Friday, June 29, 2007

Here are the Top 10 Offensive/Defensive Impact Players in the NFC East:

Originally posted by Kobe_is_a_Role_Model from a sports forum:

1. Brian Westbrook-As much as i hate to say it, but westbrook is the biggest impact player in the NFC East. He can line up at WR and take it to the house at any time (like vs. the bucs last year) and he is a 1200 yard back also. He is multi-dimensional and because of that he is so hard to gameplan for.

2. DeMarcus Ware-The guy had 11.5 sacks in a very vanilla defense in which he rarely blitzed, this year won't be the case, he will rush the QB probably 75-80% of the time. But the guy gives teams nightmares because with him coming off the edge at 260 lbs and going against much slower OT's, it so hard for them to block him. And with experience he will only get better. He has gambreaking ability (like when he picked off a michael vick pass in mid-air last year and took it back for a TD).

3. Donovan McNabb-Now this all hinges on his health, but when healthy McNabb can pick a apart a defense like nobodies business. It just really boggles my mind as to why the eagle don't try to give him some better receiving targets.

4. Terrell Owens-Alright, i know this may not be popular with some people because T.O. is well....T.O. But you cannot deny the guy has got talent. He is 4th on the impact list because he is the type of player that defenses have to gameplan for, otherwise he will torch your defense. With a broken hand last year and having to play double teams a lot, he still had 85 catches for 1180 yards and a league leading 13 TD's.

5. Santana Moss-This guy was hurt last year for the most part, so it probably isn't fresh in people's mind as to how dangerous this guy is. But when healthy he is a very dangerous deep threat and because of that, he is number 5 on the impact list, because at anytime he can change the game.

6. Osi Umenyiora-Yet another example of guy that might surprise you because last year he didn't do much because of injuries, but when healthy in 2005, this guy was a beast. And just like DeMarcus Ware, he is a very hard guy to contain because of his speed rushing ability and he can make something happen (like a fumble or INT) when he pressure the QB.

7. Plaxico Burress-This guy has freakish talent and size and because of that, he very hard to defend because being 6'5, most CB's who are normally 5'10-6'1 struggle to cover this guy, on a go route in a 1 on 1 coverage, plaxico will win that battle probably 90% of the time. And that is why he 7th on the NFC East Impact list.

8. Clinton Portis -When healthy this guy has shown the capability to be a 1500 yard back and the ability to break a big one at any moment. And that is why he is number 8 on the list.

9. Brian Dawkins-Here is where it gets particularly tough because at this point you are splitting hairs, but i would say that Brian Dawkins has shown his big play capability enough to warrant being number 9 on this list. He thrives in jim johson's blitz oriented scheme when he blitzes. He is very good in coverage, he can deliver big hits and jar balls loose.

10. Sean Taylor/Roy Williams-I know these guys get burnt in coverage from time to time, and that is why they make this list, because this list isn't about who is most complete player, if it was they wouldn't make the list. This list is about which players make the biggest impact for a team. And these guys although can give up big plays can also change the game at any moment, especially when a WR is coming across the middel. They also have the ability to get after the QB and cause havoc when blitzing. And IMO, i have these guys as a tie because they are pretty much the same player, and it would be very difficult to say one is better than the other, although i would still take Roy over Sean because Roy seems to have a much better head on his shoulders than Sean.

Honorable Mentions for the Cowboys: Terry Glenn, Tony Romo, Julius Jones, Jason Witten, Marion Barber, Terence Newman

Honorable Mentions for the Eagles: Reggie Brown, L.J. Smith, Takeo Spikes, Jevon Kearse, Lito Sheppard

Honorable Mentions for the Redskins: Chris Cooley, Antwan Randel-El, Ladell Betts, Jason Campbell has a great arm which is why i am putting him here, but he still must show a lot more (just like Romo and Eli)

Honorables Mention for the Giants: Eli Manning, Jeremy Shockey, Michael Strahan, Antonio Pierce

BTB interview with Cowboys ILB Akin Ayodele

by Grizz Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 03:20:35 PM EDT

We’ve got nothing but love for Dallas Cowboys ILB Akin Ayodele, now that he agreed to answer 10 questions from BTB. I sent questions to Akin by email and his responses are below. Akin answered each of the questions, didn’t dodge a one, and did a great job of being candid.

Blogging The Boys: Now that you've been with the Cowboys for a year, how do you feel about playing for America's Team and all the national media attention and scrutiny that comes with it?

Akin Ayodele: I grew up in Texas (Irving, TX), grew up as a Cowboys fan so it's a great honor for me to be back in Texas and playing for the Cowboys. With that said, I already expected for the Boys to have a lot of scrutiny and media attention as good as we are, and as good as we can be, there is a lot of responsibility that comes with being on this team and being in the limelight.

BTB: You came to Dallas as a 4-3 outside linebacker and were promptly moved to inside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. How was that adjustment? Did you feel you got more comfortable as the season went on?

AA: Took me a while to adjust to the 3-4 but the more games I played the more comfortable I felt and the easier it became for me to make the necessary plays.
BTB: There have been comments by players about being restricted in the Bill Parcells defense. Do you think that was a problem and how is it different for you now, based on what you've seen so far from Wade Phillips?

AA: With Parcells 3-4 scheme we were more static and not as mobile which is similar to old school 3-4 defenses, and being more reactive than proactive. Now with Wade Phillips we are being more proactive and running downhill and attacking. It is a more aggressive defense than what Bill Parcells had installed.

BTB: As fans, we've been lamenting the slide at the end of the season and discussing theories as to why the defense didn't play as well over the end of the season. What is your theory for what happened at the end of the year?

AA: I would say that this league is a copycat league in that once the New Orleans Saints exposed a lot of our weakness the other teams followed their lead. They used that game and the footage from that game to learn how to exploit our weaknesses and use it to their advantage.
(Ed. note – Nice, Akin agrees with the theory that I backed, the Sean Payton Blueprint theory, that post can be found here. )

BTB: We've read about a Purdue clique forming on the defense with you, Jacques Reeves and Anthony Spencer. What can you tell us about Spencer and how his transformation from defensive end to outside linebacker is going?

AA: So far so good, he is a Purdue guy so of course he is smart and athletic. I can relate to Spencer because I also moved from defensive end to outside backer. So it is just a matter of time before he feels comfortable and can live up to the #1 draft pick status.

BTB: Bradie James recently mentioned that with Wade Phillips' new one-gap scheme, the inside linebackers won't get pounded by offensive guards as often. Can you give us a little X's and O's about how that works?

AA: In the 3-4 scheme, the inside backers and the defensive line usually have a two-gap system where you have an A and a B gap. In Wade's attack defense the majority of the downs you have a one-gap that you have to be responsible for. If the ball doesn't attack your gap you can go and make a play and not have to worry about having to sit back and wait for the offensive lineman to come up and attack you.

BTB: Your little brother Remi just finished up his NFL Europe season. Give us the scouting report on your brother and where he fits in the 3-4, nose tackle or defensive end?

AA: Pretty much the scouting on my brother is he is a better athlete than I am. He fits in this scheme as a nose tackle, big, strong, and quick enough to penetrate in the back field. He is looking forward to having the opportunity to show the new coaches what he can do.

BTB: We don't know a whole lot about new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart. What can you share with us about his style and what he's trying to implement in Dallas this year?

AA: With Stewart he is young, energetic, and really understands the defense and how to relate it and teach it to the players. In saying that, he brings a new aspect to the players by making it relatable and making it fun again. He wants everyone to have the mindset going into the game that we are a dominant defense week in and week out.

BTB: One of your new position coaches is an all-time Cowboy favorite among the fans, Dat Nguyen. How's he doing in his new role as a coach? Does he look like he wants to get back on the field with the pads on?

AA: Actually, Dat could probably still get back on the field if he really wanted to. Seriously though, he seems like he is enjoying his new position as a linebacker coach. He is very knowledgeable on the game, and for me and Bradie it helps us out a lot because he is only one year removed from his playing days so we can sit and talk football and he can really relate to us and the game so that helps us a great deal.

BTB: Look into your crystal ball, what do you see for the Cowboys in 2007?

AA: I see an exciting and fun season in which the Cowboys are looking forward to reaching all of our goals. We are definitely shooting to go further in the playoffs this year and bring back those glory days!!!
Thanks Akin for taking the time to answer these questions. We can’t wait for the season begin and see what happens with the new Phillips 34 defense. I’ll be out at training camp to watch all these changes, and will report back to you guys everyday on what I see.

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Marion Barber III can be a restricted free agent after this season

Marion Barber III can be a restricted free agent after this season.

Barber, a fourth-round pick in 2005, signed a rare "five-year" rookie deal that will void after he plays this year. He could be competing against Julius Jones, an impending unrestricted free agent, for a contract extension.

Source: Dallas Morning News

Despite speculation the Cowboys would move second-year OL Pat McQuistan to guard, he has been practicing at tackle this offseason

Despite speculation the Cowboys would move second-year OL Pat McQuistan to guard, he has been practicing at tackle this offseason.

McQuistan ran with the first team while Flozell Adams (knee) rehabbed. His roster spot seems safe despite James Marten and Doug Free's additions.

Source: Dallas Morning News

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram disputes an ESPN report that the Cowboys have interest in waived Bear Tank Johnson

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram disputes an ESPN report that the Cowboys have interest in waived Bear Tank Johnson.

Johnson, who ran a 4.69 at the Combine his first year, could play nose or end in a 3-4 but Dallas' scouting director says "Any interest would be pretty minimal right now." Owner Jerry Jones might revisit the idea closer to camp.
Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Fantasy Football: Cowboys Team Preview

By Eric Karabell

Dallas Cowboys fans were plenty excited heading into 2006, as the acquisition of Terrell Owens figured to be one of the final pieces of the puzzle. Veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe would be firing deep passes to TO all day. Speedy Julius Jones would make things easier for Bledsoe by opening up the running game. And in those close playoff games, we'd all see the most accurate kicker of all time, former Colt Mike Vanderjagt, knock in the game-winners as Dallas would return to the Supe … wow, what a strange trip that was! Was the only constant on this team really Terrell Owens?

Bledsoe was brutal for a few games, then was handed the clipboard in favor of new heartthrob Tony Romo, who piled on the fantasy stats and ladies' phone numbers, for a while at least. Jones did top 1,000 rushing yards, but they were hollow as backup Marion Barber III burst onto the scene by scoring touchdowns at a greater rate than anyone not named LaDainian or Larry. You've heard of them. And finally, when Romo dropped the snap on what could have been a game-winning field goal, it wasn't Vanderjagt ready to make the kick. He was long gone.

