Dallas Cowboys: Igor Olshansky

Reviewing Cowboys' free agency: 2009

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With free agency entering the final stages, we'll review the Cowboys' last five free-agency classes.

We'll start with 2009.

Players signed: Keith Brooking, Igor Olshansky and Gerald Sensabaugh.

Starts earned: 43

Analysis: The Cowboys signed three defensive players to help then-coach Wade Phillips in a critical third season. The Cowboys were coming off a playoff-less 2008 season and Phillips maintained his job, despite calls for him to get fired. Brooking was signed as a veteran inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense and he finished second on the team in tackles to Bradie James. Sensabaugh was signed to a one-year deal to become a playmaking safety. He had one interception, but finished third with 10 pass breakups. Olshansky was supposed to be a run-stopping defensive end and started 14 games in 2009. Olshansky finished the final five weeks with 22 tackles, six quarterback pressures, a half sack and a tackle for loss. Phillips' defense posted shutouts in consecutive games to finish the regular season, outscoring opponents, 41-0, and holding the Redskins and Eagles to 446 combined yards. The Cowboys clinched the NFC East, won a playoff game for the first time since the 1990s, and opened the new stadium, which gave fans high hopes for things to come.

Grade: B

Cowboys have to spend, choose wisely

March, 11, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The free-agent shopping starts today at 3 p.m. CT.

If the Dallas Cowboys have learned anything, it’s that they should use coupons.

From 2006-11, the Cowboys signed 12 players in unrestricted free agency. Only two players who signed multi-year deals reached the end of their contracts: Kyle Kosier signed a five-year, $15 million deal with the Cowboys in 2006 and was with the team through 2011. Keith Brooking signed a three-year, $6 million deal in 2009 and was a contributor through 2011.

Igor Olshansky (2009), Leonard Davis (2007) and Akin Ayodele (2006) are the only other players who made it more than one season on their original deals, and Olshansky and Ayodele made it only two seasons.

The Cowboys signed seven unrestricted free agents in 2012 and three lasted one season (Dan Connor, Nate Livings and Lawrence Vickers) on multi-year deals. Brodney Pool signed a one-year deal and barely made it to training camp.

Three members of the 2012 free-agent class remain: Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million), Mackenzy Bernadeau (four years, $11.5 million) and Kyle Orton (three years, $10.5 million). Carr is coming off a disappointing 2013 season, Bernadeau took a pay cut last week and Orton is not sure he wants to play.

Spending money in free agency is hardly ever the answer. The Cowboys will not have a ton of money available to them when the market opens until the DeMarcus Ware situation is resolved, and even then they will have to be wise with how they spend it and who they spend it on.

The needs are obvious: defense, defense and more defense. That’s what happens when a unit finishes last in the NFL in 2013. But the Cowboys could use a veteran presence at wide receiver (Robert Meachem, Jason Avant) and a backup quarterback if Orton walks away (Shaun Hill).

Finding defensive line help is a must, but the Cowboys will have to be budget conscious. They have had on and off talks with Jordan Woy, who represents free agents Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer, for most of the offseason. Both players could find better financial opportunities elsewhere.

Hatcher turns 32 in July and is coming off a career-high 11 sacks. He was added to the Pro Bowl. Spencer played in only one game in 2013 because of a knee injury that will not be healed enough for him to be 100 percent ready for training camp.

How much of a commitment can the Cowboys make and feel like they will get their money’s worth?

Ties to new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli could help in the pursuit of Henry Melton, but he is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Value is often the most overlooked part of free agency. The big-money signings lead to the biggest headlines, but do not correspond enough to wins and losses.

The Cowboys found value in Kosier, Brooking, Gerald Sensabaugh and Bernadeau but did not or have not received enough bang for the buck in Carr ($26.5 million guarantee) and Davis ($18.75 million guaranteed).

