Daily Archives: November 9th, 2012

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKING: New Dallas Cowboys LB Gary Guyton likely needed Sunday against Eagles

Dallas Cowboys LB Gary Guyton learning Rob Ryan system - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – Gary Guyton spent his first four seasons with the New England Patriots. He grew accustomed to a certain expectation of winning. He also grew accustomed to playing football for a living.

But when the Patriots chose not to bring Guyton back for the 2012-2013 season, he found himself looking for a job. But he knew that his experience, 229 tackles and 3 fumbles would come in handy for an NFL team eventually.

“I was just preparing myself,” Guyton said. “You never know what can happen.”

And sure enough, the Cowboys found themselves in need of a linebacker. After the season-ending injury to Sean Lee, the Cowboys also suffered injuries to Orie Lemon (placed on the IR) and Dan Connor. So this week they brought in Guyton.

“You just get the call and be ready to go,” Guyton said. “So I got the call saying ‘come in for a work out’ and I came and now I’m a Dallas Cowboy.”

Guyton has played in big games and understands the urgency. He wants to prove to the team that they went out and signed someone who was prepared for the opportunity.

“I’m just working out, running, doing the best I can. I (already) had my training in Atlanta. That’s where I stay.”

It’s not uncommon for a player who hasn’t been on an NFL team to struggle getting back into game shape when they are picked up. Even players that work out constantly learn that actual practices and games can be a whole different experience. Guyton claimed that there was one thing that he had to get used to, but it had nothing to do with being in shape.

“The helmet. My forehead is sore,” Guyton joked. “Just new people, new system. I’m just getting in here and working through it, working hard.”

Guyton was brought in not only because of his skills, but because he has four years of experience in a 3-4 defense. Since Guyton might be thrown into the fire early, it was important that there was not much of a leaning curve.

“It’s mostly similar so I’ve been through it,” Guyton said. “I’ve been looking through it. I understand the 3-4 defense and the basics of it.”

These few days of practice are very important for Guyton. The Cowboys would normally start Connor at linebacker in the absence of Lee, but Connor is still recovering from a neck strain and his limited participation in Thursday’s practice means that his status for Sunday’s game against the Eagles could be in jeopardy.

If Connor is to sit out, the Cowboys will be extremely thin at linebacker, meaning that they would need to give Guyton minutes as early as this Sunday.

Guyton understands that the he might play his first NFL game of the season in Philadelphia, but he knows not to get ahead of himself. A lot has to be done on his end before then just to be prepared.

“Just going through the basics right now and getting those down,” he said. “Just moving on through the playbook.”

FLASHBACK 2011: Dallas Cowboys can’t afford another repeat of McCoy’s historic performance

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IRVING, Texas – It has been about 51 weeks, but the Cowboys haven’t forgotten.

Sure, so much has happened to this football since then and most of it hasn’t been memorable. And without a doubt, the Cowboys’ last visit to Lincoln Financial Field wasn’t a fun time, mainly because of one LeSean McCoy.

The Cowboys were trounced that night in Philly, 34-7, and McCoy was the biggest reason. He was also the fastest, the quickest, most elusive and most dominating.

While the Eagles aren’t exactly playing at a high level this season – entering the game with the same 3-5 record as the Cowboys – let’s not forget about 2011. The Eagles weren’t exactly setting the world on fire when these two teams met in Philly last year. In fact, they were a dismal 2-4 when the Cowboys showed up. But, the Eagles made it pretty clear they were going to get McCoy involved.

It turned out to be a good plan, considering McCoy totaled 200 all-purpose yards, including 185 on the ground, the sixth-highest single-game total in Eagles history.

In the rematch at Cowboys Stadium on Christmas Eve – a game that turned out to be one of the more meaningless regular-season matchups ever, McCoy rushed for just 30 yards on 13 carries as the Eagles won 20-7.

This year, McCoy ranks 10th in the NFL in rushing with 623 yards, but has only two touchdowns. He’s also dangerous out of the backfield with 30 catches for 148 yards and three scores.

