Yesterday we detailed why we believe that fans should continue to support wide receiver Roy Williams. He will battle for his job in camp, and during that time we will find out what sort of fight and determination he truly has within him. This season will determine the path of the rest of Williams’ career. Is he a champion? Only time will tell.
Should Williams step up in camp, he will be the Cowboys’ 2010 starting wide receiver opposite Miles Austin. We are so sure of this fact that we have purposely avoided discussing first round receiver Dez Bryant because, well, we just don’t see him as a legitimate option for Dallas. Bryant is simply too talented to fall to the Cowboys’ 27th pick on April 22 (even though we brought up the possibility in a hypothetical scenario).
Further, the Cowboys have so much money tied up in the wide receiver position (we are including Austin’s future deal) that paying another WR big-time money makes little cents (cents. . .get it?).
Dallas is also excited about the future prospects of Kevin Ogletree. The second-year man out of Virginia has turned heads within the organization. Will it be enough to win a starting job in 2010? Drafting Dez Bryant would do nothing less than give Ogletree little opportunity to play for the next five years. Who knows. . .perhaps the answer to the team’s perceived wide receiver woes is already on the roster?
Nonetheless, there are more immediate needs than WR. Yes, we all want Williams to play up to his potential, but we feel fully confident telling you that the Cowboys will not draft a wide receiver in the early rounds of this draft unless he is a dynamic return man, i.e. Cincinnati WR Mardy Gilyard.
Because Dallas is hosting Bryant, though, and because we can all dream, Bryant is the feature in this edition of our Cowboys “Potential Draft Picks” Series.
Bryant is an absolute beast. There is simply no other way to put it. He is ranked No. 10 in our latest Big Board, and he is only that low due to concerns about his attitude and work ethic.
Bryant is a bit of a mystery to us. He does bone-headed things like show up to his Pro Day with no cleats or (allegedly) arrive late to games. However, one look at the guy lets you know he is a hard-worker. Everybody knows Bryant can play–the question teams must answer will be how much he loves football.
On the field, we are confident in saying Bryant is every bit as talented as Larry Fitzgerald when he left Pitt. That is a gigantic statement, but this kid has gigantic game. His game tape and production are off the charts. He displays top-notch hands and run after the catch ability.
We loved Michael Crabtree coming out of Texas Tech last year, and we will tell you there is really no comparing him to Bryant. Bryant is superior in every aspect of the game–he runs better routes and is even more dangerous once he gets his hands on the ball.
Bryant recorded varying forty times at his Pro Day–from 4.52 (which he ran twice) to 4.68. We are unconcerned about that number. He plays as fast as any receiver in this class and we have yet to see him get caught from behind.
Again, every concern about Bryant is an off-field issue. If he can prove he has the requisite attitude and work ethic to succeed in the NFL, there is simply no way he drops to the Cowboys.
Bryant could go as high as the top 10 (Buffalo?). Even if some teams are scared off by Bryant’s perceived attitude problem, we just cannot see him dropping passed New England’s 22nd selection.
Would Jerry Jones trade up if Bryant makes his way into the 20’s? Perhaps we will get the opportunity to find out.
38 receptions. 596 yards. Nine drops.
Rather eye-popping numbers for a No. 1 wide receiver–just not ‘eye-popping’ in the manner in which Cowboys’ fans would hope.
Has Roy E. Williams’ production to date warranted him keeping the starting job this season? Of course not. Is his stay in Dallas about the money? The Cowboys would be lying if they said Williams’ contract isn’t at least partially the reason he will be on the roster in 2010.
So why are we supporting Williams’ return as the starter in 2010, particularly when one of the Cowboys’ major problems over the last few years has been supplying players with jobs they have not earned?
Call us crazy, but we think Williams is going to turn it around in 2010. The man has been jeered basically non-stop since he arrived in Dallas. We would be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of Cowboys fans who yearn for Williams to even return to the squad in 2010, much less remain the starter.
It isn’t as if these criticisms are unwarranted. Even Williams knows it. In a recent interview with the Star-Telgram‘s Clarence E. Hill, he said, “I felt like I didn’t do anything last year. I dropped balls and what not. I didn’t think my name would be on top of the drop list ever in my life. It was a humbling experience. It showed me I better get my life together.”
