Dallas Cowboys: Phillip Tanner

At Garrett camp, Easley sends message

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
IRVING, Texas -- When Dominique Easley walked in for his interview at the NFL scouting combine last February, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett offered a handshake and hello.

"Dominique, nice to meet you," Garrett said.

Easley quickly responded, "Coach, I've met you already. I came to your camp at Princeton University when I was in high school."

[+] EnlargeDominique Easley
AP Photo/Steven SennePatriots No. 1 pick Dominique Easley attended Jason Garrett's football camp in New Jersey while in high school.
Every June Garrett holds a football camp for kids from the area at his alma mater in New Jersey. Easley attended Curtis High School in Staten Island, New York, and made the drive to Princeton.

Last weekend, Easley served as a counselor at Garrett's camp along with Cowboys Dez Bryant, Morris Claiborne and DeMarco Murray, as well as former Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner.

If things worked out a little differently Easley could have been a Cowboy, but the New England Patriots took him with the 29th pick in the first round.The Cowboys had him in for a pre-draft visit because they liked him as a player and they wanted to check out this surgically-repaired knee.

"The Easley story is a really good story," Garrett said. "He talked to the kids and when he stands up there, there is the 29th pick in the first round and he said, ‘I sat in that seat five years ago, so don't tell me you can't do this.' And there's another kid there every year named Freddie Santana, who also sat in those seats. He ended up going to Holy Cross, graduated from there, was their team captain and was selected for Teach for America and did a couple of years down in Atlanta. Now he's teaching in Brooklyn. The big challenge with those kids, there's about 300 of them, and they come from really tough places. So the idea that they belong and can do something like this, you put Dominque Easley up there, you put Freddie Santana up there and say, ‘I was in Row 3 five years ago,' I think it's effective."

Easley's team ended up winning the round-robin 6-on-6tournament.

"He won when he was a player and he won as a coach, so that was the big story line," Garrett said.

The football is a nice component of the camp, but Garrett hopes something bigger develops. Perhaps in the future he will meet another graduate of his camp at the combine.

"We've got them for 10 hours one day out of the year, but I challenge our coaches," Garrett said. "I tell them, ‘I believe we can make a difference in these kids' lives, OK, so they're going to show up here at 8 and we're going to send them on their way tonight at 6 and we have this window to try to make a difference.' We try to say the right things, do the right things and hopefully make some kind of impact."

Five Wonders: Durant a starter or gone?

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
IRVING, Texas -- With the Dallas Cowboys holding their final open-to-the-media organized team activity today at Valley Ranch, what better time than now to bring back Five Wonders?

[+] EnlargeJustin Durant
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezThe Cowboys could use Justin Durant to fill in for Sean Lee or look to go younger at the position.
I believe Justin Durant will be the opening day starter at middle linebacker with Sean Lee out for the year. He has the most experience. He was OK in his spot work there last year before getting hurt himself. But let's say things don't go well for him in training camp and the preseason and he outplayed by DeVonte Holloman or Anthony Hitchens. I wonder if it would be worth it to keep him around. If he is cut (or traded) then the move would save $1.25 million against the cap. Every little bit of room helps. I know what you're saying. The Cowboys can't entrust the position to two players with little to no experience. Well, why not? They did it last year when they cut safety Will Allen and named J.J. Wilcox the starter. Wilcox almost immediately got hurt and that put undrafted rookie Jeff Heath in the starting lineup. Was cutting Allen a mistake last year? Perhaps it was, but he did not play that well and he was not a big special teams help. It would be a risky move, but Durant will not be around in 2015. Is it better to get Holloman or Hitchens the work with the future in mind? The coaches who are fighting for their jobs might think otherwise, but it's something to ponder.

