Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The 2009 Cowboys Are A New Team

As the days and months have passed since the season ending loss to Philadelphia there has a been a slow, but steady stream of changes within the roster and coaching staff of the Dallas Cowboys. It is funny to hear people make predictions about the upcoming season based on the last two year's results. The 2009 Dallas Cowboys are a very different team than the 2007 and 2008 editions. I'm not even close to feeling like I know what the future holds for the Cowboys. What I do know is that I can't expect more of the same from my beloved team.

Here is a list of some of the players who are no longer on the roster for one reason or another: Terrell Owens, Anthony Henry, Roy Williams, Terry "Tank" Johnson, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Tra Battle, Chris Canty, Kevin Burnett, Keith Davis, Brooks Bollinger, Brad Johnson, Tony Curtis, and in the near future, Greg Ellis. I'm sure I forgot a few, but that is a big list and some of those names were key contributors to the team over the last few years. Don't be fooled, this is a different team than we have watched over the last few years.

12 players were drafted and several were added via free agency. There have been so many players added to the roster it is easy to forget some of them. The defense looks like it will have 5 new starters this season: Keith Brooking at weak inside linebacker, Igor Olshansky at defensive end, Mike Jenkins or Orlando Scandrick at cornerback, Gerald Sensabaugh or one of the rookies at safety, and Anthony Spencer at outside linebacker. That is a huge amount of change from last season.

The offense is actually pretty stable with one huge exception. Roy Williams will now be the lead guy at receiver and Miles Austin, Patrick Crayton, or Sam Hurd will start at receiver. Other than that the only remaining possible change could be left guard. Kyle Kosier is probably going to have to fight off Montrae Holland during training camp to retain his starting job. So there are many changes but the one major change was a franchise defining move. Roy Williams has some very big shoes to fill.

My point here is that you need to point out to anyone that will listen that it is unfair to predict what this team will do based on the teams from the last few years. This is a much different team and I don't think anyone can say with any certainty what we can expect the Cowboys to do. I tend to lean towards the optimistic side but I don't have much to go on but blind faith right now. It is going to be very interesting to see how the team comes together over the next few months. There is still a lot of talent on the roster but the coaches are going to have their hands full getting everyone on the same page before the season gets underway in September.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Is Greg Ellis Staying or Going?

The Cowboys sent Greg Ellis home from OTA's last week to prevent him from being injured while they attempt to negotiate a trade. This was a surprising revelation considering the lack of experienced depth at outside linebacker. Anthony Spencer was tabbed the starter early in the offseason but it was assumed that Ellis would be the pass rush specialist in the defense. The Cowboys drafted two players to develop at outside linebacker but I'm very surprised they are willing to go with two backups with no NFL experience over Ellis.

I think there are two things at play. Number one, Greg Ellis has a very high cap number for a guy who will be a part time player. The Cowboys have a little cap room right now but they have to get Demarcus Ware re-signed and sign their draft picks while staying under the salary cap. Releasing Ellis will create some cap room. The second issue at play is the attitude of Greg Ellis. He has never seemed very willing to relinquish his role as the starter. I wonder whether he is fighting the coaches over his new role in the defense.

I really respect Greg Ellis for battling back from two serious injuries and leading the team during some down years. But the last few years have seen him transform into a perpetual offseason whiner and complainer about his future role with the team. He is a good, not great player who doesn't seem to view himself that way. I respect the fact that he can't see himself as a backup but the Cowboys have to start cutting the cord on aging players. The mistake that Jerry Jones made with the team in the late 90's was relying on players in their twilight years and overpaying for their services. It seems like maybe Jerry has learned his lesson on that front.

I would love to see Ellis come back under a lower cap number and accept his role as a part time player but I don't see a realistic chance of that happening. Greg Ellis has been a great pro for the Cowboys and it will be sad to see him go. I hope he can have a few more good years in the league and find a place that makes him happy. Even with his complaining over the last few years I'll remember him as a solid player and a good person who did himself and the team proud while he was a Dallas Cowboy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Some Random Thoughts

Is Joe DeCamillis the right man to lead the special teams or what? How can you not follow a guy who is back on the field coaching less than two weeks after surgery to fuse vertebrae due to a broken neck? I am impressed to say the least. I have to believe the players are sold on Coach D and will follow him anywhere now.

Keith Davis is officially gone. I don't know if the Cowboys passed or he just moved on, but he is now with the Oakland Raiders. Once the Cowboys made it apparent through their draft picks that they were revamping the special teams it started to feel like this was going to happen. I'll miss Keith Davis and I think the Cowboys will have to hope to find someone to step up to be the leader on special teams. Maybe Joe DeCamillis is such a strong personality that the leadership of Keith Davis is no longer needed. Time will tell.

Another surgery for Isaiah Stanback? The Cowboys don't have any more time to wait for him to develop. This was supposed to be the year that he finally stepped up and showed us all that he could be an NFL receiver. He better make it back in time for training camp. Even if he does he is going to have to show something special to make the final roster. I guess he is just one of those guys who just can't stay healthy. Stanback's speed and exposiveness are apparent when he is actually healthy enough to get on the field but he just hasn't done enough to make the team keep waiting on him any longer.

I have said this many, many times already but here we go again. A few positive remarks about Kitna from some of the writers who went to the first OTA practice and now the Kitna lovers are back. If you really believe that he will replace Romo as the starter you are absolutely crazy. The only way Kitna ever starts is if Romo is injured. And Romo's job is safe if he is out for a few games regardless of Kitna's performance. I don't know why some people can't go look at some of the numbers that Romo has put up and realize that he is a very good quarterback. And Jerry Jones didn't give him $60+ million to watch Kitna run the offense.

Don't even get me started on Michael Vick. He will not play for the Cowboys. And I would never want him on my team no matter how many people speak up for him. Tony Dungy making the whole "he didn't have a father figure" excuse for him makes me sick. A lot of people grow up without a father and they don't run gambling rings, smoke weed and get caught while waiting for trial, and mutilate and kill animals with their bare hands. Something is not right with Michael Vick. To me he is just like Pacman...rotten to the core. Spare me the "bring Vick to Dallas" garbage. (And I even left out the airport "water bottle" incident, lying to the NFL commissioner's face and his owner's face about the dog fighting, flipping off his fans, and the Ron Mexico fiasco.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

4th And Long Is the Real Deal

When I first heard the news that Michael Irvin would be running a reality show to find a player for the Dallas Cowboys my first reaction was that this would be another distraction for the team to deal with. After watching last night's debut of 4th And Long on Spike TV I will admit that I was dead wrong. The show is no joke. The coaches and former players running the drills on the show are no joke. The players trying to get one last shot at an NFL roster are no joke. All I can say after watching the show!

Obviously the players vying for the 80th roster spot are not first round draft pick material but they are all former college players who didn't make it to the NFL for whatever reason. Some of them seem to have come up with excuses to justify their shortcomings, but some of them seem to have real reasons that derailed their careers. For example, one player tore his MCL the day before his pro day in college and ended up not getting drafted. That seems legitimate. One guy wanted to blame his agent for his failures. That is a bogus excuse to me.

Regardless of all that the former Dallas Cowboy coaches and players are not running the show like you might expect when you hear about a reality TV show. Coach Joe Avezzano, Bill Bates, Michael Irvin, and Nate Newton are making it clear to the 12 players that they are going to have to show that they have the talent and especially the desire to earn the 80th roster spot. Players were throwing up just a few minutes into the first episode. No one had sympathy for them. Drew Pearson showed up to give a short speech about making the most of their last chance. He was an undrafted player out of college and ended up with over 500 career receptions.

Michael Irvin reminded me throughout the show that even if he had off the field issues as a player, there is no doubting that he knows the value of hard work and desire. You can see exactly why he was the inspirational leader for the Super Bowl teams of the 90's. Some of his lines during the show actually gave me chills because I felt ready to strap on a chinstrap and run through the drills with those guys. I didn't expect to be saying this, but I will be watching every episode of this show. You never know...maybe one of these guys can actually help the Dallas Cowboys this season.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Roy, Welcome to the Dallas Cowboys

Roy Williams doesn't seem to quite understand just yet how much he is going to be scrutinized as a member of the Dallas Cowboys team. Every move he makes and every word out of his mouth is going to be over analyzed. The sooner he understands that fact the better off he will be.

