Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hotel Reservations

Hotel Reservations
by Joe Rodriguez

Flozell Adams, you love him or you hate him. You love when he blows people off the line and you hate when he goes over the line offsides. The Cowboys find themselves in a interesting position at LT this year and for free agency in 2008. In 2008, Adams becomes an unrestricted free agent and you can bet there's going to be a big market for Adams.

Looking ahead at the market for 2008 and even 2009, there aren't any marquee names at LT, and LT is a difficult position to solidify, teams draft very high to fill the LT spot. A few year's ago the Raiders tried to fill LT with Robert Gallery and he's being moved around that line with no identity - a virtual bust. The Browns drafted OT Joe Thomas, #3 pick overall to block Brady Quinn's blindside. Next year's draft offers two top seniors at OT in Michigan's Jake Long and USC's Sam Baker, but like any year, it's a risk. With Adams available in '08 there's not much risk for teams. Teams are very willing to roll the dice on a LT.

Was this offseason's big free agent payouts an aberition or will this be the norm? If you're Flo its gonna be another player's market and moreover for Adams since he will be atop several teams looking for a LT.

I'm predicting Adams will make his run for the big pay day with a solid season and another Pro Bowl nod. The Cowboys know that if Adams has a solid year, he will be a hot commodity for other teams. The reality is that other teams will target Adams in 2008. We may put some offers on the table, but I suspect Adams will be looking for "Bigg" money as in our very own free agent signing, Leonard Davis ($49.6 million/7yrs) and that's not going to happen.

Adams is going to be virtually unsignable for our taste, and not that we don't have some spending taste, but I think the Cowboys have put themselves in a good position with young guys like McQuistan, Marten, and Free. These are big guys, and I look for all three of these guys to be in the starting lineup as Garrett is bringing Big Back, that is the overall plan.

Its a win-win for Adams and the Cowboys. Expect Adams to be that true Pro Bowl player from a few years ago, run blocking, pass blocking, and blowing people up, too bad we only get this high level of play during contract years. Next offseason, teams could be setting reservations with Hotel Adams for free agency 2008.

Romo present and accounted for at OTAs

by Matt Mosley
May 31, 2007 3:40 PM

I've confirmed that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo did make it back in time from Mexico City for Tuesday's voluntary practice.

And I know that some of you think we go out of our way to create T.O. news, but when the top two receivers on the team decide not to attend practices under a new regime, I think it's a story.

Though he probably won't acknowledge it publicly, I guarantee you that

Jackie Battle, RB - Dallas Cowboys

Undrafted rookie running back Jackie Battle will likely have to show value on special teams to make the Cowboys' roster over Tyson Thompson.

Battle's skills are similar to those of Marion Barber III, as a big back with good explosiveness. Thompson can return kicks but is coming off an injury.


DMN: Cowboy blog: The latest on Remi Ayodele

The latest on Remi Ayodele

For those of you who don't often peruse the Web site of the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe, congratulations on being a full-time employee somewhere. But you might be missing the most recent news on Remi Ayodele. Ayodele, the former Sooner defensive tackle hoping to get a spot in the Cowboys' lineup, is doing a diary for the first-place Galaxy. If he and his teammates keep winning, he'll be World Bowl bound. A current Cowboy with a championship ring. Imagine that.

Incidentally, LB John Saldi and TE Tony Curtis (both Cologne Centurions) are others working in Europe to improve their standing with the Cowboys.

Posted by Todd Davis at 9:20 PM

Cowboy LBs hope to gain by losing

By TODD ARCHER / The Dallas Morning News

IRVING – Bill Parcells loved size in his linebackers. The bigger, the better.
He joked in his first Cowboys training camp in 2003 that his entire linebacker corps could go to lunch in a VW bug. Last summer, he said his linebackers upgraded to a Hummer.

While not exactly a case of the Incredible Shrinking Linebackers, if Parcells saw his group from last year now, he'd see them in a Cadillac Escalade.
"We've definitely slimmed down," Akin Ayodele said. "With the new scheme defensively, it gives us a chance to use our athletic ability and run around and make plays."

Ayodele weighed in the low 250s last year. He's at 240 pounds now and hopes to be around 242 when the regular season begins. Bradie James said he played last year between 260-265 pounds. He is down to 245. Bobby Carpenter said he weighed more than 260 pounds last year, and is closer to 252 now.

Greg Ellis, coming back from Achilles' tendon surgery, played last year at 275, but he is leaner than last year partly to help his rehab. DeMarcus Ware weighed 260 at this time a year ago, but is around 250 now and wants to spend the season between 250-255.

The Cowboys have not forsaken size at linebacker. First-round pick Anthony Spencer is 266 pounds.

Last year, the linebackers had to take on offensive linemen who outweighed them sometimes by more than 40 pounds because the scheme did not call for the defensive line to use a lot of movement.

"It was a double-edged sword," James said. "You had to keep the big guys off you and you had to cover. If I wouldn't have been 265, I wouldn't be here. I'd be coming off a couple surgeries."

The leaner look was not a mandate by the coaches, but rather a case of the players doing it on their own after seeing the changes in scheme.
While linebackers will have to take on linemen in new coach Wade Phillips' 3-4 system, the pounding won't be as great. Opposing offensive lines will see more movement from the Cowboys' down linemen, which will free the linebackers to roam a little more.

Accordingly, the off-season conditioning program has been altered slightly to emphasize defending a vertical passing game.

While the weight is down, the power remains, according to strength and conditioning coach Joe Juraszek. The players are careful to net let their weight slip too much for fear of being overpowered.

In San Diego, Phillips' last coaching stop, Shawne Merriman was the biggest linebacker at 272 pounds. Donnie Edwards, the Chargers' leading tackler in 2006 with 170, was listed at 227 pounds.

As Buffalo's defensive coordinator from 1995 to '97, Phillips helped Bryce Paup become The Associated Press defensive player of the year in 1995, a season in which he recorded 17 ½ sacks. In six years in Denver as coordinator and/or head coach, Phillips saw Simon Fletcher record 70 sacks.
Paup was 250 pounds. Fletcher was 240.

"I've always believed in: The faster they can run, the better off you are," Phillips said. "We can teach them leverage. If you're undersized it can be a problem, but these guys aren't undersized."

Ware said he felt bulky last season at the higher weight, which affected his take-off on his pass rush. At the end of the season, weighing closer to 250 pounds, he felt like he had his edge back and recorded 5 ½ sacks over the last four games.

"Guys are moving around, getting to the quarterback," Ware said. "Just doing things like that, you need more speed and agility instead of just weight and brute strength. If you lose five, seven pounds it helps you much more with flexibility and you don't get as fatigued as fast."
Phillips is quickly learning to like what he has available to him at linebacker, whatever the weight.

"Size doesn't matter," Ware said. "It's how effective you play at your weight."

The Cowboys' starting linebackers averaged 256.8 pounds last year, according to the roster. Now, the projected starters average 250 pounds. (*Players said they weighed more than team's listing)

Greg Ellis
2006: 270*
Now: 265
Change: -5 lbs.

Bradie James
2006: 250*
Now: 245
Change: -5 lbs.

Akin Ayodele
2006: 250*
Now: 240
Change: -10 lbs.

DeMarcus Ware
2006: 257*
Now: 250
Change: -7 lbs.

Mount Vernon museum honors Don Meredith

Mary Dearen
Lifestyle Editor
Midland Reporter-Telegram

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Some years ago I had the privilege of interviewing Don Meredith's parents in Mount Vernon.

Jeff and Hazel Meredith were extremely nice people and proud of their football-playing and football-announcing son.


Don was born and raised in Mount Vernon and played basketball and football in high school. Later he played for SMU. He and Roger Staubach took turns quarterbacking the Dallas Cowboys during the Landry era. After his football career, Don was an announcer for "Monday Night Football."

The museum in Mount Vernon has opened a Don Meredith display.

"We have over 500 items and we try to make a story of them," says J.D. Baumgardner, museum manager and mayor of Mount Vernon.

"People can come in, walk around and see mementos of the family, Don's high school years and his classmates. Then it goes on through the Cowboy years and his work with ABC. He made Mount Vernon a household word during 'Monday Night Football.'"

The display has DVDs and VCRs featuring interviews with Don at various stages in his careers. There is even a radio broadcast of a Mount Vernon football game against rival Mount Pleasant when Meredith was a star player. The museum has a recently acquired trophy that was awarded Mount Vernon High School in 1954 for winning the Dr Pepper Basketball Tournament in Dallas. Meredith played on that team.

The museum has so many trophies, plaques, awards and memorabilia that the display can be rotated to always stay fresh.

"For example, we can change out the blue ABC blazer he wore during the 'Monday Night Football' broadcasts and put in the gold one," says JD.

"We have lots of his cowboy hats. We also have his 1957 jukebox, which is fully restored and beautiful."

Numerous large photographs show the Dallas Cowboys when Meredith played for the team. For any loyal fan of the Landry era, this is something to see. Nearly all players in the ring of honor are shown in team pictures and action shots.

Most of the items had been in Meredith's home in Santa Fe, N.M.

"He had duffel bags and boxes full of stuff," says JD. "I lost count of how many boxes we unpacked. Everything was inventoried and numbered."

When the display opened last October, Don Meredith was on hand.

"He signed probably 400 autographs," says JD. "We had people stacked up from inside the museum into the street for a solid two hours."

Don never forgot where home was. A few years ago he and his wife, Susan, donated $150,000 to the Mount Vernon Rotary club as a trust fund for scholarships. Each year, one boy and one girl receive a scholarship of $3,000 to $5,000.

Numerous Cowboys pass on optional workouts

By CALVIN WATKINS / The Dallas Morning News

Numerous Cowboys players have not attended organized team activities the last two weeks, according to multiple sources.

The OTAs, as their called around the NFL, are voluntary, although some teams request their players to attend.

Starting wide receivers Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn have attended just one each the last two weeks, including none this week. There is one OTA on Friday.

Also, starting running back Julius Jones, Pro Bowl strong safety Roy Williams, veteran cornerback Aaron Glenn, nose guard Jason Ferguson and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware have also missed several OTAs.

Under previous coach Bill Parcells, players rarely missed OTAs unless it was for an injury. Glenn didn't miss any OTAs with Parcells as the coach.

New coach Wade Phillips was unavailable for comment, but he has stressed to his coaching staff that he didn't want to wear down players who are in their 30s, such as Owens, Glenn and Ferguson.

