Dallas Cowboys: Pro Bowl

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FRISCO, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys selected left tackle Tyron Smith with the ninth overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft, it was of the expectation that big things would happen in the future.

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At the time, Smith said he wanted to be more than a Pro Bowl player. Well, after finishing second in the NFL with seven false start penalties last season, his expectations are still high.

"The longer you're in it, there's always going to be high expectations," Smith said at a charity event Thursday. "You obviously have to have high expectations for yourself."

What about the Pro Bowl, which hasn't happened yet?

"It's always going to be the goal for me to get to that point," Smith said. "And to get even higher than that."

The "higher than that" part of his answer is interesting. The Cowboys have reduced the salary of right tackle Doug Free, who will have to battle for his starting job with Jermey Parnell. And Phil Costa, last season's starting center, has seemingly been replaced by rookie Travis Frederick, the team's first-round pick. Starting guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau remain on the team, but will be pushed by several younger players.

Which leaves us with Smith, who is supposed to be the anchor of this unit.

Smith improved as last season progressed and it left you wanting more. The penalties should concern fans, but the three sacks allowed should be comforting because you know he's not a liability to the offensive line.

Smith said he's added some weight and muscle and is now between 310 and 315 pounds after playing at 308 in 2012.

Another season under offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Callahan should also help Smith.

"It's kind of like everybody knows what to get done, and we know (Callahan's) expectations," Smith said. "So we're picking up on what we did last year and trying to grow from that."

Anthony Spencer named to Pro Bowl

January, 18, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Turns out the Dallas Cowboys will have an outside linebacker at the Pro Bowl after all.

Anthony Spencer was named as an injury replacement for Green Bay's Clay Matthews on Friday. Dallas' DeMarcus Ware was voted to the Pro Bowl for the seventh straight year, but he had recent shoulder surgery and was replaced by Minnesota's Chad Greenway.

Spencer's first trip to the Pro Bowl comes on the heels of his first double-digit sack season. In 14 games, Spencer led the Cowboys with 106 tackles and a career-high 11 sacks.

Read the whole story here.

Tony Romo not a likely Pro Bowl addition

January, 15, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- A couple of hours ago I wondered if Tony Romo could be headed to the Pro Bowl. Turns out that is about as likely as me being named the Cowboys' offensive coordinator.

Aaron Rodgers pulled out of the game with an ankle injury, according to 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com, and the New York Giants announced Eli Manning as the replacement.

If Atlanta's Matt Ryan wins the NFC Championship on Sunday, then Seattle's Russell Wilson would be added.

You can debate the merits of Romo getting into the all-star game over Manning and Wilson. Remember the votes were tallied before the three-interception finale against Washington, so that game did not play a factor in the vote.

Romo had more passing yards (4,903) and touchdown passes (28) than Wilson (3,118, 26) and Manning (3,948, 26), but he also had 19 interceptions, which tied Drew Brees, who is replacing Robert Griffin III, for the most in the NFL. Wilson led the Seahawks to the divisional round of the playoffs, and Manning's Giants finished 9-7, one game better than the Cowboys.

Even if Romo would get the nod if Manning, Wilson or Ryan can't play, there's doubt over whether he could play. He cracked a rib against Washington that left him in great pain after the game, and three-plus weeks of rest might not have been long enough to help him anyway.

DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten named to Pro Bowl

December, 26, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- For the second straight year the Cowboys had only two players selected to the Pro Bowl, their fewest in back-to-back years since 2001-02.

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Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware has been selected for the seventh straight year, and after a one-year hiatus tight end Jason Witten was picked for the eighth time.

Ware was selected as a starter with San Francisco’s Aldon Smith, and Witten was voted as a backup to Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez.

How many Cowboys actually play in the Jan. 27, 2013, game in Honolulu is up for debate because Ware could need surgery on his right shoulder after the season and a couple of players could be added as injury replacements.

The Cowboys do not comment on what players are named as possible alternates.

Last year, Ware and nose tackle Jay Ratliff were named to the Pro Bowl.

Ware leads the Cowboys with 11.5 sacks and is closing on the team’s unofficial sack record of 114 held by Harvey Martin. The franchise’s official all-time sack leader is tied with Randy White with 111 sacks on the unofficial list.

“What an honor and privilege it is to be voted to the Pro Bowl by the fans, coaches and players around the league,” Ware said in a statement released by the team. “I know how difficult it is to make it to the game, and I appreciate the support from everyone. I look forward to not only representing the NFC, but also the entire Dallas Cowboys organization.”

Witten set an NFL record for catches by a tight end in a season with 103 and needs 17 yards for his fourth 1,000-yard season. He needs 12 catches Sunday at Washington to set the franchise’s season record for catches, currently held by Michael Irvin, who had 111 catches in 1995. Witten became the Cowboys’ all-time leading pass catcher Nov. 4 in Atlanta.

