NFC East: tyler sash

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Andre Brown doesn't think the temporary injured-reserve spot will be necessary for him.

The New York Giants running back broke his left leg for the second straight year but he says he will not require surgery for "just a little tiny, a little crack in it." Brown is set to undergo more tests Friday.

The Giants had some other injuries that could potentially affect their decision-making for depth on Saturday's final cut day.

Backup tight end Adrien Robinson injured his left foot on the opening kickoff and was on crutches and in a walking booth after the game. Robinson will undergo further tests Friday but said his foot is not broken.

"Somebody hit me from behind," Robinson said. "I don’t know if somebody stepped on it or fell on it. I got caught up on a tackle."

"I don’t think it is that serious," he added. "I will find out more tomorrow. But I know it is not broke."

Robinson was behind Brandon Myers and Bear Pascoe on the depth chart. Larry Donnell saw added snaps in the game. If Robinson has to miss significant time, that will affect what the Giants will do Saturday at tight end.

Also, safety Tyler Sash suffered a concussion in the first half. The Giants have been hit hard at safety after losing Stevie Brown to a torn ACL for the season. With Will Hill having to serve a four-game suspension to start the season, the Giants have some depth concerns if Sash is sidelined for a while. Rookie Cooper Taylor would be the next man up after starters Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy. David Caldwell also is on the roster.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. –- The New York Giants suffered yet another significant preseason injury Thursday, as running back Andre Brown broke his left leg during the Giants' 28-20 loss to the New England Patriots.

What it means: One week after losing safety Stevie Brown for the season to a torn ACL in a preseason game, Andre Brown breaks his left leg. It’s the same leg on which Andre fractured his fibula against the Packers on Nov. 25 last year. The Giants said Andre could have returned that season if they made it to the Super Bowl, so he could be a candidate for the injured reserve/"designated to return" spot that would allow him to come back after eight weeks.

Andre Brown’s injury is a blow to the running game. Coach Tom Coughlin wanted a one-two punch with David Wilson and Brown, who is the Giants’ most well-rounded running back. Brown could run with power and speed and catch out of the backfield and was the team’s best pass-protecting back. The team will now have to depend on and trust Wilson even more. Seventh-round pick Michael Cox might move up to the backup spot. Ryan Torain’s and Da’Rel Scott’s chances of making the team have increased with Saturday’s final cuts looming.

The Giants could also always look outside and see what is available, especially after teams make final cuts on Saturday.

More injuries: Brown wasn’t the only Giant to suffer an injury. Backup safety Tyler Sash suffered a concussion, and the Giants were already smarting there with the loss of Stevie Brown for the year. With Will Hill having to serve a four-game suspension to start the regular season, the Giants can’t afford to lose Sash for an extended amount of time. Rookie Cooper Taylor will be behind starters Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy if Sash has to miss time.

Also, tight end Adrien Robinson suffered an injury to what appeared to be his left foot. The severity of the injury wasn’t immediately known. Already this preseason, the Giants have watched starters such as Victor Cruz (heel), David Baas (left MCL), David Diehl (thumb) and the two Browns suffer injuries in preseason games.

Offense awakens: On a very small side note, the starting offense finished the preseason strong by scoring a touchdown in the red zone. After struggling in the preseason inside the opponent’s 20, Eli Manning orchestrated a 10-play, 91-yard drive that resulted in a 3-yard touchdown strike to Hakeem Nicks.

Manning opened the drive with a 37-yard completion to Louis Murphy. Manning also hit tight end Brandon Myers on a 10-yard gain, and Wilson had a 16-yard run as well on the drive.

One more time: Several Giants tried to make a final impression in the last preseason game. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson looked good, applying pressure to the quarterback several times and getting a sack and a half. Patterson might have solidified a roster spot with that performance. Marvin Austin, a second-round pick in 2011, might be fighting for a roster spot.

Middle linebacker Mark Herzlich also had a strong outing, snatching an interception off a deflection right before it hit the turf. Defensive ends Matt Broha, Justin Trattou and Adewale Ojomo all had sacks on Tim Tebow as well.

What’s next: The Giants will make final cuts on Saturday and play in Dallas in the season opener on Sept. 8.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants couldn't make it out of the first quarter of their preseason game against the Jets here Saturday night without two more potentially significant injuries. Nickel cornerback Jayron Hosley left the game early in the first quarter with a sprained ankle, and starting safety Stevie Brown appeared to seriously injure his left knee while returning a Geno Smith interception late in the quarter.

Brown was playing deep, and Smith, under pressure from Mathias Kiwanuka, threw it right to him. While running with the ball, just before getting hit, Brown appeared to fall to the turf on his own and clutch at his left knee. He had to be helped up and off the field by team trainers. The team announced that he was out for the game with a knee sprain.

An injury to Brown, who was a revelation last season with his eight interceptions, would be tough for the Giants to handle. Their other starting safety, Antrel Rolle, is working his way back from a sprained ankle, and his status for the Sept. 8 opener in Dallas remains in doubt. Ryan Mundy and Tyler Sash are the backups, with Will Hill set to miss the first four games of the season due to a drug suspension.

It's possible that cornerback Terrell Thomas, who's still working his way back from two years off due to major knee reconstructions, could play some safety. He said last week that he'd been studying the position and has some experience there. But the Giants don't even know yet whether Thomas can help them at all, let alone at what position. He's been playing the slot corner position tonight in his first game action since he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the preseason two years ago, and he might be needed there if Hosley is out.

Speaking of which, the Giants aren't super healthy at cornerback, either. Starter Corey Webster has been missing practice time with groin and knee issues. Aaron Ross has been playing in his place. But Hosley was filling a role on defense as well as on punt returns.

Obviously, we'll have more updates on these injury issues as the night goes on. But after they lost two starting offensive linemen to injury in Sunday night's game, this is a poor start to preseason Week 3 for the Giants.

A look at the Giants' secondary

August, 14, 2013
This one's by request, after Twitter follower @justinwillfail asked for an analysis of the New York Giants' secondary situation. Yes, of course I take requests. Why wouldn't I? Hope you enjoy it, Justin.

The Giants' secondary was clearly an issue in 2012. Although only two teams in the league had more interceptions than the Giants' 21, no team allowed more yards per pass than the Giants' 8.1. Only five teams allowed a higher opponents' completion percentage than the Giants' 63.9. Only three teams allowed more than the Giants' 60 pass plays of 20 yards or longer. Only one allowed more than their 13 pass plays of 40 yards or longer.

To address their issues on the back end in the offseason, the Giants did ... well, they did very little, actually. They let the chronically injured Kenny Phillips leave via free agency and elevated Stevie Brown, who had eight interceptions last year, to Phillips' starting safety role alongside Antrel Rolle. They return both starting cornerbacks, Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara, as well as promising nickel corner Jayron Hosley. For depth at safety, they brought in former Steeler Ryan Mundy. For depth at corner, they brought back old friend Aaron Ross. And Terrell Thomas is in camp as well, looking good as he attempts his recovery from a third ACL surgery.

If everybody stays healthy and plays to his pedigree (including Thomas, who was a starting corner for the Giants three years ago), there is surprising depth at both positions. Here's a bit of a breakdown of each:

[+] EnlargeCorey Webster
Jason Bridge/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants are expecting cornerback Corey Webster to have a bounce-back season.
Cornerback: Webster had a big year in 2011, and the Giants won the NFC East and the Super Bowl. Webster struggled badly in 2012 (Pro Football Focus ranked him 111th in coverage out of the 113 cornerbacks who played at least 25 percent of their teams' snaps) and the Giants missed the playoffs. While it bears mentioning that they had the same 9-7 regular-season record in both of those seasons, the point is that a big play here or there can be enough to swing your season the right or wrong way. Had Webster been burned less, perhaps the Giants win a 10th or 11th game and get into the playoffs for a second straight year. Webster had to take a pay cut in order to stay, and the team does not believe he's washed up at age 31.

"We expect Corey to have a bounce-back year," GM Jerry Reese said during a recent training camp practice.

But the guy about whom Reese really raved was Amukamara, who was the team's best corner in 2012 and has looked strong in camp this year. The 2011 first-round pick struggled with injuries in his first two seasons but is healthy now and has big plans for the way in which he's used going forward.

"I just want the coaches to either let me and Corey just play right/left, or 'OK, Prince, you go in and get that assignment to shadow this receiver or whatever,'" Amukamara said. "I think when you get that assignment, it just shows that the coaches trust you enough to be on that island, quote/unquote, with that receiver. I'm just trying to build that trust in them. I know they're confident in Corey, but just that they're confident enough in me that they would say, 'Prince and Corey, you guys can just play right/left regardless of where the receivers line up.'"

Amukamara wants to be good enough to be considered a No. 1 cornerback, and he believes the best-case scenario for the Giants would be that he and Webster could both be trusted to be that. Amukamara's trajectory is encouraging, but much depends on Webster's ability to play the way he did in 2011.

Hosley is a physical second-year corner whom they like in the slot. Ross was a disappointment in Jacksonville last year, and if they needed him to start as they did in 2011 there would likely be some drop-off, but the Giants believe there are certain packages in which he can help them. He's good in blitz packages, and not bad in run support, so there's likely a role of some sort for Ross. Thomas is the wild card, because they can't possibly know whether he'll actually make it back from his latest knee surgery. So far, so good on that, but there's no way to know whether he'll be able to contribute, or at what position if he is. Reese spoke early in the offseason about possibly using him at safety. Speaking of which...

Safety: The key player is Rolle, who's entering his fourth year with the Giants and is the only safety they have with significant experience playing the dual roles the Giants need their safeties to play in this defense. Last season, after Phillips went down, Brown played the post safety position almost exclusively while Rolle moved up and played in the box. But the defense works best when the two safeties can switch off, as Rolle and Phillips did so well before Phillips' knee problems started keeping him off the field. Rolle said Brown has been working in camp to develop into a better-rounded safety who can handle all of the responsibilities required of him.

"We already know that he's a ballhawk and he can go get the ball and do something with it once he gets it," Rolle said. "Now he's showing us that he can play in the box and definitely be a versatile safety."

The ankle injury Rolle suffered in practice Monday is alarming because it would be nearly impossible for the Giants to replace him. No other safety on their roster approaches him in terms of experience or leadership ability. But even in terms of bodies, they're a bit light here. Mundy is a serviceable player with some NFL experience, but he struggles in run support. Will Hill is suspended for the first four games of the season. Tyler Sash hasn't shown much, and Cooper Taylor is a rookie whose long-term position isn't even clear.

The Giants need Brown to develop, Amukamara to stay healthy and Webster to rediscover his 2011 magic. But the most important thing they need in the secondary is a healthy Rolle organizing it all on the back end. And quite frankly, the Giants believe that whatever problems they had in the secondary last year can be fixed by improving further up toward the line.

"We've got some talent back there, and it has to jell, but it really doesn't matter what the secondary does if we don't rush the passer," Reese said. "We've got to rush the passer better."

That's an organizational philosophy, right there. The Giants' 2012 sack total of 33 was unacceptably low. If it comes back up into the high 40s, the secondary's going to have a much better chance to look good this time around.
Kris AdamsJason Bridge/USA TODAY SportsGiants receiver Kris Adams was carted off the field with a broken leg.
PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Nassib's preseason debut got off to a shaky start.

The rookie quarterback's first drive in the fourth quarter started with a 5-yard false-start penalty on Stephen Goodin. Nassib was sacked on the next play for a 3-yard loss. Two plays later, Nassib was flagged for delay of game on a third-and-17. Then, on the ensuing third-and-22 from the Giants' 16, a bad snap sailed past Nassib and Pittsburgh recovered for a touchdown to cut the Giants' lead to 15-13 with 12:04 remaining.

Nassib would take another sack on the next possession. But with 8:19 remaining, the fourth-round pick led the Giants on a 10-play, 54-yard drive that resulted in a field goal with 4:32 left. Nassib also completed a pass for 29 yards to Julian Talley on the drive.

[+] EnlargeRyan Nassib
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsThe Steelers swarmed Ryan Nassib in the fourth.
"We'll have to let Ryan play some," said coach Tom Coughlin, who used Nassib behind Eli Manning, David Carr and Curtis Painter. "He was chased all over the place. He made the one play down the sidelines. We thought he might have gotten another one but he didn't have a whole lot of time. We need to work on that.

"He did make the play, though, that got the drive going to kick the field goal that kept it out of field goal range for [the Steelers]."

Injury report: Coughlin's mood after the Giants' preseason-opening win was subdued because of two injuries.

Kris Adams, a second-year wideout from UTEP, suffered a fractured lower leg in the third quarter. Adams was competing for a roster spot behind Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Louis Murphy and Jerrel Jernigan.

Also, backup guard Chris DeGeare suffered an MCL injury, according to the Giants, when a teammate unintentionally rolled up on DeGeare's right leg.

Brown fumble: Coughlin wasn't pleased to see Andre Brown fumble a pitch right early in the second quarter to give the Steelers the ball at the Giants' 44.

"His eyes never went to the ball," Coughlin said. "He was looking at the rush and fumbled. By the time he got to where he started looking for the ball, the defenders were on him. That was disappointing."

Brown and starter David Wilson combined for a total of 39 yards on nine carries. Seventh-round pick Michael Cox led the team in rushing with 33 yards.

"It wasn't much to talk about," Coughlin said of the running game. "I don't know how many chances we had. It wasn't anything great. We played that first offensive line a few more plays than we intended. We'll have to improve in that area. No question."

The 411: S Tyler Sash helped his cause for making the team. He had a safety and a fumble recovery on a muffed Pittsburgh punt. He also added four tackles and batted a pass down. ... Backup TE Larry Donnell saw some snaps at fullback behind fellow TE Bear Pascoe, who has been filling in for the injured Henry Hynoski. ... Spencer Paysinger led the Giants with five tackles. ... DE Adewale Ojomo continued his preseason sack magic by adding 1.5 in late-game action. ... DE Justin Trattou and CB Charles James each had one sack.

Camp preview: Defensive backs

July, 24, 2013
As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the Giants, position by position.

Position: Defensive backs.

Projected starters: CB Corey Webster, CB Prince Amukamara, S Antrel Rolle, S Stevie Brown.

Projected reserves: CB Aaron Ross, CB Jayron Hosley, CB Terrell Thomas, S Ryan Mundy, S Will Hill, S Cooper Taylor, S Tyler Sash, CB Terrence Frederick, DB Laron Scott, CB Antonio Dennard, DB Trumaine McBride, DB Charles James, DB Junior Mertile, DB Alonzo Tweedy, DB David Caldwell.

New faces: Ross, Mundy, Taylor, Dennard, McBride, James, Mertile, Tweedy, Caldwell.

Going, going, gone: Kenny Phillips, Justin Tryon, Brian Witherspoon.

Player to watch: Webster. The Giants need a big-time bounce-back season from Webster. According to, Webster allowed eight touchdown receptions, tied for second-most among cornerbacks. The website also had Webster ranked last against the run with one tackle for a loss among the 26 cornerbacks on the field for 75 percent of run plays. Webster, who broke his hand early in the season but kept playing, is still considered the Giants’ top corner and has to play like it for Perry Fewell’s defense to improve upon last year’s 31st ranking in total defense.

[+] EnlargeCorey Webster
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsCan Corey Webster bounce back in the Giants' secondary? Big Blue needs him to rebound.
Potential strength: The Giants have the ability to create turnovers in the secondary. Brown had eight interceptions and 307 return yards last season, and Webster added four picks. Rolle hopes to roam and be more of a playmaker and cover less in the slot. If Webster plays closer to his normal form, Prince and Hosley continue to improve and Thomas can come back healthy, the Giants’ secondary has the potential to be much better. Safeties coach Dave Merritt said the Giants might use a defensive back to play the third safety role but added that Mundy impressed in OTAs and minicamp.

Potential weakness: Health and depth at corner. Without knowing how Thomas’ comeback will play out, the Giants basically have four cornerbacks with experience in Webster, Amukamara, Ross and Hosley. One or two injuries to that group will seriously hurt the Giants' secondary. Losing Phillips’ experience at safety also could have an impact, especially with the chemistry in the back of the defense. Hill will have to serve a four-game suspension to start the season. And if Webster is on the decline and doesn't rebound from last year, the Giants' secondary could be in for a long season.

Wild card: Thomas. If Thomas’ third comeback from an ACL injury is a successful one, the Giants’ secondary will greatly benefit. Thomas can help at corner, in the slot and even perhaps as a third safety. Before getting injured, Thomas was one of the Giants’ best tacklers. Thomas could be the difference between a solid secondary and a good one. "The Giants have a great plan for me this upcoming season," Thomas blogged on his website. "We are going to start off slow like counting my reps and going in that direction. I am excited about camp starting this week, I feel like a big question mark on defense and I love it... I feel like I am the X factor for the defense, I think I can be a big key for our defense this year as far as my physical play combined with my knowledge, communication and leadership skills."

Tell us what you think of the secondary going into camp.
So yeah, this is interesting. The agent for veteran defensive back Charles Woodson tells ESPN's Josina Anderson that the New York Giants have "put their toe in the water" regarding interest in Woodson. Now, of course, you never know with agents. This could be true or it could be a ploy to scare the Broncos or some other team into upping their offer and signing Woodson soon. But if we take the man at his word, it's worth examining the idea of Woodson to the Giants, which I think makes a lot of sense, as does my friend Ohm:
Woodson, 36, would be an intriguing piece for the Giants. He could potentially play as one of the team's three safeties utilized often by defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. He also would provide the team with another veteran able to play corner, if needed, as well.

The Giants currently have Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown as their starting safeties. Will Hill, fifth-round pick Cooper Taylor, Ryan Mundy and Tyler Sash are also on the roster.

Woodson would provide the Giants with the kind of veteran leadership presence at safety that Deon Grant provided when he played the role of the team's third safety. He also could help fill the void left by Kenny Phillips' departure in free agency to Philadelphia.

Yes, Woodson could fill a depth role as well as a mentor role with the Giants, who are transitioning to a younger defensive backfield that would benefit from the experience and wisdom of a player as decorated as Woodson. Phillips always talked about the effect Grant had on his development, and young players such as Brown, Hill, Mundy, Taylor, Sash and Prince Amukamara could surely learn something from Woodson, who has experience playing safety as well as cornerback.

As a veteran-minimum deal, Woodson to the Giants makes a great deal of sense. The fact that it hasn't yet happened makes me think the interest isn't serious, since the Giants tend to move quickly when they find someone they want on the market. But as long as he's still unsigned, it's worth imagining it.

Tuesday's Giants business

March, 19, 2013
PHOENIX -- New York Giants safety Stevie Brown has signed his restricted free-agent tender, guaranteeing him $2.023 million for the 2013 season. The move isn't a surprise, but it's worth noting that Brown will make more from the Giants this upcoming season than the man he replaced, Kenny Phillips, will make with the Philadelphia Eagles. Phillips, an unrestricted free agent whose 2012 season was plagued by knee problems, signed a one-year deal with the Eagles on which the most he can make is $1.85 million.

This is the clearest evidence yet that the Giants didn't pursue Phillips at all and decided simply to move on from their former first-round pick, likely because of long-term concerns about the knee. Brown, who had eight interceptions as a Phillips fill-in last year, is the leading candidate to start at safety alongside Antrel Rolle. The team also recently signed free-agent safety Ryan Mundy from the Steelers and has Will Hill and Tyler Sash at the position as well. General manager Jerry Reese also suggested earlier in the offseason that cornerback Terrell Thomas could potentially be moved to safety, so there is depth there.

Earlier in the day, the Giants agreed on a one-year contract with backup quarterback David Carr, who tested the free-agent market but apparently didn't find anything better than another season as backup for Eli Manning, who has started 146 games in a row.

Morning. I don't feel as great about last night's draft as I did about last week's. I blame it on the lack of Aaron Rodgers. But life goes on, and maybe DeMarco Murray plays all 16 games, you never know. Still two days from those pesky predictions, but we have a chat and plenty of other good stuff for you today, starting of course with the links.

Philadelphia Eagles

Marcus Hayes thinks it's obvious who should be the Eagles' backup quarterback this year, and it's not who you think. Marcus' pick is Trent Edwards, and the reason is experience, which the other candidates don't have. You know where I am on this. If Michael Vick is hurt, they're toast anyway, so I'd go with rookie Nick Foles, who throws the best deep ball of the candidates and has the best chance of taking full advantage of the Eagles' speedy receivers. But Marcus makes a good point about Foles being a rookie, and it's an interesting debate, if one the Eagles hope never matters.

If you think you expect big things from Nnamdi Asomugha in his second year in Philadelphia, Reuben Frank writes, they're nothing compared to what he's expecting of himself.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins are delaying a decision on right tackle Jammal Brown, who will start the season on the PUP list and therefore be ineligible to play before Week 7. He still might miss the year with those hip problems that just refuse to get better, and in the meantime Tyler Polumbus is playing right tackle.

The latest on the running back carousel is that Evan Royster plans to play in the final preseason game Wednesday and they still don't know about Roy Helu. If Royster looks good and Tim Hightower's still not 100 percent with his knee, Royster is probably the favorite to start Week 1. Rookie Alfred Morris remains in the picture, and the picture remains a confusing mess.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Garrett says the team's new rules for Dez Bryant are designed to strike a balance between supporting him and holding him accountable for his actions. That's a tough balance, and the most important thing is that Bryant is on board, which everyone says he is, though no one in the media has talked to Bryant in months.

Orlando Scandrick says he's not concerned about losing playing time when Mike Jenkins comes back. Because, yeah, come on. There's a chance we see the Easter Bunny before we see Jenkins on the field at this point, right?

New York Giants

Hakeem Nicks is apparently interested in getting some snaps in the final preseason game, and I guess the team feels like it's up to him if he feels good to go on that bum foot of his. Nicks feels he needs to see some game action in order to be ready for the regular-season opener eight days from now, and he's a responsible enough guy that the Giants trust him to do what's right in terms of his recovery from his injury.

Tyler Sash asked commissioner Roger Goodell, who'd suspended him four games for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy, to reconsider. Goodell said no, and Sash has to serve his suspension. And yeah, go ahead and lament the fact that the NFL requires players to appeal to the same guy who issues the suspension in the first place. But I think it's also worth lamenting that guys are still taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

The NFC East: Living in the nickel

August, 9, 2012
One big reason cornerback Terrell Thomas is important to the New York Giants is that the Giants really like to use defensive backs. The Giants learned earlier this week that Thomas' latest knee injury would not require surgery and that he should be able to play for them this year. This is good news, because with Aaron Ross having left via free agency and second-year cornerback Prince Amukamara still developing, the Giants need Thomas. Not just as the starter opposite Corey Webster, but in the nickel and dime defensive packages they used more than any other team in the league last year.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Giants used five or more defensive backs on 734 defensive snaps last year -- more than any other team in the league. That number accounted for 68.5 percent of their 1,072 defensive snaps. Only the Green Bay Packers went with five or more defensive backs on a higher percentage of their plays -- 69.0 percent, or 724 of 1,049.

I know this because our NFC North blogger, Kevin Seifert, recently did a post about how often the NFC North's teams were in nickel or dime packages last year, and he passed along the chart he got from ESPN Stats & Info showing how often each team in the league went with extra defensive backs. That's how things work on the NFL blog network. We're a team. A brotherhood. Eight pistons firing as one. It's really quite beautiful to watch sometimes.

Anyway, I looked at the chart and noticed that the NFC East's teams basically lived in nickel and dime defenses. Well, three of them at least. The Giants ranked second in the league in percentage of plays with five or more defensive backs. The Dallas Cowboys were fifth, at 59.5 percent. The Philadelphia Eagles ranked eighth, at 56.8 percent. And the Washington Redskins were the exception, ranking 24th at 43.9 percent.

The Redskins had injury issues at safety, didn't like the job Kevin Barnes was doing as their inside corner and have very good linebackers that they don't like to take off the field. But the other three teams in our division ... they love them some nickel.

Back to the Giants for a second. Just because they used extra defensive backs this much last year doesn't automatically mean they'll do it again. They're deeper and stronger at linebacker this year, and they didn't re-sign veteran safety Deon Grant. That means, if they go to those three-safety looks they've run the past couple of years, the third safety would have to be someone like Tyler Sash or Will Hill. With Thomas currently on the shelf, there's a chance they could ask safety Antrel Rolle to play the nickel corner position, but that's not ideal. Michael Coe is likely the next corner off the bench if Amukamara is pressed into a starting role, and while he's looked good in camp, he lacks experience. The Giants liked linebacker Jacquian Williams in coverage late last year and in the postseason, and it's possible they could design more packages this year that use just four defensive backs, since their 2012 strengths may lie elsewhere.

The Cowboys' ideal plan is to start Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne at cornerback with Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins backing them up. Scandrick is good in the nickel spot, and overall this plan would give them enough depth to go to the nickel as often as they like. The issue right now, of course, is that Jenkins and Claiborne are hurt, and even if they expect those guys back for the start of the season, they're probably not getting to practice those nickel looks as much as they'd like to. Or at least, not with the personnel they'd prefer to use.

As for the Eagles, they're similar to the Giants in that they're stronger at linebacker this year and subtracted one of last year's starting corners when they traded Asante Samuel. With Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as the starters, the nickel spot right now is likely to fall either to veteran Joselio Hanson or (more likely) rookie Brandon Boykin. Curtis Marsh has been getting a lot of work in camp and is the first option off the bench should one of the outside guys get hurt. And undrafted rookie Cliff Harris has a chance to make the team and add depth. Given the responsibility the Eagles' linebackers have for run support and gap control in the Wide 9, it's likely the Eagles will lean on their defensive backs as much as they did last year, and play as much nickel.

A lot of this depends on opponents, too. The Giants, Eagles and Cowboys all like to throw the ball a lot, so when they play each other they structure their defenses to stop the pass. And having teams like the Packers, Saints, Falcons, Steelers and Lions on the schedule, as NFC East teams do this year, can make teams go to the nickel more. But if we're basing it on last year alone, our teams like to use extra defensive backs as much as anyone in the entire league.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- A new month and a new locale for the NFC East blog, which drove Tuesday night through Gettysburg and Harrisburg and goodness-knows-how-many other burgs to arrive here. I will be checking out the training camp of the dynastically-minded Philadelphia Eagles the next two days, but you know you'll still be getting plenty of my leftover reporting from Giants camp and Redskins camp while I'm here. (I head to Cowboys camp Monday and Tuesday). You also know you can always count on the links.

Philadelphia Eagles

Much of the focus and analysis of the 2012 Eagles' secondary has focused on the likely benefit of playing Nnamdi Asomugha more in man coverage, where he excelled as a Raider. But moving Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the outside full-time is also likely to have major benefits, as Geoff Mosher explains.

The Eagles blitzed on just 18 percent of their plays last year (second-lowest figure in the league), Sheil Kapadia writes. And since they tied for the league lead in sacks anyway, don't expect that number to go up very much. The defensive scheme implemented last year by Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn relies on the four defensive linemen to create pressure on the quarterback, and the Eagles have the linemen to pull it off.

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking run game works best with a versatile, heavily involved fullback in the backfield, so Darrel Young's hamstring strain is not good news. Shanahan said after practice Tuesday that Young would likely miss one to two weeks with the injury. That could give rookie Alfred Morris a chance to show his versatility, as he's said he'll play fullback if needed, but the Redskins have been using him in the tailback rotation and he's actually got a shot to emerge from camp as the starting tailback. (Hey, who doesn't?)

You can't watch Redskins practice these days and not notice some of the option offense they're running with Robert Griffin III at quarterback. It looked to me as though Roy Helu was most often the running back when they went to the option, but I didn't keep close track of that. I'm sure they'll run some option at some point with Griffin, but the impression I get is that they're just trying to throw everything at him right now and determine which stuff he can handle and run the best.

Dallas Cowboys

The Bill Nagy injury is disappointing for the Cowboys because Kevin Kowalski and Mackenzy Bernadeau are already hurt and that leaves pretty much no one to push Phil Costa at center. And even if they didn't want to replace Costa as their starting center, the Cowboys were hoping to throw some competition at him and maybe help him get better. That is not, currently, an option.

Calvin Watkins is calling Felix Jones, Andre Holmes and Brodney Pool -- the three Cowboys players who failed their camp-opening conditioning test -- "The Big Three," which I personally find hilarious. Anyway, he says there's a chance they get to run the thing again today. I hope they pass it. No one needs an Albert Haynesworth situation here.

New York Giants

Giants safety Tyler Sash got suspended for four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy and offered the same lame excuse everyone's using nowadays. Doesn't matter whether he's lying or not, Sash has already lost his appeal. I just marvel that every single guy who ever gets suspended for performance-enhancers is always innocent. No one ever comes out and says, "Yeah, I did it. I messed up. I'm sorry. Won't happen again." Anyway, between this and Terrell Thomas' fresh ACL injury, the likelihood of a Deon Grant return does seem to be increasing, no?

Gary Myers seems to believe that Jerry Jones' trash talking at a fan pep rally earlier this week will somehow "wake up" the Giants and enable them to beat the Cowboys in 2012. Couple of things. First, I was not aware that the Giants were not awake. Second, I just want to throw out the possibility that, if the Giants beat the Cowboys in 2012, it might have something to do with their having better players. For goodness' sake, people, it was a pep rally. Jones didn't break into the Giants' locker room and start telling all of the players they stink. It was a pep rally.

Position series: Giants safeties

July, 5, 2012
Our position-by-position look at the teams in the NFC East is checking out the safeties today, and here we examine the safety position on the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

Projected starters: Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle

Reserves: Tyler Sash, Chris Horton, Stevie Brown, Will Hill, Janzen Jackson

Potential strength: Put simply, Phillips is one of the best safeties in the NFL. The Giants' first-round pick in the 2008 draft has recovered from his 2009 knee problems and become one of the quiet strengths of the defense. Pro Football Focus ranked him the No. 5 safety in the league against the run last year, No. 9 in coverage and the No. 6 safety overall. He's still just 25 years old, and there's little reason to believe Phillips won't or can't continue to blossom as an elite NFL defender.

Potential weakness: Depth. Should Phillips or Rolle have an injury, he would have to be replaced by someone unproven. And if defensive coordinator Perry Fewell wants to run the three-safety looks he's enjoyed running the past two years, he'll need someone like Sash or Brown to step into the spot vacated by still unsigned veteran Deon Grant. Now, with the team's improved depth at linebacker and cornerback, it's possible that they just won't need to have three safeties on the field as much as they did last year or the year before. But the lack of experienced depth behind the starters is a potential concern.

Keep a eye on: Sash. The team's sixth-round pick in 2011, Sash has a reputation as a hard hitter and could be in line to fill that No. 3 safety spot. But as we have discussed here many times, it's difficult to evaluate safeties until that point on the calendar at which they're finally permitted to hit people in anger. It may not be until training camp or even preseason games until the Giants know how confident they can be in Sash's ability to make a 2012 contribution on defense. If he's not, it's possible they'll look into re-signing Grant, assuming he's still out there.
All right, we have 16 days left until the draft. Today we'll have our chat and hopefully a number of other fun stuff for you. But we begin, as ever, with our trusty links.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten says he thinks the Cowboys' efforts in free agency have been "awesome," and that he enjoyed playing the part he played in them, as one of the guys at dinner at Cowboys Stadium helping to convince cornerback Brandon Carr to sign with Dallas.

We talked Monday about whether Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox would be the answer for Dallas with the No. 14 pick, and David Moore has a closer look at him today.

New York Giants

The Giants haven't taken an offensive lineman in the first round since 1999. But as Kyle Langan writes, if someone like Mike Adams falls to them at No. 32, this could be the year. Adams was my pick for the Giants in the blogger mock draft last week, and if he's there at 32, he's a combination of good value and help at a need position. He could move right in as the starting right tackle in 2012 and eventually play left tackle if they end up having a need there.

Safety Tyler Sash opened eyes on special teams as a rookie, and he's hoping for an expanded role on defense in 2012.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Jason Peters injury nearly scuttled Derek Landri's chances of returning to the Eagles in 2012, but Landri did re-sign Monday for one year. I don't think the Landri signing lessens the chances of the Eagles taking a defensive tackle in the first round. They can't have too much depth in the middle of that line.

Les Bowen has some thoughts on Asante Samuel, who's working on a colorful exit from Philadelphia and looks as though he'll be traded sometime in the next few weeks.

Washington Redskins

Rich Campbell writes that Robert Griffin III fits the athletic profile of the quarterbacks who have had success under Mike Shanahan. Of course, Shanahan would argue that Andrew Luck does as well, but Griffin is the guy on whom everyone in Washington has their eye, and the Redskins will be excited to officially have him in the fold 16 days and 12 hours from now.

James Lee, the new tackle the Redskins signed Monday, has some experience as a teacher, as he's already appeared in an online instructional video of sorts to teach proper offensive line technique. Maybe they'll watch his tape in training camp?

Halftime thoughts: Giants muscle up

January, 8, 2012
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Well, Saints-Lions this one ain't. The New York Giants lead the Atlanta Falcons 7-2 at halftime of their wild-card round playoff game here at MetLife Stadium, and they do so because they were able to crack the Falcons' defense once and the Falcons haven't been able to crack theirs at all.

It's been a defensive struggle both ways, as the Giants' defensive front has dominated the Falcons' offensive line the way it knows it needs to and the Falcons' defensive front has returned the favor against a shaky-looking Giants pass protection unit. The first points of the game were a Falcons safety when Giants quarterback Eli Manning was called for intentional grounding in the end zone while under pressure, and neither offense was able to score until Manning found Hakeem Nicks in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 2:47 left before halftime.

The reason the Giants were able to get those points is that they found something in the run game. Manning escaped trouble and ran for 14 yards earlier in the drive (remarkable, considering he only ran for 15, total, in the regular season). And running back Brandon Jacobs' 34-yard run was the biggest play of the first half. Jacobs also converted a big fourth down just before the touchdown pass with a spin move after being stuffed behind the line.

The Giants ranked 32nd in the NFL this year with 89.2 rush yards per game. But they have 75 already in this game, and if they can keep having success on the ground, they have to like their chances.

The Falcons will get the ball back to start the second half, but as of now there's little proof that that will help them. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been pressured from the sides and especially up the middle, with Giants defensive tackles Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard having delivered big hits already. He hasn't had time to look downfield and find his big-time receivers for big plays, which means the Giants are executing their defensive game plan exactly the way they want to. The Giants have more work to do, but to this point things have gone about as well as they could have wanted them to go. They have weathered the early assault from the Atlanta front and found a way to overcome it.

Two injury situations to watch: Atlanta safety William Moore and Giants safety Deon Grant both have left the game. James Sanders has stepped in for Moore, and there seems to be little drop-off there. But if rookie Tyler Sash has to play the rest of the game in Grant's place, the Giants' secondary could be very vulnerable. If, that is, Ryan gets enough time to take advantage of it.

Observation deck: Giants-Patriots

September, 2, 2011
OK, there are a number of reasons this took all day and you don't want to hear any of them. It suffices to say I am ecstatic to be done watching preseason football for another year and more ready than ever for the real thing.

As for our New York Giants, who finished their preseason by scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter for a meaningless 18-17 victory over the Patriots in New England ... I don't know. I'm trying to be open-minded about what I see, but what I see with the Giants is almost all disheartening. They just do a lot of things wrong. And yes, it was all backups Thursday night, and if David Carr ends up playing significant minutes at quarterback they're cooked anyway. But there were a couple of things that could matter if they leak into the regular season, and I'm 100 percent certain the Giants' coaching staff feels the same way.

For example, when one of your biggest areas of concern is special teams and you get banged for an illegal wedge penalty on the return of the opening kickoff, that's not a good thing. When you're trying to find a No. 3 receiver and one of the candidates (Domenik Hixon, in this case) fumbles on the first play from scrimmage, that's not a good thing. When you're trying to use a rookie punt returner and the kid can't catch the ball, that's not a good thing.

The Giants had holding penalties and illegal-hands-to-the-face penalties that stopped offensive momentum. They had another significant injury, this one a season-ending ACL tear for linebacker Clint Sintim. They fumbled at the Patriots' 1-yard line. They're effectively playing without a useful tight end. Tom Coughlin's challenges aren't even working.

Now, I continue to believe preseason doesn't mean anything -- that it has no predictive value at all in terms of what will happen once the real season starts. The Giants could snap awake nine days from now and start playing well enough to make everyone forget how inept in so many facets of the game they looked in the preseason. But what we have right now to evaluate is what they've done over the past month, and not even the most myopically optimistic Giants fan can credibly say the preseason went well for them.

Some specifics on what I saw in the Giants' (mercifully) final preseason game of this year:

1. Give Jerrel Jernigan credit for toughing it out. And give the Giants credit for sticking with the rookie even as he continues to struggle with the most critical part of punt returns -- actually catching the ball. He ripped off a 42-yard return on his first chance of the night, which showed why they're giving him all of these chances. But then he muffed two in a row, and there's all kinds of footage of Coughlin and Aaron Ross and everybody you can think of working with Jernigan on the correct form to use when catching a punt. I guess I wonder how hard it is to learn something like this and why they believed he'd be a good punt returner if he didn't already know it. But once the ball is in his hands, it's clear Jernigan can do some things with it. So it appears as though they'll keep giving him chances, even if it could cost them early on. The night had a happy ending for Jernigan, as he made a tremendous catch on the two-point conversion pass that sealed the victory. You had to feel good for the guy, after the month he's had.

2. Tyler Sash looks like an athlete. The rookie safety looked quick and nimble and decisive as he came up with two sacks (one of which forced a fumble) and moved well all over the field. There were a couple of times where Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense ran some tricky looks that caught Sash out of position, but that's bound to happen and there are worse things than getting schooled by Brady in a preseason game. You still get the lesson, and it doesn't count against your record.

3. I like Da'Rel Scott better than Andre Brown. It's not personal. I don't even know Andre Brown. I'm just talking about what they look like when they run. Brown looks fine when he has room to run, but he doesn't blow you away as anything special and he doesn't look as though he does much to make it difficult to tackle him. Scott seems to have more speed, keeps his feet moving better and runs with more determination. He earned those 65 yards he got on that fake-punt touchdown, and with cuts looming tomorrow, that's the kind of play that makes it hard for a coaching staff to keep a guy off the roster.

4. I like Devin Thomas, too. Specifically, I like what he does after he catches the ball. He seems to know where his feet are and what he needs to do to find the sideline or the extra yard or two he needs. He seems like he knows how to keep his body between the ball and the defender and protect it while making those moves. He's got the skills in the return game, and the speed, but I was surprised how much I liked him Thursday night as a receiver.

5. The Sintim injury hurts. But there are rookies to take his spot, and it might help someone like Mark Herzlich or Spencer Paysinger make the roster and/or claim more playing time. The Giants liked the way Sintim had been playing, and he was their clear first option off the bench in the case of an injury to one of their starting linebackers. Now it's not as cut-and-dried, and they'll hope somebody from the rookie group can step in when they need to spell a starter.