Analysis and Grade for Dallas Cowboys 2015 Draft.

war roomNow that the NFL draft is complete, a look at how effective Jerry and Stephen were at taking care of some needs for the Cowboys in a pick by pick grade and a final grade. There were some surprises and definitely some solid picks, but their draft provided some questionable moves too as they often do.

Jerry Jones started off with a bang on days one and two but kind of fizzled out on day 3. More on that later.

Round 1:
CB Byron Jones
Fits a need: YES for sure.
Value– Exactly where he was ranked
In my mock draft, I had Dallas taking a CB with their first pick and they did. I didn’t think Jones was the best CB in the entire draft but he was the best one available at 27 when Dallas picked. Jones is considered a high character guy (could use some of that in Dallas) and was outstanding at the shorts and t-shirt Olympics, NFL combine. Described as a “freakish athlete”.

How he fits: I think Jones will contribute immediately in the Dallas secondary in replacing Mo Claiborne a bust pick they would like to move on from it appears. He can play safety as well but I look for him to play corner for now.
GRADE: A

Round 2:
DE Randy Gregory
Fits a need: Yes
Value: Gregory was ranked a top 25 pick so some value here.
Jerry signed Greg Hardy in the off season to help the pass rush but he will serve a 10 game suspension to start the season. Last year Dallas invested a couple high picks in DeMarcus Lawrence who is expected to start this season. They will look to Gregory to help right away with Hardy out.

Gregory’s athletic skills and ability to get after the QB are undeniable as his off field issues are undeniable too. He and Jerry Jones have discussed it evidently, and a support system (baby sitters) will be in place to keep Gregory out of trouble so he stays on the field. So much for Jason’s “right kind of guy” approach, we need somebody to get to the darn quarterback!

Randy can potentially provide a huge boost to one of the weakest areas of the defense. One day we all look back at this pick as either the steal of the draft or a failed Jerry Jones indulgence.
GRADE: B (a slight deduction for the character stuff that makes it a risky pick for rd.2)

Round 3:
OT
Chaz Green
Fits a need: YES
Value: Ranked as a round 5 pick so a bit of a reach here.
Parnell who backed up Free last season at right tackle, has gone to Jacksonville. Dallas drafts Green to replace Parnell and back up the right tackle position but it appears Green is versatile enough to back up the entire offensive line which makes this an insurance pick for the team.

I don’t hate this pick as Green seems like a solid player but I do think there were some very talented prospects on the board at the time who could fill more pressing needs than a backup lineman who they could have likely picked later than round 3 any way. This kind of pick frustrates me a bit with Jerry and Stephen.
GRADE: C (a reach and good talent remained on the board at DT, RB and WR)

Round 4:
LB Damien Wilson
Fits a need: Perhaps
Value: Projected as a round 6 pick so a bit of a reach here.
Bruce Carter left Dallas for Tampa so there is an opening at LB however the Cowboys had 12 LBs on the roster entering the draft. Sean Lee is expected to return after injury and Dallas found a good LB last year in Hitchens and actually a great one in McClane.

Wilson looks like a LB that covers the passing lanes well and could develop into a solid backup LB but no one should expect him to be a starter real soon. It’s another pick that may have been better used to address other needs.
GRADE: C (bit of a reach for a depth player)

Round 5:
DE Ryan Russell
Fits a need: No
Value: Picked about where ranked
At this point someone should have checked the Cowboys’ war room to make sure the old man (Jerry) hadn’t fallen asleep at the wheel. Were Stephen and Jason even in the room?

DE was addressed earlier when they waited for the highly ranked Randy Gregory so this pick becomes a head scratcher and indicates a point in the draft where the Cowboys seemed to lose draft momentum.

Russell ran a nice 40 time of 4.75 but production wise, only had 8.5 sacks at Purdue in three seasons. He is described as raw and a bit of a project at DE. An athletic looking prospect with potential but not a lot of production. Other needs should have been addressed here since Dallas didn’t have a pick in the following round.
GRADE: D (a project player that will struggle to make the roster)

Round 7 first pick:
LB Mark Nzeocha
Fits a need: No unless stocking practice squad a priority
Value: Not easy to reach in the 7th round but Jerry managed to do it. A likely FA.
Mark was a pretty good player on his club team in Germany (Franken Knights) so he will do well to make the Cowboys practice squad. Not sure why Jerry felt the team needed yet another LB but at this point what the heck, can’t have too many evidently.

Fact is at the time, there were several good value picks who should have gone earlier in the draft, so why grab a guy who would go undrafted? Don’t get it.
GRADE: D

Round 7 second pick:
OT Laurence Gibson
Fits a need: Perhaps
Value: Right about where ranked and maybe a little value here.
Gibson put up some impressive numbers at the combine and while Dallas already drafted an OT in round 3, I get the impression they felt they couldn’t pass on Gibson in the 7th. I’m not sure that Gibson becomes anything other than a backup lineman but he has enough skills making him worth a pick in the 7th. Described as “inconsistent” in college play but very athletic.
GRADE B

Round 7 third pick -from 49ers:
TE Geoff Swaim
Fits a need: No
Value: CBS Sports had Geoff ranked #726 while “Mr. Irrelevant” is #256. Sums it up I guess.
Another draft pick wasted on a player who was not going to get drafted and Jerry cut a deal with the 49ers to make sure of it. Last chance to actually attempt to fill a need but not accomplished. Don’t ask me what they were thinking here?
GRADE F

Summary:
Entering the draft, most fans and experts realized the Cowboys needed another RB in the mix with the departure of their top RB DeMarco Murray. Jerry signed Darren McFadden but no one knows how that will work out for them in 2015. Not drafting a RB was a miss and this draft was well stocked with some good ones worth giving a look.

Also the DT position is in need of some serious upgrade particularly at the 1 tech where Hayden has gotten them by. Several good matches at DT were passed up during the draft and I’m not even counting Malcom Brown in the first.

The secondary was a glaring weakness last season and while they added Jones to help, they failed to pick up a ball hawk safety. Some may point out that Jones can also play safety, that may be true but he can’t play both corner and safety at the same time. Safety is another miss in the draft.

This draft had some nice splashes at the top with a solid pick in Jones at CB in round one and a surprise pick up in a very talented DE Randy Gregory however it ran out of steam and finished with a rather, “content with who we have” vibe that failed to address some critical areas of need.
OVERALL GRADE: C

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Dallas Cowboys 2015 Mock Draft

war cowboys

What an off season. DeMarco Murray the Cowboys NFL leading rusher went to the rival Eagles for the money. Do I blame him? In a way no, an NFL career can be short and these guys want to get paid while they can. I get it, but on the other hand, the Eagles? Really?

Do I blame Jerry Jones for not getting Murray signed? No actually I don’t and trust me I am one who calls out Jerry when he earns it. I don’t serve the Jerry Jones kool-aid on this site but in this case, I think old Jerry got it right. Murray has a past of injuries and no one knows if he can keep up that highly demanding pace that he did last season (average of 25 carries/game), during a contract year.

Also he fumbled at times a little too often and in the Packers game, it actually hurt his team. Just sayin’. Sure most fans would like to have seen Murray remain in Dallas but not at any cost. Signing Darren McFadden from the Raiders may prove to be a good pick up to help replace Murray.

Looking at the 2015 draft, clearly Dallas has lots of room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball making it likely a priority. Specifically, their pass rush and pass defense need to get better.
NFL KEY STATS 2014 Cowboys Defense:
28th in sacks
14th in yards allowed a game.
7th highest in pass yards allowed
8th in fewest yards rushing
18th in points allowed

In the off season, Dallas signed DE Greg Hardy from the Panthers which should give the defense some real help at pressuring QBs an obvious area of weakness in 2014. Still I think it makes sense for the Cowboys to add defensive linemen in the draft.

First Pick:
CB Kevin Johnson Wake Forest
It’s not clear yet if Dallas will keep Brandon Carr who just hasn’t been a good fit in the 4-3, while often injured Mo Claiborne has proven to be pretty much a bust as a top 10 pick. It’s an area that needs improvement, as their pass defense ranked 7th in most yards allowed last season.

In Johnson. they pick up a prospect who is projected to go late in the first round. He has good size, good cover skills, and at Wake Forest he never missed a game with injury making him the opposite of Claiborne, in reliability. Johnson may be flying a bit under the radar . He is capable of playing man or zone coverage and while perhaps not a flashy first round pick, a solid football player which seems to be what Dallas seeks in the first round now days.

YOUTUBE HIGHLIGHTS
Johnson is a willing tackler with excellent ability to break on the ball. In the ACC, he played against top completion in receivers from Florida State and Clemson. With Johnson, the Cowboys pass defense improves.

2nd Round: RB Jeremy Langford Michigan State
With the departure of Murray, drafting a RB becomes more likely and while McFadden should help, no one can be sure that he will be the answer. They have Dunbar and Randle but they don’t represent the work horse back that Murray did. Picking up a RB the caliber of Langford in the 2nd round, could pay off in a big way.

Langford is a proven “work horse” back similar to Murray. He has been described as getting stronger as the game goes along and solid when asked to pass protect. In 2014 he rushed for 1,522 yards and 22 TDs while posting 12 straight 100 yard games against BIG Ten teams. At 6-0, 208, Langford’s running style will remind you of Murray as he displays power along with good speed. With a 4.4 time in the 40, he is actually quicker than the top ranked RBs in the draft.

YOUTUBE Highlights
In the highlights, you see him run with power, speed, follow his blocks, and he can shake and bake it to make a tackler miss when required.

Having Langford run behind the Cowboys stellar line, could make fans move on from losing Murray.

3rd round: DT Graddy Jarrett Clemson
Defensive tackle is a position I expect Dallas to draft and while there are some ranked higher than Jarrett, many of the top ranked ones will be off the board when Dallas picks in the first. Jarrett a 3rd round projection, appears to be a good fit in Marinelli’s defense displaying a quick twitch they look for in linemen.

He is 6-1, 304 pounds of run stop in the middle with enough explosiveness out of his stance to blow up plays in the backfield. In 2013, he had 83 tackles with 11 for loss. Not likely to get a lot of sacks himself but he could help free up DEs to get to the QBs. Jarrett would be an immediate contributor in Marinelli’s line rotation.

YOUTUBE HIGHLIGHTS  (#50)
On video, Jarret appears athletic and light on his feet. Slips past blockers and does a nice job of finding the ball. Like his motor.

4th round: FS Gerod Holliman Louisville
The Cowboys just don’t have a ball hawk safety on their roster which is a critical piece missing from Marinelli’s Tampa 2 defense. In Holliman, they may find the missing piece. He set an FBS record with 14 interceptions. How’s that for a ball hawk safety? When the ball is in the air, Holliman always thinks he is the intended receiver.

YOUTUBE HIGHLIGHTS
Holliman could be a real difference maker in the Cowboys secondary.

5th round: WR Ty Montgomery Stanford
One move I actually didn’t like in the off season was allowing Dwayne Harris to sign with the Giants. Harris was one of my favorite players on the team because he “emptied his bucket” every game. He was one of the best special teams players in the NFL and in my view, under used on offense. I think he could make an impact with the Giants.

In the 2015 draft, I’m looking for a replacement for Harris and Montgomery represents a really talented kick returner. Montgomery is from Dallas and brings nice size 6-0, 221, and is very athletic. 2013 was a productive season for Montgomery as he earned consensus All-American honors as a kick returner, averaging 30.3 yards per opportunity. He also led Stanford with 61 catches for 958 yards and 10 TDs but in 2014, injuries limited his success.

Immediately Montgomery can help the Cowboys special teams as their best option at improving a lack luster Dallas kick off return game in 2014 (ranked 13th in KO returns last season). He could contribute to the offense as a receiver down the road perhaps.

(Two 7th round picks)
WR Jamarcus Nelson UAB
What Nelson brings can be summed up in one word, “speed”. He ran a sick 4.28 time in the 40 and that’s one thing a coach can’t teach, so why not see if this 7th round pick can help special teams? Nelson can bring explosiveness to the kick return game and could stretch a secondary deep to make them play honest.

Nelson is small and needs development as a receiver, but my interest in this pick would be what he can bring in the return game.

QB Shane Carden East Carolina
It seems I always have Dallas picking a QB late but they seem to never pick one at all. Weeden didn’t workout last season as Romo’s backup so the position could use depth. Carden leaves ECU after setting a whole bunch of passing records. Carden is from Houston and does a nice job of running the offense and finding the open receivers. Good leader who moves his team right down the field often.

Carden’s natural abilities may not impress that much but at this point in the draft, Dallas could find some decent depth and possibly a future contributor. This guy is worth a look and could at least make preseason games more interesting.

HIGHLIGHTS

RECAP: Seven picks that address several areas. A better pass rush and a better secondary for the defense. On offense a possible future replacement for Murray at running back and a back up QB possibly for Romo. Then a couple guys who could improve the Cowboys return game a great deal on special teams while adding depth at receiver.

Sitting Romo May Be Smart Thing To Do in London

romo sack
The Dallas Cowboys are in London preparing for a game with the Jaguars Sunday.

The latest word is that Romo will attempt to practice Thursday and is still considering playing in the game Sunday. Owner Jerry Jones is still saying he expects Romo will be fine to play to any one that will listen to his nonsense or “rubbish” as the British would say. “I’m anticipating him playing, have no reason to think that he won’t, and this will be a nice little practice session for him out there today,” Jones said. “But my expectations are for him to play.”

A broken back sounds pretty serious to me but many experts (other than Jerry) indicate that it is not a real serious injury and many have played with a similar injury before. It would appear it is going to come down to how Romo feels in a couple days and if he thinks he can do it.

But shouldn’t the Cowboys be able to defeat the 1-8 Jaguars without their starting QB? I think most would agree that the best case scenario would be to sit Romo this game and win with their backup QB then take advantage of the bye week next week to rest allowing him to heal up for the challenging stretch run of the schedule ahead. Yes, I realize who our backup QB is.

Weeden played poorly against the Cardinals last week and I don’t get the feeling that there is much confidence in him from either the coaching staff or fans which is understandable. In that particular game, I thought the Cards came in with a very good game plan while the Cowboys on the other hand, didn’t have a solid plan to win with Weeden as their QB.

The Cards defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, a Bill Parcells under study, didn’t allow Murray to take over the game and was effective at defending the run holding Murray to less than 100 yards for the first time all season. I’m not going into great detail about that game here but let’s just sum it up to say, the Cardinals coaches coached the pants off the Cowboys coaches Sunday in my view.

We all know NFL seasons are long like a marathon not a sprint, which means a team will have to win a few without a starter every now and then. Just look at the Eagles last week after their starting QB Nick Foles went down with a shoulder injury during the game, Mark Sanchez stepped in and won the game going 15/22, 202 yards and 2 TDs. They even over came a couple picks too.

Yes the same Mark Sanchez the Jets were more than willing to unload to play a young, struggling Geno Smith and an over the hill Mike Vick at quarterback instead. If the Eagles can win a game against the Texans with Sanchez, then can’t Dallas win a game against the Jags with Weeden?

Pass protection for Weeden often could have been better last week but still even with time, Weeden appeared uncomfortable, unconfident, and had zero chemistry with WR Dez Bryant. In fact no Dallas WR had a single reception until well into the second half. Heck, it’s enough to make you want to roll Romo out there in a wheel chair in London and take your chances. And don’t put that past Jerry either! But is that really the smart thing to do?

A Little Monday Morning GM Diversion:
All of this should have been addressed in the off season by Jerry Jones himself. Kyle Orton had proven to be a capable back up for Romo, and he is currently having a good season in Buffalo by the way, in fact, he has a passer rating this season that is higher than Tony Romo’s. Did you realize that? But Orton had no interest in returning to Dallas. It seems he and Romo couldn’t get along. Not much detail has been provided as to why.

The Cowboys elected to not draft a QB including Johnny Football who was available in the first round. OK that’s fine don’t need the drama I get it. But Jerry knew Romo was coming off a back surgery so as GM, a good plan for a back up was required. A plan “B” needed in a big way when the starting QB has a weak back. Jerry’s answer was to sign a mediocre Brandon Weeden with a NFL track record that suggested no one should have had high expectations for him. A pedestrian career passer rating of 71. The same as Mark Sanchez incidentally.

As team GM, if Jerry didn’t think the coaches could manage to win a game every now and then with Weeden, then he shouldn’t have signed him to begin with. Weeden is surrounded by one of the better offensive lines in the NFL and one of the best wide receivers in Dez not to mention the NFL’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray. It’s not like Weeden will be asked to win it on his own.

It would be wise to sit Romo this game and make sure he is ready to go down the important stretch run and it is time to find out if Weeden can help this team or not. A win against the Jags may help Weeden’s confidence which could pay off later in the season. Don’t assume Romo’s back troubles are over.

But if Weeden can’t get it done, then I guess Jerry can always call the Browns and see if they really want to keep that Johnny Football guy? Not like they are using him right now.

ESPN MONDAY NIGHT RAW in Dallas: Five Reasons Why Romo Should Have Just Tapped Out

Monday Night Football in Dallas gave us the kind of entertainment that usually would take place at a pro wrestling event on prime time TV. It was to be Jerry’s big night as the owner of the surprising 6-1 Cowboys as they took on a struggling Redskin team who were down to a 3rd string QB. A big stage to show case his team and what a great GM he had been in the off season.

ESPN even provided viewers the “Jerry Cam” a live feed of Jerry watching his Cowboys and fielding questions about the team. More attention for an owner than is typically provided and when it comes to Jerry who loves him some publicity, it was like pouring gasoline on the fire.

Then suddenly their Cowboy quarterback Romo went down with an injury to his back which had attempted to be repaired in the off season. Romo was clearly in a great deal of pain as he headed to the locker room where ESPN followed creating a frenzy by providing live updates on Romo and his back. Camera shots of Romo in the locker room were also provided as ESPN attempted to milk as much drama of this situation as possible. It was like “hey ESPN, WWE just texted and said you guys are going over the top on this one.”

Then Romo slowly begins the walk back to the sideline. Will he come back to lead his team to victory with a back that barely even lets him throw a pass? Will the doctors even allow him to return? Jerry was on this moment like an engrossed wrestling manager who is trying to boost the ratings. No surprise that Jerry, like a pro wrestling manager attempting to impact the outcome of a contest, is the one who made it known to the coach that Romo could play, as Garrett explained.  STORY

While Romo’s return made for compelling television, I was convinced Weeden offered the best chance to win and Romo was too injured to take that risk. This wasn’t scripted as Romo was not able to successfully return and miraculously lead them to a thrilling come from behind victory.

Five reasons why Romo should not have been allowed to return:

1. Romo was clearly not able to play any where near 100% after the injury. That made him unable to really help his team.

2. Even prior to his injury, Romo was playing poorly and having a bad game. Why would a hurt back improve any of that?

3. Weeden (the backup) had just led the offense to a TD on a scoring pass to TE Jason Witten. The offense had some momentum with Weeden as their QB at the time, as he led two scoring drives. I think he gave them the best chance to win at that moment considering all the circumstances.

4. Even if X-rays cleared Romo to return, it doesn’t make it the right decision for his long term health. By returning, Romo risked even more serious injury to his back. Romo is going to want to be able to get out in his yard and pass a football with his young son Hawkins, one day. There is a bigger picture than just considering if he is able to return to the game.

5.  Romo had been sacked five times in the game. Why put him out there to get number six when he clearly couldn’t scramble well at all?

We don’t know if the game would have had a different ending had Weeden been left to play QB. But I didn’t need to know that to know putting Romo in at the time with an injured back, was the wrong move for more reasons than just trying to get to a 7-1 record.

It appears the Cowboys maniacal owner/GM Jerry Jones was the one behind getting Romo to return as it made for “must see TV.” And it was Jones who once said, “We have not gone (playoffs), yet we’re the most popular TV show there is on television. We lead all teams in TV ratings. We lead, 24 of the last top 25 shows were NFL games, and any time your Cowboys play they’re up there at the top and leading.”

Sometimes it shouldn’t just be about the ratings. It should be about trying to win the game and most importantly, doing what is in the best interest of the player’s health long term.

Kyle Orton Pump Fakes Jerry and Signs with Bills

Kyle_Orton_072512_250Just last December Kyle Orton was leading a Dallas Cowboys drive that he hoped would be a game winning drive to put the Cowboys in the playoffs. But a pass behind Miles Austin was intercepted by the Eagles which prompted owner Jerry Jones to turn away and yell in disgust. CLIP

In June there was talk of an Orton retirement and also reminders from Jerry that his attendance was mandatory and Orton could face big fines if he didn’t honor his contract. In July, Jerry cut Orton after Orton didn’t show up at all, didn’t retire, and consequently didn’t pay any fines either.

Recently Orton signed with a quarterback needy Bills team for what is reported will pay him $5 million this season. He sits behind a young and struggling EJ Manuel. And he didn’t even have to show up to a single preseason practice or workout. That’s after walking away with a nice signing bonus from Jerry of $3.4 million he would have lost had he retired. And he did not fulfill his contract either thank you very much.

Orton pump faked Jerry out of his star covered boxer shorts on this one. Orton should write a book called, “Punking NFL Owners for Dummies.” He showed us all how it’s done.

It should be clear to all of us now that Orton never had any intentions of playing another down in Dallas for Jerry and he is not the first player to recently display this kind of rebellious attitude.

Jeremiah was a bull frog named Jay
Last year it was defensive lineman Jay Ratliff (goes by Jeremiah Ratliff in his post Cowboys career) who put the swim move on Jerry by making the most of his groin injury to stay off the field much to Jerry’s frustration. Jerry was talking that same old contract obligation stuff but eventually, Jerry cut him (which clearly Jay wanted) and Ratliff’s groin miraculously healed and now he plays for the Bears. Is there a doubt in anyone’s mind that Ratliff wanted out of Dallas and away from Jerry?

In the off season defensive linemen DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher also signed with other teams it would appear primarily because they were offered bigger contracts than Jerry was willing to offer. Hatcher commented that Jerry didn’t even try to work out a deal and seemed a little miffed about it all.

Player Morale an Issue in Dallas?
After safety Will Allen was cut by the Cowboys in 2013, he described an atmosphere that was very tense with pressure on players and over all not conducive to player success. “It was a very micro-managed atmosphere. You just need a cohesion there that allows players and coaches to really execute and do their jobs and it’s not something hanging over their heads”, Will Allen said.

A case of sour grapes from a cut player? Maybe, but when you put it all together, something seems out of synch in Dallas and that could explain the lackluster results on the field and total lack of player loyalty to the organization at times. Something just doesn’t seem quite right.

Defensive lineman Marcus Spears was a respected voice in the Cowboys locker room as a player from 2005-2012. Spears is not one described as a renegade or problem child by any means. In April, Spears posted a tweet, “RT @mspear96: Wonder if any other players get invited to these events off the cowboys team! Sends the wrong message to me”

His comment was in reference to two players Romo and Witten in a suite with Jerry the owner, Jason the coach, and a couple ex presidents (Bush & Clinton) during a sporting event. Spears explained, ” I raised the question about how that recurring scene — the head coach frequently hanging out with certain guys — could affect the rest of the team. Romo and Garrett have been spotted lately hanging out at SMU basketball games and even a Duke basketball game in Durham, N.C.”

Spears suggest that preferential treatment or the appearance of it, may exist in Dallas and it can potentially interrupt unity on a football team off the field and on it. We can’t dismiss Spear’s observations as completely off base. Romo also attended a George Strait concert at AT&T in June and was observed hanging out with Jones who had just passed on drafting Johnny Manziel in the NFL draft. At the time Romo said of decision to not draft Manziel, “More than anything,” Romo said, “it just shows a lot of people that we’re here to win — not just be a flashy program.” Oh really? Seems like a “good old boy” system in Dallas. Just sayin’.

Romo certainly appears to be a happy Cowboy with his phat contract, luxury box seats at basketball games, and a reduced practice schedule to accommodate his recovering back.

So far Orton is not talking about if he wanted out of Dallas or why. But he appears to be the most recent ex-Cowboy to give Jerry and his contract the middle finger like Johnny Football to a heckling Redskin bench. Back in December if Orton leads the Cowboys to a game winning drive and into the playoffs, things could have turned out differently. Or would they?

Dallas Cowboys Third Preseason Game: The Good and The Ugly

It’s known as the “dress rehearsal” game for NFL teams where they go with their starters for a half to see just how ready they are for the season which begins soon. For the Cowboys, there were some things that looked good but there were some parts of this dress rehearsal that were just flat out ugly too.

First a look at the positives and then the areas that will need work.

POSITIVES:

Defense Created Turnovers:

Jason finds a defensive play maker in Patmon

Jason finds a defensive play maker in Patmon

This is not the “Dooms Day” defense and everyone seems aware of that except for the owner Jerry Jones perhaps. It is a defense that is not going to go out and shut down offenses by forcing a lot of three and outs. Not happening. Their only chance to help Dallas win is by creating turnovers and in the Dolphins game, they managed to come up with a few. They will need plenty more of this type of play when the season begins.

Last week in a blog, I pointed to undrafted CB Tyler Patmon as one to watch in this game and he stepped up in a big way as he was involved in every turnover of the game.
1. Patmon forced a fumble on a tackle and Barry Church recovered it.
2. Patmon had an interception when the Dolphins were driving close to the endzone. Really did a nice job of keeping his eyes on the QB and staying in front of the intended receiver.
3. Patmon with a pick 6 thrown by former Cowboys QB Matt Moore. This one was a thing of beauty as Patmon followed the receiver in motion from left to right and then stepped in front of the swing pass to take it in for a score. It was if Patmon had been in the Dolphins huddle before the play. Later he said he recognized the play from film. Patmon displayed outstanding quickness on the interception as well as instincts for the ball.

One thing the Dallas secondary needs is defenders that have ball hawking instincts and Patmon showed he has them. With Scandrick suspended the first four game, Dallas needs depth in the secondary and in Patmon I believe they found a guy who knows how to create turnovers.

“Bend but Don’t Break” Defense:
The Defense certainly allowed plenty of rushing and passing yards in the first half however they played well at the goal line and held the Dolphins to only a field goal in the important first half. To win games this season, the defense will need to make offenses settle for a few FGs. It could be another season of allowing huge numbers of yards based on the preseason, but games are won and lost by scoring not yards.

Kicking Game:
The kicking of Dan Bailey is solid and consistent as he was 2/2 including an impressive 52 yarder. No worries here. Also Dwayne Harris provided some nice kickoff returns as well including a 50 yarder. Punt and kick returns are in good hands with Harris who ended the night with an injury that doesn’t appear serious. He is expected to be ready to go week one.

THE UGLY:

Offensive Line:
I didn’t expect to call out the offensive line, considered the strength of the team, for playing poorly in this preseason game but as a group they had a tough night. QB Tony Romo was sacked three times in the first half with tackle Doug Free responsible for two of those. Free was beat outside and then he got beat inside. The third sack was on guard Ron Leary. While recovering from back surgery, Romo is probably not quite as mobile as we expect him to be so pass protection matters even more. On a positive note he seemed to survive the contact just fine.

Free has struggled some in the past and after this performance, we have to be a little concerned about the right tackle spot.

Also the offensive line never really got Murray going in the run game either as he finished with just 18 yards on 6 carries. Tyron Smith was flagged for a holding call as well as other linemen too. These flags prove to be drive killers for the offense more often than not.

PENALTIES:
I just called out the offensive line for penalties that kill drives and now a call out to the defense that had penalties late in the game which kept the Dolphins game winning drive alive. It included a late hit penalty on the rookie safety Ahmad “the bomb” Dixon on 3rd and 9. That penalty allowed the Dolphins to continue for a TD instead of a FG.

While we enjoy watching Dixon blow up players on the other team for sure, he can’t be called for penalties that keep the chains moving. The team finished the game with a total of 10 penalties for 68 yards. This is an area that needs to improve quickly because this team isn’t good enough to survive many penalties.

LB PLAY:
The Cowboys have desperately been searching for answers at linebacker but so far, they simply haven’t found it yet. And with the bad news of Holloman’s career ending neck injury this week, the Cowboys defense finds itself in an even tougher situation.

In the Dolphins game, LB play was weak and in particular in pass coverage. The two rookie LBs, Smith and Hitchens, are playing like typical rookies with inconsistent play and often appearing lost in pass coverage. Their hope is in Rolando McClain who missed practice this week after suffering muscle cramps. Durant and Carter have been OK for the most part but probably don’t offer long term solutions. As the season progresses, the Cowboys will continue to search for answers at linebacker.

Lack of Pass Rush:
Another area of concern is in applying pressure on opposing QBs. Against the Dolphins the Cowboys front four were just ineffective at pressuring the QB. DE Martez Wilson came away with their only sack of the night and he may be needed more with Selvie suffering a shoulder injury in the game. The defense has yet to include DT Henry Melton who is recovering from a knee injury last season. Last week against the Ravens, DT Zach Minter had a coming out party while playing with the back ups late in the game. But he was much quieter in this game against the Dolphin starters.

Going into the regular season, Dallas can’t feel great about the play of their defensive line so far. Answers needed here as well.

Final Wrap:
The dress rehearsal wasn’t a disaster by any means, but I don’t see how even the most optimistic Cowboy fan can feel great about taking on the 49ers in week one. I like the way the defense created turnovers in the game and made the Dolphins first offense settle for just a FG in the first half.

All the penalties must be a concern and need to get cleaned up. Once the only area of confidence, the offensive line, now causes some concern after that performance. Romo will need time to throw and may not be able to improvise as much as we have become accustomed to seeing from him. The defense will continue to search for answers at LB and defensive line during the season.

One Week in Oxnard: What We Have Learned So Far.

Training Camp Oxnard

Training Camp Oxnard

The Dallas Cowboys finish one week of camp and will conduct a blue white scrimmage on Sunday. Their first preseason game will be with the Chargers next Thursday. A look at what we are learning about this team so far.

The Offensive Line May be Very Good:
To start on a positive note, it appears the Cowboys will have an offensive line that is one of the better ones in the NFL. Either that or our defensive line really stinks. Or perhaps both?

Anyway, guess that is what having three first round picks on the line will do for you. The Rookie guard Zack Martin has been reported more than holding his own with former all pro DT Henry Melton. In fact Martin has been so dominant I look for the rookie guard to tell the veteran defensive lineman to carry his shoulder pads off the field instead of the other way around.

Defensive Line Appears Weak as Dish Water:
The defensive line was the biggest need coming into the season and so far, no one needs to expect it to be a lot better. They are getting their collective butts kicked in blocking drills. Wish I had better news here. We can only hope that practicing against the offensive line causes them to improve quickly.

Tyron Smith a Cowboy for life
The young talented left tackle is locked in on a long term deal with Dallas. Signing a 10 year contract this week worth…let’s just say a lot.

Trading up in the Draft is a bad idea:
The Cowboys invested 2nd and 3rd round picks in rookie DE DeMarcus Lawrence only to see him go out with an ankle injury in camp. He is expected to miss about 10 weeks reminding us that trading up in the draft is generally not a good move.

They sure could use that 3rd round pick now to help in other areas. And before accusing me of indulging in Monday morning GM, I said so right after the draft. With Jerry it’s not Monday morning GM anyway, it’s more like “GM-ing for Dummies.”

Romo is Ready to go….Sort of:
All indications are Romo is better from back surgery but he does sit out of practice at times. Should we be a little concerned? With Weeden as their backup, hell yes!

The Owner is Still Cray Cray:
Like your crazy uncle after a few drinks, Jerry parked in front of the cameras and talked about an improved defense and affirmed a Cowboys playoff birth this year. Where is Jim Mora when you need him? “Playoffs? Playoffs? You want to talk about playoffs??”

Matt Johnson is indeed “Ham-i-capped”
Safety Matt Johnson went out with….wait for it…yep, a hamstring pull. This was quite predictable but it still seems unbelievable. His ham is just not meant to play NFL football.

Mo is fragile:
CB Mo Claiborne is one guy that needs to step up and so far in camp he has given a very good effort but at the end of the week he complained of a sore knee. Not looking that serious yet, but it must make fans say “here we go again”. Will Mo stay healthy enough to finally justify that high price they paid for him in the 2012 draft? Did I mention the pitfalls of trading up already?

Dez a Man among Boys:
Dez has dominated pass coverage drills and seems to be catching everything. Expect a big year from Dez this season.

Rookie CB acting like a rookie:
Rookie CB Terrance Mitchell has appeared a little too aggressive at practice on more than one occasion even resulting in an injury for WR Dwayne Harris. Mitchell seems to crank it up when players are told to tone it down a bit at practice and I fear he will be one of those who tones it down when it is time to crank it up, like a game for example.

May have found a Diamond in the Rough:
This team needs some help on the defensive line and may have found it in undrafted Arizona State DT Davon Coleman. His name has come up often in twitter coverage of camp practices as a guy making plays and difficult to block. Coleman is providing hope in an area of need.

FINAL:
No surprise that in many ways Dallas is picking up where it all ended last season. An offense with explosive weapons and the ability to score but a defense that needs a lot of improvement with the first preseason game less than a week away. Some injuries in key spots are making it even more challenging to get the defense up to speed.

Other than in Jerry’s own mind, the playoffs seem very distant. And on that note, some things never change.