The last Questions Waiting for Answers post was on Sunday, January 7, one day after the Cowboys’ 21-20 loss to Seattle in the first round of the 2006 playoffs. Some 241 days later, here we are, and we have some of the same questions despite different coaches and a few different players. I thought it might be a good idea to review the last set of questions before we address this weekend’s game against the Giants:
Last Season vs. Seattle:
(1) Can the Cowboys find a way to generate any pressure? The 4-3 look seemed to work a little bit better last week, but it still wasn’t enough. The ineffectiveness of the blitz has gone far beyond head-scratching, and these ends (Spears, Canty) are anything but awe-inspiring. Something needs to change, either now or next season.
(1) Can the Cowboys find a way to generate any pressure? The blitz packages should be more aggressive this season, but the faces– with the exception of Anthony Spencer– are largely the same. If Eli Manning has more than five seconds to throw the ball, we may conclude that our problems are much more personnel-related than system-related.
Last Season vs. Seattle:
(2) Running game? Oh, running game? Are you there, running game? The two-headed monster of Jones and Barber has turned into a two-headed mouse, with the two gaining a combined 40 yards or so in the past two games. Nothing more needs to be said.
(2) Does Julius Jones prove that he belongs in a Cowboys uniform after this year? Does Marion Barber push Julius right out the door?
In reading the question from last season, I had forgotten that the running game had struggled so much.
Last Season vs. Seattle:
(3) Can the Cowboys take advantage of a banged-up Seattle secondary? Quite a bit has been made of this, but I wouldn’t simply assume that Dallas will be able to throw all over the place on the Seahawks. That solution would be just too easy.
(3) Can the Cowboys take advantage of a Giants’ secondary that might be without Sam Madison? I personally have faith that Tony Romo will have a very good season but that it might not be enough to overcome some nagging injuries (see below).
Last Season vs. Seattle:
Does Tony Romo need that second hand for something other than to cover the football? I haven’t played quarterback (at least in organized tackle football) for 17 years, but I don’t recall it being a great advantage to be able to run around with only one hand on the ball. I do, however, remember that it was quite dangerous.
(4) Will Romo continue to have his turnover problems? I did not notice any big mechanical problems during preseason, but it has now been 18 years since I played, so who am I to judge?
Last Season vs. Seattle:
(5) Are we seeing the last of Bill Parcells and/or Terrell Owens?
(5).500 isn’t a bad percentage, is it? I’ll kick myself for typing this, but I’m starting to get used to Owens.
(6) Does anyone mind if I borrow from Vic Carucci? His general questions about the Cowboys:
Will the Dallas Cowboys’ season of high expectations get off to a bad start because of a long injury list that includes cornerback Terence Newman (heel), wide receiver Terry Glenn (knee), and linebackers Greg Ellis (Achilles) and Kevin Burnett (ankle)? Also, given the angry public reaction of safety Roy Williams, will there be any lingering acrimony from the Cowboys’ decision to release veteran cornerback Aaron Glenn? And how much will the surprising suspension of quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson, who will miss the first five games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, affect the early season progress of Tony Romo?
(7) Can the Cowboys Win?
Answer: Yes. Dallas has more talent than anyone in the NFC East, and the Giants are currently retooling. And in all honesty, a loss in the opener is really inexcusable unless all of the injured players (Terry Glenn, Terence Newman, Greg Ellis) end up missing the game.
I do not recall last year’s cuts being the subject of so much news, but the Cowboys’ release of Aaron Glenn has been discussed about as much as any roster move in a while. While this certainly does not compare with the signing and release Mike Vanderjagt or the signing of Terrell Owens, it’s still a very questionable move. Glenn, by the way, signed with Jacksonville on Monday.
The second move that may prove to be a mistake is the release of quarterback Matt Moore, who was later signed by Carolina. This has prompted the Dallas Morning News blog to suggest that Super Bowl XLV (hosted by Dallas) will feature Brady Quinn and the Cleveland Browns against Moore and the Carolina Panthers. This post prompted me to think of a few other nightmares that the Cowboys could face.
(1) Injuries at Linebacker
Given the Cowboys’ emphasis on the linebacker position in the past several drafts, one might think that the team would have some depth here. Not so. Greg Ellis might return, but whether he will be effective at all is a big question mark. Kevin Burnett has battled injuries as well. I am not sure about Justin Rogers, but I would not think that a guy signed from waivers is any sort of savior. Bobby Carpenter has looked much better, but Anthony Spencer has had trouble.
The nightmare would be one more injury to any of the following: Ware, James, Ayodele, or Carpenter. Dallas would then have to hope that Spencer can mature by a year or two or that Burnett and/or Ellis can turn a 180 to better health.
