That term does not exactly have a universally accepted meaning. Last Wednesday, when Dez Bryant talked to the media after practice and said, “I think I’m back to being Dez,” it was obvious that he meant it in a positive context.
But due to a controversial young career as a Cowboy, “being Dez” simply means being immature to some people. To just as many, it means being a supremely gifted receiver who can control the outcome of an NFL game.
When Bryant stepped out of bounds rather than fight for the first down on a second-and-16 pass in the second quarter with the Cowboys struggling and down 13 points, it caused a collective eye roll/groan from Cowboy fans everywhere. A “here we go again” sort of feeling.
But Bryant’s mental lapse did not fit either of the common definitions for “being Dez.” Call him what you want, but Bryant is a fighter. Avoiding contact is not one his most common character traits. Asking Bryant to get up for a battle is usually not the hard part. Getting him to calm down afterward is often a little bit tougher.
And Bryant showed the fight in him from that point on in the game. He was basically unstoppable for most of the day, particularly in the second half. All in all, Bryant had his best game of the season. He tallied 145 yards off of 12 catches and a touchdown.
Bryant has let Tony Romo down on his route running in the past, but Romo trusted him against the Browns and it paid off. Bryant was targeted a season-high 15 times. This is tied only by his performance in Baltimore. But the difference between Sunday’s game and the Ravens matchup was that Romo trusted Bryant with the deep ball as well as the short pass.
At a certain point, it became clear that Bryant’s defender (typically Buster Skrine) simply could not guard him. He was too athletic, too skilled and too fast to be contained. When Romo looked to go deep with Bryant, sometimes the only option for the Browns was defensive holding. Bryant caused a number of defensive pass interference calls that kept the Cowboys’ offense on the field.
Which does beg the question of whether or not the Cowboys should throw deep to Bryant more often. With such a talented receiver and the quick enforcement of pass interference penalties in today’s game, the feeling is that Bryant will either come down with the ball or earn a first down through penalty while trying.
With a quarterback who threw a lot of early season interceptions it might not seem ideal to seemingly ask him to just throw the ball up for Bryant to go get. But a few of Romo’s interceptions this season came from Bryant messing up short or intermediate routes so there is risk of an interception, no matter what the route.
As pathetic as it may seem, down by 13 at halftime, it felt like a game in which the Cowboys had no business beating the Browns. They had 68 total yards at the half. They only managed 63 yards rushing for the entire game. The defense was solid except for a few miscommunications, two of which happened to result in Cleveland touchdowns.
And worst of all, the offensive line was banged up and ineffective. Linemen were playing out of position, backups were playing the entire game and a franchise tackle left with an ankle injury. As a result, Romo was sacked seven times for 56 yards. It seemed hard to believe that he would ever get enough time in the pocket to lead the Cowboys to a comeback victory.
But as you know, the Cowboys did come back and win. And they did so by relying heavily on Bryant. He became the go-to guy and it was no secret. The offensive line should receive some credit for playing better in the second half, but Romo was able to get the ball out quicker because he often knew exactly who he was throwing it to: Bryant.
The chemistry that Romo and Bryant developed in the second half was the kind of thing usually reserved for Romo and Witten. But with Bryant, the feeling was that he could explode for a touchdown or huge gain on any given play.
You could say that Bryant has been a knucklehead at times. Maybe accuse him of being unfocused or call him a distraction. But yesterday against the Browns was an example of why the Cowboys are so patient with him. Bryant played like a franchise receiver.
Bryant passed the amateur-viewer test. If someone who knows extremely little about football were to have sat down to watch the Cowboys or Browns, they would have left with the impression that Bryant was one of the most talented and gifted players on the field. They would understand, without the help of the commentators, the impact he had on the game.
The Cowboys still have a lot of things to work on if they expect to make a push for the playoffs, but the production that they got from Bryant puts them on another level as a team in my opinion. If they can fight through the injuries of their offensive line and get more out of their running game (something that might be improved by the return of DeMarco Murray), and still get similar production from Bryant, then the Cowboys might have found the key to their season.
And that’s just letting Dez “be Dez.”
SportsDay columnist Tim Cowlishaw answered reader questions during a live chat Thursday. Here are some highlights:
I would like to know , if you think it is a good idea for the Cowboys to sign Plaxico Burress to a contract or trade for James Jones or Percy Harvin. The Cowboys need a solid number 3 receiver. what are your thoughts? Have a great day!
Cowlishaw: I continue to believe that the bigger concerns at WR are 1 and 2, not 3. Can Dez stay out of trouble and produce for four quarters? He has had one 100-yard game in his pro career. Can Miles Austin bounce back? He has had declining numbers ever since his 2010 breakout season got him Kim Kardashian (briefly) and a rule-breaking contract. If they perform and Witten performs, there aren’t too many worries in terms of pass receiving production. If they don’t, then your question is valid and I don’t see any of the candidates for the No. 3 job duplicating Laurent Robinson’s last season. Then again, Robinson wasn’t here at this time a year ago.
Why won’t the Cowboys bring in a wideout for a tryout?
Cowlishaw: I will answer a question with a question. Why are fans so wrapped up in third wide receiver talk? Is this a holdover from the Drew, Tony and Butch days? I don’t think so. Quick, who was the 3rd WR on the Cowboys Super Bowl teams in the 90s? Heck, the 2nd WR (Alvin Harper) was irrelevant in lots of games (yes, he made big plays, too, I was there). If the key players perform, the battle between Radway-Beasley-Coale-Ogletree will be insignificant.
I think Chris’s question regarding bringing in a wideout might have been due to Miles’s injury history and the likelihood of a suspension for Dez. Would either of these factors make it reasonable for the team to shop for a veteran receiver?
Cowlishaw: I don’t think there’s a veteran to shop for. I have said Plaxico would be an OK signing but I was never in favor of Owens or Edwards (who both landed in Seattle, telling us a lot about the Seahawks). If Dez is suspended I presume it will be for one game. Miles isn’t on the injury report for New York yet. Let’s hold off on the panic button here.
A LOOK AT 10 RECEIVERS WHO ARE STILL AVAILABLE: Things went south in a hurry for the Cowboys’ receiving corps when Laurent Robinson bolted for Jacksonville. With Dez Bryant struggling through off-field issues, Miles Austin fighting yet another hamstring injury and a slew of unproven wideouts in training camp. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, options aren’t exactly plentiful in free agency, with most of the available wideouts either over the hill or harboring injury concerns. But if the Cowboys do decide to comb the market, here’s a look at 10 of the most well-known receivers who are still looking for jobs. Louis DeLuca/Staff Photographer
Courtesy: Tim Cowlishaw | DMN
Plaxico Burress: Burress has plenty going for him — he’s big (6-5, 232 pounds), tough, and an ideal end zone target, which are often in short supply. He also quashed any questions about his ability to play after two years away from the NFL by hauling in 45 passes for 612 yards and eight touchdowns with the Jets in 2011. There have been reports that Burress is seeking more money than most think he’s worth, but if he’s not signed in a few weeks’ time, he may have no other choice but to lower his asking price. Louis DeLuca/Photographer
EDITORS NOTE: Garrett also speaks about previous coaches that he’s worked under and their influence on his coaching philosophy and style. I encourage our readers to ALWAYS listen to the videos posted here on The Boys Are Back blog. In part, they are the basis for nearly every article published and often the subject matter used in radio and television shows regarding the Dallas Cowboys. Watching the videos puts all of the written words into context. Enjoy!
RELATED: Cowboys protecting Ratliff, after he ‘snuck’ into a practice play
Nose tackle Jay Ratliff got into a play in practice on Thursday before anybody knew it. He was only supposed to do individual drills.
“What he is trying to do is put his pads on and go through individual, and he snuck himself into one play yesterday, and that’s not going to happen today,” coach Jason Garrett said.
“He has a relentless nature about him, so sometimes we have to protect him from himself.”
Ratliff is recovering from plantar fasciitis, a painful injury of the foot. It limited his work in the offseason and in training camp to this point.
Garrett said Ratliff won’t play on Monday night against Oakland, is possible for the San Diego game and more likely for the third preseason game.
So how did he get in that one play?
“Well, again, he just sneaks in the huddle, and sometimes you lose track of things,” Garrett said. “He’s always in the huddle: ‘Wait a second. Get him out of there.’ So it was one of those kind of deals. But that’s his nature. Like I said, he’s a relentless player. He loves to play, he loves to work at it. It’s killing him to be away from it. We just need to ease him in the right way.”
Courtesy: Carlos Mendez | FWST
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones compared his decisions as general manager in deciding what he is going to do at third receiver to being a modern day Ben Franklin.
He is going to the let the preseason play out and then pick a guy or go after another guy on free agency based on his evaluation of what’s best for the team, which is why doesn’t feel pressure to make a decision on a veteran free agent like Plaxico Burress right now.
“It’s the Ben Franklin procedure,” Jones said. “He would take a sheet of paper and put why and why not. He would look at the plusses and minuses and he would fill in on each side and decide which ever shape he was in. That’s the long way of saying why or why not!
Courtesy: Clarence Hill | FWST
Photos Courtesy: Dallas Morning News
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree (85) is chased by linebacker Sean Lee (50)
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (14)
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) runs after catch
Dallas Cowboys tight end James Hanna (84)
Dallas Cowboys tight end James Hanna, a rookie from Oklahoma, wears No. 84. But his knowledge of predecessors who also donned that digit is limited. Asked by a reporter if he knew of any other notable No. 84 in franchise history, he identified Jay Novacek, a standout tight end from the 1990s. Asked about Pettis Norman, a star tight end in the 1970s, Hanna said: “I don’t know about that. Not familiar with him.”
He is familiar with outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who has helped him with his technique during training camp. Asked to cite the moment he realized the NFL would be significantly different from college, Hanna said: “The first time I blocked DeMarcus Ware. Or tried to. It didn’t go well.”
Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis congratulates wide receiver Andre Holmes
Cowboys receiver Andre Holmes had a couple of notable catches on fades in the red zone, including one against cornerback C.J. Wilson. Holmes (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) is the team’s tallest receiver and his production in those situations figure to play a prominent role in whether he makes the 53-man roster.
“I’ve been working on that. I felt like it kind of paid off today,” said Holmes, who has strung together a series of solid practices after falling behind others when he failed his pre-camp conditioning test. “I’m trying to show something to the coaches. It’s what I’ve got to do.”
Holmes showed significant emotion after one fade route and indicated he planned to keep the emotional edge front and center.
“It’s not a relief. I know I’m going to make those plays all the time,” Holmes said. “I was just a little more fired up today. That’s what I’m going to be doing every day.”
YOUTH MOVEMENT: Jerry Jones dismisses Burress speculation, Dallas Cowboys focusing on young receivers
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones squelched speculation about ongoing discussions with free-agent receiver Plaxico Burress, who played last season for the New York Jets.
“Not at all. We haven’t even discussed that internally at all. That has not been discussed at any level within our organization, one way or another,” Jones said after today’s evening practice.
