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


Preseason Week Two, Cowboys vs. Raiders: Final Film Study Observations

  • The Cowboys lined up in “Double Tight Strong” (or a slight variation of it) four times, running a strong side dive on two of those plays.  The ability to use the formation was obviously limited by the lack of depth at tight end.  In the first two preseason games, the Cowboys have now lined up in the formation seven times and run five strong side dives.  That rate of 71.4 percent is nearly identical to the 71.6 percent clip at which the team ran a strong side dive out of the formation last season.
  • The Cowboys lined up in “Gun Spread” or “Gun Tight End Spread” on 28 total plays.  Again, this was likely due to the lack of tight ends (and being behind at the end of the game).
  • As I noted in my article on what we learned from the Raiders game, the Cowboys ran just seven two-tight end sets of a possible 67 plays (10.5 percent), compared to 44 plays with three or more receivers on the field (65.7 percent)–including 23 plays with four receivers.  In comparison, the Cowboys ran a two-tight end set 15.9 percent of the time against the Bengals and just 39.1 percent of plays implemented three receivers (and none with four).

  • The Cowboys’ offensive line obviously need to perform better.  The first-teamers allowed four sacks in limited action, which is simply unacceptable.  Marc Colombo in particular really struggled.  He gave up two of the sacks and was beat on a few other plays.  I also credited Doug Free, Robert Brewster, and Travis Bright with sacks (and one I put on Romo for holding the ball too long).
  • Five of the Cowboys 19 called runs (26.3 percent) were to the weak side. They ran weak side on 19.5 percent of all runs last season.
  • Dallas ran nine draws for 23 yards (2.56 yards-per-carry) against Oakland.  That brings their preseason draw total to 47 yards on 15 carries (3.13 yards-per-carry).  In my Ultimate Guide to Dallas Cowboys Draws, I explained why they should use the draw less often.
  • The Raiders blitzed just five times on Thursday night.  The Cowboys completed three of five passes for 35 yards and an interception in these situations.  Dallas has struggled mightily against the blitz in the first two games, throwing for just 48 yards on 12 passes and rushing for 15 yards on five carries.
  • Roy Williams looked sharp in limited action on Sunday night, but he was blanketed by the Raiders’ cornerbacks.  He did a nice job of breaking up a would-be interception by Nnamdi Asomugha, but that wouldn’t be a necessity if Asomugha wasn’t in better position to catch the football than Williams.
  • Jon Kitna checked out of a play and hit Sam Hurd down the sideline for a 32-yard gain.  I’ve watched the play multiple times and still can’t figure out what he saw in the defense, but I guess that’s why he’s in the NFL and I’m spending my time writing about him.  Boo ya.


Welcome to the new Dallas Cowboys Times!

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Do Cowboys Have Use For Dexter McCluster?

We hear it all the time when discussing Ole Miss athlete Dexter McCluster.

“He’s too slow.”

“He’s too small.”

“The Cowboys already have three running backs.”

The first two complaints are legitimate concerns which NFL teams will have to factor into their grade for McCluster (although he proved his speed at his Pro Day and football is quickly becoming a ‘small man’s game’).

Raiders returner Gary Russell's got a belly only a mother could love.

However, the last criticism (and that which we hear most often from fans) is unjustified. Yes, McCluster can play running back and Dallas is loaded at the position.

Contrary to popular opinion, we don’t think the Cowboys should trade or release any of their backs. So how would there possibly be room for McCluster? Because any return man as potentially devastating to the opposition as McCluster can and should make the roster regardless of their position.

Would you like your return man to play a position where he can have a huge impact? Sure. Last time we checked, though, there aren’t too many left tackles returning kickoffs (now wait…does Raiders returner Gary Russell count?).

Further, McCluster can have a huge impact at positions other than running back. Remember, he is a tremendous slot receiver with the potential to take the ball to the house every time he touches it. The NFL is evolving in such a way that these smaller, quicker players are becoming in vogue. McCluster is nearly the same weight of DeSean Jackson when he was drafted.

In a way, McCluster’s offensive prowess is a bonus for the Cowboys. The team was so unsatisfied with Patrick Crayton’s return ability last year that they signed return specialist Allen Rossum at one point. Rossum of course got injured on his first touch, but the point is that any player who figures to contribute on offense or defense will instantly be providing more than Dallas had planned for Rossum.

Who would you rather have on your team: an aging return specialist or a dynamic athlete will sensational return ability who can play the slot, run specialty plays (Wildcat, end-arounds), and even handle a few carries a game?

We agree.


2010 NFL Draft’s Future Best Players, Part II: Defense

Along with Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy may be the best prospect in this draft.

In Part I of this segment, we profiled the soon-to-be rookie offensive players we think will become the cream of the crop in the NFL. Now we take a look at the defense.

DT: Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska), Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma)

This was really a no-brainer. The top two defensive tackle prospects are head and shoulders above the others. They both have the talent to play in either a 4-3 or a 3-4.

Sleeper: Jared Odrick (Penn State)

No one seems to be mentioning Odrick as a potential Cowboys’ draft selection–except us. If he can overcome some character concerns (which we believe are unjustified), he can cash in his ticket as a Pro Bowl player.

DE/OLB: Brandon Graham (Michigan), Sergio Kindle (Texas)

Graham is a personal favorite of ours because of his ability to not only rush the passer, but also effectively halt the run. He is probably a better fit for Dallas’ scheme than Kindle. Both players will likely be taken before the 27th pick.

Sleeper: Jason Worilds (Virginia Tech)

Worilds is our #44 overall player, but he could move up even further. He had the best 10-yard split of any defensive end at the Combine.

Micah Johnson is similar to Brandon Spikes--poor forty times but great game tape.

ILB: Rolando McClain (Alabama), Brandon Spikes (Florida)

Despite all of the criticism Spikes is receiving, we still look at him as having first round game tape. What else really matters? We view both him and McClain as better fits in a 3-4 scheme where they will have to participate less in sideline-to-sideline pursuit.

Sleeper: Micah Johnson (Kentucky)

Another 3-4 guy, Johnson’s forty time, like Spikes, was atrocious. However, if he checks out medically, he is worth a risk late in the draft due to his athleticism and play-making ability.

CB: Kyle Wilson (Boise State), Devin McCourty (Rutgers)

Wilson and McCouty just look the part. They have tremendous hips and fluidity, and both will also help you out in the return game. McCourty’s size and speed may even give him the highest upside of any CB in this class.

Sleeper: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (Indiana of Pennsylvania)

Again, another cornerback who can return punts and kickoffs. It is AOA’s combination of size and speed that we love though. He will have to show teams he is capable of playing with the big boys.

S: Eric Berry (Tennessee), Earl Thomas (Texas)

Fairly standard selections here. Berry and Thomas are simply the two best safeties in this draft–hands down.

Sleeper: Major Wright (Florida)

Wright has been slowly crawling up draft boards, even reaching the top five safeties in NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock’s rankings. Is his centerfield ball-hawking ability enough to make up for his poor tackling? Wright is a high risk/high reward selection.


Cory Procter to Remain a Cowboy

Cory Procter is a perfect example of the importance of versatility in the NFL.

Good news for the band Free Reign, bad news for Dallas fans everywhere: Cory Procter will remain in Dallas in 2010. Procter signed his free agent tender (a second round tender), meaning he will make $1.809 million this season.

Might this affect the Cowboys’ draft strategy? It is widely believed the team is interested in Idaho guard Mike Iupati. We believe Florida guard/center Maurkice Pouncey would be a better fit, and he even won our Cowboys Draft Pick Tournament.

Nonetheless, if the Cowboys plan to retain Procter in 2010, they may look to secure an impact player at a position other than in the interior line. Procter’s versatility to play both guard and center is undoubtedly what has kept him in Dallas. Now, the team may believe they are free to concentrate more heavily on upgrading the offensive tackle position.

With the top-tier tackles projected to be gone by the Cowboys’ 27th selection, though, Dallas may have their eyes set on another position in the first round–perhaps free safety. That would make UMass guard/tackle Vladimir Ducasse a very interesting prospect for the Cowboys in the second round.


March Madness: Dallas Cowboys Draft Pick Style (Elite Eight)

In the Sweet 16 of our Cowboys draft pick tournament, the field of was narrowed to just eight potential selections. A few of the surprises from our first round were:

  • 13 seed USF safety Nate Allen upsetting 4 seed Rutgers offensive tackle Anthony Davis. Allen has been soaring up boards and is now a realistic possibility for Dallas at pick #27.
  • 11 seed Boise State CB Kyle Wilson taking down 6 seed Texas safety Earl Thomas. Wilson simply has a better chance of being available in the back of the first round.
  • 14 seed Michigan DE/OLB Brandon Graham overtaking 3 seed Maryland OT Bruce Campbell. Graham is the “Cinderella story” of this tourney.

Remember, match-up “winners” are not necessarily the best choice for Dallas, but those which we consider most likely among the two.

Elite Eight

Taylor Mays is a possibility for Dallas, but much less likely than Mike Iupati.

1 Mike Iupati, G, Idaho


8 Taylor Mays, S, USC

  • Iupati blew by UCLA DT Brian Price in his first match-up, and he does the same to Taylor Mays here. Iupati fills a need for Dallas, while Mays simply does not fit the Cowboys’ scheme. Will anyone be able to take down Iupati?
  • Winner: Mike Iupati

5 Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida


13 Nate Allen, S, USF

  • Pouncey is a slightly under-the-radar player that many scouts believe could get selected before Iupati. There is a chance Pouncey is off the board for Dallas. If he does fall to the 27th selection, he constitutes good value, while Allen probably does not.
  • Winner: Maurkice Pouncey

11 Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State


14 Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan

  • It is extremely difficult to determine a winner for this match-up. We like both players as sleepers for the Cowboys. Wilson would greatly enhance Dallas’ return game, while Graham is a player with whom coach Wade Phillips will likely fall in love. Our winner is the player we see as having a more immediate impact.

    Are the #2 seed Odrick and the #1 seed Iupati on a collision course?

  • Winner: Kyle Wilson

7 Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State


2 Jared Odrick, DT/DE, Penn State

  • Is it really possible that Bryant drops all the way down to the back of the first round? Probably not, but it would be very difficult for Jerry Jones to pass him up if he does. Odrick may or may not be the selection if he is still on the board, but he has a much higher probability of being available.
  • Winner: Jared Odrick

There you have it–a sweep for the top-seeded players. In part III of the series, we will detail the Final Four match-up, listed below.

Final Four

1 Mike Iupati, G, Idaho


5 Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida

11 Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State


2 Jared Odrick, DT/DE, Penn State


Top Five Reasons Brandon Marshall Will Not Join the Cowboys

Brandon Marshall is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL. So why would he be a poor fit in Dallas?

Of all the players that Cowboys fans could want, we hear Brandon Marshall’s name come up more than any other. The reasons are obvious. Big. Strong. Fast. 21 receptions in one game.

Marshall is also ripe for the picking as the Broncos only placed a first round tender on the stud receiver, practically begging another club to provide him with a one-way ticket out of Denver.

With Roy Williams struggling, why not give up a late first round pick for a player who would be dynamite outside opposite Miles Austin? The reasons are below.

1. Like T.O., Marshall would not take a back seat as a secondary option.

We recently detailed why T.O. would probably not respond well to being a complementary player in Dallas. The same is true of Marshall.

Would Marshall come in and automatically be the Cowboys’ number one receiver, or would it be Austin? It could be more of a 1A and 1B situation, but either way, Austin is too good to not continuously utilize.

Our inclination is that Marshall would want to see the bulk of the targets in the passing game. There just are not enough balls to go around to effectively satisfy Marshall, Austin, and Witten and maintain a dominant running game. Someone would be unhappy, and do we really want it to be players who have already put their heart into playing for the silver and blue?

2. In addition to yielding a first round pick, the Cowboys would also have to provide Marshall a long-term contract.

The Cowboys could only land Marshall by signing him to an offer sheet. That contract offer obviously has to have enough guaranteed money that Marshall will be willing to sign it.

After dishing out $45 million to Roy Williams and another big-time deal in the works for Austin, the Cowboys, surprisingly, will be a bit short on funds.

The organization could theoretically dump a huge portion of the contract into the 2010 uncapped season, but Jerry Jones is no fool. He has already stated the Cowboys have imposed a team-mandated salary cap for themselves.

Signing Austin long-term takes precedent over bringing in a guy like Marshall. After that happens, an offer to Marshall would mean the club would be investing well over $100 million in three wide receivers. Not exactly business-savvy.

3. Marshall does not fit the character profile of the current Cowboys’ players.

The Cowboys released T.O., Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, and Greg Ellis last offseason. There was a method to their madness. The current roster is composed of 53 stand-up, intelligent, high-character guys.

This is not to say that Marshall cannot be those things, but he has proven that he can become a bit of a distraction at times. There is no way that Jerry, influenced by his son Stephen, will be able to justify bringing in a possible trouble-maker.

Like it or not, this man is one of the main reasons the Cowboys will not sign a big-time free agent wide receiver in 2010.

4. Without a first round pick, the Cowboys would not be able to upgrade a more urgent position of need.

If the Cowboys do want to bolster the receiver spot, the draft is a great time to do it. Not only will it be less of a financial burden, but the team can also save their first-rounder by drafting dodging Marshall and drafting a receiver in the mid-to-late rounds.

Signing Marshall not only eats up a lot of cash, but it also erases the Cowboys’ ability to sign an impact player (perhaps an offensive lineman), in the first round. Instead, Dallas would have to wait until the 59th pick of the draft to upgrade either the offensive line, safety, or another position.

From the standpoint of a selfish fan, the draft without a first round pick, as we saw last year, can be quite monotonous.

5. No one is sure how hard Marshall will play once he obtains big money.

Marshall was a fourth-rounder out of UCF in the 2006 draft. Needless to say, his rookie contract wasn’t exactly Peyton Manning-type money.

Very talented players can alter their approach and overall mindset to football after cashing in, i.e. Jamarcus Russell. While Marshall does appear to have the proper work ethic intact to ensure that does not happen, you can never be sure.

At the very least, there does appear to be something about Marshall that makes it appear as though he is not as serious about the game of football as, say, Austin or Witten.


Marshall is certainly both an uncommon talent and a unique individual. He will undoubtedly help some team immensely–but that team us unlikely to be the Dallas Cowboys.

It isn’t that signing Marshall would be the worst thing in the world. Heck, it could even work out for the best. But operating a professional football team is about playing the percentages. At this time, Marshall is not a “high-percentage play” for Dallas.


Cowboys News and Notes 3/14/10



2010 Cowboys-Only Mock Draft: Version 3.0, Post-Combine

The Cowboys will likely value the versatility of C/G Maurkice Pouncey.

In versions 1.0 and 2.0 of our Cowboys Mock Drafts, we had the team selecting Penn State DT/DE Jared Odrick and USC OT Charles Brown, respectively. While we would still guess Odrick will be the pick if forced to select today, drafts can take wild twists as the result of just one event.

In this version our our Cowboys Mock Draft, we will describe a path the Cowboys may take if they happen to sign an offensive tackle before April 22 (Marcus McNeil or Jared Gaither, for example).

Round 1- Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida

A lot of mocks have Idaho guard Mike Iupati as the Cowboys’ selection at #27, but we believe they will value the versatility of Pouncey. If Iupati is still on the board, it will be interesting to see who Dallas has rated higher. Some scouts believe Pouncey is a top 15 talent. He would likely come in and be the immediate backup to both starting guards and center Andre Gurode.

Round 2- Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida

Spikes’ size makes him a candidate to play inside in a 3-4. Keith Brooking and Bradie James played well last year, but the Cowboys must soon look for their replacements (particularly for Brooking). We still think a play-making return man is an option here, but because players such as Mardy Gilyard, Dexter McCluster, and Jordan Shipley had such poor 40-yard dash times, the Cowboys may be able to wait a round to grab someone.

FYI: Despite these first two selections, no, we are not Gators fans.

We still aren't sure why teams aren't high on South Carolina LB Eric Norwood.

Round 3- Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina

To play devil’s advocate, we have assumed the Cowboys do not see any return man at this point as providing great value. So which direction does the team go? Jerry Jones said the Cowboys will take the best player available at each position, and we really like South Carolina LB Eric Norwood.

A lot of fans will be disappointed in yet another linebacker, but we all know what a key position the edge rusher is in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme . As we detailed in our profile of Eric Norwood, he is a an excellent pass-rusher who should transition nicely to OLB. Further, we are not sure Dallas is convinced they have proper depth behind starters Ware and Spencer (Curtis Johnson, Victor Butler and Brandon Williams).

Round 4- Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas

The Cowboys’ patience in this particular mock draft pays off, as Texas WR Jordan Shipley is still on the board. Shipley would come in and become the starting punt and kickoff returner, and also compete with Patrick Crayton in the slot. We see Shipley as an early second round talent, but his 4.57 at the Combine will surely drop his stock. Still, Shipley plays much faster than his time and displays excellent quickness and body control.

Round 6- Kurt Coleman, FS, Ohio State

Dallas may or may not upgrade the safety position before this spot, but we still maintain that the Cowboys’ brass is more comfortable with what they have at the position than fans. Despite interest from other clubs in Gerald Sensabaugh, the Cowboys remain likely to lock him up long-term. Ken Hamlin struggled last season, but members of the organization like what they have in second-year man Michael Hamlin.

Coleman is a small, ball-hawk type safety which the Cowboys lack right now. He would be a project, but worth the risk at this point.

Syracuse DT Arthur Jones would move to DE in the Cowboys' 3-4 defense.

Round 7- Arthur Jones, DT/DE, Syracuse

The importance the Cowboys place on the defensive end position is reliant on the futures of Spears, Bowen, and Hatcher. The second round tenders placed on all three players means the latter two are not going anywhere in 2010. Spears, however, could garner some interest from other 3-4 teams. We detailed what Dallas might do with him here.

If the likely scenario of all three defensive ends remaining on the team comes to fruition, the Cowboys may look at a late-round prospect like Syracuse’s Arthur Jones. Jones is a talented athlete who may drop this far due to knee surgery he underwent in November of last season.

Continue to check back for our ongoing “Potential Draft Picks” Series and ever-evolving Mock Drafts.


Poll: Would you accept a 2nd-rounder for Sensabaugh or Spears?

Gerald Sensabaugh and Marcus Spears both received second round tenders.