Tag Archives: Derrick Dockery

COWBOYS AND KIDS: Players made their annual visits to area hospitals

Jacson Creel, 3,(cq) high fives Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) at Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth - The Boys Are Back blog

On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to move into a first-place tie in the NFC East.

On Monday, the Cowboys got a special reward for their effort.

Team members made their annual visits to area hospitals — Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth and, in Dallas, Children’s Medical Center, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and Medical City Children’s Hospital.

"With a win or a loss, it’s going to be great for us," said linebacker Sean Lee, one of 10 players who visited Medical City.

"With a loss, it cheers us up. With a win, we’re excited to come in anyway. It’s really a great perspective for us to come in and see these kids [who] show us that anything we’re dealing with doesn’t compare to what they’re dealing with."

Dallas Cowboys practice squad wide receiver Tim Benford (16) visits with Alex Lisenby, 8, and his dad Kent, right, at Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth - The Boys Are Back blog

DeMarcus Ware and Morris Claiborne, both fathers of young children, acknowledged that their trip to Cook Children’s had even deeper significance than in previous years in light of Friday’s mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

"You’ve got to hold them a little tighter," Ware said. "You look at the kids, that’s where the real joy is … it’s the closest to praising God.

"You never know what they’re going through. Just spreading that touch to them and letting them know that someone out there cares for them, that’s what life’s about."

It was rookie Claiborne’s first time to join about 20 teammates in signing autographs, distributing gifts and visiting young patients.

"You never know what people are going through and the impact that you can make on those kids just from them seeing you," Claiborne said. "It’s great."

Landry Noble, 2, slaps hands with Dallas Cowboys guard Derrick Dockery (76) at Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth - The Boys Are Back blog

Quarterback Tony Romo was one of 28 players who visited Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. He met bright-eyed Tia, 7, an Argyle native who was scheduled to have heart surgery later in the day.

"She is adorable," Romo said. "She has personality. We will really be praying for her as she goes through surgery."

Tia’s parents, Nicole and John Hackett, passed out pink "Team Tia" shirts to the players, including Romo.

"It’s phenomenal," Nicole Hackett said of the players’ visit. "This is a great way to relax a little bit, take a deep breath and have some smiles."

Romo acknowledged that being a new father makes him a little more sensitive to the importance of the annual hospital visits.

"As a father, it changes you a little, just a sense of how much you really care," Romo said. "We are blessed to be able to do what we do. We play a game for a living. The thing a lot of us take advantage of is health, to be able to walk. To come here and see kids who can’t do that — it makes you want to make them smile and brighten their day a little bit, especially this time of year."

Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones (28) visits with Tera Harris and McKayla, 3, at Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth - The Boys Are Back blog

Running back DeMarco Murray agreed, although he showed no mercy in beating one of the children in a game of Connect 4. Romo lost to the same child.

But Murray is a self-proclaimed Connect 4 expert. He downloaded the app on his phone and plays all the time.

"It’s great to be able to come out here and bless kids," said Murray, who also spent time painting with a girl. "It gives you a spark, not only about football but about life.

"It makes you so thankful."

BREAKING DOWN THE WALL: Tackles, right side of line, Felix struggle protecting Tony Romo

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) looks up at Dallas Cowboys tackle Doug Free (68) after getting sacked - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – The Browns took down quarterback Tony Romo seven times Sunday after averaging just 2.2 sacks per game entering Cowboys Stadium.  They would have finished with eight sacks had defensive back Sheldon Brown not been penalized for illegal contact in the first quarter.

Every sack that counted occurred after left tackle Tyron Smith left the game with an ankle injury, which could keep him out for an extended period of time. Unless Kevin Kowalski works in at center or one of the centers can return from injury to allow Mackenzy Bernadeau to shift back to guard, this is the likely starting group again Thursday against the Redskins.

Eight different Browns players recorded at least half a sack, and none of those players had more than two sacks on the season at the time. Romo still threw for 313 yards despite, not because of, the amount of time he had to throw.

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo (9) scrambles away from the pressure of Cleveland's Jabaal Sheard - The Boys Are Back blog

With the Cowboys’ offensive line in a state of flux, it would be easy to simply blame the entire group for the constant pressure from the Browns’ defensive line and linebackers.

But that’s not the reality. Every play, only one or two players missed their assignments.

Cleveland Browns defensive end Juqua Parker pulls down Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo - The Boys Are Back blog

There were a few trends in the sacks. Four of them occurred in the second half or overtime, when Romo threw the majority of his passes. Five of them occurred in shotgun formation. They weren’t always the fault of the backups, though rarely could guard Nate Livings be pinpointed as the problem.

Both tackles struggled and Doug Free was partially responsible for four of the seven sacks, but no one lineman can shoulder the entire blame. Sometimes, the sacks weren’t on the offensive line at all.

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo sacked seven times vs Cleveland Browns - The Boys Are Back blog

Here’s a breakdown of the seven sacks on Romo:

First sack (9:53 left in second quarter):

On a third-and-12, Romo sets up in shotgun with Jason Witten and Lawrence Vickers to either side of him. Romo sends Kevin Ogletree in motion and the receivers all go deep. They’re all 30 yards downfield before any of them get open. Backup tackle Jermey Parnell gets burned inside by Juqua Parker and doesn’t get any help in the backfield, as Witten and Vickers both ran routes. Romo could have dumped it off to Vickers to avoid the four-man rush, but he didn’t have much time to think before Parker hits him.

Second Sack (5:07 left in second quarter)

It’s the first offensive play since allowing the sack on the previous drive, and again the only routes run fewer than 10 yards were by Vickers and Witten, who were both covered. Dez Bryant ran a deep in, Miles Austin ran a go route and neither of them were open. Defensive end Jabaal Sheard got outside of tackle Doug Free, forcing Romo to move up in the pocket. John Hughes worked around Bernadeau and right guard Derrick Dockery was too late to help. Even if the receivers did get open, Romo wouldn’t have had time to deliver a pass before Hughes got to him.

Third Sack (1:51 left in second quarter)

Later on the same drive, the Cowboys faced a crucial third-and-10 while trailing by 13 points at the Browns’ 41-yard line. In a three-receiver set, Romo took the shotgun snap with Witten and Lance Dunbar to either side of him. Everyone got their blocks except for Free, who Sheard went right around. No receiver got open and Romo was hit before he could even begin his escape attempt. The Cowboys had to punt after driving 32 yards.

Fourth Sack (6:08 left in third quarter)

The Cowboys put themselves in prime position for their first score with a second-and-6 on the Browns’ 19 yard-line. The play was busted from the get go as running back Felix Jones moved left and Romo faked right on what appeared to be a play action pass. Jones couldn’t get over to his right to help in blitz pick up against incoming linebacker Kaluka Maiava and safety Usama Young. Free was also slow to get to Maiava near the line of scrimmage. Romo had some choice words for Jones afterward, as the Cowboys were forced into a third-and-long. Parnell was called for holding on the next play, and the drive resulted in a field goal.

Fifth Sack (7:21 left in fourth quarter)

The sack occurred immediately before Bryant’s go-ahead touchdown reception, and again, it happened at the Browns’ 19-yard line. Romo looks to his left in the shotgun with three receivers on the outside. Had the throw been there, the protection was good enough initially to get a pass off. After his pump fake, he was toast. Free’s man got free inside, forcing Dockery to help. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, the lineman Dockery was blocking initially, went right around Free, who stayed on his man. Rubin then took down Romo on a wide open shot, though the Cowboys salvaged the drive shortly after.

Sixth sack (5:10 left in fourth quarter)

This was the sack most people will remember, causing the Cowboys’ lone turnover of the day on Romo’s fumble.

On a first-and-20 on the Browns’ 28-yard line, Austin got inside his defender down the middle of the field, while Bryant beat his man on a go route by about two or three yards. By the time any of those routes opened up, Romo was in the process of being sacked and stripped.

Seven Browns defenders stayed near the line of scrimmage, matched by seven Cowboys blockers. Parnell didn’t block anyone on the play.  Livings stayed with defensive tackle Billy Wynn, while Parnell let defensive end Frostee Rucker move inside untouched on a stunt. Bernadeau was ready for such a move, but he let Rucker go straight by him. Rucker forced the fumble on Romo, allowing linebacker Craig Robertson to corral the football.

Seventh sack (13:53 left in OT)

Nobody was within 10 yards of Witten down the middle of the field on a first-and-10 pass at the Dallas 40-yard line. Romo could have hit the tight end to get near field goal range had he had a split second longer, but the Browns beat Free on the blitz for the sack. Sheard, the defensive end on Free’s side, crashed inside on the play and was picked up by Dockery. The blitzing linebacker, Robertson, then blew past Free on the inside to get to Romo. 

These sacks don’t include Robertson’s takedown of Romo in the first quarter after Jones failed to pick up the blitz, as Brown was called for illegal contact on the play.

In addition to Free’s troubles, Dockery and Parnell each had their share of issues in their first extended look of the year and Jones was shaky on a couple blitz pickups. The same crew of linemen will most likely face Washington on Thursday.

The Redskins aren’t one of the best teams in the league at reaching the quarterback, but then again, neither were the Browns.  Offensive line coach Bill Callahan might be the busiest man in Dallas with a short week and limited time to figure out what to do to ensure Romo won’t be gobbled up on Thanksgiving Day. 

Cleveland Browns defensive end Juqua Parker (95) pressures Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo - The Boys Are Back blog

TRADING PLACES: Dallas Cowboys activate C Kevin Kowalski and place S Matt Johnson on IR

Dallas Cowboys center Kevin Kowalski - The Boys Are Back blog

The Dallas Cowboys have activated center Kevin Kowalski. To make room for him on the roster, they moved safety Matt Johnson to injured reserve.

Kowalski underwent surgery for severe tendinitis in his ankle and was placed on the physically unable to perform list to open the season. He returned to practice only last week.

The move is a strong indication that the club does not believe starting center Ryan Cook, who has a hyperextended knee, will be able to play in Sunday’s game against Cleveland. Mackenzy Bernadeau will slide over to start at center while veteran Derrick Dockery will assume Bernadeau’s job at right guard.

Kowalski will likely be active for the game as a backup center, since it’s clear the club has no faith in reserve guard/center David Arkin.

Johnson had been carried on the active roster the entire season even though a series of hamstring injuries meant he never played in a regular season game and rarely practiced. This move means he can now focus on getting ready for the 2013 season.

INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys vs. Cleveland Browns

IRVING, Texas — Before Cowboys practice on Friday, coach Jason Garrett said starting running back DeMarco Murray was doubtful for Sunday’s game against Cleveland.

Well Murray didn’t practice on Friday at Valley Ranch and he most likely will miss his fifth consecutive game with a sprained foot.

"He is doing more and more each day," Garrett said. "Ran a little bit more yesterday so that’s a positive thing."

Cornerback Mike Jenkins (back) and center Ryan Cook (knee) also missed practice.

Cowboys centers Ryan Cook and Phil Costa were not seen on the field at practice Friday.

Cook, who wasn’t in uniform, headed into the team’s weight room wearing a brace on his right knee. He has missed practice the last two days because of a sore knee.

Costa has been out since injuring his ankle Oct. 21 in a victory over Carolina. With Cook and Costa sidelined, the Cowboys are expected to slide Mackenzy Bernadeau over from right guard. Bernadeau’s spot, in turn, would likely be filled by reserve Derrick Dockery.

With Jenkins out, it allows the Cowboys to give Vince Agnew more snaps in some passing situations.

Tight end John Phillips (ankle) and fullback Lawrence Vickers (knee) were expected to practice. Defensive end Sean Lissemore (ankle), center Phil Costa (ankle) and safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) didn’t practice.

 

Week 11
Dallas Cowboys 
Name Position Injury Practice Status Game Status
Sean Lissemore DT Did Not Participate In Practice
Matt Johnson S Did Not Participate In Practice
Mike Jenkins CB Did Not Participate In Practice
Dan Connor LB Full Participation in Practice
Phil Costa C Did Not Participate In Practice
Lawrence Vickers RB Limited Participation in Practice
Jay Ratliff DT Full Participation in Practice
DeMarco Murray RB Did Not Participate In Practice
Ryan Cook C Did Not Participate In Practice
John Phillips TE Limited Participation in Practice

To see the Cleveland Browns injury update, click HERE

SALVATION ARMY: Dallas Cowboys take break from field to help out in kitchen

Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign at Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day - The Boys Are Back blog

DALLAS — Jason Witten shows up at the Salvation Army every year to serve an early Thanksgiving lunch. On Tuesday, he brought his buddy with him.

Quarterback Tony Romo was one of the 12 Cowboys veterans who worked the food line and brought plates out to the clients at the Salvation Army’s Collins Social Services Center in Dallas. It’s part of the kickoff to the team’s annual Thanksgiving holiday drive for the charity.

In Fort Worth, another group of players and cheerleaders served a Thanksgiving lunch to Salvation Army residents there.

Romo doesn’t make a lot of public appearances, so it was a treat for the lunchtime crowd and the hosts. The Salvation Army staffer who introduced him — a Cowboys fan since she was 10 years old despite growing up in Washington, D.C. — couldn’t resist calling him over and saying, to cheers, "This is the first time I’ve met Tony Romo. I’m standing by Tony Romo!"

Witten got a grin out of it.

"He does a good job of seeing those fans, and obviously, they have words of encouragement or, sometimes, advice — for all of us, and especially the quarterback," Witten said, drawing a laugh.

Parenthood, said Witten, has affected Romo’s outlook.

"Being a father himself and a family guy, it does provide a perspective," he said. "It’s unbelievable how good his motives are. He just wants to spend time with them and stay away from all the other stuff. That’s what it’s all about, to come here and get the impact, more than anything else."

Romo stayed in the kitchen for the most part, but he took charge there, too. He put Miles Austin on dressing, put himself on rolls.

"He was on the rolls, but you know what? It was a little hot back there," Witten said. "He did provide some entertainment for the staff. Those are stories those people will be able to tell for a long time, getting to work with Tony in the back. He didn’t quite have it mastered like they did."

Other players who participated included DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray, Phillip Tanner, Kyle Orton, Robert Calloway, Derrick Dockery, Eric Frampton, Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr.

Murray, who has missed four games with a sprained foot, said it lifted his spirits to do his part.

"Getting away from everything that deals with football, enjoying life, giving back, being around people who really don’t see football, it was nice to come out here and give," he said.

Sherby Nixon shows rookie Cowboys linebacker Kyle Wilber, left, and running back Lance Dunbar how to prepare a thanksgiving lunch plate - The Boys Are Back blog

Sherby Nixon shows rookie Cowboys linebacker Kyle Wilber, left, and running back Lance Dunbar how to prepare a thanksgiving lunch plate.

