Tashard Choice Could Shine In Featured Role

While the players and owners dilly-dally over how to best split 4 billion dollars, life goes on for die-hard Cowboys fans like us.

The well has been pretty dry as you all know with hardly any football activity to talk about, but some are making an effort to pump out some good content that has nothing to do with a persons pants hanging so low that they were giving free previews of their Joe Boxers (or was it Hanes?).

Nick Eatman and Rob Phillips at Dallas Cowboys.com are doing a nice feature to pass the time and take a look at some key players that are at a crossroads in their Cowboys career. Tashard Choice is one such player.

Key stat: While Choice still received limited touches last season, his averaged dipped down to 3.7 yards per carry, with 66 attempts. In his first two years, Choice had 5.1- and 5.5-yard averages, respectively. But with more of a presence in short-yardage and the goal line, Choice saw his average decrease by nearly two full yards. His longest carry was also just 26 yards this past season.

2010 Impact: There were six games last year in which Choice didn’t receive a single carry, and four more when he had two or less. So clearly, Choice wasn’t a big factor in the running game last season, especially in the first part of the schedule. Toward the end, when Marion Barber got banged up some, Choice had an increased role. He had one of the team’s two 100-yard rushing games when he went for a career-high 100 against the Colts. Choice also had three touchdowns in a four-game span.

Where He Fits: That question will depend on what the Cowboys do in the offseason, particularly with Barber, whose future with the team is in question because of his high salary and lack of production. If the Cowboys decide to part ways with Barber, then Choice would likely slide into his role and split some time with Felix Jones. That would be a huge opportunity for Choice, considering Jones has been injury-prone during his three seasons.

Nick Eatman: Everyone always wants to see what the backup can do. And right now, it’s Tashard Choice’s turn for that. He’s shown enough in limited opportunities that fans and media are excited about his potential. Clearly, the coaching staff has their opinions of Choice and there was a reason he remained as the No. 3 back. Then again, if Barber is released, it would probably be because the Cowboys feel like Choice can step in nicely. I still think Choice is the third-best back on this team, but like everyone else, I’d be interested to see what he would do in an increased role.

Rob Phillips: Big year for Choice, a free agent after 2011 who has been in a frustrating position for three years. He probably could start on a lot of NFL teams, but the Cowboys clearly haven’t ranked him ahead of Felix Jones or Marion Barber because he has only 222 carries in three seasons. In 2010, he didn’t have the same impact in limited duty as he did in 2008 and 2009, and the Cowboys want him to be more consistent on special teams for as long as that’s his role. But he does have good vision and deceptive speed, and I think he’s good enough between the tackles to complement Jones well. Whether he’ll get that chance, depending on Barber’s much-speculated future, remains to be seen.

As most of you know, I’ve been a huge Tashard Choice supporter since the day we drafted him and I called him the sleeper of the draft.

It’s about time we pass the torch and give Choice the chance he deserves to show what he can do in a featured role. As long as we’re changing things around here, let’s not stop now.

Jason Witten Appears In Archie Comics

Archie Comics released a page from their upcoming issue of Archie Double Digest, which will feature a comic-strip depiction of Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten.

The comic will be available on March 23, and is being published in conjunction with the NFL and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and is intended to educate readers about the dangers of underage drinking.

The Archie Comics line of comic books is one of the most successful, longest running brands in the history of the comic industry. Archie Comics have sold 1.5 billion comics and are published in a dozen different foreign languages and distributed all over the world.

Extra Points: Ware #1, Garrett Frustrated, NFL Rule Change

Here are some of the top Dallas Cowboy’s stories and news items from around the web.

DeMarcus Ware Is Top NFL  Pass Rusher

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but ESPN.com’s NFL bloggers ranked the best pass-rushers in the NFL and the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware came in at No. 1. Ware led the NFL with 15.5 sacks, but there are some other things he did well that you need to notice. Ware led the Cowboys with 36 pressures, something coach Jason Garrett looks at when evaluating a pass-rusher. Ware also had the team lead with nine tackles for loss. Oh and by the way, Ware is in the running to appear on the cover of EA Sports Madden 12. Fans can vote at www.espn.com/maddenvote.

