Tag Archives: Sean Lissemore

DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER MOVES: Sean Lissemore traded to San Diego; Kyle Bosworth claimed off waivers

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IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys stayed active after the weekend cuts by trading former seventh-round pick Sean Lissemore to the Chargers on Sunday and claiming linebacker Kyle Bosworth off waivers.

Lissemore signed a three-year extension worth $7.17 million in September 2012 when the Cowboys’ defense ran the 3-4 scheme. He was traded for a 2015 seventh-round pick.

All six of Lissemore’s starts since joining the Cowboys in 2010 came last season. He’s admitted the switch to the new 4-3 has been a tough transition.

“I can definitely play in this defense, it’s just taking a little bit to transition,” Lissemore said after training camp. “It’s a little bit different than last year, playing the 3-4 defense, kind of two-gapping it. It’s kind of forgetting everything I’ve learned for the past three years and training myself to do something different.”

Lissemore, who suffered a concussion in the preseason finale, will be going back to the 3-4 scheme in San Diego. He was slated as a backup in Dallas after a strong offseason from Nick Hayden, who’s played on the interior next to Jason Hatcher.

The Cowboys used their open spot on the roster after trading Lissemore to claim Bosworth off waivers from the Giants. Bosworth, a local product who played high school football at Plano West, played 25 games the last two seasons with the Jaguars after going undrafted in 2010 out of UCLA.

The team will rely on Ben Bass, Kyle Wilber, George Selvie, and Landon Cohen for depth behind starters Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher, Nick Hayden and DeMarcus Ware, unless they make another move on the waiver wire.

Lissemore’s trade is the second the Cowboys have made since Saturday’s cuts. They placed guard Nate Livings on injured reserve as well, which opened up a spot on the roster for Dallas to trade for Kansas City linebacker Edgar Jones. The Cowboys sent over next year’s sixth-round pick and also got a seventh-round pick in that deal.

RELATED: Veteran guard Nate Livings placed on Injured Reserve

dallas cowboys offensive guard mackenzy bernadeau (73) listens to offensive guard nate livings - the boys are back blog

The Dallas Cowboys have decided to place veteran guard Nate Livings on injured reserve with a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery last month.

Livings’ roster spot was immediately filled by former Chiefs linebacker Edgar Jones, a six-year veteran who should provide depth on special teams.

Jones played just one year in Kansas City after five seasons in Baltimore. He played all 16 games for the Chiefs last year but has just 57 total games played since 2007.

The Cowboys initially kept just five linebackers when they trimmed the roster to 53 late Saturday afternoon. The club decided to waive Caleb McSurdy, Brandon Magee, and Cam Lawrence on the final cuts.

Jones will join a linebacker group consisting of Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Justin Durant, Ernie Sims, and rookie DeVonte Holloman.

Although Livings’ base salary of $2.4 million is guaranteed for this season, the Cowboys were preparing for 2013 without the veteran who joined the Cowboys last year in free agency.

Heading into the Sept. 8 game with the Giants, the Cowboys will likely go with Mackenzy Bernadeau and David Arkin as the starting guard, unless Ron Leary can return from a knee scope in time. Leary did some light running before Thursday’s preseason finale with the Texans.

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BACK IN THE SADDLE: Cowboys DT Sean Lissemore is practicing and eager to play

Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Sean Lissemore was quick with an answer when asked if he would play Saturday against the Bengals: “I’ll be playing this Saturday,” Lissemore said.

It was a long eight days for Lissemore after he injured his groin in practice Aug. 11. Lissemore had been getting plenty of reps with starter Jay Ratliff rehabbing hernia and hamstring injuries since the start of camp on July 20.

“It’s always frustrating to be injured, but you’ve got to kind of look at it and say, ‘Well, what can I do to get better?’” Lissemore said Tuesday. “So you just watch film; you watch the guys ahead of you; you watch practice. You just try to watch your position and get better every day.”

Lissemore returned to practice Tuesday. He did individual work, followed by metabolics “just to get my wind back.” He expects to work into team drills this week.

signed and sealed - dallas cowboys de sean lissemore contract extended through 2016 - the boys are back blog

By design, Lissemore has lost some 12-14 pounds since camp started, down to 298. He hopes that helps him better fit into the Tampa 2 defense the Cowboys are using this season under Monte Kiffin.

“I think I can definitely play in this defense,” Lissemore said. “It’s just taken a little bit to transition. It’s a little bit different from last year, playing a 3-4 defense, kind of two-gapping. So it’s kind of forgetting everything I’ve learned for the past three years and kind of training myself to do something different.”

Two other defensive players injured the same day as Lissemore have yet to return.

Linebacker Ernie Sims, who was competing with Justin Durant for the starting strong side spot, said he was encouraged by his rehab work Tuesday on his pulled groin. He cut and changed directions without a problem.

Sims hopes to return to practice this week.

“I want to be back this week,” Sims said. “But we’re taking it day by day right now, just trying to keep strengthening it. I’m definitely making a big improvement, though, because I’m feeling a whole lot better. I’m moving a whole lot better. Running a whole lot better. Right now, I’m just in the strengthening, trying to build my strength back up.”

Defensive back Eric Frampton, one of the team’s core special teams players, has a calf injury and is expected to be the last of the three to return to the field. He is not yet running, though he is using the AlterG, a anti-gravity treadmill.

Frampton said there is no timetable for his return.

“The way I see it, I want to be able to just contribute on the field once the season starts and whatever it takes to get to that point is what’s important,” Frampton said.

2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys Lance Dunbar out; Kowalski and Dominguez return

2013 PRESEASON INJURY UPDATE - Dallas Cowboys Lance Dunbar out; Kowalski and Dominguez return

IRVING, Texas – None of the defensive players who were inactive for Saturday’s preseason game returned to practice Monday at Valley Ranch, while the offense received a mixed bag of news.

Guards Kevin Kowalski and Ray Dominguez returned from knee and shoulder injuries, respectively, but running back Lance Dunbar missed practice for the first time with a foot sprain.

Five offensive players were out Monday, including Dunbar, wide receiver Cole Beasley (foot) and offensive linemen Ryan Cook (back), Ron Leary (knee) and Nate Livings (knee). Leary and Livings are both on the mend from knee scopes.

Safety Matt Johnson (foot) thought he’d be able to return in some capacity Monday, but he wasn’t on the field during the early portion of practice available to the media. Morris Claiborne, whose day-to-day knee injury has now become week-to-week, was also out.

