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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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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.