NFL Nation: Hunter Smith

How I See It: NFC East Stock Watch

December, 15, 2010
12/15/10
1:00
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Hunter Smith, former Washington Redskins punter/holder: This probably qualifies as dog-piling, but we should at least acknowledge Smith's time with the Skins. If the guy was leading the league in net average, maybe you stick with him after he botches the hold on an extra point attempt at the end of regulation. But that wasn't the case. Smith wasn't the only thing wrong with this team, but he still paid the price for his gaffe at the end of regulation.

2. Jon Kitna, Dallas Cowboys quarterback: We've praised him while he has led a resurgence under interim coach Jason Garrett, but he didn't perform well against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night. Kitna appeared to feel pressure when it wasn't there and he refused to work the ball down the field. Roy Williams and Miles Austin were nonfactors in this game, in part because Kitna was unloading the ball before they even broke out of their routes. He also threw two interceptions in a tight game.

3. Eli Manning, New York Giants quarterback: I know his team won the game, but Manning threw two more interceptions. That's 19 on the season, which leads the league. And yes, I realize that Drew Brees has 18 interceptions, but he's not in our division so we're not breaking down his throws. Coach Tom Coughlin seemed to indicate Manning's second interception was the receiver's fault, but the quarterback still could've thrown the ball away. It's really surprising that he's being this careless with the football. Manning and his brother, Peyton, have combined for 34 interceptions this season. That seems like a large number with three games left on the schedule.

RISING

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelDeSean Jackson was practically unstoppable against the Cowboys.
1. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver: Someone pay the man. He averaged 52.5 yards on four catches and had a 91-yard touchdown that gave the Eagles a 27-20 lead in the fourth quarter. He may be the most dangerous offensive player in the league. And we'll even look past that backward plunge into the end zone for the purposes of Stock Watch.

2. Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants running back: This looks like the player we remember from 2007. Jacobs is busting through the line of scrimmage and he has been energized by his return to the starting lineup. He and his good pal Ahmad Bradshaw have breathed life into the Giants' running game. And it's a good time of year for that to happen.

3. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles running back: When the Cowboys trimmed the deficit to 30-27 with more than four minutes left Sunday night, McCoy simply took over the game. We already know how elusive and quick he can be, but he showed off some power late in the game. Jackson might be the most exciting player on the team, but McCoy's the most efficient offensive player right now. He needs to touch the ball 20 times per game.

Why does this Giants team look familiar?

December, 5, 2010
12/05/10
9:08
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Brandon JacobsAP Photo/Bill KostrounThe Giants' Brandon Jacobs muscled his way to 103 yards and two TDs in New York's rout of the Redskins.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One of the worst things you can do in the NFL is evaluate a team moments after it has played the Washington Redskins. In their current state, the Redskins have made both the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

And that's why I won't read too much into the Giants' merciful 31-7 win against the Redskins. Unlike Eagles coach Andy Reid, Tom Coughlin embraced the holiday season and took a benevolent approach in the fourth quarter. But it took less than 10 minutes for the Giants to make this a non-competitive situation. It was a first half that featured a dominating rushing attack and pass rush that made former Giants killer Donovan McNabb powerless.

The score would've been 28-0 at halftime if not for another head-scratching interception by Eli Manning, who tossed a ball into triple coverage in the Redskins' end zone for no apparent reason. Playing without their two starting wide receivers and two full-time starters on the offensive line, the Giants annihilated an inferior opponent. They lost interest in the game briefly in the third quarter, but it didn't matter because the Redskins were committing turnovers on nearly every possession.

The Giants (8-4) now head to Minneapolis for a game against a Vikings team that has responded to interim coach Leslie Frazier with consecutive wins. And then the Giants and Eagles (8-4) will square off in an enormous divisional game the following week in New Meadowlands Stadium.

"Well, it's the time," Coughlin said after Sunday's win. "It's December in the National Football League -- it's the time. If you're going to have an opportunity to get into position, it's now. So, we're trying to improve as we play. We've got to continue -- many, many big games coming down the stretch, so getting better each week, playing better in the games, play stronger, being physical -- all those things are important."

Coughlin's decision to bench running back Ahmad Bradshaw because of his fumbling and replace him with the lumbering Brandon Jacobs appears to have galvanized this offense. Jacobs, who was such a huge part of the Giants' Super Bowl run in 2007, began this season as a brooding player who was hazardous to fans because of his helmet-tossing. Bradshaw was clearly the more talented player, and Jacobs lost his cool at least twice when the pesky New York media asked him tough questions such as, "How do you feel today, Brandon?"

