Dallas Cowboys: Mario Butler

Cowboys make practice squad move

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
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IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys released cornerback Mario Butler from the practice squad and signed Vincent Agnew.

Agnew, a cornerback with some safety experience, was among 16 players to work out for the Cowboys last Friday. He had two tackles against the Cowboys in the final preseason game for Miami before being cut by the Dolphins.

Butler opened the year on the active roster but was released on Sept. 22 and later re-signed to the practice squad.

Safety Matt Johnson also has a back injury

September, 24, 2012
9/24/12
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IRVING, Texas -- It's been a tough start for the professional career of Cowboys safety Matt Johnson.

The rookie missed offseason work because his college, Eastern Washington, was still in session, then a hamstring injury in training camp slowed his development when he finally was ready to practice.

Johnson's hamstring injury has lingered, and coach Jason Garrett revealed Monday the rookie also has a back problem. Garrett said Johnson injured his back while rehabbing from the leg injury.

It appears this could be a lost year for Johnson, and it's only going to sting more because of the season-ending injury to starting safety Barry Church (Achilles). With Church out, the Cowboys could have given Johnson some snaps in a backup role on defense. Instead, the team will try and sign a free agent.

Mario Butler, a cornerback/safety, cleared waivers Monday after the Cowboys cut him Saturday and is eligible to be re-signed. A decision hasn't been made regarding the safety position yet, but when Church officially goes on injured reserve, the Cowboys will have one available roster spot.

Gerald Sensabaugh, the other starting safety, missed Sunday's game with a calf injury. With the next game being Monday night, he gets an extra day to recover. Sensabaugh said after the Tampa Bay game that he's fine.

Garrett said he didn't think the safety position was in trouble, but he has five safeties on the roster with three of them injured.
Cowboys safety Barry Church is expected to undergo surgery this week -- perhaps as early as Tuesday -- after being lost for the season after suffering a torn right Achilles tendon vs. the Bucs on Sunday.

Finding his replacement could be problematic for the Cowboys. Here are a few possibilities:

1. Danny McCray: With Gerald Sensabaugh out with a calf strain, McCray stepped in and earned his first start of the season Sunday against Tampa Bay. McCray didn't make the stat sheet, but he's considered a good tackler who needs work in pass coverage. He's a good fit, but he's the Cowboys' best special teams player so you have to monitor his snaps on that unit.

2. Brandon Carr: The veteran cornerback started at free safety in a funky defensive alignment Sunday. He had one pass breakup in the victory. The Cowboys didn't pay Carr that much -- $50.1 million over five seasons -- to become a free safety. While it's good Carr has versitility to play both spots, he's more valuable at jamming wide receivers at the line of scrimmage as a cover corner.

3. Mike Jenkins: This won't happen, though he played both corner and safety in the Week 2 loss at Seattle. Jenkins played mainly cornerback Sunday with Carr moved to free safety. Carr is better suited skill-wise in terms of range to play safety than Jenkins. However, Jenkins has good coverage skills and could possibly line up there in a pinch to cover a tight end.

4. Mario Butler: He was released Saturday to make room for linebacker Orie Lemon, who recovered a fumble on special teams in the Tampa Bay game. Butler played corner and safety for the Cowboys, but he has to clear waivers Monday in order to re-sign with the team. If the Cowboys want Butler to return, he knows the defensive scheme and he would mainly play safety.

5. Brodney Pool: He was released in training camp after a few practices, and he failed his conditioning test. Despite a one-year contract worth a guaranteed $100,000, the Cowboys didn't think he was worth having around. Pool is still available and, while defensive coordinator Rob Ryan likes him, he was part of the decision making process to cut him.

6. Charlie Peprah: The Plano East graduate has played with Green Bay and Atlanta in his seven-year career. The 5-11, 203-pound Peprah intercepted five passes in 14 games last season for the Packers. He might be able to play both safety positions and, with 26 career starts, is an experienced player who should pick up the defense pretty quickly.

Notes: There seems to be a feeling among fans, the Cowboys should go after O.J. Atogwe. He was cut by the Eagles this summer after suffering a hamstring injury. Atogwe signed a five-year contract with Washington in 2011 but was released after one season.

Orie Lemon joins roster; Mario Butler released

September, 22, 2012
9/22/12
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The Cowboys have called up linebacker Orie Lemon from the practice squad Saturday and moved him to the active roster, the team announced.

Cornerback Mario Butler has been released to make room for Lemon.

Lemon's promotion means he'll get time on special teams if he plays Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Butler showed the Cowboys some versatility by playing both safety and corner.

5 Wonders: Tony Romo's numbers vs. Bucs

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
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IRVING, Texas – After two games many of you are wondering which Cowboys team will show up on gameday. They played great against the New York Giants. They were whipped by Seattle. So what happens Sunday against Tampa Bay?

I’m wondering about five things.

Here’s this week’s Five Wonders:

** I wonder if Tony Romo will continue his personal success against the Buccaneers on Sunday. In three games against Tampa Bay, Romo has 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions. His passer ratings in the three wins have been 148.9, 140.6 and 133.9. In 2006, Romo tore up Monte Kiffin’s defense for five touchdown passes. In the 2009 season opener, he beat Raheem Morris’ defense for353 yards. Last year he completed 77 percent of his passes against Keith Millard’s defense. This week he goes against Bill Sheridan’s defense. The Bucs have allowed Cam Newton to pass for 303 yards and Eli Manning to pass for 510 in the first two games. Sheridan was the New York Giants defensive coordinator in 2009 and in the two games Romo threw four touchdown passes and was intercepted three times in two Dallas losses.

**OK, Felix Jones won’t be cut. Jerry Jones said so this morning on KRLD-FM. Jason Garrett was taken by surprise at the question during the post-game press conference, too. But should Jones be active? He’s not an effective kick returner. Garrett keeps saying Jones is a big part of the offense. Why? He can’t make a tackler miss. He’s had one carry in the first two games. This is DeMarco Murray’s running game right now, as it should be. If Jones can’t be a special teams’ help and can’t make people miss as a pass catcher, then why should he be on the 46-man roster? Something has happened to Jones. He’s lost that speed that helped him get by without much make-you-miss.

** The Cowboys will be thin at safety his week. Gerald Sensabaugh could miss 1-2 weeks with a calf strain, but he is one of the toughest players on the roster so don’t rule him out for Sunday. Barry Church has a quadriceps bruise but he should be OK. Matt Johnson has not practiced since the regular-season began because of a hamstring injury. That leaves two healthy safeties in Danny McCray and Mana Silva. Cornerback Mario Butler played some safety in the preseason. Jason Garrett was asked if Mike Jenkins could play some safety with the injuries. I wouldn’t go there. I wonder if they should give Orlando Scandrick some time there. It was kicked around a few years ago about playing Scandrick at safety when Wade Phillips was around. He plays a hybrid safety role in some substitution packages. He’s a willing tackler. He’s an intuitive player. He’s not the prototypical size but you’re not asking for a full-time conversion to the spot. Maybe it makes some sense.

**I wonder when people (media too by the way) will realize the way the Cowboys have opened the season is the way of life in the NFL. It happens everywhere, if we want to talk off the microscope off the Cowboys for a second. New England lost at home to Arizona. New Orleans lost to Washington in Week 1. Peyton Manning looks great in his return for Denver against Pittsburgh then terrible in his first quarter on Monday at Atlanta. Baltimore airs it out in Week 1 vs. Cincinnati and is stifled the next week vs. Philadelphia. The key is to win the games you play poorly in. Say, hello to Philadelphia. The Eagles were awful vs. the Browns in the opener but won anyway. In December nobody will be talking about any style points on that game, just the victory. The Cowboys had a chance in Seattle and were punked in the second half. It’s simple as that. Since Garrett took over midway through the 2010 season the Cowboys have had two two-game winning streaks and one four-game winning streak. They’ve also had two two-game losing streaks. The key early in a season is to pile up the wins anyway, anyhow and carry momentum.

** There are times in games where you sometimes have to take a risk, calculate the gamble and just go for it with conviction. I wondered whether the Cowboys should have gone for it on fourth-and-3 from the Seattle 40 with 44 seconds left in the first half and asked Garrett if he considered not punting. “That’s certainly a discussion you have, but we didn’t want to give them a short field and another scoring opportunity there,” Garrett said. “We were trying to maximize our opportunity there, and we didn’t convert. That was one where we had an opportunity to win on a slant route. The ball got batted at the line of scrimmage and they made the stop on third down. We just felt like the right thing to do at that point because of the field position was punt it down in their end.” I understand the thinking but against a rookie quarterback that had done little up to that point, why not show faith in the defense that you think they’ll get a stop?

