Daily Archives: October 5th, 2012

COWBOY STAR STRUCK AT SIX: CB Brandon Carr ‘stoked’ to finally meet childhood hero, Troy Aikman

Dallas Cowboys CB Brandon Carr grew up in Michigan but he was not a fan of the Detroit Lions - The Boys Are Back blog

Brandon Carr grew up in Michigan but he was not a fan of the Detroit Lions. He cheered for the Dallas Cowboys and Troy Aikman was one of the players he admired most.

Carr liked the Cowboys and playing football so much as a six-year-old that his parents bought him a replica Aikman uniform as a Christmas present. Carr was eager to mention having that uniform when he signed with the Cowboys in March. His father even passed along photos of his son wearing the outfit for a May story in The Dallas Morning News.

Entering his first season with the club, Carr had never met the Hall of Fame quarterback. But that changed the Friday before the Cowboys played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3.

Aikman, an NFL analyst for FOX, was at Valley Ranch, preparing for FOX’s coverage of the Cowboys’ game against Tampa Bay. Following that practice, Carr tweeted: “Remember the first NFL jersey I wore many Christmases ago..? Yep, finally met the man! #)Stoked.”

Did Carr find time to tell Aikman about wearing his jersey around the house as a youth?

“I left that out,” Carr said with a smile. “I was hoping he’d read it one day.”

A few days later, Carr ran into Aikman again, this time at a United Way event at Charlotte and Shy Anderson’s house in Highland Park.

Aikman and Carr chatted longer than they did following that Friday practice, but Carr admits he was mostly a listener.

“Oh man, I just try to go with the flow of the conversation,” Carr said. “I didn’t want to sound like too much of a fanatic. We just talked about the (Tampa Bay) game. Just small talk. I tried not to open my eyes too big and seem too star struck.”

‘BOYS BYE WEEK BREAKDOWN: Dallas Cowboys offensive grades for Top 11 players

Where's the Dallas Cowboys offense - The Boys Are Back blog

QB Tony Romo: B-

It would be easy to overreact to last night’s demolition, but Romo’s actual performance was nowhere near as poor as his stat line. Look, Romo isn’t playing his best ball, averaging only 7.6 yards-per-attempt. But he also isn’t getting any help from his receivers or offensive line.

Jason Garrett might want to think about rolling Romo out to his right a bit more. That could quell some of the pressure he’s facing, and Romo has historically been much better throwing to the right side of the field. In 2012 alone, Romo’s passer rating when throwing to the right is 104.2, compared to only 74.6 over the middle and to the left. Nonetheless, only 16.6 percent of his passes have been thrown to the right side of the field.

RB DeMarco Murray: B

It’s really difficult to grade Murray because, like Romo, his production is so dependent on the offensive line. One might argue that a running back averaging 3.9 yards-per-carry shouldn’t receive a “B” grade, but anyone who has watched the Cowboys knows that Murray must consistently make something out of nothing. Ask yourself this: do you think Felix Jones would have posted as many rushing yards as Murray if given the same type of blocking? Don’t forget that Murray is also on pace for 64 receptions.

FB Lawrence Vickers: D

I really liked the Vickers signing, but it hasn’t paid dividends for Dallas yet. With Vickers in the game, the Cowboys are averaging just over two yards-per-carry. Rushing efficiency will never be eye-popping with Vickers due to an abundance of inside runs, but the ‘Boys need their fullback to pave the way for Murray in short-yardage situations to allow them to extend drives.

LT Tyron Smith: C-

Smith’s transition to the left side has been a struggle thus far. I think he’s athletic and intelligent enough that he’ll get it cleaned up. Smith’s return to form may have started against the Bears, because he actually played quite well. Nonetheless, I’ve counted Smith as yielding 10 pressures on the season.

LG Nate Livings: B+

It’s sad that an interior lineman will receive my highest offensive grade through the season’s first quarter. Livings has played very well for the ‘Boys through four games, allowing just one sack and two pressures.

C Ryan Cook: C-

Due to a solid opening game shortly after being signed, many believe Cook is playing better than what’s actually the case. He’s been okay in pass protection, but absolutely awful in the running game. While Jason Garrett’s predictable strong side dives aren’t doing Cook any favors, the Cowboys are averaging just over one yard on each run with Cook at the point-of-attack.

