Wednesday, August 06, 2008

DMN Blog: Live from Oxnard XVIII: Let's talk some Cowboys

by Tim MacMahon

Weather: 68 and sunny.

Good morning to you. Looks like it'll be a light workout for the Cowboys, who aren't wearing any pads.

Follow the jump, refresh, etc. ...

11:04 -- Stretching just started. ... DE Marcus Dixon (back spasms) is out. ... CBs Terence Newman (groin) and Quincy Butler (hamstring) have yet to return. ... And it appears that LT Flozell Adams is getting to rest for the morning practice again.

11:12 -- Stretching done. ... Offense running plays vs. air. Defense doing position drills. ... T.O. went with the white shorts look instead of spandex this morning. ... More thrilling Cowboys news to come.

11:14 -- Feel free to fire off some questions while things are slow. ... Nothing like starting off the day with some James Marten talk. Todd Archer tells me that he actually looked pretty good during pass-rush drills a couple days ago. My educated guess is that the Cowboys keep 10 offensive linemen again, and he'll be one of them. Don't think they're ready to give up on last year's third-rounder already.

11:18 -- Horn sounded already. We're going to get some early 11-on-11 action, although it isn't full speed. ... RT Marc Colombo got the morning off, too. You can probably count on the starting OTs practicing only once per day the rest of camp. ... Don't see anybody pushing Kyle Kosier for a starting spot. Matter of fact, I don't think any starting jobs are up for grabs.

11:22 -- What former player does Felix Jones remind me of? Hmmm. Well, he reminds Wade Phillips of a young Thurman Thomas. The Cowboys are really excited about the impact the first-rounder should make in the passing game. He's a guy who can turn a swing pass into a big play, and he's versatile enough to line up in the slot or out wide and be a threat. We got a taste of that when he toasted Pro Bowl FS Ken Hamlin for what would have been a long TD yesterday.

11:25 -- Rookie TE Martellus Bennett visited the medical tent with athletic trainer Jim Maurer. Bennett had his right shoe off, but he's back on the field now. I haven't seen him get any reps, even though the Cowboys are just jogging through plays.

11:29 -- Dr. Brian "Crash" Davis believes that Martellus Bennett did something to his right ankle. We'll have an update on that after practice.

11:31 -- OK, let's answer some questions: Biggest difference between Julius and Felix? Big-play ability and versatility. The Cowboys will work out of formations with Felix that they didn't have in the playbook last season. They'll try to get him the ball out in space several times per game, where he can utilize the burst and elusiveness that Julius doesn't have. ... There really aren't that many position battles. We've hit on the No. 2 TE (Tony Curtis and Martellus Bennett will share that role) and No. 6 CB (Alan Ball vs. Evan Oglesby). The guy I'm looking forward to watching against San Diego is Danny Amendola. He needs to have a heck of a preseason to justify the Cowboys keeping six WRs, but I'm betting that'll happen. ... Don't worry about Bennett. He's coming along OK. The coaches are very pleased with his run blocking. I wouldn't recommend drafting the kid for your fantasy team, but he'll have a role as a rookie, and it'll probably expand as the season goes. ... Cowboys are now doing half-speed special teams stuff. Keep the questions coming, because I don't think anything that happens on the field this morning will make for good blog fodder.

11:38 -- Martellus Bennett got a few reps in team drills after visiting with the athletic trainer. ... I'd just be speculating about potential trade partners, but there will probably be teams interested in a cornerback that the Cowboys will cut. Will they be interested enough to trade a late-round pick instead of taking their chances on the waiver wire? Not sure. ... As far as slipping guys through waivers onto the practice squad, it's way too early too say. While this here blog is a must read for NFL GMs, they don't make personnel decisions based on my practice observations. They prefer watching film of preseason games. Matt Moore wasn't great in the Alamodome last year, but he played well during the preseason. As you all know, the Cowboys erred in trying to slip him through waivers. ... LB Tearrius George, who scrapped with RT Marc Colombo a couple days ago, was getting some reps with the second-team D when Greg Ellis was resting his back. But George will have a tough time cracking the 53-man roster with proven special teams performer Justin Rogers and sixth-round pick Erik Walden around.

11:45 -- More exciting half-speed 11-on-11. ... I'd put the dropoff in offensive production late in the season primarily on T.O.'s absence/injury. He was the Cowboys' only real big-play threat last season, and his presence opened things up for Jason Witten, Marion Barber, etc. I don't put much stock into the theory about teams catching up to Jason Garrett's play-calling style. Remember, there was a theory that Tony Romo's fade down the stretch in 2006 was a result of teams having film on him. That didn't seem to help defenses for the first few months of last season.

11:52 -- Steve Smith trade speculation makes for fun blog fodder, but it ain't gonna happen. At least not this summer. ... Danny Amendola is the only rookie WR that has a shot at the 53-man roster. South Oak Cliff's Daniel Polk, a QB at Midwestern State, might be a practice-squad candidate. ... Not sure that Zach Thomas has outperformed Kevin Burnett and Bobby Carpenter in training camp, but there's no question that he's the starter at weakside ILB. Thomas is still getting comfortable in a new scheme. He's a playmaker that hasn't slowed down entering his 13th season. Concussions cut his final season in Miami short, but he made a ton of tackles in the five games he played last year. He's a significant upgrade over Akin Ayodele. ... Miles Austin usually does some post-practice work, either running routes with backup QBs throwing him balls or catching passes from the JUGGS machine. If he doesn't become a legitimate threat, it won't be because of effort.

11:58 -- Ken Hamlin, Roy Williams, Courtney Brown and Pat Watkins will be on the 53-man roster. The Cowboys like Dowayne Davis, especially on special teams, so there's a slim chance they'll keep five safeties. ... Hard to say whether Tony Romo's offseason focus on standing tall and keeping calm in the pocket is paying off, since he doesn't get hit out here. Once the regular season starts, it'll be interesting to see if he still freelances as much as in the past. His ability to make plays that aren't drawn up on chalkboard is one of the things that makes him special.

12:02 -- The coaches think that Isaiah Stanback is where Miles Austin and Sam Hurd were last season in terms of development. Remember that Stanback is still very early in his transition from college QB to pro WR and sat much of his rookie season with shin splints and a shoulder injury. Stanback told me the other day that he tries to focus on one specific thing per practice. For example, he focused on his release off the line of scrimmage the morning we chatted. The Cowboys might come up with a package of plays this season that takes advantage of his ability to make things happen in space, but he's probably at least a year away from having a significant role as a No. 3 or 4 WR.

12:07 -- Not sure how much we'll see the starters in San Diego. The coaches discussed that last night, according to Wade Phillips, who will hopefully shed some light on the subject this afternoon. I would expect to see Jay Ratliff play some DE and Marcus Spears some NT. ... T.O. gets the best separation of the Cowboys receivers, of course. Out here, Danny Amendola is probably second best in that regard. Phillips has talked about Amendola's rare ability to make cuts without slowing down. Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd aren't burners, but they run good routes and can get open on short and intermediate routes. Miles Austin is coming along in that area, but he's by far the best deep threat of the team's non-Pro Bowlers.

12:13 -- It's not out of the realm of possibility that Miles Austin or Isaiah Stanback could develop into a "household name," but they're certainly long shots. Big, fast, athletic long shots. ... I don't give fantasy advice on this here blog. I gushed about WR Brandon Marshall when the Broncos were at Valley Ranch last August, and now my little bro has him as a 15th-round keeper in my league. ... Dowayne Davis has a shot at the 53-man roster, but my guess is that the Cowboys will keep six corners and four safeties. Can't see RB Keon Lattimore as anything other than a practice squad guy for the Cowboys this season. Lattimore might be able to play fullback, but he hasn't worked at that position at all this season.

12:18 -- I'd be very, very surprised if the Cowboys cut S Pat Watkins. Wade Phillips referred to him as a "special teams star in the making" last week. Watkins led the team in special teams tackles last season and has set a goal of breaking the franchise record (32) this year.

12:20 -- Cowboys are jogging through some more plays. Nothing newsworthy happening. I'd be happy to answer any more questions you have for the next half hour or so.

12:24 -- A public service announcement: We're a couple hours behind out here on the West Coast, so I won't be able to live blog the Hard Knocks opener with you folks. I'll put up a post for you to discuss the show while it's playing in Dallas, and we'll chime in with our thoughts after watching it later tonight.

12:27 -- Big G, not sure about your Hard Knocks questions. might have that kind of info. ... The Cowboys don't always practice on the field away from the stands. They alternate their primary field so they don't wear down the grass on either one.

12:30 -- Intensity, you've blatantly violated our 30-word policy, but I'll try to hit on your questions. 1) I'm kidding about GMs reading this here blog. 2) I don't think it's a matter of coaches forcing Romo to stay in the pocket. I just wonder if his offseason focus on improving his pocket presence will affect his freelancing. 3) I can't see the Cowboys trading Miles Austin. The value for a WR with zero career catches ain't great, and he's their best field stretcher whose initials aren't T.O.

12:34 -- Not sure what the Bucs will do with Chris Simms, but he'd be the No. 2 QB for the Cowboys. He's a talented, young guy with some experience as a starter. He might be a guy that the Cowboys could flip for a draft pick or two down the road, too. ... I don't foresee any surprise cuts, but I didn't think Aaron Glenn would be axed last year, either. Surprise pickups? Depends on who gets cut by other teams. ... Last I heard about Terry Glenn was that he was flirting with the South Florida Cowboys, aka the Dolphins. I don't see Glenn ever coming back to the Cowboys, even though Jerry Jones publicly left that possibility open. ... Stephen Bowen's roster spot should be safe. The Cowboys would be taking a huge risk if they only kept five DL, and I don't see any of the young DEs pushing Bowen. ...

12:40 -- I don't know any more about the Brett Favre drama than you folks do if you watched ESPN this morning. ... I did a premature 53-man roster projection the other day. Danny Amendola made it. Dowayne Davis was the last cut, with the imaginary Turk visiting him instead of Erik Walden. .... This glorified walkthrough is over. Been nice chatting with you folks, but I gotta go.