Dallas Cowboys: Tashard Choice

Cowboys need more Bradie James picks

May, 7, 2014
May 7
IRVING, Texas -- In talking about Bradie James on Tuesday, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones could not help but think of the draft.

It wasn’t just that the draft is coming up Thursday. It was something James signified in turning into a starter from 2005-11 with the Cowboys, a captain and the leading tackler for a six-year run.

“When I think about the fourth-round value of what Bradie brought us, that’s where you’re trying to go,” Jones said.

James was the 103rd pick of the 2003 draft. When the Cowboys moved to the 3-4 scheme in 2005, he became a better fit for the defense. He was a sure tackler, dependable player and good leader. He was solid in a lot of ways.

Since James, the Cowboys have not been so fortunate with their fourth-round selections.

In 2005 they drafted Marion Barber (109 overall) and Chris Canty (132 overall). In 2007 they drafted Doug Free (122 overall). Barber earned a Pro Bowl spot and was a tough runner. Canty was a solid player for four years before leaving in free agency. Free is the Cowboys' starting right tackle.

Since selecting Free in the fourth round, however, the Cowboys have not found an every-day starter. Running back Tashard Choice (122 overall, 2008) started four games in parts of four seasons. Quarterback Stephen McGee (101 overall, 2009) and Victor Butler (110 overall, 2009) combined to start three games. Brandon Williams (120 overall, 2009) never made an impact in part because of a knee injury.

The Cowboys never figured out of Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (126 overall, 2010) was a cornerback, safety or wide receiver in his two seasons with the team. David Arkin (110 overall, 2011) never started a game.

In 2012, the Cowboys picked Kyle Wilber (113 overall) and Matt Johnson in the fourth round. Wilber became a starter out of necessity last year but at outside linebacker after playing defensive end in the 4-3. Johnson has yet to play in a game because of an injury.

Last year the Cowboys took cornerback B.W. Webb (114 overall) and he did little to inspire the stopping of what has become a trend.

Successful drafts are determined by the quality of depth a team forms in the later rounds. In 2003, the Cowboys found James and he went on to become the franchise’s sixth all-time leading tackler. Free has been a starter since 2009.

The Cowboys need more of those guys this week in order to have a successful draft in 2014 and less of the Arkins, Butlers and McGees.
IRVING, Texas -- Another lively chat Wednesday with more than 100 questions from you guys wanting to know this, that and everything about the Dallas Cowboys.


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


Discuss (Total votes: 11,576)

In the chat we talked about:

  • The return of Anthony Spencer.
  • The chances of Johnny Manziel coming to the Cowboys.
  • The chances Kony Ealy comes to the Cowboys.
  • The Morris Claiborne "trade" talks. I put quotes around that on purpose.

  • To read the whole chat, click here.

    Let's talk about the whole 'need vs. best player' debate some more:

    Kyle from Virginia asked: With Will McClay playing a bigger role in this draft, do you see Dallas taking the best player available regardless of position more often this year or just filling their needs? I am hoping they are focusing on the long-term, not just the upcoming season.

    Here is my answer: I'm not being a wise guy here, but the answer is: Yes. We always speak in this perfect world of taking the best player available, but you have to factor in need. The key is to not make the need overwhelm the evaluation process so you're inflating a player's worth. I do believe the Cowboys look at the draft as a multi-year deal not specific to one year, but need will always play a part in the process. It just has to. You can't eliminate it.

    To elaborate, much of the draft operates in a gray area. Ideally everything is crystal clear. I'm sure in the past I've said, 'You always take the best player available.' Heck, I probably said it two weeks ago, but I'd like to add two caveats:

    You always take the best player in the first round. You always take the best player when the best player's grade is much higher than the player you are going to take.

    It's clear the Cowboys need defensive line help, though I think the signings they've had in free agency helps steer them away from reaching for a player at No. 16. If they are unable to get one of their top defensive linemen at No. 16, be it Anthony Barr, Aaron Donald or whomever, then don't reach for the next-best defensive linemen if you don't believe he is better than somebody at another position.

    That's why I've had the Cowboys taking Zack Martin in the mock drafts I've been asked about. The Cowboys look to be in no-man's land at No. 16 when it comes to the top defensive linemen. Too low for Donald and Barr. Too high for Ealy or Easley. If they trade back in the first round, then it becomes a little more palatable to take one of the lower-ranked guys.

    In 2009, the Cowboys should have drafted LeSean McCoy in the second round. They had a first-round grade on McCoy but instead of taking him they traded down to get third- and fourth-round picks from the Buffalo Bills.

    At the time the Cowboys had Marion Barber on a big-time deal and drafted Felix Jones in the first round in 2008. They also liked Tashard Choice. They probably thought they were stacking it up at the position if they took McCoy. So what? You had a chance to get a first-round player with a pick in the 50s. Do it.

    We want everything to be black and white when it comes to the draft, but it's not that easy.

    Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 1

    February, 14, 2014
    Feb 14
    PM ET
    IRVING, Texas – Part 1 of the Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready. Part 2 comes on Saturday.

    In this post we talk about if the Dallas Cowboys would really pick Michael Sam, Will McClay's role, drafting a quarterback early and/or a wide receiver early.

