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Weekly Game Balls: Preseason Week 3

Introducing a new feature at Lone Star Struck – Weekly Games Balls. Every week we will choose an offensive and defensive star of the game.

This week’s offensive game ball goes to Felix Jones.

Felix JonesOne of the most exciting things to come out of Dallas in recent years is the young and talented Mr. Felix Jones. Every time Jones takes the field it’s like a whole new ball game and what’s intriguing is he’s not even the starting running back. Some have dubbed Felix “The Cat” because of his speed. Once he breaks into the open field he revs it up, leaving the competition in the dust. While he’s still new and fresh, he gives the Cowboys faithful something to believe in and hopes that it will last for years to come.

In last week’s preseason game against the 49ers Felix Jones was the only Cowboy to reach the endzone. Jones appeared in only two quarters of the game had five carries for a total of 23 yards averaging 4.6 yards per carry. While those are low numbers keep in mind it’s preseason. Jones’ longest gain was a 13 yard run that in turn lead to the lone touchdown of the night eight minutes later.

We expect great things from Felix Jones this season after being cheated out of his ‘rookie of the year’ title last season due to injury.

Star50

This week’s defensive game ball goes to Jay Ratliff.

Jay RatliffJay Ratliff has to be one of the most underrated defensive players in the game. The Cowboys’ nose tackle had a career high 7.5 sacks last season earning himself his first Pro Bowl appearance. Ratliff became the starter in 2007 when Jason Ferguson went down with injury. Ferguson was later traded, Ratliff permanently took over and the Cowboys never looked back.

Jay “The Rat” Ratliff is coming off his best season to date and there is no doubt that he is looking to return with the same aggresive attitude. At only 28 years old and a contract through 2012, expect to celebrate many more tackles and incredible sacks by The Rat, as he slams his fist to the ground and howls at the moon.

In his appearance in last week’s game Ratliff completed two tackles, both solo, and a sack, only a taste of what is to come this season.

Star50

Congratulations to The Cat and The Rat for their great play. There is no doubt we will have these two superstars featured again this season.

Three Down, One To Go

With preseason coming to an end this weekend, I found myself asking what have we learned from these exhibition games? After all isn’t that what preseason is all about? Of course, Cowboys fans what a win every game no matter what, but when it comes to preseason its more about seeing how the backups handle their roles, and learning who should stay and who should go.

Most would agree, the starters have looked amazing. Training camp served its purpose and served it well this year. Tony Romo looks rock solid. The power of Marion Barber and Felix Jones looks unstoppable. The defense looks tough (with a few minor adjustments).

Kevin OgletreePROS

Kevin Ogletree- who knew this undrafted rookie would prove to have so much talent. I agree with the fact it is only preseason but I certainly see Ogletree making the team before Stanback.

David Buehler – many questioned drafting a kicker, more questioned him making the team, but this special teams ‘specialist’ not only has an accurate kickoff but can tackle as well.

Keith Brooking – his experience and leadership reminds me of Zach Thomas last season. Its always nice to have a veteran role model on the squad.

CONS

Corey Procter – his performance has been underwhelming and rumors persist that he will be cut.

Courtney Brown – after getting an earful from Coach Phillips in front of the cameras, Brown’s most recent pass interference penalty was possibly the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Isaiah Stanback – he has been given a few too many chances to prove he can be a reliable receiver. Keeping him on the roster any longer is just absurd, when he’s actually healthy enough to play he hasn’t shown he has what it takes to make the team.

Bobby Carpenter – another first round draft pick letdown. He most likely won’t be cut because of injuries to rookies and the lack of depth at LB. However, that doesn’t mean I have to like him.

Penalties- they have got to get better disciplined. After 3 match-ups the Cowboys have racked up 32 penalties for 300 yards.

Special Teams- too many of the penalties just listed came from special teams. Field position means too much to continuously give up yardage for holding and other pathetic penalties.

