IRVING, Texas – The bye week typically is a time for a few tweaks and changes, especially after a tough loss like the Cowboys had Monday night against the Bears, falling to 2-2.
Expect a few roster alterations to either the 53-man roster and/or the practice squad before the Oct. 14 game in Baltimore.
The Cowboys made on Tuesday, waiving cornerback LeQuan Lewis from the roster, dropping the roster down to 52 players. Obviously, the move was made to add another player although the Cowboys didn’t officially announce a roster addition. The Cowboys might use it to bring back safety Mana Silva, who was released a week ago.
Lewis, who was added from the Jets’ practice squad two weeks ago, played in the last two games, mostly on special teams. He was forced into action near the end of the Tampa Bay game on Sept. 23, playing cornerback in nickel situations as the Bucs were throwing into the end zone to try and claw back into the game.
The speedster was the gunner on the punt team and one of the middle players on the kickoff coverage units as well. Brought in three weeks ago as they were getting ready to face Seattle’s return ace, Leon Washington. Monday night, they got past Chicago’s Devin Hester.
Lewis had one tackle and one pass defensed in the regular defense.
ARLINGTON, Texas — The offense still has issues. The offensive line is shoddy. The starting safeties are hurt. But it doesn’t matter because the Cowboys won Sunday afternoon, beating Tampa Bay 16-10 in the home opener at Cowboys Stadium.
Tony Romo was beaten up by the Tampa Bay pass rush, but two key fourth-quarter plays, a 45-yard punt return by Dez Bryant and a late sack by DeMarcus Ware on a third-and-4, sealed the game.
Still, the Cowboys (2-1) have to perform much better if they’re expected to compete at an elite level.
What it means: After the Cowboys knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the opener, they put up a stinker in Seattle. Now, they fooled around with Tampa Bay for four quarters and survived. This tells us the Cowboys, as we said last week, are not ready to move up to an elite level in this league. Yes, they won the game, but I can’t believe the Cowboys can beat elite teams playing like this.
Witten’s bad day: Jason Witten dropped three passes Sunday. He’s got an NFL-high six drops on the season, and he was penalized twice for false starts. When his day ended, the Cowboys’ tight end finished with just two catches for 8 yards. This is one of the worst stretches for Witten since the 2008 season. During a five-game stretch that season, he had four catches for 53 yards and no touchdowns. This season, Witten has just eight catches for 76 yards and no touchdowns. He hasn’t scored since Nov. 20, 2011, at Washington. Is this the beginning of the end for Witten? He is coming off a spleen injury that didn’t cost him any regular-season games, and he said on Friday he’s healthy.
Church injured: The Cowboys lost safety Barry Church to a right leg injury that appeared serious. Church suffered the injury with 7:31 to play in the third quarter, and he was replaced by Mana Silva. Several Cowboys players were tapping Church on the shoulder pads and offering him words of encouragement after he went out. Miles Austin also suffered an injury (ribs), but he returned and ended the day with five catches for 107 yards. Left guard Nate Livings left with a hand injury in the first quarter but returned and didn’t have any more issues. With Church out, the Cowboys were left without their starting safeties. Gerald Sensabaugh didn’t play because of a calf injury.
False start penalties: The Cowboys were riddled with false start penalties. Right tackle Doug Free was flagged three times and Witten twice. Left tackle Tyron Smith was also called for one. The false start penalties could be attributed to center Ryan Cook and the cadence with Romo or a lack of concentration.
Austin outplays Jackson: The two big-play threats from a receiving standpoint, Austin and Vincent Jackson, had opposing performances. Austin finished with five catches for 107 yards, his 12th 100-yard receiving game of his career. Jackson, the deep-play threat for Tampa Bay, had one catch for 29 yards, that one coming in the fourth quarter.
What’s next? The banged-up Cowboys will face the Chicago Bears on "Monday Night Football." Among the missing starters: nose tackle Jay Ratliff (ankle), center Phil Costa (back), Sensabaugh (calf) and Church (right leg).
RELATED: Safety Shuffle – Barry Church out with right leg injury
Barry Church left with 7:31 left in the third quarter after injuring his right leg on a play in which there was no contact. He went to the ground as he was accelerating toward the line of scrimmage and limped off the field after getting examined by the medical staff.