    Away we go:


    Former Cowboys still playing this weekend

    January, 4, 2014
    Jan 4
    AM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys did not make the playoffs, but they could have as many as 11 former players taking part in the postseason this weekend.

    Kansas City Chiefs

    Anthony Fasano caught 23 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns in nine games for the Chiefs. He was the first of three second-round picks the Cowboys have used on tight ends since 2006. The lack of creativity at times with “12 personnel” has hurt him, Martellus Bennett and Gavin Escobar.

    Indianapolis Colts

    Running back Tashard Choice had 11 carries for 44 yards in three games for the Colts after he was cut by the Buffalo Bills. He had some moments with the Cowboys but could not get in the running back rotation with Marion Barber and/or Felix Jones.

    Defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton was signed in June and released by the Cowboys on Aug. 26.

    Erik Walden was a sixth-round pick in 2008, just like Choice, but he never showed the pass-rush ability the Cowboys hoped for. He won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers and has 45 tackles and three sacks in 15 games for the Colts.

    New Orleans Saints

    Shayne Graham was with the Cowboys in training camp in 2011 when they had five kickers on the roster at one point. At one point it looked like the job was his, but the Cowboys went with undrafted rookie Dan Bailey, who has been one of their best players the past three seasons. Graham was a late-season addition to the Saints' roster.

    Kenyon Coleman is on injured reserve and Victor Butler is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.

    Philadelphia Eagles

    If there was a player to make the all-airport team it would be Clifton Geathers. He had the look of the prototype defensive end in a 3-4 but he just didn’t make enough plays. He had 26 tackles in 16 games for the Eagles this season with one in last week’s win against the Cowboys.

    Cincinnati Bengals

    Cornerback Adam Jones had an eventful one season with the Cowboys in 2008. He has found a home in Cincinnati. He has 56 tackles and three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, in 16 games.

    Terence Newman had a second straight solid season with the Bengals but missed the final three games with a knee injury. He should play Saturday against the San Diego Chargers. In 13 games he had 52 tackles, two interceptions and 14 pass deflections.

    Who is Kevin Brock? A tight end. He did a short stint in training camp with the Cowboys in 2010.

    Dennis Roland was an undrafted offensive tackle with the Cowboys in 2006. He has had a decent career, mostly with the Bengals and is a backup now.

    San Diego Chargers

    The Cowboys traded Sean Lissemore to the Chargers on Sept. 1 for a seventh-round pick in 2015. Given the injuries they had on the line, they would have been better served to keep Lissemore, who might not have been the best fit in a 4-3. In 15 games (two starts), Lissemore had 24 tackles and two sacks for the Chargers.

    Tight end John Phillips was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. He had four catches in 15 games.

    The San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers do not have any former Cowboys on their rosters.

    Unlucky 13: Crazy losses for Cowboys

    December, 12, 2011
    PM ET

    IRVING, Texas -- If you regularly come back to the thought that, 'Man, the Cowboys sure come up with some inventive ways to lose games,' you're right.

    Since 2005, I have come up with 13 head-scratching losses that seem to define this franchise. And that does not include the humiliating 44-6 defeat at Philadelphia to close the 2008 season, which knocked the Cowboys out of a playoff spot.

    Three of those losses have come this year. Three came last year. Two each in ’09, ’08 and ’06, and the one that kicked it off came on Sept. 19, 2005 (against Washington), when the Triplets – Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith - were inducted into the Ring of Honor.

    It has been quite a roller-coaster ride, but without the fun part.

    Sept. 19, 2005 – Washington, 14-13.

    The Cowboys lead, 13-0, with 6:01 to play, and the 65,207 in attendance, the largest crowd at Texas Stadium at the time following the 1985 renovations, was enjoying the moment. The Triplets were inducted into the Ring of Honor. The defense was dominating.

    Then Santana Moss happened.

    Moss caught touchdown passes of 39 and 70 yards in the final 3:46, bringing to light Roy Williams’ deficiencies in coverage. The second touchdown came with 2:35 to play. Oh, by the way, the Cowboys missed the playoffs by a game that year.

    Nov. 5, 2006 – Washington, 22-19

    Tony Romo’s second start was about to end with a fourth-quarter drive for a game-winning field goal, but Troy Vincent blocked Mike Vanderjagt’s 35-yard try. Sean Taylor scooped up the loose ball and returned it 30 yards. Another 15 yards was added because of a Kyle Kosier facemask penalty.

    With no time on the clock, Nick Novak kicked a 47-yarder to beat the Cowboys.

    Jan. 6, 2007 – Seattle, 21-20

    Tony Romo
    AP Photo/John FroschauerTony Romo bobbled the snap for the game-winning field goal versus the Seahawks, preventing Martin Gramatica from making the 19-yard attempt.
    This one was the most heartbreaking because it was in the wild-card round of the playoffs. It was also Bill Parcells’ final game as a head coach. The Cowboys maintain to this day that had they won that game, they could have gone to the Super Bowl.

    Instead L.P. LaDouceur’s snap for a 19-yard field goal try slipped through Romo’s hands. Conspiracy theorists point to the slippery "K-ball" that was put in play before the snap. Others point to a Jason Witten first down that was overturned by the replay official, which negated the possibility to run the clock out or score a touchdown.

