It will be wheels up this afternoon for Team Enquirer as photographer Jeff Swinger and I head to Dallas for tomorrow night’s game against the Cowboys.
This will be my second trip to JerryWorld. Yes, it is an impressive stadium and you can catch yourself watching most of the game on the big screen instead of down on the field. When it comes to sheer size and scope, it is tops in the NFL but if you are grading it on fan experience and watching a game, to me it would be fourth. I think Seattle, Kansas City and Baltimore are better.
Weather wise, this should be a better trip compared to two years ago when I went to Dallas for the Super Bowl. During the early part of Super Bowl week, the Dallas-Fort Worth area was hit with snow and ice storms, which made the highways treacherous. That wasn’t good since it was billed as a North Texas Super Bowl and everything was far flung.
ONE NOTE ABOUT SATURDAY
Due to our deadlines, the game will not be completed in time for Sunday’s paper. A game story and notebook will be available on Cincinnati.Com following the game and there will be more coverage in Monday’s paper.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH ON SATURDAY
How much will A.J. Green play? Probably not as much as the rest of the first unit. As Lewis noted on Thursday, he has a number of snaps in mind for each position group depending on the depth and a player’s experience. Plus, Green doesn’t need much work in game conditions. Just kick the tires, get out there for a couple series, catch a pass or two and call it a day.
Can the first-team defense get a sack? There hasn’t been much pressure on the quarterback during the first two games. Geno Atkins has applied some pressure but they have yet to get a sack. The line though has not been at full strength in the preseason, particularly at defensive end. Carlos Dunlap has missed both games and Michael Johnson was out against Tennessee. Both should play against the Cowboys but Robert Geathers has not practiced this week.
Does Shawn Williams emerge at safety? With George Iloka doubtful for tonight’s game, Shawn Williams and Taylor Mays will get another prime opportunity to show what they can do. Williams led the Bengals with 10 tackles last week and continues to show progress. Mays has had flashes of good play but also some painful lapses in coverage. Iloka still has the advantage for the starting spot at strong safety, but the gap is starting to close.
Offensive Bubble Player to keep an eye on: Running back Rex Burkhead grew up in nearby Plano and is used to playing in AT&T Stadium. Burkhead is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has two runs of 15 yards or more during the preseason. He remains in a battle with Dan Herron for the final running back spot but might the edge based on if Burkhead were to be waived, the odds are pretty good that he would get claimed by another team.
Defensive Bubble Player to keep an eye on: Cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris has had a good training camp, but the highest exposure he has received came during the fourth quarter of last week’s game when he bit on a double move by Michael Preston that resulted in a 46-yard touchdown. If the Bengals keep 10 defensive backs, it will likely come down to which DB plays best over the final two games – Lewis-Harris or Mays.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Dallas Cowboys
Kickoff: 8 p.m., AT&T Cowboys Stadium – Arlington, TX
Local TV: WKRC-TV (Channel 12)
Local Radio: WCKY-AM (1530), WEBN-FM (102.7).
Series: Second preseason meeting. Dallas won the 2010 Hall of Fame Game 16-7.
Note: Bengals are 22-20 in preseason games under Marvin Lewis.
Not expected to play: OT Andrew Whitworth (knee), DE Robert Geathers (unspecified), CB Brandon Ghee (concussion), LB Sean Porter (shoulder), WR Andrew Hawkins (ankle), FB Chris Pressley (PUP/knee), QB Zac Robinson (PUP/elbow), HB Bernard Scott (PUP/knee).
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Taylor Mays has had plenty of camera time on Hard Knocks as he faces another reality — life on the roster bubble.
There is something of interest related to Adam Jones’ case. The attorney representing the alleged victim in the case was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday.
Coming Sunday, Paul Daugherty tells the story of Reggie Williams who, after 24 knee surgeries and years of pain, won’t accept losing his leg.
Courtesy: Joe Reedy | Cincinnati Enquirer
(Photographs courtesy: Cincinnati Enquirer)
About Joe Reedy
Joe Reedy took over as The Enquirer’s Bengals beat writer in 2009 after covering the University of Kentucky and doing an NFL picks column. Reedy’s previous NFL experience includes covering the Jets for The Post-Star in Glens Falls, NY (1997-98) and Jaguars for The Gainesville Sun (1999). The Youngstown native lives in Burlington and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Board of Selectors.
