Dallas Cowboys: Josh Freeman

A look at the 16th, 17th pick

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will not know until a coin flip at the NFL scouting combine if they or the Baltimore Ravens will pick 16th or 17th in the first round of the May draft.

The only time the Cowboys used the 16th pick in the draft came in 1961 when they selected E.J. Holub in the second round. They have not taken a player with the 17th overall pick since cornerback Kevin Smith in 1992. Before that? In 1990 they took Emmitt Smith, who is now the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

What type of player has been available at Nos. 16 and 17? Here’s a look at the past 10 years.

2013 – EJ Manuel, Buffalo; Jarvis Jones, Pittsburgh
2012 – Quinton Coples, New York Jets; Dre Kirkpatrick, Cincinnati
2011 – Ryan Kerrigan, Washington; Nate Solder, New England
2010 – Derrick Morgan, Tennessee; Mike Iupati, San Francisco
2009 – Larry English, San Diego; Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay
2008 – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Arizona; Gosder Cherilus, Detroit
2007 – Justin Harrell, Green Bay; Jarvis Moss, Denver
2006 – Jason Allen, Miami; Chad Greenway, Minnesota
2005 – Travis Johnson, Houston; David Pollack, Cincinnati
2004 – Shawn Andrews, Philadelphia; D.J. Williams, Denver
2003 – Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh; Bryant Johnson, Arizona.

Polamalu is by far the best player selected in either spot. He will be in the Hall of Fame. There are quality players in there like Williams, Greenway, Rodgers-Cromartie, Iupati, Solder and Kerrigan. Andrews had a pretty good short run as well. Kerrigan is solid and has done some good things versus the Cowboys. Coples has showed some pass rush his first two seasons. I expected more from Kirkpatrick, who was on the Cowboys’ radar in 2012.

The Cowboys held the No. 18 pick in 2013 and traded down to No. 31 with the Niners where they took Travis Frederick. They felt they were in a position to trade down and still pick up a quality player. When they saw Eric Reid, Justin Pugh, Kyle Long and Tyler Eifert go off the board in the next four picks they were left sweating it out until they got Frederick.

Jason Garrett not surprised by Giants turnaround

November, 19, 2013
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IRVING, Texas – After a 0-6 start to the season, the New York Giants find themselves back in playoff contention thanks to four straight wins.

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is not surprised at the turnaround.

“They’re a good football team,” Garrett said. “They’ve been a good football team for a long time, they’ve got a lot of good players. They’re doing what winning teams do, and I don’t think that’s anything of a surprise or a revelation at all. When you play winning football and you have talented players on your team and you’re well coached, typically you’re going to win more than you don’t.”

Eli Manning has played better. In the first six games he was intercepted 15 times, including three against the Cowboys. In the last four games he has been intercepted just twice. They have allowed just 47 points in their last four games with linebacker Jon Beason playing like he did in his time with the Carolina Panthers and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul playing more like he did two years ago.

The competition as certainly helped as well. The Giants played the Minnesota Vikings with Josh Freeman at quarterback. Matt Barkley started for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Oakland Raiders are, well, the Raiders though they have improved some. Last week the Giants got the Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers.

Still, the Giants are hot and the Cowboys aren’t.

“I think it’s really important to focus on what the task is every week,” Garrett said. “You play these games one game at a time. Certainly when you’re feeling good about yourself, that’s a positive thing. But the best teams, the best players are the ones that take each situation independently of the other one and do it to the best of their ability. That’s why you play one game at a time in this league. Anything you did last week really doesn’t have that much of an impact in what you’re doing this week. It’s a clean slate. It happens within ballgames play after play after play. The teams and players who are able to do that, who are mentally strong enough to do that, put the last one behind them and focus on this one, are the ones that typically do the best.”

Double Coverage: Vikings at Cowboys

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
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Jared Allen and Tony RomoAP PhotoJared Allen's Vikings and Tony Romo's Cowboys match up on Sunday in a game where neither team looks like much of a playoff threat.

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys kick off the second half of their season at AT&T Stadium on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, who are still looking for their first win in the United States this season.

A playoff team a year ago, the Vikings have been one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL. At 4-4, the Cowboys are looking at their third straight 8-8 season under Jason Garrett.

ESPN.com Vikings reporter Ben Goessling and ESPN.com Cowboys reporter Todd Archer debate the game in this week’s Double Coverage.

Archer: I think a lot of people assumed the Vikings would be a serious playoff threat, but obviously that’s not the case. How is it sitting with the veterans on the team like Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Chad Greenway and guys who have experienced success?

Goessling: A lot of those players have been disappointed, but they all seem to be sticking behind coach Leslie Frazier, at least for now. There have been a few hints of discontent from players with the defensive scheme, but nobody seems to be quitting on the season. A lot of the problems are out of the Vikings’ control, at least in the sense that they can do only so much with the roster they have. It’s hard to win and have an open competition at quarterback at the same time. And the Vikings’ moves in the secondary have backfired terribly. This hasn’t been the same team without Antoine Winfield, and now that Harrison Smith is hurt, the Vikings have few playmakers on the back end of their defense.

