2014 COWBOYS CAMP COVERAGE: Jason Garrett’s padded practice presser; Pope’s porta potty | Coach Jerome Henderson mic’d up | Jerry Jones on Rolando McClain expectations
Mic’d Up: Secondary Coach Jerome Henderson | 1:09 | Follow along with Dallas Cowboys secondary coach Jerome Henderson as he goes through the teams morning walkthrough during training camp. (Watch | Listen)
Jason Garrett Press Conference: Pre-Padded practice; Pope’s porta potty | 14:44 | Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett on the upcoming first padded practice of the 2014 seasons Training Camp; Tight Ends coach Mike Pope’s porta potty (Watch | Listen)
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr playing without putting pressure on himself, unlike last year.
Brandon Carr, coming off perhaps his most impactful game with the Dallas Cowboys since signing his $50.1 million free agent contract.
“I don’t feel pressure any more,” the veteran cornerback said Monday at Valley Ranch. “I put it on myself last year. It’s a new year. I’m still working, still trying to get better. I’m going to continue to evolve as a player. I’m not going to put pressure on myself. I’m going to continue to have fun and show the passion I have for this game and make plays.”
Carr had six tackles, a tackle for loss, and three pass breakups against the Redskins on Sunday. Instead of playing just one side of the field, he stayed with the Redskins’ No. 1 target, Pierre Garcon, and limited him to six catches for 69 yards on 15 targets.
“You can call it what you want to call it,” Carr said. “I’m going to go out there and do my job wherever they match me up, or on the side I play. I’m going to try to shut it down. It’s a compliment to me and a great challenge for me. I have been working to get to this level for six years now.”
Carr said he still sees himself developing.
“I’m still a work in progress, but I’m down for any task or challenge they present to me,” Carr said. “Any receiver they tell me to go out and cover or give them my best shot, that is what I’m going to do every Sunday.”
IRVING, Texas – If the coaches’ decision to bench Bruce Carter for part of last week’s game was to motivate the linebacker, then consider the job accomplished.
Carter said he’s not sure if that was the coaches’ intentions one week after a poor performance against the Chargers, but the temporary benching makes him more excited to get back on the field and prove his worth.
“It definitely puts a chip on your shoulder,” Carter said. “You’ve just got to go out there and prove to everybody that you can play at a high level and you’re capable of what you’re able to do. You can’t take anything for granted.”
Carter was one of the standouts on defense last season and even early this year, as he accumulated 24 total tackles and three sacks through the first three weeks of the season. But a rough performance against the Chargers in Week 3 led to the coaches going more with Ernie Sims last week in the nickel package against the Broncos.
Never before in his life had Carter been in a situation like that.
“I’ve never been benched or a backup or none of that,” Carter said. “It’s a learning lesson. I definitely will say that. I can’t take my position for granted or playing for the Cowboys, period.”
Carter said he’s not positive what will happen with the rotation in the nickel this week, although it’s likely he gets more snaps going forward. He had trouble in coverage against the Chargers, as Danny Woodhead got behind him for two scores.
All the linebackers seem to be struggling more in coverage this year in their first season in Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defense. He said at times the linebackers might be thinking too much instead of playing quickly. At times, stopping to diagnose plays can appear like a lack of effort.
“It’s a lot of stuff you have to cover, and it might not even be right in your face, it might be on the other side of the field,” Carter said. “That’s where, for me, things get complicated, just getting back in your drops, having to look across the field. That’s something we’ve just been working at all week and I think we’re getting better at.”
After the game on Sunday, one of the game balls was awarded to Jason Hatcher for his effort in shutting down this Rams offense. There was no question that Hatcher deserved that honor but after studying the game, it really was a collective team effort across the defensive line that got that job done. DeMarcus Ware was outstanding against the Rams best offensive linemen, Jake Long. He beat and bashed Long the entire day to the point that Long was ineffective against other rushers like George Selvie and Kyle Wilber. Nick Hayden was making plays seven yards down the field tackling Tavon Austin. Edgar Jones and Jerome Long were able to chip in with some quality plays. Caesar Rayford looked comfortable playing inside at defensive tackle with Long when Hatcher and Hayden needed a break.
Their effort and passion was relentless the entire game. Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli and Leon Lett used various combinations in the game and all their moves came up aces. Kiffin was able to just use four man pressure in the game which allowed him to drop seven and handle the Rams skill players underneath and down the field. Where this Cowboys defensive line was most effective was when they were running games upfront with their twist packages. There was constant pressure on Sam Bradford to the point where he really didn’t have the time to look down the field for a receiver. It was a dominating day, for a group that once again had to play without Anthony Spencer but were able to get the job done.
IRVING, Texas – Here are some observations from the film room at Valley Ranch:
Offensively, if the Cowboys were going to have any success, it would be on the shoulders of Tyron Smith and Doug Free. Of all the matchups possible in this game, how Smith and Free blocked Robert Quinn and Chris Long was truly going to tell the story. The game tape, showed that Smith was dominant and Free had not one issue against Long, matter of fact, his only issue for a brief time was with backup, Matt Conrath on a couple of cutoff blocks.
Quinn had come into the game as a nightmare for tackles to have to deal with because of his edge pressure. Smith did a really nice job of not allowing him to get to the edge or work underneath to get inside of him. The one play that Smith allowed Quinn to make which did cause a forced fumble, was the second of the two draw plays that the Cowboys attempted on the day. The first time they ran it, Smith shoved Quinn so far up the field, that Murray did not get touched until he was already in the second level. On the second one, Quinn was able to keep his balance after the shove and he just made a nice athletic play.
Playing against Chris Long, is the perfect type of rusher for Doug Free to face. Free tends to do a better job against defensive ends that don’t play with a great deal of power and are more interested in just getting up the field. It has been well documented that Free’s athletic ability is clearly his best trait. When he can get out of his stance, work wide and adjust, he is a much better player. When he has to face a rusher that extends his hands and just pushes on him, he has trouble sitting down. Long doesn’t play with power and that played right into Free’s hands. I thought that Free was able to play a complete game from a technique stand point as well. He never looked off balance or struggling with Long’s rush. Other than those cutoffs against Conrath, Free was in control, poised and continues to work his way back to that form that we all had observed three years ago.
Watching J.J. Wilcox play is a lot of fun. With Wilcox, you never know what you are going to see next. I had a gut feeling that very early in the week that he was going to make this start against the Rams and as excited I was for him, I also had my concerns. Not of the physical type but would he be able to handle all the routes that the Rams were going to throw at him.
It was clear from the first play of the game when he filled in the box, that the physical side was going to be well and good, but there is something that we are going to keep an eye on as he plays more. As aggressive as he is attacking the ball, he is going to have to learn to come under better control to be a secure, wrap up tackler. I saw the same thing from Barry Church when he started, he would come flying forward and throw his body at the legs of the ball carrier without wrapping up. Bill Parcells use to tell us that poor tackling safeties will cost you hundreds of yards during the season. There is no question that Wilcox gets to the ball but where he can make the biggest difference to this defense, is finishing plays. Jerome Henderson and Joe Baker will work with him to get that cleaned up in his game.
Throughout the game, Wilcox had more chances to play down but he also played some single high and then later in the game some straight two deep. He played some man coverage against Jared Cook which is no small task and when the ball went wide underneath, he was able to rally with the linebackers and drive the ball out of bounds. He played with nice awareness and there were times where when checks were made, you could see him communicating with Church or the corners. He was in outstanding position for the interception of Sam Bradford that was called back, when Hatcher struck Bradford in the head area which was the correct call.
For his first start in the NFL, he was once again, fun to watch. He did not let his coaches or teammates down with his play. He was physical and he didn’t play like he was lost or scared. It was not perfect but it was clearly something they can work with. Paired with Barry Church in the back end, there are some nice possibilities.
I would continue to start Orlando Scandrick at corner and allow Morris Claiborne to come off the bench. Right now, this combination appears to be working very well. Scandrick is playing at a high level both outside and in the slot but I believe that Claiborne looks much more relaxed as well.
It was nice to see, with what happened to Claiborne last week against the Chiefs on the pass interference call, he was able to bounce back with one of his most complete games. I thought he played with nice positioning and movement. He didn’t appear to be struggling with the routes and his reads along with his awareness was much better. There have been times where he has appeared to laboring in coverage and that might have been do to his knee soreness but there was a smoothness to his game.
He was aggressive driving on the ball and when he had to come forward, there was no hesitation or apprehension. He did get the one call against him for pass interference late in the game and on tape, it did show that he used an arm bar to keep Chris Givens from getting up the field but again, if he doesn’t use his arm, he worked himself in position to defend the ball and that was a positive sign.
I understand that Morris Claiborne was drafted to be a starter, but if playing Orlando Scandrick has allowed Claiborne to regain his health and confidence, these coaches need to keep that going because it has benefited both parties. There have been no reasons to take Scandrick off the field at this point and until there are issues, he needs to continue to start. There is nothing wrong with letting Morris Claiborne be that nickel back as along as this defense continues to play like they have this season.
Brandon Carr has shown he can come up big late in games. He had a fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown last year in Philadelphia, an overtime interception against Pittsburgh also last year, and last week, he had a fourth-quarter pick-six against the New York Giants.
But secondary coach Jerome Henderson can’t help imagining what could happen if the Cowboys can get Carr making a bigger impact earlier in games.
“Let’s go do it all the time,” Henderson said. “I think he’s got that ability, that he can be a difference-maker for our team, and we keep talking about it and pushing him that direction, to be a difference-maker.”
With four interceptions, Carr has already made a difference 17 games into a Cowboys career that began with a $50.1 million contract over five years.
But what Henderson is talking about is influencing the game from the start. He believes Carr has the level of talent that he doesn’t need to always let the game come to him.
“You impose your will on the game, but you do it in a sound way,” Henderson said. “You don’t do that being unsound and taking chances and doing things that will get you beat. Just with the force of your play, your attention to detail, you impose your will on the game. And there are players that do that, and again, we’re always pushing him to become that.”
Carr already has a knack for one thing Henderson and the new defensive coaches preach – scoring with a turnover. Carr has returned two interceptions for a touchdown with the Cowboys, and another return reached the 1.
“We really beat it into their heads this year: score,” Henderson said. “Because it’s hard for defensive players to tackle good runners. It’s hard. We miss tackles, and we practice that skill all the time. Offensive players don’t practice it. So when you get the ball, make them tackle you. Don’t go out of bounds. Make somebody tackle you because they don’t do it very often. We get it, we want to score.”
Count quarterback Tony Romo as one of the people rookie cornerback B.W. Webb sought advice from after his bad outing in the 19-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders last Friday. Webb gave up six catches for 65 yards in coverage and fumbled a punt that led to the game-deciding score.
Coach Jason Garrett was critical of Webb’s demeanor and confidence in the game and the rookie fourth-round pick acknowledged that he let his poor play at cornerback bleed into the fumbled punt.
“Yeah, I guess I thought about my bad plays too much,” Webb said. “I didn’t really put them behind me. In this league you to put those in your back pocket and keep going. I kind of dwelled on those too much and it led into the punt, dropped the punt so it was just…I got to put things behind me and get on on with the game.”
Webb said he talked to a few people after the game for advice, including cornerback Brandon Carr and secondary coach Jerome Henderson. He also approached the veteran quarterback for his perspective.
“His position is crazy and you have your up and down games,” Webb said. “He really told me you got to be able to put that in past. He told me he messes up at times and coaches jump him and it’s on to the next play, just getting that perspective from especially him.”
In two games, Webb has played 108 plays. He has been targeted 13 times, giving up 10 catches for 94 yards.
As a fourth-round draft pick, B.W. Webb’s spot on the roster is all but guaranteed. The Cowboys have carried David Arkin, a fourth-round pick in 2011, for two years. But if Webb wasn’t a high pick, he might be in danger of not making the roster.
The William & Mary product has struggled mightily thus far.
He had three tackles in 76 plays in the Hall of Fame Game against the Dolphins, giving up four passes for 29 yards while being targeted six times. He had three tackles against the Raiders and was a favorite target of Raiders’ quarterbacks. He also fumbled a punt.
As if it couldn’t get worse for Webb, he was called out by his coach — who rarely does that publically — afterward.
“You are not allowed to have one of those nights,” Garrett said. “One of things you are looking for in any kind of players, a young guy or a veteran is you want to make sure they respond to the successes and adversities of the game. He had a couple of missed tackles early on for him. I thought he came back and tackled better. Then, he had the dropped punt. You’re not allowed to have bad nights. You never excuse it away to that. You have to keep battling, fighting, whatever opportunity you get, you’ve got to make sure you are taking advantage of it.”
It is safe to say Webb will not be used on punts. His fourth-quarter muff was recovered by the Raiders at the Dallas 9, and they scored the go-ahead field goal.
“Certainly, he’s got enough skill and has done enough good things out there,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “We’ve seen him on punts and seen him have to get used to it. He’s not ready, as far as training camp is concerned, to drop back there and get under those punts. We saw that some in training camp. We’ve seen it. It was disappointing he couldn’t get his feet back under him and get back and at least recover the ball. First of all, it really gave us an uphill battle in the ball game. That will be something I’m sure he keeps in his mind.”
As we sit just a few short days from the opening of training camp in Oxnard, on top of the depth chart for the safety position are the names of Barry Church and the veteran Will Allen. The names that are below those of Danny McCray, Matt Johnson, J.J. Wilcox and Jakar Hamilton.
It’s not a group at this point that would make you forget the names of the greats that have played here before but it’s a group that has a great deal of potential.
This coaching staff has the upmost respect for Allen and his body of work through the years which is why you see him a top this depth chart. I studied Allen myself in games last season for the Steelers when he made some injury starts against Cowboys’ division foes, New York, Philadelphia and Washington and he was more than solid. His play was steady and sure. Where Allen has an advantage over the others is in his experience which is a nice trait to have.
Over the past season, despite the fact that he was dealing with an injury, I still had a great deal of faith in Matt Johnson and what he could bring to this squad and I still believe that but the player that has drawn my most interest, is J.J. Wilcox.
When I first observed him on tape at Georgia Southern, I was shocked that he had only played the position for one season. He didn’t play like a small college player. You could see in his awareness and passion for the position and that he was a natural. When you watched him play, you saw a player that loves the game. A player that was not afraid or scared to mix it up when called on.
Where there were some concerns in my view was how much coverage that he actually played and would his movement skills translate in order to function in this scheme. There are times where the safety is asked to take the middle of the field and react to the sideline to help the corner.
In OTA’s and minicamp practices, you could see that he understood his responsibilities. He was capable of playing with range. One of the first things you notice about his game, is that he is always around the football run or pass. There were times in the practices where he was playing in the short middle of the field and he was able to read and adjust to the routes not only to knock balls down but secure interceptions as well.
Wilcox doesn’t play like a guy that lacks experience for the position. I can only recall one time in the several practices where Jerome Henderson had to correct him on the angle that he took to the ball. With Wilcox, you didn’t see the mental busts and mistakes or confusion that goes with a rookie safety. The mental side of the game is where I thought he might struggle the most because when they put on the pads that will not be an issue at all. He is more than willing to light up a ball carrier when given the opportunity.
I thought it was an outstanding move by this front office to go out and try to protect itself by signing Will Allen but there are some talented players behind him which is a good thing depth wise but the one that might be the most talented is J.J. Wilcox. I do not see J.J. Wilcox waiting around to play in this defense. He has already picked up things very easily that I thought he would have struggled with and that is a positive sign.
It is right that the coaches have put Allen in the spot that he is on the depth chart because of his experience but the more that we see Wilcox practice and the more opportunities that he gets, it will be harder for these coaches not to line him up next to Barry Church much more sooner than later.
