Category Archives: Calvin Watkins

DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER UPDATE: Veteran free-agent RB Ryan Williams added for depth | NFL Free Agency 2014

DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER UPDATE - Veteran free-agent RB Ryan Williams added for depth - Dallas Cowboys NFL Free Agency 2014

IRVING, Texas – This weekend is supposed to be about the evaluation of rookies and first-year players and how they might fit into the roster.

However, the Dallas Cowboys always keep their eyes open for (affordable) available veterans as well. That was evident today when the club worked out running back Ryan Williams, a second-round pick (38th overall) of the Arizona Cardinals in 2011.

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MEET YOUR NEW QUARTERBACK: Scouting report on new Dallas Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden | Dallas Cowboys free agency 2014

MEET YOUR NEW QUARTERBACK - Scouting report on new Dallas Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden - Dallas Cowboys free agency 2014 - Weeden in Cleveland

Brandon Weeden | Quarterback, Oklahoma State | Height/Weight: 6-4/220

Drafted: First round, No. 22 overall, 2012 NFL Draft by Cleveland

Games Studied: 2013 Miami, Baltimore, Green Bay, Jacksonville.

As a scout you always try and go into a situation with an open mind when you are studying a player — regardless of what people tell you about his body of work — and come to your own conclusions about his fit on your roster.

When Brandon Weeden was released by the Browns, I knew there was a chance a team might take this opportunity to bring him in for a low risk, low money deal and get an idea why he failed. Scouts are always curious about what happens to these high draft picks, especially at quarterback, when they don’t make it initially

For Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, Weeden sat on the Cowboys draft board near the bottom of the second round, so I understand their curiosity. Though you might not have seen the talent with the Browns, here is an opportunity for a free look. There is no pressure for Weeden to have to start or even be the backup as he comes into camp. He is not young in his age, but he is young in his football experience — two years as a starter at Oklahoma State and two more with the Browns.

There is a possibility that he could develop some of those traits that you believed he could be a bridge as the backup, or, like I have seen plenty of times in my career, he could be a trade possibility if a club needs a quarterback in the preseason.

In the games I was able to study with Weeden, I was surprised how up and down that he played. When he could take the snap and throw the ball without having to read the defense, he was a much better quarterback. There were times where Norv Turner had him do just that. Whether it was the slant or quick out, if he didn’t have to think much about it, there was no problem. It was when the ball didn’t leave his hand on time when he struggled the most, and this is where, mechanically, he would break down.

As a defense, if you make him hold the ball, you have a chance to get him on the ground because he is not the most mobile player. But there was one common theme in the tape that I observed: the Browns were terrible at guard with Shawn Lauvao and John Greco. The majority of the pressure Weeden faced came from the inside over those two players, and anyone that knows football knows the best way to cause a quarterback problems is to attack him in the middle of the pocket.

There were plays where Lauvao completely whiffed on the block and Weeden was down before he hit his fifth step. Against the Packers, Greco was driven so far into the backfield Weeden had no place to even plant his front foot to make the throw. I am not putting all the blame on these guards, because Weeden tends to be slow footed, but if you are getting sacked 27 times in eight games, there are issues that need to be addressed.

To Weeden’s credit, he was more than willing to stand in middle of that pocket and deliver the ball with everything breaking down around him. But he also made some throws where you have to cover your eyes — again, it’s the clock in his head. The longer than ball is in his hand, the more likely he is going to panic and try to horse the ball into a crowd of defenders instead of taking the check down and fighting another day. 

He was all over the place against the Packers in poor weather conditions and missed several open receivers. When he gets in a situation where things become tough, you can see him start to aim the ball instead of making a good confident throw.  He really struggles with his decision-making as things begin to fall apart.  When he can play pitch and catch, he looks very comfortable, but in the Green Bay game, he was far from comfortable.  He was late on his reads and it hurt several of his throws. He missed an open “curl” and was way too high on an “out”. 

Not all his throws are poorly thrown. There are times again, when he can catch the ball and get rid of it like he did at Oklahoma State — with some accuracy. The second snap of the game against the Ravens, he slides to his right and delivers a strike to Jordan Cameron for a 53-yard gain.  There was a crossing route to Greg Little that was on the money, that allowed a run after the catch. He even showed some touch on a red zone fade for a touchdown against Jacksonville, with Josh Gordon out of the slot.

You have heard me say this plenty of times about the job of a scout in this league — it is about trying to find players. At one time, Brandon Weeden, whether it was right or wrong, was a highly though-of player by this organization. This league is filled with players that started on one team, then landed on another to have outstanding careers.

I remember my time in Green Bay where we had Brett Favre, Mark Brunell, Ty Detmer and a quarterback named Kurt Warner on the roster for camp. In that 1993 season, Favre, Brunell and Detmer were all on the roster and we let go of Warner, who made his way to Arena Ball, then later a Hall of Fame career. I am not saying Brandon Weeden is going to have a Hall of Fame career like Warner. But like the St. Louis Rams did, it never hurts to give a player a look.

Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Professional Scout

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DALLAS COWBOYS INJURIES: 2013 2014 Key injury recap | How ‘bout them hamstrings

With the Dallas Cowboys 2013 2014 season over, injuries to several key players took shape this season. The Cowboys lost 77 gameday starts to player injuries this season, including 23 to hamstring problems.

Veteran and well-respected strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Woicik said his staff worked hard to solve the number of hamstring injuries. Extra stretching and monitoring the amount of work players did during practices were some of the things Woicik’s staff did to combat the problem.

The Cowboys lost seven players to hamstring injuries this season including five games each to wide receiver Miles Austin and linebacker Justin Durant. Austin just wasn’t the same player in the latter half of the season because of his tender hamstrings.

Durant was placed on injured reserve Dec. 17 because he couldn’t recover in enough time to get ready to play.

DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys injury report - nurse button 2

Here’s the list of Dallas Cowboys players who were injured and how many games were lost:

DeMarco Murray, two games

Lance Dunbar, seven games

Dwayne Harris, three games

Miles Austin, five games

Tony Romo, one game

DeMarcus Ware, three games

Sean Lee, five games

Bruce Carter, one game

Morris Claiborne, five games

Jason Hatcher, one game

Justin Durant, six games

DeVonte Holloman, seven games

Edgar Jones, nine games

Ernie Sims, four games

Anthony Spencer, 15 games

J.J. Wilcox, three games

IN THE TRENCHES: Cowboys experimenting with Doug Free at right guard

IRVING, Texas — Dallas Cowboys starting right tackle Doug Free took some snaps at right guard in front of the media during Wednesday’s practice.
Free has never played guard in the NFL, college or high school and said the biggest challenges are “the proximity to them (defenders) and the angle to the quarterback.”

The Cowboys have a shortage of interior linemen in the late stages of training camp because of injuries to left guards Ronald Leary and Nate Livings. The team tried to sign two veteran offensive linemen and were rebuffed by Brandon Moore, who elected to retire, and Brian Waters, who didn’t accept the Cowboys’ contract offer.

There’s a chance Free will start at right guard in Saturday’s fourth preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday with Mackenzy Bernadeau getting snaps at left guard. The Cowboys are keeping Free on the right side so he can maintain a right-handed stance.

“It’s too early to tell,” Free said. “I don’t know anything.”

What the Cowboys do know is that Free can physically play the position despite a body type (6-6, 325 pounds) that is more suited for a tackle.

