Four Downs: NFC East

Four Downs: NFC East
Four Downs: NFC East
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Sean McCormick

Dallas: Can the Cowboys keep their injury luck going?

In a very real sense, Dallas' season ended with 7:23 left in the second quarter of its divisional round game against Minnesota when left tackle Flozell Adams came off the field with a strained calf muscle. The Cowboys had been struggling to block the talented Vikings front four from the opening gun, but that task went from difficult to impossible once Adams left the field. On the very next play, Minnesota's All-World defensive end Jared Allen ran over a speed bump by the name of Doug Free and dropped Felix Jones in the backfield. On second down, Dallas lined up Jason Witten on the left side of the line to give Free some help, but Allen simply blew past Witten on his way to a strip-sack of Tony Romo. The turnover resulted in a Ryan Longwell field goal that pushed Minnesota's lead to 17-3 and effectively ended the competitive portion of the game.

It's ironic that Dallas' season was derailed by a crippling injury because during the course of the 2009 season, very few teams stayed healthier. The Cowboys were 30th in the league in Adjusted Games Lost, our metric for determining how much injuries to starters had an impact on a team's performance. (It measures both players who miss games and those who play injured.) The average team's AGL in 2009 was 53.9, which is roughly equivalent to losing three starters for the entire season. Dallas, however, only lost 22.5 games worth of starter production. Normally that would be a bad sign, as teams with an unusually low or high AGL number tend to regress to the mean the following season, but the Cowboys have turned staying healthy into something of an art form. Aside from 2008, when the team suffered through a league-average rate of injury, the Cowboys have been among the healthiest teams in football for the last five years. With a roster that is largely weighted towards star players at the expense of depth, the pressure is on lead trainer Jim Maurer to keep Dallas' starters on the field for another potential Super Bowl run in 2010.

Who could leave?

Free safety Ken Hamlin is slated to make $6 million next season, which is way too much for a guy whose production has slipped in each of the last two seasons. Alan Ball is younger and cheaper and looked capable of handling the job during his four-game stint as a starter, so Hamlin is a potential cut if he doesn't restructure his contract (or even if he does). Montrae Holland and Cory Proctor are both free agents who might not return to Dallas. With Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo both over the age of 30, the Cowboys may need to use a combination of free agency and the draft to build some depth on the offensive line.

Who could they sign?

The first priority for Dallas is to retain its own talent, not to run after free agents. Miles Austin was the fourth most valuable receiver in football despite only starting 11 games, and inking him to a new deal is the top priority for the offseason. The team would also like to retain defenders Gerald Sensabaugh and Marcus Spears and will probably place mid-level tenders on both of them.

The one area where it might make sense to make a splash in free agency is at left tackle, where talents like Marcus McNeill and Donald Penn are restricted free agents. Both players would represent a long-term solution at left tackle and would be worth giving up significant draft compensation, but it's more likely that the Cowboys will trot out Flozell Adams for another season while looking to the draft to find a younger replacement.

New York Giants: Who is going to fix the defense?

The conventional view of the Giants season is that the defense feasted on cupcake opponents like Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Kansas City in the first few weeks of the season. Then the Saints finally exposed the Giants defense as a unit that could not cover, particularly between the hash marks and was surprisingly indifferent to its run responsibilities. In this case, the conventional wisdom is right -- according to Football Outsiders' advanced DVOA stats, the Giants defense was 26.5 percent better than an average defense in Weeks 1-5, then 14.5 percent worse than average for the rest of the year. Against quality passing attacks such as Philadelphia, New Orleans and Minnesota (not to mention the Matt Moore-led Panthers), the Giants were helpless. First year defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan tried to continue the aggressive play calling of his predecessor Steve Spagnuolo, dialing up big blitzes with six or more rushers on 14 percent of pass plays, but there wasn't much creativity in the blitz design.

After firing Sheridan at season's end, the team moved quickly to find a replacement, targeting deposed Buffalo interim coach Perry Fewell. Fewell chose to accept the Giants job over a job Chicago despite his close personal relationship with Lovie Smith, and at first glance, it seems like a strange decision. Fewell is a Cover-2 disciple, and for his defense to work properly, he requires undersized linebackers who can flow to the ball and drop into coverage. Aside from Michael Boley, who is coming off a very disappointing season, there is no one on the roster who remotely fits this job description. The Giants do have some young players like Clint Sintim, Jonathan Goff, Bryan Kehl, and Chase Blackburn, but they were drafted with a more traditional 4-3 in mind and may not fit what Fewell wants to do.

On the other hand, there are signs that Fewell might do well. He relies heavily on a four man rush, and the Giants have the personnel to provide it -- even on a down year, their 6.7 percent Adjusted Sack Rate was no worse than middle of the pack. Fewell is also considered one of the premiere secondary coaches in the league. Buffalo was fourth-best in the league at covering No. 1 receivers, and the Bills were able to keep their performance up even as their secondary was ravaged by injuries. That's good news for a team that was torched by DeSean Jackson, Steve Smith, Sidney Rice and just about every other number one receiver who showed up on the schedule. Fewell has a talented pair of starting cornerbacks to work with in Corey Webster and Aaron Ross, but he needs Ross to start playing up to his potential. He'll also need to do more than tweak the scheme to improve the safety play -- the Giants need some new players, particularly if Kenny Phillips takes a long time to work his way back from microfracture surgery.

Who could leave?

The team has already parted ways with veteran linebacker Antonio Pierce, and he could be just the tip of the iceberg as the team retools its defense. Fred Robbins is a free agent who lost his starting job halfway through the season and is unlikely to be re-signed. There has been some offseason verbal sparring between management and defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who has threatened to quit football if he isn't promised a starting job next year. The rule of thumb is that you don't win by trading away an elite pass rusher (paging Kansas City), but with Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka on the roster, general manager Jerry Reese might dangle Umenyiora in an attempt to address multiple needs in the back seven.

Who could they sign?

There are pressing needs at linebacker, at defensive tackle and at safety. If Fewell does decide to play a Tampa-2 defense, then it would make sense to bring in some of his old players to ease with the transition. George Wilson won't start for Buffalo with Jairus Byrd and Donte Whitner ahead of him on the depth chart, but he played very well for 12 games as a starter and would immediately be the best safety on the Giants' roster. Keith Ellison is best as a reserve player, but he has the pass coverage skills to make him valuable in nickel and dime sets. Although trade rumors have died down in the past few weeks, the team figures to keep an eye on the Kerry Rhodes situation with the Jets.

Philadelphia: What will the Eagles do at quarterback?

It wouldn't be February in Philadelphia without people agonizing over the Eagles quarterback position, but what makes this year different is that for the first time there is some real uncertainty about who will be under center for the team next season. According to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter, several teams have been calling and inquiring about all three of Philadelphia's quarterbacks. Donovan McNabb is entering the final year of his contract, and while Kevin Kolb would technically remain a restricted free agent in 2011 under the current CBA rules, it seems unlikely that the team would extend McNabb's contract now and then turn around and do the same for Kolb the following season. It is possible for the Eagles to delay the decision by letting McNabb play out the final year of his deal, but it is more likely that the team strikes while the iron is hot and trades either McNabb or Kolb. The question is, which one?

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the answer depends on how Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman view the roster. If they think the team is on the brink of a Super Bowl, they will hold onto McNabb and let him take his shots until the window officially closes. Otherwise, they'll throw in the towel and rebuild around the younger Kolb. But that implies that Kolb is not ready to step in and perform. Kolb's 15.9% DVOA rating was higher than those of promising young signal-callers Chad Henne and Joe Flacco, and even a little higher than McNabb's 9.2% DVOA. While all the usual caveats about small sample size apply, there's no question that Kolb flashed ability, and his accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws might return some of the consistency to an offense that at times was overly dependent on the big play to move the football. Philadelphia has stayed competitive because they have been willing to let go of longtime veteran players like Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter, and Hugh Douglas a year too soon rather than a year too late, and with McNabb likely to fetch something between a late first- and an early second-round pick, trading him seems most likely. At the same time, if the Eagles opt to stay with what they know and extend McNabb, Kolb could be an attractive chip to a younger team like Cleveland. New Browns GM Tom Heckert drafted Kolb when he was in Philadelphia, and he might be willing to package picks and perhaps a desirable veteran like Shaun Rogers in order to bring Kolb to Cleveland.

Who could leave?

Brian Westbrook insists that his career is not finished, but his tenure in Philadelphia is over. Michael Vick is the third quarterback who has drawn interest from other teams, most notably St. Louis, and he may be dealt before a March 5 roster bonus is due -- or the Eagles could pay the bonus just to buy more time to find a good deal. Kevin Curtis was an afterthought for much of the year thanks to the development of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin; should he be released, he'll draw interest on the free-agent market.

Who could they sign?

One of the major needs is a playmaking defensive end opposite Trent Cole, premiere talent is available in Julius Peppers and Aaron Kampman. The Eagles have been aggressive the past few seasons in acquiring veterans through trade or free agency, netting Jason Peters and Asante Samuel in back-to-back seasons, and they might be inclined to make a big splash again. Speaking of Samuel, while he and Sheldon Brown continue to be among the better corner combinations in the league, the depth behind them is lacking. Roderick Hood is a guy with the press skills to play in a pressure defense, but Jeff Fisher doesn't seem enamored with him, so Hood might be available. Nate Jones is a prototypical nickel corner who had a solid season with Miami and could be in line for a decent payday.

Washington: Is Mike Shanahan walking into a good situation?

Just when it seemed like the Redskins had turned into Oakland East, a storied franchise that no one wanted to work for thanks to an overweening owner, the team landed the big fish, signing Mike Shanahan to become the new head coach. Signing a two-time Super Bowl winning head coach with a 146-98 record would immediately set off celebration in Detroit or Buffalo, but the enthusiasm was a bit more guarded in Washington. You can forgive Redskins fans for thinking that they've seen this act before, as big-name signings and bad football have gone hand in hand for much of the Daniel Snyder era. Snyder began his tenure by throwing money at washed-up former greats like Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith. He burned through famous coaches like Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, and Joe Gibbs. Last year, he signed Albert Haynesworth to a $100 million contract and was rewarded with a 4-12 season for his troubles. What reason is there to think that Shanahan will be different?

Start with the fact that while the Redskins might be picking fourth in the 2010 draft, they weren't close actually one of the four worst teams in football according to Football Outsiders' play-by-play analysis. Washington finished with a -5.3% DVOA in 2009, good enough for 21st in our rankings. They ranked ahead of teams that were still in the playoff race until December, like Tennessee and Jacksonville, and they were far ahead of eight teams with DVOA ratings below -20%. In a draft with two elite quarterback prospects in Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford, as well as blue-chip left tackles like Oklahoma State's Russell Okong and Maryland's Bruce Campbell, the Redskins will have their choice of offensive players. Should the team opt for a quarterback -- and it sounds like Shanahan does not regard Jason Campbell as a long-term solution -- they can rest easy in the knowledge that their coach has had a great deal of success culling offensive linemen and running backs from the middle and back end of the draft.

