Dallas Cowboys linebacker Ernie Sims, who joined the team last week, made a positive impact in his 10 snaps against the New York Giants, said coach Jason Garrett, and could see more playing time Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. Safety Charlie Peprah, also signed last week, could be active against Atlanta and Garrett said he has “done a nice job acclimating himself into the defense” during practices.
Taking players off the street and turning them into productive performers during the regular season has become a recurring theme with the Cowboys in recent seasons. Last year, Dallas watched receiver Laurent Robinson (11 TD catches) and offensive guard Montrae Holland (10 starts) step up as key contributors who were added to the roster after the start of the regular season.
Garrett is hoping Sims and Peprah could join that list.
“When an injury happens, you need to have a go-to guy at that spot,” Garrett said. “Our scouting department does a really good job, having those short lists and understanding not only where the guy was the last time he was playing but where he is now … Some times, it’s a go-to four or five guys to see who fits best for that given circumstance. But we have done a good job with that. It’s an important part of your team because, over the course of the season, you’re going to have injuries. To be able to absorb them with your current roster and then go out on the street to get guys who can be productive, it’s an important part of the course of the 16-game season.”
Garrett indicated Sims, signed in the wake of a season-ending injury to leading tackler Sean Lee, could have a bigger role this week but did not elaborate.
“I don’t want to go into specifics of that, but (Sims) did a nice job in last week’s game,” Garrett said. With more work, Garrett said Sims could “play even better” against the Falcons.
TRENCH TRIPLE-PLAY: If trade for Cook turns out like Holland deal, job well done | UPDATED with scouting report
Ryaaan Cooook … he keeps on blockin’ …. He keeps on blockin’ … shake it Ryan. Shake, shake it Ryan.
Well, that remains to be seen, actually, but if the newly acquired swing lineman Ryan Cook can be as steady a role player as Montrae Holland was for the Cowboys, then Friday’s trade will have to be considered a win, just like the 2008 deal that sent Holland over from Denver must now be seen, in full retrospect.
Cook won’t be asked to start, at least for the time being, but once he learns the offense, will hold a valuable role as the backup for three positions, the two guard spots and center. A beefy veteran with six years in the league and 40 starts under his belt at only 29 years old, Cook gives the Cowboys more strength, athleticism and experience than a David Arkin. The Pro Bowl probably isn’t in his future, but valuable contributions to the Cowboys’ line should be.
A utility offensive lineman may not seem like an important role, but it is, because players get hurt in the trenches. The playing time Holland received over his Cowboys tenure, and Cory Procter before him, is evidence of that. So a seventh-round pick is not a high price to pay, at all, if the Cowboys believe they can trust Cook, just like a fifth-rounder wasn’t too much to give for Holland, especially considering how dreadful the Cowboys have been in the fifth lately.
There was definitely a comfort zone with Holland, acquired just before the ’08 season. He didn’t immediately pick up the offense and replace Procter (the injury fill-in for Kyle Kosier), making the deal initially look like a bad one, but his consistency changed opinions over time.
Four seasons, 31 appearances and 14 solid starts later, Holland should be seen as a good backup for these recent Cowboys teams. After falling out of shape when he was hurt last summer, Holland worked his wide butt off to cut weight, and when the Cowboys needed him by Week 7, he was ready to help DeMarco Murray break the team rushing record, and went on to play well down the stretch. He’s kept himself in great shape this offseason, and the Cowboys had interest in bringing him back, but he held out for more money and incentives.
Like Cook, Holland was 29 when acquired by the Cowboys, with a lot of starts under his belt, though Cook has the extra dimension of center experience, while Holland was a guard only. Holland had two years left on his contract, while Cook has only one. But, if the Cowboys like what he brings this year, they’ll certainly have first dibs to re-sign him in March, just like they re-upped Holland in 2010.
Should they decide to do so, and Cook at least holds his own when his number is called, then Friday’s trade will eventually be considered a slam dunk.
