The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Dez Bryant and No. 88: Three Reasons It’s a Good Idea

By now, you know owner Jerry Jones personally provided rookie Dez Bryant with No. 88.  A lot of media types have since criticized the move, claiming it was Michael Irvin’s number and will bring unnecessary pressure to Bryant.

We couldn’t disagree more, and here is why:

1.  As a first-rounder, there is already a ton of pressure on Bryant.  His number won’t add to that.

Do you really think that as Bryant is going to be up in the air attempting to catch a deep ball from Tony Romo thinking, “Oh crap. . .I better catch this because I am wearing No. 88″?  Of course not.

As a first round pick (and an NFL player in general), there will be nearly unfathomable amounts of pressure on Bryant each and every week.  That is simply part of the job description.  His number, as it relates to his on-field play, is incapable of adding onto what is already one of the most pressure-packed careers in the world.

2.  It isn’t “Michael Irvin’s number”–Drew Pearson had it before him, and Antonio Bryant since.

The Cowboys do not retire jersey numbers.  If they did, perhaps Irvin would have never gotten an opportunity to wear the double-eights.

In the same way that Irvin didn’t “take” Pearson’s number, Bryant isn’t taking Irvin’s.  Perhaps in a decade or two, we will criticize an incoming Cowboys’ rookie for taking Bryant’s No. 88.

3.  With so much tradition behind No. 88, Bryant will work to uphold its honor.

While on the football field, there is no time for Bryant to think about any perceived pressure his number could bring.  On the other hand, there is plenty of off-the-field time for Bryant to ponder the honor which comes with No. 88 and subsequently make smart decisions.  We whole-heartedly believe Bryant’s yearning to uphold the honor of his number will far outweigh any perceived pressure it brings him.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Video/Poll: What should Dallas do with Patrick Crayton?

By Jonathan Bales

NFL’s Top 10 QB/WR Combos: Where Does Romo-to-Austin Check In?

Fox Sports recently listed the top 10 QB/WR tandems on the NFL.  Tony Romo to Miles Austin checked in at number four on their list. Having already ranked the league’s starting quarterbacks and top 25 wide receivers, we wanted to take a crack at creating our own list of the league’s premier QB/WR duos.

1.  Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne

Our #2 quarterback and #6 receiver have been doing it for years–consistency means something.

2.  Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson

Johnson is the league’s most dominant wide receiver and Schaub allows him to make plays.

3.  Tom Brady to Randy Moss

We don’t particularly like Moss’ overall game (lack of effort/blocking), but he is dynamite when the ball is in the air–particularly when it comes from the hand of the best quarterback on the planet.

4.  Tony Romo to Miles Austin

We agree with Fox Sports on this one (uh oh!).  Another year like 2009 will shoot Romo-to-Austin up the rankings.

5.  Philip Rivers to Vincent Jackson

We nearly put Rivers/Jackson ahead of Romo/Austin, but the latter are both slightly better athletes than the former.

6.  Drew Brees to Marques Colston

Colston is an underrated player, but this combo is this high because of the signal-caller.

7.  Brett Favre to Sidney Rice

How much longer will this duo be playing together?  Rice, like Austin, must prove he can be a consistent player in 2010.

8.  Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings

Jennings is a solid #1 WR, but Rodgers could be All-World with a pass-catcher as athletic/explosive as a few of the others on this list.

9.  Matt Ryan to Roddy White

The scariest thing about Ryan-to-White is that they have only just begun.

10.  Joe Flacco to Anquan Boldin

Of course we need to wait to see how Flacco and Boldin mesh, but the parts are all in place.

By Jonathan Bales

History Shows David Buehler Right Man For Cowboys’ Field Goal Kicking Duties

History Shows Concerns Over Field Goal Kicker Non-Issue At This Point

Contributed By Vince Grey

Many fans, and more than a few sports personalities, have been ringing the alarm bell ever since Dallas announced that David Buehler would inherit the job of kicking field goals for the Cowboys.  This concern over having a reliable kicker may be justified, as a top-notch kicker is of extreme value to a football team, as evidenced by this study.

And to be sure, at this point, Buehler has offered little or nothing to give the fans a warm and fuzzy feeling about his ability to kick a football straight while being rushed hard by 11 angry men.  Far, oh yes.  The man can do far.

Accurately?  Ah. . .well. . .therein lies the rub, doesn’t it?

Fear not my friends, for history teaches us much, if only we are willing to listen and learn.

Before the 1992 season, an ever-improving Cowboys squad looked primed and ready for a division title and a run deep into the playoffs.  Dallas was young, talented, fast, deep, and well-coached by Jimmy Johnson and the gang.  JJ firmly believed that in order to win a football game you had to win at least two of the “big three” phases (offense, defense, and special teams), so there’s no question he placed a strong emphasis on the performance of his special teams, including, obviously, field goal kicking.

After the `91 playoffs, Johnson went into that off-season intent on making a change at kicker. Ken Willis had been the man for the past two years, but after making an okay-but-nothing-special 72% of his attempts in 1990, he slipped to under 70% (69.2) in 1991.  That, along with his weak leg, sealed Ken’s fate as a Cowboy. (After short stints in `92 with the Bucs and Giants, his NFL career was over.)

So, in need of a better option at kicker, how did Jimmy proceed to fix the problem?  Did he spend one of his many draft picks on a college All-American?  No.  Did he trade for a talented, strong-legged vet with ice water in his veins?

Uh, not quite.

JJ decided that he would go into a season of high playoff expectations with a rookie free agent “nobody” named Lin Elliott, a man whose only proven skill prior to the start of the season was that he had a stronger leg than Ken Willis.

It would be a nice addition to the tale to say that Johnson used his keen eye for talent to uncover a future Pro Bowler who would go on to kick for many years with the Cowboys and others, but that’s simply not the case.  Lin had a shaky start, but ultimately finished that season a solid 24-of-35, including 3-of-4 from 50+ yards.  Dallas won its third Super Bowl.

In `93, things changed.  Elliott began by connecting on just 2-of-4 FGs and an extra point, and then made the tactical error of informing Johnson that he had lost his confidence.

Oops.  Two games in, Elliot was cut and no longer a Dallas Cowboy (he went on to have two very forgettable seasons with the Chiefs, and then he too was out of the league.)

So, once again, in a season where Dallas was attempting to win back-to-back Super Bowls, who did JJ pick for the all-important job of kicker?

Why, he brought 38-year-old Lions, Chiefs, and Bucs castoff Eddie Murray in off the streets, of course.

And the Cowboys won another Super Bowl.

Lucky you say?  Perhaps once, but twice?  In a row?  No, that’s skill.  That’s understanding kicking and kickers.

Catch my drift?  Arguably the best coach of his time, loaded with Super Bowl-caliber teams, went into not one, but two seasons without anything remotely close to a “sure thing” at kicker.

Because there’s no such animal as a sure thing at kicker.

Folk proved last year that just as a rookie free agent can come along out of the blue and have a great year, a supposedly great kicker can suddenly lose his confidence and be cut.  It’s the nature of the position.  As a kicker, you’re only as good as your last game, and sometimes your last kick.

However, that can work both ways.  It would not surprise me in the least to see Nick Folk rebound this season or next with a great year.

So, please don’t get all worked up over the Cowboys’ field goal kicking.  Certainly not until the real games start.  Buehler will probably do just fine.  If he doesn’t,  the Cowboys will simply bring in the next kicker on their list.

By Jonathan Bales

More Dallas Cowboys Charity Basketball Photos

Thanks to Damon Tackett and psndallas.com for the photos

By Jonathan Bales

Top Four Reasons Felix Jones Will Start for Dallas Cowboys in 2010


Before we dive into the reasons that Felix Jones should (and will) be the starter in 2010, we must first note that the title of “starter” is rather inconsequential.  Nearly every NFL team utilizes two, and often three, running backs nowadays, with the starter sometimes not even receiving the most touches.

Thus, what is essential to the success of Dallas’ offense is not that Felix Jones starts (although we do think that is important), but rather that he receives the lion’s share of the touches among running backs.

Nonetheless, starting Jones brings obvious advantages, four of which we have listed below.

1.  Utilizing Felix Jones early would save Marion Barber for 4th quarter duties.

Again, Barber‘s efficiency in the 4th quarter has less to do with whether or not he started, and more to do with his overall touches. In his career, Barber has averaged just 2.8 yards-per-carry on all rushes after his 20th of the game.

Starting Jones is a surefire way to not only more effectively limit Barber’s early-game touches, but also his overall touches for the season.  This could improve Barber’s career 3.7 yards-per-carry in December.

2.  The Cowboys have been notoriously poor starters in recent years–Jones will change that.

We did a study on the Cowboys’ success on initial drives in 2009, discovering the offense averaged just 5.78 yards-per-play and 1.69 points-per-drive to start the game, compared to 6.45 yards-per-play and 2.30 points-per-drive on all other series.

Jones will aid the Cowboys in coming out of the gate faster.  He averaged 6.2 yards-per-carry in 2009, including an incredible 10.0 yards-per-rush on 22 counter runs.  This home-run ability is exactly what the Dallas offense needs next season.

3.  The first drive contains scripted plays which will allow for more creative ways to get Jones the ball.

Offensive coordinators generally script their first 20 or so plays.  This allows them to combine the team’s best plays into a cohesive series.  It also lets the offense gain extra practice time on these plays.

This is important because it seems the plays on which Jones flourishes (or could, anyway) are “creative” ones which need to be set up.  Initial drives are set up all week and should theoretically contain more counters, end-arounds, screens, and so on–all plays on which Jones could thrive in 2010.

4.  Jones is now the team’s most complete running back.

There is simply no doubt about it–Jones is the Cowboys’ best running back.  His supposed weaknesses–pass protection and short-yardage running–really are not weaknesses at all.  We actually gave Jones a “B+” grade for his short-yardage work in 2009. He converted 5-of-5 short-yardage carries last season and averaged a respectable 4.1 yards-per-carry on runs up the middle.  He also, surprisingly, led the team in broken tackles (21), broken tackle percentage (14.4%), and yards-after-contact (3.3 per rush).

Jones displayed marked improvement in pass protection as well last season, yielding just one sack on the season and showing power which was not apparent in 2008.

Overall, starting Jones is the right decision.  There is no reason to not put your best players on the field from the start of the game, and Felix Jones is undoubtedly the team’s best running back.

By Jonathan Bales

Audio Mailbag: 5/28/10 (Sean Lee, Doug Free, Alan Ball)

Today’s audio Mailbag features all of your roster-related Cowboys questions, including how many WRs Dallas will retain and two sleepers to make the final cut.  Click below to listen.

Alan Ball missed 22.2% of tackles last year. Will he be the Cowboys' opening day starter at FS?

DC Times Mailbag May 27 2010 2

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Videos: Dez Bryant Praise, Tony Romo on WRs

Dez Bryant Praise

Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Kevin Ogletree

Ballin’ with the ‘Boys

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Video: Miles Austin on Dez Bryant, Jersey Shore

By Jonathan Bales

The Blonde Side: Ballin’ with the ‘Boys Shootout

Check out “The Blonde Side” author Amber Leigh’s photos from last night’s “Ballin’ with the ‘Boys” Cowboys Charity Shootout.