Washington's defense was one of the best in the league at generating pressure last year, posting a 7.5 percent Adjusted Sack Rate, fifth in the NFL. But despite that pass rush, the defense was terrible at taking advantage of offensive mistakes. They ranked 30th in turnovers per drive, one of only three defenses that couldn't manage one takeaway per every ten drives (along with Cleveland and Oakland). Part of this can be attributed to players like LaRon Landry and Carlos Rogers having poor instincts when the ball is in the air, but another part of it is bad luck. If new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett can keep the pass rush going, the odds are that more hurried throws will end up in the hands of Redskins defensive backs in 2010.

Who could leave?

Perhaps the biggest loss is that of Joe Bugel, the venerable offensive line coach who spent 15 seasons in Washington and oversaw the Hogs during the first Joe Gibbs era. Bugel will make for an interesting discussion when he is up for the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, the line Bugel left behind is in shambles. Chris Samuels has been seeking medical evaluations on his neck before making a final decision, but he appears to be headed for retirement. Clinton Portis has done himself no favors with his offseason sniping at the media and fellow teammates, but with his $6.43 million salary guaranteed, there isn't much incentive to cut him loose.

Who could they sign?

Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen will target offensive linemen who Shanahan has worked with in the past, a process they started when they inked center/guard Kory Lichtensteiger. Tony Pashos is coming off a mediocre season in San Francisco, but he is supposedly high on the wish list. Russ Hochstein is another guy who might be just a marginal starter but who would improve the depth and competitiveness along the line.

(Portions of this article originally appeared on


94 comments, Last at 29 May 2010, 12:08am

1 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"blue-chip left tackles like Oklahoma State's Russell Okong and Maryland's Bruce Campbell"

Really, Bruce Campbell at 4 overall?

There's no way Shanny passes on Clausen if he falls to him.

2 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

4 may be high for Campbell, but he'll go really high. You might not believe he deserves to go high (and if that's the case, I'd agree), but the measurables are off the charts. And, like they always say, it only takes 1. #8 at Oakland almost seems too obvious.

As for Clausen at #4, buyer beware. Since I can't stand the Redskins, I'd be very happy if they drafted Clausen.

5 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Campbell's best case scenario is a Crazy Al reach at 8. Fourth overall is just ludicrous.

I'd pay attention to Clausen's detractors if they could ever offer some legitimate criticism. As it stands now, the Rams are apparently dumb enough to pick a Big12 QB with two shoulder injuries who played in the same offensive scheme as Tim Couch. Clausen is the only good quarterback prospect who played in a pro-style offense this year.

7 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

A lot of people don’t like him simply because he looks and acts like a douchebag. However, that hasn’t stopped Phillip Rivers from turning into at top shelf QB. A lot of people don’t like him because he went to Notre Dame. Those are also easy to dismiss.

A lot of people don’t like him because he doesn’t have the big arm. I tend to think that the arm is overrated – so long as it’s “good enough.” And his arm strength ought to be at least average for the NFL. His accuracy seems OK, again, nothing special but good enough.

There are two knocks against him in my mind. There is his decision making. He made a handful of throws that had me wondering WTF he was thinking – the kind of throws that will have Berman calling him a “gunslinger” and Madden saying that “he’s just having fun out there.”

His supporters discount this and say it’s nitpicking. I say that the decision-making process is the most important part of the position; but it's probably the hardest to quantify as well. Which leads to the perception that people don’t like him because he’s got a stupid haircut or because he went to Notre Dame, or whatever.

The biggest red flag, to me, and I haven’t seen anybody write about this yet, is that his hands only measured 9” at the combine. As people start to deconstruct Clausen, look for his small hands to become a story. What I haven’t done (yet) is go back and take a look at his fumbling in college and see if the numbers there are in any way meaningful (to his detriment or to his defense, depending on what they are).

Todd McShay doesn’t like him – but I’d say that’s a big point in his favor.

Ultimately, I see a lot of “OK but good enough” in the guy. And when a guy like that becomes a top 10/top5 pick, you end up with Alex Smith.

9 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

It would be interesting to know what you define as "decision making process" that is independent of accuracy or arm strength. It would be more interesting to know how you judge that without access to all-22 film. Considering he only tossed four interceptions for how much he passed this year, in obvious passing situations, something more than subjective impressions would be needed.

Alex Smith wasn't considered "just good enough". Alex Smith was a complete miss because of an idiot front office's inability to understand the college spread offense. His passing stats were identical to Tebow's under Meyer. SF violated one of the biggest taboos in the draft; Don't draft system quarterbacks. There is far more similarity between Smith and Bradford if the Rams choose him than Clausen.

15 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I suppose I should also have added that there are also going to be a lot of people who are going to be completely irrational in there support of Clausen simply because he went to Notre Dame.

That's not an accusation, but I do wonder if you're defending him because he's a Domer?

As for decision making process, I look at the throws into coverage. And even if I don't have the all-22 film, he's still on TV every week, and they have this thing called "instant replay" where they do show multiple angles.

That doesn't make my evaluation any better than any other layman, but I'm not trying to pretend otherwise.

