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Green Bay 35, Dallas 31: Mirror Images

Yes, this is supposed to be a mirror image.

During the playoffs last January, the Cowboys tied the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium, but Dallas left 35 seconds on the clock.

And then…

Well, how many plays could Aaron Rodgers run in 35 seconds? That number would be five.

With 12 seconds left, Rodgers scrambled out of the pocket and hit Jared Cook on a 36-yard play. A Mason Crosby field goal gave Green Bay the 34-31 win.

One week ago, the Dallas Cowboys led the L.A. Rams, 17-6. The Dallas defense forced the Rams to punt.

And then…

Ryan Switzer fumbled, and the Cowboys lost momentum. The thin defense started giving up yards, and the offense no longer dominated. The eventual result was a 35-30 loss.

Put the two games together, and you basically get the 35-31 loss to the Packers in 2017.

Dallas had a 21-6 lead in the first half. The Packers moved the ball into Dallas field position, but a sack gave the Packers a 2nd and 17.

Rodgers completed a five-yard pass to Reggie Cobb, but Dallas linebacker Anthony Hitchens was called for a facemask penalty. Instead of 3rd and 13 from the Dallas 33, it was 1st and 10 from the Dallas 18. Three plays later, Green Bay scored to make it 21-12.

The defense that had held the Packers to 12 points in the first half was far less effective in the second. With 14:54 remaining in the fourth quarter, it was 22-21 in favor of Green Bay.

Nevertheless, the offense moved the ball, and Dallas regained the lead with a field goal. Then the defense forced a punt.

Momentum in favor of Dallas.

And then…

A Dak Prescott pass bounced off the hands of Terrance Williams, and Damarious Randall grabbed a pick and scored.

The Cowboys turned around and marched 79 yards on a 17-play drive. Prescott scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Of course, the Cowboys left 1:13 remaining on the clock. How many plays could Rodgers run with 73 seconds?

Dumb question. He ran nine plays. On a 3rd-and-8 play from the Dallas 30, he managed to get to the outside and gain 18 yards on a scramble.

Two plays later, he hit Davante Adams on a 12-yard game-winning touchdown.

It should have been hard to believe, but it wasn’t. We’ve seen it before.

In three losses, Dallas has given up 42, 35, and 35 points.

In 17 games in 2016, Dallas gave up 30 or more points only twice (including the playoff loss), and never more than 34.

Tough one to swallow, and we have two weeks to think about. The 2-3 Cowboys travel to San Francisco in two weeks.

L.A. Rams 35, Dallas 30: Another Can’t-Tackle Performance

For lack of anything else to write.

With 8:40 remaining in the second quarter, the Dallas Cowboys were about to blow the L.A. Rams out of AT&T Stadium. On the team’s previous offensive series, Alfred Morris bolted 70 yards to the Rams’ 5, and Ezekiel Elliott scored three plays later.

The defense then stopped the Rams, and the Cowboys would have plenty of time to add to their lead.

Dallas 17, L.A. Rams 6.

Then rookie Ryan Switzer muffed the punt return, giving L.A. the ball at the Dallas 18. A touchdown five plays later cut the lead to 17-13.

Dallas managed to extend the lead to 24-13 on the next drive, but the momentum was shifting.

The Rams drove to kick a field goal on the final play of the half, and the Cowboys had trouble putting the Rams away for the rest of the game.

The beginning of the second half looked promising, though. Dallas forced a three-and-out on the Rams’ first possessions thanks largely to a sack by DeMarcus Lawrence.

However, Dallas could not move the ball past its own 29 on the next series. The Rams kicked a field goal on their next possession, then followed up with a 90-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 53-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Todd Gurley.

Remember Dallas 17, L.A. Rams 6? The lead evaporated and became L.A. Rams 26, Dallas 24.

Dallas struggled on two possessions at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth. The Greatest Offensive Line in Football didn’t look so great, and neither did Dak Prescott. Dez Bryant had a decent game statistically but was not as effective as an elite receiver should.

Meanwhile, the Dallas defense looked a bit more like it did against the Broncos than it did against the Cardinals. Todd Gurley gashed the Cowboys throughout much of the day, and once the defense was worn down, it could not get a stop.

The Rams extended their lead to 35-30 with less than two minutes remaining, meaning the Cowboys needed a touchdown to pull out the win. It didn’t happen.

With the loss, Dallas falls to 2-2 and is a game behind the Eagles in the NFC East. Green Bay visits next week, and it could be a very long day.

Denver 42, Dallas 17: It Was the Worst Day

During the past twenty years, the worst things that could happen to the Dallas Cowboys have seemingly resulted from high expectations.

Think the team will go no better than 10-6? The Cowboys go 13-3. But think the Cowboys are on the cusp of a Super Bowl season?

Well, you get the 2008 season. Or the 2010 season. Or the 2015 season.

Hopefully, we don’t add the 2017 season to the list of failures to meet high expectations, and Sunday’s 42-17 loss to Denver is just an aberration. But Sunday’s loss was bad.

It was the worst day forEzekiel Elliott and the Greatest Offensive Line in Football

Until Sunday, the only thing that seemed to be able to stop Ezekiel Elliott was the NFL’s disciplinary process or the judicial system.

Add the Denver defense to the mix.

Elliott had never rushed for fewer than 51 yards in a game. He had never had fewer than 12 carries, and that came during the season finale in 2016 when the Cowboys barely played their starters.

Against the Broncos, it was 9 carries for 8 yards.

We need not say much more. The Denver line manhandled the Dallas offensive line all game, and Elliott was stacked up from the opening drive.

Of course, Emmitt Smith had a few dud games. So did Tony Dorsett. But neither had many of those games, and hopefully this is the last bad game in a while for Elliott.

It was the worst day for…Dak Prescott

The quarterback was bound to have a bad day at some point. He threw two interceptions for only the second time during his career, and his throws were off for much of the game.

It did not help that he had little time in the pocket, and his receivers did not do him too many favors. Dez Bryant had a nice touchdown catch, but he is not catching some passes he needs to be able to catch. Brice Butler dropped another pass, and Terrance Williams too often disappears.

It was the worst day forTackling

The biggest highlights for the Broncos came on plays when three or four Cowboys seemingly had chances to tackle ball carriers but failed.

Jaylon Smith was credited with three tackles, but he should have had about ten. The banged-up secondary had trouble bringing people down. So did Sean Lee.

It was the worst day forA Banged Up Secondary

Chidobe Awuzie left the game with a hamstring injury, and Nolan Carroll left with a concussion. The team was already without Orlando Scandrick, who has a hand injury.

So the remaining players included the likes of Kevon Frazier, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods. Not saying we should yearn for the days of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, but this secondary is going to remain a concern.

Yes, the Cowboys did a great job shutting down the New York Giants, and Lewis recorded his first career interception against the Broncos. But Denver rarely faced a third-and-long against Dallas, and Trevor Siemian had little trouble slashing the secondary throughout the game.
***

It was not the worst day for DeMarcus Lawrence. For the second game in a row, he recorded two sacks. One of those sacks resulted in a fumble, which the Cowboys recovered. The play set up the first Dallas score and kept the Cowboys in the game during the first half.

Of course, Lawrence was later called for a penalty on a field goal attempt. The Broncos kept the ball and scored a touchdown instead of settling for the field goal.

***

Very different circumstances, but the 1998 Dallas Cowboys were able to rebound from a terrible loss at Denver during week 2.

After beating the Cardinals 38-10 to open the season, Dallas traveled to Denver to face the defending Super Bowl champions. The game was no contest, with the Broncos routing Dallas 42-23.

Even worse, the Cowboys lost Troy Aikman to a broken collarbone, leaving the Cowboys to play Jason Garrett.

The Cowboys turned around to win three of their next four games, including wins over the Giants and Redskins. Most people remember Garrett for his heroics on Thanksgiving Day in 1994, but he had his moments during that 1998 season as well.

(Of course, that 1998 season did not end well, as the Cowboys lost to the Cardinals in the divisional playoffs.)

***

Tony Romo is not yet performing at the level of Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth, but he does have a knack for predicting plays.

NFL.com has a compilation of his predictions during the Patriots-Saints game.

Dallas 19, N.Y. Giants 3: Dominance, for Starters

Cole Beasley made an improbable catch on a third-down play in the fourth quarter, snagging the ball from his name plate across the back of his jersey.

The Dallas Cowboys were once known as the fastest-starting team in the NFL. Most fans are well aware that the team once won 17 consecutive opening-day games between 1965 and 1981.

Those days are long gone, and the first game of seasons for the past twenty years have been more of a mixed bag. Since 1998, Dallas has an opening-day mark of 10-10, and several of those games have been nail-biters.

The last two season openers against the Giants produced two one-point games, with Dallas taking a 27-26 win in 2015 only to lose 20-19 the following season.

Sunday night’s game did not cause the same anxiety. The Dallas defense, with its new secondary, shut down the Odell Beckham-less Giants offense, and the Dallas offense did enough to give the Cowboys a 19-3 win.

The big question marks heading into the season focused on the defensive side of the ball, but the defense was a strong point on Sunday night. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence recorded two sacks, and the line was able to pressure Eli Manning throughout much of the night.

Although the Cowboys lost Orlando Scandrick to a broken hand, second-year corner Anthony Brown came up huge with an interception in the fourth quarter. The play occurred with 7:48 remaining in the game and all but ended any chance of a New York comeback.

Dak Prescott missed a few throws, but he was largely efficient and did not throw an interception. Ezekiel Elliott picked up where he left off last year, rushing for 104 yards on 24 carries.

The highlight of the game came from receiver Cole Beasley. With Dallas facing a 3rd and 6 early in the fourth quarter, Prescott threw the ball on a short out to Beasley. Beasley managed to tip the ball to himself, then trapped the ball along the nameplate on his back shoulder before hauling in the pass to gain seven yards. The play allowed the Cowboys to maintain possession and drain another three minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter.

***

The three points were the fewest allowed by the Cowboys on opening day since the 1995 Cowboys beat the Giants, 35-0.

***

The 16-point point differential in the season-opener was the greatest since the Cowboys beat the Browns 28-10 in 2008.

***

Dallas travels to Denver to face the Broncos on Sunday afternoon.

The Giants Yet Again: The History of Opening Day Opponents

The NFL’s scheduling gods have decided that Dallas must open the season against the Giants. Perpetually?

Dallas plays New York in the first game for the fifth time in six years. In the previous four games, Dallas won three of four but lost last year’s opener, 20-19.

In the team’s history, the Cowboys have opened the season against the Giants nine times, going 8-1 in those games. During the team’s eight-game winning streak, the Cowboys won by an average mark of 35-18. Of course, that streak ended a year ago.

After next Sunday’s game, the Cowboys will have faced the Giants on opening day more than any other franchise. Dallas has played Washington nine times, with the last opener taking place in 2010.

The Cowboys have an overall opening day record of 37-19-1.

Here is a complete list of records vs. different opponents (in alphabetical order):

Arizona: 0-1

Atlanta: 1-1

Baltimore Colts: 1-0

Buffalo: 1-0

Chicago: 1-1

Cleveland: 3-0

Detroit: 1-0

Houston Texans: 0-1

Jacksonville: 0-1

Minnesota: 1-1

New Orleans: 0-1

New York Giants: 8-1

New York Jets: 0-1

Philadelphia: 3-1

Pittsburgh: 3-3

L.A. Rams: 2-0

San Diego: 2-0

Tampa Bay: 1-1

Washington: 6-2-1

 

Dallas 20, Arizona 18: More Hall-of-Fame-Game Dominance

For the third time during the past eight years, the Cowboys played in the Hall of Fame Game. And what dominance the Cowboys have shown—undefeated in these games since 2010.

Of course, the real highlights from the game were few and far between. Three players worth noting:

(1) TE Rico Gathers showed that he has playmaking ability. He caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Moore in the second quarter to cut the Arizona lead to 15-7.

The play…

 

Rico Gathers caught three passes for 59 yards and this touchdown in the Cowboys’ 20-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals during the first preseason game of 2017.

(2) QB Moore: he threw a pick along with the touchdown to Gathers. He did not look bad, but he hardly gives anyone confidence as the primary backup.

(3) WR Brice Butler: he caught a 46-yard pass from Moore in the second quarter. It would nice if Butler could turn out to be a breakout performer this year.

We did not get to see Jaylon Smith, but his brother, Rod Smith was the primary ball-carrier, gaining 64 yards on 18 carries.

Otherwise, the defense gave up too many big plays, and the special teams had some bad penalties. Otherwise, it’s the first game of preseason, so what do we expect?

The Cowboys next face the L.A. Rams on August 12.

***

Curious at all about the results of the first preseason games in recent memory? Well, here are the last ten:

2008: San Diego 31, Dallas 17
2009: Oakland 31, Dallas 10
2010: Dallas 16, Cincinnati 7 (Hall of Fame Game)
2011: Dallas 24, Denver 23
2012: Dallas 3, Oakland 0
2013: Dallas 24, Miami 20 (Hall of Fame Game)
2014: San Diego 27, Dallas 7
2015: San Diego 17, Dallas 7
2016: Los Angeles Rams 28, Dallas 24
2017: Dallas 20, Arizona 18 (Hall of Fame Game)

KYDC ’92: Michael Irvin Wanted to be the Highest-Paid Cowboy

This post is part of the 1992 Season in Review series, marking the 25th anniversary of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl championship season.

Michael Irvin was still holding out for a new contract as the Cowboys began training camp in 1992.

After he was drafted by the Cowboys in 1988, Michael Irvin signed a four-year contract worth a total of $1.875 million. During the summer of 1992, he was holding out for a new contract, and he wanted to be the highest-paid Cowboy.

Below is part of the story about Irvin’s demands:

Michael Irvin wants just two things: to play football for the Dallas Cowboys and to be paid more money than anybody else to do it.

“I hear people say that asking for a certain amount of salary will upset the pay scale around here,” said Irvin, the unsigned receiver whose recent contract proposal to the Cowboys would make him the club’s highest-salaried player. “But somebody, at some point, is going to have to make more than (quarterback Troy Aikman). And then in the future, Troy will get a new deal that moves him back up to the top, where he belongs. That’s the way it should work.”

Aikman is the only Cowboy who averages a million a year. Irvin, who yesterday received team management’s first counterproposal, is one of at least three Dallas players who aspire to change that. Pro Bowl tight end Jay Novacek, who joins Irvin as one of eight veteran Cowboys without contracts, may request a three-year deal that averages $1 million annually. National Football League rushing champ Emmitt Smith, who is hopeful of renegotiation before he enters his ’93 option year, could also make acase for being worthy of reaching the $1 million level.

To earn more than Aikman, Irvin would have to make a leap more challenging than any he made in his spectacular All-Pro season of 1991. Aikman is presently Dallas’ top-paid player, with salaries of $1.064 million this year, $1.17 million in ’93 and $1.284 million in ’94, the final year of his contract.

The 1991 deal given defensive tackle Russell Maryland averages $1.575 million a year through the ’95 season. But all but $1 million of the $3.6 million signing bonus Maryland received is deferred until after the 1996 season, skewing the annual average. Maryland, like Aikman, was the No. 1 overall selection in his draft.

Irvin, who last year made $300,000 in base salary with a $50,000 roster bonus, said his proposal is not motivated by a desire to be the top-paid Cowboy.

“The money I’m looking for is all relative to the money made by other receivers, not the money made by the other guys (Cowboys players),” Irvin said.

Both the Cowboys and Irvin, who is represented by agent Steve Endicott, are being cautious in negotiations in hopes of preventing animosity. So neither side will divulge specifics of the proposals that have been exchanged. “We’re all working diligently to get Michael signed,” Endicott said.

So what happened…?

Irvin reached an agreement with the Cowboys on August 7, signing a three-year, $3.75 million contract. In 2017 dollars, Irvin’s 1992 deal would be worth a total of $6.5 million, or $2.17 million per year.

By comparison, Dez Bryant is playing under a five-year, $70 million contract that included a $20 million signing bonus.

KYDC ’92: Cowboys Might Have Been the Hardest-Working Team

This post is part of the 1992 Season in Review series, marking the 25th anniversary of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl championship season.

Jimmy Johnson during one of the off-season programs he ran in 1992.

The Dallas Cowboys were getting ready to start training camp twenty-five years ago. By then, the team had already completed three “quarterback camps,” which were not limited to quarterbacks.

According to the late Blackie Sherrod of the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys had the toughest off-season program of any team in the NFL.

On July 17, 1992, he wrote:

There’s his famous “quarterback camps,” another misnomer. At least three of those, with all hands commanded on deck. And there’s a rookie camp and the one legit (by NFL rules) mini-camp and what not. Possibly one-third of the off-season spent in structured, supervised workouts. Plus daily “volunteer’ sessions in the weight rooms and such.

“I don’t know what all other teams do,’ he said. “Some don’t even see their players from the end of the season to the start of training camp. I would say (he paused for proper understatement) we were one of the extremes.

“We have 100 percent player participation in our off-season program,’ he said proudly, “and that’s unheard of in the NFL.

“We have it for two reasons. First, we demand it, even though it’s voluntary.” Another pause, to let the grins subside. “And also because the players are excited about the team. They’re enthusiastic about it.’

Well, maybe. But Johnson’s modus operandi is that his players except it or traveling papers. They might as well enthuse-and-bear it if they like their current address. Benefits of work

It wasn’t always thus. Tom Landry had the reputation of a stern foreman, but he made no such off-season demands. One can remember when Hollywood Henderson refused to participate in off-season exercise because he wasn’t getting paid for it. Johnson does provide token money — $200 weekly for at least nine weeks.

“Our first year, players did not accept it enthusiastically. They were not used to it,” said Johnson. Of course, most of those players are now gone. The newcomers seem to accept, in some degree of grace, their year-round responsibility.

“Last year we were the least penalized team in the league,’ said the coach. “And that comes from conditioning and discipline.

“We didn’t have a lot of injuries. That also comes from conditioning. I like to think of us as a “physical’ team, and we’ll be even more physical this year.’

Those off-season exercises, of course, are without pads. Today there will be that extra 40 pounds luggage, plus serious contact between hulks. All this conducted on a hot grassy plain, occasionally and mercifully swept by breezes. Of course, should any of the wealthy young men complain of brutality, Johnson could always load them in a pickup and, within a few Austin blocks, show them laborers in blazing noonday sun, laying a tar roof, and for minimum wages.

***

Also in the news on July 17, 1992…

The Cowboys helped their secondary by signing safety Ray Horton, who had been with the Cowboys since 1989. The team was also expected to sign safety James Washington, cornerback Garry Lewis, and linebacker Vinson Smith. However, the team lost running back Ricky Blake for at least five games because he failed pre-season physicals.

So what happened?…

  • Horton started seven games in 1992, which was his final season as a pro. He had two interceptions along with a touchdown during his final season.
  • Smith started 13 games with Dallas in 1992 before being traded to Chicago after the season.
  • The Cowboys traded Lewis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in August 1992. The Cowboys obtained an eighth-round pick and selected defensive back Dave Thomas with it.
  • Blake never played in the NFL after failing the physical.

KYDC ’92: America’s Team II

This post is part of the 1992 Season in Review series, marking the 25th anniversary of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl championship season.

If you wanted an America’s Team t-shirt in 1992, it might look like this one.

The Dallas Cowboys of the 1970s was so popular that sales of Cowboys merchandise represented 25% of all NFL merchandise. The team’s weekly magazine, Dallas Cowboys Weekly, once had more than 100,000 subscribers.

Then the 1980s happened. Between the 1982 playoffs and the 1991 playoffs, Dallas had not won a single playoff game. Everyone one was well aware of the 1-15 season in 1989 and the rows of empty seats at Texas Stadium. Subscriptions to Dallas Cowboys Weekly fell below 30,000.

Even the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders suffered. In the early 1980s, nearly 1,000 women would try out for the squad. By the end of the decade, the team had only about 250 auditioning.

The 1992 Cowboys were, according to some sports books, 4-to-1 favorites to win Super Bowl XXVII. The only team with better odds were the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, and Washington Redskins.

So the promise of the return to the good-old-days led Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw on July 5, 1992 to write a column entitled American’s Team II: Cowboys on Track to Regain Popularity of Super Bowl Era. Excerpts are below:

You can see it from the mailboxes in foreign countries to the sports books in Las Vegas to the cheerleader tryouts in Dallas. And you can hear it in NFL offices around the league.

“America’s Team’ is coming back.

To be sure, the Cowboys have not made it all the way back. One playoff victory, even if it was the franchise’s first since the 1982 season, does not equal the five Super Bowl trips the Cowboys made during the 1970s. And off the field, the club is not yet approaching the levels of devotion it attained in its prime.

But there are signs it’s moving back in that direction.

The team has regained its esteem with the television networks, as evidenced by the Monday night opener with Washington and the maximum three Monday Night Football appearances the club will make next season. The pre-season will include a trip to Tokyo to play the Oilers as the league hopes to cash in on the Cowboys’ international appeal.

“When we were down, there weren’t a lot of expectations or commitments,’ said coach Jimmy Johnson. “Without question, everybody’s attitude has made a 180-degree turn. Whereas the first year here (1989), it was almost a feeling of sympathy and the second year it was one of being somewhat skeptical, just hoping for a few wins, now the feeling is one of high expectations. The fans expect us not just to win but win big.’

That fan enthusiasm has translated into attendance records at Texas Stadium. The Cowboys’ average home crowd of 62,738 in 1991 was their largest since 1983. And they enter the 1992 season with a team-record 15-game streak of home crowds in excess of 60,000. During their Super Bowl era, Dallas’ longest streak of 60,000-plus was 11 games.

“That’s made possible by the great fan base we’ve had in the past,’ said owner Jerry Jones. “I think that, combined with the excitement of watching this team being rebuilt, has driven up the attendance. Even our first year, one of the promising things was there was no apathy from the fans. There was criticism, but it was done with interest in the team. And that’s a lot better than apathy.”

“With success in 1992, we can create more interest in our team than we could if it had not had success. The past success of the Dallas Cowboys is going to help us on the field,’ Jones said. “When a player puts on the Cowboys uniform or when you go to work for the organization, you’ve challenged yourself. The expectations automatically are high, and I really think that’s a plus.

“I would rather have people taking shots at me. I’d rather be trying to survive that kind of challenge than trying to prove you’re worthy.”

KYDC ’92: Perfect Attendance at Quarterback School

This post is part of the 1992 Season in Review series, marking the 25th anniversary of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl championship season.

The Dallas Cowboys held quarterback school starting on June 15, 1992. The camp had perfect attendance.

Dallas Cowboys news was difficult to find in 1992. I’ve noted that before.

The news on June 16, 1992? The Cowboys had perfect attendance at quarterback school, thanks largely to high expectations for the team.

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson said his players’ 100-percent participation in yesterday’s start of a voluntary quarterback school at Valley Ranch is a first.

Johnson and others, including quarterback Troy Aikman, said the reason for the enthusiasm is the promise of where they believe the 1992 Cowboys could finish: first.

“I don’t know that we’ve ever had 100-percent participation in a voluntary camp,” said Johnson after supervising the opening of the five-day session. “The weight room is as full as it’s ever been. Everyone is involved, including some of the unsigned veterans who are not on the field but are attending meetings.”

Why the perfect attendance?

“They all know we’ll have an outstanding team,” Johnson said.

Johnson has rarely been hesitant about issuing such confident statements. Shortly after the 11-5 Cowboys lost in the second round of the National Football League playoffs last year, Johnson made noise about reaching the National Football Conference championship game this year.

Usually less vocal is Aikman, who this year sees the Cowboys as being Super Bowl-caliber.

“I’m not predicting it,” the fourth-year quarterback said. “What I do believe is that this team now has the talent and the confidence to play with any team in the league. And that means we have as good a chance as anybody to make it to the Super Bowl.”

In other news…

  • Backup QB Steve Beuerlein was fine after he checked himself into a hospital, complaining of nausea and dizziness.
  • Nate Newton had weighed as much as 400 pounds during the offseason but was down to 329 at the start of quarterback school.
  • Jimmy Johnson called rookie receiver Jimmy Smith an “excellent receiver,” while Alvin Harper had been the best off-season performer.