The Dallas Cowboys didn’t want Rob Ryan, but the defensive coordinator will take his former players.
The New Orleans Saints have signed defensive end Kenyon Coleman today. Coleman started five games for the Cowboys in 2012, but he was placed on injured reserve after he tore the triceps in his left arm.
Coleman, 33, was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 2002 draft. He was a regular starter with the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Cowboys from 2007 to 2011. The 6-foot-5, 285-pounder had 36 tackles and one sack in 2011.
Former Cowboys linebacker Victor Butler signed with the Saints earlier this week. Coleman played for Ryan in Dallas and Cleveland. He’ll help New Orleans transition to Ryan’s 3-4 scheme.
No more whistles, no more playbooks, no more coach’s dirty looks. Sure, not quite as catchy as the iconic “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks,” but we’re talking football grades here, not math, science and social studies.
The biggest difference in grading pupils and players is expectations. All students are created equal; not so much for a professional football team. Just doesn’t make sense to hold Miles Austin, one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the game and a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and Cole Beasley, an undrafted free agent rookie, to the same standard. Ditto for DeMarcus Ware, headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and some dude signed off his couch midseason. Not even Batman.
Without further ado, here are our final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys:
Tony Romo – B
This one is difficult, because for 80-plus percent of the season, 13-of-16 games, Romo played as well as any quarterback in franchise history. Yes, including Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. His numbers for those contests include 303.1 yards per game, 24 touchdown passes, seven picks and a 100.2 rating. Even with the other three games – vs. the Bears and Giants and at the Redskins – Romo had the league’s sixth-highest rating by Football Outsiders, behind only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.
He threw for nearly 5,000 yards, and on many occasions was his own best pass protector in terms of finding an extra second or two. There were times when he was brilliant, and never before has he shown the leadership he did this season. Still, in the end, Romo flunked his final. Again. That’s not easy to write. Romo has been sort of the teacher’s pet these last five years, but there is no excuse for those final two picks at Washington.
Kyle Orton – I
He broke Clint Longley’s 38-year-old mark for highest passer rating (minimum 10 attempts) with a ridiculous 137.1. Played just the one game, though, giving him an incomplete.
DeMarco Murray – C
A disappointing season for the second-year back who was expected to anchor the offensive load. Didn’t rush for 100 yards after Week 1 at the Giants and rarely showed the explosiveness from his rookie season with just five 20-plus carries. Finished tied for 21st in the league with 2.5 yards per attempt after contact. He also picked the worst of times for his first two NFL fumbles. His durability has also become a concern as he has missed nine of the team’s last 19 games with injuries.
Felix Jones – C
Finished with more offensive touches than expected, was much improved in picking up the blitz, caught the ball well, and for the most part, maximized his rushing yards with the gaps provided. He averaged just 3.6 yards per carry after entering the year at 5.1 for his career.
Lance Dunbar – B
Was impressed with the free agent rookie from North Texas from the first preseason game through Week 17. Finished with eight special teams tackles, was solid if unspectacular on kick returns and showed a little burst on offense. Should play a bigger role in 2013.
Phillip Tanner – C
Solid on special teams with 10 tackles, although he didn’t show much in limited action carrying the ball.
Lawrence Vickers – C
Showed promise catching passes, that little dump-off was seemingly always available. But his blocking was average and his four penalties in 305 snaps was the highest percentage of any fullback playing 25 percent of his team’s snaps.
BEHIND THE LINES: This Dallas man, Jordan Woy has flown largely under the public’s radar (Special Feature)
Eavesdrop on Jordan Woy’s flurry of phone conversations on any given day, or peek at his endless trail of texts, and you’d be hard-pressed to guess what he does for a living.
That’s him crunching numbers and talking contracts from his high-rise office overlooking Turtle Creek Boulevard in Dallas.
Must be a lawyer, or a financial planner, right? Maybe a CEO?
That’s him, too, zipping around Dallas in his black Maserati, Blue-toothing with a colleague about the long-term effects of concussions. Sure seems to know a lot about them.
Ah, a doctor? (Sweet ride, doc.)
But a text, asking him to arrange a meeting with a starlet, suggests he could be in showbiz. And a soothing exchange — "How’s Katie? How’s everything? Let me know if I can help." — spins you in a completely different direction. Marriage counselor? Therapist?
The answer, Woy might tell you, is all of the above.
IRVING – First safety Barry Church went down. Then linebacker Sean Lee. On Sunday, defensive end Kenyon Coleman became the third defensive starter for the Cowboys to suffer a season-ending injury, tearing his left triceps muscle in the third quarter of Dallas’ 38-23 victory over Philadelphia.
The Cowboys received the sobering news about Coleman’s status after he underwent an MRI. The 11th-year veteran will undergo surgery Tuesday and will be placed on the team’s injured reserve list, according to head coach Jason Garrett.
“That’s a loss for us because he’s been such a good player for us,” Jason Garrett said. “He is one of the leaders of the defensive line and certainly one of the leaders of our defense. He is a very, very good run defender and has shown that he can push the pocket and pressure the quarterback a little bit, too. He’ll be a loss for us, but like with the other guys that have gone out this year, the next man has to be up.”
Fortunately for the Cowboys, they have plenty of candidates, including 2005 first-round pick Marcus Spears, rookie Tyrone Crawford and injured veteran Sean Lissemore, who has missed the last four games with a high-ankle sprain.
Garrett said the Cowboys are “hopeful” Lissemore will be cleared to return this week. But in the event that he isn’t, the Cowboys already developing a contingency plan. In fact, Garrett said the team will likely promote one of their two practice-squad defensive linemen, Robert Callaway and Ben Bass, to the active roster this week.
“We anticipate making a move to add to the defensive line and those are the logical ones,” Garrett said.
For the Cowboys, it’s uncertain how the absence of Coleman will affect on the defense. The 33-year-old defender made 15 tackles and forced one fumble in 167 defensive snaps while frequently being spelled by Spears, Lissemore and Crawford at left end.
“It’s a rotational position anyway,” Garrett said. “Those guys have been playing some snaps through the early part of the season. They will play more now.”
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.
ARLINGTON — On an otherwise dismal night for the Dallas Cowboys, tight end Jason Witten found a way to cure his season-long battle with dropped passes.
Witten, who dropped an NFL-high five passes in the team’s first three games, grabbed the first seven passes sent in his direction by quarterback Tony Romo during Monday’s 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears at Cowboys Stadium.
Witten finished with a team-high 13 catches for 112 yards — with no drops — and a 5-yard touchdown catch on the final possession. He more than doubled his season totals for receptions and yardage. Witten entered with eight catches for 76 yards in the team’s first three games.
Soldier Field South?
The noise generated by Bears’ fans during the game made it unclear, at times, which team was playing at home. Especially during a "Let’s Go, Bears" chant in the fourth quarter.
The loudest cheers came on Lance Briggs’ 74-yard interception return for a third-quarter touchdown that upped the Bears’ lead to 24-7. Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, a former Grapevine and Texas player, caused the interception. The play came one snap after Dallas had recovered a fumble in Bears’ territory with an opportunity to cut into a 17-7 deficit.
"That’s what happens when you don’t give the fans anything to cheer for," Cowboys safety Brandon Carr said. "I don’t like to get embarrassed, especially on national TV. I’m frustrated."
Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray had five runs that produced negative yardage against the Bears, all in the first three quarters. He had seven in last week’s 16-10 victory over Tampa Bay. Murray had only 14 carries for negative yards in 13 games last season.
Murray also fumbled in the first quarter and dropped a pitchout from Romo in the second. The second fumble was credited to Romo, who also threw five interceptions, tying a career high.
Cowboys cornerbacks surrendered their first touchdown of the season when Devin Hester beat rookie Morris Claiborne for a sliding, 34-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. The ball moved when Hester hit the ground, triggering a replay review. Based on the reaction by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, it was clear the Dallas sideline thought the catch would be overturned.
The Cowboys came up short on another third-quarter review after a Claiborne fumble recovery was overturned when the Bears’ receiver was ruled down by contact.
Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (8 catches, 105 yards) had the second 100-yard receiving night of his career and his first since Nov. 14, 2010 against the New York Giants in his rookie season.
Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter injured his left hip on the team’s opening defensive series but later returned to the game. He finished with two tackles.
Three Cowboys’ defensive starters were declared inactive before the game because of injuries: DE Kenyon Coleman (knee), DT Jay Ratliff (ankle) and LB Anthony Spencer (pectoral muscle). A fourth starter, safety Barry Church, suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in last week’s victory over Tampa Bay. The respective replacements in Monday’s starting lineup were Sean Lissemore (Coleman), Josh Brent (Ratliff), Victor Butler (Spencer) and Danny McCray (Church).
Roof, doors open
For only the fifth time in stadium history, the Cowboys played a game with both the roof and the doors open. With Monday’s loss, Dallas is 1-4 in those games. The team fell to 14-12 in regular-season games at Cowboys Stadium.
Jenkins tries safety
Cornerback Mike Jenkins made his debut at safety, taking snaps at the position during the team’s nickel package. Last week, cornerback Brandon Carr played safety while starters Gerald Sensabaugh and Barry Church nursed injuries against Tampa Bay.
The Cowboys, who had six false-start penalties in last week’s victory over Tampa Bay, had none against Chicago.