RG Mackenzy Bernadeau: D-

Bernadeau has been the worst Cowboys interior lineman I’ve graded since I started reviewing film four years ago. Granted, he’s played in only four games, but I don’t think there are many signs that Bernadeau is going to improve. He has allowed twice as much pressure as Livings and Cook combined.

RT Doug Free: D

There have certainly problems on the left side of the ‘Boys offensive line, but it’s the Bernadeau-Free combination on the right side that’s killing them. Only two offensive tackles in the entire NFL have allowed more pressure than what I’ve attributed to Free. We all thought Free would rebound after the switch back to his more natural right tackle position, but Cowboys running backs are averaging a full yard less behind Free as compared to Smith.

WR Miles Austin: B+

Austin has been targeted 28 times in 2012, catching 18 of those throws for 300 yards. Currently on pace for a stat line of 72 receptions, 1200 yards, and 12 touchdowns, Austin has been the only consistent option for Romo in the passing game.

WR Dez Bryant: C-

Bryant’s issue right now, in my opinion, is mental. He isn’t a player like Terrell Owens or Brandon Marshall who will always suffer from drops; he has outstanding hands, but he appears to lack confidence right now. Bryant will get it turned around, so Romo needs to trust his third-year receiver and keep going back to him.

TE Jason Witten: D+

It was great to see Witten rebound against the Bears, but it wasn’t like he was incredibly efficient. His 112 yards came on 14 targets, and that 8.0 YPA is about where he should be all of the time. On the season, Witten has the most targets of any player on offense, but he’s averaging only 5.5 YPA. His catch rate of 61.8 percent will improve, but I’m not confident that his per-catch efficiency will do the same.

‘BOYS BYE WEEK BREAKDOWN: Dallas Cowboys defensive grades for Top 11 players

The Dallas Cowboys vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cowboys Stadium 2012 - Rob Ryan's defense comes up big - The Boys Are Back blog

Although 11 defensive players get named as “starters” in a given week, the Dallas Cowboys have had 15 defensive players participate in at least 38 percent of the team’s snaps through Week 4. Here are the top 11. . .

ILB Sean Lee: A

Lee has recorded a tackle on 19.6 percent of his snaps in 2012, which is simply remarkable. In coverage, he has allowed only 5.0 yards-per-attempt.

OLB DeMarcus Ware: A

How high are the standards for Ware that some are arguing he’s having a down year? He’s on pace for 20 sacks. I don’t know about you, but that’s good enough for me.

CB Brandon Carr: A-

Carr got beat by Brandon Marshall on Monday night, but don’t panic. He allowed three catches, albeit a few big ones, but he’s still playing really well. On the season, only 42.9 percent of passes Carr’s way have been completed.

OLB Anthony Spencer: B

We saw Spencer’s value most on Monday night when he wasn’t playing. The player who drops into coverage more often than any 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL also has a higher pressure rate than Ware this season. As I told you in the preseason, the sacks will come. He’s still on pace for 11.

ILB Bruce Carter: B

Quietly, the Cowboys have one of the better inside linebacker duos in the NFL. Carter’s tackle rate of 12.4 percent isn’t at the level of Lee, but it’s still pretty darn good.

CB Mike Jenkins: B

Jenkins clearly has something to prove this year. You saw Rob Ryan give Jenkins some snaps at safety last week, and that should continue. It’s difficult to quantify Jenkins’ success since he’s been targeted only three times, but his coverage has been the best I’ve ever seen from him.

NT Josh Brent: B-

Brent has been really, really good against the run. You can see the difference in the push from the defensive line with Brent in the game as compared to Jay Ratliff. I love Ratliff’s tenacity and pass rush, but the Cowboys might be better served if they allow him to utilize it from the five-technique to allow Brent to stay at the nose.

S Barry Church: B-

Even though Church is out for the season, I’m putting him on the list because I really liked what I saw in the three games that he played. Opposing quarterbacks tested Church seven times, gaining just 30 total yards. I still think the Cowboys need to find a ball-hawking free safety in the draft, but Church could stick around if he recovers from his Achilles injury.

