COWBOYS 2013 INJURY UPDATE: Anthony Spencer surgery a success, should be ready for start of the season
Defensive end Anthony Spencer had successful surgery on his left knee today (Thursday), according to his agent Jordan Woy.
Spencer will be be sidelined about a month while recovering, likely keep him out the majority of the preseason. He should be ready for the start of the season.
The surgery was necessary after Spencer experienced discomfort in the knee during pre-camp conditioning tests on Saturday. It’s the same knee he hyper-extended during organized team activities in June. A magnetic resonance imaging exam confirmed a bone-bruise in Spencer’s left knee.
The Cowboys felt surgery was the best option and wanted to get this taken care of so it wouldn’t be a lingering issue during the season. Spencer will make $10.6 million after being designated as the team’s franchise player.
RELATED: Cowboys finally got some good news on the injury front
Starting left guard Nate Livings has been given the OK to practice and was removed Friday from the active non-football injury list. He’s expected to practice Friday afternoon after missing the start of camp with a foot problem.
Coach Jason Garrett said several other injured players could be back next week, including tight end James Hanna (hamstring), guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (hamstring) and guard Ron Leary (calf).
Backup right tackle Jermey Parnell (hamstring) probably need another week, Garrett said.
Garrett also said that defensive ends Anthony Spencer (knee) and Tyrone Crawford (Achilles tendon) had successful surgeries in Dallas. Spencer is expected back in camp sidelines this week, while Crawford will remain in Dallas.
COWBOYS 2013 ROSTER UPDATE: Dallas bringing in two defensive linemen to shore up depth concerns
OXNARD, Calif. – The Dallas Cowboys are bringing in two defensive linemen to make up for their lack of depth after injuries at the position.
They’ll take a look at defensive end George Selvie, a former South Florida defender who’s made stops in the NFL in St. Louis, Carolina, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay since 2010, and veteran defensive lineman Landon Cohen, who’s played in 25 games throughout his career.
Selvie spent a month in Tampa Bay after signing with the Buccaneers in April of this year before getting released. He was a seventh-round draft pick of the Rams in 2010, playing in all 16 games for St. Louis his rookie season. He was waived in September 2011 and then spent time with Carolina and Jacksonville in 2011-2012.
The defensive lineman played in 11 games in 2011, including four with Carolina and seven with Jacksonville. He stayed with the Jaguars in 2012, playing in nine games that season.
Cohen’s bounced around the league since getting drafted out of Ohio in the seventh round in 2008. He played in Detroit in 2008-09, suiting up for 20 games during that time. He spent time with Jacksonville, New England, Seattle, Arizona and Philadelphia since then, suiting up for two games with the Jaguars and three with the Patriots.
After adding three players to start training camp in quarterback Alex Tanney, wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei and tackle Demetress Bell, the team has one spot open on the 90-man roster. Tanney was the only one of those three to pass his conditioning test when arriving in California.
The Cowboys need help and depth at defensive line after losing Tyrone Crawford for the season on the first full day of training camp practices Sunday when the former third-round pick tore his Achilles tendon.
Crawford was a backup player expected to play an increased role, but it’s not just the backups who are hurting on the defensive line. Starter Anthony Spencer also sat out of practices early in training camp with a bone bruise on his knee, and he’s slated to have surgery that will keep him out two to four weeks.
Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff is also not participating in practice after hurting his hamstring during the conditioning drills, while defensive lineman Ikponmwosa Igbinosun sat out Tuesday with his foot in a boot.
COWBOYS 2013 INJURY UPDATE: Anthony Spencer knee surgery scheduled; young players get opportunity
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Anthony Spencer will require surgery on his left knee later this week.
An MRI confirmed a bone bruise after Spencer aggravated the knee during the team’s conditioning test Saturday. Spencer has been pained by the knee since the team’s OTAs in May and sat out the minicamp last month in hopes rest would heal it. But after this latest setback, doctors have advised minor surgery.
He is expected to be back in a few weeks, well in time for the season-opening game against the Giants. Spencer will miss valuable practice time as the Cowboys shift from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense. Spencer and DeMarcus Ware are moving from outside linebacker to defensive end.
With DE Tyrone Crawford out for the season with a torn achilles, defensive tackle Jay Ratliff on the physically unable to perform list because a strained hamstring and defensive Anthony Spencer with a bone bruise, the Cowboys acknowledge a need for help and added numbers on the defensive line.
The Cowboys will scan the waiver wire for possible additions for depth purposes but they will look to the current players on the roster to step up and help fill the void. If they need to add a veteran like John Abraham or Richard Seymour, it will be at the end of the preseason, a source said.
“Injuries provide opportunity,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We have a lot of young guys who we like. Guys we want to see more of. This gives them a chance to show us what they can do.”
The Cowboys will look to guys like Cameron Sheffield to step up at end behind Spencer, DeMarcus Ware and Kyle Wilber and former Texas A&M tackle Ben Bass to fill the void inside. There is a chance Bass could get a look at end but the Cowboys are holding off on that right now.
2013-2014 TRAINING CAMP UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys dealing with Crawford’s season-ending injury
OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys are now well underway in training camp here at the Oxnard River Ridge complex. The club wrapped up another light walk-through practice Monday, followed by a regular press conference from Jason Garrett.
Here are some highlights from the morning and early afternoon occurrences today:
- Defensive end Anthony Spencer didn’t participate because of a bone bruise on his leg. Spencer told reporters after practice he is trying to be smart about all injuries. His goal is to be “ready for that first game against the Giants.” From the sound of things, Spencer will be limited in his practice participation.
- With Spencer out, and after the torn Achilles injury of Tyrone Crawford, it put second-year pro Kyle Wilber working with the first-team defense at end.
- Running back Joseph Randle, who has been limited for most of the summer with a broken thumb injury, said he is “pretty much” 100 percent healthy now. Randle said he is wearing a small splint that fits inside his glove.
- Tight end James Hanna suffered a slight hamstring strain towards the end of the walk-through.
- When asked after practice what keeps Jason Witten’s motor running after 10 seasons, the Pro Bowl tight end said, his drive to “win a Super Bowl” is the biggest motivator. However, Witten said having the goal isn’t good enough. Putting in the hard work and long hours of camp and the offseason is only half of the battle. But still, Witten doesn’t deny the ultimate prize is to be holding that Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year. “When that day happens around here, it’ll be very special.”
- Jason Garrett said in his press conference the Cowboys won’t be able to put Crawford on IR until the roster is trimmed to 75 players. While they won’t gain a spot on the roster because of his injury, they already had one open spot. In regard to the defensive end, Garrett said “we need to reload there. We just need to continue to look at available options there.”
- Garrett on Tyrone Crawford: “I thought he had an outstanding year last year. He was a different player at the end of the year than the start. You know he’ll do his rehab right and we know he’ll be better and stronger than ever.”
