Dallas Cowboys: Danny McCray

Cowboys turn to ballet for help

June, 2, 2014
Jun 2
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IRVING, Texas -- Ballet and football don’t seem to go together, but the Dallas Cowboys are hoping the combination helps in their quest to lessen their hamstring injuries.

The team has installed ballet bars outside the locker room at three different heights for players to use for extra stretching.

Associate athletic trainer Britt Brown, “told me, ‘You know, that’s going up for you,’ and he started laughing,” safety Matt Johnson said. “If they work, we’ll do whatever it takes.”

Johnson did not play in a game as a rookie in 2012 mostly because of hamstring injuries. He did not play in 2014 because of a foot injury. Miles Austin, Morris Claiborne, Dwayne Harris, Justin Durant, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Lance Dunbar, Danny McCray, Gavin Escobar and Barry Church were among those missing games or practices with hamstring injuries last season.

"We’ve put an emphasis on addressing, as an organization, some of the injuries that we’ve had,” coach Jason Garrett said.

The Cowboys have also changed their pre-practice stretching routine, as well going through what Garrett called a "dynamic warmup." Johnson said strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik used a similar routine with the New England Patriots.

"Typically we’ve done kind of the old team stretch, and we’re experimenting with dynamic warm-up -- stuff that I’ve done, other coaches have done in the past,” Garrett said. “You try to be innovative, you try to evolve, you get feedback from players, feedback from coaches, we’re just trying to help our players get themselves more ready to practice and hopefully stay healthier over time."

Checking in on Cowboys' free agents

April, 1, 2014
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IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have lost two players in free agency – Jason Hatcher and Danny McCray – with eight players still available on the market.

DeMarcus Ware does not count as an unrestricted free-agent signing because he was released, and the Cowboys will not receive a compensatory pick in 2015.

Here is a look at the status of their remaining free agents:

RB Phillip Tanner – The Cowboys did not tender him a deal as a restricted free agent, thus allowing him to sign elsewhere. It is possible he'll return on a one-year deal at the minimum, but it is unlikely.

DE Edgar Jones – Has some value because he can play special teams. Another one-year deal at the veteran minimum or possibly a minimum-salary benefit player.

OL Ryan Cook – Did not play last year because of a back injury. His ability to play center and guard helps, but the Cowboys want to get better and younger with their reserve interior linemen.

QB Jon Kitna – He will go back to coaching high school football and teaching math.

LB Ernie Sims – Has some fans on the coaching staff, but he becomes something of a progress-stopper given the development of Kyle Wilber and DeVonte Holloman.

DE Anthony Spencer – He is the Cowboys' most attractive remaining free agent, but where is he in his rehab from microfracture surgery? He has visited the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, but it seems that the longer he is available, the better chance he returns to the Cowboys on a short-term deal.

OL Brian Waters – The same question asked after the season remains now: Does he want to play? In order to play, he needs surgery on his triceps. He could be an emergency option later in the summer.

DE Jarius Wynn – With the signing of Jeremy Mincey, Wynn's return does not seem likely, but he has some position flexibility that the Cowboys like.

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
12:00
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IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys Twitter mailbag is ready. In it we discuss how the offense will look with Tony Romo coming off back surgery, who the real general manager of this team is and whether some offensive line help could be coming in the future.

Part 2 will come out on Saturday. Remember if you have questions for me via Twitter (@toddarcher) use the #cowboysmail hashtag.

Away we go:

 

Compensatory picks could mean a lot

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
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IRVING, Texas -- As easy as it has been to rail on the Dallas Cowboys' drafting over the years, the one area where the Cowboys have consistently excelled is in finding undrafted free agents.

That is why this week’s news that the Cowboys received three seventh-round compensatory picks should not be overlooked.

With the free-agent losses of Mike Jenkins, Victor Butler, Kenyon Coleman and John Phillips, the Cowboys gained picks Nos. 248, 251 and 254 in the seventh round. Those picks cannot be traded, so in effect the Cowboys can guarantee landing their top targets in college free agency.

Last year, the Cowboys targeted Brandon Magee and Jakar Hamilton as undrafted free agents. Magee was guaranteed $70,000. Hamilton received a $10,000 signing bonus. Magee didn’t make the final roster, but Hamilton spent time on the active roster after opening on the practice squad.

