NFC East: b.w. webb

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:


The Kyle Orton watch is over now that the Cowboys released the veteran backup. The timing of it is a surprise, and Jason Garrett spoke optimistically all offseason about Orton’s return. Now the Cowboys turn their attention to Weeden as Romo’s backup. Weeden had a productive spring, running the first-team offense as Romo recovered from back surgery. The Cowboys haven’t kept a third quarterback since 2011, and Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughan will have work to do to crack the 53-man roster


The last two spots could be up in the air. Randle, a fifth-round choice, will be pushed by free-agent pickup Ryan Williams in the preseason. Williams, a former second-round pick, was not able to stay healthy in Arizona. The Cowboys have given him a chance to win a backup job. Clutts did a nice job as a late-season pickup in 2013. He is more versatile than undrafted rookie J.C. Copeland, but I don’t think having a fullback on the 53-man roster is set in stone.


I debated whether to go with a sixth, but later on you will see why I stuck with five. It is possible the Cowboys will look for a veteran in the final cuts if they feel limited by their depth because of injury, but I think they like the overall group. They will work their No. 3 receiver role on a rotation basis, but Beasley could emerge as a bigger threat on third down. There will be a lot of eyes on Williams, who takes over the No. 2 role on a full-time basis. Bryant is set for another Pro Bowl-type season.


Witten remains near the top of the game at his position. His total catches were down last year, but his touchdowns were up. Escobar’s role figures to expand, especially as a No. 3-type receiver. Hanna has the inside track on the third spot, but I have a feeling the Cowboys will be looking for more of a traditional blocker, especially if they want to get away from the fullback spot to open up a role elsewhere.


The top six are set, with Bernadeau or Leary fighting it out for the left guard position and the loser becoming the top backup on the interior. Parnell is in the final year of his deal, and if Weems develops, I wonder if the Cowboys would look for a trading partner. They have invested a lot in Parnell in time and money for him to be a backup, so it would be a risk, but perhaps one worth taking. Weems had a decent offseason. Clarke gets the nod as the No. 9 guy right now, but veteran Uche Nwaneri could work his way into the mix.


I think the Cowboys will go heavy here, especially considering what happened last year and the numbers they have thrown at the position this year. Four of them are rookies -- Lawrence, Gardner, Bishop and Coleman. I believe Anthony Spencer and possibly Amobi Okoye will start the year on the physically unable to perform list, so they don’t make this 53-man roster with the idea that they join the team after the sixth game of the season. Wilson garnered the last spot over a 2013 starter, Nick Hayden, but there will be a few players in the mix for the final few spots, including Ben Bass.


Carrying seven linebackers might be a little heavy, but I have special teams in mind when it comes to Will Smith. He benefits from having only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. The Cowboys spent the offseason telling us games are won and lost up front, so carrying an extra offensive or defensive linemen could get in this mix as well. McClain gets a spot only because of his experience. Backups of Holloman, Hitchens and Smith would be tough considering their youth, and I can see the Cowboys looking for veteran backup help around the final cut dates.


Carr and Claiborne have to play exceptionally well for this defense to have a chance, and they might have to do it without much help from a consistent pass rush. Scandrick is coming off his best season, and Claiborne will have to beat him out to reclaim the starting spot. Moore can play inside and out. Mitchell showed in his limited offseason work that he can make plays. Last year’s fourth-round pick, B.W. Webb, will have to fight for a spot. Based on his offseason work, he did not make the cut for this roster.


Church is the only player without questions. The Cowboys are projecting the other four with their biggest bet on Wilcox. He enters camp as the starter, but he could be pushed by Heath and Hamilton. Dixon will be more of a special-teams threat if he is to make the roster. Hamilton showed some playmaking in the offseason. No Matt Johnson? Not right now, especially after he couldn’t practice -- again -- for most of the offseason.


Perhaps Cody Mandell can push Jones, but Jones is the more consistent punter and has a good rapport as a holder for Bailey. Ladouceur remains one of the best long-snappers in the game. This group won’t change during the summer unless there is an injury.
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys pumped up the volume at Tuesday's organized team activity, playing music throughout the workout, ranging from Run DMC to heavy metal.

Coach Jason Garrett said he has used music in past OTAs in 2-minute situations, but this was the first practice in which the music played almost through the entire practice.

"It puts you in the game," passing game coordinator Scott Linehan said. "You've got to communicate in the game. It's not always perfect. When you're out here in the spacious practice facility with nobody yelling or screaming at you it's like golf. You don't have to worry or think about distractions. You've got to learn how to play when you've got 100,000 people screaming down your neck and doing it without letting it bother you, so I think it's really good work."

