NFL Nation: Omar Gaither
The two day saga involving Rolando McClain is over for the Oakland Raiders with the disappointing former first-round pick still remaining with the team.
This issue is probably the beginning of the end for McClain in Oakland, who has been a problem on and off the field.
The Raiders announced Friday morning that McClain was suspended for two games for conduct detrimental to the team. He can come back Dec. 10. The issue began Wednesday when Oakland coach Dennis Allen said McClain did not practice because of a team-related issue. There was a report that said Allen and McClain had a heated exchange early in practice and McClain was ordered off the field. Other reports suggested the discussion was not heated. McClain was not on the field Thursday.
McClain went on his Facebook page Wednesday and said he was no longer a Raider and he was very critical. He even wrote that he wanted to play for a “real team.” That did not please teammates and if McClain does ever get back into the Oakland locker room, it may be a cold place for him.
The Raiders clearly considered cutting McClain -- the No. 8 pick of the 2010 draft -- but opted for this suspension. There is feeling around the team that taking this route will be tougher on McClain rather than cutting him now.
If McClain really wants to move on, the last thing the Raiders want to do is give him an opportunity to be claimed or to sign with a playoff contender.
McClain could be released after his suspension is over or he could be buried on the bench for the final three games of the season when he comes back. Oakland could then jettison him in the offseason.
Oakland now turns over the middle linebacker spot to recently-signed Omar Gaither and adds the position to a long list of offseason needs. It is good for the team to have some clarity on McClain even if the final move has yet to be made.
For Carolina, quarterback Jimmy Clausen, safety Jordan Pugh, running back Mike Goodson, tight end Richie Brockel, linebacker Omar Gaither, tackle Lee Ziemba and defensive tackle Frank Kearse are inactive.
For Washington, receiver Donte Stallworth, safety Oshiomogo Atogwe, cornerback Byron Westbrook, tight end Chris Cooley, linebacker Markus White, tackle Trent Williams and defensive lineman Darrion Scott.
Atlanta has declared receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) and cornerback Chris Owens (concussion) out for Sunday’s game with Carolina. Defensive end John Abraham (groin), center Todd McClure (knee), guard Garrett Reynolds (ankle), and safety James Sanders (hamstring) are all listed as questionable. Abraham, McClure and Reynolds each participated in Friday’s practice on a limited basis.
The New Orleans Saints declared right tackle Zach Strief (knee), linebacker Will Herring (hamstring) and tight end David Thomas (concussion) out for Sunday’s game with Tampa Bay. Receiver Devery Henderson (calf) is probable.
The Buccaneers declared defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (ankle), tight end Luke Stocker (knee) and receiver Sammie Stroughter (foot) out for Sunday. Running back LeGarrette Blount (knee) is listed as doubtful and linebacker Mason Foster (knee) is questionable. Foster was able to participate in practice fully Friday.
As the Panthers wait for official word on Beason, they have to prepare to go on without him. Dan Connor has started in the middle before, and the fact he’s from Penn State probably means the Panthers now are headed to the Super Bowl. I’m just adding a little humor to a difficult situation and I’m a Penn State fan (even after the loss to Alabama).
But the reality is Connor is a good linebacker, but he’s not Beason. Connor plays the run just fine, but isn’t a guy you want dropping in coverage. The Panthers can rely on outside linebackers Thomas Davis and James Anderson in pass coverage.
Once Connor steps into the starting lineup, though, the Panthers have little linebacker depth beyond the starters. Omar Gaither is the only backup with much experience.
No big surprises on the inactives list. Eagles veteran linebacker Omar Gaither is inactive for only the second time this season, so that's a little interesting. And I'll also tell you that rookie Jamar Chaney out of Mississippi State has been getting some extra work in practice and you could possibly see him spell Stewart Bradley at middle linebacker.
As we already knew, Marion Barber is inactive for this game. The Cowboys will go with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. I'd expect for Choice to touch the ball at least 18 times in this game. That is, unless the Eagles get an early lead and Jason Garrett is forced to abandon the run.
Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg always script out the first 15 plays or so. The Eagles are one of the best teams in the league at scoring on their first possession. If the Cowboys' defense can get off the field on the first drive, it would be an early confidence builder.
Tomorrow's talker: Kolb remains the starter, but everyone will be talking about Michael Vick's performance. He won this game for the Eagles. Even though the Lions sacked him several times, he extended a lot of plays with his legs and delivered excellent passes. Vick never lost his poise and tried to press things when the Eagles fell behind. He played like the veteran quarterback he is and that's why he'll be a starter somewhere in the NFL next season. Should he remain the starter for the Eagles? I don't think so.
Goat: Once left tackle Jason Peters suffered an ankle injury, the Eagles were in a world of hurt up front. Kolb can move around but he obviously won't be able to race around as much as Vick. I think everyone on defense deserves some blame for Lions rookie Jahvid Best having such a huge day. I noticed Brodrick Bunkley getting stopped at the line of scrimmage a time or two and it looked like Omar Gaither had a tough time shedding blockers on some of those Best runs and catches.
What I didn't like: The Eagles fell asleep at the wheel with a big lead. Good teams don't let that happen. The Lions have enough talent at the skill positions to make some big plays and the Eagles should have shut the door.
What's next: If you can beat the Jaguars on the road to get to 2-1, then you have the huge Donovan McNabb homecoming the following weekend. All eyes will be on Kevin Kolb this week as he prepares to relaunch his season. Hopefully he has put that first half out of his mind.
The late Jim Johnson benched Gaither in favor of Akeem Jordan late in the '08 season. When Jeremiah Trotter was released before the '07 season, it was believed Gaither would be an upgrade at middle linebacker. But the young player has never looked comfortable as a starter. If he makes the team in 2010, he'll need to be a valuable part of Bobby April's special teams unit.
We'll keep you posted on the players who haven't signed their tenders. The versatile guard/center Nick Cole hasn't signed his tender at this point. I think the Eagles would be wise to pay Cole a little money and lock him up for a few seasons, but it doesn't look like it will happen before the April 15 deadline.
Potential unrestricted free agents: G Montrae Holland
Potential restricted free agents: NT Junior Siavii, WR Miles Austin, DE Stephen Bowen, CB Cletis Gordon, DE Jason Hatcher, WR Sam Hurd, T Pat McQuistan, C Duke Preston, G Cory Procter, S Gerald Sensabaugh, DE Marcus Spears, S Pat Watkins, K Shaun Suisham.
What to expect: Anything is possible with Jerry Jones in charge, and the Cowboys could make a big splash after an underwhelming offseason a year ago. But in terms of team needs and what is required to take the next step, Dallas really doesn’t need much. A big-time impact safety makes some sense and could make a very good defense great, but that might be a project for the draft in a trade-up scenario for someone like Earl Thomas. But Darren Sharper might pique their interest. They also need to get younger along the offensive line, particularly at tackle, but that seems like a draft-day project, too. Maybe Jones gets real aggressive in the wide receiver market, as Roy Williams certainly is not living up to his billing, but the Cowboys are still rather stacked with pass-catchers. All in all, this is a team that is sitting pretty and doesn’t have a prominent unrestricted free agent who is poised to leave.
New York Giants
Potential unrestricted free agents: QB David Carr, LB Danny Clark, P Jeff Feagles, DT Fred Robbins
Potential restricted free agents: WR Domenik Hixon, TE Darcy Johnson, DE Dave Tollefson, G Kevin Boothe, S C.C. Brown, DT Barry Cofield, CB Kevin Dockery, WR Derek Hagan, WR Sinorice Moss, T Guy Whimper, LB Gerris Wilkinson.
What to expect: Big things could be in the works here, as there are already rumors swirling that New York could be a prime suitor for linebacker Karlos Dansby. An impact linebacker is certainly near the top of their wish list and Dansby fits the bill. Plus, he is extremely versatile. Getting faster on defense is a huge priority with new coordinator Perry Fewell stressing the ability to cover a lot of ground. However, Dansby isn’t really the thumper they need in the middle and is more of an outside linebacker for this system, although he would be great on passing downs. This is a group of decision-makers who might be starting to feel some heat, so do not rule out a big move or two.
Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Jason Babin, S Sean Jones, LB Jeremiah Trotter, LB Tracy White
Potential restricted free agents: LB Akeem Jordan, P Saverio Rocca, WR Jason Avant, C Nick Cole, LB Omar Gaither, LB Chris Gocong, CB Ellis Hobbs, G Max Jean-Gilles, TE Alex Smith, FB Leonard Weaver.