RELATED: Scouting Report on OL Ryan Cook
Here is my scouting report on Ryan Cook, who was acquired via trade from the Dolphins late Thursday night.
- Was drafted in the league as a tackle by the Vikings, has since moved inside to see time at both center and guard. Observed him as a center in the Dallas, Tampa Bay and Carolina games. Played right guard against the Falcons.
- Made the line calls as a center, aware of responsibilities when uncovered. Showed the ability to help across the pocket. Plays with some upper body strength, can hold his man along the line in pass protection.
- Little overextended and wide base at times but you didn’t see him get jerked out of his stance. Was able to get outside on the screen packages.
- Decent initial quickness out of his stance as a guard. Can make the reach or cut off block when asked. Several times where he did a nice job of getting his head across his man staying on his feet and working for a finish.
- Was impressed with his effort to finish blocks. Didn’t see him flopping around on the ground when doing his job. Played in position and showed some balance for the most part, only got a little out of whack on an inside twist stunt against Dallas but was fine on the same move against Tampa.
- Veteran player that gives you some position flexibility at three spots. Plays with a little power inside.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst-Scout
Laurent Robinson got big money from Jacksonville. Martellus Bennett will be relocating his clothing line to the East Coast for at least a year. Everybody else?
Well, they’ve probably gotten into the habit of checking the phone a lot over the last week.
The free agency period is far from over – it never ends, really – but most of the Cowboys players on the open market are drawing very little interest, it seems.
Between the guys they’ve cut, their unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents and exclusive right players, the Cowboys allowed 19 players to hit the market who had finished 2011 on the roster. Only Robinson and Bennett have found new teams thus far, while receiver Kevin Ogletree returned to Dallas on a one-year deal.
A lot of under-the-radar signings will happen in the coming weeks, but so far only a couple of the Cowboys’ free agents have been reported to have gotten so much as a sniff from other clubs. On Tuesday running back and special teams ace Chauncey Washington was part of a massive tryout for the San Francisco 49ers, per a report. Late last week, the Minnesota Vikings checked in on defensive back Alan Ball, per another report.
As for the bigger names, like Bradie James, Keith Brooking, Terence Newman, Kyle Kosier, Tony Fiammetta, Derrick Dockery, Montrae Holland and Mat McBriar, no substantive interest has come to light.
The Cowboys never got in on the Carl Nicks’ sweepstakes, and the Saints are hoping to replace Nicks with the second-best guard on the market in Ben Grubbs. But Dallas has gotten a guard, albeit for a lot less money and with a lot less fanfare.
Former Carolina Panther Mackenzy Bernadeau has reached a deal with the Cowboys, according to a source.
Bernadeau, 26, has 20 starts in four seasons, including 12 in 2010. He started one game last season, though he appeared in 15.
The money for Nicks was out of reach for the Cowboys. The top guard available in free agency signed a five-year, $47.5 million with the Buccaneers, making him the highest paid at his position. He got $31 million in guarantees.
The Cowboys will pay far less for Bernadeau, a 6-4, 308-pounder. He will compete with other young guards, including Bill Nagy and David Arkin. Nagy started four games before going on injured reserve with a fractured right ankle. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett called Arkin’s first season a "redshirt season."
Veterans Montrae Holland and Derrick Dockery are unrestricted free agents, though starting right guard Kyle Kosier has two years left on his deal. Holland started 10 games at left guard last season, while Dockery started two.
Many mock drafts have the Cowboys selecting Stanford guard David DeCastro with the 14th overall choice.
Bill Callahan, the Cowboys’ new offensive line coach, has been around plenty of powerful offenses and offensive lines.
He was the head coach for the Oakland Raiders team that reached the Super Bowl in 2003 behind Rich Gannon and the league’s top passing offense. Two years earlier, with him as offensive coordinator, the Raiders led the league in rushing behind Pro Bowl guards Steve Wisniewski and Lincoln Kennedy.
