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McNabb still waiting for new deal
An odd fate has befallen Donovan McNabb. When the Eagles put a “for sale” sign on his chest this offseason, very few teams were interested, and that’s why Philadelphia’s brain trust did the unthinkable and traded him within the division to the Washington Redskins.
Today, McNabb has to be wondering how much the Redskins really like him, considering he’s still waiting for a new contract. His current deal expires at the end of this season. His last was part of a renegotiation with the Eagles, paying him $24.2 million for 2009 and this year.
One of the reasons he was traded was money. The Eagles knew a) McNabb would be difficult to sign to a long-term contract, b) they could get a relatively respectable contract done with Kevin Kolb, and c) they still had Michael Vick as a third-stringer.
McNabb is not in a good contract situation. His receivers are old in Washington, plus the running game isn’t the greatest, especially if he’s counting on Clinton Portis to save him, the way Brian Westbrook did for so many seasons in Philadelphia. Portis to the rescue ... well, that isn’t happening.
Except for that lucky Week 1 win against the Cowboys, the Redskins and McNabb could be heading into today’s so-called showdown game in Philly with an 0-3 record. They just lost to the Rams. I mean, McNabb isn’t a magician and he’s going to turn 34 next month. It is no secret that he has struggled at times picking up Mike Shanahan’s system after operating in Philadelphia for 11 seasons.
He may not get a new contract from owner Daniel Snyder. Granted, Snyder relinquished a second-round pick this year and a fourth-rounder in 2011 (which becomes a third-rounder only if McNabb wins nine games or is voted to the Pro Bowl, and neither of those results will become football reality).
But it doesn’t make sense for the Redskins to simply allow McNabb to walk away after such an investment. If they don’t extend him — and you can bet he’s looking for between $25 million and $30 million in guaranteed money — they most likely would franchise him at the cost of around $17 million for 2011 and then go from there.
McNabb wouldn’t like the franchise tag — no proven player does, but it gives Washington reasonable value at the quarterback position. It also gives the Redskins the opportunity to trade him (Minnesota's Brad Childress might come calling) next year. It makes no sense for the Redskins, even if they decide to draft a quarterback in the first round next year, to allow McNabb to walk out the door without any compensation. And that has been one of Scott Campbell’s top priorities this year. Washington’s director of player personnel is scouting all the top college quarterback prospects.
Potentially, this could really be an ugly year for McNabb. Washington looks more like a last-place team right now than a playoff contender. As detached as McNabb has always looked on the sidelines, he always seemed to get his competitive spirit going because the Eagles were in playoff contention in December.
We’ll see how long McNabb can keep that smile on his face when times get tough this season.
NFL ON FOX GAMES
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The Lions have lost 22 straight road games and the last time they won in Wisconsin, back in 1991, six of the Green Bay coaches were actually playing in the NFL. Shaun Hill starts again for injured Lions QB Matthew Stafford. The offense has been struggling to take the heat off of WR Calvin Johnson because rookie RB Jahvid Best is nursing a turf toe and WR Nate Burleson is probably out with an ankle injury.
The Packers have been trying to play without a proven tailback and management seems reluctant to make a trade for a new starting tailback. Look for John Kuhn to get more carries for the Packers. This means that Aaron Rodgers will once again be forced to throw a lot (maybe 45 attempts), which plays into Detroit’s best unit, its front four. Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril can apply consistent outside pressure and everybody saw how Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher melted down on Monday night against the Bears. But if Rodgers gets time, look for him to go deep against Detroit safety C.C. Brown. The Lions don’t have a linebacker who can stay with TE Jermichael Finley, either. Packers CB Charles Woodson will hound Johnson everywhere. Packers OLB Frank Zambo, who had a sack of Jay Cutler, will start ahead of Brad Jones.
CZAR’S SCOOP: The biggest reason the Lions are in such poor personnel shape is the fact that Matt Millen drafted 39 players between 2002 and 2006 and not a one of them remains on the Detroit roster. Ten of Millen’s overall 62 picks in an eight-year span are on the Lions’ 53-man roster, including starting offensive linemen Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola from the 2001 draft, Calvin Johnson from ’07 and Gosder Cherilus, Cliff Avril and Jerome Felton from ’08. GM Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz have changed 11 starters this year after changing 13 a year ago. Only two players on the entire defense were on the team two years ago.
There is considerable heat on Packers special-teams coach Shawn Slocum, whose unit was the league’s worst last season and then allowed a game-breaking punt return to Devin Hester on Monday night. The Packers led the NFL in special-teams penalties with 30 in 2009. Chad Morton is helping Slocum coach special teams this year. Packers TE Jermichael Finley is hoping a teammate gets some revenge on Lions safety Louis Delmas, who took a cheap shot at him last year on Thanksgiving, earning Delmas a $7,500 fine.
San Francisco at Atlanta, 1 ET
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: With the change to Mike Johnson as the offensive coordinator this week, look for the 49ers to try to run more up-tempo formations. Coach Mike Singletary gave QB
The Falcons lead the NFL with an average time of possession of 35:26, earned with a strong, balanced attack. The Falcons will continue their Michael Turner/Jason Snelling rotation. Last year Falcons WR Roddy White had a franchise-record 210 receiving yards against the 49ers, including a 90-yard touchdown. There’s a chance that WR Michael Jenkins will see his first action of the season for Atlanta, although rookie LB Sean Weatherspoon will be a game-time decision. Stephen Nicholas figures to replace him. You can bet that Falcons QB Matt Ryan will be looking to see if 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman can cover TE Tony Gonzalez, who had eight catches and a touchdown last week. Bowman struggled in pass coverage last week in Kansas City while Gonzalez had a stellar performance in the upset of the Saints. The Falcons have had seven scoring drives of 10-plus plays. The other matchup worth watching is 49ers rookie RT Anthony Davis against pass rusher Kroy Biermann. Davis has surrendered three sacks and two false starts in two road games, plus he was flagged for an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty last Sunday.
CZAR’S SCOOP: Rookie Taylor Mays will start at safety for Michael Lewis, who failed to make the trip after being told earlier in the week that his playing time would be reduced. Lewis' salary was cut by more than half this season, from $4 million down to $1.7 million. It doesn’t sound as if Lewis will be returning to the 49ers. New offensive coordinator Mike Johnson called two games for the Falcons back in 2003 and the team won both. Singletary fired Jimmy Raye on Monday after he reviewed a game-plan proposal from Johnson. Singletary asked Johnson what he would change or alter in the offensive scheme. He apparently liked what he saw after originally saying that Raye’s job was secure. It could be an age difference because the players seem to like the much younger Johnson. Nobody bad-mouthed Raye, though.
The Falcons have won the last three games against San Francisco. There’s been a lot of talk this week about how Singletary handled himself during last year’s 45-10 blowout loss to the Falcons. At one point, the coach and former 49ers offensive lineman Harvey Dahl got into a shouting match and Singletary said he needed to do a better job with his “coaching etiquette.” Singletary also called all three timeouts when the Falcons were in kneel-down mode with less than two minutes left in the game, down 35 points. “I know what the final score was, and everybody’s going to play the game to the final snap and the final whistle. And we would expect that from any team,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said of the game-ending situation.
Seattle at St. Louis, 1 ET
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The Rams say that RB Steven Jackson will test his groin in warmups, but he doesn’t expect to play because he is unable to cut because of the injury. This means that Kenneth Darby will start. Ex-Jet Chauncey Washington will be active, but the running back will probably play only on special teams. The Rams need to control field position. The Seahawks’ average drive start after kickoffs has been the 38.5-yard line. Rams PK Josh Brown has just one touchback this season, although 10 of his 13 kickoffs have reached the end zone. The Rams will try to hold their opponent to less than 20 points for the fourth straight game. They have allowed just 46, ninth-best in the NFL, and only three touchdowns in 11 red-zone trips. Last week against Washington, the Redskins failed to score a touchdown in three red-zone trips.
The Rams' special teams also must control Leon Washington, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in last week's win over San Diego and he leads the NFL with a 46.3-yard average. Plus, rookie Golden Tate leads the league with an average of 25.2 yards on five punt returns with a long of 63. To help the offense, look for Washington to get a few touches out the backfield. Seattle could be minus two defensive starters in LDE Brandon Mebane and LCB Marcus Trufant. However, No. 1 pick Russell Okung figures to make his NFL debut with Sean Locklear hurting.
CZAR’S SCOOP: One thing about losing teams such as the Rams, who had dropped 27 of their previous 28 games, is that when you finally win, you want to get excited. The thing about a loss is that it hangs with you all week, but after a win you get to enjoy it for only one day. That’s what Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo wanted his team to feel after beating Washington last Sunday, the team’s first home win since Week 7 of the 2008 season. Still, rookie QB Sam Bradford said, “I think it just has to boost our confidence tremendously. For (the Redskins) to come back and take the lead (16-14), and then us march right down and score ... that’s huge. That’s something we hadn’t done.”
Spagnuolo didn't want to dampen the joy, but also stressed that he didn’t want them to bathe in it too long. “I'm hoping the guys handle it right,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s a little bit of a confidence-builder, but if we’re going to do this thing right, we forget about it and we move on to the next game. It’s over and done. You can’t get stuck on that one, just like we couldn’t get stuck on any of the losses, feeling sorry for ourselves.”-->
Washington at Philadelphia, 4:15 ET
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: In the big game of the day, the Redskins are hoping that Clinton Portis can find some lanes in the undersized Philadelphia front four. Also they hope Donovan McNabb can get enough time to connect with TE Chris Cooley on crossing patterns and some quick hitches to Santana Moss. It won’t be easy with rookie LT Trent Williams expected to miss another start, plus the recent solid play of Eagles MLB Stewart Bradley. The Eagles had to change some of their defensive calls, well aware that McNabb knows a lot of their signals and play calls.
Eagles QB Michael Vick has been great on third downs and in the red zone, plus he hasn’t thrown an interception in two starts. The Redskins didn’t blitz Sam Bradford much last week, but they must come after Vick, who has become comfortable in the pocket. To get more pressure, Lorenzo Alexander will start for Andre Carter. He and Brian Orakpo must keep Vick from scrambling for big plays. Vick is averaging 7.4 yards a carry. Washington needs a big day from cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Carlos Rogers, who must handle the big-play ability of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
CZAR’S SCOOP: The Redskins have dropped their last seven games against rookie quarterbacks after losing to Bradford and Matthew Stafford last season. McNabb had a 92-49-1 regular-season record with the Eagles. One reason that Portis is still around is his $6.5 million contract. Still, coach Mike Shanahan’s attempt to light a fire under Portis failed with the releases of Willie Parker and then Larry Johnson. Washington has dropped from a 30-1 Super Bowl bet to 55-1 after three games.
Eagles TE Brent Celek was a favorite target of McNabb last season. He had 22 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns after three games. But right now he has only nine catches and no touchdowns. In 10 quarters, Vick has converted 6 of 13 third downs of 10 yards or more. Last season, the Eagles converted just 12 of 56 third-and-10s or more. Reggie Wells will start for injured Philadelphia guard Nick Cole. Wells came over from Arizona last month. Andy Reid’s offenses tend to struggle against 3-4 looks, including a Week 1 home loss to the Packers.
Arizona at San Diego, 4:15 ET
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The Cardinals want to run and run Beanie Wells at the Chargers, hoping to keep Philip Rivers and Co. off the field. Arizona will start rookie WR Stephen Williams opposite Larry Fitzgerald because of the losses of Steve Breaston and Early Doucet.
San Diego may have the same idea with the return of rookie RB Ryan Mathews, who was often compared to LaDainian Tomlinson in camp, but he’s yet to show Tomlinson's amazing durability after missing two games with a sprained ankle. Mike Tolbert will be in the mix, too. The Cardinals are No. 31 against the run. Among the keys will be the Chargers’ interior line matching up with NT Bryan Robinson. And the Chargers will be playing shorthanded at that spot, with starter Louis Vasquez (knee) being replaced by Tyronne Green
Chargers OLB Shaun Phillips should be able to put some pressure on Arizona QB Derek Anderson, who has targeted Fitzgerald 34 times, completing only 14 of those attempts. Chargers TE Antonio Gates is four receptions shy of 500 and Cardinals SS Adrian Wilson, who can be a defensive force, does struggle in man coverage. To improve San Diego’s awful special teams, coach Steve Crosby will be allowed to have more veterans on his coverage units today.
CZAR’S SCOOP: After making Williams, an undrafted rookie from Toledo, a starter, the Cardinals now have Max Komar, an undrafted rookie from Idaho, as their third receiver. The No. 4 position will be manned by Onrea Jones, who was cut at the end of training camp. Jones has been on the practice squads of several teams the previous three years.
San Diego veteran offensive tackle Marcus McNeill will be eligible to return in two weeks. But he did cost himself about $2.5 million by signing his tender offer. “I was just ready to come back,” McNeill said of his return. “I'm feeling real excited, just to be back. I was really bored sitting at home, just working out every day, not being around your teammates and things like that. So I'm very happy to be back and ready to get in the swing of things.” McNeill is confident that he can work out a long-term contract. “I never felt like it was anything malicious,” McNeill said. “I never felt like me and the Chargers were on bad terms.” The Chargers are getting ILB Stephen Cooper back today and Atwan Applewhite starts for OLB Shawne Merriman, who is bothered by a calf injury.
OTHER SUNDAY GAMES
Indianapolis at Jacksonville, 4:05 ET: The Colts have won seven times in nine visits to Jacksonville and the Jaguars have been stumbling so bad lately that head coach Jack Del Rio is feeling the heat. He’s still sticking with David Garrard, who has been sacked nine times and thrown six interceptions. Once Trent Edwards learns the offense, he could be replacing Garrard. Peyton Manning, who has nine TD passes, has a new favorite target in Austin Collie. The Colts have lacked a consistent running game and today on defense they must stop Mo Jones-Drew.
Houston at Oakland, 4:05 ET: The Texans say that WR Andre Johnson (ankle) will be a game-time decision, and it sounds like Johnson wants to play even if it does mean going against CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Houston needs Arian Foster to keep the Raiders off the field. Foster needs 94 rushing yards and four receiving yards to become the third player in NFL history with at least 500 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards through the first four games of a season. Houston was won three straight on the road. Both Oakland receivers, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy, are hurting. Raiders RB Darren McFadden has 345 rushing yards, 12 shy of his 2009 total.
Chicago at N.Y. Giants, 8:20 ET: The Bears are unbeaten, but this game may mean New York’s season and Vegas opened them as four-point favorites. The coach in the spotlight is Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who turned down Lovie Smith this past offseason to work for Tom Coughlin. True to form, Fewell chose not to discuss why. The Bears have the game’s best rushing defense, which means that Eli Manning figures to test a Chicago secondary that has been torched by Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo. Smith has been benching some of his defensive starters, and also has tried to get DT Tommie Harris to return to past form. Giants WR Mario Manningham suffered a concussion last Sunday, but he’s been cleared to play. You won’t see Matt Dodge punting to Devin Hester, who needs one more return TD (12) to tie the all-time NFL record.
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