Good morning and a happy Wednesday to you all. I hope your holiday shopping is going well enough to allow you to spend some time hanging out here on the NFC East blog today. We have another edition of the All-Division Team on the way and a number of other goodies planned. But as always, we start you off with a big plate of links.
New York Giants
Paul Schwartz caught up with Manny Martin, the Florida high school football coach responsible for turning Jason Pierre-Paul from a basketball player into a football player when Pierre-Paul didn't want to make that switch. Martin was the defensive coordinator at Deerfield Beach High School at the time and was struck by how long Pierre-Paul's arms were. "The kid could stand up and probably scratch his kneecap without even bending over. I just knew he had a body frame to be a nice defensive end." Martin knew it before Pierre-Paul did, apparently.
Antrel Rolle's New York radio appearances are getting more wide-reaching and bizarre every week. This week, he ranted against those who blamed him for Dez Bryant's wide-open touchdown catch Sunday (without explaining what did happen on the play) and said he "doesn't plan on losing to the Redskins" this Sunday. Remember, Rolle was one of the most vocally furious Giants players about the season-opening loss to Washington, saying at the time that, if the teams played each other 100 times, the Giants would win 95. He apparently now has that number at 99.
Todd Archer says that, for the Cowboys to recover and make the playoffs, they need Felix Jones to run the way DeMarco Murray was running. The issue as I see it is not whether Jones can be a full-time starter or rack up yards, but rather what happens at the end of games. That's what changed most about the Dallas run game when it switched from Jones to Murray -- the ability to grind out the clock by picking up first downs on the ground in the fourth quarter. They couldn't do it earlier in the season with Jones, they could with Murray, and now they're back to Jones again. So they'll have to show something they haven't been able to show with him as the starter in the past.
Mike Jenkins tells Calvin Watkins that the problems in the secondary are the result of communication issues, that the Cowboys have identified them and know what it is that they need to improve on. Saturday's game in Tampa Bay gives them a chance to get things right. The free-falling Bucs have lost seven games in a row, and if Dallas can't come up with a way to win that game, then their issues run too deep to fix before the end of this season.
Michael Vick says he wasn't 100 percent healthy Sunday in his return after missing three games with broken ribs. But he doesn't think that was the reason he had so many passes batted down, because as he points out, that's been happening to him all year. I don't think it's as simple as Vick being relatively short for a quarterback. Unless a quarterback's 7-foot-5, he's not going to be tall enough to consistently throw the ball over his and the other team's linemen. Quarterbacks throw through passing lanes, and one of Vick's weaknesses as a passer is that he's not consistently good at finding those.
Paul Domowitch takes a moment to step back from a year's worth of well-deserved criticism and appreciate the brilliant LeSean McCoy season that is getting lost in the Eagles' overall disappointment.
Veteran linebacker London Fletcher loves playing for the Redskins, loves his coaches and teammates and is determined to do what he can to make sure he's still in Washington when things turn around for the franchise. Jason Reid says the Redskins need to sign their veteran leader before he hits free agency at the end of this season and has a chance to change his mind. Fletcher is a major asset to the Redskins for a number of reasons, not least his play on the field. But a team that's still going to be young and building next year would do well to have a guy like this around.
John Keim's weekly Five Questions are always worth a read, and this week he looks at whether LaRon Landry and DeAngelo Hall should be back with the Redskins next year, what Willie Smith showed in his first start at tackle and a couple of other issues. I find it tough to believe the Redskins would move on from both Landry and Hall, considering all the work they need to do on the offensive side of the ball this offseason. But given Landry's health issues and the issues that bubbled to the surface with Hall this past Sunday, it's possible.