NFC East: terrelle pryor

Vick presents conundrum for Eagles

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Michael Vick situation provides a conundrum for the Philadelphia Eagles, bringing a couple of coach Chip Kelly’s priorities into conflict.

All season, Kelly talked about the importance of having two quarterbacks capable of winning NFL games on the roster. The Eagles were living proof of the value of having Vick and Nick Foles. The Green Bay Packers, meanwhile, were an object lesson in what happens when your depth chart drops from Aaron Rodgers to Seneca Wallace.

Vick
Vick
“I think you can never have enough quarterbacks,” Kelly said. “I've said that no matter where I was. In this league, we were fortunate that we had two this year, and that was a huge benefit to us that we had two, and we'll continue to always look at quarterbacks, and I think anybody that's any good in this league always does that.”

Vick will be a free agent on March 11 and says he wants to go somewhere he can be a starter. And while he has said he would be willing to return to the Eagles as a backup “if all else fails,” there is a very real possibility the Eagles won’t be interested.

That’s because, for all the praise Kelly heaped on Vick for handling his in-season demotion, the coach also had good things to say about rookie Matt Barkley.

“Matt was awesome,” Kelly said. “I'm excited to get a full offseason with Matt in here to really get a chance to work with him, because I think he's got a skill set that's exciting when you see him, how the ball comes out of his hands, the decisions that he makes, and that's part of this whole deal.”

Barkley
Kelly wanted Barkley enough for the Eagles to trade up a couple spots in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. Quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor spent hours of extra time working with Barkley. He saw action in three games, but was thrown into some pretty unfortunate situations.

The guess here is that Barkley is tagged to be the No. 2 quarterback behind Foles. His style is closer to Foles’ than Vick’s is, which theoretically makes for a smoother transition if he has to play. It also wouldn’t shock me if the Eagles draft a quarterback again this year, maybe even higher than they took Barkley.

As for Vick, he is probably the best of a mediocre batch of free-agent quarterbacks this year. He will be 34, but still has a couple years left in him.

Some possible fits:

• Oakland, where coach Dennis Allen is going to be feeling some heat. Vick could be a good option to Terrelle Pryor as the younger quarterback gets up to speed.

• The New York Jets, where there will be intense pressure on head coach Rex Ryan in 2014, and where the offensive coordinator is former Eagles assistant Marty Mornhinweg. If the Jets stick with the combination of Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez for another year, chances are they’ll be looking for a new head coach in 2015.

• Jacksonville, where the Jaguars slid from the No. 1 overall pick to No. 3 by winning a few late-season games. If they aren’t in love with the quarterbacks available, or if they need a veteran to serve as a bridge to the rookie, Vick could be a fit.

• Cleveland is interesting. It’s hard to say whether the presence of former Eagles president Joe Banner would be good or bad for Vick in Cleveland.

• Tampa Bay, which has a lot to like in Mike Glennon. But new coach Lovie Smith may want real competition for the starting job in training camp, and Vick just proved himself a solid locker room citizen through one of those.

• Buffalo is similar to Tampa Bay. E.J. Manuel is going to get every chance to be the quarterback, but coach Doug Marrone may want a veteran to compete, and Kevin Kolb’s status may force the Bills to bring someone in.

• Kansas City. OK, OK, Andy Reid just had a very good year with Alex Smith. But Reid has fallen hard for Vick and scuttled his quarterback plans before. A long shot, yes, but there’s a sliver of a chance.
OAKLAND -- And now, the waiting game begins.

A second consecutive 4-12 season for coach Dennis Allen, in which the Oakland Raiders lost six straight to end the season and eight of nine overall, would have spelled doom under the late Al Davis. But with Mark Davis as a more “patient” owner, and a general manager in Reggie McKenzie who has called Allen “my guy” from Day 1, you have to wonder.

Allen
Does Allen, who was a rookie coach as Oakland began its self-described two-year “deconstruction” period in 2012, deserve a shot at returning, despite his platform of progress and discipline being shelled since Thanksgiving?

“Deserve” might be too broad a term; “fair” might be more accurate.

Davis said this week he was going to take a “wait-and-see” approach, that no decision had been made and he wanted to see how the Raiders played this weekend.

In the Silver and Black spectrum, the Raiders outscored the Denver Broncos in the second half on Sunday, 14-3.

In the Silver and Blechhh spectrum, they trailed at halftime, 31-0 (which is when Peyton Manning left the game), and fell to the AFC’s top seed, 34-14.

Allen anticipates sitting down with Davis and McKenzie in the very near future, and believes he “deserves” to return.

“Yeah, I do,” he said. “I expect to be back, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to come back. Those are decisions that somebody else is going to make, but yeah, I expect to be back.”

Asked if he considered the possibility that he was done, Allen did not flinch.

“That’s a decision that’s made over my head. I fully expect to be back. I fully believe that I deserve the opportunity to come back here and get a chance to, as we said, go through the deconstruction phase. I want to be part of the rebuilding phase.”

Said quarterback Terrelle Pryor: “Personally, I love Coach Allen. He’s a great leader. He’s a great leader. The thing I really liked about him, he didn’t change. When we started losing, he didn’t change one bit. A lot of guys crack under pressure. I think coach Allen handled himself. We look at that stuff (as players). I think he did a phenomenal job this year. I have a lot of respect for Coach Allen ... I respect coach Allen, but that’s really not my call. That’s Mr. Davis’ and Reggie’s, and really, Mr. Davis’."

Left tackle Jared Veldheer, who will be an unrestricted free agent, said he also endorsed Allen.

"One of the biggest things we need is continuity," Veldheer said. "It would be very tough to see massive turnover."

Double Coverage: Raiders at Cowboys

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
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Romo-RoachAP PhotoTony Romo's Cowboys host Nick Roach and the Raiders in a Thanksgiving Day duel.
IRVING, Texas -- For the second time in five years, the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders meet on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium.

The Cowboys won the 2009 matchup 24-7 with Tony Romo throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns and Miles Austin catching seven passes for 145 yards. Since that game Austin has had more yards in a game just twice.

ESPN.com's Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Cowboys reporter Todd Archer bring you this week's holiday version of Double Coverage.

Todd Archer: The Cowboys are bad in most areas defensively, but they have given up 200 yards rushing in three games this season. The Raiders' strength, from afar, seems to be their running game. What makes it so good and how has it differed with Terrelle Pryor out?

Paul Gutierrez: Hey, Todd, it's not just Pryor being out, but also Darren McFadden, who has missed three straight games and four overall with a strained right hamstring. He said Monday night he hopes to play after practicing (limited) for the first time since Nov. 1. The run game, though, has not missed a beat with underrated Rashad Jennings picking up the slack. In the past four games, he has run for 413 yards while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. In fact, the running game has been so surprisingly solid without McFadden and Pryor that the play-action pass game has picked up with undrafted rookie Matt McGloin under center.