What to expect: There are questions on the offensive line, but overall, the Eagles are in a prime situation to improve their defense, particularly up front and at safety. Remember, they have quarterbacks to dangle as trade bait and really do not have any unrestricted guys that they need to bring back. This is a possible landing spot for Julius Peppers and he would be terrific on the opposite side of Trent Cole, who is among the most underrated players in the game and could blow up with someone taking pass protection attention away from his side. Count on the Eagles being aggressive in the free-agent and/or trade market. It might just be enough to get them that ever elusive Lombardi trophy. Stranger things have happened.
Potential unrestricted free agents: LS Ethan Albright, DE Phillip Daniels, T Levi Jones, C Casey Rabach,
P Hunter Smith, T Mike Williams, DE Renaldo Wynn, TE Todd Yoder.
Potential restricted free agents: DE Lorenzo Alexander, T Stephon Heyer, LB Chris Wilson, QB Jason Campbell, S Reed Doughty, DT Kedric Golston, LB Rocky McIntosh, DT Anthony Montgomery, C Will Montgomery, CB Carlos Rogers.
What to expect: This is a difficult team to get a grasp on in terms of what they might do in free agency, but I think it is safe to say that ownership will not hold Mike Shanahan and company back from opening up the check book and signing (and even overpaying) players whom they desire. It would be wise for Washington to have an excellent idea of what they are going to do with the fourth overall draft pick in terms of going quarterback or offensive tackle before really devising a free-agency plan. Rebuilding the offensive line is a must and Shanahan needs lighter, quicker (and younger) linemen than are on the roster. A running back they can trust wouldn’t hurt either, although it looks as though Clinton Portis will return, which they may regret. But don’t forget, this is a team that -- unwisely in my opinion -- is switching to a 3-4 scheme, so inside linebacker help is required, as are defensive linemen who fit the new scheme. The Redskins have a long wish list, but also have the ownership to endorse big spending when free agency opens.
The numbers have obviously dipped in recent years because of all of the underclassmen coming out, but the Senior Bowl is still an important part of the evaluation process -- especially for the Philadelphia Eagles. Here's the breakdown from 2005-09:
In 2005, the first six players selected by NFC East teams were all on Senior Bowl rosters. In 2009, only three of the first 11 players picked by NFC East teams participated in Senior Bowl week. As we've already stated, this probably has a lot to do with the spike in underclassmen entering the draft. These players are not eligible for the "Senior" Bowl. We're also seeing some of the big-time seniors sit out the Senior Bowl because they feel like there's more to lose than to gain. That's why I admire a player like USC safety Taylor Mays showing up and competing in Mobile, Ala., this week.
For a somewhat unheralded player such as Idaho offensive lineman Mike Iupati, the Senior Bowl can provide a rare opportunity to compete against athletes from larger schools. Iupati has had a breakout week and some draft experts, including our own Todd McShay, think he could go in the first round.
Over the past five seasons, nine of the 17 first-round picks in the NFC East were on the Senior Bowl roster. That list includes DeMarcus Ware, Jason Campbell, Brodrick Bunkley, Mathias Kiwanuka and Anthony Spencer. Over the past few years, the Eagles have been pretty shrewd when it comes to identifying and tracking players who participated in the Senior Bowl:
Here's a great Excel spreadsheet if you're interested in finding out which players from the NFC East have participated in the Senior Bowl over the past five years. In 2009, the Giants selected linebacker Clint Sintim (Virginia) and offensive tackle Will Beatty (Connecticut) in the second round and Ramses Barden (Cal Poly) in the third. All three players participated in the Senior Bowl. And at least two of the players -- Beatty and Sintim -- could be starting in 2010.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Three quick hits on the Philadelphia Eagles:
1. Continuity on the offensive line could be an issue: Left tackle Jason Peters may be an elite player, but he struggled in his first preseason game. He's playing next to left guard Nick Cole right now, but at some point Todd Herremans (foot) will return to the starting lineup. Herremans has told reporters he'll be ready to go for the regular season. This offensive line has been in a state of flux throughout training camp. And if Shawn Andrews (back) can't get things figured out, he'll be replaced by former second-round pick Winston Justice at right tackle. Fortunately, the Eagles have decent depth along the line with players such as Cole and Max Jean-Gilles.
