Dallas Cowboys: Kai Forbath

Dallas Cowboys Preseason Live

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
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Welcome to Dallas Cowboys training camp! ESPN.com Cowboys reporters Todd Archer and Tim MacMahon have live updates and the latest news from Oxnard, California.

From the start, Dan Bailey has had it

January, 27, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys did not know what they had when they signed Dan Bailey as an undrafted free agent.

They did not know what they had in him with a week to go in the preseason, either. By that time the Cowboys had five kickers on the roster: David Buehler, who held the kicking job in 2010, Bailey, Shayne Graham, Kai Forbath, an undrafted free agent like Bailey but injured, and veteran Dave Rayner.

[+] EnlargeDan Bailey
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDan Bailey has made 88 of 98 field goal attempts in his three seasons.
The Cowboys missed three out of four field goal attempts in the final preseason game against the Miami Dolphins; one from Buehler and two from Rayner.

By not kicking that night, Bailey elevated himself.

About to enter his fourth season, the Cowboys rewarded Bailey last week with a seven-year, $22.5 million deal that makes him among the top 10 highest-paid kickers in the NFL. And for those believing the Cowboys made more of a mess of their salary cap with the signing, Bailey’s cap number in 2014 is less than what it would have been if they had given him the second-round tender as a restricted free agent.

“That was a huge advantage looking back at it now, to go up against guys like Shayne and they brought in Dave Rayner, guys that have been kicking in the league a while and been real successful,” Bailey said. “At the time, I was just trying to keep my head down and do my own things. I think it was invaluable to get that competition early on to nail down the job.”

It taught Bailey that every kick is a new chance. A previous make does not guarantee success. A previous miss does not guarantee failure.

Bailey has made 89 of 98 field goal attempts in his career. He has missed just two kicks in each of the last two seasons. The pressure of winning the job out of a lockout as an undrafted rookie helped prepare Bailey for end-of-game moments. His eight game-winning kicks in three seasons are a franchise record.

“I don’t think it changes too much,” Bailey said of any added pressure because of the contract. “You’re only as good as your last kick. That’s the nature of the league. You have to bring your ‘A’ game every day to practice, to the game, even off the field. You’ve got to do the right things. I don’t think it’ll have too much of an impact. I think I take pride on being mentally strong enough to put that on the back burner and focus on the task at hand.”

Bailey’s leg strength was a question when he arrived, but he had a career-high 52 touchbacks in 2013 after just 54 in his first two seasons. He also made 6 of 7 attempts from 50 yards or more after making only 5 of 9 tries in his first two years from 50 yards or more.

“A lot of it had to do with just improving my leg strength and explosiveness, that stuff I did in the offseason, but just as much as that it was just a mentality,” Bailey said. “We practice a lot of those in camp and in practice and even in the offseason. Just getting back there and kicking long field goals, it was creating more of a comfort level for myself to know those kicks do come up in games.”

For the first time in his career, Bailey will not have Chris Boniol as a kicking coach. Boniol and the Cowboys agreed to part ways in the offseason, leaving Bailey and punter Chris Jones to improve without the watchful eye of an NFL veteran.

“He was a great asset to have,” Bailey said. “He was a guy I looked up to because he’d been literally in the same shoes I’ve been in.”

Upon Further Review: Cowboys Week 6

October, 14, 2013
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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.
IRVING, Texas – On the list of concerns entering the 2013 season for the Cowboys, Dan Bailey would rank at the bottom.

In two seasons he has made 61 of 68 field goal attempts with a number of clutch kicks to either win or tie games late in the fourth quarter or overtime.

In the offseason work open to the media, Bailey missed one kick against narrow goal posts that would have been good with the normal width between the posts.

As Bailey gets ready for his third season, he continues to search for the perfect swing, the way a golfer would. The core of his technique remains the same, but he is looking at different ways to attack the ball.

“You’re just trying to fine tune or tweak this or that,” Bailey said. “Just a half step here or there, a little different angle into the ball. But at the same time, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

At one point in Bailey’s rookie training camp, the Cowboys had four kickers on the active roster - David Buehler, Dave Rayner, Shayne Graham and Bailey – and one hurt (Kai Forbath).

Now Bailey is the only kicker on the roster.

“What helped me mentally in that area was my first year here and it was like every man for himself, so you just had to go,” Bailey said. “It was, ‘Here’s your opportunity and this is what you need to do.’ I think that helped me a lot now where I just try to focus on myself.”

Dan Bailey not worried about the cold

December, 29, 2012
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IRVING, Texas – Colder temperatures are expected for Sunday's regular-season finale at FedEx Field, but Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey isn't too concerned.

Bailey has not kicked in cold weather much, but the conditions during the week at Valley Ranch should help him heading to what is expected to be a messy track Sunday.

“They’ll probably have more grass on the field, but as far as how sold the ground is or how soft the ground will be, I think it’ll be pretty similar,” Bailey said. “I’ve heard of guys going out with a water hose (at practice) and messing it up, but I’ve never done anything like that.”

Colder temperatures mean the ball will not travel as far on field-goal attempts or kickoffs, which could lead to some different decision-making by the coaching staffs.

“It’s going to be cold, but it’s going to be cold for everybody,” Bailey said.

If it comes down to the kicking game, then the Cowboys will have a good feel for the Redskins’ Kai Forbath. He was with the Cowboys last year but could never get right because of a quadriceps injury. The Cowboys released him in April and he joined the Redskins this year after another former Cowboy, Billy Cundiff, struggled.

Forbath is 17-of-17 on field-goal attempts this year, including 11-of-11 from 40-49 yards. Bailey has made 28-of-30 attempts, including 13 in a row.

NFC East wrap: The year of RG III

December, 29, 2012
12/29/12
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» NFC Season Wraps: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Five things to know and my 2012 all-division team:

Division MVP: Interesting word, "value." The Washington Redskins decided that fixing their problem at quarterback by drafting Robert Griffin III was worth three first-round picks and a second-round pick. That's the "value" they assigned to Griffin as their short-term and long-term solution at the game's most critical position -- willingly not having another first-round pick until 2015. The first-year result is the current six-game winning streak that has delivered the Redskins' first winning season since 2007 and a shot Sunday night at their first division title since 1999.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jonathan Newton/Getty ImagesThe Redskins paid a steep price to acquire Robert Griffin III, but the move has paid off handsomely.
A number of things have gone right to help the Redskins to this point, but at the center of it all has been Griffin, who has delivered big plays with his arm and his legs, has thrown just five interceptions and piloted a Redskins offense that has the most rushing yards and the fewest turnovers in the league through 16 weeks. In their wildest dreams, the Redskins couldn't have imagined Griffin performing at this level in his first year, but the fact that he has is the biggest reason they're where they are at this point. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is having a big year, as are Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris. But the award is for the Most "Valuable" Player, and the upgrade Griffin has provided for the Redskins at the most important position on the field has a value that surpasses anything anyone else in the NFC East has provided this year.

Biggest disappointment: This one isn't hard. The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles were a disappointment. That word isn't strong enough to describe what the 2012 Eagles turned out to be. They went into training camp with Super Bowl expectations and a chip on their collective shoulder after last year's flop, and they out-flopped even themselves. There was promise in their 3-1 start, in spite of the turnovers and the fact that they were barely winning. The defense was playing well, Michael Vick was leading them from behind in the fourth quarter and it made some level of sense to believe that they would play better and start winning more comfortably.

Instead, it went the other way. The eight-game losing streak that followed that 3-1 start doomed the Eagles to a sub-.500 season, and the 11 losses they already have with one game to go ties the most Andy Reid has ever had as a head coach. (He lost 11 in his first season there.) Injuries were a huge part of this, as 10 of the Eagles' Week 1 starters on offense have had to miss at least one game and the offensive line hasn't been together all year. But the problems go much deeper, and center on a poorly constructed roster that failed to adequately address holes at positions such as safety and a dysfunctional coaching staff mismanaged by the man in charge. Reid appears certain to pay with his job for failing to make good on his mulligan, and big changes are around the corner in Philadelphia.

