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New York 33, Dallas 31: The Ball Doesn't Bounce in Cowboys' Favor


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The Cowboys gave up a 56-yard drive during the final 3:40, leading to a 37-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal as time expired. The kick gave the Giants a 33-31 win, ruining the opening game at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday night.

Tony Romo went from a hero in week 1 to a liability in week 2. The low point: in the third quarter, with the Cowboys leading 24-20, Dallas got the ball at its own 44. The Cowboys moved the ball into Giant territory on a short run by Marion Barber and a short pass to Sam Hurd. At that point, Romo had only managed two completions during the second half, and his throws were generally off. Moreover, he had thrown two interceptions in the first half, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Nevertheless, he decided to force a deep pass to Hurd, who was running a post. Safety Kenny Phillips stood under the ball and picked off the pass inside the 10. The Giants immediately went to work, driving 73 yards in four plays to give New York a 27-24 lead.

Apparently, Romo did not see Phillips standing back there, but the replays showed clearly that Hurd was not open. It was those types of throws that hurt Romo and the Cowboys last year, and Romo’s inability to protect the ball hurt the team against the Giants.

Dallas came back, of course. After the Giants extended the lead to 30-24, Dallas started a drive on its own 19 with 7:30 left. Of seven plays, the Cowboys ran the ball six times, including a huge 35-yard run by Marion Barber, who injured his quad at the end of the play. Dallas scored on the next play when Felix Jones ran it in from seven yards out with 3:40 left.

The Giants started their final drive with a holding penalty and faced a key third down at the two-minute warning. From that point, the Cowboys had few answers for Eli Manning, Steve Smith, or Mario Manningham. The Cowboys went without a sack for the second consecutive week, and they could barely manage a pass rush when it mattered most. On a 3rd-and-4 play from the Dallas 41, Manning threw a slant towards Manningham. Jay Ratliff tipped the ball, but Manningham still managed to grab it. The Giants picked up a few more years, leading to Tynes’ field goal.

The Cowboys did not struggle against run like they did last week. Dallas gave up only 12 yards rushing during the first half and 97 rushing yards overall. The Giant receivers, though, looked all-world. Smith and Manningham had 10 receptions each, and both went over 100 yards receiving (150 for Manningham, 134 for Smith). Manning finished with 330 passing yards, and the Giants did not turn the ball over.

The Cowboys had 251 rushing yards, and the rushing attack helped to keep the Cowboys in the game. Romo’s numbers: 13 of 29, 127 yards, 1 TD, 3 Ints.

Romos’s first interception was all on Romo, as he either overthrew Roy Williams or underthrew Patrick Crayton on a third-down play. Rookie Bruce Johnson reached up to grab the pick, then raced 34 yards for a score that gave the Giants a 10-7 lead. Felix Jones followed up with a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, leading to a New York field goal.

The Cowboys scored later in the second quarter to take a 14-13 lead, and it looked as if the team might have a chance to extend the lead late in the half. However, Flozell Adams nullifed a 36-yard reception by Patrick Crayton by tripping Justin Tuck. Three plays later, Romo threw behind Jason Witten, and the ball deflected off his hands. The ball first appeared to hit the ground, but replays showed that it hit Witten’s foot and bounced into Phillips’ arm for an interception. Manning hit Manningham on a 22-yard touchdown to give the Giants the lead.

Dallas closed the gap to 20-17 just before the half when Nick Folk hit a 47-yard field goal.

The Giants had more success on the ground in the third quarter but could not increase their lead. The Cowboys took the ball at their own 19 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter. Felix Jones broke open a 56-yard run to give Dallas the ball in Giant territory. Three Marion Barber runs set up a three-yard touchdown run by Romo, giving Dallas a 24-20 lead.

It looked like the Cowboys could start to take the game over, but Romo’s interception late in the third quarter killed any momentum.

This marks the first time that Dallas has started 1-1 since 2006. Dallas began the season at 1-1 each season between 2002 and 2006.

Predictions Favor Giants, but Not Unanimously

The Cowboys officially open Cowboys Stadium on Sunday night with a huge game against the New York Giants. Last November, the Giants took advantage of the Cowboys’ injuries at quarterback and other positions to rout Dallas, 35-14. The Cowboys responded on December 14, beating the Giants 20-8 thanks to strong performances by Tashard Choice and the Dallas defense. The win over New York in December marked the Cowboys’ last win ever at Texas Stadium.

Given how well the Giants looked against the Redskins in week 1, it makes sense that the majority of commentators have picked the Giants to win. But the predictions are not unanimous, as several were impressed enough with Dallas to predict that the Cowboys will improve to 2-0.

NFL.com

On NFL Playbook, Sterling Sharpe, Joe Theismann, and Brian Baldinger spent most of their time talking about the Giant offensive line vs. the Dallas defensive line. In a bit of a surprise, two of the three picked Dallas to win.

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Dallas Morning News

Of five voters on the Dallas Morning News site, three took the Cowboys. However, one of those three was Rick Gosselin, who picked Tampa Bay next week.

Rick Gosselin: Dallas
Tim Cowlishaw: N.Y. Giants
Kevin Sherrington: N.Y. Giants
Todd Archer: Dallas
David Moore: Dallas

ESPN Experts

Of the eight ESPN experts, five took the Giants. Of these experts, Chris Mortensen had a 14-2 record last week. He picked the Giants.

Will Allen: N.Y. Giants
Mike Golic: N.Y. Giants
Merrill Hoge: N.Y. Giants
Ron Jaworski: N.Y. Giants
Chris Mortensen: N.Y. Giants
Adam Schefter: Dallas
Mark Schlereth: Dallas
Seth Wickersham: Dallas

Accuscore: Dallas 24.6, N.Y. Giants 23.9

According to Accuscore’s simulations, the Giants will have some success on the ground, while Tony Romo will be able to use Jason Witten and Roy Williams in the passing game. Dallas won 52.2% of the simulations, with the average score favoring Dallas by less than a point.

Here is more:

For the Giants to win they need to run the ball well. When Brandon
Jacobs has at least 50 rushing yards the Giants go from winning 47 to
56 percent. When Jacobs is held under 75 the Giants win jus 35 percent.
The Cowboys need a solid running game, but more importantly they need
to protect Tony Romo. When Romo is sacked 4 or more times the Cowboys
have just a 34 percent chance. When Romo is sacked no more than 2 times
the Cowboys have a 60 percent chance and Tony Romo goes off for 2 TDs
and completes over 60 percent of his passes.

