NFC East: sean locklear

PHOENIX -- The NFL announced the ever-popular compensatory draft picks Monday, awarding extra picks to 16 teams whose net losses in free agency last year were deemed by the league's formula to have outpaced their net gains. The Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants each added a seventh-round pick. The Eagles' extra pick will be the 239th of the draft. The Giants' will be the 253rd.

Neither the Dallas Cowboys nor the Washington Redskins, who were both very active in free agency last year, received any compensatory picks.

The formula for determining these picks is not strictly a 1-for-1 equation. For instance, the Giants got a pick even though the number of compensatory free agents they lost (Mario Manningham, Aaron Ross and Dave Tollefson) was equal to the number they signed (Martellus Bennett, Sean Locklear and Shaun Rogers). The reason is that, according to the formula, what the Giants lost in free agency was more than what they gained. The formula, the league's official release says, is "based on salary, playing time and postseason honors."

The Eagles got the extra pick because they lost Juqua Parker and Steve Smith and signed Demetress Bell. It's safe to assume they wish Bell had performed well enough to prevent them from getting an extra seventh-round pick this year.
So the Chiefs cut right tackle Eric Winston on Wednesday, probably because they've decided to take a tackle with the first pick in the draft. But this isn't a Chiefs blog. This is an NFC East blog, peopled by fans of teams in the NFC East. So why are we talking about this?

Because whenever a player of whom fans have heard gets cut in the middle of his contract, one of the first questions fans immediately ask is, "Should [my team] try to sign [this player that was just cut in the middle of his contract]?" And if you cheer for a team in the NFC East, and the player in question is Winston, the answer is yes.

It amazes me sometimes, the similarities our four teams can share. They all need help in the secondary, for instance, and they all need help on the right side of the offensive line. So here's a quickie team-by-team rundown of why each of our division's teams should kick the tires on this 29-year-old offensive lineman who is allowed to sign any time.

Dallas Cowboys

Obviously, the Doug Free contract is a huge bust and the Cowboys need a right tackle. They need guard help, too, but a right tackle is a fine place to start. Sadly for the Cowboys, they're too tight up against the cap to really compete for a free agent if that free agent is going to draw interest from multiple teams. I still think they address this in the draft.

New York Giants

Winston is better than David Diehl or James Brewer or Sean Locklear or whoever the Giants are currently planning to use on the right side. They won't overspend, but I'll bet they at least inquire about him.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have the best right tackle in the division in Todd Herremans, but they also have the most cap room -- by a mile. There is some sense that the offensive line would be stronger if they acquired a right tackle and moved Herremans back inside to right guard to replace the disappointing Danny Watkins. Enter Winston. They can afford him. They need him. No question they'll have interest.

Washington Redskins

This would be the perfect fit, for player and team. The Redskins need a right tackle, as it appears Jammal Brown's hip is never going to be right. Winston has zone-blocking run game experience, as well as experience working with Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan from his time in Houston. I think the Redskins would have signed Winston last year if they hadn't be blindsided by the salary-cap penalty on the day before free agency started. They would love to have him. Unfortunately, that cap penalty is still in place this year. And even though they knew that in advance this time, it's likely to keep Winston out of their reach for the second year in a row.

Who's next to go for Giants?

February, 26, 2013
David Diehl is a 10-year NFL veteran who knows how the system works. And as he told Tom Rock of Newsday, he's aware that he could be the next New York Giants veteran to be released in advance of free agency:
"The thing you realize at an early age is that as an NFL player you have an expiration date on you and it comes with a price tag," the offensive lineman said Tuesday. "That's the way that it always goes. Nothing has been said to me yet, but that's all things you can't control. The only things you can control are the way you prepare each and every day, getting myself healthy, and whenever that comes about we'll deal with it. But as of now, nothing has been said."

Diehl, who will turn 33 in September and is preparing for his 11th NFL season, is due to earn a base salary of $4.475 million in 2013. It is the last year of his contract with the Giants. If the team signs free agents-to-be Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe and thinks that James Brewer is ready to take over at right tackle, there may not be room in the starting lineup for Diehl. And therefore, there may not be room on the roster for him and his salary.

Diehl's last couple of seasons haven't been his best, though he did play left tackle during the Giants' run to their Super Bowl title in 2011-12. He struggled at right tackle this year and lost playing time to Sean Locklear, and Pro Football Focus graded him out as the 60th-best tackle in the league for the 2012 season. The salary number is high for a 32-year-old who's shown signs of decline.

Yet, the Giants value Diehl for his versatility (he can play any position on the line) and could decide, for a lesser price, to keep him around as a backup even if Brewer or someone else takes over at right tackle. So don't assume Diehl's a slam-dunk to be cut just because you think he should be.

