Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Remember when we heard all of the same talk about Felix Jones a few years ago? Felix was used on kick returns for a while and actually had a few really good returns but he was quickly phased out of the return game. The coaches and owner always mentioned that they didn't want to risk injury by using him on returns.
Well, a few years later, here we are again. The Cowboys found a dynamic playmaker in the draft who has the ability to not only return kicks but, this time, also return punts. The Cowboys are loaded on offense. I would find it hard to believe that the Cowboys could justify keeping Dez Bryant off the special teams return units. At least as long as Roy Williams is still on the roster. The Cowboys are loaded at wide receiver. And a good return can be the difference between points scored and another drive ending in a punt.
I expect to see Dez Bryant used as the primary punt returner. There is no other player on the roster that comes close to what he can do on punt returns. Terence Newman is up in years and shouldn't be put back there anymore. So the job belongs to Dez. And while we are at it let's make him the #1 kick returner as well. I could see the kick return job eventually becoming Akwasi Owusu-Ansah's, but he will be recovering from shoulder surgery until training camp. He'll be lucky to be ready for the start of the regular season.
I expect to see Dez play the #3 receiver role this season. He'll get playing time at receiver but his value won't be so high that the Cowboys can't afford to risk him on returns. He was drafted as high as he was partly to be a returner. Now the Cowboys have to remember that and use him to their advantage in the return game.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
- Pre-Draft Needs
Most writers and draft experts were in agreement on the needs of the Cowboys going into the draft. They needed help at safety, offensive line, inside linebacker, cornerback, punt and kick returner, and defensive tackle. They hit every one of those needs. That doesn't mean all of the players drafted can get on the field this season to provide immediate help at their respective positions, but the Cowboys at least added options to the roster at each position of need. Based on pre-draft needs the 2010 draft was a clear success.
- Quality of Picks
What I am looking at hear is the bang for the buck that the Cowboys got for each of their picks. It is easy to have a successful draft when you have multiple first and second round picks but the Cowboys entered the draft without many high picks.
Dez Bryant was projected as a top 10 talent and most expected him to be the first receiver off the board in the first half of round 1. The Cowboys got a steal getting him at pick #24. And besides just playing receiver, Dez can also return punts and kicks so the Cowboys addressed multiple needs with their first round pick.
Sean Lee was considered the top inside linebacker on many of the experts draft boards. Playing through his ACL surgery recovery during his senior year dropped his stock a little but the Cowboys stole a first round talent if the knee is back to full strength. Like Kevin Ogletree last year, Lee's talent level was much higher than his perceived value due to injury concerns.
Another player dropped to the Cowboys in round 4, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (AOA), because he is currently recovering from shoulder surgery. He will be ready for training camp but brings free safety and returner skills to the table. Again, if he regains his pre-injury form, the Cowboys have a potential starter down the road. His returns at the college level were ridiculous but he was playing at the division II level so you have to consider that when you watch his highlights.
Sam Young was picked to provide tackle depth in the 6th round. He is a potential replacement for Marc Colombo in a few years. Starting at Notre Dame for four years shows you that this guy has a chance to be a player at the NFL level.
Jamar Wall was a steal in the 6th round. He was second team all Big 12 in 2008 and has played against top receivers during his entire college career. He is a big hitter who can provide depth at cornerback and will be great on special teams.
And finally, potentially the biggest find in the draft, is Sean Lissemore. He is a phenomenal athlete for his size and will provide immediate help at defensive tackle. He athleticism is similar to what Jay Ratliff brings at defensive tackle and should allow Ratliff to get more rest this season so he is fresh in the 4th quarter of games.
- Immediate Impact
When you have visions of a Super Bowl run like the Cowboys do this season, you are looking for players who can get on the field now not two or three years down the road. Dez Bryant will get time at receiver, punt returner and kick returner. He could even take over for Roy Williams during the year if Roy can't get it going this season. Sean Lee is going to take over Bobby Carpenter's nickel linebacker spot immediately and will be able to step in for Keith Brooking to start if necessary. Sean Lissemore will see plenty of playing time providing depth at defensive tackle. Jamar Wall should help on special teams if he can make the final roster. Sam Young is probably viewed by the staff as a long term project at right tackle but he could provide depth if Colombo is injured again this season.
