NFL Nation: Sav Rocca

Positional look at Redskins' salary cap

February, 12, 2014
2/12/14
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With free agency starting next month, and with the Redskins able to finally spend, it’s good to take a look at what they’re working with at each position. Where do they have the money already allocated in 2014 – and where will they have to spend this offseason?

The answer to the latter question is obvious, especially when you look at the numbers: receivers, linebacker, corner and safety are not only spots that need upgrading because of talent, they need it because of numbers. Just look at the top wage earners in the secondary.

As of now, the Redskins have 17 defensive players under contract (for a total of $33,395,891). They have 24 players under contract offensively (for a total of $53,971,390). They will cut some players to free up more space, of course. Here are some possibilities.

And for those wondering about where the money was allocated last year, the big money was on offense ($53,362,266). Defense took up 44.52 percent of the total salary cap ($44,807,210). It’s a safe bet that will change this offseason.

Anyway, (mimicking by Patriots colleagues blog) here’s a snapshot of their 2014 salary-cap situation by position:

Quarterback
Under contract: 2
Total cap value: $6,447,926
Percentage of team cap: 7.1
Top cap charge: Robert Griffin III ($5,759,754)

Running back
Under contract: 6
Total cap value: $5,171,921
Percentage of team cap: 5.7
Top cap charge: Roy Helu ($1,506,563)

Wide receiver
Under contract: 4
Total cap value: $11,577,219
Percentage of team cap: 12.75
Top cap charge: Pierre Garcon ($9,700,000)

Tight end
Under contract: 3
Total cap value: $3,569,357
Percentage of team cap: 3.93
Top cap charge: Logan Paulsen ($2,236,666)

Offensive line
Under contract: 9
Total cap value: $27,204,967
Percentage of team cap: 29.97
Top cap charge: Trent Williams ($10,980,393)

Defensive line
Under contract: 6
Total cap value: $24,621,156
Percentage of team cap: 27.12
Top cap charge: Barry Cofield ($7,667,500)

Linebacker
Under contract: 5
Total cap value: $5,201,881
Percentage of team cap: 15.58
Top cap charge: Ryan Kerrigan ($2,774,639)

Cornerback
Under contract: 3
Total cap value: $1,956,138
Percentage of team cap: 2.15
Top cap charge: David Amerson ($875,205)

Safety
Under contract: 3
Total cap value: $1,616,719
Percentage of team cap: 1.78
Top cap charge: Trent Robinson ($570,000)

Specialists
Under contract: 4
Total cap value: $3,415,000
Percentage of team cap: 3.76
Top cap charge: Sav Rocca ($1,362,500)

Redskins can free up more space

February, 4, 2014
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Monday was the first day teams could start releasing players -- and therefore putting in waiver claims when applicable. The Redskins obviously did not release anyone Monday. Nor did they claim anyone off waivers. As of now, Washington will have approximately $30 million in salary-cap space (which could change once the NFL releases the cap figure for 2014). So the Redskins don't have to free up a lot of room. Except that re-signing Brian Orakpo could be expensive and they have an entire secondary of free agents -- so they'll have be to re-signed or replaced. At some point the Redskins might need more room.

Here are some Redskins players to watch now that they can make moves:

Defensive end Stephen Bowen (potential savings: approximately $2 million): Bowen is scheduled to count $7.02 million against the cap in 2014. He also has just one year left on his original contract and if released, the dead money from his deal would count $5.04 million against the cap so the Redskins would save nearly $2 million. If not for his knee injury, Bowen would not be on this list. It’s not as if he was playing great before his injury, though his play against the run remained solid -- and that was his primary job. But he had microfracture surgery this past season and that’s never a good sign for a pro athlete. He turns 30 in March.

[+] EnlargeChris Chester
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsWith a new regime in Washington, guard Chris Chester could be a cap casualty.
G Chris Chester (potential savings: $2.7 million): He’s signed through 2016, but will count $4.3 million against the cap this season. If they cut him, the final $1.6 million of his original $4 million signing bonus would go against this year’s cap, giving the Redskins an additional $2.7 million in savings. Chester played better in 2012 than this past season, but the Redskins did not consider any of the young guards good enough to challenge him. It helps Chester that line coach Chris Foerster will return and that they’ll use the same running game. But if the Redskins want to not only re-sign key players, but pursue other big free agents, then Chester could be a casualty. Jay Gruden’s guards in Cincinnati all weighed over 300 pounds; Chester, at 305 pounds, is borderline here. He's also 31 and the Redskins have several young offensive linemen behind him. The reason you drafted them was for situations like this if you want to make a move. Of course, one of the young guards is Adam Gettis, who is lighter than Chester and the other is Josh LeRibeus, who messed up his second season with a terrible offseason.

DE Adam Carriker (potential savings: $2.98 million): Most players who have had multiple surgeries on their quad in the past 18 months would not be in his situation, still pursuing a roster spot. The Redskins would have cut him last summer had he not worked the way he does. But Carriker will count $6.5 million against the cap in 2014. If they release him, it would save Washington $2.98 million. They could always re-sign him to a lesser deal; considering he’s missed 30 games the past two years combined Carriker lacks leverage. As of now, Carriker would account for nearly 20 percent of the salary-cap space on defense. He might return and be fine, but that’s an awful lot to commit to a player in his situation.

