NFL COACHES CAROUSEL: Dallas Cowboys ST coach Rich Bisaccia interviewing for NFL’s final head coaching vacancy
IRVING, Texas – For the third time already this offseason, special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia will interview for a head coaching job.
This time, it’s for the Cleveland Browns job, the only remaining head coaching vacancy at this time.
Bisaccia also interviewed for the Redskins and Titans positions last week. Washington has since hired Jay Gruden and Tennessee gave the job to Ken Whisenhunt.
Bisaccia has been with the Dallas Cowboys just one season overseeing the special teams – a unit that had its share of good moments. Dwayne Harris finished third in the NFL with a 12.8 punt return average and second in the league with a 30.6 kickoff return average.
Dan Bailey finished the year with 21 straight field goals and ranked fourth in the NFL with 52 touchbacks.
The coverage teams also fared well, despite a new cast of characters. Three of the four top tacklers on special teams – Jeff Heath (13), Cam Lawrence (12) and Kyle Bosworth (12) were not on the roster last year. Even Bosworth wasn’t on the team at the end of the season, getting cut late in the season. Harris also improved his coverage game with 12 special teams tackles.
The Browns fired Rob Chudzinski after just one season, including a 4-12 record.
While Cleveland’s president is Alec Scheiner, who spent eight years in Dallas, including the five as the Dallas Cowboys Senior VP and General Counsel. He left the Cowboys before Bisaccia joined the team in January.
IRVING, Texas – Every offseason has some sort of coaching change and the first one for the Dallas Cowboys this year involves the special teams unit.
But his assistant Chris Boniol, a former Dallas Cowboys place-kicker from 1994-96, said he will not return to the coaching staff for 2014.
On Wednesday, Boniol confirmed the Cowboys will not renew Boniol’s contract, which expired last week after he signed a one-year contract to work with Bisaccia before last season. Boniol joined the Cowboys’ staff in 2010 when he worked under then-special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.
“It’s a mutual agreement,” Boniol said Wednesday. “Everything has gone great the last four years. It’s just time for me to move on. It’s been a good run.”
Boniol said he leaves the organization on nothing but good terms. Boniol said he was especially grateful for the way the Cowboys brought him back last offseason when his contract had expired.
“They really, on my behalf, went to bat to keep me around, which I’m extremely grateful for,” Boniol said, mentioning Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett. “They’ve been extremely generous and supportive. Just fantastic to me and my career development. I had a real good talk with Jason … he’s a good one.”
The Cowboys are coming off another banner season for kicker Dan Bailey, who ended 2013 with 21 straight field goals, including a game-winner against the Giants in late November.
Bailey was 28 of 30 on field goals in 2013, a percentage of .933 that ranked fourth in the NFL. Bailey made six of his seven attempts of 50 yards or more.
Bailey also improved his kickoffs in 2013, ranking tied for fourth in the NFL with 52.
Punter Chris Jones ranked 19th in the NFL with a 45.0 yard punting average. His 39.1 yard net average was good for 20th.
“You can ask anyone around the league – both of those guys – Dan and Chris,” Boniol said of his two kickers from last year. “You’d have a hard time finding better guys at their position. And you’re going to have a hard time finding guys that are that disciplined that have matured athletically and professionally like they have, the last few years. I’m real proud of them. They’ve really grown into true professionals.”
As for Boniol, who owns the Dallas Cowboys record for consecutive field goals made of 27 straight, set in 1996, he said his plan is to continue coaching in the NFL and he’s hoping it will be in a similar role, although becoming a special teams coordinator is a personal goal down the road.
“My long-term goal, that’s always a possibility,” Boniol said of becoming a special teams coach. “However right now, my role that is most important to me is to be an assistant special teams coach in charge of developing young kickers and punters. That’s my gift, that’s really my best role right now for me as an individual.”
The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2013 NFL bye-week in the same position they’ve finished the past two seasons – with a .500 record.
Unlike the way those other seasons ended, the Dallas Cowboys currently find themselves atop the NFC East standings. Translation: If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Dallas Cowboys would be hosting the Carolina Panthers in a Wild Card game.
But since the playoffs don’t begin Sunday and the Cowboys don’t have a game this weekend, it’s a good time to see how they stack up against the other 31 teams in several categories.
