THE BATTLING BACK ‘BOYS: The Journey from Injured Reserve to Redemption | Comeback Cowboys Sean Lee & Morris Claiborne fighting back
For some Cowboys, there has been no offseason.
For the few players that ended the 2014 campaign on the injured reserve list, the offseason consisted of about one week before returning to the Valley Ranch facility to continue their rehabilitation process. Continue reading →
2014 PRESEASON ROSTER RUNDOWN: Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr returns | Stephen Goodin, Tom Hornsey added; Andre Cureton and Cody Mandell released | OG Brian Clarke cut; replaced with AFL veteran Wayne Tribue | DB’s debut | Club expected to sign RB D.J. Adams; release Ben Malena
Brandon Carr: I Worked Out In a Church Parking Lot | 5:07 | Dallas Cowboys CB Brandon Carr returned to training camp after the passing of his mother last week. He talked about those difficult times and the support he received from his teammates. (Watch | Listen)
2014 COWBOYS CAMP COVERAGE: The Boys Are Back in pads | Claiborne and Williams tempers flair | Cross-Training in the trenches
Training Camp 1-on-1 Drills: Tempers flare between Claiborne & Williams | 12:33 | Day 1 of Dallas Cowboys in full pads, which brought out some heated battles between receivers vs. defensive backs. (Watch Video)
First padded practice leads to first camp scuffle | 1:30 | Dallas Cowboys teammates Terrance Williams and Morris Claiborne separated. Both players, Jason Witten, and Jerry Jones react after practice. (Watch | Listen)
BEFORE THE FACT: Dallas Cowboys prepare for first padded practice of camp | 1:00 | Listen to what some of the Dallas Cowboys players had to say about preparing to put the pads on for the first time on Saturday afternoon. (Watch | Listen)
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys could get their top returner and coverage player back for Monday night’s matchup against the Chicago Bears.
Dwayne Harris described himself as questionable for the game with a hamstring injury he sustained against the Giants, but he’s running routes and doing sprints and hopes he can be ready to go in Chicago.
“I’ve just got to keep it as warm as possible if I do play,” Harris said. “I’ve just got to see how I feel. I can’t say I’m going to be able to go or I’m not going to be able to go, because I’ve been running around and feeling good. We’re just going to see how it feels come game day.”
Harris, who’s second in the league in both punt return average and kick return average, was sorely missed in last Thursday’s game against the Oakland Raiders. Not only is Harris the team’s top returner, but he’s also their best special teams player on the coverage units and still leads the team in special teams tackles despite being out last week.
Wide receiver Cole Beasley filled in as a punt returner for Harris, while rookie Terrance Williams served as the kick returner against the Raiders. Harris tried to boost Williams’ spirits after the rookie fumbled the opening kickoff on Thanksgiving.
“I gave him some words,” Harris said. “It was a rough thing to happen to him, first kickoff return you fumble and they score on it. It’s going to make you down, but I just tell him there’s a lot of football to play. You’ve got to keep your head up and keep going.”
Harris said he’s going to go through this week of practice to see how it feels before making a conclusion on his playing status. Harris and cornerback Morris Claiborne were the only players listed as non-participants in Thursday’s practice, with both suffering from hamstring injuries.
Harris sustained a hamstring injury early in his NFL career, but he said this one is different because it’s lower down on the back of his leg closer to his knee. Typically, the higher hamstring pulls are the ones that take longer to heal.
“It’s not a bad pull, but it’s one of them things you’ve got to take care of or it’ll get worse,” Harris said.
The hamstring isn’t yet 100 percent and still feels sore, but if Harris feels ready to go later in the week, he said he’ll be on the field.
“I’ve been running full speed,” Harris said. “I went out last week and ran, came out today and ran. I ran some routes today, did routes Monday. So I’ve been feeling good.”
The one bright spot for Harris is the rest allows him to rest the bevy of injuries he fought through previously during the season. He said he’d been playing with a shoulder injury, a hip injury and a tear in his lower abdomen.
“It definitely gives me a chance to get a little bit more healthy,” he said. “It just gives me a chance to rest up, get my whole body back together, so that way I can be back to my old self and be back quicker, faster and more explosive.”
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have brought back a player that seemingly had a good training camp but has been on the street for the entire season.
Cornerback Sterling Moore rejoins the Dallas Cowboys this week and will likely play against the Raiders Thursday. Once again, Morris Claiborne has a hamstring injury and is expected to miss the Thanksgiving Day game.
To make room for Moore, the Cowboys have released tight end Andre Smith, who has been inactive eight of 11 games this year.
Claiborne had missed two straight games with a hamstring injury he sustained against the Lions on Oct. 27. He returned against the Giants and technically started the game as the Cowboys opened up in nickel. He played the first half but the injury occurred in the third quarter and he did not return.
The Dallas Cowboys continued with Orlando Scandrick shadowing Victor Cruz all over the field, and B.W. Webb played on the outside, opposite of Brandon Carr.
Moore, who joined the Dallas Cowboys last season off the New England Patriots practice squad, was cut just before the start of the regular season when the team trimmed the roster down to 53 players.
Since Moore was not practice-squad eligible, the Cowboys kept Micah Pellerin on the squad and eventually called him up to the roster two weeks ago. Pellerin was waived Thursday to make room for linebacker Orie Lemon.
Moore was among the Cowboys’ final cuts on Aug. 31 when they made the somewhat surprising decision to go with only four cornerbacks on the 53-man roster. Moore is not a stranger to having to play on a quick turnaround for the Cowboys. Last year he officially had one day of practice before playing against the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 2 after he was signed off the New England Patriots’ practice squad.
He finished with six tackles and two pass breakups in six games.
Tight end Andre Smith could return to the practice squad if he clears waivers.
The Dallas Cowboys had hoped cornerback Micah Pellerin would clear waivers last week, but he was claimed by the Tennessee Titans. If Pellerin had returned to the practice squad, the Cowboys would have called him up to the active roster for the second time this season.
Without Claiborne, the Cowboys could use rookie B.W. Webb outside and keep Orlando Scandrick in the slot when they play their nickel defense.
Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Breakdown
This article is part of a series. To see all related posts, click HERE. Enjoy!
Top Performer: Orlando Scandrick
This really goes all the way back to Oxnard, Calif. Orlando Scandrick has adapted to this scheme change more quickly than any of the other cornerbacks on the roster.
Whether he has been playing on the outside or in the slot, Scandrick has given this defense some quality snaps. Throughout his career, he has always played with a chip on his shoulder and there have been times where that chip as weighed him down, but now you see a player who has been much more consistent in his overall play.
You can say what you want in regard to Morris Claiborne and his problems with injuries, but even if he was healthy, Orlando Scandrick outplayed him and earned the right to start at corner in this defense.
Great Expectations: Morris Claiborne
This has been an up-and-down season for the second year player out of LSU. There have been times where he has been awful and other times where he has lived up to the expectations the front office and coaches believed he had.
The biggest issues that Claiborne has faced have not been how he has played, but his overall health and lack of time on the field — in both practice and games. For a young man, he has missed too much time with these injuries and it affects the way that he plays.
When Claiborne struggles with his confidence as a player, he is no good to this defense. With that being said, this defense needs him. B.W. Webb is not ready to play and when Claiborne is on the field it at least allows Kiffin a decent option to match up against receivers by putting Scandrick in the slot.
Morris Claiborne needs to find a way to stay on the field but more importantly, he needs to find ways to make more plays.
Six-Game Forecast: Cornerbacks will continue to be tested
It has not been easy for this group all season in having to deal with what seems to be an elite quarterback every week. In these last six games, there appears to be no relief in sight either, with dates against all three division opponents, Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers ahead.
