NFC East: derek landri

I have attempted another "all-22" breakdown using the NFL Game Rewind app, and this time I went through Sunday night's game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles with a specific focus on the left tackles. I will have a post up later today on the Eagles' Demetress Bell, but this post here focuses on the very strong work by Giants left tackle Will Beatty, particularly against Eagles star defensive end Trent Cole.

Beatty, you may recall, was the Giants' starting left tackle for the first 10 games last year, and had some mixed results before an eye injury ended his season prematurely. Back injuries plagued his offseason, and his inability to get healthy cost him his starting job at the start of this season. But an injury to David Diehl forced the Giants to reshuffle, and it appears Beatty has reclaimed the starting left tackle role as a result.

[+] EnlargeWill Beatty
Howard Smith/US PresswireGiants tackle Will Beatty (65) blocks during the first quarter against the Eagles in their Week 4 game.
To me, he looks considerably stronger and more confident as a blocker than he did in 2011. I saw a lot of reaching and grabbing and late-reacting last year. Sunday night against Cole, his footwork was consistent and he held up very well strength-wise against one of the toughest defensive linemen in the league. Cole has a variety of moves out of his Wide-9 four-point stance, but the one that really stands out is the one on which he tries to go through the lineman, bursting off the line and into the tackle with shocking force. There are plenty of tackles in the league Cole can knock over with this move, and at the very least he can rattle them and beat them around the edge while they are dazed. Beatty wasn't having any. He took those big shots from Cole (I noticed it specifically on a seven-yard Eli Manning pass to Domenik Hixon toward the end of the first half and again on a five-yard pass to Ramses Barden on the Giants' first play of the second half) and stood his ground.

Some of the numbers from what I saw:

  • Beatty plays 68 snaps. On 26 of those, he has a tight end lined up next to him. On two others, he has two tight ends with him. Which means he was by himself on 40 of his 68 plays.
  • He ends up blocking Cole by himself, without any help or chipping from anyone else, 31 times. He should get hazard pay for this. Cole is a relentless nightmare to block. However, I only counted five plays out of those 31 on which I'd say Cole beat him. And there were only a couple of those that matters to the outcome of the play. Their final matchup of the night, which will go down as the Barden offensive pass interference play, has to be a satisfying capper for Beatty on a tough but very good night, as he flattens Cole and takes him to the ground.
  • He ends up blocking Darryl Tapp one-on-one eight times, and Tapp has no chance against him.

My favorite Beatty sequence is the Giants possession that begins with 9:55 left in the third quarter and results in the Victor Cruz touchdown catch. There are eight plays on the drive, and he's by himself on the left side for seven of them. The only exception is the second play, when Bennett motions to his side and Beatty goes inside and dominates Derek Landri. He gets Cole five times and Tapp twice on the drive, and the only play on which he doesn't dominate is the touchdown pass, on which Cole beats him a little bit with a spin move but Manning releases the ball too quickly for it to matter.

Beatty's best play on that drive is the first-and-10 from the Eagles' 34 on which Manning completes a 13-yard pass to Hixon. He's by himself on the left side, with Cole lined up super-wide with both hands on the ground. As the ball is snapped, Beatty keeps his eyes upfield for a moment to make sure the linebacker isn't coming. But as he does so, he's swinging his left leg and rotating his arms and shoulders out to anticipate Cole's wide rush. This enables him to get back in time to disrupt and block Cole while Manning finds Hixon on the left side of the field. The play showed instincts, intelligence and an ability to multi-task. This looks like the player the Giants believe can be their left tackle of the future, and he's leaps and bounds better than he was a year ago.

I did mark seven "bad plays" and one other possible mistake on Beatty's 68 snaps. But all seven of the bad plays were in the first half, so he seemed to get better as the game went along. And the bad plays were often the result of poor decisions and not his being overmatched. For example:

  • On the second play of the game, he goes the wrong way and ends up having to grab at linebacker Jamar Chaney, who assists on the tackle of Andre Brown.
  • Cole flat-out beats him on third-and-five on the Giants' second possession and again on third-and-three on their fourth, and Beatty reverts to his grabby ways. The first was called holding. The second could have been.
  • The Eagles successfully confuse Beatty on third-and-four from the Giants' 39-yard line in the second quarter. Cullen Jenkins is lined up as the defensive end on that side, and tight end Martellus Bennett handles him. Beatty kinds of drifts that way as if to help when he should be picking up linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who gets to Manning and helps force an incomplete pass.
  • And the possible mistake was on a first-and-10 run two plays before the Bear Pascoe touchdown. It looks to me as though he should be helping Bennett with Cole on the edge instead of helping Kevin Boothe with Landri inside, and Cole indeed beats Bennett to disrupt the play. But I don't know what the assignment was there.

All in all, though, a very good night from Beatty against as tough an opponent as he'll ever face. His improvement over 2011 is an outstanding sign for the Giants.

Observation deck: Jets-Eagles

August, 30, 2012
Stop for a second. Take a deep breath. Now exhale, all the way. That's it. We're done with preseason football until 2013. Doesn't it feel awesome?

