Dallas Cowboys: Greg Ellis

Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 2

June, 21, 2014
Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it, we discuss:
If you want to see Part 1 of the mailbag, click here. And this will be our last Twitter mailbag for a few weeks thanks to some vacation.

Away we go:
@toddarcher: Since Romo is such a golf guy, let's use a golf analogy: he's on the back nine. I don't know how anybody could think otherwise. He is 34. He is coming off two back surgeries. He is in his eighth year as a full-time starter. Just because he is on the back nine doesn't mean he can't play at a high level. I know the odds are stacked and thirty-something quarterbacks haven't won a lot of Super Bowls here lately, but I'd take my chances he's on Holes 12 and 13, if you will. He still has football in him, provided he can stay upright. I do think Romo is smart enough to adapt his game as he gets older. If you allow me to carry on with other sports analogies, here's another one: fastball pitchers can develop into multipitch guys over the years. Romo has done a lot on his own with some improvisation and ability to buy time. I don't think you'll see him run around as much as he did when he was younger. I think you'll see him pick and choose his spots. I believe he did some of that last year, which is one of the reasons his sack total was so high. He was willing to take the sack -- not necessarily the big hit mind you -- and move on to the next play rather than take a risk of a hit or a poor throw. @toddarcher: Conventional wisdom says DeMarco Murray because when he gets 20 carries in a game, the Cowboys win. I hate that stat. If it really means what it says it means, then Murray should get the ball on the first 20 plays of every game. We all know it doesn't work that way. But I'm also of the opinion that the running back position has been devalued. I think the Cowboys could get by without Murray. Would they be as good? No, but they would not be lost. To me, if they lost Jason Witten, then they would be in trouble. Witten has been a mainstay. He does everything. The passing game has missed receivers over the years, but Romo has been able to throw for more than 300 yards in game whether he has Kevin Ogletree, Laurent Robinson or Dwayne Harris playing big roles. Without Witten, I don't know that that would continue. And in the running game, Witten can set the edge. He's not a blow-them-up blocker, but he can displace defensive ends and linebackers to allow backs to pick holes. On defense, I really didn't have a candidate, but if I did, I'd probably go with Barry Church. I don't know what they would do at safety without him. The defense would take a different look, for sure. @toddarcher: If you're talking left defensive end, then sure. If you're looking for a pure right defensive end, then no. But he has position flexibility. He can move inside if necessary as well. The left side has to be a stronger player at the point of attack. He is that type of guy and he has some good pass rush to him, but not to the point where you can say he would be a DeMarcus Ware type. He can be a Greg Ellis type. If he does not play well, then the Cowboys' defensive line will struggle. They need him to have a good year. I think the expectations have been raised on the kid from comments by guys like Jason Hatcher and Tony Romo. People need to remember he didn't have a sack in 2012 and he missed last year. There will be some growing pains, but the potential is definitely there. @toddarcher: He has done a better job. He appears to be playing more confident. Now, does that mean he is a shutdown corner worth the No. 6 pick in the draft? I don't want to go that far from watching football in helmets and jerseys in the spring, but it sure beats the alternative. He is as healthy as he has been, which plays a part into the confidence. He's not thinking about injuries out there. His comments at the end of the minicamp were encouraging. He was going to take a few days off here and there between now and training camp but he planned on staying on the grind. That's good news. He knows how important this year is to him. The Cowboys need him as much as anybody else on defense to be successful. As I said, I like what I've seen but I still think Orlando Scandrick will be the starter Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers. To win that job from Scandrick he will have to knock out the champ, if you know what I mean. @toddarcher: Yes, there is. If you want to take a look at the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, look at Article 4, Section 9. It's about forfeiture. If I had to bet when Kyle Orton shows up at training camp it would be either July 27 or July 28. Once he misses six practices, the Cowboys can come after the prorated amount of signing bonus in 2014. So in addition to the fines he induced in the offseason -- $69,455 for missing the minicamp, $10,930 for missing the physical -- and the $75,000 de-escalator in his contract for missing too many workouts, Orton would be fined $30,000 for missing camp. So let's say he misses a week, costing him $150,000. You're looking at about $300,000 in fines, de-escalators, which brings his base salary to just under $3 million. I think for 17 regular-season weeks and a month of preseason, Orton would be OK to make that kind of money and then walk away from the game. It will be interesting to see how this goes when the Cowboys get to camp. They have remained patient, to say the least, while Orton has been silent. 
Greg Ellis didn’t watch the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night, but as soon as he heard the Cowboys picked Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin over Johnny Manziel, one thought popped into his head.

“He’s going to go through the same thing I did when the Dallas Cowboys passed on Randy Moss and took me with the eighth pick," Ellis said. "It followed me throughout my career.

“Johnny is the more exciting player playing the more exciting position. Randy Moss was the more exciting player playing the more exciting position. The Cowboys drafted what they needed last night just like they did with me.

"If Tony Romo is still your guy and you feel like you can make a run with him, then you can’t spend your first pick on quarterback. Hopefully, both kids will turn out to be good football players like Randy Moss and Greg Ellis.”

Ellis started 155 of 162 games in 11 seasons with the Cowboys. Ellis, who played one season with Oakland, finished his career with 84 sacks, including a career-high 12 1/2 in 2007 after making the conversion from defensive end to outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense.

And if he hadn’t played on the left side his entire career, perhaps he would’ve had even more sacks. After all, he still holds North Carolina’s career sack record with 32. Ellis’ first priority with the Cowboys was to stop the run -- not rush the passer.

While Ellis had an excellent career, Moss had a Hall of Fame career. Moss caught 982 passes for 15,292 and 156 touchdowns. He terrorized the Cowboys, scoring 10 touchdowns in seven games against Dallas.

The comparisons never really stopped. And they won’t stop for Martin.

Whenever Manziel plays well, the chatter about how Dallas should’ve drafted him will begin. Whenever Martin allows a sack, folks will mention Manziel. If Romo plays poorly or gets hurt, Manziel's name will pop up even more.

“I just tried to focus on my job and do what I needed to do to help the team,” Ellis said. “I’d laugh it off whenever people talked about it. I’d say, 'I’ve scored an NFL touchdown, but has Randy Moss ever gotten a sack?’"

The key for Martin, said Ellis, will be to focus on being the best player he can be -- not worrying about Johnny Manziel.

“While Randy was making millions and scoring touchdowns, I was doing my best to help the Dallas Cowboys win,” Ellis said. “I put the team first, realizing that this is the job they’ve given me to do.

“They didn’t need me to go outside the framework of the defense. The highest compliment I ever received came from Mike Zimmer. He once said I could’ve had a million sacks, but I was unselfish and willing to do what was best for the football team. It wasn’t easy.

“If Johnny is having a Pro Bowl rookie season, Zack can’t think about punishing a guy and making a highlight film, if the play calls for him to zone block. He can’t worry about the reporters and media. He just needs to worry about himself."

Sean Lee now the face of Cowboys' D

March, 12, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Two weeks ago, Cowboys team doctors cleared Sean Lee for full offseason football activities following the neck injury that knocked him out of most of the final four games in 2013.

That’s a good thing, because with the release of DeMarcus Ware on Tuesday, Lee will have to bear the weight of being the face of the Cowboys' defense.

From just about the day Ware arrived in 2005 as a first-round pick through 2012, he was the Cowboys' best player on offense or defense. He could do -- and probably will show people this year he still can do -- anything he wanted.

[+] EnlargeSean Lee
Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty ImagesSean Lee has proven to be a playmaker, but staying healthy has been a challenge.
His 117 career sacks are a franchise record. He came up a half-sack short in 2011 of becoming the first player in NFL history with two 20-sack seasons. If anything, the Cowboys are choosing to cut ties with a player a year too early as opposed to a year too late with Ware.

It is their right, and their salary-cap woes made the decision even easier.

But now Lee will be the face of the defense.