• One of the biggest benefits of practicing against a team in training camp is to break up the monotony. You hear players all the time say they just enjoy seeing another color jersey on the practice field. So that's what the Cowboys will get when they work against the Oakland Raiders, as expected, in Oxnard, Caliornia. But I wonder if there is more of a benefit in the player evaluation side of things. In addition to the monotony of camp, players can figure out offensive and defensive tendencies. Players have been known to see the practice scripts over the years, which give them a heads up as to what to expect. When that happens, they'll obviously look better than perhaps they are. With the Raiders bringing in fresh schemes on offense and defense, a corner won't be as familiar with the routes, splits and speed and a receiver and offensive tackle won't know every move he'll see from a defensive end. It will only be two practices, but those sessions figure to be the most hotly contested of the summer and the personnel department will have some fresh tape to see.

• I'll admit I don't know much about Terrell McClain. He did not play very much for the Houston Texans last year. The Cowboys signed him to a modest deal that included a $300,000 signing bonus. But I wonder if McClain will be this year's version of George Selvie. Last summer Selvie had the look of a training camp body with the injuries the Cowboys suffered along the defensive line. He ended up not only making the team but he started every game and had a career-high seven sacks. McClain has been one of the more impressive players in team drills during the OTAs. The line has had a hard time blocking him. He has had to play the three-technique mostly because of Henry Melton's recovery from knee surgery, and has shown the ability to pressure the quarterback and make a tackle or two for a loss. I think he ends up as the starting nose tackle on this defense when Melton is back on the field.

• The Cowboys finally found a home for Kyle Wilber late last season when they were forced to move him to outside linebacker. He started the final six games on the strong side and had 31 of his 42 tackles. He also had two tackles for loss and two quarterback pressures. He has been working with the first team in defense so far this offseason and looks the part. But last week's OTA offered up another opportunity for Wilber that I had not previously expected. Perhaps it was due to a shortage of defensive ends because a number of them were sitting out the team drills, but Wilber moved to defensive end in two-minute drills. I wonder if he can play a split role the way the New York Giants use Mathias Kiwanuka. He played linebacker in his career and would put his hand on the ground in pass-rushing situations. I'm not saying Wilber will be Kiwanuka, whom I believe has been a little underrated, but Wilber can add to his versatility by showing the ability to play both spots.

• What would a Wonders be without checking in on a contract situation? I wonder if the Cowboys should look at extending the offers to receivers Dwayne Harris and/or Cole Beasley this summer. What? Hear me out. Both players are expected to be restricted free agents after this season. The bottom tender offer for a restricted free agent this year was about $1.4 million. The Cowboys thought that was too high of a price for Phillip Tanner and chose not to tender an offer to the running back this year. That number will go about in 2015 when the team will have to make decisions on Harris and Beasley. I do believe it will be easier to justify putting the tender on Harris because he is a valuable special teamer in the return and coverage games. Beasley is a punt returner, but not nearly as effective as Harris. But Beasley will have a role in this offense because of his work in the slot. It should be noted that he is only running routes in the slot during the offseason, so with that comes some limitation on what he would be paid in the future. Can the Cowboys figure out a way to give Beasley a little bump in pay this year, a good base salary in 2015, but less than the projected RFA tender and buy out his unrestricted free agency year? It sure would seem possible and it would guarantee Beasley a job in the future with a quarterback that really believes in him in Tony Romo.
IRVING, Texas -- In many ways a successful draft is measured by how well a team does in the later rounds.

Ben Volin of The Boston Globe put together a story about teams that draft well and poorly with an interesting graphic.


Who would be the best first-round pick for the Cowboys?


Discuss (Total votes: 11,576)

The Dallas Cowboys are one of six teams not to have a current starter they selected in Rounds 5-7, according to the chart, which means Volin did not count Orlando Scandrick (fifth round, 2008) as a starter even though he started most of the 2013 season. If Morris Claiborne performed up to capabilities and was not hurt, he would have been the starter. If you count Scandrick, then the Cowboys would be one of 12 teams to have one starter from Rounds 5-7.

The other five without a starter were the Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears.

Since 2010, the Cowboys have had 12 picks in Rounds 5-7 and only Dwayne Harris, James Hanna, Joseph Randle and DeVonte Holloman remain.

