Next Man Up

Cowboys fans! Do I sense a little nervousness from the fan base? Dez Bryant out! Tony Romo out! Jeremy Mincey Out! Orlando Scandrick OUT! 聽The season is over, and a top 10 pick is on the horizon. What’s the talk of the NFC East? The Cowboys are done, the New York Giants have a chance to take over the NFC East. The Redskins have a chance to be good and everyone is waiting for Chip Kelly to get his ish together. Let’s slow the talk down.

No matter the coach, the Washington Redskins continue to have QB issues. I would love to sit down with the GM and the Owner and find out what they are thinking. You have the 2nd pick of the 2012 Draft who is healthy and sitting on the bench and the starting QB giving the ball up like it’s government cheese. The Giants continue to adjust to their offensive system. Eli Manning continues to look like a newborn in Ben McAdoo’s offensive. The defense is solid, but I would challenge Jason Paul Pierre to throw the peace sign, much less handle Tyron Smith. A lot of people think that the Eagles are done, but if you have any football knowledge. you will know that inter-conference hate will prepare any team to fight for their manhood. Is it me, or is Chip the only one that doesn’t know that Sam Bradford has played and finished as many games as Tim Tebow. WHOA!

When the 2014 season ended, I felt that it was important for Jason Garrett to build depth. When the pundits were talking about the draft, the real Cowboys fans knew that there was only 2-3 positions that were really open for competition and everything else was about depth. If you’ve watched football the last 20 years, you know that injuries happen. All 32 teams deal with it so lets stop using it as an excuse. The NFL is about player acquisition. Some teams do it through free agency, and the real teams who have staying power do it through the draft.

That’s why i’m not worried when Ron Leary has a groin pull because that’s why Jerry Jones had La’el Collins and his mother at his house. The Cowboys brass knew that you have to acquire quality talent like Malcolm X said “By Any Means Necessary”.

I have a question for the readers. If anyone that comes to CowboysNation.Com is a doctor and can answer this question and ever comes to Vegas. I will buy you a shot of whatever you desire (within reason). Why is an high ankle sprain like a death sentence? Randy Gregory is a 23 year old athlete who is out for 3-6 weeks with an ankle sprain. I’ve sprained an ankle playing basketball at a local playground on the Eastside of Las Vegas, Lewis Park to be exact. I’ve never been out for 3-6 weeks. Now before you dishonor my name and call me out. I’ve never been asked to set the edge on running plays or rush the passer on 3rd & 10.

My point is that the pass rush was almost non-existent against the Eagles and now that Mincey is out we will have to depend on Ryan Russell and Jack Crawford to provide a consistent rush against Matt Ryan. I know that Lawrence was supposed to provide the pass rush until “The Kraken” returns but I haven’t seen it. With Romo out for eight weeks, the defensive line can’t settle for close, but no cigar. The Cowboys will need splash plays and sacks in order to hold the fort down. In the first three games Terrell McClain provided a strong push from the 3-Tech position and was a presense in the middle but he will be replaced by Davon Coleman and Ken Bishop. I think that this will be the last time that you see McClain on the Cowboys roster, and although he might be a safe pick, it will be good to see youth be served. There is a young red head that believes “With Injury, Opportunity is Provided” so rumble, young man rumble.

The surprise of the team has been the defensive backs. I’m impressed with the consistency of JJ Wilcox & Barry Church. I am going on the record by saying that 3 years is not enough to judge a talent. When the Cowboys drafted Wilcox they knew that he was a project. He’s an athlete that was proficient in a lot of things. I believe that the light bulb has finally popped on and that he understands what his responsibilities are in Marinelli’s 4-3 defense. I’ve stated in my previous posts that I think that the fan base is looking at the wrong safety to replace. Byron Jones has excited the fan base with his play in the first three weeks of the season, and there have been calls for him to replace Wilcox in the base defense. 聽Don’t drink the Kool-Aid people! The Cowboys have never played the traditional defense where the Free Safety and the Strong Safety had defined jobs and profiles. Wilcox has given the Cowboys defense a physical presence that has been missing since Darren Woodson left.

Ask Odell Beckham Jr. how traipsing through the Cowboys secondary worked out for him. With the hit that Wilcox put on him, he let Offensive Coordinators and Wide Receivers know that you better have your head on a swivel when you run skinny posts through the Cowboys defense. Barry Church has continued to provide a steady force as the Strong Safety. His play has shown that he is meticulous in his preparation week in and out. Morris Claiborne has surprised a lot of people, but I knew that if he was healthy going into the season that he would show why he was a 1st round pick and Brandon Carr has been focused. Tyler Patmon has matured but still scares me on routes that carry him across the field. You have to be more than athletically blessed to understand 聽route tree and I expect the Falcons to test his resolve. 聽If I am the Cowboys coaches, I put Claiborne on Julio Jones and tell him to compete. I wouldn’t play man defense all game, but I would challenge him and see how he performs Sunday morning.

The key to the game is if Weeden can play mistake free football and if the Cowboys offensive line can control the line of scrimmage enough to allow Randle and Co. to exploit the Falcons lightweight defensive-line. What may make it easier on the Cowboys is Justin Durant being handicapped by an injury. This might be the week that Scott Linehan decides to unleash Lance Dunbar in the passing game and see if the Falcons linebackers can keep up. With Jason Witten and James Hanna hurting, it seems that the Cowboys running backs might be featured in the first half of the game. Don’t be surprised if the Cowboys running backs combine for ten catches and one touchdown. It will be interesting to see if Geoff Swaim will be on the 46 man roster. My money is that Jason Witten will find a way to be on the field as a decoy to make Weeden’s life a little easier.

My prediction is that the Cowboys game goes over Vegas’s betting line of 44.5 and Weeden will throw two touchdown passes. The defense will allow less than 300 yards total and this will be the game that Joseph Randle goes over 100 yards and show a glimpse of a 3 down back. Sean Lee will have 10+ tackles and the defense will not have a sack.

Final Score:

Cowboys 38 – Falcons 28

I’m Roger Haywood

Genie In A Bottle – Dallas Cowboys 2015 Season

Morris Claiborne Brandon Carr

When you guys read this football season may or may not have started, but one thing is for sure America is ready for foottballgasm, (is that a word?). We’ve gotten through the games that a lot of people feel is a waste of time but we watch and make predictions from. “I Digress”. This is what I have learned about the 2015 Dallas Cowboys?

Ed Note: After (little) research and (much) debate we have determined that “foottballgasm” is a valid term. 馃檪

Offensively the strength of this unit is the offensive line. Returning all five starters will mask the lack of a bell cow running back. I am predicting a 1,000+ season from Joseph Randle. Between Lance Dunbar & McFadden they will make up the other 800 yards that Murray had by himself. I like what Christine Michael adds to the backfield, but wonder what the point in adding him was unless he plays special teams.

With no significant changes with the tight-ends and wide receivers, you can expect a 90+ catch season from Dez, but has he improved his run blocking enough to replace Dwayne Harris and the grit he showed last season. I’m hoping that Terrence Williams will finally have a 1000 yd season and Cole Beasley gets 50+ catches. Will we see the maturation of Devin Street into a consistent contributor?

Jason Witten will be leading the same group of tight ends into battle for the third year in a row but wait….I forgot that Geoff Swaim pulled a Rudy and made the 53-man roster. I was very surprised that the Cowboys decided to take a fourth tight end on the roster and will be surprised if he lasts into the eighth game of the season. I don’t have a problem with the way that he performed during the preseason because he played his heart out and produced but I doubt that he’s part of the 46. I guess we can’t say that Jason Garrett doesn’t walk the walk. 聽I would bet my .5 shares in the MGM Grand that they tried to trade James Hanna and didn’t get a buyer, and didn’t want to risk losing Swaim on the waiver wire. Maybe they are getting ready for the post Witten era….again. Let’s see what happens with this group.

The defensive group will be the most interesting part of this year. I am officially going on record by saying that I always thought that the switch from Rob Ryan was a bad move for this team. The 4-3 Tampa 2 is to defense like Air Coryall is to offenses, outdated. Once again, I digress. If I am correct this is year three of the defense in Dallas, and a lot of fans are hoping that the team is comfortable in the system and their familiarity will allow them to play loose. The unit as a whole has a lot of potential, but it is time for it to show or I could see some coaches losing their job. That’s another article to come.

The defensive line will play the first four games without Greg Hardy which I believe will hurt more than a lot of people think. His tenacity and nasty demeanor will be missed. I am glad that the Cowboys worked it out with Jeremy Mincey, he will be a steady force while Hardy is out. Everybody in the Cowboys brass has bragged about the change in DeMarcus Lawrence and I think we will see a big jump, but the key will if he can play 28-35 snaps a game like it was the first snap. I’m predicting 8-10 sacks for him in the season. One of the big surprises for me was seeing Terrell McClain make the team. I wasn’t sure if he showed enough in the preseason to earn a roster spot and the team went with the safe bet. There’s solid young depth with Davon Coleman and Ken Bishop backing up Tyrone Crawford, who by the time this gets posted could make a generous donation to Cowboysnation.com (I Kid, I Kid). 聽Can’t forget about Nick Hayden and Jack Crawford who I believe will surprise a few offensive linemen. Ryan Russell made the team and I believe he will get 3-5 sacks if he is part of the Rushmen. Last but not least the man of the hour, Randy Gregory. This kid has big shoes to fill, when all of America will be watching to see what he is made of. I believe he will answer the call. I’m going with 10-12 sacks in his rookie year, and possibly Rookie of the Year consideration.

The linebacker crew is the scary part of this team. It’s an injury away from being a concern and there are questions about Hitchens ability to play because of injury. In my mind there is no question that if he plays, he will be an asset. He proved himself to the team by playing hurt last year and being a solid three position player. Funny thing is a lot of people slammed the Cowboys for drafting him too early. Sean Lee will be Sean Lee if he stays healthy. I don’t think that he will be a Pro Bowler, but will lead the team in tackles and get 3 interceptions for the season and give the defense the leader that it missed. I think Kyle Wilber and Andrew Gachkar will be solid contributors on Special Teams but if they have to play any significant time, the defense will be in trouble. I’m looking forward to seeing how Matt Eberflus works Damien Wilson into the mix. If he trust the young rookie to play will determine where this unit goes into the future. I was glad to see Keith Smith earn a roster spot, I hope they give him a chance to grow.

DB is where the biggest question mark for the 2015 Cowboys. What kind of secondary will the Cowboys be? Will they be a Tampa 2 defense or a Hybrid Defense with more man to man coverage. Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr was not brought to Dallas to play zone defense. That’s like asking Shaq to shoot 70% from the stripe. Sorry Shaq! Still doesn’t make them horrible players. It’s just not a perfect fit. I was surprised that the Cowboys didn’t go after Charles Tillman when he was cut by the Bears. I thought that he would have been a good stop-gap player while Tyler Patmon and Byron Jones grew up. Orlando Scandrick injury sucks, but as Jason Garrett says “it also provides opportunity” (Too bad I’m not a red-head) I am part of the small group of people who believe that Morris Claiborne will have a great year. I’m predicting 5 interceptions for the year and the Cowboys work something out with him in the offseason. I’m on record in saying that I also believe that Carr will have a bounce back season. He looks ready to fight. The safeties will have to show and prove during the early part of the season and J.J. Wilcox will have to make plays early to hold on to his spot. The Cowboys would like to replace him with Byron Jones but the need is at corner. Barry Church will be a consistent tackler, but I think he lacks the ballhawk skills the team is looking for. Jeff Heath will lead the team in tackles on Special Teams, and won’t see a lot of time on the field. I see change in coaches if this team is a deficit this year.

The special teams needs to improve immediately if ol’ Richie is looking to keep employment. The return teams lacked fire in 2014 and it can’t afford to be a problem now. Dan Bailey had an interesting preseason, but will return to form. Chris Jones signed a new contract this offseason so he no longer has to look over his shoulder, but the team would like him to improve on his average.

