Dallas Cowboys: Ben Bass

IRVING, Texas -- With only $80,362 to spend on rookie free-agent signing bonuses, the Dallas Cowboys have a little advantage over other teams with three compensatory picks in the seventh round.

Instead of having to guarantee portions of a base salary to get around the bonus limit, the Cowboys can target their priority free agents with picks Nos. 248, 251 and 254 in the seventh round on Saturday.

Last year the Cowboys guaranteed linebacker Brandon Magee $70,000, and he was among their final cuts, eventually joining the Cleveland Browns. Safety Jakar Hamilton received a $10,000 signing bonus. Safety Jeff Heath received $2,000 and became a starter.

Historically the Cowboys have done well in college free agency with Hamilton, Heath and Cam Lawrence earning spots on the 53-man roster at some point in 2013. In 2012, the Cowboys added Ronald Leary, Cole Beasley, Lance Dunbar and Ben Bass as undrafted free agents. Leary is a starter, while Beasley and Dunbar have legitimate offensive roles.

Kicker Dan Bailey was the best undrafted free-agent signing in 2011 and signed a seven-year deal this offseason.

The Cowboys have six seventh-round selections.

“The seventh-round picks historically are throw-ins [in trades],” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “I don’t know if the league has caught up to what value a seventh-round pick is, in terms of the quote-unquote ‘charts’ that are out there. If you look at what a seventh-round pick can bring you, you start to say the player [in the seventh round] is more valuable than boosting the bottom of the six [round] to five picks, 10 picks up to the middle of the sixth when a lot of times that player will fall to you anyway. A lot of times you see it as thrown-ins. I see it as a great opportunity for us to take six players that can help our football team.”
IRVING, Texas -- In many ways a successful draft is measured by how well a team does in the later rounds.

Ben Volin of The Boston Globe put together a story about teams that draft well and poorly with an interesting graphic.

SportsNation

Who would be the best first-round pick for the Cowboys?

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    49%
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    19%
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Discuss (Total votes: 11,576)

The Dallas Cowboys are one of six teams not to have a current starter they selected in Rounds 5-7, according to the chart, which means Volin did not count Orlando Scandrick (fifth round, 2008) as a starter even though he started most of the 2013 season. If Morris Claiborne performed up to capabilities and was not hurt, he would have been the starter. If you count Scandrick, then the Cowboys would be one of 12 teams to have one starter from Rounds 5-7.

The other five without a starter were the Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears.

Since 2010, the Cowboys have had 12 picks in Rounds 5-7 and only Dwayne Harris, James Hanna, Joseph Randle and DeVonte Holloman remain.

Hitting on late-round picks is guesswork in a lot of ways. In 2004, the Cowboys hit on three seventh-rounders in Nate Jones, Patrick Crayton and Jacques Reeves. They all had productive NFL careers and earned second contracts.

That’s the goal: find players who can fill roles. The Cowboys kept Crayton for a second contract, but Jones and Reeves left after their rookie deals expired.

Teams build their depth through late-round picks and the Cowboys have not hit enough in the late rounds to fortify their depth. The Seattle Seahawks had an NFL-best five starters from Rounds 5-7 in 2013. The Philadelphia Eagles were next with four.

Also in Volin’s chart is a look at undrafted starters. The Cowboys had a league-high five in 2013 with Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Barry Church, Ronald Leary and Jeff Heath. The Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins had four apiece to tie for second.

For years the Cowboys have excelled in finding undrafted free agents. In the last three years they have landed Dan Bailey, Phillip Tanner, Chris Jones, Ben Bass, Cole Beasley, Leary, Heath and Cam Lawrence.

They make up for the misses in Rounds 5-7 with hits in undrafted free agency. With three compensatory picks in the seventh round this year, the Cowboys will have the chance to draft what would have been their priority undrafted free agents.

They only hope they’re not just making up for misses in Rounds 5-7.

