Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Talking a Little Cowboys @ Buccaneers

By Aaron Novinger (Bigrigga31) on Jun 29, 2009 10:08 PM CDT

Is it too soon to talk about Tampa?

Obviously, we’ve got training camp to get through. We’ve got players to waive (down to 75 on Sept. 1st; 53 by Sept. 5th), perhaps players to acquire, and almost assuredly will have injuries (hopefully minor) to account for. The fine-tuning will begin in Oakland (Aug. 13th); then, for the first game in Cowboys Stadium against the Titans (Aug. 21st). The next game against the Niners (Aug. 29th) should allow us a real look at the starters for much of the game, and then a preseason wrap-up in Minnesota (Sept. 4th) will define the roster.

Sunday, September 13th, will be Cowboy Kickoff Day. The defense will do its best to limit those pirate cannons from firing at anytime other than during the halftime show. Mike Jenkins will have the opportunity to avenge his infamous missed tackle on new Buccaneer back Derrick Ward. Gerald Sensebaugh’s return to Florida will be tested by the talented, yet oft-injured Kellen Winslow and the former towel-thrower, Antonio Bryant. Will it be Byron Leftwich trying to make the offense forget about Chucky?

More after the jump.

On the flipside, new head coach Raheem Morris posts consistency in his defensive-laden resumé:

Morris takes over a defense that has produced 36 Pro Bowlers since 1996, the most in the NFL, and finished as the NFLs top-ranked defense two times (2002 and 2005). The past 13 seasons have also seen the Buccaneers defense rank in the Top 10 on 11 occasions and in the Top 5 eight times.

Romo will have to be accurate against a good trio of Cover-2 safeties, Tanard Jackson, Jermaine Phillips, and Sabby Piscitelli. Corners Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib will be looking to corral the Cowboys receivers. Dallas’ running game and reliability in tight ends, Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett, should help keep Morris’ secondary honest.

This website has the Cowboys as 3-point favorites with the over/under resting at 42. Here’s some of what they say about the game:

Both teams have impressive running back corps and will lean on the rushing attack while the passing game works out the kinks. Totals bettors should look to the under on the 42 points, with the ground game eating up the clock.

Tampa Bay added Derrick Ward this offseason and he will share carries with Earnest Graham. The Cowboys have a healthy Marion Barber and Felix Jones behind Romo. Those two were on pace for a huge year last season before injuries took out Jones and slowed Barber.

It’s early to talk about Tampa and there is much work ahead. Assuming the coaches have already scouted the Bucs, we might as well brainstorm the match-up as well. It certainly beats wondering what went wrong with last season!

Tony Romo Chat Transcript from 6/30 on NFL.com


Hello NFL Nation. We've got Tony Romo on deck, ready to chat. Thanks for all your questions today -- there are a lot of them -- so we'll try to hit as many topics as we can. Tony is limited on time, but ready for whatever you have.

Adam, Bakersfield,CA
04:34 PM ET

Which NFC East team do you enjoy playing the most?

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Oh, I don’t enjoy playing against any of them the most! They’re all good. They’re all tough. They all have a chance to win the SB every year. I don’t know that there’s one specific team that I hate or like the most.

Nelson, Fort Lauderdale, FL
04:37 PM ET

How confident do you feel in Roy Williams Being your #1 receiver?

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Roy has worked really hard this offseason. Think it’s shown so far in OTAs and minicamps. He’s going to have a good year this year. He’s been very good so far this offseason.

Gerry, Indianapolis
04:38 PM ET

Have you gotten to see the new stadium yet? How much difference will there be playing there, in your opinion, than playing at Texas Stadium?

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

I think it will definitely be an incredible experience. When you go and look at it, you get very excited. It’s just something you’ve never seen before. To be able to be the first team that has played there, and to be the first QB for that team, it’s just going to be really exciting. Really fun.

I don’t know how different it’s going to be, because I haven’t played there yet, but usually football is still football. You get out there and you still throw the ball, the guy is 10 yards, and you still throw it 10 yards. I think we’ll be alright. It will be incredible to experience though.

Juan Pelota, Austin, TX
04:41 PM ET

What do you appreciate most in Jason Garrett?

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

I think that Jason has a great feel for the game. He’s a very intelligent individual, and he still maintains a certain level ... There needs to be good, open lines of communication between the QB and the coordinator and the QB coach. They need to trust you as a QB, and you need to be able trust the coaches.

I think we have a great relationship in that regard. He allows me to voice my opinions, and i always like it when he’s coaching me up and we’re doing the things that we need to do to get better as a group. That’s the key -- to improve collectively as a group. He’s an ex player, so he looks at himself through my perspective. He’s always going to try to improve the same way that I do as a player.

I’m lucky to have him around me -- he’s helped make me a better player.

mezy, Dallas
04:47 PM ET

Do you think Jason Garret will use all three running backs in this upcoming season?

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

I think we definitely have a strong group at that position. I definitely envision using all three of those guys. They’ve all had success in several different areas. So, I think we’re lucky to have that depth there.

Rhodri Jones, Tredegar, Wales
04:51 PM ET

Hi Tony. What kind of things have you been doing this offseason to improve your game ? Thanks.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Every offseason I look at myself and ask what I didn’t do well the year before. And what will it take individually and collectively as a group to reach the next level?

I look at that, I go about the process, and you have to work on it during your teaching sessions and during your OTAs. You have to try to do these things to improve.

For me, personally, there’s a few things. One is footwork. I’ve tried very hard to do certain things with my footwork that will enable me to hopefully be extremely efficient. Almost robotic in nature in certain throws. Drop back, hit it, and do it again. Every time is not a new experience. If you can do that -- there will be plenty of times you have to dodge and throw on the run and make awkward throws -- but the other times you don’t have to, you want to be deadly efficient and accurate. I know I’m excited about what has taken place this offseason.

Ilay & Idan, Israel
04:53 PM ET

What do you think about the new band formed by your teammates ?

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Free Reign? Those are some good guys. They love music, and they love getting out there and jamming to hard rock. I think they’re a bunch of good guys. I like it. They do have some good songs ... but they’re still young. They’re still growing.

Ryan MacEachern, Brampton, Ontario, CANADA
04:54 PM ET

Do you get tired of people questioning your leadership and commitment to the game?

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

I think I learned awhile ago that if I’m trying to make everyone happy, then I’m destined to a life of solitude.

For me personally, my coaches know, and my teammates know, how hard I work and the position I put myself in. I’m as dedicated of an individual as you’ll find. When you don’t win, and you don’t win SB, there’s always going to be questions until you do. That’s part of the game, and part of the position I’m in.

I know one thing -- all you can do is put your head down and grind it out and do the best you can. If you don’t do that, what else can you do? You can’t do anything other than work as hard as you can and go forward. All the other things will fall into place.

Robert G. Garcia II, Phoenix, AZ
04:56 PM ET

Tony, what has been the most humbling experiance for you in the NFL?

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

I don’t know. That’s a tough one Robert. I don’t think just one thing sticks out.

Marc, Long Island
04:57 PM ET

Whos the best golfer in the NFL? I heard Aaron Rodgers is pretty good

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Haha. I played with Aaron last year. Yeah, he’s pretty good. There are a bunch of good players, though.

KG, Orlando, FL
05:03 PM ET

Who would you rather throw to; Lebron or Kobe?

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

LOL. I guess it depends on what pass I’m throwing and what route they’re running. They’ll probably both be good, either way.

Rez Ghafori, Vancouver Canada
05:05 PM ET

Hey Tony, which young player on Dallas do you think has the most potential to make an impact this season?

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

I think we have some good young receivers – Miles Austin and Sam Heard. They’ve been here awhile, but they might not be household names, and I think they’re coming along. They’re going to do some good things to help out and give us some depth at receiver. You never know. Guys step up as soon as you at training camp. I just think we’ll have a few of those, too.

America's fan, Montgomery,Alabama
05:07 PM ET

Other than anyone on your team what current active player's game do you admire the most?

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Yeah, there are a bunch of guys you look at and you like the way that they play the game and their approach. I usually look up to guys who work hard and do things the right way. There are people I try to emulate in some ways. I think there’s a few. I don’t wan’t want to name names but there’s definitely a few who you look at and say, “That’s the way to do it.”

Tene Jones, Indianapolis, IN
05:09 PM ET

What goals have you set for yourself this coming season?

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Just to be very meticulous in my approach. To be very effecient in the process. And to win. That’s really all it comes down to.

Mario Gonzales, San Antonio, Texas
05:13 PM ET

What is your honest outlook on the upcoming season?

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

I’m excited. This offseason has gone as well as ... well it’s the best offseason since I’ve been here. Guys have been working hard, I think that’s good. I think that it shows in the efficiency of the day-in and day-out grind in what we do.

It’s been, actually, it’s been very fun to see everyone working the way they have been and go out on the field and see the production at a high level. That’s exciting to me. I’m just very excited about this season.

DMN Blog: Mike Jenkins: 'I'm the starter'

By Scott Noll

Tim MacMahon may be on vacation, but that doesn't mean he won't stop delivering Cowboys news to the masses as it happens.

It appears that Mike Jenkins has been given the starting right cornerback position over Orlando Scandrick entering training camp. At least that what Jenkins is saying on his blog.
"Heading into training camp I'm the starter at right cornerback, and my job is to maintain that position. I'm back in Florida training at IMG to get my body right, get my head right, be mentally ready heading into the season. ...

It's my job to lose, but there's a guy behind me with nothing to lose. If he makes a mistake, it's not going to cause him to lose his job. If I make a mistake, the coaches are going to take a long, hard look at me in that position."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl Odds - Cowboys 14-1 Favorites

Written by Mick Bergen

Coming off a disappointing 9-7 season, the Dallas Cowboys are looking to rebound in 2009. Dallas is 14-1 in Super Bowl odds at Bodog sportsbook which makes them one of the favorites.

The problem for Dallas is that the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, two of the teams in their division, have lower Super Bowl odds.

The Cowboys made a lot of off-season changes, not the least of which was getting rid of wide receiver Terrell Owens. It will be interesting to see how Dallas responds offensively without Owens as 14-1 Super Bowl odds favorites.


It will be up to quarterback Tony Romo to spread the ball around and it will be important for wide receiver Roy Williams to show he is a top notch receiver.

The Cowboys have the best tight end in football in Jason Witten and a very good running game with Marion Barber and Felix Jones so the Cowboys still should be potent, even without Owens.

Super Bowl odds at Bodog sportsbook have the Dallas Cowboys 14-1 to win Super Bowl XLIV.

The Cowboys also have questions on defense. They did add linebacker Keith Brooking but his best days seem behind him. They lost defensive end Chris Canty, linebacker Zach Thomas, safety Roy Williams, defensive tackle Tank Johnson and linebacker Greg Ellis in the off-season. Those losses will be difficult to overcome.

Dallas was not very good last year on defense as they were 20th in the league in points allowed and they really didn’t do anything in the off-season to improve, in fact they got weaker.

Dallas is one of the most popular teams for gamblers to bet in Super Bowl odds. On paper though the Cowboys really don’t deserve the respect they get. Head coach Wade Phillips has proven throughout his coaching career that he can’t win.

Super Bowl odds to win the NFC at Bodog sportsbook have the Dallas Cowboys favored 5-1.

Quarterback Tony Romo has yet to win a playoff game and Dallas looks to have a lot of defensive issues. The Cowboys have a lot of high priced talent and it must perform if they are to make the playoffs in 2009 and impact Super Bowl odds.

The players making the most money against the salary cap this season for the Cowboys are Ken Hamlin ($5.8 million), Roy Williams ($5.6), Witten ($4.7), Romo ($4.5) and Bradie James ($4.2). Each of these players will have to play very well for the Cowboys to win the NFC East.

Dallas definitely has the offense to contend in the NFC East this season and make the playoffs but they may not have the defense to be a serious contender in Super Bowl odds in 2009.

NFL Football Betting Odds - 2009 Dallas Cowboys

By Andy Thomas

The Dallas Cowboys have not won a playoff game in 13 years. Their quarterback Tony Romo has done everything except prove that he can lead his team to a victory in a big game. Now Terrell Owens is gone. I am not sure what they have done to deserve this other than lose, but somebody apparently thinks they are pretty good.

NFL odds makers are calling the Cowboys a 4/1 favorite to win the NFC Championship and giving them 9/1 odds to win the Super Bowl.

This must be a cruel joke set in motion by the bookies just get Cowboys fans hopes up in 2009. But then again, they do have a new $1.1 billion stadium, so they must be a great team.

Seriously, the Cowboys will win some games in 2009, maybe even have a shot at making the playoffs down the stretch. However, the notion that they are one of the elite teams in the NFC is just crazy.

At what point do you stop calling the Cowboys offense underachievers, and start calling them what they really are, good but not great. I have not seen any of the supposed genius that was coming when Jason Garrett took over the offense.

The strongest part of the 2009 Dallas Cowboys will be their defense. Wade Phillips may have some short comings as a head coach, but he is known as a defensive guru that likes to use an attacking style to get the job done. The Dallas defense was a sack machine last season with DeMarcus Ware coming off the edge and recording 20.0 sacks.

The Cowboys won't be a terrible team in 2009, but 4/1 to win the NFC Championship is a sucker bet.

Mailbag:How Can The Cowboys Regroup Against Philly

DallasCowboys.com Report
June 29, 2009 5:54 PM

DAN JORDAN, PHILADELPHIA, PA As a die-hard Cowboys fan living in Philly, I have to know, how do the Cowboys go about beating the Eagles next year after the 44-6 season ending loss last December?

Josh: They don't play again until November, and plenty of things will happen between now and then to put 44-6 out of the Cowboys' minds. But let's talk about Jan. 3, 2010, this season's finale. If it's a do-or-die game again, and it certainly could shake out that way because of how stacked the division is, last season's blowout could be a tough memory to repress. At least the Cowboys would have the home field this time. On paper, the teams are about equal. It's just about who shows up.

Rob: Hmm . . . outplay them? Same thing they did in Week 2 against the Eagles last year -- execute and play smart football. Look, last year's finale was a disaster, no question. But this is a new season and quite frankly, there's little difference between these two teams on paper. Both are very talented, and I think both can win at least 10 games. It comes down to who's healthy, focused and sharp. Just can't see "44-6" being a mental hurdle for the Cowboys by the time Nov. 8 rolls around.

Nick: Eliminate 80-yard fumble returns for touchdowns. Run the right routes. Don't turn the ball over. Keep your quarterback on his feet. Don't rely on Jason Witten to complete your longest pass of the day. And keep Felix and Marion healthy. With all that, you might have a chance.

DANIEL OPORTO, TALLAHASSEE, FL Looking at tape of Mike Mickens, I noticed that in college he seemed to play the ball more than the opposing receiver. That takes a lot of confidence and an exceptional amount of skill. However, the NFL game is very different than the "junior varsity," and many players do not succeed in the transition. Will Mickens be able to continue creating turnovers, or will the speed of the NFL be too much for him?

Josh: At best he could become the fourth cornerback this year, and even then the snaps will be somewhat limited. If the guys above him stay healthy Mickens will have a year to learn when he can take chances. As with any player, Mickens should be vastly improved from his rookie season to year two. This is going to be a big training camp for him technique-wise since he missed all the OTAs to fulfill school requirements.

Rob: We'll see, but two things I've noticed about Mickens are: 1) he seems recovered from last year's knee injury; and 2) he does go after the ball. The Cowboys want more ballhawks, and this rookie class is pretty aggressive. The Cowboys feel like they can play more man coverage with the current group. But there's just no way to know how much Mickens is going to contribute until the pads come on.

Nick: You're right about confidence. That's the No. 1 ingredient cornerbacks must have. And as you said, it changes with each level. High school seniors might have a ton of confidence, but it can change quickly when they become college freshman. Same with college guys and the pros. It's all about how comfortable he will be covering the elite NFL receivers. But if he adapts quickly and becomes the player that many teams had projected as a second- or third-round pick before his injury, then Mickens might just be a draft-day steal for the Cowboys.

Skip Bayless picks the Cowboys as his Darkhorse Superbowl representative from the NFC

Originally posted by LeonLettIsMyHero from a sports forum:

Ballsless has been picking against us all these years when we have been the glamour pick. Now that the mainstream media has forgotten us he picks us??? I must admit i was a little bit shocked he picked us. I figured his hate for the boys would prevent him from ever doing so. Might we be underestimating his football IQ?? NAHHHH

Anyway this happened today on 1st and 10. He was debating against the 2live stu's. they picked arizona and new england... skip went with the boys and new england.

A fresh look at the month of December for Dallas in 2009

By CCBoy
SJ Author

James has started 66 consecutive games alongside five different inside linebackers. His first partner was Dat Nguyen, now the team's assistant linebackers coach. Only one starter, Akin Ayodele (2006-07), has played more than one full season with James. Scott Shanle (2005) and Ryan Fowler (2005) split a total of 11 starts. Zach Thomas (2008) lasted one year but felt he wasn't suited for the scheme.*(from DC.com)

Why would anyone project any discussion starting with a comparison of players playing alongside a non-Pro Bowl player on the Dallas roster?

First reason, is that the strength of a volatile 3-4 evolves around the strength of a center line projected down the very middle of that defense. Secondly, much of last year's failures during the month of December evolved around a general weakness that manifested itself during the 'black-and-blue' month of December this past season and the schedule that persisted during that time.

Let's start at the very center of this defense with the nose tackle position. When Bill Parcells started this new Dallas defensive scheme, he brought in a very elder player in the person of Jason Ferguson. He had already accumulated a large body of work in the NFL, and was considered a major piece although hitting at what was then considered an elder statesman status due to time in league. Two off seasons ago, the projection of a Jay Ratiliff and 'Tank' Johnson projection was deemed good enough to allow for his departure from the Dallas roster and his return to Bill Parcells. Here, Jay Ratliff did not disappoint in the least. He stepped up, despite all doubters on size and abilities, and earned a Pro Bowl status from that very position.

Jay Ratliff fits into an attacking scheme that is used by Wade Phillips. Ratliff stands the point of attack very well, and uses penetration, technique, low pad level, and speed to defeat single and double team techniques. This allows the same response to the linebackers, that an immovable object would-direct access to make plays by the interior linebackers.

Current projections have Junior Siavii as the incumbent to replace an inactive and departed 'Tank'. He came into the league and was a high second round rookie. His skill set was close to what Dallas wanted last training camp, but the team already had 'Tank' and projected him as a strong fill in backup. Siavii is 6'5" and weighs in at 320. He is coming to training camp at about the same point in his career as that of a former Cowboys' standout, Chad Hennings. The precedent of 'older' and contributing additions are not without merit here. He well could meet that short yardage and red zone influence somewhat lacking in a run stuffing ability on defense.

Behind this start point, one engages both the weak-side and strong-side linebackers. The strong side is occupied by a strong and dominant influence now. That is the location of Bradie James. He has grown steadily in direct influence, but additionally has been growing in secondary influences as well. He is able to clock up the interior to the strong side running lanes, and for opportunities for outside or weak-side interior linebacker plays. This is a quality that develops with mature defenses. Plays then become incumbent upon the play ability of outside linebackers and the linebacker on the interior next to him, on the weak side. The picture of consistency at the weak side has been a continual string of replacements and adjustments by Bradie himself.

The current picture in Dallas, replaces this tendency in system fragileness. This off season, Dallas has made a demonstrative move to address the factors that play with the role of Bradie James himself. First, on the outside, Greg Ellis was allowed to move on and end up in Oakland for as much money as the market would afford. Just as any long suffering Dallas fan, I did not enjoy his leaving for 'greener' pastures, but the fact that he was a third down player for Dallas now was not lost me as well. He was no longer able to stand up to a season long grind trying to be the outside strong side influence and retain his pass rushing abilities. This now falls to a player who has both qualities and no where near the accumulation of frequent flier miles on his body, Anthony Spencer. He strongly holds the end point against chip blocks, double teams, and individual attacks by opposing offensive tackles. He frees up the role of Bradie James quite a bit, as to being able to influence and attack on this side.

This season, DeMarcus Ware will be given the opportunity to move about points along the offensive line, to create different pictures, confusion to opposing offensive lines, and also influence the ability for interior linebackers to have lanes of access directly to opposing quarterbacks. Last season, Bradie James accumulated eight sacks from his interior position. That is quite a few, but those opportunities should increase this upcoming season as well. The dynamics of this group are now being amped up...not down.

This initial picture is improved additionally, with a changing one at the interior weak side as well. The change at this position, this off season, included both a mature and proven addition in the person of Keith Brooking and the youthful additions of both Justin Williams and Stephen Hodge

First here, Keith Brooking brings a prior working relationship with the founder of this specific Dallas adaptation of the 3-4, and Wade Phillips. They worked quite well during the formative years of Brooking becoming an All Pro by his works on carpet with Atlanta. Although a veteran of experience, Keith Brooking is only at the age of 33, and in his role and experiences, should immediately be an upgrade to the departing starter-Zach Thomas. Brooking is both larger and younger than the person that he is replacing. Brooking knows how the interior position integrates to the roles of the outside linebackers, and has good natural pass rushing techniques and abilities as well. His degree of experiences and performance in the NFL, will quickly blend with those of Bradie James. This pair of interior linebackers will be much harder to run against, and since both have honed very strong pass defense abilities these two should quickly be able to adjust to their role in a pass defense much more seamlessly than in the past.

This quickly brings up the consideration of what is behind this pair of even matched-strong side and weak side starters at linebacker. The picture that evolves, is one surprisingly attractive if one doesn't project purely on the scope of on field results this past season. Gone are both Kevin Burnett and Zach Thomas. So be it, as the Cowboys could actually have some significant upgrades purely in the lineup behind the starters now.

Even before camp, I see the picture here involves Bobby Carpenter, Justin Williams, and Stephen Hodge.

I know, every single antagonist and pre-darkened glasses by media and harlot fans alike...well, have belittled his very manly abilities as an athlete. I take exception here. I am a firm, if not the only fan of this player. He earned his way into the NFL, and Bill Parcells didn't just up and spend a weekend at the horse tracks prior to his selection. He was given a firm endorsement by the in place Scouting Department....you know, the one that moved to Miami and turned that franchise around. Carpenter was given the endorsement by almost all evaluators to the man. He was declared both a potential outside as well as inside candidate for use. He has a good set of wheels and when initially given opportunity to start on the outside, proved to be effective if not good in that role.

Carpenter was moved into the middle of the Dallas defense due to need there. Burnett was still a questionable influence prior to this past season, and wasn't even considered a sure lock there for packages. His benefit to the Dallas defense did not project as a candidate for a starting position alongside that of Bradie James. When his price tag would have demanded this role, he was allowed to move on as well. This didn't change what the Cowboys still had in place in the person of Bobby Carpenter. The fact that both Zach Thomas and Bradie James remained on the field almost the entire season, and that Burnett did meet his role in packages, doesn't mean that Bobby Carpenter wasn't still developing on schedule as a journeyman linebacker should. Bobby has been developing in experience, breakdown and instruction by players such as Zach Thomas, Bradie James, and now Keith Brooking.

He has grown through the fine conditioning program in place with the Cowboy organization. He now has the NFL base to excell on the strength of his own strengths now. He is no longer a projection and potential. Sure, eveyone who will be reporting about the Cowboys will zoom in on him. So be it...as he just might prove and startle quite a few observers. Just as last training camp he was declared an upgrade and influence, this season he will additionally have a functional role as well. This season, when that is stated about Carpenter, he will be fulfilling that role in a similar manner that Bradie James finally did in previous seasons a while back. This player will be an upgrade from what could have been called upon in that position of need this previous season. This becomes an improved strength right up the Dallas' defensive middle. When he again shows his value, an upgrade will then be in place.

Next, there is further developing skills right here in the center of the Dallas defense. This gives added flexibility and a projection on into the future here. Both J. Williams and Hodge are accomplished interior players in the pass defense. They add through packages, the ability to be a physical force in the run defense, but additionally have a good set of 'wheels' to allow quick adaptation to pass defense and reflex in a more complete net of protection here. They too will grow in their abilities in the NFL.

Hodge inverses the entrance of a Darren Woodson to the Dallas roster. Instead of a linebacker adjusting to a safety role, Hodge was a safety who is becoming a linebacker. He already played a functionally similar position while in college. Instead of safety size, although, he possesses a size similar to those already used successfully by Wade Phillips in the past. Edwards, who played for Wade in San Diego, weighed in at about 220 pounds, where Hodge hits the scales about 240.

J. Williams brings a starting bloodline of a third round pedigree. This is even a round higher than were Bradie James' when he came into the NFL. Williams has a bushel of measureables that he brings to the table as well. He timed as the fastest linebacker at the combine this past off season. This puts him in high potentials as to projections. As Brooking knows, small details have to be applied on the changes in today's NFL. Both Williams and Hodge will have to lean heavily upon the experience of both James and Brooking, but that they gladly do already.

No, this interior group of linebackers are an aggressive group. It now contains quality veterans that have been singled out in their play by almost all observers to the present. Those are the starters. Behind them is a quality potential in the person of Bobby Carpenter and the two 'rooks' that now are part of this mix. The learning curve should not now be one of a year in and year out failure of change. They will be establishing group identity, and up the center of the field this appears to be a pretty strong consideration this upcoming season.

The final view up the center line of the defensive side, includes the safety position. This group was designed to be the final protective umbrella for both the run and the passing attacks. It was supposed to put up a protective net up the very heart of defensed property. Here last season, and recent previous years, it failed in this most important task. My favorite description of the contribution of Roy Williams and decreasingly capable backups at the strong safety position, was the ability description of Williams himself. He was described as unable to pass defend an opposing offensive tackle. I think this adequately describes the contributory element that this positional group provided the most important part in the defense of the 3-4 scheme.

Last year, Ken Hamlin was required to attempt to be a final protection for the entire field on pass plays. Players moved in at the safety position had to play exceedingly deep in an attempt to slow down middle of the field passes. That, or they were stuck very close to the line of scrimmage and became mauled in the mass exploiting the run game. This completely removed the ability of Hamlin to attack opposing passing schemes. He was put in a perpetual mode of bend and not break.

This changed with the addition of Gerald Sensabaugh. He has shown skills in pass defense in the NFL, where he frequently was given the role and responsibility to defend an opponent's top receiver. This addition in the form of a strong safety, gives dynamics back to the defense. He can play at functional depths to maximize running as well as passing roles in the 3-4.

Now, with both Ken Hamlin and Sensabaugh as the projected starters at safety, and both having both free and strong safety abilities, they present a much stronger and dynamic ability right up the center of this defense.

Last season, the backups here were none other than 'killer' Davis and Pat Watkins. Davis was nowhere an adequate influence in the role of a starter and Watkins never removed the sheen of potential or even made it out of the sideline Mash Unit for almost the entire past season. Davis already has moved on, and this is a make or break camp for Watkins himself. We shall see how his storyline unfolds for this current crop of positional players in camp.

On the plus side here, the Cowboys now have even more veteran presence with developed players at this position in the persons of Courtney Brown and Alan Ball. Courtney Brown has top shelf speed abilities and is starting to show the effects of developing slowly at the NFL level. He is showing both coverage and individual reaction skills in the secondary. His catch up ability makes him a valid consideration in the role of package player at the cornerback position. He quickly adds depth, but so does Ball. Ball shows a similar ability that Anthony Henry showed in his formative years...zone coverage and strength of identification and technique. They add strength to this safety group.

This group also, is strengthened by the addition of drafted players as well. Michael Hamlin and DeAngelo Smith add very strong developmental abilities to this system important group also. They are coverage specialists who additionally have a strong aggressive makeup for hitting an opponent. They are true safety material that were drafted for demonstrated abilities in coverage, field presence, and demonstrated game changing abilities to boot. They bring fresh legs as well as quite an elevated skill group to the safety position even as rookies.

Taken as a whole, the whole center line of the Dallas defense has been upgraded and given a very strong developmental view moving into the immediate and near future. This group has improved both in overall depth as well as ability up the very center of the Dallas defense. Now, as to matchup against opposing 'skills players', Dallas still brings to the table some of the real quality in the league.

On the front and outside of the Dallas defense, it now has a strong-side manned by Marcus Spears and Anthony Spencer. They both were first round drafted. Marcus has slowly grown into his role, but is now the senior member from the same draft that yielded DeMarcus Ware. He has slowly grown into an adaptive role as a defensive end in the 3-4 scheme, but additionally has grown in both size and strength also. This should be the year that he is seen more of a dominant integrated with Anthony Spencer as a pair. Both are stout against the run, but as Spears increases his effectiveness-this pair should be an increasing influence in disturbing opposing quarterbacks and gathering sacks as well.

The other outside is now manned by newcomer Igor Olshansky and DeMarcus Ware. That should quickly become a lethal combination on both the run and in passing situations. Igor brings a brute strength that will have to be respected by opposing offenses. He will push the pocket as well as give relief for DeMarcus to move about more. This matched pairings on the outside of the Dallas defense, will open even more opportunities for the Dallas interior linebackers to have lanes to the quarterback.

Further consideration of the defensing of the special skills opposing players and the outsides lanes of play for these players, yields three players of prominence. These three are Terrence Newman, Mike Jenkins, and Orlando Scandrick. They all three will play major roles, as they will be the final outside pressure at the ends of the defensive line as well as having individual responsibilities on covering the opposing team's best receivers. Their effectiveness in single coverage will affect the entire remainder of the defense, but to the strength of this even stronger defensive side of the Dallas roster, this will now mainly be involved with these players at the outside edges of play.

It takes depth for this cornerback positional group to weather an entire season of play. This core group of cornerbacks is additionally strengthened, due to package involvements, by the same Ball and Courtney Brown. To this group of five players, is additionally added the potential of a 'hidden jewel' pick of Mike Mickens. That quickly expands the potential and long-termed outlook as well. If needed, DeAnglo Smith could be added to this group. In the meantime, his integration into the whole secondary group is expanded to developing as a safety.

Both the safety and the cornerback positions have a base level of functional skills and potential. They have the demonstrated and proven veterans that every one of the starters are capable contributors that should at the start of training camp, offer a very definable and elevating contribution from its onset. The starters will begin on equal footings with some of the very top secondaries in the league.

Fast forward to the month of December for this upcoming season. A changed picture already exists. Teams usually achieve December successes with either a stout defense or a steady and productive offense. This defense projects with lingering qualities that should improve steadily, under the direction of Wade Phillips, now-for the entire season. No longer having to attempt to cover up short-fallings in an entire sectional group, safety, this team will be able to be much more aggressive than even last season's league leading sack total might indicate. It will be able to adapt to an aggressive attack in both the run and the pass this upcoming season.

Another thing changes as well. Instead of a season ending group of games inclusive of Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New York, and Philadelphia at its conclusion, Dallas now will play San Diego, New Orleans, Washington, and Philadelphia. Both San Diego and Philadelphia will be played in the new stadium of the Cowboys. This season, the blend of both the offensive consistency as well as the consistency of the defense will be the deciding factors in the fate of our Cowboy team. No longer will it be whether or not Tony Romo and T.O. are enough of a magic ingredient to turn the fate of destiny.

The team ingredients, and not individual scape goats will determine success of this team. From right here, the development and integration of a team directed goal is paramount, but no longer a function of the media, T.O, or even a mystical interpretation, but team direction. This group should be fun and rewarding in viewing that growth, but let's be realistic here as well. They do have more than a sporting chance to succeed.

Cowboy Stew: Serving Seconds

by Jim Vance

When I have some intriguing tidbits to share with you, but those tidbits are not enough to warrant a full post, I save them up and then I throw them into the pot, stir it up and serve you some Cowboy Stew. These bits and bites don't have much in common other than that they are Cowboy related and got stuck in my brain for a while. So, dig into the stew, and share your thoughts.

Will our rookies be able to make an impact? That requires pure speculation and we won't know until the season is fully under way. Now, if we had a powerful computer that could run multiple scenarios and model future behaviors in the NFL based on past behaviors in college we might get some interesting data. Oh wait, there is a computer website that does just that. It's called Whatifsports.com. A few of the Cowboy rookies made the top 100.

Rookies present the biggest challenge. To come up with statistical inputs for rookies, we run a very complex set of algorithms that factors collegiate performance, role in college, strength of collegiate competition, "measurables," likely NFL role, previous performance of a similar player in that NFL role for this coaching staff and trends of similar rookies in the past. This gives us the player's projected ratio stats (expected yards per carry, completion percentage, etc.), as well as his forecasted usage for the upcoming season. From there, we can compare all rookies based on who we think will make the biggest positive impact for his new NFL team in his first year. The Top 100 from this ranking are listed below.

74. Mike Mickens, CB, Dallas
55. Victor Butler, LB, Dallas
52. DeAngelo Smith, CB/S, Dallas

Riddle me this Batman - (A line borrowed from Frank Gorshin and the old Batman TV series) Is there an anti- Cowboy bias in the media? Here is a recent scenario. The Cowboys release a certain aging receiver and they are slammed by the sports media and predicted to struggle in 2010.

During the same off season the New York Giants lose their number one receiver in Plaxico Burress, lose another receiver in Amani Toomer, lose a 1000 yard rusher in Derrick Ward and lose their successful Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and still the sports press picks the Giants to win the division and possibly the Super Bowl.

The Giants and the Cowboys split their two games last season indicating that the gap between them is relatively small and yet the loss of the Cowboys number one receiver is predicted to have a greater negative impact than the Giants loss of several starters. Go figure.

4th and Long - I like Michael Irvin's reality show. Maybe it's just because there is a bit of football during the long dry offseason and I'm having withdrawals or maybe Irvin and his writers have done a good job of letting the characters develop. I'm picking the big wide receiver Montrell Jones to be the winner. He's not the most likable guy there but he has the size and strength and I feel like he has already been given a couple of mulligans to keep him on the show. My favorite character? Coach Joe! He cracks me up with some of his comments to the players and to Mike. What exactly is a slapdick?

Yes, but I'm the tallest midget! - Last season there were 13 NFL teams who finished the season in the negative total points category. What that means is the combined scores of your opponents totaled more than the total number of points scored by your offense. As you might expect, all of these teams finished at the bottom of their divisions and all of these teams had losing records - save one. The 2008 Dallas Cowboys. Clearly the Philly butt-whipping put the Cowboys in that position, but there they are at 9 -7 and boasting a minus 3 points. That's another dubious distinction to a disappointing season. Yes, we were the best of the losers.

So, how did you like the stew?

How Good Are The Cowboys Without TO?


It has been both a strange and predictable Dallas Cowboys offseason, predictable in that the mass of talks around the greater-Dallas area from hopeless football addicts like myself have surrounded Terrell Owens; utterly strange because (a) the Dallas Cowboys have gone through OTAs and minicamp in relative silence and (b) Terrell Owens is no longer a Dallas Cowboy.

Most of the T.O. talk is silly he-said-she-said speculation and scrutiny over whether the departed receiver likes Tony Romo and Jerry Jones. This is worthless drivel that would be better suited for MTV’s The Hills rather than SportsCenter, but alas, here it is, on my television each night at 6 and 10.

There is still one relevant question in Dallas that obliges the writer to utter the name of the receiver though: How will Dallas fare without the attention-grubbing difference maker lining up in the offense?

This, unlike whether or not T.O. vaguely dislikes his former teammates -- teammates that he won’t be lining up against in 2009 -- is a valid question.

Some say Dallas will be better off without him, because he is an ineluctable distraction. Some say Dallas’s offense will be stricken in his absence, left without a proven number one in the receiving corps. Some (ahem, Jerry Jones, ahem) don’t say anything at all, letting their actions speak for them.

Owens himself laughs at the idea that Dallas will be better off without him, his remarks evoking images of angry girl-rockers in the early-90s (see: Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know”).

"Three teams have said that," Owens said. "You can see what I did with the teams, and you can see what the teams have done without me."

Owens has a point. On the surface this is a terrible case of specious, reductive reasoning. Yes, the previous teams that jilted Owens suffered a significant drop-off immediately after, a sort of T.O. hangover.

The 49ers went 7-9 the year T.O. bid them adieu; the Eagles were 6-10 the year during which he was sent packing.

But as Tim MacMahon (of DMN Cowboys blog fame) points out, Terrell Owens departure was only one ingredient in the bad-season-stew that was fed to these teams the years directly following his exit.

The 49ers lost Owens the same year they lost Jeff Garcia, leaving Tim Rattay as the starter. Donovan McNabb was shelved for the year after only two Owens-less games in 2005.

Owens is quick to point out the ‘Niners 7-9 record in 2004, after he left the team. But then, why did they go 7-9 in 2003, with Terrell Owens in the lineup? They probably didn’t get him the ball enough.

Ah, but what of the 2005 Philadelphia Eagles, fresh off a trip to the Super Bowl?

Owens was with the team through Week 4, as the team posted a 3-1 record. When he left, Philadelphia seemed to sink with the rapidity of the Titanic, but how much those two are really connected, it’s hard to say.

The Philadelphia Eagles were fundamentally flawed that season in ways (some controllable, some not) that go far beyond one player.

The team failed to replace defensive linemen Corey Simon and Derrick Burgess, both of whom played key roles in the Eagles’ Super Bowl run in 2004. Contract disputes with Owens, and Brian Westbrook plagued the opening of the year, and the team suffered a litany of injuries so widespread and devastating that a 6-10 record doesn’t seem all that bad. Westbrook, McNabb, Tra Thomas, Jerome McDougal, Todd Pinkston, Hank Fraley, Lito Sheppard, Correll Buckhalter… the list of Eagles who struggled with injury borders on unbelievable.

But what’s vaguely funny about Owens’ remarks is that they seem to miss a crucial point, within the context of professional sports: He has never won a Super Bowl. Let me rephrase: no team that has ever had Owens on the roster has won a Super Bowl.

In the NFL and certainly in Dallas, you don’t play for a regular season record, or high volumes of Pro Bowlers or reality television opportunities. You play to win the Super Bowl. This seems abundantly clear to everyone but Owens.

So will the Cowboys be better or worse without No. 81?

There’s no way to tell, at this point. But a shift in offensive philosophy, the liberation of Tony Romo and, to a degree Wade Phillips, will certainly help. Whether or not this will manifest itself in the team’s record, or playoff wins, we’ll find out in a few months.

To be sure, those rash TO supporters who predict doom and gloom for Dallas in 2009 seem to forget that Dallas wasn’t all that awesome in 2008. Surprising, considering that they had the best player in the history of the NFL lining up at receiver.

So perhaps we can shelf the question of the ultimate effect of an Owens-less Cowboys team for a while.

Instead, perhaps, we should look back and ask ourselves, just how good were the Cowboys with Terrell Owens?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dough boys Soft play from team's best-paid players won't cut it this fall


Never has Roy Williams worked this hard to maximize his immense talent.

That's a shame.
Better late than never, though, as mama used to say. Finally, he's taking action to be the best after the most embarrassing season of his Football life.

He's shedding pounds and exerting himself. He wants to prove to all the doubters - I'm one - that he can be among the NFL's best receivers.

Good for him.

Nothing should make Jerry Jones happier, especially since he signed Williams to a six-year, $45 million deal shortly after acquiring him for a king's ransom from Detroit last October.

Return on investment: 19 catches, one touchdown and no impact.

Williams was hardly the only Cowboys player with a high salary-cap figure who performed at a sub-par level.

You don't win in today's NFL if your best players don't play to their salaries. It's that simple.

Safety Roy Williams, Terrell Owens, Anthony Henry, Leonard Davis and Tony Romo had the five highest salary-cap figures on the team last season. Only Davis consistently played to the standard he has established for himself.

Just so you know, that's the best way to judge players.

Did Romo have a terrific season statistically? Sure. Did he play to the standard he established for himself based on his first two seasons as a starter? Nope.

Did T.O. have a solid year statistically? Yes. Did he play to his standard? Absolutely not.

The players still on the roster with the highest salary-cap figures are Ken Hamlin ($5.8 million) , Williams ($5.6), Jason Witten ($4.7), Romo ($4.5) and Bradie James ($4.2). All but James have played in at least one Pro Bowl - and James should have made it last year.

If each plays well this season, then Dallas will end its wretched streak of 12 consecutive seasons without a playoff win. If they don't play well, the streak will continue.

Hamlin must return to being the playmaker he was in his first season with the Cowboys , when he intercepted five passes and regularly delivered big hits. Last season, there were too many games when he wasn't a difference-maker.

We know what Witten and James will do.

Witten will be one of the toughest players on the field and a guy who delivers clutch catches. You win with guys like Witten.

James, who gets better every year, should go to the Pro Bowl this year. Yes, it's a popularity contest, but that normally doesn't get you in the game until you've been in the league for a while and your reputation has exceeded your production.

James, a relentless worker, is still getting better. He's made himself a three-down player in an era when most 245-pound linebackers head to the sideline on third down.

If we're honest, though, this season will hinge on Williams and Romo.

In five seasons, Williams has had one 1,000-yard season. He's never scored 10 touchdowns in a season.

The man he's replacing - like him or not - has caught more touchdowns passes than any other receiver except Jerry Rice.

Let that marinate.

T.O. scored 38 touchdowns in three seasons in Dallas. Williams must replace a significant chunk of that production.

Trust me, he knows.

That's why he wore a weighted vest at times during last week's OTAs. That's why he's been running routes and catching passes from Romo since March. Williams understands this is the biggest season of his career.

Romo can empathize. He's in the same situation.

T.O. is gone. It's Romo's team. Jerry and Stephen Jones have turned it over to him. He has plenty of weapons and a good relationship with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

There are no more excuses.

It's time for him and the rest of the highest-paid players on this team to get the job done.

Highest paid in '08

The Cowboys with the highest cap figures in 2008:

Player Pos. Salary cap

Roy L. Williams S $6.6 million

Terrell Owens WR $5.7 million

Anthony Henry CB $5.6 million

Leonard Davis OL $5.1 million

Tony Romo QB $4.5 million

Money players

The Cowboys with the highest salary cap figures for 2009, with Jean-Jacques Taylor's comments:

$5.8 million

S Ken Hamlin

Not nearly enough big plays.

$5.6 million

WR Roy Williams

19 catches and one TD in Dallas last season.

$4.7 million

TE Jason Witten

Among the best in the game, but only one TD last season.

$4.5 million

QB Tony Romo

Great stats, but 1-3 in December.

$4.2 million

LB Bradie James

Another year like 2008 and he'll be in Pro Bowl.

$4.1 million

OL Leonard Davis

Named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl last season.

$4.0 million

C Andre Gurode

Has quietly become one of the top centers in the league.

$3.9 million

CB Terence Newman

Is he injury prone or cursed with bad luck?

$3.6 million

OL Kyle Kosier

Broken foot ruined 2008 season.

$3.0 million

OL Flozell Adams

12 penalties and 7.5 sacks allowed last season.

Friday news & notes: Cowboys plan to concentrate more on two-tight end sets

Source: Scout.com
By Staff Report
Posted Jun 26, 2009

The Cowboys went into OTAs and minicamps looking develop an identity on offense.

The departure of Terrell Owens means the Cowboys will not have the same wide-open offense they did in the past. His replacement as the lead receiver, Roy Williams, is more a mid-range threat than a downfield target.

Also the Cowboys plan to concentrate more on two-tight end sets with Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett. The biggest weapons are in the backfield with running backs Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice.

Look for the Cowboys to be more ground-oriented. They have sets where they will feature Barber and Jones in the backfield together, and clearly are focused on finding ways to get the speedy Jones the ball in the open field.

