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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.

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.

We Will Be Back

I am a very analytical ‘stats’ kind of fan.  I like to learn from the past to predict where we may go in the future, so please bear with me as I ramble on in my blogs.  I ended my last blog wanting to talk about the offensive line and the defensive secondary – and that I will.

2010 will mark 15 years since the Cowboys last hoisted the Lombardi trophy.  Let’s analyze then and now:

Then:

1995 produced four Pro Bowl offensive linemen (arguably it could have been five).  Names like Erik Williams, Larry Allen, Ray Donaldson, Nate Newton, and Mark Tuinei should bring a smile to any die-hard Dallas fan!  1995 also produced a line that gave up only 14 sacks for the entire season for a drop-back, pocket passer that would only scramble if there was a single, female country singer within his view (yes, I will give credit where credit is due to the slant route and to Emmitt).

Now:

2009 produced two Pro Bowl offensive linemen, Gurode and Davis; however, this line allowed 34 sacks for a scrambling quarterback that could give Houdini a run for his money.  Yet, this line produced 4.8 yards-per-carry for arguably one of the best three-headed running attacks in the league.  Hmm?

Then:

Arguably one of the best shut-down cornerbacks of all time basically cut the field in half (Deion Sanders) allowing Larry Brown, Darren Woodson, and Brock Marion to flourish; with Woodson having a Pro Bowl year.

Now:

2009 produced two Pro Bowl corners in Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins; but the safety positions remain in question.

So my first question – with names like Kosier, Gurode (Pro Bowl ’09), Davis (Pro Bowl ’09), Free, Colombo, Barron (who by all accounts is just another Flozell), and 7th round pick Young, can they keep Romo healthy enough (and calm enough in the pocket) to hit our targets?  We know they can run block, but can they protect the QB?

My second question – do you feel that the defensive line and the linebacker core are strong enough (which by all indications they are) to be left alone, or will they end up, more times than not, leaving Newman and/or Jenkins alone in space as they keep a safety in the box?  What are their names?  Ball, Church, Hamlin, McCray, Owusu-Ansah, and Sensabaugh.  You be the coach, what lineup do you go with?

In this writer’s opinion, the offensive line (particularly the left tackle) and the safety positions will determine the fate of this upcoming season.

Ratliff Excited After Testing His Elbows

Nobody could argue that Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff had a tremendous season last year as one of the stars on the Cowboys defensive line, but what makes last season all the more impressive is that according to Ratliff, both of his elbows were ailing for most of the year.

It makes you wonder just how more impactful he could have been had he been healthy and pain-free.

Ratliff said that his pain was so bad at time that he was unable to bench press, and finally did so yesterday for the first time in over a year.

Ratliff had offseason surgery to remove bone spurs from both elbows and said he now feels great and better than ever.

“It was kept quiet because I never talked to anybody about it. When I told the trainers, nobody knew how serious it was until I asked them to do an X-ray and they saw the bone spurs. … Today was the first day that I benched press in two years, and it felt good. No pain at all. So I am excited about that.”

I’m excited too… Just imagine how much more dominating he will be playing with two healthy elbows.. Memo to opposing quarterbacks… Run for cover.

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.

A Tough Loss To Take In

Well, 3 days later and I am finally writing an article. It was hard to take in that loss. Not because we got beat 34 – 3 but because, just like James said, we did not choke. We got beat by a team that just simply wanted it more. I am still confused because going into that game, not only did I believe we were the better team but it was being said everywhere I watched and read. NFL.com writers and analysts were saying Dallas is a better team, Broadcasters on Sports center were saying Dallas was a better team. They were playing “together” just like a championship team should. But watching the game, we simply got outplayed.

Romo did not have his best game by far but this loss was not even close to being his fault. The offensive line fell apart, the defensive line got played, simply put the Dallas Cowboys got outplayed. Don’t get me wrong I am just as much of a fan today as I have been my whole life. I stuck by them when they went 1-16. I was there with them when Tom Landry got treated like a red headed step child and DID NOT deserve it. I was there when they won 3 out of 4 super bowls in the 90’s. I will be with the Cowboys until the day I die.

Looking back at this game if I did not see the score I would never think that they got beat that bad. Let me prove my point.