Re-setting Cowboys D-line

April, 28, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- With Anthony Spencer re-signing over the weekend, the Dallas Cowboys now have 12 defensive linemen on their current roster.

Is that enough?

Probably not. And as explained on Saturday, the Spencer deal should not preclude the Cowboys from going after more defensive linemen in the draft.

Let’s reset the Cowboys defensive line:

Ben Bass: Signed through 2014 -- A restricted free agent after the season, has to show he can stay healthy.

Tyrone Crawford: Signed through 2015 -- Coming off torn Achilles, but expected to be main contributor this season.

Nick Hayden: Signed through 2014 -- An unrestricted free agent after the season, he was a starter last year and had some moments.

Frank Kearse: Signed through 2015 -- A late-season addition in 2013, more of a depth player.

Terrell McClain: Signed through 2016 -- A free-agent pickup, he could take over the one technique spot this year from Hayden.

Henry Melton: Signed through 2014 -- Team holds a three-year option on his deal that would guarantee him $9 million. The key free-agent signing.

George Selvie: Signed through 2014 -- A revelation last year with seven sacks, he will be counted on more in 2014. He is an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Anthony Spencer: Signed through 2014 -- He is coming back from microfracture surgery but his rehab has gone well recently. The one-year deal allows him to make good this year to cash in next year.

Martez Wilson: Signed through 2014 -- His measurables have the team intrigued at what he could be in a full year with Rod Marinelli. He is an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Tristan Okpalaugo: Signed through 2014 – He was a futures signing after the season and team is hoping they found a diamond in rough.

Caesar Rayford: Signed through 2014 – Acquired in trade from Indianapolis last summer, he is a project but looks the part.

Jeremy Mincey: Signed through 2015 -- A free-agent pickup, he can play either end spot and move inside in passing situations.

Analysis: The only player with a contract past 2015 is McClain, which is one of the reasons why defensive line remains a need. The main reason, however, is they can still use an infusion of talent and a natural pass rusher … Melton’s deal could run through 2017 if the Cowboys pick up his option. For that to happen, however, he will have to perform close to his Pro Bowl level with the Chicago Bears in 2013 … Position flexibility helps. Bass, Crawford, Mincey and Selvie have the ability to play end and tackle depending on the situation.

2014 Cowboys free agents: Jarius Wynn

February, 28, 2014
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Jarius Wynn
Position: Defensive end
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $715,000

Summary: He was signed on Oct. 15 and played Oct. 20 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He started one game – at defensive tackle – and finished the season with 12 tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and six pressures. He started the year with the San Diego Chargers, making three tackles and a sack in five games.

Why keep him: Depth, depth and more depth. Wynn wasn’t bad as a rotation player and he offered some position flexibility by being able to move inside if needed. While that is not his strong suit, he can get a defense through a game. His six pressures tied for sixth on the defense.

Why let him go: Not to be cavalier about a position that held the Cowboys back in 2013, but they can do better. Perhaps Ben Bass, who missed last season with a shoulder injury, can provide the depth they want from their defensive linemen and have more pass-rush ability. Plus, the Cowboys figure to address the position in the draft as well.

Best guess: He will be allowed to look around and if the Cowboys find themselves in a pinch later in free agency, they can give him a call.

Rod Marinelli: Defense can make a 'jump'

February, 22, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Rod Marinelli has been through a defensive rebuilding job before. Maybe not as severe as he has to do with the Dallas Cowboys, but a rebuild nonetheless.

In 2009, Marinelli joined the Chicago Bears as defensive line coach. The Bears finished 17th in total defense, 13th against the pass, 23rd against the rush and 21st in points allowed.

In 2010 Marinelli became the defensive coordinator and the Bears finished ninth in total defense, 20th against the pass, second against the rush and fourth in points allowed.

[+] EnlargeRod Marinelli
AP Photo/James D. SmithDefensive coordinator Rod Marinelli hopes Dallas adds pieces to its front seven this offseason.
The Cowboys were 32nd in yards, 30th against the pass, 27th against the rush and 26th in points allowed.

