Sunday, May 31, 2009

DC.COM: Ware Stays Patient, Active During Contract Talks

Rob Phillips
May 29, 2009 5:57 PM

IRVING, Texas - The league-wide list grows every week.

Anquan Boldin.

Thomas Jones.

Joshua Cribbs.

Donald Driver.

While those players grumble and/or miss voluntary workouts due to contract disputes with their respective teams, DeMarcus Ware spent 10 minutes after Tuesday's sweltering practice teaching pass-rush moves to fourth-round pick Brandon Williams, one of two Cowboys rookies moving from defensive end to outside linebacker in head coach Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme.

The other linebacker trainee, fellow fourth-round pick Victor Butler, will return for workouts once his alma mater, Oregon State, holds its graduation ceremony next month. In the meantime, Williams is capitalizing on some exclusive lessons from Ware, last season's NFL sack king (20.0), who made the same position switch from Troy University four years ago.

"I've been looking at him since college, so it's just been amazing to me that I can come here and learn from the best - a Pro Bowler leading the league in sacks," Williams said. "I was one away from leading the NCAA in sacks (13), so I have no choice but to learn from the best."

Two weeks ago, a Twitter "impostor" posing as Ware inaccurately declared that the Cowboys and Ware's agent Pat Dye were close to a mega-contract extension for the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker.

A deal isn't imminent yet. But while the two sides keep talking, Ware, who's entering the final year of his 2005 rookie contract, has shown no public signs of impatience. He's been a regular participant in the team's off-season strength and conditioning program and the voluntary OTA (organized team activity) practices at nearby Standridge Field.

He knows the Cowboys will eventually reward him with perhaps the richest contract in franchise history, its guaranteed money possibly exceeding that of Albert Haynesworth's $41 million in Washington.

"We're just having good visits," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said, "and hopefully it'll get resolved at some point."

Patience, coupled with diligence, helped Ware solve the complexities of the 3-4 scheme.

Patience will deliver large dollar signs soon enough.

"I'm a guy that's always been about hard work, and that's what's gotten me where I am right now," Ware said. "Why would you take some days off or sort of jeopardize the team? If you want to be a team player that's how you've got to do it. Sometimes you've got to sacrifice some things and that's what I'm doing now."

Maybe Ware learned part of that lesson from Greg Ellis, the veteran linebacker who (sometimes begrudgingly) forfeited playing time to Anthony Spencer on the strong side the past two seasons, who remained focused on his job despite annual concerns about its security, who imparted his wisdom to younger players like Ware over the years.

Ellis, 33, is expected to be traded or released in the near future after 11 seasons with the Cowboys. By drafting Butler and Williams, the team clearly is attempting to get younger at the position. And ironically enough, the $4.15 million-plus of salary cap relief created by Ellis' impending departure could be used to help seal Ware's deal.

"Greg knew this was coming," Ware said. "We used to talk about it every year. He said, 'DeMarcus, sooner or later I'm not going to be here.' He was expecting it and getting himself ready for it, and I can understand that. The good thing is he's still healthy and he's still able to play."

Without Ellis, Ware realizes the Cowboys' outside linebacker depth now starts with a pair of rookies. Rather than boycott an unsigned extension, he's trying to prepare Ellis' eventual replacements. That's what a "team player" does.

"When I first came in I was the same way (as Williams)," Ware said. "Brandon's a strong, fast guy. He has a lot of ability. I'm just trying to show him how to sharpen his toolbox. And that's what Greg showed me."

Ware says the transition didn't come easily. Like Williams, he only worried about sacking the quarterback and stopping the run in college. Dropping into pass coverage wasn't really part of the job description.

He says he'd watch seven hours of film a day, reviewing "the same 10 or 11 plays and breaking it down."

"It was a big learning process my first season," Ware said, "but you just try to get out there and be full speed and play full speed - that's what they always told me - and everything else would come into play. And that's what happened."

The repetition paid off. His 53.5 career sacks are the most by any NFL player since 2005. Last season he became the first Cowboys defender to reach 20 sacks in a season since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, and his total also tied Derrick Thomas for the second-most in a season by a linebacker in league history.

No surprise, then, that a monster deal is coming sooner or later.

"My agent and Jerry Jones are handling that and they're just letting me go out and play like they usually do," Ware said. "I just let them handle that. And I'll know when something happens."

That's because he won't be hard to find.

ESPN Mosley's Mailbag: An embarrassment of riches - 05/30/09

Posted by's Matt Mosley

LAKE HIGHLANDS, Texas -- Greetings from one of the NFL's most talent-rich neighborhoods. Out my office window, I can see Wildcat-Ram Stadium, where Merton Hanks, Matt Stover, Phil Dawson, Marcus Coleman and the immortal Marcus Stiggers once played. So what does that have to do with the NFC East? Pretty much nothing, so let's get right to your questions. I've been long-winded the last couple of weeks (2,500-word average), so we're going rapid-fire today.

We start with Matt from Wilmington: First off, great article on the Birds additions this offseason. My question is with the Eagles $24 million under the cap, do you see them pursuing any other free agents? It seems they still could use a blocking tight end. The way our defensive line rotates, we could even use an additional pass-rushing defensive end to help out Trent Cole. What are your thoughts?

Mosley: I think Eagles fans are getting greedy -- and there's nothing wrong with that. You have three pretty decent options at tight end right now, but it wouldn't hurt to have another big body. If something comes along, Eagles tight ends coach Tom Melvin and the personnel staff will probably make a move. But that would be more of a luxury. It's not like the Eagles are going to come out this year with a bunch of double tight end looks. I think it's more likely that Philadelphia might try to sign defensive end Greg Ellis once he's released from the Cowboys. He's 33, but he could still be productive as a pass-rushing specialist. He still wants to be a starter, but if you dangle $1 million out there in addition to the $1.5 million check Jerry Jones will owe him, you might be onto something. Ellis would also be a good fit for the Redskins, but as Matt pointed out, the Eagles are in better position to do something.

Tsbein is one of our regulars in the "comments" section. And yes, I do read them: Eli has been "plagued," and I say that sarcastically, by his good team. He has the RBs, the O-line, the defense and had a top WR. Even Fran Tarkenton slighted Eli while trying to bash Favre. Since there are no stars as WRs, do you think a big year from Eli could garner him some nationwide respect?

Mosley: Tsbein, the second part of your question was quite astute, but we have a strict 300-word limit on questions in the mailbag! But seriously, I think it's ridiculous that Eli Manning's still has so many doubters. He was one of my MVP candidates heading into December last season. I think the loss of Burress certainly hurt his production, but the defensive breakdowns had more to do with the team's "collapse" than anything else. Manning led his team to a world title in 2007. I'll never forget that when analyzing his career. And unlike some critics, I don't try to poke holes in that late-season run. He struggled down the stretch in '08, but overall, he had another excellent season. I have immense respect for Fran Tarkenton's career, but there's one thing missing that Eli already has. But in all honestly, Tarkenton's work on "That's Incredible" probably made up for not having a Lombardi.

We've gone two whole questions without something on the Cowboys.
What gives? MBFJTCO9 rescues us with this: Howdy Matt. The Cowboys really haven't done a lot this offseason. How do you think their special teams are going to be this year. With Folk having surgery and us drafting a kicker, who will win that battle? And do you think a healthy Mat McBrair will help at all? Teams just seemed to have better field position when we lost him. That guy has got a boot on him.

Mosley: The great McBriar spends at least an hour each day on the Beast blog, so it's nice of you to mention his name. He's a Pro Bowl punter who is poised to have a huge comeback season. I wouldn't be surprised to see him average about 45 yards per punt with a ridiculous net in '09. He's headed out today to meet fellow Australian Geoff Ogilvy at the Crowne Plaza Colonial golf tournament. And don't worry about Nick Folk. There's no competition taking place in training camp. David Buehler will be a kickoff specialist. He'll only win the kicking job if Folk's not able to recover from hip surgery.

GTbengal sent this via Twitter via Facebook via fax: Can you please explain the release of Jon Jansen?

Mosley: I don't think he had a chance to win the starting job. And if a 10-year veteran doesn't have a chance, why would you allow him to possibly impede the progress of younger guys. The Redskins thought about letting him battle for one of the backups spots in the interior, but that was a far-fetched idea. Jansen gave the Redskins some solid seasons, but it was time to move on. Now, Stephon Heyer, Mike Williams and Jeremy Bridges will battle for the starting spot at right tackle. If Williams wins the job, it will be an indictment of the team's development of young players at that position. He's DOWN to 384 pounds, which is pretty scary. I wouldn't want a 384-pound man on my practice field. Seriously. It's unhealthy for anyone to carry that much weight around -- especially in a football uniform and helmet. I think the Redskins are pulling for Heyer to win the job, so it's his to lose. I'll try to track down Jansen for an exit interview if anyone's interested. Jason La Canfora of Redskins Insider fame has done some nice work on this story.

Eric in Fort Worth has a Cowboys question: Besides Jay Ratliff, do the Cowboys have any legitimate rotation guys at nose tackle? I know they seem to like the guy named Junior, but I was shocked they didn't draft at least one big defensive lineman.

Mosley: I think this is the year Junior Siavii out of Oregon finally sticks with the team. I made it a point to watch him during the recent OTAs, and the guy's just massive. He's a different type player than Jay Ratliff -- and that's a good thing. And the Cowboys can shift Marcus Spears to nose tackle every now and then if you're worried about depth. Guys like Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher can both fill in nicely at the defensive end spots. So I wouldn't lose any sleep over this position. Spend your time worrying about the receiving corps. With Siavii, the Cowboys have addressed their goal of adding more players from Pago Pago.

Joel from Clifton, N.J. has the final word of today's mailbag session: Hey Mosley, love the blog. I just have a quick question about how you think the Giants defense will perform this year. The additions of Canty, Bernard and Boley all seem like great moves to me, not to mention the return of Osi Umenyiora. But with the departure of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who was great at creating blitz packages and overall defensive schemes, do you think the Giants will be able to match the intensity and creativity that has defined their defense for the last few years? Thanks, and keep up the great work.

Mosley: Joel, you had me at "love the blog." I think it's a valid question. Spagnuolo did a wondeful job of putting players in "winning" situations. And he was more impressive than ever early last season. The Giants lost Osi Umenyiora -- and didn't seem to miss a beat. Of course, the defense finally wore down late in the season. But with all the reinforcements that you mentioned -- and a heady assistant like Bill Sheridan -- I'm not all that worried about words like "intensity" and "creativity." This is a very versatile group. Sheridan will have more to work with in the pass rush with Umenyiora coming back -- and Boley will make it tougher for the Eagles to line up and scheme them to death with Brian Westbrook. On my list of worries for the Giants, the defense is pretty low right now. Not that it's a long list. I had them No. 2 in the power rankings, which pretty much set the tone for the NFL season. Wouldn't you agree?

You guys have been wonderful. I have the most knowledgeable readers in the Blog Network -- no matter what Mike Sando and his magic database say. Have a wonderful rest of the weekend and I'll see you bright and early Monday morning -- except on the East coast.

Bonus opportunity: I'll mention your name on the Big Board on Monday if you can name every Lake Highlands High School player who's played in the NFL.

Mosley: Former Cowboys DC Stewart to join Eagles

Posted by's Matt Mosley

Former Cowboys defensive coordinator Brian Stewart will soon join the Eagles' coaching staff, according to a league source. Stewart was the the defensive coordinator under Wade Phillips when the Cowboys went 13-3 in 2007, but he was stripped of his play-calling duties midway through the '08 season. Phillips fired Stewart a few days after the team's humiliating 44-6 loss to the Eagles.

Eagles head coach Andy Reid and Stewart have remained close since they were at Northern Arizona together in the mid-80s. Reid coached the offensive line and Stewart played cornerback. Both men grew up in Los Angeles and spent time at junior colleges in the area.

With defensive coordinator Jim Johnson taking a leave of absence as he receives treatment for cancer, secondary coach Sean McDermott has assumed his duties. Stewart's role hasn't been officially announced, but it's likely he'll coach the secondary. That was his expertise on Marty Schottenheimer's staff in San Diego before he followed Phillips to Dallas in 2007.

Reid obviously has a huge comfort level with Stewart, but it doesn't hurt that he'll get to pick his brain on the Cowboys' 3-4 defense twice-a-season. Stewart was set to join former Vikings and Cardinals head coach Dennis Green with the San Francisco representative of the United Football League, but he'll now remain in the NFL.

Joe Trahan's WFAA Sports Blog tipped us off to this story. Somewhat interesting sidenote: Eagles tight ends coach Tom Melvin, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, former offensive coordinator Brad Childress and Reid all spent time on the Northern Arizona Lumberjack coaching staff.

WR Roy Williams building chemistry with QB Romo

Source: Jeffri Chadiha,

Jeffri Chadiha, of, reports Dallas Cowboys WR Roy Williams and QB Tony Romo started working together shortly after the offseason began and Williams said he can already see the benefits.


'I just feel more comfortable,' Williams said. 'And I'm not the only one who's feeling that way. Tony is more comfortable with me. (Offensive coordinator) Jason Garrett is more comfortable calling plays for me. We're all developing that trust, and that's something we didn't have last season. Unfortunately, I was the one who wound up looking bad because of it.'

Nfldraftdog: Roster Series Part 3: Quarterbacks

NFL Team Column
By Russell Easley
Roster Series Part 3: Quarterbacks

By now I’ve heard it all. Tony Romo chokes in big games. Tony Romo makes too many costly mistakes with his Favre-esque style of play. Tony Romo doesn’t care about winning in the NFL. And the most outrageous of all to me – Romo-friendly means scaling back the offense and making it simpler in order to hide his shortcomings as an NFL quarterback.

Wow, Really ?

Here’s my rundown on the 2009 Quarterback roster of the Dallas Cowboys:

Starter – Tony Romo. There are some people on the internet who truly did see potential in Tony Romo when he signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. I definitely remember the threads on the Ranch Report about it. I will freely admit I was not among those who saw his playmaking potential prior to his being inserted into a game in place of Drew Bledsoe in 2006. I did catch a small glimpse of it though during the preseason that year, when he audibled a play into a QB sneak to cap off the game winning drive against the Raiders. But once he really stepped onto the field, you could just tell. Even though his very first NFL regular season pass that day was an interception, you could tell. He just had that aura about him that says even though the bad plays still exist you know for a fact he is going to turn it around and soon. Witness the Monday Night Football game against the Buffalo Bills, wherein he threw five interceptions yet still led the team to victory. With Romo you have to take the bad with the excellent and just work constantly on reducing the bad plays that result from his gunslinger / sandlot style.

As quarterback of America’s Team and beau of Jessica Simpson, Tony is always in the spotlight, and everything he says and does is constantly being dissected by the media and fans alike. So when he came to the podium after taking one heck of a beating against the Philadelphia Eagles last December, he made a comment to the effect that there are in fact things that are more important to football. I don’t have a problem with my quarterback having a healthy perspective on life, but others did not take it so kindly. It was misinterpreted to mean that Romo doesn’t care about winning. If that’s so then why does he play? Why does he engage in competititve activities in the offseason? I view it as simple anti-Cowboy rhetoric. Which brings us to the final question – what does Romo friendly mean? What does it look like?

To put it simply, it means life without such disruptive locker room cancers such as Terrell Owens and Pacman Jones. Romo is now free to guide the team to success without all the media driven negativity that a player like TO brings to a team. Good luck Buffalo. In just 3 seasons as a starter (only one as a 16 game starter) Romo already has thrown for over 10,000 yards with 81 TD’s and 46 INT’s. That’s a TD/INT ratio of almost 2:1, which should be considered pretty good by any standards. This season is going to be an interesting one for not only Tony Romo but the entire Cowboys team. Don’t be surprised if he shuts up his critics.

Backup – Jon Kitna. This is a huge upgrade over last year’s backup, which we very painfully learned you can never take for granted. Kitna brings in 3 things that are going to be valuable this year. First, should he be called upon to relieve Romo because of injury, Jon definitely has the arm to get the ball downfield. Last year the Cowboys were hurt by Brad Johnson’s inability to do anything else from the QB position but to check down to the third receiver. Brad Checkdown Johnson should be his official nickname. Second, Kitna knows and has played with new #1 receiver Roy Williams. They have a built in rapport with each other, so again, if need be, the offense should not miss Romo too terribly much where the passing game is concerned. Third, and like Brad Johnson, Kitna is a savvy vet who has been around for awhile though unlike Johnson, is willing to serve as a mentor or player-coach if you will, to Tony Romo.

In Waiting – Stephen McGee. First things first. I am a fan of the show “NCIS”, and so therefore McGee will henceforth be known to me by the nickname “Probie” as in probationary employee. McGee was drafted in the fourth round out of Texas A and M University. Although grossly miscast as an option quarterback he persevered instead of transferring, giving the team his all. Just the fact that he didn’t transfer, when he could have ended up elsewhere and as a higher draft pick says a lot to me. This kid knows what loyalty is all about, and knows it takes self-sacrifice to be a loyal person. Already in OTA’s Probie has demonstrated a strong arm and has impressed coaches.

All in all the Cowboys are pretty well set up for a few years at the quarterback position. Romo is locked down by contract for the rest of his career, Kitna still has a few good years left in the tank, and that means the talented Stephen McGee can be groomed slowly by the coaches and made into either the next starting quarterback for the Boys, or traded for a high draft pick.

PFW Blog: Ranking the NFC East's defensive linemen

Posted by Eric Edholm on May 29, 2009 1:24 PM

As I cover the NFC East for PFW, I marveled the other day at how much defensive line depth there is in the division. Wow. It really is stunning. There are at least six and maybe as many as eight Pro Bowl talents at the position among the four teams. No other division can boast that quality and depth.

But ranking the players individually within the division? Tough chore. I decided to choose it anyway, so here goes.

Special thanks to Mike Wilkening, who compiled PFW’s position rankings for our preview magazine (now available) and did a bang-up job of a tough chore. I stayed with him on most of his picks, veering on a few others, but the list stands up to anything I have seen like it.

Onward …

1. Redskins DT Albert Haynesworth

Until further notice, he’s the most destructive force in the division — and he has yet to play a snap for the Redskins. Will he live up to the money he receives? Hmm, doubtful, but he should be a top-tier player for another two or three seasons. Not bad for a contract that amounts to about four years and $48 million. Guess that’s the going rate for destructo defensive tackles these days.

2. Giants DE Justin Tuck
3. Giants DE Osi Umenyiora

Tough call here, as I would have flip-flopped them before Umenyiora’s knee injury. Now, after that, I have to have Tuck first. He had a marvelous season and battled through some really painful and restrictive injuries the second half of the season. His play fell off as they mounted and as opponents slanted protection his way.

I expect Umenyiora to be a difference-maker once more, with perhaps a slight downtick in his sacks with fewer reps per game. That’s as much because of the Giants’ DL depth as it is him coming back from injury.

4. Eagles DE Trent Cole
5. Cowboys NT Jay Ratliff

Another tough call. First of all, it’s nearly impossible to compare the two players because they are so different, other than the fact that they came from relative obscurity (Cole was a fifth-rounder; Ratliff a seventh) to reach Pro Bowl level.

Cole has been perennially underrated, in my opinion. And though he struggles with some top offensive tackles, his motor constantly is running and he has learned to power through his lack of bulk to be a better fourth-quarter player. Playing in a nice rotation in Philly helps, but I think Cole is a blue-chip end whose game has become more well-rounded.

Few people outside Dallas realized just how big Ratliff was last season. He and DeMarcus Ware — who, for all intents and purposes, should be listed here too, but is a de facto linebacker — were the only consistent playmakers on a Dallas defense that alternatively was dominant and curiously bad. (Truthfully, the defense was only bad, per se, four times: the first Redskins game, the Rams game with little help from the offense, the first Giants game and the freakish Ravens debacle.) Ratliff appears a perfect fit in Wade Phillips’ slanting version of the 3-4 and I think can get even better. I only rated him a smidge below Cole because Cole has done it longer.

6. Eagles DT Mike Patterson
7. Eagles DT Brodrick Bunkley

Again, different styles, hard to differentiate. For me, I am putting another slight edge on hustle and consistency. Patterson is a bit squatty and doesn’t have Bunkley’s explosion, but he’s a high-energy mauler who relies as much on guile as he does raw ability. He’s a fun player to watch and (I assume) a coach’s dream.

One of these years Bunkley is going to punish the league’s offensive linemen. I think it might be this season. Watching his final year at Florida State, I thought he was the best penetrating nose or 3-technique I had seen in a long time, and he could play either position. I was stunned he dropped to the middle of the first round. It hasn’t quite panned out to my lofty expectations, but Bunkley shows enough flashes to make one think he’ll be a very good player in short order.

