The margin of error shrinks daily while the potential impact of each decision intensifies. Coaching staffs are starting to pare down rosters in an attempt to solidify the magical "53" number. No easy task by any stretch. Parcells and company are faced with very difficult challenges. Case in point, Skyler Green.
Mike Vanderjagt could potentially cost Skyler Green his job and squash his dream. Skyler Green was drafted to field kicks. Mike Vanderjagt was hired to kick field goals. Secondarily, it was hoped Green could catch passes and Vanderjagt would handle kick-off duties. Neither secondary responsibility may come to fruition, and the need for a kick-off specialist might force the Cowboys to part ways with their fourth round selection. At this juncture, both appear to be one dimensional, and the lack of versatility may amount to two huge mistakes.
Will it happen? Only time will tell, but it certainly could, and if it does, many questions will surface. Would a few more dollars have secured the likes of Adam Vinatieri? Would a Vinatieri acquisition have guaranteed a Skyler Green roster spot? A hamstring/groin/leg ailment is the talk of the town at the moment, but the ailment in question belongs to Terrell Owens. Bill Parcells is also concerned with the same body parts, but they don't reside on his star wide receiver. They belong to Mike Vanderjagt. It will eat Bill Parcells alive if he is forced to carry a kick-off specialist on the 53-man roster. A roster spot, which could be occupied by either, needed depth or a luxury. This could loom large.
Are They Covered?
Insurance is both costly and necessary. Its purpose is protection in case of a loss, minor or catastrophic. The policy has always been in place, but no one knew if it contained quality and satisfactory coverage for the risk. A solid training camp and two workman-like preseason games have given the Cowboys a security blanket sealed in a sigh of relief. Tony Romo appears to be the appropriate protection. It's an attractive policy based on overall features, and it comes with a reasonable price tag. Expect the premium to increase substantially next year. Every policyholder's fear.
The business side of football has been discussed here many times, and Jerry Jones is a businessman first and NFL Owner second. Knowing what he knows now, Jerry would be wise to shelve the Bradie James' extension in an attempt to corral Romo for years to come. The longer he waits, the higher the cost of services to be rendered. Tony Romo and his agent are smart enough to ride the current contract out before seeking a new deal. The meter is running. Each day that passes has the fee escalating. This could be "thee" story to watch in the off-season following the 2006 season.
The debate will continue to roll as to who should get the start in Jacksonville, but all should find great comfort there is actual competition at the most critical position on the field. Each will push the other to be on top of his game, and the Saints preseason game was a classic showcase of the anticipated competition for the right to start. When it comes to Bledsoe, Tony Romo is the necessary incentive to remain sharp. Competition is healthy within any organization, and don't for a minute think Drew Bledsoe has forgotten the vision he conveyed the day he signed with the Cowboys. He is here to win a championship. He wants a ring before he decides to call it quits and ride off into the sunset. To say he isn't motivated, competitive or capable is utter nonsense. It's Drew Bledsoe's position until he proves to be either ineffective or injured. As it should be.
The Parcells' Mantra
"I'm unaware of the situation." "I know nothing about that particular matter." "I don't know the player." Lie. Lie. Lie. Every time he throws one of these statements out there, rest assured he knows everything humanly possible about a particular subject matter. It's just his way of passing on a pesky inquiry. As in, I'll be damned if I'm answering that or going there. Projected ignorance is a New Jersey trademark. It's Parcells' job to know everything as it relates to his team and craft. "I wouldn't know anything about that" is Parcells' way of saying I've got it covered. With him, it's all about control and the upper hand. Without either, he's completely out of his element.
Have you Hurd?
Was Charlie Adams truly injured or did the Cowboys fabricate physical results once they woke up to the smell of coffee? They apparently were willing to sacrifice a sixth round pick for a player who sat 4th or 5th on the Broncos' depth chart. Earth to Valley Ranch. Why? Should a team on the rise be jettisoning any picks when offensive linemen are in desperate need? Did the brass view Adams as head and shoulders above the likes of Miles Austin and Sam Hurd? This would have become a head scratcher had the deal gone through. The receiving corps, behind Owens and Glenn, lacks experience, not talent. Sure, Adams had playing time logged, but enough to be cashing in draft picks? There was, and still is, proven NFL talent sitting on the free agency sidelines waiting for phone calls. If the injury gods are to be thanked, they couldn't have arrived at a better time.
No, the NFL Draft is far from an exact science, and mistakes always happen. An organization wishes it could hit on everything, but if gaffs occur, teams hope it involves late round selections. Sixth and seventh round picks have minimal chances to make a NFL roster or practice squad. However, first day selections that fail are a difficult pill to swallow. Even when collegiate personnel squares off in a championship game, it's no guarantee the playing pedigree will stick in the NFL. Look no further than the 2004 selections of Jacob Rogers and Stephen Peterman. Swing and a double miss. Ouch. Good intentions, wrong projections. Especially Rogers. When discussing potential red flags, lengthy medical histories should be first on the list. Especially if the injuries are contact-related and involve interior linemen. Trench warfare will only compound the problem and increase the propensity for further issues. With the offensive line still a huge, and vital, concern, these were two huge misses. Ones the organization would like to forget, and selections Parcells is quick to dismiss.
Depth = Value
Scott Shanle is dealt for a conditional 2007 Draft pick. It'll be most interesting to see how high that pick could escalate. The Cowboys appear loaded at linebacker. Could any of these talented back-ups secure the services of a starting offensive lineman? Probably not, but a proven starting project could be a desired pursuit. For weeks it was speculated the Cowboys and Patriots had something cooking along these lines. Scouting personnel were swapping venues in a perceived move to eye talent in the opposition camp. It was not to be. The Patriots signed Junior Seau, and the rest is history.
You must give something to get something. The question becomes how badly do you need it? Apparently, the Cowboys are content with the offensive line. Maybe not totally comfortable, but content. How else do you explain standing firm? One calf tweak to Flozell Adams, and the entire Cowboys Nation experiences heart failure. While he may not be the game day insertion, Pat McQuistan is currently more turnstile than tabernacle. Everyone is pulling for him, just not this year!! The longer the wait, the more uphill the battle. Time is running out on the acclimation process, and the Cowboys appear poised to arrive in Jacksonville with current personnel and a host of prayers. Yes, there are several reasons the organization had to see if Romo could play.
The complimentary piece to any dominating defense is a solid and efficient running attack. The running game is many things, but granite is not the first thing coming to mind. This will clearly be the barometer for 2006. Whether the philosophy is to play it close to the vest or open it up, the rushing attack plays a vital role. Where are the Cowboys in regards to their running effectiveness? Is it a question of talent, the offensive front, or a combination of the two?
The preseason efforts have been futile at best. A full wide receiver compliment will prove beneficial, but until fully staffed, the eight-man fronts will continue. The absence of Larry Allen will be felt, and an open lane assurance is greatly sought. Questions accompanying Julius Jones and his ability to stay healthy only compounds the problems. The 2006 season hangs on the Cowboys ability to run the football effectively. Three and out are three words that could translate into doom and gloom. Heading into the San Francisco contest, it's anyone's guess.
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