“I own Dallas,” McCoy boasted to Eagles fans as he walked over to greet ex-Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin of the NFL Network at Friday’s practice.
LeSean McCoy to Eagles fans as he was walking over to greet Michael Irvin: "I own Dallas" pic.twitter.com/We51ZQEqwM— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 1, 2014
That’s far from the most inflammatory comment from a rivalry that has featured the “Bounty Bowl” and Philly fans cheering as Irvin lay on the hard Veterans Stadium turf with a neck injury that ended his career. It’s just a little fun in the middle of the summer.
But is it accurate?
The Eagles are 4-4 in regular-season games in which McCoy played against the Cowboys. By that standard, the Cowboys own the NFL.
And the Cowboys won the playoff meeting between the teams in the 2009 season.
McCoy has put up some pretty impressive numbers in those eight regular-season games against the Cowboys, rushing for 695 yards and two touchdowns on 134 carries and catching 24 passes for 144 yards and a score.
The playoff game? McCoy was not a factor, gaining 24 yards on five carries and catching a 9-yard pass.
McCoy had the last laugh against the Cowboys, rushing for 131 yards on 27 carries in the Eagles’ Week 17 win-or-go-home victory last year. But considering the Eagles have lost more than half their meetings with the Cowboys during McCoy’s career, his trash talk stretched the truth.
Rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence had surgery on a broken foot on Thursday and is expected to miss eight to 10 weeks. Defensive tackle Terrell McClain has been battling a sprained ankle and Ben Bass suffered a hamstring strain on Thursday. Anthony Spencer is on the physically unable to perform list and Amobi Okoye is on the non-football injury list. Their absences have put a strain on the remaining defensive linemen.
To make room on the roster, wide receiver L'Damian Washington and guard Darius Morris will be waived.
Boatright, who is 6-foot-3, 254 pounds, spent time with the Seattle Seahawks last season after signing as an undrafted free agent. He was cut in June. Boatright’s agent, Brett Tessler, tweeted the agreement.
Ojomo was cut by the Tennessee Titans following an arrest for soliciting a prostitute. He has spent time with the New York Giants, Seahawks and Buffalo Bills since 2012. He has played in one game in his career.
In addition to Boatright and Ojomo, the Cowboys also worked out Cory Henry, who went to rookie minicamp with the Houston Texans on a tryout basis. He had 32 career sacks at Florida Atlantic.
1. The general thought about the Cowboys’ defense seems to be that it can’t be any worse than it was last year.
Well, it can.
The first few practices have provided no indication this defense will be better than last year’s version that allowed 415.3 yards and 27 points per game. It’s not about a lack of effort, it’s about a lack of talent.
What players worry opposing offensive coordinators? Henry Melton? Brandon Carr? Orlando Scandrick?
Melton has the best pedigree, but he’s fighting through the mental hurdles of the knee injury that cost him 13 games last season. He's still too worried about his knee to play with reckless regard for his body, which is what it takes to succeed at defensive tackle.
And when he did play his best football in Chicago, he had Julius Peppers at defensive end and Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher at linebacker. No one remotely resembling those players starts for the Cowboys.
Talk to enough coaches and staff members at training camp and they’ll tell you the scheme has been tweaked and there’s even more emphasis on teaching than usual because the Cowboys don’t have enough talent to overcome poor technique or mental mistakes.
None of that guarantees a better performance.
2. For the Cowboys to end this wretched four-year streak of not making the playoffs, they must play better in the fourth quarter.
Jason Garrett emphasizes it to the players regularly -- and he’s right.
Last year, the Cowboys led San Diego, Denver, Detroit and Green Bay in the fourth quarter and lost. They had double-digit leads over Detroit and Green Bay.
In the last three years, the Cowboys have been within seven points of their opponent -- ahead or behind -- in 38 of 48 games. Their record in those 38 games is 20-18.
The Cowboys won the fourth quarter seven times last season. They were 6-1 in those games with the only loss coming against Denver.
Their margin for error this season will be slim again, in part, because of the defense. They’ll need to win a lot of fourth quarters to make the playoffs.
3. Garrett and playcaller Scott Linehan insist the Cowboys will run the ball this season.
Before you roll your eyes, understand this season they’re equipped to run it because of an offensive line that has been fortified with three No.1 picks in the last four years.
