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Bracing For A New Season: Three Up And Three Down

It has been an agonizingly slow news day for the Cowboys… more like a  week… or better yet, a month…

So I took a quick look at the projected roster for the upcoming season and tried to detect some potential concerns or problem areas. I didn’t see any glaring holes or huge problem areas, but there are a few mild concerns as I see it.

Some Concerns

Alan Ball – Ball will be the first choice to fill the shoes of the departing Ken Hamlin at safety. Nobody expects him to duplicate the former Pro Bowler’s presence on the field and in the locker room, but expectations still will be high for a team that need all aspects of it’s game to be firing on all cylinders. Especially, in the secondary. Ball has shown some flashes in his limited playing time so I remain hopeful, but I’m also realistic and realize that until he actually goes out there and impresses, he is still a question mark.

Marion Barber – The “Barbarian” will most likely see a reduced role this season similar to one he enjoyed when Julius Jones was last here. For a big dude, he seems to wear down easily as an every down back, and with Felix Jones making a strong case for increased playing time, Barber may only get touches in short yardage situations and possibly at the goal line. He may not like his reduced status so keep an eye on the situation. By the way, with a nickname like “The Barbarian”, he sure has been very brittle and it don’t take much for him to get removed from a game. He better toughen up before they change his moniker to “Maid Marion”.

Roy Williams – Yeah I know it sounds like I’ve been picking on RW ever since the Cowboys traded for him, but my concerns were justified and time did prove me right. I’m still bugged by the fact he is still here. Yes, I know he has a boatload of cash coming to him, but winning trumps everything including greenbacks. Whereas before my concern was giving RW a superstar mega-deal for what was just a garden variety receiver, now my concern is how do we get Kevin Ogletree and Dez Bryant the playing time they deserve while at the same time keeping RW from back-biting and inciting turmoil in the locker room?

No Worries

Doug Free – I’m not as concerned as others about Doug Free taking over for Flozell Adams. Adams has been on a downward slope for the last two seasons, and our O-Line was getting a little long in the tooth. Free looked fantastic while filling in for Mark Colombo last season, and I believe he will be an upgrade over Flozell this season. His youth will help recharge an aging O-Line.

Tony Romo – I believe Tony Romo is still going to get better even though right now he’s a Top 10 QB. He has a thirst for knowledge and always shows up better prepared for the season than anyone else on the roster. He has great skills, but is also a thinking man’s quarterback and I believe that will ultimately add up to a couple of Super Bowl rings before he is through.

David Buehler – I’m not at all concerned about David Buehler getting the job done as a placekicker. When he was with the Trojans, he was unexpectedly called into service to kick a filed goal due to an injury. He nailed a 49-yard field goal and the Trojans won the game. For USC, it was the longest successful field goal since 1988, a two decade span. Am I worried about Buehler? Nah… The kid’s a grinder…

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.

Freedom isn’t “Free”

As the new dawn of a new season approaches, the 2008 Boys are thankfully faced with very few question marks. There is the ongoing Terry Glenn fiasco, which I don’t really understand, because if TG really wants to be on this team, then what is 700 grand to a multimillionare (the difference between his salary and his injury settlement)? And that is ONLY if he does get hurt. TD to Terry: sign the dang paper! The receiving corps is the standard question mark thrown about in the media, and understandably so, but I have enjoyed watching the development of Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd, and I think they are going to be consistent enough to offset any double coverage on TO. I also remind everyone not to forget that Jason Witten is the true number 2 receiver (number one if you go by receptions).

That being said, the other big question mark is the secondary. It has a little bit of a new twist this year in that we actually have a surplus of DB’s for the 4 to 5 spots back there. The candidates are highly paid and highly controversial. A rundown and a personal, unprofessional scouting report:

 

The Godfather: Roy Williams – 7th year – Oklahoma. The often criticized Roy has gone from the most popular Cowboy to the most maligned. Whether it is due to weight gain, lost confidence or even putting his faith and religion over football (as some have suggested), Roy has lost a big step and is very vulnerable to tattoed tight ends and deep bombs over the middle.

The Natural: Terence Newman – 6th year – Kansas State. T-New became another member of the secondary to cash in on a huge contract and bonus. The interception totals won’t make your heart flutter (16 for his career) but he is a true shutdown corner with speed. A team leader and well respected across the league. Will start every game as long as he is healthy for the next 5 to 7 years.

The Beast: Anthony Henry – 8th year – South Florida. Henry is a big, physical corner who is solid in the run game and the pass game. Injury prone in his first 2 years here, but when he is on the field, he has shown to be a playmaker with a knack for the football. He was given a huge deal in free agency and has shown to be worth the investment to this point. He needs to stay healthy and not get frustrated by any possible positional changes to continue to live up to the deal.

Mr. Consistent: Ken Hamlin – 6th year – Arkansas. Hamlin was left on the trash heap for any team to have prior to last season. The Cowboys signed him to a one year deal and he turned that into a Pro Bowl season and a brand spankin new 6 year, 39 million dollar deal. He will anchor the secondary and play more of a hybrid free safety/strong safety role in the Phillips 3-4 this year. 

The Wild Card: Adam “Pac-Man” Jones – 3rd year – West Virginia. Oh, everyone knows the story, but as the 6th overall pick in the 2005 draft, no one questions the talent. If he can stay focused on football and stay away from the strip clubs and Hennessey, the Cowboys will have arguably the best group of cornerbacks in the entire NFL. Stay tuned.

The Rook: Mike Jenkins – 1st year – South Florida. Jenkins will be paid as a late first round pick that he was so the staff will likely look to get him on the field. He was a big part of a great season for the South Florida Bulls who rose as high as Number 2 in the nation last year. Projected as a higher pick than he was and Cowboys traded up to get him. Great speed and agility. Bright future in the league, but still a rookie and will most likely not be left on an island against any seasoned NFL receivers.

 

So now that we know the pieces to the puzzle, we should look at the puzzle itself. There has been great conjecture from the media and the fans alike that Roy will be cut in a salary cap move. I am not going to sit here and say that it absolutely will not happen, I just see it as very unlikely. Primarily due to depth and injury concerns. Ask yourself one simple question, would you rather have too many or not enough?  The base defense will most likely have Hamlin (FS), Williams (SS), and Henry and Newman. Simple enough, no breaking news there. The questions begin when you factor in how well Pacma…oops, Adam Jones performs in camp and if/when he is reinstated, and of course injuries as well as matchups. I would suggest, in my humble opinon, we get Henry some reps at free safety during camp and when we play a team like Cleveland with a prolific passing attack for example, have Henry back at free safety and bring in Adam Jones and Mike Jenkins in at corner and nickel back, respectively. When we play a team like Philadelphia or San Francisco, teams with a west coast offense and not much of a deep passing game, keep Roy in there with his physical presence and intimidation factor, and put Jones in at the nickel in passing situations. That is as long as Jones doesn’t beat out Henry for the starting cornerback job…..whew. I am tired after all that. The bottom line is Jerry Jones has paid all of the DB’s alot of money and they will be a huge part of our ultimate success. To whom much is given, much is expected.  

All I know is that I personally would rather have too much than not enough!

It should be a great season…..camp kicks off tomorrow and then the first practice is on Friday.

Cowboys Fan For Life – TD