The Dallas Cowboys didn’t want Rob Ryan, but the defensive coordinator will take his former players.
The New Orleans Saints have signed defensive end Kenyon Coleman today. Coleman started five games for the Cowboys in 2012, but he was placed on injured reserve after he tore the triceps in his left arm.
Coleman, 33, was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 2002 draft. He was a regular starter with the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Cowboys from 2007 to 2011. The 6-foot-5, 285-pounder had 36 tackles and one sack in 2011.
Former Cowboys linebacker Victor Butler signed with the Saints earlier this week. Coleman played for Ryan in Dallas and Cleveland. He’ll help New Orleans transition to Ryan’s 3-4 scheme.
Backup linebacker Victor Butler has left the Cowboys for a free-two-year agent deal with the New Orleans Saints, according to a report by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which cited a league source.
The move puts Butler back in the hands of former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who was dismissed in January after two seasons in Dallas.
The move also leaves the Cowboys with nothing to show for the 2009 draft class. The Cowboys had 12 picks in that draft, and the last two remaining — Butler and tight end John Phillips — each signed free agent contracts with other teams this year. Only Butler, Phillips, kicker David Buehler and third-string quarterback Stephen McGee lasted more than two years with the Cowboys from that group.
Butler played in 63 games for the Cowboys, started three, and had 11 sacks. He played in all 16 games each of the last two years. Last year, on special teams, he caused a fumble on a punt return that set up a Cowboys comeback victory against Pittsburgh.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware missed practice Wednesday with shoulder and elbow injuries. He played in only 59 of 95 plays in Sunday’s game after leaving with a shoulder strain. He left with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter and returned for one play of overtime. He said Wednesday that he would play Sunday.
Five other players missed practice, which was moved indoors to Cowboys Stadium. Linebacker Brady Poppinga and nose tackle Robert Callaway had travel problems getting back to DFW after the two-day Christmas break. Defensive end Jason Hatcher (thigh) said he would play Sunday. Linebacker Victor Butler (groin) also was out. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who had sports hernia surgery two weeks ago, will be out again this week.
Linebacker Alex Albright (knee) was limited.
Receiver Dez Bryant (finger), running back DeMarco Murray (foot), running back Felix Jones (knee) and linebacker Ernie Sims (concussion) were full participants.
RELATED: Jason Hatcher’s thigh will be fine come Sunday, he says
Defensive end Jason Hatcher said he missed practice only as a precaution. His thigh will be "100 percent by the time Sunday comes," Hatcher promises.
"It’s doing good," Hatcher said Wednesday. "I’m a veteran. I understand. I listen to my body. It was one of those days I felt like I should have just rested a little bit more. Tomorrow, I’ll do a little bit more.
"Am I worried about me playing Sunday? No."
Hatcher has had 68 tackles, 4 sacks and 21 quarterback pressures this season.
RELATED: DeMarcus Ware promises to play through pain
Linebacker DeMarcus Ware said he will not wear any type of harness on his strained shoulder nor will be take a pain-killing injection. But he will be in the lineup come Sunday.
"I feel a lot better right now," Ware said Wednesday. "I’m going regardless."
Ware, who already was playing with a hyperextended elbow, had to leave last week’s game with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter after "tweaking" the shoulder. He returned for a third-down play in overtime. Ware played 59 of 95 plays. He did not practice Wednesday.
"I’m going to tell you something, 75 percent of DeMarcus Ware is probably better than 90 percent of the guys who play the position at the end of the day," Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher said. "I’ll take 75 percent vs. no DWare any day. Wherever he is right now, I’ll take it."
Ware has never missed a game in his NFL career and has failed to start only one of 127 games. He didn’t start a 2009 game against New Orleans because of a neck injury.
Ware has 11.5 sacks this season, but only 2.5 have come in the past seven games. He has been without a sack in three of his past five games.
BEHIND THE LINES: This Dallas man, Jordan Woy has flown largely under the public’s radar (Special Feature)
Eavesdrop on Jordan Woy’s flurry of phone conversations on any given day, or peek at his endless trail of texts, and you’d be hard-pressed to guess what he does for a living.
That’s him crunching numbers and talking contracts from his high-rise office overlooking Turtle Creek Boulevard in Dallas.
Must be a lawyer, or a financial planner, right? Maybe a CEO?
That’s him, too, zipping around Dallas in his black Maserati, Blue-toothing with a colleague about the long-term effects of concussions. Sure seems to know a lot about them.
Ah, a doctor? (Sweet ride, doc.)
But a text, asking him to arrange a meeting with a starlet, suggests he could be in showbiz. And a soothing exchange — "How’s Katie? How’s everything? Let me know if I can help." — spins you in a completely different direction. Marriage counselor? Therapist?
The answer, Woy might tell you, is all of the above.
The Steelers came into this game with the top-ranked defense in the NFL. The Cowboys? Well, they had six of their original starters out of the lineup, plus their nickel cornerback, then lost yet another linebacker in the early stages of the game.
But as the old saying goes, the games aren’t played on paper. Instead, it was the Dallas defense that came up big, leading the team to a thrilling 27-24 overtime victory in front of 95,595 raucous fans.
Despite the glaring differences between their defensive units, Dallas’ patchwork side held their own throughout the contest, and when they needed it most, came up with three big sacks late in the fourth quarter. That was followed by a game-changing interception from Brandon Carr in the extra frame, which set up the winning field goal.
It was by no means easy. Twice the Steelers took the lead and three times the game was tied. But Dallas kept battling back.
Pittsburgh put up 388 total yards of offense and did not have a single penalty. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 339 yards on 24-of-40 passing with two touchdowns. His primary target was tight end Heath Miller, who totaled 92 yards on 7 catches, while wide receiver Mike Wallace had four catches for 95 yards.
But on the other side of the ball, the Cowboys were ready for the the mighty Steelers defense, racking up 415 total yards. Tony Romo was again outstanding, throwing for 341 yards on 30-of-42 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He connected with nine different players, Miles Austin leading the way with seven catches for 79 yards while Dez Bryant and Jason Witten did what they do best, each scoring a touchdown.
Even DeMarco Murray got into the action, rushing for 81 yards on 14 carries with a score. By comparison, the Steelers only ran for 69 yards as a team.
The Dallas Cowboys came back to work this week with their mind on turnovers.
At least, that was one of the main things they were asked about after their bye-week break.
“We’re stressing that every day at practice,” safety Danny McCray said. “We should get it right sometime.”
The Cowboys are minus-7 in turnover ratio, second-worst in the league. Only Kansas City, at minus-15, is worse. New England and Atlanta are first at plus-10.
“Some of it is luck,” McCray said. “Some of it is catching the ball when it comes to you. And other ones are disruptions – getting hands up in the quarterback’s face. If you know you’re not going to get there when we’re blitzing on a sack or something, just try to get a hand up and get a tipped ball.”
Cornerback Brandon Carr, with eight interceptions in four years before coming to Dallas, said each player must aim to find a way to make a takeaway.
“It’s a personal challenge that each one of us has to accept,” he said. “You have to challenge yourself to put it upon yourself within the scheme of our defense to go out there and you be the one to make that play. You be the one to make the difference for the defense. But at the same time, you have to be smart about it, read your keys. Just try to remember everything you went over in film, studying what your coaches taught you and just go out there and just play.”
The Cowboys have one interception this year, from linebacker Sean Lee off a ball that bounced off the intended receiver. Victor Butler, Barry Church and Orie Lemon have each recovered fumbles. DeMarcus Ware has forced three fumbles, and Lee has caused one.
Still, the Cowboys have only two interceptions over the past 10 games. They had only one in the final six games last year (also Sean Lee, against the Giants at Cowboys Stadium) and have only one in the first four games this year.
