Dallas Cowboys: NFC East

NFL Live: NFC East predictions

August, 5, 2013

Mark Schlereth and Herm Edwards break down the NFC East, and make their predictions for the 2013 season.

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have finished 8-8 the last two seasons, have missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and have one playoff victory since 1996, but optimism is never far away.

Cowboys wide receivers coach Derek Dooley joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to talk about Dez Bryant's talent and potential.

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“We really feel like we have a team that can compete for a championship,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

Jones belief is not just on a roster that has talented players at key spots, but how the NFL landscape has changed over the years.

“The last three teams that won championships barely got into the playoffs and did something about it,” Jones said. “You’re probably not being realistic if you don’t think things have changed in the last 10 years. There’s probably a lot of people who feel they have a chance to win a championship based on the level playing field and how the cap has affected the game. We feel like we have an opportunity to compete for a championship.”

The Cowboys signed quarterback Tony Romo to a six-year extension in the offseason but did not make any high-profile free-agent signings. The Cowboys have changed defensive systems, moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3 with coordinator Monte Kiffin, changed offensive playcallers from Jason Garrett to Bill Callahan and changed special teams coaches.

By the end of last season the Cowboys were without six regulars on defense because of injury, including Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and Jay Ratliff, but were in a position to win the NFC East with a victory in the final game at Washington.

“I feel like the teams that won championships last year, we can compete with them and were right there competing with them maybe without a full deck,” Jones said. “We have confidence that this team will win a championship.”

NFC East draft preview: Eagles

April, 24, 2013
ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins and Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer discuss what to expect from the Eagles in the NFL draft.

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NFC East draft preview: Redskins

April, 23, 2013
ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins and Mike Jones of the Washington Post discuss what to expect from the Redskins in the NFL draft.

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NFC East draft preview: Giants

April, 23, 2013
ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins and ESPN New York's Ohm Youngmisuk discuss what to expect from the Giants in the NFL draft.

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Will we get answers this week?

January, 21, 2013
MOBILE, Ala. -- Members of the Cowboys' front office, coaching staff and scouting departments are here to watch practices in preparations for Saturday's Senior Bowl.

Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones is expected to attend the practices and quite possibly speak with reporters about the state of the franchise. There are several questions regarding where the Cowboys are headed after an 8-8 season. Jones said he doesn't want to make changes just to make change. He also said people will be uncomfortable at Valley Ranch.

His fan base has many questions. We provided a few:

* Are people uncomfortable at Valley Ranch after the changes you made?

* Will Jason Garrett be the play-caller in 2013?

* Why did you let go of Rob Ryan?

* Monte Kiffin replaced Ryan. Do you believe he'll have the energy, at 72, to run the defense?

* The Cowboys are roughly $18 million over the salary cap. How do you go about fixing this?

You can come up with your own questions if you like or try to answer the ones we've provided for you.

Should Cowboys look elsewhere for playcaller?

January, 20, 2013
Is replacing Jason Garrett as the Cowboys' offensive play caller as easy as it sounds?

If the Cowboys take these duties away from Garrett, the strongest candidate to replace him would be offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. He's called plays before -- with success.

Quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson remains a dark horse in the race, only because he's been more familiar with Garrett's offensive system longer than anybody on the staff next to Garrett. Callahan has spent one year with the system, and he's run the West Coast offense when he was with the Oakland Raiders.

The Cowboys could go outside the organization by possibly Hue Jackson, or waiting until the Baltimore Ravens season ends and go after Jim Caldwell. Caldwell might be harder to hire because it's assumed he'll get a salary increase for the work he's done with the Ravens the last month of the regular season.

Pat Shurmur was another possibility, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday that he's joining Chip Kelly's staff in Philadelphia. Mike Tice, who was let go by the Chicago Bears this week, could move into the role, too.

The Cowboys don't have to make an announcement regarding who becomes the offensive play caller, but at some point this offseason Jerry Jones and or Garrett will tell reporters what the situation is regarding the offense.

News hasn't broken regarding a potential playcaller change for several reasons: Jones and Garrett are still taking about making a possible switch, so a potential replacement hasn't been picked, either.

The longer this issues hangs in the air, the longer speculation regarding what the franchise will do.

Are Cowboys losing NFC East arms race?

January, 6, 2013
The Washington Redskins will host the Seattle Seahawks in an NFC wild-card game Sunday afternoon. At one point during the regular season, the Redskins were 3-6. But they won seven consecutive games, including five against the NFC East, to emerge as the champions of the division.

The New York Giants started the season 6-2, but a 3-5 finish cost them a first-place lead in the division. Big Blue is sitting at home watching the postseason.

The Philadelphia Eagles started the season 3-1 but lost eight straight. Eventually things fell apart, leading to the firing of coach Andy Reid.

The Dallas Cowboys had a 3-5 start, but despite a 5-3 finish, losing their final two games to New Orleans and Washington cost them a playoff berth.