But on the second play from scrimmage Sunday, Jacobs bounced a run outside for 39 yards. Never mind that he was running behind offensive linemen who were never supposed to be on the field this season. And after catching his breath, Jacobs ran eight yards for his first of two touchdowns. He finished with eight carries for 103 yards. Jacobs finished off the Redskins for good with a 28-yard touchdown in the third quarter during which he froze safety Reed Doughty with a move in the open field.

When Jacobs was acting erratically early in the season, Giants general manager Jerry Reese told him that "less is more." He encouraged him to keep his emotions in check and then requested that he put the "power" back in the Giants' power running game. Bradshaw's still the feature back in this offense -- he had 25 carries -- but Jacobs helps give the running game an identity.

"He played well, he played powerful," Coughlin said of Jacobs. "He broke some tackles, he established really a sound foundation for us as far as rushing the ball."

The Giants also turned in a dominating performance on defense. They forced six turnovers and had four sacks. In 2007, Justin Tuck emerged as a pass-rushing force to go along with Pro Bowl defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan. Now rookie Jason Pierre-Paul is beginning to cash in on his freakish talent. He had two sacks Sunday to go along with the two he had against the Jaguars last week. On his first sack against the Redskins, Pierre-Paul found a clear path to McNabb after Tuck blew up the right guard. McNabb managed to avoid most of the damage by falling to the ground.

In 2007, the Giants struggled to grasp new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's defense, but they obviously got hot at the right time in the playoffs. This year, the defense didn't immediately adjust to new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, but they started to find something three weeks ago in a road loss to the Eagles.

"There are a lot of similarities to that team" Tuck told me Sunday. "We kind of hit a lull this season, but we've done a great job of showing resiliency. This reminds me a lot of that run we went on. That team wasn't as talented as we are this year, but we'll see how it works out."

The final indignity for the Redskins was seeing their former second-round pick, Devin Thomas, star for the Giants on special teams. Thomas downed a Matt Dodge punt deep inside Redskins territory, he made a big hit on electrifying return specialist Brandon Banks and then he partially blocked a Hunter Smith punt that traveled 8 yards. After the game, Thomas didn't even realize that Kareem Moore had been flagged for holding him on the play.

After facing the Vikings and Eagles, the Giants will finish with road games against the Packers and Redskins. As wide-open as the NFC is, the Giants have as good a shot as anyone to put together a late run.

"We feel like we're a mismatch for every team right now," Tuck said. "And that gives you a lot of confidence."

Rapid Reaction: Giants 31, Redskins 7

December, 5, 2010
12/05/10
4:11
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Some quick thoughts on the New York Giants' dominating win over the Washington Redskins. This one was over by halftime.

What it means: The Giants did what you have to do against an inferior opponent: break their spirit early. Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride talked last week about how he likes to get a feel for what defenses are doing on the first drive of the game. But against the Redskins, the Giants were determined to set the tone early. They scored a touchdown on their first possession for the first time this season on the strength of running back Brandon Jacobs. He had a 39-yard gain on the second play from scrimmage and then finished off the drive with an 8-yard run. The Redskins were playing without their highly paid defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who is battling an undisclosed illness. But I don't think it would've mattered. Between Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants rolled up 139 rushing yards in the first half.

Devin Thomas' revenge: Let me start this by saying that the Redskins had plenty of reasons to finally release their former second-round draft pick this season. But it looks like the Giants picked up the wide receiver at the right time. He downed a punt deep in Redskins territory, had a big hit on Brandon Banks on a kickoff return and then he tipped a Hunter Smith punt that traveled 4 yards. And that's why I have to call it a "tip" instead of a "block." It wouldn't surprise me if Giants coach Tom Coughlin gave Thomas a game ball.

A fast start: Safety Antrel Rolle was upset about his team being booed by Giants fans at halftime last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But there wasn't much to boo about a 21-0 halftime lead that should've been 28-0 if not for a ridiculous interception by quarterback Eli Manning. But about the fast start, the Giants scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and ended any hopes of a competitive game. Even against the lowly Redskins defense, it was impressive to see this offensive line take over the game.

