Dallas Cowboys: Sean Lissemore

Reviewing the Cowboys' drafts: 2010

April, 15, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Day 2 of reviewing the Dallas Cowboys' last five drafts continues today with the Class of 2010.

If you want our thoughts on the 2009 draft, click here.

First-round pick: Dez Bryant (No. 24 overall)

Number of picks: 6

How they did: The Cowboys landed two building-block players in Bryant and Sean Lee. Bryant is coming off back-to-back 90-catch, 1,000-yard seasons and is dynamic. Lee is the leader of the defense and its best player, when healthy. Health has been a key issue for Lee since he has yet to play a full season because of injuries.

Sixth-round pick Sam Young is still in the league (Buffalo Bills) and the Cowboys landed a draft pick in return for their seventh rounder Sean Lissemore in a trade last summer with the San Diego Chargers. Lissemore was a quality pick but no longer a scheme fit with the change to the 4-3.

Pivotal pick: Injuries at Penn State kept Lee (No. 55 overall) out of the first round, but the Cowboys were willing to be patient with him because they sensed a special talent. He loves football in a way few players love the game and he is willing to put in the work. Had Lee been healthy, the Cowboys would not have been able to get him in the second round. Lee has been a playmaker since he joined the team and the Cowboys gave him a $42 million contract extension last summer.

Best pick: Bryant (No. 24 overall) slipped because of offseason concerns but the Cowboys moved up to get him and felt they could provide him with the best atmosphere to succeed. They did this less than two seasons after trading for Roy Williams and seeing Miles Austin make the Pro Bowl in 2009. They didn't need a wide receiver, but Bryant was too good to pass up. Williams was eventually cut and injuries led to Austin's departure this offseason. Bryant is now one of the best receivers in the NFL and coming off his first Pro Bowl.

Worst pick: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (No. 126 overall) put together a fantastic highlight tape and he tested great at the NFL scouting combine and at a pro day. Unfortunately his skills from Division II Indiana (Pa.) never translated. He played cornerback, but the Cowboys made him a safety and when that didn't work they made him a receiver. He was supposed to be a top kick returner but averaged only 21.7 yards per return. Seven picks after Owusu-Ansah the Seattle Seahawks took safety Kam Chancellor in the fifth round.

Cowboys' dead money on salary cap

February, 12, 2014
IRVING, Texas – A couple of weeks ago, Calvin Watkins gave you the top-10 salary-cap figures on the Dallas Cowboys. Last week, I gave you some salary-cap bargains.

Today we bring you the dead money that will be accounted for on the Cowboys’ 2014 salary cap.

They will have roughly $11.8 million in dead money, led by Jay Ratliff’s $6.928 million.

Two teams will have more dead money than the Cowboys (Carolina Panthers at $17.8 million, Buffalo Bills at $12.07 million). The Arizona Cardinals will have about $10 million in dead money.

The top-five “dead money” players remaining on the books for 2014 after Ratliff are: Nate Livings ($2.1 million), Marcus Spears ($1.4 million), Sean Lissemore ($1.2 million) and David Arkin ($113,400).

By the time the Cowboys have to get under the cap in March, there will be more dead money added after players are released. If the Cowboys cut DeMarcus Ware, they would have $8.5 million in dead money dedicated to Ware, but the move would save them nearly $7.4 million in cap space.

If they designate wide receiver Miles Austin as a June 1 cut, then the Cowboys would carry $2.749 million in dead money and Austin would count $5.1 million against the cap in 2015.

Seattle's best? Picks tell tale over Dallas

February, 3, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Is it too soon or too late to remind Dallas Cowboys fans that Akwasi Owusu-Ansah was drafted 13 spots before the Seattle Seahawks chose Kam Chancellor in the fifth round of the 2010 draft?

Or is too soon or too late remind them that Josh Thomas was picked 11 spots before the Seahawks took Richard Sherman in the fifth round of the 2011 draft?

Today, Chancellor and Sherman are celebrating a Super Bowl victory. Thomas at least made it to the playoffs with the Carolina Panthers as a reserve. Owusu-Ansah was on the Detroit Lions' practice squad last year. Maybe we can ask new Cowboys playcaller (and former Lions offensive coordinator) Scott Linehan how Owusu-Ansah looked.

When a team wins a Super Bowl, we all look for the differences as to why Team X played in the Super Bowl and Team Y didn’t, and we say, "Copy those guys. That’s the way to get it done."

It doesn't work that way. Well, it shouldn't work that way. A team has to have its own philosophy and make it work. Stick with it and hope it pays off. That’s what Jason Garrett has referred to as building a program. It’s maddening to hear, especially after three 8-8 seasons, but there is truth in what Garrett is saying.

The biggest difference between the Seahawks and Cowboys is the draft. Well, that and the Seattle defense. But for this post we’ll stick with the draft.

Since 2010, the Seahawks picked 12 players from the third round and later -- or who were undrafted -- who have crucial roles in the team's success. The Cowboys have DeMarco Murray, a third-rounder in 2011, and three undrafted free agents. I could have counted Dwayne Harris, but the Cowboys actually cut him and needed him to pass through waivers before putting him on the practice squad in 2011.

If the Cowboys had not traded Sean Lissemore before the 2013 season, I would have counted their seventh-round pick in 2010 on the list.

As for undrafted picks, I’ll go with Barry Church (2010), Dan Bailey (2011) and Ronald Leary (undrafted, 2012). I wasn’t ready to say that Kyle Wilber (fourth round, 2012) and/or James Hanna (sixth round, 2012) are crucial to the Cowboys’ success.

In order to win a draft, teams have to be successful in the middle rounds. The Cowboys have not been successful in the middle rounds in years. As a result, they lack depth. When they lose starters, they have to scour the street for help. When the Seahawks lose a player, they plug in a mid- to late-round pick as if nothing ever happened.

If we want to eliminate the third round, which is where Seattle drafted quarterback Russell Wilson in 2012, the Cowboys have to go back to the 2008 draft to find a real hit for the Cowboys in Rounds 4-7: cornerback Orlando Scandrick (fifth). Doug Free (2007) turned into a good fourth-round pick only after the Cowboys were forced to play him in 2009. The golden year was 2005 when the Cowboys got Marion Barber (fourth), Chris Canty (fourth) and Jeremiah Ratliff (seventh) in what was then the second day of the draft.

The Seahawks can point to guys like Sherman, Chancellor, Walter Thurmond (fourth, 2011), Byron Maxwell (sixth, 2011), Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith (seventh, 2011), K.J. Wright (fourth, 2011), Robert Turbin (fourth, 2012), J.R. Sweezy (seventh, 2012), Doug Baldwin (undrafted, 2011) and Jermaine Kearse (undrafted, 2012).

They aren’t merely contributors. They are difference-makers.

If the Cowboys want to alter their "secret sauce" recipe, they can look at the Seahawks' cookbook.

Former Cowboys still playing this weekend

January, 4, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys did not make the playoffs, but they could have as many as 11 former players taking part in the postseason this weekend.

Kansas City Chiefs

Anthony Fasano caught 23 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns in nine games for the Chiefs. He was the first of three second-round picks the Cowboys have used on tight ends since 2006. The lack of creativity at times with “12 personnel” has hurt him, Martellus Bennett and Gavin Escobar.

Indianapolis Colts

Running back Tashard Choice had 11 carries for 44 yards in three games for the Colts after he was cut by the Buffalo Bills. He had some moments with the Cowboys but could not get in the running back rotation with Marion Barber and/or Felix Jones.

Defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton was signed in June and released by the Cowboys on Aug. 26.

Erik Walden was a sixth-round pick in 2008, just like Choice, but he never showed the pass-rush ability the Cowboys hoped for. He won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers and has 45 tackles and three sacks in 15 games for the Colts.

New Orleans Saints

Shayne Graham was with the Cowboys in training camp in 2011 when they had five kickers on the roster at one point. At one point it looked like the job was his, but the Cowboys went with undrafted rookie Dan Bailey, who has been one of their best players the past three seasons. Graham was a late-season addition to the Saints' roster.