    Oct. 12, 2008 – Arizona, 30-24 (OT)

    The Cowboys somehow tied this game at the end of regulation on a 52-yard field goal by Nick Folk, but on the opening series of overtime, they lost Tony Romo to a broken pinky finger and punter Mat McBriar to a broken foot. On the play in which McBriar broke his foot, Sean Morey blocked his punt and Monty Beisel fell on the ball for a touchdown. The game started with a special teams touchdown (a 93-yard kick return) for the Cardinals, and ended with one.

    Dec. 20, 2008 – Baltimore, 33-24

    In what was a struggle for the offense for most of the game, twice the Cowboys pulled to within two points of the Ravens. Terrell Owens made the score 19-17 by scoring with 3:50 to play. Baltimore answered with a 77-yard touchdown run by Willis McGahee. Jason Witten cut the gap again with a TD grab with 1:36 to play. Le'Ron McClain answered with an 80-yard touchdown run.

    It was not the way Jerry Jones wanted to see Texas Stadium close.

    Sept. 20, 2009 – NY Giants, 33-31

    Steve Smith, Mario Manningham
    Tim Heitman/US PresswireMario Manningham, left, and Steve Smith, right, combined for 20 catches and 284 yards in the Cowboys Stadium opener.
    If Jones didn’t want to see Texas Stadium close that way, he didn’t want to see Cowboys Stadium open this way. Felix Jones gave the Cowboys a 31-30 lead with a touchdown run with 3:40 to play.

    Then Eli Manning happened.

    Manning completed 7-of-9 passes for 64 yards, helping the Giants overcome a 1st-and-20 situation from their 15 and leading to a 37-yard game-winning field goal by Lawrence Tynes with no time left.

    Oct. 4, 2009 – Denver, 17-10

    The Cowboys blew a 10-0 lead when Broncos wide receiver caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Orton with 1:46 to play. However, Romo had the Cowboys in position to tie the game after a 53-yard completion to Sam Hurd.

    At the Denver 2-yard line with nine seconds to play, Romo went to Hurd (unsuccessfully) on back-to-back plays while the wideout was defended by Pro Bowler Champ Bailey.

    Cowboys Pro Bowler Jason Witten did not even run a route.

    Sept. 12, 2010 – Washington, 13-7

    The Cowboys dominated defensively, but were done in by Jason Garrett’s decision to call a play with four seconds left in the first half and a mile away from the Redskins’ end zone. Romo flipped the ball to Tashard Choice, who fumbled while fighting for extra yards. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall scooped up the loose ball and ran it back for a 32-yard touchdown. It was the Redskins' only touchdown of the game.

    In position to win the game, Alex Barron happened.

    With three seconds left, Romo hit Roy Williams for an apparent game-tying touchdown with the point-after attempt being the difference in a win. Not so fast. Barron, starting in place of an injured Marc Colombo, was called for holding Brian Orakpo on the touchdown pass, wiping out the comeback.

    Nov. 25, 2010 – New Orleans, 30-27

    The Cowboys were not in the playoff chase, but they were fighting under Garrett, who took over for Wade Phillips as the interim coach. They led 27-23 and were in position to salt the game away as Roy Williams raced down the field toward the Saints end zone. As he switched the ball to his left hand away from a New Orleans defender, he allowed Michael Jenkins to strip it away for the turnover.

    Five plays and 89 yards later, Drew Brees hit Lance Moore with the game-winning touchdown pass.

    Dec. 25, 2010 – Arizona, 27-26

    Stephen McGee was shaping up as the hero, filling in for an injured Jon Kitna. He hit Miles Austin with a 37-yard touchdown pass with 1:41 to play to give the Cowboys the lead. Unfortunately David Buehler missed the PAT, giving Arizona hope.

    John Skelton converted a 4th-and-15 with a 26-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald, and Jay Feely won the game with a 48-yard field goal.

    Sept. 11, 2011 – NY Jets, 27-24

    Mark Brunell, Nick Folk
    Ed Mulholland/US PresswireNick Folk kicked the go-ahead 50-yard field goal with 27 seconds left in the 2011 opener.
    The Cowboys led, 24-10, two plays into the fourth quarter following a Felix Jones touchdown. They were in position to answer a Jets touchdown with at least a field goal when Romo fumbled while diving to the New York goal line for his first of two fourth-quarter turnovers.

    On the Cowboys’ next series, Joe McKnight blocked McBriar’s punt and Isaiah Trufant returned it 18 yards for the tying touchdown.

    Late in regulation, Romo was intercepted by Darrelle Revis on a poor throw to Dez Bryant. That was turned into a game-winning field goal by former Cowboy Nick Folk.

    Dec. 4, 2011 – Arizona, 19-13 (OT)

    Sensing a trend with Arizona here?

    Tied at 13-13, Romo put the Cowboys in position to win the game with another Dan Bailey field goal. His 15-yard completion to Bryant had the Cowboys at the Cardinals' 31-yard line. Yet with two timeouts and roughly 25 seconds to go, the Cowboys did not stop the clock until Romo spiked the ball with seven seconds to play.

    As Bailey lined up for the game-winner, Garrett called a timeout because the play clock was running out. Bailey’s second attempt fell short, and in overtime the Cowboys would never get the ball.

