On Tuesday at the Senior Bowl, Jerry Jones took a 10-15 minute respite from watching the action on the field with his scouts and coaches. He stopped by NFL Network's make shift set to chat with host Paul Bermeister, as well as analysts Charles Davis and Mike Mayock.
Among the topics they discussed: the evaluation of 2011 rookies DeMarco Murray and Bruce Carter; how the Cowboys organization goes about evaluating players; Jerry's opinion of Eli Manning. Below, I will discuss in detail each of these topics.
1) The Evaluation of Running Back, DeMarco Murray:
Mike Mayock started the conversation by explaining how he felt Murray was more of a third down type running back who could pass protect, but wasn't sure if he could carry the load full time in the NFL. Jerry Jones explained that when the Cowboys watched tape of their future RB, they saw that he was an excellent pass catcher, an explosive runner, and really good in pass protection. Jerry acknowledged, that from the tape they too had concerns about his ability to run between the tackles. Jerry felt it was the Senior Bowl practices last year that eased their concerns about his running for tough yards. Moreover, Jerry explained that just shaking Murray's hand gave him an idea for how strong he was, and compared his handshake to Adrian Peterson's. He also added that despite there being only 5 pounds diference between Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray, the thing that separates the two players is Murray's ability to absorb contact and run through it.
Judging from these comments, it seems rather obvious that the Cowboys view DeMarco Murray as their feature back when healthy. Whereas, Felix Jones, during the remainder of his time in Dallas, will resume the change of pace role he had earlier in his career.
2) Evaluating Inside Linebacker Bruce Carter:
Charles Davis brought up the topic that, if not for his ACL injury in 2010, Bruce Carter would have been a first round pick. Mike Mayock asked Jerry Jones if the feeling was, that drafting Carter in the second round meant the Cowboys got an extra first round pick. Jerry answered affirmatively, as well as explaining that Butch Davis, Carter's former head coach at North Carolina, informed them of the type of player the Cowboys were getting. As we know, Carter is played on defense and special teams. Jerry said it was remarkable that despite having an ACL injury some 5 or 6 months prior to the NFL draft, that Carter was even able to come back and contribute on special teams.
After listening to this conversation, it becomes clear that the Cowboys have plans to start Bruce Carter at ILB opposite Sean Lee. As Jerry Jones explained, the Cowboys like that tandem because of their ability to cover from sideline to sideline. He said he envisions the Lee Carter duo to be Dallas' version of the San Francisco 49ers tandem of Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman. While Bowman is the ideal complement to Willis since he's a thumper, the Cowboys feel Carter's athleticism makes him a nice compliment to Sean Lee.
3) The Cowboys Draft Process and Player Evaluation:
According to Jerry Jones, the Cowboys Scouts spend the college season scouting players through December. After the season ends, but before the Senior Bowl, the scouts submit their initial grades. Then, prior to the first practice of Senior Bowl week, Jerry gathers his coaches and scouts together, and has them submit an on the spot grade for the players they'll evaluate. Despite the fact the coaches and scouts hate this process, in Jerry's mind this on the spot evaluation is important to him. He said that he really prefers the initial grades he receives on a player before "it becomes homogenized" in the months leading up to the draft. The way I read this, Jerry Jones subscribes to the notion that an initial impression is probably the correct one, and further laboring only tends to cloud the picture.
Moreover, Jerry explained that when it comes to assigning grades to players, he goes with the scouting department's analysis, since they spend more time studying the players. When it comes to picking the players to target, and select, he asks the coaches to visualize how that player will fit their system, and the different schemes they like to run. Essentially asking the question, how does player X project as a Cowboy? This is the part where the Cowboys first establish who the league feels are the top players in the draft, based off the scouting grades, and then with the input from the coaching staff, the Cowboys go about setting their big board of 120 or so players.
Overall, Jerry reiterated the point, which most of us knew, that Jerry listens to what the coaches and scouts say about the players. He wanted to make sure it was patently clear, that he's an excellent listener. Jerry's more of a consensus builder than dictator.
4) Jerry Jones' Opinion of Eli Manning's 2011 Season (Monday and Tuesday)
Most of you are aware that on Monday Jerry Jones explained Eli Manning was the reason for the Giants' success this season, and how he was the difference in the games between Dallas and New York. Furthermore, I'm sure most of you are aware, that Calvin Watkins took his quotes out of context, cherry picked a juicy line, and fabricated a controversy that Jerry Jones was throwing Tony Romo, much maligned star Quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, under the proverbial bus.
I would hope by now, those of you who know about that story, also took time to see the comments in their entirety at the mothership, and understand, that at no point Jerry badmouthed Romo. If you still think Jerry badmouthed Tony Romo, let me summarize for you what Jerry Jones said. Jerry Jones said that the quarterback position, for the Dallas Cowboys, was not a position needing much improvement. Jerry Jones felt, that Tony Romo was playing at a level similar to Eli Manning; meaning Tony was playing like a playoff caliber QB. Jones went on to say, indirectly, that the rest of the team needs to play at as high a level as Tony Romo before the Cowboys can start to jell like the Giants. More specifically, Jerry hinted that changes will come to the secondary, the offensive line, and possibly the pass rush and or defensive line as well.
On Tuesday, during his interview with NFL Network, Jerry Jones was again asked about Eli Manning. Jones explained that he felt in 2011 Eli Manning has played the best football of his NFL career, and after the Sunday Night loss in December he made it a point to let Archie Manning know that. Jones explained that first and foremost Eli's play, as well as the Giants getting healthy on their dline, especially Chris Canty, were the reasons the Giants were able to make the playoffs and win the NFC. Jerry also explained that Eli Manning's improved play should be the difference in the Super Bowl.
Judging from Jerry's comments on Monday, if any Cowboys players should feel slighted it should be the defensive backs not named Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins, or any offensive linemen not named Tyron Smith and Doug Free. Moreover, I see nothing wrong with Jerry Jones statements. Eli Manning has played well this season, and the Giants pass rush was really good this year. Jerry Jones was simply making statements of fact. It's not a public dis of Tony Romo when Jerry Jones points out Eli had his best season. Nor is it an insult to Tony to say that Eli's improved play amd the Giants pass rush coming together enabled to the Giants to make their run.
Perhaps Jerry Jones shouldn't have said anything as he tends to put his foot in his mouth. However, this clear instance of ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins fabricating a controversy out of thin air by cherry picking a select quote from a larger statement being made by Jerry. Skip Bayless even came to Jerry's defense after reading the entire transcript and not just the select statements ESPN put on the screen during First Take.
It's a long off season guys. The Cowboys have gotten off to solid start this off season with their hiring Bill Callahan and Jerome Henderson. Lets look forward to 2012 by continuing to loom over the potential free agent signings, and potential draft picks. Rather than stressing over Calvin Watkins and other controversy seeking media members want to write about this team.