Speaking of passing games ... no doubt Tony Romo can rack up stats, but has he decided to assume more of a leadership role yet as the QB of America's Team, or is that just not in his makeup?

Archer: He has developed over the years as a leader, but there's no question that this has been "his" team the past three seasons. He is the veteran. He is the guy the Cowboys look to. The guys on this team now don't know of the Romo who burst on the scene in 2006 or had to deal with the Terrell Owens stuff. He's the guy who led the lockout practices and has been the big voice in the room. This year he has been given the added responsibility of being more involved in the game plan. The Cowboys' past two wins have come on last-minute drives led by Romo to beat Minnesota and the New York Giants. I don't think there's anybody questioning his leadership anymore. And if they did, well, the $106 million extension Jerry Jones gave him in the offseason should be more than enough proof to those guys that this is Romo's team.

Let's stick with the quarterback theme. Before the Cowboys lucked into Romo, they ran through a ton of guys after Troy Aikman's departure. Is there any reason to believe McGloin or Pryor can be a solution or do the Raiders need to go after one of these guys in next April's draft?

Gutierrez: Well, the way I put it earlier in the season, before Pryor hit his purported ceiling and sprained his right knee, robbing him of his greatest strength (running) while accentuating his biggest weakness (passing), if Pryor was not the Raiders' Mr. Right, he was their Mr. Right Now. McGloin is a pure quarterback, a pocket passer whom Dennis Allen prefers for what he wants to accomplish offensively. It's hard to give Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie much credit for their evaluation of QBs, though, what with their misses on Matt Flynn and Tyler Wilson, not caring much for Pryor early on and then, similar to the Cowboys with Romo, stumbling upon McGloin. But it's hard to see them going all in with the undrafted rookie from Penn State, too. At least hard at the moment. Unless McGloin continues to improve and wins a few games, it would behoove the Raiders to draft another QB if they see one as a can't-miss prospect. I know, I know, they really wanted USC's Matt Barkley but Philadelphia traded in front of them so they traded back and selected Wilson. Oops. There is no doubt, though, that this Raiders regime prefers McGloin as a prototypical QB over the more electric Pryor.

No matter who is under center for Oakland, though, the Raiders' QB is going to have to keep an eye on DeMarcus Ware. Is he rounding back into shape as a dominant pass-rusher, or is he more decoy as he rehabs from his quad strain?

Archer: I think he's still feeling his way through it. The fact that he made it through the Giants game healthy was a plus. He has been dinged up in just about every game with stinger and back strains earlier in the season before the quadriceps injury. We'll see how he fares on a short week, but the defense is a lot better with even the threat of Ware on the field. Jason Hatcher had two sacks against the Giants at least in part because of the attention Ware received. Ware has talked about wanting to make up for lost time. He has five sacks so far, his fewest this late in a season since his rookie year in 2005. Thursday would be a good time to look like the DeMarcus Ware of old.

This game is a homecoming of sorts for guys like Mike Jenkins, Andre Gurode, Kevin Burnett and Tony Sparano, but it's a real homecoming for Dennis Allen. How is he perceived in Oakland and will McKenzie be more patient with him than, say, Al Davis would have been?

Gutierrez: The jury, so to speak, is still out on Allen in the streets of Silver and Blackdom. Of course, when the Raiders win a game, he's the man. When he loses, the fans turn on him and start pining for Jon Gruden ... again. But isn't that the nature of the beast? Even Allen himself said this was a results-oriented business. Of course, he was referring to the quarterback position at the time, but it still applies. Make no mistake about it, Allen is McKenzie's "guy" and he's going to roll with him and have patience with him. The plan coming in was to give Allen at least three years to right this ship and really, the only thing that could damage Allen's chances of lasting another year would be if the team quit on him, like it did last November before playing hard again at the end. Then again, it might not be McKenzie's choice. Owner Mark Davis is a more patient owner than his father and wants McKenzie to handle all football-related decisions. But a year after stating he was fine with just about anything but regression, Davis wants progress. Stagnancy won't cut it, either. So, stay tuned.

Sticking with the coaching theme, is Jason Garrett in Jerry World for the long haul, or was Jerry Jones' support merely the dreaded vote of confidence?

Archer: Jerry has publicly backed Garrett, but he's also been a guy who's said, "Just because I say something, doesn't mean it's true." I do know this: He wants Garrett to be the guy. He desperately wants it to work. I really believe that. He believes in Garrett's approach and how he builds a team. Garrett will provide some blow-back to Jerry but not as much as, say, a Bill Parcells. Garrett knows what makes Jerry work and knows how to work around it to a degree or push Jerry in a certain direction. Honestly, Cowboys fans should want the Garrett deal to work out because it might be the best combination to mitigate the bad parts of Jerry and keep the good parts of Jerry.

PHILADELPHIA -- Whenever Chip Kelly talks about the quarterbacks he recruited or considered while he was at Oregon, it’s hard to miss a certain common thread.

None of them are remotely like Nick Foles.

Kelly didn’t heavily recruit Robert Griffin III, but he talked to the current Washington quarterback on the phone when Griffin was a high school senior. Before the Eagles played the Oakland Raiders a couple weeks ago, Kelly talked about his trips to Jeannette, Pa., to watch Terrelle Pryor play basketball. At one point this season, Kelly found himself describing Carolina’s Cam Newton in a covetous tone.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesNick Foles doesn't have elite speed, but he's been making good decisions in Chip Kelly's offense.
Of course, there are the quarterbacks Kelly actually recruited and signed to Oregon: Marcus Mariota is there now. His predecessor, Darron Thomas, rushed for 486 yards in his best overall season.

Kelly didn’t get to Oregon in time to recruit Foles, but it’s hard to imagine he would have been that interested. Foles committed to Michigan State and later transferred to Arizona.

This little observation seems to support the idea that Foles is not a great fit for the offense Kelly would prefer to run in the NFL. But there is something to be said for the way Foles is running Kelly’s offense right now.

On Thursday, Kelly chafed at the suggestion his Oregon teams didn’t throw the ball deep very much.

“Did you watch us play?” Kelly said. “[Mariota] threw 32 touchdowns last year and five interceptions. So I don’t think we didn’t throw the ball down the field. He throws the ball down the field a lot. The kid before him (Thomas) threw 30 (touchdowns) and six interceptions (actually, 33 and 7). We threw the ball down the field a ton.”

Foles, of course, has thrown 16 touchdown passes with zero interceptions in his roughly 4 1/2 games behind center. In his past two games, Foles has completed 12 of 16 passes that traveled at least 15 yards downfield, according to ESPN Stats & Information. So Foles is having success throwing deep, something Kelly obviously takes pride in.