And there was TO, laughing all the way with another productive campaign.

The Cowboys have a new coach in 2007, but the philosophy and talented core remain the same. But will Cowboys fans recognize the names come January?

Key Additions
QB Brad Johnson
OL Leonard Davis
DE Anthony Spencer

Key Losses
Coach Bill Parcells
OL Jason Fabini

Probable Lineup
QB: Tony Romo
RB1: Julius Jones
RB2: Marion Barber III
WR1: Terrell Owens
WR2: Terry Glenn
WR3: Patrick Crayton
TE: Jason Witten
K: Martin Gramatica

Key Backups/Position Battles

One can debate the value of backup quarterbacks, but the fact is they usually come into play when you least expect it, and in critical situations. Romo is now the undisputed starter for America's Team, but he's still only a sophomore developmentally. Bledsoe had to go, and the older, barely more mobile Brad Johnson was brought in. This certainly doesn't seem like Johnson's kind of system, but then again, nobody in Big D wants to find out for sure. Johnson looked fine throwing short passes in 2005, but last year he was an interception machine.

Running Backs

There's little question which running back fantasy owners would rather see handle the ball on a consistent basis, but there's no indication Barber will get more carries than Jones at this point. This really isn't a platoon in the normal sense. Consider that, to use NBA terms, Jones is the one handling the ball up court, then Barber is the guy who dunks it. Both guys are young and seem hungry, but it will be difficult in fantasy to draft them both, since each is a top-30 running back option. Tyson Thompson should return as the third running back, but there's no reason to handcuff him to the other two.

Wide Receivers

Even though a finger injury probably hindered his production and a carton of stickum might be warranted for his league-leading total of drops, Owens remains the focus of an opposing team's defense, and extremely productive. This was actually good news for the forgotten Terry Glenn, who had a quiet 1,000-yard season, though he didn't appear to be real happy as the No. 2 option. Winning should change that. Crayton remains a solid No. 3 receiver, especially in the short passing game, and didn't drop a pass all season.

Tight Ends

Fantasy owners thought the change from Bledsoe to Romo would harm the production of Jason Witten, with the theory being the new signal-caller would look deep more often. In actuality, Witten didn't do much statistically with either guy, managed only one touchdown all year and seems farther away from his breakout 2004 campaign than ever. Anthony Fasano is a better blocker, and could earn more time in a double tight end offense. Witten is no longer one of those tight ends you overreach for during that fifth-round run at the position.

Key Games/Bye
Week 1 @ New York Giants
Week 3 @ Chicago Bears
Week 8 Bye
Week 9 @ Philadelphia Eagles
Week 14 @ Detroit Lions
Week 15 Philadelphia Eagles
Week 16 @ Carolina Panthers
Week 17 @ Washington Redskins

What to look for in 2007
Romo didn't play like a rookie last season, even though it was his first time taking snaps in an NFL game. Years of holding the clipboard helped, and now, at age 27, fantasy owners might consider him a blooming star. Figure that 19 touchdowns in 11 starts are impressive, plus Romo made quite a statement in front of your family and friends in that five-touchdown Thanksgiving Day game. This will all likely get Romo overrated in a fantasy draft. While Romo might have delivered 4,000 passing yards with a full season of starts, he also threw critical interceptions, even in December, when Dallas lost three of its final four and Romo had six touchdowns to match the six interceptions. Let's assume he's no longer needed to hold on kicks, which could ease his mind a bit after the wild-card game disaster, but the offensive line remains older than most, and Romo's main threat on offense could disappear just as easily as he can dominate. Dallas brought in a veteran presence in Johnson who knows it's not a battle, so that could help the younger QB.

At running back, the Cowboys are blessed with two options, but there's no need to upset what worked statistically to abuse one of these guys. Expect Jones to be motivated as he enters a critical fourth season. Three of his four regular-season 100-yard rushing games came in the first five games, and then the carries really dried up, with no more than 13 in any game after Week 11. From a usage standpoint, he looked a lot like the much older Warrick Dunn. Meanwhile, Barber reaped the benefits of goal-line situations by scoring in all but five games last season, and scoring more than once in five others. Barber could be the No. 1 option at some point, and it could be soon, but draft him as if he's not, just in case those 16 touchdowns get chopped in half.

At receiver, Romo has one of the best duos in the game. Now he just has to make sure they're both happy with the attention they receive. Both Owens and Glenn have been paid their roster bonuses for 2007, so forget about speculation someone is leaving. The question for fantasy is: Can each be as productive as 2006? Owens should be fully healed now after finger tendon surgery, and even as the injury hampered him much of last season, he delivered his most receptions since 2002, played in all 16 games for the first time since 2001 and caught double-digit touchdowns for the fifth time in eight seasons. The case can be made he's a top-three fantasy wide receiver, even at age 33. Glenn is only a year younger, but his 70 receptions represented his most since 2001. Due to how old these guys are and how Romo should be among the league leaders in passing yards, even Crayton can make a case for being fantasy relevant.

The tremendous talent at wide receiver, as well as running back, should again reduce Witten to few scoring opportunities, and his catches and yards aren't enough to warrant surefire top-10 status among fantasy tight ends. Witten could get used more in the vertical passing game, which would surely help, and while consistency and durability are strong traits, we're unlikely to see him flirt with 90 catches and 1,000 yards, as we did in 2004. Fasano enters his second season with a good chance at doubling his production.

Defensively, the Cowboys didn't really scare anyone in the Parcells era, but new coach Wade Phillips could change that. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware keeps getting compared to a young Shawne Merriman, so those in IDP leagues should pay particular attention, and the extra attack on quarterbacks should help Ken Hamlin and Roy Williams create more turnovers in the secondary. Don't be too concerned over Jon Kitna and the Lions putting up 39 points on the Cowboys in Week 17. This should be a better defensive unit this time around, and worthy of being selected at the back end of the top 12 in fantasy drafts.

Bottom Line
Quite a few Cowboys will have their names called early in fantasy drafts, with Owens and Barber likely spotted for third-round status at least, and Jones, Romo, Glenn and Witten ending up as fantasy starters chosen in the first eight or 10 rounds as well. While Owens remains a fantasy star statistically, don't forget what happened in the second year of his last stint with an NFC East team with visions of Super Bowls in its head. All these Dallas offensive players could be a bit overrated based on where they play, but would it surprise anyone if infighting breaks things apart? The division schedule doesn't make things easier. Don't expect 10 wins from this team, as this team has double-digit wins only one time since 1998, but the Cowboys should be contenders, which keeps their fantasy values alive until the new year.

Cowboys sign guard Franklin

By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
Star-Telegram staff writer

The Cowboys signed 6-foot-2, 302-pound guard Steve Franklin on Thursday.

Franklin went to training camp as a rookie free agent with Kansas City last summer. After being released last August, Franklin spent the rest of the season out of football.

Franklin was a three-year starter at Syracuse and team captain as a senior.

The Cowboys have six guards on their roster, including veteran Andre Gurode, who can play both guard and center.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

USAToday - Inside Slant: Dallas Cowboys

Upstart quarterback Tony Romo wants a new deal — the sooner the better.
As owner Jerry Jones once said about linebacker Greg Ellis' contract demands, we all want more money.

The difference between Romo and Ellis is that Romo's future is in front of him, not behind him. He is a developing player who should only get better.

And while there is no question the Cowboys believe Romo has the potential to be their long-term answer at the position, the question they must answer is: do they pay Romo now or wait until he realizes his potential before putting the big money in front of him?

Romo has one year left on his contract and has already gone on record saying he wants an extension before the start of the 2007 season. The Cowboys are at least considering the option, as they have traded conversations with Romo's agent, Tom Condon.

The biggest obstacle is determining how much Romo is worth. He was a Pro Bowler last season and gave the team new life after taking over for the immobile Drew Bledsoe. But after winning five of his first six starts, Romo lost three of four to end the regular season and then commenced to lose the wild-card game against the Seahawks.

Romo's play was reflective of the team's results. He was great early but struggled late when it seems the opponents figured him out. Still, there was enough in what Romo did to indicate he will develop into a consistent starter for the Cowboys.

It could be financially shrewd for the Cowboys to sign Romo before the season. Unless Romo is a complete failure, signing him before the season should present a huge discount vs. what Romo would receive at the end of the season.

So don't be surprised if the Cowboys do get something done.

The Texans set the standard with a six-year, $48 million deal for quarterback Matt Schaub, who has only two career starts.

However, Romo has more to gain than the Cowboys by signing early.

If he takes less money by falling into a $48 million deal, then that's a win for a quarterback who was an undrafted free agent just five years ago.

The risk-reward for the Cowboys is greater.

If Romo falters, they would have to eat the money and then find a quarterback for the future.

Don't believe that wasn't on their mind when they acquired the Browns' No. 1 pick for next season, giving the Cowboys two first round picks in 2008.

They now are expected to have the ammunition to move into the top five and possibly as high as No. 1.

If Romo succeeds, they can draft a franchise running back, receiver or offensive tackle. And regarding the money, owner Jerry Jones has never been shy about paying top dollar for a player worth the money. That is why it makes no sense for prognosticators to worry about Jones saving money now by signing Romo. Jones will be only too happy to pay Romo top dollar because he knows he will get it back tenfold in success on the field and marketing opportunities if Romo is successful. He is already one of the most popular quarterbacks in the league and he has yet to win a playoff game.

But if Romo fails, the Cowboys can use that pick on a quarterback and not be saddled with Romo's contract. That is what Jones would hate the most — wasting money on a player who is not deserving of it.

Roy Williams, S — Dallas Cowboys

The knock on Williams is that he is not very good in coverage, but he recorded a career-high five interceptions in 2006. Combined with Wade Phillips' plans to use him more as a blitzer, Williams should see his sacks and tackle totals rising.

Source:(War Room scouts)

Cowboys Team Report - June 26, 2007

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
From Sporting News

The Cowboys have had preliminary conversations with QB Tony Romo's agent, Tom Condon, about getting a long-term contract done. The negotiations will likely start with Matt Schaub's six-year, $48 million deal that he received after he was traded to Houston. The problem for both parties in this negotiation is that Romo has started only 11 games in his career, so the Cowboys don't have a track record they can judge him on. Of course, Houston didn't have a track record for Schaub, a career backup. The Cowboys, though, have committed to Romo, which is why they didn't spend a first-round pick on Brady Quinn, who was available with the 22nd pick of the first round. Romo would like a deal done by training camp, but a deal probably won't be consummated until the middle of this season at the earliest unless each side compromises a little to get it done. ...

