Wednesday, April 29, 2009
At outside linebacker, assuming Greg Ellis doesn't get cut or traded before training camp, there are several guys who are going to end up fighting it out behind Ware and Spencer. Ellis better get his head on straight and be ready to fight for his playing time and maybe even his job. I think we are better with Ellis in the short term but a lot of the offseason decisions are being made with a long term outlook. Brandon Williams, Victor Butler and Greg Ellis look to be fighting it out for playing time and possibly even roster spots.
At inside linebacker the starters are set, but Bobby Carpenter is at a crossroads in his career with the Cowboys. Jason Williams looks like an athletic freak and you know the coaches are going to give him every opportunity to win the job at linebacker in the nickel package. Bobby better step up and show something to the coaches or he might find himself on the sidelines once again or on another team when the season starts.
At cornerback the Cowboys suddenly have a few options after the draft. Obviously Terrance Newman, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick will be on the team. But now Alan Ball will be fighting for a spot with Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith, although Smith may end up playing safety. It is entirely possible that all three of those guys will make the team but how much action they see in the regular season will be determined by training camp and preseason games.
Wide receiver is set for a big battle even without a top wideout being drafted. Sam Hurd, Miles Austin, and Patrick Crayton are going to be battling for playing time. They'll all make the final roster but how much action they see during the regular season might be determined during training camp and the preseason. Isaiah Stanback is going to have to show something or his time might run out. The Cowboys have patiently waited for him to get healthy and develop the skills needed to play wideout at the NFL level. Manuel Johnson may make Stanback expendable.
It is looking like most of the offensive line is set except for the left guard spot. Kyle Kosier is going to have to fight off Montrae Holland and Robert Brewster to keep his starting spot. Montrae Holland looked pretty good during his limited time last season although anyone would have looked good after the embarrassing display of blocking put on by Cory Proctor during several games.
And maybe we can finally find a safety capable of tackling consistently and actually making plays on the ball. There are a lot of guys who will be vying for the open spot next to Hamlin in the defense. Sensabaugh clearly has the early lead to win the job, but Michael Hamlin, DeAngelo Smith and Pat Watkins are all going to be trying to win the starting job.
Even with the laid back approach that Wade Phillips takes in training camp I believe the desperation many of these guys will be showing will have to increase the overall intensity. Fighting for your NFL life is bound to make a guy more focused and determined to excel at all times. And that includes special teams. A guy on the fringes of the roster is going to do whatever it takes to stay on the team.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Jason Williams (OLB), Western Illinois: He looks like an athletic freak. He played in a gimmick defense so he is hard to project in a conventional defense. He sure looks fast and everyone seems to think he is a guy who goes all out every play. Guys like him find a way to make it on the field. Bobby Carpenter may have just lost his best chance at playing time because he looks like a great replacement for Kevin Burnett.
Robert Brewster (OT), Ball State: A big versatile offensive lineman. Let's just hope that he pans out better than the offensive linemen drafted over the last few years by the Cowboys. He is projected as a tackle, but supposedly could slide inside to play guard as well. I like the pick if he can actually play because the offensive line depth was terrible last year.
Stephen McGee (QB), Texas A&M: Finally a quarterback to develop behind Romo. I don't know if McGee can ever be a starter but at least we have a guy who can learn the offense and be a solid backup for many years to come. I like the pick because the Cowboys haven't picked a decent quarterback in the draft for a long time and it ended up costing them last season. Now they have another guy to step in after a year or two of Kitna as the backup.
Victor Butler (OLB), Oregon State: There was a serious lack of depth at outside linebacker going into the draft. This was the first pick to address that deficiency. He is supposed to be a great pass rusher so he should fit in just fine in the Wade Phillips 3-4 scheme.
Brandon Williams (DE), Texas Tech: He'll move to outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. He is another speed rusher who should add depth at outside linebacker. I'm starting to wonder if Greg Ellis will be on the team by the start of training camp.
DeAngelo Smith (CB), Cincinnati: A cornerback with the ability to play safety. He doesn't have great speed but he is considered to be a ball hawk. Maybe he is actually slated to move to safety. He seems like a better fit there.
Michael Hamlin (S), Clemson: Finally a safety is drafted. The Cowboys must feel pretty good about Sensabaugh to wait this long to address the depth at safety. Hopefully Hamlin's experience against big time college programs will help him be successful in the NFL. His bio says he isn't great matching up man to man but anything is an upgrade after last season. I also read that he was a two year captain so he has some leadership qualities.
David Buehler (K), USC: This is one pick I just don't get. A kicker? Unless he is going to be a kickoff specialist I don't see how he makes the team. This could end up being a wasted pick. Joe DeCamillis, the new special teams coach, really wanted a kickoff specialist but I don't see how you keep two kickers active on game day.
Stephen Hodge (SS), TCU: So now two full time college safeties and one part time safety have been drafted. Hopefully at least one of them will pan out. Hodge is a big guy so you almost have to wonder if he will be moved to linebacker. He would make a good nickel linebacker if that turns out to be the case. At the minimum he looks like a great special teams prospect.
John Phillips (TE), Virginia: This is clearly a pick for depth. I'm hoping Phillips is a good blocker so he can contribute if he makes the team. He'll at least be in a battle for a roster spot with Rodney Hannah. He looks like a guy who needs a year in the offseason program to add some muscle to his frame.
Mike Mickens (CB), Cincinatti: More depth at cornerback. He'll have to compete to make the final roster. His scouting report says he needs time to develop. I'm not sure the Cowboys will have room to keep him around if he isn't ready this year.
Manuel Johnson (WR), Oklahoma: He looks like a developmental type of receiver. He doesn't have the top notch speed I was hoping to see the Cowboys come out of the draft with at wide receiver. And no experience in college returning punts...disappointing.
Overall, it looks like the primary concern was on the defensive side of the ball. We definitely have some options at safety. The receivers better step up this season or Jerry Jones is going to look like a fool for trading for Roy Williams. I really only have two major complaints about the draft. The wasted pick for a kicker and the fact that we didn't get a speed receiver/punt returner. I am excited about Jason Williams but I am going to have to wait and see on the rest of the players. Hopefully half of them can make the roster but it sure seems like we picked a lot of developmental players. It is hard to judge how they'll pan out before we see them in training camp.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Now we just need to see a continuation of the decision making during the draft like we saw last season. If Jerry can keep from getting antsy while so many teams are making picks in front of him we can probably steal a few guys who slip down farther than expected. I wouldn't mind seeing the Cowboys move up a few spots to get one of the top safeties but I don't think it is necessary to sell the farm to try to make a splash during the draft. Sure, the Cowboys have 11 picks, but that in no way means that we need to package a bunch of them up to move way up to get one player. The more players we can draft the better the chances we'll have of getting a few hits although drafting 11 players does seem unrealistic.
With Miles Austin and Sam Hurd both finally locked up on one year deals we can all breathe just a little easier about the depth at wide receiver. I still want to see a guy drafted who can flat out fly down the field. I'm talking about a guy who has 4.2 or 4.3 speed and the ability to return punts. We haven't had a guy like that on this team in a long time. Patrick Crayton doesn't muff many punts but it would be nice to have a real threat returning punts rather than a guy who gets 5-10 yards every return.
I'm excited to see some new talent added to the roster. This weekend will be fun once the wait for the Cowboys to finally pick is over. You never know if one of the guys drafted this weekend will turn out to be one of the all-time greatest Dallas Cowboys.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I value the play on the field over all else, but an announcing team can make or break the entertainment value for a lot of games. I'm watching every game involving the Dallas Cowboys from now until the day I die regardless of the announcers, but some of the marginal matchups can become nearly unwatchable with an annoying announcer blabbing throughout the telecast. Some people would say that Madden is one of those annoying announcers but I always enjoyed his antics.
I'll miss the random comments from Madden that seem idiotic but usually have some truth to them when you stop and think about it. A perfect example is Madden's reference to an offensive lineman's "kankles". He talked about how a lineman with "kankles" had the right build to be a durable offensive lineman. "Kankles" are said to be calves that become feet without taking an ankle break. Of course he would break out the telestrator and circle the "kankels" to make his point which always added to the entertainment of his comments. But think about it...a guy built like that is usually a big, stong, durable offensive lineman. And that idiotic/insightful comment has been stuck in my mind for years now since I first heard Madden utter that ridiculous expression.
The worst part of the Madden retirement story is his replacement. Cris Collinsworth is slated for the Sunday night color commentator role. Ouch. Is there an announcer who is more arrogant than Collinsworth? He always comes off as a smug know-it-all to me...to the point that he has distracted me from the play on the field during some games. Maybe without Terrell Owens on the team he won't be so negative towards the Cowboys. I hope he doesn't last long on the Sunday night telecasts but I am already convinced that he will take away from many of the games I watch on Sunday night.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
As usual, the nationally televised games pop up all over the schedule. Week 2 and 3 start things off with a home Sunday night game against the Giants followed by a home Monday night game against the Panthers. The Cowboys are at the Eagles for week 9 on Sunday night. Then the annual Thanksgiving game has the Raiders visiting the Cowboys. Weeks 15 is an NFL Network Saturday night matchup against the Saints. And wrapping up the nationally televised games is week 16 on Sunday night against the Redskins. That last game will be subject to change based on NBC's flex scheduling agreement with the NFL but I wouldn't expect a change unless either one or both of the teams unexpectedly falls on their faces next season.
So the Cowboys will be in the spotlight again in 2009 which is a good thing because it means that they are still expected to draw a big audience. That happens when your team is expected to be a winner and when the team is high profile as the Cowboys have always been. Two of the last three games are on the road which won't help the team in their quest to finish strong in December. And they get another chance to redeem themselves in a season finale against the Eagles at home. I can already envision that game being a high stakes season finale similar to last season. Four of the last eight games are division games for Dallas. Things should get interesting in the second half of the season within the division.
I still expect the Cowboys to match any offer for Miles Austin unless the Jets are willing to overpay or put the dreaded "poison pill" stipulation to use in the contract offer. The impact this plays on the draft plans of the Cowboys can't be overstated. They will either go in draft armed with two 2nd round picks (one from the Jets) in dire need of a wide receiver or they'll be looking for a complementary speed/returner type receiver as a best available option if Austin stays with Dallas.
Update: According to Matt Mosley of ESPN.com, Miles Austin told him that he expects to hear something one way or the other from the Jets by the middle of the week. (4/13/09 7:15 PM)
Update #2: According to the New Jersey Star Ledger, the Jets have not made an offer to Miles Austin yet. They are still debating over whether they want to give up their second round pick. (4/13/09 8:25 PM)
Update #3: According to Rich Cimini of the New York Daily News the Jets interest in Miles Austin is officially "dead". (4/13/09 9:25 PM)
Friday, April 10, 2009
1. Demarcus Ware is still negotiating a new contract/contract extension with the team. There are huge dollar amounts at stake for both parties here so the slow pace is easy to understand. The big problem is that the uncertainty makes it difficult to make many other roster moves because the salary cap situation will be effected dramatically by the Ware contract. The sooner things get worked out the sooner the Cowboys will be able to make moves at lower priority positions.
2. Wide receiver suddenly seems very unsettled. Neither Sam Hurd and Miles Austin has signed the 2nd round tender offer from the Cowboys. They both have until April 17 to work something out with another team or sign the offer from the Cowboys. Austin is currently meeting with the Jets but, so far, there isn't any news about a contract offer. Sam Hurd is flying under the radar after missing nearly the entire season with an ankle injury so I doubt he'll be going anywhere. The Miles Austin situation should be playing out over the next several days and it seems that he'll be back barring a ridiculous offer from the Jets. Any unexpected turns at wideout would put this position at the top of the list of priorities.
3. Special teams coverage units are still a major concern. Now the draft may yield some players who can contribute to the coverage units but I have some concerns that there isn't a special teams ace currently signed to the roster. I still expect Keith Davis to come back to lead the special teams (probably for the veteran minimum) but it is going to be a concern until something is done to settle the issue. I don't think Keith Davis is a necessity but there needs to be a leader for the special teams added to the roster.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Scenario #1 - Austin Gets No Offer from the Jets
This would be the easiest scenario for the Cowboys but also probably the least likely. The Jets are going to meet with Austin and his agent and they may decide that he isn't worth a second round pick and/or the amount of money it would take to prevent the Cowboys from matching the offer. If that happens then it would be fairly certain that Miles Austin would have to tuck his tail between his legs and sign his restricted tender offer for (only?) $1.545 million. If only we all had that fallback option in our lives.
Scenario #2 - Austin Agrees to a Contract the Cowboys Won't Match
This is an entirely plausible scenario especially consider that the Jets must be pretty serious about bringing him in if they are meeting with him knowing it will cost a 2nd round pick and probably require a contract much bigger than his career numbers would justify. I think Jerry Jones will match an offer from the Jets within reason, but if the Jets are willing to grossly overpay for a guy with 18 career receptions then we might be watching him play for the Jets next season. The big question would be how much it would take for Jerry to let Miles walk. I wish I knew the answer but I doubt if he'll go much higher than the contract numbers for Patrick Crayton (4 years, $14 million).
Scenario #3 - Austin Signs a Long Term Deal to Stay with the Cowboys
I think this is obviously the most likely of all of the outcomes. The Cowboys will be in serious need of wide receiver depth if they can't get Austin re-signed. It was one thing to lose him with T.O. on the roster but his value has increased exponentially since T.O. has been cut. I hope the Cowboys can lock him up for 4 or 5 years at a reasonable salary. Again, I am looking at Patrick Crayton's contract as a reasonable amount. The plus side would be that if he really does break out this season and we get him signed to a Crayton-type deal then it would be a bargain.
The bottom line is that how this all plays out will have a huge impact on how the Cowboys approach the draft and the rest of free agency. If Miles goes to the Jets then the Cowboys will have 2 second round picks and probably enough ammunition to trade into the late first round. It would also probably move wide receiver to the top of the draft priority and/or it would put the Cowboys in the market for a free agent wide receiver. I am expecting Austin to be back but the Cowboys will still have a lot of options to fill the hole in the roster if the Jets blow the Cowboys out of the water with a big contract offer.
Monday, April 6, 2009
There is a lot of concern these days about the cornerback position after the Cowboys traded Anthony Henry to Detroit for Jon Kitna. I was thinking back today about how excited I was about Mike Jenkins after the 2008 draft. The YouTube video here reminded me exactly why I was so excited. We need the guy in the video to show up in 2009. Towards the end of 2008 Jenkins was starting to show some flashes of his potential but not consistently like you would hope to see from a first round draft pick.
Jenkins is clearly a gifted athlete and hopefully he will show us more in 2009 than he did in 2008. His strength is matching up man-to-man and the Cowboys turned to more man coverage in the second half of the season after Wade Phillips took over the defensive signal calling duties. He was labeled as soft after avoiding contact late in the week 9 game against the Giants last season. The hit on the video above shows that he is willing to put a hit on someone but, again, we need to see it happen in the NFL.
The Cowboys are going to need him to be a big time player so the defense can be dominant next season. Jenkins will be starting opposite Terrance Newman with Orlando Scandrick handling the slot duties if things go as currently planned. That means that Jenkins will be on the field for nearly every defensive snap. And if the they decide not to risk Felix Jones on kick returns then Jenkins is at least another option to consider. It is time for Mike Jenkins to step up and turn his potential into actual production on the field for the Dallas Cowboys.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
The three running back system isn't something that is a new or novel idea. All Jason Garrett has to do is look at the New York Giants if he needs an idea about how to use all three of his running backs. The Giants have Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw sharing carries and they all have bought into the system.
It doesn't seem like any of the three Dallas running backs have egos that would prevent Garrett from splitting carries between the three of them. That would be the biggest roadblock but all three backs are team-first players. So the responsibility for doing it right falls on the coaches and the coaches alone.
It would seem that Felix Jones and Marion Barber would get the majority of the offensive touches at running back with Tashard Choice providing an occasional changeup or series off for the other two backs. Felix Jones needs to stay fresh so he can be as explosive at the end of the game as he is on his first carry of the game. Marion Barber needs to be fresh in the 4th quarter so he can bulldoze the defense when the game is on the line. The proper way to utilize the three running backs seems pretty obvious to most observers and I am hoping that Jason Garrett will find a way to get it done.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
1. The opening game for Dallas which is widely reported to be the Cowboys at the Broncos just changed dramatically. The Broncos have a new coach, a new offense, and now a new quarterback facing the top sack defense from 2008. This definitely is an advantage to Dallas. It isn't a guarantee of victory, but I'm sure the coaches would prefer to face Orton or whoever the Broncos start rather than Jay Cutler.
2. Jason Campbell now has a beef with the Washington Redskins management. He is supposed to be the franchise quarterback but they were deep in negotiations with Denver to try to acquire Jay Cutler. You have to believe that the relationship between Campbell and the Redskins organization is going to be different from this point forward. It will be interesting to see how Campbell handles it. Jay Cutler decided he wanted to find a new team after going through the same treatment.
3. The NFC playoff landscape may have been altered by the trade. It would seem that the Bears are now a legitimate playoff contender now that they finally have a quarterback. I would expect them to at least fight for the division title with the improvements they should see on the offensive side of the ball.
To all of the people who were hoping to get Jay Cutler into a Cowboys uniform...welcome back to reality. Tony Romo is the franchise quarterback now and for many years to come. I hope when the season starts the fans who are bashing him can put their full support behind the team regardless of how they feel about Romo. I still believe he can lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl someday.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Age: Romo - 28, Cutler - 25
Games Started: Romo - 39, Cutler - 37
Completion %: Romo - 64%, Cutler - 63%
Passing Yds.: Romo - 10,300, Cutler - 9,024
Passing Yds./Game: 264, Cutler - 244
Avg./Attempt: Romo - 8.1, Cutler - 7.4
Passing TD's: Romo - 78, Cutler - 54
Passing TD's/Game: Romo - 2.0, Cutler - 1.5
Interceptions: Romo - 43, Cutler - 37
Int./Game: Romo - 1.1, Cutler - 1.0
Fumbles: Romo - 32, Cutler - 24
Fumbles/Game: Romo - 0.8, Cutler - 0.6
Passer Rating: Romo - 94.7, Cutler - 87.1
Playoff Record: Romo - 0-2, Cutler - 0-0
There is no reason to downgrade the quarterback position. The stats speak for themselves. Romo is the better quarterback in almost every category. Cutler has yet to lead a team to the playoffs after three seasons while Romo has already accomplished that feat twice in three seasons. And I didn't even go into the fact that the Cowboys cannot afford the cap hit that would occur if the trade were to happen or that Cutler isn't exactly proving to be a great leader with his childish complaints about trade speculation involving him at the start of free agency. I know most intelligent fans aren't proposing this trade but now you have the ammunition to prove that Romo is clearly the superior player when someone brings it up.