When Mike Jenkins decided not to spend the majority of the offseason with the Dallas Cowboys to rehab his shoulder last summer, the writing was on the wall that 2012 would likely be his last season with the team.
No surprise ending here.
The Cowboys let him go into free agency and although it took nearly a month to find a home, Jenkins is heading out West after agreeing to a one-year deal with the Oakland Raiders.
Jenkins, one of two first-round picks (along with Felix Jones) by the Cowboys in 2008, went from a three-year starter from 2009-11 to a backup last year. The Cowboys signed Brandon Carr in free agency and then moved up in the first round to pick Morris Claiborne, creating an instant 1-2 punch at the cornerback position.
It left Jenkins on the outside looking in and while he never publicly complained about his situation, his absence from the Cowboys’ facility other than mandatory events such as minicamps and team functions suggested he wasn’t happy with his role, especially heading into a contract year.
Still bothered by the shoulder injury, which required rotator cuff surgery, Jenkins missed all of training camp and the first game of the season before returning to action in Week 2 against Seattle. However, Jenkins never had a major role last year, playing mostly in nickel and dime packages.
He made the Pro Bowl in 2009 as an alternate but never got back to that form. Jenkins showed some toughness in 2011 when he played through multiple nagging injuries, including a knee, neck and shoulder setbacks.
In Oakland, Jenkins is the second free-agent corner to sign in free agency along with Tracy Porter.
The Cowboys and Raiders will square off twice in 2013, including a preseason contest in Oakland in mid-August, followed by a regular-season game at Cowboys Stadium.
Editors note: Keep up with the 2013 Dallas Cowboys free agents by clicking below:
Say what you will about Jerry Jones, but the Dallas Cowboys owner didn’t lie when he promised it would get “very uncomfortable” at Valley Ranch after a second straight 8-8 season. Rob Ryan was sent packing as defensive coordinator and replaced by 72-year-old Monte Kiffin, who will switch the Cowboys to a 4-3 scheme. Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan likely will inherit play-calling duties from coach Jason Garrett. Running backs coach Skip Peete was fired and replaced by Gary Brown.
Biggest free agents
» OLB/DE Anthony Spencer: With Kiffin moving to a 4-3, the Cowboys need another strong presence on the edge opposite DeMarcus Ware. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones has great respect for Spencer, and the team has the option of using the franchise tag.
» RB Felix Jones: A former first-round pick, Jones had a shot at Dallas redemption when DeMarco Murray went down for six games with a foot injury. Jones (playing on two bad knees) couldn’t fill the void, one reason why the Cowboys set a franchise low for rushing yards in a 16-game season.
» CB Mike Jenkins: The additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne put Jenkins in limbo last season, and a slow recovery from shoulder surgery didn’t help. He worked in the slot after Orlando Scandrick went down, making little impact. He’s expected to look for a starting job on the open market.
Other key free agents: C Phil Costa, SS Danny McCray, WR Kevin Ogletree.
What they need
The Cowboys are overdue for a makeover along their offensive line. It was a problem all season, and quarterback Tony Romo’s mobility is the only thing that kept this unit from total embarrassment. Tyron Smith is a good fit at left tackle, but upgrades should be sought elsewhere. If Jones has run out of chances, the Cowboys would be wise to find a capable backup for Murray, a supremely talented but seemingly injury-prone starter. The Cowboys must protect themselves at strong safety, where Barry Church is attempting to come back from a torn Achilles tendon.
Offseason crystal ball
The Cowboys are currently $20 million over the cap and will need to restructure contracts with several players to get under. In other words, don’t expect a big fish to land in Big D next month. Improving the offensive and defensive line likely will be a focus during the NFL Draft. With Romo turning 33 before Week 1, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys draft a developmental quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds.
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.
The season is over and it’s time to think about a few things. For example, is Miles Austin earning his money? Is it time for Felix Jones, who’s now a free agent, to find a new team? What do the Cowboys need to stop the run in 2013? And finally, should Dallas keep cornerback Mike Jenkins?
1. In 2010, Miles Austin signed a seven-year $57.1 million contract. Austin’s deal meant a few things: He moved into an elite level in regards with his contract and was to become the No. 1 receiver on the Cowboys. After signing that deal, Dez Bryant surpassed him as a bigger threat, Austin has had just one 1,000 yard season, 2010, he fell 57 yards short of it in 2012 and his health continues to be a question. He failed to finish the game against Washington on Sunday night because of a high-ankle sprain. He’s endured hamstring issues the last two seasons. Austin is scheduled to earn $6.7 million in 2013 and it raises a question: Is Austin earning his money? I doubt if the Cowboys are going to release Austin because no matter how good Bryant is, there is still an unpredictability about him away from the field. Austin is a good player but the team needs more from him considering the money he’s making.
2. Felix Jones won’t return in 2013 but he did finish the final game of the season with 24 yards on five carries. Jones hit holes with a burst and seemed to run with little limitations. He’s battled injuries to both knees and he probably should have stayed on the bench. But he displayed a toughness that was necessary from the running back position. Jones was put in a bad situation by the Cowboys. He was drafted as a backup to then-starter Marion Barber. When Barber’s health started to betray him, the Cowboys asked Jones to become a starter but his own health failed him too. It’s time for Jones, who becomes a free agent, to find a new team and for the Cowboys to stop drafting players to become backups. If the Cowboys draft a running back this spring, it should be designed to give competition to DeMarco Murray. If Murray is better than the new back, fine, keep the job. Life for a NFL running back is dangerous. One week he’s healthy, the next he’s not and you need to have quality ones on the depth chart. Jones is an average running back, but not starters material and when it was time for him to take over for an injured Murray and Barber, he couldn’t do the job on a consistent basis.
3. Want to know why the Cowboys failed to stop the run in 2012? They lost of four players that clogged the middle of the field. Jay Ratliff (injury), Josh Brent (suspension), Sean Lee (injury) and Bruce Carter (injury) were the force up the gut for the Cowboys. When the Cowboys didn’t have Ratliff at the start of the season, the club still had Brent a solid run stopper. But when Brent was lost, Sean Lissemore was moved from defensive end to nose tackle. The Cowboys also moved Robert Callaway and signed Brian Schaefering to help inside. Lee and Carter replacements at inside linebacker were Dan Connor, Ernie Sims and at times Alex Albright. The backups failed to produce for the Cowboys as evident by the run defense allowing at least 100 yards in six of the last seven weeks of the season. Moving forward the Cowboys need to draft or sign another inside linebacker in free agency who can provide depth. The Cowboys allowed 274 rushing yards in the regular season finale and gave up at least 150 rushing yards twice and 125 or more yards five times. It’s hard to win games when that happens regularly.
4. The Cowboys have 16 unrestricted free agents and one of them is a former first-round pick, cornerback Mike Jenkins. It seems the Cowboys were never quite happy with Jenkins the entire offseason. He didn’t rehab his surgically repaired shoulder in Dallas, instead doing it in Florida. Jenkins didn’t attend the voluntary workouts, although he was there for the mandatory sessions. But as is always the case in the NFL, injuries dictate a lot of things. Jenkins saw playing time, especially when slot corner Orlando Scandrick went down with a hand injury. Jenkins even played some at safety and on special teams. It appears Jenkins may not return in 2013, leaving the Cowboys looking for a fourth corner in free agency or the draft. "Do I want to come back?" Jenkins asked. "I’ve grown attached, I’ve been here for five years, I’ve grown attached to everybody here. It’s hard to just get up and leave and not want to come back. At the same time ,you want to go somewhere and have a fair opportunity and I guess go on from there."
Here are more thoughts from Sunday’s game with the Saints and how it might affect the Cowboys’ game plan moving forward this week in Washington with the division on the line.
Zone Or Man
Much like all of you I watch the games but have the same questions of why this team plays certain schemes over others. When this club opened training camp last July, I was excited by the prospects of Rob Ryan having the potential to play more man coverage with Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Mike Jenkins. There were plenty of days in Oxnard where we did see Carr and Claiborne when he was on the field running with Bryant and Austin.
These corners just seemed better suited to play this style of defense than playing seven yards off and driving on the ball. As the season has progressed, Ryan still has Carr and Claiborne in the lineup but you have observed him using them more in zone coverage. In studying my notes from the Saints game, I wrote the word “Zone” several times and plenty of those notes were after Brees had a completion down the field. There is a side of me that believes that all the injuries across this defense has taken away a lot of the packages that Ryan would like to run. Generally when you play zone, you are trying to protect or hide a flaw. Safety play, corners that can’t really cover, or lack of a pass rush.
Let’s be real honest here when we look at this defense, DeMarcus Ware is one of your best players but these injuries that he is playing with have reduced him to a player that is similar to say Victor Butler. I really don’t mean that as a slam on Butler but when he is in the game, you get an occasional pressure, maybe a sack or a tackle that results in a three yard gain. It’s okay work but it’s not Ware when healthy. Ryan and this staff are trying to do things to keep this defense from totally falling apart and I understand as you read this, you are saying could it get any worse, they gave up over 560 yards?
I understand in theory what Ryan is trying to do here but there were points in the Saints game in the second half where he did play some man coverage with his secondary and the results were favorable helping him get off the field which gave me hope that he could play more of it. There are very few offenses in this league that can present the problems the Saints are going to cause you matchup wise. It’s a league of big plays and they make a ton of them.
Sure I would like to see Ryan play more man coverage and make these receivers fight for contested balls because I really believe he has players that can do that but again I understand what he is trying to protect here. This is not an easy job he has here with the current state of this defense and Ware not healthy makes it even more difficult. Ryan is not the idiot that the majority of you believe, but he is one if he runs into me in the hallway at Valley Ranch and asks me what I think he should do scheme wise. Then you should question him.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout
Editors note: This subject was raised, by me, on the Dallas Cowboys forum Monday. Check it out:
ARLINGTON — The Dallas Cowboys will take the field for the next two weeks hoping to continue their run to the playoffs.
It will also be their attempt to move forward from the tragedy and emotional roller coaster they have never experienced.
The death of linebacker Jerry Brown, and the status of nose tackle Josh Brent — charged in the death of his best friend and teammate — will certainly cast a shadow on the rest of the Cowboys’ season, no matter how they finish.
“Oh, yeah, it is absolutely that,” said coach Jason Garrett, whose leadership and handling of the team during this trying situation has already been hailed as the crowning moment of his coaching tenure. “It’s an ongoing thing for a long, long time for everybody. Nobody who is associated with this organization, this football team who knows Jerry and Josh and this situation, this tragedy will never be the same as a result of it.”
The Cowboys (8-6) will use football to take their minds off the tragedy and to continue living. Making a run to the playoffs is the best way they feel they can honor Brown.
Still, some things can never be forgotten.
IRVING, Texas – Boy, isn’t it a good thing the Dallas Cowboys didn’t dabble in reckless fantasy football roster machinations before this season began?
Remember? Remember all the suggestions?
Man, go ahead, trade Felix Jones. He’s in the last year of his contract. DeMarco Murray will carry the load, and he can be backed up by Phillip Tanner and rookie free agent Lance Dunbar. Hmmmm …
Or, now that they have Brandon Carr and Mo Claiborne, along with Orlando Scandrick, no need for the disgruntled Mike Jenkins. Trade the guy. Right?
Marcus Spears, too. Why, Kenyon Coleman is going to be the starter and you got Sean Lissemore and drafted Tyrone Crawford in the third round. What do you need an eight-year veteran in a backup role for? See what you can get for the guy.
Oh, and let’s go one more. How many of you wanted Anthony Spencer out of here? Now come on, don’t be shy, raise your hands high. Get ’em up.
Scary the bind the Cowboys could be in had the team’s coaching staff and front office resorted to these kneejerk reactions, as if there would be something wrong with having a little depth on this roster littered with 23 guys in no more than their third NFL season. And because they didn’t, check this out:
Jones is preparing to start his fifth consecutive game of the season since Murray’s foot sprain, which nearly needed surgery, is still keeping him out of practice. And not only is he doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, but with only one semi-tough practice available during the short week prior to the Thanksgiving tradition, he’s possibly out for the Washington game four days later, too.
Spears will start at his old left defensive end position Sunday against the Browns since Coleman has been placed on injured reserve following surgery to repair the torn triceps muscle he suffered in the win over Philadelphia. Crawford will be the next guy up there, since Lissemore still isn’t practicing thanks to the high ankle sprain he suffered against Baltimore a month ago. And the guy they kept on the practice squad, rookie free-agent Ben Bass, an after-thought signee just because they needed another body on the defensive line for that first rookie minicamp – and he was close, having grown up in Plano, Texas – he’s now their sixth defensive lineman for Sunday and will get some snaps.
Then there is Jenkins. You know what? Wouldn’t it have been nice this past Sunday in Philadelphia, with Claiborne suffering from rookie-itis, becoming grabby and of all things for a corner, jumping off sides, if the Cowboys could have turned to the veteran cornerback to give the kid a series or two to collect himself? But no, Jenkins’ back was still weak, having suffered spasms, leaving him a game-day inactive. And the way things are going this week – he still hasn’t practiced – he’s likely inactive again.
Looking at defensive stats, Spencer, the guy everyone wailed over after the Cowboys franchised him at $8.8 million to reserve his rights, is fourth on the team in tackles, his 53 behind only Sean Lee (77), Bruce Carter (66) and DeMarcus Ware (54). These stats also say he is second on the team (just where he finished last year) with 3.5 sacks, behind only Ware’s 9.5; tied for second with Ware with three tackles for losses (behind only Carter’s eight); and his 15 QB pressures is second behind Ware’s 20. And if not for Claiborne unnecessarily grabbing on the other side, Spencer would have had an interception this past Sunday against the Eagles, and maybe even returned it for a touchdown.
The lesson, loud and clear?
In football – and remember this isn’t basketball or baseball, it’s football – there is nothing wrong with having a couple of good guys at the same position since there usually is enough plays to go around. And, as you’ve been reminded when watching the Cowboys this season, people do get hurt. A lot.
“I mean all that is foresight from the Joneses, their communication,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “People say whatever they say, they run the team, sure, but they are also smart. It’s unbelievable.
“We kept depth on the roster, we kept the right guys, we kept the best players for this very reason. Sometimes you want to keep a young kid, he’s got promise, but you let a big-time veteran go. Well, that’s not the right thing to do. We did the right things. We kept these guys around and it’s helped us.”
