Jerry Jones the owner is placing the blame for a struggling offensive line on Jerry Jones the general manager. During an interview Thursday with NFL.com, Jones said the offensive line is “probably where I’ve let us down most.”
“The O-line, if I look back the last two years, if I had some mulligans or some re-dos, I might’ve done that differently. We’re trying to do that this year.”
Over the last two seasons, the Cowboys have failed to put together a line that can adequately protect quarterback Tony Romo. The Cowboys have some stability on the outside with tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free but the interior was arguably one of the worst groups in the NFL in 2011.
Phil Costa improved later in the 2011 season, but made several mistakes in his first year at center. He has been sidelined with a lower back injury during much of training camp.
Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings were signed in free agency to solidify the guard positions but both have also struggled to stay healthy. In addition, the Cowboys added one of the top line coaches in the league, Bill Callahan, to improve the group this off-season.
Judging by the team’s preseason opener — a 3-0 victory over Oakland — the protection hasn’t improved. Romo was left scrambling for his life on a couple of occasions and the running game was non-existent with the first team offense. Starting running back DeMarco Murray finished with no yards on two carries. Felix Jones managed four yards on two rushing attempts.
But if there is any type of immediate solution out there, Jones seems to be ready to act on it. After all, he prides himself on never attempting to re-build.
“What we do with the Cowboys, using the analogy of going to Las Vegas and putting it all on the table, we’re shoving it all out there,” he said. “I shove it all out there with the Cowboys every year.”
As a player and a person, defensive end Marcus Spears says he has matured. But his perspective on his job security hasn’t changed during his tenure with the Cowboys.
“I come in every year with the mentality I can lose my spot and be beat out,” Spears said.
In past seasons, that never seemed to be a legitimate possibility for the 2005 first-round draft pick. But now it is. The Cowboys’ defensive line is stacked with quality players — many of whom are younger and cheaper than Spears.
“Everybody is playing for a roster spot right now,” said end Jason Hatcher.
As a result, the five-year, $19.2 million contract Spears signed in 2011 could be the deciding factor in whether he stays with the Cowboys. At the very least, it will be a consideration.
“You understand that’s where the game is and you understand sometimes decisions have to be made based off that,” Spears, 29, said. “So, if that’s my situation, so be it. I’ve seen a lot of guys before me go and a lot of guys after me go because of that situation. But at the end of the day, I think these coaches want to keep the best players. I think that’s what it really boils down to. I am trying to be one of those guys.”
That was evident against Oakland last Monday, when Spears made an impact. In the 3-0 victory, he collected four tackles, including one that resulted in lost yardage.
“I am one of those people who feels like you’ll go insane if you try to control things you can’t control,” Spears said. “All you can do is play football and try to put yourself in the best situation you can put yourself in. I want to be here until I retire. But if that’s not the case, you move on and thank them for the opportunity.”
The Dallas Cowboys face the San Diego Chargers in the second game of the preseason. Here’s a preview:
Who’s not playing: It would take you an hour to figure out who’s not playing for the Cowboys. We give you the highlights: OLB DeMarcus Ware, OLB Anthony Spencer, WR Miles Austin, TE Jason Witten, G Nate Livings, NT Jay Ratliff and C Phil Costa are the projected starters who will miss the game.
The starters play how much, again?: Jason Garrett wanted the first-team offense to go about 8-to-10 plays in the preseason opener at Oakland. Tonight, maybe into the second quarter, with center David Arkin expected to go into the third, maybe fourth quarter. When Arkin comes out, expect Harland Gunn to take over the center snaps. With second-team tackle Jeremy Parnell out, Jeff Adams slide in and take some snaps. Safety Barry Church played with the second team a little bit at Oakland. It could continue again.
Who needs to play well: It’s easy to say everybody, but based off the Raiders game and the last two days of practice, we’ve come up with a few names: WR Raymond Radway, CB Morris Claiborne, DE Marcus Spears, DE Kenyon Coleman, CB Mario Butler and G Ronald Leary.
Mo debuts: First-round pick Morris Claiborne will make his NFL debut at the Chargers. He’s not sure if he’ll start, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Cowboys come out in a three-cornerback setup with Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr alongside Claiborne. The rookie needs the snaps against different competition and he might play the entire first half. He’s battled Dez Bryant, Kevin Ogletree among others for nearly two weeks of practices, when he’s been healthy, so it will be interesting to see him against someone else.
About the series: If you’re scoring at home, this is the 14th meeting between the teams. Dallas holds the preseason series advantage at 7-6. The Chargers won the last meeting, in 2009, 20-17.
RELATED: Five players to watch vs. San Diego Chargers
Preseason game No. 2 kicks off tonight at Qualcomm Stadium against San Diego Chargers and for some players their time to make an impression is running out.
Here is a look at five guys to watch:
Alex Albright – He was everywhere against Oakland on Monday, credited with a game-high nine tackles, and he will start tonight because of DeMarcus Ware’s absence due to a slight hamstring strain. Albright is a virtual lock to make the team, but he can show he can be a regular contributor on the defense with a good performance. He will also play some inside linebacker again, which would help the team’s ability to carry more players at other positions when they make the final cuts.
Mario Butler – After a so-so offseason, Butler has done much better when the pads came on. He is not the fastest or quickest, but he has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time. He understands his limitations and stays out of trouble. He can play in the slot some and has taken some turns at safety. As the Cowboys ponder how many corners and safeties to keep, Butler could be that swing guy the way Alan Ball was a swing guy for a few seasons.
Ronald Leary – He came in with a lot of acclaim as an undrafted free agent but he has leveled off over the last week of camp. Against Oakland he tired and did not fire off the ball as well as he had been earlier in camp. The Cowboys have guaranteed him $214,000, a high number for an undrafted player, so he should make the team, but with a good showing tonight he could still work his way into the starting lineup or at least one of the active offensive linemen on Sundays.
Kevin Ogletree – Nobody likes hearing this but Ogletree has had a nice camp. Of the guys competing for the No. 3 receiver spot he has the most ability to play as a starter should something happen to Miles Austin or Dez Bryant. He does not help much on special teams but if he can prove to be reliable and make plays regardless of the quarterback tonight, he can cement a spot on the roster. Even with Andre Holmes good outing vs. the Raiders, Ogletree is still the leader for the No. 3 spot.
Mana Silva – He was a late-season pickup in 2011 after he was signed of Buffalo’s practice squad and had four special teams’ tackles. He had an interception to clinch the win at Oakland on Monday and Rob Ryan is intrigued about this prospect. Silva, however, will need to make his mark on special teams to make a dent because the Cowboys still like Matt Johnson’s potential even though the fourth-round pick has taken part in one full-padded practice in camp.
Before they encountered a rash of injuries that decimated the offensive line and forced them to redraft their starting lineup, the Dallas Cowboys already knew the next two weeks would be challenging.
One look at their preseason slate was enough to make that conclusion. After all, their last three exhibition games, starting with Saturday’s meeting with San Diego, will take place in a span of 12 days.
The condensed schedule has forced Dallas into an uncomfortable arrangement. The Cowboys will have only four full practices before the end of the preseason, giving them little time to resolve large-scale problems before Week 1 rolls around and their attention completely shifts to their Sept. 5 season opener against the New York Giants.
“It’s happening fast,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We really talked to our team about that from the start of training camp, that it was really important to lay a great foundation here the first couple of weeks because then the schedule is going to get a little funny, and before you know it we are going to be on a plane, flying to New York to play the Giants.
“So, you do your best to handle the different situations that come up, individually as players and coaches, and certainly collectively. … We don’t anticipate anything on our team being ironed out before we go to the Giants. It’s an ongoing process.”
And the circumstances keep changing. On Friday, it was revealed that linebacker DeMarcus Ware won’t play against San Diego after experiencing hamstring soreness. He joins six other projected starters — tight end Jason Witten (spleen), receiver Miles Austin (hamstring), center Phil Costa (back), guard Nate Livings (hamstring) and linebacker Anthony Spencer (hamstring) — who are sidelined.
“It’s tough not to have some of your guys there that you’re going to roll in the season with,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “But that’s going to happen. … We still have some time to take advantage of and get ready for the Giants.”
One day into training camp, the Dallas Cowboys took a risk-free look at rookie tailback Ed Wesley.
On the last day of camp, they had seen enough. It didn’t help matters that Wesley showed up about 15 minutes late to the morning walkthrough, which likely only helped the Cowboys’ decision to waive Wesley on Friday. The team made the move not long before the team departed for San Diego for Saturday’s second preseason game.
Wesley did not play in last Monday’s game with the Raiders, a somewhat surprising move considering the Cowboys have injury issues already at tailback with Phillip Tanner (broken hand) and Lance Dunbar (hamstring) out for the last two weeks. Both players did not play Monday and likely won’t play against San Diego.
But the Cowboys leaned more on rookie Jamize Olawale, a converted fullback who has received tailback reps as well. Also, first-year pro Javarris Williams, who was added in camp, has given the club a boost with a more physical presence.
Wesley went undrafted in the NFL Supplemental Draft back in July. The former TCU tailback and Irving, Texas native tried out for 16 teams from in June and July, including the Cowboys.
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said quarterback Tony Romo and the first-team offense will get more than the 11 snaps they received in Monday’s 3-0 win at Oakland when the starting offense struggled.
Garrett said he plans to "inch that up a little bit" in tonight’s game against San Diego to get Romo some more opportunities.
That probably translates to Romo playing until early in the second quarter.
But Garrett acknowledged that the absence of Miles Austin (hamstring) and Jason Witten (spleen) as primary targets, compounded by an injury-riddled offensive line, could impact how long he keeps Romo in the game.
"We certainly wouldn’t put him out there with people we weren’t comfortable blocking in front of him," Garrett said. "I think the issues with the skill guys, with [no] Witten and Miles, those are opportunities for other guys to play. So we’re excited to see how [young receivers] play up, so to speak.
"We would never put Tony or anybody out there where we felt like there was a situation where they could get hurt. We don’t think that’s the case right now."
Garrett said a similar usage plan is surfacing on defense, where there is a lack of depth at inside linebacker.
"Sean Lee and Bruce Carter and Dan Connor won’t be playing that long into this game. They’ll probably play into the second quarter," Garrett said, adding that the rest of the game will be handled by reserves whose ranks have depleted this week with injuries to Kyle Wilber (broken thumb) and Caleb McSurdy (torn Achilles).
Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said Friday he will not play in tonight’s game because of a hamstring ailment.
Ware described the injury as not serious and indicated he would play if this were a regular-season game.
Ware becomes the seventh, and most recent, player to miss time in training camp because of a hamstring-related injury.
Other starters impacted with hamstring ailments in camp include receiver Miles Austin, linebacker Anthony Spencer, guard Nate Livings and defensive end Jason Hatcher.
Felix Jones said with the exception of one thing, he has had a great training camp.
"You subtract the conditioning test, I think I did pretty good," the Cowboys running back said.
The reporters around him chuckled. Somebody said they had forgotten about the conditioning test, which he failed and had to retake three days into training camp.
"I hope a lot of people forget about the test!" Jones said with a smile.
Then he turned serious. "But you know, it happened. I’ve got to deal with it. People talk about it. But I’m past that now. It’s in the background," he said.
Jones said he is 100 percent healthy after off-season shoulder surgery.
Last year, he couldn’t raise his arm to catch passes, and he said the pain in his shoulder affected the way he ran.
"You try to baby it and try not get hit on it, but you know, with this game, you can’t do that," he said. "You can’t play your game and try to protect yourself at the same time. I’m glad I did what I did this off-season. Now I’m ready for 2012. I can’t wait to get going."
PRESEASON GAME 2: Five things to watch when Dallas Cowboys face San Diego Chargers | Eight Starters out
Dallas Cowboys fans could allow themselves to be depressed about all the players who won’t participate in tonight’s preseason game against San Diego or be excited about the debut of top pick Morris Claiborne in the secondary. Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware has a tight hamstring and is one of at least eight starters who won’t play tonight. Claiborne, picked sixth overall out of LSU, will get his first real test against the pass-happy Chargers.
1 Starting over again: Quarterback Tony Romo and the starters will play into the second quarter, prompting owner Jerry Jones to hold his breath again that no one gets hurt. The Cowboys are balancing the fine line between being cautious and getting Romo and company the needed work to get ready for the season.
2 Life without Witten: There will be an increased focus on the tight end position, which will be without Jason Witten for the rest of the preseason and possibly the season opener. John Phillips will get the start. It’s also a good opportunity for James Hanna, the rookie from Oklahoma, who could have a bigger role as a pass catcher
3 Who’s No. 3? The Cowboys will use more three-receiver sets with the shortage of tight ends, giving them a better chance to evaluate the receivers. Can underdog Cole Beasley of SMU outshine Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris, etc.?
4 No snap decision: David Arkin gets another long look at center. He starts again for Phil Costa, who is out with a back injury. Monday the goal was not to botch any snaps. Tonight the Cowboys hope he gets the blocking part down and doesn’t allow any free hits on the quarterbacks, namely Romo.
5 Linebacker minutes: Bruce Carter and Dan Connor continue their battle for the starting linebacker job opposite Sean Lee. Both will play a lot as the Cowboys will be in the 4-3 look as much as they are in the 3-4 this year. Carter has the potential to be special, and his continued development is key after missing much of last year with a knee injury.
RELATED: Ware to miss Chargers’ game with hamstring injury
Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said today he will not play in Saturday’s pre-season game against the San Diego Chargers because of a hamstring ailment. Ware described the injury as not serious and indicated he would play if this were a regular-season contest.
Ware becomes the seventh, and most recent, player to miss time in training camp because of a hamstring-related injury. Other starters impacted with hamstring ailments in camp include receiver Miles Austin, linebacker Anthony Spencer, guard Nate Livings and defensive end Jason Hatcher.