NFL Rule Change On Kickoffs

Today, the NFL owners approved moving up kickoffs by five yards to the 35 but kept the spot for touchbacks at the 20. The original proposal called for the spot to be advanced to the 25, which would have devalued the touchback and lessened Buehler’s impact. During his two seasons in the NFL, Buehler is tied with Atlanta’s Michael Koenen for the most touchbacks with 51. Wtih the rule change, Buehler should get touchbacks at will, if he keeps the job.

Garrett Frustrated Over Lockout

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett laments the fact that the off-season strength and conditioning program for the players would have started Monday if not for the NFL lockout. But it’s simply another example of the lack of normalcy during the current labor impasse. “I think it’s frustrating for everyone involved in the league that it’s not business as usual right now,” Garrett said during a break from the NFL owners meetings in New Orleans. “But that’s the way it is and we have to understand what it is and we have to deal with it and still be able to function as well as we can given the circumstances.” The lockout poses a bigger problem for the Cowboys considering they have a new defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan. Not having the off-season program and possibly the organized team activities and minicamps is a problem, he said.

Teams Interested In Cowboys First Round Pick

The Cowboys are getting calls from other teams about trading the No. 9 overall pick of the draft Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Tuesday from the NFL owners’ meetings.  “I’ve already had the opportunity to discuss and been approach by two separate clubs,” Jones said. “And not just a general, ‘Would you take who?’ Would you be interested because they know, you wouldn’t be doing your job if you wouldn’t interested in looking at any opportunity you might have regarding a draft pick or a trade.”  Whether or not the Cowboys trade the pick is uncertain, but the Cowboys have all sorts of needs after a 6-10 season that cost coach Wade Phillips his job.

73 Larry Allen – Offensive Lineman – 1994 – 2005

This edition of my Legends series recognizes a truly great player… Great in talent, great in strength, great in passion and great in size. Of course I’m talking about a giant of a man, Larry Allen.

Allen first gained national attention when he led little known, Sonoma State to the Senior Bowl in 1992. The two time All-American starred while playing guard, and in two seasons he only allowed one sack. He set ten different team records that still stand today.

In 1994, Larry Allen was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft, making him the first NFL player ever to be selected from Sonoma State. He made an immediate impact on the team and was soon considered to be the NFL’s premier offensive lineman.

He is widely recognized as the one of the best offensive lineman in NFL history and is certainly the best offensive lineman the Dallas Cowboys have ever had. He was the biggest part of an offensive unit that has posted the four lowest sacks allowed totals in club history with 18 in 1995, 19 in 1996 and 1998, and 20 in 1994.

Allen is widely credited for the success of Emmitt Smith with his unparalleled play as his lead blocker, and played a role in eight of his eleven 1,000 yard rushing seasons. Allen, was also able to bench press 700 pounds, and is considered to be the strongest man to ever play professional football.

In his 12 year career, Larry Allen was selected to 11 Pro Bowls and is just the third player in NFL history to be selected to the Pro Bowl at more than one offensive line position during his career. Only Bob Lilly had more Pro Bowl selections than Larry Allen. He is the most decorated offensive lineman in Dallas Cowboys history.

Despite a brief two-year stint with the San Francisco 49ers at the end of his playing days, Allen played most of his entire career with the Dallas Cowboys.

When Allen finally decided to hang them up, he didn’t want to go out as a 49er so he signed a one-day contract with the team he’s loved all his life, and retired as a Dallas Cowboy. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

March (Mock) Madness

I want to preface this whole thing with the fact that I realize this is pure fantasy. It’s something that keeps me involved in the NFL and NCAA football seasons when they aren’t playing. (Go Cowboys, Hook Em Horns!) I’ve sifted through most relevant projection sites and two stand out to me:

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings/TSX/2011 for player rankings and http://www.walterfootball.com/draftchart.php for draft pick value.

