Ok Dallas Cowboy fans. WE have little time to figure out what to do with the 2012 – 2013 Dallas Cowboys roster. NFL requires a cut-down to 75 players on Monday … then down to the final 53 the following Monday. What would YOU do???
The Dallas Cowboys play their third preseason game at 7 p.m. tonight against the St. Louis Rams. Here’s what I’ll be watching…
Who excels under pressure: The backup wide receivers. I’m very interested to see who catches Tony Romo’s passes in this game. Kevin Ogletree has been the standout among the No. 3 wide receiver candidates so far this preseason, but Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes, Cole Beasley and others are still in the mix and should get opportunities with the first-team offense tonight. It’s still audition time for those guys, and with this likely to be Romo’s final preseason game of the year, it’s probably their best chance to show their stuff.
On the other side of the ball: The defense looks to be getting healthy, as nose tackle Jay Ratliff, defensive end Jason Hatcher and linebacker Anthony Spencer all have a chance to see their first preseason action. The Cowboys have struggled a bit against the run in the preseason so far, but Hatcher and Spencer are two of their best run defenders, and Ratliff’s presence in the middle of the defensive line should shore things up there. Seeing the starting defense on the field together all at the same time will be encouraging to Cowboys fans, and it should be interesting to see who gets the bulk of the playing time at that defensive end spot opposite Hatcher. Some roster decisions looming over there.
The horses: DeMarco Murray’s touches have been very limited this preseason, and Dallas doesn’t want to risk injury to the running back on whom it plans to rely on a great deal this year. Murray will probably get more carries in this game, but don’t expect to see very much of him.
The top dog: I’ll be looking at Morris Claiborne again at cornerback, as he’s going to have to hit the ground running if the defense is to function the way they want it to.
And of course: The offensive line, whose struggles have been the story of the preseason. Are they getting healthier and/or better there?
WWJD (What Would Jerry Do or What Would Jason Do) is what every other site will be speculating on in the next 10 days.
At The Boys Are Back … we want to know what YOU would do … and why! Leave a comment.
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cowboys are finally home after nearly a month on the road for training camp and two preseason games which saw them go 1-1. Dallas takes on the St. Louis Rams (1-1) tonight at Cowboys Stadium.
Here’s a preview.
Get there early: The Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers are playing in Arlington on the same day for the first time this season. Parking lots for the Cowboys game open at 2 p.m. East Plaza is open at 3 p.m. and stadium gates open at 5 p.m. The Rangers start at 3:05 p.m. Cowboys officials are asking fans to leave early to help prevent possible traffic delays.
Connections: St. Louis tackle Jason Smith attended W.T. White high school in Dallas. … Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola was on the Cowboys’ practice squad in 2007. … Wide receivers coach Ray Sherman was with the Cowboys for a few years.
$100 million corners: The Cowboys and Rams employ the two highest paid corners from this year’s free agency class. The Rams have Cortland Finnegan and the Cowboys have Brandon Carr. Combined, the two players’ total contracts hit a little over $100 million.
Dress rehearsal: The Cowboys will play their starters for nearly the first half. It will be a good test for the interior of the offensive line consisting of center David Arkin and guards Nate Livings (making his preseason debut) and Mackenzy Bernadeau. This trio could change again if starting center Phil Costa returns from a strained lower back. Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris will start at wide receiver with Dez Bryant (knee) and Miles Austin (hamstring) out with injuries. DeMarcus Ware (hamstring) won’t play. Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher are expected to play together for the first time this preseason after recovering from injuries. It’s another good test for rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne, who plays in his second preseason game. In his debut last week, the first-round pick had zero pass breakups but made two good tackles.
Who needs to play well: QB Stephen McGee, CB C.J. Wilson, LB Orie Lemon, WR Danny Coale, WR Andre Holmes, S Matt Johnson, DE Clifton Geathers and CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.
Local TV and radio: The game kicks off at 7 p.m., on KTVT/Ch. 11 (CBS).
In many markets, you can listen to ‘The Voice of the Dallas Cowboys”, Brad Sham on The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network for pregame, play-by-play action, and post game interviews and analysis.
In the Dallas area, tune to 105.3 FM. In all other cities, click HERE for more information.
Every week during the regular season, I will roll out a list of “DOs and DON’Ts” for the Cowboys. I’ve done this for the past few years, using a combination of film study and stat analysis to create a game plan of sorts.
Seeing as how the third week of the preseason tends to resemble a regular season game in most ways, I figured I’d give my “DOs and DON’Ts” an early start this year. I’ll approach this list as though the Dallas Cowboys’ Saturday night matchup with the St. Louis Rams were the real thing, showing how I’d attack St. Louis (and giving you a preview of my game plans for the regular season). Let’s dive right in. . .
DO run a lot of double-tight sets.
Through two preseason games, the Cowboys’ first-team offense has run just six double-tight end sets, representing only 29.0 percent of their plays. It will be interesting to see if the loss of Martellus Bennett equates to fewer two-tight end formations during the regular season.
On Saturday night, however, I’d place both John Phillips and rookie James Hanna on the field at the same time on numerous occasions. I know those guys aren’t Jason Witten, but the Cowboys’ offensive tackles are going to have their hands full with perhaps the league’s most underrated defensive end duo. That tandem is led by Chris Long, who pressured the quarterback more often than any player in the NFL last year.
Plus, double-tight sets with max protection could allow the ‘Boys to take some shots downfield—something they should be doing more often anyway.
DO run right outside.
As stellar as Chris Long has been while rushing the passer in recent years, he hasn’t held up against the run. He notched a tackle on just 2.1 percent of his snaps last season. The Rams’ other defensive end, Robert Quinn, wasn’t much better with a 2.2 percent tackle rate. In comparison, Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer recorded a tackle on 5.5 percent of snaps.
I watched three of the Rams’ games from 2011, and the pass-rushing ability of their ends is immediately apparent. The problem is that they rush up the field right after the snap of the ball, leaving gaping holes for opposing running backs.
In particular, the Cowboys might be able to make use of their patented draw play. By showing a pass look, Long and Quinn will likely get up the field after Tony Romo, providing DeMarco Murray with plenty of room to scamper outside.
DON’T blitz too often.
Look, the Rams aren’t a good football team, and quarterback Sam Bradford hasn’t progressed as St. Louis fans hoped. There are two schools of thought when playing a struggling quarterback: blitz him to force turnovers, or sit back in coverage so as to not allow a big play.
I find myself in the latter camp. When playing as a favorite, the best way to maximize win probability is to make the opponent beat you again and again. Can the Rams continually move the ball up the field against Dallas without beating themselves? I don’t think so.
DO give Bruce Carter the majority of defensive snaps inside.
Carter is emerging as the probable starter next to Sean Lee at inside linebacker. Many of his teammates describe Carter as the most athletic player on the team, and that’s exactly what the Cowboys need in order to halt the versatility of Steven Jackson. The Rams’ star running back is getting old, but he’s not totally over the hill just yet. Let’s see how two of the league’s premiere height-weight-speed combos match up.
DO run double-moves at Janoris Jenkins.
In a scouting report on Jenkins that I wrote prior to the 2012 NFL Draft, I had this to say about the young cornerback:
Jenkins’ willingness to jump routes makes him an all-or-nothing type of cornerback. He makes a ton of big plays, but he gets beat a lot as well. We frequently throw around comparisons between prospects and NFL players to make assessing them easier, but I have never seen a college player resemble a pro player more than Jenkins to Asante Samuel.
Jenkins is a play-maker, and you really need to be careful when throwing his way. If the ‘Boys’ can find a way to provide Romo with ample protection, though, they can beat Jenkins outside on a double-move.
Jonathan Bales is a special contributor. He’s the founder of The DC Times and writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times.
ARLINGTON, Texas – Preseason game No. 3 is usually about the starters, but for the Dallas Cowboys it’s still about finding players to fill roles, in part because of injuries.
That being said, here’s five players to watch after Tony Romo & Co. pack it up for the night.
Matt Johnson – The fourth-round pick has practiced only three more times than you or I in training camp because of a hamstring injury. He missed all but one day of the organized team activities and minicamp because of league rules. Now he gets to put those months of frustration to work against St. Louis. He never really had a chance to earn a starting safety spot because of the hamstring injury, but the Cowboys like his potential. He has to be considered a lock to make the roster even with the limited work but he can show tonight whether he can handle a special teams role.
Danny Coale – A stress fracture and quadriceps injury kept Coale in much the same boat as Johnson, but Coale’s roster spot just doesn’t seem as secure. Such is the price of seeing guys like Cole Beasley, Andre Holmes, Tim Benford and Kevin Ogletree get more snaps. Coale had some nice work in the two practices against the Chargers and showed some good hands and the ability to get open. He is still working on getting his speed and quickness back. He has not worked much on special teams but he was a holder for Delbert Alvarado on field goals.
Adrian Hamilton – The Cowboys like how he can get after the passer. That seems to be a natural trait, but there are some adjustments he is still making at outside linebacker in terms of run responsibilities and coverage. But teams just don’t let pass rushers go. What Hamilton has to do is show he can cover kicks. It’s been a little adventurous in that regard but if he wants to claim one of the final linebacker spots, he better do it tonight.
Phillip Tanner – The broken hand came at the wrong time, but Tanner has a lot of value as a special teamer and the third tailback. He runs with pretty good power. He is pretty good in pass protection, too. If there is a player pushing Tanner for a spot, I believe it’s Lance Dunbar, who might get in the return game mix, and not Jamize Olawale, who had a touchdown run last week. Tanner is a better all-around back and will get his chance to show his toughness. He will play with his right hand wrapped tight, but that shouldn’t be a problem.
Clifton Geathers – I had him in the five to watch for the San Diego game and I’m still waiting. He looks the part, but he just has not made enough plays at this point. Coaches and scouts do not want to give up on his size and potential, but sometimes potential can be a killer, too. I wondered if Geathers could push a veteran like Marcus Spears out of a spot, but he’s not done enough yet to warrant that. If he flashes tonight vs. the Rams then he could get in the mix again.
ARLINGTON, Texas – For the second straight year, Jason Garrett invited alumni to Cowboys Stadium to watch a practice as a way to mix the franchise’s generations.
Ring of Honor members Roger Staubach, Lee Roy Jordan, Mel Renfro, Cliff Harris and Larry Allen were among the 54 alums in attendance.
During the practice DeMarcus Ware was able to catch up with Billy Joe DuPree. Sean Lee got some tips from Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson. Tony Romo was able to see former teammates in Dexter Coakley and Darren Woodson.
After the practice the current and former players got together for a dinner inside the stadium.
“It just shows you how much tradition this has and the standard you need to hold,” Lee said. “When you see the great players, you want to be like that. You want to win to make them proud and hold that tradition up. That happens by working hard every day and trying to learn some knowledge from them about how to be successful.”
The practice also allowed the alums to catch up with each other.
“Garrison, I love talking to Walt,” Staubach said. “He was telling a story that he gave me a little Skoal. I never had it before and he remembered how I broke out into a sweat and unfortunately got sick. So I said, ‘Walt, how do you remember that?’ He said he never forgot it. I think a lot of stories are half truths, but it’s fun to reminisce. There was a great turnout with the old, veteran players.”