Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Jerry unplugged: Is Felix starting?
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
ORLANDO, Fla. -- After two days of staking out Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in the Ritz-Carlton lobby, three of us from the Dallas area finally cornered him late Tuesday afternoon. Sitting in an empty ballroom where the AFC coaches had appeared earlier in the day, Jones talked about a variety of topics, including Roy Williams, Flozell Adams and Felix Jones.
Jones has talked about wanting to make sure his players are not "comfortable" heading into the 2010 season. I asked him how he intended to accomplish that goal. And I tried to ask him several things that you guys have been wondering about in the "comments" section. Here's an overview of what we discussed:
Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones says Felix Jones is being considered for the starting job.
Will the Cowboys consider making Felix Jones the starting running back? In an answer to that exact question, Jones said, "Yes. That has been a consideration."
He said he can see some "advantages" in starting Marion Barber, but that the decision in the past has been pretty tough for the coaches to make. Jones rambled on about the possibility of "two-back sets", but he made it abundantly clear that Felix will have a shot to win the starting job. He said he does not worry about Barber's tendency to get injured because of the "dynamic" players the Cowboys have at his position. The owner indicated that Felix's role in the offense has been a popular topic among the coaches. Reading between lines, I think there's a 95 percent chance the Cowboys will go ahead and make the change heading into 2010. Barber will obviously be disappointed, but perhaps being the closer will revive his career and help justify his large contract.
Will Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin be on the roster in 2010? This was a direct question that Jones didn't provide a direct answer to. It's obvious that he wants to wait and see what happens in the draft before deciding what to do with these two veterans. He said the Cowboys haven't addressed those players because "it's not been compelling." I then asked Jones to clarify whether he anticipated either one of those players not being on the roster. He once again said that the club "had not made a decision." Asked whether he thinks Doug Free could start at left tackle, Jones answered "yes." He said he thought of Free as "more left tacklish than right tacklish." Yes, that's actually what he said. His point was that Free's excellent footwork gives him a chance to be better suited for the left side. And based on his comments, I wouldn't be shocked if the Cowboys decided to make Free the starter in 2010. It will also be interesting to see what second-year offensive tackle Robert Brewster brings to the table in 2010. A torn pectoral muscle wrecked his rookie season, but Jones still has high hopes for him.
Are you set at place-kicker heading into 2010? OK, prepare to be worried. Jones said he was satisfied heading into training camp with the unproven Connor Hughes and the kickoff specialist extraordinaire David Buehler competing for the placekicker role. Obviously, the Cowboys are rooting for Buehler to win the competition because it would save them a roster spot. But for a team that was held hostage by this position in '09, the Buehler-Hughes competition isn't exactly an inspiring situation.
Jones continues to be bullish on WR Roy Williams: As you might expect, Jones is still defending his trade for Williams. By any measure, the trade has been a remarkable bust. But one man's busted routes are another man's pride and joy. Jones will go to great lengths to avoid admitting a mistake, so he's hoping that Williams will somehow develop into a viable threat. Asked to describe Williams, Jones said he has an "impressive work ethic" and "the will to keep going."
"His talent level is the same talent level as when we made the trade for him," said Jones.
He later compared Williams to Terrell Owens in terms of being a constant threat. And he actually said that other teams have to pay a lot of attention to the former Lions wide receiver. I questioned this statement, asking Jones why he thought opposing teams would worry about a wide receiver who isn't a focal point of the offense.
"They respect him," Jones said in reference to how teams respond to Williams. "They know Roy Williams as well as we do."
I'll continue to publish excerpts from this interview throughout the week, but I wanted you to have some of the highlights. Check in tomorrow to read about my conversations with all four NFC East coaches. Our breakfast with the NFC coaches begins at 7 a.m. ET -- or 6:30 a.m. Coughlin time.