We got some good storylines percolating this week in Cowboys Country. Most of them are good, which is a relief, but some of them are troublesome. Here’s my brief shot at detailing them.
The Fullback Position – Man, I’m so bummed to see Deon Anderson get hurt and make his way to IR. You guys know how fanatic I was about the FB position leading up to the draft, and Anderson was exactly what I hoped we get. His special teams play was also a big bonus. Now, we are in a bind with the only one true FB on the roster, Oliver Hoyte. And he’s injured, although he’s been cleared to play. Here’s what Hoyte says:
"I feel like I can function, and I can get the job done," Hoyte said. "I'm not 100 percent, I'll be honest and say that, but I'm ready to play."
Wade will have to make a decision this week whether Hoyte can finally go. We’ll probably get more information today in Wade’s press conference. If Hoyte can’t go, we’ve got few options. Even if we signed someone new, it would be unlikely that anyone could play this week and even if they did play, it would probably be limited to some simple straight ahead running plays. The most logical thing would be to use Anthony Fasano in a hybrid FB/TE role, something he did a lot last year under Parcells. Witten can help out, but I don’t want our stud TE running into huge defensive lineman on a regular basis. We also might see more of Tony Curtis rotating into the game. If Hoyte can go, and I mean truly go, we should be OK. If he can’t, Fasano is my pick to pick up the FB duties this week. Of course if that’s the case, you can expect Jason Garrett to go to a lot of non-fullback formations.
Tank Johnson – The question is what can Tank bring to the team? For me, it’s a two-part question. What can he bring this week, and what can he bring down the stretch? This week I think he’ll play a limited amount of reps, but should really help to lock down the middle against the run if he plays up to his past. He’s a big, strong guy and is used to taking on double-teams from his days in Chicago. He should also give Jay Ratliff a break, something he could use, the guy is playing a huge number of plays. So in the short-term, I think he’ll helps us contain Brandon Jacobs. In the long-term, he could end up playing a good number of 1st and 2nd downs this year, leaving Ratliff free to work on 3rd down, although Ratliff will still be the #1 guy and will get some series playing all downs. It might become a JJ/MB3-type situation where Ratliff starts, Tank spells him often, and Ratliff goes in for pass rushing plays. They will probably end up splitting the reps pretty evenly, with Ratliff getting a slight edge.
Terry Glenn – I have nothing new on his situation. I’ve already said I’m pretty pessimistic about his return, whether it will actually happen and how effective he can be if he does come back. It just seems like asking an aging WR who’s had the kind of surgery he had and depends on his speed to make things happen to come back and be a big contributor is asking a lot. But I’m sure Glenn will give it all he can, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Cornerbacks – With the injuries we’ve had, it’s good to see everybody getting healthy. Terence Newman looks pretty close to back to me. Over the last couple of games, he’s been very good. I’m breathing a lot easier in respect to his situation. Anthony Henry played against the Eagles, but he was giving up a lot of cushion. I’m sure he was still worried about his ankle, as where the coaches and the plan was not to get beat deep. This week, we’ll see if he’s taking a step forward and can do more, maybe even start. Jacques Reeves is turning into a very solid 3rd corner. Someone mentioned in one diary that Reeves must be getting it done because we’re not crying about not having Aaron Glenn, and that’s true. But it does look like we protect him some by asking him to give room and not get beat deep. This leads to an observation someone else made, the Cowboys seem to have settled into a pattern on defense. They will blitz, and they will trust their linebackers to cover the dump-off underneath stuff, and are asking the corners to not get beat deep, and make the tackles in front of you. Both Anthony Henry and Terence Newman are excellent tackling CB’s. Ken Hamlin is proving to be a capable tackler from the FS spot, and Roy is a great tackler at SS when he decides to use proper technique.
Isaiah Stanback – I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting to see this guy on the field. With his speed and size and moves in the open field, he should be able to contribute somewhere down the road. He’s still learning proper technique at WR, but his raw physical gifts are very intriguing. And he’s very excited to get back.
"This is very meaningful for me because I've been working my butt off going through all the health stuff, then getting back, the transition," said Stanback, who's highly-touted speed was evident on those three returns. "It just feels good to be out there and help the team out."
But, alas, we have to see how serious his shoulder injury is, maybe Dr. Wade will update us this afternoon.
Stanback's workload might depend on whether a minor shoulder injury suffered against Philly will force him to miss any time. Phillips said Monday he didn't think the injury was serious and that the rookie receiver would be reevaluated this week.
Stanback is studying our receivers, but also watching film on other receivers. And check out this great quote from Jeff Ireland.
It's not just Cowboys' receivers he studies either. He has looked at the way St. Louis' Isaac Bruce and Carolina's Steve Smith run routes, even though they are smaller in stature.
"He's so quick that he can mimic anybody," Ireland said. "He's got great body control. If you can figure out how to run routes like a smaller guy, that's the idea because he can separate even better."
Nice. Here’s to Stanback becoming a contributor on kick returns this year, and as a WR down the road.
Indeed, the Cowboys have risen to eighth in the NFL in total defense, fifth against the run, and a respectable 17th against the pass.