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NFL Notes on the Cowboys and others

August 22, 2014

Cowboys

Below is my breakdown of the Cowboys first two preseason games as well as other notes from around the NFL. 

Highlights

WR Dez Bryant-Wow I know, what a reach by me. All I’m saying is that Dez Bryant+Scott Linehan=Top 3 WR status by the end of the year. Jerry will be kicking himself that he didn’t lock up Dez before the season began as his contract will be much more expensive in the Spring of 2015 after his monster season. My prediction is 95 catches for 1,500 yards and 12 TDs for Dez this year.

CB Orlando Scandrick-All reports are that he’s had a dominant camp and it showed in the Ravens game when he locked up the Smiths (Torrey and Steve) in the first 20 minutes. Joe Flacco looked horrible until Scandrick left the game and then their passing game promptly came to life. He will miss the first 4 games this year but when he comes back he will clearly be the #1 CB for the Cowboys in 2014 and beyond.

QB Dustin Vaughan-Vaughan came out of nowhere for most people but I was a huge fan of his going into the 2014 NFL Draft as I gave him a late 3rd round grade as my #7 QB. To put that in perspective, AJ McCarron was my #8 and Aaron Murray was my #9 ranked QBs. Neither have played to this point in the preseason and both appear likely to have pretend injuries and be placed on the IR so their team can keep their rights for 2015. Vaughan could have a similar ending as the Cowboys might keep only two quarterbacks but with Romo’s recent back issues as well as his overall injury history I suspect that they will keep three quarterbacks. Babe Laufenberg recently compared him to Tom Brady and, while I won’t go that far, I do think he has the tools to be a starting QB in the NFL. For posterity sake I’ve posted my draft bio of Dustin that I wrote in March:

  1. Dustin Vaughan West Texas A&M #10 6’4 7/8 235 Sr.

Stats: Lone Star Conference

Year

Yards

%

TD

INT

YPA

Rating

2013

5401

66.2

53

     

2012

4712

64.7

45

13

8.49

158.07

2011

3316

59.4

25

6

8.68

 

2010

96

58.3

0

0

8.0

 

Combine: He had elite size (6’4 7/8 235) yet somehow also the smallest hands in the draft (8 7/8)? He had a bad 40, shuttle and 3 cone but a good vertical and broad jump.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6047

235

33

8.88

4.95

29

900

4.43

7.25

Strengths: 31-6 as a starter. He looked like the #1 or #2 QB at the event and was clearly ahead of more heralded Connor Shaw whom he shared snaps with at practice. He ended his career as the school AND conference record holder in passing yards, total yards and TDs. In the 2013 NFLPA game he showed good footwork, an NFL arm and good accuracy. He looked like the best QB at the event which surprised even the most diehard scouts. He has a great sense of humor and spoofed himself in a parody video. 1st team All-District in HS as both a QB and a punter. Division II All-American in 2013. His 5,401 yards was most all time in Conference history and his 53 TDs was 3rd most all time.

Weaknesses: He’s a poor athlete as he had some of the worst 40, shuttle and 3 cone drills showing he’s neither fast nor quick. He’s going from the Lone Star Conference to the NFL so it will be a huge step up in competition.

Overall: Until the NFLPA Game I had never heard of Dustin Vaughan. Now he’s my #7 QB ahead of much bigger names like AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd. There is little to no buzz on this kid so it’s likely he goes undrafted but I think he has the makings of a potential starting QB down the road. He has a cannon, is accurate, dominated his lower level of competition and seems to have a good understanding of how to attack a defense. This guy could be the steal of the 2014 NFL Draft if he goes undrafted and is picked up by a team for training camp. He isn’t a good athlete but he has enough quickness to move around in the pocket and his film shows a good feel for the rush. He’s one of the lesser known prospects in the draft and I’m going out on the limb for him but I honestly think he has more talent than the two SEC QBs (McCarron/Murray) who will be drafted well ahead of him. Huge sleeper with a late 3rdround grade as my #7 QB 3/16/14.

DT Zach Minter-In a span of about 10 plays he had 2 sacks, 4 TFL and 1 forced fumble. It was in the 4th quarter and against third string offensive linemen but to dominate that thoroughly against any level of competition is impressive. He could be the 2015 version of George Selvie as a guy off the street who became a key contributor.

 

Lowlights

Anthony Hitchens-He’s had a few good moments in the first two preseason games but he was atrocious on a few plays as well, especially in the Ravens game. The reality is that I had him as the #3 LB on his COLLEGE team! I thought he was above average backup material at best in May when he was drafted and I’ve seen nothing to change my mind. The positive for him is that he will have every chance in the world to play as a rookie. The negative is that I suspect he will struggle and the Cowboys will be adding additional draft picks and free agents to battle for his playing time in 2015.

Depth-The Cowboys have been bashed too much recently for their poor play on defense in the preseason opener vs. the Chargers. They will be a defense in the bottom quarter of NFL teams next year anyway so when you remove 80% of the starters from that weak unit it will understandably struggle. The issue though is that any injury at all will cause those terrible bench players to suddenly become starters and that could very well be the downfall of the 2014 Dallas Cowboys. Scandrick and Carr as the top 2 CBs is actually very solid but Scandrick will miss the first four games of the year so it will only take an injury to Carr or Claiborne and suddenly you have BW Webb as a starting CB and rookie Terrance Mitchell as the nickel CB! That would be the worst trio of cornerbacks in the league and the Cowboys are only an injury away from having that happen. At defensive end you have a similar situation as Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Lawrence is a solid duo of pass rushers yet Lawrence broke his foot and is expected to miss the first 6-8 games of the year and Spencer is coming off an injury that sidelined him the entire 2013 season. If Spencer’s injury recurs early in the year it would leave the Cowboys with George Selvie and Jeremy Mincey as starters! Selvie was picked up off the street last year and Mincey hasn’t started since 2012 yet Dallas is a regression in rehab by Anthony Spencer away from having those two as the season opening starters at defensive end. Last year the Cowboys defense was ravaged by injury in 2013 (their defense had the 4 most injuries in the NFL with a 51.4 adjusted games lost by defensive starters per football outsiders). In 2014 it will take only a few injuries to ravage this shockingly thin defensive unit.

 

Around the rest of the NFL

Johnny Manziel-He wasn’t given the starting job over Hoyer to start the season which fits with my prediction that he won’t start for the first 2-4 games of 2014 but will still win rookie of the year. The Browns were giving off signals to this effect for the past few months and only Hoyer’s 6 for 22 passing effort in Week 2 of the preseason caused them any real food for thought. The Browns will be without Josh Gordon to start the season, Manziel is changing from a spread offense that loved the fast tempo to a ball control running offense and the Steelers are the opponent in Week 1 so it all makes sense to bench Johnny and give him a better debut opportunity later in the season. While Johnny’s poor performance and middle finger salute to the Redskins (he was defending Native Americans honor, that’s all it was) drew all the headlines the more interesting thing to me about Johnny’s second preseason game was that he again was must see TV. In his first preseason game he set a record for the most viewed preseason game EVER on NFL Network. In his second preseason game he was the 2nd highest rated preseason game ever on ESPN. Only Brett Favre’s 2nd game as a Viking beat out Manziel’s impressive 4.2 rating. Whether Johnny succeeds or fails, he will be doing it with all of the world watching.

Joe Flacco-I posted almost a year ago today (8/23/2013), “I’ve been saying it for the past 6 months or ever since sports writers began making the case that Flacco deserves to be paid +$100 million so don’t think I’m saying this just because I watched one crappy preseason performance of his but Joe is going to have a very difficult season in 2013. The bullseye will be on his back as he’s not just one of the 3 highest paid players in the NFL but is also the reigning Super Bowl MVP and will be looked upon as the Ravens locker room leader with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed no longer around. He also lost Anquan Boldin to free agency, Dennis Pitta to a torn ACL, and could be without Ed Dickson for awhile so he’s going into the season with an average supporting cast. Unlike the great QBs like Rodgers, Brady, Manning, and Brees you can’t put any group of skill position players around Flacco and have it work well. His contract makes it seem like that should be the case but in reality he’s not a Top 10 QB, anyone who disagrees with me needs to google articles written 3 years ago when sports writers were proclaiming the same thing about Mark Sanchez and his great postseason performances, and I suspect the Ravens will very soon regret giving Flacco that huge contract. I have the Ravens missing the playoffs and Flacco having a statistical season that lumps him in the middle of the pack among QBs. The media will be calling his blockbuster contract a mistake by midseason.” Since then everything I stated has come true and, with Flacco again looking terrible, I am beginning to wonder if his huge 6 year contract is just a glorified two year deal. The Ravens look terrible on offense and if Ray Rice and the OL actually have a good year yet the offense still struggles then the media will put the blame solely where it belongs, on Joe Flacco. This was one of the worst signings of the past half decade by any franchise and maybe it finally gets the media to remove Teflon GM Ozzie Newsome’s status as “greatest GM ever.”

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