Commentary

Cowboys put in their offseason time

Updated: April 2, 2010, 11:34 AM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

Most of you want Roy Williams out of here, and a better fullback than Deon Anderson. A dude from Connecticut is a talent evaluator who thinks Anthony Spencer is the next Shawne Merriman, but we start our mailbag this week with a quote from Gen. George Patton. Thanks to Confab Johnson from Titletown -- not sure if that's Detroit or New York City -- for providing the quotes. Hope you have a Happy Easter. Now to the mailbag.

Q: When asked the secret of his success, Gen. George Patton said, "I get my [butt] up real early and work hard all damn day." Do the Cowboys have any players with this philosophy? -- Confab Johnson (Titletown)

A: Confab, good to connect with you. The Cowboys' offseason workouts started Monday, and we assume there was a pretty good turnout. We know Tony Romo and Roy Williams, among others, were at Valley Ranch. Ken Hamlin missed the first day, but that's OK, because players were asked to work out only four times during the week. Numerous players showed up during the two weeks before the voluntary workouts. One week there were 27 players, and the next we had close to 30. The Cowboys rarely have slackers in their locker room; in fact, several players show up at Valley Ranch before team-mandated workouts. Worrying about whether the Cowboys are hard workers is not an issue.

Q: With everything the Cowboys have to look forward to this upcoming season, what might be the biggest conversation coming out of Valley Ranch right now? -- Isaiah (Long Beach, Calif.)

A: Can Wade Phillips finish the job? In two previous head coaching jobs, Buffalo and Denver, Phillips felt he didn't get an opportunity to complete his task in terms of winning a playoff game and possibly leading a team to a Super Bowl. When Jerry Jones gave Phillips a contract extension after he led the Cowboys to the NFC East title and their first playoff win in 13 years, he deserved to stay. The expectations are higher now for the Cowboys, and many at Valley Ranch have confidence that Phillips can get the job done, even though he's never done it before.

Q: We have a great combination of running backs. It would seem that a punishing blocker at fullback who can also catch (like Daryl Johnston) would put us over the top. Should we not look for someone like this in the draft? -- Clarence (Boston)

A: The Cowboys visited with Kentucky fullback John Conner this week in the hopes that if he's available to them on the third day, he can be picked. So if this happens, where does that leave starting fullback Deon Anderson? Well, he does have some legal issues pending: He allegedly brandished a gun in the parking lot of a Dallas-area restaurant. The league hasn't made a decision on Anderson's status, though commissioner Roger Goodell is aware of the incident. Anderson's arrest places his status on the team in doubt, so that might be the primary reason the Cowboys draft a fullback.

Q: Do you really think the Boys should draft a WR with their first round pick? I think we have other areas that are far more important such as safety or offensive line, rather than at wide receiver. I like the kid from Illinois and Jordan Shipley as a wide receiver, but it's just my opinion. -- J. Waterman (Belmont, N.H.)

A: Jerry Jones doesn't like to draft wide receivers in the first round because he thinks it takes too long for them to develop, given the type of first-round money you have to give up. I agree that safety is a major concern. The Cowboys have first-round grades on safeties Earl Thomas, Taylor Mays and Eric Berry. If one of them should fall to 27, where the Cowboys pick, expect them to grab one of them. The offensive line is an issue as well. The emergence of Doug Free to possibly start at left tackle solves one issue. But guard Kyle Kosier is in the final year of his contract, and the Cowboys could select a guard in the first or second round.

Q: Hey Calvin, I was the guy who wrote you back in December telling you that Anthony Spencer was next Shawne Merriman. I know talent when I see it. I also said that Kevin Ogletree will be an up-and-coming receiver. I believe if he gets some reps he can put numbers close to the ones Miles Austin put up. As for draft picks, I am very high on Earl Thomas, not a big Taylor Mays fan. For the second round, I love Dexter McCluster; he reminds me of Devin Hester. Well, whatever Jerry does will be good enough. The man has been on fire in his last three years of draft picks and undrafted free agents. -- Deano Wallace (Bridgeport, Conn.)

A: Well, Spencer did have an excellent season in 2009. It was about time. The team put pressure on him to produce after it released Greg Ellis in the offseason, and Spencer responded. Ogletree did show promise, and the coaches are raising the expectations for him. Ogletree has to surpass veteran No. 3 receiver Patrick Crayton this year while holding off Sam Hurd and Manuel Johnson. If the Cowboys draft a wide receiver this year, which I doubt, it will be interesting to see how Ogletree responds. Jones has done a good job in the draft in two of the past three years. Last year was a bad draft, with only one productive player, kicker David Buehler, and five other picks who were injured. This year has to be better.

Q: Calvin, will the Cowboys sweep the Giants or at least beat them in their own stadium this season? -- Fronzell Anderson (Shreveport, La.)

A: Rumors persist that the Cowboys will open the 2010 season in East Rutherford against the Giants. We all know what happened last year when the Giants opened up Cowboys Stadium in Arlington: Giants 33, Cowboys 31. One of the more memorable moments of that game was watching some of the Giants' front-office people cheer in the press box after Big Blue scored on the last drive of the game. I'm sure the Cowboys would like to return the favor in their new stadium.

Q: Why wouldn't the Cowboys accept a second-round pick for Martellus Bennett? By the way, who offered that for Bennett? -- Richard Lowe (Manhattan, Kan.)

A: Last year, the Bengals offered a second-round pick for Bennett and were turned down because the Cowboys feel he can produce. Bennett is still maturing on and off the field, and this is a critical year for him. He said he expects more than the 15 catches he had in 2009. He was even surpassed somewhat by rookie John Phillips. Bennett understands he must produce more in 2010; if not, he might not be around for 2011.

Q: What do you think about Jerry Jones getting guys like Bobbie Williams, an offensive lineman who is a former Hog? What about bringing in a guy like Gibril Wilson at free safety? You should be able to get these guys at a good price and let them fight for a starting spot. -- Carlos Strand (Austin)

A: If you're going to get an offensive lineman, it's better to go in the draft and get one. If you want a safety, get him in the draft. The Cowboys have interest in St. Louis Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe but have not made any significant moves. As of now, the Cowboys are focusing on the draft and will only reach out in free agency if they find a younger player whom they believe can have an immediate impact.

[+] EnlargeDallas Cowboys
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesThe Cowboys' offensive line is as good as any in the league, but there's always room to improve -- preferably through the draft.

Q: Calvin, I have followed the Cowboys since 1965. My first live game was the '67 championship game in the Cotton Bowl. I set up my question by looking at what the Jets have done over the last few years. The Jets have built what I feel is the best offensive line in football. With the "Romo friendly" approach, why would Jerry not "double down" this year? Since we do not have that many vacant spots, would it not make sense to package picks and players to get into the top 10? -- Bruce Garner (Corpus Christi, Texas)

A: The Jets have an excellent offensive line. However, the Cowboys' offensive line is pretty good as well. Only two players on that line, Marc Colombo and Kyle Kosier, have missed games because of injury. The other three -- Andre Gurode, Flozell Adams and Leonard Davis -- were selected to the Pro Bowl. Adams played over 1,000 snaps last year. Can the line make improvements? Yes. Doug Free is a future left tackle, and the Cowboys most likely will draft another lineman in the draft.

Q: So, we get blasted by Philly 44-6 (in a one-and-done game) to end 2008 and everyone is in an uproar (deserving), but then we get blasted 34-3 (in another one-and-done game) to end 2009, everything is cool because we won a playoff game? What gives?!?!? Two years in a row we live or die by getting blown out. Things need to change. I'm not happy with the lack of change at Valley Ranch. Thoughts? -- Confused (Dallas)

A: I'm not confused. After the 2008 season, the Cowboys made plenty of changes. Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, Greg Ellis and Roy Williams were sent packing. Coaches Bruce Read and Brian Stewart were fired. After the 2009 season, the Cowboys had reasons for hope because they won a playoff game, something that hadn't happened in 13 years. Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips have both said there is no need to relax. Both men want change, but it won't be as much as the previous year. The Cowboys like the core group of players, especially now that Phillips has stayed on to coach them.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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