Dallas Cowboys: Donovan Mcnabb

Where do Staubach, Aikman rank on QB list?

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
IRVING, Texas – Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is one of the finest football writers around, and before Super Bowl XLVIII he ranked the top 25 quarterbacks he has seen play.

Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman made the list. So did one-time Cowboy Randall Cunningham.

Joe Montana was at the top of McGinn’s list and it’s hard to argue that spot. The rest of the top five was Johnny Unitas, Tom Brady, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning.

McGinn did not have any set criteria. He called some of it just a “gut feeling.” He is not afraid to make some decisions others might think are off, like having Ken Anderson check in at No. 14 and Donovan McNabb come in at No. 21.

Brady and Manning were two of the four active quarterbacks on his list. Aaron Rodgers was not on his list, but Ben Roethlisberger (No. 18) and Drew Brees (No. 25) were.

As for Staubach and Aikman, they were ranked Nos. 10 and 19. Staubach was one spot behind Dan Fouts. Aikman not only checked in after Roethlisberger, but also Kurt Warner. He ranked one spot ahead of Steve McNair.

Tony RomoAP Photo/Tony GutierrezTony Romo has 18 fourth-quarter comebacks and 19 game-winning drives, including five last season.
Last week ended with the news of a massive contract extension for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Although this news had been expected for some time, it was accompanied by the predictable wailing and gnashing of teeth about how Romo has never won anything, always blows it in the big games and isn't worth that kind of money. Few players are as polarizing as Romo, and everybody from Dez Bryant to Donovan McNabb offered a reaction of one extreme or the other.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett discuss Tony Romo's contract extension and what it says about Jerry Jones.

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Then came the quarterback news from the early part of this week, and with it a heavy dose of perspective about just what Romo is and how thankful the Cowboys are to have him locked up long-term.

In case you missed it, the Oakland Raiders acquired Matt Flynn from Seattle in a trade, then traded Carson Palmer to Arizona. Kevin Kolb, formerly of Arizona, signed with the Buffalo Bills, who recently released Ryan Fitzpatrick. This week has been a big game of mediocre quarterback musical chairs, desperate teams settling for the least lousy options they can find on a market bereft of franchise quarterbacks.

Romo is not one of the elite quarterbacks of the NFL. That tier is reserved for record-breakers and champions. But he is a franchise quarterback -- someone around whose skills and ability a team can confidently build. Do the Cowboys wish he hadn't thrown three interceptions in the regular-season finale against the Redskins with the division on the line? Of course they do. But when they step back and see the big picture, they find ample reason to believe Romo is the quarterback for them.

ESPN Insider Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Tony Romo's contract extension and what needs to happen for Romo to lead the Cowboys to a championship.

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He has delivered for them. Not on the level Cowboys fans demand, which is to say a playoff and championship level, but Romo's career is not simply a laundry list of choke jobs. He has 18 career fourth-quarter comebacks and 19 game-winning drives, including five this past season alone. The Cowboys were 3-5 at one point in 2012 but won five of their next six to get back into contention for the division. The wins in that stretch included Romo-led comebacks against the Browns, Eagles, Bengals and Steelers. During that stretch, he threw 11 touchdown passes and three interceptions.

None of this erases or excuses Romo's miserable flop in Week 17 in Washington, but it does serve to illustrate that he can play quarterback at a high level. He isn't completely clueless about how to win games that need to be won when things aren't going well. If a quarterback shows he can do that, you have reason to believe that someday he might come through in that really big game that always has seemed to vex him. Romo is certainly good enough to win playoff games and a championship for the Cowboys. The fact that he hasn't done it yet doesn't rule out the possibility that it could happen someday. The Cowboys have seen enough good from Romo to warrant hope that he won't always be bad when they need him the most.

If that sounds like damning with faint praise, just look around and tell me who is both available and better. The main reason the Cowboys locked up Romo long-term is because they like him and believe they can win with him. But the deal also helps them against this year's salary cap and, more important, gives them the peace of mind. They won't have to sift through dispiriting, insufficient options year after year at the most important position on the roster.

Romo can't hide his flaws. His term as starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys has coincided with a down period in franchise history. He bears some responsibility for this, as does everyone connected with the team. Although the criticism of Romo can be over the top at times, it is not always without merit. He has flopped too many times in critical spots.

But oh, could it be worse, Cowboys fans. Whatever else he is, Romo is a quarterback who gives you a chance to win every week. He's a quarterback you've seen come back in the fourth quarter, many times. You've seen him make brilliant throws on the run after the play breaks down. You've watched him succeed and thrive, for weeks at a time, behind poor offensive lines and in spite of incompetent performances by injury-ravaged (or simply incompetent) defenses. He is exciting, and regardless of how many times he has played poorly in big games, he offers you legitimate reason to believe you're never out of it.