Inject the word “immensely.”
With seven games remaining, the next two in a five-day span, the Cowboys already have three season-opening defensive starters on injured reserve (Barry Church, Lee and Coleman). They are just getting Lee’s backup, Dan Connor, back after missing two games with nerve damage in his neck (stinger) and have placed one of his called-up backups, former practice squadder Orie Lemon, on IR.
And how about this? Nine games into the season, 11 defensive players have missed a total of 37 games, and that total will skyrocket since Lee, Church and Coleman definitely will miss seven more each. That’s 58, and it doesn’t appear at this point that Lissemore is ready to return and who knows about Jenkins? Rookie Matt Johnson? The fourth-round draft choice has missed all nine games and was just placed on IR.
On offense, three guys, Murray, Phil Costa and his backup Ryan Cook have totaled 11 missed games, and Murray could miss two more. Costa (high ankle sprain) will also miss at least two more and the Cowboys are highly uncertain if Cook (knee), who has yet to practice this week, will be ready to play Sunday.
And by the way, let’s not forget punter Chris Jones also landing on IR four games ago, assured of missing a total of 11 this season. I mean, the punter for heaven sakes.
Catching my drift?
The Cowboys are ridiculously testing this next guy up notion, but hey, what you going to do? And guarantee you they aren’t the Lone Rangers when it comes to injuries in the National Football League. They are rampant, and why you never, ever should consider depleting a position of strength … if … you happen to be lucky enough to have a couple three at the same spot and can afford them with the salary cap.
“We have been recycling guys all year,” Spears said the other day, realizing Jay Ratliff missed the first four games of the season, Spencer missed Games 4 and 5, Lee, the defensive captain, along with its heart and soul, will end up missing 10 of 16, Church will finish with 13 missed games, Lissemore likely with at least six and now Coleman the final seven.
But so far defensively, the Cowboys have been duck-taping these positions with multiple solutions. Take safety. Danny McCray was the next guy up, but they also have relied on Carr and Jenkins to move from their corner positions at times on the nickel and dime packages, and also have brought on veterans Eric Frampton and Charlie Peprah to play roles.
At linebacker, without Lee and then immediately Connor, they sign Orie Lemon from the practice squad and Ernie Sims off his couch.
“To lose Lee was a big blow,” Spears said, “but we have the guys to get it done.”
At defensive end, they now return Spears to his starting spot, play Crawford more and sign Bass off the practice squad, a guy another team came calling for a few weeks back.
At running back, the Cowboys simply insert Felix Jones, but with him trying to play through a bum knee and shoulder, they lean on Tanner and sign Dunbar off the practice squad and get the rookie ready for snaps.
At center, the team first for Cook when Costa was injured – the first time – when it became obvious David Arkin wasn’t good enough to sufficiently back up the position. Cook can’t go Sunday (listed as doubtful), the Cowboys activated Kevin Kowalski off PUP, which necessitated placing Matt Johnson on IR to make room.
At punter, Brian Moorman fortuitously was released by Buffalo when Chris Jones first injured his knee, and is signed the next day.
And at corner, with Jenkins missing last week, they sign Vince Agnew off the practice squad and basically let Claiborne take his lumps at Philly.
This is exhausting, isn’t it? And still there are seven games to go?
Fortunately for the Dallas Cowboys, they have a few good men with quality heads on their shoulders.
“My mindset from the beginning is you need to know all three positions,” said Mackenzy Bernadeau, who realized when he returned from offseason hip surgery of his own a couple of weeks into training camp that he needed to learn both guard positions and the center position as well, which he has only played in a preseason game.
And then there is Spears, who could have pouted after Ryan brought Coleman with him to Dallas, immediately bumping Spears off the position where he started in his first six seasons with the Cowboys into a backup role. Didn’t happen.
“You have personal feelings, you get angry not being in there, but if you’ve been around long enough you know you’re going to get your chance to play,” Spears said, and best of all, he’s not being vindictive toward this opportunity. “Not trying to beat my chest and prove I should have been playing. I just want to help this team win.”
That’s some right stuff there, all of it, including every one of those insightful decisions made nearly 12 weeks ago to preserve the depth now available for this current excavation project from that 3-5 hole.
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
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys made some last-minute roster moves before heading to Philadelphia on Saturday.
With cornerback Mike Jenkins hurting with a back injury, the Cowboys called up Vincent Agnew from the practice squad. Agnew (5-10, 196) will travel to Philly and likely play Sunday against the Eagles, depending on Jenkins’ status, which was questionable on Friday’s injury report.
To make room on the roster, the Cowboys have waived newly-signed linebacker Gary Guyton, who joined the team Wednesday and practiced all week. The Cowboys were hoping Guyton’s experience – four years with the Patriots – and his background in the 3-4 defense would make him a valuable addition to a linebacker corps that has been decimated by injuries.
While Guyton’s release might suggest the Cowboys are confident Dan Connor (stinger) will be able to pay, he’s actually listed on the injury report as doubtful.
The Cowboys will likely start Bruce Carter and Ernie Sims at inside linebacker with Alex Albright, who is listed as an outside backer and former defensive end in college, will be the main backup inside.
As for Jenkins, he suffered the back injury on Wednesday and underwent an MRI after having spasms earlier in the day. Jenkins was on the practice field Friday but didn’t participate much.
Agnew spent training camp with the Dolphins before being released and signed to the Cowboys’ practice squad on Oct. 16.
Mike Jenkins was the subject of trade rumors during the off-season after his agent requested a trade, but the trade deadline came and went Thursday, and Jenkins still is on the Dallas Cowboys’ roster. Dallas never considered trading the cornerback despite having Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne as starters and Orlando Scandrick as their nickel back.
"We need him," executive vice president Stephen Jones said Thursday. "We need corners in case something happens. We’ve only got four corners."
Jenkins said Thursday he kept his mind off the trade deadline.
"I figured if it was going to happen, I would have heard something by now," Jenkins said. "So I just tried to stay focused on the week, learning what I needed to learn for this week and just going on with the Cowboys."
Jenkins has been a team player despite his reduced role on the defense, and he said he was not disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to go somewhere to start.
"I’m happy," Jenkins said. "The situation, I’m past that right now. I’m just happy that they’re playing me. I’m getting to play. I can’t complain. Coaches are communicating. I’m not left out of anything. So I’m pretty set. I’m good. I’m in a happy spot."
Jenkins missed the off-season work, training camp, the preseason and the season opener while recovering from reconstructive shoulder surgery. Since then, he has played only 85 of a possible 352 defensive plays, including but six snaps against Baltimore and one against Carolina. He also has played 22 special teams plays.
Jenkins has been targeted eight times, allowing only three receptions for 82 yards and no touchdowns, according to STATS, Inc.
"I feel like I’ve played pretty good," Jenkins said. "As far as the situation going in, I’ve been put in all around the field, just playing safety. I feel like I’m doing pretty good. I also feel like I can do a lot better, because I missed out from the preseason, and I just came straight into the season. I know there’s a lot of room for improvement."
Jenkins’ versatility should help him in contract negotiations next spring. He is in the final year of his rookie contract after the Cowboys made him the 25th overall pick in 2008, and he likely will seek a place where he can compete for the starting job. He has 47 career starts.
