Tag Archives: Phil Costa

AROUND THE NFL: Former Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa retires

AROUND THE NFL - Former Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa retires - Michael Ainsworth - The Boys Are Back website 2014

Former Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa surprised everyone Monday by retiring from the NFL at only 26 years old.

This morning, Costa released a statement via his agent explaining his decision to retire after just signing a two-year contract last month with the Indianapolis Colts.

“Unfortunately, the day-to-day physical rigor of the NFL season has taken a toll on my body and has been a driving force behind my decision,” Costa said in his statement.

Costa, who started all 16 games in 2011 for the Cowboys, played in only three games each of the previous two years. A dislocated ankle caused him to miss the majority of the 2012 season.

Costa also thanked the Cowboys, Colts, his coaches, teammates, family, friends and the fans for all of their support throughout his career.

“As I look forward to the next chapter of my life, I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have played in the league,” Costa said.

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DALLAS COWBOYS NFL SALARY CAP: Team under 2014-2015 cap after releasing Phil Costa and renegotiating Mackenzy Bernadeau contract | DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin decisions pending

DALLAS COWBOYS NFL SALARY CAP - Team under 2014-2015 cap after releasing Phil Costa and renegotiating Mackenzy Bernadeau contract - The Boys Are Back website

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys are now under the salary cap after cutting the center many thought could be the starter prior to last year’s draft.

The Cowboys cut Phil Costa and renegotiated the contract of Mackenzy Bernadeau on Friday, putting themselves in better position financially prior to the start of free agency on March 11, which is the beginning of the new league year and the time all teams must be under the cap.

The restructuring of Tony Romo, Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee already saved the Cowboys more than $16 million in cap space, and the move to release Costa saves another $1.5 million. Despite their continual cap restraints, the Dallas Cowboys will have no issue being under the new cap figure next week.

Costa appeared in only six games the last two seasons after starting all 16 games at center in 2011. He started three games at center in 2012 before injuries cut his season short. Costa, who signed a two-year deal worth $2.7 million last year, appeared in three games in 2013, but rookie Travis Frederick started all 16 games at center.

Costa’s been with the Cowboys since signing in Dallas as an undrafted free agent in 2010 out of Maryland, playing in a total of 26 games with 20 starts. He didn’t take a pay cut, and the Cowboys decided to part ways with the center to help get under the cap.

The Cowboys also saved cap space by renegotiating Bernadeau, who came on strong at the end of the 2013 season after getting replaced by Brian Waters. Bernadeau started the first three games of the season before the change was made, and the offensive line remained a strong point of the team when Bernadeau returned to the starting lineup for the final eight games of the season. Bernadeau will challenge for a starting guard spot in 2014.

The Dallas Cowboys sat high above the projected cap figure just weeks ago but figured out a way to get under the cap relatively smoothly and much more easily than many (in the media) anticipated.

They still have decisions to make on the futures of DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin, among others, and could make more moves and restructures to free up space for free agent signings.

If nothing changes, Ware will count $16 million against the cap and Austin will count $8.25 million against the cap. The Cowboys can save $7.4 million by releasing Ware and $5.5 million by designating Austin a post-June 1 cut. Of course, the Dallas Cowboys could also rework Ware’s deal to save cap space if he’s willing to cooperate on a reduction.


RELATED: DeMarcus Ware will listen to Dallas Cowboys offer

Demetress Bell trying to stop Dallas Cowboys pass rusher DeMarcus Ware as a Philadelphia Eagle - The Boys Are Back blog

Former Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Ware doesn’t want to take a pay cut but will listen to the Dallas Cowboys thoughts about a restructured deal.

He also hopes for a quick resolution.

The Cowboys informed Ware and representatives earlier this week about their need to lower his salary and cap figure. Ware is due a base salary of $12.25 million in 2014 with a salary cap hit of $16 million. The team would save $7.8 million if they cut Ware.

However, the Cowboys say they want the team’s all-time leading sacker back in 2014.

Ware will be 32 next season and recently underwent surgery for second consecutive off season. He had a career-low six sacks in 2013 when he has hampered by neck, quad and elbow injuries.

Ware expects to be back to his old dominant ways after surgery to repair nerve damage in his elbow last month. He will listen to the Cowboys thoughts on a restructured deal but remains hesitant about taking a major shave in salary.

Ware, who is shoo-in for the Cowboys’ hallowed Ring of Honor and likely future Hall of Famer, is expecting to draw a lot of interest on the free-agent market if he is released.

A decision on Ware would allow them to set a game plan for the start of free agency.

The Cowboys must address the defensive end position in the draft and free agency. Without Ware, it makes the situation even more acute because there are no players on the roster with his talent or prior production.

Even during an injury-plagued and limited 2013 campaign, Ware was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the ninth-most productive 4-3 defensive end as a pass-rusher and third in run-stop percentage. Ware was picked 11th overall by the Dallas Cowboys in 2005 NFL Draft. He has 117 sacks in nine years to rank first in team history and 18th in NFL history.

TALKIN’ TEXAS TRENCHES: Veteran Brian Waters gives Dallas’ young linemen a solid mentor

TALKIN’ TEXAS TRENCHES - Veteran Brian Waters gives Dallas’ young linemen a solid mentor

IRVING, Texas – If the phrase “perception is reality” holds true to form, the Dallas Cowboys are certainly hoping for that in regards to their new-look offensive line.

Recently, the perception of the offensive line hasn’t been that good. In reality, they weren’t, especially in the running game.

Now, with the addition of veteran Brian Waters, who practiced for the first time today, teamed with a first-round pick at center and an emerging young guard in Ron Leary, the perception of the entire offensive line is one that is vastly improved.

The Cowboys can only hope that becomes a reality.

Vice president Stephen Jones, who is the Cowboys’ director of player personnel, said he is hopeful the offensive line will go from one of the team’s weaknesses, to possibly a strength with the added experience and depth.

“Getting Waters obviously takes it from being a big, big question mark, but from not only being a question mark on the front end, but now we’ve got good depth,” Jones said. “You take a starter in Mackenzy Bernadeau and he may ultimately be a backup here. I’m sure he’s not going to give the job away. He’s been competing well. You know what we think about Phil Costa and Jermey Parnell gives you a solid eight there. We’re pleased.” 

And that’s not something the Cowboys have been able to say about the line in the last few years – even the last few weeks. There have been several questions, ones that still haven’t been fully answered.

While Travis Frederick looks the part and has played well in the preseason, Sunday night will be his NFL debut. The same goes for Ronald Leary, who has been battling to get back from a knee scope he had in mid-August. Leary practiced in full Wednesday and said he’s “definitely” playing Sunday against the Giants. However, it’ll also be his NFL debut.

Tyron Smith has been solid at left tackle and Doug Free has played well on the right side this preseason. But he certainly benefitted from Anthony Spencer’s camp-long knee injury that often had him battling the likes of Kyle Wilber and George Selvie, instead of a 2012 Pro Bowler who had 11 sacks.

So the question marks remain along the line. And they likely won’t go away with one game – regardless if Waters plays or not. From the sound of things, the 11-year veteran is not expected to suit up against the Giants. While he practiced some early with the second-team offense, the bulk of his afternoon was spent with trainers working on his conditioning.

It appears the goal with Waters is to have him ready for Week 2, which just so happens to be in Kansas City, a place he spent the first 10 seasons of his career, earning five Pro Bowls. Waters picked up a sixth Pro Bowl trip in 2011 when he signed a one-year deal with the Patriots. Similar to this situation, Waters joined New England on Sept. 3, 2011, eight days before the opener in Miami, where he played 85 percent of the offensive snaps. Waters was able to get five practices in before that first game, compared to just three this week. So getting him ready for the Chiefs makes more sense, although the savvy veteran in Waters wouldn’t let him look that far ahead.

