FRISCO, Texas -- On the face of it if given the chance to add a four-time All-Pro, three-time Pro Bowler who is not yet 30 would seem to be an easy decision for the Dallas Cowboys.
They are scheduled to meet with NaVorro Bowman if he does not reach a deal with the Oakland Raiders first. Bowman's resume is impressive. His background is impressive. He falls in line with the "right kind of guy" message Jason Garrett prattles on about. From all accounts, he is a professional.
Since the Cowboys play San Francisco this week, his addition would add another plot to the storyline.
Why would there be any hold up?
Well, money and injury come to mind.
How much money will Bowman want? The Cowboys don't have any cap issues that would prevent adding a player like Bowman, but do they want to make a multi-year commitment to him? It might make sense for him to play out the season on a one-year deal, perhaps perform well and then hit the open market in March.
Bowman has had two serious injuries. He missed the 2014 season because of torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments suffered during the NFC Championship Game against the Seattle Seahawks. He suffered a torn Achilles last season against the Cowboys.
He played in the 49ers' first five games and was credited with 38 tackles, but they were ready to move on even with rookie Reuben Foster not fully healthy.
Bowman had been in a 3-4 system for his entire career until this season when San Francisco switched to a scheme that is similar what the Cowboys run.
One of the issues the Cowboys have had, especially in Sean Lee's absence, is their linebackers in coverage. The Los Angeles Rams went after Jaylon Smith in coverage with a lot of success. The absence of Lee is a big reason the Cowboys struggled against the run the past two games, with Todd Gurley and Aaron Jones rushing for more than 100 yards.
Lee should return this week when the Cowboys play Bowman's former team, San Francisco.
The Cowboys have expressed faith in Smith, who did not play last season as a rookie because of a serious knee injury, Anthony Hitchens, who missed the first four games with a knee injury, and veteran Justin Durant.
That they were looking at Bowman could just be a sign of due diligence, but also some unrest in their feelings. Hitchens has been a steady performer since coming to the Cowboys. He should have more than one game to show whether he can return to the form that led him to two 100-tackle seasons, according to the coaches' count, in his first three years. It's apparent Smith needs time to be an every-down player.
The Cowboys have to answer whether they will be paying for Bowman's past performance or what they hope he can do for the remaining 11 games. Is he still a Pro Bowl performer in a bad situation or is he a part-time player?
FRISCO, Texas -- As far as bye weeks go, the Dallas Cowboys' could gone better.
On Thursday afternoon, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the injunction that was allowing Ezekiel Elliott to play be vacated. Unless there are more legal maneuverings, the next time he will carry the ball in a game will be Nov. 30 against the Washington Redskins.
That doesn't help a team with a 2-3 record that is coming off consecutive home losses.
But the rest of the NFC East doesn't seem willing to cooperate.
On Thursday night, the Philadelphia Eagles improved to 5-1 with a win against the Carolina Panthers. The Cowboys have two games remaining against the Eagles and, as it stands, won't have Elliott for one of them (Nov. 19). The Eagles have the best record in the NFC, tied for the best record in the NFL.
On Sunday, the Washington Redskins beat the San Francisco 49ers. It wasn't the best of performances by the Redskins, but it kept them ahead of the Cowboys in the division. The Cowboys have two games remaining with Washington, but currently won't have Elliott for one of them (Oct. 29).
On Sunday night, the New York Giants showed they had some life with a win against the Denver Broncos, the same Broncos who pinned an embarrassing 42-17 loss on the Cowboys in Week 2. A New York loss to the Broncos would have left them at 0-6 and wondering just when they would win a game. At 1-5, the Giants have a huge hill to climb, but they aren't dead yet. Elliott should be on the field for the Dec. 10 rematch against the Giants.
The best thing that happened for the Cowboys this week came outside the division. Aaron Rodgers' broken right collarbone does not change what happened Oct. 8 at AT&T Stadium, but it will make it more difficult for the Packers to stay in the NFC race unless Brett Hundley does what Dak Prescott did for the Cowboys after Tony Romo suffered a compression fracture in his back last season. The Cowboys would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Packers, but Rodgers' injury might be too much for a Green Bay team that has been beset by injuries to overcome.
(And what about the possibility of Romo signing with the Packers? It certainly sounds like a great story with a Wisconsin kid returning to the game. Romo joked to CBS partner Jim Nantz during Philadelphia's win against the Panthers about his touchdown pass last January being the final one of his career. Just a reminder: Romo has not filed retirement papers and is free to sign anywhere he wants.)
The Cowboys have to return to The Star by noon CT Tuesday for a conditioning run and will have a team meeting later in the day.
Will Elliott be there? Per league rules, the team cannot have any contact with him during the six-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy.
Will Navorro Bowman be there? The veteran linebacker was released by the San Francisco 49ers over the weekend. He is set to meet with the Oakland Raiders, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Bowman is scheduled to meet with the Cowboys, too. Joining Dallas would reunite Bowman with former Penn State teammate Sean Lee and would allow him to potentially play against his former team next Sunday.
Lee, who has sat out the past two games because of a hamstring strain, will be there, but will Tyron Smith? He did not practice last week because of back tightness. He missed the final two days of practice leading into the Packers game. The Cowboys swear it is nothing serious, but he missed two games last year because of a back injury.
With the Cowboys at 2-3, only the Chicago Bears, Giants and Niners have a worse record in the NFC.
It's still early, but the Cowboys could have used some help during the bye week, either from the courts or from their division foes, and they got none.
DENVER -- Something needed to change. Whatever Ben McAdoo and the New York Giants were doing wasn't working the first five weeks of the season when they had lost every game they played.
