Cowboys: There's a new sheriff in town Jim Ryan Sporting News
Goodbye, Bill Parcells. Hello, Wade Phillips. The latter's record as a head coach is uninspiring, but Bum's son, as well as new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, will have plenty of talent to work with in Dallas. The Cowboys made few additions to an offense that finished fourth in the NFL in scoring last season -- and that was with Drew Bledsoe starting at quarterback for the first six games. This year, Tony Romo will be the man from Day 1. Right guard Leonard Davis was Dallas' most expensive offseason acquisition, and while he was considered an underachiever in Arizona, he will be an upgrade over last year's starter, Marco Rivera.
Phillips' imprint will be most evident on the defense. He runs an aggressive 3-4 scheme that uses frequent blitzes and encourages linemen to shoot gaps. The unit's sacks and takeaways should increase. One of the Cowboys' starting outside linebackers, DeMarcus Ware, is becoming a star, while the other, Greg Ellis, is recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon suffered last November. Look for first-round draft pick Anthony Spencer to take more of Ellis' snaps as the season progresses. The coverage skills of free safety Ken Hamlin, signed as a free agent from Seattle, should allow strong safety Roy Williams to focus on what he does best: wreaking havoc near the line of scrimmage.
Projected draft round Player Round Tony Romo, QB 7-8 Marion Barber III, RB 3-4 Julius Jones, RB 7 Terrell Owens, WR 2 Terry Glenn, WR 8 Jason Witten, TE 9-10 Martin Gramatica, K DND Defense/special teams DND Draft position based on a standard 12-team combined scoring and yardage league with a 17-round draft. DND: Do not draft.
Key additions:RG Leonard Davis, FS Ken Hamlin. Key losses: None.
Terrell Owens, WR. T.O. managed not to implode the Cowboys in 2006, so Jerry Jones brought him back for a second season. Owens might be more volatile without Parcells to keep him in check, but that shouldn't prevent owners from making him their No. 1 receiver. Owens led the NFL with 13 touchdown receptions last season, and Garrett plans to use shifts and motion to make it more difficult for defenses to find the star receiver. Garrett also will send Owens on more crossing routes to take advantage of his ability to run after the catch. Owners just have to hope Owens' recovery from a broken finger will help him cut down on the league-leading 18 drops he had last season.
Tony Romo, QB. Romo's quickness was a welcome sight to Cowboys fans, who watched cement-footed Drew Bledsoe struggle through the first six games of 2006. But Romo also has an accurate arm, which helped him throw for 2,903 yards and make the Pro Bowl in his first season of NFL action. Romo tends to gamble and must work on protecting the ball -- he threw 13 interceptions and fumbled three times last season -- but he has enough talent, and enough talent surrounding him, to be a No. 1 fantasy quarterback in 2007.
Marion Barber III, RB. Julius Jones might be the starter, but Barber is the more valuable fantasy back -- he scored 16 total touchdowns last season to Jones' four. Barber is effective on third downs and in short-yardage situations because of his power and pass-catching ability, and his role should only increase in 2007.
Jason Witten, TE. Witten's receptions and yardage increased with Romo's ascent last season. This year, Garrett wants to get Witten the ball even more, and as long as Owens and Terry Glenn can draw defenders away from the middle of the field, that won't be a problem. Witten definitely should score more than the one touchdown he had last season, and he could become a top 5 fantasy tight end by the end of 2007.
Defense: Most of the Cowboys' defensive linemen and linebackers had to lose weight over the offseason to cope with a scheme that requires them to be quicker than they were under Parcells. They don't seem to mind, because Phillips will give them more opportunities to attack the backfield and dictate play. That should lead to a rise in sacks and takeaways and make the unit a fantasy sleeper for 2007. Dallas owners just have to hope Ellis' Achilles' is fully healed by the beginning of the season, because the defense was considerably worse after his injury last November.
Terry Glenn, WR. Increased roles for Owens and Witten won't do wonders for Glenn's production, but he still has the speed and body control to remain a scoring threat, particularly on deep balls. The 34-year-old has had injury issues, and he recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, but provided he stays healthy, Glenn can be a solid No. 3 fantasy receiver.
Roy Williams: Williams recorded a career low in tackles last season, but the arrival of Hamlin from Seattle should allow Williams to worry less about coverage, in which he's vulnerable, and play closer to the line of scrimmage. Phillips will try to put Williams in position to make plays, so expect to see more tackles, sacks and takeaways from the safety this season.
Julius Jones, RB. Barber might get most of the touchdowns, but Jones is coming off his first 1,000-yard season, so he's not worthless to fantasy owners. He can be used as a flex back or as a fill-in starter during bye weeks.
