Kevin Ogletree

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Nearly All of the Cowboys’ Gambles Backfired

Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

Jerry says changes are coming. No, he won’t replace himself, Jason Garrett, or Tony Romo. But changes are coming. Involving someone. Or something.

The potential “big” news this offseason is Jerry Jones’ statement that he will consider making some significant changes. Involving someone. Or something.

Rick Gosselin says that Jerry needs to make dramatic changes.

We know what changes Jerry won’t make, though, so it’s hard to take this talk seriously at this point.

Think about this—the Cowboys’ current playoff drought is as long as the period when Dave Campo coached the team. Yes, the current team has done better than the five-win teams of 2000, 2001, and 2002, but has it really been better as a fan?

Well, not while we watch the playoffs without the Cowboys yet again.

Three teams that played on Sunday—Indianapolis, Washington, and Seattle—took major gambles this year, and each team had fantastic years given initial expectations.

Jerry keeps calling his team a Super Bowl team (tough without making the playoffs), but his gambles in 2012 (and 2011 for that matter) failed quite miserably.

A review:

1. Receiving Corps

Gamble: Hoping someone would emerge as a third receiver.

Backfire: Kevin Ogletree had one good game early in the season. After catching eight passes in the season opener against the Giants, he averaged less than two receptions per game for the rest of the year.  Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley showed some promise, but the Cowboys stuck with Ogletree for much of the year.

2. Loading Up on Corners

Gamble: Loading up on cornerbacks but not picking up a quality strong safety.

Backfire: Barry Church looked like a decent starter but missed the final 13 games with an Achilles injury. That left the Cowboys with plenty of corners and Danny McCray at safety. At one point, Dallas used $50 million cornerback Brandon Carr as a free safety on passing downs. Other safeties included household names like Charlie Peprah and Eric Frampton.

Speaking of those corners, they combined for a total of four interceptions.

3. Younger Guards 

Gamble: The Cowboys tried to get younger by moving on from Kyle Kosier (34) and Montrae Holland (32) and signing Nate Livings (30) and Mackenzy Bernadeau (26).

Backfire: Although the middle of the line seemed to get better by the end of the season, Romo often faced pressure up the middle. Moreover, the team was abysmal running the ball, averaging less than 80 yards per game.

4. Swapping Tackles

Gamble: The Cowboys moved Doug Free to right tackle and Tyron Smith to left tackle. Both players would therefore return to their natural positions.

Backfire: Free was a disaster. By year’s end, the team often substituted Jermey Parnell at right tackle, ostensibly to give Free a “break.” Smith was better, but not much better.

5. Injury-Prone Young Stars

Gamble: In the past few drafts, the team found some budding stars in Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, and DeMarco Murray. However, all three came to the team with injury problems.

Backfire: All three  have shown great promise but all three have missed significant time because of injuries. The team relied heavily on Lee as a playmaker, and his absence in the final 10 games hurt. Carter seemed to fill Lee’s shoes, but he missed the last five games. The result was that the Cowboys had to turn to Dan Connor and Ernie Sims late in the season, and it was no coincidence that the team could not slow down the Redskins in the season finale.

Murray looks like a lead running back, but he missed five games in 2012 along with the final three in 2011. And with Felix Jones showing next to nothing for most of the year, the team needed Murray for more than 11 games.

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Washington 28, Dallas 18: Cowboys’ Season Ends with Another Thud

 

Tony Romo's third interception against the Redskins cost the Cowboys a chance to win the game and reach the playoffs.

Tony Romo’s third interception against the Redskins cost the Cowboys a chance to win the game and reach the playoffs.

Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to two Super Bowls. He capped off his great career by leading the Cowboys to a win over Washington after trailing 34-21 in the fourth quarter in a regular-season finale with the NFC East on the line.

 

Tony Romo has led the Cowboys to one playoff win. He is well-remembered for dropping a snap on an easy field goal that might have given the Cowboys a win over the Seahawks in the playoffs. He also led the Cowboys to a 44-6 loss to the Eagles to end the 2008 season; a 34-3 loss to the Vikings in the 2009 playoffs; and 31-14 loss to the Giants when the NFC East title was on the line in the season finale in 2011.