While an earlier source had said that Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer would play tonight against the Chicago Bears despite missing practice all week with a strained pectoral, a source with direct knowledge of the situation later confirmed Spencer would not play.
Spencer, a key cog in the NFL’s top-ranked defense, is officially listed as questionable.
Spencer, a former first-round pick playing this season under a franchise tag tender, has been a force during the Cowboys’ 2-1 start. He ranks second on the team in tackles (29, according to coaches’ film review) and sacks (two) and leads the Cowboys with nine quarterback hurries and two tackles for losses.
Rob Ryan’s defense will be missing three starters, including strong safety Barry Church, who was placed on injured reserve after tearing his Achilles tendon in the Week 3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who had yet to play this season due to a high ankle sprain, might be able to return after the Cowboys’ upcoming bye. Defensive end Kenyon Coleman will miss his second consecutive game with a hyperextended knee.
The Dallas Cowboys listed five players as out for Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears, but they stopped short of that with punter Chris Jones, listing him as doubtful.
That still means the punter, who has a strained knee after being hit last week against Tampa, has a 25 percent or less chance of playing. But the Cowboys apparently are keeping open the possibility for him for now.
Linebacker Anthony Spencer, who led the team in tackles last week, is questionable with a shoulder injury.
Listed as out were defensive end Kenyon Coleman (knee), center Phil Costa (back), safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) and linebacker Alex Albright (neck).
Fullback Lawrence Vickers, who missed practice Friday, was back with full participation Saturday and is listed as probable.
Others listed probable are Miles Austin (hamstring), Sean Lissemore (chest), Gerald Sensabaugh (calf), Marcus Spears (knee), DeMarcus Ware (hamstring) and Kyle Wilber (thumb).
|Jones, Chris||P||Left Knee||DNP||DNP||DNP||doubtful|
WORK IN PROGRESS: Rob Ryan says it’ll be a bigger deal if Cowboys are No. 1 on defense after 16 weeks
Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan promised he’d bring a No. 1-rated defense to the Cowboys, and he’s done it.
Three weeks into the season, the Cowboys lead the NFL in fewest yards allowed, the league’s traditional measure for defensive ranking.
Big deal, coach?
“It’s going to be big if we can get it after 16 weeks,” Ryan said Saturday at Valley Ranch in his usual ‘Friday’ meeting with reporters. “It’ll be good. We’re happy with where we are. Guys have been working hard. We’re not ashamed of being No. 1, that’s where we want to be. We’re excited about that. We want to keep getting better.”
The Cowboys have gotten to No. 1 on defense despite injuries that have knocked out three starters – nose tackle Jay Ratliff (who hasn’t played yet), defensive end Kenyon Coleman (one game), safety Gerald Sensabaugh (one game) and safety Barry Church (season-ending Achilles last week).
Now, linebacker Anthony Spencer is slowed. He’s missed practice all week with a shoulder injury.
“We’ve had a lot of guys play for us, which a lot of people do – you go through injuries, that’s part of the game,” Ryan said. “It’s exciting. Our guys have really worked hard for that, and we’re not making apologizes for being No. 1.”
Ryan was asked if he simply has better players to work with this year as opposed to his first year with the Cowboys.
“Well, I definitely think we have excellent players,” he said. “We’ve got excellent coaches. With our team the way we play all three phases, yeah, we can definitely be successful. I think we could have been successful last year. We weren’t as successful obviously. But those guys worked hard, and we had some good veteran players on that group as well. But the guys are really functioning together as a group. And I think no one wants to let the others down, that’s for sure.”
Rob Ryan talks about his Dallas Cowboys new triple-flex defense through the first three weeks, and what they need to do for the remainder of the season.
A pair of third-year pros — Danny McCray and Sean Lissemore — are expected to get their first NFL starts in place of Gerald Sensabaugh and Kenyon Coleman, respectively.
Ryan Cook will get his second start in place of Phil Costa, who was injured in the opener. Josh Brent will replace Jay Ratliff, who has yet to play this season.
McCray, a member of Houston Westfield High’s 2004 Class 5A state title team, hasn’t started a game since his senior year at LSU.
“I’m excited,” he told reporters in Irving. “I’m trying to save it for Sunday.”
Lissemore played well against Seattle.
“I know he should have been starting forever — the kid made 10 tackles last week,” defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said.
Ryan discusses scheme in Seattle: Many observers were puzzled why the Cowboys didn’t blitz Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson more Sunday.
On Friday, Ryan offered an explanation that centered on the Seahawks often using multiple tight end formations.
“I know everybody was wanting to kill their quarterback,” Ryan said. “Believe me, I was wanting to hit the kid, too. They had a plan that wouldn’t allow us to do it: max protect.”
Wilson was 15 of 20 for 151 yards and a touchdown, but he took a backseat to a running game that generated 182 yards, including 122 from Marshawn Lynch.
