Cowboys beat writer Rainer Sabin answered your questions in a live chat Thursday. Here are a few highlights:
Comment From Tex
Who was right: Jerry for wanting the Cowboys to throw late in the game last week or Garrett for sticking with the run game?
I liked Garrett’s plan. Taking time off the clock was the right approach. But the execution left a lot to be desired. If the Cowboys get a first down, they likely win the game. Two runs for negative yardage and a penalty forced Garrett to stay conservative. As Darrell Royal once said, “There are three things that can happen when you throw the ball and two of them are bad.”
Comment From ralph elkins
mistakes arnt bad when you learn from them,do you think tony romo will ever learn from his mis takes and dont throw the ball in crunch time when no one is open,what is your opion
Only Romo knows if he can learn from those experiences. You would think he would but he has shown no evidence that he has. So at this point I can’t say with certainty that he will.
Comment From Yul
Do you have a guess on why the Cowboys are an average home team?
I don’t think it’s a very intimidating environment. And the Cowboys haven’t developed a reputation for winning there yet. I think opponents know the Cowboys are vulnerable at home and they come in to Arlington confident that they can leave with a victory.
Comment From Barrett
Cowboys still have a chance to get in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. Do you think Jerry Jones would ask his team to tank games to get a quarterback of his calliber?
No. That’s crazy. He is running a business and he still has to sell tickets. Plus, he has a top-ten caliber quarterback in Romo.
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IRVING — Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware was seen in uniform at practice this morning at Valley Ranch after he didn’t practice Wednesday because of back spasms. That’s good news for the Cowboys, who host St. Louis on Sunday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium.
Offensive guard Derrick Dockery, defensive end Jason Hatcher and running back Felix Jones are not practicing today again and aren’t expected to play Sunday against the Rams.
Recently re-signed offensive guard Montrae Holland was working at first-team left guard in the pre-practice portion of the workout for the second consecutive day. Holland could start Sunday against the Rams in place of rookie Bill Nagy, who fractured his right ankle in the loss Sunday to New England and is out the rest of the season.
Fullback Tony Fiammetta was practicing again, working on the punt team. Rookie linebacker Bruce Carter was also working on the punt team again today after practicing for the first time with the team Wednesday.
Cornerback Terence Newman, running back DeMarco Murray and wide receivers Dez Bryant, Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris were back taking punt returns in practice.
ST. LOUIS, MO — For Sam Bradford, Sunday’s game in Dallas is as close at it gets to an NFL homecoming. He grew up in Oklahoma City, about 3½ hours north on I-35. Oklahoma is Cowboys country when it comes to pro football; always has been.
But when the Rams drafted Bradford No. 1 overall in 2010, Bradford’s No. 8 jersey started springing up in malls and stores throughout the Sooner state. And some of those Tony Romo No. 9 Cowboys jerseys were moved to the discount racks.
So there could be even more Oklahomans than usual in the stands at Cowboys Stadium when the Rams come to town for a 3:15 p.m. kickoff. Bradford has received more than a few ticket requests from friends and family.
“And I would hate to get tickets for people to watch me stand on the sideline,” Bradford said. “So hopefully, I’m getting tickets for people that are going to see me play.”
Yes, there is that not-so-small matter of Bradford’s high ankle sprain. It occurred on the Rams’ last offensive play of the game against Green Bay. Basically, the entire pocket collapsed on him and he got hit from a few angles. There was such a heap of humanity that game tape doesn’t really show exactly how Bradford’s left ankle was hurt.
“I got hit from the front, I got hit from the back, and that’s about all I know,” Bradford said.
|Tim Heitman/US Presswire|
|Jay Ratliff and the Cowboys are averaging 3.2 sacks per game, which ranks third in the NFL.|
The NFC East race is wide open. No one has emerged as the true leader, and each has had several issues during the first six weeks of the season. The 4-2 Giants have been inconsistent on both sides of the ball, the 3-2 Redskins are changing quarterbacks and the struggles of the 2-4 Eagles have been well documented.