“I think he’s outstanding,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “He has such great lateral quickness, such great elusiveness, speed, ability to get to the edge, ability to break tackles. He just makes so many great runs over and over again. It will be a challenge for us to corral him, get a lot of people around the ball and tackle him to the ground. That’s what we need to do.”

Seems to be harder than it sounds.

“You have to stop ‘Shady’ McCoy,” defensive end Jason Hatcher said. “He’s one of the top five backs in the league. He’s slippery. He cuts and plays like Barry Sanders. He’ll cut it all the way across the field to get yards.”

Linebacker Bruce Carter, who is coming off a 10-tackle game against the Falcons last week, said his experience on special teams might come in handy when facing a guy like McCoy, who is not afraid to change directions, especially in the open field.

“We just have to be disciplined, especially with our ends and outside linebackers,” Carter said. “You have to set the edge. He’s always got a counter move where he can cut it back. He can go the distance the other way. What (linebackers coach Matt Eberflus) told us, every play is like a kickoff return. You just never know.”

The Cowboys need Carter to be effective inside, especially with the injury situation at the other linebacker spot. Sean Lee is out for the season after undergoing toe surgery two weeks ago. His immediate replacement, Dan Connor, missed last week’s game with a stinger and hasn’t practiced in full this week. Second-year pro Orie Lemon suffered a hamstring injury and was placed on injured reserve.

The Cowboys have signed veterans Ernie Sims and Gary Guyton off the street the last two weeks.

RANDY GALLOWAY: Jerry Jones fools only himself when rewriting Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl history

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If I had known this week there was going to be a sudden calendar roll back to 1994, the personal preference would have been at the gas pumps. A dollar and a dime was our cost, per gallon.

I don’t speak for the vast world of CowNation, but it’s safe to say that particular fandom would kill for a 1994 sudden calendar roll back while gladly paying the three-fifty pump prices of today.

The Dallas Cowboys, of course, were two-time Super Bowl champs and the title stampede looked as if it would never end.

Instead, out of nowhere, what we got this week was a cheap imitation of the way it was, football-wise, in 1994.

Jimmy and Jerry, back at it again, squabbling over who should have the most credit for the remarkable building of not only a Super Bowl champion, but a dynasty team.

Which also flips us back to the spring of 1994, when in an ego collision, Jimmy Johnson left town over exactly the same disagreement.

Then there was only Jerry.

Much has changed in the past 18 years in the Cowboys’ world, changed dramatically for the worse. But there’s still Jerry.

I’m not climbing in the middle of this latest spat, because there’s no reason for even a debate. No reason to take sides.

Jerry and his ego both know the truth.

Jimmy was in charge of all things football from the day Jerry and Jimmy took over the franchise in 1989. Anyone in the local media who was around in those days knows this is the truth, and we know it because Jerry repeatedly told us it was the truth.

And anything involving football, from a low-end roster move to the trade of Herschel Walker, no one was asking Jerry for a football opinion. A financial opinion, yes, we asked. And certainly in the case of the Walker trade, there were financial considerations galore.

But on anything involving any area of football, the questions went to Jimmy. Because Jerry told us Jimmy was in total charge of that area.

With the first Super Bowl in 1992, that certainly changed. It was only then that Jerry started seeking more of the roster-building glory. And that’s when the ego collision began building.

Even as we watched it take form, however, another Super Bowl was won the next season, and although we all could see a parting of the ways on the horizon, no one thought it would happen in the midst of a championship binge.

To this day, I’m shocked at the timing of the breakup, and both sides are to blame. But the breakup foundation was laid when Jerry went against his original game plan. He’s the one who placed Jimmy in charge of all things football, and then wanted to take it back, or at least share it, 50/50. Jimmy’s ego would have none of that.

In the many years since then, and again last week, Jerry has attempted to manufacture a story that presents himself as not just a partner in building that Super Bowl dynasty, but as the No. 1 shot-caller.

It’s absurd. Jerry is delusional on this topic. But that’s just Jerry, who took the lie to national TV before the Cowboys played in Atlanta last Sunday night.

What he said was nothing new. Jerry has done this for years. Jimmy, who now has a good relationship with Jerry, let it ride in the past without response. For whatever reason, Jimmy fired back strongly at Jerry this week.

Suddenly, it was exactly the way we left these two in 1994.

It was good this week for a laugh, but Jerry also walks in verbal quicksand every time he brings it up. The three Super Bowls of the ’90s might now be his lone ownership/GM crutch, but he’s not on solid ground in the most important area of all.

Jimmy has been gone for 18 years. The last Super Bowl was 16 years ago.

Since then, as The Man, totally alone at the top and in charge of all things Cow, Jerry can point to exactly two playoff wins.

(Jimmy also had his brief post-Jerry failure as head coach of the Dolphins. But in four seasons there, he did win two playoff games.)

Meanwhile, we are at the halfway point of what appears to be another rotten season under Jerry’s watch. The Cowboys over 16 years have become one of the most dysfunctional franchises in football. Coaches come and go, but Jerry remains the constant, always and forever more, The Man.

Whether Jerry thinks he needed Jimmy or not, he’s had 18 years on his own, and he’s driven into the Valley Ranch ground what was once a model organization on a Super Bowl roll.

Telling us and telling the world about him being the football generalissimo of a long ago dynasty is Jerry’s ego lie. But it’s what’s happening right here right now that traps him where it matters the most. The truth.

And it’s now 16 years in this trap. Trapped in the truth of a football hell.

There was a sudden calendar roll back this week to the way it was around here in 1994. Jerry and Jimmy feuding, egos flaring, plenty of wasted verbal gas.

We’d all have been better off if the roll back had been to the dollar and a dime at the pumps.

 

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DALLAS COWBOYS NEMESIS: The NFC East Rival Philadelphia Eagles (Special Feature)

Another close call went against the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, as they prepare to take off for Philadelphia to face an Eagles team with the same 3-5 record. They fixed their turnover issue which tormented them early on, but their red zone woes and rushing struggles continue to limit their scoring. Though Dallas won’t like the way it started, the road will get easier as the season goes along. Only one team the Cowboys face the rest of the way currently has a winning record.

Playing the Eagles in Philadelphia might actually be preferred for a Cowboys team that’s lost three of the last four matchups, with the only win coming in Philadelphia in January 2011. Dallas dropped both meetings against Philadelphia last season, though one of them came without Tony Romo. The Cowboys might again be without a star offensive player if DeMarco Murray’s foot injury doesn’t heal in time. The running game’s suffered with him out in recent weeks and will face one of the better rushing attacks.

The Cowboys need to start making their push soon if they want to compete in an NFC East division that’s been dominated by the Giants. New York’s the only division opponent the Cowboys have played, meaning they can make four games up against Philadelphia and Washington with late wins. The season’s far from over, but Dallas will need to figure out how it can get the offense going and find the end zone without turning the ball over against an Eagles team with the same problems.

So before the Dallas Cowboys head off to Philadelphia this weekend, here’s a look at key Philadelphia Eagles you ought to know before kickoff.

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason Babin vs Dallas Cowboys Doug Free - The Boys Are Back blog

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason Babin

Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Doug Free will face Eagles defensive end Jason Babin.

There was a point early in the season where Free was playing at a level similar to how he was in 2011 and that was nowhere good enough. There were times where he was too high on his set, playing without knee bend, getting overpowered but the last three weeks has been a much different story.

Free’s technique has been better and you see him playing with confidence whereas before, he was really struggling with that. Across from Free will be Jason Babin who is not playing like he did last season with the pressure and sacks. Babin still comes off the ball quickly and works to break down the blocker with technique.

Babin likes to not give you the same pass rush moves and one of his best one’s is when he takes the tackle up the field getting his weight on his outside foot, then spinning back to the inside. In the running game, look for the Cowboys to try and get the ball to the inside of Babin because of how hard he comes up the field but also crack on him to set the edge and work around him. Free is not big enough to just lean on Babin all day but he is athletic enough to stay with him in space. If the Cowboys are going to have offensive success, a great deal of it will be because Doug Free is not allowing Jason Babin do what he does best and that be a disruptive player off the edge.

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Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson

In a season where these Cowboys defensive backs have not caught a break with the quality of receivers they have faced, that trend continues on Sunday when they travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles and the talented DeSean Jackson. For a player that is small in stature, he tends to play his biggest when the lights are the brightest. Jackson is the leading receiver for the Eagles so far this season and that is not by mistake. I would not call him an outstanding route runner in the sense of a Victor Cruz but he is every bit as explosive as a play maker as Cruz. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg creates ways to get him the ball whether its screens, reverses or vertical routes down the field. Where Jackson creates problems is how much pressure he puts on you to have to cover him. If the corner allows him a step, he can turn a small play into a huge one with his burst and speed. In the open field, he is a dangerous player with the ball because he can score from anywhere on the field. If he has a weakness, there are times where he will body catch the ball instead of snatching it with his hands and it will cause him some unnecessary drops. Michael Vick has missed him on some plays where he has been open or his overall numbers would be better.

Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy vs Dallas Cowboys Bruce Carter - The Boys Are Back blog

Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy

My attitude going into this game is believing that Andy Reid is going to circle the wagons offensively and make this game about LeSean McCoy and his incredible skill. There are very few backs in this league that can do what McCoy does not only running the ball but catching it as well. When you watch him run, it’s almost like he is gliding with the ball in his hands then he turns the corner and it’s a six yard gain. In the Eagles scheme, they run a sprint draw that where Vick takes the snap from center and sprints wide like a pass but then hands the ball to McCoy who gets it to the edge past the defenders. When the Cowboys played the Eagles last season in Philadelphia, it was McCoy running the ball off tackle that hurt Rob Ryan and this defense the most. The Eagles were able to control the Cowboys defensive ends during the game which allowed the running game to open up with McCoy. Look for Reid to also use the screen with McCoy to try and slow the Cowboys rush down as well which will help his offensive line. The more that Reid can do with McCoy it will take the pressure off his entire offensive unit.

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham - The Boys Are Back blog

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham

The Eagles have some outstanding talent at defensive end and their coach Jim Washburn does a really nice job of developing it. Guys like Jason Babin and Trent Cole will always stand out of film but the guy that kept catching my eye was Brandon Graham. I knew that Graham was a former first round selection by the Eagles but to be honest this is the first time that I noticed him for some extended plays. Graham is the backup to Babin and he plays with some explosive quickness and a burst. He is always working up the field and you can see the influence that Washburn has had on him because his technique gives him an opportunity to get some pressure in the passing game or getting off blocks to play the run. Like Babin you will see him use a spin to move with some success. Is the same type of player as Babin that keeps coming after the quarterback and the ball. Has the ability to beat blockers and make plays so you have to beware of his game.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick - The Boys Are Back blog

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick

If the Michael Vick’s time as starting quarterback of the Eagles is sinking, he at least wants to control the ship as it does.

According to Tim McManus of Eagles 24/7, Vick has taken back control at the line of scrimmage before the snap. He now has complete control of moving the protection and making sure all of the incoming defenders are blocked. Many quarterbacks around the league already have that control, but that has not been the case this season for Vick.

The plan to have then starting center Jason Kelce and Vick split the duties was formed in camp, although it never really worked out that way. Kelce, who is now out for the season, ended up doing most of the work pre-snap. The 2nd year center says he thinks it took Vick out of the game mentally.

 

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The Big Picture

Philadelphia and Dallas are similar in multiple areas this year, but the Eagles can hang their hat on a much more potent rushing attack. LeSean McCoy remains one of the game’s better running backs. The hard part for the Eagles has been holding onto the ball and blocking well enough to let McCoy get to work. Just like the Cowboys, turnovers have held this Eagles team from producing the way it’s capable of. Philadelphia and Dallas have each turned the ball over an NFL-high 19 teams.

