THE YEAR IN REVIEW: The best and worst of the Dallas Cowboys 2013 2014 NFL season | Special Feature
IRVING, Texas – With the Dallas Cowboys 2013-2014 NFL season in the books, let’s take a look back at the best and the worst of a rather familiar 8-8 record.
Helman: Tony Romo – This is such a cliché, but I just don’t think this team has playoff ambition without Romo. The Dallas Cowboys were competitive in the season finale without him, it’s true. It’s also worth pointing out the game-breaking mistakes – bad interceptions against Denver and Green Bay. Romo hasn’t been able to get the Cowboys over the hump and into the playoffs, but I don’t think they even get close without his 3,828 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Broaddus: Tyron Smith – Could probably say the entire offensive line after what they went through last season and the questions that were leading up to the 2013 season. With that being said, Tyron Smith would be my selection. Every week he battled the opponent’s best defender and did his job with the upmost skill and talent. It was rare that Smith was put in a poor position both run or pass. It started with his domination of Jason Pierre-Paul, Tamba Halli, Robert Quinn and ended with shut outs of Julius Peppers, Brian Orakpo and Trent Cole. Smith was honored with his first Pro Bowl honor and it should be the first of many to come.
Kavner: Dez Bryant – I would have said Tony Romo to start the year, and that’s not a wrong answer, but I’m going with Dez Bryant. Kyle Orton can still give the Dallas Cowboys a chance to win any single game as a backup, but the Cowboys simply have no reliable, game-changing receivers other teams have to worry about if Bryant were to go out. Terrance Williams had an outstanding rookie season and could be a productive player for a while, but they’re a different team without Bryant.
Eatman: Dez Bryant – The best player on this offense was Dez Bryant. When they needed a big play, they could go to him. Never was that more of an example than the New York Giants win when he willed them to a win. He also had a clutch TD against Philly in the last game. They nearly won without Romo and won games without Murray. I don’t want to see them try without Dez.
Helman: Sean Lee – Lee probably wasn’t the difference between wins and losses this year, as the Dallas Cowboys went just 5-4 in games he played in their entirety. There’s no denying the impact he had on a lousy defense, though. Lee was second on the team in tackles, and led the team in interceptions despite appearing in just 11 games. In the first game against Philadelphia, Lee helped limit the Eagles to 84 rushing yards and no touchdowns. In the second game, without Lee, the Cowboys surrendered 137 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Broaddus: George Selvie – When Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli took this job with the Dallas Cowboys, their projected starters at defensive line were DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Jay Ratliff, and Anthony Spencer. When the season opened, a journeymen named George Selvie was the starter at strong side defensive end. For Selvie it was his first time starting in five NFL seasons. In 2013, Selvie would not only start that game against the Giants but 15 other ones. He would finish the season with one more sack than Ware with seven and be a stable, reliable player at the point of attack against the run. As bad as the defensive line situation was, George Selvie was a there when they needed him the most.
Kavner: Jason Hatcher – The Dallas Cowboys needed Jason Hatcher if they were to get a pass rush, and for that reason he’s my pick here. When the front was able to bother the quarterback, this defense had a chance. Otherwise, quarterbacks would pick them apart. Typically if that rush was coming, it was through the middle from Hatcher, who put together a remarkable double-digit sack season as a defensive tackle. The Cowboys may be losing their defensive MVP.
Eatman: Jason Hatcher – He really had a great season, especially considering we thought he was the one player who could be the weak link on that starting line – only because he had never played a 4-3 and seemed out of position. He wasn’t. And when he missed the Saints game, it left a huge void in the middle. He’ll probably be gone but give him credit for playing so well in a contract year.
Most Significant Injury:
Helman: Romo – Plenty of players missed more time. Sean Lee missed five games, DeMarcus Ware missed three games – Anthony Spencer missed a whopping 15 of 16 games. But the Dallas Cowboys lost Romo with a chance to make the playoffs – a chance for him to put last year’s late-game gaffe against Washington behind him. This team was probably never going to make the Super Bowl – Romo or no Romo. But you had to like their odds to make the tournament with Romo playing at home against Philadelphia.
Broaddus: Anthony Spencer – When the Dallas Cowboys decided to make the switch from the 3-4 to the 4-3, I believed that Spencer would have been an impact player rushing off that left side. Coming into the season, I even predicted that Spencer would have ended up with more sacks than DeMarcus Ware. In the previous two seasons, it appeared that Spencer was finally getting it and the talent that we had seen in flashes during his career was being fully used. When he missed all of training camp, then tried to play that game in Week 2 against the Chiefs without success, I knew it was a bad situation. There were points during the season where they could have used his pass rush ability to create pressure when teams were having success. It was a shame that a player with his skill set, had to sit a watch.
Kavner: It’s tempting to take Sean Lee here, but to me it has to be Tony Romo’s back. Who knows what the result would have been had Romo been able to play in the season finale. Orton stepped in admirably, but it’s impossible not to wonder how the result would or could have changed with Romo behind center. This is also an injury that may never completely vanish, as the Dallas Cowboys are left to wonder how long it’ll take Romo to return to form.
Eatman: Anthony Spencer – This team missed his pass rush in a major way. I think you saw it with the cornerbacks who had trouble covering for a few seconds longer. Brandon Carr is a better player than he showed and I think not having a consistent rusher like Spencer was huge. D-Ware was banged up and that made Spencer’s loss even more of a problem. Selvie was a good pickup but I’d like to have seen him as the third rusher and not a starter.
Helman: Jason Hatcher – It’s easy to lose sight of the fact in retrospect, but there were plenty of questions about Hatcher’s transition to the 4-3 scheme. At training camp, we weren’t sure exactly which role he would play on the defensive line. In one season as a three-technique tackle, he had the best year of his career and led all defensive tackles with 11 sacks – he was one of just two defensive tackles to notch double-digit sacks. He definitely wasn’t expected to have the best season among Cowboys’ defensive linemen, but he ran away with that accomplishment.
Broaddus: Kyle Wilber – There is a reason that front offices and coaches don’t give up on players. Kyle Wilber is that example for this 2013 season. For Wilber it has been a difficult two years in trying to find a position for him. He was drafted as an outside linebacker, then the scheme change. Coaches tried him at weak side defensive end, then on the strong side. Wilber played with nice awareness and surprising toughness when it appeared that he at times lacked both. With his play at linebacker along with the development of DeVonte Holloman, there should be some nice competition at the Sam linebacker in 2014.
Kavner: George Selvie – That George Selvie finished the year with the second most sacks on the team behind only Hatcher, ending the season with one more sack than DeMarcus Ware. Selvie joined the group during training camp but demonstrated quickly he was more than just a camp body. With another year left on the contract, Selvie at least provides some depth at defensive end going forward and a little more stability at the position, which will likely be addressed in the draft.
Eatman: Travis Frederick – While I wasn’t down on the pick like most fans and media seemed to be, the rookie center performed better than I thought. He wasn’t just a solid rookie, he was a good center by any standards. I think he also impressed people with his poise and leadership qualities. He just “gets it” and I think Frederick will be an anchor to this line for many years to come.
Helman: Bruce Carter – The preseason storyline on Carter was that the transition to 4-3 would be smooth, as he excelled in that scheme at North Carolina. His superb play during Lee’s absence in 2012, combined with his experience as a 4-3 linebacker, made it seem like an obvious call for Carter to take the next step. That didn’t happen, though, as the third-year player struggled with coverage and confidence. His poor play against the Chargers and Saints stand out, although he did finish the season with 96 tackles.
Broaddus: Morris Claiborne – Probably unfair to do this to Claiborne because I could have said the secondary in general with the exception of Orlando Scandrick and Barry Church and I would have been right. After watching Claiborne play in that final Philadelphia game and how well he played, it was a huge disappointment to not see him play the entire season. Say what you want about his lack of confidence but it really is the lack of health that has robbed him of any opportunity to be a successful cornerback in this league. Having followed Morris Claiborne’s career in college at LSU, he is a much better player than what we have seen from him these first two seasons of his young career but he has to get these health issues behind him.
Kavner: DeMarcus Ware – The obvious answer is a third straight 8-8 season, but on an individual basis, I have to look at the production of DeMarcus Ware. I don’t think we realized how much pain he was in throughout the year, mostly because he denied he was in any. But the unstoppable force we saw during camp and the first few weeks of the season never returned. It’s possible with an offseason to get healthy we can see that again, but a career-low six sacks wasn’t to be expected.
Eatman: Jay Ratliff – I think the way that went down was just a really rough situation – and one we still don’t know all the details of. But the fact that a four-time Pro Bowler was able to just leave the team disgruntled and then sign on with another team, although we were told he had a serious injury. Just something wasn’t right about that. The Dallas Cowboys really could’ve used him in the middle this year and for it to end like it did, was a shame.
Most Improved Player:
Helman: DeMarco Murray – A gigantic second half turned 2013 into a banner season for Murray. The Oklahoma product had to answer questions all offseason about his durability, as he missed a combined nine games in his first two seasons. It’s true Murray didn’t manage a full season this time around, but his 14 appearances were a career best. Everything else was a career-best, too. Murray toted the rock 217 times in 2013 – 53 more times than his prior best – and his rushing total of 1,124 yards was a career high by 227 yards. He scored nine touchdowns, which is more than his totals from 2011 and 2012 combined.
