Dallas Cowboys: Kendial Lawrence

Cowboys preview: Make-or-break stretch

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
The end of the season has not been kind to the Dallas Cowboys in recent years. It's not been just a Jason Garrett problem, but the Cowboys lost three of their last four in 2013, their final two in 2012 and four of their last five in 2011 to finish 8-8 all three years. This year's late-season schedule is difficult -- five of the last seven away from home -- but the pivotal stretch will be early in the year to make sure the end of the year is relevant. Six of the Cowboys' first nine games are at AT&T Stadium, which has not provided the greatest of home-field advantages since opening. The Cowboys have a three-game homestand from Oct. 19-Nov. 2 against three NFC teams that they almost have to sweep to stay in contention in the division or help in the wild-card standings.

Complete Cowboys season preview.

A look at Cowboys possible cuts

August, 25, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- By Tuesday, the Dallas Cowboys will have to make 13 roster moves to get to the 75-player limit.

While some teams will make the moves before the deadline, the sense is the Cowboys will not be announcing their cuts on Sunday, so we’ll take some educated (stop laughing) guesses.

The only lock is that defensive end Tyrone Crawford will be moved to injured reserve as he recovers from a torn Achilles. He was hurt in the first training camp practice but if the Cowboys had put him on IR before the cut to 75, they would have had to expose him to waivers, and he would have been claimed. This move keeps Crawford with the team.

With the starters not playing, with perhaps some exceptions, you have to keep numbers at certain spots over others. Running back Kendial Lawrence might not make the team, but if he is cut, then Dallas has two backs ready for Thursday in Phillip Tanner and Joseph Randle because of Lance Dunbar’s foot injury.

Another question is at quarterback. Do the Cowboys keep Nick Stephens and play him versus Houston on Thursday and sit Alex Tanney? As we look at the 12 remaining moves, we’ll go with the idea that Stephens will be around.

Possible cuts:

Wide receiver: Anthony Amos, Eric Rogers, Jared Green. If Cole Beasley is healthy, then the Cowboys would have six receivers to play against the Texans. That’s enough to get through the game. If Beasley isn’t healthy, then Rogers could be kept. Rogers and Green could be brought back to the practice squad after the final cuts on Aug. 31.

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Good sign: No negative runs vs. Miami

August, 7, 2013
OXNARD, Calif. -- As pleased as the Cowboys were with their ability to run the ball in Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game against Miami, it was the number zero that caught Jason Garrett’s attention most.

Of the Cowboys’ 33 rushes, not including a final kneel-down against the Dolphins, none went for a loss.

Last year, almost 12 percent of the Cowboys’ non-kneel-down plays went for negative yards (40 of 341 attempts). That percentage was ninth-worst in the league. Arizona had the worst percentage, 15.2.

“Besides not a very good yards-per-attempt in the running game, we had so many negative runs (last year),” Garrett said. “It’s just hard. You’re playing from behind the sticks all the time and you can’t establish what you want to establish: breaking the huddle we can do both and you have to defend both.”

The Cowboys were able to establish the run against Miami whether Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner, Joseph Randle or Kendial Lawrence was running the ball. On Friday at Oakland, DeMarco Murray will get a chance.

Run-happy Cowboys pound away

August, 4, 2013
CANTON, Ohio -- At the opening training camp news conference, coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys need to run the ball more and need to run the ball better in 2013.

In Sunday’s 24-20 win against Miami, the Cowboys got the more (34 carries) and the better (170 yards).

Joseph Randle led the Cowboys with 70 yards on 13 carries. Phillip Tanner had 59 yards on 10 carries, including a touchdown. Lance Dunbar had 22 yards on four carries to start the game. Kendial Lawrence had a 5-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.

“I thought it was a good start running the football,” Garrett said. “We ran it well. We ran it a few different ways. We ran it inside. We ran on the edge. I thought the backs ran hard.”

The Cowboys had only one game last season with more than 34 carries (42 at Baltimore). They had five games with 17 or fewer runs last season. They ran it 17 times in the first half Sunday.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Tanner said. “We’ve still got a long ways to go. We’ll go watch the film, capsulize what we did well, and look at what we did wrong and fix that. But this felt like a solid foundation.”

Cowboys position series: Running backs

June, 24, 2013
The second in ESPNDallas.com’s 10-part position series.

Roster locks: DeMarco Murray, Joseph Randle

On the bubble: Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner, Kendial Lawrence

Long shots: None

Galloway & Company's Glenn "Stretch" Smith is excited about the Cowboys running game.

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What’s new? The Cowboys bid farewell to first-round bust Felix Jones while continuing to insist that he wasn’t a bad pick. Yet they believe they made an upgrade at the No. 2 back by selecting Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle in the fifth round.

The Cowboys had a third-round grade on Randle, whose size (6-foot, 198 pounds), slashing style and versatility reminds them a lot of Murray.

Think that comparison is too optimistic? Check out their numbers while playing for Big 12 rivals.

Murray in four seasons at Oklahoma: 3,685 yards (4.9 per carry) and 50 TDs rushing; 157 catches for 1,571 yards and 10 TDs.

Randle in three seasons at Oklahoma State: 3,085 yards (5.5 per carry) and 40 TDs rushing; 108 catches for 917 yards and three TDs.

Unfortunately, Randle reminded the Cowboys of Murray for another reason during organized team activities and minicamp. He was sidelined by an injury, recovering from thumb surgery that he delayed so he could play in Oklahoma State’s bowl win.

That opened up more reps for the other rookie, Rockwall native Kendial Lawrence, an undrafted free agent who rushed for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns at Missouri last season. The shifty Lawrence has enough potential to be on the Cowboys’ payroll this season, whether it’s the 53-man roster or practice squad.

Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Dez Bryant, Tony Romo and the Cowboys' offensive line as training camp approaches.

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Camp competition: It’s hard to envision Dunbar losing the No. 3 job. He’s the quickest of the Cowboys’ backs and can help as a kick returner. Murray, among others, made a point of mentioning how much Dunbar had improved in his first NFL offseason.

Tanner is competing against Lawrence and players at other positions for a roster spot. Tanner, a Dallas Kimball product who made the team as an undrafted afterthought a couple of years ago, is unquestionably a Jason Garrett “right kind of guy.” He needs to be a special teams force and/or show better vision as a runner than he did last season to give himself job security.

2013 hope: Start with Murray staying healthy.

Murray’s guarantee that he’ll play 16 games is swell and all, but he made that made that statement while sitting out offseason workouts due to a hamstring injury. After durability questions caused him to drop to the third round, Murray has missed nine games in his first two NFL seasons.

If Randle is as good as the Cowboys’ scouts believe, his presence could help Murray stay fresh. The Cowboys wouldn’t need Murray to be a workhorse with Randle playing a third of the snaps.

We’ve all seen how good a healthy Murray can be when he has room to run. This is a back who racked up 601 yards on 72 carries during his first four games as the Cowboys’ feature back. It’s ridiculous to project those numbers over a full season, but it’s not a stretch to say that Murray has Pro Bowl potential with a clean bill of health and good blocking.

The Cowboys are counting on the Bedlam Backfield to be one of the NFC’s better one-two punches with Murray as the headliner. And don’t count out Dunbar making a handful of impact plays in a change-of-pace role that exhibits his dynamic explosiveness in carefully selected small doses.

Future forecast: The Cowboys should be set at running back for the next two seasons. They’ll have a decision to make on Murray when his rookie deal expires after 2014.

There are some in the organization who believe that only the special tailbacks should get significant second contracts in today’s NFL. Murray has two seasons to prove that he’s in that class.

Of course, Randle’s performance in those two seasons could also affect what the Cowboys are willing to offer Murray. If he has proven he’s ready to be the lead horse, perhaps the Cowboys draft another backup and move on.