The Cowboys also had Jeff Heath and Cameron Lawrence contribute as undrafted free agents. In 2012, they signed Ronald Leary and Cole Beasley. Leary started at left guard, and Beasley has developed into a valuable slot player. In 2011, they signed Dan Bailey and they signed him to a seven-year, $22.5 million extension this offseason. In 2010 they signed safeties Barry Church and Danny McCray. Church led the Cowboys in tackles last season.

Oh, by the way, Tony Romo was an undrafted free agent in 2003.

Danny McCray joins Bears

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
5:08
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IRVING, Texas -- Danny McCray is now a member of the Chicago Bears.

The free-agent safety signed a one-year deal with the Bears on Tuesday, reuniting with special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.

McCray led the Cowboys in special teams’ tackles two of his three years with DeCamillis, and finished second in 2012 when he was forced to play more defensive snaps because of injuries. McCray was credited with eight special teams tackles in 2013 under Rich Bisaccia, tied for sixth on the team.

McCray joined the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and quickly made his presence felt on special teams. He had 87 tackles in 10 starts in 2012 to go with five pass deflections and an interception.

He is the third Cowboy to sign elsewhere in free agency, joining DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher.

Free-agency primer: Cowboys

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
11:00
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer, Brian Waters, Danny McCray, Ernie Sims, Jarius Wynn

Where they stand: After finishing with the worst-ranked defense in the NFL in 2013, the Cowboys need help everywhere, but mostly on the defensive line. The need could be even greater if the Cowboys are unable to come up with a new deal for DeMarcus Ware, who is set to make $12.25 million in 2014 and count $16.003 million against the cap. Coming off an 11-sack season, Hatcher is likely to command more money from another team that will make it unlikely for the Cowboys to match, but they will not close the door on keeping him. Spencer is rehabbing from knee surgery and could be had on a short-term deal that will not involve a lot of money. The rest of their free agents are more fill-in types who will be allowed to test the market if not allowed to leave altogether.

What to expect: Not much. Last year the Cowboys added safety Will Allen and linebacker Justin Durant in free agency on short-term, low-money deals. The approach will be more that way than setting the market on a player as they did in 2012 for cornerback Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million). Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys can be "efficient" spenders in free agency. The Cowboys will have to create space under the cap to sign players to modest deals. The best bet is for them to look for low-cost help on players on the line looking to rebound from down years or injuries. They also could look at safety, though Jerry Jones said at the NFL scouting combine that they liked their young safeties such as J.J. Wilcox. Whatever money the Cowboys do have is more likely to be set aside for Tyron Smith and/or Dez Bryant.

Putting value on Cowboys' free agents

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
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IRVING, Texas -- On Thursday, Bill Polian offered up his do's and don'ts when it came to free agency.

Spencer
Hatcher
Hatcher
Today we bring you the free-agent tracker designed by Polian and fellow ESPN Insiders Gary Horton, Matt Williamson and Field Yates, and the grades assigned to the Dallas Cowboys' unrestricted free agents.

The grades also have a monetary value. An "A" player should get $6 million on average per year with guaranteed money in the first three or more years. A "B" player should get $2-$6 million on average per year with guaranteed money in the first two years or less. A "C" player should get $2 million or less on average per year with guaranteed money in the first two years or less. A "D" player should get a one-year deal at the veteran minimum.

Not surprisingly Jason Hatcher gets the highest grade with an A-minus. In the scouting report, Hatcher is "a good fit for the Tampa 2 defense. He's quick off the ball, explosive and disruptive. Hatcher shows good strength versus the run and solid power as a pass-rusher."

The A-minus grade would put Hatcher in the $4-$6 million annually range. Do the Cowboys have that kind of money to spend?

Anthony Spencer came in with a B grade, which I thought was a little surprising. The scouting reported cited his ability to play in the 3-4 as well and acknowledged his knee injury. I would doubt the Cowboys do more than a one-year deal with Spencer, but that is a big window in the $2-$6 million range.

The only other free agents with grades better than D are defensive end Edgar Jones and linebacker Ernie Sims. Jones could be back at the right price, but there will not be a rush to sign him. Sims would appear to have played in his final game as a Cowboy with the club wanting younger, cheaper depth players.

Ryan Cook, Brian Waters, Danny McCray and Jarius Wynn all carried D grades among the remaining free agents.

