When identifying yourself as a Cowboy's fan for the first time to someone who also is a Cowboy's fan, the first question that typically come's up is, "What did you think about them releasing T.O.?" Beyond being genuinly interested in your perspective, there is an ulterior motive in that question. The asker want's to determine what kind of Cowboy's fan you are. Are you optimistic, pessimistic, or realistic.
Personally, I try to be realistic about everything in life, but, admittedly, when it comes to my Cowboy's, the preverbial hope springs eternal. In all of the forum's I contribute to, I'm typically regarded as the homer; the guy who always expects the best from this team. With that in mind, despite the fact that the media and sport's analyst abroad have already wrote off the 2009 Cowboy season, I will make an attempt to shift the light from the Cowboy's good side and focus on what could go horribly wrong.
The first thing that comes to mind for me is conditioning. Considering the barrage of injuries the Cowboy's weathered last year and the now infamous December swoon the Cowboy's are known for (14 - 32 since 2000 in December), questioning the Cowboy's overall conditioning seems like a logical place to begin. So far, the picture that has been painted by Cowboy's staffer's and the kinder mediots, is that quite a few of the Cowboy's have been working throughout the offseason to make sure they are properly conditioned for the season. But isn't that the standard company line every offseason? The injury list is already stacked, and training camp doesn't start until the end of July. How does that happen? The broken, bruised, and busted I understand; but strains and pulls typically indicates improper hydration and/or stretching. In my mind, if a player is getting paid millions of dollars to play this game, he should futher understand that preparation for training is just as important as the actual training.
Coaching. You really have to wonder about the coaching situation. Making Wade Phillips the Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator is unprecedented in football. It sends the message that Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett are sharing the role of Head Coach or, the more accurate way of looking at it, Jerry Jones is the Head Coach. The thought is scary, but to hear him weigh in on strategy before, during and after games, really makes me wonder how much say he has in getting the ball to certain players. And if he does have a say in this, it's not hard to figure out what is truly wrong with this team, despite all of their collective talent.
Aside from the questionable dual role, I feel pretty confident in Wade's ability to make the Cowboy's defense rank top 10 this year. However, Jason Garrett's ability to make a T.O.less offense work is definitely a big question. Since the beginning of his tenure as OC, the pass first mentality has been evident. And, to be honest, to a certain extent, that approach based on previous personnel was justifyable. However, this year, the Cowboy's offense, despite the very few modifications to the starting line-up on offense, are now built for balance. Does Jason recognize this need? Can he effectively call plays designed to spread the ball over that trio of backs, duo of TE's, and that potentially clutch WR group?
The Offensive Line. Despite the catalog of failure that was the 2008 season for this group, very little was done to fortify the line. Enemy #1 amongst Cowboy's fan's is likely between Flozell Adams, notorious for False Starts and struggling with speed rushers, and Cory Proctor who seems to be physically and mentally inferior to the average defensive lineman. The Cowboy's added a few rookies, but it will likely be two to three years before any of them see extended playing time, barring another unlucky barrage of injuries. Therefore, regardless of the dangerous weapons, if Romo doesn't have adequate time to identify the open receiver and our running back's don't have time to accelerate or a hole to accelarate through, this team's offensive effectiveness will be marginal, at best. And, obviously, with a steady dose of 3 and out's you get an exhausted defense in the 2nd half.
Youth served. Another huge difference in the 2009 Cowboy's vs. the 2008 Cowboy's is average age. The Cowboy's lost quite a few starting veterans over the offseason, particularly on defense (Anthony Henry, Roy Williams, Keith Davis, Tank Johnson, Zach Thomas, Kevin Burnett, and Chris Canty). Add to that the fact that the Cowboy's drafted 12 rookies, and you have a team exceptionally younger than last year. With youth, typically comes a marked improvement in overall speed. But, speed minus experience can often lead to going fast in the wrong direction, ultimately, putting said youngster further from where he needs to be in a given play...and no amount of speed can fix that.
Special Teams. Special Teams has been quite possibly the softest spot on this team for the last few seasons. In response to that, Wade Phillips went out and got a Special Teams coach that is considered by many to be the best in the business. But, if you consider that he's brand new to this team and quite a few of the player's he will have to work with are also brand new to this team, if not to the league, how much improvement can we really expect? It'd be one thing if Decamallis was working with the exact same group of player's as last year, but the truth is, 10 of those 12 rookies are expected to play significant roles on special teams if they want to make the team. That could be a disaster in the making, regardless of how good the coaching is.
Romo. It happened with Jeff Garcia. Then, many speculated, the same happened with Donovan McNabb. No more T.O., no more impressive numbers. In two stops previous to Dallas, T.O. left a huge hole in otherwise pedestrian offenses, which led to the cliched theory that T.O. makes QB's better than what they really are. Will this prove to be true of Romo? Prior to T.O., Romo was an undrafted Free Agent 4th on the depth chart of a bunch of no-bodies and has-beens. But in 2007, the Romo to T.O. connection rewrote the franchise record book. In 2008, opposing defenses took T.O. out of the equation and the Cowboy's go 9 - 7 and miss the Play Off's. Coincidence? I hope so, but it is something to consider before assuming Romo's name will eventually find it's place in the Ring of Honor or Hall of Fame.
Obviously, there are question's about team-wide depth, overall wide receiver talent, last year's rookies stepping into starting roles, and the pandoras box of intangible questions about heart, chemistry and leadership. The truth is, another barrage of injuries could end this season like last year. If Roy William's is not, at least, consistent, the ground game will likely suffer significantly. And if Scandrick or Jenkins don't, at least, duplicate their last year's performance the defense will leak like a sieve. That is football. All the moving part's have to be functional, or the machine will not work. As for the immeasurable contribution of heart, leadership, and chemistry, this will likely be determined by how the team begins the season.
Could Cowboys Have Another “Ezekiel Elliott vs. Jalen Ramsey” Debate?
The debate over "Ezekiel Elliott vs. Jalen Ramsey" for from the 2016 NFL Draft has never really stopped in Dallas. From before that draft until now, Cowboys fans still argue over which player the team should have taken. For the team, could they face that question again in the next few years?
A little over three years ago, the Cowboys drafted Elliott with the fourth-overall pick. In so doing, they also snubbed Ramsey; the cornerback expected to become a Cowboy and wound up going with the fifth pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Where you stand on this issue likely has a lot to do with how you value running backs. Some argued in 2016, and still do, that no RB is worth that high of a pick or paying top dollar for in future years. You've seen plenty of those opinions this offseason as talk of a long-term contract extension for Elliott has heated up.
Those same folks would have loved for Dallas to take Jalen Ramsey, who instantly became one of the NFL's top corners. And in 2021, with both players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, they would probably rather see the Cowboys let Elliott walk away and use that money to add an elite player at a position like cornerback.
We mention Ramsey here because of his very public feud with Jacksonville over his contract. The team reportedly informed him they would wait until next year to do a long-term extension, and Ramsey made it known through social media that he was going to drive the price up. Given his known issues with Jaguars' VP Tom Coughlin, it could lead to a parting of ways.
If Jalen Ramsey hit the open market, and still want to be a Cowboy, could the CB end up in Dallas after all?
Let's hypothesize that both Ezekiel Elliott and Jalen Ramsey have to play 2020 on their fifth-year options. Now the Cowboys are having to decide if they want give Zeke a long-term deal, the franchise tag, or just let him go.
How does the prospect of potentially signing Ramsey, or some other elite talent at another position, sway Dallas' thinking? Could they decide that the best bang for their buck is to spend roughly $15 million per year at RB or at CB, OT, or somewhere else?
The Cowboys already have a Pro Bowl corner in Byron Jones but there's still a lot of uncertainty at the other starting position. Neither Chidobe Awuzie or Jourdan Lewis have been consistent enough and both will have expiring contracts in 2021.
Ezekiel Elliott will turn 26 that year. He will have five seasons of workhorse mileage. And this is the same Cowboys team that decided to let DeMarco Murray walk away a few years ago.
Of course, Elliott trumps Murray in almost every way. He's been elite every season so far, not just one, and has been far more durable. Assuming personal conduct issues don't remain a problem, Zeke will be much harder to let go of than DeMarco was.
However, the salary cap forces teams to think about the entire roster when making personnel decisions. Even if you can justify paying Elliott huge money, that means less for someone else. And even if it makes sense for a year or two, what about when Zeke is creeping closer to 30 years old?
Again, I mentioned Ramsey here because of the intrigue with his contract situation in Jacksonville and connection to Dallas from the 2016 draft. It would be quite ironic if the Cowboys, five years later, were again having to decide between the same two players.
But Jalen exemplifies a greater issue that Dallas faces in the coming years. Does it make sense to tie up so much money at running back and weaken yourself at other positions?
While RBs as special as Ezekiel Elliott don't grow on trees, it's still one of the easiest positions to fill. Assuming the Cowboys still have one of the NFL's top offensive lines in a few years, they will be tempted to try and get solid rushing production with a much cheaper ball carrier.
When Dallas let DeMarco Murray go and then drafted Ezekiel Elliott a year later, some thought it could be the start of a new trend in roster management. Draft a RB high, get 4-5 years out of him, and then let somebody else pay him the big money. Rinse and repeat.
But then Zeke came along and has been the stuff of legends. If he has a long-term career in Dallas, he will be right there with Emmitt and Dorsett in the top-three of all time Cowboys running backs.
Elliott isn't just highly productive but brings personality and excitement. Guys like that are hard to let go of; they are as valuable for marketing as they are on the field.
That said, a lot can change in the next year or two. More issues with the league office, or a major injury, could have a dramatic effect on how we see Elliott's long-term value. It may make the decision much easier.
But assuming Zeke remains as valuable as ever, the Dallas Cowboys could be facing another major quandary between the running back and other elite players like Jalen Ramsey. What most helps the team win, and what has the most value over multiple seasons?
Hopefully, Ezekiel Elliott keeps playing well enough to keep the debate going.
Cowboys OT Mitch Hyatt is an Undrafted Rookie to Watch
Going undrafted is hardly a death blow to a player's hopes of making it into the NFL. We've seen many examples of players who have lengthy careers despite humble beginnings, and plenty of them happened right here in Dallas. Could offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt be the next undrafted success story for the Cowboys?
Hyatt just finished his college career at Clemson as a four-year starter, two-time national champion, and two-time All-American. While not an elite draft prospect, many had Mitch rated as at least a 5th-7th round pick. His going undrafted was a surprise.
While he measures with good size at 6'5" and a little over 300 lbs., Hyatt lacks upper body strength. But he's overcome that deficiency through the years with work ethic, motor, and smarts.
For the Cowboys, it's a lot easier to help a guy gain strength than it is to try and improve motivation or intelligence.
Dallas was not the only team interested in Mitch Hyatt once he hit free agency. But from the rookie's own lips, he didn't have a hard decision to make.
“'I received a fair amount of calls. It was a pretty chaotic five to 10 minutes for me,'” Hyatt said. “'I had a whole bunch of people in my ear. But I knew what kind of team the Cowboys were, I knew what they were about.'”
Whether it was the reputation of the Cowboys organization, its vaunted offensive line, or the chance to work with Coach Marc Colombo, Hyatt was clearly drawn to Dallas. Another reason for that may have been the perceived opportunity to make the roster.
The Cowboys seem to already be preparing for life without La'el Collins in 2020, when Collins is set to hit free agency. They gave Cam Fleming a two-year deal which keeps him through next year, plus drafted Connor McGovern in the third round of the 2019 draft. It suggests Dallas isn't planning to pay La'l the significant money he should demand.
If Fleming gets promoted to the starting job at right tackle, that would leave a vacancy for swing tackle in 2020. Mitch Hyatt could be one of Dallas' options for that role.
Even if the Cowboys don't keep Hyatt on the 53-man roster in 2019, they will likely try to put him on the practice squad. Ideally, a year of physical development there will make him a much stronger candidate for the 2020 season.
Of course, the reason we know those undrafted success stories so well is because they aren't typical. The odds are against Mitch Hyatt having any NFL career, but his collegiate success and intangibles speak to a guy who's worth taking a chance on.
If it works out, credit the Cowboys for continuing the tradition of Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Jeff Heath, and other undrafted players who became significant contributors.
Could CB Michael Jackson Prove To Be Cowboys Best Value Pick?
Looking back to the third day of the 2019 NFL Draft for the Dallas Cowboys, running backs Tony Pollard and Mike Weber are the most discussed players among fans and analysts. The front office made some pretty promising selections in the late rounds that could have important roles on the team in the near future. While many thought the Cowboys would be quick to add a rookie safety, it wasn't until the fifth round that the team drafted a defensive back, and it wasn't even a safety. Kris Richard got his guy Michael Jackson, from the Miami Hurricanes.
A few weeks apart from training camp, the 6-1 cornerback has been overlooked by many fans. Although the team got plenty of quality players in the late rounds, Jackson might end up being the best value pick when we look back to this rookie class a year from now.
In college, Jackson started 23 games between 2017 and 2018 as he racked up four interceptions and 10 pass deflections. He seems just like the kind of guy we know DB Coach Kris Richard loves. A tall, long, press cornerback with pretty solid range. Jackson is far from a player ready to start in the NFL, but Richard will have a lot of raw potential to work with.
When the former Seahawks defensive coordinator joined the Cowboys, he let it be known that he saw a lot of potential on Byron Jones. The 2015 first round pick's career was turned around after last season, when the team finally stopped moving Jones around the defensive backfield. As a full-time corner, Jones went on to become a second-team All-Pro last year.
While it would be unfair to compare Jones and Jackson, both of them arrived to the NFL with very different expectations, I can't help but wonder how far can Richard take the Miami product. Although it wasn't discussed as much, cornerback was an important need for the team because of a lack of depth and the uncertainty surrounding Jones' future on the team.
After an impressive 2018 season, extending Jones will be a huge challenge for the Cowboys front office. After all, there's a lot of homegrown talent due for big paydays. Who knows if when the day comes, the team will have what it takes to keep Jones in Dallas. Not to mention, Anthony Brown is entering his contract year. A solid nickel corner for the Cowboys could be gone, leaving Kris Richard's unit with very little depth.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, Michael Jackson has the size and potential to play in any spot in the secondary, giving Richard the chance to develop him at the position he wishes. After all, Richard will be in no hurry to get Jackson on the field. It's tough to imagine Jackson getting an important role for the upcoming season, but he could certainly get a few snaps throughout the year. Having said that, it's in the long run that the All-ACC second-team CB can truly prove his worth.
In an ideal world, the Cowboys would keep their current CB but the cold, hard truth is NFL teams can't keep all of their players all the time. Jackson might have to eventually step up to an important spot on the defense. If Kris Richard develops him properly, Dallas won't be that concerned about a couple of their CBs potentially leaving. We'll see if Michael Jackson is ready when his name is called.
Dallas Cowboys7 days ago
3 Dallas Cowboys Who Could Be Traded Before Week 1
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
5 Takeaways from Dallas Cowboys OTA’s
Star Blog2 weeks ago
3 Reasons 2019 Will be Dak Prescott’s Best Season Yet
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Could Amari Cooper Threaten Cowboys Receiving Records in 2019?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Post-OTA’s Dallas Cowboys 53-Man Roster Projection
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Cowboys CB Donovan Olumba Should Compete for Roster Spot
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Michael Gallup has a Sponge-like Offseason Approach In Year 2
Star Blog1 week ago
Several Former Cowboys Participate in XFL Summer Showcase