Dallas Cowboys: Dustin Vaughan

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Three thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' 27-3 loss to the Denver Broncos.

1) Brandon Weeden didn’t do much over the last three preseason games to inspire much confidence, if the Cowboys need him to play.

Jason Garrett said he did the usual array of good things and bad things in the game, but the troubling thing during the preseason is that he seems to have a habit of staring down his receivers. Other times, he’s not decisive and he either throws the ball late or scrambles because the receiver is no longer open.

He finished the preseason 34-of-57 for 388 yards with two interceptions and two touchdowns.

The reality is that if the Cowboys need him to play this season, he’ll be behind the starting offensive line and he’ll have enough weapons that all he has to do is manage the game.

2) No team wants to go winless in preseason. Jerry Jones did his best to put a positive spin on it by referencing his first preseason as the Cowboys’ owner.

The Cowboys went 3-1 in the preseason and 1-15 during the 1989 season.

“Well, it has always concerned me,” Jones said. “On the other hand, the first year I came in the NFL, we were undefeated going into the Denver game. Dan Reeves was their coach. He was a disciple of Tom Landry and he was hot over the fact that Coach Landry and those things had been done here with the Cowboys.

“He left [John] Elway in all the way through the game and we played into overtime to beat the Cowboys so we didn’t go undefeated.

“We went 4-1. Thought this is going to work. We won one football game that year. So much for preseason.”

3) Dustin Vaughan isn’t going to make the final roster.

This team has too many issues on defense and players such as Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Lawrence need roster spots even though they aren’t playing for several weeks. Vaughan is a great fit for the practice squad, and if the 6-foot-5, 235-pound undrafted free agent gets claimed by another team then that’s just a tough break.

Other teams have issues with their rosters and most teams don’t keep a third quarterback.

Key number: -56

It’s just the preseason and coach Jason Garrett stayed committed to evaluating personnel.

Still, it must be discouraging to get outscored by 56 points, the largest point differential in the league, as the Cowboys went winless in the preseason.

The Cowboys have gone winless in the preseason five times. Only the 1998 team that still had Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders made the playoffs.

Player to Watch: Rolando McClain

Rolando McClain is the most intriguing defensive player on the roster. He has every physical skill you want in a linebacker, but none of us really knows how much he wants to play.

He says the right things on the rare occasion he speaks publicly, but he’s missed several practices as he gets his body used to playing football again. After all, this is a player who’s retired twice in the past year, so you’re always waiting to see if he’ll retire a third time.

The Cowboys are trying their best not to depend on him, which is good. But they need help at linebacker, so it’s only a matter of time before they get seduced by his talent and put him in the starting lineup.

“I don’t think Rolando is going to be the savior of this team,” Jerry Jones said. “We don’t have Sean Lee, but Rolando does have the skill level to come in here and really add to what we can do.

“We’re going to need him, but I don’t want anybody to think I expect him to be Dick Butkus or even Sean Lee.”
IRVING -- Three thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys’ 37-30 loss to the Baltimore Ravens:

1. Play-caller Scott Linehan’s mission during the preseason is to show San Francisco as little as possible of the offense he plans to unveil in Week 1.

But you should like the little we've seen during the first two preseason games.

Linehan is making a concerted effort to run the ball -- the Cowboys starters ran on eight of 14 plays -- and he’s mixed in a liberal dose of play-action passes. He’s using screen passes to slow down the opponent’s pass rush, and it all looks good.

Obviously, you can’t get too carried away because there’s a difference between calling plays in the preseason and calling plays in games that count, but the philosophical approach Linehan is taking bodes well for the regular season.

2. Zach Minter has been with the Cowboys for only a few days, but he made quite an impact against Baltimore with two sacks, two tackles for loss and quarterback hit.

Yes, he did it against Baltimore’s second- and third-team, but that’s still a ton of production.