No defense: The NFC East hasn't had a repeat champion since the Eagles won it back-to-back in 2003-04, and it won't have one this year either. The New York Giants opened November with three more wins than any other team in the division, but their collapse following a 6-2 start has eliminated them from the division race with a week to go. The winner of Sunday night's game between the Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys will be division champs. If it's Dallas, it'll be the team's second title in four years and would be the second year in a row (and ever) that the division didn't produce at least one 10-win team. If it's Washington, it'll be its first division title in 13 years and would mean four different division champs in four years. This may not be the dominant, monster, "Beast" division it's been in some years past, but the intensity of the rivalries and the closeness of the quality of the four teams keep it the league's most competitive and entertaining year in and year out.

Each NFC East team had a turn in the spotlight this year. The Cowboys flashed greatness in their nationally televised victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Giants in the season opener. The Eagles got out to that 3-1 start. The Giants at one point stood 6-2, and their victories over San Francisco and Green Bay had folks talking about them as the best team in the league. The Redskins are on a six-game winning streak right now and one of the hottest stories in sports. Say what you will about this division or any of its teams, but you can't say it's not fun.

Better "corner" the market: Looking ahead to the 2013 offseason, expect each of the NFC East's teams to make the secondary a high priority. The Cowboys like their corners, and they may be OK at safety if Barry Church comes back healthy, but they'll probably lose Mike Jenkins to free agency and could look to maintain their depth back there. The Giants need to figure out whether this is just a bad year for Corey Webster or if he's a player in decline, and at safety there are questions about Kenny Phillips' long-term status with the team after his injury-plagued season. The Redskins need all kinds of help in the secondary, where Josh Wilson has been fairly consistent but not great at corner, DeAngelo Hall is clearly in decline and they're getting by with backups at safety. And the Eagles have to figure out whether to keep one, both or neither of their veteran cornerbacks and whether it's time to cut bait with safety Nate Allen.

This division includes the No. 21, No. 28 and No. 30 pass defenses in the NFL, and the only NFC East team in the top half in the league in that category (Philadelphia, No. 11) has major question marks at cornerback and especially safety. Once known for its fearsome pass rushes, the NFC East learned this year that you can't always count on even that to be consistent, and it's time for this division's teams to prioritize their last lines of defense.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
AP Photo/Tom UhlmanJason Garrett's Cowboys, winners of five of their past seven, can win the NFC East with a victory over the archrival Redskins on Sunday.
The men in charge: You can expect wholesale coaching staff changes in Philadelphia, of course. But what of the division's other three teams, at least one and likely two of which won't make the playoffs? Head coaches Tom Coughlin and Mike Shanahan are clearly safe in New York and Washington, and Jason Garrett appears safe as well in Dallas after a year in which he's admirably led the Cowboys through injury and off-field tragedy into another Week 17 division title game. But that doesn't mean there can't or won't be changes at the coordinator level.

Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan are both whispered about when head-coaching jobs come up, and the success of Griffin and the Redskins' offensive system could make Kyle Shanahan an especially hot candidate this offseason. Would he jump ship, or stay to see things through and possibly succeed his father down the road in D.C.? Redskins fans clamor for the head of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, and I guess you never know, but I think Haslett's got this Washington defense overachieving, and I've heard nothing to indicate that the team is dissatisfied with the job he's doing. As for the Giants' Kevin Gilbride and Perry Fewell ... Fewell's no longer the head-coaching candidate he used to be for some reason, so it's likely a matter of whether they want to keep those guys around. The Giants tend to value organizational stability, and Gilbride and Fewell were coaching in and winning a Super Bowl less than 11 months ago, so it's hard to imagine they're in trouble. But I think the Giants are surprised at the way the last couple of weeks have gone, and I doubt they've seriously considered yet whether changes on the staff are warranted or necessary.

