Formerly an email newsletter about all things NFL, it's now a blog about all things NFL, but mostly all things Dallas Cowboys. Probably with a dose of politics, food, and college football.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Boulware a gamble Cowboys should have taken?

Maybe Jerry Jones is five times bitten, six times shy. Maybe they've been burned too many times before trying to re-catch lightning in a bottle.

Dallas signed Marcellus Wiley last year to rush the passer and he was an epic bust.

They've drafted pass rushers early, like Kavika Pittman and Shante Carver, and the only people who've ever even heard of those two are Cowboys fans. They tried Broderick Thomas, and he wasn't a horrible player, but had little impact on the pass rush.

They hoped Kevin Hardy had something left in the tank after major knee surgery, but he didn't.

So after missing all of 2004 with knee and toe injuries, and being 30 years old, Dallas (and every other team) passed on LB Peter Boulware. Boulware just re-signed with the Ravens who cut him last spring for salary cap reasons.

According to si.com, "The contract was expected to be a one-year deal worth $1 million with an additional $1 million in incentives."

That, and more, is well within the Cowboys' budget, and may have been a good gamble. Boulware was a good player. He was surrounded by other good players but was capable of making big plays on his own. He had 10 or more sacks three times in seven years, something Dallas hasn't had in nearly a decade. He's forced 13 fumbles in his career. The turnover starved Cowboys could use such impact.

With the switch to the 3-4, he could have been a nice fit as a backup and mentor to DeMarcus Ware, and a good insurance policy if Ware were injured.

It's hindsight, and I'm not beating up the org for not signing him, but at the price he got from Baltimore, I would have been pleased to have him be a Cowboy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Deep and talented: Running back

I don’t play fantasy football, but I did look at ESPN’s fantasy draft results for leagues that have already held their draft. Julius Jones’s average draft spot is 21st.

Shrug.

I guess that’s about right. He had a great 7 games to finish last season, but he’s unproven, and the Dallas offense is questionable.

But what’s not right is that Lions RB Kevin Jones average draft spot is 8th, and Will McGahee’s average spot is 12th. What do those two players, and their teams, have going for them that Juli Jones does not?

Julius is good. Fast and powerful. I have high expectations for him this season.

How many other RB’s Dallas keeps, and which ones, hasn’t been decided. If they keep a fullback, it will only be one, and it’s really inconsequential which one as they run out of a one-back set a lot, or motion the TE into the backfield to block.

Dallas did waste a draft pick on Marion Barber III. Barber looked OK against Arizona and the reports from camp are mixed but generally favorable. But it was a wasted pick because he doesn’t seem to be an upgrade over ReShard Lee, who Dallas cut this offseason. Lee got in Parcells’ dog hotel and couldn’t get out, no matter how many yards per carry he averaged.

The rage of camp is undrafted free agent Tyson Thompson. Thompson showed off his blazing speed by repeatedly getting to and turning the corner against Arizona‘s 3rd team defense. He looked like he had some skeels and appears to be a lock to make the team.

The last candidate is Anthony Thomas, formerly of the Bears. Thomas has experience and has rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season. He didn’t play much against Arizona, but looked like the 4th best back on the squad.

If something happens to Jones this year, Dallas is in a much better position to still have a viable running game than they were last year when they had decrepit Ed George for half the season.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Kidding themselves

This weeks lies, damn lies, and statistics.

"A couple of times, I was able to get to my No. 4 progression and I didn't have anybody open," said Bledsoe, who was sacked twice and fumbled.

Romo replaced Bledsoe and completed his first five passes. The numbers don’t tell the story though. The most striking thing was how fast Romo got the ball out, relative to Bledsoe. Romo didn’t seem to have problem finding his #1 progression, usually Witten, and even when Witten was covered.

"We wanted to get this running game going," said Bledsoe

They ran 6 times while Bledsoe was in. Bledsoe threw 8 passes and was sacked twice for a total of 10 passing plays.

"When we get into a game like that, where the defense puts eight men in the box and put our receivers into one-on-one matchups outside, you can expect us to be on the attack," Bledsoe said.

Six, seven, eight in the box, it didn’t matter. Bledsoe got nothing going. Of the 18 plays for the first team offense, the Cardinals put 8 men in the box on 4 of them. One was on 3rd and short, two others were runs, and on the one pass play when Arizona put 8 in the box, Bledsoe was immediately sacked and fumbled after a five step drop.

Don’t blame some phantom 8-in-the-box defense for your crappy play.

Finally, Mick Spagnola, from Cowboys PR:

There are a few things you must understand. For a first preseason game, the Cardinals sure did a lot of blitzing.

Define a lot. Three times they blitzed, twice Dallas ran, and the third time they had a screen on, which lost yardage not because of the bltiz, but because the Dallas OL is incapable of successfully executing a screen.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Offense: Anybody got a play for 3rd and 50?

Off. Bad. Sour. Stale. Rotten.

Past its sell-by date.

All synonyms for rancid, which is the first word I’d use to describe the Cowboys effort against Arizona. The Cowboys have gone bad, and they’re not coming back.

I’m sure this corpse can be prettied up and made so the smell can’t immediately be detected. Weaknesses will be covered up or schemed around. They’ll win some games. They have a few superior players.

Julius Jones. Jason Witten. Mat McBriar.

McBriar’s the punter, by the way. Damn fine one, too.

But this squad is bad where it really matters – the line.

Again, Andre Gurode. Parcells must have moved him to Center to just give him one last chance. He was a bad RG. He was terrible at C last night.

I’m watching with Tivo, and I’m replaying every play 2-3 times, and I can sense my wife is about to give me the, “are you going to watch the whole game this way?” With the perfunctory eye roll and/or groan.

Instead, she gave me, “you really like Tivo don’t you?”

Right then, Gurode tackles a guy and I say, “that’s going to be holding, number 65.” Mike Carey says those same words and I tell her I didn’t even need Tivo for that one.

Thing is, Gurode wasn’t even the worst OL in the game last night. That had to be RT Torrin Tucker, who somehow started 13 games last year.

In case anyone thinks I was joking about 3rd and 50, check this series of plays after the Cowboys actually got something going, and had 1st and 10 at the Cardinal 15 early in the second half:

Holding by Tucker. 1st and 20.

Holding by Tucker. 1st and 30.

Run for minus 4. 2nd and 34.

Run for minus 1. 3rd and 35

False start by Crayton. 3rd and 40

Holding by Peterman. 3rd and 50

Meaningless preseason? Meaningless 2nd/3rd team results? I’d hang on to that if the 1st team had done anything. But they netted 12 yards their first five series.

Larry Allen makes one block and quits. Marco Rivera was not bad, but not really good either. They have no Center. After they mercifully got Gurode out of the game, Al Johnson was flattened on one play where he was pulling. Even the Cowboys announcers said he got creamed. They started a rookie at RT, and he played awful.

Flozell Adams wasn’t horrible.

The OL is full of average to downright bad players. There will be no turnaround for this group. Even the players with some talent, like Allen and Adams, are either unmotivated, over-the-hill or otherwise disinterested. They are past their sell-by date.

Hard to say about Rivera. He wasn’t a turnstyle, but he didn’t show much either.

After that, there is a steep drop in talent that I don’t think can be schemed around.

Here are some possible solutions that might make this season bearable to watch but still ultimately unsuccessful:

Find a Center on the waiver wire.

Run the ball a whole lot

Use three step drops almost exclusively.

Defense: Kurt Warner doesn’t believe in God. He is God!

Dallas is switching to a 3-4 defense this year, and they were without their most important player and biggest offseason acquisition, NT Jason Ferguson.

But that’s just looking for an excuse. There wasn’t anything to get excited about with this defense. They were solid against the run, but that was probably due to an active LB corps and a good tackling secondary.

That’s nice, but that’s it.

The DL got no push in the run or passing game.

Kurt Warner went 14-19 for a million yards against the first team.

NT La’Roi Glover plugged the middle, but got no push. He’s probably miscast as a NT, even though he’s played it before.

I’m not sure Greg Ellis played because his name wasn’t called. Actually, I know this overrated crybaby did play, and he went backwards a lot. He’s often given too much credit for his pass rushing skills by the Dallas coaches, media and fans. He gets his sacks because he has a good motor and he’ll chase a guy down. He’s the guy that picks up the coverage sacks. But he’s much too slow to be a factor on his own, and gets double-teamed much less often than he and the team claim.

I called him a crybaby because he whined about this switch to the 3-4 because he’s undersized for it.

Dallas was also without first round draft pick DL Marcus Spears. Most of the other ends and tackles played without distinction. One, rookie Jay Ratliff, did get some push from the DE spot and could be a sleeper-type player. He was a 7th round pick, and people love Ellis, but I can see Ratliff, or other rookies Spears or Chris Canty gaining the starting DE job on the left side.

Rookie LB and #1 pick DeMarcus Ware was a big disappointment. He was OK against the run, but was nowhere in the pass rush. He was supposed to be an impact player. I don’t think he had to learn any scheme or responsibilities to be a factor on 3rd and long. Get to the QB. He didn’t get near him.

He has a lot to learn too. There were several plays where he didn’t move his feet. He locked up with the OT and just wrestled with him. He played like he was tired.

Arizona didn’t have many (any) really big plays. They got good yardage on two plays, one that looked like busted coverage by new FS Keith Davis, and the other on a fluky diving grab on a poorly thrown ball.

Otherwise it was a lot of short passing with Warner checking his watch while looking for an open receiver. I was not unhappy with the Dallas LB’s or DB’s generally.