“Any time people are running the ball downhill on you, it’s hard to do anything else until you get that run stopped,” Ryan said.
Ryan said it would be a mistake to believe he’s become conservative.
“We will pressure the quarterback,” he said. “We do play more three-man front football to go along with it, so the quarterback doesn’t know we’re just a blitz-a-thon like every junior varsity high school football team. We’re not doing that. We’re going to play the efficient way. We prefer efficiency over stupidity.”
EDITOR COMMENT: As mentioned earlier today, the Dallas Cowboys have elevated Orie Lemon from the practice squad to help in the special teams effort. Link below. What do you think of the new faces in familiar places?
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Five Dallas Cowboys players, including three starters, have been ruled out of Sunday’s game because of injuries: nose tackle Jay Ratliff (ankle), defensive end Kenyon Coleman (knee), center Phil Costa (back), linebacker Alex Albright (neck) and safety Matt Johnson (hamstring). Ratliff, Coleman and Costa are starters.
A fourth starter, safety Gerald Sensabaugh (calf), is doubtful and did not participate in Friday’s workout. Defensive tackle Marcus Spears took part in limited drills and is questionable.
Players listed as probable included receiver Miles Austin (hamstring), safety Barry Church (quad), receiver Andre Holmes (knee), cornerback Mike Jenkins (shoulder), linebacker Sean Lee (hip), linebacker DeMarcus Ware (hamstring), linebacker Kyle Wilber (thumb) and tight end Jason Witten (spleen). Lee was limited in Friday’s drills. The rest participated fully.
DID YOU KNOW? The Boys Are Back blog provides Dallas Cowboys AND opponent injury updates from the team practices and those officially reported to the NFL. See the Injury Updates page at the top of every page or look on the right side of any post.
Jason Garrett answers questions from the Dallas media about the Dallas Cowboys 27-7 loss in Seattle on Sunday afternoon. The topics below, and others, were addressed.
Felix Jones won’t be benched, but Jason Garrett considering alternatives
IRVING — Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the fumble on the opening kickoff return against Seattle is the type of play that makes him consider other options.
Felix Jones lost the ball, and the Seahawks recovered and kicked a field goal as they built a 10-0 lead five minutes into the game.
"When you make a play like that, you look hard again at that and what the alternatives are," Garrett said Monday at Valley Ranch.
"… We have a few different guys working at that, and we’ll evaluate that again this week."
Jones averaged 21.8 yards on five returns against Seattle, but he started two returns deep in the end zone and got past the 20-yard line only once. He has been the only returner this season. Dwayne Harris and Phillip Tanner are also back to return on kickoffs.
Garrett said Jones’ explosiveness hasn’t shown, perhaps because he missed the off-season with a shoulder injury, but that ball security is most important.
"We have to improve in that area obviously, and then hopefully we’ll continue to improve, both our returner and how we’re blocking things to get him better opportunities," Garrett said.
There was no thought about benching Jones.
"He was going to go back out there the next time, and we had to make sure that he was ready to go. And he returned the ball better as he got more opportunities in the game and certainly protected it better," Garrett said. "But I think the situations vary. Sometimes you say, ‘Hey, you’ve had enough opportunities, let’s put the next guy in,’ and other times you believe in the guy because of his body of work and you give him another chance to do it."
The Cowboys might have to start backups Danny McCray and Mana Silva at safety against Tampa Bay, and they could use cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Mario Butler for extra help.
Starters Barry Church (thigh bruise) and Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) are questionable after getting hurt against Seattle, although Church said he will be able to play Sunday.
"He doesn’t have a lot of experience playing true safety, but he is a good athlete and he’s got a good instinct and feel for playing the game," Jason Garrett said of Jenkins. "We will have to make that evaluation and see how he stacks up against the other guys in normal down-and-distance situations as well as the third-down coverage situation."
Dez Bryant was inconsistent getting free against Seattle’s physical press coverage, Jason Garrett said.
"I thought at times he did a good job. Other times, he didn’t win on enough routes," Garrett said. "But that’s what good press corners do to you. You have to keep fighting and keep battling. Typically, what happens is the game feels a little uncomfortable to you when you play a style of defense like that."
Bryant was limited to three catches for 17 yards. He has seven catches for 102 yards this season, no touchdowns and two drops.
Jason Garrett said it’s difficult to defend a player who has been hit hard like Sean Lee was against Seattle but stay within the rules.
"It’s a tricky situation," he said. "You want to have each other’s backs, but you also have to have poise and composure. It’s really important for us to understand how to handle ourselves at the end of a down after a play like that because you don’t want to compound the mistake. You don’t want to add another 15-yard penalty to that. It’s a tricky situation."
Kenyon Coleman left the facility on crutches with his knee wrapped. Jason Garrett said the defensive end suffered a hyperextension.
Garrett said it was a technique error that led to the punt block. "It was not a real complicated look. We just got beat on the edge," he said.
Courtesy: Carlos Mendez | Ft Worth Star-Telegram
SEATTLE — The Dallas Cowboys want to be taken seriously in the NFL. They don’t want to be known as a team with all the hype that doesn’t have substance.
The Cowboys didn’t respond well Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. After a 27-7 defeat at Century Link Field, one thing is clear: The Cowboys are not ready for the big stage.
There were five drops, two turnovers and two costly penalties that hurt the Cowboys. It wasn’t a terrible performance, but the Cowboys came up small after such a statement victory 11 days ago over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
What it means: The Cowboys failed to take any momentum with them following the season-opening victory against the Giants. It was an opportunity for the Cowboys to maintain a one-game lead over the Giants and remain tied with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. Now just two weeks into the season, the Cowboys raised questions about their ability to become an elite team.
Defense doesn’t respond: Yes, it was hard to stop the Seattle running game, but this was bad. The Cowboys failed to pressure rookie quarterback Russell Wilson on a consistent basis and didn’t stop the run overall. Marshawn Lynch rushed 26 times for 122 yards and one touchdown. Wilson completed 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Golden Tate laid a hit on Sean Lee, knocking him briefly from the game, and DeMarcus Ware was also hit hard on a run play. There was no response from the defense, but it’s not totally to blame for this one. It did allow just six first-half points, but it’s a 60 minute game. Despite losing several players to injuries, the D didn’t play well in the second half.
Offense struggles: It’s not Tony Romo’s fault that tight end Jason Witten dropped three passes or Dez Bryant did two, but overall the run game didn’t get going. DeMarco Murray rushed for just 44 yards. The protection was there at times for Romo, but he just couldn’t get to his prime receiving threats in Miles Austin, Bryant and Witten. Romo did overthrow a wide-open Bryant and had miscommunication with other receivers. He had a loud discussion with receiver Kevin Ogletree after one series in which receivers coach Jimmy Robinson stepped in.
Time to move on from Felix: We’re not saying cut the backup running back, but Felix Jones’ fumble on the opening kickoff and his questionable decisions on kick returns, leaving 5 and 8 yards deep, didn’t look good. The Cowboys have to find a playmaker on this unit. Jones returned five kicks for a 21.8 average and didn’t make an impact.
Injuries: Gerald Sensabaugh (calf), Alex Albright (stinger), Kenyon Coleman (unknown), Barry Church (quad), Lee (checked for concussion) and Marcus Spears (leg) suffered injuries. Lee and Spears returned.
What’s next?: The Cowboys will have their home opener next Sunday at Cowboys Stadium against Tampa Bay. The health of several key players will have to be evaluated.
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys have reached a three-year extension with defensive end Sean Lissemore.
Lissemore’s deal has $3.1 million guaranteed and includes a $2 million signing bonus.
"The Cowboys like him and Sean likes being there," Lissemore’s agent Wes Bridges said. "Quite frankly, Sean had a decision to make and see if he wanted to wait it out and go to next year, but he didn’t want it to be a distraction and wanted to just play ball. He wanted to get a deal done and get it done this year."
Sean Lissemore has yet to start a game in his NFL career. Obviously, the Cowboys are figuring he will at some point.
Lissemore has become one of their top substitutes and the coaches view him as a future starter. He was credited with two tackles in the season-opening win at the New York Giants, playing end and nose tackle.
He played in every game last year and had 39 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries.
That’s why they are making sure he stays in the fold for a while. Lissemore’s original four-year deal went through the 2013 season, but the Cowboys obviously want him in the mix much longer than that.
Lissemore is currently a backup on the defensive line, but his versatility to play both end and tackle is valuable in the 3-4 scheme.
The Cowboys have some aging veterans on the defensive line in Kenyon Coleman (33), Marcus Spears (29) and Jay Ratliff (31). Lissemore just turned 25 on Tuesday.
Drafted in the seventh round out of William & Mary, Lissemore played in just two games as a rookie before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. But last year, Lissemore played in all 16 games, finishing 12th on the defense with 39 tackles. He had two sacks, equaling Jay Ratliff’s total despite playing about 400 less snaps.
In fact, defensive line coach Brian Baker called Lissemore his most productive player “per snap” in 2011 and said he would get more snaps this season.
And apparently, a few more after this one as well.
About four months ago, making the team wasn’t even on the radar.
He probably didn’t even know about the practice squad and the details surrounding it either.
All Ben Bass wanted to do was show up on film. For three days, all he had was a jersey number and was sharing a locker with other rookies.
He wasn’t signed or promised to sign. He was among 15 hopefuls on a tryout basis only, mainly here so the Cowboys could conduct a full weekend of practices in the rookie minicamp.
But somehow in the course of three days without pads, the defensive lineman from Texas A&M showed the Cowboys just enough to be intrigued.
When a roster spot opened up, they signed him with the hopes of watching his development this summer.
Fast forward four months and as the Dallas Cowboys prepare for tonight’s preseason finale against the Dolphins, Bass (6-5, 283) finds himself as one of a handful of players right on the bubble to make this team.
Yes, the practice squad is a possibility, but as this point, it’d be a consolation prize for Bass, who seems to realize just how close he is to reaching his goal.
“When I first got here, I would say I had a practice-squad mentality. I was a tryout guy,” Bass said. “But I am where I am now, and I don’t know exactly where that is, but I know I have a shot to make the team.
“I’m just excited. I’m ready to get out there and show what I’ve got. I’m ready to make my family so proud of me and make the name on my back mean something for me.”
It’s safe to say Bass’ family is already extremely proud of his accomplishments. The Plano West and then Texas A&M standout has come a long way in a short time.
Just the simple fact that he is even on the radar is somewhat surprising considering the depth on the defensive line. Veterans such as Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman are far from locks to make this team, especially Spears, a former first-round pick. Clifton Geathers and Sean Lissemore had a lot of hype around them this offseason and third-round selection Tyrone Crawford is obviously a player that will be heavily in the mix.
But Bass has quietly put together a nice training camp and preseason, which included his debut in Oakland where he was incredibly active in the second half against the Raiders. He recorded five tackles, including two for loss, with a sack and three quarterback pressures in helping the Cowboys preserve a shutout in a 3-0 win on Monday Night Football.
Bass has also played well in reserve roles the last two games against San Diego and Miami.
But, he says the turning point for him didn’t come in one of the last three games, or even at training camp. In fact, it was about three months ago when he was sitting in the locker room at Valley Ranch after a workout.
“I was sitting here in my locker and Jay Ratliff came by and introduced himself. Of course, we’re like “Yeah, we know who you are,” Bass recalled. “He was asking us questions. I told him I was from A&M and I was a workout guy and he said, ‘You can make this team.’ He hasn’t seen me play or knows anything about me, but he just said if you work your tail off and make plays, you can make the team. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.”
Bass said Ratliff told his own story of being a seventh-round pick in 2005 who has not only overcome being a late-round selection, but has defied the odds of being a relatively smaller nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, making the Pro Bowl four straight years.
“When someone of his level tells you that you can make the team, you start to believe it and start to play like you belong here,” Bass said.
Bass has definitely shown he belongs. He’s hoping it’s just enough to stick around on the 53-man roster. But as long as he sticks around, period, Bass said he’ll be excited.
“Even on the practice squad, all it takes is one guy goes down and you’re activated and then it’s time to play,” Bass said. “Wherever I’m at, I’m obviously shooting for the 53-man roster, but I’m happy to be here. This is the team I grew up wanting to play for and the team I love.”
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.
The Cowboys could go heavy at defensive line by carrying eight players at that position when the 53-man roster is determined, but one veteran could be in jeopardy of not making it.
Marcus Spears, who has played on the second team the last two seasons, is a productive player who at times seems better than Kenyon Coleman, the other veteran starting end.
"I’m not worried about that," Spears said about his roster status. "That’s for you guys to talk about. I got to go out and play as well as I can and perform when I’m out there and let the chips fall where they may."
The interesting thing about Coleman is sometimes you don’t realize he’s making plays because he’s a run stopper and his goal is to keep the tackle from pushing him downfield. In three preseason games, Coleman has zero tackles.
Spears has been pretty active around the ball this preseason, given his seven solo tackles.
In his eight-year career, Spears had always been a starter — prior to last season, when Coleman, signed in free agency because he knows defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s scheme, took over one starting end spot and Jason Hatcher grabbed the other. It appears with some younger linemen with position flexibility — such as Sean Lissemore — there could be a chance Spears’ status is in question.
However, with nose tackle Jay Ratliff’s status for Week 1 in question because of an ankle injury, the decision to cut Spears could prove to be a difficult one.
"You got to do what you gotta do," Spears said. "You gotta do your part. That’s what I’m called to do right now and I focus on doing that and playing well when I’m in the game. … You go with what the coaches decide to do when you’re in there and you try and perform."
The Dallas Cowboys face the San Diego Chargers in the second game of the preseason. Here’s a preview:
Who’s not playing: It would take you an hour to figure out who’s not playing for the Cowboys. We give you the highlights: OLB DeMarcus Ware, OLB Anthony Spencer, WR Miles Austin, TE Jason Witten, G Nate Livings, NT Jay Ratliff and C Phil Costa are the projected starters who will miss the game.
