Tag Archives: Orlando Scandrick

DALLAS COWBOYS OTA UPDATE: ‘Boys Big Balls | Meat on the Bone | Diggin Dallas’ Drones in Philly | No fear, Scandrick secure

DALLAS COWBOYS OTA UPDATE - The ‘Boys Big Balls - Meat on the Bone - Diggin Dallas’ Drones in Philly - The Boys Are Back website 2015

Dallas Cowboys run drills using their big yellow ball, as seen here during OTA’s, at the team’s Valley Ranch practice facility in Irving, Texas. More on this later.  Continue reading →

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APPEALS, DEALS & POTENTIAL STEALS: Kraken Packin–Upcoming Greg Hardy appeal | Dallas Cowboys sign another former first-rounder | Scandrick smiling again | Pro Scouting Report–A. J. Jenkins | Silver and Blue linings

APPEALS, DEALS & STEALS - Kraken Packin - Upcoming Greg Hardy appeal - Dallas Cowboys sign another former first-rounder - Scandrick smiling again - Pro Scouting Report A. J. Jenkins

IRVING, Texas – Greg Hardy is on hand for the start of the Dallas Cowboys OTAs, but he’ll be absent Thursday when he heads to Washington D.C. for the appeal of his 10-game suspension.  Continue reading →

THE BOY IS BACK: Morris Claiborne returns to Valley Ranch facility after Tuesday afternoon departure | Coach speaks | Mo speaks | Scandrick speaks | Fan and Media reaction

THE BOY IS BACK - Morris Claiborne back at Valley Ranch facility after Tuesday afternoon departure - Coach speaks - Mo speaks - Scandrick speaks - Fan and Media reaction

IRVING, Texas – Morris Claiborne has returned to the Dallas Cowboys following a brief and unexcused absence Tuesday night – a result of a demotion following Sunday’s win against St. Louis. Continue reading →

FACING THE COACH, TEAM, MEDIA: Dallas Cowboys acquire CB from Patriots by trading Ben Bass | Orlando Scandrick talks about his 4 game suspension | Jason Garrett Press Conference | Dallas Cowboys fan reaction

FACING THE COACH, TEAM, MEDIA - Orlando Scandrick talks about his 4 game suspension - Jason Garrett Press Conference - Dallas Cowboys fan reaction - Analysis

Orlando Scandrick: This Will Never Happen Again | 5:24 | Dallas Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick talks about his 4 game suspension. (Watch | Listen)

Jason Garrett Press Conference: Scandrick’s suspension; Raiders practice | 16:47 | Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media before his teams afternoon practice with the Oakland Raiders. (Watch | Listen)


OXNARD, CA – Cornerback Orlando Scandrick clarified how his four-game suspension came about today (Tuesday) and blamed no one but himself.   Continue reading →

STAR DEFENDER SIDELINED BY NFL: Dallas Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick suspended | Cornerback will miss first 4 weeks of 2014-2015 NFL season

STAR DEFENDER SIDELINED BY NFL: Dallas Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick suspended | Cornerback will miss first 4 weeks of 2014-2015 NFL season

Orlando Scandrick will be suspended for the first four games of the 2014-2015 NFL season, according to Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. Continue reading →

DALLAS COWBOYS NFL SALARY CAP: Tony Romo contract restructured | Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick help team move closer to 2014 budget

DALLAS COWBOYS NFL SALARY CAP - Tony Romo contract restructured - The Boys Are Back blog 2014

IRVING, Texas – When the Dallas Cowboys signed Tony Romo to a $108 million contract last March, they knew exactly what would happen about 11 months later.

That time is now, and so it’s no surprise the club has exercised a restructure clause that was placed in the deal that frees up about $10 million in cap space. It reverts his scheduled $21.7 million base salary down to $11.7 million, and more importantly for the club, helps the Cowboys get closer to the projected $134 million salary cap.

Romo becomes the third player in two days to have his contract restructured for salary-cap relief (see below). The Cowboys did the same with cornerback Orlando Scandrick and linebacker Sean Lee. Those moves saved about $7.5 million.

dallas cowboys salary hat - nfl salary cap - the boys are back blog

With free agency set to begin on March 11, which is the start of the new league calendar year, the Dallas Cowboys and all teams must be under the cap.

Last year, the Cowboys found a way to shave about $30 million in cap space to not only get under the cap, but also clear enough room to pay Anthony Spencer his $10.63 million franchise tag. The Cowboys did not issue the franchise tag this year and Spencer is one of nine unrestricted free agents, along with defensive tackle Jason Hatcher.

To try and sign either player, the Cowboys will need to get more room under the cap, but they can do that by cutting a few more veterans.

Wide receiver Miles Austin is expected to be one of them, but it likely won’t happen until March 11. If the Cowboys make Austin a post-June 1 cut, they cannot do that before the new league year. Cutting him now only saves the team about $450,000 in cap space but they can save $5.5 million by designating him a June 1 cut. However, while Austin would be released and free to sign with any team, that money won’t be off the Cowboys’ books until June 1.

Of course, DeMarcus Ware’s future has been cloudy as team owner and GM Jerry Jones said a decision needs to be made on the club’s all-time sack leader. If Ware is released, the Cowboys would save about $7.5 million, but it appears the two sides will first attempt to either restructure his deal or come to an agreement on a lower base salary, possibly one with incentives that can get Ware close to his scheduled $12 million base salary if he performs at a high level. Ware, who underwent elbow surgery last month, has battled through various injuries the last two years, but the three games he missed in 2013 with a quad injury are the only three he’s missed in his career.

Other veterans who could be waived for salary-cap reasons are linebacker Justin Durant, which would save $1.2 million, and center Phil Costa, which would free up about $1.5 million.


RELATED: Defenders Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick provide salary-cap relief

DALLAS COWBOYS NFL SALARY CAP - Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick help team move closer to 2014 budget

IRVING, Texas – As expected, the Dallas Cowboys have started the process to get themselves under the salary cap, which is now projected to be around $133 million.

