Riding along with West Coast Cowboys
Let’s cash in our frequent-flier miles in exchange for a few Oxnard observations
By Matt Mosley
Is it just me or does it feel like the Dallas Cowboys‘ training camp has lasted four months? Jerry Jones has apparently petitioned the league to report to San Antonio at the first of June next season.
I realized why Jerry loves camp so much last Thursday when he put his arm around my shoulder (for a bit too long) and gazed out over the Los Angeles skyline and said something to the effect of, “This is why the Dallas Cowboys belong here.”
I’m pretty sure he’s not moving the organization to LA, but in that (awkward) moment, it was hard to rule anything out. As we’ve discussed before, the NFL preseason is about two things: gouging hard-working fans with pretend football and trying to keep your starters healthy.
The Cowboys have failed on the second point. The Montrae Holland era will finally begin because of an injury to left guard Kyle Kosier, and it’s likely we’ll see two inexperienced starting safeties unless Gerald Sensabaugh can make a quick recovery from a shoulder injury. He’s vowed via Twitter to return in time for the Sept. 12 opener in Washington, but the athletic trainers have not yet tweeted a response. With that in mind, let me present a few (astute) observations from my week-long trip to the West Coast:
1. Don’t ever suggest sitting Tony Romo in the third preseason game (more like the second) when two starting offensive linemen suffer injuries. This will lead to ridicule from both Wade Phillips and the local media. Because how in the world could you think of something so silly when Robert Brewster is making the first start of his professional career? After watching Romo’s performance, I’m pretty sure he wanted no part of that game. Some folks thought miscommunication led to those errant passes to Miles Austin. I’d call it self-preservation. I’ll worry about Romo when he comes out and fires an interception against the Redskins. Until then, let’s relax just a bit.
2. I think Doug Free will be just fine at left tackle. He has excellent footwork and he’s looked really good in the run game. For what it’s worth, Free’s the fastest offensive lineman on the team, according to my research. I asked him Thursday who would give him the biggest problem in a 100-yard dash. The answer: Leonard Davis. “I’m serious,” Free said. “He’s a great athlete and he can scoot.”
3. Unheralded cornerback Cletis Gordon has broken Cornell Green‘s all-time training camp interception record with 10. It’s remarkable how many plays he makes in practice, and then he goes out and makes one in the game. He’s a nice option as the fourth cornerback and I’d try to get him some reps at safety.
4. I would think about cutting my losses with former Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee. I just don’t see a whole lot of progress being made. Jason Garrett reminded me last week of the Cowboys letting Matt Moore go a few years back. But I don’t see McGee haunting the organization like Moore. And I use the word “haunting” sort of loosely.
5. I said this on ESPN 103.3′s “Galloway & Company” on Monday, so I’ll say it again here: Martellus Bennett will score seven touchdowns this season. At 6-6, he’s an excellent target in the red zone. For whatever reason (blocking), Jason Witten was not an option for Romo in ’09. Bennett will become the TD maker this season.
4. I didn’t drink the Sean Lee Kool-Aid until the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game against the Chargers. Unlike some recent Penn State linebackers, I think this guy’s going to be a star. Lee has a non-stop motor and he’s incredibly disciplined. Congratulations to scouting director Tom Ciskowski and his staff for identifying this guy early and sticking with him even after he had some injury issues at Penn State. Word of warning: Don’t mention to Lee that Joe Paterno seems to be slipping. That conversation won’t end well.
3. Kevin Ogletree took a step back in this camp. He had a chance to become the fourth receiver and send Patrick Crayton packing. Instead, we’ve all been reminded how valuable Crayton is to this team. Ogletree has all the tools but the consistency is not there.
2. It’s appropriate that Danny McCray‘s wearing Bill Bates’ old number. The former LSU safety has a chance to make an enormous impact on special teams. I think LSU has about 10 rookies on NFL teams right now, and McCray’s one of the biggest surprises.
1. Ahmad Bradshaw and Felix Jones are the two best backs in the division. Now I’m eager to see how Tom Coughlin and Jason Garrett use them. Jones and Marion Barber haven’t done much in the preseason, but that’s not a big deal. Let’s see how Barber reacts to being even more of a complementary back. I could see him having only 10-12 carries a game and handling the short-yardage situations. Found it interesting that the Cowboys were working with Jones and Tashard Choice in the same backfield Monday. That intrigues me.
Matt Mosley covers the NFC East for ESPN.com and the Dallas-Fort Worth sports scene for ESPNDallas.com.