Around the NFC East

Insider news and notes concerning the Cowboys' rivals in the rough and rugged NFC East.

Washington Redskins
* Warrick Holdman is happy to be back under the tutelage of Dale Lindsey, the former Bears linebackers coach and current Redskins linebackers coach who molded Holdman and helped him become one of the NFL's up-and-coming defenders in 2001.

"Dale coached me for five years and when I was a rookie he instilled the work ethic, how I play and how I look at this game," said Holdman, who recently joined Washington as a free agent. "As far as the NFL, he is the one who instilled the qualities you must have to be successful here. So it's a real advantage (to reunite)."

In Washington, Lindsey is trying to help Holdman adapt to a new position: middle linebacker. Holdman has played weak-side 'backer throughout his NFL career, but the Redskins have Pro Bowl outside linebackers in Marcus Washington and LaVar Arrington and now need someone to replace Antonio Pierce in the middle.

A year ago, Pierce made the shift Holdman now is attempting, a fact that Holdman admitted played a role in his decision to sign with the Redskins. In addition, Holdman believes traditional body-type delineations are being obviated as bigger, faster players enter the NFL.

"The 'Mike,' the way a lot of teams are going now, has a lot of freedom where you just kind of run to the ball," Holdman said. "I think any guy can play any position really especially at linebacker the way guys are talented now. You have guys coming in running 4.4's. Guys like Urlacher can play any position."

Because Holdman signed in early May, he has a steeper learning curve with Gregg Williams' defense. The unit, which ranked third last season, relies on myriad blitzes from the back seven, and the middle linebacker must know all the plays cold and make sure his teammates are lined up correctly.

That's a trait Pierce had in spades. In coming months, Holdman hopes to achieve a similar level of mastery and beat out Lemar Marshall, Brian Allen and others for the job. But for now, he's not too worried about what could be the most scrutinized positional battle of training camp."

"I really don't know what position, but I'm trying to learn all of them right now," Holdman said. "I'm just trying to learn the defense and I'm just taking it one step at a time."

* The Redskins aren't in any hurry to insert rookie CB Carlos Rogers, the draft's ninth overall pick, into the starting lineup, in part because they are so confident in the ability of veteran Walt Harris.

Harris, a 10th-year pro, was limited to reserve work last year as Washington started Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot and Harris rehabbed from a tricky surgery to alleviate chronic patella tendinitis. Now Harris appears back to the level that has allowed him to start 115 games in his NFL career.

"We feel like Walt is a legit starter and always has been," coach Joe Gibbs said. "That is going to be a real interesting thing there while those guys compete at corner. It will be up to (cornerbacks coach) DeWayne (Walker) and (assistant head coach for defense) Gregg (Williams), but we really feel like we have depth there."

* DT Brandon Noble, who recently developed an infection following arthroscopic knee surgery, isn't expected back for the June 17-19 minicamp. The Redskins hope Noble will be ready for training camp.

Philadelphia Eagles
* With or without Terrell Owens, Donovan McNabb likes the Eagles' chances of getting back to the Super Bowl this season and winning it.

"We made it one game away (from the Super Bowl) three straight years without T.O.," the Eagles quarterback said. "When he got hurt last year, everyone kind of threw in the chips and was like, `Well, the season's over.' But we made it to the Super Bowl without him.

"I'm the leader of this team. Whether he plays or not, we definitely have a chance to make it to the Super Bowl and win it. That's nothing against T.O., nothing against anybody else. I just feel confident in the guys we have. With T.O., I think we can do a lot of great things. Without him, I think we can still do a lot of great things."

It's still a jump ball at this point as to whether Owens will be lining up at wide receiver for the Eagles this season. He has asked the Eagles, through his new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to renegotiate his one-year-old contract. The Eagles essentially have told him to go pound sand. Owens responded by staying away from the club's mandatory minicamp last month. He's given every indication that he'll sit out training camp as well.

The regular-season? Who knows right now. And even if he shows, will the Eagles be willing to keep him around if they feel he's going to be a locker room cancer? Stay tuned.

The disconcerting aspect of all this is the deteriorating relationship between Owens and McNabb. McNabb lobbied hard to get the Eagles to acquire the five-time Pro Bowler last year. With Owens, McNabb had the best season of his career, becoming the first quarterback in league history to throw more than 30 touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions.

But in the last couple of months, Owens has publicly taken a shot at McNabb ("I'm not the guy who got tired in the Super Bowl") and has used his Boswell, Inquirer columnist Stephen A. Smith, to put the word out that he thinks McNabb is boot-licking company man.

If Owens doesn't play for the Eagles this season, then their other receivers will need to step up, including Todd Pinkston, who took advantage of Owens' presence on the other side last season to average an NFL-best 18.8 yards per catch, but who also showed a lack of nerve a few times on routes over the middle. Greg Lewis, a former undrafted free agent who caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from McNabb in the Super Bowl, likely would replace Owens as the other starting wideout. The Eagles also drafted a wideout -- Reggie Brown of Georgia -- in the second round.

* Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson signed a four-year contract extension that makes him the highest paid lieutenant in the NFL. Johnson, 64, who had two years left on his old deal, agreed to a four-year extension that jacked his pay up to $1.3 million annually. That's more than some of the league's head coaches.

The Eagles' willingness to give Johnson the extension indicates how important they feel he is to their success, which has included five straight playoff appearances, four straight NFC East titles, four straight NFC Championship Game appearances and a three-point Super Bowl loss last February to the New England Patriots.

Over the last five seasons, the Eagles have allowed a league-low 1,241 points and have never ranked lower than seventh in any season. In four of the last five seasons, they've ranked in the top 10 in total defense. They have a league-best 236 sacks in the last five years.

"He's special," said his agent, Bob LaMonte, who also represents Eagles head coach Andy Reid and Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress. "For Andy Reid, this move completed the puzzle staffing-wise. He knows that he's going to be there through 2010 and he knows Jim is going to be there with him."

New York Giants
* Despite their laudable good work during the offseason, there were a couple of spots along the depth chart that the Giants couldn't fix -- and they were right next to each other, too.

They are defensive end and defensive tackle, where the starters (at DE) are a mix of a little too much age and injury (Michael Strahan) and a little too little experience (Osi Umenyiora), and (at DT) where one of the starters (Fred Robbins) is a journeyman at best and the other is a failed first round pick (William Joseph) whose next good season will be his first.

The team attempted to resolve the problem, at least partially, when it spent its third round and sixth round draft picks on DEs -- Notre Dame's Justin Tuck and Florida State's Eric Moore.

It isn't enough, of course. Tuck is coming off an injury that riddled his season and caused him to leave after his junior year. Moore, once the highest rated defensive lineman in the high school harvest, had an intensely disappointing college career.

The onus is going to rest on Joseph, who had highly marketable skills and scouting reports when the Giants took him with the 25th overall pick in the 2002 draft. There were various reports of a learning disability, of improper coaching and training and of a failure to grasp the basic concept of the position -- do not give way on running plays.

He has the size (6-feet-6, 310) and the acceptable quickness. He is strong and he played in a major program (University of Miami). Perhaps he just isn't meant to be a pro football player, which wouldn't be the first time the Giants found one such in a first round.

But if he can play well, or at least play up to his advance notices, then the Giants will have a significantly large problem lifted off their shoulders.

* Guard Rich Seubert, who suffered one of the worst broken leg injuries in recent NFL seasons, was back on the field with the Giants during an unofficial workout May 19. Seubert was injured Oct. 19, 2003, against the Philadelphia Eagles and suffered a "spiral compound fracture" of his right leg, one that required, among other things, the implantation of a steel rod in his shin-bone area. He says he feels "fine, just fine" and is confident he will be able to make his comeback all the way to the final roster in September.

* OT Alex Bell and CB Antwain Spann, both of whom attended the recent rookie mini-camp on a tryout basis, signed with the Giants. They waived rookie WR Charles Frederick. Bell, a 6-3, 330-pounder, was a four-year starter at guard for Hobart. He did not allow a sack in his final two seasons. As a senior last year, he was named to three All-America teams, including the American Football Coaches Association and D3football.com first-teams.

Spann, 6-1 and 185, played his final two seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette after transferring from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Last season, Spann started all 11 games and had 68 tackles (36 solo), a team-high four interceptions, including one he returned 31 yards for a TD, 1.5 tackles for losses and nine pass breakups. He also returned four kickoffs for 109 yards, a 27.2-yard average.

Frederick was signed as a rookie FA on May 6. The University of Washington product caught 121 passes for 1,735 yards and eight TDs last season.

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