Dallas Cowboys: Von Miller

Double Coverage: DeMarcus Ware signing

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
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For the second time in three seasons a high-profile veteran player -- identified with a high-profile franchise and a perennial Pro Bowl selection -- has followed his stunning release with a trip to Denver as his first visit of free agency. And for the second time in three seasons, Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway closed the deal.

Ware
In 2012 it was a still-reeling Peyton Manning who toured the Broncos facility in his first trip following his release by the Indianapolis Colts. And this week it was defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who made Denver his first stop after his release by the Dallas Cowboys.

Ware signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Broncos without leaving the building.

ESPN.com Dallas Cowboys reporter Todd Archer and Denver Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold take a look at the move.

Archer: Ware's best seasons came in a 3-4, but the Broncos are a 4-3 base team. How much do you think that will matter?

Legwold: Todd, with head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, the Broncos are a traditional-looking 4-3 when they line up on early downs. But they spend much of their time in specialty packages like nickel and dime, given how often their opponents try to spread them out and throw the ball in order to try and keep up with Peyton Manning and the Broncos' offense. They had four games last season in which they were in their base defense 12 or fewer snaps, and three games when they were in the base defense nine or fewer plays. That total will go up in the coming season with the NFC West on the Broncos' schedule, but they see Ware as a fit in a mutli-faceted front that spends a lot of time in specialty looks. And they do drop 3-4 looks on people from time to time, so he'll find a place in the scheme and the Broncos will structure things however they need to in order for Ware to have a chance to flourish. With Michael Strahan when Fox was the Giants' defensive coordinator, Julius Peppers and Von Miller, Fox has routinely found a way to free up the rushers to get the quarterback.

When Ware was formally introduced as the newest Broncos pass rusher, he thanked the Cowboys, Bill Parcells and Jerry Jones in his first appearance as a newly-minted Broncos' player. How hard was it for the Cowboys to release him?

Archer: Extremely hard. Jerry Jones isn't one to want to part with stars if it might be a year too early. He's waited a year too late in some cases. I don't doubt Jones was conflicted with the move. Ware is one of his best draft picks in 25 years on the job. He was a guy who was great in the locker room and great in the community and, most importantly, great on the field. Jerry is loyal to guys sometimes to a fault. But I think he was convinced it was time to move on because of Ware's age and cap figure. He could have restructured the deal and pushed more money into the future, but they felt like that would not solve anything. Ware will always be a Cowboy. He'll re-sign with the team in a few years to make sure he retires as a Cowboy and he will go in the Ring of Honor.

In his new locker room, how much can Ware benefit Miller and is this protection in case Miller has another off-field incident?

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware and Rod Marinelli
AP Photo/James D. SmithThe Cowboys and their coaches still believe DeMarcus Ware can be an elite pass rusher.
Legwold: At its root this is a move based on the idea that Elway believes, like many personnel executives, edge rusher is still a foundation position in team building, along with quarterback and left tackle. Shaun Phillips, with 10 sacks last season, and Robert Ayers, with 5.5, are both free agents after finishing first and third, respectively in sacks for the team last season. The Broncos haven't really pursued either to bring them back at this point. With Miller coming back from ACL surgery, it was one of the biggest needs on the roster. All of that said, they also see a player like Ware as key to re-setting Miller after a difficult year in 2013 that included a six-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, several off-the-field incidents -- including a missed court date -- and multiple traffic infractions even after his suspension was revealed. That's not to mention spotty play when he came back from his suspension to go with his injury. Ware knows Miller and has already said he wants to be a mentor. It's needed, especially with the Broncos facing a decision about Miller for the long-term when he's a free agent after the '14 season.

With Champ Bailey's release, Chris Kuper's retirement and Wesley Woodyard leaving for the Titans in free agency, the Broncos have three former captains no longer on the roster. From your perspective, what can Ware provide on that front?

