Dallas Cowboys: A.J. Feeley

Are the Cowboys reining in Romo?

November, 3, 2011
Sometimes, perception and reality can in fact overlap, and if you think Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo isn't throwing the ball downfield the way he used to, you're right.

According to ESPN's Stats & Information, Romo's yards per pass attempt have declined in each of the past three seasons and are now at a level so low that only the Rams' A.J. Feeley has a lower figure among qualifying NFL quarterbacks this season. Stats & Info's numbers begin with 2008, the last year Terrell Owens played in Dallas:

Tony Romo's Passing Yards Per Attempt
2011: 6.9
2010: 7.3
2009: 7.7
2008: 9.4

Now, there are a couple of possible explanations for this trend, and especially for the way it's bottoming out so far in 2011. Top wideouts Miles Austin and Dez Bryant missed time earlier this year with injuries. The Cowboys clearly like to throw the ball to their running backs and tight end Jason Witten. And some have theorized that, after Romo cost them a couple of early games with bad-decision interceptions, the coaching staff might be trying to rein him in to limit his opportunities to make costly mistakes.

If that's the case, I think it's the coaching staff making the mistake. The Cowboys need to run the ball, sure, but they can't ignore the downfield passing game completely. With talent like Austin and Bryant at wide receiver, they can get mismatches against almost any secondary in the league. Romo has the arm to make any throw in the playbook, and with the soft schedule they have coming up, the Cowboys would be wise to be bullies on offense and flex some of that downfield muscle. My theory is that Sunday night's loss to the Eagles was a fluky one, since they'll not soon meet another talented secondary like the Eagles'. Romo can get on a roll with his receivers over the next month or so and get that number up and out of A.J. Feeley territory.

Mike Jenkins gets first interception

October, 23, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mike Jenkins’ second-quarter interception of St. Louis quarterback A.J. Feeley was the first he has had since Week 3 last season at Houston.

“It’s been a long time,” Jenkins said. “I think I’ve had some of it on credit. I’ve been working for it and it came back to me. I’m going to try to keep it going.”

Jenkins was able to corral a Feeley pass to Brandon Lloyd that was low and to the middle for the pick at the St. Louis 30. The Cowboys converted the turnover into a 30-yard field goal by Dan Bailey. The Cowboys converted both turnovers and a fourth-down stop into 17 points.

“We just want to keep the turnovers coming,” Jenkins said.

First quarter: Cowboys 7, Rams 0

October, 23, 2011
ARLINGTON -- After one quarter at Cowboys Stadium, Dallas leads St. Louis, 7-0.

Murray off to fast start: Tashard Choice got the start with Felix Jones out with a high ankle sprain, and Choice and rookie DeMarco Murray were expected to share the carries. On the third official play of the game, Murray scored on a 91-yard touchdown run, the second-longest in franchise history. There was good blocking up front and Murray read his holes well and made a move on veteran safety Quintin Mikell, who got turned around. Coming into the game, Murray had 71 yards on 24 carries.

Penalties, penalties, penalties: Penalties are not acceptable for any NFL team. Last week, the Cowboys had a season-high 10. In the opening quarter vs. the Rams, the Cowboys were flagged three times for 19 yards. There were two offsides calls against the defense and a holding call on fullback Tony Fiammetta.

No Bradford: A.J. Feeley made his first start of the season with Sam Bradford out with an ankle injury. Feeley was able to convert one third-down play and took the Rams into Cowboys territory just once in the first quarter.

Forcing turnovers: The Cowboys need to force turnovers to win games, though last week the defense got four in a loss to the New England Patriots. Safety Abram Elam forced a fumble when he threw his shoulder into Cadillac Williams on the end of a screen pass. Elam's forced fumble and recovery came with 39 seconds to play. But it came with a price. Rams right tackle Jason Smith suffered an injury on the play and was taken off the field by stretcher. Smith, a Dallas native who attended W. T. White High School, had his head hit Elam's hip as he dived at Elam's legs.