Two weeks ago, Phillips said he thought his team was in good shape physically. Jones, who led the team in rushing last season, has missed off-season workouts, but Phillips excused it because the running back was in shape.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Our UDFAs' signing bonuses

by AdamJT13

Here are the signing bonuses for the 15 undrafted free agents we have signed. Bartel and Paulescu signed one-year contracts, and the rest signed three-year deals --

QB Matt Moore $15,000
WR Jerard Rabb $15,000
NT Ola Dagunduro $12,000
DE Marcus Smith $10,000
RB Alonzo Coleman $9,000
TE Rodney Hannah $9,000
LB Alex Obomese $7,500
RB Jackie Battle $7,000
LB Dedrick Harrington $5,500
S Jasper Johnson $5,500
LB Blair Phillips $5,500
WR Mike Jefferson $5,000
C Steve Rissler $5,000
QB Richard Bartel $0
P Sam Paulescu $0

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

NFC East Predictions

FoxSports StreetCred's Blog
May 29, 2007

With the draft being over and most of the free agents having been signed, the rosters are starting to take hold for the upcoming season. It is still pretty early to do predictions. There may be some free agent signings after June 1st, some rookies and unknowns will emerge during training camp, and the always unpredictable injury bug will cripple teams. However, what would be the fun in waiting until opening day to do some predictions. I am going to post one division each week. I'll list what I feel are each team's strengths and weaknesses. I'll then try to predict the record and placing in the division. After I have done all the divisions, I will make my playoff and Super Bowl predictions. My first division will be the NFC East.

Dallas Cowboys

Strengths: This team returns the core that made this a top offense in the NFL last season. Despite Tony Romo not starting the season, the Cowboys were 4th in the league in points scored, and 5th in total yards. Jones and Barber form a terrific duo at running back, and Owens, Glenn, and Witten are excellent targets. The offensive line is solid. This is one of the more balanced offensive attacks in the NFL. The defense has a very intimidating front 7. Ware and Spears are excellent pass rushers. Rookie Anthony Spencer should be able to help in that area as well. Also, the defense was 10th against the run.

Weaknesses: The main weakness is the pass defense. While Terrance Newman is a great cover corner and Roy Williams helps stop the run as well as any safety in the league, the Cowboys gave up too many big plays last year. The Saints exposed what a balanced attack could do to the Cowboys at the end of last season. Ken Hamlin will be an upgrade at safety. Anthony Henry needs to play better than he did last year. While cornerback was addressed in the 7th round, those players will probably not contribute as starters this upcoming season. The other area of concern is whether Wade Phillips is the right person for this job. While has made the playoffs with the Bills and Broncos, he has never taken a team on a deep playoff run. Handling personalities is always a concern when you have TO in your locker room. Also, there is concern at the third receiver spot. Patrick Crayton looked tough at times last season. However, after him, there is a huge drop off in production. If the Cowboys sustain injuries to their 30 plus starting wide receivers, the offense could severely suffer.

Prediction: This may be the toughest division to pick this year. Three of the teams are coming off playoff births, but everyone has big questions. The biggest key for Dallas will be the development of Tony Romo. While he looked like a Peyton Manning clone against Tampa last year, he had some average performances as well. Sometimes quarterbacks take a step back after the league has a chance to watch film on a player. If he plays at a Pro Bowl level, the Cowboys should have a great chance to not only win the division, but make a solid playoff run. If he plays poorly, the Cowboys don't have a shot to do much of anything. Outside of the division, the schedule might be tough, but most of the tough games are at home. There worst road game is at Chicago. They have home games against New England and New York Jets. The Rams, Packers, and Panthers offer some competition against 8-8 teams from a year ago.

Record: 10-6, NFC East Division Title, NFC #3 seed

Philadelphia Eagles

Strengths: Andy Reid probably did his best coaching job last season. The Eagles had a very explosive offense last season. They were 6th in points per game, and 2nd in total yards. All this was accomplished despite losing Donovan McNabb in the middle of the season. They were able to survive that injury, in part because of Jeff Garcia, and in part because Brian Westbrook is one of the most versatile running backs in the game. The pass defense was, as usual, in the top 10 as well last year. The acquisitions of Takeo Spikes and Kevin Curtis should help on both sides of the ball.

Weaknesses: The Eagles enter the season with a number of question marks. 1) Will Donovan McNabb be healthy to start the season? He is coming off a serious ACL injury. The goal is for him to be ready for the third preseason game. However, if he is slow to come back or gets hurt in the middle of the season, as he has the last two seasons, the Eagles could be in trouble. Feeley and Kolb do not have the track record of a Jeff Garcia in the event McNabb misses significant time. 2) Will a healthy Jevon Kearse and the addition of Takeo Spikes be enough to improve a 26th ranked rush defense, and 3) How will the Eagles replace Donte' Stallworth. His production dropped after McNabb got hurt, because Garcia was not a strong at throwing the deep ball. However, he was a nice addition to the team and will be missed by McNabb. Their draft appears to be fairly average this year, and even with the addition of Curtis, they failed to add any proven playmakers to the offense.

Prediction: As long as McNabb is ready for the season opener and is able to start at least 14 games this season, the Eagles should be in contention for the playoffs and the division this year. Without him, they don't look to have a realistic shot of making the playoffs. However, even if he is able to stay healthy, the Eagles are not as strong as the teams from a few years ago. They need to stop the run better this year and they need someone to step up on offense to take the pressure off of McNabb and Westbrook. Unlike the Cowboys, they play both the Jets and Patriots on the road. They also get the Seahawks and Saints, instead of the Panthers and Rams. That alone might be enough to give this division to the Cowboys. Andy Reid is a great coach and will get the most out of this team. However, it is very hard to pick a record for this team without knowing how McNabb will come back from that injury. For now, I am predicting the Eagles will take a step back this season.

Record: 8-8, 2nd NFC East, No Playoffs.

Washington Redskins

Strengths: The strength of the Redskins is their running game. Betts was a 1,000 yard rusher last season. Portis, when healthy is a 1,000 yard rusher. The Redskins should be able to punish teams on the ground. While Santana Moss had an off year last season, part of the problem was the musical chairs at quarterback. Cooley is also a nice target at tight end.

Weaknesses: When you have the 6th pick in the draft, there are plenty of them. The biggest weakness by far was the defense. 27th against the run, 23rd against the pass, 31st in total yards, and 27th in points allowed. The Redskins had a bend and break defense. LaRon Landry should be a big help in the secondary. He is a four year college starter who should be able to step in and contribute immediately. Outside of that pick, the Redskins got very little immediate help in the draft. If Springs can stay healthy and Landry plays well, the Redskins should be much better against the pass. However, I still have doubts about their ability to stop the run. On offense, the passing game as a whole must improve. Jason Campbell had a nice end to the season. He showed flashes of being a good starting quarterback, particularly against the Giants in the season finale. However, for the Redskins to be competitive, he needs to take the next step in his development. That means having higher than 53.1% completion percentage and taking care of the ball. While Moss and Cooley are quality targets, Lloyd and Randle El need to contribute more.

Prediction: While this team is only a year removed from the playoffs, I don't see them returning to the playoffs this season. The Eagles and Cowboys are tough teams, and have fewer issues than the Redskins do on defense. While the Eagles run defense was nothing to celebrate, it should be better and a veteran quarterback gives more hope for a good season. With Jones, M. Barber, and Westbrook in this division, the Redskins have to stop the run. The schedule is a mix of difficult and easy. The Redskins travel to the Patriots and Jets. The Cardinals and Bucs should be easier than what the Eagles and Cowboys face. While a healthy Portis mixed with Betts and Moss may be exciting at times, it's hard to run the ball a lot if the defense is giving up a lot of points. I think playing around .500 football is a realistic expectation.

Record: 7-9, 3rd Place NFC East, No Playoffs

New York Giants

Strengths: The strength of this team is its skill players. Even with the retirement of Tiki Barber, the Giants have some good weapons. Burress had 10 touchdown grabs last season, Shockey is a very solid tight end, and Jacobs rushed for 9 touchdowns last season. Droughns is a nice addition to the team, although he is the same type of player as Jacobs, in that he is a power runner. Eli Manning has shown signs that he can be a Pro Bowl level quarterback, but has been way too inconsistent in his play.

Weaknesses: Where do I begin? The biggest problem that the Giants had last season was chemistry. Eli Manning never seemed to be on the same page with his team. Coach Coughlin was never able to get control of the team. It was very surprising that Coughlin survived the offseason. The Giants have to replace Barber, who had 2107 total yards, 5 touchdowns, and was the leader of their offense. Jacobs looks up to the task, but until he plays a full season, who knows? Droughns adds a quality second option. Next, Eli Manning has to make the jump this season. The Giants are 0-2 in the playoffs under Manning. He is hot one week and cold the next. He completed 57.7% of his passes and had 18 interceptions last season. He must become smarter in his decision making, continue to throw touchdowns, and make good decisions under pressure. Finally, they also have to find a way to stop people. The Strahan injury contributed to that problem. However, a defense can not count on one player so much that his injury causes them to finish 24th in points per game and 25th in yards allowed.

Prediction: The hardest thing to figure out about this team is whether they are the team that started 6-2, or the team that finished 2-6. I like their draft. Ross and Smith should help right away. Droughns was an acceptable addition to make sure that Jacobs doesn't have to shoulder the entire load of replacing Tiki Barber. The noteworthy part of the schedule has the Patriots, Jets, and Packers at home, with the Bears and Falcons on the road. In the end, I think that Tiki Barber is going to be a too huge of a void to fill. With all the talent on offense, it was still evident from the Redskins game to close the season that he was the go to guy in the offense. If they struggle against the Eagles, Jets, Falcons, and 49ers at the beginning part of the season, it could be over quickly. I don't think Coughlin will be able to keep control of the team if they hit a rough patch early in the season. Finally, I don't think the defense is good enough to compensate for Manning making a high number of mistakes. If he doesn't value the ball this year, it could be a long season. I think predictions for this team will greatly differ between people, depedning on how highly that person values Eli Manning. Despite making the playoffs, the Giants were still an 8-8 team last year. With all these issues, and being in a competitive division, I don't find it unrealistic in the least to see them take a step back.

Record: 6-10, Last Place NFC East, No Playoffs

I hope you enjoyed reading the predictions. I will try to post the NFC South sometime next week.