Gerald Sensabaugh, the other starter, didn’t play because of a right calf strain. Danny McCray started in his place.
Church did not finish last week’s game at Seattle because of a quadriceps bruise.
Mana Silva replaced Church and was called for a pass interference penalty on his second snap. The Cowboys don’t have any other active safeties after cutting Mario Butler to make room for linebacker Orie Lemon.
Jason Garrett answers questions from the Dallas media about the Dallas Cowboys 27-7 loss in Seattle on Sunday afternoon. The topics below, and others, were addressed.
Felix Jones won’t be benched, but Jason Garrett considering alternatives
IRVING — Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the fumble on the opening kickoff return against Seattle is the type of play that makes him consider other options.
Felix Jones lost the ball, and the Seahawks recovered and kicked a field goal as they built a 10-0 lead five minutes into the game.
"When you make a play like that, you look hard again at that and what the alternatives are," Garrett said Monday at Valley Ranch.
"… We have a few different guys working at that, and we’ll evaluate that again this week."
Jones averaged 21.8 yards on five returns against Seattle, but he started two returns deep in the end zone and got past the 20-yard line only once. He has been the only returner this season. Dwayne Harris and Phillip Tanner are also back to return on kickoffs.
Garrett said Jones’ explosiveness hasn’t shown, perhaps because he missed the off-season with a shoulder injury, but that ball security is most important.
"We have to improve in that area obviously, and then hopefully we’ll continue to improve, both our returner and how we’re blocking things to get him better opportunities," Garrett said.
There was no thought about benching Jones.
"He was going to go back out there the next time, and we had to make sure that he was ready to go. And he returned the ball better as he got more opportunities in the game and certainly protected it better," Garrett said. "But I think the situations vary. Sometimes you say, ‘Hey, you’ve had enough opportunities, let’s put the next guy in,’ and other times you believe in the guy because of his body of work and you give him another chance to do it."
The Cowboys might have to start backups Danny McCray and Mana Silva at safety against Tampa Bay, and they could use cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Mario Butler for extra help.
Starters Barry Church (thigh bruise) and Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) are questionable after getting hurt against Seattle, although Church said he will be able to play Sunday.
"He doesn’t have a lot of experience playing true safety, but he is a good athlete and he’s got a good instinct and feel for playing the game," Jason Garrett said of Jenkins. "We will have to make that evaluation and see how he stacks up against the other guys in normal down-and-distance situations as well as the third-down coverage situation."
Dez Bryant was inconsistent getting free against Seattle’s physical press coverage, Jason Garrett said.
"I thought at times he did a good job. Other times, he didn’t win on enough routes," Garrett said. "But that’s what good press corners do to you. You have to keep fighting and keep battling. Typically, what happens is the game feels a little uncomfortable to you when you play a style of defense like that."
Bryant was limited to three catches for 17 yards. He has seven catches for 102 yards this season, no touchdowns and two drops.
Jason Garrett said it’s difficult to defend a player who has been hit hard like Sean Lee was against Seattle but stay within the rules.
"It’s a tricky situation," he said. "You want to have each other’s backs, but you also have to have poise and composure. It’s really important for us to understand how to handle ourselves at the end of a down after a play like that because you don’t want to compound the mistake. You don’t want to add another 15-yard penalty to that. It’s a tricky situation."
Kenyon Coleman left the facility on crutches with his knee wrapped. Jason Garrett said the defensive end suffered a hyperextension.
Garrett said it was a technique error that led to the punt block. "It was not a real complicated look. We just got beat on the edge," he said.
Courtesy: Carlos Mendez | Ft Worth Star-Telegram
Every year is the same it seems. We go into this final preseason game with a handful of players right there on the verge of making the team.
It’s always around the same number of players, with only the names changing, this year’s group including the likes of Hamilton, Coale, Lemon, Bass, Dunbar and Olawale. Oh, there were a few more, but those were the main guys.
But this year, the differences include more than just a few name changes.
Because as soon as the final seconds ticked off the clock in Wednesday’s 30-13 win over the Dolphins, the regular season was upon us. Just like that, it’s on.
