Dallas Cowboys: Mike Hamlin
|Randy Galloway and Matt Mosley discuss the Cowboys putting the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer and releasing Gerald Sensabaugh.
Another reason why the move is risky is that the Cowboys have not been able to find a long-term safety since Darren Woodson.
And everybody believes the Cowboys struggle to identify quality offensive linemen?
Roy Williams had a good run for a few years but then tailed off badly. Ken Hamlin had one good season with the Cowboys, signed a big contract and then didn’t seem to like playing much again. Keith Davis was a special teamer turned starter out of necessity. At the prices the Cowboys paid Sensabaugh, I think they did OK with him for four years. Abram Elam lasted one season as a starter, which is better than Brodney Pool, who didn’t last a week in training camp.
(UPDATE: The original version forgot Lynn Scott, an undrafted player in 2001 that the Cowboys had hopes for early.)
Since 2001, the Cowboys have drafted nine safeties and the best has been Williams, and he was the eighth overall pick in 2002. People will remind you that Ed Reed is a Hall of Famer and went later to Baltimore. Tony Dixon (second, 2001) never panned out. Justin Beriault (sixth, 2006) was hurt and never played.
Pat Watkins (fifth, 2006) was tall and an OK special teamer. Alan Ball (seventh, 2007) was drafted as a corner, became a forgettable starter at safety and moved back to cornerback. Mike Hamlin and DeAngelo Smith were fifth-rounders in the forgettable 2009 draft and didn’t make an impact. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (fourth, 2010) was hurt when drafted, came from a small school and made switch from corner to safety – and never made an impact.
Barry Church and Danny McCray were undrafted players in 2010 that have made an impact. But Church, as close to an incumbent the Cowboys have at the position, is coming off an Achilles tear, and McCray showed he’s a special-teamer with the more work he got on defense last season.
Matt Johnson was a fourth-round pick last year and never played a snap because of recurring hamstring injuries. Judgment should be withheld until he actually gets on the field, but let’s just say history is not on his side.
The Cowboys needed to look at the safety spot before Sensabaugh’s release and now they must really look at it.
But do you trust they will find the right safety even in a draft that is considered rich at the position?
The Cowboys released Ball's backup Michael Hamlin on Tuesday and with that rookies Danny McCray and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah might get first-team reps.
If Ball can't play in Sunday's game vs. the Vikings, it would leave the Cowboys with an interesting decision to make. Should they bring back Hamlin to play against the Vikings or continue with their plans to move Jesse Holley off the practice squad to the active roster?
If that's the case, maybe the Cowboys start the game with three cornerbacks, Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick.
If Gronkowski can't play, the Cowboys will use Jason Witten as the HBack, something he's done in the past.
"You have to adjust certainly," coach Wade Phillips said. "Anytime you lose a player, that you only have one guy who plays that position, it becomes more of a curveball, more of a problem."
If Gronkowski is unavailable it also changes how the inactives may look for Sunday.
The inactives in the Week 3 victory over Houston were: Mike Hamlin, Sean Lee, Brandon Williams, Phil Costa, Sam Young, Robert Brewster, Sean Lissemore and Stephen McGee was the third quarterback.
There's a chance Lee could see some time in the base defense and on special teams Sunday. Hamlin was a surprise inactive vs. the Texans and might sit again vs. the Titans.
"It depends on his health," Phillips said in regard on what he would do with the inactives. "It's just like most of them, if he's well enough to play then we can play him, if he's not, he can't. You have to adjust. The thing was he came up with it [Thursday], that's more of a problem than anything else."
Two things played a role in this decision.
When the Cowboys placed fullback Deon Anderson on waived/injured on Friday it allowed them to move Scott Chandler from the practice squad to the active roster. Chandler is a blocking tight end who has done a nice job on his assignments in the special teams portions of practice. The Cowboys wanted Chandler to play in the game, which he did.
Rookie safeties Barry Church and Danny McCray played well on special teams the first two weeks and the Cowboys wanted to see Church more in certain defensive packages.
So Hamlin got a seat.
Church was inserted at the start of the fourth quarter on a goal-line package and along with Keith Brooking made a tackle of Arian Foster, stopping him for no gain from the 1. The drive ended with Brooking getting a sack on Matt Schaub, a play coach Wade Phillips said sealed the game. Houston had to settle for a 30-yard field goal, cutting the Cowboys lead to 17-6.
Church finished with one tackle on defense and an assist on special teams.
McCray had one interception and one special teams tackle.
Phillips won't say the rookie safeties are better overall than Hamlin, who was a fifth-round pick last year and expected to compete for a starting free safety job with Alan Ball.
But it's clear the Cowboys value the rookie safeties a lot more.
"Each of them have different strengths and I think Church really played well on special teams the week before," Phillips said. "We thought he could help us on goal line. McCray has been playing well."
With Gerald Sensabaugh out with a shoulder injury, at least until the season opener, the Cowboys will pair Hamlin up with Alan Ball.
"We like Hamlin but he hasn’t played so we got to get him playing this week and see how he does," Phillips said. "We got other candidates. Pat Watkins has started for us. I wouldn’t discount him either, and he’s back and ready to play."
The Cowboys have a heavy load of safties that could make the 53-man roster. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Barry Church, Danny McCray, Watkins, Ball, Hamlin and Sensabaugh are the safties. All of them can't stay.
"We got a lot of safeties right now that are doing pretty well or have played or I think can play. We’ll see," Phillips said. "We think [Hamlin is] the best one right now coming in for Sensabaugh."
*The Cowboys' bubble is a little larger thanks to the nose tackle position. Junior Siavii and Josh Brent are battling for the backup spot to Jay Ratliff. It would be interesting to see if Siavii or Brent make the team. Phillips was asked during a press briefing with reporters could he move Siavii or Brent to defensive end.
"Not right now," Phillips said. "Both of them could. Junior more so than Brent because he’s been there some. Junior is tall, big and got good speed. That will come later on."
*Saturday's game will have the first-teamers possibly go an entire first half. Phillips said he will not game plan and said it's a difficult situation to be in because the Cowboys will face Houston in Week 3.
*Phillips said the return of Alex Barron, full time, to right tackle, was positive.
"He was ready," Phillips said. "Looked like he did fine. He told me [Tuesday] he was ready."
It's just the preseason, and coach Wade Phillips is not worried about the run game.
"We're not running the ball a whole lot," Phillips said. "It is more individuals right now, but the way they run the football, the moves they make, the power that they're running with, the decisions they making as far as the runs are concerned, those are all good things. It will show up."
*Alex Barron (right tackle), Sean Lee (inside linebacker) and Mike Hamlin (strong safety) will start Saturday's preseason game vs. Houston. Phillips said he saw some good things from Lee as the game progressed. Phillips said Lee was credited with 13 tackles.
*The first-team offense has scored just one touchdown in four quarters of play. Phillips would like to see some improvment out of that unit. "We haven't played to our standards," he said.
*Phillips has said his club isn't a team yet. With three weeks to go before the start of the regular season, Phillips is determined to find the best 53 players.
"We'll know a lot about our team the next three weeks," he said. "Of course, then we'll be ready to play."
*The offensive line had two new starters, Montrae Holland and Robert Brewster, on Saturday, but Phillips was happy with the unit.
"The offensive line picked up a lot of the blitzes," he said. "We were more solid in our protection this week. I think they hit Tony one time, but he wasn't that much. I thought they did a good job overall."
*Fans and the media like to break down the roster from time-to-time. Does Phillips?
"I do it every day," he said. "More than once. We don't do it as a staff. Jerry [Jones] and I will go through it and Stephen [Jones] and I will go through it at times. I just want the guys to coach their guys and tell me what they think of them. I tell them, 'Hey we rate your player one to whatever, but it can change tomorrow.'"
Here are the highlights:
*Before practice, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant were working out with wide receivers coach Ray Sherman. Bryant also had a little chat with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
*Scott Sicko, Alex Barron, Martin Rucker and Mike Hamlin returned to practice. Rucker is a newly signed tight end who was fighting a hamstring problem.
*Kyle Kosier (knee), Marc Colombo (knee), John Phillips (knee), Gerald Sensabaugh (shoulder), Keith Brooking (shoulder), Stephen Hodge (knee) and Marcus Spears (knee) missed practice. Phillips said he might undergo ACL surgery when the team breaks came on August 27.
*Former MMA star Chuck Liddell talked to the team before practice, and when it was over guard Montrae Holland broke the team out with the Florida State Seminole chant.
*Hamlin got first-team reps at safety with Sensabaugh out. Sean Lee was on the first-team at inside linebacker in place of Brooking.
*Barron and Robert Brewster practiced at right tackle with the first team. Brewster got more reps with the first team than Barron. Brewster also got left tackle reps with the second team. Sam Young received second-team reps at right tackle.
*Martellus Bennett continued to run smoothly during practice despite a sprained ankle. Bennett is cutting on that left ankle and is making few mental mistakes, if any.
*Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett got on Austin for a mental mistake. Austin was supposed to run an out route; instead he ran a curl.
*The Cowboys showed a formation where Austin is in the backfield and Tony Romo fakes a pitch to him and then fires a pass to Roy Williams in the back of the end zone. The first time the Cowboys ran the play against the defense, Williams wasn't open. Romo still threw the pass into coverage and Williams caught it.
Now that we've gotten a few hours sleep, we have an updated injury report for you from Thursday night's Cowboys' 17-9 loss to the Oakland Raiders.
Quarterback Tony Romo suffered a sore back, but he's OK. He's scheduled to practice Saturday. Romo dealt with a sore back in 2008 as the result of a few hard hits, which was the case of getting sacked three times Thursday.
|ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins joins Ben and Skin with an injury update on QB Tony Romo and WR Dez Bryant.
Romo appeared to be in discomfort while sitting on the bench during the second half. After the game, he said, "I'm fine."
* The walking boot on rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant will remain on for at least another day. Bryant is recovering from a right high ankle sprain and the team is being cautious. Friday will mark two weeks since he's worn the boot. Bryant is scheduled to lose the boot and begin his rehab Saturday in Oxnard, Calif.
* Linebacker Stephen Hodge keeps saying he's not sure when he'll start to practice. Hodge is recovering from microfracture surgery and will continue to rehab once the team gets to Oxnard, Calif.
* Safety Mike Hamlin has a sprained neck and said he suffered a concussion. Hamlin said Thursday night his headaches were subsiding.
* Nose tackle Junior Siavii suffered a cut on his forehead and some bruising on his eyes after making a tackle without a helmet. Siavii said he doesn't have a concussion and finished the game without any problems.
* Coach Wade Phillips said tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle), linebacker Sean Lee (quad) and safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (shoulder) are scheduled to return to practice on Saturday and should be ready for the third preseason game at San Diego on August 21.
*One of the precamp questions centered around the position switch of offensive tackle, Doug Free from the right side to the left and how much of an adjustment that would be.
The first two practices were a struggle for Free to say the least. Free was working hard on his own to try and correctly get his “kick slide” working in order to get the proper depth and width when taking on defenders such as DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, who are two of the better pass rushers in the NFL.
One of Free’s finest moments came on a one-on-one pass rush rep that he was able to execute against Ware. Off the snap, Ware tried several pass rush moves to throw Free off and try to get him off balance but was unsuccessful. Free showed nice patience and punch by making Ware have to restart his rush thus killing his chances of making a sack.
*Can a rookie really be this good? In wide receiver Dez Bryant’s case, the answer is “yes.”
From the time that he has stepped foot on the practice field here in San Antonio, Bryant has been electric.
There were questions about his timed speed (4.56), but watching him run routes and gain separation on defensive backs will make you forget what that 40 time was. There are players that time fast and there are those players that play fast. Bryant is one of those guys that plays fast.
Bryant appeared to be picking up what Jason Garrett and the offensive coaches were asking him to do. Just saw more teaching than correction from receivers coach Ray Sherman.
Bryant’s hands and ability to adjust to the football are a quarterback’s best friend. Very impressed by the way he has been able to adjust to the football in full stride.
The downside to all this is that Bryant will spend the next 4-6 weeks nursing a high ankle sprain. Hurt near the end of practice on Saturday, I worry about Bryant missing reps in the offense and the opportunity to work with Romo.
This trainer staff is one of the best in the NFL, so there is some hope for the Cowboys that he could be back on the field sooner than later.
*In my view, replacing Ken Hamlin at safety for the Cowboys was the absolute right move.
You can say what you want about lining guys up and being a great teammate. The bottom line for a defensive back is to make plays. It’s about covering receivers, knocking down passes and creating turnovers. It’s about having the ability to cover ground and get to the football.
Alan Ball has done a nice job at free safety and for that matter, Mike Hamlin has as well. I have been impressed by the movement skill of Ball along with the way that he has shown the ability to play the ball in the air.
Sunday, when tired legs set in for the skill guys, Ball still looked quick in his drills and in the way he reacted. In talking to guys like Newman, Jenkins and Scandrick, to a man they couldn’t be happier to have a safety that can play with some range.
*Can these five preseason games shake out some depth inside at both the offense and defensive lines? This is a question that will take the remainder of the camp to answer.
On the offensive side, I don’t see a quality backup at center. Bright has his limitations as does Costa.
On defense, injuries have taken practice time away from Brent and Lissemore. As good as Jay Ratliff is, he cannot play the entire game. Junior Siavii gives you great effort and desire but for being a strong guy, he struggles to get off blocks and has no pass rush moves to speak of. I am very interested to see Brent get the opportunity to try and replace Siavii because there is something there.
“We’re not comfortable, I’m not comfortable,” Jerry said. “There is no fear of standing pat here. We’re not caught up in the fact that by some definition we had a good season. We did plan ahead and get some of our key players under contract. But in the NFL, there has got to be change.
“One of the biggest challenges I’ve got in my role here is to be an agent of change this year. We have got to look for ways to make changes.”
He followed through on his word by cutting two high-dollar veteran starters (Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin) and orchestrating an all-but-official deal to ship first-round bust Bobby Carpenter to St. Louis.
But how significant have the Cowboys’ changes been this offseason? Where have they really upgraded?
The Cowboys are gambling that Doug Free will be better than the aging Adams at left tackle, with soon-to-arrive ex-Ram Alex Barron as the backup plan. While Adams isn’t the tackle he used to be, you’d have a tough time arguing that the inexperienced Free or the underachieving Barron is a clear upgrade.
The Cowboys still could decide to dip their toe in the free agent market to find Hamlin’s replacement. (O.J. Atogwe, a Ram who will probably become unrestricted in June, is an option but wouldn’t come cheap.) However, for the time being, the plan is to let Alan Ball and Mike Hamlin fight for the starting job.
Ball, the frontrunner, is a converted cornerback who did a solid job in four games as the fill-in starter last season. Hamlin (no relation to Ken) is a second-year player with good size, great ball skills and zero snaps of NFL safety experience. Again, it’s tough to argue that this is an upgrade.
The only obvious upgrades came through the draft. Dez Bryant will be a more dynamic No. 3 receiver and punt returner than Patrick Crayton. Sean Lee should be a better nickel linebacker than Carpenter.
You can make the case that the Cowboys will upgrade at running back by handing the lead role to Felix Jones, allowing Marion Barber to return to the role in which he had the most success.
But if the Cowboys are a better team next season, it’s likely to be more about the progress of young players on the roster than the offseason changes.
ESPNDallas.com will look at a potential Cowboys pick each weekday leading up to the draft.
NATE ALLENSchool: South Florida
Size: 6-0 1/2, 207
Scouts Inc. rank: No. 4 at safety, No. 54 overall (scouting report)
He’s a tough guy and willing tackler, but he isn’t consistent enough in run support. He doesn’t always take the proper pursuit angles. He needs to do a better job of wrapping up, as he slides off too many tackles, and is vulnerable against elusive backs and receivers in space. He struggles getting off of blocks when matched up against tight ends. He had nine interceptions for South Florida, including four as a senior, but doesn’t have great hands.
Allen could compete immediately with Alan Ball and Mike Hamlin for the starting free safety job that’s open after the release of Ken Hamlin. He would be a reach at No. 27 overall, but the Cowboys could opt to trade down and target him with a second-round pick they acquire in the deal. His best asset might be his high football IQ, which is what the Cowboys valued most in Hamlin.
The Cowboys’ brass is confident that perception will change over the next year. They expect a handful of players to join kickoff specialist David Buehler and reserve tight end John Phillips as consistent contributors. (WR Kevin Ogletree also made some impact, but he was undrafted.)
Here’s a quick look at what last year’s draft class has done so far and what hopefully is ahead:
ILB Jason Williams (third round, 69th overall) – He’s a phenomenal athlete who struggled to grasp the playbook and was set back by a high ankle sprain suffered in the preseason finale. His failure to make an impact on special teams was a major disappointment, resulting in him being inactive most games. Jerry Jones strongly hinted at the combine that he expects Williams to challenge Bobby Carpenter for the nickel/dime linebacker role.
