Dallas Cowboys: Baltimore Ravens

Cowboys, Ravens to flip for draft spots

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
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A coin flip between the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday morning at the NFL combine in Indianapolis will determine who gets the No. 16 or No. 17 overall picks of the draft.

The last time the Cowboys held the No. 17 overall pick was 1992, when cornerback Kevin Smith was selected. In 1990, the Cowboys had the 17th pick and drafted running back Emmitt Smith, who would become the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

The Cowboys have never held a first-round No. 16 in their history. They selected E.J. Holub in that overall spot but in the second round in 1961.

A defensive player has been selected at No. 16 in two of the last three drafts. Buffalo picked quarterback EJ Manuel last year, the New York Jets snagged defensive end Quinton Coples in 2012 and Washington drafted defensive end Ryan Kerrigan in 2011.

ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have the Cowboys, who need to improve at defense, selecting Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the No. 17 pick.

Running game to blame for Romo's record?

August, 23, 2013
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Put in the historical context of Cowboys’ championship teams, Roger Staubach’s point about Tony Romo needing a better running game is right on.

Fact: The Cowboys have never won a Super Bowl without a top-five rushing offense.

PODCAST
Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to give his thoughts on the Sean Lee extension, discuss who Jerry Jones should sign to an extension next and take a look at the other three teams in the NFC East.

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Staubach and Troy Aikman had the luxury of working behind dominant offensive lines and sharing the backfield with fellow Hall of Famers in Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith. (The Cowboys didn’t have a Hall of Fame running back on their first title team, but Duane Thomas, Calvin Hill and Walt Garrison formed a heck of a committee.)

Here’s a quick look at the Dallas running game’s NFL rankings during the Cowboys’ championship seasons:

1971 – 3rd
1977 – 4th
1992 – 5th
1993 – 2nd
1995 – 2nd

By contrast, Romo has never quarterbacked a team with a top-five rushing offense. The only time the Cowboys ranked among the top 10 rushing offenses during his tenure as a starter just so happens to be the lone season in which the franchise won a playoff game over the last 16 seasons.

The Cowboys’ rushing ranks in the Romo era:

2006 – 13th
2007 – 17th
2008 – 21st
2009 – 7th
2010 – 16th
2011 – 18th
2012 – 31st

So Romo has only had a running game good enough to contend for the Super Bowl once, right? Not so fast. The Cowboys’ rushing offense has ranked higher than the Super Bowl champions’ four times during Romo’s tenure. The Giants won the Super Bowl two seasons ago despite ranking dead last in the league in rushing.

The Super Bowl winners’ rushing offense rank over the last seven seasons:

2006 Indianapolis Colts – 18th
2007 New York Giants – 4th
2008 Pittsburgh Steelers – 23rd
2009 New Orleans Saints – 6th
2010 Green Bay Packers – 24th
2011 New York Giants – 32nd
2012 Baltimore Ravens – 11th

The game has changed since the Cowboys’ glory years. It certainly helps to have a good running game, but it’s far from a prerequisite for winning a Super Bowl.

Now, more than ever, the NFL is a quarterback’s league. The lack of a quality running game might be a reason (or an excuse) for Romo’s lack of playoff success, but his peers have found a way to overcome the same problem in recent years.

Like it or not, Cowboys must extend Romo

February, 11, 2013
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Here at the NFC East blog, we appreciate the extent to which ESPNDallas.com's Jean-Jacques Taylor has been helping us out with provocative Dallas Cowboys columns during a slow time. The ability to link to and discuss Jacques' work has helped carry us through a few days recently, and today is no different. Today Jacques writes that, rather than extend Tony Romo's contract this offseason to create salary-cap relief and ensure that they're not left without a quarterback a year from now when Romo's deal expires, the Cowboys should let Romo play out the final season of his deal.
[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/Tim SharpTony Romo threw for 4,903 yards and 28 touchdowns this past season.
The Cowboys should let Romo play out his deal just as the Baltimore Ravens did with quarterback Joe Flacco. Make Romo play his best football for himself -- and the team -- next season. And if Romo still hasn't earned a contract extension with his performance, Jones should place the franchise tag on him in 2014. And 2015 too, if necessary.

The Cowboys could absorb Romo's salary this season, but it would mean saying goodbye to players such as nose tackle Jay Ratliff, Doug Free, Marcus Spears, Dan Connor and Anthony Spencer. Then the Cowboys would have to restructure the contracts of Brandon Carr, DeMarcus Ware and maybe, Miles Austin. Bottom line: It could get done without too much pain.

Now, I am a great fan of Jacques personally and of his work, but I could not disagree with him more on this particular point. While the premise isn't a bad one -- the idea that the Cowboys would like to see more from Romo than they've seen to this point in terms of his ability to deliver big wins -- waiting a year is completely impractical.

PODCAST
ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer joins Coop and Nate to discuss the Cowboys' salary cap situation and Tony Romo.

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First of all, I fail to see how losing Ratliff, Spears, Connor and Spencer and then working to restructure Carr, Ware and Austin isn't "too much pain." That sounds like a lot of losses on defense and a lot of work on deals (Carr's in particular) that may not be as restructure-friendly as the cap-strapped Cowboys would like them to be.

Second of all, there is the persistent problem of the lack of strong alternatives to Romo should they lose him in a year. Say Romo plays great, as he did in 2011 and for most of 2012 (the final game notwithstanding), and the Cowboys continue to struggle to put a representative offensive line in front of him. Maybe he doesn't want to come back. Maybe he wants to go to a team that can protect him better, where his reputation as a big-game flop isn't as integral a part of the way the team's fans feel about him. Maybe he'll want out of the Cowboys circus completely. And if that's the case, woe to the Cowboys trying to find a solution on next year's market without a decent candidate already in the fold. Look around the league at teams like the Chiefs, Browns, Jaguars, Jets and the Eagles for goodness' sake. You don't want to be the team looking for a quarterback on a market that might not have any. That's not a fun place for a franchise to be.

The Flacco comparison fails because it's not as though Flacco outperformed his prior résumé this season. He muddled through an up-and-down regular season and played well in the playoffs, as he always does. The Ravens lost last year's AFC Championship Game to the Patriots because of a dropped pass and a missed field goal that weren't his fault. This year, they won that game and the next one. Yes, the Super Bowl MVP award will help Flacco make more money on this next deal, but it's not as though the Ravens saw anything from their quarterback this year they didn't already know or believe he could do. Flacco didn't have a prove-it year. He just had a better ending than he's ever had before. If that's what the Cowboys need to see from Romo, then as we have discussed at length, they need to get him a lot more help.

But in the end, the biggest reason to extend Romo is the fact that it makes too much financial sense. The Cowboys have major salary-cap problems. One of the easiest ways for them to get relief is to give Romo an extension that his performance relative to his peers says he deserves anyway and which would save them cap space they'll need over the coming months. Standing on principle and saying Romo has to win a big game before he can get his money simply isn't the best thing for the franchise right now. Warts and all, Romo as the quarterback now and for the foreseeable future is.
Last week, there were reports regarding the cap space for the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots and how nearly 10 players take a good percentage of it.

PODCAST
ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer joins Coop and Nate to discuss the Cowboys' salary cap situation and Tony Romo.

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The 2013 salary cap for NFL teams will be nearly $121 million.

Tom Curran of CSNNE.com reported the Patriots will have $65.9 million of cap space assigned to nine players, including quarterback Tom Brady's team-high $21.8 million cap figure.

Albert Breer of NFL Network discovered the Ravens will hand out $69 million of cap space to 10 players. Terrell Suggs has the highest figure at $13.02 million.

So what about the Cowboys? After adding up the figures, the top 10 salary-cap hits total $89.6 million, with quarterback Tony Romo leading the way at $16.8 million.