Speaking of quarterbacks, it looks like Tony Romo is playing some of his best football this year. I suppose with him, we never really know what to think until the playoffs, but does it seem to you like he’s turned any type of a corner?

Archer: I think he’s played at a higher level than most people want to say for the past few years, but he’s been stuck with this tag that he can’t shake until (if) the Cowboys make the playoffs and win a couple of games. This year, he has more say in the offense in terms of the game plan, so I think that has him feeling more weight to make the correct play and not be so much of a gunslinger. He’s struggled the past three games with his accuracy, but he’s made big plays and mostly stayed away from the bad ones. He remains creative when things break down, but he’s also willing to take a sack or throw the ball away.

Peterson is coming home, so to speak. How have things been different for him this season after 2,000 yards last season?

Goessling: He has been dealing with a minor hamstring injury for the past few weeks, but I think the biggest problem for Peterson has been the play of his offensive line. The group hasn’t been anywhere near as good as it was last season at opening holes for Peterson, and fullback Jerome Felton has struggled to get into a rhythm after missing the first three games because of a suspension. At times, Peterson has looked impatient, wanting to make that one extra cut for a 60-yard run and winding up with a 2- or 3-yarder when the hole closes. He’s also seeing more eight-man fronts than any other back in the league, and without a line that’s able to handle the extra attention, Peterson isn’t going to beat those defenses all the time. Even he isn’t that good.

But maybe this is the week the Vikings can resurrect their passing game, playing against the worst pass defense in the league. Are the Cowboys so bad that they’ll have trouble even with the Vikings’ ensemble cast at quarterback?

Archer: Unless Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman or Matt Cassel morph into Peyton or Eli Manning, Philip Rivers or Matthew Stafford, I can’t see it happening, even as bad as the pass defense has been. When it has played against middling quarterbacks -- Alex Smith (yes, I know he’s 8-0, but he’s not a great passer), Sam Bradford, a returning-to-health Robert Griffin III and Nick Foles -- the defense has looked good. When it has faced top passers, it has allowed the most 400-yard games in NFL history for a season -- in just eight games. Monte Kiffin’s scheme is very basic and designed to not give up big plays, yet the Cowboys have given up a ton of big plays. They have missed DeMarcus Ware the past two games and will have a banged-up secondary Sunday. If Ware returns, that should help, but I think the biggest aid for the defense will be whomever Frazier picks to play quarterback.

For years, the strength of the Vikings D, to me anyway, has been the pass rush. Statistically, it’s not very good, but is that a product of the secondary issues you talked about?

Goessling: I’d say it’s the other way around. The Vikings were certainly better in the secondary last year than they are this year, but they were helped out by the fact the front four was getting to the quarterback enough to keep teams from exploiting them in the passing game. This year, the Vikings have been done in by teams that can get the ball out quickly (the Lions and Packers, especially), and they just haven’t gotten much push up the middle. Allen and Brian Robison are hustling, but they can do only so much when they’re getting the bulk of opposing teams’ attention. The Vikings still aren’t a blitz-heavy team, but they have had to bring extra guys a little more often than usual this year and Aaron Rodgers burned them on a blitz Sunday. If Romo gets the ball out quickly, he should have plenty of openings. The good news for the Cowboys is A) the Vikings could have three defensive backs out with injury, and B) Josh Robinson will be on the field.

The week after the Vikings lost in the final seconds against the Bears, they got beat by the Browns at home. Do you expect any kind of shell shock from the Cowboys after that Matthew Stafford touchdown last week?

Archer: I really don’t. The Cowboys have had so many of these types of losses that they know how to bounce back. The bad thing is they have had to do this too often. We came up with 21 losses since 2005 that can be described as “crazy” with late-game shenanigans. The Lions loss was just another one to add to the list. The Cowboys lost a game in 2010 because they missed an extra point. They lost a game in 2008 in overtime on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. And those both came at Arizona.

So the Cowboys somehow do a good job of compartmentalizing things and putting a bad week behind them. Garrett deserves some credit for that, I guess.

 

Top QBs shredding Cowboys' D

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
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DETROIT -- Another top-flight quarterback, another shredding of the Dallas Cowboys' defense.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford did to the Cowboys what Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning did to the Cowboys, completing 33 of 48 passes for 488 yards. He only had one touchdown and was intercepted twice, but 329 of those yards went to Calvin Johnson.

The Cowboys are the first team to allow four 400-yard passers in a season and eight games remain. And they still have to say hello New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Chicago’s Jay Cutler, who should be healthy by the Dec. 9 meeting. There’s also the rematch with the New York Giants and Eli Manning. And Robert Griffin III should be in better form for the Washington Redskins than he was in the first meeting of the season.

