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Storylines Aplenty As 2009 Season Approaches

There is certainly no absence of story lines as 2009 training camp comes to an end in the Alamo City.  Position battles, new faces, and players past are but a few of the most popular headliners going into this year.  The house-cleaning done by Jerry and Stephen Jones in the off-season has left several important positions vacated and free for the taking.  And with that, here are a few positions to keep a watchful eye on as pre-season play progresses. 

 

Wide Receiver

Wide receiver is, without a doubt, the unprecedented position of interest heading into this year.  The most popular topic is obviously the departure of Terrell Owens, who spent the last three seasons as the most productive receiver the Cowboys have had since Michael Irvin.  Owens’roy-williams-hookem departure means that Roy Williams will take the reigns as the number one receiver in the Dallas offense.  Many are quick to scrutinize the unproductive season Williams had last year, but nary a soul remembers that Williams did not arrive in Dallas until the week six bye, and had very little time to learn the playbook.  Many also forget that nagging injuries hampered Williams for most of the season and affected his speed, quickness off the line, timing with Romo, etc.  With Williams at full health this year, look for him to give the Cowboys good production as the number one receiver.  Also look for Patrick Crayton to regain the number two receiver spot that he held two years ago.  Many also forget that Crayton posted stellar numbers as the number two receiver in 2007.  The Cowboys also went without Sam Hurd for a good portion of last year, and were without Miles Austin’s services for several weeks, as well.  Look for the Cowboys to use Mile Austin’s size and speed to stretch the field, and look for Hurd to be used in multiple receiver formations.  The fifth wide receiver position will likely be up for grabs between Isaiah Stanback, Manny Johnson, and Jesse Holley, who won the final roster spot on 4th and Long.  Youngsters on the outside looking in include Mike Jefferson, Travis Wilson, Kevin Ogletree, Julian Hawkins, and Willie Reid.  For what it’s worth, I asked Isaiah Stanback via Twitter if he thought Jesse Holley was any good, to which he replied simply, “I’m better.” 

 

Secondary

It seems like the secondary tops these lists every year for one reason or another, and this season is no different.  Watchful eyes will be locked on the secondary this year to see if the departures of several key veterans will pay dividends.  Gone is safety Roy Williams, 547186who since 2002 had been a staple in the Dallas secondary.  Though he had several outstanding years with the Cowboys, Williams seemed to fall off the map the past several years.  He became a severe liability in pass coverage, and his run support also became less effective.  To replace Williams, the Cowboys signed Gerald Sensabaugh from Jacksonville.  Sensabaugh is better known for his coverage skills, having also played stints at cornerback for the Jaguars.  Also gone is cornerback Anthony Henry, who was traded to Detroit in exchange for Jon Kitna.  Looking to fill Henry’s shoes are second year players Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick.  Jenkins would seem to have the edge because of his first round draft status.  But Scandrick, who looks to be the steal of the 2008 draft, showed last year that he is also worthy of the starting job.  It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys will split time between these two young talents, if that is the approach they decide to pursue.  I personally believe the Cowboys have three very talented rookies in Michael Hamlin, DeAngelo Smith, and Mike Mickens.  Both Mickens and Hamlin were both projected to go as high as the second round in this year’s draft, and it will be exciting to see if they live up to their pre-draft stock.  Eyes will also be upon Pat Watkins to see if he can be a key contributor in the secondary after a nagging neck injury last season landed him on injured reserve. 

 

Linebacker

With Greg Ellis little more than an afterthought in Dallas, outside linebacker will also be an area of interest heading into the season.  The Cowboys drafted Anthony Spencer (A fellow Boilermaker) several years ago with the intent of grooming him to replace Greg Ellis.  To answer the qFALCONS SAINTSuestion that my favorite Smiths song asks, the time is certainly now for Spencer.  He has undoubtedly shown signs of being DeMarcus Ware’s counterpart the last two seasons, but has been somewhat inconsistent due to a few injuries and playing behind Ellis.  At full health this year, Spencer will benefit from the constant attention that DeMarcus Ware demands from offenses, and will compliment him well on the opposite side.  The Cowboys linebacking corps will also have a new face in the middle, with Keith Brooking arriving from Atlanta.  He should be a much better fit next to Bradie James than Zach Thomas was last year.  The Cowboys also have four talented rookies joining the linebacker corps this year in Jason Williams, Victor Butler, Brandon Williams, and Stephen Hodge.  With Greg Ellis gone, look for Butler and Brandon Williams to shoulder the backup outside linebacker duties.  Jason Williams will be battling for playing time at nickel linebacker with Bobby Carpenter, and Hodge will provide depth at middle linebacker.  Look for all of these rookies to contribute heavily on special teams, as well.  One linebacker everyone should have on their radar is Bobby Carpenter.  He has not exactly lived up to expectations since arriving in 2006, but it is much too early to toss him onto the scrap pile with a bust tag.  Carpenter has gotten less than a fair shake since arriving in Dallas, having been moved around to different linebacker spots multiple times.  It would appear, for now at least, that Carpenter has found a home at nickel linebacker, a title previously held by Kevin Burnett.  If Carpenter excels at the nickel linebacker spot early on, expect him to get more playing time in other packages, as well. 

As the start of another football season grows closer with each passing day, the chills of autumn grow more intense as they go up and down my spine.  Hold onto your hats fellow Cowboys brothers and sisters, for this season promises to bring much excitement.  I can feel it in these silver and blue bones of mine. 

 

Extras

In the past couple of weeks, I have done quite a bit of networking with several Cowboys players on Twitter, routinely chatting with names like Martellus Bennett, Isaiah Stanback, Gerald Sensabaugh, and Jason Williams.  Having the opportunity to network with men that I call my heroes is truly amazing.  As a boy knowing I wanted to “do John Madden’s job,” I never would have fathomed that I would be able to chat with players from my favorite team with the mere click of a button.  I want to thank these gentlemen for taking time out of their hectic schedule to network with fans such as myself.  Keep it real Cowboys fans.

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!!

Another Day In Cowboy Land

For the Dallas Cowboys and their fans the crack of pads, the ear splitting screech of whistles followed by the hollering of instructions usually signifies the approaching end to summer and the beginning of a new season. We are well into training camp with one pre-season game under our belts (shhh lets pretend that didn’t happen).

Roy WilliamsAs is expected and normal across most camps, the Cowboys have had their share of bumps and bruises but (knock on wood) nothing serious. We all held our breaths with the news of Roy Williams’s wrist injury, but the sprain only kept him out of practice for a day. His status for Friday night’s second pre-season game is unknown right now, but I would be surprised if he doesn’t get in for a drive or two.

The secondary got stronger as well with Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins back in practice. Jenkins missed about a week with a sprained right ankle.

Sporting News Today is reporting that backup quarterback Jon Kitna and center Cory Procter have been having trouble with the snap through out camp and it actually carried over to the game against the Raiders which resulted in a 16 yard loss on one play, and a missed field goal on the drive. Obviously it is still early and is something they will continue to work on. Let’s cross our fingers and hope Kitna wont be needed this season anyway.

Bradie James is looking to become a nice compliment to DeMarcus Ware and help take some pressure of him when they attack the quarterback. The Dallas Morning News reports that James had two sacks against the number two offensive line and showed some speed in doing so.

With the dismissal of Terrell Owens the offense is looking to use a two tight end set as another weapon this season. We all know what Jason Witten can do, and now with second year man Martellus Bennett as the second tight end these two make it very hard for opposing defenses to cover. Bennett is a big strong target with good hands and knows how to block as well. This duo is going to be hard to stop, watch out!!

Let’s see how things fare for the Boys on Friday night in their new stadium against the Titans. It will bring us one step closer to the regular season and the hopes and dreams of the Super Bowl.

Williams and Newman Return to Practice

Terence NewmanRoy Williams and Terence Newman both returned to practice today. That’s definitely good news for the team.

Williams only missed one day of practice (Sunday) after coming down hard on his wrist. X-rays came back negative. He practiced Monday with a brace on his sprained wrist. Word has it he was the first one to catch a pass from Tony Romo at practice.

Newman finally returned after missing just over a week. The veteran cornerback was sidelined August 8th after straining his groin. After hearing the news, thousands of Cowboys fans sighed all over the nation, “Oh no, not again!”

In all seriousness, the Cowboys really don’t need another injury filled season after last year. Terence Newman really needs to stay healthy for once, and losing our number one receiver, who is already taking so much heat before he’s been given a chance, would really bring the team down.

Roy Williams Goes For X-rays on Wrist

It is being reported by ProFootballTalk.com that Roy Williams went for x-rays on his left wrist Sunday afternoon. The injury happened when Williams came down hard on his wrist during the morning practice. Williams was on the practice field Sunday morning, but was absent from the afternoon session. Sam Hurd took his spot with the first team offense.

Let’s all hold our breath that the injury is not serious.

Good news as far as one injury is that Mike Jenkins was back at practice Sunday. Jenkins has missed the last week of practice as well as the first preseason game against the Raiders.

Cowboys Swagger

Do you think the Cowboys have swagger this year? I know the games haven’t been played yet, but I have confidence in this team. At first I didn’t think addition by subtraction was good. The Cowboys have now convinced me. The most optimal word is IF this year. The defense will be just as good or even better. Teams will not know where Ware will be coming from. I see DeMarcus getting the sack record this year.

Roy Williams (safety) is gone, but he was never a really good cover man anyway. He was always getting beat on 1 on 1 situations. The two sophomore players, Jenkins and Scandrick, will step up and be a force in the secondary this season. Brookings has played in Phillips’ scheme before. That should be a smooth transition for him. The Cowboys defense will be top 5, at least.

As for the offense, it is Tony’s team. Williams is good at routes and has sure hands. Witten is probably if not the best tight end the Cowboys ever had. Crayton runs great routes too. I have seen in games past that some WRs give up on their routes. You know who I am talking about. The 3-headed monster of Barber, Jones, and Choice will give defensive players fits. Austin will come into his own, if injuries don’t plague him this year. Tony needs to cut down on mental mistakes. He has shown flashes of what a great Quarterback should be.  This is his year to shine. Time for the Cowboys to be Romo-friendly. Whatever that means….

My prediction for this coming season at 10-6 If everything happens the way it should. Like I said IF. I know injuries happen throughout the season. But, I am excited for the upcoming season. I see a Cowboys Swagger about them this year.

How ’bout them Cowboys!

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.

FORWARD PROGRESS: Weapons Of A Different Breed

Forward Progress

Training camp is finally here! Rejoice Cowboys fans! Another beginning will soon be upon us, and this is the first step along the lengthy journey of the season. You win in December and in playoff games and in Superbowls by preparing both physically and mentally here in late July and August. I didn’t get a chance to hear much of the “State of the Cowboys” address by Owner Jones and Coach Wade, but let’s be honest, I don’t think I missed a whole lot other than some cliche’s and some hopeful optimism, not that there is anything wrong with that. I must admit that it is hard to be so close, yet so far away from real football. In a way, I am going to have to fight through a lot of the things that are going to be brought up and mused upon over the course of the next 3 or 4 weeks. You know, the usual suspects: Can Romo win in December? How will the offense perform without Terrell Owens? Can Wade get his players to stay motivated? Blah, blah, blah! I understand that the media has a job to do, but I am just not interested in the same ole, same ole.

Some of the things that I am looking forward to finding out over the course of training camp will be how the new additions to the defense are going to fit in, who will win the number two spot at wide receiver and maybe, just maybe, get a glimpse at how Jason Garrett plans to manage all of his unique weapons.

Ah yes, Mr. Garrett and his weapons. I can’t think of a Cowboys team in the past with a more unique set of offensive weapons than this 2009 outfit. It will be a challenge and a delicate balance to efficiently use all of the running backs and tight ends, as well as develop the chemistry and timing between Romo and Roy Williams and the rest of the receivers. I am excited to see what Garrett can do with this group. I still have confidence in Garrett, I think he did have some challenges and obstacles dealing with Owens last year and in the end I believe that it affected his play calling and game planning. That is just my opinion, nothing more, nothing less.

I think that the best thing for Garrett, Romo and the entire franchise would be to have the heart and soul and identity of this team actually be the running game. If you are able to establish the run week in and week out, then it makes everything else so much easier. You can control time of possession, and gain valuable field position by churning out those first downs. Honestly, if we are unable to establish THIS team’s running game than there will have to be major changes in many areas next off-season. The extremely well compensated offensive line, led by Leonard Davis, are just flat out going to have to open some holes and then let the three headed monster do it’s thing. We have 3 backs who could arguably be starters for almost 20 other NFL teams at least. There are other great backs in the league, but I can’t think of any teams who would turn down Marion Barber or Felix Jones, and very few who would not like to have a guy like Tashard Choice somewhere in the mix. All that being said, there are no excuses to not dominate in the running game this year.

Once we soften up the line of scrimmage, we can open up our can of beans and rice! We should be able to carve up the middle of the field as well as any team in the league with our dynamic tight ends. We have the top tight end in all of football in Jason Witten, who also will contribute to the running game with his solid blocking, and then the young, explosive Marty B as his sidekick. This will be one of the most exciting things to watch this year for me. It’s not exactly rocket science here. When it’s third down and six, look for Beans and Rice.

And then, when it’s time to really put it on them, as my boy Nate the Cowboy Ninja would say, just dial 9-11. Romo to Roy Williams, and don’t forget Miles Austin, Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd. This is where the majority of the big gains will and should come from and if the running game is established and the middle of the field has been softened up by the tight ends, it will be easy pickings for an accurate passer like Romo.

Man, just looking at all of the options gets me really excited, we have the weapons. It’s time to optimize them and, bottom line, that’s on the shoulders’ of the coordinator.

Cowboys Fan for Life – TD

Answers Needed From The 2009 Training Camp

Well, training camp is here as it started yesterday. The Cowboys enter this year’s training camp with a lot of unanswered questions. We all are seeking answers to the following questions:

Who will be the number 2, 3, & 4 wide receivers?

Who will be the starting right cornerback?

Will LB Bobby Carpenter be playing a more active role this year?

How will we ensure that all three of our running backs get carries?

Will the offensive line be able to provide better pass and run blocking?

Will wide receiver Roy Williams be able to put up comparable numbers to that other wide receiver we had?

Will Jason Garrett’s offense be able to get back to where it was two years ago?

Will the special teams be able to perform better under Coach DeCamillis?

These are some of the many questions that training camp should help to provide and yes some of the questions we will not know until the season begins. I believe that this year’s camp will be harder and more will come out of it than did last year. I believe the Cowboys have learned that you get what you put into it.

Yes, last year we started out okay, but we did not finish okay and I believe that training camp instills that work ethic that can carry you through the year. The young players on the team need to step up and play big and I think that will. I hope that we start strong out of the gate and do not let up until we have won the Super Bowl!

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!!!

Troy Aikman Going Into College Football Hall of Fame

Troy Aikman will be inducted into The College Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Although Aikman is best known for leading the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles in the 90’s and being one of the most accurate passes in NFL history, Aikman says he feels like his college career is incomplete.

“The one I regret I have on any level is that I didn’t lead a team to the Rose Bowl,” the three-time Super Bowl champion said. “I think a lot of times in the NFL a quarterback is measured by whether or not you lead a team to a championship. For me at UCLA, it was whether or not you led your team to the Rose Bowl. I failed to do that.”

“My college career, in my opinion, is not quite complete,” he said.

What most don’t remember is that Troy Aikman was a part of a National Championship team in 1985 with the Oklahoma Sooners before transferring to UCLA. He broke his leg early in the season and the Sooners went onto win the Championship. Aikman transferred to UCLA after the 1985 season, but had to redshirt for one season due to college transfer rules. AIkman started two season for UCLA and passed for 5,298 yards and 41 TDs. He was considered one of the best QBs in college in 1989 after his senior season, but missed out on the Heisman Trophy to some player named Barry Sanders.

Aikman will be inducted along with one of his favorite targets while with the Cowboys, Jay Novacek.

“Because he’s also someone I think is worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Aikman said. “He’s a very understated player. For me to have a chance to go in with him into the College Football Hall of Fame is about as meaningful as anything that could have happened.”

Player quotes

Roy Williams is tired of having his words twisted around every time he speaks to the media. He is considering not speaking to the media anymore this season.

“It’s just that no matter what I say, it’s always going to get turned around and be pointed in a negative way,” Williams said. “So I’m just going to shut up and play ball.”

Ken Hamlin had some things to say about Tony Romo, his receivers and the end of the 2008 season.

About Tony Romo reported on Dal.Scout.com…

“He has to be a vocal leader. He has to be the one and go out and take command of this team. He is the leader of this team. I think he’s done that, especially this offseason. He’s been more vocal. He’s going out and working hard, doing extra with Roy (Williams) and some of the other receivers. It’s showing. Those guys are getting on the same page. Hopefully we can start off and we’re clicking from the jump.”

Ken Hamlin on ESPN.com…

http://myespn.go.com/blogs/nfceast/0-12-51/Video–Hamlin-on-Romo–T-O-.html

Adam Jones was back in the news the other day. ESPN released this video from the nightclub Pacman was at in February of 2007 before the shootings happened. Kelly forwarded this to me yesterday and it can be disturbing. Well, actually it is disturbing.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=4333957

I for one am offended by his actions and his total disrespect for those girls and everyone around him. That goes for all the others as well, not just Pacman. We can all read article after article about every thing that happened that night, but when it’s viewed than it puts it in a whole new light for me. This man should never play football again and I am ashamed that he ever wore a Dallas Cowboys uniform.

Dallas Cowboys Receiver Situation

In my opinion, the Dallas Cowboys did a good thing by releasing Terrell Owens earlier this year. Yes he scored touchdowns, but he also had a lot of crucial dropped passes. By releasing him they have now made way for the younger receivers to show what they can do.

We will now rely on WR Roy Williams who did a lot of great things while in Detroit. He will be the number one receiver. We also have Patrick Crayton. In my opinion, Crayton will only be an average receiver because he tends to make crucial mistakes.

It’s time that our young receivers step up and show that they have made progress since they have joined the Cowboys. Miles Austin has shown flashes of being a good receiver; he has speed and can make the clutch catch. Sam Hurd had made catches, although he is not that fast and he has been hurt. So far, he has not really convinced me that he will be great.

Then we have the often injured Isaiah Stanback. I believe the Cowboys should go ahead and let this guy go. He has tried to make the switch from QB to WR. While he may have been successful, with him being injured every year, it’s hard to say if he could pull it off. We could release him to make room for another receiver or at least another player that could help us now.

It remains to be seen whether these young receivers will fulfill the promise they have shown. If not, we may be looking for a couple more receivers later this year and another average season may be what we get.