Dallas Cowboys: Martin Rucker

Martin Rucker signs with Jaguars

October, 18, 2011
10/18/11
9:09
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IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys have lost practice squad tight end Martin Rucker to Jacksonville.

Rucker joined the Jaguars’ 53-man roster on Tuesday after spending the last five weeks on the Cowboys’ practice squad. Rucker was on the active roster for the season opener with Martellus Bennett bothered by an ankle injury. He was waived Sept. 13 and re-signed the next day.

With Jason Witten, Bennett and John Phillips ahead of him on the depth chart Rucker has a better opportunity with the Jaguars. Rucker was active for five games last season with one start but did not have a catch.

Jacksonville was looking for a replacement for Zach Miller, who was placed on injured reserve.

The Cowboys could fill Rucker’s spot on the practice squad with wide receiver Dwayne Harris, who was cut Tuesday, provided he clears waivers.

5 Wonders: roster moves, Romo, Newman, Ware

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
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IRVING, Texas -- The weekly installment of Five Wonders is here, so maybe that shortness of breath you feel isn’t because of a punctured lung.

** With the way the Cowboys operated in training camp and at the end of last season, you knew Jason Garrett would make sure there is not a lot of comfort on the roster. So far the Cowboys have made five roster moves involving seven players: Montrae Holland, Derrick Dockery, Sam Young, Laurent Robinson, Tony Fiammetta, Frank Walker and Martin Rucker. Last year the Cowboys made seven moves on the 53-man roster that did not involve placing a player on injured reserve. Don’t be surprised if Robinson, the wide receiver, returns today. The question is for whom?

PODCAST
Warren Sapp reveals if defenses attack a wounded player's weakness and his thoughts on DeMarcus Ware as a leader of the Cowboys.

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** Yes, Jason Witten is Tony Romo’s favorite target. Why wouldn’t he be? But one of Romo’s strengths is his ability to go to any pass catcher at any time. Romo completed 12-of-15 passes for 201 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime vs. San Francisco on Sunday. Seven different guys caught a pass: Tashard Choice, Kevin Ogletree, Miles Austin, John Phillips, Witten, Jesse Holley and DeMarco Murray. Having diversity in a passing attack makes it difficult on a defense.

** I’m not wondering this anymore, but I did wonder if Stephen McGee would be active at all this season given the changes to the gameday roster rules this year. Now that Romo has a fractured rib and punctured lung, McGee has to be active but once those issues resolve I get the feeling Garrett will keep only Romo and Jon Kitna on the 46-man roster. Carrying a third quarterback is a luxury, especially with so many issues at other positions.

** With four sacks in two games DeMarcus Ware is on pace to have an NFL-record 32 this season. Wow, what a difference Rob Ryan is making on an All-Pro linebacker that has already led the league in sacks twice in the last three seasons. I kid, I kid. But I’m wondering if Ware does not have his third straight two-sack game when he sees Washington’s Rex Grossman on Monday. Ware has sacked only Eli Manning (9) and Donovan McNabb (6.5) more than he has sacked Grossman (4). And that total has come in only two games vs. Grossman. He had two sacks of Grossman on Sept. 23, 2007 vs. Chicago and two sacks of Grossman last December vs. the Redskins.

** Terence Newman says he is playing against the Redskins. The Cowboys believe he is playing against the Redskins. We’ll see if he is practicing Thursday, but I believe Newman is playing against the Redskins, too. Now, can he repeat the performance he had Nov. 16, 2008 vs. the Redskins? Let’s roll back the clock for a moment. On Sept. 28, 2008, Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss had eight catches for 145 yards vs. Dallas and shortly after Newman had sports hernia surgery. He returned after a five-game absence for the rematch and limited Moss to five catches for 29 yards, following him all over the field. Moss, a Cowboy killer, has 11 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown on the season to lead Washington wide receivers. I’m wondering if the Cowboys put Newman on him again.

