Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday, Monday

Last I checked, we won 13 games last year. I don't know why you are all making a big deal about all of this! - Wade Phillips imaginary quote

Short Monday Morning Blog with plenty of Cowboys reaction to the preseason loser in Denver from various voices around the web (you may call it cut and paste – I call it a valuable service):

Rafa Vela’s review

So, which scenario grabs your attention more — an opening game in which the starters look great in limited play and the second and third teamers look weak, or the second game, where the starters look ragged but the understudies show tremendous improvement?

That was the performance Dallas served up in a 23-13 loss to Denver Saturday night. The Cowboys starters, so effective against San Diego, lost their edge; they could stay with the Broncos but could not make the deciding plays. The defense allowed two long scoring drives because it could not stop a sharp Jay Cutler from converting on third down. And on the series where they defenders came through, Bradie James handed Denver a “continue your drive free” card by commiting a personal foul after Denver conceded, calling a draw on third and long.

The offense made some plays, with Tony Romo and Terrell Owens connecting for the first time this campaign, but could not string together the good plays and could not overcome 20 yards of penalties on the opening drive.
On the other hand, this was a strong night for new Cowboys. Let’s run down the list of draftees, trade pickup and young players on the edge:

1. Felix Jones — continued to show dazzling open field skills. He took a short opening toss from Brad Johnson, made two Broncos miss, and turned a likely seven or eight yard gain into a 28 yarder.

2. Mike Jenkins — was beaten on a stop and go by Eddie Royal on Denver’s second drive, and by an option route in the end zone by Brandon Marshall. The rookie was solid, however and made some big stops as a gunner on special

3. Martellus Bennett — made the most of his limited opportunities, showing tackle breaking ability on Dallas’ initial 3rd quarter drive. He also made a stop on a kickoff return at Denver’s 26.

4. Tashard Choice — blocked a punt in the third quarter and showed toughness as a runner and receiver.

5. Orlando Scandrick — Had a 32 yard kickoff return and almost blocked the Broncos’ half-ending field goal attempt and forced it wide. Scandrick later put a wicked hit on a Denver receiver inside the Dallas ten, keeping the Broncos out of the end zone.

6. Adam Jones — was much, much better tonight than against San Diego. He was much more in tune with the game’s pace. He gave up a handful of catches but tackled his man for minimal gains of two to three yard. His tackling was much better this week. He just missed an interception for a score and got the Cowboys’ collective pulse racing with a brilliant 24 yard punt return.

7. Miles Austin — had another strong game, making two impressive catches on Dallas’ lone TD drive, the first a 38 yarder down the right sideline that beat tight Dominique Foxworth coverage and the second a fade over Foxworth for the score.

Austin is also the biggest question mark. He tackled Broncos returner Andre Hall on the play immediately after his score and took Hall’s shoulder pad directly on his right knee. The initial diagnosis was a “sprain” and Austin will be re-evaluated today. Hope the scans don’t find serious damage, because he’s making a serious push for more playing time.

8. Isaiah Stanback — Had a winding 32 yard kickoff return and caught a tough Johnson skipper just off the turf. He appears to be making slow, steady progress.

9. Bobby Carpenter — made a lot of tackles behind the second line, which played much better as a unit this week.

10. Keon Lattimore — made some big runs in the 4th quarter playing with the third teamers. He’s earner a more serious look the last two weeks.

11. Bruce Read — you notice all the big special teams plays today? His units were vastly improved from last week, showing strong play across the board. Dallas got big kickoff and punt returns, blocked a punt, forced a bad field goal and had strong punt coverage.

If Read’s guys can bottle this week’s performance, they’ll be in great shape going forward.

It was a fuzzy game for the starters but the backups gave the coaches plenty to study this week.

Mickey loves him some Brad Johnson

But did anyone bother to smell at least one rose Saturday night, the one that those perceptions seem to smother because few can work past the guy's age or his mounting years in the league?

Tony Romo did, coming up from behind the team's oldest player, throwing his arms around his 39-year-old shoulders, and with the biggest smile you've ever seen proclaim, "That's 2001 right there; that's Brad Johnson 2001."