One would believe the future looks bigger in Washington with a rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, and quite possibly some defensive talent returning from injury for the 2013 season.

The Giants have been a strong team, led by an elite quarterback, Eli Manning, that has proven to be mentally tougher than most teams in the NFC East.

The Eagles seemed to be rebuilding but as of today are without a head coach and have questions about who will be the quarterback in 2013.

The Cowboys?

Jason Garrett isn't going anywhere, and neither is the quarterback, Tony Romo. However, numerous injuries -- five to defensive starters -- and an inconsistent offensive line hurt the Cowboys in 2012. Is depth an issue going forward? If so, are the Cowboys losing the arms race against the rest of the NFC East?

"It's a competitive division, the NFC East has been a competitive division for a long, long time, and we understand that," Garrett said after the loss to the Redskins to close the season. "But we have to focus on ourselves. It's about us. (The loss to Washington) was about us. It wasn't about the Washington Redskins. We didn't (do) what was necessary to win that ballgame. We have to live with that and we have learn from it and go forward."

Jerry Jones has every right to be upset

January, 3, 2013

The owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys isn't happy.

What we heard Wednesday morning was a man who is tired of the same old story. Jerry Jones offered support for coach Jason Garrett and the long-term future of quarterback Tony Romo.

But he's not offering support for a lack of execution late in the season. He's not offering support for missing the playoffs again.

Nor should he. He has every right to be upset because what the Cowboys have shown him the past few years is unacceptable.

"I'm very upset; I'm very irritated," Jones said on his weekly radio show. "I really did think as we went into the last part of the season, I know we had injuries, but the teams we're playing had injuries. I know we could have put more on the field if we hadn't gotten those injuries."

The owner of America's Team is irritated, frustrated and flustered. He seemed embarrassed to watch a rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, lead a team past Jones' bunch and into the playoffs. He watches Seattle, with a rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson, play in January.

He watches Indianapolis lose a Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning, draft a rookie, Andrew Luck, lose its coach, Chuck Pagano, for an extended period and still make the playoffs.

Jones has a quarterback, Romo, whom he likes; an elite pass-rusher in DeMarcus Ware; a $50.1 million cornerback in Brandon Carr; two highly regarded draft picks in Tyron Smith and Morris Claiborne; and solid second-round picks, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, who man the middle of the defense.

Jones has this but no recent playoff success.

To read more of this column, click here.

LANDOVER, Md. -- With a playoff stake on the line, Robert Griffin III wasn't even close to being the biggest problem for the Cowboys' defense. They couldn't stop the Redskins' other rookie star, as running back Alfred Morris rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries.

A gimpy RG III was just all right as the Redskins claimed their first NFC East crown since 1999, completing nine of 18 passes for 100 yards and rushing six times for 63 yards and a score, with all of his running yards basically a direct result of the attention Dallas' D paid Morris.

That's what made this such a missed opportunity for the Cowboys. RG III will be spectacular on a regular basis for the next decade. The Cowboys weren't good enough to beat him when he was average.

Good luck when RG III is rolling. The Redskins are only going to get better as they surround RG III and Morris with more playmakers.

"They're going to be doing this for years to come," safety Gerald Sensabaugh said. "We have to figure out what we need to do to get these guys under wraps."

As painful as it was to watch the Redskins run the ball down the Cowboys' throat, Dallas' defense did about as well as could be expected. Did anyone really think the injury-riddled Cowboys could hold the Redskins to fewer than 30 points after seeing RG III carve them up like turkeys on Thanksgiving?

Jason Garrett and Tony Romo's offense failed the Cowboys. Once again, Romo failed to rise to the moment in a win-or-the-end game.

Click here for the rest of the story.

Rapid Reaction: Redskins 28, Cowboys  18

December, 30, 2012

LANDOVER, Md. -- Jason Hatcher's left hand ended the Dallas Cowboys' season Sunday night.

The Cowboys' defensive end did the right thing by getting pressure on Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III late in the game with Dallas down by three. But as the rookie threw an incomplete pass on third down, Hatcher's hand slapped Griffin in the head. It drew a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer and kept the Redskins' drive alive, eventually sealing the NFC East title.

Washington held on to beat Dallas 28-18 at FedEx Field to clinch the division and the No. 4 seed in the NFC Playoffs. Dallas' season ended here to their long-time rivals because the offense couldn't produce enough points and the defense didn't stop the running game.

What it means: The season is over. The Cowboys are now 2-12 in win-or-go-home games since 2000, the worst mark in the NFL. Quarterback Tony Romo didn't come through in the clutch, throwing three interceptions to fall to 1-6 in these situations. The Cowboys finish 8-8 and are out of the playoffs for the third consecutive season.


Who or what was most responsible for the Cowboys' downfall this season?


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Ware's night: DeMarcus Ware, who didn't register a sack or a tackle, played with a hyperextended right elbow and a busted right shoulder that keeps popping out. Ware started the game but not the second half. He was ineffective the entire night, playing with one arm, and was regulated to just passing downs. Ware struggled to contain Griffin on play-action fakes. At least twice, Ware was sucked in on fakes from Griffin to Alfred Morris, and Griffin took off for big gains. Ware had no solo tackles and was credited with an assisted tackle.

Romo's long night: The Cowboys' starting quarterback fussed at best friend/tight end Jason Witten, yelled at left tackle Tyron Smith and got on wide receiver Kevin Ogletree. Romo knew the importance of this game, not only for his team but for his own standing in the league. He needed this victory, but when his evening was over he finished with three interceptions, the final one with three minutes left that sealed the victory for the Redskins. Romo finished 20-of-37 for 218 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Harris keeps Cowboys in it: At one point the Cowboys' starting wide receivers -- Dez Bryant and Miles Austin -- were not on the field due to injuries. Bryant suffered from a strained lower back and Austin had a sprained ankle. It left Dwayne Harris to take over. He had a 25-yard reception, a 39-yard punt return and a two-point conversion catch. His 39-yard punt return set up a 10-yard touchdown reception by Kevin Ogletree. Harris' conversion brought the Cowboys to within 21-16. He ended up hurt after a 20-yard kick return with about a minute to play and didn't return.

Can't stop the run: The Cowboys allowed a season-high 274 yards to the Washington Redskins. Morris rushed 33 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns. It's easy to say the Cowboys failed to contain the running game. Without Jay Ratliff, Josh Brent, Bruce Carter and Sean Lee, their prime inside players, the Redskins just took advantage of things. The last time the Cowboys allowed a running back to get more than 200 rushing yards was 2000, when Tampa Bay's Warrick Dunn picked up 210.

What's next? With the season over, the coaching staff and scouting department will review what happened in 2012 and then begin preparations for the NFL draft and free agency. The Cowboys will head to Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 21 to scout the Senior Bowl.

Giants loss hands Cowboys control again

December, 23, 2012
ARLINGTON, Texas -- For the third time in five seasons, the Cowboys will face a winner-take-all season-finale.


Will the Cowboys make the playoffs?


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Thanks to the New York Giants' 33-14 loss to Baltimore, the Cowboys can make the playoffs by beating Washington next week to win the NFC East.


Even if the Giants win next week to finish 9-7, the Cowboys would have a better division record to gain the tiebreaker on New York.

They would gain the tiebreaker on the Redskins based on common opponents with the difference being the Cowboys' 19-14 win at Carolina on Oct. 21. The Redskins lost to the Panthers, 21-13.

Jerry Jones talks about the Cowboys' loss to the Saints and not getting the call go their way in overtime.

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The Cowboys and Redskins have eight non-division common opponents: New Orleans, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Baltimore and Cleveland. The Redskins beat the Saints, Buccaneers, Ravens and Browns. The Cowboys beat the Bengals, Buccaneers, Steelers, Panthers and Browns.

Conference record is the fourth tiebreaker after head to head, division record and common opponents.

In 2008, the Cowboys needed to beat Philadelphia to make the wild card and lost. Last year, Dallas faced the Giants for the division and lost.

Who wins the NFC East?

December, 4, 2012

With the New York Giants holding a slim one-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, ESPN analyst Tim Hasselbeck breaks down the NFC East race and picks a winner.

Jerry Jones: Time is running out on Cowboys

November, 27, 2012
If the playoffs started today, the Cowboys would be sitting on a couch and watching it unfold on TV.

There are five games remaining in the season, however, and there is still a chance that the Cowboys can reach the postseason. A slim chance. The Cowboys trail the New York Giants by two games in the NFC East, and there are four teams with better records who are vying for the two wild-card spots.

Washington (5-6) has the same record as the Cowboys, but owns the tiebreaker at this point based on the Redskins' victory over the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.

Saying all this, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said time is running out on his team's ability to reach the postseason.

"Getting it right? We do, yes," Jones said Tuesday on his weekly radio show on KRLD-FM when asked if the Cowboys have time to fix their season. "We're running out of time as to the playoffs. Do we have enough time? It's numerically possible, but you got to really step out here this week and do the right things to win a ballgame on the field. You have time to do that.

"Certainly you want to be going into the final weeks of the season ... (and) playing at an uptick to play well in the playoffs. But there's another reason why you want to be playing well, too. You want to be playing well so you can basically look at your core and see where you are with your core and evaluate your core as far as seasons to come."

The Cowboys host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night. The Eagles (3-8) were basically eliminated from playoff contention with their loss to the Carolina Panthers on Monday night.

Injuries and inconsistent play have dominated the Cowboys season, and Jones didn't disagree with that. But he expected more.

"I thought we'd be better than this," said Jones, "although I do realize the kind of competition we have in the league. We got nine teams that are 5-6 or 6-5 in the NFL right now. I knew we were in a league that has a lot of competition, but I thought we would be better."

First Take: Can Cowboys win the NFC East?

November, 20, 2012

Darren Woodson, Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith discuss the Cowboys chances of winning the NFC East.