- The head coach said defensive tackle Ben Bass has “some position flex” and he’ll get the chance with Crawford out, to play both end and tackle in the next few days.
- Jason Garrett was asked a few questions about his team-meeting speech on Saturday that has become viral in the internet Monday. The coach said motivational speaking is the biggest part of his job. “I think you have to give them a path, a roadmap, some inspiration and motivation to get up each and day to accomplish that vision. It’s my job as the head coach to do that. If you’re a human being, you need motivation and inspiration. It’s something I believe I have to do.
- Injured defensive end Tyrone Crawford said he will try to remain upbeat after his disappointing Achilles injury that will put him on IR for the entire season. “I’m still a part of the team. But I’m just not going to be there on the field. I learned a lot from DeMarcus Ware this offseason. I learned a lot from Hatcher, Ratliff this offseason. Now, I’m going to learn a lot from (Barry) Church and Britt Brown and the rest of the medical staff. But I’m going to work hard. I’ll make it back.”
- Cowboys VP Stephen Jones, the team’s director of player personnel, said Tyrone Crawford’s replacement is already on the roster. “We certainly like the guys we’ve got better there anyone out there.”
COWBOYS 2013 INJURY REPORT: Young Dallas DE Tyrone Crawford out for the rest of the season
OXNARD, Calif. – Tyrone Crawford couldn’t believe that just happened to him.
Really? On the first practice out here in Oxnard, Calif., where the excitement level was sky high, and someone from the stands would actually do that?
Crawford was just running through his drills when he felt someone throw a football into the back of his ankle.
“I heard it and felt it,” Crawford said. “And I looked down for the ball that hit me.”
Only there was no ball. What he heard and felt was simply his Achilles tendon popping. Crawford immediately went down and couldn’t put any pressure on it.
“That’s when I started putting it together,” he said. “At first, I thought it was someone from the crowd who threw a football at me. I was like, ‘what the heck just happened.’ I just tried to get back up but I fell right back down. And when (the trainers) came over, I knew it was pretty bad. That’s when I realized I just tore my Achilles.”
And that’s when frustration immediately overwhelmed the defensive end, who was considered by many as a rising star and a key member of the Cowboys’ new 4-3 scheme.
Crawford started pounding the ground with his fist. Practice continued around him, but he stayed on the ground, unable to put any power on his left foot. As the training staff called for the cart to pick him up and take him to the training table, Crawford buried his face in a towel to hide his pain, disappointment and frustration.
“I just couldn’t believe this happened on the first day,” Crawford said. “I had really high hopes for myself this year. I was so ready to go.”
Crawford, who will undergo an MRI to officially confirm the exact nature of the injury, is expected to fly back to Dallas in the next few days for surgery.
Crawford is the third Cowboys player in the last 12 months to suffer a ruptured Achilles, along with Caleb McSurdy and Barry Church. Both players are back on the field for the start of this year’s camp. And both of them came over to console Crawford after the injury.
“They just told me it’s not as bad as you think,” Crawford said. “They just tried to lift my spirits. They’ve been there. They know what I’m about to go through. Just really frustrating.”
Crawford said he was elated to hear the Cowboys were moving back to a 4-3 scheme, something he played in college at Boise State.
“Just being moved back to end, a place I’m really familiar with in college, I was just really excited,” Crawford. “I think I was doing well in the OTAs. I was really excited. But I guess everything happens for a reason. God has my back. I’ll be alright.
“I’m still a part of the team. But just not going to be there on the field. I learned a lot from DeMarcus Ware this offseason. I learned a lot from Hatcher, Ratliff this offseason. Now, I’m going to learn a lot from Church and Britt Brown and the rest of the medical staff. But I’m going to work hard. I’ll make it back.”
VALLEY RANCH REPORT: Will lack of a FB hurt DeMarco Murray?
Valley Ranch Report: Will lack of a FB hurt DeMarco Murray?
Bryan Broaddus joins Gina Miller on TXA 21 to discuss some of the biggest storylines heading into the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys training camp. (Duration: 3:01)
THE DELICATE BALANCE: Veteran Anthony Hargrove adds defensive line depth, but youth must eventually take over
Yesterdays signing of Anthony Hargrove to a one-year deal adds depth to the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line, but not youth.
Currently, three of the four projected starting linemen are at least 30, and defensive end Anthony Spencer is 29.
Hargrove turns 30 in July.
The Dallas Cowboys didn’t address the defensive line in the draft but did so in free agency with the signing of Hargrove.
The backups on the Cowboys’ roster consist of young players such as Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lissemore, Rob Callaway and Kyle Wilber. Those are young players who could become starters in 2014.
Jason Hatcher is in the final year of his contract, and he turns 31 in July.
Spencer, who doesn’t turn 30 until next January, is playing on the franchise tag and talks have slowed down regarding a new deal. Hatcher and Spencer could play elsewhere in 2014.
As for Jay Ratliff, the defensive tackle who will battle centers and guards this season, he will turn 32 in August. Do you remember the man Ratliff replaced? Jason Ferguson was 32 when he suffered an arm injury early in the 2007 season, opening the door for Ratliff to become the full-time starter. Health and age dooms NFL players all the time.
Ratliff is coming off an injury-filled 2012 season and it’s assumed this could be his last season with the Cowboys given his age and how his health betrayed him last season.
DeMarcus Ware isn’t going anywhere. Ware, however, turns 31 in July and is coming back from shoulder surgery and a dislocated elbow.
Age isn’t on the Cowboys’ side when it comes to the defensive line. While it’s good to have Hargrove provide depth as someone who can play end and tackle in the 4-3, the future is uncertain for this position.
Based on the offseason moves by the Cowboys, the defensive line is geared for the here and now, not for the future. The Cowboys had a chance to address the defensive line in the draft but expressed support for what they currently have.
That’s fine, but at some point youth must take over.
TEXAS 2 DEFENSIVE LINE: Dallas Cowboys feel like they have players that fit the need for speed
The Dallas Cowboys had a first-round grade on Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. He was probably the top player on the Cowboys’ draft board when they were supposed to pick at No. 18 in the first round. But they chose to trade back and Floyd went to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 23.
So why have him on the board?
Well, because they liked Floyd as a player but some in the organization weren’t sold on how he’d fit into their new 4-3 scheme.
Judging solely off the body language of Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and assistant director of player personnel Tom Ciskowski, trading back and missing out on a player like Floyd wasn’t the unanimous decision.
Ciskowski doesn’t have final say on the players the Cowboys draft. He presents information to the team and it’s up to Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and the coaching staff to ultimately make the decision.
“I think in a lot of cases, it’s kind of like a bridge,” Ciskowski told the G-Bag Nation show on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “We bring the players to the bridge and the coaches have to take them across. The main thing is just to communicate exactly what the coach wants. There was a defensive tackle from Georgia, John Jenkins, who as a matter of fact, was drafted by New Orleans. If we were still in the 3-4, we would’ve liked him as a nose [tackle]. But now that we’ve transitioned back to a 4-3, he really doesn’t fit what we’re looking for. So a lot of it is about the new coach educating us on what he wants at each position and it’s our job to go out and find it.”