McAdoo thought it was best to give up his playcalling duties. He did not call plays Sunday night in Denver for the first time in a regular-season game since he was hired by the Giants in 2014. Instead, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan called the plays in a stunning 23-10 win against the Broncos.
It was a move that had to be made.
"It's more than just today. I need to do what is best for the team, just like we ask the players and just like we ask the coaches," McAdoo said. "I thought the team and the whole locker room needed me this week. I needed to be at my best for these players and coaches this week."
McAdoo didn't give specifics about the benefits it has for him during the game. Maybe he can be more hands-on in assisting Steve Spagnuolo with the defense? Maybe he can be more involved in special teams or concentrate on game management? These seem like the obvious advantages of not being the full-time playcaller.
It's also possible that the stammering offense just needed a jolt. Sullivan seemed to pull the right strings early. The Giants went 69 yards on 13 plays, using more than seven minutes on their opening drive. He was calling all the right plays, until they stalled in the red zone.
The Giants still moved the ball with relative success throughout the contest against the league's No. 1 defense. They were in Denver territory on five of their 11 drives, even if they only finished with a pedestrian 266 total yards.
Given the success it's a no-brainer for them to stick with Sullivan as the playcaller next week against another tough defense when the Seattle Seahawks come to MetLife Stadium.
"We'll revisit it moving forward but it looks like a pretty good plan," McAdoo said.
Sullivan put together a fairly successful game plan that featured more two-tight-end sets and running plays than usual. The Giants used 12 personnel (two tight ends, two wide receivers and one running back) on 72 percent of their offensive plays against the Broncos, according to Pro Football Focus. The NFL average is 19 percent.
It's in stark comparison to what the Giants were last season and early this season, when they were running three-wide-receiver sets more than any other team in the league.
But this Giants team needed change. McAdoo realized it was necessary and made the decision early in the week. He told Manning, but most of the Giants players didn't know until the game. Guard Justin Pugh and center Brett Jones said they didn't even realize until they returned to the locker room after the game.
They all saw an offense that operated differently, in part because of their altered personnel (no Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall) and because of their opponent. McAdoo played a part in developing the game plan. Sullivan then executed it by calling 31 runs and 23 passes. That's 57 percent passes and 43 percent runs.
The Giants were 70:30 pass:run with McAdoo calling plays the first five weeks of the season.
It can be argued that McAdoo waited too long to pass along the playcalling duties. The Giants (1-5) were already in a big hole, and their offensive struggles dated to last season. It wasn't as if the change included any major overhaul, either.
Sullivan calls plays at practice and has done it in the preseason. He's hardly an unfamiliar voice in Manning's headset. They have been working together for years.
Sullivan's first crack at being a playcaller in this offense in a regular-season game earned him some praise.
"I thought he did a good job just sticking with the run and knowing it was going to be that game, got a little lead and just staying with it," Manning said. "I know as a coordinator and as a quarterback, you want to throw it. They're playing man-to-man, some zero [coverages]. You want to take a shot. But just with the way things were going and the matchups and the way our defense was going, it was best just to stick with it and play conservative."
It seemed obvious for the Giants to keep running against the Broncos. It was working and they needed to make adjustments to their offense with Roger Lewis, Tavarres King and Travis Rudolph as their top three receivers.
But who is to say McAdoo would've stuck to the run like Sullivan? He hasn't exactly shown extended commitment to the running game throughout his Giants tenure. He also hasn't displayed an ability to operate an explosive offense while being a head coach. The Giants have yet to score 30 points in a game since McAdoo was promoted.
For now it's going to be Sullivan's job to try to end that drought as the playcaller. McAdoo can concentrate on handling his team after a drama-filled few weeks that included disciplining cornerback Eli Apple and suspending Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. If his team was starting to slip away, he reeled them back in and took some major steps in the right direction on Sunday night.
LANDOVER, Maryland -- After he left Washington four years ago, Kyle Shanahan shared one piece of information with Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins: The zone-read option would remain a part of his offense because he loved what it could do.
It also has remained a part of the Redskins' playbook. So the play Shanahan helped popularize also led to his demise Sunday.
Shanahan watched as the play he helped make famous with Robert Griffin III in 2012 led to the eventual winning touchdown by Cousins. His 7-yard run off a zone-read fake was the difference in Washington's 26-24 win.
"It does give defenses something to think about," Cousins said. "Kyle told me, 'I've learned after working with Robert that this is a really valuable play no matter who the quarterback is and I'll always carry it with me.' "
So, too, will the Redskins. Cousins has run the zone-read option four times this season, including two Sunday. They love running it in the red zone. Indeed, his first carry out of this look against the 49ers was a 2-yard gain from the 4-yard line. That time he ran it to his left and the 49ers were ready.
But on the final touchdown, end Arik Armstead crashed hard at the ball carrier and Cousins easily turned the corner. With the 49ers in man coverage on the outside, there was no one eyeing the quarterback off the snap.
Cousins isn't known for being a mobile quarterback, but the reason Shanahan and others like it is because it can work with less agile runners. Cousins, though, moves well enough.
"When Jay arrived we kept it and valued it," Cousins said. "As I started playing, it can still be a great play."
Gruden was never a big fan of the zone read, but he has kept it in the offense because he, too, sees it works. The Redskins have run the ball well inside the 10-yard line; they averaged 3.0 yards per carry in their first four games to rank fourth overall.
But the zone read provides them another wrinkle. And because they do run the ball -- and are committed to running it -- the defense must honor the back. It gives the offense another player who can block, negating any advantage by the defense with an eighth defender in the box.
"I don't love it, but I do like it," Gruden said. "Kirk is not exactly the read-option quarterback that you would be looking for, but he's very effective at it. Those are huge plays for us. ... Kirk's been pretty good, pretty effective really."
