Friday, July 31, 2009

BTB: Friday's Practice #4

Dallas Cowboys 2009 Training Camp: Practice #4
by Dave Halprin (Grizz) on Jul 31, 2009 6:37 PM

Full pads for today's affair. Stephen Hodge, Tim Anderson still rehabbing. One thing I like, DeAngelo Smith was out on the field 30 minutes before practice catching punts from the machine. Nice to see a rookie dedicated like that.

Started out with special teams drills again, and then went into some punts. Mat McBriar was crushing the punts today, high and far. Catching punts: Felix Jones, Terence Newman, Patrick Crayton, and Willie Reid. After team stretching they went into some FGs with both Nick Folk and David Buehler.

The defense then broke off and did drills that were all about fumbles. They did stations were the defensive groups rotated - they worked on falling on fumbles and properly wrapping it up, stripping the ball from the QB from behind, trying to punch the ball out of the ball-carrier's hands from behind and keeping a fumble in-bounds so another player could fall on it. Nice, we need turnovers this year.

While all that was going on, Buehler was practicing on-sides kicks. The guy was pounding them into the turf and having them pop up, they were going almost exactly 10 yards and right into the hands of Folk. His accuracy at getting the distance and keeping it in-bounds w\as uncanny, Folk rarely had to move to catch it.

The broke off into 9-on-9 on one side and WR vs. DB on the other. I followed the WRs/DBs. Jenkins had great coverage on Crayton for an incompletion, Austin caught a slant in front of Courtney Brown, then Scandrick had great coverage on Kevin Ogletree for an incompletion. Stanback made a very nice catch on Alan Ball, Jesse Holley cooked Mike Mickens on a bomb, Mickens had to commit pass interference to stop it. Mike Jefferson blew right by Newman for a bomb, Crayton made a great in and out move to lose Scandrick, and Willie Reid beat Ball for a tough catch.

Mickens had nice coverage on Hurd for an incompletion, T-New looked good against Austin, then Roy almost made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch on a bomb with tight coverage from Jenkins, but just couldn't hold on to it. Stanback beat Scandrick short, Scandrick gave him way too much room, then Jefferson cooked Mickens on a stop and go pattern deep. Julian Hawkins made a nice grab against T-New but ended up out-of-bounds. Austin caught a short one on Jenkins and Crayton abused Courtney Brown on a deep pass. Roy and Scandrick had a real physical battle on a short pattern to the sidelines with Roy winning the battle and making the catch. Manuel Johnson had and easy time with DeAngelo Smith, Reid caught a short one on Mickens and Hurd ran an excellent route to shake Brown.

D. Smith came back with nice coverage on a deep pass, then Scandrick got inside Reid on a dig route to break it up and Jefferson spun Brown around to make a short catch. Hawkins ran a good route to shake Mickens, then D. Smith was all over Austin on a deep pass. Crayton ran a route to the sidelines and got his hands on the ball up high but Jenkins recovered to knock it out of his hands before he could complete the catch. T-New had no problem covering Reid, Roy beat Scandrick on a short pass to the sidelines and Holley was able to shake C. Brown for a catch.

After that, they did 7-on-7 while the OL battled the DL. I followed the 7-on-7. Romo overthrew Witten on an out pattern, Bennett caught a short pass then Romo tried to hit Witten deep but Bradie James had excellent coverage. Hurd made a nice catch while simultaneously being hit from behind by Jenkins, Scandrick broke up a pass for Bennett and Roy caught one over the middle in front of C. Brown. Kitna threw a short pass to Scott Chandler, had a terrible throw to John Phillips, hit Ogletree in front of D. Smith and finished with and overthrow of and open Reid on the sidelines. McGee hit Hawkins in the hands but he dropped it and then connected with Philips on a short one.

Romo came back on and threw short to Witten, hit Austin in the flats, then just missed Austin on an out pattern. He tried to hit Bennett on a deep pass but Bennett's feet got tangled up with T-New and the ball was incomplete. He finished with a pass that had beautiful touch and floated softly into Jefferson's hands and then threw a swing pass to Felix. Kitna threw short to Bennett, then tried a pass over the middle but Mike Hamlin tipped the ball in the air then dove to make the INT. Kitna finished with short passes to Bennett and Hurd. Rudy Carpenter threw short to Keon Lattimore and then got picked-off by Scandrick.

Practice closed with a long session of 11-on-11. Wade was turning the defense loose as they blitzed often and they used nickel/dime coverages where they were putting two safeties near the line and only one linebacker. The defense got the better of the offense most of the day. Romo started by hitting Witten over the middle between Brooking and Sensabaugh, then Ratliff stuffed an MB3 run. Roy caught one on the sidelines in front of Scandrick, Felix caught a swing pass but Carpenter had good pursuit, then Felix tried a sweep but Brandon Williams fought the block and turned it into traffic. Kyle Kosier had a false start and was replaced and Romo hit Hurd on a deep pass that Hurd leaped high to get. Kitna rolled-out under pressure from Ocatvien and hit Phillips on a short pass. He tried to go deep to Reid but C. Brown and D. Smith had bracketed coverage. Choice caught a short pass but Jason Williams was right there for the stop. Anthony Spencer timed a rush to get good pressure forcing a dump-off, and Bennett caught a short pass but Brooking was all over him. McGee handed to Choice up the middle but Carpenter stuffed it. Lattimore caught a swing pass but Jerome Carter came up and accidentally decked him. Lattimore tried a run but had no room and then Brandon Williams got good pressure causing a throw-away.

Romo was back and immediately felt pressure from Octavien, he threw it to Crayton who dropped it. After a dump-off to MB3, he threw to Roy but Mickens was there, they both caught the ball and Mickens ended up with it. Witten got loose down the seam and Romo hit him in stride, they tried a pitch to Felix but Brooking and Bradie ate it up. They tried a reverse to Felix but he was forced to cut it back inside where Bradie was waiting. Kitna started out by overthrowing Reid on the sideline, next threw an incompletion after B. Williams applied pressure, and then threw the ball right to Ball who dropped the INT. Choice took and inside handoff and cut back outside for a long run followed by an Alonzo Coleman draw play that went for big yards. Rudy Carpenter threw a dump-off to Manuel Johnson, then pitched it to Coleman but Spencer disrupted the blocking and Bradie made the tackle. They tried a screen that had no chance as the blitz was on him before it could develop and finished by having Jenkins break up a pass.

That was that.

Dallas Cowboys 2009 Training Camp: A Summary So Far

By Dave Halprin (Grizz)

It's only been three practices, but I see a lot of requests for a summary of what's happened so far. Being the type of blogger who likes to listen to his audience, I'll comply. I generally like to give practice reports as objectively as possible for two reasons. One, I want to give you guys the facts of what's going on at practice without a filter, hopefully it gives you a sense of being there and watching the practices for yourself. Two, I've found that if you post something like "Player X looked bad today" it leads to the inevitable extrapolation that the player sucks and that we're in big trouble. Remember, these are training camp practices, the Cowboys are trying new things out; they're putting players in positions to test their skill sets that may never be replicated in real games. Having said all that, here are some observations of mine through the first three practices.

The Cowboys, and Wade Phillips, have been true to their word and have changed things. They've changed up the drills they're running in the positional groups and to my eyes the drills are more attuned to real-game situations. Some of them I've mentioned, the fumble prevention drills, an extensive session on covering the bunch formation, the receivers are running the passing tree more than in the past, all kinds of things that are a little different from past training camps. The emphasis on special teams is clear by running those drills at the beginning of practice when the players are fresh and more likely to absorb new information.

Also, contrary to the meltdown I've seen in some media circles and on other Cowboys blogs and non-Cowboys blogs, the no-tackling rule is nothing new. Even when Parcells was here we rarely tackled, if at all, so it's not like much has changed in that respect. So when you see that kind of stuff, just ignore it.

Much more below.

OK, on to what a lot of people really want to hear, who is doing well and who is not. Remember to be a little skeptical of all this; for example, last year Bobby Carpenter had a great camp, he was making a lot of plays, but once the real season hit he was an afterthought. Also keep in mind, since we're practicing against ourselves, one player or unit doing well means that another player or unit was getting beat. So it's a glass half-full or half-empty scenario on all of this.

What I've liked so far:

The running game is performing well, in the 11-on-11's the line is opening holes and the backs are able to make quality runs for the most part. Tashard Choice looks as good as he did at the end of last year and seems particularly adept at wiggling through traffic. The Cowboys have stated they will depend on the running game more this season and they should, it's a strength of this team. Kyle Kosier is back and he looks to be in good form, this could help solidify an offensive line that had problems with consistency last year.

The play of Gerald Sensabaugh has been good. He's done well at diagnosing plays and then making the play by taking proper angles and working his way through traffic. I like what I'm seeing from him so far but I really haven't seen him tested deep over the middle that often.

I've thought of Brandon Williams and Victor Butler as twins since they were drafted close together and they play the same position. So far in camp, Butler has made the plays. He's had some good moments rushing the passer and just appears to be the more active of the two. In addition, little-known OLB Steve Octavien has been getting opportunities and has actually made a few plays. Who knows if he can sustain it, but he's been active so far.

Mike Hawkins is an unknown player who has made plays in camp. He's broken up a few passes, got an INT and generally stood out from the rest of the non-starting CBs. Will he make the team, probably not and this is the danger of reading too much into training camp practices, so take it for what it's worth.

Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware are doing exactly what you'd expect; they have been the dominating force on the defensive front seven and have caused havoc regularly. The secondary has been solid, not giving up as many big plays as they have in the past. I can probably count on one hand the number of deep passes they've given up in 11-on-11's.

Tony Romo has looked like Romo. I haven't seen much that is different from his play in other training camps. But then again, I wasn't really worried about his play in camp.

What I've had problems with so far:

None of the WRs have had a great impact on camp so far. It's not just Roy, it's the unit as a whole. Now there are some mitigating factors. It could speak to an improved secondary that is giving better coverage. Also, with Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett roaming the field, they present great targets for the QB's. Factor in that our pass rush can be very effective, meaning the QBs are dumping the ball short on occasion, further limiting the WRs effectiveness. Don't panic. By this time next week one or two receivers may be tearing up practices. Give it a little time.

I still greatly worry about the backup o-line. I've been a little down on Pat McQuistan for the past couple of years and he's done nothing in this camp to change my view. A lot of the rest of the guys, especially in the interior, haven't stood out in my opinion. Holland is getting some chances and maybe he will prove to be a guy we can rely on for a backup, and Doug Free has been serviceable so far. It's not that their awful, but I loved to see a little more punch out of these guys.

It's early, but I'm still waiting on Jason Williams to make a few plays. I heard all about his athleticism but it hasn't shown up yet. But, give him some time, he's a rookie learning a new position and it's only been a few practices.

The defense as a whole is still not getting a lot of turnovers. Kudos to Romo and Kitna for not throwing INT's, but last year not getting turnovers on defense was a big problem and I was hoping to see more of it happening in camp. Of course, if it did start happening, everybody would start complaining about Romo and Kitna! You just can't win when practicing against yourself.

There are still too many false start penalties and there have been some very visible cases of holding along the line that aren't called but easy to see. Clean up the penalties guys, it's important.


Those are some things I've observed in practices. I'm always reticent to make these kinds of pronouncements because they tend to get extrapolated into bigger things and by next week the whole situation could be different. I've always tried to give training camp practice reports as objectively as possible so you, the reader, can make your own evaluations. But, since I was asked, I complied.

Hope you're enjoying BTB's coverage of training camp so far.

Cowboys' stance on Vick not changed

Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Even if Michael Vick is available, Jerry Jones says the Dallas Cowboys have no plans to sign the suspended quarterback.

The Cowboys owner has repeatedly said since Vick was released by the Atlanta Falcons last year that his team won't sign Vick.

Vick was freed from federal custody this week for dogfighting charges and is awaiting word from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about if and when he will be reinstated.

Responding to a question Friday about Vick, Jones said his stance hasn't changed.

"It hasn't," Jones said, emphasizing that by repeating that phrase twice more in a matter of seconds.

Cowboys enjoy the friendly confines of the Alamodome

By Vic Carucci

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — This isn’t the Dallas Cowboys’ first training camp in the Alamodome, but it still boggles the mind to see an NFL team conduct its entire camp indoors. You’re so used to these summer sessions being held on a college campus, under the hot sun, in some remote location.

Tony Romo signs autographs for fans at San Antonio's Alamodome. (Eric Gay / Associated Press)
But the Cowboys are back here for the fourth time because it provides, for them, a superb working atmosphere, convenience, and plenty of seats for thousands of fans at each practice.

The dome provides a constant, 72-degree environment that keeps the players out of the searing heat outside and they like working on the artificial turf. Coaches, players, and staff are housed at the nearby Hyatt Hotel, where meetings are held and meals are served.

The Cowboys were here in 2002 and 2003. They moved camp to Oxnard, Calif., from 2004-2006, returned here in ‘07, and went back to Oxnard last year because of a conflict with a major convention that had been scheduled here.

For what it’s worth, the Cowboys have only has two regular seasons of double-digit wins since winning 10 games in 1998, and they both came after holding camp in the Alamodome (’03, when they were 10-6, and ‘07, when they went 13-3).

NFL.COM Blog: Cowboys WR Williams puts in strong practice

By Vic Carucci

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Roy E. Williams seems well aware of the expectation for him to step up as the Cowboys’ No. 1 receiver now that Terrell Owens is gone.

It is evident by how he is running routes and making plays in practice. So far, all signs point to him making up for his disappointing performance after the Cowboys acquired him (and a seventh-round draft pick) from the Lions last year for first-, third-, and sixth-round choices.

In today’s single workout, Williams consistently beat defenders in one-on-one drills. His most impressive work came on making grabs on 15-yard out patterns, using the sidelines to his full advantage.

The Cowboys are counting on Williams, Patrick Crayton, and Miles Austin to fill the T.O. void at wide receiver.

Note: One change in the Dallas Cowboys’ training-camp routine is to spend the first 20 minutes of practice working on special teams.

Most clubs hold special-teams drills in the middle of practice, but coach Wade Phillips decided it needed to be treated as a greater point of emphasis.

Mosley Training Camp Report

SAN ANTONIO -- The second day of Cowboys training camp was much more physical. Running back Marion Barber punished anyone who tried to take him on and a rookie linebacker by the name of Victor Butler was all over the field. I'm prepared to touch on some of the position battles and other things that are going on inside the Alamodome, home to the poorest lighting in sports.

* I've been as impressed with second-year running back Tashard Choice as anyone in camp. Running backs coach Skip Peete told me Wednesday that Choice was one of the most complete backs in the nation when he was at Georgia Tech, but there were questions about his speed. On Thursday, he used his acceleration to race away from linebackers and safeties. If I had to pick a player who's performed the best after three practices, I'd have to go with Choice. After talking to Peete for a while, I think Choice is a guy who could play three or four series per game -- especially if he gets hot.

* Marion Barber appears to be lighter, in part, because he actually dropped five pounds. He's still administering punishment to linebackers, but he appears to have a little more wiggle than I recall at this point in camp. If you're wanting to get excited about something, let me suggest this team's three running backs. Felix Jones is showing that he could have a big impact in the passing game. He didn't catch the ball a lot at Arkansas, but he has pretty good hands from what I've gathered. For those of you who keep asking, I haven't seen any Wildcat formation plays to this point in camp.

* I want to see more of Victor Butler, the fourth-round player out of Oregon State. He had 12 sacks his senior season at Oregon State, and he was all over the Cowboys' quarterbacks in Thursday's morning practice. He appears to be pretty quick off the edge and he actually showed some nice versatility in dropping back in coverage to make plays. In the morning practice, Butler was the guy constantly catching my eye.

* After observing three practices, I'm convinced the Cowboys could be in big trouble if any of their offensive linemen go down with injury. Pat McQuistan looked completely helpless through much of Thursday's practices. And the worst part is that he got worse with each rep. He freaked out when DeMarcus Ware lined up over him and had a false start. Doug Free, a former third-round pick, looked a little better in the one-on-one drills I watched, but he's not ready to step in for left tackle Flozell Adams if something happens. Cory Procter's a guy that can get you through a couple of games at center or guard, but he needs to stay in that role. This team has done a very poor job of drafting and developing offensive linemen. They took Andre Gurode out of Colorado in the second round in 2002. They've been striking out ever since.

* Isaiah Stanback isn't long for this team. Everyone thought he could make the transition from quarterback to wide receiver, but he's always banged up. And in the first three practices, he's had at least four drops. He dropped a perfect slant pass from Tony Romo on Thursday afternoon. He's made a couple of nice catches in traffic, but he's dropping the easy ones. At this pace, there's no way he makes the team.

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Jesse Holley, winner of Spike TV's "4th and Long," has been catching everything thrown his way.
* I've sort of caught Jesse Holley fever. The wide receiver that made the roster via Michael Irvin's "Fourth and Long" TV show has caught just about everything thrown his way. He doesn't appear to be a burner, but he runs pretty precise routes for a guy who hasn't had game experience in quite a while. The fans love this guy. I guess Spike TV is big in San Antonio because they beg him for autographs.

* Even though Martellus Bennett is a weird guy, he's certainly an immensely talented guy. He's a wide target and he's also fast enough to get downfield. With Witten and Bennett on the field, the Cowboys could be pretty dangerous in the passing game. Bennett's a guy who could catch 45 passes and five or six touchdowns. He's an Antonio Gates starter kit, and he appears to be taking things a lot more seriously in this training camp.

* Wade Phillips means business. When a player jumps offsides or fumbles, they are immediately taken out of the lineup. When Patrick Crayton started upfield early on the first play of team drills, he was removed from the offense and Miles Austin came racing in. So far, I like the way Sam Hurd looks in camp. He's a wiry guy who does a nice job of contorting his body to make difficult catches. I like the way Austin's exploiting zone coverages. He'll find a soft spot and just sort of sit down. He's looking more and more like a veteran.

* Back to the backup O-line topic, guard Montrae Holland was pulling on a running play and pretty much wiped out Jon Kitna in the morning practice. It took Holland a ridiculously long time to learn the offense last year, and he just sort of rolls around in practice. I don't like watching offensive linemen who are always on the ground. "Stay up, stay up!" is the rallying cry that coaches have to use on Mr. Holland's Opus.

AP Photo/Eric Gay
Wade Phillips, right, and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett share a word during practice Thursday.
* Are saggy basketball shorts the best look Wade Phillips can come up with? I like Phillips, but he's throwing down the same look as the Fab Four for Michigan. They're past his knees. Surely Bum has some Russell coaching shorts he could loan his son.

* I saw former first-round pick Mike Jenkins do a nice job closing on the ball before making a deflection. He's getting to the ball, and the next step is to actually pick off some of those passes. Orlando Scandrick still looks more natural at corner to me.

* In the morning practice Thursday, nose tackle Jay Ratliff jumped the snap and hit Rudy Carpenter before he could execute a handoff. Ratliff was constantly in the backfield. He just seems to have a ton of confidence heading into this season.

* It's no surprise that DeMarcus Ware had three "sacks" Thursday, but defensive end Marcus Dixon out of Hampton, a long shot to make the team last season, had an outstanding morning. He had a sack and he pressured Jon Kitna into an early throw. Phillips said Dixon has gone from being a poorly conditioned player to one of the best. He's a guy to keep your eye on.

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Victor Butler had the Cowboys' quarterbacks on the run Thursday morning.
* I sort of think the man who's wearing No. 81, Mike Jefferson, has a little something. He was graceful on a couple of sideline catches, and he does a nice job of going after the ball. He's sort of hung around for a little while now. I think he has an outside chance to make this roster -- especially if Stanback keeps dropping everything in sight. I also like Kevin Ogletree, who does a pretty nice job catching the ball across the middle.

* I used to watch Brandon Williams play defensive end at Texas Tech. Now he's moved to outside linebacker. He's obviously got a knack for getting to the quarterback, although right tackle Marc Colombo completely stoned him one time when he tried to go with a bull-rush.

* Tony Romo and Roy Williams have been doing a little work after practice. So far, they seem to be on the same page. In a red zone drill Thursday, Williams did a nice job of catching the ball away from his body and then exploding up the field. In the afternoon practice, he changed from No. 11 to No. 4 in honor of his old Texas Longhorns jersey. The Longhorn fans in the Alamodome seemed to appreciate the gesture.

* I had a long visit with Cory Procter about the heavy metal band that he's in with Marc Colombo and Leonard Davis. It's called Free Reign, and the players have been signed to a recording contract. I'll have that interview for you tomorrow.

* Davis worked a little bit at left tackle in some of the individual drills. Maybe that's part of the Cowboys' contingency plan in case Adams gets hurt. Just something to think about.

* I'll see you back here tomorrow. I've been writing for 10 hours. It's time to stop. You guys are the best. Happy TKabbin Day!

DMN JJT Blog: Tony Romo is the best quarterback in the NFC East

By Jean-Jacques Taylor

Sometimes, we criticize Tony Romo so much that you lose sight of the fact that he's a terrific quarterback.

Now, he has played poorly after December, which skews our view of him as it should. But if you were starting a team in the NFC East and had to pick a quarterback, I'd go with Romo.

Here's my ranking:

1. Tony Romo: Has every athletic gift you want in a quarterback and is entering his prime, but it's time for him to play his best when the games matter most

2. Donovan McNabb: You can come up with a lot of excuses, but he's never quite gotten his team over the hump, though he has been to one Super Bowl

3. Eli Manning: He played by far the best football of his career, during the Giants' Super Bowl run

4. Jason Campbell: Washington spent the entire offseason trying to replace him

DMN Blog: Can any safety stop Martellus Bennett in the open field?

By Tim MacMahon

One of the more interesting of the many wrinkles in the Cowboys two-tight end package is motioning Martellus Bennett from the backfield to out wide to create a one-on-one situation against the strong safety.

"I love it," Marty B said with a big smile.

We saw that in the morning practice. Bennett caught a short out in front of Gerald Sensabaugh and turned upfield. Sensabaugh was in position to get a clean shot on Bennett at that moment, which led me to wonder if the 204-pound safety could take down the 265-pound tight end without any helmet.

"No," Bennett said.

OK, can any safety?

"I don't want to say any ...," Bennett said before scrapping the false humility. "Nah, they can't. I'm kind of confident right now. I'm in a zone."

Bennett has reason to believe in his ability to do damage after the catch. The ex-Texas A&M basketball player averaged 7.15 yards after the catch last season, according to Stats, Inc. San Francisco's Vernon Davis, another freakish physical specimen, was the only tight end with at least 20 reception to average more yards after catch.

Matt Jones claims he spoke to Bears, Cowboys, Jets & Titans...*Cowboys deny interest*


Matt Jones-WR- Jaguars Jul. 30 - 12:47 pm et

Free agent Matt Jones claims he's spoken to the Bears, Cowboys, Jets, and Titans about signing a contract.

The only poor (and highly unlikely) fit here is Tennessee. Surprisingly, it also appears Jones is not on the Ravens' radar. "Things are looking good," Jones said. "Something probably will happen sooner rather than later."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cowboys agree to terms with LB J.Williams and QB McGee


Jason Williams, LB Wednesday 7/29, 8:53 AM CT

The Dallas Morning News reports that the Cowboys have agreed to terms with linebacker Jason Williams on a four-year contract. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Our View: Williams went 69th overall in the draft, but was the Cowboys' first pick. He is expected to contribute significantly on special teams and could work his way into substitute defensive packages.

Stephen McGee, QB Wednesday 7/29, 8:49 AM CT

According to the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys have signed quarterback Stephen McGee to a four year contract. He will receive a $532,000 signing bonus.

Our View: The fourth-round selection has impressed the organization in mini-camps so far and the Cowboys are looking to turn him into a steady back-up option for starter Tony Romo.

Who Is The Dallas Cowboys’s Weakest Link? The Safeties

By by James Williamson

I will never forget it.

No sir, I will never forget that horrific day. December 20, 2008 was easily one of the saddest days of my life.

The last game played at Texas Stadium was a defeat by the Baltimore Ravens because of mainly two runs.

The Ravens had 265 yards rushing that game, but 159 yards of it came off of two runs for 77 and 82 yards respectively.

There is no excuse for that. That shouldn’t happen at a pee wee game and these are supposed to be the consummate pros. What in the world happened?

It was the safeties. The safeties did not make the tackle. That is the only explanation as to why those two runs happened.

The defensive line and linebackers are usually the ones who stop the run, however, sometime a back can just avoid or burst through so fast that they don’t get on top of him quick enough.

Which is where the safeties come in. The position’s name correctly suggests that they are what keeps the front seven ’safe’ in case something goes wrong. Those two guys are the last lines of defense, like the goalies in soccer.

I’m telling you. It was just ugly to see Ken Hamlin, the Cowboys free safety, attempt and fail at tackling that night.

The Cowboys had been slow offensively, but had sparked a comeback. The defensive front was working their rears off. We had a great chance to win that game then those runs happened.

We lost 33-24 and it was the worst possible way to leave Texas Stadium. A very small part of me will always hate the Ravens, but an even bigger part will glare at Ken Hamlin till the day he or I die.

Which brings us back to the position of safety, where I feel as safe as Tweety Bird in a room full of “Puttytats.”

The Dallas Cowboys are very spotty now at the safety positions. Strong or free, it doesn’t matter.

Ken Hamlin will be the starter for the Dallas Cowboys at free safety. He has very good hands at intercepting, went to the Pro Bowl two years ago, but I hope that he has gotten better tackling skills or the Cowboys could lose before the season begins.

The problem was that our starting strong safety, Roy Williams, was on the injured reserve list with a fractured arm.

Now he’s off the roster entirely due to his unhappiness with his situation in Dallas. He was doing horribly on coverage and he had lost the fire in his chest that made him a tremendous hitter.

He now is a Cincinnati Bengal.

The backups from last year included Keith Davis and Patrick Watkins.

Davis was the special teams captain last year and he played decently for the Cowboys after Williams went down. However, the Cowboys have not made any grand attempts at resigning him, and I doubt that he could’ve started anywhere else in the NFL.

Patrick Watkins is an excellent backup at free safety, but two main things kept him from playing: Ken Hamlin was starting, and Watkins suffered an injury himself for a good portion of the season.

Except for Roy Williams, no ordinary Dallas fan would know who these gentlemen are. That, in itself, is a bad sign.

So, the Cowboys decided to address the issue over the off-season through free agency and the draft.

The Cowboys went east to the depths of Florida and negotiated a one-year deal with Jacksonville strong safety, Gerald Sensabaugh, for 1.75 million dollars.

His statistics include: six interceptions, 114 tackles, one forced fumble, and three fumble recoveries in a course of four years.

Four of those six interceptions came last year, so he is showing signs of improvement, but will never be an elite safety.

The Cowboys also drafted strong safety Stephen Hodge out of Texas Christian University, and from what I have read, he is doing well in workouts.

In addition, the Cowboys grabbed free safety Michael Hamlin, (no relation to Ken Hamlin) out of Clemson.

However, I’m not convinced as to the ’safety’ of the safety position. The Cowboys have put a lot of faith in some late round picks minimum pay veteran to go along with a free safety who blew it against the Ravens.

I’m hoping that this year’s preseason session will enlighten me as to whether or not the secondary is going to be a severe problem or not.

Wade Phillips: "We've got to establish a strong running game."

BY David Moore/Reporter

It will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Jason Garrett uses Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice this season. But Wade Phillips isn't focused on individuals when it comes to the rushing attack.

"We've got to establish a stronger running game,'' Phillips said. "I think we're really strong at running back itself, if you go with the stats here and there, but we haven't been at the top of the league with the running game the last two years.

"We had one of the top offenses two years ago, but we were around 20 in the running game. We need to get in the top 10 in the running game. So that's one of the things we're looking to improve.''

The Cowboys averaged 107.7 yards on the ground last season to rank No. 21 in the league. It needs to add 20 or so yards a game to that average to break into the top 10. That's at least five to six more carries a game.

Dallas Cowboys 2009 Training Camp: Practice #1

by Dave Halprin (Grizz) on Jul 29, 2009 5:19 PM CDT

Let's call this first practice a return to fundamentals. The Dallas Cowboys spent a lot of time in position drills emphasizing footwork and technique. The practice was light on the usual 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills and it did seem to be a little faster pace with guys moving to the next drill with alacrity. The practice was a shorts and helmets affair so obviously there was no hitting.

Before the start of practice, both DeAngelo Smith and Felix Jones were practicing catching punts from the machine. Smith looked smooth and you could tell he knew how to judge the flight of the ball and position himself for a return. Felix was little less sure but caught most of the punts without trouble. While that was going on, the kickers, holders and long snappers were running through FG drills. Going by today's action, Mat McBriar will be holding on FG's and Matt Stewart was the backup long snapper.

Only Stephen Hodge appeared to be on the injured list and he went through his re-hab drills on the side.

Much more after the jump.

After stretching and running a couple of sprints, they immediately moved to special teams, specifically FG's. Coach Joe D was out there running the show, but they didn't really kick. Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett were the wing blockers on FG's with the first unit. They also practiced a few fakes with McBriar attempting some passes. They also practiced a couple of FG returns with Terence Newman doing the honors first, followed by Orlando Scandrick.

Tony Romo was fashionably late to practice; maybe he's taking over the T.O. role. I kid, but he did show up late.

They broke up into offense and defense after that and ran basic positional drills. Wade Phillips spent a lot of the time, I would say almost all of his time, with the defense throughout the practice.

On offense, the backfields were, mainly, Marion Barber and Deon Anderson (1st), Felix Jones and Julius Crosslin (2nd) and Tashard Choice with Asaph Schwapp (3rd).

They also ran some new drills that they haven't run under Wade before. The receivers and running backs were doing a little running while being held up by resistance bands. The offensive line was working on staying low by individually lining up under a low net, insuring they wouldn't come out of their stance high. The defensive line worked a little bit on the sled while the secondary was doing a lot of footwork drills, making angle cuts and the like, very similar to combine drills.

The WR's and the QB's went through a long session of running the passing tree with no defense.
The running backs practiced blocking techniques, the secondary worked backpedaling drills, the outside linebackers were grabbing the towel off the ground after angling around a blocking dummy.
The offense came together to run some plays with no defense, while the defense practiced position as a unit against no offense.

They finally worked a session of 7-on-7. Romo started but missed Witten on a pass, then dumped short to MB3, threw a short one to Witten in front of Bradie James, hit Marty B. on a medium depth pass and concluded with a dump-off to Felix. Jon Kitna stepped in and hit Mike Jefferson on an out, Michael Hawkins picked him off deep on the next pass, he threw a nice out to Kevin Ogletree, and finished by finding Alonzo Coleman on a crossing pattern. Stephen McGee threw a bad pass towards Rodney Hannah.

Back to Romo who threw a bad pass to Bennett that was dropped, he overshot Witten on an out, connected with Crayton who made a great catch on a slant. Romo tried a bomb but it was picked off by Mike Hamlin after it was tipped in the air by Hawkins. He finished by hitting Bennett on a short pass and then Isaiah Stanback made a really good catch on an out. Kitna threw a dump-off to Choice twice before connecting with Ogletree, then concluded with a beautiful pass to Bennett that dropped in between the two levels of the zone. Rudy Carpenter closed-out the drill with a pass to John Phillips and Rodney Hannah.

After that, the offense ran a bunch of plays against no defense while the defense did the same at the other end of the field. They did run some plays with both Marion and Felix in the backfield.
Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton were the first team WR's, Austin and Hurd were second. Mike Jenkins started opposite T-New. Montrae Holland took some turns at center behind Gurode along with Procter. Junior Siavii was behind Jay Ratliff and Courtney Brown was getting reps at corner with the second team. Pat Watkins and Alan Ball were paired up at safety with the second team for part of the time. Steve Octavien and Brandon Williams were manning the second team OLB for a lot of practice. Bobby Carpenter and Jason Williams were the second team ILBs. Most of the other rookies were running on the third team.

Tomorrow's a two-a-day.

DMN Blog: Live from the Alamodome I. LIVE PRACTICE COVERAGE

Go here to follow the live chat of the current practice:

You can ask Tim MacMahon questions.

I'll try to post the full chat transcript in this thread when its complete.

Tim MacMahon: We've already got a decent crowd at the Alamodome. There's some sort of fan field goal kicking contest going on at one end of the field with some San Antonio radio dudes hollering over the microphone. Rookie DB DeAngelo Smith and Felix Jones are working on catching punts (out of the Juggs machine) in the other end zone. Felix continues to have trouble judging the ball.

[Comment From quincyyyyy]
who are the contestants for backup center?

Tim MacMahon: Cory Procter, who got all the second-team center reps in the off-season workouts, is the top candidate. Ryan Gibbons, a 6-4, 318-pounder with experience at guard, tackle and center who spent last season on the practice squad, should get a shot. Montrae Holland might, too.

[Comment From Big Rog Dog]
Is this a make or break year for Pat Mcquistan and Doug Free?

Tim MacMahon: Absolutely. Jerry Jones basically said as much yesterday, citing developing depth in the offensive line as his primary concern and saying the Cowboys needed to see a lot of progress out of their young linemen this camp. Free's development is especially important. If he can't cut it, LT might be the Cowboys' top draft priority next spring.

[Comment From casey]
do you think Felix Jones will be the starting runnning back?

Tim MacMahon: I'm not sure there will be a "starting" running back. Marion Barber might start some games, Felix Jones some others depending on the package/play the Cowboys want to open with. Their touches per game ought to both be in the teens, and I think there's room for Tashard Choice to have a more limited role, too.

[Comment From BS]
Are the players in pads today?

Tim MacMahon: Just helmets. It'll be a few days before hitting starts.

[Comment From Alex]
So what exactly is the plan for 2nd WR once the 'Boys start practicing? Do you think Austin and Crayton will alternate as second wideout during camp?

Tim MacMahon: I think Miles Austin will have to earn reps as the No. 2 WR. His chances to win that job took a hit when he missed most of OTAs and all of minicamp with a hamstring injury. Patrick Crayton was getting the No. 2 reps before Austin got hurt. However, if it's a tie or close in that competition, it wouldn't surprise me if they go with Austin because of his big-play potential.

[Comment From BigBlue82]
Do all practices take place in the dome or will they get outside a few times?

Tim MacMahon: They won't practice outside until they return to Valley Ranch in late August. Everything here is at the Alamodome.

[Comment From Red]
Is jessie Holley there?

Tim MacMahon: Haven't seen him yet, but he should be, although Michael Irvin said on the show that training camp started July 31. Hope he didn't confuse Holley.

[Comment From Linas]
Will one of the rookie WRs be able to beat out Stanback? Please keep an eye on Manuel Johnson for us. I believe Stanback is just another accident waiting to happen and will not be able to contribute at any point for the Cowboys.

Tim MacMahon: While I acknowledge Stanback's injury history is a huge concern, I think it's too early to give up on the guy. His size and ability to make plays with the ball in his hands is intriguing. But he'll have to fight off Johnson and undrafted rookie Kevin Ogletree to keep his job. Ogletree was working as the No. 3 WR, ahead of Johnson, after the WR injury rash this spring. Then he got hurt, and Johnson finished minicamp with two strong days, abusing Mike Jenkins in a two-minute drill at the end of one practice.

Tim MacMahon: Just got a release from the Cowboys that made Jesse Holley's signing, along with several draft picks, official.

DT Tim Anderson and sixth-round LB Stephen Hodge have been placed on the physically unable to perform list.

[Comment From MrGil29]
Who will win between Montrae Holland and Kyle Kosier

Tim MacMahon: If Kyle Kosier stays healthy, he'll be the starter at left guard.

Tim MacMahon: No. 15 is Willie Reid, who was signed before minicamp.

[Comment From dubd]
any idea who the unknown receiver out on the filed early is, should be Holley, since he has a lot to prove.

Tim MacMahon: Oops, the last answer was to that question.

[Comment From Guest]
How is Matt Mcbriar coming along

Tim MacMahon: If Mat McBriar isn't full strength, he's awfully close to it. He boomed several 70-yarders during minicamp.

[Comment From Keith]
If Scandrick has a better camp/preseason does he dislodge Jenkins from starting CB?

Tim MacMahon: If he doesn't, that sends a terrible message to a young team and to Jenkins, who came into the league with a knock for having questionable work ethic. I'll try to pin down Wade Phillips today on the cornerback competition. He danced around the question this spring, saying the Cowboys are counting on both young corners to play a lot.

[Comment From Americas Team]
Does Jesse Holly have a legitamate chance to make the team?

Tim MacMahon: Maybe the practice squad.

[Comment From Chase]
How serious are the coaches about making Felix the starter and having MB3 come in and pound the rock in the 4th?

Tim MacMahon: See above for my take on the "starter" at RB. They definitely want to keep Barber fresh to be the closer in the fourth quarter, whether he starts or not.

[Comment From CowboyPete]
What's your take on Stanback's chances of making this time and being productive. With the loss of T.O. (which I agree with), do you think we have enough at WR ? Any talk of Matt Jones or another veteran.

Tim MacMahon: See above for Stanback thoughts. The Cowboys won't sign Matt Jones or any other established vet WR.

[Comment From JeffKills]
How many people are there?

Tim MacMahon: Eyeball estimate: 10,000 and counting.

[Comment From Guest]
Boring question: Why does Ford sponsor the Dallas Cowboys when the Ford family owns the Detroit Lions?

Tim MacMahon: Because folks around these parts buy a whole bunch of dadgum pickup trucks.

[Comment From SJ]
How much will Sam Hurd play this year?

Tim MacMahon: If he's healthy, he's a core special teams player and the No. 4 WR. He could get on the field in some packages that don't feature four WRs, because he's an outstanding blocker.

[Comment From Bigkat75]
With Garrett's love for the passing game, should we realistically look for a more run oriented offense?

Tim MacMahon: Yes, certainly if Wade Phillips has any say in the matter. Jerry Jones also made a point to mention that the Cowboys are loaded at tailback and have two tight ends that should be on the field together a lot.

I don't know if it'll be a 50/50 run-pass ratio, but it should be pretty close.

[Comment From quincyyyyy]
Considering the lack of young talent on o-line and the fact that most of our o-linemen can play multiple positions, do you think it is possible we only keep 8 o-linemen?

Tim MacMahon: I don't think they'll keep less than nine. They've kept 10 the last couple of years.

[Comment From MrGil29]
You think the defense with "mr Fix it" will be much improved over last year?

Tim MacMahon: It has the potential to be, but a lot of young players have to perform well for that to happen -- Anthony Spencer, Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick in particular. I do think the secondary will be much better with the addition of Sensabaugh and development of the second-year corners, and that means Wade can call defenses he wants without worrying about hiding the SS and protecting Anthony Henry in the coverage schemes.

[Comment From BigOinVA]
Is Mike Ogletree destined for the practice squad or does he have a chance to sneak on the roster?

Tim MacMahon: He's got a shot, but there's a crowd fighting for the last WR spot.

[Comment From JL]
Why have they had so much trouble developing new offensive linemen in recent years?

Tim MacMahon: That's a heck of a question, and I'm sure Jerry Jones would love to know the answer. It was an issue under Tony Sparano and has continued under Hudson Houck, so it can't all be because of coaching. This is something I plan to poke around about during camp.

[Comment From .FRoST.USAF]
Any word on Buehler? Do you think you'll get to see him on any kickoffs today?

Tim MacMahon: We'll know soon. They'll start out this practice -- and every one during training camp -- with special teams work.

Stretching has started.

[Comment From Mike]
Do you think Bennett will take some of the catches TO had last year?

Tim MacMahon: Yes. The Cowboys ran 30 percent of their plays last season with two TEs on the field. I think that number will be close to 50 percent this season ... if Marty B proves to the coaches that he can handle the mental aspect of all the different roles they're asking him to play (TE, H-back, FB, slot, split wide). He provides a big-play threat that this team needs, and he has the size and leaping ability to be a major factor in the red zone.

Tim MacMahon: Marion Barber isn't stretching with his teammates for some reason. He's on one knee on the sideline talking to RB coach Skip Peete. He does have his helmet in his hand, so I'm not sure what's going on.

[Comment From JB]
Are any of the rookies still unsigned? Outlook?

Tim MacMahon: The only unsigned rookie is third-round OL Robert Brewster, who won't play this season because of a torn pectoral muscle.

The Cowboys need one of the fourth-round OLBs (Victor Butler and Brandon Williams) to be able to play at least 10-15 snaps per game. One of the Cinci guys (Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith) might earn a role in the dime package. Sixth-round TE John Phillips could get on the field in three-TE packages. Jason Williams might be the nickel/dime LB by midseason if Bobby Carpenter struggles.

Barring injury, the rest of the guys' contributions will probably be limited to special teams this season. I do think Jason Williams and fifth-round SS Mike Hamlin will be starters within three seasons.

[Comment From Rob]
So the first week of camp is basically another OTA without pads?

Tim MacMahon: Not quite the first week, more like the first few days.

[Comment From Nic]
How serious do you think the "Razorback" formation set with Jones at QB is? Can we expect to see it during camp?

Tim MacMahon: Felix Jones isn't the QB in the Razorback. He's the RB with either Patrick Crayton or Tashard Choice (maybe Isaiah Stanback) at QB. If they're serious about it, we'll definitely see some of it during camp.

I think it's worth tinkering with for two reasons: 1) It's a way to take advantage of Felxi Jones' explosiveness; 2) it forces opposing defenses to take time out of their preparation for the Cowboys' regular offense.

Tim MacMahon: Got a little action on the field. They're kicking 37-yard field goals through mini goalposts (about 5 yards wide) set up on the 40-yard line.

Nick Folk's first field goal was good, but it ended up hitting DeMarcus Ware, who is with a group working on field goal defensive alignments on the other end of the field.

Make that they were kicking them. Now, they're just going through the motions.

Mat McBriar is the holder.

Tim MacMahon: Matt Stewart and L.P. Ladouceur are alternating as the long snapper. That's Stewart's only chance to make the team. It'll be tough to beat out L.P., who has been awfully good as a Cowboy. But Stewart can play other roles on special teams.

Tim MacMahon: They just a fire drill with Mat McBriar hitting John Phillips for a completion vs. air. Throwing the ball isn't McBriar's strength. Not much zip on that quacker.

[Comment From Rob]
Since you won't have much hitting, how useful is the camp for the OL and DL?

Tim MacMahon: Tony Romo just made a grand entrance, getting roars from the Alamodome crowd. Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton followed him out of the tunnel a minute later. Not sure why they couldn't take part in stretching with the rest of the team.

Might have been designing plays behind Jason Witten's back. That's a storyline I'll try to sensationalize this evening.

Tim MacMahon: OK, back to the question about hitting.

The offensive and defensive linemen go full speed in the trenches during training camp. They just don't hit below the waist. There's very little tackling, or at least that's been the case the last couple of years, but there is a lot of contact.

[Comment From Andrew]
If someone were planning a trip to San Antonio to watch some practices, is there a particular few days you'd recommend them coming?

Tim MacMahon: Definitely try to make it a weekend. The Cowboys will practice twice each Saturday and Sunday, although one of the workouts will be a walkthrough.

Tim MacMahon: Great news!!! Rowdy's tricked-out four-wheeler is burning up the Alamodome turf again!!!

[Comment From SJ]
Whats the latest on Sam Hurd?

Tim MacMahon: He's ready to roll.

[Comment From marcus]
Is pat watkins healthy and ready to go? Does he have a shot to earn a bigger role?

Tim MacMahon: Yes. And no.

Tim MacMahon: Oh, boy. The fire drill didn't look so hot with a defense out there. Mat McBriar bumped into David Buehler, then threw a duck over Jason Witten's head.

[Comment From skypartners]
Joe the strength coach has been in place for 12 years. We have not won a playoiff game since he's been on board. We fade every December/January and both lines and Romo seem tuckered out. It's like he has a collge season program in place.Why isn't this being more srutinized? Marcellis Wiley questioned him on ESPN and Mike Woicek S & C coach for us and the Pats now holds six s.b. rings. What do you and the fans think?

Tim MacMahon: I'm by no means an expert in strength and conditioning -- and have the gut to prove it -- but you present a solid case. I'd have to do some research before offering an informed opinion on the issue.

[Comment From JB]
Thoughts on where Hodge might fit in and whether he is expected to make the 53-man or not?

Tim MacMahon: Assuming Hodge gets healthy, I'd be very surprised if he didn't make the roster. The Cowboys drafted him to be a Keith Davis/Kenny Gant type of special teams star. They don't expect him to contribute at LB this season.

Tim MacMahon: Special teams work is over. Now on to passing lines and position warmup drills. We're still minutes away from any real action.

[Comment From Eric]
Talking of secondary? Should we be concerned about them this year?

Tim MacMahon: I see the secondary as the unit that improved the most this off-season.

[Comment From Rob]
Has anyone asked Tony about what went down with Jessica?

Tim MacMahon: Nope, but he hasn't met with the media yet. He's made it clear over the last couple of years with the regulars on the beat that his romantic life isn't open game, although he will grant the occasional interview to People Magazine.

Tim MacMahon: Some groans from the crowd when Sam Hurd dropped a pass. Big cheers when Jesse Holley caught one. Nice, twisting catch by coachable WR Roy Williams on an off-target throw by Stephen McGee didn't get much reaction.

Terence Newman is going through passing lines with the WRs, but that's not unusual.

Tim MacMahon: And now more stretching. These training camp practices are really worth the price of (free) admission.

[Comment From zbox]
Does it look like any of felix's speed or agility was lost because of his injuries last season?

Tim MacMahon: Didn't look that way at all during OTAs. He was running and cutting normally for him.

[Comment From juan]
What impact do you expect the new Cowboys stadium to have on the cowboys performance this season?

Tim MacMahon: None, no matter what Jerry Jones says.

Just like closing down Texas Stadium didn't impact what happened last season.

[Comment From SJ]
What should we expect from Mike Mickens?

Tim MacMahon: I'd expect him to compete for a job in the dime package. He was rusty during the rookie minicamp, but he said his knee didn't bother him at all. It was a minor setback that he had to miss all of the OTAs because of Cincy's class schedule. (DeAngelo Smith was able to participate because he had already graduated.)

[Comment From SJ]
What other position is David Buehler going to play?

Tim MacMahon: He could be on the punt coverage team and both return teams as a blocker.

[Comment From d]
do you see micheal hamlin beating out sensabaugh

Tim MacMahon: No, but that's because the coaches really like what they've seen from Sensabaugh.

Defense is doing pursuit drills now, offense running plays vs. air on the other end of the field.

Marion Barber got the first rep at RB.

[Comment From c1976]
Do any o-linemen other than Columbo have a "mean streak". Runnign the ball seems to be more a state of mind and you never hear any guys other thab Columbo labeled as nasty. We will go as far as our line takes us. Regardless of what Romo does...

Tim MacMahon: Flozell Adams isn't a particularly pleasant person.

Leonard Davis might be too nice, but I wouldn't say that to his face.

[Comment From MrGil29]
Do you really think we will carry 2 kickers on our roster the entire season?

Tim MacMahon: Yep.

[Comment From Curtis]
How many QB's are in camp?

Tim MacMahon: Four: Tony Romo, Jon Kitna, Stephen McGee and camp arm Rudy Carpenter.

[Comment From Casey]
My biggest off season hopeful was that we'd sign Olshanky, what are you expecting from him this season?

Tim MacMahon: I'd expect him to be a solid run stopper who comes off the field in the nickel and dime packages. He won't put up impressive numbers, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he isn't doing his job.

[Comment From Bigkat75]
Is there any need for concern with Nick Folk coming off of hip surgery?

Tim MacMahon: Not really. He's been kicking the ball for a few weeks and looks fine.

[Comment From jason]
what happened to stephen hodge and tim anderson?? do you know?

Tim MacMahon: Anderson had toe surgery this spring. Hodge had his knee scoped.

[Comment From mike m.]
does dixion have a chance to play on the d line this yr or next?

Tim MacMahon: Marcus Dixon has a shot, but he'll have to be good enough to convince the Cowboys to keep seven DL. I can't see them deciding to cut Stephen Bowen or Jason Hatcher to keep Dixon.

Tim MacMahon: More position drills.

DBs catching the ball out of their backpedal. RBs doing some sort of work with elastic chords. WRs doing a cone star circuit before catching passes. TEs working on the blocking sled. LBs working on pass-rush techniques. DL and OL working on coming off ball (separately).

[Comment From Scott]
Why do Jerry and Wade insist on coddling Romo?

Tim MacMahon: Jerry probably does it because he went so long without having a franchise QB, and he's got $67 million invested in the guy.

Wade probably does it because Jerry wants him to.

[Comment From JB]
What does Bobby Carpenter need to show during the preseason to keep his job?

Tim MacMahon: He'll be on the roster. The question is whether he'll hang on to his role as the nickel/dime LB.

He had a good camp last season. He needs to carry it over to the preseason games. The knock on him is that he's a finesse player, as Jerry let the HBO-watching world know, but he's been solid in pass coverage ... on the practice field.

[Comment From Casey]
How NOT serious is jerry about signing mike vick, i know you don't want to hold a spot for him, but this is JERRY JONES

Tim MacMahon: I don't see any possibility of the Cowboys signing Vick. I think this is more about Jerry Jones not wanting any speculation of Vick threatening Romo as it is about the PR hit.

[Comment From Kentro]
Does Manuel Johnson have the edge on Ogletree for a roster spot since he was drafted ?

Tim MacMahon: Not sure about that. Ogletree was working ahead of Johnson in OTAs. It's not like the Cowboys make a huge investment in a seventh-round pick.

Tim MacMahon: Rowdy is keeping the crowd entertained by launching T-shirts into the stands.

[Comment From Rob]
With Wade being the DC, will we see the defense move around before the snap like New England and Baltimore have done in the past.

Tim MacMahon: We've already seen it, especially in what they call their "Cowboy" package, a 3-3 look that used to have Greg Ellis lined up as a defensive end (now Anthony Spencer) with DeMarcus Ware doing a lot of roaming. Bradie James and Ware got loose for sacks out of that look a few times last season.

[Comment From casey]
Do you think our backup QB is improved over last year

Tim MacMahon: Very much so. Brad Johnson didn't have anything left in his arm. Jon Kitna still puts plenty of zip on the ball, and they're both heady veterans.

[Comment From Mike]
Who will be the backup to Ware and Spencer?

Tim MacMahon: It should be an interesting competition between Victor Butler and Brandon Williams to see which fourth-rounder will be the third OLB in the rotation. Really, it's about who will spell Anthony Spencer. DeMarcus Ware hardly ever comes off the field, and he surely won't hide behind the water cooler to let a rookie get some snaps.

[Comment From Rob]
What impact will Kitna have on Romo this year from a mentor standpoint

Tim MacMahon: According to Carson Palmer, whom Kitna took under his wing with the Bengals, it'll be a major impact if Romo is willing to listen.

[Comment From Steve]
Who are you most excited to see during camp this year Tim?

Tim MacMahon: 1. Mike Jenkins vs. Orlando Scandrick

2. Coachable WR Roy Williams developing rapport with Tony Romo

3. The emergence of Martellus Bennett (if he knows what he's doing)

[Comment From Roel]
Do you think T-New will return punts this year?

Tim MacMahon: Doubt that. Too much risk, especially considering his recent injury history, not enough reward.

[Comment From Bubbachewie]
Do you think adding Brooking will be enough to help in the run game this year?

Tim MacMahon: I think Keith Brooking will be a slight upgrade over Zach Thomas because of his comfort level in the scheme, but not a difference maker.

Some groans from the crowd when Roy Williams dropped an out route. Tony Romo threw the pass slightly behind him and ackowledged as much, but Williams needs to catch that ball.

On his next rep, the coachable WR went up high to snag another out route from Romo near the sideline.

For guys that worked together so much during the off-season, their timing doesn't look good, especially considering they're running routes vs. air.

Tim MacMahon: Just like old times: No. 81 dropped a ball. Crowd doesn't react nearly as much now that Mike Jefferson is wearing that jersey.

[Comment From Servy]
What kind of numbers do you expect to see Jason Witten put up this season, without a certain Bills wide receiver here anymore?

Tim MacMahon: I'm not sure Witten's numbers will be affected much. If anything, they might dip because he could see a lot more double coverage.

Roy Williams, the other WRs, Martellus Bennett and Felix Jones should all have significantly more catches than last season. (Not saying much in Felix's case.)

[Comment From Casey]
Could their be a fullback competition this training camp if the crosslin guy steps up?

Tim MacMahon: That's a possibility, but it's definitely Deon "Cricket" Anderson's job to lose and he helps his cause by being a core special teams player.

[Comment From Swift]
Do you think Romo is capable of cutting down on mistakes to the level required to do anything in the playoffs?

Tim MacMahon: Did you know that the two quarterbacks who met in the Super Bowl last season had as many or more turnovers than Romo?

My point is that QBs don't necessarily need to be mistake-free to succeed in the playoffs.

But I think the fact that Romo has acknowledged that cutting down turnovers is a good sign. It's a 180 from his attitude on the issue before.

Tim MacMahon: Seeing Felix and Barber on the field together. Felix lined up in the slot and motioned into the backfield with Barber lined up in the traditional RB spot. Whole bunch of possibilities with those two guys together (or Felix and Tashard Choice, for that matter).

Tim MacMahon: Martellus Bennett got some upclose attention from TE coach John Garrett after a play. Didn't look like another "high and tight" speech. It appeared that Garrett was trying to teach Bennett a finer point about coming out of his break on that particular route.

Tim MacMahon: It's just the skill guys running plays vs. air. I'll give updates on where the backup O-linemen are playing when they get out there.

[Comment From Little Twit]
Do you twitter, MacMahon?

Tim MacMahon: Yes, follow me @tmacmahon. Every post from our Mavs and Cowboys blogs pops up on my feed.

Got a quick break here. Hoping for some action afterward.

Tim MacMahon: And looks like we'll get it in the form of 7-on-7.

Tim MacMahon: First pass: Romo missing an open Witten on an out route. Witten got a step on Gerald Sensabaugh.

Tim MacMahon: Working in a two-TE package with Witten as the H-back. ... Dump off in the flat to Barber. ... Mike Jenkins is the corner opposite of Newman. ... Patrick Crayton at No. 2 WR. ... Romo to Witten on a short out for about a 4-yard gain in front of Bradie James. Romo didn't spend much time at all looking downfield.

Tim MacMahon: Martellus Bennett got wide open on a 10-yard out vs. second-team D. Looked like Orlando Scandrick got caught up in trash in the zone D. ... Next pass was a swing to Felix. ... Courtney Brown is the corner opposite Scandrick.

Tim MacMahon: Dump-off to Felix after Romo looked downfield for Miles Austin. He's yet to throw a ball to a wide receiver. ... Now Kitna with Isaiah Stanback and Mike Jefferson as the wide receivers. ... Hook to Jefferson, who could be in the mix for the No. 5 WR gig although I haven't been mentioning him. ...

Tim MacMahon: Miscommunication between Kitna and Jefferson on a crossing route resulted in a pick by Carrollton R.L. Turner's Mike Hawkins, who juggled a pass that hit him in the numbers. ... John Phillips getting the No. 3 TE reps. ... Kitna hit Kevin Ogletree on an out in front of Mike Mickens. Not sure Ogletreee had control of the ball before he went out of bounds. ... Dump in flat to Alona Coleman with Keith Brooking trailing him.

Tim MacMahon: Uh-oh. Martellus Bennett went down and is limping his way toward TE coach John Garrett. ... Drop by practice squad vet TE Rodney Hannah. ... Michael Irvin is in the house, but his boy Jesse Holley has yet to get a 7-on-7 rep. ... Stephen McGee put some mustard on a comeback that hit Willie Reid between the 1 and 5.

Tim MacMahon: Marty B's back out there with the starters now. Whoops. Dropped a pass over the middle from Romo. Looked like Romo expected Bennett to sit down in a soft spot and Bennett kept floating across the middle. ... Romo missed Witten on an intermediate out. ... Romo still hasn't thrown a pass to a WR in 7-on-7.

Tim MacMahon: Romo threw to a WR!!!! Nice, twisting catch by Patrick Crayton on a slant that was thrown behind him. ... Alan Ball at FS, Courtney Brown at CB. .... Speaking of Brown, he just made a leaping deflection of a Romo post route to Miles Austin, allowing fifth-round SS Mike Hamlin (14 career picks at Clemson) to make the diving rebound.

Tim MacMahon: Next 53-man roster projection will have Brown making the team. Looks like he's come into camp as the No. 4 corner. .... Isaiah Stanback just fought off Mike Mickens to make a catch on a comeback route . Mickens from all over Stanback, who stumbled coming out of his break. ...

Tim MacMahon: Haven't seen Orlando Scandrick get any reps with the 1s. Mike Jenkins apparently wasn't blowing blog smoke about that being his job to lose. ... Kitna dumpoff to Tashard Choice in the flat. ... Quick out to Kevin Ogletree with Jenkins playing about 10 yards off the ball.

Tim MacMahon: Nice catch by Bennett on the sideline. Kitna put the pass on the money, and Pat Watkins couldn't make the diving play.

Tim MacMahon: Rudy Carpenter keeps it conservative on his first rep, dumping it off to John Phillips on the flat. ... Jesse Holley got a couple of reps but no balls yet. ... Somebody screwed up to let Rodney Hannah get wide open near the sideline. Not sure if Orlando Scandrick or Alan Ball was supposed to pick him up. ... The 7-on-7 session ended without Roy Williams getting a ball thrown his way. The more things change, the more things stay the same, I reckon.

[Comment From LL Live]
OMG Tim...Sounds like Romo is off in his first the season over? has he llost his focus due to break-up with Jess? Should we just shut it down now? Is it too early to start booing and demand Jerry sign MV7?

Tim MacMahon: All excellent questions that I'll explore after practice.

[Comment From David_Solis]
DL how do they look?

Tim MacMahon: Like big guys doing a bunch of non-contact, non-competitive position drills.

Tim MacMahon: Offense running plays vs. air again. I'll give you the backup OL as soon as they get out there.

[Comment From GMoney]
I havent heard you mention rookie S Michael he getting reps ?

Tim MacMahon: He got some second-team reps, but not as many as Pat Watkins and Alan Ball.

[Comment From mffl]
Hey I thought you were gonna stop using the phrase "coachable" to describe Roy Williams? What's up Tim?

Tim MacMahon: Agreement was that I'd drop it if he doesn't use it the first week of camp ... and I won't pick it up again until he uses it again. ... The coachable WR is rocking the spandex shorts look today, for those interested in fashion. Just caught a hitch route vs. air from Romo.

[Comment From SixFiveCowboy]
Do you think that Romo is just rusty or should we all act as if the sky is falling LOL

Tim MacMahon: Backup OL: RT Pat McQuistan, RG Ryan Gibbons, C Corey Procter, LG Montrae Holland, LT Doug Free. ... It'll be interesting to monitor the second- and third-team center reps, at least for those who care about bottom of the roster churning.

Tim MacMahon: As far as Romo goes, one day can be chalked up to rust. Let's wait until at least August before running him out of town.

[Comment From Phillip]
Was Romo throwing floaters or were they crisp?

Tim MacMahon: Crisp, just not on target.

[Comment From tcross]
what was wrong with Marty B?

Tim MacMahon: Whatever it was, it wasn't serious. He was back in there pretty quickly.

Tim MacMahon: Jon Kitna just overthrew Miles Austin on a post route. Never saw that from Brad Johnson.

[Comment From Guest]
Do you realize how rediculous this chat is? You already have Roy Williams being a non-factor, and Romo being a poor passer.

Tim MacMahon: Really? All I've done is reported what happened during one 7-on-7 session, not drawn any grand conclusions based off of it.

Tim MacMahon: Stephen McGee hit Isaiah Stanback in stride on a deep ball. .... Cory Procter getting center reps with the third team, too. Not good news for Ryan Gibbons' roster chances.

[Comment From SixFiveCowboy]
Tim, Does Roy-Dub look as bad running his routes as guys like Deion Sanders says he is?

Tim MacMahon: Deion Sanders, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin are all pretty qualified to discuss the finer points of route running. And they've all been critical of Roy Williams in that department.

[Comment From the dude]
How do Hurd and Austin look coming back from being banged up?

Tim MacMahon: They both appear to be 100 percent.

Tim MacMahon: Ryan Gibbons is now getting some reps at center. All his fans can breathe a big sigh of relief.

Tim MacMahon: Nice catch by Roy Williams on an out route near the sideline. Romo's throw wobbled some and was a bit low, but Williams snatched it while tapping his feet inbounds. .... Screen to Felix, a play I'd like to see on a regular basis this season.

[Comment From Leo]
Is there going to be any kind of quarterback controversies with Romo and Kitna?

Tim MacMahon: Nope. Kitna embraces his role as a backup and mentor.

Tim MacMahon: Bunch of boos after a false start. Looked like there were a few culprits, so might have been a cadence issue. Nobody was replaced, which was what happened after false starts during OTAs and minicamp. ... Another Romo/Roy connection!!! This one was a crossing route.

[Comment From Pac-Man]
What about the backup nose tackle position. We signed this guy Jonas Seawright earlier this offseason. Who is projected to be Jay Ratliff's backup during the regular season?

Tim MacMahon: That's Junior Siavii's job to lose. Igor Olshansky and Marcus Spears can both play NT in a pinch.

[Comment From Mitch]
How many annoying TO and Jessica questions have been floating around camp today?

Tim MacMahon: Only ones I've seen or heard have been from folks in this chat.

By the way, a reminder: If you want to comment, do that in the regular comments section at the bottom of the post. I'll take some questions in the chat, but I can't get to nearly every one and can't approve comments here.

[Comment From JP]
How is Stephen McGee looking?

Tim MacMahon: Solid first day so far for the seventh best QB in the Big 12 South last season.

He hasn't gotten a lot of reps, but his passes have been on the money with zip. He hit Isaiah Stanback in stride on a deep ball vs. air.

[Comment From Kyle Pocalyuko]
has there been any formations involving the razorback offense yet?

Tim MacMahon: Not yet.

[Comment From Gary]
Do you think there is still lingering issues with Romo's pinkie?

Tim MacMahon: No. He had some good days during OTAs and minicamp. The pinkie isn't a concern.

[Comment From Mike]
Newman been out there?

Tim MacMahon: Yep, but he didn't get any balls thrown his direction during 7-on-7 work.

Tim MacMahon: Another Kitna display of arm strength: Putting a post route to Isaiah Stanback on the money. Ball traveled 57 yards in the air.

[Comment From Phillip]
Was Roy W. getting open or just ignored?

Tim MacMahon: I didn't focus on him every play, so I can't say that he never got open. It's worth mentioning, though, that Wade Phillips has made a point on a handful of occasions of saying that Williams is the type of big, strong receiver who doesn't necessarily need separation to make catches. Williams has pleaded for Romo to trust him to make plays when he's working against smaller DBs.

Tim MacMahon: Montrae Holland is getting some center reps with Rudy Carpenter. .... The crowd goes wild when Jesse Holley catches a ball from Carpenter on an out route.

[Comment From David Cantu]
Kyle Kosier back on the field?

Tim MacMahon: Yep, he's the starting left guard.

[Comment From Guest]
I refuse to get worried about Romo and Williams until at 4PM. How does Miles Austin look?

Tim MacMahon: Miles Austin looks healthy, but he's done nothing noteworthy today. Courtney Brown blanketed Austin on a post route, deflecting Romo's pass, leading to a Mike Hamlin pick.

[Comment From cowboyfan]
Haven't read much about Sam Hurd? Is he practicing today?

Tim MacMahon: He's practicing, too, and also hasn't done anything noteworthy. Then again, we've only had one 7-on-7 session. Nothing else has been competitive.

Tim MacMahon: Romo and Roy Williams couldn't connect on a deep ball vs. air. Williams' body language after the ball hit the turf wasn't exactly enthusiastic.

[Comment From Bill]
Did Choice get any action yet?

Tim MacMahon: Limited action. He's obviously the third horse in the stable, but I think he'll have a role throughout the season. And he's obviously proven he's capable if either of the other two guys gets hurt. ... Romo hit Manny Johnson in stride on a post route. Kitna overthrew Stanback on a deep route.

[Comment From yoda]
better than hurd, jesse holley he is?

Tim MacMahon: Nope, no matter what Michael Irvin says.

[Comment From Taylor]
Tim, has anyone ever called you an optimist? As a follower of this blog, I have rarely seen anything optimistic come from your writing. Why can't you be a little positive about things?

Tim MacMahon: I was considered pretty positive when the Cowboys were 12-1 a couple of seasons ago. Not so much when they've been the NFL's biggest underachievers since then. Funny how that works.

Tim MacMahon: Practice over. Gotta go.

Jerry Jones: 'Its the best thing for the Cowboys to have Wade as our head coach'

Tim MacMahon/Blogger

It wasn't long after the commercial portion of Built Ford Tough Dallas Cowboys Training Camp-opening press conference ended that Jerry Jones expressed the utmost confidence in his head coach.

"I want to emphasize this," Jerry said. "I'm so solid in my thinking that by having Wade Phillips as our head coach and what he brings with his experience and what he brings to the table with his experience as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, with his full perspective of his first year as head coach and his second year as head coach, I like that mix. I like that combination of not only his skill but what he brings to the table, and I like what our players see when he steps up there as our head coach."

Jerry vowed the week of the season finale that Phillips would return this season. He stuck to his guns after the Philly Flop, perhaps the most humiliating loss in franchise history, even after Mike Shanahan surprisingly hit the open market.

"There was no wavering because I know it's the best thing for the Dallas Cowboys to have Wade Phillips as our head coach," Jerry said.

That confidence isn't reflected in Phillips' contract status, however. The Cowboys have not picked up an option to extend his deal for the 2010 season. When asked about that, Jerry launch into a soliloquy that boiled down to saying it's none of our business, but Phillips would be back if the Cowboys are successful.

"I don't worry about my job," Phillips said. "I worry about the job I'm doing."

DMN Blog: Early injury report

Todd Archer/Reporter

When the Cowboys report for their first practice on Wednesday, left guard Kyle Kosier will be ready and with the first team.

Kosier missed all but three games last season because of a foot injury and he did not take part in the organized team activities or mini-camp as he continued to rehab from surgery.

The only players expected to be unable to practice because of injury are: nose tackle Tim Anderson, who had toe surgery in May, right tackle Robert Brewster, who remains unsigned after suffering a torn pectoral muscle earlier in the month, and linebacker Stephen Hodge, who had June knee surgery.

Hodge, however, could be back by the end of the week. Wide receiver Isaiah Stanback will also practice after having knee surgery early in the OTAs. Fellow wide outs Sam Hurd and Miles Austin, who had leg injuries that kept them out of most of the OTAs, will be back too. Austin and Patrick Crayton were playing catch Tuesday.

Not on the report was kicker Nick Folk. He had hip surgery in May but has been cleared for everything.

"He's been kicking for a while now," coach Wade Phillips said. "And he's been making them too."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cowboys released WR Travis Wilson

Wilson, the Browns' third-round pick in 2006, injured his knee during OTAs and likely needed surgery. He was probably never going to make the roster.

Winners, losers from 2008 NFC East drafts

Posted by's Matt Mosley

As teams in the Beast attempt to sign their 2009 rookies, let's take a look back at the division's '08 class heading into training camp. Every team found an immediate impact player in '08, but in some cases, those players came from unlikely places.

Redskins safety Chris Horton was taken in the seventh round, but he quickly became a starter. Of course, we all know the early returns on the Skins' second-round receivers -- and tight end -- are shaky at best.

We'll go team by team and see which players are prepared to make the biggest leaps in '09. And let's also find out who's feeling the heat in terms of making the roster. Special thanks to NFC West blogger Mike Sando for coming up with this idea:

Dallas Cowboys

2008 picks: 6

Projected 2009 starters: (2) Cornerback Mike Jenkins, a first-round pick out of South Florida and RB Felix Jones, a first-round pick out of Arkansas (I think the Cowboys want to return Marion Barber to his closer's role).

Potential starters: (1) Cornerback Orlando Scandrick, a fifth-round pick out of Boise State definitely could beat out Jenkins. He made a quicker adjustment to the NFL last season and he's shown absolutely no fear. You could also see Martellus Bennett starting when the Cowboys open with two tight ends. He'll play enough to be considered a "starter."

On the hot seat: Jenkins is definitely the guy on the hot seat. He's remembered mostly for running away from Giants running back Derrick Ward last season. Jenkins has the elite speed and athleticism, but he had to take the next step in terms of grasping the defense. I think Scandrick's the better player right now.

No longer with the team: Linebacker Erik Walden of Middle Tennessee State joined the Cowboys' South Florida affiliate -- otherwise known as the Dolphins. He played in 15 games and did a nice job on special teams.

Keep an eye out for: The steal of this draft was running back Tashard Choice in the fourth round. He kept the Cowboys afloat last season when Barber and Jones were hurt. He could become a very valuable complementary back. And he can be more than that if anyone gets banged up. It's a tremendous luxury to have a player like Choice as a reserve.

New York Giants

2008 picks: 7

Projected 2009 starters: (1) First-round pick S Kenny Phillips out of Miami.

Potential starters: (1) Bryan Kehl out of BYU was a fourth-round pick who made a couple of spot starts last season at weakside linebacker. He had an interception in the win over the Steelers. Depending on what happens with Michael Boley's hip injury, Kehl definitely could be in the mix. I don't see him as a starter long term, but he's not someone who will hurt you.

On the hot seat: Wide receiver Mario Manningham is a player GM Jerry Reese was really excited about. He's going to have a huge opportunity to shine in camp while rookies Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden try to figure out the offense.

No longer with the team: You might not have realized it, but former Southern Miss defensive end Robert Henderson is still on the roster. An ankle injury in the preseason knocked him out for the '08 season. I think it's obvious that quarterback Andre Woodson's days with this team are numbered. He spent last season on the practice squad -- except for one week. He's a project player who hasn't really shown a ton of improvement.

Keep an eye out for: As I've said several times this offseason, Phillips is poised to have a breakout season. I think he's a playmaker who could end up in the Pro Bowl this season. And cornerback Terrell Thomas came on strong after he was slowed by injury at the start of the '08 season. He's a playmaker who will make a valuable contribution in the nickel.

Philadelphia Eagles

2008 picks: 10

Projected 2009 starters: (2) Second-round pick WR DeSean Jackson out of Cal and fourth-round pick S Quintin Demps out of UTEP.

Potential starters: Already named

On the hot seat: I don't think he's really on the hot seat, but defensive tackle Trevor Laws needs to be more productive this season. The former Notre Dame star was their top overall pick in the '08 draft. He had a fumble recovery late in the season against Dallas, but the Eagles need him to become a key part of the rotation. He's not there yet.

No longer with the team: Andy Studebaker, a defensive end out of Wheaton College is now with the Chiefs.

Keep an eye out for: I'm interested to see how former fourth-round pick Mike McGlynn, an offensive lineman, responds to a torn hamstring that he suffered in the playoffs against the Vikings. I think another former fourth-round pick, Jack Ikegwuonu, will be an interesting player to watch in camp. The defensive back hurt his knee leading up to the '08 campaign, but the Eagles liked his potential. He could be a camp surprise.

Washington Redskins

2008 picks: 10

Projected 2009 starters: (1) Safety Chris Horton should once again be starting opposite LaRon Landry.

Potential starters: (1) If Devin Thomas has a breakout training camp and preseason, there's always a chance he could challenge Antwaan Randle El for that No. 2 receiver role. I think Thomas will be vastly improved, but I don't see him as the starter.

On the hot seat: Well, you could start with the guy we just discussed. Thomas has all the tools you want from a receiver, but we'll have to see if he can take it to the field. Second-round pick Fred Davis showed some immaturity last season. He needs to grow up and become a complementary player to fellow tight end Chris Cooley. And who knows what to expect from wide receiver Malcolm Kelly? I'm not holding my breath on him.

No longer with the team: The punter from the sixth round, Durant Brooks, is long gone. The Skins gave him every opportunity to stick, but he wasn't ready for prime time.

Keep an eye out for: I'm very interested in seeing how offensive lineman Chad Rinehart (third round) and cornerback J.T. Tryon (fourth) look in this training camp. Longtime offensive line coach Joe Bugel didn't think much of Rinehart after the season, but he's since said that the player's shown a lot of improvement in the offseason. Tryon wasn't close to contributing in '08, but secondary coach Jerry Gray says he's getting there. Those are two players who everyone will be watching closely. Right now, it seems like Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato hit on one player in the seventh round. But that can change this season.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cowboys cast wary eye at the Alamodome turf

By Tom Orsborn - Express-News One big tradeoff.

That's how Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Patrick Crayton views training camp in San Antonio.

For all of the benefits the Cowboys gain from spending three weeks in the Alamo City — its proximity to Dallas, the air-conditioned Alamodome, the abundance of adoring fans — there's a negative Crayton says can't be ignored.

Practice on a turf field.

“It beats your knees up, man, wears them down,” Crayton said last month at minicamp.

Other players echoed Crayton's thoughts on returning to San Antonio, where the club also trained in 2002, 2003 and 2007. Dallas practiced outdoors last year in Oxnard, Calif., on natural grass.

“That's really the only con about San Antonio,” linebacker Bradie James said of the dome's turf.

NFL players have long held there's a serious connection between knee injuries and turf.

“There's a strong perception among the players that there is more soreness and muscle fatigue after playing on artificial surfaces,” said orthopedist Mark Drakos, sports medicine fellow at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “There does seem to be a higher risk on the artificial surfaces.”

In a 2004 survey conducted by the NFL Players Association, 91.2 percent of the 1,514 players polled said they thought artificial turf would be more likely to contribute to injury than natural grass. Nearly 97 percent said they thought playing on artificial turf caused more soreness and fatigue.

“It's just part of the job,” Crayton said. “Everybody in the league has it now. You have a few natural grass fields, but, for the most part, it's field turf, because you don't have to maintain it. It's cheaper.”

The dome received a new state-of-the-art removable turf system in April. It features rubber infill and 21/4-inch tall blades with two different widths and shades of green to better mimic real grass.

Drakos, a former Harvard football player who has served as a consultant for the New York Giants on matters concerning turf and injuries, said the new field should decrease the risk of injury.

“Every evolution of (artificial turf) has gotten better, and they are getting closer and closer to the gold standard,” Drakos said. “This version more closely replicates grass.”

But that's not to discount the players' concerns. And the Cowboys do have a history of suffering knee injuries at the Alamodome.

In August 2002, former tight end/long snapper Jeff Robinson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a blocking drill. Former receiver Terry Glenn missed all but one regular season game in 2007 after undergoing a pair of surgeries to repair injuries to his right knee, including one sustained on the fifth day of camp.

Drakos said it's imperative the Cowboys' coaches and athletic trainers monitor the players closely, especially during two-a-days.

Coach Wade Phillips has scheduled eight days of double practices — 11 if you count three days with morning walkthroughs.

Phillips typically allows players with surgically repaired knees, especially older veterans, to participate in only one of the double sessions.

“They should definitely be aware of any strain on the players' legs and adjust accordingly,” Drakos said. “I'd also make sure the turf is kept up well, meaning that it's even and brushed routinely to prevent creation of holes.”

Wearing proper shoes can also reduce the risk of injury, he said.

“Shoe-surface interaction can play a role in injury,” Drakos said. “It's not just the turf.”

James said the players will be ready for the dome's turf after the club held all of its offseason workouts at a high school stadium with artificial turf in Carrollton.

The Cowboys normally practice during the offseason on grass at team headquarters in Irving, but that field is being repaired following the collapse of the indoor training facility in May.

“Guys have gotten used to (practicing on turf), although I don't know if you can ever really get used to it,” James said. “It's just something you got to deal with. But I'd rather take that than work outdoors, where it's a million degrees.”

DMN Blog: Robert Brewster to miss season

By Todd Archer/Reporter

Right tackle Robert Brewster's rookie season has ended before it could really begin.
Brewster, a third-round pick, had surgery earlier this month to repair a torn pectoral muscle suffered in off-season workouts after the June mini-camp.
"I can't even tell you how disappointed he is," Brewster's agent, Cliff Brady said. "The only thing that might be OK about it is that O-lineman generally don't play a lot that first yerar anyway. If he can be around and learn, that may be helpful. He may not miss too too much, especially since he'll be working out. I'm trying to keep him positive, 'Look, let's just take this year to work on you and your body and learn the system. You can miss a lot or as little as possible depending on how smart you are.' He's a smart kid. He just wants to play so bad."
Brewster did not miss a game in four years at Ball State, where he earned All-Mid American Conference honors his last two years. In the organized team activities and mini-camp Brewster played mostly right tackle although he was expected to see time at guard as well.

While he has yet to sign his contract, the Cowboys have to sign him to a contract that falls in line with players selected around him in the draft. Once he signs, he will have to be on the roster at some point but he could be put on the physically unable to perform list.

DMN Blog: Cowboys agree to terms with three more rookies

By Todd Archer/Reporter

With players scheduled to report to San Antonio in less than 24 hours, the Cowboys have reached agreements on four-year contracts with three more rookies - Texas Tech's Brandon Williams, safety Mike Hamlin and kicker David Buehler - leaving three more to sign before Wednesday's first practice.

Third-rounders Jason Williams and Robert Brewster as well as quarterback Stephen McGee have yet to agree to contracts.

With Greg Ellis cut, the Cowboys are counting on Williams and Victor Butler to produce as pass rushers as rookies. Williams is converting from defensive end at Texas Tech to outside linebacker and impressed Wade Phillips in the organized team activities and mini-camp with his natural pass rush. He was a first-team All-Big 12 pick after leading the conference with 11 sacks in 2008.

Hamlin, who is represented by Dallas-based agent, Jordan Woy, started a school-record 43 games at Clemson and his 14 interceptions are third-most in Tigers' history. At 6-2, 214 pounds, Hamlin will play mostly strong safety, however, he does have range in coverage. He will also be counted on to contribute to special teams.

Buehler was the Cowboys' most intriguing selection because they already had a Pro Bowler in Nick Folk. But Buehler will do more than just kick off. The plan is for him to play some other special teams' spots, but kicking off will be his specialty where he had 69 touchbacks at Southern Cal. Folk did not have a touchback last season and is coming off off-season hip surgery.

Butler, DeAngelo Smith, John Phillips, Stephen Hodge, Mike Mickens and Manuel Johnson agreed to contracts last Friday.

National Football Post: Ware Is Expected To Finalize New Contract During Camp...

Everyone in the league is expecting the Cowboys to finalize a deal for DeMarcus Ware now that Terrell Suggs has done his huge deal. I suspect this will happen at some point during camp, as I hear the Cowboys seem to understand what it will take to get a deal done.

Five Downs With Football Outsiders: Can the Cowboys count on Terence Newman?

By Tim MacMahon/Blogger

Bill Barnwell, a contributing editor at and one of the minds behind the must-read Football Outsiders Almanac 2009, will answer five Cowboys questions each week of the season using the FO data and methodologies. As a bonus -- and a way to plug the book, which is now on sale -- here's a pre-training camp edition:

1) You made a compelling case in the book about the drastic difference a healthy Terence Newman makes for the Dallas defense. He'll be 31 by the season opener and has been hobbled the last two years. What are the odds that he can stay healthy this season?

- We're not at the point yet where we can say that a particular player has, say, a 75 percent chance of playing 16 games, but there's reason to believe that Newman should be able to make it through a full season as the Cowboys' starter. It's not like he's Chad Pennington; Newman made it through the first 64 starts of his career without missing a game, and there's every reason to believe that the surgery he during last season cleared up the groin issues he was facing.

If Newman plays like he did after he returned from his groin injury last year, the Cowboys would go from a good pass defense to a great one.

2) The FO metrics confirm the obvious: Roy Williams had a miserable 2008 season. What are realistic expectations for him as the Cowboys' clear-cut No. 1 WR this season?

Our projections for Williams aren't really that impressive -- 67 catches (on 118 attempts), 982 yards, and 9 TD.

That seems like it would be a disappointment on the surface, but it's actually a pretty reasonable expectation when you consider the factors that go into the projection. They include:

- Our expectation that the Cowboys will run the ball more in 2009, thanks to the emergence of Tashard Choice and Felix Jones last year

- Williams' history of injuries -- he's played 16 games in a season only once as a professional

- The nature of his performances -- Cowboys fans with stars in their eyes look at Williams' 82-catch, 1310-yard performance in 2006, but that was Williams' only healthy season as a pro, and it came in Mike Martz's pass-happy offensive scheme. Williams was thrown 151 passes that year, far more than he received in any other season. Expecting him to get 151 attempts this year seems unlikely.

If we take Williams' career totals and then scale them to a 16-game season, he's averaged 64 catches, 933 yards, and 7 TD per season as a pro. That appears to be his level of performance, and the hopes that he'll take a huge step forward rest are just those -- hopes.

3) You refer to Igor Olshansky as "a modest upgrade on Chris Canty at a much cheaper price," but Canty was better in almost every FO metric last season. What makes you think that Olshansky is the better player?

Our defensive metrics are dependent upon context, though, and Canty benefited from having DeMarcus Ware behind him. Olshansky's looked better in the past when Shawne Merriman was on the field. I'm not expecting Olshansky to be a revelation or the team's player of the year or anything, just a solid player at a good price.

4) Is it premature to anoint Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice as one of the NFL's elite running back committees? And how would you recommend the Cowboys use their running back trio?

I have pretty heretical views on running backs, to be honest. All the research we do -- things like the historical rate of return on draft picks and salary cap spending, the effects of injuries on a team, and our analysis of replacement-level -- indicates that running backs are an incredibly overvalued species. Outside of elite guys, most running backs appear to be pretty fungible. Sure, I'd rather have Brandon Jacobs inside the tackles and Felix Jones outside of them, but if I got to choose, I'd rather have the best offensive line in the league and a league-average back than the other way around.

If we're looking strictly at the talent of a team's running backs, though ... I can't really think of a better trio than Dallas'. Carolina's one-two punch is better, but there's no better grouping 1-3 than what Dallas has.

How I would use them? I'd just make sure they each get rest. We've done research proving that using a back on multiple carries in a row to get into a "rhythm" doesn't work, so while I'm comfortable with Dallas running the ball with multiple carries in a row, I'd like to see them mix it up more. Using Jones and Barber in the same backfield should stretch defenses to their wits' end, creating opportunities for Jason Witten off play-action.

If I was really thinking out of the box, what about an option with Isaiah Stanback at QB, Barber as the upback, and Jones as the halfback?

5) Gerald Sensabaugh replaces Roy Williams/Pat Watkins/Keith Davis. Mike Jenkins and/or Orlando Scandrick replace Anthony Henry. How much better will the Cowboys' secondary be?

Once Terence Newman returned to health last year, the Cowboys had the second-best pass defense in the NFL. That was with essentially the same personnel as they'll line up this year, as Henry was a relative non-factor, Adam Jones had already spiralled out of the starting lineup, and Sensabaugh should be an upgrade on the flotsam that was lined up at safety next to Ken Hamlin.

It all depends on the pass rush, to be honest. Dallas had the best pass rush in the league last year by a fair amount -- our Adjusted Sack Rate metric (which adjusts for quality of offense as well as the number of pass attempts against) had them with sacks on 9.9% of dropbacks, beating out second-place Minnesota, who were at 9%. That's probably an unsustainably-high figure -- teams around that level in the past have fallen back in the subsequent year -- so even if the secondary actually performs at a higher level, even a minor decrease in the pass rush could negate the improved performance.