Larry Fitzgerald

Dysfunctional Giants hire new GM

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Dysfunctional Giants hire new GM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants have hired former Carolina Panthers executive Dave Gettleman as their general manager.

The Giants (2-13) announced the hiring of the 66-year-old Gettleman on Thursday and planned to introduce him at a news conference Friday.

Gettleman has a history with the Giants. He spent 15 seasons with the franchise before becoming Carolina's general manager from 2013-2016, a span in which the Panthers played in the Super Bowl after the 2015 season. He was fired after the following season when Carolina missed the playoffs.

Gettleman will be the Giants' fourth general manager since 1979, following George Young, Ernie Accorsi and Jerry Reese, who held the job for 11 seasons before he was dismissed on Dec. 4 along with coach Ben McAdoo (see full story).

Cardinals: Ageless Fitzgerald mum on future
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Larry Fitzgerald might well be the most popular athlete in the history of the state of Arizona.

The wide receiver's resume is packed with Hall of Fame-caliber statistics accumulated over 14 seasons with the Cardinals team that drafted him third overall in 2004. Add to that his easy-going personality combined with a remarkable durability -- he's missed six games of his 224 since joining the league -- and off-the-field contributions.

A year ago, Fitzgerald and the Giants' Eli Manning shared the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.

And impressively, at age 34, he's still playing at a high level, all while staying mum on whether he will return for another season.

Last week, he said he would take some time off when the season ends to figure it out.

His uncertainty matches big questions with other Cardinals, including whether coach Bruce Arians will stick around for a sixth season, and whether quarterback Carson Palmer will be back with a mended broken arm at age 38 (see full story).​

Cowboys: Bryant talks struggles, nixes pay cut idea
FRISCO, Texas -- Dez Bryant didn't seem sure how to respond when asked if he would be willing to take a pay cut after perhaps the most difficult season of the Dallas receiver's career.

Once the 2014 All-Pro came to his senses, he was emphatic.

"Hell no, man," Bryant said Wednesday, three days after the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to Seattle. "I believe in me."

Bryant opened up in his first lengthy session with reporters in weeks, taking responsibility for a subpar season by saying he let frustrations affect him during games. But he also said some of those frustrations were rooted in the offensive scheme, which he said he would probably address with owner Jerry Jones and coaches in the offseason.

The eighth-year pro also blamed some of his struggles on knee tendinitis, something that hadn't been revealed. Bryant was listed on the injury report for three weeks earlier in the season, including one week when he missed two practices when an ankle injury also was listed (see full story).

Eagles-Cardinals: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Cardinals: Roob's 10 observations

BOX SCORE

Third-down insanity from Carson Wentz, strong stuff from the secondary, big touchdowns from Nelson Agholor and Torrey Smith, Rodney McLeod's effort on a meaningless play and much more from the Eagles' third straight win — 34-7 over the Cards at the Linc (see breakdown).

Enjoy the 4-1 start and enjoy Roob's Observations!

1. I was thinking Sunday morning that, by any measure, the Eagles were the superior team and should blow out the Cards and that this was a game that would really show me how far the Eagles have come. I've seen signs the past few weeks that this group has really matured and really developed into something special. But lose to a bad Cards team at home and I knew I'd have to reevaluate. But I picked Eagles 30, Cards 10 because I just sensed that this team had grown to the point where, when faced with a clearly inferior opponent, they would pounce. And pounce they did to the tune of 21-0 after the first quarter, only the ninth time in franchise history they've led a game by 21 or more points after the first quarter. The Eagles showed me a lot Sunday. They got up early, then they pounded the Cards and finished them off. They're now 4-1 with three straight wins, and they've got to be mentioned in any conversation about the best teams in the NFC. You know what I like best about this team? They've been ravaged by injuries — from Darren Sproles to Fletcher Cox to McLeod and played much of the game Sunday without Lane Johnson — but you haven't heard one person in that locker room whine about it or try to use injuries as an excuse. This team is mature, it's serious-minded, it's together, it's driven. It's a beautiful thing to see.

2. Wentz's third-down work Sunday was astonishing (see report card). He was already among the best in the NFL coming into this weekend — his 107.2 passer rating before Sunday was sixth-best in the NFL. Then he went out and went 10 for 11 for 207 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions just on third down in the first three quarters Sunday, with nine of those 10 completions resulting in first downs. His third-down numbers now on the season: 36 for 51 for 573 yards, with six TDs, one INT and a passer rating of 138.8. Insane. This is a guy who ranked 28th in the NFL last year on third down. Wentz said when last year ended he wanted to focus on improving on third down, and his third-down numbers are now off the charts. Spectacular stuff.

3. Wentz was pretty good on the other downs, too. In fact, this was his best game as a pro. Other than one ill-advised interception deep in Cards territory just before halftime, Wentz was brilliant Sunday. He became the first Eagles QB with four TDs in a game since Nick Foles in Oakland back in 2013 and the first to do it here in Philly since Donovan McNabb against these same Arizona Cardinals on Thanksgiving Day in 2008. And Wentz hit the deep ball, becoming the first Eagle QB to throw two TDs of 50 yards or more in a game since McNabb had a 55-yarder to Correll Buckhalter and an 84-yarder to Donte Stallworth in a game against the Redskins in 2006. Wentz was 21 for 30 Sunday (70 percent) for 304 yards with four TDs and an INT. Five games in, Wentz has completed 62 percent of his passes with 10 TDs, three INTs and a passer rating of 97.7. This is your quarterback.

4. Let's talk the Eagles' secondary. The last three weeks, they've faced three quarterbacks who've combined to throw for more than 140,000 yards and nearly 1,000 touchdowns. Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer are all potential Hall of Famers. And it wasn't always pretty, but the Eagles got through that minefield of high-powered All-Pro quarterbacks with a spotless 3-0 record. Say what you will about the Eagles' secondary. They've given up some yards, given up some touchdowns. But out-manned, out-gunned, banged-up, young, inexperienced — they made the plays they had to each week against some pretty darned good QBs. And trust me, that would not have been the case the last eight years. Even Eagles killer Larry Fitzgerald was just another guy Sunday, with six catches for 51 harmless yards and nothing longer than 15 yards. Palmer threw 44 times Sunday but didn't have a single completion of 30 yards or more. Really strong stuff from this secondary.

5. One guy in particular who really stood out Sunday was Patrick Robinson, who was just making plays all over the place. His progress from struggling veteran in training camp to the Eagles' best cornerback right now has been so impressive. He just gets better and better. This is a 30-year-old guy who's with his fourth team in four years and who really I thought this summer was in jeopardy of being out of the league. But once he grew comfortable in Jim Schwartz's defense, he just started making plays, and Sunday he was the Eagles' best defensive player. Remarkable performance.

6. I wasn't crazy about Doug's play-calling late in the second quarter. I understand he loves being aggressive, and that's fine, but be smart too. You're up 21-7, you're already in field goal range, take the three points and be happy with a 24-7 halftime lead. That doesn't mean just run the ball, but run high-percentage stuff mixed in with the running game. Try to score but don't put the ball up for grabs. I'm big on momentum. Wentz's pass intended for Zach Ertz that Antoine Bethea picked off in the end zone really had very little chance of succeeding. As it turned out, Robinson bailed out the Eagles, blocking a Phil Dawson field-goal attempt just before halftime. But it never should have gotten to that point. There's a time to be aggressive. And a time to just be happy with a 24-7 lead.

7. Gotta give big props though to Pederson for running the ball in the second half once the Eagles built a big lead. Arizona is very good against the run. The Cardinals came in with the NFL's No. 10 rush defense and were allowing just 3.2 yards per carry and 88 rushing yards per game. But for the third straight week, Pederson showed a real commitment to the run. The backs had just 10 carries for 44 yards in the first half but had 16 carries for 114 yards in the second half, and that's the most success any team has had on the ground against the Cards this year. LeGarrette Blount, with just two carries for six yards in the first half, finished with 74 rushing yards on just 14 carries.

8. How about Kenjon Barner setting up a touchdown with a 76-yard punt return a week and a half after being out of work and living in Southern California hoping for another chance to play professional football? Barner is a veteran and knows how to take care of himself (he reported in tremendous shape) and despite not even being with a team the first few weeks of the season, he turned in a pivotal big play in that 21-point first quarter that got the Eagles going. The Eagles were down three running backs Sunday — injuries to Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey and Wendell Smallwood left Barner in a key role, and he responded with five carries for 23 yards rushing and three punt returns for 110 yards. Props to the Eagles' pro scouting staff for plucking Barner out of Orange County and to Duce Staley and Dave Fipp for getting him ready.

9. Great to see big contributions from Agholor and Smith. Agholor had the biggest game of his career, with four catches for 93 yards, including that career-long 72-yard touchdown, the longest TD catch by an Eagles wide receiver since Jordan Matthews' 78-yarder from Sam Bradford against the Cards two years ago. Agholor doesn't make that play last year, catching the ball and then putting some moves on a couple defenders on his way to the end zone. And Smith, who's been plagued by drops this year, finally showed what kind of player he is, with three catches for 70 yards, including a 59-yard TD of his own. On a quiet day from Alshon Jeffery (three catches for 31 yards), it was great to see Agholor and Smith pick up the slack.

10. You know what I flat-out love? McLeod's play to save a touchdown on what was a meaningless play late in the game. With the Eagles up 34-7 and Cards receiver J.J. Nelson about to score along the left sideline in the final seconds, McLeod ran across the field and blasted Nelson like inches before he hit the end zone. The ball came loose and bounced into and then out of the end zone, which makes it a touchback. McLeod could have easily given up on the play and nobody would have ever known. The Eagles would have won 34-14. But this is what I love about this team. McLeod didn't care about the score or how much time was left or what the situation was. He just made a play because he's programmed to make a play. He made a play because that's what he does.

Eagles-Cardinals thoughts: Slowing down Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona pass game key to victory

Eagles-Cardinals thoughts: Slowing down Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona pass game key to victory

Eagles (3-1) vs. Cardinals (2-2)
1 p.m. on FOX
Eagles -6.5 

Here’s an opponent that’s actually won some games — barely. After back-to-back contests against clubs still in search of their first victory, the Eagles host the Arizona Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 5.

The Cardinals fly into town with a 2-2 record, but those wins were hard to come by. Both required overtime and were at the expense of clubs that share just one win between them.

On paper, the Eagles sure look superior. They’re 3-1 with a clear advantage in terms of point differential, turnover ratio, run defense and just about every offensive category. They’re also in sole possession of first place in the NFC East and looking like one of the league’s ascending franchises.

In other words, there’s an expectation the Eagles will take care of business Sunday. Of course, in the NFL, wins rarely come easy.

Playing keep away
Here’s a number that may surprise some people based on coach Doug Pederson’s lopsided pass-run ratio the first two weeks of the season. The Eagles lead the NFL in time of possession, and it’s not particularly close.

The Eagles' offense has had the football an average of 35 minutes, 29 seconds per game. The next closest team, the Houston Texans, comes in a minute-and-a-half back at 33:52, while the third and fourth place teams are nearly three minutes off of that pace.

Running the football successfully the past two weeks helps. The Eagles’ ground attack is tied for third with 143.0 yards per game. However, the ability of quarterback Carson Wentz to keep the chains moving on third down has been huge as well, as the offense is converting 50.9 percent of the time — good for second in the NFL.

That’s obviously a great sign, but Wentz needs to continue picking up first downs, and most of all, play turnover-free ball Sunday. Because the last thing the Eagles can afford to do is give the Cardinals extra chances.

The Fitzgerald Factor
It’s almost impossible to talk about the Cardinals and not immediately think of Larry Fitzgerald — especially when the conversation involves the Eagles. Not only is Fitzgerald a 10-time Pro Bowl selection and future Hall of Fame player, but the 6-foot-3, 218-pound slot receiver routinely cooks the Birds.

In seven career games against the Eagles, Fitzgerald is averaging 5.9 receptions for 99.0 yards with eight touchdowns. Not coincidentally, the Cardinals are 5-2 in those meetings.

Fitzgerald is in his 14th season and 34 years old now, but still going strong. He’s coming off back-to-back 100-reception, 1,000-yard seasons and currently is on pace to eclipse said milestones again. The Eagles likely will use some combination of Patrick Robinson and Malcolm Jenkins to try to slow him down.

Pick your poison
The trouble is the Cardinals' passing attack has more than one way to beat a defense. If it’s not Fitzgerald controlling the middle of the field, it’s tremendous speed outside the numbers.

Fitzgerald has size and great hands, but Jaron Brown, John Brown and J.J. Nelson are fast, faster and faster still on the perimeters. All three can run a sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash, with John Brown officially timing at 4.34 seconds and Nelson at 4.28 seconds and the 2014 and 2015 NFL scouting combines, respectively.

The Cardinals rank second in the NFL with 292.2 passing yards per game and third with 20 completions of 20 yards or more. The Eagles rank 30th allowing 285.0 passing yards per game and have allowed five receptions of 40 yards or more — tied for most in the league. Can this secondary handle all these weapons?

Why this one could come down to the wire
Everything about this matchup potentially sets up for another nailbiter in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles' defense has been getting shredded in the final period, to the tune of 17.3 points per game in their last three. The Chiefs hung 14 on them. The Giants racked up 24. The Chargers scored 14 as well.

It’s certainly been a problem, though there’s no big secret why. The last two games, in particular, the Eagles had the lead late, forcing the other team to throw. They’ve had injuries, most notably to cornerback Ronald Darby and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, both out this week.

The Cardinals are built very similarly to the Eagles’ last two opponents, the Giants and Chargers. Arizona has no running game. The offensive line stinks. The defense is good enough to keep them in the game. And the quarterback, Carson Palmer, and his receivers can light up the scoreboard in a hurry.

There’s no magic formula. The Eagles' D is shorthanded again, and the Cardinals will need to throw the ball to score and keep up. It’s probably going to be a tightballgamee, right up until the end.

The difference this week
There is at least one notable difference between the Cardinals and the Eagles’ last two opponents. Arizona’s offensive line might be even worse, and Palmer will hold the ball and get sacked.

No quarterback in the league has been sacked more than Palmer this season — a whopping 17 times. Sixteen of those sacks have occurred in the last three weeks alone. Palmer has also thrown five interceptions while running for his life.

Starting left tackle D.J. Humphries was ruled out with a knee injury, and Alex Boone is questionable with a chest injury that limited him all week in practice. Even if Boone plays, the O-line is a sieve.

The Eagles may not have Cox, but they can get to this quarterback and force him to make mistakes. If there’s any hope of avoiding late theatrics this week, it’s the offense playing keep away from the Cardinals, and the defense pounding Palmer into submission.