Jones did say the Cowboys would “look at any option” later in camp, once they have monitored the progress of the young receivers seeking to land roster spots behind starters Miles Austin and Diamond Dez Bryant. But the Cowboys want to let the young receivers show what they can do in pre-season games before turning their focus toward a veteran receiver.
Jones praised today’s efforts by former SMU receiver Cole Beasley. Andre Holmes also made some notable catches in today’s practice.
“We’re not trying to trade and we’re looking forward to this run of pre-season games to look at these young guys. We like what some of them are doing,” Jones said. “We saw Beasley made some catches out there today. We’re going to stick right there, for right now.”
Courtesy: Jimmy Burch | FWST
Jerry Jones is not backing down from his tough talk regarding receiver Diamond Dez Bryant and his play on an off the field following his arrest two weeks ago for misdemeanor family violence against his mother.
Jones had somewhat of a come to Jesus meeting with Bryant and let him know if he didn’t take care of his business the right way on and off the field that he could lose his job with the Cowboys.
“What I expressed was my own frustration,” Jones said. “I didn’t want to visit until I got past all of that, and certainly it’s important, I want everyone to know, certainly Dez that this is not good for the Cowboys, we take that very seriously. It’s not good for the franchise, and so the same kinds of things that he needs to address for the league and for society and the legal aspect of it, as well as for him. It holds true for the Cowboys and that’s the way it is. That’s not really new. It’s just a point of emphasis.”
Jones said Bryant can help himself and help his family off the field by doing the right things on the field.
Bryant has had a strong start camp but Jones said he always looked good in camp and faded as the season has gone along because he was out of shape.
So while Bryant has looked good, Jones emphasized that he must sustain it.
“Well, I’m seeing him do what you almost expect from him,” Jones said. “What I want him to do is, and we want to do, is be able to do that all year long, all game long. That hasn’t happened. He’s disappeared at the end of some ballgames, and then we haven’t had at him because of injury in the season. I know he’s in the best shape that he’s been in since he’s been in pro football, a lot of injury in the past, and a lot of the times that disappeared at the end of the ballgames, I think that had to do with his conditioning. That’s not the case. This season, he’s really in top shape, I’m glad to see, it’s exciting to see him make those plays.”
“That’s why he’s got a real opportunity to get his life together because he can make plays like that,” Jones continued. “If he can do that, he’s got a way to kind of get people to say look, he was a young guy, made some mistakes, but look at him go now. That’s my dream for him.”
Jones said he has seen a lot of improvement in Bryant’s approach to the game, starting back in the offseason. His focus in workouts was better and so was his approach but was before he got charged for misdemeanor family violence right before camp.
“He’s screwed around here and got his benefit of the doubt collateral down to nothing,” Jones said. “And he’s also very vulnerable. Now you’ve got to act differently when you’re in those shoes. He’s got to gain a bunch of that back. He can do it, and he can do it right out on this football field. And I hope that he does.”
Courtesy: Clarence Hill | Ft Worth Star-Telegram
VIDEO – The annual opening press conference from training camp, as Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones, and Stephen Jones take the stage to open up camp in Oxnard, California.
Click HERE to watch video
OXNARD, Calif. — Dez Bryant will be the Cowboys punt returner in 2012.
The Cowboys were leery of using the wide receiver in that spot last year, choosing to limit his work in part for fear of injury, but they have had a philosophical change of heart in 2012.
And it’s not just Bryant who will be involved in the return game. Jones said Felix Jones will be the team’s kick returner.
“We think that’s really going to do wonders for our kicking game,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “We’re going to let them work on it from the get go. Obviously, we didn’t do it with Felix last year because he was the starting running back and we didn’t do it with Dez. This year, we think it’ll make a big difference. Both guys were top guys come out of college. By letting them work on it every day, Joe (DeCamillis) thinks it’ll make a big difference.”
Bryant had punt returns for touchdowns of 62 and 93 yards as a rookie and averaged 14.3 yards in 15 returns. Last season, he suffered a bruised quadriceps in the season opener and was limited as a returner for the rest of the year.
Jones has averaged 24.5 yards per kick return in his first three seasons. He had a 98-yard touchdown as a rookie.
“We were wanting to try some of the young guys last year,” Stephen Jones said. “I think Dez doing punt returns, we’ve done it with Deion (Sanders). We think that’s a safer deal. And then with Felix obviously going to No. 2 running back, then I think him get some chances to make some plays as well.”
The Cowboys averaged just 7.1 yards per punt return and 23.3 yards per kick return in 2012, which has kept the offense from being in the best field position situations.
“The big thing is Joe thinks practicing it every day, getting Dez and Felix used to the blocking schemes, working on it every day, they’ll be better,” Stephen Jones said.
Courtesy: Todd Archer | ESPN Dallas
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys doing right thing in return game
Yes, I would agree that having two of the best, most dynamic and most dangerous athletes on your team returning your kicks can make a big difference. Frankly, I never saw what was the holdup with Bryant as punt returner. He’s big enough and young enough to handle the extra work. And if fear of injury was really going to govern your decisions, you’d never let any of these guys on the field to begin with. Bryant can be a difference-maker in the punt return game, and the way Jones operates in space with the ball in his hands leads one to believe he could do the same as a kick returner. Given the Cowboys’ depth issues at key positions on offense and defense, finding and keeping a specialist just for return duties wouldn’t make a lot of sense. These moves do.
Courtesy: Dan Graziano | ESPN
The mother of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant doesn’t want to pursue an assault case against her son, according to The Associated Press.
Bryant was arrested July 16 on a charge of misdemeanor family violence following an altercation with Angela Bryant. Dez Bryant allegedly slapped his mother in the face with a ball cap and ripped her clothing while grabbing her.
