Daily Archives: September 29th, 2011

RIVAL: Stopping Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten the top priority for Detroit Lions’ defense

ALLEN PARK — When you look at Jason Witten’s statistics, it’s difficult to believe he’s a tight end.

Witten finished third in the NFL with 94 receptions last season, and led all tight ends with 1,002 yards.

Through three games this year, Witten is on pace to eclipse both those marks this season.

“Jason Witten is an all-around player. (He’s) a very good pass receiver, but it’s not just short area. He’s down the field also – he can make a play 20 yards down the field as well as five and be a ball control tight end.”

Witten averaged 10.3 yards per reception last season, and only two tight ends, San Francisco’s Vernon Davis and San Diego’s Antonio Gates, had more catches go for 20 or more yards.

In the potent Cowboys offense, Witten seems to be the only play-maker who is not banged up. Wide receiver Miles Austin has already been ruled out of Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, while receiver Dez Bryant (quad), running back Felix Jones (shoulder) and quarterback Tony Romo (ribs) are all battling injuries. That makes containing Witten all the more critical to the Lions’ success on defense.

“With the injuries at wide receiver, quarterback, he’s a security blanket,” Schwartz said. “You could see that on Monday night.”

Linebacker Stephen Tulloch took it a step further than his coach.

“Witten is definitely going to be our primary key this week,” Tulloch said.

While Witten is a dangerous threat on every snap, he’s been particularly good on third down.

“He’s Tony Romo’s outlet, especially on third downs,” Tulloch said. “When he’s getting pressure, he definitely looks to Witten.”

Last season, Witten had 18 first-down receptions on third down. That number was tied for ninth in the NFL and first among tight ends.

“I think having a reliable tight end is an important aspect for a quarterback,” Romo said about his relationship with Witten. “He’s got to make a bunch of different reads in his route a lot of the time, and you have to trust him as if it was you running the routes.”

Courtesy:  Justin Rogers | MLive.com

Listen to the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network (reposted)

Keep up to date and informed by listening to the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network online. You can catch the pre-game and post-game shows, interviews with players and coaches, The Jerry Jones Show, and special reports on the Dallas Cowboys from Brad Sham, Mickey Spagnola, and others.

Listen to: The Fan 105.3 Dallas (KRLD) … the flagship of The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network!

Also, check out:

Listen to The Ticket  104.1 FM/1310 AM Dallas

Listen to: ESPNradio 103.3 Dallas

Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m., weekdays, on ESPN/103.3 FM

TBAB Note: These radio stations have been added to the “Radio” tab located at the top of each page.

Randy Galloway: Tony Romo vs. the mystery routes

For Phil Costa, the Cowboys’ young center who listens to strange voices, out of town help arrived this week.

Nobody, of course, would blame Tony Romo for also asking, “Where’s my help from out of town?”

In a classy move, Andre Gurode phoned Costa on Tuesday from his new football home in Baltimore, offering the kid encouragement and also advice on how to handle fake snap-count voices coming from across the line of scrimmage.

“He’s a former teammate and a good guy, and I knew he’d be feeling kind of low,” said Gurode, who until this season was a five-time Pro Bowl starting center for the Cowboys.

The O-line youth movement, plus a salary dump, cost him his job here in August, and Baltimore signed him. (Gurode was praised by the Ravens’ coaches for his start at guard on Sunday against the Rams.)

While watching his old team on Monday Night Football, Andre took no delight in Costa’s snap-fu, and obviously holds no grudge against Valley Ranch management.

“I wanted to try and help Phil,” he said.

Meanwhile, I’m seeking confirmation that the TV producers of America’s Got Talent have booked another former Cowboy, Stephen Bowen, for a show appearance.

Apparently, Bowen does a great Romo imitation on snap counts.

Bowen had only three tackles for his new team, but caused Costa such confusion he could have won the game for the Redskins with his fake Romo. Sure, it’s illegal, but only if you get caught.

Meanwhile, Costa’s troubles were one of many worries Monday night for Tony, but absolutely nothing irritates a quarterback more than wide receivers who don’t know their routes.

Romo’s wrath, or “leadership,” if you will, was repeatedly on display against the Redskins.

Take Miles Austin out of the lineup (he’s not expected to play again Sunday against the unbeaten Lions) and the Cowboys’ wide receiver corps may have the NFL’s lowest collective football IQ.

That doesn’t mean all these guys are dumb. In fact, one of the main culprits from Monday night was Kevin Ogletree, who has a degree in sociology from an academic powerhouse, the University of Virginia.

Why then, three years into his Valley Ranch tenure, does Ogletree not know the playbook?

Trying to be nice about it, let’s just say Dez Bryant also “struggles” with his playbook learning.

It was Ogletree himself who told the postgame story about the Romo rant he received after an end zone route was suddenly cut off by the receiver.

“Tony asked me what I was thinking on that play,” said Ogletree. “I mumbled some answer, and he looked at me and said, ‘That’s stupid.'”

Ogletree didn’t take the butt-chewing personal. He said Romo was showing him “tough love.”

To be honest, if a botched route cost the Cowboys a game, showing Ogletree the door should be the next move.

Mistakes happen in a football game. But no mistake should ever happen because a player doesn’t know his assignments.

Again, it’s not just Ogletree. Dez is the same kind of worry.

Anybody who didn’t appreciate Miles Austin was a fool to start with, but after Monday night, man…

Is there any out-of-town receiver help to be had? Like immediately?

Randy Moss? No. Eldorado Owens? Double no.

Team chemistry is currently strong.

Rats are not welcome.

What about T.J. Houshmandzadeh? At age 34, the scouts say his legs are gone, which is why he’s unsigned.

Trades?

Nothing out there available that would be an upgrade is what I’m told, even if an upgrade wouldn’t take much.

Mistakes?

In hindsight, allowing Sam Hurd to walk in free agency should never have happened, not with a gimpy Dez, Miles now injured and the promotion of Ogletree to third receiver when Hurd departed.

Speaking of mistakes, don’t start me talking again about last season’s ouster of Patrick Crayton, which goes back to Roy Williams, the mistake who keeps on costing.

Why not him?

It was somewhat surprising that Jesse Holley was basically ignored Monday night when it came to playing time? Didn’t Mr. 4th-and-Long do OK in San Fran?

Long shots?

Valley Ranch voices say there’s a practice squad raw rookie named Andre Holmes from little Hillsdale College who is showing enough to possibly earn a promotion. For now, however, that’s the longest of long shots.

For whatever reason, the Cowboys were bullish once free agency started in late July to upgrade and regroup at defensive end, at safety and they attempted it at cornerback. But even with the lack of experience at wide receiver being an issue, there was no urgency.

Ogletree as the third receiver coming out of training camp was a questionable decision, but not considered drastic. Then, however, Austin was injured.

The combo of Dez and Ogletree as the starting wideouts means Romo has to doubly decipher mystery routes.

Three games into the season is a bit early for NFC East trends, but let’s just say the Eagles don’t look that dreamy, while the Giants and Redskins are only OK clubs.

The Cowboys, at least at the moment, seem to fit well in the East picture, particularly on defense.

But in the NFL of today, you pass to win.

Based on Monday night, the Cowboys receivers don’t pass even the first test:

Know the playbook.

Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. on weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.

The Jason Garrett Show (video)

Click on picture to watch The Jason Garrett Show (about 17 minutes)

Jason Garrett joins The Fan to talk about his quarterback, and the challenge they will face this weekend against the Lions.

Dallas Cowboys Today: September 29, 2011 (video)

Click on picture to watch video (about 4 minutes)

Discussion about depth at receiver, the job security of David Buehler, and Tony Romo’s comments from today.

DallasCowboys.com – Official Site of the Dallas Cowboys. (alternate link)

Dallas Cowboys practice with noise in preparation for … a home game

After center Phil Costa had four bad snaps in the home opener against the Redskins, the Cowboys had artificial noise piped in at practice to try and simulate game conditions.

“Anything close to game [conditions], the more realistic it is,” said Costa, who declined to answer questions about the snaps, whether the Redskins were simulating the snap count or former teammate’s Stephen Bowen declaration that Costa is a “liar.”

In previous seasons, the Cowboys have prepared for road games by using music or artificial crowd noise during practice. But until Thursday, they had never done that for a home game.

“This is probably the first year I’ve seen it [for a home game],” Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. “…What we’re trying to do is simulate a game-like atmosphere as much as we can during practice. However that’s going to happen. If you can’t talk on game day, if you can talk, if you signal, whatever we’re going to do, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to put ourselves in that situation as many times as we can.”

After the game Monday night, the Cowboys accused the Redskins of calling out the snap count, getting Costa to snap the ball early. The Redskins have denied the allegations.

Costa heard from Ravens center/guard Andre Gurode, his mentor last year with the Cowboys, who told Costa to keep his head up. And Romo defended Costa on Thursday, saying his second-year center will be “fine.”

“He did real good today [at practice],” Romo said. “Costa will be fine. He’s a smart guy; he gets it; he’s had a good camp. He’s been doing a lot of good things for us. Obviously, everyone is going to want to talk about the snaps, but we’re moving forward past that. I think going forward he’s going to be just fine.”

Dallas Cowboys RB Felix Jones fighting through injury

IRVING — With a dislocated shoulder that had yet to fully heal, Cowboys running back Felix Jones overcame pain as he rushed for 115 yards earlier this week in Dallas’ 18-16 victory over Washington last Monday.

This week, he is still feeling the effects of an the injury he aggravated in Monday’s game. But he is determined to play Sunday against Detroit.

“I am able to do what I need to do,” Jones said. “Whether I am feeling sore or not, I am not complaining. I am just happy to be out there.”

Jones, who participated in a full practice Thursday, said he is taking his recovery “day by day” and is looking forward to the upcoming bye week because it will “give me a chance to get healed up a little bit more.”

But for now, the Cowboys hope Jones can continue to breathe life into the Cowboys’ ineffective ground game like he did in the second half on Monday.

“Felix had an outstanding night finding holes and finishing runs,” Garrett said.

It was a performance that Jones plans to replicate.

“Anytime you get a chance to have the ball in your hands,” Jones said, “you’ve got to make the best of it.”

INJURY UPDATE: Tony Romo better, but expects to wear vest

IRVING, Texas — Besides moving and throwing better with his fractured rib, quarterback Tony Romo has graduated from sleeping in a recliner back to his bed again.

That’s good news, but he also knows the Detroit Lions will also try to put him flat on his back this Sunday. The rib is slowly making life and football easier, but Romo still expects to wear a protective Kevlar vest and very possibly take another pain-killing injection before the game.

“I think we’ll probably still continue down that path for a little while,” said Romo, who was limited in practice Thursday.

“. . . It’s going to take time. It’s not a one-week thing that just goes away but every week that goes by (or) every five days, it just gets a little better and you feel a little more comfortable doing the little things. It’s improving.”

Quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said Romo isn’t back to 100 percent, but he sees a noticeable improvement in practice.

“He’s still having a little bit of pain on some throws, some movement throws, but I think by Sunday he’ll be pretty close to normal,” Wilson said.

Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa gets encouraging call

For a quiet guy like center Phil Costa, the attention that has surrounded him this week in regards to a few errant shotgun snaps has been undoubtedly uncomfortable for the second-year pro.

If there’s one guy that knows not only the position he plays, and the team he plays for, it would be former Cowboys center Andre Gurode. And that’s why Gurode took the time to call Costa this week to give him some words of encouragement.

“Yeah, Andre is a great guy. He’s helped me a lot,” Costa said. “You have to take advantage of a five-time Pro Bowler like that. I’ve learned a lot of little things from him.

“Yeah, he called me and we talked a little bit.”

Costa didn’t get into the specifics of his conversation with Gurode, who is now playing in Baltimore, but added that he feels confident about moving forward this week and looking beyond Monday’s game with the Redskins in which there was obvious miscommunication between quarterback and center.

“I’m not really wanting to dwell on that,” Costa said. “We’re taking care of (the snaps) and we’ll get that fixed. We’re moving on.”

The Predictor – Lions vs Cowboys (video)

Click on picture to watch the video (about 4 minutes)

Darren Woodson uses a new tool to predict the outcome of Detroit-Dallas

INJURY UPDATE: Thursday – Dallas Cowboys practice

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant was not at practice Thursday during the 25 minutes open to the media. Bryant, who deeply bruised his thigh during the victory over the 49ers on Sept. 18, had been limited in practice Wednesday. The Cowboys will be without receiver Miles Austin another week as he recovers from a hamstring injury. Austin is expected to return after the bye week.

Fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring), cornerback Orlando Scandrick (ankle), guard Derrick Dockery (knee) and defensive end Jason Hatcher (calf) were not at practice. Scandrick, Dockery and Hatcher are expected to miss this week.

Kicker David Buehler was dressed out but was not kicking during the portion of practice open to the media.

TBAB REMINDER: You can keep updated on the Dallas Cowboys injury report by clicking on the tab at the top of every page (Injuries).

RIVAL: Redskins’ Jim Haslett defends blitz that backfired against the Dallas Cowboys

A new perspective was added Thursday to one of the most dissected regular season plays in recent Washington Redskins memory. This time, it was defensive coordinator Jim Haslett stepping to the podium, explaining his decision to call the all-out blitz that backfired during the Monday night loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

“Would you take it back? Of course you would,” Haslett said. “Coaches always second-guess themselves. But still it’s a great defense. We’ve run it 10 times in the regular season; we’ve got nine wins and one loss.”

The eight-men-on-the-line blitz produced an interception by Kevin Barnes in the third quarter against the Cowboys, and it also yielded rookie Ryan Kerrigan’s interception-and-touchdown in the season opener against the New York Giants.

When Haslett called for it again, the Cowboys were backed up at their own 30 with 2:20 to play. Tony Romo rolled right and found Dez Bryant for a 30-yard gain. A face mask penalty on DeAngelo Hall added another 15 yards, putting Dallas in position to kick the winning field goal for an 18-16 victory.

Haslett said he spoke after the game to some Cowboys coaches who conceded the play was a fluke, singlehandedly pulled off by Romo.

“He started running for his life and threw it up in the air,” Haslett said. “They made a play and we didn’t.”

Haslett also agreed with Hall that there shouldn’t have been a penalty on the play.

“He hit the face mask, but he never grabbed. … I didn’t think it was a good call,” Haslett said.

Immediately after the game, Hall was critical of Haslett’s decision to call for the all-out blitz. Hall softened his tone Wednesday, but Haslett said there were no hard feelings.

“He’s an emotional guy. He’s high-strung,” Haslett said. “He felt bad about the play, and I understand. Stuff like that doesn’t bother me. I played the game; I was probably worse than that.”

Haslett also defended the overall play of his defense, which didn’t allow a touchdown against the Cowboys and is ranked 16th in the NFL season after finishing 31st last year. While he’s aggressive, Haslett said he’s not blitz-happy.

“We don’t blitz all the time,” he said. “It’s not like a blitz-fest. There’s a good mixture in what we do, and we mix it up pretty good in those situations.”

Finally, Haslett became the latest in the Redskins camp to deny that his defensive line was calling out fake snap counts. Dallas has blamed Washington’s defense for several early and wayward shotgun snaps by center Phil Costa.

“My thought was, `The guy needs to get the snap back better,” Haslett said with a smile.

RIVAL: Redskins’ Orakpo not impressed by Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo

A lot of people seem to be flip-flopping their ideas of Tony Romo over the last two weeks, but at least one of the guys trying to defend against him on Monday night still doesn’t think much of the quarterback playing through pain.

Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo believes Romo wasn’t hurt as bad as was portrayed in the media.

“To me, they blown it way out of proportion,” Orakpo told a Washington ESPN Radio affiliate. “I mean, they tried to make it seem like the guy was hospitalized the night before the game, just so we could build it up if they was to win the game.

“Oh, he’s a courageous player to go out there and play. The guy was playing just like Tony Romo, running around, making throws. He got hit throughout the whole game and still getting up. I mean, it was blown way out of proportion, but it is what it is.”

Last week, Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall created a buzz by vowing to target Romo’s fractured ribs if he had the chance in the game.

On the Cowboys’ final drive, Romo threw Hall’s way when connecting on the third-and-21 conversion to Dez Bryant.

ORIGINAL REPORT: Redskins’ Orakpo says Romo praise blown out of proportion

For everyone who can’t shut up about Tony Romo being a hero — and there seems to be plenty of folks right about now — Brian Orakpo would like you to take it down a notch.

Yes, the Cowboys quarterback played through a broken rib and punctured lung in Monday night’s 18-16 win over the Redskins. And, yes, a broken rib and punctured lung sound excruciatingly painful.

But enough already, says Orakpo.

“To me, they blown it way out of proportion,” the Redskins’ linebacker said Tuesday on ESPN 980-AM via The Washington Post. “I mean, they tried to make it seem like the guy was hospitalized the night before the game, just so we could build it up if they was to win the game.

“Oh, he’s a courageous player to go out there and play. The guy was playing just like Tony Romo, running around, making throws. He got hit throughout the whole game and still getting up. I mean, it was blown way out of proportion, but it is what it is.”

Come to think of it, Orakpo brings up somewhat of a good point. It’s not like Romo played exceptionally well, posting a pedestrian stat line (22 of 36 for 255 passing yards, one interception and no touchdowns). It took six Dan Bailey field goals and a last-minute defensive stop for Dallas to gut out the victory.

So while Romo deserves credit for fighting through the pain — and for completing a key 30-yard pass to Dez Bryant late in the fourth quarter — we can certainly understand Orakpo’s point of view.

At least to some degree.

%d bloggers like this: