Dallas Cowboys: Colin Cochart

A look at Cowboys possible cuts

August, 25, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- By Tuesday, the Dallas Cowboys will have to make 13 roster moves to get to the 75-player limit.

While some teams will make the moves before the deadline, the sense is the Cowboys will not be announcing their cuts on Sunday, so we’ll take some educated (stop laughing) guesses.

The only lock is that defensive end Tyrone Crawford will be moved to injured reserve as he recovers from a torn Achilles. He was hurt in the first training camp practice but if the Cowboys had put him on IR before the cut to 75, they would have had to expose him to waivers, and he would have been claimed. This move keeps Crawford with the team.

With the starters not playing, with perhaps some exceptions, you have to keep numbers at certain spots over others. Running back Kendial Lawrence might not make the team, but if he is cut, then Dallas has two backs ready for Thursday in Phillip Tanner and Joseph Randle because of Lance Dunbar’s foot injury.

Another question is at quarterback. Do the Cowboys keep Nick Stephens and play him versus Houston on Thursday and sit Alex Tanney? As we look at the 12 remaining moves, we’ll go with the idea that Stephens will be around.

Possible cuts:

Wide receiver: Anthony Amos, Eric Rogers, Jared Green. If Cole Beasley is healthy, then the Cowboys would have six receivers to play against the Texans. That’s enough to get through the game. If Beasley isn’t healthy, then Rogers could be kept. Rogers and Green could be brought back to the practice squad after the final cuts on Aug. 31.

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Cowboys TEs slow to see action so far

August, 20, 2013
IRVING, Texas – Jason Witten set an NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end last year with 110. Through two preseason games, Witten is still looking for his first catch.

“Don’t want to hurt the spleen, you know?” Witten joked, referring to the shot he took last year in the preseason.

With so much discussion about the Cowboys using the two-tight end personnel grouping more in 2013, the tight ends have only nine catches in three preseason games. Gavin Escobar leads with six, and five came last week against Arizona. Dante Rosario has two and Colin Cochart has one. Like Witten, James Hanna is without a catch.

The Cowboys have not used the “12 personnel” package much with the regulars. Of the 16 snaps by directed by Tony Romo against the Cardinals, 10 came with “11 personnel” or three wide receivers.

Witten said the Cowboys are not hiding what they’ve worked on in preseason games, saying that is just how the games have worked out.

“I think there are some things you are trying to protect, protections and plays you probably get away from or you don’t want to show, but for the most part, I think we just kind of run it,” Witten said. “I think they know we’re going to run the little 10-yard option route and the different things that we do. But I think there’s time and place.

"Even more so, things we say, ‘Hey, we want to work on this in the preseason and see how this holds up.’ There are things that I’m sure you probably don’t want to show, but for the most part, everything is in for us.”

The Cowboys’ starters will play more Saturday against the Bengals.

Witten, by the way, isn’t worried about getting the ball when the games matter.

“You work on it in practice doing that stuff, and this is the same system even though it’s a different playcaller, I’m sure that will all work out,” Witten said. “Look forward to playing a little bit more to see what happens this weekend.”

5 Wonders: Sean Lee's sack total

August, 13, 2013
OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys are closing in on their return to Texas after their California summer vacation (aka training camp), but there are plenty of things to wonder about -- and not just the heat back home.

For the third time in training camp, we bring you Five Wonders:

Sean Lee joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the Cowboys' upcoming season and his role on the team.

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** LB Sean Lee was credited with a sack and a forced fumble by the stats crew Friday in Oakland, but after looking at the replay, it looked like Jason Hatcher poked the ball free from Matt Flynn before the big hit from Lee. In his first three years, Lee has filled every defensive category but sacks. In 35 games, Lee has yet to record a sack. But I don’t wonder whether Lee will get a sack this year, I wonder how many he will get. Brian Urlacher had eight as a rookie in this scheme, but in five of his last seven years in Chicago, he did not have a sack. He had four in 2010. Monte Kiffin was aggressive in preseason game No. 2 against the Raiders, and Lee has a knack for timing. Seattle’s Bobby Wagner had two sacks last year in this scheme playing the Mike spot. I can see Lee getting about three this year if Kiffin keeps up with his aggressiveness.

