NFC East Roundup: One Giant Benched Against the Birds

Plus: Which recently suspended offensive tackle isn't happy with the NFLPA?

Eli Apple. (USA Today Sports)

Eli Apple. (USA Today Sports)

After the Giants defeated the Eagles, 28-23, let’s dive into the NFC East and check in with what’s going on with the rest of the division.

We’ll start with those Giants. On the defense, rookie first-round pick Eli Apple was benched during the third quarter of the game. Pat Leonard and Daniel Popper of the New York Daily News report that the cornerback’s mother, Annie, was not a reason for his poor play.

Annie Apple, the mother of the Giants’ first-round pick, accused the Giants earlier this week in of “leaning heavily” on Eli to control her criticism of the team’s mishandling of domestic violence in the Josh Brown situation. Annie Apple is a survivor of domestic abuse.

But Eli Apple said Thursday that his mother’s accusation was “definitely false.” The Giants declined comment and let Eli Apple talk for them. Eli Apple as of Thursday said he still had to speak to his mom about the “weird position” that she has put him in with this accusation. And his mother so far has not publicly recanted.

With Apple out of the game, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo shifted Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from the slot back outside, opposite Janoris Jenkins, and inserted Trevin Wade into the slot.

“It’s definitely tough. You don’t want to let nobody down. You don’t want to let the team down, yourself down,” Apple said. “I’m going to learn from it. I’m going to get back. I’m going to get better.”

On offense, perhaps the most promising star from was rookie running back Paul Perkins. Although he only rushed for 32 yards on 11 carries, Zach Braziller of the New York Post writes the fifth-round pick has become a key part of the Giants’ offense.

At this rate, he may become the Giants’ feature back before long. The speedy, shifty and powerfully built Perkins received by far a career high in touches Sunday — 14 — after entering the game with a grand total of 16. He ran for 32 yards on 11 carries and caught three passes for 15 yards, not exactly breakout numbers. It was when he was productive that counted, producing all 47 of his yards in the final quarter, and the obvious difference when the ball was in his hands.

“[I was] just ready for the moment,” Perkins said. “Just baby steps to improving my game.

“It definitely just builds confidence whenever you get this many reps, and you’re out there recognizing and seeing defenses. You get more confidence in yourself. Your game steps up, elevates.”

The Giants offensive line, down starting left guard Justin Pugh, was more effective with a running back possessing Perkins’ speed, explosion and quickness. The run game, last in the league entering the game, wasn’t quite as dormant. Perkins did his best to defer credit to his teammates blocking for him, using “we” even when asked specifically about himself.

The Giants stay at home next week as they host the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football.

Moving on to the Cowboys, who took care of the Cleveland Browns on the road yesterday, 35-10. Dak Prescott threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns, while Ezekiel Elliott ran for two scores in his first game in the state of Ohio since his days as a Buckeye.

Even without starting cornerbacks Barry Church and Morris Claiborne, the Dallas defense still functioned at a high level, pens Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“Those [defensive line] guys got a good rush up front, so I’m trying to break containment and break the pocket, and I just went and made a play,” said linebacker Justin Durant, who had one sack. “We expect to hold ourselves to a certain standard.

“Today we played pretty well aside from that drive right before the half which we gave up and let them drive the field and get a touchdown. We played pretty good overall, but it’s a lot of things we’ve got to work on.”

While the Cowboys’ offense has been winning praise, linebacker Damien Wilson said the defense is willing to carry its share of the load.

“We know who we have on offense, we know we have a strong offense,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to help those guys out — they help us out — and we just play together as a team.

After recording his first 100-yard game for the first time since 2013, Jason Witten looks like he’s back to his old self, according to Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News.

“My game’s really never referenced as shake ‘n’ bake,” said Witten when told the play could draw the description. “I’ll take that. That’s definitely a compliment for me.

“My career has been defined, in a good way, on the option route. And a lot of times, it’s a bang-bang play. It’s a great play because it can convert first downs. But at the same time, you don’t get a lot of those opportunities in the open field. I certainly am not one that can do the moves that some of the other guys on our team can do … but I like to have opportunities like that and be able to do it.”

That play and Witten’s overall day drew note from Witten’s teammates and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

“Of course, he’s a puppy in real life,” Jones said. “Remember that now. He’s not an old guy. He feels old out there running with NFL football players. But he’s just starting in life. … Boy, am I glad to see him having these kinds of days.”

The Cowboys have a big road test next week, as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. There’s also a chance that Tony Romo is active for the matchup.

And finally to Washington, who had their bye this week after tying the Bengals in London. With the team still in the hunt in the NFC East, the team was dealt a blow to their offensive line, as Trent Williams was suspended four games for substance-abuse. And according to Liz Clarke, Mike Jones, and Mark Maske of the Washington Post, it’s led to a conflict between the left tackle and the NFL Players Association.

Disputes over the substance-abuse policy, which was developed by the NFL and NFLPA with input from medical professionals who administer the program, are settled by an arbitrator, with lawyers from the NFLPA typically representing players. At some point this fall, Williams sought resolution of his case from an arbitrator. The sequence of events that followed is unclear.

Williams, 28, was informed that he had missed a drug test, which under the policy is treated as a failed test.

Williams told the arbitrator that he was traveling in Africa at the time he was summoned for the test and had notified the NFL of his travel plans, as players in the drug-treatment program are required. He also intended to dispute the four-week fine that should have been a two-week fine. Because the schedule of penalties was not followed, Williams was not “on notice” that a next infraction would trigger a suspension.

But without Williams present, according to a source, the NFLPA lawyer representing him agreed to “consolidate” the four-game fine and the four-game suspension. Williams was stunned to learn he had been suspended.

Head coach Jay Gruden says even though DeSean Jackson isn’t having a great season thus far, quarterback Kirk Cousins shouldn’t worry about the wideout’s stats, from JP Finlay of CSN Mid-Atlantic.

For his part, Jay Gruden doesn’t want Cousins worried about where the ball goes as long as the offense moves.

“We can’t force the issue,” Gruden said of getting the ball to Jackson after the Bengals game.

“I think Kirk has enough on his plate to worry about who is getting their stat numbers.”

Cousins does steer a very versatile ‘Skins offense, and through eight games, has leaned much heavier on Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed than any other receiver. Still, Gruden wants to keep Jackson a key part of the offense.

“DeSean is a great player,” the coach said. “We have to try to figure out ways to get him more involved in the offense.”

Washington is back in action this week as they host Sam Bradford and the Minnesota Vikings.