Today marks the beginning of the rest of Miles Austin's career as he awaits an imminent offer from the Jets, and as we wait along with him to see just how determined the Jets are to acquire him, there are some things to consider in Dallas.
First and foremost on the agenda for the Cowboys should Austin depart for New Jersey is wide receiver depth and lineup since Austin is projected as the second starter opposite Williams if he stays. The release of Owens was a clear sign that the team is moving in a younger direction that is hopefully more team oriented than Owens' has ever been.
But if Austin leaves, and that is definitely possible, it would remain Sam Hurd and Isaiah Stanback as the only youth amongst our wide outs. The problem is that both Hurd and Stanback have had issues being productive on the field, when either can stay healthy enough to get on the field.
Should Austin sign with New York, the Cowboys would receive a second round 2009 draft pick in compensation; the Jets pick #52 behind the Cowboys' second round pick of #51.
Many see the class of receivers in this draft as very talented, spearheaded by the likes of Michael Crabtree, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jeremy Maclin, and Percy Harvin. The Cowboys have a great shot of finding a quality receiver in the second round that can be expected to contribute this season, but many doubts exist that any receiver available in the second round of this years draft will be able to take on the kind of role that Austin is expected to occupy in Dallas for 2009.
With rookie wide receivers it is often not a matter of talent, but of experience that determines success, and very few beyond the top 15 - 20 picks have been able to be effective in their rookie season as a starter. Even in more limited roles many of these receivers have trouble adjusting to life at the pro level, see DeSean Jackson in 2008 as he celebrated early and tossed a ball behind him before he broke the plane of the goal line.
So the question becomes what exactly will the Cowboys do to replace Austin? Having veteran receiver Patrick Crayton does help to ease concerns as he held the number 2 slot until Williams arrived in 2008, but Crayton has always been most effective playing in the slot. It's possible that Hurd or Stanback can step up and produce, and stay healthy enough to assume that starting role, but after two off-seasons to evaluate each, that possibility is seeming unlikely.
At this point, it is even hard to say if any receiver in this years draft would be any better than Hurd or Stanback, though gems have been found at worse positions than day one of the draft.
So many fans are asking about the possibility of Dallas bringing in a veteran receiver in free agency to fill the hole. I suppose it's a sign of desperation and panic that anyone has suggested the troubled Matt Jones, which again makes me happy that some fans aren't coaches or executives on this team. Signing Matt Jones would be tantamount to signing Adam Jones, and we all know how well that worked out for us.
Jones was a solid player for us early in 2008, filling in due to injuries, but before he could get into his own rhythm he was again barred from playing because of his immature actions away from the game. The guy may be able to play at a Pro Bowl caliber, but so long as he continues to butt heads with the NFL's personal conduct policy, he'll never be anything more than a good backup.
Matt Jones hasn't had as many issues as Pacman did, but neither has former Giants receiver Plaxico Burress and nobody seems to be in a hurry to bring him here. Given the way the Giants' offense suffered after Burress was suspended/injured, it's a fair bet that he was on his way to a hall of fame career. But with so many players experiencing legal difficulties of their own doing, the trend in the league this year seems to be finding better character.
There is also some better tamed veteran help out there in Marvin Harrison, who maybe has a year or two left of decent production, and Torry Holt, who while getting up there in age, still has a few years of a production that we could closely match with Patrick Crayton.
None of the options seem to be at the top of anyone's list, though there are several available to us. Another option is for Jerry Jones to make another of his now infamous draft-day trades to move up and grab better talent, but Jones has stated that he likes not having a first round pick this year because of the potential for next year to be uncapped. It's a sentiment that he backed up by trading his 2009 first round pick to Detroit in order to secure first round talent without dealing with the cap numbers associated with a rookie first round pick.
And now we have news out there that the Bills, since acquiring Terrell Owens in free agency, are shopping fifth year receiver Roscoe Parrish around the league. Parrish has not been a huge contributor for the bills since being drafted by the Bills in the second round of the 2005 draft, but his numbers have been solid by the Cowboys standards.
Parrish has averaged 263 yards and 24.25 receptions over each year he's played in the NFL, and has five receiving touchdowns. Compare that to Miles Austin (118 yards, 4.5 receptions, 3 touchdowns) and it actually seems as though Parrish would be the better guy to have. Parrish will be 27 when the season starts, and Austin will be 26, but the big difference seems to be that Parrish actually started all 16 games in each of 2006 and 2007, and 13 games in 2008 while Austin only started 16 games in 2007 and 12 in 2008.
Experience, as I've said, seems to be worth as much as talent with wide receivers anymore and Parrish has more of it to offer. To make it even sweeter, the only reason Parrish didn't start all 16 games in 2008 was a torn ligament in his thumb, which has been surgically repaired.
Looking at their combine stats, Parrish and Austin have very similar speed, if Parrish isn't faster than Austin, but Austin is bigger than Parrish all around.
So maybe I've got it all wrong, but it looks like there might be some hidden talent out there to replace Austin if the Jets do decide to get tricky with their offer, which would leave the Cowboys an extra second round pick to either draft a good receiver to groom, or fill another need for the 2009 season.
LB Justin Phillips Making a Case to Become a Roster Lock With Cowboys
In Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys arguably have the best linebacker duo in the entire NFL. They also have some pretty solid backups in Sean Lee and Joe Thomas, but the depth behind those four is completely up in the air. That is excellent news for an undrafted LB like Justin Phillips.
The former Oklahoma State Cowboy LB signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent after the completion of the 2019 NFL Draft. To go from being an Oklahoma State Cowboy to a Dallas Cowboy must've been a dream come true, especially for a kid from Pearland, Texas who rooted for America's Team growing up. The dream probably won't be complete though unless a roster spot comes with it.
Surprisingly, Justin Phillips has put himself into contention to earn one of those coveted roster spots. The way he has played in the first two preseason games has caught the attention of quite a few people, which should make it extremely difficult for the Cowboys coaching staff when it comes to making roster cut decisions. Dallas Cowboys Staff Writer and former Scout Bryan Broaddus agrees…
"Justin Phillips is going to make it hard on this staff to put him on the street. Not only is his finish impressive, but the awareness he plays with in pass coverage is impressive. There is no way I thought he had a chance for that interception, especially with this initial step into the line, but his ability to turn and run to a spot saved him."
Here is the play/interception Broaddus is referring to:
The Dallas Cowboys have typically only carried six linebackers on their 53-man roster these past few years. With four spots already spoken for, Justin Phillips is doing his damnedest to lock down one of those final two up for grabs. That, of course, is easier said than done.
Phillips is likely competing with Justin March-Lillard, who led the team in tackles against the Los Angeles Rams last week and fellow undrafted rookie LB Luke Gifford. Gifford, of course, missed the game against the Rams with an ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 of the preseason against the 49ers. It was actually that injury that resulted in more playing time for Justin Phillips.
If you're doing the math here, that's three linebackers competing for two roster spots. March-Lillard probably has the upper hand right now over the two rookies, but I wouldn't say he's secured a job just yet. That leaves the door open for No. 44 (Phillips) and No. 57 (Gifford).
As much as I like Luke Gifford, and I do, I think the stars could be aligning for Justin Phillips to make it through roster cuts. He's playing really well right now, while all Gifford can do is watch from the sideline until he can get back on the field. Regardless though, it's a position battle worth keeping an eye on.
Do you think LB Justin Phillips has done enough to secure a roster spot?
How Kris Richard May Help CB Michael Jackson Make Cowboys Roster
Cornerback Michael Jackson, one of the Dallas Cowboys' 5th-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, has not been standing out so far in training camp or preseason. But despite the slow start, the influence of Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard could help keep Jackson on the 53-man roster this year.
While no team likes parting with their drafted rookies, it certainly happens. That's especially true for Day 3 players, even 5th rounders, and particularly when a team is as deep with talent right now as the 2019 Cowboys.
The cornerback position is one of Dallas' most loaded. They go four-deep with starting talent in Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis, which leaves just one or two roster spots for the remaining prospects.
Michael Jackson is in competition with veteran C.J. Goodwin and the intriguing Donovan Olumba. Both were with the team last year; Goodwin was a special teams contributor and Olumba was a valuable developmental asset on the practice squad.
So far this preseason, we've seen Goodwin shining on special teams and Olumba making plays at cornerback. Jackson hasn't stood out, unless you count jokes about thin he looks on the field.
In contrast, fellow 5th-round rookie Joe Jackson has been showing up at defensive end. Even if there were no suspension concerns with Robert Quinn and Randy Gregory, Joe Jackson has made himself very difficult to cut.
But despite not having that same momentum or energy around him yet, Michael Jackson may still find his way onto the 53-man roster. And that may have something to do with his position coach.
Since arriving in Dallas during the 2018 offseason, Kris Richard has quickly gained prominence beyond just his official role as the Defensive Backs Coach. He was working as the defensive play-caller last year and is expected to take over fully in 2020, assuming Rod Marinelli retires and Richard doesn't leave for a head coaching opportunity.
When Dallas selected Michael Jackson in the last draft, Jackson became the first cornerback or safety drafted by the Cowboys since Richard arrived. Given that it happened this year, with Richard's influence clearly high on the defense, one would assume that Kris had a big say in the decision to draft Jackson.
No, Richard certainly can't veto any decision made by the Joneses, Will McClay, Jason Garrett, or even Marinelli when it comes to roster management. But if he has any bias towards Jackson as his first draft pick in Dallas, Kris may fight for the rookie more than someone else.
We're all human; agendas come into play. Kris Richard may be more passionate about seeing Michael Jackson succeeding for a variety of reasons. He may pound the table for the team to keep Jackson louder than anyone else in the room.
That doesn't necessarily mean keeping Jackson over some other cornerback, either. The argument could be to go long at CB at the expense of another position; maybe only keeing two quarterbacks or eight offensive linemen to free up a roster spot.
This is purely speculative, of course. For all we know, Richard could be the first one who loses faith and votes to let Jackson go.
But given the situation and all factors involved, it's more likely that Kris Richard will be invested in seeing Michael Jackson succeed and sticking with the Cowboys in 2019. Hopefully, it's in the best interest of the team overall.
DL Kerry Hyder Impressive In Cowboys Week 2 Preseason Win
Kerry Hyder joined the Cowboys this offseason on a one year deal, and while the four-year NFL veteran has put up some solid tape in his time around the league, it was hard to project just what he could bring to the Cowboys defense.
Listed at 6'2" 270 pounds, Hyder is a bit of a tweener on the defensive line. Though the answer to "will he play tackle or end" seems to be "both" to this point in the preseason.
As he fights for his life on this deep defensive line, Kerry Hyder had himself a day in the Cowboys 14-10 victory over the Rams last weekend.
Hyder made an excellent play defending a screen pass in the first quarter, reading the play perfectly and reacting quickly to running back Darrell Henderson coming out of the backfield. Hyder also created some pressure on the quarterback, and finished with 3 combined tackles in very limited playing time.
Hyder's versatility is working well for him as he looks to make the final roster. Like a Tyrone Crawford type player, Hyder will be able to move inside and out depending on the situation. This allows the Cowboys to be flexible in how they structure their depth chart on defense, and in how they decide to rush the passer on third down.
A pass rushing package involving Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge with the combination of Hyder and Maliek Collins on the inside could turn out to be a very dangerous one for opposing offenses to deal with.
Rod Marinelli spoke to this versatility a couple of months ago, showing just how much he values what Kerry Hyder can bring to this team.
"Maybe you adjust him sometime, once in a while – in a one-on-one pass rush situation, stick him over a guard and start to get a feel for it.” - Rod Marinelli
Earlier this offseason, I wrote that Kerry Hyder could end up being Rod Marinelli's next great under-the-radar find on the defensive line. And if he continues to play with the hustle and awareness that he had on Saturday, he's going to make Rod look very smart in his evaluation.
Kerry Hyder is making it very difficult for the front office to let him go. And, at the end of the preseason, I do expect Kerry Hyder to find himself on the Cowboys' active roster. Especially considering how Mike White is playing at quarterback, and how his release could open up an extra spot at a different position group.
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