Dallas Cowboys tight ends coach John Garrett has accepted a job to become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers new receivers coach. Garrett worked in Dallas for six seasons, arriving when his brother, Jason Garrett, became offensive coordinator. John Garrett added the title of passing game coordinator to his title in 2011.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity in Tampa,” Garrett said. “We had a had a great time interviewing down there, getting to know coach [Greg] Schiano more and more and the offensive coaches and the rest of the staff of the Buccaneers. It really went well, and I’m thrilled for the opportunity and just really excited to get started working for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
Though Garrett still was under contract with the Cowboys, Dallas already had OK’d his leaving. He and other coaches had been allowed to look for other jobs, and Garrett had applied for the University of Delaware head coaching job. The opportunity with the Bucs came last week.
Garrett, 47, will leave his brothers Jason and Judd, the Cowboys’ director of pro scouting, but he said he will miss his tight ends room just as much. Garrett said he developed a special relationship with Jason Witten, John Phillips and James Hanna. Witten left for Hawaii and his eighth Pro Bowl on Sunday.
“My six years with the Cowboys have been fantastic,” Garrett said. “I want to thank the [Jerry] Jones family and the entire Cowboys organization. The opportunity to work with the coaches here on staff and everyone in the administration has been fantastic. I loved coming to work every day. But most importantly, working with the players in my position. The tight ends are just fabulous people, really good players and do it the right way. They love football. They prepare. They execute. They have just tremendous integrity and character. It was a great, great tight end room from Jason Witten to John Phillips to James Hanna. I just loved coming in and coaching them every day. They were like sponges, soaking everything in and being prepared for the games and the practices. I really appreciate that and the fact that they gave everything they had.”
Garrett has seen his career come back to where it started. He began his post-playing career as a pro personnel assistant for the Bucs, staying in that role from 1992-94. He worked with the Bucs receivers, too, during the week those two seasons and assisted the defensive staff on game days.
When he left the Bucs for Cincinnati in 1995, he was replaced in Tampa by Mark Dominik. Dominik now is the team’s general manager.
Garrett’s tie to Schiano is his father. Jim Garrett was a long-time NFL scout whose path crossed several times with Schiano while Schiano was in the college ranks.
“Greg Schiano is a fantastic person, and a great football coach, and he loves football and does everything the right way,” Garrett said. “I’m really excited to learn more from him and be part of his program.”
Garrett will replace Bucs receivers coach P.J. Fleck, who was hired as the head coach at Western Michigan. Garrett inherits Vincent Jackson, who, in his first season in Tampa, earned a Pro Bowl berth with 72 catches for 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns.
“Vincent Jackson is a fantastic player and from what I hear and what I saw when I had the interview, he is arguably a better person,” Garrett said. “All the coaches there think he’s an outstanding leader, a fantastic worker. He loves to be coached and loves football. They had a lot of comparisons to this is our [Jason] Witten, how he just loves it and as a star player sets the tone and pace for how to work and prepare. I got a chance to visit with him in the course of the interview and that’s exactly the case. I developed a good rapport, and I’m looking forward to working with such a talented guy.”
Garrett is the fifth assistant to leave Dallas, continuing a restructuring of the coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was let go, replaced by Monte Kiffin. Defensive line coach Brian Baker also was not retained, replaced by Rod Marinelli.
Running backs coach Skip Peete also was let go, and he landed in Chicago. The Cowboys have not replaced him yet. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis’ job also has not been filled. DeCamillis also joined the Bears staff.
Wes Phillips, who has been on the Cowboys staff for six years, could be considered for John Garrett’s vacated job. Phillips has spent the past two seasons as the assistant offensive line coach.
The Cowboys also are unsettled at play caller, though the job could go to offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
ARLINGTON — The Dallas Cowboys still aren’t a pretty football team.
They remain injury-riddled and mistake-prone at times.
But they have proven to have a persevering spirit that has been tested on and off the field through triumph and tragedy.
Now — after the Cowboys rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 in overtime before 95,595 fans at Cowboys Stadium — they might be destined as well.
Cornerback Brandon Carr’s interception off Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and 36-yard return two plays into overtime set up Dan Bailey’s game-winning kick from 21 yards out.
It was the Cowboys’ third consecutive win — the second since practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in a one-car accident and nose tackle Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter. Dallas also beat Cincinnati on a last-second kick by Bailey less than 24 hours after learning about the tragedy.
It was the fifth win in their past six games for the Cowboys, once a disappointing mess at 3-5 but now in a first-place tie in the NFC East and in control of their playoff destiny.
The Cowboys (8-6) are tied atop the division with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins. They would win the NFC East title if they win their remaining two games against the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday and at the Redskins in the season finale Dec. 30.
"Again, this bunch wouldn’t, just would not quit," an ecstatic owner Jerry Jones said about his Cowboys, who won on a fourth-quarter or overtime comeback for the fifth time season — a complete opposite of last year, when they lost five games after blowing fourth-quarter leads.
"I’m just impressed," Jones said. "On top of that, dealing with the with the kinds of things we’ve been dealing with, I give them [credit], but I also give [coach] Jason [Garrett] a lot of credit in keeping everybody’s eye on the ball and at the same time understanding what the important thing is, and that’s to honor Jerry Brown’s life and support each other during this tough time."
The Cowboys got the win with Brent on their sideline. He is out on bail while awaiting his trial. Garrett said the Cowboys asked Brent to be there and they followed the lead of Brown’s mother, who pleaded with them to continue to support him.
It’s that same support that the Cowboys have shown for each other during adverse times since the beginning of the season that has sparked the recent winning streak. It continued to play a huge role on Sunday when the Steelers took a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter, much to the delight of a large, boisterous clan of Steelers fans at Cowboys Stadium.
A Cowboys team playing without seven defensive regulars, including six starters, because of injury, refused to lose.
A potentially back-breaking 22-yard punt return by Steelers receiver Antonio Brown early in the fourth quarter became a Cowboys break when linebacker Victor Butler forced a fumble and tight end John Phillips recovered at the Steelers’ 44.