UNDECIDED

Jon Kitna- hopefully it won’t matter how Kitna played in preseason because we won’t see him take the field. Some are saying he’s not the guy, but he is only a backup after all. His age is definitely catching up with him, but in time of need he may still be able to get the job done.

Wade Phillips

I’m sure there are a few I missed. Who would you add to pros or cons? Is there anyone you are still undecided about? The Cowboys have to cut three players for tomorrow’s deadline, who will it be?

Now That’s More Like It; Cowboys Top Titans 30-10

Felix Jones TDThe Cowboys broke in their new stadium with a well played 30-10 win over the Tennessee Titans, much to the delight of a raucous crowd of over 75,000 screaming and adoring fans.

While the spectacular new Cowboys Stadium stole much of the spotlight, the Cowboys made some magic of their own as they beat a solid Titans team that finished 13-3 last season to win their division.

Jerry Jones was smiling from ear to ear. “A great night. A great crowd. And an event we will remember for a long, long time.”

Now I wouldn’t exactly go that far, as it was only a pre season game, but it was a satisfying win all the same.

The first team offense played the entire first half and by all accounts, they were firing on all cylinders. Quarterback Tony Romo, executed two solid scoring drives of 90 and 79 yards, and had a great night passing completing 18 of 24 passes for 192 yards. He once again spread the ball around, as he did last week, and completed passes to seven different receivers.

For those of you who are still worried about Roy Williams, you can step back from the ledge as Romo connected with him five times last night. One receiver who really stood out was rookie Kevin Ogletree, who had three catches for 37 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown.

The running game was in the capable hands of Marion Barber and Felix Jones who both notched touchdowns in the first half. Jones thrilled the masses with an electrifying 42-yard catch and run that led to his one-yard TD run with seconds left in the half. Jones continues to impress me, and there’s a certain energy on the field whenever he’s in the backfield.

Barber TDDefensively, the Cowboys were nearly flawless compared to their erratic and inconsistent play in the first pre season game. The one mistake was when cornerback Mike Jenkins got burned for a 17-yard touchdown pass to Justin Gage that looked like it could have been prevented. It was Jenkins’ first game after missing last week due to an injury, so I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. The bottom line is that our guys looked sharp, tough and determined. Heck even Bobby Carpenter managed to get a sack in what might be his one Kodak moment of his career. (Sorry Bobby, I gotta tell it like it is.)

Special Teams continues to nosedive and we’re still waiting for this new and improved play that was promised by Wade Phillips and Joe DeCamillis. Last night they muffed a few punts, missed a field goal, got burned for a 51 yard kickoff return, and allowed way too many yards on punt returns. It was obscene and so were the penalties. That said, there’s still time for special teams to get it together, but the clock is ticking.

All in all it was a good win for the Cowboys and they showed a lot of fight and determination in this one. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that this was just the start of something big as I wrote on Friday morning.

Go Cowboys!

Breaking Camp And Ready For Some Football

The Boys have left the Alamodome and are now preparing for some football in their new home. The consensus among the players is that this years camp was much tougher, and more focused than years passed, especially after last years circus.

Gone are the likes of Terrell Owens, and Adam “Pacman” Jones who always brought their own distractions wherever they went. And lets not forget about Jessica Simpson … or actually maybe we should. With her around it was clear to every fan that Romo’s head was never truly in the game. Hopefully this year he has his priorities straight, and his focus on the Lombardi Trophy. Oh yea and I almost forgot that other distraction that followed the entire team around last year, the HBO show “Hard Knocks”. It was fun to watch as a fan but if you think what it must of been like for the players being followed around all the time and every detail filmed. “It was a drama-free three weeks in San Antonio” reports KTBB.com, which is what we like to hear.

“This camp has been like two of the other camps put together. I haven’t heard anyone call this one cupcake,” linebacker Bradie James said.

