Dallas Cowboys: Five Wonders

Five Wonders: Looking to the future

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
8:00
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IRVING, Texas -- So many things to wonder, so little time.

It’s Five Wonders and we’re hitting big topics right off the top.

Away we go:

** I wonder if the Cowboys have a decision to make on DeMarcus Ware in the offseason. Ware is set to count $16.003 million against the salary cap in 2014. He has a base salary of $12.25 million. The Cowboys have reworked his contract numerous times over the years, even adding voidable years to it to help with the prorated amounts. They will need to restructure more contracts in the offseason to get under the projected $126.3 million salary cap in 2014. They will also have to cut some high-priced veterans. Perhaps even Ware, which seems shocking in a way. Ware has only six sacks with two games to go. He missed three games because of a quadriceps injury and has not been effective for much of the past month. He was so good in training camp. He made Tyron Smith look bad on an almost daily basis. Is it just health? Ware says he is healthy. Is it age? Ware turns 32 next July. The Cowboys have made mistakes with age before. Jay Ratliff comes immediately to mind. Ware is far from Ratliff. He is the right kind of guy. He works hard. He is a good teammate. He plays hurt. Ware has not only missed three games but he is playing only 67.2 percent of the snaps when he does play. It is one thing to commit $16 million to a guy on the cap when he is getting you anywhere from 12 to 18 sacks a season. It’s another thing to do it when he is struggling. If the Cowboys released Ware, their all-time leader in sacks, they would save $7.43 million against the cap. Jerry Jones has a hard time with these types of decisions. Could he ask Ware to take a cut in pay? Would Ware accept one?

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesIs Jason Garrett's future in Dallas secure?
** Mike Shanahan won’t be the Washington Redskins' coach in 2014. Could he join the Dallas Cowboys' coach? If Jones decides to part ways with Jason Garrett, then Shanahan’s name will be linked to the Cowboys just because he’s a name. Same with Jon Gruden. But let’s stick with Shanahan here for a moment. Now it’s difficult to take Albert Haynesworth’s word for much. After all he did stomp on Andre Gurode’s head in 2006. But Haynesworth said last week in Washington, D.C., that it is in Shanahan’s contract that Daniel Snyder has to limit contact with the players. I can understand why Shanahan would want that in there. It helps him control things more. But I wonder if Shanahan would ever come here because you know Jones would never EVER have that in coach’s contract. Jones moved to the background when Bill Parcells was coach but he did not disappear.

** Let’s stick with the head coaching theme and the possibility of Garrett’s demise. Forget “who” Jerry Jones targets. I wonder “what” kind of coach he targets. Shanahan and Gruden have Super Bowl rings on their résumé, but Jones has said before he does not necessarily want a coach with a championship because he does not believe the coach has the same fire. (Yes, I realize Parcells is an exception.) I wonder if Jones goes for a defensive coach. The offensive personnel figures to be mostly the same in 2014: Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Smith, Travis Frederick, DeMarco Murray, Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar. The defense needs the re-tooling. Does Jones go after a defensive coach? There’s a lot of work to do there obviously and not as many parts. Who is a building block? Sean Lee. The rest you hope can rebound from poor seasons. If Jones goes defense, I wonder if he would go with a first-time coach or a veteran head coach. Would Mike Zimmer be in the mix? Lovie Smith? None of this matters if the Cowboys win their final two games.

** I wonder if Murray’s performance over the past month or so is making those at Valley Ranch rethink their thoughts about his long-term future. Murray is 23 yards away from reaching 1,000 yards for the season. He probably should have hit that number against the Green Bay Packers if they just ran the ball more. He will get it this week against the Redskins barring something unforeseen and he will do it in just his 13th game of the season having missed two games with a knee injury. That’s pretty impressive. He has run harder as the season has gone on but has left yards on the field as well. The prevailing wisdom is that running backs can be found here, there and everywhere and you only commit long term to the Adrian Peterson types. Murray is not that kind of back but he has had his best season. He is signed through 2014.

** If the Cowboys lose Sunday and the Philadelphia Eagles win, I wonder how the Cowboys approach the season finale against the Eagles. The Cowboys will be out of the playoff chase. In 2005 the Cowboys were eliminated before their finale against the St. Louis Rams but Parcells chose to go with his starters and lost 20-10. Many inside the organization wanted to see him start Tony Romo in that finale, but the coach stuck with Drew Bledsoe. Not to go all Herm Edwards on you here, but you play to win the game. If you can take a look at a player, then fine. The problem the Cowboys have is they don’t have much in the pipeline you would want to see. Maybe Jermey Parnell gets a shot at right tackle, but Doug Free hasn’t done anything to be benched and should be back in 2014. Maybe Escobar takes the bulk of the backup tight end snaps over James Hanna. Would that change any perceptions of Escobar as he heads into his second season? Could Williams get the work over Miles Austin? Yeah, but that has happened for most of the season.

5 Wonders: Tony Romo's numbers vs. Bucs

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
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IRVING, Texas – After two games many of you are wondering which Cowboys team will show up on gameday. They played great against the New York Giants. They were whipped by Seattle. So what happens Sunday against Tampa Bay?

I’m wondering about five things.

Here’s this week’s Five Wonders:

** I wonder if Tony Romo will continue his personal success against the Buccaneers on Sunday. In three games against Tampa Bay, Romo has 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions. His passer ratings in the three wins have been 148.9, 140.6 and 133.9. In 2006, Romo tore up Monte Kiffin’s defense for five touchdown passes. In the 2009 season opener, he beat Raheem Morris’ defense for353 yards. Last year he completed 77 percent of his passes against Keith Millard’s defense. This week he goes against Bill Sheridan’s defense. The Bucs have allowed Cam Newton to pass for 303 yards and Eli Manning to pass for 510 in the first two games. Sheridan was the New York Giants defensive coordinator in 2009 and in the two games Romo threw four touchdown passes and was intercepted three times in two Dallas losses.

**OK, Felix Jones won’t be cut. Jerry Jones said so this morning on KRLD-FM. Jason Garrett was taken by surprise at the question during the post-game press conference, too. But should Jones be active? He’s not an effective kick returner. Garrett keeps saying Jones is a big part of the offense. Why? He can’t make a tackler miss. He’s had one carry in the first two games. This is DeMarco Murray’s running game right now, as it should be. If Jones can’t be a special teams’ help and can’t make people miss as a pass catcher, then why should he be on the 46-man roster? Something has happened to Jones. He’s lost that speed that helped him get by without much make-you-miss.

** The Cowboys will be thin at safety his week. Gerald Sensabaugh could miss 1-2 weeks with a calf strain, but he is one of the toughest players on the roster so don’t rule him out for Sunday. Barry Church has a quadriceps bruise but he should be OK. Matt Johnson has not practiced since the regular-season began because of a hamstring injury. That leaves two healthy safeties in Danny McCray and Mana Silva. Cornerback Mario Butler played some safety in the preseason. Jason Garrett was asked if Mike Jenkins could play some safety with the injuries. I wouldn’t go there. I wonder if they should give Orlando Scandrick some time there. It was kicked around a few years ago about playing Scandrick at safety when Wade Phillips was around. He plays a hybrid safety role in some substitution packages. He’s a willing tackler. He’s an intuitive player. He’s not the prototypical size but you’re not asking for a full-time conversion to the spot. Maybe it makes some sense.

**I wonder when people (media too by the way) will realize the way the Cowboys have opened the season is the way of life in the NFL. It happens everywhere, if we want to talk off the microscope off the Cowboys for a second. New England lost at home to Arizona. New Orleans lost to Washington in Week 1. Peyton Manning looks great in his return for Denver against Pittsburgh then terrible in his first quarter on Monday at Atlanta. Baltimore airs it out in Week 1 vs. Cincinnati and is stifled the next week vs. Philadelphia. The key is to win the games you play poorly in. Say, hello to Philadelphia. The Eagles were awful vs. the Browns in the opener but won anyway. In December nobody will be talking about any style points on that game, just the victory. The Cowboys had a chance in Seattle and were punked in the second half. It’s simple as that. Since Garrett took over midway through the 2010 season the Cowboys have had two two-game winning streaks and one four-game winning streak. They’ve also had two two-game losing streaks. The key early in a season is to pile up the wins anyway, anyhow and carry momentum.

** There are times in games where you sometimes have to take a risk, calculate the gamble and just go for it with conviction. I wondered whether the Cowboys should have gone for it on fourth-and-3 from the Seattle 40 with 44 seconds left in the first half and asked Garrett if he considered not punting. “That’s certainly a discussion you have, but we didn’t want to give them a short field and another scoring opportunity there,” Garrett said. “We were trying to maximize our opportunity there, and we didn’t convert. That was one where we had an opportunity to win on a slant route. The ball got batted at the line of scrimmage and they made the stop on third down. We just felt like the right thing to do at that point because of the field position was punt it down in their end.” I understand the thinking but against a rookie quarterback that had done little up to that point, why not show faith in the defense that you think they’ll get a stop?

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