Dallas Cowboys: Adrian Hamilton

IRVING, Texas -- Running back Lance Dunbar (North Texas) cleared waivers and will return to the Cowboys on the practice squad roster.

SportsNation

Which released Cowboy should be on the 53-man roster?

  •  
    18%
  •  
    11%
  •  
    23%
  •  
    28%
  •  
    20%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,394)

The Cowboys had to finalize their practice squad by 11 a.m. CT. They can have as many as eight players on the squad.

Dunbar finished the preseason rushing for 105 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins. However, the Cowboys only wanted to keep three running backs on the 53-man roster: DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones and Phillip Tanner.

Dunbar battled through a hamstring injury that kept him off the field during training camp practices and preseason games. The Cowboys liked his speed and good lateral movement.

The Cowboys could make other moves to the 53-man roster based on which players they attempted to claim on waivers.

Update: Running back Jamize Olawale cleared waivers and will join the Cowboys practice squad. Completing the practice squad are DT Ben Bass, WR Tim Benford, DT Robert Callaway, WR Danny Coale, G Ronald Leary and LB Orie Lemon.

The biggest name not on this list is outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton (Dallas Carter), who set a SWAC single-season record for sacks last year at Prairie View A&M.

Coale being added to the practice squad isn't a surprise. He lost a roster spot to wide receiver Andre Holmes. However, Coale's health was an issue.

"We liked Danny Coale a lot. That’s why we drafted him," coach Jason Garrett said. "Unfortunately, like with a couple of our younger players, rookies who we drafted, we didn’t get a chance to see him very much. He had a foot injury in the spring. I think he only practiced one OTA practice, and then all through training camp he was dealing with a foot or (hamstring), or whatever it was. He didn’t play that much. He’s been playing the last couple weeks. So it was hard for him to make his case. Andre Holmes is a guy we picked up last year, a guy that we liked a lot, did some good things for us on the practice roster last year, enough to activate him at the end of the year."

Cowboys move back practice

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
10:20
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- In order to have as close to a full practice squad as possible Saturday, the Cowboys have pushed back the start of practice to 11:45 a.m.

The Cowboys will find out shortly after 11 a.m. which players have cleared waivers and will return to the practice squad. The team would like to keep wide receiver Danny Coale, linebacker Adrian Hamilton, running backs Lance Dunbar and Jamize Olawale on the practice squad, among some of the other players that were cut Friday.

Practice had been scheduled to begin at 11:15 a.m.

If the Cowboys made waiver claims, then they will find out who they received at the same time and will have to make corresponding roster cuts.

Offensive lineman Ryan Cook, picked up in a trade on Friday from Miami, will be at practice.

Cowboys go with three QBs, nine on OL

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
7:50
PM ET
For the moment, the Dallas Cowboys will head into the 2012 season with three quarterbacks and nine offensive linemen. They will also be without two players from the 2012 draft class.

The Cowboys have trimmed their roster to 53 but could make changes if a player of interest becomes available on the waiver wire.

The biggest surprise came at quarterback. Stephen McGee will be the third quarterback for a fourth consecutive season. During training camp, coach Jason Garrett said he would prefer keeping three quarterbacks but understood if that needed to change to increase depth at other roster spots.

The offensive line remains a concern behind four trusted starters in Doug Free, Tyron Smith, Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. The starting center is Phil Costa, but there are issues not only with him but with the backups. David Arkin played center for the first time as a pro during the preseason when Costa suffered a strained lower back injury.

The Cowboys traded for depth at center in giving up a seventh-round pick in 2013 to Miami for Ryan Cook, who can play guard and center. Veteran Derrick Dockery remains with the team at guard. He was one of two linemen -- Daniel Loper being the other -- who signed during training camp after injuries to the line left the Cowboys seeking help.

Five of the seven draft picks from the 2012 class remain. Wide receiver Danny Coale, a fifth-round pick, battled injuries to his foot and hamstring this summer, and the Cowboys just didn't see enough of him to keep him. Coale could return to the practice squad if he clears waivers. The Cowboys have to finalize the practice squad by midday Saturday.

Linebacker Caleb McSurdy, a seventh-round pick, is on injured reserve with a torn Achilles, suffered during training camp.

The Cowboys made two interesting decisions, cutting undrafted rookie guard Ronald Leary, who was guaranteed $214,000,, this season, and linebacker Orie Lemon. Lemon was cut despite a strong preseason which included returning an interception for a touchdown. But there were concerns about his special teams abilities.

