Friday, February 28, 2014

Cowboys Mailbag - Feb 28 - Ware, Cap Problems, and Romo

It seems that the reports from Wednesday that the Cowboys had failed to reach an agreement with DeMarcus Ware and therefore were forced to terminate their relationship were premature and unfounded.  That said, I am fully prepared to recognize these facts as true soon enough as finally the conveyor belt of cap negligence comes home to roost.

There are some in the local media who are acting like the Cowboys are fine as it pertains to the cap and although they are technically able to defend their position - that the Cowboys are not REALLY that far over the cap because a quick adjustment here and here to Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and Brandon Carr and presto, they are fine - it still is symptomatic of a franchise that has been winding up a ticking time bomb.  Yes, they can function and yes, they can continue to put off the inevitable, but do not dare argue that this is all a figment of the media's imagination and some anti-Cowboys bias in the national press.  That is disingenuous on every level and the Cowboys are trying to function without a major avenue of improvement at their disposal (free agency) because of this negligence.

Is free agency a sole and proper way to fix your franchise?  Of course, not.  But, to argue that they wouldn't want so sign Henry Melton or TJ Ward anyway is just stupid.  This team is over the cap worse than anyone in the entire league and for the media to advocate on the behalf of this poor strategy smacks of homerism of the highest order.  Let's at least recognize that the Cowboys bet hard on this group of vets as the nucleus for a contender and after 4 years of 8 wins or less in a row, it is very difficult to say that this strategy has been anything short of failure.

They put big extensions on Tony Romo (6/$108m), Jason Witten (5/$37m), Miles Austin (7/$54m), Jay Ratliff (7/$48m), and DeMarcus Ware (7/$78m) over the last several years and if you were honest with yourself, you would have to conclude that it was not close to the return on the investment to the point that Ratliff has been dismissed, Austin will never play another down here, and the clock on the other 3 is expiring rather quickly, it would seem.

Witten and Romo will certainly be back in 2014, at least, and Romo seems secured every opportunity to still have several years left with his back pending, but the Ware run looks like we are at the end of the road now.  With a cap number of $16m or just half of that in dead money if they say goodbye (which can then be teased into 2 years of $4m each as a June 1 cut), it now looks like the Cowboys have very little reason to keep going since his productivity has been less than elite recently.

The one argument for the two sides agreeing on rolling this problem over yet again is that this is what Jerry always does.  Think about it; name the last beloved Cowboy that was shown the door.  If Jerry is guilty of anything, it is loyalty and falling in love with his most decorated soldiers.  He seldom ever does the 49ers tradition of saying goodbye a year too soon rather than a year too late.  Jerry always says goodbye a year too late and rides his investment all the way down to zero.  Last year, in this space, I proposed the shopping of Ware because we knew this day would come - if he ever had even one significant injury, he would be damaged goods and then with that cap number there would be no way to trade him.  Instead, you would have to cut him loose and watch someone else snag him for nothing.

But, go down the list.  As one Cowboys official told me, we never are able to say goodbye to our favorites before it is too late.  That is why he thought ultimately, Jerry would take the easier way out and redo DeMarcus yet again and delay the inevitable for one more year.  But, it appears, finally, that Stephen and Jerry have realized that with Sean Lee's new deal done and with Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant, and DeMarco Murray due, it is time to make sure we don't lose a young asset because we couldn't say goodbye to an aging player.  I don't like the idea that Ware could return to 12 sacks next season in this league and it will be somewhere else, but at some point, it is best to argue that the current mix wasn't working and that they were given enough time.  Ware is a hall of famer and a ring of honor recipient, but that group of Cowboys were just not successful enough and it might be time to turn the page on the era.

This could have been avoided if the team would have been in a better spot last year and not extended Tony Romo.  To give him that amount of guaranteed money when they didn't have to seems crazy now, but they decided to do so.  As I suggested at the time, I sure didn't see the harm in letting him play out his deal and with the ability to slap the franchise tag on him, you were never going to lose him.  Instead, they tried to appease him with over $100 million dollars and a ton guaranteed and now he has significant health concerns.  Could you imagine this offseason if his deal expired last month?   Would they franchise him needing back surgery?  His leverage would have been completely gone and the Cowboys could have walked away.  Instead, they would have $41million plus in dead money if he were to be done in 2014 and therefore cannot even imagine what happens if he is seriously at risk with these back problems.  The Romo deal is costing them Ware and it didn't need to happen.

But, it did happen and now I believe Ware is gone.  He can stay with a significant pay cut, but why should he agree to that?  If anyone has earned their money over the last 9 seasons it is him and I would have to side with him and it is certainly not his problem that the Cowboys over spent on a QB that has been treated like an elite NFL QB without ever having to produce those elite results.  Perhaps the eulogy of this generation is that they bet hard that they had an elite level QB and lost.

Now, if they do let Ware go, they can fix much of this by not redoing other deals besides Romo.  Resist the urge to redo the Carr and Witten deals and therefore take your medicine in 2014 and be out of the woods for the most part right here.  Spend the money on your in-house extensions and now your team is spending money on players in their prime and you continue to dig out of this mess.  Your next big winner may not have Ware, Witten, or even Romo on it, but that is life in the NFL.  You have windows and they don't stay open forever.  Ware will be remembered fondly around here, but the absolute right move is to say goodbye and turn this page to the next wave of talent.  The group from the Parcells/Phillips era did not get it done.  Cut the cord.


Now on to your tweets this week:
are Bernadeau and Leary good enough to move forward with or are we targeting that position in the draft
Mitch, as far as I can tell, the answer to both of those would be "yes".  It is a rare treat when the Cowboys actually get out ahead of a salary cap issue and have what is known around the league as "cheap labor".  The going rate for a starter on the offensive line is well above what the Cowboys have been paying their 2 guards and now, even though Bernadeau is due a raise to $4 million (thanks partially to restructuring him last spring) they will still have both starting guards for under $5m dollars in 2014 and will have them both under contract for 2015 at a similar rate (although they will have to qualify Ron Leary next spring).

So, now that we have established that they are cheap, let's visit about whether they are good enough.  I honestly must tell you that while I would not call them a power of this team, I also seldom pointed to them and called them a weakness.  Bernadeau, in particular, raised the level of the offensive line to some extent when Brian Waters left after the Detroit game.  I don't know if it was all him (and I suspect it wasn't), but the zone running really took off in November and December.  As for Leary, when you take an undrafted free agent with health concerns and get over 1,000 snaps and pay him next to nothing you have to be pleased.  Now, does that mean that everything is fine and there is no need to watch his progress carefully?  Of course not.  But, Leary is a young player who has limitations for sure - pass rush is a battle at all times - and yet there were very few moments this season when something went horribly wrong and it was Ron Leary's fault.

So, in conclusion, if you had to head into next season with these 2 as your starters, you would survive.  However, if you find a great guard prospect, you should take him at the right price.  And, you cannot forget that Leary's medicals indicate that his career will not last too long, most likely.

how was the 2012 draft class?
Not as good as we had hoped at this particular juncture.  Think about it:  Mo Claiborne has disappointed pretty deeply (although can still salvage it), Tyrone Crawford has yet to make his first play of substance as a Dallas Cowboy, Kyle Wilber has been a decent depth body, Matt Johnson has barely had a healthy practice in 2 years, Danny Coale and Caleb McSurdy are no longer with the organization, and James Hanna has been relegated to tight end #3.  So, that is a pretty big disappointment across the board.

It started with the ill-advised trade up which looked bad when they did it (at least to those of us who said it at the time) and looks worse now as Claiborne is showing no signs of being Deion Sanders.  Then, in a draft where they needed 3-4 starters, it appears at this point that they have 1 mediocre starter to show for it.  Now, that could all change this season if Crawford is a starter, Johnson has a career revival, and Wilber adds to his role, but that is extremely optimistic.

In fairness, let's also remember that the 2012 draft season did add Ron Leary and Cole Beasley as undrafted free agents who certainly have out-performed what was anticipated, and from that standpoint the spring of 2012 adds a bit to its overall grade.

But, still.  This team did not need another rather empty draft.  Let's hope it improves.

pros and cons of building a team from the inside out or the outside in.....that could apply to management also
Well, I assume we are speaking of the topic about drafting and investing in bigs or littles.  The Cowboys have a well-known obsession with littles (players at the edge of the offense and defense who generally weigh 200 pounds or so) rather than the bigs (players on the offensive and defensive line who often weigh 300 pounds or so).

Now, there is no proven way to win with one but not the other in the NFL.  In fact, this team game is awesome because you better have both at all times.  But, since we are talking about the Dallas Cowboys and the way they do things, it is worth noting that they routinely invest in skill position players and try to find the big guys in the discount bins.  

Since 2008, their Top 2 round picks have gone to the following positions:

RB, CB, TE, WR, LB, T, LB, CB, C, TE

That is a lot of small guys around Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick and no DL investment at all in years - since 2005 with Marcus Spears.

Not only that, but they traded up to take Mike Jenkins, Dez Bryant, and Mo Claiborne, so not only did they use the pick, but they also traded others to get littles.  

It is a bad habit, especially when you see that your team gets bullied in December every year because they can't consistently win in the trenches.  You would think the Cowboys would pick up on this pattern after allowing 8 sacks at Giants Stadium, but they never seem to grasp the concept.  Anyway, I believe that this team should build from the inside-out, if only because they have refused to do so since Bill Parcells worked here.

could Claiborne be moved to safety if his cornerback play doesn't improve? Would he have more success as a safety?
Brian, I would not advise something like this. They need to get Morris to a point where he is what they thought he was - which was a corner who could lock down on the many threats that they run into over the course of their schedule and have superior corner play. Claiborne has not played the position and therefore would be a raw prospect that would have no better ideas than a guy like JJ Wilcox. That player, who you are paying premium money after already spending premium picks to acquire would now be a project at a new position. That would only take a bad situation and make it worse.

They must salvage him at corner or the 2012 draft gets even worse. He has the tools in him, but right now they look like they have jerked around the coverage concepts so much that his game is at a very low level. This has to be priority #1 for Rod Marinelli.

scenario: Orton retires. Romo doesn't heal and tweaks back in camp. Does JJ have a fire sale; could it be good in the long run?
Well, I don't see a scenario where the Cowboys having a fire sale is reasonable or solid idea. First off, there are no fire sales in the NFL, really. Second, Romo being hurt or not healing right is a clear and present danger for 2014. Let's say surgery goes great and everything is wonderful through the training camp season. Do you think that ends everything and he is in great shape again?  

I expect that the first opponent and the second opponent and the third opponent will all have the devious plans of trying to test both Romo's back and Romo's conviction to take hits with their game plans. They will see if he will wish to make business decisions and given that he appeared to be doing that already in 2013 - unloading the ball early to avoid contact - I don't expect things will improve.

Again, this all goes back to the curious and highly risky ideas of extending Romo for 7 years when there was no reason to do so and at precisely the same time that Romo needed his first back procedure in the spring of 2013 is the ticking time bomb of this franchise. He may never be the same, but given that his dead money right now is north of $40 million, the Cowboys have no choice but to bravely sail ahead.

Orton out? Well, at his cap number, they likely were going that direction anyway (although they also insanely restructured his deal in 2013!). The backup is on the list of things to address and yes, QB is a real target in this draft. I expect that they also will get a vet in here, post haste as well. Just not at the $3m range.

do we pursue a QB in the 14 draft? When's the earliest you'd go and who is there? Garapollo in 3? Murray 5+?
Yes. How early would I go QB in the 2014 draft? Well, that depends. Which of the top 3 QBs is available at pick #16? Because if I like the guy who drops to me there, I am grabbing him and not looking back. Let me be clear: there are many issues with this Cowboys roster, but none is more urgent and scary than the prospect of Tony Romo having to miss an entire season because his back betrayed him again. He is old, he has had 2 back procedures in less than a year, and he has already modified his performance to protect himself. There are not many more stops on this train before the end of the track if this goes the wrong way. And, the book is also out. I am willing to promise he is going to see more pressure than he ever has before in an effort to spook him and even knock him out of games by merciless defenses. I don't think this is even a question.
So, yes, 1st Round is in play. Beyond that, I am thinking QB at every pick, because right now, QB might be my thinnest spot.

how do they field a competent DL w/ all these massive holes? I know Norm hates it but don't they have to draft need all the way
I will circle back to the never-ending discussion of drafting "best available" versus for need at a later date, but if you want a refresher on my position, here is what I wrote a few years back on the very topic: not to give it away, but the title is: Best Player Available? Absolutely Not.

Do the Cowboys need to take defensive line help with every pick?  Of course not.  They need help there, but if they have George Selvie, Tyrone Crawford, and either Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware, and or Anthony Spencer retained (I imagine 1 of those 3 will be back, 2 is a possibility, and 3 is not at all likely), that leaves one starter to find in the draft.  You also have Nick Hayden returning, Ben Bass back healthy, and Kyle Wilber to be a pass-rush backup defensive end.  Not exactly the Steel Curtain, but also not remarkably worse than last year if you add Aaron Donald and one more piece to the mix, or Scott Crichton/Chris Smith and another inside player.

So, I think 2 defensive linemen in the first 4 rounds would be doable, unless they find a linebacker they like more (many conversations inside the Ranch that this is actually where they are looking) and keeping an eye on offensive line, quarterback, and safety to boot.

The point is that there are enough issues that need addressing to go around.  And once again, it will be up to the organization to figure out how to spend their limited resources to address them.

Onward!  See you next week.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2014 Cowboys Draft Weekly Notebook - Episode 6 - Defensive Ends

This week, let's break down the top several defensive ends that we have all been looking at for the top of the 2014 NFL draft.  Now, before we dive in too deep, we need to offer a few thoughts right off the top.  One regarding the most talked about player in the mix for the entire draft and the other about scheme fits and finding a glove that properly fits the hand.

First, Jadeveon Clowney talk.  I did not include him in this grouping because for me it is a wild waste of time as he will be long gone before the Cowboys select.  There are just times where we should make it a point to spend our time on worthy endeavors.  Clowney is a fantastic talent who has been under tons of scrutiny during this long spring as many question whether or not we saw his best efforts in 2013.

