Dallas Cowboys: Albert Haynesworth

Five Wonders: Looking to the future

December, 17, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- So many things to wonder, so little time.

It’s Five Wonders and we’re hitting big topics right off the top.

Away we go:

** I wonder if the Cowboys have a decision to make on DeMarcus Ware in the offseason. Ware is set to count $16.003 million against the salary cap in 2014. He has a base salary of $12.25 million. The Cowboys have reworked his contract numerous times over the years, even adding voidable years to it to help with the prorated amounts. They will need to restructure more contracts in the offseason to get under the projected $126.3 million salary cap in 2014. They will also have to cut some high-priced veterans. Perhaps even Ware, which seems shocking in a way. Ware has only six sacks with two games to go. He missed three games because of a quadriceps injury and has not been effective for much of the past month. He was so good in training camp. He made Tyron Smith look bad on an almost daily basis. Is it just health? Ware says he is healthy. Is it age? Ware turns 32 next July. The Cowboys have made mistakes with age before. Jay Ratliff comes immediately to mind. Ware is far from Ratliff. He is the right kind of guy. He works hard. He is a good teammate. He plays hurt. Ware has not only missed three games but he is playing only 67.2 percent of the snaps when he does play. It is one thing to commit $16 million to a guy on the cap when he is getting you anywhere from 12 to 18 sacks a season. It’s another thing to do it when he is struggling. If the Cowboys released Ware, their all-time leader in sacks, they would save $7.43 million against the cap. Jerry Jones has a hard time with these types of decisions. Could he ask Ware to take a cut in pay? Would Ware accept one?

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesIs Jason Garrett's future in Dallas secure?
** Mike Shanahan won’t be the Washington Redskins' coach in 2014. Could he join the Dallas Cowboys' coach? If Jones decides to part ways with Jason Garrett, then Shanahan’s name will be linked to the Cowboys just because he’s a name. Same with Jon Gruden. But let’s stick with Shanahan here for a moment. Now it’s difficult to take Albert Haynesworth’s word for much. After all he did stomp on Andre Gurode’s head in 2006. But Haynesworth said last week in Washington, D.C., that it is in Shanahan’s contract that Daniel Snyder has to limit contact with the players. I can understand why Shanahan would want that in there. It helps him control things more. But I wonder if Shanahan would ever come here because you know Jones would never EVER have that in coach’s contract. Jones moved to the background when Bill Parcells was coach but he did not disappear.

** Let’s stick with the head coaching theme and the possibility of Garrett’s demise. Forget “who” Jerry Jones targets. I wonder “what” kind of coach he targets. Shanahan and Gruden have Super Bowl rings on their résumé, but Jones has said before he does not necessarily want a coach with a championship because he does not believe the coach has the same fire. (Yes, I realize Parcells is an exception.) I wonder if Jones goes for a defensive coach. The offensive personnel figures to be mostly the same in 2014: Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Smith, Travis Frederick, DeMarco Murray, Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar. The defense needs the re-tooling. Does Jones go after a defensive coach? There’s a lot of work to do there obviously and not as many parts. Who is a building block? Sean Lee. The rest you hope can rebound from poor seasons. If Jones goes defense, I wonder if he would go with a first-time coach or a veteran head coach. Would Mike Zimmer be in the mix? Lovie Smith? None of this matters if the Cowboys win their final two games.

** I wonder if Murray’s performance over the past month or so is making those at Valley Ranch rethink their thoughts about his long-term future. Murray is 23 yards away from reaching 1,000 yards for the season. He probably should have hit that number against the Green Bay Packers if they just ran the ball more. He will get it this week against the Redskins barring something unforeseen and he will do it in just his 13th game of the season having missed two games with a knee injury. That’s pretty impressive. He has run harder as the season has gone on but has left yards on the field as well. The prevailing wisdom is that running backs can be found here, there and everywhere and you only commit long term to the Adrian Peterson types. Murray is not that kind of back but he has had his best season. He is signed through 2014.

** If the Cowboys lose Sunday and the Philadelphia Eagles win, I wonder how the Cowboys approach the season finale against the Eagles. The Cowboys will be out of the playoff chase. In 2005 the Cowboys were eliminated before their finale against the St. Louis Rams but Parcells chose to go with his starters and lost 20-10. Many inside the organization wanted to see him start Tony Romo in that finale, but the coach stuck with Drew Bledsoe. Not to go all Herm Edwards on you here, but you play to win the game. If you can take a look at a player, then fine. The problem the Cowboys have is they don’t have much in the pipeline you would want to see. Maybe Jermey Parnell gets a shot at right tackle, but Doug Free hasn’t done anything to be benched and should be back in 2014. Maybe Escobar takes the bulk of the backup tight end snaps over James Hanna. Would that change any perceptions of Escobar as he heads into his second season? Could Williams get the work over Miles Austin? Yeah, but that has happened for most of the season.