The Cowboys signed him to a six-year extension worth $42 million last summer that could accelerate to $51 million if he can stay healthy.

Those last five words shadow Lee the way Ware shadowed quarterbacks. He missed five games in 2013 with hamstring and neck injuries. He missed 10 games in 2012 with a serious toe injury. He missed one game in 2011 with a dislocated wrist but played the bulk of the season with it wrapped up like a club. He missed two games as a rookie in 2010.

Lee is everything that coach Jason Garrett wants in a player. He is tough, accountable, unselfish and talented. He knows the score. He knows he has to stay on the field for the Cowboys to have a chance to make the playoffs.

He can change games like Ware can, just in different ways. He has 11 interceptions in his career, two returned for touchdowns. He is a tackling machine. He is the brains of a defense. He can make sure other defenders are lined up in the correct spot. He can cover up their mistakes, too.

Ware could (can?) change games with his burst off the line of scrimmage and by pressuring the quarterback. He could (can?) do things athletically that men his size should not be able to do. He was (is?) the perfect combination of speed and power.

For nine seasons with the Cowboys, nobody did it better than Ware. He helped Greg Ellis, Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher reach the Pro Bowl because he drew so much attention from offenses.

Tuesday marked the end of an era with the release of Ware and the beginning of another in a way with Lee.

Cowboys should give Ware one more year

January, 22, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Free DeMarcus Ware?

Sounds strange, doesn't it? For all of the Pro Bowls, for all of the sacks, for all of the goodwill he earned in his first eight seasons, one poor season has Ware in the cross hairs.

He is on the wrong side of 30. He missed the first three games of his career. He had a career-low 40 tackles. More importantly he had a career-low six sacks.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware has reached double-digit sacks for seven consecutive seasons, but he'll need four sacks in the final three games to keep the streak alive.
AP Photo/James D. SmithThe Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware had just six sacks in 2013 and turns 32 in July.
With the Cowboys needing to clear salary-cap space, Ware, who is set to count $16.003 million against the 2014 cap, is one of the obvious targets for creating that room. The question is how they do it. The Cowboys can simply cut him and save $7.4 million in space. They can have him take a pay cut but offer a way to earn back some of that money through incentives. They can restructure his contract like they have the last few years.

Cutting him sounds the easiest but then you have to ask who would replace him? If you think he's done, then that's an easy question. But Ware dominated Tyron Smith every day in Oxnard, Calif. He had four sacks in his first three games before stinger, back and quadriceps injuries took their toll. The Cowboys do not have somebody who can roll out of bed and get six sacks let alone the nearly 14 a year he put up on average in his first eight seasons.

Ware already said he would not take a pay cut, amending his feelings a day after the season-ending loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Offering incentives could be a last resort type of move. Ware and his agent would have to see what kind of market would be out there for a defensive end coming off a down season and turns 32 in July. Osi Umenyiora signed a two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons last year with $5 million guaranteed. He had 7.5 sacks in 2013. John Abraham signed a two-year, $4.6 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals that included a $1 million signing bonus. He had 11.5 sacks.

Restructuring Ware's contract again would add to his already large cap figures in 2015-17. The last two years of the deal will void if he is on the roster 23 days before the 2016 league year begins. If the Cowboys restructure Ware's deal, then they could save close to $9 million against the cap but add $2.82 million to his cap number in the final three years.

Is it worth it? It might be. For the sake of this argument, let's say the Cowboys choose this route again. They can cut him after the 2014 season and save roughly $6.5 million against the cap. If they would rather make him a June 1, 2015 cut, then they could save about $14 million against the cap with $7.7 million in dead money carrying over to the 2016 cap.

Finding pass-rushers is difficult. The Cowboys have not exactly been adept at finding anybody but Ware. Anthony Spencer was a first-round pick in 2007 and had one double-digit sack season. Greg Ellis was a first-rounder in 1998 and he did not max out until Ware arrived. Bobby Carpenter, drafted in the first round in 2006 to play outside linebacker opposite Ware, did not pan out.

The chances of Jason Hatcher, who led the Cowboys with 11 sacks in 2013, re-signing are slim. Spencer's price tag will be low because of a knee injury that cost him all but one game last season but is he damaged goods? Can you bank on another seven sack season from George Selvie? Can Tyrone Crawford come back from his Achilles tear?

There is no doubt that the Cowboys would be taking a gamble by restructuring Ware's contract and pushing more money into the future.

It would be more of a gamble to not have Ware at all.
INDIANAPOLIS -- While most of the focus of the NFL scouting combine is on the draft, the Cowboys are hoping to meet with the agent for linebacker Anthony Spencer over the next few days.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones said a meeting is not scheduled with Roosevelt Barnes, "but there's a chance we'll probably get with him."

Jones said a decision on whether to apply the franchise tag on Spencer, which would cost roughly $8.8 million, has not been made. The Cowboys have until March 5 to tender Spencer. Free agency begins March 13.

The Cowboys have used the franchise tag twice, on Flozell Adams in 2002 and Ken Hamlin in 2008.

"It's obviously usually a pretty decent [salary] number and it's not a cap-friendly deal, so that's probably the hardest thing," Jones said of the team's philosophy on the tag. "But at the same time it allows you some protection."

Spencer, a first-round pick in 2007, has never had more than six sacks in a season.

Jones said the Cowboys do not have an in-house candidate to replace Spencer "right now that we'd feel comfortable plugging in."

Spencer has 21.5 sacks for his career and has started 47 of the last 48 games since taking over for Ellis in 2009.

"I think he's performed solidly," Jones said. "I think he's a solid player. You keep thinking the production is going to come in terms of what you're expectations are. You think going into the season that this is the year he'll get 10-12 sacks. But at the same time you don't measure a player by sacks only. He's solid against the run. He gets pressure. He does all of that."

Should the Cowboys tag Spencer, Jones said it would not preclude the team from selecting a linebacker with their first-round pick in April.

"Right now we don't have Spencer signed long-term," Jones said, "and you can never have enough pass rushers."

Cowboys will pass on Randy Moss again

February, 14, 2012
Back in 1998, Dallas Cowboys general manager Jerry Jones bypassed on drafting wide receiver Randy Moss in the first round due to off-the-field issues.

The Cowboys drafted defensive end Greg Ellis.

Fast forward to 2012 and with Moss making his Sugar Ray Leonard return to the NFL, the Cowboys have another chance to get the veteran wideout.

A source said the Cowboys will pass on the wide receiver.

This shouldn't come as a surprise because the Cowboys have some talented and young wide receivers in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. The team also wants to re-sign Laurent Robinson, who led the team with 11 touchdown receptions in 2011.

Dwayne Harris and Andre Holmes are young players who should compete for playing time in 2012, and if Raymond Radway fully recovers from his leg injury, suffered in the final preseason game, he will see snaps as well.

It's hard to believe any team wants to sign Moss. He missed the entire 2011 season and unlike Terrell Owens, who is coming off ACL surgery, Moss is healthy.

Moss took the Cowboys' decision to draft Ellis personally. In seven career games against the Cowboys, Moss has 10 touchdowns and an 18.9 yards-per-catch average.

DeMarcus Ware suffers back spasms

October, 16, 2011

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- DeMarcus Ware had perhaps his best game of the season with five tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries, but the Pro Bowl outside linebacker was walking gingerly after the game.

After his second sack of New England’s Tom Brady, he suffered some back spasms but he did not miss a play.

“I thought it was going to get better,” Ware said, “but it got worse.”

Sunday marked the 20th multi-sack game of Ware’s career, which is a franchise record. Jim Jeffcoat and Greg Ellis had 19 multi-sack games in their careers with the Cowboys.

Does DeMarcus Ware get enough respect?

June, 29, 2011
Over the last week, there is this debate as to just how good Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware is.

It's clear the players, in a poll conducted by NFL.com, don't believe he's the best defensive player in the game, or for that matter ranked among the Top 10 players in the game.

