With the week two of the NFL season this weekend, there are headlines across the NFC East. Let’s take a look at what’s going on with all of the New York Giants division rivals in this week’s Around the NFC East.
Jay Gruden returns to the podium after today’s practice. He gave some injury updates, and also discussed getting over the loss to the Eagles. Gruden and the Redskins will be travelling to the West Coast for the first time this year, and will be facing former Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay, now head coach of the Rams.
WR Josh Doctson was limited at practice. "Just tight" with hamstring and "precautionary" Jay Gruden says. DJ Swearinger was also limited.— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) September 13, 2017
Josh Doctson (hamstring) and DJ Swearinger (back) were both limited #Redskins— Master Tesfatsion (@MasterTes) September 13, 2017
It’s clear safety D.J. Swearinger is the vocal leader on the team. He does a lot of talking — before the play, after the play, on the sideline. Wednesday, in the team’s first practice since its season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Swearinger took the time to address the team in an attempt to motivate players before the Redskins began individual drills.
“I think everybody is still smarting a little bit,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said. “We should be. I am, at least. But it’s time to get over it. I think D.J. just wanted to give them a little kick in the rear, make sure we are working toward our first win and not trying to talk about what we didn’t do or feeling sorry for ourselves about the last one that is already gone. I think that is the one thing you have to do after a loss. You have to correct the mistakes and then you have got to move forward. This is what we are trying to do here, and I think that was the message.”
The big news item is that starting left tackle Jason Peters fully participated in practice. Peters suffered a groin injury during Week 1 and couldn’t finish the game despite trying to return. He told reporters he expects to play in Week 2 and he seems to be on track to do so.
Ronald Darby was one of the two Eagles players who did NOT participate in practice. Philadelphia best cornerback is reportedly expected to be out four to six weeks. 2017 third round pick Rasul Douglas could be forced into a bigger role with Darby out.
Backup defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao also missed practice. If he can’t play, the Eagles will likely activate summer standout rookie Elijah Qualls.
Rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey was somehow limited in practice. This is a huge concern because now he might not play on Sunday! (The joke here is he would’ve been a healthy scratch anyway.)
For the Chiefs, former Eagles starting defensive tackle Bennie Logan didn’t practice on Wednesday. That’s the most noteworthy thing on their injury report.
The subject of Eagles head coach Doug Pederson's job security has been a hot topic over the past two weeks in the aftermath of Michael Lombardi's comments that he is not qualified for the position and a report that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is angling for the job behind the scenes.
Schwartz came out and adamantly denied any speculation that he's gunning for Pederson's job on Tuesday, but that hasn't stopped the chatter about whether or not Pederson is on sturdy footing even after a Week 1 victory to start his second season on the job.
Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian suggested that at some point this offseason, Pederson was in fact on thin-ice.
"There were rumors emanating from Philadelphia that perhaps coach Peterson was on thin ice," Polian said Tuesday on Sirius XM's NFL Radio. "It was told to me by people within the business. That would lead me to believe, that that's emanating not from the building, but from the agent community. By the way, of all the people that you mentioned, that talk, it's the agent community that does 95 percent of it."
Pederson, of course, finished 7-9 in his rookie season while developing rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and fielding a team without right tackle Lane Johnson for 10 games.
One of the best things about the start of the NFL season is how so many preseason predictions and expectations get blown absolutely apart. Remember when the New England Patriots were going to go 19-0? And the Los Angeles Rams were going to struggle putting up points? Of course, we all knew that Alex Smith, Sam Bradford, and Jared Goff would have the three highest passer ratings after the first week’s games.
The Dallas Cowboys joined in the fun. Prior to the season, just about everyone anticipated that their offense would pick up right where it left off at the end of the 2016 season, with Dak Prescott lighting it up and Ezekiel Elliott running with a chip on his shoulder due to his suspension. But the defense was still facing a mix of old and new issues. No one could say where the pass rush was coming from, if at all. The secondary was full of new faces, some of whom had missed most of the preseason due to injury. And with Anthony Hitchens also hurt, the team was going to roll with Jaylon Smith and his still regenerating nerve as the starting MIKE linebacker. No one was sure how they would hold up in the season opener against the New York Giants, even with Odell Beckham, Jr. out of the lineup. They still had to stop or at least slow down Eli Manning, he of the two Super Bowl rings.
Well, things went far, far better than anyone expected as the Cowboys’ defense just flat abused the Giants’ offense - especially in the first half. Just look at these numbers from the first 30 minutes of the game.
"It's the next man up," safety Byron Jones said.
It wasn't just the in-game changes the Cowboys had to make on the fly. They have had to adjust to a number of situations that have come up since training camp.
In the preseason, the Cowboys lost starting middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens for at least the first five games of the regular season because of a tibial plateau fracture. Jaylon Smith, who had not played a real football game in nearly 600 days because of a knee injury so severe some thought he would never play again, had to start and played 36 of 56 defensive snaps. He finished with seven tackles and a forced fumble.
Chaz Green, who had four games and two starts (both at left tackle) of experience in his career, started at left guard. La'el Collins, whose 14 career starts all came at left guard, made his first start at right tackle. They helped lead Ezekiel Elliott to 104 yards rushing.
Tyrone Crawford did not play in a preseason game and barely practiced in training camp because of a severely sprained right ankle. He started at left defensive end and played 41 snaps against the Giants. Two expected regulars on the defensive line, David Irving and Damontre Moore, are suspended.
At the end of the New York game, the Cowboys' defensive line consisted of two starters (DeMarcus Lawrence and Maliek Collins), one player who missed last season because of injury (Charles Tapper) and one player who was not on the team until Sept. 3 (Brian Price).
They helped limit the Giants to 13 first downs, 233 yards and three points.
"I am really proud of what these guys have done," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "I told Jason [Garrett] that this is the most enthusiastic group. They had more fun and energy in the preseason games than any team I've ever been associated with during my time with the Cowboys."
In 2015, the Cowboys lost Tony Romo to a broken left collarbone twice and won only once in 11 games without him to finish 4-12. They didn't handle what Garrett calls the "adversities of the season" well.