Daily Archives: August 23rd, 2012

JASON GARRETT: Growing comfort in LT Tyron Smith’s efforts to protect Tony Romo’s blind side

Tyron Smith  Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said left tackle Tyron Smith, 21, is “getting more and more comfortable” with his role protecting the blind side of quarterback Tony Romo with each practice.

Smith played right tackle last season but switched sides with fellow starter Doug Free during the off-season.

“There are … challenges that he’s going to face going over on the left side,” Garrett said. “But he’s embraced those. And I think he’s getting more and more comfortable with his stance, with his pass sets, with his communication. I just think he’s an awfully good football player who’s getting better and better every day. It’s great to know that he’s 21 years old and has such a mature way about him and wants to improve every day. He’s certainly been a great asset to our football team.”

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GAME PLAN: DeMarco Murray to have limited carries against Rams but not as limited as last week

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) trots back down the field with the ball after making a catch during the 2012 Dallas Cowboys Silver & Blue Debut - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he wants to increase the workload of running back DeMarco Murray in Saturday’s pre-season game against the Rams, but not by much.

“It will still be a limited number,” Garrett said. “We don’t want him banging away out there for too long in this game.”

Murray, the team’s starting running back, touched the fall on five of the Cowboys’ first six plays in last week’s 28-20 loss to San Diego. Those plays produced a combined 30 yards before Murray left the contest and did not return.

ROSTER MOVE: Dallas Cowboys release LB Isaiah Greenhouse

The Cowboys have released LB Isaiah Greenhouse, who was injured in training camp.

His departure leaves the team’s roster at 87 players heading into Saturday’s pre-season game against the St. Louis Rams.

The Cowboys’ roster must be reduced to 75 players by Monday, Aug. 27.

SILVER & BLUE DEBUT: Spontaneous on-field adjustments at Cowboys Stadium tonight

Fans attend the 2012 Dallas Cowboys Silver & Blue Debut at Cowboys Stadium - The Boys Are Back blog

When the unexpected happens on the football field, coaches call it “sudden change.”

The best teams rise to the moment and meet the challenge, whether that means a defense keeping an opposing offense out of the end zone after a short-field turnover or an offense capitalizing on a long punt return and scoring a touchdown while momentum is on its side.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett talks with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo - The Boys Are Back blog

Fans who watched the Cowboys go through tonight’s Silver & Blue Debut at Cowboys Stadium saw the team respond to a lot of unscripted moments, whether it was a beat-the-clock drive by the offense or a defense suddenly forced to into a goal-line situation after an imaginary turnover declared by coach Jason Garrett.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris (17) tries to return a punt but is stopped by Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter - The Boys Are Back blog

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said the spontaneous work was good for the team.

“Jason put in a lot of situations where no one knew them,” Ryan said. “Coaches had to react to them. Players had to react to them. So it was really good. A lot of good work.”

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett talks with team members - The Boys Are Back blog

Ryan said players also enjoyed seeing the thousands of fans who showed up to watch the free practice in Arlington.

Cowboys Practice

“It’s fun to get back here in front of the loyal crowd that’s here,” Ryan said. “We’ve got a lot of big things to get done and we’re working hard to get them done.”

Cowboys Silver & Blue practice

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Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders perform before the 2012 Dallas Cowboys Silver & Blue Debut crowd - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders perform before the 2012 Dallas Cowboys Silver & Blue Debut crowd.

YOU’RE THE GM: Do you keep him or cut him?

Play general manager and decide which Dallas Cowboys stand the best chance of making the final 53-man roster. The first cuts (to 75) come Monday, Aug. 27. (Players are arranged by position, starting with QBs).