The appeal of NFL-imposed cap reductions to the Washington Redskins ($36 million) and Dallas Cowboys ($10 million) has ended. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank dismissed their claims today -- for reasons described below -- and the teams have raised the white flag, issuing a joint statement accepting the decision. Interestingly, the two NFL owners who enjoy a good fight the most -- Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder -- have decided to go quietly here, choosing to use this as a chip for political capital down the road.

The NFL claimed the teams gained competitive advantage by maneuvering cap money into the uncapped 2010 year, clearing the deck for future spending without encumbrances from bloated contracts of Albert Haynesworth, DeAngelo Hall, Miles Austin and others. Were the teams given a chance to argue, they would have emphasized that there were no written warnings against their conduct, and that the contracts were approved upon submission to the NFL management council (NFLMC). However, they will have no such chance, as the case was dismissed.

Commissioner power

Burbank rejected the teams’ arguments that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was not authorized to act on behalf of the NFLMC, the unit of the NFL that gave strident verbal warnings about their cap maneuvers and suggested discipline. Burbank intimated -- but did not expressly hold -- that the articles and bylaws of the NFLMC contemplate the commissioner acting as an agent for them. Thus, the commissioner’s powers may extend past the playing field into the contract and cap decisions made by teams and their ownership.

NFLPA on board

The March 11 letter announcing the reduction (reallocation letter) was executed by both Goodell and NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith. Smith was agreeable as long as league-wide cap room remained the same, with the $46 million reallocated to the other 28 teams (the Saints and Raiders were denied reallocation because of similar, but lesser violations). The union’s buy-in -- forged with assurances from the NFL that the team cap number in 2012 would not dip below that of 2011 -- was a factor in Burbank’s dismissal.

Teams on board

With the NFLPA signing off, the March 27 resolution by 29 NFL teams (the Bucs abstained) to ratify the reallocation letter became, in Burbank’s eyes, a valid amendment to the collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, the Cowboys’ and Redskins’ claims of unilateral changes in the cap and collusion by other teams were denied. The key line from the decision reads in part: “the March 27th Resolution effectively ratified the Reallocation Letter, which therefore is binding on the Redskins and Cowboys as an amendment to the CBA.”

Thus, Burbank essentially gave his blessing to two agreements that served to bind and penalize the Redskins and Cowboys without them being a party to either. Commissioner power is strengthened again, 28 teams have additional cap room, and the NFLPA protects its players’ cap room league-wide. Everyone is satisfied except, of course, those two owners.

Something tells me that -- although they are accepting the decision -- they won’t soon forget this episode.

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Patriots preview

October, 14, 2011
10/14/11
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If you believe in fate and are a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, here is something that maybe you can hang your hat on. The last time defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had a week off to prepare for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, his Cleveland Browns walked away with an impressive 34-14 victory in 2010.

Scout's Eye
Cowboys defense vs. Patriots offense

Ryan's defense has played outstanding through the first four weeks of the season, but the task ahead is different from any of those that you generally face during an NFL season. When you play an elite quarterback such as Tom Brady, the amount of pressure he puts on you is greater than when you face Mark Sanchez, Alex Smith or even Matthew Stafford.

Mistakes in assignments are magnified when you play against Brady because of his ability to read defensive schemes and take advantage of the situation by adjusting his protection and moving his personnel to attack the void. In the NFL, it's all about the matchups, how you create them and then take advantage of the ones in your favor.

The Patriots take advantage of match-ups better than any other team in the league. When you study the Patriots, it's about "scheme fits." It's not only about a player like Wes Welker. You also have to be wary of tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead as well.

The Patriots create match-up problems for a defense because there is so much flexibility where their skill players can line up in the formation. Rarely do you see the Patriots use the same formation early in the game, because this exposes your game plan defensively. Once Brady has an idea of how you are going to defend the offense, then he goes to work.

Patriots WR Wes Welker vs. Cowboys secondary

It's interesting to watch the Patriots on offense because they no longer have a straight vertical threat like Randy Moss. Instead they use Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez all over the field. Welker is a crafty route-runner, but maybe his greatest strength is his ability to read coverages and react to what the defense is doing to him. When Welker's on the move, you can see his eyes looking at the secondary and plotting where he will take his route.

