Dallas Cowboys: Jarius Wynn

Checking in on Cowboys' free agents

April, 1, 2014
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IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have lost two players in free agency – Jason Hatcher and Danny McCray – with eight players still available on the market.

DeMarcus Ware does not count as an unrestricted free-agent signing because he was released, and the Cowboys will not receive a compensatory pick in 2015.

Here is a look at the status of their remaining free agents:

RB Phillip Tanner – The Cowboys did not tender him a deal as a restricted free agent, thus allowing him to sign elsewhere. It is possible he'll return on a one-year deal at the minimum, but it is unlikely.

DE Edgar Jones – Has some value because he can play special teams. Another one-year deal at the veteran minimum or possibly a minimum-salary benefit player.

OL Ryan Cook – Did not play last year because of a back injury. His ability to play center and guard helps, but the Cowboys want to get better and younger with their reserve interior linemen.

QB Jon Kitna – He will go back to coaching high school football and teaching math.

LB Ernie Sims – Has some fans on the coaching staff, but he becomes something of a progress-stopper given the development of Kyle Wilber and DeVonte Holloman.

DE Anthony Spencer – He is the Cowboys' most attractive remaining free agent, but where is he in his rehab from microfracture surgery? He has visited the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, but it seems that the longer he is available, the better chance he returns to the Cowboys on a short-term deal.

OL Brian Waters – The same question asked after the season remains now: Does he want to play? In order to play, he needs surgery on his triceps. He could be an emergency option later in the summer.

DE Jarius Wynn – With the signing of Jeremy Mincey, Wynn's return does not seem likely, but he has some position flexibility that the Cowboys like.

Rod Marinelli a difference-maker

March, 18, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- In Rod Marinelli, the Dallas Cowboys believe they have one of the best assistant coaches in the NFL.

He might be a pretty good recruiter, too.

The Cowboys' ability to land free-agent defensive tackle Henry Melton was a lot about the contract, a lot about Melton possibly wanting to play at home and a lot about Marinelli.

Marinelli
Melton
"I'm excited to come back home and work with Rod [Marinelli] and get back to my Pro Bowl form," Melton told ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins.

Melton developed into a Pro Bowl defensive tackle under Marinelli with the Chicago Bears from 2010-12. Melton had 15.5 sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl after a six-sack season in 2012. He also had 71 tackles and nine tackles for loss with Marinelli as his mentor.

He might talk softly, but Marinelli has a way of forging relationships with defensive linemen. He did it with Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He did it with Melton and Julius Peppers with the Bears. He did it with Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware with the Cowboys.

The Cowboys were forced to use 20 defensive linemen in 2013 and were one game away from making the playoffs. Marinelli was able to make it work to a certain degree with guys such as George Selvie, Nick Hayden, Jarius Wynn, Corvey Irvin and Frank Kearse.

He never had Jay Ratliff or Tyrone Crawford. He had Anthony Spencer for 34 snaps in one game. He was without Ware for three games and Hatcher for one.

Melton becomes the third defensive linemen to join the Cowboys as a free agent. Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain signed with the Cowboys last week.

Mincey was unable to meet face to face with Marinelli because of the coach’s schedule, but they were able to talk on the phone. Mincey was coached with the Jacksonville Jaguars by Joe Cullen, who coached under Marinelli with the Detroit Lions.

"Genuine and a believer," Mincey said last week. "He believes in what I believe: going out there and giving your all and trusting the process and seeing what happens. You never know what’s going to happen, especially with a bunch of guys who are hungry, who are dedicated and motivated for a larger purpose."

The job is not over. The Cowboys concluded a visit with Jared Allen on Tuesday, and the veteran could be the next one added to the Marinelli mix.

Dallas looking at numbers to replace Ware

March, 12, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Once the Dallas Cowboys said goodbye to DeMarcus Ware on Tuesday, their plan was to replace their all-time leader in sacks with a number of guys.

New defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli wants to bring defensive linemen at quarterbacks in waves the way the Seattle Seahawks did it in 2013. It is a plan that makes sense and it’s how the Cowboys operated in their Super Bowl days of the 1990s.

So far the Cowboys' answer to losing Ware has been Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain, who have agreed to deals, according to sources. They aren’t done shopping by any stretch, but how much better are these guys compared to the likes of Jarius Wynn, Everette Brown, Drake Nevis, Corvey Irvin and the rest of the linemen the Cowboys trotted out there in 2013?

Mincey has 20 sacks in his career. McClain has one.

