NFL Nation: Brian Dawkins

Passing along: ESPN analyst and former All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins has made the San Francisco 49ers his Super Bowl pick for the 2013 season. He explains why in the video above, but first he offers thoughts on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. In short, Dawkins thinks Asomugha's technique suffered while Asomugha was with Philadelphia, and he thinks 49ers secondary coach Ed Donatell can help.
New Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cary Williams is upset because of the way the Patriots teased and bullied the Eagles' defense during joint practices last week. Williams came from Baltimore as a free agent this offseason, and he insists that such a thing would not have taken place were the Patriots jointly practicing with the Ravens:
"At the end of the day, I've still got to do things the way the coach wants me to do it, and I understand that, but it definitely would have been a different situation in Baltimore. It wouldn't have been a fun practice for the Patriots, I'll tell you that," he said.


"I feel like we've got to establish a toughness, a tenacity, a hard-nosed defense, something that's to be feared when it comes out there each and every week. I think [former Eagle] Brian Dawkins alluded to it a couple of times when I spoke to him, he's talking about 'bring that fear back here.' Right now, I don't know if there's anybody out there in the league who fears this defense, especially after last week," he said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

We talked about this Monday on "NFL Insiders," and I mean, fair enough. But Williams arrived in Baltimore in 2009, nearly a decade after the Ravens' first Super Bowl title and with the culture there firmly established around a dominating defense. The Ravens' defense had some roots down, and had spent a large chunk of time establishing itself as a group with which no one would mess.

To expect the same of the Eagles in August of 2013 is folly. Head coach Chip Kelly has been there for seven months and has never coached in the NFL before. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis has been there for six months, and his assistant-coach resume doesn't exactly read like those of former Ravens defensive coordinators Marvin Lewis and Rex Ryan. Williams himself has been an Eagle for less than five months. He's one of at least four new starters on defense, and many of the holdovers are learning new positions.

Right now, the Eagles' defensive players are consumed with learning the myriad things they have to learn about Kelly and Davis' new defensive concepts. Until they learn them, they can't execute them with consistent confidence. And until they can do that, it's going to be awfully hard to project Ravenesque meanness. The Patriots surely know that and played into it, but that's life. The Eagles were being hazed. Everything is new in Philadelphia, much of it still feels uncomfortable, and as long as other teams know that they will do what they can to take advantage of it.

The Eagles are rebuilding, and while I know that's a dirty word in the NFL, sometimes it's true. This is a team that won four games last year and made a ton of significant changes. Of course they could contend this year. Stranger things have undoubtedly happened. But the likelihood is that the Chip Kelly Eagles will need a lot more time to get from where they were in January -- and even where they are now -- to where Kelly ultimately plans and hopes to take them. Williams is expressing the frustration that comes along with being involved in something that's new and not yet established. Coming from Baltimore, he's not used to that. This probably won't be the last time he or someone else in that locker room is frustrated.
» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Welcome to Eight in the Box, an NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week's topic: Who should be the primary target (including trades) for each team when free agency begins?

Dallas Cowboys: Louis Vasquez, G, Chargers. Cap-space problems likely price the Cowboys out of the top offensive line names available, but the line is their most desperate need and Vasquez is much more than a fallback option. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the eighth-best right guard in the league last year -- better than either of the midrange free-agent guards the Cowboys signed last year -- and he doesn't turn 26 for another month. He's the kind of free agent in whom it makes sense to invest -- a guy who's proven he can play in the league but is still hungry to prove more and young enough that they'd have him in his prime. I do still believe the Cowboys need to address the offensive line in the draft, but there's nothing wrong with a smart upgrade like this in the meantime to augment that plan.

New York Giants: Dannell Ellerbe, LB, Ravens. Yes, the Super Bowl champs will try to keep him. No, the Giants don't prioritize the linebacker position. If you're asking me if this is a player the Giants will sign, I'd have to say no. But what we're asking today is which player they should sign, and Ellerbe is a perfect fit. He's only 27 and has leadership experience and a championship ring earned while filling in for Ray Lewis this past year. The Giants' defense has drifted in and out too much the past few years in terms of focus and intensity, and Ellerbe would help with that from a position at which the Giants always seem to have a need.