And while he doesn’t have the speed of a Griffin or a Michael Vick, Foles is improving his run game. Not counting the three kneel-downs at the end, Foles ran the ball five times in Green Bay for 41 yards.

He picked up three first downs. One came on a 16-yard, third-down run two plays before his 32-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper. Another came on a third down on the Eagles’ final, clock-killing drive.

“That was my decision,” Foles said. “I just saw green grass, I saw an opening. It goes back to game management. I knew we didn’t have enough downs to run out the clock but if we get a first down here, we do.”

So what if the coaches must be tempted to fast-forward the game tape when they’re watching Foles run?

“The thing with Nick is, he may not be fleet of foot, but he's fleet of mind,” Kelly said. “He's a really, really good decision-maker. Again, not every play we call is a zone-read play, but when they're called, he can be a factor. It's really just taking advantage of what the defense is. If they're all going to commit and try to take away the running back and no one’s responsible for the quarterback, you’ve got to be able to make them pay, and Nick has done that for us.”

“We always talk about touchdown, first down, get down,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “I think that's what he does a good job of, get as many yards as you can. If you can score, score. If you can't score, let's move the chains and then let's get down. So he does a good job.”

Foles ran a 5.14 in the 40-yard dash at the 2012 NFL combine. That’s a half-second behind Newton (4.59 seconds) and slower than Andrew Luck (4.67). But it’s a shade faster than Tom Brady’s 5.28, so quarterbacks can excel without elite speed.

“I’m not going to run a 4.3 40,” Foles said. “I might run a 4.3 30.”

We probably won’t know until after the season if Kelly believes he needs a Griffin or Mariota or Newton type to run his offense at the highest level. He may just decide that the level he’s getting from Foles is good enough.

Double Coverage: Redskins at Eagles

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
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DeMeco Ryans and Alfred MorrisAP Photo, USA Today Sports ImagesExpect a closer game this time around between DeMeco Ryans' Eagles and Alfred Morris' Redskins.


Remember the Chip Kelly revolution? It was televised, on "Monday Night Football" no less, back in September. The first half of Kelly's first game as an NFL head coach looked more like the running of the bulls, and FedEx Field was Pamplona.

Things settled down considerably after that. As Washington comes to Lincoln Financial Field for the rematch, both teams look different at quarterback. Robert Griffin III was tentative that night in his first game back after knee surgery. Nick Foles was on the sideline as Michael Vick ran Kelly's uptempo offense.

The teams meet again with much on the line. The Eagles are 5-5 and, with the 5-5 Dallas Cowboys on their bye, can slide into first place in the NFC East with a win. Washington is 3-6 and can get within one game of the division leaders. ESPN.com Eagles reporter Phil Sheridan and his D.C. counterpart, John Keim, dig a little deeper.

Phil Sheridan: The Eagles haven't seen RG III & Co. since the season opener. They were able to do a good job of disrupting the rusty Griffin and bottling up Alfred Morris. How far have those two and the rest of the offense come since? Is RG III all the way back?

John Keim: The offense has come a long way because Griffin's legs are once again a part of the equation. Without his legs he's an ordinary player and it's an ordinary offense. But with the threat of his legs and with Alfred Morris' running ability, the Redskins can use play action. When the Redskins can use play action their offense can be dynamic and explosive. When they can't? It's what you saw in the opener. Morris has had a terrific season and the only thing holding him back is more opportunities. I think Robert is back to being able to make plays and hurt teams in the pass game, except during times when you know they must throw the ball. Griffin isn't quite as explosive, but unlike in the opener he's now willing to run at any point and keep the ball on the zone read. He still has to develop as a passer, something that was true last season as well. He needs a full offseason.

The Eagles surprised the Redskins in that first game a little bit. How has the Eagles' offense changed or progressed since that game? And how much of that is because of the changes at quarterback?

Sheridan: The Eagles' offense has had major growing pains. That first half at Washington got everyone excited about how Chip Kelly could revolutionize the NFL. And it has been more evolution than revolution since. With Nick Foles at quarterback, obviously there is less threat of the quarterback running 40 yards as there was when Michael Vick was in there. At the same time, Foles seems to keep the tempo up where Chip Kelly wants it, makes quick, smart decisions and generally runs the offense as it is designed. Vick is great or terrible. With the still mysterious exception of the Dallas game, Foles is reliably good and, at times, better than that. He doesn't fire the imagination the way RG III does, but he's a smart quarterback.

This offense had the huge advantage of sucker punching Washington in the opener. No film, no tendencies. Now that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has had weeks of film to analyze, how do you think he'll approach the Eagles this time?

Keim: I think the plan will be to stop running back LeSean McCoy and they felt good about how they played him in the second half of the opener, mainly by how they aligned their defensive linemen. They focused hard on stopping Adrian Peterson last week, but in doing so got hurt badly by play action, which the Eagles do well. I think more than anything the players will be less surprised by what they see. Those packaged plays destroyed the Redskins in the first half; you can talk all you want about keeping your eyes on your keys, but when you get in the game it's tough. They won't yet share their game plan with me (I hate that!). They went a lot off Oregon tape in the first game and a little off the preseason; now they have their own game against them and nine others. The problem they'll still encounter is trying to handle all those weapons.

So much talk about the offense, but how has the Eagles' defense progressed? Where have they struggled? What have they done well?

Sheridan: Progress is exactly the right word, John. The Eagles got humiliated in Denver by that Peyton Manning guy. The final score was 52-20, but Manning could have scored another 20 if he'd been inclined and remained in the game. Since then, no team has scored more than 21 points against the Eagles. They've gotten some breaks. No Aaron Rodgers or even Seneca Wallace for most of Sunday's win in Green Bay. Mike Glennon and Terrelle Pryor aren't striking fear into defenses, either. But they also acquitted themselves well against Eli Manning and Tony Romo. Mostly, they have focused on fundamentals and the run game, with solid success. They did well against Morris in the opener and feel like they can force Griffin to beat them. I guess the difference is that this time, he can.

Bigger picture this time: Is there still a sense Washington is on the rise under Mike Shanahan or has this season lit a fire under his chair? Put another way: Does Washington still feel like it's in the division race in the wretched NFC East and is that a firewall for the head coach?

Keim: I think they still feel they have a shot, which is probably different than saying they're in the race. To be in a race you have to win a couple of games and I think they understand that. Last year's streak is fresh on their minds, too, so they know it can be done. I think this season has to call into question more about Shanahan and the direction of the franchise. I think the offense is on the rise because they have excellent young talent. Some will point to the salary cap penalty and Griffin's injury to explain all their ills. Those do explain some problems and prevented them from addressing certain areas. (I think some people forget that free agency does not solve everything and never has in Washington.) But they clearly don't explain all of the issues. I also know in the summer the head coach was rather excited about what this team could do, knowing both the cap and Griffin's injury situation. Shanahan has one year remaining on his contract, so these next seven games could determine his future . I don't think he'll get fired, but will he be given an extra year? If they go, say, 5-11 can you give an extension? What helps Shanahan is that he has changed the culture at Redskins Park and I have a hard time seeing his players quitting on him. It gives them a chance to finish better than they started.

Because the NFC East is down and the Eagles are 5-5 they have to be viewed as contenders. But do you think they're a good team on the rise or do they have a ways to go?

Sheridan: Maybe a little bit of both. Some of the offensive numbers are ridiculously good. We take 450-yard games for granted with Kelly's offense. Foles has thrown 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions. McCoy leads the NFL in rushing. The defense is solid, which is more than half the league can say. And yet the Eagles haven't won a home game, went two weeks in a row without an offensive touchdown and have gotten wins against pretty suspect quarterbacks. So a good team? Probably close. On the rise? That's where it all gets interesting. They are young on defense but getting a little older on the offensive line. The offensive stars aren't that old -- McCoy is 25, DeSean Jackson 26 -- but they have wear on their treads. So much depends on Foles, I guess. If he's the real deal, then this team should continue to improve. If Kelly still feels he needs to find The Quarterback, then this season will feel more like a one-off than a stepping stone.

To contend, Eagles must win at home

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
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PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly made a wisecrack about it, but the Philadelphia Eagles’ home losing streak is no longer a laughing matter – not with a division title at stake.

It was one thing when Andy Reid’s 4-12 Eagles team lost its last six home games of 2012. And it was not that big a deal when Reid’s still-undefeated Kansas City Chiefs came to Lincoln Financial Field and beat Kelly in his second home game.

But the streak has hit 10 games now. Kelly is 0-4 at the Linc. Somehow, though, the Eagles are 5-1 on the road and tied with the Dallas Cowboys atop the NFC East. If they are going to have a chance to win an unlikely division title in Kelly’s first season, the Eagles are going to have to snap that streak.

[+] EnlargeFoles
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsCan a suddenly sizzling Nick Foles help the Eagles snap a franchise record 10-game home losing skid this Sunday?
Their next chance is Sunday against Washington.

“What’s the answer for us not winning at home and being 5-1 on the road? I don’t know,” Kelly said. “If we knew it, we’d replicate it. Do we have to take the buses and drive around for a half hour before we go to the stadium? I don’t know. If that was the answer, we would do it.”

It’s a funny idea, but it probably won’t fix anything. The real issue is who the Eagles have played and when.

They got Robert Griffin III in his first tentative game back from his knee injury on opening night at Washington. They’ve also won road games against Tampa Bay with Mike Glennon at quarterback, Oakland with Terrelle Pryor and Green Bay with Scott Tolzien replacing Seneca Wallace.

They split road games against the Manning brothers. Peyton took them apart in Denver and they beat Eli and the Giants the next week.

At home, they faced the Chargers’ Philip Rivers and the Chiefs’ Alex Smith in a span of five days when the Eagles’ defense was still figuring out where to line up.

Their other two home losses were back-to-back division games against Dallas and the Giants. Both games were finished by rookie quarterback Matt Barkley. Nick Foles played his worst game against Dallas and left with a concussion. Michael Vick started against the Giants and reinjured his hamstring nine plays in. The Eagles didn’t score an offensive touchdown in either game.

That’s no way to win, at home or on the road.

Since then, Foles has thrown for 10 touchdowns in two weeks, so the offense is operating at a high level. And the defense hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in the six games since the Denver debacle. That’s how the Eagles got into the NFC race again.

Now they just have to take care of this franchise-record home losing streak. Kelly said he doesn’t believe it has gotten into the players’ heads.

“No, I don’t think that's our mindset,” Kelly said. “Our mindset is to win every single game we play. I watch these guys on a weekly basis prepare. And I don't think they say, ‘Hey, we're away, let's do this. We're home, let's do this.’ They're not like this. It's a consistent group in their approach. But I do think we have an advantage. We love playing at home. Our fans are outstanding. They deserve it. That's what our goal is right now.”

Gentlemen, start your buses.

Drive of the Game: The defense holds

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Had it covered one more yard, it likely would have been the drive of the game in an Oakland Raiders victory. But the 14-play drive with which the Raiders ate up the first 8:04 of the second half Sunday in MetLife Stadium resulted only in a field goal -- even after they had first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Holding Oakland out of the end zone on that drive kept the New York Giants within one score and in position to turn the game around with another defensive play four minutes later.

The Raiders held a 17-14 lead at halftime mainly because the Giants had fumbled away the game's opening kickoff and because Tracy Porter had intercepted an Eli Manning pass and returned it for a touchdown late in the second quarter. They'd run the ball fairly well behind backup running back Rashad Jennings, but quarterback Terrelle Pryor had looked terrible on a bad knee and behind a bad offensive line. So the fact that the Raiders were able to move the ball 74 yards so methodically had to be a bit alarming for the Giants. The 10th play of the drive was a 5-yard Jennings run that set Oakland up with first-and-goal on the 1.

But Jennings got stuffed on the next play by Jacquian Williams and Jason Pierre-Paul. Pryor missed Denarius Moore in the back on the end zone on second down. A false start on third down moved the Raiders back to the 6-yard line, and Pryor's pass again fell incomplete, bringing Sebastian Janikowski on for the field goal.

The Giants did nothing with their next possession, but on the Raiders possession that followed, Terrell Thomas intercepted Pryor and ran it back to the 5. Two plays later, Andre Brown scored and a game that could have been 24-14 Raiders was 21-20 Giants instead.

Upon Further Review: Giants Week 10

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A review of four hot issues from the New York Giants' 24-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders:

[+] EnlargeAndre Brown
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsNew York Giants RB Andre Brown runs against the Oakland Raiders in Sunday's Week 10 matchup, netting 115 yards on 30 carries.
Finally a running game? In his first game back since breaking his leg in the preseason finale, Andre Brown ran for 115 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. His previous career high for carries in a single game had been 20. But Brown played considerably better than any running back has all year for the Giants. He hit holes with confidence. He kept his legs moving and pushed the pile after contact. He held onto the ball. He showed vision and power and speed, and with David Wilson out for the year, he looks like easily the best option in the Giants' backfield the rest of the way -- as long as he can stay healthy.

For the defense: It was a third straight very good game for the Giants' defense, which has been feasting on lousy opposing quarterbacks but did a good job of limiting the one major way in which the Raiders' Terrelle Pryor could hurt them. Pryor rushed for just 19 yards on five carries and threw for just 122 yards on 11-of-26 passing. The Giants held the Raiders to 213 total yards and held them out of the end zone after they had first-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the third quarter. After Eli Manning had an interception returned for a touchdown late in the first half, the defensive players rallied at halftime and challenged each other, asking, "Who's going to be the one to make a play?" It was cornerback Terrell Thomas with the third-quarter interception that tilted the momentum.