The increased cap of nearly $10 million will help the Cowboys, but they’ve still get work to do. It has started with the scheduled restructures of both linebacker Sean Lee and cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Both players signed new deals and/or extensions last season. But the Cowboys put these scheduled restructures in the language of the contract, knowing they could and likely would, be utilized this offseason.

The moves save the Cowboys nearly $7.8 million in space, by turning the base salaries into signing bonuses and pushing back the bulk of the contract into later years. The same procedure will likely be done with Tony Romo, who also signed a new deal last March. The restructure will probably net another $10 million in cap room, which would put them close to the $133 million.

The Cowboys can still create more room by cutting veteran players such as Miles Austin ($5.5 million if he’s a post June 1 cut) and center Phil Costa, who will save them about $1.5 million. Justin Durant could get released and save the team another $1.2 million.

And it’s likely DeMarcus Ware won’t be playing for that $16 million cap charge. Either he agrees to a lower base or simply a new contract, or Ware could be outright released, in a move that saves the team about $7.5 million.

Restructuring Brandon Carr’s contact is another option but the team did the same last year and after a down season from the veteran cornerback, it’s not a procedure the Dallas Cowboys will be comfortable in making. Pushing back money only makes him tougher to release should he have another season in 2014 similar to last year, when he gave up too many big plays, including a 329-yard performance to Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

The Cowboys need to get under the cap by March 11 and will certainly get there in time, like they’ve done every year.

DALLAS COWBOYS SALARY CAP: Orlando Scandrick contract extended through 2018

DALLAS COWBOYS SALARY CAP - Orlando Scandrick contract extended through 2018 - Dallas Cowboys roster

IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys added another two years to Orlando Scandrick’s contract Friday afternoon.

The cornerback, a fifth-round pick by the Cowboys in 2008, had been playing on a six-year, $28 million contract that expired after the 2016 season. The new extension adds $9 million in guarantees and secures Scandrick’s services through the 2018 season.

In exchange for the guarantees, the deal allows the Cowboys to reduce Scandrick’s compensation and save $4.5 million on the salary cap over the next three seasons.

The extension comes at the tail end of what has been a career year for the veteran. Injuries in the Cowboys secondary, most notably to fellow corner Morris Claiborne, have forced Scandrick into extensive duty at both nickelback and outside cornerback.

His response to the circumstances has been impressive. With 59 tackles through 13 games, he has already bested his career high of 51. His two interceptions on the season are also a career high. He logged one interception in 2009, 2010 and 2011 before going without one last season.

Scandrick is tied with Brandon Carr for the team lead in passes defensed at 14. He is also the lone defensive back on the roster with a sack, which he logged on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford in Week 3.

The extension keeps Scandrick with the Cowboys until 2019, which currently gives him one of the three longest-running contracts on the roster. Tony Romo and Sean Lee are both under contract until 2020.

SCAN MAN WITH A PLAN: Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick preparing for two NFL Top-10 receivers

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IRVING, Texas – Two of the NFL’s top 10 receivers this season both reside on the upcoming opponent of the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys have faced some of the toughest receivers in the league this season, from Calvin Johnson to Victor Cruz to the plethora of options at Peyton Manning’s disposal, but Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall could be the best duo they see all year.

“They’re real strong,” said cornerback Orlando Scandrick. “They both go up and catch the ball and highpoint well. We have faced good guys that go up, but I don’t know if we’ve faced two guys that go up and get the ball like these guys and are having seasons like these guys.”

Both Marshall and Jeffery are two of the bigger receivers in the game, each standing at least 6-3 and more than 215 pounds. They’ve totaled more than 2,000 combined receiving yards already this season and each ranks in the top five receiving in the NFC.

“There’s no question they’re awfully good outside,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “They have big, strong receivers who can go and get the football. Both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are guys who can make plays out there when they’re contested. I think their quarterbacks do a great job of giving them a chances to do it.”

The 6-foot-4 Marshall’s got an inch on Jeffery, and the Dallas Cowboys saw just how dominant and difficult to cover Marshall can be. When the teams met last year in Dallas, Marshall hauled in seven catches for 138 yards.

That was before Jeffery came on as an elite threat. Now that he has, teams are put in a bind trying to figure out which player to focus on. 

“Teams now have to play fair,” Marshall said. “He’s starting to put on tape and show the NFL that the Chicago Bears have two wide receivers that can dominate. If you want to double me or roll coverage, Alshon is going to be on the other side licking his chops and taking advantage of each opportunity.”

Jeffery only had three catches against the Dallas Cowboys last year, but he’s a completely different receiver from the player he was last year.

After finishing with 24 catches for 367 yards last year, Jeffery’s already beyond the 1,000-yard receiving mark this year with 70 catches for 1,109 yards and five touchdowns.

“They’re big,” Garrett said. “All of their weapons, the guys who make a lot of plays on the ball, are big, strong guys who are long. They have good ball skills and they make those contested catches. You just have to compete, you have to do a good job at the line of scrimmage and certainly at the point of the catch.”

Jeffery’s developed a rapport in recent weeks with backup quarterback Josh McCown, who’s the likely starter for the Bears on Monday, and is coming off a 249-yard, two-touchdown receiving day.

Scandrick said what makes Jeffery special apart from his big frame is his body control.

“He doesn’t spend a lot of time at the line of scrimmage,” Scandrick said. “He just takes his release, uses his body to shield you and goes and gets the ball.”

Despite all that, Scandrick believes the Cowboys have a good game plan to try to restrict what the Bears can do. In addition, the frigid Chicago temperature could also have an effect on the passing game for both teams.

Then again, Scandrick’s not preparing for the weather to halt the Bears’ plan too drastically.

He said it doesn’t take much to throw up a jump ball to those two guys, in which case the corners can’t get distracted with the receivers’ height. Both Scandrick (5-10) and the 6-foot-tall Brandon Carr will surrender at least three inches to the Bears’ top receivers.

“You just play the ball,” Scandrick said. “You don’t want to get caught up into thinking how tall he is. You play the ball and hopefully you come down with it.”

Scandrick and DeMarcus Ware believe the key for the defense eliminating the big plays that have bit the Cowboys’ defense in the past. Scandrick said there were too many times last week when the Raiders’ receivers got on top of the defense, but he thinks the game-plan this week should help the Cowboys out more.

As always, he looks forward to the challenge of playing two of the best receivers in the game.

“I’m so competitive,” Scandrick said. “I love these moments, and I feel like we’ve got a bunch of competitive guys on this team. We’re all up for the challenge.”

CASTING A GIANT SHADOW: Orlando Scandrick matched up stride for stride with Victor Cruz

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – He heard all the talk this week. He knew how important this game was to his team and he knew the individual challenge that was in front of him.

But not until Sunday morning in his hotel room did Orlando Scandrick officially get jacked up for the game.

No it wasn’t what Jason Pierre-Paul said or even Brandon Jacobs – or any a Giants player for that matter. So who managed to get the Dallas Cowboys corner so riled up? Hall of Fame player and coach Mike Ditka, who is now on ESPN’s pre-game show.

“He said the Cowboys don’t have a guy on defense that can stop Victor Cruz,” Scandrick said. “I just said ‘alright then.’ Coming from a guy who traded away his whole draft class for one player and got fired. But that got me going. He talked about Victor Cruz’s stats and probably just sees our ranking. But I took that personal.”

It showed.

Scandrick played arguably his best game of the season, as he matched up stride for stride with Cruz just about every play. Even when the coaches tried to switch up the plan after Morris Claiborne left the game with a hamstring, Scandrick had to plead with the coaches.

“I begged them … Begged them to let me stay with Cruz,” Scandrick said. “I was just confident in the matchup. I knew I could stay with him. I’m glad they let me stick with him.”

Scandrick said this was the first time the coaches ever let him follow Cruz all over the field, both inside and outside.

“I’ve done with (Wes) Welker but the Patriots do things different because they’re always in 11 personnel. The Giants mix it up a lot. But I’m just glad they let me stay with him.”

Cruz finished the game with two catches for 27 yards but lost a key fumble on his first catch when Scandrick ripped the ball out, resulting in a 50-yard touchdown return by rookie Jeff Heath for the first score of the game.

“I really respect Victor Cruz and he’s a fun player to play against,” Scandrick said. “You want to play your best against a guy like that. He’s had some games but I feel like I’ve played well, too.”

Sunday was better than “well” for Scandrick. And it’s one if the big reasons the Dallas Cowboys flew home 6-5 and tied for first place in the division.

BOYS BYE-WEEK BREAKDOWN: Texas-2 Cornerbacks should benefit from man-coverage skillset

BOYS BYE-WEEK BREAKDOWN - Texas-2 Cornerbacks should  benefit from man coverage - Brandon Carr

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

TEXAS-2 DEFENSIVE GAME BALL: Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick continues to shine in 2013

TEXAS-2 DEFENSIVE GAME BALL - Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick continues to shine in 2013

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick had arguably the best game of his career Sunday against the Vikings. Five tackles, four pass deflections and an interception. Most importantly, he made plays on an astonishing nine of ten opportunities in the game.

He was given a defensive game ball by the Cowboys. He also graded as the second-best cornerback in NFL for his play this week by Pro Football Focus.

“He played really well,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Probably his best game. He got the defensive game ball. He showed up in a lot of different ways. There are a lot of different ways that we evaluate and grade our players. One of them on defense with the defensive backs is there were 10 chances that went his way and he won nine of them. He had three pass breakups, an interception, a critical tackle at the end of the ballgame. He was very active throughout the game.”

It was the continuation of what has been a strong season by Scandrick who has been one of the team’s most consistent defensive performers along with linebacker Sean Lee, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and cornerback Brandon Carr.

Scandrick attributes his strong play to being  named a full-time starter for the first time in his career. The six-year veteran replaced a struggling Morris Claiborne in Week 2 and has not looked back.

Scandrick said there is a certain freedom in your play when you don’t have to look over your shoulder every time you make a mistake. Starting has only boosted his already sky-high confidence and allowing him to play loose and focus only on making plays.

NEXT MAN UP: With Morris Claiborne out, Dallas Cowboys counting on rookie B.W. Webb to play in the slot

Dallas Cowboys rookie cornerback B.W. Webb fumbles punt - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

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.”

2013-2014 COWBOYS vs. EAGLES: NFC East rivals to clash in Philadelphia for division lead

The Dallas Cowboys look to take division lead over the Philadelphia Eagles this week.

DALLAS COWBOY HONORED - Dwayne Harris named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week

Dallas Cowboys

Their Nemesis: Dwayne Harris

Dwayne Harris has only faced the Philadelphia Eagles three times in his career, but in those games, he has made more than his share of big plays. In games when the Eagles have kicked off in his direction, he has averaged over 35 yards per return. 

For the 2013 season, Harris has returned nine kickoffs for an average of 34.7 yards per return. In 2013, the Eagles are ranked 31st in the league in kickoff coverage, allowing opponents an average of 28.8 yards per return.

Of the 36 kickoffs the Eagles have had this season, they have had 16 of them returned, so Harris should get opportunities to bring a ball back up the field to expand on that average. When the Eagles have punted the ball to Harris, he has an average of 14.2 yards per return, with a touchdown also to his credit – the one he scored in Philadelphia last November.

For this season, Harris has returned eight punts for an average of 23.6 yards and one touchdown, which he scored last week against the Redskins. With two teams as equally matched as the Cowboys and Eagles are, Dwayne Harris has proven in the past that he can in fact be a difference maker in a game.

Our Weapon: Orlando Scandrick

What Monte Kiffin and this defensive staff have shown the last two weeks is that they are not afraid to match their best corners on the opponent’s best threats. The way that DeSean Jackson has been playing this season, the Dallas Cowboys will need to match him with a corner that can play with quickness and straight line speed. Scandrick is that guy.

Where the Eagles might work their way around this is to try and keep Jackson out of the slot, which is where Scandrick does the majority of his work. Kiffin doesn’t have anyone that he trusts enough to take Scandrick out of that role.

Jackson is too quick for both Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, which presents a big problem when you match him on the outside. With Jackson, there is that fear that he can score from anywhere on the field, and that is why you need to match him with a player that has the ability to function under that pressure.