Time of possession in the game was extremely close. Dallas had the ball for 30:34 and Minnesota had it for 29:26. Dallas had 16 first downs in the game with Minnesota only have 15. Dallas had only 2 penalties all game for a minimal 10 yards. Minnesota had 8 penalties for 50 yards. Minnesota only had 17 more rushing yards than Dallas but the average yards per rush was Dallas 3.7 Minnesota 3.3. Minnesota only converted one more third down that Dallas did.

Looking at those stats makes me feel better about the loss. Do I feel good about it, of course not who does or would feel good about a loss. But I know that Dallas did not choke, as a matter of fact they played a half way decent game.

This year Dallas got a HUGE monkey off their backs. After a 13 year drought, they finally won a playoff game. No we did not advance to the super bowl like we all had hoped but we made a huge step forward in our progress to becoming a championship team once again. We will learn from our mistakes and come back next year stronger faster and more hungry. Thank you Dallas Cowboys for a great season. Let’s do what we have to do this off season to keep our star players and draft some soon to be pro bowlers, and come back next year ready and raring to take on the world.

Cowboys’ Streak Is Sweet To Some, Bitter To Others

Two days after the great win in Philly, Cowboys fans are still on a victorious high, rightfully so. Looking around the web, most everyone’s opinions seem to have changed with a few exceptions, as to be expected.

NFL.com had some nice things to say…

Dallas — They have found a peaceful functioning locker room, which is exactly what they were looking for when they dumped T.O. in the offseason. The Cowboys must continue to control the game with their defensive line, and before the end of the season, everyone will know nose tackle Jay Ratliff is one of the game’s best.

ESPN’s Matt Mosley’s “Rapid Reaction” right after the game…

Don’t look now, but the Cowboys are in the driver’s seat in the race for the NFC East crown. They returned to the scene of last season’s embarrassing 44-6 loss and came up with a clutch performance.

Sports Illustrated is a bit hesitant to jump on the Cowboys bandwagon, but they still think its possible the Cowboys make it to the playoffs and cause an upset…

There’s a lot of football to play, and it’s too early to say anything about Dallas except that it’s in first place, alone, in the NFC East, and nobody but Bum Phillips thought that’d happen this late in the season. The Cowboys don’t have a killer schedule. They might be good enough to spoil the Favre-Brees NFC Championship Game.

There are plenty of other articles out there giving the Cowboys credit for taking charge of the NFC East. And along with the good, of course their is always bad. Some sour critics are claiming the Cowboys win over the Eagles just proves how awful the NFC East has become. Come again?

Check out this excerpt from CBS Sports analyst Mike Freeman

Someone had to win this monstrosity, so it might as well have been the Dallas Cowboys.

Oh, was this game magical, and by magical, I mean ugly as Whitney Houston emerging from a crack den.

Considering the beautiful painting by these two teams (Van Gogh or Van Gag?) the fans here were patiently behaved. For once, Eagles fans would’ve been well within their rights to smash something.

It gets a lot worse, but I won’t give him the pleasure of posting it on this site. Come on dude, gimme a break.

The Philadelphia Inquirer staff writers are angry as well, this from Philly columnist Bob Ford…

Yesterday was not a good day for the division. The Giants coughed up a dreadful loss at home against the Chargers, their fourth straight defeat; the Redskins continued their systematic withdrawal from the NFL; and then the Eagles and Cowboys played a sloppy, uninspiring game that wouldn’t have been worthy of also-rans, let alone contenders. In fact, it was a stinker.

So to wrap up, if the Eagles can’t beat the Cowboys then the entire division is in shambles?

Sorry Mr. Ford, there are thousands of Cowboys fans all over the nation that will beg to differ. It’s too bad you are so bitter that you can’t give credit where credit is due.

All we can do is laugh at the nonsense these last few ridiculous articles are attempting to portray. We can do that now, you know. Loyal fans of a team first in their division more than half way through the season have earned that right.

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

Talk Back Tuesdays

 5.8 Earthquake Felt At Oxnard!

I just heard on 103.3 ESPN radio that there was a pretty huge earthquake felt at the Cowboys Training Camp. Reports are saying there were no injuries reported thus far, but some are shaking up from the ordeal.

