Commentary

Around the NFC: Will Benson remain the starter?

Updated: September 11, 2007, 5:26 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

What have the coaches been saying in their weekly news conferences? A.J. Mass takes a quick-hitting look at the goings-on for each of the 16 NFC teams:

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys:

Wade Phillips was in good spirits at his Monday news conference after watching his team outscore the Giants, 45-35, the night before. He praised his quarterback Tony Romo, "These aren't dink and dunk when you throw it for over 10 yards on every pass you throw." He also had high praise for the blocking of Jason Witten, which opened up the running game, and for Terrell Owens' team-first attitude at halftime, despite nary a look in the first 30 minutes. When asked about the struggles of his defense, Phillips earned laughs by deflecting the question, "I'm an offensive coach now." It seems that those fantasy owners with Cowboys in their lineup can share the laughter as well.

New York Giants:

The big news from Tom Coughlin's news conference came in his refuting ESPN's Chris Mortensen's report that Eli Manning's separated shoulder is expected to keep him out for a month. Coughlin said, "I don't know where supposedly the information was found. Midafternoon, I will say, this afternoon we got the report from our doctors that after having done the MRI and done all the testing. We are just going to have to see how it is. Whether he can practice and play on a daily basis. When he will be able to do the things he needs to be able to do. Quite frankly, if it is not possible this week then it will be another week." If Manning can't go, the Giants would probably go with the big southpaw, Jared Lorenzen. As for the loss of Brandon Jacobs, Coughlin said that Derrick Ward "deserves the opportunity and he certainly will get some more." He also added that Reuben Droughns "will get more work now, obviously."

Philadelphia Eagles:

In his Monday news conference, Andy Reid was upset that his team dropped too many balls, but still felt the Eagles did enough to win had it not been for awful day from his punt returners. Both Greg Lewis and J.R. Reed muffed punts that led to scores for the Packers. Reid said, "Obviously we thought we'd get it done with the guys we had there and it didn't work out this game." He is considering several options, such as using Brian Westbrook in that role. When asked about bringing a new player in to handle return duties, such as former-Eagle Reno Mahe, Reid didn't rule the possibility out. Reid also announced that Lito Shepherd will most likely be out this week with a sprained MCL. Still, the Eagles defense should remain a decent option against the Redskins.

Washington Redskins:

Joe Gibbs, in his press conference on Monday, was thrilled with his team's heart. "That's the thing that means the most to me," said Gibbs, praising their effort on a hot day against a physical football team. The coach was equally effusive when talking about Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts. "We had a very good rushing day. To play as physical and hard as they did, I'm really proud of those guys," Gibbs said. Hopefully the running game will not suffer any ill effects from the injury to right tackle Jon Jansen, who is facing ankle surgery, and will miss a significant part of the season, if not all of it. "It's a big loss," Gibbs said. "We're going to be talking over what's the best thing for us to do there, both as far as adding somebody and how we're going to proceed." Rookie Stephon Heyer replaced Jansen on Sunday, and could get the starting nod there for the rest of the year.

NFC North

Chicago Bears:

The Chicago Tribune reports that Lovie Smith isn't ready to make a change at running back just yet. "Who's our starter?" Smith responded Monday, "I'd say that [Cedric Benson's] running style fits a little bit better. We like both players." Benson spent the end of the game on the sideline after a costly fumble, but his replacement, Adrian Peterson also coughed the ball up at a key moment. Benson gained only 43 yards on 19 carries, while Peterson looked a bit stronger, going 7 for 38. "We have to be able to run the football," Smith said. "Of course, we weren't able to do that. They stopped us on a third-and-short, a fourth-and-short. Those should be our signature downs where we get some work done."

Detroit Lions:

Rod Marinelli did not want to talk much about the Lions win in Week 1 during his Monday news conference, taking the tabula rasa approach to coaching. "Our test is us," Marinelli said. "It's not Minnesota. It's us. It's our ability to go out and prepare just like we did last week. Same. They are faceless, gray helmets coming in here. I don't care who the opponent is. It's what we do." Hopefully, Marinelli will have a game plan in place to counter a tough Vikings defense that returned two interceptions for touchdowns against Atlanta. With five players with at least four catches against the Raiders, Detroit has shown it's not afraid to spread the ball around. Marinelli repeated that his team will be ready, "They bring nothing. It's us, it's what we do."

Green Bay Packers:

Coach Mike McCarthy was happy to have a victory under his belt, but he was hoping for a smoother Week 1. In his Monday news conference, he admitted that the hamstring injury to Greg Jennings hurt his plans a great deal, "If you had watched us practice, Greg was a big part of the game plan," he said. "I think Greg and Brett [Favre] are really starting to develop that connection in Year 2 that you like to see between a quarterback and receiver. We had planned on him potentially having a big day, but that's no excuse for the way we played on offense at all." While McCarthy is ready to see Greg Jennings take that next step as a receiver, he's just hoping to see Vernand Morency take any step at all. "Vernand will go full participation Wednesday and then we'll see how he feels Thursday," McCarthy said. Keep an eye on his progress, because if healthy, he's likely to take some carries away from Brandon Jackson in Week 2.