“You work on a lot of different things during the week with drills, and those things have been good for us in the past, and you just have to carry those things to the game,” coach Jason Garrett said. “But it’s a team thing, we talk about that all the time. On offense, the ball security is a team thing. It starts with the guys up front, the guys protecting, the guys blocking, certainly the guys who have the ball in their hands, and similarly on defense, if you create havoc for the quarterback, and he has to do things quicker than he wants to do, typically those result in interceptions.”
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
NO WALKTHROUGH: Dallas Cowboys adopt "training camp mode" for today’s workout before players take break
Instead of a walkthrough, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said today’s workout at Valley Ranch will involve “more of a training camp mode” in the wake of Monday’s 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears. It will be the Cowboys’ only workout of the week before players take a four-day break and return to work Monday to begin preparations for the team’s next game, Oct. 14 at Baltimore.
Garrett said he reviewed videotapes with players this morning and the team will work today “in helmets and shells … Cowboys vs. Cowboys in the practice, more of a training camp mode” before taking time off for their bye week. Garrett said he stressed the importance of responsible, off-field behavior to players during their break.
“That’s always something you try to address with them whenever they have time off and they’re going to be away for a little bit. Just remind them of what we’re trying to get accomplished here and who they are and how they want to represent themselves, their families and our teams,” Garrett said.
Jason Garrett speaks to the Dallas media as his team prepares to take the field for their final practice before the bye week.
Click HERE to watch video – duration 10:28
- 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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Rushing Offense F
The running game was bad in Week 3 against the Buccaneers and got worse against the Bears. DeMarco Murray gained only 24 yards on 11 carries. He was dropped for a loss four times, meaning he’s lost yardage on 11 of 29 carries over the last two games. Murray’s 131-yard performance in the season-opening win over the Giants is the exception. The norm: 106 yards on 31 carries in the three games since then, an average of 3.4 yards per carry. Speaking of exceptions, Felix Jones actually looked fast on his lone carry of the night, a 13-yard burst. That was a rare occasion when the offensive line opened a hole.
Passing Offense: F
The five interceptions far overshadow Tony Romo’s 307 passing yards. And who cares that Kyle Orton threw for 89 yards and a touchdown during mop-up time? It’s close to impossible to win when the franchise quarterback throws more touchdown passes to the opposing team than to his teammates. Romo missed wide-open receivers twice on potential touchdowns, too. Dez Bryant had eight catches for a career-high 105 yards, but this was one of his worst performances. He had two killer drops and a mental bust that led to Charles Tillman’s pick-six. The return of the real Jason Witten (13 catches, 112 yards, TD) offered little comfort.
Rushing Defense: B-
Matt Forte found some room, gaining 52 yards on 13 carries, but the Bears’ running game didn’t really hurt the Cowboys. Dallas bottled up backup Michael Bush for 29 yards on 10 carries. The Bears finished with fewer than 100 yards on the ground and averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. Inside linebacker Sean Lee had another outstanding performance as a run-stopper, being credited with 14 tackles, including one for a loss. Nose tackle Josh Brent played strong up the middle, getting four stops, including one behind the line on a third-and-short. Fill-in outside linebacker Victor Butler got his end turned a few times and only made one tackle, but it’s not like the Bears won the game because they exploited Anthony Spencer’s absence.
Passing Defense: F
Chicago QB Jay Cutler entered the week as the NFL’s interceptions leader but had an almost flawless performance against the Cowboys. Cutler completed 18 of 24 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 140.1. The Cowboys weren’t able to exploit a questionable offensive line, sacking Cutler only twice. Starting cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne both owned up to playing poorly. Brandon Marshall (seven catches, 138 yards, TD) was dominant, although Carr didn’t cover him on all of his catches. Claiborne got burnt by a Devin Hester double move for a touchdown.
Special Teams: B
The Cowboys contained Devin Hester, who had only one punt return for eight yards and two kickoff returns for 50 yards. Brian Moorman pinned the Bears inside the 10-yard line on two of his three punts. Felix Jones took a knee on five kickoffs — yes, that counts as progress — and failed to get to the 20 the two times he came out of the end zone. Dan Bailey made his only field goal attempt. And Joe DeCamillis’ units didn’t have any disasters.
Jason Garrett’s offense is as big a mess as there is in the NFL. Oh, the Cowboys are no longer the lowest-scoring team in the NFL. They avoided that dubious distinction with a garbage-time touchdown, but a five-turnover performance was an epic failure. Garrett has two weeks to figure things out, and he’ll need every minute of it. Rob Ryan failed to generate much pressure on Cutler despite facing a suspect Chicago offensive line, but at least he had an excuse with four starters out and linebacker Bruce Carter missing much of the game.
The more you studied the Bears on defense, the more you realized that it was going to be difficult to move the ball on them. For the Cowboys on Monday night, moving the ball wasn’t the problem. Instead, it was missed opportunities when the offensive line was able to protect and Romo had time to find an open receiver. Poor execution led to a turnover, or a drop or even an overthrow. This Chicago defense wasn’t dominant like I had seen on film, but it simply took advantage of the Cowboys inability to finish drives and make plays.
While we focus on those missed opportunities, we also need to take note that for the second straight week, this team lacked a running game. Sure, people will blame this solely on the offensive line, but it’s more than that. It was a collective effort. There is really a struggle to get any type of push at the point of attack, but this is a tight end and fullback problem as well. Give the Bears credit for their run defense tonight but going forward, something has to be done.
Not going to make any excuses for this defense tonight, but it was clear that they needed to find a way to make more plays than they did. So far this team has gotten by without Jay Ratliff at nose tackle, but tonight they played without Anthony Spencer and it was the first game without safety Barry Church as well. While Josh Brent has done a nice job at nose, they still need Ratliff. Victor Butler does a much better job of rushing the passer than he does playing the run, although even when he had a chance to get a sack and get the defense off the field, he was unable to make a play.
Tonight we saw Brandon Carr struggle and the Bears go after Morris Claiborne a bit. Danny McCray was in on several plays but had a chance to make an interception late in the game, instead allowing tight end Kellen Davis to take the ball away from him.
For a team that shut Vincent Jackson down last week, Brandon Marshall was unstoppable. There were too many plays where he had space. I was surprised that DeMarcus Ware didn’t have a bigger night against J’Marcus Webb, who had been struggling against everyone at left tackle. Ware did have a sack and three tackles, but again, I expected more. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan did his best to match the Bears, but Jay Cutler was more than up to the challenge and the Cowboys were able to only generate one turnover from him.
Cowboys punter Brian Moorman was effective in this three punts with two inside the 20. Bears return man Devin Hester wasn’t the factor that he could have been. Hester did manage to have one kickoff return for 29 yards, but the kickoff coverage team was up to the task when given the opportunity. In the three chances the Cowboys did have to punt, it appeared from the press box that the protection was better than the last two weeks.
Here are the notes compiled after tonight’s game:
Jason Witten (112 yards) and Dez Bryant (105) each topped 100 receiving yards to mark the first time the Cowboys had a pair of100-yard receivers in a game since Miles Austin (143) and Witten (102) did it at San Francisco (9/18/11).
Miles Austin’s 57 yards tonight gave him 3,594 for his career to pass Billy Joe DuPree (3,565), Jay Novacek (3,576) and Terrell Owens (3,587) for eighth in club record books.
Austin’s touchdown catch gave him his 31st career scoring reception to tie Lance Rentzel for ninth in Cowboys history.
Cole Beasley had his first career reception tonight, finishing with two for 14 yards.
Josh Brent notched his first career sack tonight.
Dez Bryant’s eight receptions tonight gave him 129 for his career to pass Pettis Norman, Alvin Harper (124 each) and Eric Bjornson (127) and tie Dan Reeves for 33rd in franchise history.
Bryant totaled 105 receiving yards tonight to give him 1,758 yards for his career to pass Pettis Norman (1,672) and Dan Reeves (1,693) for 31st in club history.
Bryant’s 105-yard performance was his second career 100-yard game and a career-high. His first was at the N.Y. Giants (11/14/10) when he finished with 104 yards.