Romo spoke of his immediate backup, the soon-to-be 40-year-old quarterback who had a vintage year in 2001, leading his Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl title, basically playing the same style of football then as so many are quick to criticize and want to retire him for now.

Johnson, who was afforded the opportunity to play behind the Cowboys' first-team offensive line, the one which includes three Pro Bowlers, led the club to 10 points in three possessions of work. And on the one he didn't, only that weird tripping call on a blocking Felix Jones stalled the drive that was going places.

Johnson was razor sharp, and against the Broncos' first-team defense, mind you, completing nine of 12 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown.

To those who say his arm is shot, we give you the mighty fine 37-yard pass to Austin streaking down the right sideline. To those who say he won't hang in the pocket, we give you the perfectly thrown five-yard fade to Austin for a touchdown. And for those who wanted to insist after the San Diego game that he is so old he can't make good decisions anymore, we give you the 11-yard pass to tight end Martellus Bennett, a nine-yarder to Isaiah Stanback and the six-yarder to Tony Curtis, showing he's patient enough to take what the defense during a two-minute drill will give him.
But for the record, just don't think the criticism dents his skin. Heck, he's heard it before.

"I've fought (the perceptions) from middle school to high school and for 17 years in the NFL," Johnson said. "I'm used to it. Nothing I do is ever good enough, but I sleep well at night because I know how hard I work, and that's good enough for me."
That Johnson is their backup quarterback is evidently good enough for the Cowboys, too. Because more than anything, they value his experience and place a premium on having the guy behind Romo able to come into a game in a moment's notice without the benefit of a boatload of practice snaps during the week.

They also value his penchant for not making mistakes, realizing the role of the backup quarterback is more not to lose the game than to win it all by himself. You heard that from offensive coordinator Jason Garrett mid-week while the Cowboys were practicing against the Broncos.

And now you're going to hear very similar sentiments from the owner.

"We look at his experience, and look at how he does in practice, and know he's physically able to make plays and are betting on his experience to not make bad plays," Jones said. "We know what to expect to see. That's why we have him."

Let's total the two-game preseason numbers, and remember the majority of the ones from the San Diego game came from operating behind the backup offensive line, with the backup running backs and tight ends. Johnson isn't afforded the luxury of playing with Marion Barber and Terrell Owens and Jason Witten during preseason.
Barely gets to play with Patrick Crayton.

So in these first two preseason games, Johnson's QB line reads like this: 17 of 27 for 203 yards, one touchdown one interception and three sacks, although two of those were the responsibility of rookie blockers who whiffed against the Chargers. He's led the club to three scoring drives, totaling 13 points.

And let's face it, he hardly got to play last year, throwing only 11 passes in 2007, which is no way to ever get any better, especially when working in a new offense.
That is why the Cowboys thought it fair to give him some work behind the first offensive line Saturday night- just give Johnson a fighting chance to succeed. This wasn't an ultimatum of any sort, like "By gosh you had better play well against the Broncos or else."

Michael Lombardi with some quick observations that are nice

…The Cowboys have to be nervous about their secondary after Jay Cutler torched them last night. They should be very worried—without a pass rush, the Cowboys get exposed. Pacman is not a shut down corner…please accept this.

…The Broncos can throw the ball with Cutler. He is really a great player and is the best QB of that draft. Not sure yet who will be the Denver ball carrier.

…I have always liked Miles Austin of the Cowboys and last night he looked great. I think with his return skills and run after the catch ability, he should be a very good player. And it is not because he is from New Jersey. I have blinders on for Jersey, but I temper them at times.

…Felix Jones is really going to be a home-run hitter. He has great power and great speed.

Oh dear

Miles Austin's stellar training camp and preseason has come to an end because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee suffered Saturday, and it's unlikely he will be able to play in the regular-season opener Sept. 7 at Cleveland.
Generally speaking, MCL tears (anytime you hear a sprain that means something is torn, by the way) take 4-6 weeks to heal depending on the severity.

So what happens now?