Martin Rucker added to practice squad

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
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IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys re-signed tight end Martin Rucker to the practice squad.

Rucker was cut to make room for cornerback Frank Walker on Tuesday after playing in Sunday’s season opener vs. the New York Jets. Rucker spent most of last year on the practice squad before getting called up in December and playing in five games with one start.

The Cowboys could have to make another practice squad move. Wide receiver Teddy Williams had an MRI on his ankle after suffering an injury in Wednesday’s practice. Williams is on crutches.

Cowboys release Martin Rucker

September, 13, 2011
9/13/11
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IRVING, Texas -- To make room for cornerback Frank Walker, the Cowboys released tight end Martin Rucker.

Rucker’s departure likely means Martellus Bennett will be back in action after missing the season opener at the New York Jets with an ankle injury. Rucker saw only a handful of snaps on offense and played on special teams against the Jets.


The Cowboys also released linebacker Isaiah Greenhouse from the practice squad, leaving a spot open for Rucker to return if he clears waivers.

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Jets review

September, 13, 2011
9/13/11
10:12
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My thoughts from the Cowboys’ loss to the Jets:

Scout's Eye

Defense


Coordinator Rob Ryan had his defense ready to play, and he did an outstanding job of mixing his coverages and fronts. When Ryan took this job, the one thing he told us that he was going to find ways to put his players in positions to make plays. He did just that against the Jets.

Ryan used slot and linebacker blitzes. He used three-man lines. He played safeties on the outside in coverage. He brought pressure from the edge and used “gut” blitzes to put pressure in Mark Sanchez’s face.

It was the first time where it appeared that the timing and the execution of the blitzes were in sync, whereas in the pre season, the linebackers looked confused when to rush and from what angle they were to attack.

Ryan did a great job of attacking the Jets’ pocket. He never allowed Jets QB Mark Sanchez to feel comfortable with his reads or getting rid of the ball. There were no easy throws for Sanchez to make.

The communication in the secondary was outstanding as well. There was only one time where it appeared that there were some problems. Gerald Sensabaugh was trying to get Bryan McCann to move from his corner spot to the free safety at pre-snap, but in the direction, Sensabaugh lost track of Santonio Holmes in coverage and Sanchez was able to hit him on the move for a big play.

The Jets are not a pass-heavy team but for some reason their offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer felt that he needed to try to allow Sanchez to make plays with the ball in his hand. To Ryan’s credit, he was able to still function as a defense with a banged-up secondary and the level of play did not drop off that badly.

It appeared that Ryan and his staff made the most head way from the preseason in how the front seven played in the running game. There were too many times against the Broncos, Chargers or Vikings where there was a struggle to get off blocks and make plays in the running game. In this two-gap scheme, it is about playing with your hands and shedding blockers.

The Jets have run the ball well in the past, but in studying them, I really wasn’t that impressed with how they did it scheme wise. I was expecting an offensive line that came off the ball and really hammered you. That was not the case at all in this game. The front seven for the Cowboys did an outstanding job of playing on the Jets side of the line.
Jason Hatcher, Marcus Spears, Kenyon Coleman, Josh Brent and Jay Ratliff didn’t struggle to get off blocks.

Sean Lee has always been mobile and at times even too aggressive, but he was able to read quickly and move to fill the gaps. Lee looked like a different player than what I saw in the preseason. He played with confidence, awareness and with a physical tempo.

The key for Lee going forward is to build on this type of game like he had against the Jets. He can’t have a great game one week then miss tackles or play out of position the next. We have seen this before with Lee in that he appeared to turn the corner against the Colts last season only to struggle in other games.

Has the fact that he has been named the starter helped him relax and focus on the job ahead, making him think less and just go out and play? Against the Jets, Lee looked like a player that just cut it loose and the result was one of the best games of his young career.

Offense


There were plenty of questions how the Cowboys’ offensive line would hold up against this Jets defense on the road. I knew it was going to be difficult for them to run the ball because the Jets have a physical group inside at nose and three-technique tackle.

