PHILADELPHIA – Chip Kelly has received a lot of credit for the innovations he has brought to football, on both the college and professional levels. Maybe because of that, Kelly doesn’t hesitate to deflect credit when he believes it isn’t well-founded.

Example: The Indianapolis Colts came out and leaned on their running game last Monday night. That led to speculation that the Colts wanted to control the ball and keep Kelly’s offense off the field. Forcing a successful team to change its personality would be a feather in a coach’s cap, but Kelly didn’t see it that way.

“I don't know if that's what their intentions were,” Kelly said. “I think sometimes maybe some people read too much into that. Maybe they saw something in us defensively that felt like they wanted to exploit the run game, I don't know. That's a question for other teams when they play us. But I haven't seen people just sit there and look at the play clock and wait 'til five seconds to go to milk the clock or anything.”

Indeed, although they did run the ball quite a bit behind an unbalanced offensive line, the Colts were getting to the line of scrimmage quickly and snapping the ball with dispatch.

“Actually,” Kelly said, “if you watch the Colts game, the Colts ran hurry-up. I think people are reading too much into that with them running the football. I didn't get the impression from watching the game and being on the sideline that they were trying to work the clock in any manner to keep us off the field. Maybe they thought in their game plan they could run the ball on us. I’ll give them credit: In the first half they did a really good job of it and we had to make some adjustments to shut that down. I thought they were doing some really good things there.

“If you really watch that game, they didn't look like they were trying to work the clock – they actually played hurry-up against us. I didn't see that aspect of it. I didn't see it that way. I just think they saw something in the run game they thought they could exploit.”

The Colts held the ball for 18 minutes, 17 seconds in the first half. The Eagles had the ball for just 11:43 while falling behind 17-6. The Colts gained 101 of their 169 rushing yards in the first half.

In the second half, the Colts held the ball for 17:58 while the Eagles had it for 12:02. But the Eagles outscored the Colts 24-10 in the second half. That’s probably the area in which Kelly really deserves credit.

Notes: Giants RBs hope to do more

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One of the few bright spots for the New York Giants during the preseason was the team's new combination at running back.

Free agent acquisition Rashad Jennings and fourth-round draft pick Andre Williams looked like a potent one-two punch in the backfield.

But, through two regular-season games, the Giants are ranked 29th out of 32 NFL teams in rushing yards per game -- the same lowly spot they were ranked a year ago.

And their average output, 67 yards, is even significantly lower than last year (83.3).

Yes, it's only been two games -- but the Giants desperately need a stronger running game to be successful this year.

"I put the running game on us in the backfield," Jennings said Friday. "The offensive linemen, when they get a body on a body, the running back's gotta dig out hard yards and move the chains. I take responsibility for that."

Jennings has 34 carries for 110 yards, averaging 3.2 yards per carry. He also had a very costly fumble in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Williams has gained just 21 yards on 13 carries (1.6 yards per carry), and coach Tom Coughlin said Thursday that he believes Williams is going through some natural rookie growing pains.

"He missed a couple opportunities the other night and he’s well aware of it," Coughlin said. "He made the error of not believing or not staying with his initial key and kind of getting off and being a little helter skelter and then finding nothing."

Williams, who led the NCAA in rushing yards a year ago at Boston College, doesn't sound like he's lost his swagger, though.

"I think we just have to execute better, play faster, play with more confidence, and just make sure we stick to our fundamentals," Williams said. "I think this week is gonna be a good week for the run game."

The Giants' opponent this week, the Houston Texans, are ranked 18th in rushing defense, allowing 116 yards per game. But they're giving up 5.0 yards per carry -- tied for the worst mark in the league.

If the Giants can't run the ball effectively this week, that's a really bad sign.

Music to our ears: As the Giants were stretching at the start of practice on Friday, loud music was playing, including "Hypnotize" by The Notorious B.I.G.

This is commonplace at Rex Ryan's New York Jets practices, for instance, but not common at all with Tom Coughlin's Giants -- leading to a question about it afterward.

"The players wanted that," Coughlin said. "We’ve done that before; we did it years ago. Just a little bit of noise in the air, like a stadium pregame."

Coughlin added that the topic came up during a meeting with the players' leadership council.

This appears to be another example of Coughlin loosening up a little bit -- but he clearly did not pick the soundtrack.