Return of JPP? Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had his second sack of the season (which was also his second in a span of 16 games going back to last season). He injured his shoulder on the next play but returned to the game. The Giants hope the shoulder problem won't limit him, as he said he felt he was turning a corner and ready for a big second half of the season. Justin Tuck played very well at the other defensive end position Sunday, but a high-level Pierre-Paul performance in the second half would enable the Giants to feel good about their chances once the schedule does toughen up.

Not all bright: Manning still looks lost and uncomfortable at quarterback. The interception was a terrible misread, and he missed a wide-open Victor Cruz near the goal line a bit later on. Hakeem Nicks remains a nonfactor at receiver, as he had just 49 yards on four catches and still hasn't scored a touchdown this season. And the special teams, which had a fumble on a kickoff return, allowed a punt block and can't cover on kicks or punts, remains one of the worst units in the league. Somehow the Giants managed to have a terrible day on special teams in spite of Damontre Moore's blocked punt that Cooper Taylor returned for a touchdown.

Giants' defense stays hot

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Three straight wins are nice, no matter what they look like, but the New York Giants' special teams are still a trash fire and Eli Manning doesn't look right at all. The Giants' defense, however ... they may have a little something going there.

They finally gave up a touchdown on defense Sunday after 10 quarters without allowing one, but even that has to come with an asterisk, since it was on an Oakland Raiders "drive" that started on the five-yard line after Jerrell Jernigan fumbled the opening kickoff. The other touchdown the Raiders scored was on an interception return, and the next time they got near the goal line, the Giants kept them out of the end zone. At the tail end of a long second-half-opening drive, faced with a first-and-goal from the one-yard line, the Giants held and forced the Raiders to settle for a field goal.

"We always talk about, give us a yard, and it's our job to make sure they don't score," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "Today we had opportunities to prevent scores, and we did a good job of it."

A touchdown at that point, more than halfway through the third quarter, would have put the Raiders up 24-14 and left the Giants still reeling from Tracy Porter's return of Manning's interception at the end of the first half. Instead, it was only 20-14, and two possessions later Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas intercepted Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor and returned that one to the five. The Giants punched it in three plays later to take a 21-20 lead they would not relinquish.

"We started talking about it at halftime: Who's going to be the guy to make the play?" linebacker Jon Beason said. "We knew it was going to be somebody. We were determined."

They're also a lot more nimble and flexible on defense than they were earlier in the year. Beason's presence, Will Hill at safety and Thomas' remarkable recovery from his third ACL surgery have enabled the Giants to do much more on defense. There were plays Sunday on which safety Antrel Rolle rotated into the middle linebacker position while Beason rolled out to take on a guard or a tackle. The Thomas interception, they all said, was on a play he intercepted in practice earlier in the week. They rotate "spies" on the speedy Pryor in their linebacker corps, with Keith Rivers making an impact for the first time this year. Jason Pierre-Paul got a sack for just the second time in 16 games.

The Giants are clicking on defense right now, and while one must wonder how much the substandard lineup of opposing quarterbacks (Josh Freeman, Matt Barkley and Pryor) has factored into the three-game winning streak, they can only play the schedule they have, and they're doing a fine job with it.

"Our defense rose up in the second half," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Goal-line stand, that was huge. On offense, when we didn't get in, we kicked a field goal and we were fortunate enough because of field position and our defense to be able to hang in there and win the game."

Onward to next Sunday, and a home game against the Packers and third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien. No reason to think the defense can't play another good one.

Rapid Reaction: Philadelphia Eagles

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
4:13
PM ET

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Observations on the Philadelphia Eagles' 27-13 victory against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

What it means: The Eagles are 5-5, are in contention in a weak NFC East and seem to have a legitimate quarterback in Nick Foles. A week after throwing seven touchdowns in Oakland, Foles threw for three at Lambeau Field. For the season, he has thrown 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. That was the NFL record for 53 years until Peyton Manning broke it this season. The victory also means the Eagles have some luck on their side. The Packers, already without Aaron Rodgers, lost second-team quarterback Seneca Wallace in the first quarter. Scott Tolzien made his NFL debut. The Eagles have wins against Mike Glennon, Terrelle Pryor and Tolzien this year.

Body count: Both teams were afflicted by injuries. The Eagles lost three starters: Left tackle Jason Peters went out twice, once to be evaluated for a concussion and once with a knee injury. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks and safety Earl Wolff left with knee injuries. Allen Barbre replaced Peters and did a solid job protecting Foles’ blind side. Veteran Patrick Chung replaced Wolff. Najee Goode took Kendricks’ inside linebacker spot and was used a couple of times to blitz Tolzien.

Stock Watch: Riley Cooper -- Rising fast. After catching three of Foles’ record-tying seven touchdown throws last week, Cooper caught two more against the Packers. The first was a fluky 45-yard play. Foles underthrew the ball. Cooper saw it and circled back under it as two Packers defenders overran the play. At the end of the third quarter, Cooper shook safety Morgan Burnett and was wide-open on a corner route for a 32-yard score.

What’s next: The Eagles’ 10-game home losing streak is on the line as NFC East rival Washington comes to Lincoln Financial Field. Although they’re 0-4 there under Chip Kelly, a win would keep them in contention in the division race as they go into their bye week. The Eagles, who are 5-1 on the road, opened the season with a 33-27 win at Washington.

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
4:00
PM ET

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 24-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: Three wins in a row for a Giants team that started the season 0-6. They are now 3-6 on the season and have tied the Washington Redskins for third place in the NFC East.

Stock Watch: Running back Andre Brown, up. Lots of questions coming into this game about how -- and how much -- Brown would play in his first game since breaking his left leg in the preseason finale. Well, maybe it was Peyton Hillis' early fumble that prompted this or maybe it was the plan all along, but Brown was by far the primary ball carrier and looked better than any other Giants back has this season. He ran fast. He ran with vision. He gained yards after contact. He became the second Giants back this season to have a 100-yard rushing game, and if he can stay healthy, he looks like a potential answer at a position that has flummoxed them all season.

Some sloppiness: They'll obviously take the win, but quarterback Eli Manning continues to look bad. His second-quarter interception, which Tracy Porter returned for a touchdown, raised Manning's league-leading total to 16, although he hadn't thrown one in either of his previous two games.

T2 comeback rolls on: The play that tilted the momentum back in the Giants' favor was a Terrell Thomas interception of Terrelle Pryor that Thomas nearly returned for a touchdown in the third quarter. It set up a Brown touchdown run that put the Giants on top 21-20. Thomas was NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 8, and his comeback from a third ACL surgery on his right knee is one of the feel-good stories of the Giants' season.

What's next: The Giants play at home next Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, who lost starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers to injury last week and backup Seneca Wallace to injury Sunday. Scott Tolzien could be the man taking snaps for the Packers at MetLife in this one. Reminder: The time for that game has been moved up four hours to 4:25 p.m. ET.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When Sunday dawned here in New Jersey, the New York Giants had played only two games in the past calendar month. They'd won both, and quarterback Eli Manning had not thrown an interception in either of them. These facts, coupled with the schedule quirk that spread out the middle part of the Giants' season so dramatically, served to obscure some significant Giants problems from the narrative that would have them making a miracle run to the NFC East title.

Turnovers, mainly.

Jerrel Jernigan fumbled the opening kickoff and the Raiders recovered it on the five-yard line, then scored two plays later for a gift 7-0 lead with only 46 seconds having run off the clock. Things turned around a bit for the Giants, as Damontre Moore blocked a punt and Cooper Taylor returned it for a tying touchdown and, later, Manning and running back Andre Brown led an 11-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that put them in the lead 14-10.

Brown looks excellent, showing vision and moving the pile and offering the Giants a look at what they've been missing at running back this season. In his first game since breaking his leg in the final week of the preseason, Brown has 65 yards on 14 carries at halftime.

And the Giants' defense has done a fine job making Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor move his feet and limiting the damage he does when he runs. Pryor has 21 yards on four carries and has yet to break a big one. More surprising, actually, is the 55 yards running back Rashad Jennings has on his nine carries. But regardless, the Giants have been able to pressure Pryor, and the Raiders' offense (which gets the ball back to start the second half) has yet to find any rhythm.

However.

After Rueben Randle made a great play to pick up a key third down in Giants territory late in the second quarter, Manning threw an inexplicable interception right at Raiders cornerback Tracy Porter, who ran it back for a touchdown and a 17-14 Oakland halftime lead.

So yes, even though just went a full month without throwing one, Manning still leads the NFL with 16 interceptions this season. And the Giants sport a minus-14 turnover ratio. Though they might look like the less lousy of the two lousy teams on this field today, they certainly aren't good enough to win games if they turn the ball over at this rate. If they don't come back and win, they would fall to 2-7 for the season and need to win all of their remaining games to finish with a winning record.
Eli Manning and Charles WoodsonGetty ImagesEli Manning's Giants aim to maintain their momentum when Charles Woodson and the Raiders visit.
It will be a battle of teams looking to climb out of the cellar of their respective divisions as the 2-6 New York Giants host the 3-5 Oakland Raiders at 1 p.m. ET Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants have won two games in a row after an 0-6 start and are coming off their bye week. The Raiders just suffered their most embarrassing loss of the season, 49-20 at home to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Which last-place team will get the win Sunday at the site of Super Bowl XLVIII? ESPN.com Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Giants reporter Dan Graziano break it down for you.

Dan Graziano: Paul, I was a little surprised by how poorly the Raiders played Sunday. I knew they were a sub-.500 team, but I didn't think they were a terrible one. What was up with that defensive effort against Nick Foles and the Eagles?

Paul Gutierrez: Dan, you're not the only one who was surprised by what the Raiders in general, and the defense in particular, put on the field against the Eagles. Everyone from coach Dennis Allen to veteran safety Charles Woodson wondered out loud if the defense got caught reading its clips from the week before. After all, the Raiders' D was playing lights out and was the team's strength, entering the game with the No. 10-ranked defense, despite 10 new starters.

Like boxing, styles make fights, and the Eagles' high-octane offense worked to near-perfection and dropped Oakland early and often. The Raiders were a step behind all game long, especially top draft pick D.J. Hayden, who was given the Elvis "Toast" Patterson treatment (I'm sure that name will elicit varied responses from Giants fans) by Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson and gave up three completions to the two for a combined 139 yards and two touchdowns. In short, it was a complete meltdown by the entire defense, which had been feeling itself a little too much.

The Giants, though, seem to be heading in the opposite direction after that ghastly start. Do you get the sense they have righted the ship, or is it fool's gold after beating the hapless Vikings and then-hopeless Eagles?

Graziano: It's unquestionably fool's gold. They beat the Vikings when Minnesota foolishly and inexplicably started an unprepared Josh Freeman at quarterback and beat the Eagles when they started a clearly injured Michael Vick and had to replace him with unprepared Matt Barkley. And it's not as though they looked especially good in either win. Eli Manning hit clumsy Minnesota defenders in the hands three times in that Monday night game and somehow still didn't get intercepted, and the Giants didn't score a touchdown in that 15-7 victory over the Eagles. They are a bad team with major problems at almost every position, and the fact that they've won two in a row after starting 0-6 doesn't make that go away.

That said, it's possible they'll get a gimpy Terrelle Pryor this week, right? (And maybe an Aaron Rodgers backup next week.) Pryor left against the Eagles with a knee injury. Do you expect that he'll play, and assuming he does, what kind of special problems does he present for a Giants defense that has been getting fat on the likes of Freeman and Barkley?

Gutierrez: Pryor said after the game that his knee was fine, that treatment and ice and the like were all "precautionary," that his knee was not "wobbly" or anything like that. The Raiders were going to take him out of the game for those last two series of a blowout anyway. While Pryor did not speak at the facility Monday, he was walking around the locker room and was not wearing a brace. He should be ready to go.

Then again, if there is even the slightest hitch in his giddyup, that could spell trouble since his running game is his strength. The problems he presents defenses are not unique for a team like the Giants, who already face the read-option from Washington's Robert Griffin III (when healthy). But Pryor's combination of size and speed is what makes him unique, or did you miss his 93-yard touchdown run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in which he looked like he was coasting but actually was pulling away from defenders? Earlier in the year, the Raiders' coaches wanted him to run more to take advantage of his strength. Now, Allen said Pryor has to trust the process more, from the protection to his reads. This should be interesting to see how Pryor soaks it all in.

Then again, it will be interesting to see how the Giants' defense responds to Pryor. The Steelers and Eagles had some success in keeping him under wraps by putting a spy on him, challenging him to beat them with his arm. Would the Giants employ such a tactic and who would that spy be, or would they rather play him straight up?

Graziano: It's a good question, though they don't seem interested in giving away the answer just yet. In the past year, they have played guys like Vick and RG III without a spy and have paid the price. Vick ran for 79 yards against them in the first half in Week 5 before pulling his hamstring.

If they do change it up and decide to spy Pryor, the most likely candidate would be linebacker Jacquian Williams, who has good sideline-to-sideline speed. They tend to like to use him to cover tough tight ends, but it's possible that the Raiders' receiving options will allow them to get everyone covered with their nickel-safety or nickel-corner package with Week 8 NFC Defensive Player of the Week Terrell Thomas covering the slot. That might free up Williams to spy Pryor, which I think would be a good idea. But the Giants can get stubborn at times, and it's possible they'll decide to play him straight up. I would like his chances of picking up yards on the ground on the outside if they did.