Hitting on late-round picks is guesswork in a lot of ways. In 2004, the Cowboys hit on three seventh-rounders in Nate Jones, Patrick Crayton and Jacques Reeves. They all had productive NFL careers and earned second contracts.

That’s the goal: find players who can fill roles. The Cowboys kept Crayton for a second contract, but Jones and Reeves left after their rookie deals expired.

Teams build their depth through late-round picks and the Cowboys have not hit enough in the late rounds to fortify their depth. The Seattle Seahawks had an NFL-best five starters from Rounds 5-7 in 2013. The Philadelphia Eagles were next with four.

Also in Volin’s chart is a look at undrafted starters. The Cowboys had a league-high five in 2013 with Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Barry Church, Ronald Leary and Jeff Heath. The Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins had four apiece to tie for second.

For years the Cowboys have excelled in finding undrafted free agents. In the last three years they have landed Dan Bailey, Phillip Tanner, Chris Jones, Ben Bass, Cole Beasley, Leary, Heath and Cam Lawrence.

They make up for the misses in Rounds 5-7 with hits in undrafted free agency. With three compensatory picks in the seventh round this year, the Cowboys will have the chance to draft what would have been their priority undrafted free agents.

They only hope they’re not just making up for misses in Rounds 5-7.

Checking in on Cowboys' free agents

April, 1, 2014
Apr 1
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have lost two players in free agency – Jason Hatcher and Danny McCray – with eight players still available on the market.

DeMarcus Ware does not count as an unrestricted free-agent signing because he was released, and the Cowboys will not receive a compensatory pick in 2015.

Here is a look at the status of their remaining free agents:

RB Phillip Tanner – The Cowboys did not tender him a deal as a restricted free agent, thus allowing him to sign elsewhere. It is possible he'll return on a one-year deal at the minimum, but it is unlikely.

DE Edgar Jones – Has some value because he can play special teams. Another one-year deal at the veteran minimum or possibly a minimum-salary benefit player.

OL Ryan Cook – Did not play last year because of a back injury. His ability to play center and guard helps, but the Cowboys want to get better and younger with their reserve interior linemen.

QB Jon Kitna – He will go back to coaching high school football and teaching math.

LB Ernie Sims – Has some fans on the coaching staff, but he becomes something of a progress-stopper given the development of Kyle Wilber and DeVonte Holloman.

DE Anthony Spencer – He is the Cowboys' most attractive remaining free agent, but where is he in his rehab from microfracture surgery? He has visited the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, but it seems that the longer he is available, the better chance he returns to the Cowboys on a short-term deal.

OL Brian Waters – The same question asked after the season remains now: Does he want to play? In order to play, he needs surgery on his triceps. He could be an emergency option later in the summer.

DE Jarius Wynn – With the signing of Jeremy Mincey, Wynn's return does not seem likely, but he has some position flexibility that the Cowboys like.

Cowboys free agents: Phillip Tanner

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
Phillip Tanner
Position: Running back
Free-agent type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $555,000

Summary: Tanner had nine carries for 12 yards and a touchdown in 2013 on offense and made nine tackles on special teams in 16 games.

Why keep him: He is everything Jason Garrett wants in a teammate. He is tough, dependable and trustworthy. He will do whatever it takes for the team to win. He is an excellent practice player. He knows the offense and can contribute on every special teams’ unit. He can be a useful short-yardage back.

Why let him go: There comes a time where the cost of a player outweighs his usefulness on the roster because of price. Tanner was set to make $1.389 million as a restricted free agent, but a source said the Cowboys will not tender him an offer, making him an unrestricted free agent With DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle, who is entering his second year, there just isn’t enough snaps for him on offense.

Best guess: Danny McCray was a restricted free agent last year and the Cowboys chose not to tender him an offer, giving him a $100,000 signing bonus and $630,000 base salary instead. And he was their best special teamer. The Cowboys could choose to do the same with Tanner this year, minus the signing bonus. In this scenario his base salary would be a non-guaranteed $645,000.