CB Morris Claiborne: C+

After three games in which he was barely even tested, Claiborne is finally going through some of the growing pains that rookie cornerbacks invariably experience. Claiborne has allowed 9.0 YPA on the 14 passes thrown his way this year, which isn’t a bad mark. He got schooled by Devin Hester on national television, though, so people will naturally believe he’s playing worse than what is actually the case.

DE Jason Hatcher: C+

After starting the season with a boom, Hatcher has cooled down over the past two weeks. He has the third-most pressures on the team behind Ware and Spencer, so I think there’s still a good chance he ends the season with five or more sacks.

DE Tyrone Crawford: C+

Crawford hasn’t been able to get a ton of pressure yet, but his tackle rate of 8.9 percent is good for a five-technique end. In comparison, Hatcher’s tackle rate is 6.5 percent.

Just missed the list: DE Sean Lissemore, S Gerald Sensabaugh, OLB Victor Butler

RHYTHM AND TRUE BLUES: Jason Witten faults execution, not approach

Tony Romo and Jason Witten - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – Most Dallas Cowboys players have pointed to poor execution as the cause for an offense that’s failed to put up more points than 30 other teams this year.

After the offense committed five turnovers Monday night, tight end Jason Witten still insists the primary issue is execution, rather than a lack of preparation or the correct approach.

“I know people look for a different answer, but the teams that are able to do that, those are the ones that are able to compete for championships and have success,” Witten said. “That’s what we have to do. The details matter.”

Witten said the talent of the players on offense isn’t the issue. He said the problem is a couple of plays or penalties that are changing games, rather than the personnel or the coaching from Jason Garrett and the coordinators.

“Jason’s been great,” Witten said. “The wins haven’t shown it, but Jason’s a great coach. I can’t speak more highly about any coach I’ve had. He does a tremendous job of laying it out there and giving you the game plan to go succeed. He understands the adjustments and all that goes in. He’s doing a phenomenal job. We’ve just got to play better.”

The Cowboys offense hasn’t found a rhythm since the Giants game in the opener, scoring a total of 41 points their last three contests, with some of that coming in the waning moments of games that had already been decided.

Witten said the best teams aren’t the ones who change their approach, but the ones who figure out how to correct the mistakes they’ve made. The Cowboys did that last week, limiting their penalties from 13 to two, but they couldn’t take care of the ball.

Eventually, he knows the results must change, as a new issue seems to arise every week. But he insisted changing the approach isn’t the answer. Despite the errors on offense, the Cowboys sit at 2-2, holding the same record as the Giants and Redskins in the NFC East.

“We talk so much about the Giants, they were 7-7, they shook it off, said, ‘We’re going to fix it,’ and they went and won a Super Bowl,” Witten said. “It’s not that simple, but that’s what you have to do.”

RUNNING ON EMPTY: With stout competition, little room to run for Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) is hit by Chicago Bears defensive tackle Amobi Okoye (91) after making a shovel pass to Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – When DeMarco Murray rushed for 131 yards in the opening game against the Giants, it was a sign of the running game possibly coming back to form after some lackluster seasons that haven’t seen a 1,000-yard rusher since 2006.

But since that game, Murray has totaled just 106 yards in the three outings since, dipping the Cowboys to 30th in the NFL in rushing at just 67.8 yards per game.

Monday night against Chicago, the Cowboys’ running game offered little help to the offense, producing just 41 yards on 14 attempts. Murray had 24 on 11 carries.

While the bye week is often a time to make some adjustments, just what can the Cowboys do to fix the running woes? Change up the personnel on the offensive line? Use Felix Jones more as a rotational back? Run out of more wide-open sets, which means less running behind fullback Lawrence Vickers?

For now, head coach Jason Garrett is taking a different approach.

“Well, what you have to do is you just have to keep banging away,” Garrett said. “Right now, we’re not controlling the line of scrimmage. We have too many minus-plays. We had a lot in the game (Monday) night. When that happens, it puts way too much pressure on the quarterback to make plays. We need the running game to take the pressure off of him. And we’re not doing that.”

So what has changed so much from the first game of the season?

For starters, the competition has gotten much better. While the Giants are considered a top defense in terms of pass rush, they rank 21st against the run.