“I’m just going to think about the Giants right now, take it one game at a time,” Waters said (video | audio). “Obviously, I have a great amount of affection for the Kansas City program and organization, but right now our focus is on the Giants.”

Despite his experience, Waters said he can learn a lot from Frederick, who was eight years old when Waters completed his first training camp.

“I have a lot of experience, a lot of game-time experience,” Waters said. “If those guys need me, in any way, form or fashion, I think I can offer some insight on different ways to do things and different players that I’ve played against. But this center is young and smart. He’s not going to need much help from me. I’m probably going to need more help from him than he’s going to need from me.”

While Frederick seemed to appreciate the compliment, it sounded like (video | audio) he’s prepared to do the bulk of the learning in this new-formed relationship.

“I don’t think I’m teaching him anything. Really all I’m doing is helping facilitate the switching of terminology and things like that, and even at that, it’s not a whole lot,” Frederick said. “He obviously knows what he’s doing. He’s got the playbook and will have probably by (Thursday), have it all done. The things you learn from playing in the NFL for 10 years, I have no idea. But those are the things that I can learn from him, and I think those are harder to learn and they take more time and they take somebody that’s been through it all to help you if you want to get it faster than they got it or faster than it takes you 10 years down the road. I think the things that he’s teaching me are more important.”

Whether Frederick is helping Waters learn the system, or Waters is helping Frederick learn the ropes of being an NFL lineman, they’re going to lean on each other.

More importantly, they’re likely going to give this offensive line a possible edge that we haven’t seen around here in a while.

Now that would be quite a reality check.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: Phil Costa engaged to Hulk Hogan’s daughter

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST - Phil Costa engaged to Hulk Hogan's daughter - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

The Dallas Cowboys center got engaged to Brooke Hogan, the daughter of legendary wrestler Hulk Hogan, in Las Vegas over the weekend. We can only imagine what might happen should Hogan hear that Costa isn’t doing right by his daughter.

Brooke Hogan made the announcement via Instagram, writing: “Happiest moment of my LIFE. I am marrying my best friend. I wouldn’t choose anyone else. I am so lucky and so grateful.”

In the picture, Costa is shown on one knee proposing with the Las Vegas version of Paris and the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Costa, 25, will head to training camp with the goal of earning the starting center job, which won’t be easy with first-round pick Travis Frederick signed and expected to be the man anchoring the center of the line when the season starts.

Hogan, 25, was a reality TV star, appearing in VH1’s “Hogan Knows Best” six years ago and in her own show, “Brooke Knows Best,” in 2008 and 2009. She works now for TNA wrestling.

HEALTHY AND MOTIVATED: Phil Costa and Mackenzy Bernadeau ready to compete for 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys roster spots

dallas cowboys center phil costa returns - the boys are back blog

The Dallas Cowboys drafted a guy to take Phil Costa’s job at center. But that is not going to make him unfriendly toward him, Costa said.

“You don’t get anywhere by being a certain way as an older guy to a younger guy,” Costa said during the team’s annual golf tournament for sponsors. “You’ve got to treat everybody with respect and as a teammate, and especially a guy who’s in the O-line room. We take our group serious, and we’re a tight-knit group.”

Costa said he has met Travis Frederick, the Wisconsin center taken by the Cowboys with their first-round pick last month, and “he seems like a great guy.”

Costa said he remembers the way he was treated when he got to the Cowboys as an undrafted player in 2010.

“I was with Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode, Marc Colombo, and all those guys were good to me,” he said. “They taught me a lot, taught me how to be. And I appreciated that.”

Besides, Costa said, the competition will make him better.

“I came into the league, every day was a fight, and still every day is a fight,” he said. “I look at it, it’s a competition, a challenge. I think competition really brings out the best in everyone, which Coach has talked a lot about with our team.”

Costa said he is fully recovered from the broken ankle that ended his season last year in the Carolina game.

“It was supposed to be a four- to six-month recovery,” he said. “I was pretty much 100 percent right at the four-month mark, maybe a little before.”

He said he had doubts, naturally.

“I guess you never really know how an injury’s going to heal up,” he said. “Literally every day, I have the mentality, ‘Win the day,’ whether it’s with an injury or football. Just putting everything together to get 100 percent.”

RELATED: Mackenzy Bernadeau entering second year with Cowboys

dallas cowboys center kevin kowalski (60) and dallas cowboys guard mackenzy bernadeau (73) during warmups - the boys are back blog

Mackenzy Bernadeau (#73, right) did not exactly have a year to remember in 2012, the first year of his four-year, $11 million free agent deal with the Dallas Cowboys.

He was hurt in the offseason, got healthy in time to start all 16 games, but he was inconsistent – good some games, plain bad in others. At one point, offensive line coach Bill Callahan had to tell him directly his job was in danger.

But he ended the season with the Cowboys confident in him, and now he enters his second year with the Cowboys confident in himself and healthier.

“This offseason, obviously, it’s a lot better,” he said. “Just being able to be here now and not miss many things, being able to be in camp as early as possible, when we start getting going with the rest of the team, helps build that continuity with the guys on the line.”

Bernadeau said he had shoulder surgery in January for an injury that happened in the Cleveland game (Week 11). He said it didn’t excuse his poor play, but that he can feel the improvement since it has been repaired.

“It’s one of those things you can play with, but to be in the weight room and train the way you want to, you have to have it fixed,” he said.

Bernadeau said he and defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who had similar shoulder surgery, are doing many of the same treatments and rehab work together.

Bernadeau, who missed OTAs last year because of hip and knee injuries (which are fine now), said the team will still take it easy with him as OTAs begin next week.

“We’ll do it week by week, see how I feel,” he said. “We don’t want to have any setbacks. Might play it safe, depending on how I feel.”

STATE OF THE NFC EAST ADDRESS: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys

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What’s changing

Say what you will about Jerry Jones, but the Dallas Cowboys owner didn’t lie when he promised it would get “very uncomfortable” at Valley Ranch after a second straight 8-8 season. Rob Ryan was sent packing as defensive coordinator and replaced by 72-year-old Monte Kiffin, who will switch the Cowboys to a 4-3 scheme. Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan likely will inherit play-calling duties from coach Jason Garrett. Running backs coach Skip Peete was fired and replaced by Gary Brown.

Biggest free agents

» OLB/DE Anthony Spencer: With Kiffin moving to a 4-3, the Cowboys need another strong presence on the edge opposite DeMarcus Ware. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones has great respect for Spencer, and the team has the option of using the franchise tag.

» RB Felix Jones: A former first-round pick, Jones had a shot at Dallas redemption when DeMarco Murray went down for six games with a foot injury. Jones (playing on two bad knees) couldn’t fill the void, one reason why the Cowboys set a franchise low for rushing yards in a 16-game season.

» CB Mike Jenkins: The additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne put Jenkins in limbo last season, and a slow recovery from shoulder surgery didn’t help. He worked in the slot after Orlando Scandrick went down, making little impact. He’s expected to look for a starting job on the open market.

Other key free agents: C Phil Costa, SS Danny McCray, WR Kevin Ogletree.

What they need

The Cowboys are overdue for a makeover along their offensive line. It was a problem all season, and quarterback Tony Romo’s mobility is the only thing that kept this unit from total embarrassment. Tyron Smith is a good fit at left tackle, but upgrades should be sought elsewhere. If Jones has run out of chances, the Cowboys would be wise to find a capable backup for Murray, a supremely talented but seemingly injury-prone starter. The Cowboys must protect themselves at strong safety, where Barry Church is attempting to come back from a torn Achilles tendon.

Offseason crystal ball

The Cowboys are currently $20 million over the cap and will need to restructure contracts with several players to get under. In other words, don’t expect a big fish to land in Big D next month. Improving the offensive and defensive line likely will be a focus during the NFL Draft. With Romo turning 33 before Week 1, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys draft a developmental quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds.

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 →

UNDER THE KNIFE: Dallas Cowboys starting center Phil Costa has ankle surgery

Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa returns - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa went into this season as the starter, but he was in that role for only 130 snaps this season. Injuries ruined Costa’s season.

Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa injured vs. Carolina Panthers - The Boys Are Back blog

Costa said he had surgery last week to repair ligament damage in his right ankle. He dislocated the ankle in the second quarter of the team’s Oct. 21 game at Carolina and was inactive for six games before the Cowboys placed him on season-ending injured reserve.

Costa’s season got off to an inauspicious start when he injured his back in training camp. He started the season opener against the Giants but left after reinjuring his back on the third play from scrimmage. Costa missed three games with the back injury.

"Durability is an issue, and that hasn’t been something in my career that’s been a problem," Costa said. "Never missed a game in high school, never missed a game in college for that. First few years in the league, I was healthy. Just an issue that’s here. It’s something that I’ll overcome, but it was frustrating."

Costa said the goal is to be healthy enough to return for organized team activities this spring.

COWBOYS WEEKLY ROSTER UPDATE: Costa to IR; Weems signed; Practice squad shuffle (REVISED)

Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa placed on IR - The Boys Are Back blog

Rookie Darrion Weems signed his contract in the locker room Wednesday afternoon. He then began the process of getting to know his new teammates.

The Cowboys have had a lot of new faces lately. Center Phil Costa became the 10th player the Cowboys have placed on season-ending injured reserve this season. Six of those players, including Costa, are starters. (Rookie safety Matt Johnson is the player the team designated as returnable injured reserve.)

Costa partially dislocated his ankle against Carolina on Oct. 21 and has missed the six games since. He played in only three games this season — 120 total plays — after injuring his back in the first series of the season against the Giants and missing the next three games.

In Costa’s absence, Dallas has started two other centers, Ryan Cook and Mackenzy Bernadeau.

Weems was signed off Denver’s practice squad. He now is with his fifth team since signing first with the Vikings this summer as a rookie free agent out of the University of Oregon. He also had short stints in New England and Indianapolis.

Weems started 22 of 41 college games, including all 14 at left tackle as a senior.

Despite his late start to joining the Cowboys, Weems said he isn’t looking at this as an audition for 2013.

"It’s now," Weems said. "It’s about now. I’m here now and work hard now and do what they tell me to do now."

The Cowboys were forced to make a move to their practice squad Wednesday. The Raiders signed running back Jamize Olawale off the Cowboys’ practice squad. Dallas replaced Olawale with tight end Chase Ford, a rookie who briefly was on the Eagles’ practice squad.

RELATED: Cowboys waited on Costa because he ‘really improved’ this year and might have still helped

The Cowboys gave center Phil Costa a chance to come back from the dislocated ankle he suffered at Carolina six weeks ago because in the limited time he had been healthy this year, he had played well.

But this week, they finally put him on injured reserve.

“We feel like he could have provided some presence for us toward the end of the year,” coach Jason Garrett said Thursday at Valley Ranch. “But when you start counting, how many weeks until we think he’s back and how many weeks left in the season, you kind of do that math. We made that decision.

“He did some real good things in the limited time he played this year. Just has to get that thing better and get ready for 2013.”

Costa played in only three games, but he finished only one. He played only the first three snaps of the season opener at the Giants before leaving with a back injury, the full game at Baltimore on Oct. 14 and then the first half of the game at Carolina the next week, when he was hurt in the second quarter.

“We were all very hopeful,” Garrett said. “He hasn’t played a lot of football for us this year. He missed a lot of training camp. But when he did come back, he played well. He really improved from last year.”

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.

2013 NFL DRAFT PRIMER: Three interior lineman prospects the Dallas Cowboys could target

At times this season, the Cowboys’ pass protection has been suspect and the run-blocking has been subpar. Most point to the interior of the Cowboys’ offensive line as the source of the problems. The center position has been destabilized with starter Phil Costa suffering multiple injuries and backup Ryan Cook getting hurt as well. The guard spots, occupied by free-agent acquisitions Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, are also viewed as weak areas.

Will the Cowboys be on the lookout for interior line prospects in the upcoming draft? That seems to be a certainty.

Here are three players they may target.

Chance Warmack at Alabama - 65 - The Boys Are Back blog

Chance Warmack, Alabama; Head coach Jason Garrett has close ties to Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and the 6-3, 320-pound Warmack (jersey number 65 above photo) has distinguished himself on one of the country’s best offensive lines. This season, the left guard has been named SEC offensive lineman of the week twice. Alabama plays Western Carolina on Saturday at 11:21 a.m.

Cyril Richardson - Baylor - The Boys Are Back blog

Cyril Richardson; Baylor; In the preseason, the 6-5, 335-pound fourth-year junior from Fort Worth was named as one of the contenders for the Lombardi and Outland Trophies. Richardson, whom Kansas coach Charlie Weis described as “by far” Baylor’s best offensive lineman, has a bit of a nasty streak. The left guard got ejected from a game against Iowa State earlier this year. Baylor faces Kansas State at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

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Barrett Jones; Alabama; The 2011 Outland Trophy winner, the 6-5, 302-pound senior is about as accomplished a lineman as there is in the college game. He’s also extremely versatile. After playing right guard and left tackle he is now Alabama’s center. That Jones has shown the ability to play all of these positions  is not surprising. He graduated in August with an accounting degree and a 4.0 grade point average. Based on his track record, this is the kind of player head coach Jason Garrett covets. Alabama plays Western Carolina on Saturday at 11:21 a.m.

INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys vs. Cleveland Browns

IRVING, Texas — Before Cowboys practice on Friday, coach Jason Garrett said starting running back DeMarco Murray was doubtful for Sunday’s game against Cleveland.

Well Murray didn’t practice on Friday at Valley Ranch and he most likely will miss his fifth consecutive game with a sprained foot.

"He is doing more and more each day," Garrett said. "Ran a little bit more yesterday so that’s a positive thing."

Cornerback Mike Jenkins (back) and center Ryan Cook (knee) also missed practice.

Cowboys centers Ryan Cook and Phil Costa were not seen on the field at practice Friday.

Cook, who wasn’t in uniform, headed into the team’s weight room wearing a brace on his right knee. He has missed practice the last two days because of a sore knee.

Costa has been out since injuring his ankle Oct. 21 in a victory over Carolina. With Cook and Costa sidelined, the Cowboys are expected to slide Mackenzy Bernadeau over from right guard. Bernadeau’s spot, in turn, would likely be filled by reserve Derrick Dockery.

With Jenkins out, it allows the Cowboys to give Vince Agnew more snaps in some passing situations.

Tight end John Phillips (ankle) and fullback Lawrence Vickers (knee) were expected to practice. Defensive end Sean Lissemore (ankle), center Phil Costa (ankle) and safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) didn’t practice.