- Long Range Impact
What excites me about this draft is the number of players the Cowboys drafted who look like long term players. Dez Bryant could start and play receiver for the Cowboys for 10-12 years. Sean Lee is going to take over for Keith Brooking in the near future and could also be a fixture in the defense for the long term. Sam Young has the build to be a mauling lineman in the league for a long time. And Sean Lissemore might end up being the next Jay Ratliff in the middle of the defense. I think the Cowboys found 2 definite future starters and 2-3 potential starters in their six picks. I like this draft class much better than the 2009 draft. Last year most players picked projected as special teamers but this year you can see that several of the players drafted have the talent to be long term starters. Having picks in the first two rounds makes a big difference in that regard.
The only knock on the draft has to be the fact that the Cowboys didn't find immediate help at safety and offensive tackle. The Cowboys must believe that Doug Free is the answer at left tackle or I think they would have made tackle more of a priority. There are still some players available in free agency at both tackle and safety so the Cowboys can still find some immediate help if they feel it is necessary. Overall, I view the draft as a success. Picking at the end of the first round with just six overall picks I'm not sure how the Cowboys could have come away from the draft with much more than they did. The Cowboys were unable to find good value for any of their players on the trade block so they had to maximize their draft value using just their picks. I think Jerry Jones and the rest of the staff should be congratulated on their work in the 2010 draft.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
He was a linebacker in high school but moved to defensive tackle in college. He has maintained much of his athleticism while adding 50 pounds to his frame to weigh in around 300 pounds. And he ran a 4.8 40-yard dash at his pro day this year. His size and versatility makes me think of Jay Ratliff. I'm not saying he'll be that good, but he is definitely a unique player in the draft.
Wall is about 5'10" and 200 lbs. so he has decent size. Some projected him as high as a third round pick. I don't know if Wall will ever be a starter, but he can hit. Watch the video. He'll be great on special teams.
Sam Young is huge. 6'8" and 320 pounds. He fits the Cowboys prototype for a lineman. And he supposedly plays with an attitude similar to Colombo. He looks like a potential replacement for Marc Col0mbo after a few years of developmental time.
So now the Cowboys have hit what most people deemed as the essential need positions prior to the draft. It will be interesting to see what they do the rest of the way. I'm still waiting for Spears, Crayton, or Hurd to be traded.
The video shows me a guy who looks like a decent safety prospect. He doesn't look terribly quick but he seems to be able to find the ball. I can't complain about this one. There is the safety everyone has been looking for. Now the Cowboys need to get some help on the offensive line.
Friday, April 23, 2010
It is always a good thing when you can get a linebacker from Penn State, a.k.a. linebacker U. A lot of the draft gurus had Sean Lee rated as the top middle linebacker in the draft. He looks athletic and instinctive. The concerns are durability. If the Cowboys can get him to stay healthy he looks like a guy who could man the middle for 10-12 years.
It wasn't a flashy pick like the move to get Dez Bryant but it is hard to argue against drafting a potential 10-12 year starter at middle linebacker. The Cowboys went into this draft a little shorthanded with picks but it looks like they have landed a couple of potentially great players so far.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
But the question that now will need to be answered is what is going to happen with Roy Williams. Maybe the Cowboys will try to find a way to get all three guys on the field at the same time but he seems like the player the Cowboys thought they were getting when they traded for Roy Williams. The rest of the draft and the upcoming few months will be very interesting for #11.
Tony Romo has to be thrilled to have another weapon on the outside. Miles Austin has to be thrilled to have a receiver across from him who will make plays. Jason Witten is going to run free all day because there won't be enough defenders to double him every play anymore. I think Witten might put up 100 receptions since he'll get more matchups against linebackers. The offense is going to be exciting.
And did I mention that he returns punts too?
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
1. Philadelphia in the final game again? I was hoping for the Redskins but it shouldn't surprise me that the schedule makes tried to make it tough on the Cowboys again with the finale being played at Philadelphia. Hopefully this year the Cowboys can lock up the division before the final game.
2. New Orleans on Thanksgiving is shocking. The Cowboys usually get an easy game on Thanksgiving but it looks like it will be a tough one this season. I'm surprised the schedule makers put such a good game on Thanksgiving when they are basically guaranteed good ratings no matter who Dallas plays.
3. I know its hard to predict the quality of each team before the draft has even taken place but it sure looks like a possible 4-0 start at this point. And 5-0 is out of the question depending on how the Brett Favre saga plays out in Minnesota.
4. Three Sunday night games. I love the Sunday night games but I hate Sunday night in week 1. We will have to sit and wait all day long for the Cowboys to get on the field. That makes for a very long day.
5. The Christmas day game just pisses me off. I can't believe the NFL thinks it is a good idea to make any team play on Christmas when it doesn't fall on a Sunday. It always causes major trouble with my family when I have to bail on family time on a major holiday for a Cowboys game. Thanksgiving is understood to be a game day but Christmas doesn't go over so well with my relatives.
6. I know it isn't a surprise but it is always nice to see Detroit on the schedule.
7. Two Philadelphia games in December. Hopefully the Eagles will take a step back this season while they break in their new quarterback.
8. Get ready for the Houston Texans and their fans to treat the week 3 game like the Super Bowl. They are almost treated as insignificant throughout the rest of the state and their fans want nothing more than to embarrass the Cowboys. They have beaten the Cowboys before in Houston so I'm sure the crowd will make it a tough game again.
It is nice to be able to look at the schedule and truly believe that every game is winnable. I'm not saying 16-0 is going to happen for the Cowboys. It isn't. But the Cowboys are capable of beating every team on their schedule.
Monday, April 19, 2010
That will finally change on Thursday. I should say hopefully on Thursday because you never know how the draft will play out. The Cowboys could easily trade out of the first round if no one they covet falls to them in the first round. I'm sure the outrage will be deafening if Jerry Jones elects to trade out of the first round but I won't be at all shocked if it happens.
Let's assume the Cowboys find someone on their draft board with a first round grade when the clock starts on the 27th pick. What would the perfect world scenario look like? Would it be a safety or a tackle? Dez Bryant? A defensive tackle? It seems like you could pick from about 10-15 players right now and have a good chance of being right on the pick.
I'm not overly concerned about any particular position. I do have some concern that Doug Free is the answer at left tackle but he has shown he can play on the other side of the line. So I have to give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves he can't get the job done. And something tells me the coaches think he is the answer at left tackle. And what about Alan Ball at safety? He actually had better stats than Ken Hamlin in his limited starting time at free safety. I think you can hide an average or slightly below average safety so getting one in the first round isn't a necessity. And don't forget that Michael Hamlin is still a potential future starter as well.
The needs that I can see on the roster include offensive line depth, defensive tackle depth, middle linebacker depth, free safety, cornerback depth, special teams returner, slot receiver, and maybe outside linebacker depending on how last years . Offensive line depth ranks as one of my top priorities as does depth at middle linebacker. You always have to draft secondary players because depth will always be an issue. But the rest of the "need" positions aren't mandatory draft needs.
I'm not going to target specific players in specific rounds, but here is what I am hoping the Cowboys get from the draft this year. A safety, at least one offensive lineman, a cornerback, a slot receiver/returner (hopefully Jordan Shipley), a middle linebacker, and a defensive tackle. I think some positions should be drafted higher than others, but I think you could justify any order as long as all of these needs are met.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I do think that Jerry Jones should conduct himself better in a public setting but thanks to these "fans" the chances of any of us now getting to have an informal discussion with the owner of our team are gone. Jerry believed he was having an informal chat with some Cowboys fans. And maybe he was. But when this video found its way onto the internet I think these so called "fans" crossed the line.
Maybe I am old fashioned but I don't believe that every conversation, every email, and every text message needs to be analyzed by the public. TMZ loves to follow celebrities around with a video camera and hope they say the wrong thing or make one wrong move. I guess the same rules now apply for sports celebrities. Jerry Jones was actually naive enough to believe that he could have a casual conversation with a few fans.
Am I excusing his drunken comments? No. But I don't think this needs to be played on ESPN endlessly and overanalyzed. As usual with ESPN you can count on this story running for weeks. The only thing missing from the video is Ed Werder asking the questions to the drunken owner.
I just don't think this is that big of a deal. Jerry Jones does need to do a better job representing himself and his team. He sets the example for the entire organization to follow but I would hate to think he can't have an informal conversation with Cowboys fans. Jerry Jones should be ashamed of his behavior and the "fans" who put the video on the internet should never be allowed to claim to be fans of the Dallas Cowboys again.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
So for all of the bashers of the Cowboys, Miles Austin is no diva. He wouldn't be back with the team without a long term deal if he wasn't a team first kind of guy. I'm guessing there is some sort of gentleman's agreement between Miles and the team for a long term deal. He will get his money at some point. But working with the team so he can continue his success from last season will only help his cause.
I'm glad he is back. Now there are only a few guys left on the list who need to get back to working with the team. After the RFA deadline passes on Thursday afternoon I'm guessing that they will all be back to work with the rest of the players.
