VALLEY RANCH REPORT: Will lack of a FB hurt DeMarco Murray?
Valley Ranch Report: Will lack of a FB hurt DeMarco Murray?
Bryan Broaddus joins Gina Miller on TXA 21 to discuss some of the biggest storylines heading into the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys training camp. (Duration: 3:01)
SCOUTS OPINION: Cutting FB Vickers won’t affect DeMarco Murray; might help him
It was very clear that the direction that this Cowboys offense was going in this off-season with the drafting of Gavin Escobar and the signing of Anthony Rosario. It was setting up to use more “12” personnel along with Jason Witten and James Hanna. So the releasing of fullback Lawrence Vickers today, was not a surprising move at all.
In watching OTA and mini-camp practices, Bill Callahan was taking plenty of reps to run plays where the offense went without a full back or when they needed one, it was Rosario lining up in an offset formation and filling in that role. It was more single back, zone runs. What I really like about this zone scheme, that Callahan is working with for this offense that it will play to the true strengths of DeMarco Murray.
Of the several impressive traits that Murray shows the one that folks do not give him enough credit for is his vision. Murray might not be the most explosive back to and through the hole but where he makes up for this is his ability to see the hole and make the cut. Good zone scheme runners have to have that ability. They have to be able to see where they need to take the ball and then adjust from there. Murray can do that. He uses a combination of vision and patience when he is carrying the ball.
I have always liked DeMarco Murray as a one back runner even when he had some success with Tony Fiammetta in 2011 but there were times last season when he did play with a full back in front of him and it led to hesitation because he wasn’t sure what that player was going to do. That was both Vickers and John Phillips. Murray was never on the same page with Vickers and in just watching the two play together it was like putting the round peg in the square hole. Murray spent more time waiting for Vickers or Phillips to do something in front of him than just attacking the line.
The releasing of Lawrence Vickers in my view is really not that big of a deal because of the direction in which the offense was going under Callahan, it doesn’t need a full back. Look for DeMarco Murray to be a much more productive runner without someone holding him up.
Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout
2013 ROSTER UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys cut FB Lawrence Vickers
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys waived fullback Lawrence Vickers on Friday afternoon.
Vickers, who had back surgery this offseason, was the only fullback on the current roster.
The move suggests the Cowboys may rely more on an H-Back position in their blocking scheme, an idea alluded to when the team signed tight end Dante Rosario in early June.
The decision to release Vickers should save the Cowboys roughly $1.2 million on the salary cap, as he was slated to make $1.3 million in the final year of his contract, which expired at the end of the 2013 season.
Vickers played in all 16 games in 2012 but only started six. He had three carries for 11 yards, and he caught 13 passes for 104 yards. He has played seven seasons in the NFL — five with Cleveland and one each with Houston and Dallas, respectively, after playing his college career for Colorado.
Cowboys’ running back coach Gary Brown was Vickers’ position coach during his most productive spell with the Browns.
The move opens up a roster spot for the Cowboys, who have 89* players on the roster with just one week until training camp.
Vonta Leach is easily the top fullback in free agency at this point, though it’s doubtful he would sign with the Cowboys. Leach made roughly $1.3 million with Baltimore during the 2012 season, and he is reportedly seeking a multi-year contract at his next stop.
RELATED: Focus on tight ends crystallized with release of fullback Vickers
The Dallas Cowboys move to tight end-focused offense was made complete Friday with the release of fullback Lawrence Vickers.
The move saved the Cowboys $1.2 million, Vickers’ salary next season.
It was also not surprising. Vickers had been on the roster bubble since draft in April when the Cowboys drafted tight end Gavin Escobar in the second round and promised to move to a two-tight end attack with Pro Bowler Jason Witten.
The team will likely use the H-back in their blocking scheme as well as the Cowboys also have veteran tight ends James Hanna and Dante Rosario on the roster.
It didn’t help that Vickers missed the offseason because of back surgery, allowing the team to work without a fullback in minicamp and OTAs. It also didn’t help that the Cowboys rushed for the fewest yards in team history last year _ Vickers only year with team.
The team simply waited until he was healthy after rehab to release him, one week before reporting to training camp July 19.
Vickers appeared in all 16 games for Dallas in 2012 with six starts. He originally signed with Dallas on March 14, 2012.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The roster count may be down to 88 players. It’s been reported by the NFL website (and since removed) that the Cowboys have also waived 2nd year DT Rob Callaway. Waiting on official confirmation from the Dallas Cowboys before posting the roster update.
INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys vs. Cleveland Browns
IRVING, Texas — Before Cowboys practice on Friday, coach Jason Garrett said starting running back DeMarco Murray was doubtful for Sunday’s game against Cleveland.
Well Murray didn’t practice on Friday at Valley Ranch and he most likely will miss his fifth consecutive game with a sprained foot.
"He is doing more and more each day," Garrett said. "Ran a little bit more yesterday so that’s a positive thing."
Cornerback Mike Jenkins (back) and center Ryan Cook (knee) also missed practice.
Cowboys centers Ryan Cook and Phil Costa were not seen on the field at practice Friday.
Cook, who wasn’t in uniform, headed into the team’s weight room wearing a brace on his right knee. He has missed practice the last two days because of a sore knee.
Costa has been out since injuring his ankle Oct. 21 in a victory over Carolina. With Cook and Costa sidelined, the Cowboys are expected to slide Mackenzy Bernadeau over from right guard. Bernadeau’s spot, in turn, would likely be filled by reserve Derrick Dockery.
With Jenkins out, it allows the Cowboys to give Vince Agnew more snaps in some passing situations.
Tight end John Phillips (ankle) and fullback Lawrence Vickers (knee) were expected to practice. Defensive end Sean Lissemore (ankle), center Phil Costa (ankle) and safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) didn’t practice.
|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
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: Lawrence Vickers fired up again … about his old team coming to Big D
Dallas Cowboys fullback Lawrence Vickers doesn’t care about his sore knee or that he played 27 plays last week or that he had four touches last week. All he cares about is beating Cleveland.
"Cleveland was home. I was there five years," Vickers said. "I gave that organization a lot. I learned a lot. I got a lot from them. I appreciate them for even drafting me. It’s personal in the sense that it’s like playing your family. Whenever you play against family, you want them bragging rights. So yeah, it’s personal."
Vickers was a sixth-round draft pick of the Browns in 2006. On Thursday, Vickers named the two head coaches, the four offensive coordinators and the seven starting quarterbacks he played for and with in Cleveland before leaving for the Texans as a free agent during the 2011 off-season.
