NFL Nation: Joselio Hanson

The Oakland Raiders got down to the 75-man roster limit Tuesday, but not without some pain.

The Raiders put rookie running back Latavius Murray on the injured reserve list. The team had said he had a minor ankle injury. Earlier in the offseason, it appeared as if Murray would have a chance to be Darren McFadden’s primary backup with a chance to be a major contributor. The sixth-round draft pick from Central Florida is big, fast and skilled.

Yet, he will have to wait a year to try to make an impact. Rashad Jennings will remain McFadden’s backup.

Oakland also placed reserve cornerback Joselio Hanson on injured reserve. He was decent in backup role last year.

Linebacker Miles Burris was placed on the physically unable to perform list. He has been out all offseason. Burris, a rookie starter last year, has fallen out of the starting mix, at least for now. But he will miss at least the first six games of the season.

Oakland signed kicker Justin Medlock just so it can give Sebastian Janikowski a rest Thursday at Seattle. Cornerback Mitchell White was cut.

Seattle cut cornerback Will Blackmon. He was in Green Bay with Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie and Oakland safety Charles Woodson. The Raiders could always use veteran experience, especially with Hanson out. I wouldn’t be shocked if Oakland considers Blackmon.

Starting receiver Rod Streater is practicing Tuesday. He suffered a concussion Friday against Chicago.

Oakland Raiders cut-down analysis

September, 1, 2012
Click here for the complete list of Oakland Raiders' roster moves.

Most significant move: Putting starting linebacker Aaron Curry on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. He has been out all camp with knee problems. This is good news, because there was a thought he could end up on the injured reserve. Now Curry can come back to practice Oct. 16. He will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by fourth-round pick Miles Burris. I think Oakland will look for some linebackers in the coming days as well. As expected, young tight end David Ausberry made the team and he will continue to develop. They are high on sixth-round pick, defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi. He is raw, but he has big potential and he can learn without urgency because he is on a top-notch line. Cornerback Bryan McCann made the team and he could be the starting punt returner. As expected, punt returner Roscoe Parrish, who was cut by the Chargers on Monday and quickly signed by the Raiders, was cut after he fumbled two punts Thursday at Seattle.

Onward and upward: Defensive lineman Dominique Hamilton was caught in a numbers game. He was impressive in the preseason but he is likely headed to the practice squad. Rookie free-agent receiver Derek Carrier is probably not headed to the practice squad at this point. The team was very high on him after the draft, but he fell behind other rookie receivers such as fifth-round pick Juron Criner and fellow undrafted rookie Rod Streater. Both those players made the team and should be part of the rotation. However, rookie receiver Brandon Carswell could be practice-squad bound. Rookie linebacker Chad Kilgore could also be headed to the practice squad. He looked good in the preseason. Linebacker Nathan Stupar, a seventh-round draft pick, was a surprise cut after he had a strong preseason. I could see him being claimed elsewhere. If not, I'm sure Oakland will try to put him on the practice squad.

What’s next: I expect the Raiders to be very busy in the next few days. Depth is a big problem because of a salary-cap issue and a lack of draft picks the past two years. The Raiders’ lack of depth was a serious problem in the preseason. I think the Raiders could use help at running back, tight end, the offensive line, and linebacker and in the secondary. Yes, they could be busy. Among the players Oakland could look at include Rock Cartwright, Tim Hightower, Joselio Hanson, Justin Miller and Chris Cooley. Oakland could also be on the lookout for a pass-rusher. It worked out Andre Carter recently, but he reportedly isn’t healthy enough to sign anywhere.
Click here for a complete list of Philadelphia Eagles roster moves.

Most significant move: Mike Kafka went into training camp as the favorite to be the backup quarterback behind Michael Vick. But a combination of events led to Kafka's release Friday. First, he broke his hand in the first preseason game. Second, rookie Nick Foles impressed enough that the Eagles are now comfortable with him as their No. 2 quarterback. And third, Trent Edwards played well enough to convince the Eagles to keep him as a backup quarterback over Kafka. Backup quarterback is a significant position for the Eagles, as Vick has a history of missing games due to injury and there exists a strong chance that Foles and/or Edwards will have to start games for them this season. ... The answer to which defensive lineman had to go was defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, who was the final cut announced by the team shortly before 8 p.m. ET. That means Cedric Thornton and Darryl Tapp are still on the team, and the Eagles as of now have 10 defensive linemen.

Onward and upward: Nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson was cut on this day last year, too, but was immediately brought back at a lower salary. This year, that does not seem likely to happen. This time, it appears rookie Brandon Boykin beat out Hanson for the nickel corner spot, in part because he played well there and in part because of his usefulness as a returner and special-teams player. Hanson didn't have a great year in 2011, but he looked like a good nickel corner as recently as 2010 and likely could help someone. I wonder whether the Giants take a look, given their issues with health at cornerback.