Monday, April 12, 2010
So now he has to try to get a long term deal worked out with the team or he will make about $3.168 million next season. That is not chump change...at least not to a regular guy like me. But when you are talking about a player with possibly only one or two chances to secure a big money deal in his career you definitely understand why Miles is looking for a long term commitment. What if he gets hurt this season? The scary part of being an NFL player is that you are always one play away from a career ending injury. So you have to strike while the iron is hot in terms of a contract.
And all of the people running around talking about Miles Austin becoming a diva receiver clearly have no idea what they are talking about. Everyone who truly follows the Cowboys either as a fan or in the media knows that Miles Austin is no diva. He loves football and he is a team player. Staying away from the voluntary offseason workouts isn't a sign that one big season has gone to his head. He is still the same guy. He just has to make sure that he gets the money he deserves. Unfortunately for him the Cowboys hold nearly all the cards in the negotiations. So he is exercising the only leverage he has.
While I understand his reasoning, I also am anxious to see Miles and all of the rest of the RFA's back with the team participating in the offseason workouts. Tony Romo talked to ESPN over the weekend and seemed to hint that Miles would be back with the team sooner than later.
I'm hoping that once the RFA deadline hits on Thursday then Miles will come back to work out with the team. At that point he has the choice to play for the Cowboys or not play football at all next season. He can stay away until the June minicamps if he chooses, but I don't think that will happen. I think he is making a statement right now to Jerry Jones and the Cowboys that he wants a long term commitment. I think everyone already realizes how important he is to the hopes of the team next season. We all saw how the offense transformed after he established himself as the top receiver.
I think Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, Miles Austin and his agent all need to sit down and have a chat. The Cowboys have a history of paying to keep their own players. It needs to be made clear that Miles will get paid as soon as he gets off to a good start this season. In the meantime he can sign his injury waiver and his RFA tender offer that will guarantee him more money this year than he has received in his entire career up to this point.
At this point I think we all want to see Miles back with his teammates. Jerry Jones will play Miles what he is worth and probably even a little more as long as Miles is patient. I'm feeling confident that he won't get any bites in the RFA market in the next three days so now he just needs to get to Valley Ranch and get to work. Workouts in California are good, but he needs to get back to Texas with his teammates.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
The fallout from the Flozell Adams release is big news even though it has been completely overshadowed by the Donovan McNabb trade. I'm still not happy about the timing of the release, but I do understand the theory behind the move. It is better these days to release a guy one year too early than one year too late. I have to believe the coaches saw something in Flozell that led them to believe that his best days are behind him.
The McNabb trade was shocking. It wasn't so much that McNabb got traded...that move was talked about for weeks leading up to the trade. It is the fact that he was traded to the Redskins that made the trade surprising. I was hoping he would end up with the Raiders so we wouldn't have to see him anymore. I've never thought McNabb was a player to be feared, but he is going to be an upgrade for the Redskins which makes the NFC East even tougher.
Roy Williams made some comments last week and owned up to the fact that he was terrible last season. He noted that he was among the league leaders in dropped passes and seems to realize that he better play at a much higher level or his stay in Dallas is going to be over soon. I hope it isn't just lip service. I still think he is a talented receiver but I think he has lost his mojo. He needs to find it or the trade for him will go down as one of the worst in NFL history.
Miles Austin is working out on his own with a personal trainer in Dallas instead of attending the voluntary workouts with the rest of the team. I can't say I blame him considering that he has millions of dollars at stake. I really hope the team and Austin can find a way to get him to Valley Ranch to work out with his teammates. He is just a one season wonder at this point and he needs to be working with Romo and the rest of the receivers to improve his game.
Apparently Keith Brooking has made some of the Philadelphia Eagles mad by claiming that the Eagles' offense was predictable late in the season. I wish that Brooking would realize that there is nothing to gain by talking about those games at this point. Last season is over and it is time to focus on the upcoming season. I like Brookings intensity, but sometimes it is better to say nothing.
The Cowboys have about a week to go before all of the restricted free agents will officially be back with the team next season. So far there hasn't been much interest in the RFA's but I'll breathe a little easier when I know Miles has no choice but to return to Dallas next season. Marcus Spears has signed his tender offer and several of the other players have done the same. I'll be glad when we are sure that Sensabaugh and Austin will be back next season.
The Cowboys passed on an opportunity to pick up Neil Rackers. I guess they feel good about David Beuhler working with Chris Boniol to improve his field goal kicking. I hope adding a coach can improve the field goal accuracy. Just about anything will be better than the second half of last season.
It is going to be sad to see Texas Stadium implode this weekend. I have a lot of great memories of games I watched in the stadium. Nearly the entire history of the team has taken place there. I know it was becoming a dump, but I'm still sad to see it go.
Friday, April 2, 2010
The Cowboys are going younger at left tackle with Doug Free and/or possibly an early draft pick. The Cowboys have seen enough of Ken Hamlin to realize that they can get a suitable replacement if his primary duty will be lining up 20 yards off the ball and keeping everyone in front of him while never making a play on the ball. I see the logic in both moves. I really do.
But why release both guys before the draft when it wasn't necessary? I think the Cowboys have put themselves at a disadvantage on several fronts. Teams now now without a doubt that the Cowboys will be targeting offensive tackles and free safeties early in the draft. The flexibility that we all thought the Cowboys had entering the draft is not what it was before the day began.
And what about the contract negotiations with Gerald Sensabaugh? You know his agent was thrilled at the news of Ken Hamlin's release. The Cowboys can't afford to let Sensabaugh go anywhere now. The RFA tender they placed on him will probably bring him back next year, but the Cowboys would be wise to get him under contract. They can't afford to go into the season with new starters at both safety positions.
We all saw what Doug Free did in his time filling in for Marc Columbo. He was excellent. But we haven't seen much from him on the left side. And the small sample we got in the Minnesota game didn't exactly make any of us feel warm and fuzzy. Now getting thrown into the situation unexpectedly like Free did in Minnesota was no easy task, but I would have expected a little more. Clearly the coaches and management of the Cowboys feel like Free can do the job either permanently or until a high draft pick is ready to take over.
Flozell is clearly on the decline as a player. His tripping penalties came last season due to his loss of mobility and quickness. He was holding and tripping to make up for the fact that he was getting beaten off the ball by his man. But I really thought the Cowboys would try to milk one more season out of Flozell unless they found a young stud in the draft.
I don't mind cutting either guy. I really don't. There is nothing wrong with getting rid of an overpaid, aging veteran like Flozell Adams. And the fact that the salary cap is gone temporarily opened the window for the perfect moment to unload the ridiculous Ken Hamlin contract. I just do not understand the timing.
I'll bet Doug Free and Alan Ball are going to have a new attitude when they show up to work on Monday. Both guys have a golden opportunity to get on the field regardless of what happens in the draft. Let's hope the moves to unload veterans this offseason pay off like they did last season.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
But if you have ever watched Jordan Shipley play you can see that this guy has the makings of a very good professional receiver. He runs excellent routes, he has good speed and quickness, very good hands, and he has the ability to return punts and kicks. He isn't a big guy (6'0" and 190 lbs.), but he always seemed to play bigger than his measureables would indicate. His 4.4-4.5 40 speed doesn't knock your socks off, but what really matters is how a guy plays in live game action.
Jordan Shipley has been a playmaker for the last few years at Texas. Over the last two seasons Shipley compiled 205 receptions for 2545 yards and 24 touchdowns. And throw in 3 punts returns and a kick return for touchdowns over that span.
Those are pretty gaudy numbers but we do have to keep in mind how a team like Texas plays inferior opponents early in the season and pads their stats while running up the score. However, Shipley made plays against all levels of opposition. In the national title game this year he put up 10 receptions for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns against Alabama with a freshman quarterback running the offense.
I don't think Shipley is a guy who is going to be a gamebreaker but I do think he fits the mold of the slot receiver the Cowboys offense seems to lack. Patrick Crayton does a decent job but he lacks any semblance of speed. Shipley plays fast and I have never seen him get caught from behind. And the guy also has experience as a holder for field goals so Tony Romo could give up that role next season.
I'd like to see the Cowboys draft Shipley and give him a year or two to develop behind Crayton. At some point the Cowboys are going to have to find a suitable long term replacement for Patrick Crayton. Roy Williams, Miles Austin, and Kevin Ogletree look like they will be fixtures on the roster for the foreseeable future so that leaves a couple of spots up for grabs. Sam Hurd has had a long time to work his way into the offense and while he makes a play here or there he has never made plays consistently.
Shipley is projecting to be picked anywhere from the middle of the 2nd round all the way to the beginning of the 5th round. I think he would be a steal for the Cowboys in the 3rd or 4th round. The Cowboys may pass on Shipley but I really hope they finally make a move to find a slot receiver with the ability to return kicks. I've been hoping for a guy like Shipley to be picked by the Cowboys for the last few years. Maybe this is finally the year.
I know everyone looks like a future all-pro on their Youtube highlight reel, but there are some great catches and ankle breaking moves on this video that will get your attention.