Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
So we meet again -- in the mailbag. What you guys probably don't know (or give a rat's behind about) is that I'm viewing your e-mail through a brand-new, state-of-the-art mailbag tool. I've always thought you were the most intelligent/coherent audience on the ESPN.com NFL blog network, but the new tool is making your questions seem especially brilliant.
This will serve as my vacation getaway column, so let's make it count. We've had a lot of Eagles news lately -- Brian Westbrook's ankle and Donovan McNabb's contract -- so we'll probably deal heavily with those issues. But I'm open to other ideas as well. Thanks for your undying support during these turbulent times. Our first guest is from Scotch Plains, N.J.
Lance L. needs to get something off his chest: Hey Matt, love the blog and have been reading it since the beginning. HUGE Cowboys fan so I never miss it. Your top 10 building blocks from the NFC Beast is a great idea, but I got to say, I got to say, I got to say (OK, I'm a Syracuse grad for full disclosure) NO DONAVAN MCNABB??? If he's not one of the 10 best players in the division, I'll eat my car, wheels and all.
Mosley: Lance, bon appétit! I was putting together the 10 players that would serve as the core of the team for the next three seasons. If you're deciding between Eli Manning and Donovan McNabb, you have to go with the guy who's actually won a ring. McNabb's still an above-average quarterback in the league, but in three years, I think he'll be winding things down. Manning should still be in his peak years. Thanks for your devotion to the Beast, though. You helped us make it through the lean years. Oh, and the "Building Blocks" idea came from NFC West blogger/database coordinator Mike Sando.
Dan from South Brunswick, N.J., has a wacky idea: This question is way outside of the box, but I've wondered it ever since I looked at Patrick Watkins' draft page. Why haven't the Cowboys tried him at WR at all? He's 6-5, runs a 4.4 and was a reciever in high school. It couldn't hurt with what we're looking at for WRs this year. He's an average safety at best with limited cutting ability. Can we put this kid at WR already?
Mosley: Dan, you're obviously an innovator, but it's probably too late for Watkins to make that move. And plus, the Cowboys already have a tall, thin receiver with limited cutting ability. His name is Roy Williams.
Josh in Winston Salem, the floor's yours: The NFL Network replayed the Cowboys vs. Lions game from 2007, and a stat showed on the screen that said Marion Barber led the NFL with 59 plays of over 20 yards, 19 of which were for TDs. And this is only through 12 and a half games. Even though Barber had more carries then Julius Jones, and I know he is too good to be just a fourth-quarter running back, Barber is better coming off the bench. Tashard Choice in Julius Jones' old role, Barber as the second back, with Felix Jones as the wildcard. Yay or nay?
Mosley: Nay! Josh, Tashard Choice isn't going to start for the Cowboys. If the Cowboys decide to use Barber as more of a closer, then Felix Jones will start the game. By the way, Jones told me the other day that "Smash, Dash and Tash" is what the group is going with. It was inspired by Tash, and it's been approved by Smash and Dash. I think Barber will get 15 carries per game, Jones 10 and Choice six or seven. This team needs to run the ball at least 30 times per game -- and probably more. You hear that, Jason Garrett? I know you're out there. Might want to change your handle in the comments section because "Princeton 17" is sort of obvious.
Daryl from Louisiana, what's on your mind sir? Mosley, you have Todd Collins last on your list of backup QBs in the NFC East. He is the only one on the list to take his team to the playoffs. David Carr is a former first-round pick who hasnt lived up to expectations. Kitna was on one of, if not the, worst team ever and Kolb hasn't done anything for Philly. You may want to re-evaluate your list.
Mosley: Daryl, I thought the Redskins had the best situation at backup quarterback heading into the '08 season, but I've changed my mind. Collins, 37, has gotten older and I think Carr has finally found a place where he feels comfortable. Of course, some of that has to do with not having to get sacked 10 times per game. Jon Kitna's in the same age range as Collins, but he has a lot more experience. He's a dramatic upgrade over Brad Johnson, which isn't exactly breaking news to anyone. I think Collins remains a serviceable backup, but that one playoff run, which was quite impressive, doesn't automatically put him ahead of the other guys. Perhaps I was wrong to put Kevin Kolb ahead of Collins, though.
Let's go to MJ in Boston: Matt, you're out of your mind when it comes to No. 4 on your "Building Blocks" list. You say: "[Asante Samuel's] hands down the best cornerback in the division, although Terence Newman's close when healthy. Hands down??? I wish we could debate this one live...you're nuts....Newman's better and I've explained it numerous times. Let's have a live one-on-one. You obviously have seen both of those guys play over the last few years.
Mosley: MJ, I wasn't able to find a sponsor for our "live one-on-one" but I'll keep trying. It's fairly easy to win this one, though. OK, it's spectacularly easy. The two players were drafted the same year (2003). Newman was a first-round choice and Samuel was a fourth-rounder out of Central Florida. Since then, Samuel has seven interceptions in the postseason, four of which he returned for touchdowns. He's at his best late in games -- as evidenced by his six career interceptions in the final quarter of close games (seven points or less). Newman's
still waiting on his first postseason interception, although he's certainly played on inferior teams to Samuel's Patriots and Eagles. I guess I'll need you to explain it to me one more time, MJ.
Scott from Phoenix is concerned about my support of Eli Manning: Eli is about to have an MVP season? Do you even watch the games Matt? Eli is a liability that makes far too many bone-headed plays when given the opportunity to throw. Especially without Plaxico to heave the ball up to. The Giants Super Bowl run was made possible only because they took the ball out of Eli's hands and pounded the rock. Nine times out of 10 that David Tyree pass is picked. The Giants' O-line and running game make them dangerous, not Eli.
Mosley: Scott, this year I'm planning to watch a couple games to see if any of my wild theories have any legs. I don't see Manning as a liability at all. I think he played a huge role in that Super Bowl run, and his ability to somehow escape a tackle is what kept that Tyree play alive. I have no clue why everyone wants to discount Manning's accomplishments. But everyone can have their own "Building Blocks." I'm sticking with Manning. During the '07 Super Bowl run, he completed 60 percent of his passes on 119 attempts. He averaged 212 yards passing per game and he threw for six touchdowns and one interception. Think what he could've done if Tom Coughlin hadn't taken the ball out of his hands. (Sarcasm alert for my literal pals).
Mat B. from Boston is having technical issues: Matt, I'm a die-hard Skins fan and avid reader of the Beast. I check it at least six times a day to see the updates. But my work's internet filter just started filtering out the Beast this week. Now what am I going to do at work? I was hoping to see if you had thought about a Beast emailing list or something so that us Beastians that can't read your articles off the Web site could still read them and waste time at work. Thanks for the time, Matt. Keep up the great work.
Mosley: Mat, I'd go ahead and give your two weeks' notice. Any company that short-sighted should not be trusted (kidding of course). I'm going on vacation next week, but I'll look into this e-mail list idea when I get back. Someone recently informed me that I have Twitter and Facebook accounts up and running. But if all else fails, maybe we'll take a page out of the Skip Bayless archives and deliver our mailbags via fax. Thanks for putting you career on the line for The Beast.
Reyna C. from Houston is curious about a former Red Raider: Brandon Williams and Jason Williams: Is Jason a freak and future starter or a glorified special teamer? How is he progressing? I'm a Texas Tech grad and I'm very interested in Brandon Williams. Will he make the team?
Mosley: Quite a few scouts around the league were caught off guard by the Cowboys taking Williams early in the third round. But the Cowboys love his athleticism and they envision him challenging for a starting job in his second or third season. He's an explosive player, but he's really raw at this point. As far as the Red Raider, I think he really hurt himself by coming out a year early. This guy had a chance to become the most prolific pass-rusher in the Big 12 his senior season. But he declared for the draft and then ran a solid 40 time at the combine -- for an ESPN.com blogger. That 4.95 tag will follow him around for a little while. But when he adds some strength, I think he'll be a serviceable outside linebacker. I don't see him as a starter, but he could be a valuable special-teams player.
A.J. from Henderson, Nev., wants to talk O-line: Hey Matt, love your work. I have a question for you. Assuming that they all stay healthy, which offensive line in the NFC East will perform the best in both the passing game and running game? I think it's the Eagles. With the return of Shawn Andrews and the additions of Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews, this line will be massive and two of these guys already made the Pro Bowl. Vets like center Jamal Jackson and guard Todd Herremans should continue to anchor their positions well. I think the Giants will continue to have a great offensive line, but I think the Eagles have more talent than anyone in the division. The Cowboys are third and Redskins fourth in my opinion. What's your take?
Mosley: Sounds like you've already provided a pretty solid answer. But I'm still leaning toward the Giants as having the best overall offensive line. Chris Snee has emerged as one of the best guards in the game, and David Diehl plays a solid left tackle. You also have a very solid player up the middle in Shaun O'Hara. The Eagles obviously got better with Peters on the left side, but let's not get carried away with the Andrews brothers. Shawn pretty much missed the '08 season -- first with some off-field issues and then with the back injury. We're being a little naive to think he'll pick up right where he left off as a former Pro Bowler. And it's not like the Bengals were fighting to keep the elder Andrews brother, Stacy. Also look for Nick Cole to make a run at the starting center position. Andy Reid wasn't thrilled with Jackson's play. So at this very moment, I'd go Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins on the offensive line. The Redskins face huge questions at right tackle, and left tackle Chris Samuels is coming off an injury-plagued season. Derrick Dockery makes them better, but they're still pretty thin in terms of depth.
We're taking next weekend off. The mailbag will return June 27. If you've made it to this point in the column, please take a bow.