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Back In The Saddle Again – Training Camp Notes

Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips are all smiles at the start of Cowboys Training Camp

I skimmed through all the different beat writer reports from today’s Cowboys Training Camp, and summarized all of the information for you.

Training Camp Player Valuations – In terms of talking about players after practice, Phillips doesn’t like to do it. He feels he needs to see some practice tape before talking about how well a player did or how bad a player did. Phillips said it gives him a chance to give better answers to questions.

“You may see a player do something real good in practice and the rest of the plays didn’t play well,” Phillips said. “Like a guy in a game, you think he played well, and he didn’t play well at all.”

Ain’t That A Kick In The Pants – The coach made a note that David Buehler isn’t the only placekicker on the roster. Delbert Alvarado is also a kicker but hardly gets mentioned because after the team released Connor Hughes, it was assumed Buehler had no competition. Even Buehler said he’s competing against himself.

“Alvarado did well, and that’s why we kept him in the spring,” Phillips said.

Safety First – Does Pat Watkins have a shot to become the starting free safety over Alan Ball? Phillips said he does and that there is competition at almost every position. However, Phillips would like to see Watkins, who is a strong special teams player, be more consistent on defense. Watkins did have a nice breakup of a long pass Saturday.

He Ain’t All That – *Dez Bryant, the rookie wide receiver, was impressive in his first practice. Phillips said it’s not the best debut he ever saw.

“I don’t know if he looked any better than Steve Largent when he came in,” Phillips said. “Cris Carter when he came in, I’ve seen some pretty good ones.”

Not To Be Nosy, But – *Marcus Spears is still the starting defensive end, but he will get some snaps at nose tackle during training camp. The Cowboys did some of this last year with him. Phillips doesn’t believe it’s the start of something long term for Spears.

“I would be comfortable with him playing there,” Phillips said of Spears at the nose. “He’s a smart player and he’s a good run player already, and normally nose guard is a run-player position. [Jay] Ratliff has taken it to a different level; you don’t see nose guards getting six and eight and ten sacks. But I think Spears can fill that role as a run player and I think he’ll do a good job there.”

We Kneed You Man – *Linebacker Keith Brooking might miss the second practice Sunday. He’s fine, but Cowboys want to bring him along slowly because he had minor knee surgery in the offseason. Brooking looked pretty good Saturday knocking down a pass and moving around pretty good.

MartyB TV Off The Air – Wade Phillips said he does not expect Martellus Bennett to miss much practice time in training camp with the sprained left ankle he suffered last week while working out. The Cowboys placed Bennett on the non-football injury list because he did not suffer the injury while under the Cowboys’ care.

An Early Look at the NFC

We have been waiting and waiting for months. Now the wait is just about over. The Cowboys report to training camp tomorrow and their first practice is Saturday. As the next week goes by all the other teams will also open up training camps and most will have their sights set on Super Bowl XLV in Cowboys Stadium next February. It’s the start of a new season with new hopes and dreams. So who are the favorites in 2010 and who will be the disappointments? Here is an early look at the NFC.

NFC Favorites

  1. New Orleans. The Saints need to be at the top of the list simply because they are the defending Champions. Someone needs to knock them off the top of the mountain. As far as talent and leadership the Saints are no different from last season. They are explosive on offense, which helps when it comes to their 25th ranked defense.
  2. Minnesota.They are rated above the Cowboys because of how easily they beat the Cowboys in the playoffs. Most people are tired of the so called “Favre Watch”, but if he comes back they will still have a potent offense. If Favre shocks everyone and retires, then the Vikings as a team fall a few spots in the rankings. Their defensive line is one of the best, if not the best in the league, but their secondary is suspect at times.
  3. Dallas. No major changes for the Cowboys during the off-season. They have the talent in place on offense and defense to go along with some playoff experience. Tony Romo had a great 2009 season, minus the Giants game early in the season. I think the offensive line will be fine with Doug Free taking over for Flozell Adams. The major question is how will Alan Ball be at safety?
  4. Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers has become one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He has a lot of offensive weapons to choose from as long as his offensive line can protect him. The defense played very well last season as they went from a 4-3 to a 3-4. A few losses in 2010 on defense like Johnny Jolly and Aaron Kampman may hurt them.
  5. NY Giants.I tried my best to find another team in the NFC I could put at number five, but I kept coming back to the Giants. Eli Manning seems to always find the open receiver when he needs a big play and they Giants have a lot of weapons at receiver. Was Brandon Jacobs really hurt in 2009? That will be the big question for this offense in 2010. The defense just seemed to give up last season as they allowed over 40 points in three of the last four games. That prompted the Giants to hire new defensive coordinator in Perry Fewell.

