Dallas Cowboys: Jonathan Vilma

Cowboys' front seven ranked last

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9
1:10
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Last week, Pro Football Focus rated the Dallas Cowboys' roster at No. 18 in the league and that's in large part because of the projected starters on offense.

On defense, the only starter with a “good” tag is defensive tackle Henry Melton, and he is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Three projected starters were listed as below average, and six were projected as average.

None of this is really new, but to show just how stacked it might seem against new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is this review of the Cowboys' front seven from Mike Tanier from Sports on Earth.

Tanier puts the Cowboys dead last in his front seven rankings.

Here's what he wrote:
32. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys lost DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and (in the saddest, most ridiculous minicamp story of the year) Sean Lee from a defense that allowed 2,056 rushing yards and recorded just 36 sacks last year. Henry Melton arrives as a younger, more system-suited replacement for Hatcher, but everything else is a shambles. Bruce Carter, Justin Durant and DeVonte Holloman form the most anonymous linebacker corps in the league, and only Carter has any significant starting experience. Anthony Spencer may start the season on the PUP list as he battles back from microfracture surgery on his knee. And of course, the Cowboys are so cap-stressed that they wouldn't be able to sign a veteran reinforcement, even if one becomes available this late in the offseason.

The wisest thing the Cowboys could do is insert rookies Demarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens into the rotation quickly and let them learn on the job. The Cowboys did not get into this predicament by doing the wise thing. But they are so thin and talent-poor that they may not have a choice.

One quibble I would make is that they could have attempted to keep Ware, signed Jared Allen, Julius Peppers or pick a veteran in free agency if they wanted to by doing more poorly structured deals that affected their ability to do business in the future. They chose not to go that route and likely won't do it for a Lee replacement, be it either Jonathan Vilma or Brian Urlacher.

And if a veteran of some substance becomes available later, they could always find room by restructuring the contracts of Jason Witten or Brandon Carr. Money wouldn't be an issue, in my opinion.

Marinelli did a great job with the Bears in part because he had a younger and healthier Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Peppers and Melton in the front seven and solid role players such as Corey Wootton, Israel Idonije, Stephen Paea and Nick Roach.

From the looks of the Dallas defense right now, the Cowboys will be asking a lot of role players to play prominent parts, especially on the front seven. Marinelli has to turn a defense that is built on "maybes" and "hope so's" into one that can be competitive.

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 1

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
12:30
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
Check back for Part 2 on Saturday.

Away we go:
 
IRVING, Texas -- Don’t buy that Brian Urlacher, Jonathan Vilma or insert-veteran-linebacker-here jersey just yet.

Before the Dallas Cowboys look outside the building for MLB Sean Lee’s replacement, they want to see what Justin Durant, DeVonte Holloman and Anthony Hitchens can do.

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“We have some young guys we feel good about, so we want to give those guys every opportunity,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We have some veteran players who weren't completely healthy all last year, so we want to make sure they have an opportunity to work at some of those spots inside and just see who on our football team right now rises to the occasion. We've got to make sure we give them every opportunity. We’re always looking at the landscape of players -- free agents on the street, trade opportunities, anybody who we think can help our football team at any position. We’re always doing that. But we like the guys we have right now and the competition we have going.”

Durant took the first-team snaps at middle linebacker during Monday's organized team activities. He started one game at middle linebacker last year when Lee was out with a hamstring issue. Holloman started two games last year after Lee suffered a neck injury.

Garrett has yet to rule Lee out for the season, saying only that Lee has a “serious knee injury.” Lee tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on May 27 in the first OTA. Garrett said the team is still developing a plan for Lee. The team generally waits a few weeks to perform a surgery so the swelling goes down.

In the offseason, the Cowboys cut veteran DE DeMarcus Ware and veteran WR Miles Austin and opted to not re-sign veteran DT Jason Hatcher. The Cowboys passed on free-agent DEs Jared Allen and Julius Peppers and did not look at veteran safeties.

Last year, the Cowboys signed offensive lineman Brian Waters the week before the season started. He had not played in 2012, but in 2013 he played in seven games for Dallas (with five starts) before he tore his triceps.

“If you look at our team, we have a really young roster,” Garrett said. “If you go position by position on both sides of the ball, there aren't many guys who have played that long in the National Football League, and we think that’s good. Some of our best players are guys that have been around a little bit, and we think that’s good, too. We’re always looking for a combination of veteran guys who have been around a little bit and younger guys who are developing into their prime, and then you have to have some role players, as well. You start with 90 and then you try to make the best decisions you can with the players you have. And then if there’s a reason to go outside at some point, you go ahead and do that.”

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 2

May, 31, 2014
May 31
12:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:

If you want to read Part 1 of the mailbag, click here.

Away we go:

Lee replacement plan in-house for now

May, 29, 2014
May 29
9:00
AM ET
video

IRVING, Texas -- While the Dallas Cowboys have not officially said so, Sean Lee tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Tuesday, according to sources, and the defense will be without its best player.

The Cowboys have yet to use the bat signal to call all unemployed middle linebackers.

The current plan is to go with what is on the roster.

They have DeVonte Holloman, who started the final two games of last season at middle linebacker after Lee suffered a neck injury. They have Justin Durant, who started one game in Lee's absence last season. They have rookie Anthony Hitchens, their fourth-round pick.

With eight more organized team activities, followed by six practices during a three-day minicamp next month, the Cowboys will soon have a better idea about where they stand regarding a replacement for Lee.

After that, perhaps they will look off campus for help.

Veterans like Jonathan Vilma, Erin Henderson and Pat Angerer have been mentioned. Even Brian Urlacher's name has come up.

Urlacher's connection to Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli makes it interesting, but would it be appetizing? Urlacher did not play last year. He turned 36 this week. His knee gave him issues in his final seasons with the Bears.

Last year the Cowboys signed guard Brian Waters before the season started. He did not play in 2012 but managed to play in seven games and start five before a torn biceps ended his season. He was 36 then.

Often, past success outweighs present ability when fans yearn for a player to be signed. Urlacher is not the same player who dominated the NFL for years, just as Waters was not the same player last year that he was earlier in his career. He was solid and he helped Dallas, but he was not the same Pro Bowl player.

Vilma and Angerer have health issues. The Minnesota Vikings released Henderson in January after a DUI arrest.

At the end of May, there are no magic solutions to replace Lee.

The Cowboys will see if they can get by with Holloman, Hitchens or Durant, who did not take part in Tuesday’s practice because of an undisclosed injury. They will study the rosters of the other teams hard over the course of the summer to see if they can find (or need) an upgrade.

The players mentioned today -- Urlacher, Angerer, Henderson and Vilma -- are likely to be available when training camp begins or even later.

If the Cowboys need them in July or August or September, they can make the call.

Saints players dress up as bellhops

February, 1, 2010
2/01/10
7:11
PM ET
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Yes, this is a Cowboys blog, and we'll get to some Cowboys stuff later this week.

But several Saints players who arrived here early for the Pro Bowl met their teammates at the team hotel dressed up as bellhops on a rainy Monday.

"For about half-an-hour today, those Pro Bowl players earned some pretty good tips with our players getting off the bus and handling the luggage," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They did a good job. We're always one to steal a pretty good idea. I think Bill Walsh a long time ago had a pretty good idea, and we just took it like one of his offensive plays and ran with it."

Saints quarterback Drew Brees thought linebacker Jonathan Vilma came up with the idea.

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