Dallas Cowboys: Senior Bowl

Senior Bowl practices: Day 2

January, 25, 2011

MOBILE, Ala. -- The second day of Senior Bowl practices has finished, and here's a recap from the trio of Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl.

You have to be a ESPN Insider to get this but here's a sample of what they said of Day 2:

Von Miller Texas A&M

Texas A&M LB Von Miller went down with the linemen to rush the passer in one-on-ones and was lights out. He's so quick around the corner and the blockers had no chance. On the flip side, NC State LB Nate Irving also went down to rush the passer and followed Miller and you could see the difference. He didn't have the same first-step quickness and was unable to turn the corner as a result.

Linebackers working on individual drills

Linebackers Mason Foster (UCLA), Mark Herzlich (Boston College) and Lawrence Wilson (Connecticut) are fighting the ball during individual drills. Ohio State's Ross Homan made a clean catch on one pass, but dropped the next one.

ESPNDallas' look at practice: We believe the Cowboys need some help along the offensive line and possibly along the pass rush. In one-on-one drills we watched Alabama left tackle James Carpenter hold Texas' Sam Acho of Dallas St. Mark's on a bullrush as if he wasn't even there. Carpenter displayed good power and footwork. But Acho came right back in the same drill and blew right past Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod. ... Running back Noel Devine from West Virginia looks smaller than his listed 5-8, 180 pound numbers. One scout said Devine is 160 pounds. There is no question about Devine's speed. He hits holes fast and could be used as a scat back in somebody's offensive system. ... Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy of Southlake Carroll threw a nice deep pass to Hawaii receiver Greg Salas for a touchdown. ... LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, considered a Top 10 pick, worked out for some teams down here. Peterson did not list the Cowboys among the teams in attendance. ... Colorado tackle Nate Solder said he's spoken to about 10-to-15 teams, including the Cowboys scouts. ... Von Miller said he hasn't talked with the Cowboys.

Rob Ryan has positive look at the CBs

January, 25, 2011
MOBILE, Ala. -- Looking for some drama from the Senior Bowl?

Well we found some, kinda, when Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones backed up his support for the cornerbacks. On Monday, Jones said cornerbacks Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick didn't play as bad as everyone thought they had in 2010.

He did say they need to improve, but was confident the trio will play better in 2011.

Jones took some heat from fans and the media who disagreed with his comments.

Tuesday afternoon, Jones responded to his critics.

"I stand by that regardless of what other people thought," Jones said.

When asked what new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan thinks of the cornerbacks, Jones said, "I think his initial evaluation of them is a positive."

Jones' thinking is that Newman and Jenkins were once Pro Bowlers and once you display that type of skill you can do it again. Some in the organization believe Jenkins just had a bad season in 2010 and Scandrick was the best corner on the roster. Newman had an off year as well but is expected to bounce back.

If the Cowboys release Newman, it creates $4 million in cap space, but if you do you better have a replacement.

"I think they’ve shown in the past, you take each one of them, that they can play at a high level," Jones said. "It's not unrealistic to think they can't play at a high level again because their skill level is good enough to do that."

Ryan will not speak with reporters until the rest of the coaching staff is finalized.

Rob Ryan is here to fix the defense

January, 25, 2011
MOBILE, Ala. -- Jerry Jones wanted to stress the importance of hiring an experienced defensive coordinator during a 25 minute chat with reporters on Monday.

When Rob Ryan was hired, the Cowboys hired a man who's been a defensive coordinator in Oakland and Cleveland and while he didn't have the same amount of talent in those places as he would with the Cowboys, it's clear this was a good hire.

"He's great," Jones said of Ryan, who attended Senior Bowl practices with the rest of the coaches on Monday. "He's outstanding with his demeanor around football. I think it's a positive for players and I think it's a positive for the people on his staff and around the team. Just his personality, his demeanor and the fact he literally has grown up around football and spent a lot of time around pro football, all of that is very positive."

Ryan is the son of Buddy Ryan who taunted the Cowboys with verbal jousts when he coached the Philadelphia Eagles. How Ryan fixes the defense remains to be seen. Jones said there will be changes in how the defense operates, especially in the secondary, however there is enough talent on this team to make things work.

The Cowboys have two Pro Bowl players, DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff, returning and have two corners who reached the Pro Bowl in the past, Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins, in addition to a young inside linebacker in 2010 second-round pick Sean Lee. There are three defensive linemen who could become unrestricted free agents in Stephen Bowen, Marcus Spears and Jason Hatcher and strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh is also on verge of unrestricted free agency depending on how the new collective bargaining agreement is structured.

Pass rush and the inability to play consistency in the secondary were the issues. The Cowboys allowed a franchise record 436 points in 2010 and were tied for first with 33 touchdown passes allowed.

"I think you're dealing with experience," Jones said of Rob Ryan. "I'd underline the word experienced defensive coordinator. We wanted to go in that direction. One who had spent several years coordinating. You say well, 'Didn't you have that in Wade [Phillips]?' We did have an experienced defensive coordinator in Wade. Rob will approach things a little different as every coach does and he will approach how he manages and works with both players and his staff that will be done differently."

Phillips has a laid back and while the players liked and respected him, it didn't seem they were held to a high standard of accountability.

Ryan is different.

He's a high energy guy who makes his players accountable and mixes up his 3-4 scheme that forces players to be around the ball.

Senior Bowl practices: Day 1

January, 24, 2011

MOBILE, Ala. --We are done with the first day of practices at the Senior Bowl and our crew of Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl are here to recap what went down.

You have to be an ESPN Insider to get their stuff, but here's a taste.

Day 1 update from the group: TCU's Dwayne Harris seemed reliable and comfortable fielding punts, made a great one-handed catch but we'll keep a close eye on his route running and getting in and out of breaks. He looked really choppy today and had to gear down anytime they were working on start/stop or change of direction stop compared to the other receivers.

Todd McShay on TCU's Andy Dalton: "We are eager to see [Dalton] at Monday's weigh-in at the convention center to see his actual height. Dalton is one of the more underrated quarterback prospects in the class and this is a good opportunity to show NFL teams that he is capable of scanning the field and making all the necessary throws from within the pocket. Florida State's Christian Ponder, like Locker, didn't play as well as hoped this year. It's important that he's consistent both with his accuracy and decision-making. Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick, like Dalton, needs to look fluid dropping from under center and needs to make sound decisions."

Here's the link to McShay's thoughts coming into the Senior Bowl.

Here's everybody's wrap up of Day 1.

Players the Cowboys might look at: Jerry Jones and some front office types attended the North practice and saw the raw power of Colorado offensive lineman Nate Solder and Toledo's Kevin Kowalski. ... It was nice to see Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray moving around at running back. Murray displayed a good burst as he hit the holes. ... Utah State defensive back Curtis Marsh missed the session with a pulled hamstring. ... New coach Jason Garrett was at the South practice where a bulk of area players worked out, including Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, Arkansas offensive lineman DeMarcus Love from Lancaster and Baylor defensive lineman Phil Taylor.

Jerry Jones believes in the cornerbacks

January, 24, 2011

MOBILE, Ala. -- If there was one negative about the Cowboys defense in 2010, it was the secondary.

The Cowboys allowed 33 passing touchdowns, tied with Houston for the most in the league. Dallas' defense ranked 26th against the pass and it allowed the second most points in the league, which was also a franchise record at 436.

But Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones defended the cornerbacks on Monday, saying it's not all their fault for what happened in 2010.

The Cowboys went from two Pro Bowlers at corner in 2009, Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins, to none in 2010.

"They’re probably, and I go down through all of them, they’re a little better than probably the taste we have in our mouth," Jones said. "I’m not saying we hung them out, but I’ll say that we sure ask a lot of them, relative to maybe what we might do in the future."

Early in the season, the Cowboys played a lot of man-to-man, which is what the two outside cornerbacks like to do. When you play that type of coverage, the risk of getting beat increases. The safety play didn't help matters as Alan Ball and Gerald Sensabaugh struggled at times on deep balls.

The pass rush also didn't get to the quarterback enough to take some pressure off the corners.

"Now I don’t think we were pleased with the year they had compared to other years," Jones said. "But a part of this job is looking at not only to the talent of the player, but how he compares to other players. But in general, I’m not as negative on our cornerbacks as you might think."

It's interesting to note the Cowboys have the ninth pick of the draft this spring and there are two corners who might be available to them in LSU's Patrick Peterson and Nebraska's Prince Amukamara.

Whether the Cowboys draft a cornerback is uncertain, but Jones believes Jenkins and Newman will bounce back from their struggles of 2010. Orlando Scandrick, the slot corner, also had his issues, but he might have been the best of the three primary corners.

"We accept some of the things that we were doing and asked our corners to do," Jones said. "We probably ... when the dust settles, won’t be as hard on those corners as we might have been, or generally as fans might have been."

Kentucky fullback visiting Valley Ranch

March, 29, 2010
Kentucky fullback John Conner is scheduled to visit Valley Ranch on Wednesday. Conner, a 5-11, 246 pounder, could be the replacement for Deon Anderson.

Back in October, ESPN's Mel Kiper ranked Conner as the second-best senior fullback, and after the Cowboys saw him at the Senior Bowl back in February, this planned visit means he's a serious threat to get drafted late.

Anderson has some legal issues that give the Cowboys pause. Jerry Jones said he hasn't made any decisions about Anderson's future with the team, and the league has said it is monitoring Anderson's situation.

The Cowboys like Anderson as a player, but they could get younger with Conner.

What to look for at the Senior Bowl

January, 30, 2010
Today is the Senior Bowl and if you're watching here's a few players to check out as far as the Cowboys are concerned:

The Cowboys are interested in drafting a running back, either because they will cut/trade Marion Barber or trade Tashard Choice. I would keep Choice and just cut Barber, but that's me. As for the Cowboys expect running back Ben Tate, a 5-foot-11 218 pounder from Auburn to give them some interest.

Virginia cornerback Chris Cook is an interesting prospect. The Cowboys interviewed Cook at the Senior Bowl and asked could he play free safety. Cook said yes, though he played mainly both corner spots at Virginia. The Cowboys, while somewhat happy with Patrick Crayton on punt returns and Felix Jones on kick returns, are looking for more speed on punt returns and someone who can make a impact on kick returns in this year's draft.
Cook has returned kicks before, but he won't in the Senior Bowl.

Don't be surprised if the Cowboys draft a wide receiver. They've talked to quite a few. Clemson's Jacoby Ford is one to watch out for.

On Wednesday, Ford said he spoke to the Jets, Packers, Bears, Browns, Colts, Vikings and Buccaneers. He did not talk to the Cowboys, but that doesn't mean they're not interested.

Ford said he needs to improve against press coverage but once he gets in open space he's gone. Ford was asked what does the think he can run at the combine, "I can guarantee a 4.2. Running is second nature for me."

Ford's best 40 time, according to him, was at prep school when he ran a 4.12. Ford said he weighed 163 pounds at that time. Now, he's at 181.

Watch the offensive linemen today.
Idaho's Mike Iupati, Baylor's J.D. Walton, Arkansas' Mitch Petrus and N.C. State's Ted Larsen have a chance to help themselves.

The Cowboys scouts feel Iupati will be gone by the time they draft late in the first round, but it's worth watching everybody else.

Who the Cowboys like from the Senior Bowl

January, 27, 2010
MOBILE, Ala. -- The Cowboys' scouts and front-office personnel talked to numerous players particpating in the Senior Bowl.

Here are a few of the names the Cowboys are interested in, gathered from talking to scouts, agents and players: RB Ben Tate, Auburn; LB Cameron Sheffield, Troy; DE Brandon Lang, Troy; CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State; G Mike Iupati, Idaho; DL Mike Neal, Purdue; and DB Chris Cook, Virginia.

Now this doesn't mean the Cowboys will draft any of these players. Wilson and Iupati might be gone by the time the Cowboys pick late in the first round. Neal said the Cowboys told him at the East-West Shrine game he didn't fit their defensive scheme.

Cook said the Cowboys talked to him about playing safety.

"I can play both," Cook said after Wednesday's practice. "I'm a football player. I can play man-to-man and zone defense, but my strength is press man."

Cook can also return kicks, though he won't do it at the Senior Bowl. Cook also talked to the Steelers, Bears, Panthers and Dolphins.

Some other players the Cowboys are looking at are Georgia Tech wide receiver DeMaryius Thomas and South Florida wideout Carlton Mitchell.