Monte Kiffin was moved to assistant head coach/defense and Marinelli was promoted to defensive coordinator last month.

“We’ve kind of got things in place for the most part,” Marinelli said from the NFL scouting combine “Now you’ve just got to make some corrections, add some people and go from there.”

The Bears started four different defensive linemen from 2009 to 2010, and added Julius Peppers as a free agent. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher returned to the lineup from a wrist injury after playing in just one game in 2009. Free-agent pickups Tim Jennings and Chris Harris solidified the secondary.

Chicago went from a 7-9 record to an 11-5 finish.

Despite their defensive woes in 2013, the Cowboys finished 8-8, losing their third straight winner-take-all NFC East championship game in Week 17 to miss the playoffs.

To Marinelli, there is no mystery to his success.

“With me, I think it’s just going back to being really fundamentally sound,” he said. “That’s kind of always been my base. Just getting guys to do things right and coach these guys extremely hard ... Being really detailed in what you’re doing, being exact. Again just being with these guys is going to help, and I think adding some pieces is going to help.”

The Cowboys will be hard-pressed to add significant pieces in free agency with their salary-cap situation. The futures of Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware are in question. A healthy Sean Lee will help. So would a healthy Morris Claiborne. Improvement from Bruce Carter and Brandon Carr is a must. They also must find players in the early rounds of the draft that can contribute.

Where does Marinelli want to see the most help?

“Your front seven,” he said. “You always look at it. You’ve always got to look at the front seven. That kind of drives the whole thing for us. So hopefully we’ll be adding pieces, and I like some of the guys that were injured last year, (Tyrone) Crawford, Ben Bass. Some of these other guys I’m looking forward to seeing.”

Marinelli will continue to coach the defensive line, but he said Leon Lett and Ben Bloom will alleviate some of the workload. It’s how he operated in Chicago as well.

“The key is the foundation,” Marinelli said. "If you can get that going, you get yourself a foundation and you build off that. Get the right pieces, the right couple of guys and things will jump quick.”

That’s the Cowboys' hope.

Cowboys position breakdown: D-line

January, 29, 2014
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Cowboys reporters Calvin Watkins and Todd Archer breakdown the Cowboys, position by position, analyzing what the players did in 2013, what they can do in the future and what the team can do to improve the position in 2014.

Under contract: DeMarcus Ware, George Selvie, Nick Hayden, Corvey Irvin, Martez Wilson, Everette Brown, Frank Kearse, Ben Bass, Tyrone Crawford, Edgar Jones, Caesar Rayford

A look back: Jason Hatcher had the best season of his career with 11 sacks and was added to the Pro Bowl, but the defensive line play in 2013 was shoddy and played a big part in why the Cowboys finished last in the NFL in defense.

Spencer
Monte Kiffin’s defense is predicated on the front four getting pressure, and they did not affect the quarterback enough. From the first day of training camp on, the group was beset by injury. Tyrone Crawford tore his Achilles on the first day. Jay Ratliff never played a down and was cut in October. Anthony Spencer played in one game before needing microfracture surgery on his knee. The Cowboys used 20 different defensive linemen during the season. They hit on George Selvie, who started every game and had seven sacks, and received some moments from Nick Hayden as well, but the group just wasn’t good enough.

DeMarcus Ware missed three games with a quadriceps strain and had a career-low six sacks. He had four sacks in the first three games. Whether it was injury or age, Ware was not the same player in 2013 as he was even in 2012, when he had 11.5 sacks but was limited by shoulder and elbow injuries.

A look ahead: The biggest decision the Cowboys have to make is on Ware. He is to count $16.003 million against the salary cap with a $12.25 million base salary. Do the Cowboys ask him to take a pay cut, or do they restructure his deal in order to create room?

It is a delicate decision that owner and general manager Jerry Jones has been loathed to make in the past. There is no way Ware can count that much against the cap.

It seems almost a given that Hatcher will leave as a free agent. The team does not have the cap space to keep him, and it is difficult to commit big money to a soon-to-be 32-year-old defensive end. The chances of Spencer returning as a free agent are better just because his price will be kept low.

Crawford could be the key to the group, but the Cowboys should not bank on him being an every-down player coming off the injury. He played well as a rookie in 2012, but did not have a sack. His plus, however, is versatility. He could play all along the line. The question for Selvie is whether 2013 was an anomaly or a sign that he finally figured it out.

A look out: Last season's free-agent market was light for defensive linemen, so that could help the Cowboys in possibly keeping Hatcher, but he will take the best offer with this being his last chance to cash in.

Finding free agent help will be difficult, so the best chance to improve is in the draft. They made a mistake in not choosing a defensive lineman last year, and they can’t do that again this year. They need to find a pass-rusher, a run defender and a multi-faceted player. Getting one or two in the early rounds seems imperative.

Position breakdown:

Quarterbacks
Running backs
Tight ends
Wide receivers

A look at Cowboys' season-ending injuries

December, 28, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- When quarterback Tony Romo underwent season-ending back surgery Friday morning, he became the ninth Cowboys player lost for the season due to injury.

You could say it's 10 players lost if you want to throw in defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, who said he hadn't recovered from a groin injury which prompted the Cowboys to release him. He subsequently signed with the Bears.

Of the other nine, Romo's departure is the biggest. A review of the injured:

Ben Bass: The defensive end was a projected backup to a unit beset by injuries. His shoulder is nearly healed and he should be ready in time for the 2014 season.

Ryan Cook: He was a longshot to make the roster, and when his back didn't heal enough for him to make the roster it was time to move on. It's doubtful that the veteran offensive lineman returns.

Tyrone Crawford: A torn Achilles in the first week of training camp ended the defensive end's season quickly and put the Cowboys in a bind at defensive line. Crawford is now doing on-the-field rehab work, so he should be good for offseason workouts.

Lance Dunbar: Injuries hampered his season. He was just starting to make an impact when he injured his knee in the fourth quarter of the Thanksgiving Day win over Oakland. The Cowboys like the running back's change-of-pace ability, and he should be given a chance to regain that role in 2014.

Justin Durant: The veteran just couldn't recover in enough time from a hamstring injury to help the linebacker corps. Durant was signed to play the strong side and he had good moments, but his health got in the way of making more of an impact.

Matt Johnson: Johnson hasn't played a down in his first two seasons. A hamstring issue his rookie season and an ankle injury late in training camp put him on the shelf. The Cowboys have to make a decision on whether it's worth keeping the safety around.

Tony Romo: The starting quarterback was knocked around at times this season but he showed an amazing level of toughness to finish the game at Washington last week while his back was throbbing. Romo is projected to return in time for the OTAs.

Anthony Spencer: Spencer's knee bothered him during training camp and the projected starter at defensive end underwent microfracture surgery after playing in just one game. He becomes a free agent after the season, so it will be interesting if the Cowboys offer him a deal.

Brian Waters: The veteran guard was a solid contributor in the five games he started before a torn triceps ended his season. Waters is unsure about whether he wants to play again. He turns 37 on Feb. 18, and the Cowboys might pass on giving him another contract.

Bears D more beat up than Cowboys'

December, 9, 2013
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys can feel each other’s pain.

The Monday night game features a pair of defenses that rank among the worst in the league in large part because they have been decimated by injuries. In this case, the Cowboys arguably have a significant advantage.

The injury woes for the Dallas defense have been bad. There’s no doubt that medical issues have played a major role in the Cowboys ranking last in the NFL in total defense (421.6 yards per game) and 21st in scoring defense (25.3 points).

That’s especially true for the Cowboys’ defensive line, with projected starters Jay Ratliff and Anthony Spencer playing a grand total of 38 snaps this season, all by Spencer in his one outing before going on IR. Key reserves Tyrone Crawford and Ben Bass have spent the entire season on injured reserve. DeMarcus Ware missed three games, the first time in his career an injury sidelined him. Jason Hatcher missed a game.

