IRVING, Texas – After the Thanksgiving break it’s time to bring back Five Wonders as the Cowboys welcome the equally disappointing Philadelphia Eagles to town this weekend.
On to the wonders:
** I’m beginning to wonder if Anthony Spencer is going to be too expensive for the Cowboys to keep. And if he does, I wonder if they use the franchise tag on him for a second straight offseason. He has been the Cowboys best defensive player since Lee was lost for the year. He has established a career high in sacks with five games to go. He plays the run terrifically. Teams have a difficult time setting the edge against him and only do so if he chooses to go under a block, which can be maddening. He can cover. He can close on quarterbacks, runners, receivers and tight ends. I keep thinking something with a $7 million average will keep Spencer around but it’s quite possible he could get more. If they tag him again, it would cost the Cowboys $10.6 million or so for 2013. They don’t want to do that, but they could be in a squeeze against the cap, especially with Tony Romo’s cap figure jumping to $16.8 million in 2013. Spencer has earned a long-term deal with his play, but circumstances might force the Cowboys to think about a second straight year with a franchise tag.
** Since last week was about piling on Doug Free for his poor performance against Cleveland, this week should be about praising his work against Washington. I wonder if anybody really noticed. Free was much firmer, to steal a Jason Garrett term, in his pass protection. He did a great job against Ryan Kerrigan for most of the game. In a terribly unscientific way of grading from me in which I just doled out pluses for good, minuses for bad or zeroes for neither, Free had 53 pluses, nine minuses and 10 zeroes. Kerrigan got him for a second-half sack but that could be viewed as a coverage sack. There was few times in which Free received any help, which is not a surprise when Jermey Parnell is making his first start at left tackle. Free did a good job passing off twists inside. It’s difficult to evaluate the run game since they didn’t run it much, but he was good there too. If the Cowboys get that kind of effort from Free for the rest of the year, then maybe he’s in the future plans.
** Here are a couple of things I just find ridiculous and wonder if you will too: It took Bruce Carter five games to surpass Sean Lee as the team’s tackle leader despite the fact that Lee has not played a snap. It just speaks to what type of season Lee was having before a toe injury forced him to have surgery. Lee had 77 tackles in the first six games. Carter had 40. In the five games needed to overtake Lee, Carter averaged eight a game. Here’s something more ridiculous: Lee remains tied for the team lead in interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown 152 passes in the five full games Lee has missed and no defender has been able to pick off more than one pass? Here’s something I find most ridiculous: It took Felix Jones six games to become the Cowboys’ leading rusher over DeMarco Murray. At the time of his injury Murray had 330 yards on 75 carries. Jones now has 335 yards on 94 carries this season. How pitiful has the run game been?
** Mike Jenkins has a chance to add some value to his marketability in the offseason with five games to go. With Orlando Scandrick out for at least a few weeks and possibly the season, Jenkins will get a look inside playing the slot. He never did it before Thursday’s game against Washington at any level. He admitted the game was much faster inside than outside and looked for help from Gerald Sensabaugh in certain cases. If Jenkins can show he can play the slot, then that will help him in the offseason when he’s an unrestricted free agent. Teams want players with versatility. The more Jenkins can do, the more money he could command. As it is, he’s not going to get the deal he once envisioned. He has not played that much this year. He’s coming off shoulder surgery. He turns 28 in March. If he shows he can handle the slot, I wonder if there’s a chance to Cowboys attempt to keep him going forward. It’s a stretch, I admit, but you can’t just give up on talented corners and Jenkins has talent.
** L.P. Ladouceur will be a free agent after this season and I wonder if the Cowboys will bring him back for a ninth season. If they don’t, then I think they will be making a mistake. Ladouceur has been perfect since coming to the Cowboys in 2005. The cost, relatively speaking, will be minimal. Over the last few years the Cowboys have attempted to bring some competition for Ladouceur - in other words, cheap, undrafted rookies – and he has answered the challenge every time. He will turn 32 in March and has not been beaten up despite his work through the years. On a team in transition, which the Cowboys are even if they fail to publicly recognize it, having a fool-proof long snapper is a must. Think of what it means for kicker Dan Bailey or whoever has punted the ball here. He might be something of a luxury and you would like for the long snapper to play another position, but peace of mind matters more.