Philadelphia Eagles: Kenny Phillips, S, Giants. So much uncertainty in the secondary, where the Eagles could be looking for four new starters. Phillips is as versatile a safety as there is on the market and would allow them to go in any number of directions with their cornerbacks or their other safety. He can cover. He can move up in the box and play the run. He's got Super Bowl experience. And if you're the Eagles or an Eagles fan, wouldn't it be fun to sign him away from the Giants and play him against them twice a year? Phillips has had some knee problems, which is his only red flag. If he checks out medically, then as a player who doesn't turn 27 until November he's a big-time answer for the Eagles at a position that has been driving them crazy since they let Brian Dawkins leave.

Washington Redskins: Ryan Harris, OT, Texans. Cap constraints will prevent the Redskins from dreaming big free-agent dreams, and I am fully aware that their greatest need is on defense in the secondary. But they need a right tackle as well, and Harris and Mike Shanahan know each other well from their days together in Denver in 2007 and 2008. Harris turns 28 on Monday and has zone-blocking, run-game experience. Best of all, he's not likely to cost much. If Shanahan liked Harris early in his career and still sees something, Harris could be an easy answer at an important position and allow the Texans to commit greater resources to the secondary and other needs.

710ESPN Seattle audio: Woodson's future

February, 18, 2013
Dashon Goldson, Delanie Walker, Danny Amendola, Kevin Kolb, Charles Woodson, Dwight Freeney and Chris Clemons were among the subjects for conversation during a Monday chat with Dave Grosby and Bob Stelton on 710ESPN Seattle.

I've been away for a week and haven't spoken to anyone regarding suggestions Woodson could fit in Seattle based on ties to Seahawks general manager John Schneider. On the surface, however, I'm not seeing a great fit. Woodson is 36 years old. He turns 37 in October and missed nine games to injury last season.

Brian Dawkins, Ronde Barber and Lawyer Milloy are the only defensive backs over the past 10 seasons to play more than 10 games at age 36 or older. Woodson transitioned to safety from cornerback last season. The Seahawks don't need safeties. They could use a nickel cornerback. Woodson could probably help in that regard, at least to some degree. But would he have the quickness at this stage to cover shifty slot receivers? To what degree would he upgrade Seattle in that area?

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers lobbied Green Bay to keep Woodson, pointing out that Woodson was still playing at a high level. Woodson was scheduled to count $10 million against the Packers' salary cap. Keeping him at that price didn't make sense to Green Bay. But if Woodson can still cover to some degree, he could help a team such as Seattle at a lower price.

ESPN's Brock Huard recently made a case for Woodson in Seattle. I've got an open mind and would like to hear more.

B-Dawk picks the Cowboys

December, 18, 2012

Former Philadelphia Eagles great Brian Dawkins, who now does NFL analyst work for us at ESPN, was asked on "SportsCenter" Tuesday morning to predict which of the three teams currently tied for first place will win the NFC East. The former Eagle couldn't pick his own team, which is 4-10 and not in the tie. So he says he's leaning toward the Dallas Cowboys because of something they're doing that they don't normally do.

"Usually, when they have those tight games, they find a way to lose those games," Dawkins said. "But for whatever reason, they're finding ways to win ballgames as of late."

He's right about that. The Cowboys are playing against their reputation -- tough and clutch when they need to be. Obviously, though, this is not an easy call, as they're tied with one team that's won five games in a row and another that won the most recent Super Bowl. I have no idea what's going to happen, but I think what I'll do is a three-part series of posts making the case for each of the NFC East's first-place teams -- the Cowboys, the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants -- and why their fans should feel optimistic about their team's chances. What do you guys think? That sound like a good idea?

Halftime thoughts: Whaddaya know? No TOs

September, 30, 2012
PHILADELPHIA -- Not exactly an action-packed first half here Sunday night between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles, but one thing has clearly stood out. Through 30 minutes of play, the Eagles have not turned the ball over. And guess what? They're winning. Weird, the way that works.

The game has been a defensive struggle, with the Giants sending all kinds of pressure after Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and limiting his opportunities downfield while on the flip side the Eagles have covered the Giants' receivers well. But things loosened up a bit in the final minutes of the half. The Eagles shored up their protection a bit and marched down the field for a touchdown drive capped off by a 19-yard pass from Vick to DeSean Jackson. And then Giants quarterback Eli Manning looked as though he was putting together one of his patented two-minute drives in response, but Eagles backup cornerback Brandon Hughes broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Domenik Hixon, and the Giants had to settle for a Lawrence Tynes field goal.