As the Cowboys look to clear this 8-8 bump that has turned into Mt. Everest, they need to spend wisely, but more importantly they need to choose wisely.
IRVING, Texas -- Since the Seattle Seahawks have won the Super Bowl, every team now has to copy what they did to win a title.

I’m guilty of making those comparisons the past few days. ESPN Dallas columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor made one today, repeating the “defense wins championships” phrase.

In order for the Dallas Cowboys to get back to Super Bowl respectability, Jerry Jones has to make defense a priority, according to my guy JJT.

I’d make the argument the Cowboys owner and general manager has made defense a priority. The investments just haven’t paid off.

In 2012, the Cowboys traded up to the sixth overall pick in the draft to take cornerback Morris Claiborne. That came a month after they gave cornerback Brandon Carr a five-year, $50 million contract. The Cowboys’ top three picks that year were defensive players.

In 2011, they drafted Bruce Carter in the second round and their only free-agent pickup that year was starting defensive end Kenyon Coleman. In 2010 they drafted Sean Lee in the second round. Last August they committed a $42 million contract to Lee.

In 2009, an ill-fated draft for sure, the Cowboys’ top pick was a linebacker. In 2008, they drafted cornerback Mike Jenkins in the first round and that came after they gave Terence Newman a $50 million contract.

In 2007, they drafted outside linebacker/defensive end Anthony Spencer in the first round. In 2012 and ’13, they used the franchise tag on Spencer, spending nearly $19 million on him. In 2006, four of their first six selections were on defensive players. In 2005, they used both first-round selections on defensive players (DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears) and four of their first five picks were used on defenders. Jay Ratliff was a seventh-round pick that year and the Cowboys signed him to two big-time contracts. The second was a colossal flop and he was released last October.

Ware received a $91 million extension in 2009. That same year they signed three defensive starters in free agency: Keith Brooking, Igor Olshansky and Gerald Sensabaugh.

Defense has been a priority. They just haven’t got the return on their investments.
Former Denver Broncos center Tom Nalen said Friday that in a 2006 game he tried to injure former San Diego Chargers defensive lineman Igor Olshansky, who is also a former Dallas Cowboy.

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"I wouldn’t consider myself a dirty player," Nalen said according to Pro Football Talk. "I know people will bring up the Igor Olshansky play in 2006, but if people would look at the play before that and realize why I did what I did -- and even on that play I missed the cut -- so you know definitely, I wanted to blow his knee out on that play because of what happened the play before. But that, you know, is that dirty? I don’t know. It’s revenge, kind of, so."

Olshansky said he remembers the play and has forgiven Nalen.

"He's a Hall of Famer and I've pretty much forgotten about it," said Olshansky, who still lives in Dallas. "It was a big deal at the time, but thank God it worked out for everybody. I wouldn't do something like that. For him to do it, it's something he's got to live with."

Nalen was holding a news conference after he was being named to the Broncos' Ring of Fame and brought up the Olshansky play. Nalen said he went after Olshansky because of the previous play where he claims the defensive lineman grabbed his face mask.

Based on Pro Football Talk's account of the play, the Broncos and Chargers were playing when the Broncos were trying to spike the ball. Nalen dove into Olshansky’s legs, prompting several punches to be thrown. Olshansky, who threw the punches was ejected from the game. Both players were fined for the incident. Olshansky said he was on a bullrush where a defensive player puts his hands up into a lineman's chest, but denied grabbing a face mask.

"I don't grab people's face mask," Olshansky said. "It's the offensive linemen that are the grabbers instead of the defensive linemen. What I want to grab is the quarterback or the running back. That was a play that I thought was common knowledge."

Salary cap won't be issue for Cowboys

January, 18, 2012
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IRVING, Texas -- As we continue our Fixing the Cowboys series this week, plenty of free-agent options are dancing in fans’ heads as they dream and scheme of ways to spend Jerry Jones’ money.

As executive vice president Stephen Jones said late last season, the Cowboys will be able to do whatever it is they want to do when free agency begins in March.

