Well, what can we say now?
Certainly, the responses we want to make are limited by the constraints of Blogging the Boys’ language policy. I’m going to take a wild guess that in our real lives we might have uttered one of George Carlin’s 7 words when each of us heard about yet another fluky injury to our defense. I know I did. It also drove me to drink, so here’s a 2112-pack to cover both the Rookie Mini-Camp and the First OTAs.
Let’s go ahead and get the Sean Lee story out of the way. First, with the sample sizes of an individual player’s careers, we honestly cannot determine if a player’s injury history is because of luck or because of an actual problem. Yes, I do know Sean Lee’s injury history. Yes, it reads like he graduated from Miskatonic U. not Penn State, where Gloon, the Corrupter of Flesh, was the trainer (This is one reason, by the way, that Miskatonic has such a horrible win-loss record. Oh, and also has so much trouble recruiting). Nevertheless, I guarantee that any correlation that a person’s injury history is a reasonable predictor of his ability to play a full season the following year is much smaller than you expect and luck is definitely a component. So for Sean, you get a Sierra Nevada (Chico, CA) Bad Luck Blonde Ale.
With the Cowboys Next Man Up philosophy, it’s time to see what Anthony Hitchens can bring to the table. I was actually higher on this pick at the time it was made for the very simple reason that no matter what we know, or we think we know, or we’ve read, there is exactly one person on this blog that I know of that is a professional talent evaluator. Go ahead and take a bow, Birddog26. To think that any one of us, besides him, actually knows more than those in the Cowboys talent evaluation group is hubris. Furthermore, each team (and each scout) evaluates players differently, and the Cowboys are a team that puts a premium upon leadership and football intelligence. Every single scouting report suggests that Hitchens has these things in spades, as well as the courage to change his paradigm at the age of 12. We know that these traits are also important for the Mike linebacker, so I think he has a good chance to surprise us. For Anthony, here’s a Haymarket (Chicago, IL) First Chance American IPA for getting the first opportunity to step up.
I saw some posters making some comments questioning whether or not Zack Martin did anything inappropriate on the play. I also saw that the NFLPA will keep an eye on the Cowboys practice methods to see if Lee’s injury is evidence of a reason to file a grievance. I suppose both of these are normal responses. However, I didn’t see anything improper on that play. It blows that Lee got hurt but linemen and linebackers are engaging and pushing. Had Lee’s knee not buckled, which it looked like it did before Martin contacted him, he’d have probably just allowed himself to be knocked out of the play. What I *was* pleased with on the play was Martin’s quickness and agility. So, Zack, you just forget about this and have a BrewCult (Geelong West, Australia) Keep On Truckin’ Red IPA.
On to other, more positive things. Broaddus said he was struck by DeMarcus Lawrence yesterday. We are blessed to have Tyron Smith, of course, but especially so given that he will make Lawrence a better player. Perhaps most encouraging was Broaddus's comment that it was Lawrence’s strength that he found impressive, a trait that some people questioned. Here’s an Elliot Bay (Seattle, WA) Demolition Strong Ale for all of the BOOM we want to see from you.
Dez Bryant is seeking a new contract and he wants market value. I agree with him philosophically. NFL players have very short careers on average, and they tend to have long-term health issues. Worse yet, many end up bankrupt. Nevertheless, I’m a little leery in Dez’s case. If you read my FanPost from last week discussing his production from 2013, I think you know my feeling about Dez. Amazing talent. Incredibly explosive. Frustratingly inconsistent. I don’t think he’s currently a top 10 receiver, though he’s in the top 20. The difference, as I discovered in my investigation last week, is that he simply makes too many mistakes. Too many fumbles, penalties, and drops. Also, he’s not a tremendous route runner. If he can fix those issues like he fixed his personal life, he’ll be worth any WR contract. If he doesn’t, he’ll appear better than he really is. Fortunately, Broaddus said that Dez had apparently been practicing his route running, especially getting free off of the line, and that he looked much improved. I have no question of Dez’s work ethic or desire, and I like him as a person. My preference is that he both gets the money and grows in 2014 to be worth it, and Broaddus’s observation is a sign that he wants that too. Hence, here’s Jackie O’s (Athens, GA) New Growth American IPA for both his play and his bank account.
Speaking of defensive linemen, Broaddus had more positives to speak about Tyrone Crawford. Apparently he’s going full tilt and is completely recovered. He’s playing across the line, showing prowess at both end and tackle. Obviously, we’re a long way away from things being set in stone, but it looks like the Boys hope to attack on 3rd downs with a line of Selvie, Crawford, Melton, and Lawrence. I think you’ll see our defensive backs look much better with this line, especially if they are rotated and fresh. Crawford’s versatility will definitely help, so he receives a Brauerei Locher (Appenzell, Switzerland) Swiss Mountain European Pale Lager as the Cowboys Swiss-Army lineman.
Broaddus also thought that Brandon Weeden looked good. He struggled a bit when he had to improvise on the move, but this is not an uncommon problem. PFF has done a variety of studies that show that QBs that are under pressure perform worse. Shocking, I know. It’s also shocking that here I am agreeing with the accepted wisdom, but rest assured I am only doing so because of the empirical evidence. In any case, Orton was also not especially known for his performance out of the pocket. Weeden was drafted higher than he probably should have, but he’s got talent and it’s a mistake to dismiss him as wretched until we see how he does here. Furthermore, I think I’m done with Kyle Orton. I think he’s underrated as a QB, but at this point I’d like to see him go away and give us back the money. The difference, in my mind, between Orton and Weeden is very small, certainly less than $3 million. So, Brandon, I award you a West Sixth (Lexington, KY) Second Fiddle Simcoe American IPA for becoming my official choice as backup QB.
I’m going to touch on Kyle Orton a little more. Actually, I'm going to suggest you go watch the interview where Tony Romo is asked about Orton’s absence at OTAs. We see Romo’s easy-going smile and willingness to laugh at himself, but sometimes we forget just how hard of a competitor he really is. Romo, I think, is livid at Orton right now, and you will probably agree with me when you see his no comment about the situation. As to Romo and his future, it’s hard to fathom right now. I’ve seen studies that suggest his chances of completing a full 16-game season ever again are slim. Of course, I’ve also seen studies that suggest that QBs who had a full 16-game season the previous year *still* have less than a 40% chance of having a complete season the following year. I personally have no clue as to the odds in a given season, though I will say I don’t expect him to play all 80 games in the next 5 years. I wouldn’t expect anyone to be able to do that in this day and age, no matter age or injury history. I will say that Romo is one of the best quarterbacks that we’ve ever seen wearing the star, one that is better than many teams have ever had. With the offensive line a probably strength, here’s a wish that he’s Tired Hands (Ardmore, PA) Safe and Sound American IPA for the rest of his career.
I’m a big believer in understanding standard career arcs. Basically, these curves show the average percentage of a player’s career peak one can expect in any given year during his career for his position. In other words, a TE at the age of 23 can expect to produce about 75% of his peak value. He can also expect to do so at 32. In between, he can expect to reach that peak, along with higher percentages of that peak. I said after 2012 that Jason Witten was on the decline because he's 32, and I stand by that. However, I’ve never said that he’s a bad player because his peak was so high that even though his performance is declining as a percentage of his peak, his raw production is nevertheless still high. Witten *is* declining yet he was so good at his peak that in 2013, a down year for TEs (worst year for TEs in PFF’s database from 2007-2013), he received the third best TE grade from PFF in the league at 11.9 basically because he was the only TE to be graded positively in all four categories (passing, run blocking, pass blocking, and penalties). He gets a North Coast (Fort Bragg, CA) Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout for being the old man that just can’t be slain.
Again, though, I think Witten is on the downslope, and I was on board with us drafting Gavin Escobar last year. I was especially on board given that I know that standard TE career-arc curve shows that TEs do not generally produce all that much in their first year. Escobar’s meager tally of 9 catches is a perfect example of that. However, they generally do significantly better in their second year, and I think we’ll be very happy with Escobar this year and in the future. Someone, I can’t remember who, suggested that he might have 8-10 TDs for us and I don’t think that’s out of the question, though that’s on the high side. He gets a Russian River (Santa Rosa, CA) Pliny the Younger American Imperial IPA as he starts to grow out of the shadow of Witten.
Nick Hayden was a nice story for us last year. He had a moment in the sun, the chance to be a guitar hero on national TV, and he put forth all the effort he could. Nevertheless, he was bad. Very bad. One of the worst regulars in the NFL if not *the* worst. PFF gave him a cumulative -27.4 grade. Had the Cowboys had any other options, he would never have seen the field. This year, the Cowboys have options. Terrell McClain will probably be our starting 1-technique with Davon Coleman, Ken Bishop, and Amobi Okoye fighting for time there. I see no way that Hayden makes this team except for the same reason as last year. So, while I appreciate your effort and scrappiness, Nick, I’m sending you off with an Urban Chestnut (St. Louis, MO) Schnickelfritz Bavarian Weissbier. If you do make the team again, I fear our fritz has been totally and completely schnickeled.
The last beverage in this episode goes out to all of the men and women who have served in our armed forces, especially those guarding the gates right now. I’m a military historian by training, and I am reasonably aware of the sacrifices you make, the need to have you in the first place, and the challenges you face. You are some of the best warriors in history especially given those challenges. I’m sending another friend to Afghanistan soon, and I told her that I would be very wroth with her if she let something happen. I feel the same for all the rest of you. Keep doing your jobs, keep kicking the crap out of the tangos, and come back safely. In all seriousness, the beer’s on me when you come back, and I’ll start with a Schlafly (St. Louis, MO) Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout and then we’ll get to the serious drinkin’. Thank you all.
So, there you have it, a completely profanity-free 2112-pack in the wake of Lee’s knee. Believe me, that took some effort. Here’s hoping your Memorial Day was enjoyable and I wish everyone a fantastic, and injury-free, rest of the summer.