    LaRod Stephens-Howling raced 52 yards on a short flip from Kevin Kolb for the game-winner.

    Dec. 11, 2011 – NY Giants, 37-34

    Bryant’s 50-yard touchdown pass gave the Cowboys a 34-22 lead with 5:41 to play. All seemed well with the world.

    Then Eli Manning happened. Again.

    He shredded the Dallas defense on an eight-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a Jake Ballard touchdown catch and then directed New York on a six-play, 56-yard drive that ended in a Brandon Jacobs touchdown. The subsequent two-point conversion gave the Giants a three-point cushion.

    During the second drive, Garrett let crucial seconds go off the clock again by failing to call a timeout until 1:00 remained.

    Despite all that, two Romo-to-Miles Austin completions had the Cowboys at the New York 29-yard line with six seconds to play.

    Before Bailey went in for the game-tying 47-yard try, Giants coach Tom Coughlin called a timeout, negating what turned out to be a good kick. Bailey’s second attempt wasn't close to going through the uprights.

    Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul pushed between LaDouceur and Montrae Holland and deflected Bailey’s kick.

    Jason Garrett does the right thing

    December, 10, 2011
    PM ET

    Sometimes, the media demands answers. We want players and coaches to be held accountable for their actions on and off the field.

    And that was the case this week regarding Jason Garrett, who didn't publicly admit a mistake for not reacting quicker either with a timeout or spiking of the ball in the overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday.

    But now we await an interview DeMarcus Ware gives NBC's Michele Tafoya in which he says Garrett apologized to the team for his gaffe at the end of regulation. (The interview will air Sunday prior to the Cowboys-Giants game).

    So is Garrett square with his team because he told them in private he was wrong?

    Yes, he is.

    Several players supported Garrett in public despite the mistake and said it's not his fault.

    The next question: Why wouldn't Garrett just say so this week when asked by reporters?

    With the revelation that he did tell the team he messed up, Garrett's decision-making process is open to more scrutiny.

    If the Cowboys lose Sunday night to the New York Giants, their first-place lead is gone and the season may be on the brink of collapse.

    Garrett's decision to let Dan Bailey attempt that 49-yard field goal looms larger, as the Arizona loss might cost the Cowboys a playoff spot.

    It won't cost Garrett his job, but it's just another negative mark on his record.

    People like to say Garrett is a smart guy because he went to an Ivy League school. That's fine. But it's funny how so many of us in the media have questioned his football IQ.

    *A few years ago, he didn't give Felix Jones a single carry.

    *He had trouble getting the ball to Roy Williams on a consistent basis.

    *There was Tashard Choice's run near the end of the first half at Washington last year that led to a fumble returned for a touchdown. Garrett should have taken a knee, and didn't. He later admitted he should have.

    *Garrett has taken all sorts of questions about why he doesn't run the ball more, something he's decided to do this year with the emergence of DeMarco Murray.

    *At the end of the debacle against Detroit in which the Cowboys blew a 24-3 lead, there was an issue as to whether Garrett knew there was time on the clock when Felix Jones ran out of bounds to end the game. Garrett is seen on the sidelines looking at his play sheet as if he's about to call a play. Garrett did say he knew the game was over.

    *In Week 2, he called for a run play with a nicked up Miles Austin, who clearly wasn't himself.

    *The Cowboys continue to commit silly penalties at the wrong time. Dallas has 32 penalties in the fourth quarter this year, tied for fourth most in the NFL. When Wade Phillips was the coach, he was questioned repeatedly about the discipline of his team. Should Garrett get those same questions?

    Jerry Jones said Phillips never got a honeymoon from the media in his four seasons here. Is Garrett getting one?

    The players like Garrett. Respect him. Most of these same players liked and respected Phillips.

    Somehow these players didn't get the job done for him and Jones was forced to do something he never wanted to do, and that's fire a coach.

    Garrett is doing the right things for his team and should be given a chance to get Jones a title he cherishes. But Garrett is on the line here if the Cowboys don't beat the Giants.

    He mismanaged the loss at Arizona, which might haunt the team down the line.

    His apology was needed; now, his team must do something for him, and that's beat New York.

    Do you still believe in Jason Garrett?

    December, 6, 2011
    AM ET
    The latest crisis of the Jason Garrett administration has us thinking about you and how you're coping.

    Do you still believe in Jason Garrett?

    There were 21 consecutive questions to start Monday's news conference regarding Garrett's decision-making at the end of regulation against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

    What's interesting is Garrett didn't know how to answer two key questions:

    1. He didn't know if he told Tony Romo to spike the ball sooner after Dez Bryant's reception with 26 seconds to play.

    2. He didn't know what to say when asked about special teams coach Joe DeCamillis yelling at him on the sidelines after Bryant's catch.

    Why didn't he answer these questions?

    Maybe he told Romo to spike the ball, but for whatever reason the quarterback didn't do it. With Garrett saying he didn't know what he remembers from that moment, it could mean he's protecting his quarterback and putting all the blame on himself. Garrett did say he didn't know how to answer the question and upon review, Romo is telling his teammates to spike the ball after so much time has gone by.

