Dallas Cowboys: Sidney Rice

On Miles Austin's value

May, 30, 2013
I get a lot of questions about Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin. It seems every time a receiver of any note is potentially available, fans want to know whether the Cowboys will or should sign him to replace Austin. I usually respond with a question, specifically, "What does everybody dislike so much about Miles Austin?"

Todd Archer feels the same way, and has this piece on ESPNDallas.com to remind everyone of how valuable Austin still is to the Cowboys' offense, even with the emergence of Dez Bryant as a star and the drafting of Terrance Williams in the third round in April:
Dig deeper into what Austin did last year when he caught 66 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns.

He outperformed the leading wide receivers on 16 other teams in catches, yards or touchdowns, including pass-catchers in Arizona (Larry Fitzgerald), Baltimore (Anquan Boldin), Seattle (Sidney Rice), Washington (Josh Morgan) and Pittsburgh (Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown). Aside from Arizona, there is not a poor quarterback throwing to anyone in that bunch.

In a division with Bryant, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, Austin had the fourth-most catches and touchdowns and was third in yards. And he put up those numbers on an offense that had Jason Witten set an NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end (110) and Bryant explode for 92 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The knocks on Austin seem to be that he's always got some kind of nagging injury that either keeps him from playing or limits his production, and that he hasn't lived up to his brilliant 2009 numbers. Valid points both, but sometimes I think we have to step back and think about what our expectations for these guys really are and what they should be. Austin remains one of the Cowboys' starting wide receivers. Even if Williams comes quickly, the best arrangement for the Dallas offense when it goes to three wide receivers will be Bryant and deep-threat Williams on the outside with the versatile Austin moving inside to play the slot. Austin can play anywhere, and produces better than your average No. 2 wide receiver. I think it's probably a good idea for fans to remember he is still a very valuable guy, and stop rushing to get rid of him.

W2W4: Cowboys at Seahawks

September, 16, 2012
SEATTLE -- The Cowboys make their second road trip of the season, taking on the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. It's the Cowboys' first appearance here since 2007 when they lost an NFC wild-card game to the Seahawks.

We all know what happened in that game.

Let's preview the Week 2 game.

The series: Dallas leads the all-time series, 9-5, and has won three straight and four of the last six. Out of 14 games, four were decided by a touchdown or less and six of the games were decided by three or more touchdowns. Dallas is 3-3 at Seattle. If the Cowboys win the game, it would given them their 450th win all time, becoming the 13th team in league history with that amount.

Tony Romo's return: Romo has done a lot in his career -- two division titles, a playoff win, three Pro Bowls -- but it's the fumbled snap in the NFC wild-card game on Jan. 6, 2007, that is near the top of his resume. Romo fumbled a snap on a potential game-winning field goal and it led to a 21-20 loss. It was one of the more painful losses in Cowboys' history and in some ways has defined Romo's career despite the success he's had as an individual. Sunday afternoon he gets a chance at revenge.

Lineup changes: The Cowboys will start their second different center of the season with Ryan Cook getting the call over Phil Costa (back). Nose tackle Jay Ratliff will miss his second consecutive game as he's still recovering from a high-ankle sprain. Josh Brent and Sean Lissemore will take over for Ratliff. Brent started the Week 1 game for Ratliff. Mike Jenkins will make his season debut at cornerback. He's not expected to start, but Jenkins should see playing time on special teams and on the dime package. Jenkins' return to the field could mean fewer snaps for Morris Claiborne on defense. However, Claiborne might get to return kicks in place of Felix Jones. Coach Jason Garrett said he didn't anticipate a chance on kick returns. But we'll see.

Stop the run: Both teams have strong running backs in Marshawn Lynch of Seattle and DeMarco Murray of Dallas. Last week, Murray rushed for 131 yards on 20 carries in the victory over the New York Giants. Murray didn't have plenty of running lanes, but was able to burst through for some gritty runs. The Seahawks have a stout run defense. Seattle held Arizona to 43 rushing yards and stopped lead running back Beanie Wells to just 14 yards on seven carries in Week 1.

