Daily Archives: August 30th, 2012

BONUS VIDEO: Jason Garrett Press Conference

VIDEO Pop Out - Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett Press Conference - The Boys Are Back blog

Jason Garrett Press Conference 8/30 (Click on picture above to play video)

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett spoke to the media as the Dallas Cowboys prepare to face the Giants on Wednesday. Duration: 16:10 Enjoy!

VIDEO Pop Out - Talkin Cowboys with Mickey Spagnola - Dallas Cowboys Radio Network - The Boys Are Back blog

Talkin’ Cowboys: Preseason Wrap-Up (Click on picture above to play video)

Mickey, Bryan, and Rowan are in the studio to break down Wednesday nights game and begin looking ahead to the New York Giants this coming Wednesday.

HAPPY TRAILS COWBOY: Jason Garrett describes difficulties of player cuts

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett describes difficulties of player cuts - The Boys Are Back blog

Months of practices and four preseason games all culminate in one final cut day, which 22 Cowboys players won’t survive.

That time is 8:00 p.m. Aug. 31, and it’s a day that head coach Jason Garrett called one of the worst for a player or a coach in the NFL.

“I think what makes it difficult is the work that they put in,” Garrett said. “Most of our coaches and administrators are former players. They understand the commitment these guys have made. Anybody who’s been around our football team for the last month or so has seen the commitment these guys have made.”

Garrett, the offensive or defensive coordinator and a position coach all talk to the released player and try to explain why the decision was made, provide them constructive coaching and thank them for their effort. Afterward, their time as a Cowboy is finished.

Dallas has been plagued with injuries throughout the preseason, which could force them to go deep at some positions and light at others. Garrett said it’s not always the 53 best players, but the 53 players who give the Cowboys the best chance to win. No official announcement on the final roster will be made until Friday.

Garrett said the draft picks will get every opportunity possible to show the reason they were selected, but there are other players worthy of a chance. The Cowboys have a history of turning undrafted free agents into top talents, including Eastern Illinois’ Tony Romo and Monmouth’s Miles Austin.

“If you have an attitude that it doesn’t matter where players come from, it matters what they do when they get here, I think you’re more able to find some of those guys,” Garrett said. “That’s been our approach. We preached that to our players from Day 1.”

Garrett said it warms his heart to think about the commitment the Cowboys players made in the offseason to fulfill their dreams.

“We have a lot of discussions about who we should keep, what we should do with different players, what role he might have and might not have, so those are difficult discussions,” Garrett said. “What makes it hard is, in a lot of ways, many of these guys’ dreams have come to an end or have changed.”

COMMENTARY: Roster spots are too valuable to keep backups Stephen McGee or Rudy Carpenter

ARLINGTON, Texas — In three seasons, Stephen McGee has shown little indication he will ever become a starting NFL quarterback.

Tim Heitman/US Presswire - Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee completes for backup roster spot - The Boys Are Back blog

So it’s time for the Dallas Cowboys to move on. The same goes for Rudy Carpenter.

(Those two) roster spots are just too valuable to invest in a third quarterback, who has no shot to ever unseat Tony Romo or backup Kyle Orton.

When the Cowboys signed Orton to a three-year contract with a $5 million signing bonus in the offseason, it was an indictment of McGee, a fourth-round pick in 2009.

The day the Cowboys acquired Orton, McGee’s days were numbered.

Besides, McGee will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The odds he’d be on the roster next season are less than zero.

McGee entered Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Miami Dolphins needing a strong performance to persuade the Cowboys not to release him.

He started and played the first half. The results, as you would expect, were mixed.

McGee completed nine of 18 passes for 124 yards playing with backups. Center Phil Costa was the only offensive starter who played.

McGee’s best moments occurred in the second quarter, when he made a terrific throw from the near hash mark and completed a 32-yard pass to Andre Holmes, who was covered tightly along the sideline.

It was the kind of throw that will excite Garrett and the coaching staff when they see it on video. Then they’ll wonder why they don’t see throws like that more often.

Garrett doesn’t like players who flash. He wants consistent playmakers.