When it comes time to get under the cap -- and the Cowboys are roughly $20 million over -- reducing cap figures for several players will be important. It makes sense for the Cowboys to reduce Romo's cap hit by giving him an extension because it'll give the team flexibility to sign free agents in 2013.

If the Cowboys don't want to reduce Romo's cap figure and let him play out the 2013 season, then it'd limit what the team could do in free agency.

Brandon Carr has the second-highest cap hit at $16.3 million, and it's in his contract that his deal will be restructured. DeMarcus Ware ($11.3 million) has the third-highest cap number, and his deal also could be reworked.

The Cowboys have two interesting decisions to make with RT Doug Free ($10.02 million) and NT Jay Ratliff ($7 million). Free and Ratliff could become cap casualties, but it will also be interesting if both players return at reduced salaries.

If the Cowboys release Free and or Ratliff, they better have a replacement ready.

If Free is cut, that'd leave Jermey Parnell as the starting right tackle. Ratliff's replacement might not be on the roster. You could move Jason Hatcher to defensive tackle in the new 4-3 scheme, and Jerry Jones talked about the possibility of Tyrone Crawford also moving inside from end.

Other possibilities: Chris Canty was released by the New York Giants last week, and free agent Henry Melton of the Chicago Bears could be an expensive option to replace Ratliff.

Any moves regarding the salary cap comes with a risk. When you're over the cap like the Cowboys are, there are hard decisions to make.

Here's the Top 10 Cowboys in terms of cap numbers, along with their base salaries for 2013.

1. Tony Romo (cap number $16.8 million, base salary $11.5 million)
2. Brandon Carr (cap number $16.3 million, base salary $14.3 million)
3. DeMarcus Ware (cap number $11.3 million, base salary $5.5 million)
4. Doug Free (cap number $10.2 million, base salary $7 million)
5. Miles Austin (cap number $8.3 million, base salary $6.7 million)
6. Jason Witten (cap number $8 million, base salary $5.5 million)
7. Jay Ratliff (cap number $7 million, base salary $5 million)
8. Dan Connor (cap number $4.3 million, base salary $3 million)
9. Gerald Sensabaugh (cap number $3.8 million, base salary $3 million)
10. Orlando Scandrick (cap nunmber $3.78 million, base salary $2 million)
DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki jokingly credits himself with an assist for the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl run.

PODCAST
Chris Mortensen joins Galloway & Company to discuss the Cowboys' chances of making the Super Bowl and where Tony Romo ranks among NFL quarterbacks.

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Nowitzki figures that Joe Flacco’s autographed jersey hanging in his locker at the American Airlines all season had to have helped.

“I guess I got him hot,” Nowitzki said. “It’s been in there before everyone thought he had a chance.”

Flacco, a Dirk fan, sent Nowitzki the autographed jersey this fall and asked for one in return. Nowitzki finally signed a Mavs jersey and had Mavs PR man Scott Tomlin send it off midway through the Ravens’ title run.

Apparently, Nowitzki just needed to see Flacco outplay Peyton Manning in a road playoff game before deeming him worthy of an autographed jersey.

“I had to wait to see if he’s for real or not,” Nowitzki cracked.

Memo to the Cowboys: You might want to get Dirk a signed Tony Romo jersey next fall.

Key Plays, No. 5 Clock mismanagement

January, 13, 2013
1/13/13
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At some point this offseason, Jason Garrett will lean back in his favorite chair, close his eyes and ponder what might have been.

There were 2,035 plays in the Cowboys’ 2012 season, some are more memorable than others -- and it doesn’t matter whether they went in the Cowboys’ favor or against America’s Team.

What if Dez Bryant's pinkie hadn’t come down out of bounds against the New York Giants in the final minute? Or a Washington safety hadn’t knocked the ball out of Bryant’s arms, breaking up an apparent touchdown in the fourth quarter?

What if Eric Frampton had recovered New Orleans receiver Marques Colston's fumble instead of tight end Jimmy Graham?

That’s the story of the NFL every year.

A play here or there and the Cowboys would’ve made the playoffs. It’s the reason why Garrett is forever saying every play in every game matters.

“It allows you to argue your point to your players that it’s really, really close each and every week in this league,” Garrett said. “The importance of getting all of the details right and making sure you’re on point can make a difference in this ball game and here’s why.

“All these things that happened to us this year where plays went against us...If that play had been different we would’ve won that game. Or, similarly, plays that went for us that helped us win ballgames. There were a number of those too. It’s the nature of the NFL.”

Without further ado, let's continue the countdown:

Jason Garrett’s clock mismanagement


[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
AP Photo/James D SmithJason Garrett's clock management at the end of the Ravens game kept the Cowboys from having a much better chance to win.
Situation: First-and-10 from Baltimore 34
Score: Baltimore, 31-29
Time: :26 left in fourth quarter

Taylor's Take: The final sequence of this game was a joke after Andre Holmes recovered an onside kick, giving the Cowboys a chance for a miracle comeback. After a 1-yard completion to Dez Bryant with 22 seconds left, he argued briefly with the officials. Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree jogged leisurely back toward the line of scrimmage instead of sprinting. The Cowboys wasted so much time that Romo finally gave up trying to get off another play and called a timeout with six seconds left, setting up a 51-yard field goal that Dan Bailey missed.

Season Impact: The Cowboys rushed for 227 yards but figured out a way to lose the game. The time management gaffe kept Dallas from having a much better chance to win and raised questions about Garrett's ability manage the clock in crucial situations. The Cowboys played well enough to win but managed to find a creative way to lose, as usual.

DeMarco Murray is getting close

November, 7, 2012
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IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is getting closer to returning from a sprained left foot. For the first time since suffering the injury at Baltimore on Oct. 14, Murray was preparing to do some rehab work during the open media portion of practice Wednesday.

It's doubtful Murray will practice this week or play Sunday afternoon at Philadelphia, but his presence on the Valley Ranch practice fields was a positive sign.

Defensive end Sean Lissemore (ankle) was also on the practice field preparing for rehab work. Like Murray, Lissemore has missed the last three games and isn't expected to play on Sunday.

Nose tackle Jay Ratliff missed practice with a sprained ankle. He was limited during Sunday night's game against the Atlanta Falcons after suffering the injury late in the first half. Ratliff didn't start the second half but did return to the game.

Safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) and center Phil Costa (ankle) missed practice.

There was some good news on the injury front as inside linebacker Dan Connor (neck) was practicing. Wide receivers Dez Bryant (hip) and Kevin Ogletree (finger) were at practice, but it wasn't known how much work they would get in because they're nursing injuries.

Jerry Jones hopeful of DeMarco Murray return

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- It’s safe to say the Cowboys’ running game misses DeMarco Murray.

PODCAST
Cowboys owners Jerry Jones says the team made the kind of mistakes that lose ballgames and that the team is running out of opportunities to win the division.

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The 227-yard effort against Baltimore on Oct. 14 was the anomaly. In the last two games against Carolina and the New York Giants, the Cowboys have rushed for 104 yards on 48 carries.

Felix Jones had 13 carries for 19 yards and had a crucial fumble.

Murray missed his second straight game with a sprained foot. He spent Sunday on the sideline, but there is hope he could return next week against Atlanta.

“I talked to him a little before the game and I am encouraged that he has a chance to be back,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said.

Will Cowboys use 4-3 alignment on defense?

October, 25, 2012
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IRVING, Texas -- There were plenty of questions Wednesday afternoon about the Cowboys' possibly going to a 4-3 defensive alignment for the game against the New York Giants on Sunday.

The Cowboys didn't practice the 4-3 on Wednesday and didn't use the alignment in last week's victory over the Carolina Panthers. But the Cowboys have used the 4-3 setup this season, most recently against Baltimore.

"I think that’s something they’ll evaluate," defensive end Marcus Spears said of the coaches. "We’ve been a multifaceted defense since the beginning of the year, so guys have to prepare for 3-4 and 4-3. For us, that’s the way we’ve been playing up to this point and I don’t think that will change much."

Playing a base 4-3, something the Cowboys haven't done since the early years of the Bill Parcells era, isn't something that's going to happen full-time. However, the Cowboys don't run a traditional 3-4 and use multiple fronts to confuse offenses.

If the Cowboys went with a 4-3, a potential lineup would be DEs Jason Hatcher and Kenyon Coleman with Josh Brent and Jay Ratliff at tackle. Expect DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer to remain the outside linebackers with Bruce Carter the middle linebacker.

This takes into account the season-ending injury to inside linebacker Sean Lee and another injury to DE Sean Lissemore, who could miss a few weeks. With Lee out, the Cowboys have a traditional 4-3 inside linebacker in Dan Connor, who is taking his place. On passing downs in the 3-4, Connor comes off the field.

"For us, it just helps takes the target off our back," Brent said of using a 4-3. "People can’t scheme us cause they don’t know what we’re going to be in. It helps us overall as a defensive unit that the front can play multiple."


IRVING, Texas -- After losing inside linebacker Sean Lee for the season and a myriad of other injuries affecting the Cowboys, owner/general manager Jerry Jones seems to be changing his tune about whether the team can contend for a Super Bowl title this season.

After the Cowboys' 31-29 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 14, Jones said he saw things that made him believe the Cowboys could contend this season.

But after losing Lee (toe), Jones had a different vibe.

"We’re going to have to adjust for him," Jones said. "... We’re going to have to make injury adjustments. I’ve said all along I think this team has an opportunity to be a contender, but the one exception that I made was, sitting as we’re sitting right now health-wise, injury can make a difference and does in the NFL."

Injuries pop up in the NFL all the time, but teams must overcome them to reach their goals. Losing a star player hurts badly and, with DeMarco Murray also injured, the Cowboys have two of their biggest playmakers out for Sunday's rematch against the New York Giants at Cowboys Stadium.

"Against this team, arguably the best team in the NFL, we wanted all hands on deck," Jones said. "It is disappointing not to have two players of that caliber. It’s been my experience when you do have a situation like this, others will step up. Others on the field at different positions will compensate. Like I said, we’ll give more to (Bruce) Carter and he’ll have to compensate and be a better factor."

Eric Frampton gets hard hat

October, 23, 2012
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IRVING, Texas -- Each week, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett hands out a hard hat award to players who do an outstanding job on Sundays.

In the Carolina game, safety Eric Frampton earned the special teams hard hat award. In 18 special team snaps, Frampton had three tackles.

As a unit, the Cowboys special teams allowed just four punt return yards and despite giving up a kick return for a touchdown the previous week at Baltimore, the Cowboys held the Panthers to 48 kick returns yards.

"When there's a (problem) one week, there is a great sense of urgency I’ve learned around here, to really get it fixed," said Frampton, who signed with the Cowboys on Sept. 25 after safety Barry Church was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. "I think we responded well across the board on special teams. I was glad to be apart of it to be honest with you."

Frampton also got a season-high 13 snaps on defense. The Cowboys gave more snaps to Frampton because he's developed a comfort level with the defense and they wanted some of their better tacklers on the field in the game against Carolina because of how Cam Newton can escape the pocket and run up field.

That was a main reason why cornerback Mike Jenkins played only one snap.

But rookie Matt Johnson and Frampton were sharing some reps at backup safety in some defensive packages. With Johnson down, yet again, with a hamstring injury, it gave defensive coordinator Rob Ryan more reason to look toward Frampton.

"Maybe it had something to do with timing," Frampton said. "Being here four weeks and that gives me some time to really study the playbook and understand kinda how the defense is called and so that would attribute to it."
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Cowboys are now 3-3 and still in the playoff hunt -- well, almost everybody is -- after a 19-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

That means it's time for our weekly Cowboys Stock Report, where we take a look at whose stock is moving up and whose is moving down.

Streaking
STOCK UP

Dan Bailey --Yes, the Cowboys kicker made clutch kicks all afternoon, including the go-ahead 38-yard field goal with 53 seconds to play. Bailey also had kicks of 19, 49 and 28 yards. On the season, Bailey is 8-for-9, with the lone missing coming on a 51-yarder in the closing moments in Baltimore. There doesn't appear to be any sophomore slump for Bailey.

Morris Claiborne -- The rookie cornerback recorded his first interception of the season on a bad throw to the end zone from Cam Newton. Claiborne also made a clutch play in the fourth quarter, getting away with some contact and knocking down a fourth-down pass intended for Louis Murphy.

Bruce Carter -- Sean Lee gets so much credit in the middle of the defense, and he should, but Carter has also looked good this season. With Lee out because of a toe injury, Carter filled and called the signals and finished with five total tackles and one tackle for loss.

Slumping
STOCK DOWN

Running game -- The Cowboys rushed for a 85 total yards Sunday at Carolina, but neither Felix Jones nor Phillip Tanner averaged more than three yards per carry. As a team, the Cowboys averaged 2.7 per carry. It's the third time in the last four weeks the Cowboys failed to average more than three yards a carry.

Kevin Ogletree -- Jason Garrett said a finger injury led to the No. 3 receiver getting some bench time in favor of Dwayne Harris. But it's clear Ogletree has morphed back into what he is -- an inconsistent receiver. He finished with four catches for 27 yards.

Jason Garrett -- It's one thing to mismanage the game in Baltimore, but he was too conservative late in the game Sunday in Carolina. He said coverage was the reason why the Cowboys didn't take one more shot down the field, instead asking Bailey and the defense to secure the victory. It worked out this time, but over the next few weeks games against the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons, Garrett will have to call plays that get his team into the end zone.
IRVING, Texas -- Following the Cowboys' loss to the Baltimore Ravens there were discussions about coach Jason Garrett's inability to handle late game responsibilities.

PODCAST
What would the Cowboys' offense look like if Garrett gave up play calling to Bill Callahan? Coop and Nate weigh in.

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We all know what happened at the end where Garrett called a play with 22 seconds left in the game to Dez Bryant that resulted in one-yard pass completion. Receivers Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree were way downfield on the play and the Cowboys didn't call a timeout until six seconds remained.

Garrett said he made a mistake and should have called a timeout sooner to allow his team to run one more play. Instead, it set up a 51-yard field goal try that was missed by Dan Bailey, preserving the Ravens' victory.

Should Garrett give up the play-calling duties and allow someone else, like offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan, to take over the play calling?

"I think coach does a great job calling plays," Callahan said. "When I first took the job, I came here to help him in any capacity. That's what my function is and that's what my role is on our staff. Anyway I can help coach in preparation, if he wants a suggestion, I certainly can give it to him. We got great communication on the sideline and in between series, he's the playcaller here and does a great job with it and he has a great feel for what Tony (Romo) likes and what we want to do as an offense. I got nothing but immense respect for coach and his ability to call plays."

Callahan understands the discussions surrounding Garrett because he was a head coach in Oakland and with Nebraska. Callahan said he agrees with the decisions Garrett made at the end of the Ravens game.

"In the heat of the moment there are a lot of things that are transpiring," Callahan said. "He had great command of that scenario and that situation. He will ask for a suggestion. He has already talked through the scenarios in his own mind. I support him greatly. He made the best decision he could at the time. We are not perfect. Those situations come up. If we knew the answers to the situations, it would be simple. But that’s what makes the game fascinating."

Felix Jones set to return to starting lineup

October, 17, 2012
10/17/12
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IRVING, Texas -- It's not yet official, but with running back DeMarco Murray spending Wednesday afternoon sitting down signing footballs and jerseys in a racquetball court turned autograph storage unit, Felix Jones was preparing to return to the starting lineup.

Murray, who missed Wednesday's practice at Valley Ranch, will sit out Sunday against the Panthers and Jones is set to take over the starting duties.

Coach Jason Garrett rarely announces who will start and wouldn't even say if Lance Dunbar will take over for Jones as the deep man on kick returns. But it's clear Jones will make his 17th start of his career because of the sprained foot Murray suffered in the loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

"I’m excited to be back playing," Jones said after practice. "I’m just happy to be out here with my teammates. Just go out there and prepare and get ready for the Carolina Panthers, keep getting better, keep working on the things that makes us go out there and win these ballgames and continue to fight."

It's been a difficult 2012 for Jones. He missed the entire offseason workouts because of shoulder surgery and failed a conditioning test to start training camp. When he finally got going in camp and in preseason games he looked slow and didn't have his usual burst.

Jones' woes continued in Week 2 of the regular season when he fumbled a kickoff, leading to a score for the Seattle Seahawks. It put the Cowboys in a 10-0 hole that they never recovered from in a 27-7 loss. Coach Jason Garrett defended Jones, saying he was improving, and owner/general manager Jerry Jones added that he felt the running back still had a burst and speed.

Yet, Jones had just three carries for 13 yards going into the Ravens game last week.

When Murray went down with his injury, Jones stepped in and finished with 18 carries for 92 yards and one touchdown.

"You just got to be patient," he said. "For me, it’s just being patient. I know my opportunities are going to come. I just had to wait for it, and when it came just maximize it."

Garrett said weight wasn't an issue for Jones, but getting in playing shape was. It appeared a 13-yard run against Chicago in Week 4 might have sparked something, because he showed a burst and quickness.

In the past, Garrett hasn't given Jones a heavy workload. In five NFL seasons, Jones has just two games with 20 or more carries, while Murray has done it six times in two NFL seasons.

Garrett said Wednesday he's got no problems giving Jones a heavy workload.

In the past it seemed the Cowboys were unsure of what to do with Jones. Is he a third-down back? Kick returner? Starting running back?

But for now Jones' role is more defined as the starter.

"It just gives you some confidence," he said. "It makes you know that you’re going to go out there and provide help for your team, so you got to be ready. I was ready when I was coming in and even more ready right now. It gives you a boost of confidence to go out there and play."

Dez Bryant needs to leave the refs alone

October, 17, 2012
10/17/12
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IRVING, Texas -- There is a consistent trend with Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant that probably needs to stop: He's arguing with the referees. Too much.

Bryant wants calls. He says his jersey is getting pulled by defensive backs and that there are push-offs. On his second touchdown catch against Baltimore, Bryant pushed off cornerback Cary Williams. But Bryant wanted a call made when he failed to catch a potential game-tying two-point conversion when he felt Williams made contact before the play.

Said Williams: "He needs to step up and be a man. You can’t be a baby about stuff. You’ve got to man up. It’s one-on-one. Mano-a-mano. I got you. Sometimes you’re going to win. Sometimes you’re going to lose."

Coach Jason Garrett said the arguing with the officials has to stop and Bryant has to concentrate and move to the next play.

"Absolutely. We try to emphasize that to everybody on our team," Garrett said. "There’s certainly a natural reaction that a lot of guys have. You see it all around the league. There’s an attention to the officiating, and you’ve just got to make sure to focus on doing your job. Obviously he felt a couple of different occasions where he was getting held, he was a little bit restrictive."

Bryant is a talented player who wears his emotions not just on his sleeve, but on his entire body.

In pregame warmups, he's bouncing around catching passes from anybody who will throw them. During the game, there is a natural chirping that goes on between players. Bryant is almost always in the middle of it. At times Bryant has to be pulled away by a teammate after complaining to a referee. Sometimes he's the only offensive player on the field still barking at the refs.

After Bryant caught a 1-yard pass in the closing seconds of the Cowboys' loss to the Baltimore Ravens, he was complaining to the referee.

"But again, we emphasize to him, get that guy off of him and go make the play," Garrett said. "At times (in the Baltimore game) he did an outstanding job of that. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out on the two-point play. But Dez is getting better and better every week. We’re excited to have him on our football team."

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