Category Archives: Josh Ellis

NFL FORGOTTEN RIVALRY–Dallas Cowboys vs. Cleveland Browns (Special Feature)

Dallas Cowboys Vs Cleveland Browns rivalry game - The Boys Are Back blog

These Cleveland Browns have never beaten the Dallas Cowboys. These Browns – the new Browns, founded in 1999 as a sequel to the historic original franchise. They are 0-2 against Dallas in the regular season heading into today’s important matchup.

1960 Dallas Cowboys 0-11-1 - The Boys Are Back blog

The Paul Brown Browns, however, certainly had the Cowboys’ number over the years, beating up on the NFL newcomers for the majority of the 1960s in a series of matchups that bloomed into a classic rivalry, including three playoff games. After the league’s 1970 merger, when Cleveland moved to the AFC, the rivalry unfortunately faded into history, with the teams meeting only sparingly in the regular season until the late Art Modell relocated the club to Baltimore in 1996.

The Cowboys’ luck in their series with the Browns-Ravens lineage has taken a turn for the worse, of course, with Dallas having never beaten Baltimore in four tries, including the heartbreaker earlier this season and the woeful Week 16 matchup in 2008, when the Ravens turned out the lights on Texas Stadium with a 33-24 victory.

The arrival of Tex Schramm (left) and Tom Landry in 1960 was not immediately followed by much more than losses in Dallas. But the Cowboys stuck with their leadership - The Boys Are Back blog

These things go in cycles, evidently. The original Browns whipped Tom Landry’s upstart team in each of their first four meetings, beginning with their first game, in Week 4 of the Cowboys’ expansion season, 1960. To that point, the team of undrafted rookies and castoffs from other clubs had acquitted itself fairly well against established NFL competition, having lost to the Steelers, Eagles and Redskins in consecutive weeks, but only by a combined 21 points.

The Browns welcomed the Cowboys into the NFL rather rudely, however, one gorgeous October afternoon at the Cotton Bowl, allegedly in front of 28,500 fans, though many reports suggest the stadium wasn’t nearly as full as the club claimed in those early days. Cleveland scored first on a 46-yard carry by future Hall of Fame runner and receiver Bobby Mitchell in the first quarter, before the great Jim Brown plowed in from five yards out in the second. Mitchell then jaunted 30 yards to make the score 21-0 as the floodgates opened, with the Browns returning an interception for a score before halftime, and Mitchell coasting 90 yards for another touchdown on the opening kickoff in the second half. The Browns led 48-0 before backup quarterback Don Heinrich tossed a garbage-time touchdown to Billy Howton.

Dallas Cowboys end Billy Howton - The Boys Are Back blog

It was a sign of things to come that season, as the Cowboys went on to post an 0-11-1 record, managing one tie, late in the season against the Giants, while falling by multiple scores in six of the seven losses to come following the trouncing by Cleveland.

The Browns would repeat the favor twice in 1961, as they joined the Cowboys, Steelers, Eagles, Giants, Redskins and St. Louis Cardinals in the newly formed Eastern Conference. That October, they knocked off a surprisingly 2-0 Dallas team, 25-7, at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, and in December helped eviscerate any hopes of a playoff berth for the Cowboys by beating them 38-17 in Fair Park, in the second of four straight Cowboys losses that sunk their record to 4-9-1.

Dallas Cowboys Vs Cleveland Browns rivalry Cotton Bowl - The Boys Are Back blog

The Browns won a 19-10 decision over Dallas at home in the teams’ first meeting in 1962, but the second matchup was a different story, seen as something of a pivot point game for the Cowboys franchise and their young quarterback, Don Meredith. Dallas had jumped out to a fine start to the season again, sitting 4-3-1 on the year before losing five of their last six. The lone exception came on Dec. 2, when they tanned the Browns, 45-21, at the Cotton Bowl, in arguably the best performance of the club in its existence to that point.

Paul Eugene Brown September 7, 1908 – August 5, 1991 - The Boys Are Back blog

“You writers and the football public here don’t realize what a fine team you have here in Dallas,” Paul Brown, an admirer of Landry’s, told the assembled media after the game. “You folks just don’t seem to realize this team can give you a championship. They outplayed us all the way … they deserved to win. I congratulate Tom for a fine job.

“Dallas was an inspired team. They’d never beaten us and it had to come sometime, and they did it to us good today.”

The Browns had traded Cowboys-killer Mitchell to Washington the previous offseason (he scored on a 92-yard kickoff return against the Cowboys in his first game with the Redskins) and Dallas managed to hold Jim Brown to only 29 yards on eight carries. Meanwhile, Cowboys running backs Don Perkins and Amos Marsh combined for 209 yards on the ground, while Meredith was 10-of-12 passing for 147 yards and two touchdowns, keeping Cleveland’s defense off balance all day.

Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry and quarterback Eddie LeBaron - The Boys Are Back blog

Meredith had been struggling in previous games, and hadn’t yet wrestled full-time duties away from veteran Eddie LeBaron, but the fine day against Cleveland was a prelude of what was to come in his career.

“Meredith certainly had better results today,” Landry said after the game he called the Cowboys’ “best showing against a good team at home.”

Still, that impressive day remained the exception rather than the rule in the early years of the series. The Cowboys continued to muddle along in mediocrity while the Browns remained among the NFL’s elite. Cleveland won the next seven games in the series, not to mention an NFL Championship in 1964, while the Cowboys didn’t even experience their first winning season until 1966.

1967 Dallas Cowboys defeated Cleveland Browns in Eastern Conference Championship game - The Boys Are Back blog

Once Jim Brown retired after the 1965 season, the series turned a bit. Dallas won a measure of confidence that year with a 26-14 home win over a good Browns squad on Thanksgiving, the Cowboys’ debut on the holiday, in what would become an annual tradition. By 1967, the ghosts of Cleveland’s domination had been fully exorcised, or so it would seem. The Cowboys beat Cleveland twice that year, including a 52-14 destruction of the Browns in the Eastern Championship Game, the first playoff win in the club’s eight-year history.

1967 Ice Bowl - The Boys Are Back blog

A week later, on New Year’s Eve, the Cowboys lost to Green Bay on a last second Bart Starr sneak in the NFL Championship, the game better known as the Ice Bowl. It was the beginning of the Cowboys’ “Next Year’s Champions” era, though the unwanted legacy was only furthered by playoff slip-ups against … Cleveland.

1968 Cleveland Browns - The Boys Are Back blog

After beating the Browns convincingly in their run to a 12-2 record in 1968, the heavily favored Cowboys fell to the Browns in the Eastern Championship Game.

“A whole year shot in two-and-a-half hours,” Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm surmised afterward.

It turned out to be the last game of Meredith’s career and a rather disgraced ending. He completed only three of nine passes, connecting with the Browns as often as his own receivers. Meredith’s interceptions led to 17 Cleveland points, and he eventually gave way to Craig Morton under a deafening swarm of boos, the Cotton Bowl crowd en masse deciding their team could never win with Dandy Don, despite the fact he’d posted his best season yet in 1968.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Craig Morton (14) talks to Tom Landry - The Boys Are Back blog

“We needed a psychological lift,” Landry said following the loss. “Morton was the only thing I had that I could use. I took Meredith out not so much for what he was doing, but to try to shake them up. … I hated to take him out. In my opinion, he wasn’t wholly responsible. I don’t know what he will do (in the offseason). I can’t speak for him, but you can bet he feels worse than anybody right now about this game.

