DALLAS COWBOYS NFL SALARY CAP: Team under 2014-2015 cap after releasing Phil Costa and renegotiating Mackenzy Bernadeau contract | DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin decisions pending
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys are now under the salary cap after cutting the center many thought could be the starter prior to last year’s draft.
The Cowboys cut Phil Costa and renegotiated the contract of Mackenzy Bernadeau on Friday, putting themselves in better position financially prior to the start of free agency on March 11, which is the beginning of the new league year and the time all teams must be under the cap.
The restructuring of Tony Romo, Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee already saved the Cowboys more than $16 million in cap space, and the move to release Costa saves another $1.5 million. Despite their continual cap restraints, the Dallas Cowboys will have no issue being under the new cap figure next week.
Costa appeared in only six games the last two seasons after starting all 16 games at center in 2011. He started three games at center in 2012 before injuries cut his season short. Costa, who signed a two-year deal worth $2.7 million last year, appeared in three games in 2013, but rookie Travis Frederick started all 16 games at center.
Costa’s been with the Cowboys since signing in Dallas as an undrafted free agent in 2010 out of Maryland, playing in a total of 26 games with 20 starts. He didn’t take a pay cut, and the Cowboys decided to part ways with the center to help get under the cap.
The Cowboys also saved cap space by renegotiating Bernadeau, who came on strong at the end of the 2013 season after getting replaced by Brian Waters. Bernadeau started the first three games of the season before the change was made, and the offensive line remained a strong point of the team when Bernadeau returned to the starting lineup for the final eight games of the season. Bernadeau will challenge for a starting guard spot in 2014.
The Dallas Cowboys sat high above the projected cap figure just weeks ago but figured out a way to get under the cap relatively smoothly and much more easily than many (in the media) anticipated.
If nothing changes, Ware will count $16 million against the cap and Austin will count $8.25 million against the cap. The Cowboys can save $7.4 million by releasing Ware and $5.5 million by designating Austin a post-June 1 cut. Of course, the Dallas Cowboys could also rework Ware’s deal to save cap space if he’s willing to cooperate on a reduction.
RELATED: DeMarcus Ware will listen to Dallas Cowboys offer
Former Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Ware doesn’t want to take a pay cut but will listen to the Dallas Cowboys thoughts about a restructured deal.
He also hopes for a quick resolution.
The Cowboys informed Ware and representatives earlier this week about their need to lower his salary and cap figure. Ware is due a base salary of $12.25 million in 2014 with a salary cap hit of $16 million. The team would save $7.8 million if they cut Ware.
However, the Cowboys say they want the team’s all-time leading sacker back in 2014.
Ware will be 32 next season and recently underwent surgery for second consecutive off season. He had a career-low six sacks in 2013 when he has hampered by neck, quad and elbow injuries.
Ware expects to be back to his old dominant ways after surgery to repair nerve damage in his elbow last month. He will listen to the Cowboys thoughts on a restructured deal but remains hesitant about taking a major shave in salary.
Ware, who is shoo-in for the Cowboys’ hallowed Ring of Honor and likely future Hall of Famer, is expecting to draw a lot of interest on the free-agent market if he is released.
A decision on Ware would allow them to set a game plan for the start of free agency.
The Cowboys must address the defensive end position in the draft and free agency. Without Ware, it makes the situation even more acute because there are no players on the roster with his talent or prior production.
Even during an injury-plagued and limited 2013 campaign, Ware was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the ninth-most productive 4-3 defensive end as a pass-rusher and third in run-stop percentage. Ware was picked 11th overall by the Dallas Cowboys in 2005 NFL Draft. He has 117 sacks in nine years to rank first in team history and 18th in NFL history.
BOYS BYE-WEEK BREAKDOWN: Rookie center Travis Frederick has stabilized the offensive line by playing beyond his years
Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line Breakdown
This article is part of a series. To see all related posts, click HERE. Enjoy!
Top Performer: Rookie center Travis Frederick
From what we experienced last season with this Dallas Cowboys offensive line, there has been improvement with Ronald Leary at left guard, the contributions of Brian Waters on the right side along with Doug Free and the continued growth of Tyron Smith at left tackle.
But if you really want to focus where this line improved the most, it would be at center with Travis Frederick in the lineup. Drafted to be a starter since day one, Frederick has played with the skill and knowledge far above what many scouts around the league had projected him to be able to accomplish. Frederick has been steady in his approach and reliable in his execution. As a player, he is truly playing beyond his years in one of the most demanding positions along the offensive line.
For Frederick it has been a learning experience throughout this season from the time where he had to face Dontari Poe in Kansas City to Brodrick Bunkley and John Jenkins in New Orleans, Frederick has improved every week that he has had the opportunity to line up in a game.
What Travis Frederick has given this offensive line is something they have not had in recent seasons and that is stability in the middle. One of the reasons that this line can survive a loss like they suffered with Waters is because Frederick has been able to adjust to whomever he has lined up next to and for a rookie to be able to handle that says a great deal about his game.
Need More From: Doug Free in the running game
It would be real easy to say this offensive line needs more from Mackenzy Bernadeau, and they do. But, they need even more from Doug Free. No disrespect to how Free is playing, because he has been the least of their problems on offense.
Where we need more from Free is on that right side playing next to Bernadeau. There are going to be matchups down the stretch where opponents are going to feel that going over him is a better option than trying to get by Tyron Smith. If you look at the upcoming games, there will be no break for this line in the types of pass rushers that they are going to face.
If this offense is going to get back on track, they are going to need Free to be at his absolute best. Though they were able to get away from the sacks in the Vikings game, where Free struggled against Brian Robinson, they might not be so fortunate against Justin Tuck or Clay Matthews. Free has done a much better job of playing with his technique and really that has allowed him to return to the type of player that we observed three seasons ago.
Where this offense also needs more from Free is in the running game. When he is really on his game and the ball is going to the outside, he can secure the edge and he has done a much better job with this, but like Jason Garrett says, there is always room for improvement.
Six-Game Forecast: It always comes down to what you do in the trenches
There is going to be a great deal of pressure put on this offensive line as they work through these final six games.
When this group gives Tony Romo time, we have seen that plays can be made. At times, they have been able to create opportunities when DeMarco Murray has the ball in his hands, so that has been a positive as well. As much as you want to say that the skill players on this team need to pick up their game, this offensive line is going to have to be the difference makers.
They have been getting consistent play from their tackles, the left guard and center are basically rookies, and they have been able to hold their own. They have to find a way to replace the veteran leadership of Brian Waters, but Mackenzy Bernadeau is not a terrible option. The starting five against the Giants this week are the same starting five that opened the season together in a victory that night.
This group has been more of a solution this season than a problem, and if this club is going to win the division, it’s going to be on their shoulders.
2013-2014 COWBOYS ROSTER: Dallas RG Brian Waters placed on IR | Micah Pellerin promoted from practice squad
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have officially placed guard Brian Waters on injured reserve after a week of evaluation.
Waters suffered a strained rib, a hyperextended knee and a torn triceps in last weekend’s loss to Detroit, with the triceps injury proving to be the most severe.
The veteran guard, who was halfway through his 13th NFL season, sought out several secondary opinions that would allow him to continue playing this year, but those were of no avail.
Mackenzy Bernadeau will start in place of Waters on Sunday against Minnesota. Bernadeau started in all 16 games last season, and he was the starter for the first three weeks of 2013 before Waters replaced him in Week 4.
It remains to be seen what Waters will do going forward. The Cowboys signed him to a one-year contract just five days before the season opener against the New York Giants. The six-time Pro Bowler played to his lofty reputation in five starts this season, but he will be 37 by the start of the 2014 campaign.
In Waters’ place, the Cowboys called up defensive back Micah Pellerin from the practice squad. This marks the fourth week in a row the Cowboys have activated a practice squad player. They called up linebacker Cameron Lawrence on Oct. 11, defensive end Jason Vega on Oct. 18 and safety Jakar Hamilton on Oct. 26.
Pellerin was a standout for the team in training camp after joining the practice squad at the tail end of 2012. He has experience playing both safety and cornerback, though he has played primarily as a corner during his time with Dallas.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett hinted on Friday that Pellerin would get the nod, as the team will be without Morris Claiborne for Sunday’s game against the Vikings. Claiborne injured his hamstring in the loss to the Lions.
2013-2014 COWBOYS ROSTER: Dallas RG Brian Waters is out for the season; Mackenzy Bernadeau back in lineup
Dallas Cowboys offensive guard Brian Waters is out for the year, owner Jerry Jones confirmed on his radio show today.
Waters, 36, had started the past five games at right guard. Waters injured his knee and his ribs during Sunday’s loss to the Lions, but it was a triceps injury that had concerned the Dallas Cowboys the most. As it turns out, they were right to be concerned.
Mackenzy Bernadeau will return to the starting lineup, and Jones said the Cowboys will look to their practice squad for depth. They released guard David Arkin on Saturday and signed him back to the practice squad yesterday.
“[Bernadeau] started for us the entire year last year and played well, came in and played about 20 snaps and played well yesterday,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “Then, we’ll look to what we do with depth off our practice squad.”
Bernadeau started 19 consecutive games after signing a four-year, $11 million deal with the Cowboys during the 2012 off-season. But he lost his job to Waters in Week 4 after Waters got back into football shape.
Now, it’s Bernadeau’s turn again.
“It’s an adjustment just for the fact that you go from being in the game all the time to being on the sideline and waiting around,” Bernadeau said Monday. “You never want anybody to go down and get hurt. At the same time, when your number is called, you’ve got to be prepped, and that’s how I’ll be.”
Waters missed the 2012 season and all of training camp this year. He signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys on Sept. 4, the week of the season opener against the Giants.
The Cowboys have been pleased with Waters, not only for his play on the field, but for how he has taken their young offensive linemen under his wing.
“He’s done a lot,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Maybe as much as anything else, it’s his demeanor. He’s a guy that plays the game the right way. He’s physical. He’s tough. He knows what to do. He plays with a little bit of an edge to him, and that’s a positive thing, and I’ve talked to our team about it. It’s contiguous. You get a guy like that who can do it again and again and again, always kind of making an impression, trying to break their will, and other guys see that it’s OK, and it’s a good thing to do. It’s good for your team. He’s good for the offensive line, and he’s good for everybody on our team. He’s had a real positive influence.”
IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys play coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan didn’t want to rush Brian Waters into the lineup.
Now, after three weeks to settle into the Cowboys’ offense after a year off from football, the veteran guard and his coaches feel like he’s ready to start for the first time this year after rotating with Mackenzy Bernadeau the first three games.
“We think so,” Callahan said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’ll adjust it accordingly. We’ve got a lot of confidence in both he and Mackenzy. We’ll see how it plays out, but I think there’s been good communication along the lines of where he’s at from a strength and conditioning standpoint, also in terms of where his stamina is out. We’ll watch that carefully.”
Callahan said he wouldn’t have given Waters more than he was physically capable of handling, but he can tell the quality of play the veteran still brings to the game. The 36-year-old will continue to be monitored, but it sounds like the coaches are preparing him for a more permanent role.
That would mean Bernadeau’s role could shift around.
“I have a lot of respect for Bernadeau, in terms of what he can do,” Callahan said. “Of course, if he has to step in and play and start, he’s very capable. He’s a starter anywhere in this league. We’re utilizing him at a lot of different spots. He could be in a position to help backup at center just like he did a year ago when we lost a few guys, and of course he could play the left side as well if he needed to.”
Not every player can take more than a year off in the NFL and return and play at a high level, but if anyone’s seen it work on the line, it’s Callahan. He believes Waters, a former six-time Pro Bowler, is ready to do the same.
“Steve Wisniewski did it in Oakland, and when he came back, he was in great shape,” Callahan said. “Those guys know how to take care of their bodies. They’re Pro Bowlers for a reason. They know what their limitations are, they know that their body needs, they know how to train, they know how to prepare. They wouldn’t get to the level that they’re at as a player if they don’t have an understanding and awareness of all those other factors.”
He expected Waters’ progression to be gradual as the season began, and Bernadeau seemed to pick his play up from last year to allow the veteran guard to ease his way in. Callahan compared Waters’ situation to a lineman entering training camp.
“For the veteran lineman playing that first preseason game of 10 to 12 snaps or 14 snaps and then playing a quarter or playing a half, we believe that progression has helped him,” Callahan said. “We just didn’t want to throw him out there and force him into a situation that he wasn’t physically ready for. Now, is he mentally tough enough to do that? Sure, he could do that. But I think in all fairness to him and our team, we want him to be in the best possible condition so he can play at the highest level.”
Video | Audio
Bill Callahan talks about improving their play on the road, and why the feel the offense left some yards on the field in the first three weeks.
ARLINGTON, Texas – The announcement in the AT&T Stadium press box momentarily hushed the crowd – Miles Austin had left the game against St. Louis with hamstring problems.
Austin had a quiet afternoon before aggravating his legs on a deep route in the third quarter. He came away with two catches for 22 yards.
The veteran wideout didn’t reappear, though Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said that was a precautionary move.
“The discussion we had was that he was going to continue to stay warmed up,” Garrett said. “I said ‘That’s a good thing, he needs to be ready, but we’ll keep looking at that scoreboard and making sure we can handle the situation without him.’”
The lopsided win against the Rams certainly made it an easy call to rest Austin. The Cowboys scored to go up 31-7 with roughly 12 minutes remaining in the game and were able to cruise to a comfortable win without their No. 2 receiver.
“Because the game – you know, we were ahead in the ballgame – we decided to keep him out of it,” Garrett said. “We’ll just evaluate it over the next couple of days.”
Austin’s absence opened the door for receiver, Dwayne Harris, for his first touchdown of the season.
“He really showed a lot of mental and physical toughness throughout the game,” Garrett said.
Fittingly enough, it was Harris’ hands – shaky to start with the muffed punt – which sealed the win, as he brought in his lone catch for a 24-yard touchdown.
“It was a bad play,” Garrett said of the muffed punt. “It was a bad play by him and our defense went out and responded the right way, and I think Dwayne responded the right way himself as the game wore on.”
