Great gridiron expectations

The following are previews on area athletes and coaches in the National Football League for the 2012-13 season.



Even as the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New York Jets, 28-10, at home on Thursday night in their final exhibition warmup before Sunday's season opener, it was coach Andy Reid's contract status that was grabbing headlines in a story that appeared on

In the piece, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie made clear he expected the team to do a better job of living up to expectations this season, which is the final year of Reid's current deal.

"We need substantial improvement," Lurie, who saw his team finish a disappointing 8-8 last season and miss the playoffs, told "We have a very good team on paper, and paper doesn't get you that far if you don't maximize it."

Lurie went on to say that he won't decide on whether to offer an extension to Reid, who played for Glendale Community College, until after this season.

"You try to make the best judgment you can after the season," Lurie said during his annual state of the team address with reporters. "There will be no formula regarding the right decision. It'll be very clear."

Pressure is certainly nothing new for Reid, who has weathered his share of criticism and job security rumors during a 13-year tenure in Philadelphia that has seen him amass a record of 136-90-1 and win 10 playoff games, which is the 11th most in league history.

It's been an especially difficult lead up to the season for Reid this year, however, as his son Garrett was found dead in his dorm room at the team's training camp in early August.

Reid's response to Lurie's comments on Thursday downplayed any increase in pressure to perform.

"I don't care about that stuff," Reid said after the Eagles' win. "He has high expectations. I have high expectations. Let's go play. We surely won't be satisfied with 8-8. We're striving for better than that. I'm not worried about it. I understand the business. I have a great relationship with Jeffrey."

The Eagles, who 4-0 went in preseason, kick off at 10 a.m. PDT Sunday against the host Cleveland Browns.



It has been a trying last two seasons for former Burroughs High standout and current Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman Eben Britton.

After injuries cut short his 2010 campaign, he was also sidelined last season after injuring his back and then suffered a subsequent infection of proprionibacterium. Britton ruptured a disk in his back in August of 2011 while weightlifting and underwent minor surgery.

Britton, 24, a 6-foot-6, 308-pound tackle and guard, said trying to recover from his misfortunes last season was difficult.

"I was getting back after the back injury and I was feeling pretty good," Britton said. "Then the infection hit and that was pretty bad. I had trouble putting on my socks or even putting on my jeans. But my girlfriend helped me a lot and she helped me get through it."

Not being able to play also weighed heavily on Britton.

"It was extremely difficult having to sit out," he said. "I just wanted to be back and be healthy enough to play. It's hard for me when I'm not in there playing."

Britton is coming off two consecutive years in which his season was cut short because of injuries. In 2010, he suffered a shoulder injury in the eighth game against Kansas City after starting the team's first seven games at right tackle. Two days later, he was placed on injured reserve and did not return to the lineup.

Last year, the back injury restricted Britton to only four games and three starts. Two of the starts came at left guard and one at right tackle. He was inactive for five games and was placed on injured reserve, ending his season.

Britton has played in all of Jacksonville's preseason games this season, as the team has gone 3-1. Thursday, Jacksonville beat the Atlanta Falcons, 24-14, in its preseason finale.

Because of injuries to the offensive line during the preseason, Britton has been moved from right tackle to left guard.

The Jaguars open the 2012 campaign Sunday with a game on the road against the Minnesota Vikings.

The team might have to start the season without star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who has been a holdout throughout the preseason. Negotiations between the Jaguars and last year's leading rusher, who is seeking to renegotiate his contract, have reportedly broken down.

Last season, Jacksonville went 5-11 (4-8 in the AFC South) and failed to make the playoffs.

Britton said he is looking forward to the season and he expects good things under first-year Coach Mike Mularkey. In addition, Britton said de doesn't mind playing at guard or tackle.

"I just want to stay healthy and contribute," he said. "It doesn't matter where I play; it just matters that I'm on the field playing."

As happy as he is to be back and healthy, Britton's teammates are also pleased to see him back on the field.

"He does not quit," Jaguars' top pass-rusher Jeremy Mincey told Paul Kuharsky of "Eben's definitely a tough guy. He doesn't quit, man. He adds nastiness. That's good. I'm glad he's back in the lineup. It's just like me on the defensive line with that motor. It'll help our offensive line get that extra little bit of energy that they need."

Taken in the second round with the 39th overall pick by Jacksonville, Britton declared for the 2009 NFL Draft as a junior after starting 37 games in three seasons at the University of Arizona. On Aug. 1, 2009, the Jaguars signed Britton to a four-year deal worth approximately $4.6 million that included $2.83 million guaranteed.



Inactive over the final five games of the 2011 season, including the playoffs, Ramses Barden wasn't able to play much of a role down the stretch in the New York Giants' Super Bowl championship, but he hopes to have a much bigger hand in the defense of that title.

Barden closed the preseason on an upswing, with strong performances in the team's final two games and has high expectations of himself for the season, as well as for the Giants.

"Our goals are lofty," said Barden, a 2004 Flintridge Prep graduate. "We just have to take the necessary steps to achieve them. With so much talent on this team and coming off [a Super Bowl], it's hard to set your goals for anything less."

Barden caught the first touchdown of his professional career on Aug. 24 in a 20-17 win over the Chicago Bears, a game in which he caught three balls for a team-best 46 yards. He closed the preseason with a team-high 31 yards receiving in Wednesday's 6-3 win over the New England Patriots.

"I'm definitely pleased, but I'm not satisfied," Barden said of his preseason body of work, which saw him catch eight passes for 91 yards, with an average of 11.4 yards for reception, and one score. "It's hard for me to be satisfied, it's just not in my nature, but I'm excited about the progress I've made and the progress of my team."

With last year's No. 3 receiver Mario Manningham now in San Francisco, there is an opportunity for Barden to play his way into a bigger role and he said he expects to be more of a presence on the field this year. But he also talked about staying ready and continuing to prove himself by working hard in practice.

"I suspect I'll see a significant amount [of playing time]," Barden says. "[Coach Tom Coughlin] sees me as a valuable asset and knows what I can bring to the table.

"When those opportunities come, and hopefully they will come often, I want to be able to take advantage of them."

In his career, Barden, a third-round draft choice in 2009, has 15 receptions for 174 yards in 17 games.

The Giants (2-2 in preseason) and NFC East-rival Dallas Cowboys will meet in the NFL season opener at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.



On a day in which an anticipated 700 NFL players were cut, former Pasadena High and Glendale Community College standout offensive lineman Zack Williams found himself in the ranks of the unfortunate.

Williams survived several rounds of cuts until he was waived Friday, as was confirmed that evening by his agent, Jim Grogan.

Williams was one of 22 players either waived or released by the Panthers as the program finalized its 53-man roster.

While Williams was technically a second-year pro, the Washington State product never saw any playing time and barely practiced with the Panthers because of a devastating injury last summer.

Despite being drafted in April of 2011, Williams did not sign with the Panthers until July 29 of that year because of the NFL lockout.

Less than a week later, Williams' brief NFL experience was over when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament on Aug. 4 during a standard drill.

As for his NFL career, Grogan said he expected Williams would sign with the Panthers practice squad shortly.



The Cincinnati Bengals open the season Sept. 10 at the AFC North-rival Baltimore Ravens on the season premiere of Monday Night Football with Jackson, a former Glendale college quarterback, on board as an assistant coach for the secondary and special teams.

Cincinnati went 2-2 in the preseason, but lost its last two, including Thursday's 20-16 loss to the host Indianapolis Colts.

Jeff Tully and Andrew Campa contributed to this story.

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