There has been little that has affected Scandrick this season. He has been the best player in the secondary. Orlando Scandrick also has faced DeSean Jackson enough in his career to understand how he needs to play him and that is very important when you are trying to match a player with this much talent.

Under Their Radar: Joseph Randle

Last week against the Redskins, rookie Joseph Randle saw his first NFL action as a running back in this league. This week against the Eagles, in a divisional game on the road, he will make his first start.

Randle had little time to prepare when DeMarco Murray left the game with a knee injury. During the week before the game, he might get one or two reps with the first offense while Murray takes the majority of the others.

As Randle prepares for this opportunity, he will be getting all the reps with the offense in practice, and to be honest, he will need every one of them. In reviewing the game, Randle did not appear nervous or out of his element, but this week should be much easier for him because of the extra work he is getting in practice.

There is a confidence that he can come in and get the job done. His teammates are going to need him at his best to beat the Eagles. There are so many things that Murray does well and his play will be missed. Where Randle can help this team is with hard running, a check down or two catching the ball and being absolutely sure of who he has on these blitz pickups, because that is where this defense will test him the most.   


2013-2014 COWBOYS vs. EAGLES - NFC East rivals clash in Philadelphia for division lead

Philadelphia Eagles

Our Nemesis: DeSean Jackson

If you look at DeSean Jackson’s career against the Dallas Cowboys, it’s actually quite impressive.

Jackson’s most productive game that he has ever played in this league came against the Cowboys on a December day. He was unstoppable that afternoon, catching four passes for 210 yards and one touchdown. As a matter of fact, if you look at Jackson’s top 11 career games, two of them have come against the Cowboys.

Jackson currently leads the Eagles in receptions and touchdowns due to how this Chip Kelly lines him up all over the field in different formations — either getting the ball on the move or vertically down the field.

What makes him so difficult to deal with is the speed and quickness he plays with. Jackson is one of those players that, if you play off coverage on him, he is going to eat up your cushion in a hurry. He is on you right now and if he is on you, he is by you.

There have been days, though, where Jackson has been his own worst enemy with drops. As many times as I have seen him catch the ball on the move, there have been times where he has appeared to hear footsteps and drop a ball or two that he should have made a play on.

I would not say that he has the most consistent hands and there are times where they have let him down. Jackson still is a unique talent and has rare ability.

Their Weapon: LeSean McCoy

Nervous as this Cowboys defense is about playing against DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy presents an even more difficult problem. This Chip Kelly offense is perfectly tailored to his running style.

McCoy is one of those backs that can take simple plays and make them into huge gains. It doesn’t matter if it is a handoff out of the read-option or a screen pass in the flat, he is going to be hard to handle. He has the unique ability to make the first man miss, then get into the open field and make others miss.

He is an explosive runner, and when he can turn his shoulders and go downhill, he can be tough to bring down. The best way to slow him down is get him going sideways and not allow him to turn up the field. He makes some violent cuts in the way he runs the ball. He can plant his foot in the ground and explode off of it.

McCoy can take the ball off the read option, allowing the line to get into their blocks, then hit it to the back side as the defense over-runs the play. He plays with outstanding hands, and it’s rare to see him drop a pass. He has a feel for how to work himself open, secure the catch and head up the field. He’s a hard player to completely shut down, and the Cowboys will have their hands full with him. 

Under The Radar: Mychal Hendricks

The Eagles have several good, young players on their defensive roster, but one guy that really caught my eye was linebacker Mychal Hendricks.

He was a second round selection by the Eagles in 2012, and, right now, he looks like a quality pick. The first thing you notice about him is how quick he plays. He is very active and is a difficult guy to block when he is on the move.

He looks like a nice scheme fit for this 3-4 defense, because he can get away from blocks. He’s short, but he does play with some pop at the point of attack. He will be used on blitzes to attack the pocket, and he can be a relentless guy when it comes to rushing the passer.

Hendricks does a really nice job of chasing the ball. He’s strong enough to play off blocks, and he can be physical when he needs to be.

He’s a very good tackler in space and a hard guy to get away from when he has the ball carrier wrapped up. He can really close when he sees the ball, and he has a burst and some explosive traits. He showed the ability to carry the back out of the backfield, and he moves with ease and is able to stay in position while playing the route.

Hendricks one of those defensive players you have to be aware of and make sure you get a hat on him at all times.

2013-2014 NFL GAMEDAY PRIMER: Denver vs. Dez Bryant; Dallas vs. Wes Welker

GAMEDAY MATCHUPS - Denver vs. Dez Bryant; Dallas vs. Wes Welker - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant vs. Broncos CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

With no Champ Bailey in the lineup, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been the best cornerback for the Denver Broncos this season. He is a wiry, long athlete that plays with an ease of movement.

Rodgers-Cromartie is very smooth and do not see many plays where he is beaten badly or is in terrible position on the route. Likes to play a physical game and get right on top of the receiver. Can play very tight in coverage. There is little separation in his game. Is not afraid to use his hands to keep the receiver from getting up the field on him. Is not afraid to mix it up at all. Is not going to shy away from contact. Hard guy to run away from because of his speed and burst.

Rodgers-Cromartie was a 4.35 40 guy coming out of Tennessee State and six years later, and you still see him play with those types of numbers. Do not expect him to back down from the challenge of having to deal with Dez Bryant all day. He’s one of those cornerbacks that doesn’t need help over the top because of his ability.

He had some games in Philadelphia where offensive coordinators picked on him, but has made a nice transition in Jack Del Rio’s scheme. Rodgers-Cromartie has played some large receivers this season, Jacoby Jones and Brice Butler but none with the strength and power of Dez Bryant.

Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick vs. Broncos WR Wes Welker

There will be plenty of matchups that this Dallas Cowboys defense is going to have to deal with, but the one that could swing the balance of the game, is how Orlando Scandrick is able to play Wes Welker.

As well as Scandrick has been playing this season, I put him on Welker no matter where he is on the field. With the skill level of Scandrick and the fact that I know that in his preparation, he will study every pass that Welker has not only caught this season, but also when they met in New England in 2011 and use that to his advantage.

