Dallas Cowboys: Kevin Ogletree

Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 2

June, 21, 2014
Jun 21
12:00
PM ET
Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it, we discuss:
If you want to see Part 1 of the mailbag, click here. And this will be our last Twitter mailbag for a few weeks thanks to some vacation.

Away we go:
@toddarcher: Since Romo is such a golf guy, let's use a golf analogy: he's on the back nine. I don't know how anybody could think otherwise. He is 34. He is coming off two back surgeries. He is in his eighth year as a full-time starter. Just because he is on the back nine doesn't mean he can't play at a high level. I know the odds are stacked and thirty-something quarterbacks haven't won a lot of Super Bowls here lately, but I'd take my chances he's on Holes 12 and 13, if you will. He still has football in him, provided he can stay upright. I do think Romo is smart enough to adapt his game as he gets older. If you allow me to carry on with other sports analogies, here's another one: fastball pitchers can develop into multipitch guys over the years. Romo has done a lot on his own with some improvisation and ability to buy time. I don't think you'll see him run around as much as he did when he was younger. I think you'll see him pick and choose his spots. I believe he did some of that last year, which is one of the reasons his sack total was so high. He was willing to take the sack -- not necessarily the big hit mind you -- and move on to the next play rather than take a risk of a hit or a poor throw. @toddarcher: Conventional wisdom says DeMarco Murray because when he gets 20 carries in a game, the Cowboys win. I hate that stat. If it really means what it says it means, then Murray should get the ball on the first 20 plays of every game. We all know it doesn't work that way. But I'm also of the opinion that the running back position has been devalued. I think the Cowboys could get by without Murray. Would they be as good? No, but they would not be lost. To me, if they lost Jason Witten, then they would be in trouble. Witten has been a mainstay. He does everything. The passing game has missed receivers over the years, but Romo has been able to throw for more than 300 yards in game whether he has Kevin Ogletree, Laurent Robinson or Dwayne Harris playing big roles. Without Witten, I don't know that that would continue. And in the running game, Witten can set the edge. He's not a blow-them-up blocker, but he can displace defensive ends and linebackers to allow backs to pick holes. On defense, I really didn't have a candidate, but if I did, I'd probably go with Barry Church. I don't know what they would do at safety without him. The defense would take a different look, for sure. @toddarcher: If you're talking left defensive end, then sure. If you're looking for a pure right defensive end, then no. But he has position flexibility. He can move inside if necessary as well. The left side has to be a stronger player at the point of attack. He is that type of guy and he has some good pass rush to him, but not to the point where you can say he would be a DeMarcus Ware type. He can be a Greg Ellis type. If he does not play well, then the Cowboys' defensive line will struggle. They need him to have a good year. I think the expectations have been raised on the kid from comments by guys like Jason Hatcher and Tony Romo. People need to remember he didn't have a sack in 2012 and he missed last year. There will be some growing pains, but the potential is definitely there. @toddarcher: He has done a better job. He appears to be playing more confident. Now, does that mean he is a shutdown corner worth the No. 6 pick in the draft? I don't want to go that far from watching football in helmets and jerseys in the spring, but it sure beats the alternative. He is as healthy as he has been, which plays a part into the confidence. He's not thinking about injuries out there. His comments at the end of the minicamp were encouraging. He was going to take a few days off here and there between now and training camp but he planned on staying on the grind. That's good news. He knows how important this year is to him. The Cowboys need him as much as anybody else on defense to be successful. As I said, I like what I've seen but I still think Orlando Scandrick will be the starter Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers. To win that job from Scandrick he will have to knock out the champ, if you know what I mean. @toddarcher: Yes, there is. If you want to take a look at the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, look at Article 4, Section 9. It's about forfeiture. If I had to bet when Kyle Orton shows up at training camp it would be either July 27 or July 28. Once he misses six practices, the Cowboys can come after the prorated amount of signing bonus in 2014. So in addition to the fines he induced in the offseason -- $69,455 for missing the minicamp, $10,930 for missing the physical -- and the $75,000 de-escalator in his contract for missing too many workouts, Orton would be fined $30,000 for missing camp. So let's say he misses a week, costing him $150,000. You're looking at about $300,000 in fines, de-escalators, which brings his base salary to just under $3 million. I think for 17 regular-season weeks and a month of preseason, Orton would be OK to make that kind of money and then walk away from the game. It will be interesting to see how this goes when the Cowboys get to camp. They have remained patient, to say the least, while Orton has been silent. 

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 1

May, 23, 2014
May 23
10:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
  • When Dez Bryant might sign an extension.
  • Lance Dunbar’s roster spot with the addition of Ryan Williams.
  • The team’s best free-agent pickup
  • The state of the defensive line.
  • The best of the undrafted receivers.