The next three opponents on the Cowboys’ schedule rank second, third, and fourth. Seattle has the NFL’s second-best run defense, allowing just 62.8 yards a game. The Cowboys had just 49 yards rushing in Week 2 against the Seahawks.

Next came the Bucs, who rank fourth in the NFL in run defense. The Cowboys were worse there with just 38 yards rushing on 23 attempts.

Chicago now has the NFL’s third-best defense against the run after shutting down Murray and the Dallas attack.

Obviously the Cowboys have some continuity issues on the offensive line, a group that didn’t get much work together in the offseason because of multiple injuries. The injuries didn’t stop when the regular season began either, as center Phil Costa re-aggravated his back three plays into the opener, forcing newly-acquired Ryan Cook into action.

Costa could return after the bye, and Garrett wouldn’t comment on the competition at center, stating it will be evaluated once Costa can get back to 100 percent.

He also didn’t sound like changes at other positions will be made, although there has been some speculation around Valley Ranch that veteran guard Derrick Dockery could be inserted into the rotation for either Mackenzy Bernadeau or Nate Livings.

Garrett instead offered his support of the current group.

“We like the five guys who are playing up front,” Garrett said. “I think, collectively as a group, they blocked that front fairly very well, particularly in the passing game the other night against Chicago, and Mackenzy is a part of that. Like everybody on the football team, it can get better. It’s nice to have a guy like Dockery sitting right there where we feel like he’s a guy who has some experience and we’re certainly confident in his ability to go out there and play.”

Vickers, who was signed in free agency from Houston, hasn’t been too productive in his first four games with the Cowboys. He categorized his play as “just all right” when asked on Wednesday.

“We’re not getting the job done,” Vickers said. “We can be a good offense. We can be a good running team. We’re just not executing. And that’s on me, that’s on all of us.”

As for Murray, who called this bye week a “long two weeks,” he said his confidence won’t waver.

“You have to stay confident and that won’t change,” he said after the Chicago game. “I trust the guys up front and I know it’s a collective effort. I have to get better, they have to get better. We just have to get better as an offense. It’s everyone. So we have to use (the bye) to our advantage and turn it around.”

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As you know, it’s the bye week. Dallas Cowboys players and coaches are off until Monday. The players started a day early. With the time off to recoup, rest, relax, and heal … let’s hope they all come back with FULL TANKS! Enjoy the video!

PINK PROMISE PARTNERSHIP: Dallas Cowboys employee Roxanne Martinez surprised by Komen founder Monday Night

Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, Susan G. Komen for the Cure founder and CEO, recognized Dallas Cowboys employee Roxanne Martinez - The Boys Are Back blog

Arlington, Texas—Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, Susan G. Komen for the Cure founder and CEO, took centerfield at the top of halftime Monday to recognize Cowboys’ own ticket office employee Roxanne Martinez.

“I had no idea,” said a chocked up Martinez. “I’m blown away.”

NFL - Dallas Cowboys kickoff Breast Cancer Awareness month on Monday Night Football - The Boys Are Back blog

Martinez, who beat her battle with breast cancer only a year and a half ago, was asked to participate in a special recognition in honor of the NFL’s national kickoff to Breast Cancer Awareness Month during the Cowboys’ game versus the Chicago Bears. She had no idea that recognition would come from the founder of the organization she is so passionate for.

“Komen really gave me an opportunity to give back to an organization that was helping me through my breast cancer journey,” Martinez, now a regular volunteer at Susan G. Komen Breast Center in Fort Worth, told Cowboys’ Blue Star magazine. “Now that I’m a survivor, it makes me proud that the Dallas Cowboys are promoting awareness and recognizing survivorship and I also try to do the same.”

Click here to read Martinez’s full story.

KOMEN_LOGO

Brinker’s surprise presentation to Martinez was only the beginning of a festive halftime honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Martinez was joined on the field by hundreds more survivors, co-survivors and Komen volunteers, including Martinez’s husband and 250 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders alumnae. The group, totaling 500, came together to form two human pink awareness ribbons, all while the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders performed a swinging dance number in pink.

Pink, the theme to Monday’s game presented by Bank of America, could be spotted throughout the stadium on signs, flags, towels, uniforms and jerseys. Komen kiosks, quizzing game-goers on their breast cancer knowledge, sat in the plazas of the stadium, and public service announcements and other messaging were featured on the stadium’s 60-yard video board.