With that said, I moved around in the draft (Jerry style) to collect the highest impact and value players I could find, keeping the salary CAP in mind all the while.

I’ll start with the draft since there is no CBA currently in place

1 (9) *TRADE* to St.Louis who selects Julio Jones WR Alabama (rated: 9) ahead of Washington. Dallas receives St.Louis’ 1 (14,) 3 (78,) 5 (142) and 6 (173)

1(14) Gabe Carimi OT Wisconsin (rated:22)
Claims he’s the best OT in the draft. JJ requested more tape on Tyron Smith and scouts followed Anthony Costanzo’s career at Boston College closely. Doesn’t matter…Carimi is truely the best pure right tackle in this draft and Marc Colombo must be replaced…

1 (26) Dallas trades picks 2 (40) and 3 (78) to Baltimore for 1 (26)
Dallas selects either Jimmy Smith CB Colorado (rated: 26) or Brandon Harris CB Miami (rated: 27)
Terrance Newman is slowing down and increasingly injury prone…His salary far excedes his performance…The Cowboys need CAP relief and a young talented CB for the future…One of these two should be here for the Cowboys to take advantage of.

3 (65) Dallas trades picks 3 (71) and 5 (142) to Carolina for pick 3 (65)
Dallas selects Ben Ijalana G Villanova (rated: 65)
Marcus Cannon would have been nice to get here and replace Leonard Davis and his 6 mil dollar salary but he rates higher (at 53) and would put two rookies on the right side of the line…Not good…Ben Ijalana has the skill set to replace Kyle Kosier on the left side…His toughness, athleticism and strong hands (his background as a high school wrestler is apparent) should allow him to transition from LT to LG. Kosier was also responsible for calling the audibles on the line. (asually a center’s responsibility) That duty would also need to be absorbed by Ijalana or Gurode. Hopefully Ijalana.

4 (109) *TRADE* to Minnesota for 4 (136,) 6 (165) and a 2012 6th round pick. Minnesota selects Tyler Sash SS Iowa (rated: 100)
I don’t see any of these “top” safeties an upgrade over Akwasi or Sensebaugh, whom I believe will be resigned. Duenta Williams is the only safety I would consider over any of the late round players I took in this draft that I think could compete with AOA for the FS spot opposite Sensebaugh. Since I didnt take Williams, I signed Huff too. Depends on how much $ he would command and the amount of years guaranteed.

4 (127) Dallas trades picks 6 (169) and 6 (173) to Pittsburgh for pick 4 (127)
Dallas selects Ian Williams DT Notre Dame (rated: 136)
Ian had a pre-combine visit with Dallas and is a prime candidate to rotate with Josh Price-Brent at the nose position, allowing Ratliff to make his long awaited move to Igor Olshanski’s position at RDE. (freeing Igor’s $3.335 million salary) I know Rob Ryan said Ratliff is and will be a DT, but he didnt say in what packages. Ratliff could be a DE in the base 3-4 package and a DT in others. I think Ryan is smart enough to put his best players on the field and having options is nice.

5 (136) Dallas selects John Moffitt G Wisconsin (rated: 139)
Moffitt will be reunited with Gabe Carimi and in year two the Wisconsin duo will take over the right side for the next 10 years in Dallas. Moffitt will sit behind Leonard Davis for a year and improve his core strength.

4 (140) Casey Matthews ILB Oregon (rated: 144)
He hasn’t improved his draft stock one bit since the Duck’s regular season in 2010. However, he is a Matthews and he lead the Oregon Duck’s 2010 team in tackling with 79. Dallas needs help on the inside. Could be a steal or semi-bust. Worth rolling the dice…

6 (165) Owen Marecic FB Stanford (rated:161)
Only because this is such a strong FB class do I believe it is possible to still get Marecic at 165. The emergence of Charles Clay, Stanley Havili and Henry Hynoski should let one drop to Dallas here and improve at a very weak position. Marecic is exactly the type of player I want on this roster. He puts his head down and works hard. This is the extreme value pick of this draft. To boot, anyone opposed to taking a FB should look at the undrafted player responsible for ending the seasons, because of missed blocks, for both Romo and Bryant in 2010.

7 (209) Willie Smith OT East Carolina (rated: 231)
There is a depth void at LT and it would be nice to have a tackle with a LT skill set and experience playing that side of the line…

Undrafted Free Agent Signings:

-Nick Bellore ILB Central Michigan
depth for Bradie James’ side. Leon williams was not tendered

-Bruce Miller OLB UCF
competition for Brandon Williams, who is coming to a crossroads on the weak side behind Ware

-Anthony Allen RB Georgia Tech
I don’t know how Tashard Choice will react to this. My guess is that he assumes a leadership role and takes charge of the every-down back role and Felix is used as a Reggie Bush type player. That is if JG allows this. Allen should challenge JJ’s last year favorite, Lonyae Miller,  for the 3rd RB spot.

-Lazarius Levingston DE LSU
Bowen and Hatcher seem to be locked up again with their tenders. Last year’s 6th round pick Sean Lissemore could use some competition on Ratliff’s newly aquired position at RDE.

-DeJon Gomes SS Nebraska
Barry Church needs to be pushed. He signed a modest 3 year deal in 2010 that could easily be whiped out if Gomes emerges as the better safety who can also contribute to Special Teams.

Free Agent Signings:

Doug Free LT Dallas
Michael Huff S Oakland
Gerald Sensebaugh SS Dallas
Stephen Bowen LDE Dallas
Jason Hatcher LDE Dallas
Alan Ball CB/S Dallas
Jesse Holley WR/ST Dallas

2011 Depth Chart:

QB: Romo/Kitna/McGee
RB: Choice/Jones/ L.Miller or Allen
FB: Marecic
WR: Austin/Bryant/R.Williams/Ogletree/Holley
TE: Witten/Bennett/Phillips
LT: Free/Smith
LG: Ijalana/Holland
C: Gurode/Costa
RG: Davis/Moffitt
RT: Carimi/Young

RDE: Ratliff/Lissemore or Levingston
NT: rotation of I.Willams and Price-Brent
LDE: Bowen/Hatcher
WOLB: Ware/B.Williams or B.Miller
WILB: Lee/Brooking/Matthews
SILB: James/Bellore
SOLB: Spencer/Butler
CB: Jenkins/J.Smith or Harris/Scandrick/Ball/McCann
FS: Huff/AOA/McCray
SS: Sensebaugh/Church or Gomes

P: McBriar
K: Buehler or Brown
LS: Ladouceur

72 Ed “Too Tall” Jones – Defensive End – 1974 – 1989

This next Cowboys legend is a true giant. Standing six-feet, nine-inches tall, defensive lineman Ed “Too Tall” Jones was very deserving of his nickname. However, it was his skills as a football player that Cowboys fans will remember most.

In high school he played basketball and received 52 college scholarships, but he decided instead to play football for Tennessee State. It was a decision he would never regret as he led Tennessee to an almost perfect record during his 3 years with them, losing only one game in those 3 seasons.

His performance at Tennessee State caught the eye of the Dallas Cowboys’ recruiting staff, and in 1974 Jones became the number one pick in the NFL draft. Some of the experts said the Cowboys wasted their number one overall pick on him because he was too tall to play football, and the name stuck.

“Too Tall” Jones won acclaim for his role in the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line-up during the 1970s and 1980s, playing for a franchise record 15 years.

During his first five years with Dallas, the Cowboys played in the Super Bowl three times, following the 1975, 1977, and 1978 seasons.

 He was a tenacious defender with a knack for going after the opposing quarterback causing them to rush their throws and upsetting their offense. Along the way he piled on a great deal of sacks. He reached his record high in 1985, sacking the opposition’s quarterback 13 times.

Jones shocked his coaches and teammates at the end of 1979 when he announced he would not be returning to Dallas the following season to pursue a career in boxing. He did exactly that and after one year he retired undefeated, and re-signed with the Cowboys and played with them until his retirement in 1989.

He was named All Pro in 1981 and 1982, played in the Pro Bowl three times, and was named Most Valuable Player in 1982.

28 Darren Woodson – Safety – 1992 – 2004

In this chapter of my Legends series, I take a look at one of the best safeties ever to wear a Cowboys uniform, the great Darren Woodson.

Woodson was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys as a converted linebacker in the second round of the 1992 NFL Draft out of Arizona State University.

He played at safety for the Cowboys and was a five time Pro Bowl selection who developed a reputation as an effective run-stopper and was a feared and ferocious hitter.

He was leader both on and off the field and was a mentor to many of the younger players, including Roy Williams at the time (no the other Roy Williams!).

Besides chasing and tackling ball carriers in the secondary, Woodson also was very relentless at chasing down and stopping kick returners on special teams.

For many years, Woodson dominated at his position and was a threat to anyone carrying the ball within his range. Many of his tackles were so ferocious that he drew many fines from the NFL during his career.

However, doing all those things for all those years finally took a toll on Woodson’s body. After missing most of the season after having back surgery just before training camp, the hard-hitting safety announced his retirement in December of 2004.

It was the end of an era for the Dallas Cowboys. Darren Woodson was the last player left from the 1992, 1993 and 1995 Super Bowl champions and he was also the last player drafted by Jimmy Johnson. His 1,350 tackles are the most-ever in Cowboys history. 

Just the mention of Woodson’s name can still make opposing wide receivers and kickoff returners cringe. It won’t be long until he’s one day recognized in the Cowboys Ring of Honor.

54 Chuck Howley – Linebacker – 1961-1973

When you talk about Cowboys who have beaten the odds, Chuck Howley is one of the first players to come to mind. His story is a remarkable one when you consider that for a time, nobody ever thought he would be able play football again after suffering a devastating injury in only his second season as a pro.

Howley was a tremendous athlete and one of the most versatile college players in history, being able to play at every position before deciding he wanted to focus on being a guard and center for West Virginia University. He was a three-time All-Southern Conference selection and was the Southern Conference Player of the Year in 1957.

In 1958, Howley was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the NFL Draft, but after a season ending knee injury in 1959, he was forced to announce his retirement believing he would never be able to play football again. It was a sad end to what started out as very promising career… or was it?

However, in 1961 with his knee fully healed, Chuck Howley decided to make a comeback, but the Bears believing he was finished had no interest in bringing him back. Big mistake. Tom Landry was very interested and the Dallas Cowboys traded a couple of draft picks to the Chicago Bears for his rights, and thus began his remarkable career as one of the best defensive players in team history.

Chuck Howley had a punishing style of play and was known for his ability to impact a game with his deceptive speed and blistering tackles. He was one of the best outside linebackers in the league and certainly one of the best ever to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

He teamed up with Dave Edwards and Lee Roy Jordan to form one of the greatest linebacking corps in NFL history and helped form what would become the legendary “Doomsday Defense“.

He played 14 seasons for the Cowboys tying him for the second longest tenure in franchise history, and was selected to six Pro Bowls during that span.

Howley helped lead the team to five Eastern Conference Titles, two NFL Championship games and two Super Bowls. He holds the distinction of being the first defensive player ever to win a Super Bowl MVP, as well as being the first player from a losing team ever to named MVP in Super Bowl V.

In 1976, Chuck Howley was the fourth player to be inducted into the Ring of Honor at Texas Stadium.

Feudin, Fussin and Fightin

As the NFL feud continues over the CBA we the fans sit and wait and hope for good news. We read the countless articles and watch the never ending news reports on TV. No one knows for sure when a new agreement will come except for the people sitting in those meetings. It’s the NFL owner’s vs the NFL players, The Hatfield’s vs The McCoy’s, The Jets vs The Sharks (West Side Story reference), The Flintstones vs The Hatrocks. Ok, so maybe I went a little too far with The Flintstones reference.

