Dallas Cowboys: Danny Amendola

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 1

May, 23, 2014
May 23
IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
  • When Dez Bryant might sign an extension.
  • Lance Dunbar’s roster spot with the addition of Ryan Williams.
  • The team’s best free-agent pickup
  • The state of the defensive line.
  • The best of the undrafted receivers.

Look for Part 2 of the mailbag on Saturday.

Away we go:

Who the Cowboys pick in 2008 re-draft

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
IRVING, Texas -- ESPN’s Mel Kiper recently conducted a re-draft of the first round in 2008, and Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins were not among the top 32 picks, nor were they among the 14 players he considered in the first round.

The Cowboys have had serious drafting issues over the years, but 2008 represents two misses in the first 25 picks.

The Cowboys could have had Chris Johnson, Ray Rice or Matt Forte with the 22nd overall pick but took Jones in part because he came from a two-back system in Arkansas and showed he could do more with less. Johnson has had a 2,000-yard season and has had more than 1,000 yards in every season. Rice and Forte have four 1,000-yard seasons apiece.

Jones topped out at 800 in 2010 and the Cowboys chose not to re-sign him after the 2012 season.

The Cowboys moved up to get Jenkins with the 25th pick in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks.

Jenkins is remembered more for tackles he chose not to make rather than gutting out a 2011 season in which he played with a badly damaged shoulder. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2009 after he had five interceptions.

The Cowboys signed Orlando Scandrick to an extension in 2011 and moved up to take Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick in 2012 as Jenkins rehabbed from the shoulder surgery mostly away from Valley Ranch. The Cowboys made no effort to re-sign Jenkins, and he ended up with a one-year deal from the Oakland Raiders in 2013.

Teams can’t miss on first-round picks. They have to get two contracts out of them, but the last first-round pick they have extended with a multiyear deal before the rookie deal expired was DeMarcus Ware (2005). Anthony Spencer, their first-rounder in 2007, was given the franchise tag in back-to-back years but is a free agent this March. Dez Bryant (2010) figures to break that trend soon.

Kiper had the Cowboys choosing wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who went No. 205 overall to the Indianapolis Colts, and defensive tackle Kendall Langford.

The Garcon pick is interesting because it likely would have meant the Cowboys would not have dealt for Roy Williams in the middle of the 2008 season and thus saved themselves from a disastrous deal. Langford has been solid for the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams.

Fear not, however, because the Cowboys do have Kiper’s No. 24 pick on their roster. He had Brandon Carr, who was a fifth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, going to the Tennessee Titans. Of course, Kiper also mentioned Carr’s play the past two seasons has been “middle of the road.” Among the players Kiper also considered for the first round was wide receiver Danny Amendola, who was an undrafted free agent by the Cowboys that year.

So there’s that.

Cole Beasley should be used more

March, 16, 2013
In the early days of free agency we've seen slot receivers become a hot topic.

Wes Welker left the New England Patriots and signed a two-year deal with the Denver Broncos.

The Patriots found his replacement before Welker got his new deal when they signed Danny Amendola from St. Louis.

The Cowboys haven't really had a typical No. 3 slot receiver with the body type of Welker and Amendola.

Patrick Crayton, Kevin Ogletree, Laurent Robinson and Dwayne Harris were No. 3 receivers who played in the slot, but didn't have that small frame.

Last year, the Cowboys found one in Cole Beasley, a player who fits Welker's and Amendola's body type. Beasley is 5-foot-8, 177 pounds. In his rookie season, Beasley finished with 15 catches for 128 yards with no touchdowns. He made a bulk of his catches out of the slot and going forward the Cowboys should use him more often from this area.

New England utilized Welker for several years from the slot to beat teams in the middle of the field. His speed allowed him to get past defenders for yards after catch.

Maybe Beasley can be used in the same fashion in 2013.

Dez Bryant and Miles Austin can stretch defenses deep with their speed and Jason Witten can also command the middle of the field. What about Beasley? If defenses take Bryant and Austin out of the game with their coverages, which has happened, Beasley is a player who should get some run.

There have been teams who have used short receivers from the slot to make plays in different areas of the field and the Cowboys have Beasley who might fit that role.
Done with Day 2 of free agency and on to Day 3. We have some observations.

Randy Galloway and Matt Mosley discuss the latest free-agency moves going on around the NFL.

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Dez Bryant looks at Mike Wallace's contract: Wide receiver Mike Wallace left the Pittsburgh Steelers and singed a five-year $60 million deal with $30 million guaranteed with the Miami Dolphins. Wallace is just 26 years old and becomes the third-highest paid wide receiver in the NFL. What does it all mean? Well, the Cowboys have an emerging young talent in Dez Bryant, who is 24, and coming off his first 1,000 yard season. Bryant is signed through 2014, and who knows what the market will look like then given the money Wallace got this week. Bryant needs to stay out of trouble, which he's done so far this offseason, and if he continues to produce, a big money contract awaits him. Should the Cowboys let Bryant get to the final year of his contract? Or do the Cowboys make sure after the 2013 season, he gets an extension?

Cowboys send three to Alabama: Coach Jason Garrett didn't attend Alabama's Pro Day on Wednesday, however, two scouts and Tom Ciskowski, the director of college and pro scouting, watched the talent. Former NFL scout Bryan Broaddus, who works for the Dallas Cowboys web site offers these thoughts on Alabama's Pro Day here. Jeff Reynolds of NFL Draft Scout send in this report of what went down. Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN's NFL Draft expert, has the Cowboys taking guard Chance Warmack with the No. 18th overall pick next month.

Remember when Danny Amendola was a Cowboy?: It seems like years ago, but it was just 2008 when wide receiver Danny Amendola was in Cowboys training camp trying to make the roster. Amendola was trying to make the 53-man roster that had Miles Austin, Patrick Crayton, Terry Glenn, Sam Hurd, Terrell Owens and Isaiah Stanback on the roster as well. Amendola didn't make the roster, he was cut that summer, but later added to the practice squad, but in 2009 he played in 14 games for the St. Louis Rams after being signed from the Eagles practice squad. Wednesday, Amendola signed a five-year deal worth $31 million with $10 million guaranteed with the New England Patriots. He's come a long way from trying to surpass Austin and Hurd, who were then at the bottom of the receiving depth chart. Amendola has been injury prone of late, but is an excellent receiver in the slot, and because he's younger than Wes Welker, it's probably one of the reasons he's with the Pats. ESPNBoston's Mike Reiss gives his take on the Patriots signing.

Overtime: S Gerald Sensabaugh is getting interest from Arizona and Tennessee. He visited the Titans on Wednesday. ... No word yet on CB Mike Jenkins visits. ... The Cowboys saw Bennett twice last year with the Giants and they'll see him again when they visit Solider Field. The Cowboys, however, won't see Percy Harvin when they host Minnesota. Harvin is now with Seattle.

Final Word: Redskins-Cowboys

November, 22, 2012
» Final Word: Texans-Lions | Redskins-Cowboys | Patriots-Jets

Three nuggets of knowledge about the Redskins-Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game:

The history: The Dallas Cowboys have won five of their past six Thanksgiving Day games, the only loss in that stretch coming against the New Orleans Saints in 2010. This will be the eighth time the Washington Redskins have played a Thanksgiving game, and the seventh time they've done so against the Cowboys. And while they did beat the Lions 20-0 on Thanksgiving in 1973, they are 0-6 all-time against the Cowboys in Thanksgiving games. The previous time they played one was 2002, when the Cowboys beat them 27-20.