Stafford, the Manning brothers and Rivers have thrown for 1,753 yards against the Cowboys, completed 73.5 percent of their passes and averaged 438.3 yards per game.

The good news for the Cowboys is that they will see Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman or maybe even Matt Cassel Sunday at AT&T Stadium when the Minnesota Vikings visit.

Rob Ryan pleased with No. 1 ranking

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
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IRVING, Texas -- When Rob Ryan showed up as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator last year, he promised to have the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

Three games into the 2012 season, he has it.

“It’s going to be big if we can get it after 16 weeks, that would be good,” Ryan said. “We’re happy where we are. The guys have been working hard. We're not ashamed of being No. 1, that’s where you want to be.”

The Cowboys are allowing 250 yards a game and are second in the NFL in pass defense, giving up 137 yards a game. Quibble if you want that the Cowboys have played against Seattle rookie Russell Wilson and an overmatched Josh Freeman in Tampa Bay, but they held Eli Manning to 213 yards in the season-opening win against the New York Giants.

“I haven’t done anything,” Ryan said. “I think all of our players and coaches have. We’re working hard. Look, we want to have a great defense and that’s the way it is. We’re excited where we are but more excited about where we’re going.”

While the Cowboys made upgrades at cornerback in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, nose tackle Jay Ratliff has yet to play this season because of a high ankle sprain. They have also played without starters in defensive end Kenyon Coleman and safety Gerald Sensabaugh and lost safety Barry Church to a torn Achilles last week.

“I think this group is all in together,” Ryan said. “We worked hard last year. We just weren’t quite as effective but all our guys believe in each other. They’re playing hard. I think they believe in the coaches. All our coaches have equal input. They work their butts off and we’re trying to do everything assigned to us properly. I think we’re all really coming together.”
IRVING, Texas -- There were 121 plays -- 66 on offense and 55 on defense -- in the Cowboys' 16-10 win over Tampa Bay. Here are five that shaped the game:

SportsNation

Which play had the biggest impact in the Cowboys' win over the Bucs?

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    11%
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    51%
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    32%
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    4%
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Discuss (Total votes: 1,351)

Play: Orie Lemon recovers fumble
Situation: Fourth and 7
Score: Tied, 7-7
Time: 6:28 second quarter
Taylor's Take: The Bucs' Dekoda Watson is probably still trying to figure out how he didn’t block this punt after a mental error let him go unblocked. The ball went under his body and he knocked down Chris Jones in the process. Tampa Bay's Jordan Shipley muffed the punt and Dallas recovered. Seven plays later, the Cowboys took their first lead on a Dan Bailey field goal. If the punt gets blocked, the Bucs probably lead by a touchdown.

Play: Sean Lee interception
Situation: Third and 14
Score: Tampa Bay, 7-0
Time: 3:32 first quarter
Taylor's Take: Josh Freeman, who has no idea how to throw a touch pass, drilled D.J. Ware in the chest with a pass from close range. It ricocheted in the air and Lee snagged it with two hands as a pair of Tampa Bay players tried to rip it from his grasp. The interception set up the Cowboys’ tying touchdown.

Play: DeMarcus Ware sack
Situation: Third and 4
Score: Dallas, 13-7
Time: 6:02 Fourth quarter
Taylor's Take: This was still a one-possession game, which must have been an uncomfortable position for Jason Garrett. With the Bucs in a passing situation, Ware got a great jump at the snap, beat Donald Penn around the edge and slapped the ball out of Freeman’s hand instead of going for the sack. The Bucs recovered but the drive was ruined and they had to punt from their end zone, setting up Dez Bryant’s 44-yard punt return.

Play: Tony Romo incompletion
Situation: Second and 16
Score: Tied, 7-7
Time: 10:56 second quarter
Taylor's Take: Another lucky break for the Cowboys kept the Bucs from positioning themselves to score an easy touchdown. Facing pressure and throwing from his end zone, Romo directed a pass to Kevin Ogletree, who never turned to look for the ball. If cornerback Eric Wright had turned and looked for the ball, there’s a good chance he would’ve intercepted it and returned it inside the Dallas 10.

Play: Josh Freeman intentional grounding
Situation: First and 10
Score: Dallas, 10-7
Time: 2:03 Third quarter
Taylor's Take: After Tony Romo’s second fumble of the quarter set Tampa Bay up in prime scoring position, Lee made yet another big play. Charging hard up the middle on a blitz, he forced Freeman to throw the ball away to avoid getting sacked. Facing a second-and-20 essentially ended the drive for the Bucs, who struggled to move the ball all game.

A look back: Bad all around for Cowboys O

September, 25, 2012
9/25/12
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IRVING, Texas -- Sometimes when reviewing a game, you see things that are not as bad as you thought. In this week’s "A Look Back," that was not the case for the Cowboys offense against Tampa Bay. It was just bad.