Archer: He is not the most vocal guy, but he has grown in that area as he has gotten older. When he did speak, guys listened. But I would say he was mostly a lead-by-example type. He played hurt. He probably came back too soon from the quadriceps strain that bugged him last year and that affected his play. He is naturally gifted but he also works even if guys don't see it all the time. As a pass rusher, he's always asking questions and always looking for different ways to attack offensive linemen. It doesn't matter if the guy is on the practice squad or not, Ware will listen to what he has to say. And he's not afraid to tell people what he knows. He'll be good for the offensive line, too. He was always talking to Tyron Smith or Flozell Adams or Doug Free or Marc Colombo about what they did against him or helping them with what he saw they were doing.

I hate the "all-in" term, but are the Broncos making their push with their free-agent signings because they know the window with Peyton Manning is short?

Legwold: Elway's most common response to any question about whether the team is in "win-now" mode is to say "it's win now on" and they didn't mortgage the future, give up draft picks or artificially create cap space to make the signings. Aqib Talib's six-year deal is one the Broncos can get out of after this season with minimal impact to the cap and can get out of after three years with almost no impact on the cap. Safety T.J. Ward signed for less than many expected him to get. And the signings of Talib and Ward carried similar cap charges as the Broncos would have had if Champ Bailey and Kuper were on the roster. They gained $10 million worth of room on the cap with Bailey's release and about $4.1 million worth of room when Kuper retired -- both things happened in the days before free agency opened. They already had $28.7 million or so of workable room even before the Bailey and Kuper moves. So they were not stressed to make the signings and after Andre Caldwell, Ware, Ward and Talib signed, with their draft class taken into account as well, they still had about $10 million in workable cap space for any other moves they want to make.

Elway said this week "we think [Ware] has got a lot of football left him." In the end, how much football did the Cowboys coaches believe Ware had left in him?

Archer: It kind of depends on who you ask, but at the combine Jason Garrett said he has no doubts Ware can be an elite pass rusher again. I don't think that was just coachspeak. Where I think Ware suffered was his lack of practice the last two years. He was banged up with shoulder, elbow, hamstring, quadriceps and stingers during the week that he could not practice. I think he got out of a rhythm and could not get it back. Ware had four sacks in the first three games. He had a pick on the first play of the season. Then the injuries started to wear him down and he wasn't the same player. But I always go back to training camp. He lit up Tyron Smith every day in practice. Every day. It got to the point where you wondered if Smith was going to be considered another offensive line mistake. And then Smith ended the year as one of the best left tackles in football. I think there is plenty of tread left on Ware's tire, but the Broncos will have to be smart in how they use him. I can't see him playing every snap. He will need some rest in games.

Von Miller news could impact Cowboys

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
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IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys get ready for Saturday’s preseason game against Cincinnati, some inside the organization might have an eye on what is happening with Denver’s Von Miller.

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According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, Miller is attempting to have a possible six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy cut down to four games.

Why should the Cowboys care?

They host Denver on Oct. 6 at AT&T Stadium in Week 5.

If Miller fails to get the suspension reduced, then Tony Romo will not have to face a player with 30 sacks in his first two seasons and 18.5 in 2012. Add that to the Broncos’ loss of Elvis Dumervil thanks to a contractual snafu and Denver’s pass rush will look a lot different.

If the suspension is four games, then Miller, a DeSoto native, will get the chance to open his season in front of family and friends.
ESPN's Mel Kiper ranked the top 20 rookies from the 2011 season, and Cowboys right tackle Tyron Smith (12) and running back DeMarco Murray (21) made the list.

Kiper also ranks former Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller second behind Cam Newton. Former TCU quarterback Andy Dalton checks in at No. 5.

The Cowboys got significant playing time from young players in 2011. We rank the top rookies of 2011.

5. Bill Nagy. He earned a starting job coming out of training camp as the left guard before suffering a fractured right ankle at New England on Oct. 16. Nagy, however, might have to fight for a starting spot with the Cowboys trying to improve the interior of the offensive line next season.

