NFC East: Sammy Knight

Hot Button: NFC East

February, 16, 2009
2/16/09
11:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The top issues facing each team in the division: 

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Kuharsky: AFC South
Yasinskas: NFC South
Seifert: NFC North
Walker: AFC North
Sando: NFC West
Williamson: AFC West
Graham: AFC East
Mosley: NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

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.


Philadelphia Eagles

 
  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.


New York Giants

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.
The Giants have to proceed as if they won't have Burress in 2009. His level of immaturity is stunning -- even by NFL receiver standards. But he's an immensely talented player. Domenik Hixon is a nice third receiver, but he's not ready to replace Burress.

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.


Washington Redskins

 
  Larry French/Getty Images
  The Redskins will need more consistency from Jason Campbell.
Primary concern: Last year, Dan Snyder went out and hired Jim Zorn because he thought he had a shot at getting quarterback Jason Campbell to the next level. Campbell was superb in the first half of the season, but he fell back into some of his old habits down the stretch. His growth will be a key to the team's success and Zorn's future as a head coach.

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.

  2008: Best of Clinton Portis
  NFL.com Video
  Check out highlights of the best moments from Clinton Portis in 2008.
Greg Blache's group didn't play poorly, but defensive end Jason Taylor was a huge disappointment. He never felt comfortable in the defense and he was banged up for most of the year. And the solution isn't 36-year-old Phillip Daniels, although he could help the team.

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.

NFC East Trojans hurting this morning

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

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

One of the things players do this time of year is make friendly bets regarding their college teams. The loser often has to wear an opposing team's jersey.

After watching Oregon State shock USC last night, I knew some players in the NFC East would be in for a long day. Let me know if I missed anyone:

Eagles

OT Winston Justice

DT Mike Patterson

Giants

S Sammy Knight

WR Steve Smith

CB Terrell Thomas

Redskins

TE Fred Davis

Cowboys

No Trojans

It's actually surprising that the best division in football only has six former USC players. By the way, Giants offensive tackle Adam Koets is the lone Beaver in the NFC East.

The Daily Giant

July, 31, 2008
7/31/08
12:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

  • Linebacker Antonio Pierce isn't looking forward to wearing a radio receiver in his helmet. In fact, he's already threatening to rip it out of his helmet if it feels like a distraction. Pierce has emerged as one of the best quotes in the game, and I'm looking forward to our Aug. 13 visit.
  • Mike Garafalo has a nice story on Craig Dahl's return to the Giants. And linebacker Zak DeOssie's happy about his rent going down.
  • David Carr is STRUGGLING. Oh, and there's a genius quote from Carr at the end of this Paul Schwartz column: Asked to describe his mentality after being sacked so much in Houston, Carr said, "Survival, man, I was just trying to get back to my kids."

Audience participation: Position battles '08

July, 23, 2008
7/23/08
10:33
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

I'm preparing a story for Friday on the top two position battles in each of the four NFC East training camps and could definitely use your help. In the comments section, please list the position battles you're most interested in.

Off the top of my head, we might have some competition between Eagles cornerbacks Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, although everything points to Brown winning the job opposite Asante Samuel.

The Giants will have some competition at safety between Sammy Knight and rookie Kenny Phillips, and the Cowboys will decide if Adam Jones should start over Anthony Henry.

The Redskins will build around second-year safety LaRon Landry in the secondary. But with cornerback Carlos Rogers banged up and Shawn Springs starting to age, there's an opportunity for someone to shine early in camp.

I want to hear what you think. My deadline is 10 a.m. Friday, so let's get with it.

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