Tuesday, September 13, 2011
NFC East Stock Watch
By Dan Graziano
1. Fan patience with Tony Romo. Romo was outstanding against the New York Jets defense Sunday night until the fourth quarter, when a couple of bad decisions and turnovers by the star quarterback cost the Dallas Cowboys the game. This did not help combat the popular opinion that Romo is a talented guy who can't get it done in the clutch or show the leadership qualities the team needs to make a run at the Super Bowl. It's only one game, and he surely will have chances to undo the damage he did Sunday, but Romo starts the season in a hole of his own making.
2. The New York Giants' margin for error. The Justin Tuck injury wasn't the reason the Giants lost to the Washington Redskins, but it may well have been the final Jenga piece that came out before the tower fell down. The Giants are so beaten up, so thinned-out by injuries and free-agent defections, that they can't afford any more hits. Losing their best player to injury in the days before the season opener, on top of everything else that had already happened, was too much to overcome. And until they can get a little bit more whole, this is going to be their issue. Lack of depth shows up as the game goes along, and Sunday they got outplayed in the second half. The guys they do have are going to have to play something close to error-free football if they're to have chances to win. Fortunately for them, their next game is against the St. Louis Rams, who may be even more banged-up right now than they are.
3. Philadelphia Eagles' early-round draft picks. Not only did first-round pick Danny Watkins lose his job as the starting right guard last week -- he wasn't even active for the Eagles' season opener in St. Louis. Head coach Andy Reid keeps saying Watkins is taking "a step back to take a step forward," and he certainly may well be the starter at some point this season. But the Eagles are in win-now mode, and they're not going to allow Watkins to learn on the job if it's going to be a detriment to the team. Also inactive were second-round safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and third-round cornerback Curtis Marsh. But fourth-rounders Casey Matthews and Alex Henery are the starting middle linebacker and placekicker. Fifth-rounder Dion Lewis is the kick returner and a good-looking backup running back and sixth-rounder Jason Kelce is the starting center. So they got a little bit more immediate help in those later rounds.
Rex Grossman took advantage of a thinned-out Giants team and threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns.
1. Rex Grossman and the Redskins. Theirs was the feel-good win of the week in the division, with Grossman throwing for more than 300 yards against that depleted Giants defense and the Washington defense stifling the Giants' run game. I've been writing for weeks that I didn't think -- as many did -- that the Redskins would be one of the worst teams in the league. And I don't know that they should be printing Super Bowl tickets just yet. But they're going to be a tough team to play against, and with the way the schedule lays out, they wouldn't be a huge shock as a borderline playoff contender.
2. The Eagles' offensive versatility. I don't expect Michael Vick to pick up 98 rush yards every week, but he was running to beat the blitz, and he said after the game that he'd be happy to keep doing it if teams wanted to persist in sending extra rushers. Vick's ability to extend drives and turn broken plays into big gains isn't any big news, but it was one of many options the Eagles showcased Sunday, including DeSean Jackson as a downfield threat and LeSean McCoy as a fourth-quarter weapon. Vick's protection held up well when St. Louis wasn't blitzing more guys than they could account for, and once they get Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek and Steve Smith into the mix, the Eagles are clearly going to be a very scary offensive team.
3. Sean Lee. Snagged the starting inside linebacker job away from veteran Keith Brooking and ran with it, having a great game against the Jets. Lee has long been viewed as the future for the Cowboys at that position, but the way he played Sunday night makes you think he might be the present as well. He was an asset against the run game and picked up an interception as well. Making plays the way he did Sunday, he's not about to give that job back anytime soon.