On to some more observations:
  • Linehan said Brandon Weeden has had his best week of practice. With Tony Romo sitting and Kyle Orton absent, Caleb Hanie had his best day in the sessions open to the media. He completed all but two of his throws in team drills and one was a throwaway while he was under pressure. He connected with Devin Street near the sideline, putting the ball on a dime to where Street could keep his feet inbounds.
  • Weeden's best throw was a play-action dig to wide receiver Terrance Williams, putting the ball just a little low to keep it away from cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who was trailing on the play.
  • The timing Romo and Jason Witten have is almost always impeccable. You can see the small difference when Romo isn't in there. Weeden was unable to get enough loft on a corner route to Witten with linebacker Bruce Carter in coverage. The throw was more on the line and Witten couldn't get both hands on it. With a little more air, Witten would have made the catch.
  • The struggles continued for cornerback B.W. Webb. On two of three passes he was beaten by Tim Benford and Cole Beasley. On the second play Beasley was able to change direction so quickly that Webb lost his leverage and gave up a big gain.
  • Backup left tackle Darrion Weems did a nice job of kicking out defensive end Martez Wilson on a Lance Dunbar run to beat a blitz from the defense.
  • Backup tight end Gavin Escobar had a good day after missing the open session last week with what he described as a tweaked back. He plucked a Hanie pass away with Jakar Hamilton closing fast, making sure the safety did not have a chance to break up the play. Later working in motion he was able to get inside leverage with a hard sell to the outside for a decent completion from Dustin Vaughan.
  • DeVonte Holloman and Anthony Hitchens did not take part in team drills. Holloman has been slowed by a hamstring strain. Undrafted rookie Dontavis Sapp was able to get more work at backup middle linebacker.
  • Receiver Dwayne Harris was kept out of team drills as a receiver as he continues to come back from offseason shoulder surgery. He was able to handle the punt return duties. Harris said he will not do any team drills on offense until training camp.
  • The Cowboys signed defensive end Dartwan Bush, who attended the rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, and will place cornerback Jocquel Skinner on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Cowboys' rookie pool set

May, 14, 2014
May 14
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have a rookie pool of $5.792 million to sign their nine draft picks and undrafted free agents.


Who will lead the Cowboys in sacks this season?


Discuss (Total votes: 14,176)

Several teams have already started signing their draft picks and it is something the Cowboys could start to do at this weekend's rookie minicamp. Last year the Cowboys signed DeVonte Holloman, Joseph Randle and B.W. Webb in a five-day span in May. The entire draft class was signed by the end of June.

The Cowboys kick off a two-day minicamp Friday and could look to wrap up deals with picks in Rounds 4-7: Anthony Hitchens, Devin Street, Ben Gardner, Will Smith, Ahmad Dixon, Ken Bishop and Terrance Mitchell.

With the new collective bargaining agreement there is little negotiating involved, making the deals easy to reach conclusions. The late-round picks will receive base salaries of $420,000, $510,000, $600,000 and $690,000 on their four-year deals. All of the draft picks will receive four-year deals but the Cowboys will hold a fifth-year option on first rounder Zack Martin.

The Cowboys have $5.5 million in salary-cap space and will gain another $5.5 million in salary-cap space when Miles Austin's contract comes off the books June 2.

The extra space could help the Cowboys in securing long-term deals for Dez Bryant or Tyron Smith over the summer. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said during the draft the teams hopes to start talks with Smith's agent, "sooner rather than later."
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have signed three defensive players in free agency, but that does not mean they have fixed the woes on that side of the ball in the offseason.

Among the national visitors to the Cowboys next week for pre-draft visits are UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr, Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence and Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, according to sources.

Teams are allowed 30 national visitors leading up to the draft. They do not work out, but they meet with coaches and scouts and are put to the test mentally. The Cowboys can have an unlimited number of players work out at their Dallas day session on April 17 that includes players from local colleges or who played high school football in the area.

Donald has been linked to the Cowboys since an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl in January. He met with coaches at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in February and will come to Valley Ranch as well. Donald might be the perfect fit as a 3-technique in Rod Marinelli’s defense.

The Cowboys signed Henry Melton as a free agent, but it does not take them out of the bidding for Donald, who had 11 sacks and 28.5 tackles last season. Melton’s contract is essentially a one-year deal. If he does not perform at a high level, the Cowboys can walk away from the final three years of the contract by not exercising the option.

Barr had 23.5 sacks in his last two years at UCLA and was a first-team All-Pac-12 pick. He played mostly linebacker, but his ability to rush the passer has some teams wondering if he can be a full-time defensive end. It is possible he could play strongside linebacker and move to defensive end in passing situations.