According to league figures, the Cowboys have $12.6 million in salary-cap room based off the 2011 cap of $120.375 million, and that includes the $28 million (or so) in dead money related to guys like Roy Williams, Leonard Davis, Marc Colombo, Marion Barber, Andre Gurode and Igor Olshansky who were cut in 2011.

The 2012 cap is expected to remain flat or go up slightly.

The $12.6 million figure does not take into account the tender amounts the Cowboys have for their exclusive rights and restricted free agents or the space needed for their draft picks, but that will not significantly impair their ability to sign players.

The Cowboys can create more room against the cap by releasing cornerback Terence Newman and saving either $4 million or $6 million depending on whether they would want to count him as a post-June 1 cut.

They have triggers in the deals of left tackle (or right tackle) Doug Free and cornerback Orlando Scandrick that would lower their base salaries to the league minimum, turn the difference into signing bonus and save them about $8.6 million. Re-working DeMarcus Ware’s contract would open up about $3.3 million

All told, the Cowboys could have in the neighborhood of $20 million or so to spend when free agency begins.

That’s not a bad place to be.

Welcome to Cowboys Stadium

November, 24, 2011
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Normally facing a team with a 3-7 record would be viewed as quite an advantage for the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but that’s not necessarily the case this year.

The Miami Dolphins, however, enter Cowboys Stadium with a three-game winning streak by a combined 72 points.

That has helped Jason Garrett sell this game to his team perhaps as much as the struggle they endured Sunday against the Washington Redskins, a team Miami beat 20-9 on Nov. 13. The Cowboys will be looking for their first four-game winning streak since Weeks 5-9 of the 2009 season.

The last time these teams played on Thanksgiving, the Dolphins tore apart what had been a great defense in a 40-21 victory at Texas Stadium on Nov. 27, 2003.

Cowboys update (6-4): Tony Romo was unable to play in the Thanksgiving game last year because of a fractured collarbone, but the holiday has been kind to him in the past. The Cowboys are 4-0 in Romo’s Thanksgiving starts, and he has thrown 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions in wins against Tampa Bay, the New York Jets, Seattle and Oakland. He has had three 300-yard passing days, topped out with 331 yards against Seattle in 2008.

Cowboys' inactives: Jon Kitna, Miles Austin, Mike Jenkins, Tony Fiammetta, Daniel Loper, David Arkin, Clifton Geathers.

Dolphins update (3-7): Miami has won three straight games for the first time since 2008 when they closed the year with five straight wins. Those wins were largely a product of the defense. It has not allowed a touchdown in the last 12 quarters to beat Kansas City, Washington and Buffalo. The 86 points scored by the Dolphins is the third-best run of the Tony Sparano era. Quarterback Matt Moore has had three straight games with a passer rating over 100.

Dolphins’ inactives: Dan Carpenter, Steve Slaton, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Will Barker, John Jerry, Will Yeatman, Igor Olshansky.

Scouts in attendance: Arizona, Oakland

Officials: Referee – Pete Morelli, Umpire – Ruben Fowler, Head Linesman – Mark Baltz, Line Judge – John Hussey, Field Judge – Jon Lucivansky, Side Judge – Don Carlsen, Back Judge – Rob Vernatchi, Replay – Tommy Moore.

Cowboys to cut Igor Olshansky

September, 3, 2011
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The Cowboys informed veteran defensive end Igor Olshansky he will be released today according to a source. NFL teams have to get their rosters cut to 53 players by late this afternoon.

Olshansky joined the Cowboys as a free agent in 2008. He started 28 of 30 possible games picking up 1.5 sacks and 124 tackles.

Olshansky became expendable when the Cowboys signed Kenyon Coleman in free agency this summer.

After about a week of practices, Coleman had taken Olshansky's spot with the first-team and didn't lose it through the preseason. Olshansky was moved to left defensive end and said at the time he welcomed the challenge of playing that role.

But it was clear the Cowboys wanted a run stopper that was comeforable with Rob Ryan's scheme. Coleman had played in Ryan's scheme for two seasons in Cleveland.

The Cowboys could go with six defensive linemen, Jay Ratliff, Marcus Spears, Sean Lissemore, Jason Hatcher, Josh Brent and Coleman. However, the team is high on backup Clifton Geathers but isn't sure if he gets released if it's possible to bring him back to the practice squad.

Olshansky had two years remaining on his contract. He was scheduled to make $3.3 million this season and $4.2 million in 2012. The Cowboys will save roughly $3 million by cutting Olshansky now and because of a reworked deal, there will be no dead money on next year's salary cap.

Why are all the cuts on offense?

August, 30, 2011
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IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys scored the seventh most points in the NFL last season. Only one team gave up more points.

Yet all five starters who have been shown the Valley Ranch door since the lockout was lifted were offensive players.

“A lot of it has to do with the business part of football, what guys are making and how old they are and what kinds of players you have to replace them,” Jason Garrett said. “We made a concerted effort in the draft and in signing some young college free agents to address some of those areas, and we felt like if those guys were able to compete for some of those spots we could make some of those moves.

“It wasn’t intentional necessarily. You’re trying to create competition throughout your football team and then make the best decisions based on what’s available to you.”

It’s not as if underperforming, high-priced defensive players should feel safe. Defensive end Igor Olshansky is in serious danger of being cut this summer. Cornerback Terence Newman’s time with the Cowboys will probably come to an end after this season.

It’s also not as if the five starters cut by the Cowboys were reasons why Dallas put points on the board last season, although Garrett is too professional to point that out.

The offense moved the ball despite the poor performances of Barber, Williams, Davis and Colombo last season. Gurode was just a guy despite a reputation-based invitation to the Pro Bowl. And all of those players except for Colombo were being paid like an elite player at their position.

Cowboys have plenty of cap room

August, 30, 2011
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IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys have roughly $11.5 million in salary cap space after the decision to cut Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode on Monday.

The Cowboys save about $5.5 million by cutting Gurode and were $6.3 million under after the team signed cornerback Orlando Scandrick to a five-year contract extension.

The Cowboys have yet to restructure the contract of Tony Romo, which would create $5.4 million in space, and if the team cuts defensive end Igor Olshansky they would save an additional $3.4 million space.

But don’t look for the Cowboys to chew up a lot of that money this year. Look for them to carry over the money to 2012 as a credit.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- With Miles Austin aggravating his hamstring injury in Tuesday’s practice and Marcus Spears straining his groin Sunday vs. San Diego, it is highly likely the next time they step on the field will be for the Sept. 11 regular-season opener at the New York Jets.

There is no need to rush Austin back for Saturday’s game at Minnesota and Spears will also skip the game. The regulars will not see the field in the final preseason game Sept. 1 at Miami.

Hello, Jets.

There is a ray of good news to the absences for some younger players.

Austin’s absence will give Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris, Jesse Holley, Manuel Johnson and Raymond Radway more chances to fight for the final three wide receiver spots. Spears’ absence will give Igor Olshansky a chance to save his job or Sean Lissemore and Clifton Geathers the chance to win the final defensive line spot.

Marcus Spears strains groin

August, 21, 2011
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Defensive end Marcus Spears' night was cut short after suffering a left groin strain on San Diego’s first touchdown Sunday night.

Spears was in a T-shirt and shorts at the end of the game but was walking without any noticable problem. He said the injury occurred as he attempted to pressure Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers before the touchdown throw to tight end Randy McMichael when he got his foot stuck in the ground.

“Just a little strain,” Spears said. “Nothing too serious.”

But Spears said he was not sure he would be able to play Saturday at Minnesota. Spears started at left defensive end over Igor Olshansky, with Kenyon Coleman occupying Spears’ normal spot. Defensive end Jason Hatcher did not play against San Diego because of a toe injury.