All of this brings me back to 1982 and 1987 when the NFL stopped. As a fan I really don’t care about what the differences are between the two sides and I would never pretend that I understand. What I do know is that these owners and players make millions and billions of dollars and the fact that they can’t come to an agreement is amazing to me. I live a simple life and support my family the best I can as I live paycheck to paycheck, but these people can’t seem to agree on how to share billions of dollars? Hello! Reality check please!!!

As for the 1982 NFL strike, it was the first time as a fan I experienced no football when there should be football. I don’t remember why it happened or what the problems were, but I do remember that after week 2 of the season everything came to a halt. As for the Cowboys they had started the season with a crushing defeat to the Steelers on Monday Night Football, 36-28. Then they evened their record at 1-1 the next week with a 24-7 win over the Cardinals.

Here is the cover of Sports Illustrated a week after the strike started.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/cover/featured/8817/index.htm

On September 21, 1982 the NFL stopped playing football and stadiums went dark. The strike lasted 57 long days and ended up cancelling seven regular season games. I remember coming home from school every day and trying to find out any news. Of course this was before computers, cell phones, NFL Network or Twitter. As a fan there was a feeling that I would never see football again. Then on November 16, 1982 the strike finally ended and football was back, but because of the length of the strike and the number of games cancelled the NFL made some changes. The 1982 season would be a nine game season and all divisions would be ignored. The NFL went with just the AFC and the NFC and the top eight teams in each conference would qualify for the playoffs.

The Cowboys finished 1982 with a 6-3 record and was the second seed in the playoffs behind the 8-1 Redskins, who they would eventually lose to in the NFC Championship game. The Redskins went on to beat the Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII, 27-17.

Then once again in 1987 after week 2 all football stopped with another strike. The Cowboys started the season with a 24-13 loss to the Cardinals. Then in week 2 they beat the Giants 16-14 to even their record at 1-1. One of the differences with the 1987 strike compared to the 1982 strike was that only one week was cancelled. Football stopped on September 21, 1987 and started up again on October 4, 1987. The other major difference was that when football started again two weeks later it was with players most people had never heard of before.

The NFL owners prepared themselves for a strike in 1987 even before the regular season started. They fielded replacement teams while the NFL players were striking outside stadiums across the country. Some teams prepared better then others to get their replacement teams in place. Teams brought in recently cut players, retired players and undrafted college players. Just like in 1982 I could not tell you why the strike was happening or what the issues were. All I knew as a young fan was that the Cowboys were playing football and I needed to get to know the new players.

The NFL would play three replacement games before the strike ended and everyone went back to work. During those three replacement games the Cowboys went 2-1 with wins over the Jets and Eagles and a loss to the Redskins.  Some NFL players decided they were not going strike during the replacement games and crossed the picket lines. Players like Lawrence Taylor, Randy White, Danny White, Tony Dorsett, Mark Gastineau, Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark and Howie Long as well as many others. There were only three teams that did not have one of their players cross the picket lines and they were the Redskins, Bears and Chargers.

The NFL decided to count the replacement games once all the players came back and they played a 15 game schedule in 1987. As for the Cowboys, the season was not one to remember as they went 7-8 and missed the playoffs. Just like in 1982 the Redskins went on to win it all as they beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII, 42-10.

Now here we are in 2011 and another NFL work stoppage is hanging in the air. As fans there is nothing we can do. We watch and we wait for good news and hopefully the good news comes well before the season. There won’t be any replacement games this time around. Just dark, empty stadiums as time continues to tick away. Hey, do I still have to pay for my Sunday Ticket package if the season is interrupted? Do I get money off if the season starts late? I guess that is another post at another time.

Let’s all hope for the best as this feud continues and that the people involved in the negotiations can come to an agreement before things get bad. The NFL’s popularity is at an all time high right now and last thing that is needed is a lockout. I’m sure there is a way to share the billions of dollars that they are fighting over. Just get it done so football is not ruined.