(2) Cornerback Hell
The injury to Terence Newman’s heel could be what drops the Cowboys from a 10 or 11 win season to .500 or so. Moreover, Anthony Henry has battled injury problems since he joined the team, and his injuries last year made him a liability. Losing both would mean that Dallas would likely start two former seventh-round picks in Nate Jones and Jacques Reeves (perhaps Evan Oglesby has some talent, but he is so new that I doubt he would be an immediate starter). Todd Archer has more on the cornerback spot.
(3) Dallas Needs a Third Quarterback After All
I can’t help but think that Dallas chose to keep either Oliver Hoyte or Deon Anderson instead of quarterback Matt Moore. And while I don’t dislike either Hoyte or Anderson, I tend to think that a quality third-stringer could be more important than a backup fullback. If for some reason Tony Romo or Brad Johnson become injured, Richard Bartel (now on the practice squad) could be thrust into the backup role.
(4) Jerheme Urban Becomes a Superstar
Just two days after I took the time to make an animated GIF of Urban’s punt return for a touchdown against Minnesota, he was gone (and later off to Arizona). He’s worth keeping an eye on for a while.
(5) Nick Folk Looks Like a Rookie
I’m not saying it was a bad move to keep Folk over Gramatica, but I can’t imagine how many of us could handle another subpar kicker year.
I haven’t shown many videos lately, but here is one showing Don Meredith and Willard Scott in a Lipton Tea commercial:
In almost exactly one week, Dallas will be playing the New York Giants in the season opener at Texas Stadium. The predictions have already begun, and the majority appear to be siding with the Cowboys. Here are a couple of sources to get us started.
Accuscore predicts that the Cowboys are most likely to have a 10-win season, and according to the graphic that I have posted below, the site gives the Cowboys a 65% chance of winning next Sunday. I won’t pretend to have any idea how this site came up with that percentage, but I will track this site during the year to see.
I have played Pigskin Pick’em for several years now (not very well) and will continue to do so this year. Dallas is favored by 3 1/2 in this game, and the majority of players have picked the Cowboys to win. Here are the results thus far:
Dallas: 82.6%, New York Giants: 17.4%
This is a little bit surprising, but many of these votes may have come before Michael Strahan announced that he would rejoin the team. Still, it is encouraging that so many think that the Cowboys will win their opener.
Dallas: 73%, New York Giants: 27%
The last time that the Cowboys defeated the Giants by more than three points was on December 21, 2003, in a 19-3 victory at home. Since the start of the 2003 season, Dallas has gone 4-4 against the Giants, and three of those wins were by three points. Thus, the 3 1/2 points worry me about. (That said, I never go against the Cowboys, for that would be very bad luck…).
After one day, we already have roster updates. The Cowboys cut safety Abram Elam and cornerback Alan Ball. In their place, Dallas signed outside linebacker Justin Rogers (released by New England) and cornerback Evan Oglesby (released by Baltimore).
Three players that the Cowboys released have signed with other teams, including defensive lineman Remi Ayodele (Atlanta), quarterterback Matt Moore (Carolina), and receiver Jerheme Urban (Arizona).
The Cowboys announced their final roster cuts on Saturday, and though most were expected, there were still some moves that were curious. Here are some notes about these cuts.
Note: Updates are noted below.
Matt Moore (signed by Carolina on Sept. 2)
Keeping only two quarterbacks has been discussed as a possibility. Moore looked pretty good in the preseason, and if he can clear waivers, there is a good chance he will make the practice squad.
(Update, 9/2: Moore didn’t clear waivers and is headed to Carolina)
Thompson had a good preseason, and Coleman had only an outside shot to make the team.
The only possible surprise was that Dallas kept two fullbacks.
Urban’s punt return against the Vikings was not enough for him to earn a roster spot. His fumble as a receiver a few minutes late could not have helped. Sam Hurd and Miles Austin looked good in the preseason, and Stanback has a big upside.
(Update, 9/2: Urban was picked up by Arizona).
Curtis showed very good promise this preseason and deserves this spot.
The Cowboys decided to go with a backup for each position. However, the backups have very little experience.
Ayodele was the answer to the trivia question about who had five tackles against Minnesota. However, Akin’s brother did not show enough to make the cut.
(Update, 9/2: Ayodele is headed to Atlanta).
(Update): Justin Rogers
Although Dallas has talent at linebacker, these cuts mean that Dallas will rely heavily on Carpenter and Burnett as backups. Moreover, Spencer has struggled a bit during the preseason.
(Update, 9/2: Dallas signed outside linebacker Justin Rogers off of waivers from New England).