WhatIfSports: Dallas 24, N.Y. Giants 17

The Cowboys won even more simulations at WhatIfSports, taking 65.9 of the games from the Giants. According to the simulations, nobody has a huge game, though Felix Jones outperforms Marion Barber.

Madden Forecast: Dallas 24, Giants 21

ESPN runs a simulation of each game on Madden 2010. In this week’s simulation, the Cowboys avoided turnovers in a 24-21 win.

This was an NFC East slobberknocker, with both teams slugging it out
until the final quarter, where the Cowboys pulled out the last-minute
24-21 win thanks to a 37-yard field goal.

Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes in the loss, but his day
was overshadowed by the tough inside running of Marion Barber. Barber
rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown, controlling the clock and the game
in the final quarter as Dallas set up its game-winning kick.

Tony Romo also continued to look strong for the Cowboys, completing
23 of 38 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown. More importantly, Romo
never turned the ball over to help Dallas start the season 2-0.

Tecmo Super Bowl Forecast: N.Y. Giants 17, Dallas 16

If we’re going to trust a simulation using Madden, we might as well use a simulation featuring a 2009 mod of Tecmo Super Bowl. In a very disappointing loss, the Cowboys gave up a last-minute drive to the Giants. Trailing 16-14 and facing a third-and-10 from his own 30 with less than two minutes to go in the game, Giant quarterback Eli Manning hit Brandon Jacobs, who had slipped out of the backfield. Jacobs took the ball all the way to the Dallas 35. Three plays later, Lawrence Tynes hit a 49-yard field goal to give the Giants a 17-16 win. The loss ruined a fine effort by Felix Jones, who rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown.

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My Guess

Last week, I predicted a 34-24 Dallas win. Pure luck, of course, but I was pretty close.

Although the Buccaneers might be able to keep the ball out of the
Cowboys’ hands thanks to a good running game, Tampa Bay does not have
the firepower that Dallas has. Nevertheless, I think that game will
feature more scoring than some expect. Dallas will pull ahead early and
hold off a late Tampa rally.

I think that the Giants game will be fairly low scoring. The Giants have tended to start better than the Cowboys, and given how slow the Cowboys were during the first half against Tampa Bay, I suspect that the Giants will take an early lead. Dallas will stay in the game but will struggle keeping the New York offense off the field. The Cowboys will come back, but this comeback will end up just short.

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Week 2: Cowboys Rank 13th in Composite Power Rankings

Here is another weekly feature– we will review 10 power rankings polls from a variety of different media sources to see where the Cowboys fall. Below is a summary of where the Cowboys rank on these lists, followed by a list based on a composite of these ten lists.

Sports Illustrated (Don Banks): 15th

The Cowboys moved up from 17th to 15th according to SI’s Don Banks.

OK, Cowboys fans. I can hear you hollering already about a
middle-of-the-pack ranking after such an impressive offensive display
in the opener at Tampa Bay. Patience, patience. I’m headed to Dallas
this week for the grudge match against the Giants on Sunday night, and
let’s see how Tony Romo and the passing game fares against a
defense that doesn’t have safeties running in molasses like the Bucs.
Win this one and you’ll make a big move. Promise.

(I should have said something similar about my relative value ranking of Martellus Bennett, but I don’t think anyone would buy it)

ESPN: 13th

The Cowboys moved up further on the ESPN list, moving from 17th to 13th.

Roy Williams seems fine as the team’s No. 1 receiver, and he doesn’t
cause the internal problems Terrell Owens created. (Clayton)

Fox Sports: 13th

GLASS HALF FULL: Feel better now? Tony Romo silenced
doubters who wondered if the Cowboys could handle the term “offense”
without Terrell Owens with three big-play home runs at Tampa. Without
the weekly T.O. distraction, Dallas could be back in the division race.

GLASS HALF EMPTY: That sure was a slow-starting
first half, and until the lowly Bucs took a late second-quarter lead
Dallas played like little ‘Boys in getting pushed around down low.

CBS (Pete Prisco): 12th

According to Prisco:

The passing game was potent against the Bucs, but now will get a stiff
test against a good Giants defense. The receivers have to continue to
play big.

NFL.com (expert picks): 13th

The Cowboys come in right behind the Titans, Falcons, and Saints.

FanHouse: 10th

Impressive season-opening air show against the Bucs, but it’s
dangerous. Boys will still be at their best if they lean toward the
run.

Cold, Hard Football Facts: 9th

This is more like it:

Tony Romo (16 of 27, 353 yards) averaged a
Lamonica-esque 22.1 yards per completion and a spectacular 13.1 yards
per attempt against the woeful Bucs so-called “defense.” Romo surpassed Peyton Manning in the process for the second-best career passer rating in NFL history (95.7).

USA Today: 13th

Similar to other polls, USA Today has Dallas just behind the Falcons, Saints, and Titans.

BetUS: 11th

At least we now know that Terrell Owens will not be missed.

WhatIfSports: 4th

Wow! Here is a description of how WhatIfSports ranks its teams:

WhatIfSports.com utilizes its NFL football simulation engine to present
the most comprehensive, deterministic and unbiased ranking of all 32
teams. We simulated every possible match-up in the NFL 100 times, and
used the winning percentages from those nearly 50,000 games to evaluate
every team. All 32 teams are ranked below with their average points for
and against from the simulated games. All rosters and depth charts are
up-to-date as of Monday night of each week.

Composite Power Rankings

Below are the rankings based on the averages from these polls. The Cowboys are just behind the New Orleans Saints, who rank as high as 5th on the SI poll.