Victor Butler recovered his second career fumble following the force by DeMarcus Ware’s sack.
Andre Holmes had caught his first career pass tonight for seven yards.
Danny McCray made the first start of his career, filling in at safety after Barry Church was placed on Reserve/Injured (Achilles) last week.
Brian Moorman made his Cowboys debut, punting in place of Chris Jones (knee). Moorman punted three times for a 37.0 average, a 34.3 net and two downed inside the Bears 20.
DeMarco Murray rushed 11 times tonight to give him 237 career rushing attempts. He passed Chris Warren (217) and Daryl Johnston (232) for 25th in Dallas record books.
Murray rushed for 24 yards tonight to up his career rushing yards total to 1,134 and pass Doug Dennison (1,112) for 22nd in franchise history.
Kyle Orton made his Cowboys debut tonight in the fourth quarter and completed nine-of-10 passes for 89 yards with a touchdown.
Tony Romo’s touchdown toss tonight was his 154th career touchdown throw. He broke a tie with Roger Staubach for sole possession of third place on the Dallas Cowboys all-time touchdown pass list.
Romo finished the game with 307 passing yards, to up his club record of 300-yard passing games to 33.
Romo also suffered five interceptions tonight to tie his career high previously established at Buffalo (10/8/07).
Phillip Tanner had his first career catch tonight and finished with two grabs for 20 yards.
DeMarcus Ware had a sack tonight in which he forced his 30th career fumble to extend his club record. His last three sacks (two from last week) have each resulted in a forced fumble.
Ware now has three forced fumbles on the season, his sixth career season with three-or-more forced fumbles which ties the fifth-highest figure by a defender in league history.
Jason Witten finished with 13 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown tonight. His 112 yards tied the ninth-most receiving yards in a game in his career while his 13 receptions were the third-most in his career, tied the third-most by a Cowboys pass catcher in franchise history – Lance Rentzel (vs. Washington, 11/19/67) and tied the eighth-most by a tight end in a single game in NFL history.
Witten’s Single-Game Receptions
15………… at Detroit (12/9/07)
14………… at N.Y. Giants (12/6/09)
13………… vs. Chicago (10/1/12)
Witten’s 100-yard outing upped his Cowboys tight end record of 100-yard games to 15.
Witten’s touchdown reception tonight was his 42nd career scoring grab and his first since his 59-yard score at Washington (11/20/11). His 42 touchdown catches broke a tie with Billy Joe DuPree for sole possession of sixth on the club’s all-time touchdown receptions list.
ARLINGTON — On an otherwise dismal night for the Dallas Cowboys, tight end Jason Witten found a way to cure his season-long battle with dropped passes.
Witten, who dropped an NFL-high five passes in the team’s first three games, grabbed the first seven passes sent in his direction by quarterback Tony Romo during Monday’s 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears at Cowboys Stadium.
Witten finished with a team-high 13 catches for 112 yards — with no drops — and a 5-yard touchdown catch on the final possession. He more than doubled his season totals for receptions and yardage. Witten entered with eight catches for 76 yards in the team’s first three games.
Soldier Field South?
The noise generated by Bears’ fans during the game made it unclear, at times, which team was playing at home. Especially during a "Let’s Go, Bears" chant in the fourth quarter.
The loudest cheers came on Lance Briggs’ 74-yard interception return for a third-quarter touchdown that upped the Bears’ lead to 24-7. Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, a former Grapevine and Texas player, caused the interception. The play came one snap after Dallas had recovered a fumble in Bears’ territory with an opportunity to cut into a 17-7 deficit.
"That’s what happens when you don’t give the fans anything to cheer for," Cowboys safety Brandon Carr said. "I don’t like to get embarrassed, especially on national TV. I’m frustrated."
Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray had five runs that produced negative yardage against the Bears, all in the first three quarters. He had seven in last week’s 16-10 victory over Tampa Bay. Murray had only 14 carries for negative yards in 13 games last season.