They also are experimenting with the wildcat offense with Choice as the quarterback and Jones taking handoffs or pitches. Because the Cowboys did a lot of installation offense during minicamp, the defense appeared to be ahead of the game.

The good news on defense heading into training camp is the continued development of cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. Both are competing for the starting job opposite Terence Newman. The Cowboys believe both are good enough to make plays and will use the other as the nickel cornerback.

OFFSEASON STANDOUT: WR Roy Williams caught just 19 passes last season. He started working with quarterback Tony Romo in February even before the offseason program began at Valley Ranch. They want to be on the same page and develop some chemistry. Williams has also adhered to an offseason workout program for the first time in his career. He is fit, trim and looks stronger than he was last season.

LINEUP WATCH: OG Kyle Kosier continues to miss time due to a foot fracture that sidelined him last season. He missed the OTAs and minicamp. He should be ready for training camp. But he might have a fight on his hands as Montrae Holland has been impressive at left guard. Holland struggled after being traded from Denver before last season. However, he is now comfortable in the scheme and the offense. He is also bigger than Kosier and has the size the Cowboys prefer.

ROOKIE IMPRESSIONS: LB Stephen Hodge is making the transition from college safety. He is a little small but he is very instinctive and aggressive. Hodge will make his biggest impact for the Cowboys on special teams. That was his forte in college and that will be his forte in the NFL. He is expected to be the next standout special team player in the line of Bill Bates, Kenneth Gant and Keith Davis.

INJURY WATCH: WR Miles Austin missed OTAs and minicamp with a strained hamstring. He should be ready for training camp. But he missed valuable developmental time in the offseason, especially considering he is being counted on to make up for the loss of Terrell Owens.

CONTRACT TO WATCH: The Cowboys went into the offseason with signing LB DeMarcus Ware to a long-term extension as their top priority. The two sides have yet to agree on a deal but there is no acrimony. Look for something to get done in training camp, when Ware could get close to the $100

FOX Sport's Positional Power Rankings: QB packages

by Adrian Hasenmayer, FOXSports.com

In the modern NFL, forget about your starting quarterback lasting the entire season

Quarterback is still king and rates as the most important position on the field, but in today's NFL teams often go through as many as three QBs in simply surviving the regular season. Even with rules slanted to protect the passer, a strong benefits package is suggested if you're an NFL quarterback.

TOP 99 FOR '09 The Steelers are champs, but who's the NFL's best player? Peter Schrager emerges from his man cave with his Top 99 players for '09.
So which teams are best positioned to not just survive, but flourish at quarterback in 2009? For the purposes of our rankings, the goal for every team is to find two, if not three, guys who can come in and start in case of injury emergencies. Ideally, the backups would include a veteran who has been through the NFL battles and a young, talented prodigy the team is grooming for the future.

A great starting QB alone is most important, but a lack of solid backups can mean a steep drop. Super Bowl experience definitely helps, since it's all about winning.

No. Team Depth chart Breakdown
Drew Brees
Mark Brunell
Joey Harrington

Drew Brees is the fuel and engine for the Saints' high-powered offense. Consider that New Orleans led the NFL in scoring in '08 despite injuries to Marcus Colston, Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister. If Brees goes down, the Saints should/could conceivably still sneak into the playoffs if all of their offensive weapons are standing. Mark Brunell's well past his glory days, but in the Saints' system should at least keep them competitive, as should Harrington. While New Orleans doesn't have the perfect package, they're at least three-deep at the game's most important position.

Ben Roethlisberger
Charlie Batch
Dennis Dixon
Mike Reilly
Kevin McCabe

With two Super Bowls in five seasons, Big Ben is now among the top five — maybe even the top three — quarterbacks in the NFL. He's got the big arm, the elusiveness and calm under pressure. But the thing about Pittsburgh is, their system is built on consistency and continuity. So for most teams, Charlie Batch as backup QB could be an issue — but not in Steeltown, where he has already shown his ability to keep this team (behind a historically-good run game and defense) afloat. Dixon gives Mike Tomlin a versatile "Wildcat" threat, if he so chooses.

Philip Rivers
Billy Volek
Charlie Whitehurst

Rivers has proved himself to be the fiery leader and franchise quarterback, coming one road AFC title game loss to New England in '07 away from a Super Bowl shot. While he gives the Chargers a great shot of getting over the super hump, backup Billy Volek is a solid veteran who has playoff wins to fall back on. Along with prospect Charlie Whitehurst, San Diego GM A.J. Smith has the Bolts well-positioned in case of a serious injury bug.

Tony Romo
Jon Kitna
Stephen McGee
Rudy Carpenter

There has been plenty of focus around Tony Romo's off-field action, but he's been pretty good on it. At least during the regular season. He's got the numbers and individual accolades (Pro Bowl berths in 2006 and 2007), but not the respect earned through playoff success. This year he also has no T.O., which Dallas hopes will allow him to lead more effectively. If Romo gets injured, this year they traded for backup Jon Kitna as a strong No. 2 — especially from the character POV. Kitna is one of the tougher, more well-respected players in football and should prove a great outlet for Romo as he seeks to take control of the Dallas locker room.

Kurt Warner
Matt Leinart
Brian St. Pierre
Tyler Palko

Essentially, the Cards are 1½ players deep at QB, led of course by the veteran Warner — coming off leading the Cards to their first Super Bowl appearance. Hall of Fame or not, even in his late 30s he delivers huge passing numbers (4,583 yards, 30 TDs in 2008). The big question: If Kurt got hurt last year, could Matt Leinart have led 'Zona to the Super Bowl? Likely not, though at least Leinart's working hard this offseason.

Jake Delhomme
Josh McCown
Matt Moore
Hunter Cantwell

Delhomme is set as Carolina's franchise quarterback and one of the better clutch arms in the business, plus with two division titles and a Super Bowl trip on his resume. If Jake goes down, their backup should keep them headed toward the playoffs. McCown has been a part-time starter in the league, but mostly on bad teams like Arizona and Oakland. Moore was overmatched in three emergency starts as a rookie in '07, but is young enough for the Panthers to groom for the future.

Donovan McNabb
Kevin Kolb
A.J. Feeley

By rallying his Eagles to within a few minutes of the Super Bowl, Donovan McNabb has re-established himself among the game's elite passers. Still, his injury history begs the question, "What if?" The jury is out on 2007 draft pick Kevin Kolb, who was forced to face the Ravens during a second-half in Baltimore in his only chance to snatch the starting gig from Philly's No. 5. At least Feeley has helped guide the Eagles during tough stretches minus McNabb in the past, giving Andy Reid an option of confidence.

Tom Brady
Kevin O'Connell
Matt Gutierrez
Brian Hoyer

The man is back, and all of New England can breathe sighs of relief. But what if Brady, the three-time Super Bowl champion, gets hurt again? Well, we scoffed at the Pats' chances last September when Mr. Perfect got injured because Matt Cassel — a dude who had not started a game since freaking high school. Then Cassel turned in a Pro Bowl season. Could Bill Belichick do it again with NFL mysteries O'Connell, Gutierrez and Hoyer? Highly unlikely.

Peyton Manning
Jim Sorgi
Curtis Painter
Chris Crane

The Colts should move to L.A., as they'd be the perfect dweller in such a major city built on a series of earthquake-prone faults. Hey, they've got Peyton Manning, so they should have one of football's top two QB groups, right? Well heaven forbid, what will happen to the team if Manning ever DOES get injured? With all due apologies, Jim Sorgi, Curtis Painter and Chris Crane (who???) would not cause any defensive coordinators one less wink at night. Maybe the gambling Colts should move to Las Vegas instead.

Carson Palmer
J.T. O'Sullivan
Jordan Palmer
Billy Farris

Everyone around the Bengals is aglow from watching Carson Palmer's offseason activity. With their two-time Pro Bowler seemingly in perfect health, the Bengals' passing game should come back to life — considering Palmer averaged 28 TD passes per season from 2005-07. Behind him, not too much. J.T. O'Sullivan turns 30 in August and whiffed on his best shot as a No. 1 in San Francisco last season. Neither Carson's little brother (Jordan, with two career picks in 12 passes) or Billy Farris have any NFL success to their credit.

Matt Ryan
Chris Redman
D.J. Shockley
John Parker Wilson

Ryan was a rookie revelation in 2008, and all signs point to even further development as a soph — both from minicamp reports and the addition of stud TE Tony Gonzalez, which should expedite his evolution. Behind Ryan, however, there's not much else. Redman is a veteran with 10 career starts, but a journeyman who was out of the league from 2004-06. Behind him are two young prospects, but already playing behind a second-year QB Atlanta would be better served by a veteran with more game experience.

Trent Edwards
Ryan Fitzpatrick
Gibran Hamdan (RFA)
Matt Baker

Edwards is the perfect quarterback to build around, which is exactly what Buffalo has done this offseason — the T.O. addition being a biggest move. If Terrell Owens can enhance and not inhibit Edwards' development, it's a huge win for the Bills. Credit Buffalo for a nice little pickup this offseason at their backup spot, grabbing Ryan Fitzpatrick from Cincy — who played admirably (especially down the stretch) while filling in for Carson Palmer in '08.

Matt Schaub
Dan Orlovsky
Rex Grossman
Alex Brink

Believe it or not, this is not a bad group in Houston. While this is a make-or-break season for Schuab, he has shown enough in two seasons as the Texans' starter to give them valid playoff hopes. His biggest issue has been staying healthy, as he missed five games in each of the past two seasons. But Houston may not have too big of a problem as they should have a dcent battle for the No. 2 spot this summer, as ex-Lions starter Dan Orlovsky takes on former Bears QB Rex Grossman. While both have their warts, Orlovsky often gave the terrible Lions their best chance at winning in '08 and Grossman did lead the Bears to the Super Bowl once. It could be worse.

Chad Pennington
Chad Henne
Pat White

Whereas the Dolphins were a total mess two seasons ago throughout the Cam Cameron nightmare, Bill Parcells has transformed his QB depth chart and now has three interesting options. The starter Pennington played keep-away to near-perfection en route to leading to Dolphins to the AFC East title last year while winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors. But Miami really likes Chad Henne as a big-time QB prospect, while they also drafted the versatile Pat White this April as the possibly the perfect threat in their patented "Wildcat" offense.

Matt Cassel
Tyler Thigpen
Brodie Croyle
Ingle Martin

After total, utter chaos reigned at the position last season, give it up to new general manager Scott Pioli for scoring a QB stud in Matt Cassel, who threw for 3,693 yards, 21 TDs and 11 interceptions while being Tom Brady-Light in New England. He should stabilize the pocket, but behind him is Thigpen (played well at times in 2008) and Croyle (another young gun whom K.C. once thought was the QB of the future. There are worse situations in the league.

Joe Flacco
Troy Smith
John Beck
Drew Willy

Who'd have thought Joe Flacco would rescue the Ravens last season? While he was more of a game manager than Atlanta's fellow rookie Matt Ryan (partially thanks to a dominating defense behind him), like Ryan and the Falcons Baltimore is surprisingly barren at backup quarterback. Nos. 2 and 3 on the depth chart, Smith and Beck have combined for six NFL starts (1-5 combined record as starter). If Flacco goes down, Baltimore's season is immediately in jeopardy.

Eli Manning
David Carr
Rhett Bomar
Andre Woodson

If former Super Bowl champion Eli Manning gets hurt for an extended period, watch the Giants' offense go into "three yards and a cloud of dust" mode. Somehow, former mega-draft bust David Carr has found a home as New York's backup — despite being scarred seemingly beyond repair from being a pinata in Houston for five seasons. Behind Carr are two youngsters sans snaps at this level, meaning Big Blue fans should offer armed escorts and bubble-wrap any time Eli steps outside his door.

Aaron Rodgers
Matt Flynn
Brian Brohm

One of the more overlooked story angles lost in all the Brett Favre hubbub was how well Aaron Rodgers played. He put up legitmate Pro Bowl-type numbers in his first season as starter, with 4,038 yards and 28 touchdown passes. Problem is, the Pack struggled mightily on defense and fell to double digits in the loss column. While Rodgers seems to have proved himself — at least on paper — his backups leave zero safety net for Green Bay in case of injury. I'd be fine with Doug Pederson at this point.

Jay Cutler
Caleb Hanie
Brett Basanez

Well, at least now the Bears finally have one legitimate, top-shelf QB. They just may not have anyone behind him if Cutler ever gets hurt. First, how good is Cutler? Critics point to his offseason pouting in Denver, his 18 interceptions in 2008 and fact that he's never led a team to the playoffs. But he did have a horrible defense in Denver, which on paper the Bears should be an improvement. But Caleb Hanie and Brett Basanez as backups? Chicago's front office should be ashamed to head into the season with no proven backup.

Kerry Collins
Vince Young
Patrick Ramsey
Alex Mortenson

Technically, the Titans are set with three guys who can play right now with Collins, Young and Ramsey. But there are big chinks in everyone's persona. Collins, while he enjoyed a career revival and is entrenched as the team's starter, is not your elite passer expected to win battles against the Bradys, Mannings or other NFL top guns. Vince Young is trying to stunt a downward career spiral. Ramsey is backup fodder, though he is tough and will compete. At least the Titans have three guys who should keep the team competitive, pending Young's state of mind.

Matt Hasselbeck
Seneca Wallace
Mike Teel
Jeff Rowe

Seattle's ranking all has to do with which Matt Hasselbeck is available this season — the healthy fireplug who led the 'Hawks to a Super Bowl XL appearance, or the bald guy with the bum arm. Wallace has had specs of success, but too sporadic to consider him anything more than a career backup. Many insiders were surprised Seattle did not draft Mark Sanchez with its No. 4 pick in the draft, seeing as they do not have a franchise QB to groom for the post-Hasselbeck era.

22. RAMS
Marc Bulger
Kyle Boller
Keith Null
Brock Berlin

Can Marc Bulger revive his career? He probably can with a real live NFL offensive line around him. Once a Pro Bowl-caliber QB, Bulger needs a big season after two straight years of struggles. The Rams added Kyle Boller as a backup, who seemed to be evolving in Baltimore until injuries cost him his 2008 season — and Joe Flacco stole his job. Other than that, this pocket has a few holes in it.

David Garrard
Todd Bouman
Paul Smith

While he should not bear the brunt of the team's problems last season as the Jaguars came apart both on-field and off in 2008, David Garrard still only has one solid season as a starter under his belt. His backup Bouman was out of football last season and last took a meaningful NFL snap in 2005 — or several years before Twitter became a name in pop culture. Jack Del Rio's team is not positioned well for a season-wrecking injury.

Jason Campbell
Todd Collins
Colt Brennan
Chase Daniels

The Redskins entertained deals for both Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez this offseason, and were major players in trade talks for each. That says everything about their lack of confidence in Jason Campbell, whom ex-coach Joe Gibbs recently said has rabbit ears. This is a huge year for Campbell, who must prove he is more than just an average guy. Todd Collins knows the offense inside and out, making him an excellent backup. The No. 3 spot appears to be a camp battle between two rookies coming off stud college careers. While the group is deep, the lack of a true No. 1 hurts their cause.

Brady Quinn
Derek Anderson
Brett Ratliff
Richard Bartel

The good thing about a quarterback competition? Plenty of depth. The bad thing: No true No. 1 guy. Granted, Derek Anderson did lead the Browns to the playoff doorstep with a wildly successful 2007, but failed so much last year that most local fans and media expect former first-round pick Brady Quinn to win the gig this fall. If Quinn fulfills his hype, the Browns have a strong group of passers along with prospect Brett Ratliff, a Mangini favorite from his stint with the Jets. But if not, the Browns have to go QB hunting in next year's draft.

Daunte Culpepper
Matthew Stafford
Drew Stanton
Justin Goltz

While it's tough to judge a rookie QB before he takes a big-league snap, Matt Stafford's presence is giving lots of Lions fans some real hope. Just don't hope for much THIS season. That said, if Daunte Culpepper is in much better shape (as he appeared to be in minicamps) and has his head back on straight, Detroit should win a few games this season ... which for them ain't too shabby. He can keep the seat warm until "The Franchise" is ready to take over.

27. JETS
Kellen Clemens
Mark Sanchez
Erik Ainge
Chris Pizzotti

Call the Jets' QB race "Young and Younger." Kellen Clemens has his chance to win the starting gig and is currently atop the team depth chart, but frankly, it's probably the best chance he'll ever have. Realistically he needs to light up the Jets' practice field this summer to have a shot at starting, judging from the buzz around New York's glamour rookie Sanchez. While the road may be rugged in '08, at least Rex Ryan and the Jets seemingly have their franchise quarterback.

Luke McCown
Byron Leftwich
Josh Freeman
Brian Griese
Josh Johnson

For a team that hasn't yet decided on a starting QB, Tampa Bay sure does have plenty of interesting choices. They have three veterans gunning for the top spot in McCown, Leftwich and Griese (though Griese's absence at team OTAs may point to an eventual release). Behind them are two greenies — the Bucs' former hot QB prospect (Johnson) and current (Freeman, the team's first-round pick from April). With so many arms, has QB addict former head coach Jon Gruden really been fired?

JaMarcus Russell
Jeff Garcia
Andrew Walter
Bruce Gradkowski
Charlie Frye
Danny Southwick

The Raiders lead the league in recognizable names at quarterback. Other than that, this group leads in nothing but question marks. The jury is WAY out on former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell "getting it" this season. Walter has never been good enough to get his shot by the Bay, and both Gradkowski and Frye flamed out in prior, brief stints as NFL starters. Give Al Davis credit for a smart move in bringing in feisty veteran Jeff Garcia this offseason, even though he seems a poor fit for the owner's "Mad Bomber" philosophy.

Sage Rosenfels
Tarvaris Jackson
John David Booty
Sean Glennon

As of this writing, this ranking does not include a certain veteran from Mississippi. So judging the quarterbacks currently on the roster, it's clear why coach Brad Childress is entertaining Brett Favre — even at his age and physical condition. You can argue that Favre's been wrong in how he's handled all of his retirement drama the past few years, but not the reason for his current summer fling — the Vikings are one QB from a Super Bowl run. Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson would be hoped simply not to screw it up as a starter.

31. 49ERS
Shaun Hill
Damon Huard
Alex Smith
Nate Davis
Kirby Freeman

There's a big battle going on for the Niners' top spot, but a battle of mediocrity considering past NFL experience. Hill is the incumbent, who put up surprising decent numbers last season (62.8% completed, 13 TDs, 8 INT). Mr. Smith is healed both mentally and physically, and OTA reports are grading him well. Huard is a solid veteran to help guide the youngsters. For a rebuilding team with no true bonafide franchise stud, at least the 49ers have some options .... even if they're not Joe Montana or Steve Young.

Kyle Orton
Chris Simms
Tom Brandstater

Well, Josh McDaniels, you'd better be right about Kyle Orton. Denver fans will not react well if Orton fails to lead Denver to the postseason, and especially if the Broncos' ex Jay Cutler gets to play deep into January. While Orton is 21-12 as an NFL starter and nearly pushed Chicago to the playoffs a year ago, he lacks the elite skillset of a Cutler. Some around Denver wonder if Orton will even beat out Chris Simms for the starting job. For reference, Simms' last starting experience came in 2006 in Tampa, where he went 0-3 with 1 TD and 7 INTs ... and somewhere, Broncos fans moan.

Former Cowboys offer thoughts on team

By Jon Dustin Brooks, News Messenger
Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hallsville native Robert Newhouse knows a little about what it takes to win.

The fullback played in three Super Bowls, winning one, during his 12-year NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Newhouse was back in his East Texas stomping grounds Friday for a fund raiser and he offered a few opinions on the current version of the Cowboys.

"The Cowboy brand is still standing good; they just have to start winning again," he said.

It's not that Dallas has had problems winning lately. The 'Boys have reeled off four straight seasons above .500, finishing an NFC-best 13-3 in 2007.

It's the winning in the playoffs that hasn't been happening, an occurrence that was unheard of for the Cowboys of Newhouse's era during their 1970s heydays.

Dallas' more recent version has not won a postseason game since 1996 and even failed to qualify for the playoffs last year after returning nearly all of its team from it's NFC regular-season champions the year before.

That drought is something another former Cowboy is a little more familiar with. Toby Gowin, who punted for Dallas from 1997-1999 and again in 2003, was also in attendance at First Methodist Marshall's fund raiser Friday.

"I'd just like to see them win a playoff game," said Gowin, who grew up as a Cowboys fan in Jacksonville and who now resides in Tyler. "These days in the NFL, you never know who's going to come out and have a breakout year. Every year is different. One year the expectations are Super Bowl and then nothing happens. Maybe if the expectations are a little bit less, then they can not have so many distractions and they can take care of business and do well."

Newhouse still believes the Cowboys have the pieces in place.

"I think the team is going in the right direction," said the former Houston Cougar, who still has many relatives that live in Marshall. "Will they win this year? I know they have a lot of great players. Will they mix? That's what they go to training camp for and what they work hard for to get those things done. I look for a pretty decent season this year."

Among the most glaring changes the Cowboys will have this fall will be a new stadium and the absence of a certain star wide receiver, who has now moved his act to Buffalo.

"It is a fabulous place," Newhouse said of the new Cowboys Stadium. "I think everybody in the whole wide world needs to go there at least once. (Cowboys owner) Jerry (Jones) did it right. He spared no cost."

And as for the other glaring change?

"For me personally, T.O. (Terrell Owens) was a great football player," said Newhouse, who still lives in the Dallas area. "There were some other things that just didn't quite fit the mold of a Cowboy that caused issues and problems with other teammates. But I think his play on the football field will be missed because he was productive and he did a lot of great things."

In addition to the new venue and the subtraction of Owens, Dallas also made a few other offseason moves such as trading cornerback Anthony Henry for backup quarterback Jon Kitna and releasing longtime defensive stalwart Greg Ellis.

Newhouse said he thinks the coaches were doing what they think is in the best interest of the team.

