More Thoughts and Observations from the Shocker in New Jersey:
* The Story of Bryan McCann is certainly an interesting one. I find the story of the guys on the bottom of the roster far more interesting than the back story of a 1st Round pick. He went undrafted out of SMU despite his sub 4.3 40 time and his 40-inch vertical leap. Walterfootball.com rated him as the 26th best corner in the 2010 draft. He was invited to camp and actually made some nice impressions, but when the Cowboys kept just 3 corners, he was out of the mix. He ended up spending a few weeks with Baltimore on their active squad, but never played before being released in September. He then worked his way back to the Dallas practice squad before being promoted on November 4th to the 53-man Cowboys roster when they finally cut Jason Williams. He has played exactly 2 games for the Cowboys and has made strong impressions in each contest. And he now has the longest interception return in Dallas Cowboys history. I love his speed, and it was on full display during kick returns, but now we got a good look at it over 100 yards. He instantly looks more dangerous than Akwasi Owusu-Ansah on returns and has the job for as long as he can keep it up. I also loved how he fought Hakeem Nicks with all of his ability on Sunday in coverage. He lost quite a few of the battles, but Nicks is a superstar in the making, so he is on a long list of DBs that will lose some against him. This is the type of player the Cowboys need to find. A kid with ability that fell through the cracks. Turn over the bottom of the roster and find a few of these hungry kids who can make a play for you. Speed kills. And McCann has that and a fair amount of courage for a newbie. I like what I see, and it looks like we will see more.
* It was a bit shocking to see the Cowboys defense play relatively well despite very few moments of greatness from DeMarcus Ware against back-up Left Tackle Shawn Andrews. For that matter, Anthony Spencer was unable to accomplish a whole lot off the right flank in terms of getting to the QB. For this uptick to sustain, the idea of having two dominating edge rushers get to the QB on a somewhat routine basis has to emerge far more frequently.
* I have been skeptical about the Cowboys kicker situation since they came up with this idea last spring, so you can imagine after a missed extra point, a missed chip shot FG, and a kick out of bounds on a kickoff that my feelings have not improved. I really don't understand how this issue can be ignored for much longer. David Buehler has moments where he seems reasonable, but for the most part, kicker seems to be a spot where the Cowboys can get better at a relatively reasonable cost. And yet, we never hear about competition at that spot during the week with guys brought in for visits or anything. I would like to think the new coach will address that issue before it costs him a game.
* I have brought this up before, but a few months ago, someone asked me who I would want for the future between Hakeem Nicks and Dez Bryant. Nicks was born in January of 1988, Dez was born in November of 1988. Both appear to be unstoppable talents who possess the 3 things you want from a Wide Receiver: 1) Speed. 2) Strength and 3) The desire to attack the ball when it gets anywhere near you. Some receivers wait for the ball to arrive in their hands, and other snatch the ball away in traffic. I think both qualify as the type of receiver that Michael Irvin once was. Now, which would I rather want? That is a hypothetical that you cannot lose. Both look like awesome players with a mentality to get better and better. Nicks is in his 2nd year and Dez is playing his rookie season after basically no football in 2009. The sky is the limit. I bet neither team would swap with the other and are quite pleased with what they have. Both look to have quickly moved up the chart of their respective receiving groups in short order. This will be a fun battle to watch for years to come. I am fine with Dez on this side.
* Orlando Scandrick has never played better. He was really impressive in a number of spots, not the least of which was when he sprinted to the line of scrimmage and took out Ahmad Bradshaw's legs on a run play. This team needs more physical support from the defensive backs and we saw some good stuff on Sunday from the group.
* Football is a far easier sport when your QB can make some throws. Kitna averaged over 25 yards a completion on Sunday which is off the charts for anyone. He didn't look like the same guy from a week ago, either. His bad misses in Green Bay only made the problem worse and some wondered what we were waiting for on Stephen McGee. But, with throws like that - the 3rd and 22 to Roy Williams comes quickly to mind - the Cowboys can compete with him and should stay there for a while.
* There is a fine line in perception. When Gerald Sensabaugh and Terence Newman are yelling at eachother on Sunday, some said that means the Cowboys are playing with competitive juices spilling and are "so fired up". If it happens last week in Green Bay, with everything the same, we would say that they are suffering from complete chaos and are uncoached and undisciplined. Not sure where the truth lies.
* Someone asked me if Mike Leach took over play calling when on 3rd and 7 late in the game from the Giants 37, the Cowboys showed us that they didn't think their kicker could nail a kick from 50+ yards so instead of trying to get 3 or 4 more yards, Garrett calls a throw to the end zone that was picked off by Deon Grant. At the time, the Cowboys are up 33-20, and a field goal puts the lead up to a much safer 16. 4 plays later, Hakeem Nicks is celebrating a Touchdown that was eventually called back for a somewhat ticky-tack holding call. It is a game of inches. And small decisions can become huge if one play goes slightly different.
* Did Jon Kitna sign the locker-room wall?
* Another day where instant replay seems to prove its worth. 2 Dez Bryant circus catches reviewed and reversed properly.
* I cannot wait to show you some of the items tomorrow on the Decoding Garrett offensive breakdown. The departure from what we have seen offensively in 2010 will make some people very happy and some very angry about where Garrett has been hiding these ideas. I will wonder where the offensive line performance has been for 8 games, too. But, suddenly, they could run simple running plays again without consistent 4 yard losses.
For once, a Monday where the Cowboys can feel good about looking at some film. Plenty to work on, and a ton rides on how they perform against Detroit this week. They really need a home win against a poor team to establish some level of momentum and confidence, but Detroit is a team with 2 or 3 guys who terrify opposing coaches who try to scheme against them so they will be a handful.
Back to work. We must put the anointing oil away for now.