Related: Dallas Cowboys get, give good vibes at annual Salvation Army meal

DALLAS – The Cowboys have a couple of Thanksgiving traditions: Playing football on Turkey Day and serving meals to the less fortunate earlier in the month.

Tuesday was the day for the latter tradition.

The Cowboys manned two Salvation Army locations, with the rookies serving meals in Fort Worth and a group of veterans serving meals in Dallas.

“Every time you do it, you’re in the middle of the season and the grind and coming here provides a little perspective,” said Jason Witten, who has been part of the event in each of his 10 seasons. “You’re on somewhat of a platform. You have to say, hey, I’m going to give back to some of the people that look up to you. That’s what being a role model is all about, providing perspective and hopefully encourage them in some way.”

It’s not just about serving meals. The Cowboys sign autographs and interact with people who generally need some good vibes.

“It’s good just to come out here and just give back,” running back DeMarco Murray said. “You always have a soft place in your heart for them. Growing up, you always tried to pray for them and do the right things by them, no matter if it’s bringing them over for a meal, just saying hi or talking to them. Doing anything you can possibly do to make them feel better is what counts.”

Added outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware: “You’ve got to count your blessings. Being a role model for the Dallas Cowboys and having some positivity come into the Salvation Army always feels good.”

GAMEDAY ROSTER: Deciding which 46 players the Dallas Cowboys will use vs. Carolina Panthers

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (14) makes a catch during Dallas Cowboys training camp - The Boys Are Back blog

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.

RUNNING ON EMPTY: With stout competition, little room to run for Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) is hit by Chicago Bears defensive tackle Amobi Okoye (91) after making a shovel pass to Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – When DeMarco Murray rushed for 131 yards in the opening game against the Giants, it was a sign of the running game possibly coming back to form after some lackluster seasons that haven’t seen a 1,000-yard rusher since 2006.

But since that game, Murray has totaled just 106 yards in the three outings since, dipping the Cowboys to 30th in the NFL in rushing at just 67.8 yards per game.

Monday night against Chicago, the Cowboys’ running game offered little help to the offense, producing just 41 yards on 14 attempts. Murray had 24 on 11 carries.

While the bye week is often a time to make some adjustments, just what can the Cowboys do to fix the running woes? Change up the personnel on the offensive line? Use Felix Jones more as a rotational back? Run out of more wide-open sets, which means less running behind fullback Lawrence Vickers?

For now, head coach Jason Garrett is taking a different approach.

“Well, what you have to do is you just have to keep banging away,” Garrett said. “Right now, we’re not controlling the line of scrimmage. We have too many minus-plays. We had a lot in the game (Monday) night. When that happens, it puts way too much pressure on the quarterback to make plays. We need the running game to take the pressure off of him. And we’re not doing that.”

So what has changed so much from the first game of the season?

For starters, the competition has gotten much better. While the Giants are considered a top defense in terms of pass rush, they rank 21st against the run.

The next three opponents on the Cowboys’ schedule rank second, third, and fourth. Seattle has the NFL’s second-best run defense, allowing just 62.8 yards a game. The Cowboys had just 49 yards rushing in Week 2 against the Seahawks.

Next came the Bucs, who rank fourth in the NFL in run defense. The Cowboys were worse there with just 38 yards rushing on 23 attempts.

Chicago now has the NFL’s third-best defense against the run after shutting down Murray and the Dallas attack.

Obviously the Cowboys have some continuity issues on the offensive line, a group that didn’t get much work together in the offseason because of multiple injuries. The injuries didn’t stop when the regular season began either, as center Phil Costa re-aggravated his back three plays into the opener, forcing newly-acquired Ryan Cook into action.

Costa could return after the bye, and Garrett wouldn’t comment on the competition at center, stating it will be evaluated once Costa can get back to 100 percent.

He also didn’t sound like changes at other positions will be made, although there has been some speculation around Valley Ranch that veteran guard Derrick Dockery could be inserted into the rotation for either Mackenzy Bernadeau or Nate Livings.

Garrett instead offered his support of the current group.

“We like the five guys who are playing up front,” Garrett said. “I think, collectively as a group, they blocked that front fairly very well, particularly in the passing game the other night against Chicago, and Mackenzy is a part of that. Like everybody on the football team, it can get better. It’s nice to have a guy like Dockery sitting right there where we feel like he’s a guy who has some experience and we’re certainly confident in his ability to go out there and play.”

Vickers, who was signed in free agency from Houston, hasn’t been too productive in his first four games with the Cowboys. He categorized his play as “just all right” when asked on Wednesday.

“We’re not getting the job done,” Vickers said. “We can be a good offense. We can be a good running team. We’re just not executing. And that’s on me, that’s on all of us.”

As for Murray, who called this bye week a “long two weeks,” he said his confidence won’t waver.

“You have to stay confident and that won’t change,” he said after the Chicago game. “I trust the guys up front and I know it’s a collective effort. I have to get better, they have to get better. We just have to get better as an offense. It’s everyone. So we have to use (the bye) to our advantage and turn it around.”

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As you know, it’s the bye week. Dallas Cowboys players and coaches are off until Monday. The players started a day early. With the time off to recoup, rest, relax, and heal … let’s hope they all come back with FULL TANKS! Enjoy the video!

CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Should Cowboys bench Mackenzy Bernadeau?

Dallas Cowboys offensive guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (73) listens to offensive guard Nate Livings - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING – Mackenzy Bernadeau played poorly against Tampa Bay, prompting a to-the-point meeting with offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

Callahan said he’s told the right guard, a key free-agent acquisition in the offseason, that the Cowboys need him to play better.

No time like the present, because Chicago has a quality front four and defensive tackle Henry Melton, a Grapevine and Texas product, who will be lining up against Bernadeau and has three sacks.

If he’s doing his job, Garrett spent a chunk of time this week pondering whether Derrick Dockery should replace Bernadeau, who signed a three-year $11 million deal but missed much of the offseason recovering from hip surgery.

Bernadeau was supposed to be a big body who solidified the middle of the offensive line. But he’s been part of the problem – not the solution – having allowed a team-high three sacks and five pressures.

With Bernadeau struggles against the Bears, expect Garrett to give Dockery a long look at right guard during the bye week to make sure he’s ready to play, if needed, against Baltimore.

Four of the Cowboys’ next five games are on the road.

PRESEASON GAME RECAP: Dallas Cowboys 30, Miami Dolphins 13

Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner (34) breaks free against the Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys wrapped up the preseason with a 30-13 win over the Miami Dolphins at Cowboys Stadium on Wednesday night. Unlike last season when wide receiver Raymond Radway was injured in the closing seconds of the preseason at Miami, there were no such major health issues coming from this game. This was the last chance for several players to make an impact on the coaches and scouts and join the 53-man roster.

What it means: The Dallas Cowboys finish the preseason 3-1 and have to make some hard decisions regarding the No. 3 quarterback spot, whether or not to keep a fourth running back or which running back to keep, whether Orie Lemon and Mario Butler make the team and should Danny Coale and Matt Johnson earn paychecks in September.

McGee vs. Carpenter: There is this battle for the No. 3 quarterback position. Stephen McGee played the first half and led one touchdown drive and converted 13 first downs. He completed 9-of-18 passes for 124 yards. The Cowboys led 20-6 at the break. Rudy Carpenter also led the Cowboys on a touchdown drive — capped by a a 58-yard run by Lance Dunbar — and finished 4-of-10 for 48 yards. Carpenter also had a 21 yard scramble. But it would appear neither quarterback did enough to secure a shot on the roster.

Only one starter plays: Between both units, only center Phil Costa played. Costa missed the first three preseason games with a strained lower back and the Cowboys wanted to give him some snaps before putting him in a regular season game. Costa didn’t have any bad snaps and it’s unknown if he had any blown assignments. David Arkin replaced Costa.

The running game is strong: There are no questions regarding the status of DeMarco Murray as the starter. Felix Jones has been guaranteed a roster spot by owner/general manager Jerry Jones. We thought the No. 3 running back gig was going to Phillip Tanner, but Lance Dunbar came on strong Wednesday night. Dunbar ran with a burst, scoring on a 58-yard run. Let’s not forget about Tanner, who burst up the middle for a 1-yard score. Dunbar rushed 15 times for 105 yards and Tanner rushed for 48 yards on nine carries.

Dallas Cowboys running back Jamize Olawale (49) has his helmet knocked from his head after being hit by Miami Dolphins linebacker Cameron Collins - The Boys Are Back blog

Orie Lemon made his case: If linebacker Orie Lemon was a bubble player, he should make the roster. He returned an interception 26 yards to give the Cowboys a 10-6 lead in the second quarter. Lemon was also active on defense and, given what he does on special teams, should make the 53-man roster. Adrian Hamilton was also fighting for a roster spot, but he hasn’t shown his pass rush abilities on a consistent basis with the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon (58) is congratulated by teammates after returning an interception for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins

Cowboys lose three players: Guard Derrick Dockery left the game for personal reasons and fellow guard Daniel Loper suffered a hamstring injury. Cornerback Lionel Smith departed the game with a concussion. None of the three returned.

Who played well: Tyrone Crawford, Orie Lemon, Phillip Tanner, Lance Dunbar and Dan Bailey.

Who didn’t: Teddy Williams, David Arkin, Stephen McGee.

Bailey is perfect: Kicker Dan Bailey finished the preseason 8-for-8 on field goal attempts. Bailey made kicks of 25, 30 and 26 yards Wednesday night. The Cowboys didn’t have any concerns about him heading into the preseason but unlike last season when the team had a kicking competition, nothing was going on here. It was all Bailey. The longest kick of the preseason by Bailey was 49 yards.

Ryan Tannehill makes the start: The eighth-pick of the NFL draft, quarterback Ryan Tannehill made the start for the Dolphins. He completed 6-of-8 passes for 41 yards. The former Aggie played with a presence and threw some strong passes, but he still has a ways to go to help the Dolphins.

What’s next?: The Cowboys must cut their roster to 53 players by Friday night and then finalize their practice squad roster with as many as eight players. The team will practice over the weekend at Valley Ranch and prepare for the regular season opener at the New York Giants.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree (85) goes after the ball against Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins

Dallas Cowboys vs Miami Dolphins helmets

Preseason.

It’s finally coming to an end.

The Miami Dolphins visit the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium tonight to close it out.

Here’s a preview.

Stephen McGee vs. Rudy Carpenter: The Cowboys are thinking about going with two quarterbacks. Tony Romo and Kyle Orton have guaranteed roster spots. After that, McGee, the third quarterback since 2009, and Carpenter, who is trying to make the active roster, will get a shot Wednesday night. McGee has been inconsistent this summer in camp practices and in three preseason games. Carpenter has led the third unit on a touchdown drive. McGee is the better talent, but roster issues could force the Cowboys to go with just two quarterbacks, unless someone emerges.

Claiborne and Spears should play: First-round pick Morris Claiborne and veteran defensive end Marcus Spears should play a little on Wednesday. Here’s why. Claiborne, who missed the first preseason game with a knee sprain, needs to get more snaps before getting ready for the New York Giants on opening night. Spears is getting snaps with the second team and will most likely get a few snaps just to either keep him sharp or see if the Cowboys still want him on the team.

What’s uncertain?: The third quarterback for one thing. And in reality, it doesn’t matter who the No. 3 receiver is. Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley will make the team, but who gets the sixth receiver spot is the question. Andre Holmes? Danny Coale? Tim Benford? The swing tackle is Jermey Parnell, but who out of Pat McQuistan, Daniel Loper, Derrick Dockery and Ronald Leary make the team? Orie Lemon, Shaun Chapas, Jamize Olawale, Adrian Hamilton, Lance Dunbar and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah are competing for a some of the final three or four roster spots.

The series with the Dolphins: The Cowboys lead the preseason series 4-2 and lost the last meeting 17-3 in South Florida. In that game, Sept. 1, 2011, receiver Raymond Radway fractured his leg on a pass in the end zone at the end of the game. Radway missed the regular season. He was cut this week by the Cowboys.

Connections: Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland was a former executive with the Cowboys, and Brian Gaine, the Dolphins’ assistant general manager, worked in the personnel department with the Cowboys. At one point the Dolphins had many former Cowboys. Now, there are only a few. Linebacker Kevin Burnett, for one, plays for the Fins.

Parking, parking, parking: For the second consecutive time, the Cowboys and Texas Rangers are playing at nearly the same time. Rangers first pitch is around 6:05 p.m. CT. Kickoff is scheduled for around 7:30 p.m. CT. Cowboys Stadium parking lots open at 2:30 p.m. East Plaza is open at 3:30 p.m. and stadium gates to all plazas open at 5:30 p.m. Fans who have pre-purchased parking in the Ranger Lots A-B and M will have their passes honored. Stadium officials ask fans to get their early due to the Rangers game.

By the way: Regular season starters like Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Brandon Carr and Sean Lee won’t play. Just telling you.

Local TV and radio: The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m., on KTVT/Ch. 11 (CBS).

The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network - 105_3 The Fan KRLD

In many markets, you can listen to ‘The Voice of the Dallas Cowboys”, Brad Sham on The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network for pregame, play-by-play action, and post game interviews and analysis.

In the Dallas area, tune to 105.3 FM.  In all other cities, click HERE for more information.

PROJECTION: Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster

The Boys - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas — Go ahead and put most of these names in ink.

There are a handful of roster spots up for grabs entering Wednesday’s preseason finale, but the vast majority of the decisions will have already been made. The toughest calls come at the last spots for receiver, offensive line, defensive end and how to handle Matt Johnson’s situation (great potential, but can’t count on him this season).

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Tony Romo  Kyle Orton

If Stephen McGee wants to stick around for a fourth season, he needs to give the front office and coaches good reason to keep him with a strong performance in the preseason finale. At this point, it makes more sense to try to put Rudy Carpenter on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (3)

DeMarco Murray  Felix Jones  Phillip Tanner

Tanner didn’t help his cause with a blown assignment in pass protection that almost got Orton killed against the Rams, but he’s a solid No. 3 back and core special teams player. North Texas alums Lance Dunbar and Jamize Olawale are good practice squad candidates.

FULLBACKS (2)

Lawrence Vickers  Shaun Chapas

Chapas, a fixture on first-team special teams units Saturday, is likely to last only one week on the roster. An extra fullback can help mask the lack of depth at tight end in case Jason Witten misses the season opener.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Jason Witten  John Phillips  James Hanna

The Cowboys could opt to go with rookie Andrew Szczerba as temporary insurance instead of Chapas.