One thing is for sure: This position shouldn’t be a priority next offseason.

Minicamp observations: Ben Bass' day

June, 13, 2013
IRVING, Texas – One offseason practice is left before the Cowboys break until training camp, but here is a review of what happened on Wednesday at Valley Ranch:

** Dez Bryant was featured in a blog post Wednesday afternoon, but the most dominant defensive player in the workout? How about DT Ben Bass? The second-year defensive lineman was all over the field, penetrating, getting to the quarterback for a sack, blowing up running plays and even forcing an interception. On the pick, Bass tipped a QB Kyle Orton pass into the air, which allowed DT Sean Lissemore to come down with the turnover. Later on the goal line he bulled G David Arkin back into RB DeMarco Murray that was a sign of his strength.

**Rookie WR Terrance Williams had an effective day. He came down with a jump ball over CB Brandon Carr in one on one drills. In seven-on-seven work he made a leaping grab over CB Sterling Moore for a touchdown, nicely getting his feet down for the score.

** Overall, however, the defense won the day. LB Sean Lee was able to stop TE Jason Witten short of a first down on a fourth-down play. Later S Barry Church stopped WR Cole Beasley short on a fourth-down play. The defense was able to blitz to force quicker throws short of the marker to end the drive.

** LB Cameron Sheffield had two sacks. Might be a guy to keep an eye on for a practice squad role depending on what he does in camp.

** Rookie LB DeVonte Holloman made an athletic pick of a Nick Stephens throw in the end zone that as to Beasley. Holloman dropped nicely into his zone and was able to leap and make the catch with two hands. He took the ball out of the end zone instead of taking the touchback, but the coaches urged him to go score so maybe he did the right thing.

** Rookie S J.J. Wilcox is around the ball a lot. He dropped an interception in red-zone work but was able to break up a pass later in team-blitz drill.

** Counted four drops by the offense: one each by James Hanna, Anthony Amos, Murray and Dwayne Harris.

** LB Brandon Magee did a nice job on back-to-back run plays stopping Kendial Lawrence. On the first one he was able to square up the ball carrier to make the tackle and on the second he was able to shrug off a blocker to get to Lawrence.

Minicamp observations: B.W. Webb shines

June, 12, 2013
IRVING, Texas – With two more days of minicamp action still to come from Valley Ranch, let’s take a quick look at come observations from Day 1:

  • Since Morris Claiborne was out with a migraine, rookie CB B.W. Webb worked with the first-team nickel package. He came up with a sack and was able to stick with WR Anthony Armstrong on a go-route in seven-on-seven drills.

  • Nate Livings missed practice with a sore knee, so Ronald Leary took all of the left guard snaps with the first team. Don’t be surprised if Leary is in that mix with Livings early in training camp.

  • Practices are supposed to be noncontact, but LB Brandon Magee isn’t shying away from contact. The undrafted rookie knows he has to make an impression. He knocked down TE Andre Smith in an OTA practice and wiped out RB Kendial Lawrence near the sideline Tuesday.

  • WR Cole Beasley was beaten badly while blocking in the slot on a running play in which his defender made the tackle. That’s one of the cons of having the undersized Beasley on the field a lot.

  • LB Sean Lee was able to meet RB DeMarco Murray in the hole after C Travis Frederick was slow to get to the second level. But maybe it was less about Frederick being slow and more about Lee diagnosing the play quickly.

  • TE Jason Witten had another excellent practice, with his best catch coming down the middle of the field as he made space between safeties Matt Johnson and Barry Church by arcing his route some to give QB Kyle Orton more room.

  • CB Sterling Moore had good back-to-back plays, first breaking up a Nick Stephens throw to Eric Rogers and then intercepting a Stephens throw to Armstrong. In two-minute work, however, he tempted Dez Bryant close to the line and was beaten badly on a slant that eventually led to a winning field goal by Dan Bailey.

  • It was a good day for the interior defensive linemen in terms of getting pressure. Jay Ratliff participated in more team drills than he has this offseason and was difficult to block, as was Jason Hatcher. Even Sean Lissemore came up with a would-be sack.

  • Orton’s best throw came on a deep ball in seven-on-seven drills when he perfectly led Bryant, who got past Brandon Carr. But later Orton was off on an in-cut to Bryant and forced a throw into double coverage when Bryant was bracketed by Justin Durant and Orlando Scandrick.
  • Cowboys minus top two running backs

    May, 21, 2013
    PM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys began the three-week organized team activities period minus starting running back DeMarco Murray and projected No. 2 back, fifth-round pick Joseph Randle.

    Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the latest Tony Romo news and what he will be watching for in OTAs.

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    Murray missed Tuesday's session because of a tweaked hamstring and Randle was expected to miss the OTAs while he recovers from thumb surgery.

    Murray and Randle did some rehab work with the strength and conditioning staff.

    Coach Jason Garrett said Murray should return for the second week of OTAs.

    "A very conservative approach with all these guys, he has a little hamstring tweak," Garrett said about Murray. "It's been bothering him for the last week or so, we don't want to put any of those guys in a situation where they're going to take a backward step. You want them all out there going 100 miles per hour, but we got to understand it is May 21, this is OTA 1 and we have a long way to go."

    With Murray and Randle out, the Cowboys used Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner and Kendial Lawrence as the main running backs.

    Of course, one of the big stories this offseason has been Murray's durability (or lack thereof), which prompted the team to draft Randle. Murray missing the first OTA isn't a big deal, but it doesn't silence the discussion about his health issues.

    Cowboys get college free agency right

    May, 14, 2013
    PM ET
    IRVING, Texas – Felix Jones signing in Philadelphia is another sign of a flawed drafting approach used by the Cowboys, who have just one player remaining from the 2008 and ’09 drafts.

    Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what he took away from the Dallas Cowboys' rookie minicamp.

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    The Cowboys could be down to perhaps just two picks from the draft classes of 2007-09 (Anthony Spencer, Orlando Scandrick) should they choose to cut right tackle Doug Free if they cannot reach a deal on a renegotiated contract.

    But that’s old news.

    What the Cowboys do quite well is college free agency, so there is reason to believe players like linebackers Brandon Magee and Tank Reed, safety Jakar Hamilton or running back Kendial Lawrence could become contributors in 2013.

    Last year, 14 undrafted free agents were on the Cowboys’ 53-man roster at some point. Tony Romo and Miles Austin are the most mentioned, but the Cowboys have found starters in Barry Church and Phil Costa, a special teams stalwart in Danny McCray, one of the best kickers in the game in Dan Bailey and versatile players like Alex Albright, Kevin Kowalski and Lance Dunbar.

    Jerry Jones should analyze what the Cowboys do in undrafted free agency and attempt to fix what ails this team when it comes to the draft. Here’s a hint: pay attention to the scouting department.

    “We believe strongly in the college free agency process, and our personnel department does a great job not only evaluating the top players that get drafted, but also the rest of the guys,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We have so many guys on the team that come from the college free agency route, and so there are examples to us on the importance of it.

    "But also to guys that come to our team, one thing we talk about all the time is it doesn’t matter where you come from, you’re going to get a chance to show who you are and if you can contribute to our team.”

    J.J. Wilcox shows physical side

    May, 11, 2013
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    [+] EnlargeJ.J. Wilcox
    AP Photo/James D Smith"I like being physical," J.J. Wilcox said Saturday. It certainly showed on the second day of the Cowboys' rookie minicamp.
    IRVING, Texas -- J.J. Wilcox described himself as a physical safety even if he has played the position just one year at Georgia Southern. When he played running back, he thought of himself as physical.

    “That’s why my touchdowns were limited,” Wilcox said. “I wanted to be a bruiser, run guys over. I like being physical. There’s only one way I play it: the way I was taught.”

    Maybe it was no coincidence that Wilcox was involved in the biggest collision in Saturday’s morning practice. He sent running back Kendial Lawrence spinning after the two collided in what is supposed to be a noncontact practice.

    “They tell you to fly around,” Wilcox said. “They know it wasn’t on purpose. I’m a rookie, second day of camp. They figure, ‘Hey, he don’t know better.’ Next time [I] do it, I’ll probably get in trouble for it.”

    Day 1 Cowboys' rookie camp notes

    May, 11, 2013
    AM ET
    IRVING, Texas – With Day 2 of Cowboys’ rookie mini-camp set to begin, let’s look back with some observations from Day 1:

    ** Much was made of the slow 40-yard dash time of first-round pick Travis Frederick, but he moved well in the two practices Friday. He showed some good timing on leaving his initial block to get to the second level.

    **Graceful isn’t normally the best description for a football player, but that’s what Jerry Jones called Gavin Escobar’s ability to run routes. Escobar did not time fast either, but he just seems to have a knack for getting open. New tight ends coach Wes Phillips also mentioned Escobar’s catch radius as a plus. Escobar made a nice catch after a pass was tipped by LB DeVonte Holloman.

    **RB Kendial Lawrence will have a chance to make the roster. Hyperbole after a day of rookie camp? Maybe but he has a burst and a vision that could put him in the mix with Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner for the final running back spot. On the first play of team run he darted through the line and made a sharp jump-cut away from defenders.

    ** WR Jared Green will get some notice because he’s Darrell Green’s son, but he had a productive first day and his speed could make him a factor as camp goes on.

    ** CB B.W. Webb did a nice job of fending off WR Terrance Williams in one-on-one drills. Webb is pretty fluid in his movement and is thicker than he looks on film. Matched up the next play, Williams was able to get some separation for a deep throw from Nick Stephens by slowing down just a tad and extending late for the pass. It was a veteran move by the third-round pick and his best play of the day.

    ** Because the playcaller has been a big topic this offseason: it appeared that offensive coordinator Bill Callahan was calling them Friday with the quarterbacks going to him between plays, not Jason Garrett.

    ** S Jakar Hamilton did not make the best impression when he was apparently gassed about 30 minutes into the the first practice, but he came back with a nice play in the afternoon, covering a lot of ground on a Stephens’ deep ball to Green. He should have made the interception, but his speed was impressive in getting to the sideline from centerfield.

    ** Not to be an alarmist but shotgun snaps were an issue. D.J. Hall was replaced after sending one high and wide and was replaced by Frederick, whose snap was rolled back to the quarterback. There were a few quarterback-center exchange issues but none from under center with Frederick.

    Cowboys add 15 undrafted players

    April, 28, 2013
    PM ET
    IRVING, Texas – Over the years the Cowboys have excelled in landing undrafted free agents that make the 53-man roster, so it stands to reason a few of the 15 signings will make the club in 2013.

    Last year, Cole Beasley, Ronald Leary and Ben Bass spent time on the active roster.

    Here is the up-to-date list:

    LB Brandon Magee, Arizona State
    QB Dalton Williams, Akron
    S Jakar Hamilton, South Carolina State
    RB Kendial Lawrence, Missouri
    CB Devin Smith, Wisconsin
    CB Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
    LB Cameron Lawrence, Mississippi State
    WR Greg Herd, Eastern Washington
    FB Paul Freedman, Virginia
    LB Tank Reed, SMU
    DB Jeff Heath, Saginaw Valley State
    K Spencer Benton, Clemson
    WR Eric Rogers, Cal Lutheran
    CB Xavier Brewer, Clemson
    LB Deon Lacey, West Alabama

    Interesting to note the Cowboys did not sign an offensive lineman. Perhaps some could come in on a tryout basis for the May 10-12 rookie mini-camp. One tryout player, who is expected to sign is tight end B.J. Stewart from Cumberland.