Broaddus: Ronald Leary – Give Bill Callahan and Frank Pollack a great deal of credit for getting Ron Leary ready to play an entire 16 game season after spending the majority of his rookie season on the practice squad working on the scout team every day. While paired next to Tyron Smith, the left side of that Dallas Cowboys offensive line averaged over 6.2 yards a carry, which ranked them 4th in the NFL. Ronald Leary’s best trait is his power and you see this in both areas of run and pass. There is some shock in his upper body and you see him get push in the lower body. He was a steady, consistent and reliable performer at a position where there were huge question marks coming into the season.
Kavner: Terrance Williams – It’s odd to say this considering he’s a rookie, but from the start of the year to where he’s at now, I’d go with Terrance Williams. Obviously, this isn’t a year to year thing since he was in college last year, but he ended the year looking leaps and bounds better than the player we saw in camp. The jump was tremendous and he became an accountable deep threat, finishing with 736 yards, a 16.7 yards per catch average and five touchdowns.
Eatman: Orlando Scandrick – I really wanted to go with Tyron Smith here, but as a first-round pick, getting to the Pro Bowl and making All-Pro teams was expected by his third year. As for Scandrick, he really has developed into a solid player. He didn’t let Morris Claiborne get his job back and he’s played very well in a demanding spot. Yes, he can make more plays and interceptions but for his size and being a fifth-round pick, I think Scandrick should get a lot of credit. He’s a student of the game and he really played well from the start of camp to the end of the year.
Helman: Doug Free – I’m not trying to suggest Free should have made the Pro Bowl. But after the 2012 season, he was seen as a liability who could only be counted on to accrue false starts and allow sacks. He was far from perfect, but after taking a reduced salary in the offseason, Free performed admirably on the right side of the Dallas Cowboys line this season. After the beating he took in the court of public opinion last year, a little recognition seems justified.
Broaddus: Dwayne Harris – There is not a player on this team that does more for the overall benefit of the team than what Dwayne Harris does. We all see his ability as a returner and a tackler on special teams. Where Harris doesn’t get enough credit is his ability as a receiver but also the way that he blocks. This group of wide receivers did a much better job of point of attack blocking as the season wore on which allowed DeMarco Murray the space that he had to run the ball. When you build a football team, you try and find as many players as you can like Dwayne Harris.
Kavner: Sometimes we lose sight of just how valuable Dwayne Harris is. He led the team in special teams tackles, despite missing nearly a month toward the end of the season. He’s a complete special teams stud, leading the way as a cover guy and a returner, finishing second in the league in kick return average (30.6) and third in punt return average (12.8), while also securing the game-winning touchdown catch against the Vikings.
Eatman: Dan Bailey – Maybe this isn’t the right spot for him, but he’s got to go somewhere. Kickers are always unsung. And yes, he’s been heroic. So he gets my unsung hero vote. Bailey is just unreal how steady he’s been. Not only as a kicker, but a kickoff specialist, too. But the fact the Cowboys have confidence in him from the 40-50 range says a lot about
Top Offseason Need:
Helman: Defensive Tackle – The Dallas Cowboys’ first priority this offseason needs to be a defensive lineman, as far as I’m concerned. Whether that should be defensive tackle or defensive end is up for debate, but I’m going with the interior. My line of thinking is that DeMarcus Ware probably returns, and Anthony Spencer could very well re-sign. George Selvie is back, as well. Meanwhile, if Jason Hatcher leaves in free agency, which looks likely, the Cowboys are looking at Nick Hayden, Corvey Irvin, and Frank Kearse as their only current defensive tackles. Yikes. That needs to be addressed somehow – whether in free agency or the draft.
Broaddus: Defensive Line – I thought that this defensive line needed to be retooled last season even with DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher in the mix. Now there is a good possibility out of that group that you will only have Ware. The challenge for Jerry and Stephen Jones along with Will McClay is to dig those guys out that can come in and play from the word “Go” much like they have with Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick. There will be no time for sitting around and learning on the job. How they work on this position will once again have a huge impact how they go forward in the coming years.
Kavner: The Dallas Cowboys need defensive linemen, particularly tackles who can rush the passer. With the return of Hatcher unlikely, the Cowboys need to find a player that can cause some havoc in the middle. Getting Tyrone Crawford back from injury will help, though they could decide to keep him as an end. They need to find a way to affect the quarterback more consistently in this 4-3, and that starts with some pressure from the front four.
Eatman: Deee-fense! Just like they went offense the first three picks last year, they should go defense with the first three, if not four or five next year. This offense seems to be in good shape. But they need help on the defensive line and maybe more depth at linebacker and safety. The top need for me is a pass-rusher on the edge. Even if Spencer returns and Ware returns to form, you still need to get a young, hungry pass-rusher.
MAXIMIZING MARINELLI’S MISFITS: Dallas Cowboys defense looking for pass-rush spark | DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee locker room interviews
IRVING, Texas– After the first four games of this season, the Dallas Cowboys had already garnered 14 sacks.
After the next four, or the second quarter of the season, the Cowboys had just seven more.
The third quarter of the season – games played in November – the Cowboys’ defense mustered only five quarterback sacks.
And one game into this December run, the Cowboys have just one sack.
That’s not exactly the kind of trend this team is looking for as it now must win at least two games, perhaps all three of the final three to make the playoffs.
So where’s the rush?
“We’ve got to get back to that,” said DeMarcus Ware, who has been banged up for parts of this season and has just six sacks this year. “It’s on us. We’ve got to get more pressure on the quarterback. This is the time of year when the lights come on. So we have to be better.”
And maybe, Green Bay will be the opponent that allows that. At least statistically, that could happen if backup Matt Flynn plays for Aaron Rodgers, who has tried to come back from a broken collarbone.
The Packers have allowed 37 sacks this year, which ranks 23rd in the NFL. Of those 37 sacks allowed, 12 have come in the last two weeks with Flynn under center.
But while the Packers have endured their share of injuries, the Cowboys aren’t feeling sorry for them, especially when it comes to their defensive line. Since the first day of training camp when expected contributor Tyrone Crawford suffered a torn Achilles, it’s been one injury after another. The Cowboys have played nearly 20 different defensive linemen since the start of the season, although the starters haven’t changed much.
One of the players signed in training camp was George Selvie, who is tied with Ware for second on the team in sacks with six. But he hasn’t recorded one since the Vikings game, going four straight weeks without dropping the quarterback.
“I just have to keep working at it,” Selvie said. “You can’t get down on yourself. You have to keep fighting out there. That’s what we all have to do as a team. (Sacks) will come. You just have to keep getting the pressure.”
Coach Jason Garrett was asked if players such as Selvie has hit the proverbial wall.
“I think he’s a good consistent football player and has been all year long for us,” Garrett said of Selvie, who was flagged for two illegal hits on the quarterback against the Bears. “He was around the quarterback a little bit the other night in the ballgame. He comes to work every day. He’s not a dynamic, dynamic, dynamic pass rusher, but to me every game he shows up and somehow positively impacts the game.”
Selvie, of course, is starting for Anthony Spencer, who signed a $10.63 million franchise tag this year, only to play in one game because of a knee injury that eventually needed microfracture surgery.
The Cowboys have been blessed to have Selvie, who has started all 13 games at defensive end. They can’t say the same for Ware, who has started 10 games, missing the only three games of his career back in late October because of a quad strain that he says has healed 100 percent.
After Ware and Selvie, the Dallas Cowboys will likely have a new face this week in Edgar Jones, who has been on IR/Designated for Return since Week 2. Jones has been out with a groin injury that needed sports hernia surgery. He has practiced this week and Garrett said the Cowboys are expecting him to play.
At this point, after signing guys like Everette Brown, Jarius Wynn and Martez Wilson, not to mention numerous other ends who have already been signed and released, the Dallas Cowboys are hoping for some kind of spark.
RELATED: DeMarcus Ware “Knows For A Fact” that he’ll be a disruptive force
DeMarcus Ware & Sean Lee (3:14) | (Watch this Video)
DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee discuss the state of the Dallas Cowboys defense and give updates on their injury status’.
IRVING, Texas – There’s no doubt in DeMarcus Ware’s mind that he can still be and will be a disruptive force going forward.
It’s been a tough stretch for Ware, who has just two sacks in his last seven games and is in danger of finishing a season with single-digit sacks for the first time since his rookie year, but he believes he’ll get back to his previous form.
“Every week, you’ve got to be your worst critic, and that’s me,” Ware said. “For me, I know I haven’t been playing the way I need to be playing. So you go back to the drawing board and say, ‘Hey, what am I doing wrong or what do I need to change to be more effective?’ It’s just the small things. It goes back down to fundamentals, doing the bags, doing tackling drills, doing those types of things.”
It’s not an issue of health, according to Ware, who dealt with a thigh injury as his sack totals dipped in the middle of the season. He said he came out of the Raiders game healthy and has felt fine physically since.
He also said there are no excuses as long as he’s feeling healthy and himself, which he apparently is.
Ware asked a reporter what his name was, to which the reporter replied, ‘DeMarcus Ware.’
“All right, ain’t nothing changed,” Ware said. “I don’t feel like nothing’s changed. December, it’s always a time where the lights turn on and you’ve got to separate yourself apart from everybody. That’s what we have to do these last three games, and we’re going to do that.”
The Cowboys’ defense needs Ware to become the player he was in training camp and at the beginning of the season if its to turn things around and start reaching the quarterback. Ware said the most significant issue the defense has faced in recent weeks is giving up the big play. He also said defenders haven’t been consistent in their fundamentals, and that includes himself.
He said it’s more on the players than the coaching staff to turn things around.
“The coaching, the scheme is really good,” Ware said. “It always goes back down to fundamentals, doing the right things at the right time. And it’s all about timing. Our defense is all about hustle, hustling to the ball, getting strip sacks, making the big plays. We haven’t been consistent doing that these last games.”
But Ware said he knows for a fact he’ll get back to the level he’s accustomed to playing, and neither Ware nor head coach Jason Garrett believe his switch from 3-4 outside linebacker to 4-3 defensive end has been the reason for his statistical decline. At times, Ware will still play 4-3 end while standing up, as he was accustomed to doing most of his career.
Though Ware said he’s healthy, Garrett referenced the injury Ware’s fought through as a possible reason for limited productivity.
“He has been dealing with the injury for a lot of the year,” Garrett said. “Get him healthy and get him ready to go, and really focus on this challenge right here. Don’t worry about how we got to this point. Just get going. Put your hand on the ground and go affect the ball game.”
Garrett’s still got confidence in his top outside rusher and believes he’ll return to form this week.
“He can do what he needs to do,” Garrett said “There’s no question about that. Again, he’s dealing with an injury and he’s coming off the injury and hopefully he heals up more and more as it goes.”
COWBOYS GAME 14 PRIMER: Injury and Practice update | 2013 Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers | Sean Lee limited
IRVING, Texas – Sean Lee was not on the field for the beginning portion of today’s practice.
Lee had been a limited practice participant all week since straining his neck against the Bears on Monday night, but he was off the field entirely for the first time this week today.
“He worked through yesterday’s practice on a fairly limited basis,” head coach Jason Garrett said before Friday’s practice. “He was in there a lot, but some of the other guys were getting some action as well. That happened the other night in the ballgame where it was a neck type issue. He’s as tough a guy as there is. We talked about (Jason) Witten, and Sean Lee’s cut from the same cloth. We’ll see how he is today.”
Garrett said Lee’s injury is similar to anyone’s in that they’ll try to predict how he can handle it with physical exams and scans and based off what the player’s saying and how he’s reacting.
Lee said after Wednesday’s practice that this weekend he’d try to play through the injury, which is more muscle related than nerve related, and suit up for the game against the Packers. Lee said there wasn’t necessarily a specific protocol he had to pass in order to play this weekend but that he’d continue to get tested throughout the week.
Garrett didn’t say Lee would be out for this practice, and it could be a precautionary measure. Garrett said it can be tough sometimes to balance resting a player and making sure he’s physically ready by the weekend.
“You have those challenges with all injuries,” Garrett said. “Whenever you’re talking about a head and a neck, you’re particularly careful. There’s no question about that, particularly with a guy who has as much contact as he does.”
Before returning for last Monday’s game in Chicago, Lee missed two games with a hamstring injury.
In addition to Lee being out, Bruce Carter, Dwayne Harris and Morris Claiborne all were off the field as well. The trio had missed practice all week with hamstring injuries.
MEET YOUR NEWEST DALLAS COWBOY: Fullback Tyler Clutts added to roster | Scouting Report
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys now have a true fullback on their roster.
The Cowboys signed Tyler Clutts after he was among five running backs to work out for the team. To make room for Clutts, running back Lance Dunbar, who had knee surgery Tuesday, was placed on injured reserve.
Clutts, 6-2, 254 pounds, played in four games earlier this season for the Miami Dolphins before his release. He has played for the Houston Texans and Chicago Bears. He caught eight passes for 48 yards for the Bears in 2011.
The Cowboys did not carry a fullback on their active roster this season and parted ways with veteran Lawrence Vickers on July 12. They had used tight ends Jason Witten and James Hanna and linebacker Kyle Bosworth at fullback in different situations this season.
With a cold weather game coming Monday night at Chicago and another one possible on Dec. 22 at Washington, the Dallas Cowboys could be forced to run the ball more, but coach Jason Garrett does not believe the signing would be a shift from what they have done this season.
“You certainly want to be able to run the ball and be physical in bad weather games,” Garrett said. “Sometimes you’re not able to throw the ball as well as you’d like because of the conditions and the next best thing to do is run it. Being physical, being able to run downhill would certainly help you in those kinds of environments.”
RELATED: Scouting Report – New Dallas Cowboys fullback Tyler Clutts
Tyler Clutts | 6-2 | 254 | 4.94 40-Yard Dash | Fresno State
Game film viewed:
Miami regular season 2013: Cleveland, Indianapolis, Atlanta, New Orleans
Clutts was a defensive end at Fresno State before being converted to fullback when he made the transition to the professional game. He got his start in the Canadian Football League with Edmonton.
He then made stops in the NFL with Cleveland, where he played with current Dallas Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown. Clutts was with the Browns in 2011, then Chicago 2011-2012. He played for Houston in 2012, where he worked in a zone running scheme, before finally heading to Miami for the first four games of the 2013 season.
- Plays as a true fullback in “I” formation; will also line up offset and on the line as a tight end or wing (Editors note: Think Jason Witten’s usual spot or sometimes DeMarco Murray).
- Good path to search out defender. Can locate the correct man on the move.
- Shows a good initial pop and strike, but I thought he needed to do a better job with overall sustain. Likes to grab and hold for control.
- Needs to be careful in the way he uses his hands. Didn’t see any holding calls, but they were always on the outside of the frame work of the body.
- Will try and dig linebacker out of the hole. He had times where he was square to strike at the point, then others where he was on the edge and got him knocked off.
- Thought he needed to do better job of running through his man when inside at the point of attack. Needs to keep his feet working once he is engaged.
- Thought he was a much better blocker when he was leading the play on the outside or to the edge. Just played more comfortably when he could work to the outside, find his man, then try to secure his block. Did a better job of staying with his man this way.
- Will strike his man, then work up the field or into the flat. I did not have the opportunity to see him use his hands catching the ball for the Dolphins (Editors note: Because he didn’t have any with Miami. Only receptions were with Chicago in 2011. 8 for 48 yards with 6 yard average. Included his longest catch of 10 yards). Appeared to be good in getting into his route, really saw no issues here.
- Played on special teams for the Dolphins as the right back in the second line working on the two-man wedge. Was able to work to his spot to execute his assignment. Would like to have seen him do a better job of attacking his man, then catch the block to control. Was told that in the workout for coaches, he worked as a deep snapper but really just an emergency option at best.
- Has the bulk and square build to be a dependable blocking full back, but I would have liked to see more nasty play when he got the opportunity. Didn’t see a guy that just hammered defenders with his play. Will be interested if we see that from his play now that he is on this roster.
REPORT FULL OF WHAT-IF’S: Aaron Rodgers might not face the Dallas Cowboys
When Green Bay visits Dallas on Dec. 15, it could be a crucial game for the Cowboys’ playoff hopes.
And the Packers might come to Texas without their star quarterback.
There’s speculation (from the drama queens at NFL.com) that if Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) can’t play next week against Atlanta, Green Bay might shut the quarterback down for the season, if the Packers are out of the playoff race.
Rodgers, who did not play in Thursday’s loss to Detroit, was cleared to practice on a limited basis earlier this week and did some throwing on the field Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Packers are 5-6-1 and in third place in the NFC North.
When asked Friday whether Rodgers has a chance to play against Atlanta, coach Mike McCarthy replied, “I don’t know that.”
“I just know when we came off the field Wednesday that he wasn’t ready to play yet,” McCarthy added. “So, we’ll see how the testing goes. But it needs to be the right thing. I know he wants to play, I know he’s trying to gear up each and every week to play, but we’ll see what happens next week.”
Feeling the sting of the Packers’ most lopsided loss since they fell 35-0 at home against New England in McCarthy’s first season as coach in 2006, at least one frustrated player commented on how much Rodgers has been missed.
Green Bay didn’t have a victory in its five November games after Rodgers went out after the first series of the loss to Chicago on Nov. 4. The last time the Packers were winless in a full month of games was December 1990, when they went 0-5.
“It definitely made things a lot more difficult without Aaron,” left guard Josh Sitton said Thursday. “I think we all know that. There’s no denying that. You can’t say, ‘Hey, we can go and play just as good without Aaron.’ We haven’t won a game without him in five weeks. He’s the best player on this team. Yeah, we need him, but there’s a lot more going on than just that.”
2013-2014 COWBOYS ROSTER UPDATE: Team brings back Orie Lemon for linebacker depth
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys will add a player they’re familiar with as they enter the weekend with some uncertainty about the health of their linebackers.
Orie Lemon, who signed with Dallas after going undrafted out of Oklahoma State in 2011, will rejoin the Cowboys from the Cardinals’ practice squad. The move bolsters a linebacker spot in need of some depth.
Sean Lee and Justin Durant both haven’t practiced this week after hamstring injuries sustained against the Saints.
