I don't know if it's ok to copy & paste w/o his permission, plus he tends to put them up here--so hopefully he will with these.
However, in the meantime, I'd STRONGLY recommend going over to his blog & read his wrapup of week one. He has extensive discussions of both offense & defense that are far superior to anything the MSM have put out.
(I'm wondering if Parcells will be putting him on staff soon! He'd make a great scout.)
Sun Aug 06, 2006 at 08:09:12 PM EST
Earlier today I did my one week review of the Dallas Cowboys offense
at training camp. This is the second part of the series where I'll focus on the defense. I'll offer the same disclaimer that I did in the first post; it's still early in training camp and a lot of things can change from practice to practice. But this is as accurate an assessment that I can give you at this point in time.
The injury of Marcus Spears is a shame. I really wanted to see him in action and measure his performance against the other players and his improvement over last year. But if you want to look for a silver lining, it's the play of Jay Ratliff filling in on the 1st unit. For the first couple of days after Spears' injury, Kenyon Coleman was lining up with the 1st team, but Ratliff's play was so good it was only a matter of time until he was elevated to the starter. If Spears returns healthy, Kenyon Coleman may get caught in a numbers game, which is too bad, because he hasn't had a bad camp, but just hasn't matched Ratliff's good work. Over on the other side, forget about it, Chris Canty has been sensational. We all know how big he is, but his athleticism has been what really stood out for me. Backing him up, 3rd-round pick Jason Hatcher has flashed some real potential, but has also showed that he's a rookie with a long way to go. Admittedly, I knew nothing about him before the draft, and I panned the pick initially; well, I was wrong, the kid has potential.
In the middle Jason Ferguson has been steady, but only a few times have I seen him be truly disruptive. For the most part, he has done the job required by a 3-4 NT; take on the double-team and hold your ground. Behind him, Thomas Johnson has had some good practices, but not consistently. Rookie Montavious Stanley has been a "no-show" so far and better pick up his play soon or he could be on the outside looking in.
Talk about an embarrassment of riches, this is definitely the position that is most fun to watch in practice. DeMarcus Ware has looked fantastic in camp, disrupting plays all over the field and getting his share of sacks. Kevin Burnett has been a star so far in camp behind Ware, showing no ill-effects of his ACL surgery. He's quick - although occasionally he will over-run a play - but overall Cowboys fans should be thrilled with his progress. He's also getting time in the middle in the nickel defense.
Greg Ellis has displaced Al Singleton on the strong side, spending most of the first week running with the 1st team. The results have been mixed but encouraging. Ellis stills struggles in coverage, Jason Witten and Anthony Fasano have beat him on a regular basis in 11-on-11 drills, but it does look like he's improving in this area over the past couple of practices. He still knows how to get to the QB, as witnessed in the scrimmage yesterday. It's hard to predict how this will turn out, but Ellis is making every effort to make it work. Luckily, we have experience behind him in Al Singleton, who has been steady in camp so far.
In the middle Bradie James has been fine, he looks as good as he did last year. Akin Ayodele hasn't been especially noticeable in camp so far. I admit I haven't watched him as closely as some other players, so it would be unfair of me to say his performance has been sub-par, but I've noticed his name hasn't shown up that often in my notes. I'll make an effort to evaluate him more this week. Bobby Carpenter looked a little tentative to start camp, he was working on the outside with the 3rd team early in camp, but really seemed to blossom over the last couple of days while working with the 2nd team on the inside (WILB). He had a very good scrimmage and now that he's getting more comfortable, this week we might really see him shine. The question is whether Parcells plans to keep him on the inside or does he just want him to get used to both the inside and outside positions. Ryan Fowler has secured the 2nd team spot (SILB), and combining him with Carpenter has moved Scott Shanle to the 3rd unit.
One guy who seems to be very active on the field is Rocky Boiman. He doesn't seem to do just one thing well, but is sort of a jack-of-all-trades. You constantly see him around the ball when he's on the field. His reputation is as a special teams ace, so I think there's a good chance he'll be on the final roster.
Dark-horse linebacker candidate: Junior Glymph. The guy has made a ton of plays in the first week of training camp, but the numbers work against him.
Terence Newman and Anthony Henry need no review. They play in practice just like you'd expect, and Newman is just on a different level from anybody else. Jacques Reeves is a guy who's caught my eye in camp, not because he's been exceptional but because he's been solid, and frankly, I didn't have that high of an opinion of him coming into camp. Aaron Glenn has been beaten a few times long in camp, so I'm a little worried that he may be slowing down a bit. I don't want to make too much out of this, but it is something to keep an eye on.
Roy Williams doesn't get to show his best stuff in camp because they haven't allowed full-contact, except on rare occasions. But he and Keith Davis haven't been beaten that often deep down the middle in 11-on-11 drills, but I can tell you there were some open receivers, but the passes have been off target. Justin Beriault was looking pretty smooth his first few days of camp and had me excited about his future. Then he suffered the concussion and we haven't seen him since. Parcells also said he had some concern about his knee, so at this point - and I stress only at this point - he is squarely on the roster bubble. Willie Pile has been steady in camp working with the 2nd team, but has actually spent most of his time at SS once Beriault went down, this to accommodate FS Pat Watkins on the 2nd team.
Pat Watkins has been another star in camp. He has great instincts, when he sees a pass he makes a quick break on the ball and usually gets there. And when he gets there he has the hands to hold on to the interception. He's also flashed his leaping ability on occasion that makes your eyes open wide. I don't know if he'll crack the starting line-up this year or not, but he has that kind of ability from what I've seen so far in camp. The Cowboys got a steal with this kid. As for the rest of the secondary, the only other two guys who have been noticeable are Abram Elam and Lenny Williams. Elam has actually been kind of impressive out on the 3rd string and I wouldn't mind seeing him stick around for a while. Lenny Williams is also interesting, though I admit he's been cooked on occasion, he also has made a few plays. Possible practice squad material.
You guys are probably saying, "What about Marcus Coleman"? I have no idea. He was working on the 3rd unit at CB until Beriault got hurt; now he's working with the 3rd unit at safety. He had one good play where he made a diving INT, but other than that I haven't seen him do much. So here are my thoughts, and they are polar opposites; either Parcells knows what he's got in Coleman and isn't worried about working him against the better players, or he's happy with some of the younger guys in the secondary and Coleman is just filling out the training camp roster until the cuts. You decide.
Once again, if I missed somebody you're interested in, ask me in the comments and I'll do my best to answer. I didn't bother with the kickers, but quickly for completeness sake, McBriar has had some great kicks in camp, Suisham looks pretty good except for one day, Vanderjagt's struggles have been chronicled, but he looked good in the scrimmage.
Sun Aug 06, 2006 at 03:07:44 PM EST
It's been a heck of a week out here in Oxnard, and I've enjoyed every minute of it. The weather truly is marvelous and the Cowboys training camp affords the fan an opportunity to witness our heroes up close. Truly a wonderful experience.
I've been to every practice - 12 so far by my count - and you guys have been reading my very dry, technical transcripts of what I've seen. I hope you've enjoyed them. But since it's Sunday and it's an off-day for the team, I decided now would be a good time to write my opinions and thoughts on the team and the players. I'm starting with the offense and then will move to the defense in a second post later today. Keep in my mind that this is only one week into practice, so by next Sunday I could be singing a whole different tune on some of these players.
I might as well start with the position that seems to get the most heated debate in the Cowboys world, the QB. Not specifically Drew Bledsoe, but the back-up QB situation which can ignite the fires of impassioned fans. So let me dismiss the Bledsoe review quickly: It's true he's had an uneven camp so far, but after a decade plus of watching the guy lead NFL teams, I'm confident that by season's start he will be in fine form.
Now for the Romo vs. Henson debate. Going into camp I was unsure about both. Readers of my blog know that I said after watching Henson in NFLE I thought he had a chance to push Romo for the #2 spot in training camp. Now that I've watched both in person for a week, I'm not sure that he will, but that's only because I've seen Romo now, whereas before he was pretty much a mystery to me. My take on Romo is that he makes his reads quicker and gets the ball out quicker than Henson, and he also seems to hit the receivers in a better position (i.e. the hands) while Henson makes his receivers work a little more to catch the ball. Henson, on the other hand, is pretty mobile and makes the better throws on the run, during roll-outs and bootlegs. Romo is a more consistent QB on a day to day basis while Henson can be really good one day and really bad the next.
In the final analysis, I'm still not sure either is ready to lead the team for an extended time period. But I do think Romo is ahead of Henson right now, not in physical talent, but just in running the offense and being a steady performer.
Julius Jones and Marion Barber are not that far apart in terms of being 1st team material. Barber is more versatile, no surprise there, and in RB vs. LB coverage drills he consistently runs excellent routes and shows great hands. Julius doesn't do too badly in those drills either. Julius is the more pure runner and definitely is the home run threat. Parcells is just going to have make time for both on the field.
The #3 spot has come down to a battle between Keylon Kincade and Tyson Thompson. Coach Parcells is giving Kincade equal reps with Thompson; my guess is to see what he really has in the kid before making his decision. Kincade has come on strong over the last few days of practice and this is a real battle. Thompson is still lining up as a kickoff returner, so he might get the edge because of special teams. Demetrius Summers has shown some skills in camp, but his reps are limited and I can't see him as anything more than a practice squad player this year.
Ah yes, the offensive line, which has been the subject of much speculation. I didn't know anything about Marc Colombo going into camp, other than what I read about him; that he was first-round talent until he got injured. The first few days I didn't notice anything special about him, until about mid-week when he had a spectacular practice. At the time I thought that Parcells might elevate him to 1st string and sure enough, the next day he was lining up as the 1st string RT. He's been entrenched there ever since and I'm really beginning to believe he might win the starting position over Petitti.
Petitti has been shuffled around all over the place during camp. He started on the 1st unit at RT, then was shuffled down to the 3rd unit for a few days before shifting to 1st unit LT the past couple of days. I'm starting to come to the conclusion that Parcells may be settling on Colombo at RT and wants Petitti to be the swing tackle, so he's getting him reps at both left and right tackle. As for Petitti's performance in camp so far, it's been OK but it hasn't made me confident that he's made great leaps from last year. Physically, though, he looks to be in great shape.
Flozell Adams in some respects gets a pass for the first week. It's obvious that his knee is not fully healed yet, so we'll just have to wait and see if he rounds into form over the next couple of weeks. He has been getting beat badly by Ware on some speed rushes in drills, so getting Petitti work at LT is a contingency plan in my opinion.
Andre Gurode has simply looked better than Al Johnson in practice. It's hard for me to judge the mental aspect of his performance because I can't hear what the coaches are saying to him about his line calls and being in the right place in the protection schemes. But in the physical part of the game, he's clearly outplayed Johnson. I see no reason why he won't start unless there are things he's doing with the mental aspect that are displeasing the coaches.
Kyle Kosier and Marco Rivera are going to start at left and right guard. They have not moved from those positions since the first day of practice. Kosier is mobile, I've seen him pull on some plays and he does that nicely, and I haven't seen him get overwhelmed on bull-rushes and the like often. I think he'll be alright. Rivera is looking pretty good; we may be getting the guy we signed back instead of the guy we saw last year. Stephen Peterman and Corey Procter are serviceable, but nothing spectacular. Pat McQuistan, forever known to me as McQ from now on, has done better than I thought, given his status coming into the camp. But at this point of his NFL career, he's a rookie and looks the part. Some days good, some days really bad.
Jason Fabini has looked anywhere from average to bad. He's done nothing special, and if he wasn't a veteran who's had a pretty good career and a Parcells Guy, I wouldn't think twice about the possibility of him being cut. But since he is a vet and he's coming off injury, it just might be taking him a little longer to round into form. I think the next week and the pre-season game are going to be critical for him.
Anthony Fasano is a player. He runs good routes and has the hands to make a difference. They use him a lot in the H-back role, he's often the one who goes in motion and settles into the "FB" role in the backfield. He has a ways to go in his blocking, DeMarcus Ware has been seen abusing him on occasion, but Ware abuses a lot of people. This was a good draft pick for Dallas, and down the road we will love the Witten/Fasano combination. Witten has been Witten in camp, so I won't even bother to discuss him.
Lousaka Polite is making a real push to make the roster. In the offseason I kind of wrote him off as a roster casualty, but I'm revising that opinion. He has shown pretty good hands in the passing game, much better than I thought. Parcells has also been lining him up as a tailback at the goal line and in short-yardage situations and he has produced. It would be no surprise to me if he makes the roster, especially since Brett Pierce is done.
Another guy who's opened my eyes is Tony Curtis. He consistently shows up in my notes as making catches in 11-on-11 drills. The battle for the 4th TE is fierce right now with Polite, Curtis and Sean Ryan. Since we're running the 2-TE set regularly, is it possible Parcells will keep 5 TE's on the 53-man roster? This is an interesting position to watch.
Terrell Owens is a Cowboy now, in case you hadn't heard. I'm not even going to waste your time evaluating all that. Terry Glenn is also a Cowboy. Let's just move right into Patrick Crayton. He's having a great camp. You guys probably read my story that had Parcells telling him he's on fire one day in practice, and Crayton saying "I know I am, Coach". Well, it's true; he's had a great camp and is firmly entrenched as the 3rd WR.
After that, it gets dicey. Terrance Copper is usually pretty quiet in the practices. I haven't noticed him doing much in the 11-on-11 drills although he did have a couple of catches in the scrimmage. We know that Parcells likes him for his special teams skills but will that be enough for him to make the roster? Skyler Green usually runs with the 3rd unit of WR's in practice, so I don't think Parcells is counting on him to be a WR per se, he's obviously much more interested in his return skills. Since they don't do live returns in practice, I haven't been able to evaluate that part of his game yet. He did make a great TD catch to end the scrimmage yesterday so maybe he wants to make a push with Parcells for some playing time there.
Jamaica Rector actually does show up in the 11-on-11 drills and has also been working on punt returns. He's trying to make a case for himself on the roster and stands an outside chance of getting there. I wouldn't bet my money on J.R. Tolver making it and Miles Austin hasn't done enough to make me think he will end up on the roster, either.
Yes, I saved Sam Hurd for last. The guy has been a revelation in camp. Even before the two circus catches he made in the scrimmage, he has consistently produced in the training camp practices. The Cowboys have to find a way to keep this guy on the roster. I know it's only one week and we've seen rookies burn brightly for a short time then burn out, but there's something about this kid that says he's going to make it in this league. If he keeps it up this coming week, Parcells is going to have a hard decision about what to do with him.
That's it for the offense. If I've left out somebody your interested in just ask me in the comments section and I will tell you what I know. I'll be working on an evaluation of the defense next and hope to have it up in a few hours.