TORRIN WE HAVE A PROBLEM: Doesn't it seem like a long time ago when Torrin Tucker was the starting right tackle for this football team?
Suddenly, Dallas is willing to play second-year man Jacob Rogers ahead of him. And rookie Rob Petitti. Kurt Vollers might need to be utilized. Ben Noll's name gets mentioned. Larry Allen's, too.
Anybody wanna call, say, Alan Veingrad, and see what he's up to?
In Saturday's 13-11 preseason loss at Arizona, the Cowboys committed 12 penalties -- and seven of them were assessed to the offensive line. The worst offender? Tucker, who was whistled for penalties on consecutive plays after the Cowboys had reached the Cardinals 15-yard line trailing 10-3, miscues that snowballed into what became, almost incredibly, a a fourth-and-50 at their own 45-yard line.
Said Tucker: "I hate I made the penalties. I know I hurt the team. But my intention ain't to go out there and hurt the team. I'd die for my teammates.''
Torrin, my man, that won't be necessary. No players will die as a result of Saturday's effort. A player's CAREER, maybe, but not an actual player.
BETTER THAN PARCELLS THINKS: Coach Bill Parcells loves to kick around kicker Billy Cundiff. It comes across as a bullying sort of thing; you know, the grizzly Alpha male footballer issuing verbal wedgies to the Erkel of any training camp, the little guy who's only contact comes when his footsie taps a ball.
Let me first question Parcells' psychological strategy here: I've always wondered why old-school coaches love to dismiss their kickers as "non-football players''; wouldn't it be more wise to encourage them as "important and valued football players''? (I don't mean to go all touchy-feely on you, but seriously!)
And then allow me to question Parcells' evaluation of Cundiff as somebody who needs to do more: Recently, the coach talked of how he believes a kicker who works in generally good weather and field conditions needs to be in the 80-percent range on field goals, and how Cundiff has been shy of that. In another conversation, Parcells said he needs as much accuracy as possible not from ridiculously long range, but "inside 40 yards.'' And the implication again was that Cundiff needs to step it up.
Now the facts: In Cundiff's three years in Dallas, he has NEVER missed a FG inside 30 yards, where he's 21-of-21. He's 34-of-37 inside 40 yards. Overall, two years ago, Cundiff made 79.3 percent of his kicks (pretty much Bill's target) despite attempting five kicks beyond 50 (which, increasingly, we're establishing as not being Billy's thing). Last year, Cundiff made 76.9 percent of his kicks; again, the vaunted 80-percent mark was there for the taking without the pair of long 50-plus misses. (Had Cundiff made 21 of 26 kicks instead of 20 of 26, he jumps from 76.9 to 80.7. ... and suddenly he's good!)
Point being, it'll be easy to make Cundiff the goat for Saturday night. After all, the little fellow (who happens to be 6-1, 207) didn't even get his uniform dirty; all he had to do was kick a ball. But once the offensive line's pre-snap penalty pushed him back from 48 to 53 (one yard beyond his career long), Cundiff's fate was all but sealed.
Billy Cundiff missed. So he stinks. No matter what the numbers really say.
PONDER THIS: Coach Parcells did a funny thing late Saturday, suggesting that one of the reasons Arizona looked sharper than Dallas was because the Cardinals had prepared as if this were a real game. In the same breath, it is suggested by Parcells loyalists that the Cowboys were wise to keep their true gameplanning genius under wraps, for we will play these same Cardinals for real Oct. 30 at Texas Stadium.
There is a sliver of truth here. The Cardinals have instituted an offense that features lots of pre-snap motion, and they used it with intent on Saturday. At the same time, Arizona features three peach-fuzzy receivers, a rookie running back, a new starting quarterback and a first-time offensive coordinator. So the Cardinals offense is taking baby steps at best.
Question: Do we really think we're that much smarter than Denny Green? We hold back on Aug. 14 to save it for Oct. 30, so we're geniuses. And he spills his playbook on Aug. 14, causing him to be destined to lose on Oct. 30?
FINALLY TOM: Good for Tom Crowder, who's going to keep trying this football thing until he gets it right.
I don't know if the free agent from Camden, Ark., is a safety, as was the case in camp last year. I don't know if he's a wide receiver, his listed position this year. I just know that once you deal with the apparent optical illusion of a white guy with blazing speed -- yes, his wheels are the real deal -- you oughta find a place for a guy who looks like a sure bet to be the first guy down field on all coverage units, brilliantly blocked a punt Saturday, could probably do everything from be a holder to be a returner. ... and how often does the last safety on the roster or the last receiver on the roster play safety or receiver anyway?
"I know I've got to keep doing more and more,'' Crowder said. "I just can't rely on my speed. I have to do more than just get down (when covering kicks). I have to make the tackle and make plays. (Saturday's effort) was big, but I need more of those."
As a team that could be the bounce of a football away from being good (or bad), the Cowboys need "more of those'' little momentum-shifters, too. Crowder suddenly becomes a guy in the spotlight Monday against Seattle.
FROM THE YOU ARE WHAT YOU ARE DEPT.: In the Cowboys' first week in Oxnard, a time bubbling over with upbeat optimism, they were visited by Academy Award-winning Hollywood icon Kevin Coster. This week, following the 13-11 crud-fest in Arizona, the Cowboys are visited by Hollywood's Alan Thicke, who, I guess, played the dad on "Growing Pains.''
Hey Cowboys, score 11 points again against Seattle, and let's see if we can't get Todd Bridges to swing by practice, shall we?
SIXTH MAN? And we take it full circle, back to the offensive line: Dallas says it might have to end up starting Kurt Vollers at right tackle rather than keep him his the desired role for him, "swingman.'' A bit of pretzel logic, don't you think? Trying to determine who should be the Cowboys' "sixth man,'' and sixth-best offensive lineman, before we're even quite certain who the second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-best offensive linemen are?
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