There was not a question of his talent or his ability or his results.  It was about his effort, which is kind of the most important question anyone could ever ask.  When you watched the Seahawks and 49ers clash in that NFC Championship game last month, you wondered if some had the ability and others the guts.  But, never did you ask if everyone was giving their best effort.  That is a given, right?  You don't excel at the NFL level unless your heart is in it at all times.

So, why does this film tell us that Clowney was not into it last fall?  It would take a while to break it all the way down into a nuanced form, but the quick answer is that we see this all the time.  We see players change from "reckless abandon" mode to taking precautions on the field as they finish their college career.  And you shouldn't blame them.

The NCAA and NFL conspire to make sure that young men serve 3 years of college football before we let them into the draft - without choice.  If they didn't, Clowney would already be a pro (likely when he was 18).  Instead, he plays college football, is told he is the #1 pick about 2 years ago, and then must not do anything to ruin that life-changing payday until May 2014 arrives.

In the meantime, he plays for South Carolina in the most difficult conference in college football where opponents know who he is and how they can make their name off of him.  Also, he happens to play on the same team as a man named Marcus Lattimore who once was a Top of the 1st round pick, but after a horrific knee injury, he dropped to pick #131 in the 2013 draft and lost millions and millions of dollars because he was randomly chosen for a catastrophic moment that took his payday away.

So, Clowney sees this happen and then plays the next season with more caution and less reckless abandon and people can't put the two together?  I say he gets to the NFL and effort is never an issue again, because his financial security will be set and he can just worry about QBs.  I hate it when people criticize a player for expressing human emotions.  It is not ideal to have a guy playing at 70% speed, but it is human.


Now, a thought or two about scheme fits.  This particular position is one of the more difficult spots to define as a player can be in one of 5 different groups:

1) He can be a 5-technique in a 3-4.  This is a defensive end who is stout enough to 2-gap tackle and hold his ground.  He is not known for a pass rush ability as much as he is known for being large and able to move laterally.  He could pass rush on passing downs, but in base downs, he is simply anchoring the line.

2) He can be a DE in a 4-3.  This guy is what we all grew up watching.  Think Jared Allen or Julius Peppers.  These guys are a tackle's worst nightmare on the pass rush but also are not getting pushed around in the running game.  They are longer players with the ability to trouble massive offensive tackles with a combination of quickness and power.

3) He can be a 3-4 OLB.  This is a common theme at the draft.  This is a guy who was a DE in college, but because the NFL is another level up in both size, strength, and speed, he can stay there in the pros or they would run him over.  So, can he be the outside LB who still does many of the same things, but has less responsibilities between the tackles and more on the edge with size match ups he can win.  He also must have hips that allow him to drop and cover in both zone and man situations in the passing game.

4) He can be a situational pass rusher at DE.  This guy cannot play DE in the 4-3 on normal downs because they will run right at him and show his size is insufficient.  But, he also cannot cover RBs and TEs in space because of his tight hips or stiff movement skills and or he just doesn't have the type of speed that is needed to do so.  So, we think that he is only a 3rd down pass rusher and that has significantly less value for a team since that is just 10-15 plays a game.

5) He might be a DT candidate in a 4-3.  This is rare, but on occasion, a DE is better served in the interior because while his skill set may not allow for edge rushing, he may be a better fit inside against guards where his quickness can really cause a terror.

Now, there are several players that fit neatly into a category, others who blur the lines, and still others who can do many of the above.  So, each team is trying to project that with a year or two in the weight program and with a year or two of coaching, what can this player do for us?  And, it is why there are so many misses in this inexact science of projecting 21 year old athletes.

Does a guy fit in this scheme?  These are the debates on each player below and as we look at each one, we will attempt to answer that to the best of our ability.


Let's get started on this crop:

Dee Ford - Auburn - 6'2 - 243

Dee is part of an Auburn defense that spent a lot of time swarming its opponent and Ford was right in the middle of it.  He had 25 explosive plays in this breakout season and did most of it as a DE who got after the QB on a regular basis.  He wins a ton in the pass rush department and will seem to be a candidate with his quickness to continue to do that at the next level.

When you look at him and try to put him in a category, you do have to wonder about how many times he was over-run in the running game.  In fact, it seemed pretty clear that he is caved in when they run right at him and Florida State made a point to call that play several times in the National Championship game.

He is very hard to block and he has that speed that runs down plays from behind and he is so good in hot pursuit on plays going the other direction, but at 240, I just don't see this as a great plan at DE in the 4-3.  In fact, he spent many snaps in the standing posture, hinting that he might be the OLB 3-4 candidate where he is comfortable, but even then, his drops are not something you want to feature very often.  So, that might make him a guy like DeMarcus Ware, but then he better be able to get home 12 times a year and he has only had double-digit sack production the one year at Auburn.


In 52 college games, he accounted for 44.5 explosive plays (Sacks + TFLs) and was also part of a rotation where he did not play the full allotment in college.  He was put in a position to succeed and therefore was kept fresh - which must be done with a player of his size.

There is no way you want to try to run a bootleg to his side or a read option keeper where he is about to body slam your QB, but for me, I just don't totally see him in this 4-3 scheme.  I think he is too small and ideal for a 3-4 OLB.  A team with better depth could ignore this and rotate him in (like Seattle and Bruce Irvin) and just use him in spots where size won't matter, but Dallas is looking for full-time players right now and Dee Ford - for all his abilities - is not a full time player in a 4-3 at defensive end.

I just don't think I can see that after watching him plenty.

Kony Ealy - Missouri - 6'5 - 275

Now, this is player with the size that you look for when trying to find that DE who can do everything that you need to be a 3-down option on the edge.  He is big, has long arms, and has wonderful quickness as he demonstrated at this week's combine with a 3-cone drill performance that was at the top of his position group.  So, all of that checks out very well.

On his game tape, we saw a player who did a lot of nice things.  First, he stood up to runs and collapsed several nicely.  He won't get pushed around on power plays in his direction, and yet possesses quickness that is interesting.  Let me be clear, he is nowhere near as quick as Dee Ford, but at 30 pounds heavier, that is ok with me.

He moves inside and is even better on the inside rush on nickel downs, but as a 3-down DE can do everything I need at a solid enough level that you would have to consider him a 1st round option.  


38 games and 39.5 explosive plays is solid, but not jaw dropping.  He has room to get better and you might want another helping of knowing his hair is on fire.  He saw a ton of double teams (which may explain some of Michael Sam's production on the other side) and I would like to see him take his weight room training more seriously as I get the impression that he has not to this point of his football career.

He can find creases well and he can even spy a bit on a QB who moves.  He can run down plays from behind for a big man and just causes disruptions quite a bit.  There are several games where it is clear he is playing a bit faster and wants "in" on more tackles and ramps up his aggressiveness.

If you were to draw up a blueprint for the defensive end the Cowboys need, Kony Ealy is pretty close to the guy.  Is his motor there and will he get as strong as he needs to? In other words, does he have a fire burning inside him to be the best he can be?  I might need to hear him talk in the team interview before I would pound the table on this pick, but with just the eyeball test, Ealy is someone to consider at #16.