Look for Part 2 of the mailbag on Saturday.

Away we go:
IRVING, Texas -- Two veteran wide receivers went off the market Monday when Nate Burleson and Jason Avant signed with the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers, respectively.

Both were linked to the Dallas Cowboys by the media (hello, that's me), but sources indicated the Cowboys had some interest in Burleson, who played for their new passing game coordinator, Scott Linehan, with the Detroit Lions. The Cowboys just were not willing to pull the trigger on a deal now, continuing their patient approach in free agency.

Could it mean the Cowboys are as content at wide receiver as owner and general manager Jerry Jones has said?

[+] EnlargeTerrance Williams
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsTerrance Williams, a 2013 pick, started as the No. 3 receiver and also showed he could handle the No. 2 role. Is Dallas hoping for a repeat in the 2014 draft?
With Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, the Cowboys are set at the top two spots. Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley would settle in as the No. 3 receiver, splitting the job depending on role. Harris has more big-play ability. Beasley is better in the quick-game routes.

I've long said the Cowboys do not need a true No. 3 receiver over the years because they have tight end Jason Witten, and the running backs have always figured prominently in the passing game.

The best performance by a No. 3 receiver for the Cowboys in the past five years has been Laurent Robinson, who caught 54 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011. But mostly the Cowboys need their third receiver to catch anywhere from 30 to 40 passes a season. Kevin Ogletree did that in 2012 with 32. Technically Roy Williams might not have been the No. 3 receiver in 2010, but he caught 37 passes. In 2009, Patrick Crayton caught 37 passes for 622 yards and 5 touchdowns.

So you’re looking for a No. 3 receiver to catch two or three passes a game when you look at the options available in how the Cowboys have constructed their offense.

But what if Bryant or Williams gets hurt? And there will be injuries. Can Harris be a No. 2 receiver and excel outside? Maybe for a few games. Beasley is just a slot receiver because of his size. That is why I thought Avant or Burleson would have been good fits. Other options remain, such as Earl Bennett and even Miles Austin, but that would be a long shot.

However, if the Cowboys were not willing to make a play for a free agent Monday, they're not going to get into the market Tuesday.

Last week, I wondered whether Gavin Escobar could be an option as the third receiver. The Cowboys like his athleticism and saw in glimpses his ability to make plays. His touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in the season finale was an eye-opener. With the way the tight ends are used these days, Escobar has more receiver skills to him than tight end skills. He needs to get bigger and stronger to be an on-the-line tight end, but that part of his game will never be his strength. His strength will be working the seams and his ability to go get the ball.

But here is a thought: This is considered one of the deeper drafts in memory for wide receivers. Could the Cowboys be looking for their No. 3 receiver, who could be the No. 2 receiver, in the early to middle rounds of the draft?

Williams, a third-rounder last year, caught 44 passes for 736 yards and 5 touchdowns and showed he could handle the No. 2 role when Austin missed games with a hamstring injury. Williams' development played a part in the release of Austin.

If a Mike Evans fell, or if a Marqise Lee is there in the first round, could they be targets? It sure seems as if the draft is the Cowboys' preferred method to find their No. 3 receiver.

Double Coverage: Cowboys at Lions

October, 24, 2013
10/24/13
12:00
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Tony Romo and Matthew StaffordGetty ImagesBoth Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford have seen needed improvements in certain aspects of their games this season.

It is a matchup between two potential playoff teams and two of the best wide receivers in the game, Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant.

But the Dallas-Detroit matchup Sunday has other twists, too. For the Lions, Sunday is a chance to grab back some momentum from a strong start to the season. For the Cowboys, it could be a chance to widen their lead on their NFC East opponents.

Dallas NFL Nation reporter Todd Archer and Detroit NFL Nation reporter Michael Rothstein break down what you might see Sunday afternoon.

Rothstein: Let's start here -- last week in Detroit there was a lot of discussion of A.J. Green and Johnson as two of the best receivers in the league. Now it is Bryant and Johnson this week. What is it that Bryant does that should really concern Detroit's cornerbacks, who let Green go for 155 yards Sunday?

Archer: Bryant can go get the ball. He is virtually impossible to defend in the red zone (and sometimes he'll push off too), but cornerbacks just don't have a chance on him. He's a better route runner now than he was last year and the Cowboys are using him on more varied routes. When he came into the league he would make the spectacular play but couldn't make the boring play consistently. Now he's doing both. But his No. 1 attribute is his physical style. He will fight for the ball and fight for yardage. He's special in that regard.