Coach Wade Phillips wanted to push the team a bit more this camp, making sure they stay focused and to help them get stronger as a team.

“I am trying to do what helps this team. It’s a long season and the mental toughness is part of it,” Phillips said. “I say the mental part of it. When you get tired, that’s when the mental process comes in. I thought it was good for our guys. I think they have come through it well.

Phillips will have even more on his plate this season as he is also the teams defensive coordinator.

With camp ended the Cowboys stayed fairly healthy. They will be without Fullback Deon Anderson for some time after he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last week. But both corners Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman who have been a little banged up returned to practice and are set to go. Roy Williams wrist is improving and barring any set backs he should be fine as well.

Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will have a three headed monster in Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice to get the ball to. The idea is that Barber with use his brute strength to soften and beat down the defense, then have Felix use his speed to fly by and around them. Choice will get a few carries a game as well to give Barber and Jones a break. Garrett is looking to get the ball to Felix 12-15 times a game and doesn’t care if its by air in the passing attack or handing it to the speedster.

With so many weapons, and as long as everyone can stay healthy, the tougher camp and the time spent together could push the Cowboys back into the elusive playoffs, then watch out!!

The Wonderful and Powerful Mr. Felix Jones

I began browsing sports news this morning when I stumbled across an article at the Dallas Morning News. The article entitled “Dallas Cowboys RB Jones stays one step ahead” is all about Felix Jones and how he has improved. I thought to myself, “Wow, we have barely seen what he has and fell head over heals in love with him, and now they say he has improved his routes?!”

Here is what running backs coach Skip Peete had to say,

“One of his biggest attributes is not the first guy he’s trying to make miss, but the second guy. He’s already starting to work to see where that guy is coming from and getting his next move, his next decision-making process started.

“Some guys will run and make a move on the guy directly in front of him, then start running again. There is no slowdown with Felix. He will see the next guy and is ready to create and make a move. It looks like it’s all one motion.”

Here’s Felix,

“You have to look forward to the next move. If you have somebody already set up to get past them, you are looking forward to making another move to get to the end zone.

“It’s hard to put into words, but once you see your blocker in front of you, you have confidence in him and know that he’s going to do his job, you automatically look for the next guy.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one who has that ability, to look forward to the next move. But it is a blessing.”

Amazing. Confidence, intelligence and talent, Felix has it all. If last year’s 30 carries were just a taste of what Felix can bring, we are in for one hell of a show!

I realize there is a ton of hype about this guy and he hasn’t even played a full season, but the excitement is so hard to hold back.

Say it with me now, FELIX! FELIX! FELIX!

DoughboyCowboy’s Cowboy Round-Up

First off, Michael Irvin is on Dancing with the Stars. I was very excited about this. With his popularity and his moves from the football field, I think he is the man to beat. If he wins, next up is Troy. Go Playmaker of the Stars!

OK, now for the Cowboys… I don’t take too much into pre-season but it is nice to see the players get off the rust in a live game. Tony Romo looked good. His first series was off. But the way he moved the offense in his second series was great. Showing a little bit of what could be a great season, he spread the ball around and utilized all the weapons available to him.

Felix JonesAs soon as I seen Felix Jones run a few yards. I admit I said this out loud, “Felix I missed you”. The offensive will be awesome. This year I am really focusing on Witten and hoping he has a spectacular year. There is a hidden agenda with that one, more of that later.

The defense looked OK. While the 2nd and 3rd strings gave up a lot of points, the first team looked good. I am excited about Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware. The opposition wont know where DeMarcus will be coming from. Look out for a top 5 defense.

It was nice to see Keon Lattimore get a few reps too. I think he is a sleeper for this team if he makes the full roster. Jesse Holley was also playing in a few plays too. It was nice to see number 16 running down the field. Sometimes players who are trying for a spot on the team don’t play that much. We’ll see if he completes the dream. I still think Hawkins should of made the team instead.

