:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

 
 Rob Tringali/Getty Images
 Chris Samuels has made five Pro Bowl appearances.

Just as the Pacman story was breaking Wednesday evening, I had the opportunity to spend 30 minutes on the phone with Washington Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels. Now in his ninth season out of Alabama, Samuels has played for five different head coaches.

He's been to the Pro Bowl five times, which is the second most for an offensive lineman in club history. Samuels credits Jim Zorn for not allowing the Redskins to lose their confidence after a miserable season opener in the Meadowlands.

"The Giants actually dominated us for four quarters," said Samuels. "Everyone had pretty much written us off. But coach Zorn's one of those people who never gets too low and never gets too high. He provided outstanding leadership during a tough time."

In the days following the 16-7 loss to the Giants, running back Clinton Portis was critical of the play calling and the offensive line's performance. Samuels said he and Portis were able to laugh about the criticism because "he didn't really mean it."

He said the turning point in the Redskins' season came when Jason Campbell connected with Santana Moss on a 67-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Saints.

"Ever since then, we've been clicking and rolling," Samuels said.

(Read full post)

Redskins take two for the road

October, 5, 2008
10/05/08
8:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

PHILADELPHIA -- It's hard to believe there was a time when we thought the Washington Redskins were the cellar dwellers in the NFC East. It has only been a month since they opened the Jim Zorn era with a stumbling 16-7 loss, but this isn't the same team.
 
 Paul Spinelli/Getty Images
 Clinton Portis rushed 29 times for 145 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles.

The Redskins completed a remarkable two-week swing with a 23-17 comeback victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field to improve to 4-1. This is no longer an upset-minded team. Quite simply, this has all the makings of a playoff team.

Washington withstood a furious start by the Eagles, and then spent the final three quarters dominating every aspect of the game. Eagles coach Andy Reid was left mumbling something about putting his team in the right position, which for now is dead last in the NFC East.

A week after gashing the Cowboys for 144 rushing yards, the Redskins picked up 203 against the Eagles. Philadelphia came into the game giving up 53.8 yards per game, but Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts combined for 70 in the first half alone. Portis finished with 29 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown.

With the Redskins facing fourth-and-1 at the Eagles' 38-yard line with 2:48 left, Zorn never hesitated to call Portis' number. The running back plowed forward for three yards to seal another huge division win. And when Zorn emerged from the visiting locker room later, Portis' family members were waiting on him.

"I hope you don't think I abused your son today," Zorn said to Portis' mother. Some of you might recall that Portis was critical of Zorn's play-calling after the loss to the New York Giants, but that game's now a distant memory.

On Sunday, the Redskins couldn't have asked for a worse start. The Eagles scored on their first possession, and following a Redskins three-and-out, rookie DeSean Jackson returned a punt 68 yards to give the Eagles a 14-0 lead.

That's when Zorn made an important decision. He stuck with a game plan that included a steady dose of running plays to the left side and passes to Chris Cooley. With the Eagles taking Santana Moss out of the game, quarterback Jason Campbell stayed calm and relied on other players.

"It would've been easy to get away from the game plan and get pass happy," Campbell told me after the game. "But it was too early for that. We had a good game plan, so we just decided to stick with it."

(Read full post)

Eagles lead the league in drops

October, 3, 2008
10/03/08
10:45
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Disturbing news for Eagles fans coming out of Pat Yasinskas' NFC South blog Thursday afternoon. Pat revealed (via Stats Inc.) that the Eagles are leading the NFL with 11 drops this season. The Lions and Broncos are tied for second place in this dubious category with 10 apiece.

So quick, let's try to justify this alarming number. For starters, only Jay Cutler (157) and Drew Brees (148) have attempted more passes than Donovan McNabb's 146. If you put it in the air that much, you're going to have some drops. The Eagles have also been without starters Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis most of the regular season. DeSean Jackson has been brilliant at times, but he's also had a couple of drops. I'll see if I can get the complete breakdown by player at some point today.

The Cowboys have seven drops and the Redskins and Giants are tied with five. Combined, the NFC East has dropped 28 balls, so they're one drop off the pace of the league-leading NFC North (29). I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I'm guessing Terrell Owens has at least four of the Cowboys' seven drops. He always seems to be among the league leaders in drops, but he still manages to put up big numbers.