Kenyon Coleman is on injured reserve and Victor Butler is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.

Philadelphia Eagles

If there was a player to make the all-airport team it would be Clifton Geathers. He had the look of the prototype defensive end in a 3-4 but he just didn’t make enough plays. He had 26 tackles in 16 games for the Eagles this season with one in last week’s win against the Cowboys.

Cincinnati Bengals

Cornerback Adam Jones had an eventful one season with the Cowboys in 2008. He has found a home in Cincinnati. He has 56 tackles and three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, in 16 games.

Terence Newman had a second straight solid season with the Bengals but missed the final three games with a knee injury. He should play Saturday against the San Diego Chargers. In 13 games he had 52 tackles, two interceptions and 14 pass deflections.

Who is Kevin Brock? A tight end. He did a short stint in training camp with the Cowboys in 2010.

Dennis Roland was an undrafted offensive tackle with the Cowboys in 2006. He has had a decent career, mostly with the Bengals and is a backup now.

San Diego Chargers

The Cowboys traded Sean Lissemore to the Chargers on Sept. 1 for a seventh-round pick in 2015. Given the injuries they had on the line, they would have been better served to keep Lissemore, who might not have been the best fit in a 4-3. In 15 games (two starts), Lissemore had 24 tackles and two sacks for the Chargers.

Tight end John Phillips was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. He had four catches in 15 games.

The San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers do not have any former Cowboys on their rosters.

DeMarcus Ware: Best fix for D is health

November, 13, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- By their 10th game last season, the Dallas Cowboys had already lost key defensive contributors for a combined 33 games.

Safety Barry Church went on injured reserve on Sept. 25 with a torn Achilles. Sean Lee went on injured reserve on Oct. 24 with a toe injury. Defensive lineman Kenyon Coleman went on injured reserve on Nov. 14 with a triceps injury. Six other players had missed at least one game, including Sean Lissemore with six games and Jay Ratliff with four.

Through 10 games this season, the Cowboys have lost key defensive contributors for a combined 21 games. Ratliff, Tyrone Crawford, Ben Bass and Matt Johnson are not included on the list because they were never on the 53-man roster this season, but those injuries are noteworthy nonetheless because of the roles they were expected to play.

Anthony Spencer leads the way with nine missed games with his season over because of knee surgery. DeMarcus Ware and J.J. Wilcox have missed three games. Four other players have missed at least one game so far.

What gives the Cowboys hope this year is that the currently hurt players will get healthy.

“I mean when you have, what, five guys or six of the starters out, the best way to fix it is to get the guys back,” Ware said. “Sometimes we have guys in there that sort of don’t know what they’re doing because it’s probably the first time they’ve been playing in a long time. When you have a team that doesn’t make mistakes and sort of expose you that with those guys that are in the game, that’s what [New Orleans] did. You’ve got to get the guys back that know what’s going on and during the bye week use that to make a big push.”

Morris Claiborne and Ware did not practice on Wednesday but they expect to play against the New York Giants on Nov. 24. Jason Hatcher was on the field Wednesday and also expects to play. Wilcox also hopes to play against the Giants.

The return of Claiborne will help the secondary even if he was not without faults before getting hurt.

“We still have guys that can fill in but obviously the experience that I have that B.W. [Webb] and [Micah] Pellerin don’t, that goes a long way.”

Linebackers Lee and Justin Durant will miss at least two games with hamstring injuries but will be back.

Last year the Cowboys did not have the luxury of players returning. Ratliff did not play a game after Nov. 18. Bruce Carter went on injured reserve on Nov. 26 with an elbow injury. Orlando Scandrick went on injured reserve on Dec. 8 with a wrist injury. Josh Brent was put on the non-football injury list on Dec. 12 after the accident that cost the life of teammate Jerry Brown.

Maybe it’s foolish to think the Cowboys won’t suffer more injuries on the defensive side of the ball in the final six games, but the one hope is at least some people will return.

