Cowboys Secondary Has Become A Primary Concern

Newman and Jenkins continue to slide and in the process our secondary keeps getting worse and worse. You can usually tell these things just by watching the games and seeing them get burned for big plays by the opposition. But the numbers really do bear it out as well.

The Dallas Morning News recently wrote that based on data alone, the coverage provided by Jenkins and Newman has been far from impervious. They are among a select group of eight defenders who have yielded the most receptions in the NFL this season.

When you consider the high expectations we had for Jenkins after his Pro Bowl season in 2009, this is completely deflating and makes one wonder about his hold on a starting job next season. At times, Jenkins has been brutal and his bad play has led to many a comeback by the opposition while the Cowboys were initially ahead in the game.

Newman, just continues to regress and oftentimes is seen coming off the field with some sort of an injury, rather than on the field making a big play.

Here are some more numbers that reveal the sobering reality of the situation.

Quarterbacks have completed 49 of 75 pass attempts against Jenkins, attaining a 105.7 passer rating in the process. Newman hasn’t been much better. He has been picked on 73 times, allowing 47 receptions as quarterbacks have achieved a 94.1 passer rating.

With numbers like that, is it any surprise why teams feel so comfortable airing it out against the Cowboys and completing passes virtually at will?

Among many other needs this offseason, revamping the secondary will certainly be one of our primary objectives. It doesn’t matter how good our offense is, if our defense keeps letting the opposition light up the scoreboard.

Dandy Don Meredith: The Death Of A Cowboys Legend

1938 – 2010

Yesterday, all of Cowboys Nation was saddened over the tragic loss of a Dallas Cowboys icon, Don Meredith.

Dandy Don, as he was best known, died at the age of 72 after suffering a brain hemorrhage and lapsing into a coma.

Meredith started playing for the Dallas Cowboys in 1960, and was the original Dallas Cowboy, signing with the team two months before the franchise officially was admitted into the NFL.

He wouldn’t become the starting quarterback until 1965, but quickly led the Cowboys to their first winning season, 10-3-1, in 1966. He guided the Cowboys to the 1966 and 1967 NFL title games, both defeats to the Green Bay Packers, but he abruptly retired from pro football the following year at the young age of 31.

Longtime Cowboys president and general manager Tex Schramm once said of Meredith:

“He had a wonderful sense of humor and a very laid-back personality. But he was an absolutely intense competitor who could rally a team. He was very charismatic, maybe the most charismatic player we had.”

Though, his time as a Cowboy was short-lived, it was Meredith who helped Dallas become one of the best and most exciting teams in football.

The NY Times had a fitting quote that best described his sheer toughness on the field.

More than anything else, Meredith earned respect by repeatedly exhibiting one attribute: toughness. Few had more guts and courage, inside and outside the pocket. In his era, the rules didn’t protect the quarterback as they do today, and those that did weren’t strictly enforced. In those early years, the Cowboys’ offensive line wasn’t very good. Meredith often took a beating, but he never complained about it. According to Brandt, Meredith played a game against Washington in 1966 with broken ribs.

Don Meredith is probably best remembered for his remarkable broadcasting career which began in the broadcast booth with Howard Cosell and Keith Jackson and the birth of Monday Night Football. Funny, warm and knowledgeable, America fell in love with Dandy Don, and many credit him for MNF’s immediate success which also led to the widespread popularity of the NFL.

Who can ever forget hearing Meredith sing the Willie Nelson classic, “Turn Out the Lights” whenever a team was facing imminent defeat.

Meredith blazed his own path, as one paper put it, it was one that was followed by John Madden a few years later – by retiring early from football after great success and finding even greater success in broadcasting, accentuated by his larger-than-life personality.

I’m really gonna miss Dandy Don. He was one of the best personalities of the game, but more important than that he was a charitable person who always gave back to his fans and his community.

I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to end this post, than with the line from the song that he sang to us so many times.

“Turn out the lights, the party’s over. They say that all good things must end.”