Where Scandrick is good in this matchup, is that he has played Welker before and did quite well. With Welker, it not so much about his speed but the quickness. It’s the initial burst that makes Welker difficult to handle. Scandrick can run with his all day but where he needs to be at his best is when gets up on him and jams him at the line.

The key to playing Welker, is not letting him get off the line. If you give Welker free access off the line, he is going to make your life difficult. Orlando Scandrick has always been one of those players that felt like he was slighted as a player and covering Wes Welker all day, playing him well, gets him that respect he desires.

SOPHOMORE SLUMP: Dallas Cowboys insist on patients regarding Morris Claiborne

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.”

WEEK 3 GAME BALLS: 2013 Dallas Cowboys vs. St. Louis Rams

game center - Dallas Cowboys vs. St. Louis Rams - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys

Offensive Game Ball: Offensive Line

It would be real easy to hand the ball to DeMarco Murray for his effort in this game, but without those guys up front, Murray would not have had the day that he did. Murray received his share of blame for his lack of production last week against the Chiefs, but he alone should not have shouldered the criticism. This Cowboys offensive line was outstanding today both in the run and pass. Murray had more than enough room to operate and Tony Romo was hardly touched as he sat in the pocket. Head coach Jason Garrett and his offensive staff have strived for balance, and they got it today from a line that hasn’t always been given the credit that it deserves.

Defensive Game Ball: Jason Hatcher

Going into this game, the Rams offensive line was expected to have problems handling the Cowboys defensive tackles. For the third straight game, Jason Hatcher was outstanding. For a player who had questions about staying consistent in this scheme, he has more than proved himself. Hatcher played with explosive quickness and power. He was disruptive on the move and was relentless in the way he attacked the pocket. His play did not allow Rams quarterback Sam Bradford any room to step up and make a throw. Hatcher was quick to shed blocks, and he was technique-sound the entire day. His play overall caused this Rams’ offensive scheme huge issues.

Coaches Game Ball: Rod Marinelli

The Rams were going to have trouble running the ball, which meant that defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and his troops were going to have to play the majority of the game rushing the passer. Bradford put the ball up 49 times for St. Louis with an average gain of only 3.6 yards per completion. Bradford was never comfortable in the pocket, and it started on the opening series and did not end until the final whistle. Despite playing shorthanded without Anthony Spencer, Marinelli’s group put on quite a show. There was a slot blitz or two mixed in from Orlando Scandrick, but the majority of the pressure came from a four-man rush. Marinelli has always preached quickness off the snap and to get up the field as quickly as you can. He did an outstanding job of rotating his defensive line, and they rewarded him with a dominating performance against a Rams club that has some explosive offensive weapons, totally holding them in check. Today, it started up front with his guys. 

RANDOM GAMEDAY NOTES: Miles Austin relieved by Harris; OG rotation; Spencer still on hold; and more

RANDOM GAMEDAY NOTES - Miles Austin relieved by Harris; OG rotation; Spencer still on hold; and more

ARLINGTON, Texas – The announcement in the AT&T Stadium press box momentarily hushed the crowd – Miles Austin had left the game against St. Louis with hamstring problems.

Austin had a quiet afternoon before aggravating his legs on a deep route in the third quarter. He came away with two catches for 22 yards.

The veteran wideout didn’t reappear, though Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said that was a precautionary move.

“The discussion we had was that he was going to continue to stay warmed up,” Garrett said. “I said ‘That’s a good thing, he needs to be ready, but we’ll keep looking at that scoreboard and making sure we can handle the situation without him.’”

The lopsided win against the Rams certainly made it an easy call to rest Austin. The Cowboys scored to go up 31-7 with roughly 12 minutes remaining in the game and were able to cruise to a comfortable win without their No. 2 receiver.

“Because the game – you know, we were ahead in the ballgame – we decided to keep him out of it,” Garrett said. “We’ll just evaluate it over the next couple of days.”

Austin’s absence opened the door for receiver, Dwayne Harris, for his first touchdown of the season.

“He really showed a lot of mental and physical toughness throughout the game,” Garrett said.

Fittingly enough, it was Harris’ hands – shaky to start with the muffed punt – which sealed the win, as he brought in his lone catch for a 24-yard touchdown.

“It was a bad play,” Garrett said of the muffed punt. “It was a bad play by him and our defense went out and responded the right way, and I think Dwayne responded the right way himself as the game wore on.”

Here are some more notes from the Cowboys’ 31-7 win against St. Louis:

  • Anthony Spencer was inactive for the second time in three weeks with the same knee injury he had surgery on in July. The Cowboys managed fine without the Pro Bowler, as they racked up six sacks, but there’s no doubt they’d like to get one of their sack artists back to the field. “It’s just real frustrating for this to be the same lingering problem, but it is what it is and I’m handling it the best way I can,” Spencer said. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said the team had an idea earlier in the week that Spencer would be unavailable. Spencer tried to work out on the knee as late as Friday but “it wasn’t going.” The thought is that the knee is still sore from the stress of playing against Kansas City, and Spencer said he’ll “play it by ear” going forward.
  • Brian Waters said following the win he thought he could play a full game on the offensive line. Waters and Mackenzy Bernadeau rotated at guard against the Rams, after Waters worked just a few series of each half last week against the Chiefs. “At the end of the day, that’s the coaches’ call. I’m just going to continue to do what I can,” Waters said. “We got some good guys – we got a good group, and the more players the better, because it’s a long season. As we find in the NFL, you’ve got to have more than five offensive linemen to be successful.”
  • At one point, both Bernadeau and Waters played guard together, as Ronald Leary tweaked his knee in the third quarter. Garrett said it was the same knee Leary injured during training camp, but he was fine and was able to return to the game.
  • Like Harris, Gavin Escobar made the most of a small opportunity. The rookie tight end managed just one catch, but it isn’t one he’ll soon forget. Escobar brought in a beautiful 24-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter to put Dallas up, 24-0. “I was very excited,” Escobar said. “That’s usually not a play where I’m the go-to guy, but you never know and you have to be ready to catch the ball.” The play was actually the exact same as the one Harris would late score on. Escobar had just missed on several opportunities this season, but Tony Romo said the rookie is coming along nicely. “He almost had one earlier in the game. I think he lost his shoe against New York on one where he would have had one. So it was just a matter of time,” Romo said.
  • Not everything went swimmingly for the Cowboys in an otherwise easy win. Kicker Dan Bailey missed a manageable field goal wide right from just 35 yards out. Harris’ muffed punt also factored into a forgettable day.
  • Orlando Scandrick’s sack of Sam Bradford in the first quarter gave the cornerback 7.5 sacks for his career – fourth-best among defensive backs in Cowboys history. It seems like a stat that could be more common for Scandrick in this defense. “He’s got good timing, and he wants to be around that football,” Garrett said. “He’s got that big ass chip on his shoulder, too.”