Cowboys go heavy on lines vs. Seattle

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
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SEATTLE -- The Cowboys are dressing only four wide receivers today vs. Seattle after using all six in the season opener.

The Cowboys made the move in order to go heavier along the offensive and defensive lines. The team has preferred to use just seven offensive linemen on game day, but Derrick Dockery is active and every healthy defensive lineman is active.

The inactive players are Cole Beasley, Andre Holmes, Mario Butler, Matt Johnson, Kyle Wilber, Phil Costa and Jay Ratliff.

Cornerback Mike Jenkins will make his debut after missing the opener because of offseason shoulder surgery, and newly signed LeQuan Lewis is active to play a special teams role. Wilber (thumb) is healthy but the Cowboys chose to de-activate him in favor of deeper lines.

Seattle will be without left tackle Russell Okung, who is slowed by a bruised knee. He will be replaced by Frank Omiyale. Wide receiver Charly Martin, running back Kregg Lumpkin, safety Winston Guy, cornerback Jeremy Lane, guard James Carpenter and defensive tackle Jaye Howard are Seattle's other inactives.

Pondering Cowboys 46-man roster

September, 14, 2012
9/14/12
12:00
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IRVING, Texas – Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said some decisions remain regarding Sunday’s 46-man roster at Seattle, so let’s take a look at some of the possibilities.

Nose tackle Jay Ratliff, center Phil Costa and safety Matt Johnson did not practice for the third straight day and can be considered out for Sunday’s game.

Mario Butler is likely out with the return of Mike Jenkins. Can the Cowboys carry a sixth defensive lineman? If not, then rookie Tyrone Crawford could be out. Can they carry six wide receivers? Probably not, so look for Cole Beasley or Andre Holmes (or both) to be out, which would get Danny McCray on the field after he missed the season opener with a stinger.

With Costa out, David Arkin will have to be active as the backup center to Ryan Cook, but do the Cowboys want to carry eight offensive linemen? That would get Derrick Dockery on the active list.

The final roles could come down to safety Mana Silva and rookie linebacker Kyle Wilber if the Cowboys carry eight offensive linemen. Both guys bring special teams’ value. Silva did a decent job in the dime package last week. Wilber is still learning the defense.

Just a guess, but Silva would be my pick.
IRVING, Texas -- It’s on to Week 2 of Five Wonders, and this week we hit on the Cowboys reaping early benefits from some young players:

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** Since this has been an over-reaction week, let’s begin to wonder about Kevin Ogletree's future with the club. He will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. For the sake of discussion, let’s just say he'll have a season somewhere between Patrick Crayton and Laurent Robinson -- in the area of 40-45 catches, 600 yards and five touchdowns. What do the Cowboys do? What does Ogletree do? He saw Robinson leave for the big bucks in Jacksonville after one great season and it would be difficult to say no to that type of cash. As for the team, they spent four years waiting for the guy to develop and they’d let him walk for nothing? One thing they won’t have to worry about is the ability to re-sign him early if they wanted to. They weren’t able to do that last year with Robinson because of the rules involving the veteran minimum salary benefit contract.

** It’s only one game, but Bruce Carter has me wondering if I missed something in training camp. He was outstanding against the Giants in the opener in his 30 snaps. Dan Connor played only four snaps, so that tells you what the coaches thought of the inside linebacker battle over the summer. Carter was more aggressive in taking on blockers and did a good job in the run game. Sometimes when linebackers get the “athletic” tag, it means they’re run-around guys. Carter wasn’t that against the Giants. There’s still a long way to go, but the Cowboys’
patience with last year’s second-round pick could pay off in a big way this year.