    If Romo was told to spike the ball sooner and didn't, that's another issue that probably won't be addressed.

    As for the second point, maybe DeCamillis didn't know Garrett told Romo to spike the ball sooner, or the head coach was ignoring his special teams coordinator because he wanted more time to run off the clock.

    With the play clock under 10, DeCamillis and kicking coach Chris Boniol pleaded with Garrett to call time, which he did. Garrett said the three of them were on the same page then. Maybe they weren't seconds earlier when DeCamillis wanted the timeout.

    It is interesting Garrett didn't believe in the running game at that point, as evident by just three run plays being called in the entire fourth quarter. DeMarco Murray did get 11 yards on two carries, and Romo is credited with a fumble on the other. But it seemed the old Jason Garrett returned in that fourth quarter.

    In a tie game, Garrett called for eight pass plays from the 13:00 mark until 2:54 remained in the game. That's eight passes in two possessions. Garrett should have run the ball more.

    You can't fault him for passing the ball in the final three minutes, but Garrett made the offense one-dimensional when he didn't need to.

    Garrett, in case you forget, is a rookie coach, and he did salvage something of the 2010 season, which prompted Jerry Jones to hire him full-time. This season he's made his mistakes -- the pitch to an injured Miles Austin in the San Francisco game, get someone else other than Romo to hold when Mat McBriar was hurt, keeping Tashard Choice around too long, and the failures of the return game are on his watch.

    Garrett has a running back he believes in now and he's contained Romo's late game mistakes. He's allowed Rob Ryan to do whatever is necessary on defense. For the most part, he has believers in the team.

    Cornerback Frank Walker was saying the entire team believed in Dan Bailey's abilities to make that 49-yard kick because he's made clutch kicks so many times this season.

    In the Cowboys locker room after the game Sunday, Romo patted Bailey on the back at his locker and offered words of encouragement. Jay Ratliff said Bailey didn't cost the Cowboys the game.

    It seems this team is ready to move forward from the loss.

    Garrett is too.

    But do you believe in him going forward?

    Tashard Choice talks smack, has little impact

    November, 20, 2011
    PM ET
    LANDOVER, Md. -- On Sunday, former Dallas Cowboys running back Tashard Choice played his first game since Oct. 23 for the Washington Redskins.

    Choice was claimed by Washington after the Cowboys cut him with a hamstring injury.

    Choice finished with with six carries for seven yards versus his former team.

    His first carry was a nine-yard gain near the Cowboys sideline. After the run, Choice got up and yelled at the sideline. He was pushed by Abram Elam after the play.

    Choice had a relatively quiet day until late in regulation when the Redskins were faced with a first-and-goal from the Cowboys 2.

    Choice ran to the right side and was knocked back by Keith Brooking and Kenyon Coleman for a two-yard loss.

    "It was a tough situation," Choice said. "I had a chance to win the game late. All these games are always close against the Cowboys. I wish I could have got it in right there. I tried to make a play, tried to get outside and make a play, but I'm glad we got it in the end zone and took it to overtime."

    First quarter: Cowboys 7, Redskins 0

    November, 20, 2011
    PM ET
    LANDOVER, Md. -- After one quarter the Cowboys have a nice and simple 7-0 lead at FedEx Field.

    Turnover leads to first score: Jason Garrett says whoever wins the turnover battle should win the game. The first touchdown was set up by a turnover when safety Gerald Sensabaugh forced a fumble on a hit on tight end Fred Davis with 8:39 to play. Washington coach Mike Shanahan challenged the ruling thinking Davis' knee was down before the fumble. The replay confirmed the turnover, and two plays later Dez Bryant caught a 22-yard pass from Tony Romo for a 7-0 lead.

    Jones get in:Running back Felix Jones made his return after a four-game absence due to a high ankle sprain. Jones worked in practice on kick returns, but it was Akwasi Owusu-Ansah who returned was back for the opening kickoff. Jones did come in on the fifth play of the game and rushed for 6 yards. He picked up three snaps on the first possession of the game.

    James back on the field:Bradie James, didn't start, but after getting one snap in the win last week vs. Buffalo, he got at least seven snaps in the first quarter. There was a nice little alignment where James was on the field with Keith Brooking and Sean Lee for two consecutive possessions. James' action was limited last week because the Bills spread their offense out, and the Cowboys wanted their best pass defenders on the field.

    Choice makes his debut: Tashard Choice made his Redskins debut and carried for 9 yards near the end of the quarter. After his gain, Choice, a former Cowboys running back, yelled at the Cowboys bench, and Abram Elam gave him a little shove to shut him up.

    No Kitna or Fiammeta: The Cowboys don't have their backup quarterback Jon Kitna (back) and starting fullback Tony Fiammetta (illness) for the game. Stephen McGee is the backup and the Cowboys will use John Phillips as a fullback. On the first possession of the game, Phillips came in at fullback on a second-and-1 from the Dallas 29.

    Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Redskins preview

    November, 18, 2011
    AM ET

    Scout's Eye
    The last time the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys met, some eight weeks ago, the Redskins were off to a 2-0 start with an impressive opening day win against the New York Giants while the Cowboys had just evened their record to 1-1 after Tony Romo managed to steal a game in San Francisco despite a broken rib.