Where this group has struggled the most is when they have had to line up and play in zone. I am not saying that they haven’t had their struggles in man as well, but they look more comfortable and sure of what they are doing when they are playing man. Jerry Jones said that one of the bye week adjustments that he expected to see before the Giants game is this secondary playing more man coverage, which would help this group tremendously.
If this defense is going to succeed down the stretch handling these quarterbacks, these cornerbacks are going to have to play a huge role. Playing more man coverage should help.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout
INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints | Dez Bryant back tightness
ARLINGTON, Texas – For a couple of reasons, the Dallas Cowboys moved practice indoors Wednesday to AT&T Stadium in preparations for Sunday’s game with the New Orleans Saints.
But a few key players were not included, highlighted by the absence of wide receiver Dez Bryant. Early reports indicate tightness in his back.
Other players not in attendance were Jason Hatcher (stinger), cornerback Morris Claiborne
(hamstring), wide receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) and safety J.J. Wilcox (knee).
One player back to practice was DeMarcus Ware, who has missed the last three games with a quad strain. Ware could be limited when the team releases the official injury report later in he day.
One new face on the field was defensive tackle Everett Dawkins, who signed with the team today. Dawkins, who joined the team from Minnesota’s practice squad, is wearing No. 90.
Coach Jason Garrett said the team went inside to escape the rainy conditions and to crank up the noise inside to try simulating the expected noise at the Superdome in New Orleans.
INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings | DeMarco Murray back in lineup
ARLINGTON – DeMarco Murray will be active today against the Vikings after missing each of the Dallas Cowboys’ previous two games with a sprained knee.
DeMarcus Ware, on the other hand, highlights the inactives list, which also includes wide receiver Miles Austin, cornerback Morris Claiborne, safety J.J. Wilcox, linebacker DeVonte Holloman, tackle Darrion Weems and tight end Andre Smith.
Wilcox (knee), Holloman (neck) and Claiborne (hamstring) were all ruled out after Friday’s practice. Ware (thigh) and Austin (hamstring) were both listed as doubtful. Along with Murray, Ware’s also missed each of the last two weeks after getting injured against the Redskins, and he’ll now miss his third straight game.
Austin has been given rest and sat out last week after trying to give his sore hamstring a try against the Eagles on Oct. 20.
All the Cowboys players who were probable entering the weekend will be active, including Jason Hatcher (neck), George Selvie (shoulder) and Barry Church (hamstring).
Guard Brian Waters was also ruled out after Friday’s practice with a triceps injury, which has since moved him to injured reserve. Defensive back Micah Pellerin took Waters’ spot on the 53-man roster and will be active.
2013-2014 COWBOYS ROSTER: Dallas RG Brian Waters placed on IR | Micah Pellerin promoted from practice squad
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have officially placed guard Brian Waters on injured reserve after a week of evaluation.
Waters suffered a strained rib, a hyperextended knee and a torn triceps in last weekend’s loss to Detroit, with the triceps injury proving to be the most severe.
The veteran guard, who was halfway through his 13th NFL season, sought out several secondary opinions that would allow him to continue playing this year, but those were of no avail.
Mackenzy Bernadeau will start in place of Waters on Sunday against Minnesota. Bernadeau started in all 16 games last season, and he was the starter for the first three weeks of 2013 before Waters replaced him in Week 4.
It remains to be seen what Waters will do going forward. The Cowboys signed him to a one-year contract just five days before the season opener against the New York Giants. The six-time Pro Bowler played to his lofty reputation in five starts this season, but he will be 37 by the start of the 2014 campaign.
In Waters’ place, the Cowboys called up defensive back Micah Pellerin from the practice squad. This marks the fourth week in a row the Cowboys have activated a practice squad player. They called up linebacker Cameron Lawrence on Oct. 11, defensive end Jason Vega on Oct. 18 and safety Jakar Hamilton on Oct. 26.
Pellerin was a standout for the team in training camp after joining the practice squad at the tail end of 2012. He has experience playing both safety and cornerback, though he has played primarily as a corner during his time with Dallas.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett hinted on Friday that Pellerin would get the nod, as the team will be without Morris Claiborne for Sunday’s game against the Vikings. Claiborne injured his hamstring in the loss to the Lions.
