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Good, Bad, and Ugly All Evident In First Preseason Game

Coaches and fans got their first look at the 2010 Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night against a highly touted Cincinnati Bengals club that many are predicting to be a Super Bowl contender this season. The Boys had an impressive showing for a preseason game, not allowing Cincinnati to score until the late 4th quarter. However, there were also some loose ends the Cowboys need to tie up before they take the field against Washington in the season opener. Let’s play a game of “Who’s hot, who’s not” to summarize the first preseason game.

Who’s Hot

*Tight end John Phillips. He took advantage of the absence of Martellus Bennett and showed great all-around ability throughout the night. He had a couple of superb catches, and also showed his blocking ability on several occasions. With Bennett’s problems of late, I would not be at all surprised to see Phillips get more playing time than Bennett when the season starts.

*Defensive end Stephen Bowen. He also took advantage of the absence of a fellow teammate (Marcus Spears), and was a force along the defensive line all night. He was constantly in the backfield and recorded a sack before his night came to an end. With Bowen, Spears, and Jason Hatcher all playing on one-year tenders, I expect the competition to continue between the three.

*Offensive tackle Doug Free. Though he only played one series, Free looked very comfortable at left tackle, and had his way with Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom in both passing and running situations. Free definitely looks to have a leg up on Alex Barron in securing the starting left tackle spot. It will be interesting to see how he performs the rest of the preseason against pass rushers like Shawne Merriman and Mario Williams.

*Backup linebackers. A solid night on defense was topped off by the impressive play of players like Brandon Williams, Victor Butler, Jason Williams, Steve Octavien, and Brandon Sharpe. Jason Williams, Butler, and Octavien all showed their ability to get to the quarterback with a sack each. Brandon Williams and Sharpe showed their abilities in coverage with an interception each, Sharpe’s going for the only touchdown of the evening for the Cowboys. The Williams boys and Butler are showing flashes of the abilities the Cowboys saw in each of them when they drafted all three last year. Keep an eye on the ‘backers again in the next preseason game, as Sean Lee should step on the field for the first time and show his skills, too.

Who’s Not

*Offensive lineman Robert Brewster. He looked simply horrendous playing both tackle spots, and gave Stephen McGee no time to throw the ball all night. It is safe to say the intent of the Cowboys to develop Brewster as a tackle has run horribly amok. His footwork is below average and his ability to get out of his stance is poor. If the Cowboys want to avoid missing on yet another offensive line draft pick, they should consider moving Brewster to guard, where his slow feet will be less noticeable.

*Backup running backs. In a virtually impossible battle for a roster spot at running back, Herb Donaldson and Lonyae Miller did nothing to prove they are even worthy of a spot on the practice squad. Donaldson fumbled the ball early, and Miller had less than one yard per carry. With Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice all locks to make the team, Donaldson and Miller will be nothing more than camp bodies for the duration of training camp.

*Return specialists. The return game for the Cowboys was non-existent the entire night, with Titus Ryan, Jamar Wall, Bryan McCann, and Cletis Gordon sharing the duties. Ryan had a decent return to start the game, but left early with a broken thumb. Wall, McCann, and Gordon shared the punt return duties, but none of the three did more than fair catch and flirt with potential disaster when a return was possible. Gordon and McCann were also creamed on one of their returns, McCann’s coming on a terrible non-call in which he clearly called a fair catch.

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…

Packers Break Cowboys’ Winning Streak, Dallas Loses 17-7

The Cowboys winning streak came to a halt today as the Packers beat the Boys 17-7. It was a strong defensive game on both sides but penalties, injuries and missed opportunities ruined the day.

green bay dallas

The most painful thing to come from this loss will be the hole that Marc Colombo leaves on the offensive line. Colombo went down in the first quarter and later it was learned that he suffered from a broken fibula. Doug Free came in to replace Colombo and immediately failed to protect Romo.

There was an injury scare with Bradie James who returned to play, and Ken Hamlin left the game with an ankle injury.

Another stinger was an arm injury to corner Mike Jenkins. He returned to play but left again for good after a few minutes.

Tony Romo also took a beating from the Green Bay defense taking five sacks, while Aaron Rodgers was sacked 4 times by Dallas. Romo ended the day 24 of 29 completions, 251 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Roy Williams caught 5 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. Sounds good right? No, not really. He also fumbled what would have been a 41-yard completion along with a dropped pass that could have been a game changer.

Luckily the Cowboys were able to score a touchdown in the final seconds to avoid getting shutout for the first time since December 14, 2003.

The running game was basically nonexistent. The three-headed monster combined for a measly 45 yards.

Defensively things were looking pretty good, just not good enough when your offense can’t produce and injuries sideline your starters. DeMarcus Ware had two sacks and Bobby Carpenter and Stephen Bowen recorded one sack each. Jay Ratliff was quiet, however Anthony Spencer stepped up and made several great plays.

Dallas has to pray that their injuries aren’t as bad as they seem. Of course Colombo is likely out for the season, but Jenkins and Hamlin should be able to return.

The Cowboys move on with a 6-3 record, still leading the NFC East and come back home to play the Washington Redskins for the first time this season.

Cowboys Extra Points: SCORE, Parking and RFA’s

Restricted free agent Stephen Bowen signed his $1.545 million tender offer. The defensive end had 17 tackles last year and will play behind Igor Olshanksy and Jason Hatcher.

There are only two restricted free agents remaining. Wide receivers Sam Hurd and Miles Austin have not signed their tenders. Free Agency ends on April 17th.

Cowboys star tight end Jason Witten was recently honored with a $20,000 grant from NFC Charities. Witten’s foundation named S.C.O.R.E. Foundation works with shelters for battered families.

The Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers have come to an agreement regarding parking spaces. Cowboys fans will be allowed to park in the Rangers parking lots on gamedays. This should ensure that all fans will be able to park no further than a mile from the stadium. The Rangers will keep nearly 100% of the revenue from their lots.

Dates to remember:

A rookie minicamp is set for May 1-3, just a week after the 2010 NFL Draft (April 25-26).

Organized team activity days are set for May 19-21, 26-28, June 2-4 and 8-10.

A mandatory minicamp will be June 16-18.

IGOR TIME!!

From the MICKAROO, Mickey Spanola of DallasCowboys.com:

Free agent defensive end Igor Olshanky came into town during Thursday’s commotion for a visit, and the Dallas Cowboys made sure he didn’t leave town on Friday without signing a contract, which is exactly what he did around 5:30 p.m. (CST), putting his name on a contract. Olshanky, a five-year starter in San Diego, signed a four-year, $18 million contract, with roughly $8 million guaranteed.

This move is in direct response to three-year starter Chris Canty signing his unrestricted free-agency deal with the New York Giants this past Saturday, leaving the Cowboys without much experience at the right defensive end spot. The only backups of note are three-year veterans Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher. The Cowboys did sign least years’s practice squad defensive end Marcus Dixon to the 80-man roster.

I like it! More info to come…………………

BIG “D” Issues For the Cowboys

With all the talk so far this offseason surrounding Mr. Owens, and with free agency starting at the end of this week and the draft right around the corner we need to talk about some big issues surrounding the boys defense.

First, Demarcus Ware, all signs are Jerry is going to break the bank and make him the highest payed cowboy in team history, this is by far the most important move we need to make and would solidify our pass rush for years to come.

On the other side should we let Ellis go? He scheduled to make over $6 million next year for just a 3rd down pass rusher, thats pretty steep! Unless he wanted to take a significant pay cut and less playing time, I just dont see this happening.

Which brings me to Anthony Spencer. Is he ready to play every down and live up to his draft position? He may have the skills, he just scares me. His recent arrest, and if you watched Hard Knocks, remember he didn’t show for a treatment on an injury and was fined by Wade. These things make me wonder if he’s mature enough to step up and take the position fulltime.

Now lets talk about our unrestricted free agents: Canty, Burnett, and Thomas. Canty would be painful to lose. He has been a solid force on the D-line, but the contract he is looking for might be too rich for our shrinking cap space, which leaves us either starting Jason Hatcher or Stephen Bowen. I think Hatcher would fit well he has showed me some promise in his playing time.

If Thomas and Burnett leave in free agency it would leave the biggest hole in our defense. Basically, it would leave Bobby Carpenter to play next to Bradie James. I dont know your thoughts but thats a frightening thought in my eyes. We all know Ray Lewis is out there and he has said he wants to play in Dallas, but can Jerry afford him?

After D-Ware signs I’m not so sure. Another guy that might be more affordable is Keith Brooking who is suppose to be being released by Atlanta before Friday.

The secondary has potential to be above average. T-New is solid when healthy, but thats the question can he stay healthy? As much as I love the way Roy Williams plays the run and the hits he lays, he just plain stinks in pass coverage. Like Ellis, he is scheduled to make over $6 million this year and might be cut prior to the start of free agency. Its either that or him restructuring to take a major paycut which I don’t see happening either.

My thought was to bulk him up and try him in that middle linebacker spot. I don’t think that’s too far fetched. He is made to hit and I’m surprised I haven’t heard anything like that. If he goes, who is playing strong safety? 

I don’t believe Pat Watkins is ready to step in there so I’d say move Anthony Henry to safety and let Scandrick and Jenkins compete for the corner. My vote, from what I’ve seen, is Scandrick. He just showed me way more last year than Jenkins did. One thing is for certain, count on the Cowboys picking up more corners and safeties in the draft and even free agency.

I want to hear your thoughts Cowboy fans.

Cowboys Free Agents Update

Of 15 Free Agents, only 4 are left to question their future. Three players left the team, four were signed, three were tendered and one was franchised.  

Unrestricted Free Agents (6)

  • LT Flozell Adams  – SIGNED
  • S Ken Hamlin – FRANCHISED
  • RB Julius Jones – WENT TO SEATTLE
  • S Keith Davis – WENT TO MIAMI
  • CB Jacques Reeves – WENT TO HOUSTON
  • CB Nate Jones *UPDATE* – WENT TO MIAMI

Restricted Free Agents (5)

  • RB Marion Barber – ISSUED HIGHEST TENDER
  • DE Chris Canty – ISSUED FIRST-ROUND TENDER
  • LS L.P. Ladouceur – SIGNED
  • RB Tyson Thompson
  • OL Joe Berger – ISSUED TENDER

Exclusive Rights Free Agents (4)

  • DE Stephen Bowen – SIGNED
  • OL Cory Procter
  • CB Evan Oglesby
  • TE Tony Curtis – SIGNED

 

Looking at Free Agents

Unrestricted Free Agents (6)

  • LT Flozell Adams
  • S Ken Hamlin
  • RB Julius Jones
  • S Keith Davis
  • CB Jacques Reeves
  • CB Nate Jones

Restricted Free Agents (5)

  • RB Marion Barber
  • DE Chris Canty
  • LS L.P. Ladouceur
  • RB Tyson Thompson
  • OL Joe Berger

Exclusive Rights Free Agents (4)

  • DE Stephen Bowen
  • OL Cory Procter
  • CB Evan Oglesby
  • TE Tony Curtis

In my opinion the Cowboys must keep Marion Barber, Chris Canty, Ken Hamlin and Tony Curtis. I believe all of those players will help the future of this team. Some might add Flozell in with those names, but he just has too many penalties, and we all know when it comes down to it, penalties can make or break a game. Free agency signing period begins February 29th.

Cowboys fans have fallen in love with Marion Barber. With his rough style that earned him 10 touchdowns and 975 yards as the back-up running back to Julius Jones, its clear why they love him.

 

 

Chris Canty started to shine this year. The 25-year old defensive end had 3.5 sacks and 43 tackles. He is a restricted free agent, but is expected to sign a deal similiar to Jay Ratliff’s 5 year-20 million.

 

 

Ken Hamlin, who signed a one year deal last year, has had a successful year. He had 5 interceptions, 62 tackles (45 solo) and will start in the Pro Bowl next month. That’s more than enough reasons why the Cowboys should give him a contract.

 

 

Tony Curtis, the third string tight end, showed great potential earning 3 touchdowns from only 3 receptions in 2007. He also looked really good in pre-season. Being an exclusive rights free agent, he really has no say in the matter, but I’m sure he will be a Cowboy in 2008.