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.
As we sit just a few short days from the opening of training camp in Oxnard, on top of the depth chart for the safety position are the names of Barry Church and the veteran Will Allen. The names that are below those of Danny McCray, Matt Johnson, J.J. Wilcox and Jakar Hamilton.
It’s not a group at this point that would make you forget the names of the greats that have played here before but it’s a group that has a great deal of potential.
This coaching staff has the upmost respect for Allen and his body of work through the years which is why you see him a top this depth chart. I studied Allen myself in games last season for the Steelers when he made some injury starts against Cowboys’ division foes, New York, Philadelphia and Washington and he was more than solid. His play was steady and sure. Where Allen has an advantage over the others is in his experience which is a nice trait to have.
Over the past season, despite the fact that he was dealing with an injury, I still had a great deal of faith in Matt Johnson and what he could bring to this squad and I still believe that but the player that has drawn my most interest, is J.J. Wilcox.
When I first observed him on tape at Georgia Southern, I was shocked that he had only played the position for one season. He didn’t play like a small college player. You could see in his awareness and passion for the position and that he was a natural. When you watched him play, you saw a player that loves the game. A player that was not afraid or scared to mix it up when called on.
Where there were some concerns in my view was how much coverage that he actually played and would his movement skills translate in order to function in this scheme. There are times where the safety is asked to take the middle of the field and react to the sideline to help the corner.
In OTA’s and minicamp practices, you could see that he understood his responsibilities. He was capable of playing with range. One of the first things you notice about his game, is that he is always around the football run or pass. There were times in the practices where he was playing in the short middle of the field and he was able to read and adjust to the routes not only to knock balls down but secure interceptions as well.
Wilcox doesn’t play like a guy that lacks experience for the position. I can only recall one time in the several practices where Jerome Henderson had to correct him on the angle that he took to the ball. With Wilcox, you didn’t see the mental busts and mistakes or confusion that goes with a rookie safety. The mental side of the game is where I thought he might struggle the most because when they put on the pads that will not be an issue at all. He is more than willing to light up a ball carrier when given the opportunity.
I thought it was an outstanding move by this front office to go out and try to protect itself by signing Will Allen but there are some talented players behind him which is a good thing depth wise but the one that might be the most talented is J.J. Wilcox. I do not see J.J. Wilcox waiting around to play in this defense. He has already picked up things very easily that I thought he would have struggled with and that is a positive sign.
It is right that the coaches have put Allen in the spot that he is on the depth chart because of his experience but the more that we see Wilcox practice and the more opportunities that he gets, it will be harder for these coaches not to line him up next to Barry Church much more sooner than later.
Jerry Jones discussed his confidence in the safeties on the Dallas Cowboys’ roster during last week’s conference call with season-ticket holders.
“I think we’re in good shape at safety,” Jones said.
Yes, Jones is well aware that the projected starting safeties have a combined four NFL starts. Those are all by Barry Church, who was thought highly enough of at Valley Ranch to receive a four-year, $9 million deal (plus $3.4 million in incentives).
The team also has Matt Johnson, who missed all of his rookie season due to hamstring problems and other injuries.
“I don’t know when I’ve ever seen a player impress our staff without having played in a ballgame any more than Matt Johnson,” Jones stated.
The Cowboys’ other alternatives at safety: third-round pick J.J. Wilcox; nine-year veteran Will Allen; and three-year vet Danny McCray.
“I think we’ve really given ourselves a lot of potential,” Jones said. “The coaches told me (with) the scheme, ‘Don’t worry as much about range.’ I said, ‘What? Don’t worry as much about range?’
“(Kiffin) said, ‘No, our scheme gives them the angles. It gives them the angles. Get us somebody that is young. Don’t worry as much about experience as you have in the past. Get us some young players with instincts and let us go from there with them.’”
Believe it or not, that actually passes the smell test, given Kiffin’s Tampa Bay track record.
When Kiffin arrived in Tampa in 1996, the Bucs had precious little experience at safety. Their strong safety had six starts in the previous three seasons of his NFL career. Their free safety started three games as a rookie the previous year.
John Lynch, a third-round pick in 1993, ended up establishing himself as one of the elite strong safeties in NFL history, playing in nine Pro Bowls. The Bucs filled free safety with a handful of mid-round picks and low-priced free agents during Lynch’s Tampa Bay tenure, finishing top 10 in both major defensive categories every year but Lynch’s first full season as a starter, when they were 11th in yards allowed.
Kiffin’s history of making the most out of medium-level investments at safety offers no guarantees, of course. It does, however, provide legitimate proof for those inside Valley Ranch who insist that there’s no need to panic about the Cowboys’ safety situation.
2012 NFL Draft Prospect Scouting Report:
Eastern Washington safety Matt Johnson was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the No. 135 overall pick in the fourth round. His senior season ended abruptly after sustaining a biceps injury. Johnson isn’t likely to start in his rookie season but he will compete for a role on the team. The Cowboys had their eye on Mark Barron and athletically, Johnson is comparable on paper.
Johnson ran a 4.54 40 yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 18 times at his pro day. That is quite a performance for a defensive back. Johnson is quick to diagnose plays and reacts well instinctively. He plays physical to the whistle and wraps up cleanly. He’s at his best playing downhill which likely limits him to the strong safety position.
When in man to man coverage, he lacks the footwork to keep up with precise route runners. His feet will get tangled and he’ll fall back on his speed to make up for it.
Fourth round: S Matt Johnson from Eastern Washington
How he fared: Johnson missed the entire season and didn’t even practices much because of injuries to both hamstrings.
How he rates: He hasn’t played in a game yet, but the Cowboys believe he has the potential to start at safety for them in 2013.
College: The Dallas Cowboys aimed at bolstering their defense through the 2012 NFL Draft and hope they landed another defensive back to accomplish the task when they selected Matt Johnson with their second fourth round pick (135th overall). Johnson started every game he played (45) while at Eastern Washington, having his senior season cut short after seven games with shoulder surgery. During his time at EWU, Johnson amassed 341 tackles – fifth all-time in school history – 22 tackles for losses, 30 pass breakups and 17 interceptions – one shy of the school record – while exiting as the university’s all-time leader with six forced fumbles. As he makes the jump to the pro level, Johnson looks to pick up where he left off before the injury as he posted back-to-back 100-tackle seasons as a sophomore and junior.
When the Cowboys’ season ended, they had 11 players on injured reserve and rookie safety Matt Johnson on the reserve/injured returnable list.
Rookie wide receiver Danny Coale was on the practice squad reserve/injured list.
It was a busy year for the Cowboys’ medical staff.
One of the lasting images of the season was strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik trying to loosen up the back of wide receiver Dez Bryant, who suffered severe back spasms in the regular season finale at Washington. Bryant had to leave the stadium in a wheelchair.
Quarterback Tony Romo walked out of Washington with a fractured rib. Several other players left the stadium needing crutches to get to the team bus.
Woicik and his staff stretched out some players individually before the team stretching period. The staff did everything they could to get players ready to play. Austin seems to always be battling hamstring problems, and Johnson was only able to practice a handful of times because of his hamstring and ended up hurting his back while rehabbing.
"You have to evaluate what the injuries are and if there is any correlation to your strength and conditioning program," coach Jason Garrett said.
Woicik is considered one of the best in the NFL. He’s been a part of six Super Bowl-winning teams, including three with the Cowboys in the 1990s.
"I think you have evaluate them one by one and see if there is anything we could have done differently in terms of practicing, offseason program, anything like that," Garrett said. "A lot of that just seemed to be those kinds of injuries that happens over the course of a season in the NFL."
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.”
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.
IRVING, Texas — Before Cowboys practice on Friday, coach Jason Garrett said starting running back DeMarco Murray was doubtful for Sunday’s game against Cleveland.
Well Murray didn’t practice on Friday at Valley Ranch and he most likely will miss his fifth consecutive game with a sprained foot.
"He is doing more and more each day," Garrett said. "Ran a little bit more yesterday so that’s a positive thing."