2. Who will be the backup quarterback once Michael Vick is fully reinstated? No matter what Andy Reid's saying right now, Vick will eventually be the No. 2 quarterback. And I think it will happen sooner than later. Vick will require some time to get into football shape, but I think his arm strength and speed are still there. Kevin Kolb will be the third-string quarterback by midseason.
3. The Eagles should be fine at middle linebacker: Losing Stewart Bradley (knee) for the season was tough news, but the late Jim Johnson did a great job of preparing some of the other linebackers. Last year's seventh-round draft choice, Joe Mays, is a high-motor player who's looked really good in coverage during camp. The Eagles also have the luxury of bringing in Omar Gaither to play in the nickel package. And the fact that Gaither has been a starter in the past gives the Eagles some comfort.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
It's been one week of Eagles training camp, and the team has already dealt with a lot of adversity. First and foremost, there was the death of longtime defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, one of the best minds in the game. There's also been the distraction of rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin's contract holdout.
Now it appears that starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, one of the team's best young players, will miss the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament that he suffered during Sunday's Flight Night at the Linc. I don't know the exact play during the scrimmage where Bradley suffered the injury, but Les Bowen of the Daily News says the linebacker got caught up in a pile of players.
In recent days, I've written about how some teams feature more contact in training camp than others. Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said there would be no tackling in San Antonio, and he said that's something that goes all the way back to how his father, Bum, approached training camp. In Denver, though, there will be full-pad tackling like the old days. Andy Reid had said Saturday that the scrimmage would include full-contact.
And with what happened to Bradley, it's time to make the immediate second-guess. In fact, that's one of my specialties. I'll ask around to my fellow bloggers, but my sense is that most team's don't tackle in training camp -- except sometimes in red zone drills. So is tackling in training camp worth the risk?
This afternoon, I'm sure a lot of Eagles fans are wondering how to answer that. Bradley's one of the smartest players on the team and he's an emerging leader. In addition to trying to fill the shoes of the great Jim Johnson, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will now be forced to find a replacement at one of the most important positions on the field. He could go with a veteran such as Omar Gaither who was benched last season in favor of Akeem Jordan or an '08 late-round draft pick named Joe Mays.
We'll keep our eye on this one for you. And thanks for your patience this afternoon. I had to step away from the Beast news desk for another assignment.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
A week after getting shut out on sacks against Tony Romo and the Cowboys, the Eagles collected nine against the Steelers on Sunday. I just watched the second half of this game, and I'm surprised Ben Roethlisberger walked off the field under his own power.
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who had to leave the game briefly with a chest injury, lifted the towel draped over Big Ben's head and appeared to give him some words of encouragement. After all, he remembers the 13 sacks the Giants put on the Eagles last season.
Roethlisberger left the game late with a wrist injury. But at that point, the Eagles had finally put the Steelers away. Unheralded defensive end Juqua Parker had 2 1/2 sacks, which is half of his 2007 total. The 30-year-old player harrassed Roethlisberger the entire game, and he had plenty of help.
Seven Eagles players had at least a half sack in the game. Philadelphia executed its plan of shutting down running back Willie Parker and then making the Steelers one-dimensional the rest of the game. Roethlisberger rarely had time and when he did, he often held the ball too long. He gave up a critical safety when he was called for intentional grounding in the end zone to help the Eagles take a 12-6 lead. Until that point, you still had the feeling the Steelers might do something.
The Eagles lost All-Pro running back Brian Westbrook in the first half, and he never returned. Correll Buckhalter filled in nicely and finished the game with six catches for 44 yards and a touchdown. He also had 10 carries for 43 yards. From what I saw, it was a brilliant game plan by the Eagles. At the last second, they would drop defensive ends into coverage and rush linebackers. Linebacker Omar Gaither had an excellent night with seven tackles and a sack and a half.
It was a huge win for the Eagles since there's a chance the Cowboys and Giants will both be 3-0 at the end of the night. Of course, the Giants had to work for it more than we thought.
|Getty Images/US Presswire|
|Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens will meet again Monday night.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
IRVING, Texas -- It seems a little early in the season for an NFC East showdown, but that's exactly what we have with the Eagles and Cowboys on "Monday Night Football."