According to Pro Football Focus, here are how some of your favorite Dallas Cowboys compare to other players around the NFL:
2013-2014 DALLAS COWBOYS OFFENSE
- Tony Romo is ranked No. 12 among quarterbacks. A few of the most interesting names ahead of him: Miami’s Ryan Tannehill, Chicago’s Jay Cutler and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.
- Just grading Romo as a passer, he ranks seventh.
- Romo trails Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton in number of drop backs. Dalton 496, Romo 399, New Orleans’ Drew Brees 391, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford 389, Matt Ryan 389.
- Romo received the offense’s lowest grade for the 49-17 loss in New Orleans.
- Over the last five weeks, Romo has posted his four lowest grades of the year.
- Dez Bryant ranks 13th among the league’s wide receivers. Cole Beasley is 36th, Miles Austin is 84th and Terrance Williams is 90th.
- Beasley is No. 1 in the league in percentage caught, hauling in 76.5 percent of the passes thrown in his direction. Williams led this category earlier in the year but has since fallen to 66th, catching 58 percent of the passes thrown to him. Williams, however, does lead the team in yards per reception at 17.2, 12th best in the NFL.
- Doug Free is No. 13 among offensive tackles. Tyron Smith is No. 15.
- Although he hasn’t played in the last two games, Brian Waters is still the team’s highest-graded guard, ranking 24th. Mackenzy Bernadeau, who had the offense’s best grade against New Orleans, is 31st and Ron Leary is 49th.
- Rookie Travis Frederick is eighth among centers.
- Surprisingly, the Dallas Cowboys, who are 26th in the NFL in rushing, are graded as the eighth-best run blocking team.
- Among tight ends, Jason Witten is No. 17. The biggest knock on the eight-time Pro Bowler is his run blocking. He ranks 29th in that category.
- DeMarco Murray has missed two games but he still ranks 12th among running backs. Murray is No. 5 in blocking among backs.
2013-2014 DALLAS COWBOYS DEFENSE
- George Selvie had been one of the top 10 defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme earlier in the year but three negative grades over the last five weeks have dropped him to 27th. DeMarcus Ware is No. 9.
- Of the 80 outside linebackers graded, Ernie Sims is 78 and Bruce Carter is 77.
- Jason Hatcher is third among defensive tackles. Nick Hayden is the lowest-graded defensive tackle in the league.
- Sean Lee is sixth among inside linebackers.
- Cornerback grades: Orlando Scandrick 31, Brandon Carr 46, Morris Claiborne 86.
- Barry Church is the Cowboys’ top-rated safety, tied for 25th in the league.
2013-2014 DALLAS COWBOYS SPECIAL TEAMS
- Dan Bailey is third among kickers, trailing only Denver’s Matt Prater and Carolina’s Graham Gano.
- Dwayne Harris is No. 3 among returners. He’s 18th on punt returns and second on kick returns, trailing only Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson.
In the least suspenseful announcement of the week so far, Dallas Cowboys kick returner Dwayne Harris was named NFC special teams player of the week.
It is the second time this year and the third time in his career that Harris has won the award.
The third-year receiver had an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 90-yard kickoff return against the Washington Redskins Sunday night. The punt return was the fifth-longest in team history and his second punt return for a touchdown. He finished the game with 109 punt return yards, seventh-most in team history.
The 90-yard kickoff return, to the 15-yard line to set up a touchdown that put the Cowboys ahead 21-9, was the 10th-longest in team history.
He finished the game with 222 combined return yards, fourth-most in team history.
He also had two tackles on special teams and leads the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys in special teams tackles.
RELATED: Harris takes home NFC special teams award for 2nd time
IRVING, Texas – For the first time in 10 years and just the third time in franchise history, a Cowboys’ player has won NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time in a season.
To no surprise, Dwayne Harris won the weekly honor for his performance in Sunday’s 31-16 win over the Redskins. Harris’ 222 return yards outgained the Cowboys’ entire offense by nine yards.
His 86-yard punt return for a touchdown broke the game open in the second half and his 90-yard kickoff return led to another touchdown.
Back in Week 1, Harris won the award for his coverage skills in a win over the Giants. He had three tackles and was involved in a fumble recovery on the punt team. The last time a Cowboys player won this award twice in one season was Billy Cundiff in 2003, when he had two big games against the Giants, kicking a combined 11 field goals. Cowboys kicking coach Chris Boniol also won the award twice in the 1996 season, although the second award was for his performance occurred in the Wild Card win over Minnesota.
