Brian Stewart: Locked and Loaded with no excuses

People say Wade Phillips is on the hot seat but I get the feeling Brian Stewart is too. I know I found myself yelling at his decisions more than Wade's last year. I wondered why we didn't blitz more, why Jacques Reeves would play 10 yards off of Plaxico Burress inside the red zone, why wasn't Jason Hatcher starting and why didn't we utilize more exotic blitzes by bringing defensive backs or safeties.

I think he did a good job considering our personnel. Our turnovers and sacks definitely increased last year. The defense made huge plays last year -- Jason Hatcher's fumble return versus the Patriots, Terence Newman's interception versus the Bills and Nate Jones knocking out Brett Favre against the Packers -- just to name a few.

It just seemed like we were getting consistently attacked and he never counteracted that. He never made adjustments. We continued to let Jon Kitna pick us apart. We never really brought the kind of pressure on Aaron Rodgers like we did against Brett Favre. We continued to allow the Giants exploit the Jacques Reeves matchup with Plaxico Burress (or anybody else for that matter). Seems like we just waited for Tony Romo to bail us out. Most of the times he did. But ultimately, it came back to get us.

This year there’s no excuse though and Stewart knows that.

Brian Stewart made a bold, yet regrettable, prediction at the beginning of his first season as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator.

He took one look at his defense during training camp and proclaimed: "I feel it should be the best defense in the NFL."

The Cowboys didn't quite live up to expectations, finishing ninth in the league.

A quick glance at the Cowboys' defense heading into 2008 might tempt Stewart to reprise his prediction.

A unit that featured four Pro Bowl selections has been bolstered by the signing of former Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Thomas and a trade for suspended cornerback Adam Jones.

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Foxsports.com's Mike Harmon has a good article on the top QBs in the league for fantasy football purposes. Tony Romo? Right behind Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. (Eli Manning barely scratches the top 10 for those interested).

There is perhaps no player more divisive at the quarterback position than Romo. His reputation as a gunslinger brings him endless praise when T.O. is dancing in the end zone (he threw 36 touchdown passes in 2007) and derision when the ball flies into the arms of a waiting cornerback (he threw 19 interceptions). You take the good. You take the bad. The good wins out in a landslide, of course. Romo passed for 300 or more yards on seven occasions last year (narrowly missing an eighth) and threw multiple touchdown passes in 12 games. Terrell Owens, Jason Witten and rising star Patrick Crayton are back for an encore. The team failed to consummate a deal to bring in another receiver, so they'll need contributions from some combination of former star Terry Glenn and youngsters Miles Austin, Isaiah Stanback and Sam Hurd. I like Hurd as a sleeper in the mix, but we'll get back to that at a later date.

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I always get a big kick out of people who say fans shouldn't criticize referees. If you execute then the game shouldn't come down to that, they say. Good point.

I would just add that refs can also influence a game. They can also make horrible calls. There was a couple of holding and pass interference calls I'd like to have back in the Patriots game. Why can't I complain about it? Isn't that what's so cool about being a fan? Getting to blame everybody else for your team's loss?

Seems like there were a lot of angry fans in 1962 after a game where the 'Boys played the hated Steelers. Another great installment by Ray Buck in the Old Boys Club explaining how a 99-yard touchdown play turned into a pivotal point in a hard fought loss.

Eddie LeBaron has the details. Apparently he lives in the same city I do so if I see him the first round is on me.

The ’62 Dallas Cowboys came close.

They nearly produced a record-tying 99-yard pass play to go with the NFL record 99-yard touchdown run that Tony Dorsett scored 20 years later.

In the 88-year history of the NFL, no team has one of each.

(Note: There have been 10 pass plays of 99 yards in league history, whereas Dorsett’s 99-yard run from scrimmage vs. Minnesota in the ’82 regular-season finale stands alone.)

On Sept. 23, 1962 at the Cotton Bowl, Eddie LeBaron hooked up with Frank Clarke for what appeared to be a 99-yard TD pass against the Steelers. It was wiped out by a holding penalty.

"That was an odd call," LeBaron recalled. "Our left guard, Andy Cvercko, stood about 5-foot-10. The Steelers’ Gene 'Big Daddy’ Lipscomb stood about 6-7 [and] Big Daddy just sort of ran him over on the play."

LeBaron still has the photo at his Sacramento, Calif., home.

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Tashard Choice was a big hit at the NFL Rookie Symposium. Don't try asking for tickets. Cause it ain't happening.

The rookie is also holding a football camp in Hampton, Ga., on July 12. He sat down with GoJackets.com and discussed rookie camps and his impressions of Cowboys so far.

Have you kept in touch with any other teammates that are going through the rookie camps? Are they having similar experiences?
"I keep in contact with some players, but everybody is very busy. Everybody's experience is different, but we all have to work hard."

What is your impression of the Dallas Cowboys organization so far?
"The Cowboys organization is very professional and dedicated to winning."

What’s your favorite blog?
Definitely Bloggingtheboys.com. Especially Tuna Helper. He’s like my favorite writer.

Ok. Maybe I made that last line up. Just needed a little love since my homestate is basically on fire.

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