NFC East: Sam Hurd

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 1

May, 23, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
  • When Dez Bryant might sign an extension.
  • Lance Dunbar’s roster spot with the addition of Ryan Williams.
  • The team’s best free-agent pickup
  • The state of the defensive line.
  • The best of the undrafted receivers.

Look for Part 2 of the mailbag on Saturday.

Away we go:

NFC East links: Cruz's difficult decision

April, 12, 2013
Dallas Cowboys

ESPN Insider Ed Werder weighs in on Doug Free's situation with the Cowboys in this ESPNDallas podcast.

Calvin Watkins revisits the sad case of former Cowboys receiver Sam Hurd, who is awaiting sentencing after buying cocaine and marijuana from an undercover police officer.

Former Michigan State running Le'Veon Bell was impressed after visiting with the Cowboys.

New York Giants

Justin Tuck says that losing defensive end Osi Umenyiora to free agency will be a "huge burden," according to ESPNNewYork's Ohm Youngmisuk. Tuck also talked about Victor Cruz and how he hopes the free-agent receiver participates in voluntary offseason workouts on Monday.

Paul Schwartz of the N.Y. Post writes that it's hard for Cruz to realize that he is not worth as much as he thinks he's worth.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles traded backup running back Dion Lewis to the Cleveland Browns for linebacker Emmanuel Acho. Les Bowen of offers some thoughts.

Chip Kelly is already starting to clean house; he cut four players less than two weeks after the start of the offseason workout program.

Washington Redskins

Rex Grossman admits that running the option for him is, well, not an option.

Pierre Garcon says he'll be ready to start the season but added that "I can't say I'll be 100 percent, but I'll be back to there helping the team in any way possible."

Mike Jones of the Washington Post offers an update on safety Jordan Bernstine, who missed most of his rookie season after injuring his knee in last season's opener.
The NFL has announced that 15 teams have been awarded a total of 32 compensatory picks in next month's draft. The New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys are two of those teams, each picking up an additional pick at the end of the fourth round as a result of their 2011 free-agent activity.

The Giants now have the 36th pick in the first round (131st pick overall) because they lost free agents Barry Cofield, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss last offseason and signed David Baas and Steve Weatherford. The Cowboys get the 40th pick in the fourth round (135th overall) because they lost Stephen Bowen and Sam Hurd in free agency and signed Abram Elam.

Not every free agent is deemed to have compensatory-pick value, based on the league's formula that takes into account salary, playing time and postseason honors. But if the overall value, according to that formula, of compensatory free agents lost in a given offseason outweighs the value of compensatory free agents signed, teams are compensation with these additional picks. The placement of the picks is determined by the formula as well.

The Eagles and Redskins do not get compensatory picks, because the overall value of the free agents they signed in 2011 is deemed by the formula to be equal to or greater than the overall value of the free agents they lost.
The Friday links, as you should know by now, require no introduction.

New York Giants

Mathias Kiwanuka says the Giants are "definitely a Super Bowl team." Major, major shift in confidence and attitude around this Giants team since the loss to Washington a few weeks back. It comes from the way the defense is playing. If they maintain it, Kiwanuka could be proven right. They're just going to have to maintain it against some of the best offenses in the league.

Fascinating story by Johnette Howard about how defensive backs, who always preach that "you have to have short memories," actually do, in general, have shorter memories -- and lower Wonderlic scores -- than other players on the team. And how defensive backs are the only position group that performs better as Wonderlic scores drop. The point here is that the Giants' DBs, whatever their Wonderlic scores, have been working to forget the failures of earlier in the season.

Philadelphia Eagles

Geoff Mosher has 10 moves the Eagles need to make this offseason, and it may surprise you that he starts with "re-sign DeSean Jackson." I predict there will be two very vocal sides to this debate -- perhaps even within the Eagles' front office -- and I have no idea how it will turn out.