The Cowboys are hoping these guys turn into George Selvie, whose seven sacks last year were more than Ware. Selvie was a training-camp gift. He developed into a solid player, but can the Cowboys bank on another seven-sack season (or more) from Selvie in 2014?

For all of you asking about Jared Allen or Julius Peppers, look at who the Cowboys have targeted so far. If the price tags on Allen and Peppers come way down, then maybe the Cowboys will have a chance to make a deal. If they don’t, then forget it.

For years people have criticized Jerry Jones’ spending. Now when he shows some restraint, people wonder what the heck he is doing.

Mincey and McClain won’t make anybody forget Ware, or maybe even Anthony Spencer, but they won’t be the end of the Cowboys’ work to rebuild the defensive line either.

Free-agency primer: Cowboys

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
11:00
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer, Brian Waters, Danny McCray, Ernie Sims, Jarius Wynn

Where they stand: After finishing with the worst-ranked defense in the NFL in 2013, the Cowboys need help everywhere, but mostly on the defensive line. The need could be even greater if the Cowboys are unable to come up with a new deal for DeMarcus Ware, who is set to make $12.25 million in 2014 and count $16.003 million against the cap. Coming off an 11-sack season, Hatcher is likely to command more money from another team that will make it unlikely for the Cowboys to match, but they will not close the door on keeping him. Spencer is rehabbing from knee surgery and could be had on a short-term deal that will not involve a lot of money. The rest of their free agents are more fill-in types who will be allowed to test the market if not allowed to leave altogether.

What to expect: Not much. Last year the Cowboys added safety Will Allen and linebacker Justin Durant in free agency on short-term, low-money deals. The approach will be more that way than setting the market on a player as they did in 2012 for cornerback Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million). Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys can be "efficient" spenders in free agency. The Cowboys will have to create space under the cap to sign players to modest deals. The best bet is for them to look for low-cost help on players on the line looking to rebound from down years or injuries. They also could look at safety, though Jerry Jones said at the NFL scouting combine that they liked their young safeties such as J.J. Wilcox. Whatever money the Cowboys do have is more likely to be set aside for Tyron Smith and/or Dez Bryant.

Putting value on Cowboys' free agents

March, 7, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- On Thursday, Bill Polian offered up his do's and don'ts when it came to free agency.

Spencer
Hatcher
Hatcher
Today we bring you the free-agent tracker designed by Polian and fellow ESPN Insiders Gary Horton, Matt Williamson and Field Yates, and the grades assigned to the Dallas Cowboys' unrestricted free agents.

The grades also have a monetary value. An "A" player should get $6 million on average per year with guaranteed money in the first three or more years. A "B" player should get $2-$6 million on average per year with guaranteed money in the first two years or less. A "C" player should get $2 million or less on average per year with guaranteed money in the first two years or less. A "D" player should get a one-year deal at the veteran minimum.

Not surprisingly Jason Hatcher gets the highest grade with an A-minus. In the scouting report, Hatcher is "a good fit for the Tampa 2 defense. He's quick off the ball, explosive and disruptive. Hatcher shows good strength versus the run and solid power as a pass-rusher."

The A-minus grade would put Hatcher in the $4-$6 million annually range. Do the Cowboys have that kind of money to spend?

Anthony Spencer came in with a B grade, which I thought was a little surprising. The scouting reported cited his ability to play in the 3-4 as well and acknowledged his knee injury. I would doubt the Cowboys do more than a one-year deal with Spencer, but that is a big window in the $2-$6 million range.

The only other free agents with grades better than D are defensive end Edgar Jones and linebacker Ernie Sims. Jones could be back at the right price, but there will not be a rush to sign him. Sims would appear to have played in his final game as a Cowboy with the club wanting younger, cheaper depth players.

Ryan Cook, Brian Waters, Danny McCray and Jarius Wynn all carried D grades among the remaining free agents.

2014 Cowboys free agents: Jarius Wynn

February, 28, 2014
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Jarius Wynn
Position: Defensive end
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $715,000

Summary: He was signed on Oct. 15 and played Oct. 20 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He started one game – at defensive tackle – and finished the season with 12 tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and six pressures. He started the year with the San Diego Chargers, making three tackles and a sack in five games.

Why keep him: Depth, depth and more depth. Wynn wasn’t bad as a rotation player and he offered some position flexibility by being able to move inside if needed. While that is not his strong suit, he can get a defense through a game. His six pressures tied for sixth on the defense.