Wide receivers must learn to defend...Glenn and TO mentioned

By KC Joyner
ESPN Insider

Updated: May 29, 2007, 12:40 PM ET

One issue I am exploring for "Scientific Football 2007" is the impact wide receivers have on their team's interception totals.

Last year, I tracked a variety of interception-related categories for receivers. I'll cover each category and list some of the most relevant or surprising totals in each.

Let's start with the basics and review the 10 receivers with the highest interception totals in 2006:

Braylon Edwards -- 10
Andre Johnson -- 9
Chris Chambers -- 9
Antonio Bryant -- 9
Joey Galloway -- 9
Anquan Boldin -- 7
Lee Evans -- 7
Terry Glenn -- 7
Mike Furrey -- 7
Plaxico Burress -- 7

Not surprisingly, this list includes some of the marquee receivers in the NFL, as more pass attempts likely will equal more interceptions. In some cases, these receivers accounted for more than half of their team's interception totals. Bryant might be the most extreme case, as he accounted for nine of San Francisco's 16 total interceptions last year.

The next thing that stood out to me in these studies was the vast disparity in interception totals between receivers on the same team. For example, Bryant and Arnaz Battle had almost identical pass attempt figures (81 passes thrown to Bryant versus 80 to Battle), yet Bryant had nine of his pass attempts intercepted versus zero for Battle.

Johnson and Eric Moulds also had a large disparity (nine interceptions throwing to Johnson versus one to Moulds), although in this case a large disparity in attempts also exists (163 to Johnson vs. 74 to Moulds).

A receiver's interception total might not be entirely his fault, especially if the quarterback made a bad decision and threw a pass to the receiver while the receiver was tightly covered. How does the top 10 change if the bad decision interceptions are removed from the receiver's totals? Here is the revised list:

Antonio Bryant -- 7
Braylon Edwards -- 6
Andre Johnson -- 6
Joey Galloway -- 6
Plaxico Burress -- 5
Anquan Boldin -- 4
Roddy White -- 4
Terrell Owens -- 4
Mike Furrey -- 4
Reggie Williams -- 4
Darrell Jackson -- 4

That revision helps some of the receivers, but not the ones at the top. In addition to tracking interceptions, I also tracked near interceptions for receivers.

Here are those totals:

Roy Williams -- 15
Braylon Edwards -- 11
Donald Driver -- 11
Laveranues Coles -- 11
Torry Holt -- 11
Bernard Berrian -- 10
Chad Johnson -- 10
Randy Moss --10
Anquan Boldin -- 9
Steve Smith -- 9
Chris Chambers -- 9

This list also contains several marquee wide receivers, but there is one name that stands out -- Braylon Edwards. Edwards is near the top of nearly every list in this article, and that's only part of the picture. Edwards also had the highest combined total of interceptions and near interceptions, plus the second-highest near interception total when there wasn't a bad decision.

To put it another way, one of every six passes thrown his way in 2006 was intercepted or nearly intercepted, and most of those were not caused by bad decisions by the quarterback.

Brady Quinn might give the Browns an upgrade at quarterback, but if Edwards can find a way to dramatically improve his performance in this area -- getting more separation from defenders and/or knocking down more interceptions (he had only one last year) -- that could have just as big an impact on Cleveland's offense.

NFC East team reports: Camp work intensifies

NFC team reports: Camp work intensifies
SN correspondents

Each week, Sporting News correspondents provide insight and analysis on every NFL team. Here's a sample of what you'll find in the latest NFC team reports.

East Division

Dallas Cowboys

Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is trying to get tight end Jason Witten even more involved in the offense, especially by having him stretch the defense down the middle of the field. Witten has too much speed for linebackers and too much size for safeties, so Garrett wants to take advantage by making him a big-play threat -- not just a possession receiver. Garrett knows how valuable Jay Novacek was to the offense and wants Witten to have a similar impact.

New York Giants

Kicker Lawrence Tynes will compete for a job with first-year pro Josh Huston. Tynes is the favorite because of his experience. He has decent leg strength and good accuracy, though he was erratic at times last season. Coaches probably don't want to leave kicking duties to the untested Huston, especially in Tom Coughlin's make-or-break season. But they are enamored with Huston's leg strength and accuracy in spring drills. Huston is recovering from an appendectomy, but when he returns he will face increased pressure. Tynes would likely have to struggle all summer for Huston to win the job.

Philadelphia Eagles

Look for the team to continue to emphasize the run. It did so last season after coach Andy Reid turned over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and had better run-pass balance. That helped the team's division title run. The offense will always lean toward the pass, especially with Donovan McNabb healthy, but more running plays are likely. Third-round pick Tony Hunt adds backfield depth behind starter Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter.

Washington Redskins

Outside linebacker Marcus Washington is rounding into shape after left hip surgery. He is lifting to strengthen his hip and leg and probably will not go full speed until training camp. Just having Washington on the mend is a plus. Washington is the team's best all-around linebacker. He is a sure tackler, is capable in coverage and has speed and explosion to rush the passer. The bum hip hampered Washington last season but he never used it as an excuse. Washington gives the team more than physical ability, though. When healthy, he goes non-stop at all times. The defense missed his intensity last season.

Cowboys Remain Relevant Premium Story

Cowboys Remain Relevant Premium Story
Roy Williams

By Mike Fisher
Posted May 25, 2007

IRVING, Tex. -- The Bush Administration recently labeled Jimmy Carter “increasingly irrelevant’’ because the former President dared criticize U.S. foreign policy.

I’ll stop short of calling critics of the Cowboys and the NFL “increasingly irrelevant’’– I’ll even avoid references to “senility,’’ “Alzheimer’s’’ and “public drunkenness’’ while trying to argue that to the people who matter most, the Cowboys and the NFL are as vital as they’ve ever been.

There are three common criticisms: 1) Parity has watered down the league, robbing the Cowboys of their dynastic destiny. 2) The passion and devotion is somehow not the same. 3) Things just aren’t as “classy’’ as they used to be.

Let’s debunk, item-by-item:

1) Parity has watered down the league, robbing the Cowboys of their dynastic destiny. First of all, it is NOT Dallas’ birthright to win Super Bowls. The organization worked insanely hard to get the new stadium approved in Arlington, labored even more furiously to bring the 2011 Super Bowl to town. … and must now work with twice as much combined intensity to actually get the team to a title game.

Every time somebody suggests that today’s game is “watered down,’’ or “ugly,’’ or that “there isn’t enough good football to go around,’’ I direct them back to 1976. The same exact arguments were made that year, and they had immediately apparent merit. The two expansion teams, Tampa Bay and Seattle, combined to win a total of two games that season. And the only reason the total was that high is because they played one another, so somebody had to win. (Seattle did, sending the Bucs on their infamous 0-14 path.)

You want watered down? That was watered down.

Another important point about parity that is lost on the average Cowboys fan: While Dallas may have suffered at the hands of the salary cap and free agency, the league has thrived. Teams that were built up as powers in the early ‘90’s might’ve stayed that way without parity, a good thing for the Cowboys, 49ers and Bills. (Imagine if the old system had remained in place: Larry Brown, Russell Maryland, Jimmie Jones, Dixon Edwards, Ken Norton, Robert Jones, Darrin Smith, Brock Marion, John Gesek, Kevin Gogan, Mark Stepnoski, Steve Beuerlein and Alvin Harper would’ve never been allowed to leave, and the talent pool would’ve remained deep forever!)

But what about the other two dozen teams? Parity has allowed the NFL to really matter in San Diego and New Orleans and Cleveland and. … well, everywhere.

Yes, parity has forced the Cowboys back to the pack a bit. But parity creates 32 contenders, and that’s good for everybody.

2) The passion and devotion is somehow not the same. Anybody who believes this is a victim of “Good Old Days Syndrome,’’ a phrase coined by DFW radio guy Bob Sturm.

Whose passion is lessened? The 85 guys – that’s the entire Cowboys roster – who are participating in the OTA’s at Valley Ranch this week? The millions of Cowboys fans who follow their teams via and elsewhere? The kids who emulate Romo exactly as their big brothers and their dads and their grandpas emulated Aikman and White and Staubach and Morton and Meredith?

The truth is, we always think football (and TV, music, girls) was superior when WE came of age as fans. If your rite of passage as an NFL fan arrived in 1976 when you were 17, you likely think Tony Dorsett is the greatest Cowboy runner ever. If, however, you turned 17 in 1992, Dorsett is some little guy on grainy film. Emmitt is the greatest Cowboy runner ever!

What you know is normal, what you don’t know is odd.

For years in Pittsburgh, the Steelers wore yellow pants and yellow shirts at practice, with no jersey numbers. I grew up in Minnesota, so it was the weirdest football uniform I ever saw. But if you grew up in Pittsburgh? Yellow-on-yellow was all the rage. And in your mind, probably still is.

Here’s a point that’s been skimmed over as North Texas has captured the 2011 Super Bowl: Yes, Jerry is a brilliant salesman. Yes, Roger Staubach drips credibility. And yes, the new building will be a majestic showplace. But you know another reason we won the bid?

This is Football Country.

If you somehow stripped Texas (and I believe, America) of pro football, you know what would be come America’s pastime? College football. And if it went away? Well, in my suburban Texas community, the high-school football field is adjacent to the baseball field. The other night, the baseball team was participating in a baseball game while the football team was going through non-contact drills.

There were five times as many fans watching the football practice.

3) Things just aren’t as “classy’’ as they used to be. The other day I got a phone call from a prominent Cowboy from the ‘90s. He wanted to know if I would be interested in helping to write a movie script about that era.

“It’d basically be an update of ‘North Dallas Forty,’’ he said.

That era. This era. The next era. The more things change, the more they remain the same – including the fact that the Cowboys and the NFL, all things considered, are as great as ever. … and, if you’re in the right mindset and not willing to slip into “increasing irrelevance,’’ maybe greater.

Romo-mania hits warped speed in hyperspace


Keyshawn Johnson apparently believes Tony Romo is the Paris Hilton of the NFL, famous mostly for being famous.

Of course, Key also thinks he is the next Regis Philbin.

This is added as a friendly reminder that opinions are neither facts nor always based on them — even when uttered by a personal favorite like Keyshawn.

You get a free pass if you missed this latest installment of The World According to Keyshawn, seeing as his random Romo musing originally appeared in a tiny LA Times note and was revealed locally during a long holiday weekend that included rain-soaked images of Ashley Judd at the Indy 500 and a compelling Colonial.

What happened was Keyshawn, who was at his retirement soiree, had a two-word answer — “Tony Romo” — when asked who is the most overhyped NFL player.

“He’s with the Dallas Cowboys,” Keyshawn added, hinting that where — not how — he plays had led to Romo-mania. “He’s played five games. He’s an overhyped deal.”

It should be noted that Romo actually started 11 games and that Keyshawn was a Drew Henson guy while playing for the Cowboys. Of course, Keyshawn was like every NFL receiver — a “Whoever Is Going To Get Me The Ball” guy — and preferred Romo to the other Drew long before that was fashionable.

And whatever else you think of Keyshawn, honesty is not one of his problems. Nor is overhyped the same jab as overrated or flat-out can’t play.

Overhyped is more a criticism of the “hypers” than the “hypee.”

Coach Parcells mocked this tendency toward “Romo-is-Roger-Staubach-Joe-Montana-and-Tom-Brady-all-rolled-into-one” overhype, especially by media types, all last season. This led to a lot of confusing references to anointing oil and its lack of availability at 1-800-FIND-A-QB.

He repeated his sentiment again to Romo before exiting Valley Ranch for good, basically telling him the tricky thing about hype is eventually it has to be lived up to. Coach Parcells believes much on-the-field progress is needed before Romo justifies his hype.

Hardly anybody else seems to share this concern. Not Verizon, which put Romo in a commercial; not Carrie Underwood, who chose him as a worthy boyfriend; not the Miss Universe pageant, which tapped him as a celebrity judge; and certainly not the Cowboys, who passed on Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn in the draft.

I want to get on record here that not taking Quinn was a mistake and not because I do not think Romo is capable of being the guy. Why I hated the decision was because their reasoning was faulty. You do not pass on a QB you thought was the eighth-best player in the draft at No. 22 because you are afraid it will hurt the feelings of a QB who you think is going to be really good.

And guess who is the biggest perpetrator in this underthinking, overhyping mess?

Owner Jones, of course.

He has been receiving a lot of love lately, and deservedly so, for his rather big role in bringing the 2011 Super Bowl to Arlington. And, if being a kick-butt owner were his only job, he’d have a higher approval rating than Romo.

But he is also GM Jerry. He is the guy most responsible for trying to get the Cowboys to the Super Bowl before the Super Bowl gets to Arlington.

He believes they will.

Of course, he always believes they will, even when all evidence is to the contrary.

Jerry believes every year is a Super Bowl year and every quarterback a Super Bowl quarterback. Q was the next McNabb, Hutch was the next Aikman, Henson was the next Brady, Bledsoe was the next — I can not even remember who they were comparing him to — and now Romo is better than them all.

And he may very well be.

Just like this Cowboys team may indeed be Super Bowl-bound next season.

However, this perpetual blind belief prevents the Cowboys from taking an honest look at themselves — flaws, flubs and all — and admitting a step back is needed to take four forward. Even coach Wade Phillips has jumped feet first into this idiocy.

“I don’t see any real weaknesses talent-wise,” he unwisely said recently.

This is a team that has looked like the Campo Cowboys the past two Decembers and has not won a playoff game in more than a decade, but it can not stop hyping how good it is.

How close it is.

“Close is a terrible word; it’s meaningless,” Romo said at a recent Cowboys minicamp. “You do it, or you don’t.”

The same can be said for him.

The difference is that he is not the one overhyping or even hyping himself. It is others — the media, the Cowboys and namely GM Jerry. And they are not doing him any favors.

All they are doing is proving Keyshawn’s point.

Close encounters alien to 'Boys

Close encounters alien to 'Boys
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

IRVING -- Quarterback Tony Romo calls it a meaningless word. But it's a word and a description that has come to be a part of the Dallas Cowboys, much like the star on the helmet, for two years now.

They sure are close.

Close at Valley Ranch means one thing -- Super Bowl. Gone are the days when Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones openly spoke of the big game, but his optimism remains perpetually boundless. With Jones agreeing he is going for it all by signing offensive lineman Leonard Davis in the off-season, the Cowboys remain hopeful they are close ...even if the evidence isn't overwhelmingly in their favor.

But even in a diluted NFC, the Cowboys don't want to hear the word close until they at least prove it.

"I just think it's tough to say we're close when we haven't even played for a division championship," linebacker Bradie James said. "When we get to that point, then we'll be close. Until then, we need to get some playoff wins. It takes more than just making the playoffs."

The Colts, the most recent Super Bowl champions, can recount horror stories of close and the pain that comes with it. With quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts qualified for the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons before finally winning it all in February.

The Steelers were close for nearly a decade. Between 1996 and 2005, they had six 10-plus win seasons, six playoff appearances and four AFC title game appearances. They didn't win a Super Bowl until the 2005 season.

Then there are the Eagles, who played in four consecutive NFC title games before reaching the Super Bowl -- and losing -- in the 2004 season.

"The difference between us and the Eagles? They were playing for the NFC East [title] all the time. We haven't done that," James said. "We haven't made a championship game."

The Cowboys have made the playoffs three times since 1999, haven't won a playoff game since '96, have recorded one 10-win season in the past eight years and are coming off their first consecutive winning seasons since 1995-96.

"We were 9-7 two years in a row; that's not close," defensive end Chris Canty said. "We're a team that's good, we've had some winning seasons, but we're trying to get over that hump to become great."

So why do they deserve the label of "close?"

Aiding, and confusing, their stature is the fact that the Cowboys play in an NFC that has won just two of the past 10 Super Bowls and doesn't exactly boast any super powers, which allows the Cowboys to accurately claim they are close. Of course, any number of NFC teams can probably make the same claim.

But the Cowboys do have an oil tanker's worth of high draft picks on defense; a Pro Bowl tight end; a pair of proven, if older, receivers; a running back tandem that combined for almost 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns last season; and a young quarterback who has demonstrated Pro Bowl ability.

"We are solid across the board," linebacker Akin Ayodele said, "so anything less than the ultimate game is short of what we wanted to do and what we feel we could do."

With the regular season still months away, the Cowboys can remain close. Close to another winning record. Close to the playoffs. Close to their first division title since 1998. Close to that elusive Super Bowl.

It is a word, however, the Cowboys would prefer not to use, because they admit they haven't yet supplied enough evidence to prove it.

Heavy Heart: Spears Mourns Tragic Death Of Former LSU Roommate

Nick Eatman - Email Staff Writer
May 29, 2007 5:35 PM

Marquise Hill (84) celebrates after Spears (center) scored a TD in LSU's national championship win. IRVING, Texas - Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears attended the team's voluntary OTA (organized team activity) practice Tuesday morning at Valley Ranch.
Physically, he was at Valley Ranch, running through the drills and plays with his teammates.
But mentally, Spears admits his mind was somewhere else. Somewhere closer to his college teammates at LSU who are all coping with the tragic loss of Marquise Hill, who was found dead Monday afternoon after he reportedly fell off a personal watercraft and drowned in Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans. On Tuesday, authorities officially ruled the incident an "accidental drowning."

Spears and Hill entered LSU together back in 2002 and lived in the same house for three years. The Cowboys defensive end called Hill one of his best friends.

"It's tough, man," Spears said on Tuesday, still awaiting official word on the funeral plans. "It's just really tough. I'm still in shock, I guess. We all know death is something we've got to go through. But you're just never prepared for it, especially for a guy who's 24 years old and has a two-year old son. It's just tough."

Hill, a former LSU standout who spent the last three seasons with the New England Patriots, was pronounced dead Monday afternoon, some 17 hours after he was first reported missing.
Hill and a female friend reportedly ventured out on the lake where they fell off the watercraft Sunday night. Hill's friend was able to grab onto a piling until she was rescued. But Hill, who friends say was a good swimmer, reportedly might have suffered a concussion and drifted away until his body was found on Monday afternoon.

"I got a call that night from Skyler (Green)," Spears said, referring to the former Cowboys draft pick in 2006 who played at LSU and is now a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. "He called me when (Hill) was first missing. So all night long I was just hoping he would turn up, washed up on the shore or something, just out of breath maybe. But that next day, when we didn't hear anything, I was just sort of waiting for the inevitable."

Although Hill and Spears began their collegiate careers together, Hill left LSU a year before Spears to declare for the 2004 NFL Draft. After getting selected in the second round (63rd overall), Hill had played only one game as a rookie and just 13 games in three seasons.
Spears said he last spoke to Hill about two weeks ago, but said he talked to him more during the season.

"Well, he was inactive for a few games, and I would always call him and talk to him about that - trying to keep his spirits up," Spears said. "But we were like brothers. We talked about everything. But he was in a good spot up there in New England. He was playing with some former LSU guys, some teammates. So I think he liked being up there."

Spears said Hill had become close with current Patriots and former LSU standouts Randall Gay, Kevin Faulk and Jarvis Green.
But in college, he said there was no separating the four who lived in the same house for three years.

"It was me and Marquise, and then Michael Clayton and Ben Wilkerson," Spears said. "We all lived three for about three years. And we always had the same dreams. We all said we were going to win a national championship and we were going to all make it to the pros. And we fulfilled that."

Those four players were all members of LSU's national championship in 2003 when they defeated Oklahoma in the BCS national championship game in New Orleans.
Hill jumped to the NFL that season, and Clayton also was drafted in the first round by Tampa Bay in 2004. Wilkerson, LSU's starting center, signed with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent following the 2005 draft, but has been with Cincinnati for the last two years.

"We were all pretty close," Spears said. "We kept in touch. Not as much was we probably should've, but that's usually how it goes. But anytime you lose someone like that, it's just real tough. That's about all I can really say."

Spears said he anticipated the funeral would be held in New Orleans, possibly as early as this week. He said he will remain in Dallas and even participate in the OTA practices until he leaves for the services.

Close, but no cigar, yet

by Grizz

Topic of discussion: how close are the Dallas Cowboys to returning to the Super Bowl? Credit Mac Engel at the DFW S-T for opening up this debate today. It’s been an oft heard refrain lately from Cowboys supporters and even some neutral press that the Cowboys are close to returning to elite status in the NFL. But are they really?

Over the past four years we’ve made the playoffs twice, and in both instances we bowed out in the first round. We just changed coaches and to some extent, philosophy, which usually causes a team to struggle until they can incorporate everything smoothly into the new team. The Cowboys are also relying on a QB who seems to be a franchise-type, but hasn’t really proven that yet. This should cause some pause when discussing the Cowboys as close to returning to the Super Bowl.

On the other hand, the Cowboys are definitely on the rise, their cycle of downtime seemed to reach its nadir with the consecutive 5-11 seasons under Dave Campo. Bill Parcells was brought in to restructure the roster, and to some extent, the way the Cowboys organization thought about running an NFL franchise. Play on the field noticeably improved. The Cowboys roster is loaded with young, and potentially gifted, football players.

There are a couple of factors that play into this theme of the Cowboys being close. One, the NFC is a wide-open conference. It truly does not have an elite cadre of teams that are poised to dominate over the next few years. This leaves the impression that almost any decent team that puts together good roster choices with a good bit of luck and deft management can reach the Super Bowl from the NFC. Another theme is the Cowboys themselves, we – as fans – are almost universally optimistic that we will reclaim our rightful spot as NFL champions. This is embodied in the ever-present optimism of our owner, Jerry Jones. The problems is that sometimes as fans, and as an organization, we believe so much in our future, that we tend to over-estimate our own talent level in terms of an NFL roster.

So the question is posed – are we close, or are we just imagining that we are close?

Bradie James takes a pragmatic view.
"I just think it's tough to say we're close when we haven't even played for a division championship," linebacker Bradie James said. "When we get to that point, then we'll be close. Until then, we need to get some playoff wins. It takes more than just making the playoffs."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Memorial Day to my brothers and sisters in Arms

Take a little time and think about a Veteran today, because freedom is not free.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Q&A with Michael Irvin

By Ethan J. Skolnick
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted May 23 2007

As well as he played - and he will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August - the former St. Thomas Aquinas, University of Miami and Dallas Cowboys receiver talks an even better game. Staff writer Ethan J. Skolnick caught up with Irvin at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for his Playmaker Charity Weekend.

Q: How are your poker skills?

A: "I'm not a great poker player. I'm not much for bluffing. I'm so pure and honest, it's ridiculous. This game requires an expertise in lying: lying and the ability to deceive and the art of deceit. Those are things that I haven't mastered, and I don't know if I really want to master, because it may take away from my broadcasting career. I make my living on telling it like it T-I-S, tis."

Q: Who is your Hall of Fame presenter?

A: "Jerry Jones. . . . In all my years, and I've been blessed, the reaction I got out of Jerry when I asked him to present me was one of the greatest things I have ever experienced. It was honest, it was pure, he was so excited, and my wife was so overjoyed, and there were tears shed in the room."

Q: The odds on you crying that day?

A: "I don't know. I'm learning more and more what it means to be a Hall of Famer. And I have used the Hall of Fame as a springboard, many a time. When I got tired, and I'd go, "Man, this is what it takes to be a Hall of Famer." And so I knew the enormity of it all, but I couldn't grasp it all until I got here and started going through it. So for me to tell you that I'm going to be in total control of my feelings.... I don't know what the happenings will be that day."

Q: Do you endorse UM moving to Dolphin Stadium?

A: "I love that we have the great tradition that we had in the Orange Bowl. Tradition means that we had great success there. But we can¹t live on yesterday's success. We¹ve got to enjoy it, remember it, appreciate the tradition, but we have to move forward to tomorrow's success. There's a business aspect to all of this."

To Be a Two Back System or Not To Be

by Joe Rodriguez

You can say the Cowboys started this revolution in 2004, when we added Marion Barber III to the backfield. The Cowboys drafted Julius Jones the year before. In 2004, we drafted MB3, and some thought he would be used as a possible back up to Julius Jones, but those weren't the plans. Parcells planned on using a two-back attack, and the Cowboys one of a few teams that paved the way for other teams going to a two back system.

ESPN's Len Pasquarelli suggests that the two back system is on its way out. Pasquarelli points out several teams getting away from the two back system, such as Indianapolis and a few other former two back systems:

Addai, who led all rookies in rushing yards in 2006 despite not starting a regular-season game, also figures to tote a significantly heavier load in the offense this year.

Dominic Rhodes, the nominal starter in 2006, is gone, having defected to Oakland as an unrestricted free agent.

Other top contenders that have moved away from the two back system are New England and the Bears. Corey Dillion was released from the Patriots, and is about to retire, the Bears opted to trade Thomas Jones to the Jets. Basically these teams have not moved away from this system, but have been forced to rely on a #1 RB due to player attrition via release, trade, and free agency. There's going to be attrition every year, and teams would like the luxury of having a two back system, but there are all these variables that will come into play. In addition, some players in a two back system aren't going to be happy because in some cases one of the two backs wants to be the #1 and only starting back.


Just when it seemed the pendulum was swinging toward teams that preferred a two-back system, a practice that would have been anathema not too many years ago, the momentum seems to have shifted again. General managers who were justifiably concerned over the effects of wear and tear on their No. 1 tailbacks, and thought that they had found a viable solution by spreading the carries around, suddenly find themselves fretting again about a lack of distribution in the running game.

The system does work well, but when you have two good running backs, one of the two will eventually want the chance to be the #1 sole starter for another team. Its the idea that doesn't work well with young talented players that inherently want the spotlight, recognition, and accolades - its natural, its competition. Everyone wants to be the next Emmitt, Walter, or Barry.

There are still some top contending teams that utilize the system like The Cowboys (Jones & Barber), the Saints (McAllister & Bush) ,the Chargers (Tomlinson & Turner), and Jacksonville (Taylor & Maurice-Drew). With these teams, we'll probably see some attrition with the Cowboys and Chargers, eventually the Saints in a year or two. This doesn't mean the system is dead or does it?. If the Cowboys choose not to extend Julius he'll be a free agent next year, but the Cowboys may already have their eyes set on a few other RBs to come in. The Chargers are going to lose Turner next year, so we'll see what their plans are, Norv's background employs a one back system for the most part, so they may be done with the two back system after this year.

So in the end, its not whether teams want a two back system, teams do want the system, but its more of a "short term luxury" than a need. There are great benefits for a two back system. Your offense is more balanced, you have fresh legs in the game at all times, and the wear and tear is diminished a bit on the running backs. The majority of the teams in the playoffs this year employed the two back system - they had that luxury last year. Will we see these teams return to the playoffs with their loses at RB? We will see.

Greg Ellis Might Want to Start Worrying

Posted May 27th 2007 8:37AM
by Ryan Wilson

Anthony Spencer, the Cowboys' first-round pick is having a marvelous minicamp/OTA. This could mean everything ... or it could mean absolutely nothing. It's May, after all. Nobody's wearing pads, there's no contact (at least there's not supposed to be) and the speed of the game is a tad slower now than it will be in training camp and preseason.

Still, it's always good to hear positive reviews on the top draft pick, even under the circumstances:
In Thursday's voluntary workout, Spencer nearly had an interception of a pass in the flat from quarterback Matt Baker to fullback Deon Anderson. At the snap, his first read was on the tight end, but when Anderson went wide, Spencer followed.

"It's just knowing where you're supposed to be and reacting," said Spencer, who rarely dropped into coverage at Purdue. "I was mad I dropped it."
You don't need pads to know this is encouraging. Leading up to the draft, the concern was that Spencer, strictly a defensive end in college, would struggle in pass coverage.

Apparently, that's not an issue. And even if it is, Spencer's in the right place: 2005 first-rounder DeMarcus Ware made the same transition and he's now one of the league's best young players; Greg Ellis, a defensive end for his first eight seasons, made the switch last year and had some success before a season-ending injury.

Oh, and the Cowboys' new head coach, Wade Phillips, has a little experience in helping turn collegiate pass rushers into menacing 3-4 outside linebackers. Exhibit A: Shawne Merriman. The only issue is if Spencer can make enough progress between now and September to earn the starting job. Ellis is the incumbent, but he's coming off an Achilles injury and his place at the top of the depth chart can be described as tenuous at best. Whatever happens, if you're the Cowboys, this is a good problem to have.

The evolution of Jerry Jones

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a sports columnist for The Dallas Morning News.

IRVING – They won't admit it, but NFL royalty laughed when Jerry Jones signed on the dotted line in 1989 and became the third man to own the Dallas Cowboys.

When he purchased the Cowboys for $70 million and the lease to Texas Stadium for another $70 million, many considered Jones an Arkansas rube, a man who made a fortune wheeling and dealing in the high-risk oil and gas business, where luck is more important than skill.

What a sucker. Or so it seemed.

Only a fool, they chuckled, would assume so much debt, especially when it came to the stadium lease. At the time, owners only wanted access to the stadium on the days their team played. See, the league's hierarchy understood the lure of owning an NFL franchise was a turbo-charged ego boost, but not worth jeopardizing their net worth to do it.

Jones did it willingly.

And in return for his risk, Jones has won three NFL championships and made his once debt-ridden franchise worth a little more than a billion dollars, according to Forbes' 2006 rankings. No doubt that figure will increase exponentially when the club's new stadium is completed.

These days, Jones is among the most respected owners in professional sports. The NFL doesn't make any major decision without the input of the man it once mocked.

And last week, when North Texas landed the league's biggest prize – Super Bowl XLV – it completed Jones' transformation from NFL outsider into one of the league's most powerful owners.

His résumé compares favorably to other innovative owners who created a legacy that ensures their names are scribbled in the league's annals, so generations will learn about their contributions to the NFL.

Jones' secret: He has no fear.

Failure doesn't intimidate him. He always believes victory is near. The odds and circumstances don't matter.

Of course, that's the same reason Jones has rolled the dice since Troy Aikman retired on quarterbacks such as Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, Drew Henson, Chad Hutchinson, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Bledsoe and others before finally finding Tony Romo, who may be a keeper.

And it's the reason he convinced himself over the last few years that the Cowboys could compete for a Super Bowl, when it was apparent to everyone but him that they lacked the talent.

Jones takes that approach because he realizes the Cowboys' illustrious history, which was created by the successful triumvirate of Tom Landry, Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt, doesn't allow their fans to be satisfied with anything less than a championship.

No team has played in more Super Bowls than the Cowboys. Their five NFL titles is a feat shared by only the San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers. Fans of the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers and Montreal Canadiens view their teams similarly.

Socks and jocks
Jones built the Cowboys into a winner by being a maverick. Peer pressure never affected him. You tell Jones he can't do something and it makes him more determined.

After all, Jones has done it his way from the day he bought the Cowboys.

After firing Landry, Jones named himself general manager, hired Jimmy Johnson, who was a great college coach with no NFL experience, and proclaimed he would learn everything about the game from socks to jocks. Still, he was a league laughingstock after the Cowboys finished 1-15 his first season.

Ironically, the foundation for the Cowboys' success started with Texas Stadium, because Jones figured out how to turn an albatross into a gold mine.

He started by having tours, catered events and concerts at Texas Stadium to create revenue streams. Then came the controversial decision to forge partnerships with companies like Pepsi, Nike and American Express, which didn't have sponsorship agreements with the NFL.

Jones successfully argued that Texas Stadium was a different entity than his football club, giving him the right to create marketing agreements between the stadium and any company he wanted. Instead of pumping all of the money from those agreements into his bank account, he first used much of it to improve the roster through various forms of free agency.

Later, he used the money to keep the Cowboys' vast collection of stars happy and wealthy after they had rewarded him with Super Bowl championships following the 1992, 1993 and 1995 seasons.

Stadium revenue was the key. The other owners aren't stupid. They started using the same tactics to generate money. More important, they saw the significance of owning a stadium instead of leasing it. It's no coincidence that only a handful of NFL teams don't have new or completely refurbished stadiums.

They're following Jones' lead.

Actually, whether the other owners admit it or not, they rewarded Jones for being a marketing visionary last week by awarding the 2011 Super Bowl to North Texas. Don't think for a minute that Jones' contribution to the wealth of his fellow owners wasn't a factor in beating out Indianapolis for the nation's biggest sports spectacle.

Change for the better
As you would expect, Jones has matured in his 18 seasons as Cowboys owner.

Winning three Super Bowls in his first seven seasons made it hard to be humble. That's why Jones convinced himself that anyone wearing a headset and golf shirt could lead the Cowboys to another Super Bowl.

The fallout from that warped thought process: no playoff wins since 1996, no division titles since 1998 and five head coaches in the last 10 years. Trust me, if the Cowboys ever win another Super Bowl, he'll respect the process more than he ever did.

Jones no longer makes bold predictions regarding how many games the Cowboys will win or how deep they'll go in the playoffs. He also rarely discusses contracts publicly. He still enjoys the limelight, but four seasons with Bill Parcells proves he doesn't need or crave it as much as he once did.

At 64, Jones remains young at heart. He spends most mornings on an elliptical machine and doesn't weigh much more than he did during his college days in the early '60s.

None of this means he always makes the right decision. No leader does.

But no owner wants to win more than Jones. He choked up a few months ago when announcing Wade Phillips as the Cowboys' new coach. And the tears flowed last week, when the league announced North Texas was getting the Super Bowl.

Those are tangible indications of how much the Cowboys mean to him. He loves the league and all it has done for him

No longer is he the butt of jokes.

The North Little Rock, Ark. native now is a part of NFL royalty. It has been a circuitous journey.

Flozell Adams, OL - Dallas Cowboys

from CowboyMagic31's SportingBlog
Sporting News

LT Flozell Adams
Strengths: Stength, size, talent, experience, one of top 5 tackles in NFL.
Negatives: I'll have to get back to you if I think of any.

Flo is in the final year of his contract. It is now the second season since his injury. The talented linemen is set for a huge year. He is one of many Cowboys players glad that the Tuna has left. In my readings around the net many people are wondering about the players being so happy Parcells is gone, and they have a new "players' coach". Fans like me have been happy since the day the Tuna retired. It is a matter of turning the players loose, to score on offense, and to make plays on defense. The Tuna had everyone too reigned in. One of the areas that really hurt is the OL. The too predictable offense really put the OL to the test. When you are pass blocking when everyone knows you are passing, and run blocking when everyone knows you are running, play after play, that is work. Things promise to be different this year, Fun! And Flo is the veteran leader of the Cowboys' Super Huge OL.

LT Adams 6-7 340
LG Kosier 6-5 305
or McQuistan 6-6 315
C Gurode 6-4 312
RG Davis 6-6 366
RT Colombo 6-8 320
or Marten 6-7 309

The Cowboys line is huge, athletic and deep. Adams is a top 5 NFL LT. Gurode is an allstar C. RG Eclipse Davis could be the best RG in the NFC. The other two spots promise to be solid, with big athletic players, competition, and players suited for their positions. Just imagine, the Cowboys OL could be Totaly Awesome. Opposing defenders will be floating around like refugees on rafts. Cowboys players will be zipping around in Go Fast Boats.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Cowboys' Spencer Making Strides in Switch to Linebacker

Publication Source The Dallas Morning News
Publication Date 2007-05-26

IRVING, Texas _ The pro football education of Anthony Spencer is only a few weeks old, and the steps can be tedious.
At his first minicamp, Spencer, the Cowboys' first-round pick, was thrown into the starting lineup as Greg Ellis rehabbed from a torn Achilles' tendon.

During the past week's organized team activities, Spencer is showing he might be a fast learner as he makes the switch from defensive end at Purdue to outside linebacker for the Cowboys.

In Thursday's voluntary workout, Spencer nearly had an interception of a pass in the flat from quarterback Matt Baker to fullback Deon Anderson. At the snap, his first read was on the tight end, but when Anderson went wide, Spencer followed.

"It's just knowing where you're supposed to be and reacting," said Spencer, who rarely dropped into coverage at Purdue. "I was mad I dropped it."

But the Cowboys traded back into the first round to get Spencer because of his pass-rushing skills _ he had 10.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for a loss as a senior.

When he saw fullback Oliver Hoyte attempting to block him on a pass play, he bulled him back to quarterback Tony Romo for what would have been a sack.

"Every practice is different, realizing what I have to do. I'll go to the film room, watch it, go over what I did wrong, and it's easy to correct stuff like that,'' Spencer said.

In the last two years, the Cowboys have seen DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker with success. And coach Wade Phillips and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart witnessed Shawne Merriman's move to linebacker with the San Diego Chargers.

"It starts with your stance, every time getting in your correct stance and getting in correct alignment," Phillips said, "and then knowing the assignment and then playing the technique involved and then effort to the ball."

For a player accustomed to using a three-point stance, the adjustment can take some time. It took Ware until the early part of his first training camp to get used to standing up at the line of scrimmage.

"You've got to get comfortable in your stance and be able to get off the same way you were as if you were in a three-point stance. Your eye level of looking at the ball is different. You've got to get a lean going with your center of gravity," Ware said.

Spencer has been in Ellis' ear since arriving at Valley Ranch, sitting behind the veteran in meetings and asking question after question. During breaks Thursday, Ellis showed Spencer the finer points of footwork, especially against the run.

"He was telling me to put my weight on my front foot," Spencer said. "I was just in my stance and I wasn't thinking about where my weight should be at all. It's stuff like that where he's helped."

The pace of the off-field transition will also begin to pick up. Spencer is in the process of finding a house.

"I'm staying in a moderate price range and whatever I find in that price range I'm going to be happy," he said.

He does not have a car yet, but might pick up a rental to see some of the area this weekend.

But then he will return to Valley Ranch on Tuesday for the second round of organized team activities, ready to continue the education process.

"On my first day I was thrown in there and I really didn't know what was going on. I'd hate to be like that just coming straight to training camp," Spencer said. "It's a big help for me being here right now."

Cowboys Team Report

Cowboys Team Report
Jean-Jacques Taylor
For Sporting News

PERSONNEL ANALYSIS: Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is trying to get TE Jason Witten even more involved in the offense, especially by having him stretch the defense down the middle of the field. Witten's strength is he has too much speed for linebackers and too much size for safeties, so Garrett wants to take advantage of that by making him a big-play threat -- not just a possession receiver. Besides, Garrett played for the Cowboys when former TE Jay Novacek was one of the team's best players and wants Witten to have just as much of an impact. . .

DE Greg Ellis may not be happy with his contract, but he's spending a lot of time helping his future replacement -- first-round pick Anthony Spencer -- get prepared for the season. They sit next to each other during meetings and Ellis is passing on all of his secrets as a pass-rusher. Many of the tips focus on technique like making sure Spencer has his weight on the proper foot or stutter-stepping during his pass-rush to confuse the tackle. The coaching staff has been impressed with Spencer and his ability to accelerate quickly to take advantage of a lineman.

SCOUTING REPORT: Keith Davis will be frustrated by his return to backup strong safety, but he still has a valuable role on the Cowboys' defense. He's capable of starting should Roy Williams get hurt, and with Ken Hamlin starting at free safety, he likely will return to being an elite member of the Cowboys' special teams. His role was reduced some as a starter because the coaching staff wanted to make sure he wasn't worn down by his special team duties. Davis is a solid player. He's aggressive and a big hitter, but those are the same traits that allow opponents to set him up play-action passes, where his aggressiveness is used against him. He doesn't create many turnovers, which is something the Cowboys want him to improve.

MINICAMP MAYHEM: Most of the Cowboys' linebackers and defensive linemen have lost between 10 and 20 pounds because Wade Phillips' version of the 3-4 defense requires a lot of quickness and athleticism. The players are losing weight so they can handle the demands of the new system. They need to be lighter and quicker because this scheme requires more stunting, blitzing and movement than the scheme Bill Parcells employed. This system demands athleticism and those who don't have it will be exposed. The players like it, at least for now, because it allows them to blitz and run and try to dictate the game to the offense through their aggressiveness. The same is true for the defensive lineman who must also run in this scheme. They will be doing much more stunting and slanting and they need to have the quickness to make their move and exploit the confusion it creates within the offensive line.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News.

Henry Looking for Quieter '07

By Rafael Vela

The change from heavy cover two looks could ease some of Anthony Henry’s burden in ‘07. K.C. Joyner has an interesting article out at ESPNet (protected) that chronicles the attempts NFL cornerbacks faced last year. I’ve cribbed the top four from that list:

1. Anthony Henry, Dallas Cowboys — 100
2. Chris McAlister, Baltimore Ravens — 97
3. Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears — 96
4. Carlos Rogers, Washington Redskins — 96

Anthony Henry was the most-thrown-at cornerback last season. Joyner makes the point that attempts is not directly related to quality. McAllister, Asante Samuel, Ronde Barber and Antoine Winfield were other big name corners who were among the top 20 targeted.

I have not seen Henry’s end of the year numbers, but after 10 games he and Terence Newman both ranked in the top quartile in yards-per-attempt, Joyner’s top metric for assessing coverage effectiveness. Henry was already getting heavy attention even then though I suspect several factors caused him to get even more attention in late November and December.

1. He played the second half a on a bum knee. I don’t know the full extent of his injury but was told late in the year that he was one example of a player working through an injury to satisfy Bill Parcells. The Tuna’s teams led the league in games played but in some cases the player may have benefitted from a short rest.Teams knew Henry was hobbling and decided to attack him even more.

2. He lacked effective deep help. When the Cowboys played cover two, more often than not the Pat Watkins/Keith Davis platoon had deep responsibility on Henry’s side. Think of Hank Baskett’s TD catch in Philly; Plaxico Burress’ 50+ yard TD grab on the opening series in Texas Stadium; the 43 yard bomb to Anquan Boldin in Arizona; the 42 yard TD bomb to Devery Henderson in the Saints blowout and the 52 yard TD bomb to Roddy White in Atlanta. Every one of those plays resulted from poor or nonexistent safety play behind Henry. I’ve documented that Davis was the worst cover FS in football during his ‘05 debut. I saw nothing to suggest he improved very much last year.

3. Greg Ellis’ injury caused Dallas to take more blitzing risks the last six games, that they were not very effective. The gambling give Henry less coverage support than he had prior to Ellis’ loss.

Dallas played down the stretch with a one-legged corner and a brainless FS hydra backing him up. That made for a deadly combination.

The beefed up rush, the addition of Ken Hamlin and a healthy knee might not take the target off Henry’s back this year, but the confluence of factors should make deep plays less frequent.

We hope so anyway.

Stanback may not be ready until training camp

Calvin Watkins, of the Dallas Morning News, reports Dallas Cowboys WR Isaiah Stanback (foot) may not participate in practice until training camp after having foot surgery. Stanback wants to be completely healthy before he returns to practice.

USAToday - Inside Slant: Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have had a revolving door at free safety since Darren Woodson retired.

The lack of stability has forced Pro Bowl strong safety Roy Williams to play out of position, out of his comfort zone and ultimately get exposed as a poor pass defender and inadequate quarterback for the secondary.
The Cowboys are betting that free agent Ken Hamlin will fill the void.
He signed only a one-year deal, worth $2.5 million, but the Cowboys are hoping that it will be a long-term arrangement.

"I've got the thought right now," Jones said. "We've got a one-year contract with him. But it's certainly implied if everything works the way we want it to, we're going to have a long-term deal together."
Hamlin is hoping for the same but he plans do his talking on the football field.

"You try not to think about it," Hamlin said. "I don't really see myself preparing for the season any different. You just want to go out there and play your game. If you do that, all the contract stuff should work itself out."

The Cowboys are confident enough in Hamlin that they didn't address the safety position in the draft. Four safeties were drafted in the first round but the Cowboys traded out and then traded back to take edge rusher Anthony Spencer.

"What he does for us, to fill a need we didn't have (filled), that was going to be hard to get in the draft," Jones said. "It's hard for a rookie, no matter how high you took him, to come in here and set the defense and be your quarterback on defense. To count on that happening was really asking a lot. And having (Hamlin) really took the pressure off of us because this was a good draft for safeties and a good draft for free safeties."

For the record, Pat Watkins and Keith Davis are also competing for the starting job at free safety.

Both players split time at the position last year, to limited success. Watkins started nine games and Davis, who started 15 games at the position in 2005, started six.

However, the problem of giving up too many big plays in the passing game remained. The woes at free safety forced Williams to spend too much time in coverage and away from the line of scrimmage where his skills suit him best. Williams was exposed as a pass defender. He also did not do a good job making the calls on defense.

Hamlin is expected to solve those problems. He has the knowledge to call the defense and the skills to play center field.

"It matters, but you really can't control it," Hamlin said of starting. "It's good to be out there and working with the first team. But it's May. I want to be the starter when the season starts. That's when you want to be starting. But I'm just going to go out there and play like I play. We'll see what happens."

—The Cowboys won the rights to host the 2011 Super Bowl at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Now, the goal is to become the first host team to play in the Super Bowl. Although the game is a few years away and the roster will be decidedly different by then, a few Cowboys players are hopeful of playing in the game as a members of the team. "I've always had this vision of one day playing it at your own stadium, that would be kind of neat," quarterback Tony Romo said. "You never know how it's going to go. I think it just brings a legitimacy to the area. It just shows the commitment from the owner and the organization to build a stadium and a place like that. It's exciting because that atmosphere around a Super Bowl, I don't think there's much like it. To have it here is just going to be super exciting." The Cowboys will be trying to make history.
41 Super Bowls have been played and no team has played the game in its own stadium. Two came close. The Los Angeles Rams played Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and San Francisco beat Miami in Super Bowl XIX at Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif.

—OG Leonard Davis knows big expectations come along with his seven year 49.6 million contract, which includes a team record $16 million signing bonus. But he said he can handle it. "There's always pressure on everyone to succeed," he said. "It's really no different with me. I've had that my whole career. I think if you don't come out and feel pressure to play well and do your job, then you're not going be around very long."

—The organized team activity days are voluntary and supposedly non-contact. But there was plenty of action on the field on Thursday.
Two fights occurred in practice in front of the media. DE Jay Ratliff battled rookie T Doug Free, and G Cory Procter took on DE Stephen Bowen.

—DE Anthony Spencer is the third Cowboys player to make the transition from defensive end to linebacker in as many years, following DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis. So the rookie from Purdue is not in uncharted territory. Still, he acknowledges it's a transition he must make.
"It's just knowing where you're supposed to be and reacting," said Spencer, who rarely dropped into coverage at Purdue. Every practice is different, realizing what I have to do. I'll go to the film room, watch it, go over what I did wrong, and it's easy to correct stuff like that."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Last year was a little difficult. But with this defense it allows you to run and make more plays. It's not near the structure of how you have to play within the scheme. You get to let your athletic ability take over." — Linebacker Bobby Carpenter on why he hopes for a better sophomore season after being a disappointment as a rookie.

Tuna: Romo 'has a chance'

From the DMN Dallas Cowboys Blog

Bill Parcells kinda, sorta gave Tony Romo a vote of confidence in a Q&A that ran in USA Today. The Romo-related excerpt:

Q. Tony Romo slumped a little at the end of the season. Are you still convinced he's going to be Dallas' long-term quarterback?

A. I think he has a chance to be. But I think there are things he has to do. I told Tony this before I left Dallas. I talked to him three or four times. There are certain things he has to do to improve. He knows what they are, and I won't make them public. I relayed my same sentiments to the quarterbacks coach, Wade Wilson.
I'd be willing to bet that improving ball security and eliminating on-field kissyface with celebrities before games topped Parcells' to-do list for Romo.
Parcells did a pretty good job dodging the one T.O. question. Bringing No. 81 to Dallas is back to being "something we did as an organization."

Witten credits Parcells, but expects more now

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Cowboys tight end Jason Witten has caught more than 60 passes in each of the past three seasons, but caught only one touchdown pass last year.
IRVING -- Don't count tight end Jason Witten among the Cowboys players who blame former coach Bill Parcells for their shortcomings last season.

Witten is a Bill Parcells guy first and foremost.

He credits Parcells' unique motivating tactics for his development into a three-time Pro Bowl performer.

Witten has three of the top five receiving seasons by a tight end in club history, including 64 catches last season, giving him three consecutive 60-plus seasons. He is the only tight end in Cowboys history to accomplish that feat and just one of 10 in NFL history to do so.

But while Witten is fast-tracking his way to becoming the best tight end in Cowboys history, he understands he is not yet a finished product.

Certainly not when it comes to touchdown receptions.

Witten had only one touchdown reception last season.

"That has to be the biggest emphasis for me... the red zone," Witten said. "When you look at the great tight ends in the league, the red zone is where they stand out. If there is one area I can get better at, that's where it is."

San Diego's Antonio Gates led all tight ends with nine touchdown receptions last season, followed by Atlanta's Alge Crumpler (8), Jeremy Shockey of the New York Giants (7), Washington's Chris Cooley, Chicago's Desmond Clark and Baltimore's Todd Heap (6), and Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez (5).

Considering that Witten registered six touchdowns in 2004 and 2005, last season's total can be considered an aberration.

Still, he acknowledges he can do more. And, ironically, he believes Parcells' departure might help him get there.

"Bill made a big emphasis early in my career on the running game and pass protection," Witten said. "There is no doubt I think I am there. But I can do more in the red zone. With the new offense, there is going to be more of an emphasis for that. Bill liked to run in the red area because it's fewer chances to turn the ball over. We will be in more of an attack mode."

Witten understands things are different with the Cowboys because of the presence of receiver Terrell Owens, who led the league with 13 touchdown receptions last season. But Witten said it's also a matter of philosophy. Owens will still be a big target in the red zone. But some teams make a point to get the ball to the tight end down close.

And it's not lost on Witten that new head coach and former Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who watched Gates catch 32 touchdown passes the past three seasons, believes in that philosophy, as does new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

The Cowboys are expected to be more aggressive in the passing game under Garrett. And with the weapons the Cowboys have, including receivers Terry Glenn and Patrick Crayton to go along with Witten and Owens, Witten said they have the potential to be very explosive.

Add in the trust he has with quarterback and longtime friend Tony Romo, and Witten can't contain his excitement for the upcoming season.

But it all starts with him. He's working hard to be a bigger threat, especially in the red zone.

"You have to attack down there when you are a tight end," Witten said. "When you look at good tight ends, everybody in the stadium knows where it's going, and you just can't stop it. That's what good tight ends do."

Cowboys Insider: Offensive line should be stronger, deeper in 2007

Tom Orsborn
Express-News Staff Writer

Julius Jones versus Marion Barber.
For months, the debate over which running back should get the bulk of the carries next season has been a hot topic among Cowboys fans. So much so that it’s overshadowed something that could give the offense a superior running game no matter which back starts -- the development of a powerful, deep line.

Without much fanfare, offensive line coach Tony Sparano has worked tirelessly to ensure that Jones and Barber run behind a cohesive unit that boasts depth at every position.

The key, as always, will be whether left tackle Flozell Adams dominates or is simply adequate.

Sparano suggested at minicamp it could be the former for Adams in 2007. “He’s had a good winter and a good offseason,” Sparano said.

Adams missed the final 10 games in the 2005 season after tearing ligaments in his right knee in a game against the New York Giants. After a slow start last season, he was good enough to gain a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl roster as an injury replacement for the New Orleans Saints’ Jammal Brown.