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Stephen McGee, QB, 4, Texas A&M
McGee’s shaky performances during the preseason could come back to haunt him. Though he doesn’t have a lot of competition for the No. 3 spot, Cowboys coaches may be losing patience with him.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Tony Romo, QB, 10, Eastern Illinois
One of the league’s elite quarterbacks, he owns many of the Cowboys passing records. And he’s coming off the best season in his career stats wise. He’s developed into a leader, but some fans will keep questioning Romo until he wins big in December and beyond.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Rudy Carpenter, QB, 3, Arizona State
Carpenter was claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay, but he began his career in Dallas. Third-string QB Stephen McGee has struggled so far this preseason, which gives Carpenter an outside chance.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Kyle Orton, QB, 8, Purdue
A very good investment in the offseason, the Cowboys have one of the best backups in the league in Orton. His starting experience and 80 career touchdown passes show he’ll be ready to step in if needed.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Lance Dunbar, RB, R, North Texas
The realistic goal is for him to make the practice squad or show enough to be picked up by another team.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Felix Jones, RB, 5, Arkansas
Jones hasn’t shown the speed and explosiveness that made him a big-play threat in previous seasons. And he continues to be dogged by injuries. Spot duty is when he’s most effective, so we’ll see if he can make a bigger impact backing up DeMarco Murray and as a kick returner.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
DeMarco Murray, RB, 2, Oklahoma
The next big thing after a great start to his rookie season. Sidelined by a season-ending knee injury, Murray is back and healthy this season and will be the featured back. He’s got a good mixture of power and speed, he’s a solid blocker and he has very good hands as a receiver.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Javarris Williams, RB, 1, Tennessee St.
The Cowboys waived TCU standout Ed Wesley recently to make room for Williams, but the role of backup running back may already have been locked up by Phillip Tanner and Jamize Olawale.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Phillip Tanner, RB, 2, Middle Tennessee St.
Tanner stuck with the Cowboys last season, but he still needs to look over his shoulder this year. And a broken hand early in training camp didn’t help his chances.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Shaun Chapas, FB, 1, Georgia
He’s a true fullback who could help on special teams, but he’s been too inconsistent in the preseason.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Lawrence Vickers, FB, 7, Colorado
He’s a proven fullback from the Texans who has cleared the path for a 1,000 yard rusher in four of his six pro seasons.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Jamize Olawale, FB, R, North Texas
The big man is getting a lot of attention in camp and plenty of playing time in the preseason. He’s earned it. And we think he’s earned a roster spot.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
David Little, WR, R, Midwestern State
A local, small-school talent who signed on August 5, Little is a big-play receiver who is trying to get at least a practice squad job.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Saalim Hakim, WR, R, Tarleton State
He needs to get some touches to stay around, but it’s unlikely. He played in the United Football League before joining Cowboys.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Cole Beasley, WR, R, Southern Methodist
The fan favorite is pushing for a receiving spot, and his seven catches for 107 yards at San Diego might have been enough to get it for him. Everyone in the league is looking for the next Wes Welker, and some see Beasley with that kind of potential.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Andre Holmes, WR, 1, Hillsdale
He will probably be the most debated player on cut day. He’s got great size, but his preseason games have been good and bad and a back injury could seal his fate.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Tim Benford, WR, R, Tennessee Tech
He’s a camp body who has not made an impact, but he does bring good college stats to the table (923 yards, five touchdowns receiving). Maybe a practice squad player.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Dwayne Harris, WR, 2, East Carolina
He’s got good potential on special teams and he’s elusive in the open field. With all the WR injuries, he’s getting an extended look.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Miles Austin, WR, 7, Monmouth
After a breakout season and getting a big contract, he’s be mostly known for his nagging hamstring injuries. He’s got great speed and strength, but he needs to find a way to stay healthy and contribute.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Danny Coale, WR, R, Virginia Tech
