Saturday, February 28, 2009

Busy Day At Valley Ranch

The first big move of the offseason happened this afternoon when the Cowboys traded Anthony Henry to Detroit for Jon Kitna. It was a very surprising move since it was anticipated that Henry would be contributing in the defense at least part time as a safety this year. I am thrilled that we addressed our most glaring need at backup QB, but I wonder not only about the trade but the timing of the move. If the Cowboys were truly attempting to trade or resign Roy Williams to a new deal then this trade has completely destroyed any leverage the team had.

I'm guessing the Lions forced the Cowboys' hand on this deal because I just don't see Jerry Jones throwing away his only bargaining chip. Maybe Anthony Henry didn't want to move to safety full time. Who knows, but he is gone now so there is no use in crying over spilled milk. We created a hole to fill another hole and we saved money on the salary cap. I'm not thrilled about giving up Henry straight up for Kitna but it isn't the worst move either. At least we have insured that we won't have a repeat of last year if Romo is injured again. Kitna has a lot of experience and he can get the ball down the field. And we have two young cornerbacks who will be competing for the starting spot that Anthony Henry left open.

The Keith Brooking signing looks great for Dallas. The 3-year, $6 million deal the Cowboys got him for seems like a bargain. Brooking is only 33 so he is still young enough to play out his contract. He immediately steps into the position that Zach Thomas vacated at the weak side inside linebacker. I consider him to be a major upgrade. Zach Thomas made a lot of tackles last year but he missed a lot too and it was apparent that he has lost a step or two. Keith Brooking will improve the defense and he has worked with Wade Phillips in the past so he knows what this defensive scheme is all about.

Good riddance to Brad Johnson. I am eternally optimistic about this team and even I have nothing good to say about Brad Johnson. He was an embarrassment to himself, his profession, the organization and the fans last year as the backup quarterback. I just don't understand why the coaches didn't pull the plug on him sooner during Romo's absence. It is time to retire, Brad. You better get out of town fast before Jerry asks for some of his money back after your poor play last season. Kitna will be a major upgrade over Brad Johnson.

It was a busy day and it isn't over yet so maybe there is more news to come. I think the team got better today overall. I'm sure there will be news one way or the other on Roy Williams very soon. It would certainly appear that we will be attempting to bring him back next season to start at the safety position. Maybe he can be more successful in the more aggression version of the 3-4 that the team ran in the second half of the season while Roy was injured. I am always looking for a positive spin on the state of the team and that is all I can come up with for Roy.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Daniel Snyder Strikes Again

All of the Jerry Jones haters out there these days need to realize how lucky they are that they don't have Daniel Snyder as an owner. Jerry Jones gambles and has made many mistakes along the way, but no one can kill a team salary cap like Daniel Snyder. For some reason he just can't help himself when it comes to making a splash with a big name in free agency. Albert Haynesworth is the latest example.

He is a great player when his effort is high, but there are a lot of factors at play with a contract of this magnitude. A player with this size of a contract should be expected to be the face of your franchise. Is that the guy you want representing you? Someone who gets in trouble both on and off the field with his behavior is not the guy I want to pay big money to. Say what you want about T.O., but at least he isn't in trouble with the police and he isn't getting away with inexcusable acts of violence on the field. And don't forget that the only time that Haynesworth has ever really dominated just happened to be a contract year.

Daniel Snyder also just gave DeAngelo Hall a new 6-year, $54 million contract. Another low character guy signed to a huge deal. I've never seen DeAngelo Hall ever do much except post an amazing 40-yard dash time. Imagine the fan outcry if Jerry Jones had made these two free agency moves. I love watching the Redskins make these moves year after year because it just insures that they will continue along the path as a mediocre team.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

RFA's...Cory Proctor?

The Cowboys gave four offers to restricted free agents yesterday. Three of them make perfect sense, but the last one has me wondering what they are thinking. Each player received an offer of $1.545 million which guarantees the Cowboys a second round draft pick and the right of first refusal if they are able to negotiate a deal with another team. Here is a quick player-by-player analysis.

