Bryan Broaddus takes a closer look at Dallas Cowboys punter Chris Jones and how he fits into the team’s 2013 plans.
Name: Chris Jones
Height/Weight: 6-0 / 208
Experience: 2 seasons
College: Carson Newman
Key stat: Chris Jones had just 12 punts last season, averaging 45.2 yards per punt with a 40.0 yard net average.
Contract status: Signed through 2013.
How he played in 2012: Chris Jones was one of those question marks in training camp that no one really wanted to talk about. Jones burst onto the scene replacing the injured Mat McBriar in 2011 and punted well enough to allow the front office to not extend McBriar in 2012 thus making him a free agent. To be honest there were days in Oxnard where it looked like that decision was a poor one because of what a weapon that McBriar had become over his years in Dallas and Jones just wasn’t punting consistent enough but he managed to make it to the start of the 2012 and really did a nice job opening night against the Giants. The next week against the Seahawks, Jones had a punt blocked when Dan Connor missed an assignment and the following week against the Buccaneers somehow managed to get a punt off that should have been blocked but it resulted in an injury to his left knee. In his final game of the 2012 season Jones was able to gut out the game against the Ravens after not practicing all week. Fortunately for Jones, he was only called on one time that day but the knee was too damaged to continue the rest of the season and Brian Moorman took over the punting and holding duties for the club. In four games Jones averaged 45 yards on 12 punts and was on his way to the type of season that the front office and coaches believed he was capable of having.
Where he fits in 2013: Gone is special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and Rich Bisaccia now takes over in that role. Jones had a big supporter in DeCamillis but there is no reason to believe that Bisaccia will feel different about Jones and what talent he has. What will also help Jones is that Chris Boniol is still on the staff and will be able to paint a pretty accurate picture of what Jones is to Bisaccia. I fully expect Jones to be the punter for this club in 2013 but the scouts might have seen someone in their travels this Fall that could compete for the job so we will see after the 2013 NFL Draft when we get into mini camps.
Nick Eatman: He’s one of the injured players people forget about but he was missed. Sure, Brian Moorman has more experience but Jones was better at angling his punts with height and direction. He’s also a good holder for kicks so I would expect Jones should be the punter for this team next year.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout
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.
The Steelers came into this game with the top-ranked defense in the NFL. The Cowboys? Well, they had six of their original starters out of the lineup, plus their nickel cornerback, then lost yet another linebacker in the early stages of the game.
But as the old saying goes, the games aren’t played on paper. Instead, it was the Dallas defense that came up big, leading the team to a thrilling 27-24 overtime victory in front of 95,595 raucous fans.
Despite the glaring differences between their defensive units, Dallas’ patchwork side held their own throughout the contest, and when they needed it most, came up with three big sacks late in the fourth quarter. That was followed by a game-changing interception from Brandon Carr in the extra frame, which set up the winning field goal.
It was by no means easy. Twice the Steelers took the lead and three times the game was tied. But Dallas kept battling back.
Pittsburgh put up 388 total yards of offense and did not have a single penalty. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 339 yards on 24-of-40 passing with two touchdowns. His primary target was tight end Heath Miller, who totaled 92 yards on 7 catches, while wide receiver Mike Wallace had four catches for 95 yards.
But on the other side of the ball, the Cowboys were ready for the the mighty Steelers defense, racking up 415 total yards. Tony Romo was again outstanding, throwing for 341 yards on 30-of-42 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He connected with nine different players, Miles Austin leading the way with seven catches for 79 yards while Dez Bryant and Jason Witten did what they do best, each scoring a touchdown.
Even DeMarco Murray got into the action, rushing for 81 yards on 14 carries with a score. By comparison, the Steelers only ran for 69 yards as a team.
Here are the historical notes compiled after todays game with the Washington Redskins:
The Dallas Cowboys had 458 yards of total offense today. It was the second-most total yardage output for the club this season behind its 481 yards at Baltimore (10/14). It was also the club’s fifth 400-yard game of the season – tied for the eighth-most in a season in franchise history. Six times the club had six games with 400-plus yards and the club record is eight, established in 2009.
Dan Bailey was true on all three of his field goal tries, including a career-long tying 51-yarder. Today was the third time he hit a 51-yard field goal. The first was against St. Louis (10/23/11) and the second was against the N.Y. Giants (10/28/12).
Bailey’s three field goal conversions today gave him his 10th career game making three-plus field goals. He is now tied with Chris Boniol for the third-most games with three-or-more field goals converted in team history. Richie Cunningham (11) is second and Rafael Septien (21) has the team-high.
Dez Bryant led the team with a career-high tying 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns on eight catches. He had an 85-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter today. It was the longest catch of his career, tied for the ninth-longest play in team history and was the longest pass reception by a Cowboy since Jason Tucker had a 90-yard touchdown catch against the N.Y. Giants (1/2/00).
Bryant’s 145 yards today gave him 2,369 for his career and allowed him to pass Daryl Johnston (2,227), Preston Pearson (2,274), Raghib Ismail (2,281), Joey Galloway (2,341) and Bill Howton (2,368) for 21st in franchise history.
Bryant’s touchdown catches gave him his third straight game with a scoring reception – tying the longest streak in his career.
Bryant’s multiple touchdown reception game today was his second multi-touchdown game of the season and fourth of his career. It also gave him 21 career touchdown catches to move past Butch Johnson (19) and Terry Glenn (20) for 14th in franchise history.
Bryant’s 145-yard outing tied the second-most yards by a Cowboys receiver on Thanksgiving Day. Michael Irvin has the high (157 – vs. Pittsburgh, 11/28/91) and both Lance Rentzel (vs. St. Louis, 11/23/67) and Miles Austin (vs. Oakland, 11/26/09) were also tied for second with 145 each.
Tyrone Crawford had his first career sack (for 0 yards) today. It occurred in the second quarter.
Felix Jones finished today’s game with six rushes for 14 yards and three catches for 47 yards with a touchdown. His touchdown catch gave him a score in his third consecutive game (two receiving and one rush). It is the second-longest touchdown streak in his career behind a four-game streak in weeks 1-4 of his rookie season in 2008 (three rush and one kickoff return).
Jones caught three passes today to give him 127 for his career and break a tie with Pettis Norman and Alvin Harper (124) and tie Eric Bjornson for 35th in team history.
Jones’ 47 receiving yards today upped his career receiving yards total to 1,062 and pass Mike Ditka for 42nd in club record books.
Brian Moorman netted 52.3 yards on his three punts today. His 52.3 net was second in his career. His career-high was 53.0 at Kansas City (12/13/09).
Jermey Parnell made his first career start today. He started at left tackle in place of Tyron Smith (ankle).
Charlie Peprah intercepted his first pass as a Dallas Cowboy in the fourth quarter of today’s game. It was the eighth pick of his career.
Tony Romo finished today’s game completing 37-of-62 passes for 441 yards with three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Romo’s 62 attempts tied his club record while his 37 completions were a career-best and second in franchise history. His 441 yards were a career-high and good for third in franchise history.
|62||Tony Romo||vs. N.Y. Giants (10/28/12)|
|62||Tony Romo||vs. Washington (11/22/12)|
|57||Troy Aikman||vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)|
|41||Tony Romo||at N.Y. Giants (12/6/09)|
|37||Tony Romo||vs. Washington (11/22/12)|
|36||Tony Romo||vs. N.Y. Giants (10/28/12)|
|Passing Yards||No.||Player||Opp (Date)|
|460||Don Meredith||at San Francisco (11/10/69)|
|455||Troy Aikman||vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)|
|441||Tony Romo||vs. Washington (11/22/12)|
Romo’s 85-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant was the longest pass completion of his career. It also tied the ninth-longest completion in franchise history and was the longest since a 90-yard Troy Aikman-to-Jason Tucker scoring hookup against the N.Y.Giants (1/2/00).
Romo’s three scoring throws today gave him 92 touchdowns in home games to pass Danny White (91) for the most home touchdowns in franchise history. Romo accomplished the feat in his 47th home appearance while White did it in 84.
Romo’s three touchdown passes today gave him 52 career multiple-touchdown games to improve his club-high and allow him to tie for fifth in the NFL since becoming a starter in 2006:
Cowboys Career Multi-TD Games
NFL Multi-TD Games (since 2006)
Romo’s three touchdown tosses today gave him 165 for his career and tied him with Troy Aikman for the all-time Dallas Cowboys club record.
Romo now has 27 career games with three-or-more touchdowns, upping his club record.
Romo now has 26 career three-touchdown games – the most in Cowboys history, fourth among all-time undrafted quarterbacks and the fourth-most in the NFL since 2006:
Cowboys Career Three-TD Games
All-Time Three-TD Games (Undrafted Free-Agents)
NFL Three-TD Games (since 2006)
Romo’s 441 passing yards today was his fifth 300-yard game of the season and the 37th of his career. Dallas now holds a 23-14 (.622) record when Romo tops 300 yards.
Romo’s 441 yards was his second 400-yard game of the season and the third of his career. Romo’s three career 400-yard games sets a club record while his two this season also establish a single-season club record.
Romo threw for 441 yards today to give him 3,357 for the season. Romo now has five 3,000-yard seasons to tie Troy Aikman for the most in team history. Danny White is third with four.
Thanksgiving Day Single-Game Highs
|62||Tony Romo||vs. Washington (11/22/12)|
|57||Troy Aikman||vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)|
|44||Drew Bledsoe||vs. Denver (11/24/05)|
|37||Tony Romo||vs. Washington (11/22/12)|
|34||Troy Aikman||vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)|
|30||Troy Aikman||vs. Minnesota (11/23/00)|
|30||Jon Kitna||vs. New Orleans (11/25/10)|
|Passing Yards||No.||Player||Opp (Date)|
|455||Troy Aikman||vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)|
|441||Tony Romo||vs. Washington (11/22/12)|
|356||Troy Aikman||vs. Tennessee (11/27/97)|
Romo’s 62 pass attempts today upped his Thanksgiving Day pass attempts total to 221 and pass Danny White (187) for second in team history. Troy Aikman has the high with 341.
In completing 37 passes today, Romo has completed 142 Thanksgiving Day passes to pass Danny White (112) for second in team history. Troy Aikman has the high with 211.
With 441 passing yards today, Romo has thrown for 1,808 Thanksgiving Day yards. He passed Danny White (1,545) for second in team history behind Troy Aikman’s 2,280.
Romo’s three touchdown tosses today gave him 17 for Thanksgiving. He broke a tie with Danny White for the most touchdown throws on Thanksgiving Day in Cowboys record books.
Anthony Spencer had 2.0 sacks today, his sixth career multiple sack game and second of the season.