Mosley Mailbag begins in 3-2-1

October, 3, 2008
10/03/08
9:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The American people have spoken. You want me to read your e-mails more than once a week, so I've hired a focus group to look into this and see if it's something we should consider.

But seriously, I appreciate the fact that NFC Beast readers are the most prolific group of the NFL Blog Network. It's with great pride and some trepidation that we once again try to clean out my Mailbag. Many of you (from the 214 area code) have demanded more Cowboys coverage, but I'm planning to spend a great deal of time on the other three teams in the division this week.

 
 Icon SMI
 If Chris Horton, left, keeps getting takeaways, coordinator Greg Blache will put up with some mistakes from the rookie.

Thanks for your eloquently phrased questions, but more importantly, for your honesty. The Mailbag has allowed us to meet on a quasi-personal level, and that's something we can build on. Surfing through your (favorable) comments is an edifying and lasting experience. I promise to only answer one (perhaps three) Big 12 questions in this edition.

Let's begin with Isaac from Maryland. Isaac, what's on your mind this morning? Really liking all this Chris Horton coverage, including your recent column. One article I read, might have been yours, stated that his interceptions have covered up his coverage mistakes on the field. (The Witten TD last week). Besides his interceptions, how is the rest of his game?

Mosley: As founder and president of the Chris Horton fan club, rest assured that we'll continue to monitor the young man's progress. I'll admit that I only watched the play you mentioned twice but it seems the Redskins were worried about that wheel route (I love a good wheel route) Cowboys rookie Felix Jones was running down the left sideline. Marcus Washington got locked in one-on-one coverage with Witten, and that's a bad place for him to be. Witten sells him on a double-move, touchdown Cowboys. Witten was actually open several times in the second half, but the Cowboys had launched their T.O. appeasement program.

Listen, Horton will make a lot of mistakes. At one point, the Redskins had to pull him off the field against the Cowboys. But as Bill Parcells used to say about certain players, the ball always seems to find Horton. You need that type of player on the field. He's not going to be a great coverage guy, but there's not a lot of strong safeties who fit that description. Horton's pretty solid against the run, and he looks a bit lost in coverage at times. But if defensive coordinator Greg Blache keeps getting takeaways out of the rookie, he'll be willing to put up with the mistakes. Just a really neat kid who shares my passion for "Dexter," although don't send me an e-mail about the first episode. And I mean it.


Bryan from DC has been reading Pat Yasinskas' excellent NFC South blog: In Pat Yasinskas' blog it says Phily has dropped a league-leading 11 passes so far this year. Do you know who is the main culprit behind that statistic?

Mosley: Bryan, I'll track down my Stats Inc. password, and try to provide the breakdown on the NFC East blog later today. What I can tell you (after intensive research) is that Donovan McNabb has thrown the most passes in the division. His 146 attempts leads Tony Romo by seven, and the other two quarterbacks by 20 or more attempts (Eli's played one less game). The Eagles have had more opportunities to drop balls. Off the top of my head, I remember rookie DeSean Jackson having a big drop in the red zone against the Cowboys, which forced the Eagles to settle for a field goal.

But you have to cut the Eagles a little slack for beginning the season without their starting wideouts. If you put the ball in the air that many times, there will be some drops. Over the years, starter Reggie Brown and veteran Greg Lewis have dropped their fair share of passes. It shouldn't be surprising that Jason Avant and Hank Baskett also dropped a few balls. And throw L.J. Smith in there, too. For a guy who needed to be an impact player this season, he's been pretty quiet.


Sniper1532 writes: Way to go and attack the reports for the Cowboys. Wow, you guys (ESPN) only get worse, and people like you who just love to hate on the Cowboys and T.O., but that's OK. I stopped watching you guys a long time ago for this reason. You guys know what T.O. is gonna say when you ask questions like, "Did you get the ball enough?" I mean come on.

Mosley: Sniper, this e-mail actually warms my heart. The folks in the "Cowboys bias" camp never knew my reputation as an alleged "Cowboys hater," as you put it. If I can reach across the aisle (I watched the Palin-Biden debate), then we've reached some bipartisanship on the blog.