Manning hasn't thrown an interception in his past two games, but he still leads the league with those 15 he threw in the first six weeks. The Giants have been vulnerable to A-gap pressure due to the fact that they're using backups at center and right guard, and as a result, Manning has been uncomfortable in the pocket all season. The lack of a run game has hurt his play-action passing game too. Are the Raiders going to be able to pressure him better than they did Foles? Or will Eli have an easy day?

Gutierrez: Using the past-is-prologue approach and sprinkling in the notion that hindsight is always 20/20, the Raiders simply have to put pressure on Manning. Allen acknowledged the Raiders did not bring enough pressure to disrupt Foles, and when they did, he simply rolled out and found a target downfield. The Raiders seemed to have learned their lesson, but we'll see. Against the Eagles, they went away from being their normal, blitz-happy selves by rushing just three at times and sitting back in coverage. Foles ate them up. And Foles is no Manning. (You can't spell "elite" without "Eli," right?)

I would expect defensive coordinator Jason Tarver to dial up the blitzes again and send anyone at any time -- unless the Giants start running a no-huddle, hurry-up offense to rattle the Raiders. Keep an eye on right defensive end Lamarr Houston, who leads the Raiders with four sacks but was slowed by a right hamstring issue against the Eagles. In fact, 11.5 of Oakland's 23 sacks have come from their front four.

The Raiders -- Hayden in particular -- had problems in coverage against the Eagles. Whom would the Giants deploy to take advantage of Hayden, who usually plays on the outside in nickel packages? Might the Giants put the physically imposing Hakeem Nicks out there?

Graziano: Yeah, Nicks plays on the outside with Victor Cruz in the slot and Rueben Randle on the other side when they go three-wide. But Nicks hasn't been himself. He's still capable of outfighting defenders for the ball and could be a tough matchup for Hayden, but he doesn't seem able to separate anymore and has had uncharacteristic issues with drops. He won't admit it, but he's playing like a guy in his walk year whose long-term future is on his mind. It's been one of many problems the Giants didn't anticipate, and if he has a big game against the Raiders, it'll be his first. He still doesn't have a touchdown this season.

Anyway, nice chatting with you, Paul. Travel safely, and I look forward to seeing you at the game Sunday.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There are six quarterbacks in the NFL who have rushed for at least 250 yards already this year. The New York Giants have played three of them, and the other three are on the schedule. But the one with the most is the Oakland Raiders' Terrelle Pryor, and stopping him will be the Giants' assignment starting at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

"He's a 4.4 (40-yard dash) guy. He's built like the power forward on a basketball team. I'm impressed with him on tape," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell gushed Thursday. "We're going to have to bring our A-game against this guy, because he can hurt you."

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsCan the Giants keep Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor from adding on more rushing yards to the 485 he has already this season?
Pryor was a surprise choice as the Raiders' starting quarterback in the preseason, but Oakland felt he had a higher ceiling and offered them the potential for more options on offense than Matt Flynn did. To this point, though the Raiders are a disappointing 3-5, the choice has looked like the right one. Pryor leads all NFL quarterbacks -- and all but 14 NFL running backs -- with 485 rushing yards this year on just 63 carries. Eight of those 63 carries have picked up 20 or more yards, including a 93-yard touchdown run on the first play of the Raiders' Week 8 victory over the Steelers. He's also, perhaps more surprisingly, completing better than 60 percent of his passes, though his nine interceptions to five touchdown passes linger as an indication of how raw he still is.

"He's not going to stay in the pocket for long," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "He understands how gifted he is as an athlete, and considering that the people chasing after him aren't as fast as he is, he has an advantage and he's used it to pretty good success. I don't know if he's necessarily looking to run, but when the opportunity is there, he's not hesitating."

The Giants have performed well as a defense against between-the-tackles running backs, including some of the best ones in the league. But they have been vulnerable to running quarterbacks. Carolina's Cam Newton ran for 45 yards and a touchdown against them in Week 3. Philadelphia's Michael Vick picked up 79 yards on seven carries in Week 5 before pulling his hamstring in the second quarter. Kansas City's Alex Smith ran for 37 yards on seven carries. Even Chicago's Jay Cutler managed 20 yards on three rushes. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging 5.42 yards per carry against the Giants this year. Pryor is averaging 7.7.

"I don't really go into the game thinking about running," Pryor said Wednesday. "I saw that (NFL Network) special on Randall (Cunningham), and his coach was telling him to run first and pass second. I can't really go in thinking like that. If something happens where I have to get out and make a play, so be it. But I want to sit back and see if I can find some guys downfield and get some explosive gains in the passing game."

The Giants likely would be pleased if that was all they had to worry about with Pryor. No offense to his arm, which is formidable, but it's Pryor's footspeed that makes him a challenging matchup for a defense. Sometimes when they face running quarterbacks, the Giants will use a "spy," assigning one defensive player to account for the quarterback in case he takes off and runs. Sometimes they prefer to play it straight-up. The players this week made it sound as though they prefer and expect the latter.

"I don't think it's gotten that serious yet, to where we need a spy," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "I like the way the guys in our secondary and our linebackers make adjustments, and I think we can trust ourselves to make the right ones."

If there is to be a "spy," a strong candidate would be speedy linebacker Jacquian Williams, who was a big part of the defensive game plan two weeks ago against the Eagles and is likely to be one again this week. Fewell called Williams "one of our better assets" against Pryor due to his speed, and Williams said it was a role he'd be happy to play if asked.

"Judging from film, he's a bigger guy and faster than the running quarterbacks we've seen so far," Williams said. "For me, being one of the faster players on our defense, that's something they could maybe look for me to handle. But whatever I'm called on to do, I'll be happy to try it."

Pryor's the kind of player who's likely to force the Giants to change what they do a lot during the course of Sunday's game. The key will be to stay fast and loose and alert, and try to limit the damage done by the big runs of which the Raiders' exciting young quarterback is capable.
Terrelle Pryor and LeSean McCoyUSA Today SportsEmerging Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor meets the NFL's leading rusher in the Eagles' LeSean McCoy.
The rebuilding Oakland Raiders were supposed to lay down for opponents this season. The retooled Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to revolutionize the NFL with their brand of offense. Both teams have dealt with crippling injuries while bucking expectations.

Meaning what, exactly? Well, Oakland (3-4) is looking to maintain momentum while the Eagles (3-5) are looking to break a two-game losing streak in which they've scored 10 points total.