Rookie starts at quarterback: Seattle starts a rookie quarterback in Russell Wilson. He was one of five rookie quarterbacks to make their debuts in Week 1. Wilson was sacked three times, threw for 153 yards and completed 18 of 34 passes. Third down hurt Seattle in its season opening loss to Arizona. The Seahawks went 5-of-16 on third down.

Injury report: The Cowboys had 13 players on their injury report and only Matt Johnson (hamstring), Ratliff and Costa are out. Seattle has 10 players on its report, including three receivers, but coach Pete Carroll said this week Golden Tate and Sidney Rice will play despite knee issues. Wide receiver Charly Martin (chest) is out. Lynch was limited in Wednesday's practice because of a back problem, but was a full participant Thursday and Friday. Tight end Zach Miller (foot) and Russell Okung (knee) are questionable. However, Okung was a full participant Friday.

Picks: Our experts all picked Dallas to win. What a shocker.
IRVING, Texas -- Pro Bowl outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware is listed as probable for Sunday's game against the Seahawks despite being limited in practice all week.

The Cowboys are exercising caution with Ware because of a hamstring strain he originally suffered midway through training camp. Ware, an eight-year veteran, has never missed a game in his NFL career and said Thursday he will be ready to play full speed.

Ware could be facing a backup left tackle. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said starter Russell Okung (knee) will be a game-time decision. Seattle receiver Sidney Rice will play despite a knee injury, Carroll said.

As expected, Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff has been ruled out for the second consecutive week. Ratliff suffered a high ankle sprain in the Aug. 25 preseason game against the St. Louis Rams. He'll be replaced by Josh Brent and Sean Lissemore, who both played well in the season-opening win over the New York Giants.

Center Phil Costa (back) has also been officially ruled out. Costa played only three snaps in the season opener. Ryan Cook, who was acquired in a trade from the Dolphins the previous week, filled in adequately despite having practiced only a few times with the Cowboys. Cook got all the first-team reps this week.

Rookie safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) is also out.

The Other Side: Danny O'Neil, Seattle Times

September, 13, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Danny O’Neil covers the Seahawks for the Seattle Times and he brings you this week’s version of The Other Side.

Archer: How did Russell Wilson win the job in camp? People expected some rookie starters at QB this year, but I don't know if too many had him as one of the guys.

O’Neil: When the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson in the third round, many assumed he would spend the year developing on the back-burner as the No. 3 quarterback. The Seahawks had signed Matt Flynn and still had Tarvaris Jackson, and they figured to be the two dueling for playing time. Well, it figured that way to everyone but coach Pete Carroll.

No sooner had the rookie minicamp finished than Carroll announced Wilson would be part of the competition, and from that moment forward, Wilson simply put together the best body of work. He had a bad day in practice during training camp, but that was one day. Singular. He was picked off three times, and showed an ability to correct it. He has a bigger arm than Flynn, more mobility and he was clearly more explosive in the exhibition games.

Wilson wasn't given this job, he won it.

TA: Is there any buyer's remorse on Matt Flynn if he's not the starter?

DO: What, doesn't every team want to pay its backup $8 million while starting a rookie? But seriously, there's not necessarily remorse. Seattle wanted to come out of this with a starting quarterback capable of taking the team to the playoffs. If it's Flynn, great. That was money well spent. If it's Wilson, that's fine, too.

Consider the Cardinals: They paid more in a contract for Kevin Kolb (five years, $63 million) than Seattle paid to Matt Flynn (three years, $26 million). Not only that, but the Cardinals gave up a second-round pick and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to get the privilege of playing that money while Seattle chose Wilson with a third-round choice. Seattle certainly appears to have acquired more talent at quarterback for a lesser investment.

TA: The Seahawks finished the year 5-3 after losing to the Cowboys last year and all of the losses were by less than a touchdown. Obviously, they started with a close loss to Arizona in Week 1. How does Pete Carroll get this team over the hump in close games?