The only thing that is going to shut up all of his naysayers and doubters is production early and often when the season starts. Then he will need to help the team make some noise in the playoffs and then maybe he'll start to get the respect he wants. He seems extremely motivated to prove that he is worthy of the cost the Cowboys paid to bring him to Dallas. His extra work with Tony Romo shows that he is dedicated to having the best season possible.

How well he performs is going to be one of the keys to a successful season and I think he knows that. A few big games will quiet the critics momentarily but the end result has to be playoff success. Hopefully he can keep using all of the scrutiny as extra motivation throughout the season because the chatter is only going to increase as the season goes on.

If I could speak to Roy Williams directly for a few minutes I would like to tell him this...Roy, this is what it is to be a Dallas Cowboy. No one cares about what you did as a Texas Longhorn anymore. No one cares what you did as a Detroit Lion. No one even cares what you did last season. The only thing that matters is getting to the playoffs and winning in the playoffs. Accept it and use it to motivate you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The New Home Will Be Cowboys Stadium

At least for now. I honestly don't care what the name is right now because I know it will be changing soon anyway. The only reason I even mention the name here is because there are so many people who seem to be upset about the name choice. Some think Jerry Jones is being greedy by not making a deal now for the naming rights. Some people think the temporary name should have more meaning. I actually think Jerry is doing the best thing he can do right now to maximize his revenue from the new stadium and to keep more people from hating him.

Would you make a deal for say $25 million over 20 years if you knew that by waiting a year or two you could make $50 million over 20 years? You have to put yourself in the shoes of Jerry Jones to really answer that question because I'm sure Jerry Jones has all the money he needs to maintain his lifestyle indefinitely. So he can wait for the best deal to come to him as soon as the big corporations start offering him big money when the economy improves. If you look at it that way, he is making the smart choice financially.

Now let's think about what would happen if the temporary name was meaningful. Like maybe Tom Landry Stadium. How mad would some people get if the name was Tom Landry Stadium and then two years from now Jerry had a press conference to announce that that name was changing to AT&T Stadium or Capital One Stadium? There would be some people seriously upset about something like that going down. That is exactly why you choose a name that is completely nondescript and forgettable.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tony Romo Is Playing Golf...Get Over It

Tony Romo is trying to qualify for the U.S. Open and the Byron Nelson tournament again this year. And of course the "fans" are up in arms about it. Seriously? I would love for someone to give me a good explanation as to how exactly we have earned the right to dictate his activities on his personal time. It would be one thing if he were out sky diving or even doing motorcycle tricks like Kellen Winslow, Jr. But we're talking about the game of golf. The game is played by old, fat men. He is not risking injury so what else could the issue be?

Oh yeah, he should be working on his game 24 hours a day, 365 days a week. Really? Do you want the guy to play like he loves the game of football or play like it is a job? Remember last year when Tony seemed run down by all of the drama and criticism? The guy could use some down time once in a while and I think it can only help that his down time includes a high-pressure, competitive qualifying tournament. Let him get away from the pressures of being the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys for a few hours a week and you'll probably see a much happier man.

I can't think of many people who love their job so much that they choose to do nothing but work all day, every day with no breaks ever. Peyton Manning plays golf in the offseason and a lot of people consider him to be the best quarterback in the league. Drew Brees plays a lot of golf and somehow he is doing just fine in New Orleans.

We all want to see our Cowboys win some playoff games next season but burning out in May is not going to help Tony Romo play better football in December. And don't forget the facts in this situation. Tony was working out this offseason before most guys in the league were even considering it. Not only is he working with his teammates every week but he is spending extra time on top of that with Roy Williams. Let the man have a life outside of football. I don't like seeing him running around the Hollywood scene any more than any of you, but playing golf for a few hours isn't going to hurt anyone.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Getting Back to Blogging About the Cowboys

It has been hard to get myself back in my usual obsessive mode of following the Dallas Cowboys. Something just hasn't felt right about over-analyzing every last detail of the team after the practice bubble came crashing down last Saturday. I think a lot of things about the team have been put into perspective for both the members of the Dallas Cowboys organization and the media members who were involved in the collapse. The Dallas Cowboys are my #1 hobby and obsession but this tragedy reminded me that we're not exactly curing cancer here. With that said, I am following the lead of the people who were involved in the tragedy on Saturday and I am going to try to get back into the swing of things.

The first order of business that came up as a result of the bubble collapse has been resolved. The OTA's and mini-camp practices will now be held at Tommy Standridge Stadium in Carrolton. Obviously this is not an ideal situation but the team is going to have to make due with what they can given the circumstances. A lot of time is going to be wasted going back and forth between the facilities and the convenience of simply walking out a door to get to the practice field is gone. But working out on a high school field may remind some of the players why they started playing to begin with.

Roy Williams (the safety) is now with the Cincinnati Bengals. Good for him. I hope he can get back to what he once was but I think his best days are behind him. Over the years teams discovered that he could be exposed in coverage and you can be sure that opposing teams will continue to come up with game plans designed to isolate him in man coverage. Maybe Mike Zimmer can do a better job hiding him in pass coverage then Wade Phillips did. Roy Williams better hope so.

Only a few days ago we got the news that Nick Folk had offseason hip surgery. The pick the Cowboys made for David Buehler is making more and more sense as time goes on. I would still like to see Folk back to handle the extra point and field goal duties next season but now he won't have to rush his rehabilitation and risk re-aggravating the injury, or worse, developing a new injury like Felix Jones did last season. The Cowboys are telling us that Folk will be ready for training camp and I hope that is true, but at least they have it covered if something goes wrong.

The Demarcus Ware contract still is not done. I'm not worried, but it seems like both sides should have all the information they need to make a deal at this point. I hope this is done before training camp because you can bet the media will make a mountain out of a molehill if the contract is still in limbo at that point.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Disaster At Rookie Camp

Discussing a real life disaster isn't something I ever thought I would be doing on my Dallas Cowboys blog. I only have a few things to say on this topic. My thoughts are with the players, coaches, scouts, media members, other personel who were in the Cowboys practice bubble when it collapsed. It is horrible to think how quickly things can go from just another day at the office to complete disaster. I know Rich Behm sustained permanent paralysis from the waist down as a result of his injuries and he is only 33 years old. I can't even begin to fathom how quickly things went from a day in his dream job to suddenly being permanently paralyzed. I am thankful that no one was killed and I hope everyone can find their way through this both physically and mentally. The bravery and heroism displayed by countless people involved won't be forgotten.

Friday, May 1, 2009

On Second Thought...

I was one of the first people to criticize the draft day pick for a kicker. It just didn't make sense to me at the time. But after getting more information about David Beuhler I am starting to come around on the kickoff specialist idea. Watch the YouTube video I posted here of Beuhler in his college career and you'll probably see what I mean. If he can translate those kickoffs to the NFL level then he could be a valuable commmodity on special teams.

I still believe he will have to find other ways to contribute during the game in order to justify his roster spot. There is talk about using him as a holder, maybe even as a blocker on kick returns as he has also done in college, and a gunner on punts. If he can do all of that then he will probably take the roster spot that once belonged to Keith Davis. It appears that Beuhler was hand picked by Joe DeCamillis, the new special teams coach. DeCamillis' track record as a special teams coach shows that he knows how to run a successful special teams unit.

The Cowboys lost at least two games last season that can be directly attributed to poor special teams play, so the importance of special teams has been magnified this offseason. If Beuhler can produce kicks for touchbacks consistently then the Cowboys will be gaining field position in every game. That is only going to help the defense. 5 yards can be the difference between a punt from the 40 or a field goal from the 35 at the end of the opposition's drive. The Cowboys were the fifth worst in terms of opponents starting field position after kickoffs last season (29 yard line avg.), so any improvement is going to be noticeable not only on returns but on the scoreboard at the end of the game.