The run blocking: There’s a reason why the Cowboys had only 38 yards on the ground. There were no holes for DeMarco Murray to run. Heck, there were no places where he could make it up as he went. The Tampa Bay defensive line just dominated up front, and it wasn’t a case of one guy breaking down here and another guy breaking down on the next play. All five linemen had a hand in the poor running. Fullback Lawrence Vickers added little help as well.

On a delay run that looked promising, Murray had some room but Mackenzy Bernadeau got stuffed at the line and could not get to the second level. If Bernadeau gets there, it’s a big run. Center Ryan Cook had a hard time getting off the line and to the linebackers because of all the slanting done by the Bucs up front.

Throwing more effectively could have loosened things up, but the pass protection wasn’t much better.

Tampa Bay brought five or more rushers 16 times, but none of the four sacks of Tony Romo came off Bucs’ pressure. Three came on four-man rushes and one came on a three-man rush when Michael Bennett bulled Jason Witten and Doug Free was looking to his left. I don’t know what the line call was, but the Bucs had three guys on the line. Bennett is lined up outside of Witten at the snap. At some point common sense should kick in and Free should know he needs to help Witten. He didn’t and Romo was sacked.

Romo was hit 11 times out of 39 pass attempts. He was sacked four times and scrambled once.

Let’s talk about the one running play that did work: Murray’s 11-yard touchdown run. This was blocked perfectly. Tyron Smith smothered Adrian Clayborn at the line. Witten dominated Brandon McDonald. Miles Austin got just enough of a rushing Ronde Barber to push him by Murray. Kevin Ogletree locked up Eric Wright.

The only player to touch Murray on the play was Austin.

Who says we can’t be positive?

Defensively, it’s hard not to be positive with that kind of game. Maybe Josh Freeman had something to do with it, but the Cowboys were aggressive. Just maybe not as aggressive as you would think

I had the Cowboys for nine rushes of five or more in the game. They had seven five-man pressures in each of the first two games. So Rob Ryan called two more blitzes. Both of DeMarcus Ware’s sacks came on five-man or more rushes.

How aggressive were the Cowboys outside? They lined up in press coverage 38 times out of 53 snaps. The jams provided by Mike Jenkins, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick just threw the Bucs wide receivers off. They could not beat the jam. Even Vincent Jackson’s only catch -- a 29 yarder -- came on a contested play by Scandrick.

Bruce Carter is a quick learner. On Tampa Bay’s only touchdown he never put his eyes on tight end Luke Stocker and was sucked in by the play-action fake, giving Josh Freeman an easy throw for a score in the first quarter. In the second quarter he perfectly read a Freeman throw to fullback Erik Lorig, who was sliding through the line, and made the stop for no yards on a big third and 3.

Sean Lee's nose for ball continues

September, 24, 2012
9/24/12
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Once again, Sean Lee is in the team lead for interceptions.

That might not last another 13 games, but Lee tied Terence Newman last year for the lead with four.

Lee’s first-quarter interception came after a Josh Freeman pass knocked off the pads of running back D.J. Ware. The Cowboys converted the turnover into their only touchdown of the game when DeMarco Murray sprinted in from 11 yards with 1:22 left in the first quarter.

Lee's seven interceptions since 2010 are the most by a linebacker in the NFL. He forced the Cowboys' only other turnover of the season when he caused a fumble against the New York Giants.

“He’s just an outstanding football player,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We’re lucky to have him as a leader of our defense, in the middle of our defense. He’s passionate about the game. He cares a great deal. He’s very instinctive and has a nose for the football. You see it in the number of tackles he makes, but you also see his ability to play the ball. He’s done that throughout his career with some of the signature plays. His ability to track the ball and make the play in traffic is a credit to his athletic ability. He shows up throughout the ballgame.”

The turnover gave the offense a short field in which to work, which has not been commonplace in recent years.

When the offense has started drives in the opponents’ territory it has mostly delivered. Over the last 19 games, the Cowboys have had 27 possessions start in plus-territory and have scored 12 touchdowns, kicked eight field goals and killed the game three times, including Sunday.

Report card: Defense, special teams carry day

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
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Murray
F

Rushing Offense

The Cowboys got their first rushing touchdown of the season, but that's about the only thing that went right for the running game. DeMarco Murray finished with only 38 yards on 18 carries. He lost yardage seven times. Felix Jones lost a yard on his only carry. Other than Murray's 11-yard touchdown run, in which Tyron Smith made a dominant block, this was a really poor performance by the offensive line. It's one thing for the interior offensive line, which was whipped by McCoy, to be shaky. Doug Free, the Cowboys' most expensive, experienced O-lineman, has been the weakest link. He got dominated by Bennett, who matched McCoy with two tackles for losses.

Romo
F

Passing Offense

The Cowboys' passing game committed three turnovers and produced zero points. That's awful, especially against a Tampa Bay defense that allowed 510 yards against the New York Giants the previous week. Tony Romo threw for 283 yards on 25-of-39 passing -- 107 yards coming on five catches by Miles Austin -- but the QB took a beating from a defensive line that barely touched Eli Manning last week. The Buccaneers sacked Romo four times, forcing two fumbles. The Cowboys couldn't figure out how to keep defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Michael Bennett away from Romo.

