ROSTER REVIEW: Final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys
No more whistles, no more playbooks, no more coach’s dirty looks. Sure, not quite as catchy as the iconic “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks,” but we’re talking football grades here, not math, science and social studies.
The biggest difference in grading pupils and players is expectations. All students are created equal; not so much for a professional football team. Just doesn’t make sense to hold Miles Austin, one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the game and a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and Cole Beasley, an undrafted free agent rookie, to the same standard. Ditto for DeMarcus Ware, headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and some dude signed off his couch midseason. Not even Batman.
Without further ado, here are our final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys:
Tony Romo – B
This one is difficult, because for 80-plus percent of the season, 13-of-16 games, Romo played as well as any quarterback in franchise history. Yes, including Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. His numbers for those contests include 303.1 yards per game, 24 touchdown passes, seven picks and a 100.2 rating. Even with the other three games – vs. the Bears and Giants and at the Redskins – Romo had the league’s sixth-highest rating by Football Outsiders, behind only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.
He threw for nearly 5,000 yards, and on many occasions was his own best pass protector in terms of finding an extra second or two. There were times when he was brilliant, and never before has he shown the leadership he did this season. Still, in the end, Romo flunked his final. Again. That’s not easy to write. Romo has been sort of the teacher’s pet these last five years, but there is no excuse for those final two picks at Washington.
Kyle Orton – I
He broke Clint Longley’s 38-year-old mark for highest passer rating (minimum 10 attempts) with a ridiculous 137.1. Played just the one game, though, giving him an incomplete.
DeMarco Murray – C
A disappointing season for the second-year back who was expected to anchor the offensive load. Didn’t rush for 100 yards after Week 1 at the Giants and rarely showed the explosiveness from his rookie season with just five 20-plus carries. Finished tied for 21st in the league with 2.5 yards per attempt after contact. He also picked the worst of times for his first two NFL fumbles. His durability has also become a concern as he has missed nine of the team’s last 19 games with injuries.
Felix Jones – C
Finished with more offensive touches than expected, was much improved in picking up the blitz, caught the ball well, and for the most part, maximized his rushing yards with the gaps provided. He averaged just 3.6 yards per carry after entering the year at 5.1 for his career.
Lance Dunbar – B
Was impressed with the free agent rookie from North Texas from the first preseason game through Week 17. Finished with eight special teams tackles, was solid if unspectacular on kick returns and showed a little burst on offense. Should play a bigger role in 2013.
Phillip Tanner – C
Solid on special teams with 10 tackles, although he didn’t show much in limited action carrying the ball.
Lawrence Vickers – C
Showed promise catching passes, that little dump-off was seemingly always available. But his blocking was average and his four penalties in 305 snaps was the highest percentage of any fullback playing 25 percent of his team’s snaps.
INJURY–PRACTICE UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins
Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware missed practice Wednesday with shoulder and elbow injuries. He played in only 59 of 95 plays in Sunday’s game after leaving with a shoulder strain. He left with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter and returned for one play of overtime. He said Wednesday that he would play Sunday.
Five other players missed practice, which was moved indoors to Cowboys Stadium. Linebacker Brady Poppinga and nose tackle Robert Callaway had travel problems getting back to DFW after the two-day Christmas break. Defensive end Jason Hatcher (thigh) said he would play Sunday. Linebacker Victor Butler (groin) also was out. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who had sports hernia surgery two weeks ago, will be out again this week.
Linebacker Alex Albright (knee) was limited.
Receiver Dez Bryant (finger), running back DeMarco Murray (foot), running back Felix Jones (knee) and linebacker Ernie Sims (concussion) were full participants.
RELATED: Jason Hatcher’s thigh will be fine come Sunday, he says
Defensive end Jason Hatcher said he missed practice only as a precaution. His thigh will be "100 percent by the time Sunday comes," Hatcher promises.
"It’s doing good," Hatcher said Wednesday. "I’m a veteran. I understand. I listen to my body. It was one of those days I felt like I should have just rested a little bit more. Tomorrow, I’ll do a little bit more.
"Am I worried about me playing Sunday? No."
Hatcher has had 68 tackles, 4 sacks and 21 quarterback pressures this season.
RELATED: DeMarcus Ware promises to play through pain
Linebacker DeMarcus Ware said he will not wear any type of harness on his strained shoulder nor will be take a pain-killing injection. But he will be in the lineup come Sunday.
"I feel a lot better right now," Ware said Wednesday. "I’m going regardless."
Ware, who already was playing with a hyperextended elbow, had to leave last week’s game with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter after "tweaking" the shoulder. He returned for a third-down play in overtime. Ware played 59 of 95 plays. He did not practice Wednesday.
"I’m going to tell you something, 75 percent of DeMarcus Ware is probably better than 90 percent of the guys who play the position at the end of the day," Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher said. "I’ll take 75 percent vs. no DWare any day. Wherever he is right now, I’ll take it."
Ware has never missed a game in his NFL career and has failed to start only one of 127 games. He didn’t start a 2009 game against New Orleans because of a neck injury.
Ware has 11.5 sacks this season, but only 2.5 have come in the past seven games. He has been without a sack in three of his past five games.
DUCT TAPE & WD-40: The Replacements – Seven Dallas Cowboys defensive players holding team together
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is working with seven players who weren’t on the team to start the season, including five who signed after Thanksgiving. All seven played against the Steelers:
Cornerback Sterling Moore : 37 of 60 snaps against Pittsburgh, signed Dec. 1
Safety Eric Frampton : 29 of 60 snaps against Pittsburgh, signed Sept. 25 for special teams role
Cornerback Michael Coe : 10 of 60 snaps against Pittsburgh, signed Dec. 11
Defensive end Brian Schaefering : 10 of 60 snaps against Pittsburgh, signed Dec. 12
Nose tackle Robert Callaway : 6 of 60 snaps against Pittsburgh, signed to the roster Dec. 8 after Josh Brent charged with intoxication manslaughter
Linebacker Ernie Sims : 5 of 60 snaps against Pittsburgh, started but left early because of concussion, signed Oct. 24
Linebacker Brady Poppinga : 5 of 60 snaps against Pittsburgh, started in sub package, signed Nov. 26
MILESTONES: Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
With today’s overtime win, the Dallas Cowboys are 8-6, giving the club its 37th season with a finish of .500-or-better.
Today’s win also gave Dallas wins in three straight games for the first time this season.
Today was the second time this season Dallas played in an overtime game, and it was the club’s second overtime win of the season, 19th in franchise history. Dallas owns a 19-13 overtime record and a 6-4 home overtime record.
The win also gave Dallas a 3-0 record this December, guaranteeing the club a winning record in the month for the first time since 2001 when the club went 3-2.
Miles Austin caught a team-high seven passes for a team-best 79 yards. His receptions total today gave him 273 for his career to pass Billy Joe DuPree (267) for 12th in team history.
Dan Bailey was true on both of his field goal tries tonight – 50 and 21 yards. His 21-yarder came with 13:41 remaining in the overtime period, giving Dallas the 27-24 win. Today was Bailey’s third game-winning kick of the season and the seventh of his career. His seven tie Rafael Septien for the most in team history.
Dez Bryant caught four passes for 59 yards and a touchdown today. He upped his career receptions total to 187 to break a tie with Lance Rentzel (183) for 22nd in franchise history.
Bryant’s touchdown catch today was his sixth consecutive game with a touchdown reception, the longest streak in his career, tied for the fourth-longest streak and tied for the second-highest streak figure in franchise history.
For the season, Bryant has a career-high 10 touchdown receptions. This season is the 16th time a Cowboys pass catcher reached double-digit touchdown receptions and Bryant is the ninth different Dallas Cowboy to accomplish the feat.
Brandon Carr improved his club-high interception total to three with his interception in overtime. Along with his pick last week, it was the first time in his career he had interceptions in consecutive games.
Sean Lissemore notched his first sack of the season today to give him 3.5 for his career.
Brady Poppinga has his first start as a Dallas Cowboy today as the club opened with five linebackers.
Tony Romo finished today’s game completing 30-of-42 passes (71.4%) for 341 yards, two touchdowns and a rating of 111.3. He upped his season passing attempts total to 568 to establish a single-season club record:
Single-Season Pass Attempts
Romo’s 30 completions today gave him 379 completions this season to extend his single-season club record:
Single-Season Pass Completions
Romo’s 341 yards today gave him 4,269 for the season, the fourth 4,000-yard season in his career, the fourth in team history and the second-most yards in a season in club books.
Single-Season Pass Yards
Romo’s 341 yards today also gave him 25,103 for his career, making him the 64th quarterback in NFL history to reach 25,000 career passing yards.
In reaching 25,103 career passing yards today, Romo passed Tommy Kramer (24,777), Bob Griese (25,092) and Ken O’Brien (25,094) for 62nd in all-time passing yards.
In reaching the 300-yard mark with 341 yards today, Romo improved his club record of 300-yard games to 39. Dallas now holds a 25-14 (.641) record when Romo hits 300-plus yards.
In topping 300 yards again today, Romo has eight 300-yard games this season. His eight tie his club record established in 2009:
300-yard games (season)
Romo’s two touchdown passes today gave him 54 career multiple-touchdown games to improve his club-high and allow him to place fifth in the NFL since becoming a starter in 2006:
Cowboys Career Multi-TD Games
NFL Multi-TD Games (since 2006)
|* indicates game in progress|
In completing 30-of-42 passes, Romo completed 71.4% of his passes – his 31st career game with a completion percentage of 70.0-or-more. Troy Aikman has the club high with 39. His 31 are fifth in the NFL since becoming a starter in 2006:
Total 70.0% Games (since 2006)
Romo’s 71.4 completion percentage today gave him eight games this season with a completion percentage at or above 70.0, second in a season in franchise history. Aikman has the club-high with eight in 1993.
Romo had a passer rating of 111.3 today. It was his 48th career game with a rating above 100.0 to improve a club record and rank fourth in the NFL since 2006:
Career 100.0 Rating Games (Cowboys)
100.0 Rating Games Since 2006
|* indicates game in progress|
In leading the Cowboys to an overtime win while trailing in the fourth quarter, today was Romo’s fifth come-from-behind win of the season and the 18th of his career – improving his franchise-high. Romo’s five this season are also a franchise-high. Tied for second with four each are: Roger Staubach (1979), Troy Aikman (1990), Drew Bledsoe (2005) and Romo (2011).
Marcus Spears had his first sack of the season today to give him 10.0 for his career.
Anthony Spencer had 1.5 sacks today to give him 10.0 sacks for the season to improve his single-season career-best. Along with DeMarcus Ware’s 11.5, this season is the first time since 2007 the Cowboys had two defenders top 10.0-or-more sacks – DeMarcus Ware (14.0) and Greg Ellis (12.5). This season is the fifth time in franchise history Dallas accomplished the feat – 1983 (Randy White and Anthony Dickerson), 1984 (Randy White and Jim Jeffcoat), 1985 (Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Jim Jeffcoat and Randy White) and 2007 (Ware and Ellis).
DeMarcus Ware’s half sack gave him 111.0 for his career and moved him into a tie with Randy White for second on the Cowboys all-time (unofficial) sack chart. Harvey Martin is at the top with 114.0
Jason Witten finished today’s game with five catches for 43 yards. For the season, Witten has 97 catches – the most in a season in his career, second-most in a season by a Dallas Cowboy and the fifth-most in a season by an NFL tight end.
Single-Season Receptions (Dallas Cowboys)
Single-Season Receptions (NFL TEs)
Witten’s 43 receiving yards today upped his career total to 8,832 and allowed him to pass Terance Mathis (8,809) and Terry Glenn (8,823) for 57th on the NFL’s all-time receiving yards chart.
ROLLER COASTER ROSTER: Josh Brent placed on RNFI list; Veteran DT Brian Schaefering signs
IRVING, Texas – Josh Brent is no longer on the Cowboys’ 53-man roster. After several discussions with the NFL this week, the Cowboys have now officially removed him from the roster, placing him on reserved/non-football illness list (RNFI).
That keeps him with the team and able to be at the complex. It’s unclear how restricted he will be in terms of meetings or other team functions. Not only is his legal status uncertain, but Brent also has physical injuries as well. He attended the memorial service for Jerry Brown on Tuesday with a small cast on his right wrist.
Garrett reiterated Wednesday how much support the Cowboys have and will continue to have for Brent.
“Josh is part of our family. We have unconditional love for him,” Garrett said. “And we’re going to make sure that we support him in every way we can. Players, coaches, our organization, and make him feel that support every way … having him be here, and knowing that people are around him to help him and he can call us, he can just be around us, he can cry, he can laugh – he can do whatever he needs to do – and we’ll be there to help him.”
The Cowboys have used Brent’s spot on the roster to sign defensive tackle Brian Schaefering, who has played in Rob Ryan’s scheme in Cleveland. In fact, Schaefering (6-4, 292) played all 16 games, including nine starts for the Browns in 2010, Ryan’s last season there as defensive coordinator.
Schaefering, as mentioned in a previous The Boys Are Back post, played all 16 games for the Browns last season, has been out of the league this year, but after a workout with the Dallas Cowboys this morning (Wednesday), was officially signed to the roster.
He becomes the fifth defensive player signed this season who was currently not on a roster or practice squad, along with Charlie Peprah, Eric Frampton, Ernie Sims and Brady Poppinga.
WEEKLY ROSTER UPDATE: Cowboys claim CB Michael Coe
THE POPPINGA FACTOR: New linebacker brings a splash of personality to the Dallas Cowboys
Former Packers linebacker Brady Poppinga has some things the Cowboys maybe can use – linebacker experience, a Super Bowl ring, and a splash of personality.
He spent his first day in the locker room at Valley Ranch talking about Batman and busting through doors and Jerry Jones driving the machine and … well, forget trying to describe it – here some of his quotes:
On how hard it was for him to sit out all year after not hooking up with a team out of training camp:
“You kidding me? I don’t know how many times I just wanted to run through the door and blast somebody. But you got to have patience and understand that you’re a regular civilian in this world and you can’t break laws and break doors. You got to hold you aggression inside of you and get it out when you’re lifting weights or what have you, so it’s good to be back.”
On what kind of training he did to stay in shape:
“A lot of training, a lot of fundamental work. It’s my eighth year, so it’s not my first rodeo. I understand the kinds of movements and the kind of feel I want to have. I’ve been taught very well by my position coach, by the strength and conditioning coaches. From them, I’ve been able to formulate a plan customized to how I like to feel. I was in what you would call Batman shape, meaning, when I get the call, boom, I put the mask on and I’m gone. So I got the mask on and here I am.”
On adjusting to a team trying to fit in so many new players:
“I’m still getting a feel for it. I just got here T-minus five hours ago, so I can’t give you the pulse yet. Check back with me on that one.”
On understanding the nuances of the defense:
“Every defense has the same concept. Mixing and matching those concepts is different from each team to each team and also with what they call it is different. It’s just like learning a new language. I’ve done that before. I spent two years traveling in South America, learned Spanish. In English, you learn apple is a fruit. In Spanish, it’s manzana. They mean the same things. It’s just figuring out what word means what. That’s the learning curve, and that’s what you have to memorize and get down and I’ll be doing that in T-minus 27 minutes.” (It was 27 minutes until the locker room closed to interviews).
On his personality and bringing energy to the locker room:
“This is just who I am. If you want to tap into that, go right ahead. It’s for the taking. I’m not trying to hold it in. I am who I am. I love who I am. I’m not afraid to show it. If people want to embrace that they can. If they don’t like it, I guess that’s great too. I just realize that half the people are going to like you guys and half the people aren’t, so you mine as well just be who you are. It’s always 50-50. It’s easy being who you are, too, by the way.”
On whether he’s been around a team that had so many injuries:
“Yeah, Green Bay, 2010, the Super Bowl year, so I’ve seen it done. Basically you have to have guys when they do come in, they’re the next guys up, whatever their role is, they have to commit to learning and they’ve got to be able to become part of the team. That’s what’s most important. That’s what separates championship teams from average teams, chemistry and guys wanting to play for each other. It’s about learning what you have to learn to do your job description and integrating yourself with the team for chemistry.”
On whether he was one of them:
“Yeah, I was one of them.”
On how his workout went with the Cowboys in November:
“This is a machine that keeps rolling, and the man driving this machine – well, his staff is – Jerry Jones and his staff is driving the machine. If you’re a part of this deal, you’re a part of this deal, and if you’re not, you’re not. I didn’t have any control of it, but this is a great organization, obviously. It’s highly followed. It’s a successful organization. They’ve won some Super Bowls with a lot of great players have walked through these halls. To be a part of this team it’s an honor and a privilege.”
FIRED UP LINEBACKER: Brady Poppinga in ‘Batman shape,’ ready to blast something
IRVING, Texas – Brady Poppinga did not need long to get adjusted to being a member of the Dallas Cowboys defense.
“For me, one step,” said Poppinga, who signed Monday after the Cowboys placed Bruce Carter on injured reserve.
He wasn’t joking.
“Guys, I’ve been doing this since I was 5 years old,” Poppinga said. “Imagine doing something since you were 5 and getting back into it. It’s like riding a bike. That’s probably the best example I can give as to what it’s like to step on the football field after being out for 10 months.”
Poppinga worked out for Kansas City and was nearly signed by the Cowboys earlier in the month before they opted for Gary Guyton instead. Guyton was released before he could play in a game.
The Cowboys opted for Poppinga this time because of his experience. He spent his first six years in Green Bay and started 12 games for St. Louis last year. He developed a training program that he hopes kept him in proper game shape so as he won’t need a long time to get ready to play.
“I’ve been taught very well by my position coaches, by my strength and conditioning coaches, and from them I formulated a plan customized to how I like to feel,” Poppinga said. “So I call it Batman shape. Meaning when you get the call, boom, I put the mask on and I go. I’ve got the mask on, and here I am.”
The time away from the game was difficult.
“Gosh, you kidding me?” Poppinga said. “You won’t believe how many times I wanted to run through a door and blast something, but you’ve got to have patience and you’ve got to understand when you’re a regular civilian in this world you can’t break laws and break doors and you’ve got to hold your aggression inside of you.”
DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER UPDATE: Carter to IR; LB Poppinga, WR Armstrong signed (REVISED)
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys returned from an extended holiday break with a lot of roster moves taking place here at Valley Ranch.
The biggest includes linebacker Bruce Carter, whose season has ended with an elbow injury. Carter is going to injured reserve and will likely require surgery.
The Cowboys have signed two players – veteran linebacker Brady Poppinga and wide receiver Anthony Armstrong to the 53-man roster.
They will take the place of Carter and recently-cut wide receiver Andre Holmes.
The Cowboys also made two moves on the practice squad, placing wide receiver Danny Coale (hamstring) on injured reserve and signing cornerback Reggie Evans. They still have an open spot on the practice squad and could retain Holmes if he clears waivers.
Carter becomes the fourth defensive starter to land on injured reserve, along with Barry Church, Kenyon Coleman and Sean Lee. Carter was blossoming into a defensive stalwart in the middle before the injury last Thursday, which occurred in the third quarter.
The Cowboys are now left with Dan Connor, Ernie Sims, Alex Albright, and now Poppinga, who played six years with the Packers (2005-10) and had 12 starts last year with the Rams.
As for Armstrong, he should be able to provide some deep speed to the receiver position. He was recently cut by the Dolphins but spent two years in Washington from 2009-10 where he caught 51 passes for a 19.1 yard average and five touchdowns.
Armstrong played with the Dallas Desperados, a now defunct Arena League team owned by Jerry Jones and operated by many members of the Cowboys’ organization. Armstrong was head coached in Dallas by Will McClay, who now serves in the pro scouting department for the Cowboys as director of football research.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys LB Bruce Carter broke bone in elbow
Bruce Carter did more than dislocate his elbow.
The Cowboys linebacker broke a bone in his elbow that will require surgery later this week.
The club initially hoped if the ligament damage wasn’t too extensive that Carter would be able to return in two weeks. But the broken bone prolongs his recovery period into the off-season, which is why he was placed on injured reserve.
No timetable has been established. But Carter should be cleared to participate when the team begins organized team activities in the spring.