By Brad Adams
"We need to strike and we need to strike soon". These are the words that came out of Jerry Jones' mouth today on NFL Network. Jerry was referring to the several players, on the Dallas Cowboys, that are in their prime.
I've never been a big fan of Jerry Jones, but I couldn't agree more with him here. I'm glad he is finally realizing that there is not much success left in this team. This football team has at most, five quality years left.
But Jerry isn't just talking, he's walking as well. Jones, this off-season, finally addressed some needs that he had long ignored. He cut underachievers like Terrance Newman, and brought in quality free agents like, Brandon Carr, Brodney Pool, Dan Conner, and Lawrence Vickers. It's great to see that defense finally get some attention.
But Jerry didn't stop there. He traded up and got a huge upgrade in the secondary, by drafting Morris Claiborne at number six overall. I would have never thought Jerry would have traded up and selected Claiborne. I honestly thought when I saw the Cowboys trade up, that they were selecting Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State. The fact that Jerry didn't do that surprised me. I was stunned to see that instead of going for a flashy name, that he drafted the player that we most needed.
I'm not sure what's gotten into Jerry, but Cowboy fans have to love it right now. Maybe the decline in the Cowboys' record is getting to him. Since Romo took the helm, Every season has been a winning one, except for last year finishing 8-8, and the year before finishing 6-10. I think Jerry is finally seeing that the foundation of this team is aging.
I believe Jerry saying what he said is a good thing. It didn't sound like the whole "I'm not worried" spiel he gave us this past year. There is finally a sense of urgency in Dallas. The lackadaisical feeling seems to be fading away. The only question that remains, is will it translate on the field? We will see.
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By Brad Adams
On the show this past week, Cam and I were very harsh on the cornerback from LSU. Now due to my job, it is hard for me to see many college football games. I hate it, but you have to make some money while you're in college. So all I really saw of Claiborne, was the couple of highlights, and low lights, that they showed during the draft. So I stand before you on this blog and say: I was wrong. I was wrong about Morris Claiborne. We both were.
This afternoon after class, I went and watched the film. This kid can flat out play. He's a ball hawk. With him being a former wide receiver, if he gets a break on the ball, he's going to pick it. He has quick feet, and is definitely does not shy away from contact. But just because I was wrong, doesn't mean I'm not nervous about some things.
I saw on film, that he has a habit of over pursuing and getting sucked inside. There were more than a few times where I saw this occur. The good thing about that though, is that it is coach-able. Let's see if Jerome Henderson and Rob Ryan can get him to break that habit.
Due to my ignorance, I gave the Claiborne pick a C+ grade on the show. After going back and studying the film, I'd definitely have to raise that to an A. Morris Claiborne looks to greatly improve this secondary, and I for one am excited to see him on the field this year.
By Brad Adams
This schedule from a glance looks extremely tough. But if you look at it game by game and break it down, it doesn't seem as daunting.
The Cowboys open up against the Giants in the Meadowlands. This game I believe will set the tone for the remainder of the season. It's going to be a tough one. The next three games are against Seattle, Tampa, and Chicago. Jay Cutler will be back for the Bears, but I think the Cowboys could easily be 3-1 after 4 games in.
Here is where it gets a little rough. After the very early bye week, the Boys' will be at Baltimore. That's not going to be an easy game to win. They still have one of the best defenses in the game. Romo and company better be ready to play on October 14th. After that it's at the Panthers, where Cam Newton is doing something special down there in Carolina. I don't believe the Cowboys will lose that game, but it's still not a game to overlook. Then it's on to the Giants at home, followed by at the Falcons and Eagles. If the Eagles look like they did at the end of the year last year, the Cowboys very well could lose that game. I don't see the Cowboys being any worse than 6-3 at this point in the schedule.
Heading into Thanksgiving, the schedule seems to hit a bit of a soft spot. This is where they must take advantage. They host the Browns, Redskins, and Eagles. Three home games in a row. The Cowboys have to go 3-0 in that span. No way they should lose to Colt McCoy and the Browns, or even RG3 (or Luck) and the 'Skins. Just shouldn't happen. But with the Cowboys, you never know. The Eagles game takes place in December, which is not been a good month for the Cowboys. I still think they win that game.
The rest of December is sort of mixed bag. They go to Cincinnati to face the Bengals. Andy Dalton had this team looking sharp last year. So like the Panthers game, it's not one to be overlooked. The Cowboys then face the Steelers and Saints at home. Steelers will be tough to beat as always. With the Saints, who's to know how they will handle their adversity. By this time in the season we will know. If the Saint's are the kind of team I think they are, they will rally around each other and be a team to be reckoned with. They seem to handle adversity well.
The season wraps up with a trip to the Capitol, to face the Redskins. No way they lose to the Redskins this year. RG3 (or Luck) alone won't be enough to make this Redskin team all that good. Games against Washington are always close, but I see the 'Boys sweeping them this year again.
I know predicting how teams will finish in April is rather foolish, due to a lot of events in the off-season still left to occur. But, just for fun I'll give a prediction, that I'm sure I'll revise later. As of now, I see the Cowboys finishing now worse than 10-6.
Week One: Wednesday, Sept. 5th - Cowboys @ Giants
Week Two: Sunday, Sept. 16th - Cowboys @ Seahawks
Week Three: Sunday, Sept. 23rd – Bucs @ Cowboys
Week Four: Monday, Oct. 1st. – Bears @ Cowboys
Week Five: Bye Week
Week Six: Sunday Oct. 14th - Cowboys @ Ravens
Week Seven: Sunday, Oct. 21st – Cowboys @ Panthers
Week Eight: Sunday, Oct. 28th – Giants @ Cowboys
Week Nine: Sunday night, Nov. 4th – Cowboys @ Falcons
Week Ten: Sunday, Nov. 11th – Cowboys @ Eagles
Week Eleven: Sunday, Nov. 18th - Browns @ Cowboys
Week Twelve: Thursday, Nov. 22nd – Redskins @ Cowboys
Week Thirteen: Sunday night, Dec. 2nd – Eagles @ Cowboys
Week Fourteen: Sunday, Dec. 9th – Cowboys @ Bengals
Week Fifteen: Sunday, Dec. 16th – Steelers @ Cowboys
Week Sixteen: Sunday, Dec. 23rd – Saints @ Cowboys
Week Seventeen: Sunday, Dec. 30th – Cowboys @ Redskins
With everyone's mock drafts out, it seems most people have the Cowboys taking Dre Kirkpatrick at fourteen. But is that the right choice? The Cowboys did sign Brandon Carr, and people are forgetting about Michael Jenkins. Michael Jenkins has been injury prone, but with him entering a contract year, you better believe he is coming to play this year. So with Carr on one side and Jenkins on the other, that's not a bad combination. But whoever is back there in the secondary isn't going to matter without a good pass rush, which is something the Cowboys lack right now.
Aside from Demarcus Ware, there just isn't anyone getting pressure on the quarterback. Jay Ratliff is a great defensive tackle, but he gets double teamed quite a bit since there isn't anyone else besides Ware to generate pressure. They need help. That's why I think in the first round, they should go for a pass rusher. There are a good amount of them in this years draft. The first one that comes to mind is Courtney Upshaw from Alabama. At 6'2" 245 pounds, Upshaw is a very explosive pass rusher, but his run stopping ability is probably the best part of his game. He flows to the ball very well, and has experience in the 3-4 defense. Upshaw should still be around at fourteen, as a lot of mock drafts have him going later in the round.
This is definitley the man they have to draft. They can upgrade the secondary more in later rounds. No need to go after Kirkpatrick or Janoris Jenkins, both of which have character problems. They don't need that here in Dallas. Get Upshaw and improve that pass rush. An average secondary can look like a great one with a great pass rush. Just look at the Giants. The Cowboys aren't far off from a Super Bowl run. Yes I'm serious. Just improve the defense and everything will fall into place.
By Brad Adams
Where they stand:
#82 Jason Witten
#80 Martellus Bennett (FA)
#89 John Phillips
2011 Review: Jason Witten was great as always. Despite his numbers being down, he still led the team in catches with 79 and receiving yards with 942.
Martellus Bennett was just a disappointment. You can just tell he doesn't want to be here. He doesn't like the way he's being used, and its obvious that he will not be back next year.
John Phillips, had a decent season. It's hard to tell what he will become, but it will be fun to see if he can develop into a solid tight end.
Top Free Agents: Jermichael Finley(GB), Marcedes Lewis(JAX), Visanthe Shiancoe(MIN), John Carlson(SEA)
Top Draft Prospects: Coby Fleener(Stan)Dwayne Allen(Clem) Orson Charles(UGA) Ladarius Green(LA-Lafe) Michael Egnew(MIZZ)
What should they do?: Jason Witten is entering his 10th season in the league. It's amazing isn't it? By no means is it his time to go. He is still playing at a high level. But as with all great things, his time will come to an end soon. The Cowboys need to be ready for that. There is no reason to get a tight end in free agency. It's to stacked of a market, and they'll want big money. If Jerry decides to get a tight end this off-season, he needs to get one through the draft. There are a few good tight ends in the draft such as, Ladarius Green and Michael Egnew, that are worth looking at.
The Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer this week. This move right here proves that Jerry Jones has not a clue what he is doing. These are the type of decisions that are keeping the Cowboys at a level of mediocrity. Anthony Spencer is not that good of a football player. He's just not. He's had a mere 21.5 sacks in 76 games. Jason Pierre-Paul has 21 sacks in only 32 games. Spencer is also the same guy who admitted to mailing games in. He's a quitter, and Jerry signed him back.
You see, it's not about leadership, and it's not about Tony Romo. It's the fact that Jerry continues to give average players big deals and a starting spot on this team. There are a good amount on athletes on this team that would not have a starting job anywhere else in the league. That is unacceptable. Jerry's horrible drafting, and rewarding players of mediocrity with big deals, is crippling a team with an excellent, but aging, foundation to make a Super Bowl run.
Jerry needs to figure it out or step down. He needs to stop looking at his three Lombardi trophies from the early 90's, and realize that he has another Super Bowl run in front of him, if he makes better decisions. Time is not on the Cowboys side. The foundation of Romo, Witten, and Ware are closing in on the end of their prime.
By Brad Adams
Where they stand:
#19 Miles Austin
#88 Dez Bryant
#81 Laurent Robinson (FA)
#85 Kevin Ogletree (RFA)
#17 Dwayne Harris
#15 Andre Holmes
#86 Raymond Radway
#10 Teddy Williams (Futures Contract)
2011 Review: Who would have thought Laurent Robinson would have been the most productive receiver this season? With 11 touchdowns on just 54 receptions, Robinson burst onto the scene with his exceptional play. If the Cowboys hadn't had him, they might not have even been in playoff contention until the last game. Aside from Robinson, the receivers had a fairly quiet year.
Miles Austin was hampered by a hamstring injury for a majority of the year, rendering his play ineffective. The biggest play of the year for the receivers may have been the non-catch by Austin in the Giants game at Cowboys Stadium. Whether is was Miles "losing it in the lights" or an overthrow by Tony Romo, that was definitely the biggest non-play of the year.
Dez Bryant had a pretty good year this past year with 63 catches for 928 yards and nine touchdowns. Even though Bryant's talent is undeniable, his lack of game preparation shows on the field. Multiple times this year, Bryant seemed to run the wrong route causing a Tony Romo pass to hit the grass. I love his intensity and athleticism, but he needs to work harder in the film room and study the playbook more.
Top Free Agents: Wes Welker (NE), Marques Colston (NO), Desean Jackson (PHI), Vincent Jackson (SD), Dwayne Bowe (KC).
Top Draft Prospects: Justin Blackmon (OkState), Michael Floyd (Notre Dame), Alshon Jeffery (S Car), Mohamed Sanu (Rutgers)
What should they do?: First and foremost, the Cowboys have to re-sign Laurent Robinson. You have to pay this guy after the year he had with this team. Robinson has even stated that he would take less money to stay in Dallas. Come on Jerry, make this deal happen. Do not let him walk. With that said, if the Cowboys do let him walk, they'll have to find another "Robinson" in free agency, or use a late draft pick on a receiver, because Ogletree just can't get the job done as the #3.
By Brad Adams
Where they stand:
#29 DeMarco Murray
#28 Felix Jones
#34 Phillip Tanner
#45 Shaun Chapas
#24 Tony Fiametta (RFA)
#23 Sammy Morris (FA)
#30 Chauncey Washington (FA)
2011 Review: Finally. Finally we have a dependable running game. Even though it was hampered by injuries late in the season, you have to be excited with it. After DeMarco Murray was given the chance to start, he went off. He rushed for 824 yards and 2 touchdowns in 8 starts before a fractured ankle ended his season. Murray didn't go down without a bang though. He broke Cowboys' great Emmith Smith's single game rushing record for the franchise, with 253 yards against St. Louis. Tony Fiametta might have been the most impressive part of this running game though. He proved his worth, clearing holes for Murray and Felix Jones. When Fiametta went down the running game really suffered. Although the unit was shut down early by injuries, the Cowboys have a really bright future with this running game.
Top Free Agents: Peyton Hillis (CLE), Arian Foster (HOU), Ray Rice (BAL), Matt Forte (CHI), Marshawn Lynch (SEA).
Top Draft Prospects: Trent Richardson (Alabama), Lamichael James (Oregon), Lamar Miller (Miami FL), Chris Polk (Washington), David Wilson (Virginia Tech)
What should they do?: Without a doubt the biggest thing the Cowboys need to do is re-sign Tony Fiametta. When he was injured, he was severely missed. His importance to this running game is undeniable. Some people believe the Cowboys should trade Felix for a late round pick. I, on the other hand, do not think that is beneficial. I believe that Felix fit in great as the back up running back for this franchise. With Murray as the starter, Jones as the backup, and Tanner as the third, this team is set at the running back position.
By Brad Adams
Where they stand:
#9 Tony Romo
#7 Stephen McGee
2011 Review: Tony Romo had the best season of his career. He ranked 4th in touchdowns and 7th in yardage. Romo also had the best QB rating of his career, with 102.5. Never in his career has he been more efficient than he was this year. Aside from two horrendous 4th quarters, he was as good as a quarterback as you could ask for. With Kitna gone, the Cowboys are left with Stephen Mcgee. McGee played in one very forgettable game this year. He just hasn't shown me enough to feel comfortable with him being the #2, much less Romo's replacement.
Top Free Agents: Drew Brees (NO), Jason Campbell (OAK), Alex Smith (SF), Kyle Orton (KC).
Top Draft Prospects: Andrew Luck (Stan), Robert Griffin III (Baylor), Ryan Tannehill (TAMU), Brandon Weeden (OkState), Kirk Cousins (Mich St), Nick Foles (Arizona).
What should they do?: I definitely think we should go after a veteran QB in free agency. I just don't trust McGee to be the #2. If Romo goes down the Cowboys need someone with experience to come in the game and secure a win, just like Jon Kitna did such a great job doing. As much as I hate to say it, Romo only has a few more years left in him. Secondary is clearly the biggest need this off-season but I believe the Cowboys should try and pick up a quarterback late in the draft to one day replace Romo, such as Russell Wilson from Wisconsin or Case Keenum from Houston. Stephen McGee is not the answer for when Tony Romo finally hangs it up.