Murray also fumbled in the first quarter and dropped a pitchout from Romo in the second. The second fumble was credited to Romo, who also threw five interceptions, tying a career high.
Cowboys cornerbacks surrendered their first touchdown of the season when Devin Hester beat rookie Morris Claiborne for a sliding, 34-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. The ball moved when Hester hit the ground, triggering a replay review. Based on the reaction by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, it was clear the Dallas sideline thought the catch would be overturned.
The Cowboys came up short on another third-quarter review after a Claiborne fumble recovery was overturned when the Bears’ receiver was ruled down by contact.
Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (8 catches, 105 yards) had the second 100-yard receiving night of his career and his first since Nov. 14, 2010 against the New York Giants in his rookie season.
Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter injured his left hip on the team’s opening defensive series but later returned to the game. He finished with two tackles.
Three Cowboys’ defensive starters were declared inactive before the game because of injuries: DE Kenyon Coleman (knee), DT Jay Ratliff (ankle) and LB Anthony Spencer (pectoral muscle). A fourth starter, safety Barry Church, suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in last week’s victory over Tampa Bay. The respective replacements in Monday’s starting lineup were Sean Lissemore (Coleman), Josh Brent (Ratliff), Victor Butler (Spencer) and Danny McCray (Church).
Roof, doors open
For only the fifth time in stadium history, the Cowboys played a game with both the roof and the doors open. With Monday’s loss, Dallas is 1-4 in those games. The team fell to 14-12 in regular-season games at Cowboys Stadium.
Jenkins tries safety
Cornerback Mike Jenkins made his debut at safety, taking snaps at the position during the team’s nickel package. Last week, cornerback Brandon Carr played safety while starters Gerald Sensabaugh and Barry Church nursed injuries against Tampa Bay.
The Cowboys, who had six false-start penalties in last week’s victory over Tampa Bay, had none against Chicago.
Dallas Cowboys’ outside linebacker Anthony Spencer is not expected to play Monday night against the Bears with a shoulder injury that has forced him to miss all week of practice.
Spencer remains on the injury report as “questionable” to play but sources inside Valley Ranch suggest the sixth-year pro will not be able to face Chicago this week.
That means Victor Butler will likely get the start. And while he’s been a steady pass-rusher at times, the Cowboys have always wondered just how effective he would be as a full-time player having to stop the run.
Look for the Bears to test him early and often, especially if Matt Forte plays. Chicago head coach Lovie Smith called Forte a game-time decision to play, after missing last week with a high-ankle sprain. Michael Bush is a big, physical runner and will get some carries, whether or not Forte plays.
Spencer is off to a good start this year, with two sacks, and a team-high nine quarterback pressures. Spencer is second on the defense with 29 tackles.
In a limited role, Butler has two tackles this year and one quarterback pressure.
If Spencer is indeed out, the Cowboys will be very thin at outside linebacker, especially if Alex Albright misses another game with a stinger injury. Albright is also questionable to play and was limited all week in practice. Rookie linebacker Kyle Wilber will likely get a few more reps this week as well.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ defenders in the team’s 27-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, while analyzing what it means:
CB Brandon Carr: 68 of 68
CB Morris Claiborne: 64 of 68
ILB Sean Lee: 62 of 68
OLB DeMarcus Ware: 58 of 68
OLB Anthony Spencer: 58 of 68
ILB Bruce Carter: 54 of 68
S Gerald Sensabaugh: 52 of 68
S Danny McCray: 50 of 68
DE Jason Hatcher: 48 of 68
NG Josh Brent: 42 of 68
DE Marcus Spears: 34 of 68
CB Orlando Scandrick: 30 of 68
DL Sean Lissemore: 23 of 68
DE Kenyon Coleman: 21 of 68
S Mana Silva: 17 of 68
DE Victor Butler: 16 of 68
S Barry Church: 13 of 68
ILB Dan Connor: 11 of 68
DE Tyrone Crawford: 10 of 68
CB Mike Jenkins: 8 of 68
LB Alex Albright: 1 of 68
Danny McCray gets the Ironman Award this week for playing a team-high 74 snaps, if we include his work on special teams. McCray played so much because a quadriceps injury significantly limited Barry Church’s playing time. … Mike Jenkins made his 2012 debut as a part-time player at safety in the dime defense. With Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) out at least a couple of weeks, Jenkins’ playing time will increase at that spot. … Bruce Carter continues to make plays and saw his playing time nearly double. … Sean Lissemore will see additional playing time if he continues to produce at absurd levels. He had 10 tackles in only 38 snaps. … Victor Butler saw increased playing time, but had no impact.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ offense and what it means:
One of the most intriguing developmental prospects of the Cowboys’ training camp has moved on to a new team after being cut on Friday.
