Eye On the Enemy: NFC East Roundup
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 (6-1)
Week 8 Opponent: Washington Redskins (2-5) (Monday 8:30 p.m.)
Line: Cowboys (-10)
According to Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, Jerry Jones is not having second thoughts about releasing DeMarcus Ware in March:
Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware has seven sacks this season. The entire Dallas Cowboys team has seven.
But Jerry Jones isn’t second-guessing himself about releasing Ware in March.
“DeMarcus Ware is an outstanding player,” the Cowboys owner and GM said Friday morning on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “This time last year, he was right about right here with us. Then, of course, the injuries hit in the last half of the season, last year. But the first part of the season, when we left training camp, he was a demon. And I would hope and really hoped when he left, for him, that that was an aberration and those were just a part of a career and that he was going to get those injuries behind him and have the kinds of years that if you look at him and look at the kind of shape he’s in, you’d think he could have several more years at high production.
“If that’s the case, then you’d love to have DeMarcus Ware. On the other hand, he really comes at quite a price, but he should. He could be a difference maker for them out there. … He’s a heck of a ballplayer when he’s healthy.”
Ware averaged 13 sacks per season in nine years in Dallas.
Charean Williams of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram reports that Michael Sam was released because of a defensive lineman surplus:
Michael Sam was caught in a numbers game, owner Jerry Jones said Friday, which is why the Cowboys released the defensive end from the practice squad earlier this week.
“Michael was an outstanding look in practice in that he was very, active and worked, very, very hard,” Jones said on his weekly radio show on KRLD-FM. “On the other hand, we actually had as many as 15 defensive linemen. Normally, at most, you might be dealing with 10 or 11, so we had long numbers at the defensive line [position], and of course, that’s what Michael Sam is. It’s just a question of we had guys coming back like we’ve had this week with [DeMarcus] Lawrence, got two or three others who are taking snaps. On the come here, you’ve got Josh Brent. All that happening, you just have to have a spot, and that was the best thing for the team relative to all of the other things that a practice squad player does.”
David Moore of the Dallas Morning News believes passing coordinator Scott Linehan shines when the team is key on DeMarco Murray:
“Third-and-3 feels the same as third-and-8 or 9 for us right now,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “That is a testament to everybody.”
A Cowboys offense that has fallen below 44 percent in third down conversions in the previous seven seasons now leads the league at 57.4 percent. Only three other teams are over 50 percent, and all are well behind the Cowboys’ pace.
The team’s improvement in this area has transformed a good offense into a dominant one. Murray’s ability to run the ball behind an overpowering offensive line has made a dramatic difference. But so has Scott Linehan’s play-calling and his willingness to feature a variety of options.
NEW YORK GIANTS (3-4)
Week 8 Opponent: Bye
Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes about how rookie wideout Odell Beckham Jr. is making the best of winning the “genetic jackpot”:
One of the army of supporters who has gotten Odell Beckham Jr. to this point — Odell Beckham Sr. — was watching from Suite 211, cheering as the son he raised with Heather Van Norman scored his third touchdown in as many games in his NFL career. It’s a career Beckham Jr. seems both born and bred for.
When he was 4, he had told his mother — an All-American track star — he was practicing for the NFL. Later, told his father — an ex-LSU running back — he wanted to be a legend.
He has reached the former and is working toward the latter, a rookie stepping up as Big Blue’s playmaker since Victor Cruz’s season-ending injury.
“I’m beyond blessed. I thank God for what he’s done for me, two athletic parents being able to [guide me]. Growing up [with] them being athletes made me more competitive,” Beckham Jr. said of what his mother calls hitting the genetic jackpot. “Knowing I had so much to live up to growing up made me want it that much more.”
Nick Powell of NJ.com lists the five Giants players who have pleasantly surprised the organization so far this season:
Mostly, due to a slew of injuries at key positions, the Giants have been forced to throw some untested players into the fire, and several have not only filled in ably, but exceeded expectations. We took a look at five players, on both offense and defense, who fit that description.
1. Odell Beckham Jr., wide receiver
Any plans the Giants had for bringing Beckham along slowly as he worked his way back from a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined for much of training camp and preseason went out the window when receiver Victor Cruz went down for the season with a knee injury. The No. 12 overall pick in the draft has been asked to play a huge role immediately.
Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News writes that the Giants big-spending doesn’t equate to Super Bowl viability:
Imagine what must be going on in the Giants’ offices this week as they do their self-scouting and re-evaluation. Just 14 months ago they were sure they had a Super Bowl contender.
Now they’re left evaluating one of the most disappointing teams in the league.
And it’s not just the 0-6 start that blew up their championship dreams a year ago. It’s the 3-4 start this year that followed a $116 million offseason spending spree. They thought they had a pretty solid foundation. All that spending was supposed to put them over the top.
But maybe what the Giants were really looking at was a longer rebuilding project, and they’ve been fooling themselves all along into thinking they were close to a Super Bowl.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (2-5)
Week 8 Opponent: @Dallas Cowboys (6-1) (Monday 8:30 p.m.)
Line: Dallas (-10)
Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post writes that Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins might be able to learn something from Colt McCoy:
Colt McCoy has been watching the other guys. Now it’s time for the other guys to watch McCoy, and if Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins are smart, they will understand they have something to learn from him because the career arc of Washington’s third-string quarterback is the more common one in the NFL. The gleam is gone, his early hopes were dashed; he has been on three teams in five seasons, seen coaching changes and had a bum shoulder. But McCoy has survived to start again.
“It’s tough, but I wouldn’t change some of my past experiences,” McCoy said. “I’ve learned a whole lot from them. A whole lot.”
Mainly what the younger quarterbacks can learn from McCoy is how to cope with disenchantment, the value of patient professionalism no matter how insulted you feel by management’s lack of faith. Every young quarterback thinks he will be the magic bullet for his team, but in fact almost none of them are an instant answer, and only an exquisite handful enjoy any real loyalty from their employers. There are Tom Brady, Eli and Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger — and everyone else. Here is the cold math: Since September 2001, when Brady took his first snap as a starter for the New England Patriots, NFL teams have changed quarterbacks 315 times, the Boston Globe calculated.
Tom Schad of the Washington Times reports that Alfred Morris puts the blame on himself for the Redskins’ poor rushing attack:
There are, however, recurring themes. And Morris said it all starts with him.
While watching film of Sunday’s win over the Tennessee Titans, a game in which he had only 54 rushing yards on 18 carries, Morris said he noticed minor differences in what he calls his “track,” the path he takes while carrying the ball. He said his track is too tight, too close to the line of scrimmage, limiting potential cutback opportunities and preventing linemen from effectively setting up their blocks.
“I can’t really read it out like I’m supposed to,” Morris explained. “You think it’s nothing, like, ‘Oh, it’s just a tight track.’ But when you really look at it, especially after watching last week’s film, it was like, ‘Man. Geez. If my track was just a little wider, I could’ve pressed that more and set that block up a little better so I can get downhill.’ It’s little things like that. They make a huge difference.”
Matt Cassidy is a journalism student at Temple and an intern at Birds 24/7.