In this notebook, we learn that Jamaal Jackson's agent expects the Eagles to release their one-time starting center, that Jackson's replacement (Jason Kelce) will not need surgery on his foot as originally thought, and that Eagles player personnel director Ryan Grigson is a candidate for GM jobs in Indianapolis and St. Louis.

Dallas Cowboys

Todd Archer writes that the Cowboys ranked fifth in the league in penalties, and he breaks it down by player. DeMarcus Ware and Doug Free had the most, with 10 apiece.

With former Cowboy Sam Hurd having been indicted Wednesday on federal drug charges, Jean-Jacques Taylor hits the Cowboys for putting their head in the sand about the situation and failing to prepare their current players to deal with the questions that would inevitably arise.

Washington Redskins

Mike Jones has five offensive-related questions for the Redskins as they head into this offseason, starting right where you'd think he'd start and also wondering about Fred Davis, the offensive line, the running backs and kicker.

Brian Burke breaks down the stats and determines that the Redskins' biggest needs are ... right where you'd expect them to be -- quarterback, wide receiver and offensive line. I think it's interesting to see how the EPA grades came out on defense, too.
The Friday links require no introduction.

New York Giants

The Giants do not know what has gotten into Brandon Jacobs the past two games, and they do not care as long as he keeps it up. The Giants have the worst rush offense in the league this year, but it has looked revitalized the past two weeks as Jacobs has been running like the punishing back he was when he was younger and the beaten-up offensive line has been blocking better than the healthy one was. Sometimes, these things are tough to explain.

Regarding that offensive line, backup Kevin Boothe has been "outstanding" filling in at center for David Baas, according to offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. But the team is concerned about one aspect of his game that's pretty important for a center to have down -- snapping the ball. Some of Boothe's snaps are now drawing comparisons to former Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, and in case you don't remember what was going on in Yankee baseball 10 years ago: That's not good.

Dallas Cowboys

The folks who covered the Cowboys when Sam Hurd was on the team didn't recognize the guy they were reading about Thursday in a government affidavit. Hurd, who played five seasons for the Cowboys before signing with the Bears prior to this year, is facing serious federal drug trafficking charges, and it was apparently a hot topic Thursday around his former team.

The Cowboys' offense came to life earlier this season when rookie running back DeMarco Murray became its focal point. But quarterback Tony Romo says he's not feeling any additional pressure to carry the offense now that Murray is out for the season with an ankle injury. The Cowboys likely can still run the ball with Felix Jones for a few games, but Murray helped them put away late leads -- something with which they've struggled this season -- and it's going to be on Romo and the defense to figure out how to do that now.

Philadelphia Eagles

Jeff McLane writes that these final three games of the season are important for DeSean Jackson, who will still want a new contract when this terribly disappointing season is over and can use this time as an audition to convince the Eagles or some other team that he's worth the money he seeks. Teams will pay for talent in this league, and Jackson just turned 25 years old.

The Eagles' playoff hopes took an expected hit Thursday when the Falcons won, leaving only one wild-card spot even potentially available to them. If the Lions win Sunday, the Eagles will be unable to claim a wild-card spot even if they win out. And if the Cowboys win Saturday and the Giants win Sunday, the Eagles are eliminated from the division race no matter what they do. But there remains a slim chance so they'll still need to win Sunday's game, and Les Bowen says to do that they'll need to solve an old problem -- their red zone defense.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins' 2011 plan on defense hinged, in large part, on the idea that they would have one of the best safety pairings in the league in LaRon Landry and O.J. Atogwe. But plans don't always work out, as we know, and injuries have kept those two off the field way too much. Landry's season ended Thursday when the team announced he needed surgery on his ankle and put him on injured reserve.

Santana Moss says he would "love to ruin" the Giants' season with a win Sunday. The Redskins started off this season by beating the Giants in Washington, and the Giants were extremely angry about that loss. This isn't the same Redskins team they trotted out in Week 1, but it does seem to be a proud bunch capable of more than people expect. I don't believe they'll make it easy on the Giants. Of course, predictions come out in a few hours.