Danny Coale

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Miles Austin  Dez Bryant

Kevin Ogletree  Dwayne Harris  Cole Beasley  Danny Coale

It comes down to Coale vs. Andre Holmes, the Jerry Jones pet cat who reported to camp in poor shape and has shown no consistency. Holmes has more upside. Coale, who has hardly been on the field due to injuries, is more likely to contribute this season. The Cowboys envisioned Coale as a Sam Hurd-type No. 4 receiver/special teams stud (without the felonious side business, of course) when they invested a fifth-round pick in him.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Tyron Smith  Doug Free  Nate Livings  Mackenzy Bernadeau  Phil Costa

David Arkin  Jermey Parnell  Ronald Leary  Pat McQuistan

Is being a third guard good enough reason to keep Derrick Dockery? He probably wouldn’t be active on game days due to his lack of position versatility. McQuistan has experience at tackle, guard, blocking tight end and has even worked some at center. Addressing the lack of depth at center would be a wise move after Week 1.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)

Jay Ratliff  Jason Hatcher  Kenyon Coleman  Sean Lissemore  Marcus Spears

Tyrone Crawford  Josh Brent

Clifton Geathers (6-foot-7, 325 pounds) looks the part, but he hasn’t done enough to push Coleman or Spears off the roster. The Cowboys can save a little money by cutting (or perhaps trading) one of the veterans, but keeping both gives them quality depth in the defensive end rotation.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)

Sean Lee  Bruce Carter  Dan Connor  Orie Lemon

Lemon is a guy you notice a lot in practices and preseason games. He has developmental potential and can contribute now on special teams.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)

DeMarcus Ware  Anthony Spencer

Victor Butler  Kyle Wilber  Alex Albright

Can the Cowboys get pass rusher Adrian Hamilton through waivers onto the practice squad? It appears that they will try. He’s not getting reps with the first-team special teams units, a strong sign that they don’t see him as a fit for the 53-man roster this season.

CORNERBACKS (5)

Brandon Carr  Morris Claiborne

Orlando Scandrick  Mike Jenkins  Mario Butler

Jerry Jones has said there is a roster spot for Jenkins, meaning the Cowboys don’t plan for him to start the season on the physically unable to perform list. That doesn’t mean he’ll be ready for the season opener.

SAFETIES (4)

Gerald Sensabaugh  Barry Church  Danny McCray  Mana Silva

What to do with fourth-round pick Matt Johnson? He has hardly practiced because of a hamstring injury and he strained the other hamstring in his preseason debut Saturday night. The Cowboys could try to get him through waivers to the practice squad or put him on injured reserve, essentially making this a redshirt season. With such limited practice time, putting him on the 53 would be a waste of a roster spot.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Dan Bailey  Chris Jones  L.P. Ladouceur

No drama here after rookie deep snapper Charley Hughlett’s release Monday. The Cowboys were willing to pay more for the proven commodity.

FOUR OUT OF FIVE: Starting guards on field for first time since signing

Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings were signed two days apart in March to be the Cowboys’ right and left guards, but they had not been on the field together until Monday.

Five months is a long time to wait, but injuries to Bernadeau’s hip and knee kept him out for the entire offseason and early part of camp, while a hamstring injury knocked Livings out for about two weeks in camp.

Monday’s work against San Diego was their first time in the huddle together.

“I felt synced in,” Livings said. “You know how you sync your phone to your computer? I felt like we were in sync. We’ve got a ways to go, but it’s all about getting better every day. That’s what I try to do when I’m on the field. You’re either getting better or getting worse. Today I felt I got better.”

Livings took most of the first-team work against the Chargers, but veteran Derrick Dockery also got some work as the athletic training staff wanted to ease Livings back into his return.

Livings is hoping to play Saturday vs. St. Louis.

“Most definitely,” Livings said. “That’s what I’m here for. I’m here to play ball. I’m not here to be on the sidelines watching my teammates play. I’m here to play and compete. That’s what I want to do. That’s the only way we can get better as a team.”

The line was not complete, however, with center Phil Costa sitting with a lower back strain. He will not practice Tuesday either.

PRESEASON WEEK ONE: 2012 Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster projection

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Raymond Radway makes catch during Dallas Cowboys Training Camp (Star-Telegram Ron Jenkins) - The Boys Are Back blog

The regular season starts for the Dallas Cowboys in just a few weeks. Here’s our first of weekly projections on how the 53-man roster will shake out.

Quarterbacks (2)

Tony Romo  Kyle Orton

Comment: Teams that keep three like the third to be a young quarterback that can one day develop into a starter. Does Stephen McGee still fit that profile? Cowboys could save a roster spot here and try to slip Rudy Carpenter by on the practice squad for protection.

Running backs (5)

DeMarco Murray  Felix Jones

Phillip Tanner  Lance Dunbar  Lawrence Vickers

Comment: The Cowboys like Dunbar, but he picked a bad time to get injured. He needs to get on the field soon to earn a spot.

Wide receiver (5)

Dez Bryant  Miles Austin

Andre Holmes  Danny Coale  Cole Beasley

Comment: Even though Kevin Ogletree is starting now that Austin is injured, it’s not a lock he makes the team. If the team adds a veteran here as the season nears, a distinct possibility, he could lose his spot to a younger player with more upside. If the Cowboys decide to keep six here it will likely be at the expense of a running back.

Tight end (3)

Jason Witten  John Phillips  James Hanna

Comment: No intrigue here.

Offensive line (10)

Tyron Smith  Doug Free  Phil Costa  Mackenzy Bernadeau  Nate Livings

Ronald Leary  David Arkin  Jeremy Parnell  Pat McQuistan  Derrick Dockery

Comment: There remains a lot to sort through here but injuries to Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski have thinned the field.

Defensive line (7)

Jay Ratliff  Kenyon Coleman  Jason Hatcher  Tyrone Crawford  Sean Lissemore

Josh Brent  Clifton Geathers

Comment: One veteran is likely to go as the Cowboys try to get younger in the line. Marcus Spears is odd lineman out at this stage but it could be Coleman.

Linebacker (9)

DeMarcus Ware  Anthony Spencer  Sean Lee  Bruce Carter  Dan Connor

Victor Butler  Kyle Wilber  Alex Albright  Orie Lemon

Comment: Who excels on special teams will have an edge on the final couple of spots.

Secondary (9)

Morris Claiborne  Brandon Carr  Mike Jenkins  Orlando Scandrick

Mario Butler  Barry Church  Gerald Sensabaugh  Matt Johnson  Danny McCray

Comment: Mana Silva is still in the running for a spot. He makes plays.

Specialists (3)

Dan Bailey  Chris Jones  LP Ladouceur

Comment: Jones is no Mat McBriar as a punter, but he’s the best the team has in camp. It wouldn’t hurt to watch the waiver wire here.

Courtesy: David Moore

Editors Note: RED indicates an injury concern going into the season.