8. Giants DT Chris Canty
9. Giants DE Mathias Kiwanuka

Canty is a converted five-technique who will kick down inside to battle against shorter, stouter guards. You don’t see many 6-foot-7 defensive tackles ever, and I wonder a little bit how Canty, who was never a big playmaker but rather a solid, scheme-fitting point-holder in Dallas, will pan out exactly. I think he’ll be good in Bill Sheridan’s defense, but with other players cleaning up the tackles, you might not hear Canty’s name called a lot this season.

Kiwanuka is a tricky one. I have followed his career since the B.C. days, and I like him a lot. But he wore down even more than Tuck down the stretch and will be relegated (if that’s the word) to third-DE status in New York, and perhaps a few moonlight performances as a stand-up strong-side performer. He’s a pass rusher, and they’re rare, so he gets the nod here. This just might not be his best season.

10. Cowboys DE Marcus Spears

To me, Spears could make a Canty-like jump in the final year of his deal. You can’t teach that frame, and though he has been less than thrilling to date, he also hasn’t had to with Greg Ellis playing over his left shoulder. I feel like Spears' career has taken a bit of a two-steps-forward-one-back progression, with each notch of improvement followed by spells of disappearance. Some 3-4 team, be it Dallas or Miami (Bill Parcells saw star potential when he drafted him), will go after him hard next season in free agency. But so far, I haven’t seen a lot to put him higher than this, and you could argue he might not deserve a top-10 ranking in the division.

Just missed the cut

Cowboys DE Igor Olshansky — Something tells me he will have a very nice season and will keep Ware happy.

Redskins DE-OLB Brian Orakpo — Talent is undeniable, but are the Redskins maybe throwing too much at him right away?

Redskins DE Andre Carter — Hard worker with good edge speed who gets worn down too easily.

Eagles DE Victor Abiamiri — An up-and-comer who could be the breakout player on the list. The Eagles like him a lot.

Giants NT Rocky Bernard — A two-down player on the deepest D-line in football.

Giants DT Fred Robbins — Hard not to see the writing on the wall here with all the additions. Terrific start to last season, but he fell hard and is well-worn.

Redskins DT Cornelius Griffin — If there’s anyone who will benefit from Haynesworth, it’s him. Maybe he has one season left, but the younguns (Kedric Golston, Anthony Montgomery) are pushing hard and fast.

Friday, May 29, 2009

MySa Blog: Stop the presses: Roy Williams has a fan in Drew Pearson

By Tom Orsborn on May 28, 09 05:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

DALLAS - Roy Williams bashing has been popular among former Cowboys this offseason. Troy Aikman, Deion Sanders and Emmitt Smith have all taken turns disparging the play of the former Texas standout.

But at least one former Dallas star is in Williams' corner: Drew Pearson.

In an interview at Wednesday's ribbon cutting ceremony at Cowboys Stadium, Roger Staubach's favorite target said he has faith in Williams, the team's No. 1 WR after Terrell Owens was released in March.

"I had a talk with him a couple of weeks ago when our paths happened to cross, and he told me what he's been doing since the beginning of March, working with the other receivers; working with the quarterbacks, including (Tony) Romo; working on how to develop the trust, the love, the relationships with not only Romo, but all the quarterbacks, all the receivers, all the offense," Pearson said. "And that's what you've got to do, that's what it takes.

"So I give him a pass to the head of the class. He's proven. He's done some great things in the NFL. And I've got to feel like he is really excited and motivated to do some of those things and even greater things in a Dallas Cowboys uniform, being a Texas guy. I think he will step up and do what he has to do."

Pearson was lukewarm about the rest of the wideouts. While acknowledging Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, Sam Hurd and Isaiah Stanback all have potential, Pearson said time could be running out on the foursome.

"I think they're a good group," Pearson said. "The biggest thing about them is the label of potential - they are potentially good. And that means they haven't done it yet. Once we get rid of that label potential, then I can speak better of whether these guys have what it takes to be productive on a consistent basis in the NFL."

Cowboys will be more relaxed without Owens
By Tom Orsborn on May 28, 09 01:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

DALLAS - So says Drew Pearson.

The Cowboys former star receiver called Terrell Owens "a dominating influence" on the younger wideouts and believes his absence will allow them to "blossom and grow."
QB Tony Romo will also benefit from having T.O. in Buffalo rather than in his ear all the time, Pearson believes.

"I just think it helps the whole atmosphere," Pearson said Wednesday at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Cowboys Stadium. "I'm not blaming everything on him - the reason why they didn't have success last year, the Philly game, and all that debacle and all that - I'm not blaming it on one guy. But the atmosphere is very important and the players have to feel relaxed in that atmosphere and not intimidated, especially by another player. And I think he has that kind of presence that would intimidate you, so therefore, it's better to eliminate that and let's see if we can win without that type of presence. We didn't win with it, so let's see now if we can win without it."

Will Drew Pearson ever get in Ring of Honor?
By Tom Orsborn on May 28, 09 12:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

DALLAS - Roger Staubach's favorite target has made no secret of his desire to join the other great members of the Tom Landry Cowboys in the Ring of Honor.

But Pearson sounded at peace with the matter when I talked to him about it Wednesday at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Cowboys Stadium. He also made it clear he wouldn't mind the honor coming at the new stadium rather than Texas Stadium, where he starred in the 1970s.
"The meaning is the honor, the achievement, not where you hang," Pearson said. "The recognition, it would be nice to have. And, hopefully, one day it will come. When it comes, that will be God's time. Hopefully, I will be around if it does come.

"A lot of people tell me that it will happen: People that you played with, people that are in the Ring, people that aren't in the Ring but were great teammates of yours. When they kind of tell you you deserve that recognition, it gives me the credibility and the thinking that maybe one year it will happen. But to put a timetable on it and say, yeah, it's this year, next year, 10 years from now, that's out of my control."

Does Dallas' Defense Have Leadership Void?

With Keith Davis, Greg Ellis and Zach Thomas gone, who will lead the Dallas defense in 2009?


Say "Dallas Cowboys' 2008 season" and you will likely induce shudders, and possibly vomiting.

For all anyone can remember, the Cowboys were just awful last season. This is kind of true; but not really.

Of course, the season was a terrible disappointment. Any season in which you are annointed NFC champs before the first snooze-inducing preseason game of the year lends itself to such feelings at season's end.

Dallas didn't help itself in this regard by crumbling completely throughout the last five quarters of the year; bad timing, lack of leadership or just being ill-prepared, it got hard to watch -- like the end of Braveheart, in the context of professional football.

Lost in all this, with good reason perhaps, is the fact that Dallas, its defense in particular, was pretty awesome at times last year. The team was ranked ninth in the league in total defense, eight spots ahead of NFC Champion Arizona.

But, at least for the last two seasons, the question of defensive leadership has been a pressing one, for fans and writers if not for the Cowboys themselves.

Keith Davis was brought back, and Zach Thomas was brought in, last summer, leading one to believe this is not a chimera of outsiders though.

A year later, both are gone, as is, for all practical purposes, Greg Ellis, who was another powerful locker room presence.

Talks of bringing in Ray Lewis, a pre-packaged bundle of leadership, fell through as well; it's questionable whether or not this was ever a very viable option in the first place.

If you're the kind of person that puts a lot of stock in this intangible type of thing, it would seem that Dallas might be hosed.

But I'm not convinced. While 'intangibles' might have departed the Cowboys' locker room this off-season, the talent is about the same--possibly better.

Dallas brought in a group that is not only talented, but deft at working in the Phillips 3-4, a scheme that has had its share of critics from Dallas' locker room, players who felt uncomfortable in the system; this list includes the New York-bound Chris Canty who, despite countless reports suggesting otherwise, I don't count as an insufferable loss for Dallas.

Perhaps the Cowboys do need a vocal leader within the defense, someone who sets the tone on the field as well as in the press room. Perhaps one will emerge in 2009--they probably will (DeMarcus Ware?)

But I'd much rather go into a season with a talented unit with questions of leadership than a unit with an unquestioned leader and an all-too-questionable talent-base.

Leadership is organic, at least with respect to team sports. Phillips is at the helm, as he was for the latter part of 2008, when Dallas was (for the most part) suffocating as a unit, and the talent, as it stands now, seems to be in place. Whether it is during OTAs, training camp in San Antonio, or over the first few games of the season, leaders will inevitably emerge.

Phillips, no doubt, should make sure of it; because, if they don't, it might just mean his job.

DMN Blog: Will Tony Romo be better or worse in 2009?

By Richard Durrett

That's a question former DMNer and current reporter Albert Breer tried to answer today. The package also includes 19 former Cowboys talking about Romo.

His reasons for why Romo might be better (with a quick few sentences from Breer's article):

(1) No Terrell Owens.

Losing Terrell Owens from the offense should free Romo of concerns about keeping his top playmaker happy, and it could also make coordinator Jason Garrett better with renewed play-calling freedom.

(2) Roy Williams becoming the No.1 WR.

His old OC from Detroit, Mike Martz, chalks up Williams' struggles in Dallas to his midseason entrance: "The timing is so different, the anticipation is so different, you really need an offseason of work."

(3) Trio at running back.

Marion Barber and Felix Jones are both healthy now, and with Tashard Choice in the mix, the Cowboys have the makings of a versatile, explosive running game to take pressure off Romo.

Flip to see the reasons why he could be worse.

(1) No TO.

For all his warts, Owens got a defense's attention. And Williams has only one 1,000-yard season on his resume, meaning that he's no T.O. Not yet, anyway. As Romo says, "It's always difficult to replace someone who's been the dominant player."

(2) Offensive line.

The offensive line, a strength in 2007, really missed Tony Sparano's firm hand in 2008, and part of that is attitude.

The Cowboys' number of rushing attempts has declined in each of the last four years, and that makes it more difficult to protect the quarterback, with more long-yardage situations accrued and more predictability in playcalling. As a result, a big, grinding unit may have lost its physical edge.

(3) Lack of depth.

Last year, losing starting left guard Kyle Kosier was devastating. Similar problems could surface at receiver.

With the exception of tailback, depth just isn't there. So staying healthy is imperative for an offense that was outstanding when its lineup was kept almost completely static two years ago.

So what do you think? Will Romo be better or worse in 2009?

DMN: Dallas Cowboys' Garrett points to preparation as key

IRVING * By the end of last season, the Cowboys' offense was a mess.

A private meeting at which wide receivers Terrell Owens, Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton aired grievances to assistant head coach Jason Garrett became public. Opponents, such as Baltimore's Ed Reed, said the offense was simplistic. Moments after the season-ending loss to Philadelphia, Tony Romo seemed to agree.

