Cowboys preseason schedule released

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
9:20
PM ET
Before the Dallas Cowboys take on the San Francisco 49ers to open the 2014 season at AT&T Stadium, there is the preseason to take care of.

The Cowboys' preseason schedule:
Aug. 7 at San Diego, 9 p.m. (KTVT, CBS 11)
Aug. 16 vs. Baltimore, 6 p.m. (KTVT, CBS 11)
Aug. 23 at Miami, 6 p.m. (KTVT, CBS 11)
Aug. 28 vs. Denver, 7 p.m. (KTVT, CBS 11)

Notes: The Cowboys could open training camp on July 23, in Oxnard, Calif., which would be 15 days from the start of the preseason. The key to the preseason is what happens after the Cowboys' preseason opener at San Diego. The team most likely will go back to Oxnard for a couple of practices before breaking camp on either Aug. 14 or Aug. 15. After the second preseason game against the Ravens, the Cowboys have the option of going back to Oxnard. The team could just hold practices at Valley Ranch. Under normal conditions, the Cowboys would play their first two preseason games on the road, but a concert at AT&T Stadium forced the team to split the first two games between home and the road.

Dallas Cowboys schedule analysis

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
8:34
PM ET
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Predictions

Breakdown: Despite not having made the playoffs since 2009, the Cowboys remain a popular national team with five prime-time games. But if they are to stop the playoff-less streak, they will have to start fast and hold the fort late in the season. Three of the Cowboys' first five games come against teams that did not make the playoffs last season: at the Tennessee Titans, at the St. Louis Rams and at home against the Houston Texans. The other two home games are against two of the best teams in the NFC in the San Francisco 49ers (Sept. 7) and New Orleans Saints (Sept. 28). Because of their Nov. 9 trip to London to play the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Cowboys don’t have their bye week until Nov. 16, but the close of the season is particularly tough with four of their last six games coming on the road with trips at the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears and finale at the Washington Redskins.

Complaint department: The schedule maker did not do the Cowboys much favors with their Thanksgiving matchup with a night game at the Giants. The Cowboys will not get back to Dallas until early Monday morning with a short week to get ready for the Eagles. The Cowboys should have to play a road game the week before the Thanksgiving matchup, but playing a night game is borderline unfair. The Cowboys will not get their customary 10-day break until after they play at the Bears on Dec. 4. The Cowboys had a similar Thursday-Thursday schedule in 2007 when they finished 13-3. They can only hope to be as fortunate in 2014.

Not safe at home: AT&T Stadium has not created the home-field advantage the Dallas Cowboys have craved since moving into the $1.2 billion facility in 2009, and the Cowboys will be tested at home in 2014. The Cowboys welcome four playoff teams from 2013 to Arlington: Philadelphia, San Francisco, Indianapolis and New Orleans. Plus Arizona won 10 games last year. The Cowboys have beaten the Giants just once at home since 2009 and Houston has more talent than its 2-14 record indicates. The Cowboys are 22-18 in the regular season at AT&T Stadium. The easiest formula to make the playoffs is to win your home games and split them on the road. That will be a tough case for the Cowboys in 2014.

Strength of schedule: The Cowboys have the second-toughest schedule in the NFC East based on 2013 winning percentage, following the Washington Redskins (No. 17, .490). The Philadelphia Eagles won the division last year and have the 20th-ranked schedule (.490).

Strength of schedule: 18th, .488 | Vegas over/under : 8

Cowboys Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 7, San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 14, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 21, at St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sep. 28, New Orleans, 8:30 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, NY Giants, 4:25 p.m.
Week 8: Monday, Oct. 27, Washington, 8:30 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2, Arizona, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, at Jacksonville, 1 p.m. (in London)
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, at NY Giants, 8:30 p.m.
Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 27, Philadelphia, 4:30 p.m.
Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 4, at Chicago, 8:25 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, at Philadelphia, 8:30 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, Indianapolis, 4:25 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Washington, 1 p.m.