The Cowboys fifth-round draft pick will get a lot of rope to succeed, but injuries have kept him sidelined for much of the preseason. Injuries to other receivers will give him a chance to impress coaches, but he’d better hurry up.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Kevin Ogletree, WR, 4, Virginia
He’s all but locked up the third receiver job after a strong showing in the first two preseason games. He’s earned praise from Tony Romo, and Jerry Jones about his added toughness, which is something the Cowboys need more of out of the receiver position.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Raymond Radway, WR, 1, Abilene Christian
A very intriguing talent who was on track to make the team last season as a rookie before a season-ending broken leg injury. He’ll command some debate before the final cut, and could make it just because of the fragile nature of Austin and Bryant.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Donavon Kemp, WR, R, UTEP
A recent left knee injury doesn’t bode well for this former 1,000-yard receiver at UTEP.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Dez Bryant, WR, 3, Oklahoma State
Nobody questions his talent, but can Dez stay healthy and stay out of trouble? We’ll see. After wowing coaches and the media early in training camp, he’s sidelined again with tendinitis in his knee. The Cowboys need him to play a full season.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Andrew Szczerba, TE, R, Penn State
The undrafted free agent tight end is getting an extended look with Jason Witten sidelined, but with the Cowboys needs at wide receiver they may not keep four tight ends.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Jason Witten, TE, 10, Tennessee
One of the franchise’s best players, the perennial Pro Bowler is recovering from a lacerated spleen. He doesn’t need surgery, though, and there’s a chance he could return for the season opener against the Giants.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Harry Flaherty, TE, 1, Princeton
He’s just a stopgap for now, but it never hurts to get training camp time in the NFL. And he did go to the coach’s alma mater.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
James Hanna, TE, R, Oklahoma
The sixth-round draft pick is making a strong case to stick around and become a quality backup. With Witten out, he’s getting more reps in the two tight-end sets.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
John Phillips, TE, 4, Virginia
A quality backup who is a very strong blocker from the tight end spot or even fullback if needed. With Witten injured, he’s getting more playing time in the preseason.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Kevin Kowalski, C/G, 2, Toledo
He was expected to compete for the starting center position, but an ankle injury makes it unlikely that he’ll see any playing time.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
David Arkin, G, 1, Missouri State
He got the start at center against Oakland in the preseason, with mixed results. He’s trying his best to find a spot on the line, and injuries to Phil Costa and others could determine his fate.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Harland Gunn, G, R, Miami
He started 30 of 38 games in college. And injuries on the line have given him more time in camp, but as veterans get healthy he will likely be one of the odd men out.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Levy Adcock, T, R, Oklahoma State
The former All-Big 12 performer dominated the line for the OSU Cowboys. But it may be another year or two until he plays for these Cowboys.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Ronald Leary, G, R, Memphis
There’s smoke, but not much fire yet. GM Jones likes Leary so much he guaranteed the undrafted free agent more than $200,000 in 2012. But that’s pocket change for Jerry.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Phil Costa, C, 3, Maryland
He’s been sitting out the preseason with a back injury, so the goal is to keep him healthy in the regular season. But in the meantime, plenty of other guys are getting their chance to impress the coaches.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Doug Free, T, 6, Northern Illinois
Entering the second season of a four-year, $32 million contract, Free needs to return to form, playing a new position: right guard.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Tyrone Novikoff, T, R, Idaho
Made 31 starts in 46 career games at Idaho and was the senior team captain. But his chances of playing on Sundays in Arlington this season are slim.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Jeff Adams, T, R, Columbia
The Ivy League prospect made that league’s postseason team three consecutive years, and coach Jason Garrett likes smart players. But the practice squad may be this undrafted free agent’s best chance of hanging around.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Nate Livings, G, 5, Louisiana StateThe Cowboys picked up Livings during free agency to help bolster the offensive line. He is expected to start at left guard.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Mackenzy Bernadeau, G, 5, Bentley