I thought the Cowboys would have some success if they were able to get the ball to the outside and to the edge. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas were outside linebackers that I thought might give up the edge against the run. Thomas was much better in the game against Jason Witten and John Phillips which hurt the Cowboys in the running game.

The Cowboys had success in the pre season running the ball in this scheme by securing the down guys then working linemen to the second level and handling the linebackers, giving Felix Jones the ability to press the hole then makes cuts from there.

Against the Jets, linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott were able to make plays at the point because they went unblocked. Harris and Scott were able to make plays running through because of the way that their defensive line was able to tie up blockers.

When the Cowboys tried to stretch, they had problems handling Mike DeVito, Sione Pouha, Muhammad Wilkerson and Ropati Pitoitua. These Jets defensive linemen are powerful players and to be honest, the Cowboys do not have power players.

The offensive lineman that struggled the worst for the Cowboys was Bill Nagy. I didn’t see a mental struggle for Nagy but more of a physical one, mainly in the running game. Nagy just doesn’t have the power to move his man off the spot. He can run with his man and work the edges, but to move his man will be a struggle for him. In pass protection, Nagy was able to work in front of his man, but there were times where he was rocked back. Remember that the guards are responsible for the depth of the pocket, so Nagy needs to be careful in how he sets and not getting pushed back into Tony Romo’s lap.

Special Teams


There are many that point to Romo’s fumble as the real turning point of the game, but the Cowboys were able to get the ball back the very next series without giving up any points to the Jets. I understand that Romo’s fumble did cost the Cowboys an opportunity to make it a two-score game, but to me, the blocked punt was the real turning point of this game because it allowed the Jets to get points without running an offensive play.

The Cowboys’ defense had been outstanding to that point and there was little doubt in my mind that if the Jets were going to have to drive the football on the Cowboys and score a touchdown, it was going to be difficult for them. The blocked punt gave them life and it was a horrible mistake by the Cowboys special teams.

Let me try to break down what happened on the play. It was fourth-and-22 on the Cowboys 40. With the team on their own side of the 50, it was a green light for Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff to go for the block. If the ball was on the other side of the 50, then he would have most likely opted for the return.

The Jets were in an alignment that the Cowboys had seen in the previous punt and were able to block with some success, so it wasn’t like Westhoff came up with something that the Cowboys had not seen. The Cowboys were in their protect right scheme with five blockers to the right of deep snapper L.P. Ladouceur. The Jets had six rushers to the Cowboys’ right side. On the back side of the protection, Victor Butler and Martin Rucker were left to handle the two Jets rushers to that side.

In this look, Ladouceur, Phillips and Jesse Holley were responsible for the three inside guys and Barry Church, Sean Lee and Alex Albright had the outside guys. At the snap, Church, Lee and Albright all worked to their right. Holley worked to his right as well, which left no one in the middle of the formation. Phillips took a step to his left to try to help Ladouceur. Again Albright was already moving right, thus creating a hole inside and a free run at Mat McBriar and the block.

This whole block is confusing because the Cowboys punt team had blocked the look correctly before, but this time a mental lapse at a key point in time of the game cost them six points.

Stock Report: Sean Lee up; Tony Romo down

September, 12, 2011
9/12/11
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The Cowboys opened the 2011 season with a distasteful 27-24 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday night. The final 15 minutes was terrible for the Cowboys as they allowed 17 points. We review the game with our first Stock Report of the season, which tells you who played well and who didn't.

Streaking
STOCK UP

Sean Lee. The second-year inside linebacker got the start over Keith Brooking and played well. He finished with 11 tackles, one interception and a pass breakup. The move didn't come as a surprise and Brooking was professional with his benching, saying everybody is going to get their share of the snaps. Lee deserved them Sunday night because he was aggressive in the run game something the Cowboys need.

DeMarcus Ware. He set the tone with two sacks and three quarterback hurries against Mark Sanchez. Now Ware was shutout in the second half, but still did his part to give the Cowboys a chance at the upset. Ware saw single coverage most of the evening but Sanchez made quicker throws to get himself out of trouble.

Mike Jenkins. He was playing with a hyperextended knee and recovering from a stinger, then he suffers a shoulder injury when Plaxico Burress hit him from the blind side. Jenkins was down for several minutes and instead of walking to the sidelines, walked to the locker room. He later returned in the fourth quarter and made a tackle on Burress. Jenkins had one pass breakup and three tackles on the night.

Slumping
STOCK DOWN

Tony Romo. The quarterback fumbled the ball at the Jets 1 and committed another turnover when he underthrew a pass to Dez Bryant, while on the move. The pick setup the go-ahead field goal. We thought Romo was done with these mistakes, and maybe he is, but Sunday night in the fourth quarter, he didn't play like an elite quarterback. He did throw for 342 yards, but his team gets a loss.

Special teams. With the game slipping away from them, Alex Albright and John Phillips allowed Joe McKnight to slip through the middle of the line to block a Mat McBriar punt that was recovered by Isaiah Trufant and returned 18 yards for a game-tying touchdown. Martin Rucker messed up a downed punt at the Jets 1, after Bryan McCann did it before falling out of bounds. Rucker should have left the ball alone but didn't and when his foot slipped into the end zone, it forcing a touchback.

Running game. Felix Jones averaged just 2.6 yards per carry, and Tashard Choice, on three carries got four yards. DeMarco Murray picked up zero yards on two carries. Yes, the offensive line had two rookies, both of whom were nicked up with knee injuries, and a center making his second career start, but the run game has to do better than 64 yards on 26 carries.
IRVING, Texas -- Just because the Cowboys set their 53-man roster on Saturday does not mean this will be the roster they take to the Meadowlands on Sept. 11 to play the New York Jets.

There could be a number of changes, but for now we’ll look at the current makeup of the roster and offer up some thoughts.

Biggest surprise

I can’t count the two-kicker magic as a surprise because we’ve talked about it for some time, but I don’t know of anybody who had tight end Martin Rucker making the team. I’m sure the spot came down to Rucker and Jason Pociask. I gave the edge to Pociask because he can play fullback. Rucker’s blocking improved but he does not offer the same flexibility of a John Phillips. This could mean Martellus Bennett will not be ready for the opener because of an ankle injury.

Biggest surprise, runner-ups

Clifton Geathers has all of the measurables you want in a 3-4 defensive end, but will it ever translate to production? I’m not so sure. Seven defensive linemen on the roster seems a little rich. OT Jermey Parnell played well enough to earn a spot, but I don’t think the Cowboys are done maneuvering on their offensive line.

Four undrafted rookies made it

You have to take in the “right now” aspect of the roster, but Dan Bailey will be the kicker, Alex Albright outplayed Brandon Williams for a backup outside linebacker spot and running back Phillip Tanner just took a roster spot with his play. Center Kevin Kowalski is probably helped by Phil Costa’s knee injury, although he did pretty well vs. Minnesota and Miami.

Two draft picks didn’t

Josh Thomas, a fifth-round pick, was done in because of a hamstring injury that prevented him from playing against the Dolphins. He’ll probably be on the practice squad. Shaun Chapas, a seventh rounder, was hurt by Bennett’s injury. He seemed to play better in the games than in practice. I can see him getting a call up to the roster soon if he makes it to the practice squad.

A little light

This was part of my last projection, so I can’t call it a surprise, but taking only three inside linebackers to the 53-man roster is a little light. Bradie James was slowed last week by an ankle injury. Keith Brooking missed most of camp with a hamstring injury. Sean Lee was banged up a lot last year as a rookie but hasn’t missed any time this year. Kenwin Cummings had a chance to win a spot but could not nail it down. Orie Lemon could be back on the practice squad.

