IRVING, Texas — Over the course of a game certain plays will stand out more than others and some huge plays often go unnoticed.
Here’s one that flew under the radar Sunday at Gillette Stadium: Bradie James’ forced fumble on Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and Terence Newman’s fumble recovery.
Newman picked up the loose ball at the Dallas 16 with no New England player in front of him. But running back Danny Woodhead, whom Newman was covering in the flat, was able to grab the cornerback’s ankle for the tackle.
“There was nobody who was going to catch me,” Newman said. “Just just grabbed my leg and ripped my shoe off. It was half on and half off and I couldn’t get going after that. It was a touchdown for sure.”
The Cowboys ended up punting on the ensuing drive. Of the Cowboys’ 10 takeaways this season they have answered with three touchdowns. Of their 12 giveaways on the year, the opponent has five touchdowns.
We all saw how the game ended last Sunday in Foxborough. The Cowboys’ defense, as great as it played for 58 minutes, got Tom Brady’d in the end and couldn’t stop them one more time.
It’s a team game, the entire team loss. But it’d be wrong not to at least point out one individual who was playing at the highest of levels – and has been all year.
While Sean Lee’s clutch interception was highlight-reel material, he was all over the field Sunday, recording 19 tackles, the most by any Cowboys player since Dexter Coakley’s 19 against the Cardinals in 2002. Lee’s 15 solo tackles ties him with Coakley for the second-most in a game, one behind Eugene Lockhart’s record of 16 solo stops.
Now, you should all know by now that charting tackles isn’t an exact science. The NFL stat crew does it after the game, but teams record their own tackles and often times it’s a lot more than what the league posts on the stat sheet after a game. That’s why sites like NFL.com never have the same amount of tackles as the teams report.
That being said, Lee was credited for 12 tackles and after the Cowboys reviewed the tape, it turned into 19. But before you go thinking the Cowboys are just tackle-padding, look at a guy like Jay Ratliff, who was credited with nine on the stat sheet, but was given just six by the team. So it does go both ways at time.
For Lee, he’s just been unbelievable here in the first five games. The Cowboys have him with 66 tackles, which is one pace to become the third player in franchise history with more than 200 tackles in a season. Lee also leads all NFL linebackers with three interceptions and he’s already halfway to the club’s single-season record for interceptions by a linebacker. Ring of Honor members Chuck Howley and Lee Roy Jordan (twice) both had six interceptions in a season.
The best part for Lee, is that he’s doing his work on the national stage, with all three of his interceptions occurring on either prime-time, or the national network game. Lee was also the first player in franchise history to win the NFC Defensive Player of the Month award for September.
Montrae Holland made a better first impression in his second chance. Holland worked out for the Cowboys on Tuesday, 10 pounds lighter than when he was released in September. Dallas signed him, and he could start Sunday’s game against the Rams.
“Don’t burn any bridges,” Holland said, laughing. “It’s a business. it’s nothing personal. So they went another direction. All you can do is try to take your business elsewhere. If they call back, all you can do is come back with a smile. “I’m not a guy that holds any grudges. I just come back, try to see what I can do to help the team.”
Holland was projected as the starting right guard after the Cowboys released Leonard Davis before training camp. But Holland reported at 340, 14 pounds heavier than he had been in 2010. He injured his back on the ninth day in camp and then hurt his hamstring. Holland returned for the final preseason game but was released in the Cowboys’ final cutdown.
After being released, Holland worked out with former NFL player LeCharles Bentley, who works with offensive linemen at his O-Line Academy in Cleveland. He lost close to 10 pounds.
“I was a little heavier [in training camp], but it was nothing I couldn’t play with,” Holland said. “I’ve been heavier. It’s just the way it is, I guess. …The thing I did was took it as an opportunity to try to change that, so I went and worked and got lighter.”
The Cowboys placed rookie left guard Bill Nagy on injured reserve this week after he broke an ankle against the Patriots last week. Right guard Kyle Kosier (foot) was limited in practice Wednesday, and left guard Derrick Dockery is still out rehabbing a broken tibia and sprained MCL. So the Cowboys will need Holland, who has made 50 starts, including two last season for Dallas.
“Second chances are great,” Holland said. “That’s all I can say. It’s a blessing. I’m happy to be back.”
A day after he was let go to make room for offensive lineman Daniel Loper, the Cowboys were pleased to find out that sixth-round rookie wide receiver Dwayne Harris passed through waivers without being claimed.
He is expected to join the Cowboys’ practice squad, which already has an open spot after tight end Martin Rucker signed with Jacksonville this week. After an impressive preseason opener, he had leveled off offensively, but served as the Cowboys’ primary return man.
“He’s done a nice job for us,” Jason Garrett said. “He made some plays in the preseason as a receiver. And he’s done a nice job as a punt returner and as a kickoff returner, just catching the ball and making some positive, north-south runs. What happened was we got banged up on the offensive line. We’ve been a little light on the offensive line, really for the past three or four weeks. So we wanted to shore up that area, and we felt like we had some alternatives to him as a returner. One of those things that you’d like to continue to develop him, because he’s done some positive things, but at the same time you have to address the needs on your team at the moment.”
Harris joins a pair of other Cowboys draft picks on their practice squad, fullback Shaun Chapas and safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah. Together, they are three of 14 picks from the last three drafts who are no longer on the 53-man roster, or on Injured Reserve with the team.
Already this season the Cowboys have released three of their eight draftees.
“I think it’s important that you try to make the right decisions for your football team on draft day,” Garrett said. “And then, once draft day is over I think the worst mistake that an organization can make is to say ‘We drafted these guys, we’re keeping these guys,’ so you can say publicly, ‘Look, we have eight draft picks on our team.’ I think that’s a bad decision.
“We try to create a competitive environment. We’ve been very happy with all of our draft picks so far and the role that they’re going to have for our football team now and in the future. When you draft some of those guys in the later rounds, hopefully your team is good enough where it’s hard for them to make your football team. And then in other cases we’ve had some free agent-type guys step up and have a little role on our team so far at this point. So I think when you look at our rookie class, I think we feel good about the guys that we’ve drafted or signed competing for spots on our roster and roles on our roster.”
DeMarco Murray has played a bit role in the Cowboys offense this season.
That’s about to expand.
The Cowboys third round pick will move into the spotlight now that starter Felix Jones is out two to four weeks with a high ankle sprain. No one has said he will start, but when Jones went down against New England, it was Murray who inherited the majority of his carries, not Tashard Choice.
“I know I’m ready,” Murray said. “I’m not trying to show anybody outside of this locker room that I’m ready or not. I’m playing for myself and my teammates to get the win.”
Murray is the team’s second leading rusher with 24 carries for 71 yards. Head coach Jason Garrett said the rookie’s running style is similar to Jones, but Murray will tell you there is on difference.
“He’s a lot more patient than I am,” Murray said. “That’s one of the things I watch during practice, during games. That’s something I’ve tried to translate to my game.”
Has he been running with more patience?
“I have,” Murray said. “My offense at Oklahoma was just hit it hard. This, you have to be a lot more patient for the holes to open up and for your linemen to get on blocks.”
St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, said Wednesday afternoon that his injured left ankle is “good” and “getting better.” Bradford expects to start Sunday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium against the Cowboys.
Bradford has a left high ankle sprain and Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said his quarterback was limping Monday. He injured his left ankle Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, and his plant foot is his right. Since the injury, Bradford has been spending a lot of his time in the athletic trainer’s room. Bradford didn’t practice Wednesday with the Rams and instead spent all of his time in the athletic trainer’s room.
“I pretty much live there right now and then even when I go home, I pretty much have my own training room set up there,” Bradford said. “It’s pretty much treatment non-stop right now.”
IRVING, Texas — The Cowboys’ decision to cut wide receiver Dwayne Harris has opened up a punt return job. Harris averaged 6.6 yards per return with a long of 14. Bryan McCann averaged 13 yards on two returns before his release. Dez Bryant was hurt on his lone return of 12 yards vs. the New York Jets.
The Cowboys are 25th in the league in punt return average at 7 yards. Who knew Patrick Crayton would be missed so much as a punt returner?
But who do the Cowboys look to handle the job with Harris gone?
Bryant has to be at the top of list but that brings risk of losing him to injury. Is it worth it? It might be because the Cowboys can’t get the ball into Bryant’s hands enough apparently in the second halves of games on offense. He has shown dynamic ability as a returner.
Terence Newman is averaging 7.5 yards per punt in his career and has a 56-yard return for a score to his credit. The injury possibility is another caution flag, but with Orlando Scandrick healthy again the Cowboys would have some cover.
Kevin Ogletree has one return in his career and is the up-man in the return game. He is the No. 4 wide receiver and he has to be a special teams’ guy in order to justify the spot. Does he have enough wiggle to be good at it?
If all else fails go with defensive end Sean Lissemore. He has a 38-yard kick return to his credit. Maybe he can catch some punts, too.
IRVING, Texas – Orlando Scandrick’s performance might have been the most encouraging thing about the Dallas defense’s impressive effort against the Patriots.
In his first full game after signing a five-year, $27 million deal, Scandrick looked like he was worth the money.
Wes Welker had his least productive game of the season with Scandrick spearheading the coverage against the on-record-pace Patriots wideout. Welker, who averaged nine catches for 148 yards in New England’s first five games, had six catches for 45 yards and a score.
“It’s not so much what I did,” said Scandrick, who had been sidelined since the first quarter of the season opener with a high ankle sprain. “We had a great scheme in place, and I just executed the scheme. I had other people helping me. It shows what I can do week in and week out if I stay focused and put my mind to it.”
It’s proof that Scandrick fits as well in Rob Ryan’s scheme as the Cowboys believed he would when they paid their third corner starter money.
Arkin, 6-5, 310 pounds, even started the first preseason game against Denver.
Following that game the Cowboys went with Bill Nagy, their seventh rounder, at left guard, and Arkin slowly dropped from the radar. He has been inactive for every game and even with Nagy out for the year with an ankle injury he is not a lock to be active this week vs. St. Louis.
Undrafted rookie Kevin Kowalski has been active because he can play center and guard and replaced Nagy Sunday. On Tuesday the Cowboys signed veterans Montrae Holland and Daniel Loper and it is possible Holland could start against the Rams.
So what has happened to Arkin?
“He is someone who did some good things early on,” coach Jason Garrett said. “As we got going he leveled off a little bit. He is a young guy who is working hard to do things well. He is from a small school. I think the biggest thing for him is he didn’t have an offseason. He comes to training camp. It’s a big leap for all the young guys. And particularly if you’re coming from a small school it’s that much more difficult. We do think he has the right stuff physically and mentally as he goes forward. He is certainly in a developmental mode right now. We feel some of the guys are a little further along in their ability to play for now.”
Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who suffered back spasms late in Sunday’s loss at New England, did not join the team at practice on Wednesday, as team doctors allow him time to recover.
Ware, who has played in 105 consecutive games in his career, never missing one, was able to finish the game against New England despite pain, but needed extra attention on the field following the Patriots’ extra point to make the score 20-16.
Also sitting out practice were guard Derrick Dockery (knee), defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (calf) and running back Felix Jones (ankle).
These Boys Are Back:
The ‘Boys (that) Are Back on the field included linebacker Bruce Carter, the Cowboys’ second-round pick who has been on the Non-Football Injury list the first six weeks, and is now eligible to practice with the team, though he is not expected to play this week. Carter suffered a torn ACL last November, and Wednesday marks his first practice since the injury.
Also suited out to return to work were kicker David Buehler, who has been dealing with a groin injury for several weeks, and fullback Tony Fiammetta, who has been sidelined by a strained hamstring.
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With Tuesday’s release of rookie wide receiver Dwayne Harris, the Cowboys are a step closer to declaring a loss on the back half of their 2011 draft.
Harris, a sixth-round pick from East Carolina, becomes the third draftee waived by the team this year, following fifth-round cornerback Josh Thomas of Buffalo, and seventh-round fullback Shaun Chapas from Georgia.
Bill Nagy, the seventh-round guard who started four games before breaking his ankle Sunday, has been placed on the injured reserve, ending his season, and leaving the Cowboys without the entire back half of their eight-man haul from April.
Thomas, who was released on the final preseason cuts, was picked up by Carolina. Harris, who has appeared in every game for the Cowboys this season, would be a candidate to be claimed on waivers Wednesday because of an impressive performance in the preseason, the five catches, 127 yards and two touchdowns he had against Denver in the exhibition opener.
The top half of the draft has been more productive, with first-round tackle Tyron Smith faring all right as a starter, and third-rounder DeMarco Murray picking up a rotational role in the backfield. Second-round pick Bruce Carter is expected to practice for the first time this season on Wednesday, following a stint on the Non-Football Injury list while recovering from a torn ACL last November. Fourth-round guard David Arkin has been inactive every game.
Only three of the Cowboys’ six draft picks from 2010 remain on the 53-man roster, Dez Bryant, Sean Lee and Sean Lissemore, and only four of the 12 draftees from 2009 are still with the team.
Montrae Holland is back where he was when training camp first began in late July: working with the first-team offense.
Holland, who just re-signed with the Cowboys on Tuesday afternoon after working out for team officials, took first-team reps at left guard, at least for the start of Wednesday’s practice that was open to the media.
The club signed two veteran guards on Tuesday, along with journeyman Daniel Loper. Clearly, the team is looking for an upgrade at a position that has been hit by injuries all year.
Rookie Bill Nagy has four starts at left guard, but is lost for the season with a fractured ankle. Nagy was placed on injured reserve Tuesday to make room for Holland. Derrick Dockery, who played one game, only to suffer a sprained MCL and broken tibia in his right leg, remains out of action and isn’t expected to return this week.
On the official depth chart, rookie Kevin Kowalski is listed as the first-team left guard, ahead of David Arkin, a fourth-round pick from Missouri State who had some first-team work back in training camp.
NEW YORK (AP) – The NFL players’ union has told the league to hold off collecting blood for HGH testing.
“We informed the NFL (Tuesday) that absent a collective agreement on several critical issues, blood collection is not ready to be implemented on Monday,” the NFL Players Association said in a statement released Wednesday. “We have advised the players.”
The league was preparing to draw the blood samples beginning Monday, although full testing for HGH was not yet scheduled.
The NFL and the players agreed to begin blood testing for HGH as part of their new collective bargaining agreement reached in late July — but only if the union agreed to the methods. The union has delayed implementing the test, asking for more scientific data to prove it is reliable.
One of the key items the NFLPA is seeking is a population study of the test — the data from the athletes who were used to originally set thresholds as to what constitutes a positive test. The union wants to compare that data to a population study on football players; the union believes players could have naturally higher HGH levels above those of other athletes.
Earlier this month, nearly two dozen scientists and lab directors from around the world signed a letter sent to the NFL and the union stating the current test for HGH is safe, scientifically reliable and appropriate for use in professional sports leagues.
The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, was dated Oct. 3 and sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and union Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.