Saturday, September 01, 2012

Cowboys Mailbag - 9/1

Last night, the cuts came down for the Dallas Cowboys and they have their Final 53. I think it should be pointed out, yet again, that there is no such thing as a "Final 53" and no sooner will this story be posted than a new transaction will occur, and we will have a new, new Final 53. Regardless, allow me to offer a good resource for what the roster looks like on a daily basis right here with the OurLads Depth Charts, and tell you to keep checking back.

My projections - as in most years - proved to miss the mark on quite a few players. Danny Coale and Adrian Hamilton were released to my surprise, and Matt Johnson was not placed on IR, but rather put on the active roster for now. Veterans like Derrick Dockery and Marcus Spears were kept, as was Stephen McGee. All 3 of those seemed like rather simple cuts to my eyes, but I understand it is tough for a coaching staff to let guys go after years with the organization for an unproven entity that may not give you anything in 2012 like Ronald Leary or Rob Callaway.

Meanwhile, special teams spines Shaun Chapas and Orie Lemon both were released, too. Not only that, but Jamize Olawale did not replace either one. What this means (especially after the cuts of Jesse Holley in the spring and Akwasi Owusu Anasah this week) is that the Cowboys are really going thin on special teams guys.

The group that looks like they will be primary kick and cover teams will include some of the following: Phillip Tanner, Andre Holmes, Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, James Hanna, John Phillips, Danny McCray, Mana Silva, Bruce Carter, and Alex Albright. Understand that this entire group will not all be active, so they will have to pick and choose each week. What that means is low experience, low continuity, and the high possibility of a disaster on special teams in September if the Cowboys are not very careful.

Don't want to act like the sky is falling, but many of the choices on cut down day seemed to err on the side of not worrying about special teams. Let's hope that doesn't cost a game with Jerrell Jernigan, Leon Washington, or Devin Hester.


For the 1991 season, the NFL expanded it's playoff format to 12 teams. 3 division winners and 3 wildcards has morphed into 4 division winners and 2 wildcards, but it is still 6 in each conference. Below is a chart that should help anyone pick their playoff field.

Each year, the NFL basically finds 6 new teams for the playoffs of the 12. Most fans and media, when picking their playoff field generally pick largely the same group of teams from the year prior. Well, history below tells us this is just not the proper way to pick the playoffs.

Last year, 6 new teams made the 2011 playoffs: 3 in the NFC with the Giants, 49ers and Lions. And then the bottom 3 seeds in the AFC with the Bengals, the Texans, and the Broncos. For reference, the other 6 teams in the playoffs last year were the Packers, Falcons, and Saints in the NFC, with the Steelers, Ravens, and Patriots in the AFC.

By the way, you can almost always put a 10 loss team in the next year's playoffs. Worst to first is completely in play in the NFL. So, when making your picks, find 6 new teams. Just figure out the right 6 to expell from last year's playoff field.

Year# NewNew Teams making Playoffs
19926Min, SF, Phi, Mia, Pit, KC
19935Det, GB, NYG, Oak, Den
19945Chi, Mia, Clev, NE, SD
19954Phi, Atl, Ind, Buf
19965Min, Car, Jac, Den, NE
19975NYG, Det, TB, KC, Mia
19985Arz, Dal, Atl, NYJ, Buf
19997Det, TB, StL, Was, Sea, Ten, Ind
20006Phi, NYG, NO, Den, Bal, Oak
20016SF, GB, Chi, Pit, NE, NYJ
20025NYG, Atl, Ten, Cle, Ind
20038Stl, Car, Dal, Sea, NE, KC, Bal, Den
20045Min, Atl, SD, Pit, NYJ
20057Was, Car, TB, NYG, Chi, Cin, Jac
20067Phi. Dal, NO, SD, Bal, NYJ, KC
20076Was, TB, GB, Pit, Ten, Jac
20087Phi, Atl, Car, Min, Arz, Mia, Bal
20096Dal, GB, NO, Cin, NE, NYJ
20105Sea, Atl, Chi, Pitt, KC
20116NYG, SF, Det, Cin, Hou, Den

Table Tutorial

It always shocks me how much the teams turn over in the playoffs. But history tells us it WILL happen.


Hi Bob

I know you’re having a hard time understanding some of the final cuts (Leary, Coale) but I’m going to look at the bright side and say some of these cuts are indicative of Red Jesus having more and more control over personnel, which to me is a good thing. In the past the Cowboys would have held on to Coale simply because he was a draft pick and Leary simply because he got the signing bonus. Maybe Red J didn’t see what he needed to see in terms of the kind of player he wants on this team going forward. Maybe we’re finally seeing a philosophy in terms of character and motor. Maybe not, but I’m willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt until we see how the team plays in the regular season.