4. Alex Albright. The outside linebacker was one of four undrafted rookies to make the squad. He played mainly special teams but saw some defensive snaps late in the season. He will get a chance to play more in 2012 with the possible departure of outside linebacker Anthony Spencer to free agency. He can also play a little inside, so that gives him flexibility.

3. Dan Bailey. The kicker made 26 consecutive field goals, tied for second-best mark in franchise history. Bailey also won some big games and most importantly beat out David Buehler for the field goal job. Bailey converted 86.5 percent of his field goals and tied for fifth in the league with 135 points made in 2011.

2. DeMarco Murray. He burst onto the scene with that franchise-record 252-yard rushing effort against St. Louis. Murray led rookie running backs with 897 yards and the closest anyone came to him was Washington's Roy Helu and his 640. Murray enters training camp as the starting running back.

1. Tyron Smith. The ninth pick of the draft was a solid performer at right tackle and most likely will move to the premier position of the line, left tackle, in 2011. Smith's ability to adjust during the course of the season was one of his biggest assets, and he can only get better.

Top pick Tyron Smith is still learning

August, 17, 2011
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cowboys' first-round pick, Tyron Smith from USC, is still spending time after practice working.

During the workouts, he's getting beat up by DeMarcus Ware, holding his own against Anthony Spencer, conferring with Kyle Kosier and getting a drink between periods.

But the real work begins after practice for the right tackle.

Smith spends time getting his footwork set with offensive line coach Hudson Houck and Doug Free, the left tackle who wants to see the rookie succeed. There's Ware telling him about how to place his hands on a speed rusher, because you get a lot of that when you play in the NFC East.

Smith does more talking after practice in the pros than he did at USC. The after-practice work at USC had the entire offensive line getting work.

In the pros, it's about Smith getting better.

More than any other position group, the offensive linemen are working on their own after practice. Footwork, hand placement, leverage, who to pick up and when are some of the issues being worked out. It's mainly the rookies.

"You have to be quick with your hands and try not to lean forward and keep your head out of it," Smith said of some of his post-practice work. "If guys go inside, use more of a power set and basically keep moving your feet and having quick hands and keep your head out of it. I'm just getting started. A long road ahead."

Smith said he did just OK after his first preseason game last Thursday against the Denver Broncos. He tried to downplay that he didn't allow another first-round pick, A&M's Von Miller, to get a sack. Smith didn't know what his grade was from the offensive coaches, but admitted he was average.

"Yeah, after the first couple of hits its basically shake that little nervousness [off]," Smith said. "And I was little too excited and picked up it up as the game went on."

Draft Watch: NFC East

April, 21, 2011
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NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Dream scenario/Plan B.

Dallas Cowboys

Dream scenario: If the Cowboys play things the conventional way and sit tight at No. 9, they’ll probably be looking at either defensive end J.J. Watt or offensive tackle Tyron Smith. Either one would provide good value or fill a big need, and the Cowboys would improve. But Dallas owner Jerry Jones doesn’t always do things the conventional way. Although trading up to the top five might be difficult, Jones’ imagination could heat up if LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson makes it past the first five picks. The entire Dallas secondary had a horrible year last season, and Peterson would provide an instant upgrade. Jones might not be able to sit still if he’s within striking distance of Peterson.

Plan B: If there’s no chance at Peterson and the Cowboys aren’t excited enough about Watt or Smith, they could reach slightly and take Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara. He’s the second-best cornerback in this draft, and most mocks have him going somewhere in the teens. If the Cowboys like the player enough, it wouldn’t be much of a reach to just take him. If another team is looking to move up for another player, the Cowboys could drop down a few spots and still have a shot at Amukamara.

Washington Redskins

Dream scenario: The Redskins, who need a quarterback perhaps more than any other team on the planet, would love nothing more than for something bizarre to suddenly cause Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert to start falling. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. Carolina’s leaning toward Newton but hasn’t made a final decision. Even if the Panthers go with Newton, Buffalo could go with linebacker Von Miller at No. 3, and the word out of Arizona is the Cardinals probably are looking more for a pass-rusher than a quarterback. That would put the Redskins within striking distance on Gabbert, and general manager Bruce Allen and owner Daniel Snyder could try to move up to grab him. Or they could just take a chance that he’ll be available at No. 10.