Cornerback Mike Jenkins (back) and center Ryan Cook (knee) also missed practice.
Cowboys centers Ryan Cook and Phil Costa were not seen on the field at practice Friday.
Cook, who wasn’t in uniform, headed into the team’s weight room wearing a brace on his right knee. He has missed practice the last two days because of a sore knee.
Costa has been out since injuring his ankle Oct. 21 in a victory over Carolina. With Cook and Costa sidelined, the Cowboys are expected to slide Mackenzy Bernadeau over from right guard. Bernadeau’s spot, in turn, would likely be filled by reserve Derrick Dockery.
With Jenkins out, it allows the Cowboys to give Vince Agnew more snaps in some passing situations.
Tight end John Phillips (ankle) and fullback Lawrence Vickers (knee) were expected to practice. Defensive end Sean Lissemore (ankle), center Phil Costa (ankle) and safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) didn’t practice.
|Name||Position||Injury||Practice Status||Game Status|
|Sean Lissemore||DT||–||Did Not Participate In Practice||–|
|Matt Johnson||S||–||Did Not Participate In Practice||–|
|Mike Jenkins||CB||–||Did Not Participate In Practice||–|
|Dan Connor||LB||–||Full Participation in Practice||–|
|Phil Costa||C||–||Did Not Participate In Practice||–|
|Lawrence Vickers||RB||–||Limited Participation in Practice||–|
|Jay Ratliff||DT||–||Full Participation in Practice||–|
|DeMarco Murray||RB||–||Did Not Participate In Practice||–|
|Ryan Cook||C||–||Did Not Participate In Practice||–|
|John Phillips||TE||–||Limited Participation in Practice||–|
To see the Cleveland Browns injury update, click HERE
The Dallas Cowboys had only two changes to their injury report from Wednesday. Receiver Dwayne Harris (neck) was added to the report as a limited participant, and Jason Hatcher (shin) had a full practice after being limited Wednesday.
But Dez Bryant (hip), DeMarco Murray (foot) and Dan Connor (neck) still are among those who did not practice. Murray is expected to miss a third consecutive game, and Bryant said he expects to play.
Running back Felix Jones again was limited with a bruised knee.
Center Phil Costa (ankle), safety Matt Johnson (hamstring), defensive lineman Sean Lissemore (ankle) and receiver Kevin Ogletree (hamstring) also missed Thursday’s practice. Ogletree said he is scheduled to undergo an MRI on his injured right hamstring later Thursday, but he is not concerned.
Costa still is wearing a walking boot.
Editors Note: Keep up with the Dallas Cowboys (and upcoming opponents) injury and practice status right here, on The Boys Are Back. Click HERE or use find the “Injury Update” page at the top or right side of this blog.
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys were without two of their top three wide receivers, a starting defensive end and their starting running back for Sunday’s game at Atlanta was limited with a knee injury.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant did not practice because of a sore hip but he is expected to be ready for Sunday’s game at Atlanta. Bryant was hurt as he came crashing down on the turf on a near game-winning touchdown catch Sunday against the New York Giants.
Kevin Ogletree, the team’s No. 3 receiver, did not practice because of a hamstring strain. He was at practice in pads during the open portion of the session to the media.
Defensive end Jason Hatcher did not practice because of a bruised shin. While he is expected to be OK for Sunday’s game, Marcus Spears worked with the starters on Wednesday.
Felix Jones was limited with a bruised knee. He was limited in two of three practices last week but was able to play a full game against the Giants.
Linebacker Dan Connor did not practice because of a stinger that is likely to keep him out of the Falcons’ game. The Cowboys would turn to Orie Lemon and Ernie Sims to replace Connor, who was already subbing for an injured Sean Lee.
Running back DeMarco Murray (foot), center Phil Costa (ankle), defensive end Sean Lissemore (ankle) and safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) did not practice, as expected.
IRVING — In an example of the leadership and attitude the Dallas Cowboys will miss, linebacker Sean Lee talked to the media Thursday for the first time since it was revealed he must undergo season-ending toe surgery and was placed on injured reserve.