The Cowboys have had Brandon Carr follow Demaryius Thomas, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson the past three games. I'm sure they'll do the same with Calvin Johnson. When teams have matched up with Johnson like that, how has or hasn't it worked?

Rothstein: There haven't been too many teams that have single-covered Johnson -- at least not for extended periods of the game. The closest would have been against Arizona in Week 2, but the Cardinals have Patrick Peterson and Johnson had six catches for 116 yards and a touchdown against him. Really, the only thing that has slowed Johnson this season was a knee issue that kept him out of the loss to Green Bay and limited him against Cleveland a week later. Not surprisingly, Johnson still draws a ton of attention with a safety rolling to him over the top.

What that has done is opened up the offense underneath for Reggie Bush and, to an extent, Joique Bell. When both are healthy and playing well, the Lions have had a pretty strong offensive threat from deep threats to short bursts. How does Dallas plan on dealing with that, especially considering DeMarcus Ware's questionable status?

Archer: Running backs and tight ends have hurt the Cowboys in the passing game this year. The safeties have been only OK but are coming off a pretty good game at Philadelphia against LeSean McCoy, who's as shifty or more than Bush. The Cowboys had their best tackling game last season against the Eagles. Sean Lee and Bruce Carter have played better here lately and will be largely responsible for the backs, but safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox will be a presence too. Losing Ware would be a big blow to a defense that has to get pressure on Matthew Stafford. The Cowboys have been rolling in new guys pretty much every week across the defensive line, and added Marvin Austin this week to help at tackle.

Speaking about the defensive line allows me to talk about Rod Marinelli. He has been nothing but great here with those no-name guys, but what's the feeling of him up there considering that 0-16 season?

Rothstein: That was before my time -- I was still covering the Charlie Weis Notre Dame years when Marinelli was in Detroit -- but I can say I have not heard anything about that season in my short time here and most of the current team arrived in 2009 or later.

But the 0-16 season contributes to the typical angst the Lions fan base has over any success the team has -- as in waiting for the bottom to drop out. But most of this team is so new, there isn't much of that feeling. Plus, as injured receiver Nate Burleson said earlier this year, when you go to play in Detroit, you know there are going to be questions about losing streaks to be broken and demons to be exorcised.

Since we're chatting a little bit about defense, Tony Romo is being sacked on 6 percent of his attempts, so is Dallas' line doing a good job protecting him or are these more coverage sacks? What's going on with the protections?

Archer: The line has improved a lot from recent years, especially in pass protection. They revamped their interior line with Travis Frederick, their first-round pick at center, Ronald Leary at left guard and Brian Waters, who did not play last season, at right guard. Tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free are performing better than they did a year ago. Romo has taken a number of coverage sacks this year, and he's also elusive for a guy who does not appear to be the most athletic. He has terrific vision and a quick release that can bail him out of trouble. As strange as it sounds, I think Romo also has seen the value of taking a sack and not forcing a throw.

Let's stick with the quarterback play. Stafford is a Dallas kid, so we know his background. He likes to throw it around, but like Romo, his interceptions are down. Is he just being more careful with the ball or has the attack changed a little?

Rothstein: Having Reggie Bush in the offense has allowed Stafford to throw the ball shorter more often and as an old coach I used to cover once said, "Short passes are happy passes." They are also more likely to be completed passes. Here's something to consider with Stafford as well. His numbers could be much better, but his receivers have dropped 6.9 percent of his passes. Hold on to even half those and he's completing around 65 percent of his passes this season. He also has gotten much better at throwing the ball away instead of forcing passes. That's been a big change. There is an accuracy component to it as well, but he isn't taking nearly as many downfield chances.

Speaking of semi-homecomings, you mentioned Carr earlier. Does this game mean more to him because he is coming home as he grew up and played his college ball in Michigan? And second thing on that, has Dallas changed a lot from last season or can a guy like Kevin Ogletree help this week?

Archer: I'm sure it does but Carr will attempt to downplay it. He still carries that Grand Valley State/fifth-round pick chip on his shoulder even if the Cowboys gave him a $50 million deal last year as a free agent. He has done a terrific job here the past three weeks as we talked about earlier. Jason Garrett even went out of his way to praise Carr's work on special teams, so you can see the Flint in him hasn't left. As for the Ogletree angle, he had a hard enough time with the offense that I don't think he would help with the defense. The Cowboys have a completely different scheme from Rob Ryan's 3-4 to Monte Kiffin's 4-3. Ogletree will know some personnel, but the corners are playing a little different than they did a year ago so I don't think it will matter much.

I haven't asked about the Lions defense yet. Just by looking at the numbers they seem to be pretty good situationally: third down, red zone. Is that the wrong read here?