    Blame quarterbacks for Redskins' slide

    Since that meeting, the Redskins have lost five of their last six. A large part of those losses are due to the poor play of the quarterbacks Rex Grossman and John Beck. When you study the Redskins, the first thing that comes to mind is what we had to deal with during the Dave Campo years here in Dallas when it came to the quarterbacks. During that span we wasted a lot of time trying to get quarterbacks ready to play that gave us no opportunity to win games. I am seeing a lot of the same things in Washington.

    Mike Shanahan’s inability to successfully identify a quarterback has done a lot of damage to the Redskins. Time, money and draft selections have been wasted on players like Donovan McNabb, Grossman and Beck.

    Any pro personnel director could tell you without hesitation that McNabb was slipping badly and Andy Reid was more than ready to move on from McNabb with Michael Vick. As much as Shanahan wanted to believe that there was still gas left in McNabb’s tank, it wasn’t the case at all. Everyone knew that except Shanahan.

    As the Redskins were going through training camp, Shanahan was still in search of a quarterback and placed a call to the Dolphins about Beck, who have had their quarterback issues as well. The Dolphins were more than happy to ship Beck to the Redskins. Shanahan made his biggest mistake of the off season by not addressing the quarterback situation through the draft when he had the opportunity to do so with a top-10 selection.

    Shanahan could have selected Andy Dalton, Jake Locker or Christian Ponder but instead chose to trade down and select linebacker Ryan Kerrigan out of Purdue. Kerrigan has been a nice player this season but doesn’t help his quarterback situation now or in the future.

    Beck has made three starts this season and has yet to win a game. As a matter of fact, Beck has an 0-7 record as an NFL starter. He plays like a quarterback that is afraid to make a mistake. You never see him really push the ball down the field. Everything Beck does is short and underneath.

    Beck really struggles because he isn’t that accurate when it comes to throwing the ball at any level. He will struggle to hit receivers on the move and he will also struggle to hit them when stationary. The ball doesn’t come off his hand with any zip at all; there is no power to his game.

    This is also the case of Grossman, who is back after throwing four interceptions in a loss to the Eagles. I have never been a fan of Grossman’s game because he really lacks arm strength, but I can’t question his toughness. He will stand in there and take shots.

    Grossman is not the tallest or most mobile quarterback in the league, but you will see him slide in the pocket to try to help him with throwing lanes. The lack of arm strength appears when the Redskins try to throw the ball down the field.

    Cowboys catch a break: No Moss

    There have been too many times where Anthony Armstrong or Santana Moss get a step on a corner but have to wait on the ball because neither Grossman or Beck can get it down the field.

    The Cowboys catch a huge break in this game because Moss will miss it due to a hand injury. Moss has punished the Cowboys over the years with his playmaking ability, so the fact that he is out of the lineup is a huge plus for Rob Ryan and this defense.

    The Redskins generate offense in two areas.

    Tight end Fred Davis is the real deal and is someone that nickel back Frank Walker and safeties Gerald Sensabaugh and Abram Elam are going to have to deal with. Davis doesn’t play like a traditional in line tight end. Not to say that you won’t see him inline, but the majority of his work is in the slot or flexed. Davis likes to work the middle of the field and he will be the go-to guy on third downs. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan likes to move him around the formation and create opportunities.

    Redskins also will struggle to run the ball

    Shanahan will also try to run the ball against the Cowboys’ front seven. Last week against the Bills, Dallas’ run defense was outstanding when the game was in the balance. That wasn’t the case the previous games against the Eagles and Seahawks.

    The Cowboys will need to be ready for running backs Ryan Torain and Roy Helu in this zone blocking attack. Torain runs the ball hard but he is really straight line and doesn’t have many moves. He will attack the hole, then lower his head to finish the run.

    The back that I think is the best fit for this offense is Helu. He just plays like he has a better feel for the offense when it comes to reading the blocks, then making the cut. Torain is more about attacking the hole; Helu is more about allowing the blocks to develop then making his cut.

    Helu also does a nice job of catching the ball out of the backfield. Solid, dependable hands and does a nice job of getting up the field and gaining positive yards.

    I mentioned the issues that the Redskins have at quarterback, which I feel are the most important, but their offensive line -- other than left tackle Trent Williams -- really struggle, run or pass.

    Left guard Maurice Hurt is the weak link of this line. He plays overextended, doesn’t adjust to twist stunts and has poor sustain. He has been nursing a knee injury and might not be active for this game. Center Will Montgomery would slide over to his spot and Erik Cook would take over at center.

    Right tackle Jammal Brown has had his shares of problems when it has come to pass protection. Have seen defenders get the edge on him without many problems.

    Williams can make the cut-off block on the backside and reach the front. Williams had a little trouble in the 49ers game when he and Hurt had to sort out the twist game. Both of them did not adjust all that well. Look for Rob Ryan to throw some movement stunts against this line to see if they have corrected those problems or teams will continue to take advantage of them.

    Redskins' defense will create pressure

    If the Redskins can ever find a way to build any type of offense, they would have a shot in this division. No matter how bad the offense plays, the Redskins defense is always there to clean up the mess.

    Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and his staff have done a nice job in the games I studied. The pressure that they have able to generate with their front seven, particularly outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Kerrigan, has been impressive.