Brady has a tremendous understanding of where Welker is going to be in his route to deal with the coverage. With the Patriots, you will see several routes down the field that are crossing routes. The Patriots like to take routes through zone coverage, running to open spaces -- which is effective against teams that like to play Cover 2.

Last week, the Jets were able to match Darrelle Revis against Welker, who really struggled to generate any type of separation or space. Revis was physical off the line but, more importantly, he was able to carry Welker all over the field. The Cowboys will get an important piece of their secondary back this week when cornerback Orlando Scandrick returns from a high ankle sprain.

I have always viewed Scandrick as one of the Cowboys' best cover men. To play slot corner, you have to play with a great deal of quickness but, more importantly, you have to have the understanding of what types of routes that the man you are covering might run. Scandrick will have to be prepared to play a ton of snaps, so his conditioning will be tested. In what we have been allowed to see during practices, he looked explosive and confident that the ankle sprain is behind him.

Patriots tight ends are more like WRs

Earlier I mentioned that you have to be wary of Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and there was a reason for this. Neither one of these guys plays like a true tight end. Rather, they're more like 255-pound wide receivers that can get down the field. Both Gronkowski and Hernandez are vertical players that run well, but their most impressive trait is their ability to catch the ball.

The Cowboys have done a nice job against some outstanding tight ends this season, but Gronkowski and Hernandez present a different challenge because you see them down the field in combination routes with the receivers. Brady might look to Welker first, but I've seen him throw to Gronkowski and Hernandez in coverage and still they managed to come up with the ball.

Achilles' heel of Patriots offense: RT Nate Solder

If you are looking for a weakness on the Patriots offense, it is rookie right tackle Nate Solder, who has had to start because Sebastian Vollmar has been dealing with a back injury. Solder looks very similar to what I had seen on college tape before the draft. He's not very strong and, for someone that is a good foot athlete, he struggles with rushers off the edge.

Two weeks ago, the Cowboys didn’t take advantage of the Detroit Lions' poor pass blockers. The Patriots' O-line is much better on both run and pass, but it will struggle at times when teams run games on them with movement in the passing game. If Rob Ryan is going to get pressure on Brady, this will most likely be the route that he tries to go.

Cowboys offense vs. Patriots defense

When you study the Patriots on defense, the one area that jumps out at you is how much space their secondary gives up in routes. I didn't see the tightness in the coverage that I have seen with other defenses that the Cowboys have faced so far this season.

Earlier in the season, the Patriots played a great deal of man coverage but with little success. Now you see them playing much more zone. Another area where the Patriots have struggled is their inability to rush the passer. New England doesn't have that dynamic pressure player coming off the edge. Defensive ends Andre Carter and Shaun Ellis are veterans, but they don’t rush the passer like a Brian Orakpo or Kyle Vanden Bosch.

Patriots' defensive force: Vince Wilfork

The strength of this Patriots defense is up the middle with defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who is one of the more dominate players in this league. For a man his size, Wilfork moves very well. He is not one of those tackles that sits in a spot and just anchors down. He is very active -- not only in his pass rush, but also his ability to play the run right at him or working down the line. Kyle Kosier, Phil Costa and Bill Nagy had to deal with the inside power and the push that the Lions' Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams were able to get. To the credit of the Cowboys' inside three, however, they were able to hold up the majority of the time. Wilfork has power, but he has pass rush technique.

Breaking down the Patriots' defense

On the other side, Albert Haynesworth will see action. But also be aware of second-year player Kyle Love, who is a much lighter and more mobile player. When the Patriots' defensive line tries to get pressure, it’s usually by using twist stunts. They will also use blitzes from the secondary -- twice using a slot blitz vs. the Jets and a straight corner blitz against the Raiders.

Linebackers Jarod Mayo and Brandon Spikes are very active. Both really try to play downhill and attack the ball. They like to give you a tight look with one of the linebackers at the line, drop him, then fire the one from the other side. Where this group had some trouble was when the Jets went with an empty formation and it caused some confusion.

Also watch passing plays on the outside against this defense. The Buffalo Bills were able to work their screen packages but were also able to make plays in the flat with their running backs catching the ball against these linebackers.

Another potential target spot: Patriots safety

Another potential weakness for the Patriots is at safety. Starter Josh Barrett has been banged up, as has Patrick Chung. The Patriots have been trying to make do with Sergio Brown, who tends to misplay the ball in flight and is a poor tackler. James Ihedigbo is a better player when he can react to the ball in front of him. It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys can take advantage of this defense.