Ware is ranked 12th overall by his peers. He also wasn't ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN NFL bloggers' rankings, either. Ware again was 12th, receiving just three votes from the eight-man panel.

There is this perception that Ware, at least overall, isn't better than Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu on some of these polls when it comes to being a top defender. The facts would indicate something else: Ware is one of the most, if not the most, dangerous defensive player in the league.

Last season, he led the NFL with 15.5 sacks, which also included an NFL-leading 8.5 on third down. That means opposing offenses get off the field when Ware gets after them. He also had 4.5 sacks in the fourth quarter, tied for sixth in the league.

What probably hurts Ware is he's not knocking helmets off or getting fined, which draws publicity, though he did get clipped for $12,500 for a hit on then-Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna in 2007 as payback for some comments he made about Bradie James.

Ware doesn't have a deep raspy voice like Ray Lewis or some other defenders, which gives off the perception that he's a tough guy. He's not pumping up the team or defensive players prior to the game like Keith Brooking and James do.

All Ware does is take care of his business in a soft-spoken way. Ware does his leading behind closed doors. He's learned plenty about leadership from former player Greg Ellis, who wasn't shy about sharing his techniques and handling things in the locker room.

If you talk to Ware on a regular basis during the season and ask him how he's defended, he'll admit he's regularly double-teamed. Offenses just don't do that to every pass rusher in the league.

When it came to the best pass rusher in the game, our bloggers got it right when they ranked him first. When it comes to the best players in the game, Ware should be in the discussion. He definitely has more of an impact than Polamalu, whom CBS's Pete Prisco says is one of the most overrated player in the league.

Ware is probably one of the NFL's best at being a game-changer. NFC East blogger Dan Graziano said Ware is the best intimidator in the game.

Prisco has Ware as the third-best player in the game.

We know Ware is respected locally. But nationally, across the league, is he really getting it?

Mailbag: Dez Bryant, Jay Ratliff on minds

January, 21, 2011
Welcome to our first mailbag of the offseason, and it might be a long one if there’s a lockout. Before we get to the mail, let’s address two issues:

Trading Dez Bryant

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireNFL teams are always willing to listen to discussion about players. However, that doesn't mean Dez Bryant is going anywhere.
It’s dumb. The Cowboys haven’t gotten any offers for Bryant and are not expecting to trade him. Some readers misinterpreted my blog post from a few days ago that the team was trying to trade Bryant. A team source said he would listen to offers for Bryant, but never said he would trade him. Last year, another source -- when asked would he consider bringing outside linebacker Greg Ellis back to the Cowboys -- said yes. But it never happened.

NFL teams, the Cowboys included, talk about players all the time and how they would fit. In Ellis’ case, it wouldn’t work because the coaches felt confident Anthony Spencer was going to be fine as the starter and the backup linebackers would provide adequate relief for him if necessary.

In the Bryant case, a hypothetical question about what you could get for him considering the Cowboys' offseason needs was the basis of what was being said. Nobody reported Bryant was on the trade blocks.

The Rooney Rule

Some readers are upset with the Rooney Rule, which forces NFL teams to interview minority candidates. The rule was enacted because NFL teams didn’t consider interviewing minorities on a regular basis for head coaching jobs. All minority coaches have ever asked for is a fair chance to become head coaches, and it didn’t appear that was happening.

John Wooten, who is the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, sends NFL teams a list of minority coaches that should be considered for head coaching positions. The other day I found a list from 2008 naming 16 coaches. Of that list, Leslie Frazier, Hue Jackson, Raheem Morris, Ron Rivera and Mike Singletary became head coaches. Former Cowboys receivers coach Ray Sherman is also listed but hasn’t gotten a head coaching job. I think the Rooney Rule works, but readers and maybe some of us in the media should ask some more questions before criticizing it.

Enough of the soap box. Let’s get to the mailbag.

[+] Enlarge Prince Amukamara
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesWill Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara be there for the taking with the Cowboys' first-round pick (No. 9) in the draft? Mel Kiper Jr. sure thinks so.
Q: Most mock drafts have Da'Quan Bowers, Nick Fairley, Marcell Dareus, Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara all going before the Cowboys draft at No. 9. Do you see any possibility in which Carolina would swap picks with Dallas and pick up Blaine Gabbert or Jake Locker at No. 9 -- since that's where they are projected to go -- and the Cowboys pick up an elite defender to fit in nicely with Rob Ryan's new defense? -- Lawrence Torres (Bakersfield, Calif.)

A: The Cowboys have a chance to get a premium player at No. 9, and I don’t believe a trade is necessary. Last season, they traded up to get Bryant, a premium player who fell in the draft for off-the-field issues. Getting an elite pass rusher or safety is the way to go for the Cowboys at No. 9. But if a guy like Von Miller, for instance, is gone, then maybe you get Amukamara or somebody else. Remember there are holes on the offensive line, and it’s uncertain if the Cowboys will re-sign Kyle Kosier as the left guard for 2011. There are many possibilities for a top 10 pick, and the Cowboys can’t go wrong here with whoever they select.

Q: Despite accomplishments by Jay Ratliff,I believe that he's a tad overrated. I know that he is a Pro Bowler, but that is more of a popularity contest at this point. I feel that the Cowboys should look at Marcel Darius of Alabama and move Ratliff to defensive end. I've said for three years, he’s too small for nose guard. He consistently gets blown off the ball in the run game but his speed would be great at end. Your thoughts? -- Byron (Indianapolis)

A:That’s an interesting take on Ratliff. I thought he was double-teamed plenty of times last season, which is why he didn’t get to the quarterback more or create enough pressure in 2010. A move to end might be better for him, and it’s something the team tried to do a few years ago. Ratliff didn’t seem thrilled with it then, but knowing the team player that he is, a move such as this might sit well with him now. The problem I had with Ratliff was his lack of quarterback pressures and his inconsistency at stopping ball carriers for no gain. Rob Ryan, the new defensive coordinator, might make some position changes or keep things the same but change how certain players do things technique-wise.

Q: Do you feel Felix Jones can be an every-down back? Should the Boys look to draft one? -- Mike T (Syracuse)

A: It was very interesting to note when Marion Barber was healthy toward the end of the season, the Cowboys kept him on the sidelines and Felix Jones remained the starter. Those last four games of the 2010 season might have been an audition for Jones to show he can carry the ball 15-20 times a game. If the Cowboys feel he can, then Tashard Choice is the No. 2 and Barber will be released.

Q: Trading Dez Bryant would be a dumb mistake. We all know which of the receivers need to be traded (Roy Williams). -- Andrew Maxwell (Colombia, Maryland)

A:I’m not sure if you can get anything for Williams. At best, if you cut him, it’s a $12.9 million cap hit -- and the Cowboys might be willing to do that. Bryant is not going anywhere. Never said he was. But Williams might. A trade isn’t happening, but releasing him is a possibility.

Q: Dallas clearly has the worst secondary in the NFL. Their secondary was clearly the reason for half of their losses. Dave Campo is the secondary coach. It’s time for him to hit the road. He clearly does not have a clue how to coach their personnel. The Cowboys never win on third down, and the coach does not know now to get his point across. Wasn’t he fired once before? -- Williams McClelland (Port Neches, Texas)

A: It’s easy to blame the coach for the problems with the secondary. In 2009, when Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman reached the Pro Bowl, Campo was the secondary coach. I think Jenkins had an off year and is poised for a bounce-back season in 2011. Newman might get released in a cost-savings move. There are some in the front office that aren't too happy with him, but Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett will make the final call on Newman. I think he’ll be here unless the Cowboys decide to get a cornerback in the first round.

DeMarcus Ware is NFC Player of the Week

September, 28, 2010

The first win of the season for the Cowboys netted the first award of the season.

Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for having three sacks, five tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries in the victory over the Houston Texans.

It's the fourth time in his career that Ware picked up the award.

It was the fifth time Ware reached his career high of three sacks.