Shazier has phenomenal athleticism and can cover tight ends and running backs. With Bruce Carter in the final year of his deal, Shazier could provide excellent insurance or perhaps force Carter to move to the strongside linebacker spot. Shazier had 143 tackles last year for Ohio State and 44.5 tackles for loss in his career.

Lawrence led the Mountain West with 10.5 sacks in 2013 and had 20.5 tackles for loss. At 6-foot-3, 251 pounds, he is more of a defensive end than outside linebacker with long arms and deceptive strength.

Ward is one of the top safeties in the draft and could be a first-round pick. He had 95 tackles, seven interceptions and 10 pass deflections last season, but he is also coming off foot surgery. The Cowboys have not looked at the veteran safety market in free agency for somebody to play alongside Barry Church. They have said they like what they have in last year’s third-rounder, J.J. Wilcox, as well as Jeff Heath and Matt Johnson, who has yet to play in his first two years because of injuries.

In recent history, the Cowboys have shown a preference for selecting players who visited Valley Ranch before the draft. Last year, Travis Frederick, Terrance Williams, Wilcox, B.W. Webb and Joseph Randle were among the pre-draft visitors they selected. Since 2005, the only top picks not to visit the Cowboys before the draft were DeMarcus Ware (2005) and Morris Claiborne (2012).
DeMarcus WareMatthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsIt might be time for the Cowboys to let aging defensive end DeMarcus Ware go.

The Dallas Cowboys have a chance to start over.

It’s not an ideal situation, but in the big picture, this is the perfect time.

The Cowboys are talking with Pat Dye, the agent for defensive end DeMarcus Ware, about a reduction in salary.


Should DeMarcus Ware take a pay cut?


Discuss (Total votes: 16,027)

Ware has been the Cowboys’ best defensive player for roughly seven consecutive seasons. But last year was different. Ware battled elbow, back, quad and a stinger in 2013.

His health betrayed him and he finished with just six sacks in the 2013 season. You could say health was the reason for his declining play or that he’s just getting old.

The reality is Ware is still a good player, not a player worth taking $16 million of your salary cap, but maybe half that.

The Cowboys have basically told him to take a pay cut or find another team.

I don’t believe they should keep him though because although Ware is still a productive player, if the team is trying to forge ahead and stop the mediocrity of the franchise, then letting him go is the best thing possible.


If Ware is off the books, it saves $7.4 million.

On June 1, you get another $5.5 million in savings when your rid yourself of Miles Austin’s contract.

That’s close to $13 million in savings from two veteran players who are battling health issues as they move to the backstage of their careers. Sure some other NFL team will sign them, that’s life in the NFL.

The Cowboys need to get younger, like yesterday. If Jason Garrett wants a contract extension he should tell Jerry Jones, let’s get younger.

It’s time to end the way the franchise has kept players around for too long and move toward the future. It’s time for the Cowboys to draft the best players on their board and clean up the communication mess of the last few years in the war room.

(Read full post)

Well, the Dallas Cowboys season has ended, thanks to a 24-22 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night at AT&T Stadium.

With that we have our final Beat Writers Report.

Have fun.

Back surgery ended Tony Romo's season after 15 games and you can criticize him if you want. But Romo had a wonderful season, where he finished ninth in completion percentage, fifth in touchdowns and eighth in quarterback rating. He went toe-to-toe with Peyton Manning and should have won, but his interception at the end led to the loss. He threw four touchdowns in both wins against the New York Giants and in his 100th career start at Philadelphia threw for 317 yards, and despite two picks, earned the victory. In wild affair in Detroit the next week, where Dez Bryant was basically ignored, Romo had a quarterback rating of 102.9 and threw three touchdowns. It's easy to complain about the interceptions and the late season swoons, but the reality is Romo is a franchise quarterback without the rings. In the regular season finale, some of those Kyle Orton throws that sailed behind some receivers, including the one to Miles Austin at the end, might have been on target if No. 9 is playing. So while some fans want the Cowboys to draft a quarterback and begin the countdown on Romo's career, cherish what you have.

• According to Pro Football Focus the Cowboys had 32 drops and the biggest offenders were two of the biggest playmakers in the passing game. Bryant had 11 drops tied for fifth in the league and Jason Witten had six drops, fourth in the NFL among tight ends. Drops happen in the passing game. It's not liked but accepted in some fashion because it comes with the territory given the amount of throws attempted. However, 17 drops from Witten and Bryant is unacceptable considering their impact to the offense.

• This year fans want to rid themselves of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Last year it was right tackle Doug Free. Free compromised with a pay cut and he improved his play. With his season finished, Free handled this well at his position. The Cowboys ran 51 plays off right tackle this season and averaged 4.78 yards per attempt, which finished 10th in the league in average. It was a hard offseason for Free, who took the pay cut, withstood a challenge from Jermey Parnell in training camp for his gig and had people question whether he should remain in the starting lineup. While it was easy to say Tyron Smith was the Cowboys' best offensive linemen, Free, in my opinion, was the second-best.