Some good news for the defense was the return of safety Will Allen, who left Saturday’s game after injuring his ribs. Head coach Jason Garrett said after the game the injury wasn’t serious and he could have returned.

The usual suspects were still out on defense, including Anthony Spencer (knee) and Jay Ratliff(hamstring), while Ernie Sims, Sean Lissemore and Eric Frampton are all still recovering from injuries suffered toward the end of camp.

J.J. Wilcox hasn’t returned yet for personal reasons, but has been given as much time as he needs following the death of his mother and is expected back around the middle of this week.

Travis Chappelear and Toby Jackson weren’t at practice for the beginning portion, either. Chappelear wore a boot as he left the field Saturday. 

THE DELICATE BALANCE: Veteran Anthony Hargrove adds defensive line depth, but youth must eventually take over

THE DELICATE BALANCE - Veteran Anthony Hargrove adds defensive line depth,  but youth must take over

Yesterdays signing of Anthony Hargrove to a one-year deal adds depth to the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line, but not youth.

Currently, three of the four projected starting linemen are at least 30, and defensive end Anthony Spencer is 29.

Anthony Hargrove talks strategy with his defensive teammates - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Hargrove turns 30 in July.

Where’s the youth?

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t address the defensive line in the draft but did so in free agency with the signing of Hargrove.

The backups on the Cowboys’ roster consist of young players such as Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lissemore, Rob Callaway and Kyle Wilber. Those are young players who could become starters in 2014.

dallas cowboys defensive end tyrone crawford (70) applies pressure to tampa bay buccaneers quarterback josh freeman - the boys are back blog

Jason Hatcher is in the final year of his contract, and he turns 31 in July.

Spencer, who doesn’t turn 30 until next January, is playing on the franchise tag and talks have slowed down regarding a new deal. Hatcher and Spencer could play elsewhere in 2014.

As for Jay Ratliff, the defensive tackle who will battle centers and guards this season, he will turn 32 in August. Do you remember the man Ratliff replaced? Jason Ferguson was 32 when he suffered an arm injury early in the 2007 season, opening the door for Ratliff to become the full-time starter. Health and age dooms NFL players all the time.

Ratliff is coming off an injury-filled 2012 season and it’s assumed this could be his last season with the Cowboys given his age and how his health betrayed him last season.

DeMarcus Ware isn’t going anywhere. Ware, however, turns 31 in July and is coming back from shoulder surgery and a dislocated elbow.

signed and sealed - dallas cowboys de sean lissemore contract extended through 2016 - the boys are back blog

Age isn’t on the Cowboys’ side when it comes to the defensive line. While it’s good to have Hargrove provide depth as someone who can play end and tackle in the 4-3, the future is uncertain for this position.

Based on the offseason moves by the Cowboys, the defensive line is geared for the here and now, not for the future. The Cowboys had a chance to address the defensive line in the draft but expressed support for what they currently have.

That’s fine, but at some point youth must take over.

TEXAS 2 DEFENSIVE LINE: Dallas Cowboys feel like they have players that fit the need for speed

dallas dallas cowboys nose tackle jay ratliff (90) tackles eli manning - the boys are back blog

The Dallas Cowboys had a first-round grade on Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. He was probably the top player on the Cowboys’ draft board when they were supposed to pick at No. 18 in the first round. But they chose to trade back and Floyd went to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 23.

So why have him on the board?

Well, because they liked Floyd as a player but some in the organization weren’t sold on how he’d fit into their new 4-3 scheme.

Judging solely off the body language of Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and assistant director of player personnel Tom Ciskowski, trading back and missing out on a player like Floyd wasn’t the unanimous decision.

Ciskowski doesn’t have final say on the players the Cowboys draft. He presents information to the team and it’s up to Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and the coaching staff to ultimately make the decision.

“I think in a lot of cases, it’s kind of like a bridge,” Ciskowski told the G-Bag Nation show on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “We bring the players to the bridge and the coaches have to take them across. The main thing is just to communicate exactly what the coach wants. There was a defensive tackle from Georgia, John Jenkins, who as a matter of fact, was drafted by New Orleans. If we were still in the 3-4, we would’ve liked him as a nose [tackle]. But now that we’ve transitioned back to a 4-3, he really doesn’t fit what we’re looking for. So a lot of it is about the new coach educating us on what he wants at each position and it’s our job to go out and find it.”

dallas cowboys defensive end jason hatcher (97) sacks washington redskins quarterback robert griffin iii - the boys are back blog

What also factors in to the Cowboys not drafting Floyd at No. 18 is that the franchise feels good about the defensive linemen on the current roster. As of right now, the Cowboys have DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer starting on the ends with Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher on the inside. The top two reserves at tackle will likely be Sean Lissemore and Tyrone Crawford.

dallas cowboys outside linebacker anthony spencer (93) forces philadelphia eagles quarterback nick foles (9) to fumble - the boys are back blog

“I like our group, I really do,” Ciskowski said. “Between Spencer and Ware and then we got the guys inside in Ratliff and Hatcher and two young players who have shown great flash in Lissemore and Crawford. Then we have some other guys that have done some good things but they’re somewhat untested. A lot of teams go into the season with five players they feel good about, maybe six. And I think we’re at that level, and we might find another one in the group.”

Kyle Wilber, a fourth-round draft pick last year, has been moved to defensive end and could see time behind Spencer and Ware.

demarcus ware sack and fumble with eli manning

Editors note: To listen to the show, click HERE.

DALLAS’ DEFENSIVE FOOD CHAIN: Cowboys linemen will get to ‘eat first’ with new defense

big cat - dallas cowboys leon lett - the boys are back blog

The Dallas Cowboys’ move back to the 4-3 defense is music to Leon Lett’s ears. He’s going to get a chance to teach what he knows.

“In a 3-4 you did more of a read-and-react. This is more of a react-on-the-run – rush the quarterback and then react to the run on the way to the quarterback,” he said last week as the Cowboys’ assistant coaches met with reporters. “Kind of the same thing I did as a football player, so I’m kind of used to it, and I’m looking forward to teaching it and coaching it.”

Lett collected 22.5 sacks and 229 tackles in a 10-year career with the Cowboys, twice making the Pro Bowl. He played at 6-foot-6, 290 pounds.

“I think we have players all across the board that have the instinct for that defense,” Lett said. “DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Sean Lissemore – I think all our guys can adapt and play this 4-3 scheme. They’re fast, they’re quick, they’re big, they’re athletic, and that’s what you need.”