Cowboys won't tender Phillip Tanner

February, 23, 2014
Feb 23
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Dallas Cowboys will not tender a contract to Phillip Tanner, making the running back an unrestricted free agent, according to a source.

Tanner was the Cowboys' only restricted free agent, which meant they would have had to tender him a deal worth at least $1.389 million. It is possible, if unlikely, that Tanner could be re-signed for the veteran minimum for a fourth-year player.

Tanner made the Cowboys as an unrestricted free agent out of Middle Tennessee in 2011 and had 56 carries for 149 yards and nine catches for 93 yards with two touchdowns in three seasons. He was also a valuable special teams contributor.

Important dates for the Cowboys

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
The offseason is here and the Dallas Cowboys, like most NFL teams, have certain roster issues to take care of.

We examine what the Cowboys do with their offseason schedule.

Feb. 17 -- Teams can begin applying the franchise tag to players.

What it means for the Cowboys: The team won't place the franchise tag on any of its free agents. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher is seeking a big-money deal and with the Cowboys cap-tight it's doubtful the team will place the franchise tag on him. Defensive end Anthony Spencer was franchised the last two seasons and he’s not eligible to get tagged again. Spencer is coming off microfracture surgery and the Cowboys are open to bringing him back.

Feb. 19-25 -- Scouting combine in Indianapolis.

What it means for the Cowboys: As is the case with every team, the Cowboys will head to the combine looking to upgrade the roster. One of the keys to this is the man in charge of putting the draft board together: Will McClay. He takes over from Tom Ciskowski, who still has a major role in who the Cowboys draft. Yet, the Cowboys are in need of massive upgrades to a roster that’s failed to get them to the postseason the last four seasons.

March 3 -- The final day to use the franchise tag.

What it means for the Cowboys: Nothing really, considering they won’t franchise anyone.

March 8-11 -- Teams can begin negotiations with players who will be unrestricted free agents. Qualifying offers to restricted free agents are made in this window.

What it means for the Cowboys: The Cowboys had a chance to tender restricted free agent kicker Dan Bailey, but he signed a seven-year contract extension worth $22.5 million last month. Punter Chris Jones (exclusive rights) and running back Phillip Tanner (restricted) will return.

March 11 -- Free agency begins at 4 p.m. ET. Teams may begin signing players and trading players. Teams also must be under the salary cap.

What it means for the Cowboys: The Cowboys are nearly $25 million over the salary cap and the restructuring of several contracts, Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Carr among others, will help the Cowboys get under. The team could release Ware and most likely Miles Austin. If the team cuts Austin, he’ll be a post-June 1 cut creating roughly $5.5 million in cap space. A Ware restructure opens about $7 million in space. The Cowboys don’t expect to be major players in free agency again. The last time the Cowboys spent big money in free agency, was 2012 when it signed Carr to a five-year $50.1 million deal. The Cowboys could make some moves in terms of signing a veteran wideout or veteran safety on the cheap. Veterans Brian Waters, Ernie Sims and Danny McCray could return to the team with one- or two-year deals.

March 23-26 -- Annual league meetings in Orlando, Fla.

What it means for the Cowboys: Jerry and Stephen Jones are powerful in league circles and their influence on the competition committee is important here. Given how successful the Super Bowl went in New York/New Jersey and how some East Coast and Midwest cities are now making noise about hosting the big game, Jones might remind everyone about his stadium, and how Arlington, Texas needs another shot.

April 21 -- Teams with returning coaches may begin offseason workout programs.

What it means for the Cowboys: This is a big day for Romo. He’s recovering from back surgery and team officials say he should be ready for offseason work. If he’s not, does it mean the team should be worried about their franchise quarterback? Romo missed some offseason work last year while recovering from cyst surgery. Linebacker Sean Lee has torn ligaments in his neck, costing him the final three games of the 2013 season. Lee is expected to be ready for offseason workouts.

May 8-10 -- NFL draft.

What it means for the Cowboys: Among the needs for this franchise coming off another 8-8 finish: Defensive line, safety, quarterback, guard, cornerback.

