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Weekly Game Balls: Preseason Week 4

This week’s offensive game ball goes to Kevin Ogletree.

In the finale of the short preseason, Kevin Ogletree once again impressed and pretty much locked in his spot on the 53-man roster. Rookie Ogletree made it easy for coaches to make the decision to cut Isaiah Stanback and go with him as the 5th wide receiver.

“Every ball is important to me, every down, every play,” Ogletree said. “So when you take that approach and you’re as hungry as I am to try to make the team, you do what you can.”

Ogletree caught two passes for a total on 14 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter before leaving last Friday’s game with an eye contusion.

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This week’s defensive game ball goes to Pat Watkins.

Pat Watkins dominated the game last Friday proving he deserved his spot on the roster. The fourth-year safety made a clutch tackle on a fourth-and-one with 1:59 left in the first half that prevented a Vikings touchdown. Then he blocked a field goal with nine seconds left on the clock, to end the first half and prevent another Vikings scoring opportunity. Finally, he opened the third quarter with a a dazzling 23-yard interception return for a touchdown. It was a big day for the Cowboys’ backup safety.

“I had a feeling like I was going to have a good game, and I had a couple people send me text messages with predictions,” Watkins said. “Someone predicted six tackles and an interception. Somebody else predicted eight tackles. So after that maybe I need more predictions to help me out.”

Whatever it takes Watkins, keep up the good work!

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Congratulations to Kevin and Pat for their outstanding play.

Runners-up: Steven Octavien for his 44-yard interception returned for a touchdown and Jesse Holley for his brave 82-yard punt return for a touchdown that in turn won the game.

Cowboys Extra Points: Safety First and Practice Makes Perfect

Extra PointsThe Cowboys trimmed their roster on Saturday to the mandatory 53 players, but after 24 hours several players cleared waivers and eight of the players were signed to the practice squad.

Practice squad players are WR Jesse Holley, OG Travis Bright, QB Rudy Carpenter, TE Scott Chandler, FB Julius Crosslin, DE Marcus Dixon, WR Manuel Johnson, and CB Mike Mickens.

Safety Marvin White was claimed off waivers from Cinncinati. White was drafted in 2007 and has started 13 games in the past two seasons.

In addition, Cowboys draftee safety DeAngelo Smith who didn’t make the final cut, was claimed off the waivers by the Browns on Sunday.

Forbes released a list of their annual rankings among sports teams and the Dallas Cowboys topped the chart.

The Cowboys are worth $1.65 billion, the most of any U.S.-based sports franchise, according to Forbes magazine’s annual rankings. Only Manchester United of the English Premier League is worth more worldwide, $1.87 billion.

The Cowboys lead the rankings for the third straight year and are worth $100 million more than the runner-up Washington Redskins. New England is third at $1.361 billion, followed by the New York Giants ($1.183 billion) and Jets ($1.170 billion).

Now let the haters try to claim the Cowboys aren’t America’s Team!

Around the League

Chargers star Shawne Merriman was arrested Sunday after his girlfriend, Tila Tequila, accused Merriman of choking and retraining her as she was attempting to leave his home. Merriman has been released and the Chargers say they will monitor the situation and let legal process run its course.

The Patriots have traded 5-time Pro Bowler defensive lineman Richard Seymour to the Raiders for their first round pick in 2011.

The New York Giants released veteran WR David Tyree on Saturday. Tyree is best known for the remarkable catch that helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLII over the Patriots two years ago.

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

Young Receivers Showing Something In Camp

Training camp is well underway and there have been a lot great things happening in San Antonio. From what I have been reading one of the biggest surprises in training camp has been the play of our young receivers Sam Hurd, Miles Austin, and the other receivers.

Sam Hurd and Miles Austin have been vying for the third receiver slot. They both have been making some acrobatic catches. This is great news, however this is training camp and we will have to wait to see what happens in a real game.

One low spot was Isaiah Stanback tweaking his hamstring and was out of practice, this is not a good sign for him. He has really been injury plagued since he has been with the Cowboys.

Not sure if Jesse Holley can make the team after winning Michael Irvin’s reality show “4th and Long”, but he has been making some plays as well.

Right now, Patrick Crayton is the second wide receiver behind Roy Williams, but we will have to wait and see if the keeps it.

We all know that the receivers would be a big question mark this year, but lets hope they can make their mark.

Here Are Your Key Position Battles

Former Dallas Cowboys beat writer, Tom Orsborn, takes a look at some of the key position battles heading into training camp.

Cornerback
MIKE JENKINS VS. ORLANDO SCANDRICK
The battle for the cornerback spot opposite Terence Newman took a strange twist late last month when Jenkins declared via his blog that he’s the starter heading into training camp. The truth is the spot is up for grabs and that the two second-year players likely will slug it out well into the preseason. Jenkins is the better athlete and was the higher draft pick last year, but Scandrick’s confidence and football smarts make everyone wonder why he lasted until the fifth round.

Wide receiver
PATRICK CRAYTON VS. MILES AUSTIN
After getting most of the reps in the offseason, Crayton is the frontrunner for the No. 2 receiver job behind lead dog Roy Williams. But Jerry Jones loves Austin’s speed and potential and has even mentioned he believes Austin could approach Terrell Owens-like production. One problem, though: Austin has yet to prove he can stay healthy. His latest injury was a strained hamstring that sidelined him during minicamp.

Offensive guard
KYLE KOSIER VS. MONTRAE HOLLAND
One of the biggest question marks entering camp is whether left guard Kosier can return to form after foot surgery. His injury problems were a big reason why the offensive line struggled at times last season. The Cowboys acquired Holland in a trade with Denver last preseason and he was slow to learn the offense. But the native of Jefferson, Texas, filled in for Kosier late in the season and could make a strong bid to unseat him.

Linebacker
BOBBY CARPENTER VS. JASON WILLIAMS
Widely viewed as a first-round bust, Carpenter has a chance to shine as the replacement for nickel linebacker Kevin Burnett, who signed with San Diego in free agency. Carpenter’s finesse style makes him a natural to defend on passing downs, but Williams is a superb athlete with blazing speed. Still, it will take time for the third-round pick to learn the pro game, the main reason why Carpenter is favored to win this fight.

Here are a few other situations that bear watching.

We drafted kicker David Buehler in the fifth round and I’m sure he’ll be cutting into somebody’s time. I don’t see the wisdom in carrying three kickers on the team between Buehler, McBriar and Folk.  One of them could be traded.

Jerry Jones loves exposure, so don’t underestimate the presence of Jesse Holley in training camp. Not only will his success usher in a new breed of Cowboys fans courtesy of the reality show 4th and Long, but sales and marketing would get a huge boost in revenue if Holley were to make the team. Sam Hurd better be looking over his shoulder.

Lastly, who will replace the departed safety Roy Williams? Who will pair up with Ken Hamlin in the secondary? Some might think that Gerald Sensabaugh is a lock, but the Cowboys have not given up on Pat Watkins yet, and they did select DeAngelo Smith out of Cincinnati in the NFL Draft. I’m thinking that the ending to the story at safety hasn’t been written just yet.

Any way you look at it, there will be no shortage of battles and story-lines at this year’s training camp. So strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

Holley Has A Legitimate Shot…Believe It!!!

Most people think that this Jesse Holley guy is just a reality show gimmick for publicity. Yeah, he can play, but if he isn’t good enough for the Bengal’s practice squad, why is he good enough for the Cowboy’s 53 man roster? Well the question can actually be answered by breaking down the rest of the receivers in camp this year.

Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton are the only two absolute locks for the Cowboys this year. Their contracts and experience prohibit cutting either one.

Miles Austin and Sam Hurd, the two undrafted free agents from 2006, are the only other two on the roster with any playing time as a receiver. (Travis Wilson’s two catches for 32 yards in three years and Isaiah Stanback’s two catches for 24 yards in two seasons doesn’t cut it) Miles has the speed and hands and Sam has the possession skills. Both have been prone to injury and carry a 2nd round tender of $1.545 million that could be whipped away if released during camp.

Isaiah Stanback would be on the next tier because of his draft position, (’07 4th rnd. 103 overall) experience with the offense and speed. Stanback’s two big setbacks are the fact that he hasn’t been able to stay on the field due to injury and his inability to grasp the total responsibilities of his position. (having played primarily quarterback in college)

Mike Jefferson, Travis Wilson and Jesse Holley have time spent in the NFL. All three lack actual game playing time and are just a notch above being rookies with the Cowboys in camp. Not to pick on him, but Mike Jefferson, who spent time on the practice squad last season, was suspended for taking a banned substance.

Manual Johnson, an ’09 7th rnd. draft pick, Kevin Ogletree and Julian Hawkins complete this year’s receivers at camp.

So lets envision this scenario:

The Cowboys desperately want to sign Demarcus Ware before the season starts. Letting the talks go on into the season would be a distraction. The length of the contract is where the two sides don’t see eye to eye. The Cowboys want a long-term deal (likely back end loaded) and Ware wants the ability to sign another big money deal before his prime is up. This means a shorter contract and more money up front. The Cowboys will need to clear more cap space.

By Montrae Holland being able to swing from guard to center and Kyle Kosier not missing a step at right guard, this makes Cory Procter andhis $1.545 million tender expendable. It would also make the loss of 2010’s 5th round pick to the Bronco’s easier to swallow.

The Cowboys have already said they will focus on a more balanced offensive attack utilizing the three headed monster in the backfield as well as their two top flight tight ends. That’s 5 strong offensive weapons, not counting Roy Williams. They also said the reason for releasing T.O. was to give the young receivers a chance. Which young receivers? This is where it gets interesting.

We said earlier, even if they wanted to, the contracts prevent them from releasing Roy and Patrick. They are also the only REAL experience at that position. I would also include Miles Austin in this final group due to his experience (limited) and speed to stretch the field. He is also used with Felix Jones to return kickoffs. Isaiah Stanback is a burner and can also be used in return situations on special teams. He also has the full support of Jerry Jones, but if he can’t stay healthy, he could be looking for a job elsewhere. Sam Hurd is basically viewed as a younger Crayton, but with injury concerns and a $1.545 million price tag. Because of their plethora of offensive weapons elsewhere, the Cowboys could avoid his salary by signing another receiver in the group with a similar skill-set for much less money.

Jerry doesn’t want this 4th and Long show to be viewed as a publicity stunt. This could also damage the reputation of Michael Irvin. If Jesse Holley can continue to improve in both his receiving and special teams play, he should be in a great position to earn the final receiver spot on the 53 man roster.

The others would only be in the mix if Stanback gets hurt again and one of them drastically stands out.

Approximately $3 million is saved and Ware’s contract becomes a closer reality.

How ’bout them apples?…I mean Cowboys

Welcome To Holley-Wood!

In a dramatic conclusion to the season finale of 4th and Long, wide receiver Jesse Holley looked stunned when Michael Irvin uttered the words,

“Jesse Holley, the Dallas Cowboys CAN use you this season.”

The other two remaining finalists, defensive back Ahmaad Smith and wide receiver Andrew Hawkins both hugged Holley and wished him well.

So now ends one chapter of the Jesse “Hollywood” Holley story, and next week begins another as he takes the field for the start of the Cowboys training camp.

The 25-year old may be a little undersized, but he makes up for it with amazing burst, glove soft hands, and a mental toughness that the Cowboys could surely use.

The former North Carolina Tar Heel may be the first rookie in Dallas Cowboys history to come to camp with a huge fan following even before he makes one play, courtesy of Michael Irvin and 4th and Long.

We wish him all the best!