CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Monte Kiffin’s role has changed, but the Dallas Cowboys defense is in good hands | 2014 Dallas Cowboys coaching staff
Monte Kiffin doesn’t hold the title of Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator anymore, but he’s as fired up as ever. Just ask him.
“I’m really excited. I’m really fired up,” Kiffin said. “I’m not down one bit. I’m really not. I can’t coach that way. I wouldn’t stay here. If I didn’t feel right, if I knew I wasn’t going to contribute, and it wasn’t going to be a good situation, I promise you I would have moved on. I like it here. I like the head coach. But Rod Marinelli is the guy.
Kiffin was hired a little over a year ago to oversee the team’s transition from the 3-4 to the Tampa Two 4-3 style (commonly referred to as the Texas-2 Defense on this site).
COACHES REALIGNED AND DEFINED: Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett provides insight into 2014 coaching changes
IRVING, Texas – So the Dallas Cowboys will make major staff changes after all, especially on defense.
Through a press release sent last night, the Cowboys announced several coaching moves, including the switch at defensive coordinator. Rod Marinelli, who served as defensive line coach, will replace Monte Kiffin as the DC. Kiffin has been moved to the assistant head coach/defense. The Cowboys finished with the worst statistical season in franchise history, allowing 415.3 yards per game, the fourth-worst season total in NFL history.
Marinelli served as defensive coordinator in Chicago under Lovie Smith for three seasons. The Bears ranked ninth, seventeenth, and fifth in total defense during his three years.
“Rod’s responsibilities will be those typical for a defensive coordinator,” Garrett said Tuesday evening. “He’ll be the point person on defense all throughout the offseason and game-planning and certainly on game plan when he calls the defense.”
While Kiffin’s role has changed, Garrett said the veteran coach will take on a larger role as the assistant head coach and remains a big part of the team’s transition in defenses.
“Kiff has been such an instrumental piece for us transitioning from the 3-4 to the 4-3 defense,” Garrett said. “No better guy than Monte Kiffin to help us do that and spearhead that transition. And that transition continues. He’ll oversee the coaches coach and providing a different perspective than he had last year. He has invaluable experience as our defense continues to grow.”
As for the offense, the Dallas Cowboys officially hired Scott Linehan as the team’s passing game coordinator. Linehan, who coached one season with Garrett in Miami in 2005, will be the third play-caller in three seasons, replacing Bill Callahan in that capacity.
However, Callahan will remain as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach. Callahan reportedly has received offers from Baltimore to become the OC and perhaps Cleveland, although the Cowboys decided not to grant those teams permission to interview Callahan, who is under contract another season.
“We’re excited about Scott Linehan,” Garrett said. “He’s one of the best coordinators in this league and has been for a number of years. I had the good fortune of working with him in 2005 in Miami. He was our coordinator and I was the quarterback coach. I worked very closely with him and have a great deal of respect for him. His track record speaks for itself. We think he’s a great addition to our staff.”
The Dallas Cowboys are no strangers to having a passing game coordinator. In fact, Garrett said he sees this current setup as very similar to what was in place two seasons ago when Garrett called the plays and Callahan remained the OC and coached the line. Now, Linehan will be the play-caller but will work alongside.
“The roles and responsibilities will be similar to what we had a couple of years ago with Scott being in the role I was in,” Garrett explained. “As passing game coordinator, he will call the plays and work closely with Bill Callahan and the rest of the offensive staff in a role we’re comfortable with. He has a comfort level with our system and the language and terminology of our system. That transition we think will be fairly smooth. The perspective and ideas he brings, we think will be a positive thing for our team.”
While in Detroit, Linehan directed an offensive unit that finished the past three seasons ranked sixth, third, and fifth respectively in the NFL in total offense. The Lions ranked 17th in rushing as Reggie Bush had 1,006 rushing yards.
Linehan also served as head coach of the Rams from 2006-08, making him the third assistant with NFL head coaching experience along with Marinelli and Callahan.
While there is a natural perception that both Callahan and Kiffin have been demoted, yet remain on staff, Garrett said it will be his responsibility to make sure every coach is on the same page and has the same goal.
“Embracing your role is a critical piece to this,” Garrett said. ”As coaches and players, we do that all the time. We’re excited to get going and build on positive things we’ve done. You’re always trying to build chemistry on your football team. Every day is an opportunity to do that.”
In other coaching staff news, Garrett said Marinelli is expected to oversee the defensive line but Leon Lett and Ben Bloom will also work closely with that position.
COORDINATING THE COORDINATORS: With Scott Linehan hiring, the Dallas Cowboys have a proven play-caller more compatible with Jason Garrett’s offensive philosophy
The Dallas Cowboys apparently have hired a play-caller that Jason Garrett trusts.
Sure, other teams hire general managers, who hire head coaches, who hire assistants. There’s usually not much intrigue. If they win, they stay. If they lose, they get fired. You don’t need an MBA to figure out the business model.
Here, the GM has a lifetime contract. He can do whatever he wants. He can hire assistants before he hires the coach, or he can hire assistants after he hires the coach. The head coach must be flexible.
Jason Garrett is slowly asserting himself as head coach.
Consider the evolution of Garrett’s staff. Last year, Jerry gave him his second defensive coordinator and first play-caller. Midway through the season, Garrett asserted himself. With the offense struggling, he could have fired Callahan or stripped him of his title. Instead, he inserted himself in the Romo relay. He made his point without contradicting his boss.
Make no mistake: Jerry hired Bill Callahan and Monte Kiffin, and he wanted both back this year. Frankly, it’s OK. Change either or both, and it means three coaches in three years in those roles. Constant change is rarely the trademark of excellence.
You could argue that Kiffin did a lousy job with the defense. But you may also remember that Tony Dungy, who won a lot of games with the defense Kiffin employs, said it would take two or three years before the Dallas Cowboys had the proper personnel to run the Tampa Cover-2. And that was before so many players got hurt that Kiffin should have resorted to police tape and barricades.
The offense had its moments, too, even with the dysfunctional chain of command on play-calling and an apparent lack of understanding that, in football, you run the ball 1.) until somebody stops you, and 2.) when you’re trying to burn some clock. The offensive line was better than it’s been in years, no doubt contributing to Jerry’s desire to keep Bill Callahan under contract.
Jason Garrett knows the ground rules by now. If he didn’t learn them when he played for Jerry, or when Jerry hired him as offensive coordinator (even before hiring Wade Phillips), he learned every time his boss reupholstered his staff.
Slowly but surely, though, Jason Garrett is asserting himself. Derek Dooley, the wide receivers coach hired last year, is a Garrett guy. So is Mike Pope, the new tight ends coach. And Scott Linehan, too.
COORDINATING THE COORDINATORS: Veteran Scott Linehan added to Dallas Cowboys coaching staff | Coaches role’s realigned and defined
The Dallas Cowboys elevated Monte Kiffin to position of assistant head coach/defense, elevated Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator, hired Scott Linehan to be passing game coordinator/play-caller, and announced that Bill Callahan will remain as offensive coordinator/offensive line coach.
The team made the official announcement in an emailed press release tonight.
It provided this statement from Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett:
“Our responsibility is to bring quality people into our organization and find the best fit for them. That applies to players, and it applies to coaches. Rod Marinelli’s production in terms of creating turnovers and changing field position as a defensive coordinator is well documented. Monte Kiffin’s overall knowledge and understanding of this defensive scheme will be put to use in mentoring all of the players and coaches on the defensive side of the ball. Monte was brought here to direct a transition in philosophy to the 4-3 scheme, and he will continue to oversee the development of our defense in this scheme.
“The opportunity to add someone of Scott Linehan’s expertise and experience will benefit our offensive unit, and we believe the combination of him and Bill Callahan working closely together will give us a great chance to build upon the strides we made offensively last year.”
Scott Linehan is a former head coach in the NFL, with the St. Louis Rams in 2006-08, and was the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions for the past five seasons. Linehan will take on the role of the Dallas Cowboys offensive play caller for the 2014 season. While in Detroit, Linehan directed an offensive unit that finished the past three seasons ranked sixth, third, and fifth respectively in the NFL in total offense.
Rod Marinelli, the Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach in 2013, was most recently the Chicago Bears defensive coordinator under Lovie Smith from 2010 to 2012 where the Bears units finished ninth, 17th, and fifth, respectively. In 2012, the Chicago Bears led the NFL in interceptions (24), takeaways (44), and were third in points allowed (17.3 points per game).
DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER: Jerry Jones moving forward with both coordinators in 2014 | Jason Garrett focusing on filling empty coaching staff positions
MOBILE, Ala. – The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff roaming the sidelines at the Senior Bowl will look familiar.
