Daily Archives: June 21st, 2012

DALLAS COWBOYS NO. 3 RECEIVER CANDIDATES: Ogletree, Holmes, Radway, Harris, and Coale

GETTING TO KNOW THE COWBOYS' NO. 3 RECEIVER CANDIDATES: When Laurent Robinson (pictured) left Dallas for the East Coast, he took one of the feel-good stories of the Cowboys' 2011 season with him. Robinson came out of nowhere to post career numbers with Dallas, filling a No. 3 receiver role that looked like a major weakness in preseason. But with Robinson gone, the Cowboys find themselves back in a familiar bind. Here's a look at the five most likely candidates in the Cowboys' No. 3 receiver race, as well as a few pros and cons about each.

GETTING TO KNOW THE COWBOYS’ NO. 3 RECEIVER CANDIDATES: When Laurent Robinson (pictured) left Dallas for the East Coast, he took one of the feel-good stories of the Cowboys’ 2011 season with him. Robinson came out of nowhere to post career numbers with Dallas, filling a No. 3 receiver role that looked like a major weakness in preseason. But with Robinson gone, the Cowboys find themselves back in a familiar bind.

One of the most intriguing position competitions during off-season practices for the Cowboys was the battle for the No. 3 wide receiver spot.

After 13 off-season practices, there’s not a clear leader. And quite frankly, this isn’t like trying to pick a winner at a Miss Universe pageant.

However, Cowboys safety Barry Church – who spent snap after snap helping to defend Cowboys’ receivers during organized team activities and the three-day veteran minicamp – said one of the five candidates stood out among the rest: Andre Holmes.

"With him right now, he’s in the lead and that’s just going by my opinion," Church said. "I look forward to him having a great camp. Holmes has a tremendous upside. He’s fast, he’s big, he’s physical and he’ll go up and get the ball."

What’s clear about the competition among Kevin Ogletree, Holmes, Raymond Radway, Dwayne Harris and Danny Coale is that two of the five receivers likely won’t make the final 53-man roster.

That alone should make for fierce competition once full-squad practices begin July 30 in Oxnard, Calif.

Deciding which players stick around at the fourth and fifth receiver spots at the end of training camp could come down to who contributes more on special teams. That should help the cause of the versatile Coale, Dallas’ fifth-round draft pick out of Virginia Tech, and Harris, who contributed as a punt returner last season.

We all know Ogletree’s story. The Cowboys gave the third receiver job to him last year, and he couldn’t hang onto it as Laurent Robinson emerged to steal the show. All the talk around Valley Ranch has been about how good of an off-season Ogletree has had to put himself in position to win the job again out of training camp. Ogletree makes himself more valuable as a third receiver because he has the skills to play inside and outside. He’s also the only receiver among the five competing for the job who has caught an NFL pass.

But if Ogletree doesn’t emerge as the third receiver, the Cowboys will have to cut him loose because he doesn’t help them on special teams.

Holmes and Radway seem to have the most potential and could provide the most long-term impact. Both are undrafted out of small colleges (Holmes is from Division II Hillsdale and Radway was more of a track standout at Abilene Christian).

Holmes has added about 10 pounds to his slender 6-5 frame and was consistent catching the football in off-season practices. He’s not the fastest off the ball and getting into his breaks.

Radway had one of his worst days catching the football during one of the practices the media was allowed to observe. But for the most part, he was solid catching the football. Radway gets off the ball quickly and into his routes. He said he’s really studied Miles Austin over the last year, and Austin is quick off the snap.

Radway was so impressive in training camp last season that he put himself in position to make the final 53-man roster before breaking his leg in the final seconds of the last preseason game at Miami. The McKinney North product likely will need just as impressive of a training camp this August to make the final roster.

If no third receiver emerges, the Cowboys still could add a veteran during training camp.

"I think everyone feels like we should still keep our eyes open and I think we should, too, if there is someone who is obviously better than what we’ve got," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "But we’ve got some receivers out there who are doing a nice job. Each of them has their qualities."

Courtesy: BRANDON GEORGE | DMN

Here’s a look at the five most likely candidates in the Cowboys’ No. 3 receiver race, as well as a few pros and cons about each. 

Danny Coale: Despite the fact that he fell down to the fifth round of last month’s draft, Coale became one of the most intriguing prospects the Cowboys picked for a lot of reasons. The Virginia Tech grad clocked a 4.38 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, and the fact that he was extremely productive at one of the top programs in college football (he finished his career second in Virginia Tech history in both receptions and receiving yards) gave fans hope that he could step in immediately and contribute to a Cowboys receiving corps that lacked depth. 

Pros: Coale’s size isn’t necessarily a major attribute, but at 6-0, 200 pounds, he’s compact and quick enough to be able to play the slot while also big enough to pose some threat on the outside. Scouting reports suggest that he’s polished as a pass catcher and route runner for a rookie. Coale’s mental acuity shouldn’t come into question either. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2010 and continued to work on a second undergraduate degree in marketing management, and he was the first Hokie to earn the James Tatum Award, given to the ACC’s top senior football student-athlete. 

Cons: Coale couldn’t be considered the favorite to win the No. 3 gig, but he was at least in the race… until a broken foot forced him to undergo surgery and will likely keep him out for an extended period. The injury won’t necessarily eliminate Coale from contention, but he’ll lose precious time to familiarize himself with the Cowboys’ system while his competition only gains more experience. He’s also one of the smaller candidates, so his ability to fight off re-routes, especially from NFL linebackers, is a question. If Coale gets hot after his return, he could still snag the 3rd wideout job, but more likely he’ll make his impact on special teams as a rookie. 

Dwayne Harris: A former high school quarterback, Harris made the shift to receiver at East Carolina and used his athleticism to earn some major recognition both as a wideout and return man in Conference USA. The Cowboys snatched him up in the 6th round of the 2011 draft, but Harris was released in October when the team needed extra OL depth. The Cowboys brought him back in December, and though he didn’t make a catch as a rookie, he did return 15 punts and seven kicks.

Pros: Officially listed at 5-10, Harris might be the least physically imposing player in the hunt for the No. 3 receiver spot, and his disappointing 40 time of 4.53 at the 2011 NFL Combine was a big reason he plummeted down draft boards. But Harris is a sturdy receiver, weighing in at more than 200 pounds, and his physical style combined with the elusiveness that makes him a strong return man would seem to play perfectly in the slot. Harris also possesses good field vision and has the ability to shake defenders, making him a good candidate to gain yards after the catch.

Cons: Harris’ lack of refinement as a receiver is easily his biggest question mark. He’s only been playing receiver for a few years, and he played exclusively in a spread offense against mid-level competition in college. There are concerns about Harris’ route-running. There are concerns about his hands. There are concerns about his concentration and, at times, his commitment. As much as anything, the fact that the Cowboys dropped Harris from an already thin receiver corps last year and willingly exposed Dez Bryant to more harm on punt return duty doesn’t ring out as a vote of confidence from the team.

Raymond Radway: The McKinney native signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent last year, making waves in the summer with blazing speed and diving catches. But Radway suffered a heartbreaking leg injury with just three seconds remaining in the team’s final preseason game, breaking his fibula and tibia. Radway seemed like an obvious choice to get the axe, but the Cowboys liked what they saw enough to keep him around. That in itself it a very strong sign.

Pros: The 6-3, 193-pound Radway possesses terrific height for a receiver, even if he is a tad on the thin side. But it’s that build that allows Radway to run like the wind. At Abilene Christian, he was a four-time NCAA Division II all-American selection in track and was the 2008 Division II outdoor champion in the 400 meters. His blazing speed was affirmed by the 4.32 40-time he posted at his pro day, and Radway claims that he’s been clocked as fast as 4.2 in the 40. Consider us skeptical on that one, but there’s no denying his track star speed.

Cons: The question with Radway is whether the flashes he shows in practice can manifest themselves on Sundays with any consistency. Radway showed solid hands during camp last off-season, but he’ll have to prove he can come up with tough catches in traffic and perfect in route running if he wants to win the No. 3 job. It also doesn’t help that he’s extremely inexperienced. Radway played one game at WR in high school, and he had to walk on to the Abilene Christian team as a junior after sitting football out for two years. During his two seasons at ACU, he caught 40 passes for 634 yards and seven touchdowns.

Andre Holmes: Holmes played his college ball at tiny Hillsdale College, which has an undergraduate enrollment of less than 1,500, so it’s no surprise that he didn’t have NFL teams knocking down his door to give him a roster spot as a rookie. He signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent, but joined the Cowboys after Minnesota cut him. He spent the entire year on the Cowboys’ practice squad. Holmes is raw, but he’s also garnered more hype than any of the other four candidates because of the unrivaled chest of tools that he possesses. 

Pros: Holmes is huge — 6-5, 210 pounds — and though he’s not a burner, his 4.51 40 time and 35-inch vertical are still plenty impressive for a man of his stature. Holmes was ultra productive in college, setting the Hillsdale for career receiving yards, including 104 catches for more than 1,300 yards as a senior. He’s also been praised by the coaching staff for showing a strong work ethic and solid approach. SportsDay’s David Moore said he was the "most intriguing name" in the race for No. 3, and it’s not hard to see why — if everything clicks, Holmes would be an almost impossible cover for many corners.

Cons: As it is with most of the Cowboys’ No. 3 WR candidates, experience (or a lack thereof) is a major concern. He spent 2011 on the practice squad, so he’s yet to play a down in a regular season game, and the fact that he played his college ball against Division II competition doesn’t ease that worry. He’ll also have to show consistency with his route running and hands in practice. Inexperience certainly doesn’t rule Holmes out of this race — in fact, he could be the early favorite for the job — but he’ll have to prove that his physical gifts can translate on the field. And most importantly, he’ll have to develop a rapport with Tony Romo. 

Kevin Ogletree: Olgetree slipped through the cracks and went undrafted in ’09, allowing the Cowboys to pick him up with the hope of developing him slowly. But Ogletree has shriveled, either due to injury or ineffectiveness, every time he’s been given a chance to shine. He hit free agency in the off-season, but the Cowboys ultimately opted to bring him back on a one-year deal after Jacksonville signed Laurent Robinson, who starred as the No. 3 wideout last year only after Olgetree couldn’t step up.

Pros: Ogletree lacks the freakish measurements of some of his competition, but he’s got solid size (6-1, 190 lbs.) and good quickness to make up for a lack of elite straight-line speed. And though critics will say he’s inexperienced, his 25 catches for 294 yards make him look like a seasoned pro compared to the four other candidates vying for the job, none of whom have made a catch in an NFL game. Right now, Olgetree’s experience (however limited) is his biggest advantage in this race. 

Cons: Ironically, Olgetree’s biggest asset could also work to his disadvantage. It’s true that he’s the most experienced of the bunch, but he’s also the only one who has been given an opportunity and failed. Ogletree did little to inspire confidence in his game toward the beginning of last season, largely turning invisible when he was on the field, and there’s no denying that his physical skill set isn’t as intriguing as someone like Andre Holmes. You could still make the case that this is Olgetree’s race to lose, but his head start won’t be as big as it was last year.

ROSTER ROUND-UP: Five guys flying under the radar

This roster is jammed full at 90 players. That’s a lot of guys of course, but over the last few months, with a dozen practices and several other days trying to come up with stories to write, you’d think just about every guy is mentioned somewhere.

Either someone got twisted an ankle here, made a great catch there, or did anything to get mentioned in a possible position battle.

But with 90 players, a few can get overlooked. Maybe it’s a bad thing, but maybe it’s not the end of the world, considering how we like to mention guys who make mistakes or struggle.

Either way, here’s a group of five guys who just haven’t been heard from too much over the last month.

Maybe that will change for the better – or worse – come training camp.

G Harland Gunn – A rookie free agent from Miami, Gunn somewhat resembles fellow undrafted rookie Ron Leary, but Jerry Jones certainly didn’t mention his name in the post-draft press conference like he did Leary. And he’s definitely rotating first-team snaps at guard like Leary. Gunn needs to take advantage of those late preseason game snaps.

WR Donovan Kemp – There are a lot of players vying for those backup spots and even a few undrafted guys like Cole Beasley and Tim Benford have flashed potential. For now, Kemp hasn’t really made any noise. For some positions, it’s not always a bad thing, but receivers are one of the few spots where you can get noticed in a non-padded practice. Kemp, an undrafted rookie from UTEP, needs to come on strong at camp, especially in those first few practices when it’s only rookies and quarterbacks out there.

LB Isaiah Greenhouse – He’s the only player on this list who was actually here last year. But while Greenhouse made some news by switching positions and jersey numbers – moving from LB to FB, so far he’s been rather quiet since he’s moved back to LB. Then again, we haven’t seen a ton of special teams drills. That’s where Greenhouse will have to make his mark, and force the Cowboys to keep him because he’s one of the best kick-covering players on the squad.

FB Jamize Olawale – You’d like being a local guy from North Texas, he’d get some attention. But that UNT love is going to fellow undrafted rookie RB Lance Dunbar. Olawale caught the Cowboys’ attention in the rookie minicamp when he was invited as a tryout guy and ended up getting signed. So far, he hasn’t really made a splash, especially since Lawrence Vickers is here, with 2011 draft pick Shaun Chapas behind him. Like many other rookies, big plays in preseason games and/or special teams is vital.

FS Eddie Whitley – The rookie from Virginia Tech is probably the most under-the-radar player on this entire team right now. And that’s too bad considering safety has always needed an upgrade and Gerald Sensabaugh and Matt Johnson have missed most of the summer. What could help Whitley in the preseason games is special teams. Virginia Tech players have traditionally been good in the kicking game because it’s of high importance at his school. But Whitley will need that, and a few big plays on specials teams to get over that radar.

Ok, so there’s a handful of guys. Someone else who follows this team might have had a completely different five that likely would’ve includes guys such as LB Baraka Atkins, OT Tyrone Novikoff, LS Charley Hughlett, DE Ben Bass and OT Jeff Adams.

Then again, it’s not always a bad thing to be on here. Some players are missing because they have been noticed – for all the wrong reasons.

Don’t forget it’s late June. Offseason work is over but the real stuff begins in late July. I wouldn’t be surprised if a guy like Romo or Austin would’ve been on this same list when they were rookie free agents years ago.   

Courtesy: Nick Eatman

NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP COMING: Playoff system long overdue for college football | BCS commissioners reach consensus

BCS commissioners have reached consensus on a model four-team seeded playoff - The Boys Are Back blog

We spend all day long talking about the NFL here, but word that the BCS commissioners have reached consensus on a model four-team seeded playoff is enough to pull us away for a moment. (See related article below)

Football fans have been throwing pebbles at this darkened window for eons. Someone has finally woken up inside the house of college football.

The NFL has grown to massive scale by listening to the millions of people who love the game.

Football fans want one champion.

You can have your Coaches Poll, your Harris Interactive Poll and your shimmering computer rankings. Fans of college football deserve to see a winner decided on the field.

Look no further than the Super Bowl for proof. Mothers, toddlers, your vegan uncle — people who’ve never pondered the existence of the "Tuck Rule" — most of them have found themselves in a room watching the Super Bowl. It kills in ratings, it’s become a national holiday. College football has the chance to celebrate its champion with similar and appropriate fanfare. This would only grow the game.

The bowl-game system has its merits, most based on schools making money. Try explaining the BCS system to a new friends at a dinner party. Watch their eyes glaze over. Watch them float away mentally. With a four-team playoff, those days are over.

The playoff model will be presented to the university presidents next week for approval. This is their chance to show us they’ve learned something.

Courtesy: Marc Sessler | NFL.com

RELATED: BCS commissioners reach consensus on playoff plan

CHICAGO — The BCS commissioners are backing a playoff plan with the sites for the national semifinals rotating among the major bowl games and a selection committee picking the teams.

The plan will be presented to university presidents next week for approval.

Once the presidents sign off — and that seems likely — college football’s champion will be decided by a playoff starting in 2014.

"We are excited to be on the threshold of creating a new postseason structure for college football that builds on the great popularity of our sport," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Wednesday.

All 11 commissioners stood shoulder-to-shoulder behind Swarbrick, who read the BCS statement from a podium set up in a hotel conference room.

All 11 commissioners stood shoulder-to-shoulder behind Swarbrick, who read the BCS statement from a podium set up in a hotel conference room - The Boys Are Back blog

The commissioners have been working on reshaping college football’s postseason since January. The meeting Wednesday was the sixth formal get-together of the year. They met for four hours and emerged with a commitment to stand behind a plan.

"I think we’re very unified," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said.

The commissioners refrained from providing specifics of the plan in their announcement.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott did say the two semifinals would be worked into the existing major bowls and the site of the national championship game will be bid out to any city that wants it, the way the NFL does with the Super Bowl.

People with firsthand knowledge of the decision tell The Associated Press the semifinals of the proposed plan would rotate among the major bowls and not be tied to traditional conference relationships.

There are still major details to be worked out, such as who exactly makes up the selection committee, but college football will take a page from college basketball, which uses a committee of athletic directors and commissioners to pick the teams for its championship tournament.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

EUROPEAN TOUR MAY GROW: NFL considering Ireland for hosting regular-season game

EUROPEAN TOUR MAY GROW: NFL considering Ireland for hosting regular-season game

Could we see an NFL regular-season game on the Emerald Isle?

If Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney has his way, football — the American kind — eventually will find a home in Ireland.

"I think it’d be terrific," Rooney, the U.S. ambassador to Ireland, told the BBC. "We came over before back in 1997 and played a preseason game. But now, with the regular season games in London at Wembley proving so successful, and tickets selling out almost as soon as they’re put on sale, I would think it would be good to play a game here, at Croke Park, as the interest in the sport is so strong."

League officials visited Dublin’s Croke Park this year and found the venue "very attractive." The home of the Gaelic games and more than a few U2 concerts, Croke has a capacity of 82,500.

"We need stadiums that have availability in the middle of our season and the soccer season," said Mark Waller, chief marketing officer of the NFL. "We also need them to be large, able to take the levels of hospitality and corporate entertainment that we generate. We looked long and hard before we came to play regular-season games at Wembley. Now we’re looking seriously at playing two games internationally and, as we do that, Ireland and this venue in particular are very attractive to us."

In September, Notre Dame and Navy will play in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, in a game that quickly sold out. The demand is there, and it appears the league is comfortable with the infrastructure in place. Irish eyes should smile on some NFL action.

Senator Dick Durbin meets with Roger Goodell, calls off bounty hearing

Senator Dick Durbin meets with Roger Goodell, calls off bounty hearing - The Boys Are Back blog

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrat Dick Durbin is calling off a proposed hearing on bounties in professional sports because he is satisfied with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s response to the issue, including setting up an anonymous hotline.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois met with Goodell on Wednesday, about three months after Durbin said he wanted Congress to examine whether federal law should make it a crime to have a bounty system such as the one the NFL says the New Orleans Saints ran from 2009-11.

"What I hear from them now is, it’s going to be clear: The actions that have been taken against some are going to be taken against others if they violate these basic rules that are being established," Durbin said. "What more could I accomplish with a law? This is better."

Among the steps that persuaded Durbin to abandon a hearing: Posters will be put in locker rooms about bounties and will include information for a hotline so players can report bounty-related activity, and there will be a new bounty section in the players’ handbook.

The NFL Players Association, in a written statement, called for a hearing.

RELATED: The NFL Players Association, in a written statement, called for a hearing.

"We thank the senator for his interest on these important issues. Given this keen interest, the players hope and expect that the commissioner and the senator will commit to a hearing on health and safety in the NFL in the near future," the statement said.

"Some people question, `Well, what does Congress have to do with this?"’ Durbin said. "It’s a federal crime to bribe somebody to influence the outcome of a professional sporting event. This bounty program is as close to bribery to influence the outcome of an event as I can think of."

Said Goodell: "We will continue to work with the senator and his office. We will continue to evaluate our policies at every step. . We give the Senator our assurance on that, my personal assurance that I will do that."

WHAT’S HIS NAME: For awhile, new coaches didn’t know who Dallas Cowboy Sean Lissemore was

Dallas Cowboys DE Sean Lissemore - The Boys Are Back blog

A rib injury kept defensive end Sean Lissemore from getting in all of his work in minicamp and OTAs.

But it doesn’t mean he’ll be behind when training camp starts.

At least right now, he’s got a productive season behind him. And his coaches know his name.

“Shoot, I started training camp last year not even knowing who Sean Lissemore was, other than he was some guy on our team,” defensive line coach Brian Baker said last week after a practice at Valley Ranch. “I didn’t do him in college. I didn’t have a familiarity with him. I saw him so little in the season because he was hurt. And we didn’t have an OTA.

“But it didn’t take long for me to get to know him in training camp.”

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan remembers thinking the same thing.

“When I first got here, I watched the tape, and he wasn’t that impressive the year before,” Ryan said. “Then he clearly, in my opinion, beat out the incumbent, Olshansky, so we went in that direction. Might have turned some heads doing that. He’s improved. Done an excellent job. And he’s a real player.”

Lissemore had 28 tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss last year, playing both nose tackle and defensive end. The former seventh-round pick (2010) out of William & Mary finished last year with tackles in 11 consecutive games, including sacks at Arizona and Tampa Bay.

Last year, Dallas Cowboys DE Sean Lissemore,  had tackles in 11 consecutive games, including sacks at Arizona and Tampa Bay - The Boys Are Back blog

In training camp, Lissemore is expected to play both nose tackle and defensive end, but he’ll get most of his work at defensive end, where he will push Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears.

“Is he going to be behind for where he wanted to be in training camp? Yes,” Baker said. “But is he going to be too far behind to compete to get one of those solid rotation roles, which is what I expect of him? No.”

Ryan doesn’t believe Lissemore will be too far behind, either.

“He’s been through an incredible offseason with Mike Woicik,” Ryan said. “This guy, his body’s changing, everything about him. He’s so fast for the game now. He knows his assignments. He’s doing a great job. The nice thing is, if we ever get in a situation where, God forbid, somebody gets hurt, Sean Lissemore can jump in in any spot and be an effective starter.”

Dallas Cowboy Sean Lissemore - The Boys Are Back blog

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