Along with this weekly award, Harris also achieved some milestones as well. He now has 623 punt return yards to move into ninth place in Cowboys history.
The 86-yard return was the fifth-longest in franchise history and he became just the third player in club history to have a 90-yard kickoff return without scoring a touchdown.
And his 222 total return yards ranked fourth in club history for a single-game. Mel Renfro holds the club record with 273 against Green Bay in 1964.
IRVING, Texas – Dwayne Harris was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time in his career after his performance against the New York Giants in the opener.
Most of Harris’ contributions throughout his career on special teams have come as a return man, but Harris led all players with three special teams tackles and was all over the field tracking down Giants return man Rueben Randle throughout the night.
Harris also served as the Dallas Cowboys’ punt returner, averaging 9.5 yards per return on two returns. He was also a vital part of helping recover a fumble on a muffed punt in the third quarter, as he dove for the ball and helped it squirt out to DeVonte Holloman.
Not all of Harris’ contributions came on special teams, as he also had two catches for 12 yards, but he was most noticeable on the coverage teams.
Harris also won the special teams honor in 2012 for his Nov. 11 performance against the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s the first player since Sam Hurd in 2006 to win the honor for his coverage more so than his kicking or returning.
Kicker Dan Bailey was the only other player to win the award for the Cowboys last year, earning it for his performance against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 18.
IRVING, Texas – This time of year is always a tough time to make judgments on the roster. And it’s not for a lack of news, but only because we should know by now the roster is far from fluid.
We’ve already seen a few changes since Saturday’s 22 roster moves to get down to 53 players.
But if we’ve seen any kind of theme here in the last few days pertaining to the roster, it’s a rare emphasis on improving the special teams units.
For starters, the Cowboys decided to keep both Danny McCray and Eric Frampton as backup safeties, along with Jeff Heath and J.J. Wilcox. McCray and Frampton have lead the team in special teams tackles over the last three years.
McCray has been the special teams captain the last two years. He showed last year that he struggles as a safety, especially in coverage. But when it comes to covering kickoffs and punts, few have been as good or consistent as McCray in recent history.
The one decision the Cowboys didn’t make regarding the kicking game centered on wide receiver. They chose to keep just five receivers, including Cole Beasley, who is a better route-runner and slot player than Anthony Armstrong. However, Armstrong played with every special teams unit and had more speed than arguably any other player on the squad.
After the cuts, the Cowboys started making more special-teams related moves. A few hours after trimming the roster to 53, the club put Nate Livings on IR and traded a seventh-round pick to Kansas City for linebacker Edgar Jones, a six-year veteran who thrives on special teams. He is a hybrid linebacker/defensive end as a position, but special teams is his forte.
On Sunday, after the Cowboys sent Sean Lissemore to San Diego for 2015 seventh-round pick, they filled his spot by claiming linebacker Kyle Bosworth from the Giants. Yes, it’s that Bosworth – he’s the nephew of former Seattle Seahawk first-rounder Brian Bosworth. And Kyle is another local product, having starred at Plano West before attending UCLA. He played the last two years for the Jaguars, playing 25 games, including five starts last season.
Again, Bosworth is a special-teams player. That will be his role here with the Cowboys.
They tried to fill Alex Albright’s (lost during the preseason, placed on waived/injured list) spot from within. Rookies Brandon Magee, Cam Lawrence and Taylor Reed, along with first-year pro Caleb McSurdy all made it to the final preseason game. But the Cowboys chose to put all of them on waivers on Saturday.
The goal was to bring Magee back to the practice squad, but he was claimed off waivers by the Browns. Lawrence, an undrafted rookie from Mississippi State, has been added to the Cowboys’ practice squad.
But the Cowboys weren’t confident in any of them being ready to play Sept. 8 against the Giants. That’s why Bosworth has been signed. The same goes for Jones. And ditto for having both McCray and Frampton on the team.
I’m sure new special teams coach Rich Bisaccia is appreciative. After watching five games in the preseason, it was clear the kicking game had its issues. Although sometimes those tend to show up more because the players are being shuffled more than a deck of a cards in Vegas.
Who knows if the special teams miscues will carry over into the regular season. But if they do, it’s not likely they can blame personnel on this one.
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have apparently decided to keep Danny McCray on the roster for a fourth season.
