Thursday, April 05, 2012

Cowboys Mailbag - 4/6

Let's crank up yet another mailbag as we reach the end of yet another week.

The NFL Draft is just 20 days away, so it is time to really start putting the picture in the frame with regards to the Cowboys aspirations and intentions.

With that comes a bunch of comical rabbit holes for us to chase into and see if there is legitimate information to collect, or simply a smoke screen. And with Dallas and Jerry Jones, it is tough to tell the difference.

For instance, when we have too much information leaking about a prospect like Memphis NT Dontari Poe, part of us wants to ignore it as an obvious bluff. Look at this from Clarence Hill in the Fort Worth Star Telegram:
The Cowboys did not bring in defensive tackle Dontari Poe as expected. According to a team source, the Cowboys "like him a lot but don't want to draw attention to him."

So, instead of bringing him in to bring a lot of attention to him, they leak the information to a newspaper which seems to bring even more attention to him? Things that make you shake your head.

But, this issue of Pre-draft visits should be covered and discussed. The Cowboys have been very consistent in using their 30 visits every year to bring in legit prospects that they seriously are considering. Just about every year, that 30 man list gives us many clues as to who they are serious about, and we should strongly consider the list. And, when is the last time they made a first round pick that we didn't expect? I suppose Mike Jenkins, the second 1st Rounder in 2008, would qualify. Otherwise, they nearly telegraphed Felix Jones, Dez Bryant, and Tyron Smith. So, the idea that they bluff is just not true. They generally have gone in exactly the direction we expected, so we should keep an eye on what they tell us in the weeks before the draft. And they should figure out why they have so many leaks.

Meanwhile, I wanted to take a look at what #14 in the last decade has generated. Here are the last 10 players grabbed in spot #14:

YearName, PosTeam
2002Jeremy Shockey, TENY Giants
2003Michael Haynes, DEChicago
2004Tommie Harris, DTChicago
2005Thomas Davis, LBCarolina
2006Brodrick Bunkley, DTPhiladelphia
2007Darrelle Revis, CBNY Jets
2008Chris Williams, OTChicago
2009Malcolm Jenkins, CBNew Orleans
2010Earl Thomas, SSeattle
2011Robert Quinn, DESt Louis

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Nothing wrong with the potential quality on that list (although the Bears might argue with that). The point is that history shows that you can find pretty solid players at this spot. Of course, there are so many variables about the methodology (strength of the draft is the biggest) that this list doesn't really serve any practical role, but I thought you might like to at least know the history of the slot.

One other link for you today is from the blog. I stumbled upon this study of Dez Bryant's first two years against other WRs across the league and it shows evidence that his production level has been just fine. This flies in the face of the consensus opinion that he has been a bit of a disappointment and I think it is worth reading. Check it out.

And here is the list of all of our draft profiles to this point, in case you have missed any. I have stacked the 6 profiles in the way I would stack my Cowboys board at #14. In order of my preference based on their profile and their fit on the Cowboys:

1.Quinton Coples - North Carolina
2.Fletcher Cox - Mississippi State
3.David DeCastro - Stanford
4.Courtney Upshaw - Alabama
5.Michael Brockers - LSU
6.Melvin Ingram - South Carolina

Now, on to our emails:

In watching film of Upshaw today, impressive but didn't seem to see too many double teams? Cox constantly doubled? - Aaron

There is no question that Fletcher Cox has been double-teamed far more often that someone like Courtney Upshaw, but that is as much from position as it is from anything else. Cox is playing a ton on the interior for Mississippi State and as their best defender, he is drawing many Guard-Center or Guard-Tackle double teams (and doing quite well). Meanwhile, Upshaw plays as the widest player on the defensive line - be it as a hand-in-the-ground defensive end or a standing up linebacker. Therefore, any double team action he might find would generate from a TE or a RB chip. But, with Alabama's defense, the opposition would be reluctant to offer double teams to a wide player as there were just too many threats around him.

And that remains the biggest challenge when rating one of these players against each other. How do we properly distinguish the plight of Dontari Poe (surrounded by nothing), Fletcher Cox (quality program, but he was clearly the focal point) and Courtney Upshaw (A program with 5 players from this defense on everyone's Top 100 Draft prospects). Environment has everything to do with defensive production - that is why we think better players around Anthony Spencer will enhance his sack totals - so, we need to try to remember that when we look at each player. And that is not an easy thing to do.

Hey Bob, I trust your judgement so I am assigning you a pre draft scouting task. I am hearing greater speculation about the Cowboys honing in on Mark Barron. This terrifies me because I believe he is a one dimensional Roy Williams type strong safety type with a bad case of scissorhands. I remember first hearing about him late in 2010 and watched Ala play an afternoon game, either LSU or Auburn I think. He got near a couple of passes and fought them off like he was allergic to leather.
If you have some free time(thats a joke) please scout some grainy 16mm film on him and while u r at it , combine workout warrior Dontario Poe and drop some tweets or blogs on us in regards to these two mistakes waiting to happen. I will be assigning you more football thought projects as the draft draws near. Thx, Steve

Thank you, Steve. I will tell you that I am already in the midst of my work on Mark Barron, and he will be the first draft profile that is posted next week. In fact, so is Dontari Poe, so you are in luck. Keep looking here for those profiles on Monday and Tuesday.

Now, on to my initial thoughts on Barron and the concept of adding him to the Cowboys. I think the first thing we need to get past is the idea that since Roy Williams proved to be a strong safety with no cover skills and hips that were tighter than you have ever seen before, we should not rule out every safety that is on the board every year. Roy Williams is one of many, many players to play the position, but some strong safeties are just fine in coverage. Further, in today's NFL - more than ever before - safeties are more interchangeable and need to be able to play in the "2 Deep, Man under" concepts that the league offers every week.

Barron looks to be just the hammer that could improve this defense. I really like plenty about his game, but I will admit plenty of reluctance about the fact that it really appears he played "deep LB" for most games at Alabama. The toughest thing about evaluating Alabama DBs this year was the rarity of playing actual passing teams. Two of my most watched tapes this offseason have been both of their match ups with LSU, and there are hardly NFL throws in either game to see how the various Alabama DBs cover. So, if at the snap of the ball a safety has complete confidence of not getting beat on the throw, then he starts playing in a downhill posture and is looking to blow up any and all running plays in front of him. And Barron was great at this. The trouble is that Eli Manning is not going to operate like LSU QBs. If Eli sniffs any sort of weakness in coverage from a Cowboys' DB, he is going to pounce. Alabama plays a style that has some NFL similarities, but playing safety is not one of them. Almost a completely different sport, and that is what I am trying to sort through as I watch him and Dre Kirkpatrick play.

Hey Bob, I haven't seen you write anything on the bounty scandal in New Orleans yet. Any chance you can give us a couple hundred words on that? Thanks, From Not-Mr-Phil

Well, at the risk of including a non-Cowboys topic in a Cowboys' mailbag, I am happy to do this. I have been very interested by this story during he duration of it. Clearly, the two stories you must read on the topic would be the Peter King cover story for Sports Illustrated back on March 12th and Michael Silver's story for yahoo yesterday regarding the recordings of Gregg Williams before the Saints-49ers playoff game.

When reading each of these pieces, you see the most important factors of this story that Saints fans seem to be missing. Yes, it does likely go on in other places beyond New Orleans, but the Saints were repeatedly warned to get this problem under control and for whatever reason, the message was not obeyed by Williams and the Saints defense. In 2009, 2010, and 2011, the Saints were told that the NFL was aware of this practice, and as late at the Saints wildcard game against the Lions were reports given to the league that the Saints were trying to knock players out of the game for money. So, when the 49ers game was just 7 days later and they were still doing it, that is where the league had be asking itself, "what is it going to take for the Saints to take this issue seriously?"

When you start calling out players concussions and ACLs as targets for your players, the line has been crossed by about a mile. Gregg Williams will be out of the league for a long time, now that this tape has emerged. The league cannot condone members of the fraternity actively trying to end each other's career. It is a violent league, but there has to be a healthy regard for eachother as humans and without that, we are on a road that legitimizes the idea that it is but a violent bloodsport, just a shade higher on the ladder of decency from the Roman Coliseum.

The game I kept coming back to when hearing the recording of Gregg Williams was the 2009 NFC Championship Game when the Saints played the Minnesota Vikings. I clearly remember in that game the thought that the hits the Saints were putting on Brett Favre seemed excessive and with intent to put him in the hospital. There is intimidation and then there is viscous intent. I though this one was beyond the normal bounds. And, to make matters more puzzling, the officials were not calling many of the hits (pay special attention to the video from the late 3rd Quarter about 5:30-6:30 in).

Did the punishment, much of it illegal decide the outcome of that game and even the Super Bowl? Did the punishment Favre sustained that day affect his body for the rest of his life? Should we care?

I guess that is an individual decision, but this sport I love crossed a line, even if it has been going on for years. When you hear the chilling tape of Gregg Williams wanting his players to "test concussions", then we are endorsing the reckless endangerment of these athletes, and it must be stomped out. Are the Saints being unfairly singled out? Perhaps. But, then again, they were the ones who let the secret out and seemed to not care that a camera was filming the whole thing. So, the brashness alone tells me they might need a timeout to think about how they conduct themselves.

I have heard a number of times that "90% of what Gregg Williams said is just football culture and how it works all the way down to the high school level". Well, let me say, I don't disagree. But, that other 10%? The part where we endorse going after Michael Crabtree's ACL? That cannot exist in this sport anymore.

There are my 2 cents on the issue.

Have a great Easter!

Email Bob at or follow him on Twitter "@sportssturm"

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