“I wouldn’t say (we) got whipped physically – it was more mentally than physically.”

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith - The Boys Are Back blog

With Meredith retiring after the season, Morton accepted the offensive reins, but his luck against the Browns and in the playoffs was no better. He threw three picks in a 42-10 Week 7 drubbing at Cleveland in 1969, one of just two Cowboys losses in the regular season. Yet again, Dallas was favored in an Eastern Championship matchup with the Browns, and yet again they came up short. Way short.

The Browns jumped out to a 24-0 lead at the Cotton Bowl, and put the finishing touches on the game when Walt Sumner returned a Morton interception 88 yards for a fourth quarter score. Roger Staubach took over for Morton, but the lead was too far out of reach even for “Captain Comeback,” and the Browns advanced with a 38-14 victory.

“We’re not choke-ups,” receiver Bob Hayes said after the game. “There were 40 guys out there and every one of them played his heart out. … I don’t know what happened. Nobody does. It’s a mystery to all of us. We were ready.

Bob Hayes' speed gave opposing cornerbacks fits and Cowboys QB Roger Staubach an easy target down the field - The Boys Are Back blog

“I looked over to our bench and I could see shoulders sag. Guys who had been eager and jumping to get into the game seemed to be saying, ‘Oh no, here we go again. You play hard to get to this game – the playoffs – and you either have it or you don’t have it. We didn’t have it. Why? It’s a mystery to me. We’ve been pointing to this particular game since last September. It’s one we knew we had to win. We have to win a big one to shake off this image. Some day we’re going to do it.”

The Browns had played a huge role in the Cowboys’ earning of the “Next Year’s Champions” moniker. Cleveland had dominated the all-time series to that point, with 14 wins against only five losses, but Dallas has gotten the best of Browns since, winning seven of the 10 matchups between the clubs. None of the games was bigger than 1970, the Browns’ first year in the AFC, when chance pitted the teams in a late season battle once again. The Cowboys had opened the season 5-4, and needed a serious winning streak late in the season to earn a playoff spot. On a muddy, near-freezing day at Municipal Stadium, Dallas triumphed 6-2, the product of two Mike Clark field goals and an excellent day for Landry’s defense, which shut down the Browns running game and recorded four takeaways.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Cleveland Browns rivalry - The Boys Are Back blog

When the Cleveland franchise was reformed in 1999 – four years after the original club moved to Baltimore – their first preseason outing was against the Cowboys in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. It would prove to be a remarkable night, not only for the Browns’ rebirth, but also as the rare preseason contest that reached overtime, something coaches typically try their best to avoid.

Football is back in Cleveland - The Boys Are Back blog

Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, Don Meredith and Bob Hayes had given way to the likes of Karim Abdul-Jabbar at running back and Tim Couch at quarterback for the Browns, with backups such as Ryan Neufeld and Singor Mobley playing big roles for the Cowboys by the end, when Cleveland’s Phil Dawson decided the game with a field goal.

“It’s good to see the Dawg Pound back in the NFL,” Troy Aikman said afterward, welcoming the return of the new, old Browns, three years after their apparent demise, and some 30 years since they last played the Cowboys for something truly meaningful.

The teams had certainly played bigger contests, but the history behind the preseason opener made it at least noteworthy, just like today’s game, echoes of an all-but-forgotten rivalry.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman Roger Staubach Don Meredith Craig Morton Danny White - The Boys Are Back blog

Photo: Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, Don Meredith, Craig Morton, and Danny White

Blog hint: With nearly every photograph on The Boys Are Back blog, you can get additional information by hovering over the photo with your cursor. Many times, if you’ll click on the photo you’ll see a larger image.

First photo: Amos Marsh Jr. (jersey #31), Full Back/Return Specialist, 1961-1964

Amos Marsh Jr. was signed as a rookie undrafted free agent by the Dallas Cowboys in 1961, because they were impressed by his speed. Back then his nicknames were "Moose" and "Forward Marsh".

He started his career as a wide receiver and special teams player. In 1962 to take advantage of his size and speed, he was moved to fullback, playing alongside Don Perkins where he became one of the league top 10 rushers with 802 yards and a 5.6 yards average per carry. That year he also set the franchise record for the longest kickoff return with 101 yards, a record that was broken by Alexander Wright 29 years later in 1991. The play came against the Philadelphia Eagles, when the Cowboys became the first NFL team in history to produce two 100-yard plays in the same game: a 100 yard interception return for a touchdown by strong safety Mike Gaechter and the 101 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Marsh.

Marsh’s production regressed during the following years, leading the Cowboys to trade him to the Detroit Lions in 1965 after the team acquired fullback J.D. Smith

Courtesy: Dallas Star magazine | Cleveland Plain Dealer archives | NFL | Dallas Cowboys

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HORSESHOES AND HAND GRENADES: Dallas Cowboys close, but no cigar

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades - Dallas Cowboys close, but no cigar - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON, Texas – For three minutes of real time, I had already figured out what I wanted to say about this game.

And as long as that remarkable play was upheld and the Cowboys were awarded a touchdown, this one was going to go down as the all-timer of all-time games.

Maybe the first game I ever covered, the 1999 comeback against the Redskins with the overtime ending, would’ve been better, but this game, would’ve probably beaten that out if, and only if, Dez Bryant’s hand hadn’t touched the back of the end zone.

But it did. Bryant was out of bounds. The Cowboys drop this heartbreaker game that had more twists and turns than any ride Six Flags could’ve ever produced.

Giants 29, Cowboys 24.

Dallas obviously couldn’t complete the comeback, although the scoreboard did read 30-29 Cowboys for about three long minutes while the officials looked at Bryant’s catch. And whether or not it counted, it was still an amazing catch by a player who also had an up-and-down game.

If you’re reading this, there’s probably a great chance that you hated the outcome of this game. The great comeback, the records that were broken in the process, all of that means nothing in the end. The Cowboys couldn’t do enough to win this one, and now they’re 3-4 and three games behind the Giants in the win column.

But mark this one down as a classic.

It had everything the average football fan wants to see: great plays, great performances in the clutch, big stats, back-and-forth play where the lead changes hands, and the drama in the end.

I know it was a sickening feeling when the announcement was made that Bryant didn’t get his hand in bounds. The only real question was how injured he was when he landed straight on his backside.

For me, what I keep thinking about is how much this game mirrored the careers of both Bryant and Tony Romo. And actually, it’s also a good example just how the Cowboys are as a team right now.

At 3-4, it’s competitive. It’s got some good, but just a little more of the bad. There are times when it looks like the Cowboys are left for dead, and then they make it seem like they’re going to turn the corner. In the end, it’s just not good enough.

That’s exactly what occurred Sunday at Cowboys Stadium. And, that’s probably what this team will be when it’s all said and done.

Of course, this one started out completely disastrous with the Cowboys turning it over four times in the first half, trailing 23-0.

