Tag Archives: Stephen McGee

BACK IN TEXAS: Former Dallas Cowboy QB Stephen McGee signs with the Houston Texans

Former Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback Stephen McGee has signed a future contract with the Houston Texans. McGee was not on a roster this season after the Cowboys cut him Sept. 1, days before the season opener.

The former Texas A&M standout, a fourth-round pick in 2009, had tryouts with several teams during the season, including the Packers and the Patriots. But no one signed him, and he spent the season working out in College Station.

The Texans also signed former University of Houston quarterback Case Keenum, who was on their practice squad this season. Their two returning quarterbacks are starter Matt Schaub and backup T.J. Yates. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak is a former A&M quarterback, like McGee.

McGee played in three games in his three seasons in Dallas, with one start. He completed 46 of 82 passes for 420 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Cowboys went with only two quarterbacks this season. Tony Romo started every game, and Kyle Orton served as his backup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five of the eight players were undrafted rookies.

ROSTER UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys cut QB Stephen McGee, sign TE Colin Cochart

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Stephen McGee - The Boys Are Back blog - 2

IRVING — The Dallas Cowboys have parted ways with third-string quarterback Stephen McGee from Texas A&M. The Cowboys cut McGee on Saturday morning, less than 24 hours after they had set their 53-man roster with McGee a part of it.

McGee will be replaced on the 53-man roster by tight end Colin Cochart, who was waived Friday by the Cincinnati Bengals. The 25-year-old Cochart (6-4, 254) was signed by the Bengals in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State. Cochart was the only undrafted free agent rookie to make the Bengals’ initial 53-man roster last year. He played in 10 games, catching five passes for 44 yards and one touchdown.

McGee, 26, was entering the final year of his rookie contract. He had been the Cowboys’ third-string quarterback since the team selected him in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. He was entering the final year of his contract.

McGee tweeted this out just after his release Saturday, “Thankful for my time in Dallas and the opportunity to meet many wonderful people. God is doing some cool things in this city. Press on.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett talked on Saturday morning about how they “value the quarterback” and having three quarterbacks on their roster, but with starting tight end Jason Witten unlikely to play in the season opener Wednesday at the Giants because of his lacerated spleen, the Cowboys felt the need to add a tight end for depth.

Cutting McGee leaves the Cowboys with only two quarterbacks on their roster: Starter Tony Romo and backup Kyle Orton.

COMMENTARY: Roster spots are too valuable to keep backups Stephen McGee or Rudy Carpenter

ARLINGTON, Texas — In three seasons, Stephen McGee has shown little indication he will ever become a starting NFL quarterback.

Tim Heitman/US Presswire - Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee completes for backup roster spot - The Boys Are Back blog

So it’s time for the Dallas Cowboys to move on. The same goes for Rudy Carpenter.

(Those two) roster spots are just too valuable to invest in a third quarterback, who has no shot to ever unseat Tony Romo or backup Kyle Orton.

When the Cowboys signed Orton to a three-year contract with a $5 million signing bonus in the offseason, it was an indictment of McGee, a fourth-round pick in 2009.

The day the Cowboys acquired Orton, McGee’s days were numbered.

Besides, McGee will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The odds he’d be on the roster next season are less than zero.

McGee entered Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Miami Dolphins needing a strong performance to persuade the Cowboys not to release him.

He started and played the first half. The results, as you would expect, were mixed.

McGee completed nine of 18 passes for 124 yards playing with backups. Center Phil Costa was the only offensive starter who played.

McGee’s best moments occurred in the second quarter, when he made a terrific throw from the near hash mark and completed a 32-yard pass to Andre Holmes, who was covered tightly along the sideline.

It was the kind of throw that will excite Garrett and the coaching staff when they see it on video. Then they’ll wonder why they don’t see throws like that more often.

Garrett doesn’t like players who flash. He wants consistent playmakers.

Late in the second quarter, McGee showed his athleticism, scrambling and eluding several defenders before launching a 36-yard pass to Tim Benford as he stepped out of bounds.

The completion set up Phillip Tanner’s 1-yard touchdown run.

"I thought he played a pretty solid half," said Garrett, who complimented McGee’s ability to make plays out of the pocket.

McGee has every physical tool you want in an NFL quarterback, which is why the Cowboys used a fourth-round pick on a guy from a simplistic, run-oriented offense at Texas A&M.

They knew it would take time for him to develop and take advantage of his 6-3, 225-pound frame and 4.61 speed in the 40-yard dash.

The problem: McGee gets paralysis by analysis.

Whether he has difficulties reading defenses, making his progressions or is simply afraid of throwing interceptions, McGee throws way too many check-down passes.

In the three games McGee has had substantial playing time, he’s thrown three touchdown passes and no interceptions, which is fine. But he has averaged just 5.12 yards per attempt, which is awful.

He’s cautious to a fault.

Understand, Tony Romo has a career average of 8.0 per pass and the best quarterbacks average at least 8.5 per attempt.

Now, it’s time for Garrett to make a decision.

Garrett values the quarterback position, but he has to decide whether McGee or Carpenter, who was 4-of-10 for 48 yards, are worthy of a roster spot.

Then he must determine whether it’s better to keep an extra receiver such as Andre Holmes.

Or whether running back Lance Dunbar, who gained 105 yards on 15 carries, or linebacker Orie Lemon, who returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown, deserve to be on the roster.

It’s unlikely McGee or Carpenter will help the Cowboys win a game this season.

The Cowboys would be better served signing a quarterback to their practice squad after final cuts are announced Friday or drafting one next year and trying to develop him into a starter.

They had the right idea using a fourth-round pick on McGee. It just didn’t work out.

Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPN Dallas

ON THE BUBBLE: Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee scrambles for 53rd roster spot

Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee on sideline bench - The Boys Are Back blog

By the time the locker room opened to the media Wednesday night, Stephen McGee was gone. Whether his locker is cleared out for good remains to be seen.

McGee completed only 9 of 20 passes for 124 yards and a 65.4 passer rating in a first half of work. The Cowboys scored on three of five first-half possessions, but the Dallas Cowboys defense scored as many touchdowns as the offense in the first 30 minutes. Linebacker Orie Lemon had the play of the game, intercepting a Matt Moore pass and returning it 26 yards for a touchdown.

Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee scrambles vs Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

The Dallas Cowboys will make the decision whether to keep three quarterbacks or whether to keep only two on the 53-player roster with Rudy Carpenter, assuming he clears waivers, on the practice squad.

“I think we saw some things out of McGee tonight that were really encouraging,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on the Channel 21 halftime show. “It’s been vintage McGee. Other teams have shown interest in Stephen McGee. We know somebody thinks he’s a pretty good ballplayer. We do, too. It really depends on our 53rd guy, without McGee. If we think we can live with him, or do we think we need a third quarterback? That will be something we’ll go through tomorrow after the game, and we’ll make a decision tomorrow."

The Cowboys drafted McGee in the fourth round in 2009 knowing he would take some time to develop. He has one career regular-season start. He went 11-for-27 for 127 yards and a touchdown in a 14-13 victory over the Eagles to end the 2010 season after Romo and Jon Kitna were injured.

Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee hands the ball to Lance Dunbar - The Boys Are Back blog

PRESEASON GAME RECAP: Dallas Cowboys 30, Miami Dolphins 13

Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner (34) breaks free against the Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys wrapped up the preseason with a 30-13 win over the Miami Dolphins at Cowboys Stadium on Wednesday night. Unlike last season when wide receiver Raymond Radway was injured in the closing seconds of the preseason at Miami, there were no such major health issues coming from this game. This was the last chance for several players to make an impact on the coaches and scouts and join the 53-man roster.

What it means: The Dallas Cowboys finish the preseason 3-1 and have to make some hard decisions regarding the No. 3 quarterback spot, whether or not to keep a fourth running back or which running back to keep, whether Orie Lemon and Mario Butler make the team and should Danny Coale and Matt Johnson earn paychecks in September.

McGee vs. Carpenter: There is this battle for the No. 3 quarterback position. Stephen McGee played the first half and led one touchdown drive and converted 13 first downs. He completed 9-of-18 passes for 124 yards. The Cowboys led 20-6 at the break. Rudy Carpenter also led the Cowboys on a touchdown drive — capped by a a 58-yard run by Lance Dunbar — and finished 4-of-10 for 48 yards. Carpenter also had a 21 yard scramble. But it would appear neither quarterback did enough to secure a shot on the roster.

Only one starter plays: Between both units, only center Phil Costa played. Costa missed the first three preseason games with a strained lower back and the Cowboys wanted to give him some snaps before putting him in a regular season game. Costa didn’t have any bad snaps and it’s unknown if he had any blown assignments. David Arkin replaced Costa.

The running game is strong: There are no questions regarding the status of DeMarco Murray as the starter. Felix Jones has been guaranteed a roster spot by owner/general manager Jerry Jones. We thought the No. 3 running back gig was going to Phillip Tanner, but Lance Dunbar came on strong Wednesday night. Dunbar ran with a burst, scoring on a 58-yard run. Let’s not forget about Tanner, who burst up the middle for a 1-yard score. Dunbar rushed 15 times for 105 yards and Tanner rushed for 48 yards on nine carries.

Dallas Cowboys running back Jamize Olawale (49) has his helmet knocked from his head after being hit by Miami Dolphins linebacker Cameron Collins - The Boys Are Back blog

Orie Lemon made his case: If linebacker Orie Lemon was a bubble player, he should make the roster. He returned an interception 26 yards to give the Cowboys a 10-6 lead in the second quarter. Lemon was also active on defense and, given what he does on special teams, should make the 53-man roster. Adrian Hamilton was also fighting for a roster spot, but he hasn’t shown his pass rush abilities on a consistent basis with the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon (58) is congratulated by teammates after returning an interception for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins

Cowboys lose three players: Guard Derrick Dockery left the game for personal reasons and fellow guard Daniel Loper suffered a hamstring injury. Cornerback Lionel Smith departed the game with a concussion. None of the three returned.

Who played well: Tyrone Crawford, Orie Lemon, Phillip Tanner, Lance Dunbar and Dan Bailey.

Who didn’t: Teddy Williams, David Arkin, Stephen McGee.

Bailey is perfect: Kicker Dan Bailey finished the preseason 8-for-8 on field goal attempts. Bailey made kicks of 25, 30 and 26 yards Wednesday night. The Cowboys didn’t have any concerns about him heading into the preseason but unlike last season when the team had a kicking competition, nothing was going on here. It was all Bailey. The longest kick of the preseason by Bailey was 49 yards.

Ryan Tannehill makes the start: The eighth-pick of the NFL draft, quarterback Ryan Tannehill made the start for the Dolphins. He completed 6-of-8 passes for 41 yards. The former Aggie played with a presence and threw some strong passes, but he still has a ways to go to help the Dolphins.

What’s next?: The Cowboys must cut their roster to 53 players by Friday night and then finalize their practice squad roster with as many as eight players. The team will practice over the weekend at Valley Ranch and prepare for the regular season opener at the New York Giants.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree (85) goes after the ball against Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

DALLAS MORNING NEWS HEADLINE: Dallas Cowboys reserves roll over Miami Dolphins, 30-13

Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar rushed for 105 yards on 15 carries with a 7.0 yard average in preseason finale victory over Miami - The Boys Are Back blog

PHOTO: Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar rushed for 105 yards on 15 carries with a 7.0 yard average in preseason finale victory over the Miami Dolphins.  Vernon Bryant |Staff Photographer

ARLINGTON — Orie Lemon returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown, No. 3 running back Phillip Tanner had a 1-yard score and the Dallas Cowboys finished their preseason with a 30-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday night.

A week before playing in the NFL’s kickoff game against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the Cowboys (3-1) kept quarterback Tony Romo and most of their front-line starters standing on the sideline.

Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the first-round draft pick from Texas A&M already tabbed Miami’s starter, was 5-of-7 passing for 35 yards playing the first two series. The Dolphins led 3-0 when he was done.

Miami (0-4) finished its preseason winless under new coach Joe Philbin. The season opener is Sept. 9 at Houston.

Undrafted rookie running back Lance Dunbar had 15 carries for 105 yards, including a 58-yard TD run, for Dallas in the third quarter. Tanner started with DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones sitting, and finished with nine carries for 48 yards.

Another former Texas A&M quarterback, Stephen McGee, possibly took his last snaps for the Dallas Cowboys after playing the entire first half and going 9 of 18 for 124 yards.

Two years ago in another preseason finale against the Dolphins, McGee passed for 304 yards while going all the way in the victory that probably assured him the spot as the team’s third quarterback that season.

McGee, a fourth-round draft pick in 2009, has played in only three regular-season games and started one.

With Kyle Orton signed during the offseason to be Romo’s backup, Dallas likely will carry only two quarterbacks on its 53-man roster. Plus, McGee is no longer eligible for the practice squad like Rudy Carpenter would be.

Carpenter was 4 of 10 for 48 yards in the second half.

Even though they were playing at home again only four days after a win over the St. Louis Rams, the Cowboys have already turned their attention to the Giants.

When they get to their Valley Ranch practice facility Thursday, it will be essentially a Monday of game week.

Pro Bowl receiver Miles Austin didn’t play in the preseason because of hamstring issues, and receiver Dez Bryant was held out for the second straight game because of right knee tendinitis. Both are expected to be ready for the Giants, though Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten (lacerated spleen) is less certain for the unprecedented Wednesday night opener.

Dallas Cowboys Orie Lemon capitalizes on an interception by returning it 26 yards for a touchdown - The Boys Are Back blog

Lamar Miller had 17 carries for 60 yards and a TD for the Dolphins.

Miller’s 1-yard run capped a 14-play, 89-yard drive that took exactly half of the third quarter to complete.

Dan Bailey kicked three field goals for the Cowboys while Dan Carpenter had field goals of 21 and 53 yards for Miami less than 2 minutes apart late in the first quarter.

After Carpenter’s shorter kick, Teddy Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the Cowboys 33. That’s when Matt Moore took over for Tannehill, failing to get a first down and leading to the long field goal by Carpenter.

On Dallas’ first snap after that, cornerback Quinten Lawrence was called for pass interference against Kevin Ogletree that was good for 43 yards. That led to a 25-yard field goal by Bailey.

Moore was only 4 of 12, including the pass over the middle early in the second quarter that Lemon picked off and took into the end zone for a 10-6 lead.

The Cowboys had two big passing plays to set up Tanner’s 1-yard score.

Andre Holmes caught a deep pass from McGee for a 32-yard gain. Later in that drive, McGee scrambled and kept avoiding defenders as he rolled to the left. He was near the sideline and threw off one foot, hitting Tim Benford for 36 yards.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins

Dallas Cowboys vs Miami Dolphins helmets

Preseason.

It’s finally coming to an end.

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

Here’s a preview.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network - 105_3 The Fan KRLD

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

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

GOING DOWN TO THE WIRE: For 22 men, it’s the last chance to make a good impression

Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Stephen McGee (7) Tony Romo (9) and Rudy Carpenter (right) during Dallas Cowboys training camp - The Boys Are Back blog

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:

McGee’s shot

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.

Costa’s snaps

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.

Receiver watch

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.

Nose tackle

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

PROJECTION: Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster

The Boys - The Boys Are Back blog

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

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

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Tony Romo  Kyle Orton

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

RUNNING BACKS (3)

DeMarco Murray  Felix Jones  Phillip Tanner

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

FULLBACKS (2)

Lawrence Vickers  Shaun Chapas

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

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Jason Witten  John Phillips  James Hanna

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

Danny Coale

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Miles Austin  Dez Bryant

Kevin Ogletree  Dwayne Harris  Cole Beasley  Danny Coale

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

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Tyron Smith  Doug Free  Nate Livings  Mackenzy Bernadeau  Phil Costa

David Arkin  Jermey Parnell  Ronald Leary  Pat McQuistan

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

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)

Jay Ratliff  Jason Hatcher  Kenyon Coleman  Sean Lissemore  Marcus Spears

Tyrone Crawford  Josh Brent

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

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)

Sean Lee  Bruce Carter  Dan Connor  Orie Lemon

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

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)

DeMarcus Ware  Anthony Spencer

Victor Butler  Kyle Wilber  Alex Albright

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

CORNERBACKS (5)

Brandon Carr  Morris Claiborne

Orlando Scandrick  Mike Jenkins  Mario Butler

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

SAFETIES (4)

Gerald Sensabaugh  Barry Church  Danny McCray  Mana Silva

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

SPECIALISTS (3)

Dan Bailey  Chris Jones  L.P. Ladouceur

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

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: St. Louis Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys–Preseason game 3

St. Louis Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys – 2012 Preseason game 3 - Cowboys Stadium - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cowboys are finally home after nearly a month on the road for training camp and two preseason games which saw them go 1-1. Dallas takes on the St. Louis Rams (1-1) tonight at Cowboys Stadium.

