NFC notebook

Mid-week notes from around the NFC:

Dallas-Don't Expect Much to Change on Offense

Head coach Bill Parcells is a creature of habit. He'll go with whatever works. In their first three games, the Cowboys have throw the ball for an average of 38 times a game.

While the club would love to have more balance in their offense, they simply cannot run the ball effectively or consistently. The loss of rookie back Julius Jones (shoulder) for most of the season really hurts because they don't have anyone who can take a short run and make it a long one. The loss of blocking tight end Dan Campbell for the season will also hurt.

Parcells showed years ago when he coached the Patriots that he would do what it takes to win. Then starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe put the ball up 70 times in one game. The bottom line is that they are winning with the passing game carrying the load and don't look for that to change any time soon.

Philadelphia-Small Changes Mean Big Results

It hardly was noticed during their win in week two against the Vikings but defensive coordinator Jim Johnson made a subtle yet effective change on his defensive line.

Very early in that game, he pulled starting defensive tackles Darwin Walker and Corey Simon out and put backup tackles Sam Rayburn and Hollis Thomas in the game and Johnson has been rotating the four players ever since.

Since their week one win over the Giants where they gave up 170 yards rushing, the Eagles have only given up 187 yards on the ground (62.3) in the next three games.

Considering how bad their run defense was last season (129.44/game), look for this four-man rotation to continue the rest of the way.

With the suddenly improved run defense, the opponents will have to find new ways to beat the Eagles.

Washington-Portis Lack of Success Not all that Surprising

When the club acquired running back Clinton Portis from Denver this off-season, many thought he would bring back the glory years of the Redskins running attack. So far, that hasn't happened.

While the coaches have used some of the plays that Portis was successful with in Denver (stretch play), he's not working behind anywhere near the talent level of the offensive line in he had before he arrived in Washington. We should also add that the loss of starting right tackle Jon Jansen is huge.

The Denver line is known for employing zone blocking schemes that were installed by then legendary offensive line coach Alex Gibbs (now with Atlanta having similar success).

Redskin offensive line coach Joe Bugel is one of the best around but he just doesn't have good enough talent to open up the holes that Portis needs to take the ground game to the next level.

Since week one, Portis is only rushing for about 3.5 yards per carry (a full two yards less than his two-year career average with Denver). With a tough schedule ahead of them, Portis will have a hard time finding anywhere near the success he had with the Broncos.

Green Bay-Trade Postscript

The search for quarterback Brett Favre's successor appears to be over. They tried with Tim Couch but that move turned out to be a flop.

Former Saint sixth-round pick J.T. O'Sullivan was the key to the deal with New Orleans make no mistake about it. The former University of California-Davis signal caller had a terrific season in NFL Europe and there were other teams that were interested in acquiring him. Some around the NFL believe that he has a realistic chance to be a starter in the league for a long time to come.

The Packers got excellent compensation in the deal that sent disgruntled cornerback Mike McKenzie to New Orleans and they got a player that has a chance to start for them. So from their standpoint, you can understand the deal. They got rid of a problem (McKenzie) and got a player that they really wanted in O'Sullivan.

Minnesota-Moore In the Spotlight

With starting running back Michael Bennett (knee) out for at least two weeks, second-year back Onterrio Smith suspended for four games, and veteran back Moe Williams (calf) probably limited somewhat this weekend, the club will turn to a rookie to handle the load.

That rookie, fourth-round pick Mewelde Moore, is more than capable of doing what's needed this week at Houston.

Moore opened some eyes during Senior Bowl week practices so much so that we were surprised that he lasted to the second day of the draft. Moore has excellent hands and was prepped quite well for the pro level at Tulane University. The Green Wave employed a high-powered passing offense and Moore was one of the best backs in the 2004 draft in coming out of the backfield to catch passes.

New Orleans-Trade Postscript

The deal to acquire cornerback Mike McKenzie from Green Bay shouldn't be that surprising at all.

Consider the Saints haven't had a good cover cornerback in some time. Where in the draft could they really get a player of McKenzie's caliber? Giving up a second-round pick for a proven player makes all the sense in the world.

Already manned with a solid pass rush, McKenzie gives the club what they needed in the defensive backfield. Now they have to solve their next biggest problem, their run defense.

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