Which of These on The Bubble Cowboys Will Make the Final Cut on Friday?

Even without his lid, Olawale fights for yardage and a spot on the Cowboys roster.

Currently rosters are at 75 but must be down to 53 on Friday. For Dallas that means 22 players must be cut with precious few spots available on the 53 man roster.  Based on the performances of some on the bubble players in the final preseason game Wednesday night, the decisions of whom to cut are not going to be easy. I don’t envy the coaches making these choices.

Several players had good games against the Dolphins and will make the Cowboys staff think twice about cutting them.

Let’s have a look at the guys who just may have played their way on to the roster:

The RBs

Lance Dunbar– Lance a free agent from North Texas, missed earlier games with a hamstring injury so going to the game last night his chances to make the roster were slim in my view. He needed a statement game and Dunbar brought his “A” game against the Dolphins as he rushed for 105 yards on 15 carries. That includes a 3rd Quarter 58 yard TD burst after returning a punt for 27 yards. Dunbar showed that he does indeed have game but will it be enough?

Jamize Olawale– Got to love that name. Olawale has performed well in each preseason game and showed up last night to make sure that Dunbar didn’t bump him off the roster without a battle. Olawale rushed for 53 yards on 7 carries and many of those yards came without a helmet!

While not quite as explosive of a runner as Dunbar, Olawale brings power and a consistent runner through out preseason. He also played some fullback last night in fact he was the FB when Dunbar had his long TD run. Olawale may make the roster as the 2nd FB behind Vickers and be used to back up RBs as well. I like his chances to make the final cut Friday.

Summary: Third RB Phillip Tanner returned from injury last night to run for 48 yards on 9 carries. That performance is probably enough to keep Tanner in the 3rd RB spot behind Murray and Jones. The Cowboys typically keep 3 RBs so how will Dunbar or Olawale make the roster? It may take some creativity from the Cowboys staff to keep one of those two.

The QBs

Stephen McGee– McGee served as the Cowboys 3rd QB last season but is not guaranteed a roster spot Friday by any means as Dallas considers only carrying 2 QBs on the roster. He needed a good performance last night and I think he played well. He was 9/18 for 124 yards passing. I’m not positive that is going to be enough to make the roster as the 3rd QB.

Rudy Carpenter– Carpenter was a forgettable 4/10 for 48 yards passing on the night. I don’t think Carpenter will make the active roster.

Summary: Carpenter is eligible for the Cowboys practice squad and I think that is where he will end up. McGee is not eligible for the practice squad so that’s not an option. If Dallas decides to keep 3 QBs on the roster, then McGee will likely be the third again but if they decide to use that valuable spot at another position, then it could be the end of the road for McGee as a Cowboy. I fear it may be the latter.

The WRs

Andre Holmes– Holmes came into the game as a WR that I think Dallas would like to keep but may not be able to. He caught one pass for 32 yards. Will that be enough to earn a roster spot? He appears to have lots of upside.

Tim Benford– Nice game from Benford who led receivers with 3 catches and 47 yards on the night. Benford had no catches in the previous preseason game so he needed to show something and he did. Benford is a good WR that won’t impress you so much with his size or speed but he just gets open and catches the ball. What more can you ask for? I hope Dallas is able to hold on to Benford is some way.

Danny Coale– The drafted WR is now playing after the broken foot injury. He made a nice catch for 13 yards in the game. Danny has demonstrated that he is capable WR but he certainly is at a disadvantage by having missed time with the  injury. I’m sure Dallas wants to keep Danny but I’m not sure how they do it.

Summary:  The Cowboys kept 6 WRs last season. Austin, Bryant, Ogletree, Harris, and Beasley would appear to occupy five spots. So how do they keep more than one of the three WRs listed above? Tough choices to be made. Dallas may elect to go with 7 WRs since it’s a position they usually do need depth. And they may elect to send one of these three to the practice squad. But would they clear waivers? I think Dallas keeps Coale and Holmes and sends Benton to the practice squad.

The LBs

Orie Lemon– I’m not positive if Dallas planned to keep Lemon on the roster before the game last night, but after his performance, I think they have to find a spot on the roster for this guy. He had a pick 6 in the first half and finished the game with 5 tackles. A consistent performer through out preseason.

Adrian Hamilton– Unfortunately Hamilton was very quiet last night and needed to make an impression in this game to make coaches feel good about holding on to him. Hamilton has displayed outstanding pass rushing skills but can they keep him?

Summary: I think Lemon will survive the cuts Friday after his performance. Hamilton is a real close call. Dallas may be able to fit him into the roster or he may be headed to the practice squad. I hope the Cowboys are able to hold on to Hamilton a nice looking prospect.

The safety

Mana Silva– The “Hawaiian Punch” had another good performance as he had 4 tackles and made a nice defensive play on a pass by knocking it away from the intended receiver. With rookie Matt Johnson suffering from injuries during the preseason, I think Silva has earned the 4th safety spot. I expect him to survive cuts on Friday.

The defensive line

Several players fighting for a roster spot here. Last night Baraka Atkins had 5 tackles to make his case and Geathers had 4 tackles. Not so much heard from Bass or Callaway.  It’s a close competition between these guys in a position that Dallas is fairly deep. The Cowboys will likely keep one of these players or two at the most. Tough call here to say the least. All have had good games and have disappeared at times too.

Friday will be a very interesting day to see which of these players survive the final cut. In some cases, I think we are looking at the 54 and 55 players on the roster which must be cut to 53. I imagine the coaches are having some intense conversations amongst each other in determining how many to keep at each position.

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2012 NFL Season: WEEK 1 NFL Team Power Rankings

 Ranking of all 32 NFL teams which will be updated each week during the season.  WEEK 2 RANKINGS

The Twist: Each week my top 12 ranked teams will consist of 6 NFC teams and 6 AFC teams since 6 from each conference will qualify for the post season. I reflect the top 12 teams most likely to make the playoffs each week.

Rolling into Week 1: Heavy consideration for where teams finished last season along with offseason moves and impressions of teams based on play in preseason games.

UPDATE: WEEK 2 

Trending UP: I expect these teams to be improved over last season

Colts, Redskins, Bucs, Panthers

Trending DOWN: I expect these teams to not be as good as last year.

Jets, Dolphins, Cardinals, Chiefs

NFL Team Rankings WEEK 1
  1. Giants                                      
  2. Patriots                                              
  3. 49ers                
  4. Packers                    
  5. Ravens              
  6. Texans             
  7.  Saints    
 8.  Falcons           
 9.  Bears 
10. Bengals           
11. Steelers          
12. Broncos                
13. Eagles  
14. Lions  
15. Cowboys
16. Chargers
17.  Seahawks        
18. Titans                    
19. Panthers      
20. Redskins                              
21. Raiders             
22. Bucs          
23. Jets             
24. Colts         
25. Browns                        
26. Jaguars     
27. Cardinals       
28. Chiefs      
29. Vikings             
30. Rams                      
31.  Bills                
32. Dolphins         

Dez Bryant on Short Leash

Have you seen the new restrictions for Dez Bryant?

A midnight curfew. If he’s going to miss curfew, team officials must know in advance;

• No drinking alcohol.

• He can’t attend any strip clubs and can only attend nightclubs if they are approved by the team and he has a security team with him.

• He must attend counseling sessions twice a week.

• A rotating three-man security team will leave one man with Bryant at all times.

• Members of the security team will drive Bryant to practices, games and team functions

WOW I know of preschoolers with fewer restrictions than these.

Here is what Coach Jason Garrett said about them and I will provide an interpretation for you after:

The balance with all players is you want to support them and you want to help them, but you also want to hold them accountable,” Garrett said. “We feel like we do that, really, throughout our organization with all our guys. We believe in player development. We believe in helping them as football players on the field and as people off the field, and so what we’ve tried to do is come up with a plan for Dez, like we would with any player who we feel needs our support, and help him be his best as a player and as a person. And the accountability factor is an important part of that with him and with anybody on our football team.”

MY INTERPRETATION: Look, Dez is a true baller on the field and we are going to need him to win some games this year. He can’t help us win if he is locked up in jail, or out on some kind of suspension from that hard a** NFL Commish with something to prove.  Our plan is to watch this “cray cray” fool 24-7 and make sure he stays out of trouble until our season ends anyway. It’s not like we can easily replace him on the field so he has got to stay eligible to help this team win some games. We are only doin’ all this for his own good don’t ya see?

Seems like we tried all this mess with Pac Man and he got in a fight with his security guards!

These “On the Bubble” Cowboys Helped Themselves in the Rams Game

Safety Mana Silva helped his chances to make the roster Saturday night.

Prior to the Cowboys preseason game with the Rams, in a BLOG I identified players that needed to show up big in the Rams game to help make their case for making the 53 man roster which will be named on Friday.  As the cuts are getting closer, here are the guys that I think separated and helped themselves in the Rams preseason game:

BUBBLE: WRs Andre Holmes, Tim Benford and Danny Coale:

Coale stepped up– Out of this group, I think Danny Coale with a catch for 8 yards helped himself the most since it is the first we have seen of him on the field. The Cowboys face quite a dilemma at WR. I think they would like to sneak Holmes and/or Coale past waivers and on to the practice squad.

Also they are considering keeping 7 WRs instead of 6. A healthy Danny Coale complicates things for the Cowboys when it comes time for cuts.

BUBBLE: RBs Jamize Olawale, Javarris Williams  and Lance Dunbar:

No One– Very little change here as these guys saw little action and had little production. The Dolphins preseason game will be big for these three guys and Tanner too. Right now I think Olawale holds the edge to make the roster.

BUBBLE: QBs Stephen McGee and Rudy Carpenter:

McGee stepped up– Stephen McGee had the best game of the two against the Rams as McGee was 4/6 for 52 yards. Not exactly a great game but better than Carpenter’s dismal 0 for 5 performance.

The Cowboys are considering 7 WRs and if they do that, then they must find room from another position which means maybe they only keep 2 QBs on the roster (Romo and Orton). I imagine they would like to have either Carpenter or McGee on the practice squad. However sliding either past waivers without another team grabbing them for their own practice squad, may prove to be tricky.

Both will play plenty in the Dolphins game and their performances may be the deciding factor. Right now I say McGee will be the 3rd QB.

BUBBLE: Defensive Linemen Geathers, Bass, Callaway, and Atkins:

Atkins and Bass stepped up– Atkins finished with 3 tackles to help himself and Bass had a QB pressure in the game. With NT Ratliff injured in the game, it may open the door for two of these guys to make the roster. For now I think Bass and Atkins are in the running but the Dolphins game matters to all these guys.

BUBBLE: LBs Orie Lemon and Adrian Hamilton:

Lemon and Hamilton both stepped up– Both of these LBs showed up big and had good games. Lemon finished with 5 tackles which tied Sean Lee for the most. Hamilton had 3 tackles including a spectacular sack where he knifed through the Rams line to flatten the QB and caused a fumble. Wow Hamilton sure can get after the QB. Perhaps a 3rd down pass rushing specialist?

I would hate to be the one to decide which one of these to keep. Hope Dallas finds room for both of them. The Dolphins game is big for these two guys.

BUBBLE: Secondary Mana Silva, Matt Johnson, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Teddy Williams:

Mana Silva stepped up– Mana appears to be sent from heaven as his name would suggest. He finished with 2 tackles including a nice play on a screen pass where he came up and blew up the screen for no gain. With rookie Johnson aggravating his hamstring again in the game, the door opens a little more for Mana.

Also safety McCray suffered a neck stinger in a collision with teammate Sensabaugh making the need for depth at safety larger perhaps.  Out of these four players, I like Mana’s chances best to make the final roster. He will need a solid game against the Dolphins.

Rookie Matt Johnson represents a dilemma for the Cowboys. They drafted Johnson in the 4th round and have high expectations for him but to say the least, he hasn’t proven himself yet. With the injury, his progress has been very limited and as a player coming form a lower college division, no one can assume that he has what it takes to play in the NFL.

I think sending Johnson to the practice squad for more development would be best.

I think most of these guys will clear cuts on Monday but the final preseason game with the Dolphins will determine if they survive final cuts on Friday.    

Dress Rehearsal Game: Cowboys Dressed for Success in 2012

In the first half, the starters for Dallas were clearly better than the Rams starters. If it were a game that mattered, Dallas wins by at least a couple of TDs. Based on their performance in this game, Dallas is ready for the regular season but not without some areas that must improve.

Here is what I liked about the game: (including the fact that the Rams coach elected to kick the PAT late in the game instead of going for 2 and risking a preseason overtime game.)

Passing game: Both Romo and Orton looked sharp combining for 18 of 25 and 297 yards in limited play time. That’s without two of their best targets Austin and Bryant. For the most part they had decent pass protection from the O line. Big performance by Dwayne Harris who is in line to become the 3rd starting WR now in my view. Blog about WRs HERE.

In the absence of TE Jason Witten, Phillips and rookie James Hanna had good games combining for 3 catches and 47 yards. With Witten’s status in the Giants game uncertain, these two will need to step up their games.

Running game: It was nice to see DeMarco Murray getting back into the swing of things as he ran for 26 yards including one 16 yard run. If he stays healthy, Murray will be a star in the NFL.

Also Felix Jones, who I have been concerned about, showed some life in the game leading all rushers with 34 yards. Not convinced the old Felix is back yet but his effort was better than previous games. The Cowboys will need to be able to run the ball to have a good season.

DEFENSE Getting after it.

Another excellent performance by the defensive starters who are showing that scoring on the Cowboys will not be as easy as it was last season. Nice to see Morris Claiborne making some plays particularly in the red zone to prevent a score. Early in the game Claiborne looked a little out of position on a few passes but he was strong at the goal line. I expect he will get better with each game.

The Rams were able to score because of a big kick off return and a fumble by Orton that set up scores. Also the Rams executed a fake punt that moved the ball to mid field. Really Rams? Faking a punt in a meaningless preseason game? May want to keep that play in your pocket for a game that matters. You look like you will need it.

Even without Ware, there was a good push up front by the Cowboys defensive line and the secondary was very active. The blitzes were effective as Sean Lee picked up a sack.

Can’t help but feel optimistic about the Cowboys on defense this year.

Areas for improvement:

Special teams: The kickoff cover team allowed rookie Pead a 47 yard return that helped the Rams offense score a long FG. Last season the Cowboys were not so good in this area either so they must tighten up their coverage. If the kicker is not going to kick it out of the endzone, then they have to cover them better.

KO Return: Dallas has shown very little life in returning kickoffs so far. They have guys who are simply fighting to get the ball out to the 20. That can be accomplished by just letting the ball go through the endzone. Felix Jones and Teddy Williams don’t look like the right guys to have returning kickoffs. Try Dwayne Harris.

Offensive Line Communication: During the Rams game, there were a couple of times where the Dallas Offensive line just completely tuned guys loose for a sack. It appeared to be a lack of communication and not so much someone getting beat. The good news is those kind of things can get corrected.

On one play it appeared the running back Felix Jones, missed a blitzing LB and on another play Tyron Smith let a DE go expecting a back to pick him up however the back didn’t appear to know what to do. These things must get corrected before the Giants game.

If opposing defenses watch this game film, (and they will) they will blitz the Cowboys up the middle and show different looks to confuse them because it works. Unfortunately the Cowboys linemen haven’t spent much time playing together so the lack of communication is obvious. Got to get better quickly.

Penalties: Cowboys finished with 68 yards of penalties compared to 15 yards for the Rams. Most penalties occurred after the starters came out of the game but this was a problem area last season and has the potential to hurt them again this season. The offensive linemen were the biggest offenders. Must get better in this area. It can kill offensive drives.

Overall a good performance by the Cowboys and reason to be optimistic for the season.

Cowboys Preseason WR Battle Update: We have a New Leader After Rams Game

So far this season Kevin Ogletree has done just enough to stay in front of the competition but Saturday night against the Rams, Dwayne Harris came roaring from behind with 2 TDs and 118 yards receiving.

Dwayne Harris pulling away from the pack.

Like a sprinter that fails to run through the finish line, it seems Ogletree had a lead and was cruising at the end when Harris darted by him at the finish line to grab the 3rd WR spot.  I don’t know who coach Garrett or WR coach Robinson will decided to put in the third WR spot, but in my view, Harris earned it Saturday night.

Two plays stand out in my mind.

1) Early in the game in the red zone with an opportunity to help his team, Ogletree displayed “alligator arms” on a slant pattern and the pass was incomplete. Got to make that play for your team and not worry about getting hit.

2) After making a catch, Dwayne Harris faced 2 Ram defenders between he and the endzone. Instead of going out of bounds like many WRs will do, Harris in Marion Barber fashion (the Barbarian version), lowered his shoulders, split the two defenders and dived into the endzone for a TD. Now that is the kind of effort you can win with.

With only one preseason game left Wednesday night, and just a week before the Giants game, I can’t imagine that Harris, Ogletree or Beasley will play an awful lot in the meaningless game with the Dolphins. I’ve operated under the assumption that Dallas will keep 6 WRs however there is discussion that Dallas may actually keep 7 this year which would be unusual. If so, Holmes and Coale would likely make the roster too.

PRESEASON TOTALS AFTER 3 GAMES:

Beasley- 10 catches 144 yards

Benford- 1 catch 9 yards

Coale- 1 catch 8 yards

Harris- 8 catches 173 yards 3 TDs

Holmes- 6 catches 58 yards

Ogletree- 10 catches 147 yards

MY WR RANKINGS AFTER 3 PRESEASON GAMES (excludes Austin and Bryant)

1. Dwayne Harris (last week 3): Harris had a coming out party in the endzone in the Rams game. Currently he is tops in yards and TDs with 3 TDs. In fact, he is the only WR in this WR contest to have a TD at all. Harris provides the best option for punt return and as far as I’m concerned, he has earned the 3rd starting WR spot. His big play ability will place additional stress on opposing secondaries trying to deal with Dez.

2. Kevin Ogletree (last week 1): Not a bad game from Ogletree but certainly not the kind of game that Harris brought to the table. The “alligator arms” incident didn’t impress me. Ogletree is a solid option for the 3rd WR spot but I just think Harris brings more big play Mojo to it.

3. Cole Beasley  (last week 2.): Beasley displayed good quickness and made a nice one hand grab on a pass. He is a nice find for Dallas and should make the roster. I think his best football is ahead as he will develop into quite a weapon for Romo as the season progresses.

4. Andre Holmes (last week 4.): Another quiet game for Holmes who is now facing competition from a healthy Danny Coale. I think Dallas wants to keep Holmes but it may be tough to do it.

5. Danny Coale (last week 7): Finally Danny gets some action and he made a catch for 8 yards. Nice to see him playing now. Clearly he is behind a lot of the competition due to the injury set back but he has one more preseason game to impress. I believe the Cowboys plan to keep Coale on the roster but I’m not sure how they will accomplish that just yet.

6. Tim Benford (last week 5): No catches again this week. He did make a tackle on special teams.

7. Raymond Radway (last week 6): Unfortunately Radway failed to capitalize on a couple of passing opportunities during the Rams game. It’s just not looking good for Radway.

8. Kemp and Hakim: Kemp with an injury probably gone. Hakim saw a little action in Rams game.

Worst Preseason Game Ever? 2006 Cowboys versus Vikings and an “Idiot Kicker”

Have to figure that the worst preseason game ever would include an “idiot kicker” and the number 13.

As the Cowboys last preseason game approaches, a look back at what may have been the worst preseason game in Cowboys history or perhaps the NFL for that matter.

Bill Parcels was the Cowboys coach and it was the 4th preseason game in 2006 for the Dallas Cowboys who were playing the Minnesota Vikings. Excitement filled the air as this was the first time that newly signed WR, Terrell Owens stepped on the field with the Cowboys. He had been held out with hamstring issues prior to this game. Sound familiar?

Also back up QB Tony Romo had just been signed to a contract extension and would be the QB that played most in their final preseason game of the 2006 season. Starting QB Bledsoe would leave the game early after a fumbled snap where he took a blow to the head.

Trailing 10-3, the Cowboys managed to score a TD late in the game when Romo tossed a 2 yard TD pass with 17 seconds left to make the score 10-9.

Conventional wisdom would be go for the two point conversion and avoid overtime. Settle it right there by winning 11-10 or losing 10-9. But for some reason, Parcels sent his new kicker, Mike Vanderjagt out to kick the extra point and send the game into OT.

Of all the rule changes that have come down recently, here is one rule that would make sense. No OT in meaningless preseason games!

“Idiot Kicker” -Peyton Manning

Remember that Vanderjagt is the same Colts kicker that Peyton Manning referred to as “our idiot kicker”. In 2005, he missed a 41 yard FG against the Steelers that would have tied the game at 21. After the miss, Vanderjagt slammed his helmet to the ground and cost his team a 15 yard penalty. Parcels signed him after the Colts released him.

It was in 2002 when the Colts were eliminated in the post season, that Vanderjagt criticised both Coach Dungy and Manning. That’s what led Manning to call him, “our idiot kicker who got liquored up” when asked about it at the Pro Bowl.

Back to the preseason game tied at 10 and headed to OT. The game ended in a 10-10 tie after Vanderjagt “our idiot kicker” missed FGs from 32 and 33 yards during OT. To say the least Parcells wasn’t pleased and released the kicker later in the season. To add insult to injury or injury to insult in this case, Parcells first round pick in 2006, Bobby Carpenter, was injured while playing in OT.

Carpenter is the LB that “looked like Tarzan but played like Jane” who the Cowboys eventually cut. With the Lions last season, he returned an INT for a TD to lead the Lions to a remarkable come from behind win against Dallas.

Romo Foreshadowing his career

Romo finished the game passing 30 of 45 for 349 yards and 2 interceptions both of which were in the endzone. It was vintage Romo. Making great plays with fantasy football stats but blunders that cost them scoring opportunities. It’s amazing to have 349 passing yards but yet only manage 10 points in 5 quarters. Parcels himself use to say that a team should score a TD for every 100 yards of offense. A couple INTs in the endzone can ruin that tendency.

This game was indicative of Romo’s career as a starter. Great stats and plays combined with untimely blunders and costly turnovers.

Vanderjagt accused of choking….. literally.

Vanderjagt had an incident as a coach at Charter Middle School in Marco Island back in March 2012. When a student was chanting “wide left wide left” referring to the infamous playoff missed FG, Vanderjagt heard the yelling as he walked through the parking lot and according to witnesses, he snapped and grabbed the student by the throat. Vanderjagt insist that he was “holding” the student in place (by the throat evidently) while he talked to him.

I wonder if Parcells has any regrets from sending that game into OT?