Here are some more notes from the Cowboys’ 31-7 win against St. Louis:
- Anthony Spencer was inactive for the second time in three weeks with the same knee injury he had surgery on in July. The Cowboys managed fine without the Pro Bowler, as they racked up six sacks, but there’s no doubt they’d like to get one of their sack artists back to the field. “It’s just real frustrating for this to be the same lingering problem, but it is what it is and I’m handling it the best way I can,” Spencer said. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said the team had an idea earlier in the week that Spencer would be unavailable. Spencer tried to work out on the knee as late as Friday but “it wasn’t going.” The thought is that the knee is still sore from the stress of playing against Kansas City, and Spencer said he’ll “play it by ear” going forward.
- Brian Waters said following the win he thought he could play a full game on the offensive line. Waters and Mackenzy Bernadeau rotated at guard against the Rams, after Waters worked just a few series of each half last week against the Chiefs. “At the end of the day, that’s the coaches’ call. I’m just going to continue to do what I can,” Waters said. “We got some good guys – we got a good group, and the more players the better, because it’s a long season. As we find in the NFL, you’ve got to have more than five offensive linemen to be successful.”
- At one point, both Bernadeau and Waters played guard together, as Ronald Leary tweaked his knee in the third quarter. Garrett said it was the same knee Leary injured during training camp, but he was fine and was able to return to the game.
- Like Harris, Gavin Escobar made the most of a small opportunity. The rookie tight end managed just one catch, but it isn’t one he’ll soon forget. Escobar brought in a beautiful 24-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter to put Dallas up, 24-0. “I was very excited,” Escobar said. “That’s usually not a play where I’m the go-to guy, but you never know and you have to be ready to catch the ball.” The play was actually the exact same as the one Harris would late score on. Escobar had just missed on several opportunities this season, but Tony Romo said the rookie is coming along nicely. “He almost had one earlier in the game. I think he lost his shoe against New York on one where he would have had one. So it was just a matter of time,” Romo said.
- Not everything went swimmingly for the Cowboys in an otherwise easy win. Kicker Dan Bailey missed a manageable field goal wide right from just 35 yards out. Harris’ muffed punt also factored into a forgettable day.
- Orlando Scandrick’s sack of Sam Bradford in the first quarter gave the cornerback 7.5 sacks for his career – fourth-best among defensive backs in Cowboys history. It seems like a stat that could be more common for Scandrick in this defense. “He’s got good timing, and he wants to be around that football,” Garrett said. “He’s got that big ass chip on his shoulder, too.”
IRVING, Texas – He might have taken 18 months off, but Brian Waters is starting to get back in the groove.
It would be one thing for a 13-year NFL veteran to simply pick back up where he left off. But starting with practice last week, and building from the Chiefs game up through this week’s routine, Waters said he’s starting to get re-acclimated.
“I’m getting back into the continuity of the game. These weeks start to add up,” he said. “You know what you want to do on Wednesday, you know what you want to do on Thursday and Friday. As the week goes on, you know where you want to be. I’m starting to get back into that.”
It’s too early to tell what that means for his playing time, however. Waters ceded most of Sunday’s playing time to fellow guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, and that rotational role could continue.
“I’m just going to do whatever coach tells me,” Waters said. “Obviously, I hadn’t played football in a while.”
He might not have played much in the loss, but that didn’t save him from the bombardment of questions about the Dallas Cowboys rushing deficiencies.
Waters knows a thing or two about productive ground games, as he paved the way for Priest Holmes in Kansas City. But the six-time Pro Bowler said moving the ball is what matters most, period.
“During the course of a game, games go differently. I know there’s going to be a lot of emphasis this week with you guys focusing on the running game, but honestly, I want to win the football game,” Waters said. “Our job as an offense is to move the football, any way the play is called. If it’s a pass, we want to move the ball that way. If it’s a run, we want to move the ball that way. If we get into numbers, we’re playing into the defense.”
Rather than focusing on one specific problem, such as the running game, Waters said his goal is to improve himself as completely as possible going forward. One such aspect in need of practice is bound to be footwork, which he said is crucial.
“As an offensive lineman, you have to make sure your feet are right. If not, you’re going to be in some bad situations when it comes to attacking the defensive lineman,” he said. “You’re going to be out of position, your hands are going to be out of place. You want to make sure your feet are positioned properly.”
IRVING, Texas – If the phrase “perception is reality” holds true to form, the Dallas Cowboys are certainly hoping for that in regards to their new-look offensive line.
Recently, the perception of the offensive line hasn’t been that good. In reality, they weren’t, especially in the running game.
Now, with the addition of veteran Brian Waters, who practiced for the first time today, teamed with a first-round pick at center and an emerging young guard in Ron Leary, the perception of the entire offensive line is one that is vastly improved.
The Cowboys can only hope that becomes a reality.
Vice president Stephen Jones, who is the Cowboys’ director of player personnel, said he is hopeful the offensive line will go from one of the team’s weaknesses, to possibly a strength with the added experience and depth.
“Getting Waters obviously takes it from being a big, big question mark, but from not only being a question mark on the front end, but now we’ve got good depth,” Jones said. “You take a starter in Mackenzy Bernadeau and he may ultimately be a backup here. I’m sure he’s not going to give the job away. He’s been competing well. You know what we think about Phil Costa and Jermey Parnell gives you a solid eight there. We’re pleased.”
And that’s not something the Cowboys have been able to say about the line in the last few years – even the last few weeks. There have been several questions, ones that still haven’t been fully answered.
While Travis Frederick looks the part and has played well in the preseason, Sunday night will be his NFL debut. The same goes for Ronald Leary, who has been battling to get back from a knee scope he had in mid-August. Leary practiced in full Wednesday and said he’s “definitely” playing Sunday against the Giants. However, it’ll also be his NFL debut.
Tyron Smith has been solid at left tackle and Doug Free has played well on the right side this preseason. But he certainly benefitted from Anthony Spencer’s camp-long knee injury that often had him battling the likes of Kyle Wilber and George Selvie, instead of a 2012 Pro Bowler who had 11 sacks.
So the question marks remain along the line. And they likely won’t go away with one game – regardless if Waters plays or not. From the sound of things, the 11-year veteran is not expected to suit up against the Giants. While he practiced some early with the second-team offense, the bulk of his afternoon was spent with trainers working on his conditioning.
It appears the goal with Waters is to have him ready for Week 2, which just so happens to be in Kansas City, a place he spent the first 10 seasons of his career, earning five Pro Bowls. Waters picked up a sixth Pro Bowl trip in 2011 when he signed a one-year deal with the Patriots. Similar to this situation, Waters joined New England on Sept. 3, 2011, eight days before the opener in Miami, where he played 85 percent of the offensive snaps. Waters was able to get five practices in before that first game, compared to just three this week. So getting him ready for the Chiefs makes more sense, although the savvy veteran in Waters wouldn’t let him look that far ahead.
“I’m just going to think about the Giants right now, take it one game at a time,” Waters said (video | audio). “Obviously, I have a great amount of affection for the Kansas City program and organization, but right now our focus is on the Giants.”
Despite his experience, Waters said he can learn a lot from Frederick, who was eight years old when Waters completed his first training camp.