Team owner/general manager Jerry Jones said nothing has changed with his coordinators and “there’s nothing there at all” regarding potential changes. He added that he plans on all the coaches still under contract staying aboard.
“The status of it is nothing,” Jones said. “The status is the contracts that are there, everybody’s here. That’s the way you ought to read it, not anticipate anything. I wouldn’t anticipate a thing.”
Jones stuck by Jason Garrett throughout the 2013 season and even after the end of a third straight 8-8 season, but the Cowboys’ head coach is entering the final year of his contract and it doesn’t appear that deal will be extended hastily. Jones said he hasn’t had any thought about that at this point in the year.
“I don’t pay any attention to lame duck status, what you call lame duck status,” Jones said. “I don’t have that term, because I don’t know that there’s such a thing. We’ve got huge, a lifetime, of work ahead of us over the next few weeks. To even consider that needs anything more than an agreement to do this year is not a big thing to me. It’s just too much takeaway from what we’re trying to do right now, which is just get cranked up for 2014.”
Then again, that doesn’t mean he’s lost belief in his head coach or that the pay day won’t come. He said he wants to be there when it does happen.
He gave, and has continued to give, Garrett multiple years to develop his system and get it in place. The same may be going for his coordinators with another year to make adjustments.
“I had a guy tell me one time how to be successful, that no human can be right over 50 percent of the time on any decision, but it’s the ones that cut their bad ones off quick and let their good ones run long (that work out),” Jones said. “That’s hard to do. That’s hard to accept quickly to cut a bad decision off quick.
“We all know the adage of the gold miner that walked away and the other one that took one more swing and hit the pick and found the gold stream. So, you don’t want to quit. It’s easier said than done to let your mistakes go short and your good decisions long.”
It’s getting close to decision time with many veteran Cowboys players and staff members. Most of the focus this offseason has centered on defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, who don’t appear to be going anywhere.
Jones said he doesn’t have to convince people on staff that it’s a good decision to keep Kiffin. He only had to convince “the man in the mirror.”
“Did we discuss and get input on a lot of things? Absolutely,” Jones said. “But what we did not do is have a big debate or management session regarding Monte Kiffin. We didn’t do that. That decision was made last year.
“When you look at the fundamentals of a Monte Kiffin and you look at the fundamentals of his work and you look at what he is and you look at the fact that you decided scheme wise that you liked that competing in the NFL today, then that weighs you from cutting that short. The answer is I didn’t want to cut it short over on defense and some of the same principles are true with cutting it short on Jason, on going on when I talk about I want to be here for the pay day, and this is pay day time for Jason.”
Everything appears to be status quo regarding the coaches still under contract in Dallas, from the head coach down to the assistants.
At some point this offseason, the focus will begin to turn to the contracts of players. But Jones said the team isn’t working on any restructures yet and it’s too early at this point in the year to focus on that.
RELATED: Jason Garrett focusing on filling empty staff positions
MOBILE, Ala. – The Dallas Cowboys coaching situation seems to be clearer.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett spoke about the job security of Bill Callahan and Monte Kiffin today, just one day after team owner/general manager Jerry Jones affirmed that the offensive and defensive coordinator were still under contract for 2014.
Garrett, who is beginning his fourth year as head coach, reiterated Jones’ stance from Monday afternoon, though he added that staff evaluations are still ongoing following the 2013 season.
“Like he said, those guys are under contract. We’re always trying to figure out ways to do better, and that starts with us as a coaching staff,” Garrett said. “We’ll keep looking at what everyone’s roles are and how everything settles down.”
Whether or not those roles would change going forward, though, Garrett declined to say. There has been some (media) speculation that Kiffin and Callahan’s positions could change despite remaining with the Cowboys, but Garrett did not add to it.
“Those guys are under contract, and we feel good about that,” he said. “We’re always going to try to do things that are in the best interest of our football team, so we’ll keep looking at how we can be better as a staff and what roles everybody is in and what we’re asking them to do. But those guys are really good football coaches.”
Instead, Garrett said the current focus was on filling the empty positions on his staff. The Cowboys lost tight ends coach Wes Phillips to the Redskins last week, and they parted ways with assistant special teams coach Chris Boniol after the season.
“We do have some coaches who are out of contract, and we’re trying to get those things settled,” he said. “We’re just in the process of those conversations right now.”
Reports indicated earlier in the week that the Cowboys would replace Boniol with Carlos Polk, who served as an intern under special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia last season. Polk, who also worked with Bisaccia on the Chargers’ coaching staff, confirmed Tuesday that looks to be the case – though his contract isn’t finalized.
“It has not been finalized, but he’s someone who really was a good addition to our team this year. Bisaccia has some history with him in San Diego, and he really came in and played a very prominent role for us on that special teams unit,” Garrett said.
Former Giants tight ends coach Mike Pope has also come up as a potential replacement for Phillips. Pope coached in New York for 23 seasons and was a member of all four of the team’s Super Bowl staffs before the Giants fired him last week.
Pope was coaching in New York when Garrett was a quarterback with the Giants from 2000-03, providing a logical connection.
“There are a number of guys that we’ve talked about in that situation. Mike is a good friend of mine and obviously a very good coach,” Garrett said.
The Jerry Jones Show: Jason Garrett’s future; Stance on coordinators | 16:17
Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones speaks with 105.3 The Fan for his final weekly show and talks about the decision to stick with Jason Garrett, and what the status is on the coordinators (Bill Callahan and Monte Kiffin) for both sides of the ball. (Watch Video | Listen Audio)
RELATED: Jerry Jones reaffirms his faith in Jason Garrett; Focusing on players
IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones left no doubts about the future of head coach Jason Garrett today.
Jones reaffirmed on 105.3 FM “The Fan” that he had made his decision to retain Garrett and that it wasn’t a decision he made recently. He said he decided that several weeks ago and that he likes what Garrett’s doing as a coach.
“One thing that’s a positive here is we’ve been in it,” Jones said. “We’ve been in it the last three years. Jason’s been on this staff going on seven years now. But we have been in it, during his time as head coach, we have been in it, right there playing for it, in the last game for the last three years.”
Jones said there’s a positive to competing and being in the mix in the division in the final week every year, but he also said he’s right there with fans wanting more than 8-8 and not having to play for a division title in the last game every year.
“That’s where we can have improvement,” he said.
With the news that Garrett would return, the attention now focuses on the future of the other coaches and coordinators. Jones said in this business, players and coaches can lose their jobs if they don’t get the job done with or without a contract, but he wouldn’t get into the specifics of many of the coaches’ contracts.
Jones said he was pleased he had defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan this year. That’s despite the Cowboys finishing last in the league in total defense and questions popping up throughout the year regarding the offensive play-calling.
The owner didn’t specifically state that those coordinators will stay next year, but he said to assume the coaching staff’s contract statuses will remain intact until they decide differently. He said those coordinators mentioned previously are still under contract.
“When we got them, I’ve never had as many people talk about, ‘Well, boy, you have really upgraded or, not upgraded would be the word, but you have really added a plus to the coaching staff,’” Jones said. “Now we had a rough year, but we didn’t necessarily have a rough year because of coaching, in terms of our defense. All that will be considered as we look forward.”
He also said the Cowboys won’t have the changes in the coaching staff area that they had last year. As far as what decisions will be made, Jones said he will look at that with Garrett going forward, but they haven’t discussed that in depth yet.
“We’ve made some philosophical changes this year with (Tony) Romo and his influence that he has in the offense,” Jones said. “We’ve made some changes regarding the philosophy of the defense. We need to practice that, we need to improve that, to the extent we can add personnel, which we certainly can through the draft.”
Most of Jones’ focus now seems to be on personnel rather than coaching. He said he’s had recent years where he thought the talent on the field was greater than it was this year, specifically because of the injuries the team sustained, but he also thought the team should have had more success with Romo on the field for 15 of 16 games.
“But when I look at the challenges that we had, frankly, and the numbers of players we had to bring on the roster and get on the field in a relatively short amount of time that for the most time weren’t a part of rosters or maybe aren’t going to be a part of rosters this year, I think we did a pretty good job getting the team out there under the circumstances,” Jones said. “Having said that, one of the things you look at is your depth.”
ARLINGTON, Texas – Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones stood firm by his statement in the wreckage of another disappointing season.
Jones endorsed Jason Garrett to return as his head coach way back on Nov. 21, when the Cowboys were 5-5. Moments after his team had fallen short of an NFC East title for a third straight year, Jones reiterated that position.