DO: Let Wilson mature. This team is built to play to the strengths of a big, physically imposing defense and a punishing ground game. Wilson is the guy they're depending on to be able to pull a game out in the fourth quarter. He came closer in Week 1 than Tarvaris Jackson ever did last year so that time may be coming.

TA: People really like the Seattle secondary, but where does the pass rush come from? How is Bruce Irvin's progress going?

DO: Bruce Irvin has not been the immediate-impact pass rusher the Seahawks predicted when they chose him. Chris Clemons remains this team's best pass rusher. Irvin will get a chance to see if Seattle's home crowd can help give him an advantage in rushing off the edge.

TA: I can't go without asking a Terrell Owens question even if he's not on the roster. How did he look and why didn't the Seahawks keep him?

DO: He was in great shape, still had the speed to get deep, but had two significant drops. He was acquired to provide a veteran alternative in case Sidney Rice wasn't ready when the season began. Rice was ready, and Owens wasn't so impressive the team was willing to carry him as a fourth or fifth wide receiver given the fact he doesn't play special teams.

If Rice were to get hurt again, the Seahawks wouldn't hesitate to bring Owens back.

How you feeling? Cowboys-Seahawks

November, 6, 2011
As you get ready for Sunday afternoon's home game against the Seahawks, here's one reason for Dallas Cowboys fans to be feeling good and one reason for concern:

Feeling good: The Cowboys' passing game should be back today. Seattle defends the run very well, so I wouldn't expect a huge game out of DeMarco Murray. But the Seahawks aren't strong in the secondary, and this should be the day quarterback Tony Romo once again begins to find wideouts Miles Austin and Dez Bryant down the field. They couldn't do that on a frustrating night last Sunday in Philadelphia against the Eagles' talented cornerbacks, but they should have more chances to hit big plays in this one.

Cause for concern: Oddly the way the Cowboys should be able to beat the Seahawks is the way the Seahawks might be able to give the Cowboys trouble as well. Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has actually been a pretty good downfield passer when he's been healthy this season, and he's got a real rhythm with wide receiver Sidney Rice from their days together on the Minnesota Vikings' second-team offense. With cornerback Mike Jenkins and inside linebacker Sean Lee out with injuries, the Dallas defense could be weaker than usual at the second level and will have to limit the Seahawks' big plays in the passing game.

Scout's Eye: Seahawks-Cowboys key matchups

November, 5, 2011

Cowboys OTs Doug Free and Tyron Smith vs. Seahawks DEs Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock: Clemons and Brock are the Seahawks’ most dangerous defensive players. Free and Smith were the most exposed in the Eagles game when Trent Cole and Jason Babin were able to get up the field quickly and work their outside shoulder or use a spin move underneath.

Through the first seven weeks of watching Smith play, the one area of concern is not when he uses his athletic ability to take rushers wide, but when he has to deal with the inside pressure. There have been games where Smith gets beat when the defender spins on him. Last week against the Eagles, Babin was able to get him by going hard up the field, getting his weight on his outside foot, then spinning hard inside. When Smith tried to adjust back, he was a one-legged football player and way out of position.

Scout's Eye
When watching these Seahawks ends, you see them play with explosiveness up the field. The real strength of Clemons and Brock is their ability to get up the field. Free has had his moments where he has been technique poor this season, so how he and Smith are able to adjust to the Seahawks rushers will go a long way to how successful the Cowboys will be able to move the ball.

Cowboys CBs Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick vs. Seahawks WR Sidney Rice: The Seahawks do have receivers that can make plays down the field, but their biggest problem has been at quarterback, where they have struggled to be accurate with their passes. When Tarvaris Jackson has had success throwing the ball, it has usually been to Sidney Rice, who is the Seahawks’ best playmaker.