Forget boo-birds. This was like a flock of pigeons that invaded the stadium. And they were ruthless toward Romo, owner Jerry Jones even head coach Jason Garrett. They were hounding the Cowboys and for good reason.

It looked like this was going to be a long day, long week and a long season. (Actually, it might be in all three cases).

But then, the Cowboys begin what proved to be the ultimate tease. They unlocked the coffin they had been placed in, dug out of the dirt that had been poured, and rose from the dead, not just to make this respectable, but to take the lead.

Just as shocking to see a 23-0 deficit was a 24-23 Cowboys lead.

But no one thought Eli Manning and his group would go away and they didn’t. They are champions for a reason because they know how to handle adversity. Manning wasn’t great at all, but he drove the offense a couple of times and got his team in position to take the lead and then pad it.

On the other side, Romo was on his way to pulling off the greatest comeback in Cowboys history. After that awful start, it looked like his confidence was shot. Who knew he was about to have a career-high in passing yards (437) and attempts (62). In fact, if Bryant is ruled in bounds, Romo would’ve set the single-game passing record with 474 yards.

Yet, that’s his career. He allllmooossstt pulled it off.

He was almost spectacular. Isn’t that the biggest knock on Romo – is that he can be great and he can be awful? Usually, it’s week to week.

On Sunday, it was a matter of hours. Romo’s best performance came after his worst performance. And that’s why this guy drives people crazy.

He’s the guy that gives it up, but he’s the guy that brings them back. He was bad enough to get booed and probably have his coach consider pulling him. He was good enough to rally his team back and had the ball in a spot to win the game and pull off the greatest comeback in franchise history.

Good enough and bad enough in a matter of hours. That’s Romo’s career.

And it’s about the same with Bryant. When you look at the reasons he was drafted in the first round back in 2010, we saw them all here in this game.

He had top-10 talent, evident by his unreal catch in the most clutch of situations. Forget the yard lines. If you catch a ball like that in the backyard playing One-Mississippi, it’d be a great catch.

But he has questionable decision-making – both on and off the field. His misplay on a first-quarter punt, resulting in a muff and then fumble, got him booted as the punt returner. Yet, with the game on the line, and him making some key receptions as a receiver, the Cowboys put him back out there when they needed a huge return. And the Giants recognized that and kicked it away from him.

Even the longtime radio voice of the Cowboys, Brad Sham, said on his broadcast Sunday following Bryant’s fumble that it’s time for him to be on the bench.

There’s no way Sham really believes that, but that’s how frustrating it can be to watch this guy, cover this guy through the media, cover this guy as a defense. He’s just erratic in every way – the good can be so good and the bad can be so bad.

Sunday’s 29-24 thriller was the Cowboys’ franchise. Up and down but not good enough. It also seemed to mirror the careers of both Romo and Bryant. So much potential, but yet teased at the end.

Maybe you saw four quarters of dramatic football. I saw the careers of two key players and an entire franchise rolled into one.

EGGSHELL OFFENSE–BOMBSHELL DEFENSE: Dallas Cowboys leave Carolina with crucial win

EGGSHELL OFFENSE–BOMBSHELL DEFENSE - Dallas Cowboys leave Carolina with crucial win - The Boys Are Back blog

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In the most pivotal sequence of the game, when the Cowboys took a late lead over the Panthers, it appeared head coach Jason Garrett was playing to not lose rather than to win.

Ultimately, though, that’s really all Sunday was about, and Garrett’s conservative decision to settle for a late field goal turned out to be the right call. The Cowboys defense did its job twice, and the visiting Dallas Cowboys left Carolina with a win, keeping this young season out of the ditch by advancing to 3-3, far more palatable than 2-4.

Facing a third-and-nine at the Carolina 15, Garrett elected to run the ball rather than force a pass, which the Panthers were loaded up to stop. While the call would’ve certainly been questioned had it backfired, the coach was sure it was the best decision at the time.

“They wanted to play big-time coverage there,” Garrett said. “We wanted to preserve the opportunity there to kick that field goal. … We felt like that was a good answer against the shell coverage, three-man rush they were going to do. If they had done something else, we would’ve been in something else.

Dan Bailey nailed the go-ahead kick from a manageable distance.

The season has had its ups and downs, but having played just two games at home and four on the road, the Cowboys are not in an awful position. They will have to play better than they did today to win big games ahead. That starts with next week’s rematch of their season-opening upset of the defending champion Giants, now 5-2 and atop the NFC East by 1.5 games.

If the Cowboys are to become a team with even the slightest shot at competing for a title, it’ll be through the kind of perseverance they showed Sunday. Things were less than perfect from the very beginning, when Bailey’s opening kickoff sailed out of bounds, but the defense kept the Panthers from establishing an early edge. Likewise, the Cowboys’ offense got only three first-half drives, going three-and-out once, settling for a field goal after an 18 play march another time, then losing the ball on a fumble, but the defense kept the game close.

The Panthers struggled to run the ball all day, save for quarterback Cam Newton, and he was forced into several mistakes of his own when attempting to pass, none more damning than a second quarter interception in the end zone by Morris Claiborne, amazingly the first pick by a Cowboys defensive back this season.

The Panthers led 7-3 at halftime, making Sunday’s game the 11th they have lost after leading through two quarters under second-year head coach Ron Rivera. Though the Panthers added another touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys had confidence in their defense to stop Newton late.

“We trust our defense immensely,” Garrett said.

On the Panthers’ ensuing possession, Newton appeared to extend the drive by converting a short fourth-down throw near midfield, but officials ruled Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had signaled a timeout first. When the teams lined up again, Newton’s pass was incomplete, cornerback Morris Claiborne appearing to get away with a physical defensive play on a pass to Louis Murphy.

The turn of events allowed the Cowboys to tack on another field goal, forcing Carolina to have to go the length of the field at the end. Though Newton appeared to have a shot on a deep ball to Brandon LaFell, the Cowboys defense prevailed.

“We feel like we always have pressure on us, no matter what the lead is, no matter if we’re down,” Claiborne said. “We have a lot of pride in what we do to go out and try to get stops.”

The defense will have to be at its best once again in seven days, needing a repeat of Sept. 5, when they limited Eli Manning and New York to just 17 points. They’ll need more help from the offense along the way, too, with a more sustained run game and better protection of the ball than was on display against the Panthers.

Though this team hasn’t yet been able to sustain momentum, they continue to build reasons for hope.

“I think each week you have to start fresh and work hard,” said Miles Austin, who was on the receiving end of the Cowboys’ only touchdown. “It’s going to be big. It’s obviously a huge week … they all are.”

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Barry Church upbeat despite season-ending Achilles injury

Dallas Cowboys strong safety Barry Church (42) is helped from the field - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – As he sat on the Cowboys bench in the second half of Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers, his right shoe and sock taken off, Barry Church had a look of sheer disappointment.

He had just learned his season was over far too early following a Achilles tendon tear – either full or partial – that will require surgery on Tuesday. Teammates came around to try to console him, but what could they say to make it better? Called too slow, Church had gone undrafted following four years as an all-conference star at Toledo, only to make the Cowboys in 2010, slowly work his way up the ranks and easily beat out veteran Brodney Pool for a starting job this offseason.

As disappointed as Church was on the sideline, his mood had turned less than an hour later. Speaking to reporters in the Cowboys locker room, he supported himself not only with a pair of crutches, but with his familiar smile.

“On the sidelines it was kind of just shock, like, wow, this really happened. But once I sat down I just kind of had a little talk with myself and figured, you know, you can’t be negative about everything. If you keep on the negative, you’re just going to become a negative person, so I’ve got to keep upbeat and keep positive, and see what happens.”

Dallas Cowboys strong safety Barry Church (42) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Arrelious Benn - The Boys Are Back blog

What will happen is a months-long recovery that will determine the direction of Church’s career.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount (27) falls awkwardly after getting up ended by Dallas Cowboys strong safety Barry Church - The Boys Are Back blog

Some players returning from Achilles injuries are never quite the same – longtime Cowboys fans will remember former first-round pick Kevin Smith, who was hurt in the season opener in 1995 and came back the next year, only a half a step slower. But outside linebacker Greg Ellis suffered the same injury in 2006 and then won NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2007 after posting a career-high 12.5 sacks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount (27) tries to hurdle Dallas Cowboys strong safety Barry Church - The Boys Are Back blog

With the final year of Church’s contract coming in 2013, a lot is riding on his recovery. It will only help to remain optimistic.

“I’ve just got to keep my mind straight,” Church said. “I’ve got to keep my head up. I can’t let this injury get the best of me. I’ll be at the house for a while just relaxing with the cast, but I just can’t let it get the best of me. I’ve got to go out there and continue to get better.”

Though the injury certainly has career path implications, the thing that bothered Church the most in the aftermath of Sunday’s game was that he won’t be able to help this year. Over the preseason and his three starts in September, he had appeared to solidify the safety position of a much improved defense.

“It’s pretty tough,” Church said. “I came out this year looking to make improvements on my game. I feel like I did that the first couple games I played, but this happened. It’s a freak accident. Things happen. But I’ve just got to battle back and try to come back stronger.”

EDITORS COMMENT: Barry Church was a favorite here on The Boys Are Back blog. It looked like he was coming into his own this year. Hopefully, Church will be able to come back from this injury and pursue his dream of playing football in the NFL.

SUSPECT CHARGED: Kevin Ogletree relieved by arrest in brother’s shooting

Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo and Kevin Ogletree - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, TexasOn Tuesday, a suspect was charged for the attempted murder of Calvin Ogletree, the brother of Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree.

Lonnie Miller, 23, of St. Albans, N.Y. was held without bail following his arraignment Monday, according to reports citing the office of District Attorney Richard A. Brown in Queens. He was also charged with illegal weapon possession and assault, and could face up to 25 years in prison.

The new developments come more than eight months after Calvin Ogletree was shot in the head outside in luxury car rental shop. He is still recovering.

The Cowboys’ fourth-year receiver called news of the charges a relief.

“I guess it’s good to know that the justice system works well,” Kevin Ogletree said. “I know it works, but I’m far away from that deal, and my only job right now is to be the best brother I can be, the best son to mom and the best family member to everyone. I think my mom was a little happy. I really was emotionless.”

Kevin Ogletree has said he used the heartbreak over his brother’s shooting to refocus himself on the field this offseason. He had a career game when the Cowboys played the New York Giants in Week 1, after visiting his brother the day of the game.

He said the movement in his brother’s case will not be a distraction on the field.

RELATED POST ON THE BOYS ARE BACK BLOG:

BROTHERLY LOVE: Kevin Ogletree’s brother called him after the Giants game, ‘stoked’

DRAFT DAY EVALUATION: Bruce Carter erasing any regrets about not landing Seattle LB Bobby Wagner

DRAFT DAY EVALUATION - Bruce Carter erasing any regrets about not landing Seattle LB Bobby Wagner - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, TexasAfter the Dallas Cowboys traded their first- and second-round picks in April to move into position to draft Morris Claiborne, owner Jerry Jones claimed he would walk to New York to get back his No. 2 selection.

The Cowboys ended up sitting out of the second round entirely, significantly frustrating for Jones because of the depth of the talent pool available when the team’s original pick, No. 45 overall, rolled around. After the round ended, Jones confessed the team would’ve taken Utah State’s Bobby Wagner in that spot. The inside linebacker was chosen by Seattle two picks later, at No. 47 overall, and is now starting for the Seahawks.

While the Cowboys will get a vision of what could’ve been when they face Seattle’s defense on Sunday, it’s doubtful there is any regret on Jones’ part right now.

Bruce Carter, the 2011 second-round linebacker, has done just as the club had hoped another year off the torn ACL that dropped him out of first-round contention, winning the starting job and playing effectively.

Carter beat out free agent addition Dan Connor in training camp for the opportunity to play next to Sean Lee, another first-round talent, according to the Cowboys’ evaluation. After starting his rookie season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, he became a special teams contributor down the stretch in 2011.

“Carter, that’s like having another first-round draft pick,” Jones told The Fan (105.3-FM) in Dallas on Friday. “I know that when we trade, we trade a two on draft day for somebody’s one, that’s the equivalent of somebody’s one. That’s just in draft pick evaluation. So, he comes in here, he’s certainly at the level that you’d be looking at, at a No. 1 pick, and he had a camp and (is) playing like it.”

GRINDING THROUGH ADVERSITY: Dallas Cowboys rewarding players that don’t quit, even after setbacks

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett vs Philadelphia Eagles

IRVING, TexasLast year, when the Cowboys won a game, head coach Jason Garrett awarded the outstanding player of the game with an authentic Louisville Slugger. The “swing the bat” award was a metaphor for adversity, reminding players to keep grinding.

For example, kicker Dan Bailey won the first bat in 2011 for kicking the game-tying and game-winning field goals against San Francisco after having missed a chip shot on the first drive of the game.

This season, the bats have been replaced by a new souvenir, hard hats worn underground by real coal miners.

DeMarcus Ware received the first honor after recording two sacks, six tackles and a quarterback pressure against the Giants while playing through a bum hamstring that has continued to limit him in practice this week.

“Really it’s about putting your hard hat on, regardless of circumstances and going down there and doing your job,” Garrett said. “We told them some stories about coal miners early on in training camp, and what they do each and every day, and how they get paid for what they do. And DeMarcus Ware demonstrated that more than anybody else in our win against the Giants.”

SPOTLIGHT ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Seattle Seahawks returner Leon Washington a test for Dan Bailey, Chris Jones

El mariscal de campo Tony Romo, junto al despejador Chris Jones (centro), Dan Bailey - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, TexasWith star collegiate players taking over special teams roles and a hodge-podge of talent taking the field, the beginning of the season is typically difficult on special teams coverage.

Sometimes, the best way to make up for the newly-formed coverage groups is with precision in the kicking game. Against a great returner like Seattle’s Leon Washington, who holds several franchise records, the placement and distance of kicks by Dan Bailey and Chris Jones will be crucial. Washington had an 83-yard kickoff return and a 52-yard punt return against Arizona on Sunday, proving he can still be a threat at the age of 30.

“You certainly want to limit his opportunities any way you can,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “The kickers and the punters play a big role in this game. There’s no question about that. But we have to go cover. There’s no expectation that we can just take him out of the game by kicking the ball through the end zone or whatever the case might be. We have to plan and practice really well in preparing for him, because again, he’s a difference-making player for their football team.”

For Bailey, the best way to stop Washington on kickoffs is to try to boot the ball deep into the end zone, when the wind allows, but direction is important as well, if the ball isn’t carrying. Bailey had 24 touchbacks on 67 kickoffs last year.

Jones, appearing in only his third game last week, did a nice job on his two punts, finishing with a net average of 51.5 yards. Coincidentally, he made his NFL debut against the Seahawks halfway through last year, filling in for an injured Mat McBriar, and forcing Washington into three fair catches.

“I think if I can just pinpoint just where the ball is going to be, and I put it there with 4.8, 4.9, 5.0 hang time, something like that, we’re going to get a fair catch,” Jones said. “Or, we’re going to get somebody to run down there and rock him, and possibly get a turnover or something like that. A lot of the stress on me is going to be directional – let’s get it outside the numbers – and the hang time. That’s my main focus this week.”

COWBOYS-GIANTS VIDEO RECAP: Cherish the Dallas Cowboys win on The Boys Are Back blog

As a courtesy, The Boys Are Back blog wants to share the video highlights and special interviews associated with last nights Dallas Cowboys victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. When you click on each link, the video should open in a separate window. Enjoy!

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Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants Highlights (Courtesy: NBC)

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo found WR Kevin Ogletree for 114 yards and 2 TD’s as the Cowboys took down the Giants in the first game of the 2012 season, 24-17.

 

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Dallas Cowboys Today Postgame Report (Courtesy DC.com)

The Dallas Cowboys crew recaps the season opener win against the New York Giants.

 

 

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Dallas Cowboys Postgame Press Conference

Coach Jason Garrett and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo speak after the New York Giants game.

 

 

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Jason Garrett’s Postgame Locker room Speech with Players

Join Mickey Spagnola as he listens in to Jason Garrett’s postgame speech after Wednesday nights victory over the NY Giants

 

 

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VW Quick Snap – Cowboys vs. Giants (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!)

Presented by Volkswagen. Experience the sights and sounds of the Cowboys victory over the Giants in their season opener. If you only watch one video, watch this one! Brad Sham, the Voice of the Dallas Cowboys, captures moments unlike anyone in sports. Check it out!

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Talkin’ Cowboys: Game Recap (Duration 57:43 – Surf and Listen)

Join Derek, Nick, Josh, and Blair as they breakdown last nights thrilling victory against the Giants.

 

 

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Tony Romo Postgame (In-depth; duration 9:01)

Tony Romo addresses the media after the Dallas Cowboys beat the New York Giants in NFL season opener.

 

 

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Cowboys Break: A Sign Of Things To Come? (Duration 58:40)

It’s Glory Hole Thursday! haha The Break takes a look at the Dallas Cowboys victory over the New York Giants and if the result could possibly carry over to the rest of the season.

 

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BONUS VIDEOS: Know The Enemy – Jason Pierre-Paul and Victor Cruz

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Know The Enemy – New York Giants Jason Pierre-Paul

In the second portion of this weeks "Know The Enemy", Bryan Broaddus takes a look at the Giants most powerful weapon on defense

Posted: Sep 5, 2012 (posted before the game)

 

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Know The Enemy: Victor Cruz

In the first portion of this weeks "Know The Enemy", Bryan Broaddus takes a look at one of the Giants most powerful weapons on offense

Posted Sep 4, 2012 (posted day before the game)

 

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INSPIRED BY TENACITY: Win over Giants provides ‘Boys a measure of redemption, confidence

VIDEO - Dallas Cowboys Owner - General Manager Jerry Jones press conference - The Boys Are Back blog

Jerry Jones: Very Meaningful To Our Season (Click HERE to watch video)

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones speaks about Jason Witten, the New York Giants, and what the victory meant for the team.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.Wednesday night was the first game of the NFL season, but for the Dallas Cowboys it was a second chance.

The 24-17 win didn’t make up for 2011’s Week 17 loss to the same Giants, which ended the Cowboys’ season, or the Week 14 debacle versus New York at home, or even last year’s season opener at the Meadowlands against the Jets. But it was an opportunity to prove to themselves they could win in such circumstances. Ultimately, they solved a problem that plagued them last year, holding a lead in the final minutes.

At long last, this is a new year.

“It’s fresh on our memory,” owner Jerry Jones said of last season’s loss at New York that knocked the Cowboys out of playoff contention. “The areas that they, in addition to Philadelphia exposed for us, in our secondary, our coverage, our interior of our offensive line, we certainly went to that area and tried to address them. We had everything here, a test, for everything we had done (in the offseason).”

Now alone for three and a half days with the best record in football, the Dallas Cowboys can savor their victory over the NY Giants, a group that has seemed to have their number over the last half decade. The Cowboys become the only NFL team to have ever won a game on a Wednesday, and the first team to beat the defending Super Bowl winners in the league’s Kickoff Game, which for eight years has been held before opening Sunday as a showcase for the champions.

“We talk a lot about demeanor,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “You play the world champs at their place on opening night in the NFL season, there are going to be some things that go well for you, but there’s going to be some adversity you’re going to have to deal with, too … They didn’t blink when things didn’t go well for us, and when things did go well for us, we just kept going, knowing that team was going to come back.”

The Cowboys’ heart was apparent all night, beginning with Jason Witten’s fight to get back from an internal injury in time to play in the game, to Kevin Ogletree stepping up as a solid No. 3 receiver. There was heart in DeMarco Murray’s return for a big game against the team that ended his rookie season early, in the defense playing without one of its leaders, four-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff and on the remade offensive line, which suffered an injury to Phil Costa mid-game and struggled with penalties, but kept making the blocks they had to make to allow for the plays that won the game.

“To come out here and overcome mistake after mistake, against a team that you can’t make mistakes with, that’s a character builder,” Jones said. “It will help us have a better season to have this win.”

The offense struggled for most of the first half, but took a 7-3 lead on a 10-yard Tony Romo pass to Ogletree with just over a minute to play in the second quarter. Romo found Ogletree again for a 40-yard score early in the third, starting to take advantage of a New York secondary that was ravaged by injury. Romo finished 22-of-29 for 307 yards and three scores, the final one coming to Miles Austin, back from a preseason-long hamstring injury, to put the Cowboys up by two touchdowns with just under six minutes to play.

Just as they had when facing a two-score deficit late in last year’s first meeting, New York answered back quickly, Eli Manning driving for a touchdown to former Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett that put pressure on the Cowboys’ offense to convert a first down or give Manning a shot at tying the game.

This time the Cowboys moved the sticks, overcoming their 13th penalty of the game with a slant to Ogletree, giving him eight catches for 114 yards on the night.

“Certain things were different,” Romo said of this season opener, as opposed to other losses, including Week 1 of last year, when he had crucial mistakes in a collapse against the Jets. “We executed on offense and defense when we needed to, and put them in a hole.”

The Cowboys now have extra time to relax and heal up injuries to several of their key veterans before traveling to Seattle for Week 2. The first thing, though, is to revel in a fine start to 2012.

“This bunch persevered,” Jones said. “It was a very significant win for our franchise.”

RELATED: Jerry Jones says he’s never selling the Dallas Cowboys

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Cowboys are the first American sports franchise to be appraised at more than $2 billion. Forbes Magazine priced the Cowboys at $2.1 billion, 14 percent higher than the previous valuation it gave America’s Team.

Only English soccer club Manchester United, listed at $2.24 billion, is worth more.

But don’t think Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is planning to sell his cash cow now or ever.

“I have always thought that it was tribute to the Cowboys and our fans and the visibility,” Jones said after Dallas’ 24-17 victory over the New York Giants. “I know it doesn’t make one more first down for you. It is really I think a plus for the franchise to be thought of that highly. We all know that no one ever knows until you see something sold with the market and I’m fortunate to say that won’t ever be the case with me or the family, so we’ll never know what it’s worth.”

The Cowboys, the most valuable NFL franchise for six consecutive years, continue to be one of the most popular brands in sports despite the fact they haven’t won a Super Bowl since the 1995 season. Jones has created a marketing monster with his team. And on a day when the Cowboys won the season opener, their status as an elite franchise was re-affirmed when Forbes said it was worth approximately $1 billion more than the average NFL team, which is valued at $1.11 billion.

Things are looking up for Jones and the ‘Boys.

COWBOY DRAWS RAVE REVIEW: LB Adrian Hamilton joins Ravens practice squad

Dallas Cowboys LB Adrian Hamilton joins Baltimore Ravens practice squad - The Boys Are Back blog

One of the most intriguing developmental prospects of the Cowboys’ training camp has moved on to a new team after being cut on Friday.

Linebacker Adrian Hamilton, who had 20.5 sacks at Prairie View A&M in 2011, joined the Baltimore practice squad on Saturday, according to Ravens insider Aaron Wilson. The Cowboys did not attempt to sign Hamilton to their own eight-man practice roster, instead keeping only one linebacker, Orie Lemon. He had been on the Cowboys practice squad throughout 2011.

Hamilton had one sack for the Cowboys this preseason, also forcing a fumble against St. Louis.

He came up short in a battle for a 53-man roster spot. The Cowboys kept five outside linebackers, DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Victor Butler, fourth-round pick Kyle Wilber and second-year pro Alex Albright, who can also play inside.

TRENCH TRIPLE-PLAY: If trade for Cook turns out like Holland deal, job well done | UPDATED with scouting report

Dallas Cowboys OL Ryan Cook - The Boys Are Back blog

Ryaaan Cooook … he keeps on blockin’ …. He keeps on blockin’ … shake it Ryan. Shake, shake it Ryan.

Well, that remains to be seen, actually, but if the newly acquired swing lineman Ryan Cook can be as steady a role player as Montrae Holland was for the Cowboys, then Friday’s trade will have to be considered a win, just like the 2008 deal that sent Holland over from Denver must now be seen, in full retrospect.

Cook won’t be asked to start, at least for the time being, but once he learns the offense, will hold a valuable role as the backup for three positions, the two guard spots and center. A beefy veteran with six years in the league and 40 starts under his belt at only 29 years old, Cook gives the Cowboys more strength, athleticism and experience than a David Arkin. The Pro Bowl probably isn’t in his future, but valuable contributions to the Cowboys’ line should be.

A utility offensive lineman may not seem like an important role, but it is, because players get hurt in the trenches. The playing time Holland received over his Cowboys tenure, and Cory Procter before him, is evidence of that. So a seventh-round pick is not a high price to pay, at all, if the Cowboys believe they can trust Cook, just like a fifth-rounder wasn’t too much to give for Holland, especially considering how dreadful the Cowboys have been in the fifth lately.

There was definitely a comfort zone with Holland, acquired just before the ’08 season. He didn’t immediately pick up the offense and replace Procter (the injury fill-in for Kyle Kosier), making the deal initially look like a bad one, but his consistency changed opinions over time.

Four seasons, 31 appearances and 14 solid starts later, Holland should be seen as a good backup for these recent Cowboys teams. After falling out of shape when he was hurt last summer, Holland worked his wide butt off to cut weight, and when the Cowboys needed him by Week 7, he was ready to help DeMarco Murray break the team rushing record, and went on to play well down the stretch. He’s kept himself in great shape this offseason, and the Cowboys had interest in bringing him back, but he held out for more money and incentives.

Like Cook, Holland was 29 when acquired by the Cowboys, with a lot of starts under his belt, though Cook has the extra dimension of center experience, while Holland was a guard only. Holland had two years left on his contract, while Cook has only one. But, if the Cowboys like what he brings this year, they’ll certainly have first dibs to re-sign him in March, just like they re-upped Holland in 2010.

Should they decide to do so, and Cook at least holds his own when his number is called, then Friday’s trade will eventually be considered a slam dunk.

RELATED: Scouting Report on OL Ryan Cook

Here is my scouting report on Ryan Cook, who was acquired via trade from the Dolphins late Thursday night.

  • Was drafted in the league as a tackle by the Vikings, has since moved inside to see time at both center and guard. Observed him as a center in the Dallas, Tampa Bay and Carolina games. Played right guard against the Falcons.
  • Made the line calls as a center, aware of responsibilities when uncovered. Showed the ability to help across the pocket. Plays with some upper body strength, can hold his man along the line in pass protection.
  • Little overextended and wide base at times but you didn’t see him get jerked out of his stance. Was able to get outside on the screen packages.
  • Decent initial quickness out of his stance as a guard. Can make the reach or cut off block when asked. Several times where he did a nice job of getting his head across his man staying on his feet and working for a finish.
  • Was impressed with his effort to finish blocks. Didn’t see him flopping around on the ground when doing his job. Played in position and showed some balance for the most part, only got a little out of whack on an inside twist stunt against Dallas but was fine on the same move against Tampa.
  • Veteran player that gives you some position flexibility at three spots. Plays with a little power inside.

Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst-Scout

SELF-IMPOSED GUIDELINES: Dez Bryant’s adviser David Wells confirms WR initiated support program

Adviser David Wells - Dez Bryant in a dark place but he has a plan - The Boys Are Back blog

Initial reports of the guidelines laid out for Dez Bryant may have been mischaracterized, according to his advisor, Dallas bail bondsman David Wells.

Specifically, Wells told KESN-FM 103.3 in Dallas on Tuesday, the Dallas Cowboys did not impose restrictions on Bryant’s off-the-field comings and goings. Instead, the wide receiver sought such guidance on his own.

“He wanted to make some changes himself,” Wells said. “He wanted to put some people around him that also could be there in case something happened, that they would be able to attest to what’s going on with him. He first of all said that he wanted to make sure his safety was good, because a lot of times athletes are vulnerable to things that go on out there in society.

“But he also wanted to make sure, to the Dallas Cowboy fans, that he’s going to do everything he can to make sure that he’s out there every day, not only practicing as hard as he can, but also on game day producing the product that the Dallas Cowboys want. That’s what Dez is about. … He came to me and said ‘Hey man, can you help me? I want help.”

Royce West - Dez Bryant atty - The Boys Are Back blog

The panel that laid out guidelines included a “group of well-respected men,” Wells said, including Bryant’s attorney, Senator Royce West, and local ministers. Wells insisted that the so-called rules have not been enforced by the Cowboys, but that the team is happy with the system.

Eugene Parker - Dez Bryant's agent - The Boys Are Back blog

“He looks at life a lot different now,” Wells said. “Dez just wanted to make sure that his welfare is taken care of, as well as the name of the Dallas Cowboys.”

On Monday, head coach Jason Garrett affirmed the team’s desire to support Bryant and his family, and said he’s pleased with the personal progress Bryant has made.

"Fundamentally, Dez does, I’m convinced, want to do many things that give him the opportunity to get on track the way he needs to both on and off the field,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “He does believe he has a great opportunity.”

PRESEASON GAME THREE: The “Dress Rehearsal” an important indicator for a starting offense

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) spreads his arms as he runs town the field to score a touchdown during the first half of the Dallas Cowboys home game versus the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, October 23, 2011 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. Murray earned the Cowboys all time rushing record in the game. (Patrick T. Fallon/The Dallas Morning News)

ARLINGTON, TexasThe last time the Cowboys played the St. Louis Rams, their offense exploded for 445 yards and 34 points, behind a record-setting 253-yard effort by DeMarco Murray.

Of course, the last time the two teams met, it was Week 7 of the 2011 regular season, and the 2-3 Cowboys desperately needed a win to try to create some momentum. This time, the Cowboys don’t need a win. But in the preseason “dress rehearsal,” as the third exhibition game is typically called, they at least need to show progress, particularly on offense.

While the first-team defense pitched a shutout during its work against the Raiders and Chargers, the starting offense has moved the ball inconsistently and put up only three points.

At least four starters will sit out the game for the Cowboys offense, receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, tight end Jason Witten and center Phil Costa, and the Cowboys haven’t spent much, if any time game-planning for St. Louis. But given the fact that the exhibition is being played only 11 days out from the regular-season opener in New York, it would seem there’s some pressure on the remaining offensive starters to get things going.

They’ll get plenty of work.

“We anticipate them playing the most that they’ve played in the preseason,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “That’s typically what we do. We build up from the first game to the second game and they get their most extended work in Week 3 before dialing back in Week 4. So, we anticipate them playing a lot, but the game situation will dictate that as well. We want quality work for them, we want to make sure the plays they do get are good plays, and then we’ll look at each other and we’ll make some decisions as the game unfolds.”

In Garrett’s first preseason as the Cowboys’ head coach, Tony Romo’s group played to halftime of the dress rehearsal game, at Minnesota, then gave way to the backups to start the third quarter. While the quarterback can expect to go that long again, along with four of the five starting offensive linemen and new fullback Lawrence Vickers, the team may insist on pulling Murray early.

If the second-year back is going to carry the load for this team, as appears to be the coaches’ intention, there’s no point in trying to let him best his performance against the Rams from last year. In fact, there may not be any reason to let him see the second quarter.

Murray has touched the ball only seven times through two preseason games this year.

“It will still be a limited number,” Garrett said. “We don’t want him banging away out there for too long in this game. At the same time, we want to make sure to give him enough chances to get in the rhythm he needs to. That is a challenge at every position, but particularly that position, a position that is so physical and takes so much of a pounding. You don’t want to put him in a situation where he is leaving it all out there on a preseason-game field. We need to get him ready for the start of the regular season. The same thing with Felix (Jones) and our other backs. We try to rotate those guys to get them the touches they need without wearing them down.”

As for the guy who made his name at the NFL level against the Rams, he promises he’s treating Saturday’s contest just like it was Week 7 and the Cowboys have their backs against the wall, or an even bigger contest.

“We’re going to approach it like any game,” Murray said. “I know it’s a preseason game, but I’m going to approach it like it’s a playoff game or a real game for me. You always want to go out there and play your heart out and definitely try to get the win.

“No matter if I’m playing five snaps or 40 snaps, I’m going to come out there and try to do my best.”

PRESEASON OPENER: It wasn’t pretty, but positives were found

COWBOYS RAIDERS

It was about what one would expect a preseason opener to look like.

The Cowboys’ and Raiders’ offenses both showed lots of rust, the starters in large part responsible for a 0-0 halftime tie that was only barely broken when the bottom half of the Cowboys’ roster did just enough to propel them to a 3-0 win.

It was a tale of two phases for the team.

The starting defense was excellent, netting an interception to start the game, then forcing the Raiders to punt three times on the ensuing drive, which was extended by two special teams penalties. But as good as the defense played, the offense was just as bad. Other than a 22-yard Tony Romo-to-Dez Bryant pass, the first unit gained a total of only two yards despite getting three possessions of work.

COWBOYS RAIDERS

“Not real good,” head coach and play-caller Jason Garrett said of his offense. “Overall, it was not a good enough performance, but it’s still early on in camp and we’ve got to learn from it.”

The offensive line, in particular, looked rugged. Missing two of the five presumed starters, the group allowed two Raiders’ pass-rushers to take a shot at Tony Romo, one ending in a sack, and opened no room for DeMarco Murray or Felix Jones, who combined for four yards on four carries.

“I think we need to eliminate some of the mistakes that put us in a hole tonight,” Romo said. “We have a lot of young guys playing right now and we are just going to be able to evaluate this tape and get better from it. Right now is a time for us to correct the mistakes that are on the tape. I think the effort was there tonight, we just need to have better execution, and we will.”

Their first game action since being eliminated from a playoff spot by the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants on New Year’s Day, Monday’s matchup was one of five contests the Cowboys will play in a 23-day span, culminating with the regular season opener at New York on Sept. 5.

Because of injuries and the heavy precaution befitting this stage of the season, the Cowboys were without seven starters – three on offense and four on defense – plus a handful of other players who are expected to have substantial roles. All told, 16 of the 90 players on the roster did not dress, most remaining back in Oxnard, Calif., where the team is set to wrap up camp with three final days of practice this week before heading to San Diego for the second game of the preseason, coming up on Saturday.

COWBOYS RAIDERS

After the Raiders picked up a couple of first downs to start the game, Gerald Sensabaugh ranged over to intercept a deep Carson Palmer pass, returning it for 31 yards. The Cowboys then crossed into Raiders territory on a beautiful leaping grab by Bryant, who was a game-time decision with a hamstring injury.

The offense went backward from there and was forced to punt. New starting safety Barry Church finally ended Oakland’s second drive for good with a nice open-field tackle on third-and-11, the final play of a successful night for the Cowboys’ top defenders.

“I think it is always a good time to see where you stand and play against another opponent,” DeMarcus Ware said. “I felt like the first-team did pretty good. … There are always some things that we need to work on, but I think it was a good first half.”

The two teams simply traded punts for most of the night, with the Cowboys getting on the board first in the third quarter, new backup quarterback Kyle Orton engineering an 11-play, 67-yard drive to set up a 33-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.

COWBOYS RAIDERS

Oakland missed two field goals in the contest, including one in the second quarter that was blocked by nose tackle Josh Brent, who filled in as a starter for the injured Jay Ratliff (foot). Sean Lissemore started at right end for Jason Hatcher (hamstring), while Victor Butler took the place of Anthony Spencer (hamstring) and Orlando Scandrick held down the right cornerback spot for first-round pick Morris Claiborne.

Offensively, the Cowboys were without Miles Austin (hamstring), Nate Livings (hamstring) and Phil Costa (back).

Even better than the victory may have been the fact that the team suffered only one real injury, a broken thumb for rookie linebacker Kyle Wilber. There is hope that the team is beginning to heal in time for most everyone to get some game work in before the matchups of consequence begin next month.

“We’ve had a lot of guys who have not been able to practice and play for us, and you just have to fight through that,” Garrett said. “Injuries provide opportunities. So, a lot of guys got a chance to play tonight, maybe earlier than they would have, and that’s a good thing for them. It’s a good thing for our team to be able to evaluate them in those situations.”

COWBOYS RAIDERS

The Cowboys clinched the win with inside two minutes to play, shutting down Oakland’ last-ditch drive on a sack by linebacker Baraka Atkins, a near-interception by safety Eddie Whitley and a fourth-down pick by safety Mana Silva. While not household names, those are the kind players who benefit most from extensive playing time in the preseason opener. Still, Monday was a good opportunity for many of the starters to get their feet wet.

“They are what you make them,” free agent cornerback addition Brandon Carr said of the exhibition games. “I like the preseason, especially in the position that I’m in now. I get a chance to get a feel for my teammates in live game action, get a feel for the coaches, how they coach and how they call plays.

“For me, it’s an opportunity to go out there and brush up my skills and get ready for Sept. 5.”

Courtesy: Josh Ellis

ROSTER MOVES: Jamaal Jackson expected to sign, Bill Nagy waived–UPDATED: Jackson NOT signed

Bill Nagy injured - The Boys Are Back blog

The Cowboys’ center troubles are far from over.

Before departing for Oakland on Sunday, the team had hoped to finalize a one-year deal with veteran center Jamaal Jackson, helping to ease the strain caused by a slew of injuries at the position. However, Jackson’s workout was apparently so poor that the Cowboys chose not to sign him after all. The 32-year-old had been released by Philadelphia in March after eight seasons, then signed by the New York Giants. But he left the team after one practice in New York, with head coach Tom Coughlin believing he had intended to retire.

If Jackson does have anymore football in him, it won’t be in Dallas.

The club still has about five free agent centers in mind, according to a source, but the clock is ticking. After a signing, three work days must pass before the player can join the team in practice. Without getting to see the center in pads, the team might be reluctant to dress him against San Diego, in the second preseason game on Saturday.

Dallas Cowboys OL Bill Nagy - The Boys Are Back blogTo make room for Jackson, the team had planned to waive/injured one of the centers who had been hurt, last year’s seventh-round pick, Bill Nagy. Under that designation, Nagy will be exposed to a waiver claim for 24 hours. If no team picks him up, the Cowboys will retain his rights and place him on the Injured Reserve, ending his season.

Nagy, who was not a starter at the end of his career at Wisconsin, impressed the Cowboys during training camp last year, earning a starting nod on opening night. He started four games near the beginning of 2011, but was lost for the year when he broke his left ankle at New England.

Nagy had opened training camp this year in a competition with Phil Costa for the first-team center job, but suffered a high left ankle sprain after just a couple days of practice. He is visiting foot and ankle specialist Dr. Bob Anderson in Charlotte, and is expected to require serious surgery.

If a deal is struck later on Sunday, the earliest a new center would be eligible to practice with the club would be Thursday. If nothing happens until Monday, the player couldn’t practice until Friday, when only a walkthrough is scheduled before the team departs for San Diego.

JERRY JONES: Andre Holmes “Has Chance To Play A Lot This Year”

Dallas Cowboys safety Brodney Pool (23) covers receiver Andre Holmes (15) - The Boys Are Back blog

Fresh off Thursday’s rejection letter to Plaxico Burress, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was talking up a tall wide receiver already on the roster.

Jones has been hyping second-year pro Andre Holmes since February. While Holmes starting camp with a whimper, failing his conditioning test, he has bounced back by putting together a string of much-improved practices this week. Jones’ dismissal of Thursday’s Burress rumors had everything to do with wanting to see what the young receivers already on the roster can do during preseason, and Holmes is right at the top of the watch list in Monday’s exhibition opener at Oakland.

“Holmes will get his opportunities,” Jones said Friday. “I’m seeing him be more consistent. He is getting his assignments down better, for a fact, and you know he’s got that height and got the ability to catch the ball. So that’s why he’s certainly someone that’s got a chance to get to play a lot this year.”

In addition to the 6-5 Holmes, Jones also singled out 5-8 receiver Cole Beasley as a player to watch on Monday.

Then again, there are countless rookies, first-year and second-year players that the owner is most interested in seeing against the Raiders.

“I think the usual cast, which are your young players,” Jones said. “Some of the free agents, (Brandon) Carr, I don’t need to see. I really don’t need to see (Lawrence) Vickers. I don’t need to see guys that are veteran players. I know they need to get some snaps, but I know what they can do. Frankly, I don’t want to be too aggressive relative to seeing a (Mackenzy) Bernadeau and some of those players like that. I don’t need to see (Jason) Witten.

"We need to see players and make sure that they can play when the lights are on the way that they practice out here. And that, to me, is what these first two preseason games are about.”

Courtesy: Josh Ellis

RELATED: Another big day for undersized Cowboys’ receiver Cole Beasley

Dallas Cowboys first-round CB Morris Claiborne covers Cole Beasley - The Boys Are Back blog

Another day, another strong practice for free-agent receiver Cole Beasley. The rookie from SMU, who left camp for two days with thoughts about quitting football before returning, made several clutch catches in today’s afternoon workout, including a one-handed grab in front of Lionel Smith, a rookie from Texas A&M.

Beasley (5-foot-8, 177 pounds) worked with both the first- and second-team offense. After making a catch in traffic from quarterback Tony Romo, a fan urged coaches to pay attention because the Cowboys “need a (Wes) Welker.” Beasley’s one-handed grab of a pass from Kyle Orton only served to stir the crowd more and trigger more comparisons to the New England Patriots’ undersized standout from Texas Tech.

“I’m starting to get a few reps with the 1’s. I feel like I’ve been doing pretty good,” Beasley said. “I’ve still got some things I need to get better at. So I’m just working every day.”

Beasley agreed with the assessment of Stephen Jones, the Cowboys’ director of player personnel who surmised that Beasley has elevated his play since returning to camp.

“My mind is totally focused on football now,” Beasley said. “I’m just having fun and playing with my teammates.”

Beasley said he is aware of his surroundings when lining up against first-team defenders.

“You always know who’s across from you. But you have to ignore it and be confident in your abilities and go out there and make plays,” Beasley said. “In my heart, I think I’m the biggest guy out there. I feel like I’m just one of the guys out there competing for a spot, like everyone else.”

Asked about the one-hand grab, Beasley said: “Orton really just put it where the DB couldn’t get it. I just stuck my hand out there, happened to make the play.”

Beasley said he appreciates the fan support, hears the Welker comparisons and understands them.

“I would love to have the career that he’s had,” Beasley said. “But you try to block it out and focus on practice. I’m a little bit of an underdog and everyone loves an underdog … I appreciate all the people out there supporting me and helping me get through it.”

Courtesy: Jimmy Burch

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