Since OTA's are in full force around the league, Hogs Haven spent some time emailing with the NFC East SB Nation bloggers to get a feel for their 2009 squad. We did a Q&A with the Giants bloggers last week, so this week we focus on the Dallas Cowboys. A special thanks to David Halprin from Blogging the Boys to take some time to answer our questions:
HH: Tony Romo is gaining a reputation for not being able to win the big games from college, with Dallas, and now golf. Is anyone internally to the Cowboys in panic mode yet?
Blogging the Boys: If you mean internally, as in the Cowboys organization, the answer is no. Tony Romo still has the full confidence of the organization, and he should. He’s won a ton of games for Dallas and will only be entering his third full season as a starter. Expectations have been high, maybe too high, since he burst on the scene - mid-season - in 2006. Let’s give him a few more seasons before starting any kind of panic, let’s see if he starts winning in the post-season. Now, there is a group of Cowboys fans that might be panicking a little bit, but they would be a small minority.
HH: Wade Phillips is a defensive-minded coach, yet the defense seemed to really under-achieve last year given the considerable talent. What do you anticipate his impact on your defense will be this year, and how will you be better than last year?
Blogging the Boys: We were ranked 8th in overall defense (yards/game) last year but we ended up 20th in scoring defense. We gave up too many big plays and scoring opportunities. Our special teams stunk, putting the defense in impossible situations all year long. Injuries (and suspensions) also ended up hurting us to the point we were giving rookie CB’s significant playing time and our strong safety position was manned by strictly backup material for most of the year. We did lead the league in sacks but that didn’t transfer into turnovers, one of the big failings of the 2008 defense. The rookie CB’s now have experience, we’ve added some options at SS and got rid of pass-coverage-liability Roy Williams and a declining Anthony Henry. If the coverage improves and they get some turnovers, the defense should be top-tier in 2009.
HH: Was anyone unhappy with Roy Williams’ departure? Who will step up to provide coverage skills from the safety position?
Blogging the Boys: For the most part, Cowboys fans were happy to see Roy Williams leave. Dallas couldn’t play the Phillips 3-4 the way they wanted to because they were trying to hide Roy in coverage. But you can only do so much of that and his skills seemed to be in serious decline. Even the big hits in the running game and on passes over the middle had severely diminished. We added Gerald Sensabaugh from the Jags in the offseason who is very athletic and is supposed to have some coverage skills. We drafted Michael Hamlin from Clemson and DeAngelo Smith from Cincinnati, who is a CB/S combo. Right now, my guess is it will be Sensabaugh starting next to Ken Hamlin.
HH: How are ticket sales going for the new stadium? Would we expect to see a lot of empty seats like at Yankees games because of such high prices and the terrible economy?
Blogging the Boys: I have no idea. I really haven’t followed that aspect of the Cowboys.
HH: With the loss of Chris Canty, who will be filling his shoes and is their a drop-off at that position?
Blogging the Boys: It’s funny, the rest of the NFL seemed to think that Chris Canty was a big-time loss for us, that the Giants really made out by getting him. Most Cowboys fans didn’t feel that way. Canty looks the part, and on occasion can play the part, but he was very inconsistent. Some games he totally disappeared. He’s a good player, but he’s not worth the money he got from New York. We were more than happy to exchange him for Igor Olshansky, who we got at a much cheaper price and who is equal, if not better, than Canty. Olshansky played under Wade Phillips in San Diego, so he knows exactly what to do in this defense. He’s got a high-motor and is extremely strong, we think we’ll improve at defensive end.
HH: Are there any names from the 2009 draft that will make a big splash for your team this year?
Probably not a huge splash, we didn’t have a 1st rounder and we traded out of the 2nd round. But some guys could contribute in specific roles this year. Jason Williams, a linebacker and our third-round pick from Western Illinois, has some people very excited. He wasn’t invited to the combine but at his Pro Day he wowed everybody in attendance with his physical skills. Plus, he produced in college. We needed a nickel ILB with the speed to cover but also with the ability to blitz, and Williams could be that guy. Stephen Hodge, a converted safety from TCU who will play ILB, could also compete for that role. The Cowboys are very excited about his ability to cover and he was also a special teams standout, a role Dallas is ready for him to take on.
One interesting guy is David Buehler, kicker from USC. We have Nick Folk for FG’s but his kickoffs were terrible, Buehler is supposed to be a kickoff specialist. But he’s also a big dude, he put up 25 reps of 225 lbs at the combine, he’s 6’ 2" 227 lbs. and wants to play on other special teams units and at safety, too. At junior college they used him as a FB and he scored quite a few TD’s. I don’t know if he’ll contribute other than kickoffs, but if he does, he’s going to become a cult figure.
Thanks again David.