• It's real easy to discuss what the Cowboys have done in the early rounds of previous NFL drafts. The middle rounds, three to five, is where the real action begins. The Cowboys drafted four players in those rounds in 2012 and third rounders wide receiver Terrance Williams (74 overall) and safety J.J. Wilcox (80th overall) started games and have bright futures. Fourth round pick, cornerback B.W. Webb (114th overall), looked overmatched. Running back Joseph Randle (fifth round, 151st overall) had a minimal impact this season. In the previous two seasons, only running back DeMarco Murray (third-round pick in 2011) has been a good selection from the middle rounds. The Cowboys, with needs for the defense, must get impact players for 2014 and 2015 if they're going to avoid further 8-8 finishes.

Notes: The Cowboys were one of 11 teams to score at least 400 points this season. The Cowboys scored 439 points, fifth-most in the league. Of the 11 teams, nine reached the postseason. … Romo was one of five quarterbacks with 30-plus touchdowns this season at 31. Romo joined Peyton Manning (55), Drew Brees (39), Andy Dalton (33) and Philip Rivers (32). … An NFL-record 863 field goals were made where kickers converted 86.5 percent of their kicks. Dan Bailey made 93.3 percent of his kicks, fourth best in the league, including his last 20 field goals. … There were 65 interception returns for touchdowns in 2013, second-most in league history. Two Cowboys were part of those totals in Brandon Carr and Sean Lee. Lee by the way, led the league with 174 interception-return yards.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Since he remains on the active roster, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is officially listed as inactive for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Romo had back surgery on Friday but the team did not make the formal move of placing him on injured reserve. If the Cowboys win tonight, then they will place Romo on IR and add a player to the active roster for the playoffs. If they had made the move already and gone with just 52 players on the active roster, they would have lost some practice squad players.

Joining Romo on the inactive list are: B.W. Webb, Jakar Hamilton, Sean Lee, Ernie Sims and Darrion Weems.

This is the first game Webb has been inactive all season, but he lost his playing time to Sterling Moore and the return of Morris Claiborne means the Cowboys do not need to carry five cornerbacks.

Pondering the 46: Down to the corners

December, 28, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have yet to place Tony Romo on injured reserve. They really don't have the need to make the formal move just yet, so as we Ponder the 46, Romo will be one of the inactives.

Sean Lee is out with a neck strain. Ernie Sims is doubtful but he has not practiced the last two weeks because of a groin injury. Darrion Weems and Jakar Hamilton will also be inactive. Martez Wilson has been inactive the last two games, so he is likely to be down for his third straight game.

That leaves one spot and with Morris Claiborne coming back from a hamstring injury, rookie cornerback B.W. Webb is in the crosshairs.

Webb has been active for every game, but he lost his playing time to Sterling Moore the last few games. Maybe the Cowboys cover themselves by bringing a fifth cornerback to the game in case Claiborne aggravates his hamstring again, but they have had only four active for the season.

Perhaps they could go lighter on the defensive line, but with LeSean McCoy running and DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Jarius Wynn and George Selvie all nicked to some degree, that doesn't seem to be the wise choice.

So the inactives will be: Romo, Lee, Sims, Weems, Hamilton, Wilson and Webb.
After the Dallas Cowboys' 45-28 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday night, we review what we saw and what we heard in our weekly Beat Writers Report.

" Fans don't really care about reporters' problems. I have a wonderful job. I get to cover an NFL team for a living, and sometimes it humbles you because it's a dream job. However, there are times when you need to speak to the participants about how they performed because the paying public is seeking answers regardless if a team wins or loses. Which brings me to wide receiver Miles Austin. He failed to catch a low throw by a scrambling Tony Romo against the Bears and finished with two catches for 19 yards. Austin declined to speak with reporters after the game. He was nice about it, and noted that we should talk on Friday. But after a blowout loss in which the Cowboys dropped out of first place in the division, Austin needed to speak. Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley spoke to reporters within earshot of Austin. As Beasley spoke, Austin looked over while he put his clothes on. Being held accountable following wins and losses is important especially when the Cowboys' fan base demands answers. Austin's season has been horrible. Hamstring injuries have limited him to just 19 catches for 179 yards and zero touchdowns. After a game like Monday's, Austin needed to do the right thing, as a veteran, and speak with reporters and stand up face the music. Most of his teammates did.