Cowboys hope to quiet hamstring issues

March, 4, 2014
Mar 4
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IRVING, Texas -- One of the Dallas Cowboys’ homework assignments in the offseason has been to figure out a way to avoid hamstring injuries.

Twelve players suffered strains of varying levels and missed either game or practice time in 2013: Miles Austin, Morris Claiborne, Sean Lee, Justin Durant, Dwayne Harris, Bruce Carter, Danny McCray, Barry Church, Dez Bryant, Lance Dunbar, Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams.

The shortened offseason conditioning program could play a factor in the increase in injuries, but it has not affected every team. The Cowboys have studied other teams’ approaches and injury numbers to come up with a solution.

Coach Jason Garrett said one possibility is cutting back on the time spent on the field, especially early in the offseason.

“It is valuable to do the football stuff. We don’t feel like there’s a lot of football stuff right now,” Garrett said. “We want to be careful about how much we take away from that. But there’s a couple weeks prior to all that stuff starting. We’ve talked about tweaking the daily schedule and what we’re doing those first couple weeks as we start to lay the foundation for the offseason.”

While many players train on their own before the official offseason program starts in April, there is only a two-week period of training before players get on the field for teaching sessions.

“[Strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik] I know is certainly not happy with it,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “[Athletic trainers] Jim Maurer and Britt Brown0 are not happy. I know Jason’s not happy with it and I damn sure know Jerry [Jones] and I are not happy with it. So we’re looking at ways to try to work on that.”

One way might be doing less instead of more.

2014 Cowboys free agents: Danny McCray

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
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Danny McCray
Position: Safety
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $630,000

McCray
Summary: After finishing second on the team in tackles in 2012 with 87, McCray had one defensive stop in 2013. Since he arrived as an undrafted free agent in 2010, he had been the Cowboys’ best special teams player, but he had only eight special teams’ tackles in 2013.

Why keep him: He can still contribute on special teams and can play on defense, although it should be noted the coaches never put him in the mix at safety despite the struggles of Jeff Heath and J.J. Wilcox.

Why let him go: The Cowboys did not want to pay him the tender offer of roughly $1.2 million last year as a restricted free agent, so they gave him a $100,000 signing bonus and the $630,000 base salary. If they thought he was too expensive last year, then he can’t figure in their plans in 2014.

Best guess: McCray has a big fan in former special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, who is now with the Chicago Bears, and heading there could be an option as he can continue to be a top special teamer. But his time with the Cowboys appears to be over.

Cowboys free agents: Phillip Tanner

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
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Phillip Tanner
Position: Running back
Free-agent type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $555,000

Summary: Tanner had nine carries for 12 yards and a touchdown in 2013 on offense and made nine tackles on special teams in 16 games.

Why keep him: He is everything Jason Garrett wants in a teammate. He is tough, dependable and trustworthy. He will do whatever it takes for the team to win. He is an excellent practice player. He knows the offense and can contribute on every special teams’ unit. He can be a useful short-yardage back.

Why let him go: There comes a time where the cost of a player outweighs his usefulness on the roster because of price. Tanner was set to make $1.389 million as a restricted free agent, but a source said the Cowboys will not tender him an offer, making him an unrestricted free agent With DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle, who is entering his second year, there just isn’t enough snaps for him on offense.

Best guess: Danny McCray was a restricted free agent last year and the Cowboys chose not to tender him an offer, giving him a $100,000 signing bonus and $630,000 base salary instead. And he was their best special teamer. The Cowboys could choose to do the same with Tanner this year, minus the signing bonus. In this scenario his base salary would be a non-guaranteed $645,000.

Five Wonders: Can Dallas go deep in '14?

February, 4, 2014
Feb 4
9:00
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IRVING, Texas -- Not necessarily by popular demand, but Five Wonders is back and we'll look at a number of issues the Dallas Cowboys face in the offseason.