Teams had no respect for the Cowboys’ running game so they often used seven defenders in coverage and still managed to contain DeMarco Murray. Play coverage this season and the Cowboys should be more than happy to punish teams with their running game -- at least that's what Garrett and Linehan want you to believe.
More importantly, a better running game will make the passing game more efficient because the Cowboys can use play-action passes to generate big plays. Tony Romo attempted just 74 play-action passes last season, one of the league’s lowest totals.
Key number: 1
The Cowboys blitzed 132 times last season, one of the lowest totals in the league, and produced just one interception and nine sacks.
Blitzes are supposed to disrupt the quarterback and force mistakes because the quarterback is making decisions under duress. Opposing quarterbacks had a 117.5 passer rating when the Cowboys blitzed last season.
Look at the personnel and there’s no reason to think the Cowboys will be any more effective blitzing this season. Their defensive line doesn’t have a proven pass-rusher.
The coaching staff has no idea how it's going to create pressure on the quarterback
Player to Watch: Justin Durant
With Sean Lee out for the season with a knee injury, recently signed Rolando McClain trying to earn trust and rookie Anthony Hitchens not ready for a starting role, Durant is making the most of his opportunity.
Durant, who had 24 tackles for the Cowboys last season, has impressed the coaching staff with his grasp of the system and his play so far in training camp.
He’s not going to be a difference-maker, but he’s been a solid player at various times in Jacksonville and Detroit. If he can duplicate that performance here, it would be a big help for the defense
The list of traits rattled off by head coach Jason Garrett: experienced, smart, tough, mature, technically sound and possessing the strength and size to battle in the NFL trenches.
Martin, who set a school record for games started at Notre Dame, displayed all those attributes during his first week of training camp. He’s been every bit as impressive as the Cowboys anticipated when they selected Martin with the 16th overall pick in the draft.
“He just needs to play at this level,” Garrett said. “But that’s what we said about Travis last year. They typically tend to respond. Guys who are smart at any position, particularly the offensive line, tend to get better. They tend to improve quickly. And we’ve certainly seen that with him.”
According to Frederick, the biggest difference between him and his new prized rookie linemate is that Martin is a much better athlete. Other than that, they are two 310-plus-pound peas in a pod.
“He’s kind of the same type of guy -- Midwestern guy, big, thick,” Frederick said. “That’s kind of my style of play, is his style of play. He’s way more athletic than I am, but I think we have kind of the same mindset where you can play the game with more than just strength and athleticism.
“If you can see things a little bit better, understand the game a little bit better as a whole, it’s going to allow you to play the game faster and play better. I think he certainly has the ability to do that.”
That's why the Cowboys are confident that Martin will have the kind of rookie season that Frederick did a year ago.
OXNARD, Calif. -- At one point Mike Pope made a list of all the drills he has had his tight ends do over 32 years in the NFL, and it totaled 478.
"I can't remember all of them because I'm getting a little bit older," said the 72-year-old Pope, "but they're just common sense more than anything else."
Who thinks of this stuff? Pope does. He said he has no interests outside of football.
"No, I don't take credit for them," said Pope, who joined the Cowboys' staff in the offseason. "You see something in the game and say, 'How can I make a drill out of that?' A lot of them are things like end zone drills and you just see something happen and a player has to do something out of the extraordinary to make a catch, make a play. How does he do it? He's off balance, he's on one foot somebody has got him by the shirt. He's trying to run and he can't run. You just see those in the game and then you just come out here and put them together. It's not that hard."
James Hanna has figured out the "why" behind the drills, so he has not responded with, "We are doing, what?"
"He wants us to think about coming from the ground, that's why we do the duck walk stuff, like raising up as opposed to reaching out," Hanna said. "That's how you get in bad position."
The receiving drills are all about concentration. Most of the catches by tight ends are contested. They have to battle a linebacker or safety in tight coverage.
"There's someone always knocking us around, particularly when you get the credentials that a Jason Witten has," Pope said. "You think they're just going let him run down and catch the ball? I don't think so. We want to get them on our schedule if they do."
He admits the ice-water drill is more about the fun he gets from dousing his players.