Quarterback Tony Romo started off with a 13-yard pass to receiver Dez Bryant, who played with a fractured index finger and scored in the third quarter. He then found tight end Jason Witten for 9 yards and receiver Dwayne Harris for 17, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run by DeMarco Murray.
The Cowboys’ defense sacked Roethlisberger three times in the fourth quarter, with 1 1/2 by Anthony Spencer, setting up Carr’s final heroics.
"It was just reaction and instinct," said Carr, who also keyed the win last week at Cincinnati with an interception. "That’s how the whole season has been. We just keep fighting."
The Steelers came into this game with the top-ranked defense in the NFL. The Cowboys? Well, they had six of their original starters out of the lineup, plus their nickel cornerback, then lost yet another linebacker in the early stages of the game.
But as the old saying goes, the games aren’t played on paper. Instead, it was the Dallas defense that came up big, leading the team to a thrilling 27-24 overtime victory in front of 95,595 raucous fans.
Despite the glaring differences between their defensive units, Dallas’ patchwork side held their own throughout the contest, and when they needed it most, came up with three big sacks late in the fourth quarter. That was followed by a game-changing interception from Brandon Carr in the extra frame, which set up the winning field goal.
It was by no means easy. Twice the Steelers took the lead and three times the game was tied. But Dallas kept battling back.
Pittsburgh put up 388 total yards of offense and did not have a single penalty. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 339 yards on 24-of-40 passing with two touchdowns. His primary target was tight end Heath Miller, who totaled 92 yards on 7 catches, while wide receiver Mike Wallace had four catches for 95 yards.
But on the other side of the ball, the Cowboys were ready for the the mighty Steelers defense, racking up 415 total yards. Tony Romo was again outstanding, throwing for 341 yards on 30-of-42 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He connected with nine different players, Miles Austin leading the way with seven catches for 79 yards while Dez Bryant and Jason Witten did what they do best, each scoring a touchdown.
Even DeMarco Murray got into the action, rushing for 81 yards on 14 carries with a score. By comparison, the Steelers only ran for 69 yards as a team.
THE DREADED HAIR-COLLAR: Dallas Cowboys tight end John Phillips penalized 15 yards for collaring Cleveland’s horse
The Dallas Cowboys complained about the Cleveland Brown horsecollar tackle that wasn’t really a horse collar at all.
Dallas Cowboys tight end John Phillips was penalized 15 yards for a horsecollar penalty late in the fourth quarter, which led to the Browns scoring a go-ahead touchdown on the next play. But replays showed that Phillips had pulled Josh Cribbs down by Cribbs’ dreadlocks, which is legal.
"It sure looked like he pulled his hair," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We had a pretty good view of it. It was right in front of us. But those guys have to make those judgment calls in a split second. So that is what it is."
The play is not a reviewable play, which is why the replay official never called for Ed Hoculi to go under the hood.
Images courtesy: Steve DelVecchio | Larry Brown
RELATED: JOHN PHILLIPS – "All hair. One hundred percent all hair. All hair."
John Phillips testified Monday at Valley Ranch about his horse-collar penalty.
“All hair,” he said. “One hundred percent all hair.
But, there was no judge in the locker room. No place to appeal. It’s still his penalty.
Still, the fourth-year tight end told reporters he was surprised he actually got flagged on the dragdown of Joshua Cribbs on the fourth-quarter punt return. The penalty put the ball at the 17-yard line, and Ben Watson’s touchdown catch put the Browns up 20-17 with 1:07 left.
“I knew they were probably going to throw it, but i didn’t think they’d actually give the penalty,” he said. “I thought they would talk to each other and realize it was all hair.”
Phillips was afraid he had cost the game.
“Well, it sucks,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, because I put our defense and our team in a compromising situation. We had to punt the ball back to them, and I give them 15 more yards, and then they scored on the next play. Obviously, I felt terrible. I guess it’s not a reviewable play, right? It’s just one of those things.”
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.
|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
For the fourth time this season the Cowboys committed 13 penalties in a game.
Oddly enough, the league’s second-most penalized team improved to 3-1 in those contests with a 38-23 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
It’s unrealistic to expect more wins if that trend continues and Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones address that topic on Monday.
“We’ve got to stop the penalties,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “They’re inexcusable, yet we continue to have them. They kept drives alive for the Eagles a couple of times by being offsides. That’s just unacceptable.”
Morris Claiborne, Jason Hatcher, Josh Brent and Anthony Spencer combined to go offside six times. Claiborne was also flagged for holding twice and pass interference once. John Phillips had two false starts, Doug Free had another and Orlando Scandrick was called for holding.
In the end, the 13 penalties cost the Cowboys 75 yards and raised their season average to 8.2 penalties per game. Only the Washington Redskins (8.3) average more penalties per game.
While dissecting the problem, Jones said the Cowboys coaching staff has to do more to find a solution before the penalties end up costing the club a chance at the postseason.
“I know [Garrett] wants to do more. We talked about it,” Jones said. “We addressed it after the game. He’s going to get with Rob [Ryan] and we got to do more because whatever we’re doing is not working. They pulled [Jason] Hatcher out of the game after his second consecutive offsides, but it’s got to be more than that.
“Somehow we got to get focused. For some reason, the guys continue to make those mistakes and at some point that’s going to cost us a game that may cost us our season.”
Here’s a game-by-game breakdown of the Cowboys’ 74 penalties this season.
Week 1: 13 penalties for 86 yards in win at Giants.
Week 2: 5 penalties for 47 yards in loss at Seahawks.
Week 3: 13 penalties for 105 yards in win over Buccaneers.
Week 4: 2 penalties for 10 yards in loss to Bears.
Week 6: 13 penalties for 82 yards in loss at Ravens.
Week 7: 6 penalties for 43 yards in win at Panthers.
Week 8: 2 penalties for 10 yards in loss to Giants.
Week 9: 7 penalties for 50 yards in loss at Atlanta.
