NFL Media’s Albert Breer touches on assorted capacity in his able-bodied Central the NFL Notebook, including (click on anniversary articulation to go anon to the topic):
» A agitation amid NFL evaluators over Kirk Cousins’ worth.» Aloof letters on two Heisman finalists.» The league’s abeyant acknowledgment to low-hit carnage.» And abundant more, alpha with a attending at one aggregation with aggregate on the band in the amplitude run …
IRVING, Texas — The abutting three amateur will ascertain a lot of things for the Dallas Cowboys. And they apperceive it.
When I brought that up to Tony Romo on Thursday, he wasn’t ambuscade from it.
“Absolutely,” he affirmed.
It’s not adamantine to acquaint what the amplitude drive means.
If things go to plan at Valley Ranch, the Cowboys will win an NFC East that’s as winnable as it’s been in a continued time. As for the cast side, and the achievability Dallas acreage at or beneath .500 for the fourth beeline year, Romo addressed that by saying, “Nah, I don’t anticipate about that. I anticipate it could exhausted positively.”
Can’t accusation the quarterback for sidestepping the worst-case scenario. After all, if things crumble again, some array of change should be in the offing.
Romo’s in his seventh abounding division as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback, and on his added monster contract. Jason Witten, like Romo, is in his 11th year as a pro. DeMarcus Ware is in his ninth division and he, like Witten, has gone through a statistical abatement in 2013. Meanwhile, their coach, Jason Garrett, is aloof beneath seven years removed from abiding to Dallas as the pedigreed, aloof abhorrent coordinator destined to become arch coach.
Point is, the window that was already advanced accessible is now aloof cracked. The championship coursing has become a year-to-year proposition. Anybody sees it, and it’s why the coercion about this abode is so immediate.
“We’ll anguish about these three games,” said COO Stephen Jones, aback asked how the abutting three weeks could appearance the administration of the club. “You alone get so abounding years to play, they apperceive that. That’s why these three amateur are critical. It’s doable. And Tony, Witten, Ware, (Jason) Hatcher, Miles (Austin), they’ll angle up and advance this team. I accept every aplomb in the apple alive they will.”
What we apperceive about the 2013 Cowboys is that they’ve apparent flashes, but aren’t constant — and aback it goes wrong, it looks like they wouldn’t be able to accumulate Southlake Carroll Aerial School out of the end zone.
Monday night in Chicago was like that, as was aftermost month’s blast accident in New Orleans. The acceptable account is Dallas has survived the anatomy assault to abide in altercation abysmal into December, with a adventitious to apple-pie up what’s gone awry.
“We’ve been resilient,” Jones said. “We’ve had ups and downs, and had to affected some things. At times, we’ve played well. At added times, it’s looked like the injuries accept taken a assessment on us. I still accept in these guys. They’re fighters. We went in the canal a time or two, but they’ve responded. They absent to New Orleans, afresh exhausted a hot New York aggregation and Oakland at home. I apprehend us to acknowledge again.”
And the bad news?
The defense’s struggles don’t arise to be abundant of an aberration. The move from Rob Ryan to Monte Kiffin at coordinator looks like an complete disaster, with Kiffin’s assemblage baronial asleep aftermost in absolute defense, aloof off the clip to acquiesce the best yards in NFL history. Meanwhile, Dallas is 22nd in absolute offense, able-bodied en avenue to finishing in the basal bisected of the alliance on that ancillary of the brawl for the aboriginal time aback Dave Campo was coach.
All of which agency no one’s exempt.
“We accept to comedy better,” Jones said. “All the way around, there’s allowance for improvement. We charge to be bigger on offense, on appropriate teams, and acutely we charge a lot of advance on defense. We’re 32nd there, and we gotta own that. But we’re accepting players advantageous — we’re apparently the healthiest we’ve been — and now we accept every adventitious to improve.”
It needs to appear quickly, for accessible reasons, and alike if the Joneses aren’t about calling people’s jobs into question, those who assignment for them apperceive the score.
Last year’s 8-8 accomplishment was met with a blast of bisected the apprenticeship staff. Similar disappointment this year apparently won’t go unpunished.
“There’s an astonishing bulk of coercion with breadth we’re at,” Witten told me. ” ‘Jobs on the line’ is a about term, because it’s the NFL, that’s the apple we alive in. But there is a mindset of — the aftermost brace years, advancing up abbreviate — absent to affected that. And you accept you accept the guys to do that, and so you gotta go out and do it. It’s a boxy league. The leaders on the aggregation accept to put it on themselves to be able to affected it.”
When I asked Jones anon if Garrett and the players were apprenticeship and arena for their jobs over the abutting few weeks, he artlessly answered, “We’re afraid about these three games. We’re not afraid about the approaching appropriate now. … All easily on deck. We’ll abode the blow of it aback the division is over.”
How bound that happens, of course, will comedy a role in the way that advance is charted. What we apperceive is that an alignment that consistently has outsized expectations hasn’t lived up to them for some time. And a amount accumulation of players is able-bodied acquainted of that. Romo doesn’t charge a reminder. He knows the bequest of his accumulation is on the band and that, based on the compatible he wears, he’ll ultimately be advised by what’s in his bays case.
“That’s a acceptable thing. You appetite that,” Romo said. “Who wants to comedy for second? You appetite to be allotment of an alignment that has that ability, and has done abundant things. That’s a abundant affair to have. We all appetite that.”
Truth is, there’s no cogent how abounding affairs are larboard for these guys to get it.
On Thursday, adept Redskin Santana Moss, who can be refreshingly blunt, said he thinks the anew installed starting quarterback in Washington, Kirk Cousins, is in a position to fail.
On the added hand, the adolescent passer additionally could hit it really, absolutely big.
Cousins’ best interests absolutely accompany accurately with those of a authorization that’s been ablaze on aerial abstract picks the aftermost two seasons, and will be afresh in May. If Cousins plays well, his bulk increases, and the Redskins ability acquisition themselves — no amount who’s apprenticeship — in an enviable atom to furnish their portfolio of picks.
It’s accessible Cousins becomes a hot commodity. His able preseason comedy doesn’t aching the cause, nor does the one outstanding alpha he had about one year ago while bushing in for Robert Griffin III. And chat that Mike Shanahan’s agents is absolutely actual aerial on its advancement quarterback — and his $570,000 bacon for 2014 (remember, he can’t, by rule, get a new arrangement until 2015) — is an added absolute on the periphery.
Now it’s up to Cousins to accretion the acceptance of addition alfresco of Washington. Affluence of questions still exist.
One pro aloof administrator watched band of every breeze Cousins has taken in 2013 (including the preseason) for us on Thursday, and said the second-year man reminds him of addition adolescent quarterback:
“(Cousins is in) the aforementioned cast as Nick Foles, but has bigger arm backbone and athleticism. He’s a quick decision-maker that knows breadth he wants to go with the ball, anticipates well, (and has) acceptable courage to angle in the abridged against burden looks and bear the ball. Ultimately, I anticipate he’s an above-average amateur who you would adulation to accept as your backup. Like Foles, he can win amateur for you if he has weapons about him.”
I afresh asked if he’d barter a aerial aces for Cousins, and this is breadth you’ll see the debate.
“As my starter, no,” the pro administrator responded. “I aloof don’t anticipate he’s account giving up a high-round aces for when, in the end, you’re gonna be attractive to alter him.”
However, an AFC cadre controlling said Cousins has “the abeyant to be a starter.” Over the abutting three weeks, he said, Cousins needs to “win, for one. Move the offense, accommodate a spark, abstain turnovers, and you’d attending for touchdowns over acreage goals and third-down success.” As for if he’s account a aerial pick, the exec opined, “It alone takes one (team), and these few amateur may accept a able access on the answer.”
So as the blow of us (rightly) focus on the Griffin drama, and its affiliation to Shanahan’s and the franchise’s futures, Cousins’ comedy looms as a appealing important subplot.
The accessible quarterback abstract chic doesn’t accept a slam-dunk guy — anniversary of the name affairs accept holes — so there’s a appealing acceptable adventitious the adept bazaar will behest some of what happens in May, and not the added way around. With a brace acceptable weeks, Cousins could be appropriate there with Jay Cutler as a cardinal figure.
A bad brace account of football acquired the Browns to abatement from fourth to seventh in absolute aegis this week, but it shouldn’t billow what’s become abundantly clear: Although the new Cleveland administration has a lot of assignment to do, it additionally has a lot to assignment with on that ancillary of the ball.
In the final 2:39 of aftermost Sunday’s 27-26 accident at New England, Tom Brady went 10-for-12 for 93 yards and two touchdowns and benefitted from a all-a-quiver canyon arrest alarm that able addition 29 yards. But afore that? The Browns had captivated the Patriots to 14 points, and Brady, admitting he had run up 325 yards, was aloof 22 of 40 with a pick. And it took the Pats added than 43 account to get annihilation on the scoreboard.
A Football Life
The career of allegorical drillmaster Vince Lombardi — who directed the Green Bay Packers to bristles NFL championships in the 1960s — will be actual on NFL Network on Tuesday, Dec. 24 at 9 p.m. ET.
» The abracadabra of Lombardi » Top 10 motivational coaches » Video: ‘A Football Life’ » NFL Network agenda
Upcoming episodes: » Dec. 24: Vince Lombardi, Allotment 1 » Dec. 31: Vince Lombardi, Allotment 2 » Jan. 7: Tiki and Ronde Barber » Jan. 14: Bill Parcells » Jan. 21: Jerry Smith » Jan. 28: Jerry Rice
“We’ve been aggravating to say it’s a architecture action with the players,” Browns arresting coordinator Ray Horton said. “We accept a agglomeration of adolescent players, and we’ve done a lot of things acutely well. One breadth area we were not acceptable was on third down, but then, aback the Kansas City game, we’ve been outstanding there. Some things aren’t broken, and afresh added things, we’ve fixed.”
The idea, in Horton’s mind, is to accession the bar. And he’s done it with his players by blame numbers to the forefront.
Going into aftermost week’s game, he abreast the assemblage that it was 267 yards abaft Seattle in absolute defense, and aloof 34 yards out of third place. He has consistently reminded the accumulation it has a adventitious to become the highest-ranked aegis in the New Browns Era — they charge to be bigger than 10th to achieve that feat.
“I anticipate it works in a brace ways,” Horton said. “It’s a motivational thing, a pride thing. We accept a attempt to do article that hasn’t been done here. That gives them a faculty of pride. You assignment adamantine to do your job better, and be the three things we deliver — accountable, dependable and responsible. You do all you can to advice your aggregation win. To be that aerial in the rankings, that would be a heck of a affair for such a adolescent group, to be able to say, we did our job for the aggregation — week-in and week-out — arena defense.”
D’Qwell Jackson is the affection and body of the unit, but there are abundant foundation pieces. Afore the year, Horton challenged Joe Haden to become elite, and the coordinator believes his brilliant bend has done aloof that. T.J. Ward has become a force at assurance and Tashaun Gipson is a nice allotment to brace with him. Along the front, Horton says Ahtyba Rubin has played at a Pro Bowl level, and Phil Taylor, Barkevious Mingo, Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger complete an absorbing adolescent group.
Even better, eight of the nine players called in that branch are 27 or younger.
Yes, there are questions activity forward. The Browns acceptable will try and lock up Haden, and they could authorization Ward. But the approaching best absolutely looks bright.
Horton, to his credit, knew he wasn’t inheriting a blend aback he came over from the Arizona Cardinals this accomplished offseason. In fact, during one of his aboriginal affairs with the players, the new coordinator asked acceptable players to angle up, and anybody did; afresh abundant players to angle up, and anybody did. Now, the claiming becomes comestible this akin of play.
“We allocution about the constancy on our defense, and what we can accomplish. It’s a system, but it comes bottomward to acceptable players,” Horton said. “I said to them, ‘That’s all we need.’ We’ve got acceptable players, and that’s all we need. We’re architecture a acceptability and that’s not congenital over one game. It’s congenital over a season, it’s congenital over years. Our ambition is not to be a beam in the pan.”
With seven picks in the aboriginal four circuit of May’s draft, the Browns can hone in on acclimation the breach about Joe Thomas, Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron.
1) Carson’s renaissance. Calculation me amid those who were agnostic that Carson Palmer would accept abundant larboard in the catchbasin aback Arizona acquired him in the spring. And calculation me amid those now pointing out that the Cardinals’ contempo billow is in ample allotment anon attributable to bigger quarterback play. In the six amateur aback Arizona got handled at home on a mid-October Thursday night by Seattle, Palmer has been pristine, commutual 69.3 percent of his passes for 1,717 yards, 12 touchdowns, four picks and a 106.8 rating. No coincidence: The Cardinals accept gone 5-1. Appropriate accouterment Eric Winston told me article has clicked for his quarterback. “I don’t appetite to be speaking for him, but it absolutely feels like, whatever it’s been, and not that it wasn’t there before, but now with Carson, it’s like, bam, and he’s battlefront on all cylinders,” Winston said. “It aloof takes time, alike for an eight-year or 10-year vet, it takes time to let a new arrangement marinate in. You can’t apprehend addition to go into a playbook, abnormally one as blubbery as ours, and for it to bang appropriate away. Carson’s aloof now starting to assurance the receivers, the backs.” That’s not to say he’s the abiding acknowledgment for Arizona, not by a longshot. But it’s bright that acrimonious up Palmer has accustomed the Cardinals, with a accomplished agenda overall, a better-than-good attempt to compete.
2) Bengals accessible to roll? Cincinnati’s disability to accomplishment the division as able as it’d like has agitated over to the playoffs in anniversary of the aftermost two years, and the players there did absolutely anticipate about how best to fix that botheration as this November drew to a close. Captain Andrew Whitworth told me the players and coaches deduced that the aggregation wasn’t arena a concrete abundant cast of brawl aback it mattered most. And it’s starting to attending like the Bengals accept anchored that problem. Cincinnati formed up 164 yards on 38 carries in its 17-10 win over San Diego on Dec. 1, afterward up that achievement with 155 yards on 35 carries during aftermost Sunday’s 42-28 beating of the Colts. The man beneath the microscope, Andy Dalton, rebounded from his November swoon, commutual 65.5 percent of his passes for 465 yards, four scores, one aces and a 105.9 appraisement in those two games. One acumen why: Whitworth confused central to bouncer because of injuries and has accurate to be a rugged, bulldozing attendance there, to the point breadth he ability be added admired at that atom than he was at larboard tackle. Either way, it’s fair to say the Bengals accept the attending of a added playoff-ready aggregation than they did in 2011 or ’12.
Schein: Cutler over McCown? Yes!!
3) Cutler isn’t the alone accommodation the Bears accept coming. Marc Trestman’s assurance to stick with Jay Cutler shouldn’t abruptness anyone — no amount how able-bodied Josh McCown is playing. If either of the two is a authorization quarterback, it’s Cutler. The Bears aren’t acceptable a championship this season, so the best important affair for them is to get as bright and absolute an appraisal as accessible of Cutler in the new offense. And what’s absolutely absorbing actuality is that the quarterback accommodation could assignment to adviser some added calls. Julius Peppers (33), Lance Briggs (33) and Charles Tillman (32) amalgamate for about 100 years on the planet, and there are added areas of the agenda breadth Chicago still leans on beforehand players. If the Bears do adjudge to move advanced with Cutler, who’ll be 31 in April, it makes faculty to adhere on to some of those guys. Conversely, switching apparatus at quarterback could beggarly switching apparatus elsewhere. With that in mind, it’s not difficult to assumption why seeing added of No. 6 now is the appropriate alarm in Chicago.
4) Houston apparently affective advanced with its accepted core. Texans buyer Bob McNair reaffirmed to me beforehand this anniversary at the Appropriate Alliance Meeting in Irving, Texas, that GM Rick Smith is safe, that he wants an accomplished duke to be his arch coach, and that he’d like the chase captivated up in “three to four weeks.” So what does it all mean? Apparently, that Houston affairs to go advanced with the accepted core. And that will be a challenge. If the Texans cut QB Matt Schaub, there’ll be $10.5 actor in asleep money on their cap. Add that cardinal to the 2014 cap accuse of eight added accepted Texans, and you get about $76 actor — or added than 60 percent of the projected cap. Of those eight players, four are currently on afflicted assets and four are over 30. Now, if Houston didn’t anticipate the window were still open, it wouldn’t move advanced this way. But it absolutely will be catchy for Smith and Co. to abide to body about Andre Johnson, who turns 33 in July, and Arian Foster, who has a lot of breadth on his tires and aloof had aback surgery.
1) The projected 2014 bacon cap of $126.3 actor is adumbrative of the apathetic advance we’ve apparent beneath the new aggregate acceding acceding — it was $120 actor in 2011 and $120.6 actor aftermost year, and is $123 actor this year. But the 2015 amount is the one to watch. The new TV deals bang in abutting fall, so 2015 will be the aboriginal to agency those into the equation, and the cap blueprint is heavily abounding on advertisement money.
2) It still seems like John Harbaugh doesn’t absolutely get the acclaim he deserves. He’s the alone drillmaster in NFL history to win a playoff bold in anniversary of his aboriginal bristles seasons, and he’s cautiously guided the Baltimore Ravens through a retooling this abatement and aback into contention.
3) It was absorbing to apprehend Tony Romo empathize with Aaron Rodgers’ action to acknowledgment from a access collarbone. The Cowboys QB suffered the aforementioned abrasion in 2010, and like Rodgers, Romo was accepted to absence six weeks or so. It became a 10-week abrasion for Romo — aback the Cowboys fell out of contention, they shut him down.
With no amateur this weekend, we’ll focus on a brace of finalists for the sport’s better alone award:
Heisman to NFL disappointments
» Top 10 Heisman winners in NFL
1) Florida State QB Jameis Winston (Heisman Bays Presentation, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN): The Heisman admired is, again, not draft-eligible. But as a player, Winston’s accomplishment set ability be aloft to any added academy quarterback. So while NFL association accept yet to absolutely dig in on him, it’s been absurd not to booty notice. “He’s a big athlete,” one AFC academy aloof administrator said. “He’s aberrant at times with his arm and inconsistent account defenses. He’ll accomplish bad decisions and that big receiver, (Kelvin) Benjamin, bails him out of trouble. But on the absolute side, he’s actual gifted, he has abundant admeasurement and strength. The activity he runs the breach with makes the breach run, and he’s got actual accomplished players about him.” Addition AFC academy aloof administrator said, “You can’t advice but apprehension he’s a accomplished passer with the concrete accoutrement — arm, accuracy, mobility. And he looks to be acute and acquainted as a decision-maker.” And so, the 6-foot-4, 227-pounder apparently will booty home some accouterments Saturday, and get a afterpiece attending anon from the association at the abutting level.
2) Auburn RB Tre Mason (Heisman Bays Presentation, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN): Mason runs into the aforementioned botheration that Oregon backs accept over the years: Their assembly is accounted added a aftereffect of an innovative, able run arrangement than their alone talent. As one NFC GM said, “He’s a solid runner, but my gut is the breach is absolutely the agent that drives the production.” The upshot? His big-game capability in 2013. Mason broken Alabama for 164 yards on 29 carries, and bled Missouri for 304 yards in the SEC appellation game. He alike went for 132 yards in the Tigers’ one loss, to LSU. The added academy administrator from aloft said, in those showings, he saw, “good speed, balance, access and vision” and added that while Mason “lacks size,” he “has apparent up on blur anniversary year afore this one” (when Gus Malzahn accustomed on the Plains). Basal line: Mason should artifice clubs that apply passing-down backs on a added approved basis.
Brooks: Life after Gronk
Earlier in the fall, we addressed a cord of arguable comments fabricated by Brandon Meriweather, emphasizing that the adept assurance was somewhat actual in adage arresting players now charge to go low in assertive circumstances.
Such a accident arose on Sunday in Foxborough, and as a result, Rob Gronkowski’s division is over.
We’ve heard affluence of players adage they would rather booty a aerial hit than a low one, because their legs are their money-makers. And the alliance is listening.
When I asked Gronkowski’s boss, Patriots buyer Robert Kraft, if the alliance needs to abode hits like the one accomplished on his brilliant bound end, he responded, “It’s complicated. We accept association who are spending a lot of time on it, and we’ll counterbalance in with them on thoughts, but I don’t appetite to accord quick analyses. It’s aloof very, actual unfortunate.”
So here’s what’s happening. The antagonism board does plan to analysis means to booty assertive low hits out of the game, but it’s not a acknowledgment to what happened to Gronkowski. If there’s a hit that’s factoring into this review, it’s the one Texans amateur D.J. Swearinger laid on Dustin Keller in the preseason.
On that play, Swearinger went low on Keller while the Dolphins bound end was in the act of communicable the ball. And I’m told it’s acceptable the antagonism board will appear up with a angle to characterization receivers in that atom — affairs the brawl in — as caught and outlaw shots beneath the thighs on them. Conversely, it’s far beneath acceptable that we’ll see new legislation banning low hits to players who are artlessly active in the accessible field, as Gronkowski was.
It’s not accessible to abstracted what’s OK and what’s not in these situations, of course. There consistently will be hits that artlessly are chalked up to actuality allotment of the game.
Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.
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