A Dallas County district attorney’s spokesperson told The AP that the case DeSoto (Texas) police filed against Bryant includes an affidavit of non-prosecution from the complainant. The affidavit means the complainant doesn’t want to proceed.
The DA still can choose to pursue action against Dez Bryant, but Angela Bryant’s affidavit likely would end any plans for prosecution. KXAS-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth reported the DA might speak with her about her decision.
Jamille Bradfield, Dallas County district attorney spokesperson told NFL.com and NFL Network that despite Angela Bryant’s request not to proceed with the charge "that document in it of itself does not make the case go away, we will still evaluate it."
If the charge does go away, it wouldn’t necessarily clear Dez Bryant of trouble with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Bryant still might be disciplined under the NFL’s far-reaching personal-conduct policy. This was Bryant’s first arrest since coming into the NFL, but he has been involved in other highly publicized incidents that Goodell could take into consideration.
UPDATED: July 17, 2012
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was arrested Monday on a misdemeanor family violence charge in the southern Dallas suburb of DeSoto, Texas.
The charge, according to MyFOXDFW.com, stems from Bryant’s alleged assault on a female family member Saturday. Under Texas state law, family violence is defined an attack or “a threat” of imminent harm against a member of a family or household, according to The Associated Press. The offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
According to a DeSoto police report obtained Tuesday by the Dallas Morning News, Bryant’s mother, Angela, said her son attacked her. Angela Bryant told police she and Dez got into an argument and he then grabbed her by her shirt, tearing it and her bra. Dez Bryant then pulled his mother’s hair and slapped her across the face with his ball cap, according to the report.
Dez Bryant, 23, turned himself in to police Monday and immediately posted a $1,500 bond.
Dallas radio station KESN (103.3-FM) obtained a recording of a call to 911 in which a woman identified as Angela Bryant says, “I can’t keep letting him do this. I’m putting an end to it today. I’m tired.”
Early in the recording, the caller can be heard saying, “He tried to kill me.”
During the 911 call, the woman, believed to be Angela Bryant, says her son tried to hit her with a ball. She adds that he left the house in a pearl white Cadillac Escalade with the license plate “Bail Me” on it.
When contacted by WFAA-TV, Bryant confirmed there was an incident but declined to elaborate.
“I’m good, I’m good,” Bryant said.
Bryant’s longtime adviser, David Wells, told FOXSportsSouthwest.com on Monday that he had been in contact with the wide receiver.
“Dez is very upset about how this happened,” Wells said. “He’s very remorseful. His intention is not to hurt anybody. I think we’ll have a quick resolution and this situation will be resolved.”
Texas state senator Royce West, a Dallas-based attorney who advises Bryant, said he was planning to meet with Wells to discuss the situation. West has spoken publicly on behalf of Bryant in the past.
Dallas Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple declined to comment to The Associated Press while the team gathered information.
The BLITZ – DALLAS COWBOYS REPORT – Special Feature – Video Series
Bill and Mickey take a look at the progress Dez Bryant has made during the offseason.
Tony Romo joins the set for an exclusive interview.
Get an inside look into the Cowboys U event that had the players take on the role of coach.
Bill and Mickey tie up all the loose ends as the Cowboys finish up OTA’s.
BONUS VIDEO: DeMarco Murray and new running mate, Lawrence Vickers
Bryan Broaddus takes a in-depth look at film from DeMarco Murray and his new running mate, Lawrence Vickers
REMEMBER WHEN: Bonus Video clip
Miles Austin, making his first career start, broke a tackle and sprinted 52 yards down the sideline for a game-winning touchdown, propelling the visiting Dallas Cowboys past the Kansas City Chiefs, 26-20, in overtime.
Especially since Organized Team Activities (OTA’s) began four weeks ago, much attention has been paid to Diamond Dez Bryant and the possibility that he might be ready to fully live up to his otherworldly physical skills.
At the same time, almost nothing has been said by or about the Cowboys’ other top receiver, Miles Austin, himself a two-time Pro Bowler. If Austin is brought up, it’s in the context of him needing to stay healthy a year removed from chronic hamstring injuries.
The Cowboys know how good Austin is, but they’re most excited about how good Bryant can be, and team Vice-President Stephen Jones isn’t making much of a secret of that.
"I think (Bryant) needs to be a No. 1 receiver," Jones told KESN-FM in Dallas this week. "Not to take anything away from Miles, but I would submit to you that when we line up out there that the guy that they’re most worried about is Dez.
"And he’s got to be that guy, and even when they do try to stop him, the great ones still make a lot of plays. Tony (Romo) has got to be able to count on him, he’s got to run the right routes at the right depths and be a precise route runner. Those are things he’s got to improve on."
If Bryant is playing to his potential, of course, it could mean even more opportunities for Austin. The basic premise of Jason Garrett’s offense is to take what the defense gives.
But if Bryant can put it all together, he’s a tough cover even for two defensive backs.
RELATED: Conditioning may spur Dez Bryant’s breakthrough season
When discussing Dez Bryant a couple weeks back, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones mentioned his injuries and conditioning as possible reasons he has yet to totally live up to his potential.
Now that Jones has elaborated on that opinion, it would seem less likely he was trying to take a shot at Bryant’s off-the-field work ethic. It’s not necessarily that Bryant was out of shape in 2011, but that he has made major, major strides in the Dallas Cowboys’ offseason program this spring and summer.
When asked what gives him hope Bryant will have a breakthrough in 2012, Jones didn’t hesitate.
"His conditioning," Jerry Jones said. "If we can have him better conditioned, then we’ve got a chance to see him focused in the latter part of games as opposed to the first part of games. There’s no question in my mind that our coaching staff, Jason (Garrett) and Dez are going to work out the ways to best use him in the route tree."