Jackson Jeffcoat - Texas - 6'3 - 245

There is a lot to talk about with Jeffcoat and I will admit to being guilty of always defaulting to bloodlines.  If your dad had over 100 sacks in the NFL, you might make it a point to offer his offspring the benefit of the doubt.

However, Jackson was not invited to the Senior Bowl.  And with a list of injuries that he has dealt with, he is the type of guy where there comes a time that he is worth grabbing.

But, let's start with production.  In 40 college games, he had 75 explosives and another 4 forced fumbles!  That is insane and when looking at him sideways about his deficiencies and scheme concerns, you should always remember that he has routinely whipped the guy in front of him to get to the ball at every level.  

Here are his numbers and they are awesome:


The concerns are many.  He played much of his time at Texas standing up on the edge or even at times playing at 5 yards depth as sort of a shallow LB (see the Texas Tech game this year).  And yet, his drops were usually zone and simple and not really something that answered any NFL questions as he is thought of as again, too stiff to play OLB in the 3-4 if you want him to do anything but pass rush.  But, if you do want him to just pass rush, you must know that he also cannot hold up to a direct run very well and will be attacked in the NFL on 1st and 2nd downs.

He absolutely loves to turn the corner on big offensive tackles and his sack and strip is a thing of beauty.  He gets to the QB if you give him a chance, but he doesn't look super quick or super strong.  So, does that work best at the college game?  He is very useful, but what does he do that is special at the NFL level?

He runs into too many single-team blocks where he can't get anywhere, but then will pop up for a huge sack and if he could just sustain the consistency, he would be a Top 50 player for me.  But, when you consider the inconsistencies and then add in the injuries, I would have to feel like the risk and the reward match-up better later in the draft.

I like him, but I don't love him.  I also don't love him for this scheme unless he is a 3rd down option and I can't pay any more than a 3rd rounder for that.  I am sure he will have a chance to prove himself a starter in the NFL and should be productive, but is he a 1st or 2nd round option in Dallas?  I don't think I can do that for a guy who may not have a true position.  

Scott Crichton - Oregon State - 6'3 - 260

This is a player I knew nothing about when I started this process.  I never watch Oregon State and had never heard of Scott Crichton.  But, I am really impressed with him.

The first thing that jumps out at you is how relentless he plays and just seems to rush every pass with attitude and full battle.  He really wants that QB and of all the candidates seems the most likely to crush whatever to get there.

He is built like a DE of normal size and from that standpoint you might wonder if he could stand to be a bit more stout, but when it comes to flexibility and the ability to win with leverage and to contort his body to turn the corner or squeeze in between a gap, he checks the boxes quite well.  


In 38 college games in the Pac 10, he accounted for a crazy 73.5 explosives and 10 more forced fumbles.  This guy is a beast and the best part is from everything I can tell, he treats each play as it is very, very important to him.  In other words, he seems like a Rod Marinelli type player.

His tests at the combine were good, but not great.  He is not a freak of nature at all, but rather just a guy who has good skills and then red-lines his RPMs on a regular basis.  He has very solid pass rush skills and can get after it.  His biggest weakness might be that you wish he was a bit heavier and a bit stronger, but otherwise, I would expect this guy to go easily in the Top 50 and if you aren't careful, he could go late in the 1st.

I really feel that Crichton will be a heck of a pro in the 4-3 at defensive end.  Ealy versus Crichton would be a fun discussion to witness in the war-room.  

Stephon Tuitt - Notre Dame - 6'6 - 303

Now, this is a fascinating kid.  First, know that Stephon Tuitt has a stress fracture and may not be available for any more spring testing or pro day activities.  That means that you might have to gamble on how fast he really is and other explosion drills.

But, it is just a stress fracture, so before you compare him to Bruce Carter's medical, simmer down.  It is not an injury to get too worried about.  And it could send him down the board right to a team that is opportunistic.

He also has some tape that makes you wonder if he was playing at his full capabilities last fall or if he might have also been playing safe like Clowney.

However, he is an amazing talent.  He is so quick for a big man and so agile and loves to hit the QB.  There was a sequence in the USC game where he repeatedly abused the left tackle and looked unblockable.  He has great hands and can get off his block and to the gap on a regular basis.  I love his skill set.


43.5 explosives in 35 college games shows that he can do his thing on the stat sheet, too.

Now, where do we play him?  Great question with the easiest answer is that he looks like a 5-tech which is a DE in a 3-4.  In fact, sometimes you look at him and he looks like Chris Canty back in the Parcells days.  But, as you recall, the New York Giants wanted Canty to play in their 4-3 on the inside and he moved very well over there into the rotation.  And Tuitt has more skills than Canty.

I know I am taking a chance here, but I would love to get Tuitt and try him at the 3-technique where he could replicate the frame of Jason Hatcher reasonably well.  I think he could be a terror there and would love Dallas to try it.  And, if it didn't work, I think he can still be a player you can line up anywhere and either be a strong side DE or a 1-technique.

Does he play with maximum effort and is he a perfect scheme fit?  Not sure.  But, man, he is a monster of a man with great quickness that I believe is as tempting as anyone on this list.  And, he could fall out of Round 1 and right to you in the 2nd round if things go right.

Trent Murphy - Stanford - 6'5 - 252

He led the nation in sacks and was a 1st team All-American.  Trent Murphy plays football very, very well.  However, like Dee Ford, we don't know how he would hold up at DE in the 4-3 because of size and strength and therefore might not fully fit in the 4-3.

He gets washed inside on running plays at him as a tackle can cave him in due to his size limitations. He worked as LB at the combine so that might tell you what you need to know for this scheme, but do not sleep on his very impressive quickness.  I am not sure he has Clay Matthews ability, but his Stanford career would say that you better look carefully if you are a 3-4 team.


85 explosives?  That is insane in just 43 college games.  I really like him and think that he is going to have an excellent career.  But, I also don't think there is any chance the Cowboys would try him out at DE and therefore wasting too much time on a player who is not a candidate to play here might not be appropriate.

Trent Murphy is an exceptional college player who just needs to land in the right spot.  Stand-up 3-4 OLB and let him play for a decade.

Chris Smith - Arkansas - 6'1 - 266

The last guy on my list might be the player that most resembles a level behind Scott Crichton from Oregon State, but the same type of player with perhaps a bit less of that motor, but more explosion.

Smith is really something, though, and when you watch him play DE, you again see a Rod Marinelli fit that reminds you of the Kiffin/Marinelli handbook about "never being outworked".

Smith has a very nice pass rush and in 2013 seemed to really fall in love with a spin move that he improved upon and that allowed him a lot of productivity even though he had a target on him after a big 2012.


One of my favorite reels to watch of him was his Auburn game in 2012 when Auburn tackle Greg Robinson (Top 5 pick) was trying to block this guy and seriously could have been called for 5-6 holds as Smith gave him fits.

He isn't great at the point of attack and will not silence a run game by himself by any stretch.  In fact, when he gets tired, he just sort of throws a shoulder in there and that won't cut it on Sundays.

But, when it is time to go get the QB, Chris Smith is another edge guy to look for in Round 2.

His productivity of 52 explosives in 43 games is plenty to show that he needs a look with his size.  He also put on a combine performance that will have him snapped up early because his vertical, broad jump, and bench press all add up to that of a player with great explosion, something scouts add together to find a total that is appealing.  Chris Smith has that all.


So, in closing, Dee Ford, Jackson Jeffcoat, and Trent Murphy are not scheme fits.

Stephon Tuitt is not ideal, but worth the trouble.

And, Kony Ealy, Scott Crichton, and Chris Smith are perfect fits for what you want to build.

Past Draft Profiles:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bag of Pucks - Feb 25 - Deadline History

The Stars are headed to the trade deadline in 8 days (March 5) with a hold of the 8th playoff position by the slightest of fingernails.  They have 24 games to go, they have plenty of room under the cap, and they sure seem enthusiastic at making as serious a run as they possibly can to get to the finish line.

So, will they rock our world with a trade of great significance?  Well, a look at the 20 years the Stars have been in Dallas and what they have done in the month leading up to the Trade Deadline each spring will of course yield a mixed bag of postures and results.  Some years you feel you are close and you want to find that last piece to make a run at either a playoff berth or a Stanley Cup, and other years you are putting a garage sale together and everything must go.

It is kind of enjoyable to dig through the dusty archives to see names you haven't seen in ages, so I thought you might want to see what 20 years of trade deadlines look like.  I even bolded the 5 most significant trades to discuss:

Bob Gainey Era: 
1994 -Mar 19 - Stars get Doug Zmolek and Mike Lalor for Ulf Dahlen and 7th from San Jose 
1995 - Feb 27 - Stars acquire Corey Millen for Neal Broten from New JerseyApr 7 - Stars get Greg Adams for Russ Courtnall from Vancouver 
1996 -Feb 17 - Stars acquire Darryl Sydor and a 5th for Shane Churla and Doug Zmolek 
Bob Gainey does a very nice job there of snagging Sydor for 2 pieces and making sure he successfully grabbed the best player in the trade and a foundation piece for some fantastic Stars teams that were led by a deep blue-line.  By trading for Sergei Zubov and Sydor, he absolutely planted the seeds of June hockey.
1997 -No Significant Trades 
1998 -Mar 24 - Stars bring in Mike Keane, Brian Skrudland, and a 6th for Todd Harvey, Bob Errey and a 4th from New York Rangers 
I figured this was the first time to break out the bold type and marvel at a trade that did not pay off immediately in that spring, but surely was the proper play to get the necessary sandpaper and experience to win the Cup.  It is also an example of a deadline trade that does not get national attention but surely pays dividends.
1999 - Mar 21 - Stars Acquire Benoit Hogue and 6th for Sergei Gusev from Tampa BayMar 23 - Stars trade for Derek Plante for a 2nd rounder from Buffalo 
2000 - Feb 8 - Stars get Sylvain Cote and Dave Manson for Derek Plante, a 2nd rounder, and Kevin Dean from Chicago  
Sylvain Cote best remembered for being on the scene for the Jason Arnott cup winning goal.  And Derek Plante arrived at the '99 deadline and left at the '00 deadline 1 year later.
2001 - Mar 13 - Stars acquire Grant Ledyard for a 7th rounder from Tampa Bay 
Doug Armstrong Era: 
2002 -Mar 12 - Stars trade for Manny Maholtra and Barrett Heisten and send Martin Rucinsky and Roman Lyashenko to New York Rangers   
Mar 12 - Stars receive Jason Arnott, Randy McKay and a 1st for Jamie Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk from New Jersey
 There are a few on here that just about every reader would love to have back.  This is easily one of the least enjoyable trades because symbolically it is linked in with the end of Ken Hitchcock, Bob Gainey, Ed Belfour, and pretty much that entire run of greatness of the Stars.  The Stars received back a top pivot in Jason Arnott who combined with Mike Modano to provide a very strong duo, but given the results and the public's perception of the move, this one is no easier to sell than the Goligoski trade that ironically was performed by Nieuwendyk.
2003 -Mar 10 - Stars trade for Lyle Odelein for Sami Helenius and a 7th rounder from ChicagoMar 10 - Stars acquire Stu Barnes for Michael Ryan and a 2nd from Buffalo 
2004 -Mar 8 - Stars receive Chris Therian for a 3rd and 8th round picks from PhiladelphiaMar 8 - Stars get Valeri Bure for a 2nd and Drew Bagnall from Florida
2005 -  No Season
2006 -Mar 8 - Stars get Willie Mitchell and a 2nd for Shawn Bell and Martin Skoula from Minnesota 
I would love to know how many things would have been different if the Stars would have been able to get Willie Mitchell signed to an extension that summer.  He ended up signing a 4 year, $14m deal in Vancouver and the Stars made due in other directions for a while before the bottom fell out of the blue-line.
2007 -Feb 27 - Stars receive Mattias Norstrom, 2007 3rd and 2007 4th for Jaroslav Modry, 2007 2nd, 2007 3rd, and a 2008 1st from Los Angeles   
Such an under-rated move by Doug Armstrong, and an anchor on the blue-line through the 2008 Western Conference Finals.
Brett Hull Era: 
2008 -
Feb 26 - Stars receive Brad Richards, Johan Holmqvist for Mike Smith, Jeff Halpern, Jussi Jokinen, and 4th from Tampa Bay 
Brett Hull didn't last long as a GM, but when he pulled the trigger he sure grabbed those headlines.  Of all of the moves they had made at the deadline, this is the one that made the jaws drop around the league as the Stars sent Mike Smith and a bunch of assorted parts to go get one of the best centers in hockey.  The Brad Richards era (and Brett Hull era) coincided with bankruptcy, so we never will really know how good things could have been in Dallas, but he certainly has put the numbers up throughout his career.
2009 - No Significant Trades 
Joe Nieuwendyk era:
2010 - 
Feb 9 - Stars get Kari Lehtonen for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 4th from Atlanta 
Joe's first deadline was a rather under the headlines move that turned into one that is still paying off when the Stars gambled on a goalie from Atlanta who had a very poor reputation as an underachiever who had questionable work ethic.  Since then, you could argue he has been the best player in the organization and was acquired for seeds.
2011 -  
Feb 21 - Stars acquire Alex Goligoski for James Neal and Matt Niskanen 
Sadly, this is the move that overshadows the Kari trade with most and colors the perception of his entire run with the majority of Stars loyalists.  This was the all-in move to go fix the blue-line once and for all, and as anyone who has been watching will attest, this trade has had results in Dallas and in Pittsburgh that have both loudly spoken that the intent and the result were drastically different.
2012 - Feb 16 - Stars receive a 2nd and a 3rd for Nick Grossman from Philadelphia 
2013 - Feb 26 - Stars receive Erik Cole for Michael Ryder and a 3rd from MontrealMar 24 - Stars get Joe Morrow and a 5th for Brenden Morrow and a 3rd from PittsburghApril 2 - Stars get Lane MacDermid, Cody Payne, and a 1st for Jaromir Jagr from BostonApril 2 - Stars receive Cameron Gaunce for Tomas Vincour from ColoradoApril 2 - Stars receive a 2nd round pick and Kevin Connauton for Derek Roy from Vancouver
 Last year, the flurry of moves made seem to have laid a further foundation for Jim Nill as we move forward.

