Dallas Cowboys: 2013 Tracker

Cowboys tracker: Miles Austin

August, 12, 2013
OXNARD, Calif. -- As the Cowboys worked through punt-return drills Monday, they had a surprise returner: wide receiver Miles Austin.

Austin has not returned punts in games. He has not returned a kickoff since 2009, his first Pro Bowl season.

“Hey, I’m willing to do whatever it takes,” Austin said.

Dwayne Harris is the primary punt returner, but with B.W. Webb and Cole Beasley injured and Joseph Randle struggling to field punts, maybe the Cowboys were just looking at Austin as an emergency option.

He caught one punt and let two drop as he faked a fair catch and saw them bounce into the end zone.

Last season, the Cowboys took Dez Bryant off punt returns in part for fear of injury and in part because Harris became a dangerous returner. Austin’s history of hamstring injuries makes him a curious choice, but if it is just a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency type of plan, maybe it makes sense.

Cowboys tracker: Tony Romo

August, 7, 2013
OXNARD, Calif. – Tony Romo had his first practice of training camp in which he did not complete at least half of his passes in team and 7-on-7 drills.

Romo went 13-of-27 on Tuesday and was intercepted by Sean Lee in situational work to close what was a sloppy practice by the offense in general. It was Romo’s first work in practice in three days since sitting out Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game against Miami.

Facing fourth down in situation work, Romo attempted to fit a tight pass down the middle of the field, but Lee was able to undercut the throw for the takeaway. Lee smartly went to the ground after the interception to kill the game.

On the play before the interception, the offense was called for a delay of game that had Romo yelling at an official to get out of the way because he could not see the play clock. Two plays before that, Nick Hayden and Jason Hatcher combined for a sack.

Romo was hurt by a couple of drops and Miles Austin was unable to come down with a deep throw when he slowed down to time his jump when he should have kept running for the walk-in touchdown. By slowing down, he allowed cornerback Orlando Scandrick to get in the way.

Cowboys tracker: Kyle Orton

August, 2, 2013

OXNARD, Calif. -- When the Cowboys signed Kyle Orton in 2012, there were no expectations he would start unless there was an injury to Tony Romo.

Orton didn't start any games last year, attempting only 10 passes late in the game against the Chicago Bears. Orton, however, was pretty busy this offseason when he received the first-team snaps as Romo recovered from minor back surgery.

Now that Romo has returned, Orton has looked pretty good at times during training camp.

Yet Thursday afternoon, Orton threw consecutive interceptions during a seven-on-seven drill. He bounced back when he made some nice throws during the team period, and wide receiver Dwayne Harris bailed the quarterback out with a sliding catch on a low throw.

"It's going good; camp is pretty much always the same," said Orton, a nine-year veteran who has played with four NFL teams. "Trying to get everything in and trying to get your game as good as you can. I feel good throwing the ball well and learning how to play with my group."

The Cowboys signed two young quarterbacks, Alex Tanney and Nick Stephens, not so much to take Orton's job but to get significant playing time during the preseason. Tanney really impressed the coaches with his work, especially with his ability to throw the ball deep.

"I've always worried about my game," Orton said. "I know where I need to get my game ready to go; that's my only really concern, is just getting my game ready to go."

What about the younger players?

"Yeah, that's fine," he said. "It's a league where young guys come in and try to take the job from the old guy. If you focus on yourself, you end up being fine."

Cowboys tracker: Tony Romo

August, 1, 2013
OXNARD, Calif. -- Cowboys coach Jason Garrett sees gradual progress being made by Tony Romo in training camp after the quarterback missed all of the offseason because of surgery to remove a cyst from his back.

In team and seven-on-seven drills through nine practices, Romo has completed 135 of 196 passes (unofficially). That’s a completion percentage of 68.8 percent. Romo’s best completion percentage in a full season came in 2011, when it was 66.3 percent. In six games in 2010, he completed 69.5 percent of his throws before breaking his collarbone.

In the first four practices, Romo was intercepted three times in team and seven-on-seven drills and did not have a touchdown pass -- however, that was due mostly to the scripts in practice. In the past five practices, which have featured more red zone and plus-territory work, Romo has nine touchdown passes and two interceptions.

Cowboys tracker: Dez Bryant

July, 31, 2013

OXNARD, Calif. -- Dez Bryant missed his fourth straight day of practice because of a hip/quadriceps injury, but if the work he was doing on the side Tuesday was any indication, he should be back to the field soon.

What Bryant went through on the sidelines might have been more difficult than practice, especially one that featured wide receiver-friendly short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Bryant went through a rigorous session of resistance training with associate athletic trainer Britt Brown, and he ran a number of cross-field sprints. Never once did he appear to labor.

The Cowboys are being extra cautious with Bryant, who was off to an impressive start to training camp. Coach Jason Garrett said the team sometimes has to protect players from themselves, such as with Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Sean Lee. Bryant, who is the subject of this week's Hot Button debate, is in that category as well.

Cowboys Tracker: Miles Austin

July, 30, 2013
OXNARD, Calif. -- Monday’s one-on-one drills were Miles Austin’s best work of training camp.

Tim MacMahon joins Galloway and Company from Oxnard, Calif., to discuss the latest Cowboys news.

Listen Listen
Austin took three red zone reps against top cornerback Brandon Carr and got the best of him each time. Austin scored twice on fade routes, including a pretty leaping catch to begin the drills, and got wide open on a slant.

The slant was a perfect example of a healthy Austin’s change-of-direction burst, which is rare for a receiver his size (6-foot-2, 216 pounds). He looked like a shooting guard executing an ankle-breaking crossover dribble, taking two steps to sell an outside release before planting his right foot and cutting across the middle of the field. Carr, who had turned his hips toward the sideline, had no hope of getting back in position to contest the catch.

“He’s having a great camp right now,” quarterback Tony Romo said of Austin. “I expect him to have a real good season.”

Cowboys tracker: Jason Garrett

July, 29, 2013
OXNARD, Calif. -- Jason Garrett does not wear a GPS device at practice, but the Dallas Cowboys head coach has been tilting more to the defensive side of the ball during training camp.

Cowboys rookie Travis Frederick joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest from training camp in Oxnard, Calif.

Listen Listen
Having given up the play-calling duties this year, Garrett has been spending more time evaluating the defense and special teams than he did in his first two years as the head coach. He is even taking some quarterback snaps in walk-throughs.

He has become that walk-around head coach Jimmy Johnson urged him to be after taking the job.

Players at every position group have noticed when the coach is around, too. He will offer the finer points to wide receivers on using their hands to get away from defenders, and to defensive backs on what a quarterback is looking for.

“I’ve always tried to be on every part of the practice field through every practice,” Garrett said. “Typically in the past it had been in the individual periods I was over with the defense, and then as we got more to the team period I was more involved with the offense. … I am throwing some more drills on defense and what that allows you to do as a coach is get an up close and personal evaluation of the guys in your huddle and the guys you’re going against.

"If you’re trying to execute ball plays, when you’re around the players in a close setting, you get a feel for what they’re all about, the look in their eye, how they respond, if they look confused, if they’re on top of it. It’s been a real good thing for me in terms of providing a little different perspective for evaluations of the guys.”
OXNARD, Calif. – DeMarcus Ware has had three or more sacks in a game eight times in his career. He had a three-sack practice Monday.

Ware has proven to everybody in just two practices that his surgically-repaired shoulder is fine and he will not have any issue making the move to defensive end.

Ware’s first sack came on the third play of team drills after he was able to run around left tackle Tyron Smith untouched to stop Tony Romo. His second sack came during special situations portion of practice when he got by Smith again. The final sack of Romo came when he looped inside and was not picked up by Kevin Kowalski during the team blitz period.

New defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli must be smiling at what they see from Ware so early in camp.

Cowboys tracker: Tony Romo

July, 21, 2013

OXNARD, Calif. -- All eyes were on Tony Romo during the Dallas Cowboys' first training camp practice, the first time he has been on the field since offseason back surgery to remove a cyst in April.

What did they see? Some good and some rust.

Romo completed 16 of his 24 throws during team and seven-on-seven drills Sunday and was intercepted once. His first completion of practice went to Dez Bryant after a play-action fake, and his best completions were a back-shoulder throw to Bryant over Orlando Scandrick and a floater over linebacker Sean Lee to tight end Jason Witten.

Romo started slowly, completing only two of his first six passes, but after Lee’s interception on a tipped ball, he completed 14 of his last 18 passes. He was forced to scramble a few times because of some offensive line breakdowns and was sacked once, though not hit.

Even though it was a padless practice, Romo wore shells under his practice jersey in order to get used to the feel after such a long layoff. He also had to get used to practice speed again.

“Football is a unique sport in that it’s one of the few that I find you really can’t practice on your own, per se,” Romo said. “In basketball, you can go to the open gym and play five-on-five. You can go play golf, you can go play tennis, you can go do a lot of stuff, but you’re not going to go get 22 people and have it scripted out here doing that. For me, that aspect of it makes it a different sport in that regard.

“Saying that, what you can control is the speed and tempo you’re going to go out here and throw when you’re on the field. When I’m out here, I’ll still be looking off even though no one is on the other side, I’m still making my moves, making my body work faster than you want to because you have to get rushed. You have to duplicate the tempo when you’re on your own. If there was one thing I did when I first got in the league that helped me a lot was doing that on air. That allows you to when you come back in the 11-on-11 situations, it seems like you’ve been doing it for awhile.”