In 2012, Shanahan installed the zone read to capitalize on Griffin's talents. He could beat teams with his legs or his arm; Cousins was viewed as the pocket passer. But the mobility was evident, too, on bootlegs and rollouts.
And Cousins has used his legs more at key moments. He did that against Kansas City on a late drive to help tie the score. He did it again Sunday at a crucial time, an 18-yard scramble up the middle on a second-and-10. He looked like Griffin on that play, too, as he failed to get down and ran into the defender's shoulder first.
"We appreciated that and the intensity he plays with," Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said, "and the competitive nature he possesses. But that's an expensive shoulder right there; don't want to see him lowering it on anybody. I told him next time to think about sliding."
Cousins has run the ball 19 times this season; he had a career-high 34 runs in 2016. It gives the defense something else to at least consider when preparing for the Redskins, as does the play Shanahan used to call quite a bit with a much different quarterback.
Cousins isn't exactly Griffin when running the ball. He doesn't need to be when the distance he must travel is less than 10 yards. It won't transform the Redskins' offense; it does provide occasional help. And it did help beat the coach who first put it in Washington's playbook.
DENVER -- Coach Ben McAdoo was right. Nobody gave his New York Giants a chance on Sunday night.
The Giants were 13.5-point underdogs to the Denver Broncos. They opened the week as nine-point underdogs and, as player after player was ruled out by injury, the doubt only increased. There was no way they were going into Denver for a prime-time game without their top three wide receivers and seven starters and leave with a victory.
Wrong. That’s why they play the games. The Giants stunned the Broncos 23-10 for their first victory of the season.
“Even my friends had no belief that we would get this done,” said tight end Evan Engram, who accounted for 82 of the Giants’ 128 receiving yards.
How they did it ...
McAdoo gave up playcalling
McAdoo didn’t call plays for the first time in a regular-season game since he was hired as the offensive coordinator in 2014. This can’t be minimized. McAdoo was able to concentrate on being the head coach; offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan handled the playcalling. It's a massive change that many had been demanding for weeks.
“I need to do what is best for the team, just like we ask the players and just like we ask the coaches,” McAdoo said. “I thought the team and the whole locker room needed me this week. I needed to be at my best for these players and coaches this week.”
Sullivan had a good mix of run and pass. The Giants looked especially effective as he pushed the right buttons on the opening drive when they went 69 yards on 13 plays and settled for a momentum-setting field goal.
The Giants' offense didn’t exactly light it up (264 total yards), but they moved the ball somewhat consistently against the league’s top defense with Sullivan calling the plays. That’s a win considering what he was working with as life without Odell Beckham Jr. began.
They rushed for more yards (148) than they passed (118) for on Sunday night.
“We knew it was going to be a different type of game,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “We were going up against a good defense. We knew we were going to have to run it and keep running it and stick with it. I thought the guys did a nice job.”
Revamped offensive line
Fluker’s block coming across the formation on a trap sprung running back Orleans Darkwa for a 47-yard run in the first half. Pugh also held up well matched mostly against Broncos star defensive end Von Miller, who didn’t do much until he recorded a sack in the fourth quarter.
“Chip him, run at him. That was a team effort getting him blocked,” Pugh said. “There was one spin move where he got pressure on Eli and it was like he teleported. … He’s the best pass-rusher in the NFL in my opinion.”
The Giants' line performed relatively well in a loud and difficult environment. The team rushed for 148 yards. Darkwa had a career high 117 yards.
Remember last season when the Giants' defense carried the team? It finally looked like that unit against the Broncos by stuffing the run and making big plays.
Denver rushed for just 46 yards. With Damon Harrison clogging the middle, Kerry Wynn stout at right defensive end, B.J. Goodson all over the field from his middle linebacker spot and the Giants’ cornerbacks playing physical on the edges, the Broncos fell into an early deficit and had 30 yards rushing in the first half.
The Giants' defense even provided some points. It helped that Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian played poorly, but the Giants had two interceptions after only one in the first five weeks. One went for a touchdown when Janoris Jenkins, playing in a zone, jumped in front of a Denver receiver and went 43 yards for the score.
Cornerback Eli Apple also had his best game of the season after struggling early and being benched last week. He allowed one reception for 3 yards on a handful of targets in the first half. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul also played his best game of the year and had three sacks.
“It’s all about the guys,” Pierre-Paul said. “We came out and we played for each other.”
The league's top red zone defense last year produced a goal-line stop and allowed one late touchdown. The recipe for success that worked for them last season (play good defense, create turnovers and do just enough on offense) produced the stunning upset.
LANDOVER, Md. -- This wasn’t an audition. It was a reminder. Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins showed his current employer why he’s important and, perhaps, his future one why he might be worth the wait.
Cousins wasn’t spectacular in the Redskins’ 26-24 win over the San Francisco 49ers. But he was coolly efficient, and when the Redskins (3-2) needed points in the fourth quarter, he delivered. The 49ers, as usual, made it close. Had they sustained their performance for the whole game, they would have won.
The drama over Cousins’ future home will intensify in the offseason: Will the Redskins franchise tag him again? Will the 49ers sign him if he becomes a free agent? Of course, the way C.J. Beathard played in the second half, maybe he’s the 49ers’ future. He at least deserves a long look over their final 10 games.
Yes, some of Cousins’ passes sailed far over the heads of receivers down the field. Ignore those for now. For Cousins, the game came down to what he could do at other times, on shorter throws or must-convert situations.
And, once more, Cousins did enough to win. The Redskins came out fast, sputtered for a while, and finished strong. That sums up Cousins’ day too. It’s hard to dismiss the value of such a performance. Cousins' one interception came on a third-down deep ball that was akin to a 49-yard punt.