C Will Montgomery (potential savings: $1.93 million): He’ll count $3.43 million this season and, though he’s signed through the 2016 season, his contract voids five days following the Super Bowl in February 2016. If they released Montgomery the Redskins could save $1.93 million against the cap. The Redskins would then need a starting center, of course, but could always move Kory Lichtensteiger from guard. Lichtensteiger will need to gain weight regardless; by the way, if they cut him it would free up $1.1 million.

RT Tyler Polumbus (potential savings: $2.5 million: His base salary is $1.5 million and he also has an annuity that will pay him $1 million based on play time and would be considered likely to be earned, therefore it would count against the cap). If the Redskins find another starting right tackle, be it Tom Compton or someone else, they could free up extra money by releasing Polumbus, unless they want to keep him around as a swing tackle. Polumbus improved, but the Redskins could upgrade here.

P Sav Rocca (potential savings: $1.2 million): He’s entering the final year of his contract and will have a cap number of $1.36 million. If released, the Redskins would save $1.2 million. Rocca’s been inconsistent the past two years and while this is moderate savings, they’d still have to sign a punter so it’s not like they could use a lot of this savings and apply it elsewhere. But in the end they could save some money with another punter.

Midseason Report: Washington Redskins

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
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When you enter the season anticipating a playoff run but reach the midway point just hoping to remain alive for playoff contention, then things haven’t gone as planned. That about sums up the Washington Redskins’ first half.

You can blame the rustiness of Robert Griffin III from his offseason knee surgery for some of the issues. That doesn’t explain everything. Turnovers have killed Washington, much like the lack of them helped a year ago. And the defense has settled down after a rough start, though it’s not a shutdown unit by any means.

There have been some strong individual efforts. Just remember, though, these grades are for a group, not a person.

Upon Further Review: Redskins Week 8

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
2:55
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A review of four hot issues following the Washington Redskins' 45-21 loss to the Denver Broncos:

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliShaky pass protection hurt Washington QB Robert Griffin III during Sunday's loss at Denver.
The passing game: Don’t pin it all on QB Robert Griffin III, though clearly he has a lot to do with the inconsistency of the passing game. The Redskins have yet to find a solid No. 2 receiver to put alongside Pierre Garcon. The emergence of tight end Jordan Reed helps quite a bit, but the Redskins continue to get little production from the other wideouts; even the once sure-handed Santana Moss has dropped crucial passes. And the pass protection breaks down when defenses know what’s coming. Denver hurt the Redskins with looks they either hadn’t seen or didn’t anticipate. At times the protection would slide one way only to have Denver send a stunt the other way. But Griffin will, and should, get plenty of blame. He’s a developing passer hurt more by his lack of offseason work than most originally realized. He’s still learning to read coverages at a faster speed. Griffin has made some strides, but not enough to carry the team as a passer.

Shanks for nothing: Punter Sav Rocca had a terrific game for much of the day. Rocca averaged 43.2 yards on his first six punts, with one fair catch and four downed inside the 20-yard line. But after a three-and-out by the offense, Rocca’s 15-yard punt enabled Denver to drive for a field goal and 10-point lead. Rocca was knocked in Philadelphia for these sort of lapses and he seemingly has had more of these shanks this season than in his previous two. They never occur at a good time.

Play calling: The Redskins were imbalanced on first-down plays, tilting heavily toward runs. Until the fourth quarter Washington had called 13 runs on first down compared to six passes. In the first four drives of the fourth quarter -- the fourth drive started with 7 minutes, 54 seconds remaining and Denver leading by 10 -- the Redskins called four passes on first down and one run. Problem is, their passing game kept putting them in bad spots: Through the first four drives of the fourth quarter, Griffin completed only 2 of 6 first-down throws for 15 yards. He was sacked twice, lost a fumble on one and scrambled for 4 yards. So 10 first-down passing plays netted the Redskins 19 yards. Their 14 runs gained 70 yards (27 coming on one play). Go ahead and blame play calling all you’d like, but that obscures the bigger issue, which goes back to the passing game.

Improved play: The special teams did a much better job in coverage, helped by Rocca’s punts (until the last one). If the Redskins want to win a couple games in a row, and it’s a possibility, then this unit needs to provide more games like Sunday. They managed a 34-yard punt return from Josh Morgan, after he fielded the ball inside the 10-yard line and somehow eluded two tackles. They still need more from their special-teams units.

Dwayne Harris's returns change game

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
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Dwayne HarrisRon Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty ImagesDwayne Harris pushes off of Redskins cornerback E.J. Biggers on a big return in the third quarter.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dwayne Harris could not help but think of the Dallas Cowboys’ preseason when Sav Rocca was forced to punt for a second time because of a penalty.

Against Cincinnati, the Cowboys had to re-kick after Chris Jones’ punt hit the digital board and Brandon Tate returned the subsequent punt for a touchdown.

“They definitely tired,” Harris said. “I’ve seen that happen too many times … It’s hard for those guys to run down there full speed and then you’ve got to come back and do it over again. That gives us an advantage.”

Harris took advantage of it with an 86-yard return for the Cowboys’ second touchdown of the game in their 31-16 win against the Washington Redskins Sunday. It was the fifth-longest punt return in team history and the second return for a score in his career. He had a 78-yarder against the Philadelphia Eagles for a touchdown last season.

“I didn’t do anything but run the ball,” Harris said. “They opened the lanes for me.”

He wasn’t through, adding a 90-yard kick return in the third quarter that set up Terrance Williams’ touchdown. That tied for the 10th-longest kickoff in team history and was the third 90-yard or more return that did not result in a touchdown.

“I do a lot of running on special teams so I got a little winded at the end and my legs were giving out on me a little bit,” Harris said. “I had to make that cut and make the kicker miss and that slowed me down a little bit.”

It slowed him just enough for E.J. Biggers to push him out at the Washington 15.

He finished with 222 combined return yards, which is the fourth-most in a game in team history.

“Whenever you have plays like that, returns and changes of field like that, it gives you such an advantage," tight end Jason Witten said. “It really changes the game.”

Upon Further Review: Redskins Week 5

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
12:30
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A review of four hot issues from the Washington Redskins coming out of their bye week.

Defensive breakdowns: It’s great for the Redskins defense that it entered the bye week after a strong performance; the unit needed confidence and a seven-sack game provided some. But the fact that Oakland’s Matt Flynn was demoted to third string after that game tells you a thing or two. The Redskins have not fared well against good quarterbacks and have three of them upcoming -- Dallas’ Tony Romo, Chicago’s Jay Cutler and then Denver’s Peyton Manning. The Redskins can’t expect a shutdown performance, but is it asking too much to tackle better? If they do that and provide a steady four-man rush, they can reduce their issues. Getting end Jarvis Jenkins and linebacker Rob Jackson back from suspensions will help, but neither has been an impact player.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Greg TrottSo far this season, Robert Griffin III has looked nothing like the dynamic rookie QB he was in 2012.
Not so special: Punter Sav Rocca has been too inconsistent. His hang time on some punts has been 3.0 seconds, a good second off the bottom of where it needs to be. Rocca’s untimely shanks aren’t what a struggling defense needs. But it’s not just Rocca. Washington’s longest kick return? Twenty-eight yards. The longest punt return? Eleven yards. There’s also hidden yardage in what is lost because of poor decisions on both returns. Chris Thompson handles both duties, but never returned punts in college and clearly is still learning to make decisions when to field them. He’s also adjusting to not having the same speed advantage he had in college. The blocking needs to be much better too.

Robert Griffin III's legs: The second-year quarterback used his legs a lot more in Week 4 than in previous games. Griffin does not need to be a running machine to be effective, but his legs remain a valuable weapon for him. He needs to combine his legs with his growing penchant for keeping his eyes downfield. It led to big plays against Oakland. It’s a way to make big plays with your legs and still reduce hits. This isn’t about the zone-read, but it is about not just sitting in the pocket. The Redskins aren’t built to have that sort of game.

Health issues: The biggest one involves running back Alfred Morris, who bruised his ribs in the Sept. 29 win over the Oakland Raiders. The key will be what he’s able to do later in the week and not Monday or even Wednesday. Morris is averaging 5.29 yards per carry and 2.30 yards after contact; both are stronger numbers than he posted a year ago. Tight end Jordan Reed’s quad contusion was still an issue in the Redskins’ last practice Oct. 1 before taking off for the rest of the week. Fred Davis should be healthy, so if Reed can’t play they’ll be fine. But Reed would help, too. Tight end Logan Paulsen's sprained left knee is an issue; losing him would hurt the blocking.
If you were thinking the salary-cap penalties the NFL imposed a year ago on the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins wouldn't have much of an effect, here's your best evidence yet that you need to think again. Three hours into the new league year, we've heard almost nothing from two of the most historically active teams in free agency.

The Redskins reached an agreement on a two-year contract with punter Sav Rocca, and that's it. No other reports of agreements or scheduled visits by free agents to either of the two teams that played for the NFC East title in Week 17. None likely, either, in the short term. The Cowboys and the Redskins had to work their tails off for the past week just to get under the cap before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. As of Tuesday morning, the Redskins were about $3 million under and the Cowboys about $175,000 under. That's not enough room to allow for any real exciting moves. And while both teams still have some work they can do to get further under the cap if they find someone they like, the result of the situation so far is that both teams are waiting out the start of the market and looking for bargains.

A year ago, as punishment for the way the Cowboys and Redskins structured some contracts during the uncapped 2010 season, the NFL stripped the Redskins of $36 million and the Cowboys of $10 million in cap room. The penalties were spread out over two years, so in terms of this year's cap the Redskins are out $18 million and the Cowboys $5 million. The extra cap room was distributed evenly among 28 other teams.

So while the Redskins have major needs at cornerback, safety and right tackle and the Cowboys have major needs at safety and offensive line, don't expect to hear their names mentioned too much unless it's by agents looking to drum up a market or scare other teams. Neither the Cowboys nor the Redskins have the wherewithal to be major players early on in free agency, and that's why you're not seeing these two very familiar team names in any of these reports.

One report Tuesday evening, from Dan Hellie of NBC4 in Washington, said that recently released Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall was drawing interest from several teams and included the Cowboys (and Giants) among those. And while Hall is a "big name," in that he's well known, I think that if the Cowboys really are interested in him it speaks to where they are financially. Hall would appeal to the Cowboys not as a starting corner (they have those), but as a versatile veteran defensive back who could play mainly inside the numbers -- maybe some slot corner, maybe some safety -- and who could be had on the cheap as a result. I imagine Hall is still hoping for a starting cornerback job and may get one, but if he were to sign with Dallas I believe it would be later in the market and as more of a situational player. This is the kind of deal the Cowboys will need to do if they're to add talent -- creative and relatively cheap. And even if they did something like this, they'd have to clear more cap room first.

NFC East wrap: The year of RG III

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
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NFC Season Wraps: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five things to know and my 2012 all-division team:

Division MVP: Interesting word, "value." The Washington Redskins decided that fixing their problem at quarterback by drafting Robert Griffin III was worth three first-round picks and a second-round pick. That's the "value" they assigned to Griffin as their short-term and long-term solution at the game's most critical position -- willingly not having another first-round pick until 2015. The first-year result is the current six-game winning streak that has delivered the Redskins' first winning season since 2007 and a shot Sunday night at their first division title since 1999.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jonathan Newton/Getty ImagesThe Redskins paid a steep price to acquire Robert Griffin III, but the move has paid off handsomely.
A number of things have gone right to help the Redskins to this point, but at the center of it all has been Griffin, who has delivered big plays with his arm and his legs, has thrown just five interceptions and piloted a Redskins offense that has the most rushing yards and the fewest turnovers in the league through 16 weeks. In their wildest dreams, the Redskins couldn't have imagined Griffin performing at this level in his first year, but the fact that he has is the biggest reason they're where they are at this point. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is having a big year, as are Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris. But the award is for the Most "Valuable" Player, and the upgrade Griffin has provided for the Redskins at the most important position on the field has a value that surpasses anything anyone else in the NFC East has provided this year.

Biggest disappointment: This one isn't hard. The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles were a disappointment. That word isn't strong enough to describe what the 2012 Eagles turned out to be. They went into training camp with Super Bowl expectations and a chip on their collective shoulder after last year's flop, and they out-flopped even themselves. There was promise in their 3-1 start, in spite of the turnovers and the fact that they were barely winning. The defense was playing well, Michael Vick was leading them from behind in the fourth quarter and it made some level of sense to believe that they would play better and start winning more comfortably.

Instead, it went the other way. The eight-game losing streak that followed that 3-1 start doomed the Eagles to a sub-.500 season, and the 11 losses they already have with one game to go ties the most Andy Reid has ever had as a head coach. (He lost 11 in his first season there.) Injuries were a huge part of this, as 10 of the Eagles' Week 1 starters on offense have had to miss at least one game and the offensive line hasn't been together all year. But the problems go much deeper, and center on a poorly constructed roster that failed to adequately address holes at positions such as safety and a dysfunctional coaching staff mismanaged by the man in charge. Reid appears certain to pay with his job for failing to make good on his mulligan, and big changes are around the corner in Philadelphia.

No defense: The NFC East hasn't had a repeat champion since the Eagles won it back-to-back in 2003-04, and it won't have one this year either. The New York Giants opened November with three more wins than any other team in the division, but their collapse following a 6-2 start has eliminated them from the division race with a week to go. The winner of Sunday night's game between the Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys will be division champs. If it's Dallas, it'll be the team's second title in four years and would be the second year in a row (and ever) that the division didn't produce at least one 10-win team. If it's Washington, it'll be its first division title in 13 years and would mean four different division champs in four years. This may not be the dominant, monster, "Beast" division it's been in some years past, but the intensity of the rivalries and the closeness of the quality of the four teams keep it the league's most competitive and entertaining year in and year out.

Each NFC East team had a turn in the spotlight this year. The Cowboys flashed greatness in their nationally televised victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Giants in the season opener. The Eagles got out to that 3-1 start. The Giants at one point stood 6-2, and their victories over San Francisco and Green Bay had folks talking about them as the best team in the league. The Redskins are on a six-game winning streak right now and one of the hottest stories in sports. Say what you will about this division or any of its teams, but you can't say it's not fun.

Better "corner" the market: Looking ahead to the 2013 offseason, expect each of the NFC East's teams to make the secondary a high priority. The Cowboys like their corners, and they may be OK at safety if Barry Church comes back healthy, but they'll probably lose Mike Jenkins to free agency and could look to maintain their depth back there. The Giants need to figure out whether this is just a bad year for Corey Webster or if he's a player in decline, and at safety there are questions about Kenny Phillips' long-term status with the team after his injury-plagued season. The Redskins need all kinds of help in the secondary, where Josh Wilson has been fairly consistent but not great at corner, DeAngelo Hall is clearly in decline and they're getting by with backups at safety. And the Eagles have to figure out whether to keep one, both or neither of their veteran cornerbacks and whether it's time to cut bait with safety Nate Allen.

This division includes the No. 21, No. 28 and No. 30 pass defenses in the NFL, and the only NFC East team in the top half in the league in that category (Philadelphia, No. 11) has major question marks at cornerback and especially safety. Once known for its fearsome pass rushes, the NFC East learned this year that you can't always count on even that to be consistent, and it's time for this division's teams to prioritize their last lines of defense.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
AP Photo/Tom UhlmanJason Garrett's Cowboys, winners of five of their past seven, can win the NFC East with a victory over the archrival Redskins on Sunday.
The men in charge: You can expect wholesale coaching staff changes in Philadelphia, of course. But what of the division's other three teams, at least one and likely two of which won't make the playoffs? Head coaches Tom Coughlin and Mike Shanahan are clearly safe in New York and Washington, and Jason Garrett appears safe as well in Dallas after a year in which he's admirably led the Cowboys through injury and off-field tragedy into another Week 17 division title game. But that doesn't mean there can't or won't be changes at the coordinator level.

Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan are both whispered about when head-coaching jobs come up, and the success of Griffin and the Redskins' offensive system could make Kyle Shanahan an especially hot candidate this offseason. Would he jump ship, or stay to see things through and possibly succeed his father down the road in D.C.? Redskins fans clamor for the head of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, and I guess you never know, but I think Haslett's got this Washington defense overachieving, and I've heard nothing to indicate that the team is dissatisfied with the job he's doing. As for the Giants' Kevin Gilbride and Perry Fewell ... Fewell's no longer the head-coaching candidate he used to be for some reason, so it's likely a matter of whether they want to keep those guys around. The Giants tend to value organizational stability, and Gilbride and Fewell were coaching in and winning a Super Bowl less than 11 months ago, so it's hard to imagine they're in trouble. But I think the Giants are surprised at the way the last couple of weeks have gone, and I doubt they've seriously considered yet whether changes on the staff are warranted or necessary.

ALL-DIVISION TEAM

We do this every week, so you're used to a lot of these names in a lot of these places. There are some close calls, including at quarterback, where the Cowboys' Romo is as hot as anyone in the league and has thrown just three interceptions in his past eight games after throwing 13 in his first seven. Romo is third in the league in passing yards, and his responsible play and leadership are central reasons for the Cowboys' second-half surge. And if he beats Griffin and Washington on Sunday night, you can make the argument that he deserves the spot. I think it's that close right now. But Griffin's had the more consistent season and, as detailed above, the more dramatic impact. So he holds the spot.

The only other very tough call is at fullback, where Darrel Young and the Giants' Henry Hynoski are both excellent and worthy. Hynoski, for me, has been the slightly better blocker, but the Giants' recent struggles have hurt his case and Young, who actually touches the ball every now and then, takes the spot away from him. ... Kicker is a good race, as all four have had good seasons. And yes, I know Kai Forbath hasn't missed, but he's kicked barely half as many as Dan Bailey has. ... Philadelphia's Brandon Graham has made a strong case at defensive end with his second-half play, but Jason Hatcher's been a rock all season as a 3-4 end for Dallas. ... Dez Bryant and Alfred Morris are no-brainers as the division's best wide receiver and running back. What kind of odds could you have got on that in early September?

Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 18, Redskins 16

September, 26, 2011
9/26/11
11:48
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- A couple of thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' 18-16 victory over the Washington Redskins on "Monday Night Football."

What it means: Something very similar for the Cowboys to what the Giants' victory meant to them Sunday in Philadelphia. The Cowboys are shredded on offense right now, with a jumpy, mistake-prone offensive line and very limited options at receiver. And yet, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo found a way to move the offense down the field and into field goal range six times -- enough to deliver a win the Cowboys had no business picking up. Banking a division win like this at a time when their team is not whole is pure gold for a team like the Cowboys or the Giants, each of whom find themselves a gritty, gutsy 2-1. For the Redskins, this game is a missed opportunity. They had the Cowboys where they wanted them but were unable to generate enough offense in the fourth quarter to put it away. Credit the Cowboys' defense, but Washington's offense doesn't have big-time playmakers, and it cost them a win they should have had.

Romo needs help: I don't know whether Romo played a bad game or whether he was up against impossible circumstances. He didn't have top receiver Miles Austin, out with a hamstring injury. He really didn't have much of his other star receiver, Dez Bryant, who's clearly far less than 100 percent due to his thigh injury and was in and out all night before catching a big third-down pass in the final minutes. The Redskins knew Romo wanted to throw to tight end Jason Witten, so they covered up Witten all night. Left tackle Doug Free had a bad game. Center Phil Costa had an awful game, botching several quarterback/center exchanges and getting an earful from a clearly frustrated Romo. If the Cowboys can't support Romo better than they did Monday night, he's going to have to keep pulling miracles out of his bag, as he basically has done the past two weeks.

Washington's offense is boring, but basically works: The Redskins' offensive game plan for this season appears to be simple: Run the ball, run out the clock and stay away from mistakes. It's not a lot of fun, but it doesn't have to be. They rely on running back Tim Hightower, who's an asset as a runner, a receiver and a pass-blocker. When he needs to come off the field, they bring in spry rookie Roy Helu. Rex Grossman throws downfield some, but it's clear they want to limit his ability to hurt them with a bad decision and/or throw. They protected him well for most of the night, with second-year left tackle Trent Williams holding his own against DeMarcus Ware until Ware broke through for a couple of big plays in the fourth quarter. The Redskins built up the defense this offseason and likely will target some offensive pieces next year. But for now, this ball-control plan is what they're comfortable with, and it's doing what they need it to do, even if it did come up just short Monday night.

Run on the Redskins?: The Cowboys couldn't do anything in the run game in the first half, but in the second, holes started opening up and Felix Jones started hitting them and doing major damage. It felt similar to last week's Redskins game, in which the Arizona Cardinals couldn't run the ball against them in the first half but then got Beanie Wells going in the second. The Redskins are thin on the defensive line with rookie Jarvis Jenkins out for the year with a knee injury, and I wonder if their linemen are playing more snaps than the coaching staff would like them to play and maybe wearing down in the second half. Just a theory, and something to watch.