“We’ve just got to get healthy, man,” Hatcher said.

Cowboys' DL moves since May

November, 6, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Since May 16, the Dallas Cowboys have signed, traded, acquired, put on injured reserve or released 28 defensive linemen. They saw another, Josh Brent, retire on July 18.

Everett Dawkins and Hall Davis are the latest additions. Dawkins was signed off the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad to the active roster, and Davis filled the final practice-squad vacancy.

There has been an incredible amount of movement on the Cowboys' defensive line. If you remember the Travis Chappelear era consider yourself fortunate.

Check out these transactions by date involving only the defensive line:

May 16 – Signed Anthony Hargrove
June 5 – Waived/injured Robert Callaway
June 11 – Signed Jeris Pendleton
June 20 – Cut Hargrove
June 25 – Signed Jerome Long
July 18 – Josh Brent retired
July 26 – Signed George Selvie and Landon Cohen
July 31 – Cut Ike Igbinosun, signed Toby Jackson
Aug. 1 – Waived/injured Cameron Sheffield
Aug. 6 – Waived Monte Taylor, signed Jabari Fletcher
Aug. 12 – Signed Travis Chappelear
Aug. 13 – Claimed Thaddeus Gibson
Aug. 19 – Waived Chappelear, Jackson
Aug. 21 – Signed Jason Vega
Aug. 26 - Cut Pendleton
Aug. 27 – Placed Tyrone Crawford on injured reserve, Jay Ratliff on reserve/PUP
Aug. 31 – Cut Fletcher, Gibson, Long, Vega; acquired Edgar Jones from Kansas City
Sept. 1 – Traded Sean Lissemore to San Diego
Sept. 2 – Signed Vega to practice squad
Sept. 3 – Acquired Caesar Rayford from Indianapolis
Sept. 5 – Chappelear waived off injured reserve
Sept. 7 – Placed Ben Bass on injured reserve; re-signed Long
Sept. 17 – Cut Cohen, signed David Carter
Sept. 24 – Cut Long, signed Drake Nevis
Sept. 25 – Placed Anthony Spencer on injured reserve
Oct. 15 – Cut Carter, Signed Jarius Wynn
Oct. 16 – Released Ratliff off reserve/PUP
Oct. 18 – Signed Vega off practice squad; placed Jones on IR to return list
Oct. 21 – Signed Marvin Austin
Oct. 29 – Released Vega; signed Everette Brown
Oct. 31 – Signed Vega to practice squad
Nov. 5 – Cut Austin
Nov. 6 – Signed Everett Dawkins off Minnesota practice squad; signed Hall Davis to practice squad

Cowboys' defensive line has some issues

September, 2, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- During the early stages of training camp, Dallas Cowboys officials said they were impressed with the depth of the defensive line and deemed it a position of strength.

It was that train of thought that explained why the team didn’t draft a defensive linemen in the first round.

Today, the Cowboys' defensive line is a mess.

Starting defensive tackle Jay Ratliff is on the physically unable to perform list for the first six games of the 2013 season. His return isn’t guaranteed given his shaky relationship with the team's strength and conditioning staff.

Monday morning, Cowboys' starting defensive end Anthony Spencer wasn’t on the field to practice in preparations for the Week 1 game against the New York Giants because he’s still recovering from minor knee surgery.

George Selvie, Spencer’s replacement, has played in 36 career games for three different NFL teams.

Sunday afternoon, the Cowboys traded Sean Lissemore, an undersized defensive tackle, who was also an end, for a 2015 seventh-round pick to the San Diego Chargers.

Last year, Lissemore signed a five-year, $7.1 million deal with $3.1 million guaranteed. Now it’s not considered a major deal from a financial standpoint, but it was clear, at least at that time, the Cowboys thought Lissemore had a future.

Now he’s gone and the Cowboys will rely on Jason Hatcher, Nick Hayden, Ben Bass and Landon Cohen to play the defensive tackle position.