I am looking forward to this Friday’s game. I wont be able to see it here in Illinois, but it will be on NFL Network on Saturday. I want to see the inside of the new stadium. Look for a great season to come!

Each Monday I will talk about the Cowboys and what I think about the team. If anyone can think of a better title let me know. I am looking forward to a great Cowboys season! – DoughboyCowboy

Second Verse, Same As The First

Cowboys Raiders Football

For those of us who expected to see a new and energized Cowboys team on the field last night, what a let down the first pre season game was. It seemed remarkably similar to the beating we got in Philadelphia to end last season. Sure, many of the faces were different, but the results were shockingly familiar as the Silver and Black pounded the Silver and Blue 31-10.

Usually, I don’t get too riled up over the results of a pre season game, especially the first one of the season, but last nights embarrassment had too many instances that brought back the failures and missteps of last season.

To begin, our defense allowed 456 total yards including an un-godly 280 yards rushing. Wow, you can’t really get much worse than that. And yes, our starters only played in one quarter, but when the Raiders piled on in the second half, it was mostly their third team players. That was totally demoralizing to say the least.

And what the hell was all those penalties? I thought Phillips said he was going to focus on minimizing the penalties? The Cowboys lost over 100 yards on 11 penalties last night.

There were plenty of positives to take away from this game and most of them were on offense.

Felix Jones is absolute gold and an electrifying presence when he’s on the field. He had a pass and one rush for 29 yards, and had a key block that setup the Cowboy’s lone scoring drive.

Sam Hurd had a fantastic day and hauled in five catches for 79 yards. If I am Miles Austin, I’d be worried right about now. Austin looked slow and had a dropped pass in the game. If he expects to be the third receiver, he may wants to take lessons from Sam Hurd.

I don’t know how to read Tony Romo’s performance. He had one terrible drive followed by one impressive scoring drive. After a three and out, he came back the second time around and engineered a picture perfect drive which included utilizing all of his weapons. The touchdown strike to Witten capped a drive that featured Martellus Bennett, Roy Williams, Marion Barber and Felix Jones. It’s all part of the new philosophy of spreading the ball around.

The first team offense only played the first quarter, but in those 15 minutes they showed glimpses of what could be one of the top offenses in the league in 2009.

Special Teams continues to struggle. Last night seemed like we were watching replays from last season; bad coverages, dropped balls, missed field goals, poor returns, and a muff that led to a Raiders touchdown. Ummm… I hope this wasn’t the improvement that Wade Phillips has been yapping about.

Overall, it was a lackluster performance that left much to be desired. I’ll give Top Gun performances to Sam Hurd, Felix Jones, Jason Witten, Gerald Sensabaugh, Jay Ratliff and Marty-B. On the other hand, these guys need to step it up and get their asses in gear; Stephen McGee, Orlando Scandrick, Miles Austin, Bobby Carpenter, Kyle Kosier, and Isaiah Stanback to name a few.

Anthony Spencer may have been on the field physically, but mentally he simply mailed it in. It was as if he wasn’t even there. He blew at least three easy coverages and then got burned for an 18-yarder he should have easily snuffed out. He never even got a whiff of the raiders quarterback. Terrible job.

Bobby Carpenter just needs to go. Even against third teamers he is a non-factor and has been absolutely worthless since the day he got drafted.

Wade Phillips was clearly pissed off after the game and when asked whether the Cowboys suffered any significant injuries, he he threw his team under the bus.

“We didn’t really play hard enough to get any injuries.” 

Ouch! I guess that says it all.

We’ll try to turn things around against the Tennessee Titans next week when we take the field in our new home. Until then, Go Cowboys!

I’m Ready For Some Marty B And Felix Jones

martellus1

Are you ready for some football!!!

I am so excited for our first pre season game against the Oakland Raiders. Last season seems like an eternity ago, but finally we can put all of that behind us and begin to focus on the here and now; a brand new Dallas Cowboys season!

