Eagles Wake-Up Call: NFC East Roundup

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Tony Romo. (USA Today Sports)

Tony Romo. (USA Today Sports)

With the NFC East’s Week 3 dress-rehearsal games completed, let’s take a spin around the division to see what’s going on with the other three teams:

The big story comes from Dallas, where Tony Romo left the Cowboys’ 27-17 loss against the Seahawks after the third offensive play. Further evaluations showed Romo suffered a broken bone in his back, which will make him miss 6-10 weeks.

David Moore of the Dallas Morning News[1] writes Jerry Jones is comfortable with the current quarterback situation, which has rookie Dak Prescott as the starter:

But injuries to Romo and backup Kellen Moore (fractured ankle) have thrust him into the spotlight well ahead of that timetable. Prescott has responded with a phenomenal preseason performance, completing 39-of-50 passes for 454 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s carried the ball seven times for another 53 yards and two touchdowns.

“Dak has certainly, without question, created tangible energy on our team during training camp,” Jones said. “Him going out and making some plays in the ballgame is just the tip of the iceberg.

“It’s his preparation. It’s how he carries himself, everything, the whole effort it takes to make a quarterback in the NFL. The quality of his preparation is a real comforting thought here.

“We’re early in this thought process as to totally how we’ll respond, but not as to whether or not he’s a starter.”

Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott apologized for visiting a marijuana shop prior to Thursday’s game, while head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t expect a drug test, according to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star Telegram[2].

Garrett expressed his disappointment to Elliott, who has apologized for his poor decision.

“I don’t think it was a good decision,” Garrett said. “He and I talked about that. It was a just a poor decision on his part. Young players have to understand that perception can be reality. And you have to understand that you are under a microscope 24 hours a day. And there is no good reason to go into a place like that. He understood. He apologized. He recognized his mistake. It’s something he will learn from.”

Garrett said he didn’t believe that Elliott’s visit to Herban Legends, which was first reported by TMZ, will prompt a drug a drug test by the NFL.

“It’s my understanding it does not,” Garrett said.

The Cowboys host the Texans Thursday night in their preseason finale.

Moving on to Washington, who defeated the Bills, 21-16. Although the first-team offense didn’t look good, Kirk Cousins still threw for three touchdowns in the win. While Cousins seemed to not have his best performance, Washington could be a very effective offense, opines Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post[3].

Yes, this performance came against not just the Buffalo Bills defensive backups, but the backups’ backups. (The Bills benched five starters and removed the rest of their first-string defense before the first quarter ended. Please ban preseason football.) Yes, Buffalo helped considerably by committing one penalty after another, leading to a first half that lasted about two hours, not even counting Ed Hochuli’s speeches. And yes, as always, conclusions drawn from preseason games are worth as much as those [Albert] Haynesworth, [LaRon] Landry and [Dana] Stubblefield jerseys that filled the stands at FedEx Field. (All of us who attend these things have problems. Some more than others.)

I’ll risk a few conclusions anyhow, having watched this final preseason showing from Washington’s first-string offense in a 21-16 win: There will be plenty of open receivers this season, even when the opponent is not Buffalo’s third string. Cousins’s right arm will not grow flabby from lack of use. Announcers won’t need that old saw about “taking the air out of the football,” unless they’re making jokes about the Patriots. And that reliable crew of “Run the ball!” sports-radio callers might need oxygen tanks.

Washington ended last season flinging the ball all over the field, and it came out on Friday doing the same thing. Counting plays that were nullified because of penalties, nine of the Redskins’ first 11 plays involved Cousins dropping back to pass. The team’s top two running backs — Matt Jones and Chris Thompson — were both out with injuries, but this still felt like the Jay Gruden and Sean McVay show from last season, when Washington finished sixth in yards-per-passing-attempt and 30th in yards per rushing attempt.

In his second year, linebacker Preston Smith is getting more comfortable in Washington’s system. That is helping him become an impact player on the team’s defense, pens Anthony Gulizia of the Washington Times[4].

As he gets more comfortable in the system, the Redskins hope to be able move him around more, something they weren’t able to do during his rookie season.

“We haven’t used him in all the areas we’re going to use him yet,” Gruden said. “I think there’s more things he can do. He’s a big, physical kid. He is more comfortable and more confident. Another one that is from year one to year two. That’s a big step and we expect big improvement.”

One of the things that has also helped Smith is working with outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky. The coaching position was vacant last season, which meant the outside linebackers rarely got isolated attention from the coaching staff. With Manusky on staff they have their own position group meetings and sessions of individual drills in practice, which has helped Smith sharpen his coverage techniques.

“We have a lot of great looks in practice,” Smith said. “I actually got a pick-six this week in practice. We’re working on a lot of drops with coach Manusky, working on the great angles we take, take away a lot of good throws and come away with an interception.”

Washington wraps up the preseason in Tampa Bay to battle the Buccaneers on Thursday night.

And finally in New York, where the Giants edged out the Jets, 21-20, n their annual preseason meeting at the Meadowlands. Although the defense looked solid, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post[5] writes that the offense was the complete opposite.

The line has found it impossible to open running lanes — the Giants’ starters “ran’’ for 6 yards on 13 rushing attempts, with Rashad Jennings toting it six times for minus-1 yards. [Eli] Manning was never comfortable in a collapsing pocket as he completed 10-of-15 passes for only 65 yards.

“Well, we have to get better moving the ball, getting first downs and just staying out of the negative plays,’’ Manning said. “There is definitely some room for improvement, but we will go on from here.’’

At least [Victor] Cruz escaped unscathed.

“It felt great, man, just to be with my teammates and put this 80 jersey back on and to get the love of the crowd and the people again and go out there and be in position to make a few plays as well,’’ Cruz said. “It was a great feeling.’’

After arriving at training camp last year at 228 pounds, safety Landon Collins feels like a new player by losing 12 pounds after he quit eating Oreos, also from Schwartz[6].

“You have to change your eating habits,’’ Collins said. “My eating habits last year were worse than they are now.’’

Collins became the first Giants safety to start all 16 games as a rookie. He is noticeably quicker this summer, and safeties coach David Merritt said the reduced weight is a big reason why.

“I told him, ‘If you want to become one of the elite safeties in the league you are going to have to at least get between 212 and 216,’ ’’ Merritt said. “He texted me this morning, it is funny and he said, ‘Coach, I am at 216’, I said, ‘Great. Keep it up.’ ’’

The result of the weight loss, plus Collins’ greater knowledge of the defense, prompted Merritt to say: “So far, Landon has been a breath of fresh air versus the young man from last year.’’

The Giants finish the preseason on Thursday as they host the Patriots.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles’ roster stands at 73 players, with Rueben Randle and Chris Givens being notable players who were cut[7].

“Letting those guys be disruptive up front has really been giving our defense the boost it needs.” Malcolm Jenkins says the defensive line gives the entire unit a jolt[8].

Since I began watching you play, I’ve never seen you this timid. Ever.” How Josh Huff‘s wife helped him prevent drops[9].

The offense showed promising signs Saturday night[10], while Carson Wentz may play against the Jets on Thursday.

Some observations from Indy[11], including an excellent performance from the defensive line.

Check out our Open Thread[12] from Saturday’s game.

[Brad] Childress, meanwhile, believes the current holy grail is the prospect who ran spread plays at the college level that can be easily imported to the pro level.” Weekend Reading[13].

“It’s easy to work on your strengths. He’s really shown that he’s willing to work on his weaknesses and it’s shown on the field.” Jaylen Watkins made Jim Schwartz happy by working on his tackling[14].

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Jenkins understands the message Colin Kaepernick was trying to send, but as our old friend Tim McManus of ESPN.com[15] writes, the safety disagrees on the gesture the 49ers quarterback chose.

“If you want change and you want things to get better across the country, there’s different ways to go about it. What’s going to get lost is all the stuff that he was trying to point out,” Jenkins said. “I think everybody is going to talk about how him making the money that he does as an NFL player and basically kind of shaming the flag or whatever, shaming the country, is unpatriotic. You talk about troops and being able to honor that, that’s what’s going to get talked about. It’s not going to be about the lives that have been lost across the country, the injustices that are being done to minorities all across this country, that’s what’s not going to be in the headlines. It’s going to be about him.

“It’s a tough situation, but at the same time, if you’ve got something that you’re passionate about and that’s your way of expressing it, you’ve got all the right to do it. I’m a guy of conviction, I speak out on things I see, so I can’t really look at what he’s doing and tell him he’s wrong.”

Kaepernick told NFL Media that he refused to stand during the national anthem Friday before the preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers because of his views on the country’s treatment of racial minorities.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

If Mark Sanchez gets cut by the Broncos, the team would not owe any draft picks to the Eagles, pens Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice[16].

Scenario No. 3 is beginning to look like a very real possibility. In the Broncos’ third preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sanchez did not play… at all. Instead, Trevor Siemian started and played the entire first half, while rookie first round pick Paxton Lynch played the entire second half. Siemian also started the Broncos’ second preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers. Against the Rams last night, Siemian was 10 of 17 for 122 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.

There is a realistic possibility that the Broncos could release Sanchez, as roughly half the NFL’s teams only carry two quarterbacks. A season ago, the Broncos kept three quarterbacks — Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler, and Siemian. If the Broncos released Sanchez, they would save $4.5 million, and would not have to send the Eagles any draft picks.

There was no way the Eagles were going to keep Sanchez around after handing out lucrative deals to both Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. Sanchez was set to count for $5.5 million against the cap in 2016. Had the Eagles released him, they would have saved $3.5 million of that. By trading him, they saved $4.5 million.  That alone made the trade worthwhile to the Eagles, but certainly it would be a disappointment to come away empty on compensation.

COMING UP

Doug Pederson addresses the media at 10:30.

Endnotes:
  1. David Moore of the Dallas Morning News: http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallas-cowboys/cowboys/2016/08/27/cowboys-plan-tony-romo-will-return-rookie-dak-prescott-will-open-season-starter?f=r
  2. Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star Telegram: http://www.star-telegram.com/sports/nfl/dallas-cowboys/cowboys-corner-blog/article98356127.html
  3. Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dc-sports-bog/wp/2016/08/27/even-in-a-messy-exhibition-kirk-cousins-and-his-pass-catchers-flash-their-potential/
  4. Anthony Gulizia of the Washington Times: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/aug/27/redskins-preston-smith-success-stems-confidence/
  5. Paul Schwartz of the New York Post: http://nypost.com/2016/08/27/giants-last-real-offense-tune-up-as-demoralizing-as-it-gets/
  6. Schwartz: http://nypost.com/2016/08/25/giants-second-year-safety-like-a-new-man-after-kicking-oreo-habit/
  7. notable players who were cut: https://www.phillymag.com/birds247/2016/08/28/eagles-cuts-chris-givens-rueben-randle/
  8. gives the entire unit a jolt: https://www.phillymag.com/birds247/2016/08/28/malcolm-jenkins-jim-schwartz-eagles-preseason/
  9. helped him prevent drops: https://www.phillymag.com/birds247/2016/08/28/josh-huff-jerrica-eagles-drops-preseason/
  10. showed promising signs Saturday night: https://www.phillymag.com/birds247/2016/08/28/dorial-green-beckham-sam-bradford-eagles/
  11. observations from Indy: https://www.phillymag.com/birds247/2016/08/27/philadelphia-eagles-indianapolis-colts-preseason-observations/
  12. Open Thread: https://www.phillymag.com/birds247/2016/08/27/open-thread-eagles-vs-colts-2/
  13. Weekend Reading: https://www.phillymag.com/birds247/2016/08/27/carson-wentz-holy-grail-brad-childress/
  14. working on his tackling: https://www.phillymag.com/birds247/2016/08/26/jaylen-watkins-philadelphia-eagles-jim-schwartz/
  15. Tim McManus of ESPN.com: http://www.espn.com/blog/philadelphia-eagles/post/_/id/18041/malcolm-jenkins-supports-colin-kaepernick-but-not-the-chosen-gesture
  16. Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice: http://www.phillyvoice.com/eagles-might-not-get-anything-mark-sanchez-trade/

Source URL: https://www.phillymag.com/birds247/2016/08/29/nfc-east-tony-romo-preston-smith-landon-collins/