Scouting The Opponents

Training camps aren't even open yet, but there is no reason not to look ahead. With that in mind, here's news from some of the teams on the Eagles schedule that begins August 6th with the annual Hall of Fame Game.

Oakland Raiders
Game Date: August 6 (pre-season)

The Raiders' three most important off-season moves.

  1. Releasing Kerry Collins, signing Aaron Brooks.

    Collins was in some ways a scapegoat for a 4-12 season, but there was no denying his play got progressively worse as the season went along. He had become a lightning rod for fan criticism as well as a symbol for all that was wrong with the organization.

    It didn't help that Collins never had a healthy Randy Moss after he suffered rib, pelvis and groin injuries in the sixth game of the season.

    Brooks, like Collins, has been prone to mistakes at the worst times. But he should have three things Collins did not - a healthy Moss, a coaching staff committed to solid offensive line play, and the ability to escape pressure with mobility.

    Overall, it's a positive switch.

  2. Drafting Texas safety Michael Huff.

    There was concern that the Raiders passed on USC quarterback Matt Leinart to take Huff, but this is a team that needs help immediately and Huff is more likely to provide it.

    Although not as physical as Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu or Baltimore's Ed Reed, Huff has the sort of explosion and versatility which can work well with constantly changing defensive schemes.

    The Raiders would have had to wait at least a year to play Leinart, under a new offensive coordinator and a new system. And if Leinart happens to be another Ken Dorsey - a so-so talent who excelled with a superior supporting cast in college - it would be a wasted pick.

    Huff offers help immediately, which is a positive.

  3. Releasing defensive tackle Ted Washington.

    Although turning 39, Washington still had some value as a run-stuffer in a division that includes LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and any running back Denver lines up in the backfield.

    It appears the Raiders will move Tommy Kelly inside on a full-time basis, and while Kelly has largely put to rest all the questions surrounding his effort level in college, he is not the 380-pound anchor Washington was.

RAIDERS NOTES and QUOTES

  • Quarterback Aaron Brooks professes no worries regarding his ability to satisfy three ultra-talented but moody receivers in Randy Moss, Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry.

    "My relationship with my receivers has always been a very tight, close-knit relationship," Brooks said. "I've never had problems with my receivers. They do what they're supposed to do and I try and get them the ball. I'm pretty good with players and wonderful with coaches."

  • There has long been talk that Art Shell's first tenure as Raiders head coach was undermined by some assistants who had designs on getting him fired.

    When Shell was let go, assistant Mike White took over. At a recent Raiders' charity event, Raiders defensive backs coach Willie Brown hinted Shell didn't get what he deserved the first time around.

    "Art is coming back with a different attitude than he had," Brown said. "That was his first coaching job. I am not sure all the people around him worked hard enough for him."

  • Kevin McMahan thoroughly enjoyed the festivities in his honor as the "Mr. Irrelevant" of the 2006 NFL Draft, earning gifts such as a $1,500 watch, a PlayStation portable and a laptop computer. His mother and grandmother also received gifts simply because McMahan was the final pick of the draft.

    In complimenting Newport Beach, McMahan, a wide receiver from Maine and a native of Rochester, N.Y., also inadvertently took a shot at the home of his new team.

    "Everybody is so nice," McMahan said. "It's almost weird being around so many nice people. California is a lot different than what I thought. All I had experienced of California was Oakland. That's not what California is like."

  • Randy Moss has a new clothing line, and now Warren Sapp is hoping to set himself up for the future if his surgically repaired shoulder does not respond. It also appears Sapp has hired a P.R. form which can match him bluster for bluster.

    Referring to a string of "HipHopSoda Shops" in Central Florida and Jacksonville, the H3 Enterprises release stated the shops would "combine the urban swell of the hip-hop music, Pro-Ball, healthy fast food, CyberSports, merchandising and pre-downloadable cash-cards into the hottest phenomena since the cultural revolution of Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe and Starbucks."

  • HE SAID WHAT? "I don't know if people realize what it is like for a player to come in from another organization and be part of the Raider Nation. I'm just soaking it all in." - QB Aaron Brooks.

    Houston Texans
    Game Date: September 10 (Season Opener)

    The Texans' top offseason acquisition was when they were able to make a trade with the Buffalo Bills for receiver Eric Moulds. With him, they have a number two receiver for the first time in franchise history.

    They now have two Pro Bowl receivers in Moulds and Andre Johnson. Their combination is not only going to be critical to the success of the passing game and David Carr, but also in helping open up the running game.

    Moulds' biggest contribution this offseason has come off the field, in simply helping guide Johnson. Since Johnson entered the league, he has been the Texans' No. 1 receiver with no real veteran presence around him to guide or challenge him. Moulds has worked with him not only in his route running, but in his demeanor off the field.

    Another key in the offseason was selecting Mario Williams to help anchor their defensive line, along with Anthony Weaver. Their additions turned one of the team's weaknesses in recent years to a major strength - at least on paper.

    With the drafting of Williams, free-agent Weaver was moved inside to tackle. Williams will remain at strong-side end. The Texans wanted to make it a point of building their defense from the front to the back. They started with two players who will be formidable for opposing quarterbacks, especially when grouped with the Texans' depth on the line.

    For a team that didn't lose any critical components in free agency, the Texans have had their best offseason in franchise history.

    TEXANS NOTES and QUOTES

  • After hearing about Ben Roethlisberger's accident, Texans guard Steve McKinney talked about why he decided to quit riding motorcycles awhile back.

    "I had one for a year, but I didn't ride it much," McKinney said. "I enjoyed riding around the neighborhood, but I'd get on the freeway and I'd be like, 'I'm only on two tires. If one of these tires blows out my family is collecting my insurance policy. I don't think I like that.'

    "I also didn't have a helmet at the time. My wife was killing me about getting a helmet. Finally, I just said, 'It's not worth it. Helmet or no helmet, something bad is going to happen if I fall off this motorcycle.'"

  • Gary Kubiak said it's not always easy to implement team rules, especially ones that apply to off-the-field issues. It's a matter of simple repetition, and hoping that it sinks in with the entire spectrum of players in the locker room.

    "One of the tough things in this business is you're dealing with both ends of the spectrum," Kubiak said. "You have some players that are 30, 31, 32-years-old who are very mature men with families. And they live their life one way and have a different way they go about their business. Then you have a 21-year-old man who walks in and hasn't really grown up yet.

    "You're dealing with two types of guys, but you constantly have to preach (the rules). You may think you're saying them too much, but you're never saying them enough."

  • The Texans still have their eyes on New Orleans running back Michael Bennett, who the Saints are interested in trading. New Orleans is in no hurry, though. Reggie Bush missed some of the offseason with injuries and Deuce McAllister is still rebounding from last season's injury, leaving Bennett to take the majority of repetitions in practice with the first team.

    "We've talked to them over and over again," Kubiak said. "At this point, they aren't just going to let their starting running back go."

  • Coach Gary Kubiak cut his final mini-camp short and never held practice longer than two hours, but he said he still had plenty of time to get a solid pulse on the personality of his new team.

    "Two months ago when we stepped out here, we really didn't know too much about any player other then just talking to them in the office," Kubiak said. "I've learned a lot about their work habits. I feel good about them. I feel good about the way they go about their business. This team still needs to develop leaders and that needs to happen on this field. I think it's starting to happen and I think it's going to have to continue to happen over the summer time."

  • New York Giants
    Game Dates: September 17 (Philly) / December 17 (New York)

    Of all the major and not-so-major moves made during the off-season by the Giants, which three were the most important?

    The moves include signings of veteran free agents, losses of veteran free agents and draft picks. Mix and match, if you will. Just come up with three.

    To that end, the Giants' single most important addition was veteran linebacker LaVar Arrington, signed as a free agent after he bought his contract out in Washington - at a hefty cost of $4.3 million.

    Arrington, a three-time Pro Bowl performer, will start at strong side and line up behind defensive end Michael Strahan, or he'll move over and line up behind the other end, Osi Umenyiora. Both ends made the Pro Bowl, and with Arrington on the field, pass rushing should be at an all-time high. Strahan and Umenyiora combined for 26 sacks in 2005, by far the most by any two players on any team.

    "Whether he lines up as the SAM (strong side) or WILL (weak side), he is going to give offenses reason to think about how their pass protection should be," said head coach Tom Coughlin.

    The next most important decision involved the signing of three defensive backs, all veteran free agents - corners Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters and free safety Will Demps. The Giants' secondary was a weak spot last season, the result of injury and poor play. Starting corners Will Allen, who was allowed to wander off to Miami, and Will Peterson, who was waived when he failed yet another physical, will be replaced by Madison and second-year Corey Webster. Free safety Brent Alexander decided to retire; Demps will move in for him.

    The third key to the Giants' off-season was the drafting in the second round of wide receiver Sinorice Moss. He is 5-feet-8 and 185 pounds, and he has 4.37-second speed in the 40-yard dash. He will complete the Giants' ever more dynamic offense and often act as the slot receiver, going deep and giving defenses the option of double covering him or tight end Jeremy Shockey, who will be trailing.

    "I think," said veteran quarterback Rob Johnson, yet another off-season addition, "that Moss and this Giants offense were made for each other."

    Let the games begin.

    GIANTS NOTES and QUOTES

  • The Giants and the New York Jets, who have agreed to build and then share a new stadium (which will be ready by 2010) announced that they will also agree to sell naming rights. It is expected that this will be the most expensive stadium-naming in NFL history, since it involves two teams and is located in the New York area. One can only hope it will also bear a tribute to the late Wellington Mara, who died last October after 80 years with the team as ball boy, general manager, scout and president.
  • Defensive coordinator Tim Lewis is more than just cursorily familiar with his new strong-side linebacker, LaVar Arrington. "He grew up in Pittsburgh and I was from Quakertown, so I followed his career right from high school. I can't tell you how excited I am to finally have the chance to work with him."
  • CB Curtis Deloatch received $221,005 in additional income from the NFL's Performance Based Pay system, eighth highest figure in the league. SS Gibril Wilson was the only other Giant in the top 25, earning a "bonus," if you will, of $207, 549. The payouts are the result of an agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA to offer a supplemental form of player compensation based on a comparison of playing time to salary.
  • Former Giant strong-side linebacker Alonzo Jackson, who started the first round playoff game (the 23-0 whipping by Carolina) and was then released when the season was over, signed as a free agent with the New York Jets.

    HE SAID WHAT? "He's his own man, he has his own place and he knows how to handle his own business. I didn't think it was my place to say anything. He knows how to handle himself." - Giants' veteran WR Amani Toomer, speaking about fellow WR Plaxico Burress, who missed the team's exit meeting last season and did not participate in the off-season workout and conditioning program this spring.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin, who has made no attempt to hide his desire to upgrade the team's backup quarterback situation, now has a former player, Rob Johnson (who was his backup and sometimes starter in Jacksonville) on the roster.

    What does this mean for veteran Tim Hasselbeck? Not much good news here, it would seem. Johnson, who has missed two seasons with Tommy John surgery, is throwing well and has 10 years of NFL experience.

    Now second-year Jared Lorenzen, the hulking 6-3, 285-pound back third QB last season, has been throwing darts and impressing the coaches with his accuracy and energy. "He's just a big man and he's going to have to live with that (weight)," Coughlin says. "It's not that he's overweight. He's just big."

    It could be that in a three-man race, Hasselbeck is going to be the odd man out.

    The Giants announced the signing of RB Little John Flowers, 6-0 and 215, who last played in the NFL for the New York Jets and played for the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe this spring. He had 75 carries for 283 yards and two touchdowns and caught 10 passes for 112 yards and another TD. Flowers, a product of Michigan State, is named for the "Little John" character in Robin Hood.


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