“I have spoken at a little bit of a more appropriate time here three or four weeks ago, which I said at the time that I was with Jason, and I thought that his future and what he was going to be doing with us was good,” Jones said. “But this isn’t the time, despite how it feels or looks, to speak to anything about our coaches.”
Jones’ reluctance to speak on the issue could be seen as non-committal, but he was emphatic when asked a second time, in what turned into a 30-minute meeting with the media.
“I’ve said that a month ago, and so I stand by what I said a month ago,” he said.
It was bound to be a hot topic in the immediate aftermath of the Cowboys’ 24-22 loss to Philadelphia. Sunday marked the third-straight year during Garrett’s tenure the Cowboys have finished 8-8, and the third-straight year they have lost the division on the final night of the season.
For his part, Garrett said he was too focused on the season finale against the Eagles to give much thought to his job status – whatever it may be.
“I’m just focused on doing my job. We put a lot of time, effort, energy, and our guts into this ballgame and it is a disappointing loss for us, so that’s where all our focus and energy was,” he said.
For the second straight season, a late-game interception by the Cowboys dashed killed that focus and energy. Jones called the result extremely disappointing and hard to swallow – though he did credit Garrett and the team for resiliency during an up-and-down season.
“It’s unbelievable, unthinkable really for me to be sitting here three years in a row and this game putting us at .500 and this game eliminating us from getting to the playoffs,” Jones said. “I had thought that some of the changes we made this year would put us in better overall shape — our defense.”
He added: “I thought this team really took the challenges that were served up to it. Every team has them even the team we were playing tonight. But I thought we handled our challenges really well, and I give Jason Garrett a lot of credit for that about how we handled our challenges throughout the year and obviously, our injury situation.”
If Garrett’s job status is secure, it remains to be seen if any other changes will be made this offseason. Jones declined to speculate on the future of any other coaches.
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, whose defense has been heavily criticized this season, said he isn’t focused on the future, though he’d like to return.
“I’m not thinking about that right now – I’m more concerned about not winning this football game,” he said. “I didn’t plan on retiring, so I’d like to keep on coaching – I really would.”
DALLAS COWBOYS GAME 13 PRIMER: Chicago Bears preparing to face former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli
IRVING, Texas – Bears coach Marc Trestman had a decision to make when he replaced Lovie Smith in Chicago. For his part, he wanted to retain Rod Marinelli as the team’s defensive coordinator.
It was an understandable decision. The Bears led the league in takeaways in 2012 with 44, and they finished fifth in total defense. Chicago maintained a fearsome reputation on defense during Marinelli’s four-year stay – one season as defensive line coach, and three as defensive coordinator.
But after a talk with Trestman, Marinelli opted to leave.
“I have tremendous respect for Rod, and I’m sure he would tell you that we had a great conversation, Trestman said. “I laid it all out for him and certainly wanted him to stay. We certainly respected his decision to move on.”
That decision may have had more to do with loyalty than any other issue. Marinelli and Smith both got their NFL starts in 1996 for Tampa Bay, under Tony Dungy and current Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. During the Cowboys’ bye week, Marinelli told reporters he had only gone to Chicago to reunite with his close friend.
“I’ll say this – he is one of my very best friends,” Marinelli said of Smith. “I went there because of him, not for any other reason. We had a long tenure together in Tampa, and I just – I believe in him.”
Marinelli added that he feels similarly about Kiffin, which helps explain why he chose to make his way to Dallas after leaving the Bears in January.
“I just think, for me, that was Lovie’s defense,” he said.
In Dallas, Marinelli’s influence as defensive line coach has been hard to miss. With a constantly rotating cast of characters, he has coaxed the Dallas Cowboys to 28 team sacks, including a career-high nine from Jason Hatcher.
“I have so much respect for him. I’ve said that so many times, but I’ll say it again – he’s a special guy. He’s an icon at what he does” Kiffin said. “He isn’t just a defensive line coach — he was a head coach, he was a coordinator. He can be whatever he wants to be.”
That also includes intangibles, in addition to mechanics. Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett praised Marinelli’s ability to teach fundamentals, but he said there’s an extra quality to his expertise.
“He also does a good job of coaching the guys emotionally — where your emotions need to be to play this game at a high level,” Garrett said. “I think he does that in practice, he does that in the game. He’s just an awfully good coach. I’ve learned a lot from him.
None of that is to say the Cowboys are dominating statistically. But it wasn’t lost on Trestman that Dallas is one of the best in the league at creating takeaways – which was Chicago’s specialty under Marinelli.
“Their ability to create turnovers has been their number one asset. They’ve got approximately, what, 25 turnovers right now,” Trestman said. “It’s enabled their offense to play on a short field and help them out at times.”
Marinelli’s role isn’t limited to just defensive line, as Kiffin said. It also isn’t limited to the defensive side of the ball. Marinelli’s three-year stint as a head coach in Detroit, which saw the Lions post the NFL’s only winless campaign, gave the veteran some valuable experience to bring to future staffs.
“He had a tough go in Detroit with the players, and no disrespect to Detroit, but just the whole situation,” Kiffin said. “But this guy – and not just myself — I know the head coach leans on him a lot, too. We all do.”
From one stop to another and on to the Cowboys, that seems fine with Marinelli, who said confidence is key during the highs and lows of a coaching career.
“When I was in Detroit that was a great experience for me, because it’s what I believed in. It didn’t work, but I never lost confidence, I never lost faith – I went to Chicago and kept working,” he said. “If you have a belief and it’s tested, and you crack with that, then it’s not a belief. So you better get a big semi to run over me, and you’d better do it three times.”
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DIVINE INTERVENTION: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones suggest changes, but not in the coaching ranks
IRVING, Texas – While the Dallas Cowboys will have a chance to get healthy and possibly make a few adjustments during the bye week, changes in the coaching staff are not expected.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said this morning on his weekly radio show on 105.3 “The Fan” that he doesn’t anticipate any staff changes, and that includes the defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and the play-calling duties for Bill Callahan.
“I don’t know if you have much choice as to what you’re doing in the bye week,” Jones said. “We certainly want to emphasize the good things that can be done. I’m not even going to address coaching staff, as to where they’re safe or not. Obviously, here we’ve got 3-4 days this week and go into next week and we’re 5-5, we’re tied for the lead in our division. We’ve got players coming back. We’ve got one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League. We’re off a rough loss. That doesn’t call for major changes out here at all.”
Jones emphatically said “no” when asked point blank if Jason Garrett would take over for Bill Callahan in the play-calling duties.
One change Jones did say regarding the defense is the play of more man-to-man coverage with the secondary and less zone. In fact, during the some 12-minute interview, Jones made two references to playing more man.
“We need to look at what each of these guys do the best,” Jones said. “Basically, I’m talking about our corners. Can we get our corners playing more man and less zone, those are kind of things (to change) when the bye week comes along.”
Here are some other points Jones said this morning:
- Wide receiver Miles Austin is expected to return to action against the Giants after the bye week. Jones said Austin should have a “clean bill of health” after missing six of the last eight games with a hamstring injury.
- Speaking of hamstrings, both Sean Lee and Justin Durant will likely be out 3-4 weeks with their injuries they suffered in the Saints game.
- Jones said losing to the Saints does not make him hit the panic button. He references close losses to the Chiefs and Broncos this year in helping him realize the Cowboys have a chance to be more than competitive against some of the NFL’s top teams.
- With all of the injuries, Jones said the team evaluates the strength and conditioning staff to make a “comparative assessment around the league” to see how the Cowboys stack up regarding other injuries. In the past few years, Jones said the Cowboys haven’t been much different than other teams.
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RELATED – Jerry Jones says Dallas Cowboys can improve by getting Dez Bryant the ball, getting healthy, playing man coverage
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he’s glad the Cowboys are in their bye week because it gives them a chance to get guys back from injury.
He said safety J.J. Wilcox, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, cornerback Morris Claiborne and receiver Miles Austin should be ready to go against the Giants Nov. 24.
Jones outlined a few things on radio today that the Cowboys can do during the bye to be better down the stretch.
First and foremost, he said the team needs to find a way to get the ball in the hands of receiver Dez Bryant more.
Jones said the offense has underachieved and the Cowboys should be more productive on offense which had equal responsibility in the blowout loss to the Saints last Sunday when Bryant caught just one pass for 44 yards. That lone reception didn’t come until late in the third quarter.
“We need to get (Dez Bryant) the ball more,” Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM. “That type of thing is a reasonable thing you can adjust. How do we get him the ball more. We need to get the ball the (running back) Lance Dunbar. He’s a play maker out there.”