Week 10: 13 penalties for 75 yards in win at Eagles.
IRVING, Texas – The Atlanta Falcons are the only undefeated team left in the NFL. But don’t think that makes them unbeatable. In fact, of their seven wins, only one has come against a team (Broncos 4-3) that currently has a winning record.
There was also a three-week stretch in which the Falcons narrowly won games against less than stellar teams.
In week four, the Falcons beat the Carolina Panthers 30-28 on a last second field goal.
In week five, the Falcons beat the Washington Redskins (who played the end of the game without Robert Griffin III) 24-17.
In week six, the Falcons beat the Oakland Raiders 23-20 at home.
A win is a win in the National Football League, so the point is not to fault the Falcons, but to look to these three games for a formula to beat Atlanta. And after taking a second look at all three games the verdict might not bode well for the Cowboys.
These three teams had success against the Falcons by effectively running the ball.
The Cowboys’ offense looked great against the Giants in the second half as they all but abandoned the run game. Don’t expect that to be the most effective strategy against the Atlanta Flacons.
It’s no secret that the Falcons are a big-play, quick-strike offense. With Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White, and Julio Jones, they have three players that average over 10 yards per carry and they have 13 touchdowns between them. Not to mention that Matt Ryan is playing at an elite level.
Teams’ only sustained success this year against the Falcons has been by running the ball and keeping Ryan and the offense off of the field. The Falcons have the 26th ranked rushing defense in the NFL.
In their loss to the Falcons, the Panthers rushed for 199 yards. Perhaps more importantly, they ran the ball 35 times versus just 25 passing plays. Ryan still played quite efficiently, but Carolina controlled the tempo for most of the game meaning the Falcons’ offense had more pressure to rely on the big plays of their offense (which they happened to get just enough of to win).
Ironically, it was a Panthers fumble in the last moments of the game that forced them to punt it to the Falcons who drove from their own 1-yard line to hit a game-winning field goal.
The Redskins managed to hang with the Falcons despite losing Robert Griffin III in the third quarter to a concussion.
They did so with a game plan that relied heavily on running back Alfred Morris who got 115 yards off of 18 carries. The predictability of Atlanta’s offense was apparent as Matt Ryan threw the ball 52 times in order for the Falcons to reach 24 points. Perhaps with Griffin playing the fourth quarter the Redskins could have continued the success of their ground attack and limited the opportunities for Ryan’s passing plays.
The next week the Oakland Raiders nearly beat the Falcons by dominating the time of possession. The Raiders ran for 149 yards compared to just 45 from the Falcons. The Falcons once again relied on big plays from their wide receivers, but this time it cost them as Ryan threw three interceptions almost costing the Falcons a win.
Like the Panthers and Redskins before them the Raiders played kept a very balanced blend of running and passing the ball. They threw the ball 33 times to go along with 32 running plays. Atlanta made just enough big plays to sneak out a 3-point victory.
What we can take from all of this is relatively obvious; the Falcons rely heavily on the expectation that their receiving threats (mainly Gonzalez, Jones and White) will make enough game-changing plays for them to win. Those players are talented enough for that to be a logical strategy. But no matter how talented your players are, such plays are rarely a given. You can’t just expect to convert every time you throw it deep to your Pro-Bowl receiver. But the Falcons take so many shots that they typically convert enough to win games.
These three teams had success against the Falcons by limiting the amount of shots they could take at big plays. In a sense they gambled that when it came down to crunch time they would be able to prevent the big passing plays. Even though they were wrong, they kept themselves in the game until the final moments.
I think that the Falcons have a clear weakness at running back and it has yet to be fully exposed. The Cowboys’ reluctance to run the ball has been well documented as they have only rushed the ball 24.1 times per game. But the Falcons are actually right behind them at 25.1 times per game.
The Cowboys and Falcons have shared many of the same weaknesses and their strengths lie in some of the same places. But considering how effective the Falcons have been this season compared to the Cowboys it might not be wise to go head to head with them on their strengths.
In other words, the Cowboys don’t want to try to get into a shoot out with the Falcons. Both teams have great weapons on offense, but the Falcons have been much more successful taking advantage of their weapons and winning games off of passing situations.
Compared to their 26th ranked rush defense, the Falcons have the 10th ranked passing defense. Their secondary is a big step up from the Giants’ secondary that the Cowboys passed all over in the second half of last Sunday.
There may be little reason to have faith in the performance of Felix Jones (who is not 100 percent), or Phillip Tanner or Lance Dunbar for that matter. But beating the Falcons will likely require a commitment to the running game.
Both teams will likely make big plays in the passing game. But Sunday’s game might come down to who can control the game in between those big plays. If the Cowboys fall behind by a touchdown early in the game, handing the ball off to Felix Jones and controlling the clock might not be the most popular decision, but that type of discipline and faith in the running game could be what it takes to take down a team like Atlanta.
Here are the historical notes compiled after todays game with the New York Giants:
The Dallas Cowboys had three receivers top 100 yards tonight (Jason Witten, 167; Miles Austin, 133; and Dez Bryant ,110) for just the second time in franchise history. The first was at San Francisco (11/10/63) as Frank Clarke (190), Lee Folkins (112) and Billy Howton (107) were the first Cowboys trio to accomplish the feat.
Dallas finished the game with 415 net passing yards – the sixth-most in a game in franchise history:
Single-Game Passing Yards (team history)
Miles Austin finished second on the team with nine catches for 133 yards today. His 133 yards marked his third 100-yard outing of the season and the 14th of his career. His 133 yards today were the ninth-most in a game in his career:
Austin’s Single-Game Yardage Total
Austin’s nine catches today upped his career total to 245 to pass Kelvin Martin (237) for 13th in franchise history.
Austin’s 133 yards today upped his career total to 3,855 to pass Doug Cosbie (3,728) for seventh in team history.
Dez Bryant finished third on the team in both receptions (five) and yards (110) today. His 110 yards marked a career-high, his second 100-yard game of the season and the third of his career.
