NFC East: Sean Lissemore

IRVING, Texas -- Is it too soon or too late to remind Dallas Cowboys fans that Akwasi Owusu-Ansah was drafted 13 spots before the Seattle Seahawks chose Kam Chancellor in the fifth round of the 2010 draft?

Or is too soon or too late remind them that Josh Thomas was picked 11 spots before the Seahawks took Richard Sherman in the fifth round of the 2011 draft?

Today, Chancellor and Sherman are celebrating a Super Bowl victory. Thomas at least made it to the playoffs with the Carolina Panthers as a reserve. Owusu-Ansah was on the Detroit Lions' practice squad last year. Maybe we can ask new Cowboys playcaller (and former Lions offensive coordinator) Scott Linehan how Owusu-Ansah looked.

When a team wins a Super Bowl, we all look for the differences as to why Team X played in the Super Bowl and Team Y didn’t, and we say, "Copy those guys. That’s the way to get it done."

It doesn't work that way. Well, it shouldn't work that way. A team has to have its own philosophy and make it work. Stick with it and hope it pays off. That’s what Jason Garrett has referred to as building a program. It’s maddening to hear, especially after three 8-8 seasons, but there is truth in what Garrett is saying.

The biggest difference between the Seahawks and Cowboys is the draft. Well, that and the Seattle defense. But for this post we’ll stick with the draft.

Since 2010, the Seahawks picked 12 players from the third round and later -- or who were undrafted -- who have crucial roles in the team's success. The Cowboys have DeMarco Murray, a third-rounder in 2011, and three undrafted free agents. I could have counted Dwayne Harris, but the Cowboys actually cut him and needed him to pass through waivers before putting him on the practice squad in 2011.

If the Cowboys had not traded Sean Lissemore before the 2013 season, I would have counted their seventh-round pick in 2010 on the list.

As for undrafted picks, I’ll go with Barry Church (2010), Dan Bailey (2011) and Ronald Leary (undrafted, 2012). I wasn’t ready to say that Kyle Wilber (fourth round, 2012) and/or James Hanna (sixth round, 2012) are crucial to the Cowboys’ success.

In order to win a draft, teams have to be successful in the middle rounds. The Cowboys have not been successful in the middle rounds in years. As a result, they lack depth. When they lose starters, they have to scour the street for help. When the Seahawks lose a player, they plug in a mid- to late-round pick as if nothing ever happened.

If we want to eliminate the third round, which is where Seattle drafted quarterback Russell Wilson in 2012, the Cowboys have to go back to the 2008 draft to find a real hit for the Cowboys in Rounds 4-7: cornerback Orlando Scandrick (fifth). Doug Free (2007) turned into a good fourth-round pick only after the Cowboys were forced to play him in 2009. The golden year was 2005 when the Cowboys got Marion Barber (fourth), Chris Canty (fourth) and Jeremiah Ratliff (seventh) in what was then the second day of the draft.

The Seahawks can point to guys like Sherman, Chancellor, Walter Thurmond (fourth, 2011), Byron Maxwell (sixth, 2011), Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith (seventh, 2011), K.J. Wright (fourth, 2011), Robert Turbin (fourth, 2012), J.R. Sweezy (seventh, 2012), Doug Baldwin (undrafted, 2011) and Jermaine Kearse (undrafted, 2012).

They aren’t merely contributors. They are difference-makers.

If the Cowboys want to alter their "secret sauce" recipe, they can look at the Seahawks' cookbook.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Sean Lissemore left Thursday's final preseason game with the Houston Texans with an injury. Lissemore started at defensive tackle and got nicked up on a run play in the third quarter.

Update: Lissemore confirmed that he suffered a concussion.

The Cowboys were playing Lissemore because of health issues along the defensive line and to give him some snaps. He missed nearly two weeks of practices because of a groin injury, but played in the last two preseason games.

Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, defensive end Anthony Spencer and defensive end Tyrone Crawford are nursing injuries. Crawford (Achilles) is out for the season, and Ratliff (groin and hamstring) will miss the first six weeks of the regular season because he's on the physically unable to perform list. Spencer is expected to return in Week 1.