"If you give something five years of your life, and you put all you put into it, it’s going to be personal to you," Vickers said. "Point blank, period. It is what it is. It’s not that, ‘Oh, I’m mad.’ I’m not mad, upset, at all. Cleveland gave me a chance. They were the team that picked me in the draft, so I’ll forever love Cleveland. They gave me the chance to do what I wanted to do, and that’s play football. So it’s no hate thing. It’s I’m going to celebrate."
Vickers’ sore left knee kept him out of practice Wednesday, and he was limited Thursday. But Vickers says he won’t miss Sunday’s game for anything.
"It would take for me to die [to not play]," Vickers said. "Lord bless me, I hope I don’t do that. I ain’t missing this for nothing in the world. It’s personal. Believe that one."
HUMOROUS FLASHBACK: Lawrence Vickers leaves practice with fire ants in his pants
I must start off this post by saying that we’re not making this up.
Dallas Cowboys fullback Lawrence Vickers was forced to leave Wednesday’s OTA practice once he felt the burning sensation of fire ants in his pants.
“Fire ants got in my pants,” Vickers said. “I was freaking out. Oh, ants!”
Fire ants are reportedly a nuisance in the Dallas around this time of year. Vickers was bitten by them about four months ago. At that time he found out he’s allergic to them when he started wheezing and his neck started to swell up. Now he carries an EpiPen with him for cases like today.
MORE ABOUT VICKERS –> PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Dallas Cowboys FB Lawrence Vickers
GLASS HALF FULL: Dallas Cowboys season-saving win over Eagles
The Cowboys’ season is alive, but here is what they need
If you prefer the glass-half-full approach, then consider the following:
Sunday’s game was quite possibly the first of four straight against rookie quarterbacks for the Dallas defense. And while Nick Foles did record his first NFL touchdown on a deep pass to a wide, wide open Jeremy Maclin, Foles also contributed directly to two Cowboys touchdowns.
Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden, Washington’s more formidable Robert Griffin III and Foles again (if Michael Vick is not back from a second-quarter concussion) are on deck for Dallas.
Consider this as well:
If Dallas can simply do as the odds makers will pick them to do — that is, beat the Browns and Redskins at home over the next 10 days — New York’s division lead will be one-half game on the Cowboys the next time the Giants take the field.
That’s almost certainly the case if the Cowboys are to entertain wild-card hopes. Even a hot Dallas team won’t catch the Chicago-Green Bay runner-up, and Seattle ran its record to 6-4 Sunday. The Seahawks, 1 1/2 games ahead of Dallas for the final wild card, also own the tiebreaker on the Cowboys’ from Week Two.
Add to that the fact that in order to get into contention for anything — wild card or East title — the Cowboys probably need to run off four straight wins against the Eagles (twice), Browns and Redskins. Maybe you’re inspired by the fact this team won four in a row last November (before riding its first-place lead into the ground by going 1-4 down the stretch).
Mostly, the Cowboys have to accept the fact that there’s plenty of work to do just to reach the level of respectability. And that this was the only possible way to finish the week to avoid cashing in their chips for the season as the Eagles appear to have done at 3-6.
Cowboys rookie, in terrible game, does something right
Rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne felt compelled to address his Cowboys teammates after playing just his ninth NFL game.
“I won’t have another game like that,” Claiborne promised his teammates.
Just where did that game come from? Claiborne was burned for a touchdown and was penalized five times in the game. The Eagles scored four times against the Cowboys and each drive featured either a misplay or penalty on Claiborne.
“I never had a game like that — ever,” Claiborne said. “Anywhere.”
The Cowboys traded up into the Top 10 of the draft last April to claim Claiborne. He was a shutdown corner, a defensive game-breaker. But on this day, his penalties were breaking the Cowboys.
Claiborne offered no excuses for his performance. He wouldn’t even buy into the notion that this game could be a learning experience for a rookie.
There were other compelling reasons for the Cowboys to draft Claiborne beyond his skill. He displayed them Sunday night in his postgame news conference — his strength of character and accountability. Both traits have been AWOL at times at Valley Ranch over the last decade.
Claiborne showed himself to be a stand-up guy — and this is a locker room that needs more of those players.
You win in the NFL with players like Morris Claiborne. Even when he has a bad day.
Garrett shows resolve and tinkers with offense
Jason Garrett’s trying week began with a tough loss at Atlanta that dropped the Cowboys to 3-5 amid news that suspended New Orleans coach Sean Payton’s contract would likely be voided, leaving him free to sign with any team after the season.
Immediately, because of Payton’s ties to the Cowboys, speculation had him replacing Garrett in Dallas.
Then, in the middle of the week, Garrett’s mentor, former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, said on The Dan Patrick Show that Garrett “is probably coaching for his job the rest of the year.”
Johnson, who led the Cowboys to back-to-back Super Bowl wins in the 1990s, also said he believes one of the reasons the Cowboys have underachieved for more than 15 years is that there’s a “country club” culture at Valley Ranch.
Owner Jerry Jones said, “This was a really hard week for everybody,” but praised Garrett for not letting all the outside noise affect him.
Though Garrett’s offense was only responsible for 17 of the Cowboys’ 38 points Sunday, the coach did break from the status quo and tinkered with his offensive game plan.
Garrett had fullback Lawrence Vickers more involved. Vickers had touched the ball only five times coming into Sunday, but he had four touches against the Eagles for 29 yards.
Also, Garrett called undrafted receiver Cole Beasley’s number in a key situation. On third-and-2 during the Cowboys’ opening drive, Tony Romo found Beasley for a 3-yard gain to give them a first down.
Running game and Bruce Carter star
The Cowboys ground game won’t get much credit. But for the first time since DeMarco Murray went down with an injury, this group was effective. The Cowboys rushed for 101 yards and averaged four yards a carry after averaging 56.3 and 2.6 in the previous three. Felix Jones rushed for 71 yards and scored his touchdown with a tough, 11-yard run on a screen pass.
Bruce Carter continues to assert himself in Sean Lee’s absence. The second-year linebacker made plays from sideline to sideline and again led the Cowboys defense in tackles with 10, two of them for losses. Carter’s speed and toughness is evident on virtually every play. Charging him with play-calling responsibilities hasn’t slowed him down one bit.
Trash talk by analysts and Mike Holmgren as new Cowboys coach?
Anyone dropping out of the sky to spend any given Sunday morning watching the pre-game shows would have to think the Cowboys are the most relevant team in the NFL.
— Even before the Cincinnati Bengals embarrassed the New York Giants, 31-13, which the Cowboys followed with a 38-23 victory over Philadelphia Eagles, CBS’ Bill Cowher, once a Super Bowl savvy coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, declared the Big Blue dead in the NFC East. Honest. Keep in mind there usually isn’t much talk in the AFC network’s studio about NFC teams not playing on CBS.
