Dolphins vs Cowboys MePlay

I know the title is a little weird but let me explain. I can only call a game through my view hence not a replay, a meplay. (Note to ed. Please go copyright that for me)

Ed Note: We take a moments respite here while I make a quick dash to DC – trade mark time.

There has been a frenzy in the Cowboys training camp, let me correct myself, since the draft. Romo and Dez are healthy, the drafting of Ezekiel Elliott, the forever lingering backup QB dilemma, the greatest o-line ever and so on and so on. The final week of training camp Dez and Claiborne get in a little tiff and come out the following day wearing each others jerseys. (Insert any CLEAN smart remark) Dak Prescott started off shaky but rode into Los Angeles like the Old Spice guy.

The offense is finally healthy and should be able to capture a top five NFL ranking and that’s even with the uncertainty of Elliott’s play. We can all hope he will run for at least 1,400 yards this season but for every Emmitt Smith there is a Blair Thomas. I’m not comparing but explaining that there’s no such thing as a sure thing in the NFL. The good thing for the Cowboys is that they protected themselves with the free-agent signing of Alfred Morris.

Morris has shown why he is a perfect fit for this offense by bringing a patience to the running game that Darren McFadden struggled with. I’m not one of those writers that feel comfortable enough to question an athletes skills, especially since I timed myself on the forty-yard dash recently and let’s just say that most 300 lb offensive-lineman would beat my time with ease.

Ed note2: It’s on! Finally! Someone I can take in the 40! … no sandbagging !

Morris ran for 85 yards on 13 carries and had no notable mistakes in pass protection. I will have a hard time understanding why Morris is not the starter in New York in September. He stayed healthy during training camp and showed improvement from his past by being able to pick up the blitz and be a suitable receiver out of the backfield. If Garrett is serious about players earning their playing time on the field then Morris should be the starter and let Elliott’s play earn him more playing time. What’s that old saying “You can’t earn playing time with the trainers”, well Elliott would have to earn his carries going forward and if I was Stephen Jones, I would start sniffing around for a potential trade partner for McFadden due to the fact that Darius Jackson has shown enough to be on the 53 man roster.

In my opinion the first string defense was slightly above average. It was good to see Tyrone Crawford get a sack against the Dolphins first string offensive line and Jack Crawford showed why he is a valued member of this defensive line rotation. The defense accounted for three sacks with the two coming from Shaneil Jenkins and Kyle Wilber against the Dolphins second and third string reserves and the line did not look as efficient with their stunts which should be cleaned up going forward.

With the influx of injuries during camp to their rotation, it’s a miracle that the defense has been able to muster any continuity. As the team goes into it’s third preseason game, it would be smart for the team to rest both Crawford’s and allow Jenkins, Thornton and McAdoo to prove their worthiness of consideration for the 53 man roster.

The reality is that the Cowboys pass rush is still questionable and with Demarcus Lawrence’s suspension at the beginning of the season it will be important for the Cowboys to have a strong rush up the middle to compensate for a lack of pressure on the outside. Ryan Russell has slowed down and i’m not sure if it is because of the amount of playing time he has received during camp or his inability to add more pass rushing skills to his repertoire. At this time the free agent pool has dried and I am hoping the Cowboys Pro Personnel team has devoted a large amount of time looking at the lines of the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks with the hopes of plucking a player they were hoping to sneak onto their practice squads. The pass rush has fans on Twitter so worried there are calls for the team to consider resigning Greg Hardy. According to Stephen Jones that ship has sailed. I’m starting to wonder why Rolando McClain’s ship is still in the dock? Has he kicked the “purple drank” demon?

purple drank

Watching this defense it’s imperative for the Cowboys to learn about their backups. We know what a healthy Sean Lee will do once the big lights come on but there are still questions about Anthony Hitchens and although he has been solid, I can’t say that I haven’t thought about donating the nerve in my knee to Jaylon Smith so that he can start his career. Although it’s likely that he will be put on the IR once the season begins, I hope he recovers because everyone wants to see a good guy succeed.

