NFC East: Travis LaBoy
The Arizona Cardinals released three pretty good players Tuesday in running back Edgerrin James, cornerback Rod Hood and defensive end Travis LaBoy. The James release was pretty much guaranteed when the Cardinals selected Chris "Beanie" Wells in the first round of the draft Saturday.
I think the Redskins should target both James and LaBoy. Last year, the Redskins became so desperate at running back that they brought in washed-up Shaun Alexander to back up Clinton Portis. The Cowboys and Giants have tremendous depth at the running back position, but the Redskins are relying on Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright to spell Portis. James would be a nice addition to the team. He and Portis are both former University of Miami guys, and I think he could flourish catching passes out of the backfield.
The Redskins would also be wise to pursue LaBoy. They have Brian Orakpo now, but you can't enough quality defensive ends. LaBoy played with defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee so they're already on the same page. LaBoy would immediately challenge for a starting job. That would also help limit the reps for aging defensive ends Phillip Daniels and Renaldo Wynn.
• As you probably know by now, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is in the press box again today. He's been using a cane the past two weeks because of back pain.
Someone told me before the game that Eagles secondary coach Sean McDermott is the one calling in the plays after talking to Johnson. On that first touchdown drive, the Cardinals were having a lot of success running against the Eagles' nickel defense.
• Defensive end Travis LaBoy has an injured left biceps and his return is questionable.
• Hero for the Eagles so far: Rookie wideout DeSean Jackson racing back to strip the ball from Cardinals free safety Aaron Francisco after his interception. The Cardinals would've had the ball inside the Eagles' 30-yard line. Instead, right tackle Jon Runyan pounced on the ball, giving Philly a fresh set of downs. If you're looking for a huge play so far in this game, there you go.
Oops, 62-yard touchdown for Larry Fitzgerald. My Super Bowl trip not looking good!
|Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE and Rich Kane-US PRESSWIRE|
|Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will use varied looks and movements in an effort to keep Eli Manning guessing.|
Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Keith Kidd
One of the most intriguing matchups in Sunday's Giants-Cardinals game will be decided, to a large extent, not on the field but in the film room. How Arizona defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast decides to attack quarterback Eli Manning in passing situations will go a long way toward determining the outcome.
Pendergast, who should be on a number of short lists for NFL teams seeking a new head coach in the offseason, is a dynamic thinker who specializes in exotic pressure schemes. He builds his packages out of a base 3-4, though the Cardinals often move into a four-man front in nickel situations. It's a multiple scheme with variations and movements, and Pendergast isn't afraid to use them all. That may be necessary against Manning, a terrific talent who continues to deliver efficient play. But to get to him, the Cardinals first must put the clamps on the Giants' explosive run game.
New York has an excellent trio of backs -- Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward -- who complement each other well, not to mention one of the finest offensive lines in the league. The Giants' runners can punish opponents, and they excel at bouncing runs outside and getting to the edges. Arizona's defense is fast to the ball and aggressive in pursuit, but slowing New York's downhill running and interior power will be a challenge. Against two-back packages on early downs, Pendergast likely will invert strong safety Adrian Wilson near the line of scrimmage and use a lot of stems and single-zone linebacker blitzes to put stress on the Giants' blocking patterns. The Cardinals must force Jacobs, Bradshaw and Ward to run laterally, create a new line of scrimmage and maintain gap discipline to put Manning in more difficult second- and third-down situations.
With that accomplished, Pendergast will utilize varied looks and movements to cover up back-end weaknesses and make it difficult for Manning to diagnose where the blitz is coming from on passing downs. Expect overload blitzes that attack the front side of the pocket (to affect Manning's eye level and passing windows) and back-side delays out of the slot. Pressure is the key to forcing game-changing mistakes. Manning has a tendency to telegraph passes and, when under duress, force throws into tight windows. Defensive end Darnell Dockett gets good interior penetration when he slides inside in sub packages, and Bertrand Berry, Travis LaBoy and Chike Okeafor all are capable pass-rushers. The players to watch, however, are Wilson and linebacker Karlos Dansby. Wilson, who spends a lot of time near the line in both regular and sub packages, is as effective rushing the passer as he is playing the run. Dansby, a versatile defender who can drop into zone or match up on a back in passing situations, might be at his best on the blitz.
Will Arizona's secondary hold up long enough to allow the pass-rushers to get home? The Cardinals don't move personnel around much on the back end, which should enable the Giants to dictate with their formations who and how they attack. Rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has played well in recent weeks, but he will be tested. Receiver Plaxico Burress likely will be aligned or motioned to exploit that matchup. The Giants also will try to use play-action to bait free safety Antrel Rolle, who has struggled a bit in deep zones. In any case, the Cardinals must be sound open-field tacklers, because there should be plenty of room to run for Giants pass-catchers in the areas vacated by blitzers.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.