Friday, May 18, 2012

Cowboys Mailbag: 5/18

Another week has ended in Cowboys' land, and all has been relatively quiet. Save for the very disappointing news about the hip of Mackenzy Bernadeau. You never want to hear about an injury taking out a guy for 3 months you have just signed to be a starter, but I suppose this injury hitting in May is way better than September. Nevertheless, continuity and reps are what makes an offensive line strong, and it doesn't appear that their projected Week 1 offensive line is going to get much time together before mid-training camp. Further, any talk about a position conversion for Bernadeau as a center option would likely reduce substantially with that development.

Before we get to emails, please find some additional reading from the last few weeks as I have broken down the rookie class by viewing extensive game tape from their college bodies of work. Yes, it has been mentioned that I have not really done this for Mo Claiborne, and I will get to it. I just assumed that there was enough Claiborne analysis available on the market, so I put him to the back of the list. Odd marketing strategy, but I have Danny Coale and Ronald Leary broken down for you here:

3rd Round: Tyrone Crawford
4th Round: Kyle Wilber
4th Round: Matt Johnson
5th Round: Danny Coale
6th Round: James Hanna
7th Round: Caleb McSurdy
Undrafted: Ronald Leary

Also, speaking of bad marketing, I don't think you are supposed to promote other people's websites, but this is very good work from Cowboys Nation and Rafeal Vela. He spends 4 blog entries looking at the Rob Ryan defense in a well-defined, broken-down, sort of way. I enjoyed it and I think you will, too:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

And now that we have linked up everything so thoroughly, here are some real emails from you:

Hi Bob
You seem pretty high on the Cowboys draft. I’d be interested in your thoughts on how many of the seven draft picks will win roster spots and how many will start at some point next year and how many will star eventually. I know it’s early but this does seem like a promising draft.

Thank you.


J. David Green

I have received messages like this quite a bit since I did breakdowns of each player that the Cowboys selected, and I am a bit careful to be clear on somethings.

The draft is about 2 things, to me. 1) How does the player compare with other players in the draft? and 2) how does the player compare with other player on the team? When I am watching these draft picks on tape, I will be honest, I am not considering what they could have done at that spot in the draft. Maybe I should, but to do that, I would need a comprehensive breakdown of everyone on the Cowboys' board when they were sitting in the 3rd Round. Given that I didn't do that, I take the other approach.

How can this guy impact the Dallas Cowboys? And when they take Tyrone Crawford, for instance, do I think that he has a good chance to ultimately be one of the best Dallas players at that position?

If I had done it the other way, I think one could reasonably argue that Philip Blake from Baylor or Alameda Ta'Amu from Washington would have been a more immediate need for the Cowboys than Crawford. But, they selected Crawford and instead of comparing him to those players they didn't take, I start to compare him to Marcus Spears, Kenyon Coleman, Jason Hatcher, and Sean Lissemore. And from that standpoint, I love the Cowboys draft.

I think that Danny Coale can push all of the other current candidates for the 3rd WR. I think Matt Johnson could start at safety in 2012 at some point. I think Caleb McSurdy and Kyle Wilber could instantly be 2 of the best 3 special teams cover guys this season.

So, understand, it is 2 different conversations that are easily confused. Did the Cowboys have a great 2012 draft relative to the rest of the league? I don't know. That would require me to know those other 31 rosters as well as I know Dallas'. But, do I feel the Cowboys did a nice job getting players that can instantly improve the quality of their roster 1-53? Yes. I really do.

Save this column, so if the 2012 draft goes as badly as 2009, you can remind me that I loved it when it happened. Because I think all of these players will make the team. Perhaps that actually discloses what I think of the Dallas roster to begin with. I think there was a real vacancy in quality down the line, and now there is not as much.


Sports Sturm:

Do the Cowboys really see Scandrick more of a valuable commodity in the secondary to keep him as opposed to Jenkins? Or are just now in the initial stages of regretting that extension? Explain the reason to move Jenkins and how/if it does go down. Whats the ceiling we could fetch for him? 3rd Round pick?

Thanks. You are my leader.

P1 Matt

Thanks, Matt.

It is all in the contract details. Orlando Scandrick signed a 6-year deal for $28.8 million dollars to carry him from 2011-2016. The annual cost of such a deal that guaranteed $10m is $4.8m per season. The Cowboys actually did a pretty nice job here of locking in a young corner before he got to free agency.

I would try to look at Scandrick and Jenkins as separate entities and guys that play different positions. Scandrick plays the slot, of course, most the time when he is on the field, and in this age where the slot corner plays so many plays, you can't really call him a 3rd corner anymore. He is not a backup. He is a guy who played the 8th most snaps of any Cowboys defender in 2011 and the 10th most in 2010. So to get him under contract was a shrewd move knowing that Jenkins was free after 2012 and Newman was losing his fastball despite being paid as an elite corner.

So, if the Cowboys waited too long, Scandrick's pricey deal would have not been an option. His ability to get paid would be determined in the open market, where the Cowboys just paid Brandon Carr, another corner from the 5th round of the 2008 draft, 5 years, $50 million.

Nobody is saying that Scandrick is elite and would have had that. But, the Cowboys wisely saw that corner in free agency who have the amount of playing experience of Jenkins and Scandrick get paid a ton of money. They had to pick one based on performance and price. Scandrick and Jenkins both made that choice easy. Scandrick never had the tools of Jenkins, but he always had twice the fight.

Now, the obvious follow-up is why don't the Cowboys do something with Jenkins rather than lose him for nothing in the offseason when he leaves via free agency?

For that, allow me to turn your attention to Week 1 of last season, when the Cowboys played at the New York Jets. Due to some banged up corners, Newman was unavailable and Jenkins was hurt during the game. Scandrick then got hurt, too. So, with a game on the line, the Cowboys had Bryan McCann and Alan Ball playing most of the downs at corner.

So, if you are asking, shouldn't the Cowboys have tried to get a 4th Rounder with Jenkins at the draft, my answer would be, no. I need 4 good corners at all times. Carr, Claiborne, Scandrick, and Jenkins will give me that chance. But there have been years where the Cowboys have left camp with just 3 corners on their roster. It isn't pretty.



How do you see the running back rotation being handled next season? There were only a few games where both Murray and Jones were healthy at the same time, but based on their performances last year, is it clear that Garrett should make Murray the bellcow and just mix in Jones in certain situations?

Jason Lustig

I fully expect the Cowboys will be coy about who is their "starting RB" through camp and those of us in the media will spend way too much time discussing it. It is clear to me that DeMarco Murray is the player that is best suited for this position full-time. Assuming he looks anything like he did before his injury in December, that decision is made. Now, how do they utilize Felix Jones properly? His bang-to-hype ratio has never quite been where it needs to be, and his 5-year rookie deal is going to expire at the end of the season.

Since both of these guys have been known to get hurt, assuming that they will not in 2012 is at our own risk. Murray is my #1, but Jones should continue to get plenty of work, perhaps primarily in the 3rd Down situations which I will remind you are a ton when you consider that all "hurry up" offense is also under that personnel grouping.

Like Jenkins and Bennett, I think another key piece of the 2008 draft is likely to leave when free agency hits Felix Jones, but unlike Jenkins, the sign ability of RBs is not like it is for corners. That means that an extension for Jones might be much more reasonably priced when the time comes if the Cowboys wish to go that route. But, I don't see any reason to do that until Felix proves he can play through the beating that he takes in the NFL.
And let's supplement with some speedy, twitter responses! (@sportssturm on Twitter):

Assuming the new guys on the o-line completely fail what are the repercussions? Are their contracts structured so we cut bait?

From, Jeff Summers


Yes. Nate Living signed a 5 year, $19m deal that has just $6.2m guaranteed. Basically, he has a job in 2012 and 2013. Then, he will have to prove he is worthy. Mackenzy Bernadeau's deal is 4 year, $11m, with at least half that is easy to walk away from in 2014 if he is not what they thought.

And, to be clear, the rest of the NFL is not too worried about the Cowboys finding these two guards. If they are good, and they might be, it doesn't seem the Cowboys had to out duel anyone to get them. Now, in fairness, the exact same thing was said when they snagged Kyle Kosier in free agency, and he worked out well. Meanwhile, they raised eyebrows when they went in for Marco Rivera and he was a disaster here. So, you just never fully know.


Will this be the Dez breakout year?

From pringle757


I think so, and I also think that his uptick late in 2011 was the start of it. Production wise, if we simply rate him against others in the NFL, Dez has done quite well in his first 2 seasons. Unfortunately, he isn't judged against them. He is judged against his hype, his headaches, and his predecessors, Michael Irvin and Drew Pearson.

Certainly, Dez is a talent, but he may never be the beast that he was advertised as. He may just be a very productive NFL receiver. There is a difference and that is why 1500 yards and 17 TDs in 2 seasons is seen as a disappointment to so many.


OK. We will do more next week. Enjoy your weekend!

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