The move could also be protection for DeVonte Holloman, who’s been battling a neck injury and just went through contact for the first time since the spinal contusion. The team was going to see how the rookie responded to that.
Lemon was with the Chiefs and Cardinals this year after playing in five games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2012. He registered a combined five tackles with Dallas last year before going on injured reserve after hurting his hamstring while playing special teams in the Nov. 4 tilt against the Falcons.
COWBOYS RIVAL HEADLINE: With Jerry Jones running Cowboys, Dallas in for Doomsday | New York Daily News | Cowboys vs. Giants rivalry
The Boys Are Back editor comments: This is an example of the crap spread around by clueless so-called NFL experts. This homers point of view is complete with quotes and opinions from unnamed sources. It includes all of the standard talking points used by jealous and bias sports reporters jockeying for attention and headlines from more respected sports journalists.
A former NFL general manager who is identified as someone who helped his team to a Super Bowl told the New York Daily News reporter that Jerry Jones is a “horrific” GM who “undermines his head coaches with his antics.”
“What makes him bad is everything he does is based on perception, star power, making a splash. Fourth or fifth on the list is soundness. Everything revolves around him,” the unnamed GM said.
In the story, Daily News columnist Gary Myers suggests Jones should relinquish his GM duties and stick to his strengths as an owner and marketer, a common theme among pundits.
Dallas, who’s 5-5 this season, plays at the New York Giants (4-6) on Sunday at 3:25 p.m.
PHOTO: While the Cowboys owner is a shrewd business man, some of his football moves leave many scratching their heads. With owner Jerry Jones calling the football shots, it is no wonder the Cowboys struggle to regain their Super Bowl championship form of the 90s.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is an incredibly bright and creative businessman, a real marketing genius, and he has helped turn Dallas into the most valuable franchise in American sports. So many of his ideas have contributed to the NFL now being a $9 billion-a-year industry.
But if the Cowboys ever want to win their sixth Lombardi Trophy, then Jones must shake up his front office.
He needs to call himself in for a little talk.
“Sit down Jerry,” says Jones the owner.
“Yes, sir, Mr. Jones,” says Jones the GM.
PHOTO: Eli Manning and the Giants find much more success than their division rivals in recent years.
You’re fired,” says Jones the owner.
See, it’s that easy. Painless.
America’s Team is the best nickname in sports, but it no longer fits the Cowboys and needs to be revoked until they get back to a Super Bowl — if they ever get back to a Super Bowl.
Of course, they are worth $2.3 billion according to Forbes, the television networks can’t get enough of them, they have the best stadium in the world, but, as one executive with another team (who?) laughed Monday about the nickname, “America likes winners,” and the Cowboys just don’t win championships anymore.
The Dallas Cowboys will be at MetLife Stadium to play the New York Giants on Sunday in a game with big implications on the mediocre NFC East race. Dallas is 5-5, which is not unusual since they are 109-109 since the turn of the century. The Giants, after their 0-6 start, have won four straight as Tom Coughlin implores his players “to keep the dream alive.” They are both chasing the Eagles, who have won three in a row to get to 6-5.
PHOTO: Since taking over as GM, Jones has seen more than his share of flops from Tony Romo.
But, really, how ‘bout them Cowboys?
They have endured 17 consecutive seasons without making it to the Super Bowl after winning three in a four-year period. During the Dallas drought, the longest in franchise history, longer than its expansion years, 20 different teams have been to the Super Bowl, including the Patriots six times and the Giants, Steelers and Packers three times each. In that time, the Cowboys have made the playoffs seven times and have two wild-card victories.
I was there on Feb. 25, 1989, in the Cowboys team meeting room at their Valley Ranch headquarters, when Jones announced he had bought the team, fired the legendary Tom Landry and replaced him with Jimmy Johnson. It was called the Saturday Night Massacre and it was an unforgettable moment in NFL history.
The most famous line that came out of that news conference was when Jones proclaimed he would be in charge of everything from “socks to jocks.”
Maybe Jones was running just about every department including the laundry department back then, but Johnson was running the personnel department and he brought in enough great players to win the Super Bowl following the 1992 and 1993 seasons and then left when he and Jones fought over who deserved the credit. There was enough of the core remaining that the relatively clueless Barry Switzer came off his couch to win a Super Bowl with Johnson’s players in 1995.
PHOTO: Jason Pierre-Paul and the Giants should be happy to see the Cowboys late in the year.
Yet, once Johnson and then his players eventually departed, Jones was on his own to restock as the undisputed general manger. And while nobody in the NFL is better at making money, the Cowboys can’t compete in the front office. Jones hired a bunch of puppets as head coaches following Johnson — Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, Wade Phillips and now Jason Garrett — with one exception.
Jones tried to get it right when he hired Bill Parcells in between Campo and Phillips, and he allowed Parcells more input in their four seasons together than anybody since Johnson. But he still forced malcontent Terrell Owens on Parcells and Dallas was the only one of Parcells’ four head coaching jobs where he didn’t win a playoff game.
It’s startling that Jones the owner has put up with Jones the GM this long.
“As a general manager, he’s horrific. Just horrific,” said a former GM who once helped his team get to a Super Bowl. “What makes him bad is everything he does is based on perception, star power, making a splash. Fourth or fifth on the list is soundness. Everything revolves around him. He undermines his head coaches with his antics. They don’t have a lot of real harmony and he creates a lot of the storms.”
Jones gave Tony Romo a six-year, $108 million contract in March even though he’s won just one playoff game in seven years as the starter. He dumped defensive coordinator Rob Ryan after last season and replaced him with Monte Kiffin, who was one of the best — 10 years ago.
After the Saints torched the Cowboys for 625 yards in their 49-17 victory with Ryan on the opposite sideline as the New Orleans defensive coordinator, Jones admitted the switch “doesn’t look good right now.” He initially called a 51-48 loss to the Broncos a “moral victory,” which was then refuted by his son Stephen, a team vice president, and Garrett.
Jones is ultra-competitive and is willing to spend to win. He is clearly one of the smartest people in the NFL. So why isn’t he smart enough to fire himself as GM and hire somebody as good at making football decisions as Jones is at making money? “His ego is so big,” one personnel director said. “He’s had so many chances to do it and won’t. He’s going down with the ship.”
How ’bout them Cowboys?
Written by: Gary Myers | New York Daily News
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BOYS BYE-WEEK BREAKDOWN: Grading your 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys through first ten games
The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2013 NFL bye-week in the same position they’ve finished the past two seasons – with a .500 record.
Unlike the way those other seasons ended, the Dallas Cowboys currently find themselves atop the NFC East standings. Translation: If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Dallas Cowboys would be hosting the Carolina Panthers in a Wild Card game.
But since the playoffs don’t begin Sunday and the Cowboys don’t have a game this weekend, it’s a good time to see how they stack up against the other 31 teams in several categories.
According to Pro Football Focus, here are how some of your favorite Dallas Cowboys compare to other players around the NFL:
2013-2014 DALLAS COWBOYS OFFENSE
- Tony Romo is ranked No. 12 among quarterbacks. A few of the most interesting names ahead of him: Miami’s Ryan Tannehill, Chicago’s Jay Cutler and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.
- Just grading Romo as a passer, he ranks seventh.
- Romo trails Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton in number of drop backs. Dalton 496, Romo 399, New Orleans’ Drew Brees 391, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford 389, Matt Ryan 389.
- Romo received the offense’s lowest grade for the 49-17 loss in New Orleans.
- Over the last five weeks, Romo has posted his four lowest grades of the year.
- Dez Bryant ranks 13th among the league’s wide receivers. Cole Beasley is 36th, Miles Austin is 84th and Terrance Williams is 90th.
- Beasley is No. 1 in the league in percentage caught, hauling in 76.5 percent of the passes thrown in his direction. Williams led this category earlier in the year but has since fallen to 66th, catching 58 percent of the passes thrown to him. Williams, however, does lead the team in yards per reception at 17.2, 12th best in the NFL.
- Doug Free is No. 13 among offensive tackles. Tyron Smith is No. 15.
- Although he hasn’t played in the last two games, Brian Waters is still the team’s highest-graded guard, ranking 24th. Mackenzy Bernadeau, who had the offense’s best grade against New Orleans, is 31st and Ron Leary is 49th.
- Rookie Travis Frederick is eighth among centers.
- Surprisingly, the Dallas Cowboys, who are 26th in the NFL in rushing, are graded as the eighth-best run blocking team.
- Among tight ends, Jason Witten is No. 17. The biggest knock on the eight-time Pro Bowler is his run blocking. He ranks 29th in that category.
- DeMarco Murray has missed two games but he still ranks 12th among running backs. Murray is No. 5 in blocking among backs.
2013-2014 DALLAS COWBOYS DEFENSE
- George Selvie had been one of the top 10 defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme earlier in the year but three negative grades over the last five weeks have dropped him to 27th. DeMarcus Ware is No. 9.
- Of the 80 outside linebackers graded, Ernie Sims is 78 and Bruce Carter is 77.
- Jason Hatcher is third among defensive tackles. Nick Hayden is the lowest-graded defensive tackle in the league.
- Sean Lee is sixth among inside linebackers.
- Cornerback grades: Orlando Scandrick 31, Brandon Carr 46, Morris Claiborne 86.
- Barry Church is the Cowboys’ top-rated safety, tied for 25th in the league.
2013-2014 DALLAS COWBOYS SPECIAL TEAMS
- Dan Bailey is third among kickers, trailing only Denver’s Matt Prater and Carolina’s Graham Gano.
- Dwayne Harris is No. 3 among returners. He’s 18th on punt returns and second on kick returns, trailing only Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson.
COWBOYS WORKING ON WRINKLES: Jason Witten confident that opportunities are coming for Dallas’ offense
Jason Witten said it’s frustrating when he and Dez Bryant get coverage that limits them, but he said the Dallas Cowboys coaches are working on wrinkles to solve that.
“It’s been tough with the coverage we have seen,” he said. “When the opportunities are limited, it makes it tough. We will work through that. The bye comes at a good time to get guys healthy and review and try to get a couple wrinkles.”
But Witten said it’s not up to the system as much as the players.
“At times, the execution has been there. We have seen success,” Witten said. “But overall, it hasn’t been good enough. We have to do a better job of it. We feel confidence in the system and the players within the system. That’s what’s good about the system. It’s held up for a long time. We have to continue to work within it.”
Witten said Jason Garrett emphasized the opportunity the Dallas Cowboys have at the top of the NFC East.
“Obviously, we know we have to play a lot better football if we want to win this division,” Witten said. “We have a great opportunity to reflect on that and say, ‘We know we have to play better, here is how we are going to do it,’ and just execute. As an offense, our focus is to find ways to do those things. There are all kinds of wrinkles of putting guys in different situations and plays, but ultimately, us executing this system we have had success in and been a powerful offense.”
Editors comment: Listen to Jason Witten’s full interview with media for more details about the Dallas Cowboys plans during the bye-week. Same advice applies to any video posted here, including the one below. Enjoy!
Dallas Cowboys play caller Bill Callahan – 3rd down issues; consistency (4:28)
Bill Callahan spoke to the media about the teams offensive struggles as the Dallas Cowboys prepare to head out on their bye week. (Watch Video | Play Audio)
BOYS BYE WEEK BUZZ: Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett doesn’t plan on return to calling plays
IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was emphatic this morning when asked if he could return to calling the team’s offense if he so chose.
“Absolutely,” he responded.
Despite that, Garrett echoed Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones’ message from earlier in the day that, struggles aside, the team isn’t considering a change of play caller.
“That’s not something we’re really talking about,” he said. “I just think the biggest thing we have to do is evaluate what we have done in all three phases and what’s been good, what hasn’t been good, build and emphasize the things that have been good and correct the other stuff.”
The question was bound to be asked after the Cowboys tallied just 193 yards of offense in Sunday night’s loss to the Saints. With offensive coordinator Bill Callahan serving as the unit’s play caller this season, the Cowboys are No. 19 in the NFL in yards per game.
“We don’t want to overanalyze and overreact to certain situations. We’ve done some good things on offense and we like the structure that we have in place,” he said. “We have to, as a coaching staff, simply do a better job – that’s everybody.”
Since exploding for 522 total yards in the Oct. 6 loss to Denver, the Cowboys have cracked 350 yards just twice in five games and have failed to reach 300 yards in the other three.
Jones said that the team’s struggles, both offensively and defensively, didn’t call for any major changes during the bye week.
“We’re 5-5, we’re tied for the lead in our division. We’ve got players coming back,” Jones said. “We’ve got one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League. We’re off a rough loss. That doesn’t call for major changes out here at all.”
Garrett said as much himself, although he faced more than one question about reclaiming play calling duties. With the league’s No. 4 scoring offense and No. 1 turnover differential, he said the offense needs to focus simply on execution.
“We just need to play better on offense,” he said. “The thing you got to remember is we’re among the better scoring teams in the league right now and that’s been a positive thing for our team.”
With Garrett calling plays from 2007 until 2012, the Cowboys’ offense never finished worse than No. 13 in the league, and it finished among the NFL’s 10 best offenses in four of six seasons.
He added that it’s on every member of the offensive coaching staff, from the top down, to improve whatever ails their production – particularly with a week off to closer evaluate the issues.
“Everyone’s a part of that – I’m a part of that, Coach Callahan is a part of that, every coach on the offensive staff, every player,” he said. “We just have to do a better job. We’re going to look at what we’re doing and try to do it better.”
Jason Garrett press conference: Preparing for the bye week (20:53)
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media as his team prepares to head into it’s bye week (Watch Video | Play Audio)
- Was Sunday’s game out of character or a schematic problem
- Thoughts on young players confidence levels after the Saints defeat
- Jeff Heath bounce back and confidence playing for J.J. Wilcox; Special Teams
- Other than injury recovery, what else can be done during the bye week
- After evaluation of first ten games, should he be involved more in play calling
- Offense struggle since Denver game, why he’s not taking over playcalling
- How much new emphasis is being put on getting Dez Bryant the football more
- Is he satisfied with the number of targets Dez Bryant is getting
- When going into the bye in such a shocking way, are major changes necessary
- Decision to go into more man-coverage for the remaining games
- Can players loose belief in coaches and system when it’s been this bad
- Did the defense unravel when Sean Lee went out; impact on team; his takeaways
- Who will be playing middle linebacker until Sean Lee can return
- Are drastic scheme changes needed to give team chance to win
- Other than takeaways, what has the defense done well
- Which key players are due back in time for road game with New York Giants
- DeMarcus Ware tweaking injury
- Impact of missing Miles Austin during significant number of games; mismatch
- How having Miles Austin the mix helps Dez Bryant and Jason Witten
- Team in position going into last six games to accomplish what they want
- Thoughts on leaving Romo (and other starters) in for last few minutes of Saints game
- Concerns about the mental health of the team after close losses and Saints blowout
- What lead to the final decision to let Romo and others starters finish game
- Assessment of Tony Romo’s first five games compared to last five games
- Is Tony Romo being too careful regarding deep balls and avoiding turnovers
- Defining why Tony Romo’s completion percentage has declined
- Sports Illustrated report that Sam Hurd distributed marijuana to 20-25 players
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GOOD BACK .. BAD BACK: DeMarcus Ware back on attack … Dez Bryant attacked by his back
IRVING, Texas – Dez Bryant is once again working through a back issue, but it didn’t keep him out of todays morning practice.
Bryant was present for the second practice of the week, and he appeared to move well in the early portion of the day’s work. It remains to be seen how involved he will be in the full day’s worth of work, but Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he doesn’t expect the injury to have a significant effect.
“His back was bothering him (Wednesday), we didn’t think he could practice so we didn’t practice him,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett at his Thursday morning press conference. “It’s a health issue that we don’t think is a long-term deal at all. Hopefully he’ll practice today and be ready to go on Sunday.”
Back problems affected Bryant during the 2012 season finale against Washington, and he has dealt with similar problems at times through the first nine weeks of this season.
“It’s bothered him a little bit off and on – I don’t know if it’s the exact same thing, but we don’t think it’s a significant deal.”
IRVING, Texas – There’s not going to be a dramatic game time decision this week –DeMarcus Ware is playing Sunday in New Orleans.
If Ware’s participation in the Dallas Cowboys Wednesday and Thursday practices wasn’t indication enough, the All-Pro defensive end said so himself outside the Dallas locker room.
It’s been roughly a month since Ware left Dallas’ Oct. 13 win against Washington early with a quad injury. His absence – three games’ worth – has to feel like an eternity for a player who had never missed a game prior to this season.
“You get frustrated, but you’ve got to find some type of positive note,” Ware said. “For me, watching the game from the sideline was a little bit different. I see how guys attack us and how they attack me in certain situations, and it’ll make me better coming in this week.”
The parallels to the Cowboys’ last trip to New Orleans couldn’t be more obvious. Four years ago, the Cowboys limped into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with an 8-5 record, having lost two straight, to play an undefeated Saints squad.
To make matters worse, Ware had suffered what appeared to be a devastating injury in San Diego just a week prior. Ware wasn’t just doubtful for the tilt against Drew Brees and Co. – he was doubtful, period.
“I didn’t think I was going to play for a long time, until – sometimes, when you go in certain places, you get certain vibes or you feel a certain way that you can do it,” he said. “And I think you get confidence from your teammates to get out there and play. That’s the way I felt – not letting them down.”
Of course, Ware didn’t just wind up playing – he starred. He sacked Brees twice, pressured him three times and forced two fumbles, the second of which ended New Orleans’ hope of a comeback. The Cowboys used the win to catapult to a 11-5 record and their most recent playoff appearance.
“I think how monumental that game was – it was a big game for us. It was like one of those turn-around-season games,” Ware said. “It was one of those type of things where it was like ‘OK, it’s a blessing to be out here again, from what I went through.”
Brees certainly hasn’t forgotten, and it’s not just the 2009 game, either. In four career meetings against the Saints, Ware has notched 10 tackles, four sacks, one tackle for loss, four quarterback hits and the aforementioned two forced fumbles.
Those aren’t the type of numbers the opposing quarterback is likely to forget.
“He’s a stud – he’s such a stud,” Brees said. “He’s a guy you’ve got to have a plan for at all times – where is he, how do you protect him, how are you taking care of him and all that stuff. You know the leadership he brings, you know the productivity he brings, and he’s just a game changer. You’ve just got to be ready for him.”