First-quarter recap: Chargers 3, Cowboys 0

August, 21, 2011
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The San Diego Chargers are in town for the second preseason game at Cowboys Stadium to face the Cowboys.

Some highlights from the opening quarter:

First-team defense: The first-team defense gave up a field goal, but there was some good plays. On the second possession, safety Abram Elam came through a hole and made a nice tackle on the backside for a loss. Safety Danny McCray knocked quarterback Philip Rivers down on a delay blitz. Safety Barry Church, who has performed well in camp, knocked down a potential touchdown pass in the end zone. Orlando Scandrick, the third corner -- who is starting because of injuries to Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins -- gave up too much space on two pass plays and seemed to think he had some deep help on one of them. The Cowboys inserted their second-team defensive line on their third possession, but kept the first-team linebackers and secondary players in. The Cowboys mixed and matched some of their first-team with Jay Ratliffreturning toward the end of the quarter.

Romo has first turnover:The first turnover of the preseason came from quarterback Tony Romo, who underthrew a pass to Kevin Ogletree with 4:22 to play in the quarter. The Cowboys were moving along on this drive, but Romo -- who had plenty of time -- tried to force a pass in. While this play was Romo's fault, Ogletree didn't do a good job on a 7-yard run by Felix Jones. Jones cut back across the grain and had plenty of room, but Ogletree failed to block two defenders. If he gets to one of them, Jones might get a big gain.

Lineup changes:The Cowboys started Bill Nagy at left guard, with Phil Costa backing up and Kenyon Coleman getting the start at left defensive end. Coleman is starting over Igor Olshansky, who was moved to the second team on Monday. Coleman is a better two-gap player than Olshansky. The Cowboys are still working on changes on both lines, especially on the offensive side, where line coach Hudson Houck wants his players to have the ability to play multiple positions.

Injuries:The Cowboys were minus three key players: Wide receiver Miles Austin (hamstring), Jason Hatcher (toe) and kicker David Buehler (hip) are the latest players not to participate. Among the others: Kai Forbath (quad), Teddy Williams (hamstring), Tashard Choice (calf), DeMarco Murray (hamstring), Terence Newman (groin), Keith Brooking (calf), Bruce Carter (knee) and Montrae Holland (back).

Bill Nagy will start at left guard

August, 21, 2011
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- For the second straight preseason game the Cowboys will start a rookie at left guard, but it will be Bill Nagy working against San Diego after David Arkin ran with the first team vs. Denver.

Nagy, a seventh-round pick, was moved up to the No. 1 offense during the week of practice but the Cowboys have said they want to look at different combinations before settling on who will make up the starting line.

With Miles Austin out, Kevin Ogletree will start opposite Dez Bryant at wide receiver.

On defense, Marcus Spears will start at right defensive end over Igor Olshansky with Kenyon Coleman starting in Spears’ normal spot. Coleman began working with the starters in the middle of the week, as well.

Camp Confidential: Dallas Cowboys

August, 21, 2011
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' coaches don't just announce drills during training camp practices, hollering out "9-on-7s!" as the horn blows and players shift from one field to the other. They're calling out situations. Two minutes to go, one timeout left, second-and-6 on your own 35. The players either huddle or hustle between plays, depending on what the called-out situation calls for. While these are drills only, they're intended to simulate game conditions as closely as they possibly can.

"Will we ever be able to completely re-create a game situation? No," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "But we're going to try our best in practice, and I think all these situational periods had been really good for us. Not only have we created initial situations, but stuff comes up that isn't scripted, and I think our team has handled those well also."

What strikes you when you spend a few days in Cowboys camp is how normal things seem, how businesslike. Sure, they were in San Antonio for a while and now are splitting practice time between the steamy outdoor fields at Valley Ranch and the air-conditioned luxury of Cowboys Stadium. But it's nothing like last year, when they spent August bouncing between those places as well as Canton and California, brimming with the highest possible expectations, proclaiming with confidence the goal of being the first team ever to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium.

A 6-10 record and a new coach can humble you, for sure, after a summer like that, and there's no doubt these Cowboys are humbled by the way things went in 2010. But if the end result is the atmosphere Garrett has created in his first training camp as head coach, there are worse things.

"We certainly want an atmosphere where guys like to coach and play football, but we absolutely want to be organized and prepared," Garrett said after Friday morning's workout at the stadium. "We want it to be businesslike when we're out there doing our work, out there on the field and also in the meeting rooms. We want to create a nice, professional atmosphere where we feel like we can function the best."

Garrett exudes both confidence and competence. He has waited his whole life for this chance, but he doesn't seem over-eager or phony about the way he's putting his long-held ideas about how to be a head coach into practice. He is smart, knowledgeable and self-assured, and it's emanating throughout the building. Around a team that often, throughout its history, has been known for something of a circus atmosphere, the mentality this August is straight lunch pail.

"Everybody here knows, whatever we get, we're going to have to work for it," right guard Kyle Kosier said. "Whether it's your spot on the roster or in the starting lineup or a Week 1 win or a playoff spot, it's about putting in this time right here and working. And that's all that's on anybody's mind right now."

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeRob Ryan
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireRob Ryan will be expected to improve a defense that was one of the worst in the league last season.
1. Can the defense learn Rob Ryan's scheme in time? The Cowboys brought in Ryan to be their new defensive coordinator. And while they signed free-agent safety Abram Elam and free-agent defensive end Kenyon Coleman -- both played under Ryan in Cleveland the past two seasons -- the group they're bringing back on defense is otherwise the same as the one that allowed the second-most points in the league last season. Ryan is charged with fixing that, but of course the lockout denied him the opportunity to use spring minicamps and organized team activities as part of his installation process. The defense is trying to cram a whole offseason's worth of learning into one month, and there's a lot to learn. Ryan's defense is based on multiple and ever-changing looks, and a complexity designed to make things as confusing as possible for opposing offenses. But Garrett said he has faith in the quality of his defensive personnel and the ability of his flamboyant new coordinator to teach.

"It's difficult. There are a lot of looks," Garrett admitted. "But the other part to that, too, is that I think he grew up in very fundamentally sound system in the NFL -- linebacker coach for New England for four years during their Super Bowl era in the early 2000s. So he has a very good feel for base defensive football, and then he has an ability to evolve in different situations and make it more difficult for opposing offenses. So we feel excited about that, and we're excited to see our players play within this system."

2. Can they put together an offensive line? There are some new and inexperienced pieces here. Rookie Tyron Smith, the ninth overall pick in this past draft, will start at right tackle. Every day Smith gets an extra tutoring session with offensive line coach Hudson Houck and a series of rotating instructors that has included Kosier, linebacker DeMarcus Ware, left tackle Doug Free and others. Smith is ultra-talented but needs work on his footwork and learning the schemes. And as with the players learning the new defense, he has to cram. The Cowboys moved Kosier from left guard to right so he could work more closely with the rookie, but now they need a left guard. And while that still has a good chance to be Montrae Holland or Phil Costa, later-round rookies David Arkin and Bill Nagy have been getting first-team reps lately and one of them could end up starting Week 1.

3. Who is the No. 3 wide receiver? One of the first things the Cowboys did when the lockout ended and free agency began was cut receiver Roy Williams to help create cap room. That also created a vacancy at the No. 3 wide receiver spot behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Kevin Ogletree appears first in line to grab the opportunity, though Raymond Radway and Dwayne Harris have shown flashes. Some have suggested the Cowboys need to go out and get a veteran to fill the spot, but with tight end Jason Witten a near-lock for 90-plus catches, running backs Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray potential factors in the passing game and depth at both of those positions, the Cowboys feel as though the No. 3 wide receiver might be the No. 5 target for Tony Romo for most of the season.