ESPN.com Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Eagles reporter Phil Sheridan break down the matchup at the O.co Coliseum, a venue in which Philadelphia is 0-3:

Paul Gutierrez: Hi, Phil. Oakland is riding relatively high after Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders upended his childhood heroes last weekend in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now the Western Pa. kid gets a shot at another team from his home state in the Philadelphia Eagles. He's sure to downplay any lingering feelings, but there's no downplaying the Eagles' quarterback situation. With Michael Vick and his strained left hamstring sidelined, how different is Chip Kelly's high-octane offense with Nick Foles at quarterback, or even rookie Matt Barkley, who was a Raiders target in the draft, under center than with Vick running things?

Phil Sheridan: It's funny, Paul. If you ask Kelly or offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, they swear blood oaths that the offense is exactly the same no matter who is playing quarterback. It sure doesn't look the same, however. Vick represents a running threat, obviously, that Foles and Barkley just don't. Defenses don't have to account for them when the Eagles run the read-option. But that doesn't mean the offense can't work without Vick. The offense had arguably its best complete game of the season against a pretty good Tampa Bay defense with Foles at the controls. He got the ball out quickly, made good reads and LeSean McCoy ran for 116 yards. If Foles is that guy Sunday, the Eagles' offense will be productive.

We all saw the highlight-reel run Pryor broke Sunday against Pittsburgh. Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said he makes a coach say "Wow" a lot while watching the film. But how is Pryor developing as a complete quarterback?

Gutierrez: The hot button topic in the Bay Area is this: Who is the bigger Raiders surprise thus far, Pryor or the defense, which has 10 new starters? Having seen Pryor's first NFL practice two years ago, and then watching him in the first OTA's this past spring, I'd say Pryor. He's always going to be a running threat -- he erased Bo Jackson's name from the Raiders record books with that 93-yard franchise-best gallop that had right guard Mike Brisiel calling him a "dadgum gazelle" -- but his development as a passer has been just as dramatic. True, offensive coordinator Greg Olson admitted the Raiders have changed the offense on the fly (remember, they acquired since-cut Matt Flynn to be the franchise QB) to become more zone-read oriented. Yet Pryor's pocket awareness has been a revelation for the Raiders. He still throws the occasional floater that begs to be picked, but he's also shown touch that did not seem possible two years ago. Much credit goes to Olson and QB coach John DeFilippo, but QB guru Tom House has also played a major role in getting Pryor's mechanics in check. But if one thing is off, the whole operation goes out of whack.

Jumping to the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles trading nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga to New England would seem, to the outsider anyway, as a sort of white flag being thrown up. Why is it not a sign a surrender?

Sheridan: Sopoaga was one of a bushel of free agents signed when GM Howie Roseman knew he needed to facilitate a transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4. The Eagles just didn't have a nose tackle type on their roster at that point. They drafted Bennie Logan from LSU in the third round and have been pleasantly surprised by the play of Cedric Thornton and Clifton Geathers. Both of those guys are listed as ends, but Bill Davis moves his linemen around quite a bit. So I think the idea was just to go with the young guys and move the 32-year-old Sopoaga and his salary. Another way to put it: Sopoaga wasn't enough of a difference maker to qualify as a white-flag kind of transaction. He was a stopgap whose gap had closed.

While we're talking defense, you mentioned all the turnover among the Raiders unit. Eagles fans have seen that. How is that defense coming together and can it replicate the success the Giants and Cowboys had shutting down McCoy and, therefore, the entire Eagles offense?

Gutierrez: Yeah, were it not for the development of Pryor, the Raiders' defense would be the talk in the streets of Silver and Blackdom. And to be fair, tongues are indeed wagging over this rebuilt unit. Consider: After strong safety Tyvon Branch went down to injury in Week 2, Oakland has 10 new starters on defense, and the only returner, defensive end Lamarr Houston, flipped from the left side to the right. And despite 10 new starters, the Raiders currently have the No. 10 overall defense in the NFL, No. 6 against the run. In fact, the Raiders are the only team to not allow a run of at least 20 yards. You could say defensive coordinator Jason "The Mad Scientist" Tarver was giving the finger to the entire league, rather than the refs on Sunday. But I digress ... Raiders coach Dennis Allen tracks what he calls "explosive plays," those that gain at least 16 yards through the air, at least 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders did not allow the Steelers a single explosive play on the ground. In fact, the Raiders have held three of their seven opponents to less than 40 yards rushing -- this after accomplishing that four times in the previous 10 seasons. So can the Raiders bottle up McCoy? Sure. Will they? That will depend on whether Foles can keep them honest through the air.

Speaking of being kept honest, Kelly set the NFL on its ear with his quick-strike offense, but it seems to have petered out a bit of late. Losing Vick to injury would seem to do that. And while it may be a small sample size, and perhaps a bit unfair, I wonder if Kelly is long for the NFL, or if his style of offense is better suited to college?

Sheridan: Now that's the question that will define the Eagles as long as Kelly is here -- and longer, if he turns out to be another Steve Spurrier or Bobby Petrino. It would take time to recover from that. I'm not sure the answer is apparent yet. It is a small sample size, as you point out, but there is encouraging data in there, too. The Eagles became the first team ever to amass 425 or more yards in their first six games. The offense looked impressive for stretches. The past two weeks, it has been utterly terrible. That coincides with the injuries at quarterback. Vick pulled a hamstring. Foles played well for six quarters, then was just awful until being concussed against Dallas. The crash would be consistent with defensive coordinators figuring Kelly's offense out, but it could also be a result of the quarterback injuries. Or -- and this is the most likely theory -- Kelly does not have the quarterback he needs to win in the NFL and he's learning that the hard way. He seems like a smart guy. I think he can adjust and be successful. But I guess there is a chance he just doesn't like it here and wants to go back to the college game.

Here's a kind of big-picture question: The Eagles are struggling, but they have hope because their division is so bad. It's kind of the opposite for the Raiders, who are stuck dealing with 8-0 Kansas City and 7-1 Denver. What's the mood out there in the post-Al Davis era? Are fans and players feeling like there's a bright future or are the Raiders stuck in quicksand?

Gutierrez: The mood, at the moment, is one of hope. Being competitive in every game but one -- the Monday Nighter at Denver -- as well as having a sudden Top 10 defense and Pryor, who is as popular here as any Raiders player in the past decade, will do that. Pryor predicted the playoffs after the loss in Kansas City. This week, he said the Raiders would get four wins, "easy," to equal last season's 4-12 mark. Sure, some have said such things in the past, but this feels like more than whistling past the graveyard. In fact, even as the Raiders sit at 3-4, fans are already angling to see where they stand from the second wild card standpoint. Premature, after 10 years of no postseason, let alone a winning record? Probably. But it answers your question ... the feeling among fans is there is a bright future, one that will glow brighter with every competitive game, let alone victory. And here's this to tie it all up: Pryor was Davis' last draft pick.

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