Lett was retained as assistant defensive line coach, and he’ll get a chance to work with respected NFL veteran Rod Marinelli, who is now in charge of the Cowboys’ defensive line.

“We just have to get them to adjust to a different technique,” Lett said. “In a 3-4 scheme, you were a little bit more two-gap, head-up. We’re going to get them to shade on the shoulder and penetrate and get up field. So I’ve been talking to Coach Marinelli about that, and we’re looking forward to retraining the guys in that scheme.”

Lett said it was the focus on penetrating into the backfield that made the position fun for him when he played.

“Some guys just love to play the 3-4, head up, but the 4-3 is more about a penetrating, we-get-to-eat-first type of deal. That’s what we’re calling it. We’re at the front of the food chain.”

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.

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PLAYER PUZZLE PIECES: How the Dallas Cowboys current personnel fit Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defense

2012 dallas cowboys defense loses bruce carter to ir - the boys are back blog

A lot has been made about the Cowboys’ switch from the 3-4 defense to Monte Kiffin’s 4-3, and rightfully so. Although a great defense ultimately comes down to talented players executing a well-crafted scheme, it’s not as if elite players can simply line up at any position and succeed. If the chances of success at a particular position are optimized at a certain height, weight and speed, it follows that getting farther from those ideal traits will lower the probability of succeeding.

Kiffin’s defenses have typically emphasized speed over size at most positions, and that’s certainly a plus for a Cowboys defense that seems as if it hasn’t kept up with the NFL’s pass-happy evolution. Still, the truth is that the best defensive coordinators tailor their scheme around their personnel.

Kiffin’s version of the 4-3 in particular, known as a 4-3 Under, could potentially accommodate the Cowboys’ personnel better than most other 4-3 schemes. One reason is the presence of the 1-technique defensive tackle. A 1-technique tackle shades the offensive center, nearly playing heads-up over the top of him like a 3-4 nose tackle. The other defensive tackle, the 3-technique, is typically a smaller player that almost acts as a large defensive end in the interior.

There are certainly areas where the Cowboys might have holes to fill, of course. To figure out just how far away Dallas might be from Kiffin’s “dream” defense, we’ve researched the height and weight of each defensive player for Tampa Bay from 2003 to 2008. Kiffin was the defensive coordinator for the Buccaneers during that stretch, emphasizing specific traits at each position. Below are the averages of each player on the roster at every position.

4-3 defense

1-DT: 6’3’’ 304 pounds

As mentioned, the 1-technique tackle is a strong presence in the inside, but he also has to be nimble enough to shoot up field.

Cowboys’ fit: Jay Ratliff (6’4’’ 303 pounds) matches Kiffin’s prototypical player at this position to a tee. The issue is whether or not the Cowboys can afford to continue to pay Ratliff the big bucks. Sean Lissemore (6’3’’ 303 pounds) also fits the bill.

3-DT: 6’2’’ 285 pounds

The 3-technique defensive tackle is much smaller than the 1-technique. Also note that, at an average of just 6’2’’, the 3-technique is shorter than the defensive ends.

Cowboys’ fit: This position in particular is difficult to project for the Cowboys. Jason Hatcher could potentially play any position along the defensive line, although at 6’6’’ 305 pounds, he’s much taller and heavier than the typically short, light tackles Kiffin has used in the past. Tyrone Crawford (6’4’’ 285 pounds) will probably play defensive end, but he also could have some versatility.

DE (Strong): 6’3’’ 279 pounds

Kiffin has typically used a very large, bulky player to man his strong-side defensive end position.

Cowboys’ fit: If there’s evidence that the Cowboys could let Anthony Spencer walk, this might be it. At 250 pounds, Spencer doesn’t come anywhere near matching the profile of Kiffin’s past ends. As mentioned above, Crawford checks in around this size, but his pass-rushing ability is a question.

DE (Weak): 6’3’’ 267 pounds

On the weak side, Kiffin’s defensive ends have been relatively close to the same size as the typical 3-4 outside linebacker.

Cowboys’ fit: DeMarcus Ware will play this position, although even he is listed at only 254 pounds. Ware shouldn’t have much of a problem adjusting, however. Alex Albright might need to transition to this position as well at 6’5’’ 260 pounds.

MLB: 6’1’’ 232 pounds

The “Mike” linebacker in Kiffin’s 4-3 defense has to have the ability to turn and run, so it’s no surprise that they’ve averaged only 232 pounds.

Cowboys’ fit: At 6’2’’, 245 pounds, Sean Lee is a bit oversized compared to the average 4-3 middle linebacker. He’ll often be asked to run downfield when tight ends run vertically, but Lee should be up for the challenge.

WLB: 6’1’’ 224 pounds

At only 224 pounds, the average “Will” linebacker in Kiffin’s defense must have the speed to run sideline-to-sideline.

Cowboys’ fit: Like Lee, Carter is “oversized” for the 4-3 at 240 pounds, but it really shouldn’t matter. As one of the fastest linebackers in the NFL, Carter won’t have a problem transitioning to the 4-3. He could potentially play any of the three linebacker spots, giving the Cowboys plenty of flexibility heading into the draft.

SLB: 6’1’’ 235 pounds

As the biggest of Kiffin’s linebackers, the “Sam” is still smaller than all but one linebacker the Cowboys had on the roster in 2012, Ernie Sims.

Cowboys’ fit: Assuming Carter plays the “Will,” the Cowboys may have a hole to fill here (and vice versa if Kiffin uses Carter as the “Sam.” If Dan Connor (6’2’’ 242 pounds) ends up starting for Kiffin, he’ll almost assuredly play this position and Carter will play the weak side.

CB: 6’0’’ 193 pounds

Due to Kiffin’s emphasis on Cover 2, his cornerbacks don’t turn and run in man coverage as much as in other defenses. Playing near the line, they need to be able to press and play the run, meaning they’re typically tall, although perhaps not as heavy as many believe.

Cowboys’ fit: Although there are questions about how Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne can transition to Kiffin’s scheme, I think they’ll be just fine. Carr has great size at 6’0’’ 210 pounds, and it isn’t as if they’ll be in Cover 2 every play. Even at 5’11’’ 185 pounds, Claiborne isn’t that far off from Kiffin’s prototypical cornerbacks over the years.

S: 6’0’’ 207 pounds

Since Kiffin generally plays with two-deep alignments and dares offenses to run, his safeties don’t need to be excessively big, but rangy.