"What’s an iPod?" Coughlin said. "I see everybody with these things sticking out of their ears all the time. What the heck? What, you need music to run? You can’t exercise without that stuff? What the heck?"
PHILADELPHIA – The NFL is a passing-oriented league. That doesn’t change the fact that playing defense starts with stopping the run.

The Philadelphia Eagles' No. 1-ranked offense begins with LeSean McCoy and the ground game. And the Eagles' defense is similarly oriented, putting run defense first on its list of priorities.

“If you can’t stop the run, you can’t stop the pass,” Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho said. “So first and foremost, I want the run stopped. That’s one thing I pride myself in.”

The Eagles allowed 169 rushing yards to the Indianapolis Colts Monday night. That was more than the Eagles defense allowed on the ground in all but two regular-season games last season. They won both of those games, against Oakland and Washington, the Eagles’ opponent this week.

“They showed us some looks we didn’t see,” Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans said of the Colts. “It helps us. It makes our defense a lot better, because now we understand how we have to play against that scheme if we ever see it.”

The Eagles also allowed 185 rushing yards in their playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Washington likes to utilize running back Alfred Morris in stretch plays, which, as the name implies, “stretches” defenders out in order to create gaps for Morris to cut back. Once he is running in the opposite direction from most of the defenders, he’s very difficult to catch.

“Everybody has to be really sound,” Ryans said. “[If] defenses try to do too much, he gashes them on the cutback. They don’t do enough, he can just press it front side and keep going. You have to be very sound. Guys just have to come off blocks and make a play. We know they’re running the stretch; they know they’re running the stretch. It’s not a secret.”

The Eagles will likely be without inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who injured his calf against the Colts. Acho and Casey Matthews are expected to fill in. That will present a challenge, as Washington will likely going to test the backup by trying to run right at him.

“The guy has to step in and pick up where Mychal left off,” Ryans said. “Whoever goes in, Acho or Casey, they have to step in and hold it down for Mychal.”

Giants practice report: No Weatherford

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford was not on the field Friday, during the portion of practice open to the media.

Weatherford, who has been playing through a high ankle sprain, sat out Wednesday's practice but worked on a limited basis Thursday. The Giants may just be giving Weatherford some extra rest, heading into Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

Linebacker Jon Beason was also absent, but that's because he's having his injured foot evaluated by Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, North Carolina. Beason has not practiced at all this week but has not been ruled out for Sunday's game yet. We should get an update on Beason later in the day.

Rookies Odell Beckham Jr. and Devon Kennard, both dealing with hamstring injuries, were working on the side, and won't play Sunday.

We'll have more information later, after post-practice interviews with coach Tom Coughlin and the players.

Jerry Jones: McClain 'doubtful' for Rams

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Rolando McClain missed his third straight day of practice and owner and general manager Jerry Jones said McClain would be doubtful to play Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.

"You’ll miss him," Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. "On the other hand, I think you could expect him probably not to play, but he won’t tell you that. We’re not for sure when he had this injury. He might have had it early in the game. You listen to him, he wants to play and thinks he might play. But we have him as doubtful, of course."

Rookie Anthony Hitchens would start at middle linebacker if McClain is out, with Kyle Wilber moving to strongside linebacker and Bruce Carter on the weak side. Justin Durant will miss his second straight game with a groin injury, but coach Jason Garrett said Durant has improved.

Running back Joseph Randle returned to practice for the first time this week after suffering a concussion last week against the Tennessee Titans.

Defensive end Anthony Spencer is not practicing after going through limited workouts on Wednesday and Thursday. Those were Spencer’s first practices since last season as he comes back from microfracture surgery on his left knee.

"He’s feeling good," Garrett said. "We just want to make sure we do the right amount of work with him as he’s coming back."

Defensive tackle Davon Coleman (calf) missed his third straight day of practice.

How Kirk Cousins differs from RG III

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
ASHBURN, Va. -- The play did not set up as a likely pass to Darrel Young. The fullback split out wide, a design to put Jacksonville’s defense in a little bind. But Kirk Cousins did not anticipate the opening, nor did the Jaguars expect him to pass to Young.

At the snap, Cousins looked to his left, worked back to the right and saw the cornerback jump the route to the corner. That left Young wide open, and Cousins pounced, making a throw that appeared easy but took patience and seeing the entire field.

