NFL fans across the nation are gearing up for what has become a summer tradition for many. NFL training camps are just two weeks away from starting on college campuses and practice fields in a neighborhood near you.
While I, like many, can hardly contain myself with excitement that we are approaching a new NFL season, many NFL clubs have questions that still remain unanswered.
Will Brett Favre come out of retirement again? How will Tom Brady’s knee hold up throughout the season? Can Eli Manning survive without Plaxico Burress? Are the Dallas Cowboys better without Terrell Owens?
The 2008 Dallas Cowboys were nothing short of a disappointment. Injuries dashed hopes of any type of Super Bowl run early in the season when Tony Romo broke his pinky finger and Marion Barber bruised every possible body part.
Owens was made the scapegoat for an underachieving offense as his numbers struggled without Romo calling the signals.
Rookie sensation Felix Jones was amazing before injuring his hamstring, hampering a potent one-two punch anchored by Barber.
But this season will be different for the boys from Valley Ranch.
Owens was released to go roam in Buffalo, safety Roy Williams couldn’t cover the deep ball, so he was allowed to walk as well, and stalwart linebacker Zach Thomas proclaimed after the season that he wouldn’t be back.
Not only are the Cowboys a different team, but they have a different look as well.
This season Romo is the unquestioned leader of an offense that has the potential to rank first in every statistical category.
Romo no longer has the shadow of Owens—or Jessica Simpson, for that matter—hanging over his shoulder in the locker room or in the media.
Jason Witten and second-year man Martellus Bennett are poised to become a potent receiving tandem as the Cowboys look to feature more two-tight end sets than in past seasons.
So what should fans watch for and expect from the Cowboys in training camp and preseason?
1. Can Roy Williams replace the production of Terrell Owens?
The quick answer is no. If you look at the stats for both players, Williams has only logged one 1,000-yard season in his short six-year career, and his career high in touchdowns is eight.
Compare that with Terrell and, Williams cannot hold a candle to his production.
However, Terrell has always had the presence of a great or at least good quarterback behind center. In San Francisco, he had Steve Young and Jeff Garcia. In Philadelphia he had Donovan McNabb, and in Dallas he caught passes from Romo.
Williams ran down the field for Joey Harrington and Jon Kitna. I felt for you in Detroit, Roy, so there really is no comparison.
No excuses for Williams this season about splitting catches or not knowing the system. He has had an entire offseason to prepare himself and to get acclimated to Romo’s passing tendencies.
I’m expecting at least an 1,100-yard season with eight touchdowns and 75-plus catches from Williams. Owens was able to do it when he stalked Texas stadium, so why can’t you?
2. With the departure of Greg Ellis, Chris Canty, and Zach Thomas, will the Cowboys miss their production?
Greg Ellis could still be a Cowboy—well, at least in theory—if he had accepted his role as a 33-year-old defensive end. He didn’t, so now he’s off to Oakland.
Zach Thomas was great last season for the Cowboys, logging 94 tackles and one sack. He was paired with Bradie James in the middle, and they both enjoyed great statistical seasons.
Statistically, Chris Canty only had three sacks and 37 tackles, but he used that leverage and bolted for the Giants and more money, which I can’t blame him for
But he was vital on the line for the Cowboys last year and had his best games against the Cowboys' biggest foe in the beast.
The New York Giants.
So how does a team replace a combined 167 tackles and 12 sacks?
Youth is one answer. Anthony Spencer is finally getting his chance to start, as he will replace Ellis on the line and standing up. Spencer matched Ellis’ output in tackles with 34 but came up empty on sacks and interceptions.
Also, Spencer is only 25 years old and has three years of NFL service on his joints and muscles.
I don’t believe that the team will miss Ellis as much as Thomas or Canty. Ellis is on the downside of his career and only had maybe two good seasons left in him.
Thomas is just as seasoned as Ellis but seems to have more of an upside than Greg.
I’m sure team owner Jerry Jones and head coach Wade Phillips are not looking forward to seeing Canty twice a year now that he’s in New York.
He can be a monster on the line, as evidenced by his two-sack game against the Giants early last season.
Thomas is the type of player that you want and need in your locker room just because of the experience and leadership he brings. Maybe this season Thomas would have had a calming effect on a volatile locker room that has been tamed by Jerry’s son Stephen.
Stay tuned for Part II...
Free Agent WR Allen Hurns Plans to Sign With Cowboys
It looks as if the Dallas Cowboys will be adding yet another wide receiver through free agency. According to sources, Allen Hurns plans on signing with the Cowboys.
WR Allen Hurns just told me, "I'm going to sign with Dallas." #Cowboys
This is a move that seemed unlikely after the Cowboys signed Deonte Thompson a few days ago, but I know a lot of Cowboys Nation will be excited about this transaction.
While this move is exciting, it does create more confusion for the Cowboys and their wide receivers. It's difficult to imagine all of these WRs sticking to the roster, which means there will be some tough decisions that need to be made.
What will the Cowboys do with Dez Bryant?
Will Cole Beasley be cut or traded?
Are the Cowboys comfortable absorbing Terrance Williams' cap hit if traded or released?
Will this keep the Cowboys from drafting a WR early?
All of these questions and more will have to be answered eventually. But, one thing is for sure, things are definitely about to get interesting.
Of course, there is a bonus here for the Dallas Cowboys. Since Allen Hurns was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, he doesn't count against the Cowboys compensatory picks next season.
Please stay tuned and we will continue to keep you updated on contract details and any other news involving Allen Hurns as it becomes available.
What do you think about the Allen Hurns signing?
What Signing Thompson Means for Hurns and Cowboys WR Position
UPDATE: News of Hurns saying he will sign with the Cowboys broke as this article went live.
Free Agency began a bit late for the Dallas Cowboys, but they've already done enough to get fans discussing about the latest additions to the roster. Adding help on offense, defense and special teams in form of tier-2 free agents may not be what Cowboys Nation wants to see, but I'm certain they wouldn't have enjoyed giving Sammy Watkins a three-year $48M contract, either.
However, the Cowboys are clearly in the wide receiver market after an offensively disappointing season. They have quite a few of this year's class of wide receivers prospects scheduled to visit Dallas, and they've hosted some WR free agents as well.
This week, they even signed one.
Deonte Thompson, who started seven games for the Bills last year, is coming to Dallas on a one-year $2.5M contract. The 29-year old could be the burner receiver this offense is missing and could end up being an improved version of Brice Butler for the Cowboys in 2018.
He hasn't had a great career but last season was his best year so far. Starting three games for the Bears and seven for the Bills, Thompson was able to rack up a career-high 555 yards and two touchdowns.
His best attribute as a player is definitely the speed he brings to the table and his ability to separate down the field, which he'll be looking to do on Dak Prescott's offense this season.
But there was another wide receiver visiting Dallas this week and now we wonder whether or not the Deonte Thompson signing will keep the Cowboys from targeting former Jaguars' WR Allen Hurns.
According to Todd Archer, that won't be the case.
Told the signing of Deonte Thompson does not close the door on the Cowboys' interest in Allen Hurns, who visited the team Wednesday and had dinner. Things could get interesting in the Cowboys' wide receivers' room. https://t.co/Ivt5uk9kBN
It shouldn't be. First of all, Hurns is a much better player than Thompson and would provide this offense with a receiver who can play in the "X" or in the "Z" role. We've been talking about getting Prescott a reliable target to try to give him a "best friend." Allen Hurns could be just that.
Sure, he's had a couple of down seasons, but the talent is there to take.
Simply put, the Deonte Thompson signing shouldn't stop the Cowboys from looking at WR in the first round of the NFL Draft. Allen Hurns would.
It sure would make things interesting in the wide receiver room for Dallas. Despite what many believe, Dez Bryant will probably remain a Cowboy even if Hurns is signed. Let's say the Cowboys go out there and get the 26-year old from Jacksonville and have to decide which six receivers to keep for the season.
They'd possibly have to decide among these:
- Dez Bryant
- Terrrance Williams
- Cole Beasley
- Ryan Switzer
- Allen Hurns
- Deonte Thompson
- Noah Brown
- A drafted rookie?
This is where a lot of dilemmas start taking form. Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer are basically the same player and if you're not going to use them both at the same time, do you keep them anyway? What about Terrance Williams? He could be the worst receiver to make the cut just because of his contract.
Noah Brown showed promise in 2017, are they ready to move on from him? And finally, a rookie could very well end up beating Deonte Thompson, who was guaranteed a million in his contract.
Wide receiver is indeed one of the top needs for the Dallas Cowboys. They could head to the 2018 NFL Draft needing one in the top rounds or they could be fine signing Hurns and taking a late-rounder receiver to compete in training camp for a spot on the roster.
As long as they're having a tough time deciding because they are all good, it should be fine.
Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson
The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.
Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.
The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.
Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.
Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.
For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.
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