NFC East: Matt Stover
Owner Jerry Jones said his gut told him to remain patient with Buehler after he missed his second key field goal attempt in as many weeks against the Chicago Bears on Sunday. But now it's time to do what the Cowboys should've done at the start of training camp: bring in a veteran.
Kris Brown, Matt Stover, Shayne Graham and John Carney are all standing by as we speak. I'm pretty sure I saw Stover driving around my neighborhood the other night. We'll keep you posted.
- How will kicker David Buehler perform in live game action? There will come a time in this game when Wade Phillips will ask Jon Kitna or Stephen McGee not to get a first down, so that Buehler can get at least one or two opportunities. If Buehler struggles early in preseason, John Carney or Matt Stover will receive a phone call from special teams coach Joe DeCamillis.
- Left tackle Doug Free will need more reps than a typical starter. I'm anxious to see him in extended time at left tackle. As I've written a couple times, the other NFC East teams believe that Alex Barron will eventually take over as the starter. I believe that Free will hold his own.
- In the absence of the injured Dez Bryant (ankle), receivers such as Kevin Ogletree and Sam Hurd will have a chance to shine. And Tony Romo and Roy Williams need to find a rhythm at some point in the preseason. I think Jason Garrett will call a couple of plays for Williams during the first series tonight.
- DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer form one of the pass-rushing duos in the league, but they'll need a few plays off this season. Let's see how Brandon Williams and Victor Butler perform in live action. And I'm anxious to see how Jason Williams looks at inside linebacker. He's a player that a lot of folks have forgotten about since Sean Lee (quadriceps) was selected in the second round. I'd like to see how far Williams has come in terms of knowing his assignments.
- This is the type of game where Tashard Choice can shine. He'll get at least 10 carries, and I'd expect for him to have a strong showing.
- Phillips has asked his defense to make turnovers a priority, so it will be interesting to see how that manifests itself in tonight's game. Alan Ball should be better in coverage than Ken Hamlin, but I'm not sure how he'll do when it comes to tackling. That's something to watch.
- The Cowboys look pretty solid at cornerback, but I'd like to see how Cletis Gordon performs in this game. This is an excellent opportunity for him.
- Rick "Goose" Gosselin says the Cowboys are the No. 2 team in the NFL. Tonight we'll get our first look at this outfit against a team with some talent.
So why is owner Jerry Jones convinced that Buehler's the answer at a position where the Cowboys were held hostage last season? I don't have any earthly idea. I've observed Buehler attempt field goals in OTAs and he looks like me at the local driving range.
That said, Buehler has an enormous leg. If former Cowboys kicker-turned-consultant Chris Boniol can point him in the direction, Buehler could have a promising future in the league. But I'd bring in a veteran such as former Lake Highlands (Texas) star Matt Stover as insurance.
If Stover's the better placekicker, Buehler can go back to booming kickoffs and covering punts. If Buehler can't handle the competition, he shouldn't even be in the mix to start with. That's just one man's (humble) opinion, though. Feel free to form your own thoughts in the "comments" section.
Didn't the Cowboys miss a league-high 11 field goals last season?
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
LAKE HIGHLANDS, Texas -- Greetings from one of the NFL's most talent-rich neighborhoods. Out my office window, I can see Wildcat-Ram Stadium, where Merton Hanks, Matt Stover, Phil Dawson, Marcus Coleman and the immortal Marcus Stiggers once played. So what does that have to do with the NFC East? Pretty much nothing, so let's get right to your questions. I've been long-winded the last couple of weeks (2,500-word average), so we're going rapid-fire today.
We start with Matt from Wilmington: First off, great article on the Birds additions this offseason. My question is with the Eagles $24 million under the cap, do you see them pursuing any other free agents? It seems they still could use a blocking tight end. The way our defensive line rotates, we could even use an additional pass-rushing defensive end to help out Trent Cole. What are your thoughts?
Mosley: I think Eagles fans are getting greedy -- and there's nothing wrong with that. You have three pretty decent options at tight end right now, but it wouldn't hurt to have another big body. If something comes along, Eagles tight ends coach Tom Melvin and the personnel staff will probably make a move. But that would be more of a luxury. It's not like the Eagles are going to come out this year with a bunch of double tight end looks. I think it's more likely that Philadelphia might try to sign defensive end Greg Ellis once he's released from the Cowboys. He's 33, but he could still be productive as a pass-rushing specialist. He still wants to be a starter, but if you dangle $1 million out there in addition to the $1.5 million check Jerry Jones will owe him, you might be onto something. Ellis would also be a good fit for the Redskins, but as Matt pointed out, the Eagles are in better position to do something.
Tsbein is one of our regulars in the "comments" section. And yes, I do read them: Eli has been "plagued," and I say that sarcastically, by his good team. He has the RBs, the O-line, the defense and had a top WR. Even Fran Tarkenton slighted Eli while trying to bash Favre. Since there are no stars as WRs, do you think a big year from Eli could garner him some nationwide respect?
Mosley: Tsbein, the second part of your question was quite astute, but we have a strict 300-word limit on questions in the mailbag! But seriously, I think it's ridiculous that Eli Manning still has so many doubters. He was one of my MVP candidates heading into December last season. I think the loss of Burress certainly hurt his production, but the defensive breakdowns had more to do with the team's "collapse" than anything else. Manning led his team to a world title in 2007. I'll never forget that when analyzing his career. And unlike some critics, I don't try to poke holes in that late-season run. He struggled down the stretch in '08, but overall, he had another excellent season. I have immense respect for Fran Tarkenton's career, but there's one thing missing that Eli already has. But in all honestly, Tarkenton's work on "That's Incredible" probably made up for not having a Lombardi.
We've gone two whole questions without something on the Cowboys. What gives? MBFJTCO9 rescues us with this: Howdy Matt. The Cowboys really haven't done a lot this offseason. How do you think their special teams are going to be this year. With Folk having surgery and us drafting a kicker, who will win that battle? And do you think a healthy Mat McBrair will help at all? Teams just seemed to have better field position when we lost him. That guy has got a boot on him.
Mosley: The great McBriar spends at least an hour each day on the Beast blog, so it's nice of you to mention his name. He's a Pro Bowl punter who is poised to have a huge comeback season. I wouldn't be surprised to see him average about 45 yards per punt with a ridiculous net in '09. He's headed out today to meet fellow Australian Geoff Ogilvy at the Crowne Plaza Colonial golf tournament. And don't worry about Nick Folk. There's no competition taking place in training camp. David Buehler will be a kickoff specialist. He'll only win the kicking job if Folk's not able to recover from hip surgery.
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys waited until it was too late to finally play with a sense of urgency and they left their longtime residence on a sour note. After spotting the Cowboys an early touchdown following a Joe Flacco fumble, the Ravens settled down and took over Saturday night's game in a 33-24 win.
And at 10-5, they're still in the thick of things in the AFC wild-card playoff race. The Cowboys will need to beat the Eagles and hope the Falcons and Bucs lose tomorrow. Before the game, it seemed like the Cowboys would have all the intangibles -- especially with all the closing ceremonies at Texas Stadium.
But it was the Ravens who played like a desperate team. Flacco was sacked five times, but other than the early fumble, he did a great job of protecting the ball. He also made big plays when he had to. It was a heroic effort for veteran Ravens receiver Derrick Mason. On his touchdown late in the third quarter he had to run down the field with one arm to his side because of an injury. He lulled cornerback Anthony Henry to sleep and then snuck to the corner of the end zone, where Flacco found him for the score.
And it was a kid who grew up about 20 minutes from Texas Stadium in Lake Highlands, Matt Stover, who kept delivering field goals. The only thing that worked for the Cowboys was feeding the ball to Tashard Choice on the ground, but offensive coordinator Jason Garrett inexplicably went away from him during key stretches.
Romo had T.O. open on a deep ball late in the first half, but the receiver never found the ball and it fell harmlessly to the ground. On another play in the second half, Romo had Miles Austin running wide-open after a Ravens safety stumbled. Romo threw the ball on a line -- perhaps because he was worried about Reed -- and the Cowboys missed another great opportunity.
The Ravens were clinging to a 19-17 lead with just over three minutes to go, but running back Willis McGahee took a handoff up the middle and raced 77 yards for a touchdown. Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears and safety Ken Hamlin dived at McGahee's ankles, but no one else had a shot.
After the Cowboys scored with 1:33 left, the Ravens struck again with an 82-yard touchdown. The 50-minute postgame ceremony to close down Texas Stadium will seem more like a funeral tonight.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
In his Q&A on what's next for the NFLPA, John Clayton mentions several potential candidates to replace Gene Upshaw, including former NFLPA presidents Trace Armstong and Troy Vincent. He also brought up former Vikings running back Robert Smith and current union president Kevin Mawae.
Another name that has been mentioned today is former Cowboys fullback Daryl "Moose" Johnston, who has been very outspoken on behalf of retired players over the past couple of years.
And if you want another outside-the-box guy, I'm hearing some talk that super-agent Tom Condon could receive consideration. He's a former player (Chiefs) and he's worked with Upshaw in the past. He's obviously no stranger to players since he and his staff at CAA represent about 120 of them. And he's used to going toe-to-toe with owners. The more I think about this name, the more sense it makes.
The players should consider every option, and that includes someone from outside the football fraternity. If you were worried that Upshaw had been too close to the owners in the past, maybe you consider someone from Major League Baseball union chief Donald Fehr's staff (Michael Weiner). I know that sounds like an awful idea, but a lot of players have wanted the union chief to have a more adversarial relationship with the owners.
If that's truly what they want, now's the time to speak up.