“This isn’t quite so, so new,” coach Jason Garrett said. “But there are differences. You play out in space more as a tackle. You play in a phone booth more as a guard. You might take more direct heat on you, guys bull rushing you more inside. So length is important to be able to keep those guys off of you. Sometimes you play against those (defensive tackles) that are up the field, length is important there. That feels a little bit playing like tackle.”

Of course, the Cowboys could also go back to Bernadeau as the starting right guard if and when Leary or Livings returns from minor knee surgeries.

“I thought Doug did a really good job moving inside,” center Travis Frederick said. “He’s such an intelligent player, been in the league for several years, just knows his way around, so it makes it pretty easy for him.

“Obviously there’s going to be a few things here and there, just the feel of how much help you’re going to get. The things I’ve talked about switching from center to guard, it’s the same from guard to tackle. You pretty much know what the guard is doing. In his case, he certainly does, and he knows what everybody is doing, so it makes it easier for him assignment-wise.”

DALLAS COWBOYS FAMILY NEWS: J.J. Wilcox back with his teammates

IRVING, Texas — Rookie safety J.J. Wilcox returned to the Cowboys’ practice fields on Wednesday after being away for 10 days because of the death of his mother, Marshell. She passed away on Aug. 13 after a long battle with Lupis. She was 49.

“It’s tough, it’s tough, when you get accustomed to somebody for 33 years with my dad, and 22 years with me and they are all of sudden gone, it’s tough,” Wilcox said. “It’s still fighting me to this day. I felt it a little at practice, but I’m going to be strong, be blessed and I’m going to keep pushing.”

Wilcox didn’t tell any of his teammates or coaches his mom was ill until he got a phone call the day after the Oakland Raiders second preseason game on Aug. 9. Wilcox was told by family members to return to Cairo, Ga., when his mother took a turn for the worst. Wilcox told a Cowboys administration assistant about his mother and that’s how some team members found out about it.

Several players texted, called and fellow rookie, cornerback B.W. Webb wore Wilcox’s jersey during a walkthrough practice before the Arizona Cardinals game last week as a sign of support.

“It made a difference,” Wilcox said. “When I saw that it definitely brought tears to my eyes, and let me know that the guys still love me and they’re still backing me 110 percent when I’m not here. So that makes a difference.”

It’s uncertain if Wilcox will play in Saturday’s fourth preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday at AT&T Stadium, but Wilcox said he was happy to return to playing football after taking care of his family.

“Oh, it’s good, man, it’s a relief,” the Cowboys’ third-round pick said. “Especially in the hard times that I had back home for the last week or so. So it was just good to get back and have fun again.”

2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE: Cowboys LG Ronald Leary to have a precautionary MRI on his sore left knee

Roster Rundown - Ron Leary Might Be Ready To Compete This Year - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Just as Ronald Leary was getting settled in at left guard with the first team, he missed today’s (Wednesday) walk-through with a sore left knee. He will undergo an MRI later, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.

The Dallas Cowboys don’t believe Leary’s knee injury is serious, but the soreness is persisting.

“He has a knee that’s been bothering him a little bit, so he’s going to get an MRI today, and we’ll just see what it is,” Garrett said.

Several teams passed on Leary last year because of a chronic condition in the left knee called osteochondritis dissecans (os-tee-o-kohn-DRY-tis DIS-uh-kanz), a joint condition where a piece of cartilage, along with a thin layer of the bone beneath it, comes loose from the end of a bone. The joint condition brings fears that the knee won’t hold up to the pounding it will take in the NFL. The Cowboys, though, targeted Leary as an undrafted free agent from Memphis, guaranteeing him $214,000 in signing bonus and base salary in 2012.

Garrett said Leary’s current knee injury is unrelated to his degenerative disorder.

The Cowboys have high hopes for Leary and moved him into the starting lineup when Nate Livings went in for knee surgery. This could be a setback for the second-year player depending on how long he is out.

“As a general statement, we want all of our players to practice and play as much as they can, but injuries are a part of the game,” Garrett said. “We’ll see what [the MRI] looks like and move forward.”

David Arkin replaced Leary in the lineup Wednesday.

The Cowboys already were thin at the position with Livings, Kevin Kowalski (knee), Ryan Cook (back) and Ray Dominguez (shoulder) out. They tried to sign Brandon Moore last week, but he retired before reporting to camp. The Cowboys are in a holding pattern with veteran Brian Waters, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2011. They offered the Waxahachie (Texas) resident a contract, but he has yet to commit.

PRESEASON GAME RECAP: Oakland Raiders 19, Dallas Cowboys 17

PRESEASON GAME RECAP - Oakland Raiders 19, Dallas Cowboys 17 - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

OAKLAND — The Dallas Cowboys suffered their first loss of the preseason, 19-17, to the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on Friday night.

It was the debut of several key players, including Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee and Dez Bryant, among others. The first-team offense produced three points and had a field goal attempt blocked. The second-team offense picked up a touchdown and the special teams units struggled with a muffed punt, penalties and a long kickoff return.

Romo makes debut: After sitting out the preseason opener, Romo completed 6 of 8 passes for 88 yards with no touchdowns, no interceptions and one sack. On the first possession of the game, Romo, with plenty of time, missed a wide open Miles Austin in the middle of the end zone and took a sack. But overall, Romo played well with the offensive line giving him time. He completed some good passes to Bryant, who caught three passes for 55 yards.

Red zone woes: The Cowboys’ first-team offense had the ball at the Raiders’ 16 after a turnover but failed to score, continuing a problem they had last season. Jason Witten was called for holding, Romo had a screen pass knocked down and he was sacked for a 5-yard loss and Dallas settled for a 38-yard field goal. The Cowboys got back in the red zone on their second possession, but Romo’s dump-off pass to Murray on third-and-12 came up a yard short of a first down. Instead of going for it, coach Jason Garrett elected to attempt a 26-yard field goal, which was blocked.

“It was good,” Romo said of the drives overall. “We had couple penalties that put us in a hole that cost us some points, I think. That is something that we are going to correct real fast. You just can’t overcome that stuff in the red zone.

“Other than that, I thought the guys did a really good job and it’s been going just how it was in training camp. It’s been good.”

The second-team offense was able to convert in the red zone as backup quarterback Kyle Orton found Cole Beasley down the seam for a 15-yard touchdown reception.

Kiffin’s defense making plays: The Cowboys have forced four turnovers in the first two games of the preseason. Lee forced a fumble when he hit Matt Flynn on the blitz and Jason Hatcher recovered the ball. Safety J.J. Wilcox recorded an interception midway through the first half when Terrelle Pryor made a terrible throw on the run.

Ware plays defensive end: For the first time as a pro, Ware lined up exclusively at defensive end. Ware moved from outside linebacker to defensive end this season when the team moved to a 4-3 defensive alignment.

“Lining up at defensive end is easier,” Ware said. “You are down in the trenches. There is no difference than playing outside linebacker, you are out wide. But when you are in the six technique, there are a lot more techniques you have to work on. But I felt like I did really well for the first game.”

Webb struggles: Fourth-round pick B.W. Webb had a long night. The rookie cornerback muffed a punt in the fourth quarter, leading to a field goal, missed two tackles and looked like he didn’t have much awareness on pass coverage. It’s only two preseason games, but Webb is off to a slow start.

What’s next?: The Cowboys will have Saturday off and will practice Sunday afternoon in Oxnard, Calif. The final preseason road game will be next Saturday night at Arizona.

DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE: Cole Beasley OK, several players expected to return next week

DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE - Cole Beasley OK, several players expected to return next week

OAKLAND — Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley left tonight’s preseason game against Oakland with a left foot injury. He underwent X-rays at the stadium. The X-rays were negative and it’s not considered serious.