Rice is a vertical player that has the speed and quickness to create opportunities for this offense. Rice does a nice job of releasing off the line if you try to play press against him. He is an outstanding route runner and knows how to work the sidelines. If given free access, Rice will come hard off the ball to sell the route, getting the defender on his heels, then break hard to the inside or out.

Rice really does a nice job of adjusting to the ball when thrown his direction, and when Jackson throws the ball, there is plenty of chances to have to make circus catches. Rice is a slippery receiver with the ball in his hands.

Both Newman and Scandrick have the ability and speed to run with Rice, who will take them all over the field.

The best throw that Jackson can make is the deep, vertical pass with touch. The Eagles didn’t take a vertical shot last week, but these Seahawks will. Rice can get vertical, as the Cowboys discovered in a playoff game in Minnesota a couple of seasons ago.

The Cowboys cannot allow Sidney Rice to be a dominant player in this game.

Cowboys front seven vs. Seahawks OL: Last week against Philadelphia, the Cowboys front seven was embarrassed by the Eagles’ blockers. The Eagles’ offensive line physically took it to the Cowboys, both run and pass.

Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher, Kenyon Coleman and Sean Lissemore were awful. It was surprising how bad this group of defensive ends struggled in the game. The Eagles dominated these ends at the point of attack. Spears, Hatcher, Coleman and Lissemore couldn’t get off blocks. They struggled to get push when Michael Vick went back to pass.

The Seahawks are starting three offensive linemen that have two or less years of experience as starters. On the right side, the Seahawks are starting two rookies in guard John Moffitt and tackle James Carpenter. That is the side of the line where the Seahawks have struggled the most.

Marshawn Lynch is a talented back and you can see the frustration when he gets stopped for no gain. The Cowboys’ line and linebackers need to dominate this game much like they were dominated last week. Anything thing else would be disappointing.

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Seahawks preview

November, 4, 2011

Scout's Eye
Those of you who think that the Seahawks are going to come into Cowboys Stadium and roll over because of their 2-5 record might be in for a bit of a surprise come Sunday afternoon.

This game has a 2010 Jacksonville feel to it, when the Cowboys clearly overlooked the Jaguars and were embarrassed on their home field 35-17. When you study the Seahawks, their record is misleading because there is some talent on this team and their record should be better.

It's a mistake to compare the the Seahawks to the Rams. St. Louis defensively was a bad football team; Seattle is not.

QB, O-line struggle with pressure

Offensively, there are problems with the third-youngest offensive line in the NFL, but the biggest struggle is at quarterback with Tarvaris Jackson. There is no doubt that Jackson has a cannon for an arm, but the problem is that he is not an accurate quarterback. Receivers Mike Williams, Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin and Ben Obomanu really have to work to catch his passes.

[+] EnlargeTarvaris Jackson
AP Photo/Don WrightA young offensive line does little to improve the accuracy of Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
Jackson is all over the place when he throws the ball. I have seen him throw the out or slant and be dead on the money, but then the next three throws would be nowhere near the receivers.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell likes to move Jackson around in the pocket with designed boots or waggles, but there are plenty of times when you see Jackson moving on his own when the pressure becomes too much. One of the best traits that Jackson has is his ability to scramble and buy the second chance.

There will be times Jackson doesn't make the best decisions. I have seen him throw the ball up for grabs for no reason at all instead of taking a sack and living to fight on the next down.

The pressure that Jackson and even Charlie Whitehurst have had to deal with this season can be put at the feet of this offensive line. The Seahawks start two rookies on the right side with guard John Moffitt and tackle James Carpenter.

Moffitt really struggled on tape. He doesn't sustain well -- run or pass -- and much like his former Wisconsin teammate Bill Nagy, when he has to face a rusher who plays with power or strength, it really throws him off.

Carpenter is a large man who is not slow-footed, but he is more of a catch blocker than one who punches and tries to stop the charge of the defender. The Seahawks will try to get him on the edge in the screen game and on the toss sweep as well. Carpenter has had his share of struggles with the inside rush, much like Tyron Smith has. For young tackles such as Smith and Carpenter, that's the biggest problem -- always thinking about protecting the outside then having to adjust back inside, which rushers like DeMarcus Ware will take advantage of.