There are two players I’ll be looking forward to see in action in the first pre season game; Martellus Bennett and Felix Jones.

I know the starters probably won’t play for more than a quarter, but I can’t to see how the Raiders will defend against both Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett lined up as receivers. I think it’s an incredible move to utilize the talents of both Witten and Bennett on the field at the same time.

According to Clarence E. Hill Jr., Martellus Bennett has been such a force in the off-season and training camp that the Cowboys plan to use the two-tight end offense as their primary formation. With Bennett on the field with perennial Pro Bowler Jason Witten, the Cowboys hope to keep opponents off balance and take advantage of obvious mismatches.

Felix Jones

In addition to Bennett, it will be great to see running back Felix Jones on the field again after missing most of the season due to injury last season. I’m hoping to see that same electrifying play that for a time made him one of the most exciting players on the team.

The Cowboys have made it no secret that they plan on opening up more opportunities for their young and versatile running back. They even plan to run some plays using the Razorback formation. Felix Jones can be an explosive weapon, especially when he gets loose in an open field where his speed makes him both dangerous and elusive. Wade Phillips and company are trying to figure out how to exploit that explosiveness, and just the mere thought of it makes my mouth water.

Before the toe injury ended his season last year, we got a glimpse of just how talented Jones was whenever he had the ball in his hands.  Jones made the most of his limited playing time in ‘08, and averaged 8.9 yards on 30 carries and returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. He also had three touchdown runs of 20 yards or more, including a 60-yarder at Lambeau Field. Wow!

I expect we’ll see plenty of Felix Jones in the pre season starting with tonight’s game. Watching Felix Jones emerge as one of the NFL’s most exciting players will be one of my favorite parts of what is bound to be a fantastic season for the Cowboys.

More Notes From Training Camp

COWBOYS PRACTICE 080309 06 JL

When I wrote last week that the Cowboys needed to get a little meaner and show some fight, I didn’t mean that they should fight against themselves. MySA explains,

The first fight of camp erupted Tuesday and featured two of the club’s meanest players, nose tackle Jay Ratliff and offensive tackle Marc Colombo. Colombo was upset about something Ratliff did during a play, and the two mixed it up for a few seconds before cornerback Terence Newman played peacemaker.

I can’t recall the last time I was excited about our backup quarterback, but it’s great to read all the positive vibes on Jon Kitna so far in training camp. Yesterday, during seven on seven drills, Kitna complete 13 of 14 passes and wrapped up an impressive day on the field. You better watch your back Romo!

It looks like special teams coach, Joe DeCamillis, is planning on having one deep returner on kickoffs. Felix Jones and Miles Austin handled the kickoff returns last season, and both are competing for the job this season. Wade Phillips suggested yesterday, that Austin’s role on special teams will be greatly reduced, so it looks like Felix Jones will be bringing it most of the time this season. I totally approve and expect big things from Felix the Cat.

I read a quote from one of the beat writers today (who I wont name) that really makes me scratch my head. He wrote that Sam Hurd is currently playing the best football of his career. Really? Last time I checked, the season doesn’t start until September 13th, so can we please tone down the hype a little bit? I understand Hurd had a nice day playing against his teammates who are not allowed to hit him. Great… fine… nice job… Lets not make more out of it than it really is.

That’s all for now, more later…

And It’s Deep Too

As training camp begins, Jason Garrett has something to prove as the OC. T.O. is no longer there so, there are no excuses. Now the plays should be more focused on winning then feeding someone’s ego. But this isn’t about that old news. This is about what he has in the backfield. They may not be the famed Smash and Dash in Carolina or Tennessee, but it should be feared.

The Dallas backfield is the strongest it has been in years. Marion Barber as we all know is a wrecking ball. The great thing about him is that he isn’t that big and he has that ability to break tackle and the power to run over defenders. This year should be interesting  to see how he was injured and wasn’t 100% when he came back. It goes unsaid, he has something to prove.