The fact of the matter is that I am not sold on either Bradford or Clausen. I expect both to go way too early. Ultimately, I think that if you are a team looking for a QB this year, you're screwed. I don't see one available via free agency, trade, or draft. Possibly Jason Campbell, if he's truly trade bait, but the Redskins already have him, so if they're not sold on him, they have even less options than anyone else.

35 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"if you are a team looking for a QB this year, you're screwed. I don't see one available via free agency, trade, or draft."

Eagles QB maybe. Campbell. Also I heard Jeff George is looking.

48 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

If you are a team in need of a QB, every year is a difficult year.

No prospect is "can't miss" (a term to be despised) in the draft. The majority of Colts' scouts wanted Leaf.

The trade market was a crapshoot at best. When Brees was available, so was Culpepper. The Saints and Payton got lucky. Saban and Miami got burnt.

There is only one thing certain about quarterbacks. If you scrimp by dumpster diving or going Rent-A-QB, your chance of consistently competing with a franchise quarterback is nil. You have to take risks to win.

70 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Like that crazy risk the Patriots took when they drafted T. Brady, Michigan in the 6th round? You can luck into a great QB anywhere in the draft. Like you said, the draft isn't a sure thing in Round 1, why would it be a sure thing in Rounds 2-6?

75 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Yeah, lottery tickets are the best method to getting rich. Bob down the street won the powerball, why not you?

82 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

T. Brady - 6th round
M. Schaub - 3rd round
D. Brees - 2nd round
T. Romo - Undrafted
K. Warner - Undrafted

I understand your general point and agree somewhat, but the idea that you have to draft a QB in the top 10 to be competitive (which is what I took your original post to be claiming) just doesn't seem to jive with this.

78 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

The QB that the Eagles will trade is Vick.

And if you want a guy whose last starting job was 3 years ago when he was a 52% passer with a 6.4 y/a on a 7-9 team, he ought to be available cheap. I just hope your resume is up to date when you make that deal.

14 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

There is plenty of legit criticism of Clausen - from a performance perspective, he played in a pass-happy offense that inflated his stats, but like Brady Quinn he struggled against top defenses and lacked any sort of signature win (granted the Fighting Irish defense had just as much a hand in that). From a personality perspective, NFL scouts have already complained that he comes across as too cocky and self-entitled in the interviews - both are traits that can be huge red flags for rookie QB's. I do believe he's better than Bradford and is the only QB worthy of a 1st round pick, but #4 is a stretch, particularly when there are so many other guys (Tony Pike, Jarrett Brown, Colt McCoy, Tim Hiller) with similar physical stats that can be had in the later rounds. Okong would be a smarter pick at that spot, or they should try to pry away multiple 1st round picks out of San Fran and trade down.

16 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

What's the difference between cocky and confident? It's a reg flag for a quarterback to be confident?

Also, no way is S.F. trading up. Their positions of need are set to fall to them. They're going to trade up for a right tackle?

21 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I think there's a big difference between confident and cocky. Cocky assholes like Ryan Leaf and Cade McNown (among others) pissed off their locker rooms and were never respected as leaders. It's one thing to be confident in your ability to do well and to succeed, it's another to expect success and respect to be given to you (hence why the term "self-entitled" has been thrown around for Clausen).

And yes, San Fran could trade up as it has huge needs at O-Line. A guy like Okong would be worth the risk and is the safest of any the offensive line draftees.

36 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I see. If you win, you're confident. If you lose, you're cocky. Phillip Rivers is confident. Jay Cutler was confident; then he went to the Bears and became cocky.

Trouble is, Clausen hasn't played in the NFL yet, so there's no way to tell if he's "confident" or "cocky."

You don't think Peyton Manning expects respect?

S.F. doesn't have huge "needs" on the O-Line. They have one need: right-tackle. They also need DB help, a rush linebacker, a middle linebacker, an NT, etc., etc.

It's a deep draft; they have a lot of needs. There's no way they trade up.

44 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I understand the media throws the words like "cocky" and "confident" interchangeably but there are differences. Cutler became pretty damn full of himself in Denver, demanded a trade out (but only to a major market) and played sloppy-ass football in Chicago where he lead the league in INT's. And Rivers is also a cocky jackass - say what you want about his regular season record, his postseason play has always been lackluster, and I do wonder if that's due to a lackadaisical approach. And Manning has earned his respect so the comparison there is idiotic - point is, he didn't enter the league expecting success to be handed to him and he worked his ass off to be a great QB. He's respected just as much for that as anything else, and you never see him shooting his mouth off to the media about how great he is or how bad his opponents are. Face it, every pro sport is rife with talented guys who let their ego get in the way of reaching their full potential. That's no secret.

Also, the term I'm focusing on is "self-entitled," which has been used to describe Clausen more than once. And that does bother me - it brings into question his maturity and ability to lead. Will he put his head down and work his ass off to be one of the best and be a leader, or will he flame out like the Ryan Leafs and JaMarcus Russells of the world?

Again, not saying Clausen is a bust-to-be, but I am saying that #4 is way too high for a guy who could very well be Brady Quinn 2.0 when you've got way safer prospects at critical positions.

18 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

That's the difference between us. I don't think "signature wins" are legitimate concerns when evaluating a pro prospect. You do.

Pike, Brown, McCoy, Hiller? Ha! Next time any one of these spread monkeys makes a full field read will be a first in his lifetime. We'll be charitable and won't even ask about 15 yard outs, etc.