Losing Lissemore for any period of time would thin a unit in need of personnel.

Cornerback Micah Pellerin also left the game with an injury in the third quarter.

The exact nature of the injuries isn't known.
IRVNG, Texas -- The earliest Jay Ratliff will reach the field is Oct. 20 against Philadelphia now that he is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.

Anthony Spencer will be ready for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the New York Giants, but he will have less than a week of practice after undergoing knee surgery July 25. It is not possible to expect Spencer to be able to play a full game at a high level after such a long absence.

Tyrone Crawford is on crutches, wearing a cast because of a torn Achilles’ tendon suffered in the first training-camp practice and is out for the year.

All offseason the Cowboys talked about the defensive line being a strength, as if saying it actually made it so.

Nick Hayden, who was out of football last year, will replace Ratliff in the starting lineup. George Selvie, who was out of football for two months this summer after his release from Jacksonville, could start or at least see significant action with Spencer working his way back. He has three sacks in 36 games for three teams.

Ben Bass, who made the Cowboys’ roster last year after gaining a tryout to the rookie camp, is projected to be Crawford’s replacement based on his ability to play end and tackle. Landon Cohen came in the same day as Selvie and could find his way into the defensive line rotation. Kyle Wilber, who barely played as a rookie outside linebacker in 2012, is another rotation player. Sean Lissemore is another rotation guy, but seems to be a better fit for a 3-4 defense than a 4-3 scheme.

The Cowboys chose not to select a defensive lineman in last April’s draft. They didn’t like Sharrif Floyd in the first round because, as Jerry Jones said, he did not possess the “fast twitch,” they want out of defensive linemen. They passed on defensive linemen in every other round, too.

Remember, the Cowboys believed the defensive line was a position of strength.

Rod Marinelli has earned rave reviews from the front office, fellow coaches and players during his short time with the club. He is a mix of pass-rush whisperer and task-master.

He will have to be at his best with Ratliff out for six games at least, Spencer attempting to return to form and Crawford out for the year.

In April, they viewed the defensive line as a strength. Now it’s a question mark.
IRVING, Texas -- Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore returned to practice Tuesday after missing a week with a groin injury.

Lissemore did some individual drills and coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys will work him into some team drills later this week.

In terms of playing in Saturday's fourth preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday at AT&T Stadium, Lissemore said, "I'm planning on it."

With Jay Ratliff out with hamstring and groin injuries, Lissemore took over at one of the defensive tackle spots. In the offseason, Lissemore had to make a switch from 3-4 defensive end to a 4-3 defensive tackle who will take on centers and protect the run.

"I think I can play in this defense," he said. "It's different from the two-gap scheme, but it's forgetting everything I've learned the last three years."

Lissemore thought he needed to pick up weight, but instead the Cowboys' coaches said he needed to lose some to become faster.

"I'm down 12 to 14 pounds from where I was at the start of training camp," Lissemore said. "I'm at 298 pounds, and I have to play the run on the way to the pass."

The Cowboys value Lissemore's ability to back up Ratliff when he returns. During practices and before he was injured, Lissemore was talking to Ratliff about the finer points of playing defensive tackle.

"I get everything from him," Lissemore said. "He's been a great teacher and he's always there for me."

Brandon Magee suffers concussion

August, 20, 2013
IRVING, Texas – Cowboys rookie linebacker Brandon Magee will not play Saturday against Cincinnati after suffering a concussion in Monday’s practice.

It is possible Magee will not be able to play in the preseason final against Houston on Aug. 29. Wide receiver Terrance Williams suffered a concussion on Aug. 2 and missed the first two preseason games. Magee led the Cowboys with six tackles last week against Arizona.

Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore returned to the practice field Tuesday after a 10-day absence because of a groin injury suffered during training camp in Oxnard, Calif. Lissemore played in the first two preseason games.

Lance Dunbar (foot), Cole Beasley (foot), Ryan Cook (back), Ronald Leary (knee), Nate Livings (knee), Morris Claiborne (knee), J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson (foot), Eric Frampton (calf), Ernie Sims (groin), Jay Ratliff (hamstring, hernia) and Anthony Spencer (knee) are not practicing.