“I have a lot of experience, a lot of game-time experience,” Waters said. “If those guys need me, in any way, form or fashion, I think I can offer some insight on different ways to do things and different players that I’ve played against. But this center is young and smart. He’s not going to need much help from me. I’m probably going to need more help from him than he’s going to need from me.”
“I don’t think I’m teaching him anything. Really all I’m doing is helping facilitate the switching of terminology and things like that, and even at that, it’s not a whole lot,” Frederick said. “He obviously knows what he’s doing. He’s got the playbook and will have probably by (Thursday), have it all done. The things you learn from playing in the NFL for 10 years, I have no idea. But those are the things that I can learn from him, and I think those are harder to learn and they take more time and they take somebody that’s been through it all to help you if you want to get it faster than they got it or faster than it takes you 10 years down the road. I think the things that he’s teaching me are more important.”
Whether Frederick is helping Waters learn the system, or Waters is helping Frederick learn the ropes of being an NFL lineman, they’re going to lean on each other.
More importantly, they’re likely going to give this offensive line a possible edge that we haven’t seen around here in a while.
Now that would be quite a reality check.
IRVING, Texas – Several big names returned to practice Monday morning, while the Dallas Cowboys also began the process of cutting their roster down.
The team released defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton on Monday morning. It’s the only cut the team is expected to make Monday, which gives the Dallas Cowboys 12 more cuts to make in order to reach the NFL-mandated number of 75 by 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Pendleton made seven tackles during his preseason action. He played Saturday against Cincinnati, but he did not record any statistics.
While Pendleton left the roster, key defenders Morris Claiborne and Ernie Sims rejoined the team at Monday morning’s practice. Sims has been missing for several weeks with a groin injury, while Claiborne appears to be recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him in Oxnard, Calif.
Wide receiver Cole Beasley also returned to practice after injuring his foot during the Cowboys’ loss to Oakland on Aug. 9.
As if the Cowboys didn’t have enough problems at the guard position, starter Mackenzy Bernadeau missed practice with an ankle injury. Safety Danny McCray was also held out of practice with a hamstring injury, while defensive tackle Jason Hatcher missed with a minor groin injury.
2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys Bernadeau and Hatcher on bikes; Claiborne and Beasley return
Cornerback Morris Claiborne and receiver Cole Beasley returned to practice with the season opener 13 days away, but guard Mackenzy Bernadeau and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher stayed in as the Cowboys began the final week of preseason.
Claiborne’s final chance to play in the preseason is Thursday in the finale against the Houston Texans. He has not played in a game because of a “jammed” knee he suffered in training camp on Aug. 6. Beasley hurt an ankle in the preseason game against Oakland on Aug. 9.
Bernadeau, who played left guard Saturday against the Bengals, has an ankle injury. He and Hatcher rode the exercise bike as practice began Monday.
Guard Ronald Leary also did not make it out for the start of practice. Leary is recovering from knee surgery less than two weeks ago.
Also not out for the start of practice were linebacker Brandon Magee (concussion), safeties Matt Johnson, Eric Frampton and Danny McCray, defensive linemen Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff, running back Lance Dunbar and center Ryan Cook.
POSTGAME SCOUTING REPORT: Mackenzy Bernadeau, Tyron Smith, and rookie Travis Frederick were outstanding
Some thoughts from the radio booth at AT&T Stadium:
I am looking forward to getting back to Valley Ranch on Sunday and taking a look at this game film from Saturday night for a couple of different reasons. I am interested to see if Doug Free was better at guard in the game or did he struggle to the point that this experiment proved that he just needs to stay at right tackle.
I do know from my seat that Mackenzy Bernadeau and Tyron Smith were outstanding on the left side. There were plenty of plays where Smith, Bernadeau and rookie Travis Frederick did a great job of getting the down linemen for the Bengals turned at the point, which created lanes or cut them off so that the ball could work backside. Where this offensive line had success was in its ability to get hats on hats controlling the front. It was an impressive showing for the left side of the line, despite having just started working together on Monday. With this kind of play, it might be something these coaches would like to consider going forward, moving Ronald Leary to the right side.
As a whole, the offense was able to out-tough a defense that prides itself on being a physical one. Whether it was point-of-attack blocking by the line or the wide receivers on the edge, I really thought that they took the fight to the Bengals. These backs drove the ball hard front-side but when they saw the opportunity to cut it back, they made decisive cuts and finished the runs.
As the game wore on, in the broadcast booth, Brad Sham, Marc Colombo and I were wondering why DeMarco Murray was in the game in the second half after seeing action in the first. But what we learned from head coach Jason Garrett after the game was that Murray put the ball on the ground in the first quarter and he wanted to remind Murray how important it was for him to protect their ball. When Murray returned to the lineup, it was clear that Garrett’s message did not fall on deaf ears.
Garrett and this staff have run a tough camp. They have had physical practices and tonight their work paid off against a Bengals club that is not use to being knocked around the way they were.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout
OXNARD, Calif. – The Dallas Cowboys’ problems at the guard position have taken another hit.
Second-year pro Ron Leary is expected to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Friday, a procedure that will put his chances of playing the Sept. 8 opener against the Giants at AT&T Stadium in jeopardy.
Leary sat out of Wednesday’s walk-through practice in Oxnard, which put David Arkin running with the first-team again at left guard.
Leary had been working with the starters since he returned from a hamstring injury two weeks ago. Leary took every snap of the Aug. 5 game with the Dolphins in Canton, and also played into the second half against Oakland last week.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, the injury is to his right knee and not the left knee that scared off many teams from drafting Leary in 2012.
This injury further raises the question about the Cowboys’ interest in veteran Brian Waters. The club has reached out to the 36-year old veteran who hasn’t played since 2011. Waters, a five-time Pro Bowler apparently has interest in playing again, but doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to join a training camp.
The Cowboys tried to sign veteran Brandon Moore last week but the former New York Jet standout decided not to reunite with coach Bill Callahan and chose to stay retired.
Don’t forget about veteran Nate Livings, who also had a knee scope two weeks ago and has a shot to be ready by the start of the season.
For Saturday’s game in Arizona, the Cowboys are expected to start Arkin at left guard and Mackenzy Bernadeau on the right side.
OXNARD, Calif. – There’s vanilla.
And then there is Dallas Cowboys double-secret ultra-vanilla.
That’s exactly what we saw Friday night from that Cowboys offense in a 19-17 preseason game No. 2 loss to the Oakland Raiders.
Not surprising to say the least.
Generally, teams do not like to show much of anything they are planning new for the upcoming season in a mere preseason game, especially just the second of what will be five for the Cowboys this summer. And that’s doubly true when playing an opponent they will be facing at some time during the regular season.
So no way was head coach Jason Garrett going to give the Oakland Raiders any hint of what might be coming down the pipe during the 2013 season from this Cowboys offense, even if the two teams won’t meet until Thanksgiving Day at AT&T Stadium, Game 12 of the regular season. Not an entirely new offense, granted, but one with two tight ends becoming the base set and now Bill Callahan calling the plays.
And, of course, with quarterback Tony Romo having a little more say in game-planning and the implementation of some new plays he’s partial, too. Instead of the 11th-year veteran having to “draw those plays up in the dirt,” which he could have Friday night quite easily (since a good portion of the O’s field is consumed by the A’s infield).
There likely was some great anticipation on everyone’s part to see just how all this would work with the first-team offense making its 2013 preseason debut. The first-team offensive line was allowed to work during last Sunday’s Hall of Fame game. You know, Romo and Jason Witten and Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and DeMarco Murray and them finally out there playing together.
There would be Witten and James Hanna, maybe some Gavin Escobar and Dante Rosario, too, showcasing these two-tight sets we’ve been witnessing here during training camp practices. Then, too, some of these new pass plays that have become a staple of camp workouts. Oh boy.
Nothing. As vanilla as you can get.
Oh, the Cowboys ran some two-tight sets, but for the majority of the first-team offense’s two series (and even when Kyle Orton was in there running things behind the first offensive line with backups galore at running back and wide receiver). The Cowboys, of all things for everyone anticipating a hard-charging running attack, seemed to be in three-receiver sets more than anything.
They weren’t about to expose much of anything, and from my understanding only did so with a couple of plays just to help keep a couple of drives alive to create more reps for some of the younger guys. Secrets are secrets, and no sense putting too much on tape for the Giants to start going to school on at this early date.
In fact, for all those readily jumping to conclusions about this perceived “new” Cowboys offensive philosophy following that first preseason game in which they ran the ball 34 times and threw it only 21 – you know, see there that Bill Callahan, he’ll emphasize the run more – well, surprise, surprise, in this game against the Raiders the Cowboys ran the ball only 20 times and threw it around 32 times – the very reason no one should draw undeniable conclusions from these practice games.
Talk about holding the play-call sheet over your mouth to prevent lip reading.
But having said all this, the Cowboys still piled up 171 yards of total offense in the first half with Romo and Orton totaling three series, scoring on two of them and likely would have scored on all three if not for a blocked 26-yard field-goal attempt Mr. Automatic, Dan Bailey, surely would have made.
OK, can hear the grumbling in the background already. While that all might be true, you’re screaming, same ol’, same ol’ with the Cowboys offense, three penalties inside the Oakland 30 turned potential touchdown drives into field-goal attempts. The nerve of that Witten to get caught holding, or for potentially first-time starter Ronald Leary to false start and Hanna to do so also.
And as Garrett said afterward, bemoaning the penalties, the blocked field goal and the game-turning fumbled punt by rookie B.W. Webb, “We’ll continue to harp on that.”
But did you see, or you should have seen, the ease in which Romo hooked up with Bryant three times for 55 yards; with Austin on slants twice for 22 yards; Orton with Cole Beasley twice, the second for a 15-yard touchdown.
And guess what? Of the 32 attempts, only three times were tight ends targeted, and only one of those Witten. That ain’t going to happen, Witten targeted just once in a game. Please.
Just look at the first-half stats alone, a half the Cowboys had a 10-6 lead, for what that matters. Romo and Orton were a combined 12 of 14 for 140 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, one sack, finishing with a QB rating of 132.1. Bryant, Austin and Beasley finished the game combining for eight catches on eight targets, totaling 126 yards and the Beasley touchdown.
And for the most part Romo and Orton had the time of day in the pocket behind what most perceive as a worrisome offensive line. Hmmm, while the Cowboys are keeping their eyes open for fortuitous opportunities to enhance that crew, particularly at guard, maybe what you saw Friday night isn’t all that bad, from left to right Tyron Smith, Leary, Travis Frederick, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Doug Free. Especially since, unlike the other four, Bernadeau was playing for the first time after returning from injury.
Maybe their main problem up front is really who is playing behind these guys, especially at tackle since with Jermey Parnell injured (hamstring) and veteran Demetress Bell still trying to get in shape, there isn’t much to write home about. As Jones said after the game, making a move up front “would be determined by the opportunity” available, meaning he’s not necessarily desperate to sign just anybody at this moment.
Romo did get sacked once, but did you see how long he had in the pocket before everything collapsed? And he did have Austin wide open in the end zone, but explained later, on that particular play that Austin was his third read and by time he got there, Austin was covered and pocket time had expired.
“I don’t want to get away from here without talking about the offensive line,” Romo said. “There were a couple of times I had all day and we had a sack, an incompletion on those two plays, so that’s going to help us a lot if we’re able to do that.
“That’s different. I know what it’s like to play behind that, and having that ability like they did tonight would be a huge bonus for us.”
So with three more preseason games to play, another five training camp practices this week, resuming Sunday evening, there is time to clean things up while still playing peek-a-boo with play-calls and offensive intentions.
And oh, by the way, if now your concern is the ability to run the ball more efficiently, at the conclusion of the first half, when the first-team offensive line retired for the evening, the Cowboys had run the ball six times for 36 yards with Murray, Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner, a 6-yard average following last Sunday night’s 5-yard mark.
“It was good,” Romo said of what took place in the team’s first three offensive series. “We did what we’ve been doing in training camp and moved the ball real well. We were holding back on a lot of our stuff, red zone stuff and some other things. We would have liked to have scored a touchdown, but we got hurt by penalties more than anything, and that aspect of it is just going to hurt you no matter what.
“So we have to avoid that [and] stress that this week, and we’re going to make sure that stops.”
But probably not the double-scoops of vanilla approach.
Courtesy: Mickey Spagnola | Columnist
Editors comments: I don’t have a problem with being vanilla with the starters on their first few series this preseason. You come out and keep it simple … basic. The same philosophy deployed with this new 4-3 scheme, also applies to the offense this early in the year. The veterans might not need that as much, sure. But these new roster additions and young rookies do! The beauty of this offensive roster is that they can afford to come out and execute basic runs and passes. See if the opposing defenses can stop that first. With so many Cowboy players wielding star power, it’s a challenge for most defenses to handle them man-for-man. You sprinkle in wrinkles, after you get the basics down … ditch the butterflies, and execute these base plays with precision.
I believe the week-one emphasis (and success) of Dallas’ running attack (in the Hall of Fame game) showed coaches what they needed to see. However, if you think back, there was very little to see (or grade) in the passing game in week 1. The coaching staff needs to grade and develop these young offensive linemen in run and passing situations. I think that’s why we saw more pass (and consequently more pass blocking) in the second preseason game. Expect more balance going forward.
The Romo and Orton led drives were successful. The running game is still on pace. Kiffin’s starters have grasped his base defense … his rookies are coming along. Callahan’s starters are showing rust, but promise. Both of these games were more about weeding out the roster, than going for the kill. I do want to see Callahan/Garrett go for the throat once the regular season starts. They have the weapons to make a statement, and they should.
Friday night, Oakland played their starters longer, and did less with them. The Cowboys will host the Raiders later on … rest assured, we’ll see the full arsenal. Garrett is baking that vanilla cake first. He’ll add the icing later.
OXNARD, Calif. – The Dallas Cowboys are expected to add another veteran guard to the equation, possibly even reaching a deal within the next 24 hours.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked the question following Tuesday’s practice and didn’t deny getting some interior line help.
“We’re working, doing some things on the offensive line that I think will help our depth,” Jones said. “The main thing is just stay tuned. We’re trying to do some things there.”
