Dallas Cowboys: Dante Rosario

Setting the Cowboys' draft plate

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
12:30
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Now that the NFL has set the compensatory picks, let’s look at where the Cowboys are scheduled to pick in the May draft in each round:

First round: No. 16 overall
Second round: No. 47 overall
Third round: No. 78 overall
Fourth round: No. 119 overall
Fifth round: No. 158 overall
Sixth round: No selection
Seventh round: No. 229 overall (from Chicago)
Seventh round: No. 231 overall
Seventh round: No. 238 (from Kansas City)
Seventh round: No. 248 overall (compensatory)
Seventh round: No. 251 overall (compensatory)
Seventh round: No. 254 overall (compensatory)

The Cowboys’ sixth round pick went to the Kansas City Chiefs in the trade for defensive end Edgar Jones, but they also received a seventh rounder in return. The pick from the Chicago Bears came in the trade for tight end Dante Rosario.

Teams cannot trade compensatory picks.

Counting Cowboys' draft picks

January, 11, 2014
Jan 11
10:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- As you get ready for another week of NFL playoffs, just remember the NFL draft is just a short five months away.

Actually a little less than that now.

The draft will be May 8-10.

The Cowboys have eight picks in the draft and will learn if they pick No. 16 or 17 after a coin flip at next month’s NFL Scouting Combine. After the 8-8 finish, they are in a dead heat with the Baltimore Ravens.

The Cowboys have picks in the first five rounds, and three picks in the seventh round. They do not have a sixth-round pick because of their trade with the Kansas City Chiefs for defensive end Edgar Jones. They did pick up the Chiefs’ seventh rounder in return, and will also receive the Chicago Bears’ seventh-round pick as a result of the trade for tight end Dante Rosario.

They could receive a compensatory pick, but those are not released until the NFL Owners meetings in the spring.

The last time the Cowboys used their three seventh-round picks they made out OK. In 2004 they took Nate Jones (No. 205), Patrick Crayton (No. 216) and Jacques Reeves (No. 223).

If you’re just stuck on first-round picks, the Cowboys haven’t taken a player with the 17th overall pick since cornerback Kevin Smith in 1992. In 1990, they did OK with No. 17 when they took Emmitt Smith, who went on to become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

The only time they ever used the 16th pick in the draft came in 1961 when they selected E.J. Holub in the second round. Holub went on to an outstanding career with the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs in the AFL.

Cowboys lose pick, gain pick

November, 13, 2013
11/13/13
1:57
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Even though the Dallas Cowboys cut defensive end Caesar Rayford on Tuesday, they will have to fork over their seventh-round pick in 2015 to the Indianapolis Colts.

The condition of the deal that was made on Sept. 3 was that Rayford had to be on the Cowboys’ 53-man roster for at least five games. He was on it for 10 and had six tackles and a quarterback pressure in the seven games he played.

Fear not about the loss of the pick. The Cowboys will receive the seventh-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2014 because tight end Dante Rosario has been on the game-day roster for eight games. That was the condition of the Sept. 1 trade that sent Rosario to Chicago.

Cowboys TEs slow to see action so far

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
2:00
PM ET
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
8/13/13
9:00
AM ET
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:

PODCAST
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: Cowboys D wins the day

August, 7, 2013
8/07/13
8:00
AM ET
OXNARD, Calif. – Back at work for the first time after Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game win against Miami, the Cowboys’ defense got the better of the offense on Tuesday.

DeMarcus Ware had a full sack of Tony Romo; Jason Hatcher and Nick Hayden split one. Sean Lee had an interception of Romo. Orlando Scandrick knocked down a pass. The second-team defense was able to force a punt after three plays in situational work and the third-team defense ended a drive with a Landon Cohen pressure.

  • The offensive highlight of the day might have been Dan Bailey’s 60-yard field goal. It was aided by a strong breeze, but it was true and had plenty of room to spare. In special teams, work Bailey went four of six, missing to the left from 44 yards and to the right from 50 yards.

  • Filling in for CB Brandon Carr, who was with his girlfriend to attend the birth of his child, Scandrick had a strong practice. He had the aforementioned deflection, which really should have been a pick, on a throw to Dez Bryant, and snuffed out a rocket screen to WR Dwayne Harris to force Romo to throw the ball into the ground.