" It's funny how the Cowboys forgot about the run game and how DeMarco Murray is somebody the fans hate. Murray had a solid outing against the Bears, averaging 8.1 yards per carry and setting the tone with six runs on the first possession of the game. All week Murray was asked whether he could handle the expected cold weather; at one point a reporter asked if he was he a cold-weather back. Murray answered such questions with one of his best games of the season. You might not like his running style -- he doesn't run over guys as much and prefers to run toward the sidelines -- but with three games remaining Murray has 843 rushing yards, and he could reach 1,000.

" According to Pro Football Focus, the Cowboys have dropped 20 passes this season, including nine by Bryant. That's a glaring number considering the talent on this roster. The dropped passes became prevalent on a drive late in first half Monday. Trailing 17-14, the Cowboys wanted to finish the first half with a score. But Jason Witten, Murray and Terrance Williams could not secure passes. Williams failed to make a contested catch; cornerback Zack Bowman knocked the ball away on third-and-10. The Cowboys were forced to punt, and the Bears scored quickly to push their lead to 24-14. Dropping passes hurts momentum and takes offenses off the field on third down. If the Cowboys are going to move into the postseason, they need to do a better job of catching passes.

" Jerry Jones expressed frustration with the defensive scheme following the loss. The next day, Jones was encouraging, expressing support for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Sometimes you question what Kiffin or the players he places on the field are doing. On the Bears' first score, the Cowboys dropped back in zone coverage but rookie cornerback B.W. Webb was caught looking in the backfield. Webb ignored wide receiver Earl Bennett standing near him in the end zone, so guess who quarterback Josh McCown directed a pass to? Yep, Bennett, for the 4-yard touchdown reception. The issue is why the Cowboys are in zone coverage inside the 20. Webb is athletic but not good enough, at least right now, to get significant snaps.

" DeMarcus Ware said he needs to play better in the next three weeks, but what about the other members of the defensive line? Jason Hatcher was slowed by a stinger, but he's seeing more double-teams. George Selvie and Nick Hayden are getting some pressures on the quarterback but not enough to force long down-and-distance situations. There was a reason Selvie and Hayden were on the street this summer. Have they reached their ceiling? Maybe. If so, it comes at a bad time, with the Cowboys a game behind first in the division with three games to play.

Five Wonders: Changes on defense?

December, 11, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Those of you wondering where Five Wonders went on Tuesday, fear not. It's here on Wednesday.

We just pushed it back a day with the Dallas Cowboys playing on ESPN's “Monday Night Football.” And boy wasn't that an exciting contest?

Anyway, off we go ...

1. Jerry Jones said there will be changes on the defensive side of the ball after the debacle against the Chicago Bears. I wonder what they would be. And how big of a difference could they actually make? The scheme is the scheme. They can't become some blitz-happy team overnight. The personnel is the personnel. So does it make a difference if J.J. Wilcox starts over Jeff Heath at safety? Minimally. I'd look for Sterling Moore to be the nickel back if Morris Claiborne cannot return this week from a hamstring injury. Huge difference? Perhaps considering how lost B.W. Webb looks. Injuries could force a shakeup at linebacker. Does DeVonte Holloman get some time? He's not a weak-side linebacker by trade, but maybe it's time he plays instead of Ernie Sims or Cam Lawrence if Bruce Carter can't go. The defensive line does not have many options, but maybe Drake Nevis moves in for Nick Hayden. Again, we're not talking major changes.

[+] EnlargeDallas' Rod Marinelli
Casey Sapio/USA TODAY SportsWould Rod Marinelli be interested in rejoining Lovie Smith if Smith were to become a head coach again?
2. This isn't so much an “I wonder,” but it is for those wondering if Rod Marinelli will join Lovie Smith should Smith return to the NFL as a head coach somewhere. From what I'm told, Marinelli signed a three-year deal with the Cowboys when he joined the team in the offseason. Technically Jones could allow Marinelli to join Smith if he wanted, but he does not have to. The promotion rule was dropped a long time ago. Since Jones would not let Joe DeCamillis leave for the Oakland Raiders two years ago to be with Dennis Allen or Tony Sparano to leave for the New Orleans Saints when Sean Payton took over in 2006, I can't see Jones letting Marinelli walk. The defensive line has been a drive-through of sorts because of injuries and Marinelli has made it work. It's not been perfect by any stretch but it's been fine.

3. With all of the talk about how well Tyron Smith has played this season, I wonder if the Cowboys will be more patient than normal in talking about an extension for Smith. Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Cowboys have a fifth-year option on Smith in which they would pay him roughly the amount of the transition tag in 2015. They have to make their decision to use the option year in the spring and the money becomes guaranteed after the 2014 season. Maybe the Cowboys will wait because they will have to do something with Dez Bryant, who will be a free agent after next season. They could franchise Bryant and use the option year on Smith, but with salary-cap limitations I can see them being more willing to get a deal done with Bryant first. Because the option year is a new tool teams will have a difficult time navigating those negotiations on long-term deals. Bryant will be a more pressing deal to get done and the Cowboys will be able to keep Smith in their back pocket, so to speak.