Stephen McGee tries to "swing the bat"

September, 1, 2011
9/01/11
10:25
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MIAMI -- Quarterback Stephen McGee completed 21-of-25 passes for 233 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in the Cowboys' 17-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night.

McGee, who was sacked twice, forced a throw to Martin Rucker in the end zone on the first possession of the game and was intercepted.

"I should have just put more velocity on it," McGee said. "In that situation, I got a little greedy and floated it in there. It was a poor throw and I think even a worse decision. In that situation early in game, on the 2-yard line, I was taking points off the board. That's disappointing for me. I feel like I'm a lot better decision maker than that."

McGee finished the preseason 52-for-81 for 610 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Making his first start of the preseason, McGee seemed to settle down after a rough first possession. He was helped by a 48-yard screen pass to DeMarco Murray on the first play of the game and he also connected on some good throws to Manuel Johnson, Raymond Radway and Martin Rucker.

"I felt like I had a really productive preseason practice-wise and in the games," McGee said. "I just tried to, as Coach [Jason] Garrett says, go up there and swing the bat, take a shot and try to get the guys in and out of the huddle. I think the big thing for me this season, being the oldest guy in the huddle most of the time, was getting guys lined up right and executing ball plays."

Cowboys handle late-game situation

August, 28, 2011
8/28/11
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IRVING, Texas -- Throughout training camp, coach Jason Garrett has put his players through a myriad of different situations, especially ones at the end of a game.

So far, two of the Cowboys’ three preseason games have come down to the final possession. Stephen McGee hit Dwayne Harris for a 13-yard TD pass with 15 seconds to play and Martin Rucker with the game-winning two-point conversion against Denver.

On Saturday, the defense stopped Minnesota on a possible game-winning drive by keeping tight end Allen Reisner from getting to the sideline to stop the clock after s 19-yard catch.

“I thought we handled the situational football at the end of the game very well,” Jason Garrett said. “That play at the end of the game was a good example of they catch the ball in bounds [and] we tackle them, clock runs out. Understanding the situation and handling it the right way.”

Martellus Benett suffers ankle injury

August, 27, 2011
8/27/11
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Martellus Bennett’s evening is over because of a right ankle injury.

Bennett suffered the injury with 2:55 left in the third quarter and needed help to get to the sideline. He was taken by cart for X-rays.

If the injury is serious, John Phillips would move to the backup role behind Jason Witten. Martin Rucker is the only other tight end on the roster, however, fullback Jason Pociask is a tight end by trade. The Cowboys could look for tight end help once teams begin to cut players.

There was a feeling the Cowboys could carry four tight ends on the 53-man roster and not have a true fullback. Bennett’s injury could tinker with those plans.

Todd Archer's practice observations

August, 15, 2011
8/15/11
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** With Jon Kitna resting because of a back strain, Stephen McGee took the reps with the No. 2 offense and Tom Brandstater was able to get more work than he has received since joining the team. In on-air drills, McGee missed back-to-back throws down the field to Jesse Holley and Raymond Radway.

** WR Kevin Ogletree and CB Josh Thomas got into a little scuffle during the “blue” practice that features the younger players. There have not been many fights among players in camp.

** The situation of the day was fourth-and-short with the offense attempting to draw the defense offside. It worked for the first-team offense when Tony Romo was able to get NT Jay Ratliff to bite. The defense held strong on its next two tries, and if it hadn’t then the coaches might have been apoplectic.

** DE Kenyon Coleman blew up the first run of team period by pushing rookie RT Tyron Smith into the path of RB Felix Jones. Later, Coleman put rookie G David Arikin on his back, leading to a Chris Randle interception of McGee. This was Coleman’s first day working with the No. 1 defense.

** For the second time in camp, WR Dez Bryant was unable to pull off a double reverse to WR Miles Austin. Bryant’s flip was too fast to handle and led to a fumble. It might be time to switch the roles of Austin and Bryant on that play.