“(Adams) progressively got better and better and better (last season), and that’s what you would expect from a guy coming back from this kind of injury,” Sparano said.

Adams was on the Pro Bowl team in 2003 and 2004. Despite those accolades, he’s been tagged an underachiever, a label that causes Sparano to frown.

“The pressure has always been on Flo for whatever the reason,” Sparano said. “I understand he’s the left tackle (a much-scrutinized position), but this guy is a pretty good player. When you look at left tackles in this league, you have to say this guy is in the top 25, top 15 percent.”

Sparano is also high on Leonard Davis, the former Arizona Cardinals left tackle who will play right guard for the Cowboys after receiving a team-record $16 million signing bonus in March.

Like Adams, Davis has a reputation as an underachiever. But Sparano sees no reason to buy into it.

“Football is important to Leonard and he knows what a great opportunity this is for him,” Sparano said. “I enjoy coaching him. He’s a heck of a guy.”

Sparano says Davis, a former Texas standout, has been one of the team’s hardest workers in the weight room. On the field, he’s been a beast.

“He’s got a pretty good edge to him when he plays,” Sparano said. "I love his demeanor.”

The rest of the starting line will include dependable Kyle Kosier at left guard, Pro Bowler Andre Gurode at center and fiercely competitive Marc Colombo at right tackle.

But it’s the unit’s increased depth that has Sparano sleeping easier these days. With guard/center Cory Procter and tackle/guard Pat McQuisten showing steady improvement, Sparano’s fears about the line collapsing like it did in 2005 when Adams went down have been somewhat eased.

“(The lack of depth) has been a little bit of a problem,” Sparano said. “If one guy got hurt, the dropoff was tremendous. Right now, I think we have some good young prospects.”

Procter is especially valuable because he’s also learned how to play center. Sparano said he and Bill Parcells decided midway through last season that Procter needed to work some “with the ball between his legs.”

“That’s going to be an important part for us,” Sparano said of Procter’s versatility. “A year ago, our backup center was Al Johnson, a one-dimensional guy that could only play center. So if something happened to a guard, Andre had to move over there. You had to make two moves to answer one problem, and you made yourself weaker doing that.”

Procter, whom the Cowboys signed off of the Detroit Lions’ practice squad in 2005, played center for the scout team the final two months of last season and has continued to hone his skills at the spot in the offseason.

“He’s really worked a lot with the quarterbacks and done a good job,” Sparano said.

The Cowboys could also receive help depth-wise from draft picks James Marten and Doug Free, although Sparano said “right now, we are just trying to let them get their legs underneath them.”

But even if Marten and Free come along slowly, the Cowboys should have enough quality beef up front this season to allow either Jones or Barber to shine.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ellis may not get raise

May 24
Source: Dallas Morning News

"Ellis has every right to demand more money because whenever his production drops, the club will ask him to take a pay cut. That doesn't mean the Cowboys have to give it to him. And in these circumstances, I wouldn't because he's 31 and coming off a ruptured Achilles' tendon, which is a serious injury for player who relies on speed and explosion."

Cowboys' Spencer is a quick study

By TODD ARCHER / The Dallas Morning News

IRVING – The pro football education of Anthony Spencer is only a few weeks old, and the steps can be tedious.

At his first minicamp, Spencer, the Cowboys' first-round pick, was thrown into the starting lineup as Greg Ellis rehabbed from a torn Achilles' tendon.
During this week's organized team activities, Spencer is showing he might be a fast learner as he makes the switch from defensive end at Purdue to outside linebacker for the Cowboys.
In Thursday's voluntary workout, Spencer nearly had an interception of a pass in the flat from quarterback Matt Baker to fullback Deon Anderson. At the snap, his first read was on the tight end, but when Anderson went wide, Spencer followed.

"It's just knowing where you're supposed to be and reacting," said Spencer, who rarely dropped into coverage at Purdue. "I was mad I dropped it."

But the Cowboys traded back into the first round to get Spencer because of his pass-rushing skills – he had 10.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for a loss as a senior.
When he saw fullback Oliver Hoyte attempting to block him on a pass play, he bulled him back to quarterback Tony Romo for what would have been a sack. ("Bulled" him back--I like that!)

"Every practice is different, realizing what I have to do. I'll go to the film room, watch it, go over what I did wrong, and it's easy to correct stuff like that," Spencer said.

In the last two years, the Cowboys have seen DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker with success. And coach Wade Phillips and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart witnessed Shawne Merriman's move to linebacker with the San Diego Chargers.

"It starts with your stance, every time getting in your correct stance and getting in correct alignment," Phillips said, "and then knowing the assignment and then playing the technique involved and then effort to the ball."

For a player accustomed to using a three-point stance, the adjustment can take some time. It took Ware until the early part of his first training camp to get used to standing up at the line of scrimmage.

"You've got to get comfortable in your stance and be able to get off the same way you were as if you were in a three-point stance. Your eye level of looking at the ball is different. You've got to get a lean going with your center of gravity," Ware said.

Spencer has been in Ellis' ear since arriving at Valley Ranch, sitting behind the veteran in meetings and asking question after question. During breaks Thursday, Ellis showed Spencer the finer points of footwork, especially against the run. (Despite the bad pub Ellis has gotten recently, this shows a lot of class and professionalism)

"He was telling me to put my weight on my front foot," Spencer said. "I was just in my stance and I wasn't thinking about where my weight should be at all. It's stuff like that where he's helped."

The pace of the off-field transition will also begin to pick up. Spencer is in the process of finding a house.

"I'm staying in a moderate price range and whatever I find in that price range I'm going to be happy," he said.

He does not have a car yet, but might pick up a rental to see some of the area this weekend. (Somebody needs to get this guy a ride)

But then he will return to Valley Ranch on Tuesday for the second round of organized team activities, ready to continue the education process.

"On my first day I was thrown in there and I really didn't know what was going on. I'd hate to be like that just coming straight to training camp," Spencer said. "It's a big help for me being here right now."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dallas’ offseason moves all about improving pass rush, offensive line

Forget T.O. — Cowboys returning to basics
By William Bendetson
MSNBC contributor

Updated: 3:34 p.m. CT May 24, 2007

According to surveys, the Dallas Cowboys are still America's most popular team, and when Bill Parcells was coach it was almost a poetic match — a legendary brand coupled with one of the best coaches in NFL history. To the surprise of Cowboy ownership, Parcells departed this offseason for the coziness of retirement.

Enter Wade Phillips, Parcells’ total opposite. Stoic and reserved, Phillips is living his dream as someone who went from Texas high school football coach to the coach of the Cowboys. Not bad, considering many of those coaches dream and never come close.

"I was very surprised he (Parcells) stepped down," said Stephen Jones, Chief Operating officer and director of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys. "We had a lot of conversations about 2007 and I really thought he was going to stay. We had a terrific relationship. We had a lot of discussions about what needed to be done to improve our defense. I understand, however, the reason for his decision."

Parcells’ late decision to retire forced the Cowboys to quickly scramble for a new coach. "We did have to hurry, since we were the last team except San Diego to hire a coach," Jones said.

Jones interviewed over 10 candidates and decided Phillips, a coach many considered a has been. In three seasons as Buffalo Bills coach, Phillips posted an overall winning record, but most assumed he would not receive another head coaching opportunity. Many remember Phillips as the coach who was on the wrong end of the Music City Miracle (he still insists it was a forward pass.) or the coach that benched Doug Flutie at the end of the 1999 season in favor of Rob Johnson.

So why hire Phillips? In short, a return to the basics.

"We moved the ball well all year long on offense, but our defense struggled, particularly in terms of getting pressure on the quarterback," Jones said. "We ran a 3-4 defense last year, but Wade's version of the 3-4 will allow players to get more movement on the defensive line and better utilize their quickness to pressure the quarterback. We feel that this is a year our young defensive talent can start to really click."

Jones knows that for the Cowboys to win a playoff game for the first time since 1997 they need to improve the offensive and defensive lines. Quite simply, they need to get more pressure on the quarterback and better protect their new golden boy QB, Tony Romo. This marks a stark contrast from prior Cowboys’ offseasons in which they focused on landing flashy players like Terrell Owens. In this offseason, Dallas has made very few headlines.

The Cowboys have tried improving their pass rush for a few years, and this might be the season when it comes to fruition. Marcus Spears and DeMarcus Ware were Dallas’ first two picks in 2004. In 2006 it was inside linebacker Bobby Carpenter and defensive end Anthony Spencer in this year’s draft — a strong pass rush has been Dallas’ priority for some time.

But that emphasis on defense only to result in a mediocre on-field performance must have frustrated Jones. Ranking 13th in team defense and finish 20th in points allowed is not going to cut it in Cowboy land.

On offense, the Cowboys went basic by retaining two of their free-agent offensive lineman and adding two offensive lineman with their second- and third-round picks in this year's draft.

"We are able to sign Leonard Davis and he will be able to play his more natural position — guard instead of tackle. We were also able to sign Andre Gurode to play center," Jones said. "For a while it did not look like we would be able to sign tackle Marc Colombo, but the numbers eventually came down and we did, which is exciting. We also got a veteran quarterback in Brad Johnson to protect us in the event that Tony (Romo) gets hurt."

Still, the Cowboys need to do something else — play smarter football. It sounds obvious, but it should be preached again and again when the Cowboys convene for training camp in San Antonio at the end of July.

After all, the Cowboys missed a chance against Philadelphia when Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown — just as Dallas was two yards away from tying the game. The excuse for the interception? A miscommunication between Bledsoe and tight end Jason Witten.

The Cowboys also missed a chance to beat Washington when the their game-winning field goal attempt was blocked, returned 30 yards — and boosted by a face-mask penalty — and set up Redskins kicker Nick Novak to hit a game-winning 47-yard field goal.

There was also the season-ending playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, a story that does not need to be retold.

"That was heartbreaking," Jones said. "We saw how close we were as a team and we knew that we should have won one possibly two playoff games."

Phillips emphasizes that won't be the case this season.

"You have to finish drills, practice, and games. It is simple as that. That is something we are going to focus on this year," said Phillips, who reminds his doubters of both his winning record in Buffalo and experience working under Marv Levy, Dan Reeves, and Marty Schottenheimer.

Phillips and Jones both seem to realize that winning in Dallas this season is about the little things. Phillips is also intent on proving the doubters wrong, mainly those that say he not does not have what it takes to be a head coach in the NFL.

William Bendetson is an contributor based in Boston.