New York Giants
Corner Pocket--Corey Webster is ready for his big opportunity, his first chance to serve as a full-time starter on the NFL level. Sam Madison is also looking forward to his big break – a chance to prove he still has it after nine mostly superb seasons in Miami.
Does DB or QB hold key to '06 success?--Ken Palmer and Paul Schwartz discuss the Giants.
Pick a spot on the defense. Any spot, take your choice. Chances are excellent that the Giants have made a change.
Defensive line? Tackle Junior Ioane was signed as a free agent to replace Kendrick Clancy, who signed with Arizona. And don't forget the first-round draft pick, Mathias Kiwanuka, a defensive end with All-America credentials.
Linebackers? LaVar Arrington, a three-time Pro Bowl choice, was signed and is going to start on the strong side. That involved moving Carlos Emmons to the weak side to replace Nick Greisen, who went to Jacksonville. But all those linebackers who were injured and unavailable near the end of last season -- Antonio Pierce (the starter in the middle), Chase Blackburn and Reggie Torbor, among others, are back and healthy.
At the moment, it's Arrington (strong side), Pierce (middle) and Emmons (weak side) as the starters, but when the Giants move into a 3-4, which they seem poised to do more often this year, you can add Blackburn (inside) or Torbor (inside) to the mix.
Now the secondary. How about three of the four starters being replaced? Corners Will Allen and Will Peterson have departed -- Allen to Miami, Peterson likely out of the league due to a back injury. Sub safety Shaun Williams is with Carolina now. Starting free safety Brent Alexander has retired.
In steps projected starters Sam Madison (corner) and Will Demps (free safety). Second-year corner Corey Webster is also going to start, while strong safety Gibril Wilson remains the only incumbent returning.
The Giants will do a lot more pass rushing and run containment, especially if tackles William Joseph, Ioane, Jonas Seawright and Fred Robbins can plug up the middle. Keep your eye on Seawright -- he's 6-feet-6 and 335 pounds, actually "trim" from an off-season weight and conditioning program.
The coaches are excited about him, and not just behind closed doors. That is always a hopeful sign.
--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.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "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.
El Martillo--Enough already. To all the Roy Williams' nay Sayers and doubters: the recent critiques and over dramatizations are beyond comical and bordering on ludicrous.
TO's "Timebomb"?--This is the "timebomb''? More like a spitwad.
The Cowboys didn't do as much defensively over the offseason as they would have liked.
Topping the undone list was safety, where the Cowboys went into the offseason looking to up grade the position. Although they signed veteran Marcus Coleman and drafted Pat Watkins in the fifth round, Keith Davis will likely remain the starter. He is a great special teams player who is a solid run stopping safety. The problem is the Cowboys already have one in Roy Williams and are in need of a superior pass defending safety.
However, the Cowboys did accomplish their goals of getting answers at inside and outside linebacker with the signing of veteran Akin Ayodele and the drafting of Bobby Carpenter in the first round.
Ayodele will replace the retired Dat Nguyen at inside linebacker alongside the improving Bradie James. Carpenter is set to start at strong-side outside linebacker and complement the sack happy DeMarcus Ware on the other side.
The Cowboys also improved their depth at linebacker with the signing of veteran free agent Rocky Boiman and the return of Al Singleton from the injured list.
Up front, the Cowboys will line up Marcus Spears and Chris Canty at defensive end with Jason Ferguson in the middle at nose tackle.
The two problems are who is not back and who does not want to be back. The Cowboys will miss the departed La'Roi Glover at nose tackle, as they have no proven or experienced depth behind Ferguson.
Defensive end Greg Ellis, the only proven pass rusher on the team other than Ware, is not happy with his role as a backup to Canty and a part time linebacker. He has asked to be traded or released before the start of training camp. If he does show, Ellis won't be a happy camper. How that will effect an already young group remains to be seen.
Quotes and Notes
--The Cowboys have 88 players on their roster and will need to make three cuts before the start of training camp in July.
--Cowboys chief college scout Tom Ciskowski interviewed for the vice president of player personnel position with Rams but did not get the job. The Rams chose Tony Softli for the position.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I do think when you realize the game is important, let's just say the perspective of the game is slightly different, and sometimes that does make it a more valuable thing to you. That maybe I haven't accomplished what I want to accomplish in this game. He has some work to do. He has worked very hard, but he has some work to do. I think we're a little better off with the tackle spot. I can't prove that to you, I'm just guessing at it. But we do need him to play well." -- Bill Parcells on Flozell Adams' return from injury.
--WR Tom Crowder was released. Crowder spent the spring with the Frankfurt Galaxy before his season was cut short with a broken jaw. He was on the Cowboys practice squad for the past two NFL seasons. His NFL Europe exemption has been placed on nose tackle Samuel Taulealea, who was signed June 2, 2006. Taulealea recorded eight tackles with the Berlin Thunder this spring.
Avant Signs; Only Bunkley and Winston Remain--The Eagles have all but their first two picks from April's NFL Draft signed. Jason Avant became the fourth player to sign with the Eagles this week. Brodrick Bunkley and Winston Justice remain unsigned.
Gocong And Bloom Are Officially Eagles--After moving slowly through the process of getting their draft picks signed, the Eagles have officially picked up the pace this week with three signings. Chris Gocong and Jeremy Bloom are the latest to officially become Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles are hoping for dramatic improvement from their defense, which fell flat on its face last season. After finishing second in the league in points allowed in 2004, the unit plummeted to 26th last season, primarily because of an inept pass rush that notched just 29 sacks, the fewest by the team in nearly a quarter century.
They added a proven pass-rusher in free agency, signing ex-Saint Darren Howard, who had 11 sacks two years ago. They also spent their top draft pick on a defensive linemen -- Florida State defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley.
Howard will start at right end and should help left end Jevon Kearse, who dealt with constant double-teams last season. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson also plans to move Howard inside on passing downs and use second-year man Trent Cole, who had five sacks as a rookie, on the outside.
The Eagles got too little inside pass-rush pressure from their tackles last season. Rookie Mike Patterson was the only defensive tackle with more than 2.5 sacks. But they think Bunkley will change that.
He has outstanding one-gap quickness, but also has the strength to push blockers back into the quarterback. Bunkley will be part of a four-man tackle rotation that also is expected to include Patterson, Darwin Walker and Sam Rayburn.
Middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter is a four-time Pro Bowl selection, but the Eagles didn't get very good performances from the two outside linebacker spots last season. Keith Adams, the '05 starter on the weak side (WILL), will be replaced by either '05 second-round pick Matt McCoy or free agent signee Shawn Barber.
Barber isn't an every-down player any more. Johnson is hoping McCoy, who struggled to learn the defense last year, can prove he can handle the WILL job on first and second downs, and then use Barber in nickel packages.
There also could be a new starter on the strong side. Dhani Jones made very few positive plays last season, and isn't big enough or strong enough to handle the caliber of tight ends in the NFC East. He's back, but will have competition from two players -- third-year man Greg Richmond and third-round rookie Chris Gocong -- for the starting job.The Eagles really like Gocong. But the 6-foot-3, 260-pounder was strictly a defensive end at Division 1-AA Cal Poly, and it likely will take him some time to make the switch to linebacker.
Quotes and Notes
--Wide receiver Jeremy Bloom, the Olympic moguls skier who the Eagles took in the fifth round of the draft, sat out a good portion of the team's spring minicamps due to hamstring problems. But coach Andy Reid said he should be fine by the start of training camp on July 20. "It looks that way right now, yeah," Reid said. "We will see how he does. It looks like he will be able to do that." The Eagles drafted Bloom mainly as a punt returner.
--The Eagles have signed two or their eight draft picks. Linebacker Omar Gaither, a fifth-rounder out of Tennessee, and defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey, a sixth-rounder from USC, both agreed to terms. Ramsey was a college roommate of the Eagles' '05 first-round pick, Mike Patterson.
--Running back Correll Buckhalter, who has missed two of the last three seasons with knee injuries, didn't participate in the spring minicamps, and it's unlikely he'll be ready to go when training camp begins. "He's making progress," Andy Reid said. "He's doing some change-of-direction stuff and looks like he's able to push off that leg a little bit better than he was. We'll see. It's his second surgery, so we have to feel very comfortable with how he feels. We start up in a month, so we need to see how much progress he makes in a month."--While left tackle William (formerly Tra) Thomas has stopped taking blood-thinner medication for the blood clots in his leg and says he'll be ready to fully participate in training camp next month, Andy Reid said they'll probably give rookie Winston Justice most of the snaps at left tackle early on in camp. "We'll probably start out with him and see how he does there," he said.
--Rookie OG Max Jean-Gilles signed a four-year contract with the Eagles. Financial terms were not disclosed.
A fourth round draft choice out of Georgia, Jean-Gilles (6-3, 338) earned consensus All-America honors as a senior in 2005. An anchor on the Bulldogs offensive line, Jean-Gilles has never missed any action due to injury. He allowed just three sacks in 40 career starts and was part of a senior class that earned 44 victories, the most by any class in UGA history.
The Miami, FL, native attended North Miami Beach HS, where he earned All-America honors as a two-way lineman.
The Eagles moved up to the 99th pick to select Jean-Gilles in the 4th round, trading their 4th round selection (108th overall) and veteran DT Hollis Thomas.
--C Will Montgomery, a seventh-round pick by the Panthers, has agreed to a contract. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although his agent told the Charlotte Observer that it is for three years.
--WR Jeremy Bloom, a fifth-round pick, has agreed to a four-year, $1.782 million contract with the Eagles, according to several published reports.