Mailbag: 5/4/10 (Alan Ball, OJ Atogwe, Dez Bryant, Victor Butler)
Q: Do you see the Cowboys having a problem at free safety? Do you think either Alan Ball or Michael Hamlin are ready to start?
Michael Burns, Dallas, Texas
A: We gave Ball a C+ overall grade for his limited action in 2009. Solid backup? Yes. Starter-worthy production? Probably not. We aren’t thrilled that, as of now, Ball will be the Cowboys’ opening day starter. Our lack of total trust in Ball is one of the reasons we didn’t like the release of Ken Hamlin.
The Cowboys are excited about second-year man Michael Hamlin. He has yet to play in a game, though, so he is really an unknown commodity.
We still believe the Cowboys will sign a veteran free safety before the start of the season. We have even projected current Rams free safety O.J. Atogwe to be that guy in our 53-man roster/depth chart predictions. If Dallas is interested in Atogwe, they are likely waiting until June 1 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If no action appears imminent shortly after that time, expect the Cowboys to let Ball and Hamlin duke it out in camp for the starting gig.
Q: Do you think all of the pressure that is being placed on Dez Bryant (receiving #88, all of the post-mini-camp hype) is good or bad?
Pete Garza, Tucson, AZ
A: The pressure is really inconsequential. Any professional athlete (particularly a first round pick) must deal with a ton of pressure under any circumstances. Dealing with high expectations is simply part of the job requirements.
Bryant should feel honored that he was given #88. It is a sign of respect for his skills and projected future success. However, it is unlikely to affect the way he plays. It isn’t as if he will be running a route thinking “Oh man, I better catch this ball because I’m wearing #88.” If anything, it will make him work harder in the offseason to live up to the hype.
More important for Bryant than dealing with pressure is not letting the early success go to his head. The coaches and veterans like Michael Irvin are doing a nice job of reinforcing to Bryant that he has a long, long way to go.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for where to buy Cowboys tickets? Thanks!
A: If you live out of town and want to make a trip to a game, we recommend CowboysCorral.com. They have excellent game packages and customer service.
Q: Who would start at outside linebacker if either Demarcus Ware or Anthony Spencer got injured? The Cowboys seem pretty weak at that position behind the starters.
Jim Weller, Sahuarita, AZ
A: If either player gets injured, second-year player Victor Butler would likely start. We recently graded the outside linebackers and Butler received a ‘C.’ He is an adequate pass-rusher, but currently has a long way to go before he becomes a complete outside linebacker. We anticipate him coming into the season a bit heavier and a lot stronger after a year in the conditioning program.
Needless to say, the Cowboys could be in trouble if either Ware or Spencer goes down for a significant period of time. Watch out for this sleeper: Curtis Johnson. We expect him to make the final roster and compete heavily for the primary backup role outside. He played defensive end for the Colts before he was released and signed by Dallas last season.