 

Disappointments

  1. Philadelphia.Franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb was traded in the off-season. No more Brian Westbrook in the backfield. I think the Eagles are going to take a step back in 2010. They are handing the offense to unproven quarterback Kevin Kolb. Their defense is not the force it once was as the Cowboys showed in beating them in back-to-back weeks, outscoring the Eagles 58-14.
  2. Arizona.The Cardinals lost their heart when Kurt Warner retired after last season. Matt Leinart has done nothing that says he can lead this team. They also lost dependable receiver Anquan Boldin to free agency. The defense lost a few pieces as well with the departures of linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Antrel Rolle.
  3. Chicago.I’ve read a lot of good things about the Bears this off-season. How Jay Cutler is going to be better now that new offensive coordinator Mark Martz is there. How the signing of Chester Taylor and Julius Peppers has improved the team. But head coach Lovie Smith likes to run the ball and Mike Martz likes to throw the ball. Could be an issue as the season moves along and the winter weather enters the picture. The question is also whether Peppers really wants to be in Chicago or was it the money that attracted him there?

Interesting

  1. Detroit.I’m interested in seeing the Lions this season. I know they have combined for only two wins the last two seasons, but this team has some talent. Especially on offense with Matthew Stafford going into his second season and Calvin Johnson becoming one of the best receivers in the league. Stafford also has a quality tight end in Tony Scheffler to go to now. The Lions drafted speedy Jahvid Best to ignite the running game. On defense they added cornerback Chris Houston, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and defensive tackle Corey Williams through free agency. The Lions also added defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was the second overall pick in the draft.

Bracing For A New Season: Three Up And Three Down

It has been an agonizingly slow news day for the Cowboys… more like a  week… or better yet, a month…

So I took a quick look at the projected roster for the upcoming season and tried to detect some potential concerns or problem areas. I didn’t see any glaring holes or huge problem areas, but there are a few mild concerns as I see it.

Some Concerns

Alan Ball – Ball will be the first choice to fill the shoes of the departing Ken Hamlin at safety. Nobody expects him to duplicate the former Pro Bowler’s presence on the field and in the locker room, but expectations still will be high for a team that need all aspects of it’s game to be firing on all cylinders. Especially, in the secondary. Ball has shown some flashes in his limited playing time so I remain hopeful, but I’m also realistic and realize that until he actually goes out there and impresses, he is still a question mark.

Marion Barber – The “Barbarian” will most likely see a reduced role this season similar to one he enjoyed when Julius Jones was last here. For a big dude, he seems to wear down easily as an every down back, and with Felix Jones making a strong case for increased playing time, Barber may only get touches in short yardage situations and possibly at the goal line. He may not like his reduced status so keep an eye on the situation. By the way, with a nickname like “The Barbarian”, he sure has been very brittle and it don’t take much for him to get removed from a game. He better toughen up before they change his moniker to “Maid Marion”.

Roy Williams – Yeah I know it sounds like I’ve been picking on RW ever since the Cowboys traded for him, but my concerns were justified and time did prove me right. I’m still bugged by the fact he is still here. Yes, I know he has a boatload of cash coming to him, but winning trumps everything including greenbacks. Whereas before my concern was giving RW a superstar mega-deal for what was just a garden variety receiver, now my concern is how do we get Kevin Ogletree and Dez Bryant the playing time they deserve while at the same time keeping RW from back-biting and inciting turmoil in the locker room?

