Sunday, August 30, 2009

Observations from the 3rd Preseason Game

The regular season is almost here. We have now seen enough in the preseason to know that the Dallas Cowboys will at least be an above average team this season. How far above the average remains to be seen but there is potential for a great season. The third preseason game is typically referred to as the dress rehearsal so the performances from the game give us real insight into the regular season. Here is what I noticed. (At this point in the preseason I am going to focus on the guys who will actually be playing during the regular season.)

Tony Romo looked very good again. One extremely poor deep ball, but everything else was very good. He looked better in the second preseason game but he was missing Roy Williams and Sam Hurd this game. I love that he is keeping two hands on the ball when he scrambles. Hopefully that will cut down on his fumbles this year.

The defense is still a work in progress. The pass coverage was a little soft for my taste but overall they did a solid job. Anthony Spencer is looking better each week. Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick both deserve to start, but I think Jenkins will end up winning.

Special teams play was much better this week. A couple of stupid penalties kept it from being a great performance, but it was still much, much better. Kick and punt coverage was excellent and Terence Newman ripped of a big punt return. Kick returns were not overly impressive.

Kevin Ogletree got to run with the first team and he took advantage of the opportunity. He made a couple of nice plays and you could see that Romo trusted him to be in the right place. He was getting open against man coverage which is more than you can say for some of the guys in front of him on the depth chart. Stanback better hope they keep six receivers or he'll be cut in the near future.

I'm liking Keith Brooking more each week. He has a much better feel for getting to the passer than Zach Thomas did last year. It looks like opposing quarterbacks are going to have to get rid of the ball quickly against the Cowboys due to the pass rush.

The running game looked much better. Marion Barber turned back into the Marion "the Barbarian" this week. I haven't seen him running over defenders since his toe injury last year. He was finally back to bulling over defenders. Felix Jones nearly broke a 94 yard touchdown. The offensive line did a good job opening up holes for both backs.

Miles Austin finally got it going. He was starting so I figured he would finally get a few receptions. It is about time he got involved in the offense.

My favorite moment was when Wade Phillips laid into Courtney Brown after his pass interference penalty. I have never seen such emotion out of Wade. I hope it continues during the regular season.

The injuries started to mount in the second half. It looks like Michael Hamlin will miss 6 weeks with a broken wrist. I was worried when Jason Williams went out with an ankle injury but x-rays were negative and they are saying he might be back for the opener. He is starting to look like a guy who will be on the field this season. Alan Ball was down for a long time with a neck stinger but he appears to be ok. No one was lost for the season so that is a bonus. I wish there were no more preseason games because I hate injuries in games that don't count.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Close Call

I was going through my usual evening routine last night checking the latest Cowboys news when a headline popped up stating that Roy Williams had injured his shoulder. Over the next few hours it went from an unknown injury to a banged shoulder to a broken collarbone (out 6-8 weeks) to an AC joint injury (severity unknown). Then this morning we were all informed that it was simply a bruised shoulder and his status is day to day. This is the second time in a few weeks we have been through this with Roy Williams.

I don't know if it is the media overreacting, Roy being a drama queen, or the training staff being overly cautious. Whatever it is, the stress of it all is going to give someone a heart attack before this is all over. I was skeptical when I heard the injury reports last night because the information was coming from the typical "unnamed sources". I'm not saying I wasn't worried, but I wasn't ready to give up on the season either. It is amazing to read the comments posted on by "fans" during times like last night. Some people were ready to call off the season or give up the farm to trade for Brandon Marshall at the first sign of trouble.

I don't fault Orlando Scandrick in the battle he is having with Roy Williams at practice. Scandrick is practicing hard and trying to get better. It would be nice if it didn't result in the #1 receiver being injured, but he is playing on instinct out there. I just hope he can inflict the same damage on the opposition as he is putting on his own teammates.

It appears that Roy Williams will be ready to go for the season opener and probably sooner than that. Just another day in the life of the Dallas Cowboys. The media frenzy got a little out of control last night and jumped to conclusions. I'm glad it all turned out ok and it just makes me want the regular season to get here faster before a key player really does get seriously hurt.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Just Move the Video Board Already

We all know how this is going to end. Roger Goodell is going to tell Jerry Jones in the very near future that the video board will have to be raised 10-20 feet before the start of the season. He may have privately already told him to do it, but I have to believe that Jerry is fully aware that the board will have to be raised.

I think I know why Jerry Jones is being difficult. $2 million doesn't sound like much to fix the problem when you look at the overall cost of the new stadium. I know I don't like to spend money when I don't have to...especially when I don't think I should be the one paying. Since the NFL reviewed and approved the stadium plans they are at least partially at fault for the problem that the Cowboys now face. If I have to guess I would think that the cost will be shared between the team and the Cowboys.

The "do-over" rule for dealing with a punt hitting the board is the only fair solution but it raises way too many issues to be a viable option. I'm sure at some point in the very near future the board will be raised and the media frenzy over the board can die down. Maybe at that point people will begin to understand and appreciate what an amazing stadium that Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys have created for the league.

Hey, it wouldn't be the Dallas Cowboys if something that should be a minor fix isn't blown out of proportion and made into national headlines and a SportsCenter lead. How 'bout them Cowboys!

Update: In a shocking decision, Roger Goodell has decided against requiring the Cowboys to raise the video board. I don't agree with that decision, and I hope that this doesn't become a bigger issue down the road.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Forget About Greg Ellis

It took one injury for the doom and gloomers to come out of the woodwork to slam Jerry Jones, again, for releasing Greg Ellis. They are crying that the depth is gone and all is lost because Brandon Williams is out for the year with a torn ACL. What's funny is that Williams has done next to nothing since being drafted outside of rehabbing various injuries. There are plenty of players on the team capable of providing depth at outside linebacker even without Brandon Williams.

Before I discuss the guys still on the team to provide depth I'd like to remind some of the fans about the attitude of Greg Ellis. Over the past few years he had become a constant whiner and complainer about his role in the defense. How do you think he would be handling spot duty on the defense after all his years as a starter? From his offseason comments he wasn't going to be a good teammate and do what was best for the team without undermining the authority of the coaches. That was reason enough to get rid of him. The team is now basically complaint free for the first time in a long time. I loved him as a player for the Cowboys but his complaints had worn me out over the last few years. The last thing you need on a team is a bad example to follow.

Victor Butler is still here to provide depth and was improved in his second preseason game. Steve Octavien looked like a guy who can provide pressure on the quarterback from the outside linebacker spot. Jason Williams is slated to play inside but he has the skills to rush off the edge. Bobby Carpenter could even fill in from time to time since Keith Brooking is also able to play the nickel linebacker spot. Obviously there are still plenty of players who can fill the backup role.

Don't forget we are talking about a guy who was going to be a spot player at best. Anthony Spencer and Demarcus Ware will be on the field for the vast majority of the defensive snaps. You can play the "what if" game with injuries to either guy but we could do that at every position and there will always be uncertainty when starters get hurt. Greg Ellis was too pricey and too much of a whiner to justify keeping.

Like Mickey Spagnola of always can't have a steak on every plate. In other words, you can't afford to pay guys $4 million to play a backup role in the defense...especially if the player is going to complain to his teammates, the coaches and the media about his playing time.

Is the defense a little weaker without Greg Ellis? Maybe, but maybe not. Time will tell. The bottom line is that what's done is done with Greg Ellis. Any rehashing and Jerry bashing is just white noise to me because I have moved on as I am sure the team has as well. Injuries are part of life in the NFL. Someone has to step up and fill the void.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thoughts From the 2nd Preseason Game

Tony Romo looks great. He stayed calm in the pocket and made quick, decisive throws. I was most impressed by the way he kept two hands on the ball as he slid in the pocket to find a throwing lane. I don't know if there is a better combination than Romo to Witten. And the timing with Roy Williams is not a concern to me at all any more.

The offensive line is doing a great job pass blocking. I'm not sold on their run blocking yet but they were going against the Titans defense so I'll give them a break for now. What I love the most is how comfortable Tony Romo is in the pocket because he has trust that his line will get it done.

Felix Jones is the big play guy in the offense without a doubt. He took a short pass and broke it for a 42 yard gain. He is the only guy on the offense that can go the distance on any play. And he can do it running wide, running between the tackles, or catching the ball. He is the one guy who will keep the defense honest.

The starting defense looked good but not great. I like the way the run defense looks but I still have concerns about the coverage of the secondary. Mike Jenkins seems to be a guesser and was repeatedly beaten deep because he was looking in the backfield and trying to get a break on the short passes. Terence Newman looked very good coming off of his injury and was the best tackler on the starting defense. Anthony Spencer looked better and had a quarterback pressure but I still want to see more from him. The reserves looked better too but I think it had more to do with the poor quarterbacking of Vince Young than anything else.

Special teams is still a problem. I'm waiting for the genious of Joe DeCamillis to show up on the field. Matt MacBriar is back to his old form, but Folk and the coverage units need major improvement before the season starts. I don't know why the Cowboys can't tackle on special teams but somehow they need to improve. They seem to get in position to keep the returns short but then can't break down and wrap up to bring the returner down. DeAngelo Smith should not return any punts in a real game this year. He can't be trusted to catch the ball.

What can the Cowboys do to reduce the number of penalties? They always seem to come at the worst time. I don't know if it is a lack of focus or what but it sure is irritating.

Anyone who thinks Jon Kitna will ever take the starting job from Tony Romo is an idiot. Kitna is clearly better than Brad Johnson, but there is a big drop off in talent when he takes over. I think he can fill in for a few games but the team is in trouble if Romo goes down this year. Kitna does throw a better ball on the fade than Romo but that is about it. For some reason Romo just can't get that pass down.

Kevin Ogletree is the 5th receiver. I don't care what happens from this point forward. Ogletree won the job tonight. Stanback is a great athlete but he has never shown ability as a receiver. Ogletree already has done more in two preseason games than we have ever seen from Stanback.

And the best news once major injuries. Brandon Williams hurt his knee but I'm not counting on him being healthy at this point. I would love to see the Cowboys make it to the regular season with all of their key players at 100%. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Preseason Game 2 Preview

The Cowboys finished their last practice in San Antonio today and packed up for Dallas. They will be playing the Titans on Friday in their first "game" in the new stadium. The starters on both sides of the ball are expected to play at least two quarters and as much as three quarters. This game and the third preseason game will give all of us the best idea of what to expect out of the Dallas Cowboys this season. Here are the top 10 things I will be looking for on Friday.

1. No injuries. The Roy Williams scare over the weekend was a reminder of the depth concerns with the roster this season. Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins will be playing so I hope they are fully healed.

2. Tony Romo continuing to develop on-field chemistry with Roy Williams. All reports are that they are getting better by the day, but they need to gain confidence in game situations so they can get off to a good start in week 1 of the regular season.

3. The starting secondary doing a great job in pass coverage. We haven't seen them together on the field yet and the Titans don't have a dynamic passing game. The secondary should be able to shut down the passing game of the Titans. On another note in the secondary...the reserve players have got to show they are better than last week. They can't possibly be as bad as they looked.

4. The offensive line opening holes in the running game. The offense is supposed to be more run oriented this season but that can only happen if the line is opening holes for the running backs.

5. Felix Jones getting involved in the offense. We saw a glimpse of how Jason Garrett is going to use him in the first preseason game, but now Garrett gets a chance to show that he is committed to using Felix Jones this year.

6. The battle between Sam Hurd and Miles Austin. It is going to be won over the course of the rest of the preseason. It appears that Hurd is ahead right now, but Austin still has a chance to assert himself. Either way both guys will play a lot this year.

7. Isaiah Stanback vs. Kevin Ogletree. It looks like the 5th receiver spot is basically down to these two players. Stanback is starting to flash some ability, but can he make it through the next three preseason games without getting hurt?

8. Keith Brooking establishing himself in the defensive scheme. We didn't get to see much out of the starters in the first game so I didn't see Brooking do much outside of the sack he made. I am going to watch him more closely to see if he is reading and reacting like he needs to be.

9. Bobby Carpenter continuing to solidify his nickel linebacker job. He is looking more comfortable the more he is on the field. I am becoming more convinced by the day that all he needed was a chance to get regular playing time.

10. Improvement from all reserve players. My biggest worry after the first preseason game is the depth on the roster. All of the young players need to play with more confidence than last week. There are a lot of very young reserve players so I think they'll get better as they get more experience in game situations.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Roy Williams Is Responding Well to the Pressure

I felt a huge sense of relief today when I heard that Roy Williams was not only practicing, but playing great. Losing Roy is not something that needs to happen before the season even starts. What was extremely encouraging were the comments that he made to the media after practice.

Roy said he wanted to get back on the field because he wants to prove to his teammates, the fans, and the media that he is tough enough to push through some pain. He also admitted that some of his motivation was to avoid a core workout on the side with the trainers, but at least he was honest. It would have been easy for him to sit out for a few days and get a break from the monotony of camp, but I think he realizes that all eyes are on him this season.

Roy Williams expects to play in the preseason game Friday against the Titans. Again, this is great news because the more work he and Tony Romo get in game situations the better off the offense will be when the season starts. I was expecting him to miss a few days. This turned out to be the best case scenario for an injury which is unusual for the Cowboys over the last couple of years.

In other excellent news, Terence Newman made a strong return to practice as well. It sure would be nice to make it to the regular season with the core group of starters on both sides of the ball healthy. The nicks and bruises that are adding up are to be expected, but it always makes me nervous when the key players are hurting.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Cowboys Appear to Have Dodged a Bullet

After a few anxious hours today it was reported that Roy Williams is day-to-day with a sprained wrist. The severity is unknown, but X-rays were negative so he doesn't have any broken bones. He'll probably miss some practice time, but it doesn't look like it is anything that will keep him out long term. The Cowboys are still waiting on results from an MRI, so that could still reveal a more serious injury than is currently being reported.

Operating under the assumption that Roy Williams will only miss a few days or even a week while he rests the wrist the only concern is going to be the practice time he misses. Tony Romo and Roy Williams were really starting to click so I hope his time away from practice is short so they can continue to build on the trust they are gaining with one another.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this is actually a day-to-day injury as it is being reported because the Cowboys don't have enough quality receivers on the roster to make up for the loss of the #1 guy. Unfortunately, with the Cowboys, a day-to-day injury tends to turn into a longer stretch of missed practices. Let's just hope that this is much ado about nothing and he is back in a few days.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What Did the 1st Preseason Game Tell Us?

The first preseason game is in the books and it gave some insight into the current state of the Dallas Cowboys. The starters on offense put together a very nice touchdown drive to end their day. The defense was shaky and it was obvious that they were working with young, inexperienced cornerbacks. Once both starting units finished up things got a little bit scary. The youth of the team depth was very apparent but I know the young guys will get better the more they play. Here is what I saw out of each position group last night.

Quarterbacks: Tony Romo is still Tony Romo. He is a very good and potentially great quarterback. He looked good running the offense, and, most importantly, he seemed composed and patient. He didn't force the ball to any receiver in his limited attempts and he was calm in the pocket. Jon Kitna was up and down, but really got things going with Sam Hurd. Kitna looks like a major upgrade over Brad Johnson even if his lone deep ball was picked off. Kitna is willing to get the ball down the field. Stephen McGee is very green. He looked uncomfortable in the pocket and often scrambled before it was necessary. He was hesitant to throw the ball, but he did show a strong arm and a good ability to run. He'll only get better.

Running Backs: Marion Barber looked ok but Felix Jones was exciting. I was happy to see Barber back to full health but we probably won't see him truck over many defenders until the regular season. Felix Jones was explosive and it going to make the defenses honest. I love how he opens up the entire offense just by being out there as a threat. Tashard Choice was solid but missed one key blitz pick up. Things like that are going to cost him playing time and he isn't going to get much as it is. Deon Anderson was missed as a lead blocker. Julius Crosslin missed a couple of blocks and needs to get it going because the Cowboys might need him in the first few games of the season.

Wide Receivers: Roy Williams and Tony Romo connected on a nice timing route. Patrick Crayton was his usual self, but the guy that stole the show for the receivers was Sam Hurd. He was on fire in the second quarter and looked leaps and bounds ahead of Miles Austin at this point in the preseason. Sam Hurd was the one guy on the field that really got my juices flowing because he was flat-out dominating. Miles Austin dropped a perfectly thrown ball on a slant that may have been a huge play. After that it was really hard to judge the receivers because Stephen McGee struggled so much running the offense in the second half. Isaiah Stanback did look good on a couple of kick returns and Kevin Ogletree nearly broke a return for a touchdown.

Tight Ends: Jason Witten was his usual all-pro self and caught a TD pass from Romo. No surprise that Romo went to Witten when the play broke down. Martellus Bennett caught a short pass in the flat and then steamrolled over a defensive back for a nice gain. I didn't notice much in the running game for either tight end. John Phillips looked decent in his time on the field. Scott Chandler made a few nice plays as well.

Offensive Line: The starters looked pretty good, but a mistake by Kyle Kosier on the goal line was irritating. I would love to see Holland get a shot with the starters. Doug Free actually looked pretty good manning the backup left tackle role. Cory Proctor and Jon Kitna had some snap issues that should never happen. One was a fumbled snap and another was a shotgun snap over Kitna's head. I don't know why the Dallas centers have so much trouble with the shotgun snap.

Defensive Line: Olshansky really did a good job stuffing several runs in his direction. I didn't notice Marcus Spears but the defensive scheme doesn't showcase the ends. Jay Ratliff caused chaos in the middle was usual. Junior Siavii and Tim Anderson didn't show up much during the game but it is hard to judge what they did since they primarily need to hold up the middle of the line. I know Marcus Dixon played but I only saw him jog off the field so I have no idea what he did.

Outside Linebackers: Demarcus Ware looked good as usual. Anthony Spencer didn't put much pressure on the quarterback but he did make a nice play covering the fullback in pass coverage. Spencer will have to do a better job rushing the quarterback or Ware is going to get doubled all year. Victor Butler put pressure on the quarterback a few times but he looked lost against the run.

Inside Linebackers: Keith Brooking made a sack thanks to a perfectly executed blitz by the defense. He was active and around the ball. Bradie James was solid. Bobby Carpenter got extensive playing time and did a good job. He was all over the field and made a nice pass breakup on a seam pass to the tight end. I think he has the nickel job sewn up. Jason Williams was completely lost out there. He got beaten by about 10 yards by the tight end on one play and was out of position on several plays. He did a good job rushing the passer though.

Cornerbacks: Ouch. The Cowboys need Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins out there or they are going to have trouble against the pass. Orlando Scandrick played great and Alan Ball was solid. After that the cornerbacks were awful. Mike Mickens didn't seem to understand that a game was going on. He was beaten time after time after time. Courtney Brown couldn't cover anyone either. I think there are four guys ready to play cornerback, but Mike Mickens better turn things around before the season starts or depth is going to be a major concern.

Safeties: Gerald Sensabaugh and Ken Hamlin both did a good job in coverage. Hamlin dropped an interception but made the play against a streaking, speedy receiver. Sensabaugh was called for a pass interference on a deep ball. Mike Hamlin is going to be a starter some day. He was good in run support. Pat Watkins didn't play very well and I'm starting to think his days with Dallas are over.

Special Teams: Can you say David Buehler? He delivered on a touchback on a kickoff as promised. And he was all over the place on the special teams units. He even ran down the field to make a tackle on a kickoff even though the announcers failed to notice it. Nick Folk missed a short field goal but I'll give him a pass since they were playing on a baseball field. Matt McBriar had some good punts and some not so good punts. I'm sure he'll be ok when the season starts. Willie Reed didn't show anything on punt returns and DeAngelo Smith misplayed a punt. The search for a punt returner besides Patrick Crayton may come up empty.

The best news of the night was that there were no major injuries. I found myself terrified at the thought of an injury to Tony Romo. I'll be glad when the real games start so I don't think "don't get hurt" on nearly every play the starters are out there.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Who I'll Be Watching in the First Preseason Game

Preseason games can be dull since the games don't count, but if you know what to look for they can be pretty interesting. The first preseason game usually doesn't showcase the starters on either side of the ball for too long. With all of the young players vying for roster spots it will still be fun to watch. I am excited to see several of the young players show what they can do in a game situation. Here are the guys I'll be watching and why.

Isaiah Stanback: This story is well documented at this point. It is put up or shut up for Stanback. He needs to prove he is worth keeping around. He needs to play great and stay healthy for the rest of camp or he'll be cut and he knows it.

Kevin Ogletree: I keep hearing the reports of how good he is playing. I saw it with my own eyes at training camp, but games tend to bring out the best (or worst) in players. Let's see what he can really do when it counts...sort of.

Mike Mickens: When I saw him early in training camp he looked terrible. Over the last week he has picked up his game and is making plays. He is going to get a lot of playing time with Jenkins and Newman out. Let's see if he was a draft steal or a wasted pick.

Michael Hamlin: He is probably going to end up as a starting safety one day. I want to see if he can make the plays he has been making in practice against a real opponent.

Alan Ball: He looked great when it counted against Tampa Bay last season but he hasn't been on the field much since then. He is going to play some cornerback in this game and I am excited that he is getting a chance to prove himself again.

David Buehler: He was primarily brought in to kickoff. Let's see if he can force as many touchbacks as we are all hoping he can.

Jesse Holley: The 4th & Long series makes this guy interesting. I am pulling for him but he really needs to shine to make the team.

Jason Williams: Will he look lost playing linebacker? We know he is an athletic freak but I want to see if he is picking up the techniques he needs to get on the field this year.

Brandon Williams: Bring on the pass rush. The Cowboys need all the help they can get when it comes to depth at outside linebacker.

Victor Butler: See Brandon Williams.

DeAngelo Smith: The media reports say he is struggling to adapt to playing safety. Maybe a game will bring out the best in him. I really want to see if he is a dynamic punt returner more than anything else.

Junior Siavii/Tim Anderson/Marcus Dixon: Are any of them good enough to be counted on as the backup defensive tackle?

Miles Austin: Will he outperform Sam Hurd? So far Hurd seems to have the advantage in their battle but a strong performance will probably give him the edge.

Sam Hurd: Can he carry his practice performance into a game? He was starting to emerge last preseason before he injured his ankle. Maybe he will break out this season.

Bobby Carpenter: He appears to have the nickel linebacker job locked up, but Wade Phillips needs to see that Bobby can get the job done in a game situation.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Case for Kevin Ogletree

It is looking more and more like Kevin Ogletree is winning the battle for the #5 receiver spot on the final roster. There is still a long way to go and the preseason games will probably be the deciding factor in the competition. From what I have seen in person and from what the media and coaches are saying, it is Ogletree's job to lose.

So who is this guy? He is an undrafted free agent out of Virginia. He is listed as 6"0" and 196 pounds. Certainly not big, but not a small receiver either. The stat that catches my eye is his 4.30 40 time at the NFL combine (his official time was 4.36). He had ACL surgery on his knee in March of 2007. He came back to have a solid junior season. He entered the draft early even though he could have improved his draft stock with a good senior season. He was actually projected as a 4th round pick so the Cowboys got a steal when they signed him as an undrafted free agent. He graduated with his sociology degree a semester early.

What could be happening here is that we are seeing the usual progression following an ACL surgery. Most guys return to the field within a year but usually take two years to regain their speed and explosiveness. The Cowboys had nothing to lose by giving him a shot and it appears he is making the most of his opportunity. The fact that he went undrafted is probably adding some fuel to his fire because he clearly has some skills as a receiver. His ability to return punts is helping his cause even more.

I like Ogletree as the #5 receiver for several reasons. First of all, he has the best speed out of all of the guys he is fighting for the spot. He can return punts which is a major plus since the Cowboys don't have a true punt returner on the team. He is on the still improving as a receiver since he is so young. I think it will come down to Jesse Holley, Isaiah Stanback and Ogletree for the 5th receiver spot but Ogletree wins it based on receiving skills, health, and his ability to return punts.

Update: Apparently Ogletree is no longer in the mix as a punt returner. I'm not quite sure why that is the case but he'll have to make the team primarily on his receiving skills.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cornerback Injuries...Time To Worry?

In just one practice the Cowboys went from a relatively injury free camp to a suddenly injury plagued least at the cornerback position.  Mike Jenkins sprained his ankle and Terence Newman has a mild groin strain.  They are both now listed as day to day on the injury report.  The problem with day to day is that it sometimes drags out or even turns out to be a much bigger injury than first anticipated.  So the big question is whether we should all be losing sleep over what is being described as relatively minor injuries.

