Tag Archives: Ronald Leary

PLAYERS PERFORMANCE PAY: Dallas Cowboys left guard Ronald Leary ranks third for 2013

PLAYERS PERFORMANCE PAY - Dallas Cowboys left guard Ronald Leary ranks third for 2013 - The Boys Are Back website 2014

IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys guard Ronald Leary ranked third in the league in performance-based pay for 2013, the NFL announced in its annual report.

The purpose of the program is to compensate players whose playing time surpasses their contract for the league year. Leary earned an additional $307,104.43, making him one of 11 players in the league to make at least $250,000 in additional compensation, due April 1.

Compensation does not count against the NFL’s salary cap of $133 million. Each team is allotted roughly $3.5 million to compensate players through an agreement with the NFL Players Association.

Leary started all 16 games at left guard last season, after he signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He spent the majority of his rookie year on the practice squad before taking over for Nate Livings in training camp last summer.

Upon taking over the starting role, Leary played 71.3 percent of the team’s offensive snaps last year.

Before accounting for his performance-based pay, Leary’s initial salary for the 2013 season was $405,000. He’s slated to make $495,000 in 2014 – the final year of his initial contract before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2015.

Several other Cowboys players benefitted from the performance-based pay program, largely thanks to the rash of injuries that forced unheralded players into the starting lineup. Safety Jeff Heath, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Saginaw Valley State, rose up the depth chart to start eight games and roughly 57 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.

Heath’s compensation for 2013 is $247,273.09. Defensive tackle Nick Hayden, who was also an afterthought on the training camp roster before starting all 16 games, made an additional $156,788.33.

Nine Cowboys players in all earned more than $100,000 in extra compensation – including 16-game rookie starter Travis Frederick and fellow rookie starters Terrance Williams, and J.J. Wilcox.

George Selvie, who is now the Dallas Cowboys returning sack leader from 2013, also earned an additional $141,704.71 after earning a starting spot as a late addition to the training camp roster.

All told, the Cowboys made performance payments to 39 players during the 2013 season.

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BOYS BYE-WEEK BREAKDOWN: Rookie center Travis Frederick has stabilized the offensive line by playing beyond his years

BOYS BYE-WEEK BREAKDOWN - Rookie center Travis Frederick has stabilized the offensive line by playing beyond his years - Dallas Cowboys news - Dallas Cowboys 2013 schedule

Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line Breakdown

This article is part of a series. To see all related posts, click HERE. Enjoy!

Top Performer: Rookie center Travis Frederick

From what we experienced last season with this Dallas Cowboys offensive line, there has been improvement with Ronald Leary at left guard, the contributions of Brian Waters on the right side along with Doug Free and the continued growth of Tyron Smith at left tackle.

But if you really want to focus where this line improved the most, it would be at center with Travis Frederick in the lineup. Drafted to be a starter since day one, Frederick has played with the skill and knowledge far above what many scouts around the league had projected him to be able to accomplish. Frederick has been steady in his approach and reliable in his execution. As a player, he is truly playing beyond his years in one of the most demanding positions along the offensive line.

For Frederick it has been a learning experience throughout this season from the time where he had to face Dontari Poe in Kansas City to Brodrick Bunkley and John Jenkins in New Orleans, Frederick has improved every week that he has had the opportunity to line up in a game.

What Travis Frederick has given this offensive line is something they have not had in recent seasons and that is stability in the middle. One of the reasons that this line can survive a loss like they suffered with Waters is because Frederick has been able to adjust to whomever he has lined up next to and for a rookie to be able to handle that says a great deal about his game. 

Need More From: Doug Free in the running game

It would be real easy to say this offensive line needs more from Mackenzy Bernadeau, and they do. But, they need even more from Doug Free. No disrespect to how Free is playing, because he has been the least of their problems on offense.

Where we need more from Free is on that right side playing next to Bernadeau. There are going to be matchups down the stretch where opponents are going to feel that going over him is a better option than trying to get by Tyron Smith. If you look at the upcoming games, there will be no break for this line in the types of pass rushers that they are going to face.

If this offense is going to get back on track, they are going to need Free to be at his absolute best. Though they were able to get away from the sacks in the Vikings game, where Free struggled against Brian Robinson, they might not be so fortunate against Justin Tuck or Clay Matthews. Free has done a much better job of playing with his technique and really that has allowed him to return to the type of player that we observed three seasons ago.

Where this offense also needs more from Free is in the running game. When he is really on his game and the ball is going to the outside, he can secure the edge and he has done a much better job with this, but like Jason Garrett says, there is always room for improvement.

Six-Game Forecast: It always comes down to what you do in the trenches

There is going to be a great deal of pressure put on this offensive line as they work through these final six games.

When this group gives Tony Romo time, we have seen that plays can be made. At times, they have been able to create opportunities when DeMarco Murray has the ball in his hands, so that has been a positive as well. As much as you want to say that the skill players on this team need to pick up their game, this offensive line is going to have to be the difference makers.

They have been getting consistent play from their tackles, the left guard and center are basically rookies, and they have been able to hold their own. They have to find a way to replace the veteran leadership of Brian Waters, but Mackenzy Bernadeau is not a terrible option. The starting five against the Giants this week are the same starting five that opened the season together in a victory that night.

This group has been more of a solution this season than a problem, and if this club is going to win the division, it’s going to be on their shoulders.

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.”

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.

JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE: 2013 Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants–Veteran OG Brian Waters

JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE - New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys preparation - The Boys Are Back blog 2013
Jason Garrett Press Conference 9/4/2013 (Duration – 10:44)

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media as his team continues their preparation for opening night with the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Garrett discussed:

  • Brian Waters visits on Monday and Tuesday
  • History with Brian Waters
  • Vetting Waters with film and actual workout
  • Impact of being off for a full NFL season
  • Domino effect of linemen by bringing in Waters
  • Evaluating Waters current condition at Valley Ranch
  • Competitive nature of the team’s roster spots
  • Track record of backups given playing time after earning it
  • Scouts and support staffs impact on finding viable players
  • Veteran presence will help younger players
  • Missing training camp in New England,
  • Ron Leary recovery and practice
  • Route running importance in this system
  • Spencer factors into recent defensive signings
  • Romo’s game-planning role this week

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2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys Bernadeau and Hatcher on bikes; Claiborne and Beasley return

DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys injuries

Cornerback Morris Claiborne and receiver Cole Beasley returned to practice with the season opener 13 days away, but guard Mackenzy Bernadeau and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher stayed in as the Cowboys began the final week of preseason.