So the Eagles lead 7-3, and as they honor all-time great Brian Dawkins here at halftime, they can feel pretty good about the way things have gone. As much pressure as Vick has faced, after turning the ball over nine times in his first three games this season he has managed to protect it well tonight. If the Eagles can continue to handle the Giants' pressure responsibly, and if the protection schemes continue to improve as they did in the final minutes of the half, they should be able to get some shots downfield. Giants safety Kenny Phillips left the game with a knee sprain, and fellow safety Antrel Rolle is playing in spite of the knee injury he suffered in the Carolina game a week and a half ago. Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin has yet to catch a pass, and running back LeSean McCoy has only two rushing yards on six carries. So there is some potential offense still to come for Philadelphia if it can make some adjustments.

The Giants don't seem to have an inclination to get their run game going, and Manning has been firing the ball downfield all night. With starting wide receiver Hakeem Nicks out, he seems to be favoring Hixon. And with Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha out with an eye injury, Manning should see more chances in the second half. But the Eagles have been covering well with Hughes, Brandon Boykin and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and they've put enough pressure on Manning to keep him from getting into a rhythm (at least until that final drive). If Philadelphia can continue to manage the offense the way it did on the touchdown drive -- and if it can avoid the turnovers that have plagued its offense all year until tonight -- the defense is playing well enough to win them the Eagles the game against Manning & Co. Those are big "if"s, but who knows? Maybe this Dawkins stuff is legit, and he's got them fired up.

NFL32: Digesting latest Saints scandal

April, 23, 2012

The 32 crew examines the latest Saints scandal, Hugh Douglas remembers his playing days with Brian Dawkins, and Mel and Todd on which quarterback would be a slam dunk in Cleveland.
Brian Dawkins will be remembered as one of the few strong moves of the Josh McDaniels era in Denver.

Dawkins was signed by McDaniels on the first day of free agency in 2009. It was McDaniels’ first major move in Denver and it worked out well.

Just as he was in Philadelphia, Dawkins instantly became Denver’s spirited and vocal leader. He was the most respected player in Denver’s locker room for the past three years.

Monday, as expected, he announced his retirement. On the field, this move really won’t impact the Broncos. Dawkins is 38 and he had a serious neck injury last season. The Broncos didn’t expect him to be back.

When they brought him back for the 2011 season, the in-house thinking was that it would be for one more year. The Broncos drafted Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter last year and signed Mike Adams as a free agent this year. They could draft another safety in the mid-rounds this week.

The Broncos had moved on from Dawkins.

Still, he will be remembered for his impact and zeal he brought to Denver.

Dawkins will very likely end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he deserves to be inducted. Ultimately, Dawkins will be remembered for his special 13-year stay with the Eagles. But there is no doubt he made an impact in Denver.

Former Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins, who spent the final three years of his career with the Broncos much to the chagrin of Eagles fans, has announced his retirement from the NFL. Since the news is not a surprise, the accolades began to pour in instantly. Rich Hofmann writes that the next stop for Dawkins is the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Jeff McLane writes that the Eagles have issued an invitation for Dawkins to come back to Philadelphia and officially retire as an Eagle. Ashley Fox, who was a columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer before she was our NFL columnist, recalls that newspaper ranking Dawkins the fifth-greatest Eagle of all time when it did an issue some years back on the 75th anniversary of the team.

"He was the perfect match of personality with the fan base," Ashley said this morning when I called her looking for help on a Dawkins retirement post. "Because he cared as much as they did. He gave it all up on game day and became this hard-hitting enforcer even though that really wasn't his personality off the field."

Eagles fans, players and coaches loved Dawkins. One of the most popular questions I got from Eagles fans over the past year was whether they'd ever consider bringing him back. In spite of drafting safeties in the second round of each of the last two drafts, the Eagles have not been able to fill the on-field and off-field voids left by Dawkins when he was allowed to leave via free agency following the 2008 season.

Players who are parts of championship teams tend to be the players who are universally loved forever by that team's fans. Rare is the player who makes that kind of indelible mark without the aid of a championship ring. Don Mattingly with the Yankees springs to mind, adored by fans for whom he was the one shining light in a rare down era. Maybe Dan Marino with the Dolphins, for his sheer excellence. Dawkins is such a player in Philadelphia. I imagine the ovation for him whenever he shows up at an Eagles game will be deafening. He made his mark in Philadelphia, which has missed him for three years and seemingly always will.
All right, fair is fair, and there's been so much Giants stuff on here the past two days it feels like the first week of February again. So here's a little something on the Philadelphia Eagles' portion of Todd McShay's latest mock draft -- the one that puts forth a number of different scenarios for each team rather than just assigning one player. Todd has four scenarios for the Eagles, who have the No. 15 pick in the first round. So without further ado ...