Martin
A

Rushing Defense

A week after Marshawn Lynch marched all over them in the second half, the Cowboys made it tough on the Tampa Bay running backs. The Bucs averaged only 3.0 yards on their 25 carries. Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer was a force again, leading the Cowboys with seven tackles, including one for a loss. Speedy inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter each had a tackle for a loss, too. The run defense got stronger as the game went on, a stark contrast to last week in Seattle. Tampa Bay gained on 28 yards on 13 carries after halftime.

Lee
A+

Passing Defense

Give defensive coordinator Rob Ryan a ton of credit. He came up with a genius game plan to mask the absence of strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh, one of three starters who weren't available, and rattle Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman (10-of-28 for 110 yards with a TD and INT). In nickel situations, Brandon Carr played safety for the first time in his career, with Mike Jenkins coming in at cornerback. Those two combined to shut out $55 million receiver Vincent Jackson until the Bucs' final possession. A week after being shut out, DeMarcus Ware had another two-sack outing, forcing fumbles both times he got to Freeman.

Bryant
A-

Special Teams

The Cowboys avoided disaster, although they came close on a punt that the Bucs should have blocked, and they made big plays. Orie Lemon made his mark in his NFL debut by recovering a muffed punt, the key play on a scoring drive. Dez Bryant set up the field goal that essentially sealed the win with a 44-yard punt return, the first time this season he has resembled the elite punt returner he was during his rookie season. Dan Bailey was 3-for-3 on field goals. And, hey, Felix Jones didn't fumble.

Garrett
F

Coaching

This grade reflects solely on the head coach. Rob Ryan's performance would lift the overall grade to a passing mark, but we've got to flunk Jason Garrett after such a ridiculously sloppy outing by his offense. The Cowboys committed 13 penalties, including six false starts. (Strange but true: They are 2-0 when committing 13 penalties this season.) The offense was out of sync all day, and Garrett never adjusted to keep Tampa Bay's defensive line from teeing off on his quarterback. That's two straight weeks Garrett's offense scored only one touchdown. The offensive coordinator looks overwhelmed.

Brandon Carr sees time at free safety

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Brandon Carr said the last time he played safety was in 2004, when he was a junior at Carman-Ainsworth High School in Flint, Mich.

Since, Carr has played cornerback full-time in college at Grand Valley State and in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he started 64 consecutive games, and the Dallas Cowboys for at least three games.

Carr, however, played free safety for several snaps in the Cowboys' 16-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. The move this week came as a result of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan feeling the safety position might experience problems due to the health of Gerald Sensabaugh, who missed Sunday's game with a calf injury, and the extended playing time of cornerback Mike Jenkins.

Near the end of Sunday's game, Carr was seen playing a deep safety position, with Orlando Scandrick, Morris Claiborne and Jenkins as the three main corners. Carr was on the field with a mixture of safeties which included Danny McCray and Barry Church -- until the latter suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the third quarter.

"I think he (Carr) did a great job," Ryan said. "He did what he's supposed to do and he's such a talented guy you can put him anywhere."

The Cowboys have issues at the safety spot. Their starters are hurt and even though Sensabaugh said he expects to play next Monday against the Chicago Bears, there are concerns about what to do long-term at the position.

"I don't know," Ryan said when asked if Carr would move to safety full-time. "We're going to have to look (at it) and do what's best for the team. We're looking to get the best thing we think we can do."

Carr was tested deep less than three times by Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman. One pass resulted in a pass breakup in the second half. It was also just the second time in Carr's career that he finished a game with no tackles. The last time that happened was Dec. 5, 2010, when he played for the Chiefs.

For Carr it doesn't matter if he plays safety again because he'll do it. In practice, Carr got scout-team snaps at free safety to get a feel for what the position entails.

"I was for it," Carr said. "Whatever it takes coming in they talked about if it comes down to it, they got me back there. I was working my butt off in practice and I was working with the scout team back there just to get a feel for how it is because it is different. At corner, you have to be quick and it's fast and physical, whereas safety you're having to read the quarterback, getting a jump, trying to control the defense and things like that.

"I just had to buckle down today and play my hardest at safety like I do at corner."

Big Decision: Rob Ryan must bring heat

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
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The Dallas Cowboys didn’t blitz New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning that much in the opener, and he doesn’t move that well. And they didn’t blitz Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson often because they feared he would make plays outside the pocket.

So this is probably a good week for Jason Garrett to saunter down to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s office and tell him this is the week to bring the pressure.

Fact: quarterbacks under duress make mistakes. Fact: The Cowboys have forced one turnover this season.

Part of the struggles the Cowboys’ offense are having can be blamed on the team's defense and special teams failing to provide quality field position.