On to the Wonders:
  • I wonder how different the Cowboys' offense will look in 2014 with the addition of Scott Linehan. He will call the plays, but they will be Jason Garrett's plays in the pass game and Bill Callahan's plays in the run game. If there is a change, I wonder if it will be in the deep passing game. He was unafraid to take shots down the field. That's easy to do when you have a receiver like Calvin Johnson and a quarterback with an arm like Matthew Stafford. The Cowboys did not force the issue down the field with the 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos as the only real exception. Tony Romo averaged a career low 7.2 yards per attempt in 2013. As an offensive line coach, was Callahan protecting his guys from having to hold the fort a little longer by not calling the deep ball as much? Was Romo protecting himself in some ways because he has taken a beating in recent years with an offensive line that had too many holes? Maybe it's partly both. Linehan will have to boost the confidence in the deep passing game to make a real difference.
  • I wonder if the Cowboys look at extending Doug Free's contract. He is set to make $3.5 million in 2014 and the final two years of his deal voids after the season. Free, who had a bounce back season in 2013, will count $6.520 million against the cap and if the Cowboys choose to extend Free, they would gain cap space as well as have one of their tackles in place for 2015 and beyond. The Cowboys will have to make it worth Free's while after they cut his pay in half the last two seasons. He will be under no obligation to get do something “team friendly,” but he is not in a hurry to leave. He just turned 30 last month and is entering his eighth season. His backup, Jermey Parnell, is about to enter the final year of his deal. He was supposed to press Free in training camp last summer, but he never did in part because Free never really allowed it.
  • As you look at what the Cowboys might do in the May draft, I wonder if just how much you should keep an eye on wide receiver. I would almost guarantee Miles Austin will not be back with a $5.5 million base salary in 2014. With Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams the Cowboys would have to feel good about their top two receivers. I wonder if they would look at a receiver in the third round, like they did last year in taking Williams. Or I wonder if they will look for a veteran that is not looking to break the bank. Somebody like New Orleans' Robert Meachem comes to mind. If the Cowboys lost Bryant or Williams to injury, then they would need to have receiver ready to be a No. 2 receiver, like how Laurent Robinson filled in a few years ago.
  • Last year was the year of the hamstring injury for the Cowboys. Austin, Justin Durant, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Morris Claiborne, Gavin Escobar, Dwayne Harris, Danny McCray, Ernie Sims, J.J. Wilcox and Williams were among those troubled by varying hamstring injuries last year. Jason Garrett said the Cowboys continually looked at the reasons why. They studied how much they stretched, what they ate, what they drank. The Cowboys had players wearing GPS-like monitors in practice to gain different measurements. I wonder if the Cowboys practiced too long as the year went on. Garrett liked to say you don't want to leave it all on the practice field during the week, but could they have been in a position where they practiced so much in the week they were gassed for the game?
  • Sometimes patience is required when it comes to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I wonder if that will serve Charles Haley well. Haley was once again left off the final ballots of the voters, but that doesn't mean he will not get in. Not to go all Garrett on you, but it is a process. In the last two years we've seen the receiver logjam break with Cris Carter and Andre Reed getting selected. That could be good news for Tim Brown in 2015. Haley has seen defensive linemen Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan get selected the last two years. Maybe next year is his turn and if it is, then nobody will remember all the years it took him to make it to Canton, Ohio, and his gold jacket will be the same as every other Hall of Famer. The voters have a difficult job. I'm not of the belief Haley's conduct toward the media has played a role in his lack of support so far. Sapp was hardly the friendliest player and he got in. It will happen for Haley, one day.

NFLN Survey/Super Bowl player: Cowboys

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
11:00
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IRVING, Texas -- Somewhat lost amid Peyton Manning’s return to a Super Bowl is the first trip to the big game Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey will make.

Bailey has been among the best cornerbacks of his generation, and after 15 seasons, he is finally getting a chance to win a title.

When 320 players across the league were asked which player -- active, non-teammate -- they would like to see in the Super Bowl in the NFL Nation survey, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was the top answer. He earned five of the Cowboys’ 10 votes in the survey. Eighty-eight players league-wide received a vote.

Bringing this to the Cowboys, Tony Romo earned the most votes with nine. Jason Witten and Dez Bryant earned two votes. DeMarcus Ware earned one. Somehow, so did Danny McCray.

Romo has said over and over again that winning is the only way quarterbacks are judged. He has one playoff victory and has missed the playoffs in his past three seasons when he has had 90 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions.

He receives a ton of grief from opponents, media and fans for what he hasn’t done yet. The 2007 season in which the Cowboys went 13-3 but lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to the New York Giants looms as the biggest missed opportunity.

Romo turns 34 in April and the chances are running out on finally making a Super Bowl, like Bailey has, but he is not about to stop trying. With three straight 8-8 finishes, it is hard to imagine the Cowboys making it to Super Bowl XLIX, but that is what drives Romo and Witten as they enter their 12th seasons.

