Eye On the Enemy: NFC East Roundup

DeMarco Murray

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 7 Opponent: New York Giants (3-3) (4:25 p.m.)
Line: Cowboys (-7)

Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News writes about Dez Bryant asking for more from the home fans:

During the Cowboys’ first three home games, fans of the 49ers, Saints and Texans have attended in impressive numbers, taking over large sections of the Arlington venue.

Cowboys Pro Bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant is hoping for a significant home field advantage this Sunday.

“We do need more Cowboys fans there,” Bryant said. “That’s exactly what we need. and we need them to be a little bit louder whenever [New York’s] defense is on the field. I’m not hearing them, I need to hear them some more.

“We need all Cowboys fans and we need them to be as loud as possible to affect the opponent.”

Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes that Jerry Jones believes Tony Romo might be playing his best football ever:

But, outside of his three interception game in the season opener, Romo has impressed by leading the Cowboys to five straight wins. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones now agrees that Romo may be at the top of his game.

“I don’t know that I can say that I’ve ever seen him play better,” Jones said on his KRLD-FM radio show Friday. “We’ve seen him certainly do what Romo does. That is instinctively make plays. We’ve seen him basically protect the ball, and I know for a fact that he’s bought into his working and the coordination that he has to have with [play-caller Scott] Linehan.

“I would agree that that statement that he made during camp, that certainly these last three or four ballgames are starting to basically ratify that statement.”

Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News explains how passing game coordinator Scott Linehan is making the Cowboys’ best playmakers even better:

Through six games, the Cowboys have run 391 plays and 241 have been designed for Murray and Bryant (61.6 percent of the offense). That includes passes for which each was the target.

That means Murray and Bryant are touching the ball at about 13 times more per game in 2014. That’s emphasizing your playmakers more. That’s like two extra possessions per game that are all Murray and Bryant.

The Cowboys have other playmakers, from a potential Hall of Fame tight end in Jason Witten to an emerging No. 2 receiver in Terrance Williams to an underrated slot receiver in Cole Beasley.

So has it been tempting for Linehan to spread the ball around more with so many offensive threats?

“Well, not when you’re winning games,” Linehan said. “The whole idea is we have that ability just because we have really good players throughout at every position. I know the guys are probably used to having the ball more in certain situations, but I think everybody would trade catches, carries, whatever for ability to perform and operate on offense. I think balance throughout your offense with your skill players is as critical as balance for run-pass. Multiple people touch the ball in the game and affect the game in positive ways. It makes us a lot more effective.”

Week 7 Opponent: @Dallas Cowboys (5-1) (4:25 p.m.)
Line: Cowboys (-7)

Jordan Raanan of NJ.com reports that Weston Richburg was fined more than $8,000 for his hit on Fletcher Cox last week:

Giants starting left guard Weston Richburg received an ear full from coach Tom Coughlin and a fine from the NFL for his actions Sunday night in Philadelphia.

Richburg was fined $8,268 for an unnecessary roughness penalty he received in the second quarter. He plans to appeal.

The rookie guard jumped on Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox well after the whistle, costing his team 15 yards and putting them in a second-and-20 situation. They punted two plays later.

George Willis of the New York Post believes Rueben Randle needs to lose the training wheels in lieu of Victor Cruz‘s season-ending injury:

Cruz is lost for the season after tearing his right patella tendon against the Eagles, and the receiving corps needs a leader.

Heading into Sunday’s NFC East game at Dallas, Randle must embrace his new roles as elder statesman in the locker room and primary target on the field.

That might not be as simple as it sounds. Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant exudes intensity, emotion, strength and determination. He is vocal, demonstrative and a terror on the football field.

Randle, meanwhile, plays like his personality: quiet, fluid and seldom heard or noticed.

Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News writes about the Giants’ challenge in containing DeMarco Murray:

To that point in the season, the Eagles running back had been a disappointment, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. And if he can shred the Giants defense like that, just imagine what Dallas’ DeMarco Murray — the NFL’s leading rusher, by far — is going to do.

“It’s going to be difficult, no matter how you look at it,” Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. “We’re going against the No. 1 rushing team in the league, and it’s not like they just did it with one big game where they got lucky. They’ve done it consistently every game. We can’t let them get push. We can’t let them control the line of scrimmage.

“It’s going to be a tough one.”

It certainly will be considering how difficult the Cowboys (5-1) have been to stop on the ground this season behind one of the NFL’s most dominant offensive lines. They’re averaging an impressive 160.3 yards per game on the ground, and Murray’s 785 yards are 243 more than any other NFL running back — the largest Week 6 lead by any NFL running back since Denver’s Terrell Davis (269) in 1998.

Week 7 Opponent: Tennessee Titans (2-4) (1:00 p.m.)
Line: Washington (-6)

Tom Schad of Washington Times writes that Brian Orakpo is trying not to dwell on his lack of production:

Brian Orakpo was hunched over on the field for several seconds Sunday afternoon, staring at his hands after letting another opportunity slip right through them.

It was just one play, a dropped interception in the fourth quarter of Washington’s 30-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. But in Orakpo’s eyes, it was a play he should have made, injured left hand and all. It was a play that three-time Pro Bowl linebackers, including those making $11.45 million this season, are expected to make. And he knew it.

“I feel like I cost us the game,” Orakpo said afterwards. “Been a [freaking] frustrating year.”

Mike Jones of the Washington Post writes about Pierre Garcon‘s decrease in targets as of late:

Garcon entered this season as one of just three players in NFL history to record at least five catches in all 16 regular season games. And when he connected with Robert Griffin III for a 10-catch performance in the season opener, Garcon found himself within two of the league record for consecutive games with at least five catches.

But the run ended in Week 2. Garcon had only one reception, his first one-catch game since Week 4 of the 2012 season. He bounced back in Week 3 with 11 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown, but since then he has seemed like a mostly forgotten man with eight catches in three games.

“It’s football. You know how it is, man,” Garcon said with a grunt when asked to assess the decrease in production and opportunities. “You never know when your number’s going to be called. You just have to be ready.”

Todd Dybas of the Washington Times discusses how rookie CB Bashaud Breeland has had to learn on the job:

The Cardinals targeted Breeland twice in big moments on that drive. They converted a third-and-13 to the receiver he was covering. A 20-yard touchdown came against him two plays later. The Cardinals saw a rookie and charged at him. The logo on his helmet may as well have been a scarlet letter.

“He’s so talented and so raw,” Redskins defensive backs coach Raheem Morris said. “When you’re that young playing against grown men, it’s always a wake-up call.”

Breeland is only 22 years old. He came out for the NFL draft after his junior season at Clemson. His job at the beginning of the season was to crush opponents on special teams. The Redskins had a handful of defensive packages for him, including a three-corner set they call their “penny” package, and he played about six defensive snaps per game.

How he was deployed quickly changed. DeAngelo Hall’s torn Achilles’ tendon and Tracy Porter’s grumpy hamstring have made Breeland a starting cornerback when he could still be in college.

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