Four other key players -- linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant, cornerback Morris Claiborne and safety J.J. Wilcox -- have missed a combined 12 games due to injuries. The good news for the Cowboys is that all of those players except for Claiborne are available Monday night against the Bears, although star middle linebacker Lee is the only one who is still a starter.

The good news for the Bears? Um, Ratliff is ready to roll after chipping off some rust last week, having signed with the Bears after a miraculous recovery on the heels of being released by the Cowboys when he insisted he wouldn't be able to play this season.

Chicago’s defense, which was dominant last season, is still in shambles. They Bears have fallen to 29th in total defense (386.0 yards) and 29th in scoring defense (27.7 points) after ranking in the top five of both categories last season.

The Bears are missing Pro Bowlers at each level of their defense. Defensive tackle Henry Melton has been on injured reserve since Week 3 due to a knee injury. Cornerback Charles Tillman, who has forced the most turnovers of any NFL defender the last decade, has been on IR since Week 10 due to a triceps injury. Outside linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) will miss his sixth consecutive game.

Middle linebacker D.J. Williams, who was signed to replace retired Brian Urlacher, has been on IR since Week 6. Nickel back Kelvin Hayden has missed the entire season due to a hamstring injury.

The Bears’ leftovers have been pretty bad against the pass and awful against the run. Chicago’s rushing defense ranks dead last in the league, allowing 153.6 yards per game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bears have allowed 3.9 yards per carry with Briggs and 6.6 yards per carry without him.

The Cowboys’ injury woes have been exploited often this season. It’s time for them to benefit from another team's pain Monday night.

Five Wonders: Season on line Sunday?

November, 19, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Refreshed off the bye week, Five Wonders is back and ready for action.

We'll start with this mini-wonder: Does anybody more than wonder whether the Dec. 29 meeting between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium will be to win the NFC East?

I wonder it, but only if the Cowboys beat the New York Giants this week.

On to the wonders:

SportsNation

Who will have a bigger impact in Sunday's game vs. the Giants?

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Discuss (Total votes: 9,336)

• I wonder if the season is on the line Sunday against the New York Giants. The Cowboys would still be alive because of the state of the NFC East, but at 5-6 and reeling it would be hard to see a turnaround. They would have lost three of four and the only win came on a 90-yard drive in the final minute against the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys carry emotional baggage with them no matter how much Jason Garrett attempts to keep them in the present. Injuries have piled up again. Questions about the scheme have rumbled on both sides of the ball. There is a lot on the line this week. The Giants have won four in a row to claw back into the race after a 0-6 start. Their wins have not come against the best quarterbacks but winning breeds confidence and the Giants have confidence. Maybe the feeling comes from the 32-point loss to the New Orleans Saints before the bye, but the Cowboys sure seem fragile mentally right now as well as physically.

[+] EnlargeBill O'Brien
Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times via Getty ImagesIf the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs this season, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien could be an interesting choice to replace Jason Garrett.
• I don't believe owner and general manager Jerry Jones wants to replace Garrett. I truly believe he wants Garrett to be the Cowboys' head coach for a long time. But if the Cowboys don't make the playoffs this season, it would not surprise me if Jones made a move. That would be four straight seasons without a playoff appearance. Jones can sell anything, but selling a status quo wouldn't be easy. One thing I don't wonder about is if Lovie Smith would get an interview. I believe he would. But here's another guy I wonder about: Penn State coach Bill O'Brien. I don't know all of the particulars of the buyout at Penn State, but O'Brien was tempted by the NFL last season. His background with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady gives him a plus, and how he has handled the mess that has enveloped Penn State gives him a few more pluses. His time running the Patriots' offense, however, means more to me. The Cowboys drafted Gavin Escobar to be more of a "12 personnel" team but the Cowboys have not been creative enough in getting people involved. They are running the same plays they did with Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett as the second tight end and they were not able to produce. O'Brien made the Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez package work well with Brady. Do I believe O'Brien would get an interview? I don't know any of it, but I would have him on the list. Not that Jones would listen to me.

