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STAR: Headed Home With a Number of Thoughts
The author of “America’s Team: The Official History of the Dallas Cowboys,” Jeff also writes a new column each week in Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine and cohosts the “On Air with Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine” podcast. For subscription information, please click here.
- Headed home after five days in Oxnard with a plethora of thoughts, but none more pressing than this: For all those who ripped my 12-4 prediction last month, well, it’s early, but the bandwagon still has plenty of room. Maybe they win 11 games, but the point is, this team is focused and hungry. More importantly, they’re talented. And deep, which hasn’t been the case the last three years.
- We don’t talk about the reality of this football team enough, if at all. Maybe we weren’t supposed to, not sure. Here’s the reality: The last two seasons were transitional. Not going to say rebuilding, but one could make the case. Transitional sounds better. Yet, they played for the NFC Division title the final week of the season in both years. When Jason Garrett replaced Wade Phillips as head coach with the team 1-7 in 2010, this was the second-oldest roster in football. This team should now rank among the league’s youngest.
- Really reminds me of Boston Red Sox fans pre-2004 – always negative, always expecting worst-case scenario. The difference, of course, is the Sox didn’t win a title for 86 years while the Cowboys aren’t even 20 years removed from their last. Seems like no one else is excited/optimistic about this team. Would almost think I’m missing something. Almost.
- So early in Tuesday afternoon’s practice, rookie Gavin Escobar makes a spectacular juggling catch in the back of the end zone with Sean Lee in coverage. Now, there were two problems with the catch, the first being Escobar stepped out of the back of the end zone before returning in-bounds and second, his second foot came down on the line. Again, this was just a goal-line drill during a July practice, the first game still, what, 40 days out.
- Before the back judge – and yes, there was a back judge there, in the zebra uniform no less – could make a call, Lee leaped up from the grass and starting screaming. We’re talking George Brett Pine Tar Game. Well, not quite, but he was adamant, crossing his arms widely as to signal incomplete. After a second or so, the back judge agreed and said no catch.
- The point is, this particular play, on a soccer field in Oxnard, meant as much to Lee as any play of the regular season. He can’t turn it off. Just like Jason Witten. And this isn’t a bad thing. These are the types of leaders successful teams always seem to have. Like a Roger Staubach or Michael Irvin. Every play, from minicamp to the Super Bowl, same intensity, no on/off switch.
- Am convinced Jason Garrett would have his team in pads just about every day of camp if not for the modern rules preventing otherwise. Can sense and feel a little hop in his step/voice when the guys are hitting each other. Just feels different. Jimmy Johnson, one of his mentors, always had his guys in pads, camp, in-season, heck, the Thursday before both Super Bowls.
- First teammate signaling touchdown on the sidelines when Joseph Randle scored on Monday and Tuesday – a combined five times – was DeMarco Murray. This team likes each other; can’t fake that.
- Know who is having a really solid camp, somewhat quietly, is cornerback Sterling Moore. Always around the ball, knocking down passes, definitely a place for him on this football team. Still just 23 years old, too, yet entering his third pro season. Younger than multiple rookies on the roster.
- If someone just wandered onto the practice field without knowing anything about this team, they would assume Jared Green was the No. 1 receiver. Kid catches everything, and they keep throwing him the ball. Not sure there’s a roster spot for him on the 53, but he belongs in the NFL.
- Don’t know how long Monte Kiffin and Jerome Henderson can keep J.J. Wilcox off the field. At this point, wouldn’t be stunned if he was starting the season opener. Honestly, if forced to guess, it would be Barry Church and Wilcox at safety.
- Never seen anyone stretch as much as Miles Austin. If there’re 12 seconds of down time, he’s stretching his legs. Not a bad thing; want to keep those hamstrings loose.
- Tony Romo was playing catch with Austin off to the side, left-handed, and throwing really tight spirals from 12-14 yards. Looked almost easy. Now, before anyone thinks this is easy, try it. Austin did and it wasn’t pretty. Is lost sometimes what an incredible natural athlete Romo is.
- DeMarcus Ware is just blowing dudes up. Literally looks five years younger than the second-half of last season. Made three plays at Tuesday’s practice that drew oohs from the crowd. The media, too. Could be the defining season of his career, which is truly saying something.
- Haven’t heard or read much about this, but Doug Free looks like he’s dropped a few pounds, is much quicker out of his stance, and has been impressive. If he could ever return to 2010 form, this suddenly becomes a pretty solid front five, depending on what happens at guard. Speaking of which, can ask 10 people, scouts, coaches, media and they’re split on how Ronald Leary looks. Not sure what that means.
- Already chatter about whether the Cowboys can sneak quarterback Alex Tanney to the practice squad at the conclusion of the preseason. Now, that is a ways off, need to see him perform in games, but the kid has shown promise in practice. Lot of poise. Make no mistake, he could throw for 42 touchdowns in the preseason and the Cowboys are not carrying three quarterbacks.
- Defensive end Kyle Wilbur is going to make some plays this season.
- Am starting to have a hunch we’re not going to see Jay Ratliff in the preseason. Certainly isn’t going to help him learn a new defense, although his responsibilities aren’t going to change as much as many think
- The weather in Oxnard is beyond description. Many believe next season will be the Cowboys final camp out here, but that isn’t a done deal. Think part of the equation is whether a team moves to Los Angeles in the next year. Know what is mindboggling? This is the 20th season of the NFL without a team in the second-largest city in the country. How is that possible?
- Yeah, losing Tyrone Crawford for the season was disappointing, but compared to some other NFC teams, it’s not even in the zip code. Seattle’s Percy Harvin out until likely December, Philly’s Jeremy Maclin out for the year, and we haven’t even started the preseason games yet.