NEXT MAN UP: With Morris Claiborne out, Dallas Cowboys counting on rookie B.W. Webb to play in the slot
B.W. Webb got his feet wet on special teams. He played 75 snaps on special teams the first seven games, but the Cowboys didn’t need him on defense, limiting him to only 31 of 504 defensive snaps.
Now, the Dallas Cowboys need their fourth-round draft pick.
Morris Claiborne will miss the next two games with a hamstring injury. Claiborne watched from the sideline at the end of Sunday’s game as Webb played 39 of 80 snaps.
Webb was thrown into the fire against Calvin Johnson, who set the single-season record for receiving yards in 2012 and had the second-biggest receiving day in NFL history against the Cowboys on Sunday.
“I tried not to think about it too much,” Webb said. “It didn’t bother me too much. It’s just another guy out there. I mean, I understand it’s Calvin Johnson and everything, but I try not to focus on the person too much when I’m playing.”
Webb, a William & Mary product, caused the Cowboys to use a timeout coming out of a TV timeout at the start of the fourth quarter when he wasn’t on the field.
“That was on me,” Webb said of his rookie mistake.
He ended up with three tackles.
Webb said he is ready for his opportunity to play more. He will play in the slot in the Cowboys’ nickel packages, with Orlando Scandrick staying outside.
“It’s a huge opportunity just to get on the field and showcase what I really can do,” Webb said.
Webb led the team with three pass breakups in the preseason, and he also contributed an interception. It got him ready for what he’s about to face this week against the Vikings.
“I think I showed a little bit,” Webb said. “I’ve been working on my craft since then, and I think I’ve gotten a lot better. …I think I’ve come a long way.”
POSTGAME INJURY UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions | MO down; Church praying; and we’re wondering about Waters
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne and safety Barry Church both left with hamstring injuries Sunday. Executive vice president Stephen Jones said today that Church’s isn’t serious, and he should be back this week.
But Jones was more pessimistic about Claiborne’s injury. He said Claiborne could miss a couple of games, which would point toward Claiborne’s return after the bye week in a Nov. 24 game at the Giants.
“Church, his injuries kept him out there a little bit at the end,” Stephen Jones said on KRLD-FM 105.3. “I do think he can recover and get back for the Vikings. Claiborne, on the other hand, has a soft tissue injury there with his hamstring that is a real deal, and probably more than likely we’re looking at him missing the next couple of weeks.”
Claiborne has had a tough season. He dislocated his shoulder in the season opener against the Giants and has played with a harness. He temporarily lost his starting job to Orlando Scandrick, though the Cowboys have started several games in the nickel, including Sunday’s at Detroit, with three cornerbacks in the starting lineup.
In three games, Claiborne has come off the bench. He played 33 of 80 plays Sunday, missing the end of the game with his hamstring injury. Church played 64 of 80 plays, with Jakar Hamilton replacing him late in the game because of his hamstring injury.
Jones was not asked about Brian Waters‘ injury, but a source said the Cowboys do not have an update on the offensive guard yet. Waters left with knee, rib and triceps injuries, playing 32 of 57 snaps.
IRVING – Citing the difficulty of playing cornerback in the NFL, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, owner Jerry Jones and others in the organization continue to preach patience when it comes to struggling second-year pro Morris Claiborne.
San Diego’s Philip Rivers picked on the sixth overall pick of the 2012 draft repeatedly in Sunday’s 30-21 win over the Cowboys. Rivers finished with 401 yards and three touchdowns on 35-of-42 accuracy, including a 31-yard strike to rookie Keenan Allen on third-and-long early in the game that victimized Claiborne and set the tone for the day.
Allen finished with five catches for 80 yards, most of which came against Claiborne, who termed his day “frustrating.”
“They hit a couple of plays all over the field,” said Claiborne, who also gave up a 28-yard catch, “but obviously they found more over there on the right side.”
Orlando Scandrick has started the last three games after Claiborne dislocated a shoulder in the opener. Team vice president Stephen Jones suggested the injury has nothing to do with Claiborne’s poor play.
“It’s time for the injury thing to leave the scene, Jones told Dallas’ KRLD-FM on Monday. “He needs to step up and make plays. I think he will.”
On Tuesday, Jerry Jones was asked about Claiborne during his weekly radio show on KRLD-FM.
“He’s just got to get his confidence up,” the owner said. “We know what kind of player he is, what kind of athlete he is.”
Like the Joneses, Garrett believes a dip in confidence plagues Claiborne, who Pro Football Focus ranks 99th out of 101 corners who have played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps.
But the coach pointed out that poor technique is also a factor in the former LSU standout’s decline.
“It’s a challenging position,” Garrett said. “You’re out there on an island and your best friend is your technique. Your best friend is the system, and oftentimes a young player like him is inconsistent in how he’s using his technique and his belief in the system.”
Garrett said young pro corners are often surprised to learn they can’t rely solely on the athleticism that served them so well in college.
“Guys at the college level don’t face the expertise or just the level of play, the level of skill that (NFL quarterbacks and receivers) have,” Garrett said.
“(In college), if you are a more talented player, you can get away with being a little late to the ball because you can (recover quickly). The ball’s not really where it’s supposed to be. But guys in this league throw the ball on time. They throw it where they want to throw it. The route running is good. So, technically, you just have to be really sound to give yourself a chance to succeed out there.”
Cornerback Brandon Carr said it’s clear on film teams are targeting Claiborne. But unlike others, Carr believes Claiborne remains confident. Still, Carr said he’s pulled Claiborne aside to offer him guidance and encouragement.
“He is going to take some bumps and bruises,” Carr said. “He hasn’t seen it all yet. I told him it took me four years to get it all out of my system and get my confidence level where it should be.
“The only thing you can tell him is keep battling, keep being positive.”
With that said, Carr supports the decision to start Scandrick.
“It’s not time for feelings or anything political,” Carr said of Claiborne’s demotion. “It’s all just business. We are trying to put the best 11 out there to win ball games.”
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.
Orlando Scandrick no longer is just a nickel corner. He also is no longer just close to blocking a field goal.
Scandrick started at right corner in place of Morris Claiborne, against the Chiefs and he played all 67 snaps. Morris Claiborne, who has a dislocated shoulder, played 37 snaps in nickel situations. Scandrick made three tackles. He also blocked the first field goal of his career after being close dozens of times in his career.
“Scandrick did some good things,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Orlando’s a good football player. He’s one of those guys that sometimes you pigeon hole guys and say, ‘Hey, he’s an inside guy. He’s a nickel.’ He’s got a little something to him. He always has. A little bit of a chip on his shoulder, kind of like a bolder or a mountain. We think that’s good. He brings that with every opportunity we give him, whether it’s a as teams guy or an inside cover guy, as a nickel or as an outside guy. I thought he competed well with some good receivers.”
Scandrick has started only 20 games in six seasons, but he has been as valuable and productive in his role as any player on the team over that time.
During the off-season, he won a team award for the gains he made in the weight room. His biggest improvement, thought, might be in blocking out the bad plays as well as the criticism.
“I think I’ve grown a lot mentally,” said Scandrick, who has been targeted 12 times and allowed only six catches totaling 49 yards and a touchdown, according to STATS.
“I think physically I did a good job in the off-season of getting a lot stronger. I put a lot into it. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. I’ve taken a lot of criticism around here, and I don’t take it well. It eats me inside. It ate me up the whole last season that my season ended the way it did. So I’ve been working a lot. I started working as soon as I was healthy in January, and I haven’t stopped since.”
Although he is listed as the backup at right corner, Scandrick likely will continue to start. Claiborne will wear a harness that will limit his effectiveness the rest of the season. Scandrick now is as comfortable playing outside as he is in the slot.
“I just feel like I’m finally trusting myself,” Scandrick said. “A lot of the times I was second-guessing myself when I’d see things and not go get them and I would let outside things affect me and get down on myself if I give up a play or if I don’t make a play. Now I’m so focused if I make a play, if I don’t make a play, I’m onto the next play.”
Scandrick finally got his long-awaited first blocked field goal when he came around the corner to get Ryan Succop’s 57-yard attempt at the end of the first half.
“Coach Rich Bisaccia has been a big believer in me since he got here,” Scandrick said. “He’s been very positive since he got here. I give him the credit. The guy’s on me every day. I’ve been close for years. He’s on me every day, ‘Go get it! Go get it! Visualize it.’ Just another part of playing hard every play.”
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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Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne got a full practice and then some on Monday for the first time in month.
Sidelined since the first week of the preseason because of sore knee, Claiborne took all the first reps and some scout team reps in preparation for Sunday’s season opener against the Giants.
“I got all the reps today and scout team,” Claiborne said. “I didn’t get all the scout team, but some. It’s been good for me because I haven’t been out there. To get those extra reps, trying to get into some shape will be good. I feel like I’m getting closer. I know if I had to go play a game tomorrow I feel like I can get through that whole game, but I’m going to get a little winded. I ran some sprints after practice. That’s why I’m still a little winded.”
In addition to working on his conditioning, Claiborne is using the extra reps to shore up his technique and get his body to catch up with his mind.
“I feel like I can clean up my feet a little bit,” Claiborne said. “I’m a little bit all over the place right now, but I know that’s no problem. I feel like my mind is right. I feel like my mind is ready. I’ve just got to get by body caught up with my mind.”
The second-year cornerback, however, expects the Giants to come after him with quarterback Eli Manning and receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks just as he experienced last year as a rookie.
“Well, last year I knew they were going to come after me regardless of the fact, if I had double coverage, triple coverage, they were coming at me,” Claiborne said. “But last year I learned a lot going against those receivers, they’ve got some good receivers over there, getting that work in, try to carry over what I learned last year all the way up to this year.
Oh, yeah, I expect everybody to (come at me again),” he continued. “It’s my mindset, each and every play they’re coming after me. I like it. It’s good for me when guys throw the ball at me to actually seize the moment and have a chance to go make a play.”
IRVING, Texas – Several big names returned to practice Monday morning, while the Dallas Cowboys also began the process of cutting their roster down.
The team released defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton on Monday morning. It’s the only cut the team is expected to make Monday, which gives the Dallas Cowboys 12 more cuts to make in order to reach the NFL-mandated number of 75 by 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Pendleton made seven tackles during his preseason action. He played Saturday against Cincinnati, but he did not record any statistics.
While Pendleton left the roster, key defenders Morris Claiborne and Ernie Sims rejoined the team at Monday morning’s practice. Sims has been missing for several weeks with a groin injury, while Claiborne appears to be recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him in Oxnard, Calif.
Wide receiver Cole Beasley also returned to practice after injuring his foot during the Cowboys’ loss to Oakland on Aug. 9.
As if the Cowboys didn’t have enough problems at the guard position, starter Mackenzy Bernadeau missed practice with an ankle injury. Safety Danny McCray was also held out of practice with a hamstring injury, while defensive tackle Jason Hatcher missed with a minor groin injury.
2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys Bernadeau and Hatcher on bikes; Claiborne and Beasley return
Cornerback Morris Claiborne and receiver Cole Beasley returned to practice with the season opener 13 days away, but guard Mackenzy Bernadeau and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher stayed in as the Cowboys began the final week of preseason.
Claiborne’s final chance to play in the preseason is Thursday in the finale against the Houston Texans. He has not played in a game because of a “jammed” knee he suffered in training camp on Aug. 6. Beasley hurt an ankle in the preseason game against Oakland on Aug. 9.
Bernadeau, who played left guard Saturday against the Bengals, has an ankle injury. He and Hatcher rode the exercise bike as practice began Monday.
Guard Ronald Leary also did not make it out for the start of practice. Leary is recovering from knee surgery less than two weeks ago.
Also not out for the start of practice were linebacker Brandon Magee (concussion), safeties Matt Johnson, Eric Frampton and Danny McCray, defensive linemen Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff, running back Lance Dunbar and center Ryan Cook.
IRVING, Texas – None of the defensive players who were inactive for Saturday’s preseason game returned to practice Monday at Valley Ranch, while the offense received a mixed bag of news.
Guards Kevin Kowalski and Ray Dominguez returned from knee and shoulder injuries, respectively, but running back Lance Dunbar missed practice for the first time with a foot sprain.
Five offensive players were out Monday, including Dunbar, wide receiver Cole Beasley (foot) and offensive linemen Ryan Cook (back), Ron Leary (knee) and Nate Livings (knee). Leary and Livings are both on the mend from knee scopes.
Safety Matt Johnson (foot) thought he’d be able to return in some capacity Monday, but he wasn’t on the field during the early portion of practice available to the media. Morris Claiborne, whose day-to-day knee injury has now become week-to-week, was also out.
Some good news for the defense was the return of safety Will Allen, who left Saturday’s game after injuring his ribs. Head coach Jason Garrett said after the game the injury wasn’t serious and he could have returned.
The usual suspects were still out on defense, including Anthony Spencer (knee) and Jay Ratliff(hamstring), while Ernie Sims, Sean Lissemore and Eric Frampton are all still recovering from injuries suffered toward the end of camp.
J.J. Wilcox hasn’t returned yet for personal reasons, but has been given as much time as he needs following the death of his mother and is expected back around the middle of this week.
Travis Chappelear and Toby Jackson weren’t at practice for the beginning portion, either. Chappelear wore a boot as he left the field Saturday.
CANTON, Ohio – Head coach Jason Garrett wasn’t going to let the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive linemen miss the induction of Larry Allen into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Garrett brought all of his team’s offensive linemen, as well as select veterans on the team to watch Allen’s speech as he was inducted a day before the Cowboys are set to play in the Hall of Fame Game.
Left tackle Tyron Smith was just five years old when Allen won his Super Bowl with the Cowboys in January 1996, so needless to say he only watched Allen sparingly growing up. But Smith quickly learned what Allen meant to the team.
“I didn’t learn much about him until I got with the Cowboys,” Smith said. “It’s a great experience to be here, and I definitely didn’t want to miss it.”
The experience was just as great for the young undrafted players and backup offensive linemen in attendance. First-year tackle Edawn Coughman, who’d never been to the Hall of Fame before, said words couldn’t express how he felt to walk through the Hall of Fame and watch Allen get inducted.
“It’s a great honor,” Coughman said. “I watched him a lot when I was younger. I’m excited to see this man in person. I’m elated.”
Jason Garrett wanted to make sure the majority of his veteran starters and the players on the team who knew Allen got to see the induction.
The list of veteran players at the ceremony included Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant,Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Justin Durant, Jason Hatcher,DeMarcus Ware, Danny McCray, LP Ladouceur, Will Allen, Barry Church, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr.
• Hope you had a chance to catch the TRAINING CAMP ON-DEMAND segment from Tuesday where we featured the one-on-one drills with the wide receivers and cornerbacks. If you did, you saw a show from Dez Bryant. Through three days of camp, this is not unusual for Bryant, who has been nothing short of spectacular in the manner in which he has gone about his business. The route running along with the sheer physical strength that he has played with has made him difficult to defend. In our video, he was matched against Morris Claiborne on each one of his reps, and, to Mo’s credit, he didn’t take himself out or away from working against Bryant.
Every rep that the two went at each other was intense, where technique went out the window and it came down to the sheer will of who was going to make the play. When you are battling Bryant, you might be in position in the route like Mo was several times but just his ability to adjust while in route makes him so dangerous.
It wasn’t that Claiborne was struggling to fight Bryant, but more like Bryant can physically beat you up as he is going down the field, then find the ball no matter where it is in the air and this is something that NFL cornerbacks are going to have to deal with when they line up across from Bryant the entire season.
• Continuing my thoughts on Morris Claiborne, I was very interested to see how he would respond to playing against the run in this new scheme off the edge, especially with pads on. I have addressed this situation plenty with both he and Brandon Carr on what is expected of them on the outside. From my observations, there were several plays where the ball was spilled to the outside and Claiborne had to step up and make the play.
Like his battles with Bryant, he could shy away and hide but instead he stepped up and forced DeMarco Murray to the sidelines and out of bounds when Murray tried to plant a stiff arm in his face. Later in the Team Run period, he again stepped up off the edge playing close in a tight formation and handled Lance Dunbar for a short gain in the open field. For Claiborne, this has now become his responsibility full-time because soft corners don’t win in this scheme.
The physical matchups against Bryant and having to successfully play the run are part of the gig. His first day in the pads showed that he understands the task ahead.
• Another player who is off to a nice start in camp is Doug Free. In the first day of pads, I thought he did a nice job of showing up and handling the position with some nice technique. In just watching him play, you can see that his confidence level is much better as well. With each rep, he has been on point with how his hands and feet have to work together. His sets have put him in positions where he looks stable and solid.
I have yet to see the problems he has struggled with when a defender goes from speed to power on him. He is playing stronger at the point and when he has to sit down on a rusher, he has been able to do so without giving much ground.
In the running game, he has shown the ability to adjust in this zone scheme with the front side reach and backside cut off. When the ball has been run to his side, he is not late or struggling with his technique.
He has played with good quickness and has been able to finish his blocks or tie up his man. Still plenty of practices to go for Free, but so far he is heading in the right direction.
• It was a good learning experience for Barry Church on Tuesday on how to play safety as the single high guy in this scheme. In the 7-on-7 drill, Church was in the middle of the field when Dez Bryant went on a “9” route against Brandon Carr up the field. Church reacted well to the route to help Carr but the angle he took to the ball was too deep and behind Bryant who once again went straight up for the ball at its highest point.
Bryant was able to make the catch but Church would have had a shot at the play if his angle was more to or in front of Bryant, instead he goes sweeping by him with no chance at the ball. On Monday, we observed Will Allen playing the same route to Miles Austin correctly and in position for the interception.
Later in the period, Church was able to show a nice drive and reaction to a ball that was thrown in front of him to Gavin Escobar up the field to deliver a big hit on the rookie tight end. For Barry Church, every day is a new experience when it comes to techniques that he is going to have to learn coverage-wise. He has the physical ability to handle the job but he just needs the experience of reading and positioning himself in routes to make those necessary plays.
Dez Bryant made spectacular catches against the defense of Morris Claiborne in mini-camp.
A lot of them.
But the Dallas Cowboys receiver put a positive spin on it for the Cowboys cornerback – he made it require spectacular catches.
“That is credit to the great defenses and the coverage,” Bryant said. “He is putting pressure on me and making it difficult for me to make the catch. So you can’t take that away. I’m just trying my best to make a play.”
Maybe it’s a sign that Claiborne can take a step forward in his second year. He started 15 games last year as a first-round pick, but he had only one interception, so his impact was not considered splashy.
Then again, he missed all of the offseason last year recovering from wrist surgery.
“I’m a lot more comfortable,” Claiborne said. “Last year I was searching to find a place because I didn’t have an off-season. Now it is what it is. I’m a lot more comfortable just because I’m out here having the opportunity to get better.”
Healthy this spring, Claiborne hit the weight room and added six pounds. Bryant has noticed.
“He is a lot stronger,” Bryant said. “You can tell by looking at him. He is real tough. That’s what I love. He is adding an element to his game, that is, being more physical.
“He already has the eye for the ball. He has the hands of a receiver. He is just putting pieces together to be one of the best in the league.”