Miles Austin - This was a no brainer. Miles is the only speed receiver on the roster and he showed flashes of talent last year that were tantalizing. He will be the #3 or #4 receiver next season without a doubt. And there is a chance that Miami might try to sign him to a deal anyway so the Cowboys will at least get a second round draft pick in return if they choose not to match the offer.

Sam Hurd - A lot of people are forgetting the Sam was developing into a solid option for Romo prior to last season. He missed nearly the entire season with an ankle injury, but he looks to be a decent player for years to come. Don't forget that there is no official word on T.O., so the Cowboys need to retain depth at the wide receiver position in case they make the decision to part ways with T.O.

Steven Bowen - Another no brainer. With Canty looking for big money in free agency it is looking highly unlikely that he will be back for the Cowboys next season. Locking up Bowen allows the Cowboys to set up a training camp battle between Bowen and Hatcher for the starting position. Training camp battles are always good in my eyes because it ratchets up the intensity and makes guys work harder.

Cory Proctor - This is the move I just don't get. Proctor was absolutely terrible last season. I really thought the Cowboys would let him go. The only justification I can see is that they still view him as a viable option at backup center. He was overpowered countless times last season, but maybe the coaches feel he would fare better at center where he could be involved in more double teams and linebacker blocking. I don't see anything worth keeping in Proctor.

For those of you who believe we are overpaying for Austin, Bowen or Hurd keep in mind that $1.545 million amounts to just over 1% of the $127 million salary cap now that the cap was increased by about $4 million yesterday. 1% seems pretty fair for players you would expect to be regular contributers in 2009.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Henry Can Be the Answer at Safety

One of the first things that pops into my head when I think about offseason moves the Cowboys need to make is always the safety position. The Cowboys were depleted by injuries at the safety position and the situation kept getting worse the longer the season went on. Roy Williams and Pat Watkins were both lost for the season and Keith Davis was playing injured for the last several weeks. Now that I have looked a little more closely I realize that the Cowboys have a lot of options at safety because Anthony Henry is on the team.

There are several paths the Cowboys can choose to take at the safety position. Ken Hamlin is set as a starter at one safety spot but the picture becomes cloudy when you look at the second safety spot. We have players on the team who can fill the role. The current candidates are Anthony Henry, Pat Watkins and Roy Williams. The versatility of Anthony Henry allows for a lot of choices when you look at the second starter.

The Cowboys could move Anthony Henry to free safety and then switch Ken Hamlin to strong safety. After the tackling display by Hamlin in the Ravens game I am not entirely sure that he is capable of playing the strong safety position but the personnel experts all seem to believe that Hamlin is better suited to play closer to the line of scrimmage. He definitely is not making the plays on deep passes and passes over the middle you would hope to see from your free safety. Anthony Henry could finally be the guy who makes a play on all of the 15 yard "in" routes that have been automatic against the defense for the last 2 seasons. Henry has shown over the last few years that he can and will make a play on passes in his direction.

What is even more exciting about this option is continuing the practice that started last season of moving Henry to cover the opponent's tight end in passing situations and then bring in possibly Pat Watkins or Roy Williams to play free safety. I'm not sure Roy Williams is suited for that chore, so finding a place for him in the defensive scheme seems difficult in this scenario. There is also the chance that we bring in a safety via the draft to fill the free safety role in these passing situations if the coaches and GM don't believe Watkins or Williams can fill the role.

The other big positive in this scenario is that it frees up a starting spot for Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick to battle for in training camp. The Cowboys seems to have hit on both cornerbacks that were drafted last season, so we need to get them on the field. It would be great for both players to ratchet up the intensity in camp with a starting position at stake.

Think about this scenario against a 3 wideout set. Mike Jenkins and Terrance Newman at the corners, Orlando Scandrick on the slot receiver, and Anthony Henry on the tight end. This was the package that the Cowboys tried to implement last season, but injuries kept getting in the way. It seems like an awfully tough matchup for any opposing offense, especially if Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick improve through their offseason work.

Anyone watching a Cowboys game can see that Anthony Henry is just not fast enough to stick with a receiver with even average speed anymore, so moving him to free safety seems like an excellent way to extend his career and get the most out of the money he will be paid this upcoming season. His charge against the salary cap will be about $5.6 million, so he needs to be on the field to justify his pay. Having the option to move Henry to safety gives the Cowboys leverage in any renegotiation with Roy Williams and can help prevent them from reaching for a player in the draft at the safety position. We will still need to find depth at safety and/or cornerback in the draft but at least we know that we have several options to work with.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jerry Gave the Media Exactly What They Deserve

The Dallas media and the national media have been down on the Dallas Cowboys for months. Wade Phillips is ridiculed at every turn and Jerry is being cast as a younger version of Al Davis. Anonymous sources seem to be the basis for nearly every report by the media. I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that the Cowboys need to just cut all ties with the media until training camp. Nothing anyone can say is going to change the current perception of this team. I applaud Jerry Jones for stopping all communication between the coaches and the media.

Some say that the move further undermines the authority of Wade Phillips but who are they trying to fool? The media has already gone out of their way to make Wade Phillips out to be Jerry's lapdog anyway. I don't disagree that Wade Phillips needs to show more fire and instill some discipline, but anything he says at this point is only going to be laughed at and mocked by the media.

My message to the media is this: you reap what you sow. I don't want to hear your complaints about a lack of access to the coaches after the last few months of Cowboys bashing that has been going on. Keep writing whatever you want and attribute your stories to "anonymous sources" but I hope you realize that some of us see right through you.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Few Random Thoughts

Jason Witten is the best tight end in the NFL. Chris Cooley is an idiot. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Enough of the speculation about Terrell Owens already. We get it. He is either going to stay or go. I think the story has officially been killed. Let's just wait and see what happens.

Jerry Jones essentially says nothing to the media and they still manage to make a story about it. The media is now coming up with stories on what they think somewhat might have meant. Very professional reporting. Straight out of the Ed Werder school of journalism.

The Julius Peppers to Dallas garbage is officially over now that he has been franchised. It was dumb to think this might ever happen this year to begin with.

How does anyone honestly believe that the Cowboys are going to make a play in free agency when we don't even have enough money to resign Demarcus Ware and our 2009 draft picks right now? I seriously doubt you will hear of any big names coming to Dallas this year.

Miles Austin isn't going anywhere. I know the media is making Jerry Jones out to be a bumbling idiot right now, but he is smart enough to realize the worth of his young receiver. He will be the #3 receiver this year.

There are a lot of veteran quarterbacks available in free agency. The Cowboys have got to find one of them to back up Romo. I hope the Cowboys have a plan in place.

Ray Lewis has played the media like a fiddle. His new contract with the Ravens is getting a little bigger with every new story that speculates on a move to Dallas.

Is Anthony Henry going to move to safety this offseason? I am wondering if the Cowboys are waiting to see if they can find someone and using Henry has the backup plan if free agency and the draft don't find an answer at safety.

Wade Phillips is now the defensive coordinator and people acted surprised. This is the one aspect of coaching where he excels so why wouldn't he run the defense?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Should the Cowboys Bring Back Bollinger?

It became painfully obvious this year that Brad Johnson is no longer a viable option at backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. The coaching staff seemed reluctant to give Brooks Bollinger a chance to run the offense even while Brad Johnson was displaying some of the worst quarterback play in recent memory.

When Bollinger did finally get a chance in the second half of the first Giants game he seemed overwhelmed by the moment. He settled down after some poor play to play decently in the 4th quarter of the game. But the big question is whether he did enough to show that he can fill in for Tony Romo if he gets injured again this season. The Cowboys cannot allow the offense to disappear again this season if they lose their starting QB to injury. Did Brooks Bollinger show enough to prove that he should be resigned to be the backup quarterback for the 2009 Dallas Cowboys? My answer is a definite no.

I am not comfortable with Bollinger as the primary backup for a couple of reasons. Why did it take so long for the coaches to finally give Brooks Bollinger a chance to show what he can do? He either did not know the offense or the coaches honestly felt that Brad Johnson gave the team a better chance to win (which is a very scary thought). Bollinger's history in the league shows that he is not capable of playing at the level that a backup quarterback should be able to for a team with Super Bowl hopes.

My other major question about Bollinger is why did he seem so overwhelmed by the situation in the Giants game? He had a look of terror in his eyes and his first pass was intercepted because he short-armed the ball. There is no telling when the Cowboys might need the backup quarterback to step up and make a play. If Romo were to be injured in the middle of a playoff game we can't afford to let Bollinger work out his jitters for a quarter and a half before he settles down. The backup quarterback has got to be able to come in and manage the game as soon as he sets foot on the field.

I would like to see the Cowboys sign or trade for a veteran quarterback with starting experience who is still under the age of 35. I also think we need to use a mid to late round draft pick on a quarterback who can be developed to be the successor or at least the long term backup to Tony Romo. Our backup quarterbacks should have a similar style to Romo so that the entire game plan does not have to be changed to account for a quarterback change. There are plenty of veteran quarterbacks available and I am confident that a mobile quarterback with a gunslinger style can be found in the draft as well. Backup quarterback should be the top priority this offseason.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Defense Has Got to Play Better

Look at the teams that are playing deep into the playoffs over the last 15 years and you will see that 9 out of every 10 have something in common. Defense. The defense for nearly every Super Bowl team over the last few years has played extremely well down the stretch and in the playoffs. They make big plays when the game is on the line. These aren't necessarily the teams that have dominant defenses during the entire regular season, but the defenses play well when the stakes get high.

Why do I bring this up? The Cowboys defense needs to step up and play better next season. With all of the talk about T.O., Romo, and Garrett, the shoddy play of the defense down the stretch seems to be getting lost in the shuffle. We all can see that they can play well in short stretches within each game, but how many games can you honestly say that the Cowboys won this season because the defense was dominant? Tampa Bay, maybe Washington, and...and...and...that is all I can come up with.

Demarcus Ware is a phenomenal player, but who else makes big plays for this team? Terrance Newman is capable of being a dominant player, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy for 2 consecutive seasons and counting. Jay Ratliff makes plays in the middle of the field but he seems to wear down over the course of the game probably due to his lack of size at the tackle position. For all of the players on this defense that are highly touted it is astounding to see how often they fold under pressure.

When the game is on the line for the Ravens you expect Ed Reed AND Ray Lewis to make plays. For the Steelers, it is Troy Polamalu AND James Harrison. For the Giants on their Super Bowl run it was the entire defensive line. You see my point? Demarcus Ware seems to be alone in his quest for the Cowboys. Do we have the player on this defense who can be the second impact player on the defense? I wish I knew the answer.

The list of candidates is long: Terrance Newman, Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, Greg Ellis, Bradie James, maybe Mike Jenkins, maybe Orlando Scandrick, or even Roy Williams if he could transform into what he used to be. I know these guys are all good players, but we need at least one of them to step up and be great along side Demarcus Ware.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Cowboys Can Win With or Without T.O.

The speculation that Terrell Owens may be released in the next few weeks is running rampant. There are definitely two opposing views on what the Cowboys should do with him. One argument is that he opens up everything for the offense and the Cowboys will take a step back offensively without him. The other view is that T.O. is poisoning this team with his antics and the Cowboys must get rid of him if they want to win.

The reality is that the Cowboys can win with him and they can win without him. The decision to keep him or dispose of him is not going to make or break this team's chances next season. I personally believe that we would be better off without the distractions that seem to follow his every move. But I also understand that he has unbelievable talent that is not easily replaced.

The decision to keep him or cut/trade him is a fork in the road for the direction this team will take next season. Without him on the team it would seem that most of the distractions for the players and the coaches would be eliminated. The coaches could put more focus on utilizing every player on the offense and exploiting the weaknesses of the opposing defenses. Tony Romo wouldn't have to worry about whether T.O. would throw one of his patented tantrums if the ball didn't come his way.

But on the other hand, the way that the Cowboys are defended would probably change dramatically. The defenses would probably be much more balanced and we likely would not see the safety playing 20 yards from the line of scrimmage any more. Major adjustments to the offense would have to be made. But it is not as if this team has a lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball to allow for changes to be made. With Jason Witten, Marion Barber III, Felix Jones, Roy Williams, and Tony Romo it seems that Jason Garrett would still have plenty of weapons at his disposal.

Don't forget about the impact that defense and special teams play in a game. The Cowboys would have probably made the playoffs had it not been for a defensive collapse against the Baltimore Ravens. And the special teams errors combined with a defensive letdown in the 4th quarter cost the Cowboys the game against the Steelers. The Cowboys need improvement on punt returns, punt coverage, and kickoff coverage. They need the defense to consistently perform at a high level. Terrell Owens has no impact on either of these units.

I am really crossing my fingers that T.O. is gone before next season. I believe the team unity would improve dramatically, especially on the offense, but I am not one of those fans who is going to threaten a team boycott if I don't get my way. I have come to accept the fact that Jerry Jones doesn't have much interest in my opinions on the management of his team. I'll keep hoping that Jerry does what I want him to do, but I believe that this team will win no matter what decision is made on Terrell Owens.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

It Is Time for the Talking to Stop

The time has come for this team to stop talking to the media. It has become apparent over the course of the last five weeks that it really doesn't matter what anyone on this team says at this point. The media is going to make any comment fit the current storyline about this team. Let the talking heads on ESPN say what they are going to say. Let the Dallas media keep spreading the negativity. Nothing is going to change their minds about this team but playing better next season.

Anything any player, coach or the owner says at this point is useless as far as next season is concerned. Don't get me wrong about giving the fans information. If a major roster move is made (like the release of Terrell Owens or Roy Williams) then I would expect a statement from the team. But put it out in print. Don't even bother getting in front of a microphone or speaking to any of the media members on the phone. No more anonymous sources.

All of the energy of everyone in this organization needs to be focused on repairing what is broken on this team. The players need to get healthy. We need every player to work harder this offseason to prevent another season like this one. Jerry Jones needs to put all of his energy into making sure the team roster gives us the best chance to win next season. The coaches need to find better ways to utilize the talent on this team and make the players accountable for their play. Our leaders need to be working out of the media spotlight to build team unity. All the talking does is waste energy that could be spent on what is important right now.

It has turned in to the Dallas Cowboys versus the world. Talking isn't getting anyone anywhere but into more turmoil and controversy. Almost every perceived problem this team has can be solved with one simple remedy. Win. Win more games and especially big, high-pressure games late next season. Talking to the media isn't going to help make that happen.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Romo's Broken Pinky Broke the Offense

I can't seem to escape the bashing of Tony Romo these days. It is astonishing to hear some "fans" actually suggest that we need to find a new quarterback. I think some of them are being misled by the media and maybe some of them need to understand just how significant the injury to Romo's pinky actually was.

My gut told me that the injury to Romo's pinky was a major contributor to the struggles of the offense, but I didn't have any proof. I decided to go back and look at the statistics for Tony Romo's 2008 season and make a before/after injury breakdown. I didn't know exactly how it would pan out, but the results are eye opening. I didn't include any numbers from the 3 games he missed. I only calculated his performance based on full games. The stats from the Arizona game were counted since he did play the entire game.

Touchdown Passes (26 Total, 6th in NFL)
Before: 14 in 6 games (2.33 per game)
After: 12 in 7 games (1.71 per game)

Completion Percentage (61% Overall, 16th in NFL)
Before: 64%
After: 59%

Interceptions (14 Total, 6th in NFL)
Before: 5 in 6 games (0.83 per game)
After: 9 in 7 games (1.29 per game)

Turnovers (24 total)
Before: 9 in 6 games (1.5 per game)
After: 15 in 7 games (2.1 per game)

Yards per Attempt (7.7 per attempt, 6th in NFL)
Before: 8.45
After: 7.04

Passing Yards Per Game (265.2 yards per game, 5th in NFL)
Before: 281.5
After: 251.3

Fumbles (13 Total, 2nd in NFL)
Before: 6 in 6 games
After: 7 in 7 games

Team Points Per Game (24.7 for 13 games)
Before: 29.2
After: 20.9

Team Record (8-4 for 12 games)
Before: 4-1 (The Arizona game was tied when the broken pinky occurred)
After: 4-3

Nearly every statistical category showed a significant drop off after the injury. I know that players don't like to use injury as an excuse, but a look at the statistics seems to show that maybe the injury does bear part of the blame for Romo's lackluster season. Even with a decline in his numbers he still finished among the league leaders in many of the categories listed.

The only category that seemed unaffected by the injury was fumbles. Romo recorded an average of one fumble per game both before and after the injury. That number is unacceptable and he clearly needs to work on ball security. It is interesting to note that out of 10 fumbles in 2007, 5 were recovered. Out of 13 fumbles in 2008, only 3 were recovered. You would expect a 50% recovery percentage, so clearly the football gods were not on the side of Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys this season.

If you want to blame Tony Romo for not getting his team fired up and being an emotional leader that seems fair. But the statistics show that Tony Romo is easily a top 10 quarterback in the NFL so any talk of replacing him is just not logical. Not every quarterback has the personality to be the guy who yells and screams. Eli Manning certainly is not an emotional leader and yet, somehow, Peyton's little brother managed to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory. I want Tony to step up and be a vocal leader but I know he is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL even if he doesn't.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Table Is Set for Next Year

Ever since the 2008 season ended in the 44-6 debacle against the Eagles the media onslaught against the Dallas Cowboys has been relentless. "Fans" are jumping off of the bandwagon in droves. ESPN discussed the Cowboys nearly as much as the Cardinals and the Steelers in the 2 weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. The local Dallas media continues to feed the frenzy of the angry fans nearly every day.

I was really growing tired of the negativity for a while but a thought hit me today that changed my tune on the topic. Maybe this is exactly what this team needs. All offseason last year we heard about how great this team was and how they were going to win the Super Bowl. Now the so-called experts of the media are predicting the downfall of the team. I can only hope that the players are listening to all of this and filing it away in their memories to serve as motivation during their offseason preparation and next year's regular season.

How many ways can Tony Romo be slammed? He is supposedly a chronic loser, he has gone Hollywood, he is a choker, he isn't a leader, and on and on and on. I know if I were in Tony Romo's shoes I would do everything in my power to prove everyone wrong next year. It was easy when everyone wanted to tell him how good he was. Now the doubters are multiplying by the day. He can either step up and show that he is what I hope he is or he can make fools of those of us who still believe he can lead us to the promised land. Show us what you are made of, Tony!

Wade Phillips is under fire for letting the inmates run wild. Whether it is his own doing or whether Jerry Jones has undercut his authority it is time for Wade to step up and be the coach of this team. Demand more from your players. Don't accept the excuses and don't make excuses when players screw up. Wade, show us you can be the coach this team needs!

Jerry Jones is being attacked in every way imaginable. He is supposedly the primary reason that this team has underachieved. There are even "fans" out there starting anti-Jerry web sites. It is time to let Wade coach this team. It is time to listen to the people around you who you pay to advise you. You've assembled a team of incredible talent. Now get out of the way. Jerry, show us you can still do what it takes to restore the team to its rightful place as America's Team!

The entire roster is under attack for a lack of leadership, a lack of discipline, and basically for not being a team. It is time for the leaders to step up. Stop running your mouths to the media. Please! I am begging you. Take all of the negativity and turn it into the battle cry for next year. Prove the doubters wrong. There are a lot of them these days. Show us that all of the talent on this roster can actually come together for a singular cause. Show us you are the team that all of your fans know you can be!