NFC East Roundup: Elliott’s Mentor In Dallas

Plus: The one criticism the most bothers the Giants' second-round pick.

Stephen Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, Jerry Jones (USA Today Sports)

Stephen Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, Jerry Jones (USA Today Sports)

Let’s take a spin around the NFC East to see what’s going on with the rest of the division:

Although they will compete for the starting running back job, Darren McFadden has taken Ezekiel Elliott under his wing, writes Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The Cowboys spent a high choice on Elliott despite McFadden’s ranking fourth in the league with 1,089 yards last season. McFadden, who turns 29 in August, has played all 16 games each of the past two seasons after an injury-plagued first six seasons.

Still, McFadden took no offense to the Cowboys’ draft-day decision.

“I’ve been around the game long enough that I know there’s always going to be a new guy coming in whether they had picked him up in the fourth round or fifth or sixth or first round,” McFadden said. “I know the game. … I’m getting older, so I know there’s definitely going to have to be somebody to come in and take over.”

While competing with Elliott, McFadden has taken the rookie under his wing. [Justin] Fargas did the same for him, McFadden said, so the former Arkansas standout wants to pay it forward.

“He’s just a pro,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of McFadden. “He’s a pro in everything that he does, and we are really fortunate to have him on our team. He’s a really good football player. He did a really good job last year, taking advantage of the opportunity that we gave him as the year went on. I thought that was a really good thing for our team to see a veteran player like that get himself ready for the opportunity and when it presented itself to take advantage of it as much as he did.”’s Bucky Brooks has the Cowboys’ offensive line as his most-feared position group entering 2016.

1) Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line: The offensive men in the trenches frequently get overlooked, but the Cowboys’ front line deserves attention due to its consistent dominance at the point of attack. The unit features three former first-round picks (Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick) and a gifted interior blocker (La’el Collins) who was rated as a first-round talent before a pre-draft ordeal — one that saw him mentioned in conjunction with (but never seen as a suspect in) a shooting death — made him go undrafted. With the team expected to show a renewed commitment to the running game, given Ezekiel Elliott‘s addition to the backfield, the football world will fully appreciate the Cowboys’ O-line in 2016.

Steve Serby from the New York Post did a Q&A with Giants rookie Sterling Shepard.

Q: Give me a scouting report on Sterling Shepard.
A: I would probably say he’s got good hands, good routes, and he likes to go over the middle. I’m trying to think of something negative ’cause there’s always a negative in the scouting report. Could work on coming out of his breaks. That would be pretty much the gist of it.

Q: What criticism has bothered you the most?
A: Yeah, OK, not very big, I can definitely say that. But I play big though, I feel like.

Q: So why does it bother you?
A: If you’re gonna say somebody is small, they … should play small. I’ve never played small in my life. I go up and I make competitive catches, I jump over people, like just stuff like that. I don’t play to my size. People say, “Oh, he’s too small, he’s too small,” but just check my tape. You’ve never seen me play small. I just roll with it. If people call me small, that’s fine, I just try to prove ’em wrong and show ’em that I could play big just like a 6-5 guy, a 6-3 guy, whatever.

Andre Williams lost some weight and reduced his waist by a few inches during the offseason, and is benefiting from those changes, says Michael Eisen of

The Giants’ third-year running back hopes the reduction in those numbers leads to an increase in others, most notably his rushing total, which dropped precipitously when he was an NFL sophomore in 2015. The early returns are favorable as the Giants prepare for their final two weeks of their offseason program, including a minicamp that begins on June 14.

“I feel like I’ve had a great spring,” Williams said this week after an organized team activity. “I think the offense came back as a whole as a more cohesive unit. I feel like we’re gaining a greater appreciation and understanding of the offense, and it’s showing in everybody. I feel like I’m definitely coming into my own.”

Coach Ben McAdoo has noticed Williams in the crowded Giants backfield.

“Andre just needs some reps,” McAdoo said. “He looks good right now. He’s moving around well. He’s fluid. He’s working a lot on catching the ball, and doing a nice job for us there. We’re spreading the reps around. It’s early. It is June, but we’ll see more from Andre when training camp rolls around and we get the pads on.”

Mike Jones of the Washington Post notes that defensive coordinator Joe Barry is getting away from using a traditional nose tackle.

With the defensive coordinator planning to further reduce the frequency in which Washington uses a base three-man front, there’s a greater need for players capable of helping out in more ways.

“I think versatile is a good word,” Barry said. “The thing also – and we’ve had these conversations in here before – really the way the NFL is going, that traditional nose guard, he only plays 10 to 15 snaps a game. This is becoming such a throwing league … Like the fullback position, for example, it’s almost extinct. Those teams that play in 21 personnel or 22 personnel (heavy run formations where you need a nose guard), those are almost a thing of the past. I think going into this season, I think we can almost feel comfortable without having one of those traditional nose guards. Obviously, we’re going to be in fronts, whether it’s base or nickel, we’re going to have a one-technique, we’re going to have a zero-technique over the center and we’re going to be able to have multiple different guys to play that position. So I think it’s a nice advantage. We have a bunch of guys that can be in that position, not just the old-fashioned, traditional 360-pound nose guard.”

Now, for Barry and his staff, it’s a matter of settling on the right players to fill these roles.

Baker returns as the starting left end, but the other two positions remain up for grabs. Kedric Golston and Ricky Jean Francois both return, and this week, Golston played the nose while Jean Francois started at right end before sliding over to the middle. Fellow returning lineman Stephen Paea saw time at three defensive line positions this week.

Washington could boast one of the top wide receiver corps in the league, according to Robert Klemko of the MMQB.

“They’re quick, and they’re shifty guys—sh-shh-shh,” the former Panthers cornerback [Josh Norman] says of Washington’s receivers, making a chopping motion with his hands for emphasis. “God almighty, they’re shifty. We had some shifty guys in Carolina, but you come here and it’s something different. I’ve got to come out extra prepared for camp.”

On paper, Washington boasts one of the most exciting groups of offensive playmakers in football for the first time in decades. The 2015 season saw the emergence of tight end Jordan Reed (87 catches, 952 yards, 11 touchdowns) and wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who in his first season out of Duke broke Art Monk’s team rookie record for receptions with 59 catches for 604 yards from the slot. Adding first-round rookie Josh Doctson out of TCU to a group that also includes 29-year-olds Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson was a head-scratcher to some, given Washington’s needs on defense.

“I was keeping track of the picks and it was surprising to see them pick a receiver. It caught everybody by surprise,” says Crowder, who doesn’t watch the draft on television because of the nerve-wracking experience he had as a fourth-round pick last year. “Now that we’re here, we want to be the best receiving corps in the league. That’s what we’re working for. We each have very unique traits.”

Norman says the group reminds him of the Saints teams he faced twice a season in the NFC South for four years. As recently as 2014 the Saints boasted a 5,000-yard passing offense with a coverage-busting tight end (Jimmy Graham), a shifty slot producer (Brandin Cooks), a big-possession receiver (Marques Colston) and a consistent deep threat (Kenny Stills). They’re roughly the same traits that define Washington’s starting four at the moment: Reed, Crowder, Garcon and Jackson.