Hatcher, who enters the final year of his contract, will start alongside Hayden, who missed the 2012 season recovering from a high-ankle sprain.

Bass played in two games his rookie season in 2012 and Cohen has played in 25 NFL games for three different teams but didn’t play last season after the Philadelphia Eagles released him.

The best player along the line is DeMarcus Ware, the end, who will make the switch from outside linebacker to a full-time end for the first time in his NFL career.

Ware was fantastic in training camp and the preseason, yet if Spencer is out for the Week 1 game against the Giants, the offensive line will target taking Ware out of the game with double-teams because there’s no threat of Spencer.

Kyle Wilber is the other member of the defensive line and he moved from outside linebacker to end and is struggling at the position.

The Cowboys' hope in Wilber, a 2012 fourth-round pick, is he’ll eventually become a stable force along the line.

As the Cowboys move toward Week 1, the defensive line, once a strength from the front office, might not be a weakness, given the health and the lack of experience.

Cowboys' preseason finally comes to end

August, 29, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys finished the preseason with a distasteful 24-6 loss to the Houston Texans on Thursday night and finally the long, boring preseason has come to an end.

Before moving forward, a quick review of what occurred at AT&T Stadium.
  • The Cowboys didn't play any of their projected starters; however, main backups Phillip Tanner, Kyle Orton, Cole Beasley, Kyle Wilber, Ernie Sims and Sean Lissemore participated in the game.
  • Backup quarterback Alex Tanney, fighting for a roster spot, was sacked seven times, including three times in the final two minutes of the game. The Cowboys' run defense was hammered for 190 yards, including runs of 41 and 29 yards.
  • There was a makeshift offensive line, beginning with right tackle Jermey Parnell, right guard Kevin Kowalski, center Phil Costa, left guard David Arkin and left tackle Darrion Weems. Toward the end of the game, Kowalski was at center and Demetress Bell was getting snaps at tackle.
  • Cornerback B.W. Webb allowed two scores, but almost picked off a pass, and the defense forced one turnover. Once again, the special teams struggled at times, with a delay-of-game penalty called when the punt team had just 10 men on the field; after the Cowboys recovered a muffed punt, it was negated by a holding call on Dante Rosario.

"We had several guys look good," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. "They all sat on the bench for 60 minutes."

Coach Jason Garrett said there were some communication issues on defense leading to some bad plays, and admitted his group was outplayed overall.

"Obviously their group played better than our group," Garrett said. "You can talk a lot of different ways about that. I think in some ways it does reflect on the depth of the football team right now. But a quick turnaround, I think we'll probably see good things in the ballgame when we watch the tape. And there are obviously things we didn't really like, again, in all three phases of our team."

Cowboys DT Lissemore leaves with concussion

August, 29, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Sean Lissemore left Thursday's final preseason game with the Houston Texans with an injury. Lissemore started at defensive tackle and got nicked up on a run play in the third quarter.

Update: Lissemore confirmed that he suffered a concussion.

The Cowboys were playing Lissemore because of health issues along the defensive line and to give him some snaps. He missed nearly two weeks of practices because of a groin injury, but played in the last two preseason games.

Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, defensive end Anthony Spencer and defensive end Tyrone Crawford are nursing injuries. Crawford (Achilles) is out for the season, and Ratliff (groin and hamstring) will miss the first six weeks of the regular season because he's on the physically unable to perform list. Spencer is expected to return in Week 1.

Losing Lissemore for any period of time would thin a unit in need of personnel.

Cornerback Micah Pellerin also left the game with an injury in the third quarter.

The exact nature of the injuries isn't known.

W2W4: Five things for Texans-Cowboys

August, 29, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys meet the Houston Texans in the preseason for the first time since 2010 at AT&T Stadium. Intrastate pride might be on the line for the fans of both teams, but little else.

With 75 players on the roster, some jobs remain but most are filled. Here’s what we’ll be looking at tonight:

Job fair: With 18 roster moves to make by Saturday’s cut-down date, most of the decisions have likely been made. There are perhaps two open spots with as many as eight guys looking to fit the square peg. Would the Cowboys carry five tight ends? How about six receivers? Nine defensive linemen?

Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore, tight end Andre Smith, wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, cornerback Micah Pellerin, tackle DeMetress Bell, guard David Arkin and guard Kevin Kowalski can make their cases tonight. Linebacker Brandon Magee (concussion), safeties Eric Frampton (calf), Danny McCray (hamstring) and Matt Johnson (foot) will have to watch and sweat out the final decisions.

Dez Bryant joins Tim MacMahon and Landry Locker to discuss his hobby of studying the game's great receivers, if his next contract ever crosses his mind, what it was like to be investigated by the NCAA and much, much more.

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Tanney time: Maybe Kyle Orton opens the game, but the Cowboys will give Alex Tanney most of the work.

With needs at other positions and injury questions going into the opener, Tanney is looking more like a practice-squad fit than a 53-man roster fit. If he plays lights out, he could change the equation or at the very least get another team to keep him on the 53-man roster the way Matt Moore did a few years ago.

Check out the Texans: Last year the Cowboys closed the preseason against Miami and traded for veteran offensive lineman Ryan Cook a few days later based on what they saw in that game.

With the Cowboys moving to a pure zone blocking scheme this year, check out the Texans’ offensive linemen. Assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack spent five years with the Texans (2007-11) and will have a good idea of what would be a good fit with the Cowboys.

As unsettled as the Cowboys are with their starting offensive line they’re more unsettled with the backups. A case could be made they don’t have a ninth or 10th guy (if they choose to reach double digits) on their current roster to fill out the line.

Earning practice squad jobs: Tanney has been talked about, but there will be seven other spots to fill. The Cowboys like to keep receivers and defensive backs on the practice squad because of the amount of running in practice, so guys like Danny Coale, Tim Benford and Pellerin bear watching.

And the line play will have candidates to, like defensive end Jerome Long and offensive tackle Darrion Weems. Linebacker could be another spot of interest with Cameron Lawrence and Taylor Reed.

The digital board: Chris Jones hit it last week with a punt against Cincinnati and the Bengals returned the re-kick 75 yards for a touchdown, continuing a preseason-long issue of special teams’ miscues. Jones is unlikely to hit it again, but watching it to see the clock tick down will be more important because it brings us closer to the start of the regular season.

Cowboys DL no longer position of strength

August, 28, 2013
IRVNG, Texas -- The earliest Jay Ratliff will reach the field is Oct. 20 against Philadelphia now that he is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.

Anthony Spencer will be ready for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the New York Giants, but he will have less than a week of practice after undergoing knee surgery July 25. It is not possible to expect Spencer to be able to play a full game at a high level after such a long absence.

Tyrone Crawford is on crutches, wearing a cast because of a torn Achilles’ tendon suffered in the first training-camp practice and is out for the year.

All offseason the Cowboys talked about the defensive line being a strength, as if saying it actually made it so.

Nick Hayden, who was out of football last year, will replace Ratliff in the starting lineup. George Selvie, who was out of football for two months this summer after his release from Jacksonville, could start or at least see significant action with Spencer working his way back. He has three sacks in 36 games for three teams.

Ben Bass, who made the Cowboys’ roster last year after gaining a tryout to the rookie camp, is projected to be Crawford’s replacement based on his ability to play end and tackle. Landon Cohen came in the same day as Selvie and could find his way into the defensive line rotation. Kyle Wilber, who barely played as a rookie outside linebacker in 2012, is another rotation player. Sean Lissemore is another rotation guy, but seems to be a better fit for a 3-4 defense than a 4-3 scheme.

The Cowboys chose not to select a defensive lineman in last April’s draft. They didn’t like Sharrif Floyd in the first round because, as Jerry Jones said, he did not possess the “fast twitch,” they want out of defensive linemen. They passed on defensive linemen in every other round, too.

Remember, the Cowboys believed the defensive line was a position of strength.

Rod Marinelli has earned rave reviews from the front office, fellow coaches and players during his short time with the club. He is a mix of pass-rush whisperer and task-master.

He will have to be at his best with Ratliff out for six games at least, Spencer attempting to return to form and Crawford out for the year.

In April, they viewed the defensive line as a strength. Now it’s a question mark.

Nick Hayden earned a job this summer

August, 27, 2013
IRVING, Texas – When the Cowboys signed Nick Hayden to a free agent deal on Feb. 11, they did not believe he would be the odds-on favorite to start the regular-season opener at defensive tackle.

Hayden was out of football last year, cut by Cincinnati late in the preseason and given an injury settlement to cover an ankle injury. Healthy five weeks later, Hayden went the whole season without even a workout with a team.

When the Cowboys called, he jumped.

“Shoot, I don’t think I had that many options,” Hayden said.

With Jay Ratliff out most of the entire offseason and through training camp because of groin and hamstring injuries, Hayden has climbed the ranks of the depth chart. In the organized team activities and June mini-camp he became an interesting project. In training camp in Oxnard, he split time with Sean Lissemore before wrestling the job away in part because Lissemore suffered a groin injury.

He has started every preseason game and with Ratliff in serious doubt to play Sept. 8 against the New York Giants he could start the opener, too.

“I don’t really worry about it, but you know you’ve got to get your mind right for it,” Hayden said. “So, I’ve done it before. I’ve started games before. Just got to be ready for the moment and just seize it.”

He has started 13 of 28 games, including 10 for Carolina in 2010. His best game that season came against Chicago when he seven tackles and a sack. Maybe Rod Marinelli, who was the Bears defensive coordinator that day and is now the Cowboys defensive line coach, noticed.

Hayden spent last year keeping in shape near his Milwaukee-area home and enjoying time with his wife. At 27, he was not ready to move on from the game even if it moved on from him in 2012.

“I mean you never know when this game is going to end,” Hayden said. “Every guy in the locker room, you just don’t know. That’s why you’ve got to take full advantage of every opportunity and just glad they gave me the opportunity to come here.”

5 Wonders: Look at a possible trade

August, 27, 2013
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys have one more preseason game to go, Thursday against Houston, but since they’re not playing their starters, we’re not wondering much about what will happen.

This week’s Five Wonders touches on a potential trade decision, Jason Witten's blocking as well as Tony Romo’s accuracy.

On to the Wonders:

Stretch Smith joins Galloway and Company to discuss five positive and five negative things he took away from the Cowboys' fourth preseason game.

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** Let’s talk trade. Not a big trade, but just something I’m wondering about with the Cowboys as they start the process of trimming the roster and possibly looking at players from other teams. I wonder if the Cowboys could look to move defensive end Sean Lissemore. This isn’t to say they should trade him or that he has had a poor camp and won’t get a spot on the 53-man roster. Lissemore signed a four-year extension with the Cowboys that included $3.17 million in guaranteed money last season. I think he’s a good, solid role player. He just might not be the best fit for a 4-3 defense. The Cowboys need help on the offensive line, but to expect major moves at this time of the year is just not realistic. You’re talking about acquiring a player like Ryan Cook, who was picked up last year from Miami a week before the season for a seventh-round pick. Lissemore’s age, friendly contract and ability to play a couple of spots might be able to bring some value in return to the Cowboys where they need it most.

** Jason Witten set a record for catches by tight ends in a season with 110 last year. Even more remarkable is the fact that he had only eight catches after the first three games. But I wonder if the Cincinnati game is a sign that things might change in 2013. Of Tony Romo’s 18 passes against the Bengals, Witten stayed in pass protection eight times. That’s a high percentage. With his backups, James Hanna, Gavin Escobar and Dante Rosario, not known for their blocking perhaps Witten will find himself helping the line more than he has in the past. Over the last five seasons Witten has averaged 92 catches a year. In 2011 he caught 79 passes for 942 yards and five touchdowns. While still a very good season, those are not typical Witten numbers, but I wonder if that is the neighborhood he will be in this year.