Poor Donovan McNabb: I know the man received a lucrative contract extension a few weeks ago, but you still had to feel for him as he watched his teammates drop all those passes. Chris Cooley and fullback Mike Sellers dropped perfect passes in the first half, and tight end Fred Davis got involved later in the game. McNabb did throw one awful interception in the end zone after the Skins had trimmed the lead to 28-7. Terrell Thomas had the easiest interception of his career when McNabb forced a ball into heavy coverage for no apparent reason. I lost count at one point, but I believe the Redskins had six turnovers in the game.

What's next? The Giants travel to Minneapolis next Sunday to play a Vikings team that has won two consecutive games under interim coach Leslie Frazier. If the Giants can win that one, they'll be 9-4 when the Eagles come to town. The Eagles will have to get past the Dallas Cowboys to have an identical record. But with Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks returning to the lineup soon, the Giants are poised to get on a roll. The Redskins don't have any hope of making the playoffs after today's loss. Breaking news, there.

How I See It: NFC East Stock Watch

October, 6, 2010
10/06/10
12:31
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FALLING

1. Andy Reid, head coach, Philadelphia Eagles: No matter how you slice it, that was an embarrassing display at the end of the first half. Reid's always had trouble with clock management, but he's apparently too stubborn to do anything about it. If ever a man needed a clock specialist, it's this man. I understand that the officials blew his mind by moving the ball back from the one-foot line, but you still need to have a quicker reaction. It was a clueless moment that contributed to a 17-12 loss to the Washington Redskins.

[+] EnlargeJason Peters
AP Photo/Rob CarrEagles tackle Jason Peters (right) struggled badly against the Redskins.
2. Jason Peters, left tackle, Philadelphia Eagles: If this man makes the Pro Bowl again, I'm going to boycott the event, which is basically my annual plan anyway. I know Brian Orakpo's fast and powerful, but Peters was supposed to be among the best left tackles in the game. Peters was called for two holding penalties -- and there could've been more. Kevin Kolb's going to need some help against the 49ers, and I'm not sure Peters is up to the task. I was wrong about this guy big time.

3. Matt Dodge, punter, New York Giants: Tom Coughlin has shown extreme patience with the rookie, but it's probably time to move on. Jeff Feagles spoiled this organization for a lot of years. Right now, Dodge has no clue where the ball's going. The team worked out Hunter Smith on Tuesday. I think the Giants should make the change now.

RISING

1. Albert Haynesworth, defensive lineman, Washington Redskins: I've been highly critical of Haynesworth since the offseason because of his attitude and overall approach. But he made a big contribution to that win Sunday by drawing holding penalties and making plays against the run. I think he's starting to buy into Jim Haslett's defense, and that's a scary thing for opposing offensive coordinators. He still seemed disgruntled about his playing time after the game, but Mike Shanahan won't care as long as his defensive tackle continues to play like this.

2. Ryan Torain, running back, Washington Redskins: Clinton Portis might have a difficult time getting his job back when he returns from a groin injury. Torain received the bulk of the carries Sunday against the Eagles and produced 70 yards and a game-changing touchdown. That 12-yard TD on which he ran over Quintin Mikell set the tone for an upset win.

1. Donovan McNabb, quarterback, Washington Redskins: I know he was lousy in the second half, but he still got the job done in a 17-12 win against his former team. You have to admire the way McNabb put aside all the emotion and made big plays in the first half. The deep ball to Anthony Armstrong was enormous and the touchdown throw to Chris Cooley staked the Skins to an early 14-0 lead. McNabb's 18-yard scramble helped milk the clock late in the game. Something tells me he'll remember to stay in bounds next time he gets that opportunity.
The acknowledged top prognosticator of compensatory draft picks was a little more off that in the past as far as the AFC South is concerned.

In this post on March 9, we pointed to the nearly fearless (he’d be completely fearless if he used his name) AdamJT13 who said the Titans would get a third and three sevenths and the Jaguars would get a sixth.

Adam Schefter on Monday reported Tennessee officially got a third (97th overall), a sixth (207th), and a seventh (241st). Jacksonville got a sixth (203rd) and Indianapolis got two sevenths (240th and 246th).

These additional picks are awarded based on a formula that factors in free agents lost last year, their contracts and their production in their first year elsewhere.

A third-rounder is the highest possible. Picks in the seventh round basically allow teams to lock in players they would have pursued as undrafted rookies.

The picks cannot be traded.