** Romo completed 10-of-20 passes during team drills. His best throw came on a deep out to Bryant, who made an incredible grab over Orlando Scandrick near the sideline. It even had S Gerald Sensabaugh praising Bryant.

** On the next play, Scandrick made a perfect read of a throw to Ogletree, who turned into a defensive back on the play and broke up the sure pick. Scandrick thought he was held.

** Romo was short on throws just over defenders shoulders to Jones and Austin. Jones would have run away from the linebacker with the middle of the field open and Austin would have had a touchdown.

** Dan Bailey has missed four of his last five kicks. He closed the two-minute drive led by the first-team offense by pushing a 45-yarder wide to the right. The second-team offense worked on closing out a game with runs, highlighted by three carries apiece by Lonyae Miller and Phillip Tanner before Mat McBriar had to punt.

** S Barry Church had another productive day. He hung on Jason Witten’s hip to force an incompletion, blew up a bubble screen to WR Lyle Leong and would have had a big hit on TE Martin Rucker.

Holland, no FB, Forbath, Costa, Sendejo

August, 15, 2011
8/15/11
10:09
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- As training camp rolls on, here are five things that have me wondering:

** While everybody waits for Montrae Holland to return from a sore lower back and wonders about the veteran’s future on the offensive line, it must be pointed out that Holland received a $500,000 roster bonus on the second day of the league year. That’s a lot of money to pay a guy if you are seriously considering cutting him. I’m not saying it won’t happen, but it is just something to consider.

** The fullback competition between Chris Gronkowski, Shaun Chapas and even Jason Pociask will take some time to settle in camp, but is it possible the Cowboys go without a true fullback when composing the 53-man roster? John Phillips’ return to the field makes that more of a possibility and Jason Garrett spoke glowingly about Martin Rucker’s progress the other day.

** When it comes to the offensive line coaches always say you play the best five players and figure out the best positions when you can. If that’s the case, then Phil Costa has been among the best five and should play. The question is where. He is a center by trade but the Cowboys have Andre Gurode. Do you move Costa to guard or do you wonder about putting Gurode at guard? Gurode struggled at guard earlier in his career and has been to the Pro Bowl five times as a center but it’s something to think about.

** I have no idea if Kai Forbath actually exists or not because he has yet to kick in training camp because of a quadriceps injury. With the way the kicking battle is going between David Buehler and Dan Bailey, I wonder if Forbath has a chance to win the gig with one good week of practice. Buehler was credited with a 42-yard field goal against Denver but did it look good to you on replay? Bailey missed three kicks Sunday and has a low trajectory on his kicks.

** Safety Andrew Sendejo has moved up to the first-team dime package, which could be a sign he is earning some trust from the coaches. With Danny McCray out with a shoulder injury for a little bit Sendejo will get a chance to win a roster spot. Several players said he opened eyes during the player-run practices in May.

Dwayne Harris dazzles in preseason debut

August, 12, 2011
8/12/11
12:04
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The media horde made its way to the row of lockers around the corner from the Cowboys’ spacious locker room, where the rookies dressed for preseason games.

Sixth-round receiver Dwayne Harris drew a big crowd. That tends to happen when a guy catches all five passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns, including one that set up the winning two-point conversion, the first night he gets to wear a star on his helmet.

[+] EnlargeDwayne Harris
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezCowboys rookie Dwayne Harris caught five balls for 127 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason opener.
“Big-time players make big-time catches in big-time situations,” Harris said. “That’s what happened.”

OK, so it was just a preseason opener. The stakes weren’t quite as high as the last NFL game played in this $1.2 billion football palace, but it’s still a big-time situation for a kid trying to carve out a role on the Cowboys.

Harris caught all five passes thrown his way, but his performance wasn’t flawless. After a route early in the game, coach Jason Garrett pointed out to Harris that he’d have had room to run if he didn’t go around the defensive back. Garrett got a chance to offer positive reinforcement after Harris turned a 5-yard hook into a 76-yard touchdown with 12:36 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“See,” Garrett told Harris on the sideline, “you kept on running.”

On that play, Harris recognized a blitz was coming and ran a hot route. One block from tight end Martin Rucker -- and a bust by the Denver defense -- was all Harris needed to get to the end zone.

“I turned around expecting a hit and nobody was there,” said Harris, who excelled at working the middle of the field as Conference USA’s MVP at East Carolina. “I just saw green grass and the first thing that came to my mind was, don’t get caught from behind. Just keep running.”

Quarterback Stephen McGee, who threw both of the touchdowns to Harris, corrected the sixth-rounder’s route after McGee was sacked with 21 seconds remaining. Harris responded by getting open on a bend route in the middle of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown on fourth down the next play.

“He’s had a lot on his plate with no OTAs and an offense to learn,” said McGee, who completed 14 of 24 passes for 208 yards and three scores. “A lot of young guys’ heads are spinning. He stepped up and made plays. I was proud of him.”

Harris knows special teams could be his ticket to the active roster as a rookie, but he hopes his preseason debut was a sign of big-time things to come.

Jason Garrett: It was nice to win

August, 11, 2011
8/11/11
11:56
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Jason Garrett won his first game as an interim coach last year and now he's won his first game as the full-time head coach in the preseason.

The Cowboys rallied to beat Denver, 24-23, on Thursday night at Cowboys Stadium, winning on a two-point conversion play from Stephen McGee to Martin Rucker with 15 seconds left.

McGee converted two fourth-down plays on the final drive to get the Cowboys within one point of the Broncos. The biggest play was a 13-yard touchdown pass to sixth-round pick, wide receiver Dwayne Harris.

"It was nice to win," Garrett said. "So many different things you're trying to accomplish in the preseason, but line one is you're trying to win games and trying to teach your team how to win."

The Cowboys got strong performances from some of their younger players including Harris. The rookie had two touchdown receptions, including turning a 2-yard pass into a 76-yard score in the fourth quarter for the tie, 16-16. Harris finished with five catches for 127 yards.

Undrafted rookie wideout Raymond Radway also had a touchdown catch, a 6-yarder, and Phillip Tanner, another undrafted player, rushed nine times for 44 yards.

Garrett also started two rookie offensive linemen, first-round pick Tyron Smith at right tackle and fourth-round pick David Arkin at guard. Garrett said Smith and Arkin didn't seem caught up in the moment.

"It was nice to see some of the young guys compete in the second half, both offensively and defensively and in the kicking game," Garrett said. "And and put that drive together and make a couple of plays to allow us to win, it was good for a lot of different reasons."

Lockout analysis: Tight ends

July, 6, 2011
7/06/11
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ESPNDallas is providing a daily breakdown on how the lockout has affected the individual position groups.

Position: Tight ends

[+] EnlargeJohn Phillips
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezA knee injury wiped out John Phillips' 2010 season, but he could play a key role in 2011 if healthy.
Depth chart: Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett, John Phillips, Martin Rucker, Jason Pociask

Not under contract: N/A

Player hurt most by lockout: Phillips

Player with most to gain: Phillips

Analysis: Phillips is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in last year’s Hall of Fame Game, and his value grew last year. His best asset is his versatility. He can line up on the line as a true tight end and he can play fullback.

But how healthy is he? He took part in the player-run workouts and was said to be moving well, but he would be better served to have his rehab monitored by the Cowboys’ athletic training staff.

If he can return to the form he was showing last summer, then he could take away from the snaps Martellus Bennett receives or make the former second-round pick expendable. With how much the Cowboys like to use multi-tight end spots, Phillips’ return to health will help Jason Garrett’s playcalling. He is smart and tough and can catch the ball better than was expected.

For Bennett, this is a huge season. He is in the final year of his contract. He has not put up huge numbers, but no tight end would behind Witten. He can be a devastating blocker, but he needs to be more consistent in his routes and his hands.

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