• The Cowboys drafted Kyle Wilber with the idea that he could play outside linebacker in a 3-4. With the move to the 4-3, he was moved to defensive end. Now he is playing some outside linebacker again because of an injury to Justin Durant. I wonder if Wilber is a man without a position. When Anthony Spencer went down in training camp with a knee injury, Wilber got the first look and then saw Ben Bass take some of his snaps. Then it was George Selvie who took them later on. When DeMarcus Ware got hurt in the season, Wilber took over but then saw Jarius Wynn take over the starting spot. Wilber always was a tweener, but the coaches have yet to feel like he can handle the full-time duty. If they did, they wouldn't be moving him around so much, especially because the defensive end spot is much more valued in this scheme than strong side linebacker.

• I wonder if we'll see a more engaged Bruce Carter now that Sean Lee is out of the lineup. There is no other way to say it then this: Carter has been a disappointment this season. The Cowboys did not need him to be Derrick Brooks in this defense, but they needed him to be productive. He had two sacks in the first two games. He had a pass deflection and a quarterback pressure. He has just two pressures and a pass deflection in the last eight games. He has one tackle for loss. The weak-side linebacker spot is designed to be the playmaker in this defense. When the Cowboys lost Lee last year to a toe injury, Carter stepped up his game before an elbow injury KO'd him for the year. The Cowboys need that Carter and not the Carter that ended the New Orleans game. We can pick on just about everybody on defense from that game, but Carter was ready for that game to end sooner than it did.

Back in June I wondered if people were sleeping on just how effective Lance Dunbar would be when the season started. I pegged him in for 30 catches out of the backfield. I saw his speed and elusiveness as being a big part of a revamped offense. I was wrong. While not as big a disappointment as Carter, Dunbar has not been able to deliver on offense. He has four catches for 21 yards and 15 carries for 48 yards. Some of it is injury. Some of it is ball security. Some of it is scheme. Jerry Jones said he wanted to see Dunbar more involved. Bill Callahan said he would like to get Dunbar more involved. Sometimes there's just not enough of the football to go around. Dunbar has seen his role taken by Cole Beasley to a degree because of the use of the "empty” package. Maybe things change in the final six games, but I would be surprised.

DeMarcus Ware: Best fix for D is health

November, 13, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- By their 10th game last season, the Dallas Cowboys had already lost key defensive contributors for a combined 33 games.

Safety Barry Church went on injured reserve on Sept. 25 with a torn Achilles. Sean Lee went on injured reserve on Oct. 24 with a toe injury. Defensive lineman Kenyon Coleman went on injured reserve on Nov. 14 with a triceps injury. Six other players had missed at least one game, including Sean Lissemore with six games and Jay Ratliff with four.

Ware
Through 10 games this season, the Cowboys have lost key defensive contributors for a combined 21 games. Ratliff, Tyrone Crawford, Ben Bass and Matt Johnson are not included on the list because they were never on the 53-man roster this season, but those injuries are noteworthy nonetheless because of the roles they were expected to play.

Anthony Spencer leads the way with nine missed games with his season over because of knee surgery. DeMarcus Ware and J.J. Wilcox have missed three games. Four other players have missed at least one game so far.

What gives the Cowboys hope this year is that the currently hurt players will get healthy.

“I mean when you have, what, five guys or six of the starters out, the best way to fix it is to get the guys back,” Ware said. “Sometimes we have guys in there that sort of don’t know what they’re doing because it’s probably the first time they’ve been playing in a long time. When you have a team that doesn’t make mistakes and sort of expose you that with those guys that are in the game, that’s what [New Orleans] did. You’ve got to get the guys back that know what’s going on and during the bye week use that to make a big push.”

