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.
Jimmy Robinson, Asst. Head Coach/Wide Receivers, with Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88), wide receiver Miles Austin (19) and wide receiver Laurent Robinson (81) on the bench in the second quarter.
The Cowboys finished their 15th game of the season with a 20-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday afternoon. We review the game in our weekly Beat Writers Recap.
- If the Cowboys-Eagles game told us anything it’s that Stephen McGee is not ready to become a full-time No. 2 quarterback behind Tony Romo. McGee’s line on Saturday: 24-of-38 for 182 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and three sacks. McGee dumped off too many passes and just didn’t seem relaxed in the pocket. The Eagles’ pass rush had something to do with that of course, but there was this drive starting with 9:33 to play in the game that McGee could have used to prove something to the coaching staff. It started at the Cowboys’ 23 and ended when McGee tried to throw to Martellus Bennett in the end zone while missing an open Miles Austin. During the drive, McGee’s longest completed pass was a 15-yarder to third-string running back Chauncey Washington.
- It was interesting that coach Jason Garrett didn’t sit some regular offensive starters, other than Felix Jones, in the late stages of the game. Yes, Garrett is trying to win and didn’t want to present a front that he didn’t care. Yet, there would have been nothing wrong with sitting Kyle Koiser (foot) and Laurent Robinson (shoulder) and maybe giving a few snaps to Jeremy Parnell at tackle with the game out of reach. One of the problems we have with Garrett’s decision making last year was his refusal to play young tackle Sam Young. At some point you need to find out if young players can play.
- The more we watch defensive end Sean Lissemore, the more we like him. He finished with four tackles and has performed well with extended snaps with Josh Brent (knee) out. What the Cowboys do next year at end is an interesting debate. We believe Jason Hatcher will return, but we’re not sure about Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears coming back. In the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme, it’s hard to judge the defensive ends on stats, because Coleman and Spears are asked to play the run. Spears has been more active than Coleman the last few weeks, though Coleman did have a tackle for loss on Saturday, his first since Thanksgiving.
- Punter Mat McBriar had a nice day versus Philadelphia. Of his nine punts, he landed a season-high five inside the 20. He’s been bothered by nerve damage in his left (non-kicking) foot, which cost him one game this year. McBriar is still one of the best punters in the NFL, as evident by his effort at Arizona on Dec. 4 where he held the dangerous Patrick Peterson to just 1 return yard, but his health has bothered him at times in 2011.
- Romo didn’t complete a pass Saturday, marking the first time in his career that’s ever happened. The main concern going forward with Romo regarding his bruised hand is the ability to grip the ball. If he struggles in that area, he will have difficulty passing and handing off. … With Kevin Ogletree (knee) being inactive for the Eagles game, you have to wonder about his own future. The Cowboys expected so much out of him, but Robinson surpassed him on the depth chart. … Good to see Dwayne Harris with a 51-yard kickoff return. He is running with confidence and might break one in the regular-season finale at the New York Giants.
Calvin Watkins | ESPN Dallas
A group of Santa’s get ready for a halftime performance.
Here are notes compiled by the Dallas Cowboys’ staff:
The Dallas Cowboys did not throw an interception today, and it marked Dallas’ fourth straight game without throwing an interception. It is the longest streak for the Cowboys since 2009 (four straight, 11/26-12/19).
The Dallas Cowboys avoided a shutout today with a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The last time Dallas was held scoreless was at New England (11/16/03). It also extended their streak of home games without a shutout to 166. The last time Dallas was shutout at home was against Philadelphia (9/15/91).
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With running back Felix Jones listed as questionable for the Eagles game with a hamstring injury, Chauncey Washington was signed to the active roster from the practice squad.
Washington was needed for depth purposes. Jones has not practiced all week and his primary backup is 12-year veteran Sammy Morris who has been with the team less than two weeks.
Washington signed to the Cowboys practice squad on November 30, 2011. He was originally drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the seventh round (213th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft out of USC.
He played in six games with the Jaguars as a rookie carrying the ball four times for nine yards and adding one catch for nine yards. He spent most of the 2009 season with the Dallas Cowboys bouncing between their practice squad and active roster – seeing action in two games.
In 2010, he was on the N.Y. Jets practice squad until signing with the St. Louis Rams on September 28, where he appeared in one game before being added to their practice squad. He was released by St. Louis on August 4, 2011.
The club released guard Daniel Loper. Loper was inactive for seven games this season with Dallas.
Running back Felix Jones is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against Philadelphia. He again did not practice on Friday, so he missed all week with a tight hamstring. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said every day he was hopeful Jones could play.
Jones spent the week working on the side with the training staff. He did not appear to be struggling in his rehab drills Thursday during the part of practice open to reporters.
Also listed as questionable are cornerback Mike Jenkins (shoulder), receiver Kevin Ogletree (knee), nose tackle Jay Ratliff (ribs), receiver Laurent Robinson (shoulder), linebacker DeMarcus Ware (neck stinger) and backup safety Danny McCray (ankle).
Guard Kyle Kosier (foot) had a full practice on Friday and is listed as probable, along with linebacker Sean Lee (wrist) and punter Mat McBriar (foot).
Nose tackle Josh Brent (knee) and receiver Andre Holmes (hamstring) are out.
Did you know? You can keep up with the Dallas Cowboys (and weekly opponents) Injury Updates right here on The Boys Are Back blog. Just click on the “INJURY UPDATE” tab at the top of each page.
Jason Garrett spoke to the media before his teams final practice of the week.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn’t commit to Felix Jones practicing on Thursday, the last regular practice before Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Asked in his press conference if he anticipated Jones would practice, Garrett said, "I anticipate him doing something."
Garrett said Jones has not been doing any football plays in his side work, but that the Cowboys remain hopeful he can play on Saturday.
Jones has been held out of practice because of tightness in his hamstring. The Cowboys called it a precautionary move.
ROSTER MOVE: Practice squad RB Chauncey Washington likely to be called up
While running back Chauncey Washington said Thursday he hasn’t been informed of anything, it’s likely he will be moved up from the practice squad this week and will play against the Eagles Saturday at Cowboys Stadium.
To do that, the Cowboys will have to make room on the 53-man roster.
Not only does the team have just two running backs on the active roster, but one of which hasn’t practiced all week in Felix Jones, who is still the projected starter despite his nagging strained hamstring injury. The other back is 34-year-old veteran Sammy Morris, who was signed off the street last week and had 12 carries for 53 yards – the only carries he’s had since the preseason when he was a member of the Patriots.
With Jones not practicing all week, Washington has taken the backup reps behind Morris. Still, the Cowboys are hopeful Jones will be ready to face the Eagles.
But adding Washington to the roster also makes sense because of his special-teams skills. Morris played on a few kicking game packages last week but if he is asked to shoulder more of the load at tailback, Washington would then replace him on special teams.
“It’s all about staying ready,” said Washington, who has only played in six career games, including two with the Cowboys in 2009. “They haven’t said anything yet. But I’m keeping myself mentally prepared. That’s what you’re supposed to do every week.”
Washington started his career in Jacksonville in 2008, when he played for special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis with the Jags. He followed DeCamillis to the Cowboys for a short stint on both the roster and practice squad and briefly spent some time with the Rams last year.
Washington has only four career carries for nine yards and one reception for nine yards.