23 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Not sure why you're dissing McCoy as a spread monkey considering that Mack Brown's offense has produced Chris Simms and Vince Young, both who have started in the NFL. And unlike VY, McCoy won't have the pressure and has way better mechanics. If he doesn't fill his shorts like he did in all of UT's biggest games he should be fine.

There are spread offense guys who are starting NFL QB's you know, Aaron Rodgers (Cal) probably being the most prominent. The difference is that he was given time to be built up and learn the NFL. Even the most "polished" QB prospects still require a couple years until they can process an entire NFL playbook - Clausen included. All college QB's come from systems that were simpler than the NFL. That's why you draft those guys late and give them time to learn. You can't contest that those guys don't have the physicial tools to perform - I don't see anything wrong in drafting another need in the first round and using a 3rd or 4th round pick on a QB. Considering most starters in the NFL weren't 1st round picks I don't think I'm in the minority.

53 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

The Cal Bears ran an I formation, 2 wide almost 2/3 of their snaps in 04. Calling Rodgers a spread qb is…questionable.
Tedford calls aggressive plays, but from fairly traditional sets

54 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

You are probably right. IIRC, the knock on Rodgers was that he was a Tedford QB and therefore had a funny delivery. Previous highly touted Tedford QBs included Trent Dilfer, Akili Smith, David Carr, Joey Harrington, and Kyle Boller; a list that would make any GM nervous. An even more successful QB that definitely played in a spread-like system in college was Brees at Purdue. Brees QBed almost exclusively from the shotgun and normally had 3-4 WRs on every play. I think the Purdue coach at the time even specifically went to such an offense to take advantage of Brees's passing skills.

56 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Brees isn't a spread quarterback who found success. Brees is the ONLY college spread quarterback who found success in the NFL. Even he had to struggle for three or four years to find his footing in the league. Below him the best you can find are guys like Orton (also Purdue), V. Young and Smith, mediocrities who also struggled for years to hang on in the pros. After them it's a vast sea of wasted picks for a decade, from high ones like Couch (who's also fragile) to low ones like Andre Woodson and the entire TexasTech corps during Leach's tenure.

The spread offense is a philosophy, or rather a host of philosophies, none of which prepares the quarterback well for the pro game.

71 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

In reply to by loneweasel (not verified)

Maybe I'm showing my ignorance, but what's the difference between the so-called spread offenses of Big 12 programs such as Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Texas and what New England is currently using?

I have to work Saturdays so I don't watch as much college football as many of you do, but when I have gotten to see Texas and Oklahoma, their offensive formations and plays look a lot like New England's to me. Lots of shotgun, 3 or 4 wides, wr bubble screens and draw plays.

Maybe one of the Outsiders can explain the differences to me.

72 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

what's the difference between the so-called spread offenses of Big 12 programs such as Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Texas and what New England is currently using?

Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Texas can score TDs in the red zone?

77 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

In reply to by Mike19531 (not verified)

Tom Brady in the New England spread still does most of the things other pro QBs do, just in a shotgun formation in which Welker is lined up wider than Dallas Clark.

College spread quarterbacks don't call their own audibles, don't make more than two reads on any given snap, read only one side of the field and pass to five yard wide holes in opposing zones (Very few college corners can do man coverage adequately.) They are not taught the skills necessary to succeed in the pros. Most of them never develop those. Those who do, like Brees, have to spend years just to get down the basics that most highly drafted pro-style quarterbacks like Ryan and Sanchez already learned before entering the league.

80 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I really think Brees is the best comparison for Bradford I can think of. I know it's not a pro-style offense, and I know the sample size is tiny, but damn he's looked good when I've seen him. Absurd accuracy and touch. Like Brees, however, I think he'll struggle badly if asked to start early, especially in terms of pocket awareness, and especially if he is drafted by any team other than the Broncos with their awesome o-line. I do think, though, that his work ethic and attention to detail show signs of being up to the task.

63 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

When you say "most starters in the NFL weren't 1st round picks," you mean in general, not QB's, right? Obviously it's true in general, but franchise QB's tend to be found in the first round. The fact that teams often start their first-round rookie QB's early skews it a little, but a quick glance at PFR is enough to confirm that the majority of consistent starters in at QB last year were 1st round picks. I only bring this up because you suggest that the 3rd or 4th is a reasonable time to try to find a franchise QB, and I think that's nonsense.

There's a place I want to be. It's the NovaCare Center. That's in Philadelphia. One NovaCare Way, where the Eagles practice and then they eat cafeteria food and they watch film and we eat and we have fun.

-Donovan McNabb

79 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

So lets look at the other side of this.

Why do you have such a hardon for Clausen? What is it about him that has you so sold that he's going to be a great NFL QB?

3 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"Fewell has a talented pair of starting cornerbacks to work with in Corey Webster and Aaron Ross, but he needs Ross to start playing up to his potential."

I think that Terrell Thomas pretty clearly passed Ross on the depth chart in 2009. For much of the season, he was looking like the best player in the Giants' back-seven.

52 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I agree with this. He was better than Ross last year and, more than that, seems to have more upside than Ross to my eyes.

The other complaint I had with this article was the idea that Phillips might not end up being the best Giants safety on the roster if they sign Buffalo's backup. That guy might be the Giants best starter due to Phillips' injury, but Phillips is still on the roster and is significantly better when healthy.

4 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

It's difficult to make the argument that Flo was better than Free this year. In fact, It's hard to make the argument he was a starting-caliber tackle. He's an utter liability as a pass protector.

