Eye On the Enemy: NFC East Roundup


NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Redskins

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 (6-2)
Week 9 Opponent: Arizona Cardinals (6-1) (1 p.m.)
Line: Not listed.

Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News reports that TE Jason Witten broke up a verbal argument between RB Joseph Randle and WR Dez Bryant:

After the team lined up for their pre-practice stretching, Randle kept talking. That caused Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who was just in front of Randle, to turn around and yell and curse at the second-year player, “Don’t say nothing from here on out.”

Randle appeared to say something else, causing Witten to turn around again and address him.

“I don’t really feel comfortable talking about it,” Witten said after practice. “We handle it inside our football team. It’s all good.

“There was a small issue and we were just trying to get it to stop so we could move forward with practice. There’s no issues there.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett declined comment on the pre-practice flare-up.

Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram talks about the loss of LB Justin Durant to a season-ending right biceps injury:

Middle linebacker Rolando McClain certainly has had the biggest impact on the Cowboys defense this season. But no one was playing better than weakside linebacker Justin Durant, who was the team’s leading tackler.

Durant is now gone for the season after being placed on injured reserve following his best game in the 20-17 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins.

Durant was graded out higher than any linebacker this season.

“He was playing very well. He’s a heck of a linebacker,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “He was very high in his production against the Redskins. Very high. It was good. We liked it.”

Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes about Jerry Jones defending his presence on the sideline against Washington:

The owner repeated what he said immediately after the overtime loss to the Redskins: He was merely relaying information to Garrett that X-rays on Tony Romo’s back were negative.

“While they were still working with Tony and considering getting him moving around and seeing how he felt doing that, I knew that we didn’t have him out for the year, I wanted to get that word to Jason,” Jones said Wednesday morning on KRLD-FM. “Secondly, I told [Garrett] to get his thinking cap on, and that Tony was coming back out and could probably play.”

Romo received a pain-killing injection and returned to the game with 1:52 to play after missing 21:09 of the second half. But Jones said he never ordered Romo’s return to the game, which was seconded by Garrett on Tuesday.

“[My visit was] not at all [designed to tell Garrett] whether to play [Romo] or not,” Jones said. “That’s his decision.”

NEW YORK GIANTS (3-4)
Week 9 Opponent: Indianapolis Colts (5-3) (Monday, 8:30 p.m.)
Line: Indianapolis (-3.5)

Justin Terranova of the New York Post writes about the Giants’ offense:

Andrew Luck will be bringing the NFL’s second highest-scoring offense into MetLife Stadium on Monday night. And what will the Giants be bringing?

“I look at the offense and I say, ‘What did they do well? What did they do best?’ And I don’t know if they can answer that,” said former Giants center and NFL Network analyst Shaun O’Hara.

“The defense has played well at times, but if you look around the league and some of these offensive numbers that are being put up and you look at the Giants, and they seem pedestrian.”

The Giants started the season miserably on offense, adjusting to Ben McAdoo’s West Coast offense. Eli Manning and company made steady improvement during a three-game winning streak, but then got shut out by the Eagles and came up short against the Cowboys — the teams they are trying to chase down in the NFC East.

Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News catches up with Jason Pierre-Paul:

The new call to arms needs to start on Monday night, when the Giants take on the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium. They’ve had a week of rest to think about their two-game losing streak and find some way to jump-start their fading playoff hopes, and they’ve concluded, said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, that this is their postseason, after too many failures in their other “must-win” games.

“It is nine games left and you might as well say it is like the playoffs for us,” said JPP. “We’ve got to win basically. . . . Yeah, they (the playoffs) have started.”

That means it’s time for Manning’s seven-game run of conservatism to end, and he seemed to understand that. What does it mean to play above the X’s and O’s? It means the slightest dose of Eli the gunslinger, dangerous as that may seem.

Paul Schwartz of the New York Post asks if the Giants’ newbies are having trouble adjusting to Tom Couglin‘s strict approach:

Loosen up.

It is essentially what the Giants must do if they are to break free of their losing ways and make something of this season. Coach Tom Coughlin (in his own way) has said it. So has general manager Jerry Reese. Players sense it, and realize playing tight is not the answer.

Coughlin said as much with his “Play above the X’s and O’s’’ plea. Reese said it with his assessment the Giants are “almost too cautious’’ on offense and must “be more aggressive’’ on both sides of the ball. Players new on the scene, in their first year in the organization, are too worried about making mistakes, fitting in and doing what’s asked of them that they’re forgetting to go get the darn ball.

The game is played on a field, not on eggshells.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-5)
Week 9 Opponent: @Minnesota Vikings (3-5) (1 p.m.)
Line: Not listed.

Liz Clarke and Mike Jones of the Washington Post have the latest on Robert Griffin III:

Washington Redskins Coach Jay Gruden acknowledged Thursday that he has every intention of starting Robert Griffin III at quarterback Sunday at Minnesota now that the team’s doctors and trainers say Griffin is 100 percent healthy.

“There’s no cons of playing him now if he’s healthy,” Gruden said. “If he’s ready physically, then I think he should play, and that’s what it comes down to.”

Gruden stopped short of naming Griffin the starter, nonetheless, leaving wiggle room in case the quarterback suffers a physical setback or struggles with his timing or decision-making Friday in practice.

“All the doctors are on board; the trainers are on board,” Gruden said. “As far as physically, he looks great. He looked great last week. This week he looks fine. It’s just a matter of seeing him with the team drills and how he throws, and go from there.”

Tom Schad of the Washington Times writes that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett doesn’t plan on employing such an aggressive game plan every week:

So Haslett dialed up a game plan he later called “over the top a little bit,” a combination of exoctic and well-disguised blitzes to rattle Romo and give Washington’s offense a chance.

In an eventual 20-17 victory over Dallas, Haslett’s plan worked. But that doesn’t mean the same plan will work against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, or any other week for that matter.

“We’ll switch,” Haslett said, “based on who we’re playing, protections, what type of guy you’re playing, the team we’re playing.”

Jason Reid of the Washington Post believes the team should pump the brakes on rushing Griffin back on the field:

The Washington Redskins wound up in pain the last time Robert Griffin III returned from a major injury. Griffin came back too quickly after reconstructive knee surgery — his unsteadiness ruined the 2013 season — which should have taught the Redskins something. We’re about to find out if it did.

Eager to reclaim Washington’s starting quarterback job after recovering from a dislocated left ankle, Griffin is pushing to play Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Back with the starters in practice — Colt McCoy also worked with the first-team offense Wednesday — Griffin figures to get what he wants, barring a setback.

But even if he practices well and is cleared medically to lead the team for the first time in seven weeks, Griffin could benefit from sitting out until after Washington’s bye week. With what Griffin is facing, he needs as much time as possible to prepare.

Whenever Griffin gets back in the game, he’ll be auditioning to stay in it for the long haul, at least with the Redskins. Coach Jay Gruden has been blunt in his assessment of Griffin, who must prove he’s capable of being Gruden’s type of quarterback: a good one. It won’t be easy.

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