It’s among the abilities he brings to the starting job. Would Robert Griffin III had made that same throw? Impossible to say, though when talking to people about Cousins, they say he sees the field better. That doesn’t mean he has more potential or is better, but that is an area of the game he does well at, and it’s why the Redskins feel confident moving forward.

[+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesThe Redskins can expect fewer big gains and fewer negative plays with Kirk Cousins at quarterback.
"He’s a little more of a traditional pocket passer," tight end Logan Paulsen said of Cousins. "He’s more polished in that role."

Griffin’s talent is obvious: It’s not just his athleticism, it’s his arm. The Redskins knew it would take a little time for him to excel in the pocket. There are things he can do that Cousins can’t, or won’t. It’s why, despite all the talk in the last year or so about how coaches like Cousins better, they always stuck with Griffin.

There are plays that reveal differences in their game:

The bootleg

Griffin looks for the big play and knows he can extend it while trying to find one. On the play he was hurt on against Jacksonville, Griffin might have been able to hit DeSean Jackson earlier. But, because he wasn’t 100 percent sure, he extended the play and eventually did connect with him for 19 yards.

Against the Texans, though, Griffin hesitated on the boot while safety D.J. Swearinger raced at him, leading to a sack.

Cousins might not have made the Jackson pass, but he also kept them out of danger last week with a rusher in his face by quickly throwing the ball at a receiver’s feet. It led to a harmless incompletion rather than a bad sack. Another time, Cousins had a lineman rushing at him, so he quickly set his feet and threw for a 23-yard gain to Niles Paul.

The zone-read

Obviously Griffin is a much bigger threat on this play than Cousins. But Cousins did run the zone-read, handing off to Alfred Morris for a 3-yard gain on a second-and-1. And the linebackers were fooled later in the game on another zone-read, this time a fake to Morris that resulted in a 12-yarder out to Pierre Garcon. The play won’t be as popular or dangerous, but they can still run the zone-read on occasion.

Time in the pocket

Cousins, lacking Griffin’s skill set, must make good, quick decisions. It showed Sunday: his average pass was released in 2.4 seconds, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He went through his progressions quickly, sometimes finding his third read in less than 2.4 seconds. That’s a half-second faster than the average throw by Griffin. Mobile quarterbacks tend to be sacked more, in part because they hold the ball longer knowing that by extending a play, a big gain might follow. Cousins’ approach helps the line in protection and keeps the plays on schedule, though big plays might be fewer.

"The thing with Robert, he gets you huge explosive plays, but he’ll also give you some negative plays," Paulsen said. "Kirk is going to be the consistent, solid guy. He’s less of a risk-taker."

Sight adjustments

Griffin mostly did a good job anticipating where pressure was coming from, coaches say, and making adjustments. It’s an area Cousins is still adapting to, as one sack revealed Sunday when the Jaguars sent an overload to the Redskins’ right. Cousins didn’t see it, was sacked and the Redskins were taken out of field goal range. Coaches say Cousins must improve here, but for the most part, they feel that even if this is the case, he usually knows where to go and what to do. It'll be a key against Philadelphia on Sunday.

As one teammate said, "He’s going to be a guy that is overprepared."

Throwing with trust

On the last drive of the first half Sunday, Cousins opened by hitting rookie Ryan Grant by throwing off his third step. In rhythm, on time. Next play: Cousins unloaded the ball before Andre Roberts made his cut. He turned around, the ball arrived and they gained six yards on a second-and-1. Griffin was learning to throw with his level of trust; it’s a skill learned through repetitions and not only trusting the receiver, but trusting what you see. Griffin had improved here, but it’s something Cousins does well.

He can be decisive, but that also can lead to mistakes. He has thrown an interception in seven of the nine games he has played -- and four times he has thrown two picks. Still, he throws with trust.

"Kirk’s good. He’s on time with his reads, he’s smart, he’s a hard worker," Redskins receiver Aldrick Robinson said. "So I trust him when he comes in."
IRVING, Texas – Maybe there’s something about the St. Louis Rams helmet DeMarco Murray likes. Or the uniform. Or maybe it was the way the sun was shining through the doors at AT&T Stadium in the two games Murray has played against the Rams.

In those two games, the Dallas Cowboys’ running back has picked up 428 yards on 51 carries. On Oct. 23, 2011, he ran for a franchise-record 253 yards on 25 carries in a 34-7 win against the Rams, and he didn’t even start that game. Last year he picked up 175 yards on 26 carries in a 31-7 win.

Murray gets his third chance against the Rams on Sunday. How much will the previous games factor into this one?

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDeMarco Murray has been hard for the Rams to handle in two prior meetings.
“Um, nothing,” Murray said.

The Rams have a new coordinator in Gregg Williams with a new scheme. They have new players but also will be missing one of their best players, defensive end Chris Long.

“I think you’ve got to be really careful of going back and saying, ‘Boy, he plays great against these guys,’” coach Jason Garrett said. “Well, these guys aren’t necessarily the same guys he’s played against in the past. But, he’s certainly playing well right now. We’ve run the ball well the first couple weeks, and he’s been a big part of it.”

St. Louis hasn’t exactly stopped the run, either. The Rams have the 30th-ranked run defense through two games, giving up 171 yards per game on the ground. Minnesota wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson had 102 yards on three carries in Week 1. Tampa Bay’s Bobby Rainey had 144 yards on 22 carries in Week 2.

“I didn’t watch any film of the last two years that we played them at all,” Murray said. “I’ve watched them preseason and the first two games to get a feel for what they do and it’s totally different.”

St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn played in both contests, though he was not one of the NFL’s best defenders in 2011. Stopping the big run is at the top of Quinn’s to-do list this week. In the 2011 meeting, Murray had 172 of his 253 yards on four carries, including a 91-yarder. In 2013, 118 of his 175 yards came on five carries.

“We want to keep him within the box so our big guys and our ‘backers and sometimes safeties can get downhill and just keep him to as minimal yardage as possible,” Quinn said.

With as well as the Cowboys have started the season on the ground, play-caller Scott Linehan knows he will have to devise different ways to get Murray loose as defenses key on tendencies. But he doesn’t want to get away from what the Cowboys and Murray do best.

“He runs angry,” Linehan said. “It’s a great compliment to do that because a lot of guys are running to daylight. DeMarco has that ability but he plays the game like one of those big backs that run with that fierce, tenacious kind of style. You don’t realize it, but he’s not the biggest back in the league. I don’t know where you put him as far as where that is, but he plays that way. The physical nature, he brings a lot of identity to our team the way he plays because our guys are doing the same thing up front. The tight end, the receivers are playing with that same kind of physical nature. To be good at the run game, your back has to have that style to be the guy that’s packing it most of the time.”
IRVING, Texas -- Jason Witten received a game ball for Sunday’s win over the Tennessee Titans, along with the rest of the offensive line that paved the way for the Dallas Cowboys to pound away for 220 rushing yards.

 Witten has only six catches for 46 yards in two games, but the franchise’s all-time leading receiver isn’t sweating his individual statistics.

“Our focus is trying to create that identity of a running football team,” Witten said.

At some point, the 32-year-old Witten will slow down, but it’d be silly to point to his lack of personal production in the first two games as the sign of a steep decline. He had only eight catches in the first three weeks of the 2012 season -- and some uncharacteristic drops after missing a month of practice after a big hit by then-Oakland Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain lacerated his spleen in the preseason opener. He ended up setting the NFL record for receptions by a tight end with 110 that season.

Witten, whose 885 career receptions are the second most by a tight end in NFL history, is willing to sacrifice catches as part of the Cowboys’ newfound commitment to the run. He also recognizes defenses will pay less attention to the nine-time Pro Bowl tight end if DeMarco Murray continues to rack up rushing yards, and play-action, in particular, should lead to some big-play opportunities.

“I think for all of us our numbers will come and opportunities will come,” Witten said. “You have less opportunities because of the way you run the football. I think all of us are committed to that and understand it and do whatever we have to do to help out.”

