NFC East: willie colon

Are the Eagles playing 'dirty?'

October, 9, 2012
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.
Nearly done now with our position-by-position look at potential four-year unrestricted free agency and the NFC East. I asked yesterday if you guys wanted me to do kickers and punters, and you seemed to say yes, so those will roll out this afternoon to wrap the series. For now, though, we go with the big fellas -- the offensive tackles.

NFC East teams in need

Redskins: With 2010 first-rounder Trent Williams on the left side, they feel like they're okay there now and for the long-term. Not so much on the right side, where Jammal Brown is a free agent and Stephon Heyer not likely a sufficient replacement. A veteran who could help develop Williams and the other young players on Washington's rebuilding line might be a good move.

Cowboys: They drafted Tyron Smith with the ninth pick in April, and their hope was to play him on the right side and emerging star Doug Free on the left. But if the new rules allow free agency after four years of service, Free becomes a free agent and a top priority for Dallas to re-sign. Should he go elsewhere, the Cowboys will need a tackle, be it right or left, since they're likely to part ways with Marc Colombo.

Eagles: Jason Peters is a star on the left, but Michael Vick's "blind side" is the right side, where Winston Justice and King Dunlap remain big question marks. Having addressed the line in the draft, the Eagles could be planning to roll the dice with those guys and fill defensive needs in free agency, but it wouldn't be crazy for them to look for a tackle.

Giants: This is a well-traveled topic and a matter of opinion. Mine is that the Giants' offensive line is a ticking injury time bomb, and that David Diehl has lost a few steps. The Giants and their fans would say the injuries on the line didn't hurt them last year, and that they actually showed the depth the team has at various line positions. I still think it's worth staying ahead of the curve, and while I know the Giants have a lot of needs, I think they need to at least look and see if they can add a tackle for depth, even if it means moving Diehl inside or into a backup role.

Top five potential unrestricted free-agent tackles

1. Free. Still young and still developing, but his first year as a starter on the left side was a rousing success, and the Cowboys are hoping he can last there for a while -- as long as he stays in town. It'll be interesting to see what kind of market he draws, since it was just the one year on the left and he'd surely prefer to stay on that side than go somewhere else and play on the right. He might be more valuable to the Cowboys than he would to anyone else.

2. Willie Colon. He missed the 2010 season with an injury, but his track record as a premier right tackle won't be lost on teams that need line help. His agent recently said he didn't think the Steelers were interested in retaining Colon.

3. Tyson Clabo. A perfect fit at right tackle for the Falcons, Clabo is coming off a Pro Bowl appearance and could draw interest from run-heavy teams looking for someone to seal off that right side.

4. Matt Light. A great veteran who may be past his prime but likely still has something to offer on the field and in the locker room. Might have to settle for a shorter-term deal, given his age relative to the rest of this field.

5. Brown. The Redskins' best plan may be to bring back Brown, who performed better at right tackle for them as the season went along and his hip got healthier. It'll be interesting to see if he draws interest as a left tackle from teams in need of help on that side.

Predictions that mean nothing: Cowboys re-sign Free. Redskins re-sign Brown. Eagles look a little further down the list, maybe at a guy like Marshal Yanda, who can play tackle or guard and really shore up their situation on the right side. Giants do nothing.