 

Week 11
Dallas Cowboys 
Name Position Injury Practice Status Game Status
Sean Lissemore DT Did Not Participate In Practice
Matt Johnson S Did Not Participate In Practice
Mike Jenkins CB Did Not Participate In Practice
Dan Connor LB Full Participation in Practice
Phil Costa C Did Not Participate In Practice
Lawrence Vickers RB Limited Participation in Practice
Jay Ratliff DT Full Participation in Practice
DeMarco Murray RB Did Not Participate In Practice
Ryan Cook C Did Not Participate In Practice
John Phillips TE Limited Participation in Practice

To see the Cleveland Browns injury update, click HERE

AND THE WINNER IS: Dallas Cowboys Midseason Awards

DMN Dallas Cowboys Midseason Awards - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – We’re at the halfway point in the regular season and obviously the Dallas Cowboys aren’t happy with a 3-5 record. The talk of head coach Jason Garrett’s future has been a topic, albeit one that owner Jerry Jones has dismissed.

The Cowboys haven’t been able to close out games this season, but the schedule might turn in their favor for the final eight games, where only one team with a winning record exists.

The DallasCowboys.com staff of Bryan Broaddus, Rowan Kavner and Nick Eatman weigh in with their assessment of the season’s first half.

Best Moment:

Bryan: The victory on the road against the Giants on opening night. It was a game that nobody had them winning. Might be the only time they have really played a complete game.

Rowan: Winning the opener in New York. The Cowboys felt a victory against the Super Bowl champion Giants might be a statement win and one that could propel them going forward. It turned out to be one of the few positive moments from the first half of the season.

Nick: There’s only been three wins and it’s not going to be beating Tampa Bay or Carolina. Has to be the opener against the Giants when they took it to the defending champs from start to finish. Kevin Ogletree had a career night and the Cowboys kept answering the bell.

Worst Moment:

Bryan: The last 5:21 of the game against the Falcons. If the defense gets a stop there, Tony Romo has a chance to once again try and score with a no-huddle offense that had previously moved the ball well for their only touchdown of the day. Instead, the offense gets the ball with 22 seconds left and no chance to win the game.

Rowan: When Dez Bryant was called out of bounds on a miraculous catch in the back of the end zone at home against the Giants. Not only would that have given the Cowboys a winning record at the time, and their biggest comeback in franchise history, but it would have also been one of the few breaks for both Romo and Bryant, who’ve had their struggles at times.

Nick: Without a doubt, hearing the referee say, “After review, the receiver’s hand landed out of bounds” following Bryant’s near catch against the Giants. That was a killer for this team. They could’ve had the biggest comeback in Cowboys history from two players, Dez and Romo, who needed a boost like that. While it was still a classic, it would’ve probably been the best game I’ve ever covered had it not been for a few inches.

What They Do Best:

Bryan: Cover punts. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Chris Jones or Brian Moorman, Joe DeCamillis has this unit ranked among the best in the NFL. Rarely do you see their gunners out of position and when given an opportunity to make a tackle, they get the job done. It’s a sound group. 

Rowan: Stop teams from driving the field. The defense has played significantly better than the offense this season, particularly in limiting teams from gaining chunks of yardage. The offense continually puts the defense in rough spots with turnovers, and for the most part, the defense has held its own.

Nick: Other than find creative ways to lose games? This team is pretty good at defending the pass. What’s really frustrating is if you would’ve heard two weeks ago that neither Eli Manning nor Matt Ryan would throw a touchdown against the Cowboys and their offenses would only get one each, you never would’ve thought the Cowboys would go 0-2 in those games. But, the Cowboys have had a good pass rush and played well in the secondary, ranking fifth overall on defense.

Where They Struggle The Most

Bryan: Finishing games. Look at the way this team has lost games and that will tell you all you need to know.

Rowan: In the red zone. Not a lot of teams will be able to score in there with a rushing attack as feeble as the Cowboys’, which ranks 30th in rushing average. Dallas scores a touchdown only 44 percent of the time it reaches the red zone and 50 percent of the time it gets inside the 10-yard line.

Nick: It’s the offensive line. That hasn’t changed really since last year, other than probably regressing some. Romo is always running for his life and they can’t run the ball in the red zone, a sure sign this offensive line can’t generate a good enough push when needed.

Best Offensive Player:

Bryan: Jason Witten. Nobody has played with more toughness and skill than him.

Rowan: Witten. The man who is now the team’s all-time leader in receptions has been one of the few reliable targets for Romo this year. After a slow start coming back from a spleen injury, Witten has recorded at least six catches in the last five games, including a 13-catch performance and a record 18-reception outing.

Nick: The wording of this category is tricky. The football player might be Dez. The most valuable is probably Romo because when he’s on they always have a chance, and when he’s not, they have none. But the best offensive player through eight games has to be Witten. Who would’ve said that after those first three games when he wasn’t 100 percent? But, he’s been fantastic of late. Then again, when your best player is a tight end, it’s hard to be successful on offense.

Best Defensive Player:

Bryan: Week in and week out, Brandon Carr has been asked to cover the opponent’s best receiver, plus line up at safety. Carr has been a stable, steady player, which is something you need when trying to match up against different schemes.

Rowan: No player on this defense would cause the kind of commotion and alterations needed after Sean Lee was lost for the year. He had about as productive a start to the season as anyone could ask for and will continue to be the leader of the defense for years to come.

Nick: Sure, I’d like to be cute here and find another worthy selection, but you really can’t. DeMarcus Ware has been the most productive and most durable defensive player on this team for a while. Ware has played in all 120 games of his career, missing just one start, and that was the Saints game in 2009 when he was heroic in a huge upset win. He’s been great again this year and gets my vote. 

Editors Pick: Bruce Carter

Best Special Teams Player:

Bryan: It’s amazing that Danny McCray’s special teams play hasn’t suffered because of all the time he’s seeing with the defense as a starting safety. His ability to read schemes, beat blocks and finish plays gets him noticed a lot on tape.

Rowan: It’s Dan Bailey. The only area he’s not automatic is over 50 yards, which is understandable for any kicker. When the Cowboys get in legitimate field goal range, he’ll put it through almost every time.

Nick: It’s too easy to go with Bailey, but what about the snapper L.P. Ladouceur, who has been virtually perfect again this year. He’s the most consistent player on the team. With so many players shuffling in and out of the special teams units, they’ve had little consistency, but Ladouceur is the normal exception.

Don’t Forget About …

Bryan: As much as I wanted to get rid of Phil Costa, he does play on his feet in securing blocks and getting on the second level. Is he great? No, but he is able to do things that Ryan Cook can’t scheme-wise.

Rowan: All the injuries this team has endured. The Cowboys lost their two best young players at different points and for different durations in Lee and DeMarco Murray, not to mention their starting safety in Barry Church and nose tackle Jay Ratliff for the beginning of the year. Health going forward will be crucial.

Nick: The Cowboys have been a different team when DeMarco Murray is in the game, and if he can return soon, possibly even this week, the offense has a chance to turn things around in a hurry.

Biggest Disappointment

Bryan: The way this team loses games. It really has been a throw here, a catch there or a key stop not made that’s kept the Cowboys from having a much better record.

Rowan: There have been quite a few disappointments, from a meager rushing attack to a shaky offensive line to a hoard of penalties every other week. But turnovers, particularly interceptions, have kept this Cowboys team from being above .500. 

Nick: Since I was preaching back in June how important the Seattle game would be, I’ll stick with that. After winning in New York, the Cowboys simply got manhandled against the Seahawks in Week 2, which gave us a preview of how they would lose the physical battle up front in other games, too.

Second-Half Outlook:

Bryan: Need to focus and find a way to get on a little four-game winning streak, the game at Philadelphia and then three in a row at home. If this team is going to do anything productive this second half of the season, it starts against the Eagles on Sunday.

Rowan: While the lousy start wasn’t expected after a win in New York, it should get easier for the Cowboys the rest of the way. They only play one team with a winning record, so there’s no excuse to go 3-5 again in the second half of the season.

Nick: We knew all along the Cowboys might have an easier road in the second half of the season than in the first, and that should be the case. But the question was always the same: Will it be too late? The Cowboys are 3-5, and although just one of their last eight opponents currently has a winning record, it’s hard to think they will be consistent enough to make a serious playoff run. I still think 8-8 will be the final verdict.

INJURY PUPDATE: Dallas Cowboys ready to call up Kevin Kowalski

Dallas Cowboys G-C Kevin Kowalski - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys will activate guard/center Kevin Kowalski off the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday and will have a three-week window in which to call him up to the active roster or hold him out for the season.

Kowalski has not practiced this year because of a serious case of tendinitis, which required training camp surgery. He has been running for the last month. If he is able to return, then the Cowboys would have to create a spot on the 53-man roster.

Kowalski played in 11 games last year as a rookie at guard and center and the Cowboys hoped he would be able to compete for the starting center spot over the summer.

“Fortunately being on PUP I’ve been able to sit in the meetings all year long, so I’ve stayed engaged in that aspect of knowing what’s going on and understanding both positions,” Kowalski said.

Phil Costa is expected to miss at least three more weeks if not more with a severe ankle injury. With Ryan Cook as the starting center the Cowboys have dressed David Arkin as the backup but he has yet to play a snap.

“I just need to go out there and try to improve and get back into it,” Kowalski said.

INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant out; Felix Jones limited

The Dallas Cowboys had only two changes to their injury report from Wednesday. Receiver Dwayne Harris (neck) was added to the report as a limited participant, and Jason Hatcher (shin) had a full practice after being limited Wednesday.

But Dez Bryant (hip), DeMarco Murray (foot) and Dan Connor (neck) still are among those who did not practice. Murray is expected to miss a third consecutive game, and Bryant said he expects to play.

Running back Felix Jones again was limited with a bruised knee.

Center Phil Costa (ankle), safety Matt Johnson (hamstring), defensive lineman Sean Lissemore (ankle) and receiver Kevin Ogletree (hamstring) also missed Thursday’s practice. Ogletree said he is scheduled to undergo an MRI on his injured right hamstring later Thursday, but he is not concerned.

Costa still is wearing a walking boot.

.

NAME POSITION INJURY WED. THU. FRI. GAME STATUS
Bryant, Dez WR Hip DNP DNP
Connor, Dan LB Neck DNP DNP
Costa, Phil C Ankle DNP DNP
Harris, Dwayne WR Neck LP
Hatcher, Jason DL Shin DNP FP
Johnson, Matt S Hamstring DNP DNP
Jones, Felix RB Knee LP LP
Lissemore, Sean DE Ankle DNP DNP
Murray, DeMarco RB Foot DNP DNP
Ogletree, Kevin WR Hamstring DNP DNP

Editors Note: Keep up with the Dallas Cowboys (and upcoming opponents) injury and practice status right here, on The Boys Are Back. Click HERE or use find the “Injury Update” page at the top or right side of this blog.

INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons

IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys were without two of their top three wide receivers, a starting defensive end and their starting running back for Sunday’s game at Atlanta was limited with a knee injury.

Wide receiver Dez Bryant did not practice because of a sore hip but he is expected to be ready for Sunday’s game at Atlanta. Bryant was hurt as he came crashing down on the turf on a near game-winning touchdown catch Sunday against the New York Giants.

Kevin Ogletree, the team’s No. 3 receiver, did not practice because of a hamstring strain. He was at practice in pads during the open portion of the session to the media.

Defensive end Jason Hatcher did not practice because of a bruised shin. While he is expected to be OK for Sunday’s game, Marcus Spears worked with the starters on Wednesday.

Felix Jones was limited with a bruised knee. He was limited in two of three practices last week but was able to play a full game against the Giants.

Linebacker Dan Connor did not practice because of a stinger that is likely to keep him out of the Falcons’ game. The Cowboys would turn to Orie Lemon and Ernie Sims to replace Connor, who was already subbing for an injured Sean Lee.

Running back DeMarco Murray (foot), center Phil Costa (ankle), defensive end Sean Lissemore (ankle) and safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) did not practice, as expected.

INSPIRATIONAL ROLE PLAYERS: Injury won’t prevent Cowboys’ Sean Lee from helping teammates

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING — In an example of the leadership and attitude the Dallas Cowboys will miss, linebacker Sean Lee talked to the media Thursday for the first time since it was revealed he must undergo season-ending toe surgery and was placed on injured reserve.

Lee, the team leader in tackles and the quarterback of the defense, is disappointed, but doesn’t feel sorry for himself.

He said he will be back better than ever next season.

In the interim, he will help his teammates as much as he can and believes they can still improve and have a successful season without him.

"It was frustrating because you want to be out there," Lee said.

"It’s one of those things. It’s part of the game. You have to be positive because if you’re negative you’re not going to get any better. My view is you’ve got to take the next step and that’s just working on getting better."

Lee said he initially didn’t think the injury was that serious, but that was before his foot swelled up the Monday after the Carolina game.

"I didn’t think it was going to be something that I’d be out for the rest of the season, especially with the way it happened, a fluke play where trying to make a tackle, their tight end lands on my foot as I’m driving, falls over the pile, bends my toe all the way back to my foot," Lee said.

Lee said there was no avoiding surgery. He will be sidelined three to four months after the surgery but should be healthy by February.

Lee won’t be on the field, but he plans to help Bruce Carter, who will take over the play-calling, and Dan Connor, who will replace him in the starting lineup.

Witten’s role

In the season opener, tight end Jason Witten served as an inspiration to his teammates. Sunday, he hopes to mean even more.

Witten played in the season opener against the New York Giants, a day after being cleared after sitting out with a lacerated spleen. Witten had two catches for 10 yards, but the Cowboys credited him for playing a big part in their 24-17 victory.

"It went down to the last minute," Witten said Thursday. "Obviously, looking back at this film, there is a lot of emotion with that. Probably not the healthiest I’ve ever been. It was a big win for our team to go on the road and beat them."

Witten lacerated his spleen Aug. 13 in the preseason opener on a hit by Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain. He returned to noncontact work in practice the week before the season opener, but he wasn’t cleared until seeing a specialist in New York the day before the game.

He played in his 140th consecutive game, though it was not his best game. In playing 53 of 68 plays, Witten had as many penalties (2) as catches and more penalty yards (15) than receiving yards.

He has 33 catches for 320 yards and a touchdown this season. Only Dez Bryant has better numbers, 36 catches for 378 yards and two touchdowns. Miles Austin has a team-leading four touchdowns.

Injury update

Running back Felix Jones returned to practice Thursday, though he was limited. Jones missed Wednesday’s practice with a bruised knee.

Jones is expected to start for the Cowboys on Sunday against the Giants. DeMarco Murray will miss his second consecutive game with a foot injury.

Jones was the only change to the practice report Thursday.

Linebacker DeMarcus Ware (illness) did not return to practice as he said he would. Center Phil Costa (ankle) also did not practice. He is wearing a protective boot and using crutches.

The Cowboys were without safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) and defensive lineman Sean Lissemore (ankle). Center Ryan Cook (hamstring) and linebacker Anthony Spencer (pectoral) were full participants.

Editors Note: Keep track of the Dallas Cowboys (and opponents) injury status HERE.

