Daily Archives: September 21st, 2013

LUCKY THIRTEENTH: Orlando Scandrick is making mark as starting corner and special teams ace

Orlando Scandrick no longer is just a nickel corner. He also is no longer just close to blocking a field goal.

Scandrick started at right corner in place of Morris Claiborne, against the Chiefs and he played all 67 snaps. Morris Claiborne, who has a dislocated shoulder, played 37 snaps in nickel situations. Scandrick made three tackles. He also blocked the first field goal of his career after being close dozens of times in his career.

“Scandrick did some good things,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Orlando’s a good football player. He’s one of those guys that sometimes you pigeon hole guys and say, ‘Hey, he’s an inside guy. He’s a nickel.’ He’s got a little something to him. He always has. A little bit of a chip on his shoulder, kind of like a bolder or a mountain. We think that’s good. He brings that with every opportunity we give him, whether it’s a as teams guy or an inside cover guy, as a nickel or as an outside guy. I thought he competed well with some good receivers.”

Scandrick has started only 20 games in six seasons, but he has been as valuable and productive in his role as any player on the team over that time.

During the off-season, he won a team award for the gains he made in the weight room. His biggest improvement, thought, might be in blocking out the bad plays as well as the criticism.

“I think I’ve grown a lot mentally,” said Scandrick, who has been targeted 12 times and allowed only six catches totaling 49 yards and a touchdown, according to STATS.

“I think physically I did a good job in the off-season of getting a lot stronger. I put a lot into it. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. I’ve taken a lot of criticism around here, and I don’t take it well. It eats me inside. It ate me up the whole last season that my season ended the way it did. So I’ve been working a lot. I started working as soon as I was healthy in January, and I haven’t stopped since.”

Although he is listed as the backup at right corner, Scandrick likely will continue to start. Claiborne will wear a harness that will limit his effectiveness the rest of the season. Scandrick now is as comfortable playing outside as he is in the slot.

“I just feel like I’m finally trusting myself,” Scandrick said. “A lot of the times I was second-guessing myself when I’d see things and not go get them and I would let outside things affect me and get down on myself if I give up a play or if I don’t make a play. Now I’m so focused if I make a play, if I don’t make a play, I’m onto the next play.”

Scandrick finally got his long-awaited first blocked field goal when he came around the corner to get Ryan Succop’s 57-yard attempt at the end of the first half.

“Coach Rich Bisaccia has been a big believer in me since he got here,” Scandrick said. “He’s been very positive since he got here. I give him the credit. The guy’s on me every day. I’ve been close for years. He’s on me every day, ‘Go get it! Go get it! Visualize it.’ Just another part of playing hard every play.”

BRINGING DOWN THE HAMMER: Jason Hatcher demands teammates best effort

Dallas Cowboys Jason Hatcher voluntarily spoke to his teammates after practice earlier this week, making an impassioned plea for them be accountable and lay it all on the line heading into Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams.

Hatcher called out rookies and veterans alike in hopes of helping the Cowboys break through the malaise of mediocrity and self-inflicted wounds that has engulfed this franchise for more than a decade.

The Cowboys (1-1) are off to another win-one, lose-one start to what has been a win-one, lose-one decade. 

They have a 105-105 record since 2000. And some of the same problems that plagued during them last season’s 8-8 campaign reared their ugly heads in last Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Chiefs, namely turnovers, failures in the red zone, untimely penalty and an inability to get a stop when needed.   

Hatcher didn’t want to talk about what he said but defensive end DeMarcus Ware backed him up in explaining the overall message in the locker room this week. They are tired losing games they supposed to win because of their own undoings.

“It’s forget about that game but remember your accountability and where you were and how you played in that last game,” Ware said. “Did you play hard enough and did you do what you needed to do to leave it all out there on the field? We’ve been telling that to the younger guys and even the leaders on the team, the older guys too. Each week you’ve got to leave it out there on the field. Some weeks there are games you’re supposed to win and you’ve got to win those games. We look at it as now, it’s an etching stone each week, you’ve got to be immediate in your actions and plans.”

Ware added this is not just about pointing the fingers at the young guys and saying follow me, its demanding accountability from the veterans and leaders too.

“You’re calling out all of the leaders and saying hey, this is how we need to play, calling out the rookies, this is how we need to play, week in and week out, because that’s how we’re going to win,” Ware said. “It’s not like we don’t have enough talent to win or have the guys not to win, but what type of demeanor, what type of heart are you going to play with every week.”

ROOKIE ON THE VERGE: J.J. Wilcox climbs depth chart at safety

J.J. Wilcox set be first rookie to start at safety for Dallas Cowboys since 2006; Garrett says he’s ready

Coach Jason Garrett hasn’t fully admitted it and rookie safety J.J. Wilcox did his to best play coy with the media.

But the third-round pick from tiny Georgia Southern has worked with the starters alongside strong safety Barry Church in practice and is target to place veteran Will Allen with the first team in Sunday’s game against the Rams.

Team vice president Stephen Jones confirmed on the radio Friday afternoon, however, that Wilcox will indeed start, becoming the first rookie to start at safety for the Cowboys since Pat Watkins in 2006.

“He did get some snaps with the first team,” Garrett said. “He has done a nice job. He is getting better and better over the course of training camp and the early part of the season. He is a good football player. Will Allen has done some nice things for us as well. We are just getting those guys ready to play.”

That Wilcox is on the verge of being a starter for the Cowboys is even more interesting when you consider his background. He played running back and receiver at tiny Georgia Southern for three years before moving to safety as a senior. And even after being drafted by the Cowboys, he was forced to miss 11 days in training camp following the death of his mother, Marshell, thus slowing his development.

“Yeah, but it’s all about what you dream of,” Wilcox said when asked if the he’s surprised by the opportunity so early. “When u get a chance to finally do it, you got to be ready, it’s a dream come true, a small town kid, a small time school coming to the big show and this is what you look for what you dream for.”

Garrett admits to having had concerns about Wilcox’s background but that was before he showed up. Since then, he’s been nothing but impressive with his attitude, instincts, athleticism and playmaking skills. He said Wilcox has certainly progressed enough for an opportunity to start.

“Well, we like what he’s done and we drafted him where we drafted him for a reason and that was a concern of ours just really based on biography more than anything else,” Garrett said. “It wasn’t anything we necessarily saw on tape that would be a concern for us. He was a small school guy, didn’t have a lot of experience playing the position in college but since playing here he’s demonstrated the ability to pick things up quickly. He’s an instinctive player. He has a good feel for the game and a good feel for being around the football and making plays.”

Despite missing 11 days in training camp and one preseason game dealing with his mother’s death, Wilcox still led the Cowboys in tackles during the preseason. He also had an interception. But he said he had some making up to do. 

“Anytime you stay a day away from football, it puts you weeks behind,” Wilcox said. “So I had to catch up mentally and physically; Just get back into shape and get back mentally, just getting back into a groove and getting a feel for it and catching up with the schemes. Coach (Monte) Kiffin does a great job with me day in and day out staying after (practice), and it’s coming along pretty good.”

Garrett said Wilcox’s development has been rapid.

“He has improved a great deal,” Garrett said. “He played really well in the spring. He had a good start to camp, then his mom passed away. That took him away from what we were doing here and rightfully so. It took him a little time coming back from that. Those are difficult things to do deal with. but he has found his stride again in the last few weeks. He has done a lot of good things.”

The decision to move Wilcox into the start’s role is also timely considering what lies ahead for the Cowboys. They play against the pass-happy Rams on Sunday, followed by the Chargers and quarterback Philip Rivers and the Broncos and Peyton Manning.

Wilcox is faster than Allen. He covers better and plays better in space as well as being a ferocious hitter. Church said the rookie will bring more play-making skills to the secondary that will be under fire the next few weeks.

“His coverage skills are great and his hitting across the middle is going to have receivers scared and have alligator arms,” Church said of Wilcox. “He brings that physical presence to the secondary. It should help create a lot of turnovers and be a boost.”

There is a chance is Wilcox’s father James and sister Lesha might be on hand for his first start on Sunday _ if they can find the time following his sister’s cheerleading competition.

Certainly his thoughts before the game will return to his mother, whom he has called his inspiration for making the league. But there will be no regrets about her missing out on his momentous achievement.

“She’s seen me play,” Wilcox said of his mother. “She’s had a chance to see her son actually make it to what I’ve always wanted to do. That’s the main thing, and I have to keep it living and just make her happy and do what she wanted me to do.”

CLIMBING THE CHARTS: DeMarcus Ware closing in on Harvey Martin’s Dallas Cowboy sack record

DeMarcus Ware 1.5 sacks from becoming Cowboys all-time leader; wants to learn about Harvey Martin

Defensive end DeMarcus Ware is 1.5 sacks from surpassing the late Harvey Martin as the Cowboys all-time leading sacker.

Ware has 113 heading into Sunday’s game against the Rams. Martin ended his career with 114.

Ware said he dosen’t know much about Martin but plans to learn more about the legendary Cowboys pass rusher who was the co-MVP of Super Bowl XII.
“I’m not a big historian, but when you have an opportunity to break someone’s record, it’s always a blessing. So you need to know the reason why you’re doing it, and you need to know about that person,” Ware said. “I need to make sure I learn about him.”
Ware said the record will mean a lot because of the long list of pass rushers in Cowboys history. But he still is searching for the thing that really sets those before him apart _ a Super Bowl title.
“You know with the tradition the Cowboys have had, the pass rushers they’ve had, Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones, Randy White, Charles Haley, Harvey Martin, you can keep going,” Ware said. “Being part of that tradition, being able to get your name with those guys, that’s what it’s about when you talk about playing with the Dallas Cowboys. There is always one more thing you need to add to that, and that’s winning a championship. That’s what we’re trying to do this year.”

CLIMBING THE CHARTS: Jason Witten passes Shannon Sharpe, moving into second among TEs in career catches

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten moved up on the league’s tight end charts, passing Shannon Sharp with his 815th career catch.

Witten considers it an “honor” to be in the same company as Tony Gonzalez, Sharpe and Ozzie Newsome.

“It’s special,” Witten said. “A lot of these that I’ve been able to achieve, it’s a lot of guys I have a lot of respect for. I really think for any tight end around my age, Shannon Sharpe was the guy you looked to in Denver. Him and Elway with what they were able to achieve. To pass him, that was pretty special and definitely humbling for sure. At this point, it’s not about that. You just hope that you can be some small piece of this puzzle that helps win games and compete for a championship.”

Witten has 817 catches. He trails only Gonzalez, who has 1,249. Witten ranks third among tight ends in career receiving yards with 9,030. He trails only Gonzalez (14,337) and Sharpe (10,060).

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