Now, it is Nill's turn, and he is publicly saying all of the right things that he is "happy with his team as it is", but I figure that we will see something to improve this roster that is good, but has weaknesses for sure.

A few weeks ago, we tried to sum up the Stars spot in the standings at the break, and I recommend you review that blog entry here.

As I said there:

It is great to say you have the eighth spot at the Olympic break, but in the big scheme of things, it is merely a landmark along the way. The Stars have the inside path (ever so barely), but also have five years of demons to deal with as they try to strike down that wall that has killed the organization's proud run of excellence through 2008. It should be noted that Dallas, Phoenix, and Nashville still have cap room to deal until that March 5 deadline if they want to add a piece to go for the present tense, without sacrificing the future.
There is optimism in the air and hope rolling in. Twenty-four games to go and I assume they will be filled with tension and the normal roller coaster of emotions.
A defensemen to add?  A legit 2nd center who can win face-offs and set up more scoring?  A piece for the next 4-5 years on a team that is trying to move a contract?  Also, with Vernon Fiddler, Ray Whitney, and Stephane Robidas all expiring UFAs, they actually could flip things the other direction if the price is right.  
Decisions, decisions.  And 8 days with which to make them.  The best news is that games return this week, so the stretch drive has arrived.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cowboys NFL Combine Historical Numbers

Today's blog is purely informational as during the NFL Scouting Combine I receive lots of inquiries about how well a certain player did in a certain event so you have something to compare each participant to as we go.

It is a mountain of numbers - some that matter and some that don't.  However, as a service to Cowboys fans, I took the current roster and put a chart together for as many players they currently have from their individual combine performances.

Trouble is, many of them did not receive combine invites and still others were obscure enough to not have numbers when they entered the NFL.  So, this list is incomplete, but it is the best we have.

They are for 40-time, Arm length, Hand length, Bench Press reps at 225, Vertical Jump, and Short Shuttle.  As you can see, some positions just ignore certain events.

But, now, presented without analysis, the raw numbers from the combine performances of the currently rostered Dallas Cowboys (and selected UFAs):


PlayerYear   Ht  Wt  40     Arm      Hand     BP   VJ       SS 
Tony Romo20036'22274.98

Joseph Randle20136'02044.6331 3/48 3/4

DeMarco Murray20115'112134.4132 1/29 3/822


PlayerYear   Ht  Wt  40     Arm      Hand     BP   VJ       SS 
Dez Bryant20106'12244.52349 3/4
Terrance Williams20136'22084.5131 1/48 3/4
Miles Austin20066'22154.473110
Dwayne Harris20115'92004.5531 5/810344.21
Jason Witten20036'52654.70

Gavin Escobar20136'52544.8433 5/89 3/41232
James Hanna20126'32524.4833 1/89 7/82436


Player Year    Ht    Wt    40/10         Arm     Hand     BP 
Tyron Smith 2011 6'5 307 4.95 36 3/8 11 29
Doug Free 2007 6'6 324 5.22/1.82 35 5/8 10 5/8 22
Mac Bernadeau 2008 6'3 292 5.3/1.81 32 1/4 10 5/8 23
Ron Leary 2012 6'2 315 5.23/1.83 34 3/4 8 5/8 30
Travis Frederick 2013 6'3 312 5.56/1.91 33 10 21
Ray Dominguez 2011 6'4 334 5.45/1.88 34 9 7/8 21


Player Year    Ht    Wt    40/10         Arm     Hand     BP 
Tyrone Crawford 2012 6'4 275 4.85/1.75 33 3/4 9 1/2 28
George Selvie 2010 6'4 247 4.96/1.70 33 3/4 9 1/4 24
Nick Hayden 2008 6'3 291 5.18/1.77 33 1/4 9 3/8 34
DeMarcus Ware 2005 6'4 251 4.59 27
Kyle Wilber 2012 6'3 249 4.86 33 1/4 9 1/4 25
Anthony Spencer 2007 6'2 261 4.73/1.68 33 1/2 9 7/8 30
Jason Hatcher 2006 6'5 284 4.82



PlayerYear   Ht  Wt  40     Arm      Hand     BP   SS 
Sean Lee20106'22364.78328 3/4244.16
Bruce Carter20116'22414.6032 5/89 1/425
DeVonte Holloman20136'12464.7132 7/810154.26
Justin Durant20076'02304.5133 1/210 1/2254.10
Martez Wilson20116'32504.4934 5/89 3/4234.28


PlayerYear   Ht  Wt  40     Arm      Hand     BP   VJ       SS 
Morris Claiborne20125'111884.4533 1/48 1/2
Orlando Scandrick20085'101924.3532 1/29 1/2
Brandon Carr20086'02054.47

BW Webb20135'101834.4930 1/89 5/81440.53.84
Barry Church20106'12224.6733 1/49 3/819364.19
JJ Wilcox20136'02144.533117354.09
Jakar Hamilton20135'111964.5730 7/89 3/8

Friday, February 21, 2014

BaD Radio Podcasts 2014

Our Latest Weekly Podcast:

Weekly Pod for 3/7/14 - Episode #250 - Ian Kinsler makes it clear he left the Rangers on less than amicable terms, Ask Dan Anything: The Romance Edition, Donnie with Jose Calderon, Does Race Have An Impact On The Types Of Phone One Uses, Big News Segment, Mike Modano in-studio, Homer Bowl 2014, Simpsons Game Show courtesy of TC.

The Full Archive From 2014:

Weekly Pod for 1/3/14 - Episode #241 - Jamie Benn in studio, the Cowboys come up short in Week 17 against the Eagles, Dan goes to a party on New Year's Eve, Bob's Griswald-esque vacation.

Weekly Pod for 1/10/14 - Episode #242 - BaD Radio are in New York for the coldest day the Big Apple has ever had, Bob goes to dinner with NHL players, the show takes a trip to see Letterman, Tyler Seguin in studio, the return of the Gabby Urinator, Brad Richards in studio, Ralph Strangis talks dating (among other things).

Weekly Pod for 1/17/14 - Episode #243 - A review of the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, 60 Minutes report on Alex Rodriguez, Mavs GM Donnie Nelson, Rangers GM Jon Daniels, Bruins play-by-play extraordinaire Jack Edwards, Homer Call of the Week, Lunch Pails, Top 10 QBs under 30.

Weekly Pod for 1/24/14 - Episode #244 - NFL Championship Game Reactions, Richard Sherman Audio and the controversy surrounding his post game comments, MLK Game, The Today Show has some thoughts on Richard Sherman as well, Evan Grant Wedding, Tanaka to the Yankees, Sports Movie Of The Month Reviewed: Big Fan, Homer Call Playoffs.

Weekly Pod for 1/31/14 - Episode #245 - UFC fighter, Chris Weidman, Super Bowl 28 Revisited, Mike Pereira discusses rule changes he'd like to see and the officiating angles of DEN/SEA, Super Bowl News, BaD Radio takes a field trip to see a taping of The Daily Show, Darryl Strawberry discusses his career and subsequently becomes angry with Dan, a trip to see an outdoor NHL game at Yankee Stadium, Denis Leary from Radio Row.

Weekly Pod for 2/7/14 - Episode #246 - Seattle dominates Denver in Super Bowl 48, Show News/Crew Changes, Gay/ Not Gay, Bob visits Mexican grocery stores and Donovan has started working out with Mike Sirois' personal trainer, Weather News, Donnie Bit, Joe and Murr from Impractical Jokers.

Weekly Pod for 2/14/14 - Episode #247 - The Michael Sam story, Dan's love for having a fire in the fireplace backfires and causes him to have to wash his jeans, 30 for 30: The Price Of Gold (Kerrigan/Harding), Audio Bag starring Charles Barkley, Cool Runnings reviewed, Mavs get their best win of the season heading into the All-Star break over the Pacers, John Sponsler joins the show live from Sochi, Ticket Minion Dating Game Show.

Weekly Pod for 2/21/14 - Episode #248 - Olympic hockey talk after the U.S. down Russia in a thrilling pool play game, why does the NHL allow it's players to participate in the Olympics, Dale Hansen goes viral with a commentary on Michael Sam, Cultural Frontrunning talk with the Heat in town, Tom Green, Homer Call Playoffs, 30 for 30 on Richard Jewell, Wife Olympics.

Weekly Pod for 2/28/14 - Episode #249 - Jerry Jones crazy-ass audio from the combine, Lots of News, Wash's Extension, Eric Nadel in-studio for a couple of segments, Lunch Run Problems: They Forgot The Rice, Dan's World, "Schooled" Review (documentary about college sports), "Justified" Writer VJ Boyd.

Cowboys Mailbag - Feb 21 - Coin Flip/Combine

The Cowboys won the coin flip!  The Cowboys won the coin flip!  The Cowboys won the coin flip!

Ok, tone down the excitement, but I will tell you that this is a deal worth getting a bit pleased with knowing that Baltimore is a fine team that also shares similar needs on their draft board.  So, to slide in front of them is no small task.

I said this earlier in the week on Twitter, and I do realize that many draft charts are different, but the Cowboys essentially picked up the value of a mid-4th rounder by grabbing the 16th pick over the 17th pick.  Here is one that says late 4th, this one here agrees with a late 4th, this one agrees, and so does this one from ESPN.  I am sure that the Cowboys have a different draft points chart, but it is still worth something whether you want to use the pick, move up, or move back.  #16 is better than #17 as I am sure those cute kids in the commercial would tell you, it is better being better than worse.

So, with the coin flip banner being hung, here is the approximate position of the Cowboys picks for May 8th, 9th, and 10th.

Rd 1#16
Rd 2#47
Rd 3#78*
Rd 4#115*
Rd 5#146*
Rd 7#206 (Chi)*From Dante Rosario Trade
Rd 7#208*
Rd 7#215 (KC)*From Edgar Jones Trade

* = actual pick subject to compensatory picks awarded - likely to be much lower.

Also, as I am sure you are well aware, the Combine is this weekend and the NFL Network will show you more hours than you could possibly ever want.  I use it to better get to know those candidates for the picks, but for me, nothing beats watching them play the games back in the fall.

I note the measurements and the times, but it is more just another tool for getting to know all those involved in this long draft process.

For teams, I think a ton is learned, but the tv screen does not show us the team interviews and the medical exams which are vital when taking a player who has played football his whole life.  As any Cowboys fan will remind you, the trouble with injury-prone players is that they often tend to get injured when they are playing in the NFL.

Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Demarco Murray all nod.

One other item worth noting is the visit that Stephen Jones had with the media on Wednesday that seemed to reiterate the idea that the Cowboys do not value 1-techniques with the same level of interest that they do 3-techniques.  You should try to watch the 5-minute video yourself here.  If I interpret their opinion of Shariff Floyd and translate it to this draft in 2014, it would seem to dispute what many are saying for the Cowboys pick in the 1st Round.  I absolutely have Timmy Jernigan as a 1-technique, as well as Louis Nix, so if the Cowboys felt that way last year and don't appear to be backing down, I think you can assume that from a scheme fit standpoint, they won't take Jernigan or Nix in Round 1.  I happen to agree with this premise, but their opinion matters way more than mine:

“That was unfortunate with Sharrif,” Stephen Jones said. “I don’t want to single a guy out, but that can happen when you change a system. You move from what we were doing and we were so into that, and then all of a sudden you move to a 4-3 and you’ve got new coaches in the room and what they’re trying to accomplish and that kind of slipped through the cracks a bit on us. It won’t happen again.” 
Floyd wound up going to Minnesota at No. 23 and went on to finish the season with 2.5 sacks. Frederick started all 16 games and was voted to the all-rookie team by the Pro Football Writers of America. 
“You have some players that you have issues with because they don’t fit your system necessarily,” Stephn Jones said. “Even though Sharrif may have been a first-round type player in our old system, he might not have been a first-round player for what we want in our system as an under tackle. We think in our system we can find nose tackles later in the draft that do a good job. I think under tackles are hard to find, great ones are.”
Move Jernigan down the list.  

And now, some real emails from you faithful readers:


Dear Sports Sturm,

Long time listener. I'm a student over at TCU but I've been listening to you guys since I was in high school, Richland High School (home of Jake & Joe Kemp). I'm a big draft junkie and you are my sports leader so I couldn't limit myself to 1-2 questions, sorry in advance.

My top five preferences for the Cowboys:
1) Stephon Tuitt (DE/DT) Notre Dame
2) Aaron Donald (DT) Pittsburgh
3) Ra'Shede Hageman (DT) Minnesota
4) Louis Nix (DT) Notre Dame
5) Dee Ford (DE) Auburn

** If it was more realistic Greg Robinson (T) Auburn would be on this list**

Who would be your pick with the with the Cowboy's first selection? Is it conceivable to think you could get two of these players (One in the first, one in the second) And do you think Jerry would even consider taking back-to-back defensive lineman in the first two rounds?

Would you rather see the Cowboys go after the recently released Louis Delmas or draft a safety?

Drafting a back to go with Murray, maybe eventually replace him, isn't out of the question. What round would you look to take a back? And is there anyone you have in mind?

And I AM a TCU student, so I have to ask a Casey Pachall question: Who has a better chance at a sustainable NFL career- Pachall or Tajh Boyd?

I'm happy to get any answers at all, don't expect you to answer all of them. I appreciate the work that you do and I hope to hear from ya soon !


