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Good, Bad, and Ugly All Evident In First Preseason Game

Coaches and fans got their first look at the 2010 Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night against a highly touted Cincinnati Bengals club that many are predicting to be a Super Bowl contender this season. The Boys had an impressive showing for a preseason game, not allowing Cincinnati to score until the late 4th quarter. However, there were also some loose ends the Cowboys need to tie up before they take the field against Washington in the season opener. Let’s play a game of “Who’s hot, who’s not” to summarize the first preseason game.

Who’s Hot

*Tight end John Phillips. He took advantage of the absence of Martellus Bennett and showed great all-around ability throughout the night. He had a couple of superb catches, and also showed his blocking ability on several occasions. With Bennett’s problems of late, I would not be at all surprised to see Phillips get more playing time than Bennett when the season starts.

*Defensive end Stephen Bowen. He also took advantage of the absence of a fellow teammate (Marcus Spears), and was a force along the defensive line all night. He was constantly in the backfield and recorded a sack before his night came to an end. With Bowen, Spears, and Jason Hatcher all playing on one-year tenders, I expect the competition to continue between the three.

*Offensive tackle Doug Free. Though he only played one series, Free looked very comfortable at left tackle, and had his way with Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom in both passing and running situations. Free definitely looks to have a leg up on Alex Barron in securing the starting left tackle spot. It will be interesting to see how he performs the rest of the preseason against pass rushers like Shawne Merriman and Mario Williams.

*Backup linebackers. A solid night on defense was topped off by the impressive play of players like Brandon Williams, Victor Butler, Jason Williams, Steve Octavien, and Brandon Sharpe. Jason Williams, Butler, and Octavien all showed their ability to get to the quarterback with a sack each. Brandon Williams and Sharpe showed their abilities in coverage with an interception each, Sharpe’s going for the only touchdown of the evening for the Cowboys. The Williams boys and Butler are showing flashes of the abilities the Cowboys saw in each of them when they drafted all three last year. Keep an eye on the ‘backers again in the next preseason game, as Sean Lee should step on the field for the first time and show his skills, too.

Who’s Not

*Offensive lineman Robert Brewster. He looked simply horrendous playing both tackle spots, and gave Stephen McGee no time to throw the ball all night. It is safe to say the intent of the Cowboys to develop Brewster as a tackle has run horribly amok. His footwork is below average and his ability to get out of his stance is poor. If the Cowboys want to avoid missing on yet another offensive line draft pick, they should consider moving Brewster to guard, where his slow feet will be less noticeable.

*Backup running backs. In a virtually impossible battle for a roster spot at running back, Herb Donaldson and Lonyae Miller did nothing to prove they are even worthy of a spot on the practice squad. Donaldson fumbled the ball early, and Miller had less than one yard per carry. With Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice all locks to make the team, Donaldson and Miller will be nothing more than camp bodies for the duration of training camp.

*Return specialists. The return game for the Cowboys was non-existent the entire night, with Titus Ryan, Jamar Wall, Bryan McCann, and Cletis Gordon sharing the duties. Ryan had a decent return to start the game, but left early with a broken thumb. Wall, McCann, and Gordon shared the punt return duties, but none of the three did more than fair catch and flirt with potential disaster when a return was possible. Gordon and McCann were also creamed on one of their returns, McCann’s coming on a terrible non-call in which he clearly called a fair catch.

Weekly Game Balls: Week 3

This week’s offensive game ball goes to Tashard Choice.

The quickness and toughness he showed against the Panthers defense made him an easy “Choice”. On any other team Choice would easily be an every down back. The Cowboy’s depth in the backfield was on full display Monday night.

It’s really fun to watch his signature “T.C.” every time he scores a touchdown.

Choice had 82 yards on 18 carries with one touchdown, he also had a 2 point conversion. He also hauled in a remarkable 8 catches for another 36 yards.

Although the injuries to Marion and Felix sadden me, we don’t miss a beat when Tashard Choice is on the field, and that truly shows the remarkable depth we have at running back.

Star50

This week’s defensive/special teams game ball goes to Terence Newman.

T-New sealed the game for us with his interception returned 27 yards for a touchdown. Terence finished the night with only 3 tackles but he did cause a fumble. This one was close with Victor Butler who also forced a fumble and recorded two sacks.