ALL-DIVISION TEAM

We do this every week, so you're used to a lot of these names in a lot of these places. There are some close calls, including at quarterback, where the Cowboys' Romo is as hot as anyone in the league and has thrown just three interceptions in his past eight games after throwing 13 in his first seven. Romo is third in the league in passing yards, and his responsible play and leadership are central reasons for the Cowboys' second-half surge. And if he beats Griffin and Washington on Sunday night, you can make the argument that he deserves the spot. I think it's that close right now. But Griffin's had the more consistent season and, as detailed above, the more dramatic impact. So he holds the spot.

The only other very tough call is at fullback, where Darrel Young and the Giants' Henry Hynoski are both excellent and worthy. Hynoski, for me, has been the slightly better blocker, but the Giants' recent struggles have hurt his case and Young, who actually touches the ball every now and then, takes the spot away from him. ... Kicker is a good race, as all four have had good seasons. And yes, I know Kai Forbath hasn't missed, but he's kicked barely half as many as Dan Bailey has. ... Philadelphia's Brandon Graham has made a strong case at defensive end with his second-half play, but Jason Hatcher's been a rock all season as a 3-4 end for Dallas. ... Dez Bryant and Alfred Morris are no-brainers as the division's best wide receiver and running back. What kind of odds could you have got on that in early September?

All-NFC East Team: Week 15 update

December, 12, 2012
12/12/12
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For a while, the quarterback position on the All-NFC East team has looked like a boat race, with Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III the clear winner of the spot. But Griffin hurt his knee Sunday, and if he has to miss a few games, he could be caught. Both Tony Romo and Eli Manning are hot and have big numbers (though Griffin's remarkably small number in the interception category is a big part of his lead.)

The disclaimer that no one will read: This is an All-Division Team based on overall season performance to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply a list of the players who performed the best in this past week. That's why Nick Foles isn't on it.

Just a few changes this week -- one on the offensive line, a couple at kicker and punter and the rest in the secondary, where I admit I'm at a loss. More explanation after the list itself.

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (Last week: Griffin)

Running back: Alfred Morris, Redskins (Morris)

Wide receiver: Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys; Victor Cruz, New York Giants; (Bryant, Cruz)

Tight end: Jason Witten, Cowboys (Witten)

Fullback: Henry Hynoski, Giants (Hynoski)

Tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins; Will Beatty, Giants (Williams, Beatty)

Guard: Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles; Chris Chester, Redskins (Mathis, Chris Snee)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Hatcher, Cowboys (Pierre-Paul, Hatcher)

Defensive tackle: Barry Cofield, Redskins; Fletcher Cox, Eagles (Cofield, Cox)

Outside linebacker: DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Cowboys (Ware, Spencer)

Inside linebacker: DeMeco Ryans, Eagles; Perry Riley, Redskins (Ryans, Riley)

Cornerback: Prince Amukamara, Giants; Brandon Carr, Cowboys (Amukamara, Morris Claiborne)

Safety: Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Giants (Rolle, Kenny Phillips)

Kicker: Dan Bailey, Cowboys (Lawrence Tynes)

Punter: Sav Rocca, Redskins (Brian Moorman)

Kick returner: David Wilson, Giants (Wilson)

Punt returner: Dwayne Harris, Cowboys (Harris)
  • Did you know this division doesn't have one single cornerback ranked in Pro Football Focus' top 50 for the season? This is what I'm working with, folks. Their highest-ranked NFC East corners are Orlando Scandrick (52), Brandon Boykin (54) and Cedric Griffin (63). So you tell me. I gave Claiborne's spot to Carr this week because I think they're pretty close and Carr's had a couple of game-changing plays the last couple of weeks. But these spots could belong to guys like Josh Wilson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie just as easily. This is two years now, and no one in this division plays this position consistently well.
  • Safety's a problem, too, and with the best one in the division (Phillips) in and out due to injury, his spot goes to his real-life replacement, who has seven interceptions.
  • That second guard spot is a mishmash, with Chester, Snee, Nate Livings and Kevin Boothe all getting consideration. Snee has the track record, Chester's had the more consistent season. Slightly.
  • And no, Redskins fans, I'm not "ignoring" Darrel Young at fullback. For the millionth time, both Young and Hynoski are having excellent seasons. It's a tough call, every week. But Hynoski's on the field more, and while he doesn't catch or carry the ball once or twice a week like Young does, he's been the slightly better blocker. And that's the important part of their jobs. I'd love to see both guys go to the Pro Bowl. I can't put them both on this team, though. Maybe if one of them learned to play cornerback. There are spots open there.
  • Tynes is out at kicker. The only question was his replacement, and Bailey, Alex Henery and Kai Forbath all made good cases. I went with Bailey, who hasn't missed from inside 50 and has made more (2) from 50-plus than any of the others have. Forbath is perfect since joining the Redskins, and he's made some huge kicks, including this week and on Thanksgiving. But he's got 14 field goals to Bailey's 25 (and Tynes' 33 and Henery's 23). Didn't seem right. Henery is the best of the bunch on kickoffs, statistically. Good year for kickers in the NFC East.
  • Moorman's also out at punter after that debacle Sunday. Our old friend Rocca returns, though you know Steve Weatherford got a long look.
  • And yes, David Wilson's kick return for a touchdown would have won him the kick-returner spot for the rest of the season, but he already had it.

Your thoughts?

Fantasy fix: Start your Cowboys

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
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Because we all spend way too much time each week working on our fantasy teams anyway, here at the NFC East blog we like to take one post a week and focus it entirely on fantasy football. This is that post. It shows where our division's key players fall in this week's rankings by ESPN.com's fantasy football experts. Click on the position to see the full rankings for that position.

QUARTERBACKS

T5. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants (Mon.)

9. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

10. Eli Manning, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

I honestly think Romo's too low. The past two quarterbacks to play the Eagles have won NFC Offensive Player of the Week awards. Romo himself was 19-for-26 for 209 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles three weeks ago, but Philadelphia's pass defense has reached new depths since then. They're literally not covering anyone. On the flip side, neither Nick Foles nor Michael Vick is in this week's top 25. Vick looks to be out again with a concussion, and Foles isn't doing anything in his stead.

RUNNING BACKS

9. Alfred Morris, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)

13. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

14. Bryce Brown, Eagles at Dallas

T27. Felix Jones, Cowboys vs. Eagles

41. David Wilson, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

43. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys vs. Eagles

I picked up Wilson in a league in which I've already secured a playoff spot, but I didn't do it because I expect him to assume Andre Brown's touchdown-maker role. I did it because of the reasonable chance he's the Giants' starting running back in at least one of the next four games. If you're desperate, you could use him this week on the off chance he breaks a big one, but Bradshaw's likely to get those goal-line carries Brown was getting, as long as he stays healthy. Speaking of healthy, it appears Murray might play Sunday night, but that situation is murky enough that I might stay away from it and just play the Cowboys passing-game guys this week against Philly. Especially since you might not know Murray's status until after all of the early games are over.

WIDE RECEIVERS

8. Dez Bryant, Cowboys vs. Eagles

T9. Victor Cruz, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

11. Hakeem Nicks, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

24. Pierre Garcon, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)

28. Miles Austin, Cowboys vs. Eagles

39. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles at Dallas

46. Santana Moss, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)

Nicks and Cruz are every-week musts, and the matchup against the Redskins' pass defense is enticing. But man, those Redskins have a way of giving the Giants' passing offense fits. Other than the one big play that won the Giants the Week 7 game, Manning hasn't thrown a touchdown pass against Washington over the past two seasons. Austin's low ranking is health-related, I have to assume. Ed Werder has been reporting this week that Austin will play, and if he does I would start him. Garcon as a low WR2/high WR3 in 12-team leagues seems about right, especially with 10 days' rest.

TIGHT ENDS

3. Jason Witten, Cowboys vs. Eagles

12. Martellus Bennett, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

22. Brent Celek, Eagles at Dallas

25. Logan Paulsen, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)

Starting to feel redundant, but yeah, Witten. If I'm trying to make the fantasy playoffs and I can start a guy who's going to be running pass routes against the Eagles, I'm going to start him.

KICKERS

1. Lawrence Tynes, Giants at Washington (Mon.)

9. Dan Bailey, Cowboys vs. Eagles

T17. Kai Forbath, Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)

All of the division's kickers have been good, including unranked Alex Henery of Philadelphia. Tynes' team gives him the most chances, though.

TEAM DEFENSE

9. Cowboys vs. Eagles

16. Giants at Washington (Mon.)

24. Redskins vs. Giants (Mon.)

T27. Eagles at Dallas

Yeah, Cowboys are the only NFC East defense I'd start this week. But I'd feel pretty good about doing it.

All-NFC East Team: Week 13 update

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
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At this point in the season, there aren't too many week-to-week changes on the All-NFC East roster. By the time most of these guys have put 11 games on tape, there's not a lot that can happen in one particular week to effect major swings. However, there are some races that have been close, some players who have been playing better at certain positions and closing in on spots, and so you do see some tweaks on this week's team.

Giants safety Kenny Phillips, for instance, gets his spot back even though he couldn't finish Sunday night's game after missing the previous six with a knee injury. Phillips seems fine to go Monday night in Washington, and while Stevie Brown did a nice job in his absence, Phillips showed Sunday that he's a game-changing kind of player who has a positive effect on all three levels of the defense. He's outplayed Brown this year when he's been on the field, and now that he's back Perry Fewell and Tom Coughlin had no qualms about giving him his spot back. Neither did I.

Anyway, the disclaimer that no one ever reads: This is an All-Division Team based on overall season performance to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply a list of the players who performed the best in this past week. That's why Bryce Brown isn't on it.

Here is this week's team, which includes four changes, all on defense. After the team, I'll offer a few more thoughts.

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (Last week: Griffin)

Running back: Alfred Morris, Redskins (Morris)

Wide receiver: Victor Cruz, New York Giants; Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (Cruz, Bryant)

Tight end: Jason Witten, Cowboys (Witten)

Fullback: Henry Hynoski, Giants (Hynoski)

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)

Right* tackle: Will Beatty, Giants (Beatty)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Hatcher, Cowboys (Pierre-Paul, Hatcher)

Defensive tackle: Linval Joseph, Giants; Barry Cofield, Redskins (Joseph, Fletcher Cox)

Outside linebacker: DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Cowboys (Ware, Spencer)

Inside linebacker: DeMeco Ryans, Eagles; Perry Riley, Redskins (Ryans, Bruce Carter)

Cornerback: Prince Amukamara, Giants; Morris Claiborne, Cowboys (Amukamara, Josh Wilson)

Safety: Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, Giants (Rolle, Stevie Brown)

Kicker: Lawrence Tynes, Giants (Tynes)

Punter: Brian Moorman, Cowboys (Moorman)

Kick returner: David Wilson, Giants (Wilson)

Punt returner: Dwayne Harris, Cowboys (Harris)

Cofield's development as a nose tackle since signing in Washington prior to 2011 has been impressive, and his increased comfort level at the position is starting to show up as he's dominating up front. The Redskins' defense has played much better since its Week 10 bye, and Cofield has emerged as one of its anchors. Cox has played very well as a rookie in Philadelphia, and the change at the DT spot is more about Cofield playing better than it is about any drop-off in Cox's performance. It also has nothing to do with the fact that Cox left Monday night's game with an injury.

You know I haven't been able to feel good about the cornerback position on this team for two years now, since no one in the division has played it very well. But Wilson's had too many out-and-out bad games, and while he's covered well for the most part his mistakes can get too egregious. So I'm giving the spot to Dallas' exciting rookie, Claiborne, for this week in the hope that he doesn't do something Sunday night to make me look bad. He's had his mistakes too, don't get me wrong. I was there the day he kept getting called offside in Philadelphia. But again, the level of competition at cornerback in the NFC East isn't top-notch, and Claiborne has shown enough flashes of the ability that made him the No. 1 defensive player in this year's draft.

At inside linebacker, Riley was never far behind Carter, and with Carter getting hurt on Thanksgiving, Riley ascends to Sean Lee's former spot. London Fletcher's protégé looks like a long-term keeper in Washington.

For those who aren't regular readers: Yes, I know Beatty plays left tackle for the Giants. But in the absence of a worthy right tackle candidate this year, I've moved him to that side to recognize excellent seasons he and Williams are having as the division's top tackles. Plus, he has played one game there, so technically I'm in the clear.

And one more thing: I spent a lot of time looking at kicker, trying to see if the excellent seasons Dan Bailey and Alex Henery are having in Dallas and Philadelphia merited a change there. And yeah, I looked at Kai Forbath after that huge clutch kick he made for the Redskins on Thanksgiving. But Tynes has done nothing to deserve losing the spot, and he's kicked more field goals than any of them. It's a banner year for kickers in the NFC East, but Tynes is still having the best year of any of them.

As ever, I welcome your thoughts.

Dan Bailey ready for full kickoff duty, too

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
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IRVING, Texas -- Remember last year’s final cuts and how the Cowboys were picking among five kickers? Yep, five.

Shayne Graham, Dave Rayner, David Buehler, Dan Bailey and Kai Forbath were on hand, though Forbath was on the physically unable to perform list at the time. Graham got hurt. Rayner missed a kick. Buehler was too inconsistent.

Bailey won the job almost by default, then went on to have one of the best seasons in team history.

No such decision to be made this year. Bailey made all eight field goal attempts in the preseason and had three touchbacks on kickoffs. Eleven of his 17 kickoffs reached the end zone.

“It’s still an area I’m trying to improve upon,” Bailey said. “We’ve worked hard in the offseason to try to improve that. Hopefully this week I’ll get a little rest and be ready for the Giants.”

Bailey had 24 touchbacks on 67 kickoffs last year and the team eventually put Buehler, a kickoff specialist, on injured reserve with a hip injury.

“I worked hard this year to try to improve leg strength and explosiveness, stuff like that,” Bailey said. “It’s a little bit of (technique and power), but really more just strength and getting a good approach down.”

Cowboys claim Akwasi Owusu-Ansah

May, 8, 2012
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IRVING, Texas – Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is getting another chance with the Cowboys after the club claimed him off waivers from Jacksonville on Tuesday.

A fourth-round pick in 2010, Owusu-Ansah was cut by the Cowboys on Nov. 30, 2011, after playing in three games on special teams. He joined the Jaguars’ practice squad and was called up to the active roster for the final four games, starting twice. He finished with 14 tackles.

Owusu-Ansah was converted to safety after the Cowboys drafted him but his development was hurt by shoulder surgery coming out of Indiana (Pa.). He played in seven games as a rookie, working mostly as a returner, before an ankle injury ended his season. Last year, the Cowboys eventually moved him to wide receiver before his release last season.

He is expected to play either safety or cornerback in his return.

The team also claimed kicker Jake Rogers off waivers from Tampa Bay and released undrafted rookie safety Troy Woolfolk, leaving the roster at 88. With the release of David Buehler and Kai Forbath earlier in the offseason, the Cowboys had only one kicker, Dan Bailey, on the roster. Rogers, who left as the University of Cincinnati’s all-time leading scorer, can also punt. He also has spent time with New Orleans.