And when it comes right down to it, this week's NFL quarterback news poses the question quite clearly: Would you rather be stuck with Romo for the next half-decade or be one of these teams that has to play in the Flynn/Palmer/Kolb/Fitzpatrick end of the quarterback pool every year? Put it that way, and Romo's contract extension makes a lot more sense. The Cowboys are, in fact, lucky to have him.

What they're saying about Tony Romo

March, 29, 2013
With Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo signing a $108 million contract extension on Friday, many have commented on the deal.

Here's some comments:

Tony Romo: "I am excited about the year ahead and some of the changes that we have made to allow us to be a better team going forward. This is an organization that always gives us a chance to win, and that is always the main focus here. We haven't had the type of success that we have all wanted the last few years, but I do know that we are on the verge of doing that. I have been around good teams and bad teams and our team is about to take that next step with a lot of things that are taking shape around Valley Ranch."

Ramiro Romo, Romo's father: "Thank you Jerry and Stephen for believing in Tony. I pray that a Super Bowl will be the ultimate payback for all of the Jones' hard work."

Jerry Jones: "Tony is uniquely qualified to lead this team at the quarterback position for the next several years. He has an abundance of experience and familiarity with our offensive philosophy, our head coach and the personnel around him. He is moving into a period of time where he can maximize all of his natural skills while continuing to build upon the talents that he has developed since entering the NFL. He has a proven-veteran-quarterback grasp of the intellectual side of the game. He knows how to run an offense and run a team. He knows how to win games and has done it in a lot of different settings and under a lot of difficult circumstances."

Donovan McNabb on Twitter: "Tony Romo 6 yr 55 million dollar extension. Wow really, with one playoff win. You got to be kidding me."

Stephen Jones to USA Today: "Any time you're dealing with your quarterback, or another key player like that, it takes time," Jones said. "It's not a thing where you sit in a meeting for a couple of hours and get it done. You have to work through some things. It was just a matter of finding comfort for both sides and getting a fair deal."

Opposing voice: Michael Vick

November, 10, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys coach Jason Garrett described what's happening to Michael Vick best when he said that the Eagles' quarterback gets sacked a lot.

Vick has been sacked 27 times this season, third most in the NFL, and has been a turnover machine. He's thrown nine interceptions, sixth most in the NFL. When it comes to third-and-long plays, Vick has completed less than 50 percent of his passes.

Once more, the Eagles quarterback is leading a team that's 3-5 overall and he's had to hear about his job status being in question.

If things keep going in a downward turn, coach Andy Reid and Vick could lose their gigs. Reid might get fired and Vick could be benched in favor of rookie Nick Foles.

Yet, Vick and the Eagles have a chance to salvage what's left of their season if they defeat the Cowboys on Sunday.

"Man, I think every week from here on out is a big week for us," Vick said in a conference call this week with reporters. "We kind of dug ourselves in a hole a little bit. But the thing is we still have a shot. We just got to keep playing, stay tight, stay together, stay firm."

Vick has had success against the Cowboys in the past, going 4-2 lifetime and completing 61.5 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware has 108.5 career sacks, with 6.5 against Vick, tied for the second most against any quarterback. By the way, former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb has also been sacked 6.5 times by Ware.

Overall, Vick has been hit a lot more than he's used to. It could be his offensive line that's endured inconsistent play and injuries or Vick himself. He's been criticized for holding onto the ball too long, resulting in unnecessary hits in the pocket.

"Yeah, it’s been tough this year," he said. "I’ve got hit a lot more than I’ve ever been hit in my career. The thing is, I’ve got to train hard this offseason and continue to train hard in season to prepare me for the hits and the contact. I’m just thanking God for just keeping me upright."

Vick might not get an offseason with the Eagles if things continue in the downward turn.

"The relationship is still good," Vick said of his with Reid. "It’s still on a great basis, and coach and I talk through everything we need to talk about to try to come up with a solution or how we can maintain our focus with the team and continue to push forward. My primary focus is helping this football team, and I care about the guys in this locker room. I see how hard they work, so my main priority is just to try and help them."

The Cowboys have a quality backup quarterback in Kyle Orton, but in an abbreviated mailbag we present today we field this this question from a trusted reader:

Q: Calvin, the Cowboys need to sign Donovan McNabb to challenge/push Tony Romo into an outstanding QB. We need an excellent backup QB and McNabb fits the bill. I know we will go to the Super Bowl with a QB like McNabb. Great insurance if Romo gets hurt. Tell Jerry that in the past the Cowboys always had a good/excellent backup QB when they won all five Super Bowls. -- Free3 (San Antonio)

A: The Cowboys have Orton and are in capable hands should something happen to Romo. I don't believe McNabb can be a starter in this league anymore. A few years ago, I thought McNabb was the best quarterback in the NFC East. That was before Michael Vick came along, Romo emerged and Eli Manning matured into a star. While I think McNabb is still mobile, he isn't an accurate passer and can't produce the numbers needed to help a team. Is McNabb a good backup? Sure. But not for this team. At this stage of his career, I don't believe Romo needs to be pushed. He understands he needs to get his team into the postseason and make a deep run at a title. A few years ago I would have argued for McNabb over Jon Kitna, but not now.