CB Terence Newman is another player looking for a big payday soon. The Cowboys have had preliminary discussions with his agent on the prospect of getting a deal done before he enters the final year of his contract. While nothing is imminent, the Cowboys have been aggressive about getting their best players signed to long-term deal before they enter the final year of their contract. They did it last year with Jason Witten, Roy Williams and Bradie James. The tricky part of getting a deal done with Newman is that he'll be 31 when his deal expires, so a long-term deal means he'll probably be taking up a chunk of cap space when he's in his late 30s, which is not an ideal situation.

SCOUTING REPORT: Jason Witten is one of the NFL's best tight ends because of his combination of size and speed. He's too big for most safeties to handle and too fast for most linebackers. He has excellent hands and can gain yards after the catch, though he's not nifty in the open field. Still, he doesn't go down easily. He will make tough catches in traffic and is especially reliable on third down. While he's not an outstanding blocker, he is competitive and does a solid job. His technique needs improvement and he must maintain good pad level to be effective. He will continue to start and be a star.

Dallas may have interest in the "Tank"

The Bills and Saints may be interested in adding Tank Johnson before training camp, according to ESPN's John Clayton. ESPN's Matt Mosley says sources close to the Cowboys indicate Dallas may also have interest.

Johnson has knowledge of Bills coordinator Perry Fewell's defense, as Fewell was once the secondary coach in Chicago. A team confident in its playoff chances is more likely to take a flier on Johnson because he's almost certainly going to miss at least the first eight games of the season.

Source: ESPN Insider

Martin Gramatica is expected to have the edge over rookie kicker Nick Folk to be the Cowboys' starter heading to training camp

The likeliest scenario may be Gramatica placekicking with Folk kicking off. That would mean one less roster spot elsewhere, however, and could force Dallas to go with two QBs or try to get Isaiah Stanback on the practice squad.

Source: Dallas Morning News

DC.COM Blog: Romo Can Learn From Wilson, Garrett has started its nine-part series on the new assistant coaches, and quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson is up first.

Tony Romo can only benefit from having two young coaches in Garrett and Wilson who know first-hand what it's like playing in Dallas (though not necessarily under the same microscope). They saw how Troy Aikman dealt with the media attention. And regarding their own careers, Wilson and Garrett were two extremely diligent, smart players. Great examples for Romo.


If Jon Kitna claims the Lions will win at least 10 games this year, can the Cowboys become the first 16-0 team in league history? Fair question.

Seriously though, 10 wins? I know Detroit took advantage of a struggling Cowboys defense last December, but that franchise just seems doomed no matter what changes it makes. Calvin Johnson reminds me of a young No. 81, however. Good news for Kitna.


The Desperados were in primetime Monday night (ESPN2), soundly beating Colorado to secure home-field advantage throughout the National Conference playoffs and finish with the best single-season record in AFL history (15-1). As quarterback Clint Dolezel says, home-field advantage might mean more in the AFL than any other league in any other sport.

Published Tuesday, June 26, 2007 2:37 PM by rphillips

Ex-Tiger Spears gives NFL players good name

Advocate sportswriter
Published: Jun 27, 2007 - Page: 1C

No one will ever mistake Marcus Spears for Adam “Pacman” Jones.

Jones, a defensive back, is the poster child for all that is troubling about the NFL’s image.

Spears, a defensive end, is the opposite. One of the good guys. A guy who you would want your son to grow up to be like.

A recent visit back home to Baton Rouge found the former LSU All-American and current Dallas Cowboy wading through a steady stream of cell phone calls as he tried to field interview questions and finish the rest of his shrimp salad at a Baton Rouge restaurant.

Mini camp behind him, Spears’ primary focus for the short term is on the charitable foundation that bears his name.

This weekend is a big one for the Marcus Spears Foundation. Saturday there’s a free football camp at the LSU Field House (registration ended June 20). The next day, there’s a $125 per man golf tournament at the new Greystone Country Club in Denham Springs.

Money from the golf tournament will be funneled into the Spears’ foundation, which works to benefit single mothers and underprivileged children.

“It’s kind of in those early stages” Spears said of his foundation, which does work here and in Dallas. “It’s our first year. We’ll start doing more and extending more.”

Though he’s entering his third year with the Cowboys, Spears didn’t crank up his foundation right away. Characteristic of the man, like finding the best route to the quarterback, he wanted to first figure out what was the best way to help people.

“It took me a minute,” he said. “I wanted it to be right. To be organized. I didn’t want it to be just another fly-by-night organization. We’re really making an effort to have things in line that we can do annually. This golf tournament and football camp will be annual every year in Baton Rouge.”

Spears’ offseason has been bookended by the thrill of new life and the shocking sadness of sudden death.

In February, Spears and his wife Aiysha Smith, the former Lady Tigers basketball center, welcomed their first child. A daughter, she could be LSU’s earliest “commitment” ever.

“LSU’s got first dibs on her,” Spears said, his face spreading into a father’s loving smile. “All the other colleges can wait and see what she wants to do.

“It’s been great. Having a child changes your life totally. We’ve been having a lot of fun with her.”

Spears, like many of his former LSU teammates, was laid low by the drowning death of former Tiger Marquise Hill. Hill’s body was pulled out of Lake Pontchartrain on May 28 after he fell off a jet ski while out riding on the lake the night before. Hill wasn’t wearing a life preserver.

“To get that call humbled a lot of guys,” said Spears, sounding wise beyond his 24 years.

“You get a sad feeling and you get mad at the same time. I get mad Marquise didn’t have a life. But you never know what God’s will is. It’s out of your control. We live on but keep him in our memory.”

Spears is optimistic he can better his performance of his first two seasons with the Cowboys. As a rookie in 2005 he had 31 tackles with 1‰ sacks. Last season he had 45 tackles with one sack. In neither season has he missed a game.

What Spears has missed as a pro is the kind of defense he played at LSU. He believes it’s the kind of defense new coach Wade Phillips has brought with him to Dallas.

“I’m so happy about the new coach,” Spears said.

“Being in Dallas the last two years the defensive scheme was not really best for what I do. I’m not that type of player. The defense Wade Phillips is implementing is like what I was doing here.”

What he did at LSU was help the Tigers win the 2003 BCS national championship, his interception return for a touchdown off quarterback Jason White providing what proved to be the winning points.

Could a title been soon in coming for Dallas? Having good guys like Marcus Spears can’t hurt.

Tony Romo's Next Destination?

Posted by Chris Schweizer
Around the League in Two Minutes

The contract extension talks between the Dallas Cowboys and their young quarterback Tony Romo seem to be over, at least for the time being. In all likelihood, as the Dallas Morning News points out, Romo will probably receive a large contract at some point during the 2007 season.

Depending on how the first month of the season goes for Romo, however, the leverage of either side could swing widely. The downside for the Cowboys is if Romo has a great start to the '07 campaign he could start to think about opting for free agency in the spring. The price tag to lock him up would certainly rise significantly.

On the flip side of that coin, a bad start and the Cowboys might start looking at investing the pick they received from the Browns in Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm during the '08 draft.

If the Boys and Romo part ways there are several teams who could probably use his services next season. If the dark cloud doesn't leave Jacksonville soon enough, the Jaguars may decide to part ways with both Byron Leftwich and David Garrard, the results of a new coaching staff (with their own plans and players) if Jack Del Rio doesn't survive the hot seat.

A few other places with quarterback experiments that may flounder: Minnesota, Kansas City, Atlanta, and the most interesting of all, the Washington Redskins.

Lunch with Brian Stewart

By Mike Fisher
Posted Jun 27, 2007

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain. - Maya Angelou. It is time to pay the bill for lunch, and out comes the wallet of new Cowboys defensive coordinator Brian Stewart. Protruding from the wallet is a wrinkled piece of paper carrying the poet Angelou’s inspirational words.

“I look at it every day,’’ Stewart explains. “I live it every day. And I try to teach it every day.’’

How much more obviously can fate provide an analogy that suggests the leadership style at Valley Ranch has changed? Imagine a reporter being allowed to peek inside Bill Parcells’ wallet? Imagine Parcells admitting to learning something from the powerfully lyrical Angelou? Imagine Parcells even ALLOWING an assistant to dine with a reporter? (Don’t you sometimes wonder if Parcells allowed servile underlings to eat at all?)

“I think communication is everything,’’ says Stewart while enjoying the salmon at an eatery near the Cowboys headquarters. “I think some coaches think that means they should talk. I think it means they should also listen.’’

Stewart is the Wade Phillips disciple who follows the new Dallas head coach from San Diego. Stewart had been the secondary coach with the Chargers, so this is his first job as a coordinator, his first job with an extremely high profile, his first job where won-loss expectations are balancing directly on his shoulders.

“I’m not surprised at all to be here,’’ says Stewart, responding to a question about what seems like a suddenly rapid career track. “I get the benefit of coming up under Wade. He was the D-coordinator and I was the DB coach in San Diego, and now he takes a step up and I take a step up. So I’ve got his guidance the whole way, and I’ve got his back the whole way. It’s a great situation for me, for someone who has always dreamed of being a coach.

“But I’m not surprised. Because along with dreaming about doing this, I’ve been preparing to do this.’’

Brian Stewart is 42. But, I joked to him, because of his combination of new-age hip and old-school standards, he seems to be 42 going on 22 going on 62.

“I like that!’’ Stewart laughs. “I do believe in some concepts of living life that, I suppose, would be considered old-fashioned. At the same time, I think I come across as a guy who is young enough to relate to the players. Hopefully I can pull off both things at once.’’

An example of Stewart’s old-school ways: He is clearly the patriarch, the protector, the guide, of his young family. He notes teasingly that his wife “is Asian. … so that means she can’t drive very well. I come home, and the side mirror will be ripped off the door. Or there will be a new dent. Or maybe she’s driven too near the wall and there’s a hole in the wall. And I look at her and she just shrugs and smiles and says, ‘Sorry.’

“All I know is, I’ve gotten her the biggest, safest car possible. That’s the best I can do.’’

An example of Stewart’s new-age ways: He recently got a phone call in his Valley Ranch office. “I’d like to speak to Coach Stewart, please,’’ said the polite voice on the other end. “Coach. … this is LaDainian.’’

