NFC East Roundup: Cousins Getting More Responsibilities

Plus: Could a change in the Cowboys secondary lead to an NFC East title?

Photo by: USA Today Sports.

Photo by: USA Today Sports.

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

In the nation’s capital, Kirk Cousins is getting more responsibility with the offense as his confidence grows, says Mikes Jones of the Washington Post.

In each of the three weeks of offseason practices, Cousins has been more vocal and less rigid pre-snap. He spots oncoming, or shifting defenders and calls out an audible, or makes sure a receiver or back has identified the change in coverage.

“Oh, I think you absolutely see growth in him,” [Sean] McVay said on Wednesday. “He’s taken command of the offense; you can just see he’s got a really good feel for what we’re trying to get done. He’s truly become an extension of our coaching staff and we feel really good about what he’s shown through these first nine days.”

McVay continued, “I think it’s happened with his maturation and the more experience that he’s been able to gain through playing last year. And then, with his offseason preparation, the way that he goes about just his every-day routine, he’s innately just going to get continuous improvement and that’s what we always strive for from him. And I think just the feel for what we’re trying to get done, different situations and, kind of, what we want to operate, how we want operate philosophically offensively, and he’s got a great feel for that right now.”

Dan Steinberg from the Washington Post writes that newly acquired cornerback Josh Norman is having fun with his new team.

What has he learned? Among other things, he’s learned that he likes [Joe] Barry’s scheme an awful lot. Like so many Washington players did last summer, Norman seems to feel empowered by the team’s defensive scheme, which he said gives him more autonomy than he’s had before.

“I’m more free, I think,” Norman said during a recent appearance on ESPN 980. “If I get one wide receiver, I can pretty much play it however I really want to play it, in the concept of the call that [Barry’s]  made. I have free range to do that. Even coming over on slot, I’m playing a different combination than I would back in Carolina. Not saying that their defense scheme was bad, at all. It was a good scheme for what it was. Coming here, I just feel like our different coverages, traps and everything are a little bit more to my style of play, man. I’m like a rogue savage out there, so I’m playing ball at the highest level of speed. I don’t need to think much; I just need to go.”

The Cowboys hope that moving cornerback Brandon Carr to the right side will make him the shutdown corner that they envisioned him to be, writes Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Throughout organized team activities, Carr has lined up at right cornerback with Morris Claiborne at left cornerback.

Carr played left side corner the past four years in Dallas, but earned his stripes playing on the right side his last three years in Kansas City before jumping at the Cowboys’ lucrative offer.

“I like the right side,” Carr said. “I used to play right corner prior to coming here. We will see what the future holds. I just prefer the right side. We are trying to see what we can do.”

Carr says it’s a different game from one side to the other. The right side mainly gets the split end and you get to use the boundary. On the left side, you have to deal with slot receivers and multiple formations.

Most quarterbacks are right-handed meaning that more action and passes come to the left cornerback.

After a Pro Bowl season coming off of an ACL injury, Sean Lee wants to play a full regular season for a Super Bowl contending Cowboys team, says Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

“I feel great physically,” Lee said Thursday after the team’s annual high school football camp to end OTAs. “I’m getting better each week. I think I’ll be 100 percent ready by training camp.

“This is one of the deals, it was a leftover issue from that ACL surgery I had. We knew we might have to do it at some point. I started to have some problems in April with it, and we figured let’s do it now so we don’t have issues in season.”

Lee, who tore his left anterior cruciate ligament two years ago, said he felt discomfort squatting, lifting and running. Thus, he elected for surgery to clean up the cartilage.

“You end up having to manage it more than you want,” Lee said. “Hopefully, the surgery will allow me to practice every practice and not have to take practices off to manage my knee. That’s the goal. You want to be able to practice every practice so you can improve and also be with your teammates, and I think this surgery will help that.”

In New York, Landon Collins has heightened expectations entering Year Two, writes Paul Schwartz from the New York Post.

“I expect for Landon to do what he did last year, as far as the production, and more,’’ safeties coach David Merritt said. “Some of the interceptions that he wasn’t able to come up with, I expect for him to make those next year, and he does as well.’’

That is the general theme around Collins entering year No. 2: Heightened expectations. The safety position in 2015 was decimated with injuries and Collins as the last man standing at times seemed to be playing all by himself back there. The front office tried to augment the roster by signing veteran Brandon Meriweather and later Craig Dahl, with unenviable results. Meriweather was past his prime and did not fill a leadership void and Dahl was overmatched as a starter.

Collins, a second-round pick from Alabama, was force-fed in at free safety even though he is better suited for a strong-safety role, a situation that at times highlighted his coverage deficiencies and did not take advantage of his power and hitting ability. It did not help at all that around Collins — so accustomed to dominance and winning in Tuscaloosa — was a failing defense that could not get to the quarterback, often could not stop the run and virtually always gave up the key play down the stretch.

Since his infamous Fourth of July incident, Jason Pierre-Paul has said all the right things, as Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports.

Forget for a second the immediate murky aftermath of the accident, when either his agents or his family kept the Giants in the dark, even refusing to allow team representatives into his hospital room. Since JPP got back in touch with the Giants, and definitely since his return last October, his attitude and approach has been nearly as miraculous as his return to the field.

He’s never shied away from talking about his accident, even if it did take him until this offseason to reveal the full details. He never once blamed anyone else for his tragic mistake. And from the moment he arrived he tried to turn this into a teachable moment — both publicly in interviews and through private charity appearances and events.

While donating money and visiting burn units in hospital, he tried hard to make it clear, especially to children, that fireworks are dangerous, and nobody should ever repeat his tragic mistake.

And yes, along the way, he rebuilt his career as best he could, proving to the Giants over the final eight games last season that he was worth the relatively small investment of a one-year, $10 million deal. He did that by accepting his limitations instead of lamenting them, and understanding his new reality.