Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Who Needs a Big Game?

The final preseason game is already here.  We all know the key players who will make the roster.  And we know that the vast majority of them won't be playing in the game against the Dolphins.  So what can you find in this game to make it watchable?

Let's start with Danny Coale.  After the draft I was very excited by the pick the Cowboys made in the 5th round for Coale.  But then he got injured very early in the offseason.  He just started to get back into action a few weeks ago and we haven't really seen much of him yet in the preseason.  He is definitely on the bubble and could be cut if he doesn't show the coaches he belongs.  He needs a strong offensive performance but most likely also needs to show something on special teams to have a shot.

Stephen McGee appears to be done in Dallas.  He might be able to come out and play great in this game to salvage a roster spot but that seems unlikely.  It will be interesting to see what he does with his back against the wall.

The #3 receiver spot still hasn't been decided.  Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris seem to be locks to make the team, but after that things are still very unclear.  Cole Beasley seems to have done enough to earn a spot but he still needs to play well in this game.  Andre Holmes has been progressively worse in the preseason games.  He needs a great showing or he will be practice squad material.

Adrian Hamilton has shown great skill rushing the passer.  But he hasn't done anything on special teams.  The only way he makes the team is if he can contribute on special teams in a big way.

Running back depth is another interesting thing to watch.  Phillip Tanner was good enough last year that he will likely be on the team even though he couldn't do much this preseason.  The big question is whether Lance Dunbar or Jamize Olawale can do enough to stick around.  I've already said how much I like the power of Olawale but, as with most of the guys in this game, it will come down to whether he can help on special teams.  Dunbar looks like he can be explosive but he doesn't bring a dimension to the running game that the Cowboys don't already have.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Cowboys Look Ready

If there was any doubt about whether the Dallas Cowboys are prepared for the regular season it appears that all questions were answered Saturday night.  The offense, defense and special teams all appeared to be in regular season form against the St. Louis Rams.  Yes, it was the Rams.  But you can't deny the complete domination the #1's showed on both sides of the ball.

If there was any doubt about whether it is the players around Tony Romo that make him good or if Romo is so good he makes the players around him better I think the answer is clear.  Playing without Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, and Miles Austin all Tony Romo did was throw for 198 yards and 2 TD's in less than one quarter of action.  Romo made Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, and John Phillips look more than capable of providing enough offense in the event that any of the three missing starters can't play in week 1 against the Giants.

The starting defense was dominant yet again.  There were a few plays made by the Rams here or there but the pass rush put on Sam Bradford was relentless and the coverage on the Ram's receivers was always tight.  Morris Claiborne was finally challenged a few times in this game and answered the call.  It seemed that Claiborne is starting to develop some confidence and is playing a little more freely now so his talent is starting to show.  Barry Church was flying around again.  And Sean Lee looks like a sure-fire bet for the Pro Bowl this year.

The big concern coming out of the game is the ankle of Jay Ratliff.  He has been diagnosed with the dreaded high ankle sprain.  While I am concerned, I don't feel like the Cowboys can't beat the Giants without him.  At this point his availability for the season opener is unlikely.

Dan Bailey has been perfect this preseason and continued his perfection against the Rams.  He only missed one kick in training camp.  Bailey should be a great weapon this season.

Felix Jones had me very concerned last week.  But he appeared to be getting his quickness and burst of speed back against the Rams.  The Cowboys need him to spell DeMarco Murray so it was a relief to see the Felix of old starting to show up again.

Kyle Orton didn't look as sharp once he came into the game but it was hard to judge if the problems were the blocking and the players around him or the play of Orton.  I still feel like he is a capable backup and you won't find many backup quarterbacks around the league with as much starting experience as Orton has. 

Stephen McGee sealed his fate in this game.  He won't make the final cut.  For some reason he just won't cut any throws down the field loose.  I don't understand his hesitation since he has a decent amount of regular season experience at this point.  He seems to be regressing this preseason.

David Arkin is improving with every game he plays at center.  I still think Phil Costa is the superior player at center but Arkin is proving that he will be a valuable backup this season.  Arkin is developing to the point that I can see him becoming a starter in the next year or two at center or guard.  Costa's injury has been a blessing in disguise for Arkin's development.