Rothstein: The defense is kind of a little bit of everywhere. Great in third down over the first month of the season -- not as much over the past three weeks. Perhaps a corollary here is the defensive line not getting quite as much pressure on opposing quarterbacks the past three weeks as it did during the first month of the season. Red zone defense has been pretty good. Overall, it is a decent Lions defense. DeAndre Levy is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season at linebacker and the defensive line and safeties have been good. Cornerback has been a bit up-and-down, though.

My final question to you sticks with this theme. We touched on the Dallas offensive line earlier, but how do the Cowboys deal with Ndamukong Suh? He is a guy who can change games on his own.

Archer: This is part of the reason why the Cowboys wanted Frederick, Waters and Leary. They're stout players. The Cowboys have not had much power in the middle and it has hurt the running game as well as pass protection. Suh, obviously, offers a different challenge. Waters has the strength necessary but he does not move like he did a few years ago. The Cowboys will give him some help but not all the time. And I think Romo can help out the line as well by getting rid of the ball quickly. The Cowboys only take a handful of downfield shots a game, relying mostly on underneath stuff to work their way down the field.

The Lions are 4-3 like the Cowboys and this is a huge game for both when you start thinking about December and playoff chases. You touched on this earlier, but is the town ready to get behind the Lions, especially because the Tigers aren't in the World Series and it's still early in the Red Wings' season?

Rothstein: I think there is some of that, for sure, and I think there is the hope among the fan base that this year’s Lions team is for real. But as I mentioned earlier, there is going to be that sense of dread -- which is why a win for Detroit on Sunday would really go a long way to bolster that fan base confidence. And probably to maintain the confidence in the locker room as well.

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Beat writers recap: The trade

April, 28, 2013
4/28/13
2:00
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IRVING, Texas -- We've got some final thoughts on the NFL draft in our beat writers recap.

PODCAST
Cowboys second-round draft pick Gavin Escobar joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss his strengths as a tight end, the stress of the draft process and the thrill of working with Jason Witten and Tony Romo.

Listen Listen
*The trade that shocked North Texas was prompted years ago when San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was then the head coach at Stanford. Harbaugh tried to recruit safety Eric Reid out of a Louisiana high school. But Reid's father wanted him to attend LSU which he eventually did. So when it came time for Harbaugh to get Reid again, the trade was set in motion the morning of the draft. What prompted the Cowboys to make the deal occurred when Kenny Vaccaro was taken by New Orleans at No. 15. The Cowboys liked guard Justin Pugh, but had a higher grade on center Travis Frederick. The Cowboys also liked defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, but he wasn't a fit in their 4-3 scheme because they wanted a better pass rusher. Reid was also available for the Cowboys, but Vaccaro had a higher grade. If Vaccaro was available the Cowboys would have taken him at No. 18. Instead, the Cowboys moved down to get a center with a second-round grade.

*The interesting thing about getting Baylor wide receiver Terrence Williams in the third round is how it impacts Dwayne Harris. Currently Harris is the No. 3 receiver and if Williams can emerge during the preseason maybe he gets more playing time. Harris became a reliable player late in the season and took over the No. 3 receiving duties from Kevin Ogletree. The Cowboys want competition at various spots and the receiver position will have that this summer. Cole Beasley, Danny Coale and Williams will put pressure on Harris to maintain his spot.

*Drafting linebacker J.J. Wilcox, cornerback B.W. Webb and outside linebacker DeVonte Holloman gives the Cowboys some prospective special teams candidates. It seems Wilcox is being groomed to become a special teams ace, held by safety Danny McCray, because of his tackling ability in college. Webb is a feisty player who isn't afraid to mix it up on man coverage and Holloman is a physical player as well.

*The Cowboys watched quarterbacks Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib and Tyler Wilson go in the fourth round before selecting Webb. The Cowboys bypassed Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. After the Cowboys selected Webb with the 114th pick of the fourth round, Pittsburgh selected Jones at No. 115. Several teams drafted quarterbacks in the middle rounds, starting with Philadelphia, which moved from No. 101 to No. 98 to get Barkley. Some in the Cowboys organization thought several quarterbacks, including Barkley would go higher in the draft, but there wasn't a belief the Cowboys needed one.

*After rushing for a team-high 897 yards in 2011, then averaging 4.1 yards per carry leading to 663 yards last season, there are concerns about starting running back DeMarco Murray. With good reason. He suffered a fractured ankle in 2011 costing him to miss the final few weeks of the season then he missed six games in 2012 with a sprained foot. The Cowboys were in the market for a running back and drafted Joseph Randle from Oklahoma State in the fifth round. It was noted by Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones that Randle isn't a special teams candidate but a legit No. 2 behind Murray and someone who can take over if he gets hurt again. The Cowboys view Lance Dunbar more of a change of pace back/special teams player than somebody who will can start. Drafting Randle has put Murray on notice he needs to stay healthy if not, his replacement is on the roster.

