NFC East: Steve Mariucci
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15
The Giants feel really good about their game plan for Michael Vick. A lot of teams fear Vick, but the Giants seem to relish the opportunity to play against him. Vick didn't account for a passing touchdown the last time they played, and the Giants battered him and caused him to fumble twice, losing one. Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell learned from that experience and he's added some new wrinkles to his approach. Look for safety Deon Grant to play a large role in Fewell's blitz packages. The Giants have the ability to generate pressure without the blitz, but Fewell will bring a safety or a cornerback at times. The Giants have been excellent against the run (see Adrian Peterson), so I think LeSean McCoy will have most of his success in the passing game. He has 70 receptions and the Eagles love the screen game.
Eli Manning has to find someone he trusts on third down. Manning has been really bad on third down this season, and a lot of that has to do with Steve Smith's being out with injuries. Since Smith's now been placed on injured reserve, Manning has to figure something out. Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham will need to concentrate more than ever because Manning can't afford any more deflections. (He's making enough mistakes on his own). This would be a good time for Derek Hagan to become a reliable third-down receiver. He's shown signs of being that player, but he's no Steve Smith. To me, Smith and the Eagles' Jason Avant are two of the best third-down receivers in the league.
Brian Orakpo loves playing against the Cowboys. The Washington Redskins' outside linebacker and former University of Texas star grew up in Houston hating the Cowboys. He's the player who drew the infamous holding penalty on the Cowboys' Alex Barron in the season opener. As former NFL scout Bryan Broaddus points out on ESPNDallas.com, Orakpo does a really nice job of not allowing much of a hitting surface to offensive tackles. The Skins had the good sense to move Orakpo to the left side to face Barron last time. There's a good chance they'll do the same thing against right tackle Marc Colombo. Orakpo draws a lot of holding calls, and the Redskins basically count those as sacks. He causes offensive tackles to panic, and that's about the highest compliment you can pay a pass-rusher.
The Giants will try to exploit Eagles rookie middle linebacker Jamar Chaney. With Stewart Bradley out for the rest of the regular season with a dislocated elbow, Chaney becomes the starter. He's a talented player, but you know that Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will try to work him over.
You'll be able to tell early in this game how Chaney's going to play. It's a matchup the Giants will be looking at all afternoon. And if the Eagles' linebackers don't stay in their lanes against Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, they'll be in for a long day.
Update: Wow, thanks for all the comments regarding Chaney. I went off the rails for a minute. Appreciate the feedback.
Published by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
|James D. Smith/Icon SMI|
|The only "show" Terrell Owens has put on recently has been on the field.|
I intended to respect the rule, but that became impossible Monday afternoon. I had walked over to greet Hall of Famer Michael Irvin when T.O. came walking up. He was telling Irvin about some new wrinkles that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett had added to the club's deep routes, so I backed up a few steps to let them talk in peace.
A minute or two later, T.O. started jogging toward me and then he faked an out route in order to demonstrate to Irvin one of Garrett's new additions. Unlike Jones the previous day, I did not bite on the fake -- and I was holding a steno pad and wearing leather sandals.
When he finished with Irvin, T.O. agreed to a brief visit with the NFC East blog, which he kept referring to as Hashmarks. When most of America last saw Owens, he was weeping into a mic in defense of quarterback Tony Romo's supersaver to Cabo.
"That's my quarterback" doesn't have the same passion of Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy's "I'm a MAN!" speech, but it was still an instant classic. The only problem was that most of the country wasn't buying it. The tears didn't fit the selfish profile that T.O. had so carefully crafted in San Francisco and Philadelphia, so we keep waiting for a twist.
Well, it appears we're still waiting. Believe it or not, Owens is viewed as the consummate teammate in the Cowboys' locker room. He's the one player who somehow remembers to text birthday messages to all the quarterbacks and wide receivers. And when he burns a young cornerback in training camp, he'll stop and explain to him why it happened. Oh, and he keeps bringing hundreds of T-shirts to camp for his teammates, which isn't normal protocol for All-Pro receivers. Yesterday, tight end Jason Witten was wearing his "iCatch" T-shirt while Leonard Davis had on an XXXL "iBlock."
Is this really the guy who was doing pushups in his driveway three years ago and standing behind the ubiquitous Drew Rosenhaus as he fired off a series of "next questions?"
Well, T.O. doesn't think he's changed that much, but he admits that people are starting to have a different perception of him. He was embarrassed recently when word got out that he'd come to the rescue of an ESPN.com reporter who'd been struck by a vehicle after the ESPYs. He felt like he was doing what anyone else would've done in the situation and was bothered by the fact that some reporters insinuated that it was out of character. Would he have done the same thing for Jeff Garcia?
I didn't have the heart to ask him. He simply thinks that the post-Parcells era has given him a chance to blend in more and be himself.
"A lot of it has to do with the coaching staff," he said Monday afternoon. "They made the whole thing different. Before, it was run like the military. Bill [Parcells] wanted everyone hanging around the facility during the offseason, and I wasn't able to work with my trainer. And when I was rehabbing during the 2006 camp, that came back to haunt me. I tried to come back at 75 percent, but then I had another setback."
Phillips' first training camp was labeled as "Camp Cupcake" because of the laidback atmosphere and the fact that veterans were able to sit out several practices in order to recuperate. This year, Phillips has joked that it should be called "Camp Marshmallow."
"I saw it over the years in San Francisco. [Steve] Mariucci took care of the veterans," T.O. said. "You had to earn your stripes, but eventually he would give you a day to relax. And that's pretty important."
The most surprising thing in our 15-minute conversation was hearing him say that he actually thinks Romo has surpassed him in terms of celebrity -- and that he's fine with it.
"It kinda spreads the wealth," he said. "I'm used to all that stuff, so it's nice to see some other guys be in the limelight."
I thought about taking his temperature at this point, but he seemed somewhat lucid. Asked why he seems so content, T.O. talked about his faith.
"My pastor is in prayer for me the minute something goes wrong," he said. "If he hears me say something on TV that he doesn't understand, he'll text me. I just think people are finally realizing that I am a good guy. And it's nice when you have a lot of prayer warriors out there."
During the first week of training camp, T.O. and cornerback Adam Jones have provided an entertaining sideshow. On Sunday, Jones got in T.O.'s grill during a one-on-one drill and started pumping his arms to fire up the fans. T.O. faked an out and then beat Jones for a 50-yard touchdown.
"It's like Pacman said: Every dog has his day," said T.O. "Things like that prepare you for game-like situations, and it's nice to play in front of a crowd. I had to be a good salesman on that play. He asked me what I was looking at after the play, and I told him I wanted to make him turn his hips on the fake."
With that, T.O. turned and jogged away.
Now, stay tuned for news from around the NFC East. I'm hitting every camp in the division, so your team will be receiving wall-to-wall coverage soon. In fact, here's my schedule:
Redskins: Aug. 4-6
Eagles: Aug. 10-12
Giants: Aug. 12-14