Cowboys’ fit: The Cowboys could have an issue here since starters Gerald Sensabaugh and Barry Church are both at least 212 pounds and don’t necessarily excel in deep coverage. Kiffin has made it work with big safeties like John Lynch in the past, however, but the ’Boys still might need to look for a faster safety of the future in this upcoming draft.

We so often hear that teams need to find “their guys” that fit into their particular schemes, and that’s true; certain players are tailored to play in specific ways. However, the job of any coordinator is to mold their scheme to fit the skill sets of the current personnel. It’s certainly preferable to have a roster full of players built for a particular scheme, but creating that is a whole lot more challenging than slightly altering the scheme to fit the most talented players on the team.

When all is said and done, the success of Kiffin’s tenure in Dallas will be determined by how well he can manage this delicate balancing act, acquiring “his” guys while still being flexible with his scheme to accommodate what he already has.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MILESTONES: Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

With today’s overtime win, the Dallas Cowboys are 8-6, giving the club its 37th season with a finish of .500-or-better.

Today’s win also gave Dallas wins in three straight games for the first time this season.

Today was the second time this season Dallas played in an overtime game, and it was the club’s second overtime win of the season, 19th in franchise history. Dallas owns a 19-13 overtime record and a 6-4 home overtime record.

The win also gave Dallas a 3-0 record this December, guaranteeing the club a winning record in the month for the first time since 2001 when the club went 3-2.

Miles Austin caught a team-high seven passes for a team-best 79 yards. His receptions total today gave him 273 for his career to pass Billy Joe DuPree (267) for 12th in team history.

Dan Bailey was true on both of his field goal tries tonight – 50 and 21 yards. His 21-yarder came with 13:41 remaining in the overtime period, giving Dallas the 27-24 win. Today was Bailey’s third game-winning kick of the season and the seventh of his career. His seven tie Rafael Septien for the most in team history.

Dez Bryant caught four passes for 59 yards and a touchdown today. He upped his career receptions total to 187 to break a tie with Lance Rentzel (183) for 22nd in franchise history.

Bryant’s touchdown catch today was his sixth consecutive game with a touchdown reception, the longest streak in his career, tied for the fourth-longest streak and tied for the second-highest streak figure in franchise history.

For the season, Bryant has a career-high 10 touchdown receptions. This season is the 16th time a Cowboys pass catcher reached double-digit touchdown receptions and Bryant is the ninth different Dallas Cowboy to accomplish the feat.

Brandon Carr improved his club-high interception total to three with his interception in overtime. Along with his pick last week, it was the first time in his career he had interceptions in consecutive games.

Sean Lissemore notched his first sack of the season today to give him 3.5 for his career.

Brady Poppinga has his first start as a Dallas Cowboy today as the club opened with five linebackers.

Tony Romo finished today’s game completing 30-of-42 passes (71.4%) for 341 yards, two touchdowns and a rating of 111.3. He upped his season passing attempts total to 568 to establish a single-season club record:

Single-Season Pass Attempts

Player Attempts Season
Tony Romo 568 2012
Tony Romo 550 2009
Danny White 533 1983
Tony Romo 522 2011
Tony Romo 520 2007

Romo’s 30 completions today gave him 379 completions this season to extend his single-season club record:

Single-Season Pass Completions

Player Completions Season
Tony Romo 379 2012
Tony Romo 347 2009
Tony Romo 346 2011
Tony Romo 335 2007
Danny White 334 1983

Romo’s 341 yards today gave him 4,269 for the season, the fourth 4,000-yard season in his career, the fourth in team history and the second-most yards in a season in club books.

Single-Season Pass Yards

Player Yards Season
Tony Romo 4483 2009
Tony Romo 4269 2012
Tony Romo 4211 2007
Tony Romo 4184 2011
Danny White 3980 1983

Romo’s 341 yards today also gave him 25,103 for his career, making him the 64th quarterback in NFL history to reach 25,000 career passing yards.

In reaching 25,103 career passing yards today, Romo passed Tommy Kramer (24,777), Bob Griese (25,092) and Ken O’Brien (25,094) for 62nd in all-time passing yards.

In reaching the 300-yard mark with 341 yards today, Romo improved his club record of 300-yard games to 39. Dallas now holds a 25-14 (.641) record when Romo hits 300-plus yards.

In topping 300 yards again today, Romo has eight 300-yard games this season. His eight tie his club record established in 2009:

300-yard games (season)

Player Games Season
Tony Romo 8 2009
Tony Romo 8 2012
Tony Romo 7 2007
Tony Romo 6 2008
Tony Romo 5 2011

Romo’s two touchdown passes today gave him 54 career multiple-touchdown games to improve his club-high and allow him to place fifth in the NFL since becoming a starter in 2006:

Cowboys Career Multi-TD Games

Player Games
Tony Romo 54
Roger Staubach 48
Danny White 44
Troy Aikman 43
Don Meredith 41

NFL Multi-TD Games (since 2006)

Player Games
Drew Brees 72
Tom Brady* 63*
Philip Rivers 62
Peyton Manning 59
Tony Romo 54
Eli Manning 53
* indicates game in progress  

In completing 30-of-42 passes, Romo completed 71.4% of his passes – his 31st career game with a completion percentage of 70.0-or-more. Troy Aikman has the club high with 39. His 31 are fifth in the NFL since becoming a starter in 2006:

Total 70.0% Games (since 2006)

Player Games
Drew Brees 44
Peyton Manning 43
Philip Rivers 37
Matt Schaub 33
Tony Romo 31

Romo’s 71.4 completion percentage today gave him eight games this season with a completion percentage at or above 70.0, second in a season in franchise history. Aikman has the club-high with eight in 1993.

Romo had a passer rating of 111.3 today. It was his 48th career game with a rating above 100.0 to improve a club record and rank fourth in the NFL since 2006:

Career 100.0 Rating Games (Cowboys)

Player Games
Tony Romo 48
Troy Aikman 44
Roger Staubach 37
Danny White 33
Craig Morton 24

100.0 Rating Games Since 2006

Player Games
Tom Brady* 54*
Drew Brees 54
Philip Rivers 50
Tony Romo 48
Aaron Rodgers 46
Peyton Manning 44
* indicates game in progress  

In leading the Cowboys to an overtime win while trailing in the fourth quarter, today was Romo’s fifth come-from-behind win of the season and the 18th of his career – improving his franchise-high. Romo’s five this season are also a franchise-high. Tied for second with four each are: Roger Staubach (1979), Troy Aikman (1990), Drew Bledsoe (2005) and Romo (2011).

