TE Martellus Bennett Calls Eli Manning “unselfish”

Not sure if I am reading too much into it or not, but former Cowboys back up TE  Martellus Bennet couldn’t say enough good things about his new QB with the Giants, Eli Manning. “Watching his approach to the game and the way he coaches everybody up and gets everybody involved, I think he’s an unselfish quarterback, which is what you want. He throws a very catchable ball, which is always awesome. He’s a great guy, a great quarterback” Bennett lauded.

Oh and he didn’t stop there.

 “I mean, he’s just looking for the open guy,” Bennett said. “It doesn’t matter who it is or what number you are. If you’re open, he’s going to hit you. You have to be ready. That’s what makes it so fun playing in this offense because anytime you beat your guy, you know you could get the ball.”

Bennett is still in “honeymoon” mode up there in NY right now so we will see what happens later. But what does this say about Romo?

You may or may not recall that back in April Bennet was praising then back up QB Kitna saying he could replace Romo. Got in a little hot water over those comments. LINK  Got the impression then that Bennett was not crazy about Romo.

Is Marty saying that it wasn’t that way in Dallas? Marty seems pleasantly surprised to now have a QB that will throw it to him when he is open no matter what number he is wearing. And his new QB actually shows leadership too.

Some sour grapes from Marty perhaps? Is he implying that he didn’t get the ball thrown his way in Dallas even when he was open? Is that why he seemed to give a minimum effort on pass routes at times?

Like I say, don’t want to read too much into it but it has to make you think he is taking a bit of a shot at his former QB, Romo.

No doubt Bennett adulated his new QB in an attempt to get a few passes thrown his way but now that Bennett has swelled to 291 pounds he may not be getting open that often anyway unless he gets matched up with a 300+ lb. defensive lineman.

Meanwhile, I think Romo may have just gotten tossed under the proverbial bus….again.

Update: Another Cowboys blogger thinks Bennett is dissing Romo.  LINK

 

 

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College Football Going to a Four Team Playoff: How that BCS plan work out for ya?

I remember 14 years ago how happy college football fans were to get the BCS system to determine a national championship? We thought, finally a system that will give us the bowl match ups to crown a national champion without relying on a vote. Well, how that work out for ya?

It was just announced there will now be a four team college football playoff to determine the national champion. OK that sounds a little better than the current BS, uh I mean the BCS which has finally run its course. But the obvious question becomes, “how and/or whom will decide which four teams play in the playoff?”

A selection committee will select the four teams which will no doubt create more controversy than we already have now. You can see it unfold on TV, just like the NCAA basketball tournament selection show, where the 5th and 6th teams react in disbelief that they weren’t included.

Most college football fans are ready for a playoff and this may move a step closer but does it go far enough? If fans don’t like it, then we can try to get it right next time in 2025? Are you kidding? Yep, the agreement runs though 2025.

It’s easy for me to imagine many teams, coaches, and fans unhappy with this system by next year.

Last year USC and Oregon were the 5th and 6th teams at the end of the regular season however Oregon managed to finish ranked 4th in the final AP poll. USC and Oregon were good enough to be included in the national title picture. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one to tell them they had no chance to win the title.

“Preserve the Regular Season” 

Why not a more fair 16 team playoff?  Well the college football gods say that we must preserve the importance of every single regular season game. They argue having a large post season tournament, would risk diminishing the value of the regular season games.

All I can say is, let’s just see if it does. Currently regular season games tend to carry significant importance, I will concede. But the bowl games are a frickin’ joke so what a trade off.

Having an exciting post season tournament that allows for a “Cinderella” team while crowning a deserving national champion is worth risking less important regular season games.

Four team playoff a step in the right direction? Maybe, but it just goes far enough to make us realize what we are missing.

Ultimately, I think conferences should be smaller and all conference champs should enter the tournament. Having a higher seed or home game could be incentive enough to make regular season games meaningful.

A vote to pick the 4 playoff teams? What could possibly go wrong?

Cowboys 2008 Undrafted Rookie Wide Receivers Similar to 2012

2012 Undrafted WR Cole Beasley

2008 undrafted WR Danny Amendola

As I watched a replay of the Dallas Cowboys 2008 appearance on the HBO series “Hard Knocks”, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a couple undrafted rookies trying to make the 2012 Cowboys team that compare to Danny Amendola and Todd Lowber.

2008 WR Danny Amendola and 2012 WR Cole Beasley:

Danny Amendola was a slot WR out of Texas Tech who was only 5’11 and 183 pounds. Amendola impressed in the Cowboys 2008 preseason camp causing Terrell Owens to boldly state that if Danny didn’t make the Cowboys roster, he would land on an NFL roster some where.  T.O. was ultimately right about the prediction.

Amendola fumbled a punt return in their first preseason game against the Chargers which basically cost the Cowboys that game. At the end of preseason, the Cowboys cut him but then signed him to the practice squad after clearing waivers. At the time the Cowboys had T.O., Miles Austin, Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd. (Only Austin is on the current roster)

In 2009, the Rams signed him and he caught 43 passes for 326 yards and one touchdown as a slot receiver. He returned 66 kicks for 1,618 yards and 31 punts returns for 360 yards. That’s averaging better than 10 yards per punt return.

In 2010 Amendola lead the NFL in all-purpose yards with 2,364. A productive WR for sure.

Did the Cowboys give up on this bright prospect too soon? Did they put too much emphasis on the preseason fumble? Place Danny on the rather long list of former Cowboys who have gone on to play pretty darn well with other NFL teams. I’ve often speculated that one could gather a team of former Cowboy players currently on other NFL rosters, and beat the current Cowboys.

Today the Cowboys find themselves searching for a slot WR and are taking a look at Cole Beasley.

Cole Beasley:

Like Amendola, Beasley played college football in the state of Texas at SMU and was a smallish but productive slot WR. I just can’t help but compare them as Beasley has already impressed in the Cowboys mini camp. HERE

My advise to Beasley would be if you return punts in a preseason game, just make a fair catch and don’t risk a fumble.

2008 WR Todd Lowber and 2012 WR Saalim Akim:

The 2008 “Hard Knocks” chronicled the story of WR Todd Lowber’s attempt to become an NFL wide receiver. His athletic ability really stood out but he had almost no experience at playing football. Jim Garrett, former Cowboys scout and father of current head coach Jason Garrett, was big on the upside potential of the athletic Lowber in the “Hard Knocks” series.

Lowber was a high jump champ with great speed but his lack of football experience caused him to be cut by the Cowboys in the final cuts that year.

Lowber ended up in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts where in 2009 he suffered a serious concussion while returning a kick. Later in 2009, he was released by the Argonauts. Currently he is a free agent.

Saalim Akim:

Akim is a an undrafted rookie that caught the Cowboys attention with his sick 40 time of 4.31. Although his brother Az Akim is a WR for the Rams, Saalim has very little football experience and has played soccer in the past. To say the least, Saalim will be a project as he learns the game of football in the NFL. As Lowber reminds us, these projects rarely pan out at the NFL level.

Let’s hope Saalim’s attempt has a better ending than that of Todd Lowber.

A good article on Akim from Gosselin: AKIM 

If you’re Going to Play in the NFC East, Protect Your QB

Over the years in the NFL, the NFC East has established a reputation for having very good defensive lines and being very good at pressuring quarterbacks. Last year in 2011, 3 out of the top 5 NFC teams in sacks, were from the NFC East. RANK

The Eagles were tied for first in sacks with the Super Bowl Champ Giants at 3rd and the Cowboys 4th. Even the Redskins finished in the upper tier of the NFC coming in at 7th.

Individually, 3 out of the top 4 NFL pass rushers play on NFC East teams. Demarcus Ware (Dallas), Jason Babin (Phil.) and Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants) finished just behind Jared Allen of the Vikes.

A big part of the Giants success last year was their effective defensive line rotation which made life tough on opposing offensive lines. Must have seemed like a “Men in Black” movie with a constant bombardment of large, scary beast coming at you. And when the 4th quarter came around, a battle weary offensive line faced fresh beast coming at them.

The nightmare ended with the Giants as Super Bowl champs. Let’s face it, the formula works. In fact 4 out of the last 5 teams to win the super bowl finished in the top 3 teams in sacks.

If you are going to compete in the NFC East, your team better have a good offensive line. If not, it will be exposed.

And it’s not getting any easier next year: 

Eagles- The Eagles who had 50 sacks last year and finished tied for first in the entire NFL with the Vikings, added more talent on the defensive line as if they needed it. In the NFL draft, they traded up to select Fletcher Cox who arguably was the best defensive lineman available in the draft and then later picked DE Vinny Curry who appears to have excellent pass rushing potential. The rich get richer you could say.

Cowboys- Demarcus Ware carried the load for the Cowboys last season finishing second in the NFL in sacks. The Cowboys used their 3rd round pick (second selection in the draft) to take DE Tyrone Crawford. A promising pass rush talent that plays with a good motor. Expected to get into the Cowboys rotation next season.  While the Cowboys didn’t add much on the D-line in free agency, they have improved their secondary which may result in better QB pressure since the Cowboys blitz frequently in Coach Ryan’s scheme. At least that is the plan.

Having Your QBs Back:

Last year the Giants did the best job of protecting their QB in the NFC East allowing 28 sacks and 72 hits on QB. The Eagles were nearly as good at protection allowing 32 sacks and 72 hits on QB while the Cowboys and Redskins have the most improving to do. Dallas allowed 39 sacks and 89 hits on the QB and the Redskins allowed 41 sacks and an astounding 108 hits on their QBs.

By drafting RG3, the Redskins will have a QB with more “escapeability” so their numbers just may improve in those areas. However the less mobile QBs in the NFC East are going to have to rely on their O-lines to come through for them. The “Beasts in the East” refers to the defensive linemen that make life miserable for QBs.

Former Cowboys Safety Darren Woodson Calls Out Dallas Tackling

Darren Woodson speaks about football a lot like he played safety for 12 years for the Dallas Cowboys. Straight forward and hard hitting. Recently he called out the Cowboys defense when he stated they,  “are garbage at tackling”.  ARTICLE

He added, “they won’t hit a soul.” OUCH. That verbal shot is like one of those hits Woodson laid on wide receivers coming across the middle of the field…..back in the day when you could do that without a flag, a fine, and being forced to send a letter of apology to the player you hit.

Woodson didn’t stop with the Cowboys either, while he was at it, he also called out the Packers for missing tackles like Mike Jenkins missing OTAs.

I like Darren Woodson and when he speaks I tend to listen. His accomplishments on the field speak for themselves, five pro bowls and three All-Pro teams. One of the best safeties in the NFL ever. The Cowboys could sure use a safety like Woodson these days. Solid run defender and the ability to cover the slot WR. It gave Dallas a huge advantage on defense having this guy.

In college, Woodson was a walk on LB at Arizona State and coached by ASU LB coach Lovie Smith (Bears coach now).  Dallas converted him to safety and he seemed made for the position. No one is going to say that Woodson refused to come up and tackle a running back. He would bring the proverbial wood when he tackled!

His statement however about the Cowboys tackling is painting with a broad brush as many of the Cowboys defenders are actually pretty sure tacklers. We must assume that Woodson was referring to the old 2011 “whipping boy”, the secondary.

It’s not difficult to find examples of CB Mike Jenkins whiffing on a tackle or CB Terrance Newman becoming a human hurdle for a receiver to leap over. So point taken Mr. Woodson.

Newman Human Hurdle

But it got me wondering just who was the worst tackling NFL team in 2011 and where did the Cowboys rank? Pro Football Focus tracks such things and I found their rankings through week 11 of the 2011 season. (Not the final rankings for the year)

Here are the rankings of the top 10 NFL teams with the most missed tackles:

NOTE: Being ranked first is a bad thing here. Like a state being ranked first in illiteracy.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2. Philadelphia Eagles

3. Carolina Panthers

4. Detroit Lions

5. New Orleans Saints

6. Miami Dolphins

7. Green Bay Packers

8. Atlanta Falcons

9. Indianapolis Colts

10. Tennessee Titans

Woodson should have been calling out the Eagles for missed tackles. Their secondary performed poorly last year and kept them out of the playoffs. He appears right about the Packers who made the top 10.

But what about the Cowboys? Well they were actually ranked as one of the best tackling teams all the way down at 31 in missing tackles. Only the 49ers were better at tackling as a team than Dallas. When you focus on the Cowboys secondary that is surprising but the Cowboys overall as a team, were pretty good tacklers.

The problem last year was getting the Dallas secondary to be even close enough to a WR to attempt a tackle. Getting “posterized” by a WR doesn’t count as an attempted tackle….

Jerry Jones Still Spinning Jenkins Situation

Mike Jenkins was a show for the mandatory (or get fined $10,000 for missing) mini camp. He refused to talk to reporters and after camp, he is not going to continue his shoulder rehab in Valley Ranch which he has been asked to do. Jenkins is allowed to return to Florida to rehab but the problem is his rehabbing is evidently not going all that well.

Jenkins’ injured shoulder was examined by the Cowboys staff for the first time during camp and reports are he will likely be on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list at the start of training camp.

“The Cowboys continue to remain in the dark about what’s up with Jenkins’ shoulder,” NFL.com Ian Rapoport wrote. “They know he injured it last year, then re-injured it, and is behind in his rehab compared to other guys on the team.”

It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that Jenkins rehabilitation is not going as expected while he is in Florida and not communicating with Cowboys trainers and coaches.

However it should be annoying to fans that owner Jerry Jones can’t seem to get a freakin’ clue about this situation.

“I know he ultimately will get in a position to play because it’s not in his best interest,” Jones said. “I know that it’s just not in his best interest to not be ready to play, if it’s later we’ll use him later.”

Jerry, it wasn’t in his best interest to miss OTAs either but he had no problem blowing them off. (Only player to not attend) Donuts to dollars that Jenkins’ shoulder will not be ready to play at all when training camp starts.

Reports say NFL teams have shown an interest in trading for Jenkins so why has Jerry not traded him? If you had the opportunity to unload a CB with a bad shoulder and bad attitude, then by all means you should have done it! Don’t really need him all that much now anyway.  It’s starting to get a little weird.

It’s like Jerry is obsessed with making Jenkins honor the last year of his contract no matter what. But most of us can clearly see that Jenkins is not that interested in playing for Dallas next year.  Not after not getting paid (no contract extension) and being replaced with new players. A diminished role in the secondary does not have Jenkins psyched to be a Cowboy. Basically Jenkins wants to be paid or traded but Jerry refuses both.

Still Jerry tells us that Jenkins is cooperating and it’s all good with the Jenkins situation. Just not buying it.

Can Jerry not see the situation for what it is or is he trying to make a point of some kind?

To think Jenkins is on board with plans this year is delusional which Jerry has displayed before.  On the other hand, to try to make a point by making him play when he wants to be traded and could be traded, would take an egotistical nut……which Jerry has displayed too. Could be either I suppose.

Meanwhile keep spinning it Jerry. You’re right, Jenkins can’t wait to get to training camp to play his lesser role for less money than anyone else in the secondary. He is pumped!  That’s why he is down in Florida right now, instead of Valley Ranch, and not getting his shoulder better.