But not before he reduced his salary from the $1.323 million price he was initially slotted for during the offseason.
McCray, one of the team’s top special teams players the past three seasons, has been a special teams captain the last two years. He was a restricted free agent this year and the Cowboys issued him the original draft tender of $1.323 million considering he was undrafted.
Terms of McCray’s new salary were not revealed by the Cowboys, but it’s expected the backup safety is now making in the range of $700,000.
McCray had to start 10 games at safety last year when Barry Church went down with an Achilles injury. White he finished with 87 tackles, good for second on the team behind Anthony Spencer (107), McCray struggled at times at safety, especially in coverage.
In 2012, McCray was second on the team with 18 special teams tackles, finishing behind Eric Frampton (21), who has been injured the last three weeks with a calf strain. His spot on the roster is still up in the air. His $715,000 price tag is favorable to the Cowboys, along with his experience to play safety and special teams. But his injury status could be a reason the Cowboys might be forced to go long at safety when they reduce to 53 players by Saturday.
McCray made the team as an undrafted rookie from LSU in 2010 and promptly led the special teams in tackles with 28. He came back with a team-high 19 during an injury-riddled 2011 season. But McCray became the first player since Bill Bates (1989-90) to lead the Cowboys in special teams tackles in consecutive years.
Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones talks to the media following the 2013 Cowboys preseason win over the Bengals. (Duration – 3:45)
- Thoughts and planned strategy regarding the preseason Special Teams units
- Parnell/Free right tackle experiment
- DeMarco Murray benching by Jason Garrett
- Tanner’s effort and inspirational value to other backs
- Randle cuts and instincts
- Postgame interview ends, short.
POSTGAME VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS – Cincinnati Bengals vs. Dallas Cowboys
Video | No Audio
What could go wrong did go wrong for the Dallas Cowboys’ special teams on Friday night. They had 26-yard field goal blocked. They had a personal foul penalty on punt coverage. They allowed 103 yards on three kickoff returns, including a 51-yarder that almost went for a touchdown. They fumbled a punt return.
“We had a field goal blocked, and we had a turnover in the red zone, fumbled a punt,” new special teams coach Rich Bisaccia said. “Obviously, we didn’t play very well.
“I did a poor job, obviously. We did a poor job. We didn’t cover very good. Turned the ball over and had a field goal blocked. So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Cowboys, though, are confident they will have good special teams with Bisaccia, who replaces Joe DeCamillis.
“That’s not even a question,” long snapper LP Ladouceur said. “Everywhere he’s been, he’s done really well. I’m not worried about that. He’s going to do well here. We’re going to do well here. Sometimes players we have to step up. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
Dan Bailey has had only one field goal blocked in his two seasons. So it was an unusual sound he heard Friday when his kick bounced off Tyvon Branch’s hands.
“I think we just had a lot of pressure from the right side,” Bailey said. “The operation was good as far as our speed, and I thought I hit the ball good, got the ball up. I haven’t actually seen the pictures or the film yet. But it seemed like we had quite a big push on the right side, I don’t know, maybe between the guard and the tight end, somewhere over there.”
It’s safe to say the Cowboys will spend some time working on that this week, one of a handful of mistakes on special teams against the Raiders.
“It looked like the guy came off of the tight end on our right hand side,” Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We’ll watch it on the tape. Sometimes those guys will overextend and create a gap there, and that’s what it looked like to me.”
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys kicking game woes prove costly in preseason loss
OAKLAND – In a game eventually decided by two points, the Dallas Cowboys were on the wrong side of a 19-17 outcome Friday night against the Oakland Raiders.
And like so many games do, this one came down to special teams.
The Cowboys left a field goal on the board in the first quarter. They had a fumbled punt that led to another field goal by the Raiders in the fourth. And even in between, there were some miscues in the kicking game that will likely give special teams coach Rich Bisaccia plenty to chew on this week.
It started when Dan Bailey’s 26-yard attempt was blocked.
“I haven’t seen it on film or looked at the pictures but it seemed like we had a strong rush from the right side,” Bailey said.
After the block, punter/holder Chris Jones made the tackle but Bailey was tripped up in the process, going to the ground with the wind knocked out of him.
Later in the game, with the Cowboys leading 17-16, rookie corner B.W. Webb misjudged a punt deep in his own territory and dropped the ball. The Raiders recovered at the Cowboys’ 9 and eventually took the lead on a field goal four plays later.
