There's something to be said for a player that owns up to his role on a team.
I mean each position has clearly stated duties and responsibilities at all times. A wide receiver has to run routes, break jams at the line, make cuts, get separation, focus on the ball and catch it, keep his timing right etc. etc.
There's a list like that for every position on the team, some longer than others, but all well defined and fairly standard on a position by position basis.
But these days it seems too common to get players like Owens who says, "give me the ball". Or players like Ellis who says, "I want to start". And even a player like Romo that just wants to have fun and enjoy what he does on the field.
All contract issues aside; there are several players on every team in the National Football League that wants particular things for personal reasons. And that should be fine; Owens wants the ball? Well, he makes plays so why not? It makes sense to get the ball to your play makers, and your play makers know it too so what's the big deal if they say something about it?
The desire isn't the problem, regardless of whether it's handled in the media or it's off the record, the desire of a player being too strong is rarely a problem. The problem lies more in the player feeling the need to air his concerns.
In a game, game management is a tremendous task, so much so that no player can handle it and the duties of their position at the same time. That's what coaches are for, to manage the games, to choose the plays and how each player is involved on every down. When a player like Owens goes into the media and says things like, "I can't throw the ball and then catch it too," it points out an obvious flaw in the modern day players' mind; If you can't do it, then why worry about it?
Does worrying about when he's going to get the ball help T.O. get open? No. Does it make him run any faster? No. Did it get him what he wanted when Anquan Bolden yelled at his OC during the NFC Championship game? No, the OC just yelled back and continued to call plays that didn't feature Bolden, just as he was doing to begin with.
It wasn't because Todd Haley was trying to send a message to Bolden that he isn't any good; the guy got a multi-year contract worth millions of dollars and has a starting job on a professional football team. He should know that's he good enough.
He got hung up though, hung up in the excitement of that game, hung up in the possible glory of helping his team reach the Super Bowl, hung up on his personal reasons, whatever they may specifically be.
But Haley had the right idea, he started using a part of his offense that he felt was the right choice, and he stuck with it. And the rest of the players went out there and performed their function in that chosen offense. The result? The Cardinals drove the field to score the winning touchdown and are going to Tampa next weekend to play in the Super Bowl. Simple, right?
My God it's such a simple concept; it really is a wonder why it's even an issue more than one time with any player. Once being all that's needed to see what kind of player he is, once being all that's needed to cut him loose, before he personal-agenda's his team into the ground.
But we can't do that, can't just cut a player because he wants to win, because he wants to compete. It's the nature of the business to want to compete, but what many players could benefit from is keeping it right at the front of their minds that winning is a team activity. It takes one guy to throw the ball, another to catch it, a few decoys to allow the catch, and few more to let that one guy throw the ball. There's no avoiding it.
That's where owning up to your position comes in. Give me a wide receiver that just goes out play after play, whenever he is called upon by the coach, and does everything he's been trained to do. Gets off the line, tries to break free from coverage, to get that crucial step needed to beat the coverage, and then, if the ball comes his way, catch it, secure it, and run as far as you can with it until either somebody throws him to the ground or he's running across white paint on the ground.
To do the job given to you, in this league, has become overrated. Very few players just go out and do what the play says they are supposed to do, and leave all their personal crap on the sidelines.
Players like Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Darren Woodson, and even DeMarcus Ware; they know what it means to be a football player. They get their assignment, study it, perfect it in practice, and then give everything they've got on the gridiron.
Here's hoping to a 2009 season full of people doing their damn jobs. Cheers.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dress Rehearsal Edition
In the NFL, the third preseason week is often referred to as the "Dress Rehearsal." It's usually the week in which starters get the most playing time. That has changed lately, with plenty of teams deciding to take care of their key players instead of risking them on the field. However, the Dallas Cowboys have played their starters on their first two games and there's no reason to believe that will change versus the Texans today.
Here is my wishlist for the Cowboys vs Texans "Dress Rehearsal!" Let me know what your wishes for tonight's game are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Justin Phillips Locks Up a Roster Spot
Phillips has been one of the most surprising players this offseason and preseason. The Cowboys are set at linebacker, but Phillips has made sure to be a tough guy to cut. Last week, he had a remarkable interception against the Rams. Despite making a first step toward the line, he managed to adjust and made the play. He has followed it up with more plays in practice.
If he keeps it up, the Cowboys won't be able to cut him. He has the potential to be a force on special teams and a quality backup.
Wish #2: Devin Smith Makes Things Interesting
The battle for the final wide receiver spots is at full-go. Devin Smith has shined lately, and has risen as a serious candidate to make the roster. However, it seems like other wide receivers have the upper-hand as of now. Earlier this week, I made my Cowboys WR Power Rankings and had Devin Smith at #7.
His TD catch versus the Rams last week was pretty impressive, and I wish he makes a few more plays to make the debate all the more interesting.
Wish #3: Tony Pollard Does It Again
Fifth-round rookie Tony Pollard
stole was the show last weekend as he racked up 51 total yards (five carries, one catch) and a touchdown on Dallas' first offensive drive. He looked impressive as the starting running back, giving us just what we wanted to see.
While many have advertised him as a gadget player, Pollard proved he can actually be a "standard" RB. He ran between the tackles, showed power, balance and great vision. I'm ready to watch it again, this time versus the Texans.
Wish #4: Taco Charlton Shines Rushing The Passer
Taco Charlton has made a couple of plays in preseason on his third year with the Dallas Cowboys. Against the Rams, he batted down two passes and looked good separating from opposing offensive linemen. Charlton has gotten praise from some analysts during these first two preseason weeks.
But I want to watch some quality pass rush from his part. Right now, the Cowboys' roster counts with some promising players, including rookies Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson. While they're currently below Taco, he must prove he belongs on the roster.
Cowboys’ Tight End Marcus Lucas with Huge Opportunity vs the Houston Texans
With only two preseason games remaining, opportunities to make a statement are growing thin. The Dallas Cowboys have very few spots on the roster available, especially at the tight end position where Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz appear to have the depth chart locked down. The problem is, Jarwin and Schultz have been dealing with injuries and missed the second preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams and probably won't play against the Houston Texans tonight.
Enter Marcus Lucas.
Marcus Lucas hasn't been a member of the Dallas Cowboys for very long, but he's already made an impact.
In his first preseason game with the Dallas Cowboys, Lucas caught four passes on four targets for 20 yards. His receptions went for two, seven, five, and six yards for an average of five yards per reception. He did have a holding penalty that cost the Dallas Cowboys 10 yards on a first down play that didn't go anywhere anyway.
Though Lucas has bounced around NFL practice squads, he's never really found a home. After going undrafted in 2014, Lucas was signed by the Carolina Panthers in May of that year but wasn't able to stick on the 53-man roster and was released and placed on the practice squad. In 2015, he was on the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears practice squads. In 2016, the Panthers brought him back in the summer after the Bears released him from their 90-man roster. That September after cut-down day, the Seattle Seahawks signed Lucas to their practice squad where he spent all of 2016. From 2017 to the end of 2018, Lucas spent time with the Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, the Seattle Seahawks again, and the San Francisco 49ers. He was with the 49ers in 2019 before joining the Dallas Cowboys about two weeks ago and will get an extended run in these final two preseason games.
At Thursday's practice, Lucas was the only tight end available with Jason Witten getting a rest day and Jarwin, Schultz, and fellow Tight End Cody McElroy dealing with injuries.
With Jason Witten getting a day of rest, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and Codey McElroy injured, the Cowboys have one tight end practicing today: Marcus Lucas, who has been with the team for about two weeks.
It's possible that Lucas may get an extended amount of playing time tonight with an opportunity to show the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL that he's ready to land on a 53-man roster. With likely only Jason Witten being the only other tight end active for the game against the Houston Texans, Lucas will get a lot of playing time. If his last preseason exposure is any indication, he'll get the chance to display his receiving prowess.
At 27, Lucas likely has few opportunities left to make his mark for an NFL franchise. On a team that proclaims the "next man up" as a battle cry, after Witten, Lucas is the next man up for tonight and depending on his performance could make the Dallas Cowboys front office or another front office around the league take notice.
Depending on the long-term health of the Dallas Cowboys' tight end position, Lucas may find his path to a roster spot simply dependent upon the health of Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. Though a job may not come with the Dallas Cowboys, tonight is an extremely important audition for his next suitor. How he performs tonight could land Marcus Lucas a job after the Dallas Cowboys trim the roster to 53 next week.
They say "preseason games don't matter," but to Marcus Lucas, this might be the most important game of his career.
Don’t Forget Special Teams Value in Cowboys Roster Decisions
Building a 53-man roster in the NFL is a complex formula, requiring balance between numerous positions on each side of the ball. But what often gets overlooked in our analysis as outsiders is special teams, and that's a huge factor for many of the Dallas Cowboys players hoping to make it past final cuts.
Some players have survived in the league by being just good enough at their listed positions but excelling in special teams roles. You may think of former Dallas safety Bill Bates, who was personally responsible for a special teams player being made part of the annual Pro Bowl roster. A more recent example would be Keith Davis, who was an adequate safety but a special teams ace for several seasons.
To be sure, someone is going to be on this 2019 Cowboys more for their special teams value than their actual offensive or defensive ability. Who might he, or they, be?
One candidate is veteran Cornerback C.J. Goodwin. He is considered an exceptional talent in coverage on punts, which is probably the only reason he's still in the NFL today. At age 29, Goodwin has never really emerged as a consistent contributor on defense.
Young players like Donovan Olumba or rookie Michael Jackson, if not already superior cornerbacks to Goodwin, have far more upside to keep on the roster. But
considering how little they may get on the field anyway as the fifth or sixth corners, you can see why special teams value becomes so important. It may be the only time you actually see them in the game.
If the Cowboys don't want to lose a young prospect but can't let go of Goodwin's special teams ability, it may prompt them to go long at the CB position. But that means taking a roster spot from some other position, and thus the balancing act continues.
Another player to watch in this discussion is second-year an Running Back Jordan Chunn. He doesn't have Alfred Morris' experience or maybe Mike Weber or Darius Jackson's rushing talent, but he has been showing up on the special teams units.
Yesterday, Cowboys insider Bryan Broaddus called Chunn "a better Rod Smith" in analyzing his chances of making the roster. If you don't recall, Jaylon's older brother was a solid RB but a standout special teams player in his few years with Dallas.
As we just mentioned with the 5th/6th CB slots, the third running back is not a guy you expect to see much on offense. That will be especially true this year as Dallas will be struggling just to give rookie Tony Pollard the touches he deserves as the number-two RB.
Given that, special teams play becomes vital for the value of whoever is behind Zeke and Pollard on the depth chart. If Jordan Chunn is superior to his competition in that regard, it could negate whatever he lacks as an actual running back.
This same conversation can be had throughout the roster. It's why Noah Brown might make the team over more traditionally gifted receivers, or why a certain linebacker or safety might be more valued than others.
We make the common mistake of referring to "both sides of the ball" when we talk about football teams. There are three sides; special teams can't be underestimated. It will certainly play a part in how the Dallas Cowboys finalize their 53-man roster this season and in years to come.
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