"Hopefully, a lot of guys see that I’m flexible," Jenkins said. "They can move me around. I can play anything. I think I have enough film as far as a corner standpoint. I just want people to know they can also move me around like the Charles Woodsons, put me in situations like that, and I can guard anybody on the field. So hopefully that helps me out in the future."
BALTIMORE — When Dan Bailey lined up the potential game-winning kick at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn’t even bother to look.
He had watched his team overcome 13 penalties for 82 yards, including four penalties for 40 yards on an 18-play, 80-yard touchdown drive just minutes earlier to get them within two points.
A 4-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tony Romo to receiver Dez Bryant with 32 seconds to go was followed by a drop by Bryant on the 2-point conversion.
Yet, Jones was undeterred in his faith.
He had watched the Cowboys survive the loss of running back DeMarco Murray and defensive end Sean Lissemore to injuries, and battle at times without cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Mike Jenkins, Bryant and running back Felix Jones, who replaced Murray, because of injuries and dehydration. And yet they still battled back from an 11-point deficit.
He had watched them overcome a Romo interception for the sixth consecutive game and an NFL record-tying 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jacoby Jones.
He watched Andre Holmes recover an onside kick with 30 seconds left in the game to set up the Bailey try.
Jones didn’t look because he had no doubt that Bailey would make it, sending the Cowboys to a seemingly season-changing victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
Never mind that it was from 51 yards out and in front of 71,384 fans who hadn’t witnessed a home defeat since 2010. And never mind that clock management issues with Romo and coach Jason Garrett prevented the Cowboys from running another play to possibly get a closer kick for Bailey.
Jones’ optimism proved futile when Bailey’s kick was wide left, giving the Ravens a 31-29 victory.
"We had the play with the kicker," Jones said. "We didn’t get it done. That’s putting more than maybe we should on him. But with the wind at our backs and him kicking, I had it counted. I had no doubt he would make it. I literally looked away because I thought he would make the kick."
It was Bailey’s first miss of the season. He was 8 for 8 before that try, including three earlier in the game from 42, 43 and 34 yards.
"It’s not a good feeling," said Bailey, who made four game-winning field goals for the Cowboys as a rookie last season. "Everybody worked their butts off, and it came down to a kick, and it didn’t go in. I don’t know what else to say but it hurts."
The pain of losing was felt throughout the locker room. It was their second consecutive loss as they fell to 2-3 and under .500 for the first time since last season.
The Cowboys left Baltimore (5-1) with something they didn’t have coming into the game: a sense of pride, a sense of self-respect and a feeling of optimism for the rest of the season.
They didn’t have any of that following the 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears before last week’s bye.
"I’m sick about losing this game," Jones said. "I feel good about this team. Even though we’re at 2-3, I feel good about the way we held up, stayed in there, fought. The way we did some things, executed, the way our offensive line played. There are some things I feel good about our future with, future being this year. I feel a lot more encouraged than I did after Chicago."
Dallas rushed for 227 yards, the most ever against the Ravens. Murray had 13 carries for 95 yards before going out. Felix Jones had 18 carries for 92 yards, including a 22 yard touchdown run.
The Cowboys dominated time of possession as than ran 79 plays, which tied for the most in team history, set Nov. 12, 1978 at Green Bay, while holding the ball for more than 40 minutes.
Coach Jason Garrett understands that fixing the penalties remains a huge issue. Dallas, however, had 13 penalties for third time this season, including a number of drive-killing pre-snap penalties that forced the Cowboys to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns on each of Bailey’s first three attempts.
Those plays and the record kickoff return for the touchdown proved to be the difference in the game — despite clock mismanagement after the onside kick.
The Cowboys were unable to get another play to get a little closer for Bailey. The play began with 26 seconds to go and was down to 16 seconds when Bryant caught a pass at the Baltimore 34. The Cowboys had a timeout, but they didn’t get to the line fast enough so Garrett let it run down to attempt the final missed kick with six seconds left.
"We had guys who were trying to get off the pile and receivers needing to come back to the huddle," said Romo, who completed 225 of 36 passes for 261 yards in the game with one touchdown and one interception. "There just wasn’t enough time."
But the Cowboys do have time to save their season and they are encouraged by their ability to fight back on Sunday — as evidenced by their converting a third-and-27 play, thanks to a litany of penalties, before Bryant’s score. A 17-yard pass to Bryant was followed by a 16-yarder to tight end Jason Witten to get the conversion.
"I thought we fought really well through a lot of different adversities," Garrett said. "We battled. We continued to battle. Our team grew a lot in this game. At the end of the day, we have to finish the game. We have to win the game. We can learn from that. But I love how our team battle and believe we can grow from this game."
Bryant was the last player to walk out the postgame locker room and was defiant in saying he and the Cowboys will be better going forward.
"I feel this game has made us 10 times stronger than what we were. I know it’s something we can build off of," said Bryant, who caught a career-high 13 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns in addition to the dropped two-pointer.
Although 11 defensive players get named as “starters” in a given week, the Dallas Cowboys have had 15 defensive players participate in at least 38 percent of the team’s snaps through Week 4. Here are the top 11. . .
ILB Sean Lee: A
Lee has recorded a tackle on 19.6 percent of his snaps in 2012, which is simply remarkable. In coverage, he has allowed only 5.0 yards-per-attempt.
OLB DeMarcus Ware: A
How high are the standards for Ware that some are arguing he’s having a down year? He’s on pace for 20 sacks. I don’t know about you, but that’s good enough for me.
CB Brandon Carr: A-
Carr got beat by Brandon Marshall on Monday night, but don’t panic. He allowed three catches, albeit a few big ones, but he’s still playing really well. On the season, only 42.9 percent of passes Carr’s way have been completed.
OLB Anthony Spencer: B
We saw Spencer’s value most on Monday night when he wasn’t playing. The player who drops into coverage more often than any 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL also has a higher pressure rate than Ware this season. As I told you in the preseason, the sacks will come. He’s still on pace for 11.
ILB Bruce Carter: B
Quietly, the Cowboys have one of the better inside linebacker duos in the NFL. Carter’s tackle rate of 12.4 percent isn’t at the level of Lee, but it’s still pretty darn good.
CB Mike Jenkins: B
Jenkins clearly has something to prove this year. You saw Rob Ryan give Jenkins some snaps at safety last week, and that should continue. It’s difficult to quantify Jenkins’ success since he’s been targeted only three times, but his coverage has been the best I’ve ever seen from him.
NT Josh Brent: B-
Brent has been really, really good against the run. You can see the difference in the push from the defensive line with Brent in the game as compared to Jay Ratliff. I love Ratliff’s tenacity and pass rush, but the Cowboys might be better served if they allow him to utilize it from the five-technique to allow Brent to stay at the nose.
S Barry Church: B-
Even though Church is out for the season, I’m putting him on the list because I really liked what I saw in the three games that he played. Opposing quarterbacks tested Church seven times, gaining just 30 total yards. I still think the Cowboys need to find a ball-hawking free safety in the draft, but Church could stick around if he recovers from his Achilles injury.
CB Morris Claiborne: C+
After three games in which he was barely even tested, Claiborne is finally going through some of the growing pains that rookie cornerbacks invariably experience. Claiborne has allowed 9.0 YPA on the 14 passes thrown his way this year, which isn’t a bad mark. He got schooled by Devin Hester on national television, though, so people will naturally believe he’s playing worse than what is actually the case.
DE Jason Hatcher: C+
After starting the season with a boom, Hatcher has cooled down over the past two weeks. He has the third-most pressures on the team behind Ware and Spencer, so I think there’s still a good chance he ends the season with five or more sacks.
DE Tyrone Crawford: C+
Crawford hasn’t been able to get a ton of pressure yet, but his tackle rate of 8.9 percent is good for a five-technique end. In comparison, Hatcher’s tackle rate is 6.5 percent.
Just missed the list: DE Sean Lissemore, S Gerald Sensabaugh, OLB Victor Butler
ARLINGTON — On an otherwise dismal night for the Dallas Cowboys, tight end Jason Witten found a way to cure his season-long battle with dropped passes.
Witten, who dropped an NFL-high five passes in the team’s first three games, grabbed the first seven passes sent in his direction by quarterback Tony Romo during Monday’s 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears at Cowboys Stadium.
Witten finished with a team-high 13 catches for 112 yards — with no drops — and a 5-yard touchdown catch on the final possession. He more than doubled his season totals for receptions and yardage. Witten entered with eight catches for 76 yards in the team’s first three games.
Soldier Field South?
The noise generated by Bears’ fans during the game made it unclear, at times, which team was playing at home. Especially during a "Let’s Go, Bears" chant in the fourth quarter.
The loudest cheers came on Lance Briggs’ 74-yard interception return for a third-quarter touchdown that upped the Bears’ lead to 24-7. Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, a former Grapevine and Texas player, caused the interception. The play came one snap after Dallas had recovered a fumble in Bears’ territory with an opportunity to cut into a 17-7 deficit.
"That’s what happens when you don’t give the fans anything to cheer for," Cowboys safety Brandon Carr said. "I don’t like to get embarrassed, especially on national TV. I’m frustrated."
Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray had five runs that produced negative yardage against the Bears, all in the first three quarters. He had seven in last week’s 16-10 victory over Tampa Bay. Murray had only 14 carries for negative yards in 13 games last season.
Murray also fumbled in the first quarter and dropped a pitchout from Romo in the second. The second fumble was credited to Romo, who also threw five interceptions, tying a career high.
Cowboys cornerbacks surrendered their first touchdown of the season when Devin Hester beat rookie Morris Claiborne for a sliding, 34-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. The ball moved when Hester hit the ground, triggering a replay review. Based on the reaction by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, it was clear the Dallas sideline thought the catch would be overturned.
The Cowboys came up short on another third-quarter review after a Claiborne fumble recovery was overturned when the Bears’ receiver was ruled down by contact.
Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (8 catches, 105 yards) had the second 100-yard receiving night of his career and his first since Nov. 14, 2010 against the New York Giants in his rookie season.
Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter injured his left hip on the team’s opening defensive series but later returned to the game. He finished with two tackles.
Three Cowboys’ defensive starters were declared inactive before the game because of injuries: DE Kenyon Coleman (knee), DT Jay Ratliff (ankle) and LB Anthony Spencer (pectoral muscle). A fourth starter, safety Barry Church, suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in last week’s victory over Tampa Bay. The respective replacements in Monday’s starting lineup were Sean Lissemore (Coleman), Josh Brent (Ratliff), Victor Butler (Spencer) and Danny McCray (Church).
Roof, doors open
For only the fifth time in stadium history, the Cowboys played a game with both the roof and the doors open. With Monday’s loss, Dallas is 1-4 in those games. The team fell to 14-12 in regular-season games at Cowboys Stadium.
Jenkins tries safety
Cornerback Mike Jenkins made his debut at safety, taking snaps at the position during the team’s nickel package. Last week, cornerback Brandon Carr played safety while starters Gerald Sensabaugh and Barry Church nursed injuries against Tampa Bay.
The Cowboys, who had six false-start penalties in last week’s victory over Tampa Bay, had none against Chicago.
IRVING — Mike Jenkins reached down to his locker and knocked on it when someone mentioned the Dallas Cowboys’ cornerbacks have yet to allow a touchdown.
Jenkins, in fact, has not even allowed a catch.
The Cowboys knew all along they would need him, which is why he is still here despite the team’s off-season acquisitions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.
Safety Gerald Sensabaugh missed last week’s 16-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Bucs with a calf injury, and the other starting safety, Barry Church, joined him on the sideline with a season-ending Achilles injury. That forced the Cowboys to play cornerback Carr at safety with Jenkins back in his familiar spot at outside corner. Jenkins played 31 of 60 plays and broke up a pass.
"We really like Mike Jenkins," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We like him a lot as a player, and we like him a lot as a person. There are a lot of reasons to like him. We just needed to be patient with his injury. He needed to fight through some of the business aspects of this decision, get him back, embrace him and get him going. That was our philosophy all along."
Jenkins missed all of the 2011 preseason with a neck injury. He played through shoulder and knee injuries during the season and still was the team’s best cornerback. Garrett said it was a turning point in Jenkins’ career as the "respect level" rose for the former first-round pick with what he played through for 12 games.
Jenkins needed shoulder reconstruction after the season, and while he was in Florida rehabbing, the Cowboys signed Carr to a $50.1 million contract and moved up in the draft to take Morris Claiborne.
The moves were welcomed by everyone at Valley Ranch. While it was much needed for a defense that had yielded the second- and third-most passing yards in team history in consecutive seasons.
Jenkins’ agent requested a trade. The Cowboys, in what might have been their best off-season move, showed patience with the fifth-year veteran.
"It was kind of a crazy situation whether he was going to be back or not," Sensabaugh said. "For him to fight through his injury, work hard and get back on the field, just to see him out there competing the other day, it almost brings a tear to your eye, a guy having that much passion for the game. He’s the Mike Jenkins that he was for us when he was a Pro Bowl player [in 2009]."
Jenkins finished last week’s game with only one stat — a knockdown of a pass intended for Vincent Jackson. But it was an important play. It let Jenkins know he was back, that his shoulder was good as new.
"I used the [surgically repaired] arm to go up and get the ball," Jenkins said. "It was a big challenge for me just going up. That was actually my first time really using my arm like that. Going through practice, I never really get a chance to actually go all out and jump up for a ball and come down on my arm that physical. …It felt good."
Jenkins’ role remains somewhat uncertain. Carr and Claiborne are the starters. Orlando Scandrick is the nickel back. Carr, Claiborne and Scandrick have combined to allow only 13 catches for 188 yards.
Jenkins doesn’t know where he fits in, but he accepts that he likely will play less than in recent seasons.
"I always want to be on the field," said Jenkins, who is in the final year of his contract. … "I’m just going to leave it up to Rob [Ryan]."
DALLAS’ TRIPLE-CORNER FLEX DEFENSE: Dallas Cowboy CB Brandon Carr willing to play safety the rest of the season; three cover corners could be the solution to pass-happy NFL.
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr has accepted the accolades that accompanied his surprising – and successful – debut as an NFL safety in Sunday’s 16-10 victory over Tampa Bay. Carr played much of the game at safety in place of injured starter Gerald Sensabaugh, who skipped the contest with a strained calf.
Carr’s future could include an extended run at that position now that Barry Church, the other starting safety, is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Sensabaugh’s availability remains day-to-day, said coach Jason Garrett, which could mean additional time for Carr at safety while Morris Claiborne and Mike Jenkins handle the cornerback spots.
Although he signed a five-year, $50.1 million contract in the off-season to be the Cowboys’ shutdown cornerback, and coaches still consider him their best player at that position, Carr said he would embrace an extended run at safety if that is in the best interest of the team.
“If that’s what we have to do for us to get our best 11 on their 11 and to get off the field and win ball games, I’m all for it,” Carr said. “I came here with one thing in mind and that was to win ball games.”
Although he last played safety in high school, and only briefly then, Carr said he is willing to spend the rest of the season there if coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan believes it is in the team’s best interest.
“If this is the role that I’m going to have to have this whole season, then I’m going to accept it and be ready to work and have everybody ready to go when my number’s called,” Carr said.
Because the Cowboys are expected to sign a veteran safety this week to replace Church, who is headed to the injured reserve list, Carr’s days at the position may be numbered. But it became clear against Tampa Bay that having three cover corners on the field at the same time _ Carr, Jenkins and Claiborne _ can be a positive defensive move in today’s pass-happy NFL.
Might the three-corners defense become a Cowboys’ staple going forward?
“I have no clue,” Carr said, smiling. “That’s the good thing about being a player. After each game is over with, you tell me what to do and I say, ‘Ok, coach’ and get ready and prepare myself for Sunday. Each week is going to be exciting to see what new wrinkle we add to our defense. I feel like we have a lot of guys that can play a lot of positions, so, hopefully, that will help us out in our versatility and our different looks. It’s going to be fun.”
RELATED: Jason Garrett credits Rob Ryan, Jerome Henderson for idea of Carr to safety
Jason Garrett gave defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and secondary coach Jerome Henderson credit for finding a way to have Brandon Carr play safety and Mike Jenkins to play cornerback while also keeping Vincent Jackson in check.
The Cowboys needed a way to make up for the loss of safety Gerald Sensabaugh, and putting Carr at safety was one way to do that and also to open up snaps at cornerback for Jenkins, who had been working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery.
“I think it was a real good idea by Rob and by Jerome early on in the week to do that,” Garrett said. “I think it was a great job by Brandon Carr of embracing the idea, saying, ‘Hey, I can do this. Absolutely, I’m excited to do this. I haven’t played safety since high school.’ He was kind of champing at the bit to do it.
“The concerns we had in the discussion was, they have this big guy, Vincent Jackson, and we have this big corner, this is the best matchup, should we really do this? And I think the combination of him playing corner but also playing safety and getting Jenks out there was a good way to go, and I think everybody responded really well to it.”
Garrett said now that Carr has put in some time at safety, the Cowboys have developed a little versatility.
“It’s nice to have that option in your hip pocket,” he said. “If we get in trouble and don’t have other options, we can say, let’s go back and do that again. We obviously want him to play corner. That’s what we feel like he’s best at. But to be able to do that with a guy to absorb an injury, that’s a good thing to have in your hip pocket going forward.”
F: Rushing Offense
The Cowboys got their first rushing touchdown of the season, but that’s about the only thing that went right for the running game. DeMarco Murray finished with only 38 yards on 18 carries. He lost yardage seven times. Felix Jones lost a yard on his only carry. Other than Murray’s 11-yard touchdown run, in which Tyron Smith made a dominant block, this was a really poor performance by the offensive line. It’s one thing for the interior offensive line, which was whipped by McCoy, to be shaky. Doug Free, the Cowboys’ most expensive, experienced O-lineman, has been the weakest link. He got dominated by Bennett, who matched McCoy with two tackles for losses.
F: Passing Offense
The Cowboys’ passing game committed three turnovers and produced zero points. That’s awful, especially against a Tampa Bay defense that allowed 510 yards against the New York Giants the previous week. Tony Romo threw for 283 yards on 25-of-39 passing — 107 yards coming on five catches by Miles Austin — but the QB took a beating from a defensive line that barely touched Eli Manning last week. The Buccaneers sacked Romo four times, forcing two fumbles. The Cowboys couldn’t figure out how to keep defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Michael Bennett away from Romo.
A: Rushing Defense
A week after Marshawn Lynch marched all over them in the second half, the Cowboys made it tough on the Tampa Bay running backs. The Bucs averaged only 3.0 yards on their 25 carries. Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer was a force again, leading the Cowboys with seven tackles, including one for a loss. Speedy inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter each had a tackle for a loss, too. The run defense got stronger as the game went on, a stark contrast to last week in Seattle. Tampa Bay gained on 28 yards on 13 carries after halftime.
A+: Passing Defense
Give defensive coordinator Rob Ryan a ton of credit. He came up with a genius game plan to mask the absence of strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh, one of three starters who weren’t available, and rattle Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman (10-of-28 for 110 yards with a TD and INT). In nickel situations, Brandon Carr played safety for the first time in his career, with Mike Jenkins coming in at cornerback. Those two combined to shut out $55 million receiver Vincent Jackson until the Bucs’ final possession. A week after being shut out, DeMarcus Ware had another two-sack outing, forcing fumbles both times he got to Freeman.
A-: Special Teams
The Cowboys avoided disaster, although they came close on a punt that the Bucs should have blocked, and they made big plays. Orie Lemon made his mark in his NFL debut by recovering a muffed punt, the key play on a scoring drive. Dez Bryant set up the field goal that essentially sealed the win with a 44-yard punt return, the first time this season he has resembled the elite punt returner he was during his rookie season. Dan Bailey was 3-for-3 on field goals. And, hey, Felix Jones didn’t fumble.
This grade reflects solely on the head coach. Rob Ryan’s performance would lift the overall grade to a passing mark, but we’ve got to flunk Jason Garrett after such a ridiculously sloppy outing by his offense. The Cowboys committed 13 penalties, including six false starts. (Strange but true: They are 2-0 when committing 13 penalties this season.) The offense was out of sync all day, and Garrett never adjusted to keep Tampa Bay’s defensive line from teeing off on his quarterback. That’s two straight weeks Garrett’s offense scored only one touchdown. The offensive coordinator looks overwhelmed.
Tim MacMahon | ESPN Dallas
EDITOR COMMENT: Do you agree with this assessment? What are YOUR grades?
DALLAS’ NEW FLEX DEFENSE: Brandon Carr’s quick adaptation to safety gives Mike Jenkins a chance to impress at cornerback
Brandon Carr said he got it in a text. The plan was for him to play safety this week.
If it caught him by surprise, it should have. He had not played safety in the NFL or college. Maybe a snap in high school, he said.
But whatever. He had to get ready.
“They let me know on Monday. I got a head start,” he said. “Got my mind right. Watch extra film. Not at corner, but at safety, just to get a feel for how things were going to be coming at me.”
He said he worked with injured safety Gerald Sensabaugh to get ready.
“I picked his brain a little bit,” Carr said. “It helped me just as far as reaction of where to be on the field, pre-snap, what should I be looking for, different personnel, different ways they line up and things like that. He was always there for me, giving me a helping hand.”