Damien Wilson played his first game since the incident that could have made him a fake pirate and he showed why the coaches are excited about his growth. The problem is that Derek Akunne and Deon King haven’t shown enough (yet) to make it past the second cut.  When the defense goes to nickel, don’t be surprised to see Wilson paired with Sean Lee. Wilson is an athlete that can run and it looks like he has been studying because there hasn’t been the mistakes that you would associate with someone who has missed the majority of camp. By my count there are only five linebackers that will make this team and I am hoping that one of the rookies or first year players replace Andrew Gachkar. I’m of the belief you should churn the roster but it should happen with players ranked 45-53 on the roster and salary should be a consideration.

The Cowboys secondary has played with an attitude since the beginning of camp and it’s carried over to their preseason games. Claiborne looks ready for the season and Brandon Carr looks aggressive, which is a good thing. The safety position is a little muddled currently due to Jeff Heath’s injury. Although I have been a JJ Wilcox supporter since they drafted him, I have to admit it’s been hard to defend his recent play. Wilcox looks like a player that could benefit from a change of scenery. I’m not sure if this coaching staff has made it’s mind up about him but if they continue to play him out of position he will wind up unemployed. His reaction skills have decreased and it looks like he’s still thinking too much instead of playing. Kavon Frazier hasn’t shown enough to unseat him (yet) and the team has not shown the testicular fortitude to go with the unknown. Would anyone be upset if they signed Antonio Cromartie?

One last thing….It was great to see Orlando Scandrick playing without limitations. Scandrick is the heart of this defense and his fiery play may be what this defense has missed. Could the Cowboys get away with only four cornerbacks on the roster at the beginning of the season. The teams roster will evolve as suspended players like Lawrence returns but if this team keeps a FB on the roster, I might be forced to write Jerry a letter.

So Mote It Be

Cowboys Future Core Set – Fredericks Signs 6 Year Extension

Travis Frederick

Great teams are designed. They don’t “just happen.” At certain points in a teams creation a vision is put forth by either a single or small group of talented individuals. Player templates are discussed. Current and future talent pools are considered. Ultimately player cost and cap sustainability come into play and set the limits on what can be achieved and the manner in which it can be attempted.

Veering heavily towards it’s newly rediscovered power running identity over the last few years the Cowboys invested heavily via the draft and free agency in their offensive line via three first round picks and one unbelievable UDFA windfall. Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and La’El Collins join veteran Doug Free to form one of the best offensive line units in the NFL. After sustained Travis Frederick trade rumors the team took a big step towards keeping the unit together long term by signing their All Pro OC to a six year extension keeping him under contract for another eight years. Six years, $56.4 million. Expires in 2023. Well done.

The longer an offensive line plays together the better it performs. That’s old-school NFL math. What the Dallas front office is trying to accomplish is figure out how to field a team that has a “winning window” they can afford to pay for more than one contract. Long term extensions are the weapon of choice for Stephen Jones and 2023 the year he has pegged as the end of the journey for the incredible crop of linemen the Cowboys have mined.

Pos Player Joined 2016 Cap Expires
LT Tyron Smith 2011 $6,800,800 2023
LG La’El Collins 2015 $540,000 2017
OC Travis Frederick 2013 $2,100,000 2023
RG Zack Martin 2014 $2,445,000 2017
LT Doug Free 2007 $5,500,000 2017

For now the line is imminently affordable. 2017 is a mile post year. Zack Martin and La’El Collins are next in line for deals. Doug Free got his money early and will most likely be replaced when his contract expires, though he may surprise. With former starter Ronald Leary looking like a Greek god in camp, trade rumors concerning him, Collins or Martin are already brewing. After months of trade speculation about Frederick the focus of the rumor mill is now fully on the three players until like Frederick, they sign long term deals, or are gone.

The monumental task of signing both guards to long term, team friendly deals is a feat that once accomplished should set the Cowboys up with a long term “wining window” and be a studly feather in the front office’s cap. Though it may go against popular theory I believe the team can do it.

The length of the contracts allows for escalation of the cap itself. When combined with carefully managed, spot payments that take advantage of any spare cap space along with the expiration of Tony Romo’s contract in the near future the group should be able to stay together for the foreseeable future. Say what you will about Jerry Jones, convincing players to sign on to the Cowboys game plan is a strength. Jerry can deliver where others fear to tread. I believe the team will get it done.