We may not remember Romo for those failures, though, thanks to his final interception of the 2012 season.

Dallas trailed 21-10 with less than 7 minutes remaining. Dallas finally forced a Washington punt, and Dwayne Harris returned the ball to the Washington 31. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the 16.

Three plays later, Romo hit Kevin Ogletree for a touchdown. A two-point conversion cut the Washington lead to 21-18.

The defense forced another stop. Dallas got the ball back with 3:33 remaining. Romo moved the ball to the Dallas 29 on a pass to Jason Witten.

And then he threw another pass. He lofted a ball in the left flat towards DeMarco Murray, and the ball seemingly hung in the air like a short punt. Murray didn’t catch it. Redskins’ linebacker Rob Jackson did.

We fondly remember Staubach hitting the likes of Tony Hill, Butch Johnson, Ron Springs, and Preston Pearson in that 1979 finale against the Redskins. We may spend years remember Romo lofting a ball to the flat and into the waiting arms of a Washington linebacker.

Another 8-8 season. No playoffs.

Dallas barely stopped Alfred Morris all night, and Morris ran six times on the ensuing drive. Dallas might have forced a field goal attempt, but Jason Hatcher hit Robert Griffin III‘s helmet on a third-down play and drew a penalty.

Romo finished the night with three interceptions, having thrown two in the first quarter. He redeemed himself with a touchdown pass to Jason Witten to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead in the first half, but the Cowboys gave up a touchdown run by Morris later in the quarter.

When Griffin scored in the third quarter, Washington took a 14-7 lead. That meant the Cowboys trailed in every single game this season. Moreover, the Cowboys held halftime leads in only 3 games. No wonder the team finished 8-8.

The makeshift defense gave up 200 rushing yards to Morris, who eventually scored three times. Murray finished with 76 yards.

Dez Bryant and Miles Austin both left the game early with injuries, forcing the Cowboys to play Ogletree, Harris, and Cole Beasley. Those were the receivers in the game when the Cowboys started their drive that ended with Romo’s last interception.

So, we have about 116 days until the NFL Draft. The Cowboys will pick 18th. I’m not the least bit excited about anything.

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Atlanta 19, Dallas 13: Just Enough Mistakes to Lose

Jason Garrett (Princeton graduate, left) tries to remind Mike Smith (East Tennessee State University graduate, right) about the value of an Ivy League degree on an NFL sideline.

When the schedule came out for the 2012 season, most (including me) looked at December, because that’s when the Dallas Cowboys usually implode.

Then we looked at the middle of the schedule—three straight road games against the Giants, Falcons, and Eagles. The pessimists said the Cowboys would lose all three. After tonight’s loss to the Falcons, Dallas is two-thirds of the way there.

[Correction (11/5): Dumb mistake on my part. The Cowboys play three road games in four weeks, but the Giants game last week was at home. The other road game was at Carolina.]

Yes, the Cowboys played the only unbeaten team in the league very tough. Yes, the Cowboys could have had a chance to win with just one more defensive stop with less than five minutes remaining.

But this is the modern-era Cowboys. We should know better.

With a 16-13 lead, the Falcons faced a 3rd-and-6 from their own 24 with just under 4 minutes left. Matt Ryan threw to Jacquizz Rodgers in the flat. Orlando Scandrick just had to make a tackle to force a punt. Rodgers instead broke the tackle and raced 31 yards past midfield.

Three plays later, the Falcons faced a 3rd-and-8.  The Cowboys appeared to force an incomplete pass, but the referees called Scandrick for defensive holding.

From there, Atlanta ran the clock down and kicked a field goal. There were no miracles in store for the Cowboys, who fell to 3-5 with the loss.

At least the second half was a bit lively. The first half featured a total of four field goals. Dallas drove into the red zone twice in the first quarter before stalling and having to settle for field goals. The Falcons then tied the game with two of their own in the second quarter.

The Cowboys moved into Atlanta territory on the first possession of the second half, but the drive stalled. The Cowboys did not manage to move into Atlanta territory until midway through the fourth quarter.

By then, the Falcons had built a 16-6 lead thanks to a Michael Turner touchdown and a Matt Bryant field goal.

The Cowboys came to life thanks to a quick drive that lasted just 2:28. Tony Romo hit Kevin Ogletree on a 21-yard touchdown to pull the Cowboys to within a field goal. However, the defense could not hold the Falcons when it mattered most.

The Cowboys didn’t turn the ball over, marking the first time that has happened all season. However, the Cowboys did not force a turnover, so Dallas still has a turnover ratio of  minus-11.

Dallas also only had 7 penalties for 50 yards. However, Atlanta had only 2 for 15 yards, and the Cowboys’ penalties came at the worst times.

This felt like a solid defensive effort, but the Cowboys gave up some yardage. Turner had more than 100 yards on the ground, while both Julio Jones and Roddy White had more than 100 receiving yards each.

The Cowboys are still a half-game from the division cellar thanks to the Redskins’ loss to the Panthers on Sunday. If the Eagles lose to the Saints on Monday, the Cowboys will be tied with Philadelphia entering into next week’s matchup at Lincoln Financial Field.

 

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Baltimore 31, Dallas 28: Showing Heart, but Few Brains

Felix Jones rushed 18 times for 92 yards and a touchdown after DeMarco Murray was injured against the Ravens on Sunday.

The Cowboys had plenty of chances to quit on Sunday against the Ravens. After all, the team trailed 31-23 after Baltimore scored with 4:41 remaining.

Dallas then went on a drive that was equal parts epic and boneheaded. The Cowboys committed four penalties (even if a chop block call on Felix Jones was nonsense). At one point, Dallas faced a 3rd-and-27 play.

Yet somehow, the Cowboys found ways to convert  two third downs and two fourth downs on what turned out to be an 18-play, 81-yard drive. Dez Bryant capped off a great day by catching a four-yard touchdown pass to pull Dallas to within two.

Then Dez immediately assumed the role of goat when Romo’s pass on the two-point attempt bounced right off Bryant’s hands.

But the game wasn’t over. Dan Bailey hit an onside kick up the middle instead of to the sideline, and Andre Holmes recovered.

More luck: On the first play after the recovery, Chykie Brown was called for interference on a pass attempt to Kevin Ogletree, giving Dallas the ball at the Baltimore 34. There were 26 seconds left, and Dallas still had a timeout. Plenty of time for…

One play? For one yard?

Yep. When Romo threw a slant to Bryant, the play gained a yard. The offense tried to organize to do something, but nothing happened. It looked as if neither Romo nor Garrett knew what they were supposed to do. (And I’m not the only one who thinks that.)

Instead, the Cowboys settled for a 51-yard field goal attempt. Bailey had not attempted one from that far this year.

And, of course, he missed. The audience saw a shot of Jason Garrett smiling. The pregnant Rob Ryan shouted something I won’t write on here. Romo pouted. Bryant received consolation.

Dallas is now 2-3. As the time of this writing, the Eagles had fallen to 3-3, and the Giants and Redskins were still playing. It is very possible the Cowboys could wind up in last place after today’s action.

Throughout the game, the Dallas offense rarely snapped the ball with more than three seconds left on the play clock. Few have offered solid reasons why the team has to check off so much while running the risk of delay-of-game or other penalties.

Nevertheless, the team showed heart. Felix Jones scored his first touchdown since the beginning of the 2011 season. The defense mostly shut down the Ravens offense in the second half.

But the same mistakes that have haunted the Cowboys, and it’s past time to question decision-making across the board.

Doug Free can’t go a game without a penalty. Tyron Smith doesn’t seem to understand what he is required to do to avoid holding penalties. As a team, the Cowboys committed 13 penalties for 82 yards. That gives Dallas a total of 46 penalties in five games.