How you feeling? Cowboys-Rams

October, 23, 2011
As you get ready for this afternoon's game against the St. Louis Rams in Dallas, here's one reason for Cowboys fans to feel good and one reason for concern:

Feeling good: It's tough to pick just one, honestly. The Rams have yet to win a game. They allow 33 more yards per game on the ground than does the second-worst run-defense team in the league. It looks as though they'll be without starting quarterback Sam Bradford, which means DeMarcus Ware gets a shot at A.J. Feeley once he gets past St. Louis' woeful pass protection. The Rams' best hope is running back Steven Jackson, and no team in the league has been better at stopping the run this year than have the Cowboys. Unless Feeley can get something going right away with new receiver Brandon Lloyd, Dallas should be able to key on the run game and limit it effectively.

Cause for concern: If the Rams can keep it close, they have the kind of pass-rushing defensive line that could cause trouble for the Cowboys' banged-up offensive line. Chris Long and Robert Quinn have shown an ability to get to the quarterback, and rookie right tackle Tyron Smith looked like a rookie for the first time last week.

A.J. Feeley has beaten the Cowboys

October, 22, 2011
Before you go crazy, we don't think the St. Louis Rams will beat the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium.

With Sam Bradford not available because of a high-ankle sprain, A.J. Feeley takes over at quarterback the Rams.

And Feeley has a victory over the Cowboys.

In 2002, Feeley led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 27-3 victory at Texas Stadium. He completed 19 of 33 passes for 253 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions that day.

Feeley hasn't started a game since 2007, but Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had some thoughts.

"Feeley has been around forever," Ryan said after Friday's practice. "He had a great preseason. Either way, I know they've added some great weapons in [Mark] Clayton and [Brandon] Lloyd. Two excellent receivers. This is an excellent-looking team. They just hung about 450 yards up on Green Bay. When [Steven] Jackson is playing, I believe they're averaging over 40 yards a game. Whatever the stats say on the overall deal, we know we're getting a hell of an offense here."

Clayton will not play on Sunday despite coming off the physically unable to perform list this week.

Sam Bradford won't play against Cowboys

October, 22, 2011
The Rams ruled quarterback Sam Bradford out for Sunday's game against the Cowboys.

A.J. Feeley will start instead of Bradford, who is hobbled by a high ankle sprain.

For more on the move, read the news story here and NFC West blogger Mike Sando's take here.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch St. Louis Rams beat writer Jim Thomas is a good man. He gave us his take on the 0-5 St. Louis Rams in this week's version of The Other Side.

Q: What's happened to the Rams? Are they taking steps backward in their development as a team?

The early-season schedule has been brutal. The Rams first five opponents are a combined 19-9 so far. Nonetheless, it looks like the team has regressed. The run defense has been a major disappointment, and the offense can't get into the end zone. Lots of penalties and dropped passes, too.

Q: Sam Bradford. Is he going to be good?

Yes. He's fighting it some with the new offensive scheme of first-year Rams coordinator Josh McDaniels. The system is a lot different than Pat Shurmur's West Coast scheme of last year. Many more downfield throws and lots more responsibility at the line of scrimmage. But I think Bradford is the real deal, and eventually it will show.

Q: What should we expect from Mark Clayton and Brandon Lloyd on Sunday?

Lloyd will play and I'd be surprised if he doesn't start. He's a guy who can get downfield and make the tough catch in traffic. He knows the offense very well since he played for McDaniels in Denver in 2010 and '09. For Lloyd, it's simply a matter of getting in sync with the QB, which could be A.J. Feeley Sunday because of Bradford's high ankle sprain. As for Clayton, he's coming off the PUP list following last season's knee surgery and until now hadn't practiced since early October of 2010. So he's less certain to play Sunday; got some rust to knock off.

Q: The Rams have yet to play within the division, has this hurt them?

It sure has. The don't play a division game until November. It would've been good for the team's confidence and won-lost record to get a Seattle or Arizona at home in the early going.

Q: Is Steve Spagnuolo on the hot seat or is he OK?

Everyone knew these first seven games would be tough _ with Dallas and New Orleans following the first five. So nobody expected a sparkling early-season record. But nobody expected this either. So yes, unless Spagnuolo and the Rams start posting some wins, he is on the hot seat.