Tag Archives: NFL Dallas Cowboys Preseason

Roger Goodell discusses cutting NFL preseason in half

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discusses shorter preseason - The Boys Are Back blog

Could the NFL cut the preseason schedule in half? Commissioner Roger Goodell made it sound like a possibility yesterday (Thursday).

Speaking at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit, Goodell said the preseason could be altered to include just two games for each team. The NFL would then go with a 16- or 18-game regular season.

"The four preseason games are an issue for us," Goodell said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. "One, you have a question whether we really need it to put on the best quality product. Two, you have an issue of how our fans are reacting to it, and they’re not reacting positively. It’s not the kind of standard that the NFL is used to producing."

Preseason games have never come close to matching the entertainment value of the regular season, but scrutiny has increased this summer. The fourth game — with its absence of stars and any sense of competition — is particularly maligned, especially since season-ticket holders are forced to pay full price for a game the majority have no interest in attending.

Goodell said the NFL had the right to change the schedule "unilaterally" under the terms of the previous collective bargaining agreement, but decided to make it a collaborative decision.

"We didn’t do that because we want to be thoughtful, smart and make sure our players are part of the decision," he said.

You won’t find many people who say they enjoy the preseason from an entertainment standpoint, but it’s hard to imagine the NFLPA getting behind a move that will provide fringe players less opportunity to prove themselves.

As for an 18-game regular season? Don’t hold your breath

LAST DAY IN THE LIMELIGHT: Twenty-Two Dallas Cowboys playbooks will be turned in tomorrow

A large Dallas Cowboys star is moved off the field - Symbolic of the 22 players that will be cut Friday - The Boys Are Back blog

Every year is the same it seems. We go into this final preseason game with a handful of players right there on the verge of making the team.

It’s always around the same number of players, with only the names changing, this year’s group including the likes of Hamilton, Coale, Lemon, Bass, Dunbar and Olawale. Oh, there were a few more, but those were the main guys.

But this year, the differences include more than just a few name changes.

Because as soon as the final seconds ticked off the clock in Wednesday’s 30-13 win over the Dolphins, the regular season was upon us. Just like that, it’s on.

No longer do the Cowboys have about 10 days to get ready. With the Wednesday night game on Sept. 5, the team only has a full seven days before they face the defending champs.

And it certainly doesn’t help that the Cowboys are dealing with injuries to key players such as Jason Witten, Jay Ratliff and Miles Austin. Throw in Dez Bryant, Mike Jenkins and Danny McCray, and that puts quite a strain on the Cowboys trying to trim the roster down to 53 by Friday, at the same time they’re getting ready for a real game week.

Because of that, those injuries might have popped a few bubbles in the process.

We’ll see on Friday, but with the Giants game right around the corner, it might be too soon for some of these guys, particularly Witten and Ratliff. The Cowboys certainly won’t rule out either player. In fact, doctors checked out Witten’s lacerated spleen injury on Tuesday and it appears it will be a game-time decision on next Wednesday.

As for Ratliff, who has a high ankle sprain and was still on crutches as of Tuesday, it’ll also likely go up until kickoff before the Cowboys figure out his status.

In the meantime, the team has to prepare for the worst. In doing so, you must go long at those positions.

We could see Josh Brent and Robert Calloway make this team, at least for Week 1.

At tight end, either the Cowboys go and claim a player who gets cut, sign a veteran tight end or maybe keep Andrew Sczcerba around. Perhaps fullback Shaun Chapas makes it, mainly for his special teams ability.

Either way, moves like that knock off luxury keeps. By that, I mean keeping players who aren’t really ready to play just yet, but possess a certain quality. Guys like Ben Bass who plays with a high-motor on the defensive line, or Adrian Hamilton, who hasn’t figured out the 3-4 defense and/or special teams just yet, but he can rush the passer. Those guys are hurt by these injuries.

At running back, a guy like Lance Dunbar might have made the team in the past – solely because of that dazzling 58-yard run. Who knows, maybe he still does. A play like that will get noticed around the league and getting a player like that through waivers will be tough. Still, that’s one of those “luxury keeps” that might not happen because you’ll have a hard time getting him active each week. Personally, after that run, I think I’d make an exception. He’s got some wiggle to him and might be a decent kickoff returner, too.

The Cowboys like Andre Holmes and Danny Coale, who would be the sixth and seventh receivers. They’ll probably like a receiver or two that gets cut over the next few days. But they won’t keep eight and probably not even seven. They’d like to go long at receiver, especially if it means hanging onto Coale, a fifth-round pick who has been injured most of the offseason.

Now if Austin and Bryant were bigger question marks to play, it’d be a different story. However, it seems like both players have been held out of action just to be ready for the Giants. Bryant and Austin will start, and it looks like Harris and Ogletree will be next, with possibly Cole Beasley or maybe Holmes going to the game as a special teamer.

Then you go to the secondary. Mike Jenkins is not going to Florida after all to get an update on his shoulder. He passed his physical on Wednesday and will come off PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) to practice as early as Saturday.

Still, you wonder how quickly he can get back into the mix. Yes, he’s a veteran and yes he knows the Giants and yes he plays a cornerback position that doesn’t always need the strongest continuity with his teammates. But football shape is a different thing. I still have hard time thinking Jenkins can get back to Dallas and start practicing Saturday and Sunday and be ready to play. It’s certainly a possibility, but if you remember last year’s game in New York against the Jets, Jenkins also battled a stinger/shoulder injury all preseason but played in the game. He went in and out about four times, battling all sorts of injuries.

The Cowboys likely have to go long at cornerback, not only on the roster, but the 46-man game-day roster as well. Expect Mario Butler to be active either way.

At safety, Matt Johnson (hamstring) will likely make the team although he’s barely played. McCray will obviously make it because he’s the special teams ace, but he’s battling a shoulder/stinger injury. So Mana Silva probably makes this team to start the season – and who knows, maybe he’ll stick around. He’s played pretty well this preseason. He’s a solid tackler and good on special teams. But still, that’s five safeties to keep.

This probably happens every year – injuries that cloud roster decisions. But it’s different when the guys injured are Pro Bowlers like Witten, Ratliff, Jenkins and Austin, who says he will play, but you probably have to make sure there is plenty of backup because of the nature of the injury and his history with hamstrings.

We’ll find it all out on Friday. But with so many guys playing for roster spots Wednesday night, it’s unfortunate for them that their fate was probably already sealed with a few of these preexisting injuries.

ON THE BUBBLE: Orie Lemon’s pick-six against Miami draws praise

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon scores on interception - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon, who spent last season on the practice squad, made the type of play in Wednesday’s pre-season finale against Miami that could earn him a roster spot this season.

Lemon, an Oklahoma State product, scored a second-quarter touchdown on a 26-yard interception return. Lemon read the eyes of Miami quarterback Matt Moore, undercut the route of running back Marcus Thigpen and jogged into the end zone for the score.

Lemon’s play was the first to draw praise from Cowboys coach Jason Garrett during his post-game news conference, when Garrett acknowledged that multiple performance against the Dolphins could cause some last minute tweaks to the 53-player makeup.

“Orie Lemon made a huge play in the game with the interception return for a touchdown,” said Garrett, adding that Lemon played “with the right spirit and the right mentality.”

But will it earn him a roster spot?

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon interception return - The Boys Are Back blog

“You never know,” Lemon said. “I’ve got to get better at a lot of things on the defensive side of the field. I’ve got to get better on special teams also. I know if I do, I’ll be on somebody’s team. I’ll be on special teams mostly. I think I opened up a couple of eyes.”

Lemon, a Houston native, said he hopes the eyes he opened belong to Dallas coaches. He said: “I want to stay here. I don’t want to go anywhere else. It’s like family to me. I would love to stay here. But if I had to go somewhere else, I’ll do what I have to do … I feel like I put some good film out (for other teams to notice).”

Consider Cowboys inside linebacker Sean Lee among those who has noticed Lemon throughout training camp.

“Orie Lemon is a real physical football player. He improved a lot through the year last year and he worked hard this off-season,” Lee said. “There’s one thing you can’t teach and that’s the ability to make plays with the football. That’s an ability he has. He works hard. He’s a smart guys and he’s a great teammate. I’m really excited to see him do well.”

ON THE BUBBLE: Guard Ronald Leary disappointed because of ‘silly mistakes’

Dallas Cowboys guard Ronald Leary practices - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys rookie guard Ronald Leary said his performance in the preseason games disappointed him because he made “silly mistakes.”

“It wasn’t where I wanted it to be,” he said after Wednesday night’s preseason finale against the Miami Dolphins. “I don’t blame anybody else but myself. I didn’t perform. I went back and watched the film. The mistakes I made were silly mistakes, technique mistakes.”

Leary, undrafted out of Memphis, was one of the Cowboys’ top targets after the draft. The Cowboys went after him because he had third-round quality, falling out of the draft only because of concerns about a knee problem that could affect him in the future.

Despite being a favorite of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Leary said he never thought he was guaranteed a spot on the roster.