No Worries

Doug Free – I’m not as concerned as others about Doug Free taking over for Flozell Adams. Adams has been on a downward slope for the last two seasons, and our O-Line was getting a little long in the tooth. Free looked fantastic while filling in for Mark Colombo last season, and I believe he will be an upgrade over Flozell this season. His youth will help recharge an aging O-Line.

Tony Romo – I believe Tony Romo is still going to get better even though right now he’s a Top 10 QB. He has a thirst for knowledge and always shows up better prepared for the season than anyone else on the roster. He has great skills, but is also a thinking man’s quarterback and I believe that will ultimately add up to a couple of Super Bowl rings before he is through.

David Buehler – I’m not at all concerned about David Buehler getting the job done as a placekicker. When he was with the Trojans, he was unexpectedly called into service to kick a filed goal due to an injury. He nailed a 49-yard field goal and the Trojans won the game. For USC, it was the longest successful field goal since 1988, a two decade span. Am I worried about Buehler? Nah… The kid’s a grinder…

Cowboys Apparently Not Interested In Safety O.J. Atogwe

When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones is one of the best, if not the best, owners in the National Football League.

As a general manager, he’s one of the biggest riverboat gamblers on either side of the Mississippi River.

A lot of times he’s been right, and a lot of times he’s been wrong.

Having enough faith in our backup receivers to cut Terrell Owens and subsequently, Miles Austin emerged. Good.

Trading two first round draft picks for Joey Galloway. Bad

Well, Jerry Jones is on the craps table and is rolling the dice again. This time with the safety position of the Cowboys.

Gerald Sensabaugh, our strong safety, signed his one-year tender with the Cowboys, and Jerry Jones may extend him, but the free safety position is still a concern because Alan Ball, the replacement for Ken Hamlin, who we cut, is… the best word would be unproven.

I’ve seen Ball in preseason games, and he’s good, but when Jerry Jones passes up a shot to get Darren Sharper, a beast of a safety, in free agency, you wonder if Jerry is taking too large a risk with the team.

Well, now the Cowboys aren’t going to make an effort to sign free agent, O.J. Atogwe, a safety who last played for the St. Louis Rams.

Atogwe is a pretty good safety. I know he’s an upgrade from Ken Hamlin, but not on the Ed Reed/Darren Sharper level. I was hoping to possibly see him with the Cowboys and give me more assurance than Alan Ball has.

However, Jerry Jones disagrees. He replied to the question, “I’m ready to go to our season with the safeties we have. That might answer your question.” According to the Cowboys official website.

Jerry Jones feels comfortable with new draft picks like Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, a fourth rounder from IUP, or Jamar Wall, a cornerback who might convert to safety from Texas Tech.

Add in Michael Hamlin (no relation to Ken Hamlin), who missed most of last year due to a wrist injury, and the incumbent, Alan Ball, to the mix and Dallas has a strong depth at the position.

There is even some undrafted players that can work out as safeties.

Jerry Jones apparently has faith in these players, so Dallas fans are going to have to trust them. Who knows? Maybe a Miles Austin will emerge.

We can only hope, but for right now, it is for-sure that Jerry Jones isn’t rummaging for his checkbook to give Atogwe a contract.

This article was originally published here.

Cowboys Extra Points: Tying Up Loose Ends

The NFL released dates today for all clubs. Here are the dates for the Cowboys Organized Team Activities and well as Rookie and Veteran Mini Camps

OTAs: May 17-19, May 24-26, June 1-3, June 8-10

Mini Camps: April 30-May 2 (rookies), June 11-13

***

With the recent signings of Montrae Holland and Alan Ball, the Cowboys have only Miles Austin and Gerald Sensabaugh left to sign their tenders by June 15 or have a long-term deal in place. Last week, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters that “both are in line for a long-term contract”.

***

Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, has apologized to Cowboys first round pick Dez Bryant for asking whether his mother a prostitute. The apology came after it was learned that Ireland posed the question during a pre-draft interview with Bryant.