From the league release that followed, here are the guys who factored in:

INDIANAPOLIS
Lost: Darrell Reid, Hunter Smith
JACKSONVILLE
Lost: Khalif Barnes, Mike Peterson, Gerald Sensabaugh

Signed: Sean Considine, Tra Thomas
TENNESSEE
Lost: Chris Carr, Albert Haynesworth, Brandon Jones, Eric King, Daniel Loper, Chris Simms

Signed: Jovan Haye, Mark Jones, Nate Washington

Free agency: NFC East

February, 16, 2010
2/16/10
1:00
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AFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

An early look at the free-agent situation in the NFC East.

Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.

Dallas Cowboys

Unrestricted free agents: G Montrae Holland

Key figures: The Cowboys don't have a huge interest in retaining Holland, a man who's never really challenged for playing time. But Dallas has a long list of restricted free agents because of the likely scenario of an uncapped 2010 season. Wide receiver Miles Austin is obviously the biggest name on the list. The Cowboys would like to get a long-term contract done, but Austin's going to be asking for big money after his breakout season. For now, the Cowboys will likely sign Austin to the highest tender, which would pay him roughly $3 million in 2010. There's also a chance Dallas will try to work something out with restricted free agent Marcus Spears. Owner Jerry Jones has been very complimentary of Spears' work in '09, so we'll see if he receives an extension. It will also be interesting to see whether the Cowboys reward safety Gerald Sensabaugh for a fine '09 season. He's seeking a multiyear extension. But with the potential of a lockout in 2011, negotiations are up in the air.

New York Giants

Unrestricted free agents: QB David Carr, LB Danny Clark, P Jeff Feagles, DT Fred Robbins

[+] EnlargeLeonard Weaver
Drew Hallowell/Getty ImagesFullback Leonard Weaver rushed 70 times for 323 yards and two TDs in 2009.
Key figures: The Giants would like an upgrade at the backup quarterback position, but it's not like there are a bunch of reliable candidates floating around. It will be interesting to see how much progress Rhett Bomar makes this offseason. Coach Tom Coughlin loves what Clark brings to the locker room, but the player looked slow in coverage and he's a progress stopper at this point in his career. It's time to let him move on. Feagles can punt until he's 50 -- and he might give it a try. Robbins was benched late in the season, so the writing's on the wall with him. His production has tailed off the past two seasons because he's been asked to stay on the field too much.

Philadelphia Eagles

Unrestricted free agents: DE Jason Babin, S Sean Jones

Key figures: The man who's missing a major payday (for a fullback) is Leonard Weaver. He was an All-Pro for the Eagles and he would be an unrestricted free agent if not for the uncapped season in 2010. The Eagles now hold the hammer in negotiations -- and they've been known to use it at times. Babin is a decent pass-rush specialist, but he sort of faded down the stretch. Jones is a capable backup, but he should not be in the starting mix. Philadelphia would be wise to work something out with restricted free-agent guard/center Nick Cole. He's a versatile player who bailed out Andy Reid when the Stacy Andrews experiment didn't pan out in '09. And no matter his status as a restricted free agent, it's time to get something done with Jason Avant. He's quietly carved out a very important niche in this offense.

Washington Redskins

Unrestricted free agents: LS Ethan Albright, OT Levi Jones, DE Phillip Daniels, C Casey Rabach, P Hunter Smith, G Mike Williams, DE Renaldo Wynn, P Todd Yoder

Key figures: Cornerback Carlos Rogers is a restricted free agent, but he's looking for a new destination. It will be interesting to see what Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett choose to do with Rogers. Will they try to get him back on the right path or see if they can deal him for a mid-round draft pick? This unrestricted list doesn't have a lot of juice. Rabach could certainly help a team at center, but he didn't set the league on fire in '09. It's probably time to move on without aging players such as Wynn and Daniels. I enjoyed the Williams weight loss story, but it's hard to imagine him being part of the rebuilding process at Redskins Park.

This we'll be the dullest free-agency period in years, but we'll be here to cover all the non-action.

AFC South draft rewind

December, 23, 2009
12/23/09
3:00
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NFC Draft Rewind: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft class lists: Indianapolis | Jacksonville | Houston | Tennessee

Houston Texans
Cushing
Cushing

Best get: Not everyone was sold on Brian Cushing coming out of USC, often because of his injury history at USC. He missed most of camp hurt and has missed a lot of practices, but none of it has gotten in the way of his being an impact player every Sunday. The Texans need more defenders and more players in his mold. He’s a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate.