DAY 11 TRAINING CAMP: Dallas Cowboys Observation Deck

Dallas safety Brodney Pool (23) covers receiver Andre Holmes (15) during Dallas Cowboys Training Camp - The Boys Are Back blog

Here’s what stood out from Day 11 of Cowboys’ training camp practices Saturday in Oxnard, Calif.:

  • The Cowboys spent a lot of time working on their hurry-up offense Saturday and working more on situational plays. The defense had the upper hand most of the practice.
  • Actor Ashton Kutcher was in attendance for the Saturday afternoon practice. He spent some time watching practice with owner Jerry Jones and talked with QB Tony Romo after the practice.
  • Recently signed veteran OL Derrick Dockery took first-team left guard repetitions and Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary continued to rotate at first-team right guard.
  • With starting C Phil Costa out with a back injury, David Arkin took first-team reps at center with Harland Gunn at second-team center and Pat McQuistan at third team. Over the last three days, McQuistan has seen work at offensive tackle, blocking tight end and now at center.
  • During the morning walkthrough, QB Tony Romo and C David Arkin spent some extra time working on shotgun snaps, which have been one of the big issues of camp because of all the injuries at center.
  • QB Tony Romo gave some fans high-fives along the fence line as he came out onto the field for the afternoon practice and stopped to sign a few autographs. That’s been rare for him this camp.
  • WR Raymond Radway continues to fade. He struggled catching kickoff returns early and also had his problems during team drills. Radway appeared to run the wrong route – going long instead of breaking his route short – during team drills. QB Kyle Orton threw the pass underneath as Radway streaked down the field, allowing safety Danny McCray to make an easy interception. Later, Radway dropped a pass in team drills.
  • WR Dez Bryant used a double move in 1-on-1 drills to beat CB Brandon Carr for a touchdown deep. Bryant then beat rookie CB Morris Claiborne for a catch along the left sideline. Bryant, however, missed the last half of the afternoon practice because of tightness in his hamstring.
  • In 1-on-1 drills, WR Donovan Kemp dropped a pass on a slant route. WR Cole Beasley also had a drop along the right sideline. CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah intercepted a pass intended for WR David Little. WR Tim Benford had a drop after beating CB Mario Butler in coverage. WR Andre Holmes used three moves to finally get free from Owusu-Ansah and make a catch. CB C.J. Wilson dropped a pass intended for Beasley that he should have intercepted.
  • Twice during 1-on-1 drills, speedy CB Teddy Williams ran step-for-step down the sideline with WR Kevin Ogletree and WR Raymond Radway. Tony Romo didn’t even attempt a pass with Williams blanketing Ogletree, and the pass to Radway was incomplete. Both times, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan yelled, “Nice coverage, Teddy.”
  • In individual receiving drills and during team drills, RB Javarris Williams dropped passes in the flat.
  • LT Tyron Smith had a false start during a hurry-up situation inside the red zone. The offensive line scrambled to get to the line of scrimmage in a hurry and before Tony Romo snapped the ball to spike it, Smith moved.
  • CB Brandon Carr had a pass breakup in the end zone against WR Kevin Ogletree on a pass from Tony Romo.
  • Safety Barry Church continued his strong play by breaking up a pass from Tony Romo intended for TE Jason Witten near the goal line. Church nearly intercepted the pass.
  • Safety Gerald Sensabaugh broke up a pass in the end zone from Tony Romo and almost intercepted the ball.
  • RB DeMarco Murray dropped a quick pass out to the left flat from Tony Romo.
  • CB Orlando Scandrick had good coverage on WR Andrew Holmes on a deep past down the left sideline from Tony Romo. The ball was overthrown and Scandrick almost intercepted the pass, getting one hand on it.
  • LB DeMarcus Ware would have sacked Tony Romo during team drills, flying past him before he threw the ball.
  • WR Dwayne Harris dropped a pass to the left side from QB Kyle Orton. Safety Danny McCray was there with tight coverage.
  • LB Bruce Carter broke up a pass over the middle from Tony Romo, but the ball hit both of his hands and he should have made the interception.
  • On back-to-back plays during team drills, the secondary maintained tight coverage and QB Kyle Orton would have been sacked both times.
  • CB Brandon Carr knocked down a quick pass out to the right side intended for WR Kevin Ogletree from QB Tony Romo in a hurry-up situation.
  • The Cowboys’ first-team offense was finally able to score late in practice in a hurry-up situation, with QB Tony Romo connecting with TE Jason Witten for a short touchdown pass.
  • WR Andre Holmes used his 6-4 height to pull down a Hail Mary pass to end team drills with a touchdown catch from QB Kyle Orton. Holmes jumped over a pack of players in the middle of the end zone to pull down the ball.

Brandon George

BIGGEST CONCERN – 2012 SEASON: The Dallas Cowboys offensive line

LT Tyron Smith Jermey Parnell Jeff Adams Tyrone Novikoff
LG Nate Livings Derrick Dockery Ronald Leary
C Phil Costa Bill Nagy Kevin Kowalski Harland Gunn
RG Mackenzy Bernadeau David Arkin Daniel Loper
RT Doug Free Pat McQuistan Levy Adcock

RED: Injury concerns

Injuries piling up at Center, starting to become a concern

When the Dallas Cowboys arrived at training camp nearly two weeks ago, the center position was hardly a concern.

Not only did they have a young starter in Phil Costa entering his second full season at center, but they had two second-year backups that have versatility to play guard.

But a high-ankle sprain to Bill Nagy, coupled with a nagging ankle injury for Kevin Kowalski that got worse, and suddenly the center spot has the Cowboys scratching their heads as they prepare to start the preseason Monday night in Oakland.

Do they go get a veteran center and crowd the position even more, or simply try to make do and piece the position together until either one of the young guys catches on or the injured players return.

For now, it sounds like the Cowboys are going with Option No. 2. But don’t think they haven’t done their due diligence with the first option as well.

“Trust me, we’ve scoured the short lists,” head coach Jason Garrett said in regards to free-agent center. “We’ve talked to different agents about trying to address that. Right now, we feel like the best way to address it is with the guys we have in house. If someone comes available that is attractive to us, we’ll certainly address it that way.”

For now, the Cowboys are using the players on the roster to patch up the center spot, particularly with the backup spots.

Guards David Arkin and Harland Gunn have worked at center in practice and on Thursday, tackle/guard Pat McQuistan took a few snaps before practice.

Costa isn’t expected to have much competition now for the starting job, but don’t be surprised if the Cowboys at least explore the option of using Mackenzy Bernadeau at center, at least as a backup.

While he on Thursday was practicing for the first time since joining the Cowboys, Bernadeau might be an option down the line. For now, he’s a guard and that’s where the focus will remain.

“We’ve just got to see him play guard first,” Garrett said. “That’s where he’s most comfortable. That’s one of the things that we liked about him when we signed him in free agency was his position flex. He has played center, had the ball in his hands before, so that’s a positive thing. But right now we just want to see him break the huddle and play some football first and foremost, and hopefully he’ll function in practice and keep growing day-by-day.”

In the last few days, there have been several poor snaps, with botched shotguns and quarterback-center exchanges. Garrett, a former quarterback in his own right, said most of the center issues this team has stem from injury.

“We felt very good about our center, our backup center, our third center, the guys who can play both center and guard going into training camp – we just had a rash of injuries,” Garrett said. “So you try to adjust as best as you can. Arkin’s done a nice job. He hasn’t snapped before in his life and he’s just taking snaps at guard and then he goes over and he’s trying to learn to play center. We’re trying to cross-train some other guys. It’s part of what you go through when you have a rash of injuries at a particular position. You just try to scramble a little bit and come up with a way to handle it.”

Players on the street include former Cowboys Pro Bowler Andre Gurode, along with other vets Jeff Faine, Jason Brown and Jamaal Jackson.

But most of those guys would likely come in looking to start. The Cowboys have that guy in Costa, whom the coaches and scouts will say has improved tremendously over the offseason.

Costa said his on-field communication with the starting quarterback has been one of the most important aspects he’s tried to improve this year.

“Being on the same page with Tony is really important, making the calls and helping him out in that respect is important,” Costa said. “I’ve been working on the techniques and that makes a big difference.”
Garrett said he’s seen a different player in Costa this year.

