Eye On the Enemy: NFC East Roundup
For the next several Sundays, we’ll take a spin around the NFC East to check in on what’s going on with some of the Eagles’ division rivals.
Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News ranks the Cowboys’ 53-man roster, with Tony Romo slotted at number three:
Romo was very good during his 15 games last season. He tossed 31 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions. His average per attempt and completion percentage were down but Romo showed he can still be very effective as he enters his mid 30s. The biggest concern surrounding the Cowboys’ franchise QB is how his back will hold up after having two surgeries in two years.
Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News analyzes the third-most important position on the Cowboys’ defense:
[Jason] Hatcher signed in the offseason with Washington, leaving the Cowboys looking for another pass-rushing defensive tackle would could play their key 3-technique spot.
The Cowboys signed free agent defensive tackle Henry Melton from Chicago to fill Hatcher’s void. Melton played the same spot for the Bears under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator. The Cowboys hope Melton can return to his 2012 Pro Bowl form, but he won’t be able to practice until training camp while still recovering from surgery to repair a torn left anterior cruciate ligament that limited him to only three games last year.
Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com takes a look at the best and worst case scenarios for DeMarco Murray:
When he plays well, the Cowboys play well. It’s as simple as that. The Cowboys have to use him more. Health will be an issue. He has yet to play a full season. But the Cowboys must use Murray more in the second halves of games and in the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter of games last season, he carried just 43 times for 207 yards. In the second halves of games last season, he carried just 89 times for 391 yards. In the first halves, he carried 128 times for 730 yards and eight touchdowns. For his career, he has 104 carries in the fourth quarter for 505 yards. With a defense that will need a lot of help, the Cowboys will have to finish off games by pounding the ball to kill the clock.
NEW YORK GIANTS
The Giants have the best safeties in the division, according to Jordan Raanan of NJ.com:
How is it possible that the Giants dumped perhaps the best safety in the division, Will Hill, and still were atop these rankings? Well, because the other top safety in the division remains on the Giants roster.
[Antrel] Rolle made the Pro Bowl last season after a tremendous year. Still with some gas left in the tank, he’s hands-down the best safety in the NFC East right now. Paired with Stevie Brown, who had a solid year in 2012 before blowing out his knee last summer, the Giants should be fine, if Brown’s knee holds up. [Quintin] Demps, [Cooper] Taylor and [Nat] Berhe also give coach Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell some interesting options in their three-safety sets, or just in case Brown falters.
Justin Anderson is one player you should know heading into training camp, says Conor Orr of the Star-Ledger:
We’ll be paying attention to the linebacker spot, especially with Jon Beason uncertain for the season-opener. Behind Beason, we have Jameel McClain, who is one season removed from a career-changing spinal injury. We have Mark Herzlich, who struggled in a similar role last year and we have Spencer Paysinger, a more realistic backup option, though he’s better suited on the outside. We’ve written about Dan Fox, another undrafted free agent who is angling to make the roster, but it’s worth considering Anderson, too.
New York finally has some options to improve their return game, writes Paul Schwartz of the New York Post:
There’s a new wave of returners on the scene as the Giants uncharacteristically added talent to specifically address this glaring need. Heck, they took to free agency to sign Trindon Holliday, a 5-foot-5 sparkplug whose only discernible skill is taking back kickoffs and punts. The signing of safety Quintin Demps comes with the added benefit of his wonderful ability on kickoff returns and the front-office types went gaga, waxing poetic about the way rookie first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr., a receiver, can change a game as a returner. There’s another addition of sorts, as David Wilson, after playing in only five games last season, appears primed to make a comeback following neck surgery; as a rookie in 2012 he was a dynamic kick returner.
Tanard Jackson‘s suspension raises more questions at safety, notes John Keim of ESPN.com:
Regardless, the Redskins likely will keep five safeties (they could always go with six corners and four safeties; or six and five. The ability of some of the corners to be more versatile in coverage helps). They almost have to sign another safety (yes, Reed Doughty is still unsigned though as of late Thursday morning he had not yet been contacted by the Redskins but he has been in talks with other teams; Jose Gumbs remains unsigned for that matter). What’s clear: It’s not a deep position, with many question marks. That was true before Jackson’s suspension as he was a question mark as well, considering he hadn’t played in two seasons.
Mike Jones of the Washington Post introduces the man trying to turn around the Redskins’ special teams, Ben Kotwica:
Special teams play ranked among the lowest of the lowlights during Washington’s 3-13 campaign in 2013.
Keith Burns never could find the right buttons to push as the first-year coordinator who took over for the long-time, well-respected firecracker of a special teams coach, Danny Smith. Burns struggled to find willing participants to round out his units. Some players disagreed with his philosophies and schemes, and that led to arguments in meeting rooms and sometimes on the sidelines. During one heated exchange, Burns challenged a player to fight him.
CSNWashington.com’s Redskins experts discuss who will return punts for the team:
As we’ve established, oh, about a hundred times, special teams were an unmitigated disaster last season, from both a coaching and personnel standpoint. And the revolving door at punt returner was emblematic of those struggles. Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, Chris Thompson and Nick Williams each handled the duties at one time or another. In the end, the Redskins wound up ranked 28th in average per return (6.4 yards), had just one return of 20 or more yards and no touchdowns. As a result, there will be a change in 2014.