2013 Dallas Cowboys Blue/White Scrimmage

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On Sunday, just seven days before playing Miami in the Hall of Fame Game, the Cowboys conducted their Blue/White scrimmage in Oxnard. A recap of the scrimmage.

Non participants:
TE James Hanna, WR Cole Beasley and WR Dez Bryant. Not serious injuries but they sat out to get ready for the preseason games.

OFFENSE:
Things started off with a bang for the Cowboys first offense as Romo hit Witten for a TD on the first play of red zone plays. Romo effectively faked a run to the right then hit Witten cutting across the field from right to left. I expect to see Witten, and the other TEs too, featured more in the redzone. The Cowboys are clearly going to more two TE sets.

Orton was QB of the second group against the 2nd defense as they had a nice gain on a screen pass to Dunbar. It is clear that Jason plans to feature Dunbar in the offense with passes out of the backfield. Dunbar displays nice quickness and speed which will make him difficult to tackle in the open field.

Nick Stephens and Alex Tanney shared time at QB with the 3rd offense and they both struggled to have enough time to pass as the 3rd offensive line was turning people loose all over the place. Tanney did manage to hit WR Jared Green on an out pattern. Last season the Cowboys only kept Romo and Orton at QB so it will be interesting to watch Stephens and Tanney battle for a possible spot on the roster. They should both see lots of action in preseason games.

Rookies on offense:
First round pick center Travis Frederick ran with the first string offense and his shot gun snaps were solid to Romo. There has been talk of Frederick playing guard but it appears he will start at center. Frederick looked pretty solid in the scrimmage over all.

Rookie WR Terrance Williams caught a slant from Romo during the scrimmage. Williams is looking better each practice, but I would say he is behind Harris in the 3rd spot.

RB Joseph Randle had a really nice run on a draw play in the 2 minute drills. His ability to stop and cut were making tacklers look silly. The refs ruled Randle down short of the goal line but I’m not so sure any defenders tackled him on that play. Randle got off to a slow start in OTAs with a thumb injury so at this point I think he is the 3rd RB behind Murray and Dunbar.

With James Hanna out with an injury, rookie Escobar ran with the first offense but was quiet today. He struggled to block during run plays. He still has ways to go.

DEFENSE:
Through out camp talk was that Ware couldn’t be blocked and I saw some of that tendency in the scrimmage. It appears that new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli is getting Ware to play like a beast. I look for ware to have a big season.

LB Bruce Carter was all over the field on run and pass plays as he appears to be very at home in the new 4-3 defense. Carter could really have a nice season this year.

During the two minute offense, CB Brandon Carr made a nice play on the sideline as he kept Harris from making a catch. Carr’s size and strength will serve him well in the Tampa 2 coverage.

The Cowboys defensive line often seem to get the best of the offensive line in this early measure of development. QBs were often hurried and sacked as officials were quick to blow the whistle for sacks.

Rookie defenders:
CB B.W. Webb covered the slot WR with the 2nd defense and managed an interception late in the scrimmage.

Rookie safety JJ Wlicox played with the 2nd defense and looked solid for a rookie. It appears Wilcox is a starter on the punt team.

Rookie LB Devonte Holloman did a nice job on a blitz pressuring the QB into a hurried throw.

Final Take:
I came away feeling better about the Cowboys moving to a 4-3 defense. The offensive line still concerns me a great deal. It was a big weakness last season, I feared enough hadn’t been done in the off season to improve it, and after watching the scrimmage I’m still concerned.

I was impressed with Dunbar’s ability to catch out of the backfield and I think the Cowboys LBs will be a real strength of the team.

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Can Travis Frederick Play Guard for the Cowboys?

Rookie Travis Frederick can play guard too. We hope...

Rookie Travis Frederick can play guard too. We hope…

As preseason camp gets under way on Sunday for the Cowboys, they already have injuries at the guard position. Nate Livings with an injured foot and Ron Leary with an injured calf are listed “day to day”. If that wasn’t enough, on Saturday before camp during warm ups, guard Bernadeau also went out with a hamstring injury.

The Cowboys first preseason game with the Dolphins at the HOF is just a couple of weeks away so it’s time to look at options. Jason Garrett has already indicated that their first round draft pick Travis Frederick would get some time at guard. HERE

While Frederick was advertised as able to play guard too, make no mistake he was drafted to play center which was a position that struggled with a lack of depth last season. At Wisconsin, Frederick played center his senior year in 2012 but he has experience at guard in the 2011 season with Russell Wilson as the QB.

The question is can Travis Frederick play guard effectively if Dallas needs him to and it’s frankly looking more like they will need him to whether he is ready for it or not. I looked at his play at left guard for Wisconsin against Ohio State in 2011, and also against Oregon in the Rose Bowl early 2012.

PASS BLOCKING:
Strengths- When it comes to pass blocking what Frederick did well at guard was hold his ground and form a pocket for Wilson. He is not easily “bull rushed” while in the past, center Phil Costa has shown he can be bull rushed like he is on roller skates. I didn’t see any defensive linemen shove Frederick back into the backfield. He does a nice job of neutralizing the push up the middle and Dallas really could use that ability. He also displays nice awareness of forming a pocket and knowing who needs help. Obviously an intelligent player that almost never blocks the wrong guy. Not easily confused by stunts or formations etc.

Weakness- It’s no secret that Frederick is just not very athletic and it shows when defenses blitz LB or CBs on a delay. Frederick sees them but his feet and lack of quickness more often than not just will not get him there in time. For a guard, that could be an issue at the NFL level where he will occasionally have to pick up athletic blitzers due to the formations.

RUN BLOCKING:
Strengths- When it comes to run blocking, Frederick the guard does a good job of firing off the ball and getting a push on the defender in front of him. I noticed on video that the offense preferred running the ball behind him at the goal line and he came through for them almost every time. The Cowboys need that ability for sure near the goal line.

Surprisingly, he also did a pretty good job of getting to the next level on run plays to get a piece of a LB pursuing the run. When asked to pull out and lead a sweep he did a decent job getting a body on someone in open space. This didn’t look like a strength of his but he wasn’t a failure at it either. It’s when he was asked to pull the opposite way where things fell apart and that leads me to his weakness.

Weakness- When asked to pull from his left guard position to the right in order to lead the RB through a hole, Frederick looked awkward, clumsy, and a little slow. He often got caught up in traffic and even at times arrived in the hole about the time the RB did which is not how it’s suppose to work. He just didn’t appear comfortable doing it.

Many times when Frederick got to the hole, instead of blasting the defender out of the way, the defender knocked Frederick back into the RB blowing up the run play. That’s not good. In my view, this was the weakest part of his game playing at guard.

Final Take: It’s nice to have a versatile offensive lineman who can effectively play center and guard particularly in the NFL, where there is only a 53 man roster and a team has casualties. With Frederick, I think he can play both but how well he plays will depend on what Dallas ask him to do. If they play to his strengths, he will be OK but if they ask him to move a lot and do things he can’t, it could get ugly.

The Cowboys run offense does tend to require mobile guards so it really could become an issue. The Cowboys are more finesse than smash mouth and smash mouth is what Frederick does best. In my opinion, Dallas may be better off having the more mobile Costa move to guard and allow Frederick to play center where he can anchor the middle of the line while Costa moves about in space.

However Frederick is a guy I consider to be an over achiever. Using his intelligence to make up for a lack of athletic ability, he has come from a very small high school to Wisconsin and now to the Cowboys. He has a tendency to prove people wrong so I don’t dare say he can’t play guard.

During preseason camp, It will be very interesting to watch what Dallas does at the guard position and especially with the challenges the injuries have created.

Dallas Cowboys add a Couple New Faces Before Camp

tanney1Pending a physical, the Cowboys are looking to add offensive tackle Demetress Bell and QB Alex Tanney.

Demetress Bell:

It can’t be a good sign that it took Demetress 28 years to learn how to correctly spell his name. According to Wiki, he spelled his name Demetrius until 2012 when he learned it was actually spelled Demetress. OK he isn’t exactly a fast learner.

Wiki also says that he is the son of former NBA player Karl “the mailman” Malone who evidently made a few “special deliveries” over the years since Demetress doesn’t carry his last name. Wiki reports that Bell’s mom was 13 when she became pregnant.

 The Cowboys need help at tackle after another poor performance from Doug Free last season but I’m not so sure they found it in Bell. Pro Football Focus has Bell ranked a very lowly -24.5. That’s even worse than Free! It’s disappointing when you consider there were some quality free agent tackles out there that Jerry Jones could have signed.

Bell has started for the Bills including a large number of penalties, but suffered a knee injury and then went to the Eagles.  The Eagles cut Bell because of salary cap reasons but also because his play wasn’t very good in place of an injured Peters. Fans should keep expectations low here. Bell may make Free look like a good option.  

Alex Tanney:

Last year I blogged about Tanney’s impressive trick shot video.  A link to that entertaining video is in my blog HERE.  If Tanney fails to make the Cowboys 53 man roster, Jerry should consider having Tanney perform his passing tricks at halftime to entertain the home crowd. Tanney could go to the upper deck and bounce a football off the huge screen TV that hangs over the field and into a trash can below or something. It’s already a circus environment there anyway.

Currently Dallas only has three QBs with Romo, Kyle Orton, and Nick Stephens. Romo is coming off surgery so it makes sense that Dallas will need another QB to get through the preseason games. Tanney put together some very impressive stats at Division III Monmouth College with 14,249 passing yards and 157 TDs. In the video he demonstrates a strong arm and impressive accuracy. Got to like his 6’4″ height too.

I think this Tanney kid is worth a good like by Dallas. Sure he has a lot of developing to do but if he can toss a football into the arms of a college buddy flying down the road in the back of a pick up truck, then surely he can hit Dez Bryant sprinting down the sideline. Just sayin’.

HBO ‘Hard Knocks’ Going to the Bengals in 2013

Hard Knocks is headed to the Bengals as the show will kick off on August 6, 2013. The Bengals hosted hard Knocks in 2009 and the Bengals actually went on to win their division that season. Chad “Ocho Cinco” who is out of the NFL currently, often stole the spotlight during the 2009 version.

As far as interesting stories and players, Hard Knocks should have no trouble finding plenty of material to work with in the 2013 Bengals. In fact, the Bengals are tied with the Vikings for the most arrests of any NFL teams since 2000. The Cowboys seem to get a lot of publicity in this dubious area, but the Bengals are the team that gets in trouble. Dallas was only ranked 23rd. STORY 

They have Adam “Pac Man” Jones who can provide drama as well as comedy. I remember Jones catching and holding 6 footballs (without putting any of them down) during punt return drills with the Cowboys on the 2008 Hard Knocks.  Coach Wade Phillips found a lot of humor in that impressive but yet, completely useless skill of Jones.

Other Cowboy Connections:

Coach Mike Zimmer is the defensive coordinator for the Bengals and was the Cowboys defensive coach between 2000-2006. He lead a very good Cowboys defense in the 2003 season which ranked high in several categories. The Cowboys have gone through several defensive coordinators since Zimmer left. 

Zimmer had a lot to do with bringing in former Cowboys CB Terrance Newman who had a decent season last year. It will be interesting to see what Newman can bring to the Bengals at age 34.  While his number of tackles increased with the Bengals, his INTs dropped from 4 to 2 compared with his last season in Dallas.

Preseason Game August 24 @ Dallas

The Bengals will play the Cowboys on August 24 so it will provide an opportunity for Dallas fans to get a behind the scenes coverage of the game and a unique perspective that HBO’s Hard Knocks often provides.

Rookie Running Back

The Bengals drafted RB out of North Carolina, Giovani Bernard, who will be very entertaining to watch in camp. At UNC he provided exciting plays running the ball, catching the ball, and returning punts. I think the Bengal coaches are going to enjoy this new weapon and fans will enjoy watching him make plays too.

Why The Washington Redskins Should Not Change Their Mascot Name

Chief Zee

Chief Zee

There is a movement out there and gaining momentum, that the Washington Redskins need to change their name because it is offensive to Native Americans. Usually pointed out to us by liberal non native american sports writers. Just sayin’.  STORY

 While owner Dan Snyder has emphatically stated he has no interest in ever changing the Redskin name, don’t assume that they couldn’t be forced to change it. Hey, they are mandating a kinder gentler method of tackling these days.

Many teams (college and high school) have already moved away from the name to avoid pressure and negative press like Ohio University who changed their mascot to Redhawks in 1997, for example.  

As a long time Cowboys fan, I may be the last guy to ever defend the Washington Redskins but in this matter, I agree with Dan Snyder. (Did I say that out loud?)  Keep your name and be proud of it Redskins. The more I learn about the origin of the name and how it became their mascot, the more I realize it was never intended to be derogatory. Here is my argument for why they shouldn’t change the name.

1. “Redskin” not originally used to describe skin color.

Some assume that the term “Redskin” was used to describe the skin color of all Native Americans. Having known many native americans in my lifetime, I didn’t ever think their skin looked particularly red. I just called them by their names. It turns out that Europeans used the term “Redskin” to describe the red paint Algonquin Native Americans put on their faces.  The Algonquins occupied Chesapeake Bay which of course is in the area of  Washington DC.

Actually, Captain John Smith described the fact that they painted their faces to indicate certain events. They not only used red but black and white too on occasions.

“The red color symbolizes war, blood, strength, energy, power and success in war.”– American Literature Challenge Word Press.

Redskin referred not to the natural skin color of the Delaware, but to their use of vermilion face paint and body paint. –Wiki

What could be more appropriate than a football team in the Chesapeake Bay area painting their faces red as they go into battle on the gridiron? More of an honor and tribute to the Algonquins than an insult. It’s part of the heritage of that area.  

2. The Washington Redskins were given their name by…..wait for it…a native american.

The Redskins were originally know as the Boston Braves but in 1933, the name was changed to Redskins by the team’s coach William “Lone Star” Dietz who was actually Sioux. If Dietz was insulted by the term then why would he possibly pick the name as a mascot? Dietz saw it as a symbol of pride and recognition for all native americans.

3. Most Native Americans don’t find it offensive.

In my personal experience, while in college in NC, I knew a couple Lumbee Indian students who were the biggest Redskin fans I ever met. I’m positive they both would be quite disappointed if Washington ever changed that name. OK that’s only a couple guys but there is evidence that they represent the majority.   

A famous poll from Sports Illustrated in 2002, pointed out that 81% of Native Americans said that pro sports teams should not stop using indian related names.

4. Changing the name has no impact on the real struggles faced by some native americans.

Many Native Americans do face many challenges in our culture but changing names of sports teams doesn’t improve life for any of them in any way. The mascot names were intended to honor the history of native americans. While in high school, I played for a football team that proudly carried the name “Warriors”. We took great pride in that name and rallied behind what it represented going into battle. 

Interestingly Cherokee high school located on the Cherokee reservation in western NC, has Braves as their mascot. I’m confident they take pride in the name as well. Have the sports liberals tried to get them to change their name? 

Final Take:

The Redskin name is an interesting part of american history and a significant ritual which should be honored. When one considers the origins of the term and how Washington became the Redskins, it seems absolutely ridiculous that some moral superior individuals could ask the name to be removed.  Hold your ground Snyder and be a warrior to keep that name and wear it with pride.

A symbolism over substance move of changing the name actually won’t show how far we have come as people at all. However, by keeping the name, it will be an indication of a more mature and united people who actually understand a little history.  

Hail to the Redskins!  (But go Cowboys!)