    Orakpo was the first rusher that Doug Free faced after the 49ers game, when he struggled so bad with his technique. I was told that Free was really worried about the inside rush from Orakpo and it affected him in the game. Free has been rock solid the last two weeks and appears to once again be playing with confidence.

    Both Orakpo and Kerrigan are relentless rushers when coming after the quarterback, but you will also have to deal with them on the backside when running down plays. If the Cowboys’ tackles and tight ends don’t finish blocks on the backside, then Orakpo and Kerrigan will be right there to make a play.

    One of the major reasons for success in this Cowboys running game has been their ability to secure blocks and allow DeMarco Murray to use his vision to make cuts when he reads it. Without those backside blocks, this running game wouldn’t be as potent.

    Watch for safety Landry to key on Cowboys' rushers

    In the Buffalo game, safety LaRon Landry played more in the box, almost like a linebacker. I have a feeling that Haslett will probably try to do the same to see if he can have some success stopping Murray. Garrett can counter much like he did last week against the Bills -- throw the ball early in the game to get them out of that.

    The Redskins have some run players in nose tackle Barry Cofield and defensive end Adam Carriker. Cofield shows the ability to get up field quickly off the snap and be disruptive in the backfield. Will be interested to see if Cofield lines up over Montrae Holland, who has struggled with quickness in the past.

    Carriker plays with more brute force and power than great technique. When Tyron Smith has had his troubles, it’s been against ends that play with power. But to Smith’s advantage, this will be the second time that he has faced Carriker, so he can go back and study how he needs to attack him.

    Former Cowboys defensive end Stephen Bowen is not playing as well against the run as he did when he was here. There is something about Bowen that leads me to believe that he really was an outstanding nickel or backup player, and the more snaps that he has to play, the more he will struggle. Bowen can still generate some pass rush, but he isn’t nearly as affective as he was when here.

    At inside linebacker, the ageless London Fletcher is still around the ball a great deal. When in position to make a tackle, he can get the job done.

    I was not impressed with Rocky McIntosh at all. I saw too many times where he was beaten in coverage or he missed a tackle. In the 49ers and Bills games, he was really bad in both those areas. McIntosh struggled much more than Fletcher at getting off blocks.

    Cowboys should target Barnes in Redskins' secondary

    In the secondary, the Redskins will use three safeties when they are all healthy, which at this time they are not. Landry has missed the first two days of practice with an Achilles injury, but he should play. O.J. Atogwe has been dealing with knee and toe problems and Reed Doughty has a chest issue.

    The best combination for the Redskins is when Atogwe and Landry are the starters. Doughty will try to be physical in the run but doesn’t cover all that well.

    Of the two corners, Josh Wilson knows how to play the fade and doesn’t give you much room. He also runs very well. DeAngelo Hall likes to bait quarterbacks into throws and will drive on routes. Have been told that he hasn’t been playing well this year, but in the games I studied, I didn’t see that. The weak link in the group is nickel Kevin Barnes, who needs to be attacked.
    IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys will take precautions to prevent Tashard Choice from providing intelligence to the Redskins defense.

    They definitely don’t want to hear Choice boasting on the local radio airwaves next week about how he relayed all the Cowboys’ line-of-scrimmage calls to the Washington defense. A similar scenario unfolded in Philadelphia this week, as injured quarterback Kevin Kolb deemed it “funny” how he was able to help the Cardinals’ defense shut down the team that traded him.

    The Cowboys are well aware that Choice, who was claimed by the Redskins after the Cowboys cut him last month, has intimate knowledge of Dallas’ offense. They are confident that can keep Choice from using that knowledge against them.

    “You always have to be mindful of that whenever you have a player going from your team to the other team,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “Tashard is certainly a smart guy, and we like to think that we do a good job disguising some of our calls.

    “I don’t think we undo our offense just because of that transaction. I think we have to deal with it. It certainly has to be something we look at throughout the ballgame.”

    Cowboys ready for Tashard Choice

    November, 17, 2011
    AM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- Tashard Choice has yet to carry the ball for Washington since being claimed by the Redskins on Halloween off waivers from the Cowboys because of a hamstring injury.

    While Choice has said Sunday will be his debut, Washington coach Mike Shanahan was not as sure, but it adds a juicy storyline to the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry. Choice was more the people’s champ in his time with the Cowboys than the coaches’ favorite even if he had some decent games.

    This season, however, was a disappointment with 75 yards on 28 carries before his injury led to his release.

    Choice can change his mood with a decent game Sunday.

    “He’s going to be ready,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said Wednesday. “He’s definitely going to be ready. I’m not going to say too much on his part. I know he’ll be ready.”

    And the Cowboys, who have had some run defense woes the last three games, know Choice will be talking on the field like he did in practices for three-plus seasons.

    “Of course,” Bradie James said. “As soon as he left and signed there I’m sure he circled this one. He’ll be ready. We’ll be ready.”

    Other Side: Washington Post's Rick Maese

    November, 16, 2011
    AM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys meet the Redskins on Sunday at FedExField, so we check in from The Other Side for a second time this year with Rick Maese of the Washington Post to tell us what has happened this year with Mike Shanahan’s team.

    Archer - Dan Snyder hasn't been the most patient owner, so is there any chance that Mike Shanahan could be on the hot seat?

    Maese - I think that'd very doubtful at this point. For starters, Shanahan will have three years left on a contract that pays him around $7 million per season. While Snyder has certainly thrown away money on players, he hasn't been as eager to buyout coaches. But I think Snyder has also shown more patience as he's grown as an owner. Shanahan inherited a bad team in just about every way possible. The more likely scenario, I think, is for Snyder to bring in someone to beef up the personnel and scouting departments.

    Archer - From the outside the quarterback position has gone horribly wrong. Is that Mike Shanahan's fault? His son's? The players? Are fans calling for Andrew Luck yet?

    Maese - Ultimately, Mike Shanahan has final say in personnel decisions, so he has to shoulder the responsibility for the terrible quarterback play. Now, he's certainly taking into consideration what he hears from his coaches, including Kyle Shanahan, his son and offensive coordinator, but at the end of the day, it's his call. I think every human being in the Washington area would be shocked if either Rex Grossman or John Beck is somehow starting Week 1 in 2012. Unfortunately for them, the team's 3-1 start likely eliminated them from the Luck Sweepstakes.

    Archer - The Redskins have Tashard Choice on the roster and he said he's playing this week vs. his former team. What type of role is there for him there?

    Maese - As bad as quarterback play has been, the team's running game has been even less consistent. The offense is supposed to be built off the running game, and they're on pace to have the worst season running the ball in more than 40 years. So there's an opportunity for Choice. He'll have to show in practice this week that he's picked up Shanahan's system and deserves playing time this Sunday -- not to mention his hamstring needs to be 100 percent.

    Archer - It appears the defense is still playing pretty well. How has another ex-Cowboy, Stephen Bowen, done in his first year?

    Maese - Despite the Redskins' myriad problems, they feel like they beefed up their front-seven and that certainly seems to be the case through nine games. Bowen has held up well, despite an increase in snaps over last season. Depth is a problem along the defensive line and the Redskins can't afford to be without Bowen at this point.

    Archer - So much talk about how bad the season has been, what's been the best thing this year?

    Maese - There's been flashes of promise from young players. First-round draft pick Ryan Kerrigan should be in the running for rookie defensive player of the year. Rookie tailback Roy Helu set a franchise record with 14 catches in one game, breaking a mark set by Art Monk. Rookie Leonard Hankerson, who went on IR this week, topped 100 receiving yards last Sunday. Rookie Niles Paul is currently sidelined with a toe injury but has shown promise. Second-year linebacker Perry Riley had his first start last week and recorded four tackles for loss. So there are a few bright spots; they're just overshadowed by injuries.

    Tashard Choice gets ready to play

    November, 10, 2011
    AM ET
    We know Tashard Choice is no longer with the Cowboys. He's now a member of the Washington Redskins, but he could return to the field this week after recovering from hamstring and shoulder injuries.

    Per Dan Graziano, our NFC East blogger: "The former Dallas Cowboys running back, signed by the Redskins after the Cowboys cut him last month, is feeling healthy and could be playing for Washington as soon as Sunday in Miami."

    Here's the link.

    The Cowboys haven't missed Choice much with the emergence of DeMarco Murray, who has rushed for 466 yards the last three games, the best three-game stretch in franchise history.

    Martellus Bennett deserves no more chances

    November, 2, 2011
    PM ET
    IRVING, Texas – How many more opportunities will Martellus Bennett get with the Cowboys?

    Jason Garrett responded to that question by pointing out that the backup tight end isn’t getting many opportunities anyway.

    “Martellus is not a guy you would say we feature in the offense,’’ Garrett said. “There are certain things we think he does well that we want to give him a chance to do during the ballgame.

    “Certainly you have to take advantage of opportunities, regardless of how many you get, and execute your job within a particular play or scheme. I don’t want to talk too specifically about him, but that’s the approach we’ve got to take.’’

    The drop-turned-interception against the Eagles is the latest, most blatant example of a blown opportunity by Bennett. If it’s the last meaningful pass the Cowboys throw to Bennett, it’d be hard to blame the play-caller.

    Garrett has mentioned Bennett’s blocking ability while trying to defend him in the past, but the Cowboys had much bigger things in mind when they used a second-round pick on a tight end.

    Bennett has the size, speed and athletic ability to be a major weapon in the passing game. Too bad his inability to focus makes all that talent moot.

    Bennett has a lot in common with recently released running back Tashard Choice. They’re 2008 draft picks who have regressed in bit roles after openly wondering why they weren’t more involved in the offense.

    The difference is the Cowboys would have a hole on the roster if they got rid of Bennett. They’d need to find a third tight end off the streets. They had two young running backs ready when they cut Choice, whose hamstring injury made the decision easy.

    So the Cowboys will probably keep Bennett for the remaining couple of months of his rookie contract, even though there’s no confidence in his ability to catch the ball. He might as well be considered a third tackle when he reports to the huddle.

    On a somewhat related note, Scott Chandler has six touchdown catches this season for the surprising Buffalo Bills, who picked him up off waivers when the Cowboys cut him last year. That’s six more touchdowns than the much more talented Bennett has in the last two and a half seasons.