Evan, you threw a lot at me there, so allow me to roll through these quickly.  You are on to something with Tuitt and Donald being targets, but beyond that, I am not too into Hageman, Nix, or even Ford.  Ford, in particular, looks a lot like a player who may not have a real fit at the next level unless he is on a team that can afford to only play him rotationally for now.  He is just so tiny, that even at Auburn he was not standing up well when the run was right at him.  Now, in the NFL, he is going to be asked to drop into coverage as an outside backer in a 3-4 which is always a roll of the dice or a very small DE in the 4-3 which I am not buying unless it is mostly on 3rd Downs or in the nickel defense.  I just don't care for his size and the 240 lb outside edge guy who has questionable ability to pass defend seems like too much of a risk for me in the 1st round.  Now, to your list, all of them would be fine if they drop to your 2nd pick, but the only target of that list that I would feel great about would be Aaron Donald in Round 1.  Tuitt has a high upside, but I am not sure I love him enough to put him in Round 1, but I am breaking his work down further for next week's look at the defensive ends.

Louis Delmas is a player I really like, but medically he is too much of a risk and I am told the Cowboys did not love his medical report back in his draft, so I am sure if they could get him for minimal costs, he would be a great player, but at any cost risk, they will pass.  Delmas is exactly the skill set I seek, but like so many safeties, he hits at a level that his own body cannot sustain, it appears.

Pachall vs Boyd?  Interesting.  I have thought that the very troubled Pachall has all the skills of a NFL prospect and a player that if he had no baggage would be an interesting developmental guy to have on your roster.  I am not a big Boyd guy at the next level, but of the two, I would go with Pachall, but neither of them should plan on too many years in the NFL, in my opinion.  But, I do think that if Pachall would stop with the vices that have chased him, he is really blessed with an amazing skill-set.


I have heard in different places that our 2 starting CB's (Claiborne and Carr) are better press man corners than zone corners.  First, would you agree with this?  Second, why would we use a defensive scheme that doesn't play to their strengths?  We seem to play such an abundance of zone!!!!


I very much believe that Claiborne and Carr are better in man coverage, but when you have man coverage, you risk exposing your safeties to man coverage.  Therefore, the Cowboys have been trying to find a hybrid coverage that works most of the time, but they continue to default back into zones where they don't have players exposed.  It is all well and good to always want to run man, but this league can find your weakness and whether it is Bruce Carter or Sean Lee in space, or Barry Church or Jeff Heath, or your corners, they will seek and find the open man and chase you out of it.

The fact remains that the Cowboys do not have the necessary personnel to run man coverage all of the time and the reviews of Morris Claiborne are troubling to say the least after 2 years in the league and of course remind us of the insanity of claiming he was the best prospect since Deion back when he was picked.  

Morris Claiborne was the second-rated player on the Cowboys’ draft board, and owner Jerry Jones said he was the highest-rated cornerback Cowboys scouts have presented to him since Deion Sanders. 
“Deion was special with his burst, but certainly, he is the best they have graded for us since Deion,” Jones said Thursday night after the Cowboys selected the LSU cornerback. “That would have included Deion after he came in here.” 
Jones said the price was worth it for the top defender in the draft, and who could grade out in the range of Sanders. 
“As far as being just the centerfield and doing what we need to do as far as man and being sound there,” Jones said. “That combination, I don’t remember – that can literally play man, have the size and the speed and can be the center fielder.”

more here:
Everybody misses on draft picks, but the fact that Jerry insists on saying things into microphones that seem to make him look sillier is never a great trait.  I really don't understand the logic in telling everyone that Dez is Michael Irvin or that Claiborne is Deion, but he can't help himself.  

Regardless, for the Cowboys to stop chasing their tails, they have to hit on every high-investment pick, and that is why the best way for this team to return to having a chance on defense is, of course, to add more talent immediately.  But, a close 2nd place in this quest is getting Bruce Carter and Mo Claiborne to actually prove that they are what you said they were.  Remember, this mess was started because you thought Mike Jenkins was going to fix cornerback and then Claiborne was to fix the Jenkins issue.  Obviously, he better improve quickly.  And to place the blame on the coaching and the scheme is just an excuse for underachievement from this highly valued and compensated player.  


Couple things I'd like your 2 cents on, Bob.

While I love the idea of taking Pryor in the first. It'd be wonderful to have a good FS, how many can you have? We have Wilcox, Heath, Church, McCray & Johnson. Yes, you can cut half of them, but we have so many holes to fill, how can you justify filling positions where you have guys you can't fully form an opinion on yet? Johnson hasn't played a game yet - bad - but I'm fine with him being a backup for now. Wilcox & Heath both showed flashes. Heath was in the right place at the right time quite a few times, just didn't make a play. Can we give the guy a season to grow? Same with Wilcox - he flashed some smarts and range. Since when are giving up on rookies after their first year? They weren't that bad.

I believe the general consensus is that improvement on the d-line will improve the back end. If that's true, our safeties should be better if we improve the line just because they shouldn't get hung out to dry as much.

I'm not against a safety if he's the best player available, but I'm not looking at any other position if there is a quality D-lineman on the board. And after D-line I'd look to O-line before safety. There just aren't that many really good safeties, and I don't believe Pryor is on a par with the top 4 or 5 is he?

As for upcoming contracts, I suspect with some of the Cowboys media that Murray will leave after his contract. I like him, but I don't get the vibe that he'll be around.

Enjoy the mailbag

Dave in VA

Dave, I appreciate your email and the topic of Safeties vs DL help is one that will rage on for a while.  It is absolutely true that the Cowboys may have in-house safety solutions if they just show a bit more patience.  It is interesting to re-read my scouting report on JJ Wilcox from last May and see how that jives with what we saw as a rookie.  

Wilcox has tools, but he is just so raw and the Cowboys likely were not thinking that he was going to be the solution at free safety his rookie year.  Further, they might be thinking that he is a strong safety if they can't make him a free safety/centerfielder.  Also, he was a 3rd rounder, so let's be reasonable about where he needs to be 1 year into his career.  However, it seemed that as bad as Jeff Heath was, he was still preferred to Wilcox late in the year and that gives us pause, because Heath is the ultimate replacement level street free agent.

A bigger hot button issue for the hard core Cowboys fan is Matt Johnson.  If you review my thoughts on him from May 2012, I will tell you that I was very high on him.  I have obviously experienced an optimism drop to say the least since 2012, but I still wonder if he can get into the mix in 2014 if you do not find a premium safety in the draft.  

Dave is right.  They have invested a ton in safeties, and I would only target this spot if one of the big 4 is on the board when it is time to go:  (Pryor, Clinton-Dix, Joyner, or Ward).  I really think they are all good enough that you collect them, but other guys on the board at this position would not represent much of an upgrade over the talent you already have.  

So, in a perfect scenario, I take DL with 2 of my top 3 picks, and see what happens with the safeties on the board from a best player available standpoint.  Pryor and Joyner are the only 2 I would consider at #16, but if Aaron Donald is gone, I am not sure I see DL options at #16 worthwhile, and from there, I might try to trade back and pick up a 2nd or 3rd.  But, we have a lot of other positions to consider as well, including OL and yes, even QB.  


I would remind you to read all my previous draft stuff for 2014 by clicking on this link and if you haven't read the positional breakdowns on defensive tackle or safety yet, it might help you get more familiar with those involved on the Cowboys board.  Talk to you next week.