Same with cornerback Corey Webster and his $7 million salary. Webster played poorly in 2012 but very well in 2011, and the Giants don't have any obvious in-house options to replace him if he leaves. They probably can't carry him at that number, but the fact that he and Diehl weren't cut in the purge that sent away Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty and Michael Boley a few weeks ago indicates that the team considers their cases more complex.

The Giants right now appear to be evaluating the situations with their own free agents, especially Beatty, and if costs get too high for the guys they decide to keep, that could impact what they do with some of the pricier veterans.
Over at Big Blue View, Ed Valentine takes a look at the New York Giants' offensive line in an effort to determine how much work they need to do on it for 2013. Ed concludes that the Giants need to address right tackle, could stand to add depth at guard and/or center and must re-sign free-agent left tackle Will Beatty, who performed very well in 2013:
Beatty is a free agent, and the Giants have to sign him to a long-term deal. Quality left tackles don't grow on trees, and Beatty is one.

Beatty surely did perform at that level in 2013, but it remains worth wondering how much the fact that he performed well once healthy obscures the fact that it took him an extremely long time to finally get healthy. The Giants' decision on Beatty is whether to pay him like a franchise left tackle based on 2013 performance or to play it more cautiously due to the physical problems he's had for the past couple of years.

The rest of the offensive line decisions work off of that, I believe. If they don't bring back Beatty, they need a building-block left tackle, either in the draft or in free agency. If they do bring back Beatty, maybe they try again to patch it together at right tackle and what they already have at center and guard.

I still think, even if they bring back Beatty, they'd do well to find another tackle. Whether it's James Brewer, who's already on the roster, or someone new they find in the draft, the Giants need to acknowledge that they can't simply go with David Diehl and Sean Locklear forever. With the Giants' offensive line right now, it's about making sure they don't wait too long to fix problems that necessarily come with age and time.

Breakfast links: RG3 meets Ed Reed

December, 6, 2012
New York Giants

Sean Locklear is officially out for the season. That means David Diehl returns to right tackle, where he caused many of my Giants readers angst earlier this season when he took the job back from a healthy Locklear. Diehl says this time he's feeling great and ready to handle the job. Recall that he played well enough at left tackle down the stretch last year to help the Giants win a Super Bowl.

How miserable did Robert Griffin III make the Giants? Jason Pierre-Paul says they're looking forward to trying to stop the more tradition passing attack of... Drew Brees and the Saints this Sunday.

Washington Redskins

And speaking of Griffin, one of the many impressive things about his rookie season has been his ability to avoid turning the ball over. Sunday, he faces a Baltimore Ravens defense that includes veteran safety Ed Reed, who has 61 career interceptions.

Mike Wise writes that Alfred Morris doesn't look or talk or carry himself like a big-time NFL running back, but he certainly does play like one.

Dallas Cowboys

When they spent a huge chunk of free-agent money and two high draft picks on new cornerbacks this offseason, the Cowboys were probably expecting to get some interceptions.

The Cowboys are going to have to manage running back DeMarco Murray the rest of the way. He missed practice Wednesday, for instance, but says he'll practice Thursday. They obviously want to avoid a recurrence of the foot injury that knocked out the middle of his season, and given how much better the offense looks when he's in it, whatever it takes to make sure he's ready to hit the field Sunday is worth it to them.

Philadelphia Eagles

Indications are that defensive line coach Jim Washburn was fired for personality reasons -- that he'd grown irritable, insubordinate and generally unpleasant to be around. But defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins is one guy who's sticking up for Washburn in the face of that narrative.

Bob Ford writes that the remainder of this season is all about the Eagles seeing what they have in rookie quarterback Nick Foles, so they can figure out which direction to go in the offseason.
Yeah, "Monday Night Football" produced what we were talking about yesterday, didn't it? A three-way race in the NFC East with four games to play. Your standings-order links, fresh, hot and kind of tough to believe:

New York Giants (7-5)

I'll have extended thoughts on the Giants' loss and their significant missed opportunity later today. But there were several uncharacteristic aspects of Monday night's loss, and among those was the overabundance of penalties they committed.

No one's saying right tackle Sean Locklear is out for the year with a knee injury, but they're saying all the things teams and teammates say when a guy's out for the year with a knee injury and they don't want to announce it yet. The loss of Locklear means more playing time for David Diehl, who stepped up in the stretch run last year but has struggled this season, and no safety net.

Washington Redskins (6-6)

I was a baseball fan as a kid. Still am, really. But as a kid I was an aspiring baseball writer, and one of my idols was Thomas Boswell. He was at the game Monday night, writing football, and he wrote that Robert Griffin III "inspires his teammates to play up to the level of their hopes, not down to the depths of their fears." And I was reminded how great Thomas Boswell is. Which was cool.

Many things about the Redskins' victory Monday night were remarkable an unusual (just as were those many things about the Giants' loss, see what I did there?). One of those things was that the Redskins managed to beat the Super Bowl champs without forcing a turnover.

Dallas Cowboys (6-6)

In case folks haven't noticed, Tony Romo's last five games have been very, very good. "Vintage" Romo, as Todd Archer writes.

A big part of the reason Romo's been so good is the outstanding play of wide receiver Dez Bryant, who welcomes the challenge of helping lead a Cowboys playoff run.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-9)

Andy Reid's been on the hot seat for so long this year that speculation has begun to swing the other way. John Smallwood wonders whether Reid might actually be able to hold onto his job next year in spite of the miserable fiasco that this season has become. I think John's reaching a bit. While anything's possible and no one but Jeffrey Lurie knows for sure, Reid returning for 2013 would rank among the biggest shockers in recent NFL history.

On the topic of firings that have already happened, Reid now seems to be saying that he should have fired defensive line coach Jim Washburn, not defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, after the Week 6 loss to Detroit. Which I'm sure makes Castillo feel better.

Breakfast links: RG3 and the Eagles

November, 15, 2012
You know what dawned on me last night? With the Giants on bye, not one of the NFC East teams that's playing this weekend (a) has a winning record or (b) can possibly have one by this time next week either. Sheesh. Tough times. Links.

New York Giants

I am speaking 100 percent honestly when I say I couldn't care less about this whole "Is Eli Manning elite?" discussion anymore. Seriously. I'm as tired of it as I am of my mortgage. Makes my eyelashes hurt. Whether Phil Simms (who said a few months ago that Manning would go to the Hall of Fame) considers Manning "elite" or not by whatever definition he or anyone else chooses to apply this week is about as relevant as a Jets player telling a reporter Tim Tebow is "terrible" without putting his name to it. It's non-news, and it passes for news these days in the guise of "the discussion" when in fact it's fabricated garbage. But the Giants are off this week, and when the Giants are off there are never any Giants stories to link to, so here's what I have for you. Simms talking in circles yesterday about the non-thing he said the day before. Enjoy.

Big Blue View looks at the question of whether David Diehl or Sean Locklear should be starting at right tackle for the Giants. In all honesty, it's not as though they benched Jonathan Ogden when Diehl came back, right? However he's played the past two weeks, if Diehl is the guy the Giants' coaches think gives them the best chance, is it really worth arguing Locklear's case?

Dallas Cowboys

Dez Bryant got a "conditional dismissal" of his offseason domestic violence charge, which means he's in the clear if he can go to regular counseling and stay out of further trouble for one year. This does not sound like a significant challenge, but you know. We'll find out. In answer to your likely first question, no, I don't think the NFL will suspend Bryant over this, though they haven't said for certain.

Oh, and DeMarcus Ware got that half-sack he wanted from Sunday's game, so his streak is still intact. Good for him. This could make the difference come Hall of Fame voting time, right?

Philadelphia Eagles

The key for Nick Foles as he approaches his first NFL start is to try as hard as he can to treat it the way he's treated every other game he's played in this life. This may or may not be easy, but it's his goal, and whether or not he succeeds at it may go a long way toward determining how he does in the game.

The Eagles were not in a position to draft Robert Griffin III, whom they'll face for the first time Sunday. But Andy Reid did meet with Griffin before the draft, and he made a definite impression.

Washington Redskins

Stephen Whyno writes that Michael Vick's concussions and other various injuries he's suffered in his career stand as a warning to Griffin that he needs to make sure not to be a reckless runner if he wants to succeed and last as a quarterback.

And one more on Griffin and then we're done for this morning at least: His teammates have elected him one of their captains in this, his rookie season. Mike Shanahan says he can't recall that happening before.

All-NFC East Team: Week 11 update

November, 14, 2012
Back to our regular format this week after last week's dalliance as part of a league-wide midseason report. Not a lot has changed, especially at quarterback, where no one seems to be challenging Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III for the lead spot. Perhaps young Nick Foles can make a run. Or maybe Eli Manning gets it together after his bye. And Tony Romo's schedule is soft the rest of the way, in case you hadn't heard, so you never know.

The disclaimer that no one ever reads: This is an All-Division Team based on overall season performance to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply a list of the players who performed the best in this past week. That's why Andre Brown is not on it.

Anyway, to the team, with my comments to follow -- especially on the tweak I felt necessary to make on the offensive line.

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (Last week: Griffin)

Running back: Alfred Morris, Redskins (Morris)

Wide receiver: Victor Cruz, New York Giants; Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys (Cruz, Austin)

Tight end: Jason Witten, Cowboys (Witten)

Fullback: Henry Hynoski, Giants (Hynoski)

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)

Right* tackle: Will Beatty, Giants (Todd Herremans)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Hatcher, Cowboys (Pierre-Paul, Hatcher)

Defensive tackle: Linval Joseph, Giants; Fletcher Cox, Eagles (Joseph, Jay Ratliff)

Outside linebacker: DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Cowboys (Ware, Spencer)

Inside linebacker: DeMeco Ryans, Eagles; Bruce Carter, Cowboys (Ryans, Sean Lee)

Cornerback: Prince Amukamara, Giants; Josh Wilson, Redskins (Amukamara, Wilson)

Safety: Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Giants (Rolle, Brown)

Kicker: Lawrence Tynes, Giants (Tynes)

Punter: Steve Weatherford, Giants (Weatherford)

Kick returner: David Wilson, Giants (Wilson)

Punt returner: Dwayne Harris, Cowboys (Brandon Banks)
  • First, the offensive line. Plain fact is, I don't have a right tackle. Herremans, who's had the spot all year, is out for the season. Neither David Diehl nor Sean Locklear in New York deserve the spot, nor does Tyler Polumbus in Washington or obviously Doug Free in Dallas. What I do have is two left tackles playing as well as any in the league -- Williams in Washington and Beatty in New York. So, since this is my team and I make the rules, I'm making Beatty my starting right tackle even though he's played left in all but one game this year. It's a way of recognizing his stellar performance without elevating him past Williams, who I think is outperforming him. And with the right tackle spot basically vacant, it made sense to me.
  • And punt returner! Yes, I have said since the middle of last season that the first guy to return a kick or a punt for a touchdown during my time on this blog would win the spot by default, even if it were a big, burly lineman who caught a line drive and got lucky. Harris is not that, but on Sunday he did become the first NFC East player since DeSean Jackson in 2010 to return a kick or a punt for a touchdown. So, by the arbitrary rule I made up, he gets the spot.
  • Carter has played so well in Dallas that he's making up for the loss of Lee to injury, and he takes Lee's spot on the team since Lee hasn't played in weeks. Man, when the Cowboys pick an inside linebacker in the second round, they don't mess it up, huh?
  • Cox over Ratliff was a tough call, but the kid's been incredible, and he was a standout player for me in Sunday's game. Close call on who's having the better season.
  • Thought about Chris Chester at right guard over Snee, who had a rough game in Cincinnati.
  • Thought about Dez Bryant over Austin at wide receiver, but Austin still has more yards and touchdowns.
  • Wilson keeps his cornerback spot. He's been a fine cover corner this year with one or two spectacularly bad exceptions. I'm sorry, but when I watch those Dallas corners, I don't see what's so great about they way they're playing.

Not much else of real controversy, I don't think, but I welcome your thoughts.
Good Wednesday morning to you. We have an update coming this morning to the All-Division Team, and a bunch of other goodies throughout the day. Hopefully it warms up a bit. Links.

New York Giants

As they spend their bye week assessing what's wrong with Eli Manning and the passing game, the Giants have a lot to ponder. Paul Schwartz writes that there are no easy fixes, and that it's on the coaching staff to devise new schemes and plans to replace the ones that appear to have stopped working.

It certainly appears as though the offensive line was playing better with Sean Locklear at right tackle than it has the last two games with David Diehl there. But the Giants seem determined to stick with Diehl and with the belief that he will play better.

Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo says Dez Bryant is "close to being a guy where it's 100 percent" in terms of his understanding of the key things he needs to do to succeed as a wide receiver. Romo has been all-in on Bryant for some time now -- consistently saying the right things to build him up and assist him, publicly and privately, and he seems to think it's paying off.

DeMarcus Ware thinks he had half a sack in Philadelphia on Sunday, and he wants his credit. To this point, the league statisticians have not given it, but the Cowboys have asked them to reconsider. Ware has a streak going, you see.

Philadelphia Eagles

As Nick Foles prepares to make his first career NFL start Sunday against the Washington Redskins, Bob Grotz takes a look at what exactly Andy Reid saw that convinced him to take Foles in the third round of this year's draft and make him Michael Vick's backup.

Want to know which Eagles are likely to be gone next year and who has a chance to be back? Paul Domowitch breaks it down, and there are quite a few names on the first list.

Washington Redskins

Jammal Brown is back at practice this week, and the erstwhile Redskins right tackle hopes his troublesome hip may yet allow him to return to game action before the end of this season. The Redskins have a couple of weeks to make that decision on Brown.

It should be noted, however, that working in conjunction with its running quarterback, the Redskins' offensive line has done a fine job this season even without Brown at right tackle.