4. I wonder how strongly the Cowboys attack the defensive line in the April draft. Marinelli played a big part in the team choosing to pass on Sharrif Floyd last April because they did not want to use a first-round pick on what they viewed was a two-down defensive lineman. A few years ago the Cowboys saw their offensive line grow old with Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode and Kyle Kosier. They cut Colombo, Davis and Gurode and bit the bullet. Jason Hatcher turns 32 next season and will be a free agent. Anthony Spencer turns 30 in December, is coming off microfracture surgery to his knee and is also a free agent. DeMarcus Ware turns 32 next July and has been slowed by nagging injuries this year. Their one building-block defensive lineman is Tyrone Crawford and he is coming off a torn Achilles. For as well as George Selvie has played this year, he is not a building-block player. He is solid, but you would feel better about him being a backup than a full-timer. The rest of the guys still have things to prove. If the last few years has been about rebuilding the offensive line, I wonder if it's time to start rebuilding the defensive line.

5. I wonder if assistant director of player personnel Will McClay becomes a sought after front-office personnel person. The NFL has tweaked its Rooney Rule and now teams will have to interview at least one minority candidate for their head coaching or general manager vacancy. Last year there were eight head coaching vacancies and seven general manager jobs and none went to a minority. McClay, who is African-American, was elevated to his current role in the offseason and has the run of the personnel department. He has yet to set up a draft board, but he has been responsible for a lot of the pro personnel work in recent years and has found players that have come off the street and contributed to the Cowboys' success. He was a former head coach with the Dallas Desperados and has also helped the coaches on game day. He has received interest from teams in the past, but the Cowboys have not let him leave. This time they may not have a choice.

Cowboys sign CB Sterling Moore

November, 25, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- With Morris Claiborne likely out of Thursday’s game against the Oakland Raiders after he aggravated a hamstring strain Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys re-signed cornerback Sterling Moore on Monday.

Moore was among the Cowboys’ final cuts on Aug. 31 when they made the somewhat surprising decision to go with only four cornerbacks on the 53-man roster. Moore is not a stranger to having to play on a quick turnaround for the Cowboys. Last year he officially had one day of practice before playing against the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 2 after he was signed off the New England Patriots' practice squad.

He finished with six tackles and two pass breakups in six games with the Cowboys.

To make room for Moore, tight end Andre Smith was released. He could return to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

The Cowboys had hoped cornerback Micah Pellerin would clear waivers last week, but he was claimed by the Tennessee Titans. If Pellerin had returned to the practice squad, the Cowboys would have called him up to the active roster for the second time this season.

Without Claiborne, the Cowboys could use rookie B.W. Webb outside and keep Orlando Scandrick in the slot when they play their nickel defense.

Practice weather prepares Cowboys

November, 22, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- With temperatures in the mid 30s on Friday at practice, the Dallas Cowboys got a taste of what the weather will be like for Sunday's game against the New York Giants.

Temperatures at MetLife Stadium are expected to be in the mid 30s with a 20 mph wind.

Coach Jason Garrett and several players thought there was a benefit from practicing in the cold Friday.

"It allows you to get your mind prepared for what to expect on Sunday as opposed to going from one extreme to the next," cornerback Brandon Carr said. "We're just out there in these elements, working on catching balls and focusing throughout the cold and get your hands prepared to catch these balls getting fired out of the quarterback's hand."

The wind in East Rutherford, N.J., has always been noteworthy, especially at old Giants Stadium, and can make things tricky for the quarterback.

"I don't know that you want to overthink it," Garrett said. "Certainly throwing a spiral is important when you're playing in the wind. The ball will cut through the air better. You'll be more accurate. If the ball doesn't come out of your hand cleanly and the ball is wobbly typically the wind has more of an effect on it. I think spinning the ball well, I think Tony naturally spins the ball well. Kyle Orton spins the ball well. You just have to make sure doing that. I think that will help your accuracy."

But back to the cold weather. Rookie cornerback B.W. Webb took it to an extreme Friday, practicing in just a jersey and shorts while most of this teammates were bundled up.

"He's got a lot of energy," Carr said. "As a young guy he doesn't get sick as much as us older guys. He's courageous."

Church alluded to some sort of inducement for Webb to practice like that, but neither side would confirm.

"It was freezing," Webb said. "It was terrible. That's the last time I do that."

Upon Further Review: Cowboys Week 9

November, 4, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas -- A review of four hot issues from the Dallas Cowboys' 27-23 win against the Minnesota Vikings.

[+] EnlargeBill Callahan
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsBill Callahan's offense hasn't been able to replicate the success it had after exploding for 522 yards against the Broncos in Week 5.
Sputtering on offense: Remember when the Cowboys put up 522 yards on offense against the Denver Broncos on Oct. 6? Seems like forever ago. The talk out of that game was that the Cowboys had found an offensive identity. That has not turned out to be true. Against some of the bottom-of-the-barrel defenses fielded by the Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions and Vikings, the Cowboys have topped 350 yards just once -- with 350 against the Vikings. The Cowboys have struggled on third downs (5-of-14 against Minnesota). The running game was nonexistent (nine attempts).

“There’s a word we use and our players understand and it’s execution,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We as coaches have to constantly give our players a chance to execute and put them in plays where they can be successful.”

Bill Callahan’s first year as a playcaller has hit a bump. He and Tony Romo have to find a way to get the rhythm they had against the Broncos. Having it happen against a New Orleans team whose offense will score points this week would be preferable.

Hurry back, Morris Claiborne: The Vikings knew where rookie cornerback B.W. Webb was on Sunday. The New Orleans Saints will know it, too. Webb, who was playing the slot with Orlando Scandrick playing outside due to Claiborne’s hamstring strain, had a difficult matchup in Greg Jennings, who caught six passes for 56 yards, including a 27-yarder. It was the most extensive action of Webb’s career and he will have to grow up fast. In the fourth quarter he was able to knock down a pass on the Vikings’ final drive. With only Micah Pellerin, fresh up from the practice squad, in reserve, the Cowboys need Webb to perform better if they want to contain a passing offense like the Saints’.

Opportunistic defense: The Cowboys’ defense will never win a beauty contest but it has shown to be opportunistic. Nick Hayden’s fumble recovery in the end zone was the fourth defensive score of the season for the Cowboys. The last time the Cowboys had five defensive scores in a season came in 1999 when they finished 8-8 and made the playoffs under Chan Gailey. So far this season the Cowboys have had touchdowns from Brandon Carr (49-yard interception return), Barry Church (27-yard fumble return), Sean Lee (52-yard interception return) and Hayden.

Changing their ways: After seeing Cordarrelle Patterson return kickoffs 8 and 9 yards deep in the end zone, the Cowboys altered their game plan on the Vikings' return specialist. Dan Bailey’s opening kick of the second half was high and barely to the end zone, which Patterson booted out of bounds. They squibbed their next two kicks, including the final kickoff after taking the lead to make sure Patterson did not beat them. Bailey had been a touchback machine in the first eight games, but the Cowboys were wise to make the switch on Patterson if he was going to continue to flip field position.
IRVING, Texas -- We'll start this week's Five Wonders with an anti-wonder: I don't wonder if we will see a game as entertaining as the Dallas Cowboys' 51-48 shootout loss the Denver Broncos on Sunday. I know we won't.


Anyway, on to the Wonders:

1. I wonder if Jerry Jones wonders about the defensive switch he initiated in the offseason when Rob Ryan and the 3-4 scheme were fired for Monte Kiffin and the 4-3 scheme. Of course, he doesn't because that would mean Jones would have to realize the personnel he has put together on defense is flawed. The Cowboys can pay $50 million to a cornerback (Brandon Carr), trade up to the sixth pick for one (Morris Claiborne), pay top dollar for a defensive end (DeMarcus Ware) and extend their middle linebacker (Sean Lee) and not get the results. This isn't to blame those guys for the defensive woes, but the holes on the defense are obvious and were obvious before Anthony Spencer, Tyrone Crawford and Jay Ratliff were hurt. Games are won and lost up front and the Cowboys were content to go into the season with Crawford as the top backup defensive end, despite his inexperience, and Ratliff as the vaunted three-technique, even though there was real evidence he was a declining player. George Selvie and Nick Hayden are good role players as a fifth or sixth or seventh defensive linemen, not starters. Every defensive lineman is now “playing up” a level, so to speak, and the lack of pressure is killing the defense. Jones needed more foresight not because of injury, per se, but recent history and demonstrated ability.

[+] EnlargeDallas' Roy Williams
AP Photo/AJ MastThe Cowboys may be hesitant to make a trade after the failed move to acquire Roy Williams.
2. The trade deadline is Oct. 29 and it seems like we are seeing more deals than there have been in the past. So I wonder if the Cowboys will get into any serious trade talks to help the defense. The last big-time trade they pulled off in such a way was the Roy Williams' deal in 2008 and that backfired in a major way. I don't wonder if the Cowboys would be gun shy about doing another deal, but do they have the pieces in place to make a deal? They are tight on cap room, but they can move some money around to come up with enough room for the final eight games of the season. A player-for-player deal would be hard just because they don't have something a lot of teams would want. (For those wondering about Miles Austin, stop.) The Cowboys need to find pass-rush help. Do they look at teams struggling, like a Tampa Bay, which could be looking to dump players and move on? The NFC East is there to be taken. It doesn't much matter. The Cowboys can hang with the good teams, which they showed Sunday, but they need a difference-making piece to help Ware and Jason Hatcher.

3. I wonder if the Cowboys continue to attack offensively the way they did against the Broncos. If they don't, then I'll wonder why they didn't. Tony Romo was brilliant, according to many people after the game even with the turnover. The Cowboys attacked with their passing game. Romo trusted the pass protection. The receivers were able to get down the field. They went to an empty look plenty of times and flourished. With the defense struggling the way it has, the Cowboys need to go after other teams the way Peyton Manning goes after defenses. They can't play passively and hope the defense holds the opponent to 20 points. They need to go for the throat with Dez Bryant, Austin, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, DeMarco Murray, Gavin Escobar, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley. Spread the field and go and live with the consequences. If you're going to go down, go down swinging.

4. I'm not a big fan of projecting numbers out, but sometimes it's fun. I wonder if people realize just how well Romo has played through the first five games. He has 1,523 yards and is completing 72 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. He took his average per attempt from 6.7 yards to 8.1 yards with his 506-yard outing against Denver. But let's forecast Romo's current stats over 16 games: he would throw for 42 touchdowns and six interceptions with 4,874 yards. It's not Manning numbers, but they would be sublime.

5. The first four Wonders were major deals, so we'll go a little under the radar for the fifth Wonder. I wonder why Danny McCray is not a gunner on the punt team. McCray has been the Cowboys' best special teamer since he showed up in 2010. He entered this season with 65 special teams stops in three season and had three entering Sunday's game. He was a dynamic gunner even for a guy without great speed. He was able to power his way through the press coverage at the line and force the returners into a decision. On the Cowboys' only punt Sunday, gunner B.W. Webb was pushed out of bounds and was hardly in the play on Trindon Holliday's return. It has not killed the Cowboys yet, but why not put players in the best position to succeed?
When the final roster moves were made on Saturday afternoon, the Cowboys elected to keep four cornerbacks.

Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are the starters with Orlando Scandrick being the slot corner in the nickle package. B.W. Webb is the fourth corner who comes in on certain passing plays and will contribute on special teams if needed.

[+] EnlargeB.W. Webb
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliThe playmaking ability of cornerback B.W. Webb helped him earn a spot on Dallas' roster.
The Cowboys are staying with basically three veterans and a rookie at a position that coach Jason Garrett calls a "premium" spot for players. The team moved up in the draft to select Claiborne sixth overall in 2012 and in the same year, signed Carr to a five-year $50.1 million deal in free agency.

In 2011, Scandrick signed a six-year $28.2 million contract extension.

So the Cowboys put their money into a position they believe is important in today's pass-happy NFL.

This spring, the Cowboys selected Webb in the fourth round from William & Mary. There is a thought he would have a learning curve to the NFL game and there were some concerns about his ability to make plays on the ball. In his last two seasons in college, Webb had just two interceptions and 11 pass breakups, including eight in 2012.

Webb was behind veteran corners Brandon Underwood and Sterling Moore this summer but as the preseason progressed, the vets didn't make enough plays and were eventually released. There is more upside by using Webb because he's young and has displayed an ability to make some plays in the preseason.

"It's about making adjustments on the fly and staying in it the whole time," Webb said. "[You] come in with that mindset every day that you're going to work."

With Moore and Underwood gone, Webb is No. 4 on the depth chart and will play in the slot and outside in the 4-3 scheme.

Scandrick, who made his chops playing in the slot, has become a mentor to Webb this summer.

"It's wherever, whatever, where they need me," Webb said of playing the slot or outside corner. "Right now, I've been working a lot in the nickel. I feel good in the nickel. If I play outside, I play outside. [Scandrick] a cool dude. He tells me if I messed up on something, he’s there and says you should do this better. So he's definitely been a good role model."

There were times during the preseason where Webb looked lost on the field. In the Oakland game, he allowed a receiver to get behind him because he was caught looking in the backfield. Then in the final preseason game he gave up two touchdown passes. He almost had an interception, but couldn't hold onto the pass.

The ups and downs of Webb's preseason must subside in order for the Cowboys' coaches to trust him more in the regular season.

"My [secondary] coach told me you can't play every route," Webb said of Jerome Henderson. "... It's a lesson learned in this league."