IRVING, Texas -- Another Tuesday, another Five Wonders and we’ll leave the inter-touchdown-ception from last night’s Green Bay-Seattle game to some other folks. This is strictly about the Cowboys.
On to the Wonders:
**I wonder if the Cowboys’ pro scouting department will be as successful in finding players this year as it was last year. Maybe one of the five players they try out today -- Don Carey, Antwaun Molden, Tyrone Culver, Eric Frampton or Aaron Rouse -- signs and becomes a big contributor to the defense and/or special teams in 2012. The Cowboys did a pretty good job last year finding players, including from Laurent Robinson, Montrae Holland, Tony Fiammetta and Sammy Morris. None of the players available are perfect so you have to accept some flaws, but the players from last year all helped the Cowboys win games. They hope to be as lucky this year.
** After seeing what Seattle did to Green Bay on Monday night, sacking Aaron Rodgers eight times in the first half, I wonder if we need to re-assess the Cowboys offensive line a little. Or at least tip the cap to Seattle’s defense. Playing with that crowd noise certainly gives them an edge in rushing the passer. Ah, who am I kidding? I wonder just how much Chicago’s defense is licking its chops to get after Tony Romo. The Bears have a league-high 14 sacks in the first three games and have one of the most dangerous pass rushers in Julius Peppers and he doesn’t even lead the team in sacks. Last week marked only the fourth time Romo has been sacked at least four times and the Cowboys have won the game. I wrote this after the game, but the pass protection must improve in a hurry with teams like Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the Giants on the docket.
**I wonder if Jerry Jones will do a little “I told you so” to Mike Jenkins or the media and fans. While I’d hope Jones would back off his all-is-well notion regarding the replacement refs, I’ll give him a nod in the team’s thinking with Jenkins. Injuries happen and the Cowboys were without Gerald Sensabaugh, so the coaches came up with the idea of putting Brandon Carr at safety in the nickel defense. It worked out great. Now they have lost Barry Church for the season with an Achilles tear and there’s some thought that Carr might be able to play more safety. Why? Because the Cowboys have Jenkins. Jones kept saying the Cowboys would need Jenkins and they would not trade him, no matter how tempting or no matter how much Jenkins’ camp asked. Now the Cowboys need Jenkins and he played extremely well against Vincent Jackson. Jenkins’ style of play fits perfectly with what Rob Ryan wants to do and Jenkins knows he has to play well in order to get a big contract. It might be a perfect storm for the team and Jenkins. And I’ll add this wonder: Can the Cowboys keep Jenkins in 2013? I wouldn’t rule it out.
** I wonder what happened to Doug Free. In 2009, he showed he could play after taking over for Marc Colombo. In 2010, he moved to left tackle and was considered the best linemen on the team. After the lockout ended, the Cowboys signed him to a deal worth $8 million a year and if they hadn’t, they wouldn’t have had a tackle and would’ve seen him go to Philadelphia to protect Michael Vick’s blindside. Something is not right with Free. His best asset has been his athleticism. He could overcome a poor step or set and recover. He’s never been the strongest offensive lineman but he would play low enough and could move enough to be solid. Jason Garrett said Free has to be “firmer.” Too often he’s getting pushed back in the pocket or not generating enough movement in the run game. Confidence can be a funny thing and I wonder if he’s lost confidence as he’s moved back to right tackle.
** I liked the aggressiveness the Cowboys showed in attempting an onside kick in the second quarter against Tampa Bay. They should have shown just as much aggressiveness and faith in the defense the previous week in Seattle late in the first half on a fourth-down play. But on Dan Bailey’s attempt, I wonder if the field surface played a part in the Cowboys not converting. During the week, Bailey is attempting those onside kicks in practice on grass. Cowboys Stadium has artificial turf, so maybe the ball slid more on the turf than it did during the week on grass. Or maybe Bailey was so excited for the play that he just hit it too far. Tampa Bay was aligned deep and the play was there if Bailey didn’t touch the ball so far.