Cowboys open season vs. 49ers

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
8:20
PM ET
The NFL released the 2014 schedule on Wednesday night.

Here is the Cowboys schedule with notes on every opponent (times CT).

Sept. 7 vs. San Francisco, 3:25 p.m. (FOX)
Sept. 14 at Tennessee, Noon (FOX)
Sept. 21 at St. Louis, Noon (FOX)
Sept. 28 vs. New Orleans, 7:30 p.m. (NBC)
Oct. 5 vs. Houston, Noon (CBS)
Oct. 12 at Seattle, 3:25 p.m. (FOX)
Oct. 19 vs. New York Giants, 3:25 p.m. (FOX)
Oct. 27 vs. Washington, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Nov. 2 vs. Arizona, Noon, (FOX)
*Nov. 9 at Jacksonville, Noon, (FOX)
Nov. 23 at New York Giants, 7:30 p.m. (NBC)
Nov. 27 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m. (FOX)
Dec. 4 at Chicago, 7:25 p.m. (NFLN)
Dec. 14 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m. (NBC)
Dec. 21 vs. Indianapolis, 3:25 p.m. (CBS)
Dec. 28 at Washington, Noon (FOX)
*Game played in London

Team by team notes

Arizona: The Cowboys have lost the past three meetings, including two in overtime.

Houston: Will the Cowboys face Johnny Manziel or defend Jadeveon Clowney? Dallas leads the series, 2-1.

Indianapolis: Andrew Luck gets his first shot against the Cowboys, but the Colts have won the last two meetings.

New Orleans: Rob Ryan comes to AT&T Stadium as an opponent. The Saints have won the past three games against the Cowboys, including last season’s 49-17 beatdown in the Superdome.

New York Giants: Cowboys swept them last year. Is Eli Manning in a decline?

Philadelphia: Cowboys looking for revenge after losing in the regular-season finale last season.

San Francisco: Dallas does have a three-game win streak against the 49ers, but Colin Kaepernick wasn’t the quarterback.

Washington: DeSean Jackson vs. Cowboys secondary. Jason Hatcher vs. the Cowboys’ offensive line. Get the hype started.

Chicago: Jay Ratliff faces the Cowboys again. Henry Melton takes on his former team. Oh yeah, Cowboys lost to the Bears last season, 45-28.

Jacksonville: This is the first regular-season game in London in Cowboys’ history. Last time they visited London was for a preseason game in 1986.

St. Louis: Scott Linehan takes on his former team. Does he have something to prove?

Seattle: Walter Thurmond said he’s the best slot corner in the game. Wonder what Orlando Scandrick thinks? Seattle has won the last three at home.

Tennessee: It’s the first meeting between the teams since 2010. Last time Cowboys visited Nashville, Terrell Owens gave Pacman Jones his shoes and Andre Gurode got stomped in the face by Albert Haynesworth.

Caleb Hanie gives Cowboys insurance

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
6:25
PM ET
The Dallas Cowboys have done two things this offseason, add to the defensive line and to the quarterback position.

On Wednesday afternoon, the team signed Caleb Hanie to a one-year contract to become the fourth quarterback on the roster. Hanie's signing is insurance if Kyle Orton, the current No. 2, retires or forces the team to release him.

Hanie
Orton has missed the early stages of the offseason program, which started on Monday. While those programs are voluntary, the quarterback should always be at these affairs. Tony Romo, recovering from back surgery, was in full attendance at Valley Ranch on Monday and has been around the facility most of the offseason.

Financially, it just doesn't make sense for Orton to leave the Cowboys. He loses $3.2 million in base salary should he retire, and he could be forced to pay back roughly $3 million in bonuses. However, Orton might just be forced to repay $510,000, which is the signing bonus he picked up last year from a re-negotiated contract from last March.

However the financials work out, losing Orton in any way, means the team's quarterback position gets weaker behind Romo.

Orton was a solid backup and worth the money the Cowboys were paying him to support Romo. But if he's gone, the options are limited.

Brandon Weeden played two seasons in Cleveland and despite his age (30), he's still relatively young in NFL years.

Hanie, a Forney, Texas native, didn't play last season in Cleveland, yet in 2011 he went 0-4 as a starter for the Chicago Bears with three touchdown passes and nine interceptions thrown. When Romo injured his back and the Cowboys worked out a gaggle of quarterbacks last December, Hanie looked very good during his visit.

But the Cowboys went with Jon Kitna instead because he was familiar with Jason Garrett's offense.

Now, after another workout on Wednesday, Hanie looked sharp again and this time he was signed to the one-year deal.

Of course, Hanie, Weeden and Orton might not be here, if at all in 2014, should the Cowboys select a quarterback in the early rounds of next month's draft. We're not even going into the Johnny Manziel talk because it's doubtful he'll fall to No. 16 overall.

The Cowboys have greater needs for their team -- especially on defense, which finished last overall in 2013. Getting a defensive end and maybe a right tackle are priorities. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said the offseason work, in terms of signing three defensive linemen, has prompted the team to draft for the best player available, instead of forcing to draft for a need.

Hanie gives the Cowboys flexibility as a No. 2 quarterback -- if he can beat out Weeden.

It's amazing how the Cowboys' backup quarterback, the same player, who almost beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2013 regular-season finale, has turned the offseason upside down with his indecision to play.

But the Cowboys made the right decision on Wednesday in getting Hanie, because there's nothing wrong with a little insurance.

Cowboys sign QB Caleb Hanie

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
5:11
PM ET

CHICAGO -- Veteran free-agent quarterback Caleb Hanie has signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Hanie, a Dallas native, had a brief stint with the Cleveland Browns last season after serving as one of Peyton Manning's backups in Denver in 2012.

Hanie started four games for the Chicago Bears late in 2011 in place of an injured Jay Cutler. He finished that year completing 51 of 102 pass attempts for 613 yards, three touchdowns and nine interceptions. The Bears decided not to re-sign Hanie following that season.

Originally an undrafted rookie free agent out of Colorado State, Hanie spent a combined four seasons in Chicago (2008-11) and appeared in the 2010 NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers where he connected on 13 of 20 throws for 153 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

The signing gives the Cowboys insurance in case No. 2 quarterback Kyle Orton retires. Orton informed his coaches during exit physicals the day after starting the team's season-ending loss to Philadelphia that he was considering retiring from the NFL.

Orton didn't attend the first day of offseason workouts and with starter Tony Romo coming back from back surgery, Hanie gives the Cowboys some flexibility at the position.


(Read full post)


What about Mo Claiborne's 2016 option?

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
11:20
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will exercise the fifth-year option on Tyron Smith's deal in the near future, paying him $10.39 million in 2015 if they cannot reach a long-term agreement before then.

Claiborne
What about the Cowboys' first-round pick in 2012, cornerback Morris Claiborne?

As much as paying Smith is a sure thing, the decision with Claiborne's option in 2016 is as up in the air. They will have to make the decision by May 2015, which means Claiborne will have to answer a few questions first.

The transition tag for cornerbacks in 2014 is $10.081 million, so figure that number will increase in 2015 by the time the Cowboys have to make up their minds on Claiborne's future.

The Cowboys gave up their first- and second-round picks to the St. Louis Rams to move up to take Claiborne with the sixth overall pick. He has two interceptions in two seasons. He lost his job to Orlando Scandrick in 2013 in part because of injury but also because Scandrick was playing better.

There is no guarantee he will be a starter in 2014 either.

Claiborne's health has been an issue since he was picked. He arrived with a cast on his surgically repaired left wrist in 2012. He also suffered a knee injury in camp. Last year he hurt his shoulder in the season opener and missed games with a hamstring injury. He had shoulder and finger surgery in the offseason.

If Claiborne has the type of season in 2014 the Cowboys were hoping he could have when they made the bold move to take him, then they could pick up his option as a way to guarantee they are keeping a player at a premium spot, especially if Brandon Carr does not bounce back.

