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Random Wednesday Cowboys Notes

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-- Garrett Would Give His Denver D to Dom:

From Michael Lombardi, at the National Football Post:

I know if Jason Garrett gets the head coaching job in Denver, he wants Dom Capers of the Patriots, and formerly of the Dolphins, as his defensive coordinator.

-- Come on Down!

Georgia underclassmen Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford announced for the NFL draft today.  Keep 'em coming.  With Dallas picking 51st and 69th with its first two selections, a good dozen or so underclassmen would help push quality seniors who are rated in the early 2nd round range into Dallas' reach. 

Here's the full list of underclassmen who have declared.

-- Don't be Cheap, Jerry

There's one name on the Cowboys free agent list that jumps out -- restricted free agent WR Miles Austin.  He's one of the bright spots from the '08 season.  One year ago, he was a big tease, a speedy guy with questionable hands.  The team spoke well of his skills, but he was nothing but a hope to replace Terry Glenn.

 

Austin emerged from the Sam Hurd/Isaiah Stanback group this year.  He showed velcro hands and ran better routes.  He had taken over the Denver preseason game when his zeal to impress the coaches did him in.  He waved off position coach Ray Sherman, who wanted him to stay on the sidelines after a TD catch.  Austin took his place on the kickoff coverage unit and took a helmet on his left knee. 

The sprain took him out of action until week two.  He made a big impression against the Packers in week three, catching the game-sealing 63 yard bomb from Tony Romo early in the 4th quarter.   He was getting on the field more when he re-injured his knee and had to sit out a month.

When he returned, Roy Williams was working in Austin's spot.  He still made some big plays in the Redskins win in week eleven.  He made a sliding 18 yard grab on a deep out to jump-start Dallas first long drive of the evening.  In the 4th, he made a clutch conversion of a 3rd and seven, where he ran a shallow cross, caught Tony Romo's pass, spun and dove past Chris Horton for the last, critical feet.  In between he had another big reception nullified by a penalty.

Austin wrenched his knee on the spin and sat down for the third time this year.   He only tallied 13 catches for the season, but averaged 21.4 yards on those grabs.  With T.O. getting double coverage every week after the Eagles win, Austin was the one deep threat on the roster -- when he was healthy.

The "low-round" free agent tender is just over $1 million.  A second-round tender is $1.5 M.  A first-round tender is just under $2.2 million.

Austin was an un-drafted free agent.  If another team signs him away, the Cowboys would get nothing in compensation.  They've been looking for a young complement to Owens for a while.  Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland brought him to Dallas in '06 and you know they have an eye on him. 

If the Cowboys go cheap on him and watch him blossom for another team, they'll hear this is Jimmy Smith II.  They don't need that headache.

This is How You Do It

In my offensive line review, I concluded that Dallas needs to find a young OL or two to challenge the big-ticket vets.  Look at Denver for an example of how you can revamp a line and upgrade your offense without breaking the bank. 

In 2007, the Broncos offense was 11th overall in yards.  It's line was respectable:  it ranked 9th in rushing, and pushed opponents for 4.6 yards per attempt.  (Both those figures were higher than Dallas' line).  The Broncos gave up 32 sacks, which was ranked mid-pack, three spots below Tony Sparano's last group. 

That wasn't good enough for Mike Shanahan and OL coach Rick Dennison.  They overhauled the line completely this offseason, replacing four of the five starters.  Second year player and first year starter Chris Kuper was the only vet to keep his job, though he moved from left guard to right guard, where he replaced Montrae Holland.

Second year OT Ryan Harris was inserted next to Kuper at RT.  Eight year vet Ben Hamilton returned from an injury that cost him '07 and played at left guard.  The Broncos claimed Chiefs castoff C Casey Weigmann and put him in the pivot.

In April, Denver spent a 1st rounder on Ryan Clady, who played at a Pro Bowl level at left tackle. 

And the Broncos got much, much better.  They finished 2nd overall in offensive yards.  Their run ranking dropped three slots from 9th to 12th, but the Broncos were far more effective;  they ranked 18th in rushing attempts in '07 but 28th last year.   Their yards-per-attempt rose from 4.6 to 4.8, and that's with severe turnover at the RB position.

Their sacks dropped from 32 in '07 to a league-best 12 last year.

I'm not advocating that Dallas draft an OT in the first round.  They don't have a pick that high.  But look at Kuper and Harris.  The former was a 5th round pick in '06.  Harris was a 3rd round pick in '07.

These are the type of picks I'm hoping to see from Dallas this year.  I want one of those first two picks used on an OL and one of the two 4ths as well.   If they stick, the Cowboys are covered in case of injury and can make a simple swap if one or both of the kids are ready to play in the future. 

The Dallas starters are good, but not great.  Denver's example shows that you can always get better.   Much better.