Redskins wake-up call

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins will practice at 11:10 a.m. Friday followed by an open locker-room session. Here are three areas of interest:
  1. DeSean Jackson. He casually caught a couple of passes in individual drills Thursday, but none of the balls were thrown over his head to test his shoulder. But that could happen Friday as the Redskins want to see if he's progressed. It still could come down to a game-time decision, but we should get a better feel for his progress Friday. I'm not expecting a whole lot from tight end Jordan Reed.
  2. I'll have my prediction up later today. I will say, it was much harder to predict this game than I would have thought a week or so ago, just based on the Philadelphia Eagles' first-half struggles combined with some of what I think Washington might be able to do against them. This should be the best defense Philadelphia has faced, but it's one that still needs to eliminate the big plays.
  3. I know I said this Thursday, but the other Kirk Cousins story got pushed back to Friday, some areas he excelled at last week -- throws and decisions he made that impressed those who watched him. Yes, there are areas he must improve and those will be discussed, too. I'll discuss three things I learned about the Eagles after watching their game film and talking to players and coaches. There also will be a mailbag. Saturday, I'll have a mailbag and another in the Getting to Know series followed by notes and analysis Sunday morning.

Joseph, Fiedorowicz practice fully

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
HOUSTON -- Two Houston Texans moved from the limited participation list to the Texans' lengthy full participation list on today's injury report -- cornerback Johnathan Joseph (foot) and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (foot).

Fiedorowicz missed last week's game in Oakland. Earlier this week, Texans coach Bill O'Brien said it looked like Fiedorowicz would probably be ok to play, but they haven't made any final determinations yet.

Running back Arian Foster (hamstring), guard Ben Jones (ankle/knee) and safety D.J. Swearinger (elbow) were limited today, as they were yesterday.

Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (knee), receiver DeAndre Hopkins (illness) and safety Shiloh Keo (calf) did not practice. Clowney actually made a brief appearance in the locker room during the open period today. He had a sleeve on his surgically repaired knee, but no brace, and didn't appear to have a limp. Clowney had arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago. Hopkins caught a bug, but is expected to play Sunday.

For the New York Giants, punter Steve Weatherford, who didn't practice yesterday, returned to practice on a limited basis. Linebacker Jon Beason (foot/ankle), receiver Odell Beckham (hamstring) and linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) did not practice. In addition to Weatherford, offensive tackles James Brewer (back) and Charles Brown (shoulder) were limited.
PHILADELPHIA -- It might be cynical to see Marcus Smith's move to inside linebacker and think, Oh, good, now that’s three positions he won’t play in Sunday’s game against Washington.

The Philadelphia Eagles' first-round draft choice from Louisville has practiced at the two outside linebacker positions all through organized team activities and training camp. With injuries to inside linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Najee Goode, the coaches had Smith taking reps on the inside this week.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Smith
AP Photo/Matt RourkePhiladelphia's first-round pick Marcus Smith might find playing time as an inside linebacker.
"It's a numbers thing," coach Chip Kelly said. "I don't know where it will play out, but when you only have four inside linebackers in your 53 and one of them is hurt, we have to bring someone over. So we brought Marcus over from outside linebacker and see how he fits and what he can do. Obviously, you've got to be prepared if you lose a guy or two at inside linebacker."

Smith dressed but did not play in the Eagles’ opener against Jacksonville. On Monday night, he was inactive for the Eagles’ game in Indianapolis.

"It was kind of hard on me," Smith said. "I [have] never really not played in a game before. I definitely wanted to be out there with my teammates. Also, at the same time, you have to be on the sideline and cheer on your teammates. They had a great victory."

Around the NFL, a handful of first-round picks haven’t played a game yet. But one of them, Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants, is injured. The other two are quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater.

The Eagles took Smith because they believed he could develop into a good edge pass-rusher. And maybe he will. But the Eagles have gotten exactly one sack from their outside linebackers in two games. That was by Trent Cole.

Meanwhile, safety Deone Bucannon, taken one pck after Smith, has 10 tackles in two games. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, selected a pick later, has eight catches for 138 yards for Carolina.

There is a long way to go to judge any of their careers. But it’s hard to get a read on Smith when he hasn’t played. It’s also tough for Smith to get better from the sideline.

"It's always a challenge to grow when you're not getting game reps," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "It's harder to do that. But in practice, that's part of the NFL. That's the hard part of taking somebody's job that already has one. You have to be great in practice, and you have to show that you really are making progress. Then you're fighting for game-day reps. When you get game-day reps, you have to make the most of them."

The move inside could get Smith some playing time, at least. He said he felt pretty comfortable there after just a couple days of practice.