A look at the Cowboys' free agents

December, 30, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- With the Dallas Cowboys' season over, here is a list of their exclusive rights, restricted and unrestricted free agents heading into 2014.

Exclusive rights (1)
Chris Jones

Restricted free agents (2)
Dan Bailey
Phillip Tanner

Unrestricted free agents (9)
Ryan Cook
Jason Hatcher
Edgar Jones
Jon Kitna
Danny McCray
Ernie Sims
Anthony Spencer
Brian Waters
Jarius Wynn

Pondering the 46: Room for Spurlock?

December, 21, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Sometimes when Pondering the 46, you have to figure out how to get a player to the game and not how to come up with seven inactive players.

That’s the case with receiver/returner Michael Spurlock this week against the Washington Redskins.

The Cowboys would not have signed him this week if they were pleased with their return game in Dwayne Harris' absence. Even if Terrance Williams didn’t have a strained hamstring, Spurlock would be here.

But how does he make it to the 46?

We know Dwayne Harris, Sean Lee and Morris Claiborne are out with injuries, even though Claiborne is officially listed as doubtful. Ernie Sims is likely to be out, too, but he is doubtful with a groin injury. We know Darrion Weems and Jakar Hamilton will be inactive.

Williams is listed as questionable. If he can’t play, then Spurlock gets that spot. If he can play, then the Cowboys will have to figure out where they go light.

It can’t be at linebacker. They have only five healthy linebackers. It can’t be on the offensive line. They have to take seven to the game. It can’t be quarterback, tight end, secondary or the specialists either.

We’re down to running back and defensive line. Phillip Tanner has special teams value, and if they need to run out the clock late I would think they would go with him if something happened to DeMarco Murray.

So now we’re down to the defensive line. Two weeks ago Everette Brown did not dress. Last week it was Martez Wilson. Jarius Wynn is questionable with a chest injury. They need to get after Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, so pass rush will be at a premium. I think they will carry all of their ends. That leaves newcomer Frank Kearse. Signed on Wednesday off the Tennessee Titans practice squad, he brings some size to the line, but that might not be enough to get him on the 46.

The inactives: Lee, Harris, Claiborne, Hamilton, Weems, Sims, Kearse.

Murray hopes to build on run game

December, 7, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- On Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys rushed for 144 yards, marking the second consecutive week the team reached over 100 yards this season.

It was a solid outing by starter DeMarco Murray and backup Lance Dunbar.

But late in the fourth quarter, Dunbar suffered a left knee injury and the next day it was determined he would be missed for the rest of the 2013 season because he needed surgery.

Murray is hoping what's left of the run game, Phillip Tanner and Joseph Randle, can build on what's finally been started this season: a run game.

"We got to continue to get our opportunities and run it," Murray said after Friday's practice. "I thought we did well, the offensive line blocked well. I thought we had good chemistry (against Oakland) so we got to continue (it), hopefully that will translate over to this weekend."

Monday night, the Cowboys face the Chicago Bears who have the worst ranked rush defense in the NFL. Opposing offenses are averaging five yards per carry and have scored 15 touchdowns against the Bears run defense.

The Cowboys will head into the game minus the speed of Dunbar, who was just coming along after overcoming nagging injuries and some fumbling issues. The offensive line has developed into something solid especially along the left side of the line where Tyron Smith, at left tackle, is having a Pro Bowl type season.

The Cowboys average 4.73 yards per game when running off Smith's side, the seventh-best numbers in the NFL. Running past left guard Ronald Leary has produced a 8.6 average, tops in the league. And when the team runs toward rookie center Travis Frederick, it's a 5.54 average, No. 2 in the league.

Producing these numbers while good the first three months of the season, need to remain consistent in the final four weeks.

"I think the running game is vital in the beginning of the season, middle of the season, any part you need to have a running game," Murray said. "And it's only going to help at some point and it's only going to help you in the play action and the passing game. So I think it's pretty important at all times."