No longer do the Cowboys have about 10 days to get ready. With the Wednesday night game on Sept. 5, the team only has a full seven days before they face the defending champs.
And it certainly doesn’t help that the Cowboys are dealing with injuries to key players such as Jason Witten, Jay Ratliff and Miles Austin. Throw in Dez Bryant, Mike Jenkins and Danny McCray, and that puts quite a strain on the Cowboys trying to trim the roster down to 53 by Friday, at the same time they’re getting ready for a real game week.
Because of that, those injuries might have popped a few bubbles in the process.
We’ll see on Friday, but with the Giants game right around the corner, it might be too soon for some of these guys, particularly Witten and Ratliff. The Cowboys certainly won’t rule out either player. In fact, doctors checked out Witten’s lacerated spleen injury on Tuesday and it appears it will be a game-time decision on next Wednesday.
As for Ratliff, who has a high ankle sprain and was still on crutches as of Tuesday, it’ll also likely go up until kickoff before the Cowboys figure out his status.
In the meantime, the team has to prepare for the worst. In doing so, you must go long at those positions.
We could see Josh Brent and Robert Calloway make this team, at least for Week 1.
At tight end, either the Cowboys go and claim a player who gets cut, sign a veteran tight end or maybe keep Andrew Sczcerba around. Perhaps fullback Shaun Chapas makes it, mainly for his special teams ability.
Either way, moves like that knock off luxury keeps. By that, I mean keeping players who aren’t really ready to play just yet, but possess a certain quality. Guys like Ben Bass who plays with a high-motor on the defensive line, or Adrian Hamilton, who hasn’t figured out the 3-4 defense and/or special teams just yet, but he can rush the passer. Those guys are hurt by these injuries.
At running back, a guy like Lance Dunbar might have made the team in the past – solely because of that dazzling 58-yard run. Who knows, maybe he still does. A play like that will get noticed around the league and getting a player like that through waivers will be tough. Still, that’s one of those “luxury keeps” that might not happen because you’ll have a hard time getting him active each week. Personally, after that run, I think I’d make an exception. He’s got some wiggle to him and might be a decent kickoff returner, too.
The Cowboys like Andre Holmes and Danny Coale, who would be the sixth and seventh receivers. They’ll probably like a receiver or two that gets cut over the next few days. But they won’t keep eight and probably not even seven. They’d like to go long at receiver, especially if it means hanging onto Coale, a fifth-round pick who has been injured most of the offseason.
Now if Austin and Bryant were bigger question marks to play, it’d be a different story. However, it seems like both players have been held out of action just to be ready for the Giants. Bryant and Austin will start, and it looks like Harris and Ogletree will be next, with possibly Cole Beasley or maybe Holmes going to the game as a special teamer.
Then you go to the secondary. Mike Jenkins is not going to Florida after all to get an update on his shoulder. He passed his physical on Wednesday and will come off PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) to practice as early as Saturday.
Still, you wonder how quickly he can get back into the mix. Yes, he’s a veteran and yes he knows the Giants and yes he plays a cornerback position that doesn’t always need the strongest continuity with his teammates. But football shape is a different thing. I still have hard time thinking Jenkins can get back to Dallas and start practicing Saturday and Sunday and be ready to play. It’s certainly a possibility, but if you remember last year’s game in New York against the Jets, Jenkins also battled a stinger/shoulder injury all preseason but played in the game. He went in and out about four times, battling all sorts of injuries.
The Cowboys likely have to go long at cornerback, not only on the roster, but the 46-man game-day roster as well. Expect Mario Butler to be active either way.
At safety, Matt Johnson (hamstring) will likely make the team although he’s barely played. McCray will obviously make it because he’s the special teams ace, but he’s battling a shoulder/stinger injury. So Mana Silva probably makes this team to start the season – and who knows, maybe he’ll stick around. He’s played pretty well this preseason. He’s a solid tackler and good on special teams. But still, that’s five safeties to keep.
This probably happens every year – injuries that cloud roster decisions. But it’s different when the guys injured are Pro Bowlers like Witten, Ratliff, Jenkins and Austin, who says he will play, but you probably have to make sure there is plenty of backup because of the nature of the injury and his history with hamstrings.
We’ll find it all out on Friday. But with so many guys playing for roster spots Wednesday night, it’s unfortunate for them that their fate was probably already sealed with a few of these preexisting injuries.
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.
At the end of the last season, the Dallas Cowboys were looking for anyone to help and provide some depth on defense and special teams.
Mana Silva was able to do that last year, but despite spending the final month of the regular season with the Cowboys, he wasn’t exactly a favorite to claim another roster spot this year.
The Cowboys signed a veteran in Brodney Pool and drafted Matt Johnson in the fourth round. Barry Church was pegged to compete for a spot and Danny McCray’s roster spot seems rather solid as he continues to be the best special teams player on the team.
But as the Cowboys sit just nine days from the season opener, Silva’s chances of making the team seem better than ever.
The safety position shuffled around because of injuries to both Johnson and now McCray. And more importantly, Silva is taking advantage of those opportunities, with three solid performances in the first three preseason games.
But as the Cowboys enter Wednesday’s preseason finale against the Dolphins, Silva knows he will be playing a lot on both defense and special teams. He also knows it’s his final chance of the preseason to shine. But he promises his mindset won’t change.
“I’m just focused on what I’ve done from the first day,” Silva said. “I just go as hard as I can every play. I’ve done that and now I just let the chips fall as they may.”
While Church and Gerald Sensabaugh seem to have the starting spots locked up, Johnson figured to be a solid No. 3 safety with McCray also contributing on defense, along with his special teams “ace” role. But Johnson once again suffered a hamstring injury, an injury that kept him out for most of camp.
And McCray sustained a neck injury that might keep him out of action for a few days.
So once again, it opens the door for Silva, who made a game-clinching interception in the first preseason game against Oakland. The former University of Hawaii standout has also been praised by his coaches for his all-out effort on defense and special teams.
“Yeah I just try to go as fast as I can on every play and just try to make a play,” said Silva, who admits this year has been more comfortable as he finally has a full offseason. “Last year was tough with the lockout. But I’ve been able to pick up the system more this summer and it’s helped me be more comfortable in what I’m doing. Now I just want to keep playing and try to make this team.”
Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) is on the ground after being injured in the first half.
IRVING, Texas — Sammy Morris is officially a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Morris, 34, played 11 years in Buffalo, Miami and New England but has not played this year after getting cut by the Patriots in training camp. He had a workout with Kansas City this season.
"I hadn’t heard anything for a while so I assumed that I’m going to ride into the sunset," Morris said. "So I got the phone call. … I all but said I was done in my mind, but it didn’t turn out that way."
To make room for Morris, the ex-Texas Tech running back, the Cowboys placed rookie running back DeMarco Murray on injured reserve because of an ankle injury suffered Sunday against the New York Giants that requires surgery.
With Felix Jones as the only healthy tailback on the roster, the Cowboys needed Morris. He has rushed for 2,955 yards in his career but could move into a third-down role to help spell Jones, who had 106 yards on the ground and six catches for 31 yards against the Giants.
"He’s certainly the right kind of guy in the role that he’s had in his career," coach Jason Garrett said of Morris. "He’s done it as well as anybody."
Addressing another injury, the Cowboys also signed safety Mana Silva off Buffalo’s practice squad since Barry Church is heading to injured reserve because of a shoulder injury that will require surgery.
Silva, 6-foot, 206 pounds, went to training camp with Baltimore as an undrafted free agent out of Hawaii and spent part of the season on the Ravens’ practice squad. He had seven tackles in the preseason. At Hawaii, he intercepted 14 passes.
The Cowboys needed to sign Silva after Church’s right shoulder popped out twice in Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants. Church was replaced by Danny McCray, who did not practice last week because of a high left ankle sprain.
Center Phil Costa, who suffered a concussion in Sunday’s game against the Giants, did not take part in Tuesday’s walkthrough practice. While owner Jerry Jones expressed optimism that Costa would be able to play vs. the Bucs, the second-year center has to pass a series of mandated tests before being allowed to practice.
If Costa can’t play, undrafted rookie Kevin Kowalski will start.