Dallas Cowboys: Mohamed Sanu

Rapid reaction: Cowboys 24, Bengals 18

August, 24, 2013
8/24/13
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cowboys had a hard time getting much of an advantage at Cowboys Stadium with a 17-15 regular-season record in the $1.2 billion home.

Playing under the AT&T Stadium name for the first time, the Cowboys were able to overcome a tepid start to beat Cincinnati 24-18.

What it means: The Cowboys got what they wanted in their final showing of the preseason from their regulars on offense and defense.

The Cowboys have not played their starters in the last preseason game since 2006, and Jason Garrett will not want to risk the likes of Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee and Brandon Carr on Thursday against Houston.

To avoid their first losing preseason since 2001, however, the Cowboys will have to beat the Texans.

First-team offense gets in end zone: In their first five drives of the preseason, the Romo-led offense failed to get in the end zone. They started 0-for-2 on Saturday before Bryant took matters into his own hands with five catches on a 12-play drive that ended with Romo hitting Bryant on a bullet fade over cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.

The Cowboys closed the first half with an eight-play drive that covered 52 yards with Miles Austin being the featured target. Austin had a 23-yard gain on a third-and-6 and closed the drive with a 12-yard score going across the back of the end zone for a Romo throw.

Offensive line moves: For the fourth time in four preseason games, the Cowboys rolled out a different combination on the offensive line with Doug Free playing right guard, Jermey Parnell at right tackle and Mackenzy Bernadeau at left guard. Only left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick played in their original positions.

Romo was sacked on the first play of the game for an 8-yard loss and the running game averaged only 2.5 yards per carry in the first half. The first-team line played a series into the third quarter before calling it a night.

Will this be the combination the Cowboys roll out for the Sept. 8 opener against the New York Giants? Possibly, if Ronald Leary is unable to return from surgery to his right knee. The Cowboys are confident Leary, who has never played in a game, can return in time, but they might choose to go with this grouping.

Defense continues to take it away: The offseason emphasis continued with two first-half takeaways from a defense that might bend but has yet to break.

For the third time in four preseason games, the Cowboys came up with a takeaway on their first drive of the game. Safety Barry Church poked the ball free from wide receiver Marvin Jones and cornerback Brandon Carr came up with the loose ball at the Dallas 4.

In the second quarter, rookie cornerback B.W. Webb came up with a pick of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on a seam throw to receiver Mohamed Sanu. Undrafted safety Jeff Heath forced a fumble in the third quarter.

The first-team defense did not allow a touchdown in three preseason appearances totaling roughly three quarters.

Digital board gets plunked: In the first football game at AT&T Stadium, on Aug. 21 2009, Tennessee’s A.J. Trapasso hit the center-hung digital board with a punt. It was not hit again by a punt until Saturday, when Cowboys punter Chris Jones hit it in the first quarter.

There have been 274 regular-season punts at AT&T Stadium since its opening that have not hit the board.

It might bear watching this year.

On Jones’ re-kick, Cincinnati’s Brandon Tate scored a 75-yard touchdown for the Bengals’ only first-half points.

Who didn’t play: Cornerback Morris Claiborne (knee) missed his fourth straight preseason game -- and third because of injury -- but the hope is that he can practice some next week and possibly play in Thursday’s finale against Houston. WR Cole Beasley (foot), RB Lance Dunbar (foot), S Matt Johnson (foot), S Eric Frampton (calf), LB Brandon Magee (concussion), LB Ernie Sims (groin), OL Ryan Cook (back), OG Ronald Leary (knee), OG Nate Livings (knee) and DE Anthony Spencer (knee) did not dress for the game.

What’s next?: The Cowboys will have to pare down their roster from 88 to 75 by Tuesday’s deadline, two days before they play their fifth and final preseason game of the summer. Former head coach Wade Phillips (2007-10) makes his return to AT&T Stadium on Thursday as Houston’s defensive coordinator. The final cut to 53 players is Aug. 31.

Cowboys position series: Wide receivers

February, 7, 2012
2/07/12
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This is the third in a 12-part series on the Cowboys roster.

[+] EnlargeLaurent Robinson
Tim Heitman/US PresswireThe Cowboys' biggest offseason decision regarding the receiving corps will be whether to re-sign Laurent Robinson.
Players: Miles Austin (signed through 2016), Dez Bryant (signed through 2014), Laurent Robinson (unrestricted free agent), Kevin Ogletree (restricted free agent), Dwayne Harris (signed through 2014), Andre Holmes (signed through 2013), Raymond Radway (signed through 2013), Teddy Williams (reserves/future contract)

Top free agents: Wes Welker, New England Patriots; Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints; DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles; Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers; Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs.

Top draft prospects: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State; Michael Floyd, Notre Dame; Kendall Wright, Baylor; Alshon Jeffrey, South Carolina; Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers.

2011 review: Robinson, who was signed in early September after being cut by the Chargers, ended up being the Cowboys’ most effective receiver. It took an injury to Austin and ineffectiveness by Ogletree for Robinson to get a significant role, but he led the Cowboys with 11 touchdown catches and was second among the team’s wideouts in catches (54) and receiving yards (858). Bryant didn’t have a 100-yard game all season, but he made significant progress, finishing his second year with 63 catches for 928 yards and nine touchdowns. Austin was a disappointment in the second year of a $54 million contract. He missed six games due to two hamstring strains, finishing the season with only 43 catches for 579 yards and seven touchdowns.

Offseason preview: The Cowboys’ biggest decision regarding the receiving corps will be whether to re-sign Robinson. He’s made it clear that he wants to return to Valley Ranch and has indicated that the Cowboys wouldn’t necessarily have to be the top bidders to keep him. What the Cowboys would be willing to pay for a No. 3 receiver who has proven he can be a quality fill-in starter isn’t clear. If the Cowboys don’t re-sign Robinson, they’ll need to find another third receiver, whether it’s in the draft or another free-agency bargain.

Bryan Broaddus’ Scout’s Eye: The Cowboys will be set at starters with Austin and Bryant. The biggest question will be if the club makes the effort to try and re-sign Robinson or if it allows him to leave via free agency. I would not be surprised if the front office allows Robinson to walk. If that is the case, then his numbers will need to be replaced. Let's be honest, Ogletree can't do the job as the third receiver. Ogletree has been given every opportunity to step up and take that job, but he can't do it. If not Robinson or Ogletree, there is Holley, Harris, Radway and Holmes. Holley had some productive snaps but mainly on special teams. Harris was off and on the practice squad. Radway is an interesting player because if he didn't get injured on the last play of the preseason game against the Dolphins, there was a great chance he was going to make the roster. The plan will be to try and find another Robinson in free agency with the available receivers. I don't see them using a high pick on a receiver but taking the approach of looking at a height-weight-speed player later.

Need meter (0-5): 2

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