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News: Mosley | 20 Questions: Will the return game improve?

Discussion in 'News Zone' started by Bluefin, Jul 18, 2004.

  1. Bluefin

    Bluefin Well-Known Member

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    20 Questions: Will the return game improve?

    05:02 PM CDT on Saturday, July 17, 2004

    By MATT MOSLEY / DallasNews.com

    [IMG]

    When Cowboys coach Bill Parcells says he's going on vacation, he means it. He's done everything but board the windows at Valley Ranch since last month's minicamp.

    But with training camp just around the corner, fans are hungry for Cowboys news. And that's why we'll address a different topic every day until the first practice July 31 in Oxnard, Calif.

    Why will the Cowboys have a better return game this season?

    Because Bill Parcells will make this one of his biggest priorities. The Cowboys don't have the offensive personnel to blow teams off the field, so it's important that they find an x-factor. Parcells knows that an explosive return game can make the difference in a close game.

    Last season, the team failed to get big returns even on plays in which the blocking was good. Zuriel Smith showed flashes, but he also put the ball on the ground, which is a quick way to get cut.

    Parcells wants a sure-handed player who is fearless in the return game. The Cowboys made a few poor decisions on punt returns last season, at times letting the ball bounce instead of saving precious field position.

    Parcells will audition several players in the return game, but look for rookie receiver Patrick Crayton to possibly emerge as the favorite. He has excellent hands and decent speed (4.58 in the 40-yard dash). He has what coaches refer to as excellent football speed, which means he can shift into another gear when he has the ball. A good return man can spot a tiny seam and turn it into a big play. Parcells and special teams coach Bruce DeHaven do an excellent job of teaching the return game, but last season no one seemed to catch on.
  2. JBell523

    JBell523 That's my Quarterback

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    good post, but I see one question, not 20
  3. MichaelWinicki

    MichaelWinicki "You want some?" Staff Member

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    The return game almost has to be better this year.

    Couldn't be much worse.
  4. Bluefin

    Bluefin Well-Known Member

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    It's a series.

    We can't properly digest and discuss 20 questions all at once.

    Spoon feeding is the key.


    My thoughts as well.

    Getting more big plays in the return game and starting more drives further out than the twenty yard line could be the difference in a couple of wins or losses.

    The return game will not suffer from a lack of options during camp, I don't know how Parcells and DeHaven will get evaluations on all of them.
  5. silverbear

    silverbear Semi-Official Loose Cannon

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    It's a series of articles, pal... 20 articles, each asking a different question... there have already been 4 or 5 of them...
  6. silverbear

    silverbear Semi-Official Loose Cannon

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    I wonder if that bit about Crayton running a 4.58 40 was a misprint... I ask because first of all, a 4.58 is awfully SLOW for a return man, and because I have him listed in my notes as a 4.4 40 type... I don't recall where I found that 40 time, but I don't pull those numbers out of thin air...

    I think Crayton is more like a 4.38 40 guy...
  7. Sarge

    Sarge Red, White and Brew... Staff Member

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    If the offense resembles last years in any way,shape, or form, the return game is HUGE for us.

    Frankly, I'm not as optimistic as some are when it comes to our offense showing measurable improvement.
  8. MichaelWinicki

    MichaelWinicki "You want some?" Staff Member

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    Me too Sarge, me too.

    BTW Good Morning!
  9. Bluefin

    Bluefin Well-Known Member

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    The 4.58 time is listed in the agility section of Crayton's nfl.com draft profile.

    Crayton may time in the 4.5 range, but as long as he's an explosive player on the field, it shouldn't matter.

    Mosley reported that the staff felt Crayton had excellant football speed.

    Nothing else matters if that is true.

    Fast on a track in shorts and fast on the field in pads are two different things and only one of them matters.

    Fast track athletes who don't know how to utilize their speed on the field are commonplace and most never amount to anything.

    Crayton, playing at the NAIA level, had 10 punt return touchdowns on 72 attempts (20.8 avg) during his career. Crayton added 2 kickoff returns for scores on 39 attempts (23.7 avg) as well.

    Crayton had no trouble breaking big scoring plays at the NAIA level, but it remains to be seen how quickly he can adjust to the NFL level and the tremendous increase in speed.

    It'll be fun to watch Crayton during pre-season and see how he handles it.
  10. Bluefin

    Bluefin Well-Known Member

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    I believe the return game is huge regardless, but it would be even more important if the offense continues to struggle.

    As for the offense showing measurable improvement, I don't know how it can't aside from a rash of injuries to starters.

    It was Quincy Carter's first year starting a full 16 games, he'll be better prepared for it this year.

    The staff has an entire season's worth of games and practices to look at what Carter and the offense did right and wrong, they will be better prepared to maximize the good and minimize the bad this year.

    Even with a new system and things not working as designed, the Cowboys passing finished 17th in the NFL, ahead of both Carolina and Philadelphia who met in the NFC Championship game.

    Was that the limit?

    Will a 70 catch possession receiver, an emerging tight end and improvement at quarterback as well as on the offensive line not allow for more?

    Just getting Carter to stop or greatly reduce his impulse throws will lead to a better offense, IMO.

    Then there's the running game.

    Dallas was fourth in attempts per game (32.2) last year, but it translated to a twelth place finish in yards per game (124.9) and a 3.9 average per rush, only eight teams had a lower average (SB champ New England among them).

    And the Cowboys only had 6 big play runs of 20 or more yards, only five teams had fewer and they weren't dedicated to trying to run the way Parcells' teams are.

    Dallas did these things with only Flozell Adams playing above average for the entire year on the line, no run blocking at receiver, a pass catching fullback in the mix and a lead runner who wasn't decisive in hitting holes.

    Things can get a lot better.

    Flo will not be by himself on the line this year, we may not see a full house, but just getting improved performances from two other linemen will make the unit better.

    Keyshanw Johnson, big mouth and all, is one of the best run blocking receivers in the game and he'll do anything Parcells asks of him in order to win.

    Richie Anderson has moved to third down back and reserve halfback, whoever claims fullback should be more physical as a blocker.

    Julius Jones is regarded as a shifty runner with the vision to quickly pick the right hole and a nice burst to get through it.

    I don't want to sound like everything will be perfect or that the Cowboys will become offensive juggernauts in year two.

    I simply feel that they will improve over what we watched last year.

    And with their defense, it isn't like the offense needs to be a top five unit.

    Just get better.

    Reduce the negative runs and interceptions, increase the positive plays and time of possession.
  11. Tio

    Tio Armchair QB

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    I really had high hopes for zuriel smith. Oh well, bring on crayton....
  12. Hollywood Henderson

    Hollywood Henderson Benched

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    More quality posts there! Well put BF.

    Actually I thought our weakest unit on ST was the KO team...We seemed to lack the bigger tougher players to bust up wedges...I don't know where we were ranked on that stat, but I know we must improve our KO coverage.
  13. Bluefin

    Bluefin Well-Known Member

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    I'm not writing off Z at this time.

    I'm simply glad Parcells didn't put all his eggs in one basket and won't hesitate to make a change this time around.

    Smith faced a huge leap in transitioning from Hampton to life in the NFL and he had some moments.

    There just weren't enough of them.

    I expect Smith, who weighed around 170, will have seen the writing on the wall this off-season and been hard at work improving with most everyone else.

    He may also benefit from the spotlight being on others return candidates during camp and pre-season, which would allow him to focus more on playing the game.

    We shall see.


    There is work to be done on the kickoff team and finding players who love the wedge busting role isn't the easiest of things.

    That chore usually falls to the brutes, the linebackers, tight ends and fullbacks who double as special teamers.

    The Cowboys must improve the length and hangtime of their kicks.

    Increased length will lead to more touchbacks, Dallas had only two all season and only six teams equalled or failed to match that feat.

    Increased hangtime will allow the cover team more time to get down field and disrupt the return.

    Only seven teams allowed a higher return average than the Cowboys 21.9.

    But it isn't going to take much to improve on the stat and most importantly, Dallas didn't surrender any touchdowns covering kicks.

    Here's a scary stat, the Cowboys punted a depressing 95 times last year.

    95.

    Only Oakland (96) and Houston (97) depended more on their punters.

    Dallas was middle of the pack in net average per punt at 34.6 (tied for 16th) despite all the attempts (gross avg of 38.9 was 29th).

    If for no other reason, the punting should be better this year just because of natural improvement on offense.

    I don't see as many three and outs or short drives this year.
  14. SALADIN

    SALADIN Jumper

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    That's why I think Micheal Bates will make the final cut.
  15. SALADIN

    SALADIN Jumper

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    Some play a lot faster than their 40 time. Some can run sub 4.4 40 times but it may not necessarily translate to the field.

    What Crayton has is function speed. Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith where never know for their 40 times but both have had dozens of long runs over 40, 50 yards.

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