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Need to Know: Enemy Intel—Can the Cowboys afford to draft Romo's replacement at No. 4?

Need to Know: Enemy Intel—Can the Cowboys afford to draft Romo's replacement at No. 4?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 28, 10 days before the start of NFL free agency.

Enemy Intel: A spin around the NFC East and more

On Sundays we’re going to take a look around at what is going on the NFC East including an angle on the Redskins plus what’s up with another team that is on Washington’s 2016 schedule. We’ll try it for a while; if it’s fun and you readers find it interesting we’ll keep doing it.

The East

The Eagles made a smart move in re-signing S Malcolm Jenkins—Philadelphia gave Jenkins a four-year extension worth $35 million last week. Jenkins, signed by the Eagles as a free agent in 2014, is coming off of a Pro Bowl selection in 2015. He has five interceptions in his two years in Philly, returning two of them for touchdowns. The drawback to the extension is the wear and tear on Jenkins; he turns 29 before the season is out and he has seven seasons at a very physical position under his belt.

Cowboys’ Jason Garrett doesn’t have much to say about DE Greg Hardy—It’s apparent that the Cowboys coach is counting down the days until March 9, when the names of his team and Hardy are no longer associated with each other. At the NFL Combine, Garrett was asked about the status of Hardy, who had six sacks in 12 games but just 1.5 in the Cowboys’ last six games and created a lot of distractions along the way. The coach’s response was a frosty, “Greg Hardy’s a free agent.” With Hardy gone, at least if Garrett has anything to say about it, and Randy Gregory suspended for the first four games after he failed four (four!) drug tests in 2015, the Cowboys may have to look for a pass rusher with their top draft pick, No. 4 overall, rather than trying to get Tony Romo’s successor.

Giants’ TE Larry Donnell may have career-ending neck injury—When you complain about an NFL player trying to get as much money in a contract as he possibly can, keep this story in mind. Donnell missed the last half of the season with a neck injury and it may end his career at the age of 27. There is no definitive word but Donnell has not yet been cleared for football activities. Giants GM Jerry Reese said that “hopefully” Donnell will be able to play again but only time will tell. The 6-6 tight end has eight touchdown catches in his last 24 games.

Redskins want Matt Jones to step up—When Scot McCloughan and the rest of the organization drew up their plans last year there was hope that at this time they would have full confidence that Jones could move right in to the starting running back job. Four lost fumbles and a couple of injuries later the hope is still there but the full confidence is missing. Both McCloughan and Jay Gruden said that if Jones took care of ball security and health he’d be fine. But even if he fixes those problems he’ll need to improve on his average of 3.4 yards per carry.

Around the NFL

Ravens and QB Joe Flacco making progress in contract talks—Flacco has a 2016 salary cap hit of $28.55 million and it’s causing a sticky situation for Baltimore’s ability to re-sign its own players and shop to improve the team in 2016. The Ravens and Flacco’s agent are in negotiations to reduce that number but it’s not easy. A simple restructure that would reduce his cap hit this year and increase it in future years is dicey because his cap hit is already $31.15 million next year. An extension is the most likely solution, a deal that will have the 31-year-old Flacco under contract well past his 35th birthday. No doubt the Redskins have an eye on this situation; they want to structure a new deal for Kirk Cousins in a way that avoids massive cap hits in the out years.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 49 days ago. It will be about 196 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 10; Redskins offseason workouts start 50; 2016 NFL draft 60

In case you missed it

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Adrian Peterson continues surprising run in Redskins' win over Cowboys

Adrian Peterson continues surprising run in Redskins' win over Cowboys

LANDOVER, Md. -- With 22 starters comprising offensive and defensive players, plus another faction handling special teams, football is the ultimate team sport.

Now imagine where the 2018 Washington Redskins find themselves if the front office never brings in Adrian Peterson for that mid-preseason workout. Even Jamie Lee Curtis finds that frightening.

Peterson’s return to football glory continued with 99 rushing yards on 24 carries in Washington’s 20-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys Sunday evening.

“I won’t say we wouldn’t be as good in the run game, but, yeah,” left tackle Trent Williams said of his former University of Oklahoma teammate.

“Obviously having [Adrian], I won’t say it’s everything, but it’s almost everything,” Williams continued. His eyes widened as the Pro Bowl lineman pondered the potential downside of this offense without the future Hall of Famer. That’s a dark timeline.

Peterson’s Redskins career now spans six regular-season games. Sunday’s display of power in tight spaces and speed when daylight exists wasn’t a one-off. In those six games, Peterson rushed for at least 96 yards four times including the last two games despite playing with a painful shoulder.

“I’m feeling good, man, we just got a W,” the smiling running back said from behind the podium inside the media room at his newish home stadium. “That makes everything feel a lot better. I feel better than I did last week, I’ll say that.”

Washington felt concerned enough about its running attack following the second preseason game to scour the free agent market. Peterson arriving at Redskins Park in August generated the expected “Whoa” from the casual NFL fans, who picture the player hammering silly defenders daring to tackle him. That player no longer existed. At least that’s what many assumed.

Peterson last topped 1,000 yards or 4.0 yards per rush in 2015. Injuries and inefficiency headlined his 2017 stops in New Orleans and Arizona. Running backs capable of carrying an offense aren’t just lying around for the taking like a rogue penny on a sidewalk. Yet, there was Peterson, waiting for a team to show interest. After losing Derrius Guice with a season-ending knee injury and recognizing the in-house options were not enough, the Redskins called.

 “We didn’t have many expectations,” Jay Gruden said after the Redskins improved to 4-2 and took a 1 ½ game lead in the NFC East. “We weren’t expecting him to be on our football team until we had a couple of injuries. Then we got him. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I know he looked great in that workout.”

That workout led to a signing and almost simultaneously, the starting gig. Now it’s hard contemplating anyone else in those early down and short yardage scenarios. Peterson had runs of 23 and 20 yards against the Cowboys. The latter help set up one of two Dustin Hopkins field goals. His overall production helped move the chains in yet another game where the Alex Smith-led passing game lacked oomph.

This random road to Redskins Park is why Peterson’s renaissance feels shocking to many with one significant exception.

“No, not at all. I think everyone else around is surprised. I’m not,” Peterson said. “I expect greatness from myself. That’s why I put the work in. God has blessed with me this talent. A lot of people see, and a lot of people don’t. … Just keep confidence in myself. When I’m presented with my opportunity, I’m going to take advantage of it every Sunday.”

Peterson is taking advantage of this opportunity with the Redskins because necessity is the mother of invention. It turns out Washington’s running attack needed a reboot more than the running back required a makeover.

“There are not many guys like [Adrian] walking around the street,” Williams said, “and luckily, we found a diamond in the rough.”

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Josh Norman rocks Bobby Boucher jersey following Redskins' win over Cowboys

Josh Norman rocks Bobby Boucher jersey following Redskins' win over Cowboys

Josh Norman just took the jersey game to a whole new level.

Prior to the Redskins' gutsy 20-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Norman showed up to FedEx Field repping a Bobby Boucher Bourbon Bowl jersey from the iconic Adam Sandler movie "The Waterboy." 

He also repped the jersey following the win in the locker room with the media.

Many believed it was a shot at Giants' Odell Beckham Jr., who made comments this week about disliking water. But according to Norman, he just really likes the South Central Louisiana Mud Dogs.

Norman is known for repping a soccer jersey or two following a game, but he has everyone else beat this week.

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