What also factors in to the Cowboys not drafting Floyd at No. 18 is that the franchise feels good about the defensive linemen on the current roster. As of right now, the Cowboys have DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer starting on the ends with Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher on the inside. The top two reserves at tackle will likely be Sean Lissemore and Tyrone Crawford.
“I like our group, I really do,” Ciskowski said. “Between Spencer and Ware and then we got the guys inside in Ratliff and Hatcher and two young players who have shown great flash in Lissemore and Crawford. Then we have some other guys that have done some good things but they’re somewhat untested. A lot of teams go into the season with five players they feel good about, maybe six. And I think we’re at that level, and we might find another one in the group.”
Kyle Wilber, a fourth-round draft pick last year, has been moved to defensive end and could see time behind Spencer and Ware.
Editors note: To listen to the show, click HERE.
FLASHBACK- 2012 NFL DRAFT: Defensive End Tyrone Crawford expected to be even better in the new 4-3 scheme
Crawford ended up at Boise State by way of junior college, proving himself an intriguing prospect after only one year starting at defensive end. He is originally from Canada, where he played for a year after high school and prior to attending Bakersfield College. He has a ton of upside considering his history, and possesses prototypical NFL athletic ability and speed on a perfect frame. He can play in various spots across a defensive line and could be plugged into a number of schemes. He is a bit of a late riser and has second- or third-round value as a developmental prospect with starting traits.
Crawford is quick to get out of his stance off the snap and has the instincts to slant and hit a gap without being touched. He is consistently disrupting plays in the backfield and is a solid tackler. He is a strong player who shows an explosive arm jolt when keeping blockers at bay. Crawford shows good change of direction when stopping to pursue plays laterally. As a rusher, his motor is the key to his success. He never gives up on a play and can use a strong burst to get to the quarterback. He has a ton of upside, which undoubtedly increases his value to teams that are set at the position and willing to work with him. Despite his size, he could play special teams early on in his career because he has such a nasty demeanor.
Crawford is a raw prospect with limited experience. He will be a project early on for the team that selects him, and he could have a tough time adapting right away. He has had trouble getting off double-teams, which is likely a technique issue. Crawford will need extra coaching and attention to adjust to the NFL.
Third round: DE Tyrone Crawford from Boise State
How he fared: Crawford contributed his rookie season and showed flashes that he will be even better in the Cowboys’ new 4-3 scheme in 2013. Crawford finished his rookie season with 33 tackles and five quarterback pressures.
How he rates: He still has more to give and should contribute more in his sophomore campaign.
College: With their second selection of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys addressed the defensive line with a raw and gifted athlete in Tyrone Crawford in the third round (81st overall). While with the Cowboys, the team will look to use his talent and size to the advantage of the defensive line rotation as he adapts to the pro game. During his final two collegiate seasons at Boise State, Crawford collected 76 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 27.5 tackles for loss, two quarterback pressures, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries – including one for a 32-yard touchdown – and blocked two kicks while starting 11-of-25 contests. Crawford began his collegiate career at Bakersfield, Calif., Junior College where he totaled 80 tackles, 14.0 sacks, 27 tackles for loss, six quarterback pressures, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in two seasons.
NO GROWING PAINS: Monte Kiffin, Jerry Jones not worried about 4-3 switch
MOBILE, Ala. – The switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense will come into effect next season for the Cowboys.
Now the challenge becomes fitting the current personnel into that scheme, but defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and owner/GM Jerry Jones aren’t concerned about growing pains or the subsequent changes that alteration could cause for the Dallas defenders.
“I think the personnel, looking at it, we looked at some things that might fit a 4-3,” Kiffin said. “I don’t believe we were going to hire a 4-3 coach. I don’t think that was ever the plans for Coach (Jason) Garrett. He just wanted to get the coach he thought would fit.”
That coach would be Kiffin, and now the job of fitting people into place belongs in large part to the defensive coordinator. He must figure out which players are suited best for a move to the 4-3, the same way he did masterfully in his 13 seasons as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator. The head coach for the Bucs at that time was Tony Dungy, who said he thought it might take a couple years and drafts before Kiffin gets the right personnel for his scheme in Dallas.
Kiffin isn’t planning to wait that long for his defense to work.
“We were starting from scratch there at Tampa Bay,” Kiffin said. “It’s a process, but we want to hit it running. This isn’t a rebuilding four or five-year plan type deal. So hopefully we can get the process, speed it up a little bit.”
It’s possible Kiffin slightly tweaks his schemes to fit the Cowboys’ defense, which isn’t completely foreign to using four down linemen. As Jones mentioned, this defense has utilized more of a hybrid scheme in recent seasons than a straight 3-4.
“In training camp last year, I was asking some of the coaches, I said, ‘OK, let’s identify what we are,’ and they just wouldn’t go there,” Jones said. “They said, ‘We’re a combination of 4-3 and 3-4.”
Kiffin said it’s the coaches’ job to be able to fit his players into whatever defense he wants to call. He said a good coach should be able to lead any scheme.
“I totally believe that,” Kiffin said. “You could run a 4-4. As long as you’ve got 11 guys. Just make sure you don’t have 12. If you have 10, you’re not very smart.”
The Cowboys have utilized the 3-4 defense since Bill Parcells made the switch during his coaching tenure. Jones said he’s known “for some time” that he’s had the personnel to switch to the 4-3 defense, and the down linemen and linebackers have gone into a 4-3 defense “a reasonably good percentage of the time” in recent years.
He indicated there could be changes in technique and how the new defense is implemented, but he remains confident his current personnel can handle the switch.
“When we drafted (Tyrone) Crawford last year, we knew he could be an outstanding 4-3 lineman, not just handling the 3-4,” Jones said. “I look at who we drafted over the last several years, and we don’t have anyone that doesn’t fit in both schemes. (Kyle) Wilber, our linebacker, could easily be a Sam linebacker in the 4-3. We’ve always tried where we can to keep our options open there.”
The Cowboys hope a change in defensive philosophy might help stop division rivals in Washington and Philadelphia, both of which now have the personnel or coaching staff to implement fast-paced rushing schemes.
Kiffin said the read option is “making a name for itself,” but he’s more concerned with his own team’s staff and players than he is about his NFC East competitors at the moment. He said he’s in the process of figuring out where his front seven can play, and he emphasized the importance of finding the right fit for each player. But he doesn’t want to rush that decision.
If he doesn’t like a certain fit with his current personnel, he said the Senior Bowl offers a few prospects that could properly fit into the 4-3 scheme he wants to implement.
“To tell you the truth, we’re just trying to get our staff together and get the players in the right place,” Kiffin said. “We’ll run a 4-3, and we’re not going to make any quick decisions. We want to make sure we get the right people, the right place, and of course down there at the Senior Bowl, we’ve got some good players there. You’re always looking to upgrade, so we’re kind of busy with that right now.”