“We have more confidence in him. He’s played center for us in games, and for the most part he’s done a pretty decent job,” Garrett said. “He’s had some hiccups over the last year or so with that as well. When you have the ball in your hands it’s a big responsibility. There’s a reason why centers typically are among the smartest guys up on the offensive line because they can handle some of that responsibility, intellectually and also the responsibility that comes with having the ball in your hands. So we’re always working on it, we’re always emphasizing it to our team. We’ve just got to do it better.”

Nick Eatman

EDITORS NOTE: Excellent video below. You owe to to yourself to check out this show. An MP3 download is also available for your computer or phone. Enjoy!

VIDEO - Cowboys Break show - The Boys Are Back blog

Cowboys Break: Who Makes Team On O-Line (Press PLAY to watch/listen)

The Break takes a look at the offensive line today as they continue to break down a position each day of training camp. Duration: 1:01:35 (Download the MP3 HERE)

RELATED: Jerry Jones not concerned about bad snaps, said that’s what practice is for

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is not concerned about the spate of bad snaps that have turned practice into a circus at times. He said he has no interest in signing a center just to get through practice and believes centers Phil Costa and David Arkin will improve.

“That is what practice is about,” Jones said. “That gives you a good chance to see if the guy can think about the snap as well as concentrate on what he is doing out there. Arkin hasn’t been doing this much, so I give him some slack. Costa needs more consistency.

Clarence Hill

RELATED: Derrick Dockery takes a few snaps with first team

Veteran guard Derrick Dockery who joined the team a week into training camp has opened a few eyes of late.

So much so that he has thrown himself into the competition for a possible starting job with Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Ron Leary and David Arkin. Dockery alternated some first team reps in practice with Arkin on Thursday.

“I was impressed with Dockery today,” owner Jerry Jones said. “Dockery has a chance to be what he wasn’t last year because of his late arrival last year and his injury situation last year. He did look impressive out there to me.”

Bernadeau and Livings were signed in free agency to be the starters but both have missed time in camp with injury. Bernadeau practiced on Thursday for the first time, alternating at the other guard spot with Leary.

If Dockery continues to impress, it could give the Cowboys even more of a chance to try Bernadeau at center where he compete with Phil Costa.

Clarence Hill

RELATED: Mackenzy Bernadeau excited to practice for first time

Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau took practice reps with the Cowboys first time in camp.

Actually they were his first reps since joining the Cowboys in free agency with a four-year, $11 million contract after spending the first four years of his career with the Panthers.

He has been sidelined since May because of hip and knee surgeries and began training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

"Yeah it’s always good to get reps with your teammates," Bernadeau said. "I’m excited about that. I’m feeling great. I want to get in there and get as many reps as I can.

It’s been a while since I’ve been out there with the guys. Getting the reps, being there, working hard and being able to hit people will be fun."

Bernadeau alternated first team reps with rookie free agent Ron Leary but that’s just part of the process for Leary who was signed to help solidify the Cowboys offensive line.

Bernadeau said he was eager to prove himself to his teammates.

"Yeah you have to earn the respect of your teammates," Bernadeau said.  "We have a great group of guys here that I’ve worked with. I’ve got their respect but you still want to prove yourself on the field every day and every practice. So I look forward to doing that."

Bernadeau will work first at guard but the Cowboys will give him some reps at center as well in hopes that he can compete with Phil Costa for the starting job or at least give them an option there in case of injury. Costa’s primary two backups and would be competitors for the starting job _ Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski _ are sidelined for the entire preseason and possible into the regular season with ankle injuries.

Bernadeau took some snaps in some preseason games in Carolina but none in the regular season. He said he is ready to do whatever is asked of him.

"I’m just going to do what I’m told," Bernadeau said. "I’ll be ready to compete."

Clarence Hill

SCOUTING REPORT: Bryan Broaddus – A cure for the Center-QB exchange problems

Just a few ideas from Oxnard:

Dallas Cowboys QB Kyle Orton - The Boys Are Back blog

* On Thursday I asked Jason Garrett about the quarterback–center exchange problems the offense has had during this camp. In  my years working in this league as a scout, I was always taught that if the ball goes straight down to the ground, it’s most likely that the quarterback pulled out from underneath too soon and it’s his fault. I have seen a couple of balls end up like this during camp, but I thought Garrett’s answer was actually a better one. He is not trying to make excuses for David Arkin or Phil Costa, but both the centers and quarterbacks should share in the blame for the ball being on the ground. Arkin, especially, has never played center, and Kyle Orton needs to realize that and try to work with him if he needs more pressure, or to put his hands differently to help Arkin get a feel. What I have noticed about Arkin’s high snaps in the shotgun is that when your butt goes up, the launch angle of the ball goes high. Arkin needs to snap like he is sitting in a chair. When your butt is down, the ball stays down. It’s an old long snapper’s trick.

* Watch the second offensive line in the game against the Raiders on Monday night. There are no rookies in it, which I don’t think is a bad situation when you are trying to evaluate your squad on offense. Jeremy Parnell is the left tackle, Derrick Dockery is at left guard, Arkin is the center, while Daniel Loper is at right guard and Pat McQuistan is at right tackle. It’s a nice mix of some veteran players with a group of first and second year guys as well. It looks like a much better unit than the third, with Levy Adcock, Harland Gunn, Tyrone Novikoff and Jeff Adams out there. Your offensive line plays a large role in how your offense looks in these preseason games once the starters are out. Jason Garrett and his staff will get a chance to look at those younger players in the fourth quarter but until then, they will be able to get a much better read on the skill players, hopefully without many mistakes.

Dallas Cowboys safety Mario Butler - The Boys Are Back blog

* I really have liked what I have seen from Mario Butler in this camp when he has been asked to play both as a corner and in the safety spot. These preseason games are huge for him. The coaches have put him in a spot to make this team in a reserve role and on special teams. If Butler struggles, rookie Lionel Smith or C.J. Wilson will look to take that spot. I really do like Smith because he can play inside on the slot as well.

* Before we came to camp in California, some members of the front office told me that wide receiver Cole Beasley was going to get an extensive look during camp to see if he could line up in the various roles at wide receiver. In the morning walkthrough, Beasley was running with the first receiver group when they went to the three wide receiver package, playing in the slot. Beasley will also take the first rep when the team goes on the punt return against the Raiders on Monday night.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley - The Boys Are Back blog

Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout

UPDATE: Mario Butler misses morning drills for birth of child

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mario Butler missed this morning’s walkthrough to join his significant other in the birth of their child. Coach Jason Garrett said he was unsure about the timetable for Butler’s return to practice.

RELATED: Cole Beasley strong since returning to camp, draws praise from Stephen Jones

Two days away from training camp seems to have done wonders for former SMU receiver Cole Beasley, who had another strong practice Tuesday. Beasley left the team briefly to attend to personal issues but has turned in back-to-back strong efforts in Oxnard.

“I think he’s actually playing better now than he did the first couple of days of camp,” said Stephen Jones, the Cowboys’ director of player personnel. “Obviously, there were some things he needed to get straightened out in his mind. And it looks like he’s gotten that done.”

Jones said that is why the Cowboys remained “open-minded” when Beasley approached coach Jason Garrett and acknowledged thoughts about ending his football career. Beasley, a rookie, missed two days of camp before returning.

Courtesy: Jimmy Burch | FWST

ROSTER RADAR: Most Dallas Cowboys FAs are drawing little interest on the open market

Laurent Robinson got big money from Jacksonville. Martellus Bennett will be relocating his clothing line to the East Coast for at least a year. Everybody else?

