My 2011 Offseason Review
Part I - The Offense
Going into the offseason we all had our fantasmic plans of grandeur for our beloved Cowboys team. I know I had mine. Now that the majority of our offseason transactions have come to a close, I wanted to take a step back... re-evaluate my thoughts and review what they've done. I have changed my opinions back and forth on a few issues, so I feel like laying out my final thoughts here.
The Cowboys are often looked at as one of those teams in the league that likes to spend like there is no tomorrow... and while justified, it's a little misguided. People love to tag us to the big named FAs, but we haven't shown that in years. We spend alright... but mostly we blast it all on our own guys. During the Wade Phillips Era, our FA additions have come from the bargain bin. Names like Zach Thomas, Keith Brooking, Igor Olshansky, and Gerald Sensabaugh have highlighted our best new arrivals. On the other hand, monster contracts were given out to players we have traded for (Roy Williams, Leonard Davis) and our own draft pick/UDFA extensions (Romo, Barber, Austin, Ware, Ratliff, Spears, etc).
With the new CBA in place, I was hopeful that the Cowboys would attempt to make dramatic changes. Big cuts and big signings!!! Ultimately a bunch of ho hum. We've had most of the big cuts we were hoping for, but the big signings were no where to be found. Zero, zilch, zippo.
So as I breakdown my review, I'm gonna grade them on what I perceive their plans were and how they strategized to attack that plan.
Position by Position Breakdown
No Change - Tony Romo/Jon Kitna/Stephen McGee
This is an area that I felt confident in and didn't see the team making any moves here.
Old - Felix Jones / Marion Barber / Tashard Choice
New - Felix Jones / DeMarco Murray / Tashard Choice / Phillip Tanner
When we initially drafted DeMarco Murray in Round 3, I was very surprised that we went that route. Not that the value wasn't good, but more that I was surprised that we went with a RB, when we had other glaring needs on defense. I thought... Offense??? RB??? Why are we continuing to show lack of faith in Choice?
What I didn't know for certain then, that I know for certain now, is that they wanted to bolster the run game as they had probably knew then that they were going to cut Barber. Based on that, I have to give credit to the Cowboys for making this selection and finding Murray available at that pick.
The situation with Choice is also becoming clearer by the day. While I felt that Choice made good things happen on the field last year, it's clear that he's not a favorite of Jason Garrett. Part of it, is probably his clown-around attitude. Another part of it is his injuries. Another part of it is probably the guys like Miller and Tanner stepping up in the preseason. Rumors swirled early in the preseason, but he's here today. That said...Let's put it this way, Choice won't be around long enough to get enshrined in the Ring of Honor. I hope we do the right thing with him whether that is to play him right or get equal value for him in a trade.
Old - Chris Gronkowski
New - Tony Fiammetta / Shaun Chapas (Practice Squad)
7th rounders are hardly guaranteed a spot on the team and this is the fate of Chapas. Can't really complain as this team has attempted to search for a FB late in the draft or in UDFA for years now.
Fiammetta might be my favorite pick up this offseason including our FA signings. Fiammetta was a team captain last season for Carolina because he's a high character guy that plays his position with a passion. It sounds like Garrett will be more committed to giving Felix Jones a chance to run, so I'm excited about the addition Fiammetta will make. I think we might have finally solved our want there.
Old - Jason Witten / Martellus Bennett / Scott Chandler / Martin Rucker / John Phillips (IR)
New - Jason Witten / John Phillips / Martellus Bennett / Martin Rucker
The Cowboys didn't need to do anything at this position. Phillips showed enough promise as a rookie that last year was expected to be a big year for him. Since he hit the IR, this year the team should expect him to make the jump that they hoped he'd provide as a sophomore. Bennett is an enigma. He's supposed to be better than he is, and this has to be his final straw here. Rucker, imo is better than him and could surpass him if he doesn't get his act together. Ultimately, I didn't think the team needed to use the draft or FA for this position, and I'm glad they didn't.
Old - Miles Austin / Roy Williams / Dez Bryant / Sam Hurd / Kevin Ogletree / Jesse Holley
New - Miles Austin / Dez Bryant / Dwayne Harris / Kevin Ogletree / Jesse Holley / Laurent Robinson(?)
Roy Williams was the big name on the chopping block and I expected him to be among the cuts we would make this offseason. Dez proved that he can dominate this league even as a rookie, so by cutting Roy, the team was wise to open up more opportunities to get the ball to Dez. Overall, I liked how they strategized to improve the position. I wanted them to cut Roy, I didn't want them spending big bucks here in FA, and I didn't want to spend a high pick at WR. The team did exactly that. So I'm proud of what they did here. They moved Dez up the depth chart, used a 5th rounder on Dwayne Harris and opened up competition in camp. My only thing, if I'm being ticky tacky, is that I don't think the team expected Hurd to leave. But we did have some nice competition in camp and I think it would've been tough on them if they had to try to make space for Radway to make the roster. As for the rumors on Laurent Robinson...with or without him, I don't think it will affect how this team's season goes.
Old: Doug Free / Marc Colombo / Alex Barron / Sam Young
New: Doug Free / Tyron Smith / Jeremy Parnell
I think this position is a little fluid right now. I could see them adding another Tackle if the right player and right value comes along. They recently cut Sam Young... Thank goodness. I knew he was a waste from the start. I really like Parnell though. While raw, I think he grew a lot this preseason with the opportunity he got. IMO, he's a keeper from here on out. In fact, I think the plan to address the Tackle position started early with the Parnell pick up. What it showed was that the team was looking for change. Going away from the slow, beefy, power scheme to a more mobile, athletic type more reliant on strong technique and smarts. Parnell had the body they liked and I can see that the team thinks they can coach him up.
The plan continued as Tyron Smith ultimately became the Cowboys choice for their #1 draft pick. This singular move showed a complete change in philosophy for Jerry Jones. It showed he was willing to use a 1st rounder on an offensive lineman, showed he was willing to let a rookie tackle start and it shifted his mentality of spending money on FA for OL help to fix immediate needs. He still got his way of making a "flashy" pick though as Tyron has all the makings of a BEAST.
Gotta say... I LOVE what they did to repair the Tackle position this offseason. A+.
Old: Kyle Kosier / Leonard Davis / Montrae Holland / Robert Brewster
New: Kyle Kosier / Derrick Dockery / Bill Nagy / David Arkin
When the Cowboys drafted David Arkin in Round 4, admittingly I had no idea who he was. However, the more I read about him, the more I grew to like the pick. So much so, that I think the Cowboys have their future LG of the future. Yes, I see that the Cowboys penciled in Nagy as the starter ahead of Arkin early on, but ultimately I see Arkin as "the guy" there once he develops. He's on the right track to success as the team is trying to develop him and not rush him in right away. Nagy is a filler, who I have a LOT less trust in. I was really worried about going into the season with him as our starting LG, but with the recent pick up of Derrick Dockery, I am RELIEVED! I know Dockery isn't a guy without his own warts, but I have admired him from afar for years now. ...and I'm not just saying that because he's now a Cowboy. I'm just not that kind of fan. I try to stay objective and I think my offseason comments have hit hard against some of you here. But just know that I'm much more relieved to have Dockery than Nagy and I hope he picks it up fast enough to start for us soon. I was about to give major grief to the Cowboys on their end result to go with Nagy as a starter for the entire year, but with the recent addition, I think this OL has the makings of being much improved over last season. Oh, and bye bye Montrae... don't let the door hit you on the way out.
Old: Andre Gurode / Phil Costa
New: Phil Costa / Kevin Kowalski
Gurode getting cut came as a surprise to me because of the timing of it. Not because I didn't think he was a candidate to be cut when the offseason started. Many of us here scouted hard on the Centers that were available in the draft and many of us here loved Stephen Wisniewski. Passing on him (along with many others) for Bruce Carter a complete head scratcher for me. To be fair the verdict is still out on Carter, but him being hurt (and not being able to play) can't be used as an excuse for saying it was a good pick. But yes, this is about our center position... and maybe the team really did foresee Costa playing well. Honestly, I still don't believe the hype yet. I wasn't at practice everyday to see his progression and I can't tell from meaningless preseason games if he indeed is highly capable of starting, so fault me for not believing what I read about him. My gut is warning me to not be so naive to read and believe it all. If he pans out great, but this is a critcial position on the team and if Costa and Kowalski don't get the job done, it's gonna prove to be a bad decision to have cut Gurode. I remain critical here until the verdict is truly out.
Side note: I'm higher on Kowalski than I am on Costa.
Old: David Buehler
New: David Buehler / David Bailey
I'm ok with the team using 2 roster spots on a kicker IF it proves worthy of it. I know Buehler is a weapon on kickoffs, but if Bailey is Buehler's equal on FGs, then it's a wasted spot. Bailey has a tough job to make every kick. I'm not sure he'll handle that pressure very well, so I remain questionable here on whether the Cowboys used thier resources to the best of their ability in order to address our kicking situation. I'd feel a lot better if David Akers were here instead of Bailey.
Conclusion: In the end, I feel like the Cowboys did a great job of improving our offensive attack this offseason. I believe they can be one of the highest scoring offenses in the league. Garrett has shown that he is capable of putting up big points with worse talent (albeit more proven). But I feel like we now have the pieces to open up the playbook, with a more mobile offensive line. I feel like most of our dead weight has been cut and that Garrett has truly transformed this offense according to his desire. I believe he's doing it the right way by making all these tough choices now. Unlike Parcells who didn't make the move to the 3-4 until his second year, I feel like Garrett is jumping right in and making all the moves he wants, and in the long run it will pay off. Our offense is young, and while there will be learning curves along the way, ultimately the direction will trend upwards rather than close shut in a couple years. So as far as the offseason moves made on offense, there's not a lot to complain about unless I'm getting overly nervous and nitpicking.
My projected starters for most of the season
QB Tony Romo
RB Felix Jones
FB Tony Fiammetta
TE Jason Witten
WR Miles Austin
WR Dez Bryant
SWR Dwayne Harris
LT Doug Free
LG Derrick Dockery
C Phil Costa
RG Kyle Kosier
RT Tyron Smith
I pretty much echo what you say here. I would add two things: I think l. Robinson could be a huge get. This guy is very talented. He just hasn't been healthy. Also, I hate the two kicker thing. Absolutely hate it.
Well you can scratch Fiammetta from your list.
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