6 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I don't seriously expect Campbell to go in the top five despite his raw skills. I do think he is unlikely to drop out of the top 10, however, and should Washington slide down a bit, there's no question that they would have to consider him. Okung is a far safer prospect, though, and if the Redskins decided they were going to go with a left tackle, they'd be better off staying put and taking Okung rather than trying to get cute.

8 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Roderick Hood is a guy with the press skills to play in a pressure defense

I'd hope so, considering he was an Eagle for the first part of his career. But I doubt they'll bring him back, as I think if they wanted to they would've brought him back when he was available earlier.

I think they're pretty happy with Hanson, and they'll probably add a corner via the draft. I really, really wouldn't be surprised if the first round pick was a corner. For all the "they need a pass rusher opposite Trent Cole" - which people have been saying for years - the team was 8th in adjusted sack rate and tied for 3rd in number of sacks, so while I'm sure they'd like an additional pass rusher and will draft a DE at some point, the real problems were the secondary and the disaster at linebacker.

13 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

When I hear that the eagles are going to fo after Peppers my first thought is that it would result in Trent Cole's head exploding. There has been a lot of talk around here about what a bargain Cole is and surely he would feel slighted if his partner in pass rushing was to earn $10 million more than him per year. However, that sort of issue has never stopped the Eagles before, I doubt it will bother them now.

27 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I've heard this from lots of places. I would also assert that it is their style, Samuel, Kearse, Howard, making the move for Peters. I could go on, they like to go after marquee free agents if they think they are blue chip talents. Peppers is and I think they could go after him.

30 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Quite the contrary - it's EXACTLY how they operate.

Every even numbered year, they spend big money on a free agent DE.

2008 - Chris Clemons
2006 - Darren Howard
2004 - Jevon Kearse

Before that, they traded up in the draft to get Jerome McDougle in the 1st round in 2003. The money is there. The results aren't.

Obviously, that doesn't guarantee anything - but it's hardly out of character. I think Kampmann is a better value and a better fit for this organization, but I would not be at all surprised if they went after Peppers in a big way.

34 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

If you want to know that then look it up but I can see the point you're trying to make. I still think Peppers will be on their radar, he has at least three outstanding years left and in my (not particularly) humble opinion he probably has a couple more than that. (I reckon that he's had very little help from his linemates for a while now, if he was playing with more talent around him he'll be a beast.) I don't think his age would put off the Eagles or any other team, what will put people off is that he reportedly wants $18 million per year, a silly amount, even for him.

45 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I wouldn't put it in those terms, you still haven't really articulated whatever it is you are trying to say. I'm just trying to move the dicussion forwards.

49 Re: Four Downs: NFC East, Darren Howard was 29 at the point when the Eagles signed him. All of about two months younger than Peppers is now.

40 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

This started because Peppers has stated that the Eagles were on his "short list". I doubt they sink this kind of money into a free agent when there are cheaper alternatives available and the draft is stocked with DE talent.

51 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

See: rank of number of sacks, 2003.

They were middle of the pack then. They needed a pass rusher, badly. What pass rushing DE did they have? None. Not "one other pro bowler." None.

The other ones that people have listed - Howard, Clemons - aren't comparable, since Cole hadn't emerged by the time Howard was acquired, Howard was a DT/DE hybrid anyway and they needed a pass rushing DT, and Clemons's contract was tiny.

I could still see them going after Peppers because, well, you can never have too many effective DEs, but I'd be very surprised if they overpaid for him. It's not that big a need and he's not that great a player.

57 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Howard was not a DT/DE hybrid. The guy is less than 270 pounds. He didn't start playing tackle until later.

58 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Yes, he his final few years with the Saints they would move him to DT on passing downs and put Will Smith and Charles Grant at DE. Which was part of the reason the Eagles signed him, because he could move inside on passing downs.

62 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Maybe you're right. I was sure he played end exclusively during his time in New Orleans, but that may not be the case after all. Will Smith's numbers are a lot higher his first two years than I thought, so he must have seen more time than I believed. I thought Howard started to play inside once he came to Eagles and he failed to perform to expectations.

My bad.

66 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Failed to perform to expectations? Howard's most productive inside, by far, and once they figured that out and started putting him primarily there he put up a ton of sacks as a part time player.

When the Eagles brought him in, they specifically mentioned the fact that he could play inside, and it was needed, since their inside pass rush was really marginal after 2005.

74 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Perhaps I wasn't clear. I'm saying that it was my impression that they experimented with him inside after he failed to perform to expectation as an end. Where, as an Eagle, he has not performed well.

I made no mention of his performance as a pass-rushing tackle, merely said I did not think that was the initial plan for him on the Eagles. Which, I've already admitted I was mistaken about.

This is generally why I research statements before I make them. Even after you admit you were wrong people won't give it up. I don't know why I didn't in this instance. Maybe I just assumed since Howard is listed at 260 pounds moving him inside was a desperate attempt to get something out of a failing player rather than the initial plan. Whatever the case, I was wrong, and I apologize.

Is that sufficiently contrite?

83 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Yeah, sorry, I misread what you were saying. I thought you were suggesting that Howard playing inside was the failure.

Maybe I just assumed since Howard is listed at 260 pounds

Yeah, weight isn't a big deal for an inside pass-rusher. Being able to play inside as a pass rusher is more of a technique thing than a size/weight thing.

84 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

You're probably right. I tend to get too hung up on size of players respective to their position. Sometimes it works, but other times it leads me to overlook the obvious.

10 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

"Otherwise, they'll throw in the towel and rebuild around the younger Kolb."