The only players in team history with more Pro Bowl selections for the Cowboys are Bob Lilly (11), Larry Allen (10), Mel Renfro (10) and White (nine). Emmitt Smith was also picked to play in eight.

“It is always an honor to get voted, especially when a portion of the vote comes from your peers around the league,” Witten said. “Ihave a lot of respect for this league and the players that make up this league. I know how many great players there are around the NFL, and to be selected is very humbling.”

Dez Bryant missed out on making his first Pro Bowl appearance despite a breakout season. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Chicago’s Brandon Marshall, Victor Cruz of the New York Giants and Atlanta’s Julio Jones were named as the four receivers.

Bryant has 88 catches for 1,311 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season and has caught at least one TD pass in his last seven games. He has more catches and yards than Cruz and Jones and more touchdowns than Johnson and Marshall.

Even if he is added to the roster it is unlikely that Bryant would play in the all-star game because he needs surgery on his left index finger when the season ends.

Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer also missed out on a bid, despite a career-high 10 sacks and a team-leading 99 tackles. Ware was joined at the outside linebacker position by Smith and Green Bay’s Clay Matthews.

Dez Bryant making case for Pro Bowl

December, 19, 2012

IRVING, Texas – Fan voting for the Pro Bowl ended Monday and players, coaches and executives will vote this week.

The folks on NFL Live said the other day that Dez Bryant deserves to be on the NFC roster and it’s difficult to argue otherwise. Bryant has career highs in catches (79), yards (1,087) and touchdowns (10) this season and has been among the best receivers in the league – never mind the conference – in the second half of the season.

Bryant’s selection won’t be a lock. Only four receivers are picked for the team.

Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Chicago’s Brandon Marshall have more catches and yards. Atlanta’s Roddy White has the same catches as Bryant, but more yards. Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald has been hurt by the Cardinals’ quarterback play but he has the respect of every defender. Green Bay’s James Jones has only 51 catches for 622 yards, but he has 12 touchdowns. How do you factor in Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson, who has 1,226 yards and eight touchdowns?

Bryant would be the third Cowboys receiver to make the Pro Bowl since 2000, joining Terrell Owens (2007) and Miles Austin (2009, ’10) if he is selected.

Even if Bryant is selected, he likely wouldn’t play in the game because he will need finger surgery whenever the Cowboys’ season ends.

Pro Bowl voters not looking at Cowboys

November, 29, 2012
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys are looking at possibly having their fewest number of Pro Bowl representatives since 2002.

The only two players in the top five in the current fan voting are DeMarcus Ware, who is second among outside linebackers, and Jason Witten, who is fourth among tight ends.

The only Cowboy selected to the Pro Bowl in 2002 was defensive lineman La’Roi Glover on a team that finished 5-11. The Cowboys had two players picked for the game last season, in Ware and nose tackle Jay Ratliff.

Witten is second in the NFL in catches with 82 and is on pace to set a league record for catches in a season by a tight end. He is on pace for more than 1,000 yards but has scored only one touchdown. He trails Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez, New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and San Francisco’s Vernon Davis.

Ware, who has played in the last six Pro Bowls, is fourth in the NFL in sacks with 10 and second in the conference. He trails Green Bay’s Clay Matthews in the fan vote.

What other Cowboy could warrant consideration? Maybe Anthony Spencer. Maybe Dez Bryant. Maybe Dan Bailey.
Jason Garrett accurately called this arguably the best season of Tony Romo’s career. That doesn’t mean Romo should be considered a Pro Bowl snub.

Just because Romo played as well or better than he did in his three previous Pro Bowl campaigns doesn’t mean he earned another trip to Hawaii. Romo won’t go, even with Eli Manning busy with the Super Bowl.

Nobody can question Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans’ Drew Brees as the NFC’s top two quarterbacks. One set the NFL record for passer rating while leading his team to a 15-1 record. The other broke the league record for passing yards while playing for a 13-3 team.

Carolina’s Cam Newton will be Manning’s replacement. It’s hard to have a problem with that, considering that Newton set a rookie record with 4,051 passing yards and a record for all NFL quarterbacks by rushing for 14 touchdowns.

The NFC quarterback with the biggest beef isn’t Romo, the league’s fourth-highest rated passer (102.5) after throwing for 4,184 yards with 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. It would be Detroit’s Matthew Stafford.

Stafford, the former Highland Park High star, became the fourth quarterback in NFL history with a 5,000-yard season. He became the seventh quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 40 touchdowns in a season. He led the Lions, a longtime NFL laughingstock, to the playoffs.

Romo had a great year despite Dallas’ late-season fade. It just wasn’t good enough to get to the Pro Bowl given the NFC’s ridiculous riches at the quarterback position.

Manning over Romo? Not in Total QBR

December, 27, 2011

US Presswire
Eli Manning was selected to the Pro Bowl, though a stat-based argument could be made for Tony Romo.

If Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was looking for any further motivation regarding Sunday’s matchup with Eli Manning and the New York Giants, he can find it, at least statistically, in his omission from the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster.

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Manning was selected over Romo despite Romo ranking eight spots ahead of him in the Total QBR rankings.

Romo’s Total QBR for the season is 72.4, fourth-best in the NFL and third-best in the NFC, behind Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers (85.2) and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints (82.7).

Manning ranks 12th overall and among NFC quarterbacks, he also rates behind Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons (66.2), Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles (62.4), Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions (60.8), and Jay Cutler, who was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday by the Chicago Bears (59.5).

The biggest difference between Romo and his competitors is a big gap in the expected points he added in his pass attempts. He ranks fourth in that stat, (known as Pass EPA), adding 111.7 points to his team this season. Manning rates a distant fifth (85.9). A major reason for this is that Manning has thrown nearly twice as many interceptions (16) as Romo (nine).

Romo’s Total QBR was boosted by four games with a Total QBR of 90 or better, a 27-24 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2 (Total QBR: 93.9), a 23-13 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9 (Total QBR: 90.0), a 44-7 win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 10 (Total QBR: 99.3) and a 31-15 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15.

In those four games, Romo was a combined 85-for-120 for 1,143 yards, with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Manning only has one game this season that ranked in the Top 50, a 27-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 6 (Total QBR: 91.4; 27th-best in the NFL this season).

He does have three others that rate very well, and it likely helps his cause among those selecting the Pro Bowl rosters, that two of those were in wins against the New England Patriots (Total QBR: 81.3) and the Cowboys (Total QBR: 77.1)

The Pro Bowl selections for the AFC were basically a match for the Total QBR rankings.

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers, are first, third, and fourth in the conference in Total QBR, respectively. Injured Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub was second.

The next-best possible AFC quarterback by Total QBR, Matt Hasselbeck of the Tennessee Titans was actually just one spot below Manning, at 58.8, 13th-best in the NFL.

Ware leads in fan voting at OLB for Pro Bowl

December, 21, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys DeMarcus Ware leads in the fan voting for the Pro Bowl at outside linebacker, which ended Monday.

The results were released Wednesday.

Ware, who has 581,554 votes, is the only Cowboys player to lead at his position.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads all players with 1.5 million votes. NFL officials said a record 100.6 million fans voted on the Pro Bowl.

Players and coaches will place their votes Wednesday and Thursday. The team will be announced on Dec. 27.

Fans, players and coaches votes count for one-third to determining the 43-man roster for the game played Jan. 29 in Hawaii.

Ware shouldn't be the only Cowboys player getting consideration for the Pro Bowl. Jason Witten and Jay Ratliff should also get some votes by the players and coaches.

Did Ratliff, Gurode earn Pro Bowl start?

December, 29, 2010
Surprise! The Cowboys had five players selected to start in the Pro Bowl.

We have no problem with DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten and Mat McBriar getting the nod, but Andre Gurode and Jay Ratliff were questionable selections.

Let's just say Witten and Ware have been fantastic this season, and McBriar had his best season. It's hard to pick three guys from a team that has 10 losses, but remember this is a talented team.

Now let's take a closer look at Ratliff and Gurode.

Gurode: The best offensive lineman for the Cowboys this season is left tackle Doug Free. He's not a Pro Bowler mind you, but he's been a productive member of this unit. Gurode, you could argue, has been the third-best lineman behind left guard Kyle Kosier. Gurode has allowed just 1.5 sacks, according to Stats Inc., and been called for six penalties for 55 yards. His snaps are still a little inconsistent -- the one to Stephen McGee on Saturday night comes to mind; it was low and outside (a catchable snap), but for a young quarterback you must be near perfect.

Gurode probably earned this start on reputation, as did the Giants' Shaun O'Hara, who missed nine games due to injuries. At times it's hard to judge offensive linemen because you're not sure what the line protection is and that type of thing. Gurode has been above average this season. Pro Bowler? Not sure.

Ratliff: Last season, with two bad elbows and constant double-teams, Ratliff earned his first All-Pro selection and second Pro Bowl berth. He had 40 total tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles. But what we also liked about him was two things: He was credited with 33 quarterback pressures and 7.5 stuffs. That means he stopped seven players at the line of scrimmage either for a loss or no gain. This season, with two healthy elbows, constant double-teams, he's got just 29 tackles, 3.5 sacks, no forced fumbles, zero stuffs and 10 quarterback pressures. There are times Ratliff is almost there to make the play -- twice vs. the Colts he did a great job in anticipating the snap count, and missed tackling Peyton Manning as he handed the ball off.