He was the offensive line coach for head coach Ray Rhodes and offensive coordinator Jon Gruden for three years in Philadelphia, from 1995 to ’97, when the Eagles were one of the top-five offensive teams in the NFL with quarterbacks Ty Detmer and Rodney Peete and running back Ricky Watters.
In college at Wisconsin, Callahan was the offensive line coach for the 1993 Rose Bowl championship team that had a 1,600-yard rusher and a 900-yard rusher. At Nebraska, his teams used the West Coast offense and set many of the school’s passing records.
Most recently, Callahan was the offensive line coach and assistant head coach with the New York Jets. In his first year with the Jets, 2008, he helped develop rookie center Nick Mangold into a Pro Bowl player, along with veteran guard Alan Faneca and tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
The Cowboys hope to tap into that experience as an offensive line builder when Callahan, 55, takes over as the replacement for the retired Hudson Houck.
The Cowboys will go into 2012 with the reshaping of the offensive line as a major priority. Last year’s No. 1 pick, Tyron Smith, will be considered for a move from right tackle to left tackle. Veteran right guard Kyle Kosier, who rarely had a full practice week because of foot problems, might not return. Veteran left guard Montrae Holland will try to recover from biceps surgery. And left tackle Doug Free had a poor year in his first season at the position.
The Cowboys hope Callahan can shape the development of young players such as backup guard Kevin Kowalski, fourth-round pick David Arkin (a guard who wasn’t active for any game last year) and center Phil Costa, who played all 16 games last year but showed he has a long way to go at the position.
Callahan does not have much of a tie to the Cowboys or head coach Jason Garrett.
But defensive end Kenyon Coleman played for Callahan in 2002 with the Raiders. Callahan has worked under Rex Ryan, the brother of Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson played for Callahan in 1998 when he was offensive coordinator for the Raiders. And Callahan coached Rodney Peete, the brother of Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete, with the Raiders in 2001.
IRVING – Dallas Cowboys left guard Montrae Holland had successful surgery on his partially-torn left biceps and should be able to resume offseason activities in three months.
The operation was handled by team physician Dr. Daniel Cooper.
Holland, who will be a free agent in 2012, started 10 games for the Cowboys after re-signing with the team Oct. 18. He suffered the injury during Dallas’ 20-7 loss to Philadelphia last Saturday.
With Holland sidelined, Derrick Dockery is expected to be inserted into the starting lineup this Sunday, when the Cowboys face the New York Giants.
"I am excited for the opportunity,"said Dockery, who has only played two offensive snaps since Week 2. "I practiced real well. Hopefully I can transfer what I did in practice to the game."
LAST HURRAH: Do or die for some Dallas Cowboys, possibly Spencer, Martellus Bennett, Bradie James and Terence Newman
Sunday’s winner take all match up against the Giants has been billed as a do or die game for Cowboys.
A win puts them in the playoffs. A loss ends their season.
What’s also true is that the game could possibly be the last one in a Cowboys uniform for a number of players.
That includes 20 Cowboys who are in the final year of their contracts, including linebacker Bradie James, safety Abe Elam and tight end Martellus Bennett.
The case could be the same for a few others like Terence Newman, who is signed through 2014 but could be salary cap casualty because age, injury and declining production.
Bradie James has seen the writing on the wall since the beginning of the season when his role was diminished because of the emergence of Sean Lee. James ranks eighth in tackles with 51, ending a club record streak of leading the team in tackles the last six years.
The nine-year veteran would like to continue his career with the Cowboys but he knows nothing is guaranteed. He acknowledges that a loss on Sunday could possibly usher in wholesale changes to more than just the players who are no under contract for next season.
"It could all just change around," James said. "That is just the reality of it."
Anthony Spencer, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent, is of the same mindset after what has been a disappointing season for him. The Cowboys have not engaged in talks of a contracts with the former 2006 first round pick.
"It could be that," said Spencer was asked if this could be his last game with the Cowboys. "Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. So I’m not worried about it. I’m just trying to get through the season."
Spencer and the Cowboys had huge expectations come into the season that he would thrive under new coordinator Rob Ryan and provide legitimate pass rushing threat opposite Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware. But after getting three sacks in the first thee games, he has just three over the last 12. His six sacks on the season are a huge disappointment for him and certainly weren’t enough to prompt the Cowboys into signing him to a long-term contract extension.
"I started fast," Spencer said. " I had high hopes for more sacks. It didn’t end up that way. (Playing more coverage) had something to do with it. You can’t get sacks when you are not rushing. I want to be here. I like it here. But I got to do what’s best for my family."
Other Cowboys whose contracts expire at the end of the season are cornerback Alan Ball, guard Derrick Dockery, fullback Tony Fiammetta, defensive end Clifton Geathers, guard Montrae Holland, receivers Jesse Holley, Laurent Robinson and Kevin Ogletree, quarterback Jon Kitna, guard Daniel Loper, punter Mat McBriar, running back Sammy Morris, tackle Jeremy Parnell, cornerback Frank Walker and running back Chauncey Washington.
Montrae Holland, who was re-signed after Bill Nagy went on injured reserve with a fractured right ankle, went on injured reserve himself Monday with a partially torn left biceps. The Cowboys re-signed guard Daniel Loper, who was released last week, to take Holland’s spot on the roster.
"You can just imagine," Holland said Monday of his frustration. "It’s pretty bad. I want to be there for my teammates. Not being able to finish is something I didn’t want to happen. I just want to be there for my team."
Holland had started the past 10 games. Nagy, a rookie, started the season opener before being replaced by Derrick Dockery. But Dockery fractured his tibia and sprained his MCL against the 49ers, and Nagy returned to the lineup until he was injured against the Patriots in the fifth game of the season.
"The situation is what it is," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "You just have to get the next guy ready to play. Each guy has done a nice job stepping up and handling the situation as well as they can. …We will have to do that one more time."
Dockery will return to the starting lineup this week, according to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Dockery was inactive Saturday and rookie Kevin Kowalski replaced Holland after Holland was injured.
"It’s just about preparation, being ready," said Dockery, who is in his ninth NFL season and has made 112 starts. "I’m not a rookie. That helps out. We’re playing a really good defense. They have some good players, so you have to be on top of your game."
Kowalski has played 85 plays this season, according to Pro Football Focus, including 15 against the Eagles on Christmas Eve.
"I think I did a decent job in there," Kowalski said. "I obviously have a lot to improve on, a lot to learn from. It’s just another experience I can learn from."
INJURY UPDATE: Montrae Holland to get an MRI | Tony Romo and Felix Jones pulled | Others playing through the pain
Dallas Cowboys starting guard Montrae Holland (64) suffered a left arm injury with 7:25 to play in the fourth quarter.
ARLINGTON, Texas — It won’t be an easy Christmas Day for starting right guard Montrae Holland. He suffered a left arm injury with 7:25 to play in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys’ 20-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday.
Holland said he might have hurt his elbow and will undergo an MRI exam Sunday.
Inside linebacker Sean Lee left the game with a hamstring injury but said he could have returned if the game had mattered.
"I’m fine," Lee said. "The trainers didn’t let me go back in. It’s a non-issue. I’ll be rolling as soon as next week starts up again."
The Cowboys, of course lost starting quarterback Tony Romo to a bruised right hand, and his status is uncertain for the regular season finale at the New York Giants next week.
Among the nicked up players: DeMarcus Ware (neck), Jay Ratliff (ribs), Mike Jenkins (shoulder), Felix Jones (hamstring), Laurent Robinson (shoulder), Kyle Kosier (foot) and Gerald Sensabaugh (foot) all played through the game.
Jones was taken out after a handful of snaps in the first half. He finished with 24 yards on four carries.
"Felix was getting himself ready all week to try and play in this game," coach Jason Garrett said. "He didn’t practice the whole week. He did more stuff [Friday] to get himself ready and warmed up well before the game. That was going to be a situation we were going to monitor based on what was happening up in New York. If he was ready to go and play we were going to try and give him a go."
Jones wanted to play in the game as did other players such as Ware, who only played seven snaps last week at Tampa Bay. Ware got significant snaps versus Philadelphia and performed well.
Ware had four tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and three quarterback pressures.
"If [Ware] is out there everybody got to be out there," Jenkins said.
The Cowboys host the New York Giants on Sunday night — the first of two matchups that will decide the NFC East champion. The Giants have lost four straight, while the Cowboys are coming off a game that they let slip away in overtime against Arizona. If the Giants win this game, they’ll be tied for the division lead and have the tiebreaker. If the Cowboys win, they’ll have a firm grasp on the division title with a two-game lead with three to play.
The Cowboys faced one of the better NFL receivers last week in Larry Fitzgerald, who was covered by Mike Jenkins for the majority of the game. Jenkins, making his first start since being sidelined several weeks with a hamstring injury, was outstanding. Where the Cowboys had the biggest problems was allowing down-the-line receivers big days catching the ball.
Five weeks ago, Terence Newman was playing at a high level. In the last three games, however, he’s really struggled in his off coverage. Newman was one of those players that were driving on the ball and make plays. Orlando Scandrick, starting in place of Jenkins, didn’t struggle as much as Newman, but we didn’t see the plays that we had when he was in the nickel role.
|ESPN NFL analyst Chris Mortensen hops on to preview this weekend’s Cowboys-Giants matchup.|
Giants’ Bradshaw will find hole, punish tacklers
There are two areas of the Giants’ offense that can hurt you — running the ball with Ahmad Bradshaw, and Eli Manning throwing the ball to an outstanding group of receivers.
When you watch the Giants, Bradshaw is a real difference-maker for this team. He’s a physical back that is difficult to get on the ground. He doesn’t have the elusive moves of a Reggie Bush, but instead tries to punish tacklers. Bradshaw has a low center of gravity, and he doesn’t give defenders much to hit. If you don’t hit him hard, he will run over you. He’s like DeMarco Murray in that he likes to cut back when he sees a hole.
The Giants’ offensive line doesn’t blow defenders off the ball. They’re more likely to grab and run with you. This fits Bradshaw’s style as he doesn’t need much of a hole because of his ability to burst through tacklers with power.
The Cowboys had only three changes to their injury report from Wednesday: Right guard Kyle Kosier (foot) returned to practice Thursday and was limited; fullback Tony Fiammetta (illness) was limited Wednesday but missed all of practice Thursday; and backup quarterback Jon Kitna (back) missed practice Thursday.
Left guard Montrae Holland (illness) was off the injury report. He said Thursday he was feeling fine.
Receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) and cornerback Mike Jenkins (hamstring) haven’t practiced this week and are not expected to play again this week.
RELATED: Thursday Practice Report
The Dallas Cowboys had a few changes at Thursday’s practice at Valley Ranch as they prepare for Sunday’s game in Washington.
·After missing practice on Wednesday, both starting guards were back on the field Thursday. Left guard Montrae Holland (flu) and right guard Kyle Kosier (foot) were practicing in full participation.
·QB Jon Kitna was not at practice and the official Thursday injury report has yet to be announced. Kitna hasn’t been on the injury report all season. He did miss some time in training camp with a back injury.
·FB Tony Fiammetta missed his second practice with flu-like symptoms as well.
·WR Miles Austin and CB Mike Jenkins didn’t practice again with hamstring injuries. It’s unlikely they will play or even make the trip this weekend in Washington.
·LB Sean Lee wore his bulky club-wrap around his left hand/wrist again. He tried an open cast on Wednesday but went back to the heavy wrap and will likely play that way in Sunday’s game.
Running back Felix Jones returned to practice Wednesday. Though he was limited, he is expected to play Sunday. How much remains to be seen.
In the four games Jones has been out rehabbing a high left ankle sprain, DeMarco Murray has rushed for 601 yards. Murray averaged 21.5 touches in those four games.
“We certainly like Felix Jones,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday. “He’s been a very strong contributor to our football team the last few years both running the football and also as a pass receiver, so we want to get him back involved in it. We certainly want to continue to hand the ball to DeMarco Murray and also throw it to him. He’s been a big factor in some of our success on offense in recent weeks. So we want to make sure he continues to get his opportunities, and we’ll continue to get Felix back in the flow of things on offense assuming his ankle gets better and better as the week goes on.”
Murray has averaged 6.7 yards a rush. Jones has averaged 4.0. But Jones has yet to have both left guard Montrae Holland and fullback Tony Fiammetta as blockers. Holland and Fiammetta have played a part in the emergence of the Cowboys’ running game.
Jones is expected to be the third-down back and spell Murray, which is what he has done much of his college and pro career. He split carries with Darren McFadden and Peyton Hillis at Arkansas and shared the load with Marion Barber and Tashard Choice in his first three seasons in Dallas.
“I think that’s the way a lot of backs are working as they come out of school,” Garrett said. “I think he’s comfortable doing that. It’s not like he’s a guy who needs 25 carries to get that sweat going. He can go in there and catch the ball out of the backfield, run the football, play on third downs. He seems to have a comfort level doing that. So we’ll try to get him back out there and get him some touches and get him going again.”
Garrett said the Cowboys have talked about using Jones as a kick returner again. He did not return any kicks last season, but has had 46 returns in his career for a 24.2 average and one touchdown.
“We’ve certainly thought about that, but again we just want to get him healthy and then hopefully get him back going on offense,” Garrett said. “We’ll make those other decisions as it goes.”
Photo courtesy: Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram
While quarterback Tony Romo and running back DeMarco Murray are getting all the headlines, deservedly so for their stellar play in Sunday’s blowout win against the Bills, its the improved play of the team’s offensive line that is the foundation of the Cowboys success of late.
It would be too simple, although somewhat accurate, say the improvement in the line coincided with the return of guard Montrae Holland not only to the team but to the starting lineup.
Holland replaced injured rookie Bill Nagy at left guard giving the Cowboys more bulk and experience up front which was crucial considering that team has first years starters at center and right tackle in Phil Costa and rookie top pick Tyron Smith.
But what’s also work is that the line has had chance to grow and gain some continuity and chemistry.
The Bills game featured the same offensive line playing together for the fourth straight game for the first time all season.
“When a group, any group, any position group is playing together it’s really important because you get a real good feel for each other and the communication you need to have,” coach Jason Garrett said. “There probably is no group on a football team that needs to communicate better than the offensive line. There are a lot of calls they make together and there is a lot of communication that happens right before the snap that they have to be on top of and be on the same page. And so the more times you get the chance to do that in practice and in games, hopefully you’ll get better at it.”
Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) jumps over Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd (31) during the third quarter. Buffalo Bills lost to the Dallas Cowboys 44 – 7 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)
ARLINGTON — DeMarco Murray hurdled one of the Buffalo Bills (Jairus Byrd), clearing the crown of the helmet as if it were a high-jump bar.
Later, Murray opted to lay low. “I definitely think,” the Cowboys rookie said quietly, “I get too much credit.”
Maybe Murray does. It wouldn’t be the first time the media buzzed about a passer or a runner instead of the less glamorous.
But anyone who went across the Dallas locker room, over to where the overlooked, large men dress, heard the other side.
Murray gets too much credit?
“He makes the linemen look good,” one of them said.
There was a sense a month ago Murray had merely run in the right place at the right time when he set the Cowboys’ one-game rushing record. It came against the Rams, after all. When Murray said “a bus” could have fit through some of the holes, most nodded.
“Let’s not start any star-is-born talk,” an Oklahoma City columnist wrote that day.
He had a point. Last season, Sooners fans wondered if Murray should have even been the starter.
Murray announced after the St. Louis game that Felix Jones was still the starter. “I’m ready to be the No. 1 guy, the No. 2 guy, the No. 3,” Murray said that day. “Whatever they want me to do.”