The NFC East's preseason finale was a 28-10 Eagles' exhibition victory over the New York Jets on Thursday night. None of the starters played, which didn't help the game's entertainment value, but kept any of them from getting hurt, which was the point. Those who did play obviously had their eye on Friday's 9 p.m. ET final roster cut deadline, and some of them were holding their final auditions for spots. These are their stories:
  • Trent Edwards, who was dropped by the Bills and Jaguars in 2010 and didn't play in the NFL last year, was an afterthought when training camp began. But he got a lot more preseason reps than expected after presumptive backup quarterback Mike Kafka broke his hand in the first game, and he played very well. Edwards played the final three quarters Thursday (after rookie Nick Foles, who's probably No. 2 behind Michael Vick after his own very strong preseason) and was 22-for-32 for 197 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles plan to keep only three of their quarterbacks, and with Vick and Foles both locks, that means it's a choice between Edwards and Kafka for the No. 3 spot. This is Kafka's third year in the system, and if the decision is to be based on more than just this preseason, he still has to have the edge. But if they saw enough from Edwards that they think he could run their offense if Vick went down, he could surprise. He definitely looks as though he can run the offense, but he has been playing against backups, obviously. And his reputation in Buffalo was as a "Captain Checkdown" type who didn't make it through progressions. First-team defenses play with more speed and could bring that back out if he were to appear in a real game. Worth considering.
  • Jaiquawn Jarrett played well at safety, and he looks safe as the backup to Nate Allen at strong safety. I think Jarrett has very good physical ability, and in a game like this that doesn't feature any game-planning, a player like Jarrett can look very good, seeking out ballcarriers and delivering big hits without getting tripped up by complex scheme or communication issues. But that's okay. Jarrett needed to show something, and he did. O.J. Atowge, on the other hand, who is slated to be Kurt Coleman's backup at free safety, got hurt again and will have an MRI on his hamstring Friday morning. Atogwe couldn't stay healthy with the Redskins last year either, and it's possible the Eagles will be hunting for safety help after the cuts come in Friday night.
  • I think Bryce Brown has shown enough to make the team as the No. 3 running back ahead of Chris Polk. I also think Polk has shown enough that some other team will pick him up and the Eagles won't be able to get him on the practice squad.
  • Brandon Graham and the defensive linemen getting called for offsides is something I think you should get used to. The Eagles want their defensive linemen to be hyper-aggressive, so they'll be offsides a lot. And some of them (Graham included) are quick enough off the ball to trick officials (replacement or otherwise) into thinking they're offsides even sometimes when they're not.
  • It was interesting that defensive tackle Antonio Dixon didn't play. It was also interesting that -- in his postgame news conference -- Eagles coach Andy Reid said he'd "seen enough of" Dixon. Couple of different ways to read that, and a few of them make you think Dixon is the odd man out when the tough defensive line cuts come Friday night. I have to think they've at least looked into trading Darryl Tapp and his $2.6 million salary. But whether they can pull that off or not, Dixon can't be having a restful night's sleep.
  • I liked Mardy Gilyard as a college player. I liked him in training camp when I was at Lehigh this summer. I liked him last night, when he doubled back and caught that duck Edwards threw into the end zone before anyone else saw it for a duck. With Damaris Johnson likely ahead of him as a receiver and a special teamer, I can't see how Gilyard makes the team. But maybe another team saw something they liked.
  • Something to remember: Derek Landri and Joselio Hanson were among last season's "final" roster cuts, and both ended up back on the team. So some of Friday's moves will be procedural. The Eagles have some high-level decisions to make and will be cutting some good players.
The Philadelphia Eagles on Monday put defensive tackle Mike Patterson on the reserve/non-football illness list as he continues his recovery from offseason brain surgery. That delays their decision on Patterson until at least Week 7 of the regular season and answers one of the questions regarding their numbers game at defensive line, where they may have too many quality players to keep. But it doesn't answer them all. As Bob Grotz writes here, there are still decisions to make in advance of Friday's roster cutdown deadline, and one of those decisions could end up being a trade or release of defensive end Darryl Tapp:
"There's going to be a job somewhere," Tapp said with a grin. "We're all focused on getting better right here."

Tapp is one of six defensive ends with a strong case to make the Eagles' roster. Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are locks, and Philip Hunt has played too well in preseason to cut. They also have a glut of defensive tackles, even if you don't count Patterson. Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox and Derek Landri are all pretty sure things, and Cedric Thornton has outplayed Antonio Dixon so far in camp. Based on performance, Dixon could be the most likely defensive lineman cut, but he does still have potential to be a prolific run-stuffer even if he doesn't contribute what the others contribute to the pass rush.

So that's 11 guys, and they can't keep more than 10 and probably have to get to nine. Jenkins' ability to play end as well as tackle means they could ditch or trade Tapp if they wanted to, and they'd get some cap relief from his $2.6 million salary, which obviously matters. I would think they could find a market for him if they decide he's not going to make their team.

Observation deck: Eagles-Browns

August, 24, 2012

You want to talk Nick Foles, and that's fine. The rookie quarterback the Philadelphia Eagles took in the third round looked very good again Friday night in a 27-10 victory over the Browns in Cleveland. Foles was 12-for-19 for 146 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The interception was on his second pass of the night, and obviously he improved after that. The touchdown passes both came from in close and both after turnovers deep in Cleveland territory, but overall Foles looks like a guy who's not scared of the rush, makes good decisions and throws a very nice deep ball.

There is a chance, as Mike Kafka continues to sit out with a broken hand and Foles continues to impress in these preseason games, that the rookie could win the backup quarterback job. And I think that could potentially make sense for reasons that have nothing to do with preseason numbers. The fact is, Foles throws the deep ball better than Kafka does, and the speed-based Eagles offense needs someone with the arm strength to throw deep.

I don't think Foles would be an effective answer for the Eagles if Michael Vick had to miss significant time this year. I think, in a case like that, Kafka would be more likely to be able to manage the game and run the offense, and they could alter the playbook to suit his skills. But if Vick goes down in a game and has to miss a few plays or can't finish, it might make sense to go with Foles. No, he doesn't have Vick's mobility, but they could still run the downfield passing game and feel confident that they had a guy who could get the ball to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Something to think about.