In the mean time Ezekiel Elliot, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Tony Romo have the pleasure and opportunity one is afforded when playing behind an all-world offensive line that may very well end up being talked about with bated breath in years to come.

You anchor such a unit with a no-nonsense, RKOG holding down the OC position. Mission accomplished.

What say you Sports Nation?

Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over

Insanity or Calamity

Jerry Jones, Will McClay

With Kellen Moore’s injury the Cowboys have (again) been thrust into national media. Wow! Who would have thought that a backup quarterback would garner so much attention. I can tell you why. The organization has been pigheaded about drafting a QB since Romo was appointed the organizations savior after replacing Drew Bledsoe in 2006. In many circles people were upset about the injury and as a fan of an underdog it was disturbing to see a player with so much pressure put upon him go down on a fluke play.

No one wants to see a player get hurt but as fans did the injury really make you panic? No sooner than the training staff could get Moore off the field there was speculation about who the team would sign. Nick Foles name was resurrected, Josh McCown trade rumors are circulating and even Mike Vick’s name was thrown in the pot. After being rejected by Foles the team has decided to give Dak Prescott and Jameill Showers the opportunity to prove themselves. Do you agree with the decision?? I can say wholeheartedly that I do. As an organization the Cowboys have not given rookies the opportunity to grow into their positions under the belief that they could compromise the competitiveness of Romo lead teams. Can you name the players that you’ve seen the team draft and through free agency or early release due to injury come back and succeed in the NFL? Better yet, you could question the teams ability to understand the need of players that were drafted but not necessarily fit the bill of their draft status leave and become quality role players for other teams. (i.e. Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett)

Training camp is the time to experiment with your roster and find out if the players that you drafted or signed as unrestricted free agents are worth the money. In the case of Showers and Prescott it is time to see if Will McClay and his personnel group has a heartbeat on NFL rosters and players as a whole. The Cowboys had the opportunity in the 2016 NFL draft to pick the Quarterback that they felt could lead this organization after Romo’s retirement and rather you like it or not they did when they picked Prescott with a fourth round pick. The easy choice would be to give up a draft pick for McCown or Mike Glennon from Tampa Bay but to do that would jeopardize an asset for a stop-gap player who the team would be renting. It amazed me that Stephen Jones would show his cards about keeping Moore on the roster even with the Injured Reserve status in his back pocket.

After the injury the team has rallied around the idea about giving the two young quarterbacks the opportunity to show their skillset but the reality is that if Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett are not open to modifying or refreshing their playbook to take advantage of the available quarterbacks skills then this season is lost in training camp. I’ve been a fan of the Air Coryell offensive scheme before it found it’s way to Dallas through Ernie Zampese but schemes should be adaptable to the talent on the roster. To put it blunt the Cowboys have had serviceable quarterbacks in their system but have possibly handcuffed them to the point of not being able to perform. Brandon Weeden was with the team for two years and when it was time prove his worth, his hands were tied behind his back. I could mention Matt Cassel but I was against that signing in the first place.

I’ve said it before and will continue to say that a Head Coach secure in his position always evaluates different than one who believes that he is a 7-9 record away from being unemployed. I believe that if Garrett had his way and security of his job that he would roll with players that he believed in and let the chips fall where they may. Everyone knows that Romo has injury concerns that will ride him into his retirement but you offset that with solid drafting and a belief in your system.

The question is will Jerry allow this coaching staff to gauge Prescott’s and Showers growing potential without giving up the teams future assets for short-term results.

So Mote It Be!

Dear Jerry

Jerry Jones

Dear Jerry,

Jerry! What is going on with your team? As training camp opens. it seems that you don’t have the full team you counted on in early June arriving in California? It’s been 27 years since you’ve purchased the team and I can’t remember the last time that the Cowboys have entered a training camp so discombobulated.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some stuff (note to editor, I’m not sure that I can cuss but I’ll let you know stuff is not the intended word. Let’s play Wheel of Fortune and keep the S, buy a vowel and hope the contestant would get an H and a T) that would make you highly pissed.