Cowboys snap counts: defense

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
3:30
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IRVING, Texas -- No team in the NFL needed more players on defense than the Dallas Cowboys in 2013.

They had 41 defenders with cornerback Brandon Carr playing the most (1,116 snaps) and Dez Bryant playing the least (three). The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints had the second most with 32 players on defense.

In training camp, the Cowboys’ projected defensive line was Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher, Jeremiah Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware. Hatcher played the most snaps (747) but that was only 66 percent of the snaps. Ware missed three games and played 628 snaps (55 percent). Spencer played 34 snaps in one game before his season ended. Ratliff, of course, played none before his release.

Nick Hayden played the most snaps on the defensive line (821). George Selvie did not join the team until training camp began and played 744 snaps.

With Hatcher and Spencer set to be free agents and Ware coming off a career-low six sacks, the Cowboys need to refurbish their defensive line in a way where Hayden and Selvie are not playing as much.

The Cowboys used 20 defensive linemen during the season, although Kyle Wilber moved to linebacker late in the season and played 501 snaps.

It might not have seemed this way, but Jeff Heath played only 79 more snaps than J.J. Wilcox.

Defensive snaps:

1,116 – Brandon Carr
1,088 – Orlando Scandrick
1,015 – Barry Church
874 – Bruce Carter
821 - Nick Hayden
747 – Jason Hatcher
744 – George Selvie
702 – Sean Lee
628 - DeMarcus Ware
594 - Jeff Heath
515 - J.J. Wilcox
506 – Morris Claiborne
501 – Kyle Wilber
380 – Ernie Sims
275 – Jarius Wynn
254 - Drake Nevis
207 – DeVonte Holloman
197 – Justin Durant
178 – B.W. Webb
163 – Will Allen
153 – Everette Brown
144 – Caesar Rayford
117 – Corvey Irvin
81 – Sterling Moore
72 - Edgar Jones
63 – Cameron Lawrence
49 – David Carter
46 – Jason Vega
45 – Jerome Long
38 – Landon Cohen
34 – Anthony Spencer
34 – Frank Kearse
24 – Kyle Bosworth
22 – Micah Pellerin
20 – Everett Dawkins
20 – Martez Wilson
16 – Jakar Hamilton
15 – Marvin Austin
8 – Danny McCray
6 – Orie Lemon
3 – Dez Bryant

A look at the Cowboys' free agents

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
12:51
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IRVING, Texas -- With the Dallas Cowboys' season over, here is a list of their exclusive rights, restricted and unrestricted free agents heading into 2014.

Exclusive rights (1)
Chris Jones

Restricted free agents (2)
Dan Bailey
Phillip Tanner

Unrestricted free agents (9)
Ryan Cook
Jason Hatcher
Edgar Jones
Jon Kitna
Danny McCray
Ernie Sims
Anthony Spencer
Brian Waters
Jarius Wynn

Monte Kiffin happy to see Ware, Hatcher

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
4:12
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IRVING, Texas -- DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher returned to practice on Wednesday on a limited basis, but Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was glad they were there.

Hatcher
Hatcher
Ware
“It looked nice,” Kiffin said. “I like those jersey numbers, 94 and 97. They looked good but they’re still coming back. They did practice some today.”

Ware (quadriceps), Hatcher (stinger) and cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring) went through some individual and team drills but did not do everything. Ware and Hatcher are expected to play, but there is some question about Claiborne, who has missed the past two games. Hatcher and Ware have not played in the same game since Oct. 13 against the Washington Redskins and Ware was knocked out in the first half.

Rookie safety J.J. Wilcox took part in his first full-padded practice since hurting his knee and missing three games. Linebacker DeVonte Holloman (neck) was also limited. Linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant were the only players not to practice.

“It’s going to help us,” Kiffin said of the injured players returning. “We’re excited about that part.”

Wide receiver Miles Austin went through his first full-padded practice since late September after missing five of the past seven games. He was limited in practice leading into the two games he did play and was held without a catch. Dez Bryant (back) also went through a full practice.

Defensive tackle Nick Hayden (ribs) and defensive end George Selvie (shoulder) also took part in a full practice.

Safeties Barry Church and Danny McCray, wide receiver Dwayne Harris and running back DeMarco Murray are no longer on the injury report.

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