Q: I am a huge Cowboys fan as well as a Tony Romo fan, but this constant bashing is getting a bit old and ridiculous. The guy wins games and still gets dogged. For instance, look at the games last year against the Giants, Bucs, and Bills, especially New York. If DeMarco Murray doesn't get hurt and the defense actually stops Eli Manning down the stretch, no problem. Do you think if Romo had a Steelers or Ravens defense the Cowboys would have a championship by now? -- Frankie Boisseau (Durham, N.C.)

You make some valid points. Last season, the New York Giants didn't have a good secondary -- it was their front seven that did the work. The Ravens were a missed field goal from playing in the Super Bowl. So yes, a strong defense can help you reach the postseason. But I can think of two games -- against the New York Jets and Detroit Lions -- in which Romo's mistakes cost his team. Would those two games have made the difference in the Cowboys making or missing the playoffs? Yes. It's not so much the defense that hurts Romo's chances of reaching his goals. Sometimes, it's his own play. Romo is an excellent quarterback, but he doesn't get to an elite level unless he gets his team on a deep playoff run. What do I mean by deep playoff run? NFC title game or Super Bowl. That's what he needs to do right now.

Q: Picking up a linebacker is fine for insurance purposes, but what are the expectations for Bruce Carter? -- Marc Dula (Clifton Park, N.Y.)

Carter is going to compete for starting job with Dan Connor. Carter was a second-round pick who had a first-round grade. Based on this, Carter should be penciled in as the starter, not a player competing for a starting gig with a veteran. Connor is a good player, and I do like the signing, but at some point the people you draft (especially in the second round) need to become starters. Carter missed time last season as he recovered from knee surgery, so his snaps were reduced to special teams and some defensive snaps. Carter will be given a chance to play more this season. Will he start? We'll find out soon.

Random Thoughts from Senior Bowl

January, 25, 2012

MOBILE, Ala. -- We're leaving the Senior Bowl after three days of nice, cool weather, and here's some notes:

1. The Cowboys are doing their due diligence regarding the quarterback position. I don't believe the Cowboys will draft one, but they did interview Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden on Sunday. Jerry Jones said if the team picks up a quarterback, it has to be a veteran who can move quickly in the offense. Weeden's age, 28, means he's a little more mature than some rookie quarterbacks and he picked up the Washington Redskins offensive terminology pretty quickly during practices here.

2. Finding a cornerback is a must for the Cowboys. When Jones says there will be new faces on the roster at that position, he's telling the truth. Alan Ball, Frank Walker, Terence Newman and quite possibly Abram Elam might be gone from the 2011 roster. The Cowboys interviewed troubled corner Janoris Jenkins, but one corner to watch is Georgia's Brandon Boykin. He's 5-9 1/4 and 183 pounds. He plays physical and can play the slot and outside. Boykin can also return kicks and punts.

3. It seems Keith Brooking wants to continue playing, according to his agent Pat Dye Jr. Brooking is open to playing a reduced role with the Cowboys. You could say he played a reduced role in 2011, but that was only after the team felt confident enough in Sean Lee's development in training camp to pair him up with Bradie James. The Cowboys want a younger team, especially on defense, but if Brooking is willing to play 10 defensive snaps with some special team duties per game, it might be worth keeping him around.

4. It's pretty interesting the Cowboys are downplaying Dez Bryant's confrontation in Miami last week. Jerry Jones has not spoken to Bryant, but someone in the organization did, according to Jason Garrett. Bryant's behavior away from the field should concern the Cowboys and if they don't get a handle on it, it could go bad quickly.

5. Brooking is coming here to be inducted into the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame along with Donovan McNabb and Dan Reeves. ... If the Cowboys sign a veteran quarterback, why not get David Garrard? The former Jacksonville quarterback's back should be 100 percent by the end of March. ... Garrett went to only one Pro Day last year, USC's to check out Tyron Smith. Garrett didn't say if that number will increase. He expects it to be a case-by-case basis. ... DE Marcus Spears is expected to return along with fellow DE Jason Hatcher. As good as Spears and Hatcher were, Kenyon Coleman struggled down the stretch.

Drafting QB might not be in the plans

January, 24, 2012

MOBILE, Ala. -- Over the next couple of days, the Cowboys coaching staff will watch the following quarterbacks during Senior Bowl practices: Nick Foles, Ryan Lindley, Brandon Weeden, Kirk Cousins, Kellen Moore and Russell Wilson.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones watched Cousins, Moore and Wilson practice on Monday afternoon in a light drizzle. Wilson seemed to have a nice touch on fade routes, but along with Moore seemed a bit small behind the pocket. Wilson was measured at 5-10 1/4 and Moore came in at 5-11 3/4.

Moore and Cousins threw a nice ball with some zip on it and weren't afraid to challenge defenders.

Whether the Cowboys will draft a quarterback is uncertain.

"That really is probably a product of how that falls relative to the draft for us at that position," Jones said. "We certainly got other needs and we want to be sure if our board dictating where we evaluated them, on the other hand what you probably be more looking at is do you bring in a veteran quarterback from free agency or some type of trade or something like that. We got to get there quicker than drafting and training a quarterback right now. I got a faster time-frame than that in terms of our team and its competitiveness."

The Cowboys have just two quarterbacks signed for next year on their roster in Tony Romo and Stephen McGee. Jones doesn't seem to be in a hurry to draft a quarterback this year, as was the case last year. A stir was created when the Cowboys talked to Cam Newton at the combine.

Since 2000, the Cowboys have drafted just three quarterbacks, but signed several as undrafted free agents, including Romo.

The Cowboys won't have Jon Kitna as the backup anymore. He retired so finding the right fit for Jason Garrett's offense is important.

A number of veterans are expected to hit the market that could get interest from the Cowboys include: Brady Quinn, Dan Orlovsky, JP Losman, Chad Henne, Rex Grossman, Jake Delhomme and Jason Campbell. You might say where's Matt Flynn, but it's doubtful the Cowboys want him based on what type of salary he could command. Vince Young is too much of a head case and Donovan McNabb might not be a good fit from a system standpoint. David Garrard is another possibility and he should be 100 percent from his back issues in March.

"I think that's one of the things we'll have to see how that evolves," Jones said regarding the backup quarterback spot. "We like the progress of McGee, that you probably, if somebody has to really start taking snaps would like to see more experience, but Houston went pretty far with a third-team quarterback without a lot of experience so I do know it can happen. An inexperience one gets you pretty far down the road."

DeMarcus Ware knows what's at stake

December, 8, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- DeMarcus Ware leads the NFL with 15 sacks and is on pace to become the first player with two 20-sack seasons to his credit since sacks became an official stat in 1982.

But Ware understands he has to raise his level of play.

“That’s just a number,” Ware said of his sack total, “but I look at it like it’s the time of the season for us and me to make even more big plays – sack the quarterback, get turnovers, knock the ball out. Those big plays that you get, if you look at the defenses that get all of those turnover they’re the teams that are winning. That’s how we have to be and what I have to do.”

Ware has sacked New York Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning more times than any other quarterback in his career with nine. Donovan McNabb is second with 6.5 sacks.

Ware has a sack of Manning in six of his 12 meetings against New York. Only in 2008 did he record a sack in both meetings. The Giants have the sixth-best percentage of sacks per pass play in the NFL (21 in 463 attempts) so far this season, so Manning does not take a lot of sacks.

“When you look at a guy like Eli, he’s a really smart quarterback,” Ware said. “If you don’t disguise things or get in his head, he’ll kill you. He knows how to read coverage. He’s especially good at play action and stringing plays out. I think they’re one of the least sacked teams in the league and it comes from him getting the ball out. They block it up sometimes, but it’s more him.”

Donovan McNabb not worth the drama for Dallas

December, 1, 2011
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys don’t need the circus returning to Valley Ranch. Especially not because of a backup quarterback.

That’s why they’d be wise to pass on making a waiver claim for Donovan McNabb after the Vikings released the former Pro Bowler. Well, that plus the fact that McNabb isn’t an effective quarterback at age 35.

The Cowboys’ concerns about Jon Kitna potentially being out for the season due to a bad back remain strong. That prompted them to try to claim Kyle Orton off of waivers before the former Broncos and Bears starter was awarded to the Chiefs.

Jerry Jones dropped a hint Thursday afternoon when he made a point to mention that Orton was a fit here because he had experience in a similar offensive system. That isn’t the case with McNabb.

It’s also extremely unlikely that McNabb, who was the face of the rival Philadelphia Eagles for years, would be pleased to serve as Tony Romo’s backup. It’d be foolish to invite a malcontent with a big name into a harmonious locker room, creating a potentially disruptive situation.

In Orton’s case, it was also in the Cowboys’ best interests to keep the Chicago Bears (a potential playoff foe) from claiming their former starter. If McNabb returns to his hometown team, so be it.

Orton had experience running Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s scheme. McNabb would be starting from scratch.

The Cowboys’ lone playoff win since the mid-90s came against a McNabb-quarterbacked team, and his performance has deteriorated drastically in the two years since then.

The Cowboys certainly shouldn’t fear facing McNabb in the wild-card round. There would be reason to worry if he was on their roster.
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys remain concerned about backup quarterback Jon Kitna’s back injury, but owner and general manager Jerry Jones was noncommittal when asked if the team would be interested in Donovan McNabb.