I do not understand that statement. The Eagles have the same needs despite which QB starts this season. They have issues at C and RG and could use some depth in the backfield. They need a DE who can take advantage of the double teams Trent Cole creates, quality at LB and youth in the secondary.

If they are rebuilding with Kolb, they are rebuilding with McNabb.

12 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Which is probably why he wrote this part:

that the answer depends on how Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman view the roster

19 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Ah, so the facts stand as to what the needs are. The only question is the interpretation of those needs. If those needs, and a few stategic moves, place the Eagles in a competitive position for a SB, they go with McNabb. If they perceive no chance of winning a title next year, go with Kolb. As an Eagles fan, it is refreshing to find others do not think replacing McNabb for Kolb automatically transforms the Eagles into a SB lock.

Of course, if Kolb is the starter next year, the cry will be for a "big back."

25 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

You'd think they'd figure out after 10 years that Reid cares nothing about big running backs and give up.

Really, it boils down to whether you want the Eagles to be explosive or consistent. They scored a club record for points this season, but they also had a crap load of three-and-outs. Of course, if they could defend the Cowboys' sprint draw and goddamn slip screen, we probably aren't having this conversation.

Hail Hydra!

60 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Weaver is a free agent, and he would have been so much better as a short yardage back if the Eagles had another FB to put in the game with him (a la Mike Alstott with the Buccaneers). But, instead the Eagles kept Eldra Buckley and he couldn't cut as a RB or on special teams last year.

59 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I don't understand how you can say the Eagles need a C and RG? The O-line played at its best last year with Jamaal Jackson at C and Nick Cole at RG. Then after Jackson got hurt the whole OL fell apart. The only reason the Jackson should be replaced at C is if his knee never heals right.

As for the Linebackers the Eagles problem is that they have 2 good Will backers (Will Witherspoon & Akeem Jordan, a Mike backer returning from injury (Stewart Bradley), and no real Sam backer unless Gocong or Fokou step up next season.

76 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Peters-Herremans-Jackson/Cole-MJG/Andrews-Andrews/Justice just looks like Peters-Herremans-?-?-? to me.

I am a big Jamal Jackson fan because I am a fan of his work on the line and he went to Delaware State. Sorry, I am a little bit homer there. The line played well in pass coverage while Jackson and Cole were at C and RG. I am responding to the OL play after the injury and I am considering performance next season.

It takes 2 years to fully recover from a torn ACL and game 16 next season will only be one. There is a very strong chance he will be on IR because he will not be far enough into recovery to be in football shape. Give Cole an entire off season at C and he maybe performs as well as Jackson, but that leaves RG.

I really hope Shawn Andrews returns to form and fills the RG hole. He might get swung out to RT, but I thought Justice did a good job at RT. Maybe Stacy Andrews will be better in his second year back from knee surgery and he goes to RG. Or maybe they can plug in MJG. That is a lot of maybes and maybes on the OL worry me.

If Jackson does not play next year and there is a 2011 lock out, Jackson will not play until 2012, the second to last year of his contract. Regardless, its another year of musical chairs on the OL and I consider C and RG the largest risks that needs to be addressed.

As for LB, the Eagles have a problem. What you described is a problem situation. The are set at WIL, Bradley will return to MIKE only one year removed from his ACL and SAM is just a mess.

11 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Wowzers Alan Ball. He was a favorite of mine at Illinois, I wondered if he was athletic enough for the NFL. Really cool to see him as a legit candidate to start somewhere.

17 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I'm not sure that I'd be at all happy with Ball as a starter, but he is a solid enough back-up. Though to be fair to him, the only reason it sucked to have him in for Hamlin is that Hamlin is the guy the coaches trust to get the secondary lined up. And at times you could see that lack when Hamlin was out. But still, I'd rather the Cowboys get a safety that is better than Hamlin, not go with one that is roughly his equal.

20 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

And more on Hamlin, I'm disgusted with him. He comes in and has that one pretty good year to remind Cowboys fans who had been stuck with Roy Williams+random special teamer attempting to play safety (Keith Davis/Pat Watkins) what passable safety play looked like, signed a long-term deal and then immediately regresses to a level near those guys.

22 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I disagree on Hamlin. He is not a playmaking safety by any means, but he is very good at preventing the deep ball.

Let's be honest. Name the team with the best deep game in the NFL. Hell, name the player with the best deep game in the NFL. Some may say Chargers and Vincent Jackson, but most people would probably say the Eagles and a different Jackson. Desean Jackson. How many deep balls did the Eagles hit against us this season IN THREE GAMES? One on a Wildcat Vick toss in the Playoffs? I'm ok with that. DeSean did NOTHING against us. And Wade Phillips has said time and again that they ask Ken to be 100% sure on every play that no one will get something in behind him. I'd say he does that pretty well. He may not be a great safety, but he is surely at least an average one and he fits Phillips' scheme very well. I say keep him and I expect that we will.

39 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

It didn't help that in the last two games, the Eagles were using a backup center (Cole) who regularly bounced the shotgun snaps off his butt cheeks. It's not hard to defend receivers when the ball's on the turf in the backfield.

61 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Or that they were using a backup RG as well in Max "Jabba" Jean-Gilles. He defines "below average" as his very presence on the field constricts what the Eagles can do on Offense. He is too big and slow to get out in front on screen passes, his pass blocking technique is poor as he doesn't have the agility to stay in front of defenders, nor the strength to lock on to a guy and push him out of the way. Not to mention that on the rare occasions that he actually gets his hands into the chest of the defender he often allows his hands to rise up too far up on the defender leading to "hands to the face penalties."