  • DE Ben Bass had back-to-back solid plays in run drills, penetrating the gap to force Romo out of the pocket and stopping RB Lance Dunbar.

  • TE Dante Rosario showed up with a couple of nice catches from QB Kyle Orton in team drills. The second one ate up some good yards on a tight end screen after DE Kyle Wilber brought some pressure.

  • OL Ryan Cook practiced for the first time in a week, splitting time at guard and center. He had been slowed by a sore back.

  • Bryant might be a little sore today. In two-on-two drills he collided with Scandrick and was slow to get up but did not miss a rep. Later in practice he appeared to get his foot stepped on but was able to return after limping off.

  • After dropping a pass in on-air drills, Harris took his place in line again to make sure he got it right. As a group, however, there were far too many drops by the wide receivers in practice. There were five alone in one-on-one drills.

  • We’ll end on a positive for Bryant and CB Morris Claiborne. On the second rep of one-on-one drills, Bryant made a leaping grab over Claiborne on a deep ball. On their next pairing against each other, Claiborne poked a shallow crossing route away from Bryant.
  • Camp observations: D comes up with stand

    July, 31, 2013
    7/31/13
    8:00
    AM ET
    OXNARD, Calif. -- Goal-line drills often are the closest thing to real football in training camp because of the intensity that is required.

    There is no tapping of the offensive players by the defense in this drill.

    The Cowboys’ No. 1 defense beat the No. 1 offense in their three plays Tuesday.

    PODCAST
    Jean-Jacques Taylor joins Galloway and Company live from Oxnard, Calif., to discuss the latest news from Cowboys training camp.

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    Phillip Tanner was stopped short by DeMarcus Ware on a run to the strong side, and Ware got a little help from Jason Hatcher. On second down, the defense covered everybody on a Tony Romo pass, forcing the quarterback to scramble into linebacker Sean Lee. On the third, tight end Gavin Escobar was out of bounds on a sprint to the right by Romo.

    •  While it was a good day for the No. 1 defense, the No. 2 defense gave up three straight touchdowns. RB Joseph Randle ran it in for the first two scores, and Kyle Orton hit Dante Rosario on a play-action pass across the back of the end zone.

    •  The No. 1 offense rebounded in its situation work to close the practice. Needing a first down to kill the clock with a three-point lead, Romo connected with Miles Austin on a third-down rocket screen to end the game.

    •  After missing two days with a quadriceps bruise, WR Cole Beasley returned to practice Tuesday and dropped two passes. He was so upset with himself that he spent extra time on the Jugs machine catching passes after practice.

    •  Rosario had a solid practice. He lined up more at fullback and was able to make a handful of catches from Orton.

    •  WR Anthony Armstrong broke off a route for a back-shoulder throw from Orton, reaching for the pass and getting his body between the ground and the ball for extra security. The play resulted in a first down.

    •  At the start of the practice, the defensive coaches said they wanted turnovers. They didn’t get any interceptions, but they did get two fumbles. S Matt Johnson forced the ball loose on TE Andre Smith after a catch by the sideline, and S J.J. Wilcox recovered. Later, S Will Allen forced a fumble on Escobar.

    •  WR Terrance Williams has earned praise for his play on offense, but he got more for his work as a gunner on the punt team. Williams split cornerbacks Devin Smith and Micah Pellerin with an inside jab and was able to help force a fair catch.

    •  CB Sterling Moore had back-to-back solid reps in one-on-one drills. On the first, he broke up a back-shoulder throw from Romo to Austin, jumping as Austin reached back for the ball. On the second, he came down with an Orton throw after snuffing out Beasley on an out route.

    •  K Dan Bailey had his first multiple-miss day of camp. Bailey went 3-of-6 with misses from 44 yards (right), 45 (left) and 47 (right). He closed his team work by drilling a 50-yarder.
    OXNARD, Calif. – Sunday’s Blue-White scrimmage was about the younger players, and the defense was ahead of the offense.

    Of the five drives, the offense had to punt four times. The best drive was the last drive that ended with a Joseph Randle touchdown run to the right. The score was set up by a pass interference penalty on Devin Smith after he got beat by wide receiver Tim Benford.

    PODCAST
    Tim MacMahon joins Richard Durrett and Landry Locker from Oxnard, Calif., to discuss the latest news from Cowboys training camp.

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    Defensive linemen Landon Cohen, Monte Taylor and Jerome Long came up with sacks of quarterbacks Alex Tanney and Nick Stephens.

  • The prettiest play of the day would not have counted in a real game. WR Eric Rogers came down with a Hail Mary pass from Tanney in situational work, but before Tanney could get the throw off he would have been sacked by George Selvie.

  • CB B.W. Webb came up with a pick-six of QB Kyle Orton on the final two-minute drill for the second-teamers. Webb read Orton’s eyes wide to the flat and was able to leap for the pick and head down field untouched.

  • CB Sterling Moore came up with a terrific breakup of a corner route from Tanney to TE Dante Rosario. Tanney’s pass was in perfect position but as Rosario reached for the ball, Moore ripped the tight end’s hands down for the incompletion.

  • Earlier Moore broke up a throw to Benford to set up a 53-yard field goal try by Dan Bailey. After missing a game-winning try earlier, Bailey drilled the 53-yarder. Bailey has missed only two kicks in camp.

  • WR Terrance Williams is starting to develop a nice feel for the middle of the field. He and Tony Romo were able to connect on a few crossing routes, with a good throw just over the linebackers but underneath the secondary for a first down in two-minute work. Unfortunately for the offense, DeMarcus Ware had a sack of Romo on the net play, forcing a Hail Mary that did not connect.

  • Romo was sharp, completing 14 of 19 passes in team and 7-on-7 drills. He threw touchdown passes to Jason Witten and Miles Austin and went 5-of-7 on one drive that ended in a Bailey game winner.

  • WR Dwayne Harris helped prevent a Romo pick by turning into a defensive back on a throw to the sideline and knocking the pass away from CB Brandon Carr.

  • Rookie S J.J. Wilcox loves to hit. His aggressiveness got him in trouble when he hit Benford too late. Five years ago it might not have been a penalty, but it is now. On the next play Wilcox brought it on TE Andre Smith to slow down a screen.
  • Eight in the Box: NFC East camp battles

    July, 26, 2013
    7/26/13
    12:00
    PM ET
    NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

    One key positional battle for each NFC East team as training camps get underway.

    Dallas Cowboys: No. 2 tight end

    The Cowboys used a second-round pick on tight end Gavin Escobar, even though starting tight end Jason Witten isn't going anywhere, and they liked what James Hanna showed as a receiver during his 2012 rookie season. They also signed veteran Dante Rosario and continue to look out for a more blocking-oriented tight end. What this all means is that the Cowboys would like to use more two-tight end sets in 2013 (and presumably beyond), largely eliminating the fullback position from their offense and offering quarterback Tony Romo a greater variety of options in the passing game. Training camp will help reveal the depth chart and the ways in which these guys all can expect to be used. Was Escobar drafted because they liked his ability to do something specific? Can Hanna hold him off for reps? How does Rosario factor into the mix? Change is afoot in the Cowboys' offense, and the tight end position is a big part of it.

    New York Giants: Starting running back

    David Wilson, their first-round pick from the 2012 draft, emerged as an electrifying kick returner in his rookie season and flashed big-play ability out of the backfield. He is the odds-on favorite to seize the starting running back role following the team's release of Ahmad Bradshaw. But, as is often the case, things aren't that simple. The Giants liked Andre Brown a lot as a goal-line back last season and used him a couple of times as a starter, with some success. He's back, and he doesn't intend to hand the job to Wilson without a fight. The Giants' backfield depth chart also includes veteran Ryan Torain, third-year fan favorite Da'Rel Scott and rookie Michael Cox. And these are the Giants, remember -- a pass-first offensive team that needs its running backs to pick up the blitz and help keep Eli Manning safe. Wilson offers the most upside as a runner, but it's entirely possible he could lose the starting job to a better blocker during this camp.

    Philadelphia Eagles: Starting quarterback

    What else is there? This is the big story of the Eagles' camp and will be one of the big stories in the NFL for the next month. Veteran Michael Vick has the experience, the foot speed and the arm strength, but new coach Chip Kelly wants a quarterback who can avoid turnovers, get rid of the ball quickly and make good, fast decisions in tight spots. These have not been Vick's strengths, which is likely why he faces a challenge from second-year quarterback Nick Foles and maybe even rookie Matt Barkley or veteran backup Dennis Dixon. Vick has to show that he's capable of running Kelly's offense the way Kelly wants it run -- and that he won't revert to his career-long tendencies to try to extend plays and make something happen with pure athleticism. If he can rein it in and operate the offense efficiently, it's his job. If he can't, one of the younger guys could snatch it from him and cost him his roster spot entirely.

    Washington Redskins: No. 2 wide receiver

    This would be the "Z" receiver in the Redskins' offense. Pierre Garcon plays the "X" position -- the outside receiver who lines up on the line of scrimmage. Santana Moss likely plays the slot again. The "Z" is the outside receiver opposite Garcon -- the "flanker" who lines up off the line of scrimmage to keep the tight end eligible and motions to different parts of the formation if that's called for. The candidates here are Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan and Aldrick Robinson. Morgan is the most polished and well rounded of this group, but he has trouble staying healthy. Hankerson is the one the coaches believe has the most upside, but he hasn't been able to develop consistency in his game. If he could, he'd be a valuable piece, because the Redskins believe they can use him in the slot as well. Robinson showed a lot of potential as a favored deep threat last season for Robert Griffin III, but he also has a lot to learn before he's a complete enough player to be used reliably here. Watch to see if Hankerson shows drastic Year 3 improvement in camp. If he does, it's likely his spot to lose, especially if Morgan is banged up as usual.
    OXNARD, Calif. – Day 4 of Cowboys training camp brought the most competitive part of a practice with two-minute and final-minute situations.

    PODCAST
    Tim MacMahon joins Richard Durrett and Landry Locker from Oxnard, Calif., to discuss the latest news from Cowboys training camp.

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    The first-team offense had a drive end on an interception and a game-winning field goal by Dan Bailey. The second-team offense had its lone drive end on a pick by rookie cornerback B.W. Webb.

  • WR Dez Bryant was not pleased with the defense after LB Ernie Sims hit TE Dante Rosario so hard that the tight end’s helmet came off. Bryant screamed to the defense for all to hear, causing some defenders to yell back.

  • The defense got off to a 5-nil start in the one-on-one drills, as coach Jason Garrett was quick to let everybody know Brandon Carr threw off Bryant; Morris Claiborne stuffed Miles Austin; Sterling Moore did the same to Dwayne Harris, Devin Smith stayed with Terrance Williams and Anthony Armstrong had a drop.

  • Williams, the third-round pick, had the prettiest of routes later in the one-on-one period, with a perfect stutter-go-stop that gave him five yards of space from Smith for the easy catch.

  • G David Arkin still has trouble anchoring when he faces power moves. DE Ben Bass simply extended his arms and rocked Arkin back on their first rep in one-on-one pass-rush moves. G Kevin Kowalski did a nice job of stunting DT Jason Hatcher on his first rep.

  • After missing his first kick Tuesday, Bailey made all six Wednesday, ranging from 40 to 47 yards. He is 16 of 17 in camp.

  • Rookie P Spencer Barton handled all of the punts and was forced to kick into a pretty good wind. His first punt was knocked down after maybe 15 yards. Maybe. He had a hard time driving the ball into the breeze. With the wind, he was much better.

  • WR Dwayne Harris was a terrific punt returner by the end of last season and he was able to break free to the right on his one try Wednesday. Harris received a nice wall from his blockers that left him one on one with Barton.

  • S Barry Church missed all but three games last year because of an Achilles injury. He must like the pads because he met RB DeMarco Murray two or three times with some semi-big hits.

  • LB Sean Lee seems to break up at least one pass in every practice. He swatted away a seam pass to TE Jason Witten from Tony Romo; on Tuesday he stuck with Austin down the seam for a breakup.

  • Romo over-shot Witten on a seam throw in seven-on-seven drills. Witten bent his route to the outside and when LB Justin Durant moved to the outside, Witten came back inside. The throw, however, was high.

  • The offense went with the hurry-up a few times in team drills and caught the defense by surprise. Some of it might have been the defense’s sub patterns, but when the offense picked up the tempo a few times for specific plays they were able to make positive yards.
  • Pre-camp 53-man roster projection

    July, 15, 2013
    7/15/13
    10:30
    AM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys will fly to California on Friday for the beginning of training camp, so here is the final offseason projection of the 53-man roster.

    Without knowing the injuries that could happen, there looks to be roughly seven roster spots up for grabs.

    When we get to Oxnard, Calif., Tim MacMahon will take over the projections.