Garrett needs to strongly suggest Ryan use more than eight blitzes -- the number he’s called each of the first two weeks -- to put pressure on Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman. He threw 22 interceptions last season and has a pair in the first two games of this season.

Freeman, who has been sacked twice in each of the first two games, will give the Cowboys an opportunity to get turnovers if he’s consistently under pressure.

This is not the week to let another quarterback sit in the pocket and calmly decide where to go with the ball. This is the week for Ryan to force the issue.

Garrett should prod him to do so.

Stats & Info preview: Cowboys vs. Bucs

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
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The Dallas Cowboys should be able to move the ball through the air Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have allowed a league-high 801 passing yards through two games, including 510 yards to the Giants in Week 2.

Big plays have burned the Buccaneers. They have allowed seven pass plays of at least 30 yards in their first two games and 21 completions of 11-plus yards, both of which are the most in the NFL. Tony Romo had three 30-yard pass plays in the Cowboys’ Week 1 win over the New York Giants but none in last week’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Here are three other statistical areas to watch Sunday:

* Josh Freeman struggled to throw the ball deep last season, but he's off to a better start in 2012. The Bucs' quarterback has completed eight of his first 14 pass attempts of at least 15 yards downfield this season, including a pair of touchdowns. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson could be making the difference in Freeman’s deep passing success. Jackson already has six receptions of 15-plus yards in two games. Since the start of the 2011 season, Jackson leads the NFL in targets (72) and is third in receptions (33) on such passes. Jackson had 128 receiving yards last week against the Giants, the first Buccaneers wide receiver with at least 125 receiving yards and a touchdown reception since Antonio Bryant in Week 16 of the 2008 season.

* The Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray has shown the ability to pick up rushing yards between the tackles and outside of them this season. The Buccaneers’ run defense has been especially tight on rushing attempts outside the tackles in their first two games. The Buccaneers have allowed just 15 yards (tied for second fewest in the league) on 10 rushing attempts outside the tackles. Last season, teams consistently rushed outside the tackles with success against the Buccaneers as they allowed a league-high 969 yards on such attempts, including 16 rushes of 20-plus yards, which was also the most in the NFL.

* Lost in the high number of passing yards the Buccaneers have allowed is the fact they are tied for the league lead in passes defended with 14, including 10 against the Giants in Week 2. The Buccaneers' Aqib Talib is the individual league leader in passes defended with five. Since the start of the 2008 season, Romo has averaged 11.8 pass attempts per pass defended.

Josh Freeman sees difference in Cowboys corners

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
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IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys played Tampa Bay last December, but with so many changes there’s not much to gain from re-watching a 31-15 win that didn’t even seem that close.

The Cowboys have not made as many changes as the Buccaneers – new coaches, coordinators, influx of free agents and rookies – but Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman isn’t exactly pouring over that film either.

But one change he has noticed is how Cowboys cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne play compared to the style Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins used last winter.

“It definitely looks different,” Freeman said. “I think the corners are playing outstanding. They’re great in man-to-man coverage. They understand their role in zone. You see them doing a lot of things that extremely talented corners in this league do. It’s going to be a great challenge. We’re excited. I’m excited to play against a remodeled, yet still extremely talented secondary.”

The Other Side: Rick Stroud, Tampa Bay Times

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
2:57
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IRVING, Texas – For this week’s episode from The Other Side we bring in long-time Buccaneers’ beat man Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

PODCAST
Mike Golic from Mike and Mike joins Coop and Nate to discuss the Cowboys' loss to Seattle, the upcoming matchup with Tampa Bay and more.

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Todd Archer: What's the biggest difference Greg Schiano has made? When we saw the Bucs last December they seemed, to be polite, disinterested under Raheem Morris?

Rick Stroud: Schiano has done a great job of changing the culture of the Buccaneers. He developed a reputation for being highly organized and a disciplinarian in 11 seasons at Rutgers. But the Bucs had one of the youngest teams in the NFL last season, coming off a lockout, and they didn’t handle their success very well from 2010, when they went 10-6 under Morris.

Schiano has a saying: TBA – Trust, Belief, Accountability. He has weeded out the players who didn’t buy in, as evidenced by the release of S Tanard Jackson and the trade of TE Kellen Winslow and DT Brian Price.

That got the players’ attention. On the field, he is a stickler for details and a bit of a control freak, quite frankly. Nothing escapes his attention, from the way players must have their ‘toes on the line,’ during warm-ups to the temperature in meeting rooms.

TA: What's been the reaction to the kneel-down controversy?

RS: Surprisingly, it’s been split. The Giants and Tom Coughlin obviously didn’t like it. Heck, most of the Bucs own players would only respond by saying they do whatever coach asks them to do. But Schiano is a hard-nosed coach who is trying to get his team to play every play hard. Also, he says that tactic has produced four fumbles at Rutgers in the past five years.