The Cowboys' major offensive numbers were down across the board from 2007. The luster seemed to have worn off Garrett's reputation as an offensive genius.

But executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team still has faith in Garrett, the NFL's highest-paid assistant head coach.

"No one wants excuses," Jones said, "but we played some top defenses. And if you look at the overall performance of the offense, especially look at the injuries we had, we were still very productive."

Romo missed three games with a fractured pinkie. Running back Marion Barber suffered a toe injury late in the year and was not the same. Tight end Jason Witten had shoulder, knee and ankle injuries. Williams had a troublesome foot. Guard Kyle Kosier missed all but three games. Felix Jones missed 10 games with hamstring and toe injuries.

While Garrett took the heat, he still interviewed for head coaching jobs for St. Louis, Denver and Detroit.

"I've had some great conversations with people recently who are at the pinnacle of their careers in football and otherwise, and they all tell you the same thing * don't believe it when it's good and don't believe it when it's bad," Garrett said. "You have some things that you believe in as a person, as an organization, as a coach, as whatever you are, and you act on those things and you try to limit the distractions and you go forward."

As Garrett moves into his third season as a play-caller, he won't have Owens for the first time. For all of the real or perceived distractions caused by Owens, he produced 25 touchdowns with Garrett.

Owens' shadow will be cast over the Cowboys this season the way it was over San Francisco and Philadelphia when he left those organizations, and it will only grow if the Cowboys do not produce at or near the same level without him.

This off-season has been about implementing Williams' strengths into Garrett's system after he caught just 19 passes in 10 games after his trade from Detroit. It is also about working running backs Barber, Jones and Tashard Choice into some kind of rotation.

This off-season, players have noticed a more demanding Garrett in the meeting room and on the field. At the two organized team activities open to the media, Garrett has preached tempo and perfection. If a play isn't executed perfectly, Garrett has the players run it again.

His foundation is the preparation, either the coaches' or the players', that leads to proper execution.

"I think there's always pressure," Garrett said. "Anytime you're a player or a coach in the National Football League there's pressure to do well. I came to grips with that probably 17, 18 years ago. It's just the nature of the beast. That's why most of us are doing what we're doing."

ESPN: WR Roy E. Williams has plenty of skeptics

By Jeffri Chadiha

CARROLLTON, Texas -- There is one important thing to remember about the Dallas Cowboys as they conduct their offseason workouts: Their success this season does not hinge on the play of wide receiver Roy E. Williams.

He is certainly going to play a huge role in their passing game. He'll also face his share of scrutiny after Dallas acquired him in a blockbuster trade with the Detroit Lions last fall. But please don't think he's the only player on Dallas' roster who needs to raise his game. There is no shortage of Cowboys who fall into that category.

The problem, of course, is that plenty of eyes are focused on Williams this offseason. It makes sense, too. Jaws dropped around the NFL when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave up a boatload of draft picks -- first-, third- and sixth-round selections in the 2009 draft and a seventh-rounder in 2010 -- to acquire a receiver who had produced just one 1,000-yard campaign in five pro seasons. The skepticism then grew after the Cowboys released wide receiver Terrell Owens earlier this offseason. Now it seems like Williams has no shortage of critics, including former Cowboys stars.

Troy Aikman claimed the trade for Williams would be "one of the biggest busts in the history of the league" if Williams didn't become a dominant receiver. Emmitt Smith recently hinted that the Cowboys have no explosiveness in their passing game now that Owens has been banished. Deion Sanders also has shown about as much love for Williams as Rush Limbaugh displays for Democrats. Sanders openly questioned Williams' work ethic.

Now there's no question that such issues arise when a team invests so much in a player, especially one who works for a franchise as visible as Dallas. But it's also starting to sound as if Williams is becoming a likely scapegoat for any offensive problems Dallas might have this season.

"I don't know why those guys started thinking I can't play," said Williams, who also signed a five-year, $45 million extension after joining Dallas. "When I've been back here to play against the Cowboys, I've usually played well [Williams has 11 receptions, 176 yards and two touchdowns in two career games against Dallas]. But I guess I'll just have to show them what I can do."

It's not hard to see why Williams has his critics. After becoming the seventh overall pick in the 2004 draft, he had only one dominant season in Detroit (when he caught 82 passes for 1,310 yards in 2006 and earned Pro Bowl alternate status). Williams' first season with the Cowboys didn't help his cause, either.

Acquired in Week 7 of the 2008 season, Williams joined a Cowboys team that was in flux. In Week 6, starting quarterback Tony Romo sprained a pinky finger and did not return to action until Week 11. Under replacement Brad Johnson, the Cowboys' offense struggled.

In his Cowboys debut in a Week 7 loss to the host St. Louis Rams, Williams failed to catch a pass.

He finished the the Dallas portion of his season with numbers so meager -- 19 receptions for 198 yards and one touchdown in 10 games -- that he still can't recall them without disgust.

But suggesting effort and ability are the only factors in those statistics wouldn't be accurate. For one thing, the Lions had numerous problems at quarterback during Williams' tenure there, and the overall offense was pretty inept, as well. As for Williams' time in Dallas, those struggles likely had more to do with a new environment than anything else. The Cowboys had to get the ball to Owens, Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten and an assortment of other players. Williams ultimately got lost in the shuffle.

That's why he's making a more concerted effort to create stronger chemistry with Romo this spring. The two players started working together shortly after the offseason began and Williams already can see the benefits.

"I just feel more comfortable," Williams said. "And I'm not the only one who's feeling that way. Tony is more comfortable with me. [Offensive coordinator] Jason Garrett is more comfortable calling plays for me. We're all developing that trust, and that's something we didn't have last season. Unfortunately, I was the one who wound up looking bad because of it."

Added Cowboys receivers coach Ray Sherman: "It was tough on Roy last year because he came in the middle of the season and was trying to learn a new system. But you already can see the work he's put in with Tony. He's able to tell Tony how he likes to do things and Tony is able to say what he wants from him. The big thing is that they're able to communicate with each other."

Williams clearly won't lack for opportunities to prove his value this coming season. He is taking over the same role in the Cowboys' offense that Owens occupied, meaning he'll be moved to different areas in various formations to create favorable matchups. Williams has the speed and size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) to be a dominant player in Dallas' system. The question he faces is whether he can turn all that criticism into a positive.

After all, those negative comments just might drive Williams to achieve greatness. Remember, he had grand dreams when this deal went down, especially since he was returning to the state where he starred in high school (Odessa Permian) and college (Texas). The last thing he expected to hear was constant trashing of his ability. Hell, he probably never heard any disparaging words about his play when he was growing up in the state.

But one thing nobody can question about Williams is his focus these days. He has talked about dropping his weight down to 212 pounds, which is what he was listed at as a rookie. He has been wearing his old college number (4) in practice so he can remind himself of his glory days.

Williams also said his only concern is playing on a winning team.

"One thing that really pisses me off," he said, "is when I catch 10 balls and my team ends up losing."

So don't be surprised if Williams thrives in his first full season in Dallas. He knows the scrutiny won't vanish any time soon, but he also realizes he can't control that issue.

All Williams ultimately needs to worry about is one thing: doing his part. If he does that consistently, his NFL tenure in his home state really will be as sweet as he once imagined.

Player Update: Miles Austin, WR


Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones believes that Miles Austin could have a breakout season in 2009, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Jones believes Austin could emerge as the Cowboys' number two receiver at some point this season.

Our View: This is Austin's third year in the league, and he has the size at 6-foot-3 to be a good option for Tony Romo. He showed flashes last year, and he may be worth a look in fantasy drafts this season.

NFC East loaded with unheralded linebackers

By Steve Wyche |
Senior Writer

Washington Redskins linebacker Rocky McIntosh brought up a good point this week when discussing how he and fellow linebacker London Fletcher play in relative anonymity despite garnering 100-plus tackles apiece for the NFL's fourth-ranked defense in 2008.

"Our defense was one of the best in the league and most people don't know that either," he said. "I can assure you this, the guys who we play against know who (him and Fletcher) are. That's for sure."

McIntosh could be speaking for just about any linebacker in the rugged NFC East. The division made up of Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia and the New York Giants is stocked with Pro Bowl talent at nearly every position. Yet, Dallas' DeMarcus Ware was the only linebacker in the NFC to make it to the NFL's all-star game in February.
While Ware led the NFL with 20 sacks and totaled 84 tackles, there were several other players in the division who posted equally as impressive numbers on some of the best defenses in the league.

In fact, defense is what the NFC East is about. Philadelphia, Washington and the New York Giants ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in overall defense last season. The Cowboys were No. 8. Key to the production, as understated as it might seem, was linebacker play.

"There are two schools of thought about not having any linebackers from our team in the Pro Bowl," Philadelphia middle linebacker Stewart Bradley said. "The guys who went had great seasons and were deserving. For us, we had the top defense in the NFC and we had players go at other positions, so we were represented.

"As far as the linebackers in the division, different teams ask players to do different things and it's a lot how you're perceived. Are you involved in nickel and dime packages? If you win games and your defense is playing good football and you're on the field a lot, recognition will come."

Here are some of the linebackers in the division who might not be household names, but should be -- and soon, could be:

London Fletcher, Washington -- Arguably the most overlooked linebacker in the league for years. The 5-foot-9, 245-pound, 11-year veteran middle linebacker has started 135straight games and accrued more than 100 tackles for 10 consecutive seasons. He tied Pittsburgh's James Farrior as the NFL's sixth-leading tackler with 133 stops last season. Each year he expresses his dismay of not making it to the Pro Bowl, but he gets bypassed annually. With Albert Haynesworth now playing in front of him, the steady, but unflashy, Fletcher should rack up big-time numbers again. If Washington gets to the playoffs, he might finally get the recognition he seeks.

Rocky McIntosh, Washington -- The Redskins starting weak side linebacker is a rising talent, who is steadily making a name for himself. The two-year starter registered 87 tackles last season (the Redskins had him down for 104 tackles) and he could benefit not only from the attention Haynesworth will receive, but also by the focus that will be put on rookie OLB/DE Brian Orakpo. McIntosh will likely find himself in a lot of one-on-one matchups this season and should be able to make the plays that no longer will have him living off his rep from the University of Miami.

Stewart Bradley, Philadelphia -- Fletcher and the New York Giants' Antonio Pierce might be the more highly regarded 4-3 middle linebackers in the NFC East, but Bradley could be poised to make a move to leapfrog one, if not both. In his first full season as the starter, the 6-4, 255-pound Bradley had 108 tackles (the Eagles had him down for 151 tackles, including nine for loss). He is rangier and younger than all of his MLB peers in the division and he plays in a system that allows him to be aggressive attacking the line of scrimmage.

Bradie James, Dallas -- James follows the format of how to ideally play the strong side, inside linebacker position in a 3-4. James is frequently responsible for taking on the lead block and he is a violent knee buckler, whether it's a guard, fullback or trapping tight end. Besides playing his role responsibly, James also has been Dallas's top tackler for the past three seasons. He had a career-best 116 tackles last season and he added eight sacks, a very high total for an inside backer.

Antonio Pierce, New York -- Pierce is probably the best known of the group and he's actually played in a Pro Bowl (2006 season). However, Pierce still sits on the fringe, when the top inside linebackers in the league -- even the NFC (Patrick Willis, Jon Beason, and Barrett Ruud) -- are mentioned. Pierce's nasty approach and production is well known in league circles. His tackle total dipped below 100 last season after two straight seasons of being above the mark -- but those numbers could be back on the uptick with a healthy and stocked defensive line.

Michael Boley, New York -- Boley spent his previous four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and was on the verge of stardom during the 2007 season as the strong side outside linebacker. He fell off significantly last season (73 tackles, one interception) and was used solely as a coverage linebacker by the end of the season. Boley, a freakish athlete, might not fill the tackle chart, but will have production in nearly every defensive category. Plus, he could be afforded the opportunity to rush the passer again and have clear lanes with Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck occupying much of the traffic.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pressure on Romo as Cowboys look to turn things around

by Albert Breer

Miles Austin can't pinpoint it, but the Cowboys receiver can feel it. Maybe it's the way Tony Romo's commanding the huddle. Or the determined look in his eye. Whatever. It's most certainly there. "He's taking more of a leadership role, and you can see how excited he is," Austin told "He'd already been doing that -- he's a tremendous competitor -- but he's trying to be even more of that kind of asset to our team.

"You can tell. It goes without words. It's a feeling you get."

Like Austin said, it's not like the quarterback hasn't had his share of bull-by-the-horns moments since wrestling the reins from Drew Bledsoe in 2006. And Romo has produced -- 10,000 yards and 78 touchdowns in 39 career starts provide proof positive.

Survey says: 19 former Cowboys chime in on Romo and more

But three years running, Cowboys' collapses have been tied to Romo's late-season swoons. So if Romo's tweaking, in a place where success is measured in Lombardis, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

"It's always, 'You gotta win the Super Bowl this year,'" Romo said. "Our approach is a little different in that we are going to [try to get] better today. All we can do is control today."

Tomorrow? Here are reasons why Romo will or won't be better in 2009:

Better because ...

No T.O.: Losing Terrell Owens from the offense should free Romo of concerns about keeping his top playmaker happy, and it could also make coordinator Jason Garrett better with renewed play-calling freedom.

The truth is, Dallas was best over the last three years when Owens was producing but when the team wasn't leaning on him too heavily. The Cowboys were 17-6 in that span when T.O. had three-to-five catches. They were 14-10 when he had less than three or more than five.

And since this move was made early in the offseason, Romo should be able to grow with Roy Williams, Jason Witten, Austin and Patrick Crayton as a group. "This is our time to get in sync with the quarterback, and you do that by being with the guys," Austin said.

Renewed Roy: Williams now has seven months with Romo in Garrett's offense. He's also got a lot to prove after catching just 19 balls for 198 yards and one touchdown in his first 10 games in Dallas.

His old OC from Detroit, Mike Martz, chalks up Williams' struggles in Dallas to his midseason entrance: "The timing is so different, the anticipation is so different, you really need an offseason of work."

Aside from just learning, though, there's the matter of buying in. Therein, perhaps, lies another ancillary benefit of Owens' departure -- while T.O. feuded with Garrett last season, it may have been difficult for Williams to get on board with the OC.
"Roy's a pretty intellectual guy, it has to makes sense to him," Martz adds. "He questions a lot of things, but all of that, from my standpoint, was very healthy. Like all good receivers, he wants the ball, and with guys like Roy or a Torry Holt, you always want to get them the ball early to get them in the flow of the game. He'll be fine [in Dallas], Jason does a great job, and I think that's a perfect match -- Roy will have a big year."

Adjusted approach: Marion Barber and Felix Jones are both healthy now, and with Tashard Choice in the mix, the Cowboys have the makings of a versatile, explosive running game to take pressure off Romo.

It will be on Garrett to commit to the running game like he did not do in 2008. Criticism of the airborne approach started with Dallas' first loss last fall, a game against Washington in which the Cowboys ran the ball just 11 times. For the year, Dallas had 25 carries just eight times. The Cowboys were 7-1 when they got to that threshold, 2-5 when they didn't.

There were reasons, of course. According to coaches, the loss of Jones to injury was more crushing than most people realized, and it took Garrett time -- and an injury to Barber -- to warm up to using Choice more freely. But health permitting, those excuses are gone -- Choice and Jones aren't rookies anymore, and Barber's now in his second year as the workhorse -- so it'll be a matter of finding the right mix.

Worse because ...

No T.O.: For all his warts, Owens got a defense's attention. And Williams has only one 1,000-yard season on his resume, meaning that he's no T.O. Not yet, anyway. As Romo says, "It's always difficult to replace someone who's been the dominant player."

Maybe Owens does have a reputation as a quarterback killer. But the validity of that can be questioned fairly easily. In 13 NFL seasons, Owens has helped his quarterback, whether it was Romo or Steve Young or Jeff Garcia or Donovan McNabb, make the Pro Bowl nine times.

Then, there's what he did to open the field for teammates. According to Stats Inc., Owens was thrown to on 433 pass attempts in 47 games as a Cowboy, or 28 percent of Dallas' pass plays. Teams forced to combat that, and commit coverage to such a dynamic playmaker, compromised themselves in other areas, allowing other players to make plays. For now, Williams doesn't strike that kind of fear into defenses.

Lining up: The offensive line, a strength in 2007, really missed Tony Sparano's firm hand in 2008, and part of that is attitude.

The Cowboys' number of rushing attempts has declined in each of the last four years, and that makes it more difficult to protect the quarterback, with more long-yardage situations accrued and more predictability in playcalling. As a result, a big, grinding unit may have lost its physical edge.

But it was more than just that last year for the Dallas line. Flozell Adams, for one, looked like a shell of himself after getting big money coming off a big 2007 season, and he wasn't the only one who had an appreciable drop-off in play after Sparano was replaced as line coach by Hudson Houck. More bad news: All five starters are north of 30, which doesn't exactly portend that a big bounce-back is in the offing.

Depth depletion: Last year, losing starting left guard Kyle Kosier was devastating. Similar problems could surface at receiver.

With the exception of tailback, depth just isn't there. So staying healthy is imperative for an offense that was outstanding when its lineup was kept almost completely static two years ago.

Avezzano: Healthy Romo key for Cowboys


Thursday, May 28, 2009

TYLER — Joe Avezzano said the health of quarterback Tony Romo will be the difference in whether the Dallas Cowboys have a successful 2009 season, and an East Texan will play a critical part for Romo's well being.

Avezzano was the keynote speaker at the 19th Annual Scholastic All-Star Team Banquet on Wednesday, which was held at the Rose Garden Center. The team honored 24 college-bound student-athletes, including 10 from the area.

Avezzano was the special-teams coach for the Cowboys from 1990 to 2002 — including the Super Bowl champion years of 1992, 1993 and 1995 — and remains active with the Cowboys with post-game radio and television shows.

Avezzano said Romo missing three games last season because of injuries had a large impact on the Cowboys finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs.

"It's obvious the Cowboys made some moves to clear out some elements. We'll see if it's for the best," Avezzano said. "What it comes down to is if Romo stays healthy. If he does, he can take it to the next step and the Cowboys can have a successful season."

Avezzano said one element to Romo staying healthy is the play of offensive lineman Montrae Holland, a Jefferson native who will be in the second year of a two-year contract with the Cowboys this fall. Avezzano said this could be a year of opportunity for Holland.

"Holland will get every chance to start for the Cowboys," Avezzano said. "If he takes advantage of it, opportunities will play out for him. If he doesn't, his career can go in another direction."

Avezzano gave a speech before the area athletes were honored, including five area girls and five area boys. Each athlete honored received a plaque, a shirt and a check for $500 in scholarship money.

The five area girls honored were Pine Tree's Kerris Willett, Sabine's Katy Strange, Union Grove's Jordan Bess, Paul Pewitt's Alvita Mares and Kylee Little of Hawkins. The five boys honored were Longview's Will McWhorter, White Oak's Taylor Wait, Carthage's Zachary Smith, Marshall's Tracy Carson and Arp's Garrett Williams.

Bess, Carson and Williams are the valedictorians of their classes, while Little, Smith and Wait are the salutatorians of their schools for the 2008-09 school year. Wait is the third person in his family named to the all-star team. He was preceded by his older sister and brother — Erin and Eric.

Avezzano used an acronym of sports — sacrifice, pride, opportunities, responsibilities, thrills and success — as a way the athletes can apply athletics to the rest of their lives.

"The acronym for sports will stick with me," said Willett, an All-East Texas volleyball player who will attend the University of Texas and major in early childhood education. "I'll use it when I work in a volleyball camp this summer."

Avezzano, who is 65 years old, has not coached since he was part of Norv Turner's staff with the Oakland Raiders in 2005, but considering Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and Penn State's Joe Paterno are coaching well into their 80s, he has not ruled out returning to coaching in the near future.

"Football is a young man's sport, but I know 30-year-olds who don't have any energy and 60-year-olds who have more than enough," Avezzano said.

AP: Cowboys sign 3 free agents; roster at 83 players

IRVING, Texas (AP) — The Cowboys have signed three free agents — tight end Scott Chandler, receiver Mike Jefferson and defensive end Derreck Robinson.

Chandler was a fourth-round pick by San Diego in 2007 and was inactive for all but one game that year before spending the 2008 season on injured reserve.

Jefferson was on the Cowboys' practice squad last year before his October release. Robinson spent two seasons with the Chargers and one with Miami but hasn't played since 2007.

Dallas has two more weeks of organized offseason workouts and a mandatory minicamp in mid-June before training camp starts July 29 in San Antonio. The Cowboys have 83 players on their roster after Thursday's signings.

FWST: 10 Reasons the Cowboys feel good about their '09 team


ARLINGTON -- With Wednesday’s ribbon cutting at Cowboys Stadium, owner Jerry Jones has a building that is second to none in the NFL.

The attention to detail and architecture in the all glass structure are of museum quality. It also features the world’s largest video board.

Suffice to say, he expects his football to live up to the standards of the new $1.15 billion facility -- starting in 2009.

"I think so," Jones said. "I have always thought that it was an element of added pressure to be a member of the Cowboys. It’s about expectations. I expect every player that plays on this field to play above their level. That’s how you are going to stay here. I do have high expectations. You can’t put something up like this and not expect the team to reflect the quality of stadium."

Considering that Jones compared the building and opening of the stadium to the feeling of winning of the Super Bowl, the expectations are certainly high for next season.

There is no question the Cowboys feel good about their stadium. Here are 10 reasons why the Cowboys feel good about their team for next season.

1. Quarterback Tony Romo In Tony Romo, the Cowboys have one of the league’s top quarterbacks who is entering his third full season as a starter. Romo is already on his way to becoming the most prolific passer in team history. He is unquestionably the face of the franchise and needs a little playoff success to cement his spot as one the team’s all-time greats.

2. Running backs The Cowboys have three more-than-capable runners in Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. They are the strength of the team, so look for the Cowboys to lean on the running game. Jones being sidelined for 10 games in 2008 is one of the most overlooked and underestimated aspects of last season’s disappointments.

3. Beware of DeMarcus Ware Linebacker DeMarcus Ware is worth the price of admission alone. He is the league’s best pass rusher and a perennial defensive player of the year candidate. With 20 sacks last year, Ware flirted with the NFL’s single-season sack record of 22.5. He will again threaten Michael Strahan’s mark and also set his sights on Harvey Martin’s team record of 23, which is not recognized by the NFL.

4. A healthy Terence Newman When healthy, Terence Newman is one of the league’s top shutdown cornerbacks. The Cowboys didn’t get to see that much of last year because Newman missed six games and was hobbled in several others with a hernia. Newman is healthy again. He should return to the Pro Bowl form that makes him the best player on their defense not named DeMarcus Ware.

5. No more drama? With Terrell Owens, Adam “Pacman” Jones, Greg Ellis, Roy Williams and Tank Johnson all gone, the Cowboys locker room should be without drama or controversy. No more infighting. No more complaining about your role, your contract or how you are being used. No more off-field disturbances. It should be one team doing things the right way and working toward the same goal.

6. Solid up the middle With nose tackle Jay Ratliff and inside linebacker Bradie James and Keith Brooking, the Cowboys are strong in the middle. Ratliff, a 2008 Pro Bowler, might be the best pass-rushing nose tackle in the league. James has led the team in tackles the past four seasons and Brooking, a free agent signee, had his best years under Wade Phillips when he was in Atlanta. He is an upgrade over Zach Thomas

7. Tight end Jason Witten If Jason Witten is not the league’s best tight end, it doesn’t take long to call the roll. He has been named to the Pro Bowl five times after five consecutive seasons of 60 or more catches. He is consistent and reliable. Is there any wonder he is Tony Romo’s favorite receiver and go-to guy when he needs a first down?

8. Wade Phillips running defense Head coach Wade Phillips was brought here because of his expertise on the defensive side of the ball. Yet, for the first two years, Phillips didn’t run his own defense. With the departure of coordinator Brian Stewart, Phillips is back in control of the Phillips 3-4 defense. In his own words, he said he has proven to be a great defensive coordinator. The Cowboys should benefit from that in 2009.

9. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis is an inspirational story. Decamillis suffered broken bones in his neck and back was nearly paralyzed in the collapse of the team’s indoor training facility on May 2. After watching him return to practice just a couple of weeks out of the hospital, the Cowboys have no choice but to give their all without excuses next season.

10. Backup quarterback One of the reasons the Cowboys failed last season was because they didn’t shore up their backup quarterback position. It hurt them when Tony Romo went down with an injury. That was one of the first things they addressed in the off-season. They released the aged Brad Johnson, who Jones said played like he was hurt, and acquired Jon Kitna in a trade with Detroit.

SN: Former Cowboys weigh in on current roster

Posted: May 28, 2009
by Jeff D'Alessio

After the spring cleaning in Dallas -- see ya, T.O. -- Sporting News surveyed 19 ex-Cowboys for answers to those questions and others.

SN's panel of former Cowboys: Eric Bjornson, TE, 1995-99; Larry Cole, DL, 1968-80; Tony Dorsett, RB, 1977-87; Michael Downs, S, 1981-88; John Dutton, DL, 1979-87; Lee Folkins, TE/DE, 1962-64; Walt Garrison, RB, 1966-74; Dale Hellestrae, OL, 1990-2000; John Jett, P, 1993-96; Daryl Johnston, FB, 1989-99; Lee Roy Jordan, LB, 1963-76; Crawford Ker, G, 1985-90; Brock Marion, S, 1993-97; Ralph Neely, OL, 1965-77; Tom Rafferty, OL, 1976-89; Otto Stowe, WR, 1973; Ron Widby, P, 1968-71; Dave Widell, OL, 1988-89; Darren Woodson, S, 1992-2003.

Do you think Tony Romo is the answer at quarterback?


"I think he can be the man. Tony was made a star before he did anything to justify it. You have to earn your stripes in this league. People expected too much from him. Let's keep it real, people."-- Tony Dorsett

"Yes -- if you put limitations on the amount of times he has to throw the ball. More short passes and run the ball more often."-- Darren Woodson

Answer Votes
Yes 14
We'll See 3
No 2

"I would like to see him be more serious at times, but one of the things I admire most about Tony is how much fun he has playing the game."-- Daryl Johnston

"I would draft and develop (a quarterback). Like Bill Parcells says, 'too comfortable.' "-- Crawford Ker

Breer: Will Romo be better or worse in 2009

What current Cowboy would you most want as your teammate?

Answer Votes
DeMarcus Ware 6
Jason Witten 5 1/2
Marion Barber 4


"Jason Witten reminds me of the type of players who were my teammates in the '90s. Tough, high-character guys like Jay Novacek, Darren Woodson and Tony Tolbert." -- Daryl Johnston

"DeMarcus Ware is a great player and a quiet leader." -- Darren Woodson

"Marion Barber -- tough and a team player." -- Ron Widby

"None of 'em." -- John Dutton

Do you think Jerry Jones is making the right moves to bring a title back to Dallas soon?

Answer Votes
Yes 7
No 7
Jury's out 5


"He needs to hire a football guy as G.M., (someone) who has some authority and can disagree with Jerry on decisions without the fear of being fired." -- Dale Hellestrae

"I would have loved to have played for an owner like him. However, I think he stretches himself too thin at times because he wears too many hats." -- Tony Dorsett

"I think the changes this offseason have been the right moves. Dallas was a mentally tired team down the stretch. A soap opera atmosphere can do that to a team. Trust me. Been there, done that." -- Daryl Johnston

"He has tried to buy a title. Now, step back and be an owner." -- Ron Widby

Ever catch yourself checking out the cheerleaders during a game?

Answers Votes
Yes 13
No 4
Who, me? 1
Never 1


"I am a man." -- Darren Woodson

"You bet." -- Lee Roy Jordan

"Always."-- Larry Cole

"Cheerleaders? What cheerleaders? I thought those girls in short shorts, short blue blouses and go-go boots were auditioning for an Austin Powers movie sequel." -- Dave Widell

Are the Cowboys better or worse without Terrell Owens?

Answers Votes
Better 17
Worse 1
Too soon to tell 1


"No teammate is better than the team or the league." -- Brock Marion

"The time has come. It's time to move on." -- Otto Stowe

"I don't see any other Hall of Famers on the depth chart." -- Dave Widell

What's the one thing the Cowboys need to become contenders again?

Answers Votes
A new coach 4
Leadership 3
Discipline 2 1/2
Attitude adjustments 2


"A foot up their butts." -- Tony Dorsett

"A heart." -- Tom Rafferty

"Lose the attitude and just play football. We won because we played football. And then our attitude came." -- Brock Marion

"A playmaking receiver without baggage."-- Eric Bjornson

"It seems like the players are running the team."-- Walt Garrison

Jeff D'Alessio is editor-in-chief of Sporting News. E-mail him at

MySA.COM: Jones expects new stadium to inspire players

By Tom Orsborn - Express-News

ARLINGTON — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has built a palace. Now he expects the players to honor it with efforts befitting football's grandest venue.

In a sun-splashed ceremony that included fireworks, skydivers and a soaring orchestral score, a beaming Jones helped cut the ribbon at Cowboys Stadium on Wednesday, opening a 3 million-square foot building a team spokesman said has a final price tag of $1.150 billion.

An invitation-only crowd of 1,500, including government officials and several of the franchise's former stars, watched intently as the opening of the giant glass end-zone doors punctuated the event.

Jones equated the satisfaction he gained from building the stadium to winning a Super Bowl, something the Cowboys did for him three times in the 1990s.

Now he's hopeful Cowboys Stadium will help the current team add another Lombardi Trophy.

“This building could have been built for two-thirds of the cost, but it was about expectations,” Jones said. “And I expect every player who ever walks on this field to play above their level.”

The stadium drew rave reviews from former players, including Drew Pearson, a star receiver in the 1970s.

“I was totally wowed and totally awed by it,” Pearson said. “It just makes me wish we could set the clock back a little bit and I could strap on the hat and lace the cleats and get some action in this stadium, because this is beautiful.”

Like Jones, Pearson is hopeful the new stadium will bring out the best in today's players.

“Man, if these guys got any sense, it would inspire them, motivate them to be better players, to give more, to try to do everything they can to stay a Dallas Cowboy throughout their career,” Pearson said. “... Hopefully, that translates into victories.”

Pearson said Cowboys Stadium, site of the 2011 Super Bowl, would be the envy of the league.

“All you have to do is look at Terrell Owens,” said Pearson, referring to the former Dallas receiver released in March after a season in which he was at the center of a locker room drama. “You think he'd rather be here or in Buffalo?

“It tells me a lot about him. He couldn't keep it together enough to make it one more year to be a part of this. Now he's in Buffalo. That's what happens when you sometimes run your pass routes with your lips instead of your legs.”

After the ceremony, Jones proudly pointed out to reporters some of the stadium's features.

“Look at that finish on that concrete block,” Jones said. “(It cost) 25 cents a square foot just to buff it, not paint. ... You did things of that nature all the way through this thing and you do it enough and it adds up. And then all of a sudden, it's got a quality to it.”

Pearson said he was impressed with the proximity of the seats to the field, one of several design elements that mirrors Texas Stadium.

“A lot of these new stadiums, they build them so big and wide they loose a lot of the closeness, a lot of the crowd noise, the ambience, the environment that makes it special to play in,” Pearson said. “They didn't lose that here. The field-level suites are right there. As a matter of fact, if the players get a little bored or have to go to the bathroom they don't have to go to the locker room, they can go right to the suite.”

Jones didn't deny that sales of luxury suites have been slow during the recession. He said 280 have been sold, leaving more than 20 to go.

“I sold one today,” Jones said with a smile.

WFAA: Wade Phillips busier as head coach, coordinator now


CARROLLTON -- If Wade Phillips looks more involved during the organized team activities this year, it's because he is.

Three months ago, team owner Jerry Jones said Phillips would not just be the head coach this season, but also take over as defensive coordinator.

"I'll just have a little more time," Phillips said. "Hopefully a little less time for media and more time for football."

Taking on the duties of the defensive coordinator takes Phillips back to his roots.

And if there is one thing the players and coaches like about the change, is that they get to see more of their head coach in defensive meetings.

"I don't know if they like it or not," he said. "It's going fine. I'm just more involved than I was even last year."

Said linebackers coach Reggie Herring, "All that has changed is that you've got the boss in your meetings and you better stand at attention a little better."

The Dallas defense had a terrible finish to the season last year.

A good example was Baltimore in week 16 when the Ravens had fourth quarter runs of 77 and 82 yards.

Now the defense is all on Phillips.

"You know there is no middle," said secondary coach Dave Camp, a former Cowboys head coach and defensive coordinator. "When we discuss things, and go through things, Wade is right there and he's listening to us and we're listening to him, it should help us in the long run."

"When you've got the boss in your meetings hanging around," Herring said, "it makes it even that more special, and really makes our job even easier to be honest with you."

Players are beginning to see a different side.

"He's funny, you know his personality is a little different but we're getting a chance to know each other in a different capacity," said linebacker Bradie James.

"I think we'll be better prepared because now you have the guy at the top teaching the guys at the bottom," said linebacker DeMarcus Ware. "With him in there I think the mistakes from last year aren't going to be the same and it's really going to help out."

Only 12 teams gave up more points than Dallas last year so scoring defense might be a good place for Phillips to start.

Mosley: A look at the Cowboys' 53-man roster

Posted by's Matt Mosley

Trimming the Cowboys' roster to 53 in late May seems like a silly exercise -- but that didn't stop's senior blogger Tim MacMahon. Take a look at what MacMahon came up with, and see how it matches up with your final 53. Oh wait, you haven't done yours yet?

MacMahon's list looks pretty solid to me. He has 11 of the club's 12 draft picks being on the final roster. I'm not sure what that says about the Cowboys. In my mind, it means that Wade Phillips has finally admitted that it's hard to win with poor play on special teams. That was his undoing in Buffalo (firing Bruce DeHaven), and we'll see if he's waited too late in Dallas.

I think fifth-round safeties Michael Hamlin and DeAngelo Smith have made excellent first impressions with the coaching staff. Safeties coach Brett Maxie told me Tuesday that Hamlin is soaking up information quicker than most rookies he's coached. And both players have good ball skills, something this team has been missing in recent years.

MacMahon has Isaiah Stanback making the team, but I don't think that will happen. He might be intriguing as a Wildcat quarterback, but he can't stay on the field because of injuries. Former Sooner Travis Wilson will have a shot at being the fifth receiver. I think Manuel Johnson and Kevin Ogletree could be good practice squad candidates.

And the depth along the offensive line is so uninspiring. Cory Procter or Montrae Holland can get you through some games at guard, but after that it's a crapshoot. Doug Free should give thanks each day that the club hasn't been able to develop another young lineman to force him off the roster. The Cowboys have done a lot of things right in the draft. Drafting talented offensive linemen isn't one of them. Maybe Robert Brewster out of Ball State will change that, but I have my doubts.

Do you guys see any major/minor surprises happening during the trimming process? Have fun churning the bottom of the roster. No one loves that phrase more than Bill Parcells. Never thought I'd miss him, but ...

MySa Blog: Will Giants arrive early for Cowboys Stadium opener?

By Tom Orsborn on May 28, 09 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

DALLAS - If Drew Pearson was coaching them, they certainly would.

Pearson said at Wednesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony at Cowboys Stadium that visiting teams will be at a disadvantage if they don't do a walkthrough at the 3 million-square foot venue.

The Cowboys host the Giants on Sept. 20 in the first regular season game at the stadium.

"I would recommend that all teams come in a day early to practice here and get a look at the stadium so they can get past the wow factor and the excitement of playing here so that when it comes time to play that will be behind them and they can concentrate on playing the game," the former Cowboys star receiver said. "Otherwise, if they step in here for the first time, they are going to be in awe and it's going to cause them to lose some focus on the game for sure. Advantage Cowboys."

DC.COM Blog: 'Boys Bring Back WR Jefferson, Sign Two More

Posted by jellis at 5/28/2009 2:13 PM CDT on

With no limit on the size of the roster until training camp, the Cowboys continue to turn over stones in search of potential players.

On Thursday the club signed three players, including 26-year-old wide receiver Mike Jefferson, who was on the Cowboys' 53-man roster for the season opener last year, but didn't dress. Jefferson was sent back to the practice squad the next week, and was later suspended four games for violating the league's performance enhancing drugs policy. He was released after the suspension was completed, and spent the remainder of 2008 in the Bills organization.

Also signed by the Cowboys on Thursday were tight end Scott Chandler and defensive end Derreck Robinson. Chandler, a 6-7, 265-pounder from Iowa, has been with the Chargers since 2007, but only appeared in one game. He spent the 2008 season on injured reserve, and was waived by San Diego the Friday before this April's NFL Draft.

Robinson, who also played his college ball for the Hawkeyes, was out of football in 2008. The 6-5, 294 pound end has experience in Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme, having played under the Cowboys coach in San Diego from 2005-06. He spent the 2007 season in Miami. The 27-year-old Robinson has played in 23 games in his three-year career, and has 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

On Tuesday the Cowboys waived two players, defensive back Tra Battle and defensive lineman Casey Tyler.

-Josh Ellis

The Impact Players: NFC East

By Matt Bowen
Posted May 28, 2009

In my continuing series on impact players for the 2009 season, I make a stop in the NFC East. Four teams and four players who will be expected to produce and play major roles when training camp kicks off in August.

The Impact Players: NFC East

Dallas: OLB Anthony Spencer

The Cowboys have all but closed the book on OLB Greg Ellis — he’s expected to be traded soon — and that leaves Spencer, the former first-round pick, to replace his production.

As our own Michael Lombardi wrote this morning, the Cowboys’ defense is predicated on getting to the quarterback. They led the NFL in sacks last season with 59, but they also gave up over 22 points per game. This defense — although nasty when it gets to the quarterback — is the equivalent of a big-play offense. It’s effective because it can provide the amount of pressure that can alter a ballgame — and that’s where Spencer comes in.

He has only 4½ sacks in his career and only posted 1½ in ’08. He’s long, but he lacks the burst off the line of scrimmage to consistently create havoc in the backfield, which is something Ellis will take with him along with his 77 career sacks and the eight he recorded last season. We can all agree that Ellis might be at the end of his career, but the Cowboys still have to replace his production, and Spencer needs to show that he can consistently get to the quarterback in this attacking defense — because without that, the Cowboys will struggle.

Philadelphia: LT Jason Peters

Beyond the fact that the Eagles paid top dollar — plus traded away draft picks — to bring Peters in from Buffalo, the expectations for him will, and should be, immense for the ’09 season.

Peters struggled in Buffalo last season, and now he comes to the NFC East, where he’ll face some of the best pass rushers in the game. The Eagles used their top two draft picks on offensive talent — WR Jeremy Maclin of Mizzou and RB LeSean McCoy of Pittsburgh — to give QB Donovan McNabb more weapons to work with. But those additions won’t matter if Peters doesn’t return to Pro Bowl form and become a dominant left tackle in the Eagles’ west coast system. I was a teammate of his in Buffalo, and I can attest to his athletic ability for a man his size, but he still has to prove that he can handle the pressure defenses of the East.

There were a lot of reasons why Peters’ game slipped in ’08, but when you command the type of salary he now possess, the Eagles and the city of Philadelphia are going to expect major production. This team should be considered one of the contenders to not only win the East, but to go deep into January — but that will only happen if Peters plays at a high level and gives McNabb time to throw.

New York: WR Hakeem Nicks

It isn’t often that a late first-round pick is expected to contribute and produce immediately in an offense — especially at the wide receiver position — but that’s exactly what the Giants were thinking when they drafted Nicks out of UNC.

As I wrote Wednesday when I discussed the Giants and QB Eli Manning, this offense needs a big, physical No. 1 target — especially in the intermediate passing game. Nicks is long, and he has the body to shield defenders away from the football, plus he has the ability to go up and catch the ball, something former Giants WR Plaxico Burress possessed — but he’s still a rookie wide receiver. Are the Giants asking too much?

Maybe, but that’s really not the point right now. This team is loaded on defense and along the offensive line, and it might just have the best running game in the league, but Nicks is going to be expected to produce and play like a veteran immediately — or Manning and the passing game will struggle early in the season. Say what you want about Manning, but he plays at a higher level when he has a big receiver who can go get the football. Nicks has to be that player.

Washington: RB Ladell Betts

As I’ve stated before when it comes to feature backs in the NFL, they tire over the course of a 16-game season when they don’t have a complement in the backfield. Clinton Portis is the feature attraction in the Redskins’ offense, but I felt that during the ’08 season he wore down as the season progressed, and I started to question why Betts wasn’t given more carries.

I have a lot of respect for the way Portis plays the game. I was his teammate for two seasons in Washington, and I still feel that he doesn’t get enough credit for his toughness as a football player. But it doesn’t hide that fact that Portis carried the football 342 times compared to Betts’ 61, and his numbers drastically decreased over the last two months of the season.

I agree that this offense has plenty of question marks along the offensive line, and some in quarterback Jason Campbell, but Portis is the real deal when he’s fresh and when he’s healthy down the stretch. Head coach Jim Zorn needs to work Betts into the rotation because he’s a back who can run with power, can catch the ball out of the backfield and is more than capable of moving the chains.

The Giants led the league is rushing for a reason — they had multiple options out of the backfield. And Washington needs to follow their plan for this offense to move the ball on the ground, something that’s essential to winning games in the NFC East.

Player Update: Martellus Bennett, TE


Martellus Bennett expects to hold a larger role in the Cowboys' passing attack as he enters his second pro campaign, according to their official team website.

Our View: Bennett was considered the top tight end in the 2008 draft class, and came out of Texas A&M with good hands and solid receiving skills. He averaged 14.2 yards per catch as a rookie, and should make a bigger impact as the team attempts to move on without top receiver Terrell Owens.

VIDEO: Anthony Spencer on Greg Ellis' Departure

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cowboys Roster Series Part 2: Wide Receivers

NFL Team Column
By Russell Easley

Roster Series Part 2: Wide Receivers

Much has been said about the Dallas Cowboys receiving corps so far this offseason, most of it dealing with the departure of Terrell Owens, who shuffled off to Buffalo, but Owens is history and the show, as they say, must go on.

There are two major question marks for the Cowboys receivers going into the 2009 season. Can Miles Austin step up and be a consistent downfield threat this season ? Can Roy Williams step up and be a consistent #1 target and earn the trust of quarterback Tony Romo ? It’s looking like a boom or bust year for this unit in 2009.

Here’s a rundown of the current roster:

Roy Williams – Williams has all the physical tools that you could want in a top wide receiver, but he only had one pro bowl caliber year during his time in exile (ie playing for the Detroit Lions). But there are three major reasons why I think Roy will make Jerry Jones proud this coming season. First, you can consider last season a fluke. He played his first three games with Brad Johnson at quarterback, then only had a few more games to work with Romo before Terrell Owens started whining for the ball, and so Romo and Williams never got on the same page. While we’re at it, we can also factor in the plantar fasciitis injury that Roy suffered last year. Second, Williams and Romo have been working out together on pass patterns since early March. They are getting their timing down and learning what to expect of each other, which is vital. Thirdly, every commentator from here to Cairo has been questioning the abilities of Roy Williams, thus adding fuel to his inner fire. He has even taken to wearing his old college number 4 during OTA’s to signify that the Roy you see this year will not be the Roy you saw last year. Roy Williams is a man on a mission.

Patrick Crayton – He has two very valuable traits. First of all he is consistent. He’s not the fastest or flashiest wideout on the field but he knows how to run routes and has good hands. You know what you’re getting with him, which is a minimum of mistakes and some decent plays. Secondly, he owns his mistakes, which makes him a good team player. He uses his mistakes as fuel to do better the next time out. He talks too much to the press to suit many fans, but all in all he is a passionate player whose primary goal is to help the team. Crayton is also currently the team’s punt returner, a duty which he executes with typical unspectacular yet solid performance. I’ll take that over Pac Man with touchdown potential running from sideline to sideline. Favorite Crayton Moment (yes I have one): his 39 yard game winning touchdown catch against the Redskins in 2004.

Miles Austin – Austin has been the wideout in waiting for three years. Of those three years he has only been able to keep himself totally healthy for one. So durability seems to be the biggest question. Otherwise the coaches are quite confident that he can step in and fill the role of a downfield threat. He has good size and speed, and has been working on his craft for 3 years. He has a boatload of potential, indicated by the second round tender the Cowboys offered him, but that’s what it is at this point – potential. Favorite Austin Moment: the kick return for a touchdown against the Seahawks in the 2006 playoffs.

Sam Hurd – Hurd is another one of the Boys young receivers, being an undrafted free agent in 2006. A solid special teams performer, Hurd was out all last year with an ankle injury, which is too bad considering he had an excellent training camp and preseason last year. In fact, many thought he would pass Miles Austin on the depth chart based on his preseason performance. It’s going to be interesting to see what Hurd shows us this year.

Isaiah Stanback – Stanback is a converted QB who has been in development the last few seasons. He is very athletic, and has great speed but has trouble staying on the field due to injuries. In fact, as of the time of this writing it was reported that Stanback is having surgery for a partially torn MCL and will be out until training camp. It’s a minor injury, but given the amount of time he has already logged in the trainer’s room, his chances to make the team this year are getting ever slimmer. Jerry Jones seems to be leaning towards getting rid of his pet projects (TO, Pacman, etc.), and Stanback is one of them.

Manuel Johnson – Johnson was drafted in the 7th round this year. Many draft experts thought he would go higher than that, but a dislocated elbow suffered during his senior season at Oklahoma caused his stock to fall. At 5’11” he’s likely too small to be a #1 receiver in the Cowboys system but his quickness, hands, route running, and courage over the middle make him an excellent prospect in the slot. He’s tough as nails too (he missed only 2 games after the elbow injury), a trait which will endear him to the fans.

Kevin Ogletree – Signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Virginia, which could end up being a steal for the Cowboys. An NFL advisory board had Ogletree pegged as a 3rd or 4th rounder. He ran a 4.46 at the combine, which puts him in the same speed range as Jeremy Maclin, Kenny Britt and Joaquin Iglesias, but as an undrafted player is a long shot to make the team, given the amount of receivers the Cowboys have. He has size, speed, hands, and the ability to go fight for the ball in traffic. His progress during the offseason will be interesting to follow.

The Cowboys have seven receivers competing for a likely 5 roster spots. Williams, Crayton, and Austin are givens so Hurd, Stanback, Johnson, and Ogletree will likely fight it out for the last two spots on the roster. Don’t be surprised if both rookies make the team, as they have a lot of upside. The Cowboys are looking at a whole lot of positive potential with nothing objectively proven except Crayton, who has certainly earned himself a spot on this team as a slot receiver at a minimum, if not the number 2. This is Roy Williams’ one year to make a statement. What that statement is will be up to him.

So there you have it. The 2009 Dallas Cowboys receiving corps – Boom or Bust.

Cowboys Roster Series Part 1: Offensive Line

NFL Team Column
By Russell Easley

Roster Series Part 1: Offensive Line

The draft picks have been made. The rookies had their (mini) mini-camp. The OTA’s are set to begin this week. So it must be time for a roster series. As I look up and down this roster there are question marks in only two areas. One of them is the offensive line. The other is – well, you’ll just have to come back here and read about it when it comes out.

Overall, they’re in decent shape if the starters stay healthy. Consider last year. For the games the Cowboys had the entire starting unit intact, they were 3-0. Then Kyle Kosier, starting left guard, was lost for the year. With his replacement, Cory Procter, in the lineup, the Boys went 3-4 before the Cowboys were able to get new acquisition Montrae Holland on the field. Holland assisted the Cowboys to two straight wins before getting injured. The rest of the season with Procter back in the lineup the team went 1-3 and failed to make the playoffs.
Here’s the rundown on the offensive line.

C – Andre Gurode. Gurode is a massive 318 pounds and is a solid blocker, both on running and passing plays. He was selected to the Pro Bowl two years in a row, 2006-2007. However, there is room for improvement here. Occasionally he will snap the ball over QB Tony Romo’s head or on the wrong snap count. But all in all he is a dependable player.

RG – Leonard “Bigg” Davis. Davis was a former first round pick that didn’t pan out for the Arizona Cardinals, due mostly to the fact that they tried to make him into something he’s not – a left tackle. He was largely considered a bust before Dallas acquired him through free agency prior to the 2007 season. To put it simply, Davis is a big, strong, mean guy – the type you definitely want leading the way for the likes of Felix Jones and company. There are no worries here unless Bigg gets injured.

LG – Kyle Kosier. Kosier is the only starter on this unit who wasn’t drafted in the first or second round. For being a seventh round pick he can certainly play, and his injury early in the season was a major factor in the Cowboys 9-7 record, though most commentators won’t even mention it. They’re too hung up on TO. But where are games won and lost ? That’s right, in the trenches.

RT – Marc Columbo. I can’t think of Columbo with thinking about the Carolina game a couple of years ago when he absolutely owned Julius Peppers. That was the first time in a while that I actually sat up and took notice of an offensive lineman, other than for a false start penalty. Columbo was acquired as a free agent who had an injury history. But the first thing I read about him was his “mean streak”. You just can’t have too many of those kind of linemen.

LT – Flozell Adams. Flozell is one big dude. You don’t earn the nickname “The Hotel” by being petite. The main negative for Flo is his false start penalties, which although he never has led the league in, are still aggravating to Dallas fans everywhere. Odds are, if you told some guy in Tibet that Flozell just got a false start penalty, his first reaction would be “AGAIN ???” But Adams is a really big dude with talent and strength, which is why he is the starting left tackle of the Dallas Cowboys. Last year he was dinged up most of the year. Add that up with playing next to Cory Procter and you get a down year all in all. Some are wondering if Flozell is getting too old at 34. It’s obvious that speed rushers are starting to get the best of him, and he has to have help at times. It’s a valid concern.

G/C - Cory Procter – He is the main reason the Cowboys line suffered so much last year. He may be a good center, I don’t know. But he definitely doesn’t belong on the field at the guard position. To me, the epitome of the season came last year in the second game against the Giants. When Tony Romo was sacked in the end zone for a safety, Procter stood there and did absolutely nothing while his guy made the play. Pathetic. It really says something to be benched in the last game of the season against the division rivals for a playoff spot, in favor of a backup tackle who hasn’t played guard since high school (Doug Free). Yet that’s exactly what happened to Cory Procter.

G - Montrae Holland – This guy is pretty much the Anti-Procter. He is big and can really play. Holland showed up overweight when he reported from the Broncos (he never belonged in their zone blocking scheme anyway) but after getting his weight down and sufficiently learning the playbook, Dallas was able to stick him in the lineup in place of Procter. He performed amazingly well in comparison. Then he went down with injury and with him went the Cowboys’ season. As solid a contributor as Kosier is, Holland will get the opportunity to challenge him for his starting job this year. That tells me the Cowboys were mighty impressed with what they saw last year out of the big man.

In summary, the Cowboys starting lineup is filled with good, talented football players. The only worry here is the depth behind them. We know that Procter doesn’t deserve a roster spot, but he will get one due to the lack of any other backup center. Doug Free and Pat McQuistan are big question marks (Free didn’t fare any better than Procter against the Eagles), and the new guy, Robert Brewster, is going to start out learning his pro trade at right tackle. So he won’t be kicking Procter off the roster. It’s conceivable though, if Holland beats out Kosier, the Cowboys may try Kosier out at backup center/guard so they can use Cory Procter’s roster spot on a guy who can actually play football.