News: THE WULF DEN: The Longest Month

Discussion in 'News Zone' started by Wulfman, May 7, 2004.

  1. Wulfman

    Wulfman Unofficial GM

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    MAY 6, 2004

    Is it just me, or does every football fan wish we could fast forward through the month of May? Think about it: every other month has something significant going on in the NFL. July through August is training camp and the preseason. The regular season then picks up and, for some teams, at least, continues into January. In February, free agency kicks in. In March, we have the scouting combine. April is, of course, draft month. And June is when many teams hold their first mini-camps with both veterans and rookies in attendance, as well as the first opportunity (June 1st) to dump veteran salaries and spread the cap hit into next year.

    So what about May?

    The veterans continue to participate in the offseason training program (unless you are Larry Allen, of course), and the rookies aren’t allowed back until their classes are done (mid-May, at the earliest). Most of the moves in free agency have already been made, and the best players have already been signed, so there’s not much happening on that front. There is, perhaps, a debate about whether teams will cut a player or two after June 1st, as well as consideration about those who may be available from other teams. But that’s it.

    So what are we to do, looking for something worthy of discussion, knowing that the big events aren’t going to happen until at least June 1st? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think it’s time for a little speculation about what may be on the horizon. And, as the Unofficial GM, I figure it might as well be me that starts the conversation. So, here’s a look at what the future may hold for the team between now and the time training camp rolls around.

    As much as many people may want to make this position into a big story, it simply isn’t…at least this year. Quincy Carter is going to be the starter, and Big Bill seems not only comfortable with that, but also encouraged by Carter’s offseason work. And Drew Henson is going to be the #3 guy, holding the clipboard and learning the system—not to mention the speed of the NFL game—for at least a year. The only way he’ll get into a game situation is if the Cowboys are out of the playoff picture towards the end of the season or if there are severe injuries at the position—in which case they’re still out of the playoff picture.

    The only question at this position is who will be #2? Many people are convinced that Vinny Testeverde is on his way as soon as he is released June 1st. It makes a lot of sense, really, as he provides a guy who can come in and start, if needed, and knows the game enough to mentor both Quincy and Drew. And he’s a Parcells guy.

    But it’s not a done deal, as of yet, mainly because the Cowboys want to see what Chad Hutchinson does in Europe—and what Tony Romo does as he continues to work at Valley Ranch. Hutch hasn’t been lighting up Europe, and his fumbling problems have followed him across the Atlantic. But he hasn’t played poorly either. The real question is, has he done enough to make any team believe he can get it done in the NFL. Right now, I’d have to say it’s doubtful, but possible. Remember that, for all intents and purposes, he’s just now finishing his first full season of football in the last five years or so. If any of the “QB gurus” around the league think they can still salvage something out of him, they may be willing to part with a conditional draft pick to acquire him. And I think the Cowboys would snatch it gladly if it were offered.

    The real enigma in this picture may be Romo. Parcells likes this guy, and thought it more important that he learn the system in Dallas than go to Europe to get reps. In other words, “You’ll get your reps in Dallas, young man…just pick up the system so you can contribute if I need you.” Doesn’t really sound like someone who is training camp fodder to me, but only time will tell. Don’t rule him out just yet, though.

    Running Backs/Fullbacks
    Troy Hambrick wants to go to Oakland, and if there’s any way the Cowboys can send him they will. I think it very unlikely that he will be on the roster this year, especially with the number of FBs that Parcells has signed. Rookie Julius Jones is the frontrunner to carry the load, regardless of how Parcells may choose to phrase his responses. His back up may come from a battle between Erik Bickerstaff and ReShard Lee. Sound improbable? Then look at the alternatives.

    Richie Anderson is going to get some carries, and he’s going to catch quite a few passes. But Parcells is aware that Anderson is aging, and he’s not going to want him to take the every down beating necessary to be a primary back—especially since he wants him to be his primary third-down back. That spells bad news for Aveion Cason, whose two primary contributions—third down back and kick returner—may both be turned over to others. Add in the fact that he couldn’t stay healthy last year, and he may be a longshot to make the roster. As many as two of the three true FBs on the roster may make the squad, with Polite likely the early odd man out. Jamar Martin is a thunderous blocker, and Darien Barnes is a special teams demon.

    So the only players left to battle it out behind Jones are Bickerstaff and Lee. If Lee can stay healthy, I think he has the inside track because he has a better combination of size and speed and appears early on to have better instincts when he hits the hole. If a veteran becomes available that would be willing to come in for a decent price, don’t be surprised if Dallas looks into it. A dark horse possibility—the Titans’ Eddie George, who may be a cap casualty. Still, Bill and Jerry are building a team for the long haul, and a veteran like George wouldn’t fit that picture.

    Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
    The top three receivers are set: Keyshawn, Glenn, and Bryant. Randal Williams signed a two-year deal, despite never catching an NFL pass, because of his special teams ability. So the questions come with the #5…and possibly a #6…receiver. Last year’s rookie #5 WR, Zuriel Smith, was a bit of a disappointment. He was expected to pick up the punt return game, but was largely ineffective. He’ll have to pick it up in training camp to keep his spot. So who will he battle?

    Right now, the most danger may be coming from rookie Patrick Crayton, who not only was solid returning kicks and punts in the recent mini-camp, but caught nearly everything thrown anywhere in his zip code. His next biggest competitor? Likely another rookie in undrafted James Newson. Very few people—including Newson, himself—expected him to go undrafted, and he’s out to prove himself.

    The other receivers are bunched this early, with rookie Brandon Middleton slightly ahead of the pack. But with the likes of Cedric James and Terrance Copper as challengers, the real battle may involve Crayton, Newson, and Smith…for only one or two positions.

    At TE, most of us thought we were set going into the draft. Now, there is at least one question: what is going to happen with James Whalen? Jeff Robinson may catch a pass here and there, but he is the deep-snapper, plain and simple. The combination of Dan Campbell and Jason Witten will get most of the snaps, depending on whether it is a pass-first or run-first formation. Rookie Sean Ryan caught the ball well in the mini-camp, but he is known primarily as a blocker. And Whalen? He’s an H-back and a special teams guy. His best hope for a roster spot may be if only one FB makes the squad. So, essentially, he may be battling FB Darien Barnes for a special teams spot.

    Offensive Line
    There has been a whole lot of movement on the offensive line, and there is still a whole lot up in the air. The biggest question may still be Larry Allen. The draft day trade to the Lions was nixed by Allen, who said that he would refuse to restructure his contract because he’d rather go to Oakland. But with Oakland’s picks on the offensive line, they no longer need him. Parcells says that, if Allen comes to mini-camp in good condition, he’ll have a clean slate. If he doesn’t, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t end up in Detroit after all. After June 1st, it would be a lower cap hit for Dallas, and Detroit has the cap space to make a move whether he likes it or not. At this point, I expect him to be in Dallas…but a lot will depend on him.

    The rest of the line has similar questions. Will Al Johnson continue his current rate of recovery and be able to step in as the starter? Will Gurode finally step up or will Peterman beat him out? Can Jacob Rogers be effective switching from the left side to the right? And, if Allen does get sent elsewhere, who will step up to start at LG? A lot of questions.

    There is some hope, though, if nothing more than the number of options. C/G Gennaro DiNapoli was re-signed, and provides a quality veteran presence. Likewise for G/OT Demingo Graham. Matt Lehr was solid, if unspectacular, at C last year, but he, too, can play G. Torrin Tucker has a vast amount of potential, and is still learning to play OT after playing G in college. Kurt Vollers got starts at RT last year, but can also play the left side. And don’t forget Tyson Walter, who can play anywhere along the line. Add in the anchor of the O-line—LT Flozell Adams—and you have the potential for a solid, deep line…even if Allen is traded. Of course, you also have potential disaster, depending upon how the rookies perform and how badly the injury bug bites. But if Allen stays, and they stay healthy, they’re 12 deep without project Javier Collins.

    Defensive Line
    I think this group is improved from last year, despite many opinions to the contrary. Marcellus Wiley is a huge step up from Ebenezer Ekuban, and he should rebound from his down time in San Diego to approach the numbers he put up with Buffalo. The switch of Greg Ellis to the right side may make him the pass-rush force we have been waiting for. And, according to Parcells, both Eric Ogbogu and Kenyon Coleman have made huge strides in the offseason.

    On the inside, Glover is entrenched at one DT position. The other, however, may be a battle to watch. Willie Blade surprised many with his elevation to the starting position last year, but he’ll get a big challenge from veteran Leonardo Carson. Parcells has talked glowingly of his offseason work. This improvement may mean that the remaining DT slot on the roster is fought between Daleroy Stewart, Shaun Smith, Jermaine Brooks, and rookie Cedric Hilliard.

    Parcells loves LBs, and he’s admitted that Dat and Dexter have convinced him by their play to overlook their less than ideal size. But Bradie James has radically increased his strength in the offseason program, and has an outside chance of challenging Coakley for the starting spot, next year if not this. Markus Steele will have to continue his good work on special teams to retain his roster spot. There will be battle for what may be the last roster spots, and special teams play will be the deciding factor. Jamal Brooks (who may have the edge since he can play any of the three LB positions), Scott Shanle, Keith O’Neil, and rookies Kalen Thornton and Ryan Fowler will have their hands full making the roster, and the rookies’ best bet may be the practice squad.

    Defensive Backs
    If there’s one spot the Cowboys will be watching closely, particularly as cuts begin to happen next month, it is CB. Newman is set on one side, but Mario Edwards’ departure has opened a hole on the other. Pete Hunter is the guy expected to step up and fill the gap, and he seems to have the physical skills to do so. The real question is whether or not he has the instincts to be an NFL CB.

    His main competition—at least for the moment, will come from veteran Donald Mitchell and rookie Bruce Thornton. But Mitchell is coming back from a season on IR, and has never has been more than a high quality nickleback. As for Thornton, he shows some potential, but is a rookie…and has only been playing CB for the past two years or so. Asking to contribute more than in the nickel or dime may be asking a bit much.

    Bill Parcells also seems impressed with the work that Jameel Powell has been putting in this offseason, so he may have more of a chance to make the squad than many expected. The only other corners on the roster are Andrew Davison and rookies Nathan Jones and Jacques Reeves. They are longshots to make the roster, and will only do so if they excel on special teams. One or both may end up on the practice squad if they show some ability in training camp.

    With the lack of experience and depth at CB, a veteran signee wouldn’t be much of a surprise. The rumored interest in trading for a player like Ty Law, however, is likely just that—rumors. The only two corners under contract that I could see any possibility of trading for at this point are Oakland’s Charles Woodson—who was designated their franchise player but has not yet signed his offer—and Green Bay’s Mike McKenzie—who is unhappy with his contract and has demanded a trade. The Packers may eventually be willing to take a mid round pick just to get rid of the headache. The Raiders have signed several veteran corners, and may be willing to move Woodson if they can get something decent in return. But Troy Hambrick won’t get it done…

    At safety, the starters are set with Roy and Woody. Tony Dixon is the #3 guy, and has been playing better in the last year or so. They need to improve on Lynn Scott, who makes some big special teams hits but is a defensive liability. His replacement could be Keith Davis, who was released last year after getting involved in a nightclub incident—even though he was not a guilty party or even directly involved. But Parcells thought enough of him to bring him back, and he could steal this spot if he shows what he did before. As for the two rookies—Steve Cargile and Tom Crowder—they’ll have to dominate in special teams play to have a chance. That may play into Crowder’s hands, as he is known as a special teams ace.

    Billy Cundiff will get challenged, but he is the favorite to retain his job. That means that the punter battle may be decided by whichever punter also has the ability to kickoff. With Toby Gowin gone, it may well be a rookie that starts the season at punter. Of course, if Parcells isn’t satisfied with the production he’s getting, he could try to snag a veteran after June 1st.

    Closing Thoughts
    As of right now, the roster may not change appreciably prior to training camp. There are a couple of players who may still be traded—either before or after June 1st—and there may be one or two additions after June 1st. But we could be looking at what we have to work with right now. If that is the case, May may no longer feel like the longest month by the time the season is over.

  2. jdnalls

    jdnalls New Member

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    Another great article Wulfman but as of right now it sounds as if Martin may end up being the odd man out considering that he's only a blocking back and that's it. IMO I have a feeling that Polite will pull an upset and unseat Martin not only because he can block, but he can also catch and plays ST's.
  3. Rack Bauer

    Rack Bauer Federal Agent

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    I disagree. I think Barnes is a camp body, Hambrick will be gone, and RA is mostly just a 3rd down back now. I think Martin is the starting FB.
  4. Little Jr

    Little Jr Well-Known Member

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    I think Henson will start from the beginning or somewhere buy the half way point. Regardless if we're in a playoff hunt or not.

    I don't believe if we're in a playoff hunt it will be because of Q. It will be because of our D just like last year.
  5. Sarge

    Sarge Red, White and brew... Staff Member

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    Excellent article as usual Wulfie.

    I'm not convinced QC is the starter however. Perhaps early on, but after that, I'm not so sure.

    Thanks for the read.
  6. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Winter is Coming Staff Member

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    Great read as usual Wulf.

    I think the only things I would argue with would be that I think Henson will get some time playing this year...I actually think he may be starter before the season is over but at the very least he will get some playing time even if it is just a series or so a game towards the end of the season.

    The other thing has been touched on by someone else....If it comes down to Polite and Martin...Polite MIGHT get the nod because he can block and catch where Martin is just a devestating blocker...but let's not forget that last season Bill did not use Martin much...IMO he did not use him maybe there is something there.

    Now once again GREAT read as usual and I really appreciate the time and effort you put into your thing does make me mad about you though...You Don't post enough...Post more please.

  7. Hostile

    Hostile Persona Non Grata Zone Supporter

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    Wulfman, you got skills man. I love your analytical breakdowns. Great read. Thank you. Every time I see that title "From the Wulf Den," I get happy.
  8. DandyDon

    DandyDon Member

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    Well thought out and nicely put into words....I am in agreement with dang near everything. Again, Great Work! Keep it coming....
  9. Wulfman

    Wulfman Unofficial GM

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    The Polite-Martin question will be answered in training camp, but I think Martin--who has been in the system for a year--would get the nod right now. I did notice that Martin got more playing time later last year, so it may have just been a gradual thing with Bill. If Martin can catch the ball at all--and he's been told to work on that area of his game--I still think he has the edge. Polite would defeinitely be a possibility for the practice squad, however, as Martin is only signed through the season.

    As for the Henson-Carter thing, I just don't see him starting at the beginning of the season, and I can't see how Parcells would switch at the halfway point if the Cowboys are winning. If they get to game 10 and have no more than a 5-5 record, then a switch is a much greater possibility, and would have given Henson more time to get re-acclimated. The Cowboys found out with Hutchinson what happens when you just throw a rookie who has been away from the game into the starting line-up, and I don't think they'll repeat the mistake with Henson. I will say this, though. No matter how much...or how little...Henson plays this year, he will challenge for the starting job in camp next year.
  10. DanteEXT

    DanteEXT Well-Known Member

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    This article makes me want the season to get here!!!!! Damn!!!!

    The QB analysis, IMO, is pretty much dead on. I really do think this is QC's season barring injury and Henson's year to get adjusted to life in the NFL - on and off the field. The vet option I still swing back and forth on but if Romo shows improvement, I could see him being the #2 (kinda scary if QC got hurt).

    The RB depth battle should be interesting. Jones is in as the starter and I'd guess Cason would get a spot (if he's healed up from that injury), but the fight between THam, Bick and Lee could be interesting. If either of the last 2 show they are as good as THam, I'd venture a guess THam will be cut just because the other 2 would be cheaper options though if THam shows some versatility for both the FB/RB position, it may earn him a spot.

    TE's seem to be solid. And yes, Whalen may be the odd man out. Saddens me cause I always read that he catches everything.

    WR are gonna be great! That's right, I said great! Great Great Great !! At least, that is what I hoping for. I am gonna ago out on a limb here and predict Smith WILL NOT be on the team this year. I think this Crayton kid is gonna be his replacement. I don't know much about the others, but Key, Glenn, AB, and RW seem all but guaranteed spots. I figure there will be 6 kept so we will see who takes those last 2 spots.

    Don't know why, but I'm pretty content right now with our OLine. Just a feeling that they are gonna be a good group. I'll leave it at that. Same with the DLine and LB's.

    DB's concern me. Mainly just the right side and I'm probably not the only one who feels this way. Keep the fingers crossed that Hunter has "it". I'd guess that at least one of those rookie CB's will be on the practice squad (if the clear). We are probably gonna need as many options here as we can get.

    Done babbling.
  11. BlueStar II

    BlueStar II New Member

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    Yes, thanks so much Wulfman for this, please keep it coming as often as you can. Thanks again.
  12. LeonDixson

    LeonDixson Illegitimi non carborundum

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    My feelings exactly, Hostile.

    Wulf, I always enjoy reading your stuff, and I second Brain's point above: Post more often.

    I agree with your analysis of the QB position. I think Polite may pull an upset in the FB battle because of his receiving ability AND his running ability. I saw a couple of his games last year and he was a pretty strong runner. However, I agree that Martin is the favorite. I hope we find a way to keep both.

    The thing that just scares the crap out of me is injuries. Last year was our first year in a long time that we didn't suffer a rash of injuries in critical positions. I hope we don't return to that. Hopefully, the reduction in injuries was due to Parcells' conditioning program and it will continue for the next few years. We are certainly due.
  13. dmq

    dmq If I'm so pretty, why am I available?

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    Its amazing how fast we are becoming a better team. How fast our depth has improved. How we have gotten better and younger. If Al Johnson starts and Bradie nudges Coakley, we had a hell of a good draft last year!!!! I think we may have had another good one this year, but time will tell. Plus, just some of our pick-ups are turning into either depth or possible future starters.... Look out how fast our team is evolving. We were a bunch of sorry sacks two years ago. We had Emmitt on his last leg with an undrated back up. A QB that couldn't throw a spiral. Our line fell apart with Houck going off to SD. Our DL got absolutely no pressure and had no depth. We had no up and comer at LB and were pencil thin. No prospects at CB. Special teams sucked. Give BP some props. This guy is a genius! We didn't even really sign any free agents. Not to say we still don't have question marks, but all of our holes are rapidly closing barring injury.
  14. Brokejumper

    Brokejumper New Member

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    As much as many fans here have already decided that we are simply playing for 2005 and Henson’s should get ready for the Ring, I seriously doubt that he will play at all this season except in some sort of Hutch-like mop up role at the end of a blowout.

    Bill is more or less happy with Carter and unless it simply becomes devastatingly clear that Quincy is completely ineffective, he will be our QB for the season barring injury. He is our QB and anything Henson has is just potential at this point.

    So, the real question here is are we going to be one of those teams that bails on their starting QB every two game losing streak? Or maybe we are going to repeat our incredibly inept handling of young QB’s of the recent past by throwing Henson in before he is ready? I just do not see Bill as being one to panic and go with a quick hook or to make the kind of fantasy football mistake that we did with Quincy and Hutch. He is better than that and so are we.

    Not that it will stop folks for yelping about pulling the QB at the first taste of adversity mind you….
  15. Wulfman

    Wulfman Unofficial GM

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    This is kind of my take on it, as well. Parcells gave Quincy some very definite things to work on, and Quincy is doing exactly that. He has put on 10-15 pounds of lower body strength to help his conditioning--a big Parcells thing. But the most telling thing will be if Q can eliminate or significantly reduce his turnovers.

    We won't know that until the regular season games, but if he reduces his INTs and is taking care of his business, we'll be in most games. And, if the Cowboys only have a mediocre record but it is not directly related to poor performances by Carter, I don't think Parcells makes a change.

    The real wild card could be an injury to Q. If we hit game 12 of the season with a .500 record, and Q goes down with an injury, Henson may see some time as a playoff run is unlikely. If we are still in contention for the playoffs, the #2 QB will start with Henson as the back-up--which means he might see some action in a mop-up role.

    This scenario becomes even more likely if they have a veteran #2 guy (like Testeverde). If Hutchinson is the #2 guy again this year, Henson will be his back-up, as it would likely be Hutch's last shot at hanging around with the Cowboys...
  16. Cbz40

    Cbz40 The Grand Poobah

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    1 Likes Received always great stuff.......You do have talent
  17. SuspectCorner

    SuspectCorner Bromo

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    :eek: henson starting at any time during the upcoming season signals, to me, that :
    1) QC has broken a limb,
    2) no veteran was available - asking price not withstanding - on the open market,
    3) hutchinson's euro-tour was a complete disaster,
    4) parcells/jj/the coaching staff have been involved in some freak auto-accident leaving all in comas, or
    5) all or any combination of the above.
    my sincere hope is that henson is allowed a reasonable amount of time to work his way into being a legitmate contender to the position. not simply cast upon the altar of fan/media whimsy.
  18. David

    David New Member

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    That was good Wulf, maybe you can take over Newy Scruggs job. ;)

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