** I wonder if Chris Jones can keep this up. He has punted 12 times in three games over the last two seasons, and the Cowboys have given up just six return yards. Six!!!!! He has had net averages of 43 yards, 38.8 yards and 51.5 yards against the Giants (twice) and Seattle. This week he sees the Seahawks again. Seattle returner Leon Washington is as dangerous as they come, and he had a 52-yard punt return vs. Arizona last week. Jones has done a great job of keeping the ball close to the sidelines in his three games, limiting any opportunity for a return to bust free. Washington is one of many tests of the schedule for the Cowboys’ coverage teams this year.

** This might surprise some people, but here comes praise for Wade Phillips: If a guy showed he could handle a role, Phillips would play him. It wasn’t some reward for being on the team, but a way to keep all 53 guys involved. I wonder if that philosophy is still going on with the Cowboys because the only active player not to play a snap vs. the Giants was backup quarterback Kyle Orton. Safety Mana Silva did a nice job in the “dollar” package in Danny McCray's absence.
Rookie defensive end Tyron Crawford saw second-half snaps. Rookie tight end James Hanna saw first-half snaps and caught a 10-yard pass. Cornerback Mario Butler saw some snaps, and not just when Orlando Scandrick needed an IV. Tackle Jermey Parnell lined up at tight end once in a jumbo package (and missed his fourth-down block). Teams can’t be afraid to use guys. The Cowboys weren’t vs. New York.

** I wonder (really I hope, but the title of this post is Five Wonders) if the NFL will adjust how it works the opening game of the season. The Cowboys were put in an unfair position of playing the last preseason game of Week 1 at Oakland, and therefore were joined by the Raiders as the last teams to report to camp. The Giants had three extra days of practice on the Cowboys. That’s an unfair advantage. The Cowboys could have started camp earlier with an exemption, but the NFLPA would not go along. Executive vice president Stephen Jones has said he'd like to see the reporting dates for training camp relate to the regular-season opener, not the preseason opener. It almost seems to make too much sense, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t just the reporting time that made it difficult to prepare. There were many issues involving waivers and claims and when they could get on the practice field. The Cowboys beat the Giants, which made some of the headaches disappear, but there’s no way the league should put teams in such a bind in the future.
ARLINGTON, Texas – Phil Costa will start at center tonight vs. Miami and is the only projected starter playing in the preseason finale at Cowboys Stadium.

Costa missed the first three preseason games because of a low back strain and just returned to practice Monday.

Stephen McGee will start at quarterback with Phillip Tanner and Shaun Chapas in the backfield. Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris will start at wide receiver, with James Hanna at tight end. The rest of the line includes Jermey Parnell, Derrick Dockery, Daniel Loper and Pat McQuistan.

On defense, Josh Brent will be the starting nose tackle and could open the year there against the New York Giants if Jay Ratliff is unable to play because of a high ankle sprain. Tyrone Crawford and Clifton Geathers will fill out the rest of the defensive line.

The linebackers will be Victor Butler, Dan Connor, Orie Lemon and Alex Albright. The secondary will feature Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and Teddy Williams at cornerback and Mana Silva and Mario Butler at safety.
IRVING, Texas – A part of Monday’s practice focused on the New York Giants, the Cowboys’ opponent to open the regular season on Sept. 5, but it’s too soon to think of the Giants for a lot of players.

They need to think about Wednesday’s opponent in the preseason finale, the Miami Dolphins, as a last chance to make the 53-man roster.

The Cowboys will have 18 roster moves to make by Friday and can invite eight players back to the practice squad.

A year ago, Mario Butler sweated out the final cut only to be released and brought back to the practice squad, where he spent the whole season.

“It’s a ton different, especially the speed of the game,” Butler said. “Just going through it for a full year you know what to expect. That gives me a lot of confidence to play freely and not thinking about everything.”

Butler has proven to be versatile by playing cornerback, nickel and safety, which gives him an edge in the race for one of the final roster spots. After the San Diego game, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Butler is playing so well that it would be hard for the team to cut him.

The Cowboys will have a short walkthrough Tuesday with the team’s kickoff luncheon in the morning at Cowboys Stadium.

“I think you can (get ready for Miami with such a short turnaround) by going in watching film, getting extra stuff put on the iPad to get ready for the Dolphins,” Butler said. “Even though all of the starters’ focus is on the New York Giants, this is my biggest game coming up for the Dolphins. I’ve got to focus on that.”

Third quarter: Cowboys 20, Rams 6

August, 25, 2012
8/25/12
9:31
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cowboys remain ahead of the St. Louis Rams, 20-6, after a scoreless third quarter.

Some thoughts:

* Good hard hit by safety Mana Silva, who smashed wide receiver Brian Quick near the Rams' sideline. Silva's hit to the chest was clean. When you talk about who makes one of the final roster spots on the 53, check out Silva. He made an open field-tackle on a third-down screen pass. He also has an interception this preseason.

* Mario Butler sacked Kellen Clemens on a cornerback blitz for a 7-yard loss.

*Quarterback Stephen McGee is trying to make sure the Cowboys don't start the season with just two quarterbacks. His first pass went for 26 yards to James Hanna on a rollout. His second pass would have been a completion had Danny Coale not fallen down. When no receiver was open, McGee scrambled downfield for a first down with an 11-yard run.

* Backup offensive linemen were responsible for some penalties. Ronald Leary was flagged for a hold and Jermey Parnell was called for a a false start. Leary most likely will make the Cowboys, possibly forcing the team to release Derrick Dockery, who is also getting second-team snaps. But Parnell can't afford these mistakes. The Cowboys don't know who the swing tackle is and Parnell has a chance to win that spot. Pat McQuistan has played all three spots along the offensive line this summer, including center.

* Jason Garrett's nephew, Harry Flaherty, checked in with 4:18 to play in the third quarter. On his second snap, he lined up in the slot and was wide open, but McGee completed a 12-yard pass to Andre Holmes.

* Interesting to see defensive linemen Marcus Spears and Sean Lissemore with some late third-quarter snaps again. The Cowboys could go deep at this position, maybe having as many as eight linemen on the active roster. Spears lost a starting spot last year to Jason Hatcher and might be fighting for a gig. But it seems he's played pretty well this summer.

* Orie Lemon did a good job of reading a run play to force a tackle for loss and also tackle a running back in the open field. He's another one of these players who needs to make an impression in the final two preseason games to make the 53.

Random thoughts: Coming back to Dallas

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
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SAN DIEGO -- As we pack our bags for the trip back to Dallas, we've got some random thoughts on what we've seen during Cowboys training camp in California.

Most impressive player (s): Dez Bryant and Brandon Carr have been equally fantastic. Carr has shut down receivers with his press coverage and playmaking skills. Despite his quiet demeanor, he's also provided a strong leadership quality. Bryant is well, Bryant. He makes leaping catches, catches in traffic and it seems the only man who can stop him is Carr.

Most disappointing player: Wide receiver Raymond Radway made the 53-man roster last year, but a fractured leg in the final preseason game cost him the season. Now healthy, Radway has shown flashes of that blazing speed. At other times, however, bad routes, drops and missed assignments have hurt him. He's been surpassed by Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris for the fifth and sixth receiver spots.

Five players to keep: Center David Arkin, linebacker Orie Lemon, guard Ronald Leary, defensive tackle Ben Bass and cornerback Mario Butler.

Five players to cut: Quarterback Stephen McGee, cornerback Teddy Williams, cornerback Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, defensive lineman Robert Callaway and guard Daniel Loper.

So did the Cowboys talk to Plax? Of course they did. Jerry Jones said he didn't speak with free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress or his agent, and we believe him. But someone did, and the Cowboys quickly defused the situation, which is the right thing to do. The Cowboys don't need Burress. The Cowboys don't need a veteran receiver. What the Cowboys need is for their young receivers to improve, which is what's happened under receivers coach Jimmy Robinson.

Best draft pick: Morris Claiborne is an easy selection, but I would say tight end James Hanna has been the most impressive. He can catch, run good routes and -- despite a few drops -- is more than serviceable. If Jason Witten can't play in the regular-season opener, Hanna has done enough to prove he's ready for the big stage. Now Hanna, the No. 2 tight end of the moment, needs to improve on his blocking. That will happen.

The biggest surprise from a player: RB/FB Jamize Olawale and DE Tyrone Crawford. Olawale needs to lower his body when he runs, but he displays good speed when he hits the holes. He's a good blocker, too. Is he good enough to make the 53? No, but the Cowboys should attempt to bring him back to the practice squad. Crawford moved up the ranks and got second-team reps in practice and games. He's been the second-most impressive draft pick in camp. There was a question about his ability to play against the run. He's better than expected with his power and ability to shed blockers.

One player who needs to step up: Felix Jones isn't going anywhere, nor should he. The running back, however, has gotten off to a slow start in training camp. In Saturday's preseason game against St. Louis, if Jones gets eight touches, we would like to see a burst through the hole and some movement in space. We haven't seen that enough in training camp and the first two preseason games.

Mario Butler makes impression on Jerry Jones

August, 19, 2012
8/19/12
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SAN DIEGO – The question may have been about Victor Butler's ability to make plays, but Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones had Mario Butler on his mind.

“He’s going to be hard to keep off this team,” Jones said after the Cowboys’ 28-20 loss to San Diego on Saturday.

Butler spent last year on the practice squad but had an uneventful offseason. Once training camp began, however, he played much better. Against the Chargers, Butler played cornerback, nickel corner and safety.

“That’s been my goal since Day 1, make it easy for everyone to see me on the field, to show up every night,” Butler said when told of Jones’ comments.

Butler had five tackles against the Chargers, including two when stepping up in run support. He also broke up a pass while playing in the slot.

This summer Butler added safety to his job description, in part because before the team left for California it didn't have enough to practice in the three-day session that featured rookies and selected veterans.

“Just being on the field your thinking changes from each one, from corner to nickel to safety,” Butler said. “It’s little adjustments that you have to make in how you train your mind and your eyes.”

On Mike Willie’s 38-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter, Butler lined up at safety and went for the big hit and missed.

“That’s no excuse,” Butler said. “I’m supposed to make the tackle. That’s one I’ve got to make. That’s one of my errors for the night.”

But the owner was able to overlook it.

Observation deck: Cowboys-Chargers

August, 19, 2012
8/19/12
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The Dallas Cowboys' second preseason game was a 28-20 exhibition loss to the San Diego Chargers. Yet it gave Cowboys fans more reason to feel good then did their 3-0 preseason victory over the Raiders on Monday night. Such is life in the preseason, where everything seems much bigger and realer than it actually is.

But what we saw from the Cowboys on Saturday, when the first-teamers were in the game, was pretty good. For instance, Tony Romo had much more time to throw in this game than he did in the first one, and he completed 9 of 13 passes for 75 yards. Nothing too special, but (a) Miles Austin and Jason Witten were out with injuries and (b) the most important thing was that the line held up well enough this time for the Cowboys to actually operate their offense. On the first drive, that meant a lot of running back DeMarco Murray, who was the focal point of five of the first six plays -- three carries and two receptions. The protection and the reliance on Murray might have been the result of the Chargers devoting more of their energy to coverage than to getting into the backfield, but again, the result was that the Cowboys got to run plays this time. And I don't think it's fluky that they went to Murray a lot on that first drive. Even when everyone's healthy, I get the sense they're going to lean hard on Murray as their featured back this year. And the fact that he didn't return after that first drive is most likely because they want to keep him healthy.

Here's what else I noticed:

1. Brandon Carr looked big-time. The Cowboys' prized free-agent acquisition had two interceptions, and he flat-out worked it. On the first one, he let the receiver get past him and baited Philip Rivers into throwing the ball, then closed quickly and made the leaping interception. His play on the second one was also smart and athletic, and he showed good skills staying with the ball in spite of bobbling it a few times before securing it in his hands. Carr has been a star in offseason workouts and in training camp, and so far has done nothing to make the Cowboys question their investment.

2. Kevin Ogletree is staking his claim to the No. 3 receiver spot. Again, you can't assume that a guy will play well in the regular season because he does so in the preseason. So there's no way to know what Ogletree would do if given the role. But what we see is a guy on the verge of winning the role. He's also looked good in practice, and the performance in Saturday's game only underlines what the coaches already like about him. He caught four passes for 60 yards, including a very tough one from Kyle Orton in double coverage, and seems to be a guy to whom Romo isn't afraid to throw the ball. Cole Beasley was also a standout in this game, and he caught one from Romo as well. Most of his damage was done late, against backup defenders, but Beasley ended with 104 yards on seven catches, was targeted a team-high nine times and left it all out on the field. Literally. Worked so hard, cameras caught him throwing up on the sideline just before the end of the game. I also thought Dwayne Harris looked good as a receiver and a punt returner, and rookie James Hanna looks like a very strong pass-catching tight end. Assuming Austin comes back soon and Witten doesn't have to miss too much time, Romo should have plenty of guys to whom to throw. We haven't even mentioned Dez Bryant, who had a quiet night but still dazzled with an athletic near-catch just out of the back of the end zone. I believe he should emerge as Romo's red-zone favorite.

3. The line did play better, but David Arkin continues to have a tough preseason. Kept getting caught downfield illegally, and he's committed too many penalties in these first couple of games. The team wants Arkin to develop as a backup center, at least, but he's struggling.

4. Morris Claiborne's debut was fine, but uneventful. The rookie first-round pick made a couple of tackles and looked fine in coverage. For some reason, the Chargers seemed to want to throw in Carr's direction more than they did in Claiborne's. If Carr keeps picking off two passes a game, I have to imagine that will change. But it was good for Claiborne to get his feet wet against NFL competition.

5. Sean Lee looked like a playmaking monster, again, but I would think Bruce Carter is currently ahead of Dan Connor in the competition at the other inside linebacker spot. Connor had trouble in coverage on tight end Randy McMichael, and Carter seems like the more athletic option at this point. This is a Cowboys defense that wants to prioritize an ability to make plays on the ball, and an inside linebacker who can't cover a tight end is not likely to find himself with much of a role in that kind of a defense.

6. The Butlers did it. Linebacker Victor Butler and defensive back Mario Butler both showed good things. Victor had an early sack and pressured Rivers a couple of times. Mario looked good in coverage but missed a big tackle that led to a touchdown. Victor Butler is a guy who should be able to emerge as a helpful pass-rusher if the coaches can find snaps for him.

Third quarter: Cowboys 13, Chargers 7

August, 18, 2012
8/18/12
10:35
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SAN DIEGO -- The Cowboys added three more points to their total on a long field goal by Dan Bailey. After three quarters, we've had the wave, the Cowboys' first preseason touchdown and two Bailey field goals. The Cowboys have a 13-7 lead over the Chargers.

Some thoughts:

*Cornerback Mario Butler had a nice open field tackle on a short pass in the flat and came up on run support to bring down Le'Ron McClain. The Cowboys would like to see Butler step up and become the fifth corner. Then again, if Mike Jenkins can't return in time for the start of the regular season, Butler could be the fourth corner.

*Dan Connor didn't look good in coverage on a 28-yard reception by Randy McMichael. Safety Danny McCray was able to push McMichael out of bounds. The Cowboys can't afford to have linebackers struggle in coverage this season, regardless of how well their corners are playing.

*Akwasi Owusu-Ansah had the coverage on the first touchdown allowed by the Cowboys defense this preseason. Charlie Whitehurst completed a 18-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Brown, who suffered a left ankle injury and had to be carted off the field. Owusu-Ansah couldn't contain Brown, and with Danny McCray trailing the play Whitehurst found an open man.

*When quarterback Stephen McGee gets time, he can do some things. He made a strong throw for a 10-yard completion to Dwayne Harris. Harris needs to make some plays with Kevin Ogletree rising up the depth chart. Then again, this is why he's a backup, or rather No. 3 on the depth chart for the third receiver. McGee put a little too much air on a pass to Raymond Radway that was broken up, and he didn't see a wide open Dwayne Harris down the seam. Instead, he opted to complete a 3-yard pass.

*Fullback Shaun Chapas did a poor job of blocking a blitzing Melvin Ingram off the edge. McGee had no chance and was sacked for a 13-yard loss.

*Teddy Williams is a sprinter by nature. He's still learning how to play football, but at times -- like on a kick return in the third quarter -- he didn't show any wiggle. Yes, the blockers set up for a left return, but Williams has to make defenders miss.

*Charlie Hughlett took over the deep snapping duties in the third quarter for L.P. Ladouceur.

*Faced with a fourth-and-1, the Cowboys' backup line didn't get any push and Jamize Olawale was stopped for no gain.

*Linebacker Orie Lemon recovered a fumble with 2:59 to play in the quarter. Lemon was pretty active Saturday night and his recovery of a fumble led to a made 49-yard field goal by Bailey.

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