Cowboys feel bad for DeVonte Holloman

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
FRISCO, Texas -- The news that linebacker DeVonte Holloman will retire because of neck injuries was met with disappointment from Cowboys officials.

"We liked him a lot," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Friday before leaving for the third preseason game in Miami. "It's a very big disappointment, more for him. He really was so committed to being a good player. He wanted to do that for the memory of his mother and those kinds of things, I really hate it for him. He was a good player and he had a chance to be a long-term player."

Team doctors told Holloman on Thursday afternoon that he should retire from the NFL after a series of neck injuries. He first injured his neck during a practice last season, and after returning late in the 2013 season, there was hope he would compete for a starting job with Sean Lee out with a torn ACL.

Holloman hurt his neck again in the fourth quarter of the second preseason game against Baltimore last week and further tests revealed he physically can't play in the NFL anymore.

"I'm just first and foremost, my thoughts and prayers go to to him," team executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "He's an athlete and I'm just also thankful that at the same time, nothing (else) happened. He's making the right decision, in terms of where your priorities are in your life. It’s a tough deal for somebody like him. Y'all saw he was off to a great start and had a promising career in front of him. I'm sure there will be other promising things for him to do other than football."
FRISCO, Texas -- Before the Dallas Cowboys' brass left for Miami, they updated the media on a few injured players.

  • Team executive vice president Stephen Jones said defensive tackle Henry Melton (groin) will not play in the third preseason game on Saturday night against the Miami Dolphins. Jones said the goal is to get most, if not all of the injured players ready for the regular-season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

  • Middle linebacker Rolando McClain, who left Tuesday's practice with cramping and missed the next day with soreness, is expected to play against the Dolphins.

    "When you sit out for a year, and he didn't really get back into it full bore, until a couple of weeks before camp, so its going to take some time," Jones said.

  • Team officials haven't decided on cornerback Morris Claiborne's status for the Dolphins game as he's still recovering from a shoulder injury.

    Claiborne, a projected starter with Orlando Scandrick suspended the first four games, hasn't played in any preseason games because of health issues.

    Jones said he's not worried about Claiborne's long-term durability given his history of health problems.

    "Not really, I think at the end of the day he's played in a lot of games for us," Jones said. "And I think he'll do well out there, obviously you have to be conservative with your players now. The injury situation not only around here but around the league. We'll let this play out and I think he'll be ready for the 49ers."
  • Cowboys break ground on new facility

    August, 22, 2014
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    FRISCO, Texas -- The Cowboys made it official on Friday afternoon as owner Jerry Jones, along with family members and city officials from Frisco, broke ground on a new practice facility that is scheduled to open in the fall of 2016.

    Jones, who was joined by several family members and local government officials that included Frisco mayor Maher Maso, grabbed shovels and dug out some dirt on land covering 20 acres that will hold the Cowboys’ corporate headquarters, practice facilities, indoor football stadium, medical and retail shops.

    “Frisco flu, boy we’ve got it,” Jerry Jones said.

    “This project speaks for itself,” Maso said. “It’s everything Frisco. There are a lot of words to describe it.”

    The city and the Cowboys, along with private investors, are combining on the financing. Jones wouldn’t disclose how much the new project will cost but noted the price has gone up two-and-half to three times more.

    “We do know it’s got to be first class,” he said.

    The Cowboys are contractually obligated to hold at least a one week’s worth of training camp practices at their new facility.

    Stephen Jones, the Cowboys’ executive vice president, said the team hasn’t renewed its contract with Oxnard, California officials for the 2015 season. However, once that’s done, the plan is to have camp for at least two weeks in California and then move it to Frisco for the final two-and-a-half weeks starting in 2016.

    “One thing we’ve learned when all these sports pages -- and all this media gets a hold of it -- right in the same paragraph -- almost when you say you haven’t won a Super Bowl in 16 years -- they have to put over and say, ‘But boy do they know how to put a project that equals one and one is three.’,” Jerry Jones said while smiling and admitting he's got the new math figured out. “They know how to do that and Frisco has that, and they will benefit from that and candidly you are.”
    IRVING, Texas -- Three thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys:

    1. If you choose to be positive, there are some scenarios where the Cowboys’ defensive line could be solid instead of a disaster.

