Got to be Crazy to be a Cowboys Fan

I have said before that you have to be crazy to be a Dallas Cowboys fan and here is proof. (As a fan myself, I should know)

Moments before his execution by a lethal injection, a convicted killer shouted “Go Cowboys!” STORY 

He lost it and committed the murder back in April 2001 which incidentally was about the time the Dallas Cowboys used their first pick in the 2001 NFL draft to select QB Quincy Carter. Hmmmmm

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NFL Announces New Rule Changes and the Games aren’t Going to get any Shorter

On Wednesday the NFL announced the newest rule changes. And if you think the games can go on forever at times, then you ain’t seen nothing yet.

1. The OT rule that was unveiled during the playoffs last year has now been approved for the regular season. A team can no longer win the coin toss then kick a FG and the game over often referred to with the very solemn term, “sudden death”.  Now the other team would get a possession and have a chance to tie or win the game.

My take: I liked this rule for the playoffs where so much is at stake but I don’t like it for the regular season.  It only makes the games longer and it just might have the unintended effect of encouraging teams to not go for the win in regulation since we now have a more fair Overtime. Instead of going for two maybe they now kick the extra point and just play on.

Suggestion: I’m for anything that shortens the games which can now go well over 4 hours. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an exciting OT game but enough is enough.  Since it is a regular season game, I’m in favor of just determining the winner with a coin toss. “Call it in the air. Heads it is. You win. We are out of here.”  Hey they are already telling us that whoever wins the OT coin toss tends to win the game anyway.  Have to admit it would be an exciting coin toss. Look for coaches to try to “ice” the calling of the toss by using timeouts and stuff.

Now “icing” kickers is something that should be addressed with rule changes! That crap makes me crazy. Put a stop to that. If the kicker kicks it, too bad you were too late calling a timeout. And no back to back TOs.

2.  The NFL also made review of any turnovers as automatic for the replay booth. All turnovers will be analyzed by replay and no request by a coach required.

My take: Great all we needed is another delay in games. It is starting to get a little annoying and the risk is it negatively impacts the flow and emotion of the game. These type of rule changes ultimately make idiots of NFL refs by causing them to not really be concerned about getting the call right on a turnover. “Heck just go look at the replay” is what they should say.

Look I get it, they don’t want games determined by a an official’s error and just because the coach doesn’t have any challenges left.  And a turnover can be a play that could have a huge impact on who wins the game. But if we review every stinking play, one game may go for 6 hours and that could cause us to miss the start of the following game which usually is the one we really want to see anyway.

Suggestion: Only do an automatic turnover review in the last 2 minutes of the game.

3.  Being caught with more than 11 players on the field before the snap becoming a dead-ball foul rather than a five-yard penalty that would be enforced after the play was run and time taken off the clock.

My Take: We have the Giants to thank for this rule change because it happened in the Super Bowl when they exploited the loop hole. Leave it to those Giants. How about a rule that addresses the fake injuries that the Giants are so good at doing to stop the clock?

Bottom line is I’m for anything that causes the game to move along at a faster pace and allows the fans to enjoy the moment instead of waiting to come back after 5 minutes of beer commercials to find out the call. Then only to watch the replay for about 12 times and realize that they still got it wrong.

Sometimes even the replay is not all that decisive and it still becomes subjective. How many times have you heard the announcers give their opinion and then the call go the other way?

2011 Cowboys Defense OK at Home But Don’t Take Them On The Road..

Here is a stat that I bet you weren’t aware of and haven’t read anywhere else. The Dallas Cowboys defense was number 1 in sacks per game in away games last season. That’s right they averaged 3.8 sacks per away game which actually has them tied with the Eagles as the best in the NFL at getting sacks in road games. With all the talk of Dallas needing to upgrade their pass rush via the draft, I think that stat will come as a surprise to many.

Now it gets even stranger because when you look at home games, Dallas was one of the weakest at getting sacks with only 1.5 per game which is dead last in the NFC. That is a big difference so how do you explain that? Seems it should be the other way around right?

But while the Cowboys were getting sacks on the road, the opposing QBs were still having really good games as they had an average passer rating of 102 which was the 4th highest in the NFL and only three really bad teams were more generous to opposing QBs.

As the saying goes, “nothing is more devastating to an opinion than a number” and the numbers keep saying that the Cowboys secondary performed very poorly last year. It no doubt cost them games. However their poor performance was really evident in away games.

Another interesting fact is the 2011 Dallas defense allowed a third down conversion percentage rate of 46.36% in away games which ranks 4th highest in the NFL and the worst in all of the NFC. That particularly reflects on the pass defense as teams will typically pass the ball on third down.

Coach Dave Campo forced to put on the obligatory interview suit and sharpen up his interviewing skills when his secondary stunk up the joint in 2011.

However when Dallas was playing at home, their pass defense was more effective as their opponents 3rd down conversion rate dropped all the way down to 31.91% which ranks 2nd best in the NFC. What a difference!

So for some reason the Dallas pass defense was much better at home than on the road although as pointed out earlier, the defense was getting much fewer sacks (1.5/game) at home. Go figure.

By drilling down by quarters, we see that the Cowboys defense allowed a lot of the points on the road in the 2nd and 4th quarters, 8.6 and 7.2 per game respectfully, while being pretty stingy in the 1st and 3rd quarters allowing about 3 points in each. The Cowboys defense ranked 3rd in the NFC in points allowed in the 2nd quarter.

It appears to me that opponents had a lot of success when they went to their 2 minute hurry up offense late in the half (2nd Qtr.) and late in the game. It was in these key times that Dallas seem to not be able to come up with a timely sack, INT, or defensive stoppage. Again the secondary just couldn’t get it done.

Incidentally, the Cowboys defense was one of the better teams in the NFL on 4th down as they only allowed a 36.35% rate of conversion. This is indicative of their strength against the run as most 4th down attempts are a short yardage run.

So why was Dallas getting sacks in away games last year but still managed to allow opposing QBs to have really successful games?  I don’t know the answer but if you like, I will bounce a theory off of you. I think the Cowboys blitz much more on the road and while that may result in more sacks, it leaves the secondary more vulnerable to the pass with less pass defenders available. So when they got to the QB, it was all good but when the QB got the ball away, “holy crap how did he get that open!?” Sound familiar?

Next year it is going to be important for Dallas to improve their secondary and effectively pressure the QB without going to the blitz quite as often. Carr has been added to the secondary so now can they pick up a good DE or DT in the draft? They need it because while politicians and team owners may lie, the numbers don’t.

The Cowboys Draft Needs After “Guns A’ Blazing” Free Agency

Now that the smoke is starting to clear from the Cowboys entering free agency with “guns a’ blazing”, aggressively signing eight players. How is their draft in April affected?

Head coach Jason Garrett has said the Cowboys strategy is to address needs prior to the draft freeing them up to select the “best player available”.  I’m not positive that I understand or agree with that approach but hey Jason attended Princeton so let’s roll with him here.  Jason says he likes to load up each position creating competition and then let’s see who makes the roster.

Again who am I to match wits with an Ivy League guy just because I’ve never iced my own kicker? But here it goes anyway. Does it mean even if they have three QBs on their roster, that they are all good to go with, if the best player on the board happens to be a QB, they will select him? Even when their pass rush fades away late in games like footprints in the sand? That just doesn’t seem logical to me. Seems they would want a player that could play and contribute right away in the first round while addressing a specific need.

In drafting the “best available” I hope the Cowboys manage to address the following areas.

Wide Receiver: The Cowboys let Robinson walk to the Jaguars after he had a very productive year for the Cowboys. They didn’t want to give that kind of money to their 3rd receiver but regardless he was a real “go to guy” in the redzone. I think they will miss him and you should sign your most productive wide receiver especially when you are a passing team, in a passing league, during a passing era. Just sayin’. Dallas brought Ogletree back but they still could use another WR at some point in the draft just in case he plays like he always has in the past. Raymond Radway showed a lot of promise last year but suffered a season ending injury prior to the season. It remains to be seen if he has recovered and can fill that 3rd spot at all.

Tight End: Dallas parted ways with Marty Bennett which I agree with the move. It just wasn’t working out and Marty seemed preoccupied with other things like social media and stuff. The Cowboys could use depth behind Witten and Phillips and I think they will draft a TE at some point. They could use a good blocking TE and hopefully will find one. Tight ends are expected to start coming off the board in the second round.

Pass Rusher: Can be OLB, DE or DT. I look for Dallas to get one in the first round now that the secondary has been addressed with the additions of CB Carr and Safety Pool. Unfortunately the best DE Coples will likely be off the board before 14. OLB Ingram will also likely be gone before the Cowboys first pick. Both of these guys have the ability to make the pass rush much more effective if they are available.

There are three defensive tackles that are possibilities for Dallas. Michael Brockers, Fletcher Cox and Dontai Poe are all expected to go around 14 or perhaps before then. Adding a young, athletic NT could really help the Cowboys pass rush and also provide a human tree stump against the run. While these guys are not going to get a bunch of sacks, they can tie up offensive linemen so that Ware and gang can do their thing. Picking a DT early is not considered a “sexy” pick but it has worked out pretty good for the NY Giants.

Guard: Yes Dallas added two guards in free agency but when you analyze them, you realize they just may not be the answer. Pro Football Focus  points out that Livings was less than spectacular for the Bengals and ranked him a pedestrian 56th among guards.  If David Decastro is available at 14 then Dallas will be wise to draft the best guard in the draft to solidify the middle of the line. DeCastro is a safe pick that should be dependable for many years to come. Right now the middle of the line is still kind of shaky.

Secondary– As noted earlier, Dallas has done a good job of improving the secondary in free agency but it will not be a bad idea at some point in the draft to bring in an additional CB for depth. They never seem to have enough DBs during the season. Also Pool was signed to a one year deal and Sensabaugh is not getting any younger so picking up a safety for the future makes sense. Unfortunately after Barron from Alabama, there aren’t a lot of impressive safeties in this draft. May have to address that next year.

Dallas Cowboys Free Agency Report Card

Things have been happening at a fast pace for the Cowboys since free agency officially began this week. Still more to come but let’s look at how it is going so far:

CB Brandon Carr signed and Newman cut: Grade A-

I like this move because it was really needed and I think the Cowboys just got a noticeable upgrade at corner. Newman was well past his prime while Carr comes in playing at his best. His stats last year in coverage were impressive and was ranked behind Finnegan as the number 4 free agent CB by PFF.  Just short of an A because there were better free agents available and they paid $50 million for Carr.

Safety Brodney Pool signed and Elam cut: Grade B+

The safety position has been a real eye sore for the Cowboys the last couple years. The 2012 draft just doesn’t offer many promising safeties so I think getting one in FA was a must. Dallas gets a good safety in Pool. He is 28 and may not have a lot of years ahead of him but for now he makes the Cowboys better in the secondary. Pool was ranked 5th among free agent safeties by PFF.  There were better out there but Dallas did themselves some good here.

ILB Dan Conner signed and Brooking and James are free agents at this point: Grade C

Dallas will need some depth at this position with Carter expected to play after his knee injury. Perhaps now the dinosaur Brooking will be let go. Conner played at Penn St. like Sean Lee and should provide solid depth. I don’t look for him to be outstanding. The Cowboys could possibly find better in the draft such as Luke the LB from Boston College.  Don’t think this FA move gets us any closer to winning the East.

QB Kyle Orton signed to replace retired Kitna: Grade C-

Honestly I’m just not feeling this addition. Orton has impressed at times and depressed at times too. I like the idea of bringing in an experienced QB as a back up but I have low expectations that he will really help them significantly. I look for McGee to be the 2nd string QB.

OG Bernadeau signed: Grade C

A guard with only one start last year on a Panthers offensive line that was to say the least, not stellar. He will add depth but expectations should be low here. Let’s hope Stanford guard DeCastro is still on the board at number 14 for Dallas.

FB Lawrence Vickers signed while Fiammetta not signed: Grade D

No offense Vickers, but I think the Cowboys made a mistake here. Fiametta proved himself last season as an effective lead blocker but he was not signed. To be fair there are some health concerns with him but I think this move was about the money. May regret this one next year.

“LOW-Rent” Robinson not signed: Grade F

Jerry enjoyed the services of the inexpensive “Low-rent” Robinson last year as he was the Cowboys most productive WR. His chemistry with Romo was special and he showed up in the redzone like an old dependable friend. This had to be about the money and with only Austin (and his not so reliable hamstring) along with Dez, the Cowboys will need to replace Robinson. He could be missed especially in the redzone.

Looking Ahead: What is needed now?

WR- Robinson gone to Jags while it looks like Holley and Ogletree are leaving.  Need to bring in help.

TE-Marty B gone to the Giants. Need depth.

Dallas Cowboys First Pick in 2012 Draft: VERSION 2.0

We now have updated information since early speculations of who Dallas may draft in the first round. Perhaps we can narrow down the possibilities a little bit.

Here are the major developments so far:

  • OLB Spencer was tagged indicating Dallas will re-sign him. That makes it less likely that an OLB like Upshaw or Ingram will be drafted with their first pick.
  • N.O. Saints OG Nicks was not tagged by the Saints- That means he can test the free agent market and it is a player that appears Dallas will be interested in. However he will have a large price tag so I still think the Cowboys will be interested in drafting Stanford gurad DeCastro…if he is still available.
  • According to Jerry, he may resign Newman (don’t get me started on this revelation) which makes it rather ambiguous if the Cowboys will draft a corner with the first pick.

OK. So who are the first pick prospects that are likely still on the Cowboys radar screen?

CB Dre Kirkpatrick: Gil Brandt watched Dre’s Pro Day on Wednesday and liked what he saw. I like his height at 6′-2″ and he demonstrated 4.5/40 speed and agility. In addition Kirkpatrick has the size and ability to move to safety in future and be a very good one. If Newman is not signed and Dre is on the board at #14, I think Dallas will pick him. But Jerry just might try to serve up that same tired old secondary that was posterized too often last year.

 OG DeCastro: Probably the safest pick the Cowboys could make. The best guard in the draft and could fill a need for years to come for the Dallas O-line. However most mock drafts have DeCastro off the board by #14 although it is a possibility he will be on the board. If he is on the board, I think Dallas takes him and he will cost Jerry much less than signing Nicks. They can’t pass on this guy if he is there.

CB Jenkins: Considered a bit of a reach at #14. He is only 5-10 and he comes with baggage. Even more than Dez coming out of college. I do not see Dallas picking Jenkins because Jason keeps talking about “our kind of guy” and I think it is safe to say multiple busts for pot, several kids from different moms, and getting kicked out of a major college program is not what Jason means by “our kind of guy”. That would be Jerry Jones kind of guy.

Safety Barron: A reach at #14 but if Dallas doesn’t sign Elam to a contract, then they will need a safety. I don’t look for Dallas to select Barron with the first pick and actually think they will sign a veteran free agent if they don’t bring back Elam. The usual “spare tire” approach to the safety position.

ILB Luke Kuechly: This ILB from Boston College reminds me of current LB Sean Lee. VIDEO He makes a lot of tackles and is surprisingly good in coverage too, like Lee. With an NFL trend of throwing to TEs often, LBs that can cover TEs are in demand. Luke can cover. If Dallas doesn’t bring back Brooking or James then they will need some depth at ILB. Carter is expected to start however it remains to be seen if he is fully recovered from a knee injury in college.  This wouldn’t be a bad pick in my view but it isn’t likely especially if Brooking is signed for another year which it looks like he will.

Conclusion: I think Dre Kirkpatrick and DeCastro are the main guys on the Cowboys radar with the first pick. And if they get either one at #14, they should feel pretty good about the pick. Both can help immediately in areas of need.

However no guarantee that either will be there at #14 so then what? Well it could get interesting.

They could possibly trade down to get Jenkins or Barron in late first round or make a reach for either one.

Stay posted more clues will trickle down soon.