GLENDALE, Ariz., -- The Cowboys came out of Saturday's preseason game with the Arizona Cardinals relatively clean from a health standpoint.

Safety Will Allen took a shot to the ribs but said after the game that he is fine and he would have continued playing if this had been a regular-season game.

"Just a little rib shot," Allen told ESPNDallas' Todd Archer. "Nothing too major."

The Cowboys had a healthy scratch in tackle Jermey Parnell, who missed some time early in training camp with a strained hamstring. Parnell returned to practice late last week, but the Cowboys inserted Demetress Bell at right tackle and Darrion Weems as the left tackle.

Also, cornerback Morris Claiborne missed the game with a sore knee. Claiborne, however, expects to start running this week when the Cowboys return to Irving, Texas, on Monday.

"I feel a lot better," he said. "I haven't run on it yet, but I'm banking on returning."

Outside linebacker Ernie Sims missed Saturday's game with a groin injury. But, like Claiborne, he expects to return to the practice fields this week.

"I'm going next week when we get back to Dallas," Sims said. "If this were a regular-season game, I would play."

The following players also didn't play because of injuries: Jay Ratliff, Sean Lissemore, Alex Albright, Matt Johnson, Toby Jackson, Eric Frampton, Nate Livings, Ronald Leary, Ryan Cook, Ray Dominguez and Cole Beasley.

J.J. Wilcox wasn't with the team because of the passing of his mother.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne missed another day of practice with a sore left knee.

Claiborne suffered the injury last week and hoped to play in the second preseason game. His status for Saturday's preseason game at Arizona is in question.

"I believe anything is a setback," Claiborne said after Monday's practice. "This is a big setback. It might not be to somebody else, but it is to me. I have big goals for myself."

Claiborne said he hasn't undergone an MRI or X-ray because there is nothing structurally wrong with the knee.

"At this point, I'm just following directions, just going through the treatments," Claiborne said. "I thought I would be ready the next day, and, obviously, I wasn't."

Also, cornerback B.W. Webb sprained his right ankle and missed the team drills. J.J. Wilcox (personal matter), Matt Johnson (foot), Eric Frampton (hamstring), Alex Albright (back), Ernie Sims (groin), Jay Ratliff (hamstring), Anthony Spencer (knee), Sean Lissemore (groin), Cole Beasley (foot), James Nelson (ankle), Ryan Cook (back), Ray Dominguez (shoulder), Kevin Kowalski (knee), Nate Livings (knee) and Darrion Weems (sore chest) didn't practice.

Breakfast links: Minicamp mania

June, 11, 2013
The NFC East breakfast links: A Tebow-free zone since 2011. Enjoy.

New York Giants

We'll know soon enough, but wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is expected to be at mandatory minicamp practice today after skipping voluntary OTAs the past two weeks and frustrating coach Tom Coughlin in the process.

Four years ago, Cooper Taylor was diagnosed with a heart condition he feared would take football and possibly more away from him. Today, he's at Giants minicamp, where they're using him at both safety positions and as their weakside linebacker in sub packages. It will be interesting to see how the Giants deploy their fifth-round draft pick and how quickly he's usable in the defense as opposed to just special teams.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles' minicamp was last week, but one of the players' missions over the weeks between now and the start of training camp is to make sure to stay in shape. Conditioning is clearly a significant part of the Chip Kelly Experience.

Les Bowen thinks the planned changes to the Eagles' home stadium will make Lincoln Financial Field more of a "Philly" kind of place, and that it reflects the team's effort to connect more with its fan base.

Washington Redskins

Mike Jones gets you ready for the Redskins' minicamp that starts today with his mailbag, which includes a question and answer about how much he expects the Redskins to integrate the option offense into their base offense in Robert Griffin III's second season. Griffin speaks today after practice, by the way. I may go ahead and write about that, just so you know.

One of the happiest Redskins about Brian Orakpo's return from injury is Ryan Kerrigan, his fellow first-round pass-rusher, who should thrive on the opposite side of the defense from a healthy Orakpo.