Official injury update on Tony Romo

October, 25, 2010
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tony Romo has gone to the locker room to have X-rays on his left shoulder and his status is "unknown," according to the Dallas Cowboys. If there are further updates, you'll be the first to know.

The Cowboys just extended the lead to 20-7 on an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown by rookie Dez Bryant. It looked like Duke Calhoun was really the only Giants player to have a crack at Bryant. Sam Hurd put a nice block on Chase Blackburn and Bryant simply had to outrun punter Matt Dodge the rest of the way.

Sunday Beastlines: Cutdown edition

September, 5, 2010
Hope you guys are having a wonderful Labor Day weekend. Let's take a quick spin around the division to see what folks are saying this morning:


Cowboys-Dolphins: What did we learn?

September, 2, 2010
The Dallas Cowboys rested their starters against the Miami Dolphins, but there were still some interesting developments Thursday evening. Third-team quarterback Stephen McGee won't make it to the practice squad after going 27-of-42 for 304 yards and a touchdown. If the Cowboys want to keep him, they'll have to hold a spot for him on the 53-man roster.

Here are some observations from the Cowboys' 27-25 win.
  • Apparently the Cowboys wanted to get left guard Montrae Holland a little more work in the preseason. From what I'm told, he has a 50 percent chance of starting against the Redskins with starter Kyle Kosier trying to return from a right MCL sprain. On an early third-and-1, the Cowboys' offensive line didn't get any push and Tashard Choice was tackled at the line of scrimmage. Holland was called for two false starts on the second drive of the game. The Cowboys need Kosier to return in a hurry.
  • I liked how outside linebacker Victor Butler pursued the running game from the backside. He came racing from the backside to knock down Ronnie Brown after a short gain. Butler also made some nice plays in coverage. Of the young backup linebackers, Butler's playing with the most confidence. On the Dolphins' first scoring drive, it was Butler who forced the field goal attempt by batting down a Chad Henne pass. Perhaps he's fired up about his alma mater Oregon State playing at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday.
  • Rookie safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah appeared to bust coverage against Davone Bess in the first quarter. It was an easy throw for Chad Henne on third-and-long. Owusu-Ansah was fortunate to hop to his feet following a clothesline from Tim Dobbins on a punt return early in the game.
  • Tashard Choice was the Cowboys' best offensive player Thursday. Watching him take a short pass and turn it into a 34-yard play was pretty remarkable. Choice couldn't find any holes in the running game. It's time for the Pat McQuistan era to end. The reserve guard doesn't play with any power and he doesn't move his feet very well in pass protection.
  • It's obvious that Stephen McGee and Martellus Bennett have some nice chemistry. Bennett does a really nice job of getting separation downfield. If his head is in the game, he could help this team in a big way. I was really impressed with a play that McGee made late in the first quarter to find Manuel Johnson. He extended the play with his legs and did a nice job of throwing on the run. On the next play, McQuistan was beaten badly off the snap. He has really awful balance. And on the next play, Alex Barron was beaten on a speed rush by linebacker Cameron Wake.
  • Rookie linebacker Sean Lee is having trouble shedding blockers. On the long run by Ricky Williams at the end of the first quarter, Lee got sealed by wide receiver Marlon Moore. It looked like defensive end Jason Hatcher was trying to come up the middle on a stunt and he got stoned by the center. Beautiful play by the Dolphins, but Lee has to be more physical than that. But he fought back and had a fumble recovery to end the same drive. Butler took over the game in the first half against the Dolphins' starters. Nice strip-sack of Henne early in the second quarter.
  • That was a gorgeous throw from McGee on the 43-yard touchdown pass to Sam Hurd. Hurd did a really nice job of accelerating when the ball was in the air. Cornerback Sean Smith had good coverage until just before the ball arrived. Going to be tough to cut Hurd after watching that play.
  • Second-year linebacker Jason Williams tried to cover a running back on a wheel route late in the first half and he never attempted to play the ball. Williams was called for pass interference.
  • Big confidence booster for David Buehler to nail the 51-yard field goal at the end of the half. Wade Phillips gave special teams coach Joe DeCamillis a fist bump and appeared to shout, "Yeah baby!" Really good night for Buehler. He also made a 45-yard field goal. I still want to see what he does in the regular season, but this was an excellent tuneup for him.
  • After tonight's game, I feel like Butler can give the Cowboys between seven to 10 plays per game and he could fill in nicely if someone gets injured. It looked like DeMarcus Ware loved watching Butler fly around Thursday evening.
  • Sean Lee showed some excellent closing speed to sack Tyler Thigpen in the third quarter.
  • I liked the way Manuel Johnson fought for the football tonight. The former Oklahoma receiver probably doesn't have a spot on this team but he gave some other teams something to think about. Speaking of other teams, I know a couple of scouts from around the league who are very interested in Cowboys rookie cornerback Bryan McCann. He'll get scooped up if the Cowboys try to sneak him through to the practice squad. Early in the fourth quarter, McCann didn't take away the inside against Marlon Moore and was burned for the touchdown. Terence Newman met McCann on the sideline to explain what he should've done.
  • Quite a battle between Hurd and Jesse Holley on Thursday. Hurd had the big touchdown catch, but it was Holley who made play after play in the second half.
  • Herb Donaldson might be a good practice squad candidate. He had some nice runs in the second half.
  • I thought reserve cornerback Cletis Gordon had a rough night. He was beaten for a long pass by Roberto Wallace late in the third quarter and he just seemed a step slow in this game. And late in the game, Wallace reached up and caught one over Gordon's head. He just didn't make plays on the ball at all. And this is after he had a ton of interceptions in training camp. Really nice second half for Wallace. He beat rookie cornerback Jamar Wall on a back-shoulder route on the goal line.

Monday Beastlines: Hurd's uncertain future

May, 17, 2010
Dallas Cowboys

Sam Hurd's future with the Cowboys seems a little bit unclear.

Patrick Crayton won’t be in attendance for this week's voluntary OTAs.

David Moore of The Dallas Morning News shares his thoughts on why the Cowboys are taking their time before giving Miles Austin a new deal.

New York Giants

Giants chairman Steve Tisch touches on a variety of topics in a Q&A with the New York Post.

Philadelphia Eagles

DeSean Jackson hosted a speed camp for kids over the weekend.

Sheil Kapadia of weighs in on the Eagles' best offseason move so far.

Washington Redskins

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder says the changes have the team pointed “in the right direction.”

The Redskins are hoping Brian Orakpo can increase his sack total from a year ago.

The Redskins have come to terms on a contract with veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday.

Miles Austin receives highest tender

March, 4, 2010
The Cowboys gave wide receiver Miles Austin the highest tender possible on Friday, a first-and-third round tender worth $3.168 million.

Also receiving tender offers today were wide receiver/special-teams ace Sam Hurd, defensive end Stephen Bowen and backup tackle Pat McQuistian.'s Calvin Watkins has the full story here.

NFC East: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
Dallas Cowboys

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.

Philadelphia Eagles

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.

Washington Redskins

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.

Romo: I'm not giving up on Roy

December, 31, 2009
Speaking to reporters at Valley Ranch on Thursday, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo lent his support to wide receiver Roy Williams, saying that he would not stop throwing in his direction. Of course, recent numbers suggest that Romo has already decided to lean on other receivers, which is quite understandable given Williams' penchant for dropping balls this season.

"No one has lost any confidence in Roy," Romo said Thursday. "Roy is going to be a huge part of this going forward. He knows that. Hopefully, we're all going to have some good football ahead of us."

Meanwhile, ESPN's Ed Werder has delivered a strong piece on Williams this week. He thinks Jerry Jones' refusal to admit his mistake with Williams and Wade Phillips' belief that the wide receiver should receiver an "E" for effort could undermine the Cowboys in the playoffs. And Werder brings up another strong point. Here, I'll let him say it:

"Not only has Williams' ineptitude provided Austin the opportunity to become the Cowboys' most feared offensive player, but Jones is already confronting the reality that Austin is seeking $10 million a season to sign a long-term contract extension, according to league sources," writes Werder. "Unless the Cowboys remove Williams and his guaranteed money from the roster, they are going to be taking an indefensible position on negotiations with Austin.

"Austin is the player Roy Williams was supposed to be. Meanwhile, Williams is trying to avoid becoming the next Sam Hurd, a wide receiver whose career is devoted to covering kickoffs."

Hey, let's not drag poor Sam into this. He's an undrafted player who's doing a superb job on special teams. I don't think Williams can fill that role, either. But strong work by Mr. Werder, as always.

NFC East Pro Bowl possibilities

December, 28, 2009
The NFL will announce the 2009 Pro Bowl rosters Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET, so let's take this opportunity to speculate on who will represent the NFC East's four teams. I've kept up with the fan voting throughout the process and the results are pretty baffling. I'm not sure Eagles fans rocked the vote since tight end Brent Celek was not among the top five at his position in the NFC in the fan vote. Now let's take a look at the possibilities from each team:

Cowboys: NT Jay Ratliff, OLB DeMarcus Ware, ILB Keith Brooking, CB Mike Jenkins, Special teams Sam Hurd, QB Tony Romo, WR Miles Austin, P Mat McBriar, LG Kyle Kosier (Don't laugh. I'm told by scouts that he's been the Cowboys' most consistent offensive lineman).

Eagles: CB Sheldon Brown, CB Asante Samuel, DE Trent Cole, WR DeSean Jackson, TE Brent Celek

Giants: QB Eli Manning, RG Chris Snee, Special teams Domenik Hixon

Redskins: LB London Fletcher, LB Brian Orakpo, DE Andre Carter, DT Albert Haynesworth

Pretty remarkable that the Giants don't have anyone in the running for a spot on defense, but I can't think of anyone who deserves to be on there. I started to list Barry Cofield, Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck because they've all played well at times.

Let me know if I'm missing anyone. I like the way Mike Patterson and Brod Bunkley have played for the Eagles, but I'm not sure they are Pro Bowl worthy.

Update: My apologies for not listing Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, Giants wide receiver Steve Smith and Eagles kicker David Akers. All of those players deserve Pro Bowl consideration.

Beast lagging in Pro Bowl fan voting

December, 18, 2009
The league sent over the Pro Bowl fan voting tabulations through Dec. 14 and it looks like the NFC East has fallen off the pace. I thought for sure that Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson would be among the top-10 in the overall (both conferences) totals but that's not the case. And the fact that Brent Celek's not among the top five tight ends in the NFC voting is a travesty. Here's where you go to vote.

Now let's update you on players from the NFC East who are at least in the top five at their respective positions:

Quarterbacks: 5. Donovan McNabb, Eagles: He's trailing Kurt Warner by about 60,000 votes. And Drew Brees and Brett Favre are in a tight race for the top spot.

Wide receivers: 2. DeSean Jackson, Eagles; 3. Miles Austin, Cowboys: Jackson has 377,807 votes but he's not going to catch Larry Fitzgerald. But it does look like he'll start for the NFC in the Pro Bowl unless Austin can make up about 39,000 votes on him. Of course, let's remember that the fan voting is only one-third of the process.

Tight ends: 4. Jason Witten, Cowboys: He has 243,220 votes and he'll get a strong push from the coaches and players. Right now he trails Tony Gonzalez, Jeremy Shockey and Vernon Davis. Shockey's had a nice season but he doesn't deserve to go in front of Witten. Eagles fans need to go online immediately and help out Celek. His numbers are off the charts this season.

Centers: 3. Shaun O'Hara, Giants; 4. Andre Gurode, Cowboys: With 204,300 votes, O'Hara is well behind Jonathan Goodwin from the Saints. John Sullivan of the Vikings is in first place.

Offensive tackles: 4. Flozell Adams, Cowboys: The players and coaches will give him a decent push but I don't think he'll make it this season. The Vikings' two tackles, Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt are in the lead.

Guards: 5. Chris Snee, Giants: Even in a down season for the Giants, Snee has played pretty well. He should at least be two or three.

Fullbacks: 2. Leonard Weaver, Eagles; 3. Deon Anderson, Cowboys; 5. Madison Hedgecock, Giants. Weaver has brought another dimension to the Eagles' offense with his running ability. Anderson's a pretty good point of attack guy. Looks like Weaver has a lot of catching up to do on Naufahu Tahi of the Vikings.

Strong safety: 5. Gerald Sensabaugh, Cowboys: Pretty impressive in first half of season. Has played through a hand injury.

Cornerback: 1. Asante Samuel, Eagles: Close race between Samuel and the Packers' Charles Woodson. I expect Woodson to edge out Samuel once the coaches and players vote. But these will be your two starters. I thought Mike Jenkins or Sheldon Brown could've cracked the top five.

Defensive end: 3. Osi Umenyiora, Giants; 4. Justin Tuck, Giants: I like both of those players, but this is when you know it's about popularity. It's ridiculous that Trent Cole's not among the top five. And Andre Carter of the Redskins should be in there, too.

Defensive tackles: 3. Albert Haynesworth, Redskins: He's been pretty effective when he's actually in uniform. Absolutely ridiculous that Jay Ratliff's not on this list. The coaches and players will take care of him.

Free safeties: 5. Ken Hamlin, Cowboys: This is based on past accomplishments because Hamlin hasn't been a factor this season.

Inside linebackers: 4. Keith Brooking, Cowboys; 5. London Fletcher, Redskins: This is bound to upset Redskins fans. The guy's had another great season but the Susan Lucci of NFL linebackers could remain on the outside looking in. Even Lucci broke through at some point. Brooking's had an excellent season and deserves to be in the mix.

Kick returners: 2. DeSean Jackson, Eagles; 5. Allen Rossum, Cowboys: He's trailing Percy Harvin. I think Jackson is by far the best punt returner but the Pro Bowl voting doesn't draw a distinction between the two return jobs. Rossum had one return and pulled up lame on that one before eventually being released.

Outside linebackers: 1. DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys: Leads all outside linebackers with nearly 341,000 votes. I wouldn't mind seeing Brian Orakpo of the Redskins in the top five. Lance Briggs and Clay Matthews were Nos. 4 and 5.

Kickers: 2. David Akers, Eagles; 4. Nick Folk, Cowboys: Akers totally deserves it. Folk's fortunate to still be employed at this point in the season. Akers will have a lot of ground to make up on the Vikings' Ryan Longwell.

Punters: 2. Jeff Feagles, Giants; 4. Mat McBriar, Cowboys: McBriar's quietly having a huge season. Hopefully the coaches and players will recognize that.

Special teamers: 2. Sam Hurd, Cowboys; 5. Chase Blackburn, Giants: Hurd's overtaken Pat Watkins as the Cowboys' top special teams player this season. Blackburn's a solid special teams guy but I think Bryan Kehl has actually been better than him.

Hixon's return may have done it

December, 6, 2009
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After a questionable intentional grounding call on Tony Romo, the Giants were going to get the ball back with a seven-point lead. But Domenik Hixon fielded a 59-yard punt from Mat McBriar and then raced for a 79-yard touchdown.

It looked like the Cowboys had Hixon cornered but Orlando Scandrick and Pat Watkins let him get away. The Giants' Derek Hagan blocked Sam Hurd to allow Hixon to scamper the final 10 yards. Cowboys on the move -- but time's now a factor with 4:15 left in the game.