Lee, the team leader in tackles and the quarterback of the defense, is disappointed, but doesn’t feel sorry for himself.
He said he will be back better than ever next season.
In the interim, he will help his teammates as much as he can and believes they can still improve and have a successful season without him.
"It was frustrating because you want to be out there," Lee said.
"It’s one of those things. It’s part of the game. You have to be positive because if you’re negative you’re not going to get any better. My view is you’ve got to take the next step and that’s just working on getting better."
Lee said he initially didn’t think the injury was that serious, but that was before his foot swelled up the Monday after the Carolina game.
"I didn’t think it was going to be something that I’d be out for the rest of the season, especially with the way it happened, a fluke play where trying to make a tackle, their tight end lands on my foot as I’m driving, falls over the pile, bends my toe all the way back to my foot," Lee said.
Lee said there was no avoiding surgery. He will be sidelined three to four months after the surgery but should be healthy by February.
Lee won’t be on the field, but he plans to help Bruce Carter, who will take over the play-calling, and Dan Connor, who will replace him in the starting lineup.
In the season opener, tight end Jason Witten served as an inspiration to his teammates. Sunday, he hopes to mean even more.
Witten played in the season opener against the New York Giants, a day after being cleared after sitting out with a lacerated spleen. Witten had two catches for 10 yards, but the Cowboys credited him for playing a big part in their 24-17 victory.
"It went down to the last minute," Witten said Thursday. "Obviously, looking back at this film, there is a lot of emotion with that. Probably not the healthiest I’ve ever been. It was a big win for our team to go on the road and beat them."
Witten lacerated his spleen Aug. 13 in the preseason opener on a hit by Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain. He returned to noncontact work in practice the week before the season opener, but he wasn’t cleared until seeing a specialist in New York the day before the game.
He played in his 140th consecutive game, though it was not his best game. In playing 53 of 68 plays, Witten had as many penalties (2) as catches and more penalty yards (15) than receiving yards.
He has 33 catches for 320 yards and a touchdown this season. Only Dez Bryant has better numbers, 36 catches for 378 yards and two touchdowns. Miles Austin has a team-leading four touchdowns.
Running back Felix Jones returned to practice Thursday, though he was limited. Jones missed Wednesday’s practice with a bruised knee.
Jones is expected to start for the Cowboys on Sunday against the Giants. DeMarco Murray will miss his second consecutive game with a foot injury.
Jones was the only change to the practice report Thursday.
Linebacker DeMarcus Ware (illness) did not return to practice as he said he would. Center Phil Costa (ankle) also did not practice. He is wearing a protective boot and using crutches.
The Cowboys were without safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) and defensive lineman Sean Lissemore (ankle). Center Ryan Cook (hamstring) and linebacker Anthony Spencer (pectoral) were full participants.
Editors Note: Keep track of the Dallas Cowboys (and opponents) injury status HERE.
The Dallas Cowboys have agreed on a deal with veteran safety Charlie Peprah, who has 25 career starts, including one in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium.
Now Peprah, who is from nearby Plano, Texas, returns to his hometown team of the Cowboys, who have had plenty of injuries at the safety position.
The deal has yet to be officially turned into the league office as the Cowboys are trying to figure out their 53-man roster and how to make room for their new safety.
Peprah, who has had knee issues the last year, was one of 16 players to work out for the Cowboys two weeks ago at Valley Ranch. He’s played six years in the league but his 25 starts have occurred in the last two seasons with the Packers, which included a Super Bowl run.
The Cowboys entered the season with Gerald Sensabaugh and Barry Church as the starters but Church is out for the year with a torn Achilles. Backup Danny McCray (pictured above) has been more than serviceable but rookie Matt Johnson was expected to contribute but has had three separate hamstring injuries, including another on Friday that prevented his NFL debut.
Along with Peprah in that workout two weeks ago was Eric Frampton, who signed right away and has played for the Cowboys the last two weeks.
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys’ biggest fears could be a reality as the team’s leading tackler and one of the more productive players might be headed to injured reserve.
