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Enemy intel: Cowboys' Jones ignores players' baggage

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Enemy intel: Cowboys' Jones ignores players' baggage

A look around what's going on around the NFC East.

With DE’s DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory and LB Rolando McClain all suspended for the start of the season, Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated thinks that the Cowboys’ defensive MVP might be coordinator Rod Marinelli.
But not to be overlooked in that division-winning effort—and it wasn’t by those paying attention—was the work Marinelli’s defensive unit put in. Without any obvious stars, Dallas’s defense finished in the top half of the league in points allowed, holding every single opponent under 30 points and half of their foes to 20 or less. It was some of Marinelli’s finest work.

He made lemons out of lemonade last season, too, giving the Cowboys a chance to win most weeks despite the utter calamity that occurred when Romo was sidelined.

If the ‘16 season is to be a bounceback year for the ’Boys, Marinelli will have to pull a rabbit from his hat again. On Thursday, the NFL announced that starting linebacker Rolando McClain would have to sit out the first 10 games of the season for another violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. He will join previously punished edge defenders Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence (four games each) on the sideline. Those are three significant losses for a team already shy on proven depth in the front seven.
Tandler: Marinelli did get the most out of the Cowboys defense the last couple of years. But production is more about Larry and Joes than X's and O's. I'm not so sure the Dallas defense will survive without the three suspended players.

Longtime Dallas writer Rick Gosselin takes Jerry Jones to task for relying on the likes of Lawrence, McClain, and Gregory—all of whom has major red flags when the Cowboys acquired them—to get the job done.
The Cowboys employ scouts.

Maybe they should start hiring porters. In addition to paying scouts to find the players, the Cowboys need porters to carry all their baggage into that sparkling new practice facility in Frisco.

That's been one of the shortcomings of Jerry Jones in his capacity as general manager and personnel guru of the Cowboys. He's always been a sucker for a bargain. His personnel decisions are based exclusively on on-the-field ability rather than any potential off-the-field headaches. If you have talent, Jones will ignore your baggage.

. . .

The most important part of ability is availability. At some point, a franchise must realize that these players are chances that aren't worth taking.

Now the Cowboys are in a bind. Defense was a problem on this team a year ago. The Cowboys ranked last in takeaways with an NFL-record-tying low of 11 and 25th in sacks on the way to a 4-12 collapse.
Tandler: Don't ever fire yourself, Jerry. It's just too much fun.

Eagles GM Howie Roseman said recently that the team has made its biggest mistakes by giving big money to free agents that weren’t their own. I guess they couldn’t figure this out by looking at their own 2011 “dream team” experience or by looking at the history of their division rivals just down I-95.
“When you look at it, some of the mistakes we’ve made have been going out and spending a lot of money,” Roseman said. “A lot of those mistakes were on guys that aren’t our own. They were guys that we’ve brought from another organization, and we thought we knew.”

The failed contracts that were extended to DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell instantly come to mind when considering recent free agent activity. Rather than continue to go down the same path, the Eagles have focused on keeping a core group of players in the fold and complementing them with additional players.

“We went and looked at our plan for our roster over the next couple of years and said we will never let Fletcher Cox leave the building,” Roseman said. “We will never let Lane [Johnson] leave the building, we will never let Zach [Ertz]…if we do it now, we do it a little early and maybe save on those guys and add to the team, keep as many guys around as possible. We have this core, and we can build off of that.”
Tandler: I like the moves the Eagles made in locking up Cox, Johnson, Ertz, and a few others. I'm still dubious about their quarterback situation and if Carson Wentz isn't very good they will have issues winning consistently. But locking up their own is almost always the right move and none of the contracts seemed to be out of line.

When the Ravens released offensive tackle Eugene Monroe many figured it was just a matter of time before he signed with the Giants, who have been rebuilding their line over the past few years. But Monroe is still a free agent and here’s why:
The Giants still have interest in former Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe after an offseason where they tried to find a potential replacement for right tackle Marshall Newhouse, but came up empty. The problem is similar to what they ran into with Russell Okung, Donald Penn and even current Jet Ryan Clady.

Monroe would prefer to play left tackle. The Giants aren't willing to offer that position. They're strongly intent on keeping last year's first-round pick Ereck Flowers on the left side. The question now is whether Monroe can get an offer elsewhere to play somewhere on the left side. If so, he's not a Giants option.

Monroe's currently assessing his options, while the Giants wait on a decision. They're not about to break the bank for a 29-year-old tackle who has struggled with injuries in recent years.
Tandler: I'm not sure if Monroe is going to be able to find a left tackle job that he'll be able to walk in to in July; most teams make a top priority of filling those job. His options are to wait and see if a left tackle gets injured in training camp or accept a right tackle job with a team like the Giants.

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Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, December 11, eight days before the Washington Redskins host the Carolina Panthers.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Redskins vs. Eagles 1 p.m.

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 8; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 13; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 21

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier (leg)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Eagles

—The Redskins have not stopped a team in a goal to go situation since September. The Eagles are good in such situations, converting TDs 84 percent of the time. If the Redskins can get a stop and force a field goal try when the first time the Eagles get down there that would be a big psychological boost for the visitors. Or, better yet, maybe they can just not let the Eagles get any first and goal opportunities. That’s what happened when the teams played in Week 6.

—In that Week 6 meeting the Redskins rushed for 230 yards, their best performance on the ground this season by 79 yards. Matt Jones picked up 135 yards on 16 attempts, Rob Kelley had 5-59, and Chris Thompson kicked in with 9-37. It’s unlikely that Jones will be active so it will be up to Kelley to get things rolling on the ground.

—For all the talk about Kirk Cousins having the Eagles’ number, he had one of his worst statistical games of the year against them in Week 6. He completed just 52.9 percent of his passes, his lowest completion percentage of the season. Cousins also threw perhaps his worst interception of the year, a pick six that tied the game at 14 in the second quarter. The bottom line was that he made some plays and the Redskins won but he likely will have to play better this time for his team to prevail today.

—Carson Wentz has six interceptions in his last three games, including three last week against the Bengals. Josh Norman is due to get an interception, overdue, in fact. Don’t know what will happen but the chances seem good that a Redskin will get his hands on a Wentz pass today.

—We saw last week that the Redskins are not a lock to go on the road and win against a team that is desperately fighting for its playoff life. Fortunately for the Redskins, the Eagles do not have players who are the equals of David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Patrick Peterson. While plenty can go wrong I think the Redskins come away with with the win.

Redskins 28, Eagles 24

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Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

The Redskins officially brought Kory Lichtensteiger back to the active roster, and while the move is now for depth, it could have other ramifications down the road. 

The move is on the NFL's transaction report for Saturday. To make room for Lichtensteiger, the team released defensive lineman A.J. Francis. 

Dealing with injuries up and down the line of scrimmage, Lichtensteiger's return could give the offensive front more flexibility. When Lichtensteiger got injured Week 3 and sent to the injured reserve, third-year pro Spencer Long stepped in and performed well at center. Last week in Arizona, Long sustained a concussion.

That injury opened the door for John Sullivan, who will start this week in Philadelphia with Long ruled out. Sullivan was brought in as a backup to Long once Lichtensteiger was put on IR. With Long now in the NFL concussion protocol, the Redskins need another center should Sullivan get hurt. Alas, Lichtensteiger's return from the IR. 

Left guard Shawn Lauvao also sustained an injured groin, and that's where things could get interesting. Long is capable of playing guard, as is Lichtensteiger in a pinch. Should Lauvao's injury persist, Lichtensteiger might be able to help there.

Against the Eagles, the plan certainly appears to be second-year man Arie Kouandjio starting in place of Lauvao. Kouandjio made one earlier start this season - Week 4 against Cleveland - and the results were mixed.

If Kouandjio stumbles and Lauvao needs more time, Lichtensteiger's return to the roster gives Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan more flexibility, especially when Long returns from injury.

In fact, once the team has Long, Lichtensteiger and Sullivan healthy, there could be a bit of a logjam roster-wise on the offensive line, but considering all the injuries, bumps and bruises that are part of O-line life by the last four games of the season, the Redskins staff likely won't mind figuring that out. 

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