Those are the words of a man who has lost confidence. Williams’ struggles the last two years are not due to a lack of talent. Let that soak in. Roy E. Williams is an immensely talented wide receiver with outstanding body control and, believe it or not, top-notch hands. We would go as far as to say he has some of the best hands in the entire NFL. Surprising for a man with nine drops last season? Confidence, or a lack thereof, can do amazing things to people.
“I better get my life back together,” Williams stated. Not his game. . .his life. Being successful in life is about knowing who you are and having confidence in yourself as a person. A player must be confident in life before he can be confident on the football field. Right now, Williams is neither.
Thus, Williams primary offseason priority shouldn’t be running routes, or catching balls, or hitting the weight room (of course none of those things are discouraged, Roy). No, Williams should do whatever he can to regain his confidence. His mojo. His swag.
And what is the best way to regain one’s ‘swag’? By competing of course–a task Williams is relishing this season. “I’m here to fight for my job,” Williams has claimed. “I’m ready to battle. I think I will win. That’s my mentality.”
And battle he will. Some insiders have already proclaimed that Williams will have to hold off undrafted second-year receiver Kevin Ogletree to retain his starting job. This competition may be just what Williams needs to thrive.
True champions aren’t those who perform well when everything is going according to plan, but those who flourish in the face of adversity. This is undoubtedly a time of adversity for Williams.
So get that swag back, Roy. Be cocky. Be brash. Talk smack–and then back all of it up on the field.
Come September, we will find out if Roy E. Williams has truly regained his confidence. We will find out if he is ready to compete. Most importantly, we will find out if he is a true champion.
Never bet against a man who has nothing to lose.
- ESPN analysts debate the Cowboys’ plans with the 27th overall draft pick.
- Penn State LB’s Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee have visits with the Cowboys. So does Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant.
Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree Playing
- If the Cowboys truly value game tape, Florida LB Brandon Spikes would be a great selection in the second round.
Of all the players that Cowboys fans could want, we hear Brandon Marshall’s name come up more than any other. The reasons are obvious. Big. Strong. Fast. 21 receptions in one game.
Marshall is also ripe for the picking as the Broncos only placed a first round tender on the stud receiver, practically begging another club to provide him with a one-way ticket out of Denver.
With Roy Williams struggling, why not give up a late first round pick for a player who would be dynamite outside opposite Miles Austin? The reasons are below.
1. Like T.O., Marshall would not take a back seat as a secondary option.
We recently detailed why T.O. would probably not respond well to being a complementary player in Dallas. The same is true of Marshall.
Would Marshall come in and automatically be the Cowboys’ number one receiver, or would it be Austin? It could be more of a 1A and 1B situation, but either way, Austin is too good to not continuously utilize.
Our inclination is that Marshall would want to see the bulk of the targets in the passing game. There just are not enough balls to go around to effectively satisfy Marshall, Austin, and Witten and maintain a dominant running game. Someone would be unhappy, and do we really want it to be players who have already put their heart into playing for the silver and blue?
2. In addition to yielding a first round pick, the Cowboys would also have to provide Marshall a long-term contract.
The Cowboys could only land Marshall by signing him to an offer sheet. That contract offer obviously has to have enough guaranteed money that Marshall will be willing to sign it.
After dishing out $45 million to Roy Williams and another big-time deal in the works for Austin, the Cowboys, surprisingly, will be a bit short on funds.
The organization could theoretically dump a huge portion of the contract into the 2010 uncapped season, but Jerry Jones is no fool. He has already stated the Cowboys have imposed a team-mandated salary cap for themselves.
Signing Austin long-term takes precedent over bringing in a guy like Marshall. After that happens, an offer to Marshall would mean the club would be investing well over $100 million in three wide receivers. Not exactly business-savvy.
3. Marshall does not fit the character profile of the current Cowboys’ players.
The Cowboys released T.O., Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, and Greg Ellis last offseason. There was a method to their madness. The current roster is composed of 53 stand-up, intelligent, high-character guys.
This is not to say that Marshall cannot be those things, but he has proven that he can become a bit of a distraction at times. There is no way that Jerry, influenced by his son Stephen, will be able to justify bringing in a possible trouble-maker.
4. Without a first round pick, the Cowboys would not be able to upgrade a more urgent position of need.
If the Cowboys do want to bolster the receiver spot, the draft is a great time to do it. Not only will it be less of a financial burden, but the team can also save their first-rounder by drafting dodging Marshall and drafting a receiver in the mid-to-late rounds.