Cowboys release K Kai Forbath

April, 16, 2012
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The Kai Forbath era at Valley Ranch ended without the former UCLA kicker ever appearing in a game for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys announced Forbath's release Monday, leaving Dan Bailey as the only kicker on the roster.

Forbath had a quadriceps injury when the Cowboys signed him on Aug. 2. He spent the season on the non-football injury list.

Forbath's release is an indication that the Cowboys, who released kickoff specialist David Buehler last month, are committed to letting Bailey handle kickoffs as well as placekicking duties. Bailey, who was 32 of 37 on field goals after winning a multi-kicker competition in the preseason, kicked off in 12 of 16 games last season. Bailey had touchbacks on 24 of his 67 kickoffs, a percentage of 35.8 percent that was below the league average (43.5).

Kai Forbath to remain on reserve/NFI

November, 29, 2011
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IRVING, Texas -- The window for Kai Forbath possibly kicking for the Cowboys this year officially closed today even if it never really was open.

The Cowboys will keep Forbath on the reserve/non-football injury list for the season after his 21-day practice window expired today. The Cowboys signed Forbath in training camp despite a quadriceps injury that prevented him from kicking through the summer and early in the regular season.

Forbath, who will continue to rehab and is signed for 2012, was the 2009 Lou Groza Award winner as a junior but dipped as a senior, making 13 of 18 attempts.

Forbath was the Cowboys’ top choice as an undrafted kicker once the lockout ended, but the quadriceps injury led the Cowboys to Dan Bailey. All Bailey has done this year is make 27 of 28 field goal tries, including 26 in a row, which is one shy of tying the team record.

What the Buehler move could mean

November, 10, 2011
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IRVING, Texas -- Some fans and media members who follow the Cowboys scratch their heads about David Buehler's status with the team. Why is he here?

On Thursday, Buehler was placed on IR, having re-injured his groin in practice on Wednesday. It's interesting to note Buehler wasn't on the injury report released Wednesday. We think his injury happened toward the end of practice and the Cowboys didn't have enough medical information to inform the league about Buehler's injury.

Also, Buehler was moving a tackling dummy when reporters came out to the practice field on Thursday morning. Not saying you can't move a tackling dummy with a hurt groin, but just saying.

With Buehler off the roster for the remainder of the year, the Cowboys returned guard/tackle Daniel Loper to the active roster. But don't expect Loper to be here long.

The Cowboys are short a wide receiver with Miles Austin nicked up for 2-to-4 weeks with a right hamstring strain. Dwayne Harris, a rookie, has been back and forth on the active roster and currently is on the practice squad.

The return game is a mess and Harris could return to his role as the kick/punt returner alongside Kevin Ogletree.

So Harris might get the call from the practice squad before the weekend is out, with Loper getting cut.

Buehler's injury cleared up a log jam for now.

The other interesting thing about Buehler's health is that it moves kicker Dan Bailey back to the kickoff/field goal role. Yet, punter Chris Jones was attempting some kickoffs in practice on Thursday. Kai Forbath, currently on the reserve/non football injury list, also kicked off in practice on Thursday.

The Cowboys have 21 days to get Forbath some practice work before doing something with him. Forbath can practice with the team without losing his status until Nov. 29, then the Cowboys have to make a move.

It will be interesting see what the Cowboys do with these decisions.

Robert Calloway re-signed, kicker can practice

November, 8, 2011
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IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys re-signed defensive tackle Robert Calloway to their practice squad Tuesday, filling the spot created when punter Chris Jones was called up to the active roster.

The Cowboys also cleared kicker Kai Forbath for practice after he opened training camp on the non-football injury list with a quadriceps injury. Forbath was signed Aug. 2 but has not kicked with the team. The Cowboys will have three weeks to activate him to the 53-man roster, release him or put him on injured reserve.

With two kickers on the roster already in Dan Bailey and David Buehler, it is difficult to see him added to the active roster.

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