By Mickey Spagnola
May 27, 2005, 5:53 PM (CDT)
Welcome to Mick's Mail, where at least once a week DallasCowboys.com Columnist Mickey Spagnola will answer some of the very best questions submitted via e-mail on DallasCowboys.com. If you would like to submit a question, click here, or go to Mick's Mail. And then don't forget to check-in to see if your question is answered online.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Matthew Browning, San Antonio: [/font]Does Bill Parcells have any thoughts of getting Drew Henson a small amount of playing time each game or does he plan to put him in when he is ready?
Mickey: The plan is to treat Drew Bledsoe as any other starter. He plays, and then treat Henson, assuming he beats out Tony Romo for the backup spot, as any other backup. He backs up until a game is out of hand either way or there is an injury. Why would you do anything else? The object here is to win games. I think after this training camp and season we will know a lot more about what Henson will become.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Wes Davis, Arlington, Texas: [/font]I'm wondering why there is such confusion about Greg Ellis' role in the 3-4 defense. In a recent article, you stated that Chris Canty is a "massive" defensive end at 6-7, 280 and that Ellis may be a bit small for the position in the 3-4 at 6-6, 271. Does one inch and nine pounds make that much of a difference?
Mickey: You just need to physically see the difference first of all. Within a year, I'm suggesting Canty will be every bit of 290 or 295. But don't worry; when the Cowboys lined up in their 3-4 defense on Friday, Ellis was on the right side, traditionally the weak side of the offense and away from the tight end. First-round pick Marcus Spears was on the left side. Oh, Ellis can play defensive end in the 3-4, but you don't want him out there at 271 getting pounded every play. A rotation is necessary and that's where Canty comes in.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Joe Corsi, Rochester, N.Y.: [/font]Should we be concerned that Roy is switching to strong safety? It seems everyone just assumes he can play that position without any problem, but it comes with very different responsibilities, especially in the new 3-4 scheme. Might he struggle?
Mickey: I don't see why he should. Two years ago, Williams and Darren Woodson were basically interchangeable parts in the Cowboys defense. Offenses never really knew which guy would be taking on the free safety responsibilities and which guy was playing strong safety. He should be much more comfortable at strong safety, playing closer to the line of scrimmage without as many deep responsibilities in the passing game.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Max Pena, Edinburg, Texas: [/font]Any updates on Marco Rivera? How's his rehab going?
Mickey: Going just fine. Rivera said Friday before the first of five mini-camp practices he is back in the weight room lifting and he's back out on the field running. While he will not participate in the mini-camp, Rivera seemed awfully confident he would be fully recovered from surgery to repair a herniated disk in time for the start of training camp. Parcells said if they wanted, Rivera could participate in these non-contact practices, but if they were going to err, it was going to be on the side of caution. He'll be ready for the start of camp, or as Parcells said, "I just want him ready for the start of the season."
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Guy Hella, West Palm Beach, Fla.: [/font]What are the owners doing here, voting 27-5 in favor of banning the "horse-collar" tackle? I have heard many talk shows that are in favor of letting the players play football. It is tackle football not flag football. I just hope that it will not affect a defensive player's mindset when making a tackle. What are your thoughts on this issue?
Mickey: Look, I don't see anything wrong with banning this type of tackle. Certainly it's not a technique that is taught. And you really can't argue with what seems to result from this type of maneuver. I mean, what's the difference between yanking a guy down from his facemask and yanking him down by grabbing the back of his shoulder pads? It's gaining unfair leverage. As for the effect? My guess is players still will resort to this as a last-ditch effort to get a guy on the ground and worry about the consequences later.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Omair Rahman, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada:[/font] Why is the horse-collar tackle allowed in the pocket? Isn't protecting the quarterback the No.1 priority?