Signing Marshall not only eats up a lot of cash, but it also erases the Cowboys’ ability to sign an impact player (perhaps an offensive lineman), in the first round. Instead, Dallas would have to wait until the 59th pick of the draft to upgrade either the offensive line, safety, or another position.
From the standpoint of a selfish fan, the draft without a first round pick, as we saw last year, can be quite monotonous.
5. No one is sure how hard Marshall will play once he obtains big money.
Marshall was a fourth-rounder out of UCF in the 2006 draft. Needless to say, his rookie contract wasn’t exactly Peyton Manning-type money.
Very talented players can alter their approach and overall mindset to football after cashing in, i.e. Jamarcus Russell. While Marshall does appear to have the proper work ethic intact to ensure that does not happen, you can never be sure.
At the very least, there does appear to be something about Marshall that makes it appear as though he is not as serious about the game of football as, say, Austin or Witten.
Marshall is certainly both an uncommon talent and a unique individual. He will undoubtedly help some team immensely–but that team us unlikely to be the Dallas Cowboys.
It isn’t that signing Marshall would be the worst thing in the world. Heck, it could even work out for the best. But operating a professional football team is about playing the percentages. At this time, Marshall is not a “high-percentage play” for Dallas.
Amidst reports that Randy Moss could be headed to Dallas (albeit from the biggest “gossip magazine” in sports, ESPN), we will detail six reasons why signing Randy Moss would be disastrous for the Dallas Cowboys.
1. He will want too much money.
If Dallas trades for Moss, it is likely that he would want a new contract. With $45 million invested in Roy Williams and a Miles Austin long-term deal evident, there would just be too much money tied up in one position. Even without a salary cap in 2010, teams are hesitant to overspend (yes, even Jerry) because of the current economy and the uncertainty of future NFL economics.
If Moss was to be brought in for just this season with no long-term extension given, it would still be a poor fit for of the following reasons.
2. It will stunt the growth of Kevin Ogletree.
Ogletree showed signs of greatness last season. He displayed good hands, above-average route-running ability, and tremendous explosiveness after the catch. Ogletree’s opportunities were very limited in 2009 and would be all but non-existent with the addition of Moss. In much the same way that Dallas saw Miles Austin’s talent after the release of Terrell Owens, the only way to discover Ogletree’s worth is to give him a shot.
3. His addition could force Sam Hurd off the team.
It is possible that the Cowboys could cut Roy Williams if they brought in Moss, but it is unlikely due to Williams’ contract. The team would have to eat $11 million to let Williams walk and then still have to pay Moss.
More likely, the addition of Moss would spell the end of Sam Hurd’s tenure in Dallas. It is possible the organization would keep six wide receivers, but with three of them not on special teams (Moss, Austin, Williams) and the team likely to use two roster spots on kickers, retaining six wide receivers would leave the squad dangerously thin at other positions.
Thus, adding Moss would result in either a lack of depth at other positions or the loss of one of the team’s best special team players.
4. He is old.
Moss is 33 years old. Enough said.
5. He dogs it.
A lot was made of Moss’ performance against the Jets in 2009 where he was called out for dogging it. We watched the film of that game to see for ourselves, and we can guarantee that Moss played no differently than usual– because he always dogs it.
People can say all they want about T.O., but at least you knew he was going to do everything possible to prepare himself for both practice and games. His effort made our own players better, and we would even credit much of the success of the cornerbacks in 2009 to the fact that they faced Terrell Owens in practice everyday the prior season (longer for Newman).
The same cannot be said for Moss. He does not practice hard, and he does not consistently play hard in games. His sub-par route-running on plays he knows are not designed for him makes it harder for teammates to get open. When a free safety notices Moss not running full-speed, for example, he can shade another wide receiver and make it more difficult for the offense to complete a pass to anyone.
Overall, we would call Moss’ lack of effort and poor attitude on the field much more of a distraction than Terrell Owens ever was in Dallas.
6. He wouldn’t take a back seat to Miles Austin.
We are a bit surprised at some fans’ yearning for “a legitimate number one receiver” when the team has already found it. Miles Austin is the real deal. He is phenomenally talented, works hard, and has the attitude which will allow him to continue to improve.
If Randy Moss joined the ‘Boys, who would be the top dog at receiver? It should be Austin, but we find it hard to believe Moss would really be fine being the second option. He already dogs it as the focal point of the Patriots’ offense. Imagine what he might do as the number two guy.
Ultimately, the risks and downsides of signing Randy Moss far outweigh any possible reward. Some may argue that, at the very least, the team would be better in 2010. We disagree. Signing Moss would create authority issues at wide receiver that could not only backfire massively this season, but would also set the team back in future years.
Q: I noticed a majority of the passes thrown to Kevin Ogletree were screens and they worked rather well. Do you think he’ll have a bigger role on the team next season? What’s the word within the coaching staff on him?
A: The Cowboys did utilize Ogletree well on smoke screens, particularly when they anticipated a blitz against the Eagles. Ogletree has tremendous run-after-catch abilities, and Jason Garrett did a terrific job getting him the ball in situations he could handle. Don’t forget Ogletree was an undrafted rookie, so the Cowboys were smart in giving him simple plays where he could use his athleticism without thinking too much.
Ogletree has more to his game than we saw on the screens, though. The comeback route he ran against the Saints comes to mind, where he pushed the defender vertically, got him to turn his hips, made a sharp cut, came back to the ball and made a toe-dragging catch at the sideline. Textbook.
Ogletree will have a tough time cracking the starting lineup, though, because Roy Williams will be given every chance to win the starting job. The coaching staff loves Ogletree, but Jerry Jones is still convinced Roy can be a #1 type wide receiver.
Still, expect Ogletree to continue to improve and, with a good camp and Roy Williams’ meltdown, he does have an outside shot at becoming a starter.
Q: If the Cowboys cut Ken Hamlin and the Cardinals cut Antrel Rolle, do you see Dallas signing Rolle, or will they wait until the draft to address the position?
Bryan D. Cornelius via Facebook
A: The Cowboys are very unlikely to sign Antrel Rolle. They will be perfectly able to sign Rolle, as their Final Eight status does not limit their ability to sign players who were released, but Rolle is getting cut for a reason. He does make some big plays, but he also gives up a lot of the same. Say what you want about Ken Hamlin, but he does a good job of keeping the ball in front of him. Sometimes having a free safety whose name is not called a lot can be a good thing.
Many draftniks are projecting the Cowboys to draft a free safety in the first round, but we don’t see that happening either. Ken Hamlin is unlikely to get released, and the Cowboys have a rookie in Michael Hamlin behind him who didn’t play last year due to injury.
Alan Ball also gives the team a lot of versatility in his ability to play both cornerback and free safety. He could even compete for the starting job in camp.
If pressed, we would guess that the Cowboys opening day starters at safety will be the same as last season. This may not be what a lot of you will want to see, and we know we are in the minority concerning this issue, but we see the Cowboys likely to address other positions in free agency and the early draft.
In our original Draft Needs article we profiled the top five Cowboys’ offseason positional needs. Heading that list was a playmaking return man. While the Cowboys could benefit from getting younger at a few spots (LT, ILB), there are no major weaknesses among the 22 offensive and defensive starting positions.
The same cannot be said for both the punt and kick returner spots, whose impact on a football game can be overwhelming. The Cowboys ranked sixth in punt return average (10.9 yards per return) with Patrick Crayton receiving the bulk of the work, but that average was largely skewed by two return touchdowns. It is tough to say whether or not the Cowboys still would have scored had another returner been back deep, but either way it is quite easy to notice that Crayton lacks the quickness and burst an elite punt returner generally possesses.
The kick return combination was comprised of two young players whose impact on offense has been greater than that in the return game: Felix Jones and Kevin Ogletree. Felix in particular has obviously shown uncanny acceleration and quickness on offense, but his mindset on kick returns has not been comparable. He appeared hesitant and unwilling to stick his nose into traffic, and it resulted in the Cowboys ranking just 20th in the league in kick return average at 22.0 yards per return.
Dallas obviously felt uneasy about both return positions after week five, when they signed return specialist Allen Rossum. Rossum got hurt on his first return against Atlanta and subsequently released, but the point was made. Perhaps this turn of events gave Crayton the motivation he needed to pick up his game, but we still maintain Dallas’ two return touchdowns were more a result of excellent blocking than Crayton’s ability to create plays.
There are definitely capable return guys in the draft, making that an option for the ‘Boys, but why take the chance you do not get who you want? This team is a few game-breaking plays away from becoming a Super Bowl team, and current Saints’ slash player Reggie Bush has a proven track record in the role of “game-breaker.” Who remembers this Monday-nighter two seasons ago when Bush’s return abilities completely changed the landscape of the contest?
Can anyone honestly say that those are plays that Patrick Crayton is capable of making? Crayton has above-average vision and is a safe option, but safe does not win championships.
The most common criticism we have been receiving when discussing the possibility of obtaining Bush is that the team is already stacked at running back and does not need, or have room, to sign another. Those concerns are absolutely justified, but not necessarily a problem because Reggie is more than just a running back (perhaps not even a running back at all). In fact, the Cowboys, in our opinion, would still receive a proper return on their investment if they used Bush solely as a returner.
The former USC star’s ability extends far beyond returning, however, so his impact would not be limited to just special teams. He has shown the ability to line up out wide and make plays in the passing game, maybe even more so than when he lines up in the traditional running back spot. Perhaps the Saints used Reggie incorrectly. He is not a running back. He is an athlete, a playmaker.
Thus, we propose that the Cowboys do everything possible to acquire Reggie Bush. He would basically take the spot of the aging Crayton, but with more versatility. Imagine it now: #25, Cowboys punt returner, kick returner, slot receiver, running back, water boy, mascot, PLAYMAKER, REGGIE BUSH! He can do it all.
Of course, all of this is contingent on the Saints releasing Bush. Impossible? There were talks about Bush’s release months ago already, so it remains to be seen whether his improved playoff play will result in his stay in New Orleans. The Saints will likely ask Bush to take a pay cut, as he is due $8 million next season. If he does not accept and hits the open market, there should be no player higher on the Cowboys’ wish list.
And for those who are not yet on board, remember, the Kardashian sisters come as a package deal.
Q: We are always among the most penalized teams in the league. When does this change?
Karen Hurl, York, Pennsylvania
I would love to say next season, but the Cowboys were again one of the most penalized teams in the league in 2009, despite placing emphasis on decreasing penalties this past offseason. They committed the fourth-most penalties at 6.9 per game. There is a ton of evidence that both turnovers and defensive penalties are correlated directly to team wins, so Dallas has really had to outplay teams to win in recent years.
Romo did an excellent job of decreasing his interceptions this season, and this, more than anything, was the reason they won the division. The number one priority for this team next season should be to continue to protect the ball, limit the penalties, yet still maintain their aggressiveness.
Q: What do you think Kevin Ogletree’s role will be next season, and how has Manuel Johnson progressed?
Kevin Ogletree really showed signs of greatness this season. He ran excellent routes and showed an above-average ability to gain yards after the catch. The Cowboys really utilized this ability on smoke screens against Philadelphia to neutralize their blitz.
Some writers even think Ogletree is ready to challenge Roy Williams for the starting job. That seems to be a bit of a stretch, mainly because it will be hard for the Cowboys to bench a $45 million player. Still, if Roy Williams doesn’t find some sort of connection with Romo, something will have to be done.
Manuel Johnson is going to have a tough time cracking the Cowboys’ 53-man roster. He was on the practice squad last year, and he would have to overtake either Ogletree or Hurd to make the team, assuming the Cowboys only keep five wide receivers.
Further, if the team chooses to draft a return man who happens to play wide receiver (such as Texas’ WR Jordan Shipley, as we have been advocating), then Manuel’s chances of making the team disappear completely.
Q: Do you think the Cowboys could get Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant? They need a wide receiver.
Daniel, El Paso, Texas
The chances of getting Dez Bryant are just about zero. As we explained earlier, the ‘Boys would have to part with their first and second-round selections just to get up to around pick #16. There is little chance that Bryant drops passed Miami at #12, and for Dallas to move there, they would have to give up their first through fifth-round picks, as per the NFL Draft Value Chart.
Secondly, we are not sure they need a wide receiver. We actually see the position as somewhat of a strength with the emergence of Austin. If the team drafts a return man who happens to be a receiver, that is another story, but giving up nearly your entire draft for a guy you will have to pay millions of dollars is not an option (especially when you have two WR’s who will be making nearly $100 million once Austin signs an extension).