Dave Campo is the first casualty of the Cowboys struggling secondary.
He won’t be the last.
The Cowboys have informed their long-time assistant that the club will allow his contract to expire and he won’t return next season. Campo, who first joined the club during the 1989 season as part of Jimmy Johnson’s staff and was the team’s head coach from 2000-02, has declined to comment.
Head coach Jason Garrett considered making a change last season when he put together his staff. But Campo survived when Pittsburgh’s Ray Horton, who interviewed with the Cowboys, wound up taking a job in Arizona.
The secondary was an Achilles Heel for the Cowboys defense this past season. The group ranked No. 23 in the league, allowing an average of 244.1 yards a game. Opponents completed 61.7 percent of their passes against the secondary with 24 touchdown passes. Three of those came in the final game of the regular season when the Cowboys missed a chance to make the playoffs by losing to the New York Giants.
Brett Maxie worked with Campo in overseeing the secondary. His contract also expired but he is expected to be retained. The same will not be said of personnel.
Starting safety Abe Elam and backup cornerbacks Alan Ball and Frank Walker are unrestricted free agents. The club’s decision to sign Gerald Sensabaugh, the team’s other starting safety, to an extension shows where Elam ranks on the priority list.
The club will also discuss whether it’s time to part ways with Terence Newman. The cornerback is scheduled to count just over $8 million on the salary cap in 2012, but the club can cut that financial obligation in half if it releases the 33-year-old veteran.
LAST HURRAH: Do or die for some Dallas Cowboys, possibly Spencer, Martellus Bennett, Bradie James and Terence Newman
Sunday’s winner take all match up against the Giants has been billed as a do or die game for Cowboys.
A win puts them in the playoffs. A loss ends their season.
What’s also true is that the game could possibly be the last one in a Cowboys uniform for a number of players.
That includes 20 Cowboys who are in the final year of their contracts, including linebacker Bradie James, safety Abe Elam and tight end Martellus Bennett.
The case could be the same for a few others like Terence Newman, who is signed through 2014 but could be salary cap casualty because age, injury and declining production.
Bradie James has seen the writing on the wall since the beginning of the season when his role was diminished because of the emergence of Sean Lee. James ranks eighth in tackles with 51, ending a club record streak of leading the team in tackles the last six years.
The nine-year veteran would like to continue his career with the Cowboys but he knows nothing is guaranteed. He acknowledges that a loss on Sunday could possibly usher in wholesale changes to more than just the players who are no under contract for next season.
"It could all just change around," James said. "That is just the reality of it."
Anthony Spencer, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent, is of the same mindset after what has been a disappointing season for him. The Cowboys have not engaged in talks of a contracts with the former 2006 first round pick.
"It could be that," said Spencer was asked if this could be his last game with the Cowboys. "Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. So I’m not worried about it. I’m just trying to get through the season."
Spencer and the Cowboys had huge expectations come into the season that he would thrive under new coordinator Rob Ryan and provide legitimate pass rushing threat opposite Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware. But after getting three sacks in the first thee games, he has just three over the last 12. His six sacks on the season are a huge disappointment for him and certainly weren’t enough to prompt the Cowboys into signing him to a long-term contract extension.
"I started fast," Spencer said. " I had high hopes for more sacks. It didn’t end up that way. (Playing more coverage) had something to do with it. You can’t get sacks when you are not rushing. I want to be here. I like it here. But I got to do what’s best for my family."
Other Cowboys whose contracts expire at the end of the season are cornerback Alan Ball, guard Derrick Dockery, fullback Tony Fiammetta, defensive end Clifton Geathers, guard Montrae Holland, receivers Jesse Holley, Laurent Robinson and Kevin Ogletree, quarterback Jon Kitna, guard Daniel Loper, punter Mat McBriar, running back Sammy Morris, tackle Jeremy Parnell, cornerback Frank Walker and running back Chauncey Washington.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware and receiver Laurent Robinson practiced again Friday, so they’re likely to be ready to play Sunday night against the New York Giants. Ware had a neck stinger in last week’s game, and Robinson had a shoulder injury. Both sat out Wednesday’s practice but returned Thursday.
Again missing practice were quarterback Jon Kitna (back), tight end Martellus Bennett (ribs), defensive back Danny McCray (ankle), running back Phillip Tanner (hamstring) and nose tackle Josh Brent (knee).
