Friday, August 15, 2008

Cowboys Team Report

Jean-Jacques Taylor
For Sporting News

PERSONNEL ANALYSIS: QB Tony Romo has spent the offseason working on his footwork in an effort to become even more elusive in the pocket. Romo noticed that when he was in the pocket, especially on seven-step drops, he would subconsciously move forward while scanning the secondary for receivers. That left him more vulnerable to pressure up the middle, making it more difficult to find receivers. Now, he's trying to keep his depth in the pocket the same while looking for receivers. That should give him a little more time to find his targets, because it won't feel like the pocket is collapsing.

NEWCOMER REPORT: Zach Thomas is doing all of the little things that made the Cowboys covet him. He's making plays behind the line of scrimmage in practice and getting to the point of attack before blockers can reach him. Thomas is known through the league as a smart play. His secret: preparation and film study. He spends hour after hour studying opponents' tendencies based on formations and down-and-distance situations, which allows him to react faster during games. He has done a good job of taking on blockers, something new for him as an inside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. He has been aggressive and has showed no signs of the concussion symptoms that affected him last season.

TRAINING CMAP BATTLE: At some point, Adam Jones will probably challenge Anthony Henry for the starting right cornerback job. It just hasn't happened yet. Jones, still rusty after being suspended for the 2007 season, is working on his technique and fundamentals while learning the defensive system. Henry, who had a team-high six interceptions last season, has been his usual steady self in practice. He plays with good technique and doesn't gamble much. He uses his long arms to deflect passes and to help himself in bump-and-run situations. Jones is a gambler who's trying to play with greater technique and better understand route combinations.

PROBLEM SPOT: The Cowboys need to get more from their punt return unit. Patrick Crayton is a sure-handed punt returner, but he doesn't have the speed to threaten coverage units on a consistent basis. The Cowboys hope Jones fills that role. He has speed, quickness and a unique gift for returning punts. The Cowboys hope Jones can average more than 10 yards a return and turn the unit into a real threat. That, in turn, could result in better field position for Dallas, either because teams are using directional kicks or hanging them high so Jones can't return them.