Claiborne’s final chance to play in the preseason is Thursday in the finale against the Houston Texans. He has not played in a game because of a “jammed” knee he suffered in training camp on Aug. 6. Beasley hurt an ankle in the preseason game against Oakland on Aug. 9.

Bernadeau, who played left guard Saturday against the Bengals, has an ankle injury. He and Hatcher rode the exercise bike as practice began Monday.

Guard Ronald Leary also did not make it out for the start of practice. Leary is recovering from knee surgery less than two weeks ago.

Also not out for the start of practice were linebacker Brandon Magee (concussion), safeties Matt Johnson, Eric Frampton and Danny McCray, defensive linemen Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff, running back Lance Dunbar and center Ryan Cook.

POSTGAME SCOUTING REPORT: Mackenzy Bernadeau, Tyron Smith, and rookie Travis Frederick were outstanding

TEXAS 2 DEFENSE - Starters continue to excite in 24-18 preseason win at AT&T Stadium - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Some thoughts from the radio booth at AT&T Stadium:

I am looking forward to getting back to Valley Ranch on Sunday and taking a look at this game film from Saturday night for a couple of different reasons. I am interested to see if Doug Free was better at guard in the game or did he struggle to the point that this experiment proved that he just needs to stay at right tackle.

I do know from my seat that Mackenzy Bernadeau and Tyron Smith were outstanding on the left side. There were plenty of plays where Smith, Bernadeau and rookie Travis Frederick did a great job of getting the down linemen for the Bengals turned at the point, which created lanes or cut them off so that the ball could work backside. Where this offensive line had success was in its ability to get hats on hats controlling the front. It was an impressive showing for the left side of the line, despite having just started working together on Monday. With this kind of play, it might be something these coaches would like to consider going forward, moving Ronald Leary to the right side.

DRESS REHEARSAL REVIEW - Tony Romo believes the starters on the right track

As a whole, the offense was able to out-tough a defense that prides itself on being a physical one. Whether it was point-of-attack blocking by the line or the wide receivers on the edge, I really thought that they took the fight to the Bengals. These backs drove the ball hard front-side but when they saw the opportunity to cut it back, they made decisive cuts and finished the runs.

As the game wore on, in the broadcast booth, Brad Sham, Marc Colombo and I were wondering why DeMarco Murray was in the game in the second half after seeing action in the first. But what we learned from head coach Jason Garrett after the game was that Murray put the ball on the ground in the first quarter and he wanted to remind Murray how important it was for him to protect their ball. When Murray returned to the lineup, it was clear that Garrett’s message did not fall on deaf ears.

Garrett and this staff have run a tough camp. They have had physical practices and tonight their work paid off against a Bengals club that is not use to being knocked around the way they were.

Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout

2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE: Ronald Leary to undergo arthroscopic surgery on right knee tomorrow

2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE - Ronald Leary to undergo arthroscopic surgery on right knee tomorrow - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

OXNARD, Calif. – The Dallas Cowboys’ problems at the guard position have taken another hit.

Second-year pro Ron Leary is expected to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Friday, a procedure that will put his chances of playing the Sept. 8 opener against the Giants at AT&T Stadium in jeopardy.

Leary sat out of Wednesday’s walk-through practice in Oxnard, which put David Arkin running with the first-team again at left guard.

Leary had been working with the starters since he returned from a hamstring injury two weeks ago. Leary took every snap of the Aug. 5 game with the Dolphins in Canton, and also played into the second half against Oakland last week.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, the injury is to his right knee and not the left knee that scared off many teams from drafting Leary in 2012.

This injury further raises the question about the Cowboys’ interest in veteran Brian Waters. The club has reached out to the 36-year old veteran who hasn’t played since 2011. Waters, a five-time Pro Bowler apparently has interest in playing again, but doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to join a training camp.

The Cowboys tried to sign veteran Brandon Moore last week but the former New York Jet standout decided not to reunite with coach Bill Callahan and chose to stay retired.

Don’t forget about veteran Nate Livings, who also had a knee scope two weeks ago and has a shot to be ready by the start of the season.

For Saturday’s game in Arizona, the Cowboys are expected to start Arkin at left guard and Mackenzy Bernadeau on the right side.

2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE: Cowboys LG Ronald Leary to have a precautionary MRI on his sore left knee

Roster Rundown - Ron Leary Might Be Ready To Compete This Year - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Just as Ronald Leary was getting settled in at left guard with the first team, he missed today’s (Wednesday) walk-through with a sore left knee. He will undergo an MRI later, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.

The Dallas Cowboys don’t believe Leary’s knee injury is serious, but the soreness is persisting.

“He has a knee that’s been bothering him a little bit, so he’s going to get an MRI today, and we’ll just see what it is,” Garrett said.

Several teams passed on Leary last year because of a chronic condition in the left knee called osteochondritis dissecans (os-tee-o-kohn-DRY-tis DIS-uh-kanz), a joint condition where a piece of cartilage, along with a thin layer of the bone beneath it, comes loose from the end of a bone. The joint condition brings fears that the knee won’t hold up to the pounding it will take in the NFL. The Cowboys, though, targeted Leary as an undrafted free agent from Memphis, guaranteeing him $214,000 in signing bonus and base salary in 2012.

Garrett said Leary’s current knee injury is unrelated to his degenerative disorder.

The Cowboys have high hopes for Leary and moved him into the starting lineup when Nate Livings went in for knee surgery. This could be a setback for the second-year player depending on how long he is out.

“As a general statement, we want all of our players to practice and play as much as they can, but injuries are a part of the game,” Garrett said. “We’ll see what [the MRI] looks like and move forward.”

David Arkin replaced Leary in the lineup Wednesday.

The Cowboys already were thin at the position with Livings, Kevin Kowalski (knee), Ryan Cook (back) and Ray Dominguez (shoulder) out. They tried to sign Brandon Moore last week, but he retired before reporting to camp. The Cowboys are in a holding pattern with veteran Brian Waters, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2011. They offered the Waxahachie (Texas) resident a contract, but he has yet to commit.

NO VANILLA EXTRACTION: Now is not the time to show all of the Dallas Cowboys offensive cards

Dallas Cowboys - Opening ceremony - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

OXNARD, Calif. – There’s vanilla.

         And then there is Dallas Cowboys double-secret ultra-vanilla.

         That’s exactly what we saw Friday night from that Cowboys offense in a 19-17 preseason game No. 2 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

         Not surprising to say the least.

         Generally, teams do not like to show much of anything they are planning new for the upcoming season in a mere preseason game, especially just the second of what will be five for the Cowboys this summer. And that’s doubly true when playing an opponent they will be facing at some time during the regular season.

