By Jack Henkels
In a week with a Cowboys’ collapse, an elite performance by the Eagles D, and a classic Giants/Redskins barnburner, the confusing NFC East got even more interesting.
Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
Result: 39-28 Loss to Atlanta Falcons
The offensive line continues to dominate the trenches. Joseph Randle not only found the endzone on three different occasions, but frequently picked up 4 yards before any defensive resistance. In pass protection, Weeden felt very little pressure in the pocket, and completed all of his passes until throwing one on the run way over Jason Witten’s head and into the arms of Atlanta DB William Moore. On the bright side, Atlanta appears to be the favorites in the NFC following a rather impressive 30 start. This isn’t by any means a “bad loss” for Dallas, especially without Romo and Dez Bryant. Optimistically, the Cowboys’ running game and “bend but don’t break”defense should be able to keep Dallas afloat during the Dez/Romo absence.Embed from Getty Images
Although the defense gave up 39 points, I’ll give them a pass today. Julio Jones is a nightmare to cover as a slot receiver and Devonta Freeman appears to be a much more formidable back than people anticipated. Pair that with absence of defensive ends Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory, the Cowboys defense was doomed to struggle. More concerning for Cowboy Nation has to be that Terrance Williams didn’t catch a pass and was only targeted twice. Beasley was the only Cowboys wide receiver with a catch, and even he was held to 49 yards on 4 grabs. While Randle and Dunbar provide a nice spark out of the backfield, at some point Weeden needs to be able to take a shot down the field to Williams to keep the safeties honest, especially against a suspect Falcons secondary. If all Weeden can do is dink-and-dunk to his backs, it’s an easy day for opposing defensive coordinators. Atlanta DC Richard Smith figured that out in the 2nd half, loading the box and keeping Randle and Dunbar in check.
New York Giants (1-2)
Result: 32-21 Win over Washington
Odell Beckham Jr. still plays wide receiver for the New York Giants. He’s a big time
athlete for Eli Manning to have on the edge and through 3 weeks, no defensive coordinator has had an answer. Overall, the Giants offense handled a noticeably inferior Redskins teams and took care of business at home. Eli played well and gave the Giants an early lead, which forced Cousins to put the ball in the air 49 times, something HC Jay Gruden wanted to avoid. This game wasn’t close, and the Giants appear to be in the best shape in the NFC East, despite sitting at 1-2.Embed from Getty Images
There aren’t many negative takeaways from Thursday night if you’re a Giants fan. But, the Giants could be, and probably should be, atop the NFC East at 30, had they not handed away W’s in weeks 1 and 2. They’re still in good position at 12, but if you’re part of Giants nation, you can’t help but think about what could be.
Washington Redskins (1-2)
Result: 32-21 Loss to New York Giants
There’s not much to be jacked up about in Washington. After a surprising win against the up-and-coming Rams at home, I expected Washington to bring that momentum to MetLife against a Giants team who squandered double digit leads in the 4th quarter twice to open the season. Cousins did engineer a few scoring drives late in the game and hopefully sustained some offensive continuity to bring back home to Washington next week against NFC East foe, Philadelphia.Embed from Getty Images
The once intriguing Alfred Morris / Matt Jones two-headed monster took a huge step back on Thursday as the combo was held to a combined 57 yards on 17 carries. Even more concerning, the Skins don’t appear to know who their starting back is. Morris, the preseason starter, was seemingly stripped of that status after a breakout performance by Matt Jones in the win over St. Louis last week. After a lifeless performance this week by Jones and a forgettable game for Morris, Washington is in running back limbo. With Kirk Cousins struggling, the last thing Washington can afford is losing their running game.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)
Result: 24-17 Win over New York Jets
The Eagles defense played about as well as I’ve seen them play under DC Billy Davis. Eric Rowe, Walter Thurmond and Jordan Hicks all came up with bigtime interceptions and FS Malcolm Jenkins was all over the field and continues to be Philadelphia’s best player on the defensive side of the ball. Even without LB’s Kiko Alonso (knee) and Mychal Kendricks (hamstring), the stout Eagles’ defense only allowed 47 yards on the ground. Making Harvard product Ryan Fitzpatrick throw the football 58 times is a good success formula against an impotent Jets’ passing attack. Darren Sproles continues to frustrate the Saints front office (Philadelphia traded a 5th round pick for Sproles before last season), as he not only punched it in from the 1, but also returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown.Embed from Getty Images
Is it bad to say the entire offense? The Jets defense is good, but the Eagles only scored 17 offensive points (7 on the Sproles punt return), and barely showed any effectiveness in the 2nd half. Ryan Mathews, who overall did a good job stepping in for the injured Demarco Murray (hamstring), still dropped 2 passes out of the backfield and carelessly fumbled late in the 4th, which gave the Jets new life. Sam Bradford was anything but sharp, throwing a skinny post at Nelson Agholor’s feet in the red zone and frequently leaving TE Zach Ertz and WR Jordan Matthews out to dry with high throws over the middle. Bradford and his offensive unit needs to be sharper for this team to contend for a playoff spot.