The Minnesota Vikings will grant McNabb his release, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported. The Cowboys attempted to claim quarterback Kyle Orton off of waivers when the Denver Broncos cut him last week, but he was awarded to the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I don’t know,” Jones said when informed of McNabb’s release and asked whether the Cowboys would be interested in the 13-year veteran quarterback. “You’re telling me something that I didn’t know. We are just … where we are is where we are today. We thought Orton had experience in our system, and he did. We thought he fit pretty good.”

As was the case with Orton, the Chicago Bears’ potential interest in McNabb is another possible reason for the Cowboys to consider claiming the longtime Philadelphia Eagles star. The Bears, a wild card contender, are starting inexperienced Caleb Hanie at quarterback with Jay Cutler out for possibly the rest of the season after thumb surgery.

However, Jones has said the concern about Kitna’s back injury was the primary reason the Cowboys attempted to add Orton. Kitna hasn’t practiced or played since beginning to experience serious back pain more than two weeks ago, and it's possible the injury could sideline him for the season. Stephen McGee, who has one career start, is the only healthy quarterback on the roster other than Tony Romo.

“We certainly are keeping an eye on where Kitna can be and potentially is,” Jones said. “I don’t know; no one knows. We’re not ready to move on from there, either.

“I made the run at Orton. That was something we thought about a lot. If it had worked, then it would have kind of eliminated some of the questions that we had with Kitna. Still, we’re where we are and I hope that the backup quarterback, the veteran quarterback issue isn’t the issue that it can be.”

Coach Jason Garrett indicated earlier this week that the Cowboys could make a decision on Kitna’s status the remainder of the season by mid-December.

“You shouldn’t hang your hat on two weeks, at all,” Jones said. “That’s fluid, too, as to when we’d make a decision on that. We’ll just see how it goes. The longer you go, the less you need the backup quarterback. When you’re down to the last two games, then that’s not quite the deal as if you were looking ahead at six or seven.”

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Redskins preview

November, 18, 2011

Scout's Eye
The last time the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys met, some eight weeks ago, the Redskins were off to a 2-0 start with an impressive opening day win against the New York Giants while the Cowboys had just evened their record to 1-1 after Tony Romo managed to steal a game in San Francisco despite a broken rib.

Blame quarterbacks for Redskins' slide

Since that meeting, the Redskins have lost five of their last six. A large part of those losses are due to the poor play of the quarterbacks Rex Grossman and John Beck. When you study the Redskins, the first thing that comes to mind is what we had to deal with during the Dave Campo years here in Dallas when it came to the quarterbacks. During that span we wasted a lot of time trying to get quarterbacks ready to play that gave us no opportunity to win games. I am seeing a lot of the same things in Washington.

Mike Shanahan’s inability to successfully identify a quarterback has done a lot of damage to the Redskins. Time, money and draft selections have been wasted on players like Donovan McNabb, Grossman and Beck.

Any pro personnel director could tell you without hesitation that McNabb was slipping badly and Andy Reid was more than ready to move on from McNabb with Michael Vick. As much as Shanahan wanted to believe that there was still gas left in McNabb’s tank, it wasn’t the case at all. Everyone knew that except Shanahan.

As the Redskins were going through training camp, Shanahan was still in search of a quarterback and placed a call to the Dolphins about Beck, who have had their quarterback issues as well. The Dolphins were more than happy to ship Beck to the Redskins. Shanahan made his biggest mistake of the off season by not addressing the quarterback situation through the draft when he had the opportunity to do so with a top-10 selection.

Shanahan could have selected Andy Dalton, Jake Locker or Christian Ponder but instead chose to trade down and select linebacker Ryan Kerrigan out of Purdue. Kerrigan has been a nice player this season but doesn’t help his quarterback situation now or in the future.

Beck has made three starts this season and has yet to win a game. As a matter of fact, Beck has an 0-7 record as an NFL starter. He plays like a quarterback that is afraid to make a mistake. You never see him really push the ball down the field. Everything Beck does is short and underneath.

Beck really struggles because he isn’t that accurate when it comes to throwing the ball at any level. He will struggle to hit receivers on the move and he will also struggle to hit them when stationary. The ball doesn’t come off his hand with any zip at all; there is no power to his game.

This is also the case of Grossman, who is back after throwing four interceptions in a loss to the Eagles. I have never been a fan of Grossman’s game because he really lacks arm strength, but I can’t question his toughness. He will stand in there and take shots.

Grossman is not the tallest or most mobile quarterback in the league, but you will see him slide in the pocket to try to help him with throwing lanes. The lack of arm strength appears when the Redskins try to throw the ball down the field.

Cowboys catch a break: No Moss

There have been too many times where Anthony Armstrong or Santana Moss get a step on a corner but have to wait on the ball because neither Grossman or Beck can get it down the field.