** Before camp, when we wondered about position battles, I don’t think we had strongside linebacker on the list. We had free-agent pickup Justin Durant as the guy. Heck, I wasn’t sure Ernie Sims would make the team. But I wonder if the coaches have opened this starting spot without any of us noticing until recently. And with Sims suffering a groin injury Sunday, I wonder how long the competition will last. The Cowboys hope Sims can play in the fourth preseason game against Cincinnati, but who knows whether he will be back. Before Sunday, Durant had worked all camp -- save for one vet day -- as the starting Sam linebacker with Sims as his backup. In the Hall of Fame Game against Miami, Durant was the only regular to play. In the second preseason game against Oakland, Durant started but Sims was on the field in the second series with the starters. Durant really has not done anything to lose a job that we all thought was his entering camp, but Sims has had an impactful camp. He has been around the football and has created turnovers in practice. The groin injury, however, might change all of this.

** In two preseason games, the Cowboys have had 58 pass plays. So far, tight ends Jason Witten, James Hanna, Gavin Escobar, Dante Rosario, Colin Cochart and Andre Smith have been targeted nine times. Given how much we have talked about “12 personnel” and how much the Cowboys have used “12 personnel” in practice, I wonder if the team is just keeping most of it under wraps in the preseason. Against Miami in the Hall of Fame Game, the Cowboys used the two-tight end package a bunch and ran the ball more than they threw it. Against Oakland, the starters were in 11 personnel (three wide receivers) more. There is no need to tip teams to what will be your base formation when the regular season begins.

** Last year, the Cowboys kept safety Matt Johnson around essentially for the season even though he hardly practiced because of hamstring and back injuries. Johnson earned a scholarship year in part because he was a fourth-round draft pick and teams don’t want to give up on draft picks. Offensive tackle Demetress Bell is not a draft pick and the team does not have a financial commitment to him, but I wonder if the Cowboys will keep him around even though he hasn't done much of anything in camp. After signing, he needed extensive conditioning work when the team got to Oxnard, Calif., and the Cowboys did not want to put him at risk. He’s in better condition now and the Cowboys’ backup tackle situation is not good. Jermey Parnell is the third guy but a hamstring injury has slowed him through the first three weeks. The other backups, Darrion Weems and Edawn Coughman, have not impressed, either. Even if the Cowboys sign Brian Waters, they could keep nine or 10 linemen on the 53-man roster. Bell might not have to do much to be one of those guys.

** I wonder if people realize how out of date the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch complex is. There is no doubt it is serviceable, but most of the BCS college programs have better facilities than the Cowboys. You think of Valley Ranch as this magical place because of the history of the franchise, but it is just not as functional as it needs to be, which is a big reason why we will see the team move its practice facility to Frisco, Texas. It’s not just the lack of an indoor facility, though that is a big part of it. They don’t have a place to cook their own food, they need more space for rehab programs, and the player lounge is hardly even a room. We make too much of these things when it comes to free agency because money speaks the most, but there’s a reason why the Cowboys have taken their high-prized free agents to Cowboys Stadium first on their visits. When the team moves to Frisco in the future, the facility will match the stadium.

Camp observations: Pads pop on Day 3

July, 24, 2013
OXNARD, Calif. – The pads came on for Day 3 of Cowboys training camp and the physicality was noticed immediately.

  • While there were a number of big hits, S Barry Church had the most notable when he dropped WR Dez Bryant on a bubble screen. Church was able to slice his way through some blockers to hit Bryant just as the receiver caught the ball and dropped him to the ground with a thud. It was Church’s best play of camp so far. Church offered Bryant a hand after the hit to help him off the ground.

  • In one-on-one drills, LB Ernie Sims popped TE Colin Cochart with a semi-blindside hit. Cochart got up but appeared to be somewhat confused at being hit that way by a teammate. After a nice gain by RB Phillip Tanner, S J.J. Wilcox sent him to the ground in the secondary. Tanner got up and completed his sprint.

  • LT Tyron Smith has his hands full with DE DeMarcus Ware every day. Smith did a nice job of warding off Ware to create a lane for RB DeMarco Murray on a run.

  • It was not a good day for rookie CB B.W. Webb. He was hearing it all day from secondary coach Jerome Henderson. After pulling up while covering WR Eric Rogers on a slant, Henderson told Webb to get off the field. After he allowed a catch to WR Terrance Williams in the slot, he got yelled at by Henderson for not rallying to make the tackle.