Despite their lack of success in the playoffs over the past 12 seasons, the Cowboys have been penciled in on many ballots as the eventual NFC representative in Tampa. The Eagles, a team that began this decade by winning five of seven division titles, appear back on track after a disappointing 8-8 campaign in 2007.
The health of 31-year-old quarterback Donovan McNabb has been an issue for this franchise since it reached the Super Bowl in 2004. However, he appears to be in top form. McNabb is not the same quarterback who orchestrated one of the most iconic plays in MNF history in November 2004 (the 14-second scramble), but he thinks injuries forced him to become a more complete player.
The last time the Eagles visited Texas Stadium, the defense badgered Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo into three interceptions and McNabb evoked good memories for Eagles fans with nine carries for 53 yards in leading the Eagles to a 10-6 victory.
The win was part of a four-game streak to end the season and it's the reason the Eagles feel confident heading into Monday's game.
"If anything, it let us know we could get the job done," starting weak-side linebacker Omar Gaither told me via phone Saturday. "But that game has no bearing on what will happen Monday. We have to go down there and handle our business again."
The Eagles watched a few clips from last December's game to remind them why they had so much success against one of the top offenses in the league. Gaither said he watched the entire game because it is part of his weekly routine. So, what was the Eagles' secret to slowing Romo?
"We were able to get pressure on him," Gaither said. "You have to bring the heat with him, and I think they got in the red zone three times and didn't come away with any touchdowns. That was big for us."
Rest assured that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson won't borrow the Cleveland Browns' defensive game plan from last Sunday, which allowed Romo to loiter in the pocket throughout much of a 28-10 victory.
The Giants and Eagles have shown what can happen when you throw Romo out of rhythm. Johnson will blitz him from all over the field, and the fact that Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett rarely calls for screens and extra blockers makes Romo vulnerable at times.
|AP Photo/Robert E. Klein|
|Andy Reid holds a 13-5 edge in this series since taking over as head coach in 1999.|
Eagles fans didn't need any more reasons to hate the Cowboys, but their former wide receiver, Terrell Owens, has become an easy target. His messy divorce from McNabb and the organization in 2005 is still a topic of conversation in both cities. McNabb expressed regret last month that he and Owens weren't able to work things out, and on Thursday, the wide receiver responded.
"It became too overwhelming for Donovan," Owens said. "Other than that, I think at one point in time, I will say that we had a good relationship. I think I got too big for Philly, too big for him. But here, Tony and I have a great relationship."
Owens went on to say that Romo "gets me" like no other quarterback he's ever played with, a statement that belongs on "The View", not in a sports section. No matter who was at fault for the breakup, McNabb and Owens should play key roles in Monday's game.
On the injury front, Reid said Saturday that he's encouraged by the progress that starting wide receiver Reggie Brown made in practice and is hopeful that he'll play. Brown is listed as questionable for Monday.
For the Cowboys, Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman has indicated that he'll be ready to go against the Eagles. On Saturday, I was told that the Cowboys coaches thought there was a "75 percent" chance Newman would play, but that he won't start.
Newman's replacement in the starting lineup, Adam Jones, played well against the Browns, but he's still annoying his coaches by refusing to focus on the little things that will make him successful. The Cowboys will keep a close eye on Eagles rookie DeSean Jackson -- both at receiver and in the return game.
Last season, Bruce Read's special teams unit struggled in coverage, but Dallas had a nice effort against a Browns team that was playing without the dangerous Josh Cribbs.
This is a good measuring-stick game for both games. For the Cowboys, it's an early test to see if the team can live up to its immense hype. For the Eagles, it's a chance to serve notice that last year was an aberration.
McNabb told me during trai
ning camp that the Eagles were the best team in the NFC. On Monday, he'll have an opportunity to back that up.
4:30 PM ET Philadelphia Washington 8:25 PM ET San Diego San Francisco
1:00 PM ET Minnesota Miami 1:00 PM ET Baltimore Houston 1:00 PM ET Detroit Chicago 1:00 PM ET Cleveland Carolina 1:00 PM ET Atlanta New Orleans 1:00 PM ET Green Bay Tampa Bay 1:00 PM ET Kansas City Pittsburgh 1:00 PM ET New England New York 4:05 PM ET New York St. Louis 4:25 PM ET Buffalo Oakland 4:25 PM ET Indianapolis Dallas 8:30 PM ET Seattle Arizona