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(PART 2 OF 2)
Massimo’s Inside Cowboys Report Blog
Dallas Cowboys | Barry Church, NFL Drafts Picks, Wade Phillips, Bill Parcells, Jason Garrett and more
By Massimo Russo – Featured Writer Silver and Blue Report & Hook’em Report
Let’s take a look at Dallas’ draft picks that standout since Jason Garrett has been the head coach.
2011 – Tyron Smith, Romo’s blind side pass blocker that has good upside who should only get better. Bruce Carter, a player with extreme upside that needs to stay healthy who was lost for the season due to injury when he got his first crack at being a starter last season at linebacker. DeMarco Murray, a vital part of the teams running game that has been plagued by injury and Dwayne Harris, a receiver that has made things happen on special teams and when given the chance in the passing game.
2012 – Morris Claiborne, potential top cornerback that should only get better. Tyrone Crawford, a defensive end that was going to get lots of reps on the d-line, but is now lost for the season due to an (Achilles). James Hannah, a speedy tight end that should be used more in the passing game this season, and safety Matt Johnson, another player that’s been plagued by injury that looks to showcase the talent the team believes is a diamond in the rough.
2013 – Travis Frederick, not who we expected the Cowboys to take in the 1st round, but the offensive line needs improvement and they took a lineman that played center at Wisconsin, a school that is known to produce good pro lineman. And Frederick can also play guard, a position he may end up playing as a pro. Gavin Escobar, a tight end they took in the 2nd round, another player not expected to be drafted by the Cowboys, but being in a copy-cat league and seeing what the Patriots have made the tight end position into, maybe Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones and company stole a page from the Patriots playbook? Terrance Williams, one of the picks I like for the simple fact of knowing Miles Austin’s injured past. Williams has potential at the moment to be the teams 3rd receiving option, but can fill the void and shine shall Austin suffer another setback by getting injured again. Joseph Randle, my favorite pick and another player that could step in if starting running back DeMarco Murray gets sidelined due to injury again. Plus, he’ll help the offense in the passing game as a receiving option and to carry the load here and there. Randle is a potential sleeper pick that can turn out to be a star.
By now, you might be asking yourself, where’s Massimo going with this? What’s his point?
The point is Parcells laid down the foundation. Phillips inherited it and was driving it into the ground, another one of Jerry’s puppets. Now Garrett, as much as I and many members of the media have questioned him as a head coach, might actually be onto something here. No more signing old veterans. No going after an old veteran like Brian Urlacher when he said he’d play for the Cowboys. No more signing old veterans like Keith Brooking. Young and fast, you stay young in this league and keep the system intact. Now, hold your horses, I know Jerry Jones is still the power that runs the show and had his hands on those draft picks, but maybe taking away the responsibility of calling the offensive plays from Garrett is giving Garrett what he needs best, and that’s just being the head coach. Can it be possible that Jerry Jones is making the bus stop with Jason Garrett to make him a leader of men?
Garrett has been more vocal with the team and has been stressing leadership and accountability during camp.
“One of the things we really emphasize from a coaching staff standpoint and throughout our team is the word accountability,” Garrett said. “We have to take accountability for what we’re doing.”
How about team discipline?
“We have to get better in the area of pre-snap penalties. There’s no secret to that,” Garrett said. “It’s a whole unit thing. It’s the offensive unit or the defensive unit. Everybody’s responsible for that. On offense, it’s the quarterback’s cadence, making it friendly to the offensive linemen. And obviously it’s the offensive linemen, receivers, backs and tight ends’ responsibility to stay onsides. We feel like it’s a good idea to make sure it’s not only the guy who does it, it’s everybody.”
What about leadership?
“We want guys who are leaders. Step up and be a (expletive) leader. Lead this football team. Lead it! It’s time, said Garrett at the Cowboys team meeting. It’s time to lead the football team!”
I haven’t heard those words come out of Garrett’s mouth since he’s been the head coach. Does that mean all is changing for the better? I’m not sitting here and thinking that talk is the magic wand that’s going to get this team over the top. I know that talk is cheap and action speaks louder than words. The team plays based on the personality of the coach and maybe Garrett has finally been injected by the hard-nosed fluid, a fluid that installs that animalistic-dog-fluid stuff, my way or the highway mindset?
With all the jibber-jabber stuff and look back at the teams draft picks thrown out of the water, let’s look into the most important position battles, and things to look forward to the rest of the summer.
Strong Side Linebacker - Alex Albright, rookie DeVonte Holloman and veteran Ernie Sims are all potential candidates, but the guy that will win the starting job at strong side linebacker is Justin Durant, a player the Cowboys acquired this offseason that gets after the ball. Durant makes tackles and had 103 last year with the Detroit Lions. This was an upgrade at strong side linebacker spot.
Offensive Line - Both guard spots and right tackle were a mess last season. Jermey Parnell, a player that was competing with Doug Free for the right tackle spot is recovering from a strained hamstring. With Parnell out, Doug Free’s starting spot looks safe at right tackle with nobody else to really push him the rest of the summer. The Cowboys hope Parnell, who didn’t get any first-team reps before getting hurt, can come back in a couple of weeks. Ronald Leary is battling with Nate Livings for the left guard spot. Livings, who started all 16 games last season, suffered a foot injury before training camp, allowing Leary to get snaps with the first-team offense. As far as right guard goes, rookie Travis Frederick has been taking snaps at right guard. Mackenzy Bernadeau struggled at right guard last season, and Frederick could end up being his replacement. I think this will end up being the starting offensive line come week 1 – Tyron Smith, left tackle, Ronald Leary, left guard, Phil Costa, center, Travis Frederick, right guard, and Doug Free will be the right tackle. The interior part of the line should give you a reason to feel optimistic if that’s the starting group when the season begins.
Safety - Barring injury, Barry Church will be the starting free safety. This leaves three competing at strong safety, Will Allen, Matt Johnson and rookie J.J. Wilcox have been taking part of perhaps the most interesting position battle at camp. Dallas hasn’t had any luck at safety for a long period of time. Former safety and now analyst, Darren Woodson was the last safety on the team that played the position with success for an extended period of time. With Gerald Sensabaugh retiring in the offseason, the Cowboys added some pieces. Drafting Wilcox and adding Allen via free agency added depth at a position that was hit with the injury bug in 2012. With Allen being a veteran, the Cowboys know what they got from him, but Wilcox and Johnson are younger and more athletic. Johnson was contending for the job last year, but injuries put a halt on his chances. With the teams different approach defensively under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, the mindset and preaching of creating turnovers may give Johnson a better chance of winning the starting spot. Why? Johnson has shown in college that he can create turnovers, had 17-interceptions at Eastern Washington in his four seasons there. Wilcox will get action, mostly on special teams, and could work his way in down the road one day as a starter. Hard to say who will win the spot at strong safety, but this will come down to Johnson and Allen. If Johnson stays healthy, I think he wins the starting spot.
3rd Receiver – I don’t think this matters much on who will be the third option for quarterback Tony Romo. Dwayne Harris is in the lead for this spot, but what matters to me is how rookie receiver Terrance Williams develops when he gets his chance on the field during preseason. Williams got off to a bad start and was lost in the beginning of camp, but he has potential to be an extra option for a passing game that has lots of weapons at Romo’s disposal. Williams should improve and get the hang of things, and has showed some good signs even though he got caught lined up in the wrong spot a few times during team practices. Rookies are rookies, and not all of them catch on quick. Safe bet is Romo’s third option will be Dwayne Harris when the season begins.
Second year tight end James Hannah should get more action as a speedy target, and rookie tight end Gavin Escobar, a big body that can be used as an extra chipper to block and in the red zone, could be a valuable part of the offense as a receiver as well. 2nd year running back Lance Dunbar, a speedy style of runner and rookie Joseph Randle should help the running game as change-of-pace backs behind starter DeMarco Murray. Health is a concern with Murray, defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and defensive end Anthony Spencer.
One thing’s for sure, the team can’t afford as many injuries as it had last season at key positions. In conclusion to all this, last summer, I felt no reason to be optimistic about Dallas Cowboys. This summer I feel a tad bit different. I’m not promising anybody success, but don’t be surprised if these Dallas Cowboys do much better in 2013.
I’m just saying, don’t sleep on them.