Cowboys Roll Dice On Rolando

The Dallas Cowboys added another Line backer for training camp. 2010 first round (8th overall selection) Rolando McClain is now a Cowboy.

The Cowboys are still trying to find a solution for the problem at middle linebacker. The linebacker group was hit with a strong blow when Sean Lee went down in OTAs with a torn ACL. The Cowboys have mainly been using players on their roster like Justin Durant and fourth round pick Anthony Hitchens trying to fill the void.

It has been speculated that they would seek to get someone in Free Agency, but the Cowboys instead traded a conditional sixth round pick to the Baltimore Ravens for Rolando McClain and a seventh round pick on Tuesday. McClain retired after the 2012 season and hasn’t played in a game since.

The Former SEC Player of the Year was never the player he was at Alabama in the NFL. He struggled in pass coverage and did not make enough plays in the running game to be a dominant player that many expected him to be. While playing for the Oakland Raiders, he saw his playing time diminish. As the result, in 2012, he was kicked out of a practice after an argument with his coach.

During all of this, McClain was also dealing with problems off the field. McClain was arrested several times on different crimes from his window tint being too dark to gun charges. So the perceived poor decisions followed him. His talent, however, is something that you can not deny.

McClain has all the physical tools at 6 foot 3 inches tall at 259 pounds with a 4.6 forty yard dash time. He looks the part and during his tenure in the NFL, he did show some flashes in his limited production. In the three years in Oakland, he averaged 81 tackles a season. (Only six tackles a game) This just wasn’t enough. He only had five games were he had 10 or more tackles and only registered 6.5 sacks and one interception.

The questions that need to be addressed are rather he is committed physically and mentally to play Football and can he be a player for the Dallas Cowboys and Marinelli in this Tampa 2? The Tampa 2 requires its middle linebacker to play in zone and in man coverage. Most of the time he will be responsible for anything under the middle or the Tight end in man to man coverage. Your middle linebacker is expected to cover and hold his own there. Can McClain handle these responsibilities? Has the defensive staff and scouts seen enough film on him to believe that he can or that Marinelli can work with him enough to get the job done?

Just what are the Cowboys thinking in bringing in a player like McClain with all this baggage? He can’t be a “right kind of guy” for this team can he? It is a gamble, but one Dallas is optimistic about. The Cowboys have a linebacker on the team with some middle linebacker experience. He is only going to be 25. Training camp is just a little over three weeks away. The Cowboys want to make sure that not only they have the right players in position but they have extra bodies for the grueling days of practicing. And it is also little risk. If he plays well and makes the team, you only lose a sixth rounder. If he doesn’t, you only swap picks in the seventh. The risk reward factor is heavily in Cowboys favor. So even if he doesn’t pan out or reretires for the third time, the Cowboys don’t lose much for kicking the tire on a talent like McClain.

Reports show that he couldn’t finish, let alone pass the condition testing with the Ravens and allegedly didn’t want to perform linebacker drills. We will have to see how bad Rolando wants it. Is his hunger deep enough that he will do whatever this staff ask him to do? How quickly can he learn the playbook and what impact will he have on this team, because with Jason Garrett on the hot seat, if he can help the Cowboys win then he is certainly a “right kind of guy” in the eyes of his coaches and cowboys fans who long to return to the promised land.

This also lets you know what they think of the talent that is out there in Free Agency. While this is not the end all be all for transactions, the Cowboys went the route they did instead of going with a player like Jonathan Vilma, Stewart Bradley or Pat Angerer. The Cowboys could also add a player after the first, second or final round of cuts before season starts.

Is McClain the answer to the puzzle at middle linebacker or this Defense? Who knows. But the Cowboys will roll the dice and hope for the best.

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Creating a Winning Culture

The Dallas Cowboys have had its fair share of ups and downs. Here lately however, they have been experiencing more downs. They have one playoff win the past 18 years. Haven’t made the playoffs since 2009 and has gone 8-8 with a chance to end that drought the last three seasons. This organization that boasts 13 Hall of Famers and 5 Superbowls have lost its touch. What can they do to get it back? Do they have enough in them to want to get it back?

Jason Garrett, team head coach, speaks about a process and a culture that you have to fall in love with. We might be seeing that culture take shape.
The Cowboys far too many times made acquisitions that made too much noise in the news and not enough noise on the field. If this team had big money, then they went out and got the biggest fish they could catch. Sometimes their catch was too big for the boat. Other times they found out that the fish wasn’t big. It was just big boned. There was nothing there really. So in both cases, the catch was eventually thrown back. Lately they have not had the cap to do this. This might turn out to be a blessing. Not only are they forced to look elsewhere for talent but they had to take a long look in the mirror. How did America’s Team get put in the middle of nowhere? We are made stronger and smarter through our failures and mistakes. The Cowboys are realizing what they did wrong and are trying to correct it. Please be advised, this takes time.

The best way to build your team is through the draft. In any scouting, you have to know who you are and what you need. Once you know, you can evaluate who fits that mold and see what they offer. No stat is more telling than the Cowboys only have four players on their roster that they drafter prior to 2010. (Witten, Spencer, Free and Scandrick) Pause. Let that sink in.

One thing of note is the exceptional job the Cowboys have done in finding undrafted players that have hunger and talent. Barry Church and Tony Romo are the first ones to come to mind. Particularly since they are starters for us in positions of high importance. Somehow they keep getting these guys who perform well with the skill set for the NFL. Cowboy fans are hoping that this doesn’t change, especially with the new crop of UDFA at the rookie mini camp that is going on right now.

The Cowboys seemn to be trusting their scouts, believing in their coaching staff and hoping they can become Championship Contenders again. They are making one football move at a time and taking it one day at a time. Will these moves pay off? Time will tell. In the mean time DeMarcus Ware will be missed. The Ghosts of past drafts will continue to haunt. They can’t run from it, only out their best foot forward.

The NFL is a popular sport. But it is not a popularity contest. Its not a nursing home either. This is a now league. No one cares about what you once were. Its all about what you can do for this team at this moment and going forward. Do you fit in with what we are doing and can you make us better? Pride, Integrity, Leadership and a Strong work ethic are what you are looking for in players. These are the players that turn into stars. They prove their worth everyday and are not content with anything short of greatness and expect those around them to do the same. A locker room of players like this with a desired goal and purpose will put you in a position to Win every Sunday.

An organization is not going to make the right moves every time, but they can not be afraid to obtain greatness.
You can look around and see the Culture being created. They have pieces in place and they are building. Its been a long hard road, but they can see something forming. The Cowboys can’t wait to see the fruitage of their labor.

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Can Williams Grab Moment?

When Johnny Manziel was seen in a picture with a Wide Receiver who played for the Dallas Cowboys last year, speculation was started. What if Johnny Football dropped in the NFL? What if he fell to the Cowboys? Manziel did drop and he was there for the taking. The Cowboys went a different route. Manziel would go six picks later to the Cleveland Browns. A week later, they would sign, no not Dez Bryant but Miles Austin.

With Austin gone, what will the Cowboys do now? Miles was such an explosive target for Tony Romo. He was one of the best receivers in the league when healthy. How do you replace such a talent? Fortunately for the Cowboys they have been trying to deal with this for years. Due to a number of injuries, Miles has either been a shadow of his former self or he has not played at all. He would remind us of what he did in 2009 and the next game would disappear. These nagging injuries made him inconsistent. Last year, the Cowboys found a new hope.

Terrance Williams was drafted in the third round of the NFL draft last year. Even though he put up huge numbers, many wondered if he had the speed and quickness needed at the next level. He had skills, but could he become a good route runner and use his hands when catching the ball?

These were all issues that Williams could not run from. But inside he knew that if he was given a chance, he would prove what he could do. Those who doubted Williams were witness to the fact and became believers. True, Williams did struggle coming out of the gates. Just like every other rookie, there are some adjustments to be made and things that you need to do in order to be better.
With Austin being hurt, Terrance Williams found himself in the starting lineup for about half of the games last season. He made his mistakes and learned from them.

It seemed that each game he was becoming a better player. He improved his route running and his hands were becoming more consistent. NFL corners were finding out that he was fast enough to play and had the skills needed to excel in this league.

At the end of the year of Williams had accumulated 736 yards receiving and found the end zone five times. He proved to be a big play threat by averaging 16.7 yards a reception, tying him for sixth in the NFL. Out of his forty-four catches, twelve of them were over twenty yards and three were over forty. Of the passes thrown to him, he had a catch rate of sixty percent. Clearly, Williams was catching on. Interesting to note that he did all of this on just under seventy percent of the snaps.
He showed us glimpses that he has some star power in him. While he looks the part of a second receiver, we also saw that he can get better. Scary thought.

Terrance Williams is in a good position. You are surrounded by Pro Bowl talent. You are just one part of a great offensive skills unit. It is safe to say that you will benefit from playing alongside a Dez Bryant and a Hall Of Fame Tight End in Jason Witten. Somebody is going to receive a favorable matchup and nine times out of ten, it is going to be him. Undoubtedly that has caught the eye of new coordinator Scott Linehan and the eyes of Tony Romo as well. And if Williams has shown us anything from his first season in the NFL, he will be there. Ready to grab this moment.

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Cowboys Rookie Mini-camp

The NFL draft is over. No more will you hear words like prospect and potential. Take all those measurements- the forty time, the 3 cone drill, and the Broad jump; you can even take those stats and throw them out the window. What you did at the combine and what you did in college no longer matters. All those accolades don’t mean a thing now.
You now have have the task of proving yourself all over again. Proving to your team, proving to the NFL, and most of all, proving to yourself that you can play this game and that you belong in this league with the best players in the world.

The Cowboys Rookie Mini-camp officially starts on Friday, May 16, 2014. A total of 34 players will be participating. 31 of these players have already shown up at Valley Ranch.

Most of these players will have extra fuel to add to their fire; some added motivation to their determination. Only Zach Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence were drafted in the first two days of the draft. The other players were either drafted on the last day or had to play the waiting game. Waiting by your phone, hoping for a call. That call would be either the Cowboys have decided to give you a contract like fullback JC Copeland of LSU or to extend to you an invitation to try out like Kolton Browning from Louisiana Monroe.

While the mini-camp begins on Friday, the rookies who are here have a chance to meet with the coaches, go over plays, and start gaining chemistry with other players and see what they will be asked to do. The time spent is a win win for both team and player. The team provides valuable information to player and gets a chance to get players on a workout plan. The players get to slowly get their feet wet. They begin to get acclimated to the NFL and their new team.

So it’s official, their career in football has just started. Their desire is for that career to be a long and successful one.

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Improving Cowboys Rushing Attack

The NFL Draft just wrapped up and all 32 teams think they have done a good job. Some just needed to reload to keep their team in contention. Other teams are trying to rebuild and start fresh. Then you have teams like the Dallas Cowboys who are neither rebuilding or reloading. They are just trying to get closer to the fight. Closer to the action; closer to being one of the teams in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy.

Even though the Cowboys drafted 7 out of 9 players on the defensive side of the ball, I think that they did wonders in helping their offense. Not did they draft a lineman and a receiver, but they added three players to their backfield through the undrafted rookie free agency. The one area that always drove me to the brink of madness was the number of blown leads the Cowboys have had. According to the Bleacher Report, the Cowboys have blown fifteen games in the last five years. So on average, that is three games a year. I ask you just how many wins would we have needed in the past three years to make the playoffs? Just one. This stat more than most allows you to see that every game does matter.

It would be unfair to blame the offense or the defense for losing these leads. They both have done their fair share over the years in this department. Perhaps the common way to protect a lead however is to run the ball, especially if you have the lead late in games. Feeding your pro bowl Running back and leaning on him to seal the deal. As long as he is gaining yards and getting first downs, you will keep procession and the game clock will continue to run down. But in order to play Big Boy Football you will need Big Boy Brawlers and a few ballers. You need a strong dependable line that can move defenders off the ball and make room for your running backs. You will also need players to help carry the workload and give your work horse time to o rest up.

With the decisions that they have made with in the last four days, the Cowboys are in a perfect position to do just that. The selection of Zach Martins strengthens the line and provides for flexibility and youth. You team Martin up with Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith, both of who are younger than Martin, and you have a solid nucleus that will not only keep Tony Romo upright in the pocket but utilize the running game. There is no reason why Dallas should problems having a more balanced attack and a more effective offense. Martin will be looking to start at either guard spot. Learning the playbook and getting stronger will be his main job right now.

The Cowboys then added two more running backs that will come in and compete with the talent they already have. Texas A&M product Ben Malena uses his compact frame to slide through the line and shift through and past defenders. He is excellent in picking up blitzes and blocking even though he is limited in size. You can measure height, but it is the unmeasurables like effort and heart that makes a true Champion. Glasco Martin from Baylor was also a nice pick up from the pool of undraftaed. He is a big back that fights for every yard. He uses size and athleticism to punish opposing defenders. Returning from last year’s squad is Randle and Dunbar. Joseph Randle has DeMarco in him, while Lance Dunbar uses his quickness to get into the open field.

With these additions to the team and the returning players who starving for a post season birth, I do not see why we can’t improve on our rushing offense that was a staggering 24th in the league. This alone should be motivation for the offensive line and the running back corps. With a little hard work and good luck the Cowboys should have an effective running game.

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Street’s Road to Success Starts with Cowboys

The Cowboys moved up in the fifth round to select Devin Street from the University of Pittsburg. Apparently they couldn’t pass up on the pass catching ability of the Panthers All-Time leader in receptions. (Street had 2,901 yards receiving and hauled in 16 touchdowns) Pitt has spit out some good receivers into the NFL. Players like Antonio Bryant, Jonathan Baldwin and Larry Fitzgerald are names that come to mind. But none of them got to 170 receptions. Street sits at 202.

Street is a tall receiver with a nice build to him. At 6’3 198 pounds, Street was able to use his size to his advantage. But size is not the only reason he was targeted so much for the Panthers. To be a taller receiver, Street runs some of the best routes seen at his level of play. He positions himself well and has great footwork. He could set up his man and use his quickness to get off the line and run his routes. When the ball is in the air, rarely does he lose it. Like any reliable receiver, his hands are consistent.

Even with all those receptions, some still question his production. Why wasn’t he able to post at least one 1,000 yard season? Some are led to believe that he doesn’t have breakaway speed. Devin only ran a 4.5 in the forty yard dash. But just watch how this kid plays. He knows how to run and adjusts his speed to the result he needs to obtain. Film doesn’t lie. He finds ways to get open and separates from his defenders. Can he do it in the NFL? We shall see.

They say that speed kills. And to some extent, I agree. More important to me, however, is the things that you do before you turn on the after burners. Getting off the line, running your route, showing yourself as a target and making the catch. Darius Heywood-Bey ran a 4.25 for his forty yard dash time and we see how it has helped him. In five years, this former first round pick only has 2,380 yards and 12 touchdowns.

With regards to his lack of a 1,000 yard season I point to A.J. Green. Green has been one of the best wideouts since he was drafted by the Bengals. He never had a 1,000 yard season of receiving while at Georgia. But each of his three seasons in the NFL has yielded a 1,000 yard effort. While A.J. Green is an elite receiver, I do not see why Street can not produce in this league with the skill set, athleticism, and determination that he possesses.

It is going to be a long road for Street. He is going to have to put in a ton of work and continue to improve as a student of the game and in his route running. In his work out with Coach Dooley he was shown some pointers on how to get better. The Cowboys already know what he beings to try table. Now it is a matter of bringing it everyday. There will be players like Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, Chris Boyd and L’Damian Washington will be bringing their A game trying to earn playing time on this team. So welcome to the Dallas Cowboys Devin. You now have the task of earning that Star on your helmet. I wish you well.

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Cowboys Draft Anthony Hitchens

Some of you may be scratching your head right now with the recent selection of the Dallas Cowboys, with good reason I may add. There has been some conflicting reports about our fourth round pick Anthony Hitchens. Should we question this pick? What do they see in him? Was this pick too high?

He was definitely a reach. Many had him graded no higher than a fifth round pick. It is interesting that some thought he would go undrafted. The undersized Line Backer from The University of Iowa may have already tapped out physically, but has the mental approach to get better and find ways to make plays. Sources say that he would make a great third option and push for time as a backup. Though Hitchens had the better production in college, fellow Iowa Linebackers Christian Kirksey and James Morris are both viewed as better Pro prospects. Hitchens has the shortest ceiling as well.

Consistency and effort was a concern in a game his junior year. Hitchens was on his way to a monster game before he was pulled in first half with eight tackles. He knew that not only was he better than that, but was expected to be better. He was committed to being the player that he knew he could be. He answered the call and had a very productive senior season where he led the Big Ten in tackles and posting an impressive 13.5 tackles for loss.
While he did lead his team in tackles both his junior and senior season, he became more of a complete player with the Coaching changes on Defense. He became a better tackler, a better leader, and made improvements to how he defended the pass. He was also able to showcase his pass rushing skills with the addition if several blitz packages that were added to the playbook. Anthony Hitchens proved that even though he was undersized, he was not going to back down from a challenge.

From a fans perspective, I hope the Cowboys saw something special when they looked at this young man. Sadly, everyone else just sees him being a special teams contributor. But we have to trust in the job of our scouting department. If they can find a guy off the street to help be some type of anchor for our Defense in George Selvie, they must think he has the talent to push Bruce Carter and compete for a spot on this team. Who here has watched hours of film in this guy from each of his games? Who has talked to his coaches and gathered Intel on what type of player and person he is and what he brings to your team?
As with all of our players on the team, I wish Anthony Hitchens nothing but the best. Welcome to the Dallas Cowboys.

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If the ifs happen…

Johnny Football. The most dynamic college athlete the past two years, on the field and off it. Johnny Manziel is the Heisman Winning, never say never, Goliath slaying, edge of your seat, play-making quarterback out of Texas A&M. After his debut in 2012, many said that he would be a future Top 3 pick in this upcoming draft. Then something happened. We forgot.

We didn’t forget about his talent. We didn’t forget his cat like reflexes or how quick he is. We didn’t forget about his release. We forgot that at the time, Manziel was just 20 years old. We forgot that he was going into his redshirt sophomore year. We forgot what we were like at 20 with none of his charisma or plot in life.

The expectations turned from just being a good football player to being a role model to everyone. To act how we wanted him to act.

Instead Manziel proceeded to be his self, a 20 year old college kind in today’s day and age. he partied with friends. Met new people. Went to musical and sporting events. Spent some time on a lake or two. To many, Johnny Football turned into Johnny Rock star.

Then the football season started and he proved that he was Even better than he was the year before. He showed more patience in the pocket. He showed off his arm and continued to wow us with his athleticism and elusiveness. Manziel finished his career with 7,806 yards through the air, 2,162 yards on the ground. He scored 63 times via the passing game and rushed for another 30 touchdowns. The debate has been on regarding Johnny and the other quarterbacks of this dratft. What team will pick him up if he starts to drop?

Last year, if you would have told any team out of the top Five that Manziel would be there, few would think twice about picking him up. At 16, what if Manziel was still available? What if his name was still on the board? Should the cowboys pick up even when they have other needs and statistically one of the best passers in the entire game?
Count me as one that would make the call for him to be on the team. If he was to be there, that would mean that all other potential picks would be gone. There is not two JaDeveon Clowneys or Aaron Donalds in this draft. When a potential all star falls in your lap, you don’t let them get away.

What are the benefits? You can develop him into your QB of the future. Romo is not getting younger. In a quarterback driven league, you are lost with out having a winner at this position. If he develops well, you have leverage and can make trade options with other teams. And of course, what if Tony Romo continues to get banged up and miss time? Shouldn’t your backup be trusted to win games and make plays for you?

Honestly, Manziel might be gone. But the decision will have to be made. If you can not trade down and your value is not there, pick best player available. Even if that player is a quarterback. This team is more than a rotational player away from returning to Championship contention. If we do not get a stud, we will continue in mediocrity.

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Training Camp is Approaching

Training Camp is Approaching

With just seven days until Training Camp in Oxnard, California, the Cowboys and their fans are anxiously awaiting the start of the new season. The bitter taste of having a chance to win the division and get into the Play-offs for two consecutive years just can’t get out of their mouth. The remnants of defeat and disappointment linger. Training Camp is a chance to start fresh and slowly begin to prepare a new meal. A chance to wash out last year and earn a seat at the big boy table. If you want to have a good season, you must have a good training Camp. Training Camp sets the tone and foundation for your season. Every team is going into Training camp determining how they are going to approach the season and determining the roles for their teams. Captains will be chose, starters will be determined and team camaraderie is formed. When you look up camaraderie words like friendship, trust, solidarity, and familiarity are mentioned. A roster is a group of players, but a team is a group of players who are organized and work together for a common goal or purpose to achieve greatness.
In order for the 2013-2014 season to be great for the Cowboys, there are some things that need to be addressed. Now it would be easy just to say that we need to stay healthy, but dealing with injuries is something that every NFL team has to go through. The injury bug bit the Cowboys pretty hard last year, though. But even with the players back they still have a long way to go to accomplish their goals. The Offensive line, mastering the 4-3, youth development, and improving productivity on offense and defense are all things that are of extreme importance.

The offensive line played well at times, especially when ranking how some of them played independently; however, the Offensive line is a unit and is viewed as such. This unit needs to get stronger inside. The fact that the Cowboys spent their first round draft choice on a Center that was slotted to go in the second round speaks volume to how important upgrading the unit really is. Cohesion will be necessary so you can see how the players around you react to pressure and surprises. The more time spent together the better you all will perform. Watching film and understanding what areas you can improve and what part of your unit is weak can be a strength to you and the entire team. You can protect your quarterback better and provide holes and alleys for your running backs to run through. This leads to more yards, potentially less turnovers and more points on the board. A member on this Cowboys team said it best and this applies to the entire team: “As a player, you’re gonna make plays but you’ve got to look at the mistakes that you made and see what you can do to help the team and eliminate those mistakes.” That player was DeMarcus Ware.

The Cowboys have been in the 3-4 since 2005. Parcells brought the scheme in and Wade Phillips and Rob Ryan kept it. The personnel has been 3-4 all this time. With few changes to the roster, the Cowboys are making the switch back to the 4-3 in Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2. How well will they acclimate to the change and what adjustments have the players made (or need to make) to get themselves ready for the season will be something to see. Former Outside Linebackers Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware are moving to Defensive End and have their mind set on meeting up in the backfield on destroying everything that moves. Training camp will also give us an idea of what our Defensive rotation will be. Questions about our tackles and who will be where are still out there. Training Camp will provide some answers. The Linebacking corp have new roles and responsibilities. How will they fit is not really a question since Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are amazing. They are such great students of the game and tend to make plays all over the field. The third linebacker spot will be likely manned by Justin Durant. Durant has been playing Strong Side Linebacker so he will not have to make a change in that regard. New system, new coach, new team. In some ways everyone in this group will have to adjust. The secondary will also have to adjust. Playing in Kiffin’s Cover 2 is different and asked players to do different things than what they have been doing. The key is being accountable and smart. You must think, play and react fast. Some do not think that the pieces fit perfectly in this new Defense, but fortunately we have training camp to get ready and provide a response to all the doubters.

One of the excitements around training camp is seeing which young players are primed to make an impact on the upcoming season. Last year it was Barry Church and the improvement of Jason Hatcher. We saw Cole Beasley take advantage of his opportunities and ended making the team and getting playing time. Who will develop into a play maker for us out of the young group of guys that we have on our team this year? Players who did not play last year like Danny Coale and Matt Johnson will look to show and prove that they belong and can make an impact on the team while players like Alex Albright, Jeremy Parnell, Tyrone Crawford and James Hanna will be looking to have an improved role. Comments about the window closing or shutting are still out there, but if players like these can improve and become play makers the future looks bright. The new crop of rookies are seeking to earn a name as well. High hopes are in place for all of our rookies. A couple will be slotted to play a large number of minutes. Players like Terrance Williams, Travis Frederick, B.W. Webb and Gavin Escobar will be asked to do big things for this team. How will they perform day in and day out when they have to perform against the veterans amidst a more competitive environment?

If you want to be productive, you have to prepare for it. Preparation, hard work and talent will take you anywhere. “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” Perhaps the most important thing about Training Camp is getting organized and finding a rhythm. Repeating what you do over and over until it becomes a habit. Determining what packages work and what formations fit your personnel, making sure everyone is on the same page, getting your timing down and understanding your individual role on this team (You have new players and new coaches finding their way and discovering what need to do for this team to be successful). How can the Dallas Cowboys be more productive this year? This team had a +/- of -13 in the turnover category. The Offense turned the ball over too many times and the defense did not force enough turnovers. This is something that will be inculcated into the minds of the players every week. The hammering starts now. The Cowboys were the third most penalized team in the NFL. These are things that has to change. It is hard to win when you are giving the ball away and putting yourself up against the wall in each game. The Cowboys have plenty of weapons, but they have to stop shooting themselves if they want to do damage this year. While the Cowboys offense racked up plenty of yards, they where in the middle of the pack when it comes to getting in the end zone. The more times you score the better chance you have of winning. Sounds simple don’t it? We have to find more ways to maximize the talent and opportunities that we have on both sides of the ball. Specifically on offense, Bill Callahan will be entrusted with the play calling and creating a balance. We can not do this without having an effective running game. We became predictable because we could not run the ball. With the talent on this team, there is no reason why we can not be more productive.

Last year brought forth many challenges, but it also made the Cowboys aware of what they need to do to get better. They have made several changes to get better and now they are ready to go to work. Keep in mind that the CBA has made it harder to on the coaches since they can no longer have two-a-days in full pads. Mentally, the players will have to be more focused. They shouldn’t need any motivation to be crisp and focused for the season. Seeing their rival win the division and earn a play-off birth, loosing that right again on the last game by their hands, and everyone asking does this team have what it takes should be motivation enough. Training camp is approaching. The fans are ready. Football is back!!!

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Cowboys Banking on Health and Youth?

Cowboys Banking on Health and Youth in 2012

With the Salary Cap how it is and the Talent Pool draining by the day, fans are wondering how the Cowboys plan on fielding a better team then the one that went 8-8 last season.  Once again, the Cowboys had a chance to win the division and make the play-offs, but could not get the job done.  We couldn’t make stops when we needed to and our offense could not get the ball in the endzone enough.  Changes were made to both the Offense and Defense, from role changes amongst coaching staff to changing defensive schemes.  Changing schemes usually mean bringing in new players that match that scheme.  And considering the record of last years team, you would think that an influx of talent is going to be needed to improve this team.  Partly, you are right.  But the Cowboys might be banking on just acquisitions to make their team better.

The second week of Free agency is among us, and so far the Dallas Cowboys have not made a splash.  Teams like Miami (Five free agent acquisitions worth $135 Million, $63 Million guranteed) and and Kansas City (Six free agent acquisitions worth $103 Million, $38 Million guaranteed) are trying to win free agency by signing as many players as they can with their cap room.  Some teams are over spending for unproven talent while others are finding good value in this buyers market.  With the Dallas Cowboys struggling getting contracts in order and gaining flexibility with their salary cap, they will look to health and youth for main contributions in the 2013 season.

Sean Lee, Barry Church, Bruce Carter, Kenyon Coleman, Orlando Scandrick, Phil Costa, Chris Jones (All Starters), Danny Coale, Orie Lemon and Caleb McSurdy all made their way to the Injured Reserve list.  Loosing six starters and four Linebackers total was brutal.  Our Defense never recovered and looked suspect all season.  With Sean Lee out, DeMarcus Ware (Recovering from Shoulder surgery now and was close to having elbow surgery) and Jay Ratliff hurt (Ratliff missed 10 games last season due to ankle injuries and hernia surgery), and continuous dissappointments in the secondary, the Cowboys was ranked 19th in yards per game.

There were four games that the Cowboys lost by less than six points last season.  Those games might have had a different outcome if we were not stricken with the injury bug.  Do you not think having up to seven starters back on your roster wouldn’t sway a Victory?  How much production could we have gotten from a healthy D-Ware?  Barry Church had a great off-season and came into training camp ready to prove that he was the answer at Safety.  He was off to a good start, but tore his Achilles in the third quarter of Week 3.  At one point in the season, we had to start the backup backup Safety.  The Cowboys leaned on Veteran free agent pickups Dan Connor, Ernie Sims, and Charlie Peprah to patch up this Defense but it was not enough.   Not only are Sean Lee and Bruce Carter quicker, stronger and faster players, they are also some of the best tacklers in the NFL.  (PFF has Lee ranked 6th and Carter ranked 15th among LBs in  Tackling Efficiency)

Another reason why the Cowboys will have an improved team is youth.  Morris Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford, Cole Beasley and James Hanna all saw the field in their rookie season.  Claiborne was picked on early, but got better and better and the season went along.  He was given opportunity to improve and battle through his mistakes and became a stronger corner.   Brandon Underwood was a player signed to the Cowboys last season that will also get a chance to make this team.  Tyrone Crawford and James Hanna will be in the rotation at their respective positions.  They shown flashes last season, Crawford especially, but will need to have a bigger impact this year with so many question marks surrounding depth and play making ability.  Crawford needs to get better at providing pressure and continue to improve at stopping the run.  Being in the 4-3 will allow Crawford more room and allow him to use his motor more.  James Hanna and Cole Beasley played limited roles last year, but should see their production increase.  The Pair of Phantoms have been broken up leaving Dwayne Harris as the third WR penciled in for Training Camp.  But Cole presents an intriguing option to be used in the slot.  James Hanna has slid into the second spot on the depth chart.  James Hanna was the only Cowboys receiving threat returning that did not drop a pass last year.  This is something that shouldn’t go unnoticed.  He has a ton of work to do to get better and improve his overall game, but he is a remarkable athlete that can bring a different dynamic at Tight End.  Using him and Witten at the same time might open up some mismatches.  No huddle and pre-snap motions can be utilized at greater efficiency with Hanna blocking better and continuing to develop.

Caleb McSurdy, Danny Coale and Matt Johnson never got a chance to show what they could do in their rookie season.  They all suffered injuries that prevented them from playing.  Caleb McSurdy is a consistent tackler who works hard and plays football the right way.  He has a great mentality and plays with good fundamentals.  Danny Coale suffered two injuries that were costly.  He has the speed, size and hands to be a productive Wide out, but injuries derailed this train before it left the station.  Hopefully, he can have a coming out party for the Cowboys and at least compete for the fourth or fifth WR spot.  With Miles coming off of a season that was plagued with Hamstring injuries and Kevin Olgletree in Tampa Bay there is a need for someone to step up and deliver.  Why not Coale?  Tim Benford,  undrafted player from last season and Carlton Mitchell, player that was signed to a future contract are also players that you can add to the list of potential Olgetree replacements.

Matt Johnson showed promise and had many buzzing about what a steal he was, but never could get over a nagging hamstring injury.  This is good news, because it seems like all of the athletes on the team have hamstring issues.  Hopefully Johnson can come back strong and play like he know he is capable of.  He proved he can be a play-maker, a leader and a ball hawk in college.  Not only is he smart, but he is also tough.  He runs like a running back and plays football like a linebacker.  Johnson has vowed to work hard until he makes “Cowboynation proud!”  I hope he pans out.   Early indications are putting him as our Starting Safety in Kiffins Cover 2 alongside Barry Church.

A player that got healthy during the season was Kyle Wilber.  Wilber was drafted to play outside LB in the 3-4, but he played in a 4-3 and 3-4 system in college.  How much he picks up in the 4-3 will determine how much success he will have.  Like Hanna under Witten, Wilber has Sean Lee to lean on, but Lee and Carter will have to adjust to the 4-3 as well.  But if Lee and Carter’s work ethic and mental approach can rub off on Wilber the Cowboys will be better for it.  Wilber will get every opportunity to gain the starting job, but Alex Albright and resigned LB Ernie Sims will get looks if Wilber is not able to step up.  Either way, Wilber will be in the mix for us at linebacker.  Albright himself is just in his third season.  He has been reported as having off-season hernia surgery, but should be ready to compete.

What about Defensive Lineman?  With the Cowboys moving to a 4-3 and releasing Spears, depth is needed on this line.  Maybe the Cowboys have already signed some players that could help them out here.  Nick Hayden and Brent Price are big Defensive Tackles that could both stop the run and pressure the quarterback in College.   Hayden is on his third team and is trying to find a place to showcase his talents.  Price has the talent to be a starter on this team.  If he is hungry and focused, Dallas could be the place of redemption for him.  He is an amazing talent and when his motor is on, can not be stopped.  Only time will tell if he is ready to answer the call.  Ben Bass and Rob Callaway will also be in the mix.  Both were on the practice squad and were called up during the season.  The Cowboys like what they bring to the table and could see playing time this year.  None of these players have been in the league for more than three years.

Other young players that could provide an impact this year are Sterling Moore, Cornerback, Ronald Leary, Guard, and Jeremy Parnell, Tackle.  A player that I am keeping an eye on is Tight End Andre Smith.  He is an all around player that works hard and makes the most of his talents.  Indeed, while the Cowboys have not been players in this years Free Agency, they just might have some players on this team right now that will impact the 2013 season.  With any luck, the injured players and unproven young talent will be enough to make this team better and possibly get us back into the hunt.

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