NFC EAST RUNDOWN: Week #8 brings New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys rematch

New-York-Giants-vs-Dallas-Cowboys rematch - The Boys Are Back blog

Week 7 of the NFL season has concluded, having featured Eli Manning outdueling Robert Griffin III and the Cowboys crawling back to .500. Now there is a clear front-runner in the division with the other three teams battling it out for second.

Below is a quick recap of the division records:

New York Giants 5-2

Philadelphia Eagles 3-3

Dallas Cowboys 3-3

Washington Redskins 3-4

New York Giants:

Every so often there will be certain games where you make your fair share of mistakes and your opponent is able to execute a number of big plays against you. The great teams react, respond and find a way to still get the victory. Over the past few years, the Giants have perfected the art of winning these types of games and last Sunday against the Redskins was no different.

The Giants didn’t particularly play their best football against Washington. Eli Manning threw two costly interceptions, they only rushed for 64 yards and the New York defense surrendered nearly 500 total yards. But when it came down to having to make a play or leaving with a loss, the Giants were able to make a play.

An interception by Stevie Brown in the third quarter led to an Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown to break a tie at 13. Then later in the fourth, after Robert Griffin III scored what seemed to be a game-winning touchdown with 1:27 left, Manning was able to pull off a miracle, a 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with 19 seconds giving the Giants the win.

Pointing out weaknesses on this Giant team is not the most difficult thing to do this season. However, finding a way to beat them has been a whole other story.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles had a bye last weekend. At 3-3, they are entering a crucial part of their season. Will the turnover prone, let-anybody-in-the-game team show up? Or will the dangerous big-play offense accompany a relatively efficient defense?

The Eagles will play their first game under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Juan Castillo having been fired despite a defense that was outplaying the offense.

Dallas Cowboys:

Did the Cowboys play their best game last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers? Probably not, but they came away with what they desperately needed, a victory. Without starting running back DeMarco Murray, Dallas’ rushing numbers were nothing special, but the commitment to the ground game seemed to take pressure off of the aerial attack.

Tony Romo was able to avoid any costly turnovers, but the passing game still did not reach the efficiency level that many people have expected. Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree both dropped catchable passes at critical moments. Miles Austin, on the other hand, had a much bigger impact on the game. Austin had three big plays, one of which ended with him fumbling the ball away, and another with him in the end zone.

But the Cowboys defense deserves a great deal of credit for the win. While they did give up almost 300 total yards to Cam Newton, they managed to hold the Panthers’ three talented running backs to a combined 48 yards. The defense also made key stops when they needed them most, which included Morris Claiborne’s first career interception, the first for the Dallas secondary this season.

The Cowboys will likely need a better all-around effort to beat the New York Giants next week. But in a close game at Carolina, Dallas executed on a more consistent basis than its opponent, and it’s been quite a few weeks since that could be said.

Washington Redskins:

Last Sunday, the Redskins did what they have done all season: proved that they have a lot of fight in them. On paper, they may not be as talented as the New York Giants, but they hung in with the Super Bowl champions until the final seconds.

RGIII had a couple of rare mistakes as the Giants’ pass-rush bothered him all game. He threw one critical interception and Jason Pierre-Paul stripped the ball from him for a lost fumble. But the rookie quarterback inspired hope when he brushed off the turnovers and played his best football at the end of the game, leading the Redskins down the field with less than two minutes to play. Griffin might have had his play of the season thus far when he kept a play alive by scrambling in the pocket for almost 12 seconds, avoiding tacklers to find a man down the field for a first down.

Washington’s other rookie, Alfred Morris, once again ran for over 100 yards. The Redskins may not win the division, but they are certainly a threat to jeopardize other teams’ chances of taking the title every time they face them.

Injuries:

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys received a few troubling injuries during their game against the Panthers. Starting center Phil Costa went down with a severe sprained ankle. The injury looked much worse live, but it will still keep him out for at least next week’s game against the Giants and perhaps longer. Sean Lee has ligament damage to his toe and is likely out for the season. DeMarco Murray is still recovering from a sprained foot. The timetable for his return is unknown, but he will probably sit out against the Giants.

New York Giants: The Giants didn’t sustain any major injuries in their victory over the Washington Redskins. Prior to the game, they placed running back Da’Rel Scott on the short-term injury reserve, which will keep him out at least six weeks. Safety Kenny Phillips and defensive tackle Rocky Bernard are both considered to be questionable against the Cowboys this week.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles had a bye last week and were fortunate enough to enter the break with all 22 starters healthy. Perhaps we will see a rejuvenated Philadelphia team coming out of their week off.  

Washington Redskins: The team that has suffered the most from injuries in the NFC East took yet another brutal hit. Productive tight end Fred Davis tore his Achilles, ending his season. The Redskins brought back Chris Cooley to help replace him. Veteran linebacker London Fletcher also strained his hamstring and is questionable for next Sunday’s game against the Steelers. Wide Receiver Pierre Garcon still seems to be on the mend and is not expected to return next week. 

Miscellaneous:

• In terms of individual rushing yards, the Washington Redskins have the top two runners in the NFC East and they are both rookies. Alfred Morris is second in the league in rushing yards while Robert Griffin ranks first among quarterbacks in the NFL and is still ahead of every other NFC East running back outside of Morris. 

• In terms of yards per game, it is hard to argue against the NFC East being the best offensive division in football. All four teams are in the top 10 in total offense, with New York at No. 2, Washington at No. 5, Philadelphia at No. 7 and Dallas at No. 10.

• This week the New York Giants, who have the No. 3 ranked passing offense in football, will face off with the Dallas Cowboys, who have the No. 3 ranked passing defense in football.

Week 8 Matchups:

Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday, Oct. 28, Noon CT (FOX)

Washington Redskins @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, Oct. 28, 12:00 Noon CT (FOX)

New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys

Sunday, Oct. 28, 3:25 CT (FOX)

Editors Note: Check out the NFL 2012-2013 Schedule HERE

PRESIDENTIAL DECLARATION: Jerry Jones says Dallas Cowboys are still in the race, can win this year

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones speaks with the Ravens' Dick Cass before kickoff - The Boys Are Back blog

The Dallas Cowboys are 2-3 and have lost their past two games. But owner, PRESIDENT, and general manager Jerry Jones is more confident than ever that his team can make a title run this season because of how it played in Sunday’s 31-29 loss at Baltimore.

Jones said he is disappointed in the loss but he did see positive things that the Cowboys can build on.

"It’s terribly disappointing. But we played physically. We did things that we can win with in the future," Jones said on his radio show on KRLD/105.3 FM. "We’re 2-3, so that’s five games into a 16-game season. We don’t have time to have a bad time here. We’ve got to have some wins to make sure we’re in the hunt. We are fresh off, I keep pointing it out, a world champion that won nine of 16 ballgames last year.

"We know that you want your team as healthy and as in sync as it can be as we get on in to the end of the season. We know that we’ve played one division game and won it. We’ve got those guys, the Giants, coming back in here. We know that’s going to be a big game for us. All of those things give us a chance to take a team that is evolving into — if you look at the pluses yesterday — evolving into a team that can compete for the championship. Not next year, this year.

"Let me emphasize that," Jones said. "I’m not into everybody getting better, learning for years to come. It’s this year."

Murray out this week

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones confirmed on Tuesday that running back DeMarco Murray will miss at least Sunday’s game at Carolina with a sprained foot.

Jones said on his radio show that magnetic resonance imaging results showed ligament damage, but no fractures.

Murray will likely miss a few games, but the injury will not sideline him for the season.