"He played efficient," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "He had that one pick, but it was bad play design by us. It was like a punt, so it didn't hurt us. Other than that, he threw for over 300 yard, had a touchdown run and a huge scramble. He's doing well."
Just know this: It’s why 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan would take Cousins right now -- or after the season. The guy he watched Sunday is the one he felt Cousins would become: Cousins completed 25 of 37 passes for 330 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also had a rushing TD. He connected with eight different receivers.
"I like the way he's spreading the ball out," Gruden said.
But there’s a difference in Cousins' game compared to when Shanahan was the Redskins offensive coordinator from 2012-13. The single biggest improvement is Cousins' poise. He’s not worried about his future; he wasn’t auditioning for the 49ers, the long-rumored next stop in his career. Instead, Cousins did what he’s done for a while: showing a few flaws while still executing well. When Shanahan was here in 2012-13, a few bad moments for Cousins might have resulted in a few more.
Not that Shanahan was paying close attention to Cousins.
"I didn't really watch much of Kirk," he said.
It’s not as if Cousins played poorly. He just was off on some deep throws, a part of his game that two years ago was bad and last year was much better. That’s not why a team would sign him, whenever that time comes. Rather, with a sputtering run game -- running backs only managed 58 yards on 27 carries -- the Redskins needed their quarterback to finish strong. He did.
On the go-ahead field-goal drive, Cousins converted a third-and-12 with an 18-yard pass to receiver Ryan Grant. Cousins then showed that poise, letting Chris Thompson start to break free from his man, turning a short pass into a 13-yard gain for the first down.
On the final touchdown drive, Cousins connected with Vernon Davis down the right seam for 51 yards. Cousins later picked up another third-and-6, again to Grant.
And Cousins capped it with a 7-yard run.
"We did a good job as an offense," Cousins said. "A lot of third-down conversions, a lot of crucial drives where we had to churn the clock and come away with points. It wasn't perfect, but we did a lot of good things."
The Redskins have long talked about Cousins’ improvement, pointing to increased confidence. Earlier in the week, Thompson said Cousins used to get nervous when he entered the game. He still was figuring out life in the NFL. Players wondered how good he could become. Now they know.
Already this season, Cousins has led late scoring drives to beat the Rams, tie the Chiefs and now to help beat the 49ers. The Redskins are glad they have him now. How long he remains is a question for another day. After a week of renewed speculation about Cousins' future, the spotlight returns where it belongs, starting with a week from Monday at Philadelphia.
DENVER -- The game of musical chairs on the New York Giants' offensive line has Justin Pugh at right tackle, D.J. Fluker at right guard and John Jerry at left guard this week against the Denver Broncos, multiple sources told ESPN.
With Brett Jones expected to start at center for the second straight week in place of the injured Weston Richburg (concussion), this will be the Giants’ fifth different offensive line combination in six games.
The latest shuffling moves the Giants’ best offensive lineman, Pugh, back outside in place of Bobby Hart, where he draws an unenviable matchup against Von Miller. The Broncos linebacker has 4.0 sacks and nine pressures already and is arguably the league’s best pass-rusher.
The move was prompted by Hart’s struggles last week against the Chargers’ Joey Bosa, who had two sacks, two hits and a hurry. Hart went into this season as the starter at right tackle but missed a good part of three games because of an ankle injury and struggled last week in his return.
Pugh is hardly unfamiliar with right tackle. This will be his third start there this season, and 34th of his career. He spent his first two seasons at right tackle before being shifted to left guard, where he started 12 times last year and three times this season.
Jerry will take over at left guard after being benched last week in favor of Fluker. Jerry was dealing with a hamstring injury and was replaced in the first quarter against the Chargers.
Fluker provided a boost to the Giants' running game with his ability to move defenders at the point of attack each of the past two weeks. The Giants ran for a season-high 152 yards last week.
The entire Giants offensive line will have to deal with Miller on Sunday night. The Broncos like to move him around, and the Giants aren’t about to leave Pugh one-on-one the entire evening. That would be unfair, and it’s not an indictment on Pugh’s recent performances. He has held up relatively well at right tackle and limited a difficult opponent in Philadelphia’s Brandon Graham in Week 3.
“Well, Von Miller is a concern, regardless,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said this week. “I mean, you take the greatest right tackle, left tackle, take every tackle that ever played in the National Football League -- they’re going to struggle against Von Miller. That’s, in my opinion, the best pass-rusher in the game. So, we have to do everything that we can to try to help.”
There could be running backs, tight ends and guards helping Pugh in Denver. The Giants are likely to use it all to try to slow one of the NFL’s top pass-rushers.
The Giants' offensive linemen -- and their entire short-handed offense -- will have their hands full against the Broncos, ranked the top defense in the NFL.
“Yeah, I mean, [Miller is] a guy you have to adjust for. He’s a guy you have to change up,” offensive line coach Mike Solari said. “You double every time? No. I mean, no. But, again, he’s a guy that you want to change up, whether you chip him, whether you slide to him, whether you double him with a tight end chip in, with a back chip in, will you slide your line to them. You have to change up your protection against him as well as moving the pocket, as well as your rhythm of throws.”
The Giants are likely to try it all against the Broncos. And they’re going to do it with Pugh at right tackle.
More from the Week 6 Giants cheat sheet:
Altered diet for Denver
The altitude in Denver is something the Giants took into consideration. Some of the players have never played there. So coach Ben McAdoo had them focus on their nutritional intake. The plan called for lot of fruits (watermelon and pineapple, in particular) and iron-heavy foods. They also considered hydration a key, according to several players.
Fluker is familiar with the conditions, having played the first four years of his career in the AFC West with the Chargers. He said the Giants' linemen will feel the altitude after the first drive of the game, then they will settle in. The hope is the dietary adjustments they made throughout the week will help.