Ware is now tied with Randy White for the third-most multi-sack games in Cowboys history with 14.

Greg Ellis and Jim Jeffcoat share the Cowboys' mark for the most multi-sack games in a career with 19.

Ware has 68.5 career sacks, with 29 on third down.

Anthony Spencer's arrival sealed QB's fate

September, 9, 2010
IRVING, Texas -- DeMarcus Ware has sacked Donovan McNabb more than any quarterback except for one, but Anthony Spencer played a bigger role in running McNabb out of Philadelphia.

That fact certainly didn’t slip past McNabb. He mentioned the word “Eagles” once during his dozen-minute conference call with the Valley Ranch media. That was to point out that Philadelphia traded the 26th overall pick in the 2007 draft to Dallas so the Cowboys could select Spencer.

The Eagles got three picks in the deal. The headliner: No. 34 overall, which they used to select Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb.

So Spencer’s success against McNabb was sort of like adding injury to insult. Spencer absolutely dominated Dallas’ last two games against the Eagles, racking up three sacks and five quarterback hurries in the NFC East-title-clinching and playoff victories in January.

“Anthony has really come into his own,” McNabb said. “Drafted obviously when the Eagles traded the pick and Dallas drafted Spencer. He was able to develop. He played behind Greg Ellis where he was able to learn.

“Then, when given the opportunity, he stepped in and made plays when he had to. He’s playing with a guy that teams have to game plan for in DeMarcus Ware, and rightfully so. This gives him the opportunity to make plays.”

The Eagles gave the Cowboys the opportunity to draft Spencer, a decision that obviously doesn’t sit well with their former franchise quarterback.
SAN ANTONIO -- The topic of discussion during Wednesday's news conference with Wade Phillips was a discussion he held with the young players in the early stages of the morning practice.

Phillips had given most of the veterans the morning off because the coaching staff and scouts wanted to see how the young players performed with increased snaps.

But things didn't go so well, as offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, linebackers coach Reggie Herring and Phillips himself were irked by some mental and physical mistakes.

"Reiterated what I wanted to do, and they're going to do it," Phillips said. "You try and let them know when you’re not happy about things, and I think that’s the difference between a holler and screamer. I think they know when I'm not happy with something and hopefully they respond to it, and I think they do."

Phillips doesn't use much profanity, and none was heard when he gathered the players at midfield for a little talk. In 2007, Phillips' first year as coach, he used profanity to address the players who were late to a special teams meeting.

*There is some concern at defensive line. The Cowboys have 10 defensive linemen on the 80-man roster, but only six are healthy. Tackles Sean Lissemore and Josh Brent, are hurt and end Lorenzo Washington re-injured his hamstring and his status with the club is in doubt.

*Running back Felix Jones didn't miss Tuesday's second practice because his slightly swollen knee didn't bother him too much. "Felix was fine," Phillips said.

*Doug Free is the projected starter at left tackle, yet the club traded for Alex Barron in the offseason to get a swing tackle with experience. But Free is doing fine. Phillips said Free's confidence is growing with each practice and he just has to work on his consistency.

*Phillips got into a discussion regarding when to cut veteran players, or progress stoppers as Jerry Jones calls them, so young players can get more time on the field. Phillips said it's hard to do sometimes but you have to have "try and get the best players on the field." The Cowboys got into that situation in 2007 when they drafted Anthony Spencer as a potential replacement for Greg Ellis. Eventually it happened, and Spencer is one of the stars on the defense.

Crayton as insurance isn't worth cost

May, 28, 2010
The price of keeping Patrick Crayton as an insurance policy isn’t worth the potential payoff.

That has nothing to do with Crayton’s $2 million salary this season, which ultimately might be the determining factor in his departure from Dallas, although the Cowboys have no intention of granting Crayton's wish to be released right now.

Crayton’s current line of thinking isn’t irrational. He’s well aware that $2 million is a steep price to pay for a player without a role, which is why he’s afraid the Cowboys will release him after training camp, when it will be tough for him to catch on with another team.

Frankly, in an uncapped season, I couldn’t care less how much Jerry Jones pays his backups. Forget about the financial bottom line. The real cost of keeping Crayton for insurance is the risk of having him wreak havoc in the locker room.

That ought to outweigh the fact that keeping Crayton makes the Cowboys a better team on paper. Jerry Jones won’t admit it, but the Cowboys’ last two seasons provide a pretty conclusive case study that chemistry matters, that drama and distractions can destroy a team.

If Crayton’s around without a legitimate chance to compete for playing time, you better believe that there will be drama and distractions.

Not that Crayton is a bad guy. He’s just brutally honest, whether or not that’s in the best interests of the team.

That was the case a couple of years ago, when he was one of the receivers who ranted to Jason Garrett about Tony Romo’s habit of locking onto Jason Witten. That was the case last season, when Crayton called out the coaching staff for failing to inform him face-to-face that he was demoted.

It’s foolish to think that Crayton will keep his mouth shut while he watches all the reps he used to get go to Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree. It’s even sillier to believe that he’d be a good soldier while standing on the sideline during the regular season.

“You don’t want a progress stopper,” Crayton said while basically begging for his release Friday on ESPN 103.3’s Ben and Skin Show. “When it comes down to it, I would be a progress stopper.”

You especially don’t want a perturbed progress stopper.

Crayton’s frustration is certainly understandable. He’s confident in his ability but feels helpless here, knowing he’ll have minimal chance to contribute unless another receiver gets hurt. Plus, he’s already lost his starting job to a receiver who has done nothing to earn it other than signing a $9-million-per-year contract.

Oddly, Crayton went out of his way to stick up for the underachieving Roy Williams, making thinly veiled excuses for the starter’s poor production since arriving in a blockbuster deal from Detroit.

“I’ve never seen a receiver get yards by catching air,” Crayton said, a strange comment considering his production basically matched Williams’ last season despite far fewer balls thrown his way.

Crayton declined to specify who was to blame, but it’s pretty clear that he’s pointing the finger at Garrett and/or Romo. The Cowboys should consider that a sign of things to come, with Crayton’s comments getting stronger as his frustration continues to build.

Like Terrell Owens and Greg Ellis last year, Crayton is a proud, loud veteran the Cowboys would be better off without, even if it doesn’t look that way on paper.

Trust the Cowboys on Ball and Free

May, 25, 2010
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys deserve the benefit of the doubt regarding their decisions to give Doug Free and Alan Ball the inside track to starting jobs.

They earned it last season.

The Cowboys looked like geniuses at the end of the 2009 season for releasing highly paid “progress stoppers.” Mike Jenkins made the Pro Bowl with Anthony Henry out of the way. Anthony Spencer dominated down the stretch with Greg Ellis gone. (Sorry, can’t give Jerry Jones and Co. full credit for Miles Austin’s emergence after they got rid of Terrell Owens, since it took an injury for Austin to get in the starting lineup.)

The reasoning behind those releases was two-fold: They were cost-cutting moves that made room for emerging young players. The Cowboys had the same line of thinking when they handed pink slips to Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin this spring.

Free and Ball don’t have the first-round pedigree of Jenkins and Spencer. But the Cowboys have had a chance to evaluate Free and Ball as starters, although Free was playing on the other side of the line.

The Cowboys’ conclusion was that there wouldn’t be a dropoff at left tackle and safety. Those positions might even be improved, which is what happened when the Cowboys dumped veterans to give young guys a shot last season.
No news to report today on two veteran players.

One is on Flozell Adams, the recently cut left tackle for the Cowboys. Adams' agent Jordan Woy said Monday there was nothing new to report regarding his client.

The Washington Redskins expressed some interest as did several other teams, but no visits are planned at this time for Adams.

Greg Ellis, who was let go by the Oakland Raiders, would like to return to the Cowboys as a third-down pass rusher. Jerry Jones said he's open to the idea.

However, the Cowboys haven't moved forward with Ellis' agent James Williams about a contract.

After the draft, we suspect more things to happen with these two veteran players.