46 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Okay, calling him the equal of the Roy Williamses and Keith Davises of the world isn't fair, I'll admit. And I wouldn't be shattered if the Cowboys kept him on, but they could still substantially improve upon the position.

42 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Douchebag QB that played for the Irish? On the Skins? I kow this story! Doesn't D Ware end up breaking his leg?

50 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Yep, after being drafted by the Dolphins, playing in the CFL, getting himself these (beating the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game along the way), and picking up a league MVP award.

43 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I would hope the Titans keep Hood. The Titans' pass defense was terrible until Hood stepped in opposite Finnegan, and the Titans can't draft late round corners for crap with notable exception of Finnegan.

64 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I wouldn't expect the Eagles to add a CB this year unless someone slips to them in the draft. The corners on the current roster should be more than adequate, with Samuel and Brown starting, Hanson as the Nickel and either Ellis Hobbs or Dimitri Patterson as a fourth CB. Not to mention the possibility of them moving Victor "Macho" Harris back to CB, he did a fine job as the nickel corner last year after injuries to the CB pushed him there.

If the Eagles were to sign a veteran DB, I would hope that they would go after Ryan Clark of the Steelers. I always thought that he was player when he was with the Redskins, and he could help to solidify the Eagles backfield.

67 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Yes, the Eagles would never draft a CB to replace an aging solid veteran corner. Never at all. Hanson's fine in the nickel, although an upgrade wouldn't hurt. Hobbs and Patterson are roster filler as CBs.

The OL's all young, they've got one solid pass rush threat, and they're set at WR and have too many QBs. CB is by far the expensive position that's the weakest on the team.

68 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I'm not a Giants fan, so as much, I only watched 4 or 5 Giants games last season.
That said, in those games, particularly the losses to New Orleans and Arizona, the pass rush was totally MIA.

The article's author claimed that for the season, the Giants' pass rush was middle of the road. I'm only guessing, but the Giants pass rush got fat against the paper mache offensive lines of the Chiefs, Raiders and Bucs, but when having to face a much stouter O line like the lines of the Saints and Cards, the non-existant pass rush exposed an injury riddled and talent lacking back seven.

Any thoughts on this from Giants' fans?

81 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Well, any good pass rush is going to fatten up on the weaker parts of their schedule to a certain degree, and good OLs (and QBs) do often shut down average-ish pass rushes. But, yes, the Giants rush was underwhelming against better competition.

There are reasons to suspect some improvement without much player changeover, though. Tuck played from Week 2 on with a brace on his shoulder (suffered on a play when Flozell Adams flagrantly tripped him). He fought through it and stayed off the injury report for most of the year, but he clearly wasn't himself afterwards. Canty got very little playing time due to injuries; if he's 100% and replacing Fred Robbins (who looked done in '09) in the lineup, that's an upgrade. Kiwanuka was an improvement on Osi when he started getting more playing time late in the season. It was just revealed that Rocky Bernard was playing with a torn labrum for the whole season. Jay Alford is coming back from a preseason knee injury.

73 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Pat is right, cornerback is a bigger draft priority that people realize for the Eagles. The Eagles haven't drafted a good pass rusher since 2005 (Trent Cole) and haven't spent a high pick on a cornerback since 2002 (Lito and Sheldon.) Both positions are in danger of getting real old real quick.

85 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I could easily see the Redskins winning the NFC East next year with Shanahan.

Bet on it.

86 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Wow. It's a good think I wasn't drinking anything when I read that or I would have snarfed.

I am very confident that the Redskins will once again be "offseason champs" of the division. They achieve that distinction every year.

88 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

The difference is that now they actually have a competent head coach.

They already have one of the most talented defenses in the NFC. If they make a big splash in free agency by signing Peppers, their front four would be downright dominant.

If they draft Bulaga or Okung in the first round, they'll have a very solid offensive line. Jason Campbell is severely underrated as a QB. Give him a good coach, a decent offensive coordinator, and an upgraded offensive line, and if the Redskins D is as nasty as I think it will be, he could easily take them deep into the playoffs.

89 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

One player does not an offensive line make.

They also don't have much receiving talent outside Moss and Cooley (if he comes back healthy). They don't much at running back either.

90 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Their offense is completely anemic. Their O-line is atrocious. Moss' window is closing fast or already closed. Randel-El is not very good and never really was. Portis got beat to shit and has nothing left. Who does that leave? Rock Cartwright? Cooley is their only player on O even remotely worth fearing and I'm pretty sure his numbers are inflated because of lack of options.

87 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

I also believe that they will be a strong factor in the division and could win it. The offensive line needs to be rebuilt along with a few other tweaks in FA/Draft. I could see them winning the division if health doesn't become a issue.

91 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

Ah yes, welcome to the delusional world of Redskins fans. Don't forget that this is the part of their team cycle where all of their problems are going to be fixed by one big name hire, otherwise known as savior (see last 4 head coaches/1 DT for reference). Reality and regret come next, after which the cycle starts over again.
Next on the agenda one this thread is them getting called out on their craziness with reasonable arguments, followed by them responding with hope and possibilities as proof. Followed talking about how many superbowls they have won, and then taking their ball and going home to their own insular message-boards after someone points out that getting shot in a burglary does not make a you a saint.

94 Re: Four Downs: NFC East

look at this little option looking thing philly ran with kolb last year... i missed that one. neat play.