Martin Gramatica, K. Gramatica did a nice job for the Cowboys after the Mike Vanderjagt era ended, but he remains a streaky kicker, and his leg is not what it used to be. If owners really want Gramatica, they will be able to find him on the waiver wire.
DeMarcus Ware, LB. Ware, like Williams, is one of the Cowboys' biggest defensive playmakers, and that won't be lost on Phillips, who groomed Shawne Merriman as San Diego's defensive coordinator. Ware set a Cowboys record for sacks by a linebacker last season with 11.5, and Phillips' one-gap scheme will give him even more opportunities to attack the quarterback. Ware could be a No. 2 option for IDP owners this season.
Patrick Crayton: Crayton is Dallas' No. 3 receiver, and Owens, Glenn and Witten are likely to keep his receptions total low. Still, the sure-handed Crayton could be a red-zone threat, and Owens owners might want to draft him as insurance in case T.O. misses games for whatever reason. Just wait until the very late rounds to do it.
Ultimate Fantasy Football Tip: Barber does not get the carries of a No. 1 back, but he scores touchdowns like one, making him a good buy at $6 million. Jones scored slightly more SN fantasy points than Barber last season, but that should change as Barber's role increases in his second season. Also, the Cowboys' potent passing game will prevent opponents from focusing on stopping the run, so Barber should be a consistent producer throughout the season.
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Coaching: Parcells did a good job bringing 3-4 personnel to Dallas, and Phillips was hired to take the defense to the next level. Phillips coordinated top 10 defenses in San Diego the past two years, and the Cowboys have the talent to replicate that success. Offensive play-calling will be left to Garrett, who has only two years of assistant coaching experience. But owner Jerry Jones is high on the Princeton graduate who backed up Troy Aikman; in fact, the Cowboys hired Garrett before they hired Phillips and considered making him the head coach. With the weapons Garrett has at his disposal, he should not have to strain to get the offense to put points on the board.
Offensive line: Last season, the Cowboys had a hard-working line that produced two Pro Bowlers: left tackle Flozell Adams and center Andre Gurode. The addition of Davis, a former Pro Bowl alternate, should only strengthen the unit. Adams and right tackle Marc Colombo have battled knee problems recently, and if they go down, the backups are relatively untested. But if line stays healthy, the mobile Romo should not be sacked often, and Jones and Barber should find sufficient room to run.
Schedule analysis: The Cowboys play six games against Fantasy Source's top 10 defenses and five games against bottom 10 defenses. Owners shouldn't sour on Cowboys players after they visit Miami and Chicago during Weeks 2 and 3 -- their patience will be rewarded when Dallas plays St. Louis and Buffalo the following two weeks. Two games each against the Giants and Redskins should more than make up for two tough matchups against the Eagles. Fantasy Strength of Schedule: 18th toughest (or 15th easiest).
Tony Romo, QB 7-8 Marion Barber III, RB 3-4 Julius Jones, RB 7 Terrell Owens, WR 2 Terry Glenn, WR 8 Jason Witten, TE 9-10 Martin Gramatica, K DND Defense/special teams DND
Romo is about right, Barber is about right, Jones is too low IMO. I see him having a big season this season if he ever will. He should get the chances for more TD's and to make a bigger impact this season. I really think that he will have a larger role than Parcells gave him.
TO is about right, Glenn is about right, Witten is probably about right, but it depends on where TE's go. I see him doing MUCH better this season than last. He hit a TD slump last season and should be higher than he is on most people's rankings.
And then the defense. Is Dallas honestly NOT a top 12 fantasy defese? I keep on seeing them not ranked on defensive lists, but are they really that bad? Do they really face that many good offenses? I see them as possibly top five defense this season. Seems low to me.
And then Gramatica. I mean Come ON!!!!
No wait, not even the homer in me can make a case for drafting him.
joelamosobadiah wrote: And then the defense. Is Dallas honestly NOT a top 12 fantasy defese? I keep on seeing them not ranked on defensive lists, but are they really that bad? Do they really face that many good offenses? I see them as possibly top five defense this season. Seems low to me.
I'm with you that when all is said and done, Dallas will easily be a top 12 defense in 2007. But the reality is that you probably don't even need to use a draft pick on them - they aren't getting drafted in most leagues. Maybe that is what SN was going for? At any rate, Dallas is surely my sleeper defense pick this year.
Pass coverage and lack of a pass rush were our two major weaknesses last year. Hopefully, the addition of Spencer and Hamlin will give Phillips the personnel to fix those problems. If Phillips could make San Diego's secondary look good, then he shouldn't have much of a problem with ours.
Everything else looks in order, although I do fully expect Romo to be a top 6-7 QB and outproduce his ADP. But you all know that already.