Dallas Cowboys: Dannell Ellerbe

Eight in the Box: Top offseason targets

March, 8, 2013
3/08/13
11:33
AM ET
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Welcome to Eight in the Box, an NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week's topic: Who should be the primary target (including trades) for each team when free agency begins?

Dallas Cowboys: Louis Vasquez, G, Chargers. Cap-space problems likely price the Cowboys out of the top offensive line names available, but the line is their most desperate need and Vasquez is much more than a fallback option. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the eighth-best right guard in the league last year -- better than either of the midrange free-agent guards the Cowboys signed last year -- and he doesn't turn 26 for another month. He's the kind of free agent in whom it makes sense to invest -- a guy who's proven he can play in the league but is still hungry to prove more and young enough that they'd have him in his prime. I do still believe the Cowboys need to address the offensive line in the draft, but there's nothing wrong with a smart upgrade like this in the meantime to augment that plan.

New York Giants: Dannell Ellerbe, LB, Ravens. Yes, the Super Bowl champs will try to keep him. No, the Giants don't prioritize the linebacker position. If you're asking me if this is a player the Giants will sign, I'd have to say no. But what we're asking today is which player they should sign, and Ellerbe is a perfect fit. He's only 27 and has leadership experience and a championship ring earned while filling in for Ray Lewis this past year. The Giants' defense has drifted in and out too much the past few years in terms of focus and intensity, and Ellerbe would help with that from a position at which the Giants always seem to have a need.

Philadelphia Eagles: Kenny Phillips, S, Giants. So much uncertainty in the secondary, where the Eagles could be looking for four new starters. Phillips is as versatile a safety as there is on the market and would allow them to go in any number of directions with their cornerbacks or their other safety. He can cover. He can move up in the box and play the run. He's got Super Bowl experience. And if you're the Eagles or an Eagles fan, wouldn't it be fun to sign him away from the Giants and play him against them twice a year? Phillips has had some knee problems, which is his only red flag. If he checks out medically, then as a player who doesn't turn 27 until November he's a big-time answer for the Eagles at a position that has been driving them crazy since they let Brian Dawkins leave.

Washington Redskins: Ryan Harris, OT, Texans. Cap constraints will prevent the Redskins from dreaming big free-agent dreams, and I am fully aware that their greatest need is on defense in the secondary. But they need a right tackle as well, and Harris and Mike Shanahan know each other well from their days together in Denver in 2007 and 2008. Harris turns 28 on Monday and has zone-blocking, run-game experience. Best of all, he's not likely to cost much. If Shanahan liked Harris early in his career and still sees something, Harris could be an easy answer at an important position and allow the Texans to commit greater resources to the secondary and other needs.

A look back: Where's Brandon Carr's press?

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
12:16
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IRVING, Texas – With like Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, as well as Mike Jenkins, the Cowboys believe they have cornerbacks who can excel at press coverage.

On Sunday at Baltimore, the Cowboys played full press coverage eight times. They were full off 13 times and played half press 20 times.

Carr’s strength is his ability to press, but he played off far too much.

On the first drive he was off twice on Jacoby Jones and was beaten for first-down catches of 5 and 8 yards. On Anquan Boldin’s 20-yard catch in the second quarter he was off and went for the ball and missed. In the fourth quarter he played press-bail on Boldin’s 13-yard catch and on the 31-yarder he jammed Boldin at the line but slipped.

Boldin is not going to run by any defensive backs, but why not get on him at the line and disrupt the timing. Flacco and Boldin played pitch and catch way too much.

** Let’s take a look at the pressure the Cowboys used Sunday. They had three-man pressure four times and it resulted in the only sack of Flacco by DeMarcus Ware. They rushed four players 15 times and were able to get four pressures or hits on Flacco. They rushed five or more six times and had two Sean Lee pressures.

** The longest play the Cowboys allowed was a 43-yard dump off to Ray Rice. I wonder if Lee was supposed to go after the quarterback or just make sure Rice did not get off into a route on that play. Rice almost appeared to let Lee scrape by him, knowing the middle of the field was open. With the corners in man coverage there was not a defender within 15 yards of Rice. Jenkins had the first attempt on Rice at the Dallas 48 and missed.

Here’s a three pack of special teams’ observations:

** The Jacoby Jones’ kickoff return. It’s difficult to blame the placement of the kick when it’s 8 yards deep, but Jason Garrett mentioned it on Monday. Bailey’s kick was down the middle of the field and gave Jones a lot of room. Dan Connor got his arm on Jones at the 11 but the returner was not touched after that. Alex Albright was caught too far inside. Andre Holmes was double-teamed (possibly held). Danny McCray was blocked well, too, leaving a big alley.

** Do hashmarks matter for a kicker? Bailey said no but his field goal attempts from 42 and 34 yards in the same direction came from the right hash and the wind pushed them over to the middle of the uprights or middle left. His 51-yard attempt came from the left hashmark and the wind caught it and blew it left two feet. From the right hashmark, that kick is good.

** Field position is a huge part of the game and the Cowboys missed a chance for better field position after the Ravens punted from their 9 in the third quarter. But cornerback Orlando Scandrick did a miserable job on blocking gunner Chykie Brown, giving him a free shot on Dwayne Harris. If Scandrick blocked even a little, then Harris has a chance to take the return into plus territory. He didn’t and the drive started at the Dallas 45.

** Phil Costa played a great game in his return from a three-game absence with a back injury. You can’t help but wonder if there were some different calls made by Costa that newcomer Ryan Cook didn’t make. The line was downhill all day at Baltimore. But Costa made one error that led to Tony Romo’s pick. The Ravens brought five rushers at Romo on the play. Nate Livings was beaten by linebacker Dannell Ellberbe but Costa was slow to react to his left, giving Ellerbe the chance to hit Romo as he was throwing to Kevin Ogletree. Romo wasn’t able to stick the throw and was inaccurate, leading to Cary Williams’ pick.

** On Felix Jones’ 22-yard TD run, Costa did a great job of turning tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu to create a hole. Livings ate up Ray Lewis and Jason Witten and Tyron Smith sealed the left edge. That left Jones on safety Bernard Pollard alone and Jones made him miss. That old Jones’ burst also appeared down the sideline and he was able to run through Ed Reed at the 2 before crossing the goal line. If the Cowboys can get that Jones to show up again, then DeMarco Murray’s absence might not be that bad.

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