NFC East: vonta leach

New York Giants fullback Henry Hynoski is still recovering from the surgery he had in May on his left knee. And with 25 days left before the Giants' regular-season opener in Dallas, it's still too soon for Hynoski or the Giants to know whether he'll be available for that game.

"I'm looking forward to getting back out on the field as soon as possible and playing some football," Hynoski told reporters at Giants practice Wednesday. "Like I said, I’m going to do everything in my power, I’m very diligent in everything I do to get back on the field at the earliest convenience. Whenever that is, whenever that may be, I’ll be ready and conditioned, ready to go."

Whenever that is. Could be Week 1. Could be much later. Mystery has surrounded the timetable for Hynoski's recovery since the injury occurred, and to this point there's no way to predict how many games, if any, he'll be able to play for the Giants in 2013.

Hynoski's injury remains a significant, if overlooked, one for the Giants for the following reasons:

1. They have not replaced him.

2. They have tried to replace him, expressing interest in free-agent fullback Vonta Leach before Leach signed with Baltimore a few weeks ago. They also brought Ryan D'Imperio to camp after losing out on Leach, and D'Imperio retired this week. So they're still thin at fullback.

3. They are placing the running game in the relatively inexperienced hands of David Wilson and Andre Brown, both of whom would benefit from the best possible blocking in front of them. And no offense to Bear Pascoe, but Hynoski's by far the best on the Giants' roster (and one of the best in the league) at opening holes for the halfbacks.

Continue to monitor Hynoski's progress throughout the preseason, as his absence or presence could be a key factor for the Giants' offense this year.
One of the popular New York Giants storylines this offseason is the running game, with debates and questions about whether David Wilson is ready to start, how much he'll split carries with Andre Brown and how that tandem will handle itself in the crucial area of pass protection. But one of the most important pieces of the Giants' running game may not be ready to start the season, and the condition of fullback Henry Hynoski's surgically repaired left knee could have a lot to say about the success of the Wilson-Brown tandem.

Mike Mazzeo reports from Giants camp that, while Hynoski is hoping to be ready for Week 1, he's not assuming he will:
"I'm gonna do everything in my power to get back for the first game -- that's my goal, that's my intention," Hynoski said Tuesday. "But ultimately that decision is not up to me. I just want to get back to playing football at the earliest possible date. Everything's going well in my rehab, making advances and strides every day, and I'm just excited with my progress and I know the trainers are happy where I'm at too."

The Giants were concerned enough about Hynoski's health that they pursued free-agent fullback Vonta Leach earlier this month before he signed with Baltimore. And once they lost out in that pursuit, they signed Ryan D'Imperio, who's getting fullback reps in camp along with Bear Pascoe.

The run game already suffered one blow this offseason due to the free-agent departure of blocking tight end Martellus Bennett, and the sooner Hynoski gets back the better if the Giants are indeed going to find out what Wilson has to offer them in his second season in the league.
RICHMOND, Va. -- That's right, folks. I'm back and ready to roll out a little NFC East training camp trip. Two days here at Redskins camp, followed by two days in Philadelphia for Eagles camp, then back home to New Jersey, where I'm sure I'll stop in and see the Giants for at least two days if not more since they're doing me the courtesy of having camp 20 minutes from my house this year. Sadly, no trip to lovely Southern California for Cowboys camp this year, but as you can see the ESPNDallas.com guys have that well covered. Let's see what else we've got for our Friday links.

Dallas Cowboys

It's been 13 years since the Cowboys had a 1,200-yard rusher, and Jean-Jacques Taylor writes that keeping running back DeMarco Murray healthy for 16 games is one of the keys to ending the playoff drought in Dallas. I agree, but I just don't see how it's possible. The way Murray runs lends itself to injury risk. The young man loves contact.

It took a lot longer than he wanted it to take, but Jerry Jones has sold the naming rights to Cowboys Stadium, which now will be called AT&T Stadium.

