Sunday, June 28, 2009

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

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