Why let him go: Not to be cavalier about a position that held the Cowboys back in 2013, but they can do better. Perhaps Ben Bass, who missed last season with a shoulder injury, can provide the depth they want from their defensive linemen and have more pass-rush ability. Plus, the Cowboys figure to address the position in the draft as well.

Best guess: He will be allowed to look around and if the Cowboys find themselves in a pinch later in free agency, they can give him a call.

DL is where Cowboys should copy Seattle

February, 4, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- In this copycat league that is the NFL, all of a sudden everybody needs tall and long conerbacks like Seattle’s Richard Sherman. One problem, there aren’t that many of those kinds of guys around.

Plus from a Dallas Cowboys’ perspective, they have already allocated their cornerback resources in Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick. So scratch that possible remodel.

Where the Cowboys can attempt to emulate the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks is with their defensive line.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware has reached double-digit sacks for seven consecutive seasons, but he'll need four sacks in the final three games to keep the streak alive.
AP Photo/James D. SmithFor years, Dallas has relied on DeMarcus Ware to provide a pass rush. Adding depth to the defensive line could be a priority this offseason.
The Seahawks do what Rod Marinelli wants to do with the Cowboys. He just did not have enough quality players, rolling through 20 defensive linemen in 2013 because of injuries and poor play.

Seattle’s defensive line accounted for 33.5 sacks from eight players. The Cowboys defensive line had 28 sacks from six players.

Michael Bennett led the Seahawks with 8.5 sacks. Fellow free-agent pickup, Cliff Avril, was second with eight. Clinton McDonald had 5.5, and Chris Clemons had 4.5

Jason Hatcher led the Cowboys with 11, followed by George Selvie with seven and DeMarcus Ware with six. Kyle Wilber had two sacks from his defensive end spot before he was switched to outside linebacker later in the season. Everette Brown and and Jarius Wynn each had one sack.

The Cowboys want to rotate defensive linemen as much as possible to keep them fresh. That is a great approach when you have players worthy of being in the rotation. In the Super Bowl win against the Denver Broncos, the Seahawks had four linemen take at least 41 of 69 snaps, led by Bennett, who played 47. In the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers, they had four linemen take at least 31 of 55 snaps. In the divisional-round win against the New Orleans Saints, they had five linemen take at least 43 snaps.

That rotation kept opposing quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Colin Kaepernick and Drew Brees under pressure. The pressure could come from the inside or the outside. And it would come with mostly just four rushers, which allowed that back seven to be even more aggressive.

For far too long the Cowboys’ pass rush has been Ware and nobody else. This past season it was Hatcher, and sometimes Selvie and Ware. The Cowboys hope Tyrone Crawford can develop after missing last season with an Achilles injury, but the defensive line needs a ton of help.

For the Cowboys to make a jump in the defensive rankings -- forget being a top-five or 10 unit -- they need a better pass rush. For a better pass rush, they need better players. To get better players in free agency they need to hope the defensive line market is as slow as it was in 2013 when Bennett received a one-year, $5 million deal, and Avril received two years and $15 million from the Seahawks. That could allow Dallas to either keep Hatcher (unlikely), or get lucky with some other prove-it type deals. The easier way to get better players is the draft, but will the right players be available at the right time?

If the Cowboys get a better pass rush, their secondary will look a lot better.

Cowboys snap counts: defense

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
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IRVING, Texas -- No team in the NFL needed more players on defense than the Dallas Cowboys in 2013.

They had 41 defenders with cornerback Brandon Carr playing the most (1,116 snaps) and Dez Bryant playing the least (three). The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints had the second most with 32 players on defense.

In training camp, the Cowboys’ projected defensive line was Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher, Jeremiah Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware. Hatcher played the most snaps (747) but that was only 66 percent of the snaps. Ware missed three games and played 628 snaps (55 percent). Spencer played 34 snaps in one game before his season ended. Ratliff, of course, played none before his release.

Nick Hayden played the most snaps on the defensive line (821). George Selvie did not join the team until training camp began and played 744 snaps.

With Hatcher and Spencer set to be free agents and Ware coming off a career-low six sacks, the Cowboys need to refurbish their defensive line in a way where Hayden and Selvie are not playing as much.

The Cowboys used 20 defensive linemen during the season, although Kyle Wilber moved to linebacker late in the season and played 501 snaps.

It might not have seemed this way, but Jeff Heath played only 79 more snaps than J.J. Wilcox.

Defensive snaps:

1,116 – Brandon Carr
1,088 – Orlando Scandrick
1,015 – Barry Church
874 – Bruce Carter
821 - Nick Hayden
747 – Jason Hatcher
744 – George Selvie
702 – Sean Lee
628 - DeMarcus Ware
594 - Jeff Heath
515 - J.J. Wilcox
506 – Morris Claiborne
501 – Kyle Wilber
380 – Ernie Sims
275 – Jarius Wynn
254 - Drake Nevis
207 – DeVonte Holloman
197 – Justin Durant
178 – B.W. Webb
163 – Will Allen
153 – Everette Brown
144 – Caesar Rayford
117 – Corvey Irvin
81 – Sterling Moore
72 - Edgar Jones
63 – Cameron Lawrence
49 – David Carter
46 – Jason Vega
45 – Jerome Long
38 – Landon Cohen
34 – Anthony Spencer
34 – Frank Kearse
24 – Kyle Bosworth
22 – Micah Pellerin
20 – Everett Dawkins
20 – Martez Wilson
16 – Jakar Hamilton
15 – Marvin Austin
8 – Danny McCray
6 – Orie Lemon
3 – Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys penalty breakdown

January, 1, 2014
Jan 1
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys had 102 accepted penalties in 2013, which were the fewest they have had in the Jason Garrett Era, but the 867 yards were the most.

In 2011 the Cowboys were flagged 112 times for 802 yards. In 2012, they had 118 penalties for 853 yards.

In Sunday’s NFC East title game vs. the Philadelphia Eagles, they were penalized once for 5 yards and it never should have been a penalty. The officials did not restart the playclock and the Cowboys were called for a delay of game.

Here’s the breakdown (includes declined, offsetting penalties):

Offensive holding - 24
False start – 17
Defensive holding – 12
Offside – 9
Defensive pass interference – 8
Neutral zone infraction – 7
Unnecessary roughness – 6
Offensive pass interference – 6
Illegal use of hands – 5
Face mask – 4
Illegal block above the waist – 4
Delay of game – 4
Roughing the passer – 3
Unsportsmanlike conduct – 3
Intentional grounding – 1
12-men on the field – 1
Encroachment – 1
Horse-collar tackle – 1
Illegal contact – 1
Offside, free kick – 1
Illegal formation – 1
Illegal shift – 1
Personal foul – 1

Player by player:

8 – Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, Ronald Leary, Doug Free

7 – Tyron Smith

6 – Morris Claiborne, George Selvie

5 – Dez Bryant, Barry Church

4 – Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Kyle Wilber

3 – Cameron Lawrence, Travis Frederick, Jarius Wynn, Bruce Carter, DeMarcus Ware

2 – Ernie Sims, Jason Hatcher, J.J. Wilcox, James Hanna, Dwayne Harris, Jason Vega, DeMarco Murray, Nick Hayden

1 – Sean Lee, Miles Austin, Will Allen, Mackenzy Bernadeau, L.P. Ladouceur, Jermey Parnell, Brian Waters, Terrance Williams, Kyle Bosworth, B.W. Webb, Cole Beasley, Lance Dunbar, Kyle Orton, Caesar Rayford

Five Wonders: Quick decision on staff?

December, 31, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- For the next six or seven months the Dallas Cowboys will be wondering about the plays that could have made the difference in finishing 8-8 for the third straight year or making the playoffs.

We're just wondering about five things in the end-of-season installment of Five Wonders:

Away we go:
  • I wonder if the Cowboys make quick decisions in regards to their coaching staff. The decision to fire Rob Ryan last year came 11 days after the season ended. With six teams looking for head coaches, the Cowboys would be wise to make any moves sooner rather than later. A lot of times the search for assistant coaches becomes a game of musical chairs. They often just switch golf shirts and gym shorts. You don't want to be the last team looking for assistant coaches with the top choices already scooped up. And as a mini-wonder inside a wonder, I wonder if Jason Garrett's future could make it hard for the most sought after assistants to say yes. Would they be willing to come to Dallas with a head coach that will be on the hot seat and possibly in the final year of his deal or go to a more stable job -- and one with less stature -- than the Cowboys?
  • I wonder if Jason Witten will end up with the same cruel fate as Tony Gonzalez. Witten will enter his 12th season with the Cowboys in 2014 and he is already the franchise leader in catches. He is second to Michael Irvin in receiving yards. Gonzalez is the only tight end in NFL history with more catches than Witten. By next season only Gonzalez will have more receiving yards as a tight end than Witten. Shannon Sharpe had 10,060 in his Hall of Fame career. Witten will enter 2014 with 9,799 yards. For all that Gonzalez accomplished he won only one playoff game in his career. That came last year with the Atlanta Falcons. He returned to the Falcons this year thinking he could go out on a Super Bowl run and they finished 4-12. For all that Witten has done, the Cowboys have won one playoff game. It has to be maddening for the eight-time Pro Bowler.
  • I wonder if the Cowboys wanted Tony Romo to have his back surgery sooner rather than later to make sure he is involved in the offseason program. Romo could not take part in the conditioning last year because of a procedure to remove a cyst from his back. If you remember, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Romo was “uniquely running mountains” in California the weeks before training camp to help his conditioning. It was among my favorite quotes of the season. He checked in at 236 pounds, the most he has ever weighed since joining the Cowboys. In 2012, Romo was listed at 230 pounds. In 2011, he was 227. The generally feeling is that Romo will need three months to recover from the back surgery. By having him ready for the conditioning program the Cowboys will be able to monitor Romo much better this spring and make sure he is in better shape when camp starts.
  • I wonder how much of an effect the new contract Robbie Gould signed with the Chicago Bears will impact any discussions the Cowboys have with their kicker, Dan Bailey. Gould signed a four-year deal with the Bears worth up to $15 million and included $9 million guaranteed. Bailey is set to be a restricted free agent. The Cowboys would likely place the second-round tender on him, which will be a little more than $2.1 million. The first-round tender would be close to $3 million. Gould is 31 and has a Pro Bowl to his credit. He has made 86 percent of his kicks in his career. Bailey turns 26 next month and had a Pro Bowl-type season though was not picked. He has made 90.8 percent of his kicks in his first three seasons and has missed two kicks in each of the past two seasons. He has been clutch. He has improved on kickoffs. Jason Garrett said Bailey might be the best at his job than any player the Cowboys have. The Cowboys bought out the free agent year of safety Barry Church last year with an extension and should do that with Bailey.
  • At the midway point of the season the Cowboys really had no idea what to do with Kyle Wilber. Injury forced them to play him at strong-side linebacker and I wonder if they found what could be a long-term answer at the position. In training camp and early in the season he had a number of chances to lay claim to extra playing time with all of the injuries on the defensive line but he was passed by George Selvie, Jarius Wynn and Everette Brown. Once he moved to linebacker, he performed well. He took the job with six games to go and could force Justin Durant out. If the Cowboys make a move on Durant it would save them $1.25 million in salary cap space in 2014. Wilber is set to make $570,000 next season. In a 4-3 scheme, the strong-side backer might be the least important position because of how much nickel defense is used. The nickel corner will play more snaps in a season than a strong-side linebacker with the way the game is played. Wilber performed well, was a good tackler, appeared to fit in well at the spot and was tough. Sometimes in personnel it's better to be lucky than good.

A look at the Cowboys' free agents

December, 30, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- With the Dallas Cowboys' season over, here is a list of their exclusive rights, restricted and unrestricted free agents heading into 2014.

Exclusive rights (1)
Chris Jones

Restricted free agents (2)
Dan Bailey
Phillip Tanner

Unrestricted free agents (9)
Ryan Cook
Jason Hatcher
Edgar Jones
Jon Kitna
Danny McCray
Ernie Sims
Anthony Spencer
Brian Waters
Jarius Wynn

Pondering the 46: Down to the corners

December, 28, 2013
12/28/13
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have yet to place Tony Romo on injured reserve. They really don't have the need to make the formal move just yet, so as we Ponder the 46, Romo will be one of the inactives.

Sean Lee is out with a neck strain. Ernie Sims is doubtful but he has not practiced the last two weeks because of a groin injury. Darrion Weems and Jakar Hamilton will also be inactive. Martez Wilson has been inactive the last two games, so he is likely to be down for his third straight game.

That leaves one spot and with Morris Claiborne coming back from a hamstring injury, rookie cornerback B.W. Webb is in the crosshairs.

Webb has been active for every game, but he lost his playing time to Sterling Moore the last few games. Maybe the Cowboys cover themselves by bringing a fifth cornerback to the game in case Claiborne aggravates his hamstring again, but they have had only four active for the season.

Perhaps they could go lighter on the defensive line, but with LeSean McCoy running and DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Jarius Wynn and George Selvie all nicked to some degree, that doesn't seem to be the wise choice.

So the inactives will be: Romo, Lee, Sims, Weems, Hamilton, Wilson and Webb.

Brandon Carr listed as probable

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
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IRVING, Texas -- Despite missing the past two days of practice because of illness, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr said he expects to play in Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins.

Carr
"I'm not going to miss a game with this," said Carr, who was listed as probable on the Cowboys' injury report released Friday.

Coach Jason Garrett said no other player was sick like Carr and that several non-football personnel were asked to go home with the flu. It should be noted starting running back DeMarco Murray had the sniffles while talking to reporters on Thursday.

In some good news for the linebacker position that's been hit by injuries, Bruce Carter (hamstring) was listed as probable and should start against the Washington Redskins.

Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (stinger) and defensive ends George Selvie (back) and DeMarcus Ware are listed as probable. Ware and Hatcher were full participants in Friday's practice while Selvie was limited.

Cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring) and linebacker Ernie Sims (groin) are listed as doubtful. Claiborne ruled himself out for the Washington game earlier this week while Sims, who hasn't practiced all week, said he did some running on Friday. Sims said he will make the trip to Washington and hopes to warmup in pregame to test his groin area.

Wide receiver Terrance Williams (hamstring) and defensive end Jarius Wynn (chest) were limited in practice and are questionable for the game.

As expected, linebacker Sean Lee (neck) and wide receiver Dwayne Harris (hamstring) have been ruled out. Harris did some more running on Friday and said he expects to play in the regular-season finale against Philadelphia. Lee said his neck is feeling much better.

Bruce Carter says he's ready for Sunday

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
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IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter declared himself ready to play Sunday against the Washington Redskins after taking part in a limited portion of Wednesday’s practice.

Carter
Carter
“I’ll be fine,” said Carter, who did not play last week against the Green Bay Packers because of a hamstring issue. “Really got to run a lot, explode a little bit, come out of some cuts and whatnot, so everything felt good.”

The Cowboys need Carter more than ever before. With Sean Lee expected to miss his second straight game with a neck injury, Ernie Sims battling a groin injury and Justin Durant on injured reserve, Carter will be the most experienced linebacker.

“My job is to try to lead the defense to a victory and just play as good as we can, when things get out of hand try to get everybody to calm down and just try to get back to our game plan and play sound,” Carter said. “I’m up for the challenge. I know what’s ahead of me and we just got to go out there and execute.”

Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (stinger) and defensive end Jarius Wynn (chest) were also limited in practice.

Defensive ends DeMarcus Ware and George Selvie did not practice because of sore backs. Sims and Lee did not practice, and neither did cornerback Morris Claiborne and wide receivers Terrance Williams and Dwayne Harris, who have hamstring injuries.

Cowboys need more from Ware, Hatcher

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
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IRVING, Texas -- Of the nine defensive linemen on the Dallas Cowboys roster, only three were with the team when training camp began and Nick Hayden was far from a lock to make the cut.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys defense stands a better chance with DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher on the field at the same time.
DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher are the two mainstays left and both have been banged up. Ware missed three games with a quadriceps injury. Hatcher missed one with a stinger that has been problematic for two months.

If the defense is to have a chance to succeed, the Cowboys need Ware and Hatcher. But here's a question: Why are they not in the game more?

Jason Garrett said the Cowboys, "believe in the rotational system that Rod [Marinelli] uses."

It's fine to rotate players. You want players to remain fresh through the course of a game. But do they need to come off the field together?

Of the 69 defensive snaps in Sunday's loss to the Green Bay Packers, Ware and Hatcher were on the field together for 44 of them. There were 13 snaps where one or the other was on the field. There were 12 snaps in which neither was on the field, including goal-line snaps in the fourth quarter before Andrew Quarless' touchdown. Hatcher was not on the field for James Jones' 3-yard touchdown catch and Eddie Lacy's game-winning score.

At different times the Cowboys' defensive line featured Everette Brown, Drake Nevis, Corey Irvin and George Selvie. At one point they had Ware and Edgar Jones at defensive end with Jarius Wynn and Irvin at tackle.

"It's real important to keep that group fresh up front," Garrett said. "If you're looking for guys to put pressure on the quarterback, being fresh is a big part of that. The best defenses line I've been around rotated guys. So we'll continue to do that. It's not exclusive. They don't always come out together. They don't always play together. But occasionally they do, sometimes they're on the sideline together and you have to battle through that. The other guys have an opportunity to step up and make an impact on the game. George Selvie did a fantastic job in yesterday's game. He made a lot of plays, tackle for losses, sacks and impacted the game in a positive way. Everett Brown did as well. We have to get that across the board."

But there is a time and place for everything. In the most crucial snaps -- like on the goal line -- Ware and Hatcher must be on the field.

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