Daily Archives: October 18th, 2011

MOOSE CALL: A real fullback could help running game

While there may only be 15 or 20 snaps a game for a fullback in Jason Garrett’s offense, there’s no doubting that several of those could be really important.

For instance, perhaps a true lead blocker could’ve been useful on the run-only three play drive toward the end of the fourth quarter, before the Cowboys punted the ball back to Tom Brady for his game-winning drive.

While Tony Fiammetta, their fullback, has been hurt the last two games, the Cowboys have used tight end John Phillips as a blocker out of the backfield. While willing, he doesn’t have the proper dimensions for a fullback, not low enough to the ground, and lacks the pedigree of a Fiammetta in that area.

On the first-and-10 play to start that crucial series of three straight runs, Phillips was unable to handle defensive end Shaun Ellis, who had slipped through the line, and totally disrupted the handoff to DeMarco Murray. Short yardage situations have been a problem for the Cowboys throughout the year.

“John has been a really good football player for us the last couple of years,” Jason Garrett said. “He can play off the line of scrimmage. He can split out and he can also come back in the backfield and block as a fullback, and he’s done a really nice job in that area. He’s allowed us to absorb some injuries that we’ve had over the last couple of years because of his versatility, his know-how. He’s allowed us to do that this year as well.

“We got Tony Fiammetta for a reason. We like him. We like to have a true fullback, but John has certainly been someone who has allowed us to continue to function running different phases of our offense because of his versatility.”

The Cowboys’ best running game of the young season, perhaps not coincidentally, came in one of Fiammetta’s two appearances, against Washington, in which Felix Jones had a big second half following two tight ends and the fullback.

Fiammetta, who has a hamstring injury, should be able to return to action fairly soon. The Cowboys have another true fullback on the practice squad, rookie seventh-round pick Shaun Chapas, but apparently haven’t been tempted to call him up while the more experienced Fiammetta is out.

ROSTER IMPACT: Return game changed with Harris released

The Cowboys will have a few changes in the return game this week, thanks to the release of rookie wide receiver Dwayne Harris, who was let go on Tuesday.

Harris led the team in both kickoff and punt returns, which makes the decision somewhat surprising.

One of the players whose future seemed shaky was wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, who will likely assume one of these duties, if not both.

Ogletree has kickoff return experience, with 14 career attempts for a 19.6 average. With the opponents kicking several touchbacks this year thanks to the new rule change, Harris only had three attempts this year and averaged 24.7 yards a return.

On punt returns, Harris had a 6.6 yard average on a team-high 11 attempts with a long of just 14 yards. Other than Harris, the only two players practicing punt returns were Dez Bryant and Terence Newman. The Cowboys have made it clear it’s not their preference to put starting players at skill positions in the return game. Both of Bryant’s significant injuries the past two years have occurred while returning kicks and punts.

And that’s where Ogletree will likely re-enter the equation. There’s a chance he will practice returning punts this week, but Newman and/or Bryant will also be possibilities.

Harris, who is still eligible for the practice squad, is a fifth-round pick from East Carolina. He made headlines in the first game of the preseason, when he caught two touchdowns, including the game-winner on fourth down. Harris also showed some breakaway speed with a 76-yard touchdown catch in that game.

But since then, he’s been rather quiet, especially in the regular season. He only played sparingly on offense against the 49ers, when Bryant was out and Miles Austin injured as well. Harris has yet to record a reception in a regular-season game.

RELATED: Dwayne Harris cut | Holland back | Bruce Carter | Martin Rucker claimed

The Cowboys have opened up a roster spot by waiving rookie wide receiver Dwayne Harris, a fifth-round pick who has been the team’s primary return specialist this year.

Harris hasn’t played but a handful of offensive snaps, and has yet to record a catch this year.

It’s unclear what the Cowboys will do with the extra roster spot, although one will be needed for linebacker Bruce Carter at some point. Carter is eligible to practice this week. By rule, the Cowboys don’t have to put him on the 53-man roster for two weeks.