The ideal scenario is a return to typical form, but it remains to be seen how effective Ware can be when he does return. His worst outing against the Saints came in last season’s overtime loss, when he was hampered by injuries.
Ware knows he has some catching up to do once he does return. He recorded all four of his sacks this season in just two of his six appearances, and problems with stingers bothered him in those outings.
The result is that he’s tied for just 37th in the league in sacks – a good bit off the league pace of 11.5 set by Indianapolis’ Robert Mathis, and the NFC lead of 10 by St. Louis’ Robert Quinn.
“You know I’m behind, so I guess I’ve got to hop on the saddle and start riding a little bit,” Ware said.
Of course, now that Ware has rounded into shape, it’s starting defensive tackles Jason Hatcher and Nick Hayden on the injury report. Hatcher has missed both practices this week with stinger issues of his own, while Hayden is battling rib issues.
With the issues they’ve already overcome, though, Ware said he’s got confidence in whoever lines up on what has now become a famous group of non-famous people (Marinelli’s Misfits).
“You know what? It’s the no-name defensive line,” Ware said with a smile. “We’ve got guys coming in that can play, and we have confidence in those guys to play. Hatcher and Nick will get out there and play and do the best that they can.”
TEXAS-2 DEFENSIVE GAME BALL: Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick continues to shine in 2013
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick had arguably the best game of his career Sunday against the Vikings. Five tackles, four pass deflections and an interception. Most importantly, he made plays on an astonishing nine of ten opportunities in the game.
He was given a defensive game ball by the Cowboys. He also graded as the second-best cornerback in NFL for his play this week by Pro Football Focus.
“He played really well,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Probably his best game. He got the defensive game ball. He showed up in a lot of different ways. There are a lot of different ways that we evaluate and grade our players. One of them on defense with the defensive backs is there were 10 chances that went his way and he won nine of them. He had three pass breakups, an interception, a critical tackle at the end of the ballgame. He was very active throughout the game.”
It was the continuation of what has been a strong season by Scandrick who has been one of the team’s most consistent defensive performers along with linebacker Sean Lee, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and cornerback Brandon Carr.
Scandrick attributes his strong play to being named a full-time starter for the first time in his career. The six-year veteran replaced a struggling Morris Claiborne in Week 2 and has not looked back.
Scandrick said there is a certain freedom in your play when you don’t have to look over your shoulder every time you make a mistake. Starting has only boosted his already sky-high confidence and allowing him to play loose and focus only on making plays.
COWBOYS VS. VIKINGS GAME TAPE: Jason Garrett press conference | Gameday film study
Jason Garrett press conference: Game breakdown after game film review (15:42)
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media after having a chance to review the tape of Sunday’s Cowboys vs. Vikings game (Watch Video | Play Audio)
- Overall impression of offensive level of efficiency
- Lack of offensive balance with running game
- What they saw defensively that dictated weather to run or not
- Persistence and patients with running game
- Factors that go into analyzing run statistics
- Team commitment and roles to effectively running the football
- Decisions to put Dunbar and Randle in game at times; Murray sidelines
- Success with Romo’s play-action passing technique
- Bruce Carters improvement recently; promotion back to starter
- Ronald Leary’s production through first 9 games as starter
- Mackenzy Bernadeau grade after replacing Brian Waters at right guard
- Decision for DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin to play before bye or after
- Doug Free blocking grade on weak side vs. Vikings
- Scandrick’s evaluation and grade; specifically why he got a game ball
- Brandon Carr’s grade out after game film review
- Decisions on Vikings gameplan – predetermined to throw or pass more
- Control Tony Romo has to change from run to pass or vice versa
- How is vertical passing game affected by commitment to running game
- Running the ball gives favorable opportunities to throw the ball down the field
- Grind of job as a head coach (John Fox and Gary Kubiak) regarding health concerns
- Weather it’s easier to find balance in game plans or balance in life as a coach
- Philosophy on beating team with winning record and making a statement
- Jarius Wynn become more than ‘next man up’ player with Marinelli’s Misfits
- Credit to Rod Marinelli and Leon Lett for getting linemen ready for gameday
- Marvin Austin back injury
- Third-and-one assessment from Vikings vs. Cowboys film review grades
PRIDE OF THE TEXAS-2: Once again, Marinelli’s Misfits step up to save the day
ARLINGTON, Texas – Worked out on Monday, signed on Tuesday, practiced on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday … so naturally Everette Brown had a big sack and forced fumble in the final seconds of Sunday’s win over the Vikings.
Now, Brown didn’t get a turnover, but the play was still a big play to help prevent Minnesota from driving deep in Dallas territory.
Brown, who said his focus was starting up a new Smoothie shop with his fiancée in Charlotte before the Cowboys called him last week, is the latest of several defensive linemen who have rolled through the organization this year.
In fact, if you’re scoring at home, Brown is the 16th defensive linemen to play a snap for the Dallas Cowboys this season. That doesn’t include Jay Ratliff, Tyrone Crawford, Ben Bass and Sean Lissemore, who once figured into the rotational plans for this D-line.
“Every week, it’s a new guy,” said Jason Hatcher, who has been the most consistent and the best lineman so far this year. “But I think they’re coming in and doing a great job of contributing right away. I give them credit and Rod (Marinelli) for getting them ready. They were big again today.”
One of the biggest plays of the game occurred from a trio of defensive linemen who might not have been in the NFL at all had it not been for the Cowboys giving them a shot.
Nick Hayden scored his first career touchdown by falling on a loose fumble in the end zone. George Selvie stripped the ball right before Jarius Wynn blasted Christian Ponder.
“I got him pretty good … it felt good, too,” Wynn said. “But it’s nice to come in here and help this team any way I can. I feel more comfortable now.”
Speaking of comfortable, Hayden looked right at home in the end zone after his first touchdown since his high school days.
Afterward, Hayden displayed what appeared to be a rather rehearsed dance.
“It was me rocking out,” Hayden said. “I just played the air-guitar and then smashed it at the end. It’s something we had talked about before for a sack dance. But I just used it today with my touchdown. I’ve got some other (dances), too, if I ever need them.”
While Hayden is far from the new guy anymore, he was also one of the players back in training camp just trying to revive his career.
“This group … we’re relentless,” Hayden said. “We’ve got new guys coming in each week, but they’ve been stepping up for us. It’s been great. We just try to learn from Coach Marinelli. He’s done a great job with us. We just keep playing for him.”
|George Selvie end zone strip and Nick Hayden recovery for TD replay||Locker room comments from Marinelli’s Misfits and Sean Lee|
|Watch Video | No Audio||Watch Video | Play Audio|
CALLAHANDOFF QUESTION: Why does the Dallas Cowboys stop trying to run before you can even establish a run game?
Why do the Dallas Cowboys abandon the run? DeMarco Murray looks healthy, and he got 4 carries in the game. They stopped trying to run before they could even establish a run game.
Nick: Did they abandon the run or could they simply not run the ball and so they scrapped it? I think it’s somewhere in the middle. This team hasn’t been able to run it effectively for about two years. I think Brian Waters’ injury was bigger than we thought it’d be. All of a sudden Doug Free looked bad? I think Waters has helped him just by being in the lineup. But yes, there are times the Cowboys don’t run it enough. I think this was one of these games.
Rowan: I was all for spreading it out and tossing the ball around, but I’ll admit nine runs in a game that was this tight throughout is kind of shocking. More than that, the backs never really had a chance to get going as they took a whole lot of delayed runs in shotgun and were met in the backfield. The backs actually had some success with four runs for 25 yards in the first quarter. Then, we never really saw them again.
David: I don’t mind that the Cowboys don’t commit to the run in a strict sense. But I do mind that they talk often about balance and controlling the game, and then they throw 51 times compared to nine total runs. Either accept that you can’t or don’t want to run, or actually make the effort to run. Murray was averaging eight yards per carry, but he disappeared.
COWBOYS VS. VIKINGS GUT-CHECK REVIEW: Dallas offense finds a way to win game 9 in closing minutes
ARLINGTON, Texas – Dallas Cowboys beatwriters share their initial feelings following the Dallas Cowboys 27-23 win over the Vikings.
The coaches and the players on this team are never going to minimize their own success – regardless of record, they got a win against an NFL team. I don’t have the same obligation, however, so it’s fine for me to look into the future and say Dallas absolutely could not have afforded to lose this game. It might have been a season-sinker. With the NFC South leader, two tough NFC North teams and three divisional rivalries still to play, the Cowboys would have been up the creek with no paddle had they lost to this less-than-stellar Vikings team. It wasn’t pretty, and it doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, but now the Cowboys are at least guaranteed to be .500 or better when they get to their much-needed bye week.
Not exactly the easy win anyone predicted. As mediocre as this team’s been, it was still somewhat stunning to see the Cowboys trailing by three points with a minute left. The entire soap opera had played out, with Dez Bryant drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Adrian Peterson wearing down the defense and Tony Romo throwing a late pick, but Romo silenced many with his game-winning, 90-yard drive. I thought the offense should have opened it up, but I didn’t expect them to run just nine times in such a close game. I predicted a big day and a score for Jason Witten, who went for more than 100 yards and a touchdown, but I didn’t predict Terrance Williams’ streak ending. The Cowboys offense continued its inconsistency before finally showing up late. If they wait that long to get going next week against a Saints team coming off a loss, it’ll be too late.
Man, I was doing well with my first two and then tanked. Jason Witten did a have a big game and Terrance Williams didn’t score, but yikes, this was far from a blowout win. And out-rushing the Vikings? That was a horrible prediction. I had this feeling the Cowboys would take an early lead and get to run the ball while the Vikings were forced to pass. Nope. And Brandon Carr didn’t have a pick, but Orlando Scandrick got a big interception. He certainly played a great game, one of the best I can remember from him. Overall, no one really played great for the Cowboys. They had some guys step up, especially at the end. But this team looked like it was sleepwalking for too long. However, the Cowboys had a beautiful loss to Denver and no one cared. So they’ll take whatever this kind of win was against the Vikings.
Jason Garrett likes to talk about players learning from experience. Today was that type of day for Tyron Smith against Jared Allen. I said earlier, that Smith was drafted by the Cowboys to block rushers like Jared Allen. When you face a player like Allen, you have to be ready for all his moves. This guy is not a one trick pony and I felt like that there were times where Allen put him on the edge, but Smith was able to hang in there and make things work. In the 2nd half, I thought Smith was at his best and when the Vikings really needed a pressure, it wasn’t coming from Allen. The final numbers will say that Allen had one tackle with no sacks, so that tells you a lot about the day that Tyron Smith had.
Editors note: This article relates to the pregame predictions made by the Dallas Cowboys writers on Friday
2013-2014 GAMEDAY WRAP-UP: Video recap after 2013 Dallas Cowboys defeat of the Minnesota Vikings in Game 9
Pregame Quick Snap: Minnesota Vikings vs. Dallas Cowboys
Follow the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys during their week of preparation before taking on the Vikings at AT&T Stadium. (Watch Video | Play Audio)
First Take of the 2013-2014 Cowboys vs. Vikings from AT&T Stadium
Dallas Cowboys writers give you their first impressions of the Dallas Cowboys win over the Minnesota Vikings in Game 9 of the NFL 2013-2014 season. (Watch Video | Play Audio)
Minnesota Vikings vs. Dallas Cowboys Highlights
Adrian Peterson racks up a solid 140 yards on the ground but it’s not enough as the Dallas Cowboys defeat the Minnesota Vikings 27-23 in Week 9 of NFL action (Watch Video | No Audio)
Jason Garrett Postgame Press Conference
Head coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media following the Dallas Cowboys win against Minnesota Vikings at AT&T Stadium. (Watch Video | Play Audio)
Tony Romo Postgame Press Conference
Quarterback Tony Romo speaks to the media following the Dallas Cowboys win against Minnesota Vikings at AT&T Stadium. (Watch Video | Play Audio)
EDGE OF YOUR SEAT WIN: Dallas Cowboys come back to beat Vikings, 27-23
This was supposed to be an easy one. The 4-4 Cowboys against the lowly 1-6 Vikings? At home? Favorites across the board? Bring on the Saints.
In a game that wasn’t always pretty – face it, downright ugly – the Cowboys sent 85,360 fans home perhaps more relieved than happy with a 27-23 triumph over the Vikings. The Dallas Cowboys offense struggled to find any kind of consistency, but came up big when they needed to, as Tony Romo led the team on a game-winning drive, reaching the end zone with only 35 seconds left.
Despite the Cowboys running game totaling only 36 yards, the offense still finished the day with 350 total yards, thanks to Romo dinks and his 34-of-51 passing for 337 yards and two touchdowns. His main connection was tight end Jason Witten, who hauled in eight passes for 102 yards and a score, while Cole Beasley and Dez Bryant each caught six attempts for 68 and 64 yards, respectively.
Defensively, well, Adrian Peterson did what Adrian Peterson does, racking up 140 yards on 25 carries with another 37 yards on three catches. But overall, Dallas kept the Vikings aerial attack in check, quarterback Christian Ponder completing 25-of-37 passes for just 236 yards.
The first quarter was largely uneventful, as the two teams traded field goals, Dan Bailey kicking a 41-yarder for Dallas and Blair Walsh splitting the uprights from 23 yards to even the score 3-3.
Still, Dallas seemed to be building a little momentum in the second frame. Things got going with Minnesota on the move, the Vikings set up with great field position on the Cowboys’ 37-yard line after a 26-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels. But the visitors elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Dallas 16-yard line, only to have Peterson stuffed for no gain.
The Cowboys then marched right back down the field on a 12-play, 58-yard drive that ate up 6:56 of the clock, the series eventually resulting in a 44-yard field goal by Bailey and a 6-3 lead.
But that momentum was temporarily lost before the half could end. Starting at their own 21-yard line, the Vikings mixed in a dose of runs and passes before Ponder scrambled in from the 6-yard line to give Minnesota the advantage at the break, 10-6.
Temporarily, however, was the key word. When the second half got underway the Cowboys immediately grabbed back said momentum in a big way. Taking first possession of the third quarter, Romo threw passes to Beasley for 11 yards, a short one to Terrance Williams for 4 and then back-to-back 26-yard strikes to Witten, the latter seeing the tight end rumble into the end zone of the score to take the lead, 13-10.
That was then followed on the ensuing kickoff by Vikings return man Cordarrelle Patterson muffing the ball out of bounds at the Minnesota 5-yard line. On the very next snap, Ponder dropped back to pass and was stripped of the ball by defensive end George Selvie with teammate Nick Hayden then pouncing on the fumble for the score. Dallas suddenly had a 20-10 lead less than four minutes into the second half.
But things never seem easy for the Cowboys. After seemingly having things well in hand, the defense couldn’t keep the Vikings from coming right back with a 77-yard drive of their own. This time Minnesota did their damage in the air, as Ponder completed passes of 27 and 12 yards during the series before finding tight end Kyle Rudolph down the right seam for a 31-yard touchdown, narrowing the score to 20-17.
The Cowboys had their chances to expand the lead, first when the team drove into enemy territory, reaching the Minnesota 34-yard line. But on third-and-15, Bryant was called for offensive pass interference. What made matters worse, though, was he pulled off his helmet to argue the call, an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. With the loss of 15 yards, any hopes for a lengthy field goal by Bailey were quashed.
Then, as the clock ticked over into the fourth quarter, the Dallas defense produced its second turnover of the game when Orlando Scandrick intercepted a deep attempt by Ponder down the left sideline. But set up at their own 47-yard line, Dallas managed to reach the Vikings 38 before another offensive pass interference call, this time on Witten, pushed them back to the 46. Once again, they were forced to punt.
This time, the Vikings’ workhorse took momentum into his own hands. Peterson first broke loose on a 52-yard scramble down the right sideline, then after Minnesota moved down to the Dallas 11, the future Hall of Fame running back kept churning, carrying a whole pack of Cowboys defenders – who seemed more intent on stripping the ball, than actually getting the man on the ground – into the end zone. Walsh somehow missed the extra point, but Minnesota had the lead, 23-20 with just over five minutes left in the game.
The Vikings then had a chance to salt the game away themselves when cornerback A.J. Jefferson stepped in front of a pass intended for Williams and tiptoed the sidelines for an interception at the Dallas 41. Thankfully, the Cowboys defense stood strong forcing a three-and-out, the offense taking over at its own 10-yard line after the punt with 2:44 remaining on the clock.
That was plenty of time for Romo, who hit Witten for 11 yards, Dwayne Harris for 6, and Beasley for 18. Then on second-and-10 at the Dallas 45, the quarterback found Bryant streaking across the middle, the wideout turning upfield for a big 34-yard gain to the Minnesota 21.
Three plays later, Romo stepped up in the pocket and darted one into Harris who lunged across the goal line for the game-winning score, 27-23.
With the victory, the Cowboys pushed their record back above .500 for the season, and assured their NFC East counterparts could gain no ground in the division race. They’ll now travel to New Orleans to face Drew Brees and the Saints in primetime next Sunday night.
2013 COWBOYS GAME 9 RECAP: Dallas Cowboys offense does just enough to avoid embarrassing loss against Minnesota Vikings
IRVING — The Dallas Cowboys did what they needed to do today, they beat a bad team.
The Cowboys weren’t very impressive but they got the job done, improving to 5-4 with a 27-23 victory at AT&T Stadium.
Here are five thoughts on today’s game.
1.) Not many folks probably left the stadium feeling like they got their money’s worth. The Cowboys played to the level of the one-win Minnesota Vikings and barely pulled it out. Every week it becomes more apparent that this is nothing better than a .500 team. Enjoy the victory. But expect nothing more than a “win one- lose one” product the rest of the way.
2.) Dez Bryant was showing his passion again. This time it cost the Cowboys 15 yards. Bryant was called for offensive pass interference in the third quarter and then took off his helmet to argue with an official. Bryant was booed after dropping his second pass of the game a few minutes after he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. He’s the team’s best playmaker, so you have to take the good with the bad. Bryant made a key play later in the game.
3.) So that’s why the Detroit Lions doubled Jason Witten so often last Sunday. The Pro Bowl tight end was the Cowboys’ best player against the Vikings. Witten caught eight passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. He dropped a pass early but Witten remained Romo’s favorite target. When he didn’t get the ball, Witten was still making an impact by attracting double teams, which is exactly what led to Dwayne Harris’ game-winning score. The 31-year-old won’t wow you with his athleticism but he’s still as consistent as they come.