***

In a complet about-face, undrafted tight end Scott Sicko reversed his position and has agreed to terms on a free-agent contract with the Cowboys, and will attend the team’s rookie minicamp this weekend. Sicko initially decided not to pursue any NFL offers when he failed to get selected in the NFL Draft, and was going to return to school. Jerry Jones can be very convincing when he wants something, huh?

***

After the season DeMarcus Ware had surgery to remove a bone spur. When asked if he was 100% yet, he replied:

“I would never say 100 percent. I would say 94 percent. The surgery went well. I had a bone spur, and they just shaved it down. Now, everything is good.”

Gotta love Ware’s attitude and personality! We love you #94!

UPDATED: Tender Me This

With the deadline coming up in eight days, the Cowboys still have several players yet to sign their tenders. Several are unhappy and the rest have been very quiet.

Gerald Sensabaugh for example decided not to participate in the first offseason conditioning program this week. According to his agent he is not under contract but has been training six days a week on his own.

Marcus Spears and Steve Octavien signed their tenders yesterday. Cory Procter was the first to sign the tender back in March, which actually makes perfect sense.

I expect the remaining unsigned players will jump on board soon. I believe Miles Austin knows he will get his money eventually and hopefully it will all work out smoothly.

Interestingly enough, Alan Ball hasn’t signed his exclusive rights tender and with the release of Ken Hamlin he could be more essential than ever before.

Its been a slow and silent offseason regarding free agency and the Dallas Cowboys. With our rivals signing big names we have remained very conservative to say the least. Maybe that’s because we already have the players we need for a championship team. After the draft, hopefully we will have a few eager rookies who will complete this team that not only were the division champs, but also won their first playoff game in 12 years.

NOTE: We will update this post as the players continue to sign in the days to come.

UPDATE (4-7-10): Pat McQuistan has signed his tender.

UPDATE (4-8-10): Jason Hatcher and Junior Siavii have signed their tender.

UPDATE (4-9-10): Stephen Bowen has signed his tender.

Deadline: April 15th

Restricted Free Agents

Miles Austin, First Round Tender

Sam Hurd, Second Round Tender

Pat Watkins, Original Draft Pick

Duke Preston, Original Draft Pick

Gerald Sensabaugh, Second Round Tender

Stephen Bowen, Second Round Tender – SIGNED

Jason Hatcher, Second Round Tender – SIGNED

Junior Siavii, Original Draft Pick – SIGNED

Pat McQuistan, Original Draft Pick – SIGNED

Corey Procter, Second Round Tender – SIGNED

Marcus Spears, Original Draft Pick – SIGNED

Cletis Gordon – SIGNED 1 Year Deal

Shaun Suisham – NOT TENDERED

Unrestricted Free Agents

Montrae Holland, Unrestricted Free Agent

Exclusive Rights Free Agents

Steve Octavien, Exclusive Rights Tender – SIGNED

Alan Ball, Exclusive Rights Tender

Injury Update: Ware, Hamlin News

After a huge scare last weekend, we could likely see DeMarcus Ware back on the field this Saturday night in New Orleans.

Coach Phillips reported that if the game had been Wednesday, Ware would not have played but it would have been close. He hasn’t lost any strength or motion, it seems to be more of a soreness issue. If by chance Ware does not play, Victor Butler will be his replacement.

Safety Ken Hamlin has missed the last four games with an ankle injury but is now fully recovered and ready to roll. Hamlin is pumped up about the Saints game this weekend and cannot wait to get back into the action.

“I’m a competitor. I want to be out on the field.

“It’s going to be an exciting game. I’m ready to get back and start playing.”

Tight end Martellus Bennett will be out again this week after suffering a concussion two weeks ago. He hasn’t practiced since the injury occurred. Rookie John Phillips will replace Bennett in the lineup.

Safety Pat Watkins is also out with a sprained left PCL. Alan Ball will fill Watkins shoes as backup safety and on special teams. Ball has started the four games that Ken Hamlin has missed.

***

Personally I’m praying for Ware’s recovery, you definitely need your best defensive player in the game when you are going up against one of the best, if not the best, offenses in the league. The Cowboys need this win desperately after losing their division lead and any hopes of a playoff run could be determined this weekend.