ROSTER REVIEW: Final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys
No more whistles, no more playbooks, no more coach’s dirty looks. Sure, not quite as catchy as the iconic “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks,” but we’re talking football grades here, not math, science and social studies.
The biggest difference in grading pupils and players is expectations. All students are created equal; not so much for a professional football team. Just doesn’t make sense to hold Miles Austin, one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the game and a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and Cole Beasley, an undrafted free agent rookie, to the same standard. Ditto for DeMarcus Ware, headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and some dude signed off his couch midseason. Not even Batman.
Without further ado, here are our final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys:
Tony Romo – B
This one is difficult, because for 80-plus percent of the season, 13-of-16 games, Romo played as well as any quarterback in franchise history. Yes, including Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. His numbers for those contests include 303.1 yards per game, 24 touchdown passes, seven picks and a 100.2 rating. Even with the other three games – vs. the Bears and Giants and at the Redskins – Romo had the league’s sixth-highest rating by Football Outsiders, behind only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.
He threw for nearly 5,000 yards, and on many occasions was his own best pass protector in terms of finding an extra second or two. There were times when he was brilliant, and never before has he shown the leadership he did this season. Still, in the end, Romo flunked his final. Again. That’s not easy to write. Romo has been sort of the teacher’s pet these last five years, but there is no excuse for those final two picks at Washington.
Kyle Orton – I
He broke Clint Longley’s 38-year-old mark for highest passer rating (minimum 10 attempts) with a ridiculous 137.1. Played just the one game, though, giving him an incomplete.
DeMarco Murray – C
A disappointing season for the second-year back who was expected to anchor the offensive load. Didn’t rush for 100 yards after Week 1 at the Giants and rarely showed the explosiveness from his rookie season with just five 20-plus carries. Finished tied for 21st in the league with 2.5 yards per attempt after contact. He also picked the worst of times for his first two NFL fumbles. His durability has also become a concern as he has missed nine of the team’s last 19 games with injuries.
Felix Jones – C
Finished with more offensive touches than expected, was much improved in picking up the blitz, caught the ball well, and for the most part, maximized his rushing yards with the gaps provided. He averaged just 3.6 yards per carry after entering the year at 5.1 for his career.
Lance Dunbar – B
Was impressed with the free agent rookie from North Texas from the first preseason game through Week 17. Finished with eight special teams tackles, was solid if unspectacular on kick returns and showed a little burst on offense. Should play a bigger role in 2013.
Phillip Tanner – C
Solid on special teams with 10 tackles, although he didn’t show much in limited action carrying the ball.
Lawrence Vickers – C
Showed promise catching passes, that little dump-off was seemingly always available. But his blocking was average and his four penalties in 305 snaps was the highest percentage of any fullback playing 25 percent of his team’s snaps.
PLAYER PUZZLE PIECES: How the Dallas Cowboys current personnel fit Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defense
A lot has been made about the Cowboys’ switch from the 3-4 defense to Monte Kiffin’s 4-3, and rightfully so. Although a great defense ultimately comes down to talented players executing a well-crafted scheme, it’s not as if elite players can simply line up at any position and succeed. If the chances of success at a particular position are optimized at a certain height, weight and speed, it follows that getting farther from those ideal traits will lower the probability of succeeding.
Kiffin’s defenses have typically emphasized speed over size at most positions, and that’s certainly a plus for a Cowboys defense that seems as if it hasn’t kept up with the NFL’s pass-happy evolution. Still, the truth is that the best defensive coordinators tailor their scheme around their personnel.
Kiffin’s version of the 4-3 in particular, known as a 4-3 Under, could potentially accommodate the Cowboys’ personnel better than most other 4-3 schemes. One reason is the presence of the 1-technique defensive tackle. A 1-technique tackle shades the offensive center, nearly playing heads-up over the top of him like a 3-4 nose tackle. The other defensive tackle, the 3-technique, is typically a smaller player that almost acts as a large defensive end in the interior.
There are certainly areas where the Cowboys might have holes to fill, of course. To figure out just how far away Dallas might be from Kiffin’s “dream” defense, we’ve researched the height and weight of each defensive player for Tampa Bay from 2003 to 2008. Kiffin was the defensive coordinator for the Buccaneers during that stretch, emphasizing specific traits at each position. Below are the averages of each player on the roster at every position.
1-DT: 6’3’’ 304 pounds
As mentioned, the 1-technique tackle is a strong presence in the inside, but he also has to be nimble enough to shoot up field.
Cowboys’ fit: Jay Ratliff (6’4’’ 303 pounds) matches Kiffin’s prototypical player at this position to a tee. The issue is whether or not the Cowboys can afford to continue to pay Ratliff the big bucks. Sean Lissemore (6’3’’ 303 pounds) also fits the bill.
3-DT: 6’2’’ 285 pounds
The 3-technique defensive tackle is much smaller than the 1-technique. Also note that, at an average of just 6’2’’, the 3-technique is shorter than the defensive ends.
Cowboys’ fit: This position in particular is difficult to project for the Cowboys. Jason Hatcher could potentially play any position along the defensive line, although at 6’6’’ 305 pounds, he’s much taller and heavier than the typically short, light tackles Kiffin has used in the past. Tyrone Crawford (6’4’’ 285 pounds) will probably play defensive end, but he also could have some versatility.
DE (Strong): 6’3’’ 279 pounds
Kiffin has typically used a very large, bulky player to man his strong-side defensive end position.
Cowboys’ fit: If there’s evidence that the Cowboys could let Anthony Spencer walk, this might be it. At 250 pounds, Spencer doesn’t come anywhere near matching the profile of Kiffin’s past ends. As mentioned above, Crawford checks in around this size, but his pass-rushing ability is a question.
DE (Weak): 6’3’’ 267 pounds
On the weak side, Kiffin’s defensive ends have been relatively close to the same size as the typical 3-4 outside linebacker.
Cowboys’ fit: DeMarcus Ware will play this position, although even he is listed at only 254 pounds. Ware shouldn’t have much of a problem adjusting, however. Alex Albright might need to transition to this position as well at 6’5’’ 260 pounds.
MLB: 6’1’’ 232 pounds
The “Mike” linebacker in Kiffin’s 4-3 defense has to have the ability to turn and run, so it’s no surprise that they’ve averaged only 232 pounds.
Cowboys’ fit: At 6’2’’, 245 pounds, Sean Lee is a bit oversized compared to the average 4-3 middle linebacker. He’ll often be asked to run downfield when tight ends run vertically, but Lee should be up for the challenge.
WLB: 6’1’’ 224 pounds
At only 224 pounds, the average “Will” linebacker in Kiffin’s defense must have the speed to run sideline-to-sideline.
Cowboys’ fit: Like Lee, Carter is “oversized” for the 4-3 at 240 pounds, but it really shouldn’t matter. As one of the fastest linebackers in the NFL, Carter won’t have a problem transitioning to the 4-3. He could potentially play any of the three linebacker spots, giving the Cowboys plenty of flexibility heading into the draft.
SLB: 6’1’’ 235 pounds
As the biggest of Kiffin’s linebackers, the “Sam” is still smaller than all but one linebacker the Cowboys had on the roster in 2012, Ernie Sims.
Cowboys’ fit: Assuming Carter plays the “Will,” the Cowboys may have a hole to fill here (and vice versa if Kiffin uses Carter as the “Sam.” If Dan Connor (6’2’’ 242 pounds) ends up starting for Kiffin, he’ll almost assuredly play this position and Carter will play the weak side.
CB: 6’0’’ 193 pounds
Due to Kiffin’s emphasis on Cover 2, his cornerbacks don’t turn and run in man coverage as much as in other defenses. Playing near the line, they need to be able to press and play the run, meaning they’re typically tall, although perhaps not as heavy as many believe.
Cowboys’ fit: Although there are questions about how Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne can transition to Kiffin’s scheme, I think they’ll be just fine. Carr has great size at 6’0’’ 210 pounds, and it isn’t as if they’ll be in Cover 2 every play. Even at 5’11’’ 185 pounds, Claiborne isn’t that far off from Kiffin’s prototypical cornerbacks over the years.
S: 6’0’’ 207 pounds
Since Kiffin generally plays with two-deep alignments and dares offenses to run, his safeties don’t need to be excessively big, but rangy.
Cowboys’ fit: The Cowboys could have an issue here since starters Gerald Sensabaugh and Barry Church are both at least 212 pounds and don’t necessarily excel in deep coverage. Kiffin has made it work with big safeties like John Lynch in the past, however, but the ’Boys still might need to look for a faster safety of the future in this upcoming draft.
We so often hear that teams need to find “their guys” that fit into their particular schemes, and that’s true; certain players are tailored to play in specific ways. However, the job of any coordinator is to mold their scheme to fit the skill sets of the current personnel. It’s certainly preferable to have a roster full of players built for a particular scheme, but creating that is a whole lot more challenging than slightly altering the scheme to fit the most talented players on the team.
When all is said and done, the success of Kiffin’s tenure in Dallas will be determined by how well he can manage this delicate balancing act, acquiring “his” guys while still being flexible with his scheme to accommodate what he already has.
IN THE TRENCHES: Dallas Cowboys work out veteran DL
IRVING, Texas – With Josh Brent out for the season and Jay Ratliff’s availability still in question because of a lingering groin injury, the Cowboys have brought in veteran Brian Schaefering for a workout.
“We need somebody to help us right now,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “Jay’s a question mark, so we’re down to five guys. If we get an injury we’re down to four, so we’ve got to get someone in here getting ready to play in case somebody gets injured.”
Schaefering played for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in Cleveland. From 2009-11, he had 72 tackles in 37 games, but he was cut by the Browns on Aug. 31.
Jones said he was not sure if Ratliff could return this week from a groin injury that has kept him out of the last three games. Ratliff went for a second opinion on his injury, which concurred with the team’s medical staff, according to Jones.
Without Ratliff and the impending move of Brent to NFI, the Cowboys have Jason Hatcher, Marcus Spears, Sean Lissemore, Tyrone Crawford and Robert Callaway on the defensive line.
MILESTONES: Achieved during Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys game
Here are the historical notes compiled after todays game with the Washington Redskins:
The Dallas Cowboys had 458 yards of total offense today. It was the second-most total yardage output for the club this season behind its 481 yards at Baltimore (10/14). It was also the club’s fifth 400-yard game of the season – tied for the eighth-most in a season in franchise history. Six times the club had six games with 400-plus yards and the club record is eight, established in 2009.
Dan Bailey was true on all three of his field goal tries, including a career-long tying 51-yarder. Today was the third time he hit a 51-yard field goal. The first was against St. Louis (10/23/11) and the second was against the N.Y. Giants (10/28/12).
Bailey’s three field goal conversions today gave him his 10th career game making three-plus field goals. He is now tied with Chris Boniol for the third-most games with three-or-more field goals converted in team history. Richie Cunningham (11) is second and Rafael Septien (21) has the team-high.
Dez Bryant led the team with a career-high tying 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns on eight catches. He had an 85-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter today. It was the longest catch of his career, tied for the ninth-longest play in team history and was the longest pass reception by a Cowboy since Jason Tucker had a 90-yard touchdown catch against the N.Y. Giants (1/2/00).
Bryant’s 145 yards today gave him 2,369 for his career and allowed him to pass Daryl Johnston (2,227), Preston Pearson (2,274), Raghib Ismail (2,281), Joey Galloway (2,341) and Bill Howton (2,368) for 21st in franchise history.
Bryant’s touchdown catches gave him his third straight game with a scoring reception – tying the longest streak in his career.
Bryant’s multiple touchdown reception game today was his second multi-touchdown game of the season and fourth of his career. It also gave him 21 career touchdown catches to move past Butch Johnson (19) and Terry Glenn (20) for 14th in franchise history.
Bryant’s 145-yard outing tied the second-most yards by a Cowboys receiver on Thanksgiving Day. Michael Irvin has the high (157 – vs. Pittsburgh, 11/28/91) and both Lance Rentzel (vs. St. Louis, 11/23/67) and Miles Austin (vs. Oakland, 11/26/09) were also tied for second with 145 each.
Tyrone Crawford had his first career sack (for 0 yards) today. It occurred in the second quarter.
Felix Jones finished today’s game with six rushes for 14 yards and three catches for 47 yards with a touchdown. His touchdown catch gave him a score in his third consecutive game (two receiving and one rush). It is the second-longest touchdown streak in his career behind a four-game streak in weeks 1-4 of his rookie season in 2008 (three rush and one kickoff return).
Jones caught three passes today to give him 127 for his career and break a tie with Pettis Norman and Alvin Harper (124) and tie Eric Bjornson for 35th in team history.
Jones’ 47 receiving yards today upped his career receiving yards total to 1,062 and pass Mike Ditka for 42nd in club record books.
Brian Moorman netted 52.3 yards on his three punts today. His 52.3 net was second in his career. His career-high was 53.0 at Kansas City (12/13/09).
Jermey Parnell made his first career start today. He started at left tackle in place of Tyron Smith (ankle).
Charlie Peprah intercepted his first pass as a Dallas Cowboy in the fourth quarter of today’s game. It was the eighth pick of his career.
Tony Romo finished today’s game completing 37-of-62 passes for 441 yards with three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Romo’s 62 attempts tied his club record while his 37 completions were a career-best and second in franchise history. His 441 yards were a career-high and good for third in franchise history.
|62||Tony Romo||vs. N.Y. Giants (10/28/12)|
|62||Tony Romo||vs. Washington (11/22/12)|
|57||Troy Aikman||vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)|
|41||Tony Romo||at N.Y. Giants (12/6/09)|
|37||Tony Romo||vs. Washington (11/22/12)|
|36||Tony Romo||vs. N.Y. Giants (10/28/12)|
|Passing Yards||No.||Player||Opp (Date)|
|460||Don Meredith||at San Francisco (11/10/69)|
|455||Troy Aikman||vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)|
|441||Tony Romo||vs. Washington (11/22/12)|
Romo’s 85-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant was the longest pass completion of his career. It also tied the ninth-longest completion in franchise history and was the longest since a 90-yard Troy Aikman-to-Jason Tucker scoring hookup against the N.Y.Giants (1/2/00).
Romo’s three scoring throws today gave him 92 touchdowns in home games to pass Danny White (91) for the most home touchdowns in franchise history. Romo accomplished the feat in his 47th home appearance while White did it in 84.
Romo’s three touchdown passes today gave him 52 career multiple-touchdown games to improve his club-high and allow him to tie for fifth in the NFL since becoming a starter in 2006:
Cowboys Career Multi-TD Games
NFL Multi-TD Games (since 2006)
Romo’s three touchdown tosses today gave him 165 for his career and tied him with Troy Aikman for the all-time Dallas Cowboys club record.
Romo now has 27 career games with three-or-more touchdowns, upping his club record.
Romo now has 26 career three-touchdown games – the most in Cowboys history, fourth among all-time undrafted quarterbacks and the fourth-most in the NFL since 2006:
Cowboys Career Three-TD Games
All-Time Three-TD Games (Undrafted Free-Agents)
NFL Three-TD Games (since 2006)
Romo’s 441 passing yards today was his fifth 300-yard game of the season and the 37th of his career. Dallas now holds a 23-14 (.622) record when Romo tops 300 yards.
Romo’s 441 yards was his second 400-yard game of the season and the third of his career. Romo’s three career 400-yard games sets a club record while his two this season also establish a single-season club record.
Romo threw for 441 yards today to give him 3,357 for the season. Romo now has five 3,000-yard seasons to tie Troy Aikman for the most in team history. Danny White is third with four.
Thanksgiving Day Single-Game Highs
|62||Tony Romo||vs. Washington (11/22/12)|
|57||Troy Aikman||vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)|
|44||Drew Bledsoe||vs. Denver (11/24/05)|
|37||Tony Romo||vs. Washington (11/22/12)|
|34||Troy Aikman||vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)|
|30||Troy Aikman||vs. Minnesota (11/23/00)|
|30||Jon Kitna||vs. New Orleans (11/25/10)|
|Passing Yards||No.||Player||Opp (Date)|
|455||Troy Aikman||vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)|
|441||Tony Romo||vs. Washington (11/22/12)|
|356||Troy Aikman||vs. Tennessee (11/27/97)|
Romo’s 62 pass attempts today upped his Thanksgiving Day pass attempts total to 221 and pass Danny White (187) for second in team history. Troy Aikman has the high with 341.
In completing 37 passes today, Romo has completed 142 Thanksgiving Day passes to pass Danny White (112) for second in team history. Troy Aikman has the high with 211.
With 441 passing yards today, Romo has thrown for 1,808 Thanksgiving Day yards. He passed Danny White (1,545) for second in team history behind Troy Aikman’s 2,280.
Romo’s three touchdown tosses today gave him 17 for Thanksgiving. He broke a tie with Danny White for the most touchdown throws on Thanksgiving Day in Cowboys record books.
Anthony Spencer had 2.0 sacks today, his sixth career multiple sack game and second of the season.
Spencer’s 2.0 sacks today gave him three straight games with at least a half sack – the third time in his career he has had that streak. His first three-game streak came in 2009 (Weeks 15-17) and the second in 2011 (Weeks 1-3).
In finishing today’s game with 74 receiving yards, Jason Witten now has 8,619 for his career to pass Paul Warfield 8,565 and Laveranues Coles (8,609) for 64th all-time in NFL history.
Witten led the team with nine catches today to give him 82 for the season, giving him his sixth season with at least 80receptions. Witten’s six 80-catch seasons ties Tony Gonzalez for the most all-time among league tight ends. Witten’s six also tie Gonzalez and six others for the sixth-most 80-catch seasons among all pass catchers in NFL history.Jerry Rice has the NFL record with 12.
THIRD IR ADDITION: Dallas Cowboys DE Kenyon Coleman suffers season-ending injury
IRVING – First safety Barry Church went down. Then linebacker Sean Lee. On Sunday, defensive end Kenyon Coleman became the third defensive starter for the Cowboys to suffer a season-ending injury, tearing his left triceps muscle in the third quarter of Dallas’ 38-23 victory over Philadelphia.
The Cowboys received the sobering news about Coleman’s status after he underwent an MRI. The 11th-year veteran will undergo surgery Tuesday and will be placed on the team’s injured reserve list, according to head coach Jason Garrett.
“That’s a loss for us because he’s been such a good player for us,” Jason Garrett said. “He is one of the leaders of the defensive line and certainly one of the leaders of our defense. He is a very, very good run defender and has shown that he can push the pocket and pressure the quarterback a little bit, too. He’ll be a loss for us, but like with the other guys that have gone out this year, the next man has to be up.”
Fortunately for the Cowboys, they have plenty of candidates, including 2005 first-round pick Marcus Spears, rookie Tyrone Crawford and injured veteran Sean Lissemore, who has missed the last four games with a high-ankle sprain.
Garrett said the Cowboys are “hopeful” Lissemore will be cleared to return this week. But in the event that he isn’t, the Cowboys already developing a contingency plan. In fact, Garrett said the team will likely promote one of their two practice-squad defensive linemen, Robert Callaway and Ben Bass, to the active roster this week.
“We anticipate making a move to add to the defensive line and those are the logical ones,” Garrett said.
For the Cowboys, it’s uncertain how the absence of Coleman will affect on the defense. The 33-year-old defender made 15 tackles and forced one fumble in 167 defensive snaps while frequently being spelled by Spears, Lissemore and Crawford at left end.
“It’s a rotational position anyway,” Garrett said. “Those guys have been playing some snaps through the early part of the season. They will play more now.”
FRESH HORSES: Dallas Cowboys backups are ready to step up at running back
IRVING — Because of injuries to others, Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner has taken plenty of practice snaps this week with the first-team offense.
The second-year back considers himself ready, if needed, to make his first NFL start Sunday against the New York Giants. But the former free agent draws the line at declaring himself comfortable in that role. Or any role in professional football.
"I’m never comfortable. That’s what kills you, when a guy gets comfortable and complacent," said Tanner, who had a career-high 13 carries in last week’s 19-14 victory over Carolina in relief of injured teammates DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knee). "I still come in every day as if I’m a free agent trying to make this team. I study film as if I’ve never seen it before. I take notes as if I’ve never read it before. Just so I can stay on my toes and won’t become complacent …So if I was good at 13 carries, I’ll try to be better at 14. And on and on and on."
That work ethic, coach Jason Garrett said, offers comfort to the Cowboys if Tanner — a third-teamer with 44 career carries for 137 yards — handles most of the workload Sunday against the Giants with Murray out and Jones on the mend. Jones practiced Thursday on a limited basis and, barring a setback, is expected to start Sunday.
But if Jones cannot play or cannot finish Sunday’s game, the spotlight shifts to Tanner. And Tanner’s primary backup would be rookie Lance Dunbar, a free-agent signee from North Texas and Haltom High School whose lone NFL carry covered 11 yards in the team’s 31-29 loss at Baltimore on Oct. 14.
Dunbar said the undrafted duo can handle a showdown with the reigning world champions, if necessary.
"I’m pretty confident in myself and I’m confident in him," Dunbar said. "If that happens, we’ll approach it like, ‘OK, we can do this. It’s just another game.’ We’d play our game and let it happen."
And their games differ greatly.
Tanner (5-foot-10, 217 pounds) offers a blend of power and speed that teammate Tyrone Crawford likened to Doug Martin, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Crawford, a defensive tackle, played at Boise State with Martin and said Tanner "reminds me of Doug [because] they both run low, powerful and with good vision. He’s a smash mouth back with speed and it’s good to have him."
Dunbar (5-foot-8, 191 pounds) is more of a breakaway threat who is dangerous in the open field.
"His quickness is sick," fullback Lawrence Vickers said. "He’s great with the ball."
Regardless of who plays running back against the Giants, the Cowboys seek to match the ground-and-pound production they had in a 24-17 victory over the Giants on Sept. 5 (143 rushing yards, including 131 by Murray) and in their past two games. Dallas rushed for a season-high 227 yards against Baltimore and collected 85 against Carolina while controlling the clock for 33:37.
Against the Panthers, Tanner (13 carries, 30 yards) handled the ball seven times in the final 7:32 on drives that resulted in a go-ahead field goal with 3:28 remaining and another to pad the lead with 58 seconds to play. Tanner touched the ball nine times in the fourth quarter (eight carries, one catch), including a 5-yard trap play on third-and-9 that preceded the go-ahead field goal.
"He’s on our team for a reason," Garrett said, praising Tanner’s ability to handle a bigger role in an emergency situation. "At every turn [since signing with Dallas], he came in here and said, ‘You are not cutting me from this football team.’ When he’s gotten more opportunities in the preseason or the regular season, he’s shown us he can do a good job for us."
Tanner’s biggest opportunity could come Sunday if Jones’ knee ailment elevates Tanner into the starting lineup. It would be a moment the Dallas native, who played at Kimball High School, has envisioned since signing with his hometown NFL team on July 28, 2011.
"The most important thing I’ve learned is always be mentally prepared. Just take it to practice every day as if I’m going to be the starting running back," Tanner said. "That’s been my mind-set since the first day. Just to work hard and jell with the offensive line as if I’m the starting running back. So that when my time came, I would be ready."
Vickers said the Cowboys’ ground game can be productive Sunday even if it leans on a Tanner-Dunbar tandem against the Super Bowl champs.
"Absolutely," Vickers said. "Every back in that backfield is ready to go at all times. We’re preparing to make sure we can be a dominant group and hold up our end on the football field."
‘BOYS BYE WEEK BREAKDOWN: Dallas Cowboys defensive grades for Top 11 players
Although 11 defensive players get named as “starters” in a given week, the Dallas Cowboys have had 15 defensive players participate in at least 38 percent of the team’s snaps through Week 4. Here are the top 11. . .
ILB Sean Lee: A
Lee has recorded a tackle on 19.6 percent of his snaps in 2012, which is simply remarkable. In coverage, he has allowed only 5.0 yards-per-attempt.
OLB DeMarcus Ware: A
How high are the standards for Ware that some are arguing he’s having a down year? He’s on pace for 20 sacks. I don’t know about you, but that’s good enough for me.
CB Brandon Carr: A-
Carr got beat by Brandon Marshall on Monday night, but don’t panic. He allowed three catches, albeit a few big ones, but he’s still playing really well. On the season, only 42.9 percent of passes Carr’s way have been completed.
OLB Anthony Spencer: B
We saw Spencer’s value most on Monday night when he wasn’t playing. The player who drops into coverage more often than any 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL also has a higher pressure rate than Ware this season. As I told you in the preseason, the sacks will come. He’s still on pace for 11.
ILB Bruce Carter: B
Quietly, the Cowboys have one of the better inside linebacker duos in the NFL. Carter’s tackle rate of 12.4 percent isn’t at the level of Lee, but it’s still pretty darn good.
CB Mike Jenkins: B
Jenkins clearly has something to prove this year. You saw Rob Ryan give Jenkins some snaps at safety last week, and that should continue. It’s difficult to quantify Jenkins’ success since he’s been targeted only three times, but his coverage has been the best I’ve ever seen from him.
NT Josh Brent: B-
Brent has been really, really good against the run. You can see the difference in the push from the defensive line with Brent in the game as compared to Jay Ratliff. I love Ratliff’s tenacity and pass rush, but the Cowboys might be better served if they allow him to utilize it from the five-technique to allow Brent to stay at the nose.
S Barry Church: B-
Even though Church is out for the season, I’m putting him on the list because I really liked what I saw in the three games that he played. Opposing quarterbacks tested Church seven times, gaining just 30 total yards. I still think the Cowboys need to find a ball-hawking free safety in the draft, but Church could stick around if he recovers from his Achilles injury.
CB Morris Claiborne: C+
After three games in which he was barely even tested, Claiborne is finally going through some of the growing pains that rookie cornerbacks invariably experience. Claiborne has allowed 9.0 YPA on the 14 passes thrown his way this year, which isn’t a bad mark. He got schooled by Devin Hester on national television, though, so people will naturally believe he’s playing worse than what is actually the case.
DE Jason Hatcher: C+
After starting the season with a boom, Hatcher has cooled down over the past two weeks. He has the third-most pressures on the team behind Ware and Spencer, so I think there’s still a good chance he ends the season with five or more sacks.
DE Tyrone Crawford: C+
Crawford hasn’t been able to get a ton of pressure yet, but his tackle rate of 8.9 percent is good for a five-technique end. In comparison, Hatcher’s tackle rate is 6.5 percent.
Just missed the list: DE Sean Lissemore, S Gerald Sensabaugh, OLB Victor Butler
COWBOY REWIND: Game film shows improvement in McCray, Crawford
- There are days where teams just come up with great game plans how to handle DeMarcus Ware. Give the Bears a lot of credit because on the Monday night, Lovie Smith and his offensive staff were not going to allow Ware to hurt them in this game. Ware did have three tackles and one sack but for the Bears that was a win, they knew that tackle J’Marcus Webb would have little chance or no chance one on one with Ware the entire night so they put tight ends to his side, they chipped backs out of the backfield on him, and they worked the guards his direction any chance they could.
Some thoughts from the film room at Valley Ranch, particularly from the defensive side of the ball.
- Rob Ryan did the best he could moving Ware around but you could see that protection was geared to manage him. Victor Butler was able to get some rushes and even had a chance for a sack one on one on a third down play but he was unable to get Cutler to the ground which kept a drive going which resulted in a field goal for the Bears. I went into this game believing that Ware could have one of those monster nights but there was no chance of that in the way the Bears played him. It was fresh in their minds what happened to them the last time they played on Monday night this season against the Packers Clay Matthews and they did everything in their power not to allow it to happen again.
- Wasn’t surprised how well Danny McCray played in his first opportunity to start at safety for Barry Church. The one thing I will say about McCray’s game is that he is steady. There is not a lot of flash or flair but what you have is a football player that knows his assignments and plays his techniques. I was really impressed with how he manages to work himself around the field. I didn’t feel like there were many plays where McCray wasn’t where he needed to be. Had the one chance where he was in great shape on the tight end Kellen Davis for an interception and just needed to come up with the ball when it hit his hands. There are things about him in coverage that you are probably not going to like but if Rob Ryan can keep matching him up on tight ends, he will continue to have opportunities to make plays. Where McCray also helps you is his ability to make a sure tackle. It was a trait that we all had seen before during his work on special teams but he has managed to carry that side of his game into the regular defense. Danny McCray reinvented himself this summer as a player and you can tell by the way he played against the Bears, he had a good idea what he needed to do to help this team on defense.
- I have always believed that you draft players to play them. I never understood the teams that had all their draft picks on the weekly inactive list. You always need to find ways to get your rookies on the field. In the case for the Cowboys on Monday night, Garrett had Morris Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford and Kyle Wilber on the field taking meaningful snaps with the first team defense. We all know that Claiborne has been a day one starter and you can clearly see the talent that he plays with but also how much he has to learn about his craft and the tricks of the trade. There are going to be days where Claiborne is not going to be in great position on routes and it happened to him on a crossing route against fellow rookie Alshon Jeffery where he was trying to carry him across the field and there was too much separation which made him have to scramble to get in position to try and make the play.
- Claiborne also didn’t play with good inside leverage on the Devin Hester touchdown where he allowed Hester to run the out and up on him and was never able to recover. Claiborne did do a good job of coming forward one time on a third down pass to Hester and cutting him down before he had a chance to get going. There is no doubt in my mind that Morris Claiborne will be tested more these next five weeks. I am honestly surprised that teams have not thrown at him more. Opponents are going to find out if he can handle the ball going at him down after down and he will need to be up to the challenge.
- Tyrone Crawford caught my eye last week when he went toe to toe with the Buccaneers Carl Nicks. This week it was much of the same for Crawford who plays with surprising power and strength to go along with his quickness. The area I have been impressed with Crawford has been with his ability to play with his hands. He is really a technique sound guy and you can see every week that the defensive coaches are giving Crawford more and more of an opportunity to be a part of the defensive line rotation but this is not a gift, he is actually earning his right to see the field more and more each week. With the bye week ahead, there is a chance to we can also see safety Matt Johnson and from what I had seen in college, he has a chance to help.
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PRESEASON GAME RECAP: Dallas Cowboys 30, Miami Dolphins 13
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.
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.
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.
BASS FISHING FOR A SPOT: Dallas Cowboys rookie DE on the radar
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.”
PROJECTION: Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster
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.
PRACTICE UPDATE: Jason Witten not idle anymore, center Phil Costa in uniform
IRVING — Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten isn’t idle anymore. He was working on the resistance cord with an athletic trainer during the early part of the team’s Monday morning practice at Valley Ranch.
Witten was told he needed to be idle for seven to 10 days after he lacerated his spleen during the Cowboys’ first preseason game at Oakland on Aug. 13. His status for the season opener Sept. 5 at the Giants is still in doubt. He’ll learn more about his condition when he visits a doctor Tuesday.
Other notables from the first 20 minutes of the Cowboys’ practice Monday (that was all the media was allowed to observe):
- WR Dez Bryant was also working on the resistance cord with an athletic trainer. He’s battling tendinitis in his right knee, but he’s expected to play in the season opener.
- Starting center Phil Costa was in uniform and working with the first-team offensive line in practice. He’s been out with a back injury since Aug. 10.
- WR Miles Austin and LB DeMarcus Ware — both nursing hamstring injuries — weren’t in uniform for practice. Neither was CB Mike Jenkins (right shoulder). Austin and Ware are expected to be ready to play in the season opener. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said that Austin wouldn’t likely return to practice until the end of the week (in other words, at the earliest Thursday, the day after the Cowboys’ preseason finale against Miami). Jenkins won’t likely play in the season opener because he has yet to fly to Florida to visit with Dr. James Andrews again and be released to practice.
- Third-round pick DE Tyrone Crawford missed practice Monday morning because he was sick.
GAMEDAY: 5 things to watch in tonight’s Dallas Cowboys vs. Oakland Raiders preseason opener
After two weeks of training camp, the Dallas Cowboys are ready to hit someone else. They will get that chance tonight in their preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders. Don’t expect to see many of the front-line players on the field for more than a series, because this game is more about the backups and young players.
- The Cowboys had planned to take an extended look at the backup receivers battling for the No. 3 job even before Dez Bryant and Miles Austin suffered hamstring injuries. Look for Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris to start with the starters sidelined. But the question is whether Cole Beasley, Andre Holmes and Tim Benford, who have played the best in camp, can continue to perform under the lights and the pressure of a game.
- Who’s at center? With Phil Costa nursing an ailing back and Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski sidelined indefinitely, it will be mystery meat for the Cowboys at the position. David Arkin is expected to start, but he has struggled with snaps all camp. Linemen Harland Gunn and Pat McQuistan also have been cross-trained at center and will play there tonight.
- Bruce Carter, who has had a strong camp, is the favorite to win the inside linebacker job opposite Sean Lee. But the starting spot will not be given to Carter. He will share first-team reps against the Raiders with veteran Dan Connor as they have done in practice the past two weeks. Carter has shown range, coverage ability and a nose for the football, but must show it in a game.
- Rookie defensive end Tyrone Crawford had been one of the raves of camp because of his quickness and pass rush skills. Thought to be a project, Crawford has been a quick study and could vie for immediate playing time. He will get a look at left and right end and tackle on passing downs.
- Quarterback Tony Romo and the first-team offense and defense likely will go one series, or certainly no more than eight or nine plays. The Cowboys don’t want to risk injuries to their front-line players. Several starters are not expected to play due to injury, including Austin, Costa, nose tackle Jay Ratliff and defensive end Jason Hatcher. Bryant’s status is a game-time decision.
Courtesy: Clarence E. Hill Jr.
PRESEASON WEEK ONE: 2012 Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster projection
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.