*Notes: The more you talk to people at Valley Ranch, the more you hear the expectations are high for DT Jay Ratliff now that he's healthy. ... Cowboys still don't have a blocking tight end or cleared up who will call the plays. ... I don't know about you but the Cowboys sure sounded defensive about their trade charts on Saturday. It was funny listening to Jerry Jones say trade charts are fluid. I can accept drafting Frederick, but you just want them to get a second-rounder over a third rounder.

Dwayne Harris taking over No. 3 WR role

April, 8, 2013
4/08/13
4:45
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Toward the end of the 2012 season, wide receiver Dwayne Harris moved up the depth chart and was taking valuable snaps from Kevin Ogletree.

When the Cowboys let Ogletree go in free agency -- he signed with Tampa Bay -- it moved Harris into the coveted role as No. 3 receiver behind Dez Bryant and Miles Austin.

"Dwayne did a really good job really growing throughout last season," coach Jason Garrett said recently. "(He's) a guy that we really liked coming out of the draft. We drafted him I think in the fifth or sixth round a couple years ago, and we saw him as a role player, a guy that we wanted to grow in that fifth receiver spot. Started to develop a role on special teams as a returner, was a guy who was always very steady with the ball in his hands as a returner, but then he showed us as the season wore on that he could make some game-changing plays as a returner. He got some more opportunities on offense and took advantage of those, and like a lot of guys he really has grown up over the course of his couple years in the league."

When the season ended, Harris had 17 catches for 222 yards and one touchdown. Harris' ability as a returner was more valuable. He averaged 16.1 yards a return on punts and became a stabilizing force after Bryant's issues in the return game.

The Cowboys have a young receiving corps for the second consecutive seasons. Not one receiver is over 30 -- Austin will be 29 in June -- and that bodes well for the future of this position. The Cowboys don't have to worry about upgrading it because of what Bryant and Austin have done in the past and because of Harris' potential.

"Sometimes guys come in and they want to be good but they don’t kind of know what they need to do on a daily basis to get better," Garrett said. "I think he’s understood that over the last couple years. He was on and off our roster for a little bit, if you remember, and I think a couple of those experiences helped in his response to say, 'Hey, I’ve got to bear down, I’ve got to start practicing better on a more consistent basis.' I think when he started doing that, he started getting better and really being able to tap into his potential."

Lack of cap space could be a positive

March, 15, 2013
3/15/13
5:09
PM ET
With the exception of Anthony Spencer, the Cowboys will not be able to retain any of their unrestricted free agents.

PODCAST
Calvin Watkins joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to talk about Martellus Bennett's progression since he left the Cowboys, the definition of a Tony Romo apologist and the Cowboys' salary cap situation.

Listen Listen
On Friday, wide receiver Kevin Ogletree signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Other free agents, including tight end John Phillips, running back Felix Jones and cornerback Mike Jenkins, have signed with or appear headed to other teams.

This is not a bad thing for the Cowboys. Those players were ineffective and dealt with injuries during their time with the team.

Yes, Jenkins was a Pro Bowler, but after he missed voluntary workouts in 2012 (while recovering from major shoulder surgery), he fell out of favor with team officials. Jones' health and his own inconsistencies have led to his apparent departure.

Phillips was an average tight end, who never seemed to regain his form after tearing his ACL. Phillips signed a contract with San Diego.

The Cowboys started the offseason more than $20 million over the salary cap. After restructuring contracts and releasing players, Dallas had just $175,000 in cap space when the new league year started Tuesday.

This might be a good thing because it allows Jerry Jones not to worry about making a splash in free agency and instead focus on building the team through the draft.
There is a positive in all of this: The Cowboys can finally start making moves, not in free agency, but the draft.

Kevin Ogletree signs with Buccaneers

March, 15, 2013
3/15/13
3:49
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Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree has signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Ogletree had 32 catches for 436 yards and four touchdowns last season but was inconsistent toward the end of the season and shared playing time as the No. 3 receiver with Dwayne Harris.

Ogletree's departure means Harris will most likely become the full-time No. 3 receiver going into training camp.

Free-agency series: Wide receivers

March, 10, 2013
3/10/13
11:30
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Ninth in a 10-part series breaking down the Cowboys' free-agency needs, position by position:

Wide receivers


SportsNation

Who will lead the Cowboys in receptions next season?

