Monday, October 10, 2011
Beat Writers Recap: Two weeks worth of work
By Calvin Watkins
We've neglected our duties here and we apologize. Here's a recap of the first month of the season:
*When the Cowboys resume practice Monday it might be the first time the team has a healthy 53-man roster. The biggest loss for the Cowboys was receiver Miles Austin. He missed the last two games with a hamstring injury and he's expected to return for the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon. With Austin starting it will mark the first time since the season opener that he will join Dez Bryant in the starting lineup. This will be a boost to the Cowboys offense that clearly misses Austin. Despite missing the two games, Austin is third on the team with 11 first downs earned behind Jason Witten (17) and Felix Jones (12). There was a thought Bryant would emerge as a bigger offensive threat, but he hasn't. Zero catches in the second half of the loss to the Detroit Lions last week was proof of that. And Bryant is still battling through a thigh contusion. Adding Austin could clear the way for Bryant to make more plays. He is getting some more attention from defenses.
*The Cowboys running game was bad after two weeks. The season opener saw the Cowboys rush for 64 yards, while averaging just 2.5 yards per carry. Week 2, things got worse. A total of 45 yards and a 2 yards per carry average. It's not about Jason Garrett running the ball more, which he should do, but it's effective running that helps things. In the Redskins game, the Cowboys rushed for 125 yards and Felix Jones had runs of 29 and 40 yards. Things were better the next week vs. the Lions. Yes, Garrett should have run the ball more with a big lead, but on a season-high 27 carries, the Cowboys rushed for 113 yards. Felix Jones has played through a dislocated shoulder and done well. You can't question his toughness, but you can wonder why Garrett doesn't run him more often.
*The Cowboys have a decision to make when linebacker Bruce Carter (knee) becomes eligible from the non-football injury list after Week 6. He's doing some rehab work in pads which is a good sign for Carter who should practice Oct. 23. Who will the Cowboys cut to make room for him? The team could place David Buehleron injured reserve if he's still recovering from a groin injury. Buehler could also get cut as well if Dan Bailey proves he can become reliable on kickoffs and field goals. The team might move away from Kevin Ogletree, who lost valuable playing time to Laurent Robinsonas the No. 3 receiver in Week 4. If the team lets Ogletree go, it's hoping Robinson's health doesn't become an issue moving forward and rookie Dewayne Harris emerges as more of a receiver than a returner.
*You have to be concerned somewhat about the pass rush. It had zero sacks vs. the Lions last week. Part of the reason was the empty backfield which added an extra protecter along the line of scrimmage and quarterback Matthew Stafford getting rid of the ball more quickly. This Sunday, Tom Bradytakes his shot at the Cowboys' pass rush. Coming into Sunday's play, the Patriots allowed the third-fewest sacks in the NFL. Brady has a quick release and is not afraid to throw passes away. The Pats will also employ an empty backfield from time-to-time.
*One player who was active vs. the Lions was defensive end Clifton Geathers, who didn't play. He was inactive the first three weeks of the regular season, but injuries forced the Cowboys to activate him. The Cowboys value Geathers' pass rushing abilities and think he has a future. Baring any injuries, Geathers will challenge for snaps on passing downs in 2012.