The leading candidate could be veteran Brandon Moore, whom the team has been in discussions with on Tuesday. In fact, multiple reports have cited his agent, stating a one-year deal has been reached. However, as of Tuesday evening, Dallas Cowboys officials said a deal has not been finalized.
Moore played four seasons for Bill Callahan with the Jets from 2008-11 and made the Pro Bowl in Callahan’s last season in New York.
Moore was picked up by the Jets after going undrafted in 2002 and played with them for 10 years through the 2012 season. He’s played in 144 games and started all but two of them during that time.
There were reports Moore would retire after the 2012 season, but that’s apparently not the case. Moore, who hasn’t missed a game since the 2004 season, will provide depth to an interior line that’s struggled to remain healthy.
Other possible additions could be Brian Waters and Geoff Hangartner.
This news comes on the same day Mackenzy Bernadeau returned to full practice for the first time. He worked at right guard while Ron Leary continued to run with the first-team at the left side. Veteran starter Nate Livings had minor knee surgery last week and is expected to miss the next 2-3 weeks.
Jones said adding some experience to the line would be the ultimate reason for the move.
“That’s sure part of it. I think you have to recognize that you’ve got a younger, with Smith as well as potentially Parnell if he does get back, it’s younger. Bernadeau brings us some experience and so does Livings, but still, it does have to do with we’ve got a younger group there. But it will have more to do with the availability of the player that we bring in. If we bring in a veteran, it will be about him.”
RELATED: Brandon Moore, Dallas Cowboys agree on contract
NFL website reports …
The Dallas Cowboys made a big move in their search for guard help Tuesday, agreeing to a one-year contract with former New York Jet Brandon Moore, a source told NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.
Playing at close to a Pro Bowl level for the past half-decade, Moore was one of the few remaining free agents at any position capable of stepping in as an immediate upgrade. He drew interest from the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins early in free agency, but his reported $3 million to $4 million asking price apparently scared away those teams.
The 10-year veteran had made it clear he had no intention of retiring at age 33, and it’s understandable that he’d only come back and risk a serious injury if a team made it worth his while. Evidently, the Cowboys did.
With veteran guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau on the shelf with injuries, Dallas is the ideal fit for Moore.
COWBOYS 2013 INJURY UPDATE: Anthony Spencer surgery a success, should be ready for start of the season
Defensive end Anthony Spencer had successful surgery on his left knee today (Thursday), according to his agent Jordan Woy.
Spencer will be be sidelined about a month while recovering, likely keep him out the majority of the preseason. He should be ready for the start of the season.
The surgery was necessary after Spencer experienced discomfort in the knee during pre-camp conditioning tests on Saturday. It’s the same knee he hyper-extended during organized team activities in June. A magnetic resonance imaging exam confirmed a bone-bruise in Spencer’s left knee.
The Cowboys felt surgery was the best option and wanted to get this taken care of so it wouldn’t be a lingering issue during the season. Spencer will make $10.6 million after being designated as the team’s franchise player.
RELATED: Cowboys finally got some good news on the injury front
Starting left guard Nate Livings has been given the OK to practice and was removed Friday from the active non-football injury list. He’s expected to practice Friday afternoon after missing the start of camp with a foot problem.
Coach Jason Garrett said several other injured players could be back next week, including tight end James Hanna (hamstring), guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (hamstring) and guard Ron Leary (calf).
Backup right tackle Jermey Parnell (hamstring) probably need another week, Garrett said.
Garrett also said that defensive ends Anthony Spencer (knee) and Tyrone Crawford (Achilles tendon) had successful surgeries in Dallas. Spencer is expected back in camp sidelines this week, while Crawford will remain in Dallas.
HEALTHY AND MOTIVATED: Phil Costa and Mackenzy Bernadeau ready to compete for 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys roster spots
The Dallas Cowboys drafted a guy to take Phil Costa’s job at center. But that is not going to make him unfriendly toward him, Costa said.
“You don’t get anywhere by being a certain way as an older guy to a younger guy,” Costa said during the team’s annual golf tournament for sponsors. “You’ve got to treat everybody with respect and as a teammate, and especially a guy who’s in the O-line room. We take our group serious, and we’re a tight-knit group.”
Costa said he has met Travis Frederick, the Wisconsin center taken by the Cowboys with their first-round pick last month, and “he seems like a great guy.”
Costa said he remembers the way he was treated when he got to the Cowboys as an undrafted player in 2010.
“I was with Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode, Marc Colombo, and all those guys were good to me,” he said. “They taught me a lot, taught me how to be. And I appreciated that.”
Besides, Costa said, the competition will make him better.
“I came into the league, every day was a fight, and still every day is a fight,” he said. “I look at it, it’s a competition, a challenge. I think competition really brings out the best in everyone, which Coach has talked a lot about with our team.”
Costa said he is fully recovered from the broken ankle that ended his season last year in the Carolina game.
“It was supposed to be a four- to six-month recovery,” he said. “I was pretty much 100 percent right at the four-month mark, maybe a little before.”
He said he had doubts, naturally.
“I guess you never really know how an injury’s going to heal up,” he said. “Literally every day, I have the mentality, ‘Win the day,’ whether it’s with an injury or football. Just putting everything together to get 100 percent.”
RELATED: Mackenzy Bernadeau entering second year with Cowboys
Mackenzy Bernadeau (#73, right) did not exactly have a year to remember in 2012, the first year of his four-year, $11 million free agent deal with the Dallas Cowboys.
He was hurt in the offseason, got healthy in time to start all 16 games, but he was inconsistent – good some games, plain bad in others. At one point, offensive line coach Bill Callahan had to tell him directly his job was in danger.
But he ended the season with the Cowboys confident in him, and now he enters his second year with the Cowboys confident in himself and healthier.
“This offseason, obviously, it’s a lot better,” he said. “Just being able to be here now and not miss many things, being able to be in camp as early as possible, when we start getting going with the rest of the team, helps build that continuity with the guys on the line.”
Bernadeau said he had shoulder surgery in January for an injury that happened in the Cleveland game (Week 11). He said it didn’t excuse his poor play, but that he can feel the improvement since it has been repaired.
“It’s one of those things you can play with, but to be in the weight room and train the way you want to, you have to have it fixed,” he said.
Bernadeau said he and defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who had similar shoulder surgery, are doing many of the same treatments and rehab work together.
Bernadeau, who missed OTAs last year because of hip and knee injuries (which are fine now), said the team will still take it easy with him as OTAs begin next week.
“We’ll do it week by week, see how I feel,” he said. “We don’t want to have any setbacks. Might play it safe, depending on how I feel.”
The Dallas Cowboys are in talks with defensive end Anthony Spencer regarding a new contract.
Salary-cap space isn’t a problem now; currently the team has a little more than $5 million to play with. But previous contracts are the issue.
The Cowboys don’t want to get caught with another bad contract for a player that becomes average after he signs it.
Starting right tackle Doug Free signed a four-year, $32 million deal with $17 million guaranteed in 2011. After two seasons, Free moved from left tackle to right tackle and has struggled mightily. He had to share playing time with Jermey Parnell late last season, and his play eventually improved. But overall, Free has struggled. And while a source said recently his status with the Cowboys was “secure,” there are strong indications the Cowboys will ask him to take a pay cut. If Free declines, he most likely will be released.