Rest in Peace, Dandy Don. You will be missed.

Give Choice a Chance

It sounds to me like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is being stubborn again. When he was asked about the struggling Marion Barber who is having his worst season ever as a Cowboy, Jones was not willing to give up on him despite plenty of evidence that his star is fading fast.

“I know certainly he’s got critics but I wouldn’t go that far in any way to say his time is done with the Cowboys,” Jones said on his radio show.

Barber is averaging 3.1 yards per carry has rushed for only 313 yards this season. He has never had a 1,000 yard rushing season as a Cowboy.

Lets stick with running backs and move onto my personal favorite, Tashard Choice. With the real possibility that Marion Barber will miss Sunday’s game, Choice will get a shot to strut his stuff and show Jason Garrett why he deserves more carries.

Choice hasn’t had many chances to be the featured runner in his career, but as Jean-Jacques Taylor pointed out in a recent column, he’s made the most out of them.

Remember his 23-carry, 88-yard performance against Pittsburgh in 2008? What about his 17 for 90 performance against Baltimore two weeks later? Or the 36-yard touchdown and 92-yard game in the comeback win over Kansas City last season?

Choice doesn’t have many supporters on his side. Jerry Jones constantly rags on him for not playing smarter on special teams, and Jason Garrett continues to say Choice is the third best RB on the team.

What a terrible way to motivate a player you intend to feature against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Nice job guys.

Despite the Cowboys’ poor record this season, they are still hot commodity when it comes to prime time coverage and national broadcasts.

When the NFL had a chance to change the matchup for Week 14 NBC Sunday Night Football, they decided to leave it unchanged and stay with the Eagles versus Cowboys on December 12th. This means the Cowboys will have been nationally-televised for the sixth week in a row. Nice!

Roy Williams Serves Up Some Turkey On Thanksgiving Day

It’s been almost two days, and I still can’t get Thursday’s loss out of my mind. It really doesn’t matter how many games we win or lose from here on out, and I had no illusions of grandeur that somehow the Cowboys were still in it, but that particular loss just stung more than usual.

How amazing would it have been to beat the defending Super Bowl champs after all we’ve been through during this season of turmoil? We were almost there… We almost did it… We could have won our third straight game since we fired the Michelin Man, Wade Phillips…

Maybe Gerald Sensabaugh said it best,

“We just fought back to get ourselves back in the football game,” safety Gerald Sensabaugh said. “Our offense was driving and scoring points. We had a couple of good stops down there by holding them to field goals. It’s not a good feeling when you know you could have won the football game.”

I know many of you hung at least part of that loss on our kicker David Buehler, but he was act to go out there and execute on a 59-yarder that is a field goal kickers version of three Hail Mary passes rolled into one. If he would have made it, the game would have easily been the Cowboys biggest and most inspirational win in the last three seasons.

I firmly put that loss squarely on the shoulders of Roy Williams. Until he had that football stripped away from him, the Cowboys well on their way to pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the season against a phenomenal New Orleans Saints team that was hungry for another win.

I’m so tired of seeing Williams pollute this team with his constant complaining of the field, and his soft approach on the field. I still grit my teeth when I realize we made him one of the top paid wide receivers in the NFL. I’ll never understand how a first round bust who couldn’t cut it with the lowly Detroit Lions, can come to Dallas and get the richest contract ever for a wide receiver in team history. If there is anyway to get his ass off this team this offseason, I hope they do it.

It was difficult to see the team’s best receiver Dez Bryant, so under utilized on Thursday, and you could see the frustration on his face as he spent most of his time on the sidelines and even shouting his displeasure to anyone who would listen. Did you see the expression on Garrett’s face after Williams’ coughed up that ball and with it all of our momentum?

Everything the Cowboys worked so hard to fight back from and accomplish on Thursday, simply vanished because of this one play:

So what did Roy Williams have to say about his back-breaking blunder?