Sean Lee could need season-ending toe surgery after MRI results showed torn ligaments. If anything, Lee will at least miss two games – Sunday’s showdown with the Giants and the following Sunday night against undefeated Atlanta.
With today being the Cowboys’ day off, the team did not have any press conferences or an open locker room period. With Jerry Jones’ mother passing this morning, the Cowboys’ owner did not have his regular radio show as well. So there has been no official word from the Cowboys regarding Lee or any other injuries this week.
The team is expected to officially sign veteran safety Charlie Peprah on Wednesday. The Cowboys would have to clear a roster spot, but it’s not likely it would be an easy Peprah for Lee switch if he goes to injured reserve. The Cowboys would need more depth at linebacker and might have to sign a veteran.
The Cowboys still have two punters – both Chris Jones and Brian Moorman – on the 53-man roster. Also, safety Matt Johnson is injured again and there have been discussions that he could land on IR, although head coach Jason Garrett said Monday he doesn’t think the Cowboys are ready to make such a move.
Still, the Cowboys at least have to start figuring out contingency plans if Lee’s season is over or will miss considerable time.
The Cowboys will turn to backup Dan Connor, a free agent pickup this offseason after spending four years with the Panthers. Connor has played a limited role on defense this year, but filled in for Lee in Carolina against his former team.
Connor, a college teammate of Lee at Penn State, has 14 tackles this year but will likely take over as the starter next to Bruce Carter.
Lee suffered the injury in the second half in Carolina on Sunday. He tried to fight through the pain but eventually took himself out, later saying he was simply “hurting the team by being out there.”
Through six games, Lee leads the Cowboys with 77 tackles, considerably more than DeMarcus Ware, who is second on the team with 43 stops. Lee also has eight quarterback pressures, third behind only Anthony Spencer (12) and Ware (10).
Lee was on pace to record more than 204 tackles this season, averaging 12.8 per game. He already tied the Cowboys’ single-game record with 21 stops in the Seattle game back in Week 2.
Missing Lee for any time will be huge, but especially against the Giants. Last year, Lee had a clutch interception against Eli Manning in the game at Cowboys Stadium. This season, he forced a fumble in the season opener that took away a scoring opportunity for the Giants in the Cowboys’ 24-17 win over the defending champs.
IRVING, Texas – Maybe there will come a time this season in which Jason Garrett will be able to roll out the same 46-man roster in back to back weeks.
But it won’t happen this week as we ponder the 46-man roster for Sunday’s game at Carolina.
Chris Jones was on the practice field Friday but did not punt during the portion of practice open to the media. Brian Moorman punted Thursday and was extremely effective in his practice work. So let’s say Moorman fills in this week for Jones.
You can rule out DeMarco Murray (foot) and Sean Lissemore (ankle) and all but rule out Ryan Cook (hamstring), as inactive players.
Where do the final two come from?
Well, if Matt Johnson suffered an injury in Friday’s practice that forced him to leave the session early, he would be another.
The other candidates to dress would be Kyle Wilber, Orie Lemon, Derrick Dockery, Andre Holmes and Cole Beasley.
With Cook out, I can’t imagine Dockery is inactive as the Cowboys are going to great lengths to make sure David Arkin is needed only in an emergency. Mark it down that the Cowboys keep eight offensive linemen active vs. the Panthers.
The Beasley-Holmes debate comes down to special teams and since Beasley doesn’t cover kicks, Holmes gets the nod. Holmes, however, does not add much to the offense and Beasley seems to be giving guys fits in practice. But the Cowboys will go with five wides again and it looks like Beasley is down.
Lemon was inactive last week at Baltimore, but could he get the call over Wilber with Anthony Spencer set to return? The Cowboys would not need a fifth outside linebacker active and Lemon might be the better special teams player.
IRVING — Multiple Cowboys players who had been sidelined with injuries were seen in uniform at practice today at Valley Ranch.
Nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who had been out since suffering a left high-ankle sprain Aug. 25, was stretching along with center Phil Costa, who hasn’t played since hurting his back on the first offensive series of the Cowboys’ victory over the New York Giants on Sept. 5. Also back was rookie safety Matt Johnson (hamstring/back), linebacker Alex Albright (neck) and Kenyon Coleman, who missed the previous two games with a right knee injury.
It’s uncertain how much activity all four players will be involved in Wednesday because an official practice report won’t be released by the club.
Among the players who were not present or weren’t in uniform were linebacker Anthony Spencer (strained pectoral muscle), center Ryan Cook (strained left hamstring), punter Chris Jones (left knee) and tight end John Phillips.
- There are days where teams just come up with great game plans how to handle DeMarcus Ware. Give the Bears a lot of credit because on the Monday night, Lovie Smith and his offensive staff were not going to allow Ware to hurt them in this game. Ware did have three tackles and one sack but for the Bears that was a win, they knew that tackle J’Marcus Webb would have little chance or no chance one on one with Ware the entire night so they put tight ends to his side, they chipped backs out of the backfield on him, and they worked the guards his direction any chance they could.
Some thoughts from the film room at Valley Ranch, particularly from the defensive side of the ball.
- Rob Ryan did the best he could moving Ware around but you could see that protection was geared to manage him. Victor Butler was able to get some rushes and even had a chance for a sack one on one on a third down play but he was unable to get Cutler to the ground which kept a drive going which resulted in a field goal for the Bears. I went into this game believing that Ware could have one of those monster nights but there was no chance of that in the way the Bears played him. It was fresh in their minds what happened to them the last time they played on Monday night this season against the Packers Clay Matthews and they did everything in their power not to allow it to happen again.
- Wasn’t surprised how well Danny McCray played in his first opportunity to start at safety for Barry Church. The one thing I will say about McCray’s game is that he is steady. There is not a lot of flash or flair but what you have is a football player that knows his assignments and plays his techniques. I was really impressed with how he manages to work himself around the field. I didn’t feel like there were many plays where McCray wasn’t where he needed to be. Had the one chance where he was in great shape on the tight end Kellen Davis for an interception and just needed to come up with the ball when it hit his hands. There are things about him in coverage that you are probably not going to like but if Rob Ryan can keep matching him up on tight ends, he will continue to have opportunities to make plays. Where McCray also helps you is his ability to make a sure tackle. It was a trait that we all had seen before during his work on special teams but he has managed to carry that side of his game into the regular defense. Danny McCray reinvented himself this summer as a player and you can tell by the way he played against the Bears, he had a good idea what he needed to do to help this team on defense.
- I have always believed that you draft players to play them. I never understood the teams that had all their draft picks on the weekly inactive list. You always need to find ways to get your rookies on the field. In the case for the Cowboys on Monday night, Garrett had Morris Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford and Kyle Wilber on the field taking meaningful snaps with the first team defense. We all know that Claiborne has been a day one starter and you can clearly see the talent that he plays with but also how much he has to learn about his craft and the tricks of the trade. There are going to be days where Claiborne is not going to be in great position on routes and it happened to him on a crossing route against fellow rookie Alshon Jeffery where he was trying to carry him across the field and there was too much separation which made him have to scramble to get in position to try and make the play.
- Claiborne also didn’t play with good inside leverage on the Devin Hester touchdown where he allowed Hester to run the out and up on him and was never able to recover. Claiborne did do a good job of coming forward one time on a third down pass to Hester and cutting him down before he had a chance to get going. There is no doubt in my mind that Morris Claiborne will be tested more these next five weeks. I am honestly surprised that teams have not thrown at him more. Opponents are going to find out if he can handle the ball going at him down after down and he will need to be up to the challenge.
- Tyrone Crawford caught my eye last week when he went toe to toe with the Buccaneers Carl Nicks. This week it was much of the same for Crawford who plays with surprising power and strength to go along with his quickness. The area I have been impressed with Crawford has been with his ability to play with his hands. He is really a technique sound guy and you can see every week that the defensive coaches are giving Crawford more and more of an opportunity to be a part of the defensive line rotation but this is not a gift, he is actually earning his right to see the field more and more each week. With the bye week ahead, there is a chance to we can also see safety Matt Johnson and from what I had seen in college, he has a chance to help.
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