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Around the NFC East: News & Notes, 8/19/12

Brian Orakpo hurt his pectoral muscle against the Bears, but should be back before the season opener. ZUMA Press/Icon SMI
As teams transition from training camp to preseason, here's the NFC East news that caught my eye this week:

Giants

  • If you were worried that the Giants' defensive line wouldn't be much good this season -- stop it. Well, unless you think the Jets o-line is really that bad. I know the Jets line is a weak spot, but the Giants just clobbered 'em.
  • Rookie RB David Wilson had a nice game against the Jets. The Giants did a good job of getting him the ball in space, which highlighted his speed and acceleration. He's still fourth on the depth chart, but at least Giants fans can see why he was the team's 1st round pick. 
  • While not as bad off as the Jets, the Giants have some offensive line worries of their own. Left tackle Will Beatty's back is a chronic problem, his backups have been less than good, and the team doesn't seem to have a Plan B. Best bet is probably to move David Diehl back over from the right side (which they did for the Super Bowl run), but that leaves them weak on the right. The primary backup at right tackle is likely Sean Locklear, who was terrible in Washington last season.
  • Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers may miss the entire season with blood clots in his leg. Hopefully he gets his health taken care of and can get back on the field. In the meantime, the Giants have good depth at D-tackle. Dwayne Hendricks figures to get first crack at filling Rogers' spot.
Eagles
  • Nnamdi Asomugha was hurt in a scary practice collision. Initially there were concerns about concussion, but the injuries appear to be limited to a cut lip and a strained neck. He got back on the practice field on Thursday. The Eagles have had a lot of relatively minor injuries in preseason. Key players have missed practice time (like Mike Kafka, Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin), but all are expected back well before the opener. Of course, they're still trying to figure out what to do at left tackle after Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles in the offseason. Free agent Demetress Bell has not impressed, and Bell's replacement, King Dunlap, hasn't looked good either.
  • U.S. Olympian Jeff Demps, a sprinter who won silver as part of the 4x100 relay team, filed the forms needed to declare himself eligible to play in the NFL. He's immediately a free agent, and the Eagles have at least some interest. Demps played running back at Florida where he excelled as a pass-catcher and return man. At just 5-7 and 190, he's little but then again, he's no smaller than Darren Sproles. Practice squad anyone?
Cowboys
  • Brandon Carr is looking like a possible free agent steal. He had two picks against the Chargers -- one of them just a tremendous play where he baited Philip Rivers into throwing the ball. Words that come to mind when watching Carr: smart, athletic, quick, hard-working. Those are good traits in a corner.
  • On the other side, Morris Claiborne had a meh preseason debut. He wasn't bad, but he didn't do anything impressive either. That may actually be a good sign. If a corner isn't getting picks, it's probably best if his name isn't called much at all.
  • Jason Witten will miss the remainder of the preseason at least with a lacerated spleen. That's an injury that's probably as gruesome as it sounds. I had a bout with pancreatitis a few years ago, and it ranks number one on my all-time "most pain I've experienced" list. (To put it in perspective, here's the rest of the top 5: 2) dislocated knee; 3) kidney stone; 4) rehabbing surgery for a torn rotator cuff; 5) the headaches that followed for weeks after hitting my head on a basketball floor.) Witten could miss time in the regular season depending on how quickly he heals.
  • The Cowboys say they don't want Chad Johnson, the receiver formally known as Ochocinco. Maybe they looked at some game tape from the past couple years and realized he's no good anymore.
Redskins
  • That weird repetitive noise you kept hearing from the north-central part of the country? That was Skins players saying, "Ouch!" Brian Orakpo and Brandon Merriweather both had to leave the game in the first quarter; Orakpo with an injury to the same pectoral muscle he tore last season, Merriweather with a knee. MRI exams on Sunday indicated that neither injury is serious. Whew!
  • The Skins offensive line was bad in pass protection Saturday night. They're missing three guys they'd planned on being starters: right guard Chris Chester, left guard Kory Lichtensteiger and right tackle Jammal Brown. They're listed in order of importance. Chester was solid last season. Lichtensteiger was considered by some to be the team's best blocker last year, but he missed most of the season with a knee injury. Brown's considered the starter, but the team's performance on the right side improved when he was replaced last season with street free agent Tyler Polumbus. Chester and Lichtensteiger are expected back before the season opener. Brown's status is still undetermined. He's trying to find a treatment that will fix the hip and avoid surgery. No luck yet.
  • The Skins secondary has to be a major concern. Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell threw for more than 200 yards in the first half. The safeties looked bad; the corners looked like they're struggling in coverage.
  • Brandon Banks did what he usually does in preseason -- he broke a big return. Last season, he was actually not very good as a kick returner. He entered camp with the instruction that he would have to win a receiving job to make the team. That's unlikely to happen -- there's just no way Banks is one of the top 5-6 receivers on the roster.
  • Alfred Morris was a surprise starter at running back Saturday night. He's a strong runner who excels at doing what works best in the zone blocking system Mike Shanahan uses: he makes a single cut and goes hard upfield. He also has that knack of falling forward when he's tackled.
  • Tim Hightower is doing more in practice lately as he recovers from a torn ACL. He's the guy they've wanted as their #1 back since they traded for him last offseason. 
  • Don't start thinking there's a QB controversy in Washington. Kirk Cousins looked good going against backups. Robert Griffin III looked so-so against starters. But Griffin is the starter, period. Cousins looks to have the makings of a solid backup if Griffin gets hurt. Otherwise, he could end up fodder in a Kevin Kolb or Matt Cassell type trade in a couple years.
  • Amusing story this week about nose tackle Chris Baker. He tore his quad last season dunking a basketball on the same day he was activated to the team's 53-man roster. The team ordered him to lose 20 pounds before this season, and he did -- arriving to camp at a svelte 331 pounds. He had a terrific training camp, and his job with the team solidified when Chris Neild tore his ACL.
  • The Washington Post had a story about Chris Cooley that will endear him to fans for life. He's been a standout tight end, of course, but at 30 years old with a growing list of injuries that have caused him to miss time, and a hefty salary -- there's been plenty of speculation that he would be released. With the Skins seeming to move on at TE, Cooley has shifted to fullback (to fill in for the injured Darrell Young). During the offseason, he apparently made it clear to the coaches that he would play any role they asked of him if it meant he could stay with the team.

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