It is hard to explain how helpful it was for Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Miles Austin to be out.  You never want to see the top players hurt, but missing a preseason game doesn't hurt anything as long as Romo doesn't get injured as a result.  Romo has learned to trust Dwayne Harris, Kevin Ogletree, and Cole Beasley.  Suddenly wide receiver depth doesn't seem like such a big concern.  I'm still not sold on Andre Holmes but his size will probably allow him to stick around.

I feel pretty good about the Cowboys coming out of the Rams game.  I think the Cowboys have upgraded several starting positions on both sides of the ball and, more importantly, they have make huge upgrades in the depth chart on both sides of the ball.  My only remaining concern, and it is still a big one, is the offensive line.  Doug Free still looks uncomfortable and the starting offensive line has not played together yet.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Any Reason to Watch the Rams Game?

There are so many key offensive players out with injuries in the upcoming game against the Rams that my biggest fear is an injury to Tony Romo.  I know the offensive line is finally starting to get pieced together but the starting center will still be out.  So I really hope we don't see a whole lot of Tony Romo.

Jason Witten will definitely be out until at least the season opener against the Giants.  The good news on Witten is that he won't need surgery.  But he is still not allowed to do any physical activity until he is cleared by the doctors.  The reports are that he has a 50-50 shot to play against the Giants.  I would bet a lot of money that Witten will play against the Giants since he is one of the toughest players in the NFL.

John Phillips and James Hanna will get a lot of playing time again with Witten out.  Hanna has been a pleasant surprise during the preseason.  It really comes down to injuries again in this game.  I think it is established that Phillips and Hanna can get the job done.  Now they just need to survive the next two preseason games so they'll be there against the Giants.

It appears that Bruce Carter has the upper hand in his battle with Dan Connor for the second inside linebacker spot.  But the battle isn't over.  Carter seems a lot more athletic and does a better job covering receivers down the field.  But Connor has a lot of experience that gives him an edge over Carter when it comes to knowing where to be and what to expect.  Both guys will get playing time so it will be fun to watch them continue their battle.

Morris Claiborne got a little action against the Chargers but they really didn't challenge him much.  I hope he gets a lot of playing time and I would love to see Sam Bradford repeatedly challenge him.  Claiborne needs the work after missing the entire summer and about a week of training camp with injuries.

Kevin Ogletree needs to prove that he can consistently delivery performances like the one he had last week.  He has the skill set to be the #3 receiver but he has always found a way to disappear over the last three seasons.  Hopefully he has really turned the corner this season.  Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris and Danny Coale will also be seeing a lot of action in the game with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant still out.

Was Jamize Olawale a flash in the pan last week?  He sure looked like a big power back that the Cowboys can use in short yardage situations last week.  He needs to show that he can consistently deliver performances like the one last week.  And showing a little something on special teams would be a big boost to his chances of making the final roster.

I hope we get to see the entire starting defense on the field together.  So far the #1 defense has been very impressive even while missing several starters.  There are indications that the defense could be dominant this season but we have to remember that it is only preseason.  We won't really know how much the defense has improved until they take the field in week 1 against the Giants.

As much as it seems like the Cowboys have been hit by the injury bug we need to remember how lucky the Cowboys have actually been.  All of the key starters are still likely to be ready to play in the opening game outside of Jason Witten and even he has a good chance to play.  At this point in the preseason the most important thing is for everyone to come out of the game healthy.  That will be what I'll be most interested to see Saturday night.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Much Better Against the Chargers

I was really worried about the 2012 Dallas Cowboys coming out of the Raider game.  It wasn't the defense that had me concerned.  It was the offense and especially the offensive line.  The entire team looked much more prepared and capable this time around.  I have renewed faith that the Cowboys can be a playoff team this season.

I have to start my game review by admitting that I was dead wrong about Kevin Ogletree.  I had written him off after his disappearing act that season.  I was convinced that he was never going to amount to much for the Cowboys.  But maybe he has been the 3rd receiver everyone has been clamoring about.  If he really has turned the corner in his play like it appears then he is the perfect fit as the #3 receiver.  He can play inside and outside and he has enough speed to keep the defense honest.  He hasn't sewn up the #3 spot yet, but he is way ahead of the competition at this point.