They could just as easily get out of the option by the first day of the 2016 league year by rescinding the offer. The option is only guaranteed for injury at the time the team elects to pick it up. If Claiborne is on the roster for the first day of the league year, it is guaranteed for injury and skill.

The Cowboys manage their salary cap years in advance. They know the ramifications of picking up Claiborne's option and not picking it up. They are scheduled to be in good shape, but also have long-term decisions to make on Smith, Dez Bryant and possibly DeMarco Murray this summer and next summer that could eat into that space.

Claiborne can help the Cowboys with their decision by living up to the expectations in 2014.

McShay's 2nd round fits for Cowboys

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
10:30
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- In his mock drafts, ESPN Insider Todd McShay has had the Dallas Cowboys sticking on the defensive side of the ball.

In his four mock drafts, he has had Timmy Jernigan (twice), Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Stephon Tuitt going to the Cowboys in the first round.

In his most recent Insider piece on ESPN.com Insider, McShay mentioned prospects that might be the best fit with a team. After listing eight fits, which includes defensive tackle Aaron Donald going to the Chicago Bears (which might upset some Cowboys fans), he has pass rushers Dee Ford and Jeremiah Attaochu, as fits for the Cowboys in the second round.

The Cowboys need pass-rushers. Ford had quite a push at the Senior Bowl and has speed to burn. Attaochu had 32 sacks at Georgia Tech.

They are also something of tweeners. Ford is 6-2, 240 pounds. Attaochu is 6-3, 252 pounds. That is light even for the right defensive end spots in Rod Marinelli’s scheme. They could be pass-rush specialists as rookies and grow into full-time roles later as they pack on more weight.

But Marinelli’s better right defensive ends have been Simeon Rice and Julius Peppers. Rice was 6-5, 268 pounds. Peppers, who was courted by the Cowboys as a free agent to a small degree, is 6-6, 283 pounds. They are the prototypes and special talents.

In the second round, the Cowboys could take a chance on players that might not fit the prototype but can do one thing exceptionally well.

Ford and Attaochu could also be part of the future if the Cowboys make wholesale coaching and scheme changes after the 2014 season.

NFL Nation Buzz: Dallas Cowboys

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
10:00
AM ET
video
Dallas Cowboys reporter Todd Archer discusses the additions the team has already made on the defensive line and how it will affect their draft strategy.

Beyond the first round: Safeties

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
9:00
AM ET
Each day over the next 10 days, we will focus on one position in the NFL draft by highlighting a prospect in Rounds 2-7 who might fit for the Dallas Cowboys. With so much attention placed on the first round in mock drafts, "Beyond the first round" focuses on lesser-publicized options beyond the first 32 picks. Today we look at safeties.

Second round -- Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois): He was one of the Cowboys' national visitors and could be a Day 1 starter. He led the defense with 92 tackles in 2013, but more importantly had seven interceptions and 10 breakups. The Cowboys need a ballhawking safety and getting one in the second round would be a boost.

Third round -- Dion Bailey (USC): This might be a little high for Bailey, but he had a team-high four interceptions when Monte Kiffin was his defensive coordinator in 2012 and followed that up with five picks and six pass breakups in 2013. A tad short (6-0, 201) but he is active. He also had 62 tackles last season.

Fourth round -- Tre Boston (North Carolina): A converted cornerback he had 13 interceptions for his career and led the defense with 85 tackles. He is still learning the position and can get out of control at times. He could need time to develop, but that's the case with most mid-round picks.

Fifth round -- Ed Reynolds (Stanford): His father was a linebacker for the New England Patriots. He is intelligent and has the build for the position. He was an All-Pac-12 pick and only intercepted one pass in 2013. He returned three of his interceptions for touchdowns in his career. Did not play in 2011 because of a torn ACL but rebounded nicely.

Sixth round -- Brock Vereen (Minnesota): He was an All-Big Ten cornerback but has safety skills. He also has genes. His brother, Shane, is a running back for the Patriots. A little short but not afraid to come up and make a play in the run game. His corner skills allow him to track receivers and tight ends down the field.

