Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Time to Re-Evaluate Expectations for Roy Williams

Roy Williams didn't come close to meeting the expectations that the team, the media and the fans had for him last year. He even admitted that he didn't meet his own expectations. We all know this to be true. Let's accept that as a fact and move forward. I have grown tired of hearing about his contract and the numbers he produced last season. There is no excuse for what happened last year. The only thing that Roy Williams and Tony Romo can do at this point is improve next season.

Miles Austin is the clear cut #1 receiver on the roster now. We still have to hope that another team doesn't do anything crazy to steal him away from the Cowboys but those odds are very slim. Miles will most likely be back next season. So that means that Roy Williams will continue in his role as the #2 receiver. You can talk about moving him down on the depth chart all you want but I think we all know that isn't going to happen. The Cowboys are going to put him on the field unless someone outplays him consistently for a long period of time. But no one will get enough opportunities to prove they are better because Roy will be on the field. Right or wrong, that is what is going to happen.

So I want to establish some realistic expectations for Roy Williams next year. He isn't going to catch 100 passes for 1400 yards and 15 TD's. For what Jerry paid to get Roy we should be able to expect that but it is obvious we can't. So what can we expect then?

The one bright spot for Roy Williams last season was his ability to get the ball in the end zone. Roy's numbers last year were embarrassing for the most part. He had 38 catches for 596 yards and 7 TD's. But reaching for positives he averaged 15.7 yards per reception which is solid. 76% of his receptions went for first downs (that was 13th in the NFL by the way). And he averaged a touchdown for every 5.4 receptions. Those two stats are what I feel can be worked to Roy's advantage. He is a big physical receiver. He doesn't get separation from defenders, but he can go up and get the ball or use his body to shield defenders from the ball. So he needs to be a 3rd down/red zone specialist.

Roy probably won't catch 80 balls next year. But I think 60 is a realistic goal. And he isn't going to get 1400 yards. But 900 would be a good number if Miles Austin is really the guy he appears to be. The important statistics for Roy Williams are going to be third down receptions and touchdowns. I'd like to see him maintain or improve his first down conversion rate. That would mean that of his 60 receptions he should be converting first downs on at least 46 of those receptions. I could live with that. And most importantly, Roy Williams needs to be the red zone threat he was paid to be. If he continues to score at his 2009 rate, that would mean 11+ touchdowns. 11+ TD's sounds pretty good to me.

So tell me, would you be happy to see Roy Williams put up 60 receptions for 900 yards and 11 TD's? I think I would be happy with that as long as that happens while Miles Austin and Jason Witten continue to operate as the top two passing options in the offense. Most teams would die to have their third receiving option put up numbers like I projected. I know he is paid to do more, but we have to get past that fact. The Cowboys did overpay for him in terms of money and draft picks, but it is time to maximize his talents in the offense.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hold Your Breath on Miles Austin

I'm sure everyone is aware of the situation with Miles Austin at this point. Barring a last minute deal to save the current labor agreement between the players and the owners Miles Austin will be a restricted free agent when free agency kicks off in March.

So that means the Cowboys will have a few options on how to protect Miles Austin so he remains with the team. Stephen Jones made a statement today that basically eliminates the thought of the Cowboys using the franchise tag to protect Miles. So it looks like the Cowboys will use the highest tender offer to attempt to keep Miles for at least one more year. The Cowboys are guaranteed a first and third round draft pick if any other team signs him. In addition, the Cowboys would have the right to match any offer another team makes before he could join another team.

It appears that the Cowboys will most likely get away with the move to use the highest tender offer as opposed to the franchise tag. A team is highly unlikely to be willing to give up and first and third round pick in addition to making an astronomical offer that the Cowboys would not be willing to match.

But the one issue that could arise is the use of the dreaded "poison pill" clause in an offer to Miles Austin. What a team could do is put a clause in the offer that guarantees that he plays X amount of games within a certain state. So say Daniel Snyder wanted to prevent the Cowboys from matching his offer. He could put a clause in the contract that states that Miles Austin is guaranteed to play 8 games per year in the state of Maryland. Obviously the Cowboys could not match that offer since it would be impossible for the Cowboys to make the same guarantee.

Now there is no rule against the use of the "poison pill". But there is supposedly a gentleman's agreement between all of the league owners and general managers not to use the "poison pill" in a contract offer. Unfortunately with no actual rule you have to hope that all of the league owners will keep their word. A renegade owner like Daniel Snyder or Al Davis could make a crazy move and then the Cowboys would be out of luck.

I'm trying not to worry too much about the worst case scenario. Jerry Jones has stated that he is going to make sure that Miles Austin returns to the team next season. Jerry isn't the type of guy who doesn't get what he wants when it comes to players. Jerry has said that he plans to get Miles Austin signed to a long term deal either during the offseason or during the season next year. I have very little doubt that Miles will be suiting up for the Cowboys next season. But there is that tiny chance that the Cowboys could lose him. It would be a major blow to the team to lose Miles Austin. Let's hope it doesn't happen.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Saints' Win Proves the Cowboys Are Close

I wasn't cheering for the Saints to win yesterday. I have never been a fan of watching the masses jump on the bandwagon and then celebrating like they've been there all along. There are people all across the country claiming they are Saints fans now and we all know that is not true for the vast majority of them. So I was disappointed by the outcome but I have to admit that their win gets me excited about next season.

The Cowboys may have lost in ugly fashion against the Vikings, but they flat out beat the Saints on their field in December this season. The win the Cowboys had against the Saints was no fluke. They dominated the game and were the better team that day. And now that the Saints are the NFL champions you can see just how close the Cowboys are.

The Cowboys can obviously play with any team in the NFL. But they still need to improve their depth because it is highly unlikely they will be so lucky on the injury front again next year. With improved depth they would be able to overcome an injury to a starter without the season falling apart. And the schedule next season is shaping up to be a tough one so the Cowboys need to field a better team next season if they want to repeat their success and take it to the next level.

I'm certainly not celebrating the Saints win at all. But I am celebrating the fact that the Cowboys are close. The big question will be whether the Cowboys can make the improvements needed to climb back to the top of the NFL. Jerry Jones doesn't have many holes to fill but he has to improve the team or we won't be seeing a championship next year. Next year is going to be Super Bowl or bust for the Cowboys. But at least we know that hoping for an NFL championship isn't a long shot dream next year.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Time for a New Fullback

Deon Anderson has likely played his last down of football as a Dallas Cowboy. After his recent incident outside an Addison restaurant he will be facing criminal charges. The offenses appear to be misdemeanors but the big problem is that there were guns involved. Deon isn't nearly good enough to justify dealing with the mess that he has created for himself and the embarrassment he has brought to the franchise.

Deon has one year left on his current four year deal with the Cowboys but the Cowboys aren't on the hook for any money if they choose to release him. And his play on the field has been less than stellar. He is a below average fullback with a chronically bad knee. There was a good chance that Deon would be cut loose prior to next season anyway based on his play. So the arrest is probably going to be the nail in the coffin for his time in Dallas.

I won't be crying any tears if the Cowboys decide to cut Deon loose. He has never been very impressive as a player and there have been whispers about his attitude for a couple of years. After the embarrassing season ending 44-6 blowout at the end of the 2008 season Flozell Adams had all he could take of Deon's attitude and took matters into his own hands. The story is that Deon was having too much fun on the flight home after the loss and Flozell took offense and a fight ensued. And one of the Cowboys in house writers, Nick Eatman, has mentioned on the Lunch Break on more than one occasion that Deon doesn't seem to care much when the Cowboys lose. Deon may be a fun-loving guy but it seems like he cares more about having fun than he cares about winning.

It boggles my mind that a player in Deon's position would risk it all over a petty argument. I'm sure the story is being blown out of proportion but the last thing he needed to do was give the Cowboys any excuse to run him out of town. Between his subpar play, his chronic injuries, and now his off the field problems it has become apparent that the Cowboys will be in the market for a new fullback this offseason. I think Deon Anderson will be easily replaced.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It Is Going to Be a Long Offseason

Isn't it amazing that just a couple of weeks ago the news out of Valley Ranch was nonstop and the anticipation for the game against the Vikings was growing every day? Now I'm sitting here waiting for the offseason action to pick up for the Cowboys. I did take advantage of the down time by taking some time off from my blogging but it wasn't like there was much to talk about anyway. It is hard to get excited for the Super Bowl when the NFC representative is a team that the Cowboys beat late in the season. It hurts to think how close the Cowboys were even if the Vikings embarrassed them to end the season.

I've been trying to look back at the season and celebrate the accomplishments that we waited for 13 years for our team to achieve. The playoff win satisfied me for a short time and I am not taking it for granted. But I think we are all ready for a Super Bowl run next year. It is going to be a long wait until training camp in July and the start of the season in September.

I don't expect this offseason to be filled with very much roster movement from the Cowboys. They have most of their key players locked up and you can be sure that Jerry Jones isn't going to let Miles Austin go anywhere. There is a search for a new kicker in progress and the offensive line needs improvement, but most of the key pieces to the puzzle are in place. My fear is that Jerry Jones believes that he can stand pat with his current roster and repeat the successes of this season. That would be a mistake.

I don't think we are going to see any major changes at the starting positions but there is a lot of room for improvement in the depth of the roster. The giant class of draft picks from last season need to bust their rear ends to get themselves ready to contribute next season. And the Cowboys have a chance to draft quality players since they'll actually be drafting in the first two rounds this season.

So are we going to see a lot of action and storylines developing this offseason? No. But there are a lot of details that need to be addressed. That is actually a nice change after the way last offseason started. The team was such a mess that Jerry and Stephen Jones had to clean house before they could start addressing the roster. This year they can focus on improving the talent on the team right away.