Spencer’s 2.0 sacks today gave him three straight games with at least a half sack – the third time in his career he has had that streak. His first three-game streak came in 2009 (Weeks 15-17) and the second in 2011 (Weeks 1-3).
In finishing today’s game with 74 receiving yards, Jason Witten now has 8,619 for his career to pass Paul Warfield 8,565 and Laveranues Coles (8,609) for 64th all-time in NFL history.
Witten led the team with nine catches today to give him 82 for the season, giving him his sixth season with at least 80receptions. Witten’s six 80-catch seasons ties Tony Gonzalez for the most all-time among league tight ends. Witten’s six also tie Gonzalez and six others for the sixth-most 80-catch seasons among all pass catchers in NFL history.Jerry Rice has the NFL record with 12.
IRVING, Texas – We’re at the halfway point in the regular season and obviously the Dallas Cowboys aren’t happy with a 3-5 record. The talk of head coach Jason Garrett’s future has been a topic, albeit one that owner Jerry Jones has dismissed.
The Cowboys haven’t been able to close out games this season, but the schedule might turn in their favor for the final eight games, where only one team with a winning record exists.
The DallasCowboys.com staff of Bryan Broaddus, Rowan Kavner and Nick Eatman weigh in with their assessment of the season’s first half.
Bryan: The victory on the road against the Giants on opening night. It was a game that nobody had them winning. Might be the only time they have really played a complete game.
Rowan: Winning the opener in New York. The Cowboys felt a victory against the Super Bowl champion Giants might be a statement win and one that could propel them going forward. It turned out to be one of the few positive moments from the first half of the season.
Nick: There’s only been three wins and it’s not going to be beating Tampa Bay or Carolina. Has to be the opener against the Giants when they took it to the defending champs from start to finish. Kevin Ogletree had a career night and the Cowboys kept answering the bell.
Bryan: The last 5:21 of the game against the Falcons. If the defense gets a stop there, Tony Romo has a chance to once again try and score with a no-huddle offense that had previously moved the ball well for their only touchdown of the day. Instead, the offense gets the ball with 22 seconds left and no chance to win the game.
Rowan: When Dez Bryant was called out of bounds on a miraculous catch in the back of the end zone at home against the Giants. Not only would that have given the Cowboys a winning record at the time, and their biggest comeback in franchise history, but it would have also been one of the few breaks for both Romo and Bryant, who’ve had their struggles at times.
Nick: Without a doubt, hearing the referee say, “After review, the receiver’s hand landed out of bounds” following Bryant’s near catch against the Giants. That was a killer for this team. They could’ve had the biggest comeback in Cowboys history from two players, Dez and Romo, who needed a boost like that. While it was still a classic, it would’ve probably been the best game I’ve ever covered had it not been for a few inches.
What They Do Best:
Bryan: Cover punts. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Chris Jones or Brian Moorman, Joe DeCamillis has this unit ranked among the best in the NFL. Rarely do you see their gunners out of position and when given an opportunity to make a tackle, they get the job done. It’s a sound group.
Rowan: Stop teams from driving the field. The defense has played significantly better than the offense this season, particularly in limiting teams from gaining chunks of yardage. The offense continually puts the defense in rough spots with turnovers, and for the most part, the defense has held its own.
Nick: Other than find creative ways to lose games? This team is pretty good at defending the pass. What’s really frustrating is if you would’ve heard two weeks ago that neither Eli Manning nor Matt Ryan would throw a touchdown against the Cowboys and their offenses would only get one each, you never would’ve thought the Cowboys would go 0-2 in those games. But, the Cowboys have had a good pass rush and played well in the secondary, ranking fifth overall on defense.
Where They Struggle The Most
Bryan: Finishing games. Look at the way this team has lost games and that will tell you all you need to know.
Rowan: In the red zone. Not a lot of teams will be able to score in there with a rushing attack as feeble as the Cowboys’, which ranks 30th in rushing average. Dallas scores a touchdown only 44 percent of the time it reaches the red zone and 50 percent of the time it gets inside the 10-yard line.
Nick: It’s the offensive line. That hasn’t changed really since last year, other than probably regressing some. Romo is always running for his life and they can’t run the ball in the red zone, a sure sign this offensive line can’t generate a good enough push when needed.
Best Offensive Player:
Bryan: Jason Witten. Nobody has played with more toughness and skill than him.
Rowan: Witten. The man who is now the team’s all-time leader in receptions has been one of the few reliable targets for Romo this year. After a slow start coming back from a spleen injury, Witten has recorded at least six catches in the last five games, including a 13-catch performance and a record 18-reception outing.
Nick: The wording of this category is tricky. The football player might be Dez. The most valuable is probably Romo because when he’s on they always have a chance, and when he’s not, they have none. But the best offensive player through eight games has to be Witten. Who would’ve said that after those first three games when he wasn’t 100 percent? But, he’s been fantastic of late. Then again, when your best player is a tight end, it’s hard to be successful on offense.
Best Defensive Player:
Bryan: Week in and week out, Brandon Carr has been asked to cover the opponent’s best receiver, plus line up at safety. Carr has been a stable, steady player, which is something you need when trying to match up against different schemes.
Rowan: No player on this defense would cause the kind of commotion and alterations needed after Sean Lee was lost for the year. He had about as productive a start to the season as anyone could ask for and will continue to be the leader of the defense for years to come.
Nick: Sure, I’d like to be cute here and find another worthy selection, but you really can’t. DeMarcus Ware has been the most productive and most durable defensive player on this team for a while. Ware has played in all 120 games of his career, missing just one start, and that was the Saints game in 2009 when he was heroic in a huge upset win. He’s been great again this year and gets my vote.
Editors Pick: Bruce Carter
Best Special Teams Player:
Bryan: It’s amazing that Danny McCray’s special teams play hasn’t suffered because of all the time he’s seeing with the defense as a starting safety. His ability to read schemes, beat blocks and finish plays gets him noticed a lot on tape.
Rowan: It’s Dan Bailey. The only area he’s not automatic is over 50 yards, which is understandable for any kicker. When the Cowboys get in legitimate field goal range, he’ll put it through almost every time.
Nick: It’s too easy to go with Bailey, but what about the snapper L.P. Ladouceur, who has been virtually perfect again this year. He’s the most consistent player on the team. With so many players shuffling in and out of the special teams units, they’ve had little consistency, but Ladouceur is the normal exception.
Don’t Forget About …
Bryan: As much as I wanted to get rid of Phil Costa, he does play on his feet in securing blocks and getting on the second level. Is he great? No, but he is able to do things that Ryan Cook can’t scheme-wise.
Rowan: All the injuries this team has endured. The Cowboys lost their two best young players at different points and for different durations in Lee and DeMarco Murray, not to mention their starting safety in Barry Church and nose tackle Jay Ratliff for the beginning of the year. Health going forward will be crucial.
Nick: The Cowboys have been a different team when DeMarco Murray is in the game, and if he can return soon, possibly even this week, the offense has a chance to turn things around in a hurry.
Bryan: The way this team loses games. It really has been a throw here, a catch there or a key stop not made that’s kept the Cowboys from having a much better record.
Rowan: There have been quite a few disappointments, from a meager rushing attack to a shaky offensive line to a hoard of penalties every other week. But turnovers, particularly interceptions, have kept this Cowboys team from being above .500.
Nick: Since I was preaching back in June how important the Seattle game would be, I’ll stick with that. After winning in New York, the Cowboys simply got manhandled against the Seahawks in Week 2, which gave us a preview of how they would lose the physical battle up front in other games, too.
Bryan: Need to focus and find a way to get on a little four-game winning streak, the game at Philadelphia and then three in a row at home. If this team is going to do anything productive this second half of the season, it starts against the Eagles on Sunday.
Rowan: While the lousy start wasn’t expected after a win in New York, it should get easier for the Cowboys the rest of the way. They only play one team with a winning record, so there’s no excuse to go 3-5 again in the second half of the season.
Nick: We knew all along the Cowboys might have an easier road in the second half of the season than in the first, and that should be the case. But the question was always the same: Will it be too late? The Cowboys are 3-5, and although just one of their last eight opponents currently has a winning record, it’s hard to think they will be consistent enough to make a serious playoff run. I still think 8-8 will be the final verdict.
Punter Brian Moorman knew the deal when he signed with the Dallas Cowboys: He wasn’t long for Dallas. His stay was expected to be only as long as it took Chris Jones to return from a knee injury. But the Cowboys placed Jones on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday, allowing Moorman to get out of a hotel and into a rental property.
"I came in to spell him and get him healthy," Moorman said. "I knew my place. I told him right from the start’ I’m not here to replace you and here to help you as much as I can.’ It’s been great. I think Chris is a great punter, and he’s got a long future in this league. Just look at what he’s done, and what he’s capable of doing. You don’t want it to come down to something like that – an injury to cost somebody to lose their season like that. You stay positive and just get him healthy and get him back for next year."
Jones is the team’s second punter to go on injured reserve in two seasons. Mat McBriar finished last season on IR with a cyst in his left leg.
Jones sprained his left (kicking) knee when he was roughed in the Tampa Bay game on Sept. 23. The Cowboys signed Moorman to take his place for the Oct. 1 game against the Bears. But Jones returned Oct. 14 against the Ravens when Moorman injured his groin in practice the week of that game.
Jones later was diagnosed with a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament, though he won’t require surgery. He said his one punt in the game against the Ravens did not make the injury worse.
"I rehabbed it and rehabbed it and rehabbed it and strengthened it," Jones said. "I figured it would be something I could play with and just kind of manage it that way. But I guess it was a little too much. Now I’ve got some time to get it back."
Jones averaged 45.2 yards a punt with a 40.0 net and had six punts inside the 20. Moorman has averaged 44 yards a punt with a 42.3 net. He has had four of seven punts downed inside the 20.
"I’ve hit the ball better this year going back to training camp than I’ve ever hit it in my career," said Moorman, released by the Bills after 179 consecutive starts because of his 32.7 net average there this season. "I feel my confidence has never wavered, and I don’t think my ability has ever wavered. It’s been an unfortunate situation this year that I’ve come into. But sometimes you run into adversity. It’s just kind of how you rally and move on. I was lucky to be able to quickly come to a new team and be able to put the past behind me, and that’s just what it is. It’s the past, and I’m looking forward to the future, and I’m happy to be a Dallas Cowboy."
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys’ biggest fears could be a reality as the team’s leading tackler and one of the more productive players might be headed to injured reserve.
Sean Lee could need season-ending toe surgery after MRI results showed torn ligaments. If anything, Lee will at least miss two games – Sunday’s showdown with the Giants and the following Sunday night against undefeated Atlanta.
With today being the Cowboys’ day off, the team did not have any press conferences or an open locker room period. With Jerry Jones’ mother passing this morning, the Cowboys’ owner did not have his regular radio show as well. So there has been no official word from the Cowboys regarding Lee or any other injuries this week.
The team is expected to officially sign veteran safety Charlie Peprah on Wednesday. The Cowboys would have to clear a roster spot, but it’s not likely it would be an easy Peprah for Lee switch if he goes to injured reserve. The Cowboys would need more depth at linebacker and might have to sign a veteran.
The Cowboys still have two punters – both Chris Jones and Brian Moorman – on the 53-man roster. Also, safety Matt Johnson is injured again and there have been discussions that he could land on IR, although head coach Jason Garrett said Monday he doesn’t think the Cowboys are ready to make such a move.
Still, the Cowboys at least have to start figuring out contingency plans if Lee’s season is over or will miss considerable time.
The Cowboys will turn to backup Dan Connor, a free agent pickup this offseason after spending four years with the Panthers. Connor has played a limited role on defense this year, but filled in for Lee in Carolina against his former team.
Connor, a college teammate of Lee at Penn State, has 14 tackles this year but will likely take over as the starter next to Bruce Carter.
Lee suffered the injury in the second half in Carolina on Sunday. He tried to fight through the pain but eventually took himself out, later saying he was simply “hurting the team by being out there.”
Through six games, Lee leads the Cowboys with 77 tackles, considerably more than DeMarcus Ware, who is second on the team with 43 stops. Lee also has eight quarterback pressures, third behind only Anthony Spencer (12) and Ware (10).
Lee was on pace to record more than 204 tackles this season, averaging 12.8 per game. He already tied the Cowboys’ single-game record with 21 stops in the Seattle game back in Week 2.
Missing Lee for any time will be huge, but especially against the Giants. Last year, Lee had a clutch interception against Eli Manning in the game at Cowboys Stadium. This season, he forced a fumble in the season opener that took away a scoring opportunity for the Giants in the Cowboys’ 24-17 win over the defending champs.
Offense: Tony Romo
The numbers for Romo were fine, but I want to focus on his ability to take the different personnel groups that head coach Jason Garrett was using and making it all work.
Romo knew he was going to get some soft coverage on the outside, and with Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble out of the game, there were going to be some opportunities for him to make throws. In the first half, he was able to find tight end Jason Witten for some key catches, before turning around in the second half, and getting wideout Miles Austin going again after he had the fumble that led to Carolina’s points late in the second quarter.
What I think Romo has done a much better job of in his career is when one of his receivers makes a mistake, he gets that player going right back into the game. It’s a really nice trait to have.
Defense: Anthony Spencer
From my view both in the press box seat and on field level, it was a really nice game for Anthony Spencer. Without much work the last several weeks, he was able to shine when his teammates needed him the most. There was a lot talk over the offseason about whether the Cowboys had done the right thing by putting the franchise tag on Spencer, but today he proved that he was worth every penny that the front office is paying him. Spencer has always been known as a run stopper, but defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has told anyone who was willing to listen that Spencer was just as effective rushing the passer. Against Carolina, Spencer proved him right. For a team that has been struggling to finish out games, Spencer’s play was just what they needed. You can bet that Ryan is happy to have him back.
Special Teams: Punt Coverage Unit
I could have selected Dan Bailey and the job he was able to do getting those field goals home, but you have to give Brian Moorman and this punt coverage team a ton of credit. Moorman was a master at directional punting today. In four opportunities, the Panthers managed only four total yards on returns. Moorman averaged 49.3 yards per punt with a net of 48.3. There were plenty of times where he was able to flip the field position, which forced the Panthers offense to take the ball a long way down the field. In a backup role, Moorman has more than done his job and was a big reason why the Cowboys were able to successfully win this game.
IRVING, Texas – Maybe there will come a time this season in which Jason Garrett will be able to roll out the same 46-man roster in back to back weeks.
But it won’t happen this week as we ponder the 46-man roster for Sunday’s game at Carolina.
Chris Jones was on the practice field Friday but did not punt during the portion of practice open to the media. Brian Moorman punted Thursday and was extremely effective in his practice work. So let’s say Moorman fills in this week for Jones.
You can rule out DeMarco Murray (foot) and Sean Lissemore (ankle) and all but rule out Ryan Cook (hamstring), as inactive players.
Where do the final two come from?
Well, if Matt Johnson suffered an injury in Friday’s practice that forced him to leave the session early, he would be another.
The other candidates to dress would be Kyle Wilber, Orie Lemon, Derrick Dockery, Andre Holmes and Cole Beasley.
With Cook out, I can’t imagine Dockery is inactive as the Cowboys are going to great lengths to make sure David Arkin is needed only in an emergency. Mark it down that the Cowboys keep eight offensive linemen active vs. the Panthers.
The Beasley-Holmes debate comes down to special teams and since Beasley doesn’t cover kicks, Holmes gets the nod. Holmes, however, does not add much to the offense and Beasley seems to be giving guys fits in practice. But the Cowboys will go with five wides again and it looks like Beasley is down.
Lemon was inactive last week at Baltimore, but could he get the call over Wilber with Anthony Spencer set to return? The Cowboys would not need a fifth outside linebacker active and Lemon might be the better special teams player.
NO WALKTHROUGH: Dallas Cowboys adopt "training camp mode" for today’s workout before players take break
Instead of a walkthrough, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said today’s workout at Valley Ranch will involve “more of a training camp mode” in the wake of Monday’s 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears. It will be the Cowboys’ only workout of the week before players take a four-day break and return to work Monday to begin preparations for the team’s next game, Oct. 14 at Baltimore.