As bad as the Cowboys have seemed in the red zone, the Eagles are worse. It was no more evident than Monday against the Saints, when Brent Celek fumbled and Michael Vick through an interception inside the 20-yard line. The Cowboys have reached the end zone 44 percent of the time they get into the red zone, while the Eagles are last in the NFC at 37 percent. The turnovers have hurt them bad enough in that area that they’ve only scored 74.1 percent of the time they’ve gotten inside the 20.

The Eagles and Cowboys rank in the top third of the NFL in total offense and in the bottom third in scoring average, mostly due to ball security. Philadelphia holds a negative-11 turnover margin, while the Cowboys sit at minus-nine. Turnovers will undoubtedly play a role when the teams clash Sunday in a matchup between two of the most criticized quarterbacks in the game. A victory this weekend for either team will go a long way in beginning a new trend for two teams in desperate need of a spark.

FEAR FACTOR: Jimmy Johnson believes Dallas Cowboys need more motivation

Former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson looking on - The Boys Are Back blog

Former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson is raising questions about the atmosphere at Valley Ranch. Johnson called Valley Ranch a "country club" during an interview on the Dan Patrick Show.

"All the players in this league think they’re self-motivated and that’s a bunch of bull because there are only a handful that are self-motivated," Johnson said. "So you’ve got to motivate these players through some respect but the No. 1 motivator is fear. Fear of letting down your teammates, being embarrassed or fear of losing the job. Where is the fear in Dallas? There’s no fear in Dallas. It’s a country club where everybody is buddies."

Coach Jason Garrett has changed the climate at Valley Ranch sharply from how it was under Wade Phillips. Of course, Phillips changed the atmosphere from how it was under Bill Parcells.

Garrett was asked about Johnson’s comments.

"I don’t really have any comment on that," Garrett said. "We do things the way we do things here and from a football standpoint we believe we practice the right way, we meet the right way and create the right atmosphere of urgency for our players it’s what I learned as a player and coach in this league. And that’s what we’re trying to create with our football team."

And a players’ view, courtesy of Jason Witten:

“I didn’t hear about it, but obviously he’s a great coach here in this franchise and won a lot of Super Bowls,” Witten said. “I haven’t seen him around a lot. The guys are working hard. Ultimately (talk like Johnson’s) is going to happen, but I don’t think as a player you can worry about that. You’ve got to fix it. We know the expectations. Trust me, we feel it every day and so I don’t think you allow that (talk) to get in but obviously got a lot of respect for him.”

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was asked about Johnson’s comments Thursday. 

"When you’re out here, when you’re involved in it, and you’re here every day, i think you understand the importance of each football game," Romo said. "All I can speak about is me, the grind and the way it works on you when you don’t win a football game, it’s just enormous. The way you constantly evaluate and think about how to improve and get better and take the next step. it consumes your thoughts. That’s really what happens after a loss, so I don’t know what anybody else feels or thinks, but that’s absolutely what you try to do to improve and get better."

Johnson has formed a good relationship with Garrett in terms of being a mentor. In the same interview with Patrick, Johnson questioned whether Garrett would remain the man in charge at Valley Ranch.

FOX NFL SUNDAY analyst Jimmy Johnson.

"Jason Garrett is probably coaching for his job for the rest of the year," Johnson said. "This game with Philadelphia on Fox may decide the future of coaches and players with those two teams."

Maybe Johnson was channeling Bob Arum, the boxing promoter who hypes fights. And with the Eagles and Cowboys at 3-5, the loser most likely will see their playoff hopes disappear. So creating media drama is expected.

The quarterback, Tony Romo, who’s got one year left on his deal, might also be on the way out according to Johnson.

"I would extend Tony Romo unless I had somebody better, and they don’t have anybody better," Johnson said.

EDITORS COMMENT: At The Boys Are Back blog we are always interested in your view. I agree with Jimmy Johnson on his point of most players needing motivation. Jason Garrett has had many influences in his career as a Dallas Cowboy player, offensive coordinator, and head coach. He uses a hybrid style that blends those influences (Tom Landry, Bill Parcells, Jimmy Johnson). Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells were more outwardly aggressive and verbally expressive on camera. Tom Landry more reserve publically, but privately critical and a strict disciplinarian. Jason Garrett’s style falls somewhere in the middle. He’s young and still figuring out his style and approach. As fans, we do not know what happens behind closed doors at Valley Ranch or in the locker room. We do know that the players seem to be behind him and appear to be buying into his system. When the day comes when they don’t … that’s the day to begin worrying. Jason Garrett is evolving … and like the Dallas Cowboys, he’s a work in progress.

RELATED: Dallas Cowboys VP Stephen Jones stops by practice, defends Garrett

Stephen Jones visited practice and ran into reporters, one of whom stopped him to get his thoughts on the topics of the day. Before long, everyone with a notepad and camera had surrounded the Cowboys’ executive vice president.

Is Jason Garrett coaching for his future?

“I won’t even comment on that. Period. That’s ridiculous,” Jones said.

Any comment on Jimmy Johnson saying there is a country-club atmosphere at Valley Ranch?

“Don’t have one.”

A comment or a country club?

“Don’t have one.”

He smiled.

“Any serious questions?”

Sure.

What kind of job do you think Garrett is doing?

“First of all, I think Jason is incredibly smart. No one understands the game more,” Jones said. “He grew up at a breakfast table knowing about the NFL. His father was a coach. His father was a scout. He understands the league. He is a great leader. He leads our team in a great way.

“I think he understands the game. He has been a very success offensive coordinator. He started having success immediately. It wasn’t like there was a huge learning curve for him as a play caller. We have had a lot of great offenses here under Jason. We are moving the ball good this year for the most part. The players respect him. He demands accountability.”

Jones agreed that turnovers are a problem this year. The Cowboys have 19, tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for second-most in the NFL.

“We have to do better there. I think we are improving,” Jones said. “We protected the ball against the Falcons. They are a good football team. We are doing some things to cause turnovers. We are tipping balls. They just didn’t come our way. We were hitting the quarterback hard. The ball was on the ground. We just didn’t recover it.

Asked if the Cowboys were underachieving at 3-5, Jones said, “Absolutely. We had higher expectations than this. We are disappointed with our record. We have to play better. We have to finish.”

ADRENELINE STRATEGY: Jason Garrett likes playing defense on the road first

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

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he likes the idea of playing defense on the road first. For the last three road games, he Cowboys have won the toss and deferred their choice to the second half.

“We feel like there are a lot of statistics that suggest it’s easier to play defense early in games on the road,” Garrett said at his Friday press conference at Valley Ranch. “There are a few other factors that add to this that I don’t want to get into. But we feel like when certain conditions are right, deferring is a better choice for us. A lot of it has to do with being on the road in that kind of environment.”

The Cowboys deferred their choice at Baltimore, Carolina and Atlanta. Baltimore drove 60 yards for a field goal on its opening drive, but Carolina and Atlanta each went three-and-out on the opening drive.

The one time this year the Cowboys won the toss and took the ball on the road, Felix Jones fumbled the kickoff at Seattle.

Other teams might have the same philosophy about opening on defense on the road.

Tampa Bay and Chicago both won the toss at Cowboys Stadium and deferred. The Buccaneers got an interception on the third play. The Bears gave up three first downs but forced a punt.

Two weeks ago at Cowboys Stadium, the New York Giants won the toss, took the ball and drove for a field goal.

SOURCE: Jason Garrett Press Conference 11/09/2012

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Jason Garrett Press Conference

Jason Garrett closes out the week from Valley Ranch as the Dallas Cowboys wrap up their final day of preparation for the Philadelphia Eagles.

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