Bring on the tight ends
With the Giants short on healthy wide receivers, don’t be surprised to see them use two-tight-end sets more than usual Sunday night. They have used two tight ends on 28 percent of the plays this season.
With four tight ends (rookie Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Jerell Adams and Matt LaCosse) expected to be active, that percentage could be closer to 40-50 percent this week. It would also serve to help the offensive line and running game in a tough and loud venue.
Giants without Beckham
When Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t played the past few years, the results have not been pretty for quarterback Eli Manning. The Giants were outscored 68-20 in the two games their star wide receiver has missed over the past three seasons. Beckham will miss the remainder of this season with a fractured ankle that required surgery.
Manning’s interception rate is considerably higher without Beckham in the lineup. It’s 3.7 percent without him in the lineup compared to 2.2 percent with him, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Manning also has been much more conservative, averaging 7.0 air yards per attempt without Beckham compared to 7.9 yards when Beckham is playing.
The Giants will look like a different team without Beckham.
PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles escaped Carolina with a victory Thursday, so the historic disparity in penalty yards wasn't the all-consuming topic of conversation in the locker room afterward. But Philadelphia's players and coaches took notice, and there will be some clips sent to the NFL offices this weekend for review.
The Eagles were penalized 10 times for 126 yards in their 28-23 victory, compared to one penalty for 1 yard for the Panthers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Thursday night’s game was the first in NFL history in which one team had at least 120 penalty yards and their opponent had fewer than 10 penalty yards.
"We felt like a lot of those were ticky-tack, or weren't good calls," said Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. "Adversity is nothing new for us. We just kind of strap up and hunker down."
A few calls led to some clear in-game frustration for Eagles players and coaches. One was a pass interference on cornerback Jalen Mills on a Cam Newton deep ball intended for Curtis Samuel in the third quarter that was intercepted by safety Rodney McLeod. While Mills did seem to make light contact before the ball came down, it didn't appear Samuel was in position to make a play on it. Mills was whistled for interference earlier in the game as well, on a bang-bang play. Rookie defensive end Derek Barnett was flagged for unnecessary roughness in the fourth quarter to extend a drive. The play was blown dead for delay of game, but the Eagles' defensive front didn't hear the whistle and Barnett knocked Newton to the ground.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson indicated they would be sending some of the plays to the league office, as is their custom.
"Every week our protocol is to go through and watch the game -- [director of football compliance] Jon Ferrari helps out there -- and we look at the game and whether it was a call against us or maybe a call that wasn't made that maybe we felt should have been made, we send those in, we send those clips into the league office. Every team does this," Pederson said. "Just want to get clarification. That's all we're trying to do, just trying to see whether the penalty should have happened or shouldn't have happened. That's just protocol and we'll do that over the weekend."
This is not the first time the Eagles have been on the wrong end of a lopsided penalty advantage with Pete Morelli's crew officiating. During Pederson's day-after news conference, it was pointed out to Pederson that the penalty disparity has been 40-8 in favor of the opposition in the past four games officiated by Morelli's group.
"Well, I think the league is aware of it," Pederson said. "I'm not going to get into all that. We have to do a better job. We have to coach it and we can't be getting these flags. And listen, a lot of them were legit. I'm not saying they weren't. A lot of the flags last night were legit calls, so we've got to do a better job there. For whatever reason, it is what it is, but moving forward we can't worry about it. Bottom line, we won the game. We figured out how to do that, and that's the bottom line."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Seven New York Giants starters will miss Sunday night’s matchup with the Denver Broncos. That includes their top three wide receivers -- Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard.
Shepard (ankle) was one of six key players ruled out on Friday. He is dealing with a sprained ankle.
Coach Ben McAdoo is trying to use it all as motivation.
“We’ve got a great opportunity. There is nobody giving us a chance in hell to win this ballgame,” McAdoo said of his message to the team. “People don’t think we can score a point without [No.] 13. They think our defense has lost its stinger, special teams isn’t important to the whole locker room. So we’re going to find out what we’re made out of on a big stage. I think we have a good football team.”
That team will be without more than a few players. Shepard, linebacker Jonathan Casillas, defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Romeo Okwara, running back Paul Perkins and center Weston Richburg were all officially ruled out for Sunday night on this week's injury report. All-Pro safety Landon Collins was also listed as questionable, and Beckham, Marshall and kick returner Dwayne Harris were placed on season-ending injured reserve earlier this week.
To compound their personnel problems, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. They will "revisit" that situation early next week, but it has hovered over the team in the lead-up to a tough, prime-time matchup.
All this could be trouble for the Giants, especially on the offensive side of the ball, where the Giants were having trouble (16.4 points per game) even before all the injuries. Now they will be severely shorthanded without four wide receivers, a running back and their starting center.
Still, McAdoo is trying to present a united front. He sees reason for optimism that his team can score points against the league’s top defense.
“Practice,” he used as his explanation. “Watching the way we practice and watching the way we execute in practice. Seeing the run game going.”
Orleans Darkwa is likely to be the starter at running back and split time with rookie Wayne Gallman. That's not a major change. The Giants went with that combination last week, when they had a season-high 152 yards rushing.
The wide receivers group, however, will be overhauled.
Roger Lewis was the last man standing in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Giants re-signed Tavarres King and elevated rookie Travis Rudolph and Ed Eagan to fill out the roster this week. They will be facing one of the league’s best secondaries, which features Pro Bowl cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris.
“I know they’re physical corners, good corners,” Lewis said. “Talib has been playing in the league for a while; he’s smart. But at the end of the day, it’s just football and just go out and do what I do.”
Given the circumstances, it could prove difficult. The Broncos (3-1) are coming off their bye week and the short-handed Giants (0-5) are looking for their first victory of the season.