Linebacker Adrian Hamilton, who had 20.5 sacks at Prairie View A&M in 2011, joined the Baltimore practice squad on Saturday, according to Ravens insider Aaron Wilson. The Cowboys did not attempt to sign Hamilton to their own eight-man practice roster, instead keeping only one linebacker, Orie Lemon. He had been on the Cowboys practice squad throughout 2011.
Hamilton had one sack for the Cowboys this preseason, also forcing a fumble against St. Louis.
He came up short in a battle for a 53-man roster spot. The Cowboys kept five outside linebackers, DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Victor Butler, fourth-round pick Kyle Wilber and second-year pro Alex Albright, who can also play inside.
ARLINGTON, Texas — The good news for the Dolphins: Their exhibition season has mercifully come to an end.
But here’s the rub: That might be their bad news, too.
Miami closed out a winless exhibition season with a 30-13 loss to the Cowboys Wednesday. In short, Dallas’ backups were better than Miami’s, since neither team played their starters beyond the first couple of series.
The night’s biggest takeaway: Ryan Tannehill played near-flawlessly in the short time he was in. But there’s a catch: Tannehill only faced Dallas’ backup secondary, and his greatest success came against guys on the fourth line of the depth chart.
Tannehill completed 6 of his 8 pass attempts for 41 yards, but both of his incompletions were on the money. The first hit Legedu Naanee in the hands, but was dropped.
On the other, Tannehill targeted Naanee on fade route in the end zone, but corner Teddy Williams mugged Naanee, preventing him from making a play. Yet the officiating crew – replacements, it should be noted – missed a clear pass interference call.
But even with Tannehill’s solid night, he again couldn’t get the Dolphins into the end zone. Miami has scored just two touchdowns in Tannehill’s 20 drives this preseason. The Dolphins even got a special teams turnover – Dan Carpenter recovered a fumble – but couldn’t advance the ball.
“No touchdowns,” Joe Philbin said at the half. “Our special teams did a great job and got a takeaway for us and we went backwards.”
Tannehill may have been lucky to simply get out of Big D on two legs, considering who he had blocking for him.
The only starter on the offensive line to play was Jonathan Martin – a rookie who has struggled throughout much of the preseason.
Ray Feinga started at left tackle for Jake Long, who hurt his right knee during practice Monday. That at least was expected. But the rest of the changes – Chandler Burden for Richie Incognito, Ryan Cook for Mike Pouncey and John Jerry for Artis Hicks – were a surprise.
Tannehill escaped the night without taking a sack, although he did sustain a pretty nasty late hit, which he shook off.
Tannehill’s replacement, however, wasn’t nearly so lucky. The Cowboys sacked Matt Moore three times, including one by Victor Butler in which the Dallas defensive end completely schooled Feinga.
Not long after that, Feinga got the hook, Martin shifted to left tackle and Andrew McDonald played on the right side.
The constant pressure seemed to get to Moore. A play after taking a sack, Moore threw a horrendous interception that Orie Lemon returned for a touchdown. Moore apparently didn’t see Lemon dropping in coverage, and threw it right to the linebacker.
Moore, who lost out in the training-camp quarterback competition to Tannehill, finished the preseason completing just 20 of his 51 passes for 234 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns. His quarterback rating: 37.5.
Yet with David Garrard’s knee still not healed, Moore will likely entered the season as Miami’s backup quarterback.
Who Tannehill and Moore will be throwing to remains unclear.
Neither Brian Hartline nor Davone Bess played Wednesday. But both are likely on the team.
Meanwhile, none of the eight other receivers trying to fill out the opening-day depth charts did anything to distinguish themselves. Naanee and Marlon Moore got the start Wednesday, and had identical stat lines: 2 catches for 19 yards.
Rishard Matthews again was the team’s most productive receiver, catching a team-high 3 passes for 47 yards. But Matthews has played mainly in mop-up duty, which doesn’t bode well for Friday’s final cut-downs.
The Dolphins are expected to be very active once hundreds of players released in the coming days hit the waiver wire. General manager Jeff Ireland said on My 33’s pregame show that he was “very excited about what’s going to happen the next three days.”
Thanks to last year’s 6-10 season, Miami should be in good position to capitalize on more than a few castoffs. They have they league’s eighth-highest waiver priority.
Whether or not Pat Devlin makes this team as its third quarterback remains to be seen. Devlin completed 6 of 10 passes for 58 yards Wednesday, and led the Dolphins on their only touchdown drive. The score came on a 1-yard plunge by Lamar Miller, who had 60 yards on 17 carries.
Courtesy: ADAM H. BEASLEY | Miami Herald
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.
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, the team’s first-round draft pick, did not wow himself with Saturday’s performance in his first NFL pre-season game against the San Diego Chargers. The stats show two tackles, both after short completions, in two quarters of action.
He made no big plays. But no one torched him for a big play, either.
“Was I great? No. But I feel like I played a good half in my first NFL game,” said Claiborne, who reported no physical issues involved with his surgically-repaired wrist or his knee, which he sprained in training camp. “I know there’s going to be more to come. I’ve just got to keep working and get better.”
The part that satisfied Claiborne was how he handled his mental responsibilities in his first game in a Dallas uniform.
“I think I did good. I didn’t blow any assignments,” Claiborne said. “So I think the mental part was pretty good.”
Teammates thought the rookie, who was taken with the sixth overall pick in the NFL Draft, more than acquitted himself in his Cowboys’ debut.
Asked what he thought of Claiborne’s play, linebacker Victor Butler said: “That we probably should have picked him up No. 4 overall, He’s a tremendous asset to the defense. This was his first game and he’s only getting his feet wet. He hasn’t fully dived into the pool yet. I’m truly excited to see what he has to offer.”
Butler said he is excited about the prospect of having Claiborne and free-agent signee Brandon Carr, who had two interceptions against the Chargers, locking down the Cowboys’ corners in 2012.
“With him and Brandon Carr back there, we should be getting coverage sacks out the wazoo this year,” Butler said.
Carr said Claiborne handled the moment, in his estimation.
“The lights weren’t bright for him. It wasn’t a big moment for him,” Carr said. “He kept his poise very well. He went out there and battled. He made some tackles. He finally got his first taste of NFL receivers and I can’t wait to get back home and see what he does in Cowboys Stadium.”
The Cowboys play their first pre-season game at home Aug. 25 against the St. Louis Rams.
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.
Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram
Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8) is brought down by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) as Jay Ratliff (90) approaches on Thursday November 24, 2011. A penalty nullified the sack
The Dallas Cowboys collected four sacks against Matt Moore, but none came from the team’s leader in that category. DeMarcus Ware, who came into the game with 14 sacks, appeared to have his 15th early in the fourth quarter, but the play was negated by an illegal contact penalty against Abram Elam.
Victor Butler registered his third sack, tying a season high, and Kenyon Coleman had his first sack in five years. The other sacks came from Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee.
Ware said he also was impressed by the play of Anthony Spencer, who was in the Dolphins backfield all afternoon, finishing with a team-high eight tackles, including three for losses.
“I don’t know he gets back there, but he finds ways to make those tackles and make them third and 5, second and 12,” Ware said. “Those are the plays that we need.”