NFC East Roundup: Dallas Patient With QB Situation
Preseason games throughout the NFL open up later this week, with the Hall of Fame game kicking things off later tonight. As the rest of the NFC East prepares for their preseason openers, let’s take a spin around the division to see what’s going on with the other three teams:
We begin in Dallas, where backup quarterback Kellen Moore broke his right fibula on Tuesday. With him out for approximately three to four months, rookie Dak Prescott and Jameill Showers are competing for the second-team job. Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star Telegram reports the Cowboys think Showers could be a quality option.
“We’ve always viewed him as a quarterback,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Right from the outset his approach has been outstanding. He has the ability to play. He just needs experience playing at this level.
“It’s a very common evolution that quarterbacks coming out of college have to go through. Typically, they can move around and they can throw the ball, but when it starts, plays happen really quickly in the NFL. So you have to be able to see what the defense is doing, understand what you want to do and get the ball out of your hands.”
Showers will get that experience now, and he knows that it may not have come without spending a year as a special teamer/quarterback on the practice squad.
The Cowboys liked his willingness to do whatever the team needed last year, and the Cowboys rewarded him by bringing him up to the 53-man roster for the final two games.
On defense, Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News thinks if Brandon Carr can bounce back from two poor seasons, he will be able to earn a big check during free agency once again.
Carr finished 2015 without an interception for a second consecutive season and tied a career low with six pass breakups.
Those weren’t the numbers the Cowboys expected from Carr when they signed him to a five-year, $50.1 million free-agent deal in 2012.
Carr doesn’t have an interception since Thanksgiving 2013. The Cowboys pushed him to accept a pay cut, and he relented in the offseason. Carr’s base salary was reduced from $9.1 million to $3.6 million to help the Cowboys save about $3.6 million in salary-cap space.
Carr now enters a contract year with a chip on his shoulder and needing a big year to cash in for a second time in free agency.
He was in that same position in 2011 with Kansas City. That’s the last time he wore a rubber band around his wrist. He finished 2011 with a career-high four interceptions.
The Cowboys open up the preseason Saturday night in Los Angeles against the Rams.
Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe said on the team’s official radio station there are “very serious negotiations” regarding a new stadium in his state, according to Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post.
“I view this as a Virginia team,” the governor said on ESPN 980 on Friday morning, during an appearance at the team’s training camp facilities in Richmond. “I know they’re in Maryland right now. But a majority of the season ticket holders are Virginians, all the players live in Virginia, we have all of your [practice] facilities. . . . We’re in very serious negotiations, as I assume other jurisdictions are. Listen, we would love to have them.”
While the team’s lease at FedEx Field doesn’t expire until 2027, owner Daniel Snyder has already hired a stadium architect, Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group, which has released potential stadium designs. Officials from the District, where the team used to play, and Maryland, the team’s home for the past 19 seasons, have also expressed interest in a new stadium.
McAuliffe — who hosted Snyder, team President Bruce Allen and other officials at his mansion Thursday night — said Allen told him that about two-thirds of the team’s revenue comes from Virginia residents. The governor repeatedly cited the need to craft a deal that would be fair to Virginia taxpayers but said “if we can come up and be creative with a deal that works for everybody, then I think the team will be here.”
“I think there’s a lot of reasons why Dan and company want to bring them to Virginia, because of all the things I just mentioned,” McAuliffe said. “But what I always say is it’s got to make sense for the taxpayers of Virginia. We’ve got to negotiate a deal — my job as governor is to get economic activity — but you’ve also got to protect the taxpayer dollars. And we’ve got to be creative with this thing, so we’re protecting the taxpayers, it’s in the taxpayers’ best interests and it’s a win-win for the Redskins.”
Moving to the nation’s capital, wide receiver Jamison Crowder fielded most of Washington’s punt returns last season. But he averaged only 5.3 yards per return, which was last in the NFL. Mark Eisenhauer of the Washington Times pens that Crowder is looking to vastly improve on his return game this season.
As a punt returner, Crowder said his main goal this year is to become more “explosive,” and convert his carries into bigger gains.
“I want to get touchdowns, obviously, and that’s always easier when you can have explosiveness in that phase of the game” Crowder said. “Those are game-changing plays.”
Coach Jay Gruden said one of the biggest points of emphasis for his special teams unit this year will be to get Crowder improved running lanes.
“I think our special teams has shown improvement the last two years and we still have a ways to go especially on punt return,” Gruden said before practice Wednesday. “We’ve got to get [Jamison] Crowder better looks; that’s our number one goal.
“That’s something we’re really working hard on and getting the right people in those positions to hold up the fliers and to protect and block,” he said. “That’s very, very important. So we’re working hard on that getting the right people, and that’s what this training camp’s all about…A lot of those second- and third-teamers will be the better special teams players, quite frankly, so it’s going to be very important for these guys to show up.”
Washington opens up the preseason Thursday night on the road against the Atlanta Falcons.
Finally, the Giants signed former Bengals cornerback Leon Hall to a one-year deal late in the week. Hall picked the Giants because he believes they will be pretty good in 2016, writes Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post.
“Throughout this whole process, there have been a lot of things happening, both good and bad,” Hall said. “You can do pros and cons to a lot of situations, but for me personally, a lot of the time I go off my gut and instincts, and that’s how I felt about this place.”
Hall, 31, is yet another boost to the cornerback position, which was a major problem area for the Giants last year and a major point of emphasis by general manager Jerry Reese ever since.
The Giants now have proven veterans at each of their top three corner spots in holdover Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, big-money addition Janoris Jenkins from the Rams and now Hall, who was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week as recently as last December.
Hall, a first-round pick by the Bengals in 2007 who has 26 career interceptions, most intrigues Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo with his versatility.
“He can bring some things to the package that we can do to make us do some multiple things that maybe we didn’t have the chance to do until this point, so I’m excited about it,” Spagnuolo said, adding that the Giants targeted Hall in the 2007 NFL Draft before settling on another corner, Aaron Ross.
Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard is happy to be a part of the Giants, where his idol and Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor once dominated the gridiron. Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News has more.
No one mentions Sheppard, a middle linebacker, as part of GM Jerry Reese’s offseason overhaul of the worst defense in the NFL that was headlined by mammoth free-agent contracts for defensive end Olivier Vernon (five years, $85 million, $52.5 million guaranteed), defensive back Janoris Jenkins (five years, $62.5 million contract, $28.8 million) and defensive tackle Damon (Snacks) Harrison (five years, $46.25 million, $24 million guaranteed).
It’s understandable. Sheppard, on his fourth team in six seasons, signed only a one-year, $840,000 free agent deal in April after playing the last two years for the Miami Dolphins. Reese also brought in plenty of other proposed solutions in the middle, re-signing Jasper Brinkley, inking free agent Keenan Robinson from Washington, and drafting B.J. Goodson in the fourth round out of Clemson.
Sheppard asserted himself Thursday, however, as a strong candidate to become one of the most pivotal and unlikely contributors to defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s new-look unit, supplanting early camp starter Brinkley in the middle of the first-team defense at practice.
Spagnuolo’s defense faces a challenge to form chemistry quickly with so many new faces, with Leon Hall the latest veteran to sign on Thursday. Spagnuolo said he prefers that his vocal, on-field leader “ideally” play the middle linebacker position.
The Giants host the Miami Dolphins on Friday.