Whatever he did, it worked.
Carr shuttled between safety and cornerback, and his work got extra snaps at corner for Mike Jenkins. Between them and Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys held the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ biggest threats at wide receiver in check in a 16-10 victory Sunday.
Mike Williams caught two passes on six targets. Vincent Jackson caught one pass on seven targets. And quarterback Josh Freeman completed only 10 of 28 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, finishing with a 45.2 passer rating.
“The game is different back there,” Carr said. “You know, at corner everything happens so quick. It’s at the line of scrimmage. It’s physical. At safety, it’s more reading the quarterback, trying to get a break on balls. Sometimes you have to be the quarterback back there and call out the plays and our checks and stuff. So I knew it was a different ballgame.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Carr looked good enough at practice to let the Cowboys try their experiment.
“It was a little bit of a challenge for us because Vincent Jackson is such a good football player. He is a big guy, and Brandon matches up with him well,” Garrett said. “At the same time, Mike Jenkins is healthy. … We said, let’s get our four and five best DBs out there as much as we can, and the guy we felt was most suited to play safety was Brandon Carr. He told me he hadn’t done it since 11th grade. He was a quarterback and safety in 11th grade.
“He looked real comfortable when we started doing it in practice early in the week. Jenks played really well. It was good to see him playing the way he is capable of playing, and Brandon’s versatility allows him to do that.”
Of Jenkins, Carr said, “Man, he played outstanding ball. Like I said, I want to give guys the opportunity to go out there and play and make a difference. That’s what he did. He went out there, seized the moment. When he got his chance, he went out there and did an exceptional job on 83.”
Told he might have the best hands on the team, inside linebacker Sean Lee laughed.
"I have streaky hands," Lee said. "I’ve been on a good streak here for a while."
Lee intercepted a Josh Freeman pass in the first quarter as the ball bounced off running back D.J. Ware’s hands and up into the air for Lee to nab. The Cowboys used the good field position to tie the game, going 23 yards in four plays for the touchdown.
"I went to make a tackle, and he tried to hit a check down and the ball was floating right up in the air for me," Lee said. "It’s one of those things where you’re like, ‘Just please catch the ball.’ That’s what you’re concentrating on. Right place, right time."
Lee now has seven career interceptions in only 32 games. It is one less than cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Brandon Carr have in their careers.
"He has a nose for the football," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "You see that in the number of tackles he makes. We have seen his ability to play the ball. He has done that throughout his career. He has made some real signature interceptions in his career. His ability to track the ball and make the play in the air, in traffic, like he did is tribute to his athletic ability. He shows up throughout the game. he is a great leader for our defense."
Lee tied a team record with 21 tackles last week, including 15 solos.
Danny McCray was ready to play significant snaps, but it was Brandon Carr who stepped up and showed his versatility. The fifth-year cornerback was a surprise starter at safety, playing there on nickel downs and allowing Mike Jenkins to start at cornerback.
The move allowed the Cowboys to take advantage of their depth at the cornerback position. Since Jenkins came back from his shoulder rehab, the Cowboys have been experimenting with ways of getting him onto the field to contribute.
Through two weeks of the season (and the entire preseason), Carr stood out as the Cowboys’ best lockdown corner. Many expected him to spend the entire game matched up with lengthy Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson. Instead, the Cowboys put faith in Carr’s discipline and versatility by moving him over to safety to serve as a security blanket in certain situations.
It is a credit to Carr that the Cowboy’s felt so strongly about his defensive awareness that they would instruct him to play anything other than the position at which he was the NFL’s most prized free agent this offseason.
“Whatever it takes to win, I’m down for it,” Carr said. “We put Jenkins out there at corner and it wasn’t a letdown at all. He held his own.”
While the move was a surprise to many watching the game, Carr explained that he had been preparing to play safety all week.
“I got a head start, I think it was Monday they let me know,” Carr said. “I just had to get my mind right, watch extra film, not at corner, but at safety, just to get a different feel for how things were going to be thrown at me. I think I did a decent job.”
When asked after the game how much experience he had at safety, Carr provided a lighthearted, if not revealing, response.
“60 minutes,” Carr joked. “I took a couple snaps in high schools back in my early, early days playing, but other than that, it’s been a long, long time.”
After starting safety Barry Church went down, the Cowboys required contributions from every defensive back on the roster.
Despite depth concerns at safety, the result was a very impressive defensive effort and a near shutdown of the Buccaneers passing game. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman was limited to only 110 yards passing after racking up 243 yards against the Giants in his last game.
Morris Claiborne explained that the Cowboys have such talent at cornerback that when Carr moved over to safety, the coverage did not miss a beat.
“We have a lot of depth on this team and we have a lot of guys that can fill in when other guys are down,” Claiborne said. “We won’t lose too much.”
The Cowboys’ cornerbacks were also able to keep their impressive streak of not allowing a wide receiver to score on them all season. In fact, Tampa’s only touchdown of the game – a one-yard pass to tight end Luke Stocker – came after a Tony Romo interception gave the Buccaneer’s terrific field position. Jackson, the $55 million free agent addition, was held to just one reception for 29 yards.
When asked if he thought the cornerback core was attempting to build upon something special, Claiborne did not hesitate.
“Oh yeah, I think we are,” Claiborne said. “Coach Henderson does a good job with us, preparing us and getting us ready to go out and play ball. And we take a lot of pride in ourselves, to get ourselves ready to go out and play.”
IRVING, Texas – In an attempt to bolster the special teams units for Sunday’s game with the Bucs, the Dallas Cowboys have signed first-year linebacker Orie Lemon from the practice squad.
Lemon will be active Sunday against Tampa Bay, making his NFL debut as he is expected to play on most special teams units. Lemon, who spent all of last year on the practice squad, led the Cowboys with three special teams tackles during the preseason. He also had an interception for a touchdown in the preseason finale against Miami.
Lemon will likely assume a lot of the special teams duties held by Alex Albright, who is out this week with a stinger injury.
To make room for Lemon, the Cowboys waived cornerback/safety Mario Butler, who like Lemon, was also on the practice squad in 2011. Butler was on the 53-man roster for the first two games this year, and active in the season opener against the Giants.
He was expected to play some this week with Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) doubtful for the Bucs game and Barry Church (quad) also banged up. But it appears the Cowboys will go an alternate route for some backup safety help. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick have all received some work at safety this week in a nickel package and could provide some depth if needed.
Butler is still practice-squad eligible and it’s likely the Cowboys will try to bring him back on the eight-man squad.
Like Lemon, another linebacker expected to make his NFL debut on Sunday is fourth-round pick Kyle Wilber, who has been inactive the first two weeks. Wilber had a broken thumb that required surgery and now a soft cast.
Five Dallas Cowboys players, including three starters, have been ruled out of Sunday’s game because of injuries: nose tackle Jay Ratliff (ankle), defensive end Kenyon Coleman (knee), center Phil Costa (back), linebacker Alex Albright (neck) and safety Matt Johnson (hamstring). Ratliff, Coleman and Costa are starters.
A fourth starter, safety Gerald Sensabaugh (calf), is doubtful and did not participate in Friday’s workout. Defensive tackle Marcus Spears took part in limited drills and is questionable.