Beasley was hurt after catching a 23-yard reception with seven minutes to play in the third quarter.

Beasley finished the game with three catches for 49 yards and one touchdown. He caught a 15-yard pass from Kyle Orton to give the Cowboys a 10-3 lead in the second quarter.

Also, wide receiver Terrance Williams (concussion), guard Nate Livings (knee), guard Demetress Bell (conditioning test), guard Kevin Kowalski (knee), guard/center Ryan Cook (back), guard Ray Dominguez (shoulder), defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (hamstring), defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee), cornerback Morris Claiborne (knee), linebacker Alex Albright (back) and safety Matt Johnson (foot) did not play.

The Dallas Cowboys expect Claiborne, Williams and Albright to return next week at Arizona.

JUNE 1ST CAP REPORT: Dallas Cowboys working with $5.5 million in the coffers

dallas cowboys wide receiver cole beasley (14) catches a pass between defensive back brandon carr (39), linebacker bruce carter (54) and linebacker sean lee (50) - the boys are back blog

When the Dallas Cowboys released defensive end Marcus Spears in March, he was designated as a post-June 1 cut, giving the Cowboys $2 million in salary cap space.

Well, the team gets that extra money now, and, added up the savings with the pay cut tackle Doug Free accepted, the team picked up $5.5 million in savings.

The Cowboys can use this extra cap space to take care of middle linebacker Sean Lee, who is entering the final year of his contract, and maybe even outside linebacker Bruce Carter. The team can also make moves to secure the services of wide receiver Dez Bryant or grab another free agent.

It’s doubtful the Cowboys extend Bryant and Carter right now considering each has two years left on their deals.

But Lee seems to be a logical choice and talks could happen during training camp and continue through the season.

THE DELICATE BALANCE: Veteran Anthony Hargrove adds defensive line depth, but youth must eventually take over

THE DELICATE BALANCE - Veteran Anthony Hargrove adds defensive line depth,  but youth must take over

Yesterdays signing of Anthony Hargrove to a one-year deal adds depth to the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line, but not youth.

Currently, three of the four projected starting linemen are at least 30, and defensive end Anthony Spencer is 29.

Anthony Hargrove talks strategy with his defensive teammates - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Hargrove turns 30 in July.

Where’s the youth?

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t address the defensive line in the draft but did so in free agency with the signing of Hargrove.

The backups on the Cowboys’ roster consist of young players such as Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lissemore, Rob Callaway and Kyle Wilber. Those are young players who could become starters in 2014.

dallas cowboys defensive end tyrone crawford (70) applies pressure to tampa bay buccaneers quarterback josh freeman - the boys are back blog

Jason Hatcher is in the final year of his contract, and he turns 31 in July.

Spencer, who doesn’t turn 30 until next January, is playing on the franchise tag and talks have slowed down regarding a new deal. Hatcher and Spencer could play elsewhere in 2014.

As for Jay Ratliff, the defensive tackle who will battle centers and guards this season, he will turn 32 in August. Do you remember the man Ratliff replaced? Jason Ferguson was 32 when he suffered an arm injury early in the 2007 season, opening the door for Ratliff to become the full-time starter. Health and age dooms NFL players all the time.

Ratliff is coming off an injury-filled 2012 season and it’s assumed this could be his last season with the Cowboys given his age and how his health betrayed him last season.

DeMarcus Ware isn’t going anywhere. Ware, however, turns 31 in July and is coming back from shoulder surgery and a dislocated elbow.

signed and sealed - dallas cowboys de sean lissemore contract extended through 2016 - the boys are back blog

Age isn’t on the Cowboys’ side when it comes to the defensive line. While it’s good to have Hargrove provide depth as someone who can play end and tackle in the 4-3, the future is uncertain for this position.

Based on the offseason moves by the Cowboys, the defensive line is geared for the here and now, not for the future. The Cowboys had a chance to address the defensive line in the draft but expressed support for what they currently have.

That’s fine, but at some point youth must take over.

TWO PLUS YOU: If the Dallas Cowboys 2013-2014 season started today … who would be on YOUR roster?

dallas cowboys roster cuts - the boys are back blog

The draft is done. Free agency is dragging to the finish line. That means it’s about time for the first ridiculously premature 53-man roster projection of the year, an exercise we’ll repeat on a regular basis once training camp begins.

We’ve included TWO opinions from the staff at ESPN – Dallas. You can take their word as the gospel, or come up with YOUR opinions. There are always surprise roster cuts and additions. Maybe you’ll be the one that predicts them!

To assist with your final decision, your column has ALL position players currently on the roster. Of course this will change, but the fun of this is deciding what you’d do NOW. Just print this out, cross off the players that you think will be cut, or circle the ones that you think will make the final 53.


By Tim MacMahon

By Calvin Watkins

Who do YOU keep?


Tony Romo 
Kyle Orton 

At some point, the Cowboys need to invest a draft pick in a developmental quarterback again. Maybe next year. For now, carrying only two QBs saves a roster spot for somewhere else. 

Tony Romo 

Kyle Orton

On the bubble: The Cowboys are going with just two quarterbacks here. If the team had drafted one, it would make sense to have three on the 53-man roster. They will keep two quarterbacks on the 80-man roster until its time to make cuts in August. 

Orton, Kyle


Romo, Tony


Stephens, Nick



DeMarco Murray 
Joseph Randle 
Lance Dunbar 
Phillip Tanner 

Tanner needs to impress new special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia in the preseason. He also needs to beat out undrafted free agent Kendial Lawrence, a Rockwall product via Missouri. No fullback? Lawrence Vickers was a disappointment last season and is coming off of back surgery, and the Cowboys can phase out that position with their renewed emphasis on multiple-tight end sets. 

DeMarco Murray

Joseph Randle

Lance Dunbar 

On the bubble: I believe Lawrence Vickers makes the roster and the team doesn’t seem to like Phillip Tanner, who needed to perform better when given the chance to become the lead running back when Murray suffered an injury last season. The Cowboys didn’t address the running game from a blocking standpoint, which this is why I think Vickers stays around.

Vickers, Lawrence


Dunbar, Lance


Murray, DeMarco


Randle, Joseph


Tanner, Phillip



Dez Bryant 
Miles Austin 
Terrance Williams 
Dwayne Harris

Cole Beasley 

There’s a lot of young talent here along with Austin, who might not be worth his $54 million deal but is at least a very good No. 2 receiver if he can stay healthy. Harris and Beasley are good enough in the slot to give Austin occasional breaks. The issue with Beasley: How can he help you on special teams with Harris handling punt returns? 

Dez Bryant

Miles Austin

Terrance Williams

Dwayne Harris

On the bubble: This is a deep unit with plenty of speed and playmakers. Don’t be surprised if Carlton Mitchell makes the roster, and there’s no guarantee Williams is the No. 3 man on the depth chart. Harris showed the Cowboys some talent toward the end of last year and, next to Bryant, is the best returner on the team. Cole Beasley can make play if given the chance, but he’s got competition from Mitchell, Jared Green, Tim Benford and Anthony Armstrong. 

Armstrong, Anthony


Austin, Miles


Beasley, Cole


Benford, Tim


Bryant, Dez


Coale, Danny


Green, Jared


Harris, Dwayne


Mitchell, Carlton


Williams, Terrance



Jason Witten 
Gavin Escobar 
James Hanna 

This could be one of the best pass-catching tight end corps in the league. The problem: Both of Witten’s backups are adequate at best as blockers. Keeping (or acquiring) a rugged fourth tight end is a distinct possibility. 

Jason Witten

Gavin Escobar

James Hanna 

On the bubble: This unit remains at three unless Vickers gets cut and then I can’t see the team signing a blocking tight end. 

Cochart, Colin


Escobar, Gavin


Hanna, James


Smith, Andre


Witten, Jason



Tyron Smith 
Travis Frederick 
Nate Livings 
Mackenzy Bernadeau 
Doug Free

Jermey Parnell 
Phil Costa 
Darrion Weems 
Kevin Kowalski 
Ronald Leary 

You don’t want to see Free on here, right? Well, that decision is apparently up to him. The Cowboys have presented him the option of taking a pay cut. They hope he accepts it. If he doesn’t, they’ll make him a post-June 1 cut and sign a right tackle in free agency. The top two candidates are Tyson Clabo and Eric Winston, but the Miami Dolphins are likely to sign one of them soon. And Clabo could be out of the Cowboys’ price range. On another note, can Costa be the short-yardage fullback? 

Tyron Smith

Travis Frederick

Nate Livings

Mackenzy Bernadeau

Doug Free

Jermey Parnell

Phil Costa

Kevin Kowalski

Ronald Leary

On the bubble: David Arkin is the dark horse candidate to make it at guard, and if Free isn’t around, then Eric Winston, if he’s still available, is the starting right tackle. Ryan Cook‘s efforts in training camp could determine his status, especially if Costa gets hurt again or struggles. Darrion Weems is someone to look at too, but I think the Cowboys keep 10 linemen. 

Costa, Phil


Frederick, Travis


Cook, Ryan


Kowalski, Kevin


Arkin, David


Bernadeau, Mackenzy


Dominguez, Ray


Leary, Ronald


Livings, Nate


Free, Doug


Parnell, Jermey


Simmons, Aderious


Smith, Tyron


Weems, Darrion



DeMarcus Ware 
Anthony Spencer 
Jay Ratliff 
Jason Hatcher 
Sean Lissemore 
Tyrone Crawford 
Brian Price 
Kyle Wilber 
Rob Callaway 

Jerry Jones declared the defensive line to be a position of strength while ignoring it on draft weekend. That’s a curious decision, considering the age of the starters and the lack of proven depth. The Cowboys need 2012 third-round pick Crawford to prove this season that he’s a starting-caliber player, whether it’s at defensive tackle or the strongside end. 

DeMarcus Ware

Anthony Spencer

Jay Ratliff

Jason Hatcher

Sean Lissemore

Tyrone Crawford

Kyle Wilber

Rob Callaway

On the bubble: Ben Bass did a nice job in training camp last season and will be given a chance to earn some checks come September. Brian Price is a player who could make one of the final roster spots because he has some upside. 

Bass, Ben


Callaway, Rob


Crawford, Tyrone


Hatcher, Jason


Hayden, Nick


Igbinosun, Ikponmwosa


Lissemore, Sean


Price, Brian


Taylor, Monte


Brent, Josh


Ratliff, Jay



Sean Lee 
Bruce Carter 
Justin Durant 
Alex Albright 
Ernie Sims 
DeVonte Holloman 

Brandon Magee 

Lee and Carter are studs if they can stay healthy, but that’s a big if given their injury histories. The Cowboys gave Magee, an undrafted free agent out of Arizona State, more guaranteed money ($70,000) than any seventh-round pick got last year. 

Sean Lee

Bruce Carter

Justin Durant

Alex Albright

Brandon Magee

On the bubble: Let’s hold off on the Ernie Sims return. He was serviceable last season, but Caleb McSurdy could emerge as someone you rely on, especially on special teams. DeVonte Holloman can make this team on special teams; if not, I see him on the practice squad. Magee can play both strong and weakside linebacker. 

Albright, Alex


Carter, Bruce


Durant, Justin


Holloman, DeVonte


Lee, Sean


McSurdy, Caleb


Sheffield, Cameron


Sims, Ernie


Spencer, Anthony


Ware, DeMarcus


Wilber, Kyle



Brandon Carr 
Morris Claiborne 
Orlando Scandrick 
B.W. Webb 
Sterling Moore


Scandrick probably needs to have a good season to prevent the Cowboys from making a cap casualty next year. If they’re right on fourth-rounder Webb, he can play the slot for about a tenth of Scandrick’s salary. The Cowboys need Claiborne to live up to his billing after a so-so rookie season that fell well short of the sky-high, Jerry-aided hype. 

Brandon Carr

Morris Claiborne

Orlando Scandrick

B.W. Webb. 

On the bubble: Sterling Moore and Brandon Underwood could make the roster. The Cowboys endured health problems at this position last season with Claiborne and Scandrick and they could keep five or six corners. 

Carr, Brandon


Claiborne, Morris


Moore, Sterling


Scandrick, Orlando


Underwood, Brandon


Webb, B.W.



Barry Church 
Matt Johnson 
J.J. Wilcox 
Will Allen 
Danny McCray 

Allen and McCray might be the best special teams players on the roster, but their roster spots are far from guaranteed, especially if the young safeties perform well in training camp and the preseason. Allen got a smaller signing bonus than camp cut Brodney Pool did last year, and McCray returned on a one-year deal as a restricted free agent. 

Barry Church

Matt Johnson

J.J. Wilcox

On the bubble: The Cowboys could go low at this spot, given Carr’s ability to play safety in a pinch and the possibility one or two linebackers make the team because of their special teams ability, which knocks Danny McCray off the roster. I’d like to see if veteran Will Allen could add to the position. 

Allen, Will


Church, Barry


Johnson, Matt


McCray, Danny


Pellerin, Micah


Wilcox, J.J.



Dan Bailey 
Chris Jones 
L.P. Ladouceur 

No reason to make any changes here, as long as Jones is fully healthy coming off of a season-ending knee injury.

Dan Bailey

Chris Jones

L.P. Ladouceur

On the bubble: Nobody really. Ladouceur just signed a new deal and Jones should be ready to go for the veteran minicamps after having knee surgery late last season.

Bailey, Dan


Hughlett, Charley


Ladouceur, L.P.


Jones, Chris


Remaining Unrestricted Free Agents



Coe, Michael


Dockery, Derrick


Frampton, Eric


Jones, Felix


Lemon, Orie


Moorman, Brian


Peprah, Charlie


Poppinga, Brady


Schaefering, Brian


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CONTRACT RISK VS REWARD: Recent extensions yield poor performance from players

dallas cowboys olb anthony spencer contract - the boys are back blog

The Dallas Cowboys are in talks with defensive end Anthony Spencer regarding a new contract.

Salary-cap space isn’t a problem now; currently the team has a little more than $5 million to play with. But previous contracts are the issue.

The Cowboys don’t want to get caught with another bad contract for a player that becomes average after he signs it.

Starting right tackle Doug Free signed a four-year, $32 million deal with $17 million guaranteed in 2011. After two seasons, Free moved from left tackle to right tackle and has struggled mightily. He had to share playing time with Jermey Parnell late last season, and his play eventually improved. But overall, Free has struggled. And while a source said recently his status with the Cowboys was “secure,” there are strong indications the Cowboys will ask him to take a pay cut. If Free declines, he most likely will be released.

After his breakout season when he took over for Roy Williams, wide receiver Miles Austin cashed in and signed a seven-year, $57.1 million contract extension with $18 million guaranteed.

The year he signed the contract, 2010, Austin picked up 1,041 receiving yards. He’s failed to reach that total since and has battled hamstring injuries each of the last two seasons and has been surpassed by Dez Bryant as the best receiver on the team. This is a critical season for Austin in terms of his health.

The Cowboys value Austin’s skills, but are frustrated by his inability to remain healthy over the course of the season. He also failed to catch a pass in both games against NFC East rival the Washington Redskins last season.

Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau signed a modest four-year, $11 million free agent contract last season with the Cowboys. He’s undergone three surgeries since signing the deal. Bernadeau filled a need and the Cowboys got younger at the position. And while his contract isn’t as bad, the team might have been able to do more with that $11 million.

Looking at these contracts, you could make the argument that the Cowboys made mistakes in giving them. At the same time, Free and Austin were coming off good seasons the year they received them but have been inconsistent since.

When the team moves forward with Spencer, the goal is figure out if that career-high 11 sack season was the sign of things to come or just a man playing well in a contract year.

DALLAS DAY WORKOUTS: Top 30 local prospects spending the day at Valley Ranch (Special Feature)

Margus Hunt - SMU vs. Texas A&M - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys’ scouts will take a break from putting their draft board together today (Wednesday) to take part in the annual scouting combine known as Dallas Day.

The scouts and coaches will put local college players through a Combine style workout at Cowboys Stadium. The workout will allow Jerry and Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett to interact with those college players that might not have received an opportunity to play in an All Star game or attend the Combine.

College Scouting Coordinator Chris Hall historically has done an outstanding job of putting together a group of players that have Dallas as their hometown, along with players from SMU and TCU who are close to the complex at Valley Ranch, and this year is no different.

Each year, Dallas Day has produced better talent because of the job that programs like SMU and TCU have done with their overall program, and also because of the types of kids that are leaving the area and attending schools across the country.

From the Pro Days I was able to attend at SMU and TCU, players like

  • defensive end Margus Hunt,
  • running back Zach Line,
  • receiver Josh Boyce and
  • running back Matthew Tucker

will get their opportunity to visit with the club. Players with hometown ties to Dallas include

  • quarterback Kyle Padron from Eastern Washington,
  • Baylor wide receivers Lanear Sampson and
  • Terrance Williams and
  • Texas A&M receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu.
  • Defensive ends RJ Washington of Oklahoma and
  • DeMontre Moore of Texas A&M will be in as well.

When I worked in the scouting department here, Dallas Day was one of my favorite events because it gave you an opportunity not only to meet some of the top players in the area, but to see some players that might be sixth or seventh round considerations on the board. They could also be players that could become desired priority free agents after the draft. With the success that this team has had with those types of players after the draft, this day has always held great importance.

Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout

RELATED: Dallas Cowboys work out local players at annual Dallas Day event

NFL Draft prospect Troy Stoudemire flying over Badgers - The Boys Are Back blog

The Dallas Cowboys will host players with local ties today (Wednesday) at their annual Dallas Day at Cowboys Stadium for workouts and meetings.

Here’s a list of some players scheduled to attend the event:

Continue reading →

2013 NFL DRAFT PRIMER: One of these top-two offensive linemen prospects could fall to Dallas Cowboys

NFL Draft - Chance Warmack - Alabama OG - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Chance Warmack plays with an edge and is considered one of the top guards in the draft.

No. 2 Offensive lineman: Chance Warmack

Position: Guard

Height/weight: 6-foot-2, 317 pounds

School: Alabama

Why he’s on the radar: The Cowboys signed Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau in free agency last year but still want to upgrade the interior of the offensive line. Warmack is considered one of the top guards in the draft and probably will be off the board when its time for the Cowboys to select at No. 18. Warmack doesn’t have the position flexibility the Cowboys normally want, but he’s a solid player who has the potential to be a starter for the next 10 seasons.

Projection: First round

Stretch Truths: Played all four years at Alabama. … Has strong punch and power to press a defender in pass protection. … Good lower body to anchor, and balance that matches. … Has excellent feet to get to second-level blocks and run his feet through contact. … Is comfortable with a tackle over his nose. … I only question his true foot speed after running 40 in 5.49 seconds. … He’s the top guard in the draft and has a real nasty side. … Overall opinion: Take him if he’s there with the 18th pick.

Courtesy: Calvin Watkins | ESPN DFW

NFL Draft - Jonathan Cooper - North Carolina OG - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Name: Jonathan Cooper

Position: Guard

College: North Carolina

Height/Weight: 6-3, 310

Age: 23 (born Jan. 19, 1990)

Honors: Cooper was one of the nation’s most decorated offensive linemen in 2012. He was a finalist for the 2012 Outland Trophy, and he was a consensus All-American. Cooper was also selected first-team All-ACC and won the league’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy. He was named second-team All-ACC in his sophomore and junior seasons in 2010 and 2011.

Key stat: Injuries are big topic when it comes to the Cowboys, and understandably after 2012. Cooper was the model of reliability during his college career, starting a North Carolina record 47 games over four years.

Where He’s Headed: Cooper is widely regarded as either the best or second-best guard in this draft, along with Alabama’s Chance Warmack. But that doesn’t necessarily diminish Dallas’ chances of landing him. NFL teams don’t put the same premium on guards as they do on offensive tackles, and history proves that.  In the last three drafts, the first guard off the board was taken 24th, 23rd and 17th. A guard hasn’t gone in the top 10 since 1997. And even if one of the duo goes early, the odds seem good that one of them will last into the mid round.

How He Helps the Cowboys:With a rushing attack that ranked almost last in the league, it’s safe to say the Cowboys could benefit from bolstering the line. Adding better protection for the newly-extended Tony Romo wouldn’t hurt either. Cooper has the versatility to play either guard or center, so he’d not only add depth but give the team flexibility in determining how best to improve the line.

Scout’s Take: Been on this guy for a while and have him over Chance Warmack of Alabama because I feel like that you can do more things with him scheme wise than Warmack. Square player that can hold his own inside. Very smooth player. Nice pull and adjust when he has to get outside, will find his target and sustain. Plays on his feet, rare to see him on the ground or off balance. Can adjust on the twist but also shows awareness on the blitz pickup. Can mirror the defender. Can keep position of his block on the move. Will run man past the play. Plays with nice leverage. Helps with the line calls. Will cross the pocket to help when uncovered. Aware to what is going on around him. Athletic enough to line up and play center if he had to, don’t believe Warmack could do that. Great fit for a team that runs zone schemes and wants their linemen on the move but is also strong enough to sit down on his man if he has to.  –Bryan Broaddus

Courtesy: David Helman | DallasCowboys

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LINEMAN IN LIMBO: No guarantee that right tackle Doug Free remains in 2013

dallas cowboys tackle jermey parnell (78) and cleveland browns defensive end frostee rucker (right) battle in first half - the boys are back blog

PHOENIX – Starting right tackle Doug Free‘s status with the Dallas Cowboys is secure for now.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones didn’t dispute that Monday afternoon; however, he did say that “it’s not guaranteed” that Free will return in 2013.

Free didn’t lose his starting job last season, but he shared playing time in the last four weeks with Jermey Parnell.

“I think he improved last year,” Jones said of Free. “Whoever knows what caused [the struggles], ’cause Doug is one of our hardest workers, a leader in the room. Obviously, when the competition level got going there he responded well with probably his best games near the end.”

Jones was also complimentary of Parnell.

“We like Parnell a lot,” he said. Jones later added that the Cowboys “need tackles. You have to have more than two tackles.”

dallas cowboys right tackle doug free - the boys are back blog

The NFL draft will dictate what the Cowboys could do with Free. Jones said there are moving parts revolving around the position and if the Cowboys draft a tackle they believe can either start or become the swing tackle, Free could become a post-June 1 cut, saving the team $7 million.

FORGET FREE AGENCY: Dallas Cowboys $175K under salary cap

dallas cowboys salary hat - nfl salary cap - the boys are back blog

After all the moves made by the Cowboys the last two weeks, the organization is roughly $175,000 under the salary cap as free agency begins tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon.

So what does that mean?

The Cowboys basically can’t do anything in free agency or sign their draft picks. So more financial moves are needed.

The team most likely will work out a new deal with quarterback Tony Romo and quite possibly with defensive end Anthony Spencer, who is franchised for $10.6 million.

The NFL has set the salary cap at $123 million, but the Cowboys — after a $5 million penalty administrated by the league for Miles Austin’s contract during the uncapped season and $2 million carried over from the 2012 season — will have their cap set at $120 million for 2013.

One of the moves the Cowboys can make won’t take effect until later this offseason, as the Cowboys can save $7 million if they decide to release tackle Doug Free as a post June 1 cut.

A recap of some moves:

  • The Cowboys saved $3 million by cutting inside linebacker Dan Connor.

  • The Cowboys saved $7.8 million by restructuring the deals of defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, cornerback Orlando Scandrick and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau.

  • Tight end Jason Witten’s restructured deal saved nearly $3.65 million.

  • A clause in cornerback Brandon Carr’s contract lowered his cap number for 2013 and saved $10.8 million.

  • The Cowboys saved $4 million in cap space by restructuring defensive end DeMarcus Ware’s contract.

  • Wide receiver Miles Austin’s restructured deal provided $3 million in savings.

  • Offensive linemen Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ryan Cook also cleared cap space by reworking their deals.

  • DALLAS COWBOYS 2012 SEASON: Final coaching stats of interest

    We (ESPN – Dallas) received the Cowboys’ final coaches statistics from the 2012 season. Well, OK, we picked them up from Valley Ranch while in the area and came up with some interesting observations.

    *The Cowboys second-leading tackler in 2012 was surprise safety Danny McCray with 87 total tackles. Now, when you lose players who put up high-volume tackle numbers such as Sean Lee and Bruce Carter to injuries, it means someone else will get more opportunities to make plays. Anthony Spencer, by the way, led the team with 106 total tackles.

    *Jay Ratliff played in only six games in 2012, but he finished fourth on the team with 10 quarterback pressures. I find that’s an amazing number for a player in the nose tackle position, who gets constant double-teams and clearly wasn’t 100 percent.

    *DeMarcus Ware forced a team-leading five fumbles last season, and this is due to his pursuit of quarterbacks from the blind side when plays are run away from him. Ware does an excellent job of chasing ball carriers from behind when the play goes to the strong side of the defense. Also, his long arms give him the ability to knock balls out of quarterbacks’ hands.

    *In the last three weeks of the regular season, the Cowboys had nine pass plays of 20 or more yards. Dez Bryant recorded six of those plays, with three going for touchdowns of 24, 58 and 58 yards. This aspect of his game is something the Cowboys need to exploit more often in 2013.

    *Talk all you want about the three interceptions thrown by Tony Romo in the regular-season finale at Washington, but how about this: Washington had 12 rushing plays of 10 or more yards, including three by a quarterback, Robert Griffin III, who was playing on one leg. The Cowboys had just one such play.

    *Jason Witten led the Cowboys with 22 receiving first downs earned on third and fourth downs. Miles Austin was second with 16, and Bryant was third with 16. Witten continues to be a consistent player when it’s time to move the ball down field for the Cowboys.

    *The Cowboys had just 16 takeaways all season, with 10 coming in the second half when the team had to rally in some games.

    *The Cowboys scored just two touchdowns on opening drives all season. We’re not saying you must score on opening drives to set the tone, but given how the season went and how the Cowboys trailed in several games in the second half, establishing the offense early might have helped in some of those games.

    *Jason Garrett likes to talk about winning the turnover battle. In 2012, the Cowboys were 4-0 when they forced more turnovers than their opponents.

    *The Cowboys were penalized 118 times in 2012. Sixty-one were offensive, but none came in the final game of the regular season against Washington.

    OFFSEASON HEALING: Dallas Cowboys medical staff keeping busy

    OFFSEASON HEALING - Dallas Cowboys medical staff keeping busy with Dez Bryant and 12 others - The Boys Are Back blog

    When the Cowboys’ season ended, they had 11 players on injured reserve and rookie safety Matt Johnson on the reserve/injured returnable list.

    Rookie wide receiver Danny Coale was on the practice squad reserve/injured list.

    It was a busy year for the Cowboys’ medical staff.

    One of the lasting images of the season was strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik trying to loosen up the back of wide receiver Dez Bryant, who suffered severe back spasms in the regular season finale at Washington. Bryant had to leave the stadium in a wheelchair.

    Quarterback Tony Romo walked out of Washington with a fractured rib. Several other players left the stadium needing crutches to get to the team bus.

    Several players, including wide receiver Miles Austin and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, had to deal with hamstring issues off and on.

    Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik - The Boys Are Back blog

    Woicik and his staff stretched out some players individually before the team stretching period. The staff did everything they could to get players ready to play. Austin seems to always be battling hamstring problems, and Johnson was only able to practice a handful of times because of his hamstring and ended up hurting his back while rehabbing.

    "You have to evaluate what the injuries are and if there is any correlation to your strength and conditioning program," coach Jason Garrett said.

    Woicik is considered one of the best in the NFL. He’s been a part of six Super Bowl-winning teams, including three with the Cowboys in the 1990s.

    "I think you have evaluate them one by one and see if there is anything we could have done differently in terms of practicing, offseason program, anything like that," Garrett said. "A lot of that just seemed to be those kinds of injuries that happens over the course of a season in the NFL."

    PLAYER EVALUATIONS: Millionaire Miles, Felix Jones, stopping the run, and the Jenkins factor

    Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin nearly breaks free for a TD vs Cleveland Browns - The Boys Are Back blog

    The season is over and it’s time to think about a few things. For example, is Miles Austin earning his money? Is it time for Felix Jones, who’s now a free agent, to find a new team? What do the Cowboys need to stop the run in 2013? And finally, should Dallas keep cornerback Mike Jenkins?

    1. In 2010, Miles Austin signed a seven-year $57.1 million contract. Austin’s deal meant a few things: He moved into an elite level in regards with his contract and was to become the No. 1 receiver on the Cowboys. After signing that deal, Dez Bryant surpassed him as a bigger threat, Austin has had just one 1,000 yard season, 2010, he fell 57 yards short of it in 2012 and his health continues to be a question. He failed to finish the game against Washington on Sunday night because of a high-ankle sprain. He’s endured hamstring issues the last two seasons. Austin is scheduled to earn $6.7 million in 2013 and it raises a question: Is Austin earning his money? I doubt if the Cowboys are going to release Austin because no matter how good Bryant is, there is still an unpredictability about him away from the field. Austin is a good player but the team needs more from him considering the money he’s making.

    Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo hands the ball off to Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones

    2. Felix Jones won’t return in 2013 but he did finish the final game of the season with 24 yards on five carries. Jones hit holes with a burst and seemed to run with little limitations. He’s battled injuries to both knees and he probably should have stayed on the bench. But he displayed a toughness that was necessary from the running back position. Jones was put in a bad situation by the Cowboys. He was drafted as a backup to then-starter Marion Barber. When Barber’s health started to betray him, the Cowboys asked Jones to become a starter but his own health failed him too. It’s time for Jones, who becomes a free agent, to find a new team and for the Cowboys to stop drafting players to become backups. If the Cowboys draft a running back this spring, it should be designed to give competition to DeMarco Murray. If Murray is better than the new back, fine, keep the job. Life for a NFL running back is dangerous. One week he’s healthy, the next he’s not and you need to have quality ones on the depth chart. Jones is an average running back, but not starters material and when it was time for him to take over for an injured Murray and Barber, he couldn’t do the job on a consistent basis.

    2012 Dallas Cowboys defense loses Bruce Carter to IR - The Boys Are Back blog

    3. Want to know why the Cowboys failed to stop the run in 2012? They lost of four players that clogged the middle of the field. Jay Ratliff (injury), Josh Brent (suspension), Sean Lee (injury) and Bruce Carter (injury) were the force up the gut for the Cowboys. When the Cowboys didn’t have Ratliff at the start of the season, the club still had Brent a solid run stopper. But when Brent was lost, Sean Lissemore was moved from defensive end to nose tackle. The Cowboys also moved Robert Callaway and signed Brian Schaefering to help inside. Lee and Carter replacements at inside linebacker were Dan Connor, Ernie Sims and at times Alex Albright. The backups failed to produce for the Cowboys as evident by the run defense allowing at least 100 yards in six of the last seven weeks of the season. Moving forward the Cowboys need to draft or sign another inside linebacker in free agency who can provide depth. The Cowboys allowed 274 rushing yards in the regular season finale and gave up at least 150 rushing yards twice and 125 or more yards five times. It’s hard to win games when that happens regularly.

    Dallas Cowboys CB Mike Jenkins vs New York Giants - The Boys Are Back blog

    4. The Cowboys have 16 unrestricted free agents and one of them is a former first-round pick, cornerback Mike Jenkins. It seems the Cowboys were never quite happy with Jenkins the entire offseason. He didn’t rehab his surgically repaired shoulder in Dallas, instead doing it in Florida. Jenkins didn’t attend the voluntary workouts, although he was there for the mandatory sessions. But as is always the case in the NFL, injuries dictate a lot of things. Jenkins saw playing time, especially when slot corner Orlando Scandrick went down with a hand injury. Jenkins even played some at safety and on special teams. It appears Jenkins may not return in 2013, leaving the Cowboys looking for a fourth corner in free agency or the draft. "Do I want to come back?" Jenkins asked. "I’ve grown attached, I’ve been here for five years, I’ve grown attached to everybody here. It’s hard to just get up and leave and not want to come back. At the same time ,you want to go somewhere and have a fair opportunity and I guess go on from there."

    GAME 15 MELTDOWN: Saints 34, Cowboys 31, OT

    Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr on the bench following the team's loss to the Saints - The Boys Are Back blog

    ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cowboys lost control of their season.

    It’s something coach Jason Garrett didn’t want. It’s something Jerry Jones doesn’t want but that’s the reality of things as the Cowboys head into Christmas Day.

    New Orleans defeated Dallas, 34-31 in overtime at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys playoff hopes are now on life support thanks to this defeat.

    What it means?: The Cowboys needed to win their last two regular season games to clinch the NFC East. But the loss, combine with the Washington Redskins victory, keeps the Cowboys on the outside of the playoff picture. Later today, a New York Giants victory will also hurt the Cowboys chances of reaching the postseason. Wins by the Giants and Redskins only hurt the Cowboys. But any loss by the Cowboys’ rivals helps.

    DeMarcus Ware’s injury: The Cowboys outside linebacker missed a bulk of the second half with a right shoulder strain. Ware was battling a hyper-extended elbow and a shoulder that was popping out of place. With Ware out of the game, the Cowboys asked Victor Butler and Anthony Spencer to pick up the pass rush in Ware’s absence. Ware did return with 12:05 to play in overtime for one snap then left.

    Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett (right) and linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) before the start of the game vs New Orleans Saints - The Boys Are Back blog

    DeMarco Murray’s fumble: With 4:17 to play in the third quarter, Murray fumbled at the Cowboys 5. He was stripped by linebacker Curtis Lofton, who also recovered. Murray lost the ball just before his knee hit the ground. The turnover, with the game tied at 17-17, was costly. Drew Brees found Pierre Thomas for the touchdown to give the Saints a 24-17 lead. It would be a lead the Saints would barely hold onto.

    Dez Bryant’s big day: Dez Bryant finished with nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns. He’s scored a touchdown in his last seven games and continues to be a big play threat for the Cowboys. However, after a solid first half effort by Bryant, he didn’t make a catch until the fourth quarter.

    The fumble or was it a catch?: The game turned in overtime when Drew Brees completed a pass to Marques Colston. Morris Claiborne striped Colston of the ball and the ball rolled down the field where Jimmy Graham and Eric Frampton gave chase. Graham recovered at the Cowboys 2. After a review to see if Colston gained possession of the ball before he lost it, the play was confirmed. Kicker Garrett Hartley booted a 20-yarder to clinch the victory.

    Jason Witten sets single-season record: Tight end Jason Witten finished with six catches for 60 yards. He now has 103 catches on the season setting the NFL single-season record for catches by a tight end, breaking the mark set by Tony Gonzalez. Witten caught a five-yard pass in overtime to break the record.

    Who’s next?: The Redskins host the Cowboys in the regular season finale and a victory by the home team clinches the NFC East. But the Cowboys need help to reach the postseason, like a Giants loss.

    PLAYING FROM BEHIND: Slow starts hurting Dallas Cowboys

    Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo warms up before the Cleveland Browns game - The Boys Are Back blog

    When you think about why the Cowboys are 5-6 this season, check out the starts to games.

    Entering the weekend, the Cowboys have scored just 30 first-quarter points, 29th in the NFL.

    They trailed Washington 28-3, Cleveland 13-0, the New York Giants 23-0 and Chicago and Seattle 10-0. Not all in the first quarter mind you, but when you have to rally it brings up misleading stats and makes your offense one-sided, meaning you’re forced to pass all game.

    This season, quarterback Tony Romo has attempted 35 or more passes in a game eight times. In games where that happens, the Cowboys are 2-6.

    Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn’t believe a slow start was the problem in the Redskins loss because his team was ahead 3-0, but the Cowboys settled for a field goal on their first possession.

    Over the next five weeks the Cowboys have to establish themselves early in the game, getting out fast — and getting touchdowns especially — to set the tone.

    If not, then this season will be lost by Christmas Day.

    ASSESSING THE DAMAGE: Five positions ravaged by injury

    Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones (28) jumps past Washington Redskins free safety Madieu Williams - The Boys Are Back blog

    The Dallas Cowboys head into the weekend with injuries to several starters and main backups that affect five positions. We review.

    Inside linebacker

    Injured: Bruce Carter (elbow), Sean Lee (toe)

    Healthy: Dan Connor, Ernie Sims and Alex Albright

    Outlook: Lee is done for the season and Carter’s elbow was dislocated but it popped back into place during the loss to Washington. At one point, Sims and Connor played with the first-team defense. Carter’s season isn’t done, unless results from Friday’s MRI reveal something different. Two of the Cowboys’ best defensive players are at this position and they don’t have any of them. Carter has been an excellent player this season, more so when Lee went out. Now the Cowboys have two veterans who must pick up the slack.


    Injured: Orlando Scandrick (hand)

    Healthy: Mike Jenkins, Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Vince Agnew

    Outlook: The issue here is Scandrick’s season. He underwent surgery on Friday morning to repair a broken left hand. It hasn’t been determined if his season is over, however, he’s had trouble securing the ball with two healthy hands. With a bad one, you have to wonder if the Cowboys still want him out there. The Cowboys can use Jenkins as the slot corner, but he’s endured back issues of late and played on Thursday. Agnew was inactive for the Redskins game and that most likely will change if Scandrick is out for the Philadelphia Eagles game on Dec. 2.

    Running back

    Injured: DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knees)

    Healthy: Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner

    Outlook: Jones should be given credit for playing through some health issues, but he always has something wrong with him and you can’t depend on him long-term. Murray has missed the last six games with his foot injury and owner Jerry Jones said he’s not sure when the starter will return. It might be time to give Dunbar and Tanner the bulk of the game carries and give Jones limited opportunities, at least until Murray returns.

    Wide receiver

    Injured: Miles Austin (hip) and Kevin Ogletree (concussion)

    Healthy: Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and Andre Holmes

    Outlook: Ogletree missed the Redskins game and Austin was hurt during the 38-31 loss. Currently Bryant is the most accomplished receiver on the team who is healthy. Bryant has played well the last month, but he can’t do it alone. Beasley and Harris played pretty well during the Redskins game as the Cowboys mounted a comeback. More snaps for Beasley, whom quarterback Tony Romo likes, could help the struggling offense.

    Offensive line

    Injured: Ryan Cook (knee), Phil Costa (ankle), Tyron Smith (ankle)

    Healthy: Jeremy Parnell, Derrick Dockery, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Nate Livings, Doug Free,David Arkin, Kevin Kowalski.

    Outlook: Cowboys got away with using Smith as the swing tackle on Thanksgiving Day knowing he’s not 100 percent. Cook and Costa’s return are uncertain. Parnell didn’t embarrass himself against Washington, so if Smith isn’t ready he could earn another start. The center spot is troubling, given the health of Costa, who might need another week, and Cook, whom many thought would be ready to play by now.

    Note: The defensive line has issues too with end Jason Hatcher going down with a concussion late in the Redskins game. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff and backup lineman Sean Lissemore are also nursing injuries, though those players could return soon.

    INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys vs. Cleveland Browns

    IRVING, Texas — Before Cowboys practice on Friday, coach Jason Garrett said starting running back DeMarco Murray was doubtful for Sunday’s game against Cleveland.

    Well Murray didn’t practice on Friday at Valley Ranch and he most likely will miss his fifth consecutive game with a sprained foot.

    "He is doing more and more each day," Garrett said. "Ran a little bit more yesterday so that’s a positive thing."

    Cornerback Mike Jenkins (back) and center Ryan Cook (knee) also missed practice.

    Cowboys centers Ryan Cook and Phil Costa were not seen on the field at practice Friday.

    Cook, who wasn’t in uniform, headed into the team’s weight room wearing a brace on his right knee. He has missed practice the last two days because of a sore knee.

    Costa has been out since injuring his ankle Oct. 21 in a victory over Carolina. With Cook and Costa sidelined, the Cowboys are expected to slide Mackenzy Bernadeau over from right guard. Bernadeau’s spot, in turn, would likely be filled by reserve Derrick Dockery.

    With Jenkins out, it allows the Cowboys to give Vince Agnew more snaps in some passing situations.

    Tight end John Phillips (ankle) and fullback Lawrence Vickers (knee) were expected to practice. Defensive end Sean Lissemore (ankle), center Phil Costa (ankle) and safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) didn’t practice.


    Week 11
    Dallas Cowboys 
    Name Position Injury Practice Status Game Status
    Sean Lissemore DT Did Not Participate In Practice
    Matt Johnson S Did Not Participate In Practice
    Mike Jenkins CB Did Not Participate In Practice
    Dan Connor LB Full Participation in Practice
    Phil Costa C Did Not Participate In Practice
    Lawrence Vickers RB Limited Participation in Practice
    Jay Ratliff DT Full Participation in Practice
    DeMarco Murray RB Did Not Participate In Practice
    Ryan Cook C Did Not Participate In Practice
    John Phillips TE Limited Participation in Practice

    To see the Cleveland Browns injury update, click HERE

    SHORT TERM MEMORY: Morris Claiborne will see better days


    PHILADELPHIA — Morris Claiborne remembered the last time he was penalized five times in a game: Never.

    In his last year at LSU, Claiborne was penalized just once.

    On Sunday afternoon, the Dallas Cowboys’ rookie cornerback was flagged twice for being offsides and three times for holding a wide receiver. He also gave up a touchdown, on an incredible one-handed catch by Riley Cooper in the first quarter.

    But Claiborne is a talented player who had a bad day during the Cowboys’ 38-23 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

    "I think that I had a rough game out there and did not play my best," Claiborne said. "I got a lot of penalties called on me and I just have to learn from that. I just need to go back and get it fixed."

    When opposing teams watch tape of the rookie, they see he’s pressing receivers and not getting much deep help. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan trusts his rookie corner to make plays in the passing game, and that’s the smart thing to do.

    After Claiborne struggled Sunday, you begin to wonder if more teams will take advantage.

    The Cowboys can’t afford for Claiborne to lose confidence, and that doesn’t seem to be the case judging from his reaction in the locker room. He was joking with Brandon Carr, who picked up his first Cowboys interception and first career interception return for a touchdown, that he will end the 2012 season with more turnovers.

    "I have seen him grow on the field and as a man off the field," Carr said. "I expect big things from him his whole career."

    The word "turnovers" is a delicate one around the Cowboys these days. The conversation can quickly take a turn to focus on the word "takeover" instead.

    Ryan wants his defense to take over games, and getting turnovers will do it. This team doesn’t get enough of them, but with the season on the line the Cowboys responded with Carr’s pick and a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Jason Hatcher to close the show.

    There should have been a few more. Orlando Scandrick let two balls bounce off him that could have easily been picks.

    Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick (32) gets a finger on a Nick Foles (9) pass - The Boys Are Back blog

    At one point during Claiborne’s day, Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin screamed at the rookie as he laid on the ground after being penalized again for holding.

    After Claiborne got up, nose tackle Jay Ratliff said something to the rookie.

    It’s all love. Or tough love.

    "They were just picking me up and pushing me to just make the next play," Claiborne said. "It lifted me up and I just kept going. I just left it all out on the field. I play good angry and I knew I needed to make up for some penalties and was able to do that."

    Claiborne has to fix his issues quickly because the Cowboys have a feeling they can make a run in the second half of the season.

    It seems inexcusable to get two offsides calls as a cornerback, but Claiborne is trying to press receivers quickly and redirect their routes.

    "I got a little caught up in it," he said. "Just trying to get down and get my hands on [the receiver], and the refs said he was yelling at me, but hell I didn’t hear him."

    Three of Claiborne’s five penalties led to scores — two touchdowns and a field goal. There was another costly penalty, in which he was called for holding a receiver on the other side of the field that negated an interception by Anthony Spencer.

    "That really kind of dropped me," Claiborne said. "I can’t believe he called it."

    Claiborne isn’t going to get benched as the season enters the late stages. He’s going to get chewed out for mistakes, but the confidence is high that he will make plays.

    Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) deflected a pass intended for Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson - The Boys Are Back blog

    He gets another chance to prove himself next week against the Cleveland Browns.

    "I can’t take that as me being a young corner," he said. "Because I have to go out and play. I’m out here with all these veterans and they expect me to go out there and play. The rookie stuff, all of that stuff is overblown. I don’t take it as learning, I got to go out and play if we want to be the best secondary in this league, I can’t go out and play like that.

    "You won’t see another performance like that from me."

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