The first scenario is Iowa tackle Riley Reiff, should he fall that far, but Todd believes he will not, and has him gone to Buffalo at No. 10. If he were there at 15, he'd probably represent too much value for the Eagles to pass up, given the unsettled nature of their offensive line with Jason Peters injured and newly signed Demetress Bell a question mark.

Scenario No. 2 is Alabama safety Mark Barron, since as Todd puts it, "the Eagles have lacked a do-everything, physical presence at safety since Brian Dawkins left town." You can't go wrong in Philly invoking the name of B-Dawk.

Scenario No. 3 is "find a way to get a defensive tackle," but that's complex at this point, since he has Fletcher Cox and Dontari Poe already off the board in his projections. Should one of them be available, getting a defensive tackle would be as simple as picking one of the top two. But if Michael Brockers is the best remaining DT on the board, Todd says the Eagles are better off addressing another need or trading back and taking someone like Jerel Worthy later in the round.

And finally, the fourth scenario Todd lays out is the Eagles taking Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly if he falls to No. 15. This is still the best possible scenario for the Eagles, I think, though Kuechly looks as though he'll go much earlier. Jeff Chadiha has a story on Kuechly, if you're interested in reading about him just in case.

That's it for Todd's scenario mock. I'm not doing one of these for the Redskins. Everybody knows their scenarios.
The Broncos’ first foray into free agency wasn’t the big hit they were waiting for, but it does fill a hole in Denver.

The Broncos agreed to a two-year deal with Cleveland safety Mike Adams, who fills Denver’s need for a veteran safety.

Adams has a chance to start for Denver. He played 77 percent of the defensive snaps for the Browns last season. With Brian Dawkins likely not returning -- Denver isn't expected to bring him back if he doesn’t retire -- Adams gives the Broncos much-needed experience at safety.

The team drafted Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter last season. Moore began the season as a starter, but he regressed. By the end of the season, Carter was by far the better player. The team still has hopes for Moore, but Adams offers insurance if either youngster struggles.

In other AFC West safety news:

Steve Gregory, formerly of San Diego, agreed to terms with New England. Gregory was an injury replacement for Bob Sanders last year. Gregory is probably a bit underrated, and his departure will have the Chargers looking for a partner for Eric Weddle early in the upcoming NFL draft.

Alabama’s Mark Barron and Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith are possibilities for the Chargers in the draft.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Washington Redskins have landed safety Brandon Meriweather.

Denver is looking for a veteran safety with Brian Dawkins considering retirement. Meriweather did visit with Denver. The Broncos also visited with Cleveland’s Mike Adams.

Schefter reports former Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant will visit the Broncos on Friday.

The Broncos have otherwise been quiet in free agency -- despite having $38 million in cap room -- as they wait for Peyton Manning to make a decision.

Meanwhile, San Diego's four-year deal with left tackle Jared Gaither includes an $8 million signing bonus. His 2012 contract is fully guaranteed.

AFC West defensive backs news

March, 13, 2012
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting Denver will visit with Chicago free-agent safety Brandon Meriweather and Kansas City cornerback Brandon Carr will visit the Dallas Cowboys.

Meriweather was cut by New England last season. He played in 11 games and had four starts for the Bears. I don’t think he would be an overly expensive pickup for Denver is he signs. The Broncos are looking for a veteran safety with Brian Dawkins considering retirement.

Dallas has been considered a top landing spot for Carr. There is little chance he will return to the Chiefs. The Chiefs signed former Oakland cornerback Stanford Routt last month.

AFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 7, 2012
AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Free agency begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET

Denver Broncos

Key free agents: K Matt Prater (franchised), DT Brodrick Bunkley, S Brian Dawkins, TE Daniel Fells, FB Spencer Larsen, WR Eddie Royal, QB Brady Quinn, DT Marcus Thomas, LB Wesley Woodyard, P Britton Colquitt (restricted).

Where they stand: The Broncos will have plenty of salary-cap room. For a team that went from 4-12 with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft to winning the AFC West and a playoff game in John Fox’s first season as coach, the Broncos are in position to improve through free agency. With Prater franchised, the team’s only priority unrestricted free agent is Bunkley.

What to expect: Don’t expect a huge spending spree. The Broncos are cash conscious and I think the franchise is still recovering from some undisciplined spending during the Mike Shanahan era that ended in 2008. We will see the Broncos try to add several pieces at lower prices. Denver could address needs at safety, running back, receiver, tight end, linebacker and quarterback. Keep an eye on players such as Washington safety LaRon Landry, Seattle tight end John Carlson, quarterbacks Chad Henne (Miami), Dennis Dixon (Pittsburgh) or Josh Johnson (Tampa), running backs Michael Bush (Oakland) and Mike Tolbert (San Diego), and defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene Cincinnati.

Kansas City Chiefs

Key free agents: WR Dwayne Bowe (franchised), CB Brandon Carr, QB Kyle Orton, RB Jackie Battle, LB Jovan Belcher, S Jon McGraw, C Casey Wiegmann, RB Thomas Jones, DE Wallace Gilberry, DT Kelly Gregg

Where they stand: The Chiefs are in great shape on cap space even after signing cornerback Stanford Routt and franchising Bowe. They have already done a nice job in free agency with these two moves and have a good, young roster. Kansas City can become a serious playoff contender with the right moves. It is likely Carr will leave in free agency, but the Chiefs should be able to re-sign most of their other free agents if they wish.

What to expect: I’m not sure we will see the Chiefs break the bank for any of the super-hot free agents, but I expect them to do some significant shopping. I think we could see Kansas City look for help at nose tackle, linebacker, safety, tackle, running back and quarterback. Of course, the intrigue could start if the team gets in on the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. But they could also look at several other quarterbacks, including Orton, Henne, Jason Campbell (Oakland) or even Quinn. They could also be in the mix for Miami nose tackle Paul Soliai, Saints guard Carl Nicks and running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis (New England), Bush and Tolbert.

Oakland Raiders

Key free agents: S Tyvon Branch (franchised), RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Campbell, LB Quentin Groves, C Samson Satele, WR Chaz Schilens, DE Trevor Scott, FB Marcel Reece (restricted).

Where they stand: The Raiders are one of the few teams that must get under the salary cap. Oakland coach Dennis Allen recently acknowledged the team has work to do. The Raiders have some contracts that can be easily restructured, but they also may have to cut some players, particularly on defense. Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and defensive tackle John Henderson are among the top candidates.

What to expect: The Raiders likely face some limitations once they get under the cap, but they can add two or three starting-quality players under the right circumstances. Their primary needs are on defense, starting at cornerback and linebacker. The offensive line could be upgraded as well. I think they can be in on the second wave of cornerbacks. A player to watch is New Orleans cornerback Tracy Porter, who previously played for Allen. There are some solid second-tier cornerbacks Oakland could be interested in other than Porter. There will be some good players available on both sides of the ball after the initial wave of free agency for short-term deals. Expect the Raiders to do some bargain picking during that time. I think Oakland will be interested in signing several of its free agents, but I expect Bush and Campbell will leave.

San Diego Chargers

Key free agents: WR Vincent Jackson, C Nick Hardwick, RB Tolbert, DT Antonio Garay, OT Jared Gaither, FB Jacob Hester.

Where they stand: The Chargers will be in decent shape and they are getting even better after cutting Luis Castillo, the retirement of guard Kris Dielman and the expected release of tackle Marcus McNeill. But San Diego still has a lot of work to do. They have the most priority free agents of any team in the division. Signing Jackson, Hardwick, Gaither, Tolbert and Garay will be a challenge.

What to expect: The Chargers will likely stick to their usual plan and concentrate first on their own free agents. But they also have other needs and they will likely spend more in free agency than they have done before under general manager A.J. Smith. I get the sense from some agents that the Chargers may spend wildy in an attempt to win back the fan base’s trust after the unpopular contract extensions for Smith and coach Norv Turner. The pair were brought back even after missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season. I also get the sense from inside the organization, however, that the Chargers will not act out of desperation. Look for the team to consider pass-rushers, nose tackles, safeties and offensive linemen if Hardwick and Gaither aren’t brought back. A receiver will also become a major need if Jackson goes. The Colts' Reggie Wayne could be an option in that case. A running back such as Cadillac Williams (St. Louis) reportedly will be in the mix if Tolbert walks. Soliai could interest the team as well. Chicago special teams ace Corey Graham may also be a target. If the Chargers want to make a huge splash, they could try to get in on Houston pass-rusher Mario Williams, who is widely considered the best player on the market.


Roster Advisor


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