Some other things I saw in the Eagles' third preseason game:
  • Foles wasn't the only Eagles rookie who had a good game. Wide receiver Damaris Johnson, who continues to look good in the return game, had two catches for 58 yards, including a 45-yarder from Foles while falling on his back. He also appeared to make a nice touchdown catch, but upon review it was ruled that he didn't have both feet in bounds. On the topic of rookies, linebacker Mychal Kendricks continues to look fast and alert and sure with his tackling.
  • The Eagles' defensive line is no joke. Derek Landri forced a fumble. Darryl Tapp and Brandon Graham had big games. These are guys who might not even be starters, and yes, next Friday the Eagles are going to have to make some tough decisions as they sort through their excellent options at defensive line. But if the Eagles' plan is to run wave after wave of fresh defensive linemen at teams, they appear well equipped to do so.
  • King Dunlap started at left tackle. Demetress Bell replaced him on the second offensive series but was beaten badly to allow LeSean McCoy to take a loss. At this point, you'd have to think Dunlap starts the regular-season opener, which oddly is right back in Cleveland in 16 days.
  • I know it's been criticized a lot in preseason, but I think the Eagles' defense looks fine. They're tackling well. They're covering well. It's just that, because they pursue so hard with the defensive linemen on every single play, there are going to be plays on which it looks like everything broke down. Happened on the Browns' first drive, when Brandon Weeden dumped the ball off to a wide-open tight end and converted a second-and-19. It's going to happen during the season too. It's like the opposite of a bend-don't-break defense. It's more of a "break-every-now-and-then-but-it's-okay-because-we're-making-the-quarterback's-life-miserable" defense. The risk is worth the reward, in other words.
  • There were still too many penalties -- seven for 47 yards -- but it wasn't anything close to last week's epidemic that prompted the Andy Reid-Cullen Jenkins sideline shouting match. There also were no sideline shouting matches this time.
  • Cliff Harris had an interception, Keenan Clayton blocked a punt... it was that kind of night. Everybody looked good, even the guys who aren't sure things to make the roster.
  • Chas Henry got to punt first and did well. Mat McBriar looked good too. Makes you think whichever one doesn't win the job has a chance to latch on somewhere else.
  • O.J. Atogwe sat out with an injury, which made Jaiquawn Jarrett and Phillip Thomas the backup safeties. This is not an area at which the Eagles have any reliable depth. They will lean hard on that defensive line to create pressure and the starting corners to cover and lock down receivers.
  • I like what I see from Brett Brackett, the backup tight end who caught one of Foles' touchdown passes. He was a standout performer in the training camp practices I attended a few weeks ago too. Hard to see how he makes the roster, but you never know.
  • Still like Bryce Brown as a runner better than Chris Polk, though Polk is the better blocker and had the better numbers Friday night. Dion Lewis is ahead of both of them as McCoy's backup, and he had a nifty 22-yard reception.
  • It's worth pointing out that quarterback Trent Edwards has played well this preseason. He was 14-for-17 for 127 yards and a touchdown in this one. I guess he could make it over Kafka if Foles surpasses Kafka on the depth chart. Still lots to sort out there.

Observation deck: Steelers-Eagles

August, 9, 2012

The most important thing that happened during a 24-23 victory by the Philadelphia Eagles over the Pittsburgh Steelers in their preseason opener was the result of an X-ray. Starting quarterback Michael Vick left the game in the second quarter after banging his left thumb on the helmet of teammate Jason Kelce while throwing a pass. Vick, who throws left-handed, was in obvious pain on the sideline and spent the rest of the second quarter icing the thumb.

The Eagles announced at halftime that an X-ray taken on the thumb was negative, and cameras caught Vick on the sideline during the fourth quarter gripping a ball with his left hand. Coach Andy Reid said after the game that Vick had a thumb "contusion" and that the issue was a nerve on the top of his thumb that made it numb for a while, but that he was fine by the end of the game. So it appears the Eagles survived a scare, but the scare was a jarring reminder of Vick's importance to the Eagles' hopes and the low point of a very poor first-half performance by the team as a whole.

We make no broad conclusions based on the first preseason game (or any preseason game) -- only observations. The Eagles were playing without three of their starters on the defensive line, and starting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin injured his hamstring in pregame warm-ups. And of course, the Eagles have had a rough week following the death of Reid's oldest son on Sunday morning. All of that matters as we assess what happened -- good and bad -- in this game. So here goes.

1. They need to stretch more. Maclin strained his hamstring before warm-ups even started, Reid said. And defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins strained his during the first quarter. Reid said he didn't think Jenkins' injury was too serious. He sounded less happy about Maclin's. Starting defensive end Jason Babin is already out with a strained calf. Muscle pulls are an August bane for a lot of teams, but this has something of an epidemic feeling in Philly, no?

2. They need to tackle better. I'm sure they will, but after such a poor tackling 2011, this was not the way the Eagles wanted to look in the first half of their 2012 preseason. Missed tackles by everyone from Jaiquawn Jarrett to DeMeco Ryans were a problem as the Steelers marched down the field against them in the first half. The length of the Steelers' drives was the reason Vick was even in the game in the second quarter. The offense got to run only three plays in the first.

3. They're not kidding about that defensive line depth. I thought 2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham played like a star. Which, of course, is exactly what he is supposed to be. Finally healthy after a year and a half's worth of knee problems, Graham should be a significant addition to the pass rush. But overall, backup lineman Derek Landri, Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt, et al looked very good, especially on the pass rush. And assuming Jenkins, Babin and Trent Cole can all get back healthy, the Eagles' plans to rotate eight defensive linemen and "throw fastballs at the offensive line" has a good chance to work. They still need to at least pay some attention to the run and toughen up in the middle, but a lot of that is the responsibility of the linebackers in this defense.

4. Damaris Johnson is a factor. He was the starting wide receiver in place of Maclin, which was something of a surprise. But he's been practicing well and is obviously a help in the return game. He had a long punt return wiped out by a penalty.

5. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie needs to find his checkbook. Called for a penalty for launching himself into a receiver, Rodgers-Cromartie can expect a well-deserved fine. Stupid penalty that would have been costly had it been a real game. That play is on every instructional video the league shows players to tell them what not to do.

6. Vick versus the blitz. Vick didn't do much while in the game, but the one play that stands out for me was a negative one. The Steelers showed a blitz look but didn't blitz, and it confused Vick, who was surprised not to find anyone open and took a sack as he tried to leave the pocket. Reading defenses and identifying coverages and blitz schemes has long been a problem for Vick, who says he's working on it and still has a month left before the real games start.