Safety Abe Elam missed practice to be at his father’s funeral in Florida. He also missed practice, but he is expected to play Sunday.
DeMarcus Ware joins The Fan for his weekly show.
John David Mercer/US Presswire
Led by quarterback Eli Manning, the once-rugged Giants have changed their personality this season.
The New York Giants are supposed to be one of the furniture franchises of the NFL. You know where you stand with them. There’s a reliable consistency to the way they conduct themselves, operate their franchise and play the game. When you think about the Giants, you think about tough defense and gritty offense. You think about running backs grinding out yards — three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust-type stuff that works no matter the era, no matter the windy, cold late-season weather in northern New Jersey.
Which is why it’s a little jarring to see that this Giants team — the one that heads to Dallas on Sunday for a critical NFC East showdown with the Dallas Cowboys — bears so little resemblance to its run-focused forebears. The 2011 Giants are a passing team, plain and simple. And with Eli Manning as their quarterback, they’ve become one of the best passing teams in the league.
"They’re explosive at all of the skill positions," Cowboys safety Abram Elam said in a phone interview this week. "You’ve got a lot of guys to account for, and you always have to be aware that they can beat you with the big play in the passing game."
That sounds like the Patriots, and it sounds like the Saints and the Packers and maybe the Peyton Manning Colts. But it’s still a little bit surprising, given what we thought we always knew about the Giants and their place in the NFL establishment, that such a description could apply to Big Blue. This year’s Giants still wish they could run, and they still open the game trying to run. But there they sit at the very bottom of the stat sheet — 32nd in the league at 3.3 yards per carry and 83.8 rush yards per game. If a team that really considered itself a running team put up numbers like that, it wouldn’t win any games at all.
Fortunately for the Giants, they’ve turned into a high-octane passing offense. They rank fourth in the league in passing yards, behind only the Saints, Patriots and Packers. They have one wide receiver, Victor Cruz, who’s already cracked 1,000 receiving yards and another, Hakeem Nicks, who’s only 140 yards away. Manning is fourth in the league in passing yards and fifth in attempts, and he’s 295 yards away from 4,000 for the season. That would be the fifth 4,000-yard passing season in Giants’ team history. It would also be Manning’s third in a row.
"Everybody last week was talking about Aaron Rodgers being a Super Bowl MVP, and he is a great quarterback and having an unbelievable year, but we have the same thing on our side behind us," Giants left tackle David Diehl said. "At the beginning of the season when he compared himself in the same caliber, he got a lot of heat for that and people said ‘how can he do that?’ But Eli’s having an incredible year."
When the Giants need a play, Manning throws the ball. He has shrugged off the departure of Steve Smith and the injuries to Mario Manningham and helped turn Cruz into a superstar wide receiver on the opposite side of the field from the brilliant Nicks. He found tight end Jake Ballard in key situations on a game-winning drive this season in New England. He hooked up with tight end Travis Beckum for a long touchdown pass last week. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw returned after four missed games because of injury, and Manning started last week’s game with a screen pass to him.
"The way he’s playing, everybody’s going to be looking to him," Nicks said of Manning. "He’s leading our offense. He’s staying confident until the last minute, motivating guys in the huddle, making sure everybody knows when the play could come to them. He’s got that energy and that confidence in himself and in everybody else, and everyone on our offense feeds off of him."
They can resist it all they want, and preach the importance of balance on offense. But it doesn’t look like this year’s Giants, with a banged-up Bradshaw, a faded Brandon Jacobs and all of the offensive line problems they have had (not to mention their injury-riddled defense), can really make good on that.
The Giants are poised to make a run and, in spite of their current four-game losing streak, win the NFC East and get into the playoffs. They have four games left, two against first-place Dallas, and their fate is in their hands. They’ve had a chance to win every game they’ve played this season except the one two weeks ago in New Orleans, and there’s little reason to think they can’t or won’t have chances to win these last four. But when they do get that chance, this season’s Giants are going to do something the Giants of years past weren’t known for doing. They’re going to ask their quarterback to air it out. Because that’s what this year’s Giants do best.
Courtesy: Dan Graziano | ESPN
Safety Abram Elam missed today’s practice to return home to Florida for his father’s funeral services on Friday. Donald Elam Sr. passed away last week and the Cowboys’ starting safetyflew back on Jerry Jones’ private jet to be with his family members.
Elam was able to return back in time to depart with his teammates to Arizona and play against the Cardinals.
This week, Elam will also miss Friday’s practices but should be able to return by Saturday.
“It’s tough right now,” Elam said during the week. “But as a professional, you have to job to do and that’s where my focus is right now. But it’s going to be a tough week.”
This season, Elam is tied for fourth on the defense with 54 tackles and is fifth on the team with four tackles for loss.
Second-year safety Barry Church worked with the first-team defense alongside Gerald Sensabaugh during Thursday’s practice.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Andre Roberts (12) fights for yards after the catch as he stiff arms Dallas Cowboys strong safety Abram Elam (26) during the fourth quarter.
Abe Elam said his father’s funeral has been scheduled for Friday, and he is trying to decide when he will return to Florida. Elam’s father died Thursday.
“It’s been an emotional week for me,” he said. “I’m just blessed to have the support that I have here with the Cowboys family. I’m just looking forward to moving forward through everything.”
Elam had four tackles against the Cardinals.
Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram
Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8) is brought down by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) as Jay Ratliff (90) approaches on Thursday November 24, 2011. A penalty nullified the sack
The Dallas Cowboys collected four sacks against Matt Moore, but none came from the team’s leader in that category. DeMarcus Ware, who came into the game with 14 sacks, appeared to have his 15th early in the fourth quarter, but the play was negated by an illegal contact penalty against Abram Elam.
Victor Butler registered his third sack, tying a season high, and Kenyon Coleman had his first sack in five years. The other sacks came from Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee.
Ware said he also was impressed by the play of Anthony Spencer, who was in the Dolphins backfield all afternoon, finishing with a team-high eight tackles, including three for losses.
“I don’t know he gets back there, but he finds ways to make those tackles and make them third and 5, second and 12,” Ware said. “Those are the plays that we need.”
Photo courtesy: Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett challenged with the task of keeping the ‘boys focused for the next 12 days
IRVING – There is a certain rhythm to the NFL schedule. Teams typically play on Sundays, allowing them plenty of time during the work week to process what happened in the previous game, refocus, and make preparations for their next contest.
But on Sunday, when the Cowboys throttled Buffalo 44-7, they began a stretch in which they play three games in a span of 12 days. This weekend, they will travel to Washington to face the Redskins before returning home for a showdown with Miami on Thanksgiving Day.
If the players and coaches seemed fazed by the challenges presented by their unusually condensed schedule, they didn’t reveal their concerns Monday.
Instead, Cowboys safety Abram Elam said the team is concentrating on its next game and nothing more.
“Really what our focus is on Washington this week and this week will be pretty normal for our players,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett added. “We’ll have a quick turnaround next week getting ready for the Thursday game. But we’ve played in those Thursday games before.
“We feel good about how we prepare for them. But the thing we need to focus on more than anything else is our preparation for Washington.”
While the Dallas Cowboys are definitely hopeful that Sean Lee will be back in action this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, and can function with that wrapped-up left wrist, at least they’re working on some solid contingency plans just in case.
One of which we saw some last week against Buffalo included backup safety Barry Church working into the nickel packages as a linebacker closer to the line of scrimmage.
Barry Church responded with one of his most productive games of his career, with a career-high tying six tackles. Those six tackles also tied for second-most on the squad Sunday and he did so in a limited role.
“He did a really good job,” head coach Jason Garrett said of Church. “He’s a guy that’s always taken advantage of his opportunities shows up in the kicking game, very physical very instinctively and he stuck his nose in there a number of times and he actually caused a holding penalty on an offensive lineman before then, just very instinctively kinda getting away from potential blockers and making some plays on the runners. I thought he did a nice job and took real advantage of that opportunity we gave him.”
Church said taking on 300-pound linemen wasn’t an easy adjustment early in the game.
“It was rough, but towards the end of the game, I was able to use my quickness to get around them,” Church said. “I just had to use my quickness to my advantage. I think I did well overall. I miss a couple of run-fits. Those will come with more experience and more time at that position. Hopefully, I’ll get some more playing time there.”
Barry Church, who made the team last year as an undrafted rookie from Toledo, played mostly on special teams. He began training camp as a starting safety before the team signed Gerald Sensabaugh and Abram Elam. But with both of the Cowboys’ starting safeties signing just one-year deal, it opens the door for guys like Church, especially if they show they can take on additional roles like the one he handled last Sunday.
The Dallas Cowboys entered Sunday’s game ranked seventh in total defense, including first against the run. They left it ranked ninth in total defense, including fourth against the run, not including results from the Monday night game.
The Philadelphia Eagles have given the Cowboys’ future opponents some ideas on how to move the ball against Ryan’s defense. The only problem is: The Seahawks, Bills, Redskins, Dolphins, Cardinals, Giants and Bucs don’t have Michael Vick as their quarterback.
Vick threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 50 yards.
“I think it is a copycat league, so I think teams are always looking at what’s been successful against a particular team,” Garrett said. “But I do think Philly’s talent is unique. The quarterback is a unique player. I think he’s someone who has really demonstrated that he can throw from the pocket, and he obviously can make a ton of plays by moving around and making plays with his feet, not only extending plays but also running and making plays. So he’s someone who always kind of gets your attention. I think because he has a lot of the defense’s attention, it opens up a lot of opportunities for other people – runners and receivers.
“Having said that, certainly people are going to watch this tape and try to do some of the things they did.”
Safety Abe Elam said he expects teams to try to attack the Dallas Cowboys the same way the Philadelphia Eagles did Sunday.
“This is a copy-cat league,” Elam said. “They will try to do the same thing. That’s why we make corrections and improve.”
Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan shouldered the blame for the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. But the Cowboys said Monday they all share responsibility for the 34-7 loss.
“Rob felt the way all of us felt,” Dallas Cowboys safety Abe Elam said. “We didn’t want to lose that game. It was a divisional game, a game we wanted to win. To lose to them the way we did, it was painful. “Everybody in that locker room felt we let each other down. It was a big game we wanted to come away with a victory, and we didn’t.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he wouldn’t have expected Ryan to say anything else after the loss. It was the stand-up thing to do, Garrett said.
“I think one of the things we talk about as an organization is having the right kind of people in your organization, as coaches and players and everybody involved with our football operation,” Garrett said. “When you lose a game, I think there are two ways to go. You can say that it’s somebody else’s fault, or you take responsibility/accountability for what your job is within that ball game. I think we have a lot of guys who want to take responsibility and be accountable for what they did or didn’t do in the game. Rob is certainly one of them. I think we have a number of players who have the same approach, a number of really good players have said the same kind of thing to me today, and I certainly feel that way as a coach. I think everybody on our coaching staff feels that way and I think all of our players feel that way, that we need to do our jobs better to help us not have games like that.”
Philadelphia Eagles 2-4
|PHI 31 @ STL 13||STL Sam Bradford: 188 Yds||PHI LeSean McCoy: 122 Yds||PHI DeSean Jackson: 102 Yds|
|PHI 31 @ ATL 35||PHI Michael Vick: 242 Yds||ATL Michael Turner: 114 Yds||PHI Jeremy Maclin: 171 Yds|
|NYG 29 @ PHI 16||NYG Eli Manning: 254 Yds||PHI LeSean McCoy: 128 Yds||NYG Victor Cruz: 110 Yds|
|SF 24 @ PHI 23||PHI Michael Vick: 416 Yds||SF Frank Gore: 127 Yds||PHI DeSean Jackson: 171 Yds|
|PHI 24 @ BUF 31||PHI Michael Vick: 315 Yds||BUF Fred Jackson: 111 Yds||PHI Jason Avant: 139 Yds|
|PHI 20 @ WAS 13||PHI Michael Vick: 237 Yds||PHI LeSean McCoy: 126 Yds||PHI Jeremy Maclin: 101 Yds|
|DAL @ PHI||PHI Michael Vick: 237 Yds||PHI LeSean McCoy: 126 Yds||PHI Jeremy Maclin: 101 Yds|
Dallas Cowboys 3-3
|DAL 24 @ NYJ 27||DAL Tony Romo: 342 Yds||DAL Felix Jones: 44 Yds||DAL Jason Witten: 110 Yds|
|DAL 27 @ SF 24||DAL Tony Romo: 345 Yds||SF Frank Gore: 47 Yds||DAL Miles Austin: 143 Yds|
|WAS 16 @ DAL 18||DAL Tony Romo: 255 Yds||DAL Felix Jones: 115 Yds||WAS Santana Moss: 70 Yds|
|DET 34 @ DAL 30||DAL Tony Romo: 331 Yds||DAL Felix Jones: 57 Yds||DAL Laurent Robinson: 116 Yds|
|DAL 16 @ NE 20||DAL Tony Romo: 317 Yds||NE Green-Ellis: 58 Yds||DAL Dez Bryant: 78 Yds|
|STL 7 @ DAL 34||STL A.J. Feeley: 196 Yds||DAL DeMarco Murray: 253 Yds||DAL Dez Bryant: 90 Yds|
|DAL @ PHI||STL A.J. Feeley: 196 Yds||DAL DeMarco Murray: 253 Yds||DAL Dez Bryant: 90 Yds|
The Dallas Cowboys, coming off a 34-7 rout of the St. Louis Rams, now travel to Philadelphia for the first of their two NFC East matchups against the Eagles. Since Lincoln Financial Field opened in 2003, the Eagles have enjoyed a 44–28 record on their home turf — but they’re only 4-4 against the Cowboys at “The Linc.”
The Eagles are coming off a bye after holding on for a 20-13 victory against the Washington Redskins two weeks ago. They forced Redskins QB Rex Grossman into four interceptions, which led to 10 huge points. It’s also worthy noting that the Eagles are a perfect 12–0 under Andy Reid in the game after the bye.
Here are 15 things to know about Sunday night’s Philadelphia Eagles – Dallas Cowboys matchup:
1. The Eagles are going to have their hands full with Diamond Dez Bryant. The second-year receiver has 19 catches for 339 yards in five games. He’s averaging 17.8 yards per catch and has scored four times. Bryant has six catches of 25+ yards, tied for seventh-most in the NFL, according to STATS.com. And that doesn’t mean it’s just Tony Romo taking shots deep down the field with Bryant. Yards after the catch are a big part of the equation. Bryant is tough to bring down, and if the Eagles’ defensive backs don’t tackle, Bryant will pile up the YAC. Bryant caught one ball against the Rams at the St. Louis 37. Quintin Mikell met him 6 yards later, but couldn’t bring him down. Bryant broke the tackle and scampered all the way to the 21 for a 34-yard gain, which included 16 yards after the catch. The previous week, against the Patriots, he turned a 5-yard catch into a 33-yard gain, juking two New England defensive backs to the ground.
In the NFL, an explosive play is defined as a passing gain of 20 yards or more, or a rush for at least 10 yards. So often, they have the biggest impact in a game.
When Rob Ryan was hired, for example, it was in large part because his ideas of good defense aligned with those held by Jason Garrett, emphasizing the importance of stopping the run, while not allowing big plays in the passing game. The Cowboys have been excellent in those areas through six games.
But their opponent this week, the Eagles, specialize in explosive plays. With the most athletic quarterback in league history, Michael Vick, they present the threat of a scramble on every play, but also have two incredibly fast wide receivers he can get the ball to in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, both of whom are threats downfield as well as on catch-and-run plays. Running back LeSean McCoy is equally threatening as a receiver out of the backfield as he is taking handoffs.
In six games, the Eagles have had 44 explosive plays, 24 passing and 20 rushing.
Defensively, the Cowboys have given up 22 explosive plays on the year, but they haven’t faced the kind of scrambling threat that Vick presents.
“It’s very important being in the right place, because you have to prevent some of those things from happening,” safety Abe Elam said. “Guys can make mistakes up from and it won’t cost points, but when you make mistakes on the back-end, it’s going to cost us six points.”
Last year, when Philadelphia beat the Cowboys 30-27 at Cowboys Stadium, it was a 91-yard catch and run by Jackson that proved monumental in a tie game in the fourth quarter.
Because the Cowboys aim to play such sound defense every week, they won’t have to change too much against the Eagles.
“You can’t get caught up into ‘Oh, we’re facing D-Jack (DeSean Jackson) this week, I don’t want him to do this, I don’t want him to do that,'” cornerback Mike Jenkins said. “Of course you know what his talents are, but you don’t want to start speaking nothing until existence. You know what you do. You just do what you do.”