Both players could return to the practice squad. The same goes for running back Lance Dunbar (North Texas), who rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown in the preseason finale against the Miami Dolphins.

Wide receiver Andre Holmes, who struggled at times during training camp, made the 53-man roster despite not having a big preseason. Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris emerged as the best of the backup wide receivers.

The Cowboys also elected to keep three tight ends and one fullback, despite the uncertainty of tight end Jason Witten's availability for the Sept. 5 regular-season opener at the New York Giants.

The players who were released Friday: Jeff Adams, Baraka Atkins, Ben Bass, Tim Benford, Robert Callaway, Rudy Carpenter, Shaun Chapas, Coale, Dunbar, Clifton Geathers, Harland Gunn, Saalim Hakim, Adrian Hamilton, Ronald Leary, Lemon, Jamize Olawale, Pat McQuistan, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Lionel Smith, Andrew Szczerba, Eddie Whitley and Teddy Williams.

The Cowboys waived/injured guard Loper, who suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason finale.

Breaking down the Cowboys' 53-man roster

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
7:18
PM ET
A look at the first -- not final, because the bottom will be churned -- edition of the 2012 Cowboys’ 53-man roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Tony Romo
Kyle Orton
Stephen McGee
Why is McGee still here? Jason Garrett must have a soft spot for third-string quarterbacks who are smart guys with good character. After all, Garrett lasted a long time in the league as a guy like that. Of course, McGee might not last the weekend, depending on what happens with waiver claims.

RUNNING BACKS (3)
DeMarco Murray
Felix Jones
Phillip Tanner
Lance Dunbar made the decision to cut him difficult, dashing through the Dolphins’ defense for 105 yards and a TD on 15 carries in the preseason finale. The Cowboys hope they can sneak North Texas’ all-time leading rusher through waivers to the practice squad.

FULLBACKS (1)
Lawrence Vickers
Vickers better be ready Wednesday night. If Jason Witten is out, the Cowboys are likely to use a fullback against the Giants a lot more than they normally do.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
Jason Witten
John Phillips
James Hanna
No need for a veteran such as former Redskin Chris Cooley. He couldn’t learn the offense in time to help against the Giants, and Witten won’t miss more than one game because of his lacerated spleen.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Miles Austin
Dez Bryant
Kevin Ogletree
Dwayne Harris
Cole Beasley
Andre Holmes
The release of Danny Coale marks the second straight season the Cowboys cut a fifth-round rookie draft pick. Cornerback Josh Thomas didn’t clear waivers last season, getting claimed by the Panthers. The Cowboys like their depth here, but Ogletree (25 catches, 294 yards, no touchdowns) is the only reserve receiver who has ever caught a pass in the NFL.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
Tyron Smith
Doug Free
Nate Livings
Mackenzy Bernadeau
Phil Costa
Ryan Cook
Jermey Parnell
Derrick Dockery
David Arkin
The trade for Cook addressed the glaring lack of depth at center. The Cowboys apparently still have hope that Arkin can develop, but the 2011 fourth-round pick is far from being ready to play during the regular season.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)
Jay Ratliff
Jason Hatcher
Kenyon Coleman
Sean Lissemore
Marcus Spears
Tyrone Crawford
Josh Brent
Coleman and Spears both survived, which seemed like a long shot during training camp. Clifton Geathers didn’t do enough to push either of the $2 million veterans off the roster.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
Sean Lee
Bruce Carter
Dan Connor
Alex Albright
Albright broke into the league as an outside linebacker, but his ability to play inside helped burst Orie Lemon’s bubble. Carter, a much better athlete than Connor, won the starting job opposite Sean Lee.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
DeMarcus Ware
Anthony Spencer
Victor Butler
Kyle Wilber
Folks are fired up about the release of promising pass rusher Adrian Hamilton, but the Cowboys put great emphasis on their reserve linebackers’ ability to help on special teams. That cost Hamilton, as well as Lemon.

CORNERBACKS (5)
Brandon Carr
Morris Claiborne
Orlando Scandrick
Mike Jenkins
Mario Butler
The biggest question mark here: What role will Jenkins play? The starting jobs were filled this offseason. Jenkins has never played in the slot, and he won’t practice for the first time this summer until Saturday.

SAFETIES (5)
Gerald Sensabaugh
Barry Church
Danny McCray
Matt Johnson
Mana Silva
It will be hard for Johnson to help this season after missing so much time due to Eastern Washington’s class schedule and his hamstring problems. However, the Cowboys didn’t want to risk losing their fourth-round pick to a waivers claim.

SPECIALISTS (3)
Dan Bailey
Chris Jones
L.P. Ladouceur
If Jones struggles, there will be plenty of punters available. At the moment, that list includes ex-Cowboy Mat McBriar.

Cowboys make roster moves, still two to go

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
9:53
AM ET
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys will make their final cuts today to reach the 53-man limit, but they have already notified 21 players that they have not made the cut.

According to sources, the Cowboys have informed Shaun Chapas, Adrian Hamilton, Danny Coale, Eddie Whitley, Orie Lemon, Ronald Leary, Pat McQuistan, Jeff Adams, Teddy Williams, Harland Gunn, Daniel Loper, Clifton Geathers, Rudy Carpenter, Lionel Smith, Baraka Atkins, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Andrew Szczerba, Ben Bass, Saalim Hakim, Tim Benford and Robert Callaway of their release.

They have two more roster moves to make by 7 p.m. after the trade for offensive lineman Ryan Cook from Miami.

The Cowboys would like to bring some -- like Hamilton, Coale and Leary -- back on the practice squad if they clear waivers.

Leary was the apple of Jerry Jones’ eye as an undrafted free agent and early in training camp, but he will not be on the 53-man roster.

The Cowboys considered drafting Leary despite a knee condition, but ended up guaranteeing him $214,000 in base salary and signing bonus to sign as an undrafted free agent. When the interior line was hit by injuries early in camp Leary took some first-team snaps but he hit a wall midway through camp.

Cowboys cuts: Countdown to the 53-man roster

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
8:45
AM ET
We'll fill you in on the latest cuts as the Cowboys whittle the roster to get to 53:

* WR Danny Coale will be waived, according to sources, and will become the second fifth rounder in as many years to not make the final cut, joining cornerback Josh Thomas. Coale missed most of the offseason with a stress fracture in his foot and was limited early in training camp. He played in the final two preseason games and the team hopes he can slip through waivers and on to the practice squad. (Thu.)

* FB Shaun Chapas (per source): Seventh-round pick spent most of last season on the practice squad before a late-season call up to the active roster. (Thu.)

* LB Adrian Hamilton (per source): Dallas Carter High product got caught in a numbers crunch at outside linebacker. (Thu.)

* QB Rudy Carpenter: "Thankful for the opportunity Dallas its been great!" he tweeted. (Thu.)

* LB Orie Lemon (per source): He returned an interception for a touchdown in the preseason finale against Miami. The Cowboys hope to bring him back to the practice squad. (Thu.)

*WR Tim Benford: "Everything happens for a reason! Gotta keep pushing and go even harder," he tweeted. (Thu.)

Source: Cowboys release OLB Adrian Hamilton

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
2:43
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys released promising undrafted rookie pass rusher Adrian Hamilton, according to a source.

Hamilton, a product of Dallas’ Carter High who broke three-time Pro Bowler Robert Mathis’ SWAC single-season record for sacks last year at Prairie View A&M, got caught in a numbers crunch at outside linebacker.

DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer are established starters. Victor Butler is a solid backup whose role could be expanding, and the Cowboys invested a fourth-round pick in Kyle Wilber. Alex Albright, a second-year player, is one of the Cowboys’ best special teams performers and also has the advantage of being able to play all four linebacker positions.

The Dallas coaches and front office had questions about Hamilton’s ability to contribute on special teams, a must for a backup linebacker.

Hamilton, who fought through knee and wrist injuries during training camp, would be a prime candidate for the Cowboys’ practice squad if he clears waivers.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cowboys' final preseason game against the Miami Dolphins was a chance for younger players to make an impact.

Of the 31 players who didn't participate Wednesday, eight were because of injury.

So it was a chance for tight end James Hanna, wide receiver Tim Benford, defensive end Adrian Hamilton, outside linebacker Orie Lemon, guard/center Harland Gunn and tight end Andrew Szczerba to make one final impression on the coaches and the front office staff before the roster is cut to the final 53.

"It's a great night for those guys. They work really hard through training camp and played a little bit in the first three preseason games, but this was going to be their most extensive action," coach Jason Garrett said. "A lot of guys got a chance to play in the early part of the ballgame and, for the most part, did a really good job.

"Orie Lemon made a huge play in the game with the interception return for a touchdown. I thought (Lance) Dunbar ran the ball really well. He showed his lateral quickness his ability to burst through a hole and obviously make big runs. He's a tough guy, not afraid to stick it up in there."

Among some of the highlights for the younger players: Lemon finished with five tackles and an interception return for a touchdown; Dunbar finished with 105 yards on 15 carries, including a 58-yard touchdown run; LB Alex Albright finished with 11 tackles, one sack and a tackle for loss.

Vol. VI: 53-man roster projection

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
9:00
AM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Let's take one last stab at projecting the 53-man roster after watching the preseason finale and talking to a few folks who have some say in the decision-making process.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
Tony Romo
Kyle Orton
It would have been nice if Stephen McGee said goodbye. He bolted the locker room before the media was granted access after the preseason finale.

RUNNING BACKS (3)
DeMarco Murray
Felix Jones
Phillip Tanner
There’s a lot to like about little Lance Dunbar. The Cowboys hope he can develop for a season on the practice squad.

FULLBACKS (2)
Lawrence Vickers
Shaun Chapas
Why Chapas? He can fill John Phillips’ roles on special teams if Jason Witten misses the season opener. Cut him after Week 1 to address depth on the offensive line.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
Jason Witten
John Phillips
James Hanna
The only question here is whether Witten will be able to play against the Giants. It makes no sense to acquire a veteran such as ex-Redskin Chris Cooley. He couldn’t learn the Cowboys’ system in time to help in the opener, and there is no concern about Witten’s spleen injury being a long-term issue.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Miles Austin
Dez Bryant
Kevin Ogletree
Dwayne Harris
Cole Beasley
Andre Holmes
The Cowboys will probably take the gamble that fifth-round pick Danny Coale will clear waivers and be available for the practice squad. They cut their fifth-round pick last season. Cornerback Josh Thomas got claimed, but it’s not as if the Cowboys are kicking themselves for that decision. As inconsistent as Holmes is, he has more potential than Coale and was more productive this preseason.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
Tyron Smith
Doug Free
Nate Livings
Mackenzy Bernadeau
Phil Costa
David Arkin
Jermey Parnell
Derrick Dockery
They guaranteed $214,000 of Ronald Leary’s salary, but he can be one of the NFL’s highest-paid practice squad players. He admittedly struggled during the preseason. They’ll need a tackle on the practice squad, too. The Cowboys will go lighter here than they have in the recent past, when they’ve typically kept 10 offensive linemen.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)
Jay Ratliff
Jason Hatcher
Kenyon Coleman
Sean Lissemore
Marcus Spears
Tyrone Crawford
Josh Brent
You can only be a pet cat for so long. At some point, you’ve got to make plays to show progress and hope that the potential is developing. Clifton Geathers hasn’t done that. Spears and Coleman should be on the roster -- unless perhaps the Cowboys can get value in a trade for one of them.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
Sean Lee
Bruce Carter
Dan Connor
Orie Lemon
The pick six didn’t necessarily get Lemon off the bubble. There are concerns about his ability to contribute on special teams. The Cowboys could go light here because of Alex Albright’s versatility. But Lemon has earned some fans in the front office this summer.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
DeMarcus Ware
Anthony Spencer
Victor Butler
Kyle Wilber
Alex Albright
Sorry, Adrian Hamilton fans. The numbers just don’t work in his favor and the Cowboys have no confidence he can help on special teams. Having said that, you can never have enough pass rushers, which makes it risky cutting Hamilton and hoping to sign him to the practice squad.

CORNERBACKS (5)
Brandon Carr
Morris Claiborne
Orlando Scandrick
Mike Jenkins
Mario Butler
The only drama here is whether Mike Jenkins, who can start practicing Saturday, will be ready to play against the Giants. If he is, what’s his role?

SAFETIES (5)
Gerald Sensabaugh
Barry Church
Danny McCray
Matt Johnson
Mana Silva
Johnson’s tender hamstrings have the Cowboys in a tough spot. He’s hardly practiced, but he’s not seriously injured. They might discuss putting him on the injured reserve, but they’d much rather not waste the rookie season of a fourth-round pick. They don’t want to expose him to waivers. With Mario Butler getting some work at safety, Silva could be the odd man out.

SPECIALISTS (3)
Dan Bailey
Chris Jones
L.P. Ladouceur
Mat McBriar is available again if the Cowboys aren’t confident in Jones.

Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 30, Dolphins 13

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
10:49
PM ET


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys wrapped up the preseason with a 30-13 win over the Miami Dolphins at Cowboys Stadium on Wednesday night. Unlike last season, when wide receiver Raymond Radway was injured in the closing seconds of the preseason at Miami, there were no such major health issues coming from this game. This was the last chance for several players to make an impact on the coaches and scouts, and join the 53-man roster.

What it means: The Cowboys finish the preseason 3-1 and have to make some hard decisions regarding the No. 3 quarterback spot, whether to keep a fourth running back or which running back to keep, whether Orie Lemon and Mario Butler make the team, and whether Danny Coale and Matt Johnson should earn paychecks in September.

McGee vs. Carpenter: There is this battle for the No. 3 quarterback position. Stephen McGee played the first half, led one touchdown drive and converted 13 first downs. He completed nine of 18 passes for 124 yards. The Cowboys led 20-6 at the break. Rudy Carpenter also led the Cowboys on a touchdown drive -- capped by a 58-yard run by Lance Dunbar -- and finished 4-of-10 for 48 yards. In addition, Carpenter had a 21-yard scramble. But it would appear neither quarterback did enough to secure a spot on the roster.

Only one starter plays: Between both units, only center Phil Costa played. Costa missed the first three preseason games with a strained lower back, and the Cowboys wanted to give him some snaps before putting him in a regular-season game. Costa didn't have any bad snaps, and it's unknown whether he had any blown assignments. David Arkin replaced Costa.

The running game is strong: There are no questions regarding the status of DeMarco Murray as the starter. Felix Jones has been guaranteed a roster spot by owner/general manager Jerry Jones. We thought the No. 3 running back gig was going to Phillip Tanner, but Dunbar came on strong Wednesday night. Dunbar ran with a burst, scoring on a 58-yard run. Let's not forget about Tanner, who burst up the middle for a 1-yard score. Dunbar rushed 15 times for 105 yards, and Tanner rushed for 48 yards on nine carries.

Lemon made his case: If linebacker Lemon was a bubble player, he should make the roster. He returned an interception 26 yards to give the Cowboys a 10-6 lead in the second quarter. Lemon was active on defense and, given what he does on special teams, should make the 53-man roster. Adrian Hamilton also was fighting for a roster spot, but he hasn't shown his pass-rush abilities on a consistent basis with the Cowboys.

Cowboys lose three players: Guard Derrick Dockery left the game for personal reasons, and fellow guard Daniel Loper suffered a hamstring injury. Cornerback Lionel Smith departed the game with a concussion. None of the three returned.

Who played well: Tyrone Crawford, Orie Lemon, Phillip Tanner, Lance Dunbar and Dan Bailey.

Who didn't: Teddy Williams, David Arkin, Stephen McGee.

Bailey is perfect: Kicker Dan Bailey finished the preseason 8-for-8 on field goal attempts. Bailey made kicks of 25, 30 and 26 yards Wednesday night. The Cowboys didn't have any concerns about him heading into the preseason, but unlike last season when the team had a kicking competition, nothing was going on here. It was all Bailey. The longest kick of the preseason by Bailey was 49 yards.

Ryan Tannehill makes the start: The eighth pick of the NFL draft, quarterback Ryan Tannehill made the start for the Dolphins and completed 5-of-7 passes for 35 yards. The former Aggie played with a presence and threw some strong passes, but he still has a ways to go to help the Dolphins.

What's next? The Cowboys must cut their roster to 53 players by Friday night and then finalize their practice squad roster with as many as eight players. The team will practice over the weekend at Valley Ranch and prepare for the regular season opener at the New York Giants.

Five to watch: QB Rudy Carpenter gets a shot

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
1:00
PM ET


IRVING, Texas – For at least 18 players, tonight’s game against Miami will be the last time they put on a Cowboys jersey for a game.

The Cowboys have 75 players under contract but have to get to the 53-man limit Friday. It’s possible they could cut more and claim players off waivers.

Tonight is all about the backups as the Cowboys rest most of their regulars in preparation for the regular season opener at the New York Giants, but can a player change the minds of the coaches and front office staff with a good showing?

Maybe.

Here are five guys to watch:

QB Rudy Carpenter: Calvin Watkins wrote about Stephen McGee, so I’ll look at the other quarterback playing tonight. Carpenter does not have McGee’s measurables but he knows how to play the game. I think that’s why Jason Garrett likes him. Maybe he sees a little of himself in Carpenter. What helps Carpenter is that he has practice squad eligibility left, unlike McGee.

RB Lance Dunbar: His hamstring injury really hurt his chances, but he’s in the mix for the No. 3 tailback spot. Where he might be able to make a difference is in the return game, so let’s hope he gets some opportunities. He is fast, elusive and can hit it. The key for a kick returner is to be decisive. Too often the Cowboys' returners have not been decisive (think Teddy Williams) and the returns hardly get to the 20. Dunbar has a chance to turn some heads tonight.

WR Saalim Hakim: Like Dunbar, he was done in by an injury early in camp. He broke his finger and missed three weeks. He saw some action vs. St. Louis and had a catch negated by a penalty. But he’s another guy to watch on special teams. He could be a terror as a gunner on the punt team with that speed. Now, is it enough to keep on the 53-man roster? Probably not. But it could buy him a spot on the practice squad.

LB Adrian Hamilton: He’s been on this list before and has become something of a pet cat for a lot of fans. He had a sack vs. the Rams. He played well in the opener at Oakland, too. If he harasses the Dolphins’ quarterbacks tonight, maybe he makes it too hard for the Cowboys to cut him. Pass rushers don’t grow on trees, but he’s not even close to a finished product. With injuries at a lot of spots, it’s hard to put a redshirt year on a guy on the 53-man roster.

OT Jeff Adams: Again, this is more about the practice squad. He did a nice job vs. San Diego game before he just ran out of gas in the fourth quarter when Jermey Parnell was kept out of the game with a neck injury. If Adams plays well, then maybe the Cowboys don’t keep four tackles on the 53-man roster, but that seems like a little bit of a stretch. At the very least, he can show he has a chance to grow with more work on the practice squad.

5 Wonders: Can defense carry the day?

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
10:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys will play their final preseason game tonight vs. Miami and a lot of players are wondering if they have secured a spot on the 53-man roster for the regular season.

I’m just wondering about five things.

Here we go:

** One thing to remember about the final cuts that will be made after the Dolphins game is that nothing will be settled. The Cowboys will actively look at the waiver wire for upgrades to their roster, but there’s no way they can expect immediate help. Remember, their first game is on Wednesday against the Giants. They will get awarded players Saturday, which is a normal “Wednesday” practice, so to ask a player to learn a system, learn a new team and learn the opponent in such a short turnaround is nearly impossible. It’s another unfortunate part of playing the first game of the year because other teams have more time to get a waiver pickup ready. I think the Cowboys will look at offensive linemen, secondary and possibly receiver for help once the final cuts are made.

** The Cowboys will not know if Jason Witten can play against the Giants. They know Miles Austin and Phil Costa will be available, but without any or much work in the preseason games, how ready will they be to play the Giants? They will have two new guards who also missed a lot of practice time. They will have a new fullback. That’s a lot of uncertainty, to a degree, on offense. I wonder if Rob Ryan’s defense will have to carry the day for the offense against the Giants -- and potentially early in the season. And, yes, the defense has some turnover too with Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and, possibly, no Jay Ratliff. That’s a lot to ask the defense in Week 1 after Eli Manning & Co. ripped them apart in two games last year. Or maybe the Giants are the perfect opponent for Week 1 after what happened last season.

** The Cowboys will try to sneak players through waivers and on to their practice squad, and it will invariably upset some fans if their guy gets claimed by another team. I wonder if the Cowboys will try and sneak outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton and/or wide receivers Danny Coale and Andre Holmes through. Hamilton has looked good and his pass rushing ability makes him different than some other defensive cuts, but he has a long way to go before he can help on the field. If he makes the team he has to be a special teams contributor, and right now he’s just not that comfortable doing it. As a fifth-round pick, Coale might have some value for another team. Teams liked his versatility coming into the draft, but a foot injury robbed him of an offseason and lot of training camp. Holmes is probably the No. 6 wide receiver right now and the team might not be able to keep that many with injuries at other spots. But at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he looks most like a future starting receiver. The Cowboys spent last season and this summer developing him and might want to see the process through. A team tried to pry Holmes away late last season when he was on the practice squad. I purposely left Matt Johnson off the list because his situation is a conundrum.

** Jason Garrett always refers to the importance of the offense, defense and the kicking game. I wonder if people realize just how difficult it put together a special teams unit. For the most part, the Cowboys do not use their top coverage and return teams that much in the preseason because they want to look at a lot of players to see if down-the-line players have the special teams’ ability. It’s not necessarily a Cowboy problem. A lot of teams do it. But it’s also why you see a lot of returns early in season because players simply aren’t used to playing there. Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis feels like he has more personnel than he has had the last two seasons to be a top group, but they haven’t worked much together. His best player, Danny McCray, has a neck injury. Another special teams stalwart the last few years, Barry Church, is now a starter, so his work will be limited. A rookie linebacker, Kyle Wilber, is expected to be a big contributor but he has a busted thumb.

** I wonder if Jason Hatcher will have a breakout season -- and for a 3-4 defensive end a breakout season is seven or eight sacks. He had a sack on the first series vs. St. Louis. He was able to overcome a hamstring injury in camp, which is different than the last two years when injuries slowed him down during the summer and kept him from getting back to form quickly. He had 4.5 sacks last year. It’s hard to believe this is his seventh year, but he was a project when the Cowboys drafted him in 2006. Finally, it seems, he has it figured out. Patience is a good thing and the Cowboys were patient because Hatcher had natural pass rush abilities. They wouldn’t have been as patient if he didn’t show the ability to get to the quarterback.

Observation deck: Rams-Cowboys

August, 26, 2012
8/26/12
7:00
AM ET
I don't know. Maybe the preseason is finally getting to me. Maybe I was brainwashed by the beautiful California weather at their training camp. Maybe they just looked really good against a lousy St. Louis Rams team in their 20-19 preseason victory Saturday night. Maybe it's all of the above, but as crazy as this looks to me even as I type it, I kind of like this Dallas Cowboys' defense.

The cornerbacks are covering their men. Brandon Carr was a star of last week's game, and rookie Morris Claiborne made plays on second and fourth downs on a goal-line stand Saturday. Safeties Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh are both playing well, patrolling their zones and making their tackles. The linebackers (of which injured DeMarcus Ware was not one on this night) have been active and aggressive, led by Sean Lee on the inside. Jason Hatcher was back on the defensive line and disrupting things in the backfield. Coordinator Rob Ryan was showing off more options, scheme-wise, for the pass rush, and the improved coverage on the back end has been helping with with that. The only points the Rams scored in the first half were on field goals of 52 and 55 yards.

Now, the postgame news of Jay Ratliff's ankle sprain certainly puts a damper on things for the Cowboys going forward, as it sounds like the season opener is in doubt for him. And yeah, I know those guys on the back end were covering Donnie Avery and Danny Amendola and that it's going to be 100 times tougher 10 days from now when it's Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz instead. I get it. I write all the time that we can't draw long-range conclusions from preseason games, and I'm not doing that. But it's completely fair to like the way the Cowboys' defense has performed on the practice field and in these preseason games. And if they're building confidence based on those performances, that's the kind of thing that could conceivably carry into the regular season. So, good for them. Neither matters in the long run, but playing well in preseason is better than playing poorly in the preseason.

Here's what else I saw Saturday night:

Tony Romo was excellent, dodging the rush, extending plays and completing 9 of 13 passes for 198 yards, including touchdowns of 61 and 38 yards to Dwayne Harris. Romo's starting receivers in this game were Harris and Kevin Ogletree, and his starting tight end was John Phillips. Romo is ready to start the season.

So is Harris, by the way. Ogletree went into the game the favorite to be the No. 3 wide receiver, and he might still be, but Harris more than made his case. Yes, the touchdowns were partly the result of poor tackling by the Rams in the secondary, but Harris made the catches and the plays, he looks good in the return game and he made a key block on a DeMarco Murray run one play before his 61-yard touchdown catch. He's certainly made the team, I'd have to think, and he could continue to play himself into more time. Ogletree led the team in targets with six, and he caught five passes for 75 yards, so you can't exactly consider him out of the picture. He had a bad third-down drop, but he caught a ball up the right sideline that you couldn't help but thing looked like the one Miles Austin didn't catch in the first Giants game last year. You know the one I mean. I know you do.

Murray also looked very good against the team that let him rush for 253 yards in his starting debut last year. Murray had 26 yards on five carries and 16 yards on two catches before leaving the game with a hand injury that he said afterward is not serious. Next you'll see him is Sept. 5 in the Meadowlands, I'd imagine. The Cowboys plan to run a lot of their offense through Murray this year.

I'm sorry, but the offensive line still looks awful to me, and I commend Romo and Murray for succeeding in spite of its performance. David Arkin can actually snap the ball to the quarterback now, but he still doesn't look strong enough to hold up at center. The guards looked like they were getting pushed back into the pocket all night. Doug Free is a mess, and even Tyron Smith got beaten on the outside by Robert Quinn on a play early in the game. If the best thing you can say about the offensive line is that it'll be better when Phil Costa gets healthy, you've got a problem. At offensive line, I believe the Cowboys have a significant problem.

The Ratliff injury is a big deal if it lingers deep into the regular season. The Cowboys expect to know more about its severity Sunday. My guess is Josh Brent would fill in at nose tackle, but it could also be Sean Lissemore. Lissemore is also in the mix at defensive end.

I'd take Bruce Carter over Dan Connor as the starting inside linebacker next to Lee. Connor may look better going forward, and maybe they can use him in certain pressure packages. But Carter looks faster and better in coverage, and I think that's going to matter more at that spot.

Felix Jones made a nice blitz-pickup block on Harris' second touchdown, but he whiffed badly on one later that resulted in a Kyle Orton sack. Phillip Tanner also missed in blitz pickup with Orton behind him. Orton has to be wondering what he did to make the backs not like him.

Rookie tight end James Hanna continues to look good as a receiver, and Adrian Hamilton continues to make plays on defense. Remains to be seen what roles the team will have for them this year.

Special-teams ace Danny McCray left with a neck injury, but he told reporters after the game that he should be fine.

Matt Johnson, Danny Coale among 5 to watch

August, 25, 2012
8/25/12
11:00
AM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas – Preseason game No. 3 is usually about the starters, but for the Cowboys it’s still about finding players to fill roles, in part because of injuries.

PODCAST
ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins previews the Cowboys' third preseason game against the Rams, who the team might cut, surprises in camp and more.

Listen Listen
That being said, we give you five players to watch after Tony Romo & Co. pack it up for the night.

Matt Johnson The fourth-round pick has practiced only three more times than you or I in training camp because of a hamstring injury. He missed all but one day of the organized team activities and minicamp because of league rules. Now he gets to put those months of frustration to work against St. Louis. He never really had a chance to earn a starting safety spot because of the hamstring injury, but the Cowboys like his potential. He has to be considered a lock to make the roster even with the limited work but he can show tonight whether he can handle a special teams role.

Danny Coale A stress fracture and quadriceps injury kept Coale in much the same boat as Johnson, but Coale’s roster spot just doesn’t seem as secure. Such is the price of seeing guys like Cole Beasley, Andre Holmes, Tim Benford and Kevin Ogletree get more snaps. Coale had some nice work in the two practices against the Chargers and showed some good hands and the ability to get open. He is still working on getting his speed and quickness back. He has not worked much on special teams but he was a holder for Delbert Alvarado on field goals.

Adrian Hamilton The Cowboys like how he can get after the passer. That seems to be a natural trait, but there are some adjustments he is still making at outside linebacker in terms of run responsibilities and coverage. But teams just don’t let pass rushers go. What Hamilton has to do is show he can cover kicks. It’s been a little adventurous in that regard but if he wants to claim one of the final linebacker spots, he better do it tonight.

Phillip Tanner The broken hand came at the wrong time, but Tanner has a lot of value as a special teamer and the third tailback. He runs with pretty good power. He is pretty good in pass protection, too. If there is a player pushing Tanner for a spot, I believe it’s Lance Dunbar, who might get in the return game mix, and not Jamize Olawale, who had a touchdown run last week. Tanner is a better all-around back and will get his chance to show his toughness. He will play with his right hand wrapped tight, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

Clifton Geathers I had him in the five to watch for the San Diego game and I’m still waiting. He looks the part, but he just has not made enough plays at this point. Coaches and scouts do not want to give up on his size and potential, but sometimes potential can be a killer, too. I wondered if Geathers could push a veteran like Marcus Spears out of a spot, but he’s not done enough yet to warrant that. If he flashes tonight vs. the Rams then he could get in the mix again.

Backup LB an issue for Cowboys, too

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
3:56
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- Remember when interior offensive line was an issue for the Cowboys early in training camp? Oh, wait, it still is. But now you can add linebacker as a problematic position just because of numbers.

Inside linebacker Caleb McSurdy will undergo season-ending Achilles surgery on Friday. Inside linebacker Isaiah Greenhouse has a broken thumb. Inside linebacker Orie Lemon has a stiff neck, but he could be OK to play Saturday at San Diego.

At outside linebacker Anthony Spencer is expected back to practice next week from a hamstring injury, and Kyle Wilber is out for 3-4 weeks because of thumb surgery. Adrian Hamilton has a knee injury that could limit him for the week.

DeMarcus Ware will get a few series against the Chargers, as will inside linebackers Sean Lee, Dan Connor and Bruce Carter, which means Alex Albright, Lemon, Baraka Atkins and Lemon, if healthy, will get most of the work.

“We just have to manage that,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We’re a little but light at backup linebacker now … We’ve got a few guys nicked up there and we’ll manage that,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Here the next couple of days we’ll figure out who’s playing the most where and try to make the appropriate decision. As you know in preseason games there are lot of combinations that syart to happen, so we’ve got to think the whole thing through and make sure we handle that the right way.”

SPONSORED HEADLINES