Dallas Cowboys: Cowboys-Cardinals

Doug Free's contract among NFL's worst

October, 25, 2012

ESPN.com sports business writer Darren Rovell was asked to come up with the worst contracts in professional sports for Playbook's Dollars blog. And after he came up with his "top" 10, ESPN asked NFL Insider John Clayton to come up with the league's 10 worst current NFL contracts.

Among's Clayton's list:

9. Doug Free, RT, Dallas Cowboys (six years, $48 million): Jerry Jones thought he got a steal when the Cowboys signed Free, then a left tackle, to this contract last year. The coaching staff moved him to right tackle this season, and he's struggled in the transition. Free and left tackle Tyron Smith have been among the league leaders in penalties this season, making things tough on quarterback Tony Romo.

To the relief of other pro sports owners around the Metroplex (sorry, Jerry Jones), Free's deal is the only local albatross of a deal worthy of being "Worst current contract" fodder.

Five-star: Mat McBriar holds the fort

December, 1, 2011
Five-star question: Will Patrick Peterson, averaging 19.2 per punt return the past four games with three touchdowns, hit his average or return a punt for a touchdown Sunday against the Cowboys?

This is probably not the best time for Mat McBriar to be in a mini-slump with Patrick Peterson on the other end of his punts, but if you go by history the Cowboys should be able to keep the rookie returner under his 19.2-yard average.

Over the last few years McBriar has faced some of the NFL’s best returners, from Dante Hall to Devin Hester to DeSean Jackson to Ted Ginn and he has more than held his own.

Of course, he was healthy in those matchups. This case of drop foot has affected him some, although he said the pain has subsided for the most part recently.

McBriar will have to limit Peterson’s access to the full field. McBriar is adept at keeping his punts outside the numbers. Washington’s two returns a few weeks ago came on punts that were close to the middle of the field, which stretched the coverage team.

That came after McBriar had a 23-yard punt out of bounds. He was conscious of that happening again and his aim was off.

His aim can’t be off against Peterson. He has shown the willingness to catch a punt anywhere and return it. The 99-yard return against St. Louis is the classic no-no-no, yes-yes-yes play. His other returns for touchdowns are 89, 82 and 80 yards.

Look for McBriar to kick the ball near the sideline or out of bounds or use his flip-flop technique to force fair catches.

Source: Frank Walker fined $7,500

November, 30, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- Frank Walker’s unnecessary roughness penalty cost the Cowboys 15 yards on Thanksgiving and it ended up costing the veteran cornerback $7,500 in a fine from the NFL, according to a source.

Walker shoved Anthony Fasano after the tight end was out of bounds, giving the Dolphins the ball at the Dallas 3. The Cowboys held the Dolphins to a 23-yard field goal three plays later.

It was the third fine of the season for the Cowboys. DeMarcus Ware was fined $15,000 for a hit on Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Kevin Ogletree was fined $7,500 for a facemask in the Week 2 win at San Francisco.

Abram Elam: Head coach job awaits Rob Ryan

November, 30, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- With a number of head coaching jobs expected to come open across the NFL when the season ends if not earlier (see Jacksonville), the name of Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan figures to be mentioned prominently.

ESPN’s John Clayton said Ryan could be near the top of Jacksonville’s list because of its need to sell tickets and the success of Ryan’s brother, Rex, with the New York Jets.

Ryan has made no secret about his desire to be a head coach one day to join his father, Buddy and twin brother, and his defensive players believe he’s ready for a job, too.

“I think Rob should’ve been a head coach,” said safety Abram Elam, who was with Ryan in Cleveland before joining the Cowboys. “That’s his dream and he’s definitely prepared himself for that. He’s been a good coach. I believe in him. I think he’ll do a good job.”

Mike Jenkins feels good to go

November, 30, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- Jason Garrett said cornerback Mike Jenkins was “pretty full go,” at Wednesday’s practice; however, on the official injury report Jenkins was listed as limited.

Jenkins expects to play Sunday at Arizona after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury. He participated in Monday’s workout as well.

He said he wanted to push it some in practice to see how the leg would respond.

“I opened it up and I felt pretty good,” Jenkins said. “They probably want to see a little more out of me before they give me the OK, but I felt pretty good.”

Jenkins said he has spent more time warming up and using the hot tub and hot packs to keep his right leg loose as the temperatures drop a little. He had missed only two games in his first three seasons before this injury.

His reward for returning this week would be Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

“I know I’m healthy so I know I feel good,” Jenkins said. “Not too much worried about guarding any opponents, it’s about me right now getting back healthy.”

Larry Fitzgerald close with Cowboys WRs

November, 30, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- Larry Fitzgerald has done just about everything a wide receiver can do in his time in the NFL, but when he looks at Dez Bryant play even he shakes his head in amazement.

“I wish I had some Dez Bryant in me,” Fitzgerald said on a conference call Wednesday. “He’s unbelievably skilled and gifted. He goes up and attacks the football at the highest point.”

Fitzgerald then recalled Bryant’s 34-yard touchdown grab on the opening series of the win against Buffalo as a prime example of the Cowboys’ wide receiver’s talents.

“That’s what you come to expect from Dez and the plays he’s making,” said Fitzgerald, who has 51 catches for 888 yards and six touchdowns.

Fitzgerald and Bryant share the same agent and talk regularly, though not in the last couple of weeks. Bryant is not the only wideout who has become friendly with Fitzgerald.

Laurent Robinson headed to Minneapolis during the lockout to rehab an ankle injury and decided to spend the entire time workout out with Fitzgerald.

“I’m just happy for his success,” Fitzgerald sad. “Talk about seizing the moment and opportunity.”

Robinson has scored a touchdown in the last five games and has 38 catches for 554 yards on the season, easing the loss of Miles Austin the last few weeks.

Fitzgerald offered up encouragement during the preseason after the Cardinals played San Diego in the preseason and once again after the Chargers released Robinson.

“When he told me he was going to the Cowboys for a workout I was extremely excited for him,” Fitzgerald said. “I knew once he got a chance he would be able to thrive.”

Cowboys add practice squad RB

November, 30, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys have added running back Chauncey Washington to the practice squad after moving fullback Shaun Chapas to the 53-man roster.

Washington spent parts of the 2009 season with the Cowboys before joining the New York Jets and St. Louis Rams. He was cut by the Rams in training camp this summer. He played in two games on special teams for the Cowboys and did not have a carry.

The Cowboys were in need of a tailback because Phillip Tanner is bothered by a hamstring strain. Tanner has been mostly a special teams’ contributor (three tackles) but has 22 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown on the year. He has also caught two passes for 11 yards.

Chapas was called up to the active roster because of the uncertain status of fullback Tony Fiammetta. The Cowboys waived Akwasi Owusu-Ansah to make room for Chapas.

5 Wonders: Ryan's replacement, No. 3 QB

November, 29, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- After four days in the Bahamas, I’m back wondering five things as the Cowboys prepare to head to Arizona on Sunday with the NFC East lead.

** Now that Jacksonville has started the ball rolling on the head coaching vacancies by canning Jack Del Rio, we’ll see just how hot a name Rob Ryan will be. The Cowboys defensive coordinator figures to be on the top of a few lists. I don’t see Jacksonville as his destination. For some reason, I wonder about Miami. But that’s not what this wonder is about. I’m wondering about Ryan’s replacement at defensive coordinator if he gets a head coaching job. I wonder if Matt Eberflus, the linebackers coach whom Ryan called the “DeMarcus Ware” of coaches in camp, would remain with the team or go with Ryan. Say he goes to Miami, the name to look for his Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. He runs the 3-4. He has an excellent background and I’d say he put on a pretty decent performance on Thanksgiving against the Cowboys. That defense is stout and playing awfully well right now.

** When the Cowboys played at Washington a couple of weeks ago I made reference to all of the wacky things that seem to happen at FedEx Field when they play the Redskins. And the Cowboys’ 27-24 win was another wacky affair. Now they had to University of Phoenix Stadium and their last two trips to the desert have been wacky affairs, leading me to wonder what wacky thing will happen Sunday. Do you remember the 2008 trip there? The Cowboys lose in overtime on a blocked punt that was scooped up for a touchdown. On the play Mat McBriar broke his foot. On the play prior to the punt, Tony Romo fractured his pinky finger. He missed three games and the Cowboys missed the playoffs by a game. That injury led more to the Cowboys missing the playoffs than any talk of poor chemistry, lack of leadership. Last year, David Buehler missed a point after attempt gave Dallas a 26-24 lead after Stephen McGee hit Miles Austin with a late TD pass. The Cards won it on a Jay Feely field goal with five seconds left. A missed PAT?

** Is it too early to wonder about playoff seeding? Probably, but who cares? Let’s concede homefield advantage through the postseason to undefeated Green Bay. Right now the Cowboys are the No. 4 seed behind San Francisco and New Orleans. If that holds and the Cowboys win a wild-card game, then they’d go to Green Bay for the second round of the playoffs with visions of last year’s 45-7 defeat at Lambeau Field in their head. They are a game back of the Saints for the No. 3 seed and you’d rather be the No. 3 seed heading to San Francisco in the divisional round than Green Bay. The Niners would seem to have the inside track on the No. 2 seed with games remaining against St. Louis (two), Arizona, Pittsburgh and Seattle. Maybe they lose to the Steelers. The Saints have Detroit, Tennessee (away), Minnesota (away), Atlanta and Carolina. New Orleans is a different team on the road so let’s say they lose to Minnesota and the Cowboys win out so both teams finish 12-4. That would give the Cowboys the No. 3 seed based on conference record and a return trip to Candlestick.

** I wonder if we saw the plan for Dez Bryant’s involvement in the return game last Thursday. When the Cowboys absolutely, positively needed to have a big punt return late in the fourth quarter against Miami, Bryant picked up 20 yards, which was the third-longest punt return the Cowboys had this year. As a result they started at their 36 instead of being pinned inside the 20 and were able to get into field goal range quickly. He is too valuable on offense to handle the job on a full-time basis, but what happened on Thanksgiving is the perfect happy medium.

** The Cowboys made a play for Kyle Orton and lost out to Kansas City on the waiver bid, but that doesn’t mean their search for a quarterback is over. I wonder if the Cowboys continue to look for a No. 3 quarterback. The dalliance with Orton should tell you Jon Kitna’s back injury is severe, even if coach Jason Garrett has hope in the veteran’s return. If the Cowboys were awarded Orton, Kitna would have been put on injured reserve. Plain and simple. So where do you look for QB help now? You’ve seen some vets like Jake Delhomme, Jeff Garcia and Trent Edwards get some workouts recently. Maybe they go there. But I wouldn’t rule out looking at practice squad quarterbacks either. Provided each team had up-to-date rosters on their Web sites, nine have quarterbacks on their practice squad: Pat Devlin (Miami), Zac Robinson (Cincinnati), Adam Weber (Denver), Drew Willy (San Diego), Ryan Perrilloux (NY Giants), Jonathan Crompton (Washington), Graham Harrell (Green Bay), John Parker Wilson (Atlanta) and Rudy Carpenter (Tampa Bay). Of all the names, Carpenter makes some sense since he was with the Cowboys in training camp in 2009 and spent time on their practice squad before jumping to the Buccaneers.

Kai Forbath to remain on reserve/NFI

November, 29, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- The window for Kai Forbath possibly kicking for the Cowboys this year officially closed today even if it never really was open.

The Cowboys will keep Forbath on the reserve/non-football injury list for the season after his 21-day practice window expired today. The Cowboys signed Forbath in training camp despite a quadriceps injury that prevented him from kicking through the summer and early in the regular season.

Forbath, who will continue to rehab and is signed for 2012, was the 2009 Lou Groza Award winner as a junior but dipped as a senior, making 13 of 18 attempts.

Forbath was the Cowboys’ top choice as an undrafted kicker once the lockout ended, but the quadriceps injury led the Cowboys to Dan Bailey. All Bailey has done this year is make 27 of 28 field goal tries, including 26 in a row, which is one shy of tying the team record.

Officials breakdown: Walt Coleman

November, 29, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys will have Walt Coleman’s officiating crew for the second time this season when it works Sunday’s game at Arizona.

Coleman worked the Oct. 16 matchup at New England, and the Cowboys were penalized 10 times for 77 yards in the loss. The Patriots had five penalties for 35 yards.

Last week the crew worked the Houston-Jacksonville game and called 15 penalties. The Texans were flagged seven times for 80 yards and the Jaguars were penalized four times for 30 yards. Of note, three of the 15 penalties came on special teams.

Here’s the breakdown:

Offensive pass interference – 1
Personal foul – 2
Illegal formation – 1
Intentional grounding – 1
Illegal block above the waist – 1
Roughing the passer – 1
False start – 3
Offside – 1
Player out of bounds on a punt – 1
Defensive pass interference – 2
Offensive holding – 1

Quarter by quarter:

First – 4
Second – 1
Third – 4
Fourth – 6

Cowboys remain in sole possession of first place

November, 28, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- Several Dallas Cowboys' players didn't concern themselves with Monday night's game between the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints.

It just continues a theme practiced by coach Jason Garrett to take things one day, one practice and one game at a time.

But the Giants' loss to the Saints gives the Cowboys a one-game lead in first place in the NFC East with five games to play in the regular season.

The Cowboys moved into first place after their Thanksgiving Day win over Miami and waited three days to see if they would remain there alone.

It's the Cowboys first appearance in first place since the end of the 2009 season when Dallas clinched the division. That same season, the Cowboys were in first place a total of eight weeks. For three weeks, the Cowboys were tied for first and spent five more weeks in sole possession.

In the final month, the Cowboys play the New York Giants twice, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers once each and are in good shape to possibly clinch a division title and/or a playoff berth.

"It's important to stay locked in on the task at hand," Garrett said. "I think every so often as a coach you do want to provide perspective about where we've been and where we're going. But more than anything else, we continue to emphasize the importance of doing what we can do individually and collectively to be our best. We find it's best to do that on a day-by-day basis and certainly on a week-by-week basis."

Kitna decision coming in a few weeks

November, 28, 2011
IRVING -- Backup quarterback Jon Kitna wasn't seen during the open media portion of the Dallas Cowboys non-padded practice Monday morning because he's still nursing a back injury.

Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said last week Kitna won't play Sunday at Arizona, however the team is getting closer to making a decision regarding his playing status for 2011.

"I think it's probably pretty similar to what it's been," Jason Garrett said of Kitna's health. "Again, we believe in the rehab and the rest he is getting . We think that is going to help him. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, he'll be able to test it and be back sooner rather than later."

It's hard to say if the Cowboys will place Kitna on injured reserve, which would end his season and maybe his career. At 39, Kitna is in the final year of his contract.

The Cowboys have held internal discussions about making a move at quarterback but are waiting to see if Kitna will improve from a physical standpoint.

"A lot of teams around the league have just had two active quarterbacks for most of the season," Garrett said. "We've done that for a large majority of our games this year. We've believed it. We want to have three healthy quarterbacks on our team, but sometimes you can't control health and you have to make the best decision for your team right now and then going forward."

The Cowboys have made two quarterbacks active eight times this season, with Kitna being inactive the last two weeks. For three weeks, the Cowboys had three active quarterbacks, including Weeks 3 and 4 because of Tony Romo's recovery from a fractured rib.

Mat McBriar is pain free, may return to holder

November, 28, 2011

IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys punter Mat McBriar said he's finally pain free from nerve damage in his left (non-kicking) foot.

That could mean McBriar's return to being the holder after the injury prevented him from doing so the last few weeks. In his absence, Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo was the holder for kicker Dan Bailey.

"The foot is what it is," McBriar said. "I'm not having any more pain. That's gone away so I can definitely start holding a lot more now. I don't think I'll be asked to hold [this week] but I definitely got some practice in at that [Monday] and the kicking is not upsetting it at all, which is great because that was a big concern initially."

Jenkins wants to practice on Wednesday

November, 28, 2011
IRVING -- Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins said he plans on returning to practice full-time on Wednesday.

Jenkins, who has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury, did some work during the walkthrough practice on Monday morning.

Jenkins said he plans on running full-speed during Wednesday's practice and despite running back-and-forth still hasn't done any cutting, which is important for any cornerback.

"It's about that, cutting and coming out of the breaks," Jenkins said. "I can go straight-forward."

Jenkins has battled injuries all season. He played through a neck and knee injury in Week 1 vs. the New York Jets, only to injure his shoulder in the game. He didn't miss any games until he suffered a hamstring injury Oct. 30 at Philadelphia while covering a pass.

On the season, Jenkins has one interception and is credited with 16 tackles.