He signed with the Cowboys during the first few days of free agency and can play both guard positions. He is projected as a starter.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Pat McQuistan, T, 7, Weber State
He’s making his second tour with the Cowboys after brief stops in New Orleans and Miami.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Daniel Loper, G, 7, Texas Tech
The veteran gives the Cowboys another option on the offensive line. But how many can they really keep?
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Derrick Dockery, G, 10, Texas
The longtime veteran started two games with the Cowboys last season, but was slowed by knee injury. With all the injuries on the O-line, he’ll probably hang around for the season.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Tyron Smith, T, 2, Southern California
The former first-round pick in 2011 can play both tackle positions, and he is on track to be one of the best offensive linemen in football.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Jermey Parnell, T, 3, Mississippi
The big man played well in the first preseason game. He should be a solid backup.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Teddy Williams, CB, 1, UTSA
He’s a track man trying to find a spot on an NFL team. Speed still kills in this league, but he can’t really cover and that’s not good when you’re a cornerback.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Mike Jenkins, CB, 5, South Florida
After offseason shoulder surgery, and losing his starting job, the Cowboys will monitor Jenkins effort closely when he gets back on the field.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Morris Claiborne, CB, R, Louisiana State
The Cowboys’ No. 1 draft pick, whom they traded up for, isn’t going anywhere. But he is running behind because of some nagging injuries. He’ll start, but might be vulnerable early.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, CB, 3, Indiana (PA)
This is his second tour of duty with the Cowboys. He has good hands on special teams, but needs to be more of a difference maker.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
C.J. Wilson, CB, 4, Baylor
Was added to the practice squad late in the 2011 season, and he’s trying to find a role in a crowded secondary this year. It’s gonna be tough.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Mario Butler, CB, 1, Georgia Tech
He was on the Cowboys practice squad last season and he needs to make a move soon or he might not return.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Orlando Scandrick, CB, 5, Boise State
He got the big contract last season and has been a valuable contributor in the secondary and on special teams.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Mana Silva, S, 1, Hawaii
He appeared in two games with Dallas at the end of the 2011 season. Again, a crowded secondary leaves questions about his stability. His best chance to make the squad is as a special teams star.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Matt Johnson, S, R, Eastern Washington
The Cowboys really want to give Johnson a good look, but injuries have slowed his play in the preseason.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Eddie Whitley, S, R, Virginia Tech
He has not made an impact in training camp, but has the measurables to fit somewhere in the league.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Brandon Carr, CB, 5, Grand Valley State
A lot rides on his shoulders in the secondary and so far he’s been worth the $50.1 million investment. Carr had two interceptions in the San Diego preseason game.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Danny McCray, S, 3, Louisiana StateSpecial teams stud and quality backup. He makes plays and that’s the name of the game in the NFL.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Lionel Smith, CB, R, Texas A&M
He has a knack for getting his hands on the ball when he gets an opportunity. And with Mike Jenkins out, he’s getting opportunities.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Barry Church, S, 3, Toledo
Turning the corner and becoming a notable defender, Church took over the starting safety job in training camp and is another much needed leader on defense.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Gerald Sensabaugh, S, 8, North Carolina
He needs to make more big plays in the passing game, but Sensabaugh is ultra tough against the run.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Sean Lee, LB, 3, Penn State
The team’s leader on defense begins his second season as a full-time starter. He makes a lot of plays and will be one of the stars (or scapegoats) in 2012.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Kyle Wilber, LB, R, Wake Forest
A fouth-round draft pick who started 36 of 43 games in college, Wilber broke his thumb in the first preseason game and will miss the start of the season.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Dan Connor, LB, 5, Penn State
The veteran will be competing for a starting job, and he provides depth and added speed. The former Carolina Panther signed a two-year deal.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Adrian Hamilton, LB, R, Prairie View A&M