LUCKY THIRTEENTH: Orlando Scandrick is making mark as starting corner and special teams ace

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.”

TALKING TEXAS-2 DEFENSE: The versatility of DBs should be effective in new 4-3 scheme

    jerome henderson

    IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.

    Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full seasons removed from the playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding them as they prepare for the 2013 season.

    With 19 days (July 20th) until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., one question centers on the versatility of defensive backs.

    The versatility of DBs should be effective in new 4-3 scheme

    Last year, we saw the Cowboys use a variety of defensive back rotations – some of which because of injury and other times to simply put players in effective spots.

    dallas cowboys players congratulate defensive back brandon carr (39) after his second interception against the san diego chargers - the boys are back blog

    Brandon Carr manned the cornerback spot most of the year, but he spent some time at safety early in the year after the Cowboys lost both Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh to injury.

    Orlando Scandrick has played primarily slot corner, but has been used as a safety in certain packages. The Cowboys also signed Sterling Moore in midseason from the Patriots’ depth chart and he immediately helped at both safety and cornerback.

    In this new 4-3 scheme from Monte Kiffin, the Cowboys might have to rely on their versatile players more than ever.

    Looking back in Cowboys’ history, no player excelled at both cornerback and safety better than Mel Renfro. The 10-time Pro Bowler made it five times as a safety and five times as a corner – often going back and forth later in his career. If anyone came close to excelling like that, it would be Renfro’s teammates Cornell Green, who often swapped roles with Renfro on those early Doomsday Defenses.

    Obviously it’s a stretch to assume the Cowboys will have any player on this roster, or any in the future, that can be as dominant as Mel Renfro, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.

    However, having versatility at any position is clutch, especially in the secondary. With the NFL becoming a more passing league by each year, having players with the ability to cover ground like a safety, coupled with the skills to cover in the slot is almost a lost art.

    That trait alone might keep a player like Moore on the roster and actually get him activated on game day as well.

    This team suffered many injuries last year so guys like Carr and Scandrick might be asked to play some safety in a pinch as well.

    They don’t have to be all-world like Renfro or even Green, but just serviceable at another position can be beneficial.


    A closer look at the number 20:

    • The Cowboys have picked 20th overall four different times in club history, getting Marcus Spears in 2005, Ebenezer Ekuban in 1999, Billy Joe DuPree in 1973 and Dennis Homan in 1968.

    • No player has ever worn No. 20 as long as Mel Renfro, who had it from 1964-77. Other notable players to wear No. 20 include Ron Springs, Ray Horton and Richie Anderson.

    • Currently, rookie B.W. Webb wears No. 20.

    • Roger Staubach’s 20 rushing touchdowns are the most by any Cowboys’ quarterback and ranks 11th all-time in Cowboys history.

    • Preston Pearson ranks 20th in Cowboys history with 1,207 rushing yards.

    ROSTER REVIEW: Final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys

    america's team - dallas cowboys helmet 2012 - the boys are back blog

    No more whistles, no more playbooks, no more coach’s dirty looks. Sure, not quite as catchy as the iconic “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks,” but we’re talking football grades here, not math, science and social studies.

    The biggest difference in grading pupils and players is expectations. All students are created equal; not so much for a professional football team. Just doesn’t make sense to hold Miles Austin, one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the game and a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and Cole Beasley, an undrafted free agent rookie, to the same standard. Ditto for DeMarcus Ware, headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and some dude signed off his couch midseason. Not even Batman.

    Without further ado, here are our final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys:

    QUARTERBACKS

    Tony Romo – B

    This one is difficult, because for 80-plus percent of the season, 13-of-16 games, Romo played as well as any quarterback in franchise history. Yes, including Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. His numbers for those contests include 303.1 yards per game, 24 touchdown passes, seven picks and a 100.2 rating. Even with the other three games – vs. the Bears and Giants and at the Redskins – Romo had the league’s sixth-highest rating by Football Outsiders, behind only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.

    He threw for nearly 5,000 yards, and on many occasions was his own best pass protector in terms of finding an extra second or two. There were times when he was brilliant, and never before has he shown the leadership he did this season. Still, in the end, Romo flunked his final. Again. That’s not easy to write. Romo has been sort of the teacher’s pet these last five years, but there is no excuse for those final two picks at Washington.

    Kyle Orton – I

    He broke Clint Longley’s 38-year-old mark for highest passer rating (minimum 10 attempts) with a ridiculous 137.1. Played just the one game, though, giving him an incomplete.

    RUNNING BACKS

    DeMarco Murray – C

    A disappointing season for the second-year back who was expected to anchor the offensive load. Didn’t rush for 100 yards after Week 1 at the Giants and rarely showed the explosiveness from his rookie season with just five 20-plus carries. Finished tied for 21st in the league with 2.5 yards per attempt after contact. He also picked the worst of times for his first two NFL fumbles. His durability has also become a concern as he has missed nine of the team’s last 19 games with injuries.

    Felix Jones – C

    Finished with more offensive touches than expected, was much improved in picking up the blitz, caught the ball well, and for the most part, maximized his rushing yards with the gaps provided. He averaged just 3.6 yards per carry after entering the year at 5.1 for his career.

    Lance Dunbar – B

    Was impressed with the free agent rookie from North Texas from the first preseason game through Week 17. Finished with eight special teams tackles, was solid if unspectacular on kick returns and showed a little burst on offense. Should play a bigger role in 2013.