4.) Dallas rushed nine times for 36 yards.
5.) The defensive meetings this week will be about missed tackles. Jeff Heath, Barry Church and Ernie Sims all were abused multiple times. The offensive meetings will emphasis dropped passes. Dallas receivers dropped eight, which included Witten, Bryant and Terrance Williams.
UGLY, BUT IT’S A WIN: Dallas Cowboys offense struggles until fading moments against lowly Vikings
ARLINGTON, Texas — A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys’ 27-23 win against the Minnesota Vikings:
What it means for the Cowboys: They didn’t make it look easy, going down to the final minute before dropping the one-win Vikings.
Tony Romo’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris won the game with 35 seconds to go and kept the Cowboys in first place in the NFC East with a 5-4 record. They also continued a trend of beating teams .500 or worse under Jason Garrett. The Cowboys are now 17-1 since 2011 against the bad teams.
The win was the Cowboys’ fourth at AT&T Stadium, matching their home win total from a year ago.
It was an ugly win, but Garrett will undoubtedly say winning in the NFL is a hard thing to do. It’s even harder when you let bad teams stick around.
Stock watch: After an ugly :58 minutes, and with the game on the line, Romo responded with a game-winning drive after throwing what could have been a crippling interception. Romo completed 7 of 9 passes on the 90-yard drive.
Forget the ground game: The return of DeMarco Murray was supposed to bring some sort of renewed emphasis of the running game, but it never happened.
The Cowboys chose to attack through the air against the 29th-ranked defense, but it’s not as if Minnesota has a great run defense. In the second quarter, the Cowboys got to the Vikings’ 12 and did not even give a pretense of running the ball with back-to-back plays out of an empty set and a three-wide receiver formation. The result was a drop and two sacks, forcing the Cowboys to settle for a Dan Bailey field goal.
Murray, who was playing after a two-game absence with a knee injury, finished with four carries for 31 yards and the Dallas Cowboys had just nine carries for the game.
Seeing stars: Last week the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t stop Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who had 329 yards. This week it was Adrian Peterson.
It wasn’t a historic day for Peterson, but he had some vintage moments when it mattered most on his way to 140 yards rushing. He busted free for a 52-yard run at the Minnesota 28 and then scored the go-ahead touchdown with 5:40 to play when he ran through safety Jeff Heath and linebacker Justin Durant for an 11-yard score on fourth-and-1.
What’s next: The Dallas Cowboys travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints next week. This was a game New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has had circled since he joined the Saints after he was dismissed as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator last January. The Cowboys have lost seven of their eight games to the Saints. Their only victory came at the Superdome in 2009, 24-17, when New Orleans was undefeated.
INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings | DeMarco Murray back in lineup
ARLINGTON – DeMarco Murray will be active today against the Vikings after missing each of the Dallas Cowboys’ previous two games with a sprained knee.
DeMarcus Ware, on the other hand, highlights the inactives list, which also includes wide receiver Miles Austin, cornerback Morris Claiborne, safety J.J. Wilcox, linebacker DeVonte Holloman, tackle Darrion Weems and tight end Andre Smith.
Wilcox (knee), Holloman (neck) and Claiborne (hamstring) were all ruled out after Friday’s practice. Ware (thigh) and Austin (hamstring) were both listed as doubtful. Along with Murray, Ware’s also missed each of the last two weeks after getting injured against the Redskins, and he’ll now miss his third straight game.
Austin has been given rest and sat out last week after trying to give his sore hamstring a try against the Eagles on Oct. 20.
All the Cowboys players who were probable entering the weekend will be active, including Jason Hatcher (neck), George Selvie (shoulder) and Barry Church (hamstring).
Guard Brian Waters was also ruled out after Friday’s practice with a triceps injury, which has since moved him to injured reserve. Defensive back Micah Pellerin took Waters’ spot on the 53-man roster and will be active.
WORLDWIDE EXCLUSIVE: The Great Robbini’s predictions for Game #9 | 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings
Regular readers know that The Boys Are Back website features the ALMOST WORLD FAMOUS predictions from The GREAT Robbini. Last week, our “exalted one” predicted a big win … and was almost correct!
This week, The GREAT Robbini expects a heavy dose of Marinelli Misfits setting the pace defensively and Tony Romo to repeatedly fire that cannon through the Vikings hull!
Recently, the GREAT ONE was distracted by a house full of little women hopped up on Halloween candy. Finally, the dust (and wrappers) has settled, and the GREAT Robbini is the only one left in the house wearing a costume. Tonight, he was able to sit down and put a seriously powerful rub on his magic ball. I’m told it was so vigorous, that his ball actually emitted purple.
Clearly, he’s psyched about the Dallas Cowboys – Minnesota Vikings vibe… and ready to share his prognostications that we all count on from week-to-week. Without further delay, it’s time for The GREAT Robbini’s predictions …
The GREAT Robbini’s – 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys game #9 predictions:
Above .500 yet again
The Dallas Cowboys offense continue with the overall improved play of last week, as far as points on the board. The nagging issue was capitalizing on their chances given by the defense. This will improve somewhat against a hungry, but overwhelmed Vikings defense. Mark this one in the W column, and take it for what it is. Wins may not be so easy to come by in this months slate of games.
Predictions for the Texas 2 Defense …
- 3 takeaways
- 4 sacks
- 1 sack Jason Hatcher
- 1 sack Jarius Wynn
- 2 sacks George Selvie
- Sean Lee/Bruce Carter lead tackles
- Jason Hatcher fumble recovery
- Brandon Carr secures a takeaway
- Dallas Cowboys injure Vikings player
- Adrian Peterson out at least one drive
Predictions for the offense …
- Tony Romo 330 yards, 4 TDs
- Dez Bryant 100 yards, TD
- Jason Witten 65 yards, TD
- Terrance Williams 110 yards, TD
- Cole Beasley 45 yards
- DeMarco Murray TD
- Rushing committee 110 yards
- Cowboys receive second half kick
The GREAT Robbini
Remember, you read it here! The Great Robbini predictions for game #9. Leave your final score or predictions in the comment section.
Stats and predictions to be confirmed by:
THE PLOT THICKENS: Ex-Cowboy Jay Ratliff agrees to deal with Chicago Bears; Could face Dallas in December
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys didn’t think Jay Ratliff would be able to play with them this year. Now, they’re scheduled to play against him.
Just two weeks after Ratliff was released from the Cowboys for a failed physical, the defensive tackle agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Bears, who are set to play the Cowboys on Monday night on Dec. 9 in Chicago.
The latest news continues an ongoing saga between the Cowboys and Ratliff, who hasn’t played in a game since Nov. 18, 2012. Despite multiple off-field incidents, the Cowboys cited his lingering health issues as primary reasons for the release.
Ratliff underwent sports hernia surgery in December and came back to run in the team’s conditioning test at the start of training camp, where he hurt his hamstring. He never again got on the field for the Cowboys and was put on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
After his release, Ratliff’s agent, Mark Slough, said the injury was much more serious than a sports hernia and claimed Ratliff actually had muscle ripped off from the pelvic bone. He said that Ratliff still had a desire to play, but that the plan would be for a 2014 return. At the time, there was no expectation Ratliff would be ready to play this quickly.
Ratliff is still maybe two to four weeks away from being able to play. The Bears, however, have a huge need at defensive tackle after losing Henry Melton and Nate Collins.
Ratliff visited the Bears, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins this week. The Cincinnati Bengals also made inquiries after a season-ending injury to Geno Atkins.
The Bears made the most sense for Ratliff of the teams he visited, as he should have a chance start when healthy. In Kansas City or Miami, he likely would have been a rotational player.
“Those people that ever questioned his loyalty, maybe questioned his desire to play, integrity – all those things – those questions were misplaced,” Slough said. “But again, I think a lot of that came from the fact that no one really understood the severity of the injury that Jay had suffered. As a result, there were unrealistic expectations for his return being bantered about publicly.”
The Cowboys and owner/general manager tried to stay as mum as possible after Ratliff was medically cleared to play this season, citing legal reasons. It’s possible the Cowboys try to get some of the money back on Ratliff’s contract extension he signed in 2011.
“I don’t want to comment because of the legal aspect of it, and I had said earlier that I was going to focus on good things – the contribution that he made here, and this team needed him real bad,” Jones said Oct. 24. “It was disappointing that he’s not playing, disappointing that the resources involved aren’t going to guys out here making plays.”
Ratliff has some familiarity with staff members on the Bears. Running backs coach Skip Peete and special teams coach/assistant head coach Joe DeCamillis were with the Cowboys last year. Former Cowboy Martellus Bennett is also on the Bears’ roster.
Ratliff was thought to be an ideal fit in the middle of the Dallas Cowboys’ new 4-3 defense. The Bears evidently hope the same in their scheme.
The Bears sit just outside of the playoff race and are trying to stay in contention while they wait for the return of injured quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs.
A healthy Ratliff is a step toward saving the Bears’ playoff hopes if they can stay afloat with backup quarterback Josh McCown and a patchwork defensive.