"There will be a lot of talk on who we keep on the 53," Jason Garrett said recently.
When Jerry Jones heard that, he must have thought he'd just been handed a get-out-of-jail-free-card by his head coach to talk about the roster, because he immediately went a-huntin' for the next microphone. Yesterday he called in to 105.3 The Fan and seemed to let loose with a couple of spoilers about the roster decisions we can expect today. Here are what appear to be the highlights:
- Injured WR Raymond Radway was on track to make the 53-man roster.
- Buehler's kickoffs are too valuable for the Cowboys to let him go.
- The Cowboys could add a veteran field goal kicker to the roster, but only after week one when his salary wouldn't be guaranteed for the season.
- The Cowboys will keep four running backs, including Choice and Tanner.
- Jones feels the Cowboys haven't been in better shape at safety since the days of Darren Woodson.
- Alex Albright looks like an option at OLB.
- The Cowboys will keep seven defensive linemen.
- Jones wants to make the playoffs with this team
Large parts of what Jones said in the call-in are transcribed after the break, but you can also listen to the full interview here.
Jerry Jones on Raymond Radway:
He has worked so hard, and frankly, has come so far. He has outstanding speed, he's got size, he really was very likely to make our top 53 - which is unbelievable, to come that far.
What the Cowboys are going to do at the kicker position
I can give you a good read by saying that this year we changed the [kickoff] rules and we brought the kickoff point up five yards. We had one of the real, top kickers as far as leg strength and distance in Buehler. This really helped us drive the ball out of the end zone or deep in the end zone and had it not brought out on kick returns. [...] That means Buehler is a valuable asset to the Cowboys.
On whether there'll be somebody else to kick field goals.
We'll be looking at that. As you know, [Buehler] kicked for us last year. That'll be the real decision as we get ready to play the Jets.
By the way, these are pretty heavy decisions too, because we have a rule in the NFL that if you're a vested veteran over five years, then if you're on the roster on opening day, you automatically get your salary for the entire year, even if you're cut. So you are very judicious about who you have on that roster on opening day, especially if you're in a fluid situation at any position.
So the kicker you go with - in this case, Buehler - if he's on your roster against the Jets, you're going to pay him whether you change kickers or not after the first game.
On the running back situation
I'll start with Tashard because Tashard, in the few plays we've seen him in the offseason, ran with serious authority. Very impressive.
At that position, with what our expectations are this year, we don't want to come up short with our decision making and depth. Or come up short if we do get Felix nicked or if Murray is not available to us for some reason. That thing could really be a critical part to a ballgame, which could be your ticket into contention and the playoffs.
With all that being said, we're going to go long there. We haven't had our meeting, but I'll tell you, we're going to go long there, because Tanner has just played too well. He's an exceptional, exceptional person. We don't know that we've seen too many come in and be as willing to do any and everything that it takes to get better and better and better. Plus he's got some exceptional ability. His innate running ability. Patience as he lets his blocks form for him or he lets his opportunity develop for him. That's not a coached thing, that's a given thing. A God given thing.
On the safety situation
The other big key is Elam and Sensabaugh at safety, with Church the third one. We haven't been in better shape at safety in my mind in years - since the days of Darren Woodson.
So that's going to be a big plus for us. This system, Elam knows it like the back of his hand. This system for the secondary is friendly. What you've seen is some breakdowns, some mental mistakes in the secondary when you've seen some pretty big plays during our preseason. And we obviously can't afford that against the Jets.
Game planning against the Jets
But by the same token we'll have a narrowed focus about the schemes we're going to run against the Jets, Nobody knows what they are. Rob hadn't gotten them out yet, as far as the one specifically for the Jets. He's very proprietary about his system, especially since he's playing against his brother [...] what we're worried about is the Jets picking a player up that had been on our roster that might have some information on what we're going to do against the Jets, but Rob quickly pointed out to me, "Nobody knows what I'm going to do against the Jets, I haven't even put it out there so a player could tell."
Parts of the team Jones feels most confident about
On the defensive side of the ball, I like our pressure players out there. This Albright, No. 47, as far as a young player is concerned, has impressed. I thought he did some good things last night. He's got a shot here.
And of course you've got Spencer and then Ware. How do you utilize those guys and create that pressure? And then I like our depth across our defensive line. We're going to keep seven defensive linemen. That's one more than you might keep, but gives us a lot of flexibility and we'll be able to keep them fresh.
So I like our fronts. Brooking is of course back, he's outstanding. If we get a good season with him then that's a huge bonus. Then put Bradie James in the middle there and of course Sean Lee is really a playmaker for us. I like that group right there. That front row defense is a real strength.
Frankly, we're going to be better in our offensive line than we were last year. We've got young guys, and it's not going to be all pretty all the time, but we're going to be better there.
Romo is sharp. Jon Kitna is [as well], so I feel as good about him coming into a game as you could possible feel without Romo in there. And then I like Dez, and I like Miles. I think we're ready to go.
The keys to look at is Jason Witten, Felix Jones - who's maybe had the best offensive camp of anybody - Miles and Dez Bryant, Romo. As they go, we're going to go.