Breakfast links: The NFC Least

November, 6, 2012
Yeah, it's a sweep, folks, and not a good kind of sweep. For the second time in the past 14 regular-season NFL weeks, the NFC East went a combined 0-4 for the week. The Eagles' lackluster "Monday Night Football" flop in New Orleans sealed the deal for a division whose combined record, counting the playoffs and the Giants' Super Bowl win, is 49-53 since the start of the 2011 season. Those are cold, hard numbers, folks. Our division is a one-team show right now, and the standings show it. Now, to the links:

New York Giants (6-3)

Interesting to see what tweaks the Giants will make on offense this week. Last week they switched David Diehl back in at right tackle for Sean Locklear, and Tom Coughlin said he thought Diehl "did OK." They also switched some things up at receiver, taking Victor Cruz off the field and putting Rueben Randle in on two-wide receiver sets. Whatever it is that's wrong, one thing of which you can be sure is that the Giants' coaching staff won't sit by and hope for it to fix itself.

The other thing of which you can be sure is that no amount of tinkering will matter if Eli Manning doesn't break out of what even he must now admit is a pretty bad slump.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-5)

What's wrong with the Eagles? Reueben Frank says it's pretty simple: "No pride, no heart, no character." This thing is over in Philadelphia. And honestly, going all the way back to the beginning of last year, I'm not sure it ever even got started.

Right tackle Todd Herremans left the game with an ankle injury, which means left guard Evan Mathis is the only one of the Eagles' five preseason-projected starting offensive linemen currently healthy. You watched last night. You see how bad it is in front of Michael Vick. It's not about to get better.

Dallas Cowboys (3-5)

Todd Archer writes that Jason Garrett is auditioning for his job again, just as he did in 2010, and that he and the Cowboys will need a repeat of that year's second-half performance if he wants to keep it.

DeMarco Murray's foot is feeling better, but his status for Sunday's game against the Eaglesremains uncertain. The Cowboys' running game could use it some Murray.

Washington Redskins (3-6)

Mike Shanahan says he's not going to change defensive coordinators, and you know where I stand on this. Unless a theoretical Jim Haslett replacement would bring with him a couple of NFL-caliber starting safeties and maybe a cornerback, I'm not sure how that person could really improve things.

Dan Daly writes that the "new normal" for Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III is about the drudgery of losing and dealing with the struggles of the group around him. Daly says he feels sorry for the young man.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It sounded all week as though safety Kenny Phillips would return to the field this week for the New York Giants after missing four games with a knee injury, but he will not. Phillips is on the list of inactive players for this afternoon's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium, and he will once again be replaced in the starting lineup by NFC Defensive Player of the Week Stevie Brown.

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who has been a minimal practice participant over the past few weeks but has yet to miss a game this year due to his foot injury, is active and starting for the Giants.

Other changes for this game include the return of David Diehl to right tackle in place of Sean Locklear. Diehl was injured early in the season, and the Giants' running game functioned well for a couple of weeks with Lockear at right tackle and Will Beatty at left. But Giants coach Tom Coughlin announced during the week that Diehl was healthy enough to return to his starter's role and would do so this week.

Also inactive for the Giants are linebackers Keith Rivers, Jacquian Williams and Chase Blackburn. Mark Herzlich starts in place of Blackburn at middle linebacker.

For the Steelers, safety Troy Polamalu is inactive as he has been for much of this season. Also inactive are first- and second-string running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer, meaning Isaac Redman gets the start at running back for Pittsburgh.

I'm here all game and will be chatting live at this link right here if you'd like to join us during the game.

Full list of inactives:

LB Chase Blackburn
LB Jacquian Williams
LB Keith Rivers
S Kenny Phillips
DE Adewale Ojomo
TE Adrien Robinson
TE Bear Pascoe


S Troy Polamalu
T Marcus Gilbert
LB Stevenson Sylvester
RB Rashard Mendenhall
RB Jonathan Dwyer
DT Alameda Ta'amu
QB Charlie Batch

All-NFC East Team: Week 7 update

October, 24, 2012
Not a lot of changes this week to the All-Division Team. Only two, I think, and neither one is the quarterback. Both Robert Griffin III and Eli Manning are playing at an extremely high level right now, and yes, I thought about using the fact that Manning won the game against Griffin's team as the tiebreaker. But as I watched that game Sunday, for those three hours, the best player on that field was not the two-time Super Bowl MVP. He got the last laugh, sure. And everyone who reads this blog regularly knows how I feel about Manning. But as of this moment, he's a notch behind Griffin for the starting quarterback spot on the All-NFC East Team. I think this is the first week all year in which they haven't switched places, so it's that close.

Before we go on, the disclaimer that no one will read: This is an all-division team based on overall season performance to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply a position-by-position list of those who played the best this week. That's why Santana Moss isn't on it.

So as I said, only two changes this week. Not the most exciting week we've had with this. I'll explain those two changes, and offer some insight on which players nearly changed my mind, after I give you the team:

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (Last week: Griffin)

Running back: Alfred Morris, Redskins (Morris)

Wide receiver: Victor Cruz, New York Giants; DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles (Cruz, Jackson)

Tight end: Martellus Bennett, Giants (Brent Celek)

Fullback: Henry Hynoski, Giants (Hynoski)

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)

Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles (Herremans)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys (Pierre-Paul, Hatcher)

Defensive tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Linval Joseph, Giants (Jenkins, Joseph)

Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins; DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys (Kerrigan, Ware)

Inside linebacker: Sean Lee, Cowboys; DeMeco Ryans, Eagles (Lee, Ryans)

Cornerback: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles, Prince Amukamara, Giants (Rodgers-Cromartie, Josh Wilson)

Safety: Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown, Giants (Rolle, Brown)

Kicker: Lawrence Tynes, Giants (Tynes)

Punter: Sav Rocca, Redskins (Rocca)

Kick returner: David Wilson, Giants (Wilson)

Punt returner: Rueben Randle, Giants (Randle)
  • Bennett had the big game catching the ball, yes, and Celek was off, but Bennett was close behind to begin with. What he and Hynoski are doing as blockers, in the run game and the passing game, is absolutely invaluable to the way the Giants are playing right now.
  • And yes, Amukamara is the best cornerback in the division at this moment. Wilson is having a fine season, the final play of Sunday's game notwithstanding, but Amukamara has done absolutely nothing wrong since returning from his injuries. With Corey Webster having a down year and the Giants' secondary in need of a boost, he's performing like a first-round pick.
  • Williams holds down his spot at left tackle after holding off Pierre-Paul all day Sunday. He's playing left tackle as well as anyone in the league. His closest competition in this division is the Giants' Will Beatty.
  • Looked at Nate Livings for left guard and Chris Chester for right guard, but I still have each a notch below the guy listed at his spot. Herremans hasn't been great, but you don't have to be to beat out Doug Free, Sean Locklear and Tyler Polumbus. I did think Polumbus played a good game Sunday. But again, year-long list.
  • Thought about Miles Austin over Jackson at that receiver spot but didn't pull the trigger. Another big Ahmad Bradshaw game could have threatened Morris at running back, because of what Bradshaw brings as a blocker. But Morris is the clear running back leader in this division right now.
  • Kerrigan's had two kinda bad games in a row, and I thought about putting Dallas' Anthony Spencer there instead. (He got a sack!) Will monitor this in the coming weeks to see if Kerrigan returns to his dominant early season form.
  • I didn't think Rolle or Brown looked remarkably impressive Sunday (Brown's interception notwithstanding), but I really don't see who deserves to have taken the spots from them. Maybe Nate Allen? Meh.
  • And finally, Lee is obviously not long for this inside linebacker spot, as he's out for the year with a foot injury. The leading candidate to take the spot at this moment is Washington's Perry Riley, but we'll see how the potential replacements play in the coming weeks. It's not ridiculous to think that Lee could hold the spot for a week or two without playing. That's how good he's been.

As ever, I welcome your thoughts.

How will Giants' RB situation work now?

September, 25, 2012
New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who missed last week's game with a neck injury but has been cleared to return to practice this week, guaranteed Tuesday that he would play Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. This is good to know, but it occurs to me that Bradshaw is not in charge of which Giants players play. Coach Tom Coughlin is. And to this point, we have not heard from Coughlin regarding the way the running back situation will work out once Bradshaw is able to return to game action.

[+] EnlargeAndre Brown
Bob Donnan/US PresswireRunning back Andre Brown opened eyes as a starter for the Giants last Thursday.
Bradshaw says he's not been told anything to indicate his role as the team's starter has changed or will change, but the Giants' running game finished last in the league last season with Bradshaw as its lead back. And while he had a decent game in the opener against Dallas, gaining 78 yards on 17 carries, he struggled to find running room most of that night before breaking a 33-yard run late, and he struggled again before leaving the Week 2 game against Tampa Bay with the injury.

In the meantime, Andre Brown replaced Bradshaw against Tampa Bay and rushed for 71 yards on 13 carries. Brown then got the start last week against Carolina and ran for 113 yards on 20 carries. Small sample size, sure, but Brown is averaging 5.6 yards per carry this season while Bradshaw is at 4.3 and coming off a 2011 season in which he averaged 3.9. There have been serious run-blocking issues with the Giants' offensive line since the start of 2011, but Brown is running behind basically the same line and doing a better job of finding holes and gaining yards.

So what to do, then, once Bradshaw is able to go again? They went into this season feeling good about Bradshaw as the starter, so it seems unfair and unreasonable to bounce him after only a game and a half. And it's possible that the offensive line, with Will Beatty back at left tackle last week and Sean Locklear moving over to right tackle to replace an injured David Diehl, improved the blocking and Bradshaw will improve as a result. Bradshaw has played hurt and played tough and contributed to two Super Bowl titles during his time in New York, and as a result he's earned the benefit of the doubt. But Brown has played well enough to deserve a chance to show more of what he can do. Sending him back to the bench seems like an unwise use of resources.

Fortunately for the Giants, they have a template for this. There was a time-sharing system in place over the past couple of years between Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Bradshaw was the lead back, but Jacobs got plenty of carries and helped augment the power running game the Giants love to use to help set up Eli Manning and the passing game. Brown could certainly slide right into the old Jacobs role, which would keep Bradshaw as the nominal starter and still offer Brown a chance to help. Rookie David Wilson doesn't appear ready to make a contribution just yet, and there's no harm in stashing him on the bench and continuing to develop him during the week. If they go to a Bradshaw/Jacobs-style sharing situation with Bradshaw and Brown, and Brown continues to outperform Bradshaw, they can gradually make a change and use Brown as the lead back.

This is a good problem for the Giants to have. Bradshaw's injury uncovered something in Brown they may not have known they had. It's hard to expect Brown to keep rolling up 100-yard games if they were to make him the starter, but perhaps imposing some kind of carry-sharing system could help maximize the strengths of both players. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Giants at least consider this going forward.

At long last, Giants get a laugher

September, 21, 2012
It had been quite a while since the New York Giants won a game as easily as they beat the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. Turns out, all they needed to do was hand the ball off to Andre Brown and throw it to Ramses Barden.

With their starting running back and best wide receiver injured and unable to play, the Giants were forced to turn to a pair of little-used backups from the middle rounds of their 2009 draft. But with a steady-as-ever Eli Manning directing the offense, Brown rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns while Barden caught nine passes for 138 yards in a 36-7 Giants victory in Carolina.

Let's start with Brown, who ran hard and with power behind an offensive line that hasn't been able to open holes in the run game for Ahmad Bradshaw at all over the past year-plus. Carolina's run defense has been one of the worst in the league this season, and that clearly had something to do with Brown's success, but Bradshaw has run against poor defenses, too, and he hasn't had as many as 113 rushing yards in a game since Oct. 25, 2010. The Giants used Brown in a very specific way, a lot of draw plays and straight-ahead running that took advantage of his power style. But he also ran with patience, showed some burst when he needed to and found the holes he needed to find.

It's possible this line Thursday, with David Diehl injured, Will Beatty back at left tackle and Sean Locklear at right tackle, just blocked better than it's been blocking in the other alignment. But it's also possible Brown is running better right now than Bradshaw is. And if Bradshaw is recovered from his neck injury in time for the Giants' Week 4 game in Philadelphia 10 days from now, the Giants might still be looking to reward Brown's performance with an increased number of snaps. Maybe they will rotate carries now the way Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs used to. Heck, maybe Brown just went Lou Gehrig to Bradshaw's Wally Pipp. We shall see, but whatever the reason, it's been a long time since the Giants' run game looked as good as it did in this game.

Brown was the fourth-round pick of the Giants' 2009 draft and kept coming back after being cut twice. Barden was the third-round pick in that same draft, and his big problem over his first three years in the league was an inability to stay healthy. He got surpassed by Victor Cruz and had to fight for a roster spot this preseason, but during camp and in preseason games, he looked very good running those slant routes over the middle, using his size to shield the ball from defenders and showing good hands. So he made the team, and that's exactly the way the Giants used him in this game as the starter in place of the injured Hakeem Nicks. With Cruz drawing extra coverage on the other side, Barden was open all through the first half, and Manning kept throwing it to him with great success. Brown's runs and Barden's slants, along with a big game from a tight end, Martellus Bennett (who was supposed to be a run-blocker), helped the Giants march the ball down the field and build a 23-0 lead against a Carolina team whose starters looked overmatched against the Giants' backups.

[+] EnlargeRamses Barden, Martellus Bennett
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneUnlikely heroes Ramses Barden (13) and Martellus Bennett combined for 15 catches for 211 yards and a touchdown -- Bennett's, here.
The Giants believe in maintaining a deep roster, developing players and replenishing their roster from within. A game such as the one they played Thursday night shows the validity of that philosophy. It also shows the value of Manning, who continues to find ways to get the best out of the players around him, no matter who or how experienced they are. Manning was a ho-hum 27-of-35 for 288 yards and a win the Giants get to enjoy for a week and a half before their huge Sept. 30 division matchup in Philadelphia.

Some other thoughts:

Beatty, by the way, was one of the Giants' second-round picks in that same 2009 draft. (Nicks was the first-rounder.) I will watch the game again to make sure, but it seemed he looked very good in his return to the starting lineup. The offensive line was a huge part of this game, in pass protection and in run blocking. And if Beatty is fully healthy at long last, the Giants have a chance to have the line they planned to have all along.

Top cornerback Corey Webster continued his early-season struggles and broke his hand, although he says he'll be ready for Philadelphia. But second-year corner Prince Amukamara played well, as did rookie Jayron Hosley. Amukamara still needs experience and will continue to be picked on while he accumulates it, and he might give up a big play or two here or there. But he's a technically proficient defensive back. He's sharp in his coverages. His footwork looks good. He positions his body well and uses his hands well. He plays the position very well and should be an asset as he continues to develop. Hosley, the Giants' third-round pick this year, plays fast and hard, and stays with the play even when it looks like it's dead. It helped him get an interception and disrupt a Cam Newton pass after Newton juked him on a corner blitz. Hosley looks like a mid-round gem who was ready right away. He injured his hamstring in the game, but it doesn't seem to be too serious.

Safety Antrel Rolle banged his left knee on a camera lens while racing out of bounds near the end zone toward the end of the game. The Giants said after the game that it didn't appear serious, but I wouldn't be surprised if Rolle got an MRI on Friday to be sure. Rolle would be a bad loss, as the Giants don't have much proven depth at safety. But whatever. Nicks and Bradshaw should have been bad losses, too, and their replacements combined for 268 total yards from scrimmage Thursday.

Jason Pierre-Paul. There's just not much left to say. He's playing defense as well as any player in the league right now, and offenses are having a miserable time trying to even slow him down. His early batted passes had to be a big reason Newton couldn't get into a rhythm.

Injury meets opportunity for Giants

September, 19, 2012
The New York Giants made it official Wednesday, ruling starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw, right tackle David Diehl and wide receiver Domenik Hixon out of Thursday's game against the Carolina Panthers due to their various injuries. That's two offensive starters and their No. 3 wide receiver in a game that figures to offer the opportunity for lots of offense on both sides -- and, no, that's not good.

However, the injuries do open up opportunity for several other players who may well be poised to take advantage of them. In particular, with the way the Giants' running game has struggled since the start of the 2011 season, circumstances that require them to try solutions other than Bradshaw and Diehl might not be altogether unwelcome. A look at the people who could get a chance to play their way into larger roles Thursday as a result of the injuries:

RB Andre Brown. The team's fourth-round pick in the Hakeem Nicks draft of 2009 (there's a theme building here, by the way), Brown didn't do much in his first three years behind Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs on the depth chart. But he beat out D.J. Ware for the backup running back job in training camp, and he ran well in relief of Bradshaw on Sunday against Tampa Bay. Thrilled to finally get his shot as a starter in the state in which he played college football at NC State, Brown should see the bulk of the carries, including those on the goal line, in Thursday's game. The Giants have been coy about Bradshaw's status, but if Brown plays well and Bradshaw is slow to heal, this might not be the last you hear of him.

RB David Wilson. A lot of people assumed this year's first-round pick would be Bradshaw's backup or maybe even share carries with him. And Wilson was the first back to relieve Bradshaw in the season opener. But he fumbled early in that game and didn't see the field again until Week 2, when it was clear the coaches trusted Brown more. They have some plays in which they feel Wilson can help them, and you never know -- it could be that he's the featured guy Thursday. At the very least, he could get a chance to prove he can hold on to the ball and make things happen in the run game.

OT Will Beatty. One of two Giants second-round picks in that aforementioned 2009 draft, Beatty was the starting left tackle last year before an eye injury ended his season after 10 games. Back problems cost him his starting job this summer, but with Diehl out, it looks as though Sean Locklear will swing over to right tackle and make room for Beatty to get another shot as the starter at left tackle. Surely the Giants would like to see him play well enough to convince them to leave him there for the foreseeable future and beyond.

WR Ramses Barden. The Giants' third-round pick in -- you guessed it! -- 2009, Barden had a hard time finding the field in his first three years, as injuries slowed his development. But he showed a lot in training camp and in the preseason, and when he's been in games, Eli Manning has seemed comfortable throwing to him. Barden's size gives him an advantage over defensive backs, and he showed in the preseason that he knows how to use his body to shield the ball from the defender. He could be the one who takes over Hixon's snaps.

WR Rueben Randle. This year's second-round pick is a player for whom the Giants have high hopes, though there haven't been any indications yet that he's ready for an increased role. But Hixon's injury opens up opportunity in general, and if Randle gets on the field, he'll have his best chance yet to show what he can do.