Hopelessly Optimistic,

Dan Ratcliff

Dan, your optimism is wonderful to see. Is Garrett more in charge of the final cuts than a head coach has been since Bill Parcells? It is kind of difficult to tell. We may speculate that he has more to do with the type of guy makes the team, but we also remember on draft day that the Cowboys were picking guys that Jason Garrett liked for the same reasons. If Danny Coale was his "type of player" then, I would ask why he is not now?

I understand that the Cowboys have more at WR than we thought, but the idea of the 5th round pick not making the squad for 2 drafts in a row is most disconcerting. Josh Thomas was their 5th rounder in 2011, a corner from Cedar Hill who attended Buffalo, and he was in the final cuts last August. Now, Coale, a standout for 4 years at Virginia Tech also doesn't break camp with the club, and we are left to believe that it was because of a broken toe in June.

It just doesn't seem to make sense to me that you spend all of this time scouting and pouring over information from his college career, learn about his mental make-up and personality, invest money and a pick in his future, and then throw it all away because of a broken toe that limited him in June, July, and August. He is now back to full health and will be playing as a rookie in the NFL. Just not with the Cowboys. That bothered me quite a bit.

Ronald Leary was the other one that jumped off the page. Again, the Cowboys jumped through a lot of hoops to acquire him, including spending a ton of money to get him to Dallas. He certainly has a complicated story and health concerns, and $200k is not the end of the world for the Cowboys, but if there is one thing scouts tell you is that offensive lineman need the most patience in the very impatient world of football.

Leary was very poor in the preseason games. I don't have an explanation for this, because size and power did not seem to be issues at Memphis, but perhaps the added quickness of the NFL defenders just caused him to lose his confidence. Regardless, he was very poor, but I never dreamed they would cut him loose after one camp. I thought he would have a year to learn and then have to make the team on merit in 2013. I clearly was wrong.

Meanwhile, a guy who has not made the team on merit in 2012 or 2013 in my opinion, David Arkin - the 4th round pick from 2011, remains with the squad (at least for now). But the trade for Ryan Cook puts him in peril, too.


This next email is from the "11 plays from 2011" series that finished this week here on the blog. #11 was a look at the Victor Cruz Touchdown from the final game of last year.


Could you touch on what you think Eli & Cruz do if Newman gets to his spot before the snap and lines up with outside leverage? If Newman lines up on Cruz's left shoulder, Cruz thinks safety blitz and adjusts to a slant, then Sensabaugh is in the perfect spot for a PBU or INT.

Seems like Ryan had the right scheme, but Newman got set late and crossed up in his backpedal which gave Cruz the 2 steps of separation that he needed.


Thanks, Wess. Great question.

I assume Eli would continue to the outside to his 1 on 1 with Nicks vs Jenkins on the sideline. However, Ryan might have caught Eli not seeing the blitzing safety. But, anytime you blitz, you are taking a calculated chance. And that is why I think Ryan took a wrong turn here (which is admittedly easy to say after Cruz runs for a Touchdown).

But, why is it a bad choice?

1) - He has the wrong personnel on the field. The Giants kept the Cowboys out of nickel and then forced Newman to have to matchup with Cruz in the slot. The Cowboys could have switched to nickel and had Newman outside on Beckum, with Scandrick on Cruz. Would that have changed the play? I think so. However, because it is 3rd and 1, then do the Giants run for an easy 1st Down because they have 12 personnel on the field and you are in nickel? Most likely. This is the chess game in any scenario.

2) - He is in Cover 0 in a 0-0 game very despite the fact that Cover 0 is the riskiest blitz a defensive mind can call for. Far be it for me to second guess as I have no experience coordinating a defense, but this is going "All In" on a play like this. If you miss one tackle on Cover 0, the ball is in the endzone. Sometimes, we need just a little bit of restraint on our risk load. If the Cowboys had an issue with Rob Ryan's 1st season, it is the fact that, like most Ryans, he is more than happy to roll the bones. Gambling is great if you always win or are playing Madden, but in the NFL, it can destroy a lot of things that your team has worked hard for. I prefer that you play safe and keep 1 or 2 safeties deep most of the time.

3) - Sensabaugh is a rather slow player and to ask him to run anyone down is folly.

I know it is a harsh review of a play that they certainly got wrong, but make Eli Manning drive the ball down the field. He certainly can do it, but that Week 17 and the game at Philadelphia were both disasters. And part of the reason they were is that the Cowboys started blitzing too much and both of their rivals made them pay dearly for not being judicious in their gambling.

That is enough for this morning. It is time to focus on Wednesday Night.

Have a good Labor Day Weekend.

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