Morris Claiborne and Ware did not practice on Wednesday but they expect to play against the New York Giants on Nov. 24. Jason Hatcher was on the field Wednesday and also expects to play. Wilcox also hopes to play against the Giants.

The return of Claiborne will help the secondary even if he was not without faults before getting hurt.

“We still have guys that can fill in but obviously the experience that I have that B.W. [Webb] and [Micah] Pellerin don’t, that goes a long way.”

Linebackers Lee and Justin Durant will miss at least two games with hamstring injuries but will be back.

Last year the Cowboys did not have the luxury of players returning. Ratliff did not play a game after Nov. 18. Bruce Carter went on injured reserve on Nov. 26 with an elbow injury. Orlando Scandrick went on injured reserve on Dec. 8 with a wrist injury. Josh Brent was put on the non-football injury list on Dec. 12 after the accident that cost the life of teammate Jerry Brown.

Maybe it’s foolish to think the Cowboys won’t suffer more injuries on the defensive side of the ball in the final six games, but the one hope is at least some people will return.

“We’ve just got to get healthy, man,” Hatcher said.

Cowboys' DL moves since May

November, 6, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Since May 16, the Dallas Cowboys have signed, traded, acquired, put on injured reserve or released 28 defensive linemen. They saw another, Josh Brent, retire on July 18.

Everett Dawkins and Hall Davis are the latest additions. Dawkins was signed off the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad to the active roster, and Davis filled the final practice-squad vacancy.

There has been an incredible amount of movement on the Cowboys' defensive line. If you remember the Travis Chappelear era consider yourself fortunate.

Check out these transactions by date involving only the defensive line:

May 16 – Signed Anthony Hargrove
June 5 – Waived/injured Robert Callaway
June 11 – Signed Jeris Pendleton
June 20 – Cut Hargrove
June 25 – Signed Jerome Long
July 18 – Josh Brent retired
July 26 – Signed George Selvie and Landon Cohen
July 31 – Cut Ike Igbinosun, signed Toby Jackson
Aug. 1 – Waived/injured Cameron Sheffield
Aug. 6 – Waived Monte Taylor, signed Jabari Fletcher
Aug. 12 – Signed Travis Chappelear
Aug. 13 – Claimed Thaddeus Gibson
Aug. 19 – Waived Chappelear, Jackson
Aug. 21 – Signed Jason Vega
Aug. 26 - Cut Pendleton
Aug. 27 – Placed Tyrone Crawford on injured reserve, Jay Ratliff on reserve/PUP
Aug. 31 – Cut Fletcher, Gibson, Long, Vega; acquired Edgar Jones from Kansas City
Sept. 1 – Traded Sean Lissemore to San Diego
Sept. 2 – Signed Vega to practice squad
Sept. 3 – Acquired Caesar Rayford from Indianapolis
Sept. 5 – Chappelear waived off injured reserve
Sept. 7 – Placed Ben Bass on injured reserve; re-signed Long
Sept. 17 – Cut Cohen, signed David Carter
Sept. 24 – Cut Long, signed Drake Nevis
Sept. 25 – Placed Anthony Spencer on injured reserve
Oct. 15 – Cut Carter, Signed Jarius Wynn
Oct. 16 – Released Ratliff off reserve/PUP
Oct. 18 – Signed Vega off practice squad; placed Jones on IR to return list
Oct. 21 – Signed Marvin Austin
Oct. 29 – Released Vega; signed Everette Brown
Oct. 31 – Signed Vega to practice squad
Nov. 5 – Cut Austin
Nov. 6 – Signed Everett Dawkins off Minnesota practice squad; signed Hall Davis to practice squad

Cowboys waive Marvin Austin

November, 5, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- With a back injury that will keep him out at least a few weeks, the Dallas Cowboys waived/injured defensive tackle Marvin Austin.

Austin signed with the Cowboys on Oct. 21 and played against the Detroit Lions. He was scratched right before kickoff of last week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings after he was unable to finish Friday’s practice. Austin had an MRI on Monday.