Bryant has also cited his physical improvements as a reason to believe this is the year for his big leap forward.
It’s also just a matter of course that Bryant will continue to progress with more experience.
"He’s going into his third year with Tony (Romo)," Jones said. "Our coaches have a good feel for the things that he does best. I think all of that will come into play. If we can keep him healthy – I think he’s going to be in better condition – then we could have the player here that we had thought we might get when we drafted him."
This offseason, Bryant has said he is at just 3.1 percent body fat. He intends to play at less than 215 pounds this year, down from his listed weight of 225 pounds last season.
On Wednesday, Garrett was asked about another receiver losing weight this offseason, second-year pro Dwayne Harris, and explained why it’s important for players at that position to be as light as possible.
"Oftentimes receivers come into the league and they don’t realize how much running they do in the NFL," Garrett said. "Sometimes these guys are a little bit bigger, thinking that’s an important thing to be, ‘I need to be bigger and stronger.’ But my experience has been most of the receivers who play great in this league are as lean as they can be, and hopefully they’re naturally strong to handle the physical nature of the position.
But you need to be able to run, and run over and over and over again, and all day long."
The sky would seem to be the limit for Bryant if he can raise his stamina, master the offense and stay healthy.
Evidently the 23-year-old has already turned the corner on his Madden game, as he revealed via a Twitpic of his statline in a single game against his brother this week.
Courtesy: Josh Ellis contributed to this post | Dallas Cowboys
We bring you some observations from the two-hour session on Day 1 of the Dallas Cowboys’ three-day minicamp:
* If there was an MVP for the day it would go to Dez Bryant. The third-year wide receiver was all over the field, catching passes from Tony Romo. His most impressive came on a leaping left-handed grab on a bubble screen. That the play picked up all of a couple of yards meant little. It was an impressive play. The best catch was on a back-shoulder throw from Romo, adjusting around the corner to make the play. Unofficially, Bryant had seven catches in the practice.
* Jason Garrett is big on situational play and brought out a late-game situation with the No. 1 offense going against the No. 1 defense. With the defense leading by four points, the offense had four plays to score from the 18 and was unable to come through. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, however, had to remind the defenders to protect the goal line.
* WR Kevin Ogletree had a "wow" moment with a one-handed grab on a deep ball from Romo. It was made better (depending on the perspective) by the fact that it came against Brandon Carr, the Cowboys’ No. 1 corner. It was the first deep-ball reception Carr has allowed this offseason.
* OLB DeMarcus Ware had two would-be sacks of Romo, both coming from the quarterback’s blindside.
* Ryan is preaching to his defense to get turnovers. The No. 3 unit forced back-to-back fumbles, with LB Caleb McSurdy punching the ball free from Darrell Scott on a pass to the flat.
* The Cowboys have some running backs on their roster even without Felix Jones practicing. Phillip Tanner continues to show quickness in hitting the holes, and rookie free agent Lance Dunbar has some make-you-miss moves, as well. That will be a good battle to watch in training camp.
* CB Teddy Williams heard it from the coaches when he had a poor reaction to an out-route throw to Andre Holmes. He nearly got beat on the same play on the next snap, but Donavon Kemp let Stephen McGee’s pass slip through his hands.
* QB Rudy Carpenter, practicing for the first time in a month because of an oblique strain, hit Saalim Hakim with a nice out route just out of the reach of CB Isaac Madison. Hakim had a difficult time catching the ball early in the OTAs but has done a better job lately.
* An interesting note among the players who did rehab work during practice (Tyrone Crawford, Felix Jones, Dan Connor, Kyle Wilber, Alex Albright and Morris Claiborne): they did so wearing their helmets.
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.
DIAMOND DEZ PAID-IN-FULL: Jerry Jones says he knows ‘first-hand’ Dez Bryant’s New York bill has been paid
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he knows ‘first-hand’ that Dez Bryant’s bill from a New York finance company has been paid.
“I know first-hand that the bill was paid and accepted,” Jones said Friday on his radio show on KRLD 105.3 FM.
The Boston Herald reported this week that Bryant had been sued for $50,000 by Endurance Capital Fund, a New York company that had loaned him $100,000 a year ago. The suit said Bryant had not paid the loan back in full, and the report said the company was waiting to serve him papers when the team arrived at its New York hotel on Saturday.
“I have some familiarity about the detail – quite a bit of familiarity about the detail – of this business that he had this week off the field,” Jones said. “I would say that’s the reason you have disagreements. … I can’t say, and wouldn’t say, any more about that.”
It’s not the first time Bryant has run into money issues. He settled two other lawsuits earlier this year in which he was accused of not paying for jewelry.
But Jones said Bryant, drafted in the first round in 2010, has shown “outstanding” maturation over the two years he’s been with the Cowboys.
“Relative to his habits of meetings on time, timeliness, preparation and from the kinds of things that we were concerned about when we drafted as opposed to where he is now, he’s made tremendous progress,” Jones said.
Bryant has 57 catches for 858 yards and nine touchdowns. The Cowboys haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Terrell Owens had 1,180 in 2006.
Obviously with a game like this on the horizon, it’s difficult to focus on anything other than the factors that play the biggest role in Sunday’s gigantic matchup with the Giants.
To win, the Cowboys will obviously need big plays from the offense, particularly the passing game. That’s what they did against the Giants in the first meeting back on Dec. 11 with Tony Romo throwing four touchdown passes to four different receivers.
And it’s that type of distribution that could give the Cowboys a franchise first.
If Laurent Robinson and Dez Bryant each catch a touchdown pass Sunday, it would mark the first time in the Cowboys’ 52-year history to have two different players with double-digit touchdown catches.
Both Robinson and Bryant have nine each this year not too far behind is Miles Austin, who has seven touchdowns despite missing six games this season. And let’s not rule him out completely since he does have a three-touchdown-catch game already this year in San Francisco.
But with all the great receivers this team has had over the years, and even the great 1-2 combinations of Alworth and Hayes, Pearson and Hill, Irvin and Harper and even Owens and Glenn, you would think it’s a feat that has occurred at least once before.
And it still hasn’t happened yet. Having both Robinson and Bryant catch a touchdown pass in the same game isn’t a given, although it has happened four times this year, including twice already this month.
The Cowboys are 3-1 this year when both Robinson and Bryant have a touchdown in the same game. Of course, the one loss . . . was to the Giants.
A side story to the biggest game of the year for the Dallas Cowboys and Giants is the possibility that second-year wide receiver Dez Bryant could be served with a lawsuit by a New York-based finance company while in the area this weekend.
Endurance Capital Fund alleges Bryant owes the company some $50,000 for a loan he has not repaid. It is the third debt-related lawsuit filed against Bryant since he was drafted by the Cowboys in April of 2010.
The team is aware of the situation, and continues to attempt to help Bryant, Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones told Sirius NFL Radio on Wednesday evening.
"I think most of these incidents revolve around things he did early on, when he first got in the NFL," Jones said. "I think he’s learning from that, but there are still some lingering things that probably, if he had to do over again, he’d do differently.
"We’ve obviously sat down with him on numerous occasions to give any advice we can . . . Hopefully he’ll be able to correct those things so it doesn’t affect what he can accomplish on the field. If you don’t clean those things up, they tend to affect your career. He understands that."
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) and Laurent Robinson (81) celebrate Bryant’s first quarter touchdown as the Dallas Cowboys play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While Dez Bryant still has three more years remaining on his contract after this year, don’t be surprised if a renegotiation isn’t too far away.
Especially since Bryant has changed agents, replacing Eugene Parker with Drew Rosenhaus, arguably the most visible sports agent in the NFL.
Bryant’s ties to Deion Sanders likely led him to sign with Parker before being drafted. But Sanders, who has been more like a mentor for Bryant, has reportedly severed ties with the second-year receiver.
So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Bryant is moving on to a new agent in Rosenhaus, who also represents Mike Jenkins and Kevin Ogletree. Rosenhaus did have Abram Elam as a client when he signed a one-year deal but no longer servers as his agent.
Bryant is just two seasons into a five-year, $11.8 million contract that included $8.5 million guaranteed. However, if the Cowboys have interest in keeping Laurent Robinson, who will be a free agent and could warrant starting receiver dollars, the club might want to redo Bryant’s deal as well. It’s likely Bryant and Rosenhaus won’t be comfortable with being the third-highest paid receiver on the team behind Austin and Robinson.
Then again, the Cowboys might not even make a strong push for Robinson, or at least until after he tests the free-agent market.
Regardless of that situation, it’s clear Bryant is already thinking about his next contract and has found the guy to help him get there.
Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis
Former Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin signs autographs before the Dallas Cowboys play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jimmy Robinson, Asst. Head Coach/Wide Receivers, with Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88), wide receiver Miles Austin (19) and wide receiver Laurent Robinson (81) on the bench in the second quarter.
The Cowboys finished their 15th game of the season with a 20-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday afternoon. We review the game in our weekly Beat Writers Recap.
- If the Cowboys-Eagles game told us anything it’s that Stephen McGee is not ready to become a full-time No. 2 quarterback behind Tony Romo. McGee’s line on Saturday: 24-of-38 for 182 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and three sacks. McGee dumped off too many passes and just didn’t seem relaxed in the pocket. The Eagles’ pass rush had something to do with that of course, but there was this drive starting with 9:33 to play in the game that McGee could have used to prove something to the coaching staff. It started at the Cowboys’ 23 and ended when McGee tried to throw to Martellus Bennett in the end zone while missing an open Miles Austin. During the drive, McGee’s longest completed pass was a 15-yarder to third-string running back Chauncey Washington.
- It was interesting that coach Jason Garrett didn’t sit some regular offensive starters, other than Felix Jones, in the late stages of the game. Yes, Garrett is trying to win and didn’t want to present a front that he didn’t care. Yet, there would have been nothing wrong with sitting Kyle Koiser (foot) and Laurent Robinson (shoulder) and maybe giving a few snaps to Jeremy Parnell at tackle with the game out of reach. One of the problems we have with Garrett’s decision making last year was his refusal to play young tackle Sam Young. At some point you need to find out if young players can play.
- The more we watch defensive end Sean Lissemore, the more we like him. He finished with four tackles and has performed well with extended snaps with Josh Brent (knee) out. What the Cowboys do next year at end is an interesting debate. We believe Jason Hatcher will return, but we’re not sure about Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears coming back. In the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme, it’s hard to judge the defensive ends on stats, because Coleman and Spears are asked to play the run. Spears has been more active than Coleman the last few weeks, though Coleman did have a tackle for loss on Saturday, his first since Thanksgiving.
- Punter Mat McBriar had a nice day versus Philadelphia. Of his nine punts, he landed a season-high five inside the 20. He’s been bothered by nerve damage in his left (non-kicking) foot, which cost him one game this year. McBriar is still one of the best punters in the NFL, as evident by his effort at Arizona on Dec. 4 where he held the dangerous Patrick Peterson to just 1 return yard, but his health has bothered him at times in 2011.
