A pair of third-year pros — Danny McCray and Sean Lissemore — are expected to get their first NFL starts in place of Gerald Sensabaugh and Kenyon Coleman, respectively.
Ryan Cook will get his second start in place of Phil Costa, who was injured in the opener. Josh Brent will replace Jay Ratliff, who has yet to play this season.
McCray, a member of Houston Westfield High’s 2004 Class 5A state title team, hasn’t started a game since his senior year at LSU.
“I’m excited,” he told reporters in Irving. “I’m trying to save it for Sunday.”
Lissemore played well against Seattle.
“I know he should have been starting forever — the kid made 10 tackles last week,” defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said.
Ryan discusses scheme in Seattle: Many observers were puzzled why the Cowboys didn’t blitz Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson more Sunday.
On Friday, Ryan offered an explanation that centered on the Seahawks often using multiple tight end formations.
“I know everybody was wanting to kill their quarterback,” Ryan said. “Believe me, I was wanting to hit the kid, too. They had a plan that wouldn’t allow us to do it: max protect.”
Wilson was 15 of 20 for 151 yards and a touchdown, but he took a backseat to a running game that generated 182 yards, including 122 from Marshawn Lynch.
“Any time people are running the ball downhill on you, it’s hard to do anything else until you get that run stopped,” Ryan said.
Ryan said it would be a mistake to believe he’s become conservative.
“We will pressure the quarterback,” he said. “We do play more three-man front football to go along with it, so the quarterback doesn’t know we’re just a blitz-a-thon like every junior varsity high school football team. We’re not doing that. We’re going to play the efficient way. We prefer efficiency over stupidity.”
EDITOR COMMENT: As mentioned earlier today, the Dallas Cowboys have elevated Orie Lemon from the practice squad to help in the special teams effort. Link below. What do you think of the new faces in familiar places?
RELATED POSTS ON THE BOYS ARE BACK BLOG:
Regular readers already know that The Boys Are Back blog features the ALMOST WORLD FAMOUS predictions from The GREAT Robbini. Last week, the humidity in Seattle fogged up his crystal ball. We’re gonna let that one slide. Everyone (including the Dallas Cowboys) has a bad week! Right? Surely, the sunny skies in Dallas will help beam in some clear images!
The GREAT Robbini is psyched about the 2012-2013 Dallas Cowboys vibe… and ready to share his prognostications that we all count on from week-to-week. Without further delay, it’s time for The GREAT Robbini’s predictions. I’m sure you’ll agree … a lot of these will come true. OK, here we go …
The GREAT Robbini – Week #3 predictions:
Cowboys continue the winning streak against Bucs with a win at home.
The Dallas Cowboys defense coordinator Rob Ryan flexes his 24-7 defense. DeMarcus Ware and the ‘boys mix it up against Tampa Bay, break the Bucs rhythm.
- 5 team sacks, including:
- 1 sack for Sean Lissemore
- 2 sacks for DeMarcus Ware
- Sean Lee gets a turnover
- Bruce Carter leads in tackles
- 1+ takeaways per half
- 1 Morris Claiborne interception
- Cowboys defend opening kick
The Dallas offense puts on a show in Big D, light it up on offense:
- 3 Tony Romo TD’s, 400 yards passing
- Dez Bryant TD
- Jason Witten TD
- DeMarco Murray TD, rushes for 100 yards
- Dallas uses seven different receivers
- Cowboys win by 7
The GREAT Robbini
ELEVATING THEIR GAME: If the Dallas Cowboys are going to make a run, these five players need to step up
IRVING — Running back Felix Jones has replaced the departed Marion Barber and Roy Williams as the whipping boy of the media and fans for what’s wrong with the Dallas Cowboys when things don’t go as expected.
Certainly, through two games the criticisms of Jones are not without merit — considering his lost fumble that set the tone in the 27-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks and otherwise lethargic play.
Jason Garrett said he has no issue with either Jones. He is in concert with the owner, and the former first-round pick will keep his job as the primary kick returner because of his history of success, but other options will be ready.
"The lines of communication are open," Garrett said. "We’ve never had any issues that way regarding personnel or really any kind of decision we have to make as an organization."
Surely, Felix Jones needs to play better, but he is not alone on the list of Cowboys who need to step up their play if they are to realize their dream of making the playoffs and finally making a deep run.
RB Felix Jones
Jones has been a lightning rod since failing the conditioning test at the start of training camp, blamed partly on him missing the off-season because of shoulder surgery. He has yet to regain the coveted burst that makes him dangerous as a returner and a change-of-pace option out of the backfield. Owner Jerry Jones bristled when asked whether the running back is in danger of being cut. Garrett’s limited use of him in the offense is quite telling. He has one carry for 1 yard and just four receptions in two games. If the Cowboys are not going to use him on offense, he needs to play a big role on special teams. He is averaging a career-low 21.3 yards per return. He has one fumble and has shown questionable decision-making in bringing out kicks from 8 yards deep in the end zone. If he gets replaced on returns and doesn’t have a bigger role in the offense, then there would be no reason to keep him active and, thus, on the roster.
TE Jason Witten
Witten has been one of the team’s most productive players over the past decade and likely is a future Hall of Famer. He has been to the Pro Bowl seven times and could break Michael Irvin’s club record for receptions this year. Witten hasn’t been himself through the first two games largely because he is still dealing with a lacerated spleen he injured in the preseason. He has been medically cleared to play, but he is not yet 100 percent. That has showed on the field, where Witten has six catches for 68 yards through two games. He shockingly leads the NFL with four dropped passes. Witten averaged only three drops a season over the past four seasons. He also misplayed a deep ball against Seattle that he could have caught. He has been limited by the injury, but he is not using it as an excuse, admitting he needs to play better.
WR Dez Bryant
Bryant is not just the most physically gifted player on the Cowboys, but there aren’t many in the NFL with his combination of size, speed and athleticism. The problem with Bryant is that he has yet to put it all together. He has one 100-yard receiving game since being a first-round pick in 2010. That’s the same number as Kevin Ogletree. This was supposed to be the year that Bryant figured it out because he finally knew the playbook and had a full off-season for the first time in his career. Through two games, he has seven catches for 102 yards, two drops and a fumble. Most notably, according to Garrett, he struggled against physical, man-to-man coverage in Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks when Bryant had three catches for 17 yards. He will see more of that type of coverage until he proves he can consistently win those matchups — which, considering his own physicality, is surprisingly a concern.
LT Tyron Smith
Smith was moved to the left side after spending his rookie year on the right because of his potential as a future Pro Bowler at the position. He has the talent, athleticism and work ethic to be great and plays with great effort as witnessed when he ran down Giants linebacker Michael Boley after an interception, preventing a touchdown. But Smith has been a mixed bag so far at left tackle. The Cowboys got the season-opening win against the New York Giants despite Smith being abused repeatedly by defensive end Jason Pierre Paul — a matchup in which he must hold his own over the next decade. He also leads the NFL with four false start penalties. His penalty against Seattle killed a potential scoring drive in the third quarter.
NT Jay Ratliff
Ratliff is on this list by default considering he has missed the first two games with a high ankle sprain and is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While the combination of Josh Brent and Sean Lissemore has been solid, they have not been dynamic. Ratliff is a four-time Pro Bowler for a reason. He is the only true mismatch the Cowboys have on the defensive line because of his quickness. He also plays with relentless effort and passion. For the defense to truly reach its full potential, it needs Ratliff back on the field and playing to that potential.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ defenders in the team’s 27-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, while analyzing what it means:
CB Brandon Carr: 68 of 68
CB Morris Claiborne: 64 of 68
ILB Sean Lee: 62 of 68
OLB DeMarcus Ware: 58 of 68
OLB Anthony Spencer: 58 of 68
ILB Bruce Carter: 54 of 68
S Gerald Sensabaugh: 52 of 68
S Danny McCray: 50 of 68
DE Jason Hatcher: 48 of 68
NG Josh Brent: 42 of 68
DE Marcus Spears: 34 of 68
CB Orlando Scandrick: 30 of 68
DL Sean Lissemore: 23 of 68
DE Kenyon Coleman: 21 of 68
S Mana Silva: 17 of 68
DE Victor Butler: 16 of 68
S Barry Church: 13 of 68
ILB Dan Connor: 11 of 68
DE Tyrone Crawford: 10 of 68
CB Mike Jenkins: 8 of 68
LB Alex Albright: 1 of 68
Danny McCray gets the Ironman Award this week for playing a team-high 74 snaps, if we include his work on special teams. McCray played so much because a quadriceps injury significantly limited Barry Church’s playing time. … Mike Jenkins made his 2012 debut as a part-time player at safety in the dime defense. With Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) out at least a couple of weeks, Jenkins’ playing time will increase at that spot. … Bruce Carter continues to make plays and saw his playing time nearly double. … Sean Lissemore will see additional playing time if he continues to produce at absurd levels. He had 10 tackles in only 38 snaps. … Victor Butler saw increased playing time, but had no impact.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ offense and what it means:
Miles Austin’s touchdown catch Sunday gave him 30 for his career to become the 11th Dallas Cowboy with 30 touchdown receptions and tied him with Doug Cosbie for 10th in franchise history.
With his touchdown pass Sunday, Tony Romo tied Roger Staubach for the third-most touchdowns in franchise history with 153.
Anthony Spencer finished Sunday’s game with a pair of sacks for his fifth career multiple-sack game.
DeMarcus Ware’s streak of consecutive road games with a sack came to an end Sunday, finishing with a league-record of 11 straight road games with a sack.
Jason Witten’s four-catch performance Sunday gave him 702 career receptions to become just the second Dallas pass catcher to reach 700 career catches – Michael Irvin (750) – and the third tight end in league history to hit the mark – Tony Gonzalez (1,149) and Shannon Sharpe (815).
Witten reached 700 catches in 145 games – the fastest of the previous tight ends – Gonzalez (154) and Sharpe (178).