(Update, 9/2: Evan Oglesby)
(Update, 9/2): Alan Ball
Cutting Glenn was the move that made news. The 35-year-old veteran started the final three preseason games, and Newman’s health is a huge question mark. Thomas showed promise, but apparently not enough.
(Update: Ball could be resigned to the practice squad if he clears waivers. Dallas signed Oglesby after he was waived by Baltimore).
(Update, 9/2): Abram Elam
(Update: Cutting Elam one day after announcing the roster cuts was a little bit of a surprise, given that he had a good preseason and is very good on special teams).
Folk had a good preseason, but we have not seen him in a pressure situation. His leg strength, though, should be cause for excitement this year.
Given that fewer than a third of the Cowboys’ starters played in the final preseason game against Minnesota, I chose to have an abbreviated version of Instant Trivia. Thus, we only have five questions. Please forgive.
For highlights of Thursday’s game, click on the image below:
Very few of the Cowboys starters (six, in fact) took part in the preseason finale for the Cowboys, which resulted in a 23-14 loss to the Vikings. Five Dallas turnovers contributed to the loss, including four fumbles, and the Dallas defense displayed some very poor tackling. Fortunately, three of those fumbles were by backup quarterbacks Matt Moore and Richard Bartel, and few of those who missed tackles will be on the roster when Dallas faces the New York Giants on September 9.
Jerheme Urban had one of the most exciting returns I’ve seen in a long time, returning a punt 95 yards in the first quarter. [Let’s just forget that he might have stepped out of bounds.] Below is an animated version of the play.
Brad Sham: “Can you make the team with a play like this?”
I should note that Urban later fumbled, prompting Sham to say, “That play wasn’t really urban. It was suburban.” Bad.
Despite the loss, there were a few highlights:
*Punter Mat McBriar continues to amaze, booting two punts longer than 60 yards.
*Cornerback Aaron Glenn had a couple of good plays early in the game, which is a better sign than what he showed against Houston.
*Tight end Tony Curtis continues to impress, catching five passes for 44 yards. He runs some very nice routes as a receiver and has proven that he deserves a spot on the team.
*Moore looked pretty good and could develop into a solid second-stringer. His fumbles, though, certainly weren’t pretty.
*Guard Leonard Davis had a pretty good game and was featured on the local coverage.
We now have 10 days to wait for the Cowboys’ season opener against the Giants on Sunday, September 9 at Texas Stadium. More to come…
Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings
Thursday, August 30
7 p.m. CDT
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minnesota
Television: Blue Star Media
Radio: Dallas Cowboys Radio Network (click here to find a station)
Spread: Minnesota favored by 2.
Dallas travels to Minnesota on Thursday for the final preseason game. You might recall that this time last year, Dallas was 3-0 and trying to go undefeated for only the third time in franchise history. Instead, Mike Vanderjagt missed two field goals in overtime, and the team settled for a tie with the Vikings.
One year later, it looks as if another veteran kicker may be on his way out, as Martin Gramatica’s missed extra point, coupled with Nick Folk’s relatively strong preseason, may very well mean that Dallas has a rookie kicker this year.
DallasCowboys.com has a piece about Folk’s chances, as well as other roster spots up for grabs. Other positions to watch are corner, tight end, nose tackle, and fullback.
Associated Press has an article about how the Cowboys are handling their defensive options. Perhaps more interesting is the piece focusing on the rumor that the Cowboys do not think that Julius Jones is very special.
Lastly, the Vikings cut one-time Dallas quarterback Drew Henson, who was also cut last year by the Vikings.
I am a couple of days late with this, but here is this week’s Instant Trivia, featuring ten questions about the Cowboys-Texans game last Saturday.
This is day-old news, but here are the nine players who were cut yesterday to allow Dallas to reduce its roster to 75:
RB Jackie Battle
NT Ola Dagunduro
LB Dedrick Harrington
T Jason Hilliard
LB Alex Obomese
WR Jerard Rabb
WR Jamaica Rector
WR Jamel Richardson
NT Montavious Stanley
DallasCowboys.com has more.
I have not hidden the fact that I am not a big fan of Terrell Owens, but his catch and run against Houston on Saturday was enough to make anyone to jump out of their seat. Even the post-touchdown celebration was subdued (notwithstanding Mickey Spagnola’s on-air comment that Owens should get further into the end zone before putting the ball on the ground). Here is an animated version of the play:
NFL.com has more Romo highlights. Just follow the link below:
*Terence Newman’s injury continues to be a concern. Both the Fort Worth Star-Telgram and the San Antonio Express News have had pieces on it.