Stewart wondered why LaDainian Tomlinson didn’t simply refer to himself as “LT.’’

“Because I didn’t know if you’d know it was this LT,’’ Tomlinson answered.

“Now,’’ Stewart says, grinning as he finishes the tale, “maybe that story isn’t a very good example of my people skills after all. I mean, how many ‘LT’s’ does LT think I’d know?’’

It is, however, an excellent example of Stewart the communicator. Because the reason Tomlinson was calling was to ask Stewart to be a guest speaker at LT’s kids football camp in North Texas.

Think about this: Of all the huge names LaDainian Tomlinson could have asked to volunteer. … arguably the biggest star in the NFL this side of Manning/Brady selects the guy he knew only in passing as his team’s low-profile secondary coach?

Stewart’s relationship-building skills with players are well-known inside football circles. In San Diego, their other offensive All-Pro, Antonio Gates, would on a daily basis huddle with Stewart to ask questions about coverages, about double-teams, about defensive philosophies.

“What’s neat,’’ Stewart says, “is that now in Dallas I’m having the same sort of conversations with Jason Witten. Great tight ends already, both of them, but they want to learn more.

“The offensive linemen here, they’re the same way,’’ continues Stewart. “Sometimes on a team, there is a separation between offense and defense. Like they’re two different teams. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Now, it’s taking me a little longer to learn all those guys. But Cory Proctor, I’ve got him down. He was talking to me every day, so I finally decided I’d better figure out who this kid was. Turns out he went to Montana. And I’m from Northern Arizona. So there you go: We have a bond.’’

By the time Stewart gets rolling in Dallas, he figures to have cemented lots of bonds. He says he wants “to make sure Wade and Jerry (Jones) feel like they got the right guy, the best guy. So I try to prove that every day.’’

There will be time in the near future to discuss with Stewart things like the 3-4, and Dallas’ personnel, and comparisons between this defense and the one he left. But right now? We’re convinced enough at this early stage that at lunch’s end, told him to put away his wallet. If he can provide the Maya Angelou-like change of attitude with the Cowboys, the least we can do is provide the salmon.

The Miami Dolphins' 2007 Schedule: Who's On Their Play List

by Jordan

Every year, Miami Dolphins fans find themselves swimming in wonderment, questioning whether their team will be good, bad, or just plain ugly. While the NFL is filled with teams that need little speculation - teams that are routinely playoff bound or teams that are a shoe in for a good draft pick - Miami isn't one of them. Perpetually hovering around the .500 mark, with a few good seasons and bad seasons peppered in, the Dolphins are a team that can go either way: towards a winning season or into the dark cracks of failure.

This year, however, could be different. As Dante Culpepper's career takes a metaphorical and literal knee, Trent Green looks to be the new starting quarterback, one who can hopefully 'fin'ish the season with more wins than losses.

The following is the Dolphins' 2007 schedule, and a breakdown of their opponents.

WEEK 2: Sept 16th Dallas Cowboys: Dallas was a game above mediocrity with a 9-7 record last season. After a devastating loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs (laces out, Tony Romo), the stability of the Cowboys lies solely in how their quarterback -- who ended last year on a sour note 'holding' the ball for a field goal -- will react. He will either bounce back, or fall further. If he plays well, Dallas could be a hard team to beat.

Extension for Cowboys Romo can wait?

by Ben Maller

Tony Romo has said he hopes to get an extension done before the season though he is not stressing over it. The Cowboys have indicated an interest in accommodating him. My only question for both sides: Why? There is little for the Cowboys to gain by extending Romo at this time and there may be significant money to lose. I think the Romo we saw those first five starts will show up a lot more often in 2007 than the one who made those last five regular-season starts. First five starts: 4-1 record, 10 TDs, two interceptions, six sacks, more than 65 percent completions in every game. Last five starts: 2-3 record, six TDs, eight interceptions, 13 sacks, fewer than 60 percent completions three times. The notion of Romo playing for a contract in 2007 with both sides taking a calculated roll of the dice just might produce the best results on the field for Dallas and off the field for the Cowboys quarterback.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Juggernaut Index: Upper Class

By Andy Behrens
Yahoo Sports
June 26, 2007

In the X-Men, Juggernaut was an irresistible, invulnerable helmeted villain who crashed through walls and overwhelmed any physical obstacle. Like Pete Johnson in 1981. But for our purposes here, a juggernaut doesn't need to be either villainous or ground-based. They just need to generate fantasy points. We're ranking NFL offenses 1 through 16. Later in the week, we'll sift through the dregs, 17 through 32, and look for anything useful.

Why go through this exercise? Because in the NFL, it's often the system that makes the fantasy stars. Alternately, a system can make even a supremely talented player irrelevant. Last season Cincinnati's second-leading receiver, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, outscored the combination of the Raiders top two wide receivers, Randy Moss and Ronald Curry. It wasn't really close, either. Houshmandzadeh totaled 155 fantasy points in a standard Yahoo! public league, while Moss and Curry combined for 137.

Find an offense that gains yardage, limits turnovers, and scores touchdowns when it gets inside the 20, and you'll have found a fantasy juggernaut. In general, the skill position players on those teams are the fantasy elite. Draft them. If you can't draft them, trade for them.

Before we rate the juggernaut-ness of each NFL franchise, there are a few things worth noting. First of all, in any of the statistical categories listed in the tables below, you shouldn't care about where an offense ranked. Instead, you should care how a team performed relative to the league mean. Here are the 2006 NFL average team totals for several key categories:

Rushing yards per game: 117.3
Passing yards per game: 204.8
Points per game: 20.7
Turnovers: 28
Red zone possessions: 47.5
Red zone TD: 24.2

If two teams are very close to league-average, rank isn't such a big deal. Things get interesting at the extremes, though.

Also, please keep in mind that our Offensive Juggernaut Index is not the same as an NFL power ranking. We're really not thinking about team defense here at all. The focus is on the fantasy usefulness of a team's offense. Keep this in mind, New England fans. No one's trying to insult you. The Patriots are my Super Bowl XLII favorite, just for the record.

7. Dallas Cowboys

Rushing Y/G: 121 Red Zone Poss.: 58
Yards Per Carry: 4.1 Red Zone TD: 35
Passing Y/G: 239.8 Red Zone TD Pct: 60.30%
Points Per Game: 26.6 Total FG: 20
Turnovers: 30 07 Schedule Strength: 0.496

Key Offensive Additions: Jason Garrett, G Leonard Davis
Key Offensive Subtractions: Bill Parcels

I think we're all plenty happy that Drew Bledsoe can't torment us any longer. The Cowboys have all kinds of talent at the skill positions: Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn and Patrick Crayton at WR, Jason Witten at TE, and Marion Barber III and Julius Jones at RB. The biggest questions are whether Tony Romo can be great again – and maybe throw INTs at a less Bledsoian rate – and just how much better the offensive line can be with Leonard Davis. Spectacularly large Chicagoan Flozell Adams, a three-time Pro Bowler, is still there. The Cowboys were fourth in the NFL in points-per-game in 2006, but head coach Wade Phillips and coordinator Jason Garrett weren't really responsible for that.

DMN Blog: Oooh! T.O.'s on the hot seat!

So says ESPN's Mark Schlereth, whose TV work I usually enjoy. Not so impressed with this sample of his writing, though. He ranks T.O.'s seat as the third-hottest in the league.

3. Terrell Owens: It's time for Owens to prove he can get it done on the field without all the distractions and dropped passes.

T.O. managed to lead the league in touchdown catches during his terrible season. Did he drop too many passes? Yeah, but the dude did play with a mangled hand. The distractions are just part of the deal, although I don't think his teammates care nearly as much about T.O.'s antics as sensationalizing media types like me do.

I wouldn't even rank T.O. in the top three on his team in terms of guys with a ton to prove. He'd go below Tony Romo, Roy Williams, Leonard Davis, Julius Jones and Marcus Spears.

Posted by Tim MacMahon at 12:38 PM (E-mail this entry)

Greatness and Class

Fort Wayne News-Sentinel
June 26, 2007

Michael Ledo believes character matters.

He says it's a key to success in athletics, and more important, in life.

On the surface, that belief hardly seems newsworthy. Most of us agree with those sentiments. The difference with Ledo is that while the rest of us sit around wishing more athletes were quality people, Ledo tries to do something about it.

Along with some like-minded partners, Ledo has taken a popular avenue - high-intensity, high-level athletic training - and added a twist. His group, Athletes with Purpose (AWP), attempts to merge athletic greatness with class.

'We have enough great athletes who are knuckleheads,' Ledo said. 'Everybody talks about character, character, character, but who's addressing it at an early age?'

When he first asked himself that question, Ledo's answer was another question: Why not me?

Ledo, a standout football player at Bishop Luers and the University of Saint Francis, is in the midst of a six-week AWP camp at Homestead that runs through the end of July. But his training group operates year-round, and includes high school, college and - counting newest Dallas Cowboys draftee Anthony Spencer - professional athletes.

AWP's hook and major selling point remains high-intensity training geared to increase strength, quickness and agility.

Character development provides the unique bonus.

'They try to teach you how to be a better person and a better athlete,' Bishop Luers football player Adrien Spencer said. 'Be like Tiki Barber and not Pacman Jones and all those others who are getting into trouble.'

To that end, AWP regularly spends times discussing the world around and beyond athletics. Ledo will bring a pastor in to talk, or a professional from another field. He and his other leaders try to emphasize the need for highly skilled athletes to present themselves with class in all situations.

He also has a strong, qualified staff, including partner and director of training Bryan Bourcier, director of development Barak Coolman, sports performance coach Koby Sims and weight training experts Mike McClain and LaMar Martin.

Most of the athletes working with AWP are high-school athletes being recruited by colleges, most with the potential for full-ride scholarships.

AWP leaders believe strong character could make the difference when coach must decide between two similarly talented athletes.

'When Michael talks to a college coach, that coach will say, 'He's a great athlete. What kind of kid is he?' ' Bourcier said. 'There's only a certain number of scholarships every year. They don't want the guys with bad character.'

Aubrey Holle, who will be a senior this fall at Canterbury, plays soccer, basketball, softball and lacrosse. She said working with Ledo and Bourcier for the last two years - even before AWP was officially formed - helped her regain and improve her fitness and performance after a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

She is one of 10 or 12 girls working with AWP, which also has about 50 boys participating in the summer camp.

'We pray every night after we work out and everyone talks about trying to live as athletes with a purpose, working for God and using our talents,' Holle said. 'It's not just about sports and getting stronger and faster, but being good people.'

Ledo and Bourcier have tried to make the program into something that will produce visible results in athletic performance. It's not only a measure of weight-lifting strength or 40-yard dash times - although those tangibly improve - but knowing how to take care of their bodies to avoid injury and how to utilize intangible assets such as explosion and balance.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff sophomore Tyree Glass, a basketball player from Fort Wayne, says he could tell the difference in his body after only a couple weeks of working with AWP's program.

'Anyone who uses this is going to increase their chances of getting a Division I scholarship,' Glass said. 'It just gets you focused on what you're supposed to be doing. They also teach you to respect your elders and coaches and things like that, and keep you from getting an attitude.'

Participation in AWP comes with a cost. The six-week camp is $200 and fees vary for working with the group on a year-round basis.

But it's safe to say Ledo and his partners aren't getting rich from the endeavor. The biggest rewards come from seeing someone like Javon Reese earn a football scholarship to Eastern Michigan University and become a better person in the process. Reese will sit out this fall after a dislocated shoulder and join the team in 2008. Reese said athletes willing to put their full effort into the program will be better athletes and better people.

'Michael and I grew up with guys who were phenomenal athletes who never made it out of Fort Wayne because of character issues,' Bourcier said. 'We wanted to do something about it.'

Character matters. Ledo and his partners clearly have it, so why not pass it on?

CBS Sports: Tony Romo, QB

So what did Tony Romo do this offseason? For starters, he was a judge in the Miss Universe pageant. He also participated in several celebrity golf events and has been spotted numerous times with his girlfriend Carrie Underwood. Oh, by the way, he also practiced with the Cowboys extensively and plans to have a successful season as the team's starter for a full year. Romo will be up for a new contract after this season, which should give him even more reason to put up a big year.
(Updated 06/21/2007).

NFC East off-season moves

Michael Harmon, Updated 1 hour ago

"Hey, Big Tuna."

The only place we'll get to hear that call-out this fall is in The Office during the always awkward exchanges between Andy and Jim. The NFL's "Big Tuna," Bill Parcells, has left the sidelines for studio work.
It's one of the biggest off-season changes in the game, seeing as the Cowboys were a bad hold from advancement in the playoffs. The missed opportunity certainly took it's toll on the coach, and he vacated the job shortly thereafter.

Parcells' exit from Big D is rivaled only by the departure of another star for the media world. Let's review this off-season in the NFC East.

Dallas Cowboys
The list of comings and goings on the player roster is relatively short, but the change at the top spot is most intriguing. Bill Parcells is gone, replaced by defensive-minded Wade Phillips. Phillips' defense is what has most scribes and pundits wagging their tongues as camp approaches. Interestingly, it didn't require a huge influx of players to get to that assessment. The Cowboys added Ken Hamlin (formerly of Seattle) to the secondary, losing only Kenyon Coleman and Ryan Fowler to free agency (Jets and Titans, respectively).

The big splash in the offensive ranks was met with many a raised eyebrow. Dallas spent some $49.6 million to obtain the services of former Arizona tackle Leonard Davis, believing a change of scenery could make the former No. 2 overall pick reach his potential. They also brought on a tested backup quarterback in Brad Johnson, who'll further aid Tony Romo's development and offer great security for those drafting the Cowboys' skill position players.

Dallas waved goodbye to Drew Bledsoe, who did not want to back up Romo. The other noticeable changes in personnel occurred on the offensive line, where Al Johnson left via free agency, and Jason Fabini and Marco Rivera were released.

New York Giants
It's a brave new world in New York, where the team will forge a new identity following the retirement of Tiki Barber. Brandon Jacobs and off-season acquisition Reuben Droughns will serve as the 1-2 punch in Tom Coughlin's backfield. Their ability to build a consistent running game will determine how well Eli Manning progresses in his third full season as a starter.

The team also added Anthony Wright to compete for the backup job to Manning, and traded for kicker Lawrence Tynes after Jay Feely signed with the Dolphins.

In addition to Barber's retirement and Feely's departure, the team severed ties with several notable veterans. Luke Petitgout, Chad Morton and LaVar Arrington all failed physicals and were released, lineman Bob Whitfield retired and two members of the receiving corps will look to make impacts for new squads, with Tim Carter lining up in Cleveland following a trade and little-used tight end Visanthe Shiancoe starting for the Vikings.

Oft-injured linebacker Carlos Emmons was released, while cornerback Frank Walker signed a deal with the Packers.

"Hey, Big Tuna."

The only place we'll get to hear that call-out this fall is in The Office during the always awkward exchanges between Andy and Jim. The NFL's "Big Tuna," Bill Parcells, has left the sidelines for studio work.
It's one of the biggest off-season changes in the game, seeing as the Cowboys were a bad hold from advancement in the playoffs. The missed opportunity certainly took it's toll on the coach, and he vacated the job shortly thereafter.

Parcells' exit from Big D is rivaled only by the departure of another star for the media world. Let's review this off-season in the NFC East.

Dallas Cowboys
The list of comings and goings on the player roster is relatively short, but the change at the top spot is most intriguing. Bill Parcells is gone, replaced by defensive-minded Wade Phillips. Phillips' defense is what has most scribes and pundits wagging their tongues as camp approaches. Interestingly, it didn't require a huge influx of players to get to that assessment. The Cowboys added Ken Hamlin (formerly of Seattle) to the secondary, losing only Kenyon Coleman and Ryan Fowler to free agency (Jets and Titans, respectively).

The big splash in the offensive ranks was met with many a raised eyebrow. Dallas spent some $49.6 million to obtain the services of former Arizona tackle Leonard Davis, believing a change of scenery could make the former No. 2 overall pick reach his potential. They also brought on a tested backup quarterback in Brad Johnson, who'll further aid Tony Romo's development and offer great security for those drafting the Cowboys' skill position players.

Dallas waved goodbye to Drew Bledsoe, who did not want to back up Romo. The other noticeable changes in personnel occurred on the offensive line, where Al Johnson left via free agency, and Jason Fabini and Marco Rivera were released.

New York Giants
It's a brave new world in New York, where the team will forge a new identity following the retirement of Tiki Barber. Brandon Jacobs and off-season acquisition Reuben Droughns will serve as the 1-2 punch in Tom Coughlin's backfield. Their ability to build a consistent running game will determine how well Eli Manning progresses in his third full season as a starter.

The team also added Anthony Wright to compete for the backup job to Manning, and traded for kicker Lawrence Tynes after Jay Feely signed with the Dolphins.

In addition to Barber's retirement and Feely's departure, the team severed ties with several notable veterans. Luke Petitgout, Chad Morton and LaVar Arrington all failed physicals and were released, lineman Bob Whitfield retired and two members of the receiving corps will look to make impacts for new squads, with Tim Carter lining up in Cleveland following a trade and little-used tight end Visanthe Shiancoe starting for the Vikings.

Oft-injured linebacker Carlos Emmons was released, while cornerback Frank Walker signed a deal with the Packers.

There's no pressure like NFC East

Randy Hill
Special to, Updated 36 minutes ago

In addition to violent collisions and tasty point spreads, pressure is one of the NFL's greatest selling points. Pressure, generated by the league's increasing popularity, can be observed in many different forms.

For example, many NFL teams feel the stress of wondering if their employees will be more competitive on Monday Night Football than they are during taped episodes of Cops.
Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning probably feels the heat to flawlessly deliver his commercial lines in the fewest takes possible. There is pressure on the management crew at University of Phoenix Stadium to make sure the roof is closed and no fans are burned alive in September.

The Chicago Bears have the weekly concern of waiting to see if they'll be working with Rex or Wrecks. And, based on radio talk-show projections, most NFL coaches must prepare a game plan while realizing that thousands of fans know more about football than they do.

With such acute stress established, we're here to salute the division that faces more pressure than any other four-team party in professional football. Our runaway winner is the NFC East, which always seems to be on the verge of a complete meltdown. What follows is a team-by-team reminder of this year's pressure; the teams are listed in alphabetical order, but I expect fans of the Washington Redskins will feel slighted anyway.

Dallas Cowboys
Did you really think the absence of Bill Parcells would reduce the level of stress in Big D? If you do, then you've never been to Texas, where 67 percent of the front yards have horizontal chalk lines drawn at five-yard intervals.

The Cowboys are so popular in the Metroplex that a new 100,000-seat stadium is planned with zero concerns about local TV blackouts. The NBA Mavericks employ their league's Most Valuable Player, but pop-star hotties aren't dating Dirk Nowitzki; they're going out with a Cowboys quarterback who's had fewer starts than the Auto Club battery-jump guy makes in a typical evening.

The quarterback is Tony Romo, who rode a really nice five-game performance to a Pro Bowl berth and a judging gig for a beauty contest. At last report Tony was dating Carrie Underwood (PHOTOS), who doesn't seem to mind that Romo threw eight picks in 157 attempts last December.

Cowboy players, who felt the pressure of playing for Parcells, now seem stress free under new coach Wade Phillips. Wade steps in less than a year after Terrell Owens used his egomaniacal wiles to make the 2006 season a minor hell for Parcells.

Phillips seems prepared to allow T.O. to be T.O. If that doesn't suggest future pressure on everyone in Dallas, you haven't been paying attention.

But the greatest access to stress is provided by owner Jerry Jones.

Jerry is the guy who fired Tom Landry and alienated pal Jimmy Johnson enough to provoke Jimmy into walking away from a Super Bowl team. Jerry has turned to Phillips after bringing in untested Jason Garrett as the offensive coordinator and future head coach.

How's that for pressure, Wade?

New York Giants
I must admit that the Giants' off-season has been relatively free of stress. But that's relative to last season, when there was quite a roll call of players throwing coach Tom Coughlin under a downhill bus.

Ownership responded by keeping Coughlin around for another year.

Foremost among the missing is running back Tiki Barber, whose criticism of Coughlin will serve him well after Barber rises from field news reporter to in-studio talking head.

Without Tiki to hand the ball off to, Eli Manning faces considerable pressure in his third season as the starting quarterback. Existing as Peyton's kid brother is challenge enough, but working in a city with so many news outlets that never look for a positive spin can be very stressful.

There also is pressure on first-year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to improve a defense that ranked last in the NFL for red-zone stinginess.

However, any talk of Giant pressure begins and ends with Coughlin. In addition to feeling pressure to win or get fired, Tom never has been accused of lowering the stress level of his players.

Coughlin is the kind of guy who appreciates a pizza that arrives on time, but refuses to tip the delivery boy if he's not five minutes early.

Eli Manning won't have Tiki Barber to hand off to anymore. (Doug Benc / Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles
Their quarterback had a marvelous season, leading the team into the second round of the NFC playoffs after a 5-6 start.

So the Eagles left him walk away. They waved bye-bye to Jeff Garcia because the franchise QB is Donovan McNabb and Donovan was ready to return from yet another injury. That's a nice slice of pressure.

But it gets better. With no first-round pick on the table, the Eagles used their second-round selection to choose some kid from Houston named Kevin Kolb. Kevin is a quarterback.

Now we have rampaging pressure in a city where the fans have much bigger chips on their shoulders than anyone in New York. And reporters seem to share this edginess.

It also doesn't help that wide receiver Donte Stallworth now works for the New England Patriots, although Reggie Brown's emergence eases that loss.

More stress can be found on the schedule, where — from Nov. 25 to Dec. 23 — the Eagles are listed as going to New England, taking on Seattle and the New York Giants in Philly, then visiting Dallas and New Orleans.

Another level of stress may be reached by coach Andy Reid, who will be closely scrutinized after an off-season of dealing with family crises.

Washington Redskins
This team is owned by Daniel Snyder. End of column.

OK, if you want more signs of stress, please note that Coach Joe Gibbs seems to be on the hot seat after struggling in the shadow of ... Joe Gibbs.

Gibbs, whose power running game seems to be in fine shape, must reach a happy medium with second-year offensive mastermind Al Saunders. Al, who likes to throw, is working with a young quarterback not named Jay Cutler, Matt Leinart or Vince Young.

Gibbs and Saunders also must find ways to make last year's signings of Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd not look like a two-year waste of money. If they don't produce, Snyder may injure his rotator cuff while throwing a tantrum.

More pressure: the defense was the NFL's worst in 2006. It was suggested that the drafting of rookie safety LaRon Landry would help the Redskins give up less than the 6.91 yards per pass play they surrendered last year.

It may work out, but please note that Landry was wounded in a paint-ball incident.

In closing, please note that NFC East teams and fans are long-standing rivals who really do despise each other. They're like family and what can be more pressure-packed than that?

Wade Phillips' Tall Order in Dallas

Written by Kevan Lee

Wade Phillips is no Bill Parcells—and that's exactly why the Dallas Cowboys hired him.

Parcells' tenure with America’s Team was pocked by unmet expectations and playoff failures. Many grumbled about the Tuna’s coaching style. Some even went so far as to wonder whether the veteran coach was burned out.

A change could do the Cowboys good.

Unfortunately, Wade Phillips is still Wade Phillips.

The former head coach of the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills has yet to show any sign of being able to get a team over the hump. Never in his career has Phillips made it to the second round of the playoffs—a destination the Cowboys have been chasing for more than 10 years.
His resume proves Phillips is a serviceable NFL head coach...but serviceable won't get the job done in Dallas.
The only major upgrades the team made in the offseason were the signings of Leonard Davis and Ken Hamlin. Neither is good enough to push the Cowboys to the next level, so it would appear that the responsibility falls to Phillips and his 0-3 postseason record.
Phillips’ shortcomings are apparent. His Broncos teams underachieved. His Bills squads followed solid regular seasons with flameouts in the playoffs.
Sound familiar? Sounds like the Cowboys.
The Phillips hiring was, frankly, an odd one. Dallas brought in candidates with great potential—including Bears D-coordinator Ron Rivera and 49ers linebackers coach Mike Singletary—but they went with Phillips for his experience and defensive knowledge.

The team’s defense became an area of concern late in the season, and Phillips’ success with the 3-4 must have been enough to sell Jerry Jones.

Whether it's enough to sell Cowboys fans—or to produce wins—remains in doubt.

One thing's for sure: Talent won't be a problem. Phillips led one of the league’s staunchest defenses in San Diego, and he has every opportunity to work the same magic in Dallas.
DeMarcus Ware is a beast off the edge, and should fit the mold of Shawne Merriman in Phillips’ 3-4. Terence Newman may be the best corner this side of Champ Bailey, and Roy Williams remains one of the biggest hitters in the league.
Indeed, the parallels between Dallas 2007 and San Diego 2006 are everywhere—from man-mountain nose tackle Jason Ferguson (in the role of Jamal Williams) to blitzing linebackers Ware and Greg Ellis (as Merriman and Shaun Phillips).
That said, the Hamlin signing is unlikely to help the secondary—especially because the team already has, in Williams, a hard-hitting safety who doesn’t play the pass.
If Phillips can fix the free safety problem, though, this defense will have few holes.
The offense also looks strong on paper. Parcells found a gem in Marion Barber III, and if Julius Jones continues playing nice with a split backfield, the running game will be in good shape. Tony Romo exceeded expectations in 2006—and earned himself an even higher bar in 2007.
Romo faded down the stretch after a great start last season, but a year of experience—and Carrie Underwood whispering sweet nothings in his ear—should fix that.
Terrell Owens returns at wide receiver and remains a threat in both the passing game and the tabloids. T.O. has been quiet this offseason, which is either a sign of maturity or dormancy.
Terry Glenn, underrated, and Jason Witten, overrated, round out a solid aerial arsenal.
As usual, everything seems well with the Cowboys—but they've still got to find a way to make good on their preseason potential. More than anything, in fact, Dallas needed to find a coach this winter who could translate talent into playoff success.
Instead, they found Wade Phillips.
For better or for worse, the Cowboys fortunes in 2007 are tied to the man taking over for the Tuna. If Phillips can pull it off—if he can get the Cowboys to play to expectations and make a run through the playoffs—he wouldn't just be doing what Parcells never could.
He'd be doing what he's never done himself.

Projected finish: 9-7, 2nd place NFC East
Keep an eye on: LB Akin Ayodele—poised for a breakout year in the middle opposite Bradie James.
Take your eyes off: OT Flozell Adams—a contract year won’t offset a complete lack of lateral movement.

Cowboys Outlook

Fantasy Insider Online

Dallas Cowboys Written by Adam Allen Posted on 6/21/2007
Ah, the dog days of June. Free Agency has been zapped clean. The hype around the draft is officially over. From a personnel standpoint, not much is going on. Mini camps and “voluntary” workouts are in full swing, but let’s face it… if your team hasn’t made the moves needed to take that next step, the window is closing rapidly. Oh sure, there will be some veterans that get the ax come June 1st, but for the most part, these will be the older players whose skills just aren’t worth the big bucks anymore.

With that in mind, now seems like a good time to take you on a trip around the league and let you know just how well your team did this offseason. Without further adieu, I present to you… Double A’s Offseason Report Cards. Over the next few weeks, I will document the additions and losses of each and every one of the 32 teams and give them a grade based on their overall performance this offseason.

2006 Record: 9-7

Things that needed to be addressed:
Sure-up the Secondary - I think you can officially say that Roy Williams and Anthony Henry are limited in pass coverage. Both, when challenged, are beat repeatedly and are often times the focal point of opposing offenses’ attacks. The Cowboys need a presence at corner, as well as a safety who can cover deep and allow Williams to play in the box where he is most effective.

Put Romo in the Best Situation to Grow - This can be accomplished in a lot of areas. First, bring in a savvy veteran QB to help mentor him. Next, sure-up that offensive line and maintain continuity in play. Lastly, and obviously, surround the guy with weapons.

Build Depth - While a lot of the starters on this team are set, the squad isn’t all that deep. And with the crop of free agents they lost, it is important to replace their depth.

Notable Losses: Drew Bledsoe (QB); Jason Fabini (OT); Kenyon Coleman (DE); Ryan Fowler (LB); Al Johnson (C); Marco Rivera (OG)

Notable Additions: Leonard Davis (OL); Brad Johnson (QB); Kenny Hamlin (S)

Draft Class:
1 – Anthony Spencer (OLB)
3 – James Marten (OT)
4 – Isiah Stanback (QB)
4 – Doug Free (OT)
6 – Nick Folk (K)
6 – Deon Anderson (FB)
7 – Courtney Brown (CB)
7 – Alan Ball (CB)

Jerry Jones made it clear all offseason that the Cowboys roster was set. He almost came right out and said that there was no room for improvement. I think he was wrong. Obviously, they didn’t sit back and not get involved in free agency, but Dallas had some glaring roster weaknesses that teams routinely exploited in 2006, and should have proactively made an effort to address them.

They made a “bang” in free agency with the acquisition of Leonard Davis. While Davis can be a good player (as a guard – not a tackle), he has underachieved throughout his entire career and the Cowboys shelled out WAY too much money for this guy. It addresses a need and solidifies the O-Line some, but I don’t know if I can give them a plus in this regard, considering the dollars they ponied up for this big boy. The Kenny Hamlin move was a nice one and he is a quality player. Hamlin gives them a clear-cut starter at free safety at least. However, he isn’t a rangey complimentary type player to Roy Williams. His strengths lie in his run support and tackling ability. So, the Cowboys may have made their deep coverage issues even deeper. Brad Johnson will prove to be a valuable asset to Romo as a mentor and a guy who can still come in and win a ball game.

Their draft was pretty nice. Anthony Spencer is a quality player and is another playmaker off the edge to compliment Ware in passing situations. Spencer should be a solid contributor right off the bat. I also like the Marten and Free selections, as they can contribute down the road, especially if they don’t resign Flozell Adams next year. The late round corners will most likely add some depth to a struggling spot.

Overall Offseason Grade: C+

I agree that the ‘Boys have a decent roster. However, they overpaid an underachieving player, got a free safety who’s game is opposite of what they needed, and did not even attempt to challenge Anthony Henry’s spot. Throw in that their #1 pick – while a solid player – is a backup (for now). I never condone a 1st rounder who will turn into a backup. There’s always a position that can be upgraded by a Round 1 talent somewhere on your roster. But, all in all, they were active, brought in some proven veterans, and should be one of the better teams in the NFC this season.

Monday, June 25, 2007

ESPN Chat - Matt Williamson from Scouts Inc

NFC East Stuff ------------------------------

Mark (Philly): If McNabb stays healthy this year are the Eagles a Super Bowl threat?

Matt Williamson: Agreed. Obviously that is key and he hasn't proven that he can stay on the field consistently enough, but I really like Philly. I think they will battle Dallas for the NFC East, but that both teams will get in the playoffs. The Eagles can be as good as anyone in the NFC.

