Cowboys with Tim MacMahon
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, Dallas Cowboys reporter Tim MacMahon stops by to chat about the team.
MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. He joined ESPN in September 2009.
Send your questions now and join MacMahon Wednesday at 2 p.m. CT/3 p.m. ET!
Tim MacMahon (2:58 PM)
Welcome to this week's ESPNDallas.com Cowboys chat. The Cowboys have completed their first week of OTAs, so we've got a little T-shirts and shorts action to talk about.
Is Jason Williams making strides towards starting or have they just decided that Lee's better?
Tim MacMahon (3:00 PM)
Neither will start this season unless Bradie James or Keith Brooking is injured. Brooking is out of OTAs after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, with Jason Williams and Sean Lee splitting reps at his spot. Williams got first crack in Monday's OTA opener, but my gut feeling is that Lee will be the guy who starts if either of the vets goes down. Both of the young ILBs could play in the nickel.
Mike (Phoenix, AZ)
Are the Cowboys going to make a real push for O.J. Atogwe come June 1st?
Tim MacMahon (3:02 PM)
That's doubtful. Jerry Jones has strongly indicated that he'll pursue a veteran FS only if Alan Ball and Mike Hamlin disappoint during the offseason. That isn't likely to happen. The concern about Ball's size won't be exposed without pads on. He did well as a fill-in starter last season, and Wade Phillips believes that the front seven is strong enough that the Cowboys can get away with an undersized free safety who has good coverage skills.
Zac K. (The Netherlands)
Hey, I was wondering if you think Jesse Holley plays this year? I really enjoyed him on "4th and Long", and he seems like a hard worker. What's the word around Valley Ranch?
Tim MacMahon (3:03 PM)
Holley gets a lot of praise around Valley Ranch, but it's tough to envision him making the 53-man roster. There are too many receivers in front of him. If there's a darkhorse at the position, it's probably ex-CFL star Titus Ryan, but I think he only has a chance if the Cowboys decide to get rid of Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd.
Jesse (McAllen, Tx)
So, what happens if Austin, Williams, and Bryant all look great this year? Can we keep all three next year?
Tim MacMahon (3:06 PM)
Sure, it's a possibility, but it's impossible to say how likely that scenario is without knowing what happens with the CBA talks. At this point, a lot of people believe there will be a lockout next season. If a CBA agreement is reached, we don't know how that will impact salary negotiations with Miles Austin and/or whether the Cowboys can afford to have two players near the top of the WR tax bracket.
Clint (Tyler, Texas)
Realistically, does Barry Church have a good chance of making the roster? Four years of being named first-team all conference is impressive, no matter what conference it's in. Can't he be a younger, cheaper version of Pat Watkins with more upside? It looks like Watkins will never be more than a special-teamer.
Tim MacMahon (3:08 PM)
Church does have a realistic chance. The coaches like what they saw from him during the rookie minicamp. Money might be the determining factor between him and Watkins if it's close -- and if they decide to keep five safeties.
How do you see Brandon Williams fitting in this year? I know Dware was excited about him last year before the injury.
Tim MacMahon (3:10 PM)
He's fighting to be the third OLB, perhaps getting 10 snaps per game in pass-rushing situations to keep Spencer and Ware fresh. He needs to be a solid special teams player. Williams is fully participating in OTAs after undergoing knee surgery to fix a torn ACL in September.
jake brody (tomsriver nj)
In ota's who got more reps with the first team Felix or Marion.
Tim MacMahon (3:11 PM)
Barber got more reps Monday, the only day the media is allowed to watch each week, but it wouldn't be wise to read too much into that. I still expect that Jones will get more carries this season with Barber returning to a role similar to the one he had a few years ago.
Eric (Auburn, AL)
Who will be our starting safeties when the season starts?
Tim MacMahon (3:11 PM)
Gerald Sensabaugh is a certainty. Alan Ball is the frontrunner at free safety, with Mike Hamlin in the role of challenger.
Hey Tim. You mind if I just call you MacMahon? Tim is so blah, but MacMahon has some juice to it. Anyways, I'll stray away from the obvious questions regarding LT and Dez and go straight into a bold statement: Felix will lead the NFC East in rushing and come in the top 3 in the NFC. Period. Thoughts?
Tim MacMahon (3:14 PM)
Thanks for getting right to the point, Kyle. I think Felix will get about 15 carries per game, so top three in NFC is probably a stretch. Leading the NFC East is possible, but I'd be on Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy, whose backfield isn't so crowded.
corey r (roc ny)
all the talk about competition at left tackle, and how both guys (Free and Barron) can play both tackle spots. if this is the case then shouldn't columbo be in a battle for his position as well? he's definitely lost a step, and the organization feels that the two young guys are capable.
Tim MacMahon (3:16 PM)
OL coach Hudson Houck said Monday that they'll start the best two tackles. However, the odds are pretty good that Colombo will be one of the two. Don't overreact to his awful performance in the playoff loss. He rushed back from a serious injury and shouldn't have been on the field.
Do you expect to see Witten's TD production go up this year? Why wasn't he targeted more in the red zone last year?
Tim MacMahon (3:18 PM)
He stayed in to block a lot, which is what happened during the ill-fated Sam Hurd vs. Champ Bailey series at the end of the loss to the Broncos. I think it's a safe bet that Witten will have more than two touchdowns, but he's never had more than seven in a season. Dez Bryant and Martellus Bennett both have the potential to be major weapons in the red zone, so it's not like Romo needs to force the ball to Witten.
Thomas (Austin, TX)
How's Buehler looking on field goals? Who's going to be the KR and or PR?
Tim MacMahon (3:20 PM)
Buehler didn't kick field goals during Monday's workout. We hope to get a look at that next week, and Wade Phillips indicated that we probably will, saying he wanted Buehler to kick with the pressure of an audience. Dez Bryant will return punts and will probably be one of the kick returners. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is likely to be a kick returner, and Kevin Ogletree is another possibility.
Brian (Upland, CA)
Why didn't the Cowboys make more of a push for a vetran Kicker?
Tim MacMahon (3:21 PM)
They want to give David Buehler every opportunity to win the job, which would save them a roster spot with him a lock to handle kickoffs. If Buehler isn't good enough, the thought is they can go get a veteran after final cuts, when there will probably be a handful of proven kickers in the unemployment line.
Sean (Aubrey, TX)
Can the Cowboys get anything for P. Crayton from a team like the Browns, Rams, or Raiders??
Tim MacMahon (3:22 PM)
Doubtful. Teams won't want to give up something for the right to pay his $2 million salary.
How long do you think Jason Garret will remane the OC? And at the end of the day do you think we see more dez bryant from the slot this year for better match ups?
Tim MacMahon (3:25 PM)
I don't think Jason Garrett's job is in any jeopardy. He might still be the next head coach here. If the Cowboys make a playoff run, he'll be a hot candidate around the league again. As far as Dez's role goes, it depends primarily on how quickly he can pick up the offense -- not just knowing the plays, but understanding intricacies like route adjustments. If he's OK with the mental aspect, the Cowboys can move him around to create mismatches. They did that with Miles Austin last season and T.O. before that, although T.O. complained that they didn't do it enough.
Has Barber trimmed up this year, and if so, what impact do you expect it to have on his game this season? Also, Marty B was posed to have a bigger role last season, and not much came of it. What role do you look for him to play in the offense this season?
Tim MacMahon (3:27 PM)
Barber actually slimmed down a little before last season. He just wasn't healthy after the first few weeks of the season and lacked burst. I still think Bennett can be a major weapon. He's a guy who can cause problems in the seam and make plays in the red zone. He just has to take advantage of the opportunities he's given. If that happens, he'll get more.
Phillip B. (San Jose, California)
Hi Tim, can you give any insight on what the Cowboys' coaching staff really thinks about second-year safety Mike Hamlin? Also, is there any concern that Stephen Hodge might not make it back to health in time for training camp? Is he practice squad elligible?
Tim MacMahon (3:29 PM)
The coaching staff thinks Hamlin is a sharp kid and really likes his playmaking ability. He made some spectacular picks during training camp last season. He also has good size, but he's not nearly as good in 1-on-1 coverage situations as Alan Ball. The hope for Hodge, who underwent microfracture surgery last year, is that he'll be ready for training camp. If he's as good on special teams as the Cowboys thought when they drafted him, they can find room on the 53-man roster for him. He is eligible for practice squad.
Chris (McAllen, Texas)
So many people criticize Jason Garrett and his offensive play calling, not knowing that the Cowboys were only behind the Saints in total offense. The Cowboys seem to be good between the 20s, but only ranked 14th in scoring. What will be done differently this year to get more touchdowns? Especially with the kicker situation.
Tim MacMahon (3:31 PM)
I blogged about that issue this morning. Tony Romo, who has a ton of big targets that should be red zone weapons, needs to be more efficient. That's on him and Jason Garrett. Statistically, Marion Barber was a little below average in the red zone last season. That also needs to change, and giving him a lighter workload could help.
Jose (Corpus Christi, TX)
Hey Tim, nice to have you back on answering questions, I have a real quick one about middle linebacker. Is there any indication that this kid J Will, could usurp Bradie from starting duties, I mean the kid looks solid and he was our highest pick last year. I think we need to check him out with the first team to see if hes going to play some football for us.
Tim MacMahon (3:32 PM)
Williams is focusing on the Mo LB spot, which is the one Keith Brooking plays. Sean Lee is Bradie James' backup, but he's also working at the other spot. Williams' goal this season ought to be earning a job in the nickel package and kicking butt on special teams.
To some it does not seam like the Cowboys did much this offseason as far as signing free agents, etc. Do you think they were good enough to make just minor changes or did more need to be done?
Tim MacMahon (3:35 PM)
They need several young players to make significant improvements. We saw it with Miles Austin, Anthony Spencer and Mike Jenkins last season. If that happens with a few other guys, they're a threat to go to the Super Bowl. As far as the free agent market goes, I have a tough time coming up with a player I think the Cowboys should have signed, with so many guys under the restricted umbrella. I was on the Darren Sharper bandwagon, but that was before it was reported that he had microfracture surgery.
Stephan Bunting (Adrian, MI)
Is the drafting of Dez Bryant exactly what the Cowboys needed to inspire Roy E. Williams to play to his potential?
Tim MacMahon (3:43 PM)
We're having some technical difficulties. Give us a few minutes here.
Tim MacMahon (3:43 PM)
WR coach Ray Sherman told me this week that there's always pressure in the NFL. I agree with him. You don't think Williams was motivated last offseason to prove he wasn't a bust and could replace T.O. as the No. 1 WR? Maybe the guy just isn't that good. It's not like he lit it up in Detroit. He had one 1,000-yard season there. That was in Mike Martz's system, which makes 1,000-yard receivers out of Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald.
Tim MacMahon (3:43 PM)
OK, we're back.
Shawn (Ashe County)
Would Dallas consider having Flozell Adams come back?
Tim MacMahon (3:45 PM)
Never say never, but it's highly unlikely unless one of the top three tackles gets seriously injured. It looks like Adams will probably have to wait until this summer to sign, but I still expect him to land somewhere like Chicago with a chance to compete for a starting job.
Joe (Omaha, NE)
Tim, why did the Cowboys let Proctor go? All the talk is about the 0-line so why not keep him...besides he is part of the band Free Reign. That counts for something right...? haha just kidding on that last part.
Tim MacMahon (3:46 PM)
They didn't want to pay $1.8 million for a guy they hoped would never play a snap. Actually, they didn't want to pay $1.54 million for him last season, but they bit the bullet. It is a risk going into a season without a true backup center, though.
Craig (Lindsay, ON)
Tim, I hear what you are saying about Buehler and saving a roster spot. But they better be very confident in him. Because if we have to go to the final cut veteran scrap heap, we will lose some close games. If somebody isn't good enough for the other 31 teams, he won't be good enough for the Boys. And speaking of PK's, what is up with Folk? Is he trying out with anybody this summer? If he regains his confidence could he come back or is he toast?
Tim MacMahon (3:48 PM)
Maybe a guy like Adam Vinitieri is available after final cuts. They pretty much know Matt Stover, who is money inside 40 but has no range beyond that any more, will be an option. Nick Folk was signed by the Jets.
