Monday, August 11, 2008

Dallas Cowboys chat: Concerns crop up after preseason opener

Cowboys beat writer Todd Archer answered questions about the team in a live chat on on Monday, Aug. 11.

Gary: I would hope after a horrible game by Brad Johnson that the Cowboys are looking to go in a different direction. What are the chances that the Cowboys make a move for Chris Simms? I read where the Cowboys and Bears had scouts at the Tampa Bay game. Please tell me that Brad Johnson will be gone. If not and Romo goes down, the Cowboys are in big trouble.

Todd Archer: I just did a blog post on this. As far as the scouts watching Simms, well, the Cowboys have scouts at almost every preseason game. I wouldn't say it was Simms-specific. That being said, Johnson did not have his best game and he had little help from the O-line and tight ends in pass protection. As a whole, Johnson's training camp performance this year has been better than last year. He doesn't have a strong arm, but he never had a strong arm. I'm not sure Simms could come in right now, learn the system in 20-something days before the Cleveland game and be ready to be the No. 2. As I said on the blog, I'm for adding a quarterback, but I don't know if it's to be the backup yet.

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CowFan08: What were your impressions of first-round picks Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins in the preseason opener?

Todd Archer: I liked what I saw from both players. I would've liked to have seen Jenkins play more than he did, but it's hard to mix in all of the cornerback candidates. His pass breakup was OK, but if Chargers QB Philip Rivers put the ball to the outside for Chris Chambers, it would've been a completion. As for Jones, teams always like it when they see in games what they saw on the practice field. Jones' ability in the open field is something else. But just one caution: He was too cautious on one run that turned a 5-yard gain into a shorter gain. But that's really nitpicking.

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From e-mail: I am really worried about the Cowboys not-so-special special teams. The Chargers had some great punt returns. What do the Cowboys need to do to get better on punt coverage?


Todd Archer: It should be a concern because it was a worry last year. The coverage teams should improve with better punts by Mat McBriar, but what had me concerned was how easily the Chargers just put up a wall and got Darren Sproles a ton of room. And it came against many of the core guys from last year, like Kevin Burnett, Bobby Carpenter, Pat Watkins and Justin Rogers. It's easy to say you're putting new guys who haven't done it before, but that wasn't really the case on Saturday. I won't sound the panic button, but this team might miss Keith Davis more than they thought.

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TO81: What position will involve the toughest decisions when it comes time to trim the roster?

Todd Archer: That has to be cornerback. I've had several discussions with members of the organization who believe Jacques Reeves and Nate Jones would be no better than six or seven on the depth chart if they were still here. Now that's an upgrade when Reeves was a part-time starter and Jones was the dime corner. They have at least seven guys they think can play in the league and I don't think they can go with seven, so the last spot comes down to Alan Ball and Evan Oglesby. Linebacker will be tough, too.

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Chris/Denton: I know everyone say it's just a preseason game and things like it's too early to make a decision ... but Martellus Bennett looked like he played exactly like he practiced: unmotivated and unprepared. Should Tony Curtis get the No. 2 tight end spot?

Todd Archer: Right now Curtis is the No. 2 tight end. He's doing more of the moving around that Anthony Fasano did a year ago with Bennett mostly staying on the line. This is a big week for Bennett. He acknowledged playing poorly vs. San Diego. Let's see how he does vs. Denver in the practices and the game. He definitely needs to pick up his intensity.

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Secong to None: Tank Johnson looks like he is in midseason form. He used both his stength and quickness to get the sack early in the game. I think he may be one of the top three defensive linemen on the team right now. Thoughts?

Todd Archer: Top three? Canty, Ratliff ... OK, I'll give it to you. Maybe we'll see Ratliff move full time to defensive end as the starter with Johnson at the nose. Marcus Spears, however, was pretty productive in limited snaps vs. the Chargers. Johnson has been a much improved player and remember, this is a contract year for him, too.

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TheLegend: Is there anyone in free agency that the Cowboys should be looking at? And is there any chance that the Cowboys re-sign WR Terry Glenn?