         So no way was head coach Jason Garrett going to give the Oakland Raiders any hint of what might be coming down the pipe during the 2013 season from this Cowboys offense, even if the two teams won’t meet until Thanksgiving Day at AT&T Stadium, Game 12 of the regular season. Not an entirely new offense, granted, but one with two tight ends becoming the base set and now Bill Callahan calling the plays.

         And, of course, with quarterback Tony Romo having a little more say in game-planning and the implementation of some new plays he’s partial, too. Instead of the 11th-year veteran having to “draw those plays up in the dirt,” which he could have Friday night quite easily (since a good portion of the O’s field is consumed by the A’s infield).

         There likely was some great anticipation on everyone’s part to see just how all this would work with the first-team offense making its 2013 preseason debut. The first-team offensive line was allowed to work during last Sunday’s Hall of Fame game. You know, Romo and Jason Witten and Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and DeMarco Murray and them finally out there playing together.

         There would be Witten and James Hanna, maybe some Gavin Escobar and Dante Rosario, too, showcasing these two-tight sets we’ve been witnessing here during training camp practices. Then, too, some of these new pass plays that have become a staple of camp workouts. Oh boy.

         And what?

         Nothing. As vanilla as you can get.

         Oh, the Cowboys ran some two-tight sets, but for the majority of the first-team offense’s two series (and even when Kyle Orton was in there running things behind the first offensive line with backups galore at running back and wide receiver). The Cowboys, of all things for everyone anticipating a hard-charging running attack, seemed to be in three-receiver sets more than anything.

         They weren’t about to expose much of anything, and from my understanding only did so with a couple of plays just to help keep a couple of drives alive to create more reps for some of the younger guys. Secrets are secrets, and no sense putting too much on tape for the Giants to start going to school on at this early date.

         In fact, for all those readily jumping to conclusions about this perceived “new” Cowboys offensive philosophy following that first preseason game in which they ran the ball 34 times and threw it only 21 – you know, see there that Bill Callahan, he’ll emphasize the run more – well, surprise, surprise, in this game against the Raiders the Cowboys ran the ball only 20 times and threw it around 32 times – the very reason no one should draw undeniable conclusions from these practice games.

         Talk about holding the play-call sheet over your mouth to prevent lip reading.

         But having said all this, the Cowboys still piled up 171 yards of total offense in the first half with Romo and Orton totaling three series, scoring on two of them and likely would have scored on all three if not for a blocked 26-yard field-goal attempt Mr. Automatic, Dan Bailey, surely would have made.

         OK, can hear the grumbling in the background already. While that all might be true, you’re screaming, same ol’, same ol’ with the Cowboys offense, three penalties inside the Oakland 30 turned potential touchdown drives into field-goal attempts. The nerve of that Witten to get caught holding, or for potentially first-time starter Ronald Leary to false start and Hanna to do so also.

         And as Garrett said afterward, bemoaning the penalties, the blocked field goal and the game-turning fumbled punt by rookie B.W. Webb, “We’ll continue to harp on that.”

         But did you see, or you should have seen, the ease in which Romo hooked up with Bryant three times for 55 yards; with Austin on slants twice for 22 yards; Orton with Cole Beasley twice, the second for a 15-yard touchdown.

         And guess what? Of the 32 attempts, only three times were tight ends targeted, and only one of those Witten. That ain’t going to happen, Witten targeted just once in a game. Please.

           Just look at the first-half stats alone, a half the Cowboys had a 10-6 lead, for what that matters. Romo and Orton were a combined 12 of 14 for 140 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, one sack, finishing with a QB rating of 132.1. Bryant, Austin and Beasley finished the game combining for eight catches on eight targets, totaling 126 yards and the Beasley touchdown.

         And for the most part Romo and Orton had the time of day in the pocket behind what most perceive as a worrisome offensive line. Hmmm, while the Cowboys are keeping their eyes open for fortuitous opportunities to enhance that crew, particularly at guard, maybe what you saw Friday night isn’t all that bad, from left to right Tyron Smith, Leary, Travis Frederick, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Doug Free. Especially since, unlike the other four, Bernadeau was playing for the first time after returning from injury.

         Maybe their main problem up front is really who is playing behind these guys, especially at tackle since with Jermey Parnell injured (hamstring) and veteran Demetress Bell still trying to get in shape, there isn’t much to write home about. As Jones said after the game, making a move up front “would be determined by the opportunity” available, meaning he’s not necessarily desperate to sign just anybody at this moment.

         Romo did get sacked once, but did you see how long he had in the pocket before everything collapsed? And he did have Austin wide open in the end zone, but explained later, on that particular play that Austin was his third read and by time he got there, Austin was covered and pocket time had expired.

         “I don’t want to get away from here without talking about the offensive line,” Romo said. “There were a couple of times I had all day and we had a sack, an incompletion on those two plays, so that’s going to help us a lot if we’re able to do that.

         “That’s different. I know what it’s like to play behind that, and having that ability like they did tonight would be a huge bonus for us.”

         So with three more preseason games to play, another five training camp practices this week, resuming Sunday evening, there is time to clean things up while still playing peek-a-boo with play-calls and offensive intentions.

          And oh, by the way, if now your concern is the ability to run the ball more efficiently, at the conclusion of the first half, when the first-team offensive line retired for the evening, the Cowboys had run the ball six times for 36 yards with Murray, Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner, a 6-yard average following last Sunday night’s 5-yard mark.

          “It was good,” Romo said of what took place in the team’s first three offensive series. “We did what we’ve been doing in training camp and moved the ball real well. We were holding back on a lot of our stuff, red zone stuff and some other things. We would have liked to have scored a touchdown, but we got hurt by penalties more than anything, and that aspect of it is just going to hurt you no matter what.

          “So we have to avoid that [and] stress that this week, and we’re going to make sure that stops.”

           But probably not the double-scoops of vanilla approach.

Courtesy: Mickey Spagnola | Columnist

Editors comments: I don’t have a problem with being vanilla with the starters on their first few series this preseason. You come out and keep it simple … basic. The same philosophy deployed with this new 4-3 scheme, also applies to the offense this early in the year. The veterans might not need that as much, sure. But these new roster additions and young rookies do! The beauty of this offensive roster is that they can afford to come out and execute basic runs and passes. See if the opposing defenses can stop that first. With so many Cowboy players wielding star power, it’s a challenge for most defenses to handle them man-for-man. You sprinkle in wrinkles, after you get the basics down … ditch the butterflies, and execute these base plays with precision.

I believe the week-one emphasis (and success) of Dallas’ running attack (in the Hall of Fame game) showed coaches what they needed to see. However, if you think back, there was very little to see (or grade) in the passing game in week 1. The coaching staff needs to grade and develop these young offensive linemen in run and passing situations. I think that’s why we saw more pass (and consequently more pass blocking) in the second preseason game. Expect more balance going forward.

The Romo and Orton led drives were successful. The running game is still on pace. Kiffin’s starters have grasped his base defense … his rookies are coming along. Callahan’s starters are showing rust, but promise. Both of these games were more about weeding out the roster, than going for the kill. I do want to see Callahan/Garrett go for the throat once the regular season starts. They have the weapons to make a statement, and they should.

Friday night, Oakland played their starters longer, and did less with them. The Cowboys will host the Raiders later on … rest assured, we’ll see the full arsenal. Garrett is baking that vanilla cake first. He’ll add the icing later.

VALLEY RANCH REPORT: Will lack of a FB hurt DeMarco Murray?

VALLEY RANCH REPORT - Dallas Cowboys - NFL Video

Valley Ranch Report: Will lack of a FB hurt DeMarco Murray?

Bryan Broaddus joins Gina Miller on TXA 21 to discuss some of the biggest storylines heading into the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys training camp. (Duration: 3:01)

Click HERE to watch video or HERE to listen to the audio.

BLIP ON THE RADAR: The least sexy article you’ll read today; but one worth remembering

SOPHOMORE MAKES LEAP - Dallas Cowboys OG Ronald Leary catches Garrett's eye at minicamp - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Ronald Leary – He threw a couple of guys around this past weekend as if they were Pop Warners.

He looks strong as bull.

Built like one of those top-loading deep freezers.

He’s quiet, but seems quite serious about this game of football.

And to most out there, he’s a forgotten man, and understandably.

But around here, when so many want to throw jab after jab at the Cowboys for failing to do enough this offseason to improve their offensive line, they must snicker quietly to themselves. They know better. They know they’ve got a real shot at multiple upgrades to the interior of this offensive line.

Sure, the Cowboys went out of their way to select an offensive lineman in the first round, center/guard Travis Frederick, the real irony of this draft since one and all wanted the Cowboys to concentrate on offensive linemen, some suggesting to do so with the first three picks. And then when they made doubly sure to draft at least one high-quality offensive lineman, they were chastised for trading down to do so.

Can’t win sometimes.

Roster Rundown - Ron Leary Might Be Ready To Compete This Year - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Ronald Leary.

Yep, him again. He’s still here, hasn’t gone anywhere.

You remember him, right? The rookie free-agent offensive lineman the Cowboys signed last year out of Memphis that owner Jerry Jones just couldn’t wait to tell everyone how excited he was over the acquisition. And I know what you are thinking, and probably were thinking: Why so excited about some rookie free agent? Why, the guy didn’t even get drafted.

Well, I’m sure back in the day there were similar reactions to the rather innocuous rookie free-agent signings of Tony Romo and Miles Austin. Sometimes these guys entering the league as rookie free agents do make it. Some big. (Also see Bill Bates, Mark Tuinei, Nate Newton, Everson Walls, to name a few, and those guys were passed over when the NFL Draft was 12 rounds.) Granted, the odds are long, understood.

Continue reading →

SOPHOMORE MAKES LEAP: Dallas Cowboys OG Ronald Leary catches Garrett’s eye at minicamp

SOPHOMORE MAKES LEAP - Dallas Cowboys OG Ronald Leary catches Garrett's eye at minicamp - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Ronald Leary is the most experienced offensive lineman, in the Dallas Cowboys’ system at least, at rookie minicamp.

Jason Garrett said it showed.

“He actually flashed at us this morning,” Garrett said Friday after the first practice of the weekend. “He has an unfair advantage, like some of the veteran guys who have been around. He knows the system. He’s been with us for a year. The play calls are very natural to him. He understands fronts and all of that stuff. So he’s going to play faster.”

At this time last year, Leary was in the same position as many of the other players in the three-day camp. He was an undrafted rookie, signing with the Cowboys out of Memphis. He went undrafted largely because of a knee condition that may shorten his career.

He spent last season on the practice squad before being activated for the season finale in Washington.

He said Friday he has come a long way since this time a year ago.

“I learned a lot from Coach Callahan, learned a lot from a lot of players on the team about just being a professional, that this is your job,” he said. “I think I’ve grown as a person.”

Garrett agreed and said Leary will have a chance this summer.

“Ron made a lot of progress over the course of the year last year, did a good job working in scout team,” Garrett said. “We saw the improvement as the year wore on. So it’ll be a nice opportunity for him once we get into the OTAs and regular training camp to see what he can do.”


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WEEKLY ROSTER UPDATE: Ron Leary signed from practice squad; Speedy WR Armstrong released

Dallas Cowboys Ronald Leary - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – This is the time of year teams will try to sign young practice squad players around the league to build for the future.

The Cowboys made sure guard Ron Leary wouldn’t be a part of that for anyone else.

With a few teams showing heavy interest in him, Leary was signed to the 53-man roster on Saturday. To make room, the Cowboys decided to waive wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, who played in his first game for the team just last week.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Anthony Armstrong back home - The Boys Are Back blog

Armstrong signed with the Cowboys on Nov. 26 but was inactive the first two games. He played on special teams last week against the Steelers.

The decision to cut him is somewhat surprising, considering he has a speed element the Cowboys don’t have with any other player. Plus, with Leary now in the mix, the Cowboys have an abundance of backup linemen, along with David Arkin, Derrick Dockery, Kevin Kowalski, Jermey Parnell and Darrion Weems.

And the Cowboys are still holding on to Jay Ratliff’s roster spot. Ratliff had sports hernia surgery last week and likely wouldn’t return for another three weeks at the earliest. 

Leary’s addition to the 53-man roster doesn’t exactly mean he will play Sunday against the Saints, or even suit out for the game.

Leary is another player the Cowboys had high hopes for this year. An undrafted tackle from Memphis with a potential knee injury that scared off many teams from drafting him, Leary quickly moved to guard, where the Cowboys thought he could thrive. In fact, he was working with the first-team at guard early in training camp when Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings were both injured.

But Leary’s progress slowed as camp went on and the Cowboys decided he wasn’t ready, putting him on the practice squad, where he has been all season.

ROSTER TWEAK: Dallas Cowboys work out former WR Raymond Radway

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Raymond Radway makes catch during Dallas Cowboys Training Camp (Star-Telegram Ron Jenkins) - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – While the players and coaches will be off most of the weekend here during the bye, the Cowboys are still trying to churn the bottom of the roster.