The 1999 trade of two first round picks for Joey Galloway (yeah that trade) that was intended to extend Aikman’s career but wound up putting the team in complete salary cap hell. In 2001 they drafted Quincy Carter as well as trading the third-round pick in the 2005 draft for the rights to Drew Henson and even the trade for WR Roy Williams from the Lions for a first, third and sixth round pick in the 2008 draft was enough to make the hardcore fan base give the thought to freebasing. (joke)

What I’m saying is that we’ve been behind you through your questionable General Manager skills. And while some have questioned the thought process of Stephen Jones, I’ll be the first to argue that Stephen has bought balance to the organization and it has shown. The reality is that Stephen is not as attached to the players as you are and I get it. I’ve heard that Jerry is all about the consensus and that he takes information from all groups before he makes a decision with the roster but even I am starting to question the information that you are being given which may not make any sense at all.

What is there to process with the 2016 roster? Rolando McClain? Suspended for ten games and because of salary cap implications and there is a question if he should remain on the roster at all?

Stay Off The Weed

Can we agree that Randy Gregory’s has unquestionable talent? Yes! Should he have been drafted with the teams second round pick? Ehhh. Maybe not. Shortly after drafting him the team decided to give him #94, possibly using Demarcus Ware’s old number to try and light a fire under him, (pun unintended) but let’s put a twist on it. The pressure might have been too much for him to compare him to Ware or even Charles Haley. You could say the same thing about giving Dez Bryant the mythical #88. The difference is the personalities of the two players and what football means to them. I knew that Dez could hold up to the pressure of wearing the number and although he stumbled coming out of the gate, I think that he will continue to represent the team and the previous players that wore the number before him. If he doesn’t, it won’t be because of lack of effort. I would never question what another man goes through to get through day to day but if you love your occupation enough to sacrifice your well-being on a day-to-day basis and make a mistake, please do not follow up that mistake with another one. On draft day as well as days after, Gregory spoke of “making you proud” Jerry. I can applaud you for not turning your back on a person in need, you’ve done it before but do not be a fool.

When speaking about the possibility of signing a veteran quarterback, Stephen spoke on it being the time to develop a quarterback, specifically Dak Prescott and I’m certain that fans for the most part would agree with that wholeheartedly. The problem with the statement is that thought process should include the entire roster. If Rolando McClain cannot adhere to the rules that the NFLPA agreed to then it is time to move on. You can’t expect the coach to say “we only coach the players that are here” but not think about week eleven or twelve and the possibility of said player being available. You’ve taken worse salary cap hits through the years (Jay Ratliff and Kyle Orton) so we do not believe that the 750K really matters to you. Isn’t that what you drafted Anthony Hitchens for?

At the beginning of the 2015 season the Cowboys ranked 14th in the NFL with an average age on the 53-man roster of 26 years old and that is deceiving considering that Romo is 36 years old and Witten is 34. Get rid of those old guys and i’m sure the average will take a dip. (I Kid, I Kid) I’m not sure if it’s the coaching staff or if it is you but history has shown that you’re scared to play younger players. If I was Jason Garrett and secure in my job, had a voice in the drafting of players and if and when they played, it would only make sense to use the younger assets to build a strong core. Back to reality Cowboys fans, Jason Garrett has none of the above going for him. As much as Jerry says that Garrett is his guy, the reality is that another 4-12 season or even an 8-8 season could send the head coach in a spiral and end up like Wade Phillips. To put a spin an a Bill Parcell’s quote “The Cowboys are expecting Jason Garrett to cook with the groceries that the team buys” and to put it bluntly the team in the past bought Rolando McClain and Randy Gregory. I would hate to put Demarcus Lawrence’s suspension into this equation but as a fan, I’m tired of the high risk.

We know that Jerry has made a living off of risky moves and buying the Cowboys was one of them but the inconsistency of the application of the thought process is what drives me crazy. If that’s who you are Jerry, OWN IT, but remember you passed up Randy Moss because of his “character issues”.

Note: Congratulations to Jas for getting her drivers license today! Now you can drive your pops to the MGM for Fat Tuesdays!

Ed Note: Double that congratulations!

So Mote It Be!