Cowboys: Cole Beasley
As a result, we offer up another look at the 53-man roster before the team heads to Oxnard, Calif., next month for training camp.
|Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss this week's minicamp and Dez Bryant. Claiborne will join the show to discuss the latest Cowboys news all season. |
There’s no change here, but I can see the Cowboys adding a quarterback for training camp with a better resume than Nick Stephens and Dalton Williams.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
TIGHT ENDS (4)
No change here either, although Colin Cochart bears some watching in the battle with Rosario. He did some good things in the offseason and can play some special teams, too. I reiterate my point on the need for a more blocking-oriented tight end behind Witten.
WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
I debated going with a sixth wide receiver again, but I just don’t see the need with how I expect the offense to be structured this year. That’s not good news for Anthony Armstrong, Danny Coale and whoever else gets in the mix here.
Finally a change on offense. I knocked Kevin Kowalski from the list and did so with hesitation, but he brings a lot of duplication with Costa. And Bernadeau can play center in a pinch. The Cowboys usually go heavy on the offensive line, so I would expect this to go back to 10 during training camp. You’ll see later as to why I dropped down to nine guys.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
I took Anthony Hargrove off the list and added Ben Bass, who had an excellent minicamp, and Hayden, who has done a nice job on the interior. It’s a little heavy, but Rod Marinelli will have a lot of say on the roster. Bass has the ability to be that “quick-twitch” guy on the interior, but I still think he will have to fight for a job. Hayden’s experience helps him.
Ernie Sims loses the final spot here, but carrying six linebackers isn’t the smartest of moves. Think of it this way: With the way teams use their nickel defense, the Cowboys will have three linebackers on the field for 45 percent of the snaps, so do they need to have a seventh linebacker who will likely be inactive on game day? I think they can cover themselves from injury by carrying two or three linebackers on the practice squad.
No change here and if there aren’t any surprise additions, I don’t think this will change during camp, although Brandon Underwood made some plays the final couple of days of minicamp.
McCray is on the bubble for me only because of his price tag. Could they go with four safeties? Seems risky. By going light at linebacker, they’ll need some special teams’ bodies. Hamilton’s chances weren’t helped by a hamstring injury that forced him to miss most of the OTAs and minicamp, but he got the benefit of the doubt.
No change here.
** Dez Bryant was featured in a blog post Wednesday afternoon, but the most dominant defensive player in the workout? How about DT Ben Bass? The second-year defensive lineman was all over the field, penetrating, getting to the quarterback for a sack, blowing up running plays and even forcing an interception. On the pick, Bass tipped a QB Kyle Orton pass into the air, which allowed DT Sean Lissemore to come down with the turnover. Later on the goal line he bulled G David Arkin back into RB DeMarco Murray that was a sign of his strength.
**Rookie WR Terrance Williams had an effective day. He came down with a jump ball over CB Brandon Carr in one on one drills. In seven-on-seven work he made a leaping grab over CB Sterling Moore for a touchdown, nicely getting his feet down for the score.
** Overall, however, the defense won the day. LB Sean Lee was able to stop TE Jason Witten short of a first down on a fourth-down play. Later S Barry Church stopped WR Cole Beasley short on a fourth-down play. The defense was able to blitz to force quicker throws short of the marker to end the drive.
** LB Cameron Sheffield had two sacks. Might be a guy to keep an eye on for a practice squad role depending on what he does in camp.
** Rookie LB DeVonte Holloman made an athletic pick of a Nick Stephens throw in the end zone that as to Beasley. Holloman dropped nicely into his zone and was able to leap and make the catch with two hands. He took the ball out of the end zone instead of taking the touchback, but the coaches urged him to go score so maybe he did the right thing.
** Rookie S J.J. Wilcox is around the ball a lot. He dropped an interception in red-zone work but was able to break up a pass later in team-blitz drill.
** Counted four drops by the offense: one each by James Hanna, Anthony Amos, Murray and Dwayne Harris.
** LB Brandon Magee did a nice job on back-to-back run plays stopping Kendial Lawrence. On the first one he was able to square up the ball carrier to make the tackle and on the second he was able to shrug off a blocker to get to Lawrence.
|ESPN NFL Insider John Clayton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys and Tony Romo missing OTAs. |
The Cowboys would like to keep a third quarterback, but there isn't one on the current roster worth keeping. They could look for a younger arm to keep after cuts with Orton’s cap number moving to $4.37 million next year.
I thought Tanner would be the odd man out, but he has had a strong offseason. The job is not a lock. I believe Kendial Lawrence could give him a run for his money in camp and in the preseason games. The Cowboys really like Dunbar as a third-down back and he could be a pleasant surprise after showing well last year as an undrafted free agent. Lawrence Vickers has to get healthy after back surgery, but the writing appears to be on the wall because of the next position you’ll read about.
TIGHT ENDS (4)
The need for more of a blocking tight end remains, but with the heavy two-tight end sets that are expected, the Cowboys have to go with four tight ends. Rosario has experience and can play some special teams. Hanna has had a good offseason and will be part of packages during the year, even with Escobar being picked in the second round.
Really thought about going with a sixth receiver, which would be Anthony Armstrong right now. Injuries over the summer could impact the position too. Beasley had a really good week last week but he has limitations. He can be effective in the slot, which is why he is ahead of Armstrong and Jared Green. A guy to keep an eye on is Eric Rogers. He’s caught everything but just doesn’t have great speed.
OFFENSIVE LINE (10)
The first eight picks are pretty easy. The last two are a little more difficult. Kowalski got the edge over Ryan Cook only because of money. Kowalski is set to make $555,000; Cook $1.1 million. Both guys can play center and guard. Weems got the final spot for now, but I think the Cowboys will be scouting hard for players over the summer. They took Weems late last year as a project and he can still play his way into contention.
|ESPN senior NFL analyst Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss another busy week for the Cowboys at Valley Ranch. |
I wondered whether I should go with nine linemen here, but kept it at eight. Hargrove is the most intriguing addition. He is believed to be a favorite of Rod Marinelli, so that will help his cause provided he can knock off the rust and get into better shape. Crawford and Wilber have had some good moments in the offseason.
Sims gets a spot because of his experience and versatility. He can play weakside or middle linebacker. Albright can play strongside and middle and maybe some defensive line if necessary. Holloman and Magee have to be major special teamers. I also considered Tank Reed for one of the final spots, as well as Caleb McSurdy, who could be a short-yardage fullback as well.
Moore gets the nod for the final cornerback spot, but it’s hardly a lock. Moore is helped that he can play some safety in a pinch. Brandon Underwood, Devon Smith and Xavier Brewer will be in the mix when things start to get real when the pads come on. The top four corners are set, and don’t expect Webb to push Scandrick out just yet.
McCray has been the team’s best special teamer, but at $1.3 million that could be a little pricey in the Cowboys' eyes. Allen is guaranteed $620,000 this year, so he sticks but will have to hold off Johnson for a starting spot. With Allen nursing a hamstring strain, Johnson has worked with the first team and done a decent job. Wilcox has shown he will be around the ball but there is a lot for him to learn.
No surprises here. The best thing the Cowboys can do in camp is keep them fresh.
|ESPN senior NFL analyst Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss another busy week for the Cowboys at Valley Ranch. |
Who needs the minicamp? Center Travis Frederick was getting first-team reps over Phil Costa during OTAs and that might continue this week. Frederick is projected as the starter, and the more practice time he gets, the better. Safety Matt Johnson, who missed all of last season with hamstring injuries, got first-team reps with Barry Church during OTAs over veteran Will Allen, who was getting some rest. Johnson has to prove he can become the playmaker the Cowboys thought they had when he was drafted in the fourth round last year. With Ware out, DE Kyle Wilber needs snaps as he was moved from outside linebacker to end this offseason to add depth. Wilber's ability to play end will dictate how much playing time he receives in 2013.
So the playcaller is? The biggest offseason secret was revealed last week when Bill Callahan confirmed he'll call the offensive plays. One problem: Coach Jason Garrett hasn't confirmed it, despite owner/general manager Jerry Jones implying it last week. Garrett most likely will be asked about the play-calling situation again this week. It will be interesting to see if he confirms anything.
Players worth watching: Guards Ronald Leary, Kevin Kowalski and David Arkin; wide receivers Danny Coale, Eric Rogers and Cole Beasley; running back Phillip Tanner and tight end Dante Rosario; right tackles Doug Free and Jermey Parnell.
Here are some observations from the practice.
|Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what he's looking for during the third session of OTAs, a potential Sean Lee contract extension and why people underestimate Miles Austin's value. |
|With the Cowboys opening rookie minicamp, Galloway and Mosley discuss the incoming rookie class and who will make the biggest impact. |
Coale suffered the injury in a late-season practice, capping a rookie season that did not go well. He suffered a stress fracture in his foot and missed most of the offseason and early part of training camp. Once in camp he was slowed by a quadriceps strain. He was among the final cuts and was re-signed to the practice squad.
Coale, a fifth-round pick last year, is eligible to take part in this weekend’s mini-camp but is focusing more on his rehab.
“You look at the year and yeah I had some injuries and setbacks but I remember being in their shoes, coming in, digesting the playbook and going out there and trying to compete,” he said.
When he gets on the field, he will face significant competition with the Cowboys drafting Terrance Williams in the third round this year and the end-of-season performance from Dwayne Harris in 2012. Cole Beasley earned a backup role last year as an undrafted free agent. Tim Benford, Jared Green and Carlton Mitchell are also in the mix for a backup spot.
|Fitzsimmons & Durrett discuss the latest Cowboys news, including DeMarco Murray's running style, Miles Austin's new exercise routine and Jason Hatcher's confidence in the defensive line. |
"It's a whole different mindset going in," Bryant said. "No more games. No more wondering. I know what I'm doing. I got to come in and do what I did at the end of last year, and I hope to build on that."
Bryant was a dominant force in the passing game for the Cowboys in 2012. He compiled career-highs in catches (92), yards (1,382) and touchdowns (12). Bryant had five games with more than 100 receiving yards, including a 224-yard performance against New Orleans in December. He caught a touchdown pass seven consecutive games, only to have the streak snapped in the regular-season finale at Washington.
Bryant's maturity away from the field has also been noticeable. Those around Valley Ranch hope it will lead to bigger things on the field.
The Cowboys receivers are led by Bryant and Miles Austin and also include Dwayne Harris, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Danny Coale. The Cowboys will fill out the receiving corps with an array of younger players.
"I feel like we have a great receiving corps," Bryant said. "We're good if someone goes down. We have great enough receivers who can go in and contribute and make plays for this team."
Last year, Cole Beasley, Ronald Leary and Ben Bass spent time on the active roster.
Here is the up-to-date list:
LB Brandon Magee, Arizona State
QB Dalton Williams, Akron
S Jakar Hamilton, South Carolina State
RB Kendial Lawrence, Missouri
CB Devin Smith, Wisconsin
CB Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
LB Cameron Lawrence, Mississippi State
WR Greg Herd, Eastern Washington
FB Paul Freedman, Virginia
LB Tank Reed, SMU
DB Jeff Heath, Saginaw Valley State
K Spencer Benton, Clemson
WR Eric Rogers, Cal Lutheran
CB Xavier Brewer, Clemson
LB Deon Lacey, West Alabama
Interesting to note the Cowboys did not sign an offensive lineman. Perhaps some could come in on a tryout basis for the May 10-12 rookie mini-camp. One tryout player, who is expected to sign is tight end B.J. Stewart from Cumberland.
How do the Cowboys look at wide receiver and what still needs to be done?
Dallas Cowboys: Dez Bryant broke out in a huge way in the second half of his third NFL season and finished the year with 92 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. If he can keep himself in one piece, he's one of the top wideouts in the league. Miles Austin is the perfect complement on the other side -- good enough that defenses have to pay attention to him but not the kind of guy who's going to complain if Bryant gets more catches. Austin has to keep his hamstrings healthy, and if he does the Cowboys have a top one-two wide receiver combo. Dwayne Harris came on strong last year as a No. 3 wide receiver, and guys such as Cole Beasley and Danny Coale could provide intriguing depth. Dallas could look to add a veteran wide receiver to its mix heading into training camp in case the young guys don't produce, but it's not a high-priority issue.
To see what the other NFC East teams look like at WR, click here.
Derek Dooley impresses: While Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is impressed with his new defensive coaches, he praised new receivers coach Derek Dooley in his chat with reporters Tuesday. Jones said he loves the ideas Dooley brings and says he has a fresh set of eyes for the offense.
"I like the fact Dooley is coming in here with college ideas, been around a lot of that fast-moving college game," Jones said of Dooley, who was fired after three seasons as the head coach of the University of Tennessee. "Jason (Garrett) has a lot of respect for him. He’ll end up having a lot of input in our passing game."
Slot receivers catching Jones' eye: Jones was asked if he regretted letting Danny Amendola go in 2008 when the Cowboys cut the slot receiver and re-signed him to the practice squad. Amendola eventually ended up with the St. Louis Rams and last week signed a five-year, $31 million deal with the New England Patriots to replace Wes Welker.
"No, I just see Welker. I regret Welker," Jones joked.
Jones, however, did praise young receiver Cole Beasley, who is built like Amendola and Welker and has the potential to become a good slot receiver. "Beasley's got some of that," Jones said. "You know Amendola and you know Welker, and he's neither of those two, but he can really create some problems for those guys over on defense. (Tony) Romo thinks a lot of him. He's got a shot for us."
Training camp dates: The Cowboys are still in the process of finalizing the training camp schedule. The veteran minicamp is tentatively scheduled for June 11-13. Training camp would start July 20 in Oxnard, Calif. After three preseason games, the Cowboys would return to Valley Ranch possibly on August 17 or 18, depending on the date of the third preseason game.
Safety working out for Cowboys: University of Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro tweeted he's going to work out for the Cowboys on Wednesday. Vaccaro is projected as the best safety in the draft and, with the Cowboys selecting No. 18 overall, there's a good chance he might be around. The Cowboys currently have Barry Church and Matt Johnson as their starting safeties, but the team is open to bringing in a veteran or drafting a safety. Jones said the Cowboys are not drafting for need, but for best player available.
Paying a franchise quarterback: The Cowboys are in the process of sealing a deal with Romo. Team officials won't go into specifics about how much it would cost, but you could assume Romo's new contract will average between $15 million to $18 million a season. It's a steep price at one position. Just ask the Baltimore Ravens, who signed quarterback Joe Flacco to a six-year deal for $120 million. "I’d say it’s a good problem to have," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It’s the problem everybody wants to have. When you’ve got the young quarterback and you just drafted them and he’s playing well ... When you look at some of the teams that have the young quarterbacks, their cap situation is really good because they’ve got a player for a couple years that’s not going to be making top dollar. But you get to the fifth year of that contract and now it’s time for some of those things to change. We’re very willing to do what we need to do. It’s the nature of the league to have a quarterback like Joe Flacco."
Wes Welker left the New England Patriots and signed a two-year deal with the Denver Broncos.
The Patriots found his replacement before Welker got his new deal when they signed Danny Amendola from St. Louis.
The Cowboys haven't really had a typical No. 3 slot receiver with the body type of Welker and Amendola.
Patrick Crayton, Kevin Ogletree, Laurent Robinson and Dwayne Harris were No. 3 receivers who played in the slot, but didn't have that small frame.
Last year, the Cowboys found one in Cole Beasley, a player who fits Welker's and Amendola's body type. Beasley is 5-foot-8, 177 pounds. In his rookie season, Beasley finished with 15 catches for 128 yards with no touchdowns. He made a bulk of his catches out of the slot and going forward the Cowboys should use him more often from this area.
New England utilized Welker for several years from the slot to beat teams in the middle of the field. His speed allowed him to get past defenders for yards after catch.
Maybe Beasley can be used in the same fashion in 2013.
Dez Bryant and Miles Austin can stretch defenses deep with their speed and Jason Witten can also command the middle of the field. What about Beasley? If defenses take Bryant and Austin out of the game with their coverages, which has happened, Beasley is a player who should get some run.
There have been teams who have used short receivers from the slot to make plays in different areas of the field and the Cowboys have Beasley who might fit that role.
[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Kevin TerrellCole Beasley was active for 12 games and finished with 15 catches for 128 yards while working in the slot.Cole Beasley
Position: Wide receiver
How acquired: Undrafted free agent, SMU
What he did: Beasley quickly made a name for himself in the offseason but walked away from the team for a few days in training camp when he was not sure he wanted to continue. The Cowboys welcomed him back and he made the 53-man roster.
Beasley was active for 12 games and finished with 15 catches for 128 yards while working in the slot. He earned the trust of Tony Romo during the preseason and the quarterback pitched for Beasley to play more as the season went on when the Cowboys went to an empty look.
Where he fits in the future: At 5-8, 177 pounds, Beasley lacks the size you want in a receiver to play on the outside, so he is limited mostly to being a slot receiver. He has the quickness and savvy to play on the inside and he is not afraid.
With the way the game is played today there is a spot for Beasley going forward, but he will face competition at the spot. He does not play on many special teams units, so that lack of versatility could work against him as the Cowboys define their backup wide receivers.
Last year Holmes was anointed by owner and general manager Jerry Jones as a possible candidate for the No. 3 wide receiver job.
At 6-4, 223 pounds, Holmes had the build of a top-end wide receiver although he came from Hillsdale College. The Cowboys were hoping Holmes would grow the way Miles Austin did from Monmouth, but it never happened.
He failed the conditioning test in training camp and while he had a couple of moments in Oxnard, Calif., he never took advantage of the opportunity they way Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley did.
The Cowboys kept him in the active roster through Thanksgiving but he dressed for only seven games and caught two passes for 11 yards. He was inactive four times before he was cut and re-signed to the practice squad.
Since the season ended the Cowboys have signed receivers Anthony Armstrong, Jared Green, Carlton Mitchell, Tim Benford and Danny Coale. Holmes has not put pen to paper to return in 2013 and it doesn’t look like he will be back.
It’s quite a fall from 13 months ago.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss this week's minicamp and Dez Bryant. Claiborne will join the show to discuss the latest Cowboys news all season.
Play Podcast Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett for his weekly visit and you won't believe who he says is the Cowboys' best player.
Play Podcast Cowboys wide receivers coach Derek Dooley joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to talk about Dez Bryant's talent and potential.
Play Podcast Glenn "Stretch" Smith and Matt Mosley talk about their time at Day 2 of Cowboys minicamp and discuss Monte Kiffin's defensive principles and his growing relationship with the players.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL insider John Clayton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys and Tony Romo missing OTAs.
Play Podcast ESPN senior NFL analyst Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss another busy week for the Cowboys at Valley Ranch.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss how Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and others spend lots of time with their receivers and if it matters that Tony Romo is not participating in OTAs.
Play Podcast Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what he's looking for during the third session of OTAs, a potential Sean Lee contract extension and why people underestimate Miles Austin's value.