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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History of Taking Guards in First Rounds

Ten Year Recap of the Guards taken in the first rounds

2012:

David DeCastro 24th pick PIT Promising Career will have to wait and he tore both his ACL and MCL in his right knee during a preseason game.
Kevin Zeitler 27th pick CIN Starting right Guard for the Bengals and is their best Offensive Lineman.
2nd Round: 40th pick Amini Silatolu CAR did not perform well enough last year. Ended the season on IR for dislocated wrist. See what he does in his sophomore campaign.
Peter Konz 55th pick ATL- backup to Justin Blalock

2011:
Danny Watkins 23rd pick PHI Former 5th round pick from Indy, Jake Scott had been getting his starts. Still early, but not looking good for Watkins. See what this year will bring for him under Chip Kelly. Watkins is already 28 years old.
3rd Round John Moffitt 75th pick SEA Hurt his knee earlier on, but has been outplayed by Pat MQuistan. Several games listed as inactive, though his health is fine.
Will Rackley JAX 76th (High ankle sprain costs him 2012 season, but started 14 of the 15 games he played in his rookie year at LG)

Cowboys NOTE: The Cowboys drafted David Arkin in the fourth round out of Missouri State. He has not started or played any games for us as of yet.

2010:
Mike Iupati 17th pick SAN (Pro-Bowler and All-Pro Guard),
Second Round Zane Beadles 45th pick DEN (Pro-Bowl 2012)

2009:
NO First rounders
Andy Levitre 51st pick BUF- One of the big Free Agent acquisitions this year. The Titans picked up a player who has never missed a game and graded out as the best pass blocking Guard in the NFL in 2012.

2008:
No First Rounders
Chilo Rachal 39th pick SAN (Played with Chicago last year, but quit the team momentarily when he found out he lost his starting job. The bears put him on Reserve list and made him sit out the rest of the year)
Mike Pollak 59th pick IND (Continuosly battling injuries and never has played 12 games in season)

2007:
Ben Grubbs 29th pick BAL 2011 Pro-Bowl, one of the better guards in the league, now playing with the Saints
Arron Sears 35th pick TB Started every game that he played, but suffered a career ending concussion
Justin Blalock 39th pick Falcons Started and played every game for the Falcons.

2006:
Davin Joseph 23rd pick TB has started 83 games of the 84 that he has played in. The two-time pro bowler missed 2012 season with a knee injury but is ready to go.
Deuce Lutui 41st pick AZ Free agent who will miss the first four games this year due to NFL Suspension for PEDS. Started 79% of the games he played in and is on his third team (now with the Titans) and counting.
Daryn Colledge 47th pick GB Super Bowl Champion, Started 96% of games that he played and has not missed a game.  Now playing for the Arizona Cardinals.

Cowboys NOTE: C Ryan Cook 51st pick MIN started 57% of the games he played for Min before going to Miami [Never started] and Dallas [started 11 out of 13 games]

2005:
Logan Mankins 32nd pick NE Best Guard in the game. Had a hold out issue in 2010 missing 7 games, and an ankle/calf injury that costs him to miss another 7 games. Logan Mankins has started in each he has played for the Patriots. Mankins is an ALL-Pro, Pro-Bowler and Super Bowl Champion. The Corner Stone of the Patriots Offensive line.
2nd round: David Baas 33rd pick SAN Baas has only started 68% of the games he has played and has missed 9 games in his career. Now with the Giants where he started all 16 games for them in 2012.

2004:
No Guards in first Round
Chris Snee 34th pick NYG Started every game he was healthy, only missing six games in his entire career. One of the better Guards in the NFL. still with the Giants
Jake Grove 45th pick OAK Started 84% of the games he started, but only played a full season 1 time in career. Retired after 2009
Justin Smiley 46th pick SAN (started 78 out of 88 games played. Four years with San Fran, two with MIA and short one in JAX- Shoulder Retired 2010)

Cowboys NOTE: Stephen Peterman was drafted in the third round by the Dallas Cowboys. He did not find success in Dallas, but has started every game he has played for the Detroit Lions since 2007. He has missed 12 games in that period, none in the last three seasons.

2003: No Guards in the First round
2nd round:
Eric Steinbach 33rd pick CIN, Started 99% of the games he played while only missing 3 games in his 8 year career 4 with CIN and 4 with CLE Retired

Best Guard in Football, Logan Mankins, was drafted with the last pick of the 2005 first round by the New England Patriots. There are about 15 to 20 teams that are kicking themselves because they missed on the Talent that is Logan Mankins. Teams weigh the value of a pick and wonder if they are making the right pick for their selection. Do you draft for need, or pick the best player available? If the player that you want is there when you pick, you pick him. But in the last 10 years, there hasn’t been an Offensive Guard taken in the top 15 picks. The closest is All-Pro Mike Iupati of the 49ers who was drafted at 17th. This would be the ideal situation. You make the pick having done your homework and understand what this player will bring to your team and hopefully he becomes one of the best players at his position.

Guards, no matter how good they are, have a tendency of falling. You have to go back to 2001 with Leonard Davis going second and 1998 when Kyle Turley went sixth to the New Orleans Saints. There has been 8 guards taken in the first round and 15 Guards taken in the second round in the last 10 years. In four of the last 10 years, the NFL Draft did not have a guard taken at all in the first round. In that span, last year was the only time two guards went in the first round: David DeCastro and Kevin Zeitler. Many remember that DeCastro was the best Offensive Guard in the draft and was expected to go as high as 11 to the Chiefs and many had him coming to the Dallas Cowboys at 14. But that all changed and DeCastro ended up dropping to 24th for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This year, Jonathan Cooper have wowed scouts and draft experts the same way, but flashes more athleticism. Both he and Chance Warmack are the two best guards in this Draft class. And again, the Cowboys are in need of an upgrade at Offensive line. While the Dallas Cowboys could very well be looking at Defensive line help, if tradition continues, they will be in the right spot to pick an Offensive Guard. One that will hopefully follow the trend and become key clogs for an offensive line in desperate need of cohesiveness and a new energy.

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Salary Cap Domino

 

Salary Cap Domino

 

There is still one or two Dominoes that need to fall for the Dallas Cowboys.  They are still $6.8 Million Dollars over the Salary Cap.  With Free Agency set to begin Tuesday, Match 12th, something has to happen.  The team will need to allocate funds for the Rookies that get drafted in April.  They are also in need of some pieces at Safety, Defensive Line, and Offensive Line. Time is of the essence.  If the Cowboys want to avoid penalties and sanctions, they need to get something done.  Where is that Domino going to fall from?

The Teams have restructured several contracts thus far: Miles Austin, Brandon Carr, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Ryan Cook, Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware.  So from newer contracts to stars on the team, the Cowboys are looking high and low at contracts.  Jay Ratliff and Orlando Scandrick are other contracts that the Cowboys have been looking at.  Scandrick, in my oppinion should have never been offered such a big contract and now the Cowboys are forced to back tract and try to shift money around.  Players like backup QB Kyle Orton and Marcus Spears are options as well. 

Gerald Sensabaugh was cut earlier this week.  This saved the team over $1 million dollars which the Cowboys needed, but now the question is what they will do at Safety.  They already needed a safety and now they need two.  The Draft just got more interesting for the Cowboys.  They see how deep this draft is, and figure they can find someone who brings the type of value that Sensy has brought or more.  Cowboys fans are hoping and wishing since we have been looking for a force at Safety since Darren Woodson left.  Roy Williams had his time here, but after Woody he was never the same.  And with the move to a Cover two, the safety position is looked at with even more importance.  Why not choose to cut another player at a different position. 

Didn’t the General Manager and Owner of the team say that things were going to get “real uncomfortable” after another mediocre season?  Why not start looking at the players who have under achieved and give them a shot to be stars somewhere else?  Sure, you might release a future pro bowler or starter on another team, but you should never let fear drive your decision making.  If All-Pro linebacker James Harrison can be released by the Steelers, and the Falcons can release three starters off their team, why is it so hard for an 8-8 football squad to make similar decisions to get under the cap and gain flexibility to making this team better.  I was surprised that Defense had the first cut since we changed schemes and coordinators.  If a cut was made, I thought Jason Garrett would man up and get it done on offense since it has been under his control over the past four or five years. 

There is not alot of players that are worth the cut, weighing options over money saved and future production.  The Debate amongst Cowboy fans are rather to wait and see if Doug Free can regain his confidence or cut ties with him.  There had been talks of moving him to guard where Romo has been receiving the most pressure, but who is to say that he is better fit there.  Blame it on the contract or the pressure of Tyron Smith performing so well and raising expectations, but Doug Free has not been the same player.  He might be the next Casualty of the Salary Cap.

The possibility of making a trade is also dangling out there.  Recently franchised Anthony Spencer has been in constant rumors.  Other teams around the league know that the Cowboys are desprate right now so are low balling what they will give them in return.  Again, time is of the essence.  Joe Flacco just signed a record breaking contract making him the highest paid player in the NFL.  So what would Tony Romo want?  The Cowboys have been looking to reconstructure his contract but have not had success.  It seems that him and his agent are playing hard ball.  If we can not reconstructure, Tony will play out his final year on his contract and then become a free agent.  The Cowboys will be in the same cap space situation again next year.  Will they have enough money to sign him, and if so at what expense?  Wrapping up all your money in a 33 year old quarterback for a mediocre team doesn’t make too much sense. 

I ask Cowboy nation what exactly are we expecting from Tony Romo in the next three seasons?  A Championship?  Do you think that there is a clutch switch installed that will allow him to make the right decisions when the game matters the most?  Not just in certain games.  Either you have it or you don’t.  And while Tony Romo has something, I do not think it is enough with the way this team in constructed.  The Cowboys went 2-7 against winning teams in the NFL last year.  In those 9 games, Tony threw 18 of his 19 interceptions.  (Since Tony became starter, we are 14-24 against winning teams)   Why not offer Tony Romo up and see what interest he receives.  This move will get us under the salary cap and allow us to not just go window shopping in free agency but get two or three players that will help this team.   But we NEED Tony, right.  Not so fast.  And while he has put up great numbers with the Cowboys, he has only had one play-off win in seven years.  Is that not why you play the game?  In the words of Herm Edwards, “HELLO!”  And in the ten games that he missed in 2010, Jon Kitna threw for 2,365 yards, 16 TDs and eventually finished the season .500 with three close losses of three or fewer points.  So he did just what Romo does, put up big numbers and win half the time.  Kyle Orton can do the same thing.  At least until we find a better option. 

Because is that not what we all want-OPTIONS.  The opportunity to make our team better and hopefully in the near future start playing competitive championship football.  The option of going and getting the best players we can and fielding a winning team.  Because so far, we have not been winning.  All 32 other teams who are under the cap are making moves to better their teams in some sort or fashion.  Teams like Atlanta, San Francisco, and New England are prepared to find those missing pieces to the puzzle that will allow them to play and possibly win in that last big game of the season, the Super Bowl.  The big puzzle for the Cowboys is figuring out which Romo we will get and hoping he doesn’t unravel in the clutch- to no avail.  So why not let someone else deal with the fragmented pieces of his confidence.  Tony Romo is the last Domino to fall before free agency.  Will the Cowboys find a way to reconstruct his deal or do what is inevitable and try to get something back to help this team?  We shall see, but I am betting that this Domino will not Fall.  The Country Club that is the Cowboys organization will continue to dishonor their once prided Tradition and remain just an average team.  Tony Romo and his agent seems to be holding the winning Domino leaving us scrambling the “graveyard” for answers.

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Cjbcool Cowboys Mock Draft Version 1

Mock Draft

Pre-Free Agency

The Dallas Cowboys have several holes to fill.  They have some young players that they are depending on that have showed promise like Morris Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford, Tyrin Smith, and Bruce Carter.  But there are other Cowboy youngsters that could come along and prove their worth to the team.  Players like Danny Coale, Cole Beasley, Matt Johnson, Kevin Kowalski and Jeremy Parnell are hoping that 2013 will be the year that they put their names in the list of stars for the Dallas Cowboys.  It will not be easy, but nothing that you want in life is.  Nothing in the NFL is either as some have already found that out. 

Another way that the Cowboys will look to get better is Free Agency, but with the boys still working on restructuring contracts to try to get more cap space (Salary Cap), some wonder if they will be able to get a player that will make an impact.  Fingers are crossed hoping that the Cowboys can get something done and bring in some talent that will help us get over the hill and become a good team with real chances of getting into the playoffs and trying to win a Super Bowl.

And then there is the NFL Draft in April that the Cowboys are eagerly anticipating.  the Draft is where future All-Pros are selected.  Where decisions that will impact your franchise for the next five, ten or even fifteen years are made, some good, others not so much.  So what will the Cowboys do?  Who will they pick and what can we expect?  Will the Cowboys move up like they did last year in grabbing Morris Claiborne, or will they trade down?  There are alot of questions and fortunately for us, alot of time to.  I have been thinking of two scenarios that maight happen come draft day.  No.  I am not in the mind of Jerry Jones, but like all of us, we see what this team needs and how it can get closer to accomplishing team goals.  Here is my take.

There are two scenarios that I see taking place.  The first scenario is where Dallas stands pat at their position in the draft and pick accordingly.  There will be minor trades all over. but this scenario is based on players who might be around when the Cowboys make their selections.

Scenario #1

1st: Jonathan Cooper- Not only would Jonathan Cooper be the best player available, but he serves a need.  The Cowboys Offensive line was horrible last year.  Adding a player like Cooper could strenthen the running and passing game and give the Cowboys more options with their playbook.  The Tampa Bay game from last year comes to mind when mentioning his help in the passing game.  Michael Bennett became a name known around the league.  And an interesting fact about the running game is that we only had one game where a running back ruished for 100 yards.  Cooper can open up holes for the backs and hopefully help keep them healthy.

2nd: Eric Reid- The Cowboys were already needing Safety help, but with the cutting of Gerald Sensabaugh and playing a Tampa 2, we should be looking for Safety help early.   Reid is an athletic player with great closing speed. Not only is he a had hitter, but he has great cover skills.  He is solid in run support and is tough as nails.   Jonathan Cyprien could also be an option here. 

3rd:  Jonathan Franklin- The Cowboys are in need of a good back up running back.  Frankin has carried the load for the UCLA Bruins and is a versatile back.  He can be used on third downs and as a change of pace.  Franklin is also good enough to take over if needed. 

4th: Brennan Williams- Tackle for the Noth Carolina Tarhills.  Williams, whose father played in the NFL on Defense, plays with fire and passion.  He has quick feet and gets into defenders.  WIlliams suffered a torn labrum in college and draft stock took a slide because of it.  Hopefully Williams will be the next player the Cowboys strike gold on who were coming off of questionable injuries.

5th: Sanders Commings- The Georgia Corner who is big and strong.  He plays physical and makes plays.  He is versatile and excels in press coverage.  The Cowboys need a reliable corner who can be counted on.  One that can match up against big receivers and tight ends.

6th: Marquise Wilson- A tall wide receiver that catches the ball well and makes big plays.  Wilson averaged 17 yards a reception and had two seasons of 1,000 yards. Tony Romo needs play makers.  The receiving corps had too many drops last season and only Dez Bryant and Jason Witten performed and met expectations.  More production is needed out of this group.  Kevin Olgetree and Dwayne Harris were inconsistent.  Young talents like Cole Beasly, Danny Coale and Tim Benford should show improvement, but Wilson can stretch the field and give Tony a big target to throw to.  With Miles Austin suffering from hamstring issues, the Cowboys will look to the Draft to get another player that can help Romo and this offense find success.

The second scenario is where the Cowboys trade their first round pick and move down in the Draft order.  In return, the Cowboys get a second and third round pick in this years draft.   This move might come if a player that they wanted gets picked before it is time for the Cowboys to select or if the team thinks it would be in their best interest to get more players out of this deep draft.  For this to work, the team will have to find another team that will be interested in moving up and able to trade some of their picks to get it done. 

Scenario #2

1st: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU—>  Want Kawann Short but he might be gone.  Margus Hunt played really well down the stretch for the Mustangs and has impressed in his post season outings.  He had two sacks, two forced fumbles, and a safety in SMU’s 43-10 win in the Hawaii Bowl, performed well at the Senior Bowl as well doing the same things that  made him a stand out at SMU.  Hunt followed that up with an amazing show of athletic ability at the Combine by running a 4.6 forty and hitting 38 reps in the bench press.  He performed well in his drills and had great power and good feet work.  Hunt still needs to work on his leverage and hand techniques, but he has the tools needed to turn into a solid Defensive End in the NFL.    Hunt has had meetings with the Cowboys and it will be interesting to see where they stand with him.  Do they think he is worth a first round pick and can he play in this scheme?  I think that come Draft day, we will have our answer.

2nd: Eric Reid

2nd: Sylvester Williams- The Cowboys get their Defensive Tackle in the third round.  Williams is an excellent run stopper and has showed that he has the skills needed to get after the Quarterback.  He plays with an attitude that you want from a Defensive Tackle.  Williams only played two seasons at UNC after coming from Junior College.  He has not fully shown us what he is capable of.

3rd:  Jonathan Franklin

3rd: Barrett Jones, Alabama- Barret could play either Guard or Center and can be a day one starter.  He has already gained a ton of experience under Nick Saban at Alabama.  Jones is a smart player who uses his body well and knows how to work the opposing defender.  He brings a championship mentality to your team and is a “Right Kind of Guy.”

4th: Alvin Bailey- Bailey is an athletic guard who can come in here and earn a starting spot down the road.  This pick makes too much sense for the Cowboys, but something that needs to be done.  The Cowboys may also be interested in a linebacker here.

5th: Sanders Commings

6th: Marquise Wilson

This is just two scenarios that might happen.  The one thing that I want to see is who we bring in for Free Agency.  The team has already added some Defensive line help, but more talent is needed.  With Free Agency set to begin on March 12th we will be waiting to see what happens.  The players that we bring in will most likely change who we draft in April.  Many thought we would draft David DeCastro last year, but adding two guards (Mackenzy Bernadeua and Nate Livings) in free agency made it clear that the Cowboys were thinking differently. 

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Combine Recap

So the Combine is over.  I am a huge believer in that you can gain insight from these workouts.  I am not saying that just because a guy runs a 4.4 or register 30 reps in the benchpress that you should draft him.  What I am saying is that the Combine can show someone what you can and can not do.  It can strenthen your status confirming that the tape is right.  It can raise your stock by showing that you are a better athlete or possess more speed than they thought you had.  But I also can not argue that in some of the drills, it can point out your weaknesses.  For the most part you are what you put on tape, but teams will be re-examining footage to see if what they saw in person is the player you can be.  Players like Steven Williams may have to ask why they do not play as fast as they ran at the combine?  The combine is just another way to evaluate players.  You should neither ignore these results nor base decisions soley on them.  Here are some players who helped their draft status:

Quartebacks

I think that it is clear.  This is not the 2012 group.  I do not expect for these quarterbacks to have the success that they did.  But with that being said, there is still promise with this group.

EJ Manuel keeps playing his game and letting others do the talking.  After being the number 1 QB at the senior bowl, Manuel came to the Combine and looked better.  He made good throws and put the ball where the coaches wanted him to.  With one of the strongest arms in the draft already, he showed that he can make those intermediate throws to pick up first downs in the NFL.  With other QBs struggling to follow directions and throwing errant throws, Manuel just had to stay loose and do what he has been doing for most of the last three seasons at Florida State.  At times he looked stiff, but experts think that with added coaching, EJ could turn into a solid Starter in the NFL.  He also showcased his speed in the 40 yard dash by running a 4.6.  He was just focused in on what he had to do.  The future is bright for this young man.

Geno Smith had a solid day on and off the field. The number one ranked Quarterback in this years Draft impressed at every turn.  Running a 4.5, making good throws, and impressing in the interview process.  They guy gets what it means to be a quarterback in the NFL and a leader on the field.  He is hard on his self and wants to be great.  As athletic as Smith is, he wants to prove that he can be an elite quarterback with his arm.  But once he learns to trust him self, he is going to be a tough weapon to stop.

Landry Jones and Tyler Bray started to have fun out there and just play football.  Both he and Tyler Bray got better as the day went on.  I believe that them being some of the throwing quarterbacks got them extra experience at what NFL coaches are looking for.  To me they were not trying to impress but just trusting their arm and getting the job done.  They were throwing good balls and did not try to be perfect.  They both showed athleticsm that could come in handy at the next level.  Bray also added on some weight to become more NFL ready.  That has to be respected.  Unlike some quarterbacks out there, I think he came prepared to show that he is ready.

Running Backs

Onterrio McCalebb Could have easily been an after thought in this Draft will all the star power and big names ahead of him.  But he left a mark on these combines and reminded people why he was such a weapon for Cam Newton two years ago.  The Auburn Tiger had the entire building shaking their head when they thought he had a 4.21.  This type of speed will put the shifty back in a good position to see time in the NFL.  At 164 pounds, McCalebb won’t be your typical NFL back, but in the right system he could be a weapon.

Kniles Davis set fire to the track as well running a 4.37 at almost 230 pounds.  I can see the battle now between coaches and GMS arguing over if he is worth the risk or not.  The Temptation of the Kniles.  Coming off an injury in 2011, Kniles struggled through last season and did not look like himself.  He might have told everyone that he is back and better than ever.

KenJon Barner was a tight and well built 5’9 190.  He showed that that raw power at the bench press and did not disappoint with his FORTY time.  Barner was one of the players that came in and handled business and had a great day but you will not hear much about due to so many stories coming out of this Combine.  Kerwyn Williams, from Utah State, also had a good combine.  He did well in all the drills and did himself a service.   Whatever they are teaching their RBs at Utah State is working.  Keep it up.

Tight Ends

The Three Es (Eifert, Ertz, and Escobar) were all stacked up together.  Both in the order of which they competed and draft order.  Most scouts had Ertz first and Eifert second.  This may have changed with Eifert having a great performance.  Chris Gragg had the best Forty time, vertical and second best broad jump.  His athleticism could have moved him up on some draft boards.  Michael Williams had that same effect.  And while Vince McDonald did not have crazy numbers, he was solid in all drills and caught the ball well.  He has solid hands and approaches the game the right way.

Wide Receivers

Josh Boyce from TCU was always on the leader board.  No matter what they did, Boyce’s name was attached to the top 5.  Scouts always take notice of the players who are competing and Boyce showed up at every workout and drill.

Ryan Swope amazed me more than any other athlete.  Even Tayvon Austin who stole the show.  We knew he could catch, but running a 4.3 and having a 37 inch vertical were a pleasant surprise.

Justin Hunter and Markus Wheaton had solid all around performances.  Both receivers came in faster than scouts thought.  Performed well in drills and snatched the ball.  Marquis Goodwin and Tayvon Austin ran very fast, but Tayvon showed that he was more NFL ready.  Stedmon Bailey and Da’Rick Rodgers were the most consistent wide outs and showcased their talents very well.

Offensive Line

Terron Armstead and Lane Johnson are some athletic wonders.  Anytime you get big offensive lineman running faster than several skill players, you know that their athleticism is off the charts.  In the drills, the top prospects all performed well.  This may turn into the Big Boy Draft. With several offensive lineman and defensive lineman worthy of first round grades, it could shake up the Draft and move top talent into the second round.  Menelik Watson and Brian Scwenke also had solid combines.  Eric Fisher and Jonathan Cooper were stellar.  Great job from these future pros.

Defensive Lineman

Margus Hunt was another player who was already being scouted heavily that only boosted his chances of going high in the second round.  The 6’8 277 pound Estonian ran a 4’6 in the forty and had an impressive 38 reps in the bench press.  This made him the fastest and strongest Defensive Lineman, in theory.  He was quick and explosive in drills and had solid footwork.  Corey Lemonier also made and impact.  No matter how he wants us to pronounce his last name, he just may give us time and practice to do so.  Dion Jordan put up some good numbers but his performance in the drills was what had everyone talking.  We knew the former Tight end was an athlete, but he has developed into a real outside linebacker threat and may have jumped up into the top 10.  Travado Williams and Zigggy Ansah also showed up.  Athleticism, hard work and receptiveness is never a bad combination.  Sylvester Williams also did well, but can he maintain a good playing weight in the NFL to maintain his explosiveness.

Linebackers

Dion Jordan was crazy good.  He will be selected in the Top 10 come Draft day.  And the crazy thing is that he was moved around alot at Oregon.  That is the one thing that I noticed more in this Draft is that due to players athleticism, coaches are forced to put you all over the field.  And while it gives players a great feel for the game, it doesn’t allow them to showcase what they can do at their respective positions in the NFL.   Getting to be more like High school in that regard.

Sio Moore got noticed at the Combine with his mixture of Speed and power and overall athleticism.  With other big name Linebackers at the Combine, he was one of the guys that stood out and looked good in drills.

Marvelous feats of athleticism were showed by Jamie Collins and Cornelius Washington. Collins combine numbers: 4.6 in the Forty, 19 Reps of 225 lbs., a 40.5′ Vertical, 11’7 in the Broad jump, and a 7.1 in the three cone drill.  The 6’3 250 lb specimen from Southern Miss exploded on to the scene and kept everyone watching.  Washington was no slouch either: 4.55 in the Forty, 36 Reps, 39′ Vert, and 10.8 in the Broad Jump.

Jon Bostic was a question mark coming into the Combine, but may have impressed enough scouts to move up on the board.  With the poor showing of Manti Te’o, Bostic was a name that came up regarding what else is here.  And with the added attention, he did not shrink back.  The same can be said for Zaviar Gooden from Missouri.

Corners

Tyrann Mathiu set the stage for himself brilliantly.  By only having four reps of 225 lbs, everyone said that he better have a good day in the drills and run a solid 40 time.  He did.  With all eyes on him, he showed out and exubed confidence that lacked other players in these workouts.  He said all the right things in the interviews and supported the other participants.  His footwork was impeccable and it should be.  If you had almost a year to prepare for this event, you should be ready for it.  But I will take nothing from this kid.  With all the pressure to come out and excel, he was the best looking player out there.  This forced several of important people to make some difficult decisions.  From perhaps being a sixth round pick to now being evaluated as a third round guy, he perhaps had the biggest change to his Draft stock. Xavier Rhodes and Dee Milner put the questions about speed to rest with Rhodes running a 4.4 and Milner running a 4.3.  Clearly these two players will be the first two corners taken in this draft.  Milner looked nervous in drills and focused too much on his footwork.  Deion Sanders, HOF, Former Dallas Cowboy, an NFL Network analyst was urging him to relax and just enjoy the experience.  He out of all the Corners looked a little “Too Pretty”.  But again, maybe he was just nervous.

Robert Alford, from Southeastern Louisiana blazed the Forty Track with 4.39.  He played high in some drills, but was spectacular in others.  The small school product overall was a huge success.

Darius Slay was known as the other Corner in the Mississippi State secondary.  But after the combine everyone knows his name.  One of those Muhammed Ali moments:  Say MY Name!  This is a guy that I like because he was thrown to so many times due to the ball skills on Johnthan Banks.  And once again he showed that with all the attention on other top rated corner backs, he was also a threat.  He came out of the combine workouts having the better performance of the Mississippi State duos.

Steve Williams, Dwayne Gratz and Jamar Taylor also looked good.  Williams was the Corner that ran an unofficial 4.25 that was changed to a 4.4.  Either way, the job was done.  He looked even better in the drills proving that his speed would translate to footwork.  So many top end speed Corners do not work out in the league.  Williams is hoping that he has what it takes to succeed in the NFL.  Gratz had one of the most impressive work outs by running a 4.3, 22 reps, 10’5 in the broad jump and posting a 38 inch vertical.  NC State Corner Donald Amerson is a name to keep in your back pocket from these combines.  If you took notes, you noticed him.  He has smooth hips, good footwork in all the drills and he snatches balls.  Snatching is not just catching it, but actively going up and grabbing it out of the air.  He, Slay, and Matthiu did the best with this. Brandon McGee also looked good but you wonder if he is just another workout warrior or does he has the ability to be an NFL Corner.

Safeties

Matt Elam and Shawn Williams improved their stocks.  They are athletic safeties that show good versatility.  Matt Elam dropped a pass that lead his Combine team to do push-ups.  It was a good thing to see though.  How players were reacting in the drill and the competitive nature that it brought out.  Peer pressure added on to everything else had an effect on some of these players. Rather you take this into consideration or not, interesting that some of these players could not come up with passes that were meant for them.  I was impressed with Desmond Trufant in this drill and really his entire day.  Love his attitude.  It was reported that he went to his coach every game and demanded that he be on the other teams best receiver all day and with six picks and 38 pass deflections it was successful.

Shamarko Thomas from Syracuse may have fell while running his 4.4 forty, but his draft stock rose from his performance.  He is a big strong kid who won’t wow you with his cover skills, but will make plays for your team.  He was one of the guys that competed in every drill and improved his chances of getting drafted higher.  Eric Reid also looked good.  He ran well and looked comfortable doing what was asked of him.  His athleticism is amazing for a guy his size.  He ran a 4.53, had a 40.5′ vertical and a broad jump of 11′.  TJ McDonald from USC is a player that still looked stiff running some of the drills but will have scouts re-evaluate him due to his size and athleticism.  I still would not draft him higher than the fifth round, but players built like him are not everywhere.  Can he prove to teams that he can cover and be quick enough to come over the top to make plays?  I knew what Kenny Vaccaro could do in the drills, but the most inspiring and impressive thing to see was when he appeared to roll his ankle during a drill and limped back in line.  He didn’t even look in the direction of the medical staff but ingored the pain and kept on working.  As the workouts contnued, you couldn’t tell it was a problem.

I wished all players could hear how Peter Giunta, the Giants Corner backs coach, ended the workouts for the Defensive Backs.  He talked about making decisions with the person that you most love and respect right there by your side.  If you can imagine them with you when you are faced with these questions of moral fiber it will help your decision making.  If you can still make that decision, chances are you are doing the right thing.  This was a direct quote from him: “With the Choices you make, comes consequences.”  All of these players have hopes of being the greatest players in the league, but if they take his words to heart, they will become better men.  In the age where you hear more news about certain players in the off-season than what they do on the field in the regular season. each player needs to question the type of man he wants to be and how he wants to be represented.  To all participants at the combine and future prospects all over- Good Luck!

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Pre-Combine Look at Safeties

With Monte Kiffin coming in with his Cover 2 Defense, the Cowboys will need to bring in some Safeties to execute the system efficiently.  Safeties will be required to cover their half of the field.  I do not think that the Cowboys can do this at a high rate unless they have more consistent play from their corners and stronger coverage skills.  Tampa 2 makes your safeties play fast, quick and smart.  All signs point to them taking a Safety at some point during the draft.  Tampa 2 or not, the Cowboys defense is still in search for the next Safety to anchor our pass Defense that ranked 25th in pass deflections and 15 in takeaways last year.  Here are some of the prospects available.

Kenny Vaccaro (SS)- Kenny Vaccaro has made quite the name for himself in Austin.  His knack for making plays all over the field and display of athleticism and tackling ability has him ranked as the number one Safety in the draft.  He is also versatile as he was used as a nickel corner in Texas’ defense and looked good doing it.  He has natural skills and possesses smooth hips that allowed him to be a huge threat in the passing game. His footwork and quickness will have to improve if he wants to be a star at the next level. 

Johnathan Cyprien (FS)- The Florida International stand out whose tackling skills got the notice of several NFL scouts.  He is athletic and possesses nice closing speed.  He plays with energy and intensity and smarts.  His read and react skills will be tested as he steps into a world of elite talent. How discipline will he be and is he fast enough to keep up with NFL receivers? 

Eric Reid (FS)- Athleticism is off the charts.  Uses his hands well and catches the ball away from his body. He can play the run and the pass with great effectiveness.  Gets Lazy when tackling sometimes, but has the ability to wrap you up and bring the hammer.  He has lowered the boom on many players who invade his territory.  He plays with passion and aggression like most great safeties but sometimes make the wrong decision.  He has great closing speed and makes an impact on both sides of the line of scrimmage.  He plays with a toughness that you want on your Defense.  A play maker who gets to the ball with bad intentions.

JJ Wilcox (FS)- FCS player out of Georgia Southern.  Played running back for his first three seasons and then made the move to Safety.  Was the best Safety on the South roster at the Senior Bowl.  AS a former Running back, he plays physical.  Still a raw prospect, but absorbs information quickly and understands the game.

Matt Elam (FS)- Elam can lead a team and motivate the players around him to elevate their game.  He is a play-maker who plays with a chip on his shoulder at all times.  He is adequate in coverage and looks to punish as many ball carriers as he can both in the backfield and beyond the line of scrimmage.  The Florida Safety worries me though, not because of his size.  The way he plays is a concern.  He is explosive and one of the hardest hitters in the Draft but at times he seems more concerned about making highlights than making plays.  Fundamental football could not only save a touchdown but extra wear and tear on his body.  And in the era where big hits are being banned and players getting suspended and fined, you have to consider the impact his play will have at the next level.  DJ Swearinger fits the same mold though he makes more plays in the air.  In fact, Swearinger lined up at Corner for the gamecocks on several occasions.  His versatility and cover skills could come in handy against up tempo teams and/or flex tight ends.

Phillip Thomas (SS)- Needs to impress at Combine.  Injured in 2011 but is an intriguing prospect due to his athleticism, physicality and ball hawking skills.  Needs to get stronger and play with more control when reading plays.  On screens and even when backs start coming his way, Thomas can sometimes turn into a photographer- Taking pictures and waiting for it to develop.  He needs to do a better job of closing in and making the play.

Bacarri Rambo (SS)- It doesn’t matter where this kid is ranked or what the experts say he can’t do.  He is one of those guys where the football always seem to find him.  He does a good job of reading the play and chasing down ball carriers.  He is a play-maker who shows up each game and makes a difference.  He has ball skills and is willing to help out in run Defense.  He has the strength and agility to tackle Tight ends and the speed to cover receivers down field.  Off the field issues with drugs could deter teams from pulling the trigger on him.  Needs to surround himself with the right people to avoid situations that could hurt his football career.

Safeties like Tony Jefferson and Josh Evans could also catch the eye of some teams, including Kiffin and the Cowboys. 

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Pre Combine Look at Cornerbacks

Johnthan Banks- Flys to the ball even when he is far away. Always wanting to make a play, has tremendous hunger. He goes after the ball when it is in the air and in he opposing players hands. No ball is safe! Can create turnovers all over the field. Able to read and react quickly. Capitalizes on any mistake made. A phenomenal athlete with great ball skills. Plays high at times due to lanky frame and tight hips, but makes up for it with instincts and closing speed. Long arms could be utilized more in Tackling ball carriers.

Dee Milliner- A stellar athlete and natural Corner skills. Could be a great Safety or Corner. Excellent speed and when ever he makes a mistakes, usually recovers from it. He has recorded 38 pass deflections in his career so he can find the ball. As great as he is, has room to improve. Footwork can get better and has a tendency to tackle lazy. Needs to use his speed and get to the ball carrier and wrap him up. Doesn’t jam receivers as much due to his speed. Needs to show that he can be more physical with receivers.

Desmond Trufant- Find ways to be in good position against most Receivers. Very quick and confidence. Comes up with the big plays when you need him to. Plays with a Swagger. Can he learn how to control it and play smarter while still bringing that energy and tenacity? Doesn’t back down from a challenge and goes up and tries to get the ball and every opportunity. Needs to become a better tackler. Two brothers in the league.

Blidi Wreh-Wilson- A solid prospect whose draft stock has sky rocketed. Still a project. Has good awareness and keeps his eye on the ball but never looses his receiver. Plays the deep ball well. great instincts. But footwork needs to get better. Not afraid to be left on an island. Sometimes doesn’t play to his size which points to his inexperience. Needs to show that he has closing speed and can run with NFL receivers. Once he stops thinking, interceptions should come. Still learning and getting better.

Logan Ryan- Plays smart and with good balance. Has some speed on him, but need to see how much. Excellent is man to man coverage. Has good size and plays the ball well and has had over 30 pass deflections and 7 interceptions in his two years starting for the Scarlet Knights.

Sanders Commings- One of the many BIG Corners in this draft. He has been listed as 6’2 and up to 223 pounds and he uses all of it. An asset when using bump and run techniques. He is a physical Corner that uses his hands to control smaller receivers. Even though he is big, he is versatile and can play all over the field and can play in different sub packages. Excellent in press coverage. Solid in the run game. Quickness is in question, but he is a play maker. Has had an off the field issue but his status should not be affected by it.

Leon McFadden- Makes plays on the ball, but needs to work on his techniques.  Trusts his athleticsm too much. Plays better in the open field.

David Amerson-Ball Hawking skills with good range and coverage skills. Poor in run support and may lack the speed needed to play Corner. Has something to prove.

Jordan Poyer- Can play nickel and slot. Reads the ball well and is not afraid to make a play.

Jamar Taylor- A football player. Good tackling skills and is physical. He knows where he is and where the ball is. Has decent recovery skills. Missing that burst and needs to learn how to play with his mind.

Darius Slay gets picked on like a little brother with Banks on the other side, but he tends to hold his own most of the time. Trust his instincts and plays the defender without being too aggressive. Doesn’t have the balls skills you would expect from him. Left plays on the field sometimes.

Will Davis- Needs to work on playing low with balance and awareness. Sometimes doesn’t change direction and move with loose hips. Can play the position, but you question his speed. Can cover, tackle, and react to the ball.

Tharold Simon- Great size. Excellent cover skills- man and press. Plays inconsistent at times. Does a poor job of finding the ball and plays hesitant times. I feel like I should be writing an apology note. An “I’M SORRY” Letter. I fell in love with this guy but kept on getting disappointed. Question his speed and passion for the game.

Watched the play too many times. Doesn’t stick his nose in there as much as I would like.

BW Webb, Dax Swanson, and Robert Alford are solid Corners from small schools. Need to show that their game can translate at the next level. I am interested to see how Robert Alford measures up. He is the best Corner from small school. Plays well in coverage and is solid in man. Makes plays and has potential to return kicks. Plays the ball well in the air. Plays smart but uses his instincts well. Confident versus the level of competition he played against.

After a year off, th Honey Badger will come to Indianapolis to showcase his talent and show why he was one of the biggest play-makers in the country. Interesting to see how much rust he shows.

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Pre Combine Look at Defensive Tackles

There is alot of questions concerning perhaps one of the most important pieces in the transition from 3-4 to 4-3.  Instead of having Space Eaters at your Defensive Tackle position, you will have to have players that can stop the run and get to the QB.  4-3 Defensive Tackles need to be more athletic and have that vision and agility to get off the blocks and make plays around the ball at a higher level.

The Cowboys need help in the middle.  They have some players who might fill in and do nice things like Sean Lissemore, Jason Hatcher, and Ben Bass.  They have also add Brent Price and

Ikponmwosa “IKE” Igbinosun.  Ike is a physical wonder, but can he play football? Like so many other positions on this team, the Dallas Cowboys need help.  This draft might have the players that we need.

Star Lotulelei is going in the Top 5.  Sheldon Richardson and Shariff Flyod may be going in the Top 15.  Interesting thing with these two players is the amount of production they have had in just two seasons at Missouri and Florida.  Richardson: 112 Tackles, 18.5 TFL, 6 Sacks, 4 Pass Deflections and 4 Forced Fumbles.  Floyd: 92 Tackles, 19.5 TFL, 4.5 Sacks, 1 Pass Deflection and 1 Forced Fumble.  Which one of these players will fall is the question everyone is asking.  But I want to know more about Kawan Short.  This guy is a play maker.  The Type of player that shows up around the ball and disrupts plays.  He has 186 Tackles, 49 TFL, close to 20 sacks, 2 interceptions, 17 passes deflected and two forced fumbles.  If the Cowboys are interested in taking a risk and moving down, this would be a huge reason to do it.

There is value in other players as well like Jonathan Jenkins, Sylvester Williams, Bennie Logan and Akeem Spence from Indiana who was always finding the ball. Of the three Sylvester Williams has the most to prove and the most potential.  In two seasons at North Carolina, Williams had 96 Tackles, 20.5 TFL, and 9 sacks.  The guy still has not developed yet and has great size and speed.  With more Coaching, who knows what he can do.  Teams will wonder why he did not have a solid end to his season.  Was it competition, hunger, or what.  If he can provide some type of answer to them, he just might make a team very happy.

Josh Boyd (Mississipi State), Abry Jones (Georgia), and Spencer Nealy (Texas A&M) are names to watch out for.  Just because your College team asks you to do something, doesn’t mean that this is what you will be doing in the Pros.  They may be some of the Talent that we will be looking for in this 4-3.  How they perform at their Pro-days will be interesting.  Boyd and Jones will be at the Combine.

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Pre-Combine Look at the Running Backs

Running back is a crucial position and one that can be hard to get right.  Cowboys fans know all about trying to find the right fit or mixture of running backs.  Do I have to go through the list?  Really?  Troy Hambrick, Michael Wiley, Woodrow Danztler, Erik Bikerstaff, Eddie George, Juliuis Jones, Tyson Thompson, Marion Barber III, Felix Jones, and DeMarco Murray(?)

 It seems we attract two types of running backs:  those with no skill or just ill.  Will we find a running back who will stay healthy?  Is this question hinged on the play of our Offensive Line?  Maybe.

You have slam dunks like  Adrian Peterson, players with injuries like Arian Foster and ones that had to overcome limitations like Ray Rice.  There will be plenty of players that look great running in their under armour at these combines, but you need to check to see if they are truly beautiful or just wearing SEXY. 
In my mind, production and film footage can tell you alot from a running back.

Also, past success can sometimes point the way to future success.

Looking at the Top 20 running backs in the league, 19/20 have atleast one 1,000 yard seasons.  (Frank Gore who split time and got injured.)

Almost half of these running backs have two 1,000 yard seasons.  Most of the premier runners in the league averaged over 5 yards a carry. (Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Marshawn Lynch, and Matt Forte among them.)

So that is going to be where I start when I am looking for Running Backs.  Those who average atleast 5 yards a carry and had 1,000 yard seasons.

After that, you can go through and see who was injured or may have some injury concerns.  What are the medical reports saying about the guy and will it be a problem.  Running backs have the shortest shelf life in the NFL.  Injuries can derail a player before his career begins.

During your research, you will also come across players who were one-hit wonders.  How do you grade these players?  Depending on your team and what you might need, you can pick and choose what skill set will fit your team.  The same can be said about your home run threats.   I believe that Giovanni Bernard and Eddie Lacy will be gone before we start to address the issue.  So here is what I have.

Healthy running backs who have starts and a track record: Joseph Randle (Two 1,000 yard seasons), Stefan Taylor (Three 1,000 yard seasons), Jonathan Franklin (Two 1,000yard seasons), Andre Ellington (Two 1,000 yard seasons), Zac Stacy (Two 1,000 yard seasons) and Kenjon Barner(1700 yard season and a 900 yard season with a staggering 6 yards a carry).  Kenjon Barner is the wild card out of the bunch, but he is also your home run threat.  Has shown that he can run the ball and is maybe one of the most explosive players in the draft.  LeVeon Bell can also be added to this list, but I do not believe in him.  This is my opinion and I am sticking to it.  Michigan State running backs and other Big 10 Backs have not panned out in the NFL. 

Montee Bell has had concussion issues and that might be devastating.  Jahvid Best comes to mind.  A promising back who just can not stay on the field.  He isn’t the shape of Best, but the head is something that you can not strengthen.  Concussions are apart of the game and we are not at that stage of safety not to take in account.  Ray Graham, Marcus Lattimore and Knile Davis are also players that have had injuries.  They have also had success.  Your medical evaluation on these players is going to be pertinent in your decision making.  Knile Davis came back last year and looked sluggish at times.  Is he really back and at 100%?  Marcus Lattimore thinks he is back and ready to take the NFL by storm.  We shall see.  Christine Michael is another player who was hurt.  He had a good performance at the East-West Shrine game and is looking to build on it as the draft moves closer and closer.  One point that needs to be known is that he has never been a number one back.

Three other players that are worth noting are Cierre Wood and Cameron Marshall.  Marshall did not get an invite to the Combine.  This is part of where splitting time with another RB hurts you.  Someone is going to get more time than the other and scouts and GMs have limited amount of Tape and work to look at.  But the NFL will find you if you have talent.  The same can be said of Stephon Jefferson and Jawan Jamison.  These are two players that need to have a strong combine and pro-day.  Jawan Jamison brings a different dynamic to your offense.

With DeMarco Murray still battling through nagging injuries and trying to stay healthy, we need a running back that not only compliments Murray and our system, but one that can carry the load if he needs to.  A back that can be the leading rusher if our #1 misses six games.  My favorites are Stephon Taylor, Jonathan Franklin and Andre Ellington all why secretly having a man crush on Kenjon Barner.  What can I say?  I just love speed and explosion.

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