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October 14, 2009

Just Chill: Crayton's downfall, Choice's rise and Ratliff's great play, among other observations

* Three years after the crucial dropped pass in the playoff game against the Giants that may have changed the course of history, receiver Patrick Crayton is firmly on the hot seat.
Crayton will lose his starting job opposite Roy Williams to breakout performer Miles Austin. Austin needs to be on the field because he is a big-play threat. Crayton will become the third receiver.
Remember, also, Crayton had what should have been a fumble on the first series of the game, but the official wrongly ruled that his forward progress had been stopped.
Coach Wade Phillips has been defending Crayton's performance as the punt returner for at least that long as well.
After his muffed punt against the Chiefs, the Cowboys have found a replacement there. Dallas native Allen Rossum is a free agent and he has history with special teams coach Joe DeCamillis. He will be signed on  Wednesday.
* Rossum's return is a nice homecoming for the Dallas Skyline product. But let's not get too carried away about him being a game-breaking returner.
He averaged only 21.7 yards on kickoff returns in three games this season, although he did have touchdown returns on kickoffs in 2007 and 2008. As far as punts go, Rossum has averaged less than nine yards a return in five of the last six years and was averaging just seven yards a return in three games this season with the 49ers.
His last touchdown on a punt return was in 2004.
 * But yes, Rossum still has more juice in his legs than Crayton and might make something happen at times when Crayton couldn't. Crayton has never taken a return to the house. But Rossum's value will be his experience.
He will not muff punts. He will not misjudge punts. He will not let balls bounce and give away field position.  On kickoff returns, he will give the Cowboys an option other than Austin and Felix Jones.
Austin will be a starter at receiver, so he needs the rest. Jones has had problems staying healthy. Seeing how much they need him on offense, the Cowboys don't need to take any more chances with him on returns when he comes back from the sprained knee. 
* What shouldn't be lost in Miles Austin's big day was his horrible start to the game. Never has someone gone from getting cursed out to being celebrated so quickly.
Austin dropped two touchdown passes in the first half before the glorious run to history at the finish. He had a 59-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter and then the 60-yard sprint to the end zone in overtime. He is too big of a threat not to have on the field.
But his start to the game is proof that he is still a work in progress and prone to inconsistency. As Bill Parcells used to say, let's not put him in Canton just yet.
Still, there are legitimate reasons to be excited about his performance. The catch-and-runs for touchdowns were great plays, but he had a catch over the middle where he had to go high for a ball and absorb contact to convert a third down that was pretty sweet.
Also, don't forget the deep ball down the right sideline that he simply took away from the defender who was in better position.
* Dropped passes were a huge problem against the Chiefs. Austin had two passes he should have come up with in the end zone.
Crayton had a drop and a near fumble. Sam Hurd had a drop in the end zone. And Jason Witten let quarterback Tony Romo down by not coming up with a deep pass in the second half.
It would have been a tough catch. But it was one a Pro Bowler like Witten should come up with.
* Let's just be real here. The Cowboys are too nice. That's the only explanation for Wade Phillips not coming out and saying that Austin was replacing Crayton in the starting lineup. What is this, Little League?
It was no different last year when he let Greg Ellis run on the field with the starting lineup, only to replace him with Anthony Spencer when the game started. They are too nice. Too worried about hurting someone's feelings. 
Their nice ways are hurting the team. There is no question that Marion Barber is the team's best back when healthy. But he is not healthy right now. And the stubborn decision to continue to start him in front of Tashard Choice hurt the Cowboys the last two weeks.
Barber left yards on the field because he is still bothered by a strained quad. Choice should have gotten more carries against the Chiefs, as proved by his 36-yard touchdown and 92 yards on eight carries.
Barber broke through the line several times and couldn't finish the play. Maybe if it would have been Choice, we might be talking about him a having a record-setting performance on Sunday instead of Austin. Yes, the Chiefs were that bad on defense.
* I talked last week about linebacker Keith Brooking already becoming a leader on this team. Well, he is also quite a player, even at his advanced age. He was all over the field against the Chiefs with 18 tackles and a sack. Look for him to take it up another notch after the bye when the Cowboys face his old team, the Atlanta Falcons, who thought he was too old to still play.
* Now that the dam has broke for linebacker DeMarcus Ware, with two sacks against the Chiefs after going sackless for the last five games dating back to last year, look for him to start racking up some sack numbers.
Ware has been close all season with pressures and hits on the quarterback. He just hasn't gotten there. So its not like hasn't been playing well.
As he showed last year, when the sacks start coming, they come in bunches. Look for him to start piling up the numbers and ringing the cash register as talks continue with the Cowboys for a contract extension.
* Jay Ratliff's blocked field goal was a thing of beauty. He sized the Chiefs up earlier in the game. His leap over the deep snapper was timed perfectly. It showed his instincts and outstanding athleticism.
There is not a more athletic nose tackle in the game. Albert Haynesworth, Casey Hampton or Vince Woolfork couldn't do it. But Ratliff did have help from his teammates. Igor Olshansky and Jason Hatcher both pushed their respective blockers down to help Ratliff have a lane to jump over.
-- Clarence E. Hill Jr.


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The Cowboys are a decent team talent wise with no leadership from top to bottom. The team is poorly coached and always seem unprepared for what the opponent brings them. They ,mishandle personnel every week. With that being said, the outsiders (us) don't have all the facts as to why the coaches don't see the obvious. Every contender needs qaulity @ WR if you want to compete. Dallas has no real quality WR's. T.Choice should start, and would anywhere else in the country, but not in Dallas. F.Jones is injury prone, let's face that ugly truth. Romo is a turnover machine. Our Defense lays down at the most crucial part of the game. I'm an outsider and those issues are obvious to me. Wonder if Jerry Wade and Jason G see that?

To say "There is no question that Marion Barber is the team's best back when healthy" based on what? I assume you mean he's got some decent performance given his prior competition - Julius Jones. Beyond that, I take Felix any day when both are healthy. You can gain strength but speed is really only god given. MBIII cuts well and has good strength but put them both on the trading block and Jones gets more offers!

I still don't understand why Roy Williams isn't the one being demoted, except for the fact that it would shine a light on the reckless stupidity of JJ's trade.

Clarence, you should spend more time with your kids, instead of talking trash on social network site, because it makes you look foolish and an idiot.

One of those TD passes that Austin dropped was a very tough catch so I only feel like he dropped one. He is a playmaker and should start. I also think Marty B should get more looks. Crayton does not finish routes, has no speed, he is a good slot player and should be WR3

So whe Crayton muff's a punt you want to sit him down. How many times has he done it? Surely not as many times as Romo threw an interception. You guys kill me. He tried to make a play on the ball. It's very hard to run under a punt to catch when it's short. And the funmble? Name me a starting back who's never fumbled. Or a Reciever for that matter. It's part of the game.

Austin, running at full speed just managed to get 2 fingers on that first pass in the end zone and Witten could never have caught up to the badly overthrown deep route. It takes two to complete a pass.

Great article - very informative.

I agree, that the Cowboys are too "nice", as they should have put Choice in sooner and they should tell Crayton he's the third receiver. Maybe, this so called demotion of Crayton will "fire" him up"

Would like to know more about why Bennett is not contributing as much as we thought he would. Personally, I think Bennett is too much the clown and may have too many activities outside of football, which is okay if he was contributing more in the passing game. It seems as if in every game that at least one pass that is thrown to Bennett - he misses or Romo over/under throws. Maybe, Romo and Bennett will work on this during the bye week.

Clarence, what happened to your writing? You are normally so good, but this column's writing is way below your normally high level. Perhaps, the proof reader fell asleep...

I agree that Crayton needs to have his position downgraded. He has acted scared since last season. Austin did drop a couple of TD but when T.O. did the same, everyone made excuses for him. I see where Buffalo may get rid of him also. Austin has been a key player that hasn't been put in the game that much. As a kick-off returner, he has really helped with field position many times.

sounds like a 1st grader wrote this or a "T-SIPPER"!!!!

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