What's next: Having cut both O.J. Atogwe (who couldn't stay healthy) and undrafted rookie Phillip Thomas, the Eagles are thin at safety. The only current backup to the starters is still-unproven Jaiquawn Jarrett, and even if they believed him capable, they'd want at least one more. Look for the Eagles to troll the list of other cuts to see whether there's someone out there who can help them beef up their bench a bit in the secondary.

UPDATE: Shortly after the cut deadline, the Eagles announced they'd acquired safety David Sims from the Browns for a conditional 2013 draft pick and released offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde.

Observation deck: Jets-Eagles

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

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

What I'll be watching: Eagles-Browns

August, 24, 2012
The Philadelphia Eagles play their third preseason game of 2012 at 7:30 p.m. Friday against the Browns in Cleveland. And yes, they open the regular season in Cleveland against these same Browns 16 days from now. Which is extremely weird. But regardless, here's what I'll be watching ...

Most closely: Nick Foles, of course! The rookie starts the game, with Michael Vick still out because of those banged-up ribs, and gets the chance to work against a first-team defense for the first time in his so-far-very-impressive preseason. Foles has a chance to supplant the injured Mike Kafka as Vick's backup if he continues to impress (and if Kafka continues to sit out) over these final two preseason games. Foles is a big kid with a big arm who does a lot of things on the field that look very good. It's what happens after he inevitably makes bad rookie mistakes that we're still waiting to see.

On the other side of the ball: For me, it's safety play. I'm sold that the defensive line is deep and fearsome, and I think this defense is built to make its linebackers look bad, because they can play well all game and then give up two big third-down plays and no one's allowed to point out that the linemen over-pursued because that's what they're supposed to do. Fact is, they're not changing the way they operate, and the benefit of Wide 9 likely outweighs the detriment. I want to see what they have at safety. I thought Nate Allen played well in the last game and Kurt Coleman in the first one, and it's possible they'll be OK there. But my sense is that they have very little behind those guys, with slow veteran O.J. Atogwe and struggling second-year man Jaiquawn Jarrett. Wouldn't hurt a guy like that to make an impression tonight.

If I think of it: Backup running back is still interesting, with Bryce Brown and Chris Polk scrapping for snaps behind LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis. Curtis Marsh at cornerback, since he's probably the first guy off the bench to replace one of the outside starters. More from Brandon Boykin and Joselio Hanson in that nickel corner fight, as Boykin has looked very good to this point. And I'm a DeMeco Ryans believer, but he'd do well to convert some more people to his side, I think.

Observation deck: Eagles-Patriots

August, 21, 2012

The story of the Philadelphia Eagles' 27-17 preseason victory over the Patriots on "Monday Night Football" was one of quarterbacks. Eagles starter Michael Vick was knocked out of the game by an injury for the second time in two weeks, taking a shot to the ribs that required X-rays (which were negative) and raising old red flags about his fragility and the manner in which his style of play contributes to that. That injury, combined with Mike Kafka's absence due to his own injury, pushed rookie Nick Foles into significant playing time, and Foles looked very good.

Foles was 18-for-28 for 217 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. It was his second impressive performance of the preseason. And while it's important to note that he has not played against first-team defenses, it's also worth raising the question of whether Foles could beat out Kafka for the No. 2 quarterback spot behind Vick. He's a rookie, and he'd likely make more mistakes than Kafka would if pressed into fill-in duty. But in practices and games he has shown a stronger arm and better touch on deep throws than Kafka has, and that matters in Philadelphia's speed-based offense. That difference alone could set Foles apart if he continues to impress and Kafka can't get on the field, and Foles showed impressive poise Monday night, along with the ability to handle many different aspects of the playbook.

I don't personally believe the Eagles can contend this year if Vick has to miss a significant period of time. But if he does need to sit out here and there due to injury, the Eagles and their fans have at least seen something from Foles that would make them feel a little bit better if they had to go with a rookie.

Here are some other things I noticed/saw/thought about the Eagles on Monday:

1. What was Andy Reid yelling about? I am certain that, if the Eagles have a great season, the head coach's first-half sideline shouting match with Cullen Jenkins and the defense will be looked back upon as a brilliant bit of motivation and leadership. I am equally sure that, if the Eagles have a poor season, that exchange will be regarded as a sign of insurmountable discord. Of greater likelihood than either of those is that it was an emotional outburst by a coach who was getting sick of dumb third-down penalties. And if you're worried about whatever happened there causing lasting damage to coach-player relationships, Reid's track record more than earns him the benefit of the doubt.