Sam Hurd had been the No. 3 receiver anyway, although Austin had been on the rise since camp started. But now guys like Isaiah Stanback, Mark Bradford, Danny Amendola, Daniel Polk, Mike Jefferson and Todd Lowber move up a step.

It also affects the special teams units because Austin covered kickoffs and punts too. He's also proven he can return kickoffs too, so now you see the domino effect of losing one player.

As for the final 53-man roster, it almost has to mean the Cowboys keep six wide receivers if Austin is out. I was thinking the Cowboys would go with five receivers - Terrell Owens, Patrick Crayton, Hurd, Austin and probably Stanback - before the injury. Now it's six, which takes away a spot from somewhere else - maybe tailback, maybe a No. 3 quarterback, maybe an O-lineman.

And then there is Pat Crayton’s take

Leave to Patrick Crayton to save the day.

Regardless of what you think of the Cowboys receiver's skills or ability, God love him for his mouth.

We were talking about penalties after the game, Crayton questioned some of the calls that were made.

"You know what? Some of the penalty calls they made too will make some things happen, too," Crayton said.

"Yes. The one where they jumped off sides and were in the neutral zone; I'm standing on the line so I'm sitting here looking at it and Andre Gurode is not going to snap it unless they are in the neutral zone," Crayton said. "Colombo's late hit."

I then made reference to a close call on a late-hit penalty assessed to Bradie James that resulted in a Broncos' first down.

"Those are three completely bad calls right there," Crayton said.

Crayton then wondered if NFL official Ed Hochuli was just looking for more air time.

"I think Mr. Hochuli likes to get himself on TV a little bit. I know he likes to work out, but c'mon Mr. Hochuli," Crayton said. "We don't gotta see that much of you."

If you don't know, Hochuli is a fitness fantatic and looks big enough to be a tight end. Today.

Confusing development from Rangers land …But, they made me quite happy by getting Justin Smoak done late Friday. Well done!

– The Texas Rangers are swapping corner infielders.

Chris Davis is moving to third base and Hank Blalock is going to first when Blalock returns to the active lineup, which could be as early as Friday against Cleveland.

Blalock's shoulder is the reason for the flip-flop. Blalock talked to manager Ron Washington and general manager Jon Daniels on Sunday and said his shoulder isn't progressing enough for him to realistically expect to play third base this season. So to get Blalock in the lineup, the Rangers asked Davis to move to the left side of the infield, where he played in 2007.

"It was the only way to get both guys in the lineup," Daniels said. "We're committed to Chris as a big part of our club going forward. If he shows he can play at third base, that gives us an option. It's hard to imagine a 2009 team without him in it at one spot or the other."

Blalock is scheduled to go to Double-A Frisco tonight for three rehab games at first base. If he hasn't any setbacks, he could start for the Rangers on Friday.

Daniels didn't want to speculate on whether Blalock would ever be able to play third base fulltime.

"He's 27 years old, and I'm not going to rule it out long term for him," Daniels said.
Blalock has a club option for next season at $6.2 million, but the team can buy him out for $250,000. If Daniels and his staff feel Blalock can stay healthy and contribute, an option is to buy him out and try to negotiate with him as a free agent.

"All options are on the table," Daniels said.

Daniels isn't worried about Davis making the adjustment back to third.

"Chris told us he feels more confident over there in the physical shape he's now in," Daniels said.

At the risk of losing part of the audience, I would like to bring a brand new feature to Bob’s Blog, assuming I stay with it. It is an effort to track the Big 4 teams in the English Premiership as the season goes on. Yes, there are 20 teams in the top flight of English Football, but for the last million years, these 4 teams have finished 1-4 in some order pretty much every year. Manchester United wins all the time, Chelsea has won a bit lately, Arsenal a bit before that, and Liverpool won back when Air Supply was good. But, now it is 2008-09, and since the season started this past weekend, I thought we could all enjoy this year through the blog – mostly on Mondays with a quick wrap up.