  • LB Sean Lee did a nice job of breaking up a seam throw to WR Miles Austin a good 35 yards down the field. Lee reached up at the last second to make the play, but Austin could have made the contested catch. On the next play, CB Morris Claiborne made a nice twisting breakup of a sideline throw to WR Anthony Armstrong.

  • With TE James Hanna sitting out with a hamstring injury, rookie Gavin Escobar got his most work of camp. He came up with a nice catch in front of Church on a drag route and followed that up with a catch in the flat on the next play.

  • It was a rough start to practice for the offense in the afternoon walkthrough. They had to run the first scripted play three times before they got it right and had to re-huddle three snaps later. For the defense, their first two full-team snaps resulted in offsides penalties to Ben Bass and Ware. The first team was yanked both times in favor of the second team for a play.

  • Players were a little testy with the officials on hand for practice. Bryant was looking for a hold on CB Sterling Moore as he attempted to get down field for a Romo throw. Ware was looking for a hold on Jason Witten on a running play.

  • K Dan Bailey missed a kick, which was almost earth-shattering. His 41-yarder from the right hash was just wide to the right. He made his other five kicks from 35, 40, 43, 40 and 37 yards. He is now 10 of 11 in camp.
  • IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys’ minicamp came to an end Thursday, so we offer up the final observations.

    Cowboys wide receivers coach Derek Dooley joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to talk about Dez Bryant's talent and potential.

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  • LB Sean Lee was everywhere. He opened team drills with a breakup of a Kyle Orton throw to TE Jason Witten, picked off Orton in seven-on-seven drills and broke up an underneath throw to WR Miles Austin.

  • How good might the Cowboys be at middle linebacker and weakside linebacker? One play after Lee’s interception, Bruce Carter blanketed DeMarco Murray out of the backfield and forced an incompletion.

  • DT Jay Ratliff was back at practice after sitting out Wednesday. He was able to slither through the offensive line to make a tackle for loss on Murray on the first play of the team-run period.

  • WR Terrance Williams came up with a big catch down the field in team drills, jumping high and through a defender to set up what was a game-tying field goal by Dan Bailey.

  • Bailey is just about automatic. He made all six kicks -- ranging from 40 to 52 yards -- during special teams drills. He missed one kick in team drills wide right, but the goal posts are purposely narrow. He would have made the kick with regular goal posts.

  • Rookie TE Gavin Escobar had his best day. He closed practice with a sliding touchdown grab, positioning himself between S Matt Johnson and Nick Stephens’ pass so the defender could not make a play.

  • While that might have been Stephens’ best throw, earlier he did a nice job of escaping pressure and finding TE Colin Cochart along the backside of the defense for a touchdown.

  • S Barry Church looked like he did last year when he won the job. He showed no signs of being slowed by the Achilles injury that ended his season. But he would like one play back. He jumped an Orton throw to the flat to Dante Rosario but was unable to come up with the pick-six as it banged off his hands. That’s the kind of play this defense has to make. While the pass breakup is good, the turnover is obviously much better.
  • Cowboys' tight end search will never end

    May, 24, 2013
    PM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- With the Cowboys attempting to marry themselves to the two-tight end offense for the third time in eight years by taking Gavin Escobar in the second round of last month’s draft, the search for more tight ends never ends.

    ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Jerry Jones' recent comments, Cowboys OTAs, Dez Bryant and more.

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    Two weeks ago, the Cowboys made a waiver claim on Mickey Shuler Jr. after he was cut by Oakland, but Buffalo received priority based on its record last season.

    Jason Witten, Escobar, James Hanna, Colin Cochart, Andre Smith and Paul Freedman are on the current roster but the team is always on the lookout for more. They had B.J. Stewart and Taylor Cook in for tryouts at the recent rookie minicamp but neither player showed much.

    Finding a veteran tight end with a blocking bent would appear to be a need behind Witten. Escobar, Hanna and Cochart are considered more pass catching tight ends. At 267 pounds, Smith would seem to fit the bill as a blocker. He was a late-season add to the practice squad in 2012 and the Cowboys decided he warranted a further look.

    If the attempt to land Shuler is any indication, the Cowboys are not done looking for tight end help.
    IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys have one of the best tight ends in football in Jason Witten. With James Hanna, the Cowboys think they have a player who can be a mismatch for linebackers or safeties.

    As the Cowboys enter the draft, they need to find another tight end. The only other tight ends on the roster are Colin Cochart and Andre Smith. Cochart had a cup of coffee with the club last year but didn’t play in a game. Smith was a late addition to the practice squad.

