Will Eagles shore up defensive concerns?
Every week, the experts of "FOX NFL Sunday" reveal their observations and opinions as they prepare for football's top-rated pregame telecast — seen each Sunday at noon ET/9 a.m. PT. We'll share some of the highlights from Curt, Terry, Howie, Jimmy and Michael grabbed from their weekly conference call with insider John Czarnecki.
Czar: Big game on FOX this Sunday, the Lions at Cowboys. Which quarterback are you picking, Tony Romo or Matthew Stafford?
Terry Bradshaw: I’m going to say Stafford by far. I have no reservations about my decision, either. There is a reason why Romo wasn’t drafted and then spent three years on what I would call the taxi squad. There’s a reason why he makes bonehead plays. But there’s also a reason why Romo keeps you on the edge of your seats. He’s exciting. Stafford has some fire in his ass and I love that. But the other night I was pretty impressed by how Romo was coaching guys up on the field, and putting receivers in the right spots. That’s a side I hadn’t seen from him. But I like that Stafford a lot.
Jimmy Johnson: Oh, boy, I’d like to abstain on this one.
Michael Strahan: This is a really hard question. I look at Stafford as a really up-and-coming player. And he’s awfully young (23) but they are winning with him. But Romo’s excitement level is high and I have to believe he’ll eventually get it right. These bad luck things can’t keep happening to him.
TB: I think what everybody has to understand is even when the Cowboys are a bad football team we are still talking about them. They’ve won one playoff game in 15 seasons. The Cowboys are such a ratings’ grabber. But I do like the excitement in Detroit.
JJ: That playoff record that Terry mentioned, that is an amazing number.
Czar: After three weeks, what do you think of the season thus far?
JJ: On the positive side, everybody anticipated Detroit improving this season and they have. And they look to be very talented. Buffalo is a big surprise. On the negative side, Philadelphia has looked shaky and as time goes on they are even shakier.
Curt Menefee: Are you saying that they have gotten shakier as time goes on?
JJ: Yes, they have. Now, they are benching a couple of defenders, one of them rookie linebacker Casey Matthews. I don’t even know Juan Castillo, the new defensive coordinator. But taking the offensive line coach and making him the defensive coordinator; they may look back at that and say, ‘That wasn’t the right move.’ Last week he switched all three linebackers around in one week’s time and it looked like they didn’t know who to cover or even how to cover. They have suddenly become suspect as the favorite in the NFC East.
TB: Jimmy hit it on the head. What else do you want us to say? That the Rams are no good? I can see teams that are struggling and the coaches who already feel threatened are using the excuse that their poor play can be attributed to the lockout and no mini-camps, no OTAs. Just look at the Cowboys’ offense the other night. It looked to me like a lot of players didn’t know what they were doing. Now, maybe some of that could have been straightened out in the OTAs, so there might be something to that.
MS: Whenever I missed camp, it took me about three weeks to just get my legs under me and deal with the speed of the game. It can take some players three weeks to a month to get their hand positioning, their feet positioning and their balance to where they feel comfortable playing their very best.
JJ: How can you ever compare, you never made it to camp, did you?
MS: I made it to camp for 15 years. And I was never taking any days off. I was always doing my work.
Czar: The Redskins have denied it, but has anybody heard of defensive linemen barking out the signals to mess with the opposing center like the Cowboys’ Phil Costa on Monday night?
Howie Long: I’ve heard of it happening, but I think you have to time it out pretty damn well. And you have to be pretty slick with it and it’s hard to do for a defensive player. Well, if you’re a defensive lineman you’re turning your head and making a call to another defensive lineman. That’s hard to do. But the factor in all of this is, where is the umpire lined up now?
TB: Back behind the quarterback. So, how can he hear if players are cheating?
HL: I know that the league knew, prior to making the move with the umpire, that this is something the game would be susceptible to.
JJ: That Dallas center was so nervous; he may have snapped the ball if someone had farted.
HL: Did you see Washington’s blitz packages? They looked like they were lined up in a punt block situation coming up over center.
TB: I was at that Dallas game and I asked all my friends if they were ready to leave at halftime. That was one of the most boring games. I’m watching the secondary and there is nobody open. Center snaps are flying all over the place. Nobody looked like they had any enthusiasm to me.
MS: I don’t believe that the Redskins were barking out the snap count.
HL: The trouble for the Cowboys is that they have made three significant offensive line changes this season and there’s no turning back now.
Czar: If you had your choice, Calvin or Andre Johnson, which receiver would you want?
JJ: As much as I love Andre, being from the U, and he’s the ultimate professional, a great team player and a great wide receiver and for consistency I don’t think you can beat him, but Calvin Johnson is a game changer. I pick Calvin. I may have even said that last season. I loved him last season, too. I think he’s one of the two most talented receivers in the league. I think some day Dez Bryant might be there, too, but right now he doesn’t have the same work ethic that Andre and Calvin have.
MS: One thing I love about Dez Bryant is that he’s a scrapper out there. I think some day Dez will be in this group. I would say Calvin Johnson like Jimmy.
HL: Calvin is so different physically. Calvin is 6-foot-5. Calvin is 25 pounds heavier, too.
TB: You’re not going to miss either way here. If everybody else wants to pick Calvin, I’ll gladly take Andre.
Czar: Vick complained last Sunday about the hits on him. Do you think it’s come to the point that most quarterbacks don’t expect to be touched?
HL: Speaking of Vick, we all know that he is extraordinary mobile quarterback and he makes a lot of defenders look bad at one point or another, scrambling around both inside and outside the pocket. Sometimes, the hits on him are definitely a by-product of how he moves. The level of the strike zone on him changes in a millisecond. I mean I keep reading what a horrible hit the Chris Canty hit was, but to me it was bang-bang play.
MS: Howie’s right, Canty’s was a typical hit that you get on Vick.
HL: At first I thought Canty hit him on the chin, but he really hit him in the shoulder.
MS: He got him right on the shoulder pads. Sometimes when you get a 300-pound guy hitting Vick he’s going to fly through the air. You know what a Vick hit looks to me when he falls? It’s like a skier. You relax your body so when you hit the ground, you don’t hurt yourself. That’s what Vick looks like. He relaxes so he doesn’t get hurt. But, unfortunately, he just takes too many shots. And the way he runs the ball, the officials in my opinion, they are going to give him more leeway.
HL: I will say this again. When Michael is in the pocket, he really holds the ball a long time. He’s always waiting to hit the really big pass play.
JJ: I did a commercial with Vick and he’s a little guy compared to a lot of really big NFL quarterbacks who stand in the pocket. He’s more like a little scatback.