  •  
    2%
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    62%
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    36%
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    0%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,953)

Who’s on the roster: Anthony Armstrong, Miles Austin, Cole Beasley, Tim Benford, Dez Bryant, Danny Coale, Jared Green, Dwayne Harris and Carlton Mitchell.

Analysis: Bryant emerged last season as one of the top weapons on offense. It will be interesting to see how his relationship with new receivers coach Derek Dooley develops. Bryant had solid relationships with previous receivers coaches Ray Sherman and Jimmy Robinson. Austin continues to frustrate the Cowboys with his nagging leg injuries, but he's a force when healthy. Austin coming up with zero catches in both Washington Redskins games last season is puzzling and can't happen again against an NFC East rival. Harris gained more playing time late in the season when Kevin Ogletree dealt with injuries and inconsistent play. Beasley has a solid chance to become a slot receiver who makes plays.

NFL free agents of interest: Ogletree, Lee Evans and Kassim Osgood.

Need meter: 3. The Cowboys don't need a veteran receiver to stunt the growth of their younger players. If the team wants a veteran, maybe Ogletree returns and perhaps Osgood can be picked up and contribute on special teams. But with talented players like Bryant, Austin and Harris improving, there shouldn't be a big need at this position. But it wouldn't be a bad idea to draft a receiver as a safety net in case Harris doesn't develop as hoped or Austin's injury issues crop up again.

What's left of the Cowboys free agents

March, 3, 2013
3/03/13
10:00
AM ET
The Cowboys have knocked off two of their 18 free agents, with the signing of center Phil Costa to a two-year deal on Saturday and deep snapper L.P. Ladouceur signing a five-year contract on Friday.

PODCAST
Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys' fascination with their players, what it's like to be released late in your career, why Tony Romo isn't worth elite quarterback money and Doug Free's possible move to guard.

Listen Listen
Here's what's left of the Cowboys' free agents and the possibility of the team signing them:

Linebacker Victor Bulter. The team could bring him back as a possible candidate to play outside linebacker. He does make plays, but isn't consistent.

Cornerback Michael Coe. A late-season pickup who most likely won't return.

Defensive end Kenyon Coleman. An injury ended his season, but age, and the Cowboys' goals of using younger players at his position are more important than bringing him back.

Guard Derrick Dockery. He was a nice pickup in training camp, but the team will treat him like Coleman: find a younger player for his position.

Safety Eric Frampton. The unrestricted free agent did a nice job last season in spots and could return to add depth to the position.

Cornerback Mike Jenkins. It's doubtful he'll return. He felt disrespected by how the team treated him last season while he recovered from shoulder surgery.

Running back Felix Jones. Cowboys want durable players at this position and Jones hasn't been that.

Punter Brian Moorman. He was on the roster because of the knee injury to Chris Jones. Jones has recovered and Moorman will be elsewhere.

Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree. As the season progressed he lost playing time and might be with another team in 2013.

Safety Charlie Peprah. Cowboys should bring him back to add depth to the position. A physical presence.

Tight end John Phillips. It seems Phillips never took the next step in his development. Time to find another squad.

Linebacker Brady Poppinga. Batman won't be in Dallas/Fort Worth in 2013. He didn't make enough plays.

Linebacker Ernie Sims. Was a nice pickup in 2012, but Cowboys will go younger with the depth chart at linebacker.

Linebacker/Defensive end Anthony Spencer. The Cowboys have until Monday to franchise him and it appears doubtful they'll do it. Odds of him playing for somebody else, look better by the day.

Safety Danny McCray. He's a restricted free agent, so his return to get significant special teams snaps will continue.

Defensive end Brian Schaefering. Might be worth inviting back to training camp and seeing if he can push for a roster spot.

Cowboys free agents: Kevin Ogletree

February, 3, 2013
2/03/13
11:30
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[+] EnlargeKevin Ogletree
AP Photo/Julio CortezKevin Ogletree had a career game in the opener but didn't do much after that.

Kevin Ogletree


Position: Wide receiver

Type: Unrestricted

Summary: Ogletree posted career highs in catches (32), yards (436) and touchdowns (four), but he did himself no favors with some untimely misplays and was never able to come close to replicating his Week 1 performance vs. the New York Giants where he had eight catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. While his final numbers are in line with what a No. 3 receiver in this offense should put up, Ogletree became an easy target for what didn't happen on offense in 2012.

Why keep him: The Cowboys have invested four years in him and finally saw some fruit in their patience. He is talented, if enigmatic, and can play all three wide receiver roles.

Why let him go: The development of Dwayne Harris as the year went on makes Ogletree expendable. He does not contribute to special teams, so his usefulness is limited to a specific role.

PODCAST
Is there a payoff for investing hope and passion in the Cowboys, Rangers and Mavericks? Ben and Skin discuss.

Listen Listen
Best guess: Ogletree has a fan in Jason Garrett, but it's just time to move on for the betterment of both parties. He can get a fresh start as a reserve receiver somewhere else and the Cowboys can see what they have in their youngsters or look to the draft for a receiver, as well.

Follow the rest of the series here.

Key Plays, No. 5 Clock mismanagement

January, 13, 2013
1/13/13
11:30
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At some point this offseason, Jason Garrett will lean back in his favorite chair, close his eyes and ponder what might have been.

There were 2,035 plays in the Cowboys’ 2012 season, some are more memorable than others -- and it doesn’t matter whether they went in the Cowboys’ favor or against America’s Team.

What if Dez Bryant's pinkie hadn’t come down out of bounds against the New York Giants in the final minute? Or a Washington safety hadn’t knocked the ball out of Bryant’s arms, breaking up an apparent touchdown in the fourth quarter?

What if Eric Frampton had recovered New Orleans receiver Marques Colston's fumble instead of tight end Jimmy Graham?

That’s the story of the NFL every year.

A play here or there and the Cowboys would’ve made the playoffs. It’s the reason why Garrett is forever saying every play in every game matters.

“It allows you to argue your point to your players that it’s really, really close each and every week in this league,” Garrett said. “The importance of getting all of the details right and making sure you’re on point can make a difference in this ball game and here’s why.

“All these things that happened to us this year where plays went against us...If that play had been different we would’ve won that game. Or, similarly, plays that went for us that helped us win ballgames. There were a number of those too. It’s the nature of the NFL.”

Without further ado, let's continue the countdown:

Jason Garrett’s clock mismanagement


[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
AP Photo/James D SmithJason Garrett's clock management at the end of the Ravens game kept the Cowboys from having a much better chance to win.
Situation: First-and-10 from Baltimore 34
Score: Baltimore, 31-29
Time: :26 left in fourth quarter

Taylor's Take: The final sequence of this game was a joke after Andre Holmes recovered an onside kick, giving the Cowboys a chance for a miracle comeback. After a 1-yard completion to Dez Bryant with 22 seconds left, he argued briefly with the officials. Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree jogged leisurely back toward the line of scrimmage instead of sprinting. The Cowboys wasted so much time that Romo finally gave up trying to get off another play and called a timeout with six seconds left, setting up a 51-yard field goal that Dan Bailey missed.

Season Impact: The Cowboys rushed for 227 yards but figured out a way to lose the game. The time management gaffe kept Dallas from having a much better chance to win and raised questions about Garrett's ability manage the clock in crucial situations. The Cowboys played well enough to win but managed to find a creative way to lose, as usual.

John Garrett shouldn't be exempt

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
9:50
AM ET


Every assistant coach should be harshly and honestly evaluated after the Cowboys missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

That uncomfortable process is very much underway with the firings of running backs coach Skip Peete and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. It’s unfortunate for good men to lose their jobs, but that’s life in the NFL, and the firings can be easily justified from a football perspective.

Just wondering whether tight ends coach John Garrett gets an exemption.

The only reason the elder Garrett brother wouldn’t be in jeopardy of losing his job is the same reason he was hired in the first place: He happens to share bloodlines with the then-offensive coordinator/current head coach.

Please don’t point to Jason Witten’s record-breaking career as proof that John Garrett has done a good job. Witten was a three-time Pro Bowler when Garrett showed up at Valley Ranch. He doesn’t need a position coach to push him to be great. In fact, the example Witten sets is the best asset Garrett has.

Garrett should be judged by the development of young tight ends. That’s been a major failure during his six-season tenure.

Martellus Bennett didn’t develop one bit during his four-year tenure with the Cowboys, who didn’t spend a second-round pick on the dude just to be the equivalent of a third tackle despite what they want you to believe. In fact, Bennett regressed during his time under the tutelage of Mr. High and Tight, catching four touchdown passes as a rookie and failing to reach the end zone the rest of his time here.

But the Cowboys still missed Bennett after he left for the Giants, where he basically matched his four-year Dallas production in one season. Just look at the glaring differences in Dallas’ two-tight end packages the last two seasons.

In 2011, the two-tight end packages were a Jason Garrett favorite despite Bennett’s limited contributions as a pass catcher. The Cowboys drastically reduced how often they used two tight ends after his departure, when John Phillips filled Bennett’s role.

According to Stats Inc., the Cowboys ran 320 plays using two-tight end formations that season. Tony Romo was 59-of-89 passing for 729 yards (8.2 per attempt) and four touchdowns and was sacked six times. The Cowboys rushed 225 times for 935 yards, an average of 4.2 per pop, and two touchdowns.