Oh yeah! My predictions for the year:

路 Offensive MVP: Tony Romo
路 Defensive MVP: Sean Lee
路 ROY: Randy Gregory
路 Most Improved: Morris Claiborne
路 Final Record: 11-5

Hey! Will Floyd Mayweather be 49-0 when you read this or will he be 48-1. Let me know.

I’m Roger Haywood

Ed Note: Click Here to listen to the opening game of the 2015 NFL season as Nate Doughty, Rafael Vela and Steven Van Over give live analysis of the game this Sunday 8:30 EST via Rabble.TV

3 Training Camp Stories To Watch For

Training Camp

Now that the Dez Bryant drama is over and training camp is just fourteen days away, I’ve been thinking about what the top three training camp stories will be. As many Cowboy fans have sweated pounds away thinking about life without Dez during training camp, I was convinced that Jerry would find a way to satisfy the young bull, and keep the salary cap intact. We won’t even begin to talk about the elephant in the room, the most heinous word that could be spouted from the NFL or NFLPA since looking in a mirror and spouting “Candyman” three times, but I digress. The 2015 training camp is not just about competing for the Super Bowl, but setting up the organization to compete for three to five years. So as I plan a trip to Oxnard to watch some football and hopefully avoid sideline fights, here are my three important training camp stories to look out for and not in any specific order.

1. Cornerback Competition: Let’s start off by saying that Byron Jones is a rookie that you can get excited over, but he is a rookie. I’m not going to pretend to know about the competition he faced at Connecticut, but I can bet that he never played against the talent that he will see in the NFL. I’m sure Cowboys fans can remember the last time there was excitement about a highly drafted cornerback in the first round, only to be disappointed. I personally do not share that view and am looking forward to said cornerback having a solid year. I’m more interested in Brandon Carr and his clear mind, and an emphasis on utilizing his skill set. Carr dealt with a lot of adversary with the death of his mother and showed true grit and heart. If it’s true that Marinelli plans to use more man to man defense, I expect a bounce back year for Carr.

2. Defensive Line Depth: I believe that we will see a lot of competition on the line and that barring injury, a few surprises on the roster. I fully expect Ben Gardner and Ken Bishop to compete for roster spots, but I am more interested in Chris Whaley and Davon Coleman and the progress they make during training camp. If either/both of these players can provide a consistent pass rush during training camp, I believe the team has found two players that can be a part of the wave of Rushmen for years to come. Both players have the potential to play the聽3-Technique and provide rest for Tyrone Crawford. Terrell McClain will have an opportunity to compete in training camp but if it’s a close competition between the above mentioned players, youth and lower cost may be the deciding factor. Defensive End may be the hardest position to predict due to Hardy’s four game suspension, but with position flex from Gardner and Mincy the team should be covered.

3. Wide Receiver: This position is the one that gives me heartburn. I’ve heard about the fear of not having a number one running back in camp and the possibility of having to go out during the final cuts to bring someone in. I’m under the belief that continuity is just as important as talent. Minus McFadden, the other three running backs have worked with this line for a year and I think combined that they will get close to duplicating DeMarco Murray’s production. The WR group is an injury away from being a train wreck. I am one of the few people that believe that it was a mistake to keep Cole Beasley over Dwayne Harris. Although Beasley had a good year and became a steady contributor, it will be hard for the team to replace Harris. He is so important on special teams and blocking from the slot. It kind of reminds me of Kenny Gant leaving for the Buccaneers. Coach Dooley is quoted as saying that Terrence Williams has made big strides this offseason but the proof will be in his consistency of catching the ball and staying involved when his number isn’t called. It will be interesting to see if Devin Street will show improvement in camp and preseason games. He is a very smart player with solid hands but separation speed and fighting physical coverage will show if he has grown into a true threat for Romo. I fully expect the Cowboys to scour the waiver wire for a veteran receiver to alleviate possible concerns.

As I write this piece, my heart goes out to the families of the four Marines who lost their lives and others who were injured in the shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

One Love! – Roger Haywood

Is Tony Romo a Top-10 Quarterback

Is Tony Romo a Top-10 Quarterback

NFL Minicamps are coming to an end. There has been a lot of work put in by all thirty-two NFL Teams trying to fine-tune their rosters before the start of training camp. I started thinking about my top ten quarterback list for the 2015 season. Now let me preface this list with a couple of things:

  1. Its 109 degrees in Las Vegas.
  2. Tomorrow is going to be 114 degrees
  3. It’s my list

When compiling my list I took the obvious stats into consideration. TD/INT ratio, Completion Pct and Passing Yards are important but state of the team (i.e. defensive rankings, injuries and coaching) play a large part in a quarterback鈥檚 success or failure. I also used stats from the 2010-2015 seasons provided by NFL.COM and compiled by Julian Haywood my oldest son. Without further ado.

 

Name Pass Yds Completion Pct. TD/INT
Aaron Rodgers 19,597 83.35% 171/47
Tom Brady 22,414 79.77% 167/44
Peyton Manning 19,563 66.22% 164/53
Big Ben 19,755 79.87% 137/48
Eli Manning 21,111 76.10% 134/97
Drew Brees 25,387 85.02% 194/84
Tony Romo 18,225 81.45% 135/55
Russell Wilson 9,950 63.43% 72/26
Joe Flacco 18,947 75.25% 113/66
Andrew Luck 12,957 58.66% 86/43

Explanation: You can argue that Tom Brady should be first due to the Super Bowl victories and the lack of playmakers besides Gronkowski, but the cheating scandal hovers,聽so we drop him down one notch. Aaron Rodgers is Mr. Consistency and聽 a wily veteran. He replaced a Hall of Fame Quarterback and continued the tradition. Peyton Manning was a hard one to place but the numbers that he put up in Denver the last two years alone pushes him up the rankings. Also consider that Peyton missed the entire 2011 season with a neck injury. Big Ben is number four on my list because he was smart enough to know that Todd Haley likes to throw the ball 30-40 times a game. Big Ben is a throwback quarterback that would succeed in any era of football because he is tough as nails and can extend plays. Eli Manning is fifth on my list. I hate the Giants, but can’t hate on the two-time Super Bowl聽MVP.

Rounding out the bottom five is Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Russell Wilson,聽 Joe Flacco and Andrew Luck. Brees is a great quarterback but it seems that if he’s not playing in a dome, he’s not the same accurate quarterback. Brees did not聽have the benefit of a dominant defense and the bounty scandal did not help matters. Listing Tony Romo at seven may cause some people heartburn but the numbers speak for themselves. Romo’s accuracy and low touchdown to interception ratio is highly respectable. Many skeptics will point to his mistakes but if you look at the offensive line that was in front of him in 2010-2012 you will see his game evolved as the Cowboys added quality players. It will be interesting to see if the talent level on the defensive side will allow Romo to leave the gun slinging days in the past or will losing Demarco Murray transition聽the Cowboys to a pass happy team.

I end my top ten with Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco and Andrew Luck. Although Russell Wilson is a Super Bowl Champion, I do not believe that we have seen a big enough body of work to judge his career. Wilson has benefitted from having a top three defense in 2 of the 3 seasons that he has played. This is not to say that he is not a good quarterback, because he has done more with less. His receivers are no better than average, but聽he has benefited from having “Beast Mode” behind him. Wilson making the list should let you know what I think about his potential, but I will take a wait and see approach with him. Joe Flacco is a clutch quarterback that has not had the benefit of a solid offensive line, but has聽had the benefit of playing聽with formidable defenses over his career. It makes it easier when your defense is as solid as his has been. Flacco is so cool and calm that he wouldn’t sweat in Las Vegas in 114 degree weather, but let’s see what he does without Torrey Smith. Andrew Luck ends my list and may get me some hate mail. Luck has not benefitted from having a strong defense or聽strong running game, and his offensive line is atrocious. What Luck has going for him is a strong understanding of his offensive system, great receivers, and a lot of talent. He is a student of the game and is always prepared.

Honorable Mention: Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers and Cam Newton.

Let me know what you think and remember if you do not have anything nice to say, say it anyways.

So Mote It Be –聽Roger Haywood

Dallas Cowboys Progress Stoppers – 2015

nick hayden

Football season is upon us! Let the congregation say AMEN. Although it’s early in the offseason and training camp is at least two months away, now is the time to start looking at the many roster spots that may become open as the organization looks to turn over the roster and find players that have the ability to help the team in 2015. If you follow the Dallas Cowboys you know that the coaching staff and scouts have done an excellent job in finding players that may not have been drafted but have the talent to either make the 53 man roster or stashed on the practice squad. When building a team there has so聽many aspects that have to be looked at when deciding who will get to wear the star on their helmet, help the team in the immediate future AND have longevity. The first is the depth chart and the salary committed to each position. The second is the talent at the position. The third is if there is a major difference in the production of veteran player and drafted/undrafted player. Progress stoppers.

This leads us to the discussion of 鈥減rogress stoppers鈥 whose presence on the roster prevents younger, cheaper talent from moving up the depth chart. Although most NFL teams have this problem, the Cowboys of the past have been guilty of playing highly paid veterans over young, cheaper alternatives because of the comfort level.聽 To Jason Garrett鈥檚 credit, he has done an excellent job of creating competition through the entire roster, and for the most part not allowing salary to dictate the playing time of talented but green players. Maybe because he was an undrafted player that had solid moments in his career, he seems to have a soft spot for the underdog.聽 When you look at the 90 man roster that the Cowboys will be taking to camp, you have to wonder if the team has really broken the trend of 2009-2011 of holding on to players a year longer than they should. The defense has at least two to three players you have to question if they will make it to September and if so,聽why? 聽Here鈥檚 what I see after watching last season鈥檚 16 games while drinking a Pabst.

Nick Hayden: Has been consistent as a 1-Tech in Rod Marinelli鈥檚 defense. Max effort player you can count on to know his assignment and do his job while on the field. Lacks pass rush moves and quickness to be a pass rush threat.聽This is an example of paying for consistency vs. upside. The Cowboys drafted Ken Bishop in the聽seventh round of the 2014 draft and signed Davon Coleman from Arizona State. Most team officials have spoken highly of both players and I鈥檓 not one to player hate but check their salaries and I am sure there is a savings in there. I鈥檓 not saying this for Hayden to lose his job because I know that he adds value to the D-Line as a leader, but not at the amount of snaps that he played. 聽Total Snaps 585; Run Def 269 snaps and Pass Rush 303 snaps.

Ed note: stats from ProFootballFocus.com

Bishop and Coleman should have been given the opportunity to play a third of his snaps and produce, but the Cowboys played it safe. Not to doubt the D-Line or Marinelli but I hate to hear about players that may fall on the wrong side of a coach (ahem Martellus Bennett) and not given an opportunity to play when they have earned it. I hate to bring up Bennett but I am one of the few believers that if coaches would have given Bennett some of Witten鈥檚 snaps聽it would have prolonged his career for the Cowboys peak years, which is now.

Barry Church: This hurts me to say because he鈥檚 been a good, solid player since he has been a Cowboy. A tough-nosed, consistent tackler that is a leader. He鈥檚 given the Cowboys the consistency Ken Hamlin couldn鈥檛. In his second year J.J. Wilcox has consistently improved. He鈥檚 an erratic tackler and not a Free Safety. He鈥檚 an in the box safety with decent zone awareness that聽has the opportunity to improve. 聽It鈥檚 being commonly reported it鈥檚 possible Byron Jones can replace Wilcox to be the Free Safety that the Cowboys need, but I would bet two acres of swamp land I own in Vegas the defense would perform better with Wilcox also replacing Church.

The OTA鈥檚 started on Tuesday and the Cowboys have started what most Cowboys fans hate to hear as Jason Garrett spits out 鈥淭he Process鈥.聽I鈥檓 sure the die-hard fans who truly follow the Cowboys hope that Garrett remembers his roots

So Mote It Be – Roger Haywood

 

Ed Note – A big welcome to Roger Haywood as he joins the CowboysNation.com staff for 2015!