Despite missing several tackles in a shaky first half, Newman bounced back and kept the Panthers’ top receiver Steve Smith in check.

“Before the game we talked about how our defensive line and linebackers did their job last week and how we didn’t do our job,” Newman said. “So I told them ‘Hey it’s on us. We’ve got to shut these guys down.’ We let this team down last week and we have to make up for it this week.”

Star50

Congratulations to Tashard and Terence for their outstanding play.

Runners-up: Victor Butler, Patrick Crayton

Weekly Game Balls: Week 2

With the nickname of Earth, Wind, and Fire comes 2 players on this week’s game balls.

This week’s offensive game ball goes to Marion Barber.

With the nickname of Earth, Wind, and Fire comes 2 players on this weeks game balls. The weeks offensive game ball goes out to Marion Barber. He is the “Earth” in the three headed monster of running backs by committee. MB3 ran for 124 yards on 18 carries with 1 touchdown. He definitely earned his name as Barbarian. Marion showed quickness and toughness in him we haven’t seen in a while. He would of had another score if it wasn’t for his quad tightening up. He looked just as good as any running back that played on Sunday. Barber also had 31 yards on 2 catches when Tony was not at his best
This weeks defensive/special teams game ball goes to Felix Jones.The wind of the group. Even though Felix had a fumble that the Giants capitalized on. He had 134 yards on 6 run backs. His longest run was of 38 yards. Felix showed the speed the cowboys need out of the backfield, and also had 96 yards on 7 carries. If it wasn’t for 4 yards, the Cowboys could have 2 running backs with 100 yards each.Despite the fumble Felix helped the Cowboys almost pull off the win. He scored the go ahead touchdown to put the Cowboys up 31 to30.

He is the “Earth” in the three-headed monster of running backs by committee. MB3 ran for 124 yards on 18 carries with 1 touchdown. He definitely earned his nickname as Barbarian.

Marion showed quickness and toughness in him we haven’t seen in a while. He would of had another score if it wasn’t for his quad tightening up.

He looked just as good as any running back that played on Sunday. Barber also had 31 yards on 2 catches.

Star50

This week’s defensive/special teams game ball goes to Felix Jones.

Felix is the “Wind” of the group. Even though Felix had a fumble that the Giants capitalized on, he also had 134 yards on 6 kick returns for a 22 yard average. His longest return being 38 yards.

Felix showed the speed the Cowboys need out of the backfield.

In addition, on offense Jones had and impressive 96 yards on just 7 carries. Wow!

The Cowboys nearly had 2 running backs with 100 yards each. Despite the fumble, Felix helped the Cowboys almost pull off the win. He scored the go ahead touchdown to put the Cowboys up 31 to 30.

Star50

Congratulations to Marion and Felix for their outstanding play.

Runners-up: Jay Ratliff, Jason Witten

Jason Garrett Needs To Be The Cowboys MVP

Here we are, three weeks before the draft and unless we make a blockbuster trade to move up or sign Holt or Harrison our offense right now is probably the offense that will start the 2009 season.

Now that we cut loose our most explosive offensive weapon (which I still believe is a huge mistake) we need to focus on what we need to get that sixth title.

Jason Garrett in my opinion needs to be the MVP of this team in order for the Cowboys to compete. MVP meaning… the most valuable play-caller.

He wowed us in 2007 when the offense racked up huge numbers, but once teams caught on and took away THE PLAYER, the offense was average at best. Garrett’s play calling was way too predictable  last year, I mean think back at all the times we had an incomplete pass on first down, then a one-yard run on second, and then a five-yard completion on third, and finally a punt. That scenario played out so many times last season… too many to remember.

Even with THE PLAYER gone, this offense is loaded with talent ranging from the three headed monster in the backfield, to Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin downfield, to Mr. Reliable himself, Jason Witten who I believe will suffer most due to The Player’s departure. I just see him drawing that extra man from the defense which could and should open up Martellus Bennett to have a decent season.

If Garret can use the talent he has and accounts for the defensive adjustments during the game, there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to put up 30 passes per game in 2009.

Here is my gameplan…

First, he needs to find a way to get Tashard Choice, Felix Jones, and Marion Barber into the game as much as possible whether its throwing Felix out in the slot or even loading up  the backfield with all three… he needs to get creative with these three.

Second, lots of screen passes is a must. Get the ball in these guys hands and make the defense stop them.