Seventh round -- Vinnie Sunseri (Alabama): There is a medical concern about him coming off a torn ACL, but he is a coach's kid and has learned the game from an early age. He had 105 tackles in his career at Alabama and returned two of his four interceptions for touchdowns. He was something of a glue player on a defense filled with talent.

Dallas Cowboys' schedule released today

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
9:00
AM ET
At 7 p.m. CT, the NFL will released the 2014 schedule.

As for the Cowboys, we have a primer.

Who they play: The home games are: Arizona, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, New York Giants, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington. The road games are: Chicago, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Seattle, Tennessee and Washington. The Jacksonville game is Nov. 9 in London.

Reunion games: Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher left the Cowboys to sign a four-year $27.5 million deal with the Washington Redskins in free agency. The Cowboys didn't make a play to re-sign Hatcher due to salary-cap space and age. Hatcher is 31. The two NFC East games will be hyped with Hatcher looking to make big plays against the Cowboys' offense. New offensive playcaller Scott Linehan will face the St. Louis Rams this season. Linehan coached the Rams from 2006 to 2008. In a reunion that might be bigger than the Hatcher game, New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan visits AT&T Stadium for the first time since he was fired after the 2012 season. Ryan coached against the Cowboys last season when the teams met at the Superdome. The Saints won that game, 49-17.

Strength of schedule: The Cowboys' 2014 opponents have a winning percentage of .488 based on the 2013 won-loss records.

The opener: OK, the Cowboys are playing in London and of course they'll play on Thanksgiving, but are the NFL schedule-makers willing to send them to Seattle for the Thursday night opener that starts the season. The defending Super Bowl champ starts the season on a Thursday night and maybe a Tony Romo versus Russell Wilson contest will get the season off right. The last time the Cowboys faced a defending champ to start the season was 2012 when they visited the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. The Cowboys won the game 24-17.

A player/coach on the Cowboys?

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
2:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- In terms of most valuable sports franchises in the world, the Dallas Cowboys and Manchester United are in the top five.

Manchester United was valued by Forbes at $3.17 billion, which was No. 2 behind Real Madrid. The Cowboys checked in at No. 5 at $2.1 billion.

The Red Devils' season could not have gone more poorly. David Moyes replaced the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson and the team will have its worst finish since 1992-93. Moyes was replaced in the interim by one of the club's best players in history, Ryan Giggs, who remains an active player.

Giggs will serve as a player/manager for the final four games and conceivably could get the post on a full-time basis in 2015 but this job is the premier job in soccer and the Glazer family can't just call on any of 500 coaches to win a championship. Wink, wink.

The last time the Cowboys had a player/coach was Dan Reeves from 1970-72, when he was still carrying the ball for Tom Landry and also coaching the running backs. Landry was a player/coach for the New York Giants, serving as a defensive back and defensive coordinator.

The notion of a player/coach in the NFL seems ludicrous, but just play along for a moment.

Who would be the Cowboys' player/coaches?

Quarterback Tony Romo: He has to know just about everything about the game playing his position. Ex-cornerback Mike Jenkins said Romo would give him detailed scouting reports on opposing quarterbacks before games. Some might argue he was a coach last year with his increased involvement in the game planning.

Tight end Jason Witten: There is not a more detailed oriented player on the roster. He doesn't just know how to do something, but he knows why to do something. His resume is impeccable (nine Pro Bowls). He is the hardest worker in the room. He can motivate and pull on some old Bill Parcells' ties.

Linebacker Sean Lee: Like Witten, he is detailed and works hard. He knows the linebacker positions, but he knows what the secondary and defensive line is supposed to do as well. Ex-defensive coordinator Rob Ryan called him the brain of the defense two years ago. The in-game adjustments would be made quickly.

Cornerback Orlando Scandrick: He is not afraid to state his opinion on all matters and he is a student of the game. He carries that chip on his shoulder from the day he arrived as a fifth-round pick in 2008 and will hold players accountable.

