Got Your Popcorn Ready?
Oh, I can smell it. The NFL Pigskin baking around the corner. Just had my college football appetizer and can't wait. So let's take a look at the Cowboys "final" roster:
Quarterback: The Cowboys may have made up for having two kickers here, keeping only Drew Bledsoe and Tony Romo. Boy, if Bledsoe gets hurt, it's going to interesting. You see Pittsburgh cut Omar Jacobs and you wonder, though.
Running Back: This position was settled before camp started. Julius Jones, Marion Barber, and Tyson Thompson all returned leaving no room for newbies. Would like to see Thompson learn to pick up a blitz because I think he may be the best of the three.
Wide Receiver: First you have too older, but productive players in Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn you hope can stay healthy. Then, there's injury-prone but potential-filled Patrick Crayton. Then three rookies: Sam Hurd, Jamaica Rector, and Miles Austin. Terrance Copper and Skyler Green are said to be surprise cuts but the reasons were evident. Copper was productive on special teams but shaky catching passes. Hurd and Austin displayed good hands and were in the mix on special teams. Green was only going to make the team as a kick returner. Rector is a much better receiver and showed he could fair catch a punt, something Green had trouble doing. Green joins B. J. Tucker as players drafted by Parcells to return kicks who failed to make the team. Here's hoping The Tuna has learned a draft day lesson.
Tight End/H-Back: Was surprised to see Sean Ryan traded and Tony Curtis cut. For a team supposedly going to a two tight end system I thought they would want more than just Jason Witten, Ryan Hannam, and Anthony Fasano, who did not show up much this preseason. But Lousaka Polite showed some versatility and power in short yardage situations giving the fullback a little bit of rope.
Offensive Line: Perhaps the biggest offensive cut was Rob Pettiti. Management raved about the guy going into camp and he was playing both tackles, usually a major plus for Parcells. Everyone seemed to think it would be him on the team, and not Jason Fabini, on the team. Fabini is in his thirties and coming off an injury, (see Marco Rivera, 2005) but evidently Parcells prefers the veteran and liked the size and skills of seventh round draft choice Pat McQuistan. Pettiti joins Jacob Rogers, Stephen Peterman, and Justin Bates as offensive linemen drafted by Bill Parcells that couldn't wouldn't last with the team. (In case you lost count, that's one for every year of Big Bill's tenure and would have constitued a complete line if joined by Al Johnson) The starters will likely be Flozell Adams, Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode, Marco Rivera, and Marc Columbo, Leaving Fabini, McQuistan, Cory Proctor, and Johnson in reserve. It's not a group that inspires confidence, especially with the lousy run blocking against the Vikings on Thursday and the return of Gurode's mental lapses.
Defensive Line: Unbelievable depth at the end position: Marcus Spears, Chris Canty, Jay Ratliff, Kenyon Coleman, and Jason Hatcher. All the the young guys have a potential of playing at a high level. Hatcher's a project, but with his size and skills could become the most dominat with time. Nose Tackle depth is a concern. Jason Ferguson should be solid. But all the Cowboys have in reserve is undrafted second year man Thomas Johnson, so health will be key.
Linebacker: The surprises here led to the most surprising cut of the preseason: Rocky Boiman, who received a $1 million signing bonus in the offseason. I mean everyone knew DeMarcus Ware, Bradie James,free agent signee Akin Ayodele, and Al Singleton would be solid and Ryan Fowler a trustworthy backup. Everyone figured first round pick Bobby Carpenter would step right in to a starting spot, though his lack of progress is now a bit of concern. No one expected disconted Greg Ellis to adapt so quickly and effectively to a new position or that 2005 second round pick Kevin Burnett would return so strongly from a late season knee injury. There was also no reason to think undrafted Oliver Hoyte would stick his nose into the linebacker battle. Boiman just became the odd man out of a very deep group.
Cornerback: This group is so solid, there have been no changes. Anthony Henry and Terrance Newman lock down the other team's receivers with Aaron Glenn playing the nickel. Nate Jones and Jacques Reeves continue to improve and provide support off the bench.
Safety: A position with big questions going into camp that may have been answered in abigger way. Pro Bowler, though probably a little overrated, Roy Williams was locked into a contract extension to play the strongside. It appears fifth round pick Pat Watkins played his way into a starting role and Abram Elam, another rookie, palyed his way onto the roster forcing Keith "'Nother Round" Davis into a reserve role and Willie Pile onto the waiver wire. I may be carzy, but it seemed teams didn't want to challenge these safeties over the middle much in the preseason.
Special Teams: This group makes me sick. L. P. Ladoceur is the long snapper. Mat McBriar the punter. Mike Vanderjagt kicks field goals. (So we hope.) Shaun Suisham handles kickoffs. Way too specialized. It's been my belief for a long time that people must exist who both punt and kick field goals, yet we are left with four guys who will play probably five plays a game at most. Where have gone Ray Guy and Y. A. Tittle?
The season: So where does all of this leave us? Well, I still doubt Beldsoe is a legitimate championship quarterback, though the pass blocking appears better so that could help. Romo may be someday. Love to watch the guy play, but is still learning. The running back talent is probably a little overrated, which doesn't matter because the line won't block for them anyway. The defense will border on great but the sheer youth in the front seven will lead to some lapses. He looks pretty good but I still haven't seen enough from Ware to convince me he's really going to be a star. The team is better, and has a kicker that should be reliable, but with the tough schedule, I think they go 9-7 like last season despite the improvement, which may or may not mean playoffs.