The Cowboys ran 198 plays out of two-tight end packages in 2012. Romo was 51-of-74 passing for 556 yards (7.5 per attempt) and three touchdowns. The Cowboys’ average yards per carry in these packages plummeted to 2.7, gaining only 326 yards on 120 carries.

Phillips, a fourth-year player, caught only eight passes for 55 yards. Some questioned why rookie James Hanna (eight catches for 86 yards) didn’t get a bigger share of the snaps, wondering whether Garrett was showing favoritism to a player he coached at Virginia. (Kevin Ogletree, who kept getting No. 3 receiver reps despite being the fifth-best receiver on the roster, was also coached by Garrett at Virginia.)

Speaking of favoritism, Garrett’s three-year stint as Virginia’s receivers coach certainly shouldn’t have made him attractive to NFL teams. The Cavaliers’ passing offense ranked 91st, 57th and 102nd in the nation during those three seasons. Garrett added the assistant head coach title in his final season, when Virginia matched its worst record in a two-decade span.

Prior to his extended stay at Valley Ranch, Garrett had been an NFL position coach for consecutive seasons only once. That was as the quarterbacks coach for the Arizona Cardinals in 1999 and 2000. Jake Plummer, who looked like a promising young quarterback when he beat the Cowboys in the playoffs the season before Garrett’s arrival, threw for 22 touchdowns and 45 interceptions in their two seasons together.

It’s probably pure coincidence that Romo matched his career high and tied for the NFL lead with 19 interceptions this season with Garrett passing game coordinator, a promotion his little brother gave him in 2011. After all, it’s a meaningless title that didn’t add any significant responsibilities.

But that title, like John Garrett’s mere presence at Valley Ranch, is a reminder that nepotism runs rampant around those parts.

Quite a fall for Andre Holmes

January, 7, 2013
1/07/13
1:33
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – Among the two groups of futures signings the Cowboys have announced since the season ended one name is missing: wide receiver Andre Holmes.

Last year Holmes was anointed by owner and general manager Jerry Jones as a possible candidate for the No. 3 wide receiver job.

At 6-4, 223 pounds, Holmes had the build of a top-end wide receiver although he came from Hillsdale College. The Cowboys were hoping Holmes would grow the way Miles Austin did from Monmouth, but it never happened.

He failed the conditioning test in training camp and while he had a couple of moments in Oxnard, Calif., he never took advantage of the opportunity they way Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley did.

The Cowboys kept him in the active roster through Thanksgiving but he dressed for only seven games and caught two passes for 11 yards. He was inactive four times before he was cut and re-signed to the practice squad.

Since the season ended the Cowboys have signed receivers Anthony Armstrong, Jared Green, Carlton Mitchell, Tim Benford and Danny Coale. Holmes has not put pen to paper to return in 2013 and it doesn’t look like he will be back.

It’s quite a fall from 13 months ago.

Jason Garrett has 'great belief' in Tony Romo

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
6:30
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- As Tony Romo bears the brunt of another elimination game loss following his three-interception effort against Washington on Sunday, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett defended his starting quarterback.

“We have great belief of Tony Romo as our quarterback, Garrett said. “Tony has won a lot of big games for us, too, to get us to the point where we can play for the division in Week 17 in consecutive years. We all know that we want to take the next step and Tony is going to be a big part of that going forward. I think you have to understand the whole body of work. I think you have to understand that winning is how we get evaluated. He’s done a lot of great things for this franchise. We’re excited about him being our quarterback.”

Romo is signed through 2013 but will count $16.8 million against the salary cap. The Cowboys would like to sign him to an extension to lower that figure and help upgrade the roster around Romo. He put off contract talks at the beginning of the season.

Romo finished with a career-high 4,903 yards with 28 touchdown passes and a career-high tying 19 interceptions. He was sacked 36 times for the second straight year.

Garrett said Romo’s pass on the first interception sailed on him to Kevin Ogletree and the second one, a deep ball to Miles Austin, was too far inside. The third turnover, which effectively ended the Cowboys’ chances, was a result of not getting enough air on the ball to the flat to DeMarco Murray.

“So you can try and put a lot of different spins on it, but I think what you have to do more than anything else is simply try to analyze what happened on those three plays, and that’s the explanation,” Garrett said. “And one of the things you can say, ‘Were the emotions too big?’ I don’t think so. Did one snowball into the next? I really don’t think so. I thought his demeanor throughout the ball game was good. He settled down. We got going again, and then at that critical moment in the ball game, they made a good play and we didn’t make that play. And that was a really important play in the ball game, obviously.”

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