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The VRR: Ball and Free Provide Hope for the Cowboys Draft Class of 2007

If Doug Free and Alan Ball are successful as starters in 2010, the Cowboys Draft Class of 2007--the first in the Wade Phillips era--will look much, much stronger. Because other than those two, the Cowboys have only Anthony Spencer and Deon Anderson still left on the roster.

1 26 Anthony Spencer OLB Purdue
3 67 James Marten OT Boston College
4 103 Isaiah Stanback WR Washington
4 122 Doug Free OT Northern Illinois
6 178 Nick Folk K Arizona
6 195 Deon Anderson FB Connecticut
7 212 Courtney Brown CB Cal Poly-S.L.O.
7 237 Alan Ball CB Illinois

With half of the draft class elsewhere, it certainly helps that Spencer, Free, and Ball all play prominent positions for the team. Free's success filling in last season for the injured Marc Colombo helped most of us forget about the disappointing selection of James Marten. Similarly, Ball's continued development is evidence that this front office hits as much as it misses in the draft's later rounds.

More VRR after the jump.

Pat Kirwin has Doug Free and Alan Ball back-to-back in his article, "Sweet 16: These players are on the spot to perform in 2010".

5. Doug Free, LT, Dallas -- The Cowboys let Flozell Adams go for financial reasons and handed the left tackle spot to Free. He has seven career starts and must protect Tony Romo in an offense that featured 34.4 pass atempts per game last year. It's a big gamble in a division that includes elite pass rushers like the Redskins' Andre Carter, the Eagles' Trent Cole and the Giants' Osi Umenyiora.

6. Alan Ball, S, Dallas -- Ball has three career starts, all last year for the Cowboys. In those three starts he has 12 tackles and one pass defensed. Some believe the Cowboys should sign veteran safety O.J. Atogwe, but it looks like Dallas believes in Ball.

Calvin Watkins lists Free and Ball as two of "Five things not to worry about in the NFC East".

As I've tried to tell ESPN 103.3's Randy Galloway over and over, it's OK to trust Free. Longtime Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams had an excellent run, but I don't think you'll see a big drop in production. Scouts tell me Free's an excellent "foot athlete," so I have a good feeling about this one.


I've been on the fence about Ball, the Cowboys projected starter at safety, this offseason, but coaches and scouts have finally convinced me that he's going to be fine. He's much more of a ballhawk than Ken Hamlin, and that's something this secondary sorely needs. But I reserve the right to change my mind before the season.

Jay Ratliff gave his thoughts on both players in a recent interview.

Doug Free, he’ll be alright. You saw what he did last year playing behind Colombo. I thought he did very well for him to go over there and play the position that well and not taking a lot of reps at it. That’s a good sign right there because now he’s going to play where he’s comfortable.

And as far as our safety position, we got a lot of guys who can come in and help. You always have Sensabaugh back there who’s going to get everybody lined up and everybody ready. And then we got some younger guys who can come in and just make a difference. Those guys, they play on special teams and when they’re on the field, they definitely produce, so I believe we’re going to be fine.

In this interview, Alan Ball fields a host of questions, including how he has transitioned from CB to FS.

For me, I don't think it was that tough because it was one of those things where I had to learn the defense inside and out because I played corner, I played nickel and I played a little bit of safety in my first year at college. I think the biggest thing for me was just learning the angles that it is from safety to corner. Because, I mean, the angles change so much just making tackles or how you approach the holes coming from outside in, as opposed to just coming straight down hill. So that was one of the biggest things but I don't think it was that hard because, like I said, I was in a defense for three to four years before I really had to step in and do anything so it wasn't that bad.

Pour some out for one of the great innovators of the NFL: Don Coryell. The former Chargers coach, who passed away yesterday, has inspired many a Dallas offensive coordinator, including Ernie Zampese, Norv Turner, and Jason Garrett.

The Cowboys use some of the same terminology that the 1990s Cowboys used that was taken of course by the San Diego Chargers teams of the 1970s and 1980s.

"To me, there was so much simplicity in the way it's taught and the way it's learned," Garrett said. "And that goes back to the three-digit system of digitizing the routes. Putting the whole passing game together is just a matter of putting the numbers together. It all flows so naturally."

Said Turner on Coryell's death: "I have the highest regard for him and his impact on the sport. Even though I didn't get a chance to personally work for him, you almost feel as though youdid because of the influence he had on the guys who I learned from, by like Ernie Zampese. He will most definitely be missed."

More on Coryell's influence.

He invented the offense that Joe Gibbs, once his offensive coordinator, took to Washington where he won three Super Bowls and challenged San Francisco for supremacy of the 1980s. He invented the offense that Ernie Zampese, another of his offensive coordinators, took with him to the Los Angeles Rams, where he tutored then-assistant Norv Turner -- and it was Turner who would later turn Dallas' Troy Aikman into a Hall of Fame quarterback and the Cowboys into a precision offense.

Matt Mosely is on the Tony Romo bandwagon, saying that he thinks #9 may be "poised for his first All-Pro season."

Jones and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett now believe that Romo has the ability to raise everyone's level of play. Now that he's no longer defined by December swoons, there's a belief that he's capable of getting this team to a Super Bowl. This offseason, Romo has taken more of a vocal role on the team.

Mike Florio at PFT says a holdout is "virtually certain" for Dez Bryant (video).

Nice Father's Day piece on Robert Brewster.

In Bryan Broaddus' latest Cowboys positional breakdown, he analyzes the Dallas CBs and discusses how the team has several options at the fourth CB spot.

Depth isn’t a significant concern, because safeties Alan Ball and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah can play corner. Ball would be the third corner if a member of the established trio gets injured.

Cletis Gordon has an edge over the other bubble guys because of his familiarity with the coaches and the system. Jamar Wall was a draft pick, but he struggled in minicamp. Practice squad is the likely destination for Wall and Bryan McCann.

In this profile of rookie CB Jamar Wall, Coach Phillips and Roy Williams gave their impressions so far of the team's 6th-round pick.

"I think he's paying attention," Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said. "He's focused on what he's doing. He's shown a lot of quickness, which we thought he had. I thought in the rookie minicamp, for whatever reason, I still don't think he was full speed yet. He looks quicker now, so he's progressing well."

In the Organized Team Activities wide receiver Roy Williams said during one-on-one drills Wall guessed correctly on his route, and did a good job.

"I think he has good feet," Williams said. "I think he has good speed, and he's going to be a good player."

Wall received more mini-camp reps because of Orlando Scandrick's finger injury.

"It's given me a lot of reps. It's something I'm definitely not complaining about because I need the reps. I need to go through everything and learn better. And go against different receivers every time to figure out what to do, and learn from other guys."

Flozell Adams has quite the market going for him. Whether that gets him the $4 million he wants remains to be seen. A team like the Steelers will have to outbid the Broncos, who seem to have serious interest in "The Hotel".

The Broncos are still very much in the mix, however, as Josh McDaniels seems intent on building a stronger, mauling front five. With the way he’s jettisoned linemen recently, and with Denver’s absolute ineptitude running the ball to the right last season, McDaniels may view the 6-7 340-pounder as a red zone panacea.

Hopefully Flozell’s new team has a strong enough passing game to overcome the multitude of penalties sure to follow him no matter which city becomes his new false start home.

Jerry Jones is still trying to land the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight at Cowboys Stadium; unfortunately, Mayweather's group will only agree to the fight in Vegas.

The much-delayed super fight, if it happens, will take place in Las Vegas. If it doesn't, Cowboys Stadium will inherit its second fight-night.

"There are two sites etched in. The MGM in Vegas, or Dallas," [Pacquiao's trainer Freddie] Roach said. "The thing is, Mayweather will not fight in Texas. If we get Mayweather we'll go to Vegas, if it's Margarito or Cotto, it will go Dallas."

You want more pics of Miles & Kim? Here you go.

Pat Kirwan also has a fun little quiz on the 2009 season. The multiple choice part is tougher than it looks. I missed seven of ten!

The Cowboys are LeBron James' favorite team. Dallas' mayor hopes that tugging on those heartstrings will bring James to Big D.

Considering, it's no surprise that the presence of "America's Team" has been somewhat of a harped upon selling point in the city's attempt to court "The King." Even Mayor Tom Leppert got into the act recently, placing the Cowboys as the no. 2 reason he should come to Dallas--between the absence in Texas of a personal income tax (3), and that he will personally greet LeBron "with Texas BBQ, Tex-Mex and Sweet Tea on the day [he moves] in! (1)"

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