The Cowboys already signed Montrae Holland on Tuesday, but he replaced the roster spot of Bill Nagy, who was placed on injured reserve with a broken ankle.

Harris is still is eligible for the practice squad. A spot opened up on Tuesday when tight end Martin Rucker was claimed by the Jaguars.

ROSTER MOVES: Cowboys release WR Dwayne Harris, sign veteran guard Daniel Loper

The Cowboys let the trade deadline come and go without making any deals on Tuesday but it didn’t stop them making a few roster moves.

After putting guard Bill Nagy on the injured reserve and signing guard Montrae Holland earlier in the day, the Cowboys ended the say by releasing rookie receiver Dwayne Harris and signing veteran guard Daniel Loper.

Loper has played with the Titans, Lions and Raiders during a six-year career.  With only eight career starts, he was signed for depth purposes likely until Derrick Dockery returns from injury.

Harris, the team’s sixth round pick, served as the primary punt returner. But he didn’t have a role in the regular offense. The Cowboys are hoping Harris clears waivers so he can be re-signed to the practice squad.

The move also means a return to returning punts for receiver Dez Bryant who could likely share the duties with receiver Kevin Ogletree and cornerback Terence Newman.

 

Jerry Jones right to 2nd guess his 2nd guess

IRVING, Texas – Jerry Jones didn’t say anything on Sunday night that a lot of fans wasn’t already thinking.

By choosing to run the ball three straight times before punting it back to Tom Brady, the Cowboys – and specifically head coach and play-caller Jason Garrett – really were flipping a coin, simply hoping it came up heads.

It was tails, leaving the opportunity for anyone to second-guess Garrett’s decision. Jones did, which he shouldn’t have, and now he knows that. That’s why he took back his play-calling complaints in an appearance on 105.3-FM The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday morning.

“I would say that probably, if I had to do that over again, I wouldn’t comment, period,” Jones said. “There’s absolutely no issue that I have with Jason Garrett’s play calling. I want to get that real clear.”

It’s not that the comments Sunday were an indictment of Garrett from Jones, or evidence that their partnership is on the rocks, or anything big picture like that. But there does need to be a change in the way their relationship is portrayed to the media.

Jones needs to take a page out of Garrett’s book, to better master the art of speaking without saying anything. Any slightly juicy comment the owner makes will grow legs, and the media will attempt to drive a wedge between the front office and head coach. Just doing their duty yesterday, they asked Garrett specifically about Jones’ second-guessing his play-calling, and Garrett expertly side-stepped it.

Jones has to do the same. Other than one exception during the post-Jimmy era, the perception has been that each Cowboys coach is toothless, the second-in-command of the football team. Since taking over, Garrett has done everything possible to centralize power at his desk, and it’s better if Jones would just let him have that, so there are no questions in the locker room about who is really in charge.

Already a couple times this season, Jones has spilled the beans on the Cowboys’ injury situation leading into a game, something Garrett clearly doesn’t want to do, because he portrays each guy as “day-to-day.” Garrett wouldn’t even admit that Bill Nagy is out for the season, when Jones was doing it before the final whistle blew on Sunday.

It may be one of those things that is irrational on the part of a coach, but clearly it’s important to Garrett to play the injury situation, and most other things, close to the vest. The Cowboys would be better off if Jones didn’t intefere with that, or emasculate Garrett in any other way.

Garrett needs to be different than the others. Jones has to get that real clear.

Jerry Jones: Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo | Head Coach Jason Garrett

After Tony Romo threw three interceptions in the second half of the Detroit loss en route to blowing a 24-point lead, the Cowboys were more conservative with their play-calling late against New England. The Cowboys were also conservative with their play-calling in the red zone.

Needing to run out the clock with a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys ran three times in a row before punting. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady drove the length of the field for the game-winning touchdown to give New England the 20-16 win.

On Tuesday morning, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked on 105.3 FM if the team’s more conservative play-calling against New England was an indictment on Tony Romo’s poor decision-making against Detroit that led to three critical second-half interceptions (two returned for touchdowns).

“Jerry Jones said on his weekly radio show on 105.3 FM. “You want the ball in the hands of Romo. This is the time to use his skills. This is the time to use what Tony Romo brings you, get you a play when you need it the most. He’s a playmaker.”

Jerry Jones said he has absolutely no problem with Jason Garrett as the Cowboys’ play-caller.

“When your play-caller is your head coach that can be a real positive,” Jones said. “You can live and die with that, too. That makes his stature even that much more effective. When it goes the other way, what you see is the same thing you see in the dressing room, you see players who are trying hard, they’re working and it doesn’t always work out for them but you know they’re giving it everything they got. Believe it or not, we gain on it even when Jason as a play-caller, the head coach, we gain on it even when the play doesn’t work out. Everybody knows, they pay their guys, too, over on the other side of the line and they pay them a lot of money. We flipped a coin and it didn’t work for us.”

BREAKING NEWS: Montrae Holland to re-sign with the Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are bringing back a familiar face to the offensive line.

Veteran guard Montrae Holland will re-sign with the club on Tuesday, after working out in front of coaches, scouts and front office personnel at Valley Ranch.

Holland was one of three veteran linemen in the workout, along with NFL journeymen Daniel Loper and Mansfield Wrotto. While all three players have more than five years of experience, Holland obviously knows the team, personnel and offense the best.

With Derrick Dockery likely not ready to return this week from a sprained knee/broken tibia injury, and Bill Nagy headed to injured reserve with a broken ankle, Holland isn’t just needed to practice or play, but likely to start this week against the Rams.

When training camp began, the Cowboys had just waived veteran Leonard Davis and it seemed like Holland finally had his best chance to win a starting job. But the combination of poor conditioning, then minor injuries to his back and knee, Holland was held out for nearly a month. That opened the door for rookies David Arkin and then Nagy to take turns with the first-team offense.

Nagy eventually won the job, but the Cowboys still wanted veteran insurance. Instead of keeping Holland, who was waived one day after the rosters were trimmed to 53, the Cowboys signed Dockery, who had been without a team as a free agent during training camp.

Now Holland is back in the fold, with 50 career starts, but just four in the last three years with the Cowboys.

KISS and MAKE-UP: Jerry Jones backs Jason Garrett, regrets second guessing his play calling to the media

Two days after openly questioning coach Jason Garrett’s conservative game plan in a 20-16 loss to the Patriots, owner Jerry Jones expressed support for his coach and wishes he would have not said any thing at all.

“I would say that probably if I had that to do over again, I wouldn’t comment, period,” Jones said on his radio show 105.3 FM The Fan Tuesday. “I wouldn’t even answer a question about it. I was asked the questions and you can always say, ‘No comment.’

“But I did [comment], and I was real clear that this was a flip of the coin. That’s what Jason frankly is paid to do, is make those decisions, and there’s no one that I’d rather have make the decisions regarding our football team right  now on an offensive play-call. There’s absolutely no issue that I have with Jason Garrett’s play calling. I want to get that real clear.”

Clarence Hill

JERRY JONES: Diamond Dez Bryant needs to work on route running to avoid second half shutouts

Receiver Diamond Dez Bryant has not caught a pass in the second half in three games this season. The issue was most acute in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots when the Cowboys didn’t even target Bryant in two trips inside the red zone when they had  to settle for field goals.

Bryant was very emotional on the sideline about his lack of opportunities.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was diplomatic about Diamond Dez Bryant’s inability to get the ball, pointing out how they like to spread the ball around to a number of weapons.

But owner Jerry Jones was more pointed on his radio show on Tuesday morning on 105.3 the Fan. He said Diamond Dez Bryant needs to work harder and run better routes, while hinting that his route running led to some of quarterback Tony Romo’s  interceptions.

At least three of Romo’s interceptions this season have come on passes attempted to Bryant, including one on Sunday against the Patriots.

“(Diamond) Dez needs to concentrate,” Jones said. “ I’m not being critical of him, but  he needs to continue to concentrate on his route running because there’s a  reason for harping on running correct routes even though you’re a great receiver  and that is it gets you open and it causes other people to get open as well if  each receiver will run his route.”

“We’ll see more of him,” Jones continued. “We would like to have him but of  course you have to watch just trying to get the ball to him completely because  that’s where we got one of those interceptions here two weeks ago.”

ROSTER: Felix Jones injury takes Tashard Choice off the trading block

Dallas Cowboys RB Tashard Choice
Dallas Cowboys RB Tashard Choice

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he has been contacted by at least two teams  about possibility trading for running back Tashard Choice. But the injury to  Felix Jones, who will be out two to four weeks with a high ankle sprain, have  forced the Cowboys to take him off the market, Jones said on his radio show on  105.3 The Fan.

“Any time anybody calls you, you give it some thought,” Jones said. “But with  the injury to Felix and where he is with his sprained ankle, I’m doubtful that  anything will happen there. And, no, I don’t see any other trade  possibilities.”

Rookie DeMarco Murray will likely get the bulk of the carries in place of  Jones but the Cowboys no longer have the luxury of parting ways with Choice. The  need him to share the load with Murray. They also need him as a veteran option  to along with Murray and fellow rookie Phillip Tanner, who made the team as an  undrafted free agent.

BREAKING NEWS: Raiders agree to terms on deal for Carson Palmer

Carson Palmer traded to Oakland Raiders

Carson Palmer traded to Oakland Raiders

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The Raiders have agreed to terms on a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals that would send quarterback Carson Palmer to Oakland for a 2012 first-round draft pick and a conditional pick that could become an additional first-rounder in the future, Fox Sports Insider and NFL Network contributor Jay Glazer reported Tuesday, via Twitter.

The Raiders have been active in the quarterback market ever since Jason Campbell broke his collarbone during a 24-17 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. It had been reported that the club was interested in acquiring Palmer, but the quarterback’s rocky history with Bengals owner Mike Brown made pulling off a trade an uphill battle.

Glazer reported that Raiders coach Hue Jackson’s close relationship with Brown played a large role in getting him to move away from his hard stance that Palmer, who has not thrown an NFL pass since the end of the 2010 season, would not get his wish for a trade before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline.

While all expect the Raiders to land Carson Palmer, NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reports that the Raiders have yet to cancel their Tuesday quarterback workouts and have not told those involved to cancel their plans. The Raiders are not likely to cancel the workouts until the Palmer deal is finalized.

Palmer, who will turn 32 in December, played in 97 games during his eight years with the Bengals, compiling 22,964 yards, 154 touchdowns, 100 interceptions and a 86.9 passer rating.

Palmer was the only Bengals quarterback to throw for 4,000 yds in a single season (2006, 2007) and the only one to throw 30 touchdown passes in a single season (2005).

The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback led the Bengals to AFC North championships in 2005 and 2009 but struggled last year. The Bengals stumbled to a 4-12 record in 2010 as Palmer threw a career-high 20 interceptions.

With Palmer threatening to retire if he wasn’t traded, the Bengals proceeded to draft quarterback Andy Dalton in the second
round of the 2011 draft and have jumped out to a 4-2 mark under the rookie signal-caller, making Palmer expendable.

The Raiders are now without 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft, however, they will receive compensation picks for cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, tight end Zach Miller and offensive lineman Robert Gallery.

La Canfora also reports that Palmer has four years and $50 million left on his current contract and stands to earn $11.5 million in 2011. Palmer also sold his Cincinnati area home in May for $1.9 million.

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