After his breakout season when he took over for Roy Williams, wide receiver Miles Austin cashed in and signed a seven-year, $57.1 million contract extension with $18 million guaranteed.
The year he signed the contract, 2010, Austin picked up 1,041 receiving yards. He’s failed to reach that total since and has battled hamstring injuries each of the last two seasons and has been surpassed by Dez Bryant as the best receiver on the team. This is a critical season for Austin in terms of his health.
The Cowboys value Austin’s skills, but are frustrated by his inability to remain healthy over the course of the season. He also failed to catch a pass in both games against NFC East rival the Washington Redskins last season.
Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau signed a modest four-year, $11 million free agent contract last season with the Cowboys. He’s undergone three surgeries since signing the deal. Bernadeau filled a need and the Cowboys got younger at the position. And while his contract isn’t as bad, the team might have been able to do more with that $11 million.
Looking at these contracts, you could make the argument that the Cowboys made mistakes in giving them. At the same time, Free and Austin were coming off good seasons the year they received them but have been inconsistent since.
When the team moves forward with Spencer, the goal is figure out if that career-high 11 sack season was the sign of things to come or just a man playing well in a contract year.
The Cowboys’ hopes of improving on the offensive line took a step recently when guard Mackenzy Bernadeau underwent surgery on his right shoulder (in January).
It’s the third surgery for Bernadeau since joining the Cowboys last year with a four-year, $11 million contract in free agency. Injuries caused him to struggle in 2012 and the Cowboys hoped a healthy offseason would lead to improved play in 2013.
The Cowboys are still hopeful that will be the case as Jones believes Bernadeau will be able to do something by the start of training camp in July if not by organized team activities in May or minicamp in June.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a need for him to overdue it during OTAs,” Jones said. “But I think he’ll be ready when we’re all ready to hit. “I don’t think he’s going to be set back. I think we’ll get the full camp out of it. I think we’ll be able to get work out of him in minicamp, planning to.”
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.
Rookie Darrion Weems signed his contract in the locker room Wednesday afternoon. He then began the process of getting to know his new teammates.
The Cowboys have had a lot of new faces lately. Center Phil Costa became the 10th player the Cowboys have placed on season-ending injured reserve this season. Six of those players, including Costa, are starters. (Rookie safety Matt Johnson is the player the team designated as returnable injured reserve.)
Costa partially dislocated his ankle against Carolina on Oct. 21 and has missed the six games since. He played in only three games this season — 120 total plays — after injuring his back in the first series of the season against the Giants and missing the next three games.
In Costa’s absence, Dallas has started two other centers, Ryan Cook and Mackenzy Bernadeau.
Weems was signed off Denver’s practice squad. He now is with his fifth team since signing first with the Vikings this summer as a rookie free agent out of the University of Oregon. He also had short stints in New England and Indianapolis.
Weems started 22 of 41 college games, including all 14 at left tackle as a senior.
Despite his late start to joining the Cowboys, Weems said he isn’t looking at this as an audition for 2013.
"It’s now," Weems said. "It’s about now. I’m here now and work hard now and do what they tell me to do now."
The Cowboys were forced to make a move to their practice squad Wednesday. The Raiders signed running back Jamize Olawale off the Cowboys’ practice squad. Dallas replaced Olawale with tight end Chase Ford, a rookie who briefly was on the Eagles’ practice squad.
RELATED: Cowboys waited on Costa because he ‘really improved’ this year and might have still helped
The Cowboys gave center Phil Costa a chance to come back from the dislocated ankle he suffered at Carolina six weeks ago because in the limited time he had been healthy this year, he had played well.
But this week, they finally put him on injured reserve.
“We feel like he could have provided some presence for us toward the end of the year,” coach Jason Garrett said Thursday at Valley Ranch. “But when you start counting, how many weeks until we think he’s back and how many weeks left in the season, you kind of do that math. We made that decision.
“He did some real good things in the limited time he played this year. Just has to get that thing better and get ready for 2013.”
Costa played in only three games, but he finished only one. He played only the first three snaps of the season opener at the Giants before leaving with a back injury, the full game at Baltimore on Oct. 14 and then the first half of the game at Carolina the next week, when he was hurt in the second quarter.
“We were all very hopeful,” Garrett said. “He hasn’t played a lot of football for us this year. He missed a lot of training camp. But when he did come back, he played well. He really improved from last year.”
Tony Romo knows what matters the most when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys. So while it’s nice to break Troy Aikman’s franchise record for career touchdown passes, he’s focused on getting his team to the playoffs.
Romo threw three second-half touchdown passes to answer a strong game by Philadelphia’s rookie duo of Bryce Brown and Nick Foles, and the Cowboys sent the Eagles to their eighth straight loss with a 38-33 victory Sunday night.
The first two scoring tosses from Romo erased seven-point deficits, including a 23-yarder to Dez Bryant that was vintage Romo and broke Aikman’s career mark of 165 TD passes. Romo scrambled to his right and threw back across the field to Bryant, who weaved through the Philadelphia defense to tie it at 17 in the third quarter.
Romo tied it again at 24 on a throw to Miles Austin, and had one more answer after Brown and Foles led the Eagles to a go-ahead field goal. He threw deep to Bryant for 35 yards on third down, and Bryant found his way into the end zone again by taking a screen pass 6 yards just inside the pylon for a 31-27 lead with 5:40 remaining in the game.
”It’s about winning games,” said Romo, who was 10 of 10 in the second half and completed his last 12 passes. ”We desperately had to have this win tonight, and our team fought like heck to get a win.”
The Eagles’ slide continued despite 169 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Brown a week after he set a team rookie record with 178 yards on the ground.
After Romo’s go-ahead touchdown pass, Dallas went up by 11 when Morris Claiborne returned a fumble by Brown 50 yards for a touchdown.
IRVING, Texas – The Browns took down quarterback Tony Romo seven times Sunday after averaging just 2.2 sacks per game entering Cowboys Stadium. They would have finished with eight sacks had defensive back Sheldon Brown not been penalized for illegal contact in the first quarter.
Every sack that counted occurred after left tackle Tyron Smith left the game with an ankle injury, which could keep him out for an extended period of time. Unless Kevin Kowalski works in at center or one of the centers can return from injury to allow Mackenzy Bernadeau to shift back to guard, this is the likely starting group again Thursday against the Redskins.
Eight different Browns players recorded at least half a sack, and none of those players had more than two sacks on the season at the time. Romo still threw for 313 yards despite, not because of, the amount of time he had to throw.
With the Cowboys’ offensive line in a state of flux, it would be easy to simply blame the entire group for the constant pressure from the Browns’ defensive line and linebackers.
But that’s not the reality. Every play, only one or two players missed their assignments.
There were a few trends in the sacks. Four of them occurred in the second half or overtime, when Romo threw the majority of his passes. Five of them occurred in shotgun formation. They weren’t always the fault of the backups, though rarely could guard Nate Livings be pinpointed as the problem.
Both tackles struggled and Doug Free was partially responsible for four of the seven sacks, but no one lineman can shoulder the entire blame. Sometimes, the sacks weren’t on the offensive line at all.
Here’s a breakdown of the seven sacks on Romo:
First sack (9:53 left in second quarter):
On a third-and-12, Romo sets up in shotgun with Jason Witten and Lawrence Vickers to either side of him. Romo sends Kevin Ogletree in motion and the receivers all go deep. They’re all 30 yards downfield before any of them get open. Backup tackle Jermey Parnell gets burned inside by Juqua Parker and doesn’t get any help in the backfield, as Witten and Vickers both ran routes. Romo could have dumped it off to Vickers to avoid the four-man rush, but he didn’t have much time to think before Parker hits him.
Second Sack (5:07 left in second quarter)
It’s the first offensive play since allowing the sack on the previous drive, and again the only routes run fewer than 10 yards were by Vickers and Witten, who were both covered. Dez Bryant ran a deep in, Miles Austin ran a go route and neither of them were open. Defensive end Jabaal Sheard got outside of tackle Doug Free, forcing Romo to move up in the pocket. John Hughes worked around Bernadeau and right guard Derrick Dockery was too late to help. Even if the receivers did get open, Romo wouldn’t have had time to deliver a pass before Hughes got to him.
Third Sack (1:51 left in second quarter)
Later on the same drive, the Cowboys faced a crucial third-and-10 while trailing by 13 points at the Browns’ 41-yard line. In a three-receiver set, Romo took the shotgun snap with Witten and Lance Dunbar to either side of him. Everyone got their blocks except for Free, who Sheard went right around. No receiver got open and Romo was hit before he could even begin his escape attempt. The Cowboys had to punt after driving 32 yards.
Fourth Sack (6:08 left in third quarter)
The Cowboys put themselves in prime position for their first score with a second-and-6 on the Browns’ 19 yard-line. The play was busted from the get go as running back Felix Jones moved left and Romo faked right on what appeared to be a play action pass. Jones couldn’t get over to his right to help in blitz pick up against incoming linebacker Kaluka Maiava and safety Usama Young. Free was also slow to get to Maiava near the line of scrimmage. Romo had some choice words for Jones afterward, as the Cowboys were forced into a third-and-long. Parnell was called for holding on the next play, and the drive resulted in a field goal.
Fifth Sack (7:21 left in fourth quarter)
The sack occurred immediately before Bryant’s go-ahead touchdown reception, and again, it happened at the Browns’ 19-yard line. Romo looks to his left in the shotgun with three receivers on the outside. Had the throw been there, the protection was good enough initially to get a pass off. After his pump fake, he was toast. Free’s man got free inside, forcing Dockery to help. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, the lineman Dockery was blocking initially, went right around Free, who stayed on his man. Rubin then took down Romo on a wide open shot, though the Cowboys salvaged the drive shortly after.
Sixth sack (5:10 left in fourth quarter)
This was the sack most people will remember, causing the Cowboys’ lone turnover of the day on Romo’s fumble.
On a first-and-20 on the Browns’ 28-yard line, Austin got inside his defender down the middle of the field, while Bryant beat his man on a go route by about two or three yards. By the time any of those routes opened up, Romo was in the process of being sacked and stripped.
Seven Browns defenders stayed near the line of scrimmage, matched by seven Cowboys blockers. Parnell didn’t block anyone on the play. Livings stayed with defensive tackle Billy Wynn, while Parnell let defensive end Frostee Rucker move inside untouched on a stunt. Bernadeau was ready for such a move, but he let Rucker go straight by him. Rucker forced the fumble on Romo, allowing linebacker Craig Robertson to corral the football.
Seventh sack (13:53 left in OT)
Nobody was within 10 yards of Witten down the middle of the field on a first-and-10 pass at the Dallas 40-yard line. Romo could have hit the tight end to get near field goal range had he had a split second longer, but the Browns beat Free on the blitz for the sack. Sheard, the defensive end on Free’s side, crashed inside on the play and was picked up by Dockery. The blitzing linebacker, Robertson, then blew past Free on the inside to get to Romo.
These sacks don’t include Robertson’s takedown of Romo in the first quarter after Jones failed to pick up the blitz, as Brown was called for illegal contact on the play.
In addition to Free’s troubles, Dockery and Parnell each had their share of issues in their first extended look of the year and Jones was shaky on a couple blitz pickups. The same crew of linemen will most likely face Washington on Thursday.
The Redskins aren’t one of the best teams in the league at reaching the quarterback, but then again, neither were the Browns. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan might be the busiest man in Dallas with a short week and limited time to figure out what to do to ensure Romo won’t be gobbled up on Thanksgiving Day.
The Dallas Cowboys have activated center Kevin Kowalski. To make room for him on the roster, they moved safety Matt Johnson to injured reserve.
Kowalski underwent surgery for severe tendinitis in his ankle and was placed on the physically unable to perform list to open the season. He returned to practice only last week.
The move is a strong indication that the club does not believe starting center Ryan Cook, who has a hyperextended knee, will be able to play in Sunday’s game against Cleveland. Mackenzy Bernadeau will slide over to start at center while veteran Derrick Dockery will assume Bernadeau’s job at right guard.
Kowalski will likely be active for the game as a backup center, since it’s clear the club has no faith in reserve guard/center David Arkin.
Johnson had been carried on the active roster the entire season even though a series of hamstring injuries meant he never played in a regular season game and rarely practiced. This move means he can now focus on getting ready for the 2013 season.
At times this season, the Cowboys’ pass protection has been suspect and the run-blocking has been subpar. Most point to the interior of the Cowboys’ offensive line as the source of the problems. The center position has been destabilized with starter Phil Costa suffering multiple injuries and backup Ryan Cook getting hurt as well. The guard spots, occupied by free-agent acquisitions Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, are also viewed as weak areas.
Will the Cowboys be on the lookout for interior line prospects in the upcoming draft? That seems to be a certainty.
Here are three players they may target.
Chance Warmack, Alabama; Head coach Jason Garrett has close ties to Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and the 6-3, 320-pound Warmack (jersey number 65 above photo) has distinguished himself on one of the country’s best offensive lines. This season, the left guard has been named SEC offensive lineman of the week twice. Alabama plays Western Carolina on Saturday at 11:21 a.m.
Cyril Richardson; Baylor; In the preseason, the 6-5, 335-pound fourth-year junior from Fort Worth was named as one of the contenders for the Lombardi and Outland Trophies. Richardson, whom Kansas coach Charlie Weis described as “by far” Baylor’s best offensive lineman, has a bit of a nasty streak. The left guard got ejected from a game against Iowa State earlier this year. Baylor faces Kansas State at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Barrett Jones; Alabama; The 2011 Outland Trophy winner, the 6-5, 302-pound senior is about as accomplished a lineman as there is in the college game. He’s also extremely versatile. After playing right guard and left tackle he is now Alabama’s center. That Jones has shown the ability to play all of these positions is not surprising. He graduated in August with an accounting degree and a 4.0 grade point average. Based on his track record, this is the kind of player head coach Jason Garrett covets. Alabama plays Western Carolina on Saturday at 11:21 a.m.