The Cowboys have picked 20th overall four different times in club history, getting Marcus Spears in 2005, Ebenezer Ekuban in 1999, Billy Joe DuPree in 1973 and Dennis Homan in 1968.
IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.
Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full seasons removed from the playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding them as they prepare for the 2013 season.
With 19 days (July 20th) until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., one question centers on the versatility of defensive backs.
The versatility of DBs should be effective in new 4-3 scheme
Last year, we saw the Cowboys use a variety of defensive back rotations – some of which because of injury and other times to simply put players in effective spots.
Brandon Carr manned the cornerback spot most of the year, but he spent some time at safety early in the year after the Cowboys lost both Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh to injury.
Orlando Scandrick has played primarily slot corner, but has been used as a safety in certain packages. The Cowboys also signed Sterling Moore in midseason from the Patriots’ depth chart and he immediately helped at both safety and cornerback.
In this new 4-3 scheme from Monte Kiffin, the Cowboys might have to rely on their versatile players more than ever.
Looking back in Cowboys’ history, no player excelled at both cornerback and safety better than Mel Renfro. The 10-time Pro Bowler made it five times as a safety and five times as a corner – often going back and forth later in his career. If anyone came close to excelling like that, it would be Renfro’s teammates Cornell Green, who often swapped roles with Renfro on those early Doomsday Defenses.
Obviously it’s a stretch to assume the Cowboys will have any player on this roster, or any in the future, that can be as dominant as Mel Renfro, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.
However, having versatility at any position is clutch, especially in the secondary. With the NFL becoming a more passing league by each year, having players with the ability to cover ground like a safety, coupled with the skills to cover in the slot is almost a lost art.
That trait alone might keep a player like Moore on the roster and actually get him activated on game day as well.
This team suffered many injuries last year so guys like Carr and Scandrick might be asked to play some safety in a pinch as well.
They don’t have to be all-world like Renfro or even Green, but just serviceable at another position can be beneficial.
A closer look at the number 20:
No player has ever worn No. 20 as long as Mel Renfro, who had it from 1964-77. Other notable players to wear No. 20 include Ron Springs, Ray Horton and Richie Anderson.
Currently, rookie B.W. Webb wears No. 20.
Roger Staubach’s 20 rushing touchdowns are the most by any Cowboys’ quarterback and ranks 11th all-time in Cowboys history.
Preston Pearson ranks 20th in Cowboys history with 1,207 rushing yards.
Morris Claiborne had to do a couple of things this spring.
One, get bigger.
Two, get stronger.
So far, so good.
“I feel like I’ve had a tremendous offseason with getting in the weight room and trying to get stronger,” the second-year cornerback said Tuesday after the Dallas Cowboys’ first OTA practice at Valley Ranch. “Actually, I put on a couple of pounds. Last year, I was at 187. Now I’m at 193. So I’m just trying to learn how to move with that weight and just get comfortable.”
Claiborne and the Cowboys figure he can use the extra weight to become a stronger tackler, a skill that will be required more from the cornerbacks under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Last year as a rookie, Claiborne never got up to speed with his strength because he spent the spring recovering from wrist surgery.
“There were times last year where he wasn’t strong enough to execute a certain technique,” secondary coach Jerome Henderson said. “So he had to get stronger to do that. He’s done the work to do that.”
Claiborne has known all spring about the physical style that will be required of him and fellow corner Brandon Carr. But he believes he is ready for it and feels confident as he enters his second pro season.
“I told someone the other day, I feel a difference when I pull up in the facility than I did a year ago,” Claiborne said. “I feel like nothing’s too much new to me. I expect everything how it was last year. We’ve got a couple of coaching changes, but nothing stopping. I’m just trying to continue to get more comfortable, continue to get more established in this system, so I can go out and play and have fun.”
THE TEXAS 2 ENFORCER: Dallas Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox’s aggressive play among rookie minicamp highlights
IRVING – Dallas Cowboys rookie J.J. Wilcox relished contact long before his coaches moved him to safety his senior year at Georgia Southern.
“That’s why my touchdowns were limited,” said Wilcox, referring to his 18 scores as a running back and receiver for the Eagles.
“I wanted to be a bruiser, run guys over. I like being physical.”
That was evident the second day of rookie minicamp, which ended Sunday. In a pads-free, non-contact 11-on-11 session, the third-round pick collided with undrafted free agent Kendial Lawrence, sending the running back from Missouri to the ground and eliciting nods of approval from onlookers.
“We got no pads on and he’s a pretty big guy, so it was a good collision,” said Wilcox.
Typical of a hard hitter, Wilcox was unapologetic for his aggressive play.
“They tell you to fly around,” he said. “(The coaches) know it wasn’t on purpose. I’m a rookie, second day of camp. They figure, ‘Hey, he doesn’t know better.’ Next time (it happens), I’ll probably get in trouble for it.”
Perhaps. Or just maybe Wilcox will get a pat on the rump from a staff overseeing a team in dire need of defensive playmakers.
The Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in January and replaced him with 4-3 scheme guru Monte Kiffin partly because Ryan’s 3-4 defense forced just 16 turnovers last season. The Chicago Bears registered an NFL-high 44.
“So that’s 28 more scoring opportunities,” Garrett said in February. “The thing we’ve probably done least well is take the football away. And (turnover differential) is probably the single most important statistic in football.”
Wilcox’s collision with Lawrence wasn’t his only highlight. He also had an interception while defending a tight end on a seam route.
Bottom line: Wilcox was one of the top performers at rookie minicamp, very much looking the part of a playmaking safety even if this is only his second year at the position.
“Initially, when you (hear) this guy used to play running back, this guy used to play receiver, now he’s going to play safety in the NFL, you say, ‘Wait a second here,’ ” coach Jason Garrett said. “But then you watch him play, he shows the traits and the demeanor.”
Despite Wilcox’s inexperience at safety, he has a shot to start at a position of weakness.
“Unproven would be the overall assessment,” owner Jerry Jones said last week when asked to evaluate the team’s safeties, which include a veteran recovering from a torn Achilles (Barry Church), a second-year pro who did not play as a rookie because of hamstring injuries (Matt Johnson), a veteran more suited for special-teams duty (Danny McCray) and a free agent who signed a one-year deal (Will Allen).
But Jones is confident Kiffin will position the safeties to succeed.
“I think we will benefit from a scheme that emphasizes what these guys are: big, physical guys that like to hit,” Jones said. “With (hard-hitting safety John) Lynch in Monte’s background, you say, ‘Duh, that’s the picture you see,’ but these guys have all the same thing that comes up: tough.”
Judging by his performance at rookie minicamp, Wilcox fits the bill.
J.J. Wilcox talks about participating in his first NFL practice, and how his switch to safety in college came about. Excellent footage of his aggressive style and poise when talking with the Dallas media.
IRVING, Texas – Evaluating football players in live action can be difficult enough. But seeing how they perform in shorts, jerseys and helmets in their first professional practice is something left up to the coaching staff.
The Cowboys opened the rookie minicamp Friday at Valley Ranch, featuring about 45 players from rookie draft picks, undrafted free agents and selected veterans who were eligible to participate.
Here’s a few quick quotes from the coaches regarding their first impressions.
Bill Callahan talks about the first practice of mini camp, and his early impressions of first round pick Travis Frederick.
Offensive coordinator/line coach Bill Callahan on first round pick Travis Frederick:
“Just like we thought coming out of the draft, he’s real smart and intelligent. He can vocalize all the calls and communications and sequences. So that was a real positive note. As I watched him in all the team drills today – how he ID’s the Mike, how he finds the Mike linebacker. He makes the point, he makes all the calls, he puts everybody on the same page. So I’m impressed from that standpoint – day one, just to get out and start talking in front of all these new people and players, with all the coaches and pressure on you. I thought he did pretty good.”
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin on returning to the practice field for the first time in three years:
“It’s exciting to be out here again. We’ve got some work to do. But I love the attitude of these young men. They’re here to work and they did a good job. We’ve got something to work with.”
Defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson on third-round pick J.J. Wilcox having one year of experience at safety:
“You see the athleticism. For a big guy, he can really run. He has really good ball skills, and that probably comes from playing with the ball in his hands a lot those other three years in college. You see he’s a physical man, that he likes the physical part of the game. A lot of times when you see offensive guys make the jump, it takes them a little while to figure that part out. That came natural for him. When you watch him play, you’re like, ‘Oh God, he’s going to kill somebody,’ and that’s what I like about the young man.”
Henderson on much far Wilcox has to improve:
“Light years. You have that, coupled with the fact that the league he played in, jumping to this league…one year at the job. Just the adjustment that all rookies have, he’s got a lot to adjust to.”
Tight ends coach Wes Phillips on seeing second-rounder Gavin Escobar for the first time:
“He had some good things that stood out, but there’s a lot of things we need to clean up. Obviously I’m very encouraged by the things I know he can do, and some of those things he showed out there. He can catch the ball well. That’s the one thing you notice about him.”
Henderson on being comfortable with safety position:
“Absolutely. We’ve got a really good group. It’s going to be a really competitive camp, I think, with the guys we got back there. I think the exciting thing is there’s an opportunity for somebody to emerge. One of those guys I know is going to go grab that spot and make it his, and again, which guy that is at this point is anybody’s guess. That’s the exciting part about it. The thing I do like, again, is we’ve got some quality guys back there competing. Adding Wilcox to the mix makes it exciting.”
Callahan on the quick turnaround of practices Friday:
“It’s fun for a lot of these guys that come from good college programs. They understand the tempos that you want. They’ve really done an excellent job of banding together, learning all this terminology in one day and then trying to produce some type od execution within 24 hours. So my hat goes off to all these guys.”
Henderson on his early thoughts about fourth-round corner B.W. Webb:
“He’s so competitive. You see that on tape. He won’t back down from anybody. He’s got great ball skills and great knack for being around the ball and playing the ball and going to get the ball. Then when you meet the young man, you see his poise, his confidence, the way he carries himself, and you think this kid’s got a shot. He’s from a smaller school, but you get the sense from him that, ‘This isn’t too big for me. I belong here.”
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media before taking the field for the second practice of rookie mini camps at Valley Ranch.
There have been a number of changes in the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff over the offseason. Here’s an updated list of the assistant coaches and links for more detailed information on each of them. This page will be updated if any other changes are made.
DALLAS COWBOYS HEAD COACH
Jason Garrett was named the eighth head coach in Dallas Cowboys history on January 5, 2011. Garrett, who played for or worked alongside four of his predecessors, became the first former Dallas Cowboys player to become the team’s head coach.
DALLAS COWBOYS COACHING STAFF
|Offensive Coaches||Defensive Coaches||Specialty Coaches|
Asst. Head Coach/Wide Receivers
Strength and Conditioning
|To Be Determined
Tight Ends/Passing Game Coord.
Assistant Special Teams/ Kickers
Assistant Strength and Conditioning
Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
Assistant Offensive Line
Off. Quality Control/Wide Receivers
DEFENSIVE CONFIRMATION: Monte Kiffin verified switching defense to 4-3; his coaches set for new season
MOBILE, Ala. – The second day of Senior Bowl practices are underway, with several coaches and scouts filling up the grandstands at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett has addressed the media. It does appear the defensive coaching staff has been set.
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin not only confirmed what we all expected in the team will be switching over to his 4-3 scheme, but said after meeting with several candidates, the defensive coaches are locked in.
“We’ve been trying to get our staff together and get the right players in the right place,” Kiffin said.
The biggest change will be defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, who was the Bears defensive coordinator the last three years and has worked with Kiffin in Tampa Bay. But the Cowboys are also planning to keep linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson, two coaches who came with Rob Ryan from Cleveland.
The Cowboys are also expected to retain assistant defensive backs coach Joe Baker, assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett.
“It’s exciting,” Kiffin said Tuesday morning. “It happened really quick. We put together the staff and I think the staff is real important. The Joneses and Coach Garrett, they like certain people there they wanted me to interview. It was real good to put our heads together – Coach Garrett and myself. But there’s some real good coaches there right now. To bring in Rod Marinelli as our defensive line coach, he’s an icon.”
RELATED: Jerry Jones says Cowboys won’t complete staff during Senior Bowl week
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he does not expect to complete the coaching staff before the Cowboys leave the Senior Bowl.
He said the Cowboys, who have assistant coaching vacancies in at least four positions – tight end, defensive line, running backs and special teams – are interviewing this week at the all-star game but that there is no deadline.
“No, not at all. We have no timetable pressures here,” he said after watching the South team practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, where the Senior Bowl will be played Saturday. “I don’t look for anything such as a finalization of decisions on staff while we’re here.”
Asked about Houston Nutt’s visit to Valley Ranch last week, Jones declined to comment but promised to talk more about staff decisions later in the week.
“It’s going to be real limited on staff because we’re not going to sum it all up for competitive reasons and negotiating reasons,” Jones said. “We just are going to let that come out as we make those decisions about adding any new staff members.”
IRVING, Texas – Trying to decipher what head coach Jason Garrett meant by going “in a different direction philosophically on defense” after Rob Ryan’s departure can be tricky.
The first way to take those comments is he might want to switch from the 3-4 scheme Ryan utilized during his short tenure in Dallas. Moving to a 4-3 might make some sense given the linebacker personnel, as well.
Jay Ratliff had been a dominant force at nose tackle, and despite not possessing the gigantic frame of most nose tackles, he managed to play the position and still create pressure. As the injuries pile on, though, a switch to a 4-3 could be helpful for him, not having to play directly on top of the center.
The likelihood of a possible switch could also depend on the team’s confidence in signing Anthony Spencer. If Spencer’s back, and IF he and DeMarcus Ware are capable of playing as pass-rushing defensive ends. If he doesn’t return, the Cowboys will have a few decisions to make about that spot opposite Ware, though that’ll be the case regardless of the scheme.
If it’s a 4-3, Sean Lee can play middle linebacker and Bruce Carter can play on the outside, while Alex Albright, Kyle Wilber or a new addition could try playing the other outside linebacker spot. If Spencer’s not back and the Cowboys still want to go 4-3, they could try Albright at end. Tyrone Crawford, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore could all get time at defensive tackle, alongside Ratliff. Clearly, more defensive tackles are needed.
This is all speculative, of course. It’s possible Garrett only meant philosophical changes regarding the members of the coaching staff.
Ryan’s already gone, and the status of the defensive position coaches remains in serious question. Linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson both worked with Ryan in Cleveland before coming to Dallas. The defensive coaching staff will need to re-interview with whomever the new defensive coordinator is to keep their jobs, and the position coaches will be allowed to interview for jobs with other teams in the meantime.
Odds are pretty good that the incoming defensive coordinator in Dallas would want to bring at least a few members of his own staff, so this would allow the current position coaches time to find work elsewhere with so many hiring’s and firings taking place so quickly right now around the NFL.
It’s possible Garrett referred to a complete staff overhaul and a scheme change when he made the comments about going a different philosophical direction. High profile defensive coordinators who run the 3-4 are still in the mix, as are those that run the 4-3, including veteran coach Lovie Smith.
Right now, it’s all speculative until further changes are made. But it’s clear with Ryan’s firing that a philosophical change likely means a significant overhaul going further than just the release of the defensive coordinator.
Editors comments: You could also interpret the ‘philosophical change’ to mean a change in the scheme … primarily reverting to zone coverage at inopportune moments and the subsequent third-down collapse we witnessed time after time.
Dallas does have the linebackers to allow for a 4-3 switch. However, they would need to add skilled defensive tackles to the roster. The DT’s listed above are young, up and coming players. They might have what it takes to make the switch successful, but Dallas should bring in a veteran or two to reduce the risk. Trying linebackers to fill this role won’t hold up during the long course of a game and 16 game season. Linebacker blitz packages could work, if they are supplementing an effective four-man defensive line.
Because of the salary cap, Spencer could become an expensive luxury. If he’s not re-signed, this could allow for a pass-rushing specialist to be added. Any of this can happen, if the Cowboys make the defensive coordinator hire quickly enough to put a plan in action (draft, free agency).
Lovie Smith’s ego may not allow him to take a demotion as a defensive coordinator. The NFL’s demand for defensively-minded veteran head coaches this year also makes the Smith hire unlikely. Let’s hope Jerry Jones has a man in mind that can take this roster and roll with it. There is a lot of talent that can be utilized by the right system.
DALLAS’ TRIPLE-CORNER FLEX DEFENSE: Dallas Cowboy CB Brandon Carr willing to play safety the rest of the season; three cover corners could be the solution to pass-happy NFL.
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr has accepted the accolades that accompanied his surprising – and successful – debut as an NFL safety in Sunday’s 16-10 victory over Tampa Bay. Carr played much of the game at safety in place of injured starter Gerald Sensabaugh, who skipped the contest with a strained calf.
Carr’s future could include an extended run at that position now that Barry Church, the other starting safety, is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Sensabaugh’s availability remains day-to-day, said coach Jason Garrett, which could mean additional time for Carr at safety while Morris Claiborne and Mike Jenkins handle the cornerback spots.
Although he signed a five-year, $50.1 million contract in the off-season to be the Cowboys’ shutdown cornerback, and coaches still consider him their best player at that position, Carr said he would embrace an extended run at safety if that is in the best interest of the team.
“If that’s what we have to do for us to get our best 11 on their 11 and to get off the field and win ball games, I’m all for it,” Carr said. “I came here with one thing in mind and that was to win ball games.”
Although he last played safety in high school, and only briefly then, Carr said he is willing to spend the rest of the season there if coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan believes it is in the team’s best interest.
“If this is the role that I’m going to have to have this whole season, then I’m going to accept it and be ready to work and have everybody ready to go when my number’s called,” Carr said.
Because the Cowboys are expected to sign a veteran safety this week to replace Church, who is headed to the injured reserve list, Carr’s days at the position may be numbered. But it became clear against Tampa Bay that having three cover corners on the field at the same time _ Carr, Jenkins and Claiborne _ can be a positive defensive move in today’s pass-happy NFL.
Might the three-corners defense become a Cowboys’ staple going forward?
“I have no clue,” Carr said, smiling. “That’s the good thing about being a player. After each game is over with, you tell me what to do and I say, ‘Ok, coach’ and get ready and prepare myself for Sunday. Each week is going to be exciting to see what new wrinkle we add to our defense. I feel like we have a lot of guys that can play a lot of positions, so, hopefully, that will help us out in our versatility and our different looks. It’s going to be fun.”
RELATED: Jason Garrett credits Rob Ryan, Jerome Henderson for idea of Carr to safety
Jason Garrett gave defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and secondary coach Jerome Henderson credit for finding a way to have Brandon Carr play safety and Mike Jenkins to play cornerback while also keeping Vincent Jackson in check.
The Cowboys needed a way to make up for the loss of safety Gerald Sensabaugh, and putting Carr at safety was one way to do that and also to open up snaps at cornerback for Jenkins, who had been working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery.
“I think it was a real good idea by Rob and by Jerome early on in the week to do that,” Garrett said. “I think it was a great job by Brandon Carr of embracing the idea, saying, ‘Hey, I can do this. Absolutely, I’m excited to do this. I haven’t played safety since high school.’ He was kind of champing at the bit to do it.
“The concerns we had in the discussion was, they have this big guy, Vincent Jackson, and we have this big corner, this is the best matchup, should we really do this? And I think the combination of him playing corner but also playing safety and getting Jenks out there was a good way to go, and I think everybody responded really well to it.”
Garrett said now that Carr has put in some time at safety, the Cowboys have developed a little versatility.
“It’s nice to have that option in your hip pocket,” he said. “If we get in trouble and don’t have other options, we can say, let’s go back and do that again. We obviously want him to play corner. That’s what we feel like he’s best at. But to be able to do that with a guy to absorb an injury, that’s a good thing to have in your hip pocket going forward.”
Danny McCray was ready to play significant snaps, but it was Brandon Carr who stepped up and showed his versatility. The fifth-year cornerback was a surprise starter at safety, playing there on nickel downs and allowing Mike Jenkins to start at cornerback.
The move allowed the Cowboys to take advantage of their depth at the cornerback position. Since Jenkins came back from his shoulder rehab, the Cowboys have been experimenting with ways of getting him onto the field to contribute.
Through two weeks of the season (and the entire preseason), Carr stood out as the Cowboys’ best lockdown corner. Many expected him to spend the entire game matched up with lengthy Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson. Instead, the Cowboys put faith in Carr’s discipline and versatility by moving him over to safety to serve as a security blanket in certain situations.
It is a credit to Carr that the Cowboy’s felt so strongly about his defensive awareness that they would instruct him to play anything other than the position at which he was the NFL’s most prized free agent this offseason.
“Whatever it takes to win, I’m down for it,” Carr said. “We put Jenkins out there at corner and it wasn’t a letdown at all. He held his own.”
While the move was a surprise to many watching the game, Carr explained that he had been preparing to play safety all week.
“I got a head start, I think it was Monday they let me know,” Carr said. “I just had to get my mind right, watch extra film, not at corner, but at safety, just to get a different feel for how things were going to be thrown at me. I think I did a decent job.”
When asked after the game how much experience he had at safety, Carr provided a lighthearted, if not revealing, response.
“60 minutes,” Carr joked. “I took a couple snaps in high schools back in my early, early days playing, but other than that, it’s been a long, long time.”
After starting safety Barry Church went down, the Cowboys required contributions from every defensive back on the roster.
Despite depth concerns at safety, the result was a very impressive defensive effort and a near shutdown of the Buccaneers passing game. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman was limited to only 110 yards passing after racking up 243 yards against the Giants in his last game.
Morris Claiborne explained that the Cowboys have such talent at cornerback that when Carr moved over to safety, the coverage did not miss a beat.
“We have a lot of depth on this team and we have a lot of guys that can fill in when other guys are down,” Claiborne said. “We won’t lose too much.”
The Cowboys’ cornerbacks were also able to keep their impressive streak of not allowing a wide receiver to score on them all season. In fact, Tampa’s only touchdown of the game – a one-yard pass to tight end Luke Stocker – came after a Tony Romo interception gave the Buccaneer’s terrific field position. Jackson, the $55 million free agent addition, was held to just one reception for 29 yards.
When asked if he thought the cornerback core was attempting to build upon something special, Claiborne did not hesitate.
“Oh yeah, I think we are,” Claiborne said. “Coach Henderson does a good job with us, preparing us and getting us ready to go out and play ball. And we take a lot of pride in ourselves, to get ourselves ready to go out and play.”
VIDEO: Rob Ryan – I Don’t Want To Be A Distraction (Click on picture or HERE to watch)
Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan talks about the improvement the defense from last year to this year, and what changes he has made personally that he thinks will help the team. (Duration: 3:57)
Jerry Jones has said Rob Ryan had a “come to Jesus” year in 2011, which forced him to make changes. The Cowboys defensive coordinator agreed some things have changed.
“I’m lighter. Feel good,” Ryan said. “I’m only talking to the media once a week now. I guess hopefully I change for the better.”
Ryan, who is in his second year with the Cowboys, is 55 pounds lighter after surgery with Dr. Adam Smith at Fort Worth Lap-Band in February. He is less talkative, too, vowing to submit only to the once-weekly sessions required under the NFL’s media access policy. The outspoken Ryan said it was his idea to talk less.
“I’m just trying to do the right thing,” Ryan said. “I don’t think I need to be distraction for this football team. There is a way the Dallas Cowboys do things, and I think that’s a professional way to do it. I don’t need to be outspoken out there. I’m going to let our players do our talking. It’s time to quit talking and start doing something. That’s what we all buy into as a defense. That’s what I buy into, and that’s what we’re all believing in.”
The Cowboys blew five fourth-quarter leads last season. They allowed 3,906 passing yards, the second-most in team history. Worse, the Cowboys finished only 8-8 and missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
“I still stand behind the job I did last season,” Ryan said. “I wasn’t horrendous. I know everybody says I was, but I wasn’t. Believe me.”
He does, however, expect he and his defense to be better this season. The Cowboys are ranked seventh overall, including fifth against the pass, after one week.
"We plan on being an excellent defense, and if everything goes right, then we will be,” Ryan said. “But we’ve got a lot to prove.”
Months of practices and four preseason games all culminate in one final cut day, which 22 Cowboys players won’t survive.
That time is 8:00 p.m. Aug. 31, and it’s a day that head coach Jason Garrett called one of the worst for a player or a coach in the NFL.
“I think what makes it difficult is the work that they put in,” Garrett said. “Most of our coaches and administrators are former players. They understand the commitment these guys have made. Anybody who’s been around our football team for the last month or so has seen the commitment these guys have made.”
Garrett, the offensive or defensive coordinator and a position coach all talk to the released player and try to explain why the decision was made, provide them constructive coaching and thank them for their effort. Afterward, their time as a Cowboy is finished.
Dallas has been plagued with injuries throughout the preseason, which could force them to go deep at some positions and light at others. Garrett said it’s not always the 53 best players, but the 53 players who give the Cowboys the best chance to win. No official announcement on the final roster will be made until Friday.
Garrett said the draft picks will get every opportunity possible to show the reason they were selected, but there are other players worthy of a chance. The Cowboys have a history of turning undrafted free agents into top talents, including Eastern Illinois’ Tony Romo and Monmouth’s Miles Austin.
“If you have an attitude that it doesn’t matter where players come from, it matters what they do when they get here, I think you’re more able to find some of those guys,” Garrett said. “That’s been our approach. We preached that to our players from Day 1.”
Garrett said it warms his heart to think about the commitment the Cowboys players made in the offseason to fulfill their dreams.
“We have a lot of discussions about who we should keep, what we should do with different players, what role he might have and might not have, so those are difficult discussions,” Garrett said. “What makes it hard is, in a lot of ways, many of these guys’ dreams have come to an end or have changed.”