1. Pittsburgh (1-0)
2. New England (1-0)
3. N.Y. Giants (1-0)
4. Philadelphia (1-0)
5. San Diego (1-0)
6. Minnesota (1-0)
7. Baltimore (1-0)
8. Indianapolis (1-0)
9. Atlanta (1-0)
10. Tenneseee (0-1)
11. Green Bay (1-0)
12. New Orleans (1-0)
13. Dallas (1-0)
14. N.Y. Jets (1-0)
15. San Francisco (1-0)
16. Seattle (1-0)
17. Arizona (0-1)
18. Chicago (0-1)
19. Miami (0-1)
20. Washington (0-1)
21. Buffalo (0-1)
22. Denver (1-0)
23. Houston (0-1)
24. Carolina (0-1)
25. Jacksonville (0-1)
26. Cincinnati (0-1)
27. Oakland (0-1)
28. Tampa Bay (0-1)
29. Kansas City (0-1)
30. Cleveland (0-1)
31. Detroit (0-1)
32. St. Louis (0-1)

Relative Value Rankings After Week 1

Each week, we will take a look at every active player on the Dallas Cowboys. I have ranked them in terms of relative importance based on three principal criteria: (1) actual performance; (2) talent and potential; and (3) how badly the team would suffer. This list only represents my opinion, of course, and it is subject to debate.

Last week, we had only 52 players to rank. This week’s list features the entire roster of 53.

53. Curtis Johnson, LB

Last week: 49

vs. Tampa Bay: Inactive

Notes: Dallas is trying to convert Johnson from defensive end to linebacker. It may take some time.

52. Jason Williams, LB

Last week: 51.

vs. Tampa Bay: Injured/Inactive

Notes: Williams is going to be a solid player for the Cowboys, but we almost have to put injured rookies near the bottom of the list.

51. Stephen McGee, QB

Last week: 50

vs. Tampa Bay: Inactive as third-string quarterback.

Notes: McGee is not likely to contribute this year barring injuries.

50. Duke Preston, C

Last week: 36

vs. Tampa Bay: Inactive

Notes: It looked like Preston might beat out Cory Proctor for the backup center job, but Preston wasn’t even active against Tampa Bay. Given that I ranked Proctor #48 last week, I’d say this pushes Preston down pretty far.

49. Pat McQuistan, T

Last week: 34

vs. Tampa Bay: Inactive

Notes: McQuistan looked poor during the preseason and did not even make the active roster against the Buccaneers.

48. Michael Hamlin, S

Last week: 52

vs. Tampa Bay: Injured/Inactive

Notes: Hamlin’s value rose a bit thanks to the rib injury suffered by Gerald Sensabaugh. Hamlin will likely see action on both special teams and in nickel and dime packages when he returns.

47. Kevin Ogletree, WR

Last week: 41

vs. Tampa Bay: Inactive

Notes: Although I liked how Ogletree looked during the preseason, he did not make the active roster for the Tampa Bay game.

46. Montrae Holland, G

Last week: 38

vs. Tampa Bay: Inactive

Notes: Similar to Preston, Holland seemed to outplay Cory Proctor during the preseason, but it was Proctor on the active roster in week 1 rather than Holland.

45. Junior Siavii, DT

Last week: 45

vs. Tampa Bay: Backup; saw action on defensive line rotation.

Notes: Siavii saw action, but he did not seem to provide much of a push up the middle. Hard to judge linemen in this rotation.

44. Cory Procter, C/G

Last week: 48

vs. Tampa Bay: Backup; saw action on special teams.

Notes: Proctor is backup to both Andre Gurode and both guards, which should mean that he has pretty good value. However, nobody wants to see him play extensively due to injuries to any of the starters.

43. Victor Butler, LB

Last week: 46

vs. Tampa Bay: 1 assist

Notes: Butler saw a little bit of action on defense.

42. Doug Free, T

Last week: 44

vs. Tampa Bay: Backup; played on special teams

Notes: Large body. At least he made the active roster.

41. Stephen Bowen, DE

Last week: 43

vs. Tampa Bay: Backup; saw action on defensive line rotation. 1 tackle.

Notes: Another large body, but this one is on defense. Bowen’s tackle came on a play when Byron Leftwich fumbled and had to improvise.

40. John Phillips, TE

Last week: 40

vs. Tampa Bay: 3rd tight end.

Notes: Phillips saw action when Dallas went to a single-back, 3 TE set. He isn’t likely to make much news.

39. Marvin White, S

Last week: n/a

vs. Tampa Bay: 1 special teams tackle

Notes: White just joined the Cowboys, and he recorded a tackle on a punt return in the third quarter.

38. Alan Ball, CB

Last week: 37

vs. Tampa Bay: 1 tackle.

Notes: Ball saw action in the second half. On a 3rd-and-6 play from the Dallas 14 in the fourth quarter, Sammie Stroughter ran right in front of ball to make a catch and nearly score.

37. L.P. Ladouceur, LS

Last week: 32

vs. Tampa Bay: Long-snapper

Notes: Ladouceur is not likely to make news unless he screws up. Against Tampa Bay, he didn’t screw up.

36. Jon Kitna, QB

Last week: 28

vs. Tampa Bay: Backup quarterback

Notes: Kitna is a good insurance policy, but hopefully he won’t play much. Unlike Brad Johnson, Kitna is not holding field goals and extra points.

35. David Buehler, K

Last week: 42

vs. Tampa Bay: Kickoff specialist

Notes: His job: kick the ball through the back of the end zone. His performance: three touchbacks, which were three more than Dallas had last season.

34. Pat Watkins, S

Last week: 35

vs. Tampa Bay: 4 tackles, 1 special teams tackle.

Notes: Watkins replaced Gerald Sensabaugh in the second half and made several tackles. Many of his plays came during clean-up time, but he looked pretty good after finishing strong in the preseason.

33. Steve Octavien, LB

Last week: 47

vs. Tampa Bay: Backup linebacker.

Notes: Octavien replaced DeMarcus Ware in the first quarter when Ware was shaken up trying to tackle Kellen Winslow. Octavien did not record a tackle nor did he generate much of a pass rush.

32. Jason Hatcher, DE

Last week: 39

vs. Tampa Bay: Backup; saw action in defensive rotation.

Notes: Hatcher did not record a sack, but we heard his name several times when he pressured Byron Leftwich.

31. Bobby Carpenter, LB

Last week: 33

vs. Tampa Bay: Carpenter saw action in the nickel formations.  

Notes: Although Carpenter only recorded two tackles, he made a nice play on fourth down reception by Kellen Winslow on a fourth-and-7 play late in the game.

30. Deon Anderson, FB

Last week: 31

vs. Tampa Bay: Starting fullback.

Notes: Dallas does not use its fullbacks very often, so Anderson is not likely to have many touches. He’s not a bad receiver out of the backfield, but more of those passes are likely to go to Martellus Bennett this year.

29. Tashard Choice

Last week: 27

vs. Tampa Bay: Backup running back. 2 att., 10 yards.

Notes: Choice will play a bigger role in some games, but he only touched the ball twice against Tampa Bay. His first run on the opening drive of the game gave Dallas a first down.

28. Igor Olshansky, DE

Last week: 19

vs. Tampa Bay: Starting defensive end. Recorded one tackle.

Notes: Hard not to notice that the Tampa Bay line pushed the Dallas defensive line off the ball. It is also hard not to notice Chris Canty making plays for the Giants on Sunday.

27. Martellus Bennett, TE

Last week: 23

vs. Tampa Bay: Second tight end. 1 rec., 13 yards.

Notes: Bennett will become more involved with the offense, but like Choice, he had few opportunities against Tampa Bay. Tony Romo missed a chance to throw a jump-ball to Bennett in the red zone during the first quarter.

Update (9/17): Having read other write-ups about the matchup problems that Bennett caused,  I acknowledge he should be higher on this list.

26. Sam Hurd, WR

Last week: 29

vs. Tampa Bay: Backup receiver; led team in special teams tackles with 3.

Notes: Hurd saw action at receiver but was never
a target. His value was pr
imarily on special teams.

25. Orlando Scandrick, CB

Last week: 24 (tie)

vs. Tampa Bay: Rotated at corner with Mike Jenkins. Recorded two tackles.

Notes: Jenkins seemed to outplay Scandrick, but neither was tested very much. Scandrick served more of a nickel corner role against the Buccaneers.

24. Miles Austin, WR

Last week: 30

vs. Tampa Bay: 1 rec., 42 yards, 1 TD

Notes: Austin did the most with one opportunity, catching a ball over his back shoulder and racing the rest of the way to score with just under a minute left in the first half. He should get more opportunities.

23. Mike Jenkins, CB

Last week: 24(tie)

vs. Tampa Bay: 2 tackles, 1 pass defended

Notes: Jenkins had an interception called back when Gerald Sensabaugh was called for illegal contact. Jenkins also picked up and returned a blocked field goal in the first quarter. However, Jenkins was nearly burned badly by Antonio Bryant late in the first half.

22. Ken Hamlin, S

Last week: 13

vs. Tampa Bay: 5 tackles, 2 assists

Notes: From what I could judge, Hamlin appeared to miss at least two tackles on Cadillac Williams. His tackling was a problem late last season, and he fell on this list thanks to similar problems on Sunday.

21. Gerald Sensabaugh, S

Last week: 26

vs. Tampa Bay: 4 tackles, 3 assists, blocked field goal

Notes: Sensabaugh had a very good debut for Dallas. He blocked a field goal in the first quarter, leading to a Dallas field goal. He put a big hit on Michael Clayton in the second half, but Clayton got the better of it. Sensabaugh was called for an illegal conduct penalty, erasing Jenkins’ interception, but the call was pretty touchy.

20. Anthony Spencer, LB

Last week: 16

vs. Tampa Bay: 2 tackles, 2 assists

Notes: Daryl Johnston noted that Spencer was just a little bit slow getting to the quarterback. He should have had a sack or two. (Hard not to notice on Monday that Greg Ellis recorded a sack, pushing his way past San Diego’s right tackle on the play)

19. Nick Folk, K

Last week: 22

vs. Tampa Bay: 2 field goals (51, 22).

Notes: His 51-yarder after the opening drive erased preseason concerns. His two field goals raised his career field goal average to 87.3%, which at the moment is the highest in team history.

18. Mat McBriar, P

Last week: 20

vs. Tampa Bay: 4 punts, 43.0 average.

Notes: McBriar is better at his position than all but a few other Cowboys, meaning he should be higher on this list. It’s just too hard to put a punter above the players below.

17. Kyle Kosier, G

Last week: 15

vs. Tampa Bay: Starting left guard.

Notes: Solid performance. Romo wasn’t pressured up the middle, but the Cowboys had a little bit of trouble running up the middle on the left side.

16. Marc Columbo, T

Last week: 14

vs. Tampa Bay: Starting right guard.

Notes: Nothing bad to note regarding Columbo. The Buccaneers’ sole sack came from the right side of the Dallas line, but that was on a corner blitz.

15. Marcus Spears, DE

Last week: 17

vs. Tampa Bay: 2 tackles

Notes: Spears isn’t going to make too many headlines, but he disrupted a couple of plays and was around the ball. I thought he looked better than Olshansky.

14. Flozell Adams, T

Last week: 9

vs. Tampa Bay: Starting left tackle

Notes: Adams seemed to handle the right side of the Tampa Bay line pretty well, but his penalties are beyond maddening. His unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the second quarter wiped out a 16-yard run by Patrick Crayton (below). That is therefore a 31-yard penalty on Adams.

13. Patrick Crayton, WR

Last week:

vs. Tampa Bay: 4 rec., 135 yards, 1 TD.

Notes: It’s tempting to put Crayton up higher thanks to his huge game. If not for Flozell Adams, Crayton would have had a 16-yard run as well.

12. Keith Brooking, LB

Last week: 18

vs. Tampa Bay: 7 tackles, 2 assists

Notes: Brooking tied for the team lead in overall tackles, and he seemed to swarm around the ball. He is a noticeable upgrade from Zach Thomas.

11. Jay Ratliff, NT

Last week: 12

vs. Tampa Bay: 2 tackles

Notes: There have been plenty of calls for the Cowboys to pick up a bigger nose tackle and move Ratliff to defensive end. The Cowboys did not get much of a push up the middle against Tampa Bay, and the Buccaneers had success in the inside run game.

10. Bradie James, LB

Last week: 11

vs. Tampa Bay: 5 tackles, 2 assists

Notes: I wouldn’t blame James for the team’s tackling problems, but many of the Buccaneers’ longer runs went right up the middle thanks to poor tackling. James had a chance to make a couple of those tackles but missed. Then again, James made a nice play tackling Sammie Stroughter on a 3rd-and-4 play in the third quarter (along with Scandrick).

9. Felix Jones, RB

Last week: 5

vs. Tampa Bay: 6 att., 22 yards

Notes: Jones will move back up this list, but his role was limited against Tampa Bay. His 36-yard kickoff return to open the game was a good start, and his 19-yard run on the Cowboys’ second possession helped set up a second field goal.

Update (9/16): Jones suffered a thigh bruise against Tampa Bay, which explains why he played so little during the season half. The fact that he was injured does not help his value ranking, though, given how many games he missed in 2008 due to injury.

8. Terence Newman, CB

Last week: 10

vs. Tampa Bay: 8 tackles (1 for loss), 1 assist.

Notes: Newman struggled a bit against Michael Clayton. At the end of the first half, Tampa Bay moved into field goal range when Clayton took a half-step past Newman and caught a long pass just before time expired. That said, Newman did not do anything that should reduce his value on this list.

7. Leonard Davis, G

Last week: 8

vs. Tampa Bay: Starting right guard

Notes: Nothing spectacular, but the Buccaneers did not get a push up the middle all game.

6. Roy Williams, WR

Last week: 7

vs. Tampa Bay: 3 rec., 86 yards, 1 TD

Notes: Williams’ 66-yard touchdown reception was huge, proving several of us wrong about his big-play ability.

5. Andre Gurode, C

Last week: 6

vs. Tampa Bay: Starting center.

Notes: The Buccaneers didn’t get much pressure up the middle, which reflects well on Gurode. Late in the first half, Gurode quickly snapped the ball when a Tampa Bay defender jumped offsides, resulting in a penalty on Tampa Bay. One play later, Romo hit Miles Austin on a 42-yard touchdown pass.

4. Marion Barber, RB

Last week: 4

vs. Tampa Bay: 14 att., 71 yards, 1 TD

Notes: There was talk last week that perhaps Felix Jones is more valuable to the Cowboys than Barber, but against the Buccaneers, Barber showed why he is the starter.

3. Jason Witten, TE

Last week: 3

vs. Tampa Bay: 5 rec., 71 yards.

Notes: Witten wasn’t spectacular, but he continues to be most reliable. His biggest receptions came in the first half, including an 18-yarder that pushed the Cowboys inside the Tampa Bay 10.

2. Tony Romo, QB

Last week: 2

vs. Tampa Bay: 16/27, 353 yards, 3 TD, 0 Int.

Notes: It was a tale of two halves for Romo. In the first half, he threw behind receivers a couple of times, and the

offense looked a little bit off. In the second half, Romo was great, holding on to the ball just long enough to make some huge plays.

1. DeMarcus Ware, LB

Last week: 1

vs. Tampa Bay: 4 tackles, 2 passes defended

Notes: Ware was used as much in coverage as he was in the pass rush. Though he didn’t have a sack, Tampa Bay had to account for him.

Cowboys vs. Buccaneers: New History and Instant Trivia

week1.jpgMany of the headlines yesterday and today inserted the phrase “without T.O.” in one way or another to describe yesterday’s game, and hopefully that will end now that Owens has played a real game with Buffalo.

Here is look at a few items of interest now that yesterday’s game is history:

Wade’s Defense Held Sack-less

For the first time since Wade Phillips took over as head coach of the Cowboys in 2007, the Cowboys were held without a sack. The last time that Dallas went without a sack was on December 3, 2006 against the Giants. Dallas nearly failed to record a sack in the season opener against the Browns in 2008, but the Cowboys managed one sack for zero yards lost in that game.

Romo’s 300-Yard Game

Against Tampa Bay, Tony Romo extended his team record for 300-yard
games to 17. His 353 yards were the most in a single game during his
career. His performance marked the 18th time that a Dallas quarterback
has thrown for 350 or more yards in a game.

460 – Don Meredith (vs. San Franciso, 1963)
455 – Troy Aikman (vs. Minnesota, 1998)
406 – Meredith (vs. Washington, 1966)
394 – Meredith (vs. Philadephia, 1966)
389 – Gary Hogeboom (vs. San Francisco, 1985)
379 – Aikman (vs. Phoenix, 1989)
377 – Danny White (vs. Tampa Bay, 1983)
363 – Aikman (vs. Miami, 1996)
363 – Drew Bledsoe (vs. San Francisco, 2005)
362 – White (vs. Atlanta, 1985)
362 – Aikman (vs. Washington, 1999)
359 – White (vs. Washington, 1987)
358 – Meredith (vs. N.Y. Giants, 1966)
356 – Aikman (vs. Tennesee, 1997)
355 – Vinny Testaverde (vs. Minnesota, 2004)
354 – White (vs. Miami, 1981)
353 – Tony Romo (vs. Tampa Bay, 2009)
350 – Aikman (vs. Arizona, 1995)

Patrick Crayton’s Big Plays

Patrick Crayton is known as a possession receiver. He has, however, had quite a few big plays during his six-year career. Consider this: he has caught at least one touchdown pass of more than 30 yards in each of his six seasons, including 2009.

Including his 80-yard TD reception against Tampa Bay, more than one-fifth (544 out of 2,401) of total receiving yards have come on touchdown plays. Prior to Sunday, his longest TD reception was 63 yards (2005 vs. Oakland). His 19 touchdown receptions is now tied for 13th with Butch Johnson on the franchise’s all-time list.

Crayton has three career 100-yard games, including:

2007 vs. St. Louis: 7 rec., 184 yards, 2 TD
2009 vs. Tampa Bay: 4 rec., 135 yards, 1 TD
2006 vs. Arizona: 5 rec., 104 yards, 1 TD

Long TD Passes

The Cowboys scored on touchdown passes of 66 yards (to Roy Williams) and 80 yards (to Crayton) against Tampa Bay. This marked the first time since 1962 that the Cowboys have had two TD receptions of longer than 60 yards in the same game. The last time this happened was when the Cowboys visited Los Angeles on September 30, 1962. Eddie LeBaron hit Amos Marsh for 85 yards and Frank Clarke for 66 yards in a 27-17 Dallas win.

Barber’s TD Total Grows

Marion Barber’s career touchdown total increased to 37 after he scored on a 6-yard run in the fourth quarter against the Buccaneers. Barber has not had a rushing TD of longer than 10 yards since he scored on a 20-yard TD run against Detroit in 2007. His longest TD run of 2008 was 2 yards, though he had TD receptions of 70 yards (vs. Arizona) and 17 yards (vs. Philadelphia).

Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21: Big Plays Allow Cowboys to Pull Away


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The Cowboys relied on three huge touchdown passes to Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and Patrick Crayton to pull away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 34-21 Dallas win on Sunday. The most obvious reaction of several Cowboys fans: so much for missing T.O.

Tony Romo finished the game with 353 passing yards, marking the 17th time that he has thrown for more than 300 yards in a game. The Cowboys are 14-3 in games where Romo has passed the 300-yard mark. The 353 yards were the most in his career, surpassing his 345-yard game against the Giants in the opening week of the 2007 season.

Crayton had a huge game as well, catching four passes for 135 yards. It was Crayton’s third career 100-yard game and his first since 2007. His 80-yard score in the fourth quarter was huge, coming right after Tampa Bay had closed the gap to 20-14. Crayton later caught a 44-yard pass to set up Marion Barber’s fourth-quarter touchdown, which put the game away for good.

The Cowboys took the opening drive from their own 36 and moved to the Tampa Bay 26. However, Ronde Barber sacked Romo for a nine-yard loss, and the Cowboys had to settle for a 51-yard field goal.

Following a blocked field goal by Gerald Sensabaugh later in the first quarter, Dallas moved the ball inside the Tampa Bay 4. But on a third-down play, Romo tried to throw to behind Martellus Bennett’s shoulder and missed. A second Folk field goal made the score 6-0.

Dallas struggled to slow down the Tampa Bay running game all day. Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward combined for 159 rushing yards in the game, and early in the second quarter, the two combined for 63 of 65 yards on a Tampa Bay touchdown drive. Williams’ one-yard score gave the Buccaneers a 7-6 lead.

Two Dallas drives stalled. On the second drive, the Cowboys appeared to move the ball into Tampa Bay territory on a reverse, but Flozell Adams was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. The drive stalled. The Dallas defense stepped up and held Tampa to a three-and-out, and the Cowboys got the ball back with just over a minute to go in the half. After a pass play to Jason Witten and an offsides penalty on Tampa Bay, Romo found Austin on a streak pattern. Romo slightly underthrew the ball, and Austin turned around to grab it. Austin dodged two Tampa Bay defenders on his way to the end zone.

The Cowboys held Tampa Bay on the opening possession of the third quarter, leading to a punt. Facing a second-and-10 from the Dallas 34, Romo found Williams on a seam pattern. Romo split three defenders and hit Williams in stride. Williams, in turn, broke an ankle tackle and ran the rest of the way in. The 66-yard touchdown was Williams’ longest since scoring on a 91-yard touchdown pass with the Lions in 2007.

Both teams struggled to move the ball for the rest of the third quarter, though Tampa Bay managed a drive towards the end of the third quarter. With 13:45 remaining in the game, Ward scored on a short touchdown, cutting the Dallas lead to 20-14. Romo went to work immediately, though, taking advantage of a mix up in coverage and finding Crayton all alone on the 80-yard score.

Dallas scored again with just under four minutes remaining, effectively putting the game away.

Some notes:

* Gerald Sensabaugh had a solid game, including a blocked field goal. However, he injured his ribs in the third quarter on a vicious collision with Tampa Bay’s Michael Clayton.

* Surprisingly, the Cowboys did not record a single sack.

* In losing to Dallas 13-9 in 2008, Tampa Bay only managed 49 rushing yards. In the loss today, Tampa Bay had 174.

Cowboys are Overwhelming Favorites at Tampa Bay

The Cowboys open their 50th season on Sunday at Tampa Bay. The overwhelming consensus is that the Cowboys will manage to win their third consecutive opener against a Buccaneer squad that is currently rebuilding.

Here is a run-down of the predictions.

NFL.com

On NFL Playbook, Sterling Sharpe, Joe Theismann, and Brian Baldinger each predicted a Dallas win. In fact, Sharpe thinks that the Cowboys have a chance to make it to Super Bowl XLIV.

2009-09-13_003836.gifDallas Morning News

Among the four columnists voting in the Dallas Morning News poll, only Rick Gosselin predicted a Tampa Bay win. That is disconcerting, given that he is the least likely among the four to criticize the Cowboys.

Rick Gosselin: Tampa Bay
Tim Cowlishaw: Dallas
Kevin Sherrington: Dallas
Jean-Jacques Taylor: Dallas

ESPN Experts

ESPN experts were unanimous in their picks for the Dallas game, with all taking the Cowboys to win. No surprise there.

Will Allen: Dallas
Mike Golic: Dallas
Merrill Hoge: Dallas
Ron Jaworski: Dallas
Chris Mortensen: Dallas
Adam Schefter: Dallas
Mark Schlereth: Dallas
Seth Wickersham: Dallas

Accuscore

Dallas won 65% of the Accuscore simulations, with an average score of 22.3 to 17.2. Here is a summary:

The Bucs defense fell apart the final month of 2008, but they still
should be a better than average defense in 09. They also have a
potentially great running game with Derrick Ward, Earnest Graham, and a
healthy Cadillac Williams. The Cowboys are winning 60 percent of
simulations, but if TB can intercept Tony Romo at least 1 time and the
team has at least 115 rushing yards TB improves its chances to 54
percent. Tony Romo is averaging 1.4 TDs per simulation. When he has at
least 2 TDs the Cowboys win over 70 percent of the time, but when he
has 1 or 0 the cowboys win just 53 percent of the time.

WhatIfSports

Dallas did better in the WhatIfSports simulations, winning 74.3% of the games.

My Guess

Although the Buccaneers might be able to keep the ball out of the Cowboys’ hands thanks to a good running game, Tampa Bay does not have the firepower that Dallas has. Nevertheless, I think that game will feature more scoring than some expect. Dallas will pull ahead early and hold off a late Tampa rally.

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Possible Career Stat Accomplishments in 2009

In 2009, a few of the Cowboys will have opportunities to move up in the career rankings in franchise history. Here is a look.

Tony Romo

Romo is currently fifth in most of the main career passing categories. In three years as a starter, he has completed 831 of 1307 passes for 10,562 yards with 81 TDs and 46 interceptions. His career passer rating of 94.7 is the best in team history as of right now.

Romo isn’t likely catch Aikman, Staubach, White, or Meredith in any category in 2009, except for the possibility of surpassing Meredith for career completions. Meredith completed 1170, which is 339 more than Romo. Romo completed 335 passes in 2007, so it is possible for him to reach this number. However, with the offensive changes in 2009, it is not likely.

Marion Barber

With 3,052 yards on 715 carries, Barber currently ranks ninth in team history in rushing yards and attempts. His 36 career TDs is fifth in team history. He will likely be higher on both lists during 2009. Barber is tied for tenth for career touchdowns with Billy Joe Dupree and Dan Reeves. With only four touchdowns in 2009, Barber will jump all the way to eighth.

Yards

Barber could be as high as sixth in rushing yards by the end of the season. Here is a look:

5. Robert Newhouse – 4,784
6. Walt Garrison – 3,886
7. Herschel Walker – 3,491
8. Julius Jones – 3,484
9. Marion Barber – 3,052

Atts.

Barber is a little bit further behind in terms of attempts.

5. Newhouse – 1,160
6. Garrison – 899
7. Jones – 885
8. Walker – 818
9. Barber – 715

Rushing TDs

Barber isn’t going to catch Emmitt Smith or Tony Dorsett, but he may very well be #3 on the list by the end of 2009.

1. Emmitt Smith – 153
2. Tony Dorsett – 72
3. Don Perkins – 42
4. Calvin Hill – 39
5. Marion Barber – 36

Total TDs

1. Emmitt Smith – 164
2. Tony Dorsett – 86
3. Bob Hayes – 76
4. Michael Irvin – 65
5(t). Tony Hill – 51
5(t). Frank Clarke – 51
7. Drew Pearson – 50
8(t). Calvin Hill – 45
8(t). Don Perkins – 45
10(t). Billy Joe Dupree – 42
10(t). Dan Reeves – 42
10(t). Marion Barber – 42

Jason Witten

Witten ranks fifth in career receptions (429) and sixth in receiving yards (4,935). His 25 career TDs only ranks tenth, however.  With 61 receptions in 2009, Witten will jump all the way up to second in team history, trailing only Michael Irvin. He will also likely surpass Frank Clarke in receiving yards. Willen currently trails Clarke by 279 yards.

Receptions

1. Michael Irvin – 750
2. Drew Pearson – 489
3. Emmitt Smith – 486
4. Tony Hill – 479
5. Jason Witten –  429

Receiving Yards

4. Bob Hayes – 7,295
5. Frank Clarke – 5,214
6. Witten – 4,935

DeMarcus Ware

Ware has already passed the likes of Randy White and Harvey Martin in official stats, though to be fair to those players, the league did not calculate sacks officially until 1982. Ware will likely pass Too Tall Jones and Tony Tolbert in official sacks in 2009.

Official Sacks

1. Jim Jeffcoat – 94.5
2. Greg Ellis – 77
3. Tony Tolbert – 59
4. Too Tall Jones – 57.5
5. DeMarcus Ware –  53.5

Nick Folk

Folk’s 86.8% field goal percentage is second in team history, trailing only Chris Boniol’s percentage of 87.1. Folk’s 46 field goals ranks seventh in team history, trailing Billy Cundiff by 14 field goals.

Terence Newman

Newman’s 20 interceptions ranks 13th in team history, just one behind Mike Gaetcher. Newman could rise as high as ninth on the list by picking off just five passes in 2009.

8. Cliff Harris – 29
9. Chuck Howley – 24
10. Darren Woodson – 23
11. Don Bishop – 22
12. Mike Gaetcher – 21
13. Terence Newman – 20

Cowboys Fill Out Roster by Signing S Marvin White

The Cowboys added some depth to their secondary by signing free safety Marvin White, who had been released by the Bengals. He started 13 games for the Bengals in two seasons, including 10 in 2008. However, he suffered a torn ACL late in the season. With the Bengals signing former Cowboy Roy Williams, White was expendable.

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Marvin White’s Career Stats
* * *
The Cowboys signed eight players to their practice squad, including:
G Travis Bright
QB Rudy Carpenter
TE Scott Chandler
FB Julius Crosslin
DE Marcus Dixon
WR Jesse Holley
WR Manuel Johnson
CB Mike Mickens
This means that of the Cowboys’ 12 draft picks, 11 are still with the team in some capacity. DeAngelo Smith was claimed by the Cleveland Browns. Three others are already out for the season with injuries, including T Robert Brewster, LB Brandon Williams, and S Stephen Hodge.

Relative Value Rankings: Final Roster Cuts Edition

The Cowboys on Saturday announced cuts today that reduced the team’s roster to 52 players. Dallas will most likely sign another player to increase the roster size to 53, and other roster moves are possible.
In light of today’s news, here is a list of the 52 players who made the team. Similar to a power rankings list, these players are listed in order of their relative value. Of course, these rankings only represent my opinions about these players.
Two factors I considered in compiling this list: (1) the player’s talent and production potential; and (2) how badly the team would suffer if the player went out for the season.
52. Michael Hamlin, S
The rookie from Clemson broke his wrist and will be out six weeks. He will be a special teams player when he returns. It is tough to say what impact he will have, and since he’s injured, he gets the Least Valuable Player ranking– at least for now.
51. Jason Williams, LB
Williams was the team’s highest draft pick in 2009. He suffered a high ankle sprain and will be out for about a month. His value should rise once he returns.
50. Stephen McGee, QB

McGee is yet another rookie who was injured during the preseason. He will run the scout team when he returns from a sprained ankle.
49. Curtis Johnson, LB
Johnson played defensive end for the Colts in 2008. Dallas picked Johnson up on September 2 and plan to convert him to an outside linebacker. Given the change in position and his lack of experience with the team, he starts at #49.
48. Cory Procter, C/G
Procter started 11 games in 2008 at left guard, but he was hardly impressive. With the signing of Duke Preston, it looked as if Procter’s days may be numbered, but Procter made the squad.
47. Steve Octavien, LB
Dallas signed Octavien late in 2008 after placing Kyle Kosier on injured reserve. Octavien will be a special teamer for the Cowboys in 2009.
46. Victor Butler, LB
Butler is another of the three rookies who both made the squad and is healthy enough to play at this point. He will be a backup at linebacker and a special teams player.
45. Junior Siavii, DT
Siavii was originally a second-round pick by the Chiefs but was out of football for three years. Dallas released him last year, but he made the team in 2009.
44. Doug Free, T
Free did not look good against the Vikings, raising concerns about the depth of the Cowboys’ line.
43. Stephen Bowen, DE
Bowen provides depth on the defensive line, but not much more. He had 16 tackles and one sack in his first three seasons.
42. David Buehler, K
Buehler made the team as a kickoff specialist, and he may also contribute in other ways.
41. Kevin Ogletree, WR
Ogletree beat out Isaiah Stanback for the #5 receiver spot. If Dallas uses all of the receivers more than it has in the past, then Ogletree may get some opportunities. 
40. John Phillips, TE
Phillips made the squad as a blocking tight end. That is probably more action than Ogletree will see.
39. Jason Hatcher, DE
The former third-round pick has had 5.5 sacks in three seasons.
38. Montrae Holland, G
Dallas traded for Holland in 2008 to provide depth, but the former starter for the Saints and Broncos struggled with his weight. He was not especially impressive during preseason in 2009, but he looked better than Procter.
37. Alan Ball, CB
Ball is a pretty good special teams player, and perhaps he is bit low on this list. He will rise if he makes some plays in nickel and dime formations.
36. Duke Preston, C
The Cowboys signed Preston late in training camp, and some expected his signing to lead to the release of Procter. Preston can play both center and guard.
35. Pat Watkins, S
Watkins was one of the players on the bubble during training camp, but a very strong performance against the Vikings in the final preseason game helped him to secure a roster spot.
34. Pat McQuistan, T
Like Free, McQuistan did not look good against the Vikings.
33. Bobby Carpenter, LB
Carpenter saw a lot of action during the preseason, and he did not look bad for the most part. However, he still does not look like a starter, and most still consider him to be a complete bust.
32. L.P. Ladouceur, LS
Never underesstimate the value of a good long snapper.
31. Deon Anderson, FB
The Cowboys probably won’t use a fullback in many of the team’s packages, meaning that Anderson’s value is limited. Anderson has also been hurt during the preseason.
30. Miles Austin, WR
Austin might have competed for the #2 receiver slot, but he has not looked as strong as expected. He has also been hurt. Still, he has greater speed than any of the other receivers.
29. Sam Hurd, WR
Hurd reportedly looked good during training camp, but he has once again struggled with injuries.
28. Jon Kitna, QB
Kitna is certainly an upgrade over Brad Johnson, but there will also certainly be a drop-off in quality if Kitna has to fill in for Tony Romo in 2009.
27. Tashard Choice, RB
Choice’s value will rise if the team truly uses three backs in 2009. He was great in December while filling in for an injured Marion Barber.
26. Gerald Sensabaugh, S
The Cowboys struggled with Roy Williams in coverage. The team then struggled more when Williams was injured in 2008. If Sensabaugh can provide solid coverage, his value will shoot up quickly.
24/25 (tie) Mike Jenkins, CB; Orlando Scandrick, CB
Scandrick will split time with Jenkins at corner. Several reports have indicated that Scandrick outperformed Jenkins during training camp, but Jenkins has not looked bad during the preseason.
23. Martellus Bennett, TE

Bennett has a huge upside, and most expect the Cowboys to run out of two tight end sets to use Bennett more in the passing game.
22. Nick Folk, K
Folk would probably be a little bit higher, but he has looked a little bit shaky during the preseason.
21. Patrick Crayton, WR
Crayton will once again be the team’s #2 receiver, as well as one of the punt returners. A 50-catch season like the one he had in 2007 would be nice.< /div>

20. Mat McBriar, P

McBriar is quite a weapon as a punter, and the team missed him when he was injured in 2008. He looked better as the preseason progressed.
19. Igor Olshansky, DE
Olshansky replaces Chris Canty and might even be an upgrade.
18. Keith Brooking, LB
Brooking replaces Zach Thomas (who was, incidentally, released today by the Chiefs). The Cowboys hope that Brooking will bring some leadership into the locker room.
17. Marcus Spears, DE
This is contract season for Spears, who has underachieved at times but had a strong season in 2008.
16. Anthony Spencer, LB
Spencer became the starter at outside linebacker with the release of Greg Ellis. Spencer showed playmaking ability in 2008, but Dallas is going to need him to be more consistent in 2009.
15. Kyle Kosier, G
Kosier’s value became apparent in 2008 when he missed 13 games. His health in 2009 will be vital.
14. Marc Columbo, T
Columbo has been steady at right tackle for the past three seasons. Adding to his relative value is the lack of a strong backup.
13. Ken Hamlin, S
Hamlin did not have a great season in 2008, managing only one interception and missing a few tackles. It would certainly help if he could return to his 2007 form.
12. Jay Ratliff, NT
Ratliff should probably be higher on this list, but it’s hard to put a nose tackle ahead of the others ahead of him. We’ll see if he can be a disruptive force again this season.
11. Bradie James, LB 
James is one of the leaders of this squad, and he has become a great middle linebacker in the 3-4. He had eight sacks and 80 tackles in 2008.
10. Terence Newman, CB
With the team’s trade of Anthony Henry, Newman is the only veteran presence among the team’s cornerbacks.
9. Flozell Adams, T
Adams’ value is based less on his dominance at left tackle and more on a great deal of concern that would arise if he missed any time with injury.
8. Leonard Davis, G
Davis made the Pro Bowl once again in 2008 thanks to another solid season at right guard. He also played left tackle during training camp, though he did not make this move in any of the preseason games.
7. Roy Williams, WR
Williams will have plenty of chances to show that the Cowboys did not make a mistake by trading several draft picks, including a first-rounder, to obtain the former Longhorn.
6. Andre Gurode, C
Gurode has been steady at the center position since 2006, and he has made three consecutive Pro Bowls. His value is even greater given the lack of a strong backup.
5. Felix Jones, RB
Odd that a backup running back would be so valuable, but Jones make be the team’s mosts dangerous weapon. Dallas certainly missed him in 2008 when he missed 10 games with a toe injury.
4. Marion Barber, RB 
Some believe that Barber is on the downside of his career, based on his running style and the injuries he sustained in 2008. As of now, though, he is the team’s workhorse at running back.
3. Jason Witten, TE
Witten may catch 90 to 100 passes this year. The team needs this type of production to help make up for the loss of Terrell Owens.
2. Tony Romo, QB
A number of fans are frustrated with Romo, but the fact remains that the team cannot win without him. 
1. DeMarcus Ware, LB
Ware should have won the defensive player of the year award in 2008. He was simply dominant.