Late in the second quarter, McGee showed his athleticism, scrambling and eluding several defenders before launching a 36-yard pass to Tim Benford as he stepped out of bounds.

The completion set up Phillip Tanner’s 1-yard touchdown run.

"I thought he played a pretty solid half," said Garrett, who complimented McGee’s ability to make plays out of the pocket.

McGee has every physical tool you want in an NFL quarterback, which is why the Cowboys used a fourth-round pick on a guy from a simplistic, run-oriented offense at Texas A&M.

They knew it would take time for him to develop and take advantage of his 6-3, 225-pound frame and 4.61 speed in the 40-yard dash.

The problem: McGee gets paralysis by analysis.

Whether he has difficulties reading defenses, making his progressions or is simply afraid of throwing interceptions, McGee throws way too many check-down passes.

In the three games McGee has had substantial playing time, he’s thrown three touchdown passes and no interceptions, which is fine. But he has averaged just 5.12 yards per attempt, which is awful.

He’s cautious to a fault.

Understand, Tony Romo has a career average of 8.0 per pass and the best quarterbacks average at least 8.5 per attempt.

Now, it’s time for Garrett to make a decision.

Garrett values the quarterback position, but he has to decide whether McGee or Carpenter, who was 4-of-10 for 48 yards, are worthy of a roster spot.

Then he must determine whether it’s better to keep an extra receiver such as Andre Holmes.

Or whether running back Lance Dunbar, who gained 105 yards on 15 carries, or linebacker Orie Lemon, who returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown, deserve to be on the roster.

It’s unlikely McGee or Carpenter will help the Cowboys win a game this season.

The Cowboys would be better served signing a quarterback to their practice squad after final cuts are announced Friday or drafting one next year and trying to develop him into a starter.

They had the right idea using a fourth-round pick on McGee. It just didn’t work out.

Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPN Dallas

LAST DAY IN THE LIMELIGHT: Twenty-Two Dallas Cowboys playbooks will be turned in tomorrow

A large Dallas Cowboys star is moved off the field - Symbolic of the 22 players that will be cut Friday - The Boys Are Back blog

Every year is the same it seems. We go into this final preseason game with a handful of players right there on the verge of making the team.

It’s always around the same number of players, with only the names changing, this year’s group including the likes of Hamilton, Coale, Lemon, Bass, Dunbar and Olawale. Oh, there were a few more, but those were the main guys.

But this year, the differences include more than just a few name changes.

Because as soon as the final seconds ticked off the clock in Wednesday’s 30-13 win over the Dolphins, the regular season was upon us. Just like that, it’s on.

No longer do the Cowboys have about 10 days to get ready. With the Wednesday night game on Sept. 5, the team only has a full seven days before they face the defending champs.

And it certainly doesn’t help that the Cowboys are dealing with injuries to key players such as Jason Witten, Jay Ratliff and Miles Austin. Throw in Dez Bryant, Mike Jenkins and Danny McCray, and that puts quite a strain on the Cowboys trying to trim the roster down to 53 by Friday, at the same time they’re getting ready for a real game week.

Because of that, those injuries might have popped a few bubbles in the process.

We’ll see on Friday, but with the Giants game right around the corner, it might be too soon for some of these guys, particularly Witten and Ratliff. The Cowboys certainly won’t rule out either player. In fact, doctors checked out Witten’s lacerated spleen injury on Tuesday and it appears it will be a game-time decision on next Wednesday.

As for Ratliff, who has a high ankle sprain and was still on crutches as of Tuesday, it’ll also likely go up until kickoff before the Cowboys figure out his status.

In the meantime, the team has to prepare for the worst. In doing so, you must go long at those positions.

We could see Josh Brent and Robert Calloway make this team, at least for Week 1.

At tight end, either the Cowboys go and claim a player who gets cut, sign a veteran tight end or maybe keep Andrew Sczcerba around. Perhaps fullback Shaun Chapas makes it, mainly for his special teams ability.

Either way, moves like that knock off luxury keeps. By that, I mean keeping players who aren’t really ready to play just yet, but possess a certain quality. Guys like Ben Bass who plays with a high-motor on the defensive line, or Adrian Hamilton, who hasn’t figured out the 3-4 defense and/or special teams just yet, but he can rush the passer. Those guys are hurt by these injuries.

At running back, a guy like Lance Dunbar might have made the team in the past – solely because of that dazzling 58-yard run. Who knows, maybe he still does. A play like that will get noticed around the league and getting a player like that through waivers will be tough. Still, that’s one of those “luxury keeps” that might not happen because you’ll have a hard time getting him active each week. Personally, after that run, I think I’d make an exception. He’s got some wiggle to him and might be a decent kickoff returner, too.

The Cowboys like Andre Holmes and Danny Coale, who would be the sixth and seventh receivers. They’ll probably like a receiver or two that gets cut over the next few days. But they won’t keep eight and probably not even seven. They’d like to go long at receiver, especially if it means hanging onto Coale, a fifth-round pick who has been injured most of the offseason.

Now if Austin and Bryant were bigger question marks to play, it’d be a different story. However, it seems like both players have been held out of action just to be ready for the Giants. Bryant and Austin will start, and it looks like Harris and Ogletree will be next, with possibly Cole Beasley or maybe Holmes going to the game as a special teamer.

Then you go to the secondary. Mike Jenkins is not going to Florida after all to get an update on his shoulder. He passed his physical on Wednesday and will come off PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) to practice as early as Saturday.

Still, you wonder how quickly he can get back into the mix. Yes, he’s a veteran and yes he knows the Giants and yes he plays a cornerback position that doesn’t always need the strongest continuity with his teammates. But football shape is a different thing. I still have hard time thinking Jenkins can get back to Dallas and start practicing Saturday and Sunday and be ready to play. It’s certainly a possibility, but if you remember last year’s game in New York against the Jets, Jenkins also battled a stinger/shoulder injury all preseason but played in the game. He went in and out about four times, battling all sorts of injuries.

The Cowboys likely have to go long at cornerback, not only on the roster, but the 46-man game-day roster as well. Expect Mario Butler to be active either way.

At safety, Matt Johnson (hamstring) will likely make the team although he’s barely played. McCray will obviously make it because he’s the special teams ace, but he’s battling a shoulder/stinger injury. So Mana Silva probably makes this team to start the season – and who knows, maybe he’ll stick around. He’s played pretty well this preseason. He’s a solid tackler and good on special teams. But still, that’s five safeties to keep.

This probably happens every year – injuries that cloud roster decisions. But it’s different when the guys injured are Pro Bowlers like Witten, Ratliff, Jenkins and Austin, who says he will play, but you probably have to make sure there is plenty of backup because of the nature of the injury and his history with hamstrings.

We’ll find it all out on Friday. But with so many guys playing for roster spots Wednesday night, it’s unfortunate for them that their fate was probably already sealed with a few of these preexisting injuries.

ON THE BUBBLE: Nine wide receivers competing for six (maybe seven) roster spots

Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris were on the field Monday. The two receivers ran routes and worked to get open. But they didn’t have anything left to prove. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said so Tuesday on KRLD-FM (105.3).

“I’d say as I look at them right now, they both have a place on the field for us against the Giants,” Jones said, referring to the team’s opponent for the regular-season opener next Wednesday.

But what about the other five wideouts who were competing for jobs? Where did Danny Coale, Saalim Hakim, Cole Beasley, Tim Benford and Andre Holmes stand? And could they make a great enough impact in the final preseason game against Miami to claim a spot on the team?

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Andre Holmes (15) catches a deep ball vs Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

PHOTO: Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Andre Holmes (15) catches a deep ball vs. Miami Dolphins – STAR-TELEGRAM/RON JENKINS

On Wednesday, in the Cowboys’ 30-13 victory over Miami in their final preseason game, few answers were provided. Beasley, identified as the most promising of the bunch during training camp, didn’t make a catch. Then again, he didn’t play that much, which seemed to be a good sign he could be sticking around.

“Hopefully,” Beasley said. “But if some of the other guys might have stepped up, they might forget about me.”

That’s now not a concern for Beasley because while Hakim, Coale, Benford and Holmes recorded at least one reception, they didn’t do anything especially noteworthy Wednesday. Together they made just six catches for 107 yards and no touchdowns.

“I put everything out there,” said Holmes, who had one reception for 32 yards and felt tightness in his right knee. “I just went as hard as I could.”

ON THE BUBBLE: Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee scrambles for 53rd roster spot

Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee on sideline bench - The Boys Are Back blog

By the time the locker room opened to the media Wednesday night, Stephen McGee was gone. Whether his locker is cleared out for good remains to be seen.

McGee completed only 9 of 20 passes for 124 yards and a 65.4 passer rating in a first half of work. The Cowboys scored on three of five first-half possessions, but the Dallas Cowboys defense scored as many touchdowns as the offense in the first 30 minutes. Linebacker Orie Lemon had the play of the game, intercepting a Matt Moore pass and returning it 26 yards for a touchdown.

Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee scrambles vs Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

The Dallas Cowboys will make the decision whether to keep three quarterbacks or whether to keep only two on the 53-player roster with Rudy Carpenter, assuming he clears waivers, on the practice squad.

“I think we saw some things out of McGee tonight that were really encouraging,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on the Channel 21 halftime show. “It’s been vintage McGee. Other teams have shown interest in Stephen McGee. We know somebody thinks he’s a pretty good ballplayer. We do, too. It really depends on our 53rd guy, without McGee. If we think we can live with him, or do we think we need a third quarterback? That will be something we’ll go through tomorrow after the game, and we’ll make a decision tomorrow."

The Cowboys drafted McGee in the fourth round in 2009 knowing he would take some time to develop. He has one career regular-season start. He went 11-for-27 for 127 yards and a touchdown in a 14-13 victory over the Eagles to end the 2010 season after Romo and Jon Kitna were injured.

Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee hands the ball to Lance Dunbar - The Boys Are Back blog

ON THE BUBBLE: Phillip Tanner showed what helped him make team last year

Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner (34) runs against Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner said he wasn’t out to prove anything in the fourth and final preseason game Wednesday night. But he did show the ability that helped him stick last year.

He carried nine times for 48 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins in the first half before giving way to Lance Dunbar and Jamize Olawale in the second half. The other backs were brought in to give him competition for the third running back spot, and Olawale gained an edge on the others when Tanner was out with a broken hand and Dunbar missed time with a hamstring injury.

“It wasn’t like me going out here and proving anything,” Tanner said. “Like we’ve talked before, it was just going out, having fun, playing football – something I’ve been doing since I was 8 years old. Just going out, gelling with the team.”

Tanner gave credit to center Phil Costa and fullback Shaun Chapas for creating running room for him. His first seven carries gained 45 yards. And he said he felt sharp.

“I made sure I stayed in mentally when I was out with the hand,” he said. “I stayed in my playbook, stayed watching film, just going out and gelling with the guys. That’s the biggest thing.”

Dallas Cowboys Phillip Tanner - The Boys Are Back blog

ON THE BUBBLE: Lance Dunbar rushes for 105 yards towards a roster spot

Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar signs autographs - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar, a rookie free agent from North Texas and Haltom High School, made his final audition for a roster spot a memorable one Wednesday night in Cowboys Stadium.

Dunbar rushed for a team-high 105 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown burst in the third quarter of a 30-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Dunbar (5-foot-8, 191 pounds), who missed the team’s first two pre-season games with a hamstring injury, also mixed in a 27-yard punt return and a tackle on kickoff coverage. He averaged 7.0 yards per rush (15 carries, 105 yards).

Dunbar’s touchdown marked the longest run from scrimmage by a Cowboys’ back during the pre-season. His performance drew post-game praise from coach Jason Garrett, who acknowledged that several performances in Wednesday’s game “probably made us rethink some things” in regard to the makeup of the team’s 53-man roster.

Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar vs Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

Asked about landing a spot on the Cowboys’ roster, Dunbar said: “I think I did enough. But I think I could have done better. I could have made more tackles on special teams … it was an alright performance.”

But Dunbar said “it meant a lot” to top the 100-yard mark in a game he viewed as an all-or-nothing evaluation opportunity after missing the brunt of training camp with the hamstring injury.