Again they are without a #1 WR because Stallworth left to the Pats. McNabb will never win a Super Bowl.


Carl: VA: do you see clinton portis being an injury risk this year?

Matt Williamson: For sure. I love him when healthy, but he has taken a pounding over his young career and isn't the biggest guy in the world. His explosivenss seems to be waning and like you said-he is now a major durability concern. Washington would be wise to give Betts 1/3 of the carries or so.

I said this the other day. He has a lot fo carries on his frame and I agree he is going to be an oft injured player from here on out in his NFL career.


Chris, Staten Island, NY: More likely scenario for Julius Jones: 1300 yards as he returns to the elusive and explosive back he was as a rookie or 800 yards and replaced by Darren McFadden next year?

Matt Williamson: Well...if I had to pick one, I would say the 1300 scenerio. But that is only because there is no way that Dallas is bad enough this year to get McFadden. I would guess he is over a thousand and puts up more yardage than Barber. The new O should help him and get him in space more with draws, delays, etc. He is also a free agent at the end of this season and has a lot to play for.

I guess he forgot about the Browns #1 pick we have. I think Julius has o start fast if he wants to have a big season. If he is sluggish in the first few weeks he may lose a lot of carries to MBIII.


Jon (Phoenix, AZ): Hey Matt, Dallas has Cleveland's pick next Darren McFadden might actually be attainable

Matt Williamson: Good point and I forgot that. Wow, they would be outstanding with that dude with Barber. I like Dallas this year. I also think Cleveland will win six or seven games this year and won't pick in the Top 5, as usual.

The Browns are doomed to be a crappy team.


Pete (Boston): What will Brandon Jacobs be this year? He was unstopable when I saw him carryring the ball last year. Hopefully he starts to take his role serious.

Matt Williamson: I am not nearly as high on Jacobs as many other people are and I really worry about that O this season. Tiki's loss will hurt that O in many ways and the OL is extremely thin-bad combination. As for Jacobs, yes, he is unstopable at times, but he isn't real nifty and runs too high. He is a huge target for tacklers. I bet Droughns ends up getting more carries than many think at this point.

Tiki retiring is going to kill Eli. When the Giants running game is stuffed it's going to put even more pressure on Eli which he can't handle. Giants are in trouble and may wind up 4-12.


Rob (Baltimore): Washington will be at least .500, true or false?

Matt Williamson: False

Ha, Ha! The Skins suck big time!


Christy: Charlotte, North Carolina: I am really high on Tony Romo future as a Top QB in the NFL. I'm also a huge Terrell Owens fan! No matter what team he's on. Despite all of that I'm not sure if Wade Pillips is the guy who will lead the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl. Help me out Matt. Thanks, Christy!

Matt Williamson: Dallas is strong-very strong. I love their D this year and they will torment QBs. The OL should be much improved and Romo will also be better. They are a Super Bowl contender in the weak NFC.

Matt Wiilliamson Knows...


Dan (Hamden, CT): Is Brian Dawkins going to be a Hall of Famer when it's all said and done?

Matt Williamson: Dawkins should be very close. That position doesn't always get a ton of exposure, which hurts. He needs to play at a real high level for another two years or so.

Dawkins is a great, great, great player who always shows up big time in big games. I say he is a Hall Of Famer right now.


Josh (New York, NY): What are the Giants doing? Are there any plans to fill the defensive holes??

Matt Williamson: Its a little late, eh? Yeah, they are a team in decline. Could get ugly in Gotham this year.

Ugly is about the perfect word for how it's going to play out for the Giants this season. Shockey may knock out Eli on the field, lol.


Bear (Cincy): In your opinion, who are the front runners for Off. and Def. R.O.Y.?

Matt Williamson: Gotta think Calvin J-not really going out on a limb there though. On D, sleeper: A Spencer in Dallas.

Spencer will have 13 sacks and 2 TD's off of returned fumbles.


Dan (DC): Is there anything you DON'T like about teh Cowboys? Like I dunno - their offensive coordinator with 2 TOTAL years of coaching experience?

Matt Williamson: I thought that Dallas was one of the very fews teams in the league who didn't have a major hole in their roster going into the draft. I don't think they are outstanding, but in the very weak NFC, they will be right up near the top.

Now I can't wait until we put up 35 points against the Skins both times we play them, lol. It's not like they are going to put any pressure on Tony Romo and T.O. will not be dropping any TD passes this season now that his finger is all better.

Cowboys claim former Colts center off waivers

The Cowboys connected with a familiar face Friday, claiming center Matt Tarullo off waivers from Indianapolis.

Originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse, Tarullo spent the 2005 season on the Cowboys' practice squad and had a six-week spell there in 2006 after failing to make the team out of training camp.
Inexperienced at center behind starter Andre Gurode with Cory Procter, Joe Berger and rookie Steve Rissler, Tarullo gives the Cowboys another option along the offensive line entering training camp in late July.
With Tarullo, the Cowboys have 87 players on the roster and can take only 85 to training camp. Once draft picks begin to sign, they will have to release two players.

Todd Archer

HASKMARKS: Cowher to Dallas?

by Matt Mosley
June 25, 2007 7:15 AM

One of the first things you should do when a successful NFL head coach says he's retiring to spend more time with his family other than not believe him is to wildly speculate on his next destination.

And with the NFL closing shop until training camp, it's high time we figure out where Bill Cowher will be coaching in 2008.

At least one Pittsburgh-based columnist thinks Cowher could end up in Dallas, where owner Jerry Jones might have enough socked away to pay him $8 million per year.

The reason this won't happen is because Jones spent the past four seasons taking a backseat to Bill Parcells and he's thrilled to be back in charge. He made a safe -- if not inspiring - hire with Wade Phillips and views offensive coordinator Jason Garrett as the head coach-in-waiting.

The Cowboys have based their faith in Garrett on his long career as a backup quarterback and legendary SAT score.

Cowher doesn't know what a meddling owner looks like after 15 seasons in Pittsburgh, and would demand too much power. Barring a complete collapse this season, Jones will stick with the Phillips-Garrett ticket.

And even though Cowher has ties to the Browns' organization, I don't think he wants to take part in what will still be a rebuilding process. If I had to lay down a bet this morning, he ends up with the Giants.

I've placed a call to one of Cowher's longtime colleagues, so hopefully I'll have something more for you this afternoon.

Marion Barber’s Obscure Record

The Know Your Dallas Cowboys Blog / kickholder

Marion Barber in 2006 had the fourth-highest total of rushing touchdowns (14) in one season in franchise history. In fact, among the top ten performances as far as rushing touchdowns, Barber’s name appears along side Emmitt Smith (with seven of the top ten), Tony Dorsett, and Herschel Walker.

Barber’s 14 touchdowns on only 135 attempts set a rather obscure franchise record– highest percentage of rushing touchdowns per attempt, based on running backs with at least 100 attempts in a season. His number (10.37%) easily beats the second highest total of 7.95% by Walker in 1986.

Here are the top 20 rushers in this category (min. 100 attempts):

Year Name Att. TD TD/Att.
2006 Barber, Marion 135 14 10.37%
1986 Walker, Herschel 151 12 7.95%
1971 Hill, Calvin 106 8 7.55%
1995 Smith, Emmitt 377 25 6.63%
1975 Dennison, Doug 111 7 6.31%
1971 Thomas, Duane 175 11 6.29%
1981 Springs, Ron 172 10 5.81%
1977 Dorsett, Tony 208 12 5.77%
1978 Newhouse, Robert 140 8 5.71%
1973 Garrison, Walt 105 6 5.71%
1994 Smith, Emmitt 368 21 5.71%
1980 Newhouse, Robert 118 6 5.08%
1968 Baynham, Craig 103 5 4.85%
1992 Smith, Emmitt 373 18 4.83%
1963 Perkins, Don 149 7 4.70%
1983 Springs, Ron 149 7 4.70%
1966 Reeves, Dan 175 8 4.57%
1990 Smith, Emmitt 241 11 4.56%
1974 Garrison, Walt 113 5 4.42%
1966 Perkins, Don 186 8 4.30%

Why couldn't Tuna and T.O. build that bridge?

I don't recommend reading this story about the Backyard Drills DVDs which star Bill Parcells, because it's long and boring. However, there is one quote worth sharing.

“When the bridge of respect is established, you can work together and talk through any problem,” Parcells says in one segment.

It sure didn't seem like the Tuna ever put on a construction hat in regards to his relationship with The Player.

(Thanks to bloggingtheboys for the link.)

Posted by Tim MacMahon at 11:46 AM (E-mail this entry)

Family plays important role in Witten's annual football camp

By Wes Holtsclaw

With cameras rolling at the end of the morning session at his annual football camp Saturday, Jason Witten was rushed by 750 of his campers as a crew shot scenes for an upcoming United Way/NFL commercial.

Off to the side of the field named in his honor, Witten's grandfather, former Elizabethton football coach Dave Rider and his wife Deanna watched proudly as they were joined by family and friends.

Jason's older brothers, Shawn and Ryan Witten, and his uncle Scott, the head football coach at Volunteer, were amongst the volunteers on the field trying to maintain control of the kids for the film crew. They each played a big role in the instruction and organization of the campers.

The proud mother of the three Witten boys, Kim, took care of various tasks on and off the field, as did Jason's wife, Michelle.

There were numerous additional volunteers from the community, but as evidenced in the previous five years, the camp is truly a family thing.

Because of the work the family has put into the camp behind the scenes, each year comes off more successful than the year before.

Of course, when you have an All-Pro tight end in the family with several of his current and former teammates, such as Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, and friends in the mix, the kids are going to continue to be interested.

Saturday, over 1,000 kids set a camp attendance record. To go from 400 kids to 1,000 in five short years is a big accomplishment.

"I think I heard somebody say it's the largest non-profit camp, especially on the east coast," Coach Dave Rider said Saturday. "They just do a great job, especially his brothers, his wife, his mom. Deanna and I don't do much. We're here and supportive, and everything. It's a great thing."

Witten's mother, Kim, was in charge of the registration aspect of the camp this year. She was overwhelmed by the interest of the event.

"This is the first year I've done the registration and I was overwhelmed at how many kids do this," she said. "They had told me how many kids I'd get and I'd think it was nothing. Then some days I'd spend three hours on the computer doing the registration."

It says a lot about an event when kids travel from places such as Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Florida and Georgia for two memorable three hour sessions.

The camp taught football skills and gave kids an opportunity to interact with their heroes. But more importantly, kids at the event left with several positive messages from their role models.

"I almost cry when I see all of the kids out here," Rider said. "Just like Tony (Romo) and the speech he gave them, and Jason talking about the drugs and the problems and running around with good people. These are things that their parents want them to hear coming from great athletes.

"Like Tony said, having fun and working hard. That's what the name of the game is. That's what you're supposed to do when you play ball and go to school. It ought to not be a hard time. It ought to be a great time for you. We're so proud of our boys for doing this."

Not many have been a better role model for the youth in Elizabethton and Carter County than Jason Witten.

Witten has been a great example of the old adage that 'hard work pays off.'

Originally recruited as a defensive end at Tennessee, Witten worked his tail off to become one of the top tight ends in the college game. Now he's one of professional football's elite.

But as much attention as he puts towards his career and his family, Jason does a lot of additional work with underprivileged youth in the Dallas area and has announced the formation of the Jason Witten Foundation.

"We're awful proud of Jason, obviously, for more than being a football player," said Scott Rider. "He's a great person and to do this for the kids, is great. And he's starting the Jason Witten Foundation that's going to help some underprivileged kids.

"To come from where he came from and want to give back to underprivileged kids to make their dreams come true, that says a lot about the true person. That's the kind of person both he and Michelle are."

Jason credits his experiences in Elizabethton and lessons learned from his family.

"I think my upbringing helped a lot. When you get in the NFL, there's only one way to do it -- to work hard at it," he said. "I remember going to school out here and growing up on these fields being an equipment manager. Now that I've had success, I don't want to forget that and these kids. That's what it is, athletes are role models whether they want to be or not. That's what I've tried to be."

The camp is special to the Rider family, but also a fitting tribute to a hard-working coach and his wife, who instilled life lessons in their children and grandchildren that are benefiting youth on a regular basis.

"I think that my mom and dad have had a big influence on all of us," Scott Rider added. "They've instilled hard work and believing in yourself and all. That's what it's all about. As far as coaching goes, it's not about what you know x's and o's, it's about having confidence in yourself and what your kids can do.

"I know that my mom and dad, there's lessons I use everyday that I remember being taught by them when I was little," he said. "It's special for us, but it's real fitting for my mom and dad to see this happen."

Ranking the top 25 receivers

by Bucky Brooks

Last week's Peter King ranked the 32 starting quarterbacks, which inspired me to look more closely at my former position, wide receiver. While receiver is one of the most glamorous positions in the NFL, these rankings are not based on the best highlight reel players and end-zone dancers. In taking the entire game into account -- route running, hands, run-after-catch ability, blocking and overall impact on the game -- here are my top 25 wide receivers based on how I think they will fare in 2007:

5. Terrell Owens, Dallas Cowboys: The controversial superstar led the league in touchdown receptions in 2006, but suffered a down year by his standards. Though his season totals should have earned him Pro Bowl accolades, his high number of drops diverted attention away from his positive impact on the Dallas offense. Fully recovered from a wrist injury and playing in an offense that will accentuate his strengths, he will have a big season as Tony Romo's favorite target in 2007.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Phillips confident in Johnson if needed

Phillips confident in Johnson if needed
Fri, 22 Jun 2007 11:26:32 -0700

Nick Eatman, of, reports Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips believes QB Brad Johnson could step into the starting role if something happened to QB Tony Romo.

Supplemental NFL draft

by Grizz
Fri Jun 22, 2007

This one is for BTB-regular barrypopik, who has been keeping us up to date on the supplemental draft in the diaries. Lenny P. weighs in on the supplemental with these note on CB Paul Oliver and OT Jared Gaither.

CB Paul Oliver

The best guess on his stock right now: About the fourth round in the supplemental, although a third-round perch isn't out of the question, especially if Oliver has solid workouts for the teams that have arranged individual sessions.
OT Jared Gaither (who has yet to decide on his entry into the draft)

Scouts love Gaither's size -- some feel he eventually could start in the NFL, perhaps at guard -- but fret over his work ethic. But if he declares for the supplemental draft, a lot of scouts will be scrambling to get a first-hand look at him.

Matt Mosley pinch hits over at AOL Fanhouse for a look at the Top 5 athletes in the city of Dallas. It’s more about popularity than who is the actual better athlete. Two Cowboys make his list.

3. T.O. -- I had trouble with this decision because he's easily the most recognizable athlete in town. I just don't see him being a fan favorite. He's more of an oddity at this point. That said, you see a ton of his jerseys at Texas Stadium. I think fans are sort of fascinated with his celebrity. I do have to hand it to him that he's not an entourage guy. When he goes out, he usually has one security guard that monitors things from afar.

2. Tony Romo -- I can't recall a local athlete having a more dramatic rise to fame. I think everyone in the city was wearing his jersey the day after he led the Cowboys to a road win over Carolina in his first start. He now refers to Bill Parcells as a "good kid" and judges Miss Universe. Those who thought he might not recover from The Bobble have never spent any time around him. He's simply not familiar with self-doubt.

Venture over into enemy territory at for a take on the QB’s in the NFC East. On Romo, they mention he came out of the gate on fire, but...

Did it all come too soon for the 27-year-old Romo?

Romo and the Cowboys struggled down the stretch, as Dallas lost three of their last four regular-season games to fall out of first place in the NFC East and finish at 9-7.

Disaster struck in the Cowboys' Wild Card playoff game at Seattle. Romo mishandled the ball while holding for a potential game-winning field goal in the final minutes.
Terry, don’t go ballistic on me, I’m just relaying the news!

Garrett Encouraged By What He Sees

By Steve Lansdale
Date: Jun 22, 2007

IRVING, Tex. - New Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett recently said he has been pleased with his new/old team’s effort and study habits to learn his offensive system.

Cowboys' Witten gets no respect

By R. Carlos Zepeda on June 22, 2007 12:13 AM

The Dallas Cowboys ' Jason Witten has been a Pro Bowl tight end for the last three years. He has played the part of blocker and receiver in an offense that doesn't look for the tight end in every red-zone appearance, and he's had to share catches with some of the best receivers in the game throughout his career. So why is he not mentioned with the likes of Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez? columnist Pete Prisco released his annual Top 50 NFL players list and the only two tight ends to make it were Gates (23rd) and Gonzalez (46th). The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Witten didn't even make the "Just Missed" list of players.

Gates and Gonzalez are arguably two of the best tight ends in the game right now, because they put up monster numbers. Gates entered the league the same year as Witten which makes him a better comparison. Gonzalez had been making Pro Bowl rosters before those two were in high school.

Gates gets all the attention because of his touchdown totals. In four years with the Chargers, he has produced 34 TDs to Witten's 14.

Witten, a 2003 third-round pick, doesn't put up the same numbers as Gates and Gonzalez for one simple reason: He is not the only receiver on his team. Gates and Gonzalez have had the luxury of not having a decent receiver on their roster over the years in San Diego and Kansas City, respectively.

Over the last four years Gonzalez has split catches with the formidable trio of Johnnie Morton (now retired), Eddie Kennison and Samie Parker. Gates had it easier with David Boston, Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker.

Both Gates and Gonzalez have been the No. 1 option in their respective offenses. Gonzalez has been the entire passing offense for Kansas City in his career, while Witten has been forced to compete with Antonio Bryant, Terry Glenn, Keyshawn Johnson and Terrell Owens.

The 25-year-old Witten has never been the top pass-catching option for Dallas, yet he still averages 63 receptions, 709.5 yards and 3.5 touchdowns a season. Gates, meanwhile, has averaged 66 grabs, 844.5 yards and 8.5 TDs. Over the last four seasons Gonzalez has averaged 81 catches, 994.75 yards and six touchdowns.

In no way is this column intended to take anything away from Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates. They are both top-flight tight ends, and Gonzalez is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. But face it, they have both been the beneficiaries of systems that feature them as the No. 1 receiving target both in and out of the red zone.

If you put either of those guys on teams that focus on the wide receiver, their numbers might be more similar to NFC East TEs like Witten, Jeremy Shockey and L.J. Smith.

So to all those who consider themselves experts, give Witten his due and at least consider him the third-best tight end in the NFL.

The Playmaker has big problem with Big Bill's giant snub

Original A liberal dose article
June 22, 2007

Bill Parcells will soon be forced into calling Terrell Owens by his name.

I can't wait.

It's bound to happen this NFL season because ESPN viewers typically aren't asked to translate on-air gamesmanship or interpret an analyst's innuendo.

Of course, Big Bill was the grand pooh-bah of scowls, smirks and sarcasm during his tenure with the Cowboys.

For one entire year, virtually any reference made to Terrell Owens was made not by using his name -- or even his initials -- but by calling him 'the player.'

At first, it was cute, then silly, then petty, then hurtful and mean-spirited.

That's how Michael Irvin saw it.

'I think it's one of the most disrespectful things you can do,' Irvin told KTVT/Channel 11 sports director Babe Laufenberg in an interview that aired Sunday night.

By doing this, Parcells simply put himself 'above getting this team ready,' said Irvin, adding, 'I found it odd.'

Ironically, Irvin no longer has his analyst's job at ESPN, and this is pretty good analysis.

'Michael opened my eyes a bit,' Laufenberg said.

Continued Irvin: 'I heard [Parcells] say Tony Romo's name. I heard him say Julius Jones. He didn't call them 'the player.' No man would like that. No man... you, me, nobody watching us right now.'

Irvin's eyes welled up with tears.

'You go to work every day and your boss refuses to call you by your name... you would have a problem with that.'

The Playmaker (which is just three letters but a long way from 'the player') noted Owens never complained. But Irvin knows how Owens must have felt.

'I wouldn't have liked it,' Irvin said. 'I wouldn't have liked playing for a head coach like that.'

The interview took place at the Valley Ranch media library. The topic sort of evolved on its own.

Laufenberg, who is pumped about returning to the Cowboys radio broadcast team (alongside Brad Sham) after a one-year hiatus, can conclude only one thing about Parcells and Owens.

'Both men were too far along in their careers to change their ways,' Laufenberg said.

Babe and Big Bill occasionally still talk. And soon, Wade Phillips becomes the fourth Cowboys coach whose weekly TV show Laufenberg will host.

Owens, meanwhile, is on his fifth head coach in the last six years.

'I just think this [Parcells-Owens] relationship was doomed from the start,' Laufenberg said. 'It would be like fixing up Rosie O'Donnell on a blind date... and Donald Trump shows up.'

Ba-da-boom. Got that right, Babe.