Witten’s 58 yards Sunday gave him 7,977 for his career and allowed him to overtake Jackie Smith (7,918) for fourth on the NFL’s all-time tight ends receiving yards list. Witten is just four yards shy of third place, behind Ozzie Newsome (7,980).
Just three days after signing a three-year contract extension that will keep him under contract through 2016, Sean Lissemore had a career-high with 10 tackles.
Linebacker Bruce Carter also had a career-best with 10 tackles Sunday.
IRVING — Cowboys Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff and starting center Phil Costa won’t play Sunday at Seattle. Rookie safety Matt Johnson has also been ruled out.
Ratliff and Costa haven’t practiced all week because of injuries. Ratliff suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason and didn’t play in the season opener at the Giants.
“He’s making progress. He’s getting better every day and trying to do more and more,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Friday. “He’s done a real good job with his treatment and his rehab. We’re hopeful as it goes he’ll get some work in practice and be back sooner rather than later.”
Ratliff will be replaced by a combination of Josh Brent and Sean Lissemore, who just signed a three-year contract extension with the Cowboys on Thursday.
“We certainly love his work ethic and what he brings to our team,” Garrett said. “He’s just a good football player. He’s a very versatile guy for us on the defensive line. He plays a couple of different spots for us in our base defense. He’s a good run defender. He can rush the passer at different times. He’s the right kind of guy.”
Costa aggravated a lower back injury in the first series against the Giants on Sept. 5 and didn’t return. He was replaced by Ryan Cook, who will start Sunday at Seattle.
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys have reached a three-year extension with defensive end Sean Lissemore.
Lissemore’s deal has $3.1 million guaranteed and includes a $2 million signing bonus.
"The Cowboys like him and Sean likes being there," Lissemore’s agent Wes Bridges said. "Quite frankly, Sean had a decision to make and see if he wanted to wait it out and go to next year, but he didn’t want it to be a distraction and wanted to just play ball. He wanted to get a deal done and get it done this year."
Sean Lissemore has yet to start a game in his NFL career. Obviously, the Cowboys are figuring he will at some point.
Lissemore has become one of their top substitutes and the coaches view him as a future starter. He was credited with two tackles in the season-opening win at the New York Giants, playing end and nose tackle.
He played in every game last year and had 39 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries.
That’s why they are making sure he stays in the fold for a while. Lissemore’s original four-year deal went through the 2013 season, but the Cowboys obviously want him in the mix much longer than that.
Lissemore is currently a backup on the defensive line, but his versatility to play both end and tackle is valuable in the 3-4 scheme.
The Cowboys have some aging veterans on the defensive line in Kenyon Coleman (33), Marcus Spears (29) and Jay Ratliff (31). Lissemore just turned 25 on Tuesday.
Drafted in the seventh round out of William & Mary, Lissemore played in just two games as a rookie before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. But last year, Lissemore played in all 16 games, finishing 12th on the defense with 39 tackles. He had two sacks, equaling Jay Ratliff’s total despite playing about 400 less snaps.
In fact, defensive line coach Brian Baker called Lissemore his most productive player “per snap” in 2011 and said he would get more snaps this season.
And apparently, a few more after this one as well.
Tony Romo’s mind will be 1,500 miles away tonight. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback and most of the team’s other starters already are thinking ahead to next week when they open the season against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
But for many other players, including third-string quarterback Stephen McGee, this is a last chance to make a good impression. The Cowboys, who have 75 players on their roster, must pare down to a final 53 by Friday night. So jobs are on the line tonight at Cowboys Stadium when they take on the Miami Dolphins:
Stephen McGee has started the final preseason game against the Dolphins each of the past two years, completing 48 of 67 passes for 537 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He needs another good outing against Miami to convince the Cowboys he has potential to be something other than a career third-string quarterback. The Cowboys could choose to keep only two quarterbacks, with Rudy Carpenter going to the practice squad. But McGee gets one last shot to try to change the Cowboys’ minds.
Most of the team’s 22 starters won’t play, but center Phil Costa is expected to be an exception. Costa returned to the practice field Monday and, because he hasn’t played this preseason, should get at least a few snaps against the Dolphins. Costa had been out with a lower back strain since Aug. 10. David Arkin had started in Costa’s place in the first three preseason games, but Costa is in line to start the season opener against the Giants.
The Cowboys like what they have seen from Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley this preseason. They need to see more from Andre Holmes and Danny Coale. Holmes, a favorite of Jerry Jones, did himself no favors when he reported to camp out of shape. A back injury and inconsistency might have done in his bid to make the 53-player roster, as he has six catches for 58 yards this preseason. Coale was drafted in the fifth round with high hopes for his special teams work as much as for his receiving ability. But injuries have prevented him from doing much until now. He made his preseason debut last week and had one catch for 8 yards and one run for 9 yards, but he did not play special teams. Coale, who played 82 snaps on special teams last year at Virginia Tech, is expected to play on kickoff coverage and kickoff return units and possibly on punt returns against Miami.
Third running back
Phillip Tanner earned a roster spot in 2011, as the fourth running back, off his preseason work. He had 24 carries for a team-leading 128 yards in the 2011 preseason. But injuries have slowed Tanner since. A hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve midway through last season, and a broken right hand Aug. 3 has not helped his bid to keep his job this season. He had two carries for 2 yards in his preseason debut last week. He is battling a pair of former North Texas players, Jamize Olawale and Lance Dunbar.
The Cowboys haven’t ruled Jay Ratliff out of the season opener yet, but the starting nose tackle has only 11 days in which to come back from a high-ankle sprain if he is to play against the Giants. More than likely, Sean Lissemore and Josh Brent will split the job on opening day. This could be the dress rehearsal for Lissemore, who is expected to play in the substitution packages, and Brent, who is expected to play in the base package
About four months ago, making the team wasn’t even on the radar.
He probably didn’t even know about the practice squad and the details surrounding it either.
All Ben Bass wanted to do was show up on film. For three days, all he had was a jersey number and was sharing a locker with other rookies.
He wasn’t signed or promised to sign. He was among 15 hopefuls on a tryout basis only, mainly here so the Cowboys could conduct a full weekend of practices in the rookie minicamp.
But somehow in the course of three days without pads, the defensive lineman from Texas A&M showed the Cowboys just enough to be intrigued.
When a roster spot opened up, they signed him with the hopes of watching his development this summer.
Fast forward four months and as the Dallas Cowboys prepare for tonight’s preseason finale against the Dolphins, Bass (6-5, 283) finds himself as one of a handful of players right on the bubble to make this team.
Yes, the practice squad is a possibility, but as this point, it’d be a consolation prize for Bass, who seems to realize just how close he is to reaching his goal.
“When I first got here, I would say I had a practice-squad mentality. I was a tryout guy,” Bass said. “But I am where I am now, and I don’t know exactly where that is, but I know I have a shot to make the team.
“I’m just excited. I’m ready to get out there and show what I’ve got. I’m ready to make my family so proud of me and make the name on my back mean something for me.”
It’s safe to say Bass’ family is already extremely proud of his accomplishments. The Plano West and then Texas A&M standout has come a long way in a short time.
Just the simple fact that he is even on the radar is somewhat surprising considering the depth on the defensive line. Veterans such as Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman are far from locks to make this team, especially Spears, a former first-round pick. Clifton Geathers and Sean Lissemore had a lot of hype around them this offseason and third-round selection Tyrone Crawford is obviously a player that will be heavily in the mix.
But Bass has quietly put together a nice training camp and preseason, which included his debut in Oakland where he was incredibly active in the second half against the Raiders. He recorded five tackles, including two for loss, with a sack and three quarterback pressures in helping the Cowboys preserve a shutout in a 3-0 win on Monday Night Football.
Bass has also played well in reserve roles the last two games against San Diego and Miami.
But, he says the turning point for him didn’t come in one of the last three games, or even at training camp. In fact, it was about three months ago when he was sitting in the locker room at Valley Ranch after a workout.
“I was sitting here in my locker and Jay Ratliff came by and introduced himself. Of course, we’re like “Yeah, we know who you are,” Bass recalled. “He was asking us questions. I told him I was from A&M and I was a workout guy and he said, ‘You can make this team.’ He hasn’t seen me play or knows anything about me, but he just said if you work your tail off and make plays, you can make the team. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.”
Bass said Ratliff told his own story of being a seventh-round pick in 2005 who has not only overcome being a late-round selection, but has defied the odds of being a relatively smaller nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, making the Pro Bowl four straight years.
“When someone of his level tells you that you can make the team, you start to believe it and start to play like you belong here,” Bass said.
Bass has definitely shown he belongs. He’s hoping it’s just enough to stick around on the 53-man roster. But as long as he sticks around, period, Bass said he’ll be excited.
“Even on the practice squad, all it takes is one guy goes down and you’re activated and then it’s time to play,” Bass said. “Wherever I’m at, I’m obviously shooting for the 53-man roster, but I’m happy to be here. This is the team I grew up wanting to play for and the team I love.”
The Dallas Cowboys haven’t seen much of Jay Ratliff since last season. They might not see much of him in the next couple of weeks either. Although the Cowboys haven’t ruled out Ratliff for the season opener, it seems unlikely he could return that quickly from a high-ankle sprain. The injury typically takes 2-4 weeks, and given that the Cowboys open the season Sept. 5, that means Ratliff would have to return in 11 days.
Ratliff, a four-time Pro Bowler, has not missed a game since the 2007 season. He played 750 plays last season in 16 games, making 42 tackles with two sacks and 18 quarterback pressures.
"He’s a tough guy like everybody knows," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.
Ratliff missed most of the off-season, most of training camp and the first two preseason games with plantar fasciitis in his foot. He returned to the lineup for Saturday’s preseason game against the Rams and injured his ankle.
So his backups, Sean Lissemore and Josh Brent, are in a familiar spot. They had been splitting first-team reps in Ratliff’s absence and will continue to do so as long as Ratliff is out this time.
"It was something I think Josh and I both needed, getting some more reps with the No. 1 defense and against our No. 1 offense and stuff," Lissemore said. "In that sense, it was really beneficial. It prepared us for this situation, possibly. It was better competition and higher tempo. We’re glad we got that."
Lissemore, a seventh-round pick in 2010, played 282 plays at end and nose last season. He made 39 tackles with two sacks and five quarterback pressures. He had been expected to have a bigger role this season, even before Ratliff’s latest injury.
Brent, a seventh-round supplemental pick in 2010, has 30 tackles in two seasons. He played 137 plays last year while giving Ratliff a breather.
At 320 pounds, 17 pounds heavier than Lissemore, Brent is expected to play more of the team’s base package with Lissemore getting work in the substitution packages.
"At that position, there are so many different combinations you can play with," Garrett said. "We have a number of different guys who we like to play. We play a variety of fronts, so as the game goes on, I would expect Josh Brent and Lissemore to play in his place [if Ratliff is out]."
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Cowboys could go heavy at defensive line by carrying eight players at that position when the 53-man roster is determined, but one veteran could be in jeopardy of not making it.
Marcus Spears, who has played on the second team the last two seasons, is a productive player who at times seems better than Kenyon Coleman, the other veteran starting end.
"I’m not worried about that," Spears said about his roster status. "That’s for you guys to talk about. I got to go out and play as well as I can and perform when I’m out there and let the chips fall where they may."
The interesting thing about Coleman is sometimes you don’t realize he’s making plays because he’s a run stopper and his goal is to keep the tackle from pushing him downfield. In three preseason games, Coleman has zero tackles.
Spears has been pretty active around the ball this preseason, given his seven solo tackles.
In his eight-year career, Spears had always been a starter — prior to last season, when Coleman, signed in free agency because he knows defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s scheme, took over one starting end spot and Jason Hatcher grabbed the other. It appears with some younger linemen with position flexibility — such as Sean Lissemore — there could be a chance Spears’ status is in question.
However, with nose tackle Jay Ratliff’s status for Week 1 in question because of an ankle injury, the decision to cut Spears could prove to be a difficult one.
"You got to do what you gotta do," Spears said. "You gotta do your part. That’s what I’m called to do right now and I focus on doing that and playing well when I’m in the game. … You go with what the coaches decide to do when you’re in there and you try and perform."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore is 6-foot-3 and weighs 303 pounds. He does not believe he should be moved off the line of scrimmage in short yardage.
So that must explain the scowl he had on his face after practice.
“There was one play where I didn’t play very well,” he said Tuesday at Cowboys training camp in Oxnard. “And it’s really bothering me.”
“I think I just got displaced a little bit on it,” he said. “I want to hold that point pretty tough. I don’t feel like I did that the way I should.”
Who moved you?
“Two guys. Maybe two guys behind them, too.”
He wasn’t smiling.
“It’s a tough job, but it’s got to be done.”
So far, Lissemore must be doing it well. He is getting a lot of work at right defensive end while Marcus Spears is out with a concussion. Lissemore, a seventh-round pick out of William & Mary in 2010, is thriving.
He has been one of the most physical players on the defensive line, and he was competing hard in Tuesday’s goal-line and short-yardage drills, the emphasis of the practice.
“It was pretty physical,” he said.
He said he takes seriously his responsibility to hold his ground.
“Absolutely. It’s something that needs to be done,” he said. “It’s something I don’t take lightly.”
Courtesy: Carlos Mendez | FWST
A rib injury kept defensive end Sean Lissemore from getting in all of his work in minicamp and OTAs.
But it doesn’t mean he’ll be behind when training camp starts.
At least right now, he’s got a productive season behind him. And his coaches know his name.
“Shoot, I started training camp last year not even knowing who Sean Lissemore was, other than he was some guy on our team,” defensive line coach Brian Baker said last week after a practice at Valley Ranch. “I didn’t do him in college. I didn’t have a familiarity with him. I saw him so little in the season because he was hurt. And we didn’t have an OTA.
“But it didn’t take long for me to get to know him in training camp.”
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan remembers thinking the same thing.
“When I first got here, I watched the tape, and he wasn’t that impressive the year before,” Ryan said. “Then he clearly, in my opinion, beat out the incumbent, Olshansky, so we went in that direction. Might have turned some heads doing that. He’s improved. Done an excellent job. And he’s a real player.”
Lissemore had 28 tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss last year, playing both nose tackle and defensive end. The former seventh-round pick (2010) out of William & Mary finished last year with tackles in 11 consecutive games, including sacks at Arizona and Tampa Bay.
In training camp, Lissemore is expected to play both nose tackle and defensive end, but he’ll get most of his work at defensive end, where he will push Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears.
“Is he going to be behind for where he wanted to be in training camp? Yes,” Baker said. “But is he going to be too far behind to compete to get one of those solid rotation roles, which is what I expect of him? No.”
Ryan doesn’t believe Lissemore will be too far behind, either.
“He’s been through an incredible offseason with Mike Woicik,” Ryan said. “This guy, his body’s changing, everything about him. He’s so fast for the game now. He knows his assignments. He’s doing a great job. The nice thing is, if we ever get in a situation where, God forbid, somebody gets hurt, Sean Lissemore can jump in in any spot and be an effective starter.”