Third, once you establish to the opposing defense that they need to come up and stop our three backs, this will free up Witten and Bennett in the middle of the field for some nice chunks of yardage.

Fourth, they need to throw downfield more. If the Cowboys accomplish the first three items on this list, it should leave our receivers in one on one coverage. With Williams’ height and ability, coupled with the speedy Austin Miles, it could be a potent combination.

Finally and most important, the offensive line needs to have that killer instinct. Whether its run blocking or protecting Tony, they need to step up and show that they are not only the biggest but also the baddest group in the league. Mark Colombo, Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode, Kyle Kosier and Flozell Adams are all locked into long deals and for decent chunks of Jerry Jones’ money. They need to play with that swagger we often hear so much about.

So there it is my plan for Garrett to become the Cowboys MVP in 2009.

If I am right and Garrett can use that Princeton education of his to establish a smarter, creative and more efficient playbook, then hopefully we’ll be celebrating our sixth ring in Miami in February of 2010.

Edited by Joe D.

THE LOSS TO THE REDSKINS…CAN I SAY A FEW WORDS ABOUT T.O.?

Hello Cowboy fans…

Normally I only write one story a week for Lonestar, but this week I felt the urgency to write two stories. My second story, Cowboys’-Bengals’…and a guy named OchoCinco will post on Thursday. 

Let me start off by saying I was very unhappy about the Cowboy loss on Sunday afternoon as I am sure all Cowboy fans were. The team seemed much unprepared, at times very non-responsive, and seemed for the most part as having that “why do I have to work on Sunday attitude”. I was especially disappointed in the selection of plays that were called on offense. MB3 getting only 8 touches and Felix never got into the backfield. It seemed the coaches went completely away from their normal offensive game plan that up until Sunday has been almost flawless.

I thought Tony was running for his life all day and the defense at times looked non-existent. I know it is a rival game and seems like over the last few years the Cowboys’ have had their fair share of difficulty beating the Redskins’ when clearly they were the better team. This game on Sunday was no exception to that rule.

Now did this writer think our beloved boys would “run the table” and reach that 19-0 perfect season? Let me answer that one loud and clear before all the Cowboy fans send out a lynch mob, hunt me down, and we all head for the biggest oak true we can find.

No, that thought, to be honest, never crossed my mind. As I commented in a previous post last week it is extremely difficult in this day and time of professional football to go undefeated. With the age of the salary cap that causes such parity between the NFL teams, and not to mention I knew going into this game on Sunday, it would be a difficult test. Even though this is not one of the better Redskins’ team, they are still pros, and a pro team can beat another pro team on any given Sunday.

Of course anytime the Cowboy’s and Redskins’ meet, no matter what the season records, it is always a four quarter fight to the end. I just sensed watching the game, that Cowboys’ had no sense of urgency. They seemed they would go and score when they wanted to and other times they seemed to just be somewhere else.

Secondly, I wanted to make a statement regarding T.O… I was extremely disappointed at his after the game comments which began airing on all the media outlets almost immediately after he said it. T.O. made the statement that “when I touch the ball, the chains move and when I don’t touch the ball, the offense goes stagnate”. Well Terrell, here’s news flash for you. I do not know what stadium you were at on Sunday, but I certainly think you had your fair share of touching the ball! T.O. had 17 balls thrown to him and he caught 7, not to mention he had two end-around plays making a total of 9 touches for the game. Now in defense of Terrell, there were some balls thrown to him that if he had been ten feet tall he could not have caught. Then there were others that I could have caught that he missed, especially the one in the corner of the end zone that went right through his hands.

What aggravates me is the fact this is the same kind of talk that filtered through the locker rooms of T.O.’s former teams, San Francisco and Philadelphia which eventually cumulated with T.O. leaving both squads and burning all the bridges behind him. When T.O. came to Dallas, I was one of his most staunch supporters and it was me that always said “T.O. is finally happy, leave him alone and he will be a shining star”. In reality this has been the case and he has been a role model player for the team.

Now we all know that T.O. is going to be T.O. to a certain extent. You will never take the man out of the kid or the kid out of the man. I just think it was wrong for his post game comments especially when it seems at times the offense was all about Terrell, and it seemed to me that the play calling was all about Terrell. For him to make those type of comments when it was just not true was signs of the old Terrell Owens. Now I know Terrell thinks the team is all about him and that is fine to take that leadership role. Just remember there is no” I in the word team” and a real leader of a team is not going to come out make those types of statements.