He is still quick, and is probably having a down year. We think he'll bounce back, but he hasn't played at a Pro Bowl level in a season where the Cowboys needed him too. Maybe opposing players and coaches respect the fact he's got these numbers because of the number of blockers he faces every week and the nose tackle position is demanding. Maybe.

Five Cowboys named Pro Bowl starters

December, 28, 2010
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys, a team with 10 losses, had five players named as starters for the Pro Bowl.

Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, tight end Jason Witten, punter Mat McBriar, nose tackle Jay Ratliff and center Andre Gurode were named to the NFC team for Jan. 30 game in Honolulu.

Last season the Cowboys had nine players selected for the game, tied for the sixth most in franchise history. Gurode didn’t participate due to an injury. Tony Romo, Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman were injury replacements.

For Ware, it’s the fifth consecutive season he’s been named to the game. Ware is tied for third in the NFL with 12.5 sacks and he’s had at least five seasons with double-digit sack totals. He’s put up these numbers despite constant double-teams.

Witten earned his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl selection and has been wonderful this year. He leads tight ends in yards (956) and catches (90). His eight touchdowns are a career high. Earlier this season, Witten registered his 600th career reception, making him the fourth tight end in league history to reach that milestone.

"I was hoping for a better season for our team, but individually you try to be one of the best at your position," Witten said. "Going to the Pro Bowl is a great experience and an honor."

McBriar earned his second Pro Bowl berth as he leads the NFL in net punting average at 42.1. Returners have just 174 yards against McBriar this year. McBriar’s other Pro Bowl trip was in 2006.

"It's an honor to go back, and it's quite an honor to be selected by my peers, other coaches and fans. I'm really excited, and it's an awesome feeling," McBriar said. "I was very happy when I got the call. It's extra special for me since I went to school there[in Hawaii], and I get to catch up with some of the people I went to school with. The first time was a really neat experience, I'm going to make the most of it again."

Ratliff will make his third Pro Bowl consecutive Pro Bowl appearance. His overall numbers in sacks (3.5) and quarterback pressures (10) are way down from last year, when he had six sacks and 33 pressures, but like Ware he’s also taking on double teams on a regular basis and opposing teams and coaches took notice of the fact that he’s still a dominant force.

Gurode makes his fifth consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl and continues a streak of offensive linemen who have reached the NFL’s all-star game for the Cowboys. Since 2002, the Cowboys have had at least one offensive linemen named to the Pro Bowl.

There is also a possibility other players could be named to the team as injury replacements, but that won’t be known until changes are made to the roster.

For the full roster of starters for both the AFC and NFC, click here.

Pro Bowl heads back to Honolulu

March, 2, 2010
It's not a surprise, but the Pro Bowl is headed back to Honolulu, Hawaii, the league announced today. The game will be played Jan. 30, a week before Super Bowl XLV is played at Cowboys Stadium.

It was interesting to note in the NFL release it said, "Decision follows success of 2010 game before Super Bowl."

That's funny but there were numerous complaints from players, fans, media and even organizations such as the Colts, upset or concerned about having the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl, the selection of the players and forcing the Pro Bowlers from the Super Bowl participants to arrive in Miami to get honored before the game.

This season, which could be the NFL's last due to a lockout, the Super Bowl is played on Feb. 6, 2011.

Might this 2010 season be the last Pro Bowl and Super Bowl we see for a while?

Should Pro Bowl count against Phillips?

February, 1, 2010
It's tough for me to critique Wade Phillips' coaching performance in the Pro Bowl for two reasons:

1) Defensive scheming is basically outlawed by the all-star game's rules.

2) I fell asleep at some point in the third quarter.

However, ESPN 103.3's Randy Galloway insists that the NFC's loss should count on Phillips' permanent record. In Galloway's world, Phillips is now 1-6 in the postseason.

That seems a bit harsh to me. If we're going to include the Pro Bowl on Phillips' postseason record, we ought to at least let him count that 2007 bye week as a win.

Romo, Adams are Pro Bowl possibilities

January, 25, 2010
The Dallas Cowboys' traveling party to the Pro Bowl, which already includes six players and the coaching staff, could get bigger.

Quarterback Tony Romo and left tackle Flozell Adams are the most likely local candidates to receive late Pro Bowl invitations.

New Orleans Saints tackle Jon Stinchcomb's Super Bowl commitment did not open up a spot for Adams. New York's David Diehl was the first alternate. But it's possible that Minnesota's Bryant McKinnie, who dealt with several injuries during the season, could opt out of the game.

Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb is the first alternate at quarterback for the NFC, so he will replace Drew Brees on the roster.

But the odds of Brett Favre playing in the Pro Bowl are slim and none. Favre is an annual Pro Bowl no-show anyway and actually has a solid excuse after taking a beat Sunday from the Saints. His absence could result in Romo getting an invitation.