New York Giants

John Mara says this year's Giants could be just as good as the 2011 Giants, which sounds like high praise because that team won the Super Bowl. But realistically, what does it mean? The 2011 Giants went 9-7 in the regular season -- same as the 2012 Giants and one game worse than the 2010 Giants. It just so happened that 9-7 was good enough to win the division that year for the first and only time in NFC East history. So if this year's Giants are good enough to go 9-7 in the regular season and then 4-0 in the playoffs, that's great, but they may not get in, is all. The Giants seem to be pretty much the same every year. If they reach the playoffs, their coach/quarterback combination makes them a threat to win it all. But they've only reached the playoffs once in the last four years. Good with the bad, and all that.

It looks as though free-agent fullback Vonta Leach will disappoint the Giants, the Dolphins and other teams that had been interested in his services and re-sign with the Ravens. The Giants have been pursuing Leach as a hedge against the health of fullback Henry Hynoski.

Philadelphia Eagles

Todd Herremans and Trent Cole are longtime Eagles who signed contract extensions last offseason under the old coaching regime and are hoping to extend their time in Philadelphia by impressing the new one. Obviously, Herremans' versatility and willingness to move from tackle to guard to accommodate first-round pick Lane Johnson work in his favor. Cole is going to have to show he can be a dominant pass-rusher from a 3-4 outside linebacker position.

The talk about it has dominated the Eagles' offseason. Now it's time for the quarterbacks competing for the starting job in Philadelphia to actually start competing.

Washington Redskins

The free safety position in Washington is wide open right now, and rookie Bacarri Rambo was running with the first team in practice Thursday. That doesn't mean he's the only one that will play there in camp, but it does mean a big opportunity for Rambo to show he can start right away.

Jason Reid thinks the Redskins are set up for a run of sustained excellence due to what should be an elite offense behind Robert Griffin III.

 

 
Morning. Let's enjoy today, shall we? You never know when we might have to go two weeks without spending any time together at all. Could be tomorrow, something like that starts, for all you know. Could very well be. Just real hard to say. Makes it that much more important to enjoy your links.

Washington Redskins

We all know the stat about how the Redskins were 9-1 when Pierre Garcon was in the lineup last year (9-2, actually, if you count the playoff game). And while this doesn't necessarily make him the best wide receiver in the league, it indicates that he's among the most valuable to his particular team.

In his latest installment of his Redskins position series, John Keim looks at the offensive line and takes up the question of whether Trent Williams is the NFL's best left tackle.

Dallas Cowboys

Asked by our man Colin Cowherd if he was capable of a 2,000-yard season like his fellow former Sooner Adrian Peterson, DeMarco Murray said "I think I'm capable of anything." Confidence is awesome, and I like Murray a lot, but 2,000 yards is real tough to get in just 10-12 games. Just sayin'.

Sean Lee is the defense's Murray. He's got to find a way to be able to stay on the field, but if he can do that he's capable of Pro Bowl-level things.

New York Giants

Yes, the Giants knocked about $300,000 off of their 2013 salary-cap number with the Victor Cruz contract extension. Yes, that could come in handy if they continue to pursue free-agent fullback Vonta Leach. It's not until 2016 that Cruz's cap number starts to look unmanageable, and that's the first year after the end of Eli Manning's current contract, so lots of big decisions loom around that year anyway.

How will the younger pass-rushers on the Giants factor into the defensive end rotation for the Giants this year? With Justin Tuck a question mark off of two down years, Jason Pierre-Paul coming off of back surgery and Osi Umenyiora playing for the Falcons, some of them are going to have to.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have a good number of second-year players other than Nick Foles with a chance to make a leap forward and play significant roles this year.

Lots of talk about DeSean Jackson getting the ball closer to the line of scrimmage this year. Again, not sayin', just sayin': There was talk about this last year in the summertime too. It's a real good idea, but Jackson and the coaching staff need to commit to making it happen. And they need a quarterback who can bring it off.
As Fantasy Week rolls along, we pause to mine the Internet for non-fantasy football news related to the four NFC East teams. It ain't easy, it's just links.

Philadelphia Eagles

First-round draft pick Lane Johnson hasn't signed yet, and training camp starts in less than two weeks. It's not super alarming, as Johnson is hardly unique among first-rounders and the issue is the only one there can be these days with these contracts -- offset language. It likely ends up getting resolved in time, but until it does there exists the possibility that Johnson misses some camp time. Which would be unfortunate, if he's to be the starting right tackle as expected.

The running back position figures to be very important in the Eagles' offense this year, so here's a look at some of the issues related to that position, including Felix Jones' chances of making the team and the disappearance of the fullback.

Washington Redskins

John Keim looks at the Redskins' defensive line, examining (among other things) the importance of Adam Carriker and the extent to which the return of outside linebacker Brian Orakpo should help Stephen Bowen.

Robert Griffin III's popularity continues to grow -- and not always in ways that could be counted as reasonable.

Dallas Cowboys

Bryan Broaddus is in a prediction sort of mood, and his latest is that Anthony Spencer will lead the Cowboys in sacks this year.

The folks still suing over the Super Bowl seating fiasco can't do so with class-action status, according to a judge's ruling. But the plaintiffs' attorney says the affected parties will continue to sue.

New York Giants

Fullback Vonta Leach still hasn't signed anywhere, which means the Giants still have hope of bringing him in. Again, if you want to take their continued interest in Leach as a sign that Henry Hynoski is hurt worse than they've let on, you have my permission.

Ralph Vacchiano expects the Hakeem Nicks negotiations to be more complicated than the Victor Cruz negotiations were.
Leach
OK, so free-agent fullback Vonta Leach apparently has an agent, Ralph Vitolo, who just tells you everything that's going on with his negotiations with NFL teams. It's kind of jarring, honestly. We're so used to everybody treating everything as a state secret in sports these days. Here's what Vitolo had to say to FOX 26 Sports in Houston regarding his client, who's of interest to the New York Giants:
"Nobody has been excluded," Vitolo said to the Houston television station. "You have to put Miami, Houston and the Giants in the first three.

"Kansas City is also involved and Baltimore is included in this also."

...

"To me Miami is the best fit because of their needs and their availability of [salary] cap room," the agent said. "I think the best overall fit is Miami, but who knows.

"He still has an interest in Houston and the Giants, the Chiefs and the Ravens. That's all predicated on can the deals be done based on the finances they have."

Everybody got it? You guys need anything else? Want to know what the exact terms of the offers are? I mean, come on. We've got nothing to hide here.

Anyway, I don't know what to tell you with regard to the Giants, who cut their best blocking running back (Ahmad Bradshaw), lost their best blocking tight end (Martellus Bennett) to free agency and may be without their very good blocking fullback, Henry Hynoski, for a while due to a knee injury. They could surely use Leach, and I'm sure it's true that they're interested. But everything I've heard says Miami is where he's going, and jeez, his agent is saying that's where he thinks Leach belongs. It sounds as though the Giants and maybe some other teams could get competitive if they could free up the salary-cap room to compete with what the Dolphins are offering, but I don't see how the Giants do that at this point in the offseason. They may be stuck.

But the guy isn't signed anywhere else yet, so technically there's still hope. Stay tuned. Sounds as though we'll all be kept posted.
Washington Redskins

You can add Kirk Cousins to the list of people raving about how well Robert Griffin III's recovery from knee surgery is going, even if that might mean Cousins begins the season as a backup instead of the fill-in starter.

Last week's news about Sam Huff stepping aside has sparked some debate in Washington about what the Redskins' radio broadcast team should look like moving forward.

New York Giants

Justin Tuck says he feels "more alive in a football sense" this year, which sounds nice. Ultimately, June talk won't mean a thing, and whether Tuck can play at a high level this year will have a lot to do with the Giants' success and his own future in New York.

Yes, there has been some interest from the Giants in fullback Vonta Leach. Yes, this likely means they're more concerned about Henry Hynoski's injury than they've admitted. No, I don't think Leach is going to be a Giant. I think he's going to be a Dolphin.

Dallas Cowboys

Will Allen hopes he can bring some of the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive mentality to the Cowboys' defensive backs room.

