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The Valley Ranch Review: Running Back to the Postseason; No U.S. Open for Romo

Peter King puts Dallas at number nine in his top ten teams for this year, citing the running game as the key to success.

Maybe this is the year the Cowboys start putting the round peg in round hole. They have 25-, 24- and 22-year-old running backs -- Marion Barber, Tashard Choice and Felix Jones, respectively -- who last year rushed the ball 360 times for 1,623 yards (4.5-yard average) and 12 touchdowns. Meanwhile, their quarterbacks dropped back to pass 578 times. When your backs are that good, they shouldn't be handed the ball on 37 percent of the offense snaps. I'm counting on Jason Garrett to make the run game much more of a presence this year. If he does, it's not a very distant limb to walk out on and say the Cowboys should win their first playoff game since 1996. But I've got to see it to believe it.

NFL analyst Tom Marino gives the Cowboys a "C" for their draft, and sees the special teams value in the later picks. He seems to think highly of Dallas' top two selections.

The Cowboys didn't pick till round number three and caused a few eyebrows to raise with the selection of Western Illinois linebacker Jason Williams. I personally like the selection and believe he'll become a household name in the not to distant future. By the same token, many people really like second selection tackle Robert Brewster. He's a big dancing bear, but he is going to need to get a good deal stronger and re-shape his body. In my opinion, he is strictly a right tackle or guard prospect.

Marino also predicts that Brewster will be the "quickest to start" and "fastest to the Pro Bowl", while Williams is his pick to be the "best (player) in three years". Unfortunately, his love didn't spread to the two former Bearcat corners, DeAngelo Smith and Mike Mickens.

Both corners (Smith and Mickens) from the U of Cincinnati have flashed during their careers, but both have speed limitations. I thought Smith was a little tight, but has versatility and was an adequate returner. Mickens has good hands, ball skills and awareness, but does not have a lot of juice and struggled to become 180 pounds. will be profiling both Smith and Mickens later this week.

More after the jump.

Last month, Troy Aikman applauded the Cowboys' release of Terrell Owens. Now, it's Emmitt's turn. The NFL's leading rusher has a different take than his fellow Triplet member, criticizing the team for cutting T.O. Neither Aikman nor Smith sound sold on Roy Williams.

"I don't know if he was a scapegoat or whatever it was, but I tell you what, he was a talent. He was a talent, and he didn't get in any trouble, didn't create any issues. Whenever he had the opportunity to make plays, he pretty much made them. He may have said some things at times that was kind of stupid, but we all do that.

"Bottom line is, I'm not sure (whether cutting T.O. makes the Cowboys better). Who do they have who is going to be that explosive? That's the question. Who do you have that's going to be that explosive? I don't see it."

Undrafted rookie free agent G/C Greg Isdaner gets some love for his helping hand during the Cowboys' facility collapse. The former 38-game starter at West Virginia is...wait for Eagles fan.

"It's been kind of humorous in a way to hear from all my friends that they'd still boo me just because I was with the Cowboys," he said.

So, of the 7 or 8 teams that called after the draft, why Dallas?

The reason he opted for the Cowboys was because of the teaching, their ability to work with big guards and centers and develop them first into contributors, then starters and finally Pro Bowl-caliber superstars. 

No U.S. Open for Romo. A triple-bogey on the 16th sure didn't help. QB#9 can avenge some of that loss by qualifying for the HP Byron Nelson Championship today.

Watch SS Michael Hamlin run down superfast WR Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Hat tip to the DMN blog.



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