Worst unaddressed spot: The Texans had plenty of reason to expect they had a feature back in Steve Slaton, but completely misread their situation after that. Interior line injuries and a second-year slump for Slaton have made a second back even more important, and Chris Brown, Ryan Moats and Arian Foster all have proved incapable of handling the pressures of the work. A second running back ranks as one of the team’s highest priorities in free agency or the 2010 draft.

Still uninvolved: Tight end James Casey came in as a versatile fifth-rounder who was going to be a unique weapon for head coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to tinker with. He’s got six catches for 64 yards in 11 games. He needs to have more of an impact, given that the Texans lost top-flight tight end Owen Daniels to a season-ending knee injury.

Indianapolis Colts
Brown
Brown

Still to be determined: First-rounder Donald Brown has shown he will be a good NFL player. But he’s missed five games with injuries, including the last three. He’s more capable than Joseph Addai of breaking off a big run. The question: Does Brown understand that looking for the big gain isn’t worth risking a play resulting in second-and-12. If Brown is healthy, he could see a lot of touches in the last two games. The Colts are 14-0 with just 59 carries, 263 yards and two TDs from their top pick. (They haven’t gotten much out of second-round defensive tackle Fili Moala, either.)

A perfect fit: Fourth-round receiver Austin Collie, not Minnesota’s Percy Harvin, leads all rookie receivers in catches. Collie's nabbed 53 passes for 567 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s a perfect fit for the Colts' system, and adopted the necessary work ethic to win over and work with Peyton Manning. Whether Anthony Gonzalez re-emerges for the post season push or not, Collie’s crucial to it.

Best special teams addition: The Colts had eight touchbacks in 2008. With rookie punter Pat McAfee taking over kickoffs from Adam Vinatieri, they have 18 with two games remaining. Better kickoffs are a big factor in coverage improvements under new special teams coach Ray Rychleski. McAfee’s also got a net punting average of 38.0 yards, less than a yard off former Colts' veteran Hunter Smith’s number from last season.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Monroe
Monroe

Long-term solutions: Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton were the top two picks and have played the bulk of the season at left and right tackle, respectively. They have not been consistent, but the team loves their skill sets and upside. And early work means they’ll get to the levels the team projected when spending such high picks on them sooner rather than later.

Eighth-rounders: First-year general manager Gene Smith needed additions beyond his draft class and found a couple: Cornerback William Middleton out of Furman and linebacker Russell Allen from San Diego State are undrafted free agents who made the team and have been contributors. In the nationally televised Week 15 Thursday night loss to the Colts, Allen led the team with 12 tackles. Smith is down a second and seventh rounder in 2010 because of trades, and he hopes to hit on some undrafteds again, and annually.

Three is key: Smith did great work in the third round, landing two small school players who’ve established themselves as productive starters with upside. Cornerback Derek Cox from William & Mary has not been intimidated by anything or anyone. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton from Temple has been a stout and reliable run stopper.

Tennessee Titans
Monroe
Britt

Biggest breakthrough: Since 1998, the Titans have spent draft picks in the top three rounds on Kevin Dyson, Tyrone Calico, Courtney Roby, Brandon Jones and Paul Williams. Dyson was involved in two of the franchise’s biggest plays in 1999 and did OK otherwise, but none of them solved the team's long-standing woes at receiver. First-rounder Kenny Britt is a great combination of size, power and speed who goes and gets the ball. Britt seems like he can be a consistently productive weapon.

Disappearing act: The Titans gave away a second-rounder to draft tight end Jared Cook in the third, and in camp he seemed like a great addition. Then he suffered an ankle injury, faded and never really re-emerged. Long-term he’s still very compelling. But the Titans sure could have used a jolt from him during their 0-6 start.

An heir: Gerald McRath seems comfortable and been effective as an outside linebacker when needed. He will start the rest of the way and, after bulking up in the offseason, stands to inherit the spot of either David Thornton (breaking down) or Keith Bulluck (free agent who tore an ACL in Week 15) next year. If both veterans are gone (a likely scenario), the second replacement needs to be a free agent or a draft pick.

Fake FGs and other stuff

December, 22, 2009
12/22/09
9:33
AM ET
ARLINGTON, Va. -- As we continue to sit on a tarmac in northern Virginia, my thoughts have drifted once again to the Redskins' fake field goal attempt at the end of the first half that's certain to be added to NFL blooper reels. I've long been fascinated with the swinging gate on extra point attempts, but Skins special teams coach Danny Smith has taken his trickery to another level.

First, the Redskins showed the Giants exactly what they planned to do on the fake. And when the Giants called timeout, Smith and head coach Jim Zorn cooperated by staying in the same formation.

[+] EnlargeSmith
Al Bello/Getty ImagesRedskins punter Hunter Smith was crushed as he released the ball that was eventually intercepted.
When seven Redskins players sprinted over the left side, chuckles were heard throughout the press box. Next, holder Hunter Smith, the point man in Smith's magic show, took the snap and desperately fired the ball into what appeared to be quintuple coverage.

The ball was intercepted and the Skins were booed lustily as the home team departed the field. In a season full of indignities, the botched fake has to rank in the top five. I thought for a moment that owner Dan Snyder might fire Zorn at halftime. At least one Giants player I talked to was quite amused that the Redskins stuck with the same play. He happened to be among the three Giants who converged upon Smith just before his heave.

Here's how Zorn described the play: “It was good defense. That’s what hurt that play. I contemplated going back, after [Tom Coughlin] called timeout, and kicking the field goal. The play was unique enough to where I didn’t think they saw what we were really trying to do and when they smelled it out pretty quickly, we didn’t really have a chance to get it started.”

I would've much preferred an explanation from Zorn such as: "We were simply trying to entertain the viewers at home."

For whatever reason, the Redskins simply don't match up well against the Giants, which is to say they don't belong on the same field with them.

After five weeks of watching the Skins push some good teams to the brink, maybe this is the reminder fans needed of how much needs to be done. It's hard to imagine any members of the current coaching staff returning -- and that's probably the most hopeful message I can leave you with this morning.

OK, I've been asked to turn off my electronic device. I'll check in from Dallas later this afternoon.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 45, Redskins 12

December, 21, 2009
12/21/09
11:47
PM ET
LANDOVER, Md. -- The final play of the first half pretty much summed up the Redskins' season. Trailing 24-0, Washington attempted one of the most ill-conceived fake field goals of the modern era. Holder Hunter Smith was forced to throw the ball up for grabs and Giants cornerback Bruce Johnson had an easy interception.

Until Monday evening, the Redskins had been praised for not folding their collective tent. But this team was thoroughly dominated from the opening snap in a 45-12 Giants victory. The Giants looked a lot like the team that raced to a 5-0 start. Quarterback Eli Manning picked the Redskins' secondary apart, throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns.

It was also a good sign that Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined to rush for 113 yards. Bradshaw had two touchdown runs, his first coming on third-and-goal from the Redskins' 3-yard line when the game was briefly in doubt. With the win, the Giants (8-6) remain one game behind the Cowboys (9-5) and two behind the Eagles (10-4). They need to win out and root for either the Redskins or Eagles to beat the Cowboys over the final two games of the season. If the Giants end up tied with the Cowboys in the standings, they would win the tiebreaker by virtue of their sweep.

Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks only finished with two catches, but one of them went for 45 yards to set up score in the first half. For whatever reason, the Redskins don't match up well with the Giants. And on this night, they didn't even belong on the same field.

What in the world was that?

December, 21, 2009
12/21/09
10:22
PM ET
LANDOVER, Md. -- Just when you thought the Redskins could not embarrass themselves any more than they already had, special teams coach Danny Smith dialed up one of the most ill-conceived fake field goals in recent memory. Punter/holder Hunter Smith took a direct snap after kicker Graham Gano went in motion and then launched a pass to no one. Giants cornerback Bruce Johnson intercepted the pass and returned it 49 yards to end the half.

I guess it was an appropriate ending to a lackluster half of football from Washington. The Giants can call this final score. Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell is out with a shoulder injury and the fans at FedEx booed the team off the field.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The Colts considered a hanging video board at Lucas Oil Stadium, but ran a simple test that prompted them not to follow through with it.

Here's what team Bill Polian told Peter King about it:

"The irony is that our stadium architect [at new Lucas Oil Stadium] wanted to hang the videoboards the same way in our stadium. So we put a metal beam about 90 feet above the ground and had our punter at the time, Hunter Smith, punt the ball up there trying to hit it. He hit it the majority of the time. That's why we put our replay boards on the wall.''

In the wake of Titans punter A.J. Trapasso hitting the Cowboys Stadium Megatron (wish I remembered where I heard that term so I could give appropriate credit), the status of things in Dallas is a big issue drawing a lot of debate.

How can they do anything but move it up?

Friday NFC East headlines

April, 24, 2009
4/24/09
11:26
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Cowboys

Eagles

Giants

Redskins

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Houston Texans

  • Malcolm Jenkins' speed has been questioned, but the cornerback isn't anxious to be a safety, writes John McClain.
  • McClain mulls the Texans' draft options.
  • Lance Zierlein's top 100 in the draft.

Indianapolis Colts

  • The Colts reworked Reggie Wayne's deal somewhere along the way, saving themselves $480,000 in cap space this year, according to coltscap.net.
  • Players from Indiana will have to wait a while to hear their names called, writes Jeff Rabjohns.
  • Tackles go quickly, says Mike Chappell.
  • Punter Hunter Smith signed with Washington, says Chappell.
  • The Bleacher Report makes a pick in each of the Colts' draft slots.
  • No. 3 on John Oehser's list of the top 25 picks of the Bill Polian era.
  • Oehser looks at the draft's safeties.
  • Don't read too much into the Colts' recent signings of two former arenafootball2 offensive linemen, says Oehser.
  • The Colts issued a statement about the shortfall of funds for the agency that runs Lucas Oil Stadium, says Oehser.
  • A look at the Colts at cornerback, from Oehser.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

  • A trade for a receiver remains on the Titans' radar, but indications are they aren't chasing Anquan Boldin hard, says Jim Wyatt.
  • Kevin Mawae tells Gary Estwick his surgically repaired right elbow is on track to be ready for the start of training camp.
  • Terry McCormick makes a selection in each of the Titans' 10 spots.
  • A look at the draft's top cornerbacks, from Estwick.
  • Some Titans visited wounded soldiers, writes Teresa Walker.
  • Michael Griffin thinks the Titans are OK at receiver, blogs Wyatt.
  • A final look at 2008, in Estwick's blog.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Our NFC West ace Mike Sando has been keeping track of free-agent movement by division and put together this excellent chart, which doesn't factor in any deals that may have been completed Friday morning.

Division Starting UFA Current UFA
Percent Still Unsigned
NFC North
40 33 .825
AFC West
34 28 .824
NFC West
58 45 .776
NFC East
33 25 .758
AFC North
46 32 .696
AFC South
39 26 .667
AFC East
45 28 .622
NFC South
41 22 .537
Who's still out there from the AFC South teams?

The most significant names by team, with asterisks denoting players still believed to be of interest by their current clubs:

Houston Texans

Cornerback DeMarcus Faggins, safety Nick Ferguson*, defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina*, fullback Cecil Sapp*.

Indianapolis Colts

Safety Matt Giordano, linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, running back Dominic Rhodes*, punter Hunter Smith, defensive end Josh Thomas.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tackle Khalif Barnes, guard Chris Naeole, linebacker Mike Peterson, safety Pierson Prioleau, safety Gerald Sensabaugh, receiver Reggie Williams.

Tennessee Titans

Corner/returner Chris Carr*, punter Craig Hentrich*, cornerback Reynaldo Hill, tackle Daniel Loper*, receiver Justin McCareins.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

A late look at Rich Gosselin's highly regarded annual special teams rankings: Titans 2, Jags 16, Texans 21, Colts 32. The Colts and Jags have new special teams coaches.

Something else I haven't mentioned yet: Gregg Easterbrook's annual bad predictions review. In the ESPN.com section, that New England over New Orleans Super Bowl pick was mine. Whoops.

Houston Texans

  • The solution to the Texans' biggest problem isn't going to be available for them at No. 15 and the team should look to outside linebacker instead of defensive end, says John McClain.
  • Richard Justice says the Texans could take a public relations lesson from the Astros.
  • Assistant special teams coach Richard Hightower is leaving to coach receivers at the University of Minnesota, writes McClain.

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Free agent to-be Gerald Sensabaugh was arrested for driving with a suspended license, reports Michael C. Wright.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew is bracing for a football life without Fred Taylor, says Wright.
  • Peter King likes the idea of Fred Taylor in New England. Me too.

Tennessee Titans

  • Terry McCormick wonders who will get the Titans' franchise tag: Rob Bironas or Bo Scaife. Here's a partial answer: It won't be Scaife.

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