Minnesota Vikings:

Brad Childress couldn't fully enjoy his team's 24-3 victory over the Falcons because of the injury to Chester Taylor. He reported on Taylor's condition in his news conference on Monday, "Chester had an MRI this morning and has a contusion of his oblique. He's a pretty tough guy so he'll treat that thing. There is nothing structurally wrong, just extremely uncomfortable right now. We'll get that settled down and see where he comes by Wednesday, we have got a lot of time there." He hopes to be able to continue splitting carries between Taylor and rookie Adrian Peterson, who was forced to carry the load when Taylor went out. "That's why they say why you have a vice president because the president might not be there; he might be gone and the vice president has to step up," Childress remarked.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons:

Bobby Petrino was not afraid to place some of the blame for his team's loss on his signal-caller, Joey Harrington, in his Monday news conference. "I think he was inconsistent," Petrino said before adding some light praise, "He did some good things -- he distributed the ball, at times, well. We had six sacks as an offense and everybody has to take responsibility for that." Petrino complimented the Vikings on taking Joe Horn out of the game, "We had other plays called for Joe. Minnesota had rolled their coverages a lot to his side so we weren't able to get him the ball as much as we liked." He also hinted that Jerious Norwood may factor into the offensive plans as the season goes along, "He is a guy that has the speed and the ability to make big plays for us. We have to make sure that he gets more touches."

Carolina Panthers:

John Fox was not satisfied with the was his team played in a 14-point win over the Rams, but chalked it up to being Week 1 in the NFL. "I think overall as a team we played hard," Fox said in his Monday news conference. "We executed well. We've still got a lot of improvements. There are some things we didn't execute as well as we can in particularly early." He did like the way his quarterback, Jake Delhomme, handled himself under pressure. "Any quarterback does a lot better when the timing is right and you have protection," Fox said. "I thought he did exceptionally well on some things that were maybe covered early. He threw the ball away a couple of times. From a coach's standpoint, those are good plays." From a fantasy owner's standpoint, incompletions that avoid sacks don't really help the stat totals, but the confidence of a head coach to give his signal-caller more freedom? That can be priceless as the season progresses.

New Orleans Saints:

Despite a lopsided loss against Peyton Manning and Indianapolis on Thursday night, Sean Payton was upbeat and positive about some of the things he saw from his defense in a news conference on Saturday, according to the team's official Web site. "When you're playing a quarterback of Peyton's caliber and the receivers they have, the margin for error is smaller," he said. "I think our players know that. You try to make those corrections right now, improve from Week 1 to Week 2 and go onto the next opponent." As for the Saints offense, Payton was quick to credit the Colts, and wasn't ready to panic, "They did a great job, played with effort and energy, tackled well & really limited us on third down and defensively contained us. We need to bounce back this week, need to move onto the next game." In other words, one game does not a season make, so feel free to give players like Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and Marques Colston another shot.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

In his news conference on Monday, Jon Gruden said that his team "came out ready to roll" and that a key factor in the game was the momentum that the Bucs lost with penalties called on explosive kick returns from Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway. But the overriding concern was about the health of Carnell Williams; his bruised ribs caused Gruden to announce him as questionable for this coming weekend. "Unfortunately we're good at one thing right now offensively, and that's contingency planning," joked the coach. Although Gruden remained optimistic on Cadillac, he said that realistically, he'll plan for other players such as Michael Pittman, Earnest Graham and B.J. Askew to have larger roles in the Bucs' running game.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals:

Ken Whisenhunt was, needless to say, disappointed with the way the game against San Francisco ended. In his postgame comments, he said, "Too many mistakes. Offensively, we put [our defense] in bad situations from the opening play." He thought the defense played well, but wasn't all that happy with his offense, specifically the passing attack. "I'm disappointed we weren't more efficient throwing the ball. We've been that way in the past," Whisenhunt said. Still, he was most upset that the Niners were able to score late to win the game. "We are a team about finishing," the coach said. Whisenhunt added that, "We hung in there, we fought, but we just didn't get it done. Just a disappointing loss for our football team."

St. Louis Rams:

Coach Scott Linehan, in his news conference on Monday, confirmed the bad news that Orlando Pace suffered a season-ending injury, for the second year in a row. "Orlando is out for the year," Linehan said. "We feel really bad for [him]. He worked very, very hard to get back from his triceps injury a year ago and was probably in the best shape he's been in for a number of years." Linehan said Pace tore his right labrum and rotator cuff against Carolina. Now the Rams will have to juggle their offensive line to make up for the loss of Pace. "We will have to pick up the pieces for him as far as our personnel goes and our line and come next Sunday we will have our best five out there," Linehan said. Of greater concern to the Rams might be the play of Steven Jackson, who suddenly developed a case of fumblitis, turning the ball over twice. That had nothing to do with Pace's departure, or any holes in the offensive line, and definitely bears watching.

San Francisco 49ers:

Mike Nolan was very happy with his team's effort on Monday night. Speaking in his postgame news conference, Nolan praised his secondary. "They held a team that averaged [more than 300 yards] against us last year to what, 100 yards of passing," Nolan said. He stated the Niners would continue to get better as the year goes on and was very confident with Alex Smith as his quarterback. "We drafted [him] because of his talent, but also because of who he is & resilient, tough-minded. Say what you want about statistics, but it is about winning," Nolan said, after a key fourth-down scramble by Smith kept the game-winning drive alive.

Seattle Seahawks:

According to the team's official Web site, Mike Holmgren said the big problem in his offense this past week was the injury to D.J. Hackett. "He's going to be down for awhile, but I can't tell you how long," Holmgren said. "Those things are very unpredictable. The basketball ankle, everybody by now knows the difference -- can be a week or two. This, typically with all the ligaments up higher on the shin a little bit, typically is longer & in some instances, can be very, very long. The doctors can't even tell me right now. Fortunately, our depth at wide receiver is pretty good." With the injury and only four active receivers on Sunday, Holmgren said he wasn't able to use any of the four-wide sets he had planned. Holmgren had praise for Nate Burleson, and said to watch for Ben Obomanu to be back from injury and see plenty of action.

A.J. Mass is a fantasy football, baseball and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.