The group, totaling 500, came together to form two human pink awareness ribbons at halftime on Monday Night Football - The Boys Are Back blog

All was part of the Dallas Cowboys and Susan G. Komen for the Cure “I Promise” campaign. The campaign, supported by a $1 million donation of Cowboys marketable assets, was first inspired by Brinker’s 2010 book Promise Me, detailing her promise to her sister “Suzy”—who died from breast cancer in 1980 and for whom the organization is named—to change the way the world viewed and treated breast cancer. “I Promise” merchandise can be found exclusively on ShopCowboys.com and in Old Navy stores. Five percent of its proceeds goes toward cancer research.

Click here to learn more about the Dallas Cowboys’ partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the “I Promise” campaign—a campaign that doesn’t stop with Breast Cancer Awareness Month’s end, but continues year-round.

RELATED POST ON THE BOYS ARE BACK BLOG:

PINK RIBBON KICKOFF: Tonight game marks the beginning of the NFL’s Breast Cancer Awareness month

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Below are several local programs and services funded by the Dallas County Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. Additionally, Susan G. Komen for the Cure® works closely with a number of breast health agencies, organizations and companies to identify all the possible resources to support a woman through her breast cancer treatment.

Resources available in the Dallas area vary from getting your mammogram, identifying a breast cancer support group to even securing financial assistance as you go through your breast cancer treatment.

The American Cancer Society Dallas

1-800-651-4911 Website: http://www.cancer.org/

Bridge of Blessings

214-714-1077 Website: http://www.bridgeofblessings.org/

The Bridge Breast Network

877-258-1396 Website: http://www.bridgebreast.org/

Methodist Health Systems

214-947-0026 Website: http://methodisthealthsystem.org

Methodist Richardson Medical Center – Asian Breast Health Outreach Project

972-498-8601 Website: http://www.asianbreasthealth.org/

Parkland Health & Hospital System

Website: http://www.parklandhospital.com/

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas

214-345-2598

UT Southwestern Medical Center of Dallas – Center for Breast Care

866-277-0710

YWCA Women’s Health Services

214-584-2305 Website: http://www.ywcadallas.org/

Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Grants Program

1-877 GO KOMEN 1-877-465-6636 Website: http://www.komen.org/

EDITORS COMMENT: Nearly everyone knows someone that has faced cancer or survived it. Who do you know?

IN MEMORY: Angela Lynn Knight (1964-2000)

Jason Garrett prepares to face Ravens team that he almost coached

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

IRVING, Texas – Jason Garrett was almost never the head coach in Dallas after serving as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator for former coach Wade Phillips in 2007.

Garrett was widely reported to have been offered the head-coaching job in Jan. 2008 for the team the Cowboys will travel to face after the bye week.

With Phillips unlikely to be vacating the top coaching position at the time, Garrett interviewed in various cities before the 2008 season, with Baltimore as the likeliest destination. Garrett said the Ravens ran their organization well from top to bottom, and he enjoyed his experience interviewing for the job.

“They’ve had a track record of winning there for a number of years,” Garrett said. “They’ve been very successful. When I was playing with the Giants in 2000, we played them in the Super Bowl. Since that time, they’ve been one of the best franchises in football.”

Despite his admiration for the Ravens’ organization, including owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome, Garrett eventually decided to return to Dallas with the additional title of assistant head coach.

He remained in that position until midway through the 2010 season, when he became the interim head coach of a 1-7 Cowboys team and went 5-3 down the stretch.

The interim tag was removed in his first full season as the Cowboys’ head coach last year, and now for the first time since leaving his interviews in Baltimore, Garrett will make a trip back to play the team that nearly became his employer.

Baltimore eventually chose former Eagles special teams and defensive backs coach John Harbaugh for the head-coaching job in 2008. Harbaugh has compiled a 47-21 record since taking over, reaching the postseason every year.

“They’re really well coached, and they’ve got a lot of good players,” Garrett said. “You think about Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and those guys, those are marquee players, those are first-ballot Hall of Famers, the best players at their position of their generation. Those guys have been the leaders there for a long time. They do things the right way. I was very impressed.”

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