There is an open roster spot, and the Cowboys have worked out two players now this week after former receiver Raymond Radway had a workout Friday at Valley Ranch.

Radway has spent the last two training camps with the team and all of last year on injured reserve after he broke his leg on the final play of the 2011 preseason. Radway returned this season and just didn’t show the same burst during training camp and the four preseason games.

He worked out for the scouts and selected coaches on Friday. Radway does have practice-squad eligibility so there is a chance the Cowboys could sign him to the squad and call up another player to the active roster.

The current practice squad consists of receivers Danny Coale and Tim Benford, defensive tackles Robert Calloway and Ben Bass, guard Ron Leary, fullback Jamize Olawale and running back Lance Dunbar, who actually went on a road trip to New York to start the season with the plan he would be called up to the roster. That never materialized but Dunbar is someone with speed and quickness that could bolster the special teams.

Earlier this week, the Cowboys worked out former cornerback Bryan McCann, although it’s unlikely he will be re-signed at this point.

ROSTER MOVES: TE Colin Cochart claimed off waivers; 8-man practice squad set

Dallas Cowboys have claimed tight end Collin Cochart off waivers from the Bengals - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – Nothing is ever final when it comes to the roster.

After cutting 23 players to get down to the 53-man limit Saturday night, the Dallas Cowboys made more moves Saturday, just before their first regular-season practice in preparation for the Giants.

The Cowboys have claimed tight end Colin Cochart (6-4, 260) off waivers from the Bengals. In doing so, they have officially waived quarterback Stephen McGee, who initially survived Friday night’s cuts.

Minutes earlier, coach Jason Garrett was asked in his Saturday morning press conference about keeping three quarterbacks on the roster. He said they valued the position and McGee, but Garrett also hinted that it’s the time of year to make tough decisions.

The addition of Cochart could be an indicator of Jason Witten’s availability for Wednesday’s game with the Giants. Witten is expected to practice Saturday for the first time since suffering the lacerated spleen injury.

Cochart played in 10 games last year as a rookie in Cincinnati, including three starts. Considered more of a blocker, Cochart caught five passes for 44 yards and one touchdown in 2011.

The Cowboys have also re-signed eight players to the practice squad, virtually getting everyone back they wanted. The squad includes:

  • RB Lance Dunbar
  • RB Jamize Olawale
  • DT Robert Calloway
  • WR Danny Coale
  • LB Orie Lemon
  • DE Ben Bass
  • WR Tim Benford
  • G Ronald Leary

Five of the eight players were undrafted rookies.

OFFICIAL ROSTER CUTS: Dallas Cowboys down to 53 players.

The Dallas Cowboys just officially announced their cuts today. There aren’t any surprises, but here’s the complete list from the team:

  • Jeff Adams OT
  • Baraka Atkins LB
  • Ben Bass DT
  • Tim Benford WR
  • Robert Callaway DT
  • Rudy Carpenter QB
  • Shaun Chapas FB
  • Danny Coale WR
  • Lance Dunbar RB
  • Clifton Geathers DT
  • Harland Gunn OG
  • Saalim Hakim WR
  • Adrian Hamilton LB
  • Ronald Leary OG
  • Orie Lemon LB
  • Jamize Olawale RB
  • Pat McQuistan OT
  • Akwasi Owusu-Ansah CB
  • Lionel Smith CB
  • Andrew Szczerba TE
  • Eddie Whitley S
  • Teddy Williams CB

Among those players cut, the Cowboys would probably want to bring back these players for their practice squad, which can’t be set until 11 a.m. Saturday:

  • QB Rudy Carpenter,
  • WR Danny Coale,
  • RB Lance Dunbar,
  • LB Orie Lemon,
  • RB Jamize Olawale,
  • LB Andrian Hamilton
  • OG Ronald Leary

The Cowboys waived/injured guard Daniel Loper on Friday night.

The Cowboys traded their 2013 seventh-round draft pick to Miami for center/guard Ryan Cook on Friday morning. Cook, a seven-year veteran out of New Mexico, was originally a second round pick (51st overall) in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He played his first five years with the Vikings before signing with Miami as a free agent on September 5, 2011. Cook has started 40-of-77 career games, making starts at right tackle, right guard and at center.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins

Dallas Cowboys vs Miami Dolphins helmets

Preseason.

It’s finally coming to an end.

The Miami Dolphins visit the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium tonight to close it out.

Here’s a preview.

Stephen McGee vs. Rudy Carpenter: The Cowboys are thinking about going with two quarterbacks. Tony Romo and Kyle Orton have guaranteed roster spots. After that, McGee, the third quarterback since 2009, and Carpenter, who is trying to make the active roster, will get a shot Wednesday night. McGee has been inconsistent this summer in camp practices and in three preseason games. Carpenter has led the third unit on a touchdown drive. McGee is the better talent, but roster issues could force the Cowboys to go with just two quarterbacks, unless someone emerges.

Claiborne and Spears should play: First-round pick Morris Claiborne and veteran defensive end Marcus Spears should play a little on Wednesday. Here’s why. Claiborne, who missed the first preseason game with a knee sprain, needs to get more snaps before getting ready for the New York Giants on opening night. Spears is getting snaps with the second team and will most likely get a few snaps just to either keep him sharp or see if the Cowboys still want him on the team.

What’s uncertain?: The third quarterback for one thing. And in reality, it doesn’t matter who the No. 3 receiver is. Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley will make the team, but who gets the sixth receiver spot is the question. Andre Holmes? Danny Coale? Tim Benford? The swing tackle is Jermey Parnell, but who out of Pat McQuistan, Daniel Loper, Derrick Dockery and Ronald Leary make the team? Orie Lemon, Shaun Chapas, Jamize Olawale, Adrian Hamilton, Lance Dunbar and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah are competing for a some of the final three or four roster spots.

The series with the Dolphins: The Cowboys lead the preseason series 4-2 and lost the last meeting 17-3 in South Florida. In that game, Sept. 1, 2011, receiver Raymond Radway fractured his leg on a pass in the end zone at the end of the game. Radway missed the regular season. He was cut this week by the Cowboys.

Connections: Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland was a former executive with the Cowboys, and Brian Gaine, the Dolphins’ assistant general manager, worked in the personnel department with the Cowboys. At one point the Dolphins had many former Cowboys. Now, there are only a few. Linebacker Kevin Burnett, for one, plays for the Fins.

Parking, parking, parking: For the second consecutive time, the Cowboys and Texas Rangers are playing at nearly the same time. Rangers first pitch is around 6:05 p.m. CT. Kickoff is scheduled for around 7:30 p.m. CT. Cowboys Stadium parking lots open at 2:30 p.m. East Plaza is open at 3:30 p.m. and stadium gates to all plazas open at 5:30 p.m. Fans who have pre-purchased parking in the Ranger Lots A-B and M will have their passes honored. Stadium officials ask fans to get their early due to the Rangers game.

By the way: Regular season starters like Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Brandon Carr and Sean Lee won’t play. Just telling you.

Local TV and radio: The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m., on KTVT/Ch. 11 (CBS).

The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network - 105_3 The Fan KRLD

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

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

PROJECTION: Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster

The Boys - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas — Go ahead and put most of these names in ink.

There are a handful of roster spots up for grabs entering Wednesday’s preseason finale, but the vast majority of the decisions will have already been made. The toughest calls come at the last spots for receiver, offensive line, defensive end and how to handle Matt Johnson’s situation (great potential, but can’t count on him this season).

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Tony Romo  Kyle Orton

If Stephen McGee wants to stick around for a fourth season, he needs to give the front office and coaches good reason to keep him with a strong performance in the preseason finale. At this point, it makes more sense to try to put Rudy Carpenter on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (3)

DeMarco Murray  Felix Jones  Phillip Tanner

Tanner didn’t help his cause with a blown assignment in pass protection that almost got Orton killed against the Rams, but he’s a solid No. 3 back and core special teams player. North Texas alums Lance Dunbar and Jamize Olawale are good practice squad candidates.

FULLBACKS (2)

Lawrence Vickers  Shaun Chapas

Chapas, a fixture on first-team special teams units Saturday, is likely to last only one week on the roster. An extra fullback can help mask the lack of depth at tight end in case Jason Witten misses the season opener.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Jason Witten  John Phillips  James Hanna

The Cowboys could opt to go with rookie Andrew Szczerba as temporary insurance instead of Chapas.

Danny Coale

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Miles Austin  Dez Bryant

Kevin Ogletree  Dwayne Harris  Cole Beasley  Danny Coale

It comes down to Coale vs. Andre Holmes, the Jerry Jones pet cat who reported to camp in poor shape and has shown no consistency. Holmes has more upside. Coale, who has hardly been on the field due to injuries, is more likely to contribute this season. The Cowboys envisioned Coale as a Sam Hurd-type No. 4 receiver/special teams stud (without the felonious side business, of course) when they invested a fifth-round pick in him.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Tyron Smith  Doug Free  Nate Livings  Mackenzy Bernadeau  Phil Costa

David Arkin  Jermey Parnell  Ronald Leary  Pat McQuistan

Is being a third guard good enough reason to keep Derrick Dockery? He probably wouldn’t be active on game days due to his lack of position versatility. McQuistan has experience at tackle, guard, blocking tight end and has even worked some at center. Addressing the lack of depth at center would be a wise move after Week 1.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)

Jay Ratliff  Jason Hatcher  Kenyon Coleman  Sean Lissemore  Marcus Spears

Tyrone Crawford  Josh Brent

Clifton Geathers (6-foot-7, 325 pounds) looks the part, but he hasn’t done enough to push Coleman or Spears off the roster. The Cowboys can save a little money by cutting (or perhaps trading) one of the veterans, but keeping both gives them quality depth in the defensive end rotation.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)

Sean Lee  Bruce Carter  Dan Connor  Orie Lemon

Lemon is a guy you notice a lot in practices and preseason games. He has developmental potential and can contribute now on special teams.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)

DeMarcus Ware  Anthony Spencer

Victor Butler  Kyle Wilber  Alex Albright

Can the Cowboys get pass rusher Adrian Hamilton through waivers onto the practice squad? It appears that they will try. He’s not getting reps with the first-team special teams units, a strong sign that they don’t see him as a fit for the 53-man roster this season.

CORNERBACKS (5)

Brandon Carr  Morris Claiborne

Orlando Scandrick  Mike Jenkins  Mario Butler

Jerry Jones has said there is a roster spot for Jenkins, meaning the Cowboys don’t plan for him to start the season on the physically unable to perform list. That doesn’t mean he’ll be ready for the season opener.

SAFETIES (4)

Gerald Sensabaugh  Barry Church  Danny McCray  Mana Silva

What to do with fourth-round pick Matt Johnson? He has hardly practiced because of a hamstring injury and he strained the other hamstring in his preseason debut Saturday night. The Cowboys could try to get him through waivers to the practice squad or put him on injured reserve, essentially making this a redshirt season. With such limited practice time, putting him on the 53 would be a waste of a roster spot.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Dan Bailey  Chris Jones  L.P. Ladouceur

No drama here after rookie deep snapper Charley Hughlett’s release Monday. The Cowboys were willing to pay more for the proven commodity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calvin Watkins

RELATED: Five players to watch vs. San Diego Chargers

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

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

Here is a look at five guys to watch:

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

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

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

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

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

Todd Archer

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

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Raymond Radway makes catch during Dallas Cowboys Training Camp (Star-Telegram Ron Jenkins) - The Boys Are Back blog

The regular season starts for the Dallas Cowboys in just a few weeks. Here’s our first of weekly projections on how the 53-man roster will shake out.

Quarterbacks (2)

Tony Romo  Kyle Orton

Comment: Teams that keep three like the third to be a young quarterback that can one day develop into a starter. Does Stephen McGee still fit that profile? Cowboys could save a roster spot here and try to slip Rudy Carpenter by on the practice squad for protection.

Running backs (5)

DeMarco Murray  Felix Jones

Phillip Tanner  Lance Dunbar  Lawrence Vickers

Comment: The Cowboys like Dunbar, but he picked a bad time to get injured. He needs to get on the field soon to earn a spot.

Wide receiver (5)

Dez Bryant  Miles Austin

Andre Holmes  Danny Coale  Cole Beasley

Comment: Even though Kevin Ogletree is starting now that Austin is injured, it’s not a lock he makes the team. If the team adds a veteran here as the season nears, a distinct possibility, he could lose his spot to a younger player with more upside. If the Cowboys decide to keep six here it will likely be at the expense of a running back.

Tight end (3)

Jason Witten  John Phillips  James Hanna

Comment: No intrigue here.

Offensive line (10)

Tyron Smith  Doug Free  Phil Costa  Mackenzy Bernadeau  Nate Livings

Ronald Leary  David Arkin  Jeremy Parnell  Pat McQuistan  Derrick Dockery

Comment: There remains a lot to sort through here but injuries to Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski have thinned the field.

Defensive line (7)

Jay Ratliff  Kenyon Coleman  Jason Hatcher  Tyrone Crawford  Sean Lissemore

Josh Brent  Clifton Geathers

Comment: One veteran is likely to go as the Cowboys try to get younger in the line. Marcus Spears is odd lineman out at this stage but it could be Coleman.

Linebacker (9)

DeMarcus Ware  Anthony Spencer  Sean Lee  Bruce Carter  Dan Connor

Victor Butler  Kyle Wilber  Alex Albright  Orie Lemon

Comment: Who excels on special teams will have an edge on the final couple of spots.

Secondary (9)

Morris Claiborne  Brandon Carr  Mike Jenkins  Orlando Scandrick

Mario Butler  Barry Church  Gerald Sensabaugh  Matt Johnson  Danny McCray

Comment: Mana Silva is still in the running for a spot. He makes plays.

Specialists (3)

Dan Bailey  Chris Jones  LP Ladouceur

Comment: Jones is no Mat McBriar as a punter, but he’s the best the team has in camp. It wouldn’t hurt to watch the waiver wire here.

Courtesy: David Moore

Editors Note: RED indicates an injury concern going into the season.

DAY 11 TRAINING CAMP: Dallas Cowboys Observation Deck

Dallas safety Brodney Pool (23) covers receiver Andre Holmes (15) during Dallas Cowboys Training Camp - The Boys Are Back blog

Here’s what stood out from Day 11 of Cowboys’ training camp practices Saturday in Oxnard, Calif.:

  • The Cowboys spent a lot of time working on their hurry-up offense Saturday and working more on situational plays. The defense had the upper hand most of the practice.
  • Actor Ashton Kutcher was in attendance for the Saturday afternoon practice. He spent some time watching practice with owner Jerry Jones and talked with QB Tony Romo after the practice.
  • Recently signed veteran OL Derrick Dockery took first-team left guard repetitions and Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary continued to rotate at first-team right guard.
  • With starting C Phil Costa out with a back injury, David Arkin took first-team reps at center with Harland Gunn at second-team center and Pat McQuistan at third team. Over the last three days, McQuistan has seen work at offensive tackle, blocking tight end and now at center.
  • During the morning walkthrough, QB Tony Romo and C David Arkin spent some extra time working on shotgun snaps, which have been one of the big issues of camp because of all the injuries at center.
  • QB Tony Romo gave some fans high-fives along the fence line as he came out onto the field for the afternoon practice and stopped to sign a few autographs. That’s been rare for him this camp.
  • WR Raymond Radway continues to fade. He struggled catching kickoff returns early and also had his problems during team drills. Radway appeared to run the wrong route – going long instead of breaking his route short – during team drills. QB Kyle Orton threw the pass underneath as Radway streaked down the field, allowing safety Danny McCray to make an easy interception. Later, Radway dropped a pass in team drills.
  • WR Dez Bryant used a double move in 1-on-1 drills to beat CB Brandon Carr for a touchdown deep. Bryant then beat rookie CB Morris Claiborne for a catch along the left sideline. Bryant, however, missed the last half of the afternoon practice because of tightness in his hamstring.
  • In 1-on-1 drills, WR Donovan Kemp dropped a pass on a slant route. WR Cole Beasley also had a drop along the right sideline. CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah intercepted a pass intended for WR David Little. WR Tim Benford had a drop after beating CB Mario Butler in coverage. WR Andre Holmes used three moves to finally get free from Owusu-Ansah and make a catch. CB C.J. Wilson dropped a pass intended for Beasley that he should have intercepted.
  • Twice during 1-on-1 drills, speedy CB Teddy Williams ran step-for-step down the sideline with WR Kevin Ogletree and WR Raymond Radway. Tony Romo didn’t even attempt a pass with Williams blanketing Ogletree, and the pass to Radway was incomplete. Both times, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan yelled, “Nice coverage, Teddy.”
  • In individual receiving drills and during team drills, RB Javarris Williams dropped passes in the flat.
  • LT Tyron Smith had a false start during a hurry-up situation inside the red zone. The offensive line scrambled to get to the line of scrimmage in a hurry and before Tony Romo snapped the ball to spike it, Smith moved.
  • CB Brandon Carr had a pass breakup in the end zone against WR Kevin Ogletree on a pass from Tony Romo.
  • Safety Barry Church continued his strong play by breaking up a pass from Tony Romo intended for TE Jason Witten near the goal line. Church nearly intercepted the pass.
  • Safety Gerald Sensabaugh broke up a pass in the end zone from Tony Romo and almost intercepted the ball.
  • RB DeMarco Murray dropped a quick pass out to the left flat from Tony Romo.
  • CB Orlando Scandrick had good coverage on WR Andrew Holmes on a deep past down the left sideline from Tony Romo. The ball was overthrown and Scandrick almost intercepted the pass, getting one hand on it.
  • LB DeMarcus Ware would have sacked Tony Romo during team drills, flying past him before he threw the ball.
  • WR Dwayne Harris dropped a pass to the left side from QB Kyle Orton. Safety Danny McCray was there with tight coverage.
  • LB Bruce Carter broke up a pass over the middle from Tony Romo, but the ball hit both of his hands and he should have made the interception.
  • On back-to-back plays during team drills, the secondary maintained tight coverage and QB Kyle Orton would have been sacked both times.
  • CB Brandon Carr knocked down a quick pass out to the right side intended for WR Kevin Ogletree from QB Tony Romo in a hurry-up situation.
  • The Cowboys’ first-team offense was finally able to score late in practice in a hurry-up situation, with QB Tony Romo connecting with TE Jason Witten for a short touchdown pass.
  • WR Andre Holmes used his 6-4 height to pull down a Hail Mary pass to end team drills with a touchdown catch from QB Kyle Orton. Holmes jumped over a pack of players in the middle of the end zone to pull down the ball.

Brandon George

BIGGEST CONCERN – 2012 SEASON: The Dallas Cowboys offensive line

LT Tyron Smith Jermey Parnell Jeff Adams Tyrone Novikoff
LG Nate Livings Derrick Dockery Ronald Leary
C Phil Costa Bill Nagy Kevin Kowalski Harland Gunn
RG Mackenzy Bernadeau David Arkin Daniel Loper
RT Doug Free Pat McQuistan Levy Adcock

RED: Injury concerns

Injuries piling up at Center, starting to become a concern

When the Dallas Cowboys arrived at training camp nearly two weeks ago, the center position was hardly a concern.

Not only did they have a young starter in Phil Costa entering his second full season at center, but they had two second-year backups that have versatility to play guard.

But a high-ankle sprain to Bill Nagy, coupled with a nagging ankle injury for Kevin Kowalski that got worse, and suddenly the center spot has the Cowboys scratching their heads as they prepare to start the preseason Monday night in Oakland.

Do they go get a veteran center and crowd the position even more, or simply try to make do and piece the position together until either one of the young guys catches on or the injured players return.

For now, it sounds like the Cowboys are going with Option No. 2. But don’t think they haven’t done their due diligence with the first option as well.

“Trust me, we’ve scoured the short lists,” head coach Jason Garrett said in regards to free-agent center. “We’ve talked to different agents about trying to address that. Right now, we feel like the best way to address it is with the guys we have in house. If someone comes available that is attractive to us, we’ll certainly address it that way.”

For now, the Cowboys are using the players on the roster to patch up the center spot, particularly with the backup spots.

Guards David Arkin and Harland Gunn have worked at center in practice and on Thursday, tackle/guard Pat McQuistan took a few snaps before practice.

Costa isn’t expected to have much competition now for the starting job, but don’t be surprised if the Cowboys at least explore the option of using Mackenzy Bernadeau at center, at least as a backup.

While he on Thursday was practicing for the first time since joining the Cowboys, Bernadeau might be an option down the line. For now, he’s a guard and that’s where the focus will remain.

“We’ve just got to see him play guard first,” Garrett said. “That’s where he’s most comfortable. That’s one of the things that we liked about him when we signed him in free agency was his position flex. He has played center, had the ball in his hands before, so that’s a positive thing. But right now we just want to see him break the huddle and play some football first and foremost, and hopefully he’ll function in practice and keep growing day-by-day.”

In the last few days, there have been several poor snaps, with botched shotguns and quarterback-center exchanges. Garrett, a former quarterback in his own right, said most of the center issues this team has stem from injury.

“We felt very good about our center, our backup center, our third center, the guys who can play both center and guard going into training camp – we just had a rash of injuries,” Garrett said. “So you try to adjust as best as you can. Arkin’s done a nice job. He hasn’t snapped before in his life and he’s just taking snaps at guard and then he goes over and he’s trying to learn to play center. We’re trying to cross-train some other guys. It’s part of what you go through when you have a rash of injuries at a particular position. You just try to scramble a little bit and come up with a way to handle it.”

Players on the street include former Cowboys Pro Bowler Andre Gurode, along with other vets Jeff Faine, Jason Brown and Jamaal Jackson.

But most of those guys would likely come in looking to start. The Cowboys have that guy in Costa, whom the coaches and scouts will say has improved tremendously over the offseason.

Costa said his on-field communication with the starting quarterback has been one of the most important aspects he’s tried to improve this year.

“Being on the same page with Tony is really important, making the calls and helping him out in that respect is important,” Costa said. “I’ve been working on the techniques and that makes a big difference.”
Garrett said he’s seen a different player in Costa this year.

“We have more confidence in him. He’s played center for us in games, and for the most part he’s done a pretty decent job,” Garrett said. “He’s had some hiccups over the last year or so with that as well. When you have the ball in your hands it’s a big responsibility. There’s a reason why centers typically are among the smartest guys up on the offensive line because they can handle some of that responsibility, intellectually and also the responsibility that comes with having the ball in your hands. So we’re always working on it, we’re always emphasizing it to our team. We’ve just got to do it better.”

Nick Eatman

EDITORS NOTE: Excellent video below. You owe to to yourself to check out this show. An MP3 download is also available for your computer or phone. Enjoy!

VIDEO - Cowboys Break show - The Boys Are Back blog

Cowboys Break: Who Makes Team On O-Line (Press PLAY to watch/listen)

The Break takes a look at the offensive line today as they continue to break down a position each day of training camp. Duration: 1:01:35 (Download the MP3 HERE)

RELATED: Jerry Jones not concerned about bad snaps, said that’s what practice is for

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is not concerned about the spate of bad snaps that have turned practice into a circus at times. He said he has no interest in signing a center just to get through practice and believes centers Phil Costa and David Arkin will improve.

“That is what practice is about,” Jones said. “That gives you a good chance to see if the guy can think about the snap as well as concentrate on what he is doing out there. Arkin hasn’t been doing this much, so I give him some slack. Costa needs more consistency.

Clarence Hill

RELATED: Derrick Dockery takes a few snaps with first team

Veteran guard Derrick Dockery who joined the team a week into training camp has opened a few eyes of late.

So much so that he has thrown himself into the competition for a possible starting job with Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Ron Leary and David Arkin. Dockery alternated some first team reps in practice with Arkin on Thursday.

“I was impressed with Dockery today,” owner Jerry Jones said. “Dockery has a chance to be what he wasn’t last year because of his late arrival last year and his injury situation last year. He did look impressive out there to me.”

Bernadeau and Livings were signed in free agency to be the starters but both have missed time in camp with injury. Bernadeau practiced on Thursday for the first time, alternating at the other guard spot with Leary.

If Dockery continues to impress, it could give the Cowboys even more of a chance to try Bernadeau at center where he compete with Phil Costa.

Clarence Hill

RELATED: Mackenzy Bernadeau excited to practice for first time

Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau took practice reps with the Cowboys first time in camp.

Actually they were his first reps since joining the Cowboys in free agency with a four-year, $11 million contract after spending the first four years of his career with the Panthers.

He has been sidelined since May because of hip and knee surgeries and began training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

"Yeah it’s always good to get reps with your teammates," Bernadeau said. "I’m excited about that. I’m feeling great. I want to get in there and get as many reps as I can.

It’s been a while since I’ve been out there with the guys. Getting the reps, being there, working hard and being able to hit people will be fun."

Bernadeau alternated first team reps with rookie free agent Ron Leary but that’s just part of the process for Leary who was signed to help solidify the Cowboys offensive line.

Bernadeau said he was eager to prove himself to his teammates.

"Yeah you have to earn the respect of your teammates," Bernadeau said.  "We have a great group of guys here that I’ve worked with. I’ve got their respect but you still want to prove yourself on the field every day and every practice. So I look forward to doing that."

Bernadeau will work first at guard but the Cowboys will give him some reps at center as well in hopes that he can compete with Phil Costa for the starting job or at least give them an option there in case of injury. Costa’s primary two backups and would be competitors for the starting job _ Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski _ are sidelined for the entire preseason and possible into the regular season with ankle injuries.

Bernadeau took some snaps in some preseason games in Carolina but none in the regular season. He said he is ready to do whatever is asked of him.

"I’m just going to do what I’m told," Bernadeau said. "I’ll be ready to compete."

Clarence Hill

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