The Cowboys catch a huge break in this game because Moss will miss it due to a hand injury. Moss has punished the Cowboys over the years with his playmaking ability, so the fact that he is out of the lineup is a huge plus for Rob Ryan and this defense.

The Redskins generate offense in two areas.

Tight end Fred Davis is the real deal and is someone that nickel back Frank Walker and safeties Gerald Sensabaugh and Abram Elam are going to have to deal with. Davis doesn’t play like a traditional in line tight end. Not to say that you won’t see him inline, but the majority of his work is in the slot or flexed. Davis likes to work the middle of the field and he will be the go-to guy on third downs. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan likes to move him around the formation and create opportunities.

Redskins also will struggle to run the ball

Shanahan will also try to run the ball against the Cowboys’ front seven. Last week against the Bills, Dallas’ run defense was outstanding when the game was in the balance. That wasn’t the case the previous games against the Eagles and Seahawks.

The Cowboys will need to be ready for running backs Ryan Torain and Roy Helu in this zone blocking attack. Torain runs the ball hard but he is really straight line and doesn’t have many moves. He will attack the hole, then lower his head to finish the run.

The back that I think is the best fit for this offense is Helu. He just plays like he has a better feel for the offense when it comes to reading the blocks, then making the cut. Torain is more about attacking the hole; Helu is more about allowing the blocks to develop then making his cut.

Helu also does a nice job of catching the ball out of the backfield. Solid, dependable hands and does a nice job of getting up the field and gaining positive yards.

I mentioned the issues that the Redskins have at quarterback, which I feel are the most important, but their offensive line -- other than left tackle Trent Williams -- really struggle, run or pass.

Left guard Maurice Hurt is the weak link of this line. He plays overextended, doesn’t adjust to twist stunts and has poor sustain. He has been nursing a knee injury and might not be active for this game. Center Will Montgomery would slide over to his spot and Erik Cook would take over at center.

Right tackle Jammal Brown has had his shares of problems when it has come to pass protection. Have seen defenders get the edge on him without many problems.

Williams can make the cut-off block on the backside and reach the front. Williams had a little trouble in the 49ers game when he and Hurt had to sort out the twist game. Both of them did not adjust all that well. Look for Rob Ryan to throw some movement stunts against this line to see if they have corrected those problems or teams will continue to take advantage of them.

Redskins' defense will create pressure

If the Redskins can ever find a way to build any type of offense, they would have a shot in this division. No matter how bad the offense plays, the Redskins defense is always there to clean up the mess.

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and his staff have done a nice job in the games I studied. The pressure that they have able to generate with their front seven, particularly outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Kerrigan, has been impressive.

Orakpo was the first rusher that Doug Free faced after the 49ers game, when he struggled so bad with his technique. I was told that Free was really worried about the inside rush from Orakpo and it affected him in the game. Free has been rock solid the last two weeks and appears to once again be playing with confidence.

Both Orakpo and Kerrigan are relentless rushers when coming after the quarterback, but you will also have to deal with them on the backside when running down plays. If the Cowboys’ tackles and tight ends don’t finish blocks on the backside, then Orakpo and Kerrigan will be right there to make a play.

One of the major reasons for success in this Cowboys running game has been their ability to secure blocks and allow DeMarco Murray to use his vision to make cuts when he reads it. Without those backside blocks, this running game wouldn’t be as potent.

Watch for safety Landry to key on Cowboys' rushers

In the Buffalo game, safety LaRon Landry played more in the box, almost like a linebacker. I have a feeling that Haslett will probably try to do the same to see if he can have some success stopping Murray. Garrett can counter much like he did last week against the Bills -- throw the ball early in the game to get them out of that.

The Redskins have some run players in nose tackle Barry Cofield and defensive end Adam Carriker. Cofield shows the ability to get up field quickly off the snap and be disruptive in the backfield. Will be interested to see if Cofield lines up over Montrae Holland, who has struggled with quickness in the past.

Carriker plays with more brute force and power than great technique. When Tyron Smith has had his troubles, it’s been against ends that play with power. But to Smith’s advantage, this will be the second time that he has faced Carriker, so he can go back and study how he needs to attack him.

Former Cowboys defensive end Stephen Bowen is not playing as well against the run as he did when he was here. There is something about Bowen that leads me to believe that he really was an outstanding nickel or backup player, and the more snaps that he has to play, the more he will struggle. Bowen can still generate some pass rush, but he isn’t nearly as affective as he was when here.

At inside linebacker, the ageless London Fletcher is still around the ball a great deal. When in position to make a tackle, he can get the job done.

I was not impressed with Rocky McIntosh at all. I saw too many times where he was beaten in coverage or he missed a tackle. In the 49ers and Bills games, he was really bad in both those areas. McIntosh struggled much more than Fletcher at getting off blocks.

Cowboys should target Barnes in Redskins' secondary

In the secondary, the Redskins will use three safeties when they are all healthy, which at this time they are not. Landry has missed the first two days of practice with an Achilles injury, but he should play. O.J. Atogwe has been dealing with knee and toe problems and Reed Doughty has a chest issue.

The best combination for the Redskins is when Atogwe and Landry are the starters. Doughty will try to be physical in the run but doesn’t cover all that well.

Of the two corners, Josh Wilson knows how to play the fade and doesn’t give you much room. He also runs very well. DeAngelo Hall likes to bait quarterbacks into throws and will drive on routes. Have been told that he hasn’t been playing well this year, but in the games I studied, I didn’t see that. The weak link in the group is nickel Kevin Barnes, who needs to be attacked.

Stock Report: Romo up, Gurode down

August, 28, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Cowboys moved to 2-1 in the preseason with a 23-17 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday night. As the Cowboys get close to lowering the numbers on the roster, we look at who played well and who didn't in our weekly Stock Report.

Stock Up

Tony Romo. He looked really good Saturday night with probably his best game of the preseason. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 141 yards, picking up a 94 quarterback rating in the process. Romo found some of his favorite targets in Dez Bryant and Jason Witten in a first half of work, but one thing he did well was get rid of the ball faster when pressured.

Tashard Choice. Choice made his preseason debut and had two long runs taken away for penalties, but overall his 4.7 yards-per-carry average proved there are no lingering effects from a calf injury. Choice hit the holes fast, made a few people miss and displayed some speed. While Felix Jones is No. 1 on the depth chart, Choice is No. 2 with no questions asked.

Gerald Sensabaugh. The strong safety has played well in the preseason and he was busy Saturday night. He picked off a Donovan McNabb pass and blocked a field-goal try. Jason Garrett talks about turnovers helping teams win games and Sensabaugh backed that statement with his play.

Stock Down

Andre Gurode. The Cowboys are in the stages of cutting the Pro Bowl center because of his age, salary and potential health problems. Gurode can remain with the team by taking a pay cut, but it doesn't appear that's going to work for him. It might be time for Gurode to find another team.

Martellus Bennett. The tight end dropped another pass and suffered a right high-ankle sprain. Bennett wasn't in the mood to talk when he left the locker room. His status with the team wasn't in doubt; however, the longer this injury keeps him out, the more people will forget he was playing well this camp.

David Buehler. You can't win a job when you're hurt and this is the case with Buehler (hip). Dan Bailey made two field goals, Shayne Graham made another and Buehler didn't attempt any. With a roster cut looming this week, the Cowboys might do something not only with Gurode but with Buehler as well.

Andre Gurode won't discuss his situation

August, 27, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS -- After a brief chat with Minnesota Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb and former teammate Remi Ayodele, Cowboys center Andre Gurode didn't want to speak with reporters as he walked off the field following the Cowboys' 23-17 victory Saturday night.

Gurode was a healthy scratch; owner Jerry Jones said it was a business decision to sit the Pro Bowler. It appears the Cowboys are going to ask Gurode to take a pay cut, trade him or release him.

In the locker room, Gurode continued his stance of not talking about his status with the team.

"I have no comment about what you're talking about," he said. "I'm not saying nothing to ya’ll."

Gurode however did have a brief comment when asked about his replacement, third-stringer Kevin Kowalski, who was told just two hours before the game that he would start.

"I stayed on him," Gurode said. "He did good."

Asked about Tyron Smith, the rookie tackle who started his third game on the right side, Gurode said, "I think he’s looking good every day. I think [extra practice work] benefits him a lot. It gets him comfortable. He works with [Hudson Houck] and he does a great job."

Gurode and his agent Kennard McGuire are expected to speak with Cowboys officials Sunday about his status. The Cowboys have 83 players on their roster, which must be reduced to 80 on Aug. 30.

Cowboys to see Donovan McNabb again

August, 27, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS -- Tonight’s game at Mall of American Field in Minneapolis will be the closest thing to a regular-season game the Cowboys will play until the opener at the New York Jets, so it is only fitting the Cowboys get to see Donovan McNabb.

The Vikings are McNabb’s third team in three years after spending last season in Washington and the previous 12 in Philadelphia.

McNabb has played 20 games against the Cowboys and has completed 352 of 641 passes for 4,122 yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has a 79.7 passer rating vs. Dallas.

“You see the film and he’s still got the great arm strength,” linebacker Keith Brooking said. “He’s very comfortable in this system. It’s a West Coast system, so, yeah, he’s the real deal.”

The only quarterback DeMarcus Ware has sacked more than McNabb (6.5 times) is Eli Manning of the New York Giants (9).

“When you have a really competitive quarterback that can run and pass it sort of changes the dynamics of how you pass rush,” Ware said. “You can beat the guy but then he’ll take off running. That’s hard to take him down. That’s like a prize once you get him down because it took a little work.”