Well, they’ve probably gotten into the habit of checking the phone a lot over the last week.
The free agency period is far from over – it never ends, really – but most of the Cowboys players on the open market are drawing very little interest, it seems.

Between the guys they’ve cut, their unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents and exclusive right players, the Cowboys allowed 19 players to hit the market who had finished 2011 on the roster. Only Robinson and Bennett have found new teams thus far, while receiver Kevin Ogletree returned to Dallas on a one-year deal.

A lot of under-the-radar signings will happen in the coming weeks, but so far only a couple of the Cowboys’ free agents have been reported to have gotten so much as a sniff from other clubs. On Tuesday running back and special teams ace Chauncey Washington was part of a massive tryout for the San Francisco 49ers, per a report. Late last week, the Minnesota Vikings checked in on defensive back Alan Ball, per another report.

As for the bigger names, like Bradie James, Keith Brooking, Terence Newman, Kyle Kosier, Tony Fiammetta, Derrick Dockery, Montrae Holland and Mat McBriar, no substantive interest has come to light.

Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau agrees to terms with the Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys never got in on the Carl Nicks’ sweepstakes, and the Saints are hoping to replace Nicks with the second-best guard on the market in Ben Grubbs. But Dallas has gotten a guard, albeit for a lot less money and with a lot less fanfare.

Former Carolina Panther Mackenzy Bernadeau has reached a deal with the Cowboys, according to a source.

Bernadeau, 26, has 20 starts in four seasons, including 12 in 2010. He started one game last season, though he appeared in 15.

The money for Nicks was out of reach for the Cowboys. The top guard available in free agency signed a five-year, $47.5 million with the Buccaneers, making him the highest paid at his position. He got $31 million in guarantees.

The Cowboys will pay far less for Bernadeau, a 6-4, 308-pounder. He will compete with other young guards, including Bill Nagy and David Arkin. Nagy started four games before going on injured reserve with a fractured right ankle. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett called Arkin’s first season a "redshirt season."

Veterans Montrae Holland and Derrick Dockery are unrestricted free agents, though starting right guard Kyle Kosier has two years left on his deal. Holland started 10 games at left guard last season, while Dockery started two.

Many mock drafts have the Cowboys selecting Stanford guard David DeCastro with the 14th overall choice.

PREVIEW: Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants

New-York-Giants-vs-Dallas-Cowboys

As many ups and downs as the Dallas Cowboys have had this season, the goal of an NFC East championship — and a playoff berth — remains in reach. That means the possibility of reaching the Super Bowl is still in play, and that’s all you can ask for.

Recent playoff history has proven that if you’re in, then you have a shot to win it all. Are the Cowboys good enough to make a serious run? With the way that Tony Romo is currently playing, there is that possibility.

But first there’s a little thing about beating the New York Giants –a team that has similar and — at some positions — better talent than the Cowboys.

Expect a healthy dose of JPP, Tuck from Giants

When I break down these games, I always try to look at the areas where the Cowboys can get an edge but also where they might run into trouble. To me, both teams are going to have matchup problems.

The area that could give the Cowboys the biggest problem is Doug Free against Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul. If Free was playing at a level like he was in 2010, I’d say this matchup had a great chance of being a wash. Pierre-Paul has gone from a raw rookie pass rusher to a dominant force on the outside and off the edge.

Continue reading →

Dallas Cowboys LG Montrae Holland undergoes successful surgery

Cowboys 49ers Football

IRVING – Dallas Cowboys left guard Montrae Holland had successful surgery on his partially-torn left biceps and should be able to resume offseason activities in three months.

The operation was handled by team physician Dr. Daniel Cooper.

Holland, who will be a free agent in 2012, started 10 games for the Cowboys after re-signing with the team Oct. 18. He suffered the injury during Dallas’ 20-7 loss to Philadelphia last Saturday.

With Holland sidelined, Derrick Dockery is expected to be inserted into the starting lineup this Sunday, when the Cowboys face the New York Giants.

"I am excited for the opportunity,"said Dockery, who has only played two offensive snaps since Week 2. "I practiced real well. Hopefully I can transfer what I did in practice to the game."

LAST HURRAH: Do or die for some Dallas Cowboys, possibly Spencer, Martellus Bennett, Bradie James and Terence Newman

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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.

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NEXT MAN UP: Montrae Holland goes on injured reserve; Dockery expected to start

Dallas Cowboys Injury Update - The Boys Are Back blog The Dallas Cowboys have had three left guards injured this season. Now, they are back to where they started. Sort of.

Montrae Holland, who was re-signed after Bill Nagy went on injured reserve with a fractured right ankle, went on injured reserve himself Monday with a partially torn left biceps. The Cowboys re-signed guard Daniel Loper, who was released last week, to take Holland’s spot on the roster.

"You can just imagine," Holland said Monday of his frustration. "It’s pretty bad. I want to be there for my teammates. Not being able to finish is something I didn’t want to happen. I just want to be there for my team."

Holland had started the past 10 games. Nagy, a rookie, started the season opener before being replaced by Derrick Dockery. But Dockery fractured his tibia and sprained his MCL against the 49ers, and Nagy returned to the lineup until he was injured against the Patriots in the fifth game of the season.

"The situation is what it is," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "You just have to get the next guy ready to play. Each guy has done a nice job stepping up and handling the situation as well as they can. …We will have to do that one more time."

Dockery will return to the starting lineup this week, according to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Dockery was inactive Saturday and rookie Kevin Kowalski replaced Holland after Holland was injured.

"It’s just about preparation, being ready," said Dockery, who is in his ninth NFL season and has made 112 starts. "I’m not a rookie. That helps out. We’re playing a really good defense. They have some good players, so you have to be on top of your game."

Kowalski has played 85 plays this season, according to Pro Football Focus, including 15 against the Eagles on Christmas Eve.

"I think I did a decent job in there," Kowalski said. "I obviously have a lot to improve on, a lot to learn from. It’s just another experience I can learn from."

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THE BOYS ARE GIVING BACK: Dallas Cowboys hand out meals, smiles at Salvation Army center in Dallas

“I’m just happy to be here and see all the people are happy,” Murray said. “There’s nothing like giving back.”

DALLAS — No Cowboy has had a quicker rise to prominence this year than DeMarco Murray.

The rookie running back received the loudest ovation after Pro Bowlers Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware as the players handed out early Thanksgiving Day meals at The Salvation Army’s Carr P. Collins Social Services Center in Dallas on Tuesday.

That’s what rushing for 601 yards in the last four games will do for a runner.

“I’m just happy to be here and see all the people are happy,” Murray said. “There’s nothing like giving back.”

Murray, Ware and Witten were part of a dozen players to attend Tuesday’s function. They were joined by Jesse Holley, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Robert Callaway, Orlando Scandrick, Derrick Dockery, Phillip Tanner, Mat McBriar, Felix Jones and Jason Hatcher. Gene Jones and Charlotte Anderson, as well as a number of players’ wives and girlfriends, including Jason Garrett’s wife, Brill, were also in attendance.

Players and wives dished out meals to roughly 200 men and women for more than an hour as part of the team’s early holiday tradition.

“This is a special thing to come out to, putting smiles on these peoples’ faces,” Hatcher said. “I’m just a small fish in a big pond when it comes to DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten but the effect I have on these lives puts joy in my heart. I’m glad I’m out here. I should’ve been doing it five years ago … I won’t miss another year. As long as I’m part of the Cowboys I will be here. This is a special day.”

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For more information, or to support the Salvation Army’s efforts … click HERE

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