2. That said, penalties are unforced errors and a worthy subject of coaching scorn, even in the preseason. I've written many times here that preseason games are poor predictors of regular-season performance, because we don't know which teams are game-planning for these games and which are not. But penalties have little or nothing to do with whether the opponent is scheming to beat you. They're about discipline, attention and focus. The Eagles had 16 of them on Monday, for a total of 131 yards, and I would not be looking forward to my next practice right now if I were an Eagles player.

3. Mychal Kendricks was a defensive star in this game. He showed speed and instincts closing on running back Shane Vereen on a screen pass early in the game, and he got himself into the backfield to disrupt a couple of running plays. The Eagles' big linebacker addition was veteran middleman DeMeco Ryans, but Kendricks looks as though he could be an asset on the outside. The Eagles' defensive scheme is going to make its linebackers look bad at times. Even at its best, it relies on aggressiveness by the linemen up front. Because of they, they're likely going to get a lot of sacks and pressure a lot of quarterbacks. But an offshoot of that aggressiveness is that sometimes over-pursuit will open them up to the possibility of a big play. That puts a lot of responsibility on the linebackers to limit those plays, and when they don't, it's going to look ugly. The Eagles seem willing to accept that risk in exchange for the long-term reward their pressure schemes bring them. And they appear better equipped this year to limit damage at the second level.

4. Don't forget Brandon Boykin. The Eagles' fourth-round pick is more than holding his own in his fight with veteran Joselio Hanson for the role of nickel cornerback. He also showed explosiveness on a kickoff return and helped cause a turnover with his speed as a gunner on the punt coverage team. Hanson looked good in his turn at cornerback, too, but what Boykin brings on special teams should keep him on a roster and, at the very least, a persistent threat to Hanson's spot.

5. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie looked very active and very good before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. Reid said Rodgers-Cromartie wanted to go back in and didn't sound overly concerned.

6. King Dunlap played the whole first half at left tackle, and Demetress Bell was flagged for a couple of penalties during the second half. At this point, it would not be a surprise if the Eagles opened the season with Dunlap as the starting left tackle. It also wouldn't be a surprise if Bell worked to learn the schemes in a backup role and threatened to take the job back from Dunlap as the season went along, the way Danny Watkins did last year at right guard. Howard Mudd's schemes aren't easy for everyone to get right away.

7. The Eagles have some tough roster decisions at defensive line, but Phillip Hunt is going to be impossible to cut. Say whatever you want to say about his size, but they don't have anyone faster among their pass-rushers (which is saying something), and he's just made too many plays to overlook.

8. Punter note! Mat McBriar averaged 49.8 yards on his four punts. Chas Henry dropped both of his inside the 20 and one inside the 10. I don't think it's a real competition if McBriar proves himself healthy, but it's nice to see that Henry won't go down without a fight.
video Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnadmi Asomugha was being evaluated for a concussion Monday night after leaving practice following an on-field collision with safety Nate Allen. Jeff McLane has the particulars here, and it's worth noting that Asomugha also suffered a concussion during a game in December. If he has another, it will be difficult to estimate the timetable for his recovery.

Concussions are serious business in today's NFL, especially with so many ex-players suing the league claiming it ignored the effects of head injuries for so many years. Concussions are also cumulative in their effect and the damage they do -- meaning a second one is by definition worse than the first. Should Asomugha have a concussion, the Eagles are likely to be extremely careful with how and when they return him to the field. And while it would see unlikely that the season opener 27 days from now would be in jeopardy, it couldn't be ruled out.

The good thing Asomugha has going for him is that the Eagles' medical and training staff has been influential in the establishment and administration of the NFL's concussion protocols, and for that reason there's no place better than Philadelphia for him to get whatever treatment and care he needs to make sure he doesn't return until it's absolutely safe for him to do so. He could be back in a matter of days, or, if he's concussed, it could be much longer. The long-term and short-term health of the player take precedence in these cases over team needs.

In the meantime, with Curtis Marsh injured, reports from up at Lehigh say that Joselio Hanson filled in for Asomugha after he left.

UPDATE (7:24 pm ET): The Eagles announced Monday night that Asomugha had no concussion symptoms, which obviously is encouraging news for his chances of returning to the practice field soon.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- A year ago, as excitement swirled around the free-agent-happy Philadelphia Eagles and preseason predictions called for big things, something still didn't feel quite right.

"I didn't think the expectations were too high, but I knew that the timing might not match up as quickly as everyone wanted it to," cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said after practice last week. "Because you would hear, 'Oh, they're going to be this, going to be that,' and then you'd come out in practice and you could see us blowing plays. Yes, we could be there, but we weren't there yet. That's what I was feeling in training camp. Right now in training camp, it feels completely different."

Last week, before the Eagles' training camp was rocked by Sunday's news of the death of coach Andy Reid's son Garrett, the atmosphere was serene and businesslike. The players have been practicing together since February, when Asomugha and quarterback Michael Vick were organizing players-only workouts at the University of Pennsylvania. And late July welcomed them to one of the hardest-hitting camps in the NFL. Their motivation is clear and simple -- they were 8-8 last year and believe they should have been better. They admit to being downright angry about the way the 2011 season went.

"Yeah, I think there's a determined effort to try to maximize our opportunity," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. "You see it from the players. You see it from the coaches. You see it from the support staff. And I think last year, maybe you underestimated how long it takes to acclimate."

No such issues or excuses this time around. This is basically the same group as last year's, with new guys at middle linebacker and left tackle. All of the coaches who were new to the team or their roles last year are back. All of the new schemes implemented last year by defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, defensive line coach Jim Washburn and offensive line coach Howard Mudd are familiar by now, and everybody should be more comfortable in them. If the Eagles flop again, there won't be anywhere to look for explanations other than within. That's why this August's focus is internal, and on the things that are important, rather than any hype they might be attracting.

"I don't want anyone buying into anything," Asomugha said. "I just want us to get into this season and just play the way we know how to play. I'll be completely honest with you: Our team looks very good. Obviously it's camp, we're not playing against anybody. But we're under specific instruction: Don't talk. Don't blow this thing up. Don't nothing. Let's just get in the season and let's just start playing football."

Once they do that, the Eagles believe that this time around, everything will be just fine.


1. Can Vick lead them to greatness? There is no player in the league under more pressure in 2012 than Vick. The brilliance of his 2010 season was away under the disappointment of his injury- and interception-riddled 2011, in which he failed to take that critical next step in his late-career development as a leader and a quarterback. The popular narrative is that this is the first time since 2006 in Atlanta that Vick has had a real offseason as a team's starting quarterback. He began 2010 as the Eagles' backup, and the 2011 offseason was wiped away by the lockout. The result, everyone says, is that Vick has spent more time than ever before at the team facility, working out, studying film and applying himself to details in order to get better.

"It's all evident," Vick said of his 2011 film review. "A lot of the turnovers I had, I think eight of them, were on balls that got tipped, so I need to try and release the ball a little higher, do something differently. There's nothing more gratifying than learning from a mistake. Interceptions are going to happen, but you try to keep them to a minimum and think about ball control."

The more focus on detail, the better for Vick, who has long relied on his unusual and considerable talent to carry him through. As last year proved, being a quarterback is about the little things, and much more than just what you can do with your arm and your legs.

"I see him just being smarter," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said of Vick. "He's taking a leadership role where he can be coached and be taught by other people as well. He's not at a point where he doesn't feel like anybody can tell him anything. He interacts, and he wants to know what it is that he's doing something wrong. And if he is doing something wrong, you can just get on him, just like a regular individual, a regular player."

[+] EnlargeDemeco Ryans
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelThe Eagles believe veteran DeMeco Ryans will provide the defense with stability at linebacker.
2. The "quarterback of the defense." The big player acquisition of the Eagles' offseason was middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, whom they acquired in a trade with the Houston Texans prior to the draft. Ryans is a well-respected veteran who was emerging as one of the top linebackers in the league before his 2010 Achilles injury. A misfit in the 3-4 defense the Texans implemented during his rehab, Ryans is more comfortable playing the middle linebacker spot in the Eagles' 4-3. He's also healthy and looking like the player who was so universally loved and respected by Texans teammates, who called him "Cap." The Eagles' defense, which started unprepared rookie Casey Matthews as its middle linebacker last September, should benefit from Ryans' veteran presence in the role.

"You see that stability there," Reid said. "The game's slower for him than it would be for a rookie. So he's able to just kind of get everybody lined up, get everybody settled and calmed down."

Roseman said it was a priority for the Eagles to find "the quarterback of our defense," and Ryans is aware that he was brought in to correct 2011's biggest defensive flaw. But he's trying to keep those expectations as calm as he's trying to keep his defensive teammates.

"It's not going to take one person to fix all the problems," Ryans said. "It takes everybody working together and finding out how we can make all 11 guys play better and have a better defense."

Sure, but what they like about Ryans is that he can help teach everybody just how to do that. And who can play a little, too.

"It's not like we just got a guy off the street who has some experience," Asomugha said. "This guy is a big-time player."

3. Replacin' Jason. Left tackle Jason Peters may have been the best player on the Eagles' roster last year, and that's no slight to anyone else. Peters was a monster blocker who was critical to the overall success of the offensive line and to the breakout season of running back LeSean McCoy. But Peters injured his Achilles in the offseason and is out for the year. His replacement is free-agent signee Demetress Bell, who's athletic like Peters and has the potential to be an adequate replacement. Bell's issue has been staying healthy and on the field, but so far his teammates say he's looking good and picking up Mudd's complex blocking schemes.

"I think he's one of the best options we could have had to replace Jason," left guard Evan Mathis said. "He displays great athleticism. He has a hunger to learn and a hunger to get better. And what's good for him is, Jason had a monster season, so he can go look at the film of Jason having a monster season, take what he's learning from Howard, apply it to what he's doing on the field and just try and replicate that and do exactly what Jason was doing. He's making strides daily."


For all that went wrong last year, the Eagles still managed to finish 8-8 and weren't eliminated from playoff contention until Week 16. Had they managed to hold just one of those blown fourth-quarter leads -- against the 49ers, Falcons or Giants, say -- we might be having a very different discussion about their 2011. They played well enough at the end of last year (and in the first three quarters of their September games) to prove to themselves they can be as good as they think they can be. If they can cut down on the costly mistakes, and if they get the mental boost they say they got from their season-ending four-game winning streak, it's not a long journey from where they were to a division title.


So much comes down to Vick, and with a backup corps that currently comprises Mike Kafka, Trent Edwards and rookie Nick Foles, it's more important than ever for him to stay healthy. He hasn't played 16 games in a season since 2006, and the Eagles were 1-2 in the three games he missed last year. When he's at his best, Vick gives the Eagles advantages at the position over any team in the league. He can do things with his arm and his legs that other quarterbacks can't. But his relatively small size and his all-out style of play have created a history of injury that can't be overlooked when forecasting his -- and the Eagles' -- season. If he doesn't play well, or if they lose him for an extended period of time, it's going to be difficult for them to compete with the top teams in the NFC.

    [+] EnlargeJeremy Maclin
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesNow fully healthy, WR Jeremy Maclin has the tools to have a career season in 2012.
  • Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is a breakout candidate. He was sick this time last year and wasn't able to get a lot out of training camp, and he had injury issues throughout the season. But he's 100 percent healthy now, and he gives the Eagles a big-time speed threat opposite Jackson in the wide receiver corps. Don't be surprised if Maclin has a better statistical season than Jackson.
  • I think McCoy will miss Peters at left tackle, because the Eagles ran outside a lot last year and Peters' upfield blocking was a huge help to McCoy's ability to break long runs. But having watched the Eagles work on their inside running in camp, I get the impression they're so strong in the middle of the offensive line -- especially given how much better 2011 first-round pick Danny Watkins looks at right guard -- that McCoy will be able to run successfully between the tackles more than he did a year ago.
  • Brandon Graham is the 2012 Eagles in microcosm. Fans are sick of hearing how good he's supposed to be and just want to see it. The 2010 first-round pick looks fantastic in the early going and should be able to make a contribution as part of the rotation at defensive end. Reid says the plan is to rotate eight guys on the defensive line and "throw fastballs, if we can, at the offensive line." A healthy, productive Graham subbing in to give Trent Cole or Jason Babin a breather would go a long way toward enabling that.
  • Jamar Chaney was playing well enough to look like the starter at weakside linebacker before a hamstring injury in the second week of camp sidelined him. So that could be Matthews or Brian Rolle if Chaney can't keep his momentum going. Rookie Mychal Kendricks is supposed to start on the strong side, but the Eagles are taking things slowly with him. Don't be surprised if, as with Watkins a year ago, his role is bigger in the second half than it is at the start.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the starter at cornerback opposite Asomugha, looks spry and comfortable in his new role. He played the slot cornerback position last year, which he never has before, and should be better on the outside.
  • Rookie Brandon Boykin could win that slot corner job ahead of veteran Joselio Hanson. Boykin is also helping as a kick returner.
  • It's possible the Eagles could go without a fullback. They didn't use one much last year, and they like what backup tight end Brett Brackett has been showing in camp. They could use him or Clay Harbor along with Brent Celek in multiple tight end sets.
The Philadelphia Eagles love those dynamic athletes, and they found one late in the fourth round of the NFL draft on Saturday. With the 28th pick in the fourth round -- a pick they got from Green Bay as part of their second-round deal with the Packers -- the Eagles selected Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin.

Boykin had been rated much higher than this early in the draft process but fell due to concerns over his size (5-9, 182) and his durability (history of concussions, broke a bone in his leg at the Senior Bowl). He's not a great zone corner, but scouts like his ball skills and his speed and recovery ability as a cover man.

The Eagles likely view Boykin as a potential slot cornerback -- perhaps someone who could take that job away from Joselio Hanson in training camp -- and a kick and/or punt returner, since that's a role he filled in college and he has the speed and instincts as a runner to pull it off.
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Philadelphia Eagles GM Howie Roseman, in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday, made it sound like the team could trade cornerback Asante Samuel if it wanted to. The Eagles are deep at cornerback with Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and there did seem to be some overcrowding issues last year.

But Eagles coach Andy Reid, when asked about the same issue Wednesday, was a little more non-committal.

[+] EnlargeAsante Samuel
AP Photo/Mel EvansSince the Eagles are deep at cornerback, they could decide to deal Asante Samuel.
"Asante is obviously on the team," Reid said. "We'll see how things go with the three of them. I said last year and I'll say it again: It's a pretty good situation to have, if you can sit there and say you have those three corners. Asante and Nnamdi are a little bit older, but both of them can still play at a high level. So we'll see how things work out. That's the best I can tell you."

Like a lot of things about last year's Eagles defense, the deployment of those three cornerbacks often seemed confused. Rodgers-Cromartie was asked to play inside in the nickel position, which was not something he'd done in the past. And it's fair to assume they'd be better off with two of the aforementioned three on the outside and Joselio Hanson in the nickel spot. But Reid isn't going to come out and admit he needs to trade a guy because it would help him construct his lineup better. That's not the kind of thing that helps your leverage in trade talks with other teams. So publicly, he insists all was and will be hunky dory.

"As [Rodgers-Cromartie] settled into the nickel position and he learned it, he understood the leverage, and that was really the primary thing that was the problem," Reid said. "Just learning the leverage along with the coverages and indicators of splits with the inside receivers and the kind of routes that came off. He went through and he learned all of that. And we keep all of that kind of in-house with our players, any talk we have with them."

So we'll see. If I were a betting man, I'd be broke, but if I were a betting man I'd bet the Eagles find a taker for Samuel before the draft and that Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie are the 2012 starters with Hanson, who has more experience in the nickel spot, playing there. They have four weeks to figure it all out.

Michael Vick to miss third straight game

November, 30, 2011
The Philadelphia Eagles have officially announced that quarterback Michael Vick, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will not play in Thursday night's game against the Seahawks in Seattle. It will be the third missed game in a row for all three players, who were injured in what has turned out to be an extremely costly Week 10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Vick's broken ribs are healing, but the Eagles don't want to put him back into a game until they're fully healed, since they worry they'll affect his throwing motion and make him less effective. Vince Young will make his third start in a row at quarterback. Maclin is dealing with shoulder and hamstring injuries, and the timetable for his return remains unclear. Expect Riley Cooper to get another start in Maclin's place opposite DeSean Jackson. And Rodgers-Cromartie has an ankle injury. Joselio Hanson has filled in fine for Rodgers-Cromartie, but with Nnamdi Asomugha limited by a knee injury, the Eagles' once-impressive depth at cornerback has dwindled.

Asomugha and running back LeSean McCoy, who has a toe injury, are listed as questionable on the team's Wednesday injury report.

New York Giants cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2011
Click here for a complete list of the New York Giants' roster moves.

Biggest surprise: Four rookie linebackers made the team. And yes, I know some of you were telling me that would happen Friday, but I expected Adrian Tracy to make the team and I was wrong. He was one of three 2010 draft picks -- including fellow linebacker Phillip Dillard and punter Matt Dodge -- among Saturday's cuts. But in part because of the way they played on special teams, rookies Mark Herzlich, Greg Jones, Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger all made the team. That's the corps of backup linebackers behind starters Jonathan Goff, Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Boley.

Running backs D.J. Ware and Da'Rel Scott made the team while 2009 draft pick Andre Brown was cut. Devin Thomas made the team as a wide receiver over Michael Clayton based on a strong preseason showing. And the Giants basically keep three tight ends -- Travis Beckum, Jake Ballard and Bear Pascoe with rookie Henry Hynoski slated to be the starting fullback.

No-brainers: Dodge had a very good preseason, has a lot of talent and probably will find work somewhere. But once the Giants brought in Steve Weatherford, who's been one of the best punters in the league the past two years, Dodge's days were numbered. Weatherford will be the punter, and the bad memories of Dodge and DeSean Jackson can begin to fade. Health issues cost Sage Rosenfels the backup quarterback job, which goes back to David Carr.

What's next: I think they need to sort through the Eagles' castoffs. In particular, tight end Donald Lee and nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson make a lot of sense for the Giants, as the former would fill a huge hole and the latter would allow them to keep Antrel Rolle at safety. And personally I always think they need linebacker help, but they disagree and they like their rookies, so I guess we'll see.

Philadelphia Eagles cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Click here for a complete list of the Philadelphia Eagles' roster moves.