AJ (ashburn, VA)
Who do you think will be the 4th corner back? Wall, Gordon, or one of the undrafted guys?
Tim MacMahon (3:49 PM)
Wall, to be frank, has looked awful since the start of rookie minicamp. Gordon might be the guy now, but realistically, Alan Ball would probably play corner if one of the top three goes down. SMU's Bryan McCann is an undrafted guy with a shot to make the team.
do you feel Jenkins will let up? now that he is a pro bowler or do you think he will push himself to be a Revis type?
Tim MacMahon (3:50 PM)
Jenkins has a strong desire to be an elite cornerback. I don't think you have to worry about him being fat and happy after one Pro Bowl alternate season. He felt disrespected when he wasn't voted into the Pro Bowl originally. He still has plenty to prove.
What are your predictions for the division?
Tim MacMahon (3:51 PM)
Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Redskins. I think the Giants will have a bounceback year. The McNabb trade to Washington means there are no easy outs in the NFC East.
What do you expect out of Tashard Choice this year?
Tim MacMahon (3:53 PM)
I don't see his role changing significantly. He's the third back. He'll get playing time on third downs and in the occasionally used Razorback and will be ready if Jones or Barber gets hurt. I could see Barber getting cut before the 2011 season and Choice getting a much bigger piece of the pie then. I can certainly understand Choice's frustration about his role. He's proven when given the chance that he can be a solid NFL running back.
who is the second center? could we keep ball as our 4th corner even if he is listed as a safety?
Tim MacMahon (3:55 PM)
The plan is for Kyle Kosier to play center if Andre Gurode is injured with Montrae Holland filling in at guard. Travis Bright, a practice squad guard as a rookie last season, is also working at center. Wade Phillips said Kosier had played some center in the NFL, but that's new to Kosier. We addressed Ball at corner earlier.
Jose (Ft.myers, Florida)
Hey, Mike Ha,lin is a big guy. Lets jus say the sensebaugh situation dosent workout regardless of reason. Can Hamlin play strong safety?
Tim MacMahon (3:55 PM)
Yes, Hamlin has the ability to play either safety spot in Phillips' scheme.
What is team expecting of Brewster this year?
Tim MacMahon (3:58 PM)
It'll probably be another redshirt year for him, but he'll be able to practice, unlike last season. He's the backup right tackle right now, but the plan is to have only one backup tackle active on game day, and it'll be Alex Barron (or whichever guy Barron beats out).
Frank (Argyle, TX)
What will Victor Butler's role be this season? he seemed last year like if he could show more consistency then he might be a solid guy to rotate in at the OLB position.
Tim MacMahon (3:59 PM)
Victor Butler is in the same boat as Brandon Williams, but Butler at least got his feet wet as a rookie. They're competing to be the third OLB and to prove to the coaches that they can contribute in pass-rushing situations. Butler never earned Wade Phillips' trust last season despite getting a few sacks.
Alex (Amarillo, Tx)
With Barber and Jones getting the majority of the carries this year, do you think the chance of Choice getting traded becomes more realistic? He's not happy with his role, and Barber and Jones will not be going anywhere in the foreseeable future. What teams would be interested in him, and what kind of compensation would you expect?
Tim MacMahon (4:00 PM)
We're not on the same page about Barber's future. At some point, Jerry Jones is going to decide he doesn't want to pay Pro Bowl money for a part-time back. My hunch is that decision happens before next season, which is why it wouldn't be wise for the Cowboys to trade Choice.
Nick B. (Grapevine, TX)
Tim- I don't see Stephen McGee being a future qb for this team. Romo is still pretty young, but he has what, 5 great years left barring injury? I am probably being a homer here, but why not Colt McCoy in round 3?
Tim MacMahon (4:02 PM)
The Cowboys didn't want to spend a draft pick on any quarterback this season. They aren't sold on McGee, but they want to give him another year to prove that he's a worthy developmental project. If he isn't, they'll probably make QB a mid-round priority again next year.
Tim MacMahon (4:03 PM)
We'll wrap it up now. Remember that we're chatting on the blog before Monday's OTA and tweeting live updates during the workout. Thanks for joining me.