Eye On the Enemy: NFC East Roundup

The Washington Post profiled Jay Gruden's rise to NFL head coach.

The Washington Post profiled Jay Gruden’s rise to NFL head coach.

Once a week, we’ll take a spin around the NFC East to check in on what’s going on with the Eagles’ division rivals.

DALLAS COWBOYS




The Cowboys must commit to the run game, Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com notes:

Abandoning the run is a recipe for disaster for Dallas. It puts too much on the surgically repaired back of 34-year-old quarterback Tony Romo and exposes a defense that ranked dead last in the league last season.

There is no good reason for the Cowboys not to rely on a good running game. There are several good reasons for the Cowboys to pound away on the ground, starting with those three first-rounders up front.

“When you hear me talk about some marquee players, some cornerstone players on our team, we feel like we have them up front on the offensive line,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “Your demeanor on offense can change. You can run the ball better, you can dominate the game, you can be more physical throughout the game to wear a team down at the end of the game, to be able to win in some of those situations where when you’re not strong up front, maybe you have to do some things that you don’t necessarily want to do.”

Rolando McClain joined the Cowboys to get his life back on track, he tells Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News:

Raising two sons, McClain thought coming out of retirement and joining the Dallas Cowboys was the best decision for him.

“I had to get a foundation, a structure of what I wanted to do as a father,” he said Saturday after his first practice, a morning walk-through special teams session. “That was the most important thing, the family structure.”

McClain traveled with the team to training camp on Tuesday, however, he headed back to his hometown of Decatur, Ala. on Thursday to attend a court date. McClain was found guilty of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct from an incident that occurred in April 2013. McClain said he was “very surprised” with the outcome, so he is appealing the conviction.

Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan on why Tony Romo sat out a recent practice:

“Tony knows we’re getting ready to get into the competitive part of camp, starting (Saturday),” COO Stephen Jones told me. “I think he just decided he wanted to make sure he was roaring and ready. He just wanted to take this afternoon, rest up a little bit and get ready. He didn’t want to miss anything that’s competitive.”

“Roaring and ready” sounds good … though Dallas has certainly backed way off from three days ago, when coach Jason Garrett pronounced him a “full-go.”

The version of Romo we saw Friday didn’t even remain on the field to watch practice.

“It’s just purely precautionary,” Jones told me, insisting there are no red flags as it pertains to Romo’s offseason back surgery. “Everybody agreed that it was a good idea.”

NEW YORK GIANTS

Eli Manning's career is at a crossroads, writes Johnette Howard of ESPNNewYork.com:

But after watching last season firsthand, I'll always believe that some of those interceptions Manning threw were because he looked around last year and privately decided he didn't have as much help as he'd like, so it was up to him to make something happen, to go out and win games by himself. Especially during that shocking 0-6 start that just kept getting worse.

You could actually argue that, if anything, he deserved a sort of perverse admiration for not caring how ugly another interception would look on his stat line. He was just trying to win the damn game. Get it?

Was it the right decision? Probably not. And again, some critics have decided that wasn't his problem at all. They theorize Manning is beginning his decline.

With guard Chris Snee having retired this past week, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com analyzes New York's offensive line:

With Chris Snee having retired Monday, [right guard] is wide open. Flaherty is a fan of John Jerry, but Jerry is still quite limited as he works his way back from knee surgery. So Brandon Mosley has been running with the first team at right guard.

"He has to be consistent," Flaherty said. "Somewhere in your career as a player, you have to get off the waves, and that's the point he's at. There will always be peaks and valleys, but you need to have more peaks than valleys. You have to be consistent as an offensive lineman. (Thursday) I saw more consistency. Those guys are pretty good that we're blocking in practice -- Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins. They're as good as there are in the league, and that's a great challenge for a guy like Brandon Mosley."

Guys like Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the defensive tackles who await the Giants in Week 1 in Detroit, might dispute Flaherty's assessment.

Victor Cruz is adjusting to the Giants' new offense by studying Jerry Rice, Gary Myers of the New York Daily News details:

Cruz’s decision to study Rice is interesting. Rice lined up primarily on the outside and Cruz has lined up primarily in the slot and that’s likely where he will be a majority of the time this season. But the 49ers liked to put Rice in motion and he would often end up inside cutting across the middle, where he was impossible to cover.

Rice also had the advantage of playing with Joe Montana and Steve Young, two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, who were skilled at the getting the ball out of their hand quickly and into Rice’s hands, allowing him to make plays. Rice was the best at forcing defenders to miss. He wasn’t a burner — neither is Cruz — but he was plenty fast when he had the ball.

McAdoo’s offense requires Eli Manning to let it go much more quickly than in Kevin Gilbride’s system, which relied more on downfield throws. That change is good for Cruz, who is elusive. Remember his 99-yard touchdown against the Jets in the crucial 2011 late-season game, when he took a short pass from Manning, made two defenders miss and scored the TD that provided momentum to win the game, eventually win the NFC East and then the Super Bowl.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post profiles how Jay Gruden went from a quarterback desperate to make the pros to an NFL head coach:

“There will always be part of me that says, ‘What if?’ ” Gruden says quietly. He cocks his head as if he has more to say, then thinks better of it. “But it’s all good,” he concludes, chuckling one more time.

Gruden never did quarterback the Giants, or any other NFL team. His NFL dream died a long, slow, painful death, one that took him on a journey through pro football’s bush leagues. Only now, at age 47 — three kids and one grandchild later — has Gruden achieved the status as a coach that eluded him as a player. As the first-year coach of the Washington Redskins, he has reached the pinnacle of the only other profession, besides quarterback, he has ever pursued.

DeAngelo Hall looks to lead the turnaround of the Redskins' defense, Mike Jones of the Washington Post reports:

More than anything, Hall said he wants to conclude his career — however many seasons that remain — as a winner. Since joining the Redskins in 2008, Washington has reached the playoffs just once (in 2012). For his career, Hall has played in only two other playoff games (both in 2004 while with Atlanta).

“Mentally, I’m just in a place where I know I don’t have a lot of football left, so I want to go out there, have as much fun as possible, lay it all on the line and not leave anything in the tank, so when I do walk away from this game, I feel good about it,” Hall said. “That’s just been my approach to these offseason practices and even last year. I just want to have fun and help us win as many games as possible.”

Gruden says fullback Darrel Young will be a big part of the offense, according to Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com:

On Friday afternoon Gruden was asked about his history with fullbacks in Cincinnati and what that might mean for Young’s future with the team.

“I didn’t have Darrel Young in Cincinnati – if I had him, I would have used him,” said Gruden. “So he's a very good fullback. He's very versatile, he can run, he can catch, so we're excited about having him. The personnel groupings will vary. We'll have a fullback, two tight ends. We'll have a fullback, one tight end. We'll have two tight ends, no fullback. So the personnel will vary but DY will be a major part of this offense.”

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