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Back In The Saddle Again – Training Camp Notes

Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips are all smiles at the start of Cowboys Training Camp

I skimmed through all the different beat writer reports from today’s Cowboys Training Camp, and summarized all of the information for you.

Training Camp Player Valuations – In terms of talking about players after practice, Phillips doesn’t like to do it. He feels he needs to see some practice tape before talking about how well a player did or how bad a player did. Phillips said it gives him a chance to give better answers to questions.

“You may see a player do something real good in practice and the rest of the plays didn’t play well,” Phillips said. “Like a guy in a game, you think he played well, and he didn’t play well at all.”

Ain’t That A Kick In The Pants – The coach made a note that David Buehler isn’t the only placekicker on the roster. Delbert Alvarado is also a kicker but hardly gets mentioned because after the team released Connor Hughes, it was assumed Buehler had no competition. Even Buehler said he’s competing against himself.

“Alvarado did well, and that’s why we kept him in the spring,” Phillips said.

Safety First – Does Pat Watkins have a shot to become the starting free safety over Alan Ball? Phillips said he does and that there is competition at almost every position. However, Phillips would like to see Watkins, who is a strong special teams player, be more consistent on defense. Watkins did have a nice breakup of a long pass Saturday.

He Ain’t All That – *Dez Bryant, the rookie wide receiver, was impressive in his first practice. Phillips said it’s not the best debut he ever saw.

“I don’t know if he looked any better than Steve Largent when he came in,” Phillips said. “Cris Carter when he came in, I’ve seen some pretty good ones.”

Not To Be Nosy, But – *Marcus Spears is still the starting defensive end, but he will get some snaps at nose tackle during training camp. The Cowboys did some of this last year with him. Phillips doesn’t believe it’s the start of something long term for Spears.

“I would be comfortable with him playing there,” Phillips said of Spears at the nose. “He’s a smart player and he’s a good run player already, and normally nose guard is a run-player position. [Jay] Ratliff has taken it to a different level; you don’t see nose guards getting six and eight and ten sacks. But I think Spears can fill that role as a run player and I think he’ll do a good job there.”

We Kneed You Man – *Linebacker Keith Brooking might miss the second practice Sunday. He’s fine, but Cowboys want to bring him along slowly because he had minor knee surgery in the offseason. Brooking looked pretty good Saturday knocking down a pass and moving around pretty good.

MartyB TV Off The Air – Wade Phillips said he does not expect Martellus Bennett to miss much practice time in training camp with the sprained left ankle he suffered last week while working out. The Cowboys placed Bennett on the non-football injury list because he did not suffer the injury while under the Cowboys’ care.

UPDATED: Tender Me This

With the deadline coming up in eight days, the Cowboys still have several players yet to sign their tenders. Several are unhappy and the rest have been very quiet.

Gerald Sensabaugh for example decided not to participate in the first offseason conditioning program this week. According to his agent he is not under contract but has been training six days a week on his own.

Marcus Spears and Steve Octavien signed their tenders yesterday. Cory Procter was the first to sign the tender back in March, which actually makes perfect sense.

I expect the remaining unsigned players will jump on board soon. I believe Miles Austin knows he will get his money eventually and hopefully it will all work out smoothly.

Interestingly enough, Alan Ball hasn’t signed his exclusive rights tender and with the release of Ken Hamlin he could be more essential than ever before.

Its been a slow and silent offseason regarding free agency and the Dallas Cowboys. With our rivals signing big names we have remained very conservative to say the least. Maybe that’s because we already have the players we need for a championship team. After the draft, hopefully we will have a few eager rookies who will complete this team that not only were the division champs, but also won their first playoff game in 12 years.

NOTE: We will update this post as the players continue to sign in the days to come.

UPDATE (4-7-10): Pat McQuistan has signed his tender.

UPDATE (4-8-10): Jason Hatcher and Junior Siavii have signed their tender.

UPDATE (4-9-10): Stephen Bowen has signed his tender.

Deadline: April 15th

Restricted Free Agents

Miles Austin, First Round Tender

Sam Hurd, Second Round Tender

Pat Watkins, Original Draft Pick

Duke Preston, Original Draft Pick

Gerald Sensabaugh, Second Round Tender

Stephen Bowen, Second Round Tender – SIGNED

Jason Hatcher, Second Round Tender – SIGNED

Junior Siavii, Original Draft Pick – SIGNED

Pat McQuistan, Original Draft Pick – SIGNED

Corey Procter, Second Round Tender – SIGNED

Marcus Spears, Original Draft Pick – SIGNED

Cletis Gordon – SIGNED 1 Year Deal

Shaun Suisham – NOT TENDERED

Unrestricted Free Agents

Montrae Holland, Unrestricted Free Agent

Exclusive Rights Free Agents

Steve Octavien, Exclusive Rights Tender – SIGNED

Alan Ball, Exclusive Rights Tender

Today Is Deadline For Tendering Offers To Restricted Free Agents

Today is a big day for the Cowboys as they must tender offers to their 13 restricted free agents by the 11:00 pm CST deadline tonight.

You can be sure that both wide receiver Miles Austin and safety Gerald Sensabaugh will both receive high tenders from the Cowboys and that neither will be going anywhere.

Clarence E. Hill of the Star-Telegram speculates that Austin will receive the highest tender possible — a one-year salary of $3.168 million and compensation of a first- and third-round pick if he signs with another team.

Sensabaugh will likely be tagged with the first-round tender of $2.62 million. If he signs with another team, the Cowboys would get a first-round pick in return.

The other Cowboys restricted free agents include:

DT Stephen Bowen
G Cory Procter
G Duke Preston
DE Jason Hatcher
NT Junior Siavii
WR Sam Hurd
S Pat Watkins
OT Pat McQuistan
DE Marcus Spears
PK Shaun Suisham
CB Cletis Gordon

Of those eleven, I suspect that 3-4 of them may not be returning next season including Suisham and Gordon.

I was very surprised when the Cowboys decided not to place the franchise tag on Miles Austin last week which would have paid him a guaranteed one-year, $9.52 million deal that would’ve required another team to give up two first-round picks as compensation for signing him to a non-matching offer sheet.

I was a little worried that we might be exposing Miles Austin to a slight risk of employment elsewhere if another team should beat the Cowboys tender, but felt more at ease after reading this in the Dallas Morning News.

Not many teams in league history have been willing to relinquish a first- and third-round pick for a restricted free agent. Almost none, in fact. In 1998, Bill Parcells brought restricted running back Curtis Martin with him from the Patriots to the Jets. The Patriots were unwilling to match the Jets’ six-year, $36 million offer sheet and took a first- and third-rounder in return. Eighteen players received the high tender over the next 10 years. None were pried away by a rival’s offer sheet.

Good to know…

Cowboys Extra Points: Bring on the Noise

Defensive stars Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware were named to the All-Pro Team earlier this week. The Associated Press names 12 players to the NFC team. This is Ratliff’s first time to be named the honor and Ware’s fourth time. Center Andre Gurode was named to the 2nd All-Pro Team.

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Cowboys Defensive line coach Todd Grantham has accepted a job as the defensive coordinator for the University of Georgia. The Cowboys have already found their replacement, former assistant coach Paul Pasqualoni. Pasqualoni, who was on the Dallas coaching staff from 2005-2007, was recently let go by the Miami Dolphins and was readily available. Both coaches are expected to travel to Minnesota this weekend.

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The Cowboys injured starting running back (knee) Marion Barber practiced Thursday and was expected to practice Friday as well. Coach Phillips was encouraged by Marion’s progress and will be monitoring him close up until game time to decide whether he will be effective enough to play in Sunday’s game.

Also, Pat Watkins who has been out for a month practiced fully this week and has a good chance to return to the field this week.

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The Cowboys practiced in Cowboys Stadium on Thursday due to the weather conditions, and I have to say it was a great idea to blast crowd noise to prepare the players for Minnesota. They overcame the noise in New Orleans and Minnesota will be just as loud, if not worse. I think the Cowboys and fans alike have learned a lot about the effect of crowd noise level this season.

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With all the trash talk going on lately, mostly from our opponents I’d like to through this at ya, from Gerald Sensabaugh in response to Favre saying he’d be shocked if Minnesota didn’t win:

“We’d have to beat ourselves to lose. The way we’re playing right now, I don’t think we can be beat.”

Personally I liked it better when our ‘Boys were keeping their mouths shut until the job was done, but hey we’ve heard worse things coming from cocky Dallas players in the past… ha ha.

On another note: Is anyone else sick and tired of hearing about Romo facing his childhood hero?

Injury Update: Ware, Hamlin News

After a huge scare last weekend, we could likely see DeMarcus Ware back on the field this Saturday night in New Orleans.

Coach Phillips reported that if the game had been Wednesday, Ware would not have played but it would have been close. He hasn’t lost any strength or motion, it seems to be more of a soreness issue. If by chance Ware does not play, Victor Butler will be his replacement.

Safety Ken Hamlin has missed the last four games with an ankle injury but is now fully recovered and ready to roll. Hamlin is pumped up about the Saints game this weekend and cannot wait to get back into the action.

“I’m a competitor. I want to be out on the field.

“It’s going to be an exciting game. I’m ready to get back and start playing.”

Tight end Martellus Bennett will be out again this week after suffering a concussion two weeks ago. He hasn’t practiced since the injury occurred. Rookie John Phillips will replace Bennett in the lineup.

Safety Pat Watkins is also out with a sprained left PCL. Alan Ball will fill Watkins shoes as backup safety and on special teams. Ball has started the four games that Ken Hamlin has missed.

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Personally I’m praying for Ware’s recovery, you definitely need your best defensive player in the game when you are going up against one of the best, if not the best, offenses in the league. The Cowboys need this win desperately after losing their division lead and any hopes of a playoff run could be determined this weekend.

Latest Cowboys Injury Updates

As the Cowboys brace themselves for the storm raging in New Orleans, they will have to make do without several of their key players.

Head coach Wade Phillips said DeMarcus Ware’s sprained neck is “a lot better” today after injuring it in the fourth quarter against the Chargers, and he is now listed as day-to-day. That said, despite being closely monitored, it’s still unlikely that he will play on Sunday. Rookie Victor Butler will get plenty of playing time in his absence.

Starting safety Ken Hamlin (high ankle sprain) will try to work himself back to practice this week, but it’s still uncertain if he’ll be ready for Saturday’s game at the Big Easy.

Cowboys beat writer Josh Ellis tells us that the Cowboys will be without tight end Martellus Bennett again this week, as he has yet to pass the necessary tests to be cleared of concussion-like symptoms. Under the NFL’s new concussion guidelines, a player must wait one week to return after passing a brain injury test. Since he hadn’t been given the green light by Saturday, the Cowboys can already rule him out for the Saints game.

Pat Watkins suffered a sprained PCL while diving for a tackle on the Cowboys’ first kickoff of the game on Sunday. It’s a similar injury to the one running back Felix Jones had earlier this year. He will miss 2-3 weeks and could miss the rest of the season.

Cowboys Extra Points: Injuries Are Contagious

Gerald Sensabaugh is out indefinitely after having surgery to repair his broken thumb. Sensabaugh will likely miss 2-4 weeks. Pat Watkins will be called upon to fill in at safety.

Center Andre Gurode underwent an MRI Monday after spraining his right knee during the game last Sunday. According several sources the sprain isn’t anything to be concerned about, however the Cowboys could rest Gurode this Sunday with a bye to follow.

Roy Williams could miss Sunday’s game after a rib injury that sidelined him for the final drive of the game.

“Never in my life have I been hit like that, from Pop Warner through my six years in the league. I’m 5,200 feet above sea level with asthma so I was obviously hurting.”

Coach Phillips said during a press conference that Williams suffered three bruised ribs and cartilage damage. If Williams sits out, the Cowboys could activate rookie Kevin Ogletree, who turned heads in his very impressive preseason performance.

The Cowboys cut running back Chauncey Washington on Monday. While it hasn’t been formally announced most sources believe Felix Jones will not play in Week 5. Marion Barber should be okay to play after experiencing tightness in his previously injured quad.

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I don’t think I have to remind you how deadly injuries are to a team, especially one that needs to toughen up and fix mistakes all over the board. Let’s hope these key players can heal fast, and get back in action ASAP. Luckily the Cowboys have a bye week following this next game against the Kansas City Chiefs to rest, heal and get their minds straight and get focused.

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.

Star50

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!