Bryant upped his career receptions total to 149 to pass Don Perkins (146) for 29th in team history.
Bryant improved his career receiving yards total to 1,977 to pass Timmy Newsome (1,966) for 28th in franchise history.
Bryant had a career-long 55-yard catch today.
Lance Dunbar had a 44-yard kickoff return today for the longest kickoff return of the season to date.
Dwayne Harris tied his career-long punt return of 14 yards today.
Felix Jones rushed 13 times for 19 yards and touchdown today. He now has 507 career rushing attempts to become the 12th Dallas Cowboy with 500 rushes.
Jones’ rushing touchdown today was the 10th of his career to make him the 18th Dallas Cowboy with 10-or-more rushing scores.
Danny McCray picked off his second career pass today.
John Phillips notched his second career touchdown reception – the first was also against the N.Y. Giants (12/11/12).
Tony Romo finished today’s game 36-of-62 for 437 yards. His 62 attempts established a club record while his 437 passing yards were a single-game career-high and good for third in club history:
Single-Game Passing Yards (Team History)
|Don Meredith||460||@SF (11/10/63)|
|Troy Aikman||455||MIN (11/26/98)|
|Tony Romo||437||NYG (10/28/12)|
Romo’s 437 yards was his second career 400-yard game (first was 406 vs. Tennessee, 10/10/10) and his 34th career outing with 300-or-more passing yards.
Romo also rushed for his fifth career touchdown today.
DeMarcus Ware’s sack today was his fifth straight game with at least a half sack – the fourth such streak in his career.
Ware has 13.5 career sacks against the Giants – the second-most against any team in the league (Philadelphia, 15.5). He also has 13.5 sacks of Eli Manning – more than any other quarterback he has sacked in the league.
Ware now has 107.0 career sacks to take sole possession of third place on Dallas’ all-time unofficial (pre-1982) sack list:
Jason Witten led the team with a club-record 18 catches for a team-best and career-high 167 yards. Witten now owns the top-three and is tied for fourth for receptions in a single-game in club history:
Dallas Cowboys Single-Game receptions
|Jason Witten||18||NYG (10/28/12)|
|Jason Witten||15||@Det (12/9/07)|
|Jason Witten||14||@NYG (12/6/09)|
|Lance Rentzel||13||WAS (11/19/67)|
|Jason Witten||13||CHI (10/1/12)|
|Dez Bryant||13||@Bal (10/14/12)|
Witten’s 18 catches tied for the third-most in a game in NFL history (Brandon Marshall, 18, vs. San Diego, 9/15/08) and were the most by a tight end in NFL history.
Witten’s 167-yard performance tied for the 20th-best single-game total by a league tight end and was a club tight-end record.
Witten also extended his club tight end record of 100-yard outings to 16.
Witten upped his season catch total to 51 to give him his ninth career and ninth consecutive season with at least 40 catches. He is now tied with Jeremy Shockey for the third-most 40-plus catch seasons and the third-most consecutive 40-catch seasons among tight ends in NFL history.
40-Plus Catch Seasons by a Tight End
|Shannon Sharpe||11||7||1992-98, 00-03|
Witten’s 51 catches thus far also marked his ninth career and ninth consecutive 50-catch season for the second-most by a tight end behind Tony Gonzalez (14 total and 14 consecutive) in NFL history.
Witten now has 747 career receptions and trails Michael Irvin by only three for tops in team history.
IRVING — Multiple Cowboys players who had been sidelined with injuries were seen in uniform at practice today at Valley Ranch.
Nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who had been out since suffering a left high-ankle sprain Aug. 25, was stretching along with center Phil Costa, who hasn’t played since hurting his back on the first offensive series of the Cowboys’ victory over the New York Giants on Sept. 5. Also back was rookie safety Matt Johnson (hamstring/back), linebacker Alex Albright (neck) and Kenyon Coleman, who missed the previous two games with a right knee injury.
It’s uncertain how much activity all four players will be involved in Wednesday because an official practice report won’t be released by the club.
Among the players who were not present or weren’t in uniform were linebacker Anthony Spencer (strained pectoral muscle), center Ryan Cook (strained left hamstring), punter Chris Jones (left knee) and tight end John Phillips.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ defenders in the team’s 27-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, while analyzing what it means:
CB Brandon Carr: 68 of 68
CB Morris Claiborne: 64 of 68
ILB Sean Lee: 62 of 68
OLB DeMarcus Ware: 58 of 68
OLB Anthony Spencer: 58 of 68
ILB Bruce Carter: 54 of 68
S Gerald Sensabaugh: 52 of 68
S Danny McCray: 50 of 68
DE Jason Hatcher: 48 of 68
NG Josh Brent: 42 of 68
DE Marcus Spears: 34 of 68
CB Orlando Scandrick: 30 of 68
DL Sean Lissemore: 23 of 68
DE Kenyon Coleman: 21 of 68
S Mana Silva: 17 of 68
DE Victor Butler: 16 of 68
S Barry Church: 13 of 68
ILB Dan Connor: 11 of 68
DE Tyrone Crawford: 10 of 68
CB Mike Jenkins: 8 of 68
LB Alex Albright: 1 of 68
Danny McCray gets the Ironman Award this week for playing a team-high 74 snaps, if we include his work on special teams. McCray played so much because a quadriceps injury significantly limited Barry Church’s playing time. … Mike Jenkins made his 2012 debut as a part-time player at safety in the dime defense. With Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) out at least a couple of weeks, Jenkins’ playing time will increase at that spot. … Bruce Carter continues to make plays and saw his playing time nearly double. … Sean Lissemore will see additional playing time if he continues to produce at absurd levels. He had 10 tackles in only 38 snaps. … Victor Butler saw increased playing time, but had no impact.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ offense and what it means:
Jason Witten’s lacerated spleen is healing, but apparently, he still does not know when he will be cleared to play a game. Witten had a scan of his injured spleen Tuesday and learned that he can get some on-field work, with no contact, in the next few days, according to Stephen Jones.