To your T.O. point, my colleague and good friend Ed Werder is the reporter who asked the question you referenced. There's a laughable premise that T.O. should somehow be protected from himself by people working in the media. T.O. has stated after several games that he didn't receive enough passes, which makes him a lot like most star receivers in this league. I'm not sure Ed phrased the question exactly like you did, but even if he did, what the heck's wrong with it? T.O. seemed visibly upset when he'd come to the sideline. This sort of behavior might lead a reporter to ask whether he felt like he was being used properly.

I've defended T.O. several times in the past and I'm taken him to task when I think he's in the wrong. This notion that we shouldn't take the chance of asking a question that might cause someone to say something that they will later be criticized for is ridiculous. Given T.O.'s history with quarterbacks, it makes sense to pursue this line of questioning. A reporter from the Cowboys' in-house Internet operation apparently accused Ed of lacking objectivity, which led to an entertaining exchange at Valley Ranch on Wednesday. And Sniper, I'm sorry if you've actually stopped watching ESPN. I'm certainly happy that you're still supporting ESPN.com.

(Read full post)

The Zorn Identity

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
1:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

If I could just convince Redskins tight end Chris Cooley to tone down his language a bit on his fantastic blog, The Cooley Zone, we might feature him every day. His entry on the Cowboys game was priceless Monday. He gave coach Jim Zorn (Z) a lot of credit for his pep talks leading up to the game:

"The night before the game we talked about two things," said Cooley. "The first point was that it was going to take an unbelievable effort by everyone to win the game. Z talked about 'jumping off.' He's reading a book about Kit Carson and his trip from Missouri to New Mexico in the early 1800s. When someone decided to leave Missouri for further west they were jumping off.

"This was crazy dangerous and took a huge leap of faith and commitment. I know it sounds way corny and it did to us the night before the game, but if you think about it, it was relevant to our situation. Jump off to beat the Cowboys. Maybe Z is the pep talk expert. I mean, before the New Orleans game the topic was 'be excellent.' A line from George Carlin in 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.'

"The second thing we said is that when we get back in the locker room after the game, we will know we could have won the game. Whether we won or not, we knew that the Cowboys were a team we could beat. Obviously, winning was a much better option for us."

How good is that? I'll try to remember to ask Redskins P.R. chief Zack Bolno which Kit Carson book Zorn was reading, but I think it's this one. It's interesting that a coach at the professional level puts so much thought into inspirational messages. I know Tom Coughlin loves talking to his players about books he's reading. I know he was reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's book about Abe Lincoln when he arrived in Albany for training camp.

Not sure if Tom saw "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," though. In one of the first speeches he gave during training camp, Zorn pulled down his jeans and told players how he didn't appreciate the "sag" look.

Jason Campbell told me that Zorn had players rolling in the aisles during his fashion talk. Zorn also went to the trouble of learning all the name brand jeans his players were wearing.

Of course, none of this works if you go out and lose games. But Zorn's willingness to show his human side has helped make this a relatively smooth transition.

Joe Gibbs is great and all, but I'm not sure he ever eased down his designer jeans to demonstrate the "sag" look.

Friday's Beastlines: Cowboys edition

September, 26, 2008
9/26/08
11:40
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

  • Tim Cowlishaw of ESPN's "Around the Horn" and NASCAR coverage says this feels like a trap game against the Redskins on Sunday. He thinks the rivalry has lost its sting, and he's probably right. But I'm still not sure how this is a trap game. Do we really have to worry about the Cowboys looking ahead to next Sunday's Bengals game? This series might lack the passion it had in the '70s and '80s, but it's hard to imagine the Cowboys not being emotionally ready to play an important division game.
  • Did you know that Redskins receiver Santana Moss has 33 catches for 602 yards and four touchdowns in six career games against the Cowboys? Clarence E. Hill has the story in the Star-Telegram.
  • The first nonfootball event at the Cowboys' news stadium has been booked. Join me in welcoming the FBI National Academy Association to Arlington -- in 2012.
  • It looks like former first-round draft pick Anthony Spencer will be ready to play Sunday. No, I'm being serious. And after a month with the team, it looks like guard Montrae Holland is ready to contribute. You've heard scouts say players are good in space. Holland has been good at taking up space.
  • Brian Davis of the DMN has a fun story on how Redskins coach Jim Zorn began his playing career in Dallas. Zorn couldn't quite beat out Clint Longley, one of the most bizarre individuals I've ever written about. Could Zorn have eventually beaten out Danny White? I don't think so, but he certainly had a nice career in Seattle.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider