NFL Nation: Edwin Williams

Source: Patriots claim LB Chris White

September, 1, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots were awarded linebacker Chris White on waivers, according to a league source.

White recently was traded from the Buffalo Bills to the Detroit Lions, who subsequently waived him as part of the team's final cut down. White has played in 22 career games in two NFL seasons, totaling 19 tackles. The addition of White gives the Patriots seven linebackers on their roster.

In addition, the team tried out free-agent center Edwin Williams, a veteran of four seasons who spent 2010-12 with the Chicago Bears. The team claimed a pair of interior linemen on waivers on Sunday, an area that may need depth as veteran Will Svitek was absent from Sunday's practice.

Finally, three players, defensive ends Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Francis, as well as offensive lineman Chris McDonald, who were waived/injured on Saturday, passed through waivers unclaimed and will revert to the Patriots' injured reserve list.
Most significant move: Despite J'Marcus Webb making 44 starts in 46 career games, including 32 consecutive starts at left tackle over the last two years, the Bears made the decision to part ways with him, even after reducing his salary to the league minimum for a veteran with three years of tenure.

Webb entered the offseason as the starter at right tackle, and stayed in that spot through the early part of training camp. Then, after the preseason opener at Carolina, the club demoted Webb to the second team behind rookie fifth-round pick Jordan Mills.

The demotion put Webb in competition for a backup role with veterans Jonathan Scott and Eben Britton. A five-year veteran, Britton has 30 games of starting experience on his résumé, but also possesses more versatility than Webb because of his ability to kick inside to guard and center. Scott hasn’t played all preseason, and recently underwent a procedure on his knee. But the team is confident that even a dinged-up Scott is more reliable than a fully healthy Webb.

Webb possesses the physical skillset to be a starter in the NFL for several years, but lacks motivation and passion, which is a no-no for general manager Phil Emery and the new coaching regime. The new staff worked diligently to coax out the best in Webb, but couldn’t do it consistently enough for the team to feel confident in the three-year veteran, even as a backup.

Good outing, bad result: Quarterback Jordan Palmer performed well in the preseason finale against Cleveland despite little preparation after signing as an injury replacement for Matt Blanchard. But a 64.7 completion percent and a passer rating of 102.8 with a touchdown pass in his preseason debut wasn’t good enough to keep the Bears from cutting Palmer.

A big part of that was the team’s reported desire to sign a third quarterback with practice-squad eligibility. Palmer doesn’t have any practice-squad eligibility remaining.

What’s next: With the 53-man roster finalized, the Bears will start to build their practice squad. If the club wants to bring back some of the players it cut, it will have to wait until they clear waivers. The Bears will likely be looking to add a few players cut from other teams to their practice squad, too.

Bears cuts: QB: Trent Edwards, Jordan Palmer. RB: Armando Allen. OG: Dennis Temple, Edwin Williams. LB:Jerry Franklin, J.T. Thomas. WR: Brittan Golden, Terrence Toliver, Josh Lenz. OT:J'Marcus Webb, Cory Brandon. DT:Corvey Irvin, Christian Tupou. S:Tom Nelson, Brandon Hardin. LS: Brandon Hartson. CB: Demontre Hurst. TE:Fendi Onobun. FB: Harvey Unga. DE: Aston Whiteside, Josh Williams.

Note: Brandon and Irvin received injury settlements. Hardin was waived/injured, which means if he clears waivers, he’ll revert to Chicago’s injured reserve.
Here are three positional battles to monitor heading into the Chicago Bears’ preseason finale versus the Cleveland Browns:

1. Running back: Undrafted rookie Michael Ford is making a strong push to grab one of the final spots on the 53-man roster after returning a kickoff 100 yards in the second preseason game against San Diego, then following up that performance with 58 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries last week in Oakland. If the Bears decide to keep just three tailbacks, it means either Ford or veteran Armando Allen has to go. Allen played well last season for the Bears, appearing in 15 games and recording seven special-teams tackles. But Allen has been working his way back from an injury the past couple weeks, which has opened the door for the less expensive rookie out of LSU to showcase himself in these preseason games. Both figure to receive ample playing time tonight at Soldier Field.

2. Quarterback: The Bears’ offense is entirely in the hands of veteran quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards after Bears head coach Marc Trestman announced last week that starter Jay Cutler and No. 2 Josh McCown would not see the field in the final preseason contest. If the Bears open the season with three quarterbacks, and that is still an if, the final spot could be determined by which of the two reserves has a better game against the Browns, plus what each accomplished on the practice field the past two weeks. The Bears got a brief look at just Palmer last week in the fourth quarter (1-for-1, five yards), but both quarterbacks will get an extended look tonight. Even if the Bears decide to go with just two quarterbacks to start the year, the team might still find themselves in need of another QB later in the season -- that’s why this is still an important game for Palmer and Edwards, regardless.

3. Offensive line: If the Bears retain eight offensive linemen, as offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer hinted earlier in training camp, then two spots might still be available. That means Jonathan Scott, Eben Britton, J’Marcus Webb and Taylor Boggs are probably the guys still alive to make the team, although sometimes these calls are already made before the final preseason game. Scott has actually pulled off the rare feat of improving his position on the team despite missing the past several weeks with a knee injury that required a procedure to clean it out. That’s because Webb has continued to struggle ever since being demoted to second-team left tackle. Webb is a mystery. He has all the physical gifts, but his inconsistency coupled with his strange behavior and apparent lack of passion toward the game, makes him a strong candidate to get cut. If Scott’s knee is OK for Week 1, then it might make sense to just keep him and Britton, try and sneak Boggs on the practice squad, and send Webb on his merry way. But if Webb wants to make one final stand, he better make the most his opportunities tonight.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The door is wide open for veteran Jonathan Scott to be the Chicago Bears' swing tackle in the regular season after J'Marcus Webb had problems in the second half of the club’s 34-26 preseason win against the Oakland Raiders on Friday.

Things went bad for Webb quickly after he entered the game. The former starter got called for holding on the Bears’ third offensive play of the third quarter, then later in the fourth quarter Webb committed a false start. Not exactly the kind of performance Webb needed two weeks after being demoted to the second-team and losing his right tackle job to rookie Jordan Mills.

Webb’s issues occurred a couple of hours after Scott worked out with the training staff on the field pregame, fueling speculation that he could return from a knee procedure sometime next week, and perhaps be healthy enough to play in the Bears’ preseason finale Thursday versus the Cleveland Browns.

“I’m encouraged,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “I know he worked out tonight but I haven’t talked to the trainers about that. But we’re encouraged by what’s going on with the guys that have (had) medical attention.”

Scott, a seven-year veteran, started seven games for the Bears last year after joining the club in September. Scott, Webb, Eben Britton, Taylor Boggs and Edwin Williams are all fighting to earn a spot on the 53-man roster while James Brown is secure as the swing guard. It’s unclear how many offensive linemen the Bears plan to keep, but offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said last week the number could be eight.

If that happens, Webb could be a casualty just one year after starting all 16 games for the Bears at left tackle.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Good morning from the snowy Upper Midwest. Snow has been falling outside the Metrodome since Saturday night and the snow has begun in Green Bay, Wis., as well, I'm told by reliable sources. Week 14 is gonna be sweet (and slick).

Remember to tweet me your Week 14 photographs, hopefully with snow included, at @espn_nfcnblog. I've gotten things started over at our Instagram account (kevinseifert_espn).

Let's roll through a few pregame notes before this Chicago Bears-Minnesota Vikings game cranks up:
  • ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher has a Grade 2 strain of his hamstring, which typically sidelines players three to six weeks. That would make Urlacher's availability for the playoffs at least in question. And because his contract expires after this season, it's possible that means he has played his last game with the Bears or the NFL. At this point, though, that's a lot of "ifs."
  • The Chicago Tribune reported that rookie Alshon Jeffery will start at receiver opposite Brandon Marshall, with Devin Hester working probably as the No. 3 receiver.
  • Most of both teams' injured players were ruled out during the week, so there were no surprises among the gameday inactives. The Bears deactivated guard Chris Spencer and nose tackle Stephen Paea, leaving bigger roles for Edwin Williams and Matt Toeaina, respectively.
It looks like we're in for an intense week of discussion about illegal and/or dirty hits here in the NFC North. As we await news from the NFL about a possible discipline for Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, we learned Monday afternoon that the Chicago Bears have lost right guard Lance Louis for the season because of a torn ACL suffered on a blindside hit by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen.

[+] EnlargeLance Louis
Nam Y. Huh/AP PhotoBears quarterback Jay Cutler looks on as a trainer looks at the left leg of injured guard Lance Louis on Sunday against Minnesota.
The play occurred with 12 minutes, 57 seconds remaining in the third quarter of the Bears' 28-10 victory over the Vikings. Allen was blocking for Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, who was returning an interception, and spotted Louis giving chase. Louis didn't see Allen, however, and his left leg twisted awkwardly when Allen launched his right shoulder into his right shoulder. Allen might also have hit Louis' helmet as well.

Allen told reporters that he thought it was a legal hit, but Bears coach Lovie Smith was among those who fell short of agreeing with him.

"Jared Allen plays the game a certain way," Smith said Monday. "[He is] a good player in our league. I think there are some plays when you look at them again, you say, 'Hey, we could have done without that.' I think our game could do without that play. We have an injured player right now based on it. I think he could have gotten blocked a little bit differently."

The NFL will review Allen's hit and determine whether it deserves a fine or other discipline. We probably won't hear anything until Wednesday at the earliest on that. Officials did not call a penalty on the play, but for those interested, here is how Rule 12, Section 7 (b3) reads in the 2012 NFL rule book:
Prohibited contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture is: Illegally launching into a defenseless opponent. It is an illegal launch if a player (1) leaves both feet prior to contact to spring forward and upward into his opponent, and (2) uses any part of his helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/”hairline” parts) to initiate forcible contact against any part of his opponent’s body. Note: The provisions of (2) do not prohibit incidental contact by the mask or helmet in the course of a conventional tackle or block on an opponent.

One of the definitions of "defenseless opponent" is: "A player who receives a 'blindside' block when the blocker is moving toward or parallel to his own end line and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side."

Meanwhile, the Bears will have to decide how to replace Louis, who has been their most consistent lineman this season and was in line for a contract extension in the coming months.

Backup Edwin Williams could take his place if left guard Chris Spencer is healthy enough to play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. Another option is Gabe Carimi, the Bears' onetime starter at right tackle who did a decent job in an emergency situation at guard Sunday.

Regardless, the Bears have now lost two starting guards -- Louis and Chilo Rachal, who left the team -- in a matter of a week. Stay tuned.
The Chicago Bears carried rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi on their active roster for as long as they could. But with his prospects for a late-season return growing bleaker by the day, and after the loss of another starter forced some roster re-shuffling, the Bears placed Carimi on injured reserve Friday.

Carimi hasn't played, and has participated in only one practice, since dislocating his knee in Week 2. It's been mostly a lost season for a highly-touted rookie whom the Bears were trying to transition to a new position, but there is every reason to believe he will be ready to re-join the starting lineup in 2012. It would have been nice to keep Carimi active for the sake of eventual practice repetitions, whether or not he played in games, but the Bears can't afford that luxury.

Left guard Chris Williams (wrist) was placed on injured reserve earlier this week, and general manager Jerry Angelo told the team's web site that "it became tough for us to hold a roster spot [for Carimi] given our numbers on the offensive line with Chris going down last week."

Indeed, the Bears have promoted two members of their practice squad to the active roster in recent days: Ricky Henry and Levi Horn. Veteran Frank Omiyale is the other backup now that Edwin Williams has replaced Chris Williams at left guard.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- So I walked out to Green Bay Packers practice Saturday at about 8 p.m. ET.

Over the next two hours or so, e-mails with these subject lines showed up on in my inbox:


I'll post some Packers practice thoughts in a few minutes. (Promise.) But first, I think we have to address the growing spectacle emanating from a couple hundred miles southwest of here. The Chicago Bears have continued their flurry of free agent moves but have yet to address their biggest personnel weakness and apparently stand on the precipice of a crisis on their offensive line.

Our friends at are reporting that Kreutz began informing Bears players this evening that he won't re-sign with the team. His agent, Mark Bartelstein, said: "It doesn't look like it's going to happen."

Let's make clear that stalled negotiations sometimes go public with claims more exaggerated than reality. And it's only fair to note that Kreutz obviously hasn't jumped to sign somewhere else yet. I am in no way ruling out the possibility of the Bears reaching a deal with Kreutz, especially if they have a few more practices marred by botched center-quarterback exchanges.

The truth is the sides have a few more days to work this out. Kreutz wouldn't be able to practice before Aug. 4 no matter where or when he signs. So there is nothing wrong with continuing this game of chicken, as long as the Bears are relatively sure they will eventually get their man. They know Kreutz better than anyone else. If they think he can still play, they will re-sign him. If they don't, they'll offer him a deal they don't think he'll accept. We'll know soon enough.

What's not clear is if the Bears have a true backup plan if in fact Kreutz moves on. Saturday, Roberto Garza and Chris Williams manned the position in practice. Edwin Williams, who can't practice until Aug. 4, would also have seen time there. None of those possibilities sound great to me. Do the Bears have a backup free agent plan in mind? That's a question we might not want to have answered.

Meanwhile, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Bears will pay Barber $5 million over two years. Barber has played six physical seasons and there is no telling how much he has left. Did the Bears sign him as a spot player behind starter Matt Forte and Chester Taylor? Do they plan to release Taylor, who is due a relatively modest $1.275 million this season? Those are questions the Bears will answer for us in the coming days.

I view the Okoye signing much as the decision to bring in defensive end Vernon Gholston. Once highly touted, Okoye now has the opportunity to play under one of the game's best defensive line gurus in Rod Marinelli - at no financial risk to the Bears.

It sounds like the Bears have had an interesting start to training camp. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Before we spend any more time on the Chicago Bears' need to select at least one offensive linemen early in next month's draft, we need to ask a seemingly obvious question: Didn't they do that three years ago?

Indeed, in 2008, the Bears made a draft decision that should have supplied them an anchor for the next decade. They selected Vanderbilt left tackle Chris Williams with the No. 14 overall pick, but his well-chronicled struggles since then are a big reason the Bears' line faces so much uncertainty this spring.

[+] EnlargeChris Williams
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesWhere Chris Williams will play along the offensive line in 2011 remains uncertain.
As you probably know by now, Williams' first NFL start didn't come until 2009 -- and it was at right tackle. He started the final five games of 2009 and the first two games of 2010 at left tackle before the Bears moved him to left guard out of short-term desperation.

In what should sound alarm bells about Williams' future, the Bears still haven't decided where they want Williams to play in 2011. Presumably, that decision will depend on the draft and the results of free agency. You could be an optimist and suggest Williams offers the Bears valuable flexibility, or you could join me in skepticism and wonder if he is now an expensive utility man.

At the scouting combine last month, coach Lovie Smith seemed certain that Williams will have a defined role in 2011 -- at some position. But his full comment on the subject isn't something you want to hear about a former first-round pick.

"I'll just say that we have a few options, a few directions we can go," Smith said. "Chris has played both tackle positions, has played guard for us. Might've played little center in college. We don't have to make those decisions right now. We just know that Chris is a part of our future ... once we lock him in to a position, maybe the one he's in right now. [Offensive line coach] Mike Tice did a super job molding an offensive line this past year and I'm anxious to see as we continue to talk on exactly where we end up playing him."

To be fair, I'm not sure if seven starts at left tackle over three seasons is enough to determine whether Williams is a bust at the position he was drafted to play. It's also hard to attribute his position moves purely to performance; in each instance they were related to a larger plan.

In 2009, for instance, the Bears needed a second starting tackle and decided their best option was veteran free agent Orlando Pace. Rather than shift Pace from his longtime position on the left side, the Bears chose Williams. Last season, the Bears had more game-ready tackles than guards. So when Williams returned from a hamstring injury in Week 6, they determined they were better off with Frank Omiyale and J'Marcus Webb at tackle, and Williams at left guard, than with Webb on the bench and an unworthy guard -- be it Lance Louis or Edwin Williams -- on the field.

With all that said, if the Bears still consider Williams a future anchor to their line, they will lock him into a position soon and keep him there. The longer they hold off that decision, the less confident I will feel about his future.

Smith seemed to be indicating left guard as a real possibility, and I would be fine with that. The No. 14 overall pick of a draft is a little high to find your future left guard, but it would be far worse if it's where the Bears drafted a future utility backup.

Touchdown (for me) in Chicago

January, 16, 2011
CHICAGO -- Believe it. I rolled in to Soldier Field at about 10:15 a.m. ET, fresh and ready to hit Round 2 of our NFC North playoff doubleheader. After the Green Bay Packers' victory Saturday night in Atlanta, we're halfway to nirvana

Enough about me and that. (For now, at least. I’ll put together a post tracking some of the high points of this journey on Monday. And if the Chicago Bears beat the Seattle Seahawks, we’ll have a post or two about the NFC North’s new role as the epicenter of humanity.)

First things first. We just received the official inactive lists from both teams, and I can report there are absolutely no surprises. As expected, Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu (concussion) has been cleared to play and will start.

The Bears, who listed no players on their injury report Friday, had their usual list of inactive players: Quarterback Caleb Hanie, safety Craig Steltz, running back Kahlil Bell, cornerback Joshua Moore, offensive linemen Herman Johnson and Edwin Williams, tight end Desmond Clark and defensive lineman Marcus Harrison.

OK. I'll be joining NFC West colleague Mike Sando and the rest of our crew over at Countdown Live during the game. Please join us.

Inactives: Bears, Seahawks healthy

January, 16, 2011
CHICAGO -- The Seattle Seahawks offered no surprises on their list of inactive players Sunday.

They are relatively healthy.

Lofa Tatupu starts at middle linebacker one week after suffering a concussion. Coach Pete Carroll said all week he expected Tatupu to play.

Inactive for Seattle: cornerback Josh Pinkard, cornerback Marcus Brown, linebacker Joe Pawelek, guard Lemuel Jeanpierre, guard Paul Fanaika, tackle Breno Giacomini and defensive tackle Amon Gordon. J.P. Losman is the third quarterback.

The Bears' inactive list features safety Craig Steltz, cornerback Joshua Moore, running back Kahlil Bell, guard Herman Johnson, guard/center Edwin Williams, tight end Desmond Clark and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison. Caleb Hanie is the third quarterback.

Clark, who started seven games last season, has faded from prominence over the second half of the season. He was active against Seattle in Week 6, then inactive until Week 17.
Jay CutlerJim O'Connor/US PresswireJay Cutler was under constant pressure Sunday, being subjected to nine first-half sacks.
Dead leaves, seaweed, rotten eggs, too.
Stir them in my witches' brew.
I got magic! Alakazamakazoo.
Spider web, moldy bread, mucky mud, too.
Stir them in my witches' brew.
I got magic! Alakazamakazoo.

Hopefully kids these days are still singing "Witches' Brew" in school. For some reason, it's what popped in my head Sunday night while watching Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler absorb nine sacks in the first half of a 17-3 loss to the New York Giants. That unprecedented total seemed to be the result of four frightening ingredients tossed into a simmering black cauldron.

(Thus ends our corny Halloween imagery. For now.)

In one night at the New Meadowlands Stadium, you had:

  1. An offensive scheme with a long history of allowing high sack totals.
  2. A quarterback who has taken the 10th-most sacks in the NFL since becoming a full-time starter.
  3. Four moving parts on the five-man offensive line.
  4. An opponent with athletic and speedy pass-rushers along its defensive line.

Not every Bears opponent this season will have pass-rushers like the Giants' Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, each of whom notched three sacks Sunday night. Unfortunately, the other three factors are all embedded in the Bears' dilemma.

Like coach Lovie Smith, I'm not ready to panic just yet -- not when the Bears' defense is playing at such a high level and their special teams are showing some big-play signs. But the events Sunday night raise some fair questions: Is Mike Martz's scheme, Cutler's decision-making and a torn-up offensive line a combustible combination? Are the Bears deeply vulnerable to teams with decent pass rushes? Or are there ways to smooth the edges?

"We played four games and we lost one," Smith told reporters Monday. "Let's not panic around here, all right? The reality is we're 3-1 with this group. Our offense has done a lot of good things. [Sunday] night, we didn't get it done. We didn't get it done. No more than that."

Let's take a deeper look at the individual factors involved. The first chart tracks the sack numbers and context for the 11 NFL offenses Martz has either coordinated or been the head coach of. As you can see, each of the past eight has ranked in the bottom third of the NFL for most sacks allowed. The trend has spanned four franchises and five primary quarterbacks, leaving little doubt about its genesis.

The reason is simple, says Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. "Martz likes to get as many pass-catchers into routes as possible," Williamson said. "He has a lot of seven-step drops and long-developing route combinations."

In short, quarterbacks in the Martz scheme often need more time to let plays develop. Good protection puts them in position to make lots of big plays, but adjustments are necessary when pass-rushers have the upper hand. The scheme can shift to shorter drops and quicker routes, as it did Sept. 19 against the Dallas Cowboys, but it requires quicker decisions from the quarterback.

Which brings us to our second point. Since he became the Denver Broncos' full-time starter in 2007, Cutler has taken 90 sacks. As you can see in the second chart, that ranks him ninth among all NFL quarterbacks over that span. But since it also includes an anomalous 11-sack season in 2008, I put together a third chart that shows where he has ranked among the league's most-sacked quarterbacks in his other three seasons as a full-time starter.

Close observers know that Cutler is quick-footed and mobile. A more likely explanation, then, is a tendency to hold the ball too long and/or take a sack rather than throw the ball away.

Speaking Monday on ESPN radio, former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner -- Martz's star pupil with the St. Louis Rams -- emphasized the importance of Cutler quickening his release and decision-making.

"[The Bears] are going to keep the pedal down, they're going to continue to take chances," Warner said. "But so much of it as a quarterback is just making quick decisions, understanding what's going on up front and that you can't sit back and just wait for the big play every time. Sometimes you've just got to say it's not there initially, let's just get the ball out of my hands and let somebody else do something with it."

According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears' coaching staff attributed three of Sunday night's sacks to Cutler holding the ball too long. Four were the result of offensive linemen simply losing their one-on-one matchup, and three others were put on tight ends failing to make their blocks.

You could blame Martz for leaving tight ends to block defensive ends, even if it's 300-pound Brandon Manumaleuna. But the larger issue is his scheme requires a steady group of offensive linemen who on average will win their one-on-one battles.

But Martz doesn't have that with the Bears. Left tackle Chris Williams hasn't played since suffering a significant hamstring injury Sept. 19. Right guard Lance Louis departed Sunday night's game with a knee injury, and the Bears have rotated two inexperienced players -- J'Marcus Webb and Edwin Williams -- into the mix.

In all, eight different offensive linemen have seen significant playing time through four games. The only starter who has played every snap at his original position is center Olin Kreutz.

Such upheaval makes it easy to understand why Giants players were slicing through the Bears' line Sunday night. There are no shortcuts to building a cohesive offensive line. I'm quite sure the Bears would prefer to identify five full-time starters and continue playing them, but at this point it hasn't been an option.

"There were a lot of things that were unacceptable from that game," Smith said. "I'll put the offensive line in there. But it's not just the offensive line. We gave up a lot of sacks, and that was spread out. Some of it was the offensive line, the tight ends and running backs had something to do with it, and also Jay. It's a combination of all of those."

I supported Martz's candidacy for this job and still think hiring him was the best the Bears could have done under the circumstances. They won their first three games with this offense and have the capacity to win many more. But they would also be foolish to consider Sunday night's performance an aberration.

Like it or not, the Bears are saddled with a witch's brew of spider webs, moldy bread and mucky mud. A combination of ingredients went into the cauldron, and it will take a blend of solutions to sweeten the taste. Or something like that. You get my drift.

The Big Question: Can McNabb add 7 wins?

April, 6, 2010
» NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Does the arrival of Donovan McNabb automatically make the Redskins a playoff contender?

[+] EnlargeDonovan McNabb
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesDonovan McNabb is an upgrade at quarterback, but the Redskins still have plenty of holes to fill.
In some precincts, such as our Web site, there have been suggestions that Donovan McNabb's presence alone puts the Redskins in the conversation for an NFC East title. I've attempted to temper some of that enthusiasm for the trade, but some folks are convinced the Redskins leapfrogged the Eagles and Giants with Sunday's blockbuster move.

For the record, I do think that McNabb makes the Redskins a more formidable team. His leadership qualities and the fact that he's been in a ton of playoff games gives him instant credibility in Washington. And he's about to feel the warmest embrace since he was playing at Syracuse. All the angst that those of us outside of Philly really don't have a handle on will vanish in the loving arms of playoff-starved Redskins fans.

That said, it's hard for me to imagine McNabb making a seven-win difference. And it would take seven more wins to put the Redskins, who were 4-12 last season, in the conversation for a division title. When Brett Favre joined a 10-win Vikings team, they had the best running back in the league and a talented, if raw, group of wide receivers. He also inherited an offensive line with a lot more stability than what McNabb will encounter in Washington.

The Redskins have some talent at wide receiver with Santana Moss, Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas, so it's not a stretch to think McNabb could elevate that group. He won a lot of games with the likes of Freddie Mitchell and Greg Lewis at wideout. Over the past couple of seasons, McNabb has benefited from the rise of tight end Brent Celek. And the Redskins are actually deeper at that position with Chris Cooley and Fred Davis.

The other positive for McNabb is that he'll be playing for a head coach, Mike Shanahan, who truly commits to the running game. Andy Reid's offense was all about the passing game, which put constant pressure on McNabb. If the combination of fading stars Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker somehow works for the Skins, McNabb could be even more effective in the passing game.

But as I keep saying, the biggest question is whether the Redskins can overhaul one of the worst offensive lines of the modern era. Quarterback Jason Campbell would look across the huddle and see complete strangers last season. Does anyone know what Edwin Williams looks like? McNabb can still move in the pocket, but he's no longer the escape artist that we remember from four or five seasons ago. If he had lined up behind last season's unit, I'm pretty sure the Redskins still would've had a losing season.

The Redskins should be pretty solid on defense, although they need to create a lot more turnovers. But the season will hinge on whether McNabb can elevate a lot of young players who haven't sniffed the playoffs. To answer my own question, I still don't see them as a contender to win the division.

Final Word: NFC East

January, 1, 2010
» NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17:

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
AP Photo/Bill KostrounThe Cowboys will have a difficult time covering Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson.
I thought we had looked at every conceivable angle of Eagles-Cowboys this week, but let's go even deeper. I'm interested to see how the Cowboys attempt to defend wide receiver DeSean Jackson. He wasn't effective in a 20-16 loss at the Linc and the Cowboys did a really nice job of keeping someone behind him at all times. Since that game, cornerback Mike Jenkins has been playing at a Pro Bowl level. You'll see him try to get a good jam on Jackson and then you'll see safeties Ken Hamlin and Gerald Sensabaugh helping over the top. One of the underrated matchups will be Jason Avant against cornerback Orlando Scandrick. That will be an important contest because Avant is capable of making big plays.

I'm curious to see how much pride the Giants display after a disgraceful performance against the Panthers. Will the defense stand up and play for embattled defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan? The host Vikings are a team that desperately needs a win heading into the playoffs after a December collapse.

This is the type of game we'll find out about some of the Giants' young players. They need players such as Jonathan Goff and Bruce Johnson to make plays. And after being gashed by Jonathan Stewart, let's see how the defense reacts against another elite runner in Adrian Peterson.

The Redskins appear to have little if any chance of winning this game at the Chargers. But let's take a look at how right guard Edwin Williams and safety Kareem Moore play.

These are young guys being asked to play well in starting roles. And you could even see Lendy Holmes starting at safety now that LaRon Landry's been ruled out.

This has to be coach Jim Zorn's last game, although he's in full denial mode. Will his players put it on the line for him one more time or fold like they did against the Giants? We're about to find out.

I'm anxious to see how the Eagles use their linebackers. Akeem Jordan saw the majority of the snaps at middle linebacker last week. He can't cover Jason Witten in the middle of the field. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermoot could go with Will Witherspoon and Jordan as the only linebackers if he wants to try to nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson on Witten.

Jeremiah Trotter can help blow up the running game at middle linebacker but he would get abused by Witten. McDermott has some interesting decisions to make.

I could see Eli Manning getting in a shootout with Brett Favre. And this could be Hakeem Nicks' game of the season. He's shown the ability to make plays after contact. If the offensive line can give Manning time, I think he'll light up this Vikings' secondary.

I'm also very interested to see how Ahmad Bradshaw performs as the feature back. The Vikings have an excellent defensive line but there will be some cutback lanes available. If he has a big day, Giants fans will spend the offseason calling for him to be the starter in 2010.

I think these teams will combine for at least 68 points. Just call it a hunch.