- Romo didn’t complete a pass Saturday, marking the first time in his career that’s ever happened. The main concern going forward with Romo regarding his bruised hand is the ability to grip the ball. If he struggles in that area, he will have difficulty passing and handing off. … With Kevin Ogletree (knee) being inactive for the Eagles game, you have to wonder about his own future. The Cowboys expected so much out of him, but Robinson surpassed him on the depth chart. … Good to see Dwayne Harris with a 51-yard kickoff return. He is running with confidence and might break one in the regular-season finale at the New York Giants.
Calvin Watkins | ESPN Dallas
Here are the ALMOST WORLD FAMOUS predictions from Robert A Knight … aka The GREAT Robbini … our self-proclaimed prediction guru. He’s back this week … fired up … and Jerry Jones’n for some NFC East showdown action!
Just weeks ago, it appeared the New York Giants had the NFC East under control. At that time, Dallas fans were eyeing one of the available two wild card spots. It’s quite different today. This weekend, the Dallas Cowboys can take control … and let the Giants fight for a wildcard entry into the playoffs. But first, as we all know, they have to take out the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium. That’s going to be quite a challenge, if we consider the results the last time these two rivals met in Philly.
The thing that’s on all of our minds is … WHICH NFC East team will host that wildcard weekend playoff game? As of this moment, The “Boys, Giants, and Eagles have a shot at it! . Two divisional games today will help decide their fates.
It’s time for The GREAT Robbini’s predictions … I’m sure you’ll agree … a lot of these will come true. OK, here we go …
Eagles come into Dallas on a surprise playoff mission. Rob Ryan and the ‘Boys out for redemption. Who gets their Christmas wish?
- Tony Romo 3 TDs (Romo injured, McGee 1 TD)
- Miles Austin TD (4 for 40 yds, including the TD)
- Diamond Dez Bryant TD (6 for 62 yds)
- Tony Romo INT (McGee 0 INT)
- ‘Boys 100yds rushing (81)
- Diamond Dez breaks 800 yds. for season (needs 4 yards!)
- ‘Boys receive 3rd QTR kick
- Michael Vick 270 yds. passing (296)
- Eagles 2 giveaways (1)
- McCoy TD (13 for 35, plus 10 yds receiving)
- Vick sacked 3x (2 DeMarcus Ware, multiple pressures)
- Eagles trail at half (never trailed)
- Eagles 3 plays over 30yds (close enough, 2 over 30, 2 nearly there!)
- PHI loses by less than 6
- BONUS prediction: NYG lose to NYJ
Remember, you read it here! The Great Robbini predictions for week #16
TBAB POSTGAME SUMMARY: Dallas D had a rough first half, but improved as the game progressed. With Romo out, the Dallas offense was unable to get any momentum. McGee struggled, due to PHI pressure and from being rusty. Backup QB’s get very little time with starting units during the week. Luckily, McGee’s final drive produced a TD, which helped Dallas avoid a home shutout for the first time in 165 games. Philadelphia put enough pressure on McGee to prevent many big plays down the field. It was nice to see him rolling out, avoiding sacks, and making plays when the pressure was closing in. As the week progresses, we’ll hear more about Tony Romo’s hand injury and if he’ll be the starter. As you probably know, the Giants won earlier. The Dallas Cowboys playoff hopes boil down to the final game of the season … in New York … primetime. Get set for one of the highest rated Sunday Night Football games in history!
Near the end of Wednesday’s media availability at the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch practice facility, it was announced over the loudspeaker in the locker room that players were about to attend a Pro Bowl voting session. Shortly before that, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant strolled past reporters, sporting a pretty comical piece of clothing considering where the team was headed.
Bryant had on a Nike t-shirt that said: "LAZY BUT TALENTED."
Not sure if Bryant planned to wear the shirt on purpose, mocking those who contest that the young playmaker is talented but lacks the proper work ethic, but either way, it was comical enough to get a laugh from a few reporters.
Bryant has improved in almost every major receiving stat category during his second NFL season. In 13 games, he has nine touchdowns and 796 receiving yards. Last season, Bryant played in 12 games before a right ankle injury prematurely ended his rookie campaign.
Just in case you were wondering, Pro Bowl voting is based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 43-man rosters that will represent the AFC and the NFC.
Tony Romo was nearly flawless in getting the Dallas Cowboys back on track in the NFC East.
Romo threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth score Saturday night, helping the first-place Cowboys beat the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-15.
Dallas stopped a two-game losing streak in which it blew fourth-quarter leads to allow a seemingly solid grip on the division lead slip away.
The victory gave the Cowboys (8-6) a half-game lead over New York. Although the Giants hold a tiebreaker advantage after beating Dallas 37-34 last week, the Cowboys can claim the division title and host a playoff game by finishing with wins the next two weeks over Philadelphia at home and the Giants on the road.
The Bucs (4-10) lost for the eighth straight time and played a miserable first half that certainly didn’t do anything to help coach Raheem Morris make a case for keeping his job.
Romo threw a pair of 8-yard TD passes to Miles Austin and Dez Bryant in the first quarter, then finished a seven-play, 89-yard drive with a 9-yarder to Laurent Robinson to make it 21-0 with just under 5 minutes remaining in the second quarter. Romo made it 28-0 on a quarterback sneak in the closing seconds of the opening half.
Tampa Bay managed just one first down and was outgained 279 yards to 55 in the first two quarters, but found a way to make it interesting in the second half.
The Bucs, who had had yielded 69 consecutive points dating to the second quarter of the previous week’s 41-14 loss to Jacksonville, finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter when rookie Adrian Clayborn sacked Romo from behind, forcing a fumble that linebacker Dekoda Watson returned 4 yards for a TD for a much-needed spark.