The two best offensive linemen for the Seahawks are the left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger.

Official scout of ESPN Dallas Bryan Broaddus previews the Cowboys-Eagles matchup on Sunday.

Listen Listen
Okung is impressive in the way that he tries to finish his blocks. His feet are good and he can adjust to the rush.

Unger was a player who the Cowboys were very interested in drafting three years ago after an outstanding career at Oregon, where he was an All-Pac 10 tackle and center. Unger, like Okung, is good with his feet and is able to adjust to twist stunts and blitzers. Rarely do you see him on the ground, plays on his feet. Good with the reach and cut-off blocks.

RB trio carries load well

The Seahawks have three running backs on the roster and use them all. Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett and Leon Washington all get offensive snaps.

Lynch is the main ballcarrier and there is nothing really flashy about the way he does his job. He tries to hammer defenders when they come up for the tackle. Can tell that there are plays in which he gets frustrated because of the lack of blocking that he sometimes receives. Would not call Lynch an explosive back but one that will press the hole and if necessary use his vision to find the hole to the outside to finish the run. Lynch is not the type of back that will run away from you with blazing speed but more of a steady, workman-like runner.

Lynch is a productive pass catcher with outstanding hands. Will see him used in the red zone on screens much like the Cowboys saw last week against the Eagles' LeSean McCoy.

Lynch's problem in the games I studied was fumbling the ball. In the Bengals and Giants games, he put the ball on the ground, killing drives for his team.

Washington is a short, explosive ball carrier. Forsett has good hands but doesn't play with the explosiveness of Washington. Washington attacks the hole with suddenness, while Forsett shows more patience.

Safeties shines for Seahawks

While the Seahawks' offense has issues, their defense is far superior to the Rams'. The Seahawks have more skill at safety, corner and pass rusher.

I was really impressed with safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.

[+] EnlargeWalter Thurmond and Earl Thomas
Matt Sullivan/Getty ImagesThe Cowboys likely won't catch Seahawks safety Earl Thomas (29) out of position Sunday.
Thomas shows nice range and catch-up speed to make plays. He is also used as a blitzer in this scheme. He is quick around the corner. Thomas plays assignment sound. You don't see him out of position much.

Chancellor is a physical tackler but doesn't move as well in coverage as Thomas because he is not that quick-footed. Chancellor has struggled some in the passing game. He misplayed a ball in the air against the Giants down the sideline that led to a touchdown, so you don't see him put in those types of situations often.

At corner for the Seahawks, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are the starters. Sherman, a rookie from Stanford, is not the most physical player but has good cover skills. Both corners like to play press coverage and can run with their men.

The Cowboys had trouble last week against the Eagles when they had to fight off the press. I am not saying that these Seattle corners are as good as the Eagles', but they do have height that helps them when they jam receivers at the line. Browner is over 6-foot-3 and Sherman is at 6-foot-2.

Watch for the Seahawks to play with a single high safety and Chancellor down in the box to handle the run. On the outside, these corners will press and make Dez Bryant and Miles Austin fight for space and hope that their pass rush can get home like the Eagles did last week.

Pass rush can be explosive

The Seahawks have two rushers that can create problems for tackles. Defensive ends Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock do a nice job. Clemons is a starter that plays the weakside defensive end, so he will flip sides opposite the strength of the Cowboys. Brock will come into the game as a nickel rusher.

Both Clemons and Brock are explosive rushers. Both like to attack the edges, but Doug Free and Tyron Smith have to careful when these two try to spin inside on their rush. Last week against the Eagles, the biggest struggles that Free and Smith had was when Jason Babin and Trent Cole were able to use a spin move. I expect that Clemons and Brock have studied that game, and they will test Free and Smith from the word go.