Marcus Spears had his first sack of the season today to give him 10.0 for his career.

Anthony Spencer had 1.5 sacks today to give him 10.0 sacks for the season to improve his single-season career-best. Along with DeMarcus Ware’s 11.5, this season is the first time since 2007 the Cowboys had two defenders top 10.0-or-more sacks – DeMarcus Ware (14.0) and Greg Ellis (12.5). This season is the fifth time in franchise history Dallas accomplished the feat – 1983 (Randy White and Anthony Dickerson), 1984 (Randy White and Jim Jeffcoat), 1985 (Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Jim Jeffcoat and Randy White) and 2007 (Ware and Ellis).

DeMarcus Ware’s half sack gave him 111.0 for his career and moved him into a tie with Randy White for second on the Cowboys all-time (unofficial) sack chart. Harvey Martin is at the top with 114.0

Jason Witten finished today’s game with five catches for 43 yards. For the season, Witten has 97 catches – the most in a season in his career, second-most in a season by a Dallas Cowboy and the fifth-most in a season by an NFL tight end.

Single-Season Receptions (Dallas Cowboys)

Player Receptions Season
Michael Irvin 111 1995
Jason Witten 97 2012
Jason Witten 96 2007
Jason Witten 94 2009
Jason Witten 94 2010

Single-Season Receptions (NFL TEs)

Player Receptions Season
Tony Gonzalez 102 2004
Dallas Clark 100 2009
Tony Gonzalez 99 2007
Jimmy Graham 99 2011
Jason Witten 97 2012
Ben Coates 96 1994
Tony Gonzalez 96 2008
Jason Witten 96 2007

Witten’s 43 receiving yards today upped his career total to 8,832 and allowed him to pass Terance Mathis (8,809) and Terry Glenn (8,823) for 57th on the NFL’s all-time receiving yards chart.

OVERTIME THRILLER IN DALLAS: Cowboys D comes up big; Steelers denied another win in Cowboys Stadium

Dallas Cowboys Stadium 2012 sunset - The Boys Are Back blog

The Steelers came into this game with the top-ranked defense in the NFL. The Cowboys? Well, they had six of their original starters out of the lineup, plus their nickel cornerback, then lost yet another linebacker in the early stages of the game.

But as the old saying goes, the games aren’t played on paper. Instead, it was the Dallas defense that came up big, leading the team to a thrilling 27-24 overtime victory in front of 95,595 raucous fans.

Despite the glaring differences between their defensive units, Dallas’ patchwork side held their own throughout the contest, and when they needed it most, came up with three big sacks late in the fourth quarter. That was followed by a game-changing interception from Brandon Carr in the extra frame, which set up the winning field goal.

It was by no means easy. Twice the Steelers took the lead and three times the game was tied. But Dallas kept battling back.

Pittsburgh put up 388 total yards of offense and did not have a single penalty. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 339 yards on 24-of-40 passing with two touchdowns. His primary target was tight end Heath Miller, who totaled 92 yards on 7 catches, while wide receiver Mike Wallace had four catches for 95 yards.

But on the other side of the ball, the Cowboys were ready for the the mighty Steelers defense, racking up 415 total yards. Tony Romo was again outstanding, throwing for 341 yards on 30-of-42 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He connected with nine different players, Miles Austin leading the way with seven catches for 79 yards while Dez Bryant and Jason Witten did what they do best, each scoring a touchdown.

Even DeMarco Murray got into the action, rushing for 81 yards on 14 carries with a score. By comparison, the Steelers only ran for 69 yards as a team.

Continue reading →

A COMPROMISING POSITION: Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff has hernia surgery; stays on active roster

Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff has sports hernia surgery - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING — The Dallas Cowboys suffered another blow on Thursday when nose tackle Jay Ratliff underwent what could be season-ending surgery to repair a sports hernia.

Ratliff, 31, has already missed seven games this season, including the past three with a groin injury. He was no closer to getting on the field Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers and opted to fly to Philadelphia for the surgery.

Ratliff has yet to be placed on injured reserve. But it’s unlikely he will be able to play again this season. The Cowboys have three regular-season games left and may have to win all three to have a shot at the playoffs.

Ratliff, who missed the first four games of the season with a high ankle sprain, becomes the fifth defensive starter to be sidelined for the season with injury — joining linebackers Bruce Carter and Sean Lee, safety Barry Church and defensive end Kenyon Coleman, who are already on injured reserve. Add nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick and the Cowboys’ defense is without six primary contributors.

Ratliff’s surgery further complicates an already compromised situation at nose tackle, considering that his primary replacement, Josh Brent was placed on the reserve/non-football injury/illness list on Wednesday. Brent is facing an intoxication manslaughter charge as a result of Saturday’s one-car accident that killed practice-squad linebacker Jerry Brown.

Sean Lissemore moved from defensive end to start at nose tackle against Cincinnati on Sunday. He will start against Pittsburgh. Robert Callaway, signed off the practice squad Saturday, and Brian Schaefering, who signed off the street Wednesday, will be the backups.

Ratliff’s surgery comes less than two weeks after he had a verbal altercation with owner Jerry Jones in the locker room following the Philadelphia game. Jones reportedly said, "We need you," and Ratliff took offense, thinking his desire to play was being questioned.

Ratliff got in Jones’ face but was pulled away.

Jones has since called it a regrettable situation where the emotions of the game got the best of both parties.

Time will tell if the events of the past two weeks impact Ratliff’s future with the Cowboys, who may face a decision on whether to release him after this season, his eighth with the team.

Ratliff had 25 tackles, one tackle for loss and 10 quarterback pressures in six games this season but with no sacks, marking a decline in his sack numbers for a fifth straight season. Ratliff signed a five-year extension for $40 million in 2011, with $17.5 million guaranteed. He is set to count $7 million against the cap next season.

RELATED: Dallas Cowboys will keep Ratliff on active roster

The Cowboys are going to keep nose tackle Jay Ratliff on the active roster to give him a chance to come back in time for postseason, if the Cowboys get there.

“We’re going to give him every opportunity to stay on the 53 and be part of our football team,” coach Jason Garrett said Friday morning at his press briefing at Valley Ranch. “He’s an outstanding player. He’s dealt with a lot of injuries this year. But when he played, he played very well.”

Ratliff underwent surgery Thursday to repair a sports hernia. The Cowboys expect a recovery in three to six weeks.

“He was just having a hard time functioning,” Garrett said. “He went out to the practice field on a couple of different occasions, trying to do something, and he just really couldn’t do it. We got the opinion from the doctor up in Philadelphia. We felt like that was the best thing to do for him. Hopefully that will get him right and get him back on the road to recovery.”

Ratliff had not played since the Cleveland game on Nov. 18, nearly four weeks ago.

Asked if the team regrets not turning to surgery earlier, Garrett said, “I think what you want to do in all situations is to exhaust every opportunity before surgery, with anybody, in any circumstance. You don’t want to prematurely do surgery. You want to make sure he has a chance to heal properly with his normal rehab. And we felt like we exhausted all those opportunities, and we felt like this was the best thing to do at this time.”

IN THE TRENCHES: Dallas Cowboys work out veteran DL

IRVING, Texas – With Josh Brent out for the season and Jay Ratliff’s availability still in question because of a lingering groin injury, the Cowboys have brought in veteran Brian Schaefering for a workout.

Brian Schaefering - The Boys Are Back blog

“We need somebody to help us right now,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “Jay’s a question mark, so we’re down to five guys. If we get an injury we’re down to four, so we’ve got to get someone in here getting ready to play in case somebody gets injured.”

Schaefering played for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in Cleveland. From 2009-11, he had 72 tackles in 37 games, but he was cut by the Browns on Aug. 31.

Jones said he was not sure if Ratliff could return this week from a groin injury that has kept him out of the last three games. Ratliff went for a second opinion on his injury, which concurred with the team’s medical staff, according to Jones.

Without Ratliff and the impending move of Brent to NFI, the Cowboys have Jason Hatcher, Marcus Spears, Sean Lissemore, Tyrone Crawford and Robert Callaway on the defensive line.

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.

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

THIRD IR ADDITION: Dallas Cowboys DE Kenyon Coleman suffers season-ending injury

Sep 5, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;  Dallas Cowboys defensive end Kenyon Coleman (99) prior to the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

IRVING – First safety Barry Church went down. Then linebacker Sean Lee. On Sunday, defensive end Kenyon Coleman became the third defensive starter for the Cowboys to suffer a season-ending injury, tearing his left triceps muscle in the third quarter of Dallas’ 38-23 victory over Philadelphia.

The Cowboys received the sobering news about Coleman’s status after he underwent an MRI. The 11th-year veteran will undergo surgery Tuesday and will be placed on the team’s injured reserve list, according to head coach Jason Garrett.

“That’s a loss for us because he’s been such a good player for us,” Jason Garrett said. “He is one of the leaders of the defensive line and certainly one of the leaders of our defense. He is a very, very good run defender and has shown that he can push the pocket and pressure the quarterback a little bit, too. He’ll be a loss for us, but like with the other guys that have gone out this year, the next man has to be up.”

Cowboys Raiders Football

Fortunately for the Cowboys, they have plenty of candidates, including 2005 first-round pick Marcus Spears, rookie Tyrone Crawford and injured veteran Sean Lissemore, who has missed the last four games with a high-ankle sprain.

Garrett said the Cowboys are “hopeful” Lissemore will be cleared to return this week. But in the event that he isn’t, the Cowboys already developing a contingency plan. In fact, Garrett said the team will likely promote one of their two practice-squad defensive linemen, Robert Callaway and Ben Bass, to the active roster this week.

“We anticipate making a move to add to the defensive line and those are the logical ones,” Garrett said.

For the Cowboys, it’s uncertain how the absence of Coleman will affect on the defense. The 33-year-old defender made 15 tackles and forced one fumble in 167 defensive snaps while frequently being spelled by Spears, Lissemore and Crawford at left end.

“It’s a rotational position anyway,” Garrett said. “Those guys have been playing some snaps through the early part of the season. They will play more now.”

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.

GAMEDAY ROSTER: Deciding which 46 players the Dallas Cowboys will use vs. Carolina Panthers

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

IRVING, Texas – Maybe there will come a time this season in which Jason Garrett will be able to roll out the same 46-man roster in back to back weeks.

But it won’t happen this week as we ponder the 46-man roster for Sunday’s game at Carolina.

Chris Jones was on the practice field Friday but did not punt during the portion of practice open to the media. Brian Moorman punted Thursday and was extremely effective in his practice work. So let’s say Moorman fills in this week for Jones.

You can rule out DeMarco Murray (foot) and Sean Lissemore (ankle) and all but rule out Ryan Cook (hamstring), as inactive players.

Where do the final two come from?

Well, if Matt Johnson suffered an injury in Friday’s practice that forced him to leave the session early, he would be another.

The other candidates to dress would be Kyle Wilber, Orie Lemon, Derrick Dockery, Andre Holmes and Cole Beasley.

With Cook out, I can’t imagine Dockery is inactive as the Cowboys are going to great lengths to make sure David Arkin is needed only in an emergency. Mark it down that the Cowboys keep eight offensive linemen active vs. the Panthers.

The Beasley-Holmes debate comes down to special teams and since Beasley doesn’t cover kicks, Holmes gets the nod. Holmes, however, does not add much to the offense and Beasley seems to be giving guys fits in practice. But the Cowboys will go with five wides again and it looks like Beasley is down.

Lemon was inactive last week at Baltimore, but could he get the call over Wilber with Anthony Spencer set to return? The Cowboys would not need a fifth outside linebacker active and Lemon might be the better special teams player.

PEAKS AND VALLEYS: Dallas Cowboys lose heartbreaker but find hope, running game

Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey (5) is consoled by tight end Jason Witten (82) after missing a 51 yard field goal that would have won the game - The Boys Are Back blog

BALTIMORE — When Dan Bailey lined up the potential game-winning kick at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn’t even bother to look.

He had watched his team overcome 13 penalties for 82 yards, including four penalties for 40 yards on an 18-play, 80-yard touchdown drive just minutes earlier to get them within two points.

A 4-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tony Romo to receiver Dez Bryant with 32 seconds to go was followed by a drop by Bryant on the 2-point conversion.

Yet, Jones was undeterred in his faith.

He had watched the Cowboys survive the loss of running back DeMarco Murray and defensive end Sean Lissemore to injuries, and battle at times without cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Mike Jenkins, Bryant and running back Felix Jones, who replaced Murray, because of injuries and dehydration. And yet they still battled back from an 11-point deficit.

He had watched them overcome a Romo interception for the sixth consecutive game and an NFL record-tying 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jacoby Jones.

He watched Andre Holmes recover an onside kick with 30 seconds left in the game to set up the Bailey try.