“I think I did pretty good,” Dunbar said. “They’ll evaluate, and we’ll see what happens soon.”

Garrett called Dunbar’s performance one of the bright spots in Wednesday’s contest.

“I thought Dunbar ran the ball really well. He showed his lateral quickness, his ability to burst through a hole and, obviously, make big runs,” Garrett said. “And he’s a tough guy. He’s not afraid to stick it up in there, either. We’ve felt really good about Dunbar all through the off-season and through training camp. He just hasn’t had a chance to play because he got banged up.”

Dunbar is competing with incumbent Phillip Tanner, who carried nine times for 48 yards and a TD, to be the team’s third running back.

“We like our backup running backs,” Garrett said. “Phillip Tanner has done a really nice job since he’s been here, both as an offensive player and also on special teams.”

ON THE BUBBLE: Orie Lemon’s pick-six against Miami draws praise

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon scores on interception - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon, who spent last season on the practice squad, made the type of play in Wednesday’s pre-season finale against Miami that could earn him a roster spot this season.

Lemon, an Oklahoma State product, scored a second-quarter touchdown on a 26-yard interception return. Lemon read the eyes of Miami quarterback Matt Moore, undercut the route of running back Marcus Thigpen and jogged into the end zone for the score.

Lemon’s play was the first to draw praise from Cowboys coach Jason Garrett during his post-game news conference, when Garrett acknowledged that multiple performance against the Dolphins could cause some last minute tweaks to the 53-player makeup.

“Orie Lemon made a huge play in the game with the interception return for a touchdown,” said Garrett, adding that Lemon played “with the right spirit and the right mentality.”

But will it earn him a roster spot?

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon interception return - The Boys Are Back blog

“You never know,” Lemon said. “I’ve got to get better at a lot of things on the defensive side of the field. I’ve got to get better on special teams also. I know if I do, I’ll be on somebody’s team. I’ll be on special teams mostly. I think I opened up a couple of eyes.”

Lemon, a Houston native, said he hopes the eyes he opened belong to Dallas coaches. He said: “I want to stay here. I don’t want to go anywhere else. It’s like family to me. I would love to stay here. But if I had to go somewhere else, I’ll do what I have to do … I feel like I put some good film out (for other teams to notice).”

Consider Cowboys inside linebacker Sean Lee among those who has noticed Lemon throughout training camp.

“Orie Lemon is a real physical football player. He improved a lot through the year last year and he worked hard this off-season,” Lee said. “There’s one thing you can’t teach and that’s the ability to make plays with the football. That’s an ability he has. He works hard. He’s a smart guys and he’s a great teammate. I’m really excited to see him do well.”

ON THE BUBBLE: Guard Ronald Leary disappointed because of ‘silly mistakes’

Dallas Cowboys guard Ronald Leary practices - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys rookie guard Ronald Leary said his performance in the preseason games disappointed him because he made “silly mistakes.”

“It wasn’t where I wanted it to be,” he said after Wednesday night’s preseason finale against the Miami Dolphins. “I don’t blame anybody else but myself. I didn’t perform. I went back and watched the film. The mistakes I made were silly mistakes, technique mistakes.”

Leary, undrafted out of Memphis, was one of the Cowboys’ top targets after the draft. The Cowboys went after him because he had third-round quality, falling out of the draft only because of concerns about a knee problem that could affect him in the future.

Despite being a favorite of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Leary said he never thought he was guaranteed a spot on the roster.

“I never thought like that, from Day 1,” he said. “I know my performance hasn’t been where I want it to be. I felt like I had a lot better night tonight. So right now, I’m putting it in God’s hands. It’s up to the coaches now.”

Leary said his mistakes come from foot placement. His feet aren’t going where they need to go, but not fast enough.

“Your hands are where your feet are, so if your feet aren’t right, your hands aren’t going to be right,” Leary said. “Coach tells us that all the time. My big emphasis has been on just getting my feet right. I work with JP all the time. Every day after practice, we’re doing extra stuff. He’s been helping me. He had the problem before, too. He worked on it. I just keep working on it. We’ll just see where it goes the next few days.”

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