Left tackle Tyron Smith: He is quiet, but he would command the attention of players. He's young (just 23) but there is no questioning his talent. Knowing pass protections are a must for any head coach.

Does Kyle Orton's absence up need for QB?

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
12:45
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Before people get carried away with Kyle Orton's absence from the Dallas Cowboys' offseason program, two factors need to be put out there: the workouts are voluntary and he missed just one day.

But the Cowboys should not look at Orton's absence as a one-day deal. They should take a worst-case scenario look at it. They need to determine whether Orton really wants to play football in 2014, despite what they heard from the player's agent and the fact Orton would be walking away from $3.25 million.

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsGiven some of the current uncertainty surrounding backup Kyle Orton, should the Cowboys look to select a quarterback in next month's draft?
It could be as simple as him not wanting to play anymore. He is the second-highest paid backup quarterback in the NFL behind Matt Moore ($4 million) of the Miami Dolphins, so money wouldn't seem to be an issue. He has been content in his role as a backup to Tony Romo, so opportunity wouldn't seem to be an issue.

Undoubtedly the Cowboys have spoken directly to Orton this offseason with the whispers of him thinking about retirement. What was discussed is not known. Did he tell them he would play or not play?

Orton holds the cards here because he does not have to show up until the mandatory June minicamp. If he does not report for that, then he would face fines up to close to $70,000. If he does report, what kind of condition is he in?

The Cowboys can trade him or release him. What kind of return would they get for a player who may or may not report to a new team? If they release him, then they would forfeit the right to pick up $3 million of the $5 million signing bonus he received in 2011. After the Jeremiah Ratliff fiasco, you would think the Cowboys would be more vigilant in these kinds of cases.

They could keep him and hope he arrives at the June minicamp in good shape and is ready to go when the team reports to Oxnard, Calif., for training camp. Hope, however, should not be their strategy.

Yet there is a more immediate question raised from Orton's absence. Does it push quarterback up the ladder when it comes to the draft?

The Cowboys signed Brandon Weeden to a two-year deal in the offseason with no signing bonus. They liked him coming into the 2012 draft, but not as much as the Cleveland Browns liked him. He had more interceptions than touchdown passes, but the Cowboys have taken a no-risk look at him.

What can they learn about Weeden before the draft? Not much. Coaches are not allowed on the field with the players until Phase 2 of the offseason program, which comes the week of the draft.

The Cowboys attended Aaron Murray's workout at Georgia last week. They talked with Jimmy Garoppolo and David Fales at the NFL scouting combine. They had a number of quarterbacks at their Dallas Day workouts last week in Garrett Gilbert, Casey Pachall and James Franklin, but they did not have a quarterback among their national visitors.

The Cowboys aren't exactly being held hostage by Orton, but his decision (or indecision) could go a long way in how they plan to attack the draft.

A guess at the Cowboys' schedule

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
12:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – Last week the St. Louis Rams offered up at $100,000 prize if somebody can correctly predict their 2014 schedule, complete with day and time.

We will offer up no such prize if you can correctly predict the Dallas Cowboys’ schedule, but feel free to post yours in the comments section. I’m giving you my best guess as the NFL comes close to finalizing the schedule this week.

Sept. 7 at New York Giants -- I pondered them opening the year at the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night, but thought better of it.

Sept. 15 vs. Houston Texans -- The Rangers are home on Sept. 14, so to avoid congestion, let’s make this a "Monday Night Football" matchup for ESPN.

Sept. 21 at Seattle Seahawks -- With the trip to London later, the Cowboys are able to have their long travel games spread out.

Sept. 28 vs. Arizona -- Seems about the right time to bring in the Cardinals, but could they be a Thanksgiving Day possibility?

Oct. 5 at Tennessee Titans -- First trip to Nashville since Albert Haynesworth stomped on Andre Gurode’s head.

Oct. 12 vs. Philadelphia Eagles -- The Cowboys get their first crack at the Eagles to avenge last year’s Week 17 loss.

Oct. 19 vs. Washington Redskins -- Jason Hatcher’s return to AT&T Stadium, though I think this game will be more about Robert Griffin III.

Oct. 26 at Chicago Bears -- The Cowboys’ trip to Soldier Field last year would have been the most pathetic road game of year if not for their trip to New Orleans.

Nov. 2 vs. Indianapolis Colts -- It was supposed to be the return of Phil Costa, but he has retired, so instead Andrew Luck makes his first trip to Arlington.

Nov. 9 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars at London -- The one game I know I will get right as the Cowboys make their regular-season debut across the pond.

Nov. 16 – Bye -- I’m on a roll.

Nov. 23 at St. Louis Rams -- I’ve long felt the Cowboys need to play a road game the week before Thanksgiving. This gives them a short flight.

Nov. 27 vs. New Orleans Saints -- They played on Thanksgiving in 2010 and I don’t like putting a key game on a day everybody is watching anyway, but call it a hunch.

Dec. 7 at Philadelphia Eagles -- Here comes the final month grind. Will the Cowboys be in the chase?

Dec. 14 vs. San Francisco 49ers -- The Cowboys better be ready for their most physical game of the season.

Dec. 21 at Washington Redskins -- In Week 16 last year Tony Romo pulled off some late-game magic despite a back injury that required surgery five days later.

Dec. 28 vs. New York Giants -- Open with New York, close with New York. Will the NFC East title come down to Week 17 for the fourth year in a row?

Beyond the first round: Defensive ends

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
11:00
AM ET
Each day over the next nine days, we will focus on one position in the NFL draft by highlighting a prospect in Rounds 2-7 who might fit for the Dallas Cowboys. With so much attention placed on the first round in mock drafts, "Beyond the first round" focuses on lesser-publicized options after the first 32 picks. We continue the series with defensive ends.

Second round, Dee Ford (Auburn): He can play a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme or an outside linebacker in a 3-4. Ford's weight has fluctuated from 252 pounds at the combine to 244 at his pro day. He's got straight-line speed, ran a 4.5 40 at his pro day, and has good range against the run and makes plenty of tackles on the running back at the line of scrimmage. The only negative is he could be too small to play in a 4-3.

Third round, Chris Smith (Arkansas): Will owner Jerry Jones draft someone from his alma mater? Coach Jason Garrett likes players who were leaders on their college teams and Smith was a team captain at Arkansas. He's got an excellent upper body, bench pressed 28 at 225 pounds, and with long arms (34 1/8) he has the ability to keep defenders at bay. He doesn't play with a reckless abandon but he does rush the passer with a sense of urgency.

Fourth round, Demarcus Lawrence (Boise State): He was one of the 30 national visits at Valley Ranch. He proved to be a durable player in college because he didn't miss a game in two college seasons. However, he was suspended against UNLV in October and later for the Las Vegas Bowl against Washington for violation of team rules in 2012. He missed a game for disciplinary reasons against Tennessee Martin early in the season. Lawrence has above-average patience as a backside defender and has quick lateral movement.

Fifth round, Kareem Martin (North Carolina): Something that appeals to Garrett, he's a team captain. He has large hands (10 inches), long arms (35 inches) and was fantastic at the combine. He has fast straight-line speed (1.64 10-split and 4.72 40-dash) and high jumps (35.5 inch vertical jump and position-best 10 feet 9 inches board jump). He's been inconsistent at snap anticipation and there were too many times he got off the ball too late.

Sixth round, Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas): Can he play a 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end? Might be better suited to play in a dime package his rookie year to find out. His dad, Jim Jeffcoat, played for the Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills. Jeffcoat has quick hands and feet to slip past blocks.

Seventh round, Marcus Smith (Louisville): Smith is an athlete. He moved from quarterback to linebacker after one week in 2010 and to defensive end in 2011. He has active hands that makes it difficult to block. He also shows the ability to work inside after starting his pass rush outside. He reads quarterbacks well and has good route recognition in underneath zone. Maybe he's more of a 3-4 end than a 4-3, but he is worth a look.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider