Cowboys dealing with duds in draft class

The Cowboys are slowly ditching many of their 2009 draft class, with the latest released being a fifth-rounder that was expected to compete for a starting job this year.

Mike Hamlin's abrupt release Tuesday is another setback for the Cowboys' draft class of 2009.

It was certainly a steep fall for Hamlin.

A fifth-round pick last year out of Clemson, Hamlin entered the offseason competing with Alan Ball for the starting job at free safety.

Ball outshined Hamlin in minicamps and OTA workouts and went into training camp as the clear starter. Not only did Hamlin lose out to Ball, but he was surpassed by undrafted rookies Danny McCray and Barry Church in the pecking order at safety.

Hamlin hasn't played since giving up a touchdown against the Bears. He was inactive the past two games.

The Cowboys decided to make a move with Hamlin to clear a roster spot so they could possibly add a player at tight end or fullback, where they have injury issues.

Fullback Chris Gronkowski missed the Titans game Sunday with a groin injury. He may or may not return for the Vikings game.

Tight end Martellus Bennett aggravated a sprained ankle against the Titans and was in a walking boot Monday. He is questionable at best for the Vikings game.

But this is not just about the moves for this week. It's also about the team's decisions to emphasize special teams and backups in the 2009 draft.

The class has been a regrettable one from the beginning, starting with third-round picks Jason Williams and Robert Brewster. The Cowboys had no first-day picks because of the trade for Roy Williams.

Jason Williams has yet to have an impact at inside linebacker.

Brewster, a guard/tackle, missed his rookie year and has shown little for the future.

Fourth-rounder Victor Butler looks like a keeper as a third linebacker and pass rusher. The jury is still out on two other fourth-rounders, quarterback Stephen McGee and linebacker Brandon Williams.

The Cowboys had three fifth-round picks. Cornerback DeAngelo Smith was released as a rookie. Now Hamlin has been released. The only keeper is kicker David Buehler.

Stephen Hodge and John Phillips were picked in the sixth round. Hodge has yet to get on the field because of microfracture surgery. Phillips was good as a rookie but has been sidelined this season by a torn ACL.

The seventh-round picks were Mike Mickens and Manuel Johnson. Mickens was cut as a rookie. Johnson has been on the practice squad in 2009 and 2010.

NOTES

  • G Leonard Davis will remain the starter at right guard despite having the worst game of his career against the Titans and being benched for two quarters. Davis blamed his problems on poor technique. But he was down on himself and he had no problem with the team's decision to bench him because he was playing so poorly.

    "I never really thought of it like that," Davis said. "I feel like if I work hard and do the right things and do what it takes and I'm not there, then yeah, I would be (upset). But if I go out and do what I did (Sunday), then nah. I'm honest with myself. I'm honest with anyone else. I'm not going to feel like I'm something when I'm not or deserve something when I shouldn't."

  • The Cowboys spent the offseason and training camp preaching turnovers. Yet they just never seem to find a way to take the ball way. The Cowboys rank last in the league in takeaways since the start of the 2009 season. They forced 21 turnovers last season, including 11 interceptions. This season, they have two interceptions and a forced fumble. All three takeaways came in the Houston game, their only victory. Only two teams have a worse turnover ratio than the Cowboys' minus-four this season.

  • RB Felix Jones had a career-high 19 touches (15 runs, four receptions) against the Titans. He had 109 yards rushing and averaged 7.3 yards per carry. The Cowboys have declined to announce whether Jones will be the official starter at running back Sunday against the Vikings, but there will be no changes in the roles established against the Titans.

    "We needed to get Felix the ball more," coach Wade Phillips said. "We did that, and I thought it showed up well. We'll continue to evaluate what we need, but I thought it helped our running game."

  • PK David Buehler led the NFL in touchbacks with 29 last year, and the Cowboys ranked second with an average opponents' starting position of the 22.8-yard line following a kickoff. Through four games this year, the Cowboys rank 29th in opponents' average drive start allowed following a kickoff. Opponents are averaging the 26.7-yard line after a kickoff. Part of the problem is Buehler isn't spending as much time working on his kickoffs. He is doubling as the field-goal kicker this season. Buehler has only three touchbacks this season.

  • LB Keith Brooking was credited with no tackles against the Titans by the game statisticians. He was credited with two pass breakups. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said Brooking played better than the statistics showed.

    "I thought he was very active," Phillips said. "He made some plays. I guarantee you he was in on plays. He had a good game, as a matter of fact."

    After review of the coaches' tape, the Cowboys credited Brooking with one solo tackle and four assists.


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