Terence Newman has developed a scary trend for what is now the third season in a row.  Last year we were told that he had a mild groin strain and then things lingered and worsened to the point that he eventually required surgery due to a sports hernia.  I have a hard time taking Wade Phillips at his word on injury comments because he has a tendency to downplay every injury that happens.  All we can do is keep our fingers crossed that this really is minor for Newman because these groin strains have a way of lingering for long periods of time.

Mike Jenkins is another story.  Some guys bounce back from ankle sprains very quickly but others take months to get back to 100%.  The severity of the sprain is part of the equation but some guys are just fast healers.  Jenkins didn't seem to be a fast healer after his hamstring pull last season but he did come back and look very strong after his rehab stint.  I'm going to hope this sprain is minor enough that Jenkins has plenty of time to get himself back to 100% a couple of weeks before the regular season so he can get his confidence back.

I'm not going to go jump off of a bridge and call the season a bust after these two injuries but I am definitely concerned.  There are some young guys who will benefit from the extra practice reps.  How quickly Newman and Jenkins get back to full time practice will tell us everything we need to know about the severity of the injuries.  If at least one of them can get back to practice within the next week then I won't be worried.  If both guys are back I'll be elated.  But if Jenkins and Newman are both still out in two weeks then I am going to start sounding the alarm.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Austin May Win the #3 Job Despite the Play of Hurd

The training camp practice I attended last Friday was very interesting in terms of the wide receiver play. Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton looked obviously a cut above the rest of the receiver group, but the next player in my rankings would have been Sam Hurd. He caught every ball in sight and got himself open regularly. Miles Austin, on the other hand, was nearly invisible.

It appears, based on the media practice reports, that Hurd has continued his stellar play while Austin has been steady but not a standout. Hurd may deserve to win the #3 receiver role, but his lack of speed will probably cost him the job. Miles Austin has proven that he can force the safety to stay deep when he is in the game. Sam Hurd has never shown blazing speed.

If you consider a three receiver set you have to wonder who would keep the defense from jumping the short and intermediate routes if Sam Hurd were on the field with Crayton, Roy Williams, and Witten. Maybe motioning Felix Jones into the slot or sending him deep out of the backfield could provide a deep threat but that can't happen on a regular basis.

So, in my mind, Miles Austin will get more playing time than Sam Hurd for one reason...speed. I love how Sam Hurd is playing and I think he deserves to get on the field. Unfortunately he is not the guy who will keep the safety from cheating to help on Jason Witten and Roy Williams.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Do You Think Isaiah Stanback Can Stay Healthy?

I've finally reached my breaking point with Stanback.  I have always hoped he could turn his tremendous athletic ability into production on the field for the Cowboys.  But it seems like he will eternally be teasing us with potential only to disappoint us with yet another injury.  The latest injury, a hamstring strain, is said to be very minor but it is just another on what is becoming a very long list.  

He was drafted injured coming off of foot surgery.  Then it was a separated shoulder which needed surgery followed by another shoulder injury which resulted in surgery.  This summer when he really needed to get in some work to develop his receiving skills he injured his knee which ended in another surgery.  Now he was supposed to be healthy for training camp but only lasted a few practices before the strained hamstring put him out of action again.

The injuries wouldn't be so bad if the team knew that he had the receiving skills to produce in games.  The problem is that he is trying to make the transition from quarterback to receiver but he can't stay on the field long enough to fully develop his receiver skills.  I would be more inclined to hold onto hope for him if I had seen him make some plays as a receiver.  He has flashed some great athleticism on kick returns and that has always kept me hoping for more.

I just don't see how the Cowboys can afford to keep Stanback as the 5th receiver even if he recovers from his latest setback and finishes training camp healthy.  I would be worried that he would be injured again at any moment.  The only way I can see him making the final roster would be if one of the rookie receivers shows some ability and can make it through waivers to land on the practice squad.  That would leave an insurance policy if Stanback can't stay on the field.  And now with guys like Jesse Holley, Kevin Ogletree and Mike Jefferson playing well in camp I'm not even sure that Stanback can beat those guys out for a roster spot.

I hope I'm wrong about Isaiah Stanback, but I'm done believing that he'll pan out in the end.  I'll be thrilled if he proves me wrong but I won't be holding my breath.  He seems to be one those guys that, for whatever reason, just can't stay healthy.