Sound in the kicking game: Other than the field goal the Redskins had blocked as a result of a bad snap, the kickers and punters put on an absolute show. Redskins punter Sav Rocca and Cowboys punter Mat McBriar are both having stellar years, and their skills were on display all night as they helped determine field position. And Washington's Graham Gano and Dallas' Dan Bailey combined for nine field goals as neither offense was able to muster much of anything in the red zone.

What's next: The Cowboys are likely going to need to generate more offense Sunday when they host Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the high-flying, 3-0 Detroit Lions. That's a tougher team to outscore than the Redskins are. Washington heads to St. Louis, where the Rams have yet to get their season off the ground and are 0-3 including losses to the Eagles and the Giants during their early-season tour of the NFC East. The Redskins should be able to get to 3-1 and put this tough loss behind them.

Punter news! Giants and Redskins

July, 28, 2011
7/28/11
5:26
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Oh I know you love you some punter news.

Giants fans are really hoping for punter news, and Mike Garafolo has some for you, writing that the Giants are in contact with free-agent punter Brad Maynard, who could come to camp to either tutor, put pressure on or even replace Matt Dodge after Dodge's rough 2010 season in New York.

And in punter news that could interest fans of two NFC East teams, Grant Paulsen of 106.7 FM radio in Washington reports that the Redskins have agreed to terms with former Eagles punter Sav Rocca. The Redskins needed someone to replace Josh Bidwell and Hunter Smith, and Rocca is solid. The Eagles let him go after signing undrafted rookie Chas Henry (not to be confused with drafted rookie Alex Henery, who's their new placekicker) this week.

Punter news, baby!
So this is kind of unexpected. Jonathan Tamari reports that the Eagles are planning to let all of their unsigned free agents leave town, "including starters such as Stewart Bradley, Quintin Mikell and Sav Rocca and backup running back Jerome Harrison."

Obviously, the first reaction to news such as this is that the Eagles are clearing room for a big signing such as cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. And that may very well be the case. Someone will pay Asomugha's price, the Eagles need a cornerback and he likes the East Coast. The move makes a ton of sense, no matter how many people tell me they'd rather have a worse player, such as Ike Taylor or Johnathan Joseph.

Obviously, this also raises questions, though. Such as...

1. Who will play linebacker? If Bradley goes, they can play Jamar Chaney in the middle, as they did last year when Bradley was hurt, and start Moise Fokou and Keenan Clayton at the outside spots. Or they could sign a linebacker, middle or otherwise, from the large pool of available free-agents. Or they could get one in exchange for Kevin Kolb. Options are there, though I'm a little surprised that they're letting Bradley walk. They do like his talent, but they must be sick of the injuries.

2. Who will back up LeSean McCoy? Well, there will be veterans available for that spot. Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, maybe even old friend Brian Westbrook, in addition to many others, are out there. Harrison is very good, though, and a better viable starter should something happen to McCoy than any of those others guys are at this point in their careers. The Eagles will be in the running back market.

3. Who punts? I don't buy that they drafted Alex Henery to punt. I think he's David Akers' replacement at kicker and they'll find a punter. Punters kind of come and go, right?

4. Are they really going that young at safety? Yeah, the Mikell move isn't unexpected, but it does leave them with Nate Allen and rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett as the most likely starting safeties. Kurt Coleman and Marlin Jackson may yet be heard from on that front, but Mikell is a leader who will be missed.

The Eagles said they'd be busy, and it looks as if they'll be in a position to fulfill that promise.

Eagles back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
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NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Eagles held a series of player-organized workouts throughout the summer, but quarterback Michael Vick was only there for a couple of days' worth, opting most of the time to work out on his own. They have a new defensive coordinator in Juan Castillo (who was their offensive line coach) and a new defensive line coach in Jim Washburn, so there are likely to be new aspects of the defense they'll have to learn quickly once the coaches can get their hands on them.

Biggest challenge: Constructing that defense. The Eagles need a new cornerback to play alongside Asante Samuel, and they'll probably aim high and try to get Nnamdi Asomugha. It appears as though they're ready to let Quintin Mikell walk, since they appear to think rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett is ready to start right away opposite Nate Allen. But they could add a veteran there to work with the young guys or in case Allen's not fully healthy. They also need to figure out the linebacker situation around potential free agent Stewart Bradley. And Washburn will lobby to add a pass-rushing end and maybe another piece or two along the line. Before the Eagles can set about installing anything new on defense, they'll need to know who the players are who'll be responsible for putting the plans into action.

Vick's backup: The Eagles' first order of post-lockout business is expected to be the trade of backup quarterback Kevin Kolb. Assuming they can get the return for Kolb that most people seem to believe they can (a first-rounder plus, or maybe an established cornerback or linebacker), they'll ship him out of town to Arizona or Seattle or whichever team comes with the best offer. But after that, they'll need to find a veteran quarterback to sit behind Vick and step in if and when the starter gets hurt. Vick has never played a full 16-game season, and his style lends itself to potential injury. And while they like Mike Kafka long-term, he's probably not as ready as Kolb would be to step in and win a game if Vick can't go. Look for the Eagles to explore several possibilities for this role, including the Titans' Vince Young, who might be a perfect fit.

Key players without contracts for 2011: K David Akers, LB Stewart Bradley, G Nick Cole, RB Jerome Harrison, CB Ellis Hobbs, LB Akeem Jordan, S Quintin Mikell, P Sav Rocca, LB Ernie Sims

Redskins focused on Hawaii?

November, 20, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

If you've attended a Redskins home game over the past couple of months, you're familiar with the club's aggressive "Vote the Redskins Ticket" Pro Bowl campaign. There are yard signs, bumper stickers, pins (worn by Redskins blogger Matt Terl) and life-sized pictures of Hall of Famers Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff. In fact, the campaign has worked so well that the Redskins would have 17 starters if voting ended today -- and coaches and players weren't allowed to vote.

Washington may have the worst punt-coverage unit in the NFL, but that hasn't stopped Ryan Plackemeier from vaulting to No. 1 in the polls. And with all the great defensive ends in the NFC, Andre Carter has made his way to No. 2. As of Nov. 18, here's a look at how NFC East players were doing in the fan voting:

Quarterbacks: 2. Eli Manning, Giants 3. Jason Campbell, Redskins 5. Donovan McNabb, Eagles

Running backs: 1. Clinton Portis, Redskins 3. Marion Barber, Cowboys. 5. Brandon Jacobs, Giants

Wide receivers: 1. Santana Moss, Redskins 4. Plaxico Burress, Giants

Fullbacks: 1. Mike Sellers, Redskins 2. Madison Hedgecock, Giants 3. Deon Anderson, Cowboys

Tight ends: 1. Chris Cooley, Redskins 2. Jason Witten, Cowboys 3. Kevin Boss, Giants

Centers: 1. Casey Rabach, Redskins 2. Shaun O'Hara, Giants 5. Andre Gurode, Cowboys

Guards: 1. Pete Kendall, Redskins 2. Randy Thomas, Redskins 3. Chris Snee, Giants 5. Leonard Davis, Cowboys

Tackles: 1. Chris Samuels, Redskins 2. Flozell Adams, Cowboys 3. David Diehl, Giants 4. Kareem McKenzie 5. Stephon Heyer, Redskins

Defensive ends: 1. Justin Tuck, Giants 2. Andre Carter, Redskins

Defensive tackles: 1. Cornelius Griffin, Redskins 2. Kedric Golston, Redskins 5. Fred Robbins, Giants

Outside linebackers: 1. DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys 2. Jason Taylor, Redskins 3. Marcus Washington, Redskins 4. Rocky McIntosh, Redskins

Inside linebackers: 1. London Fletcher, Redskins 3. Antonio Pierce, Giants 5. Zach Thomas, Cowboys

Cornerbacks: 1. Shawn Springs, Redskins 2. Carlos Rogers, Redskins 4. Asante Samuel, Eagles

Strong safety: 1. Chris Horton, Redskins 5. James Butler, Giants

Free safety: 1. LaRon Landry, Redskins 2. Brian Dawkins, Eagles 4. Michael Johnson, Giants 5. Ken Hamlin, Cowboys

Kickers: 1. Shaun Suisham, Redskins 2. John Carney, Giants 4. Nick Folk, Cowboys

Punters: 1. Ryan Plackemeier, Redskins 2. Jeff Feagles, Giants 5. Sav Rocca, Eagles

Kick returners: 1. Rock Cartwright, Redskins 4. Felix Jones, Cowboys 5. DeSean Jackson, Eagles

Special teamers: 1. Khary Campbell, Redskins 2. Chase Blackburn, Giants 4. Keith Davis, Cowboys

Special thanks to Mike Sando for his Pro Bowl spreadsheet.

NFC East midseason awards

November, 5, 2008
11/05/08
12:11
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

It's that time of year again. Yes, we're well aware that the Redskins and Cowboys are past the midway point, but we hated to jump the gun on the Giants and Eagles. To this point in the season, the NFC East has been both brilliant and baffling. Just when you think you know the Redskins, they go and crater on national TV.

The Eagles (5-3) cratered early, but have gained momentum heading into Sunday's game against the Giants. A victory would vault them into a second-place tie with the Redskins (6-3), who will play the Cowboys (5-4) after the bye.

It's hard to decide which has been the bigger story line: The meteoric rise of Jim Zorn or the fall from preseason grace by the Cowboys. But in the interest of your attention span, let's roll out the 2008 NFC Beast Middies -- or the NFCBMs.

 
 AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson
 Coach Jim Zorn has guided the Redskins to a strong start.

The halfway coach of the year: And our first Middie goes to Redskins first-year head coach Jim "Z Man" Zorn. Tom Coughlin has done a phenomenal job of guiding his players through some adversity (Osi Umenyiora, Plaxico Burress), but Zorn is the one who's caught everyone by surprise. When I talked to Joe Gibbs on Monday (you like how I did that?), he couldn't stop talking about the job Zorn has done. Zorn had the good sense not to blow up everything and make a bunch of changes. He's secure enough to surround himself with Gibbs holdovers, and he does a great job of empowering his staff. If you thought this team could be 6-3 after that opening game in the Meadowlands, meet me in Vegas next weekend. Zorn is the rare head coach who doesn't try to act like he has all the answers. His postgame news conferences feel like brainstorming sessions. I'm pretty sure he asked a reporter Sunday how he liked the Redskins' burgundy on burgundy look. That alone makes him worthy of a Middie.

Rookie of the (half) year: Before the season, you thought Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson and Cowboys running back Felix Jones were the best candidates for a Middie. Neither of those players has disappointed, although Jones has missed three games with a hamstring injury. But for my money, no rookie has had a bigger impact than Redskins seventh-round draft pick Chris Horton. Fortunately for executive vice president of Danny Snyder's football team, Vinny Cerrato, Horton has helped take the attention away from those three second-round picks. If anyone spots Malcolm Kelly, send him back to Redskins Park. But the seventh-rounder Horton has been the team's best playmaker on defense -- outside of maybe London Fletcher. A scout told me recently that Horton was a "poor man's Troy Polamalu," which was definitely meant as a compliment. Horton is not particularly fast, but he always ends up near the ball. Watching him throw his body at Willie Parker on Monday was pretty entertaining.

Offensive player of the "year" award: We're going with Giants running back Brandon Jacobs here. Quarterback Eli Manning has been solid for the most part, but it is Jacobs who helps give the offense its smash-mouth identity. He may not have the raw power of Marion Barber, but he's more nimble and capable of making defenders miss. It also helps that Derrick Ward has been an excellent complement. And before you (Redskins fans) start firing off comments, remember that we have an MVP award coming up.

Most improved: This one's always a little awkward. It sort of sheds light on the fact that a player may have struggled in the past. For instance, we've eliminated Clinton Portis and DeMarcus Ware from the "Most Improved" category. And our winner is: Jason Campbell of the Redskins. Despite his poor performance Monday against the Steelers, Campbell has been rock solid for much of the season. He makes plays when the game is on the line and he has embraced Zorn's West Coast offense. Campbell's biggest strength is his knack for remaining calm at all times. You can't tell by his demeanor whether he's won or lost -- and that's a good thing.

The Rudy Ruettiger Award: We're pleased to announce that Jerry Jones will be installing a digital Hustle Board in his new stadium to honor Terrell Owens. The wide receiver can no longer beat press coverage, but he runs players down from behind after interceptions and blocks for teammates downfield. To be fair, Brad Johnson could turn Jerry Rice into Arnaz Battle, but we thought it was important to salute T.O. for giving that old college try while jousting with stalwarts Leon Hall and Rod Hood.

Defensive player of the "year" award: The Beast will take the easy way out and select co-defensive players of the year in Giants defensive end Justin Tuck and Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Tuck might not have the numbers Ware has, but his sacks and forced fumbles seem to come at crucial times. Ware has piled up some of his numbers after games have been decided. Tuck has gone from a shrinking locker room violet to a go-to quote for the leering New York press -- and at least one fledgling ESPN.com blog. Coughlin gets a lot of credit for how the team responded to the Umenyiora injury, but i
t was Tuck who set the tone in the locker room. He never flinched, and now the Giants are sitting at 7-1.

The MVP after nine weeks: Clinton Portis is a no-brainer. A running back can set the tone for a team, and Portis' rugged style resonates throughout the organization. He committed himself to getting in better shape this past offseason and it's paying huge dividends. If the season ended today, Portis would be the odds-on favorite for league MVP. Who else are you going to pick? Albert Haynesworth? Nope, Portis is the man and he's poised to take home the MVP hardware.

The defining moment at the midway point: I thought Manning's pass to Amani Toomer on fourth down against the Steelers in Week 9 was brilliant. He took a penalty when things didn't look right to him at the line of scrimmage and then he lofted a perfect pass to Toomer. Manning is still capable of making poor decisions, but when the stakes are high, who would you rather have at quarterback? You don't have to answer that.

The Moving Van award: Cowboys coach Wade Phillips has lost key players to injury, but the slide began before Tony Romo went down with a broken pinkie. Phillips' refusal to hold anyone accountable in public has helped create a locker room of thin-skinned players. With the exception of Jason Witten and Patrick Crayton, it doesn't seem like players are truly bothered by losing. That's a reflection of a head coach who would rather coddle huge egos than hold their feet to the fire. If the Cowboys fail to secure a wild-card spot, Phillips will be gone.

Best under-the-radar player: The Giants player who benefits the most from Plaxico Burress' antics is Domenik Hixon. Eli Manning and Hixon bonded while Burress was injured during training camp. And when Burress was suspended against the Seahawks, Hixon replaced him and had a 100-yard receiving day before being sidelined with a concussion. Hixon has excellent speed and he did a great job of working on body control during the preseason. I sense that Manning takes a great deal of pride in the fact that the Giants have succeeded when Burress hasn't been available.

The NFC East punting award goes Down Under *: Step right up, Eagles punter Sav Rocca. Your mighty Australian leg has bailed the Eagles' offense out numerous times this season. Following in Mat McBriar's footsteps, Rocca combines a powerful leg with a cunning ability to make balls stay out of the end zone. The young Rocca will join the Beast soon for an exclusive interview. If you have any questions for him, please utilize the comments section. McBriar is out with a broken foot -- hence the asterisk.

Most compelling story line for the second half: Can Tony Romo overcome his injury and breathe life back into the Cowboys? Is this a sleeping giant or a collection of individuals that will never be on the same page? My guess is the latter. We'll be here to document all of it for you.

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