IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have waived defensive end Michael Sam from their practice squad and signed linebacker Troy Davis.
Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team, signed with the Cowboys on Sept. 3 after he was among the final cuts of the St. Louis Rams.
He took to Twitter on Tuesday to express his gratitude for the opportunity.
Coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli praised Sam's work in practice.
"Comes to work every day and practices hard," Garrett said last week. "One of 10 practice roster guys that we have, so he's working on his skills, trying to develop, but also doing a lot of other things. Playing offense, defense, playing the kicking game, that's what a lot of those guys do."
The Cowboys (6-1) have just seven sacks this season, but they never seriously considered calling up Sam to the active roster. With rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence eligible to play Nov. 2 against the Arizona Cardinals, the Cowboys are hoping he can spark the pass rush.
When the Cowboys signed Sam, the team broke from the norm for a practice squad player and held an interview session outside the locker room because of the large corps of media on hand.
"It feels good to be a Cowboy," Sam said that day.
He did not answer questions after that day, slipping into the background like most practice squad players do. He made $6,300 per week.
Davis spent time the last two seasons with the New York Jets before he was released in August.
- I think Sterling Moore has had more plays in the seven games he’s played than Morris Claiborne made in the previous three years. That’s a little hyperbole, but you get the idea. When Moore is in position to make a play on the ball he seems to get it done. Claiborne, the sixth player taken in the 2012 draft, gave up considerably more plays than he made. Moore has broken up seven passes and recovered a fumble.
- I think right tackle Jermey Parnell did a more than adequate job replacing Doug Free in the lineup Sunday against the Giants. He was strong at the point of attack as a run-blocker much of the game and he didn’t get exposed as a pass-blocker. Parnell and Free are both free agents at the end of the season. Perhaps Parnell will be the starter next season.
- I think coaches can get into “the zone” just like players do. Playcaller Scott Linehan is in the zone. Whatever he calls seems to work these days. His two second-down passes to Dez Bryant late in the fourth quarter were bold yet intelligent calls because the Giants were stacking the run on first and second down at the point of the game in hopes of creating a third-and-long.
Since Jason Garrett arrived in 2007 as the offensive coordinator and playcaller, the Cowboys have gained more than 400 yards in a game 45 times.
But the Cowboys had never had a streak of more than two games until this season. This is the first time since 1976 the Cowboys have gained more than 400 yards in four consecutive games.
Just so you know, that team went to the Super Bowl.
Under Garrett, the Cowboys are 30-15 when they gain 400 yards or more in a game.
Player to Watch: DeMarco Murray
Murray has easily had the NFL’s heaviest workload with 193 carries -- 26.7 per game -- but he’s been finishing strong.
On carries 21-30, Murray is averaging 4.2 with a long of 25. Now, that’s not as good as his average on carries 1-10 (4.9) or 11-20 (5.4), but it’s more than acceptable.
Against the Giants, he had runs of 8 and 17 in the final four minutes to clinch the victory. He’s perfect for the zone-blocking scheme the Cowboys often employ because he’s such a patient runner with excellent vision.
Murray takes his time getting to the hole, which allows the linemen making double-team blocks to get off the defensive linemen and onto the linebackers, which creates the lanes for him to cut back.
Okoye, 27, was cleared for contact at the end of training camp, but the Cowboys kept him on the injury list so he could continue to rehab. Once the Cowboys activate Okoye, there will be a three-week window in which he can practice but not count against the 53-man roster. At the end of that period, the Cowboys will have to activate him, keep him on the injury list for the season, or release him.
Okoye said two weeks ago he no longer doubts he will play again. He said he is in much better shape after the extended workouts with strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik. He signed a two-year deal with the Cowboys in May.
If he can return this year, he would be part of a defensive line rotation that has been beset by injuries. Anthony Spencer (knee) has already returned, while DeMarcus Lawrence (foot) is expected to return soon.
The Cowboys will monitor Okoye's work closely since no player has ever played in the NFL after recovering from this condition.
Okoye last played in the NFL in 2012 with the Bears.
"Certainly some things that you really like to this: his physicalness in the run game but also as a pass protector was there," Garrett said. "Technically it's always a work in progress with a player who hasn't played that much and that's something we can hone in on when he gets a chance to see the tape to continue to try to improve. But the game never seemed too big for him. It looked like he communicated well with Zack [Martin] and with [Jason Witten] in the blocking schemes and handled that part of it well.
"He's played the way he's played in games before, which is good. What's exciting is he can improve immensely and I think he'll improve with experience and coaching. He has an attitude that he wants to get better. I think it's a nice opportunity for him to continue to grow as a player."
Parnell will make his second start Monday against the Washington Redskins with Doug Free recovering from a small fracture in his right foot. Free was spotted on the sidelines of the Giants' game without a walking boot or crutches but the Cowboys expect him to miss two or three more games.
Parnell has been dealing with a rib injury that has limited his practice work the past two weeks. He also had to deal with something during the game.
"I know this: from the preseason to playing a regular season game is way faster," Parnell said. "That's the main big difference about it."
He needed some time to get acclimated to that speed.
"But as the game got going, I started to get a handle on it," Parnell said.
Jones was quickly asked that day which NFC team Ware would face.
“You know what I hope,” Jones said. “But then you’ll all say I’m predicting the Super Bowl. But I hope he gets to it, for sure.”
There were a bunch of laughs after he said that, but now? Who knows, maybe it will happen?
The Cowboys have the NFL’s best record at 6-1. Ware’s Broncos have the best record in the AFC at 5-1. They also have this quarterback you may have heard about: Peyton Manning. He just set some NFL record with his 510th career touchdown pass.
Would it be better if it still had Ware? He has seven sacks in six games. The Cowboys have seven sacks as a team in seven games. You draw the conclusion.
But the economics of the league forced the Cowboys to make a decision in the offseason after Ware suffered through a career-low six sacks in part because of injuries.
The Cowboys had a chance to see Ware -- if not play against him -- in the preseason finale at AT&T Stadium.
Could they see him again at University of Phoenix Stadium for Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1, 2015?
Could Jones have even have imagined that back in August?
He’s provided stability on the back end of the defense, and he hasn’t missed many tackles, a key for any safety.
Church leads the defense with 41 tackles and helped limit New York’s running backs to 80 yards on 24 carries. Andre Williams did have a 22-yard run, which means Dallas limited the Giants to 68 yards on their other 23 carries, which is beyond acceptable.
“He had a really good game against the Giants and was very active," coach Jason Garrett said. "He was around the ball and was active making tackles in the running game -- and they were good tackles because they were down around the line of scrimmage.
“That’s always something he’s done well and that was one of the more consistent games he’s played this season.”
He has played in nine Pro Bowls. He has won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. He is the Cowboys' all-time leader in catches. The only tight end in NFL history with more catches and more yards than Witten is Tony Gonzalez.
QB Tony Romo went so far as to call him the best Cowboy of all time recently.
ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap will present an "E:60" feature on Witten tonight at 7 p.m. CT that addresses not only his on-field success but also his difficult upbringing in an abusive household and how he has been able to overcome it and thrive while helping others with his SCORE Foundation.
“It was tough,” Witten said in the piece. “It was like a nightmare. But some of the greatest qualities that I have as an individual are things that I learned through those experiences.”
Here is the trailer:
Bishop, one of the Cowboys' five seventh-round picks in May, was active for three of the first six games and was credited with two tackles and a quarterback pressure.
Linebacker Korey Toomer has also cleared waivers, but he has not been re-signed to the practice squad yet. Toomer was active for three games but saw little playing time as the Cowboys chose to recall Smith with injuries at the linebacker spot in part because Smith was more familiar with the defensive scheme. Toomer was cut last week when the Cowboys brought back defensive end Lavar Edwards.
DeMarco Murray leads the NFL in rushing with 913 yards on 187 carries. No other running back in NFL history has opened the season with seven straight 100-yard games. He should be in any MVP talk as the Cowboys head into Monday night's matchup against the Washington Redskins.
He is doing it when defenses know the Cowboys want to run the ball.
Despite defenses loading the box to stop the run, the Cowboys have run the ball surprisingly well. It has led to more “dirty” yards, as Jason Garrett has called runs of 0, 1, 2 or 3 yards. After averaging at least 5.4 yards per carry in three of the first four games, Murray has put up at least 4 yards per carry in the past three games. The ability to get chunks of yards has changed from otherworldly -- Murray had 17 runs of at least 10 yards or more in the first four games -- to a still respectable 10 in the past three games.
There will come a time when the Cowboys will have to rely more on their adjustments to the eight-man fronts they are seeing through scheme or passing the ball early in games to free Murray up as the game goes on. The Cowboys countered some of that against the New York Giants with more three-tight-end sets knowing the versatility of tight ends Jason Witten, James Hanna and Gavin Escobar allows them to run and throw the ball.
The Cowboys don’t really need to “fix” much about what they’re doing offensively, but they need to stay ahead of the game for the times when the running game does not succeed.
IRVING, Texas -- It's time for Five Wonders and me need to stop wondering just how the Dallas Cowboys are doing this. With two more wins they will equal their win totals from each of the last three seasons.
I didn't see it coming and neither did a lot of people, despite what some may be claiming right now.
Anyway, on to the Wonders:
- I wonder if DeMarco Murray can win the Associated Press' Most Valuable Player award. The only Cowboy to have won the award was Emmitt Smith in 1993. His value was at its zenith since the Cowboys started 0-2 in his absence due to an contract squabble and they ended up winning 12 of their last 14 games and repeated as Super Bowl champs. Smith finished with 1,486 yards and nine touchdowns in those 14 games. Murray leads the NFL with 913 yards rushing. Only three other teams have more yards than Murray. But the trek to an MVP will be difficult in a season in which Peyton Manning established the NFL record for career touchdown passes. Adrian Peterson won the award two years ago when he ran for more than 2,000 yards. LaDainian Tomlinson won it in 2006 and Shaun Alexander won it in 2005. Since 2000, only four running backs have been named MVP. (Marshall Faulk was the fourth in 2000). Maybe there will be some Manning fatigue when it comes to the voting, especially since he's won the award five times. Regardless, Murray will have to be among the top vote getters. Quick aside -- so should Tony Romo, but that's another wonder for another time.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Brandon WadeDeMarco Murray is already close to topping 1,000 yards rushing for the season.
- AT&T Stadium has become the place to hold a big event. The College Football Playoff will hold its championship there in January. The NBA has held its All-Star Game there. Top-flight boxing and soccer matches have come through Arlington. So too has a Super Bowl. But I wonder if the NFL's new rule will make Jerry Jones think twice about bidding on another Super Bowl. At the most recent owners meetings, a team that wins a Super Bowl bid will have to give up a home game and play a regular-season game in London in the five years following the event. There is a lot of money to be made on a Super Bowl, and Jones wants to show Super Bowl XLV was not an overwhelming success mostly because of the poor weather, seating fiasco or no seating fiasco. But he also wants to keep Cowboys' fans happy, believe it or not. He's been on record saying he would not give up a home game to play a contest in another country. It's a little bit of a conundrum for Jones, but I think having a second chance at getting the Super Bowl right -- and making a boatload of money for his fellow owners -- will trump the fact that a Detroit Lions team or Buffalo Bills squad (just an example) will not come to Arlington for a Dallas home game.
- I wonder if this is the week Tyrone Crawford gets his first sack. He's come close. He leads the Cowboys in quarterback pressures and he's earned the nickname “Cinderella Man” from defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. The Cowboys hope he can go from mopping the floors to being the princess of the ball, so to speak. With the Washington Redskins coming to town, Crawford could show the guy he has replaced, Jason Hatcher, was right with his prediction last year. Hatcher, who led the Cowboys with 11 sacks in 2013 and was named to the Pro Bowl, said Crawford's development would make him expendable. That was part of it, but Crawford missed last season with a torn Achilles and the Cowboys did not want to pay a huge amount of money for the 32-year-old Hatcher. It would seem fitting if Crawford gets the first sack of his career with Hatcher at least in attendance.
- Last week I tweeted that I thought Zack Martin was playing better than any of the Cowboys' offensive linemen, even Tyron Smith. Some of you hooted, which is OK. But I'm going to stick with my premise and up it: I wonder if Martin can earn not only a Pro Bowl spot but perhaps win the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. OK, maybe I'm going overboard with the latter, but he could be the best offensive rookie. The problem is he won't have any stats that voters can point to other than what Murray, Romo and Dez Bryant et. al have produced. So I'll stick with the Pro Bowl. Larry Allen didn't make the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but then made it from 1995-2001 and 2003-05. I'm not putting Martin in Allen's category by any stretch, but I'm trying to point out how difficult it will be for him to make the Pro Bowl. As much as players pay attention to what's going on across the league, they don't really pay attention to interior line play and vote players based on reputation, not just ability. I wonder if Martin can do enough as a rookie to earn it.
- I opened the wonders with a question about how the Cowboys are doing this. I was being facetious to an extent. I know how: Controlling the line of scrimmage with a running game, controlling the clock and capitalizing on opportunities. There will be some games, however, when the offense will not convert on 57.4 percent of their third down opportunities. It's impossible to expect them to be that efficient all season. So I wonder what will happen to the defense when it has to play more. They don't get to the passer enough. Garrett and Marinelli talk about affecting the quarterback all they want but that's sort of euphemism for, "we can't get any sacks." Eli Manning sliced up the defense on the New York Giants' fourth-quarter touchdown drive, completing five straight passes on an 80-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass. At different times during the season the defense has hit the snooze button on drives and been beat. If they are exposed more when the offense is not on top of its game, I just wonder if the defense can carry the day.
This will be Corrente's fourth Cowboys' game since 2010 and they have all been NFC East games. The Cowboys are 2-1 in those contests, beating the New York Giants (2013) and Philadelphia Eagles (2010). The Cowboys lost the 2010 opener to the Redskins.
In those games, Corrente's crew called 23 penalties for 166 yards against the Cowboys and 15 penalties for 134 yards against the opponents.
Last week, Corrente worked the Cleveland Browns-Jacksonville Jaguars game and called 13 penalties with 11 accepted for 75 yards. The Browns were flagged eight times for 50 yards; the Jaguars had three penalties for 25 yards.
Illegal use of hands – 1
Offensive holding – 4
Delay of game – 1
Illegal substitution – 1
False start – 1
Offside – 2
Neutral zone infraction – 1
Offensive pass interference – 1
Defensive holding – 1
First – 3
Second – 4
Third – 2
Fourth – 4