Although there were precious few surprises, the cut-down to 75 was still the day's top story, so I'll start there:
Tiny Jim with the straight dope:
The Cowboys reached their 75-man roster limit on Tuesday afternoon by releasing four and giving injury designations to another six. They waived linebacker Jonathan Brown, wide receivers Antwan Goodley and David Porter and tight end Brandon Barden. They also waived/injured defensive end Kenneth Boatright, running back Michael Hill and offensive tackle R.J. Dill – all three of whom sustained injuries during training camp.
In addition, the Cowboys made key injury designations to three players: Orlando Scandrick went to IR; Chaz Green was placed on reserve/ PUP (which means he can come back after week six), and Mark Nzeocha was designated to the Non-Football Injury list (he, too, can return after week six)
Toddzilla weighs in on the roster cuts, and raises an interesting point:
Buying time: The Cowboys put third-round pick Chaz Green on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which means he will miss the first six games of the regular season. The Cowboys were hoping Green could serve as the swing tackle this season behind Tyron Smith and Doug Free when he was drafted, but he injured his hip in the spring, requiring surgery.
Seventh-round pick Mark Nzeocha, a linebacker, was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list as he continues to come back from a knee injury suffered at Wyoming. He will also miss the first six games of the season.
A wide variety of ESPN outlets all cast their ballots, and the Cowboys show well at the polls: Only the Seahawks (nine) have more players on the list than the Cowboys (six, tied with the Packers). Here's the scoop on the top-rated Cowboy:
Tied with Calvin Johnson for No. 6 overall, Dez compares most to Megatron in terms of what we'll call coverability. "Those two are in their own class. If you have two defenders on [Bryant], it's even. One-on-one, he's open," said a voter and ex-NFL front-office member. The average season for Bryant over the last three seasons: 91 catches and 14 touchdowns. Another overlooked stat over those three seasons: zero games missed. "It's aggression and nastiness with everything he does," said one panelist. And after five NFL seasons, Bryant is still only 26. Add it up: Bryant's 56 receiving TDs are the third-most in NFL history for a player through five seasons.
Other Cowboys in the top 100:
29: Tyron Smith
31: Tony Romo
54: Jason WItten
57: Zack Martin
66: Travis Frederick
The Cowboys did not have a defensive player crack the top 100. I expect that to change next year...
The only starting offensive lineman to play in all three preseason games says it's no big deal that the other four missed time:
"It’s always nicer the more time you get to work together like that, but we’ve got some work in the offseason and last year that has been quite a bit," Frederick said. "It’s always good to get preseason snaps together, but if it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out. We’re better off having our guys healthier more than anything else."
Sabin recounts Ron Leary's side of the La'el Collins saga:
Three of the Cowboys’ top offensive linemen showed up to recruit Collins. Leary and right tackle Doug Free weren’t among them....Their absences were conspicuous. Collins, after all, was supposed to eventually challenge Free for his spot, too. But first he’d have to show he could push Leary out of his job. As media members predicted Collins inevitably cracking the starting lineup, Leary stewed.
"I am a real confident person in myself so I saw all the stuff that was said," Leary explained. "It didn’t do anything to me. La’el is a good player. He’s a young player. But I was just trying to get better, to keep working and keep on doing my job."
Geoff Swaim, Florek writes, has been forced into a shared locker thanks to the Cowboys bloated preseason roster. But there's a catch: Swaim’s is in a corner, between two space-eating 300-pound offensive linemen. That will change if he makes the team:
The increased production might be enough for the team to carry four tight ends on the roster, or possibly take Swaim ahead of Hanna. And if Swaim does make the team, he’ll likely have his own locker.
"That’ll be cool," Swaim said.
Brandon Weeden took part in a full practice on Monday since getting dinged against the 49ers in the second preseason game. As a result, Archer writes, Weeden will be available to play for the Cowboys on Thursday - which we hope will be his last significant playing time for quite a while.
Archer opens his piece with a story from the third preseason game in which Brandon Carr admits that, had he known the D-line would get to the quarterback so quickly, he would have altered his coverage. More from Carr:
"Yeah, we see it," Carr said of the improved pass rush. "The guys have the will to get off the ball, man. They want to get to that quarterback. Coach [Rod] Marinelli and his defensive line staff are doing a great job getting those guys motivated each and every day to be their best at all times. The rush and coverage go hand in hand. We need the guys up front to get after the quarterback. On the back end, we’ve got to hold our own as well."
A compendium of Babe Laufenberg’s best analysis from all of his training camp chats. In case you missed it the first time, here's his take on the return of Sean Lee:
He just brings a different presence to the defense. He is a great player. Not a good player, a great player. And he brings so much to the defense, getting players lined up and fired up! Will not settle for mediocrity from himself or his teammates. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will wear some guys out. He doesn’t need to with Lee on the field because Sean Lee will do it for him. Truly a coach on the field.
Archer pens a piece on the Cowboys' versatile first-rounder, and the dizzying array of positions and techniques he must master as the defensive backfield's Jack-of-all-trades. To wit:
The job descriptions are vastly different for each position. The only carryover he gets is from playing man-to-man on a tight end as the dime back and as a safety. At cornerback, he has one assignment: the receiver in front of him. At safety, he has to know the jobs of the 10 other defenders.
The Broad One's daily dozen. These two were proximate and I liked the sound of both, so you get a two-fer:
8) Sean Lee continues to cause these offensive linemen trouble when he takes off running to the ball. I have lost track how many times he has beaten blockers to the spot on his way to making the tackle. When Lee has been on the field, he has been one to two steps faster than anyone on this defense.
9) It’s a good sign for this offensive line to see Doug Free regain some of the form that we had seen from him in the past. His movement has improved to the point where you see him executing those backside cut off blocks where he has to work hard inside to get his head in front of the defender. There were times in this camp where he didn’t look like that same player, and I have to admit there was some concern. His game now looks healthy and confident.
As a way to set up the next piece, Broaddus also writes about Darren McFadden:
In blitz period – Darren McFadden took more of the snaps than Joseph Randle. Getting the feeling that there is becoming a comfort factor there.
The Estimable Ryle piggybacks on Broaddus' thoughts about McFadden, articulating what The Broad One only hints suggestively:
Does that show us how the Cowboys will be deploying the backs this year? Projecting that out, it would put Randle on the field for most first and second downs, when the run has to be defended. For passing downs when the blitz could come, McFadden may be the man trusted to keep Romo upright. McFadden would still get some plays where the team is running, but he will see most of his work on third downs or second and long. This plays to the strongest part of each of their games.
In the midst of a standard recap of the running back situation, Eatman briefly offers up what I think is the crux of the matter:
Perhaps the coaching staff already knows the direction it will take, but for now, Garrett doesn’t seem overly worried about having both Randle and McFadden in the mix. The coach did say that having separate injuries between the two during camp prevented them from getting maximum exposure to compare.
The leading question going into camp was not resolved, in my mind, because the backs weren't healthy enough to generate a sustained competition.
In the midst of not offering up a Super Bowl prediction, Jerry offers up a Super Bowl prediction:
"Now, that still shouldn’t keep me from saying, ‘Look, Tony’s playing at a high level. We’ve got the best looking defense we’ve had around here in several years. We’ve got an offensive team that’s going to get better.’ So we ought to feel better about things than we did this time last year, or in my mind, any time over the last five or six years. Well, I think in the last five or six years, I’ve said Super Bowl a few times, so let’s do this by deduction."
The Sturminator takes on the annual "who will make the playoffs that didn't last year" question, based on a key number - 5.7:
What does the number 5.7 represent? Well, that is the average number of new teams that make the playoffs each year since the playoffs expanded in 1991. Now, if only 12 teams make the playoffs each year and 5.7 (or pretty much half) are going to be teams that were NOT there last year, as history tells us, then who is going out of these 12 teams?
Incidentally, Sturm doesn't offer any predictions; those are still to come...but his determinations will be guided by the 5.7 rule.
Deadspin's "Why Your Team Sucks" series finally rolls around to the Cowboys. In addition to some reasons why this is the case, they include fan reactions. Here's one of the few PG-13 options:
I think Jerry signed Darren McFadden to help Sean Lee feel tough. When McFadden shatters his glass feet running out of bounds with no contact in week 1, Sean Lee won’t feel bad about leaving a void in the defense when he goes down with turf toe in Week 3 and misses the rest of the year.
As suggested above, this is NSFW. And also pretty funny...