Eye On the Enemy: NFC East Roundup

Photo Credit: Geoff Burke - USA Today

Photo Credit: Geoff Burke – USA Today

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.

Week 5 Opponent: Houston Texans (3-1) (1 p.m.)
Line: Cowboys (-6)

Rainer Sabin of the Dallas Morning News catches up with Dez Bryant, who’s doing a fair share of run blocking so far:

Most players with Bryant’s status wouldn’t necessarily embrace this kind of yeoman’s work. But Bryant has.

“I’m far from a diva,” he said. “That don’t even fit me. I’m going to keep on blocking until the ball starts coming the wideouts’ way.”

This season, Bryant has been productive even when he’s not catching passes, allowing the NFL’s top rusher, DeMarco Murray, find space on the edge. On the 224 snaps he’s played, Bryant has only been targeted 33 times, contributing 23 receptions for 291 yards and three touchdowns. As the Cowboys’ offense has changed to a more-balanced attack, he’s gone out on pass routes only 16 more times than he has run blocked.

“Let’s get this straight, I’m a wideout first,” he said. “I like to catch passes. But I think this year I came a long way. From not using the right techniques to block to now feeling good about it, adding that to my game, I’m a little bit better.”

Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News writes that Jerry Jones wants to see more touches for Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar to preserve DeMarco Murray:

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would like to see more carries for those two backup running backs.

“If we can, it would be good to have Dunbar with a few more touches,” Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “But make no mistake about it, Joseph Randle can be effective out there, too. We probably should have at least Randle get a few more snaps. I think he got seven the other day, and you probably could push that up if you’re going to have that many run plays, you probably could double that and be pretty smart about how you’re exposing Murray.”

Murray is on pace for 396 carries. Emmitt Smith never carried more than 377 times in a season (1995). Walter Payton’s career-high was 381 in 1984. Barry Sanders’ max was 343 in 1998.

Week 5 Opponent: Atlanta Falcons (2-2) (1 p.m.)
Line: Giants (-4)

Bill Pennington and Richard Sandomir of the New York Times report that first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. is expected to make his NFL debut this Sunday:

But for months this year, the Giants have had to tell Beckham not to run — at least not with any haste. Too often, when Beckham sprinted, he ended up limping because of a hamstring strain. Several weeks ago, the Giants sent Beckham to the sideline and told him not to return until he could safely run at full speed.

That day arrived Wednesday, and after Beckham’s performance at a team practice, a host of Giants were smiling, most notably quarterback Eli Manning. Beckham, a former Louisiana State star, is expected to make his debut against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday unless he has a setback in the remaining workouts this week.

“He definitely made some plays out there, and that was really good to see,” Manning said after practice. “He definitely has a little burst of energy, a burst of speed. He can be a deep threat and a threat on some stuff underneath. Hopefully, we can throw him some short passes, and he can break it for some big plays.”

Steve Serby of the New York Post writes that some teammates believe Prince Amukamara’s improved play this season may stem from his newfound sex life:

Sex always seemed to help Broadway Joe Namath.

And now Antrel Rolle and Giants teammates believe Prince Amukamara’s surging swag and emerging performance on the field is directly related to his performance in the bedroom.

“You can see that he’s getting comfortable being the type of corner that he is, aggressive. … I don’t know if it has anything to do with his personal relations in the bedroom, but I know that he’s definitely feeling more and more aggressive, more and more comfortable, and I guess you can credit that to his wife,” a smiling Victor Cruz told The Post.

It was Rolle who first volunteered that Amukamara’s much-chronicled flagging swag had taken a dramatic turn for the better now that his days as a devout Catholic virgin — aka The Black Tebow — saving himself for marriage had ended over the offseason.

Paul Schwartz of the New York Post talks to Jason Pierre-Paul about attacking the Falcons’ weak offensive line:

The Giants know all about what Matt Ryan can do to them; the last time they faced him he was doing anything he wanted in a 34-0 victory in Atlanta late in the 2012 season.

“The last time I saw him, he beat the hell out of us,’’ defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said.

But for Ryan to beat the hell out of anyone he needs a pocket to stand in and he heads into this game with a reshuffled offensive line as the only buffer between himself and some fire-breathing defenders.

“We can probably take advantage of it. … They might not always be on the same page,’’ defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said.

Week 5 Opponent: Seattle Seahawks (2-1) (Monday 8:30 p.m.)
Line: Seahawks (-7.5)

Liz Clarke of the Washington Post writes that Kirk Cousins is working on the art of deception after throwing four second half picks against the Giants:

Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said Thursday he’s confident Cousins would get better at using his eyes to mask his throws as he gains experience. For now, it’s a particular concern heading into Monday’s game against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks (2-1), who boast one of the more unforgiving corps of cornerbacks and safeties in the league.

“Staring down receivers is part of it that you have to learn from,” Gruden said of Cousins, 26, who has thrown six touchdown passes and five interceptions since taking over for the injured Robert Griffin III early in the Week 2 victory over Jacksonville. “If you stare down receivers against these guys, you’re going to throw more than four picks — you’re going to throw about 11. So we’ve got to make sure he does a great job with his eyes because that’s one thing Seattle does unbelievable. All eyes are on the quarterback.”

Zac Boyer of the Washington Times talks about Brian Orakpo‘s slow start this season:

Orakpo’s half a sack happened in the Redskins‘ 41-10 victory over Jacksonville on Sept. 14. He has 12 tackles this season and has been credited with three hits on the quarterback.

“I just can’t get frustrated, man,” Orakpo said. “It is [true] that I’ve only got half a sack right now, but I’ve just got to keep pressing. I’ve got to keep just believing in what I’m capable of doing. I can’t get too frustrated with that. Yeah, it sucks that I’ve only got half a sack, you know?

“Obviously, through four games, I want to be up there in the ranks, but I’ve just got to keep pressing. I’ve got to not really be overly concerned with it and just keep pushing and believing what I’m capable of doing for this defense and what they’re asking me to do. Things will come. They’ll come. They’ll come in bunches, man. I’ve just got to keep pushing [and] don’t get too frustrated and lose focus out there.”

Jason Reid of the Washington Post believes that the Redskins may end up concluding that neither Kirk Cousins nor Robert Griffin III is their answer at quarterback:

While Kirk Cousins refocuses on trying to complete passes to teammates instead of opponents, there’s a lot to consider in the Washington Redskins’ quarterback debate. Robert Griffin III or Cousins was expected to emerge with the long-term job. But after Griffin suffered yet another serious injury and Cousins took a step backward recently, another choice may be correct: none of the above.

There are many questions about the two players on whom the Redskins are relying to fill the sport’s most important position. Griffin must prove he can stay in the game and excel at it from the pocket. Cousins has shown flashes of being the type of productive drop-back passer Coach Jay Gruden likes. Cousins’s potential, however, likely won’t keep him atop the depth chart if he continues to commit turnovers at an alarming rate.

Matt Cassidy is a journalism student at Temple and an intern at Birds 24/7.