"I think we were encouraged that his sprain was not any more serious than it is," Jones said. "He’s a tough guy. I regret that we’re not going to have him against Carolina."

Costa’s impact

The return of center Phil Costa and his impact on the record-setting rushing performance against the Ravens was more than just lip service from Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.

According to Pro Football Focus, every Cowboys offense lineman played well in the game as the team rushed for 227 yards, the most ever against the Ravens. But the site rated Costa as the best lineman in the game for both teams, saying he was dominant in the middle and got the best of every Ravens defender they put in front of him.

It was Costa’s first game since suffering back injury on the first series of the season opener against the New York Giants.

Roster moves

The Dallas Cowboys signed cornerback Vince Agnew to the practice squad and released cornerback Mario Butler.

Agnew was one of 16 players the Cowboys worked out on Friday. Agnew originally signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Central Michigan on July 28, 2011. He was released on September 3 and immediately signed to their practice squad where he spent most of the 2011 season.

He was released by Miami on August 31, 2012.

DIALING BACK EXPECTATIONS: You’re looking at the Dallas Cowboys all wrong

The Cowboys' DeMarco Murray rushed for 91 yards in the first half before leaving with an injury - The Boys Are Back blog

BALTIMORE — No, of course there are no moral victories in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys understand how tough it is to beat the Ravens in Baltimore, and they justifiably felt much better about the way they played in Sunday’s 31-29 loss than they felt two weeks ago after the Bears thumped them. But they’re professional football players, and they believed they could and should have won the game. They rushed for 227 yards, possessed the ball for 40 minutes, recovered an onside kick at the end and set their kicker up with a 51-yard field goal attempt that would have won it. The feeling in their locker room was disappointment.

"I’m sick about losing this game," owner Jerry Jones said. "We made our share of mistakes, but I thought we had a shot to win at the end. With our time of possession, it’s hard to understand how we didn’t win. Everybody is as frustrated as I am."

But there’s a bigger picture here, and it’s one that keeps getting missed as Cowboys fans wail and gnash their teeth about every single loss (and even some of the wins). These Cowboys are a work in progress — a team and a staff and a roster that is piecing itself together and building something it hopes can be sustainable well into the future. You may not want to hear it, and you may not be able to believe it about the Cowboys, but they are in a rebuilding phase right now and much more likely to be a playoff contender in 2013 than this year. So as disappointed as Cowboys fans are about the loss, the penalties, the late-game clock management and everything and everybody else you want to blame, that bigger picture really needs to be the one on which the conversation about the 2012 Cowboys centers.

"We have to win the game, and we didn’t do that," coach Jason Garrett said. "But I loved how our team battled. I was proud of our football team today, and we believe that we can grow from this football game."

A growth opportunity. A learning experience. These are valuable things for the Cowboys at this point in their history, and as Cowboys fans you may just have to accept that. Sure, this is the NFL, and the NFC East required only nine victories to win it last year, so nothing’s impossible. The Cowboys’ schedule gets easier, and if the run game and the offensive line can play the way they played Sunday, they could be much better in the second half of this season. But this season isn’t the central focus of the people running the Cowboys right now. What they’re looking for is growth and improvement, and they saw plenty of it Sunday.

"A lot of this game, you look at and you say, ‘Those are the Cowboys we’re talking about,’" tight end Jason Witten said. "Those are the kinds of players and leaders you want to grow with and build on."

He’s talking about guys like Sean Lee, who remains a terror on defense, and DeMarco Murray, who ran for 91 yards in the first half before a foot injury forced him out of the game. But lots of Cowboys played very well Sunday, including Dez Bryant, who caught 13 passes for 95 yards, and Felix Jones, who rushed for 92 yards in relief of Murray, and Phil Costa and the rest of an offensive line that’s been pulverized all year but on this day looked tough and mean and physical for the first time.

All of it comes with warts, though, and they’re mainly the result of the team and many of its players being unfinished products. Bryant’s big game is likely to be remembered for his drop of the two-point conversion attempt that would have tied it in the final minute. Murray got hurt again, which is a problem with Murray. And the line had its issues, contributing extensively to the fact that the Cowboys were penalized 13 times for 82 yards. The Cowboys made mistakes in this game, and at this point they are not a good enough team to make as many mistakes as they did and win in a place like this, even in a game they dominate physically. They had their shot, they came up short and they have a bunch of film to watch as they keep working to get better.

"I’m all right with anything as long as it’s moving forward," Jerry Jones said. "I’m not for taking any steps back. We knew this was going to be a challenge, but looking at the overall game, as a team, I felt we played well enough to win the ballgame. I’m a lot more encouraged than I was after Chicago."

So before you start asking whether Garrett’s job is in jeopardy (it’s not) or crying about poor late-game clock management or looking at the standings and worrying that the sky is falling, it’s important to step back and see Sunday for what it was — a critical and encouraging step in the development of a team that’s thinking well beyond the borders of just one season. Someday, the Cowboys believe, they’ll win games like this routinely. And if they do, part of the reason will be Sunday’s experience, which showed them how they could.

Courtesy: Dan Graziano | ESPN Dallas

POSTGAME ANALYSIS: Dez Bryant has best game as a pro, but time management ‘out of control’

Dallas Cowboys RB Felix Jones scores vs Baltimore Ravens - The Boys Are Back blog

The Dallas Cowboys had a chance to steal a victory in the final seconds but Dan Bailey’s 51-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide-left.

Here are my five thoughts on the Cowboys’ 31-29 loss in Baltimore on Sunday.

1.) The pre-snap penalties throughout the game and time management on the final drive was out of control. It wasn’t just the number of penalties but it’s when they occurred. In several red zone and third-down situations, false start calls stalled drives. That shouldn’t happen in Week 6. I’m not sure a team can win in a hostile environment when they’re making so many mistakes before the ball is snapped. Most of the blame goes on the players that committed the infractions but coaching and game-planning isn’t doing them any favors. Last week, Cowboys offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said there was talk of simplifying the offense so Tony Romo didn’t have to do as much adjusting at the line of scrimmage. Ha! That clearly didn’t happen, especially on Dallas’ final touchdown drive. Romo barely got two plays off because of confusion at the line of scrimmage. The way the Cowboys managed the clock on their final drive prevented Bailey from having a closer attempt to win the game.

These are four examples of costly pre-snap penalties the Cowboys committed in Baltimore.

1-Early second quarter: Third-and-4 on Baltimore’s 12. Illegal Shift, 5-yard penalty.

2-Early fourth quarter: First-and-10 on Baltimore’s 10. Illegal Shift, 5-yard penalty.

3-Late fourth quarter: Third-and-1 on Dallas’ 29. Jeremy Parnell, false start, 5-yard penalty.

4-Late fourth quarter: Third-and-22 on Baltimore’s 44. Kevin Ogletree, false start, 5-yard penalty.

2.) Yes, the running game looked outstanding, but don’t be fooled. The Ravens aren’t the defense they once were. Fresh off of allowing the Chiefs to run for 214 yards, the Cowboys amassed 227 yards on the ground. Having Phil Costa back at center obviously helped and running behind Tyron Smith and Nate Livings on the left side continued to be Dallas’ best option. DeMarco Murray was dominant early, Felix Jones looked like a first-round pick for the first time this season and Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar each filled in nicely. Sorry, I need to see this more often to believe it was all because of what the Cowboys were doing.

3.) Dez Bryant had a costly drop that would’ve tied the game on a two-point conversion, but he still played his best game as a Dallas Cowboy. Bryant caught all five passes thrown his way in the first half and finished with 13 catches on 15 targets. His two touchdown receptions showcased how his physical ability makes him one of the most difficult assignments for any defender. Bryant finished with 95 yards and a pair of scores after not recording a touchdown in the first four games of the year. There’s still a long way to go for Bryant to be a complete receiver, but dropping a two-point conversion pass with a defender draped on his back shouldn’t overshadow what he did before that play.

4.) This loss wasn’t only significant because there was an opportunity to steal a game in arguably the league’s toughest road venue but because of how difficult the schedule lines up over the next four weeks. The Cowboys will not be favored in three of their next four games as they host the Giants before traveling to Atlanta and Philadelphia. Losing three of their next four would put the Cowboys at 3-6, not exactly the recipe for a playoff berth. And Dallas’ current 2-3 mark is much worse historically than had they won and been 3-2. Teams that start 3-2 have a 51 percent chance of reaching the playoffs. Teams that start 2-3 have a 21 percent chance. Not good for a team with a closing window.

5.) My fifth thought is actually a combination of things. Hats off to Jason Witten. He has clearly put his dropped-passes issue in his rear-view mirror. Witten made two difficult grabs during the final touchdown-drive, including a diving catch on fourth-and-long. … How bad will the injury report look on Monday? Already without Anthony Spencer, Morris Claiborne exited with a left knee injury, DeMarco Murray barely played in the second half after sustaining a foot sprain and Sean Lissemore had his day ended with an ankle sprain in the first quarter. … Joe DeCamillis’ special teams unit isn’t the worst in the league but it’s also not very good. After the Cowboys cut Baltimore’s lead to 17-13, DeCamillis’ bunch allowed Jacoby Jones to return the ensuing kickoff untouched for 108-yard touchdown. The Cowboys get very little out of their own punt and kick returns, showcased by averages that rank among the NFL’s worst. They also allowed a punt to be blocked and returned for a touchdown in Seattle.

Courtesy: Jon Machota | DMN

NEW STARTER – CENTER: Ryan Cook hurt, Phil Costa returns

Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa returns - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – It looks like the Cowboys’ decision on which of their centers is better will be delayed at least a week.

They’ll just go with the healthy guy for now. That’s Phil Costa right now with Ryan Cook nursing a strained hamstring.

“I think Ryan Cook did a great job,” offensive coordinator/line coach Bill Callahan said. “Unfortunately, he’s on the shelf.”

Cook hasn’t practiced since the Monday night loss to the Bears. Costa is ready to return from a back injury that sidelined him for most of training camp and since the first three snaps of the season opener.

It could be argued that the Cowboys are downgrading with the return of their original starter.

Cook, who was acquired from the Dolphins for a seventh-round pick after the preseason, has been the least of the Cowboys offensive line’s problems. Pro Football Focus grades him as the NFL’s No. 13 center so far this season.

Costa, on the other hand, was the offensive line’s weakest link a year ago. Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 30 center in the league last season.

Callahan was noncommittal when asked about the Cowboys’ starting center once both candidates are healthy.

“We just go out on the practice field, we let them practice, we see who’s more consistent, who’s more ready physically,” Callahan said. “So all those things go into the decision. Physically, ability to play, obviously. Who’s ready mentally. Who can do the job. Who can do the best job for our team. Who we think is the best matchup, depending on who we’re going against.”

BYE-WEEK RESET: Dallas Cowboys ready for fresh start

NFL - National Football League - Football - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING — The Dallas Cowboys are disappointed with their 2-2 start.

But there is nothing they can do about that now.

So cornerback Brandon Carr said the Dallas Cowboys have let go of the first four games and returned Monday after their bye focused on the second quarter of the season, which arguably features the toughest stretch of the year, with three of the next four on the road.

"Guys are just eager to get out there and to have fun, just to get out there and mix it up a little bit," Carr said Monday.

The upcoming schedule takes them to Baltimore on Sunday, Carolina the next, home against the New York Giants, and then to Atlanta. With a road game at Philadelphia the following week, the Cowboys have four of the next five on the road.

"We have to focus on the now, and the now is the Baltimore Ravens," he said. "This week, getting ourselves prepared both mentally and physically for a 60-minute dogfight, and that’s what we’re going to get."

Ratliff’s return

The best news coming out of last week’s bye is that Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff and a number of other injured defenders are ready to return.

The others include linebacker Anthony Spencer, who missed the Chicago Bears game with a strained pectoral muscle, and defensive end Kenyon Coleman, who missed the past two games with a hyperextended knee.

Ratliff missed the first four games with a high ankle sprain.

He practiced on Monday and should be ready to make his season debut against Baltimore.

"Getting Jay back is like getting three guys back," defensive end Marcus Spears said Monday. "In the nickel packages, in the base packages and then teams actually game plan for Jay Ratliff."

Costa’s role

Center Phil Costa practiced Monday for the first time since going out with a back injury on the first series in the season opener against the New York Giants.

He worked with the first team and appears ready to step back into the starting lineup for Ryan Cook, who replaced him the past three games.

Though Cook missed practiced on Monday because of a lingering hamstring issue, Costa’s possible return to the lineup could give the line comfort and improve the communication, hopefully resulting in better protection and few false starts.

Dunbar activated

The Cowboys signed former North Texas running back Lance Dunbar to the active roster from the practice squad and signed receiver Raymond Radway to the practice squad.

Dunbar, an undrafted free agent who played in high school at Haltom, was added to help the kickoff return unit. He will also be a gunner on punt coverage, but his biggest role is on kickoff returns where Felix Jones ranks 24th in the NFL, averaging 21.5 yards per return.

The Cowboys’ average starting field position on kickoff is the 19-yard line, ranking 31st in the league.

"They just want somebody to make plays, get past the 20," Dunbar said Monday.

"I think I can do that. This is my time. I can’t let it pass."

CENTER OF ATTENTION: Phil Costa back; will compete for starting spot

Dallas Cowboys Phil Costa

IRVING, Texas – Center Phil Costa was back on the practice field at Valley Ranch on Monday with a helmet and shells like the rest of the team. The status of his back, which he re-injured in the first quarter of the season opener, is still unclear, but his presence on the practice field might suggest a return to live game action is soon approaching.

Head coach Jason Garrett said Monday morning he wants to see Costa back at practice before making any decision about his playing time.

“We’re going to see him a little today and hopefully as the week goes on,” Garrett said. “We’ll see how he responds.”

Garrett stressed the importance of taking caution rather than rushing a player back onto the game field. Back injuries can easily be re-aggravated, as evidenced by the short-lived return to action in the final preseason game only to be immediately re-injured in the opener against the Giants.

“Really, what we have to do is just watch him and see what his health is like,” Garrett said. “See what he’s able to do. He did a good job trying to comeback from that injury in training camp going into that Giants game. We got to make sure he’s healthy, if he is we’ll make our next best evaluation.”

While Costa has been on the mend, Ryan Cook has stepped in to fill the role of starting center, which could cause a difficult decision about playing time for Garrett.

“(Costa’s) been a good football player for us,” Garrett said. “He was our starter. Ryan (Cook) has done a good job coming in on short notice in that position. The offensive line, just like every position on our team, we’re going to create competition.”

Garrett did point out that no starting spots are guaranteed on this team and that if Costa wants his job back, he will have to earn it.

“We don’t have a rule that says ‘this guy was a starter and then he got hurt. You can’t lose your starting spot due to injury.’ We don’t have any of those rules,” Garrett said. “We want to make the best decision. We want to see him in practice, see where he is, then see what the best decision is going forward.”

Cook was on the sideline at practice on Monday, dealing with what has been reported as a minor hamstring issue.

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