    To a degree the Cowboys have wasted second-round picks on tight ends with Anthony Fasano (2006) and Martellus Bennett (2008). There simply aren’t enough plays for a tight end behind Witten to justify the second-round pick unless the Cowboys want to do what New England does with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

    This draft has a number of quality tight ends, but the Cowboys should not be in play for a Tyler Eifert or Zach Ertz, considered the top two at the position. Again, it’s based on how they use their second tight end behind Witten.

    You have to maximize plays per game with early picks. Unless the Cowboys switch their philosophy and move away from heavy three-wide receiver personnel looks, then it does not make sense to grab a tight end early. And it doesn’t make sense to take a “pass-catching” tight end either.

    The Cowboys have to look at the “blocking” tight ends more.

    They had two of those types in for top-30 visits in Rutgers’ D.C. Jefferson and Michigan State’s Dion Sims. Both players are considered solid blocking prospects, with Sims more highly regarded. Another option is Alabama’s Michael Williams.

    Cowboys lose John Phillips to Chargers

    March, 12, 2013
    PM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- Unable to do any real shopping in free agency Tuesday, the Cowboys lost their first player to the open market when tight end John Phillips agreed to a three-year deal with San Diego, according to a source.

    John Clayton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the offseason happenings around the NFL and what they mean for the Dallas Cowboys.

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    Phillips will go from backing up one of the NFL’s best tight ends in Jason Witten to another in the Chargers' Antonio Gates.

    Phillips caught eight passes for 55 yards and a touchdown last season while making eight starts. He took over as the No. 2 tight end in 2012 when Martellus Bennett left in free agency, but his playing time decreased later in the season in favor of rookie James Hanna.

    The Cowboys would have liked to have kept Phillips, a sixth-round pick in 2009, but they were not willing to spend much. Phillips caught 30 passes for 218 yards and two scores in 48 games. He missed the 2010 season with a knee injury.

    The Cowboys are in the market for a veteran tight end behind Witten, with Hanna and Colin Cochart and Andre Smith currently on the roster.

    Cowboys sign nine players

    January, 7, 2013
    PM ET
    The Cowboys signed nine players to their reserve/future list on Monday.

    Wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, who spent some time with the team this season before getting released, will get another look. Tight end Colin Cochart, who was claimed off waivers before getting cut in September, was also brought back.

    Wide receiver Carlton Mitchell, who has three career catches, all with the Cleveland Browns, guard Ray Dominguez, wide receiver Jared Green, long snapper Charley Hughlett, linebacker Cameron Sheffield, tackle Aderious Simmons and cornerback Brandon Underwood were also picked up.

    Of these players, Hughlett might have the best chance of making the team. The Cowboys long snapper, LP Ladouceur, becomes a free agent in March and Hughlett spent time with the team in training camp. He could become the long snapper if the team elects to go elsewhere.

    Another interesting signing involves Green, the son of former Washington Redskins cornerback and Hall of Famer Darrell Green.

    Cowboys add cornerback

    September, 12, 2012
    AM ET
    IRVING, Texas – Looking to boost their coverage teams in a week in which they face Seattle’s Leon Washington, the Cowboys have signed cornerback LeQuan Lewis off waivers from the New York Jets.

    Lewis (5-foot-11, 187 pounds) had been on the Jets practice squad before his release. He made three tackles in the preseason for New York. He went to camp last year with Tennessee. He replaces tight end Colin Cochart, who was released Tuesday, on the Cowboys’ 53-man roster.

    Washington is among the most dangerous kick and punt returners in the league. He had an 83-yard kickoff and a 52-yard punt return in the Seahawks’ Week 1 loss at Arizona.

    The Cowboys’ coverage units should receive a boost this week with the return of safety Danny McCray, who missed the Giants game in Week 1 with a stinger. Linebacker Kyle Wilber (finger) could also return to action this week.

    "We had a fourth tight end who we signed based on Witten's health and Witten obviously was healthy enough to play last week," coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday morning in explaining the roster move. "We anticipate him being able to practice and play this week. We signed LeQuan Lewis from the Jets, he was actually released by the Jets and he was a guy we targeted as a special teams guy. So we'll bring him in here and see how he fits into our 53-man roster and maybe our 46-man roster this week."

    Cowboys cut TE Colin Cochart

    September, 11, 2012
    PM ET
    The Cowboys announced the release of tight end Colin Cochart, who was claimed on waivers Sept. 1 but did not make the trip to New Jersey for the season opener.