The Raiders only punted twice with Webb back deep for both. The first one was a short kick downed by Oakland. But the second one ended up becoming the difference maker in the game.
In the return game, the Raiders averaged 34.3 yards on three returns, including a 51-yarder in the fourth quarter that put Oakland in favorable field position and eventually led to Webb’s muffed punt.
The Cowboys had some decent returns themselves, including a 28-yard kickoff return by Cole Beasley. Joseph Randle averaged 25 yards on his two runbacks while Anthony Armstrong and Dwayne Harris also had returns.
Deep snapper L.P. Ladouceur, who is considered the veteran of the special teams, didn’t seem overly worried with the struggles Friday night.
“It’s the second preseason game,” he said. “I think we’ll be fine. We’ve got some issues to work on. But I don’t think it’s anything we can’t do. We’ve got a good scheme and we’ll be fine.”
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
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have found their new replacement for special teams coach.
After a statement that was released by the University of Auburn on Friday, Rich Bisaccia will head to Dallas to replace Joe DeCamillis and coach the Dallas Cowboys special teams.
Bisaccia joined Auburn’s staff as running backs/special teams coach on Jan. 3 but has been released from his contract and will join the Cowboys to reunite with former Tampa Bay assistants Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli.
“Rich had an offer that he felt he could not turn down and we wish him nothing but the best,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Friday in a statement.
For the last two years, Bisaccia served as the Chargers special teams coach. Having worked with Norv Turner, a close friend of Jason Garrett, it’s likely he was highly referred on that front as well, along with his ties to the new defensive coaches.
Bisaccia spent nine seasons in Tampa Bay as special teams coach from 2002-10, working alongside Kiffin and Marinelli.
The past two years, San Diego has been around the middle of the league under Bisaccia’s guidance. The Chargers ranked 15th in punt return average and 13th in kickoff return average this past season, however, they did have three punts blocked.
The Cowboys did have a key punt blocked and returned for a touchdown this season in Seattle, but had just a total of three blocked in DeCamillis’ four years with the club.
Last year, the Cowboys were up and down on special teams, including two losses where the kicking game proved to be costly. Against Seattle in Week 2, the Cowboys lost a fumble on the opening kickoff that resulted in a field goal, followed by the blocked punt for a touchdown that put the Cowboys in a 10-0 hole early.
Against the Ravens, a game the Cowboys lost by just two points on a missed field goal in the final seconds, they allowed a 108-yard kickoff return to Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones.
On the flip side, the Cowboys did find a dynamic returner in Dwayne Harris, who averaged 16.1 yards per return, which ranked second in the NFL. Dan Bailey made 29-of-31 field goals, including all 26 from inside of 50 yards.
The Cowboys had also looked at hiring Bruce DeHaven and Alan Lowry, who were both recently let go from their previous teams. Both had also served as the Cowboys special teams coach at one time. DeHaven was here four years with Bill Parcells from 2003-06, while Lowry was on the Cowboys’ staff from 1982-90, including the first five years as the special teams coach.
Change continues to sweep through Valley Ranch with Wednesday’s departure of special teams coach Joe DeCamillis to the Chicago Bears.
After the Cowboys released him from his contract, DeCamillis is now part of newly hired Bears coach Marc Trestman’s staff, agreeing to serve as special teams coach and assistant head coach.
DeCamillis is the third member of Jason Garrett’s staff to leave in the past two weeks and the first to do so without being fired. The Cowboys fired running backs coach Skip Peete and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan last week.
“I’m glad to have the opportunity to get there. I think it’s obviously a great situation,” DeCamillis said, according to ESPNDallas.com. “Dave (Toub) has already got the thing going; great tradition there. You’ve got awesome pieces to work with. So I’m excited to get there for sure.”
DeCamillis spent four seasons with Dallas.
Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis is on the Chicago Bears list of head coaching candidates. Bears general manager Phil Emery has asked the Cowboys for permission to interview DeCamillis. (The Cowboys cannot deny the request since it is a head coaching position.)
DeCamillis and Emery worked together in Atlanta for three years, when Emery was the Falcons director of college scouting and DeCamillis the special teams coach there.
DeCamillis, 47, just completed his fourth season with the Cowboys. He also previously has been a special teams coach for the Broncos (1988-92), Giants (1993-96) and Jaguars (2007-08) besides his stint in Atlanta (1997-2006).