2013-2014 DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER: Saturday’s dress rehearsal vs. Cincinnati Bengals brings “what ifs” into forefront
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys got a taste of the past Thursday night at AT&T Stadium, stepping back in time to interact with their rich history.
Present were Pro Football Hall of Famers galore, the likes of Roger Staubach, Rayfield Wright and Mel Renfro, along with Ring of Honor members such as Lee Roy Jordan, Cliff Harris and Charles Haley. And then maybe the less decorated but certainly not forgotten, from center Mike Connelly, a member of the franchise’s inaugural 1960 team, to locally-raised cowboy Walt Garrison to exciting wide receiver Butch Johnson and stalwart center Tom Rafferty and invaluable tight end Jay Novacek, all the way to 11-year deep snapper Dale Hellestrae.
“I think we’re fortunate to be in an organization where such a high standard has been set,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett says of the franchise’s alumni being invited in for practice and the dinner afterward.
Saturday night at AT&T Stadium we’ll all get a better taste of the future and hints to if those previously high-set standards can be met, Garrett intending to play his starters at least a half and those in need of more work into the third quarter in the fourth of five preseason games this year, this one against the Cincinnati Bengals, the current Hard Knocks subjects on HBO. This exercise will be as close to real as a preseason game gets, though minus any sort of game plan or regular-season strategic intentions.
No sense showing your hand before being called upon, and believe me, that will definitely include the final preseason game, too, scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 29, against the Houston Texans, also at AT&T Stadium, where starters will mostly sit and sitters will mostly start.
So Saturday night maybe you see Tony Romo throw the ball 10 to 15 times; maybe you see DeMarco Murray carry the ball a handful of times; maybe you see DeMarcus Ware actually play a couple of series instead of just a couple of plays in this new 4-3 defensive alignment; and maybe you see the likes of recently-extended Sean Lee, the up-surging Jason Hatcher and a seemingly revitalized Miles Austin play more than previously. Still, bank on the Cowboys not wanting to overexpose any of them to injury possibilities with the season opener just 15 days away.
Oh, we know all about these guys, and for sure you’d like to see this Cowboys first-team offense score its first touchdown of the preseason, even if that drought encompasses but five series over the two games Romo has played in, and for them all to do a better job of hanging onto the football than what took place last Saturday in Glendale, Ariz.
Fine and good, but this Cowboys coaching staff also must use this game to address the near future, as in the Sunday night of Sept. 8 when the New York Football Giants come calling on national television at the newly named and re-carpeted AT&T Stadium. There still are so many compelling what-ifs so close to the season opener.
What if projected starting left guard Ronald Leary does not return in time as expected from arthroscopic knee surgery for the opener?
What if starting defensive tackle Jay Ratliff is not ready to play as expected in the opener after missing the entire offseason, entire training camp and as expected at least the first four preseason games?
What if starting defensive end Anthony Spencer does not return in time as expected from having his knee scoped at the start of training camp to man the strong side of this 4-man front against the Giants?
What if cornerback Morris Claiborne, bothered by patella tendinitis in his knee for the past two weeks, isn’t as ready to play in the opener as he seems to insist?
Oh, and while we’re at it, what if injured safeties Matt Johnson (ankle) and Eric Frampton (calf) aren’t ready for season-opening duty? First of all, how are you cutting that position down to a probable five and just who are the immediate backups to starters Barry Church and Will Allen?
These are the present dilemmas that must be solved with time running short, and for that reason you should get an eye-full Saturday night of possible solutions.
Already the Cowboys have been bracing for the worst on the offensive line. Chances are the do-si-do we witnessed this week in practice will continue Saturday night, with Jermey Parnell being inserted at right tackle, right tackle Doug Free moving over to right guard and right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau leapfrogging over to left guard.
Hmmm. Everyone seems occupied with Free moving to guard. My concern, and this coaching staff’s, too, is if Parnell is ready to play right tackle. He’s started only one NFL game, and injuries have caused him to miss the entire offseason, the first three preseason games and the first three weeks of training camp. And that’s who you want to trust on the right edge against those Giants ends?
“So we haven’t seen him,” Garrett says of Parnell, and hasn’t since he rotated in with Free at right tackle in the final month of last season. “We got him back the end of last week, doing some good things and playing a little bit like he did the end of last season. At the end of the day, we want to put our best five guys out there.”
Parnell definitely is on trial Saturday night, and if he can’t hold up, and Leary isn’t ready, don’t be surprised if rookie center Travis Frederick moves to one guard spot, Phil Costa returns to center and Free stays put … that is if a starting-quality free-agent guard is not claimed or signed.
OK, the defensive line. So far with Ratliff and Spencer missing the Cowboys have gone with Nick Hayden at defensive tackle and George Selvie at the strong-side defensive end. Hayden seems to be gaining the staff’s confidence that he can hold down the one-technique DT spot in a pinch, thus allowing Hatcher to play – and play well, so far – Ratliff’s three-technique position. Hayden has started 13 of the 28 games he’s played over his four years in the NFL, but did not play this past season.
“He’s done a nice job,” Garrett said of Hayden, who also has the ability to play either DT position. “Regardless of what combination he’s in there with or who he is going against he seems to show up and make some plays.”
As for Selvie, well, let Garrett tell you what he thinks of the 6-4, 270-pounder who previously has been with four teams since drafted in the seventh round by the Rams in 2010. The player who has yet to start a game (36 played) in the NFL and wasn’t signed by the Cowboys until a week into training camp:
“He played particularly well in the game up there in Canton (Dolphins), played well last week in Arizona – just kind of showing up … a guy we want to keep looking at and see if he has a role on this football team.”
Who knows for sure, backups today, starters tomorrow?
At least Claiborne has started running a bit, and hopes to practice next week. If not, well, the Cowboys have been running nickel back Orlando Scandrick with the firsts at right corner. So, the dilemma there is this: On nickel, does Scandrick move inside to his slot-cover position and the Cowboys then bring in either Sterling Moore or rookie B.W. Webb to play right corner, or do they leave Scandrick outside and go with either Moore or Webb inside? Scandrick previously has struggled doing both in the same game.
Not sure they’ve decided on which, so keep an eye out on Saturday night.
And then safety: Johnson and Frampton haven’t practiced for two weeks, and with the final preseason game next Thursday, hardly seems possible they would practice fully on Monday and Tuesday and play against the Texans on Thursday after being out so long. And then would they be ready for the Giants the following Sunday? Heck, will they even make the final 53-man roster?
If not in either case, then you are looking at Wilcox, who returned Wednesday after going home for his mother’s funeral and is expected to play against the Bengals; veteran Danny McCray, more of a special teams player than a true safety; and then rookie free agents Jeff Heath (Saginaw Valley State) and Jakar Hamilton (South Carolina State).
A little bit of a roster conundrum for sure.
So call this a dress rehearsal if you wish. But with so many what-ifs hanging over the Cowboys’ heads, this just might be last call for many of these guys since the cuts to 75 come Tuesday (August 27th), then the ones to 53 by the following Saturday (August 31st), and since this likely will be the final chance to prove yourself against first-team opposition.
See there? So much to decide, so little time left to do so.
Join Bryan Broaddus and Nick Eatman from Cowboys Stadium as they give you a look in to the Cowboys Silver and Blue debut practice. Duration – 17:31
The Dallas Cowboys open practice, at the newly named AT&T Stadium, is a chance for the rookies to get a feel for the stadium before Saturday’s first preseason home game. It’s a chance to try out the new turf and for the local fans to get an up-close look at the 2013 team.
New turf was installed in the off-season, and the Cowboys are getting a chance to try it out.
“I think it’s good for us to be able to get out there and run around a little bit, have a real football practice instead of just walking around or jogging around on it before the game,” Garrett said. “I think that’s a good thing for our team. We’ve got to take advantage of it.”
Let’s spread the word about The Boys Are Back blog! Please use the SHARE buttons below!
For the purposes of keeping up with the Joneses, the NFC East’s preseason scheduling has been pretty convenient to this point, with division games spread out over several different nights. That ends this weekend, though, as all four teams are set to take the field on the same day.
Washington kicks off against Buffalo at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, with Giants-Jets and Eagles-Jaguars both beginning at 6:30 p.m. The Dallas Cowboys’ home game against Cincinnati wraps it up with a 7 p.m. start. Those times are all central, by the way, for those of you far-flung Dallas Cowboy fans.
We’re going to be a bit busy watching the Cowboys’ starters play their longest exhibition of preseason. But there are still several things happening in the division Saturday night you might want to have an eye on.
More QB fun in D.C.: RGIII remains on schedule to play the ‘Skins’ season opener, but he remains out. No real news on that front, unless you care what type of T-shirt he wore to pregame warm-ups against Pittsburgh. Backup Kirk Cousins has a foot sprain and could probably play if he really wanted to, but he likely won’t risk it for a preseason game.
That means Rex Grossman is going to be the starter for what almost qualifies as a real NFL game. The former Bear has been pretty ho-hum as the team’s leading passer this season – he’s 20 of 37 for 252 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. That completion percentage is not what you’d like to see from a veteran backup, but it looks like Grossman is the early favorite to win the third QB job from Pat White.
Grossman’s longest completion of the preseason to this point is 23 yards. Let’s hope he bombs away once or twice.
Vick wants to run more: For a guy who has had trouble staying on the field, running the ball more often seems like a curious strategy for the Eagles’ newly-announced starting quarterback.
Vick has carried the ball 138 times in 23 games the past two seasons — an average of six times per game. But he managed to miss nine games in those two years even with that light of a workload. Eagles coach Chip Kelly had a penchant for getting devastating ground production out of his quarterbacks while at Oregon. But his quarterbacks in college weren’t 33 years old with injury histories.
Is Vick going to be scrambling all over the place, circa 2002, in a dress rehearsal against Jacksonville? That’s pretty doubtful. But it’ll be fun to get a longer look at him in Kelly’s offense.
Pugh is new starter: More and more, we’re seeing how quickly NFL teams expect their top draft picks to jump into the fire. We’ve seen plenty of it here in Dallas, with first-rounder Travis Frederick expected to start at center from the get-go. Several other Cowboy rookies figure to play prominent roles.
Injuries in New York have accelerated that process for Giants’ first round pick Justin Pugh this week. Pugh, who many wanted the Cowboys to select in April’s draft, will start at right tackle against the Jets.
The move comes largely because of the MCL sprain to starting center David Baas in last week’s game against Indianapolis. Starting left guard Kevin Boothe will move to center while Baas rehabs from surgery – he’s hopeful of a return for the season opener against Dallas – and right tackle David Diehl will take Boothe’s guard spot, opening the door for Pugh at right tackle.
It’s also worth noting that Diehl surrendered a sack and a quarterback hurry in his limited action against the Colts. The Giants would undoubtedly like to see if their rookie can improve upon that.
ARLINGTON, Texas – The practice was very much the same, but the venue could not have been more different.
The Cowboys went through the Silver and Blue Debut on Thursday night – the final full practice before Saturday’s preseason home opener. But while the past month’s practices have taken place on humble practice fields in Oxnard, Calif., and Valley Ranch, Thursday’s show took place on the grand stage of AT&T Stadium.
“It’s fun, you know, it really is. This is a great building,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “We all feel very fortunate to be able to play and coach in it. It’s probably as good a stadium as there is on the planet. To be able to come here to practice and play our games here is really special.”
It was a typical practice for a team that’s 48 hours away from the toughest action of the preseason – the second-to-last preseason game is typically referred to as the dress rehearsal. The Cowboys practices in shorts and shirts with no pads, working primarily on timing and fine-tuning.
But pregame, non-contact practices don’t typically take place in front of such a crowd. Over10,000 fans attended the event, not to mention a plethora of Cowboys alumni from Roger Staubach and Mel Renfro to Larry Brown and Jay Novacek.
The opportunity is one Garrett said the Cowboys need to be mindful of.
“A couple of years ago we had training camp here for a couple weeks, and I think the guys really, really enjoyed being here,” Garrett said. “It’s just a fantastic facility, and I think every time you go out there you just remind yourself how fortunate we are to be a part of it.”
Despite the routine nature of the workout, the atmosphere amped the anticipation up a bit. Even tight end Jason Witten, with 10 years and four seasons at AT&T Stadium under his belt, could feel it.
Witten said a practice in the home stadium lets him know the season is almost here.
“It always knows it’s just right around the corner when you’re here,” he said. “You see the excitement in the fans and the alumni, and you get that feeling. I think every year, as a player, there’s always that time when you know you’re getting close. This is kind of the kick off for that.”
It wouldn’t be the NFL if there weren’t some competitive advantage to something as routine as a practice. AT&T Stadium had a new turf field put down during July, and Garrett said it was nice to give the team some experience on the new carpet before game day.
“It’s good for us to be able to get out there, run around a little bit and have a real football practice instead of just walking around on it or jogging around on it before the game,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing for our team to be able to take advantage of.”
The full opulence of AT&T Stadium wasn’t even on display for the Silver and Blue Debut. The stadium staff was still working on game mechanics, and only the building’s lower level was filled.
That said, Garrett noted the value of an in-stadium practice before the Cowboys kick off against the Bengals – especially the team’s newcomers.
“One of the real positives of coming over here today is that they get a chance to see it, and some of the awe factor goes away a little bit,” Garrett said. “When they come back on Saturday, they’re ready to go to work and play a ball game – that’s an added benefit of practicing here tonight.”
Defensive back Micah Pellerin said he was fined $15,750 by the NFL for a hit against Cardinals punt returner Charles Hawkins that drew an unnecessary roughness penalty last week, but he declined to talk about whether he would appeal it.
He smiled and was ready to say something, then thought better of it.
“No comment,” he said.
But earlier in the week, he said it was a bang-bang play.
“It’s just one of those plays that, being such a bang-bang play that without seeing a replay, you kind of just anticipate a flag,” Pellerin said. “He’s a shorter guy. He ducked. I’m taller, so you know. I didn’t mean to.”
Pellerin, a first-year player from Hampton, caught the Cowboys’ eye with physical play in training camp, and he is gaining confidence.
“I feel like I’m doing well,” he said. “Just been moving up defense, and special teams I’ve been moving up this week. I’m just excited moving up.”
The Dallas Cowboys are calling this week’s matchup against the Bengals at the dress rehearsal for the season. The starters will play into the third quarter.
It will certainly be a good test for the Cowboys reshuffled offensive line, considering Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and his blitz happy ways.
Zimmer, a former Cowboys defensive coordinator, has been very aggressive all preseason and will likely continue to be aggressive on Saturday.
The Cowboys are not going to game plan for game but they will rely on their traditional rules and keys for handling the blitz.
“On Yeah, Zim’s an aggressive, competitive guy,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He brought it all in the first preseason games. That’s just his nature. He’s brought it all since I’ve known him. That’s what makes Zim great. You’ve got to be ready for that stuff. We watched some of the game from last year. We watched the first two games. You have to be ready for anything. One of the things we believe in is hopefully you’ve structure your offensive and defensive systems in such a way that you don’t have to game plan. You can kind of go by your rules to handle all of the different things you may or may not see. So hopefully we will be able to do that as a football team.”
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach talks to current quarterback Tony Romo during practice at the Silver and Blue Debut, in Arlington on August 22, 2013. (Michael Ainsworth/DMN)
ARLINGTON – Legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach isn’t down on his former team despite back-to-back 8-8 seasons and a three-season playoff drought.
In fact, Staubach feels even better about this season’s team than he did last year’s.
Almost a year to the day, Staubach predicted the Cowboys would make the playoffs last season and finish either 11-5 or 10-6. And this time around?
“We can be 11-5 in a second with a little luck and keeping people healthy, maybe 12-4,” Staubach said Thursday night at AT&T Stadium. “And I think we’d take 10-6 right now, wouldn’t we? You just want to get in the playoffs.”
Staubach was among several Cowboys alumni to watch the team practice for two hours Thursday night in the team’s only open practice in Texas. Others included fellow Pro Football Hall of Famers Mel Renfro and Rayfield Wright and Ring of Honor members Cliff Harris, Lee Roy Jordan and Charles Haley. A crowd of 10,234 watched the players practice without pads after paying $10 for parking.
The Cowboys alumni attended a dinner with the players and coaches at the stadium after the practice. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett asked Harris to address the team.
Staubach said the Cowboys have upgraded the offensive line – he really likes rookie center Travis Frederick – and if they can improve their running game should post a winning record for the first time since 2009.
Oh, and Staubach is still an unabashed Tony Romo fan.
“If there’s a bigger Romo fan in town, I don’t know who it is,” Staubach said. “I want to argue with all my negative Romo fans and tell them how great this guy is. He makes plays. He’s got a strong arm, and he just does a lot of good things out there that only a few quarterbacks in the league can do.”
Staubach spent some time Thursday throwing passes to one of Romo’s favorite targets: wide receiver Dez Bryant.
“They weren’t quite as hard as Tony Romo’s but I was having some fun,” Staubach said. “If he stays healthy, there won’t be a better receiver in the league than Dez Bryant. I was throwing to him tonight, so I tested him out. He’s a great receiver.”