Apart from getting the injured guys back, Jones said the defense can improve by allowing guys to do they do best and play more man coverage in the secondary. He said cited the zone defense as one reason Saints quarterback Drew Brees blistered the Cowboys on Sunday. He finished 34 of 41 for 392 and four touchdowns, coming eight yards shy of becoming the fifth quarterback to top the 400-yard mark against the Cowboys this season.
“It’s time to look at what the guys do the best,” Jones said. “Play a little more man, a little less zone. You need to man up more in the secondary rather than rely on zone. If you can’t get pressure and you are relying on zone that’s how we end up on the position we were in the other night.”
Jay Ratliff left the building only a week before his No. 90 and his locker went to another defensive tackle. Marvin Austin has taken over both after the Dallas Cowboys signed him Tuesday.
Austin spent two seasons with the Giants after they made him a second-round pick in 2011. He spent two games with the Dolphins this season before his release Oct. 15.
“It’s definitely a new beginning and a lot to build on,” Austin said.
Austin, listed at 6 foot 2, 312 pounds, still was pouring with sweat a half hour after practice. He admits he is not in football shape.
“Not good enough,” Austin said. “To be honest with you just the way they practice and the way they want you to go out there and play, I’ve got to keep working every day to get in shape to go out there and perform.”
Austin hopes defensive line coach Rod Marinelli can work the same magic with him as Marinelli has with several no names along the defensive line.
“His record speaks for itself and coach [Monte] Kiffin also,” Austin said. “The way that those guys coach, and the success they’ve had in this league, I have no excuses.”
PHILADELPHIA – The first three rounds occurred not on only the West Coast, but actually in college football.
The only thing relevant about Monte Kiffin vs. Chip Kelly is what happens at this level. The USC-Oregon stuff was an interesting side note, but doesn’t mean anything – and never did – when it comes to these two squaring off in the NFL.
Clearly, because Round 4 went to Kiffin. In fact, this was a knockout.
Say whatever you want about the up-tempo, fast-paced offense that Kelly brought from Oregon to the Eagles, but the Cowboys not only slowed it down, but shut things down Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. And they did this without their best defensive player in DeMarcus Ware, who missed the first game of his career with a quad strain.
No Ware, no problem. The Cowboys had guys like Jason Vega, Kyle Wilber, Caesar Rayford, Drake Nevis and Jarius Wynn on the defensive line, and they still managed to shut down the NFL’s leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, and the Eagles’ attack.
This game of chess between Kiffin and Kelly was pretty much one-sided from the start. Sure, the Eagles were in the game mainly because their defense kept the Cowboys offense at bay for most of the afternoon. It was a punt-fest for a while, but make no mistake, Kiffin had his bunch of “no-names” swarming to the ball left and right and shutting down whatever the Eagles threw at them.
And before anyone plays the Nick Foles card, just remember this one – nobody cares. Nope, not after Peyton Manning torched the Cowboys three weeks ago and scored 51 points. And before that, it was Philip Rivers doing the same. No one seemed to care back then when two of the NFL’s best, including arguably the best of all-time was picking the Cowboys defense apart. Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that Kiffin said to put the Denver loss on him? Well, this one is also on him.
Kiffin’s defense was ridiculed plenty when they couldn’t stop Danny Woodhead or Knowshon Moreno. So what about McCoy?
Well, the Cowboys dominated him Sunday. McCoy is a great player and we saw him slice and dice through the Cowboys defense two years ago up here. But on this day, it was different. McCoy had 81 total yards on 24 touches (18 carries, 6 receptions). It’s still respectable numbers, considering what the Cowboys are used to. But for the NFL’s most dynamic back, especially with Foles playing for Michael Vick, the Eagles simply needed more.
And they didn’t get it.
This defense wasn’t just fast to the ball on Sunday, they were sound in their techniques. They stayed in their running lanes all day. I thought Brandon Carr was great in coverage, but he seemed just as dominant in run support. How many times did we see McCoy trying to stretch a running play outside, but Carr wouldn’t let him have the corner? He forced several running plays back inside where it seemed like Sean Lee was usually there to stuff the play.
It wasn’t just those two. Bruce Carter was all over the field, and did a great job in coverage. The defensive linemen up front were creating a push up the middle, and came off the edge with force. The Cowboys looked like a defense that has played together for years – or even months.
For some of them, it’s only been days or weeks. Wynn got here Monday. Nevis has been here three weeks. Vega got here when the season started but only on the practice squad. Sunday was his first game. We all know about George Selvie showing up in the middle of camp as a body to fill space. And let’s not forget Nick Hayden got here this summer and Kyle Wilber didn’t play much last year on defense.
These defensive misfits came together Sunday and shut down what was supposed to be next big thing in the NFL. Chip Kelly and his rock-and-roll offense never got going on this day.
Sure, Foles looked pretty bad at times. And yes, it’s now clear that Michael Vick will get his job back when he returns from injury. But this was the same Foles who lit up Tampa Bay last week and looked like he was ready to turn that proverbial corner. Instead, he was rushed and flustered all day by a Cowboys’ pass-rush that only had one starter who was projected to be there when training camp began.
Now, that one guy, Jason Hatcher, was all over the place. Last year he said the Cowboys needed more leaders. This year, he’s not only had a team meeting after practice, but he’s starting to perform like a leader, too. Hatcher already has a career high in sacks with six, and he played like a player possessed on Sunday. And, he had plenty of help. Even though none of them are household names.
But they came together Sunday under Kiffin’s guidance.
The veteran coach was supposed to be out of his league when it came to facing Kelly. While there is a rematch to be played in the season finale, it was pretty clear on Sunday that Kiffin won this battle. And the Cowboys picked up a huge road win because of it.
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr playing without putting pressure on himself, unlike last year.
Brandon Carr, coming off perhaps his most impactful game with the Dallas Cowboys since signing his $50.1 million free agent contract.
“I don’t feel pressure any more,” the veteran cornerback said Monday at Valley Ranch. “I put it on myself last year. It’s a new year. I’m still working, still trying to get better. I’m going to continue to evolve as a player. I’m not going to put pressure on myself. I’m going to continue to have fun and show the passion I have for this game and make plays.”
Carr had six tackles, a tackle for loss, and three pass breakups against the Redskins on Sunday. Instead of playing just one side of the field, he stayed with the Redskins’ No. 1 target, Pierre Garcon, and limited him to six catches for 69 yards on 15 targets.
“You can call it what you want to call it,” Carr said. “I’m going to go out there and do my job wherever they match me up, or on the side I play. I’m going to try to shut it down. It’s a compliment to me and a great challenge for me. I have been working to get to this level for six years now.”
Carr said he still sees himself developing.
“I’m still a work in progress, but I’m down for any task or challenge they present to me,” Carr said. “Any receiver they tell me to go out and cover or give them my best shot, that is what I’m going to do every Sunday.”
IRVING, Texas – If the coaches’ decision to bench Bruce Carter for part of last week’s game was to motivate the linebacker, then consider the job accomplished.
Carter said he’s not sure if that was the coaches’ intentions one week after a poor performance against the Chargers, but the temporary benching makes him more excited to get back on the field and prove his worth.
“It definitely puts a chip on your shoulder,” Carter said. “You’ve just got to go out there and prove to everybody that you can play at a high level and you’re capable of what you’re able to do. You can’t take anything for granted.”
Carter was one of the standouts on defense last season and even early this year, as he accumulated 24 total tackles and three sacks through the first three weeks of the season. But a rough performance against the Chargers in Week 3 led to the coaches going more with Ernie Sims last week in the nickel package against the Broncos.
Never before in his life had Carter been in a situation like that.
“I’ve never been benched or a backup or none of that,” Carter said. “It’s a learning lesson. I definitely will say that. I can’t take my position for granted or playing for the Cowboys, period.”
Carter said he’s not positive what will happen with the rotation in the nickel this week, although it’s likely he gets more snaps going forward. He had trouble in coverage against the Chargers, as Danny Woodhead got behind him for two scores.
All the linebackers seem to be struggling more in coverage this year in their first season in Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defense. He said at times the linebackers might be thinking too much instead of playing quickly. At times, stopping to diagnose plays can appear like a lack of effort.
“It’s a lot of stuff you have to cover, and it might not even be right in your face, it might be on the other side of the field,” Carter said. “That’s where, for me, things get complicated, just getting back in your drops, having to look across the field. That’s something we’ve just been working at all week and I think we’re getting better at.”
IRVING, Texas – With one of the best quarterbacks of all-time coming to AT&T Stadium this week, football analyst (former scout) Bryan Broaddus addresses the many concerns in facing Peyton Manning and his Denver offense. Broaddus also breaks down the Broncos’ other weapons and discusses ways to win this game.
Other than Peyton Manning what Broncos player is most dangerous?
With Von Miller serving his suspension, you take him out of the mix. It would be easy to say Wes Welker for what he has done through four games since coming over from the Patriots. Trindon Holliday can take a punt or kick and score from any point on the field or Demaryius Thomas but the guy I feel like is the most dangerous, is Eric Decker.
When I sat down Monday night to begin studying the Broncos on offense, Decker was one of those players that was always getting the ball thrown in his direction and making plays. He is not the most dangerous because of his speed or quickness but where he hurts you the most is his ability to make a catch no matter where the ball is thrown.
He is one of the best bad ball catchers I have ever seen. There are times where Manning just pushes it in his direction and he makes the catch. He is a crafty route runner and will find ways to get open despite of how slow he appears to be moving. There is not one area of the field where Decker is better than the other. He has the ability to hurt you at all levels. Manning has complete confidence in all these Broncos receivers but when he needed a big play or a tough catch, the direction of the ball went toward Eric Decker and he would deliver.
How do you play Peyton Manning?
It all starts with Peyton Manning and how he manages the game. He is the ultimate chess player. His ability to read defenses and understand what they are trying to do to him, makes him rare. There are smart quarterbacks in this league, but it’s one thing to be smart but can you take advantage of being smart by making all the throws, and that is what you have in Manning.
What I have learned over the years in watching him play, you have to have two game plans for him. I learned this from Bill Belichick years ago. Belichick would never show Manning his best stuff early in the game. He would show him three and four man fronts, an extra blitzer from the weak side or a different coverage but Belichick always wanted to keep Manning guessing in what he was trying to do. The idea of the plan was not to show Manning any consistent looks, then in the fourth quarter, he would run a scheme or two with a different coverage that would throw Manning off.
Throughout his coaching career, Bill Belichick probably has had the most success of playing against Peyton Manning than any other coach in this league. There are not many schemes that Manning has not seen in his career but if you run the same scheme over and over, you make it very easy for him to function and that is a problem.
This is a winnable game
Despite the way the Broncos have started the season, I really do believe the Cowboys can win this game. I have been in this league too long and seen too many games where the situation looked bad or impossible and a team finds away played their best game. The Broncos have had plenty go right this season and they deserve to be in the position they are currently in but there is a saying in this league about any given Sunday.
There is no question that Peyton Manning is playing at a high level but so is Tony Romo. As long as he is taking snaps, this team has a chance, just take a look back to Philip Rivers and what quarterback play can do for a team that might be undermanned. There is enough talent on this team to give the Broncos problems of their own.
With that being said, it’s going to have to be a collective effort. Poor coaching decisions, dropping the ball on 3rd down or not playing your technique in the defensive scheme cannot happen if the Dallas Cowboys are going to win this game. To be the best, you have to play your best. Are the Cowboys capable of playing their best game against the Broncos? Without a doubt they are, but them talking about it should not be the focus, them actually doing it should be, that is how they are going to win this game.
IRVING, Texas – After a closer look at Sunday’s loss, here are some thoughts from the film room at Valley Ranch:
Take What Is There — TWIT
The execution of the offensive game plan by the San Diego Chargers was outstanding. From the press box, it appeared very simple and after studying the game, it was. It was tailored to not put Philip Rivers in any poor situations because of the condition of his offensive line. Going into this game, it was clear that if Monte Kiffin did not put pressure on Rivers, his defense could struggle no matter who was blocking for him or catching the ball.
Given the time that Rivers had to work with, he made this Cowboys defense pay. When Kiffin played his normal zone coverage, Rivers found answers underneath with quick, simple throws to Antonio Gates, who was 10-for-10 on targets and receptions. When Kiffin tried to adjust to handle plays underneath and in the middle of the field, Rivers worked the ball in the flat to Ryan Mathews or Danny Woodhead, who found themselves in space with no defender to contest the play. For every adjustment that Kiffin tried to make Mike McCoy and Philip Rivers were just better.
On the second touchdown to Woodhead, Rivers in the shot-gun is reading the defensive alignment and noticed where the safety is playing and understands that Bruce Carter is going to be in one-on-one coverage to his left. Rivers moves Woodhead from his right to his left, to take advantage of the matchup. On the outside to the left, the Chargers receivers come off the line running routes like they have not one clue what Rivers is trying to do but Woodhead does. As the play develops, Woodhead starts up the field on the wheel route. Carter as of the majority of the day was late to adjust and Woodhead gets separation instantly, then it became a simple game of pitch-and-catch for the touchdown.
The Chargers despite being short-handed at several positions, did a much better job of playing to the strengths of what they had to work with. There protection along the offensive line at times was not perfect and at times was boarder line, criminal in the way they held on plays but where they were perfect was in the way that their star players did play and that was the biggest difference in this loss for the Cowboys.
Need MO confidence
All the great cornerbacks speak about how you have to play with confidence each and every play. Skill and ability are important but if you do not believe you can succeed, you will fail. We have seen Morris Claiborne play with that skill and ability but right now, he is a lost football player. Even when he is in position to make a play, something bad happens to him. Not matter how hard he tries, it’s just not good enough and that is hurting this defense.
Mentally the breakdowns that he has struggled with in coverage and the penalties are taking their toll on him. Each snap that he takes, has made him a shell of the player he once was when he lined up at LSU. Keenan Allen is a nice player but there is no way on a 3rd – 8, that he should catch a jump ball for 31 yards to keep a drive alive. Those high point balls are what made Claiborne the player he was at LSU. I cannot tell you how many times, I have seen him defend that pass either knocking it away or grabbing an interception. Instead, he is off balance with no clue where the ball is.
It has not mattered, off or press you name it, he has struggled to play it. Cornerbacks live on the edge each play, you are out there for all to see and that’s Claiborne’s problem. Opponents are not seeing him make any plays and he does nothing to dictate, that quarterbacks needs to go the other way. There were times in that Chargers game where Claiborne, was not even in the same area code as the receiver. Is that the sign of a confident player?
To his credit, Claiborne has not used injury or physical pain as an excuse for his play. I believe the coaching that he receives from this staff is putting him in positions to attempt to make plays as we all know, the problem is finishing those opportunities. Opponents have figured out real fast to put three receivers on the field and attack this defense that way and until Claiborne plays better, that is the hand they will be dealt. Regardless, you don’t throw your hands up and say we quit. Morris Claiborne still has the confidence of the front office and the coaching staff despite the fact that he is playing like he is struggling with his own. Making consistent plays should help both parties in that regard but it needs to start now.
Carter lost in space
There have not been many days in his young career where you can say that Bruce Carter did not play his absolute best. Against the Chargers, he had one of those rough days. Sean Lee is the best linebacker in coverage on this team but Carter was right there with him. Whether the ball was going to the flat or like Sunday where the ball was going up the field. Carter had always played with the correct technique. He was often quick to read and put himself in position in the route to make the play.
There is nothing more difficult for a linebacker to have to deal with than man-coverage in space. It is where offensive coordinators and quarterbacks live to create those matchups. On both of the touchdown passes to Danny Woodhead, the Chargers were able to create these types of situations. Carter was left on Woodhead, when Rivers sent Antonio Gates to the outside which caused Carter and Orlando Scandrick to have to trade the coverage. I understand how they were trying to defend this because of the threat of Gates down the field so putting Scandrick on him was the best option. The second touchdown, was just an adjustment made by Rivers when he saw how the safeties were aligned and was able to get Woodhead up the sideline and on Carter.
There was also a post route run by Gates where he started from the right and went across the field left. Both Carter and Lee were on deep drops but Lee was more to the inside which left Carter to handle Gates who was behind him and just in front of the safety. Rivers was able to correctly read the depth of the linebackers’ drops and float to the ball right over the top of Carter, who was unable to make the play. After the play on tape, you see Carter clap his hands upset he didn’t make the play but you also see Lee turns to look at him in a way like they missed one there.
Carter was later replaced in the lineup by Ernie Sims, who responded with six tackles which was good to see but this is Carter’s job. Where these Cowboys linebackers have had their issues this season playing this scheme, is with their drops in pass coverage. Sean Lee has stood before us in the media and said that he has to even get better if this defense is going to improve. Bruce Carter had a terrible day coverage wise but we have also seen him play at a very high level in this league.
Improved rookie on his own
This was the second time in three weeks that Travis Frederick had the opportunity to line up and play against a 3-4 defense and his level of play was night and day from what we had seen in Kansas City. Frederick will not face another odd front until the trip to New Orleans in November. Where Frederick made his biggest improvements was how he was able to handle blocks one-on-one without help from Ronald Leary and Brian Waters.
There were several plays where Frederick was able to snatch his man on a front side reach or cut off block. He played with solid power and did not get compressed or worked back into the play. He was able to work his body and feet in a way that allowed the ball to be taken to either side. He played on his feet and he did not struggle to sustain his blocks. His second level blocks improved to the point where you did not see his man in on the tackle like we did in Kansas City. In pass protection, when uncovered in nickel front, he was solid in the front of the pocket. He showed the ability to sit down on rushers and not give up ground inside. There appeared no mental busts or problems with his assignments.
Coming in this season, there were questions about his ability to play against power and have that guy on his nose the entire game. Against Kansas City, there were some issues but he was able to put that behind him and have a solid, productive game against the Chargers, where he can take some confidence from it.
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys are getting exactly what they want out of their new defensive coaching additions, while the defensive mind they let go is excelling elsewhere. Consider that a win through three weeks for both parties.
The Dallas defense resides in the top 10 in the league in sacks and takeaways led by new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, while the coordinator the Cowboys let go has shifted New Orleans’ putrid defense of last year to the No. 5 total defense in the NFL this season.
In the minds of some, former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn’t do a lousy job in Dallas last year. Fact remains, the Cowboys weren’t happy with the lack of pressure and thought they should upgrade.
The front office (Jerry Jones) stressed an emphasis on takeaways after creating just 16 all of last season. They now have seven through three games with Kiffin and Marinelli, due in large part to the havoc created by the defensive line, as the Cowboys sit atop the NFC with 13 sacks. They’re also tied for sixth in turnover differential at plus-3 with a top-10 scoring defense.
Kiffin and Marinelli insisted they didn’t need a defensive lineman in the draft to conjure the kind of pressure they needed on their defense. Even without Jay Ratliff or Anthony Spencer, they’ve been exactly right. DeMarcus Ware is back to his old form and the switch to defensive end may even help him reach the quarterback more often.
The defensive coaches continue to get elite play at defensive tackle out of Jason Hatcher, who’s tallied a sack in each of the team’s first three games, while turning Nick Hayden and George Selvie into legitimate starters.
Selvie said he feels he has a coach in Marinelli who believes in him, and that coach is getting the best out of his group. It’s obvious, and head coach Jason Garrett sees the same thing.
“He’s just an excellent football coach and teaching is a big part of that, inspiring is a big part of that, seeing the real positive traits in people and getting them into situations where they can be successful,” Garrett said. “(Marinelli) helps them be successful by how he teaches them technically, how he teaches them physically, how he teaches them emotionally.”
The Cowboys’ three interceptions may not seem like much, but that’s three times as many as they had through three weeks with Rob Ryan last season.
The colorful, boisterous defensive mind has to be a revered character in New Orleans, demonstrating his worth by changing the culture of the Saints’ defense. New Orleans allowed 440.1 yards per game and 28.4 points per game last season, and those numbers are down to 295.7 yards per game and 12.7 points per game so far.
Both sides are getting exactly what they wanted by fixing the problems of the past. It’s a small sample size, but the Cowboys and Saints are reaping every benefit they could have hoped for with their offseason defensive changes.
This should create quite a buzz (and another comparison) going into week 10 …
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Newly-acquired defensive end Caesar Rayford said he feels confident he could be ready to play the Giants if asked to this weekend. “I got a lot of snaps this preseason, and I pretty much feel like I’m in game shape,” he said.
The makeshift sign above Rayford’s locker might have been spelled wrong, but Rayford’s presence at Valley Ranch is no mistake. Rayford has only been with the Cowboys for about 18 hours after being traded from Indianapolis, so it’s understandable a member of the training staff would spell his name “Ceasar” on the masking tape sign above his new locker. But with Spencer’s status still questionable for Sunday, Rayford’s proficiency as a pass rusher – five sacks in the preseason – could come in handy. “There’s definitely a different transition from 3-4 to 4-3 – I guess I don’t really have to worry about coverage as much as I used to,” Rayford said. “I’m definitely going to study that playbook and make sure I pick up everything.”
Rayford had perhaps the line of the week when asked about his journey to the Cowboys’ locker room. The first-year NFL player spent time in the CFL and the Arena Football League before he eventually received a call from the Colts. “Some people get in the front door, some people get in the back door. But guys like me have got to climb the house and jump through the chimney,” he said. That’s been my journey – long and hard, and I stayed the course, and now I’m here.”
- Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will be one of the happiest people to add Rayford to the rotation. Asked about Spencer’s availability for Sunday, he said “it depends on how he looks tomorrow and the next day – if it looks like he can play I think he’ll still be a game time decision.” If Spencer can’t go, it’ll be all hands on deck for the Cowboys’ reserves.
- Kiffin said anyone who lines up on Sunday night will have to play their best against the Giants, regardless of what his name is. He said it remains to be seen how the likes of defensive tackle Nick Hayden and defensive end George Selvie will perform, but he said they earned an opportunity with good training camps.
- Kiffin acknowledged that cornerback Morris Claiborne’s play is a big key for Sunday’s game. Claiborne didn’t play any preseason games after he jammed his knee during training camp. Kiffin said Claiborne looked good at Monday’s practice and had a good day of work Wednesday.
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IRVING, Texas – Ex-Cowboys Scout takes a look at newly-acquired defensive end Caesar Rayford from the Indianapolis Colts:
Caesar Rayford DE (6-7, 265) Rookie Washington
Games Viewed: Preseason 2013: Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns
Played as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the Colts scheme. Has a different build physically in that he is so long. On tape he looks like he has a short upper body and all legs. Extreme arm length at 36” and you see him use them to his advantage. Majority of his work was seen with his hand on the ground. Has a nice initial take off. Showed some quickness for an inside move against the Bills for a tackle for loss.
When he gets his hands inside, he can buy himself some separation. Was able to keep Justin Pugh of the Giants off his body and beat him around the corner. On the play he brought down David Carr with one hand. In the same game, he was able to get push up the field with one arm extended in the chest of guard James Brewer who is still is on the Giants active roster. Like his quickness for a player so tall. When he wants to get a jump off the line, he can do it. Was able to break down Joe Thomas of the Browns twice, which surprised me. Was able to physically hold up at the point of attack but needs to get rid of the blocker quicker as well. When he stays down, is when he does his best work. When upright, he is no good to anyone.
Will attempt to use pass rush moves as he goes. There were not too many times where he didn’t use moves. Swim and rip were his two best ones. Where he does get in trouble is if he rushes down the middle. I have seen him get push this way but the majority of the rushes that were like this, had nothing to them and he ended up stuck along the line of scrimmage. Had a sack against the Bills where he was able to counter back inside after going up the field. Able to work back to the quarterback slapping the ball out of his hand which allowed his teammate to recover for a touchdown. If he gets near the quarterback in the pocket, you see him reaching for the ball. Has beaten tackles for sacks and pressure but has also had production against tight ends and “H” backs that have tried to block him.
His effort and motor are outstanding but when he got tired, his technique really suffered. He played a ton of snaps in these games so it happened to him often. He didn’t look like the same player when he was tired. Because of his height, he doesn’t appear like he is moving well or is that fluid but there were a couple of plays where he was in space chasing the ball and he was moving well. Can see why the Colts kept him in the first place because of his production but really not a great fit in their 3-4 scheme at outside linebacker. Has a chance here as a rotational defensive end and kick blocker on special teams with his height. Can work with guys like this because of their physical traits and effort. Low risk, high reward type of player that was productive against everyone he played.
Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jay Ratliff finally broke his silence regarding the groin and hamstring injuries that have landed him on the Physically Unable to Perform list, sidelining him for at least the first six games of the season.
Ratliff, 32, said he’s extremely disappointed in the setbacks in his rehab and vowed that he would return to the field with season, while alluded to tensions with the Cowboys training staff as reasons why he worked away from the facility during the off season.
“Absolutely I’m disappointed,” Ratliff said of the team’s annual kickoff luncheon at AT&T Stadium on Wednesday. “But everyone knew what the issue was way before hand. Everyone knew what it was since last year. I’m not going into much more detail other than that…It’s for sure it’s not a hamstring tweak. Thank you.
Ratliff missed ten games last season, including the last six because surgery to repair a sports hernia. He didn’t use the Cowboys doctors for surgery and paid for his own rehab in the off season.
Ratliff returned the Cowboys for OTAs and minicamp and appeared to be gearing up for training camp when he suffered a hamstring injury during pre-camp conditioning drills.
Asked why he rehabbed away from the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch headquarters, Ratliff declined to go into details.
“I’d rather not say,” Ratliff said. “Let’s just keep the focus on these guys going out there and playing and winning games. I’m not going to be here and be a distraction to anybody. Just stay as professional as possible about the whole situation. But everyone that is involved knows what is going on.”
Ratliff said he “absolutely” believes he will return to the field this season.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones offered a similar answer regarded his expectations of Ratliff not only return in 2013 but playing at a high level.
But Jones acknowledged the loss of the former Pro Bowler for the first six games of the season is a huge setback for the Cowboys.
Ratliff was expected to be a key component in defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 scheme. The Cowboys envisioned Ratliff being an inside pass rusher from the under tackle position in Kiffin’s defense similar to Hall of Famer Warren Sapp was during their time together in Tampa Bay.
“It is a setback. No, it is a setback,” Jones said. “We will have to adjust just as we would if it was a mid-season injury. What we’re doing there and his status is that hopefully will move the process along faster. We’re hopeful this will let us rehab-wise, strength-wise that we can do more than just address this where he is.”
Jones said he didn’t know of any tension between Ratliff and the athletic training staff.
“I don’t know about that,” Jones said. “What I’m saying I don’t know any of the details and I don’t have any comment on that.”
Jones also refused to second-guess the decision to allow Ratliff to participate in the pre-camp conditioning test, where he complicated his rehab from the sports hernia with the additional hamstring injury.
“Again, everybody that was involved in the decision thought he could run the conditioning test for sure,” Jones said. “So everybody involved in that decision thought he could run it. Everyone. 100 percent.”
Jones said there no thought from anyone on the Cowboys that Ratliff won’t play this season. He said if that was the case they would have done something different to address the position and not just him on PUP.
Despite the setback, Jones said his hopes and expectations for Ratliff haven’t changed. Once he get’s healthy and returns to the field, the Cowboys believe he will be an impact player in the defense and help extend the season beyond the 10 games that would be left and into the playoffs.
“I hope he’s an All-Pro player,” Jones said. “I hope he can be. He can have let’s see, he could have certainly 13, 14 to go if it went like you’d like for it to be. A player like this as we again we’re just getting tested on our depth right out of the shoot, right off the bat, but hopefully we’ve got the depth to hold it until we can get him out there.”
ARLINGTON, Texas – Good luck finding the end zone on the Dallas Cowboys’ starting defense.
It may just be the preseason, but the Dallas coaches’ insistence on creating turnovers and the bend but don’t break mentality appear to be in full effect, as the Cowboys’ first-team defense went its fourth straight preseason game keeping its opponent out of the end zone in Saturday’s 24-18 dress rehearsal win against the Bengals.
“We saw it enough, and now it’s finally coming to fruition as far as us going out there and making plays,” said cornerback Brandon Carr. “Today, it felt pretty good. Four turnovers, and it all came from the secondary. I guess the bar is kind of set now. We kind of know what the expectations are, and we know we can do it now. That’s all it is, is that confidence.”
The Cowboys’ defense created four turnovers Saturday in the first preseason game this year at AT&T Stadium, including one in every quarter, while the connection between Tony Romo and Dez Bryant looked as crisp as it did to end last season.
Romo finished 13-of-18 with two touchdown passes and no interceptions behind an offensive line that featured Doug Free at right guard and Jermey Parnell at right tackle against one of the stouter defensive lines in the league.
“Not everybody can make an adjustment like that, especially not in really one week,” Romo said of Free’s move from tackle to guard. “I think it’s a testament to Doug’s ability to play both those positions.”
The offense quickly established its running game and kept going back to it throughout the day, totaling 154 yards on the ground and giving Romo more time to operate as the Bengals had to account for the run and the pass.
The Cowboys were solid offensively and defensively, but still need to figure out that third phase of the game.
After the defense forced its third fumble on the opponents’ first drive in four preseason games to start the year, the offense sputtered and were forced to punt in a scoreless game with 4:02 remaining in the first quarter. Punter Chris Jones boomed one away, but the ball hit the giant video board, and the Cowboys were forced to punt again.
“As soon as I punted it, I thought it had a chance of hitting it,” Jones said. “It got up there, got up in the shadows, and I saw it flutter down. I knew it had hit.”
That turned out to be disastrous, as the Bengals’ Brandon Tate returned the re-punt for a touchdown, as the special teams continued to struggle through the preseason.
When the offense returned for their next possession, running back DeMarco Murray did not, after he coughed the ball up and Jermey Parnell recovered it the previous offensive possession.Phillip Tanner and the rest of the starting offense took the field, and Dez Bryant caught five passes on the drive, including the touchdown grab to tie the game.
Bryant finished with six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown, while Miles Austin finished the day with four catches for 59 yards and a score. All four of Austin’s catches came on third down and ended either in a first down or touchdown.
“(Austin) looks fresher,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “He looks quicker to me. He’s a hard matchup player for people because he’s big and he can play outside, but he also has quickness to play inside.”
The offense was efficient throughout the day, but the defense kept the game close throughout. The Bengals’ only points in the first half came on the special teams touchdown, as the Cowboys’ defensive starters made life tough for Cincinnati’s first-team group.
The Bengals didn’t score any points on the Cowboys’ first-team group. The next time Cincinnati scored after the kick return occurred on a field goal after the Bengals’ first-team group went against the Dallas second-teamers in the third quarter.
It helped the Cowboys’ offense that they continued getting the ball in favorable spots.
After Bryant’s touchdown in the second quarter, rookie B.W. Webb secured his first interception of the preseason, as he joined the first-team group as an extra cornerback and blanketed Mohamed Sanu the whole way. The Cowboys’ rookie draft picks have four interceptions combined so far in the preseason.
“B-Dub made a really big play in the ball game, the interception down the middle,” Garrett said. “I thought he’s responded well to really the game in Oakland, to be honest with you. That was the game where he didn’t play his best. He fumbled a punt and some other things happened, but he responded well at practice and has played well the last couple weeks.”
The Cowboys forced a three-and-out on their next defensive possession, and the Bengals’ last possession of the half went just 18 yards before the clock hit zero and the Cowboys’ first-team defense left the field.
The defensive starters were done for the day at the half, but the ability to create turnovers transferred down to the backups as well.
Safety Jeff Heath laid a massive hit on receiver Cobi Hamilton on an end around to jar the ball loose in the third quarter, allowing cornerback Micah Pellerin to secure the fumble.
“We look for those opportunities to attack the ball and get it out,” said secondary coach Jerome Henderson. “With Jeff’s play, that’s more of just a big hit causing a turnover. That wasn’t him trying to reach in and get it out. That was him just laying the wood on a guy and the ball popping out.”
That forced fumble occurred with an 11-point lead for the Cowboys, after Murray returned to the field in the second half and responded after his early fumble with a touchdown reception, in which he broke multiple tackles and used some fancy footwork to find the end zone.
“We talked to DeMarco at halftime and gave him a chance to play in the second half, and I thought he did a good job bouncing back,” Garrett said. “We always put a big emphasis on turnovers. The story of this game was the turnover ratio.”
The Cowboys’ 21 points at that point were enough.
After Cincinnati cut the Dallas lead to 21-18 in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys added three more points on a Dan Bailey field goal and secured the victory with a pick by cornerback Xavier Brewer with less than a minute remaining in the game. The secondary was responsible for the two picks, as well as both forced fumbles and fumble recoveries.
“The competition is so intense, so competitive in our secondary room that guys may miss a couple of games, and the next man up is ready,” Carr said. “He’s ready to go out there and make plays and make a name for himself. That’s what makes teams great.”
The Dallas Cowboys defense got a glimpse of the zone-read offense in the 19-17 loss to the Raiders last Friday and it wasn’t pretty.
Oakland Raiders backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor six times for 88 yards in the game.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and his troops get a pass for that performance because they didn’t work on it at all in practice before the game.
There will be no excuses when the regular season starts. The Cowboys have two games each against the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles — two teams who use the read option as a big part of their offense. There is also a good chance they see Pryor again when they face the Raiders on Thanksgiving Day.
It’s no surprise the Cowboys took time in Monday’s practice to work on the read option, using receiver Dwayne Harris as the scout team quarterback.
“We’re going to see if from a lot of different people,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Certainly the teams that have done it and it’s been effective for them, they will probably have the same type of package and they will grow their package. As you know, it’s a copy cat league in a lot of ways so other teams certainly will make it part of what they do on offense. So, we have to be ready for it. This is a good week to do that, last week, as you know we played Sunday in Canton and turned around and played Oakland on Friday night. So it was a short week in terms of installation and working on any new stuff. This is a longer week for us and it gives us a chance to work on some of those things that will show up on the season on both sides of the ball.”