Plan B: If Newton and Gabbert are gone, there’s no quarterback worthy of the No. 10 pick. Defensive tackle also is a major need, but the Redskins could fill that in free agency. Snyder enjoys making a splash, and if he can’t do it with a quarterback, he might do the next-best thing and take a guy who would catch passes from whoever ends up throwing them. With Santana Moss as a free agent and not much else in the receiving corps, Alabama’s Julio Jones could be a very nice consolation prize.

New York Giants

Dream scenario: The desperate need is at outside linebacker, but the only player who is really a sure thing is Miller, and he almost certainly will be a top-five pick. So the dream ends there and reality sets in, and the other reality is the Giants have big needs on the offensive line, where everyone but guard Chris Snee is starting to get old. Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey could really solidify the interior of the line, where the need is greatest. Tackles Gabe Carimi and Anthony Castonzo also could be possibilities as the Giants could consider moving tackle David Diehl to guard.

Plan B: This may sound a bit off the wall because the Giants have decent running backs in Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. But what if Alabama’s Mark Ingram happens to be available? The Giants might have to consider him. He might be better than Bradshaw and Jacobs. Also, along the same lines, don’t rule out the possibility of a defensive tackle like Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson if he’s available. The Giants appear to be in good shape in the middle of the defensive line, but general manager Jerry Reese places a high value on having lots of depth, especially in the middle of the defensive line.

Philadelphia Eagles

Dream scenario: In a perfect world, the Eagles would package their first pick (No. 23 overall) with quarterback Kevin Kolb and trade their way into the top five, where they would aim for cornerback Peterson. The Eagles have a desperate need for a cornerback to play opposite Asante Samuel, and Peterson is the only sure thing in this draft. But this is not a perfect world. Unless the lockout somehow ends between now and the start of the draft, they’re not allowed to trade Kolb. If they stay put, the Eagles have to hope Amukamara somehow falls to them, or they might have to take a chance on Colorado’s Jimmy Smith, who comes with some background questions.

Plan B: The right side of the offensive line needs to be upgraded. Most teams stay clear of guards in the first round. But tackles Castonzo, Nate Solder and Carimi all could be available when the Eagles pick. Any one of them could step right into the lineup and start.

Von Miller will not attend Dallas Day

April, 8, 2011
4/08/11
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After spending a few days visiting with draft eligible prospects at Valley Ranch, the Cowboys turn their attention to Dallas/Fort Worth area players today at Cowboys Stadium.

Numerous players with local ties will either workout or talk with team officials at the Cowboys' annual Dallas Day.

One player not expected to attend is Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, who is rising up the charts. Miller, from Carrollton, was a potential pick at No. 9 for the Cowboys but after a strong Senior Bowl and combine effort, his stock has risen.

The Cowboys orginally had their Dallas Day on April 15 but when the date was moved up, it presented a scheduling conflict for Miller.

Miller would love to play for the Cowboys but he might be taken before Dallas has a chance to think about him. The Cowboys' scouts have seen Miller plenty of times from his games in the Big 12 conference to know what he can do and they've of course watched him workout.

However, Also, expect DeMarcus Love, the offensive tackle from Arkansas, to attend Dallas Day as well. Love struggled at the combine but improved himself at Arkansas' Pro Day a few weeks ago. The Chicago Bears held a private workout with Love a few weeks ago and he seemed pretty excited about it.

Some Cowboys officials project Love as a third-round pick.

Other notable area players scheduled for Dallas Day are: Baylor cornerback Antareis Bryan, TCU cornerback Jason Teague, TCU wide receiver Jimmy Young and Oklahoma free safety Jonathan Nelson.

Kiper's Big Board: USC's Smith to Cowboys

March, 30, 2011
3/30/11
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The latest Big Board is up, and Mel Kiper Jr. has this to say about the Cowboys and the No. 9 pick:
If you're a team, like the Dallas Cowboys, that needs to address the offensive line but is among the first 10 picks, for the first time, you may have matching value for that spot.

That player? USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

The other player that has impressed Kiper -- and NFL scouts -- immensely is DeSoto High School product Von Miller, the linebacker who dazzled at Texas A&M. How much has Miller impressed? Kiper has him at No. 2, and possibly challenging LSU's Patrick Peterson as the best available talent in the NFL draft.

For more on Kiper's Big Board (it's Insider content), click here.
Texas A&M and Carrollton native Von Miller is scheduled to visit Valley Ranch on April 15.

The outside linebacker is projected as a top-five pick but the Cowboys, who have the ninth pick of the first round, are doing their due diligence when it comes to elite players such as Miller.

The team would also like to speak with USC tackle Tyron Smithand Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, two players that several mock drafts have the Cowboys taking, but visits with those players have not been finalized.

Miller will visit Valley Ranch during Dallas Day, which is held for area players. Last year, Dez Bryant, a Lufkin, Texas, native, visited Valley Ranch during Dallas Day and had dinner at the Gaylord Texan.

The Cowboys are also allowed to have 30 visits with players from outside of the area. This is where players such as Smith and Amukamara come in.

Von Miller moving fast at his pro day

March, 9, 2011
3/09/11
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We got a confirmed 40 time of Carrollton native and Texas A&M's Von Miller, who ran a 4.49 at his pro day today at College Station.

Miller, an outside linebacker, has moved up the ranks since the Senior Bowl when he was projected to go in the teens.

Now he's a Top 5 pick and with one of the fastest 40 times among college players at his position. The Cowboys know all about Miller having seen his game up close in the Big 12 for the last couple of years. Miller would love to play for the Cowboys but the reality is he's going to be gone by the time the team picks at No. 9.

GAC podcasts: Patrick Peterson, Von Miller

March, 8, 2011
3/08/11
4:44
PM ET

LSU DB Patrick Peterson joins GAC to talk about rocketing up to No. 1 on Mel Kiper's Big Board, potentially becoming the first cornerback taken first overall and more.

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Texas A&M LB Von Miller joins GAC to chat about his draft preparations and the dream of playing for the Dallas Cowboys.

Play Download

Texas A&M's Von Miller moving up

February, 27, 2011
2/27/11
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INDIANAPOLIS -- At the start of this draft process, it appeared Texas A&M's Von Miller would be picked in the middle of the first round.

An ankle injury limited the DeSoto native's ability to make more plays his senior year.

The junior year is where Miller excelled as he led the nation with 17 sacks and was fifth in tackles for loss at 1.65 per game but the senior season is where there was a drop off. But at the Senior Bowl, Miller emerged as a solid player who moved up the ranks.

"Honestly, I haven’t even noticed it," he said. "I’ve just been taking it day-by-day, one day at a time. That’s for all the fans and stuff, that’s for my mom and 'nem. I just take it day by day and trying to maximize my days and come April, see where I end up."

Miller is now a possible top-five pick and has showed teams he can play as an defensive end or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

"It’s a great time to be a linebacker," Miller said. "It’s a great time to be a linebacker every year. I don’t just label myself as an outside 3-4 linebacker. I want to be the best defensive player in this year’s draft. That may be in a 3-4, a 4-3, a 5-2, I just want to play football and get on the field."

The Cowboys are interested in Miller but didn't speak with him at the combine. He most likely talk with team officials in a few weeks at Valley Ranch when NFL teams are allowed to bring in prospective draft picks to their facilities.

Cowboys not taping interviews

February, 26, 2011
2/26/11
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Normally when Cowboys officials interview prospective draft picks they will tape the interviews.

Not anymore.

After the Cowboys would interview a player, they would review the tape to look at body language and review what a player said. Sometimes players sound rehearsed and are mindful of the cameras. The team didn't think it was getting a true feeling of what a player said at times.

This go-around the Cowboys will go over the notes they take during the interview and hope without the cameras the players will feel more relaxed.

Some of the Cowboys' scouts have held informal talks with several players at the combine. Jason Garrett and other members of the coaching staff, along with Jerry and Stephen Jones, also get in the conversations.

The Cowboys, like most NFL teams, will also invite players to their facility for interviews where Jerry Jones meets with every player personally over dinner. Wide receiver Dez Bryant did that last year during the draft process.

There are some players who the Cowboys won't talk to at the combine because they plan on speaking with them at Valley Ranch. Von Miller, the outside linebacker from Texas A&M could be one of those players. Miller doesn't have any meetings scheduled with the Cowboys at the combine.

"I think we have always done a lot of interviews here which I think the most important part of the exercise we do," Jones said. "We got a good plan with everybody involved here to get the right information. We won't be taping those interviews. We have taped them in the past. We will be taking the notes of the interviewers and having a real informal process. We will see how that works."

Jerry Jones talks about draft needs

February, 25, 2011
2/25/11
5:01
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Cowboys have several needs regarding a team that is coming off a 6-10 season.

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Hall of Famer Deion Sanders joins Ben and Skin in-studio to talk all things sports with a heavy dose of Jerry Jones and Dallas Cowboys.

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Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said quarterback and wide receiver isn't a major concern, but there are some other positions he did mention.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Jerry Jones comment: "The offensive line is an area because of the multiple players that are required to operate there, that's an area that's pretty obvious."

Why such a concern? The Cowboys have two starters -- left tackle Doug Free and left guard Kyle Kosier -- who are free agents. Four of the linemen are in their 30s, with right tackle Marc Colombo coming off a difficult season.

Possible target at No. 9: Nate Solder, tackle, Colorado.

"I've been playing tackle for three years so there's things I need to work on in my technique constantly," Solder said. "So I take some of that with a grain of salt. But the people that know what they're talking about, that I listen to, I do take that.''

SAFETY

Jerry Jones comment: "Safety would be an area. We got some numbers there and some potential there but certainly you could look at that."

Why such a concern? Strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh and free safety Alan Ball are both free agents. It appears Ball will be restricted so he might return, but Sensabaugh is going to test the market. There are some interesting safeties on the free-agent market in Oshiomogho Atogwe and Abram Elam. The Cowboys have no plans to bring Elam or Atowge in for a visit.

Possible target at No. 9: Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA. He's considered the best safety in the draft and most likely will go late in the first round. Mel Kiper on Moore: He's "a guy who can fly all over the field to intercept passes."

PASS RUSHER/DEFENSIVE LINE

Jerry Jones comment: "You should always be looking at your pressure position."

Why such a concern for the pass rush? Anthony Spencer struggled at times last season, but new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan doesn't believe he regressed. Still, Spencer's lack of pressures on a consistent basis allowed teams to focus on nose tackle Jay Ratliff and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Adding another pass rusher, either at end or outside linebacker, creates competition for Spencer and adds another talented player.

Possible target at No. 9: Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama. J.J. Wattof Wisconsin might be gone before No. 9 and there's a chance the Cowboys could get a corner, but if Dareus is here, this looks like a good pick.

"Dareus is the rare player you can draft with almost no concern for systems," Kiper said. "A player who can be a dominant pass-rusher from the 3-4 defensive end position."

The Cowboys also like Texas A&M's Von Miller, but his stock has pushed him to top 5 status and he might not be around. The Cowboys have not planned visits for Miller at the combine. But the organization values him and knows him well.

NOSE TACKLE

Jerry Jones comment: "We like Josh Brent. ... As I look at it from the perspective of sitting up here of looking at a young player up here in the combine. But we've got to keep them coming there. Defensive linemen is certainly an area you would look at certainly linemen here if they got to nine you couldn't look the other way."

Why such a concern for the line? Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcherare free agents and it appears the team wants to bring just Bowen back. Spears and Hatcher will test the market. The Cowboys are looking for someone who can add more pressure on the quarterback from the end spot but with Josh Brent and Sean Lissemore as emerging talents, it appears finding an end in the first round is possible.

Possible target at No. 9: It looks as if the Cowboys will select an end over a tackle because of Jay Ratliff and Brent and Lissemore.

Position Series: Outside linebackers

February, 22, 2011
2/22/11
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Players: DeMarcus Ware (signed through 2015), Anthony Spencer (signed through 2011), Victor Butler (signed through 2012), Brandon Williams (signed through 2012).

[+] EnlargeSpencer
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireAfter finishing strong in 2009, Anthony Spencer found himself struggling last season, especially against the run.
Top free agents: Kamerion Wimbley, Oakland Raiders; Chris Gocong, Cleveland Browns; Thomas Howard, Oakland Raiders; Mike Peterson, Atlanta Falcons; Manny Lawson, San Francisco 49ers.

Top draft prospects: Von Miller, Texas A&M; Akeem Ayers, UCLA; Kelvin Sheppard, LSU; Bruce Carter, North Carolina; Mason Foster, Washington

2010 review: There is nearly nothing negative you can say about the efforts of outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who led the NFL in sacks last season. But there is something to be said about Anthony Spencer, who played opposite of Ware. Spencer came on strong toward the end of the 2009 season, and there was a thought he would build momentum for a strong start for 2010. We're still waiting. Spencer had his moments, but he struggled against the run -- his supposed strong suit -- and failed to beat tacklers one-on-one on a consistent basis on the pass rush. Victor Butler was a bright spot for the Cowboys, but we’re not sure if he’s ready to get more playing time.

Offseason preview: The secondary, offensive line and pass rush are concerns for the 2011 Cowboys. If they draft a pass rusher, an outside linebacker or a defensive end that can play standing up, it would put pressure on Spencer to produce. Competition is important for these Cowboys moving forward. While Ware’s status is in excellent shape, Spencer’s is questionable.

Need meter: (0 to 5) 3

Senior Bowl practices: Day 2

January, 25, 2011
1/25/11
6:42
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MOBILE, Ala. -- The second day of Senior Bowl practices has finished, and here's a recap from the trio of Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl.

You have to be a ESPN Insider to get this but here's a sample of what they said of Day 2:

Von Miller Texas A&M

Texas A&M LB Von Miller went down with the linemen to rush the passer in one-on-ones and was lights out. He's so quick around the corner and the blockers had no chance. On the flip side, NC State LB Nate Irving also went down to rush the passer and followed Miller and you could see the difference. He didn't have the same first-step quickness and was unable to turn the corner as a result.

Linebackers working on individual drills

Linebackers Mason Foster (UCLA), Mark Herzlich (Boston College) and Lawrence Wilson (Connecticut) are fighting the ball during individual drills. Ohio State's Ross Homan made a clean catch on one pass, but dropped the next one.

ESPNDallas' look at practice: We believe the Cowboys need some help along the offensive line and possibly along the pass rush. In one-on-one drills we watched Alabama left tackle James Carpenter hold Texas' Sam Acho of Dallas St. Mark's on a bullrush as if he wasn't even there. Carpenter displayed good power and footwork. But Acho came right back in the same drill and blew right past Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod. ... Running back Noel Devine from West Virginia looks smaller than his listed 5-8, 180 pound numbers. One scout said Devine is 160 pounds. There is no question about Devine's speed. He hits holes fast and could be used as a scat back in somebody's offensive system. ... Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy of Southlake Carroll threw a nice deep pass to Hawaii receiver Greg Salas for a touchdown. ... LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, considered a Top 10 pick, worked out for some teams down here. Peterson did not list the Cowboys among the teams in attendance. ... Colorado tackle Nate Solder said he's spoken to about 10-to-15 teams, including the Cowboys scouts. ... Von Miller said he hasn't talked with the Cowboys.

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