And really I have to say I am pretty satisfied with the entire receiving corp all around minus the play of Andre Holmes.  Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley looked like they can at least fill in decently if one of the top three receivers gets injured.  Raymond Radway still doesn't seem to be the guy we saw last preseason but he is still battling to come back from his horrific leg injury.  And the hustle that Radway displayed to run down the San Diego defender after McGee's interception was great to see.  Andre Holmes has got to make tough catches in traffic if he wants to make the team.  It is great that he is big and he can jump high, but it doesn't really matter if he isn't going to make the play.

The entire offensive line was much better this week.  Doug Free was a different guy this week except for one play where he completely lost his footing and fell down.  David Arkin was better even if he did commit 3 penalties.  Arkin seems to have a little more power in the running game than Phil Costa.  It is nice to see one of the young guys the Cowboys have drafted developing into at least a very good backup this season and maybe even a starter at left guard if Nate Livings can't get healthy enough to play.  Mackenzy Bernardeau didn't stand out but that is a good thing for an offensive lineman when he goes unnoticed during a game.  Overall the pass blocking by the entire offensive line was excellent.

I was thrilled to see the two interceptions that Brandon Carr came up with in the first half.  I can't remember the last time I saw a cornerback for the Cowboys play the ball so aggressively.  Carr isn't satisfied just to break up the pass or get a quick tackle.  He is playing to make the turnover when it is there.  A few plays like that last season could have put the Cowboys in the playoffs. 

Morris Claiborne got his first game action this preseason.  He didn't do anything spectacular but the moment didn't look too big for him either.  From what I could see out of him it appeared that he did a good job covering his man.  Hopefully he will get challenged a little more by the opposing quarterback in the upcoming preseason games.

Barry Church was flying to the ball again this game.  He is quickly becoming one of the guys I really like to watch as the play unfolds because he seems to have a great feel for the flow of a play.  It reminds me of how I can watch Sean Lee during a play and 9 out of 10 times Lee will be exactly where the ball ends up.

Felix Jones looks terrible.  I don't know what is up with that guy but he needs to kick it into gear.  It is not good when Jamize Olawale makes more guys miss in the open field than Felix Jones.  This is a contract year for Felix so I am really surprised to see such uninspired play out of him.  The Cowboys need his speed on offense so hopefully he'll find his game before the regular season starts.

Speaking of Olawale, I love this guy.  I can't remember the last time the Cowboys had a big bruising running back for short yardage situations.  He has a great chance to make the team and get some meaningful playing time this season if he can consistently move the pile in short yardage situations.  And the fact that he can catch the ball out of the backfield just makes him that much more valuable.  It will likely come down to whether Olawale can find a role on special teams in determining if he makes the final roster.

Victor Butler and Alex Albright did a very good job filling in for Anthony Spencer and Demarcus Ware.  It feels like the Cowboys finally have some real depth behind their two starters.

I hope the Cowboys can continue to get their roster back to full strength.  I am excited to see what the defense is capable of with all of the starters back on the field.  I really hope we get to see Spencer, Ware, and Hatcher all back on the field with the starters next week against the Rams.  This defense has the potential to be dominating this season.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Can We Get Some Offense Against the Chargers?

I know preseason games are boring for most fans.  I don't usually find them to be boring because I love to watch the young players and learn who can make an impact for the team in the upcoming season.  But the preseason game against the Raiders was tough to watch.  It wasn't just that the score was 3-0.  It was tough because you can't learn much about your players on offense when the offensive line is a mess. 

My #1 concern heading into the game Saturday night is the play of the offensive line.  I always hold me breath any time a key player takes a big hit in a preseason game.  Jason Witten's injury just proves that I am right to worry.  And now Jason Garrett has stated that we should see more of Tony Romo this week than the 11 snaps he played last week.  I really hope the line can do a better job protecting him this week.  We couldn't get a good feel for the running game or the passing game because the offensive line was so ineffective.  And it wasn't just one guy.  It was one or two different guys on every play outside of Tyron Smith.  I know people are injured but the backups can't possibly be as bad as they looked against the Raiders, right?  And Doug Free has got to play better.

There was some debate in the comments on my post on Tuesday about whether Romo is to blame for the offensive struggles.  Let's be real here.  Tony Romo is a top 10 quarterback and possibly even a top 5 quarterback.  Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees couldn't make the offense go last week given the blocking Romo received.  I am scared to think what would happen if Romo were hurt and Kyle Orton became the starting quarterback.  I'm not going to mention it again because it makes me sick to my stomach to think about it.

