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    Thread: Dallas Cowboys Official Thread

    1. 05-02-2007 09:23 PM #101
      Cowboys Draft Choices
      1st Pick
      DE Anthony Spencer
      6-3, 261lbs
      2nd Pick
      OT James Marten
      6-7.5, 309lbs
      3rd Pick
      QB Isaiah Stanback
      6-2, 216lbs
      4th Pick
      OT Doug Free
      6-6, 324lbs
      5th Pick
      K Nick Folk
      6-1, 225lbs
      6th Pick
      FB Deon Anderson
      5-10, 236lbs
      7th Pick
      CB Courtney Brown
      6-1, 205lbs
      8th Pick
      CB Alan Ball
      6-1, 175lbs

    2. 05-06-2007 10:52 PM #102
      damn i can't wait for this season!!
      damn i can't wait for this season!!
      damn i can't wait for this season!!
      damn i can't wait for this season!!
      damn i can't wait for this season!!
      damn i can't wait for this season!!

    3. 05-09-2007 02:05 PM #103
      just short
      IRVING, Texas - Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo knew what he had to do.
      He knew going into Tuesday's U.S. Open local qualifying tournament held at nearby Hackberry Creek Country Club that a score in the high 60's would be good enough to advance to the next round.
      As it turned out, he was right.
      Unfortunately for Romo, he just couldn't get there.
      In fact, to say he came up just short would be more appropriate, considering how many putts he left just inches short of the cup in Tuesday's round.
      Romo shot a 1-over, 72 for the day, four shots from advancing and good for about 25th place among 115 participants that also included former NFL quarterback Tommy Maddox, who shot a 75.
      "I had about five or six putts that I just left short today," Romo said. "I had my chances there at the end. But it just didn't work out for me. But it was fun. I enjoy the competition to be out here."
      The top 10 scores advanced to the sectional round for another one-day tournament consisting of about 30 golfers, all aiming for the few remaining spots in the U.S. Open, to be played this year at Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh.
      This was Romo's first attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open since 2005, when he missed the cut by one stroke and participated in a five-man playoff to become the first alternate. Romo won that playoff but was never called back as an alternate for the sectional round.
      But while he admits he's too competitive not to have some disappointment in failing to qualify, Romo said he understands his "other job" limits his practice time and ability to sharpen his game.
      "I don't get out to play as much anymore," Romo said. "But it's nice to be able to come out once in a while and play a decent round. You just can't play a lot in my profession."
      And not just with his profession, but his position on the team. As the Cowboys' starting quarterback, Romo knows the stakes are higher. While he said he was playing about twice a week last year, he said he's only getting to the golf course about once a week these days, if that.
      "Well, it's just harder now," he said. "I just think with a new staff and everything. I have to learn a whole new offense. And I still have to improve. Football is what I do. It brings me the most enjoyment. It allows me to live a fulfilled life right now. And I just enjoy the aspect of being able to play every week. I know it's not fun if I'm not playing well."
      But he doesn't take the same approach in golf. Romo said it's not often he plays golf without having some fun. And even though he would've liked to have a few of those birdie putts back, Tuesday certainly was nothing short of fun.
      "It's great to get out here and be able to do this," he said. "It's fun to be able to compete for something that probably shouldn't be able to do."
      While Romo wasn't too upset with his round of 72, he certainly wasn't satisfied with it either.
      After parring the first three holes, Romo notched bogies on the fourth and eighth holes to put him plus-2 heading into the turn. But he already had a plan.
      "I need to go four-under on this back nine to have a chance," Romo said as he chugged down bottles of Gatorade and water. "And I think I have a shot with two par 5s out there."
      Another bogey on his 11th hole put him at 3-over par, five shots off his original goal.
      But that's when Romo made a charge. He birdied the first par-5 hole on the 13th, followed by back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th to pull even. On his 15th hole, Romo sank a 15-foot putt and let out a rather loud "BAM!" to show his excitement of pulling to even with three holes to play.
      However, that's as close as Romo would get. A bad break on his tee shot at 16th landed him a second shot right under a tree. He was forced to lay up and never recovered, getting a bogey before scoring pars on the final two holes.
      "I thought we had a shot there at the end," Romo said. "But that's the way it goes. It was a lot of fun."
      And right now, he said he plays golf strictly for fun. Romo didn't have a firm answer when asked of his possibilities of someday pursing golf on a professional level.
      "I don't think about that," Romo said. "I enjoy the competition side of it. I'm sure I'll always play in something like this. Whether or not I'll ever be successful at it, I don't know. I've never really put forth the effort to get really, really mad if I don't perform at a high level at this. You know, if I didn't perform well in football, it would hurt. But this is a different deal. I'm just trying to have fun and get a good score."
      And he was able to do both of those things on Tuesday. Just not good enough to advance.

    4. 05-20-2007 06:07 PM #105
      Bumping a Cowboys thread during the offseason... almost as sad as T.O. bashing Parcells after he left.
      P H I L L I E S | F L Y E R S | E A G L E S | S I X E R S | P E N N- S T A T E | 'N O V A

    5. 05-20-2007 09:30 PM #106
      Quote, originally posted by slvrdubbin »
      Bumping a Cowboys thread during the offseason... almost as sad as T.O. bashing Parcells after he left.

      I've been bumping to keep it out of archives all off-season thus far. I missed ya slvr

    6. 05-20-2007 10:32 PM #107
      now that the draft is over ncaa football is my fix till madden, then madden, then the regular season. such a long wait

    7. 05-20-2007 10:33 PM #108
      Quote, originally posted by 2002_Turbo »
      I've been bumping to keep it out of archives all off-season thus far. I missed ya slvr

      Haha... yeah I don't get on very often... got a new job so it keeps me extremely busy.
      P H I L L I E S | F L Y E R S | E A G L E S | S I X E R S | P E N N- S T A T E | 'N O V A

    8. 05-23-2007 07:13 AM #109
      Looking For More Rush, Cowboys Lean On Ware

      DeMarcus Ware had 11.5 sacks last season, the most for the Cowboys since 1996.

      IRVING, Texas - The Cowboys just wrapped up a three-day mini-camp where much of the talk centered on the left outside linebacker spot.
      The guy who began last year as the starter is rehabbing from season-ending surgery and isn't too thrilled with his financial status with the Cowboys.
      The guy who ended last year as the starter has since been moved to inside linebacker.
      And the starter during this past mini-camp is the Cowboys' first-round draft pick.
      Yes, lots of attention being paid to left (strong side) outside linebacker.
      But not so much on the right side. No, because that's where DeMarcus Ware will be lining up this season, and from what new head coach Wade Phillips has already stated, there won't be too much conjecture over there on the weak side.
      "DeMarcus Ware is going to rush the passer more times than he did last year," Phillips said. "That's what he really does well."
      And Ware did it so well last season, he ended up leading the team with 11½ sacks, becoming the first Cowboys player to reach double-digit sacks since Tony Tolbert had 12 in 1996. That was enough for Ware to earn a start in his first Pro Bowl, one of seven Cowboys in the game.
      But Ware's play alone wasn't enough to prevent the Cowboys Cowboy defense from struggling down the stretch. The Cowboys ranked fourth in total defense after Thanksgiving, but dropped to 13th by season's end, allowing 33.0 points a game while going 1-3 in the final four.
      By the end of the season, opposing offenses were spreading out the Cowboys on defense, trying to take Ware away from his pass-rushing duties by forcing him to into coverage on running backs, tight ends and sometimes even wide receivers in the slot.
      "From what I can see, it's not really going to be like that," Ware said Wednesday in the middle of a relaxed outing at the Cowboys annual golf tournament in Grapevine, Texas. "It's still pretty early and we're just putting stuff in, but I think it's going to be more rushing for me. And that's fine."
      But according to Ware, he won't be alone in applying more pressure on the quarterback this season in the 3-4 defense Phillips runs.
      "When you start seeing guys like Jason Ferguson getting sacks in practice, it's exciting," Ware said. "Marcus Spears, Chris Canty, even Bradie James. All the guys that are in the scheme now, (Wade Phillips) is putting players in position to make plays. That's what Wade does best. I think it's going to work out."
      Phillips' 3-4 scheme is considered more aggressive than the Cowboys' 3-4 defense run by former head coach Bill Parcells. While the Cowboys had just 34 sacks last year, Phillips' defense in San Diego led the NFL with 61. And 17 of those sacks came from Shawne Merriman, the player drafted 12th in the 2005 NFL Draft, one slot behind Ware, who hasn't' been able to shed the statistical comparisons to Merriman, who even expressed his disappointment for not being drafted by the Cowboys.
      But he has thrived in San Diego's defense, recording 10 sacks as a rookie, before his NFL-leading 17 last season, despite being suspended four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy.
      Ware said he met up with Merriman at the Pro Bowl in February, and received a glowing review of his new head coach.
      "He told me, 'You're going to love Wade because he's going to let you loose,'" Ware recalled of his conversation with Merriman. "He's going to let you be the player you need to be and let the defense be aggressive."
      And the Cowboys need Ware to be even more aggressive from the weak side, especially with so much uncertainly surrounding the strong side.
      Greg Ellis, who made the switch from defensive end to linebacker last season, started the first nine games before suffering a torn Achilles. While Ellis is ahead of schedule rehabbing his Achilles and is expected to be ready for the start of training camp on July 24, there is always uncertainty regarding a soon-to-be 32-year old coming back from surgery to repair a torn Achilles.
      And if that's not enough, Ellis has again expressed his concern with the Cowboys management for not giving him more of a financial commitment than his $2.5 million base salary for this season. Ellis said he expects to meet with owner Jerry Jones this week.
      When Ellis went down last year, the Cowboys replaced him with Bobby Carpenter, last year's first-round pick who came on strong at the end of the season. Carpenter's best game of the year was arguably the playoff loss in Seattle. But instead of moving forward at outside linebacker, the Cowboys are toying with Carpenter at inside, where he worked with the second-team defense this past mini-camp.
      The Cowboys could afford to do that after selecting Anthony Spencer. The first-round pick from Purdue worked opposite Ware with the first-team defense during the mini-camp. Like Ware, Spencer played defensive end in college but is expected to make the transition to outside linebacker in this 3-4 defense.
      Ware said, like most rookies, Spencer had a slow start during the mini-camp, but it didn't take long to recognize his talent.
      "The first day, you try to do everything perfect," Ware said. "But after talking to some of the guys, it's just about going out there and playing like you did in college. I think he's going to be really good for us."
      In fact, the only problem Ware had with Spencer this past weekend wasn't what he did in practice, but what he didn't do - as in fetch water for the head coach.
      Being the top draft pick in 2005, Ware's season-long duty of bringing Bill Parcells a cup of water during practice breaks was a "tradition."
      "I was so upset; I was mad," said Ware, with a big smile. "I was like, 'Spencer, you're going to have to start bringing me water, just to make me feel good.' It was a tradition here with the Cowboys. Julius Jones did it. I did it. Bobby (Carpenter) did it. You've got to do something. Just to taunt somebody. So we'll see if we can find something for Anthony to do."
      But it's likely Ware will be just fine if Spencer can simply help with the pass rush and solidify his side.

    9. 05-29-2007 06:39 AM #110
      Players Like Changes In Phillips' 3-4 Defensive Style
      Nick Eatman - Email Staff Writer

      Marcus Spears is one of many Cowboys players excited about Wade Phillips' defensive scheme.

      IRVING, Texas - Back in mid-February when the Cowboys were knee-deep in a coaching search trying to replace Bill Parcells, owner Jerry Jones had nearly a dozen candidates to choose from.
      He interviewed 10 of them during the grueling process but at the end of the day, which was actually about two weeks later, Jones went for defense.
      And don't think it was just a coincidence he picked Wade Phillips, a longtime coach of the 3-4 defense - the very defense the Cowboys had run the past two years under Parcells - to be his next head coach.
      Yet, after completing a three-day mini-camp and a four-day OTA practice session this week, why does it seem as if the Cowboys are installing an entirely new defensive system?
      Maybe because, for the most part, they are.
      Yes, the Cowboys will still run a 3-4 scheme like they did the last two years under Parcells.
      But Phillips has said this defense, one that his father Bum first installed back in the mid-1970's as coach of the Houston Oilers, is unlike most versions of the 3-4. In fact, Phillips has often said most teams run different types of the 3-4 scheme.
      "Obviously, I like the 3-4 - I've been coaching it a long time," Phillips said. "I think it gives you a lot of things, especially pass rush. Pittsburgh is different than we are. Bill Parcells is different as far as how they run it. And I think (Bill) Belichick has changed from what Bill did before. All of them have their ways of doing things. I think ours has been pretty successful. I think it'll do well."
      Phillips has always thought so.
      But the best part now is his current players in Dallas seem to be on board as well.
      "We got excited defensively, because they were running some things that we have always wanted to do," inside linebacker Bradie James said when the veterans first watched last year's tapes of San Diego's defense run by Phillips, who served as Chargers defensive coordinator for the last three years. "There is just pressure coming from everywhere. When I watched the film, I still didn't know who was (blitzing).
      "When you go from a base defense, basically what we ran last year, to something like this, it makes you more excited to go play some football."
      James, who arrived here as a 245-pound rookie in 2003, said he had to play closer to 265 last season "just to survive" the style of defense, which usually called for him to battle opposing guards and centers in head-on collisions.
      But in this defense, James said he not only expects to be covered up more by the defensive tackles, but is hoping to be more involved in the blitz schemes, too.
      "It looks like I'll be pressuring from the inside more," James said. "I think the biggest difference is, sometimes I'll be covered up. I'll have a shade-nose over me, instead of just being head up on the center and the guards just shooting up on the inside 'backers. I'll have a lot more freedom now. I'm not hit with that double-edged sword of playing at 265, but still trying to cover a tight end down the field.
      "In this defense, I'll get to blitz a lot more."
      However, James knows he won't be blitzing every down. But if it's not him, someone else will be.
      Third-year linebacker Kevin Burnett, who has been moved from outside to inside this year, said this scheme allows the defense to be more proactive, rather that just waiting to react to the offense.
      "You've got to know where we're coming from now," Burnett said. "It's a low predictably-style defense. With that, that defense is going to win more than half of the time. I think last year's defense was just an old way of thinking, which will usually get you beat. That's just how it is."
      Burnett, a second-round draft pick in 2005, expressed his frustration during the Cowboys' mini-camp earlier this month over his lack of playing time last year. He also knows the Cowboys have invested lots of money in linebackers in recent drafts, taking DeMarcus Ware, Bobby Carpenter and now Anthony Spencer in the first round the past three years.
      While Burnett is looking for a bigger opportunity this year, Marcus Spears, the team's second first-round pick in 2005 (20th overall), admits he is looking to live up to those draft-day expectations.
      Spears has also expressed his excitement over the defensive change. Spears and fellow-starting defensive end Chris Canty were asked to take on blockers and clog the running lanes, rather than being given the freedom to aggressively attack on plays.
      But when he first saw this new defense on tape, he noticed right away a big change from last year.
      "The movement on the line . . . more attacking," Spears said. "It's a different tempo as far as the defensive line goes. That was the first initial change that we saw. Everybody on this defense is there to make plays and get to the ball. That's the philosophy. But up front, there's no more 'sit back and wait.'"
      And that goes for the defensive ends, and even the nose tackle, too.
      Veteran Jason Ferguson had one of his best seasons of his career, although just four of his 64 tackles were behind the line of scrimmage. And Ferguson also failed to record at least one sack for the first time in his 10-year career.
      "You get a chance to move around and use your ability; I can actually move around, too," said Ferguson. "You get a lot more guys who want to make plays and have some fun. I'm in the middle; I can actually put my foot back and get off the ball a little bit. With the old defense, I was more flat-footed. But this defense is definitely something that I look forward to."
      But with a more aggressive approach, it will leave the defense more vulnerable at times. While the Cowboys don't want to get in the habit of yielding big plays, they're hoping the defense can initiate a few big plays of its own.
      "Last year we didn't want to give up big play. We were real conservative," James said. "But this year, from what I've seen, we might give up some big plays, but we're going to have a lot more negative plays to balance the ones we give up."
      And at the end of the day, no matter the differences in personnel or philosophy, that will be the determining factor in how this new defense is judged.

      This'll be the year of the Cowboys

    10. 05-29-2007 06:49 AM #111
      picked up a new jersey this weekend too

    11. Member
      Join Date
      Jan 6th, 2004
      Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
      '02 337, '06 CBR600RR
      05-29-2007 09:24 AM #112
      I gpt mine in Blue
      last season.

    12. 05-29-2007 03:46 PM #113
      Quote, originally posted by Envy 337 »
      I gpt mine in Blue
      last season.

      me too. traditional in blue ROMO...

      I have a williams jersey
      jones jersey
      2 romos'
      next = demarcus ware

    13. 05-31-2007 07:12 AM #114
      Did you get some stick 'em too?

    14. 06-03-2007 07:44 PM #115
      Double Bonus
      Cowboys Ensure Owens Will Remain On 2007 Roster

      IRVING, Texas - Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked and asked and asked, and every time, seemingly until he was blue in the face, he insisted he would fund Terrell Owens' $3 million roster bonus to retain his rights for the 2007 season.
      Technically, the bonus would be activated if Owens was on the team's 80-man roster at the close of business June 3. But since June 3 is Sunday, and NFL business for this week officially ceased at 3 p.m. (CDT) Friday, officially the Cowboys would have been required to release him Friday to void the contract.
      Well, surprise, surprise, 3 p.m. Friday came and went without the Cowboys filing a transaction with the league, meaning Owens will not only be on the roster at the June 3 deadline, but on the team for the 2007 season and $3 million richer.
      That also means Jones will not have to answer the question again - at least until next year when the Cowboys once again will retain some financial leverage over Owens with another $3 million roster bonus due in June if the wide receiver still is on the roster.
      Now maybe everyone can move on, as the Cowboys continued to do so on Friday with the fourth of this week's four organized team activity (OTA) sessions here at The Ranch, to be followed by three more next week and that weekend's three-day mini-camp to conclude the off-season's team workouts until the July 24 start to training camp.
      Many, though, seemed skeptical of what Jones had to say following the Cowboys' 21-20 playoff loss to Seattle, what he had to say on the subject after hiring Wade Phillips as his head coach a few weeks later and what he had to say following the draft and the team's first mini-camp when Owens somewhat surprised the club by participating in the non-contact practices following the dual surgeries to repair the torn tendon at the top of his right ring finger: That Owens would be on the team.
      But essentially the Cowboys succinctly answered this persistent question long before Friday's deadline by what they didn't do in free agency or in the draft. They didn't spend top dollar to sign any veteran free-agent wide receivers. They didn't use either of their first three draft picks to select a wide receiver, and could very well have done so since four wide receivers still went in the first round after the Cowboys' 22nd position.
      Had they balked at bringing in a top receiver and decided to release Owens, they would have been staring at the the 2007 season with the prospects of starting Terry Glenn and Patrick Crayton, backed up by any number of inexperienced youngsters - Sam Hurd, Miles Austin, Jamel Richardson, Jamaica Rector, Isaiah Stanback - totaling all of five NFL receptions.
      How irresponsible would that have been, especially knowing your projected starting quarterback has all of 10 NFL starts under his belt? In fact, surrounding your inexperienced quarterback with a slew of inexperienced receivers might have been disastrous.
      But now Romo can count on two 12-year veterans starting at wide receiver, Owens and Glenn, who combined last year for 155 catches, 2,217 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns. And he knows at the very least he will have Crayton, the fourth-year receiver, as his third guy in case something happens to the two Thirtysomething starters, a guy who had a career year last season with 36 catches for 516 yards and four touchdowns.
      When asked what it will mean to have Owens back, along with Glenn and Crayton and not have to rely on a bunch of young pup receivers with little experience, Romo said, "The No. 1 thing is you trust those guys to make plays. Just like in basketball, Michael Jordan will pass the ball off if he believes that guy is going to make his shot. But if he doesn't . . . .
      "It's just more comforting when you know what guys will do."
      The Cowboys also realize surrounding Romo with veteran receivers, along with a fifth-year tight end, Pro Bowler Jason Witten, gives their fifth-year quarterback the best chance to succeed in what promises to be his first full season starting in the NFL. Too many young guys running around is not good.
      That won't be the case with Owens returning for the second year on his three-year, $25 million contract. The team's leading receiver last year - 85 catches for 1,180 yards and a league-leading 13 touchdown receptions - is scheduled for a another $5 million base salary. Owens will count either $9.66 million against the Cowboys' $109 million salary cap for 2007 if his roster bonus is not prorated, which the league now allows. If the roster bonus is prorated over the final two years of his contract, he will cost $8.16 million against this year's cap, with the remaining $1.5 million being rolled into 2008.
      "We're just pleased to have him, and for him to attend and participate in the mini-camp was outstanding," Cowboys new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said. "He came in, took all the reps and played all the different spots, and that was good."
      Garrett, the former Cowboys backup quarterback for seven seasons who ended up playing 12 on the NFL, knows what it means for a quarterback to have trust in a wide receiver. He watched first hand the trust Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman had in Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, who was honored for his recent selection by the club Thursday night with a party at the Ghost Bar in downtown Dallas.
      Aikman once came back to the sideline after getting intercepted during a preseason scrimmage because second-year receiver Alexander Wright once again failed to cross the face of the defensive back on a deep post route, and told his backup Babe Laufenberg to "shoot me if I ever throw that deep post to him again."
      Told the story, Romo grinned. He has played enough quarterback to understand how important it is to have receivers be where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. And that doesn't always happen with inexperienced guys.
      "If a quarterback doesn't trust a wide receiver," Romo said, "he'll go to the line of scrimmage, look at the defense, and immediately eliminate him from his read. That shouldn't happen."
      Well, that should not be the case for him as long as his top three receivers are ready to go. The Cowboys once again figure to start Owens and Glenn, with Crayton coming in on third downs.
      But they might have more depth at the receiver position than they've had in years. Behind Crayton figures to be Hurd and Austin, two second-year guys who made the squad as rookie free agents last year. Then there is Stanback, the fourth-round draft choice who is trying to transition from college quarterback to NFL receiver.
      On top of that, the Cowboys have signed Jamel Richardson, a four-year CFL veteran who was one of the Canadian league's better slot receivers the past couple of years, and still have Rector, who forced his way onto the 53-man roster for five weeks last year with a superb preseason only to land on the team's practice squad for the remainder of the season.
      And with Owens and Glenn missing the majority of the OTA sessions, this has given all these young receivers a lot of work this off-season.
      "I can now see why all the positive things were being said about the young receivers," Garrett said. "(The receiving corps) was one of the things we were excited about when we first got here."
      Or as Romo says, "We have one of the better young receiving corps that hasn't played."
      A corps which can continue to grow now that everyone knows for sure Owens isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

    15. 06-11-2007 07:23 AM #116
      Depth Check
      IRVING, Texas - In the Cowboys' May mini-camp, head coach Wade Phillips said his team was talented enough to win at every position, and while the statement may have raised some eyebrows, it wasn't too much of an exaggeration.
      As far as the starters go.
      Maybe there's not a proverbial steak on every plate, but there isn't really one position that leaves you starving. The real problem is, at some positions, there's just not enough beef to go around.
      That is to say, after the starter, who else can play nose tackle? Or beyond Jason Witten and the banged-up Anthony Fasano, are there really any other NFL-caliber tight ends? Maybe not.
      For these two positions in particular, the Cowboys are attempting to address their depth problems by grooming young players. And the thinking goes, if the team brings in, say, a veteran nose tackle to spell Jason Ferguson, does that stop the progress of youngsters the team is developing at the position?
      At the moment, second-year veteran Montavious Stanley is Ferguson's primary backup. Stanley appeared in three games in 2006, totaling four tackles with a half-sack and one forced fumble - and those were with Jacksonville, before he got released and then claimed by the Cowboys on Nov. 16. A sixth-round pick by the Cowboys in the 2006 draft (182nd overall), Stanley might not be the guy you want working full-time if something happens to Ferguson.
      And after Stanley, the only other true nose tackles on the roster are undrafted rookie-free agent Ola Dagunduro, a 6-2, 313-pound 23-year old from Nebraska and NFL Europa allocation Remi Ayodele - guys just trying to make the team at this point, certainly not players the Cowboys are ready to depend on.
      Dagunduro was a highly-prized signee after the draft who said he fielded interest from virtually every team in the league. So why Dallas?
      "My agent looked into (depth charts) all over the league, and said I would have a great chance to make the squad here," Dagunduro said between the final two workouts of the June mini-camp on Saturday. "So I took it."
      One recourse the Cowboys might have in case Ferguson goes down is to move two-year veteran Jay Ratliff back inside. Ratliff has shuffled from end, to tackle and back to end during his NFL stint, and says because of the moves, he has become familiar with every position on the defensive line, and at 6-4, 305-pounds, he wouldn't be undersized for the nose.
      Ferguson said the job of getting the young tackles ready to play is partly his own, as the eldest on the defensive line.
      "They've got me here," Ferguson said. "I share my experiences with them and just show them how to take on certain things. They want to learn, they want to get better and they want to prove themselves.
      "Sometimes you get some guys in here that aren't as hungry. You've got to be able to trust the guys you brought in, and I think that's what Wade does."
      In his Saturday afternoon press conference, Phillips proved Ferguson right, saying defensive end Stephen Bowen could also move inside in a pinch.
      "We'll see where we move them all," Phillips said, deciding to simply hold a meeting and stage of Family Day on the third and final day of this June mini-camp. "We've played them all at different positions - Bowen and Ratliff have all played the nose, but different ways, stunting them more. We have a lot of versatile guys."
      With Anthony Fasano currently nursing a shoulder injury (sprained A.C. joint) and missing the weekend's practices, the Cowboys added another tight end to the roster earlier in the week, third-year tight end Adam Bergen.
      Bergen spent two years in Arizona, catching 28 balls for 270 yards and a touchdown in 2005, and 15 more for 111 yards and a touchdown in 2006 before tearing his left MCL in December. Even with the addition, Witten said it's apparent how thin the position is, and how much the team needs Fasano back healthy.
      "It's a little bit hectic out there and there's extra reps for us to take," Witten said. "We're just definitely counting on him to be in there this year."
      Without Fasano, second-year tight end Andy Thorn and rookie Rodney Hannah were the only other tight ends practicing in the mini-camp, save Witten and the newly-acquired Bergen, who is still just getting settled in with his new team.
      "I feel good practicing, just been picking up the offense, which is coming to me," Bergen said. "It's been easy to come here and fit in with everyone as the new guy. I'm just making the most of my opportunity that I have now. Whatever happens, happens."
      Thorn was activated for just one game in 2006, Week 15 against Atlanta, though he registered no catches or special teams tackles. Hannah went undrafted out of Houston.
      The Cowboys sent their only other possibility, third-year tight end Tony Curtis, to Europe for the summer, where he has yet to break into the Cologne Centurions starting lineup. Without depth, the door is wide open for someone, anyone, to be the Cowboys' third tight end, and should Fasano's injury linger, the team may need to look elsewhere to add some talent at the position, raising the possibility of making a trade.
      "You always need a lot of receivers, tight ends and running backs for training camp," Phillips said. "You need numbers because they do the most running and it's more likely they could have some slow down at times and the numbers could dwindle."
      After Saturday's afternoon practice, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also hinted there could be some need at tight end.
      "I like our depth overall, but probably tight end," Jones said of his greatest depth concern. "We might need some more depth there - need it to develop from within is what we need."
      If Jones had his druthers, the Cowboys wouldn't be adding hungry mouths to feed at any position, just a little bit bigger helping where it's needed most.

    16. 06-12-2007 03:02 PM #117
      Looking Forward
      Safety Williams Likes What He Sees In New Scheme

      Jana Wallis - Email Staff Writer
      June 11, 2007 5:23 PM Change Font Size A A A A

      Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams is excited about Wade Phillips' style of defense.

      IRVING, Texas - A new coaching staff brings changes throughout a team, and Cowboys safety Roy Williams is looking forward to what that means particularly for him.
      "I get to be more involved," Williams said in between practices at Saturday's final work day of the three-day mini-camp held over the weekend at Valley Ranch. "I'd really just like to be closer to the ball and Coach Phillips said they installed some plays for me and I'm looking forward to it."
      Since his rookie year in 2002, Williams has started 82 consecutive games (including playoffs) for the Cowboys, the longest active streak on the roster. The former Sooner finished tied for 10th last season in the NFL with five interceptions and has been voted into the Pro Bowl the past four seasons.
      But it's no secret Williams has struggled some over the past two seasons in coverage, especially on deep routes when he's forced to play a cover two zone.
      This season, new head coach Wade Phillips has Williams playing closer to the ball when possible, planning to take advantage of the Pro Bowl player's instincts around the line of scrimmage against the run and pass.
      And if the mini-camp practices are any indication, it's obvious Williams is creeping closer to the line of scrimmage now that the Cowboys have veteran safety Ken Hamlin playing free safety next to him.
      That made Williams a happy camper.
      "I feel that we [Williams and DeMarcus Ware] are going to be put in a position to make more plays," Williams said. "Wade said he's going to put his players in positions to make plays and I believe him and we're going to go from there. I get to be around the ball and it's a big difference being 15 yards away from the ball and being seven yards from the ball."
      Phillips has said it's no secret he'd like to get Williams closer to the line of scrimmage, and even in a few nickel packages has experimented with the veteran safety playing one of the linebacker spots - something former head coach Bill Parcells looked at some during last summer's training camp but never utilized during the season.
      Changes aren't just being made for Williams, though. Phillips also is plotting how to use Ware differently. Instead of lining up almost exclusively on the right side of the Cowboys defense, Phillips is employing his outside linebackers as weak side and strong side. The idea is to play Ware on the weak side, away from the tight end, and either Greg Ellis or first-round draft choice Anthony Spencer on the strong side - or to the tight end side. That should keep offenses from forcing Ware to deal with an extra guy on the offensive line, unless they motion the tight end to his side.
      Also, it appears Phillips will ask Ware to do less in coverage, preferring the Pro Bowl defensive end to concentrate on rushing the quarterback. Phillips downplays these are novel concepts, saying he's just playing to his individual players' strengths.
      When asked about Williams following Saturday's second mini-camp practice, Phillips sort of laughed to himself, saying, "Roy's a funny guy. He's always telling me something. He told me 'good speech' the other day."
      Despite his struggles in coverage last year, Williams deflected questions, saying he is focused strictly on the future and the upcoming training camp.
      "Last year is the past," Williams said. "Why reflect on last year? We've been having great OTA's and great mini-camps.
      "(These practices) are very beneficial. We've gotten to bond; we're becoming more of a family. There's no individual and everybody is just playing together."
      This was one of the first times Williams made himself available for interviews during the off-season workouts where media members had access to the players - and likely the last time until the start of training camp July 24 in San Antonio, Texas, since the Cowboys have no more scheduled team workouts the remainder of the off-season.
      All that remains is for the players to finish up their individual off-season strength and conditioning workouts. The veterans will work through the remainder of June and the rookies through the second week in July before getting a break.
      Williams' locker-room availability for an interview, though, was one more time than wide receiver Terrell Owens, who paired up with Williams after Sunday's mini-camp meeting and family get-together to make the trip to San Antonio for Sunday night's Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
      Owens was in the locker room Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but did not entertain the media with one of those mass interview sessions.
      "Y'all must've ticked him off," Williams said to a reporter after she complained about T.O.'s lack of availability. "He's doing T.O., he's enjoying himself. He's the same person; I haven't seen any change in him. He's a great competitor. I love him on and off the field because he's a great person."
      Williams will be trying to become a five-time Pro Bowler this season, which would put him in the company of such former Cowboys as Michael Irvin, Lee Roy Jordan and Darren Woodson. In fact, a fifth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance by the sixth-year safety would be the team's longest streak since Larry Allen went to seven straight Pro Bowls from 1995-2001. His four matches La'Roi Glover's streak from 2002-2005.
      So no wonder he is looking forward.

    17. 06-21-2007 11:09 PM #118
      The Right Fit
      Backup Johnson Excited About Cowboys Talent, System
      Rob Phillips - Email Staff Writer
      June 21, 2007 5:52 PM
      Change Font Size A A A A
      Brad Johnson guided the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl in 2002.
      IRVING, Texas - Brad Johnson won a Super Bowl with the Bucs' trio of Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius. He shared a locker room with Cris Carter and Randy Moss in Minnesota.
      But when Brad Johnson glances at the nameplates for Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn and Jason Witten, he sees perhaps the best group of receivers he's played with in 15 years of NFL service.
      That combination, along with the Cowboys' growing reputation as a rising NFC power, helped Johnson narrow his list of off-season suitors from six to one.
      "I thought this was just a winning team," Johnson said. "Very talented team. More than anything I just wanted to be in the right fit. It's so important just being in the right system, being in the right fit with personalities."
      Only in Dallas, the 38-year-old quarterback's biggest task is simply to stay ready.
      The Cowboys wanted an experienced, capable alternative in case something happened to Tony Romo, so they handed Johnson a three-year, $7.5 million deal laced with a $2.5 million signing bonus.
      He'll enter his 16th NFL season in a much different setting than he's used to, having been a starter for much of his career in Washington and Tampa Bay, along with two stints in Minnesota.
      "I think Brad has shown he's the veteran quarterback that we were looking for," Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said. "He can come in and do things. He's ready to do things. He studies the offense and he's been in a lot of different schemes and he can relate to everything we've done so far."
      Johnson is expected to serve as Romo's backup and work closely with new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, his teammate in Tampa for part of the 2004 season. Johnson's familiarity with Garrett helped make Dallas an attractive destination this past spring.
      He's also impressed with the Cowboys' offensive balance, saying Witten's versatility "really changes the game" in terms of how Dallas can attack defenses.
      But perhaps more than any other team characteristic, Johnson values chemistry in what he calls "the quarterback room."
      In his eyes, the quarterbacks and offensive coaches must build a strong relationship on the field and in the meeting rooms. Those pieces must make the "right fit".
      "You've got to make sure you've got the right caddy," Johnson said. "That's why Tiger Woods has the right caddy and keeps the same caddy."
      Johnson has proven he can produce consistently over the years if called upon. In addition to leading Tampa to a Super Bowl title in 2002, he has a career 83.1 passer rating with 28,548 yards and 164 touchdowns to 117 interceptions.
      Johnson and Romo are starting to grasp Garrett's new offense together. Johnson has played in six different systems during his career and doesn't think the 27-year-old Romo will have any trouble adjusting, either.
      "It's tough for everyone, but you have to learn," Johnson said. "That's part of adjusting to the NFL. He's a fast learner and he's willing to learn."
      While he doesn't view himself as a "mentor", Johnson wants to build a foundation of "trust and respect" with Romo, Garrett and new quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson that will help the group succeed during the season.
      Johnson believes the "quarterback room" is a place "where you feed off of each other, where you're open, where it's friendly. But at the same time you're competing, you take care of yourself and you learn and you grow from each other."
      Johnson has a group of young quarterbacks fighting for roster spots behind him. Matt Baker spent all of last season on the practice squad, and the Cowboys signed two more rookie free agents following the draft - Oregon State's Matt Moore and Tarleton State's Richard Bartel.
      Moore has missed much of the off-season finishing his spring semester at Oregon State, while Bartel has looked impressive in some of the Cowboys' team workouts.
      But Johnson is penciled in as the No. 2 quarterback, and according to Phillips, he'll relieve Romo as the "No. 1 holder" on field goals and extra points. Romo kept those duties after replacing Drew Bledsoe as the starter halfway through last season, though his final meaningful hold was botched in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys' 21-20 playoff loss to Seattle.
      If something should happen to Romo at quarterback this season, Phillips is confident Johnson can still get the job done.
      "He knows how to get rid of the football," Phillips said. "I think he can lead a team and I think we'll see him do well once we get into preseason."
      And the Cowboys' open, receptive environment at Valley Ranch is a big reason why Johnson landed in Dallas.

    18. 07-01-2007 09:24 AM #119
      Sherman Sees Good Reasons To Coach Cowboys
      Mark Norris - Email Staff Writer
      June 27, 2007 5:14 PM
      Change Font Size A A A A
      Ray Sherman will coach a deep and talented group of Cowboys receivers.
      (Editor's Note: With training camp about a month away, it's time to get to know the new Cowboys assistant coaches. will provide a nine-part series to help everyone get acquainted with the guys new Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips will be leaning on this season. Part 3 profiles receivers coach Ray Sherman.)
      IRVING, Texas - Why Dallas?
      Why not?
      The Cowboys are America's Team, so no matter how the team is playing, a nation still tunes in to acutely watch.
      They currently have one of the most talented receiving corps in the National Football League, with possibly a breakout quarterback to boot.
      And they are under new leadership with Wade Phillips having just taken over for Bill Parcells, who decided to step away despite back-to-back 9-7 seasons and qualifying for the playoffs this past season.
      Veteran NFL assistant coach Ray Sherman, who had wrapped up his second season at Tennessee in charge of the wide receivers, took notice but wasn't looking for a change. Didn't anticipate having to make any sort of decision.
      Then Phillips called.
      The Cowboys new head coach offered the wide receivers coaching job to Sherman, saying there was an opportunity to do something special in Dallas.
      But accepting the offer would mean working with one of the league's most explosive receivers. That's explosive on and off the field. Last season, Owens and then receivers coach Todd Haley had their moments. The relationship between the two became a tenuous working one at best with Owens intimating he could no longer trust his position coach, convinced Haley was leaking confidential information to the media.
      And that doesn't even take into account their sideline confrontations during games, the two caught on camera in a heated argument during a regular-season game at Philadelphia.
      So a high-profile but challenging offer coming Sherman's way?
      But Sherman, who has toiled 20 years in the NFL as an assistant coach, said he would have been foolish to pass up an opportunity to join the organization he called the most prestigious in the NFL.
      "That's a no-brainer," Sherman said of accepting Phillips' offer.
      And it's probably the last easy decision Sherman will make for a while.
      He brings three decades worth of coaching experience to Dallas, and can tap into that extensive reservoir while dealing with the sometimes-recalcitrant Owens. Most notably he dealt with enigmatic wide receiver Randy Moss while serving as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator in 1999, so he knows a thing or two about handling outspoken receivers.
      Sherman's coaching philosophy is inclusive, and he tries to keep all lines of communication open. His self-described ideology includes being honest with his players, treating them like adult men and getting to know them on a personal level. Talking helps with the latter. The way he coaches takes care of the rest.

      Name: Ray Sherman
      Age: 55
      Position: Wide Receivers
      Coaching Exp.: 34 years
      NFL Exp.: 20 years
      Coaching Highlights:
      Tennessee Titans wide receivers coach (2005-06); Green Bay Packers wide receivers coach (2000-04); Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator (1998); Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks coach (1995-97) and offensive coordinator (1999); New York Jets offensive coordinator (1994); San Francisco 49ers running backs/wide receivers coach (1991-93); Atlanta Falcons assistant head coach (1990); Houston Oilers running backs/wide receivers coach (1988-89).
      As Sherman sees it, if the players know his expectations, there can be no excuses.
      "When we come out we want to set a tone," he said.
      The 55-year-old coach says this has worked with previous players, and expects similar results with the Cowboys players, and that includes Owens.
      Sherman is honest about the challenge of working with the 12th-year receiver who led the NFL this past season with 13 touchdown receptions and the team with 85 catches for 1,180 yards In fact, Owens is one of the reasons Sherman decided to take Phillips up on his offer, knowing he is a unique game-changing player with a tremendous upside.
      When asked to describe the sometimes-volatile receiver, Sherman said, "Premier."
      But Sherman said he will not dwell on previous problems.
      "This is about this year," Sherman said. "We don't talk about last year."
      Sherman has a rather unique approach to forge a good player-coach relationship with all of his receivers.
      He calls it "Keep it Real Thursday," a chance for the players to talk about what is on their minds during their position meetings. It could be personal, silly - whatever. Sherman started the Thursday talks while in Green Bay, and said they helped bring the unit closer together there and in Tennessee.
      Sherman is excited about the potential of his receiving corps even though he has only worked with his players during mini-camps and OTA's, and that potential goes beyond just Owens. Receivers such as Terry Glenn and Patrick Crayton will play prominent roles, too, and Sherman knows he has a bevy of young receivers to continue developing - guys such as Sam Hurd, Miles Austin, Jamel Richardson, Jamaica Rector and now even fourth-round draft choice Isaiah Stanback, who will be attempting to transition from college quarterback to NFL wide receiver.
      But for now, with the team-related, off-season practice sessions completed, Sherman will concentrate on getting the rest of his family to Dallas. The Shermans have purchased a home in Southlake, Texas, but his two daughters had been still in school in Nashville, Tenn. Erica, 15, and Alana, 9, are being taken care of by his wife Yvette. They will move down when school wraps up for the summer and complete the transition from Tennessee to Texas.
      Sherman said the family will spend a lot of time together until training camp starts up on July 24. Then it will be down to business.
      "We have a chance to be great this year," Sherman said.
      Another factor in his "no-brainer" decision.

    19. 07-06-2007 02:56 AM #120
      Personally, I still think that this is Jerry Jones'seses team. I think Mr. Phillips was hired to alleviate the pressure Tuna put on Jones for roster moves among other things. Jimmy Johnson managed the team the way a manager should... going after the players HE wants. Jones brings in the money makers, real coaches bring in game winners. As far as team performance goes, I think owners should just provide money and keep their mouths shut... not parade around the sidelines like some kind of consultant. That just messes with the heads of the players IMO.
      We will fail this year.... and the year after that.... and the year after that. It'd be cool if I was wrong though.

    20. 07-06-2007 06:38 AM #121
      At least I don't have to worry about you jinxing us. But, don't say that big guy. I think we'll be fine this year. As long as Jones' is around that's how we will conduct our business

      Modified by 2002_Turbo at 3:41 AM 7-6-2007

    21. 07-12-2007 12:17 PM #122
      Deep Routes
      Position Series: Receiver Stacked With Talented Depth

      IRVING, Texas - No other position on the Cowboys roster would seem to have as many checkmarks if you broke down different aspects of each unit.
      Experience? Check.
      Depth? Check.
      Younger players with upside? Check.
      Play-making ability? Check. Check.
      The Cowboys seem to be rather set at wide receiver, a position owner and general manager Jerry Jones called probably the deepest part of this team.
      The Cowboys made the decision in the off-season to retain both Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens, who were paid hefty roster bonuses of $5 million and $3 million, respectively.
      With both receivers to be 33 by the time the season starts, the key will be keeping them both healthy. But if not, the Cowboys have positioned themselves with quality depth led by Patrick Crayton, who received a $1.3 million restricted free agent tender for this season.
      Best Position Battle: Barring any kind of major injuries, the Cowboys don't have too many question marks about the top receiver positions. Glenn and Owens will presumably start, and Crayton should get plenty of snaps as the third receiver.
      The biggest question will be how the bottom of the position rounds out. It seems safe to assume Sam Hurd and Miles Austin will only get better as they enter their second seasons. But will that be enough to retain their spots? Look for Jamel Richardson, Jamaica Rector and Jerheme Urban to push for playing time, not to mention rookie Isaiah Stanback.

      Rookie To Watch: We're all going to keep our eyes on fourth-round pick Isaiah Stanback because of his intriguing athletic ability, his transition from college quarterback to receiver and how he recovers from a Lisfranc foot injury that has sidelined him since last fall. But Stanback is a fourth-round pick. The Cowboys are high on him, and it's likely he will have a role on this team.
      But the real rookie to watch is Jamel Richardson, the former Canadian Football League standout trying to find his way onto the roster. At 6-3, 220, Richardson has good size, but he knows he won't be able to simply outmuscle cornerbacks like he did the last four years of the CFL. While it might be crowded at the bottom of the depth chart, Richardson has a legitimate chance to be in the hunt for a spot.
      Don't Forget About Me: He has more playing experience than all but three receivers on this team. And he's not too far behind third receiver Patrick Crayton. But Jerheme Urban has bounced around a few teams and practice squads in his first three NFL seasons. He spent last year on the Cowboys' practice squad but should have a decent chance to compete in a new offensive scheme.
      Urban, who grew up in Victoria, Texas, and played college football at Trinity University in San Antonio, will be looking to put on a show before the home crowd at training camp.
      Pick 3

      Terry Glenn is quietly putting together quite a career here in Dallas. After spending his first seven years in New England and Green Bay, Glenn now enters his fifth season with the Cowboys and has 3,337 receiving yards in the last four years, which ranks 11th on the club's all-time list. If Glenn can produce a third consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season, he would jump to the sixth in Cowboys history in receiving yards behind Michael Irvin, Tony Hill, Drew Pearson, Bob Hayes and Frank Clarke.
      Say what you want about the amount of dropped passes by Owens last season. That number seems to range anywhere from 15 to even 20. But what is for certain is the amount of touchdown passes he caught - and his 13 TD receptions happened to lead the NFL.
      With Owens and Glenn starting and Crayton, Stanback, Austin and Hurd all likely figuring into the equation, that doesn't leave much, if any room, for other players. But remember, a training camp and preseason stud always seems to emerge. Last year it was Jamaica Rector, who led the Cowboys with 20 receptions for 245 yards in four preseason games. Rector made the team to start the season but was cut on Oct. 16 and re-signed to the practice squad the rest of the year.
      Don't Be Surprised If: Terrell Owens returns to the Pro Bowl after this season. That wouldn't be too surprising, considering his numbers were good enough to land him there last season.
      While they were just off-season practices, dropped passes were a non-issue for Owens this spring. So it appears last year's hand and finger injuries could be behind him. Will there be something else that pops up? Probably, considering his history. But if this offense is supposed to get him the ball even more, look for Owens to again post statistics that rank among the league leaders.

      Fitting In
      Projected Starters:
      Terry Glenn - Getting better with age? Looking for his third straight 1,000-yard receiving season.
      Terrell Owens - Hand and finger injuries behind him, T.O. looks ready to go. Let's hope nothing gets in the way.
      Solid Backups:
      Patrick Crayton - High-priced third receiver, but showed his value down the stretch last season.
      Miles Austin - Was a big surprise on kickoff returns late last season. Let's see if he can turn the corner at WR.
      Sam Hurd - Started the year as T.O.'s pupil, but developed into quality rookie who carries himself like a veteran.
      Isaiah Stanback - Lots of question marks here with the injury and position switch. But there isn't much doubt about his athletic ability.
      Uphill Climb:
      Jamel Richardson - Intriguing prospect from the CFL enters his first NFL training camp.
      Jamaica Rector - Stole the show last preseason. Needs to showcase his punt return abilities this year.
      Jerheme Urban - Most experienced of this bottom group. Needs to be a training camp star.
      Mike Jefferson - Extremely productive receiver at Montana State last year. But has little room for error.
      Jerard Rabb - Not sure if the Cowboys have the hook-and-ladder in the playbook. He'll need to shine early

    22. 07-13-2007 06:34 AM #123
      Feeling The Rush
      Position Series: Linebackers Look For More Pressure

      Nick Eatman - Email Staff Writer
      July 12, 2007 5:22 PM

      The Cowboys are hoping for even more out of DeMarcus Ware, who had a team-high 11.5 sacks.

      (Editor's Note: This is the fourth of a 10-part series, analyzing the Cowboys position-by-position as they begin final preparations for the July 24 start to training camp. Today will feature the linebackers.)
      IRVING, Texas - The best defensive player on the team. The most experienced veteran on the squad, and the first-round draft pick.
      They all reside at the linebacker position, and all of them are outside linebackers.
      While the Cowboys are counting heavily on DeMarcus Ware, Greg Ellis and Anthony Spencer to provide more of a pass rush in head coach Wade Phillips' new-look defense, the Cowboys can also count on quite a stacked group of inside backers, led by Akin Ayodele and Bradie James. And it's always good to have some talented backups in Bobby Carpenter and Kevin Burnett.
      If that's not enough, the Cowboys have some big-name position coaches in linebackers coach Paul Pasqualoni and former linebacker Dat Nguyen, who retired from the game last year and has accepted an assistant linebacker position along with defensive quality control duties.
      Best Position Battle: The Cowboys are fortunate not to have many position battles for starting jobs. At linebacker, the best competition will likely be for a backup outside linebacker. With DeMarcus Ware, Greg Ellis and Anthony Spencer all securing spots, there could be a good battle for a fourth pass rusher. Look out for Junior Glymph, a fourth-year pro who fits well in a 3-4 scheme. He bounced around from the practice squad to the active roster last year but has had decent mini-camp performances. His biggest competition could come from rookie free agent Alex Obomese, a college defensive end who can rush the passer but must transition to a 3-4 scheme.
      Rookie To Watch: Sure, there might be a rookie free agent who will surprise us all. There always seems to be one or two at the linebacker position. But this year's rookie to watch is undoubtedly Anthony Spencer, the first-round draft pick who is expected to give an even bigger boost to the Cowboys' pass rush. Spencer, the 26th overall pick, worked with the first-team defense this summer with Greg Ellis still rehabbing his Achilles' injury. Head coach Wade Phillips has said Ellis will return to the starting lineup when healthy. However, the Cowboys will definitely find a way to get their first-round pick involved somehow. As Phillips has said often this off-season, he can't ever have too many pass rushers.

      Don't Forget About Me: Having drafted three linebackers in the first round of the last three drafts, the Cowboys' depth is starting to pile up at this position.
      Third-year linebacker Kevin Burnett has noticed, even expressing frustration with his limited playing time during his first two seasons.
      Burnett, who has been moved to inside linebacker behind starters Bradie James and Akin Ayodele, might not get the chance to start this year, but he should be involved in the nickel and dime packages along with special teams, where he tied for second on the team last year with 16 tackles.
      Pick 3
      So DeMarcus Ware hasn't turned out to be quite the player Shawne Merriman is in San Diego just yet. However, he's been anything but a disappointment, already developing into one of the NFL's top young defenders. Ware has posted 19 ½ sacks in his first two seasons, first tying for the team lead as a rookie with Greg Ellis (8) before leading the team with 11 ½ last year, the most ever in a season by a Cowboys linebacker.
      You usually don't expect your starting middle linebacker to shed many pounds in the off-season, but Bradie James has trimmed down to 239 pounds heading into camp. James said he was pushing close to 260 pounds at one point last season, trying to bulk up to meet the demands of last year's scheme, which called for many direct hits from opposing guards and centers. This year, James expects to be covered up more by the defensive tackles and will be free to run around more, which is one reason why he needed to drop about 15 pounds.
      Between the Cowboys two starting inside linebackers, Akin Ayodele and Bradie James combined for just one sack last season. The new defensive scheme is expected to produce more pressure from up the middle. Last season, Phillips' defense in San Diego produced nine sacks from their three inside linebackers of Randall Godfrey (4), Donnie Edwards (2 ½) and Stephen Cooper (2 ½). Oh, and that doesn't mean the Chargers weren't getting pressure from the outside. Shawne Merriman led the entire league with 17 sacks while Shaun Phillips added 11 ½ sacks.
      Don't Be Surprised If: A rookie not named Anthony Spencer turns some heads during training camp. Every year, there seems to be a rookie linebacker who comes out of nowhere to make the team, or at least the practice squad. Last year Oliver Hoyte emerged in camp, though he was moved to fullback. But from Ryan Fowler, Keith O'Neil to Scott Shanle, linebackers have come out of nowhere to land roster spots. This year, watch out of Alex Obomese, Blair Phillips and Dedrick Harrington.

      Fitting In
      Projected Starters:
      DeMarcus Ware (OLB) - Turning into a beast. With help around him, could be looking at another monster season.
      Greg Ellis (OLB) - Should be ready to return for the start of camp. The question now is, how happy will he be?
      Akin Ayodele (ILB) - After somewhat of a slow start last year, he came on strong down the stretch.
      Bradie James (ILB) - Opposite Ayodele, James played his best early on. Let's see if a lighter James is better.
      Solid Backups:
      Bobby Carpenter (ILB) - Played his best game in the playoff loss. Moved to inside linebacker this off-season.
      Kevin Burnett (ILB) - Also moved from the outside to inside. Wants a bigger role in the defense.
      Anthony Spencer (OLB) - High expectations are always attached to first-round picks. Not starting might be easier.
      Uphill Climb:
      Junior Glymph (OLB) - Had a good off-season and could be top candidate to back up Ware on the outside.
      Alex Obomese (OLB) - Needs to prove he can rush the passer first. Might have a hard transition from DE to OLB.
      Dedrick Harrington (ILB) - Productive college player from Missouri. Must shine on special teams.
      Jon Saldi (ILB) - Might be worn down after a spring in NFL Europe, but he can't afford to show it.
      Blair Phillips (ILB) - Big-time hitter in college needs to show off that physicality running down punts and kickoffs.

    23. 07-15-2007 01:05 PM #124

      Big Business
      Position Series: Romo's Contract Biggest QB Question

      IRVING, Texas - Every year heading into training camp, there always seems to be some kind of major dilemma regarding the quarterback position.
      A few years ago, it was simply figuring out just who would start.
      Last year, it was how long would it take for the backup to replace the veteran starter. As it turned out, the answer was six regular-season games.
      However, this year's question isn't about who will play quarterback, but rather, for how long and for what price?
      Tony Romo is the man here in Dallas, at least for this year, though the Cowboys' decision to pass on the free-falling Brady Quinn in April's NFL Draft suggests they believe their quarterback of the future is already in place.
      But with Romo entering the final deal of his contract, the Cowboys must figure out just how and when to re-sign him. Do they give Romo a lucrative deal now with just 10 starts under his belt? Or do they wait until the end of the season, knowing if he plays like they think he will, then it could cost the Cowboys millions more to retain him?
      The Cowboys certainly don't want Romo to earn his second Pro Bowl selection and then test the free-agent market. They also don't want to dish out millions of dollars and have him suffer a "sophomore slump" as a second-year starter.
      The Cowboys must figure out how they keep him. But that's a better problem to have than finding a quarterback at all.
      Best Position Battle: The most intriguing competition at quarterback might not even be for a real spot. The Cowboys currently have five on the roster and could take them all down to camp, at least for the first week. Rookie free agents Matt Moore and Richard Bartel would seem to be competing for the right to stick around as the fourth quarterback; then one of them will likely battle with Matt Baker, who spent last year on the practice squad. But don't forget, the Cowboys only kept two quarterbacks on the roster last season and it's not out of the question they would do the same this year and keep a third quarterback on the practice squad.

      Rookie To Watch: Both rookies are intriguing, but keep an eye on Richard Bartel, whom the Cowboys brought in for a workout during the first mini-camp mainly to have enough live arms for practice.
      Bartel, who played at both SMU and Tarleton State and actually lived in San Antonio before he finished his high school career in Grapevine, Texas, caught the team's attention with his strong arm.
      At 6-3, 246 pounds, mobility might not be his forte. But with a cannon of an arm that even rivals Romo's at times, Bartel might just have enough to stick around for a while.
      Don't Forget About Me: With the attention fixed on Romo, 38-year-old Brad Johnson and even a pair of rookie free agents, Matt Baker has appeared lost in the shuffle. But that might not be a bad thing for the first-year pro from North Carolina. Baker joined the Cowboys in camp last season and ended up sticking around on the practice squad. Former head coach Bill Parcells compared his situation to Romo's back in 2003, when he made the team as an undrafted rookie and used his time on the sidelines to develop into a starter. Will it happen the same way for Baker? Only time will tell, but he needs to have a good camp and at least force the Cowboys to keep three quarterbacks on the roster.
      Pick 3
      When the Cowboys signed 15-year veteran Brad Johnson, he made it clear he wasn't interested in just being a mentor to Romo. But he did say he would offer his experience, and he's got plenty of that. Johnson has started 122 games in his career, and that's 112 more than Romo at this point. While he might not be competing for the job, Johnson should be a valuable tool on the sideline for Romo to lean on.
      In just 10 starts, Tony Romo still put together one of the finest statistical seasons by a quarterback in Cowboys history. His 95.1 quarterback rating is third-highest behind only Roger Staubach's 104.8 in 1971 and Troy Aikman's 99.0 rating in 1993. Romo's rating ranked third in the NFC and fifth in the NFL.
      No quarterback in the NFL had a better yard per-attempt ratio than Romo's 8.61 average. What makes that stat even better was Romo also ranked second in the NFL with a 65.3 completion percentage, the third-highest in Cowboys history, behind Aikman's 69.13 (1993) and 65.29 (1991).
      Don't Be Surprised If: The Cowboys get into the season without a deal done for Romo. Sure, they would like to get it finalized before camp, but at the right price. It's unlikely the two sides will be able to come to an agreement in the near future. And it's not because they're on different pages. Romo wants to be here and the Cowboys want him. But the unknown factor is too great at this moment for either side to sign a deal. Look for Romo to get into the season without a new contract, but it probably wouldn't take more than a few solid performances for the Cowboys to strike a deal. Romo's deal will get done. The only question is when and for how much.

      Fitting In:
      Projected Starters:
      Tony Romo - Viewed as the latest celebrity or the guy who dropped the hold, Romo would rather just be the QB of the future.
      Solid Backups:
      Brad Johnson - Here to be more of a experienced backup than competition, but will be ready if needed.
      Uphill Climb:
      Matt Baker - Needs to expand on a solid year on the practice squad. The Cowboys might keep three QB's if he's good enough.
      Richard Bartel - Has a live arm and sometimes that's hard for a team to part with. Practice squad might be option.
      Matt Moore - Behind the 8-ball because he was still in school during mini-camps and OTA's.
      (Up Next: Special Teams)

    24. 08-01-2007 04:00 AM #125
      I'm in greece on vacation and all i can think about is football season is only a month away!

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