Josh Freeman’s 13-yard TD pass to Dezmon Briscoe and a two-point conversion throw to Kellen Winslow trimmed the Dallas lead to 31-15 heading into the final quarter.
The Cowboys have led in the fourth quarter in five of their six losses, however there wouldn’t be a late collapse this time. Tampa Bay turned the ball over on downs twice in the last six minutes, and Sammy Morris picked up a first down inside the Bucs 10 to give the Cowboys an opportunity to run out the clock.
Austin’s TD midway through the first quarter was set up by Tampa Bay’s NFL-leading 32nd turnover, a fumble by Freeman on the fifth play of the game.
The Tampa Bay quarterback scrambled 25 yards on third-and-5 to march the Bucs near midfield, but the opening possession of the night came to an abrupt halt on the next play when Freeman took off again for a 7-yard gain and was stripped of the ball at the Cowboys 44.
Linebacker Bradie James recovered and it took Romo seven plays to get Dallas in the end zone for the first time. The Cowboys marched 69 yards in 10 plays on their next possession, with Romo finishing the drive by finding a wide-open Bryant in the back of the end zone to make it 14-0.
In three career games against Tampa Bay – all lopsided victories – Romo has thrown for 908 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. He was 23 of 30 for 249 yards and was sacked twice Saturday night.
Felix Jones, back in the starting lineup after DeMarco Murray broke his right ankle last week in a 37-34 loss to the Giants, broke a 38-yard run on the drive leading to Robinson’s TD and finished with 108 yards on 22 carries – his second straight 100-yard performance had 67 yards rushing on 12 carries at halftime.
Freeman, making his second start since missing a game because of an injured throwing shoulder, was 17 of 27 for 148 yards and no interceptions. He led the Bucs in rushing with 37 yards on four attempts and was sacked three times, once by DeMarcus Ware, who notched his 16th of the season.
Thanks to a large contingent of Cowboys fans, the Bucs played before a sellout crowd at home for just the second time in two seasons. Judging by all the blue and white jerseys scattered throughout the 65,000-seat stadium, at least half the house appeared to be rooting for Dallas.
The Bucs have lost eight straight following a 4-2 start that included wins over NFC South rivals New Orleans and Atlanta. The skid has coach Raheem Morris on the hot seat just a year after the NFL’s youngest head coach led his team to a surprising 10-6 finish that heightened expectations coming into this season.
Tampa Bay played Saturday night without starting receiver Arrelious Benn, who suffered a concussion during last week’s loss at Jacksonville. He was replaced by Briscoe, who began the night with just 23 receptions yet shared the team lead in touchdown catches with three.
Watch the highlights HERE
IT’S NOT ALL DOOM N GLOOM: Tony Romo | Laurent Robinson | John Phillips | Diamond Dez | Felix Jones | Sean Lee
Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram
Tony Romo leaves the field after the New York Giants defeated the Dallas Cowboys
This loss should not be placed at the feet of Tony Romo.
The Cowboys quarterback completed 68 percent of his passes for 321 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. His quarterback rating of 141.3 was much better than Eli Manning’s.
But on third-and-five with 2:25 left and the Cowboys clinging to a five-point lead, Romo overthrew a wide open Miles Austin on a go route that would likely have resulted in a touchdown.
Romo said it wasn’t a timing problem.
“Miles said the ball got lost in the light,” Romo said. “Obviously, you don’t want those types of things to happen.
“Miles played a great game tonight. He did a good job for us.”
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin (19) runs after catch
SPECIAL FEATURE: Dallas Cowboys looking to plug exposed middle of offensive line by utilizing all of their offensive tools
IRVING — It happened in an instant. During the second quarter of the New York Giants’ 41-35 victory over Dallas in October 2010, linebacker Michael Boley flashed through a gap and slammed Tony Romo to the turf, fracturing the Cowboys quarterback’s left collarbone.
The impact of Boley’s devastating hit reverberated the rest of the season because Romo would never take another snap after being injured.
More than a year later, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was asked to reflect on the collision that rocked the Cowboys’ universe in 2010.
"That’s a long time ago," Garrett said Friday. "That’s really not part of our concern right now."
Boley’s hit may no longer be on the Cowboys’ minds but what caused it to happen – poor pass protection – is.
"That’s one of the things we have to work on," said Cowboys offensive line coach Hudson Houck.
Last week, in Dallas’ 19-13 overtime loss to Arizona, the Cardinals were able to create sustained pressure by attacking the interior of the Cowboys’ line – just like Boley did when he blitzed up the middle a season ago.
Against Arizona, the Cowboys conceded five sacks – two of which were surrendered by center Phil Costa and right guard Kyle Kosier. The Cowboys are under the assumption the Giants, who have recorded 33 sacks, will copy the Cardinals’ plan.
"Whatever they throw at us, we’ve got to deal with it," left guard Montrae Holland said. "But we’re trying to solidify the middle."
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo working with a young, but improving, offensive line in 2011.
The Fiammetta Factor:
The numbers don’t lie.
Running back DeMarco Murray rushed for a team record 601 yards in four games with fullback Tony Fiammetta leading the way.
With Fiammetta out the past three games with an illness, Murray has tallied 198 yards.
It goes without saying that Murray is excited to have Fiammetta back in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Giants.
“He’s a hard working guy,” Murray said. “He does all the dirty work for me. I am very excited to have him back. I definitely I knew I wasn’t going to go for a 150 every game. I understand that. You are going to have ups and downs. You got to continue to get better, it’s all about the next game. But I’m feeling good about this week.”
Beginning this weekend, we’ll see how the Fiammetta Factor effects both DeMarco Murray and running back Felix Jones.