Injuries Will Make Things Interesting

Tomorrow the Cowboys face Redskins in Dallas for their first matchup of the season. The Skins will be missing some big names in their lineup including Chris Cooley and Clinton Portis. While the Cowboys will be without starters Ken Hamlin and Marc Colombo.

Washington may be banged up and they may only have a record of 3-6 but you can’t count this as a win just yet, as we’ve learned already this season.

The Cowboys have to hope that Doug Free is ready to fill in for Marc Colombo, otherwise the Cowboys offense could suffer severely. Alan Ball will be starting in Ken Hamlin’s place at free safety.

As always expect a great game between one of the biggest rivalries in football at “The House That Jerry Built” tomorrow at noon (central time).

Cowboys Injuries for Week 11
NamePositionInjuryPractice StatusGame Status
Marc ColomboTAnkleDid Not Participate In PracticeOut
Ken HamlinSAnkleDid Not Participate In PracticeOut
Allen RossumCBHamstringDid Not Participate In PracticeOut
Marion BarberRBThumbFull Participation in PracticeProbable
David BuehlerKright ToeFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Mike JenkinsCBElbowFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Gerald SensabaughSThumbFull Participation in PracticeProbable
DeMarcus WareLBFootFull Participation in PracticeProbable
Redskins Injuries for Week 11
NamePositionInjuryPractice StatusGame Status
Chris CooleyTEAnkleOut (Definitely Will Not Play)Out
Clinton PortisRBConcussionOut (Definitely Will Not Play)Out
Eddie WilliamsRBAnkleOut (Definitely Will Not Play)Out
Albert HaynesworthDTAnkleDid Not Participate In PracticeQuestionable
Mike WilliamsTAnkleDid Not Participate In PracticeQuestionable
Stephon HeyerTKneeLimited Participation in PracticeQuestionable
Ladell BettsRBAnkleFull Participation in PracticeProbable

Injury Report from NFL.com

Cowboys Add DBs to Roster; More Rookies Out

As reported at DallasCowboys.com the Cowboys added two defensive backs today. DeAngelo Willingham was claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Bucs and Jeremy Haynes was also picked up.

Willingham was cut by Tampa Bay following its last preseason game. He played cornerback and safety in college at Tennessee.

Haynes played at wide receiver his first two years at McNeese State before moving to cornerback. He was cut by the Titans during training camp.

It’s clear both positions were in need of depth.

 Cornerback Depth Chart

Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick, Alan Ball, Mike Mickens

Safety Depth Chart

FS – Ken Hamlin, Courtney Brown, DeAngelo Smith

SS – Gerald Sensabaugh, Pat Watkins, Michael Hamlin

 

Class of 2009

 No. 69 (third round) – OLB Jason Williams – Western Illinois – Out 4-6 weeks
 No. 75 (third round) – OT Robert Brewster – Ball State – Out for the Season
 No. 101 (fourth round) – QB Stephen McGee – Texas A&M – Out 3-6+ weeks
 No. 110 (fourth round) – OLB Victor Butler – Oregon St.
 No. 120 (fourth round) – DE Brandon Williams – Texas Tech – Out For the Season
 No. 143 (fifth round) – CB DeAngelo Smith – Cincinnati
 No. 166 (fifth round) – S Michael Hamlin – Clemson – Out 6+ weeks
 No. 172 (fifth round) – K David Buehler – USC
 No. 197 (sixth round) – S Stephen Hodge – TCU – KNEE (due back this week)
 No. 208 (sixth round) – TE John Phillips – Virginia
 No. 227 (seventh round) – CB Mike Mickens – Cincinnati
 No. 229 (seventh round) – WR Manuel Johnson – Oklahoma

Ouch!

A Look At Our CB/Safety Depth After Draft

Well after a very interesting draft weekend I figured I would list our CB/Safety Depth Chart for everyone to our depth at the positions now.

 

 Please note that the only the starters listed are guaranteed depth chart positions as of right now numbers 2+ are my predicted spots.