I myself believe this Quake is due to the massive amount of weight from the offensive and defensive line.  :)

Cowboys are letting the L.A. area know they are there! 

 

Your Time To Chime

I’m gonna switch gears this week. I’m sure everyone has been keeping up to date with all the things going on in Training Camp – the injuries, whose getting the best of who, and how the newbies are doing.

I have lingering issues on a few key topics that have been put on the back burner due to the excitement of TC.  I would like for you, the masses, to chime in on these issues and give your opinion with mine.

My first issue is this ongoing speculation that Jason Garrett will be replacing Phillips after this season regardless of a Super Bowl win.

Some are reporting that Phillips is the head coach for the primary fact of getting Garrett ready to launch. 

Others report that if he wins a playoff game then he will stay.

I can understand that reporters will throw anything out there to have a story to write about, but MAN!  This has got to weigh heavy on Phillip’s mind.

I can see these things coming up like over halfway through the season if there losing, but at least give the man a chance to redeem himself.

These things should not even be brought up this early into Training Camp.

Some people look at the coaching staff and assume that the moves that were made were made around Garrett. Wade didn’t bring them in. So therefore Wade is gone after this year.  It’s got me puzzled.

I feel that the players have a good chemistry with Phillips. I haven’t seen nor heard of any ill will toward him at all!

Maybe this is the way to win a Super Bowl. Hold the coaches job over his head and he will produce. Hey It worked for the Giants!

Let me know your thoughts and opinions on this issue. Could it Happen? Could it Not? 

GO COWBOYS!!!

Legends of the Star – Ed “Too Tall” Jones

Standing six-feet, nine-inches tall, defensive lineman Ed "Too Tall" Jones was very deserving of his nickname. However, it was his skills as a football player that Cowboys fans will remember most. In high school he played basketball and received 52 college scholarships, but he decided instead to play football for Tennessee State. It was a decision he would never regret as he led Tennessee to an almost perfect record during his 3 years with them, losing only one game in those 3 seasons.
 
His performance at Tennessee State caught the eye of the Dallas Cowboys’ recruiting staff, and in 1974 Jones became the number one pick in the NFL draft. Some of the experts said the Cowboys wasted their number one overall pick on him because he was too tall to play football, and the name stuck.
 
"Too Tall" Jones won acclaim for his role in the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line-up during the 1970s and 1980s, playing for a franchise record 15 years. During his first five years with Dallas, the Cowboys played in the Super Bowl three times, following the 1975, 1977, and 1978 seasons. He was a tenacious defender with a knack for going after the opposing quarterback causing them to rush their throws and upsetting their offense. Along the way he piled on agreat deal of sacks. He reached his record high in 1985, sacking the opposition’s quarterback 13 times.
 
Jones shocked his coaches and teammates at the end of 1979 when he announced he would not be returning to Dallas the following season to pursue a career in boxing. He did exactly that and after one year he retired undefeated, and re-signed with the Cowboys and played with them until his retirement in 1989.
 
He was named All Pro in 1981 and 1982, played in the Pro Bowl three times, and was named Most Valuable Player in 1982.
 
Legends of the Star is an exclusive weekly feature found only on StarStruck. Each week we will profile one of the many interesting personalities that have played for the Dallas Cowboys. 

Cowboys Coaching Staff

2006 Departures:
Head Coach – Bill Parcells (retired)
Passing Game Coordinator/WR – Todd Haley (went to Arizona)
Running Backs – Anthony Lynn (went to Cleveland)
Tight Ends – Freddie Kitchens (went to Arizona)
Quarterbacks – Chris Palmer (went to NY Giants)
Off. Quality Control – David Lee (went to Univ. of Arkansas)
Defensive Coordinator – Mike Zimmer (went to Atlanta)
Safeties – Mike MacIntyre (went to NY Jets)
Special Teams – Bruce DeHaven (went to Seattle)

Still Around:
Running Game Coordinator/OL – Tony Sparano
Linebackers – Paul Pasqualoni
Inside Linebackers – Vincent Brown
Defensive Line – Kacy Rodgers
Secondary – Todd Bowles

New Arrivals:
Head Coach – Wade Phillips
Offense – Jason Garrett (role yet to be determined)

Source: dallascowboys.com