The starters play how much, again?: Jason Garrett wanted the first-team offense to go about 8-to-10 plays in the preseason opener at Oakland. Tonight, maybe into the second quarter, with center David Arkin expected to go into the third, maybe fourth quarter. When Arkin comes out, expect Harland Gunn to take over the center snaps. With second-team tackle Jeremy Parnell out, Jeff Adams slide in and take some snaps. Safety Barry Church played with the second team a little bit at Oakland. It could continue again.
Who needs to play well: It’s easy to say everybody, but based off the Raiders game and the last two days of practice, we’ve come up with a few names: WR Raymond Radway, CB Morris Claiborne, DE Marcus Spears, DE Kenyon Coleman, CB Mario Butler and G Ronald Leary.
Mo debuts: First-round pick Morris Claiborne will make his NFL debut at the Chargers. He’s not sure if he’ll start, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Cowboys come out in a three-cornerback setup with Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr alongside Claiborne. The rookie needs the snaps against different competition and he might play the entire first half. He’s battled Dez Bryant, Kevin Ogletree among others for nearly two weeks of practices, when he’s been healthy, so it will be interesting to see him against someone else.
About the series: If you’re scoring at home, this is the 14th meeting between the teams. Dallas holds the preseason series advantage at 7-6. The Chargers won the last meeting, in 2009, 20-17.
RELATED: Five players to watch vs. San Diego Chargers
Preseason game No. 2 kicks off tonight at Qualcomm Stadium against San Diego Chargers and for some players their time to make an impression is running out.
Here is a look at five guys to watch:
Alex Albright – He was everywhere against Oakland on Monday, credited with a game-high nine tackles, and he will start tonight because of DeMarcus Ware’s absence due to a slight hamstring strain. Albright is a virtual lock to make the team, but he can show he can be a regular contributor on the defense with a good performance. He will also play some inside linebacker again, which would help the team’s ability to carry more players at other positions when they make the final cuts.
Mario Butler – After a so-so offseason, Butler has done much better when the pads came on. He is not the fastest or quickest, but he has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time. He understands his limitations and stays out of trouble. He can play in the slot some and has taken some turns at safety. As the Cowboys ponder how many corners and safeties to keep, Butler could be that swing guy the way Alan Ball was a swing guy for a few seasons.
Ronald Leary – He came in with a lot of acclaim as an undrafted free agent but he has leveled off over the last week of camp. Against Oakland he tired and did not fire off the ball as well as he had been earlier in camp. The Cowboys have guaranteed him $214,000, a high number for an undrafted player, so he should make the team, but with a good showing tonight he could still work his way into the starting lineup or at least one of the active offensive linemen on Sundays.
Kevin Ogletree – Nobody likes hearing this but Ogletree has had a nice camp. Of the guys competing for the No. 3 receiver spot he has the most ability to play as a starter should something happen to Miles Austin or Dez Bryant. He does not help much on special teams but if he can prove to be reliable and make plays regardless of the quarterback tonight, he can cement a spot on the roster. Even with Andre Holmes good outing vs. the Raiders, Ogletree is still the leader for the No. 3 spot.
Mana Silva – He was a late-season pickup in 2011 after he was signed of Buffalo’s practice squad and had four special teams’ tackles. He had an interception to clinch the win at Oakland on Monday and Rob Ryan is intrigued about this prospect. Silva, however, will need to make his mark on special teams to make a dent because the Cowboys still like Matt Johnson’s potential even though the fourth-round pick has taken part in one full-padded practice in camp.
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.
Bill Callahan, the Cowboys’ new offensive line coach, has been around plenty of powerful offenses and offensive lines.
He was the head coach for the Oakland Raiders team that reached the Super Bowl in 2003 behind Rich Gannon and the league’s top passing offense. Two years earlier, with him as offensive coordinator, the Raiders led the league in rushing behind Pro Bowl guards Steve Wisniewski and Lincoln Kennedy.
He was the offensive line coach for head coach Ray Rhodes and offensive coordinator Jon Gruden for three years in Philadelphia, from 1995 to ’97, when the Eagles were one of the top-five offensive teams in the NFL with quarterbacks Ty Detmer and Rodney Peete and running back Ricky Watters.
In college at Wisconsin, Callahan was the offensive line coach for the 1993 Rose Bowl championship team that had a 1,600-yard rusher and a 900-yard rusher. At Nebraska, his teams used the West Coast offense and set many of the school’s passing records.
Most recently, Callahan was the offensive line coach and assistant head coach with the New York Jets. In his first year with the Jets, 2008, he helped develop rookie center Nick Mangold into a Pro Bowl player, along with veteran guard Alan Faneca and tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
The Cowboys hope to tap into that experience as an offensive line builder when Callahan, 55, takes over as the replacement for the retired Hudson Houck.
The Cowboys will go into 2012 with the reshaping of the offensive line as a major priority. Last year’s No. 1 pick, Tyron Smith, will be considered for a move from right tackle to left tackle. Veteran right guard Kyle Kosier, who rarely had a full practice week because of foot problems, might not return. Veteran left guard Montrae Holland will try to recover from biceps surgery. And left tackle Doug Free had a poor year in his first season at the position.
The Cowboys hope Callahan can shape the development of young players such as backup guard Kevin Kowalski, fourth-round pick David Arkin (a guard who wasn’t active for any game last year) and center Phil Costa, who played all 16 games last year but showed he has a long way to go at the position.
Callahan does not have much of a tie to the Cowboys or head coach Jason Garrett.
But defensive end Kenyon Coleman played for Callahan in 2002 with the Raiders. Callahan has worked under Rex Ryan, the brother of Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson played for Callahan in 1998 when he was offensive coordinator for the Raiders. And Callahan coached Rodney Peete, the brother of Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete, with the Raiders in 2001.
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
About 15 hours after the Arizona game, Dallas Cowboys players spent their Monday morning visiting local children’s hospitals bringing smiles all around.
Sometimes we forget that the players are people, too. It was really heart-warming to watch them genuinely work the room at Children’s Medical Center.
About 20 players showed up to Children’s, including Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Felix Jones and Kenyon Coleman. Others visited Parkland, Texas Scottish Rite, Medical City Children’s and Cook Children’s in Fort Worth.
"Seeing kids smile is what the holiday season is all about," said Romo, who will become a first-time father in April.
For 12-year-old Harley Duffer, the visit couldn’t have come at a better time.
"Harley had a really rough night and this lifted his spirits," said Taylor Duffer, Harley’s dad. "We were on the edge of the hospital bed watching the Saints game the other night. Seeing the players who were just on the field walk in Harley’s room touched us."
Harley has dilated cardiomyopathy – a condition that enlarges the heart and can lead to heart failure. He has been on the waiting list for a new heart since last week.
"It’s been ripping on our hearts and we’ve been sacred to death," Taylor said. "But I keep telling Harley that the good Lord has us going through this hurdle for a reason, maybe to spread the word about cardiomyopathy."
Harley was one of more than 100 kids whose day was made brighter by players like DeMarcus Ware.
"I enjoy seeing the kids’ smiles and being role models for them," Ware said. "You never know what they’re going through and if we can brighten one day, especially close to Christmas, it’s a great feeling."
Courtesy: Children’s Medical Center | Facebook page
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Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8) is brought down by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) as Jay Ratliff (90) approaches on Thursday November 24, 2011. A penalty nullified the sack
The Dallas Cowboys collected four sacks against Matt Moore, but none came from the team’s leader in that category. DeMarcus Ware, who came into the game with 14 sacks, appeared to have his 15th early in the fourth quarter, but the play was negated by an illegal contact penalty against Abram Elam.
Victor Butler registered his third sack, tying a season high, and Kenyon Coleman had his first sack in five years. The other sacks came from Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee.
Ware said he also was impressed by the play of Anthony Spencer, who was in the Dolphins backfield all afternoon, finishing with a team-high eight tackles, including three for losses.
“I don’t know he gets back there, but he finds ways to make those tackles and make them third and 5, second and 12,” Ware said. “Those are the plays that we need.”
Cowboys run defense vs. Bills RB Fred Jackson: After leading the league in rush defense through the first six weeks of the season, the Cowboys have done a poor job of playing the run the last two weeks.
In those first six games, the front seven was rock solid in getting off blocks and tackling. Last week against the Seahawks, the linebackers were better, but still the biggest problem was how defensive ends Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman continued to struggle to get off blocks and play with a physical nature at the point of attack. When Spears and Coleman struggle in the running game, there are going to be problems because they set the edge by holding up blockers and allowing the linebackers to make plays.
Jackson presents a new challenge for the Cowboys’ defensive front. When you study Jackson, you see a slasher that is able to make quick, explosive cuts. Jackson has the size to be physical finishing runs and can be dangerous when he takes the ball inside, then quickly bounces it outside. Jackson also shows the ability to run the ball inside with toughness.
The Bills’ offensive staff will line him up all over the formation. There have been several plays where Jackson lined up at wide receiver, caught the ball cleanly, then made the defense have to make a tackle in space. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan also has to be careful if the Bills spread his defense out and run the ball inside out of the shotgun with Jackson. Last week, Barry Church was used as a nickel linebacker and played well in that role, so this could be the answer that Ryan has for when the Bills try to spread out.
The Bills are not a physical offensive line and will struggle with consistent movement up front. If the Bills do have success running the ball, the focus will once again turn to the Cowboys’ defensive ends.