The Cowboys have 52 players on the roster but are looking for defensive tackle help with only Jason Hatcher, Nick Hayden and Drake Nevis on the 53-man roster. Hatcher has had trouble with a stinger and Hayden has a back injury.

Since the beginning of training camp the defensive line has been hit by injury. Austin is just another in the line with Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff, Tyrone Crawford and Ben Bass among others.

Cowboys to re-sign DL Jerome Long

September, 6, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Needing as many able bodies along the defensive line as possible for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants because of injuries, the Dallas Cowboys will re-sign Jerome Long, who was among the team’s final cuts last week.

To make room for Long, Ben Bass, who dislocated his left shoulder in Thursday’s practice, is expected to be placed on injured reserve. A source indicated Bass would miss at least a month with the injury. It’s the second time in two seasons Bass has ended up on injured reserve.

Teams can only use the returnable injured reserve designation on one player, so the Cowboys wanted to protect themselves some by not using it on Bass. Long signed with the Cowboys on June 25 and played in five preseason games before being released Aug. 31.

With Long’s knowledge of the scheme, ability to play end and tackle and non-guaranteed salary, he was the best fit.

“He understands the scheme better than anybody,” defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said. “He’s one of those guys who got caught up in a numbers game. I thought he did a good job at the three-technique and he can play end. He can spare me a lot and you’ve got [Landon] Cohen. He can play the three-technique and nose. We’re not worried about the game at all.”

Maybe, but Hatcher knows his snap count will be high Sunday. High for DeMarcus Ware, too.

“It’s just really going to test our character,” Hatcher said. “The guys who are here, me and D-Ware, we’ve got to do a little more. Our workload’s going to be a little more. We can handle it.”

All hands on deck for Dallas defensive line

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
12:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- All available defensive linemen will be active for the Dallas Cowboys for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants, regardless of position.

Spencer
With Ben Bass looking at a monthlong absence because of a dislocated left shoulder suffered in Thursday’s practice, Landon Cohen is the Cowboys' only true backup defensive tackle behind Jason Hatcher and Nick Hayden. Caesar Rayford was playing outside linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts last week but was at defensive end on Wednesday, a day after the Cowboys got him in a trade.

“He’s got to be viable for us at some point in this ballgame,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Guys are going to have to play more, and some guys might have to play in a position they haven’t played as much as you’d like to have them play, but that’s just part of the deal.”

Anthony Spencer has not practiced since having knee surgery on July 25, but on Friday morning Garrett would not rule him out.

“We’ll just see what he does out here today and over the next couple of days to see what his availability is,” Garrett said.

Garrett did not rule out the possibility of adding a defensive tackle, like Jeris Pendleton, who was with the Cowboys in training camp, but acknowledged it is late in the week to make a move. Garrett said that depending on the damage Bass suffered, he could miss three days to “a couple [or] three weeks or at least that, so we’ll see.”

The defensive line has been beset by injuries from the first day of camp when Tyrone Crawford was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. Jay Ratliff (sports hernia) is on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and will miss at least the first six weeks.

“The really good teams are able to absorb injuries,” Garrett said.

Ben Bass to have MRI on shoulder

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
5:20
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IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Ben Bass will have an MRI on his left shoulder after getting hurt in Thursday’s practice. Bass could miss two weeks, but according to a source it could be closer to four.

Bass was limited in the session, and a potential absence would further hamper a defensive line that has taken more than its share of injuries.

Defensive end Anthony Spencer has not practiced since July 25 because of left knee surgery and suffered a minor setback over the weekend when his knee swelled after running. Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff is on the physically unable to perform list because of a sports hernia and will miss at least the first six games. Defensive end Tyrone Crawford was hurt in the first training camp practice, tearing his Achilles.

On Sept. 1 the Cowboys traded Sean Lissemore to San Diego.

If Bass’s injury is severe, the Cowboys would have only one backup defensive tackle in Landon Cohen behind Jason Hatcher and Nick Hayden.

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