Dallas Cowboys

Bryan Broaddus runs down some things to watch for at Cowboys minicamp when it starts today, including the rotation at defensive tackle with Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore, and whether Phil Costa can beat out first-round pick Travis Frederick this summer for the starting center spot.

The Cowboys aren't combing the free-agent market for help at this time of year, but you never know what might happen. Calvin Watkins has a list of five free agents still on the market who could pique the Cowboys' interest if someone got injured. The names include an old friend at wide receiver and an interesting veteran running back.
The Dallas Cowboys' signing of defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove on Thursday got buried under the at-long-last resolution of the Doug Free matter. But as Calvin Watkins writes on, it says something about where the Cowboys are in terms of their defensive line. As Dallas transitions to a 4-3 front this year, there has been some concern raised about depth. The starting quartet of DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff appears very good, but should one of those guys get injured or need a rest, things get dicey behind them. That's where Hargrove comes in, as the Cowboys believe he can play end or tackle on a 4-3 line.

But Hargrove is going to turn 30 before the start of the season, and since the team didn't address the defensive line in the draft, it's worth wondering about the future there, as Calvin does in his post. Spencer and Hatcher could both conceivably be gone next year. Ratliff's about to turn 32 and always seems to be banged up. Ware has worn down a bit toward the end of recent seasons, and a move up to the line could exacerbate that. Calvin lists Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lissemore, Rob Callaway and Kyle Wilber as young defensive linemen who could factor into the starting mix as early as next year. Lissemore is the most proven of that group, but one of the interesting subplots on the defensive line in Dallas this year will be whether any of them can show enough to instill confidence that they'll play significant roles in the future. The extent to which any or all of them do will affect what the Cowboys do about the defensive line next offseason.

In the meantime, I agree with Calvin that the Cowboys' defensive line appears to have been built for 2013 success without much of an eye toward what lies beyond. You can't fix every problem every offseason, and much of the Cowboys' draft this year was focused on offense due to their belief that they'll be better on defense with better health. Look for defensive line to be a major focus in the 2014 offseason, regardless of the way 2013 goes.
The Dallas Cowboys' new 4-3 defensive alignment, with Monte Kiffin as coordinator and Rod Marinelli as line coach, will require the four man on the defensive line to be responsible for the pass rush. This may sound obvious to some, but Marinelli is making enough of a point of it that he changed the label on the meeting room door at Valley Ranch from "Defensive Line" to "Rushmen." Per Todd Archer:
“It’s what we have to do, OK,” said Marinelli, the Cowboys defensive line coach. “It’s something in the four-man front that what you try to identify a position or men the No. 1 thing they’ve got to be able to do, and that it’s very clear.”

In the 3-4 scheme the Cowboys ran from 2005-12, the defensive line was not hugely responsible for the pass rush, though Jay Ratliff had 7 1/2 and six sacks in 2008-09 from his nose tackle spot. In the 4-3 scheme the Cowboys will run this year, the pressure on the quarterback has to come from the defensive line.

Now is the time of year to work on changing mentalities or instituting new ones. And while defensive ends DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer were already pass-rushers when they were standup outside linebackers in the 3-4, Marinelli's point is that he wants the whole group to be thinking about getting to the quarterback.

It looks as though the linebackers in this scheme -- Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and Justin Durant, most likely -- will be able to freelance a bit. This should play to Lee and Carter's strengths, as they've both shown themselves to be speedy, instinctive playmakers with the ability to seek out and make plays on the ball. A reliable rush from the front four would help that and would also help the secondary, where there are question marks at safety.

Will teams play the Cowboys differently with Ware and Spencer lining up on the line every play? Will that loosen things up in the middle to allow Ratliff and Jason Hatcher more room to get to the quarterback? Will Sean Lissemore or Tyrone Crawford be a factor as a pass-rusher this year? Lots of questions about the pass rush, but one thing that seems certain is that the coaches want it to be a focus of the program, starting this early.

