Another slow news day, given the "dead-month-tacking-on-an-extra-vacation-day" reporter's combo. As a result, today's links predominantly feature the work of Bryan Broaddus and Todd Archer.
Mailbag: reasons to be optimistic about the defense? - The Mothership
DC.com's writers take a stab at a mailbag question: what reasons have we for hope that the 2014 Cowboys defense will be better than last year's iteration? The best answer: Rod Marinelli replaces Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator, and is more likely to cater the scheme to his players' strengths. For a more thorough answer, you might check out::
For NFL-worst defenses, the trend almost always points up the following season - O.C.C., Blogging the Boys
The Cool One takes a similarly innocuous mailbag question and turns it into a masterpiece. Its a beautifully researched post, and required reading from start to finish. What I liked most was the destination: Cool's final paragraphs offer a strong historical precedent for hope in 2014:
Much more interesting, at least for me, is what happened to those teams in the year following their last-place finish in yards allowed: 19 of 20 teams reduced their yards allowed (by an average of 827 yards, or 13.2%), and 17 of 20 teams improved their number of wins. The median win improvement is three wins, and that bodes well for Dallas in 2014.
Position Battle: Big safety competition opposite Church - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
As the title suggests, the Mothership's resident superscout takes a look at the safety opposite Barry Church, and declares that the likeliest candidate is J.J. Wilcox, with Jakar Hamilton running a close second. The most interesting tidbit: he feels that Matt Johnson is the most talented player in the running.
Best case/ worst case: J.J. Wilcox - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Speaking of Wilcox, Archer examines the best and worst case scenarios for the second-year safety. This appears to be more about the position than the player, as the worst case scenario is "nobody takes the job," which I guess is a worst-case for Wilcox (I would imagine his getting cut would be worse...). The best-case: Wilcox emerges as "the guy":
Wilcox understands he has to make the step opposite Barry Church. He showed last summer he can make plays against the run and pass. He needs to add consistency, like all young players, but there is something to work with. If he can come up with a four-interception season, then the Cowboys will have their safety of the future.
Archer also offers up a best case/ worst case report on second-year tight end Gavin Escobar. The best case? Escobar hauls in 30-35 balls. The worst: the coaches place him in the Martellus Zone, where players they can trust are exiled, never to return. Me? I'm betting on the best case scenario.
Buy or sell: Spencer Timeframe, Dunbar Positions, more - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
Broaddus answers a series of questions about the Cowboys roster, including the question of the aforementioned
unicorn Matt Johnson. Here, he conveniently has it both ways by "selling" on Johnson, as he doesn't think the 2012 fourth-rounder can stay healthy long enough to offer legitimate competition.
Mandell puts best foot forward for Cowboys' punting job - Kelly Ward, Star-Telegram
A puzzling article; what I managed to extract was that Brandon Weeden has been helping the former Crimson Tide punter (they have adjoining lockers) and that consistency is key for specialists.
Is this the year Claiborne lives up to the hype? - Staff writers, The Mothership
DC.com's staff takes on one of their pre-camp "20 questions," this one about 2012 first rounder Mo Claiborne. After much circumnavigation around the question, Bryan Broaddus finally gets around to a real take:
What should be noted is this is the first time that Claiborne has come into a training camp with the Cowboys where he is completely healthy and he has a chance to really compete. From what I have been able to observe in these practices is that his movement is back to the levels he played at in college. He looks comfortable and confident. Rod Marinelli is playing to his strengths of man coverage which is a real plus.
I can live with that!
He said what? The greatest quotes from Jerry Jones - Dallas Morning News
The fine folks at the DMN have compiled a gallery of the juiciest, embarassing and syntactically garbled of Jerry's utterances. There are many classics herein; my favorite, from November of last year: "That’s me in that Rowdy outfit every now and then." I KNEW it!
Nothing better than wrapping up a post feeling fully vindicated...