Todd Archer: I know people want the Cowboys to get a receiver, but the players available don't really do much for me. Chris Henry? Too much trouble. Joe Horn (still with Atlanta)? He's a progress stopper. Guys available in free agency are out there for a reason. If they were any good, they'd be in a camp. After seeing the "Hard Knocks" premiere, I'd be surprised if Glenn is back.

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1Cowboysfan: What are your thoughts on Adam Jones? I know that he struggled, but I would assume that with a few more weeks of camp, he would be much improved.

Todd Archer: The expectation level for Jones has been too high. He wasn't Deion Sanders in his first two years. He was solid and improving. Now add a year out of the game and it takes time to get it back. He will improve, but I didn't like his tackling. He whiffed twice in the open field. The more he plays, the more the rust should disappear.

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Ray: With the emergence of Tashard Choice in the opener, do you believe he will get more touches and looks in the regular season?

Todd Archer: It's going to be difficult to get Choice some carries because there are only so many plays. Let's say the Cowboys run it 30 times a game on average. You would think Barber is in that 18-20 range and Felix Jones would be in the 8-10 range. What's left? But they like Choice a lot. I just don't know how they get him more work without an injury to somebody.

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jburkemiller: I watched some of the Redskins game the other night and I think they have looked good. Are they our toughest competition in our division? Are we back to a seriously significant rivalry?

Todd Archer: Actually, I'd say the Redskins will be the Cowboys' third-biggest test in the division. And we welcome all of the Redskins' fans e-mails after saying this. The Giants won the Super Bowl. The Eagles were playing well toward the end of last year and made some improvements in the off-season. With Jason Campbell on his 126th different offense in eight years, it's a lot to ask of him, but he's done a nice job so far in the preseason.

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LDR0010: Do you think that we will be able to see more of the first-team players Saturday agaisnt the Broncos?

Todd Archer: It's a little early to tell on that one. I'd say the first teams play at least a quarter on Saturday, maybe more. I'll go back to last year's play-by-play and see how they worked that out.

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scottmaui: Miles Austin was getting open and then catching and running aggressively. He is actually more suited to the outside position and Patrick Crayton to the slot. If Austin keeps up this level of performance in the preseason, do you see him taking the role of the No. 2 receiver, at least on three-wide sets, even if he's No. 3 on the depth chart?

Todd Archer: If you've read our blog, you'd know I'm an Austin guy. He has the most potential of the receivers behind Owens and Crayton, and he displayed that Saturday. He has some rough edges still, but he is picking up steam. Can he be the No. 2? I don't know. I don't think the Cowboys know. But he is showing he can be a factor in the offense.

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Deke: Isn't it pretty clear that Roy Williams has to have an unbelieveable season to even see the new stadium next year with this team? Thus far, I dont see much difference from last year.

Todd Archer: I don't think Williams has to have an "unbelievable" season, but he needs to play better than he did in 2007. He has to be a force as a hitter and run-stopper. From the looks of it, he won't see much time in passing situations if training camp practices are any indication.

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jasmath: I don't know if my memory is faulty, but Mat McBriar looked heavier than I recall. Is he out of shape?

Todd Archer: He looks the same to me. He's in shape. He just had a bad night. He said he didn't kick as much in the off-season as he had in the past years. But in camp, he has been terrific. I wouldn't worry about him.

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Tampaorbust: Have you seen any significant changes (for better or worse) in the Cowboys' second training camp under Wade Phillips?

Todd Archer: It's the same camp, and hopefully now I can use this time to dispel some myths on how "hard" this camp isn't. They worry about the Cowboys not being in pads, not tackling. I've covered three teams - the Bengals, Dolphins and Cowboys. The only difference I see in Phillips' camp from Parcells and Dave Wannstedt was their work in goal-line situations. The other two would allow tackling. Phillips doesn't.

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dave in austin: It seems that Bobby Carpenter couldn't shed any blocks. Is it time to call him a bust?

Todd Archer: Well, many people have called Carpenter a bust since his rookie year. He has had a terrific camp and finally seems to have found a position at the weak-side inside linebacker spot. Was Saturday his best game? No, but he wasn't alone. I wouldn't give up on him yet, and remember, Kevin Burnett and Zach Thomas are essentially on one-year deals.

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todd: Kevin Burnett has had a solid camp from what I've read. Does management see him as a specialty linebacker or is there a chance we'll see him as an every-down LB at some point in the future?

Todd Archer: They wanted to make Burnett the starter at some point last year and he couldn't stay healthy. That's been part of the problem. It's not that he misses games (just three in his three years) but he gets nicked up. He will want an opportunity to start and is a free agent after this year. Can the Cowboys afford to keep him? I'd say it's up in the air right now because he might get a better opportunity from another team.

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5 Rings: What are the chances we can hire back Joe Avezzano back to coach the special teams?

Todd Archer: I'm surprised it took so long to get this question. Thanks, 5Rings. I don't think that's going to happen, but I know Coach Joe would be ready.

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gohorns09: The depth at OT concerns me. McQuistan wasn't very impressive and the other draft picks from last year haven't impressed either. What happens if Adams or Colombo are injured? Who steps up?

Todd Archer: It wasn't McQuistan's best game, you're right. I thought Doug Free was OK on Saturday or at least got better as the game went on. McQuistan can also play guard, so he makes the team. I think Free would be the starter at tackle if something happened to either starter. James Marten is now playing guard, so he's not in the tackle mix.

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jasmath: Do you think Danny Amendola did himself in with the fumble, or will Wade give him the opportunity to redeem himself?

Todd Archer: The fumble could make it easier for the Cowboys to get him on the practice squad if he is not among the top five receivers. A second-round pick like Martellus Bennett gets more leeway than an undrafted guy like Amendola. But Amendola will get another chance to impress. It wasn't do-or-die, IMO.

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From e-mail: If you had to pick one player who was thought to have made the team before camp but now might be in serious jeopardy, who comes to mind?


Todd Archer: Great question. I can't think of anyone off the top of my head that has gone from lock to make it to being in serious jeopardy. I can think of guys who have gone from out of the loop to on the bubble, like Oglesby and Dowayne Davis. Some guys haven't performed as well maybe, like a Watkins, Stephen Bowen, but I don't think they've played themselves out of a job.

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TD22: What is the status of Terence Newman?

Todd Archer: He is doing well in his rehab from his groin pull. He did a lot of straight-ahead running but hasn't done any side-to-side stuff yet, which is the next test. He will make the trip to Denver to continue his resistance training with associate athletic trainer Britt Brown, who is one of the best in the business. I'd be surprised if he played in the third preseason game, but I can see him getting some work vs. Minnesota on Aug. 28 if things go well.

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Chris/Denton: How did you think cornerback Orlando Scandrick played?

Todd Archer: I liked what he did, although getting dinged when you take on a quarterback isn't exactly that great. But he uses his speed to make up for some mistakes. He can be a special teams' threat, too. He's probably the fifth corner right now, maybe sixth with Alan Ball at No. 5.

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Samson254: Do you see the Cowboys playing more bump-and-run coverage in key situations (like third downs) like the Chargers did? I understand last year we didn't have the personnel, but this year is different.

Todd Archer: You will see a lot more man coverage this year than last year and probably more pass interference penalties, too. Having three on Saturday wasn't a good start, but better to have them now than when it counts for real. They have five corners who can play for a lot of teams. They didn't have that last year.

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wausroamer: The Cowboys have spent a fortune on player salaries recently and they still have to sign DeMarcus Ware. It seems like the Cowboys have to be getting close to being over the cap. Is Jerry relying on an upcapped year in 2010 with all these big contracts?

Todd Archer: This will be the ender right here. Actually, the Cowboys are in phenomenal cap shape. They can re-sign anybody they want (Canty, Ware). They can trade for whoever they want. They can cut whoever they want. And they are in good shape in 2009 as well by tweaking the deals of Romo and Leonard Davis. They structured the deals given to Newman and Barber in a way that they can create cap room in 2010 if there is a cap and be inb good shape. It's a credit to the work done by Stephen Jones and his cap gurus inside the building that the Cowboys have been able to keep all of the players they wanted.

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