Cornerback Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys’ top pick (No. 6) out of LSU, still isn’t a full participant at Cowboys practices. But he is getting closer.
Claiborne, who recently had pins removed from his left wrist, continued to work on conditioning Wednesday. While he didn’t wear a helmet, Claiborne had on a practice jersey and shadowed the Cowboys corners on the field. He is not expected to be cleared to practice until training camp late next month.
"Morris has done a really good job of staying engaged, as engaged as he can in this process where he hasn’t been able to practice," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "He’s locked in on the meetings. Sometimes you’ll see him out on the practice field, literally the quarterback is walking up the line saying you’ve got 12 guys out there. Well, the 12th guy is Claiborne over there, shadowing the corner, over there where he would play. He can’t line up and practice against anybody because of his wrist, but he’s going about it the right way, and he’s really trying to get as much out of this experience as he can. Once he gets back going again, there’s going to be a huge transition for him. But all you can do is go about it the right way, approach it the right, be as prepared as you can for your opportunities, and he’s been doing that."
Safety Gerald Sensabaugh also stood on the sideline during practice, out with a sore knee.
"His knee was acting up on him a little bit," Garrett said. "I don’t think it’s anything serious."
Linebacker Dan Connor (shoulder), defensive end Marcus Spears (neck), defensive lineman Sean Lissemore (side), nose tackle Jay Ratliff (foot) and running back Felix Jones (shoulder) also were among those missing at Wednesday’s practice. The Cowboys have their final OTA practice Thursday before a mandatory minicamp next week.
IRVING, Texas — One of the most frequent fan questions we get on "Talkin’ Cowboys" is whether the Cowboys would consider moving four-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff to defensive end.
Many seem to think the move would help Ratliff, considered undersized at under 300 pounds, remain more durable throughout games, the season and maybe even his career as he approaches age 31.
It’s something the Cowboys have in fact discussed, executive vice president/chief operating officer Stephen Jones said. The key, though, would be finding a true space-eater in the middle.
“If the right time ever presented itself and we could get one of those mammoth nose tackles that take two guys to block in the running game," Jones said on the show Thursday. "And they have their way of putting pressure in the passing game when they walk those guys back there. The (Haloti) Ngatas of the world, the (Vince) Wilforks, they’re a pain in the butt."
The other side to the argument is Ratliff’s production over the years. He’s been the defense’s most consistent playmaker besides DeMarcus Ware, using his quickness to create mismatches in the middle. Why change that?
“He does his job against the run because he’s elite with his quick twitch and his first step coming off the ball," Jones said. "And of course he’s very good in the pass rush. . . . I think he enjoys being quicker than those interior guys. It’s an advantage.”
The Cowboys do have two younger, bigger nose tackles in Josh Brent and Clifton Geathers. Sean Lissemore did a nice job filling in for Brent while he had a knee injury last season, but he’s a smaller, quicker nose tackle too.
If and when the Cowboys find a more traditional nose, Ratliff to end probably will be discussed again. LSU’s Michael Brockers might have been an option if the Cowboys had stayed put at No. 14 and taken him in the first round.
"It’s certainly been talked about, thought about," Jones said, "but so far the way the chips have fallen, we’ll probably be pretty much the way we’ve been."
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo
Get better, get better, get better. All. Season. Long. Get better as the year goes on.
Everyday it’s all we heard from Jason Garrett, Tony Romo, this guy, that guy. Just about everyone in the locker room took it up as a personal motto, or default answer to questions from reporters.
And yet the Cowboys went from 7-4, leaders of the NFC East after Thanksgiving, to 8-8 and out of the playoffs because of a 1-4 finish to the season. The team did not get better.
Some guys did, though. Here are the five who improved their play most as the year went along.
QB Tony Romo – Long derided as a guy who falls apart in big games late in the season, he was actually at his worst in September and early October. He had the awful finish at the Jets in the opener and facilitated the collapse against Detroit in Week 4. But as he got healthy, his play improved, and he cut out the turnovers that had been a problem. In those last five games, his rating was a superb 115.9.
WR Laurent Robinson – The deeper into the season the Cowboys got, the more Robinson was depended upon offensively. An under-the-radar pickup who was actually released then brought back, he quickly picked up the offense and gained more of Romo’s trust each week.
RT Tyron Smith – The Cowboys expected growing pains for their first-round pick, and he did experience his share, though mainly at the beginning of the season. Just 20 years old for most of the year, his pass protection continued to improve, and he cut down on the penalties. Smith committed four fouls in the first five games of the year, and just four more in the remaining 11.
DL Sean Lissemore – Used only sparingly as a rotational player during the early going, Jay Ratliff’s injury situation put the 2010 seventh-round pick on the field much more down the stretch. He played both end and nose tackle, and managed to be productive with the reps he received, registering two sacks in December and a season-high six tackles against Philadelphia in Week 16.
LB Bruce Carter – Due to a knee injury suffered in November of 2010, Carter was on the PUP list the first six games of the year, but became active against the Eagles in Week 8, playing on special teams. As he continued to gain trust in the knee he started flashing more and more on special teams, even blocking a punt against Philadelphia, and by the must-win game in Week 17, had earned enough trust from coaches to register a lot of defensive snaps.
Jimmy Robinson, Asst. Head Coach/Wide Receivers, with Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88), wide receiver Miles Austin (19) and wide receiver Laurent Robinson (81) on the bench in the second quarter.
The Cowboys finished their 15th game of the season with a 20-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday afternoon. We review the game in our weekly Beat Writers Recap.
- If the Cowboys-Eagles game told us anything it’s that Stephen McGee is not ready to become a full-time No. 2 quarterback behind Tony Romo. McGee’s line on Saturday: 24-of-38 for 182 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and three sacks. McGee dumped off too many passes and just didn’t seem relaxed in the pocket. The Eagles’ pass rush had something to do with that of course, but there was this drive starting with 9:33 to play in the game that McGee could have used to prove something to the coaching staff. It started at the Cowboys’ 23 and ended when McGee tried to throw to Martellus Bennett in the end zone while missing an open Miles Austin. During the drive, McGee’s longest completed pass was a 15-yarder to third-string running back Chauncey Washington.
- It was interesting that coach Jason Garrett didn’t sit some regular offensive starters, other than Felix Jones, in the late stages of the game. Yes, Garrett is trying to win and didn’t want to present a front that he didn’t care. Yet, there would have been nothing wrong with sitting Kyle Koiser (foot) and Laurent Robinson (shoulder) and maybe giving a few snaps to Jeremy Parnell at tackle with the game out of reach. One of the problems we have with Garrett’s decision making last year was his refusal to play young tackle Sam Young. At some point you need to find out if young players can play.
- The more we watch defensive end Sean Lissemore, the more we like him. He finished with four tackles and has performed well with extended snaps with Josh Brent (knee) out. What the Cowboys do next year at end is an interesting debate. We believe Jason Hatcher will return, but we’re not sure about Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears coming back. In the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme, it’s hard to judge the defensive ends on stats, because Coleman and Spears are asked to play the run. Spears has been more active than Coleman the last few weeks, though Coleman did have a tackle for loss on Saturday, his first since Thanksgiving.
- Punter Mat McBriar had a nice day versus Philadelphia. Of his nine punts, he landed a season-high five inside the 20. He’s been bothered by nerve damage in his left (non-kicking) foot, which cost him one game this year. McBriar is still one of the best punters in the NFL, as evident by his effort at Arizona on Dec. 4 where he held the dangerous Patrick Peterson to just 1 return yard, but his health has bothered him at times in 2011.
- Romo didn’t complete a pass Saturday, marking the first time in his career that’s ever happened. The main concern going forward with Romo regarding his bruised hand is the ability to grip the ball. If he struggles in that area, he will have difficulty passing and handing off. … With Kevin Ogletree (knee) being inactive for the Eagles game, you have to wonder about his own future. The Cowboys expected so much out of him, but Robinson surpassed him on the depth chart. … Good to see Dwayne Harris with a 51-yard kickoff return. He is running with confidence and might break one in the regular-season finale at the New York Giants.
Calvin Watkins | ESPN Dallas
Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) and inside linebacker Sean Lee (50) sack Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb (4) on his own two yard line
Here are the notes compiled by the Dallas Cowboys’ staff:
The Dallas Cowboys had four first-half sacks today. It was the 11th time in team history the team had four-or-more first half sacks and the first since racking up five against Baltimore (12/20/08).
Dan Bailey missed his first field goal attempt today from 53 yards out. It ended his streak of consecutive field goals made at 26 to tie Chris Boniol (1995) for the second-longest in club history:
Player FGM Season
Chris Boniol 27 1996
Chris Boniol 26 1995
Dan Bailey* 26 2011
Richie Cunningham* 18 1997
Nick Folk 16 2008-09
Through 12 games of his rookie season, Bailey has been true on 29 field goals. His 29 field goals made in 12 games is second in team history over that span:
Player (Year) FGM FGA Pct
Richie Cunningham (1997) 31 33 93.9
Dan Bailey (2011) 29 32 90.6
Chris Boniol (1996) 26 30 86.7
Richie Cunningham (1998) 22 26 84.6
Dez Bryant caught his seventh touchdown pass of the season today to pass his total (six) from his rookie season last year.
Shaun Chapas made his NFL debut today on special teams and offense. He finished the game with his first career reception for nine yards.
Felix Jones had a 69-yard kickoff return in the first quarter of today’s game. It was the longest kickoff return of the season for the team.
Sean Lissemore logged his first career full sack with a second quarter takedown of Kevin Kolb. He registered a half sack as a rookie in 2010.
Mat McBriar came into today’s game tied with Mike Saxon for the club record with 166 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. He finished today’s game with four to establish the club record at 170.
DeMarcus Ware’s sack today was his 95th career sack to pass Jim Jeffcoat (94.5) for the official club record
Career sacks since 1982
Player (Years) Sacks
DeMarcus Ware (2005-11)…. 95.0
Jim Jeffcoat (1983-94)………. 94.5
Greg Ellis (1998-2008)………. 77.0
Tony Tolbert (1989-97)……… 59.0
Ed Too Tall Jones (1982-89). 57.5
Ware now has 15.0 sacks in 2011 which are the third-most in his career (20.0 in 2008 and 15.5 in 2010) and third in a season in club history:
Player (Year) Sacks
DeMarcus Ware (2008)……. 20.0
DeMarcus Ware (2010)……. 15.5
DeMarcus Ware (2011)…… 15.0
Jim Jeffcoat (1986)………… 14.0
DeMarcus Ware (2007)……. 14.0
Ware’s has now reached 15.0 sacks in a season for the third time in his career. His three 15.0-plus sack seasons tie for second in league history:
Career 15-plus sack seasons
Reggie White……………….. 5
Lawrence Taylor…………… 3
Kevin Greene………………. 3
Simeon Rice……………….. 3
Michael Strahan…………… 3
DeMarcus Ware…………… 3
Jason Witten’s five catches today gave him 61 for the season – his eighth straight 60-plus catch season. His eight consecutive are the second-most in league history among tight ends while his eight overall are third:
60-plus catch seasons (Tight End)
Player Total Consecutive
Tony Gonzalez………. 12 12
Shannon Sharpe……. 10 6
Jason Witten…………… 8 8
Antonio Gates………….. 6 6
Cornerback Mike Jenkins said he will probably be out at least three games with a hamstring injury that sidelined him against the Eagles. It’s the continuation of injury-plagued year for Jenkins, who suffered a stinger and hyperextended knee before the season before injuring a shoulder in the season opener against the Jets. He had not been forced to miss any games until now.
Nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick will start in his place opposite Terence Newman. Scandrick started for Newman in the season opener.
Lee dislocated his left wrist against the Eagles but will try to play with it after consulting with Dr. Bo Frederick, a hand and wrist specialist, in Dallas on Monday. A final determination on his status for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks has yet to be determined. But if he plays, he will play with cast on his wrist.
“Yeah,” responded Lee when asked if he will try to play with the cast. “We’ll see. I don’t know for sure what the plan is this week, but I’m definitely going to try to see and work with the doctors and just see how it heals and go from there.”
Lee said the there certain issues they trying to figure out with the injury and will see how it heals over the next week or so. There is a chance it could require surgery, which would end his season.
“Right now that’s a good deal,” Lee said of not having surgery. “Hopefully it will stay that way.”
Lee is an important part of the Cowboys defense, and he would be missed if he was sidelined for any significant amount of team. He leads the team in tackles, interceptions, fumble recoveries and pass deflections.
Jay Ratliff left the game late in the fourth quarter but is Ok. He went to the sidelines and was looked at by the trainers. He played numerous snaps on Sunday night with the Cowboys keeping Josh Brent inactive and with Sean Lissemore being used in his place it meant a heavy load for Ratliff.
Mat McBriar has some nerve issues in his left foot (non-kicking) which prevents him from planting. Dan Bailey replaced him and Chris Jones was signed to the practice roster on Friday as a precaution.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the initial diagnosis was a dislocation. Lee, the Cowboys’ leading tackler, suffered the injury on the final play of the first quarter of Sunday night’s loss 34-7 loss in Philadelphia when his wrist was bent backward while attempting to tackle Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
“I’m hoping I could play next week,” said Lee, who had his wrist in a brace after the game. “I couldn’t return tonight. The doctors would not let me out there. Hopefully I can get it re-evaluated and it’ll be all right.”
Any absence from Lee would hurt the defense. Entering Sunday’s game the coaches had credited Lee with 72 tackles, 41 more than any other defender. He also has a team-leading three interceptions and recovered two fumbles.
Before his injury, the Cowboys’ defense struggled but it got worse in Lee’s absence. Brooking and James struggled in containing Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and were beat in coverage too.
Depth would be an issue, too. Rookie second-round pick Bruce Carter made his season debut against the Eagles, but the plan was to ease him into the lineup on special teams. Without Lee, Carter could be called on more quickly than anticipated to help in pass coverage.
The Cowboys lost another defensive starter for the night after cornerback Mike Jenkins suffered a hamstring injury in the third quarter. Jenkins had been bothered earlier in the year with a stinger injury suffered in training camp and a shoulder injury suffered in the season opener, but he had not missed a game. He was replaced by Orlando Scandrick.
Meanwhile, punter Mat McBriar left the game with a left foot injury. Mat McBriar has some nerve issues in his left foot (non-kicking) which prevents him from planting. Dan Bailey replaced him and Chris Jones was signed to the practice roster on Friday as a precaution.
Jay Ratliff left the game late in the fourth quarter but is Ok. He went to the sidelines and was looked at by the trainers. He played numerous snaps on Sunday night with the Cowboys keeping Josh Brent inactive and with Sean Lissemore being used in his place it meant a heavy load for Ratliff.