THE BUTLER CAN DO IT

Third-year linebacker Victor Butler has been an eye-opener in camp, and some have suggested he might be a threat to Anthony Spencer's starting spot on the side opposite Ware. More likely, he's a guy to add to the pass-rush mix and give them depth and the ability to vary those looks even more. If anything, the camp Butler is having could serve to motivate Spencer to return to his 2009 form after a disappointing 2010.

"You can never have too many pass-rushers on one team," Ware said. "When the Giants won against the Patriots, they had several really great pass-rushers. Pressure is what gets things going. So to be able to develop another third-down guy will really help us out a lot."

TURNING UP A CORNER

[+] EnlargeOrlando Scandrick
John Albright/Icon SMIOrlando Scandrick has been a surprise in training camp and could provide much-needed depth in the Cowboys' secondary.
The Cowboys did not sign free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, though they tried, and they'll go with Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman as starting cornerbacks again. The problem is, injuries have kept both Jenkins and Newman sidelined so far in camp, and Newman is out until at least the regular-season opener. This is a spot where the Cowboys struggled mightily in 2010, and they're not going to have their defense the way they want it until they get Jenkins and Newman back on the field. The one positive to come out of this is that backup corner Orlando Scandrick has looked very good in a starter's role so far in camp, so maybe they have some quality depth there that they didn't know they had.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The Cowboys might have more at defensive end than we thought immediately post-free agency. Coleman looks as if he's poised to steal Igor Olshansky's starting spot from him, and Jason Hatcher has looked rejuvenated and been an asset in the pass rush. Letting Stephen Bowen go to the Redskins felt like a loss at first, but re-signing Marcus Spears and Hatcher and bringing in Coleman might have made them deeper than they'd have been if they'd stayed pat.
  • The kicking competition looks miserable, with neither David Buehler nor Dan Bailey having seized the opportunity and Kai Forbath unable to get on the field because of injury. Don't rule out the possibility that the kicker the Cowboys go with this season isn't on the roster yet.
  • Jones and Romo aren't new or exciting names around here, but they look as good as anyone in camp on offense. When I watched them practice against the Chargers on Thursday, the Cowboys were using Jones around end a lot, and he looks like he has great burst. The offensive linemen I spoke with all hope he gets a chance at full-time carries, because they believe he and Bryant can be "spark plug" guys.
  • Elam was a critical signing, as he'll be responsible for the secondary calls and has been vitally important in helping the holdover players understand the language Ryan is speaking. I'm interested to see if the secondary looks more organized Sunday night having had an additional week-plus practicing with Elam.
  • The Cowboys are serious about Nagy, who was a seventh-round pick after not playing much in his senior season at Wisconsin. He was seriously hurt in a moped accident as a junior and then was passed on the depth chart by a few other guys, so much of the action he saw as a senior was actually at tight end. But the Cowboys love his athleticism and maturity. They could start him at guard early in the season, and there are some who think he could eventually start at center for them down the road.

Sean Lissemore stating his case

August, 17, 2011
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- When the Cowboys signed Marcus Spears, Kenyon Coleman and Jason Hatcher, Sean Lissemore’s future did not look so bright.

Yet the second-year defensive end has continued to impress the coaches with his work during training camp and could force a decision on the 53-man roster. With Coleman now starting and Lissemore playing well, Igor Olshansky has been subject to some speculation about his roster spot.

Lissemore had two tackles in the preseason opener against Denver. His rookie year was cut short by an ankle injury but in his first game he had three tackles and a half sack against Jacksonville on Oct. 31.

When Jay Ratliff was out for a few days with a sore hip, Lissemore moved inside to nose tackle.

“I’m just trying to show some position flexibility,” Lissemore said. “You never know where a team is going to need you. I’ve tried to work on that while Jay was out. It’s a fun position. I keep telling people playing end is like stepping in a road and you can see the cards coming and you can avoid them. Playing nose is like stepping in an intersection and you can’t see where they’re coming from. They’re two different positions but I enjoy both of them.”

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