Felix Jones, God I love this dude. My friend thinks he’s Emmitt 2.0. The speed of Felix is something to reckon with. Like Marion, he has something to prove after being injured for the season last year. It will be interest to see if he’s used in the passing game as well.

Tashard Choice was an unexpected surprise for us last year. He ran over and around the Steelers and Giants defense with no problem, the boy is awesome. But let’s be honest, if it wasn’t for Barber and Jones getting hurt, what were the chances of us seeing him on the field like we did last year? With that said, are we going see him in action this year? In a few plays I’m sure, but will he be used in the offense or special teams? This has to be on Garrett’s mind. He has three running backs that can be used in almost anyway.

The other two backs are Keon Lattimore and Alonzo Coleman. Going off what we seen last year in the pre-season, it’s a shame these won’t get a lot of snaps, if any snaps. The backfield is deep, very deep and it should be a nightmare for any defense to deal with.

Let’s Go Cowboys!

Football Is Here!

With the Cowboys training camp starting in a few days. I am so excited about this upcoming season. The other day I was watching ESPN and Skip Bayless was talking to Patrick Crayton. The obvious question was asked whether the Cowboys are better now than with T.O.?

The answer that came out of Skip’s mouth shocked me. Now, I can’t stand Skip but his answer was awesome! He said with the running backs that we have, which he said could start for any team. He also praised Tony and the receiving core of Witten, Williams and Crayton. The Cowboys should be the best in the NFC East or at least the second best. For once I actually agree with him.

The Cowboys running backs are just beasts. The team will get Felix Jones back. We all know what Barber can do. Tashard has shown flashes of what a great running back he could be. Tashard ran all over the Steelers defense. Now we know what Witten can do. Tony and Williams have been practicing in the off-season together. Should gel just right in time for Tampa Bay. Now Crayton and Austin should expand the defenses and gain lots of yardage.

Wade taking over the defensive play-calling should help the Cowboys tremendously. When Wade took over in the middle of last season it came alive. This season should be just as good or even better. No more Williams getting beat on pass coverage situations. The sophomore seasons of Scandrick and Jenkins will also help. Demarcus Ware will make a run at the sack record again. I think he will get it this year. Spencer will have to show us why we got rid of Ellis.

Now the Cowboys need to cement Adams feet so he doesn’t false start anymore. With that, Tony should have enough time to do what he does best (with no more Jessica distractions). My opinion is that the Cowboys will make the playoffs. If you agree with me or not, get ready for the Blue Star to make it’s name on the new stadium. How ’bout them Cowboys!!

2009 Projected Offensive and Defensive Leaders

Hello again to everyone, I hope that you had a good week. We would all like to know how the Cowboys will do this year and I wanted to throw my predictions out there. Due to our inexperienced and young wide receivers, I believe that we will be focusing more on the run, especially since we have three healthy and good running backs. I think the Cowboys will be able to run the ball more and take a little pressure off of QB Tony Romo. If the offensive line can give us some good blocking on running plays we should have a great year. Here are my projections for the offense and defense for this year. Of course I could always be wrong, lets hope I am and they do better.

OFFENSE 24 pts per game

  • QB Tony Romo 24 TDs 10 INTS
  • RB Marion Barber 170 rushes 1,014 yards 10 TDs
  • RB Felix Jones 120 rushes 600 yards 7 TDs
  • RB Tashard Choice 60 rushes 270 yards 2 TDs
  • TE Jason Witten 80 receptions 900 yards 5 TDs
  • WR Roy Williams 75 receptions 1,040 yards 10 TDs

DEFENSE 56 sacks

  • LB Demarcus Ware 17 sacks
  • CB Terence Newman 5 INTs

It is fun to be able to try and predict what the Cowboys will do, so feel free to come up with your own projections. We should all be getting hyped up about the new season since training camp begins at the end of the month. GO COWBOYS!!!