Then there’s the 2-3 Cowboys. Dallas has been in every game and made terrible mistakes down the stretch in all three of their losses. Still, it’s my opinion that the Cowboys will win the NFC East. Here are three reasons why:
Cowboys have the best defense in the division
Rob Ryan has quickly crafted an elite defense in Dallas that is capable of carrying the team to the postseason.
Led by Demarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff and Sean Lee, the Cowboys rank fifth in total defense and are allowing a league-low 69.6 rushing yards a game. The run defense has been spearheaded by a frontline that is owning the line of scrimmage and allows a group of ultra-aggressive linebackers to flow freely to the ball. As a result, the Cowboys are holding opponents to 3.3 yards per carry. More importantly, that number drops to 3.19 yards per attempt on first down, which allows Ryan to unleash his exotic
pressure in long-yardage situations.
Galloway & Company: Chris Mortensen
ESPN NFL insider Chris Mortensen joins GAC to discuss where the Cowboys stand from a national perspective, Tony Romo’s roller-coaster season and more.
We all know that if the San Diego Chargers had hired Rex Ryan instead of Norv Turner to be their head coach in 2007, they’d have two Super Bowl rings by now. This is headline news today, in large part because Ryan has become a prominent head coach at a time when no one in the NFL can seem to take a joke.
But the hubbub over all of this got me thinking about another Ryan — Rex’s brother, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, and whether the Philadelphia Eagles might have been better off hiring him as their defensive coordinator last winter instead of promoting offensive line coach Juan Castillo to the position.
Both defenses needed help. Both underachieved in 2010 — the Cowboys to devastating levels and the Eagles just enough to cost them down the stretch. Both teams needed to overhaul things on the defensive side of the ball, and they went in different directions to do it. The Cowboys believed they had the player personnel in place to have a good defense if they could just get 2009 stars, such as Anthony Spencer and Mike Jenkins, to play the way they’d played in 2009. Add a safety here, a 3-4 defensive end there, promote Sean Lee to starter, and they felt like they weren’t far off. What they needed was somebody who could bring it all together, and so they brought in Rob Ryan, who’d coached the Cleveland Browns’ defense to respectability in 2009 and 2010 and clearly knew what he was doing.
IRVING, Texas – Let me offer a simple suggestion to the Cowboys’ red-zone woes: Throw the ball to Dez Bryant more often.
The Cowboys have targeted Bryant 11 times in the red zone during his 16-game career. He has caught nine of those passes, scoring on seven of them.
Those numbers look especially impressive, considering that the Cowboys have converted only one-third of their red-zone trips into touchdowns this season. Only Sunday’s visitor, the winless St. Louis Rams, have a worse conversion percentage in the red zone.
Calvin Johnson is the only name that comes to mind when thinking of better jump-ball weapons than Bryant. They’ve attempted two passes to No. 88 inside the 10 this season. The result: two touchdowns.
Romo has attempted 15 passes to other Cowboys inside the 10 this season. The result: two touchdowns.
So simple math says the closer the Cowboys get to the end zone, the bigger Bryant’s share of the balls should be.
Except it isn’t that simple, Romo says.
According to Romo, the Cowboys are seeing a lot of Cover 4 defenses in the red zone. That essentially means double-coverage for Bryant, who has a cornerback on his outside and a safety on the inside. That’s why Romo threw a checkdown to Tashard Choice instead of a fade to Bryant on second-and-goal in the fourth quarter against the Patriots.
“It would have been a force for sure,” Romo said. “Theoretically, yeah, you could throw it, but there’s a very high percentage that it’s not going to turn out very well if you throw it. If they keep a safety over there, they get to play two-on-one.”
Detroit sees similar coverage against Johnson every week, but he’s still on pace to set an NFL record for receiving touchdowns in a season. Can’t Romo throw the fade high and to the back pylon so that it’s to give Bryant – and only Bryant – a chance to make the play?
“Yeah, when it’s one-on-one, that’s what we’re going to do,” Romo said. “We’re going to throw the ball and get certain people the ball in those situations. When they have a safety and they get two guys, it’s not a good matchup. It’s never a good thing.”
Romo has a simple solution of his own for the Cowboys’ red-zone woes, except it’s easier said than done for a team with an offensive line that’s a work in progress.
“When they play with safeties back, a lot of the time you need to be able to run the ball,” Romo said. “Because then they can’t double everybody.”
IRVING — Cowboys starting left tackle Doug Free struggled at times this season. He’s tied with the NFL lead for four holding calls with St. Louis left tackle Rodger Saffold.
In his first year as the left tackle last year, Free was called for nine penalties for 55 yards.
“Penalties are definitely things that bother players,” Free said. “It’s a negative play and it hurts everybody on the team, not just yourself, so it’s something you try to limit.”
When Free signed a four-year $32 million contract this summer with $17 million guaranteed, the expectations raised for Free.
The team rid itself of three veterans for three young players, two of whom were rookies. It put a strain on Free and left guard Kyle Kosier, the only holdovers from the 2010 offensive line.
Opposing defenses are sending their best pass rushers at Free and while he’s been credited with allowing just one sack this season, he is under constant pressure.
Sometimes it’s harder to play better at the position than the previous year just because teams know how you will defend pass rushers.
“I can kinda see why people would say that a little bit,” Free said. “You definitely have a little bit more expectations of yourself. Last year, you’re out there, kinda trying to get the job done. This year, you know what you’re job is and you’re trying to be as perfect as you can.”
On Sunday when the Cowboys face the Rams, Free will play with his third different left guard. Bill Nagy and Derrick Dockery were the first two guards. With Nagy and Dockery out with injuries, it appears Montrae Holland will get the call at left guard.
“It’s definitely nicer working with a guy that knows the system,” Free said. “He has been here before and we definitely got a feel for how he does this a little bit more than if you brought somebody in if you never played with next to you.”
IRVING — Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is still taking shots for a fracture rib, suffered in the Week 2 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
The injury normally takes six-to-eight weeks to heal. Romo also suffered a small puncture of his lung as a result of the rib getting fractured, but that healed prior to the Week 3 game vs. Washington.
Romo will still wear a vest to protect the rib.
“They’re getting better,” Romo said after Thursday’s practice. “Hopefully in a couple of weeks, they’ll be all the way healed. Still the vest. I think we’ve got the shot one more week hopefully and then we’re done. We’ll see. That’s what they’re telling me.”
Romo is just getting shots to perform on game days and doesn’t appear to have any physical issues to attempt passes or move around the pocket. He’s taken a few knockdowns since the 49ers game and gotten up slowly on a few hits but nothing that would cause the Cowboys any concern at this point.
The vest Romo wears is a little cumbersome, but he’s used to it now.
“It will be nice whenever I’m able to wear something a little smaller,” he said. “But it’s been great. It’s been a benefit. It will be nice here going forward.”
Receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said if Dez Bryant isn’t getting much action in the second half, it’s not surprising in the NFL.
“I don’t think there’s any conspiracy going on, first of all, that we haven’t gotten him the ball as much as we’d like to or he’d like for us to,” Robinson said Thursday. “But this is the way it is in the National Football League, quite honestly. Some weeks you
get it a lot. Some weeks not as much. Sometimes it comes early. Sometimes it comes late. It doesn’t always come steady throughout the whole game. Sometimes it doesn’t come at all. And if you’re a receiver in the National Football League, you realize sometimes it rains, and sometimes it pours, and sometimes there’s a drought. It’s just the way it goes.”
Bryant caught four passes in the first half last week against New England but none in the second half. It was the third time in the four games Bryant has played this year that he hasn’t caught a pass in the second half.
Robinson said the Patriots didn’t try to double-team Bryant.
“I think teams do what they do most of the time,” he said. “If it happens that their coverage doubles him sometimes, then I don’t really honestly see an awful lot where they’re trying to do something to Dez and not to someone else. I think we have too many
weapons for them to try to do that. Some teams will try to double two guys. They can’t double everybody.”
The Boys Are Back comment: I think this article opens up a can of worms. When you have a hot hand, you stick with it until the other team stops it. I’m all for mixing it up and love it when we have completions to multiple receivers … but, if something’s working … stay with it. Dez and Austin are our “stretchers” … we need a reasonably steady dose of them downfield … going for the long ball (or the defensive pass interference). If Dez is hot … teams WILL double-team him. That’s one of the things we want … both Austin and Dez double-coverered! That opens up a tremendous opportunity for the other elements of the offense. If either are NOT double-teamed … we sure as hell ought to be throwing to them!!!
Garrett Press Conference: Thursday
The British government is creating an “All-Party Parliamentary Group” for American football in conjunction with the league’s annual visit to Wembley Stadium.
But I found these comments from Richard Fuller, the Member of Parliament from Bedford, to be somewhat significant: “There is strong support for American football within Westminster and a group of us felt that we should get more involved in developing the sport here at both the amateur and professional levels. . . . We will be working closely with [the British American Football
Association], the NFL and other organisations to promote and increase official recognition of American football within the UK sporting landscape. We hope to be able to develop participation in the sport at grassroots level, create opportunities for British players to reach their full potential in the sport and support the pathway to having eventually a UK-based NFL team.”
Of course, plenty of things have to happen before the NFL would put a team in London. One of the key factors, however, will be the willingness of folks in London to welcome an NFL team.
The NFL also needs to be willing to do it. 49ers owner John York, chairman of the league’s International Committee, has an opinion. ”It’s ambitious and we can’t talk about timescales yet but I think it will happen,” York said.
For now, the Buccaneers are the team that seems to be on track to visit England on an annual basis, making them the team most likely to relocate to London at some point down the road. It otherwise would make no sense to build a fan base for one team in London — and then move another team.
The Buccaneers “host” the Bears on Sunday. Albert Breer of NFL Network currently is in London, and he’ll return soon to talk about the league’s long-term prospects in England.
The Boys Are Back comment: Just for fun, let’s relocate some teams … how about the British Buccaneers? British Bengals? London Lions? England Patriots?
IRVING, Texas — Rookie Dan Bailey has made 14 straight field goals since missing a 21-yarder in Week 2 against San Francisco. Overall, he’s 15 of 16.
David Buehler knows Bailey has an iron grip on place-kicking duties right now. After missing the last three games with a strained groin, he just wants to get back quickly and resume kicking off.
“I’m happy for Dan. He’s a good guy; we became good friends in a short period of time,” Buehler said. “I’m getting back healthy so I want to compete for my job again.
“He’s doing well on field goals. I doubt I’m going to take his job there. But kickoffs were my strong suit coming in, so get back out there and also on special teams, help the team in the return game as well.”
Against New England, Bailey had five kickoffs to the 3, 3, 6 and the goal line twice. The Cowboys kept Buehler to boom touchbacks and/or pin returners deep with directional kicking.
Buehler began kicking lightly last week and said his workout went well on Monday. He hopes to be ready for Sunday against St. Louis.
ST. LOUIS (AP)
Texas manager Ron Washington joked about not being able to match wits with Tony La Russa.
Who can, these days?
The St. Louis boss looked like a genius once again in Game 1, especially when Allen Craig pinch-hit for ace Chris Carpenter and delivered a go-ahead single that sent the Cardinals past the Texas Rangers 3-2 on Wednesday night.
Craig’s slicing hit with two outs in the sixth inning fell inches in front of sliding right fielder Nelson Cruz. Game 1 was just that tight throughout a cold, damp evening.
It was a game perfectly suited for La Russa – lots of bunts, intentional walks and pitching changes. And in a postseason in which he’s made all the right moves, the 67-year-old manager was at the top of his game.
”It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out,” Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman said. ”But I feel like we have to win the National League-style games if we’re going to win this thing and tonight was a National League-style game — 3-2, good pitching, good defense, timely hitting.
”I don’t think that we want to get into a gorilla ball-type series with these guys. We’ll see what happens when we add the DH and go to the American League ballpark, but I think when we have the National League style and we have the advantage we have to capitalize.”
The Cardinals did, barely. A sliding stop by first baseman Albert Pujols helped prevent Texas from taking the lead on Carpenter’s final pitch in the sixth.
St. Louis even won without its Rally Squirrel. There were no sightings of the elusive critter still roaming Busch Stadium — good thing for the rodent, too, because La Russa probably would’ve devised a way to catch him.
Game 2 is Thursday night, with Jaime Garcia starting for the Cards against Colby Lewis. Texas has not lost two straight games since Aug. 23 to 25.