"I think they did what they thought they had to do," he said. "I think they were really committed to the players that they have on the team now, the Romos and the Barbers. And they brought in a few players, not top-brand guys, but I think they can play football. Hopefully they'll be around long enough to get this thing turned around and start winning again."

Who knows?

Maybe they can even get back to what it was like in Newhouse's era, when winning meant something else entirely.

COMMENTARY : You want truth? Jones can't handle truth

Posted on Sunday, June 28, 2009

One last confession before summer vacation:

All you lovers of Eldorado Owens were right. The Dallas Cowboys, you said, would deeply regret the ouster of this lugnut.

And already, it's obvious, even long before the first official snap of the 2009 NFL season. Eldo is missed.

Not by a majority. Maybe not even by 10 percent. But I do think it's a strong opinion of one.

The one is Jerry.

The Valley Ranch voice of Jerry Jones has rambled on and on for weeks about the whats and whys involving the ouster of the receiver formerly known at No. 81.

Yes, you can blame the media for this "Owens issue" continuing to surface. Questions are asked, of course. But, and I swear, it has happened more than once that Jerry just launched into an explanation, bringing it up himself, as if he were answering voices in his head.

Not to go shrink on Jerry, but the best guess from here is Mr. Jones is still extremely uncomfortable with his decision - and it was strictly his decision - to release the lovely and somewhattalented Terrell Eldorado Owens. Plus, another best guess is that Jerry is now deep into personal regret.

To this day, Jones has yet to step up and simply tell the truth:

Eldo is gone because he's not worth the trouble. And obviously, he is serious trouble. At previous stops in the NFL, Owens' teams eventually had the same opinion. He's not worth the serious trouble.

But in admitting the truth, Jerry would also be admitting he made a mistake in bringing Eldo to town to start with. Rather than the truth, Jerry gives vague explanations that throw everybody else under the bus, including his quarterback ("Romo-friendly offense") and a young receiver in Miles Austin, who Jerry claimed was ready to be Owens' replacement in passing situations.

I love Miles Austin. But, no, he's not yet ready for that.

Under the team-first concept, the Cowboys are better off without Owens being here. Under the how-manygames-will-they-win concept, I think that will be 10 in the regular season. In other words, about the same as when Owens was here.

But it's all about the playoffs anyway. Winning a playoff game would be a good place to start.

Going shrink again on Jerry, I bet he now wishes he had never pulled that trigger on Owens. Jerry was always comfortable with Owens, although jolted a couple of weeks ago when his pal Eldo publicly called Jones a liar.

Owens made a brief local visit last week and, while on Jones' turf, wouldn't again publicly hang the liar tag on Jerry, which seems kind of chicken-spit. You come to a man's town, say the same thing you said about him from afar.

Actually, Terrell was verbally docile while he was here, whining only about being a "scapegoat" at Valley Ranch. With Eldo, it's always the fault of somebody else.

But his retreat is only temporary. In time, Owens will again be firing plenty of mouthy grenades from a Buffalo distance.

Without question, the ouster of Owens was the significant move of the off-season for the Cowboys. Addition by subtraction does work, but you only win with talent, and the Cowboys still have to sort through the talent level at receiver, which, by the way, was the same as it was with Owens here.

Plus, while the Cowboys spent the off-season attempting to end the locker room backstabbing of December, other teams in the NFC East seemed to be making leaps forward. Well, not Washington. But certainly Philadelphia, and possibly even the New York Giants, although even for a run-heavy club, you have to wonder about the loss of two veteran receivers who could be deadly at times.

Maybe that's Jerry's motive for this Owens regret. He can read a depth chart. He can wonder if the Cowboys, with or without Owens, have slipped in the off-season to No. 3 in the divisional pecking order.

The opening of training camp in San Antonio is one month away, and it's rather interesting that of all people, Jerry himself hasn't seemed to resolve the question of whether or not Owens should be here.

Even more scary, No. 1 son Stephen, the rock of reason at Valley Ranch, had some strange explanation last week on why Eldo is gone.

In describing what role the club wanted for Tony Romo, Stephen told Yahoo.com: "It's hard to take over leadership when you've got a strong personality like Terrell."

That's a knock right there on Romo. But what followed was the mistake of harking back to the Dynasty Days:

"A lot of people would say Michael [Irvin] was the leader. Then you might say, 'He was a receiver. What about Troy? He was the quarterback. Wasn't he the leader?' And the answer is, yeah, Troy was a leader. But if Michael wasn't supportive of him, Troy would've had problems."

Woo, boy. Stephen just disgraced two icons.

First, Owens should never be mentioned in any reference to Michael as a team leader. Michael was the ultimate team guy.

Michael wanted to win, and he wanted to be a star. Mike knew the only way that could happen was to pal up with Troy. Which, of course, he did.

Second, Irvin was the emotional leader, but as Mike will tell you, Troy was the hard-driving field general, the guy who barked the loudest about "getting it right," right down to the most minute details.

Stephen, you are better than that. Then again, Jerry must be making everybody edgy at Valley Ranch, even his rock of reason in Stephen.

This is no time for sellers' remorse from Jerry. This is the time for Jerry to hunker down and move forward, move beyond the media questions.

At the moment, however, that appears to be a problem that only the truth can fix.

Did Terrell Owens Make Tony Romo A Star?

Big Fantasy Football Questions - QB Tony Romo
by Skeller on Jun 28, 2009 8:00 AM EDT in Football 0 comments

The Terrell Owens trade had me thinking about the Cowboys. It seems pretty clear that the loss of T.O. will hurt Tony Romo's fantasy value. Dallas may still bring in another high-end WR, but even so it will be tough for Romo to replace the WR1 he has worked with for the past three years.

Then I thought: what if it's more than just a loss of a WR? What if it's bigger than that?

So it's time for Episode Four of...

Skeller's Big Fantasy Football Questions

QUESTION #4 : Did Terrell Owens Make Tony Romo A Star?

Players Heavily Affected: QB Tony Romo, RB Marion Barber, TE Jason Witten, WR Roy Williams.

Terrell Owens joined the Cowboys before the start of the 2006 season. Tony Romo became a starter during the 2006 season. Before that, Romo was just an unknown backup from Eastern Illinois. There have been some very good QBs from little schools -- two current examples that spring to mind are Kurt Warner (Northern Iowa) and Joe Flacco (Delaware) -- but that's the exception rather than the rule. Usually, you don't see a successful QB come from anywhere other than BCS-conference schools. So...Eastern Illinois? Really? How'd that happen? Let's take a look at Romo's career:

2006 - Replaces an ineffective Drew Bledsoe mid-game in Week 7 but the Cowboys lose to the Giants and fall to 3-3. Romo takes over as the starter the following week and goes 6-4 the rest of the season. Becomes a star for a 5 TD game against Tampa, but throws eight INTs vs six TDs in December.

Final Stats: 2903 yds, 19 TD, 13 INT (2008 Equivalent: Kyle Orton)

2007 - Julius Jones and Marion Barber find their groove and everything is clicking for the Cowboys' offense. Romo becomes a fantasy stud and Dallas streaks to a 13-3 season. Romo throws more INTs than TDs in December for the second straight year though.

Final Stats: 4211 yds, 36 TD, 19 INT (2008 Equivalent: Phillip Rivers)

2008 - Julius Jones has left to Seattle and the passing game starts to sputter. He misses three games to injury and doesn't seem to be quite the same quarterback after his return. Throws more INTs than TDs in December yet again.

Final Stats: 3448 yds, 26 TD, 14 INT (2008 Equivalent: Donovan McNabb)

Keep in mind that Tony Romo has had only ONE GAME as a starter without Terrell Owens in the lineup. His entire career as a starting quarterback has included a future Hall of Famer as his WR1. That's a big, big way to start your career. Now that future Hall of Famer is gone and I think there's a chance that he's going to be exposed this season as a good-but-not-close-to-great fantasy quarterback. If you need a canary in the coal mine (an underrated song by The Police, by the way), his completion percentage has dropped each of the last two seasons.

I think Romo really struggles this year trying to throw the ball to Jason Witten and some other guys he's never needed to remember the names of before now. In fact, you could argue that backup Jon Kitna might be a better choice. But that's for another post...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dallas Cowboys Expectations Up Or Down?

By Dave Troll • June 26, 2009

In 2007, the Dallas Cowboys had an amazing season completing a season at 13-3 as the NFC East Division Champions. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the will power or drive to win a playoff game that season.

During the off season prior to that, no one had any expectations of how well the Cowboys would do.

They come into the season in 2008 with many experts predicting that the Cowboys were the hands on favorite to win the Super Bowl. There were so many expectations of the team to accomplish that. They put pressure on themselves, the fans as well have expectations.

We all know what happened last season, they didn’t meet those expectations.

So, what are the expectations of the team this season? What are your expectations?

I think for the team, they always have expectations to make it to the Super Bowl. I think what hurt the Cowboys in ‘07 and ‘08, they didn’t have good leadership to harness the team and push them forward.

Do the Cowboys now have the leadership in place now? Can they take the right road and take it one game at a time? What should be on their minds right now, is Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Don’t worry about the rest of the schedule.

My expectations of the Cowboys is low right now. I believe they have the talent and the ability to push further this season. So many unknowns, will the wide receivers do what they need to do? Can the offensive line stay intact and provide better blocking? Will the secondary really show what they are capable of?

Don’t get me wrong, I have not lost hope in the Cowboys. I am just saying that it will be so much sweeter if the Cowboys do go all the way.

Finally…Something that makes sense!

Written By: Bryan Martin on June 27, 2009

I’ve noticed that there are plenty of lists going out lately. Most of which shed no respect to Cowboys players who have rightfully earned it. So to fulfill the appetite of you fans I’ve created a list of the Best Cowboys of the last 15 Years. .. So get ready!

1 Emmitt Smith-The leagues leading rusher. Smith proved to be a “Go to guy” by coupling hard nose, downhill running with incredible durability. With 3 Super Bowl rings, Smith may be the most noticeable player in Dallas Cowboys History.

2 DeMarcus Ware- Perhaps the most naturally talented player to emerge on this defense in years, Ware consistently strikes fears into opposing offensive coordinators. Ware has increased his sack total in each of his 3 seasons ending with 20 last year. There is no signs of slowing down which is good news for this defense!

3 Troy Aikman- Concussion Troy can’t be forgotten for all the marvelous things he did in Dallas. He was a model field general, orchestrating 3 Super Bowl victories and becoming the Cowboys all time leading passer with 32,942 yards.

4 Darren Woodson- The one player that ANY of us would give ANYTHING to have back. Darren Woodson played the secondary perfectly forcing 23 interceptions. He was the backbone in many great defenses and earned a reputation as one of the fiercest safeties in the league.

5 Michael Irvin-A distraction? Sure. However, Michael’s production was unmatched. He averaged over 15 yards per gain and had over 60 touchdowns in his career. He was a consistent target who was reliable and a HOF athlete.

6 Larry Allen- A big strong offensive lineman who was versatile in his play. At 325 lbs he was an immovable force and a good reason for Emmitt’s success.

7 Jason Witten- Witten is a Blue Collar, Smash mouth player who has, in my opinion, defined the future play of tight ends. He blocks well, He’s intelligent, and He’s a bigger threat in the passing game then most receivers, He can shed tackles, and he’s not afraid to throw his body around.

8 Tony Romo- Though under constant scrutiny, he has produced more 300 yard passing games then any quarterback in Dallas history in 3 years. With a 64 percent completion rate, and a ratio or 2 td’s to 1 interception, his regular season play is comparable to some of the greatest quarterbacks of all time (Coming soon: a comparison against Peyton, Aikman, and Young in there first 4 years) I believe that given the opportunity, Romo will thrive in future playoff appearances.

9 Deion Sanders- Prime time, Sanders electrified the field with his wonderful coverage, ability to force interceptions for touchdowns, and punt returning skills. Sanders had abilities that we will forever miss and may not see for years to come.

10 Terrence Newman- Not Deion Sanders, but that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily worse. Terrence doesn’t produce stats like some of the other elite DB’s but that’s because he’s never really tested. He is a shut down corner with speed and game breaking ability. He will be the staple in this defense for years to come.

11 Greg Ellis- A bitter end to this story. Greg has given his all to this team and that has to be respected. He was a feared defensive end, but an even more devastating OLB with the ability to get to the passer; he’s registered 77 career sacks with the Cowboys.

12 Daryl Johnston- The moose led the way for Emmitt throughout his career… Enough said.

13 Dat Nguyen- Nguyen solidified the middle linebacker slot in his second year after leading the team in special teams tackles the first. His run stopping ability and hard hitting made him well known throughout the league. If it weren’t for a disc injury, Dat would be along Bradie James, supporting the same number 1 defense he helped solidify in 2003.

14 Marion Barber- A hardnosed runner this team hasn’t seen since Smith. After going through Troy Hambricks stages and a little flash of Cason, Barber was a breath of fresh air. He has become a “Closer” and has the talent to become a franchise back and league leader.

15 Flozell Adams- Though penalty prone, Flozell has provided stability to the offensive line in Larry Allen’s Absence. He is big, strong, and mobile. He also uses his hands well and is also a talented blocker. An excellent round out to this list.

What's in Mosley's Mailbag? - NFC East

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The four NFC East teams have shut down operations until training camp, but that's not going to stop us from corresponding. You've broken the elusive 5,000-question barrier, in part, because I can't bring myself to delete your insightful (and encouraging) email. With that in mind, let's get right to it.

Matt in Lancaster, Pa., has the first word: Do you see the Iggles making any more moves before camp? Or do they just wait to see where they stand after camp? The rumor mill has the "Edge" coming to Philly, not sure if that's a good fit for him. Safety was the other position of worry, but sounds like they are happy with Demps. Fly Eagles Fly!

Mosley: Matt, the closest The Edge will come to Philly is in late September at Giants Stadium. That's when U2 shows up in East Rutherford, N.J. Oh wait, you must be talking about the former Pro Bowl running back, Edgerrin James. I agree that he's not a good fit for that offense. Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy are instinctive runners who only need a small crease to find yardage. James has obviously lost a step and I don't think he'd be happy as a third-string running back. I hear the Redskins might have an opening, though. And I think Quintin Demps will win the job in Philly. Do we think the Eagles are the first team in league history to have two Quintins? Someone please look that up.

Lisse in Sao Paulo, Brazil is concerned about the Cowboys' receiving corps: You think that Miles Austin can beat out Patrick Crayton for the second WR spot in training camp?

Mosley: I think everyone in Sao Paulo is wondering about this training camp battle. I think Austin will be given every opportunity to be the No. 2 receiver. But Austin already has his sights on being the No. 1 guy. I'm serious. He's a very humble person, but in his mind, the goal is to be just as productive, if not more, than Roy Williams. And I think that's a worthy goal. It's not like he's being disrespectful. I just know that he's not ruling out becoming the No. 1 receiver --and I think that's the sort of competitive mindset the Cowboys need.

Big Kev in Jersey wants to talk about our recent Eli Manning vs. Philip Rivers debate: Hey Matt I heard you square off against Bill Williamson on the debate on Philip Rivers and Eli. Here are some stats to back your comment up about Rivers level of competition -- especially in his division. In his division, six games, 1,607 yards, 13 tds and six interceptions. Out of division (non-playoff teams), he had five games, 1,235 yards, 12 tds, three interceptions and he was 7-4 agains non-playoff teams last year.

Last point to what your opponent about how San Diego got the better deal because they got 3 Pro Bowlers [Rivers, Merriman, Kaeding]. My take on that is I highly doubt GMs and owners go into the draft with a game plan of who gets the most Pro Bowlers. Their goal as I can imagine is to acquire players to help win a championship and to get a quarterback that will lead them to that. Which the Giants did and so far the Chargers haven't. Case closed, we got the better deal. Sorry for the long comment, I just got tired of people putting Rivers on such a high pedestal. Let me know what you think.

Mosley: Big Kev, we approach the research. I tried to keep numbers out of the argument -- except the "one" Manning's wearing on his finger. That's the ultimate scoreboard, but you're right to point out that Rivers has amassed excellent numbers against inferior competition. Would he have similar numbers if he was going up against the Cowboys, Redskins and Eagles a combined six times? I don't think so either.

Ryan S. from Cincinnati has a Giants question: Matt, I check your blog often. Keep it up. Now for my question: Is there anything else of note about the G-men other than their wide-receiver situation? It seems like that's all anybody ever talks about regarding their off-season.

Mosley: Thanks for the kind words, Ryan. I think wide receiver is the biggest concern, but you also have to wonder how long it will take Michael Boley to recover from hip surgery. He was an important acquisition and I think it will take him some time to grasp the Giants' philosophy on defense. I'm also curious to see how that backup running back situation plays out. You have several talented candidates, but I'm not sure anyone's ready to take over where Derrick Ward left off. Also keep your eye on the the new defensive coordinator, Bill Sheridan. He has big shoes to fill. Steve Spagnuolo had a tremendous feel for what to call during games.

Doug in New York has a question about Mathias Kiwanuka: Hey Matt! First of all, you CLEARLY won that Eli-Rivers debate regardless of what the moderator said. My question is, now that Osi Umenyiora is back, how exactly will Mathias Kiwanuka fit into the Giants' defense?

Mosley: Doug, thanks for your support. That particular moderator has been out to get me for years. It's being handled internally. Oh, but I'm kidding of course. I think the return of Umenyiora will make Kiwanuka a lot more effective. He'll play the same role that Tuck played on the 2007 Super Bowl team. And when Tuck moves inside on third down at times, Kiwanuka will replace him on the outside. He'll be in on about 10-15 fewer plays per game, which should help keep him fresh.

105 degrees in Austin actually overnighted this question: If the Cowboys had taken Rhett Bomar with his NCAA infractions, would he have been mentioned as another character-issue player? With New York, I haven't seen that discussed.

Mosley: It's a fair question. In Bomar's case, I don't think it would've generated much more talk. He was paid for work he didn't perform at the University of Oklahoma. He's not the first kid to go down that road -- and he's certainly not the last. I don't think you're reading about it much in New York because the guy paid dearly for that decision. He had to transfer to Sam Houston and play in relative obscurity. But he flourished at the school and earned the right to be drafted. People in Dallas are very familiar with his story since he's from nearby Grand Prairie. So I don't think it would've been a big deal at all. The Cowboys obviously liked former Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee more as a player.

Jason from Arlington, Va., wonders why the late Sean Taylor wasn't mentioned in the all-decade discussion: For this special edition all-decade week that has been on the ESPN NFL homepage, not one of the seven articles mentioned Sean Taylor. That's appalling.It makes this feature a complete and utter joke. This is why I go to SI.com over ESPN.com. I understand a lot of people's reasoning, "He wasn't in the league long enough blah blah blah", fine. But you have to admit that his death was such a memorable football moment in this decade, and you writers just skipped right by it. Now I am not even going to go into the fact that the Redskins were basically non-existent on these lists (with good reason, not that good this decade), but Taylor's skill and sadly his death transcended the Skins. For shame.

Mosley: Jason, I totally understand and share your respect for Taylor's shortened career. But there were several tremendous players who were left off the list. It's certainly not a perfect list. It was designed to create a lot of discussion -- and that's what happened. Regarding Taylor, if you look back at the NFC East blog, you'll see at least a couple mentions of him. I totally agree that he would've been right in the mix if not for his tragic death. Remarkable players such as John Lynch and Brian Dawkins didn't make the all-decade team at safety. But again, I respect your passion, for both the Redskins and Taylor.

Brad from Coquille, Ore. is feeling good about the Skins: Hi Matt. So here I am, a devout Redskins fan. I look at their schedule (is it just me, or is this schedule almost a do-over of last year?) and I see teams that beat them last year by close margins. And I'm thinking that thier upgrades in D and a small improvement on O could put this team, with this schedule, at 11-5 or even 12-4. Am I delusional?

Mosley: No, but you're gaining on it! Actually, the Skins seemed headed for at least 10-6 last season before the bottom fell out in the second half. If they can stack up some wins early and stay healthy late, you definitely have a chance to go 10-6. But that December schedule scares me. I think 9-7 is the more likely outcome. But let me show up at training camp and see what I think after that.

Tsbein has a solid question about NFC Beast quarterbacks -- and my travel schedule: Which QB is under the most pressure in the NFC East? McNabb to win the SB within two years now that he has weapons, Eli to prove he doesn't need Plax, Romo to prove he doesn't need T.O. and can win in Dec./Jan. or Campbell to prove that the Skins don't need to get a another QB? Bonus: Do you plan to visit each team's training camp or are you leaving it to E. Dubs and Sal Pal?

Mosley: In terms of whose job's on the line, I think you have to go with Jason Campbell. He'll be in the final year of his contract. Eli Manning's heading into the final year of his contract, but I'd be shocked if something's not done before the season. It might even happen during this dead period. Manning would sort of like it that way.

But I think Romo will face the most scrutiny. He's not going to lose his job if the Cowboys miss the playoffs, but his reputation would take a beating. Actually, though, he could play really well -- and the Cowboys could miss the playoffs. We don't know how this Roy Williams thing will turn out. And I'd be a little worried on defense about the inexperience at the cornerback position. So only one quarterback's job is truly hanging in the balance, but I think Romo will face the most pressure. There's the built-in pressure of playing quarterback for the Cowboys. And then there's all the hype surrounding Romo. I think the spotlight will be on him more than any quarterback in the division.

And I'll be visiting all four camps. My plan is to make the drive to San Antonio and spend Aug. 5-7 with the Cowboys before going on my Northeast tour Aug. 10-17. I'll be hanging with Sal Pal and Werder along the way. They've both contributed to this blog in the past, and that won't change. Looking forward to spending a couple days in August in Sal Pal's swimming pool.

Thanks guys! Let's do it again soon (next Saturday). And could someone give me props for not mentioning a certain wide receiver's name?