    It all starts with defensive tackles Henry Melton (knee, groin) and Terrell McClain (ankle) and defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee) getting healthy. Spencer and Melton can be good players and McClain can be solid.

    Add defensive ends George Selvie, Tyrone Crawford and Jeremy Mincey to the mix, along with rookie DeMarcus Lawrence after he returns from his broken foot, and the Cowboys would be pretty happy with that rotation.

    It will require considerable good fortune to get Spencer and Melton each playing at a high level early this season, but if it happened, the Cowboys would have a pretty good defensive line rotation without much drop off between the starters and backups.

    2. The cornerback situation the first month of the season will be dire.

    Morris Claiborne had a strong start to training camp, but he hasn’t been able to sustain it. Knee and shoulder injuries have limited him since the first week of practice.

    The Cowboys are trying to get him ready for the first game against San Francisco, but we have no idea how long his body will hold up. They can’t trust him to be healthy enough to play, which is a concern since Orlando Scandrick will miss the first month of the season after violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

    Heading into the opener, Brandon Carr is the only proven cornerback on the roster the Cowboys know will be ready for the opener. That's scary.

    3. Receiver Jamar Newsome had a nice game against Baltimore, as did fifth-round pick Devin Street.

    Tim Benford has been on the practice squad each of the last two years, Chris Boyd has good size and potential and LaRon Byrd has been a good special-teams player in the past.

    Street, a fifth-round pick, will make the team, but it’s going to be tough for any of the other receivers to make it. The Cowboys will probably keep five receivers: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris and Street. One of the other guys will have to be a beast on special teams to make the roster.

    Key number: 20

    The Cowboys had only 20 drives of 10 plays or more last season. Only Miami and the New York Giants had fewer. It was the result of the Cowboys' struggles on third down, which prevented them from sustaining drives, and their inconsistent running game. Too many times the Cowboys were in third-and-long situations that didn’t put them in position to convert.

    They must do better this season to protect their defense and keep them off the field.

    Player to Watch: Tyler Clutts

    Jason Garrett has talked all training camp about establishing a physical presence and how much a true fullback will help the Cowboys do that.

    Clutts has been doing a good job working with DeMarco Murray and taking advantage of his limited opportunities, but to win the job he must prove himself more valuable to the offense than the third receiver or second tight end.

    He needs to be a core player on special teams, and he needs to be a difference-maker on the 12 to 15 crucial goal-line and short-yardage plays the Cowboys will have this season.

    Jerry: Carter will never meet expectations

    August, 22, 2014
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    A year ago, Bruce Carter was being compared to Derrick Brooks, the Hall of Famer who set the standard for weakside linebacker in the Tampa 2 scheme.

    Now, Carter is competing for the right to start for a Dallas Cowboys defense that ranked dead last in the league last season.

    Matter of fact, owner and general manager Jerry Jones routinely doesn’t mention Carter when discussing the Cowboys’ potential starting linebacker trio. He stresses the optimism about twice-retired newcomer Rolando McClain, Justin Durant and Kyle Wilber.

    What about Carter?

    "I think the fact that you’re not hearing as much about Bruce really means more the level that those three other linebackers are playing and the potential that we have in Rolando," Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan. "With all of that in mind, I think that’s as much as anything. Bruce, I would say, is playing at a higher level than he played at last year for sure."

    That is pretty faint praise, considering Carter was one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments last season. Instead of blossoming into a star as anticipated, he was twice benched for journeyman Ernie Sims.

    "He will never play at the level of his expectation or the fans’ expectation or the coaches’ expectation, because he’s absolutely one of the best athletes in the NFL," Jones said. "He’s fast and he’s got the size, so all of that ought to make him ideally suited for certainly our weak linebacker position.

    "Having said that, I think you’ll see a lot of him. Whether or not it’s as a quote starter, I couldn’t tell you at this time, but I’m glad we’ve got him."

    The question is no longer whether Carter can be a long-term foundation piece for the Cowboys, much less a perennial Pro Bowler. At this point, it’s whether Carter can contribute to a Dallas defense that desperately needs playmakers.
    IRVING, Texas -- The third preseason game is the one most like the regular season, but the Dallas Cowboys have not spent a ton of time game-planning for Saturday’s foe, the Miami Dolphins.