What it probably means for Minter, who played two games with the Bears last season, is he’ll get a chance against Miami’s starters next week to see if he can make the same type of impact. Whether he does or not, he showed every youngster on the roster how to get the coaching staff’s attention.

3. One of the intriguing questions in training camp revolves around the Cowboys’ long-term view of quarterback Dustin Vaughan.

Do they see the 6-5, 235-pounder as a career backup? A marginal starter? A frontline starter?

The Cowboys haven't kept a third quarterback on the active roster in years because each roster spot is too important to keep a developmental player who’s unlikely to play.

Vaughan, an undrafted free agent from West Texas A&M, turned in his second consecutive good performance during the fourth quarter. The Cowboys would love to add him to their practice squad, but they must first expose him to waivers to do so.

That means every club would have an opportunity to sign him. Based on what we’ve seen from him, thus far, some team would claim him because quarterbacks are hard to find.

Tony Romo, 34, has had two back surgeries in the past year. No one really knows whether his back will hold up for a year, two years or five years. If the Cowboys view Vaughan as a player with a long-term future, even if it’s as a quality backup, they should keep him.

Key number: 141

Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford threw 141 play-action passes last season. Tony Romo threw 73.

Romo was good at it -- he had a passer rating of 111.2 with six touchdowns and no interceptions on those passes. The Cowboys just didn’t give him enough opportunities.

That will change this year.

Player to Watch: Ahmad Dixon

Dixon, a seventh-round draft pick, turned in a terrific performance against San Diego in the Cowboys’ first preseason game with 12 tackles.

He didn’t record any tackles Saturday night because he didn’t play after being benched for missing a walk-through practice.

The first game created a margin of error for Dixon. Well, he’s used it. Now, Dixon needs a good week of practice and a strong game against Miami to sustain the momentum he created against San Diego.
Whenever you see a player from a small school such as West Texas A&M get an opportunity, you always wonder whether the game is too big for him.

Would Dustin Vaughan be overwhelmed by the atmosphere? The paid attendance of 57,228 in San Diego was easily among the biggest crowds that had ever seen the Corpus Christi, Texas, native play.

Then you wonder if the competition would overwhelm him. Vaughan, who had a record-setting college career, is no longer just a YouTube sensation known for the funny scouting combine spoof he made. He's an undrafted free agent with a legitimate opportunity to make an NFL roster.

[+] EnlargeDustin Vaughan
AP Photo/Jae C. HongDustin Vaughan showed good pocket presence in his preseason debut.
Vaughan, who played the fourth quarter of the Dallas Cowboys' 27-7 preseason loss to the San Diego Chargers on Thursday, completed 7 of 14 passes for 80 yards against San Diego. The 6-foot-5, 233-pound Vaughan moved well in the pocket and led the third string on a nice fourth-quarter drive that ended when he was sacked on fourth down at the San Diego 15.

"I should've thrown the ball up and given one of my guys a chance to catch it," he said. "I talked to Tony (Romo) and coach (Scott) Linehan about it after I came out of the game.

"You're trying to go through your progression, but you don't have a lot of time. You think you know what's going to be there and when it's not, you try to create more time. It's something I'll learn with experience."

Vaughan will create a dilemma for Cowboys, who would love to stash him on the practice squad. To do so, they must release him and expose him to other teams.

Quarterbacks are so hard to find that if he has a good preseason, he'll get snapped up. This might be the year the Cowboys keep three quarterbacks on the roster.

"For his first action, I was impressed by how he moved around," Garrett said. "Sometimes as a big guy with a strong arm, you're concerned about his ability to move his feet and be spontaneous when something breaks down.

"But we saw evidence of him climbing up in the pocket and getting out of the pocket. I thought he made some good, quick decisions out in space."
SAN DIEGO -- Three thoughts on Day 15 of Dallas Cowboys' training camp:

1) It’s really good to see Jason Garrett spending considerable time on situational football.

The Cowboys have played 38 games in the last three seasons where they have been within one score -- ahead or behind -- of their opponent in the fourth quarter.

Dallas is just 20-18 in those games.

Too many times they’ve blown leads and, ultimately, games with poor clock management, questionable strategy by Garrett, or mistakes by players. They haven’t been good enough to overcome many of those mistakes, and it’s among the reasons they have missed the playoffs each of the last four seasons.

Perhaps this extra work will help them.

2) There have been times the Cowboys kept an extra tight end instead of a fullback on the roster.

Well that’s not going to happen this year.

Garrett continues to insist the Cowboys want to be a physical team and part of that is having a fullback, who can help create running lanes and establish a physical tone.

Tyler Clutts, a 29-year-old playing with his fourth team in three seasons, has a big lead in the competition for that spot.

3) One way the Cowboys’ defense can help their offense is by scoring points like they did last year.

The Cowboys scored six non-offensive touchdowns last season -- three fumble returns, two interception returns and a punt return. Only Kansas City, Chicago and Cincinnati scored more. Kansas City led the league with 11 non-offensive touchdowns, and Chicago and Cincinnati each had seven.

Key number: .315

Last year, Dallas finished 3-2 when Tony Romo threw at least 40 passes.

Romo is 6-7 the last two years and is just 6-13 overal -- a .315 winning percentage -- when he throws more than 40 passes in a game since the start of the 2010 season.

But that’s a difficult way to win, and it’s an approach Garrett said he’d prefer not to use this season.

Player to Watch: Dustin Vaughan

If you’re going to take a chance on a small-school quarterback, it should probably be a 6-foot-5, 233-pound dude who broke a lot of records in college.

Vaughan, who played in a spread offense, passed for 5,401 yards with 53 touchdowns as a senior at West Texas A&M. The Cowboys view him a developmental player, which probably means he's destined for the practice squad this season.

He’s an intelligent player with a big arm, but the adjustment from West Texas to the NFL is about as big as a player can make. He’ll get plenty of playing time in the preseason, especially with the Cowboys being cautious with Tony Romo, and it’ll give him an opportunity to prove he’s worth a spot on the practice squad.
Constructing a 53-man roster is a difficult process, piecing together 10 positions groups and matching up present needs with future production of older and younger players. This week we take a look at constructing the Cowboys’ roster.


On the roster: Tony Romo, Kyle Orton, Brandon Weeden, Caleb Hanie, Dustin Vaughan

Locks: Romo, Orton

Virtual lock: Weeden

Need help: Hanie, Vaughan

How many fit? The Cowboys have kept three quarterbacks before, but not since they had Stephen McGee around in 2011. I believe they carry three again in 2014.

They have carried just Romo and Orton on the 53-man roster the last two seasons with Alex Tanney spending some time on the practice squad last season before he was poached by the Cleveland Browns.

Some might be surprised to see Orton is a lock after he skipped the entire offseason, which could cost him about $150,000 in fines and a de-escalator, but the Cowboys have consistently said they value him. If he doesn’t show up to training camp, then he faces big-money fines, so for that reason I believe he shows up to Oxnard, California.

The Cowboys have invested little money in Weeden, but they have invested time this offseason with him taking the first-team snaps since Romo is recovering from back surgery and Orton is missing. They like Weeden enough to want to continue to develop him. He appears to be the 2015 backup right now, but injuries at other spots -- or poor play in the preseason games -- could mean the Cowboys go with two quarterbacks for the third straight season.

Getting snaps for five quarterbacks in the summer is impossible so it’s likely Hanie or Vaughan will be let go if/when Orton shows up to camp. Hanie had some positive moments in his work over the spring. Vaughan has a big arm and could be a developmental player.

Minicamp observations: Hamilton shines

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys concluded their final minicamp practice Thursday at AT&T Stadium with a lunch for the players and coaches’ families, but the 90-minute session had some highlights worth noting.
  • Safety Jakar Hamilton came up with a nice interception after linebacker Anthony Hitchens deflected a Dustin Vaughan throw down the seam to wide receiver Devin Street. Hamilton instinctively stuck one hand in the air and then corralled the ball as he turned up field. Hamilton later did a nice job being in position to force an off-target throw to Dez Bryant in the slot.
  • Bryant
    From our vantage point it was hard to tell if Bryant was able to get his feet down for a touchdown catch on a fade pass from Brandon Weeden over Morris Claiborne, but it was an impressive athletic feat. Jason Witten might have had a TD catch from Weeden in seven-on-seven drills over safety J.J. Wilcox, but the replay officials might have overturned it with one foot appearing out of bounds.
  • Left tackle Tyron Smith sealed off the edge to allow running back Lance Dunbar to scamper in for a touchdown run in the red zone. Dunbar had a touchdown run with the second-team offense in a two-minute situation.
  • Rookie punter Cody Mandell scraped the center-hung digital board three times during special teams’ drills. He did the same when he played in Arlington while at Alabama. On Thursday, however, Jason Garrett said the board was lower than its normal 90 feet. The board was lowered for a recent George Strait concert.
  • Quarterback Caleb Hanie was sharp in his situational work, completing four of his five passes, including a nice corner route to Street for a decent gain. One of Dunbar’s touchdowns was set up by a pass interference penalty on Terrance Mitchell, who was covering Street.
  • Linebacker Orie Lemon did a nice job breaking up a goal-line throw to tight end Gavin Escobar in seven-on-seven work with the second team. Weeden was able to complete the same route to James Hanna in the first-team work with a nice fastball.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys began their offseason without DeMarcus Ware for the first time since 2005. They saw their best defender, Sean Lee, tear the anterior cruciate ligament on the first organized team activities (OTAs) session and their quarterback, Tony Romo, not take a competitive snap because of back surgery.

The offseason ended Thursday when rookie cornerback Terrance Mitchell intercepted a Dustin Vaughan pass in the final minicamp practice.

“We had a really good practice to finish a really good minicamp to finish a really good offseason program,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We have the right kind of guys on our football team. They work the right way. They’re coming together. We have a long, long way to go and we all know that. We’ve made great strides here over the course of the offseason. I like how our team works and now it’s time for them to get away from it and come back recharged, ready to go, and get ready for training camp.”

The Cowboys will travel to Oxnard, California, on July 22 and will hold their first practice on July 24.

The team that ended Thursday’s minicamp might not be the team that travels to California. The Cowboys worked out four players on Wednesday and will look for help at multiple spots, potentially at tight end, interior offensive line and linebacker.

“We’ll continue to make evaluations of individual guys, where they stack up, if they belong on the roster, who else is on the landscape,” Garrett said. “You’re always trying to do that. Feel good about how guys have come in here and worked. A lot of young guys got a lot of work over the course of the OTAs and minicamp. A lot of veteran players worked hard, felt competition. That’s a good thing for our team and we want to continue to do that. Whether the competition comes from within or without, it’s our job to make sure we’re always trying to put the most competitive situation available out there on our roster.”

Players can continue to work out at Valley Ranch until 10 days before training camp and the rookies will continue through June 27 at more structured workouts.

Even on vacation, football won’t be too far from the players’ and coaches’ minds.

“It’s time we all need to get away and get recharged mentally, physically, emotionally so you want to take advantage of that,” Garrett said. “You want to embrace every day away, but for all of us we’re really locked into this. We care a great deal about it. We’re all very much invested in it, so you’re always thinking about it … Whether that makes (the time) go quickly or slowly I don’t know because you’re always fighting that balance.”
IRVING, Texas -- Let's start the final day of the Dallas Cowboys' minicamp with some observations from Wednesday's team and 7-on-7 drills.
  • All eyes will be on Bruce Carter this season. If he can cover the way he did in this session, then he will be greatly improved over 2013. He blanketed Jason Witten on a corner route in the end zone, forcing an incompletion when Brandon Weeden's pass wasn't perfect. He also intercepted Weeden at the goal line, reading the quarterback's eyes as he tried to fire a pass low. After the play defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli challenged Carter by saying, "Do it again."
  • Weeden's best throw came on the first play of 7-on-7 drills when he put just enough air and just enough speed on a throw over safety J.J. Wilcox to wide receiver Terrance Williams by the goal posts. Williams was able to make the athletic grab and get both feet down for the touchdown.
  • Tempers flared when center Travis Frederick and defensive end Tyrone Crawford got into a scuffle. Rookie guard Zack Martin lost his helmet in the fracas.
  • Crawford had an active practice, but DeMarcus Lawrence also performed well hours after signing his first contract. He trapped Lance Dunbar on a shotgun run versus the first team. To close the day he drew a holding penalty on Darrion Weems and had a would-be sack of Vaughan.
  • Rookie cornerback Terrance Mitchell has wasted little time making a good impression. He had an interception of Caleb Hanie on a slant, forced a fumble that went out of bounds and broke up a Dustin Vaughan pass to LaRon Byrd.
  • The defense had some poor situational football on a fourth-and-long play. Tight end Gavin Escobar was able to come up with a first-down on a seam route with the linebackers and safety getting separated in their coverages.
  • Rookie safety Ahmad Dixon ended practice with an interception on a Vaughan overthrow of tight end James Hanna. Dixon sprinted up the field but heard the coaches and teammates yelling for him to get down because the turnover ended the game. No need to risk a return and have something bad happening.

OTA observations: Pump up the volume

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys pumped up the volume at Tuesday's organized team activity, playing music throughout the workout, ranging from Run DMC to heavy metal.

Coach Jason Garrett said he has used music in past OTAs in 2-minute situations, but this was the first practice in which the music played almost through the entire practice.

"It puts you in the game," passing game coordinator Scott Linehan said. "You've got to communicate in the game. It's not always perfect. When you're out here in the spacious practice facility with nobody yelling or screaming at you it's like golf. You don't have to worry or think about distractions. You've got to learn how to play when you've got 100,000 people screaming down your neck and doing it without letting it bother you, so I think it's really good work."

On to some more observations:
  • Linehan said Brandon Weeden has had his best week of practice. With Tony Romo sitting and Kyle Orton absent, Caleb Hanie had his best day in the sessions open to the media. He completed all but two of his throws in team drills and one was a throwaway while he was under pressure. He connected with Devin Street near the sideline, putting the ball on a dime to where Street could keep his feet inbounds.
  • Weeden's best throw was a play-action dig to wide receiver Terrance Williams, putting the ball just a little low to keep it away from cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who was trailing on the play.
  • The timing Romo and Jason Witten have is almost always impeccable. You can see the small difference when Romo isn't in there. Weeden was unable to get enough loft on a corner route to Witten with linebacker Bruce Carter in coverage. The throw was more on the line and Witten couldn't get both hands on it. With a little more air, Witten would have made the catch.
  • The struggles continued for cornerback B.W. Webb. On two of three passes he was beaten by Tim Benford and Cole Beasley. On the second play Beasley was able to change direction so quickly that Webb lost his leverage and gave up a big gain.
  • Backup left tackle Darrion Weems did a nice job of kicking out defensive end Martez Wilson on a Lance Dunbar run to beat a blitz from the defense.
  • Backup tight end Gavin Escobar had a good day after missing the open session last week with what he described as a tweaked back. He plucked a Hanie pass away with Jakar Hamilton closing fast, making sure the safety did not have a chance to break up the play. Later working in motion he was able to get inside leverage with a hard sell to the outside for a decent completion from Dustin Vaughan.
  • DeVonte Holloman and Anthony Hitchens did not take part in team drills. Holloman has been slowed by a hamstring strain. Undrafted rookie Dontavis Sapp was able to get more work at backup middle linebacker.
  • Receiver Dwayne Harris was kept out of team drills as a receiver as he continues to come back from offseason shoulder surgery. He was able to handle the punt return duties. Harris said he will not do any team drills on offense until training camp.
  • The Cowboys signed defensive end Dartwan Bush, who attended the rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, and will place cornerback Jocquel Skinner on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Non-Tony Romo OTA questions

May, 27, 2014
May 27
IRVING, Texas -- All eyes will be on Tony Romo when the Dallas Cowboys hold their first organized team activity of the offseason.

Romo said he will be on a “pitch count” during OTAs as he continues to rehab from back surgery last December, but doing anything will represent an increase from what he was able to do in OTAs last year when he was kept out of drills because of surgery to remove a cyst from his back.

But there will be other questions at the OTAs, too.

Here are five:

What does the defensive line look like?

The Cowboys have revamped their line this offseason. They parted ways with DeMarcus Ware, and Jason Hatcher signed with the Washington Redskins. They added Henry Melton, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Amobi Okoye in free agency, though only Mincey and McClain are expected to work fully in the OTAs. Melton is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and Okoye is coming back from a personal medical issue that kept him out of football last season. Anthony Spencer was re-signed, but he won’t do anything on the field until training camp. The Cowboys drafted DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round and will welcome back Tyrone Crawford after he missed last year with a torn Achilles.

A quick thought on what the first-team line will look like (left to right): George Selvie (the leading returner in sacks from last year, with seven), McClain, Crawford, Mincey. And that does not mean this group will look like this in July.

Will there be a cornerback battle?

Orlando Scandrick was the Cowboys’ best cornerback in 2013. Morris Claiborne was the first-round pick in 2012 but has yet to play to that level in two seasons. Coach Jason Garrett showed last year he was unafraid to make lineup changes regardless of a players’ draft status or contract, so Scandrick should continue to line up with the first team.

It’s up to Claiborne to make the decision harder for the coaches. He is coming off offseason shoulder and finger surgeries and could be limited some. But if he can practice, he needs to show early he can be a factor on this defense. He also needs to show he can stay healthy.

Where does Zack Martin fit?

The Cowboys have all but declared him a starter, much the way they did with Travis Frederick last year. Martin worked at right guard in the rookie minicamp, which would push Mackenzy Bernadeau out of the starting lineup.

But the Cowboys could call it a three-man battle between Martin, Bernadeau and Ronald Leary for the two starting guard spots.

Martin performed well at the rookie minicamp but will face stiffer tests during the OTAs and minicamp. The Cowboys expect him to handle all the work the same way Frederick and Tyron Smith did as rookies.

Can second-year players make a jump?

Wide receiver Terrance Williams will be a full-time starter in 2013 since Miles Austin is gone. Tight end Gavin Escobar will get a chance to work a lot more. J.J. Wilcox is penciled in as the starting safety opposite Barry Church. DeVonte Holloman will battle Kyle Wilber for the starting strongside linebacker spot.

For the Cowboys to get off the 8-8 train, they need these young players to make jumps. Teams like to say the biggest jump a player will make is between his rookie and second season. The Cowboys will need all four to play more meaningful snaps in 2014.

What about the other QBs?

If Kyle Orton shows up, it will be a huge surprise. He has not taken part in the offseason program yet, but the team said it anticipates Orton at the mandatory minicamp in June. The Cowboys like what they have seen from Brandon Weeden so far, but would like him to be a developmental quarterback in 2014 and not Romo’s No. 2. At least that’s the thought going into the OTAs. The team also signed veteran Caleb Hanie and undrafted free agent Dustin Vaughan.

With Romo on a pitch count and Orton absent, Weeden, Hanie and Vaughan will get more work than expected. That’s a good thing for them as snaps in camp will be even more limited.
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys passed on Johnny Manziel with the 16th overall pick, but they did add a quarterback from A&M to their roster to be more than a camp arm. Well, West Texas A&M.

[+] EnlargeVaughan
AP Photo/Jim CowsertWest Texas A&M product Dustin Vaughan didn't take himself too seriously in an online video parody of his QB skills.
Undrafted free agent Dustin Vaughan is known for two things: lighting up Division II competition and starring as the Christmas-sweater-sporting prima donna in a hilarious workout parody video. Not necessarily in that order.

Vaughan’s goal for the next few months is to prove he’s worthy of the Cowboys keeping him as a developmental prospect.

“I want to play for the Dallas Cowboys,” said Vaughan, whose chances of making the 53-man roster would increase significantly if Kyle Orton’s situation ends with the backup QB off the roster. “I want to find a role on the team that I can fit. I think that’s my job coming in here. That’s why they had me come, to find a role and to see if I could fit in.”

The Cowboys gave the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Vaughan a sixth-round grade and signed him soon after the draft ended. He turned down offers from the Atlanta Falcons and St. Louis Rams to sign with Dallas, which gave him a $5,000 bonus that tied for the third-largest among their crop of 24 undrafted free agents.

Vaughan dominated Division II competition the past two seasons, throwing for 10,113 yards and 98 touchdowns while leading West Texas A&M to a 25-6 record. After playing in a spread offense at a small school, Vaughan’s challenge is to learn how to play under center while making a massive jump in the level of competition.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett cites Vaughan’s remarkable college production, poise, intelligence and throwing ability as reasons the Cowboys believe he has potential.

“He’s raw, but he’s a big kid, strong-armed, gym-rat type of guy,” quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said. “He’s somebody that you could possibly develop.”

Vaughan considers the Cowboys an ideal situation for an undrafted quarterback trying to carve out an NFL career. He's well-aware that starter Tony Romo is one of the most successful undrafted quarterbacks in NFL history and looks forward to learning from him. Vaughan will also have the opportunity to learn from two coaches who lasted a long time as QBs in the league after coming in as long shots: Garrett (undrafted) and Wilson (eighth-round pick).

“This was definitely the situation that I wanted to be in,” Vaughan said. “It’s a great place to come in and learn from guys that have done it and have gone through what I’m going through right now, to be able to learn and be like a sponge.”

Kyle Orton's future still unknown

May, 19, 2014
May 19
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has said the same thing regarding Kyle Orton the last few times he has met with the media. He “anticipates,” Orton being with the team for the mandatory minicamp in June.

That does not mean Orton wants to play in 2014. It simply means he could show just to avoid a fine of roughly $70,000 for missing the mandatory camp.

Asked Saturday if that could be Orton’s plan, Garrett said, “You’ll have to ask him that.”

Orton has been quiet. His agent, David Dunn, who also represents Garrett, said at the NFL owners meetings that retirement was never option, yet Orton has yet to show up for the voluntary offseason conditioning program.

Orton took part in it in 2012 and ’13. The Cowboys would like him to be around to learn some of the changes Scott Linehan is implementing offensively. They would like him to get more work as Tony Romo recovers from back surgery. They would like him to help the younger quarterbacks.

If Orton retires, he would owe the Cowboys $3 million of the $5 million signing bonus he received in 2012. Retirement is not an option.

If the Cowboys cut Orton after June 1, they save $3.25 million against the cap this year. Because of the voidable remaining years on his contract, he will count $2.255 million against the cap in 2015 anyway.

The Cowboys will have an idea if Orton really wants to play by the type of shape he is in at the June camp. If he is in decent shape, then he could continue to play. If not, then he could be looking for the Cowboys to cut him, which would not require him to repay the team any of the signing bonus.

Some want to criticize Orton for wanting it both ways -- not wanting to play and not wanting to repay the money -- but teams often want it both ways, asking players to take pay cuts or risk being cut. Orton is using his only leverage.

The Cowboys have signed Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie in the offseason and added undrafted free agent Dustin Vaughan. They view Weeden as a developmental quarterback and would want Orton to fulfill the contract. If he doesn’t, then Weeden would be Romo’s backup.

“We’re still hopeful that Kyle will be here,” quarterback coach Wade Wilson said, “but if he doesn’t, we feel really good about Brandon, especially since he’s going through our off-season program.”

Garrett hopes Romo will do more at OTAs

May, 19, 2014
May 19
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are hoping Tony Romo will be able to do more once the team begins its organized team activities next week.

Romo has been taking part in a limited part of Phase Two of the offseason program as he continues to recover from back surgery performed last December.

“We’ll see how he does this week and hopefully he can do something,” coach Jason Garrett said Sunday night at the Taste of the NFL event at the Gaylord Texan. “He’s done a little bit of stuff, then he’s kind of backed off, done a little bit more then backed off. So we’ve just got to kind of evaluate how his workouts go this week.”

In Phase Two, players and coaches are on the field but do not have competitive situations against the defense. Romo has been throwing and has said his back feels good.

The Cowboys will begin their OTAs on May 27 and have 10 practices through June 12. They will have their mandatory minicamp on June 17-19.

“Obviously we’d love to get him out there for everything, but we’re going to be smart,” Garrett said. “We recognize it’s the third week of May and what we’re trying to do is get him ready to play in the regular season. You want to be aggressive with it but you also want to be smart with it.”

Romo’s limited work allows more action for Brandon Weeden, Caleb Hanie and rookie Dustin Vaughan. Backup quarterback Kyle Orton has not taken part in the voluntary offseason program, but Garrett said he anticipates the veteran will be on hand for the minicamp. If Orton skips the minicamp, he would be subject to a fine of roughly $70,000.

But Romo’s health is the bigger story for the Cowboys.

“You always kind of have a big plan, then you kind of see how you’re doing along that plan and make the adjustments accordingly,” Garrett said. “We’ll be smart with it, but he’s chomping at the bit to get back. We’ve got to make sure we do the right things.”

CB gets Cowboys' top undrafted bonus

May, 15, 2014
May 15
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have not been shy in giving larger than normal signing bonuses or guaranteed money to undrafted free agents, but their 24 signings totaled $66,500 and no guaranteed money in base salaries.

Tarleton State cornerback Dashaun Phillips, a Duncanville, Texas, native, received the largest signing bonus at $7,500. Missouri wide receiver L’Damian Washington received $7,000 to sign. Running back Glasco Martin did not receive a signing bonus.

In 2012, the Cowboys guaranteed guard Ronald Leary $214,000. Last year, the Cowboys guaranteed linebacker Brandon Magee $70,000 and paid out a $10,000 signing bonus to Jakar Hamilton.

Here is the remaining breakdown of signing bonuses:

QB Dustin Vaughan, West Texas A&M
DT Chris Whaley, Texas
OL Jarrod Pughsley, Akron
OL Josh Aladenoye, Illinois State

WR Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt

OL Andre Cureton, Cincinnati

TE Evan Wilson, Illinois

FB J.C. Copeland, LSU
RB Ben Malena, Texas A&M
S Marvin Robinson, Ferris State
P Cody Mandell, Alabama
LB Keith Smith, San Jose State

S Ryan Smith, Auburn
OG Ronald Patrick, South Carolina
OG Brian Clarke, Bloomsburg
TE Jordan Najvar, Baylor
LS Casey Kreiter, Iowa
CB Jocquel Skinner, Bethel
DE Joe Windsor, Northern Illinois
DT Davin Coleman, Arizona State

LB Dontavis Sapp, Tennessee
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys signed the Lone Star Conference’s offensive player of the year in West Texas A&M quarterback Dustin Vaughan, they also signed one of its first-team defensive players as well in Tarleton State cornerback Dashaun Phillips.

Phillips, a Duncanville, Texas, native, worked out for the Cowboys at their Dallas Day session before the draft. Phillips intercepted 12 passes in his career and was a three-time all-conference pick.

He is among the 24 undrafted free agents the Cowboys reached deals with at the conclusion of the seventh round. The only other undrafted cornerback is Jocquel Skinner from Bethel.