The kickoff coverage team that was so bad in 2010 allowed a 108-yard kickoff return to Jacoby Jones. That occurred when Dallas had cut the Baltimore lead to 17-13 in the third quarter.

On top of that, the Cowboys were called for both pass interference and for having 12 men on the field on a play where Torrey Smith scored late in the second quarter.

* * *

The biggest positive was the rushing attack. Even after DeMarco Murray left the game with a foot injury, Jones, Philip Tanner, and Lance Dunbar had some nice runs.  As a team, the Cowboys rushed 42 times for 227 yards.

On the other hand, Kevin Ogletree is showing he isn’t close to a solid #3 receiver. He was targeted four times but did not manage a single reception. He didn’t come close to catching the pass when Brown interfered with him late in the game.

Dallas will travel to Carolina next Sunday.

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Romo’s Passer Rating vs. the Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterba...

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – SEPTEMBER 05: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys runs with the ball on his way to throwing a touchdown to wide receiver Kevin Ogletree #85 in the second quarter as he his chased by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants during the 2012 NFL season opener at MetLife Stadium on September 5, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Tony Romo has posted a single-game passer rating of better than 120.0 17 times during his career. He added to that number on Wednesday night, posting a rating of 129.5.

That ranks as his 8th best game in terms of passer rating. Here is a list of those 8 games.

148.9 (vs. Tampa Bay, 2006: 22-29, 306 Yds., 5 TD, 0 Int.)
148.4 (vs. Buffalo, 2011: 23-26, 270 Yds., 3 TD, 0 Int.)
141.7 (vs. Philadelphia, 2007: 20-25, 324 Yds., 3 TD, 1 Int.)
141.6 (vs. Atlanta, 2009: 21-29, 311 Yds., 3 TD, 0 Int.)
141.3 (vs. New York Giants, 2011: 21-31, 321 Yds., 4 TD, 0 Int.)
140.6 (vs. Tampa Bay, 2009: 16-27, 353 Yds., 3 TD, 0 Int.)
133.9 (vs. Tampa Bay, 2011: 23-30, 249 Yds., 3 TD, 0 Int.)
129.5 (vs. New York Giants, 2012: 22-29, 307 Yds., 3 TD, 1 Int.)

Interestingly, it is not his best game against the Giants in this regard. His performance on December 11, 2011 at home against New York was better on paper.

The difference: when the game was on the line against the Giants in 2011, Romo and Miles Austin could not hook up on a pass that would have put the game away.

On Wednesday, with the game on the line, Romo made a great throw to Kevin Ogletree on third down to secure the win.

This list gives us reason to look forward to September 23, when the Cowboys host Tampa Bay. In three starts against the Buccaneers, his total numbers have been 61 completions on 86 attempts for 908 yards with 11 TDs and 0 interceptions. That’s good enough for a three-game passer rating of 144.7.

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A Great Opening Day Game by a Forgotten Cowboy

Dallas receiver Kevin Ogletree managed to change the focus of conversations from “The Cowboys don’t have a third receiver” to “This Ogletree kid looked awfully good. Should I pick him up on waivers for my fantasy team?”

(Eric Karabell at ESPN says yes to the last question. I own Miles Austin in two leagues and would prefer to see better production from #19. That’s a different matter, though).

Anyway, the point of this post isn’t really about Ogletree. It’s about one of the greatest opening-day performances not only in Cowboys history but also in league history. A certain receiver once opened as season by catching 10 passes for 241 yards with 3 TDs, two of which were on pass plays of longer than 50 yards. For those scoring at home, that’s 42.1 fantasy points in most standard leagues and 52.1 points in PPR leagues.

Of course, fantasy points were quite irrelevant to this player, who was not Bob Hayes, Drew Pearson, or Michael Irvin.

