Daily Archives: September 21st, 2011

HOMERS POV: Washington Post’s Rick Maese

IRVING, Texas — The Redskins are atop the NFC East with a 2-0 record, which surprises many. In this week’s feature on the upcoming opponent, we ask five questions to Rick Maese of the Washington Post.

In Denver, he was the Mastermind. How is Mike Shanahan viewed in D.C. in his second year?

Maese – The same. Mike Shanahan arrived in Washington and even though he tried to turn the franchise around as quickly as possible, he knows it was a multi-year process. In his first season, the team won only six games, but Shanahan was able to understand his players better and identify his offseason needs. So while they implemented their new schemes a year ago, this season fans are seeing some of the rewards. There have been some obstacles — see: Haynesworth, Albert — but fans are still lined up faithfully behind Shanahan. At the very least, they figure it’s better than Dan Snyder making football decisions.

In Rex we trust? No? Maybe? How did the win the job and how will he keep the job?

Maese – There was a lot of buzz around John Beck, but Shanahan promised an open competition and both quarterbacks say it truly was a fair contest. Put simply: Grossman outplayed Beck in the preseason. The numbers bear this out, and we saw it most days in training camp. Shanahan doesn’t need Grossman to be John Elway. The coach has confidence in his system and simply wants Grossman to be able to execute the offense. That’s not something he felt he had last year. If Grossman does stumble, Shanahan has also said he’s fully confident in Beck, prompting some speculation that the team might employ a short hook.

Is Brian Orakpo turning into a DeMarcus Ware?

Maese – The Redskins would love for that to be the case. Orakpo is in his third year and is hoping to make a big leap this year. The team used its first round draft pick on Ryan Kerrigan, a defensive end who’s converted to linebacker. While they want more pressure from the opposite side, coaches think the addition of Kerrigan will also free of Orakpo. Teams can’t focus solely on him now. Both have looked good thus far.

As far as the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry, how is it viewed by the players? How is it viewed by the fans? I say that because I think the players look at Philly and New York as the bigger rival but most of the fans view Washington as the biggest rival?

Maese – I think a rivalry in pro sports almost always means more to fans than players. Unless you have players who are from the area — and the Redskins do have a couple — it’s difficult for them to get fully invested. They want to win every single Sunday. If they want this game a bit more, it’s because the Cowboys are a division opponent. For those outside the locker room, Dallas Week is still a fun week because there are so many Cowboys fans in the area. But in the locker room, it seems the Cowboys are viewed similarly to the Eagles and Giants.Walker to the roster last week to fill a void at corner. He got more snaps than second-year corner Bryan McCann, who returned kickoffs only in the Week 2 victory over San Francisco.

As Newman has rehab from his groin injury all he would say about his recovery is to ask his handlers, meaning the training staff. In the last week, Newman has looked good in rehab running at full speed during some sessions.


Two Giants’ alleged fake injuries to slow down STL no-huddle


Click on picture to watch video of the NYJ fake injuries.

The St. Louis Rams’ offense had a nice no-huddle rhythm early in Monday night’s game against the New York Giants. Then two Giants defenders suddenly and suspiciously dropped to the ground with injuries.

As a result, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said Tuesday the team will file a complaint with the NFL office.

“That’ll go on the list of things we’re going to send in,” Spagnuolo said. “I think the league is looking into it. I’ll let it run its course from that point of view.”

Giants coach Tom Coughlin also met with reporters Tuesday and had to explain his thoughts on the alleged fake injuries to safety Deon Grant and linebacker Jacquian Williams. Both players quickly re-entered the game, which New York won 28-16.

“Well, from my standpoint on the sideline, I thought (Grant) was cramped,” Coughlin said. “They were in a no-huddle situation, a hurry-up deal. I just thought he cramped at that time or definitely had something that was bothersome to him. … “When I looked out on the field, all I saw was the injured player.”

When asked for a comment on the situation, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello pointed to the league rule that states: “The Competition Committee deprecates feigning injuries, with subsequent withdrawal, to obtain a timeout without penalty. Coaches are urged to cooperate in discouraging this practice. If a player or club admits to it, the action would be subject to discipline.”

Rams quarterback Sam Bradford believes it was obvious the Giants were just buying time and trying to slow down St. Louis.

“They couldn’t get subbed, they couldn’t line up,” Bradford said. “Someone said, ‘Someone go down, someone go down,’ so someone just went down and grabbed a cramp.”

HOMERS POV: The Washington Post (Bowen)

Stephen Bowen. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Stephen Bowen: Cowboys don’t ‘miss a beat’ without Tony Romo

If Dallas quarterback Tony Romo is unable play Monday, it’s not necessarily a huge advantage for the Washington defense, says Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen.

“I don’t think they miss a beat at all, honestly,” said Bowen, who signed with the Redskins as a free agent in July after spending the first five seasons of his career with the Cowboys. “When Jon Kitna was in there, he did a great job. A lot of guys respond to him. I think he honestly could probably start for a lot of teams in this league still.

“If Romo is to get hurt or anything like that, we can’t just be lackadaisical and say Kitna can’t get it done. I think he’s still a great quarterback.”

Stephen Bowen. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post) Bowen will be coming out of the visiting team tunnel at Cowboys Stadium for the first time Monday. He downplayed the rivalry a bit, though, saying it’s simply important for the Redskins to pick up a second division win.

“It’ll be different but we got one goal, that’s to come out with the win,” Bowen said. “I’m real excited to get down there and prove a point.”

Regardless of which quarterback the Cowboys use, Bowen says he and his linemates will have to be ready. Romo suffered a fractured rib and collapsed lung in the Cowboys’ come-from-behind overtime win over the 49ers. While Dallas Coach Jason Garrett said Monday he thought Romo would play against the Redskins, team owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday he wasn’t sure. It depends on how Romo tolerates pain, Jones said.

“Romo’s a mentally tough guy. He’s a good guy to play around,” Bowen said. “He studies a lot of film. He gets a bad rap sometimes, but I was around the guy. I’ve seen him work hard every day. To see him come back in the game [last Sunday], it wasn’t surprising to me.”

Though the Cowboys have a revamped offensive line, Bowen said he has no problem sharing any information he can with his Redskins teammates and coaches. He’s plenty familiar and still friendly with several Dallas playmakers, including DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Tashard Choice.

“This is a competition,” he said. “I’m doing whatever it takes to win.”

WAS CB wants to target Tony Romo’s ribs, Felix Jones’ shoulder

ASHBURN, Va. — Tony Romo has a fractured rib. DeAngelo Hall sees it as a bull’s-eye.

The Washington Redskins cornerback said Wednesday he’s hoping the Dallas Cowboys quarterback plays when the NFC East rivals meet Monday night — if only for the chance to inflict more damage.

“Absolutely. I want to get a chance to put my helmet on whatever’s hurt,” Hall said. “Romo’s ribs — I’m going to be asking for some corner blitzes. If I know Felix Jones’ shoulder’s hurt, I’m not going to cut him. I’m definitely going to try to hit him up high, so that’s just part of it.

“If you know something’s wrong with an opponent, you’re going to try to target in on that. We’re going to try to definitely get as many hits on that team as possible.”

The Cowboys had an extra day off Wednesday, but Dallas coach Jason Garrett told Redskins reporters on a conference call that he remains hopeful that Romo will play against Washington.

“I think he’s doing fine,” Garrett said. “He got knocked around a little bit on Sunday, but he’s getting his rehab and hopefully he’ll be ready to play. We’ll take it day-to-day, the next few days.”

Garrett gave no specific updates on the other notable Cowboys injuries. Receiver Miles Austin aggravated a hamstring injury Sunday, starting center Phil Costa reinjured his right knee, receiver Dez Bryant has been out with a bruised thigh, and running back Jones has the ailing shoulder.

Hall was asked if Romo should just go ahead and put a target on the rib that was broken.

“He ain’t got to,” Hall said. “I already know where it is. We’ll be all right. We find it. I’ll find it.”

Wire reports

Could the Cowboys go with rookie DeMarco Murray over Tashard Choice?

If Cowboys starting running back Felix Jones can’t play Monday in the home opener against Washington or is limited because of his dislocated shoulder, don’t be surprised to see much more of rookie DeMarco Murray than Tashard Choice in the backfield.

The Cowboys were pleased with what they saw out of Murray, the third-round draft pick out of Oklahoma, on the team’s game-tying drive to end the fourth quarter. Murray showed great leg churn and made yards after first contact.

Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete said last week that they were going with Choice on third downs to help pick up blitzes and protect quarterback Tony Romo. Peete said he didn’t want to throw Murray into that role yet as he continues to learn the Cowboys’ offense and adapt to life in the NFL. After two games, Murray has had a chance to get his feet wet and could be used more on third downs now with Choice fading into the background as he continues to struggle running the ball. Choice has only nine yards on eight carries this season.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he’s seen improvement from Murray.

“His comfort level playing in our offense both on first and second down, and on third down certainly has improved,” Garrett said. “I think he’s done some good things with the opportunities he’s gotten.”

Also, look for Murray to become the Cowboys’ primary kickoff returner now after they cut SMU-ex Bryan McCann on Tuesday to make room for the re-signing of wide receiver Laurent Robinson. Murray did well returning kickoffs at Oklahoma.

By Brandon George / Reporter

HOMERS POV: The Washington Post

Key areas to monitor entering Dallas Week


The Washington Redskins get back to work Wednesday following two days off, and now they begin preparing for the Dallas Cowboys, whom they face Monday night in Texas.

The Redskins are going for their first 3-0 start since 2005, and will aim to remain perfect in the division.

Washington navigated several miscues on Sunday and managed to pull off the win, but still need improvement in several key spots.

Here are five areas to keep an eye on this week:

Banged up secondary – Will strong safety LaRon Landry make his debut after missing the first two games with a strained right hamstring? Washington could certainly use one of their top playmakers against the Cowboys, who are a pass-first team. The Redskins became even thinner in the secondary on Sunday when starting right cornerback Josh Wilson and nickel back Kevin Barnes both went down with injuries. Mike Shanahan said he’d have an update on both corners on Thursday. Backup safety DeJon Gomes (the only reserve behind Oshiomogho Atogwe and Reed Doughty) also left the game with an injury.

Red zone execution – Expect a lot of talk about this area this week after the Redskins were unspectacular inside the 20 on Sunday. Shanahan said that the team will continue to work on the areas that they aren’t very strong in, and this is one of them. Washington won’t always be able to win games despite struggles in scoring position.

Pass protection – The Redskins will face another team that likes to bring the pressure, and left tackle Trent Williams will have to be at his best as he matches up with DeMarcus Ware. Teams have been able to get to the quarterback by bringing pressure up the middle. The Redskins need to shore that up to help save Rex Grossman, who has been taking some licks.

 Cowboys health – This is one banged up team. Quarterback Tony Romo’s status is in doubt, running back Felix Jones is playing with a separated shoulder, and the Cowboys could be without both of their top receivers – Miles Austin and Dez Bryant – and the list goes on.

Roy Helu’s role – Look for the rookie to be worked into the gameplan more following his strong outing on Sunday. Tim Hightower remains the workhorse, but now Helu showed he doesn’t have to completely shoulder the load. Everyday is another proving ground for the Nebraska product, Shanahan said. His contributions on blitz pickups this week will be just as important as running and catching the ball.

// By Mike Jones | 07:00 AM ET, 09/21/2011

SNAGGED: Former Dallas Cowboys official now with San Francisco 49ers

At least one person at Candlestick Park was conflicted about who to root for at last weekend’s Cowboys-49ers match up.

Jack Hill, Cowboys Stadium’s former construction manager and former general manager, is now on the 49ers payroll. He’s been in the Bay Area for about three weeks now, working on the team’s new stadium planned for Santa Clara.

Hill announced his departure from the Cowboys a few months ago and said he wanted to stick around this area. But he said the appeal of building another large sports stadium — one of his specialties — was too great. For those not familiar with Hill, he also shepherded construction of the Rangers Ballpark and American Airlines Center and worked on Miller Park for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Cowboys officials said they only expected Hill to stick around for a couple of years after the new stadium opened before returning to construction. Hill’s tenure ended with some bumpy times related to Super Bowl XLV in February. A contractor supervised by the Cowboys was unable to finish all the additional seating in time for the game, which left several thousand with seats or shuffled to other sections. There is currently a federal lawsuit pending against the NFL, Cowboys and others related to the seating problems.

The 49ers’ nearly $1 billion stadium is scheduled to open in 2014 or 2015.

SNAGGED: Cowboys’ South Beach branch adds ex-Dallas DL Igor Olshansky

MIAMI — Defensive lineman Igor Olshansky and cornerback Nate Jones have signed with the Miami Dolphins, who terminated the contracts of running back Larry Johnson and tight end Dante Rosario.

Tuesday’s acquisitions shore up a defense that struggled in the first two games, both losses.

Olshansky has started 98 games in seven seasons, including 14 for Dallas last year, when he had 38 tackles and no sacks. The Cowboys cut him just before this season.

Jones played with Miami in 2008-09 and spent the 2010 season with the Denver Broncos, who released him in August. The eighth-year veteran has 10 career starts.

Johnson, a two-time Pro Bowl running back who sat out most of last season, played only briefly in two weeks with Miami.

Dallas Cowboys’ Felix banged up, Choice ready

IRVING, Texas — Last week head coach Jason Garrett told his players the story of Wally Pipp, the former New York Yankee who lost his spot in the lineup to a youngster named Lou Gehrig.

Today, “Wally Pipp” is a verb in sports vernacular that means getting replaced while sidelined by injury. Garrett’s story wasn’t a warning to his banged-up players. It was simply a famous example of a player (Gehrig) seizing opportunity.

Running back Tashard Choice says Garrett’s favorite phrase is “next starter up.” Choice could find himself in a familiar role if Felix Jones (shoulder) is out or limited next Monday against the Redskins.

“He doesn’t even call you a backup,” Choice said. “That’s how he sees it because he understands the NFL, how people get hurt all the time.”

Jones went in and out of the lineup Sunday against the 49ers and was unable to finish the game due to a dislocated shoulder. At this point, the Cowboys are hopeful he’ll be able to play.

Choice, who has filled in for Jones and ex-Cowboy Marion Barber since 2008, had five carries for five yards and two catches for 24 yards. Rookie DeMarco Murray added six carries for 21 yards.

“Same situation,” Choice said. “If I get a chance on a big stage again, Monday Night Football, time to perform.”

Choice said his biggest challenge is conditioning. A calf injury sidelined him for most of training camp, and a swollen knee sidelined him for the preseason finale. He’s healthy now, but not quite in the shape he wants to be.

BANDWAGON: Another “4th & Long” contestant catches on in CIN

On Sunday, Jesse Holley put an end to the jokes about 4th & Long, Michael Irvin’s reality show that aimed to find a player for the Cowboys.

After coming to the team seemingly as a publicity stunt long shot, he made a huge play to beat the 49ers and legitimize both the show and his presence on the roster once and for all, a 77-yard catch and run that set up Dan Bailey’s game-winning field goal on the Cowboys’ first overtime possession.

If there was a stigma surrounding the players on the Spike TV show, it’s gone now, as the Cincinnati Bengals on Tuesday signed another former contestant of the series, which ran just one season, in 2009.

Following Sunday’s season-ending injury to wide receiver Jordan Shipley, the Bengals called up the 5-7, 175-pound Andrew Hawkins from their practice squad. The 24-year old had been with Montreal in the Canadian Football League the last two seasons.

Hawkins was one of four finalists on the show, along with defensive backs Eddie Moten and Ahmaad Smith.

The series began with 12 contestants after a national casting call.

ROSTER: Dallas Cowboys re-sign Robinson, cut McCann

Wide Receiver Miles Austin is expected to  miss at least one game with a strained hamstring. He could possibly miss two  games and be out until after the bye week. As a result, the Cowboys re-signed  receiver Laurent Robinson, who signed before the Jets game but then injured a  hamstring in his first practice. He was cut last week when the Cowboys re-signed  fullback Tony Fiammetta. But the Cowboys needed to bring back Robinson because  the uncertainty surrounding Austin and receiver Dez Bryant, who missed the 49ers  game with a thigh bruise.

The Cowboys cut cornerback Bryan McCann  to make room for Robinson.

“He’s ready to go. He’ll be out there,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said  Tuesday on his local radio show on 105.3 The Fan. “He’s someone that we [believe  has] a lot of promise, but we won’t go outside our roster at receiver for  anybody that will help us in a ballgame. Of course, we are really pleased with  the way [Jesse] Holley stepped up.”

RELATED: Cowboys Cut McCann; Re-Sign WR Robinson

The Cowboys have waived defensive back Bryan McCann, one of the only healthy cornerbacks on the roster in the season opener and a player who provided two of the most exciting plays in team history last season.

But in an attempt to make room for wide receiver Laurent Robinson, who was signed two weeks ago and then cut last week, the Cowboys needed to trim a spot. And with Terence Newman now expected to return to practice this week and possibly play against the Redskins on Monday night, the cornerback position got a little heavy once again.

Apparently, the club saw enough from veteran Frank Walker, who played his first game with the Cowboys last week in San Francisco.
But McCann’s release is somewhat surprising considering he was the team’s primary kick returner and was the gunner on punt coverage and had a key position on the kickoff team as well.

McCann was forced into action against the Jets when Newman was out, Orlando Scandrick went down and Mike Jenkins was in and out of the game. Last year, McCann had a 101-yard interception return against the Giants and then a 97-yard punt return against the Lions in the next week.

As for Robinson, the four-year veteran was signed in Week One when Miles Austin’s hamstring injury kept him from practicing. Robinson also suffered a minor hamstring injury and didn’t play against the Jets. He was then cut the next week to make room for fullback Tony Fiammetta.

Now Robinson is back as Austin is likely out this week and possibly the Oct. 2 game against Detroit with the same hamstring injury.

Dallas Cowboys Jenkins says Holley has pushed, from the start

Jesse Holley came to the NFL and the Cowboys through a back door – by winning  a reality show.

But cornerback Mike Jenkins knew early on that the new receiver had a  legitimate shot at sticking. He said two years ago, Holley was tough competition  in practice.

“I gave Jesse props a couple years back when I went to the Pro Bowl,” Jenkins  said. “I was going against Jesse pretty much every day, so I know what kind of  talents he brings to the table.”

Holley finally made a splash last week when he caught a 77-yard pass to set  up Dan Bailey’s game-winning field goal in the 27-24 overtime victory at San  Francisco. Holley caught his first three NFL passes in the game.

“Jesse’s a good guy. He’s a good person to have on your team,” Jenkins said. “He’s always going to work hard, no matter what. He knows his role on the team.  He kept pushing until his number was called. I think he did a great job when  they called it.”

Dallas Cowboys CB Terence Newman set to make ’11 debut

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman, who has missed the first two regular-season games with a groin injury, said on Twitter he expects to return for this week’s game.

“I’m back this week and that’s all I’m gonna say,” Newman tweeted late Monday night.

Newman, who suffered the injury Aug. 3, battled a nagging rib injury toward the end of the 2010 season but didn’t miss any games. Newman finished with five pass breakups and three interceptions the final three weeks of the season.

The return of the 33-year-old Newman helps solidify the cornerback position, which has been in turmoil this season because of injuries to projected Week 1 starters Mike Jenkins and Newman.

Jenkins suffered a stinger early in training camp, but he recovered in time for the season opener only to sustain a hyperextended knee prior to the Week 1 loss to the New York Jets. Jenkins also suffered a bruised shoulder in that game.

Orlando Scandrick, who started in place of Newman, suffered a high-ankle sprain vs. the Jets and is out at least another two weeks.

The Cowboys signed veteran Frank Walker to the roster last week to fill a void at corner. He got more snaps vs. the 49ers than second-year corner Bryan McCann, who only returned kickoffs in the Week 2 victory over San Francisco.

Newman looked good running at full speed during some rehab sessions last week, but the Cowboys held him out as a precaution.

NFC East: Rising and falling stock


1. Quarterbacks, like flies. Serious injuries to the Dallas Cowboys’ Tony Romo and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Michael Vick have called into question the status of each star quarterback for this week’s games, potentially leaving those teams in the hands of Jon Kitna and Mike Kafka for key divisional matchups. The ability of the offensive lines in Dallas and Philadelphia to protect their quarterbacks was a question mark going into the season, and whenever they can get back on the field it’s going to be important for them to be better protected from hits than they have been so far.

2. Giants’ secondary. Sure, they won the game on “Monday Night Football” against the Rams, but the Giants certainly didn’t inspire any confidence along the way. Tom Coughlin must be hoping his brief benching of Aaron Ross inspires Ross to play better, because they need more from him. He may be overexposed as a starter, but the Giants don’t have a better option, at least until Prince Amukamara is back. And even once that happens, Amukamara will be a rookie who hasn’t practiced and has a screw in his foot. Ross has to play like an NFL starter or the Giants will continue to give up yards downfield.

3. Tony Romo bashing. Does any player inspire more extreme opinions than the Cowboys’ quarterback? A week ago, everybody was wondering if they’d ever win another game with goofy, clumsy Tony at quarterback. This week, he leads a comeback with broken ribs and he’s a super tough guy everybody loves. Surely, this will swing back and forth between these two extremes for the rest of the season and perhaps Romo’s career. But step back and look at the overall numbers, and it’s easy to calm down and realize the Cowboys have a special talent playing quarterback for them. Sunday only helped prove that again.


1. Jeremy Maclin. Yeah, sure, he dropped the pass that would have extended the game late and given the Eagles a chance to win. But it also would have been his 14th catch of the game, and he had 171 receiving yards. After a quiet Week 1 that followed all of the health concerns he had in the offseason, people wondered if Maclin could be the impact guy the Eagles needed him to be in the passing game. But he clearly answered those questions with a dazzling Sunday night performance.

2. Rex Grossman and the Redskins’ offense. One week can be a fluke. Two weeks gets your attention. And yeah, it was against a weak Arizona defense, but what jumps out at me is the efficiency with which the Redskins’ offense runs. Grossman is spreading it around to six, seven, eight different receivers. They have depth at running back to support Tim Hightower if he wears down, as he did after a heavy first-half workload Sunday. And everybody seems invested in making the thing work with no egos. The schedule remains pretty soft for the Redskins for much of the year, and if Grossman can stay away from mistakes (or keep his head and recover from them as well as he did Sunday), this offense could be one of the surprises of the league.

3. Dan Bailey. The Cowboys’ rookie kicker had a rough start to the game, missing a 21-yard field goal attempt. But he hit the big one at the end of regulation to tie it and the chip shot to win it in overtime. Anything that helps the Cowboys’ confidence in their kicking game is a good thing for Dallas, especially as it looks as if they could be playing these heart-stopping affairs all year — or at least until they’re fully healthy, whenever that may be.

Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo named NFC Player of the Week

Tony Romo, who suffered a cracked rib and punctured lung in the Cowboys’ overtime win over the 49ers, has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

The Cowboys quarterback completed a 77-yard pass to Jesse Holley in overtime to set up Dan Bailey’s game-winning field goal. This is Romo’s fifth career NFC Offensive Player of the Week and first since his efforts against Green Bay in 2007 earned him the honor.

The injuries limited Romo throughout the game at San Francisco — he suffered the fractured rib in the first quarter and missed most of the third. But he returned and finished with 345 yards on 20-of-33 passing and two touchdowns. He also extended his club-record streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 20 and has reached 300 yards passing in both games this season.

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