I would like to see Morris Claiborne get a lot of playing time.  He has missed a week of practice due to a minor knee injury and some extra reps in the game could help make up for the missed practice time.  I'm excited to see what the defense can do with Claiborne, Carr, and Scandrick on the field.  San Diego always has a good passing game so I hope Phillip Rivers gets a lot of playing time so the defense can get some experience against a top quarterback.

I want to see more of Bruce Carter.  He got a lot of snaps last week and he looked pretty comfortable.  I want to see him attacking the ball and becoming a disruptive force like Sean Lee is.  I wouldn't mind seeing more of the 4-3 defense that Rob Ryan rolled out last week either with Dan Connor on the field with Lee and Carter.  I don't think the Cowboys need to go overboard on the 4-3 look but it is nice to be able to throw different looks at the opposing offense.

The search for the #3 receiver is still pretty wide open.  Andre Holmes has the clear advantage right now but his route running doesn't impress me much.  And Holmes seems to be strictly an outside receiver which means that if he is on the field then Miles Austin has to be in the slot when he come back and the Cowboys go 3 wide.  I would prefer to see someone with more versatility win the #3 spot simply because it allows the Cowboys to move Miles Austin around on the field so the defense doesn't know what to expect.

I hope to see Barry Church continue to assert himself at safety.  He seems to have the starting spot wrapped up already but I want to see consistency from him before I feel comfortable with him as a starter.  Like I said earlier, I hope Rivers is on the field so he can challenge Church with a few passes.

Hopefully Adrian Hamilton will get some meaningful playing time with better competition.  I really think we have a diamond in the rough with him based on what I saw in the Raider game.  His pass rush moves are impressive, at least against the lesser competition he has played against.

Witten is out but John Phillips is back.  Hopefully Phillips can start flashing the pass catching ability that he showed 2 years ago in the preseason before he tore his ACL.  I would also like to see James Hanna continue to show that he has the ability to play meaningful snaps in the regular season this year.  As a worst case scenario with the Witten injury both of these guys need to be ready to play against the Giants game in the season opener.

I'm not expecting an exciting game.  The score is meaningless and I know that.  I just want the play to be at a level where we can actually judge the ability of some of the new players.  Hopefully we'll see that Saturday night.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Did We Learn Anything from the Raider Game?

Wow.  There was some terrible football played on Monday night.  The "starting" offense for the Cowboys was terrible.  The offensive line is a mess and it was dangerous for Tony Romo to even play the few snaps that he did.  Obviously the line needs to improve.  But was there anything else useful to be gained from the first preseason game?

The starting safeties looked good.  Barry Church was aggressive and Gerald Sensabaugh had a nice interception.  I'm excited to see what the secondary can do this season with Claiborne and Jenkins on the field along with Scandrick and Carr.

David Arkin wasn't terrible.  I did notice that he was blown off the ball a couple of times early in the game, but he held his own.  You have to give the guy credit for playing nearly the entire game after learning how to snap the ball less than two weeks ago.  If nothing else, Arkin is earning a spot on the roster since he can now play guard and center.  And the experience he got Monday night was invaluable.

Andre Holmes made a couple of nice plays catching the ball.  He doesn't appear to run the best routes but his pure athletic ability is easy to see.  Hopefully he can keep refining his game because he could be a big weapon in the offense.

Marcus Spears was playing great.  He is on the bubble to make the roster since there are young guys playing well in camp.  Spears is going to make it tough to get rid of him.  If nothing else, he is raising his trade stock.

Ben Bass, the rookie defensive end from Texas A&M, was impressive.  If he can keep showing up on game day he could play his way onto the final roster.

I liked how the Cowboys mixed in some 4-3 defense with Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and Dan Connor all on the field.  The Cowboys could really makes things tough on the opposing offense if they can go back and forth between the 3-4 and the 4-3.

Kyle Wilbur looked good but broke his thumb.  He will be out until the regular season starts.  But he looks like a guy who can help in passing situations.

Chris Jones showed why the Cowboys decided to let Matt McBriar leave after his workout a few weeks ago.  The Cowboys have gotten younger at punter and, hopefully, better.  McBriar was one of the best when healthy so Jones has some big shoes to fill.

I think Stephen McGee is done as a Dallas Cowboy.  He just continues to have the same problems year after year.  He just doesn't push the ball down the field and he hesitates on his reads.

Adrian Hamilton needs to get some time with better players on the field.  He seems to have a vast array of pass rush moves but it is hard to judge what he can do when he plays against 3rd and 4th teamers.  Hopefully he'll get some playing time against San Diego against better competition.

It is pretty apparent that the Cowboys need to get healthy.  Luckily there is time to get all of the starters back on the field before the real games start.  There were some positives to be found in what was probably the most boring preseason game I have ever seen.  The Cowboys seem to be developing some good depth on the defensive side of the ball.  Now the offense needs to round into shape.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What I Will Be Watching for Monday Night

We finally get to see some "real" football tomorrow night.  Now obviously we aren't going to learn a lot about the top players on the team.   We know Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Demarcus Ware and the rest of the superstars are good to go.  And we won't see them for more than a series or two anyway.  So here is what I'll be looking for while I watch the game.

Center:  I know Phil Costa can at least do a decent job at center.  He isn't a pro bowler but he can be serviceable.  With Costa out we'll get a heavy dose of David Arkin at center.  Things have been interesting to say the least with Arkin trying to figure out how to snap the ball to the quarterback without putting it on the ground.  He has a real shot to make the team as a backup center and guard if he can show something in this game.

Safety:  We have been hearing a lot of good things about the play at safety in camp.  I'm interested in what Barry Church can show us on the field.  There have even been reports that Gerald Sensabaugh is doing a better job covering receivers down the field.  I want to see the safeties flying around the field and playing aggressively.

Wide receiver:  Miles Austin is out.  Dez Bryant is probably out.  So we'll get a heavy dose of the rest of the depth chart at wide receiver.  Cole Beasley seems to be the guy playing the best right now.  But Andre Holmes, Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, and Raymond Radway are all in the mix.  It will be interesting to see who steps up with the lights on.

Bruce Carter:  We all know that Sean Lee has All-Pro potential at middle linebacker.  I want to see what Bruce Carter can do.  We didn't see much of him last season but we have been told so many times about his athleticism that I want to finally get a good look at what he can do.  I feel good about the linebacker depth but the Cowboys could really be strong up the middle if Carter can play up to his potential.

Lawrence Vickers:  We might not see much of the running game from the starters but I am really excited to see how DeMarco Murray and Vickers play together.  Murray could really have a great season this year if Vickers is what he is advertised to be.

I would love to see Morris Claiborne on the field but that looks unlikely.  We'll most likely have to wait until the second preseason game to see what he can do.  We'll definitely get to see a lot of the youngers guys on the field so we can get a good look at whether the depth of the roster will be improved this season.  Hopefully there will be a marked improvement in that department or it will be another long season.  Monday Night Football should be fun to watch!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Early Camp Thoughts

We are still pretty early in the process of putting together the 2012 version of the Dallas Cowboys but there has been a lot of news out of the first week of camp.  As you would expect, there is some good and there is some bad to talk about.  For the most part the good outweighs the bad.

Good:  Barry Church.  Everything we are hearing indicates that Barry Church has taken his game to a new level.  He is going to start at safety this season unless something goes horribly wrong over the next few weeks.

Bad:  Injuries.  I don't know if the Cowboys are just more careful than other teams but they have an unbelievably long injury list.  Miles Austin leads the list with another hamstring injury.  The interior of the offensive line has be decimated by injuries to the point that the team had to pick up two free agents to add depth.  Fortunately none of the injuries are season-ending so far.  In fact, it appears that everyone will be ready for the start of the season except possibly Mike Jenkins.

Good:  Tyron Smith.  He has been battling with Demarcus Ware every day in camp.  He isn't necessarily winning the battles but he is gaining experience against arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL.  You can't ask for more than that out of practice.

Good:  DeMarco Murray.  He has been working his tail off in camp and looks primed for a big season.  My only concern for him is injury.

Bad:  The #3 Receiver.  No one is stepping up to claim the job.  Dwayne Harris is dropping too many passes.  Cole Beasley had to be begged to rejoin the team.  And Andre Holmes has been inconsistent.  Raymond Radway has shown some flashes but he isn't bad to the form he showed last year in training camp before he broke his leg.  Kevin Ogletree?  I wrote him off a long time ago.  Maybe Danny Coale can show something when he finally gets back into action off of his broken foot.  It is looking more likely every day that the Cowboys will be picking up a veteran for insurance at receiver.

Good:  Middle Linebacker.  The Cowboys are loaded in the middle.  Bruce Carter has a good grasp of the defense and Sean Lee has taken over as the leader of the defense.  Dan Connor has looked good too and is battling Carter for a starting spot.

Good:  Lawrence Vickers.  This guy sounds like the real deal.  He is blowing people up in front of DeMarco Murray and has a great attitude.  Hopefully he can help the Cowboys pound the ball into the endzone when they are close to the goal line.

Bad:  Felix Jones.  He didn't come into camp in good enough shape to pass his conditioning test.  That makes me seriously question where his head is this season.  Hopefully the test was a blip on the radar but it definitely raises a red flag for me.

Bad:  Jay Ratliff.  He is only participating in the walkthrough practices.  Everyone keeps saying not to worry.  Well, I am worried.  Plantar fasciitis injuries are hard to get over.   Just ask Antonio Gates how hard it is to deal with it.

Good:  Dez Bryant.  Dez is in full on beast mode.  And he needs to be after his fiasco this offseason.  He looks ready to finally fulfill his potential this year.

Good:  Dan Bailey.  I have no concern about the kicker this season.

I could go on and on with the good but I think I hit the high points.  My biggest worry right now is the injury bug that has hit the Cowboys during camp.  The Cowboys desperately need Miles Austin and the offensive line to get healthy heading into the season.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Back in Action

After an extremely busy summer for me I am officially back in action on Defending the Star.  It has been a busy last couple of weeks for the Cowboys so I'll jump right into it.

Let's start with Dez Bryant.  He is obviously the biggest lightning rod for criticism these days after the alleged incident with his mother.  Jerry Jones claims that if Dez doesn't clean up his act then the Cowboys will cut the cord with him.  I hope he gave that same message to Dez when he met with him face to face about the incident that took place a few weeks ago.  Dez has a tough family background.  While that might be sad, it is time for Dez to man up and take responsibility for his actions.  This is the first time the police have actually arrested Dez but there seems to be a pattern of behavior that indicates that he has trouble controlling his temper.  It is as simple as you like making millions of dollars to play a game?  Then grow up, be a man, and act like a professional!  Dez's background doesn't excuse his behavior, it only explains it.  It is up to Dez to change himself.

Jerry Jones caused a bit of a ruckus by trying to whip a crowd of Cowboys fans into a frenzy at a rally.  He said the Cowboys are going to kick the Giant's asses.  And?  I don't understand why this is such a big deal.  Just look at the situation where this took place.  End of story.  Too bad ESPN and the NFL Network need to misconstrue Jerry's comments for ratings.  I hope the real fans can see through the typical media BS here.

The early rash of injuries on the offensive line in training camp are concerning.  The Cowboys went out of their way to solidify the interior of the line this offseason.  Unfortunately, Mackenzy Bernadeau injured his hip this offseason and needed surgery, Bill Nagy sprained his MCL on Monday, and Kevin Kowalski hurt his ankle this offseason and is still recovering.  I would like to see Phil Costa get pushed to improve during camp with some competition.  It doesn't look like that will happen.  And I had high hopes for Bill Nagy at guard but it looks like his injury is going to make it tough for him to have any chance at earning a starting role.
Three players failed their conditioning test on the first day of camp and finally passed on their second attempt today.  All I can say is that it is completely inexcusable for Felix Jones to fail his conditioning test.  I know he had offseason shoulder surgery.  He has been running for several months.  The Cowboys are expecting him to return kicks this season and be the change of pace back for DeMarco Murray.  Not coming to camp with the proper conditioning should be a big embarrassment for him and a big concern for the team.  I hope Jason Garrett pushes him to get back in shape. 

All signs are pointing towards Barry Church taking the early lead to start at safety opposite Gerald Sensabaugh.  I would love to see Church win the job so the Cowboys can simply cut Brodney Pool a few weeks from now.  Matt Johnson was drafted in the 4th round and has received rave reviews.  I would like to see Church starting and Matt Johnson getting onto the field occasionally this season.

Let's discuss the debate about whether the window is closing for this team.  I think it is pretty obvious that the window is definitely starting to close.  The key top players are all in the second half of the prime of their careers.  Jason Witten, Tony Romo, Demarcus Ward, and Jay Ratliff aren't getting any younger.  I think the Cowboys have 2-4 years left with this core group of players.  There is still time for these guys to get it done, but the clock is ticking.