“It happens. I don’t know why things like that happen to good people. I should have just gotten tackled.”

Good people? What does that have to do with anything? What he should have said was that things like that don’t happen to “good players”.

Getting back to something more positive, I’m becoming a huge Jason Garrett fan. How incredible and refreshing was it to see him get in front of the press and take responsibility for that loss? When was the last time a Cowboys head coach did that? And the ironic thing about it was that I had zero problem with the way Garrett coached that game. I saw him resurrect a Cowboys team that was down 17-0 against one of the leagues best, and spark them back to life. I haven’t seen such passion, fight, intensity and raw emotion from the Cowboys in years.

I know Garrett is just the interim coach, but after what I’ve seen in the last three games, I wouldn’t have a problem if Jerry Jones dropped the interim tag from his title.

We’ve already had to well known names at the head of this franchise in Wade Phillips and Bill Parcells. Maybe it’s time we stop pinning our future on some coach whose glory days came with another franchise. I’m tired of having a coach who was chosen simply because he was well known and would be easy to market or sell to the fans.

Maybe this time we should choose a coach with some heart and passion regardless of his name and past exploits. I wasn’t a huge Jason Garrett fan before this season started, but I’m completely sold on him now. He lives and dies with every play call and that’s exactly the kind of coach I always wanted for this team.

What are your thoughts about that?

Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving Day weekend!

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

TG2

On behalf of everyone at Lone Star Struck, we would like to thank all of our wonderful readers and contributors for all of their amazing support over the years.

It’s always such an enormous pleasure to share our opinions and interact with the number one football fans in the world!

We also want to thank and remember all of our brave men and women who continue to serve our country and defend the American way of life. Our thoughts are always with you, and we honor your incredible courage and commitment to protecting our freedom.

Thanksgiving and Dallas Cowboys football has always been a great American tradition that sets us apart from all the other NFL teams.

Here’s to a great game today as we take on the New Orleans Saints. We’re shooting for our third victory in a row! 

Today is all about family, friends, great food and Dallas Cowboys football baby!

From all of us, to all of you…

 

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

 

turkeystars

LSS Extra Points: Run Don’t Walk

Cowboys Practice Notes

The injury plague strikes again!

Marcus Spears (defensive end) and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (safety) have both been placed on injured reserve (IR). The Cowboys replaced them with two defensive linemen; Jeremy Clark and Jimmy Saddler-McQueen.

For the first time this season the team practiced in full pads. Today was the team’s first practice under interim head coach Jason Garrett. Before today former head coach Wade Phillips had the players practice in shorts and shoulder pads. Garrett also encouraged the squad, telling them what was expected of them and insisting they hustle to their next practice activity rather than walk.

Cowboys linebackers Bradie James (knee) and Anthony Spencer (stinger) both missed practice, and of course, defensive end Sean Lissemore (ankle) and Tony Romo (clavicle) both still out.

Joe D. On Being Quitters

Coach Joe DeCamillis weighs in on the growing perception that the Cowboys are quitters,

“Yeah that’s not a good situation, no question about it, and we’ve just got to get it rectified. It’s a shame because there’s a lot of good, really tough guys that do it right and play hard, we’ve just got to get it reigned in and get that moniker off our guys, that’s for sure.”

Tuck This This In Your Pocket

Justin Tuck of the New York Giants made some interesting comments regarding the Cowboys:

Regarding the Offensive Line…

“Just a little bit more confusion, it seems like sometimes they’re not on the same page. When they are [on the same page], I’ve seen them move great. I don’t know what the case is as far as communication is. That’s the only thing I’ve seen differently.”

Regarding Sunday’s Matchup…

“It’s never difficult to get motivated to play the Cowboys. It’s a great rivalry. If the talent wasn’t there, it’d be a different story, but we understand this team can wake up. It’s kind of like a sleeping giant. You definitely don’t want to wake them up.”