*The Fort Worth Star-Telgram item also noted that kicker Martin Gramatica pulled his hamstring on a kickoff. His missed extra point may (and should) mark the beginning of the end for him in Dallas.
*Greg Ellis reportedly could miss the first half of the season. This is not much of a surprise, and Dallas has been using Bobby Carpenter more on the outside lately. Anthony Spencer was able to get some pressure on the quarterback in the Houston game, and I have a feeling he may be more effective than Ellis would be, given the injury that Ellis suffered.
Houston jumped out to a 14-0 lead and held on to take the Governor’s Cup from the Cowboys as Dallas fell 28-16 in Houston on Saturday night. Dallas has never won in Reliant Stadium.
Dallas looked sloppy on both sides of the ball, although the passing game still looked pretty good. The defense failed to get much pressure, and the secondary looked weak. The starters on both sides of the ball played most of three quarters.
*Unlike the previous two games, Dallas did not throw the ball in Terrell Owens’ direction in the opening drive of the game.
*Dallas looked better on its second offensive drive of the game, but two penalties on Leonard Davis and a fumble off of a snap by Tony Romo killed the drive. Julius Jones had a couple of good plays on the drive, and Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd both made nice catches for first downs.
*In general, the Cowboys’ offense looked much more sloppy than it did in the first two preseason games.
*Owens had a great touchdown catch and run in the second quarter. From the Houston 35, Dallas lined up in trips bunch, and Owens caught a pass on a slant. He split three defenders and broke a tackle en route to the end zone.
*The Dallas starters played into the third quarter, and the Cowboys had a nice drive early in the third quarter. Dallas went 86 yards on 11 plays, ending the drive with an 18-yard touchdown from Romo to tight end Jason Witten.
*Romo badly underthrew Owens late in the third quarter on a deep pass in Cowboys territory.
*Brad Johnson’s first pass in the fourth quarter was picked off, but the play was negated by a penalty. It was still not a good play by Johnson.
*Johnson looked better after the interception, hitting Tony Curtis on a 33-yard pass on a deep flag pattern and driving the team to a field goal to cut the Houston lead to 21-16.
*Johnson threw an interception on the final series of the game for the Cowboys.
Romo– 14 of 22, 197 yards, 2 TD, 1 Int.
Johnson–5 of 6, 56 yards, 0 TD, 1 Int.
Jones– 10 att., 34 yards, 0 TD.
Barber– 6 att., 14 yards, 0 TD.
Thompson– 4 att., 9 yards, 0 TD.
Hurd– 4 rec., 68 yards, 0 TD.
Witten– 3 rec., 47 yards, 1 TD.
Owens– 1 rec., 35 yards, 1 TD.
Crayton– 2 rec., 26 yards, 0 TD.
Curtis– 1 rec., 33 yards, 0 TD.
*Linebacker Kevin Burnett had a nice sack in the first quarter.
*Houston quarterback Matt Schaub and running back Ahman Green diced up the Dallas defense late in the first quarter on the Texans’ first offensive touchdown drive. The Cowboys demonstrated horrible tackling on a 46-yard run by Green (which was followed by a bogus personal foul call on DeMarcus Ware for a horse collar).
*Aaron Glenn did not look good. The veteran corner gave up a touchdown to Andre Johnson in the first quarter and missed a tackle on Johnson late in the second quarter.
*Schaub had all day to throw on his second touchdown pass late in the second quarter, finding rookie Jacoby Jones in the end zone for 19-yard touchdown.
*The first-teamers on defense stayed in the game for part of the third quarter, but Dallas continued to have problems putting pressure on the quarterback on a regular basis.
*Jacques Reeves had a pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter that allowed Houston to continue its drive that resulted in the game’s final touchdown.
*Seventh-round pick Alan Ball was beaten on Houston’s final touchdown play, a 17-yard pass from Sage Rosenfels to David Anderson.
*Jacoby Jones of the Texans returned a long punt by Mat McBriar 91 yards for a touchdown early in the first quarter. Jones needed only to make one move and then sped past the Dallas punt team for the score.
*Martin Gramatica did not help himself by missing an extra point in the second quarter.
*Nick Folk hit a chip-shot field goal in the fourth quarter.
*The Cowboys’ kickoff coverage looked good, pinning Houston inside the 20 at least twice.
Jerry Jones’ Halftime Notes:
Here are a few notes that Jerry Jones made at halftime:
*He is not concerned about Terence Newman’s heel injury and expects the corner to be ready for the season opener on September 9.
*He expects Greg Ellis to play this season. Jones says that Ellis is getting a third opinion on his Achilles injury.
*He said that the team is taking a close look at the backup corners and nose tackles and may consider looking at the waiver wire for some other backups.