Garrett said he reviewed videotapes with players this morning and the team will work today “in helmets and shells … Cowboys vs. Cowboys in the practice, more of a training camp mode” before taking time off for their bye week. Garrett said he stressed the importance of responsible, off-field behavior to players during their break.
“That’s always something you try to address with them whenever they have time off and they’re going to be away for a little bit. Just remind them of what we’re trying to get accomplished here and who they are and how they want to represent themselves, their families and our teams,” Garrett said.
Jason Garrett speaks to the Dallas media as his team prepares to take the field for their final practice before the bye week.
Click HERE to watch video – duration 10:28
Rushing Offense F
The running game was bad in Week 3 against the Buccaneers and got worse against the Bears. DeMarco Murray gained only 24 yards on 11 carries. He was dropped for a loss four times, meaning he’s lost yardage on 11 of 29 carries over the last two games. Murray’s 131-yard performance in the season-opening win over the Giants is the exception. The norm: 106 yards on 31 carries in the three games since then, an average of 3.4 yards per carry. Speaking of exceptions, Felix Jones actually looked fast on his lone carry of the night, a 13-yard burst. That was a rare occasion when the offensive line opened a hole.
Passing Offense: F
The five interceptions far overshadow Tony Romo’s 307 passing yards. And who cares that Kyle Orton threw for 89 yards and a touchdown during mop-up time? It’s close to impossible to win when the franchise quarterback throws more touchdown passes to the opposing team than to his teammates. Romo missed wide-open receivers twice on potential touchdowns, too. Dez Bryant had eight catches for a career-high 105 yards, but this was one of his worst performances. He had two killer drops and a mental bust that led to Charles Tillman’s pick-six. The return of the real Jason Witten (13 catches, 112 yards, TD) offered little comfort.
Rushing Defense: B-
Matt Forte found some room, gaining 52 yards on 13 carries, but the Bears’ running game didn’t really hurt the Cowboys. Dallas bottled up backup Michael Bush for 29 yards on 10 carries. The Bears finished with fewer than 100 yards on the ground and averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. Inside linebacker Sean Lee had another outstanding performance as a run-stopper, being credited with 14 tackles, including one for a loss. Nose tackle Josh Brent played strong up the middle, getting four stops, including one behind the line on a third-and-short. Fill-in outside linebacker Victor Butler got his end turned a few times and only made one tackle, but it’s not like the Bears won the game because they exploited Anthony Spencer’s absence.
Passing Defense: F
Chicago QB Jay Cutler entered the week as the NFL’s interceptions leader but had an almost flawless performance against the Cowboys. Cutler completed 18 of 24 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 140.1. The Cowboys weren’t able to exploit a questionable offensive line, sacking Cutler only twice. Starting cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne both owned up to playing poorly. Brandon Marshall (seven catches, 138 yards, TD) was dominant, although Carr didn’t cover him on all of his catches. Claiborne got burnt by a Devin Hester double move for a touchdown.
Special Teams: B
The Cowboys contained Devin Hester, who had only one punt return for eight yards and two kickoff returns for 50 yards. Brian Moorman pinned the Bears inside the 10-yard line on two of his three punts. Felix Jones took a knee on five kickoffs — yes, that counts as progress — and failed to get to the 20 the two times he came out of the end zone. Dan Bailey made his only field goal attempt. And Joe DeCamillis’ units didn’t have any disasters.
Jason Garrett’s offense is as big a mess as there is in the NFL. Oh, the Cowboys are no longer the lowest-scoring team in the NFL. They avoided that dubious distinction with a garbage-time touchdown, but a five-turnover performance was an epic failure. Garrett has two weeks to figure things out, and he’ll need every minute of it. Rob Ryan failed to generate much pressure on Cutler despite facing a suspect Chicago offensive line, but at least he had an excuse with four starters out and linebacker Bruce Carter missing much of the game.
The more you studied the Bears on defense, the more you realized that it was going to be difficult to move the ball on them. For the Cowboys on Monday night, moving the ball wasn’t the problem. Instead, it was missed opportunities when the offensive line was able to protect and Romo had time to find an open receiver. Poor execution led to a turnover, or a drop or even an overthrow. This Chicago defense wasn’t dominant like I had seen on film, but it simply took advantage of the Cowboys inability to finish drives and make plays.
While we focus on those missed opportunities, we also need to take note that for the second straight week, this team lacked a running game. Sure, people will blame this solely on the offensive line, but it’s more than that. It was a collective effort. There is really a struggle to get any type of push at the point of attack, but this is a tight end and fullback problem as well. Give the Bears credit for their run defense tonight but going forward, something has to be done.
Not going to make any excuses for this defense tonight, but it was clear that they needed to find a way to make more plays than they did. So far this team has gotten by without Jay Ratliff at nose tackle, but tonight they played without Anthony Spencer and it was the first game without safety Barry Church as well. While Josh Brent has done a nice job at nose, they still need Ratliff. Victor Butler does a much better job of rushing the passer than he does playing the run, although even when he had a chance to get a sack and get the defense off the field, he was unable to make a play.
Tonight we saw Brandon Carr struggle and the Bears go after Morris Claiborne a bit. Danny McCray was in on several plays but had a chance to make an interception late in the game, instead allowing tight end Kellen Davis to take the ball away from him.