    The starters will play more than they did last week against the Baltimore Ravens, but coach Jason Garrett has not revealed the plan for Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray.

    Romo said there is a balance between working on specific things for the regular season and not showing too much to tip your hand before the games count.

    “You want to have success, but you don’t want to necessarily show everything, so there’s a fine line there,” Romo said. “I know through my own experiences that if you struggle as a unit in the preseason, I just don’t think it gets a lot easier. And it’s kind of like camp. If you’re struggling in camp against your defense, usually that’s a sign that you’re going to have to try to come up with different ways. It doesn’t guarantee you success if you have a successful preseason, but it definitely gives you a better chance for it. If you’re struggling consistently every time, then it isn’t usually very conducive to going out in the regular season and getting easier, so that part of it’s there.”

    In two series of work against the Ravens, Romo completed four of five passes for 80 yards and had a touchdown to Bryant. His only incompletion was a drop by James Hanna.

    “I thought we played well against Baltimore against a good defense, and since then we’ve had three or four really good, physical practices here,” Witten said. “Ultimately, you want to play well in that last rehearsal for a lot of us and then build on that going on into the season. We know what our expectations are going into the season, so we need to keep developing that, and that confidence comes by how you play.”

    Gavin Escobar battling shoulder injury

    August, 22, 2014
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    IRVING, Texas -- When the standard is Jason Witten, it can be difficult to measure up.

    Witten has played through a number of maladies in his 11 seasons, missing just one game as a rookie because of a broken jaw. He returned earlier than many suspected from a ruptured spleen two years ago.

    In last week’s preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens, Witten’s fellow tight end, Gavin Escobar, suffered a shoulder injury after making a 37-yard catch. He practiced some during the week and wants to play Saturday against the Miami Dolphins.

    "You can only contribute if you’re on the field, so that’s what I’ve got to do," said Escobar, who is wearing extra padding to protect the shoulder.

    Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett does not question Escobar’s toughness.

    "He wants to be a good player," Garrett said. "That’s really never been an issue for him. The biggest thing he’s got to do is find himself in those situations where he has to be physically tough where he has to move guys out with run blocks and protect and some of those things. He doesn’t have a lot of experience with that. I do believe he’s getting stronger."

    After catching just nine passes for 134 yards and two scores as a rookie in 2013, Escobar figures to have a much larger role on offense in 2014. He has caught four passes for 84 yards in two preseason games.

    "I think the more touches I get the more it shows what I can do," Escobar said.

    A different return trip for DeMarco Murray

    August, 22, 2014
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    IRVING, Texas -- The last time DeMarco Murray played at Sun Life Stadium, he was a rookie trying to show he could play. He returns on Saturday as a Pro Bowl running back.

    Murray saw little action in training camp prior to that game because of a hamstring injury. He carried the ball seven times for 32 yards in the previous preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. Against the Dolphins he started and carried 10 times for 32 yards and caught four passes for 64 yards.

    It was a head-spinning moment for Murray.

    "It was definitely spinning," Murray said. "I was out of shape. I was a little heavier, so it was definitely a harder game for me, and the offense I didn't know it as well as I should have. I hate looking at that game."

    On the first play of the game, however, Murray caught a screen pass from Stephen McGee for 48 yards.

    "I definitely felt a little pressure to come out there to show them what I can do as far as missing camp that year," Murray said.

    He doesn't have much to show against the Dolphins this time around. The Cowboys know what they have in Murray now. He carried eight times for 34 yards last week against the Baltimore Ravens in his first preseason work.

    "We got to continue to get better," Murray said. "We got to start fast. We got to continue to make every opportunity count for us."

    Dixon has chance to escape doghouse

    August, 22, 2014
    Aug 22
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    IRVING, Texas -- Rookie safety Ahmad Dixon isn’t fired up for Saturday’s preseason game just because of his unplanned layoff last week.

    Dixon, the seventh-round pick who was benched against the Baltimore Ravens for being late to the last walkthrough in Oxnard, Calif., is fired up any time he gets to play in a football game.

    “I’m just ready to play, man,” Dixon said. “I don’t even look at it like [an opportunity to get back in the coaches’ good graces]. I would ask that everybody just quit making this -- I mean, it’s a big deal, but it’s not as big as everybody’s making it seem.

    “I mean, it’s ball. I’m amped up to play any game, not just because I missed a game. If I would have played last week, I would be just as amped up. I just like to play ball, man, and I’m ready to get back out there.”

    Dixon seized the opportunity in his only game action this preseason. Coach Jason Garrett singled out Dixon as a bright spot from an otherwise bad defensive night after the big-hitting Baylor product made a team-high 12 tackles against the San Diego Chargers. And many of those were vicious.

    Dixon suffered a concussion on his last tackle of that game and was sidelined until Thursday the next week. He was late for the 8 a.m. walkthrough the next day and waved off the field by Garrett when he arrived.

    A simple lesson was learned from the experience, which included a one-sided discussion with Garrett later.

    “I’ve got to learn how to be a pro,” Dixon said. “That’s it. I said it time and time again. I’ve got to surround myself with those kind of guys in order to understand what it takes. As long as you’re around those guys, you will start picking up on their behaviors and how they operate.”

    Dixon has made a point to arrive at the team’s Valley Ranch facility at least 45 minutes before the 7:30 a.m. meetings this week. Alertness is almost as important as being present.

    “I’ve got to be sure I’m not going in those meetings all groggy,” Dixon said. “When you get in those meetings, coach might call on you. You can’t be, ‘Uh, uh, uh.’ You have to be prepared.”

    Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 1

    August, 22, 2014
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    IRVING, Texas – Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys’ Twitter mailbag is ready.

    In it we discuss:
    Away we go:

    @toddarcher: I'd put Dez Bryant in the top 5-10 receivers in the league already, so I'm not so sure how much higher his ceiling is. He's already among the NFL's best receivers. Once you're in that neighborhood, does it really matter? Yes, that's easy for me to say when I don't have a contract on the line, but Bryant is in the conversation with the best right now. As far as Murray is concerned, I think there needs to be concern if he goes down. He might not be the bell cow, but he is close to it. Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle would offer elements of what Murray can do, but they don't offer the same complete package. I think they would be able to withstand the Murray loss to a degree because of their ability to throw the ball, but I don't think they would be able to close out games quite as well with the running game.

    @toddarcher: Without questions it is/was Williams. He was a higher pick, coming in the third round, and Street was picked in the fifth. Williams also had more of a chance to compete as a rookie, considering the state of the receiver position in 2013 compared to '14. Miles Austin was a starter, but had hamstring issues. Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris were not in established roles. Neither was Gavin Escobar. Street comes to the team against more of a stacked deck with Williams, Beasley, Harris and Escobar in bigger roles. That's not a knock on Street, because he has played well in the summer, but getting a role on the offense as a rookie will be more challenging for him than it was for Williams.

    @toddarcher: He didn't have a date when we posed the question to him on Tuesday, but he's likely to miss at least the first three regular-season games, possibly more. This is a difficult injury to return from. It takes time and it will be a pain-tolerance issue to some degree. I raised the possibility of Lawrence starting the season on injured reserve with a designation to return. With injuries at other spots, the Cowboys might not have another choice but to make such a move with Lawrence.

    @toddarcher: Head coach Jason Garrett likes to say that the best players will play, regardless of who they are or where they came from. If that's the case, then Kyle Wilber should be in the starting lineup on opening day. He has played better than Bruce Carter. It's been interesting this week to see Anthony Hitchens with the first team at middle linebacker, with Carter and Durant at outside linebacker. Carter has simply not made many plays. He looks the same. It's not horrible. It's just not what you want from a former second-round pick with great athletic ability. Something is missing when it comes to football instincts. It's not a question of working hard. He does that. He takes all the snaps he needs to take, and then some, if the linebackers are short a player because of injury. But at some point, you have to see production. I've been of the belief that the starting linebackers in Week 1 would be Wilber, Durant and Rolando McClain, but I don't know how they can count on McClain. As a result, Carter might fight to live another day with the starters.

    @toddarcher: I don't think the increased size of the practice squad will affect Dustin Vaughan's future. He would be a candidate for it if they had just five spots. The Cowboys have to keep a quarterback around in some capacity behind Tony Romo and Brandon Weeden. The question is if the Cowboys could sneak Vaughan through waivers at the final cuts. He has done well in his preseason work, so perhaps a team would gamble a roster spot on him early in the season. The Cowboys don't want to lose Vaughan, but they might not have a choice, considering the moving parts they could be facing on defense for Week 1. My guess right now is Vaughan will be on the practice squad to start the season, not the 53-man roster.

    Jean-Jacques Taylor discusses the potential career-ending injury to LB DeVonte Holloman, and how it will affect the Cowboys' defense.

    IRVING, Texas -- The most important offseason addition to the NFL's worst defense hasn't practiced in almost two weeks.

    The torn ACL that forced defensive tackle Henry Melton to miss the final 13 games of last season seems fine. It's a groin strain that has kept him out of practice since Aug 10. Even when he did practice, Melton didn't look much like the dude who earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2012. The first-step quickness was missing, and Melton looked tentative, perhaps a little more concerned with making sure his knee stays out of harm's way with 300-pound bodies constantly falling around him than making plays. Rookie guard Zack Martin handled him more times than he didn't during training camp.

    The reality, however, is that we shouldn't be all that surprised. Almost every NFL player who has ever had major knee surgery will tell you it takes considerably longer to trust his knee than for the injury to heal. Still, the Dallas Cowboys hoped Melton would be a little further along in the process.

    Melton is not going to play Saturday against Miami in the third preseason game, and it's unlikely he'll play against Denver next Thursday in the final preseason game. So he's going to make his debut -- we assume -- against San Francisco in the season opener Sept. 7.

    "I'd like to play just to get some game action," Melton said of playing in the preseason, "but if I have to go into the season without it, it's OK. It's not like I'd be playing the regular number of snaps.

    "They told me it was going to be a long process, so I'm just trying to stick with it. It's hard to be patient, but that's what I have to do. They have a great training staff, and I'm just listening and doing what they ask me to do."

    (Read full post)

    Fantasy Now: Tony Romo

    August, 21, 2014
    Aug 21
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    Should fantasy owners be worried about Tony Romo's back and his value this season?

    Anthony Spencer aiming to skip PUP

    August, 21, 2014
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    IRVING, Texas -- Anthony Spencer has two goals: to play this season and avoid the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which would cost the Dallas Cowboys defensive end the first six games of the regular season.

    "I just want to be back on the field this season, whenever that is," Spencer said.

    Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has acknowledged the possibility of keeping Spencer on the 53-man roster for the first two weeks of the season even if he is not cleared to play.

    Spencer is coming back from microfracture surgery on his left knee after playing just one game last season. He has slowly increased his workload during the summer and is focusing on more change of direction and resistance training.

    "I haven’t plateaued yet," Spencer said. "My body is responding really well to the things we’re doing, so we’re just going to continue to do them."

    The Cowboys open the season Sept. 7 against the San Francisco 49ers. If he is on the PUP to start the season, he would not be eligible to play until Oct. 19 against the New York Giants. The Cowboys will be without second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence for at least the first three regular-season games because of a broken foot and they need all the defensive line help it can get.

    Coach Jason Garrett said Spencer would mostly play right defensive end when he returned. He played left defensive end last year and has mostly played on the strong-side for his career. Spencer said he is working on both stances as he works his rehab and does not believe it will take him long to adjust to the new side.

    "I would just be happy to be out there, truthfully," Spencer said. "It really doesn’t matter where I end up."

    LB Jason Phillips working out for Cowboys

    August, 21, 2014
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    IRVING, Texas -- Veteran linebacker Jason Phillips is working out for the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday.

    Phillips, 28, a TCU product, was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles this week.

    Phillips missed all of last season because of a torn ACL suffered during training camp.

    Originally a fifth-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens, Phillips had his best season in 2012 with the Carolina Panthers, serving as a core special-teams player and making two starts at linebacker.

    The Cowboys are looking for linebacker depth after doctors advised DeVonte Holloman, a sixth-round pick last year, to retire from football because of a neck condition.