Dallas Cowboys: Drake Nevis

Dallas looking at numbers to replace Ware

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
3:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Once the Dallas Cowboys said goodbye to DeMarcus Ware on Tuesday, their plan was to replace their all-time leader in sacks with a number of guys.

New defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli wants to bring defensive linemen at quarterbacks in waves the way the Seattle Seahawks did it in 2013. It is a plan that makes sense and it’s how the Cowboys operated in their Super Bowl days of the 1990s.

So far the Cowboys' answer to losing Ware has been Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain, who have agreed to deals, according to sources. They aren’t done shopping by any stretch, but how much better are these guys compared to the likes of Jarius Wynn, Everette Brown, Drake Nevis, Corvey Irvin and the rest of the linemen the Cowboys trotted out there in 2013?

Mincey has 20 sacks in his career. McClain has one.

The Cowboys are hoping these guys turn into George Selvie, whose seven sacks last year were more than Ware. Selvie was a training-camp gift. He developed into a solid player, but can the Cowboys bank on another seven-sack season (or more) from Selvie in 2014?

For all of you asking about Jared Allen or Julius Peppers, look at who the Cowboys have targeted so far. If the price tags on Allen and Peppers come way down, then maybe the Cowboys will have a chance to make a deal. If they don’t, then forget it.

For years people have criticized Jerry Jones’ spending. Now when he shows some restraint, people wonder what the heck he is doing.

Mincey and McClain won’t make anybody forget Ware, or maybe even Anthony Spencer, but they won’t be the end of the Cowboys’ work to rebuild the defensive line either.

Cowboys snap counts: defense

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
3:30
PM ET
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

Cowboys add DL Frank Kearse

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
11:33
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys filled out their 53-man roster by signing defensive tackle Frank Kearse off the Tennessee Titans' practice squad.

Kearse replaced Drake Nevis, who was released Tuesday. A seventh-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2011, Kearse played in 14 games with the Carolina Panthers in 2011-12 and had 23 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He was cut by the Panthers over the summer and had been on Tennessee's practice squad since Nov. 26.

If he plays Sunday against the Washington Redskins he would be the 19th defensive linemen the Cowboys have suited up this season.

Cowboys need more from Ware, Hatcher

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
1:10
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Of the nine defensive linemen on the Dallas Cowboys roster, only three were with the team when training camp began and Nick Hayden was far from a lock to make the cut.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys defense stands a better chance with DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher on the field at the same time.
DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher are the two mainstays left and both have been banged up. Ware missed three games with a quadriceps injury. Hatcher missed one with a stinger that has been problematic for two months.

If the defense is to have a chance to succeed, the Cowboys need Ware and Hatcher. But here's a question: Why are they not in the game more?

Jason Garrett said the Cowboys, "believe in the rotational system that Rod [Marinelli] uses."

It's fine to rotate players. You want players to remain fresh through the course of a game. But do they need to come off the field together?

Of the 69 defensive snaps in Sunday's loss to the Green Bay Packers, Ware and Hatcher were on the field together for 44 of them. There were 13 snaps where one or the other was on the field. There were 12 snaps in which neither was on the field, including goal-line snaps in the fourth quarter before Andrew Quarless' touchdown. Hatcher was not on the field for James Jones' 3-yard touchdown catch and Eddie Lacy's game-winning score.

At different times the Cowboys' defensive line featured Everette Brown, Drake Nevis, Corey Irvin and George Selvie. At one point they had Ware and Edgar Jones at defensive end with Jarius Wynn and Irvin at tackle.

"It's real important to keep that group fresh up front," Garrett said. "If you're looking for guys to put pressure on the quarterback, being fresh is a big part of that. The best defenses line I've been around rotated guys. So we'll continue to do that. It's not exclusive. They don't always come out together. They don't always play together. But occasionally they do, sometimes they're on the sideline together and you have to battle through that. The other guys have an opportunity to step up and make an impact on the game. George Selvie did a fantastic job in yesterday's game. He made a lot of plays, tackle for losses, sacks and impacted the game in a positive way. Everett Brown did as well. We have to get that across the board."

But there is a time and place for everything. In the most crucial snaps -- like on the goal line -- Ware and Hatcher must be on the field.

Five Wonders: Changes on defense?

December, 11, 2013
12/11/13
9:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Those of you wondering where Five Wonders went on Tuesday, fear not. It's here on Wednesday.

We just pushed it back a day with the Dallas Cowboys playing on ESPN's “Monday Night Football.” And boy wasn't that an exciting contest?

Anyway, off we go ...

1. Jerry Jones said there will be changes on the defensive side of the ball after the debacle against the Chicago Bears. I wonder what they would be. And how big of a difference could they actually make? The scheme is the scheme. They can't become some blitz-happy team overnight. The personnel is the personnel. So does it make a difference if J.J. Wilcox starts over Jeff Heath at safety? Minimally. I'd look for Sterling Moore to be the nickel back if Morris Claiborne cannot return this week from a hamstring injury. Huge difference? Perhaps considering how lost B.W. Webb looks. Injuries could force a shakeup at linebacker. Does DeVonte Holloman get some time? He's not a weak-side linebacker by trade, but maybe it's time he plays instead of Ernie Sims or Cam Lawrence if Bruce Carter can't go. The defensive line does not have many options, but maybe Drake Nevis moves in for Nick Hayden. Again, we're not talking major changes.

[+] EnlargeDallas' Rod Marinelli
Casey Sapio/USA TODAY SportsWould Rod Marinelli be interested in rejoining Lovie Smith if Smith were to become a head coach again?
2. This isn't so much an “I wonder,” but it is for those wondering if Rod Marinelli will join Lovie Smith should Smith return to the NFL as a head coach somewhere. From what I'm told, Marinelli signed a three-year deal with the Cowboys when he joined the team in the offseason. Technically Jones could allow Marinelli to join Smith if he wanted, but he does not have to. The promotion rule was dropped a long time ago. Since Jones would not let Joe DeCamillis leave for the Oakland Raiders two years ago to be with Dennis Allen or Tony Sparano to leave for the New Orleans Saints when Sean Payton took over in 2006, I can't see Jones letting Marinelli walk. The defensive line has been a drive-through of sorts because of injuries and Marinelli has made it work. It's not been perfect by any stretch but it's been fine.

3. With all of the talk about how well Tyron Smith has played this season, I wonder if the Cowboys will be more patient than normal in talking about an extension for Smith. Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Cowboys have a fifth-year option on Smith in which they would pay him roughly the amount of the transition tag in 2015. They have to make their decision to use the option year in the spring and the money becomes guaranteed after the 2014 season. Maybe the Cowboys will wait because they will have to do something with Dez Bryant, who will be a free agent after next season. They could franchise Bryant and use the option year on Smith, but with salary-cap limitations I can see them being more willing to get a deal done with Bryant first. Because the option year is a new tool teams will have a difficult time navigating those negotiations on long-term deals. Bryant will be a more pressing deal to get done and the Cowboys will be able to keep Smith in their back pocket, so to speak.

4. I wonder how strongly the Cowboys attack the defensive line in the April draft. Marinelli played a big part in the team choosing to pass on Sharrif Floyd last April because they did not want to use a first-round pick on what they viewed was a two-down defensive lineman. A few years ago the Cowboys saw their offensive line grow old with Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode and Kyle Kosier. They cut Colombo, Davis and Gurode and bit the bullet. Jason Hatcher turns 32 next season and will be a free agent. Anthony Spencer turns 30 in December, is coming off microfracture surgery to his knee and is also a free agent. DeMarcus Ware turns 32 next July and has been slowed by nagging injuries this year. Their one building-block defensive lineman is Tyrone Crawford and he is coming off a torn Achilles. For as well as George Selvie has played this year, he is not a building-block player. He is solid, but you would feel better about him being a backup than a full-timer. The rest of the guys still have things to prove. If the last few years has been about rebuilding the offensive line, I wonder if it's time to start rebuilding the defensive line.

5. I wonder if assistant director of player personnel Will McClay becomes a sought after front-office personnel person. The NFL has tweaked its Rooney Rule and now teams will have to interview at least one minority candidate for their head coaching or general manager vacancy. Last year there were eight head coaching vacancies and seven general manager jobs and none went to a minority. McClay, who is African-American, was elevated to his current role in the offseason and has the run of the personnel department. He has yet to set up a draft board, but he has been responsible for a lot of the pro personnel work in recent years and has found players that have come off the street and contributed to the Cowboys' success. He was a former head coach with the Dallas Desperados and has also helped the coaches on game day. He has received interest from teams in the past, but the Cowboys have not let him leave. This time they may not have a choice.

Five Wonders: Tagging Jason Hatcher?

December, 3, 2013
12/03/13
9:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys have had some time to wonder some things after their win on Thanksgiving against the Oakland Raiders.

Every Tuesday as always wonder about some things. Five Wonders is back and off we go:
  • Jason Hatcher is having a career year and it could not have come at a better time. Hatcher will be a free agent after the season and already has more sacks this year than he has had in any season. And he could make the Pro Bowl, which is something he mentions frequently. But Hatcher will turn 32 next July. I'm on record saying the Cowboys can't pay age. But I wonder if the Cowboys would consider using the franchise tag on him. It would chew up $9-10 million in salary-cap room, but they would buy some time in finding defensive line help for beyond 2014. The Cowboys will have to make a number of moves to get under the cap, but they would be able to fit Hatcher in at the franchise number. Is it worth it? The Cowboys put the tag on Anthony Spencer last year, paying him $10.6 million. I thought it was the right move at the time and did not second guess it after Spencer's knee injury cost him all but one game this season. I'm not as sure about tagging Hatcher. They might have to restructure more deals than they would want and that would also affect the cap in 2015 and beyond. And last year the defensive line market was thin, even for the top players.
  • I wonder if the Cowboys will have a decision to make on backup quarterback Kyle Orton in the offseason. He will make $3.25 million in 2014 and count $4.377 against the salary cap. The Cowboys will have to do a lot of maneuvering to get under the cap in the offseason and could just restructure Orton's contract in the same way they did last March. The Cowboys have yet to start the clock on finding Tony Romo's replacement, which is another reason to keep Orton around. But the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers also offer up valid reasons to keep Orton even if he does not throw a pass this year. The Packers season has gone to shreds without Aaron Rodgers. They have not won since losing Rodgers, turning first to Seneca Wallace, who got hurt, then to Scott Tolzien and now they're on Matt Flynn. The Bears are 2-3 without Jay Cutler, though it is difficult to put much of the blame on Josh McCown. He's done a nice job and been a stabilizing force, but the Bears appeared to learn their lesson when they lost Cutler in previous seasons. Romo turns 34 in April. He's battled injuries in the past and had back surgery last April. Keeping Orton makes sense and something I think the Cowboys do. It's an insurance policy worth keeping.
  • I wonder if the Cowboys had Laurent Robinson in the back of their mind when they have signed some of these defensive linemen this season. Confused? Hear me out. In 2011, Robinson had a career year with 54 catches for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns, but because the Cowboys signed him to a minimum salary-benefit contract they were unable to re-sign him before he hit free agency. Jacksonville swooped in with a five-year, $32.5 million deal with $14 million guaranteed. It was way too rich for the Cowboys -- and ultimately the Jaguars -- but without the restriction Robinson would have re-signed with the Cowboys at a much cheaper rate. That brings me to the defensive linemen. When the Cowboys signed George Selvie, Everette Brown, Jarius Wynn, Drake Nevis and Martez Wilson, they made sure they got a second year on the contracts. They are all signed through 2014, so if they hit -- and Selvie is a hit -- the Cowboys hold their rights for a second year. That's a shrewd move, in my opinion.
  • I wonder if DeMarco Murray can reach 1,000 yards. Yep, I do. Murray missed two games with a knee injury and essentially missed a third when he got just four carries for 31 yards against the Minnesota Vikings when the game plan called for Tony Romo to pass the ball early and often. But with four games to go Murray needs 303 yards to reach 1,000. In his last three games Murray has rushed for 89, 86 and 63 yards. If he keeps up that pace, he would get there. Reaching 1,000 yards should not be that difficult, but the Cowboys sure seem to make it difficult after years of Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith almost annually reaching the mark. The last Dallas runner to go for more than 1,000 yards was Julius Jones (1,084) in 2006 and that's the Cowboys only 1,000-yard rusher since 2001.
  • I don't wonder if the Cowboys will rue the day they lost Alex Tanney, just as I don't think the Cowboys have rued the day since losing Matt Moore oh so many years ago. (Long-time readers will know how I feel about Moore). The Cleveland Browns signed Tanney off the Cowboys' practice squad last week. I liked what Tanney did in a short time with the Cowboys over the summer. He showed some things in his preseason work, but there will be a new Tanney next summer. Or even next week. I wonder if the Cowboys add a quarterback to the practice squad over the final month of the season. They could use the last four weeks to bring a guy in for a free look and essentially give him a “signing bonus” for four weeks of being on the practice squad and sign him to a futures deal when the season ends.

High picks part of Cowboys DL search

November, 26, 2013
11/26/13
3:10
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Martez Wilson was a third-round pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2011. Everett Brown was a second-round pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2009. Corey Irvin was a third-round selection by the Panthers in 2009. Drake Nevis was a third-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 2011.

Wilson
All of them now call the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line home, with Wilson being the latest to join the roster.

Wilson, who signed a two-year deal Tuesday, was cut by the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 19 after playing in three games. He played in four games with the New Orleans Saints before he was released Oct. 22. He had three tackles and a sack for the Saints.

That the Cowboys have signed four players with high draft grades is by design.

"They are obviously guys we liked coming out," executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "Sometimes it was scheme. We were running the 3-4 and they weren't fits. They were 29s or 39s, second or third rounders that don't fit in our system and now that we do run the 4-3 we are getting to re-look at them. There is a reason why those guys get drafted high or we had them high."

The Cowboys have never stopped shopping for defensive line help this season considering all the injuries. Like a lot of employers, they look for the ritzy resume on young players.

"You never know when that light is going to come on," Jones said. "Sometimes it takes a stop or two before they start to learn how to become a pro and understand what it take ... We continue to try to look to guys who can help us. I applaud Rod [Marinelli] and Monte [Kiffin] for being willing to bring guys in and train them on short notice. We will certainly give this one a good effort to. We are trying to find some places we can get some good pass rush."

Need a semi to stop Rod Marinelli

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
8:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- So far it has been a trying season for the Dallas Cowboys' defense. They have allowed more 400-yard passers than any defense in history. They have allowed more first downs in a game than any in NFL history. They have allowed more yards in a game than any defense in Cowboys history.

Confidence might be an issue for some, but not defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.

[+] EnlargeDallas' Rod Marinelli
Casey Sapio/USA TODAY Sports"I think if you have a belief and it's tested and you crack with that, then it's not a belief. You better get a big old semi to run over me and it better be three times because it ain't changing," Rod Marinelli said on how he coaches.
“I believe in what I do so hard and so well. I’ll tell you when I was in Detroit that was a great experience for me because it’s what I believed in and it didn’t work and I never lost confidence,” said Marinelli, whose Lions were 0-16 in 2008. “I never lost faith. I went to Chicago and I kept working. I think if you have a belief and it’s tested and you crack with that, then it’s not a belief. You better get a big old semi to run over me and it better be three times because it ain’t changing.”

The Cowboys have run through a ton of defensive linemen. Corvey Irvin is the latest this week. Marinelli takes them off the assembly line, coaches them and has them ready in a matter of days.

“I’m the source of energy for them, OK?” Marinelli said. “And I’m the source of all the energy in that room and I’ve got to set the tempo and the tone and the standards in that room. I don’t care where you came from you now have to rise to my level. And they’re trying.”

George Selvie has responded with six sacks. Nick Hayden has been mostly decent. Drake Nevis has filled in nicely. Jarius Wynn and Everette Brown have been able to provide some pressure. Jason Hatcher should return Nov. 24 against the New York Giants after missing the loss to the New Orleans Saints with a stinger. DeMarcus Ware should be healthier after missing three of the past four games with a quadriceps strain.

“You look at yourself first,” Marinelli said. “Coaching better and the details. I don’t care who’s out there, if you’re asking him to do something you’re coaching him and he’s not doing it, you always look at yourself. I guess I always look at the positive. I am, that’s just me. I believe we keep this kind of group coming together right now we’ll have a chance to keep improving. All we have to do is just make steps, keep making steps each week and then if we do that we’ll get better and better. We get Hatch, who’s got a chance, DeMarcus, you’ve got two impact guys and you can fill around those guys pretty good.”

Quick change for Everett Dawkins

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
10:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Last week defensive tackle Everett Dawkins was them. Wednesday was different.

Last week he was on the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad helping them get ready to play the Dallas Cowboys. On Wednesday, he was a Cowboy.

"It was a good win for us," Dawkins said of the 27-23 outcome.

The Cowboys signed Dawkins off the Vikings' practice squad after waiving defensive tackle Marvin Austin. There's a strong possibility he plays on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, just the way Drake Nevis, Jarius Wynn and Austin played in their first week with the Cowboys.

"I played in the preseason, but I didn't play on a Sunday yet," Dawkins said. "That's something I've always wanted to do, so it's a great feeling."

The Vikings picked Dawkins in the seventh round. The Cowboys had a third-round grade on him.

"Somebody sent me a text message of the picture," Dawkins said. "I guess it was on the internet."

Dawkins was glad to be in Dallas for another reason: It snowed in Minneapolis on Tuesday.

"It's just crazy, but that's how the NFL works though," Dawkins said. "I just have to make sure I take advantage of everything to my full potential and just go and show I'm not one of the guys that's leaving."

Cowboys' DL moves since May

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
11:50
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Since May 16, the Dallas Cowboys have signed, traded, acquired, put on injured reserve or released 28 defensive linemen. They saw another, Josh Brent, retire on July 18.

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

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

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

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

Midseason Report: Dallas Cowboys

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
9:00
AM ET

IRVING, Texas -- After nine games, the Dallas Cowboys have issues.

The defense can't stop a topflight quarterback. The offense can't -- or won't -- run the ball. Injuries have affected the offensive line, defensive line and secondary.

Yet with seven games to play, the Cowboys lead the NFC East with a 5-4 record. Can they join the conference elite?

Before that question can be answered, here's a look at how the Cowboys have graded out so far:

Cowboys waive Marvin Austin

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
4:37
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- With a back injury that will keep him out at least a few weeks, the Dallas Cowboys waived/injured defensive tackle Marvin Austin.

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

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

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

How the Cowboys shop for D-line help

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
2:15
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – Of the 10 defensive linemen the Dallas Cowboys have on their 53-man roster, six joined the team after training camp started.

After DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Kyle Wilber and Nick Hayden, George Selvie is the veteran of the bunch, and he joined the team in Oxnard, Calif. on July 24.

Jason Vega joined the team Aug. 21 and spent the first six weeks on the practice squad. The Cowboys traded for Caesar Rayford on Sept. 3. They signed Drake Nevis on Sept. 24. They added Jarius Wynn last week. Marvin Austin was brought on board on Monday.

This does not include guys they signed after camp and have since cut, like Landon Cohen (signed July 24, cut Sept. 17), David Carter (signed Sept. 17, cut Oct. 15) and Edgar Jones (acquired Aug. 31, placed on short-term injured reserve Oct. 18).

Finding players is not easy. As Bill Parcells said, you just can’t go to Texaco and find one. Yet the Cowboys have had great success the last few years in finding guys off the street to perform. Two years ago it was wide receiver Laurent Robinson. Last year it was linebacker Ernie Sims. Hayden was signed in January after he did not play in 2012 and has 25 tackles and 10 quarterback pressures.

“The first thing you're looking for is the best player available,” coach Jason Garrett said.

The personnel conversations are constant.

“You talk about these guys, you watch them,” Garrett said. “A lot of times you have history with the player, whether it’s direct history or you’ve spent a lot of time with him prior to the draft. You try to get all of those thoughts and impressions out there. You watch the tape and see where he is right now and what his role might be coming into our football team and how he’ll be able to help us.”

Garrett wants the “right kind of guy.” The player needs to fit the system. And the Cowboys also prefer that they were at least in training camp with another team or playing earlier in the season to be in some semblance of conditioning.

Nevis and Wynn were with the San Diego Chargers earlier in the year. Austin was with the Miami.

Nevis and Wynn played in just their first week with the team after three practices. Austin will likely do the same Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

“You certainly have to learn scheme and technique and all of those things,” Garrett said. “The one thing I would say, defensive linemen are typically used to being rotational players. The idea that they have to come in and play 65 plays in a game, like maybe an offensive linemen would, you’re more used to have those guys sub in and out. That’s been their mentality. That’s always been their mentality.”

Upon Further Review: Cowboys Week 6

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
3:00
PM ET
A review of four hot issues from the Dallas Cowboys’ 31-16 win over the Washington Redskins:

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/LM OteroTony Romo and the Dallas offense stepped up their production in the third quarter.
Man, what coverage: If you’re looking for a change in how the Cowboys played defensively, it was in the secondary. Cornerback Brandon Carr followed Pierre Garcon all over the field. Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick were matched up in man coverage more. The result was three pass breakups apiece for Carr and Claiborne and two for Scandrick.

“I think that takes us back to what we’re all here for,” Scandrick said. “Whether it’s man or zone, it’s our job to play the scheme, but Brandon Carr was brought over from Kansas City, gave him a bunch of money to play man-to-man. Mo, traded up for him to play man-to-man. Signed me long-term to play man-to-man, so …”

Answering the call: In a Sept. 22 loss to the San Diego Chargers, the Cowboys ran just seven plays in the third quarter and lost 30-21. On Sunday they ran only eight plays in the third quarter but managed to score a touchdown thanks to Dwayne Harris’ kickoff return. After that, however, the offense had two three-and-out drives. After Kai Forbath missed a 49-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys answered with a nine-play drive that ended with a 30-yard field goal from Dan Bailey for an eight-point lead. For six of those nine plays, the Cowboys went with their “empty” personnel, spreading the field. Tony Romo completed four of six passes for 42 yards with no running back on the field with Cole Beasley catching three of the passes.

Need line help: The trade deadline is two weeks away, and the Cowboys will be open for business but face salary-cap restrictions when thinking about making a deal. While DeMarcus Ware felt confident his strained quadriceps would be OK, there is little proven help along the defensive line, leading to a question about adding a defensive lineman through a trade or free agency. The Cowboys have about $2 million in cap room, making the acquisition of a name player difficult. At one point the defensive line Sunday was Caesar Rayford, Drake Nevis, David Carter and Kyle Wilber, who did have his first career sack. They pressured Robert Griffin III at times, but can this “no-name” group, as Jerry Jones called it, get it done every game?

Quiet return: After missing two games with a hamstring injury, Miles Austin was held without a catch against the Redskins. He was targeted four times and nearly had a touchdown, but Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall managed to deflect the Romo pass at the last second. It was the second straight game Austin was held without a catch by the Redskins. It also happened in last year’s season finale, but he missed a lot of action in that game with an ankle injury. For the offense to be at peak efficiency, Austin will need to make some plays. The good news is that he did not aggravate his hamstring injury, so he should improve as he grows more confident in his legs.

Jerry: Unknown when Ratliff will be ready

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
10:50
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, who made the mistake this summer of declaring that he was sure Jay Ratliff would be ready for the season opener, is steering clear of any firm projections about the former Pro Bowl nose tackle’s return from the physically unable to perform list.

Ratliff
“I don’t know, and I don’t know that he knows,” Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM. “I don’t know that anybody knows. He is beginning to work through on what we all hope is a secure injury area that has hopefully healed. I don’t know that. I can’t speak to that, and I don’t know that anybody does.

“We will painstakingly go slow here in trying to work him back in.”

Ratliff, who is still recovering from the sports hernia surgery he had in December, is eligible to come off the PUP list Monday. The Cowboys could wait as late as Nov. 4. Once Ratliff is activated from the PUP list, he would have three weeks to practice before the Cowboys put him on the 53-man roster or sideline him, so his season debut could come as soon as next week or as late as Thanksgiving.

Ratliff, who has clashed with Cowboys management and the team's medical, athletic training and strength/conditioning staffs over the last year, did not rehabilitate at the team’s Valley Ranch facility this past offseason. Coach Jason Garrett said Ratliff has split his in-season rehab work between Valley Ranch and an off-site location.

The depleted Dallas defensive line could desperately use some help from Ratliff, a four-time Pro Bowler whose sack totals have declined for five straight seasons, bottoming out with zero during his injury-shortened 2012 campaign.

Nick Hayden, who had played a total of 33 snaps in the previous two NFL seasons, is starting in Ratliff’s place. Both backup defensive tackles, Drake Nevis and David Carter, were signed after the season started.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider