Dallas Cowboys: New England Patriots

How long can Cowboys wait on Brian Waters?

August, 12, 2013
OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys’ waiting game with offensive guard Brian Waters continues.

How long will it last? The team doesn’t want to set any sort of deadline.

Calvin Watkins joins Galloway and Company live from Oxnard, Calif., to discuss the latest news from Cowboys training camp.

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“We want to, at any given time if we got the opportunity, [sign] a player who can help us,” owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. “We don’t want to get caught up in timelines. I don’t want to speculate and I don't want to do anything to cause you to write, ‘Well, he changed his mind.’”

In other words, the Cowboys want the six-time Pro Bowler and aren’t about to screw things up with any sort of ultimatum.

There is a legitimate concern, however, about how much time Waters would need to be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener against the New York Giants, especially considering that the 36-year-old likely has some rust to chip off after sitting out last season. Ideally, the starting offensive line would get at least a preseason game’s worth of work, which require Waters to join the Cowboys next week.

However, recent history indicates that Waters doesn’t necessarily need preseason reps to be successful. He signed with the New England Patriots on Sept. 4, 2011, and started every game for a Super Bowl team, earning a Pro Bowl invitation in the process.

“Anytime you’re talking about a player getting ready for the regular season, guys need to play, but you understand what the situations are,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Certainly, some guys are more ready to play than other guys because of the experiences that they’ve had in this league. You kind of weigh where they are physically versus experience versus getting them to play with other people, and you try to make your best decision.”

In this case, it appears the best decision for the Cowboys would be to give Waters all the time he needs.

Garrett thought Brandon Moore would help

August, 7, 2013

OXNARD, Calif. -- On Tuesday night, coach Jason Garrett thought Brandon Moore was going to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

Everything changed Wednesday morning when the veteran guard elected to retire.

"We had conversations with him and we thought he might come in and help our team out," Garrett said Wednesday. "The conversations were way down the road and we thought we were close to an agreement with him, and he decided when he awoke up this morning he didn't want to play football anymore. So we respect that decision. We'll continue to try and evaluate that position as we go forward."

The Cowboys wanted to sign Moore to become a potential starter along the interior of an offensive line that is battling injuries. Projected starting left guard Nate Livings will miss maybe three weeks as he recovers from knee surgery. Guards Ray Dominguez (shoulder) and Kevin Kowalski (knee) are also nursing injuries.

Garrett was asked about veteran free agent Brian Waters, who last played in 2011 for the New England Patriots, as a possibility.

"Brian Waters has been a really good player in this league for a long time," Garrett said. "As you guys know, I think he's a six-time Pro Bowler. He's an NFL Man of the Year, played a long time in Kansas City a few years ago, he came late to New England and had a Pro Bowl year for them when they went to the Super Bowl. The biggest issue for Brian right now is he hasn't played in 18 months. You have to factor those things in."
The Dallas Cowboys kicked way too many field goals once they moved inside the 20 last season. Jason Garrett's offense scored a touchdown only 25 times in 49 red zone possessions

Tim MacMahon joins Galloway and Company from Oxnard, Calif., to discuss the latest Cowboys news.

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That's not close to being good enough.

Here's some perspective: New England scored touchdowns on 49 of 70 red zone possessions for a league-leading 70 percent conversion rate. And get this, the pass-happy Patriots scored a league-high 25 rushing touchdowns inside the red zone.

Garrett's simple remedy for improving the Cowboys' red zone efficiency, which tied for 22nd last season: Running the ball better.

Dallas scored only eight rushing touchdowns in the red zone, one of 13 teams that failed to hit double digits. Playoff teams averaged 14 rushing touchdowns in the red zone.

Run the ball better and you take pressure off Tony Romo.

"We have to run the ball better. That's what we have to do," Garrett said. "We simply have to run it better and we'll run it more. You get favorable coverage mismatches, when you run it well. When we evaluated our team last year, the biggest issue in the red zone was minus plays and penalties. We were digging out of a hole way too much.

"When you're on your heels because you can't run it, or you have minus plays as the result of penalties, you're playing into their hands because there's not a lot of space to throw it down there."
It took the New England Patriots roughly six minutes to release Aaron Hernandez after the tight end’s arrest stemming from a homicide investigation.

ESPN NFL analyst Ed Werder joins the show to talk about the Aaron Hernandez arrest and arraignment and the Patriots' decision to let Hernandez go.

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Josh Brent is still on the Cowboys’ roster more than six months after the nose tackle’s arrest for intoxication manslaughter.

It’s natural for folks to compare the way the Patriots and Cowboys dealt with the arrested players, but this is far from an apples vs. apples case.

The dead man’s mother in New England isn’t publicly pleading with Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick to do everything in their power to help Hernandez. Stacey Jackson, the mother of deceased Cowboys practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown, made it as clear as possible how important it was to her that the Cowboys not abandon her son’s best friend after Brent’s deadly, grievous judgment error.

There is also the matter of the charges and intent of the alleged crimes.

The police in Massachusetts have yet to make the charge against Hernandez public – and the Patriots could have more information than the media – but we know that he was arrested after a homicide investigation. At the very least, he is accused of destroying evidence to cover up the crime. At the worst, he was directly involved in a premeditated murder.

There is no excuse for Brent driving with a blood-alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit, especially since he had a previous drunk-driving conviction in college, but it was not his intent to kill Brown that night in December. The guilt was devastating.

The point isn’t to argue that the Patriots or Cowboys are right or wrong. (My opinion is that the Cowboys should have cut ties with Brent by now, considering that prosecutors allege that he has tested positive for alcohol and marijuana while out on bail.)

It just isn’t fair to compare the way the Cowboys have handled Brent to the way the Patriots dismissed Hernandez. The cases are too different to judge the same way, whether you’re a judge, jury member or general manager.

A look at New England's '12' personnel

May, 1, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys made it clear they will become a two-tight end personnel team after the draft.

ESPN Dallas' Jean-Jacques Taylor weighs in on Jerry Jones' remarks regarding Tony Romo's work ethic, Romo's commitment to being the Cowboys' QB and more.

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Jerry Jones invoked the New England Patriots when discussing the scheme following the selection of San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar in the second round. The Cowboys also had Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert graded as a first-round pick.

With Jason Witten (who is coming off a 110-catch season), James Hanna and Escobar, the Cowboys are in position to attempt to simulate what Tom Brady does with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

We offer a Q&A with ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss for an explanation of how New England uses its “12 personnel.”

Archer: What makes the Patriots' use of the two-tight end package work so well?

Reiss: It starts with the unique talents of the tight ends themselves. Rob Gronkowski (6-foot-6, 265 pounds) is obviously a very tough matchup for a linebacker or safety. He's more likely to be aligned closest to the offensive tackle, but because he runs so well, the Patriots will also split him out wide. He's equally as effective as a blocker or pass-catcher, making him a true "combination" tight end. Aaron Hernandez (6-1, 245) is a nice complement to Gronkowski. He is more receiver-like and thus is split out wide more often or on the move, although he does align close to the tackle on occasion and is competitive as an in-line blocker even though it's not his forte. We've seen the Patriots run the same offense with different tight ends and it hasn't been as effective (e.g., last season's playoffs when Gronkowski was out with injury), so I think the first key is to acknowledge that it's more about the players than the scheme when it comes to the Patriots' two-tight end package and its success.

Archer: How does it differ, in your mind, from how other teams use the package?

Reiss: Probably the biggest thing is how many formations and adjustments they can run out of it, which comes back to the versatility and unique skills of the top two tight ends, Gronkowski and Hernandez. They could be empty in the package, with both tight ends split out wide, or more tightly compact in a traditional look with both tight ends aligned next to the tackles. Sometimes they play up-tempo with it. Other times they slow it down. So there are really so many things you can do out of the package, which again is tied to the uniqueness of Gronkowski and Hernandez. When one of those players has been injured, the package isn't as dynamic, and at times in those situations, the Patriots will use a third receiver over a second tight end.

Archer: How do most teams combat it with their defensive personnel?

Reiss: I'd say most teams combat it with a nickel package, essentially treating Hernandez as a receiver. When that happens, the Patriots have made a concerted effort to turn to the running game, feeling that a two-TE package should be able to win that matchup against a smaller defense. The results were uneven last season when it was two-TE versus nickel, in part due to some injuries on the offensive line. One of the clear-cut examples of it working to a T was last year's Sept. 30 win over the Bills, when they played a small nickel the entire game (it could have even been a dime but they listed 6-1, 220-pound safety Bryan Scott as a linebacker) and the Patriots powered through them for 247 rushing yards. Other teams have stayed in base, but it takes special personnel to do that and not get beaten by the tight ends in the passing game.

Archer: Is there ever a downside to it, like shrinking the field too much?

Reiss: If we wanted to nitpick from a Patriots perspective, we could say that relying so heavily on the two-TE package when your top receiver is more of a slot option (Wes Welker from 2007 to '12) means that your three best pass-catchers all do their best work in the middle of the field. So I guess there is a part of it where "shrinking the field" could come into play, but I don't think that's a reason not to do it. If you have two special tight ends, they can be matchup-busters and you can dictate terms based on their versatility. If the defense plays nickel against you, pound it at that team. If the defense plays base personnel, spread that defense out and let it rip.

Archer: Has the package all but eliminated the fullback in the offense?

Reiss: Yes, for the most part. The Patriots used tight end Michael Hoomanawanui in a fullback role at times last season. Other times, most often closer to the goal line, they used an offensive lineman as a fullback. But overall, when running so much of the offense with two tight ends, you're most often going to see two receivers and a running back paired with them unless it's a short-yardage situation. In terms of building the 53-man roster, one point that Bill Belichick has made is that the fullback is basically competing against a running back, tight end or linebacker for a spot, and it often can come down to special teams contributions. The Patriots didn't carry a pure fullback last season.

Cole Beasley should be used more

March, 16, 2013
In the early days of free agency we've seen slot receivers become a hot topic.

Wes Welker left the New England Patriots and signed a two-year deal with the Denver Broncos.

The Patriots found his replacement before Welker got his new deal when they signed Danny Amendola from St. Louis.

The Cowboys haven't really had a typical No. 3 slot receiver with the body type of Welker and Amendola.

Patrick Crayton, Kevin Ogletree, Laurent Robinson and Dwayne Harris were No. 3 receivers who played in the slot, but didn't have that small frame.

Last year, the Cowboys found one in Cole Beasley, a player who fits Welker's and Amendola's body type. Beasley is 5-foot-8, 177 pounds. In his rookie season, Beasley finished with 15 catches for 128 yards with no touchdowns. He made a bulk of his catches out of the slot and going forward the Cowboys should use him more often from this area.

New England utilized Welker for several years from the slot to beat teams in the middle of the field. His speed allowed him to get past defenders for yards after catch.

Maybe Beasley can be used in the same fashion in 2013.

Dez Bryant and Miles Austin can stretch defenses deep with their speed and Jason Witten can also command the middle of the field. What about Beasley? If defenses take Bryant and Austin out of the game with their coverages, which has happened, Beasley is a player who should get some run.

There have been teams who have used short receivers from the slot to make plays in different areas of the field and the Cowboys have Beasley who might fit that role.

Are the Cowboys the NFL's most hated team?

February, 28, 2013

On Thursday, ESPN's "First Take" debated which NFL team is the most hated. This comes off of Terrell Sugg's comments that "the other 31 teams (in the NFL) hate the Patriots," a charge which Suggs, as a member of one of the Patriots' biggest rivals, is well-qualified to judge. Skip Bayless and Jemele Hill make a distinction between hate and resentment -- they think teams resent the Patriots because of their success, but don't hate them. Bayless thinks the actual most-hated team is the Dallas Cowboys, because they're still called "America's Team," despite not winning much as of late. What's your take?
NFL Insiders Gary Horton and Field Yates took a look a the Dallas Cowboys in their pre-free agency series.

The duo addresses the Cowboys' needs in free agency and discuss the overall team philosophies in this ESPN Insider column.

Backup guard Donald Thomas of the New England Patriots is mentioned as potential free agent target for the Cowboys.
Thomas, a 27-year-old four-year veteran, is an effective run-blocker who also would improve the Cowboys' protection of Romo. He's a smart, developing interior linemen who also offers value as an emergency center.

Of course, the Cowboys spent a combined $30 million on Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau last offseason. Livings had a good season until health issues derailed him late in the year. Bernadeau struggled for the most part and at one point during the season shared first-team reps with Derrick Dockery in practice. Bernadeau didn't lose his starting gig, but there was a possibility he could if he didn't improve his play.

The Cowboys need to improve the offensive line, and outside of Tyron Smith's play at left tackle and Livings, everyone is expendable. Bernadeau started at center for one game due to injuries and he's showed position flexibility. Signing Thomas, a right guard, and moving Bernadeau to center, could be a possibility.
Last week, there were reports regarding the cap space for the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots and how nearly 10 players take a good percentage of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Tony Romo (cap number $16.8 million, base salary $11.5 million)
2. Brandon Carr (cap number $16.3 million, base salary $14.3 million)
3. DeMarcus Ware (cap number $11.3 million, base salary $5.5 million)
4. Doug Free (cap number $10.2 million, base salary $7 million)
5. Miles Austin (cap number $8.3 million, base salary $6.7 million)
6. Jason Witten (cap number $8 million, base salary $5.5 million)
7. Jay Ratliff (cap number $7 million, base salary $5 million)
8. Dan Connor (cap number $4.3 million, base salary $3 million)
9. Gerald Sensabaugh (cap number $3.8 million, base salary $3 million)
10. Orlando Scandrick (cap nunmber $3.78 million, base salary $2 million)
The New England Patriots signed wide receiver Andre Holmes to the practice squad today.

In some ways you have to wonder if the Cowboys missed out on Holmes. Todd Archer talked about this Monday.

The Cowboys gave Holmes every opportunity to make the 53-man roster as the No. 3 receiver, but he was just too inconsistent. As Archer pointed out Monday, the failure to pass the conditioning test in training camp was a disappointing start to the 2012 season.

Of all the players who needed to pass that test, it was Holmes.

Holmes had the right measurements, 6-foot-4, and he was fast enough to make plays. But inconsistency hurt him more than anything else, and coach Jason Garrett preaches this to his team all the time. It's one of the main reasons why Dwayne Harris earned more playing time as the season progressed.

Now, Holmes is with New England and it will be interesting to see how the Patriots develop him in the future.

DeMarco Murray learning Lawrence Vickers

June, 13, 2012
IRVING, Texas --Fullback Tony Fiammetta was a joy for running back DeMarco Murray last season. But Fiammetta is gone, having signed with New England, and the Dallas Cowboys replaced him with Lawrence Vickers, who was released by Houston.

Vickers blocked for Arian Foster last season and we all know how good he is. Foster rushed for 1,224 yards last season, fifth in the NFL.

Vickers said he was shocked to be released by the Texans, but it was more about the salary cap than performance. The Cowboys value the fullback position and were of the belief Vickers was a better option than Fiammetta.

"So far so good," Murray said of his work with Vickers. "I'm loving him and the enthusiasm he brings to the running back group and what he brings to the practice field and what he brings to his team. So I'm excited to see what he's going to do in training camp."

Last season, Murray rushed for 897 yards, 22nd in the league, with Fiammetta as the primary blocker. Each player has to learn the tendencies of the other. Though Vickers has said he has to be a comfort level for Murray more than anything else.

Murray said he will watch film with Vickers on a daily basis and point out plays he likes and what he's looking for after he gets the handoff.

"His eyes are my eyes, and my eyes are his eyes," Murray said. "We're going to continue to work on that and continue to work on the chemistry. It's still early. We've been practicing for only three weeks and we have a lot of time to work."

Pats sign former Cowboy Jesse Holley

June, 11, 2012
The Patriots signed receiver/special teamer Jesse Holley, who played the last two seasons with the Cowboys, as well as rookie tight end Tyler Urban, the club announced.

The Patriots' receiver ranks have been thinned in recent weeks with the release of Anthony Gonzalez and Chad Ochocinco. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Holley played in 28 regular-season games over the last two years, totaling seven receptions for 169 yards.

Holley, who played in college at North Carolina, first entered the NFL as a free agent with the Bengals in 2007. He was out of football in 2008 and then was awarded the final spot on the 2009 Dallas training camp roster after finishing as the winning contestant on former Cowboy Michael Irvin's nationally broadcast reality television show, "4th and Long." Holley spent the entire 2009 season and the first part of the 2010 season on the Dallas practice squad before being signed to the 53-man roster.

ESPN blogger mock: Dallas picks Brockers

April, 23, 2012
Things didn't work out exactly the way I planned for the Dallas Cowboys in the ESPN blogger mock draft Monday. Yes, the Eagles traded up to No. 7 to take Fletcher Cox, a player the Cowboys like a lot. But for the Cowboys I decided not to get into such excitement. First of all, they don't have the cushion the Eagles have with two second-round picks. And second of all, they need to add depth all along the roster, so I decided that if they traded they'd come away with more picks rather than fewer.

As the draft wound on into the middle of the first round, I was thinking my top Cowboys target, Alabama safety Mark Barron, would be there at No. 14. So when James Walker of the AFC East blog called on behalf of the Patriots and offered a first-round pick (No. 27 overall) and a second-round pick (No. 48), I said no. James pointed out that each side of the deal added up to exactly 1,100 points on the NFL draft trade value chart, and for a second I thought we should make the deal just based on that coincidence alone. But I held off, thinking Barron would fall to 14.

Little did I know, James was also talking to Mike Sando about the Seahawks' No. 12 overall pick. James offered Mike both of the Patriots' first-round picks (No. 27 and No. 31) for the No. 12 pick and a fourth-rounder (N0. 106). Guess I should have asked James for more, because that's a steal for Sando, who happily gave up the No. 12 and began making plans for what to do with his two first-rounders. James moved up to 12 and took Barron for the Patriots, and I started fielding offers for the No. 14 pick.

No one was interested, though, so when 14 rolled around, I took the player I believed would be the highest on the Cowboys' board at that point -- LSU defensive lineman Michael Brockers. What I like about Brockers for the Cowboys is that he's a more polished, NFL-ready prospect than is Dontari Poe (who would fall all the way to the Steelers at No. 24!) and that he's versatile enough to play any spot on the Cowboys' defensive line. He can play inside as a defensive tackle alongside Jay Ratliff when they line up in 4-3 sets. He can play end in a 3-4 (and allow them to move on from Kenyon Coleman or Marcus Spears if they so choose). He can spell Ratliff at the nose when and if they decide to move Ratliff outside. I just felt as though he'd appeal to Rob Ryan as a guy who could do a lot for him -- and do it right away -- in a defense that relies on constantly changing looks and fronts.

I thought about Poe, and Quenton Coples, and Stephon Gilmore, and Dre Kirkpatrick, and Courtney Upshaw. But in the end, I believe that, of the post-Barron choices, Brockers was the one that fit the Cowboys the best.

(NOTE: Stanford guard David DeCastro was also gone, at 11 to the Chiefs, but as you know I believe the Cowboys should be focused on defense in this round. And probably all of them.)

So what do you think, Cowboys fans? Did I get it right? Did I pick the wrong guy? Was I wrong to turn down the Patriots' offer? I eagerly await your feedback.

Bill Parcells versus the Cowboys

April, 9, 2012
We're not sure when the Saints will play the Cowboys this season -- the NFL schedule is to be released this month -- but it's clear a new coach will take over for New Orleans now that Sean Payton's appeal of his season-long suspension was turned down.

Bill Parcells is one man who could take over for Payton in 2012.

The last time Parcells coached against the Cowboys was Dec. 19, 1999, when he ran the New York Jets. Joe Hall's 37-yard field goal beat the Cowboys 22-21 at Texas Stadium. Parcells' defense picked off two Troy Aikman passes that day.

Parcells went 9-7 against the Cowboys when he coached the New York Giants, including a six-game win streak on the back end of his tenure.

In New England, Parcells coached against Dallas once, losing in 1996.

Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he still respects Parcells and considers him a friend. It will be an interesting game if Parcells replaces Payton in 2012.

Several players Parcells drafted or signed are still with the Cowboys, including Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Miles Austin, Jay Ratliff and Jason Witten.

Jason Witten's expectations are high

February, 3, 2012

The Cowboys' Jason Witten shares insight on fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski's injury and playing against the Giants and Patriots.