    The team almost cut Cochart on game day last week, when they intended to promote rookie running back Lance Dunbar from the practice squad. However, the Cowboys changed their mind over the course of the day and did not make a roster move before their win over the New York Giants.

    The Cowboys have not announced how they plan to fill the roster spot opened up by Cochart's release Tuesday.

    Cowboys don't call up Lance Dunbar; Cochart inactive

    September, 5, 2012
    PM ET
    NEWARK, N.J. – After planning on calling up running back Lance Dunbar from the practice squad to the active roster, the Cowboys have had a change of heart Wednesday afternoon.

    The team had until 3 p.m. to move Dunbar to the active roster but opted against the move before the season opener against the New York Giants. Tight end Colin Cochart, who did not make the trip to New Jersey, would have been waived but will be inactive instead

    Dunbar would have played a special teams' role as a return man. He returned kicks and punts in the preseason finale vs. Miami and had a 27-yard punt return.

    Dunbar, who flew with the team Tuesday and can be on the sidelines tonight, was among the final cuts Friday but was re-signed to the practice squad a day later.

    Cochart was claimed off waivers from Cincinnati as an insurance policy for Jason Witten, but getting him up to speed with the offense and special teams with only three days of practice was a reach.

    Source: Cowboys to call up Lance Dunbar

    September, 5, 2012
    AM ET
    NEWARK, N.J. – The Cowboys' decision to keep tight end Colin Cochart at home had little to do with Jason Witten’s availability to play Wednesday against the New York Giants. It was more to do with getting running back Lance Dunbar on the 53-man roster.

    According to a source, Dunbar, who was among the final cuts Saturday, will be added to the roster today and available to play a role in the return game and Cochart will be waived.

    Cochart was claimed off waivers from Cincinnati as an insurance policy for Witten, but getting him up to speed with the offense and special teams with only three days of practice was a reach. If he clears waivers, then he can be brought back to the active roster next week.

    Dunbar, a North Texas product, had 105 yard on 15 carries in the preseason finale vs. Miami, including a 58-yard touchdown run, and had a 27-yard punt return against the Dolphins.

    TE Colin Cochart won't travel to New York

    September, 4, 2012
    PM ET
    Tight end Colin Cochart, who the Cowboys claimed off waivers over the weekend, will not make the trip with the team to New Jersey.

    That means that the Cowboys will have only two active tight ends if Jason Witten is unable to play. Witten (lacerated spleen) is officially listed as doubtful, but he is scheduled to undergo a CT scan Tuesday in hopes of being cleared to play in Wednesday's season opener against the New York Giants.

    If Witten can't play, John Phillips will start with rookie sixth-round pick James Hanna serving as the team's second tight end.

    Practice squad running back Lance Dunbar, a candidate to return kicks, is on the flight to New Jersey. No roster move has been announced.
    When you talk about protecting Tony Romo, there are three defensive ends the Cowboys must worry about from the New York Giants: Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck.

    In Wednesday's regular-season opener, the Giants will face a different set of offensive linemen than last season. Doug Free and Tyron Smith have flipped sides at tackle. Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau are the new guards to bookend center Phil Costa. Of course, Livings and Bernadeau can slide over and help Free and Smith if the ends try to rush between the guard and tackle. With the availability of tight end Jason Witten in doubt, John Phillips, James Hanna and quite possibly newly signed tight end Colin Cochart will have to be sound in their blocking techniques.

    Let's not forget the backfield. Fullback Lawrence Vickers was signed in the offseason because he's a sound blocker, and Felix Jones or DeMarco Murray must give Romo time to get the ball down field on third downs.

    Here are Free's thoughts on defending the Giants' pass rush off the edge.

    "It's going to be real difficult," he said. "They have a lot of great players and the amount of players they have, they got a lot of defensive ends. Maybe not as many in the interior, but they use those guys on third down. It's going to be a huge challenge for us. We're going to have to work together, a lot of communication. Some different looks than a regular four-down (linemen) looks and we're going to have go out there and play real hard."

    Have the injuries to several offensive linemen hurt the continuity of the line?

    "I think we're doing pretty good. You never know what you got until you get out there, but everybody has been getting out there and working real hard and doing our jobs and getting ready to play."

    A stat you probably would like to know about: Justin Tuck hasn't sacked a Cowboys quarterback since 2008, a span of five games.