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.

Boys Could Look To Add Outside Linebacker Depth Early On In Draft

Outside linebacker play got more consistent for the Cowboys in 2009 with the emergence of Anthony Spencer and the usual All-Pro play from Demarcus Ware. There are questions however with the depth behind the two starting outside linebackers. Contrary to popular belief, I think Victor Butler played well for a raw rookie making the transition to linebacker. And we can’t forget about Brandon Williams, who was sidelined for the year with a torn ACL, and should be ready to compete by the time training camp starts. Still, expect the Cowboys to take a close look at the deep class of ‘tweener type linebackers that fit well into their 3-4 scheme. Here are a few prospects to watch.

Thaddeus Gibson – Ohio State, 6’2″ 243

Many questioned Gibson’s decision to declare for the draft early. But after his performance at Ohio State’s pro day, it looks as though he made the right choice. He has the size that 3-4 defensive coordinators covet, and would project to be an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. Gibson also has the speed to go along with his size, running a 4.58 40-yard dash at Ohio State’s pro day. His 40-time is comparable to Demarcus Ware’s when he performed at the combine in 2005 and ran a 4.56 40. Gibson will probably go in rounds 2 or 3, which may not be too early for the Cowboys to consider an outside linebacker.

Jerry Hughes – Texas Christian, 6’2″ 255

A hometown boy who played his college ball for the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth, Hughes was a terror on the Frogs defensive line, posting 26 sacks in the past two seasons. Like Gibson, he is a ‘tweener prospect who will play outside linebacker at the next level. He posted a very solid 4.69 40-time at the combine, and has the size comparable to Anthony Spencer. Hughes’s draft stock has been solid throughout pre-draft workouts, and he could go as early as the late 1st round. The Cowboys are not likely interested in drafting an outside linebacker in the first round, so Hughes could be out of reach. If he falls to them in the 2nd round however, they will take a long, hard look at him.

Ricky Sapp – Clemson, 6’4″ 266

Sapp is another athletic defensive end who will transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker. He has fantastic size and speed, both comparable to Demarcus Ware, and had a terrific outing at the combine. Did not really have impressive sack numbers during his collegiate career, but certainly has the intangibles that pro teams look for in a 3-4 outside linebacker prospect. He could go anywhere within rounds 2 through 4, and could get interest from the Cowboys.

George Selvie – South Florida, 6’3″ 252

Selvie is a prospect who really fell off the map after posting 14 sacks in the 2007 season. His drop-off in production was partly due to nagging injuries. The emergence of Jason Pierre-Paul on the Bulls’s defensive line also took alot of eyes off of Selvie. Regardless of his recent drop-off, Selvie has intriguing size and upside that will draw the interest of any defensive coordinator looking to add athleticism to his defense. I could see Selvie going in the late 3rd round to 4th round range, which is certainly within the range that Dallas would likely pull the trigger on an outside linebacker project.

Koa Misi – Utah, 6’3″ 251

Misi is one more intriguing ‘tweener prospect amongst a very deep class of pass rushing athletes in this year’s draft. He showed his athleticism at the combine in the vertical jump and the 3-cone drill. Like Selvie, Misi did not accumulate impressive sack numbers in 2009, but was plenty active and racked up plenty of tackles. Also like all the other prospects named in this article, Misi possesses the intangibles to be a force at the 3-4 outside linebacker position. He is projected to go anywhere within rounds 2 or 3. Like the other prospects, look for the Cowboys to consider him if he is on the board after round 1.

Cowboys Extra Points: Tackles and Trash Talk

Gerald Sensabaugh has been fined by the NFL for a horse collar tackle during last Sunday’s game.

Josh Ellis reports,

Safety Gerald Sensabaugh received notice Wednesday of a $5,000 fine for a horse collar tackle in the second quarter of Sunday’s win over Tampa Bay.

Though no flag was thrown, the league’s official review concluded the first-year Cowboy had illegally pulled down Bucs running back Cadillac Williams from behind. Sensabaugh said he thought it was a legal tackle because he had grabbed Williams’ jersey, not the inside of his pads.

I clearly remember the play, and I even questioned if it was a horse collar during our live game chat. Seems a little harsh to fine someone $5,000 when no penalty was called, and no one was hurt.

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Tony Romo has been nominated for the NFL’s FedEx Air & Ground Player of the Week Award. You can vote up until Friday at 11 a.m. CST. Place your votes – Romo is up against Drew Brees and Joe Flacco.

Oddly enough former Cowboy Julius Jones is up for the ‘Ground’ award, along with Thomas Jones and Adrian Peterson.

* * *

Linebacker Stephen Hodge had microfracture surgery on his left knee while linebacker Brandon Williams is expected to have his reconstructive knee surgery within the next couple of weeks.

* * *

Felix oh Felix! Please stay healthy!

Felix Jones was limited in play during last Sunday’s game due to a bruised thigh, and will possibly be limited this week as well. Here is what has been posted on the Cowboys official website.

RB Felix Jones – quad (9/13) – Although he continued to play, Jones was limited after suffering a quad injury during a big tackle in the first quarter. The Cowboys held him out of some third-down plays and replaced him in the second half with Miles Austin on one kickoff return.

* * *

Have you heard what Brandon Jacobs said yet?

“No question,” he replied. “I hate the Cowboys with a bloody passion.”

I asked him what the difference between a “regular passion” and a “bloody passion” was.

“You want to go into the game as being assassins,” he said, referring to the feelings of bloody passion, “instead of tough football players in a game like that.”

He most likely heard what DeMarcus Ware said, “I hate those New York Giants!”

Nothing like some good old fashioned division rivalry trash talk! Bring on those Giants!

StarStruck Graphics

Cowboys Make Moves for 75 Man Deadline

Watch out for several moves today around the league as the 75-man roster deadline looms.

The Cowboys have already made their transactions.

Rob Phillips reports,

The Cowboys trimmed their preseason roster to an NFL-mandated 75 players on Tuesday by releasing rookie WR Julian Hawkins, placing rookie LB Brandon Williams (torn ACL) on injured reserve and placing rookie OL Robert Brewster (torn pectoral muscle) on the physically unable to perform list.

Nothing really unexpected or controversial there.


September 1 — Roster cutdown to maximum of 75 players.

September 5 — Roster cutdown to maximum of 53 players.

Cowboys Add DBs to Roster; More Rookies Out

As reported at 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


Another Rookie Lost For the Season

It has been reported by that rookie LB Brandon Williams will miss the 2009 season after suffering a torn ACL during the victory over the Titans Friday night.  The injury occurred during a punt return. Williams joins fellow rookie draft pick Robert Brewster who tore a pectoral muscle a few weeks back and will also miss the 2009 season.

Coach Phillips on Brandon Williams…

“This kid had a chance to play some plays,” said coach Wade Phillips during his news conference Saturday. “I guess he’ll just have to do it next year.”

In other news Saturday it was reported by that Wade Phillips has decided not to put Felix Jones in to return punts this season. This is due to the fact Jones is not comfortable doing it and the coaches are also not comfortable with him doing it. Jones has struggled to judge and catch punts. Patrick Crayton will most likely be the Cowboys punt returner for 2009.

“I just don’t know if he is going to be ready to return punts this year,” Wade Phillips said. “I don’t know if he has the confidence or we have the confidence yet that he can be clean with the football every time.”

Tony Romo threw in the direction of Roy Williams seven times during the first half of the Titans game Friday night. Williams ended up catching five of those passes for 36 yards. Look for this connection to improve as each game passes. I don’t believe we need Williams to stretch the field. He needs to use his big frame on cornerbacks and be physical. Make the big reception over the middle and move the chains.

“He missed me a couple of times, but I’m not going to complain about that,” Williams said. “We’re still a work in progress. He’s still getting to know me, and I’m still getting to know him.”

“With a route tonight on third down, I felt like we needed to be on the same page,” Romo said. “If we do, it’ll help. Those are drives we can’t get back. I think guys are taking the right approach, though. We’ll be fine.”