Go figure. I can’t.

Related: 6 reasons to trade Jenkins

The Wide Receiver Position as Dallas Cowboys Mini Camp Ends

Voluntary OTAs and mandatory mini camp are a wrap and now we know a little more than we did before about the wide receiver position. In May, I identified the wide receiver position as a key one to keep an eye on in preseason. HERE. So far it hasn’t disappointed as we know more now but the 3rd WR position remains as wide open as ever.

The Cowboys usually keep five WRs on the roster but have been known to keep six. Whether they keep 6 or not hasn’t been determined and it would depend on a variety of factors including the situation at other positions in preseason. Let’s just assume here that they will keep 5 like they normally do.

Which five are the most likely to make the roster as things look currently?

Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are a given:

These two are a given as both have impressed in the mini camp and come in with the most experience. Dez appears to be taking conditioning and his opportunity more seriously now which could prove to be bad news for opposing teams.

Only an injury knocks one of these guys out of the top 5.

Ogletree in the third spot:

Ogletree comes back this year with the 3rd WR spot his to lose. So far Ogletree has not been spectacular by any means, but I think he is holding on to the spot…for now. Guess you could say he hasn’t secured it but he hasn’t blown it yet either.

2 spots left with several possibilities. Let’s try to eliminate a couple.

Radway:  Radway was very impressive last year in preseason prior to suffering an injury but this year he just hasn’t been very impressive so far. He will need to step it up in training camp to be a factor next year. As it stands now, I think he is looking at practice squad at best.

Danny Coale: The rookie slot WR from Va. Tech unfortunately broke his foot in the first OTA and while he is expected back in training camp, it is difficult to imagine him being 100%. The Cowboys like this guy and will want to give him a good look so that’s why I think he will start the season on practice squad where he can rehab and perhaps contribute later on in the season.

An injury to a WR could put Coale into action later on but for now I can’t see him in the top 5 because of the foot injury.

Dwayne Harris special teams ability puts him in at number 4:

  • There are two reasons why I believe Harris is currently in the top 5.

1) He is a talented and experienced punt and kick returner which Dallas especially needs with the injury to Coale. Coale was expected to compete as a punt returner but with his broken foot, that is not happening for now. That makes Harris more valuable at this point. Harris was a successful kick returner last season and showed promise as a WR.

2) Dwayne Harris appears in better shape and perhaps a little lighter this year. He is now a more dynamic threat at receiver. Cowboys analyst Broaddus has raved about how Harris looked in mini camp. ” Dwayne Harris looks like a different player with his conditioning and the way he has made plays”, Broaddus said.

1 spot left with two major prospects:

  • Coal Beasley and Andre Holmes on the bubble.

An argument could be made for both of these guys.

Coal Beasley came out of no where as an undrafted WR out of SMU. His play at the slot WR has been impressive in mini camp. His experience in college at the slot WR makes him appealing because that is where they could use the most help.  Beasley has a very legit opportunity to make the top 5. He has made the most of his opportunities so far.

Andre Holmes is a WR with excellent size and athletic ability but little experience. He was on the practice squad last year and he seems to be a favorite of GM Jerry Jones. Who pretty much indicated that Holmes could replace the highly productive but departed Robinson. At this point no one really knows what Holmes will do in an actual game. His play in mini camp was not spectacular. Holmes will get an excellent opportunity to make the top 5 but he needs to step it up.

PICK ONE: It will be interesting to watch Beasley and Holmes battle it out in preseason games coming up in August. If I had to guess, I would say that Holmes is slightly more likely to earn a top 5 spot than Beasley because Holmes would be less likely to clear waivers if not protected. Beasley will be more likely viewed as a practice squad development guy in the end perhaps.

When training camp resumes, competition at the WR position will be one of the most interesting to watch take place. How these guys contribute in preseason games could be the deciding factor along with how quickly Danny Coale can heal.

Related: WR rookies similar to 2008