Austin On Dallas: Cowboys Neglecting Insurance While Entering Dangerous Waters


It seems like each day now after browsing Cowboys camp updates I find myself asking, “What am I missing here?”.  Is there some sort of allergic reaction Jerry Jones will suffer from if he purchases insurance against disaster?  Dallas gingerly headed into training camp with two huge, crucial question mark areas that needed to be solved…interior offensive line and wide receiver depth.

The team is now moving beyond the mid-point of training camp, and little has been solved in these crucial areas.  Instead the potential solutions have become even less certain at center than most expected.  The guard positions are finally beginning to look up as Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau work back into the practice fold.

Their absence may have even done some good as younger players received an extensive introduction into the guard position on the NFL level.  But where in the world is the serious commitment to solving the center fiasco before Sept. 5th?

After the San Diego game, the third and fourth wide receiver slots looked to be less shaky as Keving Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris, and Cole Beasley all showed they seem to be stepping it up to contend.  At the very least noticeable progress is being made there. Yet in my opinion the Cowboys are no longer merely looking for a 3rd, 4th, and 5th wide receiver to fill out the final roster.

 

CENTER PROSITION

The Cowboys seem to be blatantly ignoring the need to locate a very capable, dependable center by whatever means necessary.  Several injuries cleared the way and provided Phil Costa an easy opportunity to lock down his starting role.  Then Costa hurts his back and joins the wounded.  Now reports are coming out that Costa will begin effectively working back into practice around August 27th.  Am I the only one that realizes this date precedes only one remaining pre-season game (2 days later), and is a mere 9 days before the season opener in New York?

So Costa has a gimp back, which is a known nagging injury, and 9 days to show he can handle the fierce Giants defensive line?  And who is the replacement if he can’t go, David Arkin?  A guy who didn’t make the gameday roster last year at his natural position, much less is only two weeks into learning the center position for the first time ever.  Bernadeau now seems to be an unlikley replacement by Week One as he is fresh off injury and working his way back at his natural guard position.

This is it Cowboys management, these are your choices?  A beat-up Costa that everyone already doubts his unproven ability to handle his own, or a completely unproven player and complete novice to the extremely difficult position in general.  Have they already decided to just forfeit great play from the center, and hope the guards will help make up the difference?  There are certain aspects of the center position the two guards can do nothing about to provide help.  And why would you even want your guards flanking the center, they have their own business to handle.

Without an outside addition to the center position within the next two weeks, Dallas is playing Russian Roulette with a half-loaded, double-barrel shotgun.  Expecting to challenge for the NFC East title with such a disregard for a huge cog in the offensive engine is beyond me.  I didn’t agree when they ignored it in the off-season, and I’m lost as to what the excuse is now.  Hoping for the best with feeble preparation and a gross uncertainty is a recipe for disaster.

Even if Costa comes back and plays respectable, management must understand a back injury is a nightmare for an offensive lineman.  Costa’s availability down the line this season should be a serious concern.  Make a move here Dallas, you tried the stubborn approach laced with denial…and you lost the bet so far.  Get out the checkbook and buy some insurance before a hole is dug in the regular season that is too deep to climb out of.

 

WIDE RECEIVER DEPTH

It was very encouraging to see Kevin Ogletree step up during quality minutes against the Chargers.  In my eyes he has locked down the third spot heading into the opener.  Dallas already gave him the advantage when camp began due to experience.  In the last game it’s my opinion that he did enough to reaffirm their preference in starting him in that role, at least for the first week or two.  Personally, I’d like to see more after three years of marginal play, but I was relatively impressed and eased by his recent quality play.

While the younger guys still have more to prove before locking down a roster spot, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris, and Cole Beasley all looked like they are ready to make a serious run at the final roster.  And I’m certainly not forgetting the fresh return of Danny Coale.  While the other youngsters may have shown flashes of promise last Saturday, by no means did they dominate enough to eliminate Coale from having a solid chance to unseat one of them if he plays very well the next two games.  It’s still a very fluid yet encouraging pile-up behind Ogletree.

So yes, the depth part is looking slightly solved with Ogletree making a stand and the youth movement showing promise during live action. However, there is an absolute black cloud on the horizon when observing the two main starters at receiver.  Miles Austin and Dez Bryant have shown without a doubt that they still cannot be counted on to stay completely healthy.  Furthermore if the regular season was already three weeks in, both guys would have missed games.

What this tells me is simple…Dallas is no longer trying to find a third wide receiver who can threaten strong defenses, they are now auditioning for two guys who have the ability to be first-option factors in regular season games. Has Kevin Ogletree shown enough to give me comfort if starting next to Dez with Miles on the bench? Absolutely not. Beyond that, I’d also like to feel confident that Holmes or Harris (or whoever) would be a dangerous third wide receiver to fill in when Ogletree likely relieves a starter.  And there’s no way anyone can feel great about this as of now.

Compounding the uncertainty, let’s not forget Jason Witten is legitimately banged up, making the importance of the depth at wide receiver even more critical.   If a starting wide receiver were to miss a game at the same time Jason Witten had to be held out, I’m sorry to say, the strength of the substitutes would cause real problems for the Cowboys offense.

How am I certain of my desire for Dallas to make a play for a wide receiver with proven experience that’s not on the roster now?  When Jordan Shipley came avaliable I almost popped a blood vessel thinking of how fast Dallas should make a play for him.  600 yards and 3 TD’s in his first season was a Godsend compared to the choices Dallas is working with beyond the unstable stars Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.  And great kick return ability was a huge bonus.

Shipley claimed to be 100% off injury, yet even if Dallas made a play they would have lost out to the Tampa Bay claim with higher priority.  What upsets me to no end and reinforced Dallas’ lack of vision at the position, was that Jerry didn’t place a claim on this talented player.  Those who question his health, pay attention to Week 3 when Tampa Bay visits Dallas.  Watch who the Bucs trot out in the slot for Orlando Scandrick to attempt to stay with.  Even though it’s a moot point, Shipley is a young, talented, proven player well worth a claim and management showed no desire for it.

 

CONCLUSION

There is no way to say it nicely, Dallas has to wake up and get some insurance or even replacement parts. Address the center and wide receiver position each with an experienced, best quality available player, please. Costa or Arkin at starting center are not the needed answer to form a division champion team.  Not even close.

Yes, depth at wide receiver is looking relatively better, yet the problem here has now far exceeded depth.  This dilemma has to be viewed as a contingency for one of the starters being absent.  Something has to be added here to find the talent and experience needed to plug such a huge hole.

Maybe I’m completely off base here in regards to the current lack of addition.  By this I mean, maybe Dallas is waiting for final cuts to find the best possible fits.  And that would be the most fruitful approach when seeking the best players available.  However, on the other hand, this mold only fits the receiver position well. Grabbing a center after final cuts on August 31st leaves Dallas in a tough spot.

Unlike 30 other teams, the Cowboys will only have 4 days left after final cuts to practice before opening kickoff. I’m assuming anyone added at center besides Andre Gurode (already familiar with offense) won’t be prepared to play quality minutes against New York in a starting role. If the right guy is found, that may be a reasonable exchange. If a player slightly better than Gurode is snagged, to me it was a waste of time to wait so long and almost like sandbagging any attempt to be the best you can be for the Giants.

Let’s not forget one very important reality…opening night in New York could decide the entire season. When the smoke clears at the end of the regular season, handing the opening game to the Giants could be the difference in who gets a playoff berth.

Dallas should exercise all means of immediately securing the best starting unit possible for Week One.  At the moment they are just not doing this as they avoid locating a better solution at center like the plague.

It’s time to move beyond stubborn pride and open up the eyes to outside alternatives.  If the worst case scenario hits, and this is very likely at center, Dallas will have no worthy answer for the Giants defensive line.  If the center is overmatched, Demarco Murray is as good as stiffled.  And even worse, Tony Romo will be at serious risk of injury.  It’s time to insure these outcomes aren’t probable before the plane lands in New York.  This is exactly the type of situation where General Managers earn their paycheck.  Where is the Dallas G.M. hiding when he’s now so sorely needed?

 

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Tags: Andre Holmes Cole Beasley Dallas Cowboys Danny Coale David Arkin Dez Bryant Jerry Jones Kevin Ogletree Mackenzy Bernadeau Miles Austin Nate Livings Phil Costa Tony Romo

  • californy

    As a fan I ask the tough question on the boys, many consider me a hater because I ask question that I feel the team need to answer. JJ player evaluation has become worst as the years have gone buy. The scouting department are nothing but JJ yes men. The myth of picking up a good OL will not happen. Most team will keep their player at top 2 position, they will release 3-5 string players. In NFL terms that like saying 65- 160 th best center prospect. Gurode has already been identify at the 7 best center, and Jason Brown as the 8 best Center prospect available base on a report I seen a month ago. My question is what is JJ waiting for. I guarantee you Costa will not play a full season. Bernardeu was 55th best Guard prospect when he was healthy, If you factor him in the Center position, who know where he would rank. Bernadeu has never started Center in his life. Arkin has never started a NFL game in the regular season. Gurode is better than all these people. I know it and everyone else know this. So why is JJ waisting time with these player who should not even hold a job in the NFL. The talk and focus is at Center. It what not being said that concern me. I believe we have issue at the guard position as well. Bernardeu, is not the answer. he only started 1 game last year. Holland may be getting up their in age but he was the 16 best Guard in the NFL last year. 16th rated means he a average guard, rank in the middle. What does 55th Bernardeau and 57 rank in Living mean. If Holland is not good enough to be on this team, what does it mean being rank in 55-57 spot at the guard position. Yup this is how I see it. I dont know what JJ see. My guess is JJ must have lousy scouts when it come to evaluating Offensive lineman. Doug Free is no better than average tackle yet he makes 8 million a year. We are counting on Doug Free a lot this year. Then you factor in player like Leary and Arkin who cant even beat out a 55th and 57 best guard in the NFL .
    As a Cowboys fan I try to step back and look at the Cowboys for what they really are. The articles about the boys seem to try to sell JJ agenda on how great the boy will do this year. I like the defense despite no depth and no expereice at one of the safety position. It just the OL that worries me a lot. JJ will not do anything about it. JJ is too concern with trying to looking like a good GM in the public eye. If you see the rest of the NFL team, they are always looking to fill their team weak spots. I see this in NE, SF and NO. JJ and JG has a plan to go young, unfortunately the young doesnt equate to good on the football field. Leonard davis is a back up and possible starter for the 49 ers. i assume he is being paid close to a minimum contract. It just like I say, you fix the weak spot on your team whether it is 2-4 th string players

  • jrcowboy49

    Wasn’t there a promising center for our review playing for Seattle? There are too many centers on that team with some to be cut or sneeked to the practice squad?

  • http://profiles.google.com/jfarleyku Jonathan Farley

    Well written and insightful article, and I agree with everything in it and I’m a Giants fan…

  • xtremeyouth1

    Interesting article but without posting ideas for solutions it’s more of just a rant. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans it’s a very accurate rant.

    The Cowboys biggest issue is the middle of the offensive line. Primarily the center position. Going into camp the idea was to let Costa, Nagy, Kowalski, and possibly even Bernadeau fight it out. Unfortunately for us Nagy is gone with an injury. Kowalski is gone with an injury. Costa is gone with an injury. Bernadeau is just getting back. What team can withstand going down to your fourth option and survive even if you have great depth? And the cowboys did not have great depth.

    The only solution I see is the resigning of Gurode (ugh) or the possibility of a serviceable player being picked up on the waiver wire/someone’s practice squad.

    As far as Jerry Jones, close observers of the team have noted a transition going on over the last few years. Jerry is no longer the GM of this team, Stephen Jones is. It is Stephen who has exercised more and more control over player personnel and if you look at the last two drafts you see a much longer term view and a more cohesive strategy with personnel.

    Look at the team at the end of the disastrous Wade Phillips era. Old and broken Offensive line. Ancient and slow ILBs. Disaster in the defensive backfield. An ineffective defensive line that had gotten old also. Only one decent running back. You had three or four very good established players in Witten, Romo, Austin, and Ware as well as one or two good young players. The team needed a total revamp.

    Fast forward to today…still need much help on the OLine but the ILBs are young and fast. The Defensive backfield is totally revamped. You have a potential star at RB. Good receivers (but no depth), a younger DLine but some, including myself, would argue how effective it is. Overall competition at nearly every position. The free agent that were brought in fit a mold. Younger mid-level free agents with productive years who are still in their prime. And yes I know Brandon Carr got a huge contract but that is looking pretty good so far, isn’t it?

    The point is there is now, finally, a plan. Steven couldn’t remake the entire roster in 1 1/2 years but I like what I have seen since then. If there is a decent pick up on the OLine and we focus on the Oline in the draft this year the roster will be in good shape.

    At least that’s how I see it.

    • californy

      I disagree with your accessment that Steven is running this team. I still see JJ as the guy in charge. In fact I have pretty much already heard that Andea Holmes will be a part of this team, he also mention another player also having a future with the boys yet we had 3/4 of the preseason left when he mention these comments.
      GB in two years went from 4-3 to 3-4, lost 21 people to IR and won the SB. Wade Phillips went from a 4-3 to 3-4 in 3 months became the top Defense from Preseason to 14th week of last year, lost his best player in Mario William and 2 QB and was in the SB tournament last year. It doesnt take to long to rebuild a team with a GM who know what he is doing, unfortunately for us it taken 15 years and counting .