** Tony Romo is something of a tech-junkie. The quarterback kind, anyway. He likes to tinker with his mechanics the way a golfer tinkers with his swing in an attempt to find a better release point, better footwork, better whatever. Romo has hinted at arm angle changes this summer that have been able to hold up in his work in the preseason. He completed 72 percent of his preseason passes (26 of 36 in three games). And it wasn’t like he was throwing a ton of short throws to Jason Witten or his running backs. So I’m wondering if Romo will set a career high in completion percentage this season. His previous best for a full season is 66.3% in 2011. He completed 69.5% in five-plus games in 2010 before a broken collarbone ended his season. Troy Aikman holds the Cowboys’ team record at 69.1% in 1993.

** I wonder if the Cowboys are putting too much faith in Ronald Leary. This has nothing to do with Leary’s ability to return rather quickly from a knee scope or not. This has to do with Leary having not played in a game yet and the fact that he was an undrafted free agent a year ago who spent most of the season on the practice squad. Leary was decent in his preseason work before needing the surgery but the Cowboys’ flirtations with Brandon Moore and Brian Waters were about Leary, at least to a degree. Leary might be the Cowboys’ best option but the bar should be higher than comparing him to Nate Livings.

** Through four preseason games the Cowboys have nine takeaways: five interceptions and four fumbles. Last year the Cowboys forced only 16 turnovers on the season. They had nine in their first nine games. I wonder how many games it will take the Cowboys this season to force nine turnovers. The ability to turn the emphasis of taking the ball away into actually taking the ball away is impressive. The Cowboys did similar drills with Rob Ryan, Paul Pasqualoni, Wade Phillips, Brian Stewart and Mike Zimmer at defensive coordinator but they were hardly ever able to see the fruits of that work during games. The quarterbacks the Cowboys face in the first four games of the season – Eli Manning, Alex Smith, Sam Bradford and Philip Rivers - threw 48 interceptions last season. Smith has thrown just 10 picks in his last 25 starts and is playing for a new coach in Kansas City.
IRVING, Texas -- Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore returned to practice Tuesday after missing a week with a groin injury.

Lissemore did some individual drills and coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys will work him into some team drills later this week.

In terms of playing in Saturday's fourth preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday at AT&T Stadium, Lissemore said, "I'm planning on it."

With Jay Ratliff out with hamstring and groin injuries, Lissemore took over at one of the defensive tackle spots. In the offseason, Lissemore had to make a switch from 3-4 defensive end to a 4-3 defensive tackle who will take on centers and protect the run.

"I think I can play in this defense," he said. "It's different from the two-gap scheme, but it's forgetting everything I've learned the last three years."

Lissemore thought he needed to pick up weight, but instead the Cowboys' coaches said he needed to lose some to become faster.

"I'm down 12 to 14 pounds from where I was at the start of training camp," Lissemore said. "I'm at 298 pounds, and I have to play the run on the way to the pass."

The Cowboys value Lissemore's ability to back up Ratliff when he returns. During practices and before he was injured, Lissemore was talking to Ratliff about the finer points of playing defensive tackle.

"I get everything from him," Lissemore said. "He's been a great teacher and he's always there for me."

Brandon Magee suffers concussion

August, 20, 2013
IRVING, Texas – Cowboys rookie linebacker Brandon Magee will not play Saturday against Cincinnati after suffering a concussion in Monday’s practice.

It is possible Magee will not be able to play in the preseason final against Houston on Aug. 29. Wide receiver Terrance Williams suffered a concussion on Aug. 2 and missed the first two preseason games. Magee led the Cowboys with six tackles last week against Arizona.

Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore returned to the practice field Tuesday after a 10-day absence because of a groin injury suffered during training camp in Oxnard, Calif. Lissemore played in the first two preseason games.

Lance Dunbar (foot), Cole Beasley (foot), Ryan Cook (back), Ronald Leary (knee), Nate Livings (knee), Morris Claiborne (knee), J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson (foot), Eric Frampton (calf), Ernie Sims (groin), Jay Ratliff (hamstring, hernia) and Anthony Spencer (knee) are not practicing.