Star50

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 Win Final Tuneup 35-31; Final Decisions Are Coming

Last night, the Dallas Cowboys came from behind to beat the Minnesota Vikings 35-31 in their final game of the pre season. It was a poorly executed game on both sides of the ball, but keep in mind that none of our starters (or theirs) took the field.

The Cowboys had three turnovers, allowed two sacks, were called for holding twice, had 12 men on the field on defense, blew a coverage that allowed a touchdown, and gave up an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown. Brutal…

Of course, last night was not so much about securing the victory, but giving the coaching staff one final opportunity to get an in-game glimpse of all the reserve players that are still fighting for a spot on the team. The Cowboys must now decide who will stay and who will go later today when they announce their final cuts.

There were some standout performances that may have secured a roster spot for some, and of course there were a few dismal performances as well. Let’s take a look at some of those who shined first.

Pat Watkins had a breakout game and stole the show for the Cowboys last night. 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. Take a bow Pat.

Some other stand-out performances belonged to Steve Octavien, who returned a 44-yard interception for a Cowboys touchdown, and Jesse Holley, who scored the game winning touchdown on a wild 82-yard punt return. Still, Holley may be in danger of getting cut today. Octavien should easily make the cut and will be the backup outside linebacker for Ware and Spencer.

Kevin Ogletree guaranteed himself the number five wide receiver job with yet another touchdown, but he came out of the game with an eye contusion. The injury is not considered to be serious.

Jon Kitna, who probably is in no danger of being cut, had another brutal showing that included two turnovers that led to Vikings touchdowns.

By the way, you could go ahead and pencil Duke Preston in at backup center, and say goodbye to Cory Proctor. There’s no way Proctor makes the cut.

The question as to who will be the right cornerback between Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick, has been answered. According to Wade Phillips, they have been named co-starters, whatever that means. Reportedly, neither player was thrilled when they learned that neither won the job outright. I’ve heard of quarterback controversies, but a right cornerback controversy sounds ridiculous to me. Phillips can be so wishy-washy and indecisive and it drives me nuts. Make the call dude!

The Cowboys finished the pre season with a 2-2 record and get bragging rights in the NFC East as the rest of the teams in the division finished 1-3.

The final roster has to be announced by 5:00 PM today, stay tuned to Lone Star Struck and we’ll bring you the results as soon as they are announced.

The next game is for real people!

Here’s to another great Cowboys season!

Cowboys Add DBs to Roster; More Rookies Out

As reported at DallasCowboys.com 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

Ouch!

A Look At Our CB/Safety Depth After Draft

Well after a very interesting draft weekend I figured I would list our CB/Safety Depth Chart for everyone to our depth at the positions now.

 

 Please note that the only the starters listed are guaranteed depth chart positions as of right now numbers 2+ are my predicted spots.

So with this depth at secondary we are set for some interesting training camp battles to stay on the roster. I personally see Jerome Carter, Michael Hawkins, Pat Watkins, and Stephen Hodge to be cut before the 53 man roster is due in.

Injury Update: Owens, Glenn and Everyone Else

With one more week to go before the Cowboys play their first playoff game, there is only one injury still lingering. Terrell Owens high ankle sprain is still healing. He isn’t wearing the protective ankle boot anymore and he has begun light jogging. That’s a great sign that Owens will be ready. He has always been a fast healer and tough player. I would bet that he will be ready for the game next weekend. He is expected to start full practice on Wednesday or Thursday, then we will know more.

Terry Glenn returned for the first time this season last weekend. He did not complete a pass and didn’t stay in for the entire game. He practiced without pads this week and plans to resume drills by Wednesday.

Andre Gurode was very limited in practice this week with a left knee sprain. He missed the last two games of the year, and it showed. He is a huge part of the reason Romo was having such a great year. The pro bowl center could be ready for the game next weekend, right now he needs to rest and stay off his leg. He is day-to-day.

Safeties Pat Watkins and Keith Davis practiced this week and should be ready for the game. Terence Newman seems to be back on his feet and ready to go. Jay Ratliff who also missed the final game of the season is also well.

Although the Cowboys have great depth in many positions, I feel that a return of the two star receivers would increase the chance of excelling in the postseason. Not to say it couldn’t be done without them, but seems a lot less likely. Owens had a nice year despite the way the season ended, and Glenn has waited all year to return. I predict a spectacular return by both of these shining stars, it could be the highlight of their careers!