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AP: Cowboys Offseason Recap, Super Bowl Chances

Interesting read by the Associated Press on the Cowboys and their chances for another title.

Since the end of last season, and even before that, Jerry Jones has constantly reminded his Cowboys that Super Bowl XLV will be played at their own stadium in February.

“Our owner lets us know the game is at Cowboys Stadium and he would love his team to play in it,” Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. “We are doing everything we can get to get there.”

But long before the possibility of being the first host team ever in a Super Bowl, or even playing a 2010 regular season game, the defending NFC East champion Cowboys have quite a summer trip.

Training camp begins Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio. That begins a five-week stretch in which the Cowboys will travel more than 6,500 miles, practice in three different cities and play preseason games in four stadiums.

“We’re America’s team, everybody wants to see us,” receiver Roy Williams said.

Dallas will be the first full squad to begin camp, but Cleveland rookies report Friday. Rookies for New England and San Diego report Sunday, and every NFL team will be in camp by Aug. 1.

For the third time in four years, 17 of the 32 teams will conduct training camp at home. Just nine years ago, only five of 31 teams stayed home for preseason workouts.

Super Bowl champion New Orleans opens camp at home July 29. But before the Saints won the title last year, the previous three Super Bowl winners — Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and the New York Giants — had all held camp away from home.

For the Cowboys, the climate-controlled Alamodome will be their base for two weeks before going to Canton, Ohio, to play in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game. A few days at home and a preseason game at Cowboys Stadium follows that.

Then comes two weeks in Oxnard, Calif., a strech that includes a game at San Diego. They break their West Coast camp and head to Houston for a game before finally getting to settle in at their Valley Ranch facility to prepare for the home preseason finale and the start of the regular season.

“I’ve had some pretty strange years, but not moving like that,” said 13-year veteran Keith Brooking, going into his second season with Dallas. “I played in the Tokyo Bowl, 16-hour flight or whatever it was two weeks into training camp and still having four preseason games to play. But never two weeks at camp, then moving.”

“Nobody cares where we practice. People care about whether we win,” linebacker Bradie James said.

Jones raised the Lombardi Trophy three times in a four-year stretch in the mid-1990s. But the five-time champions have gone 14 seasons without winning a title and didn’t even win another playoff game until last January.

The 20-year owner could think of no better way to end the championship drought than by winning a Super Bowl at his $1.2 billion stadium that opened last season.

“They have the potential to get there,” said NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith, the three-time Super Bowl champion with the Cowboys who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame next month. “Hopefully those guys have taken this offseason and said next year should be our time.”

With lofty expectations and their longest training camp in more than a decade ahead of them, it’s good for the Cowboys there are few issues and little drama. Just plenty of motivation.

“I really do feel that we’ve got top talent on the team, but this same talent, the majority of it, saw us fall short last year,” Jones said. “And that keeps anybody from getting too caught up in what this looks like. We’ve got a lot of work to do when we get to training camp.”

Here are some of the top storylines for the Cowboys so far:

• Doug Free gets the first chance to replace left tackle Flozell Adams, the expensive 35-year-old five-time Pro Bowler cut last spring. Free, going into his fourth season, started seven games at right tackle for injured Marc Colombo last year.

The Cowboys also acquired tackle Alex Barron, sending Bobby Carpenter to St. Louis in a trade of underachieving former first-round picks.

• After receiver Miles Austin went from relative unknown to Pro Bowl player and Dez Bryant was drafted in the first round, Patrick Crayton asked for a trade and skipped most voluntary offseason workouts. But Crayton, who could still end up playing for somebody this season, showed up for the final week of workouts and the minicamp, working like he always had.

• Safety Ken Hamlin, a 2007 Pro Bowler who like Adams had a contract through 2013, was also cut. Alan Ball, primarily a cornerback his first two seasons, is the likely replacement opposite Gerald Sensabaugh.

• Hamlin’s departure is the only significant change for coach Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense, which allowed the fewest points in the NFC last season and ended the regular season with consecutive shutouts for the first time in the team’s 50-year history.

With Jason Garrett calling plays for Tony Romo and a record-setting offense, and Phillips settling into the dual role as the NFL’s only head coach-defensive coordinator, Jones is excited about the continuity of the coaching staff. He believes that is good for Phillips, who is 33-15 after three seasons in Dallas and finally has a playoff victory as a head coach.

“You can just sense it when you’re talking to him, he’s so comfortable in himself around this team,” Jones said. “I’m not talking about he’s laid back or taking things too easy. He’s just gotten very comfortable, exudes to me when I’m with him, the feel, that feeling he feels about his team.”

Cutting The Fat

With just mere hours until teams need to cut rosters to 53 for the season, Dallas and Wade Phillips will have some tough choices to make. I dont envy Phillips or any head coach this time of year for what they must do in cutting the fat and forming a team that will start the season. But like it or not, it is part of the job and part of the business.

Rookie Linebacker Stephen Hodge is one of those players fighting for a roster spot. However for Hodge his chances are slim and the options that the coaching staff have for him will result in another tough decision no matter what they choose. During the offseason Hodge had his knee scoped and has not been able to practice much because of it. That makes it tough for someone to make a team if he cant be evaluated properly. His persistent swelling in his knee is really complicating matters. Dallas can protect his rights by placing him on injured reserve and shutting him down for the season in hopes that he can be ready for next season. They can take a chance and release him hoping no other team picks him up, and then resign him to the practice squad. But because there are a few other injured players Dallas is waiting on, the chances of Hodge making the roster is slim. This is the tough side of the business.

Now on the other hand Dallas claimed Linebacker Curtis Johnson off waivers after the Colts cut him because of an injured hamstring and there is a good chance he will make the 53 man roster without ever getting on the field for the Cowboys because of the injury. He will not play in Fridays last preseason game. They really like the former Colt who played as a 4-3 defensive end but will be converted to an outside linebacker in the 3-4. “We knew about him coming out of college” Phillips said of Johnson who played 7 games with the colts last season. There is no way Dallas would pickup an injured player a few days before cuts if they didnt know what they where getting. They are high on his special teams abilities and after putting LB Brandon Williams on injured reserve, and LB Jason Williams nursing a high ankle sprain that will keep him out 4-6 weeks, Johnson should be back soon and should make the roster.

Wide Receiver Travis Wilson who has been on injured reserve was released and given an injury settlement… Backup offensive lineman Cory Proctor’s roster spot may be in jeopardy after Dallas signed 5 year veteran Duke Preston who plays the same positions. And it was Preston during practice snapping to Quarterback John Kitna not Proctor who didnt even get any work in during the drill… Fourth round pick Quarterback Stephen McGee is also sitting on that bubble. He is nursing a strained MCL and has been considered OK at best when he is able to participate and healthy. One thing going for him is the fourth round choice the Cowboys used on him, that may get him a spot for a little while anyway.

Lets see what happens in the next few days when the fat is cut, because a lot of the guys we have been watching in preseason wont be there for long, and you know there will be some surprises.

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.

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!

Cowboys Extra Points: Starters, Backups and Poison Ivy?

extrapts2Duke Preston is on his way to Dallas, and pending a physical could be the team’s new backup center behind Andre Gurode as reported by Nick Eatman on the Cowboys’ official site.

Preston was released by Green Bay on Tuesday after being with the team since March. The veteran could provide depth to the O-line as he can play center, tackle and guard. Preston spent the last four years with Buffalo.

Possibly one of the biggest battles this preseason has been (as expected) between Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick at cornerback. Wade Phillips said both are doing so well and it’s a tough decision, one that he probably won’t make until the season opener. Scandrick is expected to start this Saturday and Jenkins in the final preseason game.

Now here’s a doozy… Bobby Carpenter did not participate in practice today. According to Tim MacMahon at DMN Carpenter got poison ivy in his eye and it was swelled shut.

Roy Williams continues to receive criticism from the media, including former Cowboy greats, but he isn’t letting it get to him.

“It doesn’t fuel me. Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Darren Woodson — I love it, I appreciate it.

“I appreciate it because if you sit around and have to hear how good you are all the dang time, you have to have that Jerry Rice mind-set of, ‘I’m not good enough.

“When I have guys, especially NFL greats and the greatest that played here in Dallas, saying that I can’t get the job done, and I’m not a No. 1, it makes me feel good.

“It makes me want to go out there and prove to them and everybody else across the world who listens to those guys because, obviously, everybody thinks they know it all, that I can do my job.”

Cowboy Tidbits

Fullback Deon Anderson could find himself jobless. Currently he is on the injured list after having arthroscopic knee surgery but is expected to be back in uniform by opening day. However his backup Julius Crosslin has been doing a good job filling in for Anderson. The Cowboys are not expected to keep more than one fullback on the roster because they plan on using more two tight end formations. If Crosslin continues to impress, Anderson could be the one looking for a new team, after it was expected Crosslin was the one to be cut.

Sporting News Today is reporting that Crosslin has been solid at the point of attack, playing with good pad level and leverage that opens running lanes. The coaches are also impressed by his hands and say he is doing a good job catching the ball. This was evident on a converted third and 1 play in Friday’s preseason game against Tennessee. Still a bit early to tell how this position battle will end but Crosslin has made the most of his opportunity with Anderson on the sidelines.

We all know and love Jason Witten, one of Tony Romo’s favorite targets. Sporting News is giving fans the opportunity to ask him a question with a chance to have it and Jason’s answer published in an upcoming issue of the magazine. For those interested send your question along with your hometown to yourturn@sportingnews.com.

All Work and No Play Makes Wade A Dull Boy

The Boys had their final Alamodome practice yesterday and will be heading back home to Cowboys Stadium for the second preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.

Word has it the starters could play into the third quarter. Nick Eatman at dallascowboys.com gives good reasons for this unusual plan and it makes complete sense to me.

1. The Cowboys first game in the new stadium. It’s going to be one heck of a celebration.

2. It’s the Titans third preseason game so they are in that mode.

Eatman says Wade Phillips didn’t say how long the starters would play, just that it would be a lot more than last week’s game.

Another interesting story that caught my attention was Wade complaining about the running race between David Buehler and DeAngelo Smith. As posted earlier this week, the two rookies ran a foot race and DB Smith was burned by K Buehler in a 50 yard dash.

Coach surprisingly put his foot down and decided he was not going to allow any more “extracurricular activity” for fear of an unnecessary injury.

Not sure how to feel about that one. I agree we don’t want any injuries from horsing around, but these are athletes and competition is always a good thing. I think I will stay neutral on this because I can understand both sides.

Finally, ESPN’s Matt Mosley posted Three and Out: Cowboys over at this NFC East blog, basically only stating the obvious.

1. Get ready to hear a lot about the two-tight end offense.

2. The Cowboys could be in big trouble if there’s an injury on the offensive line.

3. The Cowboys could have 63 sacks if everything goes as planned.

CHECK. CHECK. CHECK.

We have been blessed with two amazing tight ends and we sure plan to use them to the best of their abilities.

O-line, ugh. What can you say? No depth.

Sacks for everyone! Roll call – Ware, James, Spencer, Ratliff…!

***

Big (preseason) game tomorrow! Everyone get your game faces on and hope our ‘Boys break in the new stadium with a outstanding win to remember. I let my boss know that I needed to get done early nearly two weeks ago, and I told him why. I’m setting the DVR anyway but you can imagine how mad I’ll be if I don’t make it home for a live kickoff. The Boys Are Back in Town!

Hard Knocks Episode 2: Trains, Planes and Lowber?

It seemed like forever, the wait from the premiere episode of Hard Knocks, to the second episode tonight. I watched the first episode at least 5 times! Where as the first installment was an overview and reflection, this episode was more of an in-depth look at training camp and preparations for a (preseason) game. I still thouroughly enjoyed it again!

One of my favorite parts of this episode was a look at Zach Thomas. I know that Felix Jones and Pac Man Jones are flashier additions to the team, but I think Zach may be the most important. He looks fresh, healthy and hungry. With him and Bradie James up the middle, I think you will see alot less of those 7 yard gains on 1st down that make it near impossible to get a 3 and out.

Another cool thing in this weeks show was the overwhelming respect the players have for Coach Phillips. I read alot of blogs, columns and other Cowboy related media, and no one seems to mention or give credit to Wade. All I hear is win the Superbowl or get fired. And this may be reality, but how many coaches would find a way to let there ego get in the way and not even put his team in a POSITION to win the Superbowl. I know one for sure, and he lives in Miami now. I give Coach Phillips alot of credit and I am hoping that he gets his ring, because I truly believe he deserves it.

As far as the undrafted rookies go, I understand that HBO is trying to put a little drama into the show. Will they make it, will they not? Short answer: NO. Maybe “Ray Lewis’ Little Brother”  has a chance at practice squad, but that’s it. As far as Lowber, the “80th man on the roster” goes, I got bad news for him, the season starts with 54 players.

This show continues to have my attention gripped and I can’t wait for next weeks episode already. As far as the San Diego game goes, anyone who is concerned or worried about that should take a step back of that ledge and remember what Coach Phillips said. “These games are for getting better.” That’s all they are.

I Don’t know if Hard Knocks has any room for improvement.

 

Cowboys Fan for Life – TD


Preseason Isn’t About Winning…

Since the Cowboy loss in their first outing against the Chargers on Saturday night, I have received some notes from other fans wondering what happened.  They were disappointed over the final score and are now concerned about the future for the Boys.  Likewise, I have seen many other fans express their disappointment in comments on other websites and articles as well.  And, of course, there are always the Cowboy haters who love gloating any time we lose.

Well, take heart Cowboy fans… Here’s my response to our first loss:  The final score doesn’t matter.  You see, preseason isn’t about winning.  Sure, we always want to win every time we take the field, but in preseason, the final score really isn’t the important thing. 

What is the important thing?  It’s seeing who’s going to fit into our team and where they’re going to fit.  Who’s going to move up the roster and who will move down.  Who will stay and who will go home.  What areas need more work and what areas are we satisfied with.  Sure, you always want to win, and I am not suggesting that we weren’t trying.  However, the point of any preseason game is to find out how your second and third team players are doing.  You don’t risk your first team players just for a win that is meaningless in the long term scheme of things.

Our first team looked good in my opinion.  Romo, Witten, Barber, and the rest of the first team got a series, proved they were up to the task by marching down the field and scoring.  Then we took them out to save them and keep them healthy for the regular season.  Same thing with the first team defense:  they proved that they are game ready.  Things look pretty good for the starters and for the Cowboys overall.

Now, when our second and third team players were in there, we had both bright spots and some troubling areas, but this is what preseason is all about.  It’s about getting your team in order.  Don’t push the panic button just yet.  The Boys are fine.  Yes, we have some work to do, but overall, at this point, there is no reason to be anything but confident in the play of the Cowboys during the upcoming season.

So, if you’re a new fan or you’re just not sure what to make of preseason – don’t lose heart.  Just remember, it’s not about the final score.  It’s not about winning – at least not now.   It’s about getting your team in order so you can win later – and hopefully, win the whole shebang.

Cowboys News: Gramatica Released

The Cowboys released Martin Gramatica today after spending less than a month on the Injured Reserve list. Gramatica injured his hamstring during the third preseason game in Houston and was placed on the IR to open a spot on the 53-man roster.  

Gramatica can sign with another team at this time, but if he does he risks any grievance pay from the Cowboys. He received a $200,000 signing bonus in the offseason.

During Training Camp and Preseason, Gramatica had some competition for starter kicker with rookie Nick Folk. Nick Folk has been amazing in his first 3 starts, completing 6 of 7 field goal attempts (his only missed field goal was blocked).

After the failure of Mike Vanderjagt last year, Gramatica came to be a Cowboy, and with him brought hope. We wish you the best of luck Gramatica and thanks for your hard work!

Where Have All the Cowboys Gone

It’s funny how people get so offended and hurt when the team loses (understandably, I’m one of the guilty). It’s a preseason game, not a playoff game. The good thing is we can learn from the experience and it isn’t going to hurt us one bit. Of course it’s nice to win every game no matter the caliber, but sometimes it helps not to go into the season with a "big head" or overblown confidence when you start playing teams like New England and Chicago just to name a few.

I do believe that Gramatica has lost his job as starting kicker, especially if the rumors are true that he pulled a hamstring Saturday night. Missing an extra-point kick is really not the way you impress your coach when you’re battling for the starting position. Of all teams, we certainly know how much a missed kick can hurt!

If you’re wondering when to expect Greg Ellis back on the field, good luck finding the answer. No one knows or can even speculate when to expect the veteran linebacker’s return. Jerry Jones is determined that Ellis will be back, at least that’s what he is saying in front of the cameras. I’ve heard a third medical opinion is being sought. Expect to see rookie Anthony Spencer on the field in his place when the season kicks off.

Several other injured Cowboys missed the game on Saturday. Anthony Fasano, Terence Newman and Terry Glenn did not participate but are all expected to start in the season opener. Terence Newman will likely feel pain throughout the season after being diagnosed with a torn plantar fascia in his right heel. Anthony Fasano is sitting out after receiving a sprained shoulder in the second preseason game. And last but certainly not least, Terry Glenn is still recovering after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery during Training Camp.

As the Cowboys prepare to travel to Minnesota for the final preseason game, we should keep a close watch on the roster. Several players will be cut tomorrow, bringing the roster number down to 75. I don’t think we will see much from the first string on Thursday because September 1st the team will be trimmed down to the standard 53-man roster. It’s always interesting and certainly unpredictable to see who will go and who will stay.  

 

Cowboys News: Glenn Will Miss the Final Two Preseason Games

It has been reported that Coach Wade Phillips has ruled out the return of Terry Glenn for the final two preseason games. When Glenn had arthroscopic knee surgery on August 1st, he was projected to be back for the final preseason game, however that no longer seems probable. Coach Phillips said Glenn will return to practice after the August 30th game. Glenn hasn’t had any setbacks in his rehab and the team isn’t worried about the veteran’s lack of practice.

"No, it’s not a real concern," Phillips said. "He knows what to do and he knows how to do it and as long as he’s ready physically, I think he’ll be ready to do it."

As for the rumors going around that Terry Glenn has re-aggravated his knee, Coach says he has no idea where that information came from. Glenn should be ready to go for Week 1, September 9th against the Giants.

Some content found at dallasnews.com