“The Dallas Cowboys will take over the Giants,” Cowher actually said on national television. “After today, the Cowboys [have] five of their next six games at home, and the New York Giants still have to play at Atlanta, at Baltimore, Green Bay and New Orleans. So I say the Dallas Cowboys overcome the Giants and win that division.”
— Meanwhile, Jason La Canfora, the network’s information man, cited Mike Holmgren, once a Super Bowl winning coach in Green Bay and friend of Jerry Jones, as a willing successor to Jason Garrett should a vacancy occur. But, of course, Garrett doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, especially if Cowher is correct.
— Predictably over on Fox, Jimmy Johnson continued his offensive aimed at owner Jerry Jones.
On Cowboys woes since he split from coaching (and general managing?) the team, Johnson said: “This is bigger than coaching,” Johnson said. “Underachievers — that’s what we’ve called them for years. The Cowboys have one playoff win in 16 years regardless of who was coaching … Players answer to Jerry Jones, not the head coach. There is no fear there … The players are put up on a pedestal before they ever win a game. As a head coach, it’s a chore to keep these players focused, keep their feet on the ground and keep them hungry because there’s no fear.”
— At ESPN, Keyshawn Johnson picked up on Jimmy Johnson’s fear factor theory with a personal account. “I played in Dallas and I played under Bill Parcells, and I witnessed a heated exchange between [Jones] and [Parcells]. And Jerry Jones walked away from that exchange with his head down. It wasn’t pleasant at all, in front of the team. [But] everybody knew that Bill was in charge. So the players acted accordingly. And that’s not the case with Jason Garrett.”
BLUEPRINT FOR AN UPSET: Falcons’ weaknesses shown in three narrow wins
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.
FRESH HORSES: Dallas Cowboys backups are ready to step up at running back
IRVING — Because of injuries to others, Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner has taken plenty of practice snaps this week with the first-team offense.
The second-year back considers himself ready, if needed, to make his first NFL start Sunday against the New York Giants. But the former free agent draws the line at declaring himself comfortable in that role. Or any role in professional football.
"I’m never comfortable. That’s what kills you, when a guy gets comfortable and complacent," said Tanner, who had a career-high 13 carries in last week’s 19-14 victory over Carolina in relief of injured teammates DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knee). "I still come in every day as if I’m a free agent trying to make this team. I study film as if I’ve never seen it before. I take notes as if I’ve never read it before. Just so I can stay on my toes and won’t become complacent …So if I was good at 13 carries, I’ll try to be better at 14. And on and on and on."
That work ethic, coach Jason Garrett said, offers comfort to the Cowboys if Tanner — a third-teamer with 44 career carries for 137 yards — handles most of the workload Sunday against the Giants with Murray out and Jones on the mend. Jones practiced Thursday on a limited basis and, barring a setback, is expected to start Sunday.
But if Jones cannot play or cannot finish Sunday’s game, the spotlight shifts to Tanner. And Tanner’s primary backup would be rookie Lance Dunbar, a free-agent signee from North Texas and Haltom High School whose lone NFL carry covered 11 yards in the team’s 31-29 loss at Baltimore on Oct. 14.
Dunbar said the undrafted duo can handle a showdown with the reigning world champions, if necessary.
"I’m pretty confident in myself and I’m confident in him," Dunbar said. "If that happens, we’ll approach it like, ‘OK, we can do this. It’s just another game.’ We’d play our game and let it happen."
And their games differ greatly.
Tanner (5-foot-10, 217 pounds) offers a blend of power and speed that teammate Tyrone Crawford likened to Doug Martin, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Crawford, a defensive tackle, played at Boise State with Martin and said Tanner "reminds me of Doug [because] they both run low, powerful and with good vision. He’s a smash mouth back with speed and it’s good to have him."
Dunbar (5-foot-8, 191 pounds) is more of a breakaway threat who is dangerous in the open field.
"His quickness is sick," fullback Lawrence Vickers said. "He’s great with the ball."
Regardless of who plays running back against the Giants, the Cowboys seek to match the ground-and-pound production they had in a 24-17 victory over the Giants on Sept. 5 (143 rushing yards, including 131 by Murray) and in their past two games. Dallas rushed for a season-high 227 yards against Baltimore and collected 85 against Carolina while controlling the clock for 33:37.
Against the Panthers, Tanner (13 carries, 30 yards) handled the ball seven times in the final 7:32 on drives that resulted in a go-ahead field goal with 3:28 remaining and another to pad the lead with 58 seconds to play. Tanner touched the ball nine times in the fourth quarter (eight carries, one catch), including a 5-yard trap play on third-and-9 that preceded the go-ahead field goal.
"He’s on our team for a reason," Garrett said, praising Tanner’s ability to handle a bigger role in an emergency situation. "At every turn [since signing with Dallas], he came in here and said, ‘You are not cutting me from this football team.’ When he’s gotten more opportunities in the preseason or the regular season, he’s shown us he can do a good job for us."
Tanner’s biggest opportunity could come Sunday if Jones’ knee ailment elevates Tanner into the starting lineup. It would be a moment the Dallas native, who played at Kimball High School, has envisioned since signing with his hometown NFL team on July 28, 2011.
"The most important thing I’ve learned is always be mentally prepared. Just take it to practice every day as if I’m going to be the starting running back," Tanner said. "That’s been my mind-set since the first day. Just to work hard and jell with the offensive line as if I’m the starting running back. So that when my time came, I would be ready."
Vickers said the Cowboys’ ground game can be productive Sunday even if it leans on a Tanner-Dunbar tandem against the Super Bowl champs.
"Absolutely," Vickers said. "Every back in that backfield is ready to go at all times. We’re preparing to make sure we can be a dominant group and hold up our end on the football field."
THE JERRY JONES SHOW: Lawrence Vickers | Felix Jones | Jay Ratliff | 2-2 after four games
Listen to The Jerry Jones Show …
Link will be added when the show is released on KRLD – 105.3 The Fan
Each of these articles relate to quotes from The Jerry Jones Show on KRLD-FM 105.3 The Fan (The home of the Dallas Cowboys and The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network) …
RELATED: Jerry Jones – Cowboys FB Lawrence Vickers
The offensive line will shoulder the majority of the blame when a team is struggling to run the football, but the fullback also deserves some of the responsibility.
After signing Lawrence Vickers in the off-season, Jerry Jones said the Cowboys “can be the best we’ve been at fullback since Daryl [Johnston].”
With the Cowboys averaging only 3.4 yards per carry, which ranks 28th in the league, it’s hard to believe Jones would compare Vickers to Moose Johnston.
But Jones says he’s optimistic that Vickers’ best days as a Cowboy are still ahead of him.
“What I look for in a fullback, and he’s got it, is the ability to instinctively pick up a guy that maybe isn’t his guy, that just shows up,” Jones explained this morning on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “When you play his spot, especially in the running game, I guess you could say this about the passing game too, your assigned guy is not always the one that’s the freest. And I emphasize that ‘est’ because it’s the guy that’s coming first that he has to pick up. He’s got good instincts there. I think we can look forward to that. That hasn’t diminished in any way.
“I look for him to play better. I’m still as excited about him as I’ve been. I’m crazy about his work ethic. He works, brings that enthusiasm for the team but also backs it up with work. I think we’ll see better play than what we think we’ve seen so far this year.”
RELATED: Jerry Jones – Felix Jones as kick returner
The Dallas Cowboys added undrafted rookie free agent Lance Dunbar to their 53-man roster on Monday to help on special teams.
Dunbar said after Monday’s practice that he would be participating in all phases of special teams, but it seems the former North Texas standout running back would be best used as a kickoff returner. The Cowboys haven’t had any success in their kick return game and the youngster could provide a spark.
But the team’s current kick returner, former first-round pick Felix Jones, hasn’t lost the job yet, according to Jerry Jones.
“I still think that Felix has the ability to do what we want to do, which is make some plays,” the Cowboys owner and general manager said today on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “He’s showing more burst the last couple of weeks, so I don’t want to dismiss him.”
Jerry Jones said he didn’t know if Dunbar would get a chance to return kicks Sunday in Baltimore because the coaching staff still wanted to see how comfortable he looked back there throughout the week of practice.
“You worry a little about his size, but he sure could help us,” Jerry Jones said of Dunbar. “He’s instinctive, and I think that’s the key word for him. He just finds a way, finds holes and has some burst when he sees it, to find the soft spot. If he can add that to our kicking game, then we’ve stepped it up.”
RELATED: Jerry Jones – Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff
With Jay Ratliff limited during training camp with a foot injury, Jerry Jones wondered if his Pro Bowl nose tackle got enough practice time before seeing his first action in the Cowboys’ third preseason game.
Ratliff suffered a high ankle sprain in that game and left the locker room on crutches.
“Did we let him get back in enough practice to get used to the speed of the game and were there things we could’ve done that might’ve prevented him from having that high ankle sprain,” Jones questioned today during an interview on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “Of course, [Ratliff] was the expert on the matter as it would be. He said there was no way in the world that I could’ve prepared for the guy falling over on the back of my leg like that, creating an ankle sprain.”
Ratliff returned to practice on Monday and it’s likely he’ll make his season debut Sunday in Baltimore. His return would bring an immediate impact considering opponents often double team the four-time Pro Bowler.
If Ratliff is out there, Jones doesn’t anticipate the 31-year-old slowly easing himself back into the mix.
“It’s not we’re going to turn him loose, he’s going to turn loose,” Jones said. “He doesn’t know but one speed, and that is getting after it. We’ve missed him and he’ll help us.”
RELATED: Jerry Jones – At 2-2, we’re in pretty good shape, considering
With how poorly the Dallas Cowboys played in losses to the Seahawks and Bears and even during a win over the Buccaneers, a 2-2 record might be better than what they deserve.
Today, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones gave his thoughts on where his team sits entering Week 6. Despite being outscored by a 61-25 total in their two losses, the Cowboys are fortunate that each team in the NFC East has at least two losses.
“We got to play better,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “I’m disappointed that we’re not putting more points on the board. I’m disappointed that we’re not getting the turnovers. All of that tells me that at 2-2, we’re in pretty good shape, considering the way we’ve played. I’m not saying we’re lucky to be 2-2, but we haven’t played any better than 2-2. We can play better though. That’s the good news.
“You look at where we are with our division, where everybody has lost two games in the division. What does that tell you? Nothing, other than we’ve got the games ahead of us – one more against the Giants and two against each of our division opponents. You got to look at your division hard and keep an eye on it. We have a lot to be encouraged about where we are in our division relative to records and nobody’s gaining on us here.
“We’ve got to do this from within. We just got to play better from within, across the board. It isn’t in just one spot, it’s across the board. I emphasize the interior blocking of the offensive line, but we got so many other areas that we can play better in. But that’s football.”
OFFENSIVE SNAPS: QB Kyle Orton, Beasley, Holmes, and Tanner impress late in the game
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ offense in the team’s 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears, while analyzing what it means:
RT Doug Free: 70 of 70
RG Mackenzy Bernadeau: 70 of 70
LT Tyron Smith: 70 of 70
C Ryan Cook: 70 of 70
TE Jason Witten: 70 of 70
LG Nate Livings: 70 of 70
WR Dez Bryant: 68 of 70
QB Tony Romo: 59 of 70
WR Miles Austin: 49 of 70
WR Kevin Ogletree: 49 of 70
RB DeMarco Murray: 47 of 70
WR Cole Beasley: 13 of 70
FB Lawrence Vickers: 11 of 70
QB Kyle Orton: 11 of 70
RB Phillip Tanner: 11 of 70
TE John Phillips: 10 of 70
RB Felix Jones: 9 of 70
WR Andre Holmes: 8 of 70
WR Dwayne Harris: 6 of 70
You can tell the Chicago Bears blew out the Cowboys because Tony Romo missed 11 snaps and he wasn’t hurt. Down by three touchdowns and three two-point conversations in the fourth quarter, Jason Garrett gave backup Kyle Orton his first playing time. Orton, with Cole Beasley and and Andre Holmes receiving extensive playing time by their standards, led Dallas on a scoring drive. … Late in the fourth quarter, Phillip Tanner replaced DeMarco Murray. … Felix Jones played only nine snaps but showed some burst and quickness on his only carry, which could increase his playing time down the road.
‘BOYS BYE WEEK BREAKDOWN: Dallas Cowboys offensive grades for Top 11 players
QB Tony Romo: B-
It would be easy to overreact to last night’s demolition, but Romo’s actual performance was nowhere near as poor as his stat line. Look, Romo isn’t playing his best ball, averaging only 7.6 yards-per-attempt. But he also isn’t getting any help from his receivers or offensive line.
Jason Garrett might want to think about rolling Romo out to his right a bit more. That could quell some of the pressure he’s facing, and Romo has historically been much better throwing to the right side of the field. In 2012 alone, Romo’s passer rating when throwing to the right is 104.2, compared to only 74.6 over the middle and to the left. Nonetheless, only 16.6 percent of his passes have been thrown to the right side of the field.
RB DeMarco Murray: B
It’s really difficult to grade Murray because, like Romo, his production is so dependent on the offensive line. One might argue that a running back averaging 3.9 yards-per-carry shouldn’t receive a “B” grade, but anyone who has watched the Cowboys knows that Murray must consistently make something out of nothing. Ask yourself this: do you think Felix Jones would have posted as many rushing yards as Murray if given the same type of blocking? Don’t forget that Murray is also on pace for 64 receptions.
FB Lawrence Vickers: D
I really liked the Vickers signing, but it hasn’t paid dividends for Dallas yet. With Vickers in the game, the Cowboys are averaging just over two yards-per-carry. Rushing efficiency will never be eye-popping with Vickers due to an abundance of inside runs, but the ‘Boys need their fullback to pave the way for Murray in short-yardage situations to allow them to extend drives.
LT Tyron Smith: C-
Smith’s transition to the left side has been a struggle thus far. I think he’s athletic and intelligent enough that he’ll get it cleaned up. Smith’s return to form may have started against the Bears, because he actually played quite well. Nonetheless, I’ve counted Smith as yielding 10 pressures on the season.
LG Nate Livings: B+
It’s sad that an interior lineman will receive my highest offensive grade through the season’s first quarter. Livings has played very well for the ‘Boys through four games, allowing just one sack and two pressures.
C Ryan Cook: C-
Due to a solid opening game shortly after being signed, many believe Cook is playing better than what’s actually the case. He’s been okay in pass protection, but absolutely awful in the running game. While Jason Garrett’s predictable strong side dives aren’t doing Cook any favors, the Cowboys are averaging just over one yard on each run with Cook at the point-of-attack.
RG Mackenzy Bernadeau: D-
Bernadeau has been the worst Cowboys interior lineman I’ve graded since I started reviewing film four years ago. Granted, he’s played in only four games, but I don’t think there are many signs that Bernadeau is going to improve. He has allowed twice as much pressure as Livings and Cook combined.
RT Doug Free: D
There have certainly problems on the left side of the ‘Boys offensive line, but it’s the Bernadeau-Free combination on the right side that’s killing them. Only two offensive tackles in the entire NFL have allowed more pressure than what I’ve attributed to Free. We all thought Free would rebound after the switch back to his more natural right tackle position, but Cowboys running backs are averaging a full yard less behind Free as compared to Smith.
WR Miles Austin: B+
Austin has been targeted 28 times in 2012, catching 18 of those throws for 300 yards. Currently on pace for a stat line of 72 receptions, 1200 yards, and 12 touchdowns, Austin has been the only consistent option for Romo in the passing game.
WR Dez Bryant: C-
Bryant’s issue right now, in my opinion, is mental. He isn’t a player like Terrell Owens or Brandon Marshall who will always suffer from drops; he has outstanding hands, but he appears to lack confidence right now. Bryant will get it turned around, so Romo needs to trust his third-year receiver and keep going back to him.
TE Jason Witten: D+
It was great to see Witten rebound against the Bears, but it wasn’t like he was incredibly efficient. His 112 yards came on 14 targets, and that 8.0 YPA is about where he should be all of the time. On the season, Witten has the most targets of any player on offense, but he’s averaging only 5.5 YPA. His catch rate of 61.8 percent will improve, but I’m not confident that his per-catch efficiency will do the same.
RUNNING ON EMPTY: With stout competition, little room to run for Dallas Cowboys
IRVING, Texas – When DeMarco Murray rushed for 131 yards in the opening game against the Giants, it was a sign of the running game possibly coming back to form after some lackluster seasons that haven’t seen a 1,000-yard rusher since 2006.
But since that game, Murray has totaled just 106 yards in the three outings since, dipping the Cowboys to 30th in the NFL in rushing at just 67.8 yards per game.
Monday night against Chicago, the Cowboys’ running game offered little help to the offense, producing just 41 yards on 14 attempts. Murray had 24 on 11 carries.
While the bye week is often a time to make some adjustments, just what can the Cowboys do to fix the running woes? Change up the personnel on the offensive line? Use Felix Jones more as a rotational back? Run out of more wide-open sets, which means less running behind fullback Lawrence Vickers?
For now, head coach Jason Garrett is taking a different approach.
“Well, what you have to do is you just have to keep banging away,” Garrett said. “Right now, we’re not controlling the line of scrimmage. We have too many minus-plays. We had a lot in the game (Monday) night. When that happens, it puts way too much pressure on the quarterback to make plays. We need the running game to take the pressure off of him. And we’re not doing that.”
So what has changed so much from the first game of the season?
For starters, the competition has gotten much better. While the Giants are considered a top defense in terms of pass rush, they rank 21st against the run.
The next three opponents on the Cowboys’ schedule rank second, third, and fourth. Seattle has the NFL’s second-best run defense, allowing just 62.8 yards a game. The Cowboys had just 49 yards rushing in Week 2 against the Seahawks.
Next came the Bucs, who rank fourth in the NFL in run defense. The Cowboys were worse there with just 38 yards rushing on 23 attempts.
Chicago now has the NFL’s third-best defense against the run after shutting down Murray and the Dallas attack.
Obviously the Cowboys have some continuity issues on the offensive line, a group that didn’t get much work together in the offseason because of multiple injuries. The injuries didn’t stop when the regular season began either, as center Phil Costa re-aggravated his back three plays into the opener, forcing newly-acquired Ryan Cook into action.
Costa could return after the bye, and Garrett wouldn’t comment on the competition at center, stating it will be evaluated once Costa can get back to 100 percent.
He also didn’t sound like changes at other positions will be made, although there has been some speculation around Valley Ranch that veteran guard Derrick Dockery could be inserted into the rotation for either Mackenzy Bernadeau or Nate Livings.
Garrett instead offered his support of the current group.
“We like the five guys who are playing up front,” Garrett said. “I think, collectively as a group, they blocked that front fairly very well, particularly in the passing game the other night against Chicago, and Mackenzy is a part of that. Like everybody on the football team, it can get better. It’s nice to have a guy like Dockery sitting right there where we feel like he’s a guy who has some experience and we’re certainly confident in his ability to go out there and play.”
Vickers, who was signed in free agency from Houston, hasn’t been too productive in his first four games with the Cowboys. He categorized his play as “just all right” when asked on Wednesday.
“We’re not getting the job done,” Vickers said. “We can be a good offense. We can be a good running team. We’re just not executing. And that’s on me, that’s on all of us.”
As for Murray, who called this bye week a “long two weeks,” he said his confidence won’t waver.
“You have to stay confident and that won’t change,” he said after the Chicago game. “I trust the guys up front and I know it’s a collective effort. I have to get better, they have to get better. We just have to get better as an offense. It’s everyone. So we have to use (the bye) to our advantage and turn it around.”
As you know, it’s the bye week. Dallas Cowboys players and coaches are off until Monday. The players started a day early. With the time off to recoup, rest, relax, and heal … let’s hope they all come back with FULL TANKS! Enjoy the video!
INJURY UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears
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|
SNAP DECISIONS: Taking a look at offensive and defensive player participation vs. Seattle
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:
HEAD2HEAD: How the Dallas Cowboys and NY Giants match up
Here is a look at how both teams match up:
When the Cowboys run
What would have happened if DeMarco Murray hadn’t fractured his right ankle against the Giants on Dec. 11? Would the story of the 2011 season have had a different ending? It might have. Murray gained 25 yards on five carries in his only game against the Cowboys’ NFC East rival. Before then, he proved to be a difference-maker. This year, Murray will be running behind a reworked offensive line a new fullback, Lawrence Vickers. The Giants, who gave up 121.3 rushing yards per game last season, will try to corral him.
When the Cowboys pass
In 2011 Tony Romo may have had his best season yet. He amassed 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions while posting a quarterback rating of 102.5. He did so while being sacked 36 times – the most in his career. At times, Romo turned bad situations into good ones. He may have to so against Wednesday. Miles Austin (hamstring) and Dez Bryant (knee) are returning from injuries. And tight end Jason Witten, his favorite target, is doubtful as he recovers from a lacerated spleen. The Giants’ suspect secondary, which contributed to the fourth-worst pass defense in 2011 and lost cornerback Aaron Ross to Jacksonville in the off-season, may get a break.
When the Giants run
The Cowboys no longer have to worry about Brandon Jacobs. He and his 264-pound frame are gone, off to San Francisco. That leaves Ahmad Bradshaw as the leading man for a rushing offense that finished dead last in the NFL last season but improved in the playoffs during the Giants’ march to the Super Bowl. Bradshaw will try to build on that momentum with rookie David Wilson, who is smaller and quicker than Jacobs. The Dallas Cowboys defense, which was seventh against the run in 2011 and gave up only 99.1 yards per game on the ground, will have to adjust. That shouldn’t be a problem for a unit that has improved.
When the Giants pass
Eli Manning torched the Cowboys last season. In two games against Dallas, he threw for 746 yards and five touchdowns. The Cowboys have invested plenty of time and money into developing a defense that can stop Manning and his two most fearsome targets – receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Rookie Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr are expected to plug the holes in the secondary and give Manning fits.
Dan Bailey will try to build on his impressive rookie season, during which he made 32 of 37 field-goal attempts, including four game-winners. Bailey’s strong campaign overshadowed the fact that the Cowboys’ other special teams units underperformed. But there is hope Felix Jones will spark improvement as he will be designated as the main kick returner for the first time since 2009. On the other side, the Giants will rely on kicker Lawrence Tynes and punter Steve Weatherford, who finished 13th in the NFL last season with a net average of 39.2 yards.
It’s the season opener in primetime. It’s a date with the defending Super Bowl champion. And it’s a rematch of in the Jan. 1 winner-take-all showdown that the Cowboys lost to end their 2011 campaign. Will Dallas be motivated?
The answer to that question is obvious. The Cowboys want to win this game. But recent history is not on their side. The Giants have won five of the last six encounters with the Cowboys. They know what it takes to beat Dallas because they have done it again and again.
PROJECTION: Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster
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.
PRESEASON GAME THREE: The “Dress Rehearsal” an important indicator for a starting offense
ARLINGTON, Texas – The last time the Cowboys played the St. Louis Rams, their offense exploded for 445 yards and 34 points, behind a record-setting 253-yard effort by DeMarco Murray.
Of course, the last time the two teams met, it was Week 7 of the 2011 regular season, and the 2-3 Cowboys desperately needed a win to try to create some momentum. This time, the Cowboys don’t need a win. But in the preseason “dress rehearsal,” as the third exhibition game is typically called, they at least need to show progress, particularly on offense.
While the first-team defense pitched a shutout during its work against the Raiders and Chargers, the starting offense has moved the ball inconsistently and put up only three points.
At least four starters will sit out the game for the Cowboys offense, receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, tight end Jason Witten and center Phil Costa, and the Cowboys haven’t spent much, if any time game-planning for St. Louis. But given the fact that the exhibition is being played only 11 days out from the regular-season opener in New York, it would seem there’s some pressure on the remaining offensive starters to get things going.
They’ll get plenty of work.
“We anticipate them playing the most that they’ve played in the preseason,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “That’s typically what we do. We build up from the first game to the second game and they get their most extended work in Week 3 before dialing back in Week 4. So, we anticipate them playing a lot, but the game situation will dictate that as well. We want quality work for them, we want to make sure the plays they do get are good plays, and then we’ll look at each other and we’ll make some decisions as the game unfolds.”
In Garrett’s first preseason as the Cowboys’ head coach, Tony Romo’s group played to halftime of the dress rehearsal game, at Minnesota, then gave way to the backups to start the third quarter. While the quarterback can expect to go that long again, along with four of the five starting offensive linemen and new fullback Lawrence Vickers, the team may insist on pulling Murray early.
If the second-year back is going to carry the load for this team, as appears to be the coaches’ intention, there’s no point in trying to let him best his performance against the Rams from last year. In fact, there may not be any reason to let him see the second quarter.
Murray has touched the ball only seven times through two preseason games this year.
“It will still be a limited number,” Garrett said. “We don’t want him banging away out there for too long in this game. At the same time, we want to make sure to give him enough chances to get in the rhythm he needs to. That is a challenge at every position, but particularly that position, a position that is so physical and takes so much of a pounding. You don’t want to put him in a situation where he is leaving it all out there on a preseason-game field. We need to get him ready for the start of the regular season. The same thing with Felix (Jones) and our other backs. We try to rotate those guys to get them the touches they need without wearing them down.”
As for the guy who made his name at the NFL level against the Rams, he promises he’s treating Saturday’s contest just like it was Week 7 and the Cowboys have their backs against the wall, or an even bigger contest.
“We’re going to approach it like any game,” Murray said. “I know it’s a preseason game, but I’m going to approach it like it’s a playoff game or a real game for me. You always want to go out there and play your heart out and definitely try to get the win.
“No matter if I’m playing five snaps or 40 snaps, I’m going to come out there and try to do my best.”
PRESEASON STUD FB/RB: Jamize Olawale emerging as a name worth remembering
For the record, Dallas Cowboys running back Jamize Olawale (an undrafted free agent from North Texas) pronounces his name this way: juh-MAZE oh-lah-WALL-ee. It probably is a name that Cowboys’ fans should begin learning to recognize, and pronounce, as the 2012 season unfolds.
Olwawale (6-foot-1, 238 pounds) arrived in camp targeted to be a possible backup to starting fullback Lawrence Vickers. But the broken hand of Phillip Tanner, the projected No. 3 running back heading into camp, an opportunity for extra carries and Olawale has led the team in rushing in both pre-season games. He scored the team’s first touchdown in Saturday’s 28-20 loss to San Diego on a powerful, 2-yard run between the tackles.
A receiver in college, he also caught four passes for 30 yards against the Chargers and has the size and skills to be an effective blocker.
Olawale’s emergence contributed to Friday’s release of former TCU running back Ed Wesley, who had struggled in camp, before Wesley ever touched the ball in a pre-season game. Olawale’s versatility will make it hard for coaches to drop him from the team’s 53-man roster if he continues to perform the way he has in Dallas’ first two pre-season games and in training camp practices.
“He really has (stepped up) throughout training camp,” said coach Jason Garrett. “He came in more as a fullback candidate, but has also shown that he can be a big back. He’s played a lot as a halfback. He’s played in third-down situations. He’s really done some positive things running the football for us.”
“They’re giving me a fair shot,” said Olawale, who declared it “nice to get my first NFL touchdown” against the Chargers. “I feel like I was able to slow things down a little bit (in his mind). Everything’s still moving fast … I’m here to play where they want me to play. I try to be a team player and help them win however I can. Obviously, we didn’t do that (against San Diego). I fee like I failed in that aspect.”
Of course, the bottom line for pre-season games is about player evaluations more than wins and losses. And Olawale’s stock is rising with Cowboys’ coaches. Fans might want to learn to pronounce his name. Just in case.
RELATED: Is there a role for Jamize Olawale?
Raise your hand if you had Jamize Olawale scoring the Dallas Cowboys’ first touchdown of the preseason.
Olawale probably wouldn’t raise his hand either. His last touchdown came at El Camino Junior College. His last rushing touchdown came in high school.
With 8:32 left in the second quarter, Olawale, a wide receiver at North Texas turned fullback with the Cowboys and moved to tailback because of injuries in training camp, bulled his way into the end zone from 2 yards with some serious help from the offensive line.
For a team that scored just five rushing touchdowns in 2011, it was a good thing.
At 6-foot-1, 238 pounds, Olawale is the Cowboys’ biggest runner, but there’s still a long way to go before he makes it on the final roster.
“I think they’re trying to evaluate me and see where I fit,” Olawale said. “Any place I can fit on the team, I’m going to try to give 100 percent every play. However I can help the team, I’m down to help.
He did make one mistake after he scored.
“My brother told me to keep the ball and I forgot,” Olawale said. “In the moment I don’t know what I did with the ball.”
Todd Archer | ESPN Dallas
Editors comment: TBAB is showing a little love for actor Ron Palillo, who played class clown Arnold Horshack on the 1970s television comedy "Welcome Back, Kotter". Palillo died of a heart attack in the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on Tuesday. Source: CNN
PRESEASON WEEK ONE: 2012 Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster projection
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.
VIDEO SERIES: The Blitz–Dallas Cowboys Report
The BLITZ – DALLAS COWBOYS REPORT – Special Feature – Video Series
The Blitz: Part 1 (Click HERE to watch)
Bill and Mickey take a look at the progress Dez Bryant has made during the offseason.
The Blitz: Part 2 (Click HERE to watch)
Tony Romo joins the set for an exclusive interview.
The Blitz: Part 3 (Click HERE to watch)
Get an inside look into the Cowboys U event that had the players take on the role of coach.
The Blitz: Part 4 (Click HERE to watch)
Bill and Mickey tie up all the loose ends as the Cowboys finish up OTA’s.
BONUS VIDEO: DeMarco Murray and new running mate, Lawrence Vickers
Position Focus: Running Backs (Click HERE to watch)
Bryan Broaddus takes a in-depth look at film from DeMarco Murray and his new running mate, Lawrence Vickers
REMEMBER WHEN: Bonus Video clip
25 Greatest Plays: Extra Miles, 2009 (Click HERE to watch)
Miles Austin, making his first career start, broke a tackle and sprinted 52 yards down the sideline for a game-winning touchdown, propelling the visiting Dallas Cowboys past the Kansas City Chiefs, 26-20, in overtime.
PONDER THIS: Do the Dallas Cowboys have room for two fullbacks?
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.
RUNNING GAME: DeMarco Murray’s proven he can carry the load
Speaking to the local media a couple weeks back, DeMarco Murray bristled a bit when asked, again, about the broken ankle that cut short his 2011 season. It’s clear the running back has about had it with questions about his durability.
He’s heard it enough over the last five years. Late in his redshirt freshman season of 2007, he suffered a dislocated kneecap that kept him out of spring drills. Then in 2008, he injured his hamstring on the opening kickoff of the Big 12 Championship, missing the remainder of that game and the BCS Championship in January, 2009.
A knee injury in 2010 created some doubt that he would miss the Big 12 Championship.
Despite those injuries, Murray is steadfast that durability is not a problem for him. He played four seasons in college and missed only four games.
As a senior, he had 282 rushes and 71 receptions, giving him 353 total touches on offense. Few players entering the NFL in recent years can boast such durability in a single season.
Last year, Murray was injured for half of the preseason, slowing his ascent to the role of lead back. But when he took over the job, he showed how strong he was again, averaging more than 22 touches over the next seven games, including two squeezed into a matter of five days on the week of Thanksgiving.
The injury against New York, early in Week 14, was a freak one.
Back to that question from Monday morning as to whether anyone can catch up to Emmitt Smith’s record? Don’t necessarily count out Murray just yet, other than the obvious long odds that stand against any back. At least over the course of consecutive games and for a whole season, Murray has shown durability similar to Smith.
Murray’s 897 yards last year (on 164 carries), were the most by a Cowboys rookie since Smith’s 937 (on 241 carries) in 1990.
Yet Murray is already 24. Smith played his second NFL season at age 22. And while there might be a couple nifty pieces on this Cowboys offensive line, it’s hard to envision any team putting together a crew quite like the front five Smith was able to run behind.
There was also Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin to keep defenses from loading up the box. And the Cowboys’ own defense in those days was so good it helped the offense, and Smith, control the time of possession.
Smith had a great fullback or two, most notably Daryl Johnston. Interestingly enough, Jerry Jones was asked last week whether he was comfortable with Murray continuing with the formidable workload he had last year. Jones thought the protection Murray will get from new fullback Lawrence Vickers would be a reason to continue feeding Murray rather than taking it easy on him.
"Especially with where we are now with Vickers and possibly our young fullbacks, yes," Jones said. "I like what our running backs have a chance to benefit from, with what we’re doing at fullback. This could be the best we’ve been at fullback since Daryl."
It’s impossible to say whether Murray will have the staying power to rush for even half as many yards as Smith’s 18,355. And Smith’s career carries record of 4,409 carries – nearly 600 more than second place – is probably secure for a long time to come.
But maybe this year Murray could challenge Smith’s team record for most carries in a season, 377, set in 1995.
If he can just avoid freak injuries, as Smith was lucky enough to do, Murray has proven he has the durability to carry the load.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Dallas Cowboys FB Lawrence Vickers
Position: Fullback Size: 6-0, 250 Age: 29 College: Colorado
Drafted: Sixth round, 180th overall pick, in 2006
Experience: Entering his seventh season
Contract status: Signed a two-year contract with the Cowboys in March. According to Spotrac.com, the deal is worth a total of $2.4 million with Vickers making a base salary of $800,000 in 2012.
2011 review: While playing in 14 games for the Houston Texans, Vickers caught four passes, recorded one rushing attempt and one start. However, Vickers played a significant role in clearing space for Texans running back Arian Foster, who rushed for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns.
2012 Outlook: Although Vickers has become known for briefly exiting organized team activities earlier this month because of fire ants in his pants, during the 2012 season, the veteran will be identified as the lead blocker for DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones.
Before landing in Houston last year, Vickers spent his first five NFL seasons with the Cleveland Browns doing similar work. The Beaumont native rarely carried the ball, something he’s done only 34 times in 90 career games, instead, Vickers occasionally caught passes [45 career grabs with three going for scores] and blocked for several running backs.
“I want to do the dirty work,” Vickers said in a 2010 interview posted on YouTube. “I want to do that job that most people can’t do. And most people can’t play the fullback position. It’s hard. It’s not like blocking on the line. It’s a collision. It’s a gut check.”
In 2008, Vickers was named as a second alternate for the Pro Bowl. Two years later, he led the way for Peyton Hillis to rush for a career-high 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns.
When the Cowboys were healthy at fullback last season, Murray had success. But when fullback Tony Fiammetta, who is currently with the New England Patriots, was sidelined because of illness, Murray, who eventually had his rookie season ended prematurely because of a broken ankle, wasn’t as productive.
Can Vickers help Murray find similar success? Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones must think so. After all, Jones recently said: “This can be the best we’ve been at fullback since Daryl [Johnston].”
Murray wasn’t about to make any bold predictions last week when asked about the addition of Vickers. Like Murray pointed out, because players weren’t wearing pads at OTA and mini-camp practices it’s difficult to know how everything will unfold when both sides start hitting.
“So far so good,” Murray said. “I’m loving the enthusiasm he brings to the running back group and brings to the practice field and what he brings to this team, so I’m excited to see what he’s going to do in training camp.”
Lawrence Blanchard Vickers, Jr. (born May 8, 1983 in Beaumont, Texas) is a fullback for the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League. He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He played college football for the University of Colorado at Boulder Buffaloes.
Four year letterman at Forest Brook High School in Houston, Texas.
He played for the University of Colorado Buffaloes during his college career. Vickers saw limited playing time as a true freshman in 2002. He saw action in 11 games, including the Alamo Bowl (no starts), seeing time on both offense (at fullback) and on special teams; he was a regular at the end of the year in CU’s Stack-I formation (two fullbacks). He had seven rushes for 25 yards on the year, and also caught one pass for seven yards. In 2003, he played in 11 games on both offense and special teams, started six of those games at FB and finished with 100 yards on 28 carries with one TD. He also finished with 15 receptions for 123 yards and one TD. As a junior in 2004, Vickers started seven games and finished with 63 carries for 252 yards and two TD’s, and 28 receptions for 290 yards. He remained the Buffs No. 1 FB and backup RB as a senior in 2005, when he finished with 258 yards and nine TDs on 73 carries and 152 yards and two TDs on 26 receptions. He was an Ethnic Studies/Sociology major. It has also been revealed that he is allergic to ants.
Vickers was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the 6th round, pick 11 (180th overall) of the 2006 NFL draft. Serving as the team’s backup fullback behind Terrelle Smith, Vickers started one game, earning three rushing attempts for two yards and catching six passes for 60 yards. He saw significant time on special teams, having five kick returns for 84 yards. He made his NFL debut versus the New Orleans Saints on September 10.
Vickers took over the fullback position in 2007 and played in every game with 14 starts. He was Jamal Lewis’ primary lead blocker, helping him rush for 1,304 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also had 15 carries for 43 yards and 13 receptions for 91 yards and 2 touchdowns. For his efforts, Vickers was named as a second alternate for the 2008 Pro Bowl at fullback.
In his four seasons, Vickers has scored 3 touchdowns, all on short-yardage receptions. All of his touchdowns were scored against the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
On August 3, 2011, Lawrence Vickers signed with the Houston Texans. Vickers was released by Houston on March 13, 2012.
Vickers was signed to a two year deal by the Dallas Cowboys on March 14, 2012.
WORK ETHIC: Jason Garrett doesn’t mind signing players who have had to fight for their place in the NFL
Jason Garrett likes players who have had to work for what they have in the NFL.
Don’t misunderstand – he has no problem taking premier players.
But as the Cowboys coach talked last week about some of the free agents who have joined the team, it came up that offensive guard Nate Livings – who signed a five-year deal worth $19 million to join the Cowboys – was undrafted out of college.
“We don’t consciously go get guys who are free agents, but sometimes you like the path those guys have taken because they’ve earned it,” Garrett said at the NFL owners meetings last week.
Livings came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent. So did Miles Austin and Tony Romo, the two most notable examples of undrafted free agents on the Cowboys (and perhaps the NFL).
But they aren’t the only ones. Center Phil Costa, tackle Jeremy Parnell and safeties Barry Church and Danny McCray were undrafted free agents two years ago.
Last year, four undrafted rookies made the team –guard Kevin Kowalski, linebacker Alex Albright, kicker Dan Bailey and running back Phillip Tanner made the team.
Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, re-signed by the Cowboys, was an undrafted out of Virginia in 2009.
“It’s unfair to say you want a team made up like that because there are a lot first-round picks who have those same qualities and traits,” Garrett said. “One thing I know about the NFL, in my years of playing and coaching, is there is going to be adversity. If you have the right kind of guys on your team, you’re going to be able to withstand that inevitable adversity that happens.”
The Cowboys’ free-agent signings this spring included three low-round picks.
Cornerback Brandon Carr, the top-dollar signee, was a fifth-round pick.
Guard Mackenzie Bernadeau was a seventh-round pick.
Fullback Lawrence Vickers was a sixth-rounder.
“Guys who come from those backgrounds, who have earned their way, have typically faced adversity,” Garrett said. “They have been rejected. They weren’t the No. 1 recruit, so they went to this school instead of that school that maybe they wanted to go to, or they weren’t the starter right away, so they worked their way up the depth chart. … You like guys who have a little bit of history dealing with adversity, and hopefully that will reflect throughout your team.”