What Are The Odds

Sportsbook.com posted gambling odds for who will be the Cowboys head coach to start the 2011-12 regular season. Of the 12 coaching options to place a wager on, Jon Gruden has the best odds at 2-1 while Tony Dungy and Brian Billick share the worst at 25-1.

Other options include Marty Schottenheimer (15-1), Mike Zimmer (15-1), Bill Parcells (10-1), Leslie Frazier (10-1), Jim Harbaugh (8-1), Marvin Lewis (5-1), Bill Cowher (4-1), Jason Garrett (4-1) and John Fox (3.5-1).

Put me down for fity bucks on Marvin Lewis.

Everybody Is A Winner At LSS

Congratulations to our five book winners!

Lone Star Struck has selected our five random winners, who each correctly answered our trivia question, and won a a free copy of  America’s Team: the Official History of the Dallas Cowboys.

If you received a congratulations e-mail, please reply as soon as possible. Thanks to everyone who participated and remember to visit us often for more exciting Cowboys giveaways!

Live Blogging Press Conference: Wade Phillips Fired, Garrett Named Interim Head Coach

The following is a live blog of the 4:00 PM press conference in which the Cowboys will officially announce that head coach has been fired. Offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett will replace Phillips as the interim head coach.

4:03 – Jerry Jones step up to the podium. He looks ashen and like he hasn’t slept in days. “We are not where we want to be as an organization right now.”

4:05 – Jones told team we have 8 games remaining and we want players who want to win and we will be watching them the remainder of this season.

4:08 – “We are not recognizing the need to play in a winning way. I believe that you can look at a team and see if there is real effort. I don’t think we have done that.”

4:10 – “Jason has certainly been a part of our longterm thinking for the Cowboys. But for now we want him to maximize how we are playing right now. I do believe that Jason has the temperament and disposition to effect a culture change.”

4:11 – “In addition to naming Garrett, we have named Paul Pasqualoni as the defensive coordinator. He brings something to the table to institute a change this week and next week in the culture.”

4:12 – “We have the luxury of doing something in the next eight games to look and evaluate any future changes going forward. We all shared int the frustration of doing things that cause you not to win.”

4:13 – “We did not show an ability to overcome injuries. The team we played last night did do that, we did not.”

4:15 – In last few weeks I have been in denial, especially the last couple of ballgames, but I had to do what was needed and that’s why I decided to make this coaching change.”

4:16 – Garrett has the opportunity to keep the job long term. If he does his job well under this crisis situation, the answer is yes. Good success here will enhance his long term prospects.”

4:17 – “Wade is a good friend and I visited with him personally. He has presided over three of the most offensively productive seasons in Cowboys history. That’s all I will say about that.”

4:20 – “We haven’t been playing in a winning way. We need to show up ready to play and I’m not just talking about being ready physically.”

4:22 – “We need to see an extraordinary effort as a team and individually as players from here on in. That’s not based on just the record, but in the attitude and quality of play.”

4:25 – “It was paramount in my thinking that we would make adjustments and have our defense more productive and make a correction. We need to have real success on the defensive side of the coaching side and that impacted my decision.” (Regarding last night’s game.)

4:26 – A saddened and visibly shaken Jerry Jones answers the last question and steps down from the podium.

Closing Comments

Obviously, readers of this site know how ecstatic I must have been upon hearing the news Wade Phillips was fired. Wade is a great guy who was simply in over his head. He didn’t have the fire you want from a head coach. I’m glad that Jerry Jones did the right thing and fired him now as me and many other bloggers on this site suggested and wanted. Now we can look toward the future with the hope that a new era in Cowboys history has begun, and that we can turn the page on the distater that this first half of the season has been.

I wish Jason Garrett the best of luck, and look forward to seeing what he can do in the next eight games of this season.

Go Cowboys!

Does Phillips Decrease Morale By Punishing Some And Rewarding Others?

Last week, Cowboys beat writer Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News, answered questions for fans in a live chat. The following responses by Archer proved to be very insightful and worth a look.

Possible coaching candidates:

Gruden would come here in a second. Cowher? I doubt it. Cowher would want more control. Gruden would be open to less of a say, but I said it earlier in here: whoever the head coach is here has more power than any of us think. If he wants a player or doesn’t want a player, almost 95 percent Jerry will side with the coach. … But I wouldn’t be in the Gruden camp. He was only average after taking over Tony Dungy’s team and winning that Super Bowl the first year.

Why Chris Gronkowski was inactive against Jacksonville:

He was inactive because of his failure to pick up Michael Boley on a blitz that led to Tony Romo suffering a fractured collarbone. He was not hurt. He was a healthy scratch. The Cowboys used their tight ends Scott Chandler and Jason Witten as fullback. To me it sorta speaks to what’s wrong with this team: they can punish guys like Gronkowski, an undrafted free agent, but they do not punish their more veteran players.

Who the Cowboys will target with a top 10 draft pick:

I wouldn’t put much stock in these scouting gurus at this time of year. Just compare lists they have now to the ones they have in April. Things change. There will be an O-lineman or five to take in the early rounds. I’d say safety has to be at the top of the list, too.

Why the Cowboys’ defense has stalled and become easy for opponents to read:

It’s the same scheme as they ran last year when they finished second in points allowed in the NFL. It’s not an overly complicated scheme, but there are a lot of teams that run simple stuff and execute it. That’s the problem: there’s no execution and now Phillips doesn’t know what he’s going to get from the players and I’m sure players are lacking trust in what’s called. It’s natural when things go like this.

Is Felix Jones a top running back in the NFL:

He doesn’t have much room to do much of anything, however, I just don’t see the instincts to make him special. He’s a one cut guy. He doesn’t have the wiggle necessary to make somebody miss. Maybe he lost some of that by adding some weight but he just doesn’t look like the same guy.

Regarding Gronkowski being inactive, I thought it was a cheap shot by Wade Phillips and an indication that he is playing favorites with his roster.

When Mark Colombo does an intentional back-flip in the end zone Phillips defended him and said he simply tripped, but when Gronkowski unintentionally makes the mistake of leaving the quarterback unprotected to tackle an oncoming guard, he gets punished and singled out.

Gronkowski gets put on the inactive list despite being the only fullback on the team. Phillips decided it was better to punish Gronkowski even at the expense of weakening the team.

It’s things like this that make me wonder how Wade Phillips has lasted this long as coach of the Cowboys.

If the division in the the locker room is as bad as is now being reported, don’t blame Terrell Owens this time, blame the coach, Wade Phillips.

Tony Romo Could Be Out 8-10 Weeks With Broken Clavicle

Bad news Cowboys fans… Tony Romo has suffered a broken left clavicle and the team has announced that he could miss anywhere between 8-10 weeks which could essentially end his season.

Romo had x-rays in the second quarter after suffering the injury and it looks like he will need surgery.

With 12:07 left in the second quarter, Romo fired a pass to Miles Austin, then took the hard hit from linebacker Michael Boley, who was running at him unblocked, going practically full speed. Romo was down, flat on his back, until trainers came to his aid.

He was replaced by Jon Kitna, and the the crowd at Cowboys Stadium is as silent as a graveyard.

This could wipe out the rest of the season for the Cowboys, and with the trade deadline now passed the Cowboys are left to scramble for a solution.

It’s sad to see, and I don’t want to point fingers, but why did the Cowboys elect not to upgrade the offensive line, Romo’s first line of protection?

Get well soon Tony.

Cowboys Finally Focus On Reducing Penalties

It may have taken the Cowboys three years to figure it out, but all that matters is that they get it right in the end. According to this post in the Dallas Morning News by David Moore, The Cowboys have gone to great extents this week to try and reduce the numbers of penalties that have wreaked havoc on them the last few seasons.

The Cowboys brought in officials to work practice in an effort to cut down on the penalties that have crushed their season.

The result: “We’ve had zero penalties [on offense] the last two days,” Phillips said Saturday before the team went through a light workout. “Will that happen in a game? You’ve got a better chance of it happening in a game if you don’t do it in practice, so that’s what we’ve emphasized.

“We’ve had no false starts, no holding, no illegal formation. I mean nothing.”

Phillips said there have been a few penalties on defense and special teams and those players have been called out. It’s part of his peer pressure approach.

“They’ve really bought into it, and I think it will show up,” Phillips said. “We’re working hard on it.”

I think this is awesome… Is it enough to save the season or just a case of too little too late?

I don’t really care… What’s important is that they realize how all these penalties have ravaged their season  and that they do everything in their power to reduce them and start acting like an NFL franchise instead of a bunch of kids playing football at the schoolyard.

This team has suffered from a lack of focus and professionalism for far too long, and knowing that their finally going to do something about it is music to my ears.

The Heat Is On For Michael Jenkins

Nobody can dispute how talented Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins is and what a positive impact he can make in the secondary when his head is in the game. But unless, Jenkins becomes more consistent and avoids the silly penalties that only take away from his overall game, he may soon find himself on the outside looking in.

The NFL is getting tough on penalties, and that can only mean bad news for a team that often leads the league in that regard.

Jenkins is currently the Cowboys’ ringleader and has been called for team-high four pass interference penalties and one illegal contact penalty.

With a heightened sense of alert on these sort of penalties, Jenkins has made himself a target and rival offenses will now try to exploit him much in the same way as they did with the original Roy Williams after the NFL banned his famous horse-collar tackle.

ESPN’s Calvin Watkins recently wrote that opposing teams are targeting Jenkins on a regular basis due to his aggressive play because if he messes up, penalty or bad coverage, it means a completion.

The New York Giants, which visits Cowboys Stadium on Monday night, will be targeting Jenkins all night and hoping it will result in some huge completions for Eli Manning who is currently tied for third in the league with 21 completed passes of 20 or more yards.

Monday will be a huge test for the Cowboys as they play a bitter rival at home, but the biggest test will be to see how Jenkins responds to what will be an all-out attack looking to exploit him.

Basically, the Giants are banking on the fact that the Cowboys will beat themselves, just as they have all season long.

Lets Stop Fooling Ourselves…

After another disastrous display of a team lacking discipline, focus and determination, the Cowboys continued along their downward spiral into oblivion on Sunday, as the Minnesota Vikings beat them 24-21.

It’s so sad to see a team with so much talent simply squander away prime years with Romo at the helm. What I mean by prime years is that next season Tony Romo will be 31 years old. How many more seasons does Romo have left in him? Aikman retired at age 34…

There’s no discipline on this team whatsoever. Only one week removed from an excessive celebration penalty which was the prelude to a loss against the Titans, Miles Austin draws the same penalty again today against the Vikings.

In that same Titans loss, cornerback Mike Jenkins collects two costly pass interference penalties that led to first downs and two scores. This week, with less than two minutes on the clock and the Cowboys desperately needing the ball to try and tie or win the game, he draws the same penalty on third and long essentially sealing the Cowboys fate and ensuring a 1-4 record.

This lack of discipline stems from poor leadership and an unwillingness on behalf of the players to learn from their mistakes, especially the costly mistakes.

You can’t fire the entire team, but you can certainly fire the coaches and build for a better tomorrow. This team needs a major shake-up… a fire lit under their asses… a wake-up call…

We’re not gonna start waiving or releasing players as some are calling for in the fanbase. Romo isn’t going anywhere and neither is Mike Jenkins or Mark Colombo… and incidentally, they are not the problem…

Our problem lies squarely upon the shoulders of our coach Wade Phillips. It doesn’t require a degree in rocket science to figure out why Wade Phillips has only won one playoff game in 11 years as a coach. You either have it or you don’t. Wade clearly doesn’t.

How much longer do we have to endure this gut-wrenching soap opera until someone finally spares us and pulls the plug?