"But we put that camera up real close and one of the things I really concentrate on teaching and getting them to understand -- because they don't really believe it -- that when the ball comes, when something really abnormal happens they flinch," Pope said. "They temporarily close their eyes. It's an instinct. It's uncontrollable. So hitting them with the ice water, they all flinch. I told them all, I said, 'If I bet you your car, you'd all be walking,' because that ice water hits them and it's such a shock to their body. Any of those things that you can do to try to distract them -- so anything you can do -- is a decent drill."
He does not tell the tight end what's coming, but by now they know it will be something strange. Pope said there have never been any complaints in his career, from Pro Bowlers like Mark Bavaro, Ben Coates, Jeremy Shockey and Stephen Alexander to players like Martellus Bennett, whom he coached with the Giants in 2012, to his current crew.
"They look at me like I'm Hannibal Lecter or something like that," Pope said. "But now, they get the gist of it." Training camp is young. Pope has plenty more left in his repertoire. "It's a lot of stuff I've never done before, but I've reflected a little bit on it and it seems like pretty practical stuff," Hanna said. "So that's good."
Jones refused to say the Cowboys had to improve their record – 8-8 in each of Jason Garrett’s three full seasons as a head coach – for Garrett to keep his job after his contract expires at the end of the season. Jones has repeatedly stressed how young this Dallas roster is, a pleasant way of saying the franchise is in a rebuilding process, at least on the defensive side of the ball.
Heck, we’ve gone more than a week of camp without Jerry saying “Super Bowl” in any context, words that are usually on the tip of his tongue as he puts on his promotions cap at this time of the year.
So it’s certainly surprising that Cowboys fans received playoff tickets with their season-ticket packages, a first in the NFL, ESPN’s Darren Rovell reports.
The easiest prediction in all of sports is that the most entertaining mediocre team in football will find a spectacular way to miss the playoffs. It’s happened the last three years in the final week of the season, when the Cowboys lost win-or-go-home de facto NFC East title games.
It's hard to believe that this season will be any better, with the Dallas defense in a state of disrepair and franchise quarterback Tony Romo coming off a couple of back surgeries.
The Cowboys might not be able to give their fans hope, but they sure can provide some cool souvenirs.
When Dallas Cowboys season-ticket holders open the envelope with their tickets this week, they might be shocked to find what's in there.
Along with all the preseason and regular-season tickets, there's a sheet of playoff tickets, including a ticket for the NFC Championship Game, a game the team hasn't played in since the 1995 season.
With all the scrutiny on the lack of postseason success for the Cowboys, who have gone 8-8 each of the past three seasons and have missed the playoffs the past four years, the actual printing of the tickets and sending them ahead of time to fans is sure to cause a stir. Especially because no other NFL team is doing this.
"It's a convenience for our season-ticket holders to have everything in one package," said Brett Daniels, the Cowboys director of corporate communications. "It's an evolution to be fan-friendly. They have their tickets online and if we clinch a playoff berth they go to the computer and click they want the tickets."
Daniels said in previous years the Cowboys would send out playoff invoices in November and mail them out in December. Fans would send in a check or write in credit card numbers on the invoices. Now, everything is done online and gives the fans more control over what they want to do.
Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple added that the team had to send playoff tickets to fans anyway at the end of the season for each of the last three years because the team was trying to qualify for the playoffs on the last game of the year. Because this happens around holiday time, Dalrymple said the Cowboys would be sending out the tickets during the biggest shipping rush of the year, which made the team and fans uneasy.
"Included in this package are your 2014 playoff tickets and parking (if applicable) for two potential home games at AT&T Stadium," read a letter that came with the season tickets. "The barcodes on the tickets will be activated when a home playoff game is clinched and the tickets have been paid in full."
After NFL teams had problems selling out playoff games this past season, especially the Green Bay Packers
In it, we discuss:
- Surprise performers in training camp
- The state of the secondary
- Trading for Dion Jordan
- Lowering the expectations?