Cowboys ready for Seattle copycat

November, 2, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- Tarvaris Jackson is no Michael Vick. Marshawn Lynch is no LeSean McCoy. Sidney Rice and Mike Williams are no DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.

But the Cowboys expect Seattle to replicate what Philadelphia did to them last week this Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.

“I think you’ll see some of those plays run against us that Philadelphia was able to have success with,” defensive end Marcus Spears said. “If you’ve got a blueprint of a great house you probably want to follow it. We’ve got to figure out how to break into that thing and shut it down. If we do see plays that Philly had, I’m sure we’ll be ready for it this time around.”

Seattle coach Pete Carroll wasn’t so sure his team could do what the Eagles did.

“They’re kind of unique in what they have with Michael Vick. Michael’s an amazing player,” Carroll said. “Right off the bat, he’s scrambling around and making some yards, causing some problems for guys, thinking they don’t know if he’s going to take off and run or sit in the pocket. He found some space and started hitting guys all over the field and, man, the thing just snowballed with the running game. Michael had a great factor in that, as he’s always going to have a factor as you defend him. You’re thinking about him the whole time and you’re trying to design things so he doesn’t control the game. They just handed the ball off and made a bunch of yards. They really probably played the game differently than even they expected to where they ran it so effectively against the best rushing defense in the NFL.

“I’d like to think that we could learn something from it, but we might have to get a moped or something for our quarterback to ride around in to be like Michael. We’re not as fast as he is.”

A moped?

“Well, maybe, that’s probably not right,” Carroll said. “Call it a Harley or something, all right?”

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

Position Series: Wide receivers

February, 16, 2011

Our offseason Cowboys Position Series continues with a look at the wide receivers.

Players:Roy Williams (signed through 2013), Sam Hurd (free agent), Manuel Johnson (free agent), Miles Austin (signed through 2016), Jesse Holley (free agent), Dez Bryant (signed through 2014), Kevin Ogletree (signed through 2011), Troy Bergeron (free agent)

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams
Brett Davis/US PresswireReceiver Roy Williams likely will be back with the Cowboys next season.
Top free agents:Braylon Edwards, New York Jets; Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers; Santonio Holmes, New York Jets; Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers; Sidney Rice, Minnesota Vikings

Top draft prospects: A.J. Green Georgia; Julio Jones, Alabama; Randall Cobb, Kentucky; Torrey Smith, Maryland; Tandon Doss, IndianaAJ

2010 review:This was a talented group. It has speed in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant along with the big play ability of Roy Williams. Williams scored five touchdowns the first five weeks of the season then disappeared. Austin had over 1,000 receiving yards and earned another Pro Bowl berth. What was telling for Austin was his 10 droops, fifth most in the NFL and he was tied for 28th in fourth quarter receiving with 18 catches for 255 yards. What can you say about Bryant? He was fantastic. He had more third down catches than Williams and more fourth quarter touchdowns than Austin. Once he masters the playbook he could be an unstoppable force. A lack of playing time hurt Sam Hurd and Kevin Ogletree last year. Hurd is a free agent and he could play for another team. Ogletree will get a chance to emerge as a receiving threat.

Offseason preview: It might be time to cut Roy Williams, but it appears he’s going to be here in 2011. The lack of a No. 3 receiver if he should go, gives him the security. But the Cowboys need to make him productive for an entire season. Bryant has to master the playbook, something he didn’t do last year and Austin was a steady threat in the passing game. Ogletree was a good route runner now he has to get more chances to do it in games. If so, he could move past Williams up the depth chart. Drafting a wide receiver isn’t out of the question, but you wonder if Jesse Holley will get opportunities to play on offense in 2011.

Need meter (1-5): 2

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Vikings preview

October, 15, 2010

The Minnesota defense dominated the last time the Cowboys and Vikings met.

Scout's Eye
The Vikings sacked Tony Romo six times while cruising to a 34-3 rout in the NFC divisional playoffs, the seventh postseason meeting between the teams. It was also a Vikings’ record for the fewest points allowed in their playoff history.

As the teams prepare for their Week 6 matchup in the Metrodome, there are plenty of questions that both teams will need to address in order not to fall to 1-4.

Against the Titans last week, the Cowboys had a 400-yard passer, a 100-yard receiver and a 100-yard rusher but managed to lose the game by committing 12 penalties, three turnovers, missing a field goal and allowing a kickoff return of 73 yards.

For the Vikings, wide receiver Randy Moss returned to the club that originally drafted him in 1998 and with three days of practice, tried to be a factor in a Monday night contest against the New York Jets. Moss did manage to catch Brett Favre’s 500th career touchdown pass but did not do much else.

When studying Moss in that game, you could still see the ability to get vertical in route. That is something the Cowboys corner back Mike Jenkins and safety Alan Ball really had problems carrying not only in the Titans game but the Bears game as well.

In my preparation for this week’s game, I went back and studied the playoff game from that January day. There were two areas that really stood out for me on defense for the Cowboys. One was their ability to get decent hits on Favre in the passing game and two, their inability to play the ball down the field. On the big plays that the Vikings were able to get in the passing game, wide receiver Sidney Rice was a major factor, but Rice is recovering from hip surgery and will not play until December at the earliest.

With Rice out of the lineup, the thought was to try and go with Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, Greg Lewis and Javon Walker until Rice was ready. As the preseason wore on, it was evident that this group would not be good enough and a trade was made for the productive Greg Camarillo from the Dolphins, who played like Favre’s best option in the season opener against the Saints.

With Moss now back in Minnesota, Favre now has a vertical threat down the field which will open up more options for Harvin from the slot and the athletic tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. Harvin is a threat from anywhere on the field. He will line up in the backfield, in the slot and out wide. He is a true weapon with the ball in his hands and Brad Childress creates opportunities for him to play a role in the offense.

For the second time this season, the Cowboys defense will face an elite running back. Adrian Peterson really needs no description. He is explosive, powerful and difficult to bring down one-on-one in the open field. Peterson can run the ball inside but is at his very best when he gets the ball on the edge.

This is not the most athletic line and they really try and lean and push on you more than run with you and cut you off. Peterson’s running style and ability makes his own opportunities.

The Cowboys are going to have to deal with Peterson in the passing game. The closer they get to the red zone, the more they like to get the ball in his hands on the screen or swinging out of the backfield.

If there is an advantage for the Cowboys, it will be against this group of tackles. Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt do not have the best feet and really struggle with rushers with quickness. If the Cowboys are going to have some success against this Vikings offense, it’s going to have to be off the edges.

*This will be the best defensive front seven that the Cowboys have faced so far this season. As productive as the Titans line was, this defensive line and linebacker corps are much more talented.

It really starts inside with tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams. Both will be a handful inside, but I should also include Jimmy Kennedy, who played well in the playoff game the last time these two clubs met.

Last week, the Cowboys played against an undersized front inside, but this group is powerful and difficult to move. The Cowboys had more success running the ball on the edges and again, that is where they are going to have to try and go.

Ray Edwards and Jared Allen are very good pass rushers. Edwards plays the run better than Allen, but where Allen gets you is rushing the passer. Since 2004, he has 73 sacks. The Cowboys need to be efficient staying ahead of the chains. The Vikings feed off offenses that struggle to keep up with down and distances.

Playing in the Metrodome is a huge advantage for the Vikings. When you studied the game last season, you could see Marc Colombo struggling to hear the snap count in passing situations, which gave Edwards a jump on the snap count.

The linebackers for the Vikings are a solid group. Chad Greenway, Ben Leber and E.J. Henderson are always around the football. Greenway has led the team in tackles in the last two seasons. Leber has accounted for 11 turnovers in his career and Henderson has 12.5 sacks for a career, which ranks fourth all-time among Vikings linebackers.

In the secondary, the Cowboys need to stay away from Antoine Winfield. He is an aggressive, ball-hawking corner that is a dependable tackler and a leader of the group. Winfield is a smart player that understands how to read routes. He will make a quarterback feel his receiver is open, then drive on the football when thrown. He doesn’t have good height but he can go vertical to play the ball in the air. When the Vikings go to the nickel, he will play the slot.

After studying the game tape, I believe the Cowboys will attack second-year pro Asher Allen. Allen had to come into the game against the Jets last week when Cedric Griffin was lost to a knee injury. Allen is not as physical of a player as Griffin and he will struggle with receivers that are physical. Don’t be one bit surprised if Jason Garrett finds a way to match up Miles Austin with Allen as much as he can. There are plays to be made there.

Veteran Lito Shepherd will also see action when the Vikings go to their nickel package.

This will be a huge test for the Cowboys on both sides of the ball. Moss gives the Vikings a whole new dynamic. But how healthy is Favre’s elbow? Can the Cowboys put behind them what happened in the playoffs in 2009?

If not, a 1-4 start is staring them in the face.

Stock Report: Sensabaugh is down

January, 18, 2010
IRVING -- The Cowboys season came crashing down, 34-3, to the Vikings on Sunday afternoon. Wade Phillips is on his way back to coach this squad that finished 12-6 and won the NFC East.

With that we tell you who played well and who didn't for the final time this season.

Stock Up

Anthony Spencer Finished with a team-high 10 tackles, three tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries.

Special teams Mat McBriar had two punts land inside the 20 and kicker David Buehler had two touchbacks. Dallas' group contained the strong return game of the Vikings.

Jason WittenThe tight end had 10 catches for 98 yards. He had another solid season and was the only reliable target for Tony Romo.

Stock Down

Offensive line It's easy to blame Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo for their struggles for the pass rush. But it seems the entire line had a long day. Tony Romo was sacked six times and hit 10 times during the loss.

Gerald Sensabaugh The first score of the game came on the safety who said he didn't even know the ball was caught as he ran stride-for-stride with Sindey Rice.

Jason Garrett The offense failed to score a touchdown. A touchdown. It was the first time since the 2008 regular season finale the offense didn't score. The offensive coordinator had a bad day calling the right plays.

Sensabaugh doesn't have much to say

January, 17, 2010
MINNEAPOLIS -- Gerald Sensabaugh made headlines this week by saying that the only way the Dallas Cowboys could lose was to beat themselves.

He wasn't so talkative after the Cowboys' season ended with a 34-3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

"[Expletive], we lost," Sensabaugh said. "I don't know what to tell you."

If the Vikings considered Sensabaugh's comments this week bulletin-board material, then their first touchdown had to have been especially satisfying. With Sensabaugh on his hip, Sidney Rice caught a pinpoint pass from Brett Favre for a 47-yard score.

Sensabaugh said he never saw the ball.

"I didn’t even know he caught it," Sensabaugh said. "He made a good play."

The Vikings made a lot of good plays Sunday. The Cowboys didn't make very many. This certainly wasn't a case of a team beating itself.

Phillips amazed that Sensabaugh missed play

January, 17, 2010
MINNEAPOLIS -- On the first touchdown of the game, Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh was man-to-man with Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice down the Cowboys sideline.

But Rice made the 47-yard touchdown catch to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead with 4:04 to play in the first quarter. It appeared Sensabaugh or cornerback Terence Newman failed in the coverage of that play.

Sensabaugh lined up near the line of scrimmage, while Newman was lined up in front of Rice. Just before the snap, Sensabaugh dropped back into coverage as Newman let Rice go.

Brett Favre made a near perfect pass to Rice for the touchdown.

Coach Wade Phillips couldn't believe it. Not so much the throw, but the coverage on Rice.

"The guy was running right with him," Phillips said of Sensabaugh. "He never saw the ball, didn’t even know he caught it. The strangest play I've seen in a long time. He didn’t even know they threw the ball to him. If he turns around he intercepts it or knocks it down. We had him covered, I don’t know. It's amazing."