NFC East Roundup: Cassel Can’t Help Cowboys

Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports Images

Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports Images

While the Eagles sat idle, a pair of NFC East rivals lost close games in their Week 8 matchups. Here’s a quick spin around the division before Week 9 begins.

After a fifth straight loss, writes the Dallas Morning-News’s Bob Sturm, Jason Garrett and the Cowboys have dealt with Tony Romo‘s injury in the worst way possible.

When Tony Romo was injured back on September 20, the initial thought in every reasonable thinking Cowboys fans’ mind was simply that the season is likely over. The one thing you simply cannot do in the NFL is to lose your starting QB for 2 months. The math doesn’t work out. It can’t be done.

But, then, the dust settles, and you start to try to figure out a way to break the code. The reasons are obvious. This is not a video game that you simply hit “reset” and start over. No, if you are going to start over in the NFL, it takes a year off everyone’s contract and career and it requires 12 months of waiting. Nobody has time for that.

So, if you are like me, you get out the schedule and talk yourself into stealing a game here and a game there. Surely, if you must play for 2 months without Tony Romo, you can get three wins somewhere in there, right?

Or at least two? How about just a win against anyone?

The Cowboys are fighting, writes ESPN’s Todd Archer, but the switch to Matt Cassel at quarterback hasn’t let them do very much else.

So far, the change to Matt Cassel at quarterback has not brought the boost the Cowboys needed when he replaced Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys were held without a touchdown for the second time in three weeks.

The comedy of errors offensively came to a head on the final drive. Cassel had a first-down pass knocked out of his hands, his second-down pass to Darren McFadden was too high, and he was sacked for 6 yards on third down because he was unaware Bruce Irvin was tracking him down from behind. The Cowboys had two cracks at fourth-down success, but their hope evaporated when Cassel’s sideline throw fell incomplete.

Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes that the Giants’ offense scoring 49 points in a loss to New Orleans was a meaningless figure for the inconsistent unit.

For the Giants, this Big Tease in the Big Easy was no different than losing 17-14. The offensive eruption does not mean they’ve figured it out and can expect a 30-point performance this Sunday in Tampa. They followed up a 30-point outing against the 49ers with a seven-point stinker in Philadelphia. Manning is someone to rely on, but not much else is as trustworthy when it comes to projecting week-to-week accountability.

A loss is a loss, even those as entertaining as this one. At 4-4, the Giants are at midseason, alive but not well, sitting in first place in the NFC East but precariously, as if a slight breeze will topple them.

It’s still early in the week, writes ESPN’s Dan Graziano, but Tom Coughlin isn’t ruling out Jason Pierre-Paul‘s return coming this weekend.

It may be a case of early-week coaching mind games, but New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin on Monday left open the possibility that injured defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul could make his 2015 debut as early as Sunday in Tampa Bay.

“Everybody words it a little bit differently,” Coughlin said on a conference call. “But if he practices and if he continues to advance the way he has over the last few days, then that would be a decision that we would be confident in making.”

DeSean Jackson, who was targeted once in Week 1 before leaving with an injury that has kept him out since then, expects to play Sunday, writes the Washington Post’s Liz Clarke.

In Jackson’s absence, the Redskins’ passing game has grown conservative and predictable — particularly during the two games that tight end Jordan Reed also missed. And the running game has suffered as a result. With defenses not overly worried about defending deep throws, opponents are devoting more attention to stopping the run.

Ideally, Jackson’s return will complicate matters for the Patriots, who are allowing just 19 points per game.

With NFL teams not required to disclose injury information until mid-week, Coach Jay Gruden didn’t provide an update on Jackson’s status or that of the team’s other injured starters: Cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Chris Culliver; center Kory Lichtensteiger and linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.

ESPN’s John Keim took a closer look at Kirk Cousins‘ performance this season, and discovered the quarterback is struggling with deep throws, among other things.

Cousins has attempted 31 passes that traveled 20 yards or more downfield. That’s tied for sixth most in the league. But he’s completed just seven, which is tied 26th. His completion percentage is 22.6; the league average is 36.6. That inaccuracy was a factor in several games — Atlanta and the Giants games in particular — and it must improve.

Last year, Cousins was much better in this area — he completed a combined 7 of 11 passes to [DeSean] Jackson and tight end Niles Paul. But with Paul out for the season and Jackson having missed six games, they’ve found no success. Last season, Cousins completed 2 of 10 such passes to Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts combined.