In addition, T.O. has seemed to take the leadership role with “Pacman” in keeping him on the straight and narrow. Remember you lead by example and in my humble opinion; you set a bad example on Sunday night.

So T.O. if you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say anything. Let your game on the field do you’re talking for you!!

Pursuit of Perfection Fails to Finish

In the end 18-0 was just not enough.  18-1 doesn’t earn you a Championship when the loss comes in the last game.  You have to be able to finish to claim the title of Superbowl Champions.  I think it was Fox announcer Curt Menefee that I heard say, “The Patriots came in undefeated while the Giants came in undaunted.” That just about sums it up. As many of you know, I was rooting for the Giants in this game while many of my other Cowboy friends wanted the Pats to finish their season undefeated and go down in history (while many Cowboy fans also couldn’t have cared less).  I really didn’t think the Giants would accomplish this, but my hat is off to the G-Men.  They had a job to do and did what no other team has been able to do this season.

The Giants defense was definitely the key in this game.  The defense was able to put so much pressure on Tom Brady that the Pats were never able to get in rhythm and stay there.  Brady was sacked 5 times and hit 9 other times while throwing the ball.

As Cowboy fans, why should we care?  Well, here are my thoughts for what they’re worth:  The Giants defense pressured Brady just like it did Romo in our last game against the Giants.  While many people have wanted to play the blame game and not give the Giants credit for the win over the Cowboys, I for one, will do so. Our loss to the Giants had nothing to do with Jessica Simpson, or Mexico, or assistant coaches being distracted. Jessica didn’t play in the game.  The game took place in Dallas, not Mexico.  The coaches didn’t drop the balls, botch the plays, or fail to protect Romo.  Like T.O. said in his interview after the game: “We lost as a team.”

Protection was something Brady would have loved to have had yesterday. The Giants defense just kept getting into the backfield and I’m sure that Brady was hearing footsteps coming up behind him on every play by the end of the game. I don’t blame Brady for this loss and I don’t blame Romo for ours.  A quarterback is one man, while a win/loss is a team effort. The Giants outplayed the Patriots, and, much as it pains me to say it, they outplayed the Boys.

I do take some consolation in the fact that the Patriots will not be considered “The Greatest Team of All Time” now. They are just one of the other 31 teams who failed to finish.

One final thought for what it’s worth: Our Cowboys played the Giants three times this season, winning two, but losing the one that counted. The Patriots played the Giants twice this season, winning one, but losing the one that counted.  If you add up the score of the Giants v. Patriots games you come up with 8 quarters of football and a final cumulative score of 52-52.  The Cowboys, on the other hand, played 12 quarters of football against the Giants and finished with a final cumulative score of Cowboys 93-Superbowl Champions 76. Now, I know that’s not much consolation to my Cowboy friends out there but I find some satisfaction in it (not much, but some….).  Should we have beaten the Giants at home and advanced further in the playoffs? Yes, we should have, but we didn’t.  Could we have beaten the Patriots in the Superbowl?  Yes, I think we could have, but that question will have to remain unanswered.

To the Patriots, I say, we Cowboys know how you feel.  It’s tough to have so much promise and potential and fall short at the end.  We know…..

To the Giants, who have not, and probably will not, get the respect they deserve from most, I tip my hat to you on a good season and the ability to finish well. Wear your crown proudly. You are Champions and I freely admit it. 

However, keep your ears to the ground during the offseason. Down in Texas, horses are getting re-shoed and saddles are being polished. If you listen closely, you will begin to hear the thunder of distant hoof beats and the crack of whips.  All too soon, you will see Stars on the horizon.  It’s not your fan club coming to pay homage.  It’s a cattle drive decked out in Silver and Blue coming to trample you and take your crown.  So, enjoy this one Giants. We’re thinking of you here in Texas.  Can’t wait to see you.

Contributed by Rich Isaacs

 

Barber? Jones? McFadden? Who’s Going? Who’s Staying? Who’s Coming?

Originally, I had planned to write this blog on why I think we should go ahead and trade Julius Jones and keep Marion Barber. I have thought for the most of the season that Barber is the future in the Cowboys backfield. While Jones is a good back and can certainly be the lead man in another offense, I think he has seen the writing on the wall in Dallas, and realizes that he is going to be relegated to a supporting role for Barber. Because of this, I think Jones slacked off this season. When he gets the chance to carry the ball, he spends his time dancing around the backfield, waiting for a hole to open up. Barber, on the other hand, tends to make a hole if one isn’t readily available.

My reasoning here is, that Julius Jones, while a talented and hard worker, has lost heart, due to his realization that Barber is now perceived as the premier back. Julius knows that he can be the top back in many other offensive schemes, just not here with the Cowboys. Therefore, I was going to argue that we should get a contract on Barber and lock him in long term and let Jones go with our best wishes since I don’t think we can keep both.

Then – from stage left, enters Darren McFadden of Arkansas. The rumors are flying that Jerry Jones wants McFadden and wants him badly. Miami, of course, would have the first shot at McFadden (or anyone) due to having the first round draft pick this coming year. As we all know, we have already had a mass exodus of coaches from Dallas to Miami to join the Big Tuna. In thinking about this, it seems that Jerry Jones has been very cooperative in this process, and has allowed these guys to leave without much effort to keep them. In addition, it is also rumored that Miami wants Barber.  Could there be a deal in the works to let assistant coaches go without a whimper, while also tossing Barber into the mix at some point in order for the Cowboys to get their hands on that first round draft pick?

To be honest, I have no idea. All I know are the rumors I hear on the sports shows and the other blogs and fan sites I read. I love Barber and don’t want to see him go. However, I loved Herschel Walker and thought his trade was one of the most stupid things I had ever seen – at the time it happened. Of course, I realized later, that “The Trade” as it would come to be known, was a brilliant coup on the part of Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson to lay the foundation for a dynasty, while Minnesota ended up feeling like they had bought a huge “lemon” from the shadiest used car dealer in town. Ultimately, the final results of “The Trade” brought some now familiar names to the Boys – Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith, Darren Woodson, and Clayton Holmes.  For Minnesota, the results brought – relative obscurity.

My thoughts here are this, I know Jerry Jones is a smart business man. He knows how to cut a deal, and has proven that time and again in the past. I admit that I have thought him crazy at times in the past and then later, I was proven wrong when the impact of these deals have been brought to light. Jones obviously has some neurons and synapses firing in his head that don’t work so well in my noggin. But please, let’s not make the mistake Minnesota did – thinking they were one back away from a championship, they sold their soul (and their supporting cast) to get him.

Again, I love Barber and think he may be the toughest back out there. McFadden is, without a doubt, extremely talented, yet unproven in the NFL. Barber has already proven himself with the Cowboys. Aren’t there other possible ways of getting McFadden without giving up Barber? Is all this just unfounded rumor with no basis in reality? Many have said so. They say there’s no way Jones will let Barber go. It’s a given that Jerry Jones will sign him. I thought so too, but why hasn’t he done so yet? What’s the hold up? As a restricted free agent, my understanding is that you simply have to tender him an offer to lock him in, but this, as of yet, hasn’t happened.

For the most part, in this blog, I am just thinking out loud. I certainly don’t pretend to be an expert – just a devoted fan trying to figure out what’s going on. What do you, the readers think? Please feel free to share your thoughts with me. Is all this a possibility? Am I nuts? Hit me back. Let me know what you think.

Contributed by Rich Isaacs 
 

Anyone Else Having Cowboy Withdrawals?

Can you believe it’s been over two months since the season ended? I can’t believe how quickly the off-season seems to be going. I guess we have Jerry Jones to thank for that. He really has made the off-season so much more interesting for us with the way he took his time searching for the best man for the job as our head coach, and all the off-season signings weren’t so bad either.
 
I am so glad that Julius Jones and Marion Barber will be together again in our backfield for the 2007 season! Well, maybe not at the same time, but who cares, it’s a lethal 1-2 punch!
 
I wonder if the media will finally stop obsessing over Terrell Owens once the pre season starts? I figure now that he has a season under his belt in Dallas that he won’t be such a hot topic anymore. Of course it’s also dependent on T.O. behaving himself, but come on, he’s really putting forth a great effort lately at being team oriented.
 
StarStruck is looking for a couple of writers who might be interested submitting a weekly column. If interested, please contact us for more details.
 
That’s all for now… GO COWBOYS!