Sleeper prospect who is very raw. He led the nation as a senior with 20.5 sacks, but the undrafted free agent has an uphill climb.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Bruce Carter, LB, 2, North Carolina
A healthy Carter is living up to the hype that came after his selection in the second round in 2011.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Alex Albright, LB, 2, Boston College
One of three undrafted free agents to make the team in 2011, he ended up playing in 16 games. And he impressed coaches and fellow players against San Diego in preseason.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Caleb McSurdy, LB, R, MontanaThe Cowboys seventh-round draft pick has a knack for playing big against the run, but he ruptured his Achilles tendon during camp and will have to try to come back next year after season-ending surgery.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Victor Butler, LB, 4, Oregon State.
A strong pass rusher, he had a big preseason performance at San Diego and will be counted on for more plays in the regular season.
Keep him or cut him? KEEP
Orie Lemon, LB, 1, Oklahoma State
He might get caught in the numbers game at linebacker, but he belongs in the NFL somewhere.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Baraka Atkins, DT, 4, MiamiHe’s competitive, but was out of football most of last season. And at a competitive position, he’ll be one of the odd men out.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Anthony Spencer, LB, 6, Purdue
He carries an $8 million franchise tag and is the “other” linebacker opposite DeMarcus Ware. Now that Spencer has big money, he needs to finally start racking up big sack numbers.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
DeMarcus Ware, LB, 8, Troy
Disruptive, active playmaker who is shattering sack records. He can dominate a game and is the Cowboys best player on defense. But he faces regular double-teams and he needs more pass-rushing help.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Tyrone Crawford, DT, R, Boise State
Big, third-round draft pick who’ll be in the rotation upfront barring injury. He’s impressed the coaches in rookie camp and in Oxnard.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Robert Callaway, DT, 1, Saginaw ValleyA raw, small-school talent who is trying to impress the coaches.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Ben Bass, DT, R, Texas A&M
The undrafted free agent from Texas A&M is trying to find a spot with the Cowboys as a pass-rushing defensive end. He’s more likely to end up on the practice squad.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Jay Ratliff, NT, 8, Auburn
In seven seasons, Ratliff has earned four Pro Bowl nods after beginning his career as a seventh-round pick. He’s also one of the leaders on the Dallas D.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Josh Brent, NT, 3, Illinois
A third-year player who began his career through the supplemental draft, he plays behind Ratliff and could give the Cowboys another big body to clog up the middle.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Sean Lissemore, DT, 3, William & Mary
He can play defensive end or nose tackle in the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme. And he’s very active, which makes him an important piece of Rob Ryan’s defense.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Marcus Spears, DT, 8, Louisiana State:
He’s steady, durable and a good team player, but has not risen to elite level yet.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Jason Hatcher, DT, 7, Grambling State
The Cowboys want more production from Hatcher. He’s a good fit in the rotation, but a groin injury has hampered him in the early part of training camp.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Clifton Geathers, DT, 2, South Carolina:
Got playing time in five games last season with two tackles and three quarterback hurries. And he’s looking good so far in camp this season.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Kenyon Coleman, DT, 11, UCLA:
Quiet, but effective, contributor who has first-hand knowledge of Rob Ryan’s defense.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Delbert Alvarado, P, 1, South Florida:
He gives the Cowboys another punting option for camp after getting a workout during rookie minicamp and signing June 4. But his chances of playing on Sundays for America’s Team are slim barring injuries.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT
Dan Bailey, K, 2, Oklahoma State
Mr. Reliable will be looking for a sophomore encore. Bailey had one of the best kicking seasons in franchise history in 2011, but beware the sophomore slump.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Chris Jones, P, 1, Carson Newman
Good enough to allow the Cowboys to release Mat McBriar. Jones averaged 42.6 yards per punt in backup roles last season.
Keep or cut: KEEP
L.P. Ladouceur, long snapper, 8, California
One of the best in the game at a position that no one talks about — until there’s a mistake.
Keep him or cut him?: KEEP
Charley Hughlett, LS, R, Central Florida
Plays a specialized position that isn’t likely to warrant two roster spots. And he’s been quiet in camp.
Keep him or cut him?: CUT