The Other Side: Washington Post's Rick Maese

September, 21, 2011
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IRVING, Texas -- The Redskins are atop the NFC East with a 2-0 record, which surprises many. In this week’s feature on the upcoming opponent, we ask five questions to Rick Maese of the Washington Post.

In Denver, he was the Mastermind. How is Mike Shanahan viewed in D.C. in his second year?

Maese - The same. Mike Shanahan arrived in Washington and even though he tried to turn the franchise around as quickly as possible, he knows it was a multi-year process. In his first season, the team won only six games, but Shanahan was able to understand his players better and identify his offseason needs. So while they implemented their new schemes a year ago, this season fans are seeing some of the rewards. There have been some obstacles -- see: Haynesworth, Albert -- but fans are still lined up faithfully behind Shanahan. At the very least, they figure it's better than Dan Snyder making football decisions.

In Rex we trust? No? Maybe? How did the win the job and how will he keep the job?

Maese - There was a lot of buzz around John Beck, but Shanahan promised an open competition and both quarterbacks say it truly was a fair contest. Put simply: Grossman outplayed Beck in the preseason. The numbers bear this out, and we saw it most days in training camp. Shanahan doesn't need Grossman to be John Elway. The coach has confidence in his system and simply wants Grossman to be able to execute the offense. That's not something he felt he had last year. If Grossman does stumble, Shanahan has also said he's fully confident in Beck, prompting some speculation that the team might employ a short hook.

Is Brian Orakpo turning into a DeMarcus Ware?

Maese - The Redskins would love for that to be the case. Orakpo is in his third year and is hoping to make a big leap this year. The team used its first round draft pick on Ryan Kerrigan, a defensive end who's converted to linebacker. While they want more pressure from the opposite side, coaches think the addition of Kerrigan will also free of Orakpo. Teams can't focus solely on him now. Both have looked good thus far.

As far as the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry, how is it viewed by the players? How is it viewed by the fans? I say that because I think the players look at Philly and New York as the bigger rival but most of the fans view Washington as the biggest rival?

Maese - I think a rivalry in pro sports almost always means more to fans than players. Unless you have players who are from the area -- and the Redskins do have a couple -- it's difficult for them to get fully invested. They want to win every single Sunday. If they want this game a bit more, it's because the Cowboys are a division opponent. For those outside the locker room, Dallas Week is still a fun week because there are so many Cowboys fans in the area. But in the locker room, it seems the Cowboys are viewed similarly to the Eagles and Giants.

5 Wonders: Garrett's future, Dockery's size

September, 6, 2011
9/06/11
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IRVING, Texas -- With the regular season set to open this week, here are five things that have me wondering:

**Much was made of Sean Payton’s move to Westlake as a sign that he will one day be the Cowboys’ head coach. Payton and Jerry Jones have a close relationship, but Payton re-upped with the Saints through 2015 and that should put any of those rumors to bed … for now. Honestly, I think Jones wants Jason Garrett to be his Tom Landry. Not that Garrett will have a 30-year run as the coach, but certainly longer than the 3.6 years Jones’ previous six coaches have had as an average tenure.

** Could the decision to add Derrick Dockery have something to do with his size and who the Cowboys will be playing this year? Dockery is 6-6, 325 pounds and has 111 career starts. Bill Nagy is a seventh-round pick and weighs 299 pounds. In Week 4 the Cowboys will see Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh. In Week 6 they will see Albert Haynesworth and Vince Wilfork. Philadelphia added Cullen Jenkins to its interior. Buffalo has Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams.

** Leon Lett is sticking around the Cowboys for the season. He originally joined the club as part of the team’s minority internship program, but the ex-Cowboy has decided he will not return Louisiana-Monroe as an assistant. Lett does not have an official title but he will continue to work with Brian Baker and the defensive line.

** There are interesting stickers on some players’ lockers inside the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch facility. Players with Pro Bowl experience have logos from the corresponding years near their nameplates, while players who earned game balls last year have football cutouts stuck to their locker. Having made the last seven Pro Bowls they are running out of room on Jason Witten’s locker.

** The Cowboys cut Nick Folk in 2009 after the kicker lost his confidence and form that year in part because of hip surgery. He missed 10 field goals before he was cut but the Cowboys should have put him on injured reserve. Maybe it would have needed some creativity to do so, but Folk put together two of the best seasons a Cowboy kicker has had in 2007-08. They could have given him time to get right for 2010 and competed with David Buehler. He did not set the world on fire with the Jets last year and was not a lock to last the year but it would be a kick in the gut if he were to make a game-tying or winning field goal on Sunday.

Andre Gurode to visit New England

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
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Former Cowboys center Andre Gurode will visit the New England Patriots on Saturday.

Gurode has visited Seattle and Chicago since he was cut by the Cowboys in a salary cap move.

Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston tells us more about the Patriots' offensive line issues.

With some teams making cuts, former Cowboys tackle Pat McQuistan was released by the Tennessee Titans. With Jeremy Parnell and Sam Young struggling in the Cowboys' last preseason game, McQuistan might be worth a look.

NFC East free-agency breakdown

July, 26, 2011
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» NFC: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Unrestricted FAs

A look at the free-agent priorities for each NFC East team:

New York Giants

1. Figure out which of their own guys to keep. With Ahmad Bradshaw, Barry Cofield, Mathias Kiwanuka, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss all set to potentially go free, the Giants have to prioritize and figure out which guys they're keeping. The top priority is probably going to be Bradshaw, an emerging star at running back, and it appears they'll let Cofield walk while trying to bring back Boss. They think the injury situations with Kiwanuka and Smith will help keep those guys' prices reasonable. But before the Giants hit the market, they'll need to get their own free-agent house in order.

2. Get at least one linebacker. The Giants have ignored this position over the past couple of years, and they seem to believe Jonathan Goff can handle the middle linebacker spot. They'd probably be better off moving him back outside and exploring the middle linebacker market, which includes Stephen Tulloch, Barrett Ruud and Paul Posluszny. But if they're set on keeping Goff in the middle, perhaps someone such as Manny Lawson or Nick Barnett could be a fit. It's one thing not to prioritize a position, but it's another to ignore it completely, and the Giants have been doing that with linebacker, to their detriment.

3. Some offensive line insurance. There were lots of injuries along the line in New York last season, and although it didn't kill them, it was a potential sign of things to come. The Giants hope Will Beatty will soon be ready to take over at left tackle for a declining David Diehl, but they must watch out for the health of Shaun O'Hara at center. And if they have to cut Shawn Andrews to sign some other guys, they'll need to replace him with a tackle who can provide depth.

Top five free agents: RB Bradshaw, DE/LB Kiwanuka, TE Boss, DT Cofield, WR Smith

Philadelphia Eagles

1. Settle the Kevin Kolb situation. If they can get the great deal for him that most believe they can (i.e., a first-round pick plus), the Eagles will deal Kolb and look for a reliable backup quarterback who can play if and when Michael Vick gets hurt. If they can't get good value for Kolb, they'll probably keep him to serve as said reliable backup. A trade is most likely, but whatever happens, the Eagles will probably settle this soon after the league year begins.

2. Sign a cornerback. The starting spot opposite Asante Samuel is open, and no one on the current roster appears able to fill it. That's why you've heard, and will continue to hear, the Eagles connected with Asomugha. Philadelphia must rank among his most likely destinations at this point. If they don't get him, they'll look down the list at guys such as Johnathan Joseph, Ike Taylor and Antonio Cromartie. And there's a chance they could get a cornerback for Kolb. But they'll get one somewhere.

3. Re-sign Stewart Bradley. Sure, they could let Bradley go and play Jamar Chaney at middle linebacker. Chaney looked, at least, capable in that spot last season and may be the Eagles' future at the position. But if Bradley leaves, the Eagles' problems will be about more than just the alignment of the linebackers. They'll actually be short on bodies and will need to play the free-agent field to find a replacement. Bradley's had injury problems, but when healthy, he's the Eagles' best linebacker and could be a key cog in whatever new defensive alignment Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn are cooking up.

Top five free agents: LB Bradley, S Mikell, G Nick Cole, RB Jerome Harrison, CB Ellis Hobbs

Washington Redskins

1. Fill out the defensive line. Whether they add a free-agent nose tackle such as Aubrayo Franklin or look at defensive end options like Jenkins, the Redskins must figure who their starting defensive linemen are. They like their linebacking corps, and although they also need a cornerback, they love their safeties with Oshiomogho Atogwe in the fold next to LaRon Landry. But their good, young outside linebackers will need big, space-eating ends in front of them to open up lanes to the passer. And they'll also need to get some sort of pass rush from the line, whether it's from the nose or the ends.

