NFC East: Sam Madison
|Jim Luzzi/Getty Images|
|New York's Domenik Hixon is focused on continuing to get better as heads into his fourth year in the NFL.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Hope everyone had a wonderful Mother's Day. If you haven't purchased a card for your mother -- or the mother of your children -- it's not too late. Giants wide receiver Domenik Hixon spent the weekend with his mom in Columbus, Ohio. He heard that many of you sent him questions Friday, so he agreed to a 20-minute phone interview Saturday.
If you're someone who's interested in what players do in their downtime, you'll enjoy the first part of the interview. If you only care about football, just skip the part about motorcycles. Here's a large portion of the interview.
Beast: I understand you're a pretty huge Cavs fan.
Hixon: Yeah, when I was in college [at Akron], LeBron James' high school team played at our arena [The Jar]. We'd be having football meetings in the arena, and you'd see him come walking through. You could tell pretty early that he was on a different planet than the other kids. But I was rooting for the Cavs before he came along. Now, it's just a lot more fun because they're winning.
Beast: What do you do in the offseason to get away from football?
Hixon: I have an internship this offseason selling motorcycle parts and accessories for Pompton Plains (N.J.) Honda. My uncle and dad had a motorcycle they all rode, and it's something that I have a passion for.
Beast: Is Tom Coughlin aware of this passion?
Hixon: [Laughing] Actually the Giants helped me set up the internship. I'm not planning to ride motorcycles until I'm done with football.
Beast: So do you own one?
Hixon: Yes, a company called All Things Chrome helped me put one together. It's a Suzuki GSX-R with a 360 tire on it. Most of it's chrome and it's white and black with some silver. It's more of a show bike. I'm definitely a motorcycle enthusiast.
Beast: How much time do you spend at the dealership right now?
Hixon: After I workout, I usually head over there and hang out for a few hours. It's definitely something I'm interested in doing after football.
Beast: I know you grew up in Germany before playing high school football in the Columbus, Ohio area. What's your favorite food from back home?
Hixon: I love schnitzel. And I like it plain. Over here, I'm constantly in search of the best steak, though. Right now, my favorite is Del Friscos, but I'm open to recommendations.
Beast: What specific part of your game are you trying to improve this offseason?
Hixon: Overall, I'm trying to become stronger and faster. I'm simply trying to improve my craft. My speed is what sets me apart from some people, so I'm trying to increase that aspect of my game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
The top issues facing each team in the division:
Primary issue: Trying to repair what has become the most toxic locker room in the league. The problem is that owner Jerry Jones thinks cohesiveness is overrated and doesn't seem eager to address the problem. The closest thing he did to acknowledging the issue was his attempt to hire former NFL head coach Dan Reeves as a consultant. But the deal fell apart over a clause in the contract that Reeves wasn't comfortable with.
Solution: Like it or not, Terrell Owens is the most prominent (and divisive) voice in the locker room. Releasing him wouldn't solve everything, but it would certainly help. The best solution would be quarterback Tony Romo taking control of the locker room, but it's hard to tell if he's capable of that at this point.
|Matthew Emmons/US Presswire|
|One way or another, T.O. will play a major role in the future of the Cowboys.|
Secondary concern: Figuring out what went wrong with the offense. The numbers might not look awful, but they don't tell the whole story. T.O. couldn't get off the line of scrimmage and midseason acquisition Roy E. Williams didn't make any impact. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett appeared to lose the confidence of his players late in the season. He could win them back by orchestrating a dynamic passing game. And the return of running back Felix Jones should help the offense.
Solution: Garrett has to take advantage of having three talented running backs. Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice could become the Cowboys' answer to the Giants' version of Earth, Wind and Fire. Garrett also has to stop worrying about keeping T.O. happy. The 10 games the Cowboys had with Williams were pretty much a wash. Garrett has to find a way to play to the receiver's strengths. Williams is supposed to be your No. 1 receiver for the next few years. Might as well see what he has to offer.
|Paul Spinelli/Getty Images|
|Donovan McNabb's turnaround this season earned him some renewed respect.|
Primary issue: Is there any doubt? Quarterback Donovan McNabb has been the primary issue since 2005. He's hoping to receive a contract extension after he helped engineer the team's improbable turnaround. Some people are calling it a "contract apology" for his November benching.
His pride was wounded, but you have to respect him for bouncing back and taking the team to the NFC title game. The Eagles need to make sure McNabb's happy heading into training camp -- and that's not an easy task.
Solution: Go ahead and give the man some money. Let him know how much you appreciate him with a nice signing bonus and offer him a little security. He wants to be told that the starting job is his for at least the next two seasons. I don't think Andy Reid will have any trouble telling him that. And it's not like Kevin Kolb's breathing down his neck.
