For a few minutes, I ask all you Dallas Cowboys fans to forget about a few things. Stop fretting about the interior of the offensive line. Quit trying to figure out who is going to be the third receiver on the depth chart. Let go of the concerns about all the (so far) fairly minor injuries.
It is time for some positive thinking. Time to look at some of the good things happening with the team, instead of searching for the dark side of every single play (after all, every time the defense makes a good play, it makes the offense look bad, and vice versa).
Oddly enough, this came about for me because I noticed a large number of positive articles out there on the interwebs. Maybe it's a case of California dreaming for the writers out there, or just having a day off, but the media figures were saying some really nice things about various members of the team.
One of them echoed something from my news roundup for Tuesday. Dan Graziano, who writes the NFC East blog for ESPN, confessed that he may have been wrong about the Cowboys taking Tyrone Crawford in the third round of the draft. Well, another writer has decided that this Crawford kid may have more game than many people realized.
The play of rookie defensive end Tyrone Crawford has me wondering if the Cowboys haven't stolen a player with their third-round pick.He has added 15 pounds since the draft. He has the feet of a normal 4-3 end and the power you want from a 3-4 end. When the Cowboys selected him, the move was met by the general fan with a shrug (and a, "Who?"). The football people really liked the pick. Crawford is showing up almost every day and has made plays in the base and nickel packages. One member of the organization wondered whether Crawford could not start a few games this season.
Todd Archer | "Five Wonders" | ESPN Dallas
You know, if everybody had been paying more attention to, say, our own occasional contributor Brandon Worley, this would not be much of a surprise.
Some more things that should put a grin on your face are waiting just over the jump.
It is, of course, the time when we are all playing around with projected 53-man rosters. For some of you, it may be becoming an addiction with the availability of Coty Saxman's most excellent Roster Builder Tool (available at the end of OCC's recent article on wide receivers and the depth chart). Now, while there is a lot of fun in trying to sort out those last few positions, there are some names that are just automatically on the roster. Tony Romo. DeMarcus Ware. Sean Lee. Jason Witten. Dez Bryant. L.P. LaDouceur.
Yes, long snapper LaDouceur is as solid a lock on the team as anyone. He is just automatic on punts and field goals. And he is almost invisible. But this year, for the first time, he does not start the season with Mat McBriar lining up behind him on the punts. And that makes thing different, because, unlike McBriar, Chris Jones is left-footed.
Now, when you think about that, you may wonder what that changes, snapping the ball back that far. Well, for LaDouceur, it is pretty big.
"If you're looking that the punter, a right footer when they catch the snap, they went the ball over their right leg," Ladouceur said. "A left footer wants it over the left part of his body. And in our protection, I'm the guard really, so I've got to snap at an angle. And you've got to make sure when you're going right, it's on his left hip. And when you go left, it's a little outside, so he can walk into it."
That Ladouceur can snap so specifically should not be a surprise. He has yet to have a poor one in his career.
In the same article, LaDouceur complained about not having McBriar to go out with on the road. Here's an idea: He should hang around with Phil Costa. Maybe something will rub off on Costa.
A player who is a little better known is cornerback Brandon Carr. He has been pretty much the star of the defense so far in training camp. And Rob Ryan is very, very glad.
"The guy's got an unbelievable work ethic. He was the best player in free agency by far. Not even close," Ryan said. "He's a leader, he helps the other guys around him and he's a tough kid. We need smart and tough. This guy is not nervous about playing under the big lights. He's here in Dallas. It's a different world here. Everything you do is scrutinized. But this guy won't flinch, I can promise you that."
And there is a reason for all this. Carr is working hard to get better.
Carr has done a good job in shutting down a physical wide receiver such as Dez Bryant. Their battles during practices are great shows. Carr gets in Bryant's grill and challenges him all over the field.Calvin Watkins | Brandon Carr working to get better | ESPN Dallas
"I guess it could be easy but it's still a work in progress," Carr said. "In Kansas City, each year my goal was to get better and better."
Carr was the big-splash acquisition for the Cowboys in free agency. Much less publicized, but potentially also a very big signing, was fullback Lawrence Vickers. He is an excellent lead blocker, but he is also a very outspoken on-field leader, which even affects the reporters he talks to.
Talking to Vickers fired me up. I wanted to go try to run through a defensive line. Fortunately for me, the opportunity did not readily present itself. If it had, I'd have asked Vickers to block for me. He'd probably have done it. He's a different sort of guy. I mentioned to him that the fullback position wasn't really a glory position in the NFL, and he agreed. He just doesn't care.
"I love it," Vickers said. "Because it's a job everybody can't do. So when you're doing something everybody can't do, and you're making it look good, that says a lot about you as a person."
Vickers is coming in as a new leader for the team, bringing a new viewpoint. But one of the established leaders on the team is also bringing a new viewpoint.
One thing is for certain out here in the first 10 days of training camp in Oxnard: Jason Witten has a different demeanor about him.
Call it focused. Call it determined. Call it frustrated or maybe just downright pissed off.
"I am a little different than I've been before and that's just because I think we feel a true sense of urgency," Witten said. "We've had feelings like this every year, but this year just seems different. I'm tired of it. I'm tired of the same ol' stuff. We say the same things every year and the results have been the same.
"I think in the past we've had an attitude like, ‘Hey don't worry guys. We'll fix that problem. We'll get better here or there.' And at some time you just want to say enough is enough."
I like the idea of the Senator getting a little attitude about things. I get the feeling that when he speaks, people listen.
Of course, if you are going to talk about leadership with the Dallas Cowboys, you know who that always comes back to: Tony Romo.
Over the past two years, he's become more and more comfortable dealing with all the pressure and criticism that comes with playing quarterback for the Cowboys. He seemed to grow in stature with his teammates during last year's lockout because he organized and ran all the practices. And in this camp, there are hardly any signs of the laidback Romo that took the league by storm six games into the 2006 season.
He's more exacting during team drills, and he has no problem jumping his teammates when they make a mistake. Fans have longed for Romo to show more emotion when things go poorly, and it appears that's happening. Romo has subscribed to Jason Witten's "shut up and play" mantra so far in camp.
Leaders stepping up. Stars working to get better. New players giving all to improve the team.
I'm ready for some football. How about you?