OL Robert Brewster (third round, 75th overall) – He has yet to put on shoulder pads as a professional. He missed all of last season after tearing a pectoral muscle while lifting weights over the summer. He’s still reshaping his body, which was too blubbery despite losing significant weight at Ball State. His goal should be to challenge for a starting position at either right tackle or left guard in 2011.
QB Stephen McGee (fourth round, 101st overall) – Jones admitted at the combine that the Cowboys haven’t seen much from McGee, who missed the last two games of preseason with an injury. The Cowboys plan to use minicamps, training camp and the preseason to determine whether McGee is a good developmental project. They don’t plan on drafting a quarterback this season, but the position will become a draft priority in 2011 if McGee doesn’t pan out.
OLB Victor Butler (fourth round, 110th overall) – Butler at least contributed on special teams, but he never earned the coaching staff’s trust to get consistent playing time on defense despite making three sacks in limited snaps. DeMarcus Ware’s neck injury forced Butler into a significant role in the upset over the Saints, but he didn’t grade well in that game. The next step for him is to become a situational pass rusher.
OLB Brandon Williams (fourth round, 120th overall) – Williams was a little ahead of Butler before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason finale. The Cowboys have high hopes that he can earn the situational pass rusher role that Butler didn’t last season.
CB/S DeAngelo Smith (fifth round, 143rd overall) – He’ll be best remembered as the defensive back who lost a highly publicized post-practice race to a kicker. He was released in the final cuts and bounced around to a few teams.
S Michael Hamlin (fifth round, 166th overall) – Hamlin broke his wrist during the preseason finale and didn’t see the field much after he got healthy, but Valley Ranch insiders are still high on him. They’re particularly enamored by the big safety’s ballhawking ability. If Ken Hamlin gets cut, it wouldn’t be stunning if Mike Hamlin (no relation) wins the battle to replace him.
K David Buehler (fifth round, 172nd overall) – He did exactly what the Cowboys drafted him to do: Make a major impact in field position, leading the league in touchbacks on kickoffs and contributing in other roles on special teams. However, he wasn’t able to replace Nick Folk as the placekicker when Folk failed. The Cowboys hired ex-kicker Chris Boniol to help Boniol Buehler develop into a reliable field goal kicker. The hope is that he’s good enough so that the Cowboys don’t need to carry two kickers on the roster next season.
ILB Stephen Hodge (sixth round, 197th overall) – He missed the whole season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee. If he can come back from that, he should immediately be an impact special teams player. Hodge, a safety at TCU, is also a darkhorse in the competition for the nickel/dime LB role.
TE John Phillips (sixth round, 208th overall) – He exceeded expectations on offense – contributing as a tight end, H-back and fullback – but was exposed at times on special teams. He’s not a great athlete, but his attitude, work ethic and intelligence are above average. If Martellus Bennett doesn’t follow the owner’s orders to focus, Phillips could earn playing time in two-tight end sets.
CB Mike Mickens (seventh round, 227th overall) – His lack of speed and explosiveness were exposed during training camp, when he was burned on a regular basis. Spent several weeks on the Cowboys’ practice squad after being released in the final cuts and was later picked up by the Buccaneers, who cut him weeks later.
WR Manuel Johnson (seventh round, 229th overall) – Spent the entire season on the practice squad after being released in the final cuts. He’ll have an uphill climb to make the 53-man roster, but he has a chance. He worked as the scout team punt returner, a position the Cowboys want to upgrade. He doesn’t have great speed, but he has potential to develop into a decent slot receiver.
Here are some news and notes from Cowboys practice and Wade Phillips' news conference.
News and notes from Wade Phillips news conference and other things at Valley Ranch on Wednesday.
It appears if Williams can play next week, Crayton would sit for Austin.
"He's the top player in the world," Phillips said of Woods. "Probably the greatest player ever, and he's a football fan. He and Romo text quite a bit. I think they dog each other a little bit when they don't have their best games. I think they're good friends. It was interesting that he was interested in what we were doing. I'm interested in what he's doing because he talked about being a leader. 'I'm in an individual sport and I'm my own leader.' ''