“I never thought like that, from Day 1,” he said. “I know my performance hasn’t been where I want it to be. I felt like I had a lot better night tonight. So right now, I’m putting it in God’s hands. It’s up to the coaches now.”

Leary said his mistakes come from foot placement. His feet aren’t going where they need to go, but not fast enough.

“Your hands are where your feet are, so if your feet aren’t right, your hands aren’t going to be right,” Leary said. “Coach tells us that all the time. My big emphasis has been on just getting my feet right. I work with JP all the time. Every day after practice, we’re doing extra stuff. He’s been helping me. He had the problem before, too. He worked on it. I just keep working on it. We’ll just see where it goes the next few days.”

MIAMI HERALD: Miami Dolphins fall to Dallas Cowboys in preseason finale

 

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Stephen McGee (7) scrambles and throws for a completion near the goal line in the second quarter as Miami Dolphins defensive end Ryan Baker (90) looks on in NFL preseason action on Wednesday, August 29, 2012, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

ARLINGTON, Texas — The good news for the Dolphins: Their exhibition season has mercifully come to an end.

But here’s the rub: That might be their bad news, too.

Miami closed out a winless exhibition season with a 30-13 loss to the Cowboys Wednesday. In short, Dallas’ backups were better than Miami’s, since neither team played their starters beyond the first couple of series.

The night’s biggest takeaway: Ryan Tannehill played near-flawlessly in the short time he was in. But there’s a catch: Tannehill only faced Dallas’ backup secondary, and his greatest success came against guys on the fourth line of the depth chart.

Tannehill completed 6 of his 8 pass attempts for 41 yards, but both of his incompletions were on the money. The first hit Legedu Naanee in the hands, but was dropped.

On the other, Tannehill targeted Naanee on fade route in the end zone, but corner Teddy Williams mugged Naanee, preventing him from making a play. Yet the officiating crew – replacements, it should be noted – missed a clear pass interference call.

But even with Tannehill’s solid night, he again couldn’t get the Dolphins into the end zone. Miami has scored just two touchdowns in Tannehill’s 20 drives this preseason. The Dolphins even got a special teams turnover – Dan Carpenter recovered a fumble – but couldn’t advance the ball.

“No touchdowns,” Joe Philbin said at the half. “Our special teams did a great job and got a takeaway for us and we went backwards.”

Tannehill may have been lucky to simply get out of Big D on two legs, considering who he had blocking for him.

The only starter on the offensive line to play was Jonathan Martin – a rookie who has struggled throughout much of the preseason.

Ray Feinga started at left tackle for Jake Long, who hurt his right knee during practice Monday. That at least was expected. But the rest of the changes – Chandler Burden for Richie Incognito, Ryan Cook for Mike Pouncey and John Jerry for Artis Hicks – were a surprise.

Tannehill escaped the night without taking a sack, although he did sustain a pretty nasty late hit, which he shook off.

Tannehill’s replacement, however, wasn’t nearly so lucky. The Cowboys sacked Matt Moore three times, including one by Victor Butler in which the Dallas defensive end completely schooled Feinga.

Not long after that, Feinga got the hook, Martin shifted to left tackle and Andrew McDonald played on the right side.

The constant pressure seemed to get to Moore. A play after taking a sack, Moore threw a horrendous interception that Orie Lemon returned for a touchdown. Moore apparently didn’t see Lemon dropping in coverage, and threw it right to the linebacker.

Moore, who lost out in the training-camp quarterback competition to Tannehill, finished the preseason completing just 20 of his 51 passes for 234 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns. His quarterback rating: 37.5.

Yet with David Garrard’s knee still not healed, Moore will likely entered the season as Miami’s backup quarterback.

Who Tannehill and Moore will be throwing to remains unclear.

Neither Brian Hartline nor Davone Bess played Wednesday. But both are likely on the team.

Meanwhile, none of the eight other receivers trying to fill out the opening-day depth charts did anything to distinguish themselves. Naanee and Marlon Moore got the start Wednesday, and had identical stat lines: 2 catches for 19 yards.

Rishard Matthews again was the team’s most productive receiver, catching a team-high 3 passes for 47 yards. But Matthews has played mainly in mop-up duty, which doesn’t bode well for Friday’s final cut-downs.

The Dolphins are expected to be very active once hundreds of players released in the coming days hit the waiver wire. General manager Jeff Ireland said on My 33’s pregame show that he was “very excited about what’s going to happen the next three days.”

Thanks to last year’s 6-10 season, Miami should be in good position to capitalize on more than a few castoffs. They have they league’s eighth-highest waiver priority.

Whether or not Pat Devlin makes this team as its third quarterback remains to be seen. Devlin completed 6 of 10 passes for 58 yards Wednesday, and led the Dolphins on their only touchdown drive. The score came on a 1-yard plunge by Lamar Miller, who had 60 yards on 17 carries.

Courtesy: ADAM H. BEASLEY | Miami Herald

BASS FISHING FOR A SPOT: Dallas Cowboys rookie DE on the radar

Ben Bass at Texas A&M - The Boys Are Back blog

About four months ago, making the team wasn’t even on the radar.

He probably didn’t even know about the practice squad and the details surrounding it either.

All Ben Bass wanted to do was show up on film. For three days, all he had was a jersey number and was sharing a locker with other rookies.

He wasn’t signed or promised to sign. He was among 15 hopefuls on a tryout basis only, mainly here so the Cowboys could conduct a full weekend of practices in the rookie minicamp.

But somehow in the course of three days without pads, the defensive lineman from Texas A&M showed the Cowboys just enough to be intrigued.

When a roster spot opened up, they signed him with the hopes of watching his development this summer.

Fast forward four months and as the Dallas Cowboys prepare for tonight’s preseason finale against the Dolphins, Bass (6-5, 283) finds himself as one of a handful of players right on the bubble to make this team.

Yes, the practice squad is a possibility, but as this point, it’d be a consolation prize for Bass, who seems to realize just how close he is to reaching his goal.

“When I first got here, I would say I had a practice-squad mentality. I was a tryout guy,” Bass said. “But I am where I am now, and I don’t know exactly where that is, but I know I have a shot to make the team.

“I’m just excited. I’m ready to get out there and show what I’ve got. I’m ready to make my family so proud of me and make the name on my back mean something for me.”

It’s safe to say Bass’ family is already extremely proud of his accomplishments. The Plano West and then Texas A&M standout has come a long way in a short time.

Dallas Cowboys DE Ben Bass (79) grabs Oakland Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor - The Boys Are Back blog

Just the simple fact that he is even on the radar is somewhat surprising considering the depth on the defensive line. Veterans such as Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman are far from locks to make this team, especially Spears, a former first-round pick. Clifton Geathers and Sean Lissemore had a lot of hype around them this offseason and third-round selection Tyrone Crawford is obviously a player that will be heavily in the mix.

But Bass has quietly put together a nice training camp and preseason, which included his debut in Oakland where he was incredibly active in the second half against the Raiders. He recorded five tackles, including two for loss, with a sack and three quarterback pressures in helping the Cowboys preserve a shutout in a 3-0 win on Monday Night Football.

Bass has also played well in reserve roles the last two games against San Diego and Miami.

But, he says the turning point for him didn’t come in one of the last three games, or even at training camp. In fact, it was about three months ago when he was sitting in the locker room at Valley Ranch after a workout.

“I was sitting here in my locker and Jay Ratliff came by and introduced himself. Of course, we’re like “Yeah, we know who you are,” Bass recalled. “He was asking us questions. I told him I was from A&M and I was a workout guy and he said, ‘You can make this team.’ He hasn’t seen me play or knows anything about me, but he just said if you work your tail off and make plays, you can make the team. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.”

Bass said Ratliff told his own story of being a seventh-round pick in 2005 who has not only overcome being a late-round selection, but has defied the odds of being a relatively smaller nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, making the Pro Bowl four straight years.

“When someone of his level tells you that you can make the team, you start to believe it and start to play like you belong here,” Bass said.

Bass has definitely shown he belongs. He’s hoping it’s just enough to stick around on the 53-man roster. But as long as he sticks around, period, Bass said he’ll be excited.

“Even on the practice squad, all it takes is one guy goes down and you’re activated and then it’s time to play,” Bass said. “Wherever I’m at, I’m obviously shooting for the 53-man roster, but I’m happy to be here. This is the team I grew up wanting to play for and the team I love.”

PRACTICE UPDATE: Jason Witten not idle anymore, center Phil Costa in uniform

Dallas Cowboys Jason Witten in practice - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING — Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten isn’t idle anymore. He was working on the resistance cord with an athletic trainer during the early part of the team’s Monday morning practice at Valley Ranch.

Witten was told he needed to be idle for seven to 10 days after he lacerated his spleen during the Cowboys’ first preseason game at Oakland on Aug. 13. His status for the season opener Sept. 5 at the Giants is still in doubt. He’ll learn more about his condition when he visits a doctor Tuesday.

Other notables from the first 20 minutes of the Cowboys’ practice Monday (that was all the media was allowed to observe):

  • WR Dez Bryant was also working on the resistance cord with an athletic trainer. He’s battling tendinitis in his right knee, but he’s expected to play in the season opener.
  • Starting center Phil Costa was in uniform and working with the first-team offensive line in practice. He’s been out with a back injury since Aug. 10.
  • WR Miles Austin and LB DeMarcus Ware — both nursing hamstring injuries — weren’t in uniform for practice. Neither was CB Mike Jenkins (right shoulder). Austin and Ware are expected to be ready to play in the season opener. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said that Austin wouldn’t likely return to practice until the end of the week (in other words, at the earliest Thursday, the day after the Cowboys’ preseason finale against Miami). Jenkins won’t likely play in the season opener because he has yet to fly to Florida to visit with Dr. James Andrews again and be released to practice.
  • Third-round pick DE Tyrone Crawford missed practice Monday morning because he was sick.

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WHAT TO WATCH FOR: St. Louis Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys–Preseason game 3

St. Louis Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys – 2012 Preseason game 3 - Cowboys Stadium - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cowboys are finally home after nearly a month on the road for training camp and two preseason games which saw them go 1-1. Dallas takes on the St. Louis Rams (1-1) tonight at Cowboys Stadium.

Here’s a preview.

Get there early: The Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers are playing in Arlington on the same day for the first time this season. Parking lots for the Cowboys game open at 2 p.m. East Plaza is open at 3 p.m. and stadium gates open at 5 p.m. The Rangers start at 3:05 p.m. Cowboys officials are asking fans to leave early to help prevent possible traffic delays.

Connections: St. Louis tackle Jason Smith attended W.T. White high school in Dallas. … Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola was on the Cowboys’ practice squad in 2007. … Wide receivers coach Ray Sherman was with the Cowboys for a few years.

$100 million corners: The Cowboys and Rams employ the two highest paid corners from this year’s free agency class. The Rams have Cortland Finnegan and the Cowboys have Brandon Carr. Combined, the two players’ total contracts hit a little over $100 million.

Dress rehearsal: The Cowboys will play their starters for nearly the first half. It will be a good test for the interior of the offensive line consisting of center David Arkin and guards Nate Livings (making his preseason debut) and Mackenzy Bernadeau. This trio could change again if starting center Phil Costa returns from a strained lower back. Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris will start at wide receiver with Dez Bryant (knee) and Miles Austin (hamstring) out with injuries. DeMarcus Ware (hamstring) won’t play. Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher are expected to play together for the first time this preseason after recovering from injuries. It’s another good test for rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne, who plays in his second preseason game. In his debut last week, the first-round pick had zero pass breakups but made two good tackles.

Who needs to play well: QB Stephen McGee, CB C.J. Wilson, LB Orie Lemon, WR Danny Coale, WR Andre Holmes, S Matt Johnson, DE Clifton Geathers and CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.

Game Trackers: Click HERE for LIVE NFL GAMEDAY scoreboards and game trackers on The Boys Are Back blog. For the NFL on FOX Gametrax, click HERE

GAMETRAX - Dallas Cowboys vs. St. Louis Rams

Local TV and radio: The game kicks off at 7 p.m., on KTVT/Ch. 11 (CBS).

The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network - 105_3 The Fan KRLD

In many markets, you can listen to ‘The Voice of the Dallas Cowboys”, Brad Sham on The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network for pregame, play-by-play action, and post game interviews and analysis.

In the Dallas area, tune to 105.3 FM.  In all other cities, click HERE for more information.

GOING DOWN TO THE WIRE – Five Dallas Cowboys players on the hot seat tonight

ARLINGTON, Texas – Preseason game No. 3 is usually about the starters, but for the Dallas Cowboys it’s still about finding players to fill roles, in part because of injuries.

That being said, here’s  five players to watch after Tony Romo & Co. pack it up for the night.

Dallas Cowboys S Matt Johnson - The Boys Are Back blog

Matt Johnson – The fourth-round pick has practiced only three more times than you or I in training camp because of a hamstring injury. He missed all but one day of the organized team activities and minicamp because of league rules. Now he gets to put those months of frustration to work against St. Louis. He never really had a chance to earn a starting safety spot because of the hamstring injury, but the Cowboys like his potential. He has to be considered a lock to make the roster even with the limited work but he can show tonight whether he can handle a special teams role.

Danny Coale – A stress fracture and quadriceps injury kept Coale in much the same boat as Johnson, but Coale’s roster spot just doesn’t seem as secure. Such is the price of seeing guys like Cole Beasley, Andre Holmes, Tim Benford and Kevin Ogletree get more snaps. Coale had some nice work in the two practices against the Chargers and showed some good hands and the ability to get open. He is still working on getting his speed and quickness back. He has not worked much on special teams but he was a holder for Delbert Alvarado on field goals.

Dallas Cowboys WR Danny Coale - The Boys Are Back blog

.Dallas Cowboys LB Adrian Hamilton - The Boys Are Back blog

Adrian Hamilton – The Cowboys like how he can get after the passer. That seems to be a natural trait, but there are some adjustments he is still making at outside linebacker in terms of run responsibilities and coverage. But teams just don’t let pass rushers go. What Hamilton has to do is show he can cover kicks. It’s been a little adventurous in that regard but if he wants to claim one of the final linebacker spots, he better do it tonight.

Phillip Tanner – The broken hand came at the wrong time, but Tanner has a lot of value as a special teamer and the third tailback. He runs with pretty good power. He is pretty good in pass protection, too. If there is a player pushing Tanner for a spot, I believe it’s Lance Dunbar, who might get in the return game mix, and not Jamize Olawale, who had a touchdown run last week. Tanner is a better all-around back and will get his chance to show his toughness. He will play with his right hand wrapped tight, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

Dallas Cowboys Phillip Tanner - The Boys Are Back blog

Clifton Geathers – I had him in the five to watch for the San Diego game and I’m still waiting. He looks the part, but he just has not made enough plays at this point. Coaches and scouts do not want to give up on his size and potential, but sometimes potential can be a killer, too. I wondered if Geathers could push a veteran like Marcus Spears out of a spot, but he’s not done enough yet to warrant that. If he flashes tonight vs. the Rams then he could get in the mix again.

Dallas Cowboys Clifton Geathers - The Boys Are Back blog

PRESEASON GAME THREE: The “Dress Rehearsal” an important indicator for a starting offense

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) spreads his arms as he runs town the field to score a touchdown during the first half of the Dallas Cowboys home game versus the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, October 23, 2011 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. Murray earned the Cowboys all time rushing record in the game. (Patrick T. Fallon/The Dallas Morning News)

ARLINGTON, TexasThe last time the Cowboys played the St. Louis Rams, their offense exploded for 445 yards and 34 points, behind a record-setting 253-yard effort by DeMarco Murray.

Of course, the last time the two teams met, it was Week 7 of the 2011 regular season, and the 2-3 Cowboys desperately needed a win to try to create some momentum. This time, the Cowboys don’t need a win. But in the preseason “dress rehearsal,” as the third exhibition game is typically called, they at least need to show progress, particularly on offense.

While the first-team defense pitched a shutout during its work against the Raiders and Chargers, the starting offense has moved the ball inconsistently and put up only three points.

At least four starters will sit out the game for the Cowboys offense, receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, tight end Jason Witten and center Phil Costa, and the Cowboys haven’t spent much, if any time game-planning for St. Louis. But given the fact that the exhibition is being played only 11 days out from the regular-season opener in New York, it would seem there’s some pressure on the remaining offensive starters to get things going.

They’ll get plenty of work.

“We anticipate them playing the most that they’ve played in the preseason,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “That’s typically what we do. We build up from the first game to the second game and they get their most extended work in Week 3 before dialing back in Week 4. So, we anticipate them playing a lot, but the game situation will dictate that as well. We want quality work for them, we want to make sure the plays they do get are good plays, and then we’ll look at each other and we’ll make some decisions as the game unfolds.”

In Garrett’s first preseason as the Cowboys’ head coach, Tony Romo’s group played to halftime of the dress rehearsal game, at Minnesota, then gave way to the backups to start the third quarter. While the quarterback can expect to go that long again, along with four of the five starting offensive linemen and new fullback Lawrence Vickers, the team may insist on pulling Murray early.

If the second-year back is going to carry the load for this team, as appears to be the coaches’ intention, there’s no point in trying to let him best his performance against the Rams from last year. In fact, there may not be any reason to let him see the second quarter.

Murray has touched the ball only seven times through two preseason games this year.

“It will still be a limited number,” Garrett said. “We don’t want him banging away out there for too long in this game. At the same time, we want to make sure to give him enough chances to get in the rhythm he needs to. That is a challenge at every position, but particularly that position, a position that is so physical and takes so much of a pounding. You don’t want to put him in a situation where he is leaving it all out there on a preseason-game field. We need to get him ready for the start of the regular season. The same thing with Felix (Jones) and our other backs. We try to rotate those guys to get them the touches they need without wearing them down.”

As for the guy who made his name at the NFL level against the Rams, he promises he’s treating Saturday’s contest just like it was Week 7 and the Cowboys have their backs against the wall, or an even bigger contest.

“We’re going to approach it like any game,” Murray said. “I know it’s a preseason game, but I’m going to approach it like it’s a playoff game or a real game for me. You always want to go out there and play your heart out and definitely try to get the win.

“No matter if I’m playing five snaps or 40 snaps, I’m going to come out there and try to do my best.”

DALLAS COWBOY ROSTER: Jamize Olawale wins over PA announcer, still trying to sway coaches

Dallas Cowboys running back Jamize Olawale - vs SD - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys running back Jamize Olawale, an undrafted free agent from North Texas, experienced an unexpected surprise during tonight’s Silver & Blue Debut at Cowboys Stadium. The public address announcer nailed the pronunciation of his name (juh-MAZE oh-lah-WALL-ee).

That is more than some of his coaches have been able to muster. Not that Olawale (6-foot-1, 238 pounds), who has been one of the team’s most pleasant surprises of training camp, is complaining.

“Over the PA, they announced my name correctly,” Olawale said. “Some of the coaches, they have trouble pronouncing my name. Some coaches got it right from the outset. Some are still having trouble.”

Who’s having trouble?

“I’m not going to name any names,” Olawale said, smiling.

That could change soon. Olawale, who has led the Cowboys in rushing in both of their pre-season games, is considered a serious contender to land a spot on the team’s 53-man roster because of the versatility he has shown in training camp.

He could wind up competing for the final running back spot against his former college teammate, Lance Dunbar, a Haltom High School grad who played running back at UNT while Olawale worked primarily at receiver.

Although his emergence as a runner has been a pleasant surprise to Cowboys’ coaches, who initially viewed him as a backup fullback, it has not surprised Olawale.

“That’s how I’ve played my whole life. I started off my career playing running back,” said Olawale, who scored the team’s lone rushing touchdown of the pre-season on a 2-yard blast in last week’s 28-20 loss to the San Diego Chargers. “I feel like I can help in (goal-line) situations. Whatever they ask me to do, I feel like I can step up and help.”

His strong performance in camp makes Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Rams a potentially pivotal one for Olawale and others on the bubble of making the Cowboys’ roster. Olawale doesn’t think much about that, either.

“I don’t know. I’m not in the coaches’ meetings,” Olawale said. “That’s not really my concern. My concern is to come out here and play every day and to do my best. I’ll let the coaches sort through all of that.”

Jimmy Burch

PRESEASON WEEK THREE: 2012 Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster projection

PRESEASON WEEK THREE: 2012 Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster projection - The Boys Are Back blog

Here’s the third installment. Will the final, 53-man roster look exactly like this? Probably not. Injuries make this a moving target. But here’s the latest stab on what the roster will look like on opening night.

Quarterbacks (2)

Tony Romo  Kyle Orton

Comment: Can the Cowboys afford to carry a third quarterback with there injury issues at so many other positions? It’s unlikely.

Running backs (4)

DeMarco Murray  Felix Jones  Lawrence Vickers  Lance Dunbar

Comment: Jamize Olawale has made the most of his opportunity with Dunbar and Phillip Tanner out. He’s an intriguing prospect. But Dunbar has looked good in his two days back and intrigued the coaches before Olawale was on the radar screen.

Wide receiver (6)

Diamond Dez Bryant  Miles Austin  Kevin Ogletree

Andre Holmes  Cole Beasley  Danny Coale

Comment: Still believe the No. 3 receiver will come off the waiver wire. That will reduce this list by one.

Tight ends (4)

Jason Witten  John Phillips  James Hanna  Andrew Szczerba

Comment: Witten’s injury creates a scenario where the team carries an extra player here for the first week or two of the regular season.

Offensive line (9)

Tyron Smith  Doug Free  Mackenzy Bernadeau  Nate Livings  Phil Costa

David Arkin  Ronald Leary  Jermey Parnell  Pat McQuistan

Comment: Going with 10 remains a possibility here.

Defensive line (7)

Jay Ratliff  Jason Hatcher  Kenyon Coleman  Tyrone Crawford  Sean Lissemore

Josh Brent  Clifton Geathers

Comment: Hard to envision a scenario where Coleman and Marcus Spears both make this group. If the coaches see enough promise in another young player, it’s not out of the question that both are gone.

Linebackers (9)

DeMarcus Ware  Anthony Spencer  Sean Lee  Bruce Carter  Dan Connor

Victor Butler  Alex Albright  Kyle Wilber  Adrian Hamilton

Comment: You haven’t heard a lot about Hamilton. But the Cowboys like his upside.

Secondary (9)

Brandon Carr  Morris Claiborne  Barry Church  Gerald Sensabaugh  Orlando Scandrick

Mike Jenkins  Mario Butler  Matt Johnson  Danny McCray

Comment: Butler’s versatility is a big plus here.

Specialists (3)

Dan Bailey  Chris Jones  LP Ladouceur

Comment: If the Cowboys want to save money and get younger, Charley Hughlett has a chance

Courtesy: David Moore

DALLAS COWBOYS SCHEDULE: Silver & Blue Debut At Cowboys Stadium Set For Thursday

Silver and Blue Debut Logo

On Thursday, Cowboys Stadium opens its doors to fans of all ages for the Dallas Cowboys Silver & Blue Debut Presented by Miller Lite.

The event will be a free practice, open to all Cowboy fans anxious to see the team in action before the 2012 season officially kicks off. The practice will officially start at 4:30 p.m. However, parking will open up at 2:30 p.m., the plazas will open at 3 p.m. and the doors to the stadium will open at 3:30 p.m.

Parking at the stadium will be $10.

The team will be preparing to face the St. Louis Rams in their third preseason game and first home game of the season.

PRESEASON STUD FB/RB: Jamize Olawale emerging as a name worth remembering

Dallas Cowboys running back Jamize Olawale (49) is tackled by San Diego Chargers offensive tackle Jeromey Clary - The Boys Are Back blog

For the record, Dallas Cowboys running back Jamize Olawale (an undrafted free agent from North Texas) pronounces his name this way: juh-MAZE oh-lah-WALL-ee. It probably is a name that Cowboys’ fans should begin learning to recognize, and pronounce, as the 2012 season unfolds.

Olwawale (6-foot-1, 238 pounds) arrived in camp targeted to be a possible backup to starting fullback Lawrence Vickers. But the broken hand of Phillip Tanner, the projected No. 3 running back heading into camp, an opportunity for extra carries and Olawale has led the team in rushing in both pre-season games. He scored the team’s first touchdown in Saturday’s 28-20 loss to San Diego on a powerful, 2-yard run between the tackles.

A receiver in college, he also caught four passes for 30 yards against the Chargers and has the size and skills to be an effective blocker.

Olawale’s emergence contributed to Friday’s release of former TCU running back Ed Wesley, who had struggled in camp, before Wesley ever touched the ball in a pre-season game. Olawale’s versatility will make it hard for coaches to drop him from the team’s 53-man roster if he continues to perform the way he has in Dallas’ first two pre-season games and in training camp practices.

“He really has (stepped up) throughout training camp,” said coach Jason Garrett. “He came in more as a fullback candidate, but has also shown that he can be a big back. He’s played a lot as a halfback. He’s played in third-down situations. He’s really done some positive things running the football for us.”

“They’re giving me a fair shot,” said Olawale, who declared it “nice to get my first NFL touchdown” against the Chargers. “I feel like I was able to slow things down a little bit (in his mind). Everything’s still moving fast … I’m here to play where they want me to play. I try to be a team player and help them win however I can. Obviously, we didn’t do that (against San Diego). I fee like I failed in that aspect.”

Of course, the bottom line for pre-season games is about player evaluations more than wins and losses. And Olawale’s stock is rising with Cowboys’ coaches. Fans might want to learn to pronounce his name. Just in case.

Jimmy Burch

RELATED: Is there a role for Jamize Olawale?

WELCOME BACK KOTTER HORSHACK

Raise your hand if you had Jamize Olawale scoring the Dallas Cowboys’ first touchdown of the preseason.

Olawale probably wouldn’t raise his hand either. His last touchdown came at El Camino Junior College. His last rushing touchdown came in high school.

With 8:32 left in the second quarter, Olawale, a wide receiver at North Texas turned fullback with the Cowboys and moved to tailback because of injuries in training camp, bulled his way into the end zone from 2 yards with some serious help from the offensive line.

For a team that scored just five rushing touchdowns in 2011, it was a good thing.

At 6-foot-1, 238 pounds, Olawale is the Cowboys’ biggest runner, but there’s still a long way to go before he makes it on the final roster.

“I think they’re trying to evaluate me and see where I fit,” Olawale said. “Any place I can fit on the team, I’m going to try to give 100 percent every play. However I can help the team, I’m down to help.

He did make one mistake after he scored.

“My brother told me to keep the ball and I forgot,” Olawale said. “In the moment I don’t know what I did with the ball.”

Todd Archer | ESPN Dallas

Editors comment: TBAB is showing a little love for actor Ron Palillo, who played class clown Arnold Horshack on the 1970s television comedy "Welcome Back, Kotter". Palillo died of a heart attack in the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on Tuesday. Source: CNN

GAMEDAY: Dallas Cowboys vs. San Diego Chargers – What to watch for

The Dallas Cowboys face the San Diego Chargers in the second game of the preseason. Here’s a preview:

Who’s not playing: It would take you an hour to figure out who’s not playing for the Cowboys. We give you the highlights: OLB DeMarcus Ware, OLB Anthony Spencer, WR Miles Austin, TE Jason Witten, G Nate Livings, NT Jay Ratliff and C Phil Costa are the projected starters who will miss the game.

Injured Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten watches from the sidelines during Dallas Cowboys training camp - The Boys Are Back blog

The starters play how much, again?: Jason Garrett wanted the first-team offense to go about 8-to-10 plays in the preseason opener at Oakland. Tonight, maybe into the second quarter, with center David Arkin expected to go into the third, maybe fourth quarter. When Arkin comes out, expect Harland Gunn to take over the center snaps. With second-team tackle Jeremy Parnell out, Jeff Adams slide in and take some snaps. Safety Barry Church played with the second team a little bit at Oakland. It could continue again.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Raymond Radway (86) during Dallas Cowboys training camp - The Boys Are Back blog

Who needs to play well: It’s easy to say everybody, but based off the Raiders game and the last two days of practice, we’ve come up with a few names: WR Raymond Radway, CB Morris Claiborne, DE Marcus Spears, DE Kenyon Coleman, CB Mario Butler and G Ronald Leary.

Mo debuts: First-round pick Morris Claiborne will make his NFL debut at the Chargers. He’s not sure if he’ll start, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Cowboys come out in a three-cornerback setup with Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr alongside Claiborne. The rookie needs the snaps against different competition and he might play the entire first half. He’s battled Dez Bryant, Kevin Ogletree among others for nearly two weeks of practices, when he’s been healthy, so it will be interesting to see him against someone else.

About the series: If you’re scoring at home, this is the 14th meeting between the teams. Dallas holds the preseason series advantage at 7-6. The Chargers won the last meeting, in 2009, 20-17.

Calvin Watkins

RELATED: Five players to watch vs. San Diego Chargers

Preseason game No. 2 kicks off tonight at Qualcomm Stadium against San Diego Chargers and for some players their time to make an impression is running out.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree (85) during Dallas Cowboys training camp - The Boys Are Back blog

Here is a look at five guys to watch:

Alex Albright – He was everywhere against Oakland on Monday, credited with a game-high nine tackles, and he will start tonight because of DeMarcus Ware’s absence due to a slight hamstring strain. Albright is a virtual lock to make the team, but he can show he can be a regular contributor on the defense with a good performance. He will also play some inside linebacker again, which would help the team’s ability to carry more players at other positions when they make the final cuts.

Mario Butler – After a so-so offseason, Butler has done much better when the pads came on. He is not the fastest or quickest, but he has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time. He understands his limitations and stays out of trouble. He can play in the slot some and has taken some turns at safety. As the Cowboys ponder how many corners and safeties to keep, Butler could be that swing guy the way Alan Ball was a swing guy for a few seasons.

Ronald Leary – He came in with a lot of acclaim as an undrafted free agent but he has leveled off over the last week of camp. Against Oakland he tired and did not fire off the ball as well as he had been earlier in camp. The Cowboys have guaranteed him $214,000, a high number for an undrafted player, so he should make the team, but with a good showing tonight he could still work his way into the starting lineup or at least one of the active offensive linemen on Sundays.

Kevin Ogletree – Nobody likes hearing this but Ogletree has had a nice camp. Of the guys competing for the No. 3 receiver spot he has the most ability to play as a starter should something happen to Miles Austin or Dez Bryant. He does not help much on special teams but if he can prove to be reliable and make plays regardless of the quarterback tonight, he can cement a spot on the roster. Even with Andre Holmes good outing vs. the Raiders, Ogletree is still the leader for the No. 3 spot.

Mana Silva – He was a late-season pickup in 2011 after he was signed of Buffalo’s practice squad and had four special teams’ tackles. He had an interception to clinch the win at Oakland on Monday and Rob Ryan is intrigued about this prospect. Silva, however, will need to make his mark on special teams to make a dent because the Cowboys still like Matt Johnson’s potential even though the fourth-round pick has taken part in one full-padded practice in camp.

Todd Archer

SCHEDULE BLITZ: Three games in 12 days limit chances for Cowboys to prepare for Giants

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Andre Holmes (left) almost makes a catch  again cornerback Teddy Williams (right) during Dallas Cowboys training camp Wednesday August 15, 2012 in Oxnard, California.–STAR-TELEGRAM/Ron Jenkins

Before they encountered a rash of injuries that decimated the offensive line and forced them to redraft their starting lineup, the Dallas Cowboys already knew the next two weeks would be challenging.

One look at their preseason slate was enough to make that conclusion. After all, their last three exhibition games, starting with Saturday’s meeting with San Diego, will take place in a span of 12 days.

The condensed schedule has forced Dallas into an uncomfortable arrangement. The Cowboys will have only four full practices before the end of the preseason, giving them little time to resolve large-scale problems before Week 1 rolls around and their attention completely shifts to their Sept. 5 season opener against the New York Giants.

“It’s happening fast,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We really talked to our team about that from the start of training camp, that it was really important to lay a great foundation here the first couple of weeks because then the schedule is going to get a little funny, and before you know it we are going to be on a plane, flying to New York to play the Giants.

“So, you do your best to handle the different situations that come up, individually as players and coaches, and certainly collectively. … We don’t anticipate anything on our team being ironed out before we go to the Giants. It’s an ongoing process.”

And the circumstances keep changing. On Friday, it was revealed that linebacker DeMarcus Ware won’t play against San Diego after experiencing hamstring soreness. He joins six other projected starters — tight end Jason Witten (spleen), receiver Miles Austin (hamstring), center Phil Costa (back), guard Nate Livings (hamstring) and linebacker Anthony Spencer (hamstring) — who are sidelined.

“It’s tough not to have some of your guys there that you’re going to roll in the season with,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “But that’s going to happen. … We still have some time to take advantage of and get ready for the Giants.”

Rainer Sabin

BACK ON TRACK: Parental advice helps Dallas Cowboys rookie receiver Cole Beasley

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (14) makes a catch during Dallas Cowboys training camp - The Boys Are Back blog

When he was thinking about quitting football and coming home for good, Cole Beasley knew whom he wanted to call.

Mom.

Not Dad.

"He called me. I don’t think he wanted to talk to his dad," Danette Beasley said with a smile and a shake of her head. "He wanted me to talk to him first."

Cole’s instinct was right.

His dad, a former high school football coach, wasn’t exactly warm to the idea of his son, signed by the Dallas Cowboys after going undrafted out of SMU, suddenly wanting to drop it all.

"I was kind of [upset]," Mike Beasley said.

But he put that aside. He and his wife drove to Dallas to meet their youngest child. They had an idea of what was going on. They knew they could talk it out, and after a day, Cole was on another flight back to California to rejoin the Cowboys.

Which now looks like the best decision for everyone.

Beasley had his best two practices of training camp when he got back. One afternoon, he caught three passes in a two-minute drill, including a touchdown. He drew a flag in the end zone to set up his short scoring catch.

The momentum from practice didn’t carry over to the preseason opener in Oakland. He got only one pass his way, and it was too long for him. But the Cowboys continue to show signs that they like what they see in the 5-foot-8, 177-pound rookie. They used him in the slot with the first offense this week, and he’s still the first punt returner.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (14) runs a pass route during Dallas Cowboys training camp - The Boys Are Back blog

Now, just two weeks after he was ready to leave it all behind, Beasley appears to have an inside track in the nine-man competition for one of the two or three roster spots behind veterans Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree.

"I think he’s doing pretty danged good," his father said Wednesday at training camp. "They’re finding out he can do some things some of the bigger guys can’t do. He can be a good safety valve, a drop-off, and be valuable there. He can get some yards after catch."

The Beasley’s have been in California with their son since last weekend. They went to the game against Oakland and will go to the San Diego game on Saturday before heading back to Texas on Sunday.

Then they’ll be much closer to Cole, who two weeks ago seemed simply overwhelmed by the idea of professional football and the high profile that comes with it.

"I think he got a little taste of the media, the attention, what it’s like," Beasley’s father said. "He just wasn’t sure."

In July, Beasley, asked by Dallas radio station KRLD/105.3 FM if he gets tired of comparisons to Wes Welker, said, "I get tired of it a little bit because I feel like I have a little bit more speed than Wes Welker does. He’s got a little bigger frame than me, but I feel like I’ve got a little more versatility to my game than he does."

Coming in the dead time between minicamps and training camp, the comments got attention not only in Dallas but also nationally. Writers and fans sniped at Beasley on Twitter and in blog posts for not being flattered by comparisons to the Patriots receiver.

Beasley had already spent the spring answering questions about playing like Welker. He had performed well in the rookie minicamp and organized team activities at Valley Ranch. He was being scrutinized. And now camp was in full swing.

So two weeks ago today, following the first off day of camp, Beasley went to head coach Jason Garrett and said he didn’t want to play anymore. Garrett said Beasley told him his heart wasn’t in it. The Cowboys agreed to let Beasley go home and think about it for a couple of days.

He got to his brother’s home in Dallas at 5 a.m. the next morning, Saturday, Aug. 4. His parents had been there since 1 a.m.

"It was too late to talk that night. He went straight to sleep," his mother said.

When he woke up, Cole, his parents and his brother Shayne spent the day talking.

"It was all getting to be a little much for him," Mike Beasley said. "He’s always been a little nervous when it’s something new. He used to throw up in high school before games. He even did it at SMU."

By the afternoon, Cole was thinking about football again. He knew he was an underdog in Cowboys camp, but he had always been an underdog. Something was re-lit in him that made him want to be competitive again.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (14) has a pass knocked away by Oakland Raiders defensive back Michael Huff - The Boys Are Back blog

"By that evening, you could see him back to himself," Danette Beasley said. "He said he was going to go back. He had already decided to go back."

Beasley got on a 6 a.m. flight out of DFW — he was up to leave for the airport at 4:30, less than 24 hours after he had reached his brother’s place — and made it back to Oxnard in time for that Sunday’s morning walk-through.

The Cowboys welcomed him back.

"Sometimes when you’re a rookie in the NFL — when you’re a rookie free agent in the NFL — the world seems really big to you, and these days seem monumental and hard and challenging, and maybe they take a little of the spirit out of you," Garrett said that day. "And what he needed was to step back for a little bit, take a breath, regain some perspective…. When I spoke with him, it was like the guy that we signed back after the draft, and so we’re excited to have him back."

On the field, the Beasley’s now see the Cole they have always known.

"Undersized, overachiever-type," Mike Beasley said. "We’ve always heard that."

And the Cowboys? No one knows yet. But at least Cole has given himself another chance.

Carlos Mendez

Fans wait for players to sign during Dallas Cowboys training camp Thursday August 16, 2012 in Oxnard, California - The Boys Are Back blog

Editors comment: The Dallas Cowboys have had several undersized, overachiever-types throughout their storied history. One name immediately comes to mind … Bill Bates. If Cole Beasley can harness his unique talent with Bill Bates Texas-sized heart and determination, he’ll have a tremendous career as a Dallas Cowboy.

RANDY GALLOWAY: It’s football season, but Tony Romo should sit

Randy Galloway - Ft Worth Star Telegram - The Boys Are Back blogThat was me the other night, sitting on the couch in an otherwise empty house, yelling choice words at Jason Garrett, who was 1,400 miles away, working the sideline of a fake football game, also billed by the NFL as "the preseason."

Yelling at people on your TV screen probably indicates a mental health issue, but we’ll leave that one for the shrinks to ponder.

Actually, I had just departed the Dallas Cowboys training camp in California a couple of days earlier, having spent eight days out there sending back mostly favorable opinions on the head coaching work of Mr. Garrett.

And then there I sat in Grand Prairie, with Garrett in Oakland, and I’m dog-cussing the man.

Why in the bleep was Tony Romo still playing in that worthless, meaningless exhibition game?

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo stretches during training camp - The Boys Are Back blog

From last Monday, however, let’s fast forward to Saturday night, when the Cowboys play fake football game No. 2, this one against the Chargers in San Diego.

Garrett’s decision on playing time for top players — the absolutely essential players — will be under much heavier review because of what turned out to be a very bad week for the Cowboys.

Two days after the Raiders game it was announced that tight end Jason Witten would not be participating in any form of football for at least two weeks, and his loss to the team might stretch into the regular-season opener.

(By the way, that regular-season opener in the Meadowlands, against the world champs, is, gulp, 20 days away.)

Proven to be a tough, tough football customer over the years, Witten took a hit against the Raiders that resulted in a lacerated spleen, an injury that nobody spits on or rubs dirt on and then suits up anyway.

But once the Witten injury was revealed, it has been noticed locally that many are currently sitting on the couch and delivering a load of second-guesses at Garrett.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Andrew Szczerba (80) and tight end John Phillips (89) leave the field - The Boys Are Back blog

These howls ask, what the bleep was Witten still doing in that game? Even Jerry Jones was asked this week in Oxnard if he wanted to second-guess his head coach on Witten. Jones, who has been very talkative all camp, swiftly declined.

To each his own here, but allow me, the initial sofa screamer at Garrett, to defend the head coach here.

To rehash an old Parcells-ism, "football players play football in football season."

This is football season in the NFL, or at least a form of it.

But there is one position that has to be protected in these August games. Protected at all costs. Obviously, that position is quarterback. Even Bill Parcells agreed.

Otherwise, football players play football in football season.

Bad luck can happen, and it did. A key cog like Witten caught some real bad luck.

But his injury, on a blind-side hit after catching a desperation pass from Romo, also brings me back to the Oakland game dog-cussing of Garrett in the first place.

With a makeshift offensive line because of camp injuries, Romo played the first series, and then he came back for the second series. The ball was not moving. In that second series, there were also two massive breakdowns in the offensive line.

On the first one, Romo was scrambling for his health, and still got off the pass to Witten, and that’s the play that later proved extremely costly. On the next play, Romo was again in a scramble, but was hauled down, and his body twisted sideways. It was a scary moment.

Once surviving that, there was no way Romo would be back out there, right? But wait. Garrett did send his quarterback into the game for a third series, obviously because he thought some positive results for the offense would be a camp boost.

Witten, amazingly, also came back for the third series, caught a pass, and took another hit. Ouch. Nobody, of course, knew about the spleen at the time.

The complaint from here centers on one area and one area only.

On that third series, Garrett foolishly risked the dang quarterback in the exhibition season and did so even after having seen the jailbreak rush on Romo the series before.

For Saturday’s game, allow me to first-guess.

I wouldn’t play Romo even one snap, not with the state of the offensive line remaining in severe flux.

Aim Romo for the third game in Arlington next week, and then even for some snaps in the fourth game, also in Arlington, although the final exhibition game is usually always a no-no for the starting QB.

Red J, of course, will indeed play Romo on Saturday, but didn’t we see enough of the O-line against the Raiders to consider not risking Romo, at least at this point?

Beyond that, however, football players will be playing football in football season. And the rest of us will sit on our butts and watch it, armed and dangerous with the second-guess if there’s a key injury.

Galloway and Company - ESPN Dallas - 103 3 FM - The Boys Are Back blog

Randy Galloway can be heard on Galloway & Co. weekdays 3-6 p.m. on ESPN/103.3 FM.

Editors Note: I disagree with Randy Galloway on this. I think Jason Garrett likes to end on a positive regarding starters in the preseason. I don’t have a problem with Romo or any other starter being in for the first few drives (including Jason Witten). What is your view?

BOX SCORE: Dallas Cowboys vs. Oakland Raiders–Preseason Opener

Dallas Cowboys (1-0-0) Oakland Raiders (0-1-0)

Passing CP/AT YDS TD INT
K. Orton 7/12 87 0 1
S. McGee 5/9 48 0 0
T. Romo 3/6 30 0 0
R. Carpenter 0/0 0 0 0
Rushing ATT YDS TD LG
J. Olawale 12 42 0 9
J. Williams 2 7 0 7
F. Jones 2 4 0 3
R. Carpenter 2 1 0 1
D. Murray 2 0 0 0
Receiving REC YDS TD LG
A. Holmes 3 40 0 20
D. Bryant 1 24 0 24
A. Szczerba 1 20 0 20
S. Chapas 2 19 0 16
J. Hanna 2 15 0 10
D. Harris 1 13 0 13
K. Ogletree 1 12 0 12
T. Benford 1 9 0 9
J. Williams 1 7 0 7
J. Witten 2 6 0 8
Fumbles FUM LOST REC YDS
R. Carpenter 1 0 0 0
J. Parnell 0 0 1 0
Kicking FG LG XP PTS
D. Bailey 1/1 33 0/0 3
Punting NO AVG I20 LG
C. Jones 4 42.3 3 56
D. Alvarado 2 35.0 0 51
Kickoff Returns NO AVG TD LG
T. Williams 1 19 0 19
Punt Returns NO AVG TD LG
C. Beasley 1 16 0 16
Defense T-A SCK INT FF
A. Albright 6-3 0.0 0 0
B. Bass 4-1 1.0 0 0
M. Spears 4-0 0.0 0 0
T. Williams 3-1 0.0 0 0
M. Butler 2-2 0.0 0 0
B. Church 2-0 0.0 0 0
L. Smith 2-0 0.0 0 0
D. Ware 2-0 0.0 0 0
E. Whitley 2-0 0.0 0 0
C. Wilson 2-0 0.0 0 0
B. Atkins 1-1 1.0 0 0
B. Carter 1-0 0.0 0 0
T. Crawford 1-0 0.0 0 0
A. Hamilton 1-1 0.0 0 0
D. McCray 1-0 0.0 0 0
C. McSurdy 1-3 0.0 0 0
A. Owusu-Ansah 1-0 0.0 0 0
O. Scandrick 1-0 0.0 0 0
G. Sensabaugh 1-0 0.0 1 0
M. Silva 1-3 0.0 1 0
V. Butler 0-3 0.0 0 0
R. Callaway 0-1 0.0 0 0
D. Connor 0-1 0.0 0 0
O. Lemon 0-2 0.0 0 0

Passing CP/AT YDS TD INT
M. Leinart 11/16 98 0 0
T. Pryor 8/15 50 0 1
C. Palmer 3/6 33 0 1
Rushing ATT YDS TD LG
L. Miller 15 39 0 7
T. Pryor 6 21 0 9
D. McFadden 2 20 0 16
R. Jackson 3 8 0 4
C. Palmer 1 1 0 1
M. Leinart 1 0 0 0
Receiving REC YDS TD LG
R. Streater 6 66 0 18
L. Miller 3 23 0 9
B. Carswell 2 18 0 15
D. McFadden 1 18 0 18
D. Ausberry 1 11 0 11
R. Gordon 1 8 0 8
R. Jackson 2 8 0 6
D. Muhammad 1 8 0 8
O. Schmitt 1 8 0 8
D. Heyward-Bey 1 7 0 7
J. Criner 1 5 0 5
T. Session 1 5 0 5
T. Mayo 1 -4 0 -4
Fumbles FUM LOST REC YDS
J. Ford 1 0 1 0
M. Leinart 1 0 1 -3
D. Muhammad 1 0 1 0
D. Hamilton 0 0 0 0
Kicking FG LG XP PTS
E. Carmona 0/1 0 0/0 0
S. Janikowski 0/1 0 0/0 0
Punting NO AVG I20 LG
M. King 5 33.0 2 60
Kickoff Returns NO AVG TD LG
J. Ford 1 4 0 4
B. McCann 1 8 0 8
Punt Returns NO AVG TD LG
J. Ford 2 3 0 6
D. Muhammad 1 0 0 0
Defense T-A SCK INT FF
M. Burris 2-1 0.0 0 0
H. Davis 2-0 0.0 0 0
D. Hamilton 2-1 1.0 0 1
C. Kilgore 2-1 0.0 0 0
M. Mitchell 2-0 0.0 1 0
D. Bryant 1-0 0.0 0 0
K. Burnett 1-2 0.0 0 0
C. Chekwa 1-1 0.0 0 0
T. Goethel 1-3 0.0 0 0
L. Houston 1-0 0.0 0 0
M. Huff 1-1 0.0 0 0
C. Ihenacho 1-2 0.0 0 0
T. Kelly 1-0 1.0 0 0
P. Lee 1-1 0.0 0 0
R. McClain 1-0 0.0 0 0
B. Underwood 1-2 0.0 0 0
D. Van Dyke 1-0 0.0 0 0
C. Bilukidi 0-2 0.0 0 0
J. Cumbie 0-4 0.0 0 0
M. Giordano 0-1 0.0 0 0
T. Lambert 0-2 0.0 0 0
B. McCann 0-1 0.0 0 0
D. Tollefson 0-1 0.0 0 0
Total First Downs 11 Total First Downs 18
By Rushing 3 By Rushing 5
By Passing 7 By Passing 9
By Penalty By Penalty
Third Down Efficiency 2/10 – 20% Third Down Efficiency 5/15 – 33%
Fourth Down Efficiency 0/1 – 0% Fourth Down Efficiency 0/1 – 0%
Total Net Yards 202 Total Net Yards 253
Total Rushing/Passing Plays (includes Sacks) 49 Total Rushing/Passing Plays (includes Sacks) 67
Average Gain per Offensive Play 4.1 Average Gain per Offensive Play 3.8
Net Yards Rushing 54 Net Yards Rushing 89
Total Rushing Plays 20 Total Rushing Plays 28
Average Gain per Rushing Play 2.7 Average Gain per Rushing Play 3.2
Tackled for a Loss (Number-Yards) 0-0 Tackled for a Loss (Number-Yards) 4–13
Net Yards Passing 148 Net Yards Passing 164
Times Sacked (Number-Yards) 2 – 17 Times Sacked (Number-Yards) 2 – 17
Gross Yards Passing 165 Gross Yards Passing 181
Pass Comp-Att-Int 15 – 27 – 1 Pass Comp-Att-Int 22 – 37 – 2
Average Gain per Passing Play (includes Sacks) 5.1 Average Gain per Passing Play (includes Sacks) 4.2
Kickoffs (Number-In End Zone-Touchbacks) 2 – 0 – 0 Kickoffs (Number-In End Zone-Touchbacks) 1 – 1 – 0
Punts (Number-Average) 6 – 41.0 Punts (Number-Average) 5 – 40.2
Blocked 0 Blocked 0
Net Punting Average 39.8 Net Punting Average 33.0
FGs Blocked – PATs Blocked 0 – 0 FGs Blocked – PATs Blocked 1 – 0
Total Return Yardage (excludes Kickoffs) 83 Total Return Yardage (excludes Kickoffs) 26
Punt Returns (Number-Yards) 1 – 16 Punt Returns (Number-Yards) 3 – 7
Kickoff Returns (Number-Yards) 1 – 19 Kickoff Returns (Number-Yards) 2 – 12
Interception Returns (Number-Yards) 2 – 67 Interception Returns (Number-Yards) 1 – 19
Penalties (Number-Yards) 12 – 91 Penalties (Number-Yards) 5 – 37
Fumbles (Number-Lost) 1 – 0 Fumbles (Number-Lost) 3 – 0
Touchdowns 0 Touchdowns 0
Rushing 0 Rushing 0
Passing 0 Passing 0
Interceptions 0 Interceptions 0
Kickoff Returns 0 Kickoff Returns 0
Fumble Returns 0 Fumble Returns 0
Punt Returns 0 Punt Returns 0
Extra Points (Made-Attempted) 0 – 0 Extra Points (Made-Attempted) 0 – 0
Kicking (Made-Attempted) 0 – 0 Kicking (Made-Attempted) 0 – 0
Two Point Conversions (Made-Attempted) 0 – 0 Two Point Conversions (Made-Attempted) 0 – 0
Field Goals (Made-Attempted) 1 – 1 Field Goals (Made-Attempted) 0 – 2
Red Zone Efficiency 0/1 – 0% Red Zone Efficiency 0/1 – 0%
Goal To Go Efficiency 0/0 – 0% Goal To Go Efficiency 0/0 – 0%
Safeties 0 Safeties 0
Final Score 3 Final Score 0
Time of Possession 26:25 Time of Possession 33:35

PRESEASON OPENER: It wasn’t pretty, but positives were found

COWBOYS RAIDERS

It was about what one would expect a preseason opener to look like.

The Cowboys’ and Raiders’ offenses both showed lots of rust, the starters in large part responsible for a 0-0 halftime tie that was only barely broken when the bottom half of the Cowboys’ roster did just enough to propel them to a 3-0 win.

It was a tale of two phases for the team.

The starting defense was excellent, netting an interception to start the game, then forcing the Raiders to punt three times on the ensuing drive, which was extended by two special teams penalties. But as good as the defense played, the offense was just as bad. Other than a 22-yard Tony Romo-to-Dez Bryant pass, the first unit gained a total of only two yards despite getting three possessions of work.

COWBOYS RAIDERS

“Not real good,” head coach and play-caller Jason Garrett said of his offense. “Overall, it was not a good enough performance, but it’s still early on in camp and we’ve got to learn from it.”

The offensive line, in particular, looked rugged. Missing two of the five presumed starters, the group allowed two Raiders’ pass-rushers to take a shot at Tony Romo, one ending in a sack, and opened no room for DeMarco Murray or Felix Jones, who combined for four yards on four carries.

“I think we need to eliminate some of the mistakes that put us in a hole tonight,” Romo said. “We have a lot of young guys playing right now and we are just going to be able to evaluate this tape and get better from it. Right now is a time for us to correct the mistakes that are on the tape. I think the effort was there tonight, we just need to have better execution, and we will.”

Their first game action since being eliminated from a playoff spot by the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants on New Year’s Day, Monday’s matchup was one of five contests the Cowboys will play in a 23-day span, culminating with the regular season opener at New York on Sept. 5.

Because of injuries and the heavy precaution befitting this stage of the season, the Cowboys were without seven starters – three on offense and four on defense – plus a handful of other players who are expected to have substantial roles. All told, 16 of the 90 players on the roster did not dress, most remaining back in Oxnard, Calif., where the team is set to wrap up camp with three final days of practice this week before heading to San Diego for the second game of the preseason, coming up on Saturday.

COWBOYS RAIDERS

After the Raiders picked up a couple of first downs to start the game, Gerald Sensabaugh ranged over to intercept a deep Carson Palmer pass, returning it for 31 yards. The Cowboys then crossed into Raiders territory on a beautiful leaping grab by Bryant, who was a game-time decision with a hamstring injury.

The offense went backward from there and was forced to punt. New starting safety Barry Church finally ended Oakland’s second drive for good with a nice open-field tackle on third-and-11, the final play of a successful night for the Cowboys’ top defenders.

“I think it is always a good time to see where you stand and play against another opponent,” DeMarcus Ware said. “I felt like the first-team did pretty good. … There are always some things that we need to work on, but I think it was a good first half.”

The two teams simply traded punts for most of the night, with the Cowboys getting on the board first in the third quarter, new backup quarterback Kyle Orton engineering an 11-play, 67-yard drive to set up a 33-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.

COWBOYS RAIDERS

Oakland missed two field goals in the contest, including one in the second quarter that was blocked by nose tackle Josh Brent, who filled in as a starter for the injured Jay Ratliff (foot). Sean Lissemore started at right end for Jason Hatcher (hamstring), while Victor Butler took the place of Anthony Spencer (hamstring) and Orlando Scandrick held down the right cornerback spot for first-round pick Morris Claiborne.

Offensively, the Cowboys were without Miles Austin (hamstring), Nate Livings (hamstring) and Phil Costa (back).

Even better than the victory may have been the fact that the team suffered only one real injury, a broken thumb for rookie linebacker Kyle Wilber. There is hope that the team is beginning to heal in time for most everyone to get some game work in before the matchups of consequence begin next month.

“We’ve had a lot of guys who have not been able to practice and play for us, and you just have to fight through that,” Garrett said. “Injuries provide opportunities. So, a lot of guys got a chance to play tonight, maybe earlier than they would have, and that’s a good thing for them. It’s a good thing for our team to be able to evaluate them in those situations.”

COWBOYS RAIDERS

The Cowboys clinched the win with inside two minutes to play, shutting down Oakland’ last-ditch drive on a sack by linebacker Baraka Atkins, a near-interception by safety Eddie Whitley and a fourth-down pick by safety Mana Silva. While not household names, those are the kind players who benefit most from extensive playing time in the preseason opener. Still, Monday was a good opportunity for many of the starters to get their feet wet.

“They are what you make them,” free agent cornerback addition Brandon Carr said of the exhibition games. “I like the preseason, especially in the position that I’m in now. I get a chance to get a feel for my teammates in live game action, get a feel for the coaches, how they coach and how they call plays.

“For me, it’s an opportunity to go out there and brush up my skills and get ready for Sept. 5.”

Courtesy: Josh Ellis

IT WAS ALL DEFENSE: Dallas Cowboys beat Oakland Raiders 3-0 in preseason debut

Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) and the Dallas defense in the first half. The Dallas Cowboys played the Oakland Raiders Monday August 13, 2012 in Oakland, California.–Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Darren McFadden needed one series to show he’s in midseason form for Oakland following a foot injury that cut his last season short.

Most of the rest of the first-team offensive players for the Raiders and Dallas Cowboys need plenty of work to get back to that level.

McFadden picked up where he left off last season by gaining 38 yards on Oakland’s first three plays of the exhibition season and the Raiders went on to lose to the Dallas Cowboys 3-0 on Monday night.

McFadden, who missed the last nine games of 2011 with a Lisfranc injury to his right foot, opened the game with a 4-yard run, an 18-yard reception and a 16-yard run to delight of the Raiders fans.

But Carson Palmer threw an interception to Gerald Sensabaugh on the next play for Oakland (tied for No. 23 in the AP Pro32) and both the Raiders and Cowboys (No. 15, AP Pro32) struggled to generate much of anything until the reserves took over in the second half.

Kyle Orton drove Dallas 67 yards on the opening drive of the second half to set up Dan Bailey’s 33-yard field goal and that proved to be the only scoring of the night.

McFadden left after that first series and Palmer couldn’t move the Raiders without him. Matt Leinart played the rest of a scoreless first half and completed six passes to undrafted free agent Rod Streater but couldn’t put any points on the board.

Dez Bryant, who status was in question after leaving practice early Saturday because of hamstring tightness, came up with the only big play for Dallas’ first-team offense when he made a good adjustment in the air for a 24-yard gain from Tony Romo on the first offensive drive for the Cowboys.

That was the only first down in three series with Romo under center. Only two of Dallas’ other 10 plays with Romo in the game went for more than 1 yard and both of those were on third-and-longs when the Cowboys couldn’t convert.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) walks to the bench in the first half. The Dallas Cowboys played the Oakland Raiders Monday August 13, 2012 in Oakland, California. (Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins)–Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

The play was sloppy all around as Dallas twice committed penalties on punts to prolong drives for Oakland and committed another before a botched snap on a field goal try.

The Raiders were unable to make the Cowboys pay for those mistakes as the first drive aided by two fourth-down penalties ended in a punt and usually reliable Sebastian Janikowski was wide right on a 47-yard field goal attempt after the third infraction.

Oakland had its share of mistakes as Chimdi Chekwa let a punt roll to the goal line instead of downing it at the 1 and receiver Jacoby Ford had a rough day all around.

Ford was stopped after a 4-yard return on the opening kickoff, had two passes from Palmer go through his hands, was the target on Palmer’s interception and muffed a punt that rolled out of bounds to miss a chance at a return.

Even the replacement officials had their own problems as they spotted one ball outside the hash marks only to have Romo correct them.

The game also marked the first real action as a pro for Terrelle Pryor, the former Ohio State star quarterback who had no official plays as a rookie with Oakland. Pryor missed last preseason because he entered the league late through the supplemental draft and committed a false start penalty before his only play in the regular season.

Pryor completed 8 of 15 passes for 50 yards, was sacked twice and was quick to leave the pocket to scramble, running six times for 21 yards. He put Oakland in position to score but Eddy Carmona missed a 36-yard field goal wide right with 6:44 remaining. Pryor then threw an interception on fourth-and-26 in the final minute to end the game.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant takes a catch up field Oakland Raiders defensive back Ron Bartell looks on in the first quarter.–Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Receiver Dez Bryant played early and had a 24-yard reception from Romo.

Andre Holmes, in the battle for the No. 3 receiving job, had a 20-yard pass reception among his three catches.

Courtesy: Associated Press

Photos Courtesy: Ft Worth Star-Telegram

Dallas Cowboys announce preseason dates, kickoff times

The Dallas Cowboys announced the dates and kickoff times for their preseason games.

Here is the schedule:

Monday, Aug., 13 at Oakland, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 18, at San Diego, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 25, vs. St. Louis, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 29, vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

The Cowboys open the regular season on Wednesday, Sept. 5, at the New York Giants. Kickoff is at 7:30 at MetLife Stadium.

All times are Central.

SCHEDULE: Dallas Cowboys pre-season opponents set

The Dallas Cowboys open the regular season on national TV against the defending World Champion New York Giants.

The team’s pre-season opener doesn’t have the same ring, but it too will be nationally televised.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Oakland Raiders - The Boys Are Back

The Cowboys open on the road against the Oakland Raiders on Aug. 13 (Monday night) in a game that will be televised on ESPN. The game is schedule to kick-off 7 p.m. locally.

The club returns to Oxnard, Calif. for training camp which means the first two games will be on the West Coast. The Cowboys will visit the San Diego Chargers for a game the week of Aug. 16-20 before returning home.

The Cowboys final two games at Cowboys Stadium will be against St. Louis (Aug. 23-26) and Miami (Aug. 29-30).

Specific dates and times have not been set for the final three pre-season games. But since the Cowboys open the regular season on Sept. 5, their game against the Dolphins will likely be scheduled on Aug. 29 to leave a full week to prepare for the game against the Giants.

The Cowboys training camp plans have not been finalized, but they are likely to report to Oxnard that last, full week in July, meaning the California portion of camp will run in the neighborhood of 30 days. Rookies can be asked to report up to five days before the rest of the team which will add to the prolonged stay.

PRESEASON SCHEDULE: Dallas Cowboys likely to start on the West Coast

The NFL is expected to release the preseason schedule today (Wednesday). With the Dallas Cowboys training in Oxnard, Calif., this summer, they should get two West Coast preseason games to start the schedule. San Diego and Oakland probably are good guesses.

The Cowboys have played the Chargers in three of the past four preseasons. They have played Oakland in two of the past four preseasons.

The Cowboys have played Houston every preseason except 2009 and 2011, and they have yet to host the Texans at Cowboys Stadium. So that would be a natural home preseason game.

Since 2006, the Cowboys have closed out their preseason schedule against either Minnesota or Miami, so one of those teams is a likely visitor to Cowboys Stadium. Dallas traveled to both cities last preseason, so either could be an option.

NOTE: To view the entire 2012 – 2013 Dallas Cowboys NFL Schedule page (including the preseason) on The Boys Are Back blog, click HERE … or look for the special tabs on the top or right side of this blog. Enjoy! Thanks for visiting!

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