The complicated case of Jay Ratliff

January, 28, 2013
One of the big stories last week when I was off was the drunken-driving arrest of Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jay Ratliff. You guys know, if you read this blog regularly, that I have no patience for the ludicrously selfish crime of drunken driving or the NFL knuckleheads who engage in it in spite of ample available alternatives. Obviously, when I learned that Ratliff had been arrested for this crime a mere six weeks after teammate and friend Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter in the crash that killed friend and teammate Jerry Brown, my first reaction was that Ratliff has to rank among the biggest fools on the planet.

I also think the Cowboys should get rid of him, which is an opinion I have seen espoused in several places since the arrest and one that wasn't even ridiculous to ponder before he was arrested. Ratliff is going to be 32 when the 2013 season starts. He's coming off a poor, injury-plagued season. And the cap-strapped Cowboys can save $1 million against the salary cap if they cut him by June 1.

Jean-Jacques Taylor's latest column at, however, asks us to push the pause button on the cut-Ratliff talk and make sure we're citing the proper reasons. Jacques thinks that while there may be perfectly good reasons to cut Ratliff, the drunken-driving arrest can't be the only one.
It's certainly a privilege, not a right, to play in the NFL, but Ratliff doesn't have a history of off-the-field issues. As far as we know, this is Ratliff's first alcohol-related incident and arrest.

Besides, would we be so willing to get rid of Ratliff if he hadn't missed 10 games to injury last season? What if his sack total hadn't decreased each of the past five years from a high of 7.5 in 2008 to none last year?

Would you want Tony Romo gone if he had committed the same dumb mistake? What about Sean Lee? DeMarcus Ware?

Good and worthy points. But my counter-argument is that Ratliff's arrest is perfectly acceptable, especially given the proximity in time to the Brent/Brown incident, as a final straw. Ratliff is aging. He is underperforming. He had it out with team owner Jerry Jones in the locker room late in the season. And now this. There is a good, strong, multi-layered case to be made that the Cowboys would be better off without this guy, and last week's arrest necessarily plays in as part of that case.

This, late in Jacques' column, did catch my eye and is worth noting:
Just so you know, among the reasons the Cowboys are moving to this scheme is they believe it will help Ratliff maximize his talent. Instead of being an undersized nose tackle who gets double-teamed every play, he can play on the outside shoulder of the guard and use his unique speed and quickness to make plays.

Fair enough, and changing your defensive alignment in an effort to maximize the talents and contributions of your players is a sensible way to go. (More sensible, for instance, than what they're doing in Philadelphia, where they have good 4-3 personnel and appear to be going to a 3-4.) But the Cowboys surely could use Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore as defensive tackles next season and sign a starting defensive end if they can't bring back Anthony Spencer. Or they could sign a defensive tackle and play Hatcher at end. Their scheme change isn't married to the idea of Ratliff and his position change, especially if they can't count on Ratliff to be as reliable and productive as he's been in the past.

The Cowboys need fewer headaches, not more. And they certainly need fewer drunk drivers. The very strong stance they'd be taking if they say good bye to Ratliff isn't the only reason to do it. It's just the latest, and possibly the last one they needed.
First thing I want to say is this: If the Dallas Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan because they wanted to switch from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense and they don't already have Ryan's successor lined up, I think they're nuts. I don't think you decide as an organization to switch to a 4-3 and then decide you're just going to go out and hire the best 4-3 guy you can find to run it. Not all 4-3s are created equal, and I think the better way is to find the coordinator you like and involve him in the process of making the switch, right from the start. So my first thought here is that, if the head coach and/or owner have decided to make this switch, Cowboys fans should hope they've already been in touch with whoever's going to be in charge of actually implementing it.

But you know, there were performance-based reasons to fire Ryan if that's what they wanted to do, and obviously teams don't always operate with common sense as their guiding principle, so it's possible that Jerry Jones and/or Jason Garrett have decided to go to a 4-3 without thinking it through to that extent. I actually think it's possible that they're doing it for economic reasons. John Clayton has the Cowboys projected $18.2 million over the salary cap, which means there are a lot of people on the current defense who don't fit into the budget. Switching to a 4-3 could help that.

Think about it. If they can't afford to keep Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff and Marcus Spears, they could move to a 4-3 alignment with DeMarcus Ware and Tyrone Crawford at the ends and Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore at tackle. Sean Lee plays the middle linebacker, Bruce Carter the weak side and you go out and find yourself a strongside linebacker, which would be easier and cheaper than keeping or trying to replace Spencer as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Crawford, last year's third-round draft pick, is probably better suited to be a 4-3 end anyway, and the price is right on him.

Financial reasons might not be the most sound or inspirational motivation behind a change like this, but they are a facts of life, and I suspect they're at play in this decision here. I have little doubt that Ware could handle rushing from a three-point stance or that Lee would be an excellent middle linebacker. And if they were able to keep, say, Ratliff, he might benefit from being one of two 4-3 defensive tackles instead of a single 3-4 nose. So you can make this make sense in your head, which is what the Cowboys may be doing. I just feel like they need to figure out who's in charge of the thing before they start making offseason decisions based on some significant new framework.
It is Tuesday, the day of chats, knee-jerks and Power Rankings. (Hints: There's a new No. 1 this week, and our division's teams aren't doing very well.) We will take another day to dwell on Sunday's results before turning our attention to a Week 11 in which everyone in the NFC East plays but its leader -- and in which, therefore, everyone has a chance to gain ground. Before we do any of this, however, we must have our links.

New York Giants

The Giants are concealing something about the health of running back Ahmad Bradshaw, saying he's going to have a whole bunch of medical tests but not saying on which part of his body. Whatever's wrong with Bradshaw, it's keeping him from a full practice schedule and limiting his effectiveness in games. Andre Brown was a bigger part of the game plan Sunday, and nobody would be surprised at this point if that continued after the bye. Shame for Bradshaw, who really wanted to be the No. 1 back for the Giants and thought he was ready to do it this year. Guy just can't keep himself healthy.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he saw signs of improvement from quarterback Eli Manning amid the wreckage of Sunday's loss in Cincinnati.

Dallas Cowboys

Defensive end Kenyon Coleman's season is apparently over, thanks to a torn triceps muscle. This leaves the Cowboys thin on the defensive line, which is not the strength of their defense in the first place, and makes it more important that Sean Lissemore can return this week from the ankle injury that has plagued him for the past month.

The Cowboys handed the Eagles six first downs Sunday with defensive penalties, and the way those are piling up is of great concern to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Dallas' defense is playing well overall, but the ill-timed penalties on third down are the kind of thing that eats away at that.

Philadelphia Eagles

As Reuben Frank details here, the Eagles have made life very easy for opposing quarterbacks Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Tony Romo the past three weeks. It's apparently as bad a three-game defensive stretch as the team has ever had, and statistically among the worst in league history at limiting quarterbacks' completion percentage.

Sheil Kapadia breaks down Nick Foles' debut, in light of the likelihood that Foles will start Sunday's game in Washington. It seems clear the Eagles didn't ask overly much of Foles in his relief stint Sunday, but it remains to be seen how much more they'll put in for him with a full week to prepare.

Washington Redskins

Pierre Garcon was back at practice Monday, but it doesn't sound as though it's time for Redskins fans to get their hopes up about him playing Sunday. It sounds like he's still in pain pretty much all the time, and that the only reason he hasn't had surgery yet on his injured foot is that he's philosophically opposed to the idea of having surgery at all.

Now, safety Brandon Meriweather sounds like a guy who might actually play Sunday -- assuming he doesn't get hurt in pregame warmups this time. It would be a Redskins debut for Meriweather and a boost for a struggling secondary.

NFC East Friday injury rundown

November, 2, 2012
Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta

Running back DeMarco Murray is officially out for the third game in a row with a sprained foot, while backup running back Felix Jones is listed as probable after missing a good amount of practice time because of a neck injury. Still a chance you could see some Phillip Tanner on Sunday night in Atlanta.

Wide receivers Dez Bryant (hip) and Kevin Ogletree (hamstring) are listed as questionable. Bryant has not practiced all week.

Linebacker Dan Connor, center Phil Costa and defensive end Sean Lissemore are all out for the game. Newly acquired veteran Ernie Sims replaces Connor at the inside linebacker position that belonged to Sean Lee before his injury.

New York Giants vs. Steelers

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw is listed as questionable with a foot injury after missing practice Wednesday and Friday, and practicing on a limited basis Thursday. If he can't go, Andre Brown likely would see a full running back workload in his place.

Linebacker Keith Rivers is doubtful with a calf injury, and starting middle linebacker Chase Blackburn has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Linebacker Jacquian Williams is also out because of a knee injury. Mark Herzlich will get the start at middle linebacker in place of Blackburn, and with safety Kenny Phillips back from his knee injury, the Giants could use more three-safety sets with Phillips, Antrel Rolle and NFC Defensive Player of the Week Stevie Brown.

Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans (Mon.)

Safety Nate Allen missed practice Friday with a hamstring injury. If he can't go Monday night, David Sims would replace him. Right guard Danny Watkins and wide receiver/punt returner Mardy Gilyard are the only other Eagles who missed practice. Watkins is likely to miss a second straight game with an ankle injury. Gilyard has been ruled out for the game, meaning Damaris Johnson is likely to be active and serve as the punt returner.

Washington Redskins vs. Panthers

Safety Brandon Meriweather had hoped he might be able to make his Redskins debut this week, but he has once again been ruled out, as has wide receiver Pierre Garcon. The Redskins are off in Week 10 and will reassess the status of both of those players during and after the bye week.

Inside linebacker Perry Riley is questionable with a hamstring injury and would be a tough loss for an already banged-up Redskins defense. He has been one of its best players this year.
Happy Tuesday, everybody. Are you ready for some Power Rankings? Some knee-jerk reactions? A live chat? We've got it all, and it all starts, as ever, with links.

New York Giants

Michael Boley says the statement the Giants made Sunday was that they are a physical team. I think this is a very important specific point he makes, and worth focusing on. The Giants have not been, over the past couple of years, a consistently physical team week in and week out. But they have shown the ability, when adequately motivated by specific situations, to perform as a physically tough team. They have done so the past two times they've played in San Francisco, where if you don't you're cooked, and they've won both times. Knowing their team has the ability to play that way gives Tom Coughlin and the Giants' coaches something with which to work when they prepare for these huge games in which the Giants always seem to find themselves.

The return of defensive tackle Chris Canty from his knee injury would help the Giants maintain that physicality, and they believe Canty will be able to practice this week and possibly return from the PUP list for Sunday's game against the Redskins. I think it'd be surprising if Canty were ready for game action after only a week, but anything is possible.

Philadelphia Eagles

Andy Reid says he's going to spend this bye week evaluating every aspect of his team to see if he can come up with solutions. I doubt that portends massive change at a position such as quarterback, and he did seem to back defensive coordinator Juan Castillo in terms of play-calling responsibilities, but I wonder if, two weeks from now, you'll see some subtle changes in places like the defensive line, which might could use a jolt from increased playing time for guys like Brandon Graham or even Vinny Curry.

The Eagles believe safety Nate Allen, who left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury, will be fine to go after the bye week. The defense did look different without him Sunday.

Washington Redskins

Pierre Garcon has something called an inflammed capsule under the second toe of his right foot, which sounds terribly painful to me even as I sit here on my couch typing. Can't imagine it'd be any fun to try to play wide receiver in the NFL with something like that going on. It seems as though Garcon's status is going to be a week-to-week deal, and the fact that they haven't been able to count on him makes their 29.3 points-per-game average even more impressive.

The Redskins know they have personnel issues on defense, and the way they're going to overcome that is by constantly changing schemes and personnel groupings. As Mark Maske writes, they did this Sunday to great effect.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Garrett suggests that one way to get players to stop committing penalties is to tell them they will no longer be on the team if they don't stop. What's astounding is that one of their biggest offenders in this department is right tackle Doug Free, who got a really nice left-tackle contract prior to the 2011 season, but seems to have forgotten how to play.

The Cowboys will be without defensive lineman Sean Lissemore for a little while, as he has a high ankle sprain and should miss a few weeks. Tough break, as Lissemore has been one of their most consistent performers up front this season on defense, and that defensive end spot is not one at which they have much quality depth right now.