First, my predicted order of finish:
1. Evil Man United
2. Chelski
3. Tom Hicks’ Liverpool
4. The Arsenal

Well, round 1 of 38 is in the books, and here we go:

Arsenal 1, West Brom 0 as some dude named Samir Nasir has joined the team and scored a goal. Great, just what Wenger needs is another kid who can play.

Liverpool 1, Sunderland 0 as Liverpool gets a rare road win in a game in which they did not spend much time impressing until Nando Torres scores another wondergoal to save the day. I think they are the same as usual. Ok, but nowhere near the top 2…

Then Sunday, Chelsea 4, Portsmouth 0 with Big Phil’s debut going incredibly easy against an always pesky Pompey. No Special One, no problem as the Blues roll on…

And finally, in the only result of note from the Big 4, Manchester United 1, Newcastle United 1 - no Ronaldo, no Tevez, so no win for the Red Devils at home. Before we all go ahead and celebrate, United always starts slow, and then goes on a 4 month winning streak so it will take more than a home tie to rattle Sir Alex.

So, Round 1 is complete:

Chelsea 1GP 3Pts
Liverpool 1GP 3Pts
Arsenal 1GP 3Pts
Man United 1GP 1Pt

Cannot believe they traded him…how could you trade a guy like this?

Wow. Words cannot express what you are about to watch.


Mike said...

Bob I am a Redskins fan and I thought that the Cowboys played like crap in the first half.

I heard that your coach is sating no worry.

Did not I hear this same thing last December when the Cowboys went flat?

That game was a joke and if this is the best that the Cowboys have. This could be a very long season.

I still can not believe that the 2nd round pick Martellus Bennett, treated his coach the way he did on Hard Knocks.

My question is does this team in Dallas have any respect for their coaches at all?

Jordan said...

I can't wait for Kige Ramsey to interview Mr. Halen88 there...

Jay Beerley said...

Does anybody realistically expect a good game when you've been away from home for almost a month and have practiced against these guys for a couple of days before you play them? I hate the preseason.

On a more important Rangers note, why in the world are we so set on taking away time from young guys to play Blalock? Let it go, Rangers. Let it go. I think he's had ample time in his career to prove himself. I'm not interested in major league rehab starts for the club he's going to sign with after this year.

Joe said...

Jeez Bob, I don't know how you and Dan put up with Spagnola. He is absolutely nauseating with his takes.

Johnson may look "decent" with the first team but if Romo goes down for any extended period of time, expect Hall of Fame numbers from Barber, Felix and Witten. However expect all of the WRs numbers to go down and the offense to avg. around 13-17 pts a game. And also Brad's arm to fall off on the field after the second game.


Andy D. said...

That you tube dude is the best...

Shut cho mouth... grasshopper, young son

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Preseason comments should be taken with a grain of salt... lets see how this thing is when all cuts are made and we are about the play Cleveland. Ok, homeslice??

Jay said...

I think the most important point is it's preseason - who cares? It's good for young guys to see what they can do, but otherwise it's just practice. The most important thing is who got injured? So far Miles Austin...

The Prawn said...

Dear Sports Sturm,

Kudos for discussing the English Premier League. I have to say it's great that you march against the tide of soccer hate and try to bring to some attention to a truly great and underappreciated sport. That being said, I'm a long time supporter of Everton, thus making us mortal enemies on the level of He-Man and Skeletor or Green Lantern snd Sinestro. That being said, I appreciate your respect and love of the game and will grant you some level of forgiveness for supporting the wrong side of Merseyside.

One last thing, Air Supply, like Liverpool, were never good. It's just been so long since either were relevant to their respective industries, that people don't remember what they accomplished and thus believe they might once have been good.

Thank You.

Anonymous said...

Last I checked last year's record has nothing to do with this year's record.


Jon M said...

I think Chelsea should be fun to watch this season, playing a much more exciting brand of soccer than years past. And if form holds they could finish tops. ManYoo may have been missing Ronaldo, Rooney, and Tevez, but Chelsea were missing Drogba, Shevchenko, Kalou, and Essien.

And for some great Premier League lols, check out and all of last year's episodes.