Dallas Cowboys WR Andre Holmes goes after an onside kick by Dan Bailey. The Cowboys recovered - The Boys Are Back blog

Jones didn’t look because he had no doubt that Bailey would make it, sending the Cowboys to a seemingly season-changing victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Never mind that it was from 51 yards out and in front of 71,384 fans who hadn’t witnessed a home defeat since 2010. And never mind that clock management issues with Romo and coach Jason Garrett prevented the Cowboys from running another play to possibly get a closer kick for Bailey.

Jones’ optimism proved futile when Bailey’s kick was wide left, giving the Ravens a 31-29 victory.

"We had the play with the kicker," Jones said. "We didn’t get it done. That’s putting more than maybe we should on him. But with the wind at our backs and him kicking, I had it counted. I had no doubt he would make it. I literally looked away because I thought he would make the kick."

It was Bailey’s first miss of the season. He was 8 for 8 before that try, including three earlier in the game from 42, 43 and 34 yards.

"It’s not a good feeling," said Bailey, who made four game-winning field goals for the Cowboys as a rookie last season. "Everybody worked their butts off, and it came down to a kick, and it didn’t go in. I don’t know what else to say but it hurts."

The pain of losing was felt throughout the locker room. It was their second consecutive loss as they fell to 2-3 and under .500 for the first time since last season.

The Cowboys left Baltimore (5-1) with something they didn’t have coming into the game: a sense of pride, a sense of self-respect and a feeling of optimism for the rest of the season.

They didn’t have any of that following the 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears before last week’s bye.

"I’m sick about losing this game," Jones said. "I feel good about this team. Even though we’re at 2-3, I feel good about the way we held up, stayed in there, fought. The way we did some things, executed, the way our offensive line played. There are some things I feel good about our future with, future being this year. I feel a lot more encouraged than I did after Chicago."

Dallas rushed for 227 yards, the most ever against the Ravens. Murray had 13 carries for 95 yards before going out. Felix Jones had 18 carries for 92 yards, including a 22 yard touchdown run.

Raven Jameel McClain tackles Dallas Cowboys RB Felix Jones - The Boys Are Back blog

The Cowboys dominated time of possession as than ran 79 plays, which tied for the most in team history, set Nov. 12, 1978 at Green Bay, while holding the ball for more than 40 minutes.

Coach Jason Garrett understands that fixing the penalties remains a huge issue. Dallas, however, had 13 penalties for third time this season, including a number of drive-killing pre-snap penalties that forced the Cowboys to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns on each of Bailey’s first three attempts.

Those plays and the record kickoff return for the touchdown proved to be the difference in the game — despite clock mismanagement after the onside kick.

The Cowboys were unable to get another play to get a little closer for Bailey. The play began with 26 seconds to go and was down to 16 seconds when Bryant caught a pass at the Baltimore 34. The Cowboys had a timeout, but they didn’t get to the line fast enough so Garrett let it run down to attempt the final missed kick with six seconds left.

"We had guys who were trying to get off the pile and receivers needing to come back to the huddle," said Romo, who completed 225 of 36 passes for 261 yards in the game with one touchdown and one interception. "There just wasn’t enough time."

But the Cowboys do have time to save their season and they are encouraged by their ability to fight back on Sunday — as evidenced by their converting a third-and-27 play, thanks to a litany of penalties, before Bryant’s score. A 17-yard pass to Bryant was followed by a 16-yarder to tight end Jason Witten to get the conversion.

"I thought we fought really well through a lot of different adversities," Garrett said. "We battled. We continued to battle. Our team grew a lot in this game. At the end of the day, we have to finish the game. We have to win the game. We can learn from that. But I love how our team battle and believe we can grow from this game."

Bryant was the last player to walk out the postgame locker room and was defiant in saying he and the Cowboys will be better going forward.

"I feel this game has made us 10 times stronger than what we were. I know it’s something we can build off of," said Bryant, who caught a career-high 13 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns in addition to the dropped two-pointer.

Dez Bryant catches a touchdown pass against the Baltimore Ravens - The Boys Are Back blog

‘BOYS BYE WEEK BREAKDOWN: Dallas Cowboys defensive grades for Top 11 players

The Dallas Cowboys vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cowboys Stadium 2012 - Rob Ryan's defense comes up big - The Boys Are Back blog

Although 11 defensive players get named as “starters” in a given week, the Dallas Cowboys have had 15 defensive players participate in at least 38 percent of the team’s snaps through Week 4. Here are the top 11. . .

ILB Sean Lee: A

Lee has recorded a tackle on 19.6 percent of his snaps in 2012, which is simply remarkable. In coverage, he has allowed only 5.0 yards-per-attempt.

OLB DeMarcus Ware: A

How high are the standards for Ware that some are arguing he’s having a down year? He’s on pace for 20 sacks. I don’t know about you, but that’s good enough for me.

CB Brandon Carr: A-

Carr got beat by Brandon Marshall on Monday night, but don’t panic. He allowed three catches, albeit a few big ones, but he’s still playing really well. On the season, only 42.9 percent of passes Carr’s way have been completed.

OLB Anthony Spencer: B

We saw Spencer’s value most on Monday night when he wasn’t playing. The player who drops into coverage more often than any 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL also has a higher pressure rate than Ware this season. As I told you in the preseason, the sacks will come. He’s still on pace for 11.

ILB Bruce Carter: B

Quietly, the Cowboys have one of the better inside linebacker duos in the NFL. Carter’s tackle rate of 12.4 percent isn’t at the level of Lee, but it’s still pretty darn good.

CB Mike Jenkins: B

Jenkins clearly has something to prove this year. You saw Rob Ryan give Jenkins some snaps at safety last week, and that should continue. It’s difficult to quantify Jenkins’ success since he’s been targeted only three times, but his coverage has been the best I’ve ever seen from him.

NT Josh Brent: B-

Brent has been really, really good against the run. You can see the difference in the push from the defensive line with Brent in the game as compared to Jay Ratliff. I love Ratliff’s tenacity and pass rush, but the Cowboys might be better served if they allow him to utilize it from the five-technique to allow Brent to stay at the nose.

S Barry Church: B-

Even though Church is out for the season, I’m putting him on the list because I really liked what I saw in the three games that he played. Opposing quarterbacks tested Church seven times, gaining just 30 total yards. I still think the Cowboys need to find a ball-hawking free safety in the draft, but Church could stick around if he recovers from his Achilles injury.

CB Morris Claiborne: C+

After three games in which he was barely even tested, Claiborne is finally going through some of the growing pains that rookie cornerbacks invariably experience. Claiborne has allowed 9.0 YPA on the 14 passes thrown his way this year, which isn’t a bad mark. He got schooled by Devin Hester on national television, though, so people will naturally believe he’s playing worse than what is actually the case.

DE Jason Hatcher: C+

After starting the season with a boom, Hatcher has cooled down over the past two weeks. He has the third-most pressures on the team behind Ware and Spencer, so I think there’s still a good chance he ends the season with five or more sacks.

DE Tyrone Crawford: C+

Crawford hasn’t been able to get a ton of pressure yet, but his tackle rate of 8.9 percent is good for a five-technique end. In comparison, Hatcher’s tackle rate is 6.5 percent.

Just missed the list: DE Sean Lissemore, S Gerald Sensabaugh, OLB Victor Butler

GRIN AND BEAR IT: Highs and Lows from the Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears game

Dallas Cowboys' Jason Witten catches a pass for a touchdown between Chicago Bears defenders - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON — On an otherwise dismal night for the Dallas Cowboys, tight end Jason Witten found a way to cure his season-long battle with dropped passes.

Witten, who dropped an NFL-high five passes in the team’s first three games, grabbed the first seven passes sent in his direction by quarterback Tony Romo during Monday’s 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears at Cowboys Stadium.

Witten finished with a team-high 13 catches for 112 yards — with no drops — and a 5-yard touchdown catch on the final possession. He more than doubled his season totals for receptions and yardage. Witten entered with eight catches for 76 yards in the team’s first three games.

Soldier Field South?

The noise generated by Bears’ fans during the game made it unclear, at times, which team was playing at home. Especially during a "Let’s Go, Bears" chant in the fourth quarter.

The loudest cheers came on Lance Briggs’ 74-yard interception return for a third-quarter touchdown that upped the Bears’ lead to 24-7. Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, a former Grapevine and Texas player, caused the interception. The play came one snap after Dallas had recovered a fumble in Bears’ territory with an opportunity to cut into a 17-7 deficit.

"That’s what happens when you don’t give the fans anything to cheer for," Cowboys safety Brandon Carr said. "I don’t like to get embarrassed, especially on national TV. I’m frustrated."

Going backward

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray had five runs that produced negative yardage against the Bears, all in the first three quarters. He had seven in last week’s 16-10 victory over Tampa Bay. Murray had only 14 carries for negative yards in 13 games last season.

Murray also fumbled in the first quarter and dropped a pitchout from Romo in the second. The second fumble was credited to Romo, who also threw five interceptions, tying a career high.

Dallas Cowboys' Felix Jones looks for room to run - The Boys Are Back blog

Unwanted first

Cowboys cornerbacks surrendered their first touchdown of the season when Devin Hester beat rookie Morris Claiborne for a sliding, 34-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. The ball moved when Hester hit the ground, triggering a replay review. Based on the reaction by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, it was clear the Dallas sideline thought the catch would be overturned.

The Cowboys came up short on another third-quarter review after a Claiborne fumble recovery was overturned when the Bears’ receiver was ruled down by contact.

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) trips up Chicago Bears wide receiver Devin Hester - The Boys Are Back blog

Triple-digit Dez

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (8 catches, 105 yards) had the second 100-yard receiving night of his career and his first since Nov. 14, 2010 against the New York Giants in his rookie season.

Dez Bryant - The Boys Are Back blog

Carter injured

Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter injured his left hip on the team’s opening defensive series but later returned to the game. He finished with two tackles.

Starters absent

Three Cowboys’ defensive starters were declared inactive before the game because of injuries: DE Kenyon Coleman (knee), DT Jay Ratliff (ankle) and LB Anthony Spencer (pectoral muscle). A fourth starter, safety Barry Church, suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in last week’s victory over Tampa Bay. The respective replacements in Monday’s starting lineup were Sean Lissemore (Coleman), Josh Brent (Ratliff), Victor Butler (Spencer) and Danny McCray (Church).

Roof, doors open

For only the fifth time in stadium history, the Cowboys played a game with both the roof and the doors open. With Monday’s loss, Dallas is 1-4 in those games. The team fell to 14-12 in regular-season games at Cowboys Stadium.

Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo (from left) teammate Dallas Cowboys' Kyle Orton and others sit on the bench - The Boys Are Back blog

Jenkins tries safety

Cornerback Mike Jenkins made his debut at safety, taking snaps at the position during the team’s nickel package. Last week, cornerback Brandon Carr played safety while starters Gerald Sensabaugh and Barry Church nursed injuries against Tampa Bay.

Penalty check

The Cowboys, who had six false-start penalties in last week’s victory over Tampa Bay, had none against Chicago.

INJURY UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears

The Dallas Cowboys listed five players as out for Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears, but they stopped short of that with punter Chris Jones, listing him as doubtful.

That still means the punter, who has a strained knee after being hit last week against Tampa, has a 25 percent or less chance of playing. But the Cowboys apparently are keeping open the possibility for him for now.

Linebacker Anthony Spencer, who led the team in tackles last week, is questionable with a shoulder injury.

Listed as out were defensive end Kenyon Coleman (knee), center Phil Costa (back), safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) and linebacker Alex Albright (neck).

Fullback Lawrence Vickers, who missed practice Friday, was back with full participation Saturday and is listed as probable.

Others listed probable are Miles Austin (hamstring), Sean Lissemore (chest), Gerald Sensabaugh (calf), Marcus Spears (knee), DeMarcus Ware (hamstring) and Kyle Wilber (thumb).

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Name Position Injury Thu. Fri. Sat. Game Status
Albright, Alex LB Neck LP LP LP Out
Austin, Miles WR Hamstring FP FP FP probable
Coleman, Kenyon DE Knee DNP DNP DNP Out
Costa, Phil C Back DNP DNP DNP Out
Johnson, Matt S Hamstring DNP DNP DNP Out
Jones, Chris P Left Knee DNP DNP DNP doubtful
Lissemore, Sean DE Chest FP FP FP probable
Ratliff, Jay NT Ankle DNP DNP DNP Out
Sensabaugh, Gerald S Calf LP LP LP probable
Spears, Marcus DE Knee FP FP FP probable
Spencer, Anthony LB Shoulder DNP DNP DNP questionable
Vickers, Lawrence FB Illness DNP FP probable
Ware, DeMarcus LB Hamstring FP FP FP probable
Wilber, Kyle LB Thumb FP FP FP probable
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