Mickey: It's not just the quarterback inside the box in the vicinity of the line of scrimmage. You can tackle any ball carrier in that confined area by grabbing the back of the shoulder pad. The reasoning is with action so quick in the box, guys are just reaching and grabbing to get a guy down. What the league is worried about is the premeditated attempt to tackle a guy like that from behind in the open field when you might have other choices. Plus, inside the box, the tackler is less likely to pull the guy down and also stick a knee in his back at the same time, which seems to help cause the injuries that occurred last year.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Kyle Wright, Frisco, Texas: [/font]Injuries and unproven youth at cornerback killed us last year (not to mention Darren Woodson's injury). Out of necessity, that hole has successfully been filled this off-season. I'm feeling deja vu at safety. Roy Williams aside, what else are we left with? Lynn Scott is a hard hitter and reliable back up, but he's too slow and gets beat deep (a better SS maybe). Keith Davis is more the size of a cornerback (Anthony Henry and Pete Hunter are bigger). Clint Finley . . . who? Woody Dantzler is attempting to convert to safety. Rookie Beri-O (Justin Beriault) might be good someday. Rookie Price�who? Before Murphy's Law catches up again, why can't we just sign a free-agent seasoned veteran? Surely, ol' man Marion can sign an affordable one year contract to be a mentor and insurance policy.
Mickey: Your points are well made. Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells has repeatedly said he'd like to go through this weekend's mini-camp and see how these young guys perform before making a decision to sign a veteran safety. You just can't spend, spend, spend at every position. Sometimes you just have to develop a guy to play a position that is not a high priority position. As I've repeatedly said, the Cowboys have gotten by with just "guys" at that position, and if you mount a pass rush and your corners are solid, you might not need a Pro Bowl free safety back there. If these guys don't perform well this weekend, then Parcells said this is a spot the Cowboys could bring in a veteran for help.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Mario Leo, Boston:[/font] I just noticed that the Redskins signed Cory Hall for one year at $550,000. That's really low risk. Why didn't the Cowboys do that? I was sick of watching Lynn Scott get to the ball one or two seconds too late all the time last year after he took over the safety position.
Mickey: Won't take a cheap shot here since your email came in earlier in the week. But I'm guessing you also saw that Hall quit the Redskins after one practice this past week. The guy had a horrible workout here, and now he's backed out on two contracts within a month. Seems to me he doesn't want to play football anymore.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Rob Adler, Charlotte, NC: [/font]I saw that R.W. McQuarters got released by the Bears. I also noticed he was brought in but didn't sign with the Redskins. Would the Cowboys consider signing the veteran cornerback, knowing he could also fill in as a punt returner and cover guy on kickoffs?
Mickey: Again, I'd imagine the Cowboys would make that decision after this mini-camp. They certainly got an up close look at him last Thanksgiving when he returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown and returned a second interception 40 yards before fumbling the ball away at the Dallas 29. And on top of that, he had a 24-yard punt return. Plus, I hear he can play some safety. But again, if the guy is all that, what were the Bears thinking?
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Chad Thompson, Dakota City, Iowa: [/font]I was wondering your thoughts on the Cowboys picking up Minnesota safety Corey Chavous, who may be released after June 1st? I feel he would be the best option for the Cowboys if he becomes available. In the last two seasons, Chavous has nine interceptions, 11 passes defensed and has played in all 32 games.
Mickey: Plus Chavous could give the Cowboys scouts help during the draft. (He considers himself a real draft-nik.) What's the price? I know that sounds redundant, but it is relevant. The Cowboys don't have that much cap space that they can just sign who they want. With this type of thinking, Michael Downs would have never made this team back in 1981. There will be safeties available before camp likely in late August if none of these guys can perform.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Lex Lacaze, Spring, Texas: [/font]You stole my thunder in May 24 Mick Shots. I was wondering the same question. Why haven't the Cowboys brought in Will Pettis for a closer look? If I remember correctly, Pettis was brought in from the Arena League last year, and because of league rules, went through a waiver period. Was it the Saints who picked him up? What happened with that anyway?
Mickey: How time flies. Actually, that was the summer of 2003 the Cowboys signed him and had to wait 10 days before being awarded his rights because he played for the AFL team the Cowboys owned. New Orleans claimed him, brought him to camp and released him. Now the Cowboys did sign Bobby Sippio and Duke Pettijohn to workout contracts for this mini-camp, but not Pettis. I'm guessing Pettis' NFL clock is expiring. He turns 28 in December. That is getting a little old for a project player. The Cowboys worked out Sippio at free safety, and he even broke up a couple of passes during team drills.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Mariano Farias, Texas: [/font]Last year Jason Witten started at tight end and made it to the Pro Bowl. The year before that Dan Campbell started and made some great blocks. Who is starting this year?
Mickey: Well, hard to say, since Friday when the Cowboys first went on offense they began in a one-back, two-tight end set with both Witten and Campbell on the field. My guess is Witten is the starter but you are going to see a whole lot of two-tight offense this year since Parcells is big on pounding the ball, especially with this significantly upgraded stable of running backs.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Zach Baker, Leavenworth, Kan.: [/font]I believe the same as you and Jones. I could see why the Cowboys were so successful on defense when they were winning Super Bowls. I do believe many people thought the Cowboys were overrated on offense in those days. So Mick here is my question to you. What rankings did we have on offense and defense in those years we won the Super Bowl?
Mickey: In those three Super Bowls seasons, 1992-93 and 1995 the Cowboys offense ranked fourth, fourth and eighth. Defensively, the Cowboys ranked first, 10th and ninth. By the way, and this was the shame of not three-peating in 1994, the Cowboys defense ranked first again. And in 1996, the last year they won a playoff game, the Cowboys defense ranked third.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Ryan Corbin, Pickens, S.C.:[/font] We all know that the current collective bargaining agreement runs out in 2008. This leaves us staring at the scary possibility of having an uncapped 2007 season. It also means that there could be a strike on the way. Please tell me that I'm just hearing wrong and that everything will be taken care of!
Mickey: I wouldn't get too worried yet. Both sides are posturing since the deadline to get a deal worked out is more than a year away. The troubling sign, though, seems to be the NFL owners unable to agree on a proposal to give the NFL Players Association. So not only are the NFL and NFLPA at odds, but the NFL seems to be at odds from within on revenue sharing. But I can't believe the smartest league in the country suddenly will go brain dead.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Jeffery Cowick, Kew Gardens, N.Y.: [/font]I was just wondering what has been going on with former Longhorn Kalen Thornton? Parcells seemed to be very high on him last year in training camp and it seemed like Kalen made a couple big plays in preseason and early on in the regular season. Do you have any insight as to his standing with the team? I keep hearing about all the other linebackers that Cowboys have but never anything about Thornton.
Mickey: Well know this about Thornton: When the Cowboys opened up in their 3-4 alignment in Friday's first of five mini-camp practices, Thornton lined up at right outside linebacker with the first team. Now Parcells downplayed where guys were lining up and with what team in this mini-camp, but at least Thornton is not a forgotten guy. He will have to battle first-round pick Demarcus Ware for that starting job, and brother, watching Ware in this first team-wide practice, can the guy ever run. I know a lot of you were worried about him having played at Troy, trying to compare him to Kavika Pittman and Shante Carver. Hey, not even close. Wait to you see this kid play.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Vernon C. Toler, Olathe, Kan.:[/font] Do you feel that the Cowboys made a mistake last year by hanging their hat on Vinny and the passing game, rather than sticking with the formula that won us 10 games and put us in the playoffs? In other words hang your hat on the running game. Play to your team's strength.
Mickey: I agree, play to your team's strength. So pray tell, what was this team's strength last year? The running game? With Eddie George out there? You see any team rush to sign him this off-season? The Cowboys' strength was the right arm of Vinny until Terry Glenn went down. Then they had no strength. Not even on defense, giving up 25 points a game. The season turned into disguising all the weaknesses.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Sergio Villarreal, Albuquerque, N.M.: [/font]It seem these days you can't read about a contract dispute without hearing about this Drew Rosenhaus guy. Could you give me some back round info on him and do any current Cowboys have him as an agent?
Mickey: None that I know of right now. Rosenhaus began his career in 1990, and actually, Cowboys third-round draft choice Jimmie Jones was his first client. Rosenhaus went to school at the University of Miami, so he knew a bunch of those guys and that's how he got his foot in the door. He also had former Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Williams.
[font=Arial,Helvetica]Nathan Ramirez, Mosul, Iraq: [/font]I'm stationed in Iraq and missed last season and will miss this season as well. I'm the biggest Cowboy fan you'd ever meet and I just gotta know if you honestly think the Cowboys will be playoff-competitive this year?
Mickey: Well, as I just wrote, the recent ESPN Power Rankings suggest the Cowboys are the fifth best team in the NFC. Parcells just said on Friday that this is the best team he's had in his three years here and is expecting big things from these guys. And hey, you don't need me to tell you the Cowboys improved their personnel in several areas over last year.
1. Redskins - Check
2. Dolphins - Check
3. Arizona -