Players listed as probable included receiver Miles Austin (hamstring), safety Barry Church (quad), receiver Andre Holmes (knee), cornerback Mike Jenkins (shoulder), linebacker Sean Lee (hip), linebacker DeMarcus Ware (hamstring), linebacker Kyle Wilber (thumb) and tight end Jason Witten (spleen). Lee was limited in Friday’s drills. The rest participated fully.
DID YOU KNOW? The Boys Are Back blog provides Dallas Cowboys AND opponent injury updates from the team practices and those officially reported to the NFL. See the Injury Updates page at the top of every page or look on the right side of any post.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ defenders in the team’s 27-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, while analyzing what it means:
CB Brandon Carr: 68 of 68
CB Morris Claiborne: 64 of 68
ILB Sean Lee: 62 of 68
OLB DeMarcus Ware: 58 of 68
OLB Anthony Spencer: 58 of 68
ILB Bruce Carter: 54 of 68
S Gerald Sensabaugh: 52 of 68
S Danny McCray: 50 of 68
DE Jason Hatcher: 48 of 68
NG Josh Brent: 42 of 68
DE Marcus Spears: 34 of 68
CB Orlando Scandrick: 30 of 68
DL Sean Lissemore: 23 of 68
DE Kenyon Coleman: 21 of 68
S Mana Silva: 17 of 68
DE Victor Butler: 16 of 68
S Barry Church: 13 of 68
ILB Dan Connor: 11 of 68
DE Tyrone Crawford: 10 of 68
CB Mike Jenkins: 8 of 68
LB Alex Albright: 1 of 68
Danny McCray gets the Ironman Award this week for playing a team-high 74 snaps, if we include his work on special teams. McCray played so much because a quadriceps injury significantly limited Barry Church’s playing time. … Mike Jenkins made his 2012 debut as a part-time player at safety in the dime defense. With Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) out at least a couple of weeks, Jenkins’ playing time will increase at that spot. … Bruce Carter continues to make plays and saw his playing time nearly double. … Sean Lissemore will see additional playing time if he continues to produce at absurd levels. He had 10 tackles in only 38 snaps. … Victor Butler saw increased playing time, but had no impact.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ offense and what it means:
Jason Garrett answers questions from the Dallas media about the Dallas Cowboys 27-7 loss in Seattle on Sunday afternoon. The topics below, and others, were addressed.
Felix Jones won’t be benched, but Jason Garrett considering alternatives
IRVING — Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the fumble on the opening kickoff return against Seattle is the type of play that makes him consider other options.
Felix Jones lost the ball, and the Seahawks recovered and kicked a field goal as they built a 10-0 lead five minutes into the game.
"When you make a play like that, you look hard again at that and what the alternatives are," Garrett said Monday at Valley Ranch.
"… We have a few different guys working at that, and we’ll evaluate that again this week."
Jones averaged 21.8 yards on five returns against Seattle, but he started two returns deep in the end zone and got past the 20-yard line only once. He has been the only returner this season. Dwayne Harris and Phillip Tanner are also back to return on kickoffs.
Garrett said Jones’ explosiveness hasn’t shown, perhaps because he missed the off-season with a shoulder injury, but that ball security is most important.
"We have to improve in that area obviously, and then hopefully we’ll continue to improve, both our returner and how we’re blocking things to get him better opportunities," Garrett said.
There was no thought about benching Jones.
"He was going to go back out there the next time, and we had to make sure that he was ready to go. And he returned the ball better as he got more opportunities in the game and certainly protected it better," Garrett said. "But I think the situations vary. Sometimes you say, ‘Hey, you’ve had enough opportunities, let’s put the next guy in,’ and other times you believe in the guy because of his body of work and you give him another chance to do it."
The Cowboys might have to start backups Danny McCray and Mana Silva at safety against Tampa Bay, and they could use cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Mario Butler for extra help.
Starters Barry Church (thigh bruise) and Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) are questionable after getting hurt against Seattle, although Church said he will be able to play Sunday.
"He doesn’t have a lot of experience playing true safety, but he is a good athlete and he’s got a good instinct and feel for playing the game," Jason Garrett said of Jenkins. "We will have to make that evaluation and see how he stacks up against the other guys in normal down-and-distance situations as well as the third-down coverage situation."
Dez Bryant was inconsistent getting free against Seattle’s physical press coverage, Jason Garrett said.
"I thought at times he did a good job. Other times, he didn’t win on enough routes," Garrett said. "But that’s what good press corners do to you. You have to keep fighting and keep battling. Typically, what happens is the game feels a little uncomfortable to you when you play a style of defense like that."
Bryant was limited to three catches for 17 yards. He has seven catches for 102 yards this season, no touchdowns and two drops.
Jason Garrett said it’s difficult to defend a player who has been hit hard like Sean Lee was against Seattle but stay within the rules.
"It’s a tricky situation," he said. "You want to have each other’s backs, but you also have to have poise and composure. It’s really important for us to understand how to handle ourselves at the end of a down after a play like that because you don’t want to compound the mistake. You don’t want to add another 15-yard penalty to that. It’s a tricky situation."
Kenyon Coleman left the facility on crutches with his knee wrapped. Jason Garrett said the defensive end suffered a hyperextension.
Garrett said it was a technique error that led to the punt block. "It was not a real complicated look. We just got beat on the edge," he said.
Courtesy: Carlos Mendez | Ft Worth Star-Telegram
SEATTLE – There was a moment in the second half of Sunday’s disappointing loss to the Seahawks where it started to look like the first week of training camp in Oxnard.
That’s the point of camp where injuries were mounting to an extreme and it seemed like the Cowboys couldn’t take two steps without suffering another injury.
Obviously, this was much worse, considering the Cowboys weren’t just playing a real game, but getting manhandled by a more aggressive Seattle squad that was dishing out a few big hits.
But the injuries were occurring in a variety of ways, especially to the defensive side of the ball. Safety Barry Church went out of the game in the first quarter with a quad injury. Gerald Sensabaugh joined him on the sidelines in the second half with a calf strain.
Both players said after the game they would be fine and should play next week against Tampa.
Alex Albright suffered a stinger injury and was in street clothes before the end of the game. Sean Lee missed a few plays after taking a nasty hit but returned on the same drive.
And in the middle of the third quarter, Miles Austin had to go to the locker room to treat dehydration.
The Cowboys typically don’t provide a lot of injury information after the game, but it appears none of the setbacks are deemed serious. Head coach Jason Garrett will likely address the injury situation in his Monday afternoon press conference.
Sunday’s game was the first live action of the season for cornerback Mike Jenkins following a nine month recovery from reconstructive shoulder surgery. Jenkins had missed all of training camp and only on Wednesday did he don shoulder pads for the first time since New Year’s Day.
Jenkins’ role on the defense had been a hot topic in the week leading up to the game and over the offseason, when he had reportedly asked for a trade following the additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, which knocked him out of a starting job. As it turned out, he was the Cowboys’ fourth cornerback against the Seahawks, playing on sparingly in passing down sub-packages.
Orlando Scandrick remained the slot corner in the nickel defense. Jenkins played some special teams, but was on the field less than 10 snaps on defense, mostly working deep in prevent coverage or matched up against tight ends.