The player was Frank Clarke. His 3 TDs helped the Cowboys to a 35-35 tie with the Washington Redskins on opening day in 1962. Those 241 receiving yards are the most by any receiver on opening day in league history, according to a post today at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Of course, without the  fantasy football implications of today, reference to Clarke’s performance did not appear until the ninth paragraph of Charles Burton’s story in the Dallas Morning News:

The tie score obscured a brilliant day of pass receiving and running by Frank Clarke, the veteran wingback, who caught the ball 10 times, made the catches worth 241 yards and three touchdowns.

Incidentally, Clarke had some other monster games for the Cowboys. He had two games in 1963 alone where he had more than 150 receiving yards, including an 8-reception, 190-yard performance against the San Francisco 49ers.

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Dallas 20, St. Louis 19: More First-Half Dominance

Tony Romo (en) at a Dallas Cowboys (en) preseason.

Tony Romo completed 9 of 13 passes for 198 yards and 2 TDs on Saturday night.

The best news from the preseason thus far has come in the first halves of the three games:

Dallas Cowboys 30, Opponents 6

Dwayne Harris showed that the Cowboys may actually have some depth at receiver. He hauled in three passes in the first half, two of which went for touchdowns. He and quarterback Tony Romo allowed the team to jump out to a 17-3 lead in the first half, en route to a 20-19 win over the Rams.

Harris finished the night with three receptions for 118 yards. Romo only played in the first quarter but still completed 9 of 13 for 198 yards, giving him a QB rating of 151.4.

Backup Kyle Orton led the team on a late drive in the first half, setting up Dan Bailey‘s second field goal of the half. The drive featured some nice receptions by Cole Beasley, Kevin Ogletree, and James Hanna.

In fact, Ogletree ended up with the most receptions on the night, hauling in five passes for 75 yards. However, Ogletree could not haul in a pass on a 3rd-and-6 play and forced the team to settle for a field goal.

The four Dallas quarterbacks combined for 333 passing yards. Orton was sacked twice, while the others were not sacked at all.

The defense shut down starter Sam Bradford all night. He completed only 6 of 17 passes for 64 yards, and Morris Claiborne broke up a pass in the end zone late in the first half, denying the Rams a shot at a touchdown.

DeMarco Murray ran five times for 26 yards. He apparently suffered a hand injury, but it does not appear to be serious.

Other potential bad news: nose tackle Jay Ratliff reportedly suffered a high ankle sprain during the game. A few have tweeted that he may miss some regular season games.

Dallas hosts Miami on Wednesday night. Starters are not likely to play.

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San Diego 28, Dallas 20: So Much for Six Scoreless Quarters

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 18: Quarterback Tony Ro...

SAN DIEGO, CA – AUGUST 18: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 and head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys talk things over during a Cowboy drive in the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on August 18, 2012 in San Diego, California. The Chargers won 28-20. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

The first six quarters of the 2012 preseason gave Cowboys’ fans plenty of optimism about the defense. Dallas outscored two opponents 13-0 during those six quarters.

Then came the second half of Saturday night’s game against the San Diego Chargers. Stephen McGee committed two turnovers in the fourth quarter that led to two San Diego touchdowns, as the Chargers came from behind to beat Dallas, 28-20.

There were still plenty of positives for the Cowboys. Tony Romo led the starters on a 15-play drive in the first quarter, resulting in a field goal. Kyle Orton came in during the second quarter and led the team on its first touchdown drive of the preseason. His 35-yard pass to Kevin Ogletree set up a  two-yard touchdown by Jamize Olawale.

The touchdown drive was set up by an interception by new cornerback Brandon Carr, who also had a second pick later in the second quarter. The second pick nearly set up more points, but Orton’s pass to Andre Holmes was tipped in the air and picked off (narrowly, but confirmed under review).

The Cowboys continued to lead until the fourth quarter. Charlie Whitehurst threw two touchdown passes during that quarter as the Chargers grabbed a 28-13 lead.  Rudy Carpenter led Dallas on a late drive and threw a touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris.

Rookie Cole Beasley of SMU had a standout night, catching seven passes for 104 yards. He appears to be a long-shot to make the roster, but he had a night to remember on Saturday.

Dallas has its first home preseason game against the Rams on Saturday, August 25.

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