A lot of former players have supported Schiano, who says he has no regret about the move. Among them is Herm Edwards. The former Jets and Chiefs head coach may be just as well known for the hero in the Miracle of the Meadowlands. Edwards returned a fumble from Giants QB Joe Pisarcik 26 yards for a touchdown. What you may not have known was that two plays earlier, the Giants attempted a kneel down and the Eagles fired off the ball. That prompted the Giants to decide to call a running play. Edwards agrees with Schiano, so long as the team is only trailing by one score. But since the Miracle in the Meadowlands, teams have developed the ‘victory formation,’ whereby a receiver or defensive back lines up 10 yards behind the QB in case there is a fumble.

TA: I think Tampa has been a Tampa-2 team since the leather-helmet era, but has there been a change in scheme with Bill Sheridan as coordinator from the Monte Kiffin/Morris led defenses?

RS: Yes. The Bucs, like other teams, still play two deep safeties, but nowhere near as much as they used to. Sheridan likes to apply pressure to the quarterback and mixes up coverage and blitzes. He will bring it in a variety of ways -- linebackers through the A-gap, a linebacker and defensive back stacked, corners off the edge and nickel backs in the slot. Almost always, however, there is a single high safety. From a pass defense standpoint, the Bucs have been riddled for 813 yards passing in the first two games. Sheridan blamed the high number of stunts and games he ordered on the defensive front last week against the Giants and said they will have to curtail those. The other change is that the Bucs linebackers come downhill. They're not running laterally. Rookie Lavonte David has been an impact player.

TA: The Bucs added Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks in free agency to help Josh Freeman (Dallas Clark, too, I guess). How much have they helped Freeman and how has he done the first two weeks?

RS: Jackson, Nicks and Clark have had an instant impact on Freeman’s production. Jackson has been targeted 24 times in two games and has nine catches for 175 yards (19.4 avg) and one touchdown. He’s also created better looks for WR Mike Williams, who has a TD reception in each of the Bucs two games. Nicks has helped in the run game and as a pass protector. Clark caught only one ball in the Bucs win over Carolina, but it was a 33-yarder. Last week, he had four receptions.

TA: The Cowboys really liked Mark Barron but moved up for Morris Claiborne instead. How's the rookie safety look?

RS: Barron has been a quick study and is the big hitter in the secondary the Bucs hoped he would be. His coverage skills are better than advertised and he likely won the game against Carolinawith a late breakup of a pass to Louis Murphy that would’ve gone for a touchdown. Barron is a serious football player who was raised in a pro-style defense under Nick Saban at Alabama. The bright lights of the NFL don’t faze him.

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Bucs review

December, 20, 2011
12/20/11
10:25
AM ET
Scout's Eye
The Cowboys went to Tampa and really took care of the Buccaneers without much difficulty.

It was an easy game to break down without many problems on offense or the busts that we have seen the last two weeks defensively against the Cardinals and Giants. Jason Garrett always reminds us of how important all three phases of the game are in order to assure a victory. In terms of the phases, it was an outstanding game for the Cowboys.

To be honest, I was surprised at how easily the Cowboys were able to win this game. The Buccaneers had shown the ability to run the ball with LeGarrette Blount, so that was a potential problem for the defense that allowed physical Brandon Jacobs to run through them the previous week in a loss to the Giants. Offensively, the biggest question was whether Felix Jones would be able to carry over to this game what he was able to do against the Giants, and he was able to do so with no problems.

The only real offensive breakdown should be put on the play-call sheet of Jason Garrett. That was his decision to throw the ball on third-and-19 from the shadow of his own goal posts. Garrett got greedy and should have just run the ball with Sammy Morris, punted and played defense, but he didn't and it cost his team a touchdown.

That series started with a holding call on Tyron Smith, which backed the ball up to the Cowboys' 10-yard line. On first-and-20, Garrett tried to throw a screen coming to the right, but Albert Haynesworth managed to read the play and get in the way, forcing Tony Romo to have to unload it.

On second-and-20, Garrett tried to slam Jones into the line on the right side, but there was nothing doing there for a gain of 1.

On third-and-19 from his own 11-yard line, Garrett should have called another simple run but instead went shotgun with Miles Austin wide right, Laurent Robinson in the slot left and Dez Bryant outside of him. Jason Witten was a wing to the right, with Morris next to Romo on his right.

At the snap, Austin drove across the field on a shallow cross, Witten stayed in to block for Romo and took Da'Quan Bowers with Morris helping to that side. Robinson ran the deep out, and Bryant headed vertical. Left tackle Doug Free was quickly beaten off the snap by Adrian Clayborn, who turned the corner as Romo slid to his right then forward. Romo had no idea that Clayborn was behind him until he felt him on his back, thus causing him to drop the ball. Buccaneers linebacker Dekoda Watson picked up the ball and headed for the end zone.

It's a defensive touchdown for the Buccaneers and, to be honest, a huge mistake on Garrett for allowing it to happen. I know it sounds critical on my part, but it goes back to Garrett and his ability as a game manager. The only way the Buccaneers were going to score was if the Cowboys' offense turned the ball over and gave Tampa Bay a chance. Garrett did that with that play call.

Romo, Austin break through for first touchdown



In his second game back after his hamstring injury, Miles Austin was once again productive with another touchdown catch. It was Austin's second touchdown in the last two weeks.

[+] EnlargeMiles Austin
Douglas Jones/US PresswireMiles Austin fought -- and won -- for the Cowboys' first score in Tampa.
His grab against the Buccaneers was typical of what we normally see from him with his ability to play with power. With the Cowboys facing a third-and-goal from the Tampa Bay 8, Garrett went shotgun with three wide receivers in the game, Witten at wing and Jones to the right of Romo. Austin was in the slot left, Robinson wide left and Bryant wide right. Before the snap, Austin was trying to get Romo's attention and finally did. Romo pointed to Austin, making a motion right to left with his hand, then Austin got set. Witten went in motion right to left, then back outside left.

Witten ran vertical through the Tampa zone defense that dropped eight defenders. Austin crossed behind Witten then stopped reading the zone coverage. Romo turned his attention to Jones standing at the 5-yard line. Bryant had no chance on the left side with a corner and safety to his side. Witten curled in the middle of the end zone and got Romo's attention. The three-man rush caused Romo to move forward in the pocket then circle back, and he ran into Montrae Holland.

Austin saw Romo start to move then adjusted with him over the middle of the ball and in between the three Buccaneers defenders. Romo saw a window to throw the ball with safety Sean Jones driving on the ball from his left. Austin was able to fight off Jones by using his body to shield the ball then roll over to grab the ball from Jones and linebacker Mason Foster. Somehow, Austin managed to get the ball into the end zone for the cowboys' first touchdown of the game.

Cowboys contain Blount, get to Freeman



The key defensively for the Cowboys against the Buccaneers was going to be stopping Blount. The front seven for the Cowboys was outstanding in this game, getting off blocks and playing square. Sean Lissemore, Marcus Spears, Victor Butler and Anthony Spencer were exceptionally good.

[+] EnlargeSean Lissemore
Douglas Jones/US PresswireSean Lissemore got the last of the Cowboys' three sacks on Bucs QB Josh Freeman.
Once the front was able to control Blount, it put a great deal of pressure on quarterback Josh Freeman. In my pregame study of the Buccaneers, there was nothing that led me to believe that if they had to pass the ball they would have success. There were too many games where Freeman was not accurate throwing the ball.

Despite how poorly the Cowboys had been playing in the secondary, none of the Buccaneers receivers worried me all that much. Mike Williams is a nice player, but Freeman was going to struggle getting him the ball.

After not registering a sack against the Giants, the Cowboys got a couple quickly on back-to-back plays against the Buccaneers.

On first-and-10 on the Tampa Bay 24, Ryan put eight men in the box with safety Abram Elam at inside linebacker depth. The Buccaneers were in a regular formation, and Freeman went play-action, faking the handoff to Blount. Outside linebackers Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware were off on the snap. Ware was a yard beyond left tackle Donald Penn by the time that Freeman was able to make the fake. As Freeman set, Ware had his arms in position to make the sack.

Sean Lee stepped forward to take on fullback Erik Long with double coverage on the outside of both Tampa wide receivers. Ware brought Freeman to the ground.

It's now second-and-16. The Buccaneers went with three wide receivers and one back. Rob Ryan countered with his nickel package to match. Orlando Scandrick was in the slot to the left which is to Freeman's right. Scandrick bluffed presnap like he was going to blitz, then walked back into coverage on Preston Parker. At the snap, safety Elam sprinted forward to cover Parker. Terence Newman, Elam and Gerald Sensabaugh were locked up against two Buccaneers receivers.

In the pocket, Victor Butler dropped into the flat, Keith Brooking came hard on the blitz, scraping off the left shoulder of Marcus Spears. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood tried to adjust to Scandrick off the edge but was unable to. Freeman pulled the ball down and tried to sprint to his left but was unable to get away from Scandrick on his back.

Scandrick and Brooking ran down Freeman, giving Scandrick his second sack of the season.

The third and final sack of the game for the Cowboys came with the Cowboys up 24. The Buccaneers had the ball on their own 25 with 6:32 left in the third quarter. The Buccaneers once again put three receivers in the game and flexed tight end Kellen Winslow out right. Ryan kept his base personnel on the field to match.

At the snap, Elam blitzed from safety with Brooking in coverage on Winslow. The coverage was man with a free safety in the middle of the field -- all receivers accounted for.

In the pocket, Spears and Spencer ran a twist stunt on the same side as the blitzing Elam. Lee blitzed as well and knocked down. Victor Butler adjusted from rushing from the outside to replace Lee in the middle of the defense. Lissemore outworked Penn to the inside as Freeman tried to look down the field. Lissemore ran straight into Freeman and brought him to the ground for his second sack in the last three weeks.

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