Secondary concern: The Eagles have some aging free agents in safety Brian Dawkins and offensive tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. Fans will want to see Dawkins back on the roster, but there's a good chance we've seen the last of Runyan. He's one of Andy Reid's favorites, but microfracture surgery at age 35 doesn't sound promising. Thomas has a shot at being re-signed.
Solution: The Eagles have to build through the draft. They could use both of those first-rounders on offensive tackles. At some point, you may see a run on offensive tackles. The Eagles better be involved. They can't afford to enter '09 with no solutions at the tackle spots. They need to decide if Ole Miss left tackle Michael Oher's the real deal. He's a talented player, but he disappeared for stretches during his college career.
Primary concern: You have to find a receiver to replace Plaxico Burress. Sure, there's a chance Burress returns, but there's also a chance he ends up behind bars.
Al Bello/Getty Images The future of star receiver Plaxico Burress is unclear.
Solution: You have to take a long look at Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin. His star faded a bit down the stretch this season because of his sideline meltdown during the NFC title game, but he could be a solid No. 1 receiver. Boldin's fearless -- as evidenced by returning soon after having his face rearranged against the Jets. I think he'd actually be a good fit for the Giants. Do I think Jerry Reese will package several draft picks for Boldin? Not really. I think it's more likely he goes after someone like North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks in the draft.
Secondary concern: The Giants could use some help at linebacker. Danny Clark's a little long in the tooth and Gerris Wilkinson has been a disappointment because of injuries. If the Giants could land Cardinals free-agent Karlos Dansby, it would be quite a coup.
Solution: With the return of Osi Umenyiora, the pass rush should get a much-needed boost. We'll have to see how much the loss of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo hurts the team. If you can bring in someone like Dansby and then leave Mathias Kiwanuka at defensive end, the defense will be as strong as ever. Even with the releases of Sam Madison and Sammy Knight, the Giants have plenty of firepower in the secondary.
|Larry French/Getty Images|
|The Redskins will need more consistency from Jason Campbell.|
Solution: The Redskins thought they were bringing in several weapons for Campbell when they took a tight end and two wide receivers in the second round of the 2008 draft. No one has emerged from that group, so Campbell's forced to rely on Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley and the same mighty mite receivers. The Redskins have to reload along the offensive line because they've gotten old there. If Campbell doesn't have enough time in the pocket, he'll never be successful.
Secondary concern: This team desperately needs to improve its pass rush.
|Check out highlights of the best moments from Clinton Portis in 2008.|
Solution: The Redskins need to identify a talented young pass-rusher in the draft such as Brian Orakpo of Texas and latch onto him. If the Redskins don't improve both their offensive and defensive lines, they won't be a factor in the NFC East next season. Clinton Portis was brilliant in the first half of the season, but he didn't have anywhere to go down the stretch. The Redskins have to invest in the offensive and defensive lines. The club doesn't have many picks, so it needs to be smart on draft day.
IRVING, Texas -- We've already told you about Cowboys running back Marion Barber being active for tonight's game. The other big news is that Giants defensive tackle Fred Robbins (shoulder) won't play. With Brandon Jacobs and Robbins out, the Giants lose two excellent players.
Wide receiver Domenik Hixon is active, so that's a bit of good news for Giants fans. Here's the rest of the Giants' inactives:
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- The New York Giants tried to keep the Eagles in the game Sunday but in the end they couldn't pull it off.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning served up an interception on the first drive of the game. The Eagles cashed in immediately, but the moment was fleeting.
The Giants overcame Manning's interception and a subsequent fumble by Brandon Jacobs in a 36-31 victory over the Eagles. The Giants dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half, rushing for 104 yards. Meanwhile, the Eagles didn't have any semblance of a running game -- unless you count the end-arounds to wide receiver DeSean Jackson that dried up in the second half.
But as horribly as their offense played , the Eagles were driving with two minutes left. On fourth-and-1, the Eagles gave it to running back Brian Westbrook, who was stopped at the line of scrimmage by linebacker Chase Blackburn.
The Giants improved to 8-1 with and have a two-game lead over the Redskins in the NFC East. The Eagles are now tied with the Cowboys in the division cellar at 5-4. But that record is even worse than it appears. With an 0-3 record in the division, the Eagles would be in trouble in tie-breaking scenarios. For now, though, that's wishful thinking. On a night when he needed to lead the team, Donovan McNabb shrunk to the occasion. At this point, it's safe to say he's the fourth-best quarterback in the NFC East.
His pass down the right sideline late in the first half was easily picked off by Giants cornerback Sam Madison, leading to a field goal that put New York up, 20-14. The Giants controlled the line of scrimmage and the clock. They just couldn't seem to finish off the Eagles.
The game hinged on a successful challenge by Giants head coach Tom Coughlin in the third quarter. The Giants had fallen behind, 24-20, when Eli Manning connected with tight end Kevin Boss for 17 yards. The officials ruled that Manning had crossed the line of scrimmage before delivering the pass. Coughlin challenged the call, and it was overturned.
The Giants took a 27-24 lead and held on the rest of the way.
Could you guys figure out why Donovan McNabb felt the need to spike the ball with 41 seconds left on second-and-3? Everyone was set. Why not run a play there? They had to come back on the next play and hand it to Brian Westbrook around left end. Then they burned their final timeout.
Andy Reid has had an excellent career, but clock management has never been one of his strengths. The Eagles took one shot at the end zone with 10 seconds left, and no one was near the ball.
Still, the Eagles have to be thrilled to only be trailing, 20-17. The Giants were on their way to putting the game away when Brandon Jacobs decided to hop in the air toward the end of a run. Chris Gocong made him regret the move immediately. So far, that's the biggest play of the game. It's the only reason the Eagles are hanging around.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The biggest news of course for the Redskins is that defensive end Jason Taylor will play in tonight's game against the Giants. Because of that, rookie defensive end Rob Jackson will be inactive, and I think Jim Zorn's willing to live with that.
The other inactives for the Redskins: Emergency QB Colt Brennan, WR Malcolm Kelly, CB Shawn Springs, S Kareem Moore, LB Alfred Fincher, G/T Chad Rinehart, TE Fred Davis and Jackson. With Springs down, Fred Smoot will start across from Carlos Rogers.
No real surprises for the Giants: K Lawrence Tynes (we knew that), RB Reuben Droughns (nice special teams guy), CB Terrell Thomas, CB Sam Madison (that means R.W. McQuarters is going), LB Jonathan Goff, T Adam Koets, DE Dave Tollefson (hello McDougle) and WR Mario Manningham.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Biggest surprise: Can't say that I noticed any huge surprises. I know that GM Jerry Reese had high hopes for rookie quarterback Andre' Woodson when he took him in the sixth-round, but maybe they'll try to put him on the practice squad. Cutting that extra quarterback gives the Giants a little more flexibility. Honestly, I think Wallace Gilberry is the one who surprises me the most. When I stopped by training camp a couple of weeks ago in Albany, Gilberry's teammates were raving about him. Justin Tuck thought the kid had a chance to help the team immediately. I'm sure the Giants will try to add him to the their practice squad.
Wide receiver Brandon London had a spirited competition with Sinorice Moss for that last receiver spot. But remember that Moss is a former second-round draft pick. They say that stuff doesn't matter, but it sure seems like it does. In Moss' defense, he did have a nice camp, and unlike several teammates, remained healthy. Hated to see Digger Bujnoch get hurt late in the preseason. From what I've heard, he had a great chance of making the practice squad. Maybe the biggest news is that the Giants found a way to keep veteran cornerbacks Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters on the roster.
No-brainers: The Giants have plenty of competition at safety, so there was no reason to keep Stuart Schweigert around. Schweigert has now been released by half the teams in the NFC East this preseason. He started out at Washington, but coaches said he wanted to do everything like he did with the Raiders. Some of you might recall that Geoffrey Pope played in a couple of playoff games last season, but now he'll probably end up on the practice squad. The Giants decided to go with age over a guy who could've helped them more on special teams.
What's next: The Giants will be scouring the waiver wire for help at defensive end, and they'll take a look at some linebackers. If the Eagles cut defensive end Jerome McDougle, who's had a nice preseason, the Giants might try to strike quickly. This team is stacked at running back right now. A team (like the Packers last year) should be looking at all these running backs. Somehow the Giants manage to keep four or five tailbacks every season. And again, that's where cutting that third quarterback can create some room.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Gerris Wilkinson is a former third-round draft pick who has been slowed by injuries and inconsistent play. But he's easily the most athletic player of the three and will probably win the job. I watched him in coverage against Tom Brady in that final regular-season game and he showed outstanding range.
Clark is a veteran player who might stand up better against the run. He's been compared to last year's starting linebacker Kawika Mitchell, who left in free agency. Blackburn is the dark horse, but defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and the rest of his staff love his high motor. He's not all that athletic, but he's constantly around the ball.
Intensity index: Hot
Aaron Ross is poised to make a big leap after a solid rookie season. He'll win a starting job and probably move into the slot in passing situations. Corey Webster lost his starting job last season, but he bounced back nicely in the playoffs. Sam Madison will probably be the nickel corner. He's still a physical player, but he's 34 and his best football years are behind him.
The Giants thought Kenny Phillips was outstanding in last month's mandatory minicamp. He'll probably win the starting job and play next to 34-year-old Sammy Knight. Michael Johnson could end up replacing Knight. Oh, and Butler started 13 games last season, but most people thought he was a weak link in the defense.
Intensity index: Mild