    Phillip Tanner – C

    Solid on special teams with 10 tackles, although he didn’t show much in limited action carrying the ball.

    Lawrence Vickers – C

    Showed promise catching passes, that little dump-off was seemingly always available. But his blocking was average and his four penalties in 305 snaps was the highest percentage of any fullback playing 25 percent of his team’s snaps.

    Continue reading →

    PLAYER EVALUATIONS: Millionaire Miles, Felix Jones, stopping the run, and the Jenkins factor

    Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin nearly breaks free for a TD vs Cleveland Browns - The Boys Are Back blog

    The season is over and it’s time to think about a few things. For example, is Miles Austin earning his money? Is it time for Felix Jones, who’s now a free agent, to find a new team? What do the Cowboys need to stop the run in 2013? And finally, should Dallas keep cornerback Mike Jenkins?

    1. In 2010, Miles Austin signed a seven-year $57.1 million contract. Austin’s deal meant a few things: He moved into an elite level in regards with his contract and was to become the No. 1 receiver on the Cowboys. After signing that deal, Dez Bryant surpassed him as a bigger threat, Austin has had just one 1,000 yard season, 2010, he fell 57 yards short of it in 2012 and his health continues to be a question. He failed to finish the game against Washington on Sunday night because of a high-ankle sprain. He’s endured hamstring issues the last two seasons. Austin is scheduled to earn $6.7 million in 2013 and it raises a question: Is Austin earning his money? I doubt if the Cowboys are going to release Austin because no matter how good Bryant is, there is still an unpredictability about him away from the field. Austin is a good player but the team needs more from him considering the money he’s making.

    Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo hands the ball off to Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones

    2. Felix Jones won’t return in 2013 but he did finish the final game of the season with 24 yards on five carries. Jones hit holes with a burst and seemed to run with little limitations. He’s battled injuries to both knees and he probably should have stayed on the bench. But he displayed a toughness that was necessary from the running back position. Jones was put in a bad situation by the Cowboys. He was drafted as a backup to then-starter Marion Barber. When Barber’s health started to betray him, the Cowboys asked Jones to become a starter but his own health failed him too. It’s time for Jones, who becomes a free agent, to find a new team and for the Cowboys to stop drafting players to become backups. If the Cowboys draft a running back this spring, it should be designed to give competition to DeMarco Murray. If Murray is better than the new back, fine, keep the job. Life for a NFL running back is dangerous. One week he’s healthy, the next he’s not and you need to have quality ones on the depth chart. Jones is an average running back, but not starters material and when it was time for him to take over for an injured Murray and Barber, he couldn’t do the job on a consistent basis.

    2012 Dallas Cowboys defense loses Bruce Carter to IR - The Boys Are Back blog

    3. Want to know why the Cowboys failed to stop the run in 2012? They lost of four players that clogged the middle of the field. Jay Ratliff (injury), Josh Brent (suspension), Sean Lee (injury) and Bruce Carter (injury) were the force up the gut for the Cowboys. When the Cowboys didn’t have Ratliff at the start of the season, the club still had Brent a solid run stopper. But when Brent was lost, Sean Lissemore was moved from defensive end to nose tackle. The Cowboys also moved Robert Callaway and signed Brian Schaefering to help inside. Lee and Carter replacements at inside linebacker were Dan Connor, Ernie Sims and at times Alex Albright. The backups failed to produce for the Cowboys as evident by the run defense allowing at least 100 yards in six of the last seven weeks of the season. Moving forward the Cowboys need to draft or sign another inside linebacker in free agency who can provide depth. The Cowboys allowed 274 rushing yards in the regular season finale and gave up at least 150 rushing yards twice and 125 or more yards five times. It’s hard to win games when that happens regularly.

    Dallas Cowboys CB Mike Jenkins vs New York Giants - The Boys Are Back blog

    4. The Cowboys have 16 unrestricted free agents and one of them is a former first-round pick, cornerback Mike Jenkins. It seems the Cowboys were never quite happy with Jenkins the entire offseason. He didn’t rehab his surgically repaired shoulder in Dallas, instead doing it in Florida. Jenkins didn’t attend the voluntary workouts, although he was there for the mandatory sessions. But as is always the case in the NFL, injuries dictate a lot of things. Jenkins saw playing time, especially when slot corner Orlando Scandrick went down with a hand injury. Jenkins even played some at safety and on special teams. It appears Jenkins may not return in 2013, leaving the Cowboys looking for a fourth corner in free agency or the draft. "Do I want to come back?" Jenkins asked. "I’ve grown attached, I’ve been here for five years, I’ve grown attached to everybody here. It’s hard to just get up and leave and not want to come back. At the same time ,you want to go somewhere and have a fair opportunity and I guess go on from there."

    ASSESSING THE DAMAGE: Five positions ravaged by injury

    Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones (28) jumps past Washington Redskins free safety Madieu Williams - The Boys Are Back blog

    The Dallas Cowboys head into the weekend with injuries to several starters and main backups that affect five positions. We review.

    Inside linebacker

    Injured: Bruce Carter (elbow), Sean Lee (toe)

    Healthy: Dan Connor, Ernie Sims and Alex Albright

    Outlook: Lee is done for the season and Carter’s elbow was dislocated but it popped back into place during the loss to Washington. At one point, Sims and Connor played with the first-team defense. Carter’s season isn’t done, unless results from Friday’s MRI reveal something different. Two of the Cowboys’ best defensive players are at this position and they don’t have any of them. Carter has been an excellent player this season, more so when Lee went out. Now the Cowboys have two veterans who must pick up the slack.

    Cornerback

    Injured: Orlando Scandrick (hand)

    Healthy: Mike Jenkins, Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Vince Agnew

    Outlook: The issue here is Scandrick’s season. He underwent surgery on Friday morning to repair a broken left hand. It hasn’t been determined if his season is over, however, he’s had trouble securing the ball with two healthy hands. With a bad one, you have to wonder if the Cowboys still want him out there. The Cowboys can use Jenkins as the slot corner, but he’s endured back issues of late and played on Thursday. Agnew was inactive for the Redskins game and that most likely will change if Scandrick is out for the Philadelphia Eagles game on Dec. 2.

    Running back

    Injured: DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knees)

    Healthy: Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner

    Outlook: Jones should be given credit for playing through some health issues, but he always has something wrong with him and you can’t depend on him long-term. Murray has missed the last six games with his foot injury and owner Jerry Jones said he’s not sure when the starter will return. It might be time to give Dunbar and Tanner the bulk of the game carries and give Jones limited opportunities, at least until Murray returns.

    Wide receiver

    Injured: Miles Austin (hip) and Kevin Ogletree (concussion)

    Healthy: Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and Andre Holmes

    Outlook: Ogletree missed the Redskins game and Austin was hurt during the 38-31 loss. Currently Bryant is the most accomplished receiver on the team who is healthy. Bryant has played well the last month, but he can’t do it alone. Beasley and Harris played pretty well during the Redskins game as the Cowboys mounted a comeback. More snaps for Beasley, whom quarterback Tony Romo likes, could help the struggling offense.

    Offensive line

    Injured: Ryan Cook (knee), Phil Costa (ankle), Tyron Smith (ankle)

    Healthy: Jeremy Parnell, Derrick Dockery, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Nate Livings, Doug Free,David Arkin, Kevin Kowalski.

    Outlook: Cowboys got away with using Smith as the swing tackle on Thanksgiving Day knowing he’s not 100 percent. Cook and Costa’s return are uncertain. Parnell didn’t embarrass himself against Washington, so if Smith isn’t ready he could earn another start. The center spot is troubling, given the health of Costa, who might need another week, and Cook, whom many thought would be ready to play by now.

    Note: The defensive line has issues too with end Jason Hatcher going down with a concussion late in the Redskins game. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff and backup lineman Sean Lissemore are also nursing injuries, though those players could return soon.

    DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE: CB Orlando Scandrick undergoes surgery on broken left hand

    Dallas Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick - The Boys Are Back blog

    Orlando Scandrick underwent surgery Friday after suffering a spiral fracture in his left hand in the second quarter of the Cowboys’ 38-31 loss to the Washington Redskins.

    It’s uncertain whether the slot cornerback, who has contributed 21 tackles and four pass breakups in 2012, will be able to return before the end of the season.

    “Hopefully I’ll be back before the year is over,” he said. “If there is any way I can play, I will be back.”

    SALVATION ARMY: Dallas Cowboys take break from field to help out in kitchen

    Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign at Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day - The Boys Are Back blog

    DALLAS — Jason Witten shows up at the Salvation Army every year to serve an early Thanksgiving lunch. On Tuesday, he brought his buddy with him.

    Quarterback Tony Romo was one of the 12 Cowboys veterans who worked the food line and brought plates out to the clients at the Salvation Army’s Collins Social Services Center in Dallas. It’s part of the kickoff to the team’s annual Thanksgiving holiday drive for the charity.

    In Fort Worth, another group of players and cheerleaders served a Thanksgiving lunch to Salvation Army residents there.

    Romo doesn’t make a lot of public appearances, so it was a treat for the lunchtime crowd and the hosts. The Salvation Army staffer who introduced him — a Cowboys fan since she was 10 years old despite growing up in Washington, D.C. — couldn’t resist calling him over and saying, to cheers, "This is the first time I’ve met Tony Romo. I’m standing by Tony Romo!"

    Witten got a grin out of it.

    "He does a good job of seeing those fans, and obviously, they have words of encouragement or, sometimes, advice — for all of us, and especially the quarterback," Witten said, drawing a laugh.

    Parenthood, said Witten, has affected Romo’s outlook.

    "Being a father himself and a family guy, it does provide a perspective," he said. "It’s unbelievable how good his motives are. He just wants to spend time with them and stay away from all the other stuff. That’s what it’s all about, to come here and get the impact, more than anything else."

    Romo stayed in the kitchen for the most part, but he took charge there, too. He put Miles Austin on dressing, put himself on rolls.

    "He was on the rolls, but you know what? It was a little hot back there," Witten said. "He did provide some entertainment for the staff. Those are stories those people will be able to tell for a long time, getting to work with Tony in the back. He didn’t quite have it mastered like they did."

    Other players who participated included DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray, Phillip Tanner, Kyle Orton, Robert Calloway, Derrick Dockery, Eric Frampton, Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr.

    Murray, who has missed four games with a sprained foot, said it lifted his spirits to do his part.

    "Getting away from everything that deals with football, enjoying life, giving back, being around people who really don’t see football, it was nice to come out here and give," he said.

    Sherby Nixon shows rookie Cowboys linebacker Kyle Wilber, left, and running back Lance Dunbar how to prepare a thanksgiving lunch plate - The Boys Are Back blog

    Sherby Nixon shows rookie Cowboys linebacker Kyle Wilber, left, and running back Lance Dunbar how to prepare a thanksgiving lunch plate.

    Related: Dallas Cowboys get, give good vibes at annual Salvation Army meal

    DALLAS – The Cowboys have a couple of Thanksgiving traditions: Playing football on Turkey Day and serving meals to the less fortunate earlier in the month.

    Tuesday was the day for the latter tradition.

    The Cowboys manned two Salvation Army locations, with the rookies serving meals in Fort Worth and a group of veterans serving meals in Dallas.

    “Every time you do it, you’re in the middle of the season and the grind and coming here provides a little perspective,” said Jason Witten, who has been part of the event in each of his 10 seasons. “You’re on somewhat of a platform. You have to say, hey, I’m going to give back to some of the people that look up to you. That’s what being a role model is all about, providing perspective and hopefully encourage them in some way.”

    It’s not just about serving meals. The Cowboys sign autographs and interact with people who generally need some good vibes.

    “It’s good just to come out here and just give back,” running back DeMarco Murray said. “You always have a soft place in your heart for them. Growing up, you always tried to pray for them and do the right things by them, no matter if it’s bringing them over for a meal, just saying hi or talking to them. Doing anything you can possibly do to make them feel better is what counts.”

    Added outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware: “You’ve got to count your blessings. Being a role model for the Dallas Cowboys and having some positivity come into the Salvation Army always feels good.”

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