It's good to be a Philadelphia Eagle right now.
They were riding high in the visitors locker room of Bank of America Stadium as Thursday night turned to early Friday morning. No one was feeling it more than safety Malcolm Jenkins.
Yo Malcolm Jenkins was going off after the game = pic.twitter.com/wiY7TVxXeF
— Drew Corrigan (@Dcorrigan50) October 13, 2017
His dance quickly spread across social media platforms, and is a fun part of the conversation on a day of celebration in Philadelphia.
— Malcolm Jenkins (@MalcolmJenkins) October 13, 2017
ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins find themselves in a unique position: surrounded by division opponents engulfed in all sorts of issues. The Redskins, and the Philadelphia Eagles, are the sane ones in the NFC East.
The trick now is to make it matter in the standings over their final 12 games. They can’t assume the issues surrounding the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys will automatically result in a better record for themselves.
But an improved defense, the solid play of quarterback Kirk Cousins and a stronger commitment to the run game -- combined with other teams’ woes -- will lead to success. Or should.
It’s not as if the Redskins haven’t had their own in-season issues -- Su’a Cravens anyone? But they took care of that in a hurry, placing him on a list that means he won’t play this season. Rather than let the situation linger -- will he retire or won’t he; will he stick around or won’t he? -- they removed all doubt. The Redskins handled it properly.
In Dallas, there’s the ongoing situation with running back Ezekiel Elliott, the key to the Cowboys’ offense. He’s suspended again, but his side can again try to get that overturned. It’s not over yet, but if it stands it means he’d miss the first Redskins game and return for the second.
But what will happen during those six games if he does have to sit out? Dallas’ defense isn’t good and needs protection from the offense. Then there’s starting defensive lineman Stephen Paea, the former Redskin. He reportedly told the team he plans to retire immediately.
In New York, corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was suspended for at least one game by coach Ben McAdoo. But McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese are under fire for the team’s 0-5 start and speculation over their futures will intensify if the losing continues. Their receivers are banged up, with Odell Beckham Jr., out for the year. The offensive line remains a massive issue and quarterback Eli Manning faces severe questions, too.
All of it adds up to a golden chance for the Redskins. The difficult part will be catching 5-1 Philadelphia, but if they beat San Francisco and then win at the Eagles the following week, they’ll be one game back -- with four games remaining versus the Giants and Cowboys.
The Redskins exhausted their drama in the offseason. And there will be more, most likely, in the offseason, with Round 3 of Cousins' contract situation.
But, for now, they’re in a good spot. Not only are they one of the quiet teams, they’re in position to capitalize on the issues plaguing others. It’s quite a change.
FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' work week is over. Given the team's bye this weekend, the next time players are due back at The Star is Tuesday at noon for a conditioning run and then meetings.
The two days of practice this week were light. They featured a lot of Cowboys versus Cowboys work, starters against starters -- at least those who could practice -- and backups against backups. There was not much of a deep dive into what has led to the team’s 2-3 start. That will be saved for the coaches’ work.
But as the Cowboys get ready to come back from the bye, what can they change to make sure 2-3 doesn’t turn into 8-8, 7-9 or worse?
#cowboysmail What personnel changes do you see as most likely coming out of the bye. Thinking we'll see more Woods,got anything surprising?
— Carson Perkins (@Perky85) October 12, 2017
This is more difficult than people believe. The Twitter-verse wants the Cowboys to trade for Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman or a great safety or a pass-rusher. Some want the Cowboys to sign free-agent cornerback Darrelle Revis or another big-name, past-his-prime player.
Is a trade possible? Sure. But the last time the Cowboys made a significant addition at the trade deadline was wide receiver Roy Williams in 2008. That didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean you never make a deal again, but few big names change teams. Yes, the New England Patriots traded Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins and still won a Super Bowl, but everything about the Patriots is the exception and not the norm.
By cutting cornerback Nolan Carroll, the Cowboys have put their faith in third-round draft pick Jourdan Lewis. Carroll was a progress stopper, so he’s out. Now Lewis has to play better and reward the team for its faith over the final 11 weeks.
The Cowboys want to play rookie Chidobe Awuzie more at safety, but he can’t seem to steer clear of hamstring strains. They also want to play rookie safety Xavier Woods more. The Atlanta Falcons had success with multiple rookies and younger players in their secondary last year, but it’s a gamble.
Dallas' vaunted offensive line needs to play better too. One change could come at left guard, where Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper have shared starting duties the first five games. Will the Cowboys give Byron Bell a chance to start, which could help their interior pass protection but maybe take away some of their versatility in the run game?
Linebacker Sean Lee’s return to the lineup will absolutely help a defense that has been ripped apart in the two games he has missed. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens should be better as he gets accustomed to game speed after missing the first four games with a tibial plateau fracture. If that happens, the D's quality of play should be better, and second-year linebacker Jaylon Smith won’t be asked to play so many snaps.
Dallas shouldn't give away top-end future draft picks in hopes of hitting the jackpot. The Cowboys need their top players to perform better, they need their role players to play better, and they need their coaches to coach better.
The Cowboys’ biggest improvement in the final 11 games has to come from within.
ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins felt good about their passing game, regardless of who left or who stayed, in part because of receiver Jamison Crowder. He wasn’t their only reason for hope – tight end Jordan Reed and running back Chris Thompson joined that list.
The production hasn’t yet lived up to the hope. There’s reason to believe, though, that that soon will change. Crowder said his hamstring, which has bothered him since training camp, is feeling much better.
“A few games it’s been a factor,” Crowder said. “But I feel great now. I feel 100 percent.”
And that could lead to this:
“You’ll see more of Jamison Crowder, hopefully,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He is one of our best skill players. We have got to get him more involved in the offense. That is partly my fault, to get more balls targeted for him.
“We anticipate him being more productive, without a doubt.”
It could start this week. Sunday’s opponent, San Francisco, has allowed 13.03 yards per catch to players aligned in the slot this season (six teams are worse), especially between the numbers and the hash marks. That’s where Crowder does good work, with 66 career catches for a 13.06 yards per catch average and four touchdowns, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Redskins can spread the ball around – and have. They’re also running more. Still, through four games, Crowder has caught 14 passes for 106 yards and no touchdowns. At this time last season, Crowder had 18 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
In his first two seasons combined, quarterback Kirk Cousins owned a 105.4 passer rating while throwing to Crowder. This season? It’s 65.4. Some of that reflects the small sample size as well as having no touchdowns to one interception on passes thrown to him.
But Crowder’s yards per attempt have dropped, too. Cousins averaged 8.34 yards his first two seasons throwing to him; this year it’s 5.84. In some cases, that stems from seeing coverages that enable the defense to keep Crowder in front of them, limiting yards after the catch.
The offense has moved the ball – the Redskins are eighth in yards per game and seventh in yards per play. But Crowder can make plays, which is why they want to get him the ball more.
“Whether it’s quick game, whether it’s getting the ball out in space somehow, bubble screen, whatever it might be,” Gruden said, “I have got to get the ball to him in space more often and get him in the flow early. Jordan Reed is the same way.”
Crowder injured his hamstring in training camp, causing him to miss time. He also dealt with a hip flexor that made him questionable before the season opener. His hamstring made him questionable before facing Kansas City in Week 4.
“It was not having that explosion that I was used to having,” Crowder said. “I was able to play through the few games it was nagging me, but I definitely wouldn’t say I was 100 percent.”
Crowder has been getting open. In the season opener, he was free on a deep in-route, with a corner behind him but no one in front. But Cousins’ throw was too high for the 5-foot-8 Crowder to corral. Later in the same game, Crowder had a step on the corner down the field while facing man coverage with no help. The pass was five yards overthrown.
He’s shown his quickness in space, too, taking a third-and-17 slip screen for 21 yards in Week 2 vs. the Los Angeles Rams. Also in that game: Crowder quickly turned upfield on a third-and-6 for an 8-yard gain. He also gained 18 yards on a second-and-17 thanks in part to creating space after a hard stem to the outside fooled the defender.
Kansas City played Washington differently than others, taking away the passes that work best for Crowder. But his presence mattered. On Terrelle Pryor’s 44-yard touchdown catch, the corner received no safety help (it might not have mattered) because Crowder’s route down the seam grabbed his attention. There were other times, too, when the Chiefs doubled Crowder, giving other targets better chances.
“Some teams key in on you on certain plays or certain situations,” Crowder said. “Third down or whatever it may be. When I get the opportunities, I have to take advantage of it.”
The Chiefs’ game plan took Crowder and Thompson away. They used a lot of help underneath, thanks in part to more three-man rushes with defenders dropping over the middle. Indeed, Crowder wasn’t targeted until the final play of the game. He also was rarely open.
“The Chiefs were a little bit different,” Gruden said. “It was hard to get the ball to Chris and Jamison.”
But Crowder is looking forward to the final 12 games, thanks to a well-timed bye week -- at least for him.
“I feel good,” he said. “You have your nicks. I’m trying to do a good job taking care of my body to avoid it. Sometimes it happens. I’d rather have them early than later. I feel I’m healthy now. That’s a plus.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It’s as if it never happened. Poof. Gone. Odell Beckham Jr.’s shining off-field moment seemingly disappeared like dirt in the wind, evaporating right there on the MetLife Stadium field Sunday afternoon along with the stability of his left ankle.
It has all been detailed by now that the New York Giants lost their top playmaker when Beckham fractured his left ankle in the loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. What was misplaced in the wreckage from that disastrous afternoon when three receivers went down for the season and a fourth is likely to miss this week’s game is that the Giants also were stripped of their heartbeat.
Their heartbeat is Beckham.
That was evident early in the third quarter Sunday when Beckham showed the leadership that has either been lacking or so often overshadowed by the shenanigans. After a three-and-out on their opening possession, the Giants’ star receiver huddled the entire offense on the sideline. He delivered an impassioned and fiery speech that was intended to jump-start the unit.
It wasn’t the first time Beckham had done this throughout his Giants career. It was the first time this season.
“He was like, ‘Man, on this drive I want you boys to show why you all love the game, why you all do this,’” wide receiver Roger Lewis said. “‘This is the drive right here.’”
The Giants marched 80 yards on nine plays the next time they received the ball. Lewis capped the drive with a leaping 29-yard touchdown pass.
“For me to end up scoring a touchdown on that drive, I came back to him like, ‘I’m going to show you why I love this game,’” Lewis said. “That was huge.”
Beckham caught a 48-yard touchdown pass on the Giants’ next possession to regain a lead they held until everything unraveled when he was injured in the final minutes of the game. The Giants lost their fifth straight contest and more -- as Beckham underwent season-ending surgery on his ankle the following day.
“Odell is a leader. Huge leader,” Lewis said. “He’s that guy when things are going wrong, he don’t fold or anything. He’s always up and ready. He’s a leader.”
The Giants now head into Denver on Sunday without their top playmaker, leader and heartbeat to face the league’s top defense. It’s far from an ideal situation. They’re devoid of more than a handful of starters and their most important player.
It's a wonder how they are going to score at all. As if missing Beckham alone wouldn't be enough, Brandon Marshall, Dwayne Harris, Paul Perkins and Sterling Shepard all may be missing from the offense as well.
The Giants have been outscored 68-20 in the two games Beckham has missed over the past three seasons.
But they have no choice but to move forward. Beckham remained hospitalized following surgery as of late Thursday afternoon and there are 11 games remaining on the schedule. He’s in for an arduous rehab process before getting back on the field. That won’t be until 2018.
What the Giants will be missing is more than just the 90-plus catches, 1,300 yards and 10 or more touchdowns that Beckham produced each of his first three professional seasons. They’ll also be missing the energy in their offensive huddle, a popular player and a leader.
It’s no accident that when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was suspended Wednesday, he visited Beckham at the hospital later that day. Beckham isn’t just an important figure in the wide receiver room, where he was the longest-tenured Giant. He's an important piece in the locker room.
“He’s a vocal leader. He’s always energetic, has a lot of charisma and is a spark plug,” running back Perkins said. “Playmakers and superstars kind of almost have to rile the team. Not everyone is like that. Each team has a designated player.”
For the Giants, that is Beckham. Their quarterback, Eli Manning, is exactly what everyone thinks. He’s the cool, calm and collected aw-shucks Eli. Nothing fazes the son of Archie and younger brother of Peyton.
Manning doesn't scream or yell often. He is the calming influence sometimes necessary when everything is moving too fast in hectic situations. Beckham is the intensity and spirit that is sometimes necessary when the offense is sluggish, which quite often was early in the season when he wasn’t on the field.
The Giants scored 13 points the first two games combined when Beckham missed the opener in Dallas and was limited in Week 2 against the Lions.
The onus will be on players such as Shepard (when healthy) and rookie tight end Evan Engram to pick up the slack with Beckham permanently out of the lineup. Engram said he’s always been the fiery, outspoken one in high school and Ole Miss. He’s optimistic he can fill that void with the Giants.
Shepard is looking forward to the opportunity to be Manning’s go-to receiver. It’s his chance to prove he can be that 1B receiver when Beckham returns next season.
But Beckham undoubtedly will be missed, and it’s more than just his production on the field.
“He’s definitely the outspoken one,” Engram said. “That was the first time he [huddled everyone on the sideline] this year. But he’s always been the juice of the offense -- playmaking-wise and leadership-wise. It’s a huge part. Look at what gathering us together and getting us going did. We literally drove down to score.
“That is leadership. Those are the things that come from stuff like that. Guys are going to have to step up.”
That was the message that Beckham passed along to the remaining receivers. He's talked to most of them over the past few days.
"It’s time to be great," Beckham told Lewis. "He said you have a huge opportunity in front of you. Just do what you do. Don’t do anything extra. Just do what you do at the end of the day. He knows I can do it."
With Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension starting immediately, pending more legal action by the running back's attorneys, and out until Nov. 30 when the Cowboys take on the Washington Redskins, there will be even more pressure on Prescott to perform at a high level.
He is on pace to throw for 3,814 yards and 35 touchdown passes, which would top what he did as a rookie. He has matched last year's interception total with four in the first five games, but two of the turnovers came on drops by his wide receivers.
Prescott's play has been much better than the Cowboys' 2-3 record.
At a promotional event for Campbell's Chunky Soup on Wednesday night, Prescott said he doesn't think he's doing more this year than his rookie year.
"No, I mean I'm just playing the game," Prescott said. "I get out there and it's just about what I've done through the week within the reps of our offense and just executing the plays that coach [Scott] Linehan calls for me."
That's a nice thing to say. Prescott won't brag.
The Cowboys' win against the Arizona Cardinals was all because of Prescott. He sacrificed himself on a touchdown run in which he was flipped in the air. He made plays out of the pocket when things broke down. He completed 72 percent of his passes and threw two touchdowns.
In the 35-30 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, he threw three touchdown passes and was intercepted once. He missed some throws and was a big part of the cold start to the second half slide that led to the Rams' comeback. He did put the Cowboys in position to tie the game and had a two-point conversion called back because of a dubious holding penalty.
In the 35-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers, he delivered late in the game, almost answering Aaron Rodgers drive for drive. He put together a 17-play drive that ended with him scoring on an 11-yard run with 1 minute, 13 seconds to play. His heroics were forgotten because of what Rodgers did to the Cowboys' defense in the final 73 seconds.
If Elliott's suspension takes hold, he will miss games against two division rivals (Washington and the Philadelphia Eagles), the defending NFC champion (the 3-1 Atlanta Falcons), the only undefeated team in the NFL (Kansas City Chiefs) and the winless San Francisco 49ers and the one-win Los Angeles Chargers.
Four of the six opponents (San Francisco, Kansas City, Atlanta and Philadelphia) have pass defenses ranked in the bottom half of the league. That's the good news for Prescott. The better news would be to have Elliott in the backfield next to him.
Prescott had one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history by a quarterback with 13 wins, 24 touchdowns, four interceptions and a team record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (six). He did all of this for a team that had been as reliant on Tony Romo as any team had been reliant on a single player.
As Romo went, the thought was, the Cowboys went.
But then Prescott and Elliott changed that notion a year ago. Prescott was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year, but Elliott was the heartbeat of the offense.
The Cowboys went into this season believing they could put more on Prescott after he excelled as a rookie. They never thought he would face the dreaded “sophomore slump” because of the work he put in during the spring and summer.
Now, however, they have to put more on Prescott by demand if not by choice in Elliott's absence.
And it comes at a time where Elliott seemed to find his stride. In Sunday's loss to Green Bay, Elliott had 85 yards on 13 carries in the fourth quarter. He looked like the runner of a season ago. Now he might not be around until the end of November.
If the Cowboys are still in contention by that point, it will be due to Prescott.
After Thursday's short practice, a number of players scattered across the country to enjoy the bye week. Prescott did not plan to leave town. His only plan was to go fishing at some point.