[+] EnlargeRG3
Brad Mills/US PresswireWhen the Eagles didn't send extra pressure in Week 11, Robert Griffin III made them pay for it.
To blitz or not to blitz? The Cowboys must decide how they want to put pressure on Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, and it won't be an easy decision. Through the first nine games, the book on Griffin was that he'd pick you apart if you sent extra pass-rushers, but that he struggled against standard pressure and the key was to contain him in the pocket and limit his options. However, in Sunday's victory against the Eagles, Griffin was 11-for-12 for 184 yards and three touchdowns against four or fewer pass-rushers. That's a 91.7 percent completion rate, and according to ESPN Stats & Information, a significant improvement from his 67 percent completion rate against standard pressure in his first nine games. In those, he averaged 7.4 yards per attempt and threw just three touchdowns and three interceptions against four or fewer. Sunday, his average was 15.3 yards per attempt, and he did not throw an interception.

Coverage improving: In their first seven games this season, the Redskins allowed eight opposing players to rack up 100 receiving yards in a game. That included staggering totals such as A.J. Green's 183 for the Bengals in Week 3; Danny Amendola's 160 for the Rams in Week 2; Percy Harvin's 133 for the Vikings in Week 6; and the Week 4 game in which two Tampa Bay receivers reached the century mark. However, in their past three games, no opposing player has more than 82 yards against the Redskins' defense. What does this mean for Dallas pass-catchers Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, who have combined for seven 100-yard receiving games this season? History says at least one will have a big game, but it's also possible the Redskins' coverage schemes have improved enough to limit the damage.

Observation deck: Rams-Cowboys

August, 26, 2012
I don't know. Maybe the preseason is finally getting to me. Maybe I was brainwashed by the beautiful California weather at their training camp. Maybe they just looked really good against a lousy St. Louis Rams team in their 20-19 preseason victory Saturday night. Maybe it's all of the above, but as crazy as this looks to me even as I type it, I kind of like this Dallas Cowboys' defense.

The cornerbacks are covering their men. Brandon Carr was a star of last week's game, and rookie Morris Claiborne made plays on second and fourth downs on a goal-line stand Saturday. Safeties Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh are both playing well, patrolling their zones and making their tackles. The linebackers (of which injured DeMarcus Ware was not one on this night) have been active and aggressive, led by Sean Lee on the inside. Jason Hatcher was back on the defensive line and disrupting things in the backfield. Coordinator Rob Ryan was showing off more options, scheme-wise, for the pass rush, and the improved coverage on the back end has been helping with with that. The only points the Rams scored in the first half were on field goals of 52 and 55 yards.

Now, the postgame news of Jay Ratliff's ankle sprain certainly puts a damper on things for the Cowboys going forward, as it sounds like the season opener is in doubt for him. And yeah, I know those guys on the back end were covering Donnie Avery and Danny Amendola and that it's going to be 100 times tougher 10 days from now when it's Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz instead. I get it. I write all the time that we can't draw long-range conclusions from preseason games, and I'm not doing that. But it's completely fair to like the way the Cowboys' defense has performed on the practice field and in these preseason games. And if they're building confidence based on those performances, that's the kind of thing that could conceivably carry into the regular season. So, good for them. Neither matters in the long run, but playing well in preseason is better than playing poorly in the preseason.

Here's what else I saw Saturday night:

Tony Romo was excellent, dodging the rush, extending plays and completing 9 of 13 passes for 198 yards, including touchdowns of 61 and 38 yards to Dwayne Harris. Romo's starting receivers in this game were Harris and Kevin Ogletree, and his starting tight end was John Phillips. Romo is ready to start the season.

So is Harris, by the way. Ogletree went into the game the favorite to be the No. 3 wide receiver, and he might still be, but Harris more than made his case. Yes, the touchdowns were partly the result of poor tackling by the Rams in the secondary, but Harris made the catches and the plays, he looks good in the return game and he made a key block on a DeMarco Murray run one play before his 61-yard touchdown catch. He's certainly made the team, I'd have to think, and he could continue to play himself into more time. Ogletree led the team in targets with six, and he caught five passes for 75 yards, so you can't exactly consider him out of the picture. He had a bad third-down drop, but he caught a ball up the right sideline that you couldn't help but thing looked like the one Miles Austin didn't catch in the first Giants game last year. You know the one I mean. I know you do.

Murray also looked very good against the team that let him rush for 253 yards in his starting debut last year. Murray had 26 yards on five carries and 16 yards on two catches before leaving the game with a hand injury that he said afterward is not serious. Next you'll see him is Sept. 5 in the Meadowlands, I'd imagine. The Cowboys plan to run a lot of their offense through Murray this year.

I'm sorry, but the offensive line still looks awful to me, and I commend Romo and Murray for succeeding in spite of its performance. David Arkin can actually snap the ball to the quarterback now, but he still doesn't look strong enough to hold up at center. The guards looked like they were getting pushed back into the pocket all night. Doug Free is a mess, and even Tyron Smith got beaten on the outside by Robert Quinn on a play early in the game. If the best thing you can say about the offensive line is that it'll be better when Phil Costa gets healthy, you've got a problem. At offensive line, I believe the Cowboys have a significant problem.

The Ratliff injury is a big deal if it lingers deep into the regular season. The Cowboys expect to know more about its severity Sunday. My guess is Josh Brent would fill in at nose tackle, but it could also be Sean Lissemore. Lissemore is also in the mix at defensive end.

I'd take Bruce Carter over Dan Connor as the starting inside linebacker next to Lee. Connor may look better going forward, and maybe they can use him in certain pressure packages. But Carter looks faster and better in coverage, and I think that's going to matter more at that spot.

Felix Jones made a nice blitz-pickup block on Harris' second touchdown, but he whiffed badly on one later that resulted in a Kyle Orton sack. Phillip Tanner also missed in blitz pickup with Orton behind him. Orton has to be wondering what he did to make the backs not like him.

Rookie tight end James Hanna continues to look good as a receiver, and Adrian Hamilton continues to make plays on defense. Remains to be seen what roles the team will have for them this year.

Special-teams ace Danny McCray left with a neck injury, but he told reporters after the game that he should be fine.

Five to watch: Role players vs. Raiders

August, 13, 2012
FREMONT, Calif. -- The Cowboys open the preseason Monday night against the Oakland Raiders, and coach Jason Garrett has said the playing time will be similar to what it's been in the past.

Tim MacMahon and Nate Newton discuss the possibility of the Cowboys signing Chad Johnson. Tim says there is no way it will happen.

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So that means look for the first-team offense and defense to get a series or two.

Attempting to determine how new starters like Barry Church and Bruce Carter and some others look in such a small sample size doesn’t make sense.

Instead look more at the backups and see if they can show the ability to handle roles when the games count.

Here are five guys to watch:

David Arkin: Yes, he will start but I’m not contradicting my earlier statement. He will be the center because of Phil Costa's absence but he will also see time at guard. He has seen more snaps in training camp than any other offensive lineman, and plenty of questions remain. He was a fourth-round pick last year and did not play a game. Is he a lock to make the 53-man roster? I wouldn’t think so. But if he can show the ability to play both positions, he can help his cause and make a way onto the 45-man roster.

Cole Beasley: There is a ton of intrigue in the organization around Beasley. He quit for a couple of days only to return and work his way into the first-team three-wide receiver package with Miles Austin out because of a hamstring injury. He has done nothing but make plays in whatever circumstance. Can he do it against another team? Danny Amendola was having a good camp then fumbled a punt in his preseason debut a few years ago and seemed to lose favor. Beasley has a chance.

Tyrone Crawford: The Cowboys believe they may have stolen a player here. A lot of times rookies don’t have the strength to play much right away. Crawford has plenty of strength to go with a relentlessness the coaches knew they were getting. He can be more than just a fence post as a 3-4 end. He has quickness to be trouble at tackle in the nickel defense.

James Hanna: As John Phillips recovers from a sprained ankle, Hanna has taken advantage of the extra work. The sixth-round pick came to the Cowboys with the reputation for not being a good blocker. The team is surprised at how well he has done over the last week. And he’s caught just about every pass thrown in his direction. The more he has played, the better he has gotten. Can it continue? If it can, then the Cowboys will have good depth behind Jason Witten.

Clifton Geathers: He certainly looks the part, and the coaches believe he has really benefitted from Leon Lett’s teachings the last two training camps. Now he needs to produce in the game because the potential tag is something that can hang a player. As you look at the final defensive line spots, Geathers is in that mix with Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman.

SMU's Cole Beasley catches eyes

June, 15, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- It’s become a tired cliché to compare every short, white, undrafted slot receiver to Wes Welker. It’s also unrealistic.

[+] EnlargeCole Beasley
AP Photo/Butch DillCole Beasley caught 173 passes for 2,100 yards in his last two seasons at SMU.
Maybe we should call Cole Beasley the next Danny Amendola.

“He falls into that family of receivers,” Garrett said of Beasley.

Amendola caught eyes during the Cowboys’ 2008 training camp and spent a chunk of that season on the Dallas practice squad before the Eagles signed him to their 53-man roster. He signed with St. Louis that offseason and has been in the Rams’ receiver rotation when healthy since, catching 85 passes in 2010.

Beasley, the 5-foot-8, 175-pound SMU product, has looked like a slot receiver with a chance to stick this spring and summer. He’s a quick, pesky little fella with sure hands and a knack for getting open, especially on short and intermediate routes, although he capped minicamp by getting behind a safety to make a play on a post route.

Coach Jason Garrett describes Beasley, who caught 173 passes for 2,100 yards his last two seasons at SMU, as a slot receiver who has a “good feel” for playing inside. That’s to be expected from a coach’s son who was a quarterback for his dad’s team at nearby Little Elm High and played for passing guru June Jones in college.

“You’re never going to keep them because he’s big, he’s strong, fast, jumps through the roof, all that kind of stuff,” Garrett said. “The way he stays in this league is every day he catches five balls. Every day he beats a guy you don’t think he can beat. And he does it today, tomorrow and the next day, the next day, the next day. There are a lot of guys who made their way in this league that way, and he’s going to be one of those guys.”

Opposing voice: Sam Bradford

October, 22, 2011

IRVING, Texas -- After a surprising 7-9 finish to the 2010 season, many people picked St. Louis to be one of the up-and-coming teams in 2011, led by quarterback Sam Bradford.

The Rams are 0-5 entering Sunday’s game against the Cowboys.

“It’s miserable,” Bradford said. “I’m not going to lie. It’s not enjoyable. It’s not fun. There’s nothing I like about it. It’s definitely not the position we thought we’d be in at this point in the season. I think I’m doing everything I can to make sure we change that. I think everyone in this building is doing the same thing. I don’t think there is anyone here who likes this.”

In a new offense run by coordinator Josh McDaniels, Bradford, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, has completed 104 of 196 passes for 1,177 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in five games. He has been sacked 21 times and has a 72.2 passer rating. As a rookie Bradford threw for 3,512 yards with 18 touchdowns and 15 picks and was sacked 34 times.

Bradford, however, has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a high ankle sprain.

“Obviously, I’m still learning a lot of things about how this game is played in this league, but I think I’ve gotten much better each week this year,” Bradford said. “I’ve gotten more comfortable in our offense. That’s something I’m going to continue to try to do week to week, and I think you can always become a better football player.”

Losing Mark Clayton and Danny Amendola to injuries last year and this year has not helped Bradford’s development. But the Rams this week traded for veteran Brandon Lloyd, who excelled under McDaniels in Denver.

“I feel like I’m much more comfortable in the pocket,” Bradford said. “I feel like just running the offense I’m more comfortable. I’ve been asked to do a lot more this year. There’s been a lot more put on my plate. I feel fine with that because I am more comfortable seeing things during a game. I feel more comfortable pretty much in every aspect of the game. Even though my numbers might not be as good as they were last year, I still feel like I’m a better player. As long as I continue to work hard, we’re going to get this offense going.”