    PODCAST
    ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss Sean Lee, Gavin Escobar, Dez Bryant and more as Cowboys training camp nears.

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    Quarterbacks (2)

    Tony Romo
    Kyle Orton

    The Cowboys have sniffed around better No. 3 quarterbacks in the offseason, which could mean they will look to keep one on the 53-man roster. It just won’t be Nick Stephens or Dalton Williams.

    Running backs (4)

    DeMarco Murray
    Joseph Randle
    Lance Dunbar
    Phillip Tanner

    Tanner had a good offseason and enters with the final job, but Kendial Lawrence could push him with a strong camp. The past two camps have seen undrafted runners make it, with Tanner and Dunbar as surprises. Could Lawrence be the third in a row?

    Tight ends (4)

    Jason Witten
    James Hanna
    Gavin Escobar
    Dante Rosario

    No change here from the projection after the minicamp, but Colin Cochart could play himself into contention.

    PODCAST
    Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the stress and pressure that NFL players experience heading into training camp.

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    Wide receivers (5)

    Dez Bryant
    Miles Austin
    Terrance Williams
    Dwayne Harris
    Cole Beasley

    No change from the minicamp projection.


    Offensive line (10)

    Tyron Smith
    Nate Livings
    Travis Frederick
    Mackenzy Bernadeau
    Doug Free
    Jermey Parnell
    Phil Costa
    Ronald Leary
    Darrion Weems
    Kevin Kowalski

    After the minicamp, I dropped Kowalski from the list with hesitation. With some time to think about it, I put him back on the roster. He can play all three interior line spots.

    Defensive line (9)

    DeMarcus Ware
    Jay Ratliff
    Jason Hatcher
    Anthony Spencer
    Tyrone Crawford
    Sean Lissemore
    Kyle Wilber
    Ben Bass
    Nick Hayden

    Nick Hayden gets the final spot for now. I wonder if the Cowboys could find a trade partner late in camp if they really like their depth.

    Linebackers (6)

    Bruce Carter
    Sean Lee
    Justin Durant
    Alex Albright
    DeVonte Holloman
    Brandon Magee

    No change from the minicamp projection, but I wonder if carrying six linebackers is smart, especially as ones as inexperienced as the backups are.

    Cornerbacks (5)

    Brandon Carr
    Morris Claiborne
    Orlando Scandrick
    B.W. Webb
    Sterling Moore

    No change from the minicamp projection, but I think the Cowboys will be looking at that final cornerback spot in camp.

    Safeties (5)

    Barry Church
    Will Allen
    Matt Johnson
    J.J. Wilcox
    Danny McCray

    I have McCray on the bubble because of his price tag, but he is a terrific special teamer and new coach Rich Bisaccia would want to keep a guy like that. If Jakar Hamilton shows some skills, then he could fight his way into the picture.

    Specialists (3)

    Dan Bailey
    Chris Jones
    L.P. Ladouceur

    No change from the minicamp projection.

    Cowboys position series: Tight ends

    June, 26, 2013
    6/26/13
    11:30
    PM ET
    The fourth in ESPNDallas.com’s 10-part position series:

    Roster locks: Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna

    On the bubble: Dante Rosario, Lawrence Vickers*

    Long shots: Colin Cochart, Andre Smith

    *Plays fullback, a position the Cowboys might eliminate with their emphasis on multi-tight end sets.

    PODCAST
    Nate Newton, Todd Archer and Calvin Watkins join Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss all the latest Cowboys news as training camp approaches.

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    What’s new?: Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The Cowboys intend to feature two tight-end sets after using a second-round pick on a player to complement Jason Witten.

    It didn’t pan out with Anthony Fasano. Martellus Bennett’s blocking helped, but he didn’t come close to becoming the impact player in the passing game the Cowboys envisioned. Is the third time the charm or will Gavin Escobar be strike three?

    It remains to be seen whether the 6-foot-6, 251-pound Escobar, the 47th overall pick, will be ready to contribute as a rookie. The Cowboys picked him with the anticipation that Escobar’s hands, height and ball skills would allow him to help right away as a receiving threat, especially in the red zone. He needs a lot of work -- in the weight room and from a technical standpoint -- before he can be a reliable blocker.

    James Hanna, the speedy 2012 sixth-round pick, should be ready for an increased role after showing some playmaking promise toward the end of his rookie season. Hanna’s presence made John Phillips expendable as a free agent and the decision to draft a pass-catching tight end in the second round somewhat of a head-scratcher.

    Camp competition: Escobar isn’t just going to be given the No. 2 tight end role. He’ll have to beat out Hanna, and that’s far from a guarantee.

    Late free-agent addition Dante Rosario and fullback Lawrence Vickers, who missed offseason workouts after undergoing back surgery, are probably competing for a roster spot. The Cowboys are seriously considering phasing out the fullback position, although they’d have to figure out a way to fill the lead-blocker role in short-yardage situations. Fullback has been a part-time position, with Vickers averaging less than 20 snaps per game last season.

    Rosario has an edge over Vickers for two reasons not related to the Valley Ranch tight-end craze.

    First, Rosario has proven himself capable of being a special teams contributor while playing for new special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia the past two seasons in San Diego. Rosario had five tackles, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt on special teams for the Chargers last season. Vickers had only one special teams tackle for the Cowboys.

    Second, the Cowboys can create $1.2 million in cap space by cutting Vickers, money that could be useful for linebacker Sean Lee’s long-term contract extension. Rosario would only count $620,000 against the cap.

    2013 hope: The Cowboys are counting on another Pro Bowl campaign from Witten, who returned to Hawaii last season after a one-year hiatus, catching a career-high 110 passes for 1,039 yards and three touchdowns despite a slow start due in part to a lacerated spleen suffered in the preseason opener.

    They need Escobar and/or Hanna to step up as a receiving threat that must be respected by opposing defenses. There probably won’t be a lot of passes thrown to the young tight ends, with Tony Romo needing to feed Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Witten, DeMarco Murray, etc., but they should have opportunities to make a handful of high-impact plays.

    Expect to see Escobar/Hanna working the seam against one-on-one coverage relatively often. They need to be able to exploit those situations.

    The Cowboys plan for their multi-tight end sets to put defenses in pick-your-poison mode. Stay in your base defense and the Cowboys will have mismatches in the passing game. Go to the nickel package and good luck stopping the run with a slot corner forced to pretend he’s a linebacker. Sounds good in theory, but we’ve heard it all before around here.

    Future forecast: The 31-year-old Witten hesitates to estimate how many good seasons he has left, but he feels great physically and firmly believes that he’s in the middle of his prime.

    Is Escobar his eventual successor? He better develop as a blocker before the Cowboys seriously consider that option.

    After restructuring his contract this offseason, it would cost the Cowboys a small chunk of cap space to cut Witten before next season. There’s no chance of that happening.

    If Witten has shown signs of slowing down, it might make sense in 2015. He’d represent $5.2 million in dead money if not on the roster that season, but that’s $3.3 million less than his scheduled cap hit if he’s still under contract. The cap savings for parting with Witten would be $5.6 million in 2016.

    Finances aside, Witten isn’t close to done and would love to finish his career as a one-team man.

    Post minicamp look at 53-man roster

    June, 17, 2013
    6/17/13
    10:10
    AM ET
    IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys are in the “off” part of the offseason now that the mandatory minicamp is over.

    As a result, we offer up another look at the 53-man roster before the team heads to Oxnard, Calif., next month for training camp.

    PODCAST
    Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss this week's minicamp and Dez Bryant. Claiborne will join the show to discuss the latest Cowboys news all season.

    Listen Listen
    QUARTERBACKS (2)

    Tony Romo
    Kyle Orton

    There’s no change here, but I can see the Cowboys adding a quarterback for training camp with a better resume than Nick Stephens and Dalton Williams.

    RUNNING BACKS (4)

    DeMarco Murray
    Joseph Randle
    Lance Dunbar
    Phillip Tanner

    [+] EnlargeJoseph Randle
    Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsRookie Joseph Randle could serve as a true backup to DeMarco Murray with Lance Dunbar as the third-down back.
    No change here either. I will be interested to see how Randle works into the mix. If the Cowboys go with a true third-down back, then I think Dunbar gets that role and Randle will work mostly as Murray’s true backup.

    TIGHT ENDS (4)

    Jason Witten
    James Hanna
    Gavin Escobar
    Dante Rosario

    No change here either, although Colin Cochart bears some watching in the battle with Rosario. He did some good things in the offseason and can play some special teams, too. I reiterate my point on the need for a more blocking-oriented tight end behind Witten.

    WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

    Dez Bryant
    Miles Austin
    Terrance Williams
    Dwayne Harris
    Cole Beasley

    I debated going with a sixth wide receiver again, but I just don’t see the need with how I expect the offense to be structured this year. That’s not good news for Anthony Armstrong, Danny Coale and whoever else gets in the mix here.

    [+] EnlargeKevin Kowalski
    AP Photo/Brandon WadeKevin Kowalski could be the odd man out on the offensive line.
    OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

    Tyron Smith
    Nate Livings
    Travis Frederick
    Mackenzy Bernadeau
    Doug Free
    Jermey Parnell
    Phil Costa
    Ronald Leary
    Darrion Weems

    Finally a change on offense. I knocked Kevin Kowalski from the list and did so with hesitation, but he brings a lot of duplication with Costa. And Bernadeau can play center in a pinch. The Cowboys usually go heavy on the offensive line, so I would expect this to go back to 10 during training camp. You’ll see later as to why I dropped down to nine guys.

    DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

    DeMarcus Ware
    Jay Ratliff
    Jason Hatcher
    Anthony Spencer
    Tyrone Crawford
    Sean Lissemore
    Kyle Wilber
    Ben Bass
    Nick Hayden

    I took Anthony Hargrove off the list and added Ben Bass, who had an excellent minicamp, and Hayden, who has done a nice job on the interior. It’s a little heavy, but Rod Marinelli will have a lot of say on the roster. Bass has the ability to be that “quick-twitch” guy on the interior, but I still think he will have to fight for a job. Hayden’s experience helps him.

    [+] EnlargeErnie Sims
    Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys called on Ernie Sims after losing Sean Lee last season, but his spot is up in the air this year.
    LINEBACKERS (6)

    Bruce Carter
    Sean Lee
    Justin Durant
    Alex Albright
    DeVonte Holloman
    Brandon Magee

    Ernie Sims loses the final spot here, but carrying six linebackers isn’t the smartest of moves. Think of it this way: With the way teams use their nickel defense, the Cowboys will have three linebackers on the field for 45 percent of the snaps, so do they need to have a seventh linebacker who will likely be inactive on game day? I think they can cover themselves from injury by carrying two or three linebackers on the practice squad.

    CORNERBACKS (5)

    Brandon Carr
    Morris Claiborne
    Orlando Scandrick
    B.W. Webb
    Sterling Moore

    No change here and if there aren’t any surprise additions, I don’t think this will change during camp, although Brandon Underwood made some plays the final couple of days of minicamp.

    SAFETIES (6)

    Barry Church
    Will Allen
    Matt Johnson
    J.J. Wilcox
    Danny McCray
    Jakar Hamilton

    McCray is on the bubble for me only because of his price tag. Could they go with four safeties? Seems risky. By going light at linebacker, they’ll need some special teams’ bodies. Hamilton’s chances weren’t helped by a hamstring injury that forced him to miss most of the OTAs and minicamp, but he got the benefit of the doubt.

    SPECIALISTS (3)

    Dan Bailey
    Chris Jones
    L.P. Ladouceur

    No change here.
    IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys’ minicamp came to an end Thursday, so we offer up the final observations.

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

    Listen Listen
  • 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.
  • Another early look at the Cowboys' roster

    June, 10, 2013
    6/10/13
    11:45
    AM ET
    IRVING, Texas – With one rookie minicamp down, 10 organize team activity practices over and the mandatory minicamp starting Tuesday, what better time is there to take an early look at the Cowboys’ 53-man roster?

    PODCAST
    ESPN NFL Insider John Clayton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys and Tony Romo missing OTAs.

    Listen Listen
    Tim MacMahon put together his first projection on May 1, so we bring you the second round here:

    QUARTERBACKS (2)

    Tony Romo
    Kyle Orton

    The Cowboys would like to keep a third quarterback, but there isn't one on the current roster worth keeping. They could look for a younger arm to keep after cuts with Orton’s cap number moving to $4.37 million next year.

    [+] EnlargePhillip Tanner
    AP Photo/James D SmithPhillip Tanner could still be the odd man out, but he's had a strong offseason.
    RUNNING BACKS (4)

    DeMarco Murray
    Joseph Randle
    Lance Dunbar
    Phillip Tanner

    I thought Tanner would be the odd man out, but he has had a strong offseason. The job is not a lock. I believe Kendial Lawrence could give him a run for his money in camp and in the preseason games. The Cowboys really like Dunbar as a third-down back and he could be a pleasant surprise after showing well last year as an undrafted free agent. Lawrence Vickers has to get healthy after back surgery, but the writing appears to be on the wall because of the next position you’ll read about.

    TIGHT ENDS (4)

    Jason Witten
    James Hanna
    Gavin Escobar
    Dante Rosario

    The need for more of a blocking tight end remains, but with the heavy two-tight end sets that are expected, the Cowboys have to go with four tight ends. Rosario has experience and can play some special teams. Hanna has had a good offseason and will be part of packages during the year, even with Escobar being picked in the second round.

    [+] EnlargeCole Beasley
    AP Photo/Kevin TerrellCole Beasley can be effective in the slot, but the Cowboys could add another receiver.
    WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

    Dez Bryant
    Miles Austin
    Terrance Williams
    Dwayne Harris
    Cole Beasley

    Really thought about going with a sixth receiver, which would be Anthony Armstrong right now. Injuries over the summer could impact the position too. Beasley had a really good week last week but he has limitations. He can be effective in the slot, which is why he is ahead of Armstrong and Jared Green. A guy to keep an eye on is Eric Rogers. He’s caught everything but just doesn’t have great speed.

    OFFENSIVE LINE (10)

    Tyron Smith
    Nate Livings
    Travis Frederick
    Mackenzy Bernadeau
    Doug Free
    Jermey Parnell
    Phil Costa
    Ronald Leary
    Kevin Kowalski
    Darrion Weems

    The first eight picks are pretty easy. The last two are a little more difficult. Kowalski got the edge over Ryan Cook only because of money. Kowalski is set to make $555,000; Cook $1.1 million. Both guys can play center and guard. Weems got the final spot for now, but I think the Cowboys will be scouting hard for players over the summer. They took Weems late last year as a project and he can still play his way into contention.

    PODCAST
    ESPN senior NFL analyst Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss another busy week for the Cowboys at Valley Ranch.

    Listen Listen
    DEFENSIVE LINE (8)

    DeMarcus Ware
    Jay Ratliff
    Jason Hatcher
    Anthony Spencer
    Tyrone Crawford
    Sean Lissemore
    Anthony Hargrove
    Kyle Wilber

    I wondered whether I should go with nine linemen here, but kept it at eight. Hargrove is the most intriguing addition. He is believed to be a favorite of Rod Marinelli, so that will help his cause provided he can knock off the rust and get into better shape. Crawford and Wilber have had some good moments in the offseason.

    LINEBACKERS (7)

    Bruce Carter
    Sean Lee
    Justin Durant
    Alex Albright
    DeVonte Holloman
    Brandon Magee
    Ernie Sims

    Sims gets a spot because of his experience and versatility. He can play weakside or middle linebacker. Albright can play strongside and middle and maybe some defensive line if necessary. Holloman and Magee have to be major special teamers. I also considered Tank Reed for one of the final spots, as well as Caleb McSurdy, who could be a short-yardage fullback as well.

    [+] EnlargeB.W. Webb
    Rick Yeatts/Getty ImagesB.W. Webb isn't quite ready yet to push Orlando Scandrick.
    CORNERBACKS (5)

    Brandon Carr
    Morris Claiborne
    Orlando Scandrick
    B.W. Webb
    Sterling Moore

    Moore gets the nod for the final cornerback spot, but it’s hardly a lock. Moore is helped that he can play some safety in a pinch. Brandon Underwood, Devon Smith and Xavier Brewer will be in the mix when things start to get real when the pads come on. The top four corners are set, and don’t expect Webb to push Scandrick out just yet.

    SAFETIES (5)

    Barry Church
    Will Allen
    Matt Johnson
    J.J. Wilcox
    Danny McCray

    McCray has been the team’s best special teamer, but at $1.3 million that could be a little pricey in the Cowboys' eyes. Allen is guaranteed $620,000 this year, so he sticks but will have to hold off Johnson for a starting spot. With Allen nursing a hamstring strain, Johnson has worked with the first team and done a decent job. Wilcox has shown he will be around the ball but there is a lot for him to learn.

    SPECIALISTS(3)

    Dan Bailey
    Chris Jones
    L.P. Ladouceur

    No surprises here. The best thing the Cowboys can do in camp is keep them fresh.

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