"I’ve been through it before, changing positions," Smith said. "It’s really nothing new to me. I’ll do anything for the team. I look at it as an opportunity. They want to throw me in there, want me to cover bigger tight ends and cover backs. I look at it as an opportunity to get on the field."

Notes: McAdoo sees progress on offense

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants only scored 14 points again in Week 2, but offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo likes the direction his unit is headed.

Eli Manning in particular looked much better against the Cardinals, completing 26 of 39 passes for 277 yards -- and he could have had a few more completions, if his receivers had held onto the ball.

"I thought he had some comfort in his feet," McAdoo said Thursday. "He felt good about where he was going with the ball. That is encouraging to see."

The Giants only rushed for 81 yards on 27 carries -- just 3.0 yards per run. But the offensive line did appear to give Manning more time in the pocket.

"[The O-line] are making progress like everyone else," McAdoo said. "Today was probably our best Thursday practice of the year. We completed the ball well. We didn’t have pads on, but we had a good day running it."

McAdoo has featured a three-wide receiver set quite frequently in his first two games as offensive coordinator, but that third wide receiver will be someone else, now that Jerrel Jernigan has been lost for the rest of the season with a foot injury.

Preston Parker will get the first crack, and McAdoo spoke positively about him.

"Preston is on the roster for a reason," McAdoo said. "We trust him. He can create separation out there. He is aggressive to the ball. We know he is a competitor."

As for rookie wideout Odell Beckham Jr., who continues to be sidelined with a hamstring injury, McAdoo says Beckham doesn't even enter into his mind right now.

"He has a special skill set. He is gifted. He is talented. He is smart. He is conscientious. I am excited for the chance for him to come out here," McAdoo said. "When he comes out here, it will be a good bonus for all of us."

NOT SO SPECIAL: The Giants made two costly mistakes on special teams last week, on back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter -- giving up a punt return touchdown by Ted Ginn Jr., followed by Quintin Demps' kickoff-return fumble.

Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said there were multiple issues on the Ginn return. "Number one thing is you want to make the tackle," he said. "Second thing we want is more hang time and the location. We expect the ball to go to the right, and it didn’t go to the right. [But] whatever comes off his foot, we have to cover."

Demps lost the ball after spinning, trying to gain extra yardage. "We have worked on ball security," Quinn said. "We don’t want to spin. That is probably trying to do too much. Just let the game come to you. If you try to hit a home run, you are not going to hit a home run. Hit some singles and they’ll go out."

Demps returned several kickoffs from deep in the Giants' end zone, but Quinn said those were good decisions. "We want to be aggressive," Quinn said. "We felt like it was close. You look at the tape and one or two blocks each time and he could come spitting out of there and give us some good field position."

INJURY REPORT: Beckham, linebacker Jon Beason (foot/ankle) and linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) did not practice for the second day in a row Thursday, although Beason might be back very soon.

Punter Steve Weatherford (ankle) practiced on a limited basis, after sitting out on Wednesday. Offensive linemen James Brewer (back) and Charles Brown (shoulder) were limited for the second day in a row.

Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (ankle) practiced fully for the second day in a row.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Houston Texans are 2-0 and the New York Giants are 0-2, but Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is sleeping comfortably this week.

When asked Thursday what concerns him most about the Texans, Pierre-Paul answered, "Nothing."

"I feel like we should be able to handle their offense, and nothing concerns me," he added.

The Texans are third-to-last in passing yards per game (172.5), but eighth in rushing yards (151.5), and lead the NFL in rushing attempts through two games (80).

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul puts pressure on Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford on Sept. 8.
Arian Foster is second in the league in rushing individually (241 yards), behind only the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarco Murray (285).

"Foster is one of the best in our league," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "Great vision -- it's unbelievable his vision, how he can see the small creases, his acceleration into those small creases, and then his ability to get yards in a small crease and move the chains."

The Giants have been pretty good against the run through two weeks -- 12th in the league, giving up 100 yards per game. Pierre-Paul, while known as a pass rusher, has been the second-best 4-3 defensive end against the run in the entire NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

"JPP, I thought he played really well last week in the ballgame -- not only in the run game, but also in the pass game," Fewell said. "He's had a great week of practice. So we just keep patting him on the butt and saying, 'Come on JPP!'"

Pierre-Paul did look like the JPP of old last Sunday -- the player who posted 16.5 sacks in 2011. He had 1.5 sacks against the Cardinals and was also credited with two passes defensed -- including one of his patented bat-downs at the line of scrimmage.

But he doesn't sound satisfied. "I am trying to get better," Pierre-Paul said. "I need to stop the run a little more. I need to get to the quarterback quicker. That is basically it. Chase the ball."

Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has yet to throw an interception this season. In fact, he hasn't even been sacked.

The Giants, on the other hand, have failed to force a single turnover in their first two games.

"We need turnovers," Pierre-Paul said. "Turnovers win games, especially if you’re on defense, and I’m a big part of that."

Fewell said forcing turnovers has been a big point of emphasis in practice this week.

"We had our hands on two balls last week, and we didn't come up with it," Fewell said. "Stevie Brown had his hands on a deep ball, and you expect him to come down with that one. [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie] had his hands on a ball; you expect him to come down with it. We just haven't made our own breaks."

The Giants are hoping to change that come Sunday, and if they do, Pierre-Paul will likely be a big reason why.
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has minimal concern about the sore right shoulder that caused him to be a limited participant in Thursday’s practice.

“It’s a little bit sore, but nothing that’s going to keep me out,” Bryant said. “I’m going to be ready to roll on Sunday.”

Bryant injured the shoulder during the first quarter of Sunday’s win over the Tennessee Titans. He missed the next series but had eight of his team-high 10 receptions after returning.

Bryant did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. He took almost all of the first-team reps Thursday, but the Cowboys exercised caution in keeping him out of contact situations.

Asked if he had full range of motion, Bryant extended both arms above his head.

Bryant will get treatment throughout the week, but he said the shoulder will not impact his performance or his style of play Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.

“I’m not going to adjust the way that I play,” Bryant said, referring to his tendency to be physical with defensive backs and attempt to break tackles. “That’s how I play. I’m going to go out there and have fun.”

Linebacker Rolando McClain (groin), linebacker Justin Durant (groin), running back Joseph Randle (concussion) and defensive tackle Davon Coleman (calf) did not practice Thursday. Randle said Thursday afternoon that he has passed the league’s concussion protocol tests and expects to practice Friday.

Defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee) and tight end Gavin Escobar (knee) were limited Thursday. Spencer just did individual drills for a second consecutive day and will not be ready for game action until next week at the earliest.

Quarterback Tony Romo fully participated Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s practice due to tightness in his surgically repaired back.

Acho among competitors for LB spot

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
PHILADELPHIA -- Emmanuel Acho was released by the Philadelphia Eagles at the end of training camp last year. He wound up returning to the Eagles when they needed a linebacker late in the 2013 regular season, and he went to training camp with them again this summer.

Again, Acho was released. He was added to the practice squad, then elevated to the 53-man roster due to linebacker Najee Goode's injury. This week, Acho is competing with Casey Matthews and first-round draft choice Marcus Smith to start Sunday against the Washington Redskins. One of those three would replace starting inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks.

"You have to be psychologically tough," Acho said Thursday. "When you're on the practice squad, it's in your nature to hang your head, to be a little depressed, especially when you think you should be on some type of 53-man roster. But ultimately, it's day to day and week to week. That's what Chip [Kelly] told me. Four weeks ago, I was on the practice squad, two weeks ago, I was on the roster, now this week I could be starting."

Acho played linebacker on two plays against the Indianapolis Colts. It was late in the game, when Andrew Luck took the field after the Eagles had tied the game at 27.

"If you hang your head for one second, then suddenly I'm going into the Colts game on the last drive," Acho said. "If I bust a coverage or I 'misfit,' it's out of the gate and they win -- all because I wasn't mature enough or mentally strong enough to prepare for that situation."

Acho was on the field for first and second down, then came off when the nickel package came on for third down. The defense forced the Colts to punt, which set up the Eagles' game-winning drive.

Sunday against Washington, Acho is likely to play whether he starts or not. The Eagles plan to rotate Acho, Matthews and DeMeco Ryans. If Smith had a good week of practice, he could be in the mix, too.

"Today, I took primary reps with the ones," Acho said. "Yesterday, Casey took primary reps with the ones. Today, we flip-flopped. Just trying to get equal reps throughout the week so we'll both be ready."

Being psychologically tough ought to help. It certainly can't hurt.