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The VRR: The Year of the DBs in Big D?

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While much attention has been paid to the Mike Jenkins/Orlando Scandrick starting RCB battle and the addition of SS Gerald Sensabaugh, LCB Terence Newman could be the key to solidifying the greatness in the Dallas secondary. Newman - the workout warrior that he is - is ready to put his past injuries behind him and show he's one of the best DBs in the league.

"Some of my injuries had stemmed from something that happened a while back and I just never rehabbed it right and it led to more injuries, so I finally got that corrected and my body feels great," Newman said. "It’s rehabbing your body, understanding that you might have a problem one place, but it’s stemming from something completely different. I finally found that out and corrected it, the initial problem."

[snip]

Newman has been so focused that (Jerry) Jones said he’s worried about him getting hurt and even talked to the coaches about pulling him back. The Cowboys eventually decided against it because they really like what they are seeing from Newman.

A healthy Newman means the Cowboys can finally maximize their potential on defense. They can play more man coverage in the secondary, which will make Phillips’ blitz-happy style more effective.

If Newman has another Pro Bowl year, the rest of the secondary would easily benefit from his play. Imagine TNew nullifying opposing offenses' number one WRs, Jenkins and Scandrick handling the others, a ball-hawking SS in Sensabaugh, and Ken Hamlin being the "hammering" quarterback of the defensive backfield. It surely could be a solid year for the unit.

Much more VRR after the jump.

Rookie SS Mike Hamlin has made an impression on Coach Phillips.

Phillips said he was impressed by Hamlin’s knack for being around the ball, and for making interceptions when the ball headed his way. The Dallas head coach even went as far to say Hamlin’s hands "spectacular" and "Everson Walls-type hands." Being compared to Walls — the team’s all-time leader in interceptions in a single season after he snagged 11 in 1981, and second on the team list for interceptions in his career with 44 — made Hamlin look at the ground, beaming with pride.

This is funny because I just read this same quote in Sunday's SAEN, except Phillips was likening Mike Mickens to Walls. Anyways, Coach said he made it a point that they draft DBs with ball skills this year.

It certainly is nice to see that Hamlin isn't shy about asking the vets for advice.

"I bug him every day," he said of Ken Hamlin, whom Phillips calls "the quarterback of our defensive secondary.

"Every time I do something wrong, or feel like I do something wrong, I’ll go up and ask him questions about how we play certain routes, or what kinds of changes he would make, or if in the middle of the play the quarterback scrambles, what do we yell out? Things like that."

Hamlin also is excited to play special teams.

Hamlin said he is playing on all special teams so far in camp, "and I’m enjoying it. They’ve got me up front on the kickoff return team, so I’ve got to get a little bigger to take on some blockers. I do it on my own with Terence Newman and (wide receiver) Sam Hurd — those guys kind of take me up under their wing, and show me the ropes, show me how to work out like pros work out."

Hamlin said that while Campo and safeties coach Brett Maxie demand elite effort and concentration from rookies on defensive assignment, they both have encouraged Hamlin and the other rookies to play on as many special teams as possible, in an effort to remind the coaching staff how valuable they are and how many diverse roles they can fill.

"(Campo) stresses special teams with all of the rookies — him and Coach Maxie," Hamlin said. "They both say ‘try and get on every special team you can. If kickoff return is going, and you’re not on kickoff return, try and get on the scout team kickoff team, just so you can show yourself.’"

The talent at tight end and running back will confuse defenses - at least, that's what Tony Romo, Jason Garrett, and Wade Phillips are hoping.

Facing an offense with two pass-catching tight ends is a challenge for defenses because one must be covered by a linebacker.

"We're going to try to take advantage of that," Phillips said.

The running game also should benefit since Witten is an outstanding blocker and Bennett is no slouch himself.

"Any time you can get two tight ends in the game, it's very difficult on a defensive coordinator, personnel-wise, to decide what he's going to play," Romo said. "A lot of the time when you have three receivers and a tight end, it's more of a pass-type formation. But with two tight ends, you can run the ball every bit as well as you can with a fullback in the game sometimes, because they have to be conscious of their play calling defensively. Offensively, you can do a lot of stuff out of it."

That's where the new wrinkles come in.

Running backs Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice are all versatile, especially Jones, whose speed and agility present major matchup problems for linebackers and safeties. Jones can be moved to the slot, creating an empty backfield, or Bennett could also line up out wide or in the slot, presenting a matchup headache for smaller safeties or slower linebackers.

"The combination of (Witten and Bennett) allows us to do a lot more things schematically, and we're going to try to push the envelope," Romo said.

Dallas has also come up with some other new offensive twists, including a package where Jones starts in the slot before motioning to the backfield behind Barber and Choice. It's an example of how the Cowboys plan to move Jones and Bennett all over the field this season in search of mismatches.

This AP article paints a picture of how Garrett may use his arsenal of running backs.

It might play out something like this: On first-and-10, Marion Barber goes banging up the middle, grinding out a few yards.

On second-and-6, Tony Romo throws to Felix Jones coming out of the backfield. He squirts up the field, stopped just shy of a first down.

Now it's third-and-1 and out comes third-stringer Tashard Choice. He lines up as a shotgun quarterback, with Romo setting up like a wide receiver and Jones coming in motion. It's a Dallas version of the Wildcat, with Choice and Jones filling roles they had when their college teams ran it.

Matt Mosely provides a nice assessment about "the new mindset" in the Cowboys camp this season.

Hat tip to what_the_crap for the FanShot.

Rookie linebacker Stephen Hodge is catching up in camp.

Here's a cool read on very-soon-to-be HOF inductee, Bullet Bob Hayes.

Jody Dean will be the voice of Cowboys Stadium.

Jerry Jones to add an artsy feel to Cowboys Stadium.

"From top to bottom, we’re taking a whole new approach to what a national sports arena can be," said Jerry Jones, owner and general manager, in a statement. "Cowboys Stadium isn’t just a place to go and see a game or a concert, it’s an experience you share with your family and your community. That will include things that a lot of people wouldn’t anticipate seeing at a stadium — like contemporary art. Football is full of the unexpected and the spontaneous — it can make two strangers into friends. Art has the power to do that too, to get people talking, and looking, and interacting. It’s not just about what you see on the field or on the wall, it’s about creating exciting experiences."

Finally, y'all have got to check out Razzball.com's Cowboys fantasy football preview Q & A with Grizz.