ESPNDallas.com's position series continues with running back, where DeMarco Murray must stay healthy or Joseph Randle should get a chance to prove whether he's the superior long-term option.

Philadelphia Eagles

If Matt Barkley beats out two more experienced quarterbacks to win the starter's job, it won't be the first time he's ever done that.

Jeremy Maclin's eyes are wide open to what this year means for him -- a chance to cash in with a big new contract if he can stay healthy and play to his first-round pedigree.

Links: LeSean McCoy and the Eagles' QBs

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Dallas Cowboys

ESPNDallas.com has kicked off its position-by-position preview, starting with a look at the team's quarterbacks.

Jeff Mosier of The Dallas Morning News discusses the new security measures being implemented at NFL stadiums this season.

New York Giants

Might the Giants already be increasing their offer to sign free-agent fullback Vonta Leach?

Would the Giants ever consider trading wide receiver Victor Cruz? Surprise deals including star receivers have happened before.

Philadelphia Eagles

Running back LeSean McCoy says he isn't concerning himself with who is the team's starting quarterback. "That's why they pay Chip Kelly the big bucks to pick the quarterback. [Michael Vick and Nick Foles] both look good and whoever he picks, I am fine with. As long as I get my carries, I don't care who it is."

Safety Kurt Coleman knows how to keep playing in the NFL all in proper perspective.

Washington Redskins

Leonard Pitts Jr. says there is no justifying "Redskins" as a mascot.

The trials for four defendants, charged with first-degree murder in former Redskins safety Sean Taylor's death, continue to be delayed.

Giants still seek blocking help

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There are reports of New York Giants interest in Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, who was released this week by the Super Bowl champion Ravens, and I think it's fair to assume the Giants' interest means two things:

1. Specifically, they're concerned about fullback Henry Hynoski's recovery from knee surgery possibly taking longer than they hoped.

2. Generally, they're worried about the quality of the blocking they can expect to get this year in their backfield.

The Giants cut running back Ahmad Bradshaw because of health and salary-cap reasons (he signed this week with the Colts), which was understandable and justified. But Bradshaw is the best pass-protection running back in the league, and the Giants have concerns about the ability of running backs David Wilson and Andre Brown to live up to those standards in their efforts to keep Eli Manning safe and upright.

Further, the Giants let tight end Martellus Bennett leave for a big free-agent deal with the Bears and replaced him with Brandon Myers. Myers is a fine pass-catcher but nowhere near the blocker Bennett is, and the Giants' run game should suffer for the change.

With Bradshaw, Bennett and possibly Hynoski gone from last season's Giants blocking corps, this isn't the last time you should expect to hear of the Giants expressing interest in this kind of player. Leach is going to Miami today to talk to the Dolphins, who have more cap room to sign him than the Giants do. I imagine the Giants' chances to sign him are relatively slim, but if they don't, I believe they'll keep looking.

Are the Eagles playing 'dirty?'

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Apparently, the teams in the rough, tough AFC North aren't happy with the way the Philadelphia Eagles are playing football this year. This post by AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley makes mention of complaints by Pittsburgh Steelers players in the wake of their victory Sunday over the Eagles, and likens them to comments made by Baltimore Ravens players after the Eagles beat them last month:
"Yeah, Ben was mad. He thought they were going after his head," left guard Willie Colon told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "They were cheap-shot artists all day. They were hitting us in the back. I know I lost my cool once or twice. It is what it is. You have to play through it."

It was last month when the Ravens were voicing the same sentiments. "They play dirty," Ravens fullback Vonta Leach said after the game in Philadelphia. "They take shots after the play, a lot of dirty stuff after plays. We weren't going to back down. We weren't going to take that. Anytime someone thinks they're a bully, you got to step up or they'll keep doing it."

What's funny is that Eagles players were in their locker room after the Baltimore game saying the same exact things about the Ravens -- using words like "bully" and talking about their refusal to back down in the face of it. So it's kind of hard to base this stuff on the things players say right after games when they're still fired up and sore.

I haven't seen anything from the Eagles I'd consider blatantly "dirty," and I think it's worth considering the sources of the complaints, as they are both teams that have been on the other side of these types of conversations in recent years. But I do think the Eagles came into this season with a determination to out-tough teams. Andy Reid and his coaches stressed throughout training camp the importance of conditioning, both physical and mental, as a means of avoiding the fourth-quarter collapses that did in the Eagles in the early part of last season. It seems to be working. To this point in the season, the Eagles have been a much tougher and more formidable second-half team than they were in 2011. It's entirely possible that comes with a bit of extra aggression and even some of that would be a bit extracurricular. My guess is it bothers teams like the Steelers and Ravens when teams do to them what they're used to being able to do to other teams.
You know the scene near the end of "Hoosiers," when Gene Hackman looks each kid in the face while they have their hands together in that pregame huddle in the locker room and he finally says -- kind of whispers -- "I love you guys?" Yeah, well, when I saw this morning that you guys had taken a post that was essentially a wild guess about which team will be the best in the division from 2014-16 and put more than 2,000 comments on it, that's how I felt.

I also felt like we're all about ready for the lockout to end. Which it seems as if it is.

Once it does, of course, we will find out what the Eagles want and can get in return for quarterback Kevin Kolb. Lots of talk about this over the past couple of days, and Jeff McLane says that, if Arizona's offering cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles will want a pick to come with him. As we've discussed here many times, Philadelphia isn't interested in giving Kolb away. Once they do, they'll need to find a reliable backup for Michael Vick. If they can't get what they want for Kolb, they'll just keep him as that.

More Eagles

Speaking of Vick, one of the stipulations of his post-prison agreements with Roger Goodell, Andy Reid and Jeff Lurie was that he'd do more than just speak out against dogfighting -- that he'd actively campaign against it. Hence, Vick was in Washington to throw his support behind a bill making it a federal crime to attend an animal fight.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have brought their coaches back from their vacations in anticipation of the end of the lockout. This is how crazy this all is: Not only will free agency start next week, but some training camps, including the Cowboys' in San Antonio, are scheduled to start next week. Next week!

Rainer Sabin wonders if the new rules effectively eliminating two-a-day practices from training camp under the new agreement will impact Jason Garrett's plans to try to toughen up the atmosphere around the Cowboys players. I predict Garrett and other coaches can find ways to make things tougher on their players while staying in the rules. I also predict that some coaches and teams will break the rules, though I don't know which ones.

New York Giants

Ralph Vacchiano says that Osi Umenyiora won't hold up a labor agreement because of his own contract demands, the way it appeared as if Vincent Jackson and Logan Mankins might as of Tuesday. Ralph has a source telling him Umenyiora believes his beef to be with the Giants, not the league as a whole, and that he (Osi, not Ralph) might hold out of training camp if he doesn't get what he wants, which is a new contract or a trade. As Ralph points out, the Giants have too many free-agent concerns to allow them to give into Osi's demands. He's not likely to get much satisfaction here.

Fullback Vonta Leach says he likes the Giants if he ends up leaving the Houston Texans for free agency. There's been interest on the Giants' end in the past, as Ohm Youngmisuk writes, and the Giants had serious injury problems at that position in 2010. I don't know. You guys have been asking for under-the-radar names. There you go.

Washington Redskins

Mike Jones writes that coordinator Jim Haslett (second year of new scheme), safety LaRon Landry (health) and rookie Ryan Kerrigan (transition from college defensive end to pro linebacker) are among the Redskins with the most to prove on the defensive side of the ball this year.

And Dan Daly wonders if Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen are prepared for the speed with which free agency is expected to unfold. It's a question worth asking about 32 front offices right now. If this compressed free-agency period is going to unfold with as much insanity as everyone thinks it is, there are going to be some bad deals done both ways. The ones who come out of it the cleanest will be the teams and agents who kept their heads about them, stayed flexible and reacted both quickly and intelligently to unforeseen developments.

I'm going to go react quickly and intelligently to my stomach's rumbling and go eat some breakfast. You guys be careful out there today.

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