Here’s a preview.

Get there early: The Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers are playing in Arlington on the same day for the first time this season. Parking lots for the Cowboys game open at 2 p.m. East Plaza is open at 3 p.m. and stadium gates open at 5 p.m. The Rangers start at 3:05 p.m. Cowboys officials are asking fans to leave early to help prevent possible traffic delays.

Connections: St. Louis tackle Jason Smith attended W.T. White high school in Dallas. … Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola was on the Cowboys’ practice squad in 2007. … Wide receivers coach Ray Sherman was with the Cowboys for a few years.

$100 million corners: The Cowboys and Rams employ the two highest paid corners from this year’s free agency class. The Rams have Cortland Finnegan and the Cowboys have Brandon Carr. Combined, the two players’ total contracts hit a little over $100 million.

Dress rehearsal: The Cowboys will play their starters for nearly the first half. It will be a good test for the interior of the offensive line consisting of center David Arkin and guards Nate Livings (making his preseason debut) and Mackenzy Bernadeau. This trio could change again if starting center Phil Costa returns from a strained lower back. Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris will start at wide receiver with Dez Bryant (knee) and Miles Austin (hamstring) out with injuries. DeMarcus Ware (hamstring) won’t play. Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher are expected to play together for the first time this preseason after recovering from injuries. It’s another good test for rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne, who plays in his second preseason game. In his debut last week, the first-round pick had zero pass breakups but made two good tackles.

Who needs to play well: QB Stephen McGee, CB C.J. Wilson, LB Orie Lemon, WR Danny Coale, WR Andre Holmes, S Matt Johnson, DE Clifton Geathers and CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.

Game Trackers: Click HERE for LIVE NFL GAMEDAY scoreboards and game trackers on The Boys Are Back blog. For the NFL on FOX Gametrax, click HERE

GAMETRAX - Dallas Cowboys vs. St. Louis Rams

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

The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network - 105_3 The Fan KRLD

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

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

GAME NOTES: Dallas Cowboys show improvement vs. San Diego Chargers

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs past San Diego Chargers defensive tackle Vaughn Martin - The Boys Are Back blog

Score the second dress rehearsal of the pre-season a significant upgrade for Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo and the first-team offense in Saturday’s 28-20 loss to San Diego.

Romo played the first quarter, completed 9-of-13 passes for 75 yards, and was not sacked. None of his starting receivers took a big hit, much less departed with an injury (Jason Witten, Monday in Oakland).

With Romo in the game, the Cowboys produced 102 yards, drove for a field goal and converted a fourth-and-1 situation with a 10-yard slant to Dez Bryant. It could have been better if not for two holding penalties.

By comparison, the Cowboys’ first-team offense had 14 net yards in 11 snaps in last week’s 3-0 victory over the Raiders.

“Yeah, we moved it good,” Romo said. “But we hurt ourselves with penalties and, as a football team, we need to correct that. It is very hard to score points … We have to get that (penalty issue) corrected or otherwise we have no chance.”

Penalty problems: The Cowboys were penalized nine times for 86 yards after drawing 12 flags for 91 yards against Oakland.

Olawale shines again: Jamize Olawale, an undrafted free agent from North Texas, made his presence felt as a rusher and receiver for a second consecutive game. Olawale scored a second-quarter touchdown, the Cowboys’ first of the pre-season, on a 2-yard blast. He also grabbed four passes and turned up some heat on Phillip Tanner, who is out with a broken hand, in the battle to be the team’s third running back. Olawale (10 carries, 30 yards) led the team in rushing for a second consecutive game in the pre-season.

"He really has shown that throughout training camp," said coach Jason Garrett. "He came in more as a fullback candidate. But he has also shown he can be a big back. He’s played a lot as a halfback, he’s played in third-down situations. He’s really done some positive things running the football for us."

Defensive streak ends: It will not matter in September but the Cowboys’ defense put together a scoreless streak of 94 minutes, 30 seconds to begin the pre-season. That was broken when San Diego receiver Vincent Brown grabbed an 18-yard touchdown pass with 10:30 remaining in the third quarter. Dallas led, 10-0, at the time and none of the Cowboys’ defensive starters were still in the game.

Claiborne debut: Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, the team’s first-round pick, started and played the first half. He made the tackle on the first pass thrown in his area, a 5-yard receiver screen, and lined up at both cornerback spots. He had no pass breakups but neither did any other Dallas defender while Claiborne was in the game.

During the first half, Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers threw 15 passes and none of them hit the ground. He completed 13 and had two interceptions, both by Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr. Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones said he liked Claiborne’s debut and envisions him following Carr’s lead in time.

“We’ve seen him do the same kind of play that we saw Carr do,” Jones said. “They are centerfielders. He can play that ball, too. You need those kind of big plays.”

Third receiver battle: Cole Beasley, an undersized free agent from SMU, grabbed nine passes for 104 yards in the contest, most of them against the Chargers’ reserves. But the best showing by someone battling to claim the third receiver spot came from veteran Kevin Ogletree (4 catches, 60 yards), whose 35-yard reception set up a touchdown.

Jerry Jones said Ogletree may be the team’s fastest receiver and projects as “the logical third guy” in the offense.

San Diego Chargers cornerback De'Andre Presley (39) and linebacker Jonas Mouton (57) hit Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley - The Boys Are Back blog

McGee’s mistake: Quarterback Stephen McGee threw a fourth-quarter interception into double-coverage that was returned 73 yards by Shareece Wright to set up the Chargers’ go-ahead touchdown. McGee later lost a fumble when blindsided by Wright on a corner blitz.

Murray gets wish: Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray said earlier this week that he wanted a heavier work load against San Diego than he received Monday against Oakland (2 carries, no yards). That happened by the fourth snap, with three of the Cowboys’ first four plays featuring Murray (two runs, one pass). The team’s starter handled the ball on five of the first six plays, producing 30 yards, before yielding the field to backup Felix Jones.

Sitting out: A total of 19 Cowboys missed the game because of injuries, including eight starters (WR Miles Austin, C Phil Costa, G Nate Livings, TE Jason Witten, NT Jay Ratliff, LB Anthony Spencer, LB DeMarcus Ware, DT Jason Hatcher). Also out: WR Saalim Hakim, CB Mike Jenkins, RB Lance Dunbar, RB Phillip Tanner, S Matt Johnson, LB Isiah Greenhouse, LB Kyle Wilber, LB Caleb McSurdy, C/G Kevin Kowalski, OT Jermey Parnell and WR Danny Coale.

Still perfect: Dan Bailey hit both of his field-goal attempts, from 40 and 49 yards. He is 3-for-3 in the pre-season.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Dallas Cowboys fall to San Diego Chargers in 2nd half

Victor Butler and Alex Albright gaining experience with Spencer and Ware sidelined - The Boys Are Back blog

Progress is definitely being made.

If the first preseason, a thrilling 3-0 affair in Oakland, was a study in frustration and worry for the Cowboys faithful, then the team’s performance in San Diego on Saturday at least showed signs of excitement and hope, especially concerning the first-teamers.

With nine starters out of the lineup, tender hamstrings seemingly the largest culprit, Dallas lost to the Chargers 28-20, their preseason record falling to 1-1. But the Cowboys’ defense, and in particular cornerback Brandon Carr, gave notice that they might be a force to be reckoned with in 2012.

Even with DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher not in the lineup, the first-unit group held the Chargers to only 69 total yards, never allowing San Diego to cross the 50-yard line. Taking center stage in the effort was Carr, who grabbed not one, but two interceptions in his quarter-and-a-half of play.

On the first grab, Carr was admittedly beaten on the route, wide receiver Robert Meachem getting behind the defense. But an underthrown ball by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers allowed Carr to gain ground and time his jump perfectly to bring down the pick.

The second interception was nothing short of a circus catch. Literally. Carr tipped a pass, then tipped it again, and again, finally completing his juggling act with another prized turnover.

Being able to go and get the ball is why Dallas opened the checkbook for the free agent Carr back in March. He and rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne, who was making his NFL debut, have all the makings of a dramatically upgraded secondary for the Cowboys this season.

"The first unit did pretty good,” said Carr. “We shut them out once again. It was good to go against Philip Rivers one more time and get the two picks off him this time. But the guys were just flying around trying to make plays on the ball.”

Dallas Cowboys OL vs San Diego Chargers - preseason 2012 - The Boys Are Back Blog

Meanwhile on the other side of the line, the first-team offense showed improvement from its near dysfunctional effort against the Raiders in the preseason opener. Quarterback Tony Romo, who finished the game with 75 yards on 9-of-13 passing, had a clean pocket for most of the two series in which he was in the game, although his own deft moves helped his own cause.

Romo was able to get his side into field goal range midway through the first quarter, Dan Bailey seemingly in midseason form with a 40-yard field goal to give Dallas a 3-0 lead.

"Yeah, I thought some of the young guys stepped up and played pretty good tonight,” said Romo. “I think our offense is continuing to get better and better each week, and I like the direction we are heading, but we have to eliminate the mistakes.”

DeMarco Murray, back from an ankle injury that cut short his 2011 campaign, also looked solid in his one possession of work, catching two passes for 18 yards. He also had two runs that went for just seven yards, but made something out of nothing in both instances.

The point being, Romo and Murray can make even an average line look good.

But the preseason is also about earning roster spots, and one in particular stepped up and made solid a solid case for himself – Kevin Ogletree.

One of the biggest question marks still to be determined is who will be the Cowboys’ third receiver. And although Ogletree is the veteran of the contending bunch, he has been perhaps the most overlooked. Not any more. He had a solid night, finishing with 60 yards on four receptions, including a tough 35-yard catch down the middle that saw him get hit by two defenders but still hang onto the ball.

Dallas Cowboys WR Kevin Ogletree vs San Diego Chargers - preseason 2012 - The Boys Are Back Blog

There is, of course, still much to be determined in the wideout ranks. After all, rookie Cole Beasley led all receivers with 104 yards on seven catches and Dwayne Harris picked up 42 yards on four receptions of his own. But Ogletree made it known tonight that he’s the lead horse in the race for the third position … for now.

Beasley and Harris did most of their damage in the second half, when little else went particularly well for the team. Rob Ryan saw his defense’s shutout streak come to an end soon after the third quarter got underway. They hadn’t given up a point and had surrendered only 376 yards of total offense through six quarters of play, but with the regulars calling it a night, the second unit allowed the Chargers to come out of the break and march 80 yards on 10 plays for a score, the lead narrowed to 10-7.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (14) runs past San Diego Chargers linebacker Andrew Gachkar - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas got on the board late in that same frame thanks to a fumble recovery from linebacker Orie Lemon, who gave the Cowboys field position at the San Diego 35. The offense was unable to pick up a first down, but Bailey came out again, this time for a 49-yarder, and put three more points on the board.

And then the wheels fell off for the Cowboys, as San Diego put up 21 points in the fourth quarter to run away with the game. Two of those touchdowns came after Stephen McGee turnovers, one on an interception and the other a fumble after the quarterback took a big hit from behind.

Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee vs San Diego Chargers - Preseason 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

With Rudy Carpenter taking the helm, Dallas did manage to get in the end zone with 53 seconds left on the clock, Wright catching a pass from 15 yards out to wrap up the scoring, 28-20.

Dallas will now stay in San Diego for two days of workouts with the Chargers before returning home for the annual Silver & Blue Debut, a practice open to the public that will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Kurt Daniels | Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine

RELATED: Jamize Olawale, rookie FB turned RB, impresses in San Diego

Dallas Cowboys RB Jamize Olawale vs San Diego Chargers - preseason 2012 - The Boys Are Back BlogWhich player fighting for a roster spot made a positive impression? His name is hard to pronounce. But now people know it. That’s a positive sign for Jamize Olawale, the Cowboys’ rookie fullback-turned-running back. A 6-1, 238-pound product of North Texas, Olawale has the size and strength pound away at opponents. During the second quarter, he demonstrated that might when he barged into the end zone and finished off a two-yard run that resulted in the Cowboys’ first touchdown of the preseason. But Olawale isn’t just powerful. He’s also quick. Olawale flashed that acceleration on a 10-yard pass from Romo in the first quarter, turning up field to gain a first down.

Photos: Rainer Sabin

PRESEASON SPOTLIGHT: Rudy Carpenter eager for Cowboys’ debut

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Rudy Carpenter - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who is competing with Stephen McGee for the No. 3 QB spot, said he looks forward to getting his first live action in a Dallas uniform in Monday’s pre-season game at Oakland.

During last week’s Blue-White scrimmage, Carpenter threw an interception and led a drive to a field goal. McGee, a former Texas A&M quarterback, had three consecutive three-and-out possessions.

Carpenter knows the stakes will be higher Monday because of the limited reps that go to quarterbacks other than starter Tony Romo and backup Kyle Orton.

“The pre-season games are always important, especially when you’re battling for a job,” Carpenter said. “For me, personally, I try not to worry about that stuff. I’ve bounced around a little bit. I’ve felt like I’ve won some jobs and didn’t. And I’ve felt like the other way around as well. To be truthful, I just want to go out there and focus on executing the offense, running the plays the coaches are calling and … moving the chains. There’s nothing worse in the pre-season than going three-and-out on every drive.”

Courtesy: Jimmy Burch

2012 BACKUP QB BATTLE: Carpenter up, McGee down

Dallas Cowboys QB Rudy Carpenter - The Boys Are Back blog

The biggest knee-jerk reaction to the five-possession live session from the Cowboys’ Blue-White scrimmage involves the battle to be the Cowboys’ third quarterback. Rudy Carpenter clearly took a step forward. Stephen McGee, the former Texas A&M quarterback once considered a possible backup, clearly took a step back.

McGee led three of the five drives and never moved the chains. He was sacked once, by Kyle Wilber. He completed 2-of-5 passes, including a wobbler that could have (should have?) been intercepted by Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.

Carpenter had his dubious moments, too. He threw an interception on his first snap, and bobbled an exchange with center Harland Gunn that Carpenter managed to recover. Carpenter also managed to complete passes to Raymond Radway, Donovan Kemp and Tony Benford, all for first downs, that carried the offense into position for a field goal.

Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee - The Boys Are Back blog

Ideally, the Cowboys never need to have a third quarterback take a meaningful snap during the regular season with Tony Romo and Kyle Orton clearly entrenched in the top two spots. But if injuries surface, Carpenter clearly is outplaying McGee in the early stages of camp to be the third guy.

Courtesy: Jimmy Burch | Ft Worth Star-Telegram

TURNING POINT: Is it time to pass on Stephen McGee?

The Cowboys have used veteran quarterbacks the last few seasons to back up Tony Romo.

Meanwhile, Stephen McGee, the kid from Texas A&M, sits and waits. And waits and waits.

At some point McGee has to make progress and challenge for the No. 2 spot at quarterback. Jon Kitna, the backup last season, battled back issues and was nearing retirement as McGee looked on from afar.

But McGee didn’t do anything in his development to force the Cowboys to not seek a veteran quarterback in the offseason. One thing the franchise likes in current backup Kyle Orton is his experience. He’s started 69 games in this league and dealt with the scrutiny of being a starter, especially in Denver last season.

McGee has struggled at times on the practice fields and sometimes it’s not his fault. He’s working with the youngest players on the team, so sometimes he tells players where to line up and what to do in the huddle. Then he’s got to complete a pass against the first-or second-team defense.

McGee doesn’t throw deep passes often in practice because of the coverage, so he dumps things off. It’s got to be hard to evaluate McGee when he does this. You could say he makes the smart decision by not throwing passes into coverage, but you would like to see him challenge defenses.

PHOTO: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Stephen McGee sails through the air over Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Trevard Lindley after Lindley tripped him up trying to tackle him in fourth quarter Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game action in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field January 2, 2011. McGee gained 14-yards on the play.

He’s got just 82 career attempts in four NFL seasons, making it hard to know what he can really do. But this summer and in the preseason, the Cowboys need to give McGee a hard, hard look.

If he can’t challenge Orton for the No. 2 spot, Rudy Carpenter, who is part of the 90-man training camp roster, should make a serious run at McGee.

If McGee or Carpenter can’t impress the offensive coaching staff, go with two quarterbacks.

It’s not the end of the world or the best option, but you want good players on your team. The time is now to see if McGee is a good fit for these Cowboys.

PHOTO: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Stephen McGee sails through the air over Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Trevard Lindley after Lindley tripped him up trying to tackle him in fourth quarter Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game action in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field January 2, 2011. McGee gained 14-yards on the play.

QB UPDATE: Kyle Orton’s injury allows Stephen McGee to make strides in minicamp

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Stephen McGee - The Boys Are Back blog - 2

Stephen McGee got extra work all week during the minicamp because Kyle Orton sat with a hamstring injury.

But McGee did not make the most of his chance. He had an inconsistent week, and Thursday’s final practice of the minicamp was an example.

He had a tough time in red zone and goal line 11-on-11 situations. He was pressured. He threw away three balls. And he couldn’t find the touch on deep balls to the corner. One out pass to the end zone was too high to catch.

But he avoided resorting to simply running when pressure came. He stopped one scramble at the line of scrimmage and found receiver Cole Beasley going to the sideline. He also showed good touch on mid-range throws to the middle of the field for Andre Holmes.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett agreed McGee was inconsistent, but cautioned that McGee doesn’t get the benefit of playing with the first-team offense.

“One of the challenges that a backup quarterback has when he goes in is that there are a lot of young players playing,” Garrett said. “We’re putting a lot of things on their plate as an offense. The defense has challenged us a lot of ways. And a lot of times, mistakes are made around you . And you have to process what happened and still make great decisions. You can’t let their mistakes become your mistakes.”

This is an important camp for McGee. He was passed over for the No. 2 backup spot with the signing of Kyle Orton, which he said he understood. But the Cowboys have also brought in Rudy Carpenter to compete for the No. 3 spot.

“I think Stephen did a good job handling some of the different things that didn’t go quite so well for him, and he made the right decision with the ball and handled the situation well,” Garrett said. “So those were big strides for him.”

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Stephen McGee says he’s got to build a resume

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Stephen McGee - The Boys Are Back blog

Stephen McGee said he understands the Cowboys’ move to bring in Kyle Orton as the new backup quarterback. But he said he still believes he can compete for the No. 2 job and have a career in the NFL, with the Cowboys or somewhere else.

“I understand the decision on their end. I don’t necessarily have to love it,” he said. “But the decision’s out of my control, so I’m going to be the best football player I can be and not worry about the rest.”

McGee, 26, a fourth-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2009, said he’s got to build a resume.

“I think every chance I get in preseason or in practice is a resume builder,” he said. “I’d love to be in Dallas long-term, there’s no doubt about it. I’m a Texas boy. I grew up a Dallas Cowboys fan. I hope I’m here forever. But I also know it’s a business. You’ve got to put out a good resume. I’m confident in my ability to play in this league for a long time, and the coaches have expressed that to me.”

Last year, McGee finished a December home game against the Philadelphia Eagles when Tony Romo got hurt in the first quarter. McGee went 24-for-38 with 182 yards passing and a touchdown, ran for 28 yards and was sacked three times.

McGee got a good start to the week on Tuesday, when he got more reps while Orton sat out with a hamstring injury.

“We’ll see what happens,” McGee said. “Do I want to play well? Yeah. Obviously, I want to play well and have a chance to compete for a two-spot. But right now, I don’t want to worry about all that stuff. I want to put on the blinders. If I get two reps in practice or 18, I want to make the most of them.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said McGee should remain encouraged.

“You can just see him grow,” Garrett said. “He’ll get a lot of reps in training camp. He’ll get a lot of time in the preseason games.”

ON THE BUBBLE: Dallas Cowboys QB Stephen McGee back to square one

Stephen McGee is entering the final year of his contract with the Cowboys, and almost three years after he was drafted his career remains calibrated at the same trajectory it was in the days after he was selected in the fourth round in April 2009.

He’s still the Cowboys’ third quarterback. He’s still responsible for running the scout team. And he is still no closer to receiving a promotion than he was at the end of his first NFL training camp.

That reality became abundantly clear when the Cowboys decided to sign Kyle Orton to serve as Tony Romo’s backup. Both owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett repeatedly expressed their desire to have a veteran quarterback capable of commanding the offense if Romo were unable to play.

The tacit implication shrouded in those comments was that the Cowboys didn’t have faith McGee, a player with three years of experience, would succeed in that role after he failed to make a favorable impression in the three games he had appeared in during the previous two seasons.

That McGee remains confined to the margins of the roster indicates his development has been stunted. Whether that is the Cowboys’ fault or his alone is difficult to determine. But if there were ever any doubt that McGee is no further along in his career than he was his rookie season, it was erased when the Cowboys re-acquired Rudy Carpenter last week.

Three years ago, in the summer of 2009, both McGee and Carpenter were in training camp together. They were young players just out of college, competing to become the team’s third quarterback. Now, they’re together again, and it’s expected they’ll be fighting for the same position.

Kyle Orton understands ‘dynamic’ of QB situation after chat with Kitna

Jon Kitna had a talk with the Cowboys’ new backup quarterback, Kyle Orton.

That’s part of the reason the Cowboys are comfortable with the former Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos starter, who they signed to a three-year contract.

“I think he had a good visit with Jon Kitna during this process, and I think Kitna shared with him what the dynamic is with our team, with the quarterback position. I think he felt it was something that really was attractive to him,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told reporters Thursday.

Orton, 29, is the replacement for the retired Kitna as the Cowboys’ primary backup. But Garrett said Orton understands that there will be competition for the backup job. Stephen McGee was the No. 3 quarterback last year, but he enters the final season of the contract he signed when he was drafted in the fourth round in 2008.

Whatever his role, Orton will understand it, Garrett said.

“He’s a real pro,” Garrett said. “I think he understands the situation. He’s been a starter in this league. He’s been a backup in this league. I think he understands the importance of team chemistry and chemistry within that quarterback room. … He’s been in some different quarterback situations where he’s had a different role. He’s really seemed to handle it really well. He understands that Tony is our starter, that he’s our backup, that we’re going to compete for that backup spot.”

Orton started 15 games for Chicago in 2005 and 2008 and Denver in 2009 and 13 games for Denver in 2010. His two best years were with the Broncos in 2009 and 2010. He threw for 3,802 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2009 and 3,653 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2010. But he was only 11-17 those years.

For his career, he has thrown 80 touchdown passes, 57 interceptions and is 35-34 in 71 games (69 starts).

When the Broncos released him in 2011, the Cowboys put a claim in for him, but he was awarded to the Kansas City Chiefs.

“We felt like he was one of the real premier quarterbacks out there in free agency,” Garrett said. “We wanted to pursue Kyle and see where he was. He’s a guy we’ve had an eye on a long time. When I was in Miami, we had a lot of interest in him when he was coming out.”

Orton was a fourth-round draft pick by the Bears in 2005 out of Purdue.

Dallas Cowboys to replace Jon Kitna … with who?

Dallas Cowboys star with shadowJon Kitna has retired, leaving the Cowboys to figure out who will backup Tony Romo next season. Do they trust Stephen McGee enough to promote him from No. 3? Do they draft a quarterback to compete with McGee? Or do they sign a veteran?

"It’s a very important position, as we all know," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "So, you want to make sure you allocate the resources necessary to that position. Jon Kitna was great for us the last three years, had a chance to play last year and played really, really well for our team and was a real leader for our team. But he’s retired now, and he’s in Seattle and enjoying life after football. So we have to make some decisions there."

McGee, 26, was a fourth-round draft pick in 2009. He enters 2012 in the last year of his rookie contract. He has started one game in his career and played in two others, completing 56.1 percent of his passes for 420 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and an 82.4 passer rating.

Vice president Stephen Jones said recently that the Cowboys would be comfortable with McGee as Romo’s backup.

"Stephen McGee has gotten some real good experience the last couple of years, playing in games, and we’ll continue to evaluate his progress going forward," Garrett said. "We like what he’s done. But it’s an important position, and we’ve got to make sure we have enough people if for no other reason than guys get hurt, and you better have a suitable guy who can go in there and play and help your team going forward. We’ll keep evaluating that spot just like all the other spots on our team."

The Cowboys have had veteran backups the past few years, with Brad Johnson in 2007 and ’08 and Kitna the past three years. Johnson was 39 when he joined the team. Kitna is 39 now.

Free-agent quarterbacks who could be signed as a backup include Jason Campbell, Kyle Orton, David Carr, Charlie Batch, Shaun Hill, Sage Rosenfels, Vince Young, Derek Anderson, Rex Grossman and Brady Quinn.

Beat Writers Recap: Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

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.

Star-Telegram/Paul Moseley

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

Jean-Jacques Taylor: It’s hard to have faith in Cowboys

Brent Celek

Tim Heitman/US Presswire

The Cowboys defense didn’t play much better the second time around, allowing Brent Celek and the Eagles 386 yards.


ARLINGTON, Texas — A few positives emerged from yet another butt-kicking by the Philadelphia Eagles.

First, your Dallas Cowboys avoided being shut out at home for the first time in 165 games — 7,405 days, to be exact. Tony Romo’s right hand is bruised but not broken, and Felix Jones’ hamstring is OK.

Oh, and your Cowboys can still win the NFC East. All they have to do is beat the New York Giants on New Year’s Day.

Good luck.

They’re going to need it. The last time the Cowboys played in a winner-take-all game to end the regular season, Philadelphia won by 38 points in 2008 in the most gutless performance in franchise history.

The Cowboys didn’t do anything in Philadelphia’s 20-7 win Saturday to make us think they can beat the Giants and secure the fourth seed in the NFC.

Once the Giants beat the Jets, 29-14, the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs and the Cowboys knew they’d have to beat New York on the road to win the division.

So the game was meaningless, if you believe in that sort of thing, for both teams. Then again, we should never be surprised when the Eagles blow out the Cowboys.

Andy Reid’s team has beaten the Cowboys 12 times by 13 points or more since 2000. FYI: The Giants and Washington Redskins, Dallas’ other NFC East rivals, have done it a combined six times.

Continue reading →

McGee had his chance to show he deserves to be Romo’s backup

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Stephen McGee (7) talks with Tony Romo after Romo was injured in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Stephen McGee (7) talks with Tony Romo after Romo was injured in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles.


The Cowboys’ backup quarterback situation will have to be addressed in the off-season. Jon Kitna, 39, is expected to retire. Even after Saturday night, the question remains: Do the Cowboys trust Stephen McGee enough for him to be Tony Romo’s primary backup in 2012?

"I saw some things out of Stephen tonight that were impressive," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "He has made great strides in his instinct, made great strides with feel. I think that’s going to show real soon. He’s got a good arm. I am not sure where we are. We want to keep Kitna for as long as he’s healthy. It was not realistic to think that was there. Where we are with our backup quarterback is Stephen, and that’s how we’ll finish the season."

McGee had an opportunity, as he did to close out the 2010 season, to show he’s ready. McGee, a third-year pro who was a fourth-round draft pick, went 24-of-38 for 182 yards with a touchdown, no interceptions and an 83.4 passer rating. The Cowboys didn’t score until 7 seconds remained, getting a 4-yard pass from McGee to Miles Austin to avoid their first home shutout since 1991.

"It was up and down at times,” McGee said. “We moved the ball all right, and we had our chances. It just felt like we kind of shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and miscues on offense, miscommunication-type deals. We definitely could have executed a lot better. We’ll go back to the video and throw this one in the trash and be ready to go for New York.”

McGee played in two games last season, including a start against the Eagles in the 2010 regular-season finale. He started this season as the No. 3 quarterback, but a back injury forced Kitna onto injured reserve Dec. 14. McGee now is the team’s only backup on the 53-player roster.

“It took me a little bit to get back in the rhythm of things,” McGee said. “It’s been since I guess the Miami game [in the preseason] that I’ve been out there in live action at all. I haven’t had any reps this year with the offense at all. It took me a little bit of time to get comfortable. …But I felt a lot more comfortable that I did this time last year, for sure.”

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