Surprise move: It's not a huge surprise that nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson was released, considering how deep the Eagles were at cornerback after their frenzied first week of free agency. But I do think people are surprised that they couldn't get anything for him in a trade before releasing him. It seems no team wanted to compensate the Eagles and also assume Hanson's contract, which had $7.6 million left over the next three years. He was an extremely effective nickel corner last year and surely will end up on someone's roster (Cleveland? Arizona? St. Louis? The Giants?) before long.

It was a bit of a surprise to see the Eagles cut defensive tackles Anthony Hargrove and Derek Landri and keep Cedric Thornton, but ultimately I guess they believed Landri and Hargrove weren't big enough to play the position in Jim Washburn's scheme. Very small but very effective former CFL star Phillip Hunt made the team at defensive end, though. And cutting both Sinorice Moss and Johnnie Lee Higgins leaves the Eagles looking for help in the return game.

No-brainers: Keeping five safeties (Jarrad Page, Kurt Coleman, Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Colt Anderson) and six linebackers (Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney, Moise Fokou, Akeem Jordan, Brian Rolle and Keenan Clayton) makes some sense because they have questions at those positions and will hold onto depth until they sort out roles. Tight end Donald Lee probably can help someone, but with all of the options the Eagles have at receiver, there isn't much room in the game plan for many two-tight end sets. Mike McGlynn started 14 games for the Eagles last year, but it was clear from the start of camp that there was no place for him on the new offensive line.

What's next: The Eagles are likely to poke around and look for help at linebacker and kick returner, but they're set at almost every position and extremely deep at most. If I'm their front office, I begin focusing my attention on whatever potential resolution there might be to the DeSean Jackson contract situation.

The Eagles' crowd of cornerbacks

August, 5, 2011
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- What everyone wanted to know was how it would look when they were all finally allowed to practice together. When the league year finally got underway and the new signees could be on the field in pads with everybody else, who would be lining up as the Eagles' starting cornerbacks? Well, shortly after 8 a.m. Friday we got our answer. In the base 4-3, it was Nnamdi Asomugha on the right, Asante Samuel on the left, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the sideline. Which was fine with Rodgers-Cromartie.

[+] EnlargeAsante Samuel
AP Photo/Alex BrandonThe Eagles' Asante Samuel, right, celebrates an interception by Curtis Marsh in Friday's practice.
"I can respect that," Rodgers-Cromartie told me after the morning practice. "Those are proven guys in the league. That just puts pressure on me to be ready. I've got to be that focused, so when I come in or whoever else comes in, it won't be a dropoff. Anytime those guys need a break, I'll just go out there. I think it's workable, because I know football is a long season, 16 games, so I know I'm going to get my shot."

This is a guy saying all the right things. He doesn't even care that Joselio Hanson was getting the snaps as the nickel cornerback, because he says that was Hanson's role here last season and he's good at it. Rodgers-Cromartie says he's loving the chance to learn from Asomugha and Samuel. He says they've both been great about offering advice. And if he's going to maintain this attitude, he's going to make things very easy on his coaches.

"I know people go, 'How're you going to play them all?' but we'll find a way," head coach Andy Reid told me. "You've got great players, you find a way to put them in. They're all going to play. Everybody knows they're all starters. They've all got their accolades that they've received. They'll all play and they know that."

There was the Asante Samuel news conference this week where it sounded as if things might get a little touchy on this front. The one where he said "If they're tired of my big-play making ability, maybe they'll want to ship me off." But Samuel was his usual, loud, trash-talking self during practice Friday and seemed happy. And while there's a chance they could trade him if they get offered a great pick or maybe a great linebacker, there's a greater chance all three of these guys open the season on the roster, with Asomugha and Samuel starting and an eager Rodgers-Cromartie waiting to go in when he's needed.

"That's how it was today," Asomugha told me. "So I don't see them changing things when we've got a game in like three days or something like that and we've got to get ready for the season to start. I don't see a lot being changed between now and then."

Asomugha has pushed his coaches on expanding his role in the defense beyond the strict cover-corner responsibilities he had in Oakland. He told me he played safety in college until moving to corner in his third year, and that he's never considered himself, "just a cover guy."

"A lot of people have, though, because they feel like, if I can do it at the level that I've been able to do it, then that's all that I should be doing," Asomugha said. "But when you tap into it and you start seeing other things that I can do, it gives you a little bit more flexibility. I can do more than just play corner."

Which means they could, conceivably, play him at safety on a play here or there, or bring him up to help against the run, or -- and this is a suggestion that drew a big smile -- blitz and sack a quarterback.

"Oh yeah," he said. "We've got some of that in there."

What they have is a ton of talent at cornerback in a league that sees more and more passing every year. And if the worst-case scenario is that all three of these guys are on the team come September and battling each other for playing time ... well, a lot of teams would like to have the Eagles' problems.

Leading Questions: NFC East

February, 17, 2011
With the offseason in full swing, let's take a look at one major question facing each NFC East team as it begins preparations for the 2011 season:


Can Rob Ryan fix this defense?

I understand that folks are already predicting a bounce-back season under new coach Jason Garrett, but that would have to be fueled by the defense. The defense caused a lot more turnovers once Wade Phillips was fired at midseason, but teams still put up plenty of points.

The Cowboys gave up an embarrassing 27.2 points per game, which ranked 31st in the league. The passing defense was ranked 26th. And help might not be on the way when you consider the fact that a lockout could wipe out free agency this offseason. (Do we really think free agency could take place during a one-week period in, say, late August?) The Cowboys need to make changes at safety and cornerback. But at this point, their best hope is landing a starter in the draft.

The thought is that Ryan's fiery presence will spark some of the veteran players. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff's coming off a down season -- by his standards. Perhaps Ryan will turn him loose as a defensive end this season if the Cowboys can find a suitable replacement in the middle. And it will be interesting to see what Ryan does with second-year inside linebacker Sean Lee. Will this be the season when Lee supplants veteran Keith Brooking on the field?


What can GM Jerry Reese do about the back end of this defense?

It would be a mistake to make massive changes to this talented unit, but a major flaw was revealed down the stretch. With a chance to lock up the division, the Giants' defense out and out collapsed against the Eagles and Packers. It was a stunning turn of events for a team that had fed off its defense throughout the season. Reese has vowed to address the situation that allowed Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers to put up monster numbers in consecutive weeks.

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was a head-coaching candidate after the 2010 season, but he'll be back with the Giants for at least one more season. I didn't like the fact that he was bemoaning the loss of the versatile Mathias Kiwanuka late in the season. Did anyone hear the Green Bay Packers complaining about losing all those starters to injured reserve?

As defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul continues to develop, it can only help this secondary. It took him a while to find the quarterback, but once he did, Pierre-Paul began causing havoc. I think this defense will be a lot more instinctive in its second year with Fewell. I like the three-safety look with Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips and Deon Grant, but Reese won't be complacent when it comes to acquiring talent. He needs more speed on the back end. Terrell Thomas has emerged as a solid cornerback, but he needs more help. Watch what the Giants do in this draft. Something tells me Reese will continue to focus on defense.


How will Juan Castillo perform as defensive coordinator?

You have to hand it to coach Andy Reid. The man knows how to keep us on our toes during a coaching search. Who knew that he was disguising his future defensive coordinator as an offensive line coach all these years? I've discussed the O-line with Castillo over the years, and I believe him to be one of the most underrated offensive assistants in the league. How does that translate to defense? I have no clue.

I do think he'll bring a tremendous amount of energy to the job. Sean McDermott was undermined by injuries in his two years in that role. The Eagles didn't take enough quality cornerbacks into the 2010 season, and they paid dearly. You can't afford to send Asante Samuel and the Funky Bunch out there in 2011. Dimitri Patterson and Joselio Hanson are serviceable players, but they were eventually exposed. Howie Roseman and Reid have to address this position. And then Castillo has to figure out a way to put the teeth back in this pass-rush. At least the man knows what a quarterback sack looks like.


What will Mike Shanahan do about this quarterback situation?

Seems like we're asking this same question every year. It looked like the Redskins had the answer heading into 2010, but the Donovan McNabb experiment was an epic failure for all involved. Shanahan certainly bears a lot of the blame. Now we'll see what he can do with a young quarterback. Cam Newton's suddenly vaulted into the top five in some of the mock drafts, so the Redskins might be looking at Missouri's Blaine Gabbert.

Gabbert has less of a boom-or-bust factor, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper. He might be ready for prime time sooner than Newton. Shanahan and son Kyle will have to get Rex Grossman ready as the starter until a young quarterback is ready to take over. And that can't sound good to Redskins fans who are starving for a playoff appearance.

Dan Snyder told me two weeks ago that he hopes McNabb will return as his starting quarterback. That's nonsense when you consider what happened last season. But no matter who lines up behind center, Shanahan has to surround him with more talent. The Redskins might be able to re-sign Santana Moss, but he's no longer a true No. 1 receiver. The Redskins desperately need an impact player at that position. At running back, it looks like Ryan Torain will get a shot as the starter. The only way Clinton Portis is coming back is if he restructures his contract. He may have a season or two left, but you can't count on him to make it through 16 games anymore.

It's all about the quarterback, though. As usual.




Sunday, 2/2