Jones told 105.3 The Fan that Witten still hasn’t been ruled out of the Giants’ game. It seems more likely, though, that the Pro Bowl tight end will return for the Sept. 16 game at Seattle given that he has another doctor’s appointment next week.
"He had a good [doctor’s] appointment [Tuesday]," Jones, the team’s executive vice president, told the radio station. "Things are progressing. …It’s certainly starting to look [like surgery will not be needed]. He’ll go back for another appointment next week and see where it sits."
Witten, who has missed only one regular-season game in his career, lacerated his spleen in the exhibition opener against the Raiders on a hit by Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain. He worked on resistance cords during Monday’s practice as part of his rehab.
John Phillips, who has 22 career catches, or 674 fewer than Witten, for 163 yards and a touchdown in three seasons, has taken first-team reps in Witten’s absence. Rookies James Hanna and Andrew Szczerba both could make the roster initially, with Witten’s status for the opener in doubt.
"You’ve got to be ready to go," Phillips said. "Step in. Next-man-up mentality. Ready to get out there and go."
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every week during the regular season, I will roll out a list of “DOs and DON’Ts” for the Cowboys. I’ve done this for the past few years, using a combination of film study and stat analysis to create a game plan of sorts.
Seeing as how the third week of the preseason tends to resemble a regular season game in most ways, I figured I’d give my “DOs and DON’Ts” an early start this year. I’ll approach this list as though the Dallas Cowboys’ Saturday night matchup with the St. Louis Rams were the real thing, showing how I’d attack St. Louis (and giving you a preview of my game plans for the regular season). Let’s dive right in. . .
DO run a lot of double-tight sets.
Through two preseason games, the Cowboys’ first-team offense has run just six double-tight end sets, representing only 29.0 percent of their plays. It will be interesting to see if the loss of Martellus Bennett equates to fewer two-tight end formations during the regular season.
On Saturday night, however, I’d place both John Phillips and rookie James Hanna on the field at the same time on numerous occasions. I know those guys aren’t Jason Witten, but the Cowboys’ offensive tackles are going to have their hands full with perhaps the league’s most underrated defensive end duo. That tandem is led by Chris Long, who pressured the quarterback more often than any player in the NFL last year.
Plus, double-tight sets with max protection could allow the ‘Boys to take some shots downfield—something they should be doing more often anyway.
DO run right outside.
As stellar as Chris Long has been while rushing the passer in recent years, he hasn’t held up against the run. He notched a tackle on just 2.1 percent of his snaps last season. The Rams’ other defensive end, Robert Quinn, wasn’t much better with a 2.2 percent tackle rate. In comparison, Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer recorded a tackle on 5.5 percent of snaps.
I watched three of the Rams’ games from 2011, and the pass-rushing ability of their ends is immediately apparent. The problem is that they rush up the field right after the snap of the ball, leaving gaping holes for opposing running backs.
In particular, the Cowboys might be able to make use of their patented draw play. By showing a pass look, Long and Quinn will likely get up the field after Tony Romo, providing DeMarco Murray with plenty of room to scamper outside.
DON’T blitz too often.
Look, the Rams aren’t a good football team, and quarterback Sam Bradford hasn’t progressed as St. Louis fans hoped. There are two schools of thought when playing a struggling quarterback: blitz him to force turnovers, or sit back in coverage so as to not allow a big play.
I find myself in the latter camp. When playing as a favorite, the best way to maximize win probability is to make the opponent beat you again and again. Can the Rams continually move the ball up the field against Dallas without beating themselves? I don’t think so.
DO give Bruce Carter the majority of defensive snaps inside.
Carter is emerging as the probable starter next to Sean Lee at inside linebacker. Many of his teammates describe Carter as the most athletic player on the team, and that’s exactly what the Cowboys need in order to halt the versatility of Steven Jackson. The Rams’ star running back is getting old, but he’s not totally over the hill just yet. Let’s see how two of the league’s premiere height-weight-speed combos match up.
DO run double-moves at Janoris Jenkins.
In a scouting report on Jenkins that I wrote prior to the 2012 NFL Draft, I had this to say about the young cornerback:
Jenkins’ willingness to jump routes makes him an all-or-nothing type of cornerback. He makes a ton of big plays, but he gets beat a lot as well. We frequently throw around comparisons between prospects and NFL players to make assessing them easier, but I have never seen a college player resemble a pro player more than Jenkins to Asante Samuel.
Jenkins is a play-maker, and you really need to be careful when throwing his way. If the ‘Boys’ can find a way to provide Romo with ample protection, though, they can beat Jenkins outside on a double-move.
Jonathan Bales is a special contributor. He’s the founder of The DC Times and writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times.
PRESEASON GAME 2: Five things to watch when Dallas Cowboys face San Diego Chargers | Eight Starters out
Dallas Cowboys fans could allow themselves to be depressed about all the players who won’t participate in tonight’s preseason game against San Diego or be excited about the debut of top pick Morris Claiborne in the secondary. Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware has a tight hamstring and is one of at least eight starters who won’t play tonight. Claiborne, picked sixth overall out of LSU, will get his first real test against the pass-happy Chargers.
1 Starting over again: Quarterback Tony Romo and the starters will play into the second quarter, prompting owner Jerry Jones to hold his breath again that no one gets hurt. The Cowboys are balancing the fine line between being cautious and getting Romo and company the needed work to get ready for the season.
2 Life without Witten: There will be an increased focus on the tight end position, which will be without Jason Witten for the rest of the preseason and possibly the season opener. John Phillips will get the start. It’s also a good opportunity for James Hanna, the rookie from Oklahoma, who could have a bigger role as a pass catcher
3 Who’s No. 3? The Cowboys will use more three-receiver sets with the shortage of tight ends, giving them a better chance to evaluate the receivers. Can underdog Cole Beasley of SMU outshine Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris, etc.?
4 No snap decision: David Arkin gets another long look at center. He starts again for Phil Costa, who is out with a back injury. Monday the goal was not to botch any snaps. Tonight the Cowboys hope he gets the blocking part down and doesn’t allow any free hits on the quarterbacks, namely Romo.
5 Linebacker minutes: Bruce Carter and Dan Connor continue their battle for the starting linebacker job opposite Sean Lee. Both will play a lot as the Cowboys will be in the 4-3 look as much as they are in the 3-4 this year. Carter has the potential to be special, and his continued development is key after missing much of last year with a knee injury.
RELATED: Ware to miss Chargers’ game with hamstring injury
Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said today he will not play in Saturday’s pre-season game against the San Diego Chargers because of a hamstring ailment. Ware described the injury as not serious and indicated he would play if this were a regular-season contest.
Ware becomes the seventh, and most recent, player to miss time in training camp because of a hamstring-related injury. Other starters impacted with hamstring ailments in camp include receiver Miles Austin, linebacker Anthony Spencer, guard Nate Livings and defensive end Jason Hatcher.
John Phillips suddenly finds himself atop the Dallas Cowboys’ depth chart at tight end, based on the spleen injury suffered by Pro Bowler Jason Witten.
But Phillips, who returned to drills Wednesday and projects to start the remainder of the team’s pre-season games while Witten recuperates, said he realizes he is just holding a spot until the seven-time Pro Bowler’s return, hopefully for the Sept. 5 opener against the New York Giants.
“You can’t replace a guy like Jason Witten. He’s a leader of this team, a leader of this offense,” said Phillips, who was sidelined last week with an ankle injury. “I’m not trying to replace him. He’ll be a leader from the sidelines and help us out in the film room … I’m sure he’ll be ready when the season comes around.”
Witten has missed only regular-season game because of injury in his Cowboys’ career. Phillips vowed to join others in helping take up the slack for as long as necessary.
“You’ve just got to step in,” Phillips said. “Next man up. That’s how we’re going to deal with it. Receivers, tight ends, fullbacks, whatever we’re going to do to make up for it. Obviously, him and Tony (Romo) have a good feel for each other and do a lot of things that can’t be taught.”
James Hanna, a rookie sixth-round pick from Oklahoma, harkened back to his sophomore year with the Sooners when standout Jermaine Gresham suffered a season-ending knee injury late in camp.
“I was thinking I was going to get a minimal opportunity and it turned out to be different than that,” said Hanna, who caught two passes for 15 yards against the Raiders and drew praise from coach Jason Garrett.
Witten’s injury created a “whirlwind” of activity Tuesday for tight end Harry Flaherty, who joined the roster Wednesday. Flaherty, a former Princeton player who is the nephew of coach Jason Garrett, said he got the word to join the Cowboys while eating lunch at his home in New Jersey. He was told he had 90 minutes to catch a flight to Oxnard, Calif.
“It was crazy,” said Flaherty, who arrived around midnight and missed the morning walkthrough.
Did he pack anything?
“Very little,” Flaherty said. “It was a whirlwind.”
RELATED: Jerry Jones said Witten obviously stayed in one play too long
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones doesn’t even want to consider possibility of injured tight end Jason Witten not being ready for the season opener.
Witten is out for the rest of the preseason with a lacerated spleen and could be sidelined for the Sept. 5 season opener against the Giants.
Jones, who said he held his breath when Witten took the blindside hit in the game, said his focus is on getting him healthy, not how long he will be out.
“I haven’t thought about it at all. We’re basically more interested in him resting this week and getting that thing healed back.I really don’t have any timeline. All I know is he’s going to be out here for a few days while that thing actually heals and we don’t know how fast that will be. We don’t know at all. I’ve heard timeframes all over the map. All I can go is by what I’m told. We’ll see how it heals."
Jones also refused to second guess the decision to have Witten go three series in a meaningless preseason opener against the Raiders when the offense was already challenged to play behind a patch work offensive line.
"That’s second guessing," Jones said. "He certainly went one play too long, from that standpoint, if you looked at it that way. But I don’t at all second guess that."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MOUNTING FRUSTRATION: Jerry Jones holding his breath about O Line even before todays injury to Phil Costa
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was already worried about the interior offensive line and holding its breath about whether it would hold up in front of quarterback Tony Romo.
And that was before center Phil Costa left practice on Friday with a back injury. David Arkin took reps in his place on the first team.
The Cowboys don’t believe the injury is serious but it came at a bad time with just one practice remaining before the preseason opener against the Raiders.
It’s also another setback for the interior offensive line that is already without three players because of injury in guard Bill Nagy (ankle), center Kevin Kowalski (ankle) and guard Nate Livings (hamstring). Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau returned to practice this week for first team after being undergoing hip and knee surgeries in the offseason.
The Cowboys have not decided if he will play against the Raiders as they choosing to remain cautious.
It all Jones admittedly frustrated.
"I think frustration is probably good in this case," Jones said. I must tell you that I am holding my breath a little bit because I need the interior of this line to be a source of confidence for Tony and to feel good about his protection in there. We can talk about the running game. I know that helps protect him in our passing game. But I look at it principally by it beginning with protection for him. That’s got me a little angst right now, but I am liking some of the things I am seeing in there, although Costa raised his head late out here in the afternoon, but I don’t know how serious it is."
Clarence Hill | FWST
RELATED: Injury Report: Phil Costa hurts lower back
The Dallas Cowboys were just starting to get healthy and then center Phil Costa hurt his lower back and missed the last 45 minutes of practice Friday afternoon. David Arkin and Harland Gunn moved up the depth chart to get snaps. Costa’s status is uncertain, but it comes at a bad time with the Cowboys having just one more practice before the preseason opener at Oakland on Monday night.
- Nose tackle Jay Ratliff got some more snaps in practice Friday after getting — well sneaking — in one snap Thursday afternoon. Ratliff (foot) looked pretty good moving around on the field. After he came out, Ratliff had a chat with the trainers to talk about how he’s feeling. Ratliff is used to playing with power and quickness and he displayed that Friday.
- Tight end John Phillips didn’t practice in pads but did pat-and-go without a helmet in the walkthrough.
- Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (hip and knee) worked with the first and second teams and showed some power and good lateral movement during the practice.
Editors Note: An in-depth post will be available in the morning about this issue, with related video and articles.
Among the Dallas Cowboys’ injured players, coach Jason Garrett said today he anticipates having offensive lineman Mackenzy Bernadeau, defensive tackle Marcus Spears and cornerback Teddy Williams play in Monday’s game against Oakland.
Bernadeau is scheduled to take part today in his first padded practice since returning from off-season hip surgery and a knee ailment. Spears and Williams have been cleared from concussions.
Garrett said he has not ruled out cornerback Morris Claiborne (knee), although Claiborne said trainers were pointing him more toward the San Diego game on Aug. 18. Garrett also has not ruled out receiver Danny Coale (foot) or tight end John Phillips (ankle) for the contest.
Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (foot) and safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) are not expected to play, Garrett said.
Courtesy: Jimmy Burch | FWST
It’s easy to see that John Phillips is way ahead of where he was a year ago.
Last summer, as the Cowboys headed to training camp, the young tight end was trying to put his faith in a surgically repaired knee. A ligament tear had kept him out all of the previous season.
This year, as the Cowboys get ready to start training camp in two weeks, the fourth-year veteran is considered a vertical threat in the passing game.
"You will get to see him running down the field more than he used to," tight ends coach John Garrett said after an organized team activity practice in June at Valley Ranch. "Now that he’s the second tight end, he’s going to get a lot more opportunity to play all the different spots."
The opportunity is coming to Phillips because he is the Cowboys’ most experienced option behind Jason Witten, now that Martellus Bennett is gone.
But Phillips’ best pass-catching days were a long time ago. At least that’s what he thinks. In college at Virginia, he caught 48 passes for 385 yards and two touchdowns as a senior, the second-best season by a tight end in school history.
"That was a long time ago," he said with a laugh after the final minicamp practice in June.
But he does remember how he did it, because the Cowboys are using him the same way he was used in college.
"I did a lot of different things there, similar to here," he said. "Fullback, slot — they moved me around. It’s something I can do. I embrace it. I like doing it."
Garrett said the Cowboys want to take advantage of Phillips’ versatility and his nearly identical size to Witten. Phillips is 6-foot-5, 261 pounds. Witten is 6-6, 265.
They will both block. They will both catch.
"They have the size, the athleticism, the knowledge to play both spots, so they’re interchangeable," Garrett said. "There’s going to be times when John’s going to be blocking. Sometimes Witt’s going to be blocking. We are trying to get them enough work in either role so we can be really diverse in our formation use with those guys."
Garrett expects Phillips and Witten to work even more closely together this year.
"They’re good friends, and they’re close teammates, and they talk a lot about different techniques and the way to block and the way they’re working together on a block or on the same side on a pass pattern," Garrett said. "They certainly talk a lot and make sure they’re on the same page."
Garrett said Phillips is deceptively fast, and with his size, he can be a mismatch for defensive backs. But even with that advantage, he will have to go a long way to match Witten in catches.
Witten has averaged 77 catches a season in his nine-year career. As a pro, Phillips has 22 catches total.
But Garrett said the challenge of the "promotion" hasn’t fazed Phillips.
"He doesn’t freak out at all. He’s fine," Garrett said. ‘You want me to do that? Great. I’ll be ready for that. Don’t worry about it. I got it.’ He’s just really confident. He knows his stuff. He works at it. He’s in great shape. You can’t wear him out."
Quarterback Tony Romo can picture Phillips as a threat.
"I think John has stepped into the role," Romo said. "He’s a guy you can count on. I think he’s going to have a good camp and he’s going to do good things for us this year."
Phillips said he likes the idea of being a threat in the offense, but he doesn’t have to be.
"I think we’ve got a lot of weapons on our team," he said. "I think a lot of guys can make plays. That’s what you get in camp for, to make plays and to get some packages for yourself and get some balls thrown your way.
"I think anybody that has a chance to have the ball in their hands envisions catching passes, catching touchdowns. But ultimately, it comes down to winning games, and it doesn’t matter who gets in there, as long as we score."
Courtesy: Carlos Mendez
Simply put, the fullback position was a key for the Cowboys in 2011. In the six games without Tony Fiammetta in the lineup, the offense averaged only 3.3 yards per carry on 152 rushes. The other 10 games, when Fiammetta was suited up, the Cowboys rushed for 1,304 yards on 256 carries, an average of over 5.0 per run.
When Fiammetta was knocked out of action by an inner ear infection, the Cowboys mostly tried to get by at the position by lining up tight end John Phillips in the backfield, and seventh-round pick Shaun Chapas even got a chance, but it wasn’t the same.
Now the team’s No. 2 tight end, Phillips may not be available for such utility work going forward, and he was hardly a natural as a lead blocker to begin with. Rookie James Hanna isn’t exactly a dominant blocker, either. Now, there’s new fullback Lawrence Vickers.
One of the nice things about Vickers is his durability, as he’s played all but six games in his six seasons, but the position is one of the most demanding in the sport. On almost every play he will be asked to square up for contact with a lineman or linebacker.
Given the questions of depth at receiver and tight end, the fullback position may be featured more this year than it has for the Cowboys in some time. So it makes sense that the team would consider keeping two players at the position, which has not been the norm in Dallas.
Other teams have done it, though. It may mean the Cowboys have to go short elsewhere, but keep in mind they’re not going to have two kickers for the first time since 2008. A third quarterback may not even be a necessity.
It would seem a real possibility that the club could keep a second fullback, either Chapas, who is still around, or another player on the roster.
Isaiah Greenhouse, who converted from linebacker to fullback during last year’s camp, is back with the team now, but has been working exclusively on defense this summer.
So the Dallas Cowboys went through their offseason OTAs and a minicamp and after watching all the practice tape, it was obvious this team felt the need to add more depth and experience at tight end.
That was proven yesterday when they claimed John Nalbone off waivers from the Seahawks. To make room, the Cowboys cut rookie free agent George Bryan, from North Carolina State.
So Nalbone will enter his third training camp. The Cowboys will be his seventh different team to play for – just three years after being a fifth-round pick of the Dolphins.
So you’re getting excited about Nalbone huh? No probably not. Judging by the responses, he’s not exactly the popular vote to back up Jason Witten or even John Phillips, or even to be around.
But that’s where there seems to be an issue at tight end, and it’s been that way for about six years now.
There is a middle ground here the Cowboys haven’t quite figured out. It comes down to finding an adequate backup for Jason Witten – you know the seven-time Pro Bowler, who is a good blocker, a great pass-catcher and as good a team leader that has been around in more than a decade.
Plus, he rarely comes off the field and has only missed one game in his life, and none since 2003.
The Cowboys have tried to the route of drafting one. In fact, they’ve spent two second-round picks and both times they were considered failures. We saw Anthony Fasano join the team in 2006 and it wasn’t two years before he was deemed as a bust. The Cowboys sent him to Miami for a fourth-round pick just before the 2008 draft. That’s when they took Martellus Bennett in the second round and after four years, we know how that turned out.
The question for me has always been the same: are these guys really getting a fair shot to prove themselves behind Witten?
And I’m not suggesting they should play more – at all. It comes down to taking a guy in the second round – twice – who will probably never get the chance to be a great tight end because you already have one.
Before you say “New England does it” – just remember the Cowboys have a different offense and scheme. They rely on their outside receivers way more than the Patriots. And plus, Aaron Hernandez isn’t much of a tight end, but more of a big receiver.
My point is, while you could argue this team needs more depth at tight end, or needed to draft one higher than the sixth round, you have to wonder if they’ll ever get the chance to live up to expectations because of playing time.
You almost wonder if the Cowboys will eventually add Jason Witten’s replacement, if and when the time comes to really replace him.
It’s not here at the moment so therefore, the Cowboys seem to be just filling in the spots. Personally, I think John Phillips is going to have a good season. He’s that jack-of-all-trades guy and that’s really what you need for any backup spot. He’s not only the second tight end, but will likely be the second fullback, too.
There are some out there who think the Cowboys needed to upgrade at tight end and get a better player behind Witten. I wouldn’t agree with that. Phillips has been here long enough and should be able to handle the responsibilities just fine.
Courtesy: Nick Eatman
Commentary: After reading through this post, I agree with Nick’s final assessment. I like John Phillips. Keep him as the backup TE and continue to work him into the offense as a blocking tight end, fullback, and Witten type-receiver. Phillips made some nice plays last year and is beginning his fourth year. Without Bennett around, Phillips will get more turf time to develop this year.
Signing Nalbone is puzzling to me. You now have five TE vying for no more than 3 roster spots. Behind Phillips, the Cowboys have two rookies … newly drafted James Hanna and free agent Andrew Szczerba. Keep the most promising of those two. My best guess would be Hanna. When it’s time to replace Witten (assuming that John Phillips hasn’t developed into a suitable replacement) … draft a stud or sign a quality free agent.
|Szczerba, Andrew||TE||6-6||260||R||Penn State|
The Dallas Cowboys think John Phillips might be a weapon in the passing game this year.
Tight ends coach John Garrett said Phillips is fast enough to get down the field and make himself a deep threat.
“Now he’s the second tight end, he’s going to get a lot more opportunity to play all the different spots, so you will see him running down the field more than he used to, and then get more opportunities in the passing game,” Garrett said after one of the OTA practices last week at Valley Ranch.
Phillips, 6-5, 261, has a little bit of pass-catching history. At Virginia, he caught 48 passes for 385 yards and two touchdowns as a senior, the second-best season by a tight end in school history.
But in the NFL, he has only 22 catches for 163 yards and one touchdown.
Then again, his entire 2010 season was wiped out by a preseason knee injury. He was having a strong training camp, pushing for the second tight end spot, but he went down in the first preseason game and spent the entire year on injured reserve.
Now, after coming back last year and playing all 16 games, he’s the clear No. 2 tight end. Garrett said the Cowboys trust the fourth-year player completely.
“You can say, ‘John, go play left, go play right, go play the Z,’ ” Garrett said. “He knows the offense like the back of his hand. He’s really smart and figuring things out. Even the exceptions, the things you might not cover, he figures things out because he knows the system and the rules. He understands it, and he doesn’t memorize it.”
Garrett said Phillips hasn’t shied away from his “promotion” to the No. 2 tight end following the departure of Martellus Bennett.
“Nothing fazes him. He doesn’t freak out at all,” Garrett said. ‘Fine, you want me to do that? Great. I’ll be ready for that. Don’t worry about it. I got it.’ He’s just really confident. He knows his stuff. He works at it. He’s in great shape. You can’t wear him out. He plays and plays and plays.”
But he can really be a downfield guy?
“He’s deceptively fast,” Garrett said. “If you look at him, he’s not that fast, but at the combine, he ran in the 4.7s. He doesn’t look like he’s this smooth, explosive guy. But God, he’s on you, and then he’s by you. In that way, he surprises some defenders.”
Courtesy: Carlos Mendez
Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said a backup tight is going to be important for the Cowboys. It’s the only spot that got away during free agency.
“I think in this offense, you can’t have enough of them,” Witten said at a charity event in Grapevine on Wednesday night. “I’m sure after the draft, they’ll address that. … Especially after losing Laurent, you can’t have enough of those weapons because you can do so many things with the tight end position.”
But Witten said he and the Cowboys have confidence in fourth-year tight end John Phillips.
“He’s a gamer. He finds ways to make plays,” he said.
The Cowboys signed seven free agents and re-signed one of their own, wide receiver Kevin Ogletree. Witten called it “probably the best” free agent period the Cowboys have had in his 10 years in Dallas.
“I’m excited about those guys,” Witten said. “Being able to meet them, they’re all great guys. When you look at our team, you kind of circle areas of concern or you want to see addressed, those are all the ones that we did.”
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