For a team that shut Vincent Jackson down last week, Brandon Marshall was unstoppable. There were too many plays where he had space. I was surprised that DeMarcus Ware didn’t have a bigger night against J’Marcus Webb, who had been struggling against everyone at left tackle. Ware did have a sack and three tackles, but again, I expected more. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan did his best to match the Bears, but Jay Cutler was more than up to the challenge and the Cowboys were able to only generate one turnover from him.
Cowboys punter Brian Moorman was effective in this three punts with two inside the 20. Bears return man Devin Hester wasn’t the factor that he could have been. Hester did manage to have one kickoff return for 29 yards, but the kickoff coverage team was up to the task when given the opportunity. In the three chances the Cowboys did have to punt, it appeared from the press box that the protection was better than the last two weeks.
Here are the notes compiled after tonight’s game:
Jason Witten (112 yards) and Dez Bryant (105) each topped 100 receiving yards to mark the first time the Cowboys had a pair of100-yard receivers in a game since Miles Austin (143) and Witten (102) did it at San Francisco (9/18/11).
Miles Austin’s 57 yards tonight gave him 3,594 for his career to pass Billy Joe DuPree (3,565), Jay Novacek (3,576) and Terrell Owens (3,587) for eighth in club record books.
Austin’s touchdown catch gave him his 31st career scoring reception to tie Lance Rentzel for ninth in Cowboys history.
Cole Beasley had his first career reception tonight, finishing with two for 14 yards.
Josh Brent notched his first career sack tonight.
Dez Bryant’s eight receptions tonight gave him 129 for his career to pass Pettis Norman, Alvin Harper (124 each) and Eric Bjornson (127) and tie Dan Reeves for 33rd in franchise history.
Bryant totaled 105 receiving yards tonight to give him 1,758 yards for his career to pass Pettis Norman (1,672) and Dan Reeves (1,693) for 31st in club history.
Bryant’s 105-yard performance was his second career 100-yard game and a career-high. His first was at the N.Y. Giants (11/14/10) when he finished with 104 yards.
Victor Butler recovered his second career fumble following the force by DeMarcus Ware’s sack.
Andre Holmes had caught his first career pass tonight for seven yards.
Danny McCray made the first start of his career, filling in at safety after Barry Church was placed on Reserve/Injured (Achilles) last week.
Brian Moorman made his Cowboys debut, punting in place of Chris Jones (knee). Moorman punted three times for a 37.0 average, a 34.3 net and two downed inside the Bears 20.
DeMarco Murray rushed 11 times tonight to give him 237 career rushing attempts. He passed Chris Warren (217) and Daryl Johnston (232) for 25th in Dallas record books.
Murray rushed for 24 yards tonight to up his career rushing yards total to 1,134 and pass Doug Dennison (1,112) for 22nd in franchise history.
Kyle Orton made his Cowboys debut tonight in the fourth quarter and completed nine-of-10 passes for 89 yards with a touchdown.
Tony Romo’s touchdown toss tonight was his 154th career touchdown throw. He broke a tie with Roger Staubach for sole possession of third place on the Dallas Cowboys all-time touchdown pass list.
Romo finished the game with 307 passing yards, to up his club record of 300-yard passing games to 33.
Romo also suffered five interceptions tonight to tie his career high previously established at Buffalo (10/8/07).
Phillip Tanner had his first career catch tonight and finished with two grabs for 20 yards.
DeMarcus Ware had a sack tonight in which he forced his 30th career fumble to extend his club record. His last three sacks (two from last week) have each resulted in a forced fumble.
Ware now has three forced fumbles on the season, his sixth career season with three-or-more forced fumbles which ties the fifth-highest figure by a defender in league history.
Jason Witten finished with 13 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown tonight. His 112 yards tied the ninth-most receiving yards in a game in his career while his 13 receptions were the third-most in his career, tied the third-most by a Cowboys pass catcher in franchise history – Lance Rentzel (vs. Washington, 11/19/67) and tied the eighth-most by a tight end in a single game in NFL history.
Witten’s Single-Game Receptions
15………… at Detroit (12/9/07)
14………… at N.Y. Giants (12/6/09)
13………… vs. Chicago (10/1/12)
Witten’s 100-yard outing upped his Cowboys tight end record of 100-yard games to 15.
Witten’s touchdown reception tonight was his 42nd career scoring grab and his first since his 59-yard score at Washington (11/20/11). His 42 touchdown catches broke a tie with Billy Joe DuPree for sole possession of sixth on the club’s all-time touchdown receptions list.
Five storylines to watch in tonight’s Cowboys-Bears game. What will tomorrow’s headlines read?
The old Jason Witten
He promised the old Jason Witten would be back last week. He wasn’t. This week is another chance. There is no way one of the franchise’s most respected players, a seven-time Pro Bowl player, can struggle again. This shouldn’t be an every-week thing, right?
Kicking to Hester
The Cowboys had the second-best punt return defense in the NFL through the first two weeks. But they have a new punter for this game against the Bears and Devin Hester. It’s up to Brian Moorman to kick directionally and high. And on kickoffs, Dan Bailey, who has four touchbacks on 11 kickoffs this year, said he is making it a personal challenge to neutralize Hester.
For two games, the offensive line has been battled to a standstill at best, which might be putting it too kindly. Now the Bears come in with a front four that is one of the NFL’s best at getting sacks by itself, not often needing extra rushers. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are running for only 3.5 yards per carry, 23rd in the NFL (same as the Bears).
The Cowboys are already down a safety (Barry Church), cut another at the start of the week (Mana Silva), and merely hoped to get Gerald Sensabaugh over a calf strain in time to play tonight. After that? A novice starter (Danny McCray). And their best corner (Brandon Carr).
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has thrown six interceptions. The Cowboys’ Tony Romo had two fumbles and an interception last week. This is a game with potential for takeaways on both sides. The Bears already have nine, so they’re plus-3 for the season. The Cowboys? Minus-3.
RELATED: KEYS TO VICTORY – Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears
The Cowboys and Chicago Bears have a lot in common besides their 2-1 records. They both feature stingy defenses and offensive lines that struggle to protect their quarterbacks. Now, the two teams face each other Monday night at 7:30 p.m. Here is a look at how both teams match up:
The Cowboys’ offensive line resembled a sieve the last two games. Against Seattle and Tampa Bay, defenders routinely crashed the backfield. Quarterback Tony Romo has been sacked five times in the last eight quarters and hit on 10 other occasions. It’s uncertain if the punishment has had a cumulative effect on Romo’s performance. But it’s not good. And against a Bears defense that collected a league -high14 sacks after three weeks, Romo could be in danger if the pass protection doesn’t improve.
Do better on first down
Jason Garrett has repeatedly said he doesn’t want his offense playing behind the chains. In other words, he’d like to avoid unfavorable down-and-distance situations in the early stages of each series. But this season the Cowboys haven’t. After three weeks they are among the least efficient teams on first down, averaging four or more yards only 42.7 percent of the time. That needs to improve if Dallas has designs on being a productive offense.
This season, Rob Ryan’s defense seems a bit tamer. The Cowboys coordinator has dialed back the blitzes. But this week he should consider attacking at will. The Bears’ line is vulnerable, having yielded 11 sacks, the third-highest total in the NFL. They have also allowed 20 knockdowns. Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler has expressed frustration with shoddy line play and it has affected his performance. In a loss to Green Bay, when he was sacked seven times, he completed 41 percent of his pass attempts.
Improve special teams play
The Cowboys’ special teams play this season has left a lot to be desired. Against Tampa Bay, they nearly allowed a punt to be blocked for the second consecutive game. Two other times, they had 10 men on the field. Dallas needs to correct its mistakes quickly. The Bears feature Devin Hester, one of the most dynamic return specialists in NFL history. He’s capable of making a game-changing play and the Cowboys can’t afford to let that happen.
Each time Moorman boots the ball across the field against the Bears, the most dangerous returner in football history will await each punt. Devin Hester’s 12 career punt return touchdowns rank first all-time.
“He’s obviously one of the best, if not the best, in the league,” Moorman said. “You’ve got to have a lot of respect for him and what he has accomplished and what he can accomplish every time he touches the ball. It’s obviously something we’re talking about and we’re going to try to prepare for.”
Hester’s only had six returns this season and hasn’t taken one back for a score. But one of those punt returns went for more than 23 yards, and Chicago coach Lovie Smith said the game changer is still capable of breaking one loose.
Hester returned two punts for touchdowns last season and three the year before. Since 2007, when he returned four of his 42 punt returns for touchdowns, punters started to learn their lesson. Hester’s never returned more than 33 punts in his previous four seasons, as punters stay away from the game changer.
“As a returner, it’s just hard to be special and have a touchdown on returns every game,” Smith said. “You go through some spells where it doesn’t happen. You get that momentum going, then you run off a couple games. Not scoring right now, I can see why you would question where Devin is right now, but he’s a young player still, and I still believe his best returns are ahead of him.”
The last time Hester went a whole season without returning a kick or a punt for a touchdown was in 2009, when his season was limited with a calf injury. After the 2007 season, Hester also moved into a more permanent role in the offense as a receiver.
But Smith said teams are still cautious when they send the ball deep to Hester.
“I know Devin hasn’t taken one back to the house yet this year, but he’s been close and getting better and better,” Smith said. “He’s just another weapon to try to get points on the board. We put a big emphasis on playing special teams around here. Guys know if they can just give Devin a little bit of space, there’s a chance that they can see something special.”
Moorman’s not the only one who has to prepare for the dynamic returner. Kicker Dan Bailey said he’s been more consistent on his kickoffs, but even if he kicks it deep against Chicago, Hester could still take the ball out.
Hester’s recorded seven combined kick returns of more than 40 yards in his two previous seasons, including one touchdown. He’s averaged 27.3 yards per kick return this year, taking four of his seven returns for more than 20 yards. Bailey said he knows at any point Hester can record his first kick return touchdown of the season.
“He’s one of the best ever,” Bailey said. “He’s that guy that could be nine deep and is still going to bring it out. That’s just his mentality. I’m going to take it as a personal challenge and try to go head-to-head with him and eliminate his chances as much as I can. Hopefully as a team we all can do that even more, collectively.”
The last time Hester played the Cowboys in 2010, he was more dangerous as a receiver than a returner, catching four passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He only returned one punt for negative yardage, while Dez Bryant returned a punt for a touchdown against the Bears.
The Cowboys will need to swarm the returner again if they want to keep him in check. Special teams ace Danny McCray will likely be starting at safety this week, but head coach Jason Garrett said they may need him to stay on certain special teams units to account for Hester.
“Hester is a big-time returner,” Garrett said. “Everybody knows that. Might go down as one of the greats ever in this league. So, it’ll be a real challenge for us. We’ll need all hands on deck.”