John Harbaugh was the Eagles special teams coach when the Ravens hired him as their head coach in 2008.
The Bears also reportedly will interview Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong, Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. Chicago fired Lovie Smith on Monday after Smith went 84-66 in nine seasons.
After two consecutive games with mistakes as a punt returner, Cowboys’ receiver Dez Bryant said those duties will fall to others Sunday against Atlanta.
Asked today if he was still a punter returner, Bryant said: “I don’t think so. But I promise you, man, I’m going to bet back in their ear. I’m going to get in their ear about that.”
Bryant, who has the team’s longest punt return of the season (44 yards), said he “wasn’t disappointed at all” when coaches told him they would continue to go with others in that role. Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley replaced Bryant in that role last week against New York after Bryant fumbled a punt one week after being scolded by coaches for using poor judgment during a return against Carolina.
“I was very understanding,” Bryant said. “But like I said, I’m going to get back in coach’s ear. I think it will be hard for him to tell me ‘no.’ I’m going to continue to keep working at it. It’s not hard for me to catch a punt. I just need to feel it in and stop looking up field and think before catching the rock. That should be my first objective, to catch the ball and then go make a play.”
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."
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.
BALTIMORE — Whatever you do, don’t do that. Whatever the plan, it couldn’t have been that, could it?
Excuse both the rant, and the confusion, but 20 seconds, 20 precious seconds, were wasted by the Dallas Cowboys at the end of Sunday’s game, leading to, if nothing else, a flashback to the horror show of clock mismanagement in Arizona last season.
That one was Jason Garrett’s worst 2011 head coaching moment, and the lack of accountability in the aftermath still hangs over him.
Maybe not so much, which still doesn’t excuse what appeared to be a blunder. In this one, however, at least quarterback Tony Romo and Garrett had the same story, the same explanation on why those 20 precious seconds were left blowing in the Maryland wind.
And no, it wasn’t the "plan," both said.
As in Arizona, however, the Cowboys ended up losing a winnable game, falling 31-29 to the Ravens, and the lament of "oh-so-close" is becoming more hollow the more the Cowboys blow these kind of heartaches.
Always dependable Dan Bailey was a tad wide left on a 51-yard field goal in the final seconds, allowing the Ravens to escape.
But with a little less distance to cover with his foot, or with a better placement of the ball — as in between the hash marks — would the outcome have been different for Bailey?
Count that as one of a hundred coulda, shoulda, woulda questions the Cowboys had to answer in the aftermath.
First of all, they finally got a call, maybe a gift call, in the final minutes from an officiating crew that made the replacement boys look more acceptable with every yellow hanky that fell.
After a pass interference flag, the Cowboys had the ball at the Ravens’ 34-yard line with 26 seconds left and one timeout.
That has to be two-play territory, right? Heck yes, it’s right.
The Cowboys ran one play. Then came the failed kick.
What happened after a quick Romo inside throw to Dez Bryant netted only a yard? At that point the clock was running with 20 seconds left when Dez was taken down.
"What we were trying to do there is what we talked about before the play," Garrett said. "Tony was trying to get them on the ball as quickly as possible [after the Dez catch] knowing we had one [timeout] in our pocket.
"It just took too long for everyone to get unpiled, so it got down into single digits, so we said take it down to four seconds and bang the timeout."
Obviously, it’s up to the Cowboys to get "unpiled." The unpiling was not quick enough. But was there also clock panic? It sure looked like it.
Romo: "With the time left, we didn’t think it was in our best interest to run another play. We had guys who needed to get off the pile and receivers who needed to come to the huddle. There just wasn’t enough time."
But was there enough to time to get a snap off, with Romo diving forward to the middle of the hash marks, then get the timeout? It appeared to be the case, but Bailey wanted no such excuse after the game.
"Being on the hash mark makes no difference," he said. "My job is to make the kick. If the hold is on the hash, I’ve got to still make the kick. If you’re always hoping for the middle of the field, you aren’t going to be kicking very long."
But while Bailey blew off the advantage of kicking from the middle of the field, his long attempt was extremely tricky due to the windy conditions. The wind was swirling inside the bowl, and although not necessarily against him, there was a crosswind involved. He had plenty of foot on the kick, just not between the uprights.
Garrett’s boss, Jerry Jones, backed the decision to let 20 seconds escape at the end of the game. "I wanted the kick right there rather than take the risk of attempting to get more yards," said the owner-GM.
But even as Jerry admitted, it was a "sickening" kind of loss.
The Cowboys’ offensive line totally manhandled a once proud Ravens’ defense, paving the way for 227 yards rushing, the most ever allowed by this defense. And much of the pounding was done by, yes, Felix Jones (he lives, he lives), because of a foot injury to DeMarco Murray that took him out for the second half.
Garrett went an unheard-of four deep at running back, with third stringer Phillip Tanner heavily involved, and even rookie Lance Dunbar, signed off the street last week, getting a carry that went for 11 yards.
The Cowboys game-planned the run after the Ravens had been plowed under by the Kansas City ground attack a week ago. It worked incredibly well, but not for a win.
And here we go again. Garrett has one dumb football team. The penalties were immense (13 for the Cowboys) and some were very questionable, but heavily penalized, dumb teams normally end up on the short end of the officiating.
Once again, a special teams coverage breakdown also factored into this loss, with Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones returning a kickoff untouched for 108 yards and a touchdown, tying an NFL record for the longest runback.
And even with Bryant repeatedly making tough, productive catches, he still muffed the biggest throw of the game. In the final minutes, after Romo made a gutty 120-yard drive (including 40 yards in penalties), the Cowboys had to go for two points and a tie game after the touchdown catch by Dez.
The 2-point throw was right there for Bryant. He flat missed it. The Cowboys, however, recovered the onside kick that led to the missed field goal. The Dez drop, however, low-lighted a frustrating end to a frustrating afternoon and a frustrating loss.
Also frustrating were the 20 seconds the Cowboys will never get back.
The Dallas Cowboys brought back a familiar face to the Valley Ranch complex today, hoping to find some help on special teams and possibly cornerback depth.
Bryan McCann, who played for the team in 2010 and actually spent two training camps with the Cowboys, worked out for coaches, scouts and front-office personnel.
The Cowboys have an open spot on the 53-man roster after cutting cornerback LeQuan Lewis this week. Lewis played the last two games, mostly on special teams but was called into duty on defense.
Coach Jason Garrett said this week the Cowboys needed that spot to provide more on special teams than Lewis was able to. McCann has experience not only to cover kicks, but also in the return game.
McCann has played 11 games with the Cowboys, including nine as a rookie in 2010. He’s remembered most for his two long touchdown returns in consecutive weeks, starting with a 101-yard interception runback against the Giants in Jason Garrett’s first game as interim head coach.
The next week against the Lions, McCann alertly knew the NFL rulebook well enough to know he could scoop up a deflected punt without jeopardy of fumbling, and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown in the Cowboys’ win over Detroit.
McCann was cut two games into the 2011 season, picked up by the Ravens for three games before finishing year in Oakland. McCann spent training camp with the Raiders this season and played against the Cowboys in the preseason opener.
He has a 24.2 yard kick return average and 15.9 on punt returns in his career.
UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys opt not to sign CB Bryan McCann
The Cowboys worked out cornerback Bryan McCann on Thursday but they have determined they won’t sign him. Management has no immediate plans to bring anyone else in but it is discussing its options.
McCann, 25, is a former member of the team who last played for Oakland before being cut by the Raiders in early September.
After taking another look at McCann more than a year later, the Cowboys decided against bringing him back.
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
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.
Andre Holmes, at 6-foot-5, is the Dallas Cowboys’ tallest receiver. One of his highlight moments in training camp came when he grabbed a Hail Mary pass from backup quarterback Kyle Orton on the final play of a live team session in Oxnard, Calif.
But Holmes has yet to be in the Cowboys’ end-of-the-half, multiple-receiver mix during the regular season because he has been battling a knee ailment. Jason Garrett left open the opportunity today that Holmes may work his way into the team’s Hail Mary mix as his health improves.
“He will get an opportunity to do that going forward the more chances he gets in practice to get ready for it,” Garrett said. “He hasn’t done it that much, coming off of an injury. So you put the guys out there who are most comfortable doing that.
Before the Dallas Cowboys defeated Tampa Bay 16-10 last Sunday, the ranks were thinning at safety. Starter Gerald Sensabaugh had been listed as inactive for the game, prompting the Cowboys to partially use cornerback Brandon Carr to fill his spot.
Yet just as the Cowboys patched one hole, another opened when Barry Church tore his right Achilles tendon.
With Sensabaugh’s status unclear for the Cowboys’ next game against Chicago and Church placed on the injured reserve list, management began seeking reinforcements at the position. And after working out five veteran defensive backs today, the Cowboys signed Eric Frampton to fill Church’s roster spot.
“Obviously, you would like a guy who is game-ready to play and knows our system that can play quickly and contribute quickly,” head coach Jason Garrett said Monday before any move was made. “But you’d also like a guy who is young and who can contribute on specials teams when the starter comes back.”
Frampton, who was cut by Minnesota last month, seemed to meet Garrett’s criteria, particularly because of his sterling performance on special teams. Over the previous five seasons he led Minnesota’s coverage units with 85 tackles.
Frampton could conceivably assume the responsibilities of safety Danny McCray, the Cowboys’ special teams captain who has taken on more defensive duties in wake of the injuries to Sensabaugh and Church.
At the very least, Frampton gives the Cowboys more options as they try to manage the situation at safety.
So far, the Cowboys have already shown some flexibility by positioning Carr there.
SPOTLIGHT ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Seattle Seahawks returner Leon Washington a test for Dan Bailey, Chris Jones
IRVING, Texas – With star collegiate players taking over special teams roles and a hodge-podge of talent taking the field, the beginning of the season is typically difficult on special teams coverage.
Sometimes, the best way to make up for the newly-formed coverage groups is with precision in the kicking game. Against a great returner like Seattle’s Leon Washington, who holds several franchise records, the placement and distance of kicks by Dan Bailey and Chris Jones will be crucial. Washington had an 83-yard kickoff return and a 52-yard punt return against Arizona on Sunday, proving he can still be a threat at the age of 30.
“You certainly want to limit his opportunities any way you can,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “The kickers and the punters play a big role in this game. There’s no question about that. But we have to go cover. There’s no expectation that we can just take him out of the game by kicking the ball through the end zone or whatever the case might be. We have to plan and practice really well in preparing for him, because again, he’s a difference-making player for their football team.”
For Bailey, the best way to stop Washington on kickoffs is to try to boot the ball deep into the end zone, when the wind allows, but direction is important as well, if the ball isn’t carrying. Bailey had 24 touchbacks on 67 kickoffs last year.
Jones, appearing in only his third game last week, did a nice job on his two punts, finishing with a net average of 51.5 yards. Coincidentally, he made his NFL debut against the Seahawks halfway through last year, filling in for an injured Mat McBriar, and forcing Washington into three fair catches.
“I think if I can just pinpoint just where the ball is going to be, and I put it there with 4.8, 4.9, 5.0 hang time, something like that, we’re going to get a fair catch,” Jones said. “Or, we’re going to get somebody to run down there and rock him, and possibly get a turnover or something like that. A lot of the stress on me is going to be directional – let’s get it outside the numbers – and the hang time. That’s my main focus this week.”
The Dallas Cowboys signed cornerback LeQuan Lewis today to fill the roster spot of released tight end Colin Cochart.
Lewis signed with the Titans as an undrafted rookie free agent from Arizona State. He was released at the end of training camp that season and was out of football the rest of the year. He signed with the Raiders on May 15, 2012, was released June 22 and signed with the Jets on Aug. 15. He was on the Jets’ practice squad Sept. 4 before being released Tuesday.
Coach Jason Garrett said the team targeted Lewis because of his strength on special teams.
Look for him to be active against the Seattle this weekend and be part of the coverage units trying to contain Seahawks dangerous returner Leon Washington.
Washington had a kickoff return of 83 yards and a punt return of 52 yards, leading to 10 points in the 20-16 loss to the Cardinals last week.
“You certainly want to limit his opportunities any way you can,” Garrett said. “The kickers and the punters play a big role in this game. There’s no question about that. But we have to go cover it. There’s no expectation that we can just take him out of the game by just kicking the ball through the end zone or whatever the case might be. We have to plan to practice really well in preparing for him, because again, he’s a difference-making player for their football team. We’ve got to get ready to cover well and certainly the kickers and the punters have a big job in this league in terms of how to kick the ball to give us favorable covering opportunities.”
RELATED: Jason Garrett Press Conference 09/12
Jason Garrett speaks to the media at Valley Ranch as his team prepares to take the field to begin their preparations for the Seahawks.