So with this depth at secondary we are set for some interesting training camp battles to stay on the roster. I personally see Jerome Carter, Michael Hawkins, Pat Watkins, and Stephen Hodge to be cut before the 53 man roster is due in.

Am I Just a Confused Cowboy Fan or Just a Confused Writer?

For 30 years I have been following the Dallas Cowboys and last Sunday, I just became confused a little I think.

Was it just me, or did it seem like the Buccaneers morphed into their own version of the Dallas Cowboys? Those penalties at the end of the half that allowed the Cowboys to stay alive on their way to a touchdown is exactly what we Cowboys fans have been witnessing for a while now.

It was refreshing to see it could happen to another team!!

I can’t remember the last time I saw a Dallas Cowboys team that fired up, emotional and intense. They were close last year against the Packers but weren’t able to maintain it through the second half. Last Sunday, the Cowboys kept that intensity up for almost the entire game, but this is what really counts: At times they executed on offense most of the time and the defense led by a “bunch of no names” were on a mission! You can be the most fired up and crazy team in the league but it doesn’t matter if you aren’t executing throughout the game. Sunday they were very close to playing a complete game.

Even though he failed to register a sack, DeMarcus Ware was a beast on Sunday. He was a force against the run and consistently putting Jeff Garcia on the ground. The only reason the Cowboys didn’t have more sacks was because of Garcia’s freakishly quick release, which most of the time was flinging the ball into nowhere. Perhaps the most amazing part of Ware’s day was the effect he had in pass coverage. Several times Ware dropped back in coverage to take away the quick slant across the middle and twice he made a play on the ball, once almost nabbing an interception. The fact that Ware played every single down on defense makes his day look that much better, especially considering he was still getting good pressure on the final drive.

Now I have to say Cowboys fans, we are faced with the very real possibility of having Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick and Alan Ball as our top three cornerbacks next week. If Anthony Henry is ruled out against the Giants it is almost guaranteed that we will sign a corner during the week for depth purposes. Just don’t put all your hopes on Ty Law, which is a name getting thrown around. He wants starter money to play and you can’t pay someone that much to be a depth player, no matter what his pedigree may be. Jerry does do some crazy things though.

Marion Barber may not have had a great day statistically, but he almost singlehandedly willed this offense forward. Imagine what he might be able to do if the offensive line decided to actually start blocking for him.

Brad Johnson. Watching him play you have to question the play calling and offensive scheme. Defenses’ are stacking the box against the run, knowing that right now Johnson doesn’t have the ability to get the ball to his receivers downfield. So you ask yourself why not more slants, comebacks, dink and dunk stuff? Well for one, he hasn’t been accurate on those either. I do know this: If I can guess that we are about to run a screen or dump off to Barber on third and long, I’m pretty sure the defense can as well.

How much of difference would Felix Jones make if he came back this week? It will make defenses play a whole lot different that’s for sure.

I am not really getting my hopes up on that though!

Sunday was a perfect example of why Wade Phillips is a great defensive coordinator and just a decent head coach. Now we will never know the extent of how much control Wade took from Brian Stewart but there was definitely a difference in how the defense looked. Still hate seeing those corners’ playing so far back.

Sunday’s performance is why Zach Thomas was brought in, as he played an outstanding game. If we don’t make mistakes and the defense comes to play?

21-20 Cowboys!!

GO COWBOYS!!

 

Cowboys News: A Roster Move

The Cowboys signed rookie cornerback Alan Ball to the 53-man roster yesterday and waived nose tackle Remi Ayodele. Ayodele has been inactive since Tank Johnson was signed, which also happens to the last time the Cowboys made a roster move. This year the Cowboys have only made 10 roster changes, compared with last years 53 at this point of the season.

With Terence Newman’s season long leg injury, Ball will hopefully provide a decent backup if needed. Ball had a decent preseason but a minor knee injury kept him from the team and left him on the practice squad.

Signing the seventh round pick rookie also gives the Cowboys the rights to him. If practice squad players are not signed, they become free agents after the season.

dallascowboys.com