DeMarco Murray's role to expand

December, 3, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Lance Dunbar had surgery on his left knee on Tuesday. Now the Dallas Cowboys have to figure out how to replace him.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray, Tony Romo
AP Photo/Tim SharpCoach Jason Garrett has high hopes that DeMarco Murray can continue to carry the Cowboys out of the backfield.
"DeMarco Murray is our lead back, has been our lead back all year long, has done an excellent job for us, did a really good job in the game the other day again," coach Jason Garrett said. "He'll be the lead dog. The other guys, Joseph Randle and Phillip Tanner will have to step up if they have an opportunity if DeMarco can't go."

The "if they have an opportunity," comment stuck. The Cowboys plan to ride Murray as much as they can, despite the belief that the NFL is a two-back league nowadays for guys not named Adrian Peterson. And it's not as if Dunbar morphed into an irreplaceable part on the Cowboys' offense.

Before carrying the ball 12 times for 82 yards against the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving, he had 18 carries for 68 yards for the season.

With Dunbar out earlier in the year with hamstring injuries and Murray slowed with a knee injury, Joseph Randle got his first action. He had all 45 of his carries for 111 yards and a touchdown in a four-game stretch, but has not had a carry in the past three games. Tanner has not had a carry in the past four games.

"We'd like to get the other backs in, give them a role, give a chance to give DeMarco rest, play a series, whatever that is," Garrett said. "We'll come up with what those substitution patterns are as the week goes on. We certainly feel confident in putting those other guys in the game though."

They might, but the proof will be on the field.

In his last three games, Murray has 238 rushing yards and four touchdowns (three came on Thanksgiving against the Raiders). He has eight catches for 79 yards in the last two games.

"If you look at the last couple of weeks, both in the Giant game and also in the Oakland game, he's one of those guys who makes a lot of dirty runs," Garrett said. "There were a number of runs in that game the other day where I'm standing there on the sideline saying, 'Boy, it's going to be second-and-10 here, he's not making much,' and somehow he kind of works his way through the hole and makes eight and it's second-and-2. I think that happened a lot. It happened in the red zone a couple of times in the game. Those were well-blocked plays but he found the holes and got himself into the end zone. I just think he's been a very productive back for us. He always has been and I think the thing where he's taken a major step is as a receiver. We felt really good about his receiving ability coming out of school. He was very productive in that regard and just his production, every week you throw it to him three times and he catches it three times for 38 yards. You throw it to him five times and he catches it five times for 42 yards. Sometimes those become those non-descript plays that nobody ever talks about, but they really make an offense go. When we throw him the ball or hand him the ball, usually good things happen. He's been a real good back for us."

Pondering the 46: Beasley will be active

November, 23, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Even with Miles Austin returning to action, Cole Beasley will be active Sunday against the New York Giants.

Beasley was inactive in two of the first three games with Austin healthy, but the Cowboys need Beasley for their empty package even if his playing time will be reduced.

As we Ponder the 46 this week, the decisions will come down to an extra defensive back (Jakar Hamilton) or an extra running back (Phillip Tanner). With Tanner playing a bigger special-teams role, Hamilton will be inactive this week with the return of J.J. Wilcox from a knee injury.

The defensive line will also look a little different with Jason Hatcher returning, DeMarcus Ware healthier and Kyle Wilber playing some linebacker. I can see Corey Irvin claiming the final defensive line spot over Everett Dawkins considering the way the Giants want to run the ball between the tackles.

Newly added linebacker Orie Lemon will have to be active out of necessity with Sean Lee, Justin Durant and DeVonte Holloman out. The Cowboys only have five healthy linebackers on the team. The hope is that Lemon can play some special-teams snaps.

So the guess at the inactives are: Andre Smith, Darrion Weems, Lee, Durant, Holloman, Hamilton and Dawkins.

Pondering the 46: Only four running backs?

November, 9, 2013
IRVING, Texas – Are the Dallas Cowboys about to end the luxury of taking four running backs to the game?

As we Ponder the 46 this week, let’s start with the premise that defensive tackle Jason Hatcher plays. The Cowboys will have to cover themselves, however, and make newcomer Everett Dawkins active, which will give them 10 defensive linemen on Sunday.

The other inactives are easy to figure out: Miles Austin, J.J. Wilcox, Morris Claiborne, DeVonte Holloman and Darrion Weems.

That leaves Phillip Tanner in the cross hairs with Joseph Randle working his way into the backup running back mix. Tanner is a core special teams player, but is that enough to bring him to the game? With so many defensive linemen active, that also aces tight end Andre Smith out of the picture as well.

Now, if Hatcher can’t play, then Tanner would appear safe because of his special teams skill. He brings more value to the 46-man roster than Smith, who would be able to help a running game that’s non-existent. Since the Cowboys don’t run the ball, they don’t really need to carry a fourth tight end.

So the inactives will be: Austin, Wilcox, Claiborne, Holloman, Weems, Tanner and Smith.

Pondering the 46: Rest for DeMarcus Ware

November, 2, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Sometimes figuring out the game-day roster can be a breeze.

Three players have already been ruled out because of injury: Morris Claiborne (hamstring), J.J. Wilcox (knee) and DeVonte Holloman (neck). Miles Austin did not practice this week and while he is officially doubtful, he should miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury. Brian Waters would have been the fourth injured player to be inactive, but the Cowboys put him on injured reserve Saturday. Darrion Weems will be the only inactive offensive lineman.

That leaves two more inactives.

DeMarcus Ware expressed some optimism late in the week about playing. He has missed the past two games with a quadriceps strain, but he said he was able to do some drills on Friday. Maybe he is ready to go, but it might make more sense to let Ware heal with the New Orleans Saints up next week. Having Ware closer to 100 percent to face Drew Brees & Co., seems a lot smarter than playing him against Christian Ponder & Co.

So that would put Everette Brown, who was signed Monday, on the field as a pass-rusher.

Special teams are a big factor on the final few spots, which would leave tight end Andre Smith on the outs. He was active the past two games but played sparingly as the Cowboys looked to help with their blocking.

With DeMarco Murray back in the fold, then perhaps Phillip Tanner’s spot could be in jeopardy. Add in the injuries of safety Danny McCray, the Cowboys should want to keep as many core special-teamers intact this week.

The inactives: Morris Claiborne, J.J. Wilcox, DeVonte Holloman, Miles Austin, Darrion Weems, DeMarcus Ware, Andre Smith.

Cowboys flunk situational football late

October, 29, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has preaches the importance of situational football every day. The Cowboys did not do well in situations in the 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions.

The Phillip Tanner run was chronicled on Monday evening. Garrett said Tanner should not have bounced the third-down run to the left, which forced a holding penalty on left tackle Tyron Smith.

But there were two other late-game situations where the Cowboys did not perform well.

On Matthew Stafford's game-winning leap, several defensive players did not come off the ball, believing Stafford was set for the spike. As a result, Stafford was able to reach the ball over the goal line.

“We have to handle that situation better and that goes to coaching, that goes to playing, everyone has to understand the possibility in that situation,” Garrett said. “Certainly I think there was an anticipation in some way, shape or form that they were going to spike the ball in that deal, but it’s not for us to decide that they’re going to do that. We have to decide to play football, get in stances, defend them if they want to run the ball. The quarterback sneak was one logical thing they could do there if they didn’t want to spike it. That’s just a great lesson for everybody and there’s a level of readiness you have to have. In some ways you think you’re ready for that kind of situation but you have to be down, you have to be ready and we weren’t and we have to do a better job of that in that situation.”

On the ensuing kickoff, linebacker Kyle Bosworth fielded the ball at the Cowboys 33 and ran out of bounds, running a handful of seconds off the clock.

“There are two things we should’ve done in that situation: simply run north and south and get down or simply get down immediately,” Garrett said. “What you don’t want to do is you don’t want to bounce and go to the sidelines and chew up that time. It probably would’ve been two or three seconds difference. Maybe that gives us another play. That’s how we could’ve handled that situation and we addressed that.”