7. Oh yeah. Nick Foles. Everybody on Twitter was all fired up about Foles and his two long touchdown passes. Foles makes a remarkable impression. He's a giant (6-foot-6) with a great big arm. Everything physical about him shouts, "star quarterback." But it's important to remember that he's a rookie who doesn't yet know the offense and still needs to refine his footwork and other mechanics. The Eagles drafted Foles because of his physical tools -- his arm in particular. But he's no threat right now to Mike Kafka as the backup. Unfortunately for Kafka, whose struggles to throw the deep ball are a particularly bad deficiency on the Eagles' speed-based offense, Foles profiles as the better player down the road. But not yet. No matter how good he looked Thursday night, Foles is still the No. 3.

8. The winning kick. No, the game doesn't count. But Alex Henery's 51-yard field goal with 12 seconds left that set the final score is a nice confidence booster for the Eagles' second-year kicker. Also take note that it was second-year punter Chas Henry who held on that kick. Henry also unleashed a 54-yard punt earlier in the game and is trying to hold off a serious challenge from former Cowboys punter Mat McBriar.

OK, that's more than enough off the first preseason game. In conclusion: No, they didn't look good, but it probably doesn't matter, and the most important thing is that Vick appears to have dodged a serious injury. On to preseason Week 2 for the Eagles, whose priority right now is to get everyone healthy.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Real quick, before I head home...
  • Thursday's Philadelphia Eagles practice wasn't as hard-hitting as Wednesday's was, but it was much hotter and there was a parade of guys leaving early with cramps and/or injuries. Those included running back LeSean McCoy and safety Nate Allen (cramps), safety O.J. Atogwe (groin) and linebacker Jamar Chaney (hamstring). Chaney was headed for an MRI, but none of the other issues were thought to be serious. It seems as though Andy Reid is trying to see how much his players can take, perhaps in an effort to make sure they don't lack toughness or stamina once the season begins and there are fourth-quarter leads to protect.
  • I thought DeSean Jackson was very active in Thursday's practice, and after speaking with him in the morning I took notice of the variety of routes he was running, including the underneath ones. "Defenses game plan on me," Jackson told me in the morning. "So all the downfield routes, all the deep routes that we always had success with, last year teams tried to prevent that and started backing up deeper. So I think whatever it is as far as underneath routes, getting the ball in our hands earlier and faster just so we can catch and make runs, I think that's going to be huge for us this year as well. Just not always trying to go deep for the home run."
  • Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans looked like the proverbial "quarterback of the defense" as he called out the offense's formations and ordered the players around him into different looks and coverages depending on what he saw. Ryans left practice briefly with some kind of physical issue, but he only missed a play or two and was able to finish without any problems.
  • Once McCoy left, running back Dion Lewis ran with the first-team offense and looked good. I thought he was particularly impressive in traffic, whether it was catching the ball with a crowd around him or skittering around and finding a hole. He's clearly the primary backup to McCoy. As for the rookies, Bryce Brown still looks like the better, quicker and more decisive runner than Chris Polk, though he needs to do some work on his blocking.
  • Chaney was working as a first-team linebacker before he got hurt. His injury could result in an opportunity for Brian Rolle or Casey Matthews to assert himself as a possible starter along with Ryans and rookie Mychal Kendricks.
  • The defensive linemen who are playing as the first-team unit with all four starters out -- Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Darryl Tapp and Derek Landri, made life difficult for McCoy as the Eagles worked on their inside running in 9-on-7 drills, though it should be noted that the defense is the side that has nine in that drill.
  • Second-year safety Jaiquawn Jarrett made a nice play to close on and break up a deep pass from Michael Vick to Jackson in team drills.
  • Cox, the first-round draft pick, got through the line a few times against third-team offensive linemen, but in general he looks like a rookie tentatively working his way through drills as he learns. He's massive and athletic, but he definitely looks like someone who's learning. Which is to be expected.
  • That's it for me from Eagles camp, though you will see plenty more posts based off of the interviews I did while here. Eagles Camp Confidential is currently scheduled for Monday, so look out for that. And I will complete my NFC East training camp tour with a stop in Oxnard, Calif., on Monday and Tuesday to see the Cowboys. That's all for now. Heading up the highway. Enjoy your evening.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Yeah, they hit pretty hard at Philadelphia Eagles training camp. They go at it for about two hours in pads and in anger. When they're not in 11-on-11 drills, they're off to the side hitting each other. The most entertaining drill in camp is the ferocious one-on-one work the offensive linemen and defensive linemen do against each other, though part of the entertainment is the coaching duo of Howard Mudd and Jim Washburn.

Too much hitting? Too hard? Maybe. The Eagles have a bit of a walking-wounded thing going on. Starting defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole are out (though Babin's injury isn't a contact injury), and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins left practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury and is scheduled for an MRI on Wednesday night. Backup quarterback Mike Kafka took a hard shot from the first-team defensive line as he dove for the end zone in goal-line drills. And wide receiver Jeremy Maclin sat out a few plays after injuring his left hand on a hard hit he took in 11-on-11 drills, though he went back in and said afterwards that he was fine.

Yeah, if you need your football fix in early August, I'd say come on out to Lehigh and watch the Eagles pound on each other for a couple of hours. It was certainly the most lively and entertaining practice I've yet seen on my trip.

[+] EnlargePhiladelphia's Michael Vick
Evan Habeeb/US PRESSWIREMichael Vick didn't have his best day during training camp at Lehigh University on Wednesday.
Some other thoughts from said practice:

  • Michael Vick didn't have his best day. He threw into double coverage too often, was picked off twice and didn't dazzle the way we've seen him dazzle in training camp practices in the past. I doubt it's any cause for concern, but I know some people are going to ask how he looked, and the answer is I've seen him look better. And expect that I will again.
  • Backup quarterback Mike Kafka shows a decent command of the offense, but they reason the Eagles are in trouble if he has to go into a game is that he really can't throw the deep ball very well. And it's not as if this offense is going to want to live on dump-offs to the backs and tight ends and short passes over the middle. Maclin and DeSean Jackson are on this team, which makes the offense about field-stretching speed. Kafka's shortcomings in the deep passing game would be an issue if he had to play extended time.
  • Sticking with the quarterbacks for a second, it's easy to see what they like about rookie Nick Foles. First of all, he's 6-foot-6 and 243 pounds. But he has a big arm that really stands out when he takes the field with the third-team offense after Kafka's had his turn. He hit Mardy Gilyard with a beautiful deep pass down the right sideline at one point in practice, and while he can look scatter-armed at times, you can see the raw ability.
  • The first-team defense had a rough time against Kafka and the second-team offense in team drills, as the offense went down the field and scored on a Kafka touchdown pass to tight end Brett Brackett from the 1-yard line. (Brackett beat rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks in coverage.) Of course, that first-team defense was without Cole, Babin and Jenkins, so that has to factor in. But it's not as though the replacements for those guys are no good. It suffices to say that the linebackers and defensive backs weren't thrilled with the way that series went.
  • I saw a fair bit of the two rookie running backs, and to my untrained eye Bryce Brown looks better than Chris Polk. Brown needs to get his pads lower, but he's running forward with burst and some power while Polk seemed to me to be running side-to-side too much. At some point, you need to go forward. They used Brown at the goal line.
  • With the injuries on the defensive line, the first-teamers up front were Brandon Graham and Darryl Tapp at the ends and Derek Landri and Fletcher Cox at the tackle spots. Graham looks fantastic. He was the star of those one-on-one lineman drills and looked good in the 11-on-11s as well.
  • Kendricks and Brian Rolle were the first-team linebackers flanking middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. Kendricks also got some work with the first team, along with Jamar Chaney.
  • As expected, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are working at the starting safety spots. When I spoke with Andy Reid this morning, he called O.J. Atogwe the backup at Coleman's spot and Jaiquawn Jarrett the backup to Allen. Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes were the second-team corners, with Brandon Boykin in on nickel packages.
  • A lot of people have asked me about rookie receiver Marvin McNutt. He's big (6-2, 216) and there was at least one play on which he was able to use his size to beat Marsh on an inside route by shielding the ball with his body. So it looks as though he has good instincts.
  • I'm back for one more day here tomorrow, then I'll head home for a couple of days before completing my NFC East training camp tour with a trip to Oxnard to see the Cowboys early next week.
As Reuben Frank of reported Tuesday, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason Babin has a strained calf muscle and could miss the entire preseason. Now, if he can get back in time for the regular season, this isn't devastating. Babin's role in the defense isn't overly complicated -- he lines up wide and tries to sack the quarterback -- and so the missed practice time isn't going to be a major issue for him. They will want and need him back, of course, but they won't rush him and risk further injury.

In the meantime, Sheil Kapadia writes that defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and defensive end Brandon Graham have been getting the reps at left defensive end in place of Babin. Two different cases that speak to the type of depth the Eagles have on their defensive line.

Graham is the most interesting potential beneficiary of Babin's missed practice time. The Eagles' first-round draft pick in 2010, Graham has been kept off the field by injuries for nearly all of his brief career. If he is finally healthy, more time with the first team defensive line should give him a chance to show what he can do and give the Eagles a chance to figure out what they can expect to get from him as part of their defensive line rotation once Babin returns. He was believed to be the most polished pass-rusher in that year's draft, and while others have clearly surpassed him while he's sat out injured, there's no reason to believe he can't contribute if he can stay on the field.

Jenkins is, of course, one of the Eagles' starting defensive tackles. But his remarkable versatility is one of the main reasons the Eagles signed him as a free agent last year. During his time in Green Bay, Jenkins played defensive tackle and end in a 4-3 as well as defensive end and even some outside linebacker in a 3-4. If Graham can't handle the work of being Babin's replacement and rookie Vinny Curry isn't ready for those reps, the Eagles can feel very good about sliding Jenkins outside and replacing him inside with someone like Antonio Dixon, Derek Landri, Fletcher Cox, etc. The Eagles' depth on the defensive line, even with defensive tackle Mike Patterson still recovering from offseason brain surgery, is one of the strengths of their roster.

Eagles Camp Watch

July, 24, 2012
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing of which I'm certain: The Eagles will dazzle in camp. You're going to hear and see a lot of stuff about how great quarterback Michael Vick looks, how focused DeSean Jackson is now with the contract stuff behind him, how healthy and explosive Jeremy Maclin looks. You're going to hear and see a lot about how much depth there is on the defensive line and how the defense is so good it's making it tough on all of those offensive stars to shine. Camp practices will feature breathtaking catches and interceptions, lightning-quick LeSean McCoy runs and reports of Vick doing near-impossible things at the quarterback position. The Eagles don't just look good on paper -- they look good in practice.

The question about the Eagles this year isn't about the caliber of talent on the roster -- it's about whether they can make good on that talent this year. And we won't know that until the regular season gets under way and we find out whether they can stop the run better, turn the ball over less and play tougher in the fourth quarter than they did in 2011. One thing of which I am certain, however, is that training camp will do nothing to tamp down expectations for this year's Eagles. They will spend the coming weeks looking exciting and getting their fans even more excited for the season than they are now.

One thing that might happen: Two rookies could win themselves a job as defensive starters. The camp-opening news that defensive tackle Mike Patterson is still recovering from his offseason brain surgery and isn't yet cleared to practice opens up an opportunity for first-round pick Fletcher Cox at that position. The Eagles do have some veteran depth at that spot, and Antonio Dixon and Derek Landri won't be easy competition. But the Eagles moved up in the draft to select Cox because they believe he fits their scheme well and can help generate pressure on the quarterback right away, and he should get enough reps with the first team to get a shot at starting Week 1.

Second-round pick Mychal Kendricks has more than just a chance to be the starting strongside linebacker. He's already working as the starter at that position and would need to play and practice poorly this preseason to lose the spot. The Eagles like Kendricks for his speed, which is a must for a linebacker playing behind the "Wide 9" defensive line alignment the Eagles use because he needs to cover as much ground as possible. He also could be an asset in blitz packages on the rare occasions when the Eagles use those. He's a rookie, so you never know, but the Eagles are proceeding as though he's going to be one of their starting linebackers. An Eagles team with Super Bowl aspirations could well come out of camp with two rookies starting on defense.

One thing we won't see: Asante Samuel. The veteran cornerback was known for livening up camp practices with his relentless and loud trash talk. The Eagles traded Samuel to the Falcons just before the draft in April, and practices will be a little bit quieter for his absence. The real impact, though, will be on the coverage schemes the team implements this summer. The conventional wisdom around the Eagles now says that they played a lot of zone last year to try to minimize the impact of Samuel's deficiencies in man coverage, and that with him gone they can use starting cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in man coverage, which is their strength.

That puts a lot of pressure on those two starting cornerbacks, of course, to deliver on the promise of the 2011 offseason in which they both arrived. But it's what they want, and the Eagles expect them to thrive in their return to their old, more comfortable roles. So if you show up to Eagles training camp and you're watching the defensive backs, don't expect to see a lot of zone.
Whenever I do this, I think of Strong Bad. No one ever did it better than him. But we try nonetheless.

Matt from RI/Mass area had two questions, but the one you guys will care about had to do with Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackles. Matt thinks the team has several players who could fit the description of "starter" at that position and wonders whether, "with this lineup, there might not be a true starter or even a true consistent player at the position for three downs, or even two out of the three every series."

Dan Graziano: I agree, Matt, with your premise. As you noted, I listed Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson as the projected starters at defensive tackle when we looked at the Eagles' defensive line in our position-by-position series. And I think Jenkins is the No. 1 guy there. But the Eagles would prefer and plan to use a rotation at defensive tackle, with guys like Fletcher Cox, Antonio Dixon and Derek Landri working there as well. Defensive line coach Jim Washburn loves the depth he has on the line this year, and plans to take full advantage of it by rotating guys in to keep them all fresh. I think you will see a lot of substituting at those positions. In answer to your other question, no, no relation to Steven Graziano.

Jug from Seattle asks whether Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather's April arrest on drunk driving charges could cause him to miss time, and who would step in at strong safety if it did.

DG: If it's Meriweather's first violation, it should not cause him to miss any time. DUIs are, I believe, covered under the substance abuse policy and not the Roger Goodell-run discipline policy, and there are specific guidelines for punishments that can and cannot be imposed. For instance, New York Giants lineman David Diehl was arrested on DUI charges this offseason as well, but it's been reported that he's not facing a suspension, just likely a fine. As for replacements, my guess is Reed Doughty would be the short-term fill-in if one were needed.

Mark from Fort Worth Texas asks whether I think Dallas Cowboys first-round draft pick Morris Claiborne will be able to hold up at the NFL level and generate turnovers.

DG: I do, Mark, yes. The criticism I had of the Claiborne trade was that I thought the Cowboys had enough needs on defense that they should have drafted two players with their first two picks rather than just one. But the player they picked is, I believe, going to be excellent. We can't know for sure how he'll react to the speed of the NFL game, and the adversity he'll face when he realizes (as all NFL rookies do) that he's not the most talented guy on the field anymore. Every player who's ever been great in the NFL has had to adapt to the immense skill level of the players around them in the pros, and Claiborne is no exception. But as long as he's the kind of guy who understands that and is willing to work to overcome it (which he so far seems to be), then yes, I believe his ball skills and his speed and his coverage instincts will translate well to the NFL level. I think he's going to be a great player, and I would not be surprised if he developed quickly. Might see some growing pains early in the season, but my sense is that, by December, people will be talking about this guy as a star.

And finally, Scot from Philadelphia was in the chat Tuesday (Thanks, Scot!) and noticed that my answer to a question about who was the best player in the division was Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Scott asks, "if you are basing it on last year alone wouldn't you have to rank Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul ahead of him?"

DG: I mean, (a) not necessarily and (b) why on earth would we base it on last year alone? Pierre-Paul was fantastic last season, and sure, you could argue that he had a better season than Ware had. But you could also argue that he didn't, since Ware had 19.5 sacks to Pierre-Paul's 16.5. Also, as great as Pierre-Paul was, he was playing on the same team as Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, a couple of guys that get a fair amount of attention from opposing blockers. Very often, the second-best sack threat on the Cowboys after Ware is the possibility that the quarterback just falls down on his own. So Ware sees more double-teams. But the best answer is that Ware's done it for years. He's averaged 14.2 sacks per year over the last seven seasons, and has totaled 35 over the past two. I think the world of Pierre-Paul, and I believe he has the ability to be as good as any defensive player in the game. But if you asked him whether he's better right now than Ware is, I believe Pierre-Paul would laugh. Ware is the player he aspires to be. He could get there. He could be even better. But I don't think one year is enough to change the pecking order in the division.

Hey, folks. I'm on vacation. No mailbag next week. Nothing from me next week, actually. Be back soon enough, and I'll catch you then.
Our position-by-position analysis of the teams in the NFC East takes a look at the part of the Philadelphia Eagles' roster that's generating the most buzz in NFL circles this offseason -- that very deep defensive line.

Projected starters: DE Trent Cole, DT Cullen Jenkins, DT Mike Patterson, DE Jason Babin

[+] EnlargeJason Babin
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesJason Babin (93) and fellow end Trent Cole combined for 29 sacks in 2011 for Philadelphia.
Reserves: DT Fletcher Cox, DE Darryl Tapp, DE Brandon Graham, DT Antonio Dixon, DT Derek Landri, DE Vinny Curry, DE Phillip Hunt, DT Cedric Thornton, DE Maurice Fountain

Potential strength: The pass rush, from all angles. Starting ends Babin and Cole had 18 and 11 sacks, respectively, in 2011 as the Eagles tied for the league lead with 50. Jenkins added 5.5 of his own, playing mainly inside but also showing the ability to move outside and play end when it was called for. Adding 2010 first-round pick Graham (assuming he's finally healthy) and 2012 first-round pick Cox to the rotation should make the pass rush even tougher, as each of those players was selected mainly due to his ability to get to the quarterback. And Curry projects as a pass-rusher as well, though it's unclear how soon he'll be able to contribute. Assuming health, Dixon should be in position to make an impact this year. Defensive line coach Jim Washburn has a ton of talent through which to sort as he determines which players are on the field in various situations.

Potential weakness: Even though they improved in this area as the year went along, the Eagles still ended the year ranked just 16th in the NFL in fewest rush yards allowed. They should get some help in this area from an improved linebacker corps. And Washburn's "Wide 9" scheme does appear to leave itself vulnerable to the run. But the Eagles must be tougher up the middle if they're to be the elite defense they believe they can be. Cox was drafted to help with the pass rush but will need to show strength against the run if he's to factor into the rotation with regularity. I projected Patterson as the starter next to Jenkins because the Eagles like him against the run, but he's coming back from brain surgery, and even if he's 100 percent he could certainly lose that spot to Cox or Dixon if either outperforms him in training camp.

Keep an eye on: Graham. This guy was the No. 13 overall pick in the 2010 draft. The Eagles traded up to get him. And while it's tempting to label him a bust (especially since they really could have used No. 14 pick Earl Thomas or No. 15 pick Jason Pierre-Paul last season), the fact is that injuries have kept him off the field and we don't actually know what he can do yet. The Eagles were running a different defense in 2010 when they drafted him, so it's possible he might not fit into Washburn's scheme neatly. But if all he needs to be is a pure pass-rusher, then his raw athleticism could be an asset. Again, assuming he can get on the field.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DeMarcus Ware and Jason BabinGetty Images, US PresswireJason Pierre-Paul, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Babin had 54 of the NFC East's 181 sacks in 2011.

The 2011 season was not the most, well, beastly season in NFC East history. It was the first time in a full, 16-game season that no team in the division won at least 10 games, and for much of the year the talk around the division was that it wasn't what it used to be.

Buncha baloney if you ask me. Even forgetting for a second that an NFC East team won the Super Bowl, this division still does one very important thing better than any other: rush the passer. The NFC East's 181 sacks led all NFL divisions in 2011, and by quite a bit. (The AFC North, which had three playoff teams, was second with 160). The Eagles tied for the league lead with 50. The Giants tied for third with 48. The Cowboys tied for seventh with 42, and the Redskins tied for 10th with 41.


Which team in the NFC East has the best pass rush?


Discuss (Total votes: 29,232)

Look deeper, into the film-based, number-crunching stats from Pro Football Focus -- stats that take into account more than just sacks when evaluating the extent to which teams rushed, hassled and affected opposing quarterbacks, and the division still rules. The Eagles rank No. 1 in PFF's 2011 team rankings, the Cowboys No. 3, the Giants No. 6 and the Redskins No. 9. No division prizes this critical aspect of the game more than the NFC East does, and it shows up in the numbers.

So, as we slug our way through a slow news month in the NFC East, I thought it'd be a good idea to check in on the pass rushes of our four teams and see how they're doing -- what they've done to get better or worse, what their 2012 prospects look like from this far out and yes, how they rank against each other. You guys asked for more polls, and I promised I'd listen, so there's one right here for you to vote on. After you finish reading, of course. I'm addressing them in order of how many sacks they got in 2011, in case you're wondering how I decided. Seemed fair.

Philadelphia Eagles

Key contributors: DE Trent Cole, DE Jason Babin, DT Cullen Jenkins. PFF ranked Cole the No. 1 overall 4-3 defensive end in the league last year. Babin ranked 10th overall and third in pass rush, finishing third in the league with 18 sacks. Jenkins ranked as the No. 4 pass-rushing defensive tackle, and Derek Landri was No. 10. Defensive line coach Jim Washburn and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, each of whom is entering his second season in his current position with the Eagles, believe the front four is responsible for the pass rush. And while they got a lot of publicity for how wide they like to line up their defensive ends, they like to get pressure from the defensive tackles as well.

Newcomer: DT Fletcher Cox. The Eagles traded up in the first round to pick Cox because they believed he could be an impact pass-rusher from one of those interior spots right away. They need to toughen up against the run, and that will have to be part of Cox's game. But what appealed to them was his ability to get to the passer. Rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks could conceivably factor in here too, but the Eagles don't ask their linebackers to rush very much in the new scheme.

Stock watch: UP. The addition of Cox, as well as the possible return to full health of Mike Patterson and 2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham, give the Eagles incredible depth at a position at which they were already very strong in 2011. It's possible they'll rush the passer even better in 2012.

New York Giants

Key contributors: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DE Justin Tuck, DE Osi Umenyiora, DE/LB Mathias Kiwanuka. No one's roster goes as deep as the Giants' does in terms of star-caliber defensive ends. Pierre-Paul was fourth in the league with 16.5 sacks in just his second NFL season. Umenyiora had nine in just nine games. Tuck turned it on at the end and in the playoffs, and Kiwanuka is a defensive end playing linebacker. The Giants believe a strong pass rush is their heritage and their key to being an annual contender.

Newcomer: DT Marvin Austin. The Giants didn't really bring in anyone this offseason who looks like a 2012 pass-rush contributor, but their 2011 second-round pick missed all of last season due to injury, so we'll call him a newcomer. The Giants would like to get more help from inside. Linval Joseph was their best pass-rushing defensive tackle in 2011, according to PFF's rankings. A healthy Austin could be a difference-maker.

Stock watch: DOWN. Not by much, but a little, because of the loss of reliable, underrated reserve DE Dave Tollefson. If Tuck and Umenyiora have injury problems again, or if Umenyiora holds out, they could get kind of thin at defensive end pretty quickly without Tollefson there to fill in this time. Now, this is the Giants, and they'll probably figure it out. The addition of linebacker Keith Rivers could allow them to move Kiwanuka back to end in case of injury. But it's worth pointing out that they did lose a somewhat important piece of the pass rush and didn't replace him.