Away we go:
Jamar Newsome, Dezmon Briscoe and LaRon Byrd. They all have showed skill that could land them on a 53-man roster, but perhaps not this roster. I think the battle between Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams could be a good one at No. 3 tailback. Both of those guys have had moments. Guard Uche Nwaneri is interesting after not seeing him in the offseason. He is strong. On defense, I'm surprised how Rolando McClain has transitioned in. I'm not sure if he is a complete fit with his speed, but he is on my 53-man roster. He's shown some pretty good instincts. Linebacker Keith Smith seems to be around the ball a lot. Linebacker Joe Windsor has some pass-rush pop. Defensive end Dartwan Bush is showing up. I like what corner Terrance Mitchell has done, but I think he grabs too much. Among the guys you know more about, I don't think there has been a "bad" surprise, as in a guy who isn't playing well. At this point there are guys I just want to see more from: J.J. Wilcox, B.W. Webb, Sterling Moore, Terrell McClain (injured ankle) and Ronald Leary (injured hamstring).
Morris Claiborne is competing better, but he's given up plays, too. Same with Webb and Moore. I think you're seeing them use different techniques that allow them to be more disruptive outside than last year. It could be a Seattle influence. There could be a lot of penalties called on these guys with how "handsy" they are, but that's OK. There is a balance you have to learn. It's better to be this way rather than passive. And when it comes to games, you could see a situation in which the officials just get tired of throwing flags. I saw something like that when I covered the Dolphins with Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain. They were so physical with their press coverage that officials let them get away with a lot.
@toddarcher: I doubt this is even on the radar. Jordan has a lot of money due his way and he has a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. That's not a good thing and it's risky to take on a prospect when something like this happens because the next suspension is a long one. The Cowboys have taken low-risk chances on guys such as Amobi Okoye and McClain, but this one just seems to be too high. And Jordan had just two sacks last season. I don't think he's part of the answer. Lawrence will be back and probably play the bulk of the season.
After losing Lawerence, is it worth trying to trade for Dion Jordan as he had a poor year and is still 2nd on the depth chart #cowboysmail— Tido (@TidoWaleSantana) July 31, 2014
Today's schedule: The Cowboys will have their second off day and return for practice on Saturday.
Quick thoughts on five padded practices:
- The safety spot next to Barry Church remains J.J. Wilcox's to lose. Wilcox has been OK but he has not been pushed by Jeff Heath or any other safety. Wilcox has had a couple of pass breakups, but there has not been a big hit in the running game and he took a bad angle on a wide run by Lance Dunbar that would have led to a 50-yard run in one practice. You just want to see more from a projected starter.
- I'm not sure if Dartwan Bush can make it on the 53-man roster but he is making the most of his opportunity. He was at the Cowboys' rookie minicamp on a tryout basis and went unsigned until early June. He has been active (two sacks on Wednesday and Thursday) and is getting more work with DeMarcus Lawrence out with a broken foot. The Cowboys are short on pure right defensive ends and he is getting in the mix the way Ben Bass did a few years ago. Bass used an invite to a rookie camp and earned a spot on the practice squad before a brief promotion to the active roster.
- It's easy to see Dezmon Briscoe's NFL experience. Signed at the start of camp, Briscoe has surpassed the work of undrafted rookies L'Damian Washington and Chris Boyd so far. He is smooth in and out of his breaks. He does a good job of catching the ball with his hands. Does it mean he will make the final roster? Probably not but he is putting himself in the mix, which can be difficult to do for a player who was not with the team in the offseason.
- Jason Garrett has altered the practice plan this season. In previous years the Cowboys had what he called a "blue practice" to open the session with the rookies and younger players taking the field before the veterans so they can get more work. This year Garrett has turned to a "blue period," at the end of the practices in which the young players go through eight plays of team drills. It gives quarterback Dustin Vaughan the chance because he does not take regular team drills or even 7-on-7 throws.
They said it: "I was out last year with an Achilles and I went and talked to him. I told him everything I heard that was positive for me, helped me get through it. I'm going to be shooting him texts and giving him a call and making sure he's staying up and just make sure he stays in the books. He's definitely going to be back and definitely will be planning on him coming back where he left off." – Defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford on how he will help DeMarcus Lawrence, who had foot surgery on Thursday.
OXNARD, Calif. -- A couple of high-profile former Dallas Cowboys with controversial pasts will serve as members of Josh Brent's unofficial advisory committee as the defensive tackle attempts to make a comeback with the team.
Michael Irvin and Nate Newton, who are known for their starring roles on the Cowboys' three Super Bowl title teams in the 1990s and various off-field incidents, offered to be part of Brent's support system after his December 2012 arrest on intoxication manslaughter charges stemming from the crash that killed friend and teammate Jerry Brown Jr.
Brent, who retired before the 2013 season, will meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell next week and hopes to resume his career with the Cowboys. He was released Tuesday from an addiction rehabilitation system, where he was allowed to serve the end of a jail sentence.
"All you can do is give him support and try to direct him in the right way," said Newton, who served prison time on marijuana charges after his NFL career was over and now works in the Dallas media. "Let him know that what he's doing is a great thing and can only benefit him and the Cowboys alike. I'm a realist, man. Don't get caught up in, 'We love you.' Get caught up in, 'I've got a second chance. Do I love myself?' That's who you've got to love.
- The offense brought it to the defense in team drills, especially in the running game, which has to be concerning. Running backs DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar were able to get through the line unscathed in team run and situational work. Guard Zack Martin flattened safety Barry Church while pulling to give Murray a big gain, drawing oohs and aahs. Dunbar was able to gain the edge against the second-team defense with his speed, racing by cornerback DaShaun Phillips. Ryan Williams took a toss for a long gain, too.
- The Cowboys D stuck with a seven-man front against the offense, which might have accounted for some of the big gains, but the line was unable to get off blocks.
- One play that Jason Garrett will assuredly show his players was the work of Dez Bryant in team drills. A Tony Romo pass to Bryant was deflected at the line of scrimmage with linebacker Bruce Carter in position for his first interception of training camp. Bryant quickly backtracked, jumped over Carter and flicked the ball away to prevent the turnover. That a player of Bryant's stature made that kind of hustle play will not go unnoticed with the way Garrett likes to use his best players as teaching points.
- The defensive line was much better in pass-rush drills. Right tackle Doug Free struggled with power from George Selvie, Dartwan Bush and Caesar Rayford in three reps. Jeremy Mincey was able to put Mackenzy Bernadeau to the ground with a power move. Backup tackle Jermey Parnell did a nice job of handling Tyrone Crawford's power, staying low to absorb Crawford's momentum.
- Garrett offered up play-by-play in the one-on-one drills between the receivers and corners. At one point he said the defense was being "bludgeoned." After an Orlando Scandrick pick, he gave the defense two extra points. Passing game coordinator Scott Linehan responded with, "Do we get two points for a touchdown?"
- Wide receiver Dwayne Harris suffered a left ankle sprain in one-on-one drills with cornerbacks when he was rolled up by Terrance Mitchell. Mitchell was chastised by Dez Bryant and others for being too aggressive and not staying on his feet. The Cowboys don't believe Harris' injury is serious. Defensive tackle Ben Bass left practice early with a hamstring injury. The Cowboys are down five defensive linemen (Amobi Okoye, Bass, DeMarcus Lawrence, Anthony Spencer and Terrell McClain) and could be forced to sign a reinforcement to ease the load off the rest of the group. Cornerback Sterling Moore and guard Brian Clarke did not practice because of a groin injury. With only five healthy corners, practice was shorter than normal.
- The Cowboys are off on Friday and will return to practice on Saturday.
Carr has been with his family in Flint, Michigan, since training camp began. Coach Jason Garrett said Carr could rejoin the team in a few days, but the Cowboys will be as patient as needed while Carr deals with his grief.
“She apparently is a very, very strong lady because she’s been fighting that for at least a couple of years and Brandon has done a great job being supportive of her and his family and still focusing on what he needs to focus on,” Garrett said. “That’s why he didn’t come out to training camp right from the start. Everyone felt like it was close to that time, so he’s been spending time with his family.”
Last year, the father of cornerback Morris Claiborne passed away during the season and the mother of safety J.J. Wilcox passed away in training camp. Wilcox said he appreciated the support from the organization and teammates during his process.
“It helps out a lot,” Wilcox said. “You don’t understand it until you’re gone and you think the guys forgot about you. But it definitely helps a part of you not overcome it but by taking it day by day and understanding that the guys still love you and you’re still on their mind.”