2. Re-sign Santana Moss. The Redskins are making noise about pursuing a big-time wideout such as Santonio Holmes or Sidney Rice. But the reality is that it's going to be tough to convince receivers to sign in Washington while they're not viewed as a contender and the quarterback situation remains so cloudy. Moss likes it in Washington. The Redskins like him. And he's a nice guy to have around to help out young receivers Anthony Armstrong and Leonard Hankerson -- not to mention inexperienced quarterback John Beck.

3. Resolve the Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth situations. They don't want either player on the team anymore, but the question is how to get rid of them. They might be able to dump McNabb for a late-round draft pick, but if they can't, they'll probably just cut him and let him find his next job on his own. Haynesworth has trade value in a league where many 4-3 teams are looking for interior defensive line help. Don't expect the Redskins to cut Haynesworth, because they don't want to do him any favors and they don't want him free to sign with former Tennessee D-line coach Washburn in Philadelphia. If they can't get value for him, don't be surprised if Haynesworth remains on the team all season and has a hard time getting into games.

Top five free agents: WR Moss, OT Jammal Brown, CB Carlos Rogers, LB Rocky McIntosh, QB Rex Grossman

Daniel Snyder supports Super Bowl returning

February, 4, 2011
2/04/11
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Despite the bad weather this week, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he supports the Super Bowl returning to North Texas and he's not alone.

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said he also would like to see the game return.

"Yes, I love it here in Fargo," Snyder said while smiling.

After doing some interviews along radio row on Friday, Snyder spoke to reporters for about 15 minutes about a variety of issues.

Snyder said he's hopeful the issues the team has with quarterback Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth can be resolved and he's thinking of moving he Redskins practice facility from Virginia to either Washington, D.C. or Maryland. Snyder like most owners is in favor of a 18-game season but is mindful of player safety. He's demanding an apology from a Washington, D.C. newspaper that made some disparaging remarks about him and his wife.

Welcome to Landover for opener

September, 12, 2010
9/12/10
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LANDOVER, Md. -- The 2010 regular season is here and the Cowboys will open at FedEX Field against the NFC East rival Washington Redskins.

The Cowboys have won their last three season openers and are coming in with high expectations.

Here are the Cowboys' inactives: Barry Church, Leon Williams, Brandon Williams, Kyle Kosier, Marc Colombo, Sam Young, Sean Lissemore and Stephen McGee is the third quarterback.

Here are the Redskins inactives: Brandon Banks, Kareem Moore, Perry Riley, Will Montgomery, Anthony Bryant, Logan Paulsen, Jeremy Jarmon. John Beck is the third quarterback.

News of the night: Dez Bryant is wearing some new shoes. Bryant was limping around the FedEx Field turf trying on his new Nikes. He told ESPN's Ed Werder his right ankle, which he sprained during training camp, is fine. A few new starters for the Cowboys in the season opener: FS Alan Ball, LT Doug Free, RT Alex Barron, LG Montrae Holland and K David Buehler. Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who was working on the scout team defense on Friday, will play. He's listed as the backup nose tackle behind Ma'ake Kemoeatu. Donovan McNabb will face the Cowboys for a third consecutive time. McNabb, while playing for the Eagles, lost all three games, including the NFC wild-card playoff game.

The officials: R Tony Corrente, U Fred Bryan, HL John McGrath, LJ Adrian Hill, FJ Gary Cavaletto, SJ Allen Baynes, BJ Greg Wilson. The instant replay assistant is Howard Slavin.

So how do you prepare for Haynesworth?

September, 11, 2010
9/11/10
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Coach Wade Phillips received a question about Albert Haynesworth on Friday.

The Redskins defensive tackle played at end of the preseason and received reps on the scout team Friday, though Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said first-and-second teamers get scout team reps at times.

Shanahan said Haynesworth, the subject of trade rumors, will be in Landover, Md. for Sunday's game. Sources tell ESPN.com's Ed Werder that he is expected to play and could start.

Starting guard Leonard Davis and Montrae Holland also expect him to play.

Tackle Alex Barron said Haynesworth can beat you with power and finesse.

Is he playing nose tackle in the Redskins new 3-4 scheme, or is he playing at end on passing downs?

"It's like any other player," Phillips said. "You know where the strong safety is, he may move around. You know where different players are. You know where London Fletcher is. You have to make adjustments. They have a lot of good players."

One would believe Haynesworth is will see significant snaps Sunday.

The Redskins depth chart released to the media had Haynesworth backing up Ma'ake Kemoeatu at nose tackle.

Scout's Eye on Washington Redskins

September, 9, 2010
9/09/10
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Scout's Eye
Sunday's has the makings of a difficult game for the Cowboys on several levels. It’s a division opponent, it’s on the road, and the Redskins have a new coach, which means new systems on offense and defense.

Coach Mike Shanahan has had a great deal of success in his NFL coaching career running a zone-blocking scheme with a mobile quarterback. Wade Phillips and the Cowboys staff have had to resort to other means to try and figure out what Shanahan might use in his game plan.

Dallas worked against Shanahan and the Broncos two seasons ago in practice and played a preseason game as well. The Cowboys can draw from that experience but also from the four games the Redskins played this preseason against the Bills, Ravens, Jets and Cardinals.

In studying those games, Shanahan has the offense working in that zone-blocking scheme. Rookie left tackle Trent Williams is a nice fit in this offense. He is mobile, plus he is able to play with a form of power. He shows the ability to play on his feet. You rarely see him on the ground.

A nice matchup to watch was when Williams went against Terrell Suggs of the Ravens. Suggs is a pass rusher similar to what he will face with DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Suggs is an explosive player off the edge. Where he was able to take advantage of Williams was down inside on the rush.

The Redskins will put tight ends in the backfield to help with protection. Cooley and Davis did help in the preseason, but it wasn’t always to Williams’ side. Look for Ware to throw a wide variety of moves at Williams early in the game to gauge where he is.

Donovan McNabb told the media Wednesday that his ankle was fine and he was ready for the start against the Cowboys. McNabb hurt the ankle in the preseason, and there was talk that he might miss the game, which you knew wasn’t going to happen. Where McNabb is good in this offense is his ability to be a deceptive ballhandler, use his feet and deliver the ball on the move.

A large part of this offense is the use of the quarterback on boots and waggles. The Redskins want to pound the ball on the stretch play, then spin the quarterback away from the flow to work the ball to Cooley or Davis on the delay or Santana Moss down the field.

What the Redskins showed in their preseason games were routes down the field. Galloway and Moss both have speed and will stretch the field on vertical routes. Moss is dangerous is when he lines up in the slot and has the opportunity to run deep or crossing routes. He puts a great deal of pressure on the defense when he is allowed to do this because he is not afraid to take his route anywhere, plus he has the speed to create separation.

Cooley causes problems because of his ability to line up anywhere in the formation and complete routes. He has consistent hands and is a dependable player on third downs, much like a Jason Witten is for the Cowboys.

If the Cowboys are going to have success on defense Sunday night, it will have to be controlling the Redskins running game and not allowing McNabb to be effective in the play-action game.

*Throughout his NFL career as a head coach, Shanahan’s teams have been of the 4-3 defensive type of scheme. In Shanahan’s return to football -- after sitting out the 2009 season -- he is now working with a 3-4 look.

When asked about the switch, Shanahan said that in the 3-4, you can cause the offense more problems.

The scheme change presents challenges for the personnel staff. Do you have enough linebackers? Who is your nose man? The Redskins had a solid 4-3 group last season but now must move players around to handle the change.

Throughout his career, Andre Carter played as a wide 9 technique, with his hand on the ground rushing the passer. Now he is moved to outside linebacker, playing over the tight end and dropping in coverage.

Linebacker London Fletcher played with two big inside players at tackle to protect him. He now only has a nose man to do that.

Where this game can be won or lost is if the Cowboys do a poor job of handling the linebackers for the Redskins. Brian Orakpo, Carter and Fletcher can all make plays.

Across the defensive front, Adam Carriker, Ma’ake Kemoeatu, Kedric Golston are not dynamic players. Albert Haynesworth is the best player in this group but has struggled with his conditioning this preseason and at this time is not a starter. Haynesworth has played both nose and end in the preseason and did a much better job in the Jets game then he did in the others.

Where the Cowboys need to worry is if Haynesworth becomes motivated and decides he wants to be a dominant player.

The Redskins like to move Orakpo around in passing situations. There were times this preseason where he and Carter were rushing from the same side or Orakpo was coming from the inside linebacker spot.

In the preseason, I thought that cornerback Carlos Rogers has played better than DeAngelo Hall. Hall is a veteran player that understands how to play routes, but the physical side of the game will be a struggle.

Look for the Cowboys to try and find a way to attack safeties LaRon Landry and Kareem Moore. Landry has been a liability in coverage because of his aggressive play. Landry is a hitter but will struggle in space.

Albert Haynesworth is at the complex

September, 8, 2010
9/08/10
10:57
AM ET
The Washington Redskins are shopping defensive tackle/end Albert Haynesworth to the Tennessee Titans.

If and when that deals happens, Haynesworth is still with the Redskins.

At least he was on Wednesday.

"Albert is here right now," Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. "We've got all our guys here."

During a radio interview on Tuesday afternoon, McNabb said the Redskins can't win without Haynesworth.

We'll see what Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has to say about Haynesworth status when he speaks with Dallas reporters around 11 a.m. CT.

Random thoughts on the Cowboys

September, 3, 2010
9/03/10
9:44
AM ET
The preseason is over with. Thank goodness. We look at five things regarding Dallas' favorite football team.

1. The reasons to release or trade Patrick Crayton are many. Is it a right decision? No. The Cowboys need a trusted wide receiver with a proven track record on the roster and will not have any if Crayton is not part of the 53. You could say Miles Austin is a Pro Bowl wide receiver and you would be right in that thought process. However, Austin emerged onto the scene last year. He doesn't have a track record. Roy E. Williams has been bad since he's put on a Cowboys uniform and we're not even sure if he will have a good year this year. Kevin Ogletree and Dez Bryant are young players trying to find their way and Bryant, a rookie, had only two weeks of training camp. Crayton is a dependable player and losing him will hurt.

2. Worried about Sean Lee not becoming the nickel linebacker? Yes, you should be, but it's not the end of the world. At some point Lee is going to be an everydown player, maybe in place of Bradie James or Keith Brooking. For now, Lee will get some snaps with the first-team defense, but not enough to have an impact. Lee's efforts will come later in the season.

3. The Cowboys have one of those schedules that will make you forget how bad they were in the preseason. Dallas has a chance to go 3-0 before the bye week because the Cowboys have more talent than their three opponents. Washington, the Week 1 team, has problems. One scout told me he's not sure who the Redskins' starting wide receivers are reports out of D.C. has Albert Haynesworth inactive for Week 1. Chicago, the second opponent, has the great Jay Cutler. Over/under on how many picks Cutler will throw at Cowboys Stadium? I think two. The third opponent is the Houston Texans, who are a big tease. The Texans say this is supposed to be their year to beat the Colts and win the AFC South. If that fails at least the Texans can reach the postseason. Sure.

4. Jason Garrett spent some time with reporters late Thursday night talking about Stephen McGee. Garrett said McGee came out with a little attitude like he wanted to show everybody he can play. Garrett even said McGee had a little attitude with him on the sidelines. Garrett liked that because quarterbacks need a hard edge sometimes.

5. It's not so much the running backs I'm worried about. It's the offensive line. Leonard Davis doesn't move around as quick as he used too, Kyle Kosier and Marc Colombo are coming back from injuries and Andre Gurode has struggled. Doug Free has played pretty well in the preseason, but the Cowboys need to find more consistency from this group if the running attack is going to get moving once the games start becoming for real next Sunday.

Center Andre Gurode is still around

August, 25, 2010
8/25/10
4:18
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- In the last two weeks, the Cowboys lost two offensive linemen, Kyle Kosier and Marc Colombo, to knee injuries.

Both are expected back for the early stages of the regular season.

Of the projected starters on that offensive line, center Andre Gurode has the longest tenure with the Cowboys at nine seasons. Leonard Davis enters his 10th NFL season, but he spent six years in Arizona.

Gurode has been a durable player. He's started every game since 2006, when he became the full-time starter at that position.

He didn't miss a game in 2007 after getting stomped in the face by then-Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who is now with the Redskins. Gurode received 30 stitches to his forehead and face as a result of the injuries.

The last time Gurode missed time due to an injury was 2004 when he missed two games with a sprained knee. Before that he missed two more games with a sprained toe in 2002.

"I would say to God be the glory for the health," said Gurode, 31. "A lot of praying and it's knowing how to work out here and take care of yourself. You never know. You got to enjoy it and be careful."

Gurode has reached the Pro Bowl every year he's been a starter, but last year might not have been his best season.

Line coach Hudson Houck said Gurode needed to play with more technique -- instead of powering over defenders, trying to maneuver them with footwork, hand placement and arm length.

"This is a game of what have you done for me lately," he said. "You have a lot of work to do, a lot of areas to improve in, and Hud has been working on me to work on those areas."

Matt Mosley on Scott Van Pelt Show

July, 26, 2010
7/26/10
2:17
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