Dallas Cowboys

Key contributors: LB DeMarcus Ware, LB Anthony Spencer, DE Jason Hatcher, NT Jay Ratliff. There's no one like Ware, who rang up another 19.5 sacks in 2011. That's nearly half the team total, and the conventional wisdom says he needs more help. But PFF ranked Spencer its 11th-best 3-4 outside linebacker in the pass rush and Hatcher as its eighth-best 3-4 pass-rushing defensive end. Add in Ratliff, who can generate pressure up the middle, and the Cowboys look better in this area than we tend to think.

Newcomer: DE Tyrone Crawford. Dallas' third-round pick is looked at by many as a project, but as one that can eventually help with the pass rush whether he ends up as a 3-4 end or standing up as an outside linebacker. Whether he can help in 2012 remains a question, but the Cowboys didn't see a first-round or second-round pass-rusher they liked better than Spencer, so they focused on the secondary instead and picked up some down-the-road guys for the pass rush.

Stock watch: EVEN. They're bringing back basically the same group, and while there's a theory that the improvements at defensive back will help the pass rush by giving it extra time to get sacks, we have yet to see that in action. Spencer must play with more aggressiveness if this unit is to take a step forward into the upper tier with the Eagles and Giants.

Washington Redskins

Key contributors: LB Brian Orakpo, LB Ryan Kerrigan, DE Stephen Bowen. The Redskins' pass rush is all about those young outside linebackers, and they are fearsome. But with only 16.5 sacks between them in 2011, their numbers have a ways to go to get into the big-time stratosphere we're talking about in the NFC East. PFF did rank Orakpo fifth and Kerrigan ninth among pass-rushing 3-4 OLBs in 2011, so they do a lot of things well in that area. Bowen had six sacks and DE Adam Carriker came up with 5.5.

Newcomer: DE Jarvis Jenkins. Just as we did with the Giants, we'll go with a 2011 second-round pick who missed his rookie season due to injury. Jenkins may not be a pass-rusher, but adding him to the defensive line rotation could help free up more room for the linebackers and maybe help the other linemen get to the passer more often as well.

Stock watch: EVEN. This is really all about how much and how quickly Orakpo and especially Kerrigan continue to develop as elite pass-rushers. They've both shown flashes of incredible raw ability, and they have to continue to hone their craft so they can play at the level of the other pass-rushers in their division. Ware, Cole, Pierre-Paul and the rest of these guys are setting a high bar, and the Redskins know they have to have their own pass-rush monsters if they want to hang with them year in and year out.
You e-mail questions, I answer them. Ideally, you come out of this weekly exercise informed and/or entertained. We'll see.

Scottie Baker from Berrian Springs, Mich., asks whether, if the Colts are able to sign the player they're taking with the No. 1 pick (presumably Andrew Luck) before the draft, would the Washington Redskins then be able to sign the player they want to take at No. 2 (presumably Robert Griffin III) before the draft as well.

Dan Graziano: No, Scottie, they would not. The NFL's rules stipulate that the team holding the No. 1 pick is the only team allowed to sign its draft pick in advance of the draft. So if the Colts were to do a deal with Luck, say, sometime next week, that would not give the Redskins license to negotiate a deal with Griffin. They'd have to wait until after the Colts actually formally selected Luck on April 26 to officially pick Griffin, and until then they would not be permitted to sign Griffin. I imagine this rule is in place to avoid a slippery slope that could theoretically result in everyone in the top 10 signing their picks well in advance of the draft and depriving the NFL of the pomp and pageantry of its draft night. But it is, in fact, a rule. I checked.

KD from Cleveland wants to know how the re-signing of Derek Landri will affect the Philadelphia Eagles' plans for the first round of the draft. Specifically, he wants to know if Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd
could enter the picture.

DG: Well, Floyd could enter the picture, and it will surely be tempting for the Eagles to secure another weapon for Michael Vick and the offense. But I personally don't think the Landri signing will or should affect the Eagles' first-round plans. The Eagles were one of the worst teams in the league last year defending against runs up the middle, and they can't do enough to strengthen the middle of their defensive line. A longer-term solution at defensive tackle in the first round is the best way for the Eagles to go if they can't (as it appears they won't) get Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly. I think the Eagles should be willing to move up or down a few spots to get the best bang for their buck in the first round, and I think that means drafting defense.

Alan from Arlington, Va., wants to know why the Giants couldn't pay $1.25 million to keep Dave Tollefson from signing with the Raiders.

DG: The Giants are right up against the salary cap, and in the case of Tollefson they decided they didn't want to pay more than the veteran minimum to keep him. They've decided, in the cases of several of their own free agents this year, to set a price over which they would not go and then allow the player to go see if he could get more on the open market. This is why they have lost Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham to the 49ers and why Jonathan Goff did not re-sign. They also made a decision to trade for Keith Rivers to improve their linebacker corps, and at the time of the trade he was scheduled to earn $2.16 million in 2012 (though they were working on a restructuring in the immediate wake of the deal). Figuring in the Rivers pursuit and the money they'll need to sign draft picks, the Giants had to be willing to let valued veterans like Tollefson and Jacobs go if they weren't willing to accept the exact amount the team had allotted for them. The Giants also trust in their ability to replenish positions of need from within their own roster or through the draft.

Jed from Texas has a PUNTER QUESTION!!! He wants to know why the Dallas Cowboys haven't signed Mat McBriar and if they're really going to go with Chris Jones as their punter.

DG: Well, Jed, as much as we value punting on this blog, it's not necessarily a major priority for teams in the early weeks of free agency. McBriar had some serious health questions last year, and it's perfectly understandable if the Cowboys want to make sure those are behind him before committing any real money to him. If Jones isn't the answer, then McBriar or another more acceptable option is likely to present itself some time between now and the start of the season. I think they can and will do better than Jones, and McBriar may well be the solution. But they should make sure his foot is fully healthy before making that decision.

Back next week with more mailbag fun. See ya.

The weekly "Blogger Blitz" videos are up, and mine this week discusses the extent to which the Philadelphia Eagles have focused their offseason efforts on solidifying the middle of their defense. In spite of several moves they've already made at defensive tackle and the move to acquire a middle linebacker, the Eagles still could take a big defensive tackle in the first round of the draft two weeks from Thursday night.
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?