The Dallas Cowboys have the added advantage or disadvantage of Kiffin facing the read option, especially that of Eagles coach Chip Kelly, during his time at Southern California the past three years. Kelly’s Oregon offenses averaged 601 yards and 50 points against Kiffin’s USC defenses, including a 730-yard output in a 62-51 victory in their final meeting in 2012.
“Well, Monte’s just a great coach,” Garrett said. “He’s been a great coach for a long, long time. We have a good defensive staff. A lot of those guys have come from the college game. Monte being there just recently helps. He faced Chip Kelly when SC played Oregon, and regardless of that, the challenges that we’re going to face with Philadelphia and some of the other teams are going to be significant for us. They’re significant for the league. And we’ve got to be on top of that.”
Photo: Dallas Cowboys already have the speedy linebackers to help defend against the read option offense.
TEXAS 2 SHAKEDOWN: Dallas Cowboys defense showing potential to be better than good (Special Feature)
OAKLAND – When the 2013 team profiles and scouting reports are listed, it usually mentions key losses and additions. And on defense, the “players acquired” section will have guys like Will Allen and Justin Durant. A more updated list could include guys like George Selvie and Nick Hayden.
So it makes sense for people to have their hesitations about this defense and how good it can be.
After three weeks of training camp practice, two preseason games and really just two series from the first-team (Texas 2) defense, I’ve changed my tune about this squad. It’s early but I’ve raised my ceiling and expectations for this group.
This defense has the ability to be better than good. It could be a great defense.
And it’s not because of the additions like Durant and Allen and anyone else new to this unit. The real additions on this defense are Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli. And the impact they’ve already made is definitely noticeable.
The first-teamers didn’t play long in Friday’s 19-17 loss to the Raiders at O.co Stadium in Oakland.
It’s not just the turnovers. To me, it’s the pressure. They know how to generate a pass-rush and they’ve done it with players who don’t have the credentials like DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.
If you’ve watched one practice in Oxnard, you’ve seen D-Ware do anything he wants. He’s been the best player at camp – on either side of the ball. He’s been so good that we’ve started to have our doubts about Tyron Smith, who has lost way more battles than he’s tied. I can’t ever remember Smith actually winning one of those with Ware.
And he comes out here in Oakland and makes a nice tackle in the running game, showing this 4-3 switch shouldn’t affect him at all in that department. Ware doesn’t need a great scheme to be an All-Pro. It does appear that he’s in one again and that will only enhance his performance.
Dallas Cowboys Texas 2 defense forces Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn to fumble the ball and giving the Dallas Cowboys great field position.
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“Lining up at defensive end is easier. You are down in the trenches,” Ware said in a halftime quote Friday night. “There is no difference than playing outside linebacker, you are out wide, but when you are in the six technique, there are a lot more techniques you have to work on. But I felt like I did really well for the first game.”
What I like about this defense is how aggressive they’ve been already – and there’s a combined five Pro Bowls that hasn’t even been out there. Anthony Spencer is better than Selvie. Jay Ratliff is better than Nick Hayden. If and when those guys return for the start of the regular season, the defense will be even more dynamic.
Spencer is such a tough matchup for opposing linemen because he plays with uncanny technique. That’s part of his game that has really improved over the last few years. In this scheme, he might be even better, especially with the amount of attention that must be placed on Ware’s side.
If Ratliff can come back soon and provide a 1-2 punch with Hatcher, this really can be an explosive front-four with a healthy rotation of guys like Kyle Wilber, Ben Bass, Selvie, Hayden and Sean Lissemore. I’m not sure all nine will make the team and/or be available on game days, but it’s a solid group from top to bottom. And it has the potential to be even better because of the scheme.
But what I really like about this defense isn’t just the front four. It’s the ability to get pass rush from the linebackers. If, and it’s the second-biggest “if-he-can-stay-healthy moniker on this team behind DeMarco Murray, but if Sean Lee can stay healthy, he’ll be an absolute star. He’s got everything going for him, except the fact he hasn’t played a season from start to finish.
If that can happen for him, Sean Lee will be considered one of the NFL’s best linebackers, possibly even in the same category with a guy like Patrick Willis in San Francisco. Yeah, I know what I just did – comparing Lee to a perennial Pro Bowler such as Willis. Again, the caveat is Lee must stay healthy – something he has never done. But that’s literally how good he can be.
I mean, we all can see that. His instincts are off the chart. And you put him a defense like this, he can be every bit as good as Hardy Nickerson was in Tampa Bay. Now can he be Urlacher-good? That’s a stretch but it’s a nice goal for a player like Lee.
Now, if you really go back and dissect that sack play he had against the Raiders Friday night, Lee still got some help from his good friend Ware. That’s why it’s so important to have a complete superstar like D-Ware in the lineup. We all saw Lee make the hit. But it was Ware’s rush inside that forced the line to adjust. If there’s anyone that can’t be unblocked on a play, it’s Ware. But his hard rush inside freed up Lee to make the hit.
You’ll see Lee in the backfield on play. And 25 yards down the field in pass coverage on the next. This middle linebacker position isn’t for everyone. You’ve got to be good enough at both to play the run and the pass like Lee has shown. He’s a special player and like Ware, has the chance to thrive in this scheme.
Dallas Cowboys Texas 2 defensive back J.J. Wilcox picks off Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor for a Dallas Cowboys touchback.
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It’s not just about the players, but takeaways, too.
The turnovers are evident. I guess they were always stressed in the past but not like this. The coaches talk about turnovers in the meeting rooms and then coming out of the meetings there is a football on display that defenders must grab. It’s just always on the mind and it’s starting to translate to the field.
On the second-quarter drive where the second-teamers were gashed for about eight straight players, leaving J.J. Wilcox to make every tackle, they still find a way to tighten it up. Wilcox finished off the drive with a pick in the end zone.
Last week, one of the rookie draft picks scored a touchdown on an interception. This week, they saved a touchdown by an interception.
All in all, I’m just getting these vibes the defense will be much better than people think.
And this is, in no way, a knee-jerk reaction from the game. In fact, I told some of my colleagues this idea and was just hoping the defense would hold its own in the one or two drives from the starters.
They did that perfectly.
It’s early for sure. The defense has played the Dolphins and the Raiders. I get that. Ryan Tanneyhill and Matt Flynn are not exactly the NFL’s elite. So it’ll get better of course.
But the potential of this defense, at least from this perspective, is a squad that can be much better than good.
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The Cowboys have picked 20th overall four different times in club history, getting Marcus Spears in 2005, Ebenezer Ekuban in 1999, Billy Joe DuPree in 1973 and Dennis Homan in 1968.
IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.
Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full seasons removed from the playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding them as they prepare for the 2013 season.
With 19 days (July 20th) until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., one question centers on the versatility of defensive backs.
The versatility of DBs should be effective in new 4-3 scheme
Last year, we saw the Cowboys use a variety of defensive back rotations – some of which because of injury and other times to simply put players in effective spots.
Brandon Carr manned the cornerback spot most of the year, but he spent some time at safety early in the year after the Cowboys lost both Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh to injury.
Orlando Scandrick has played primarily slot corner, but has been used as a safety in certain packages. The Cowboys also signed Sterling Moore in midseason from the Patriots’ depth chart and he immediately helped at both safety and cornerback.
In this new 4-3 scheme from Monte Kiffin, the Cowboys might have to rely on their versatile players more than ever.
Looking back in Cowboys’ history, no player excelled at both cornerback and safety better than Mel Renfro. The 10-time Pro Bowler made it five times as a safety and five times as a corner – often going back and forth later in his career. If anyone came close to excelling like that, it would be Renfro’s teammates Cornell Green, who often swapped roles with Renfro on those early Doomsday Defenses.
Obviously it’s a stretch to assume the Cowboys will have any player on this roster, or any in the future, that can be as dominant as Mel Renfro, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.
However, having versatility at any position is clutch, especially in the secondary. With the NFL becoming a more passing league by each year, having players with the ability to cover ground like a safety, coupled with the skills to cover in the slot is almost a lost art.
That trait alone might keep a player like Moore on the roster and actually get him activated on game day as well.
This team suffered many injuries last year so guys like Carr and Scandrick might be asked to play some safety in a pinch as well.
They don’t have to be all-world like Renfro or even Green, but just serviceable at another position can be beneficial.
A closer look at the number 20:
No player has ever worn No. 20 as long as Mel Renfro, who had it from 1964-77. Other notable players to wear No. 20 include Ron Springs, Ray Horton and Richie Anderson.
Currently, rookie B.W. Webb wears No. 20.
Roger Staubach’s 20 rushing touchdowns are the most by any Cowboys’ quarterback and ranks 11th all-time in Cowboys history.
Preston Pearson ranks 20th in Cowboys history with 1,207 rushing yards.