Good morning. I hope everyone enjoyed a lovely holiday weekend and is ready for our first regular-season Tuesday. We will reveal the No. 1 player in our NFC East top 20 this morning (though by now I have to admit it's a bit anticlimactic). We'll have our first regular-season Power Rankings on the site around midday (I'm one of the voters this year). We'll have our weekly chat at noon ET, of course, and I'm at work on a number of goodies and treats for you in advance of the regular-season opener, which is ... well oh my goodness, it's tomorrow, isn't it? Excuse me while I celebrate with some New Year's Eve links.
The Redskins released their first regular-season depth chart Monday, and Evan Royster is listed as the starting running back with Roy Helu No. 2 and rookie Alfred Morris No. 3. This, of course, does not require Mike Shanahan to start Royster or give him the most carries in Sunday's season opener in New Orleans, and Royster himself has not been told whether he is starting. This remains a mystery and likely will all week and all season, as the Redskins like all three of these backs and would feel comfortable starting any of them.
The Redskins are something close to fully healthy in advance of the opener, with linebacker Brian Orakpo and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger set to return from preseason injuries. Still a question mark about safety Brandon Meriweather, and Tyler Polumbus is the starting right tackle with Jammal Brown still hurt, but the Redskins have reason to feel good about the health of their roster going into the season.
Jason Witten should find out today whether he'll be able to play tomorrow night against the Giants after missing the past several weeks due to a lacerated spleen. Rainer Sabin believes the absence of Witten would have a "devastating" effect on the Cowboys, and I think he could be right. Whatever you think of John Phillips, Witten has just been too valuable a guy for the Cowboys' offense and would be impossible to fully replace.
Tony Romo may have work to do yet on the outside perception of him, but inside the Cowboys' locker room, there's no doubt about the leadership role Romo takes. Todd Archer explains.
Jason Babin missed all of the preseason games due to a calf injury and has been, by his own admission, "a little irritable, a little cranky" about it. He says he's all set for Sunday's opener in Cleveland, and as impressive as Philadelphia's pass rush has looked all summer, it can look forward to adding its 2011 sack leader for the regular season.
Running back LeSean McCoy has emerged as a young leader of sorts as he's ascended to the role of workhorse running back in the Philadelphia offense. He's conscious of what that means, and of the recent tradition of which he's a part, and he's eager to continue to add to that tradition in 2012.
New York Giants
It is possible that the Giants will have starting left tackle Will Beatty back for tomorrow night's season opener, but Sean Locklear, who's been playing there while Beatty missed preseason time with a back injury, is preparing as though he's the starter. As we've discussed, I'd be less concerned about the effect a left tackle question has on Eli Manning, who knows how to avoid sacks and get rid of the ball quickly, than on the running game, which is looking to be better than 32nd in the league this year and needs offensive line improvement in order to be so.
The Giants are aware that the Cowboys have upgraded at cornerback since the last time they played them and their fullbacks spent the night hurdling Terence Newman. In order to prepare for the challenge the new corners present, the Giants are asking Morris Claiborne's LSU teammate, Rueben Randle, for tips on how to attack the rookie.