NFC East free-agency breakdown

July, 26, 2011
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

A look at the free-agent priorities for each NFC East team:

New York Giants

1. Figure out which of their own guys to keep. With Ahmad Bradshaw, Barry Cofield, Mathias Kiwanuka, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss all set to potentially go free, the Giants have to prioritize and figure out which guys they're keeping. The top priority is probably going to be Bradshaw, an emerging star at running back, and it appears they'll let Cofield walk while trying to bring back Boss. They think the injury situations with Kiwanuka and Smith will help keep those guys' prices reasonable. But before the Giants hit the market, they'll need to get their own free-agent house in order.

2. Get at least one linebacker. The Giants have ignored this position over the past couple of years, and they seem to believe Jonathan Goff can handle the middle linebacker spot. They'd probably be better off moving him back outside and exploring the middle linebacker market, which includes Stephen Tulloch, Barrett Ruud and Paul Posluszny. But if they're set on keeping Goff in the middle, perhaps someone such as Manny Lawson or Nick Barnett could be a fit. It's one thing not to prioritize a position, but it's another to ignore it completely, and the Giants have been doing that with linebacker, to their detriment.

3. Some offensive line insurance. There were lots of injuries along the line in New York last season, and although it didn't kill them, it was a potential sign of things to come. The Giants hope Will Beatty will soon be ready to take over at left tackle for a declining David Diehl, but they must watch out for the health of Shaun O'Hara at center. And if they have to cut Shawn Andrews to sign some other guys, they'll need to replace him with a tackle who can provide depth.

Top five free agents: RB Bradshaw, DE/LB Kiwanuka, TE Boss, DT Cofield, WR Smith

Philadelphia Eagles

1. Settle the Kevin Kolb situation. If they can get the great deal for him that most believe they can (i.e., a first-round pick plus), the Eagles will deal Kolb and look for a reliable backup quarterback who can play if and when Michael Vick gets hurt. If they can't get good value for Kolb, they'll probably keep him to serve as said reliable backup. A trade is most likely, but whatever happens, the Eagles will probably settle this soon after the league year begins.

2. Sign a cornerback. The starting spot opposite Asante Samuel is open, and no one on the current roster appears able to fill it. That's why you've heard, and will continue to hear, the Eagles connected with Asomugha. Philadelphia must rank among his most likely destinations at this point. If they don't get him, they'll look down the list at guys such as Johnathan Joseph, Ike Taylor and Antonio Cromartie. And there's a chance they could get a cornerback for Kolb. But they'll get one somewhere.

3. Re-sign Stewart Bradley. Sure, they could let Bradley go and play Jamar Chaney at middle linebacker. Chaney looked, at least, capable in that spot last season and may be the Eagles' future at the position. But if Bradley leaves, the Eagles' problems will be about more than just the alignment of the linebackers. They'll actually be short on bodies and will need to play the free-agent field to find a replacement. Bradley's had injury problems, but when healthy, he's the Eagles' best linebacker and could be a key cog in whatever new defensive alignment Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn are cooking up.

Top five free agents: LB Bradley, S Mikell, G Nick Cole, RB Jerome Harrison, CB Ellis Hobbs

Washington Redskins

1. Fill out the defensive line. Whether they add a free-agent nose tackle such as Aubrayo Franklin or look at defensive end options like Jenkins, the Redskins must figure who their starting defensive linemen are. They like their linebacking corps, and although they also need a cornerback, they love their safeties with Oshiomogho Atogwe in the fold next to LaRon Landry. But their good, young outside linebackers will need big, space-eating ends in front of them to open up lanes to the passer. And they'll also need to get some sort of pass rush from the line, whether it's from the nose or the ends.

2. Re-sign Santana Moss. The Redskins are making noise about pursuing a big-time wideout such as Santonio Holmes or Sidney Rice. But the reality is that it's going to be tough to convince receivers to sign in Washington while they're not viewed as a contender and the quarterback situation remains so cloudy. Moss likes it in Washington. The Redskins like him. And he's a nice guy to have around to help out young receivers Anthony Armstrong and Leonard Hankerson -- not to mention inexperienced quarterback John Beck.

3. Resolve the Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth situations. They don't want either player on the team anymore, but the question is how to get rid of them. They might be able to dump McNabb for a late-round draft pick, but if they can't, they'll probably just cut him and let him find his next job on his own. Haynesworth has trade value in a league where many 4-3 teams are looking for interior defensive line help. Don't expect the Redskins to cut Haynesworth, because they don't want to do him any favors and they don't want him free to sign with former Tennessee D-line coach Washburn in Philadelphia. If they can't get value for him, don't be surprised if Haynesworth remains on the team all season and has a hard time getting into games.

Top five free agents: WR Moss, OT Jammal Brown, CB Carlos Rogers, LB Rocky McIntosh, QB Rex Grossman