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David Humphrey and Rick Press

SILVER AND BLUE DEBUT: Thousands arrive to see the Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett - Valley Ranch - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON — After taking their training camp show on the road for the past month, the Dallas Cowboys opened their preseason preparations to their hometown fans for the first time with a public practice at Cowboys Stadium Thursday.

The annual "Silver and Blue Debut" was well received as usual by eager Cowboys fans, wearing Jay Ratliff, Tony Romo and DeMarcus Ware jerseys among others.

Fans filled the parking lots before 3 p.m. and lined up at the turnstiles in 90 degree temperatures before being let in the building for the 4:30 pm practice.

The practice, which was the team ’s first workout since breaking training camp in California on Tuesday, featured performances by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and the Rhythm and Blue Dance Team.

It was a non-padded workout, which would be the team’s last before Saturday’s home preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

Owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett were met with cheers as they walked across the field.

For many fans, it didn’t matter that it was a practice. It was their first and only free look at the team before the 2012 season begins.

MIKE JENKINS INJURY UPDATE: Doctor visit September 3, likely miss season opener with Giants

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins is not scheduled to returned to the see Dr. James Andrews for an update on his surgically repaired shoulder until days before the Sept. 5 season opener against the Giants.

Considering he has not practiced at all since the end of last season, that time table makes it unlikely he will  be ready to go for the first game even if he is cleared by Andrews.

Jenkins says his shoulder feels good and he is in good shape but doesn’t plan on playing until he gets the go ahead from Andrews.

Even he admits that the opener might be "pushing it" based on when he is scheduled to return to see Dr. Andrews.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Jenkins said. “When I saw the doctor, he said four weeks. So I’ve got to go back to the doctor and see what he says. But I’ll be 100 percent when I get back.”

The four-week time table is based on when Jenkins last visited Andrews on Aug. 5.

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RELATED: Garrett said Jenkins won’t play without practicing

Dallas Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett said cornerback Mike Jenkins is progressing well in his rehab from off season shoulder surgery and is hopeful he gets cleared when sees Dr. James Andrews again.

The problem is that Jenkins is not scheduled to see Andrews until the week of the Sept. 5 season opener against the Giants, making it unlikely for him to be available even if he is cleared.

While Garrett said the Cowboys have no firm date on when Jenkins needs to get cleared, there is little chance for him to play in the opener without practicing. Jenkins has missed the entire offseason and training camp and is currently on the physically unable to perform list.

“He needs to be able to practice football before he plays in game one,” Garrett said. “So we understand the challenge he has coming back, having missed all the offseason and all of training camp. And we will treat his circumstance very individual and very specifically. But we believe in practice. Football is really challenging at this level. You can go out there and play if you haven’t prepared the right way. We have no drop dead date in particular but we understand he has practice before he is ready to play. We wouldn’t put him out there unless he was ready.”

JASON WITTEN INJURY UPDATE: Doctor visit on Tuesday, possible timetable on return

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten will visit the doctor on Tuesday to get an update on his recovery from a lacerated spleen and possibly get a firmer grasp on his availability for the Sept. 5 season opener against the New York Giants.

"The most recent update on Witten is everything is going fairly well with him," coach Jason Garrett said. "Obviously it’s a very serious injury that he has. The doctors have seen all of his tests, his blood work all throughout the process and he’s scheduled to see another doctor on Tuesday, and hopefully we can get an OK from that, but this is all normal within the process of what we thought right from the outset. But everything has come back positive for him and we’re hopeful that he can return sooner rather than later."

Witten was injured in the preseason opener against the Raiders Aug. 13. He has not practiced or done much of anything since. He was told to rest and be as still as possible to let the spleen heal.

Garrett said everything has been positive about his recovery, as doctors have reviewed his blood work on an almost daily basis.

Witten, who has been ruled out of the last two preseason games, is hopeful of returning for the opener. Garrett said the doctors will make the final decision.

"I don’t want to get into the specifics of that, but everything he’s done up to this point has been positive," Garrett said. " He’s feeling better, the blood work has come back positive for us, meaning it’s good, and he’s going to see this doctor on Tuesday, so we’ll get a further update at that point about how do we go forward."

THREE PHASE D: Jason Garrett sums up improvement on defense

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett - Training Camp 2012 2013 - The Boys Are Back blog

The idea is out there that the Cowboys should play better on defense this year, considering the upgrades at cornerback and an offseason to work with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Jason Garrett was asked this week, after the Cowboys wrapped up practices against the San Diego Chargers, if indeed the defense will be better this year, and why.

His answer:

“If you think about the additions of some guys we added to our team in free agency and the draft, you see some positive steps there,” he said. “I think the defense has played well since the start of camp. They are understanding the scheme better. We have guys in spots where they can be really, really good football players.

“If you look at our defense through the first two preseason games, they have played very well, particularly in the first half. We are defending the run well. We are covering better. We are pressuring the quarterback.

“We have to get better in all those areas and throughout our football team. But there certainly has been a lot of progress on the defensive side of the ball.”

Carlos Mendez

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