NFC East: Dante Rosario

Setting the Cowboys' draft plate

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
12:30
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Now that the NFL has set the compensatory picks, let’s look at where the Cowboys are scheduled to pick in the May draft in each round:

First round: No. 16 overall
Second round: No. 47 overall
Third round: No. 78 overall
Fourth round: No. 119 overall
Fifth round: No. 158 overall
Sixth round: No selection
Seventh round: No. 229 overall (from Chicago)
Seventh round: No. 231 overall
Seventh round: No. 238 (from Kansas City)
Seventh round: No. 248 overall (compensatory)
Seventh round: No. 251 overall (compensatory)
Seventh round: No. 254 overall (compensatory)

The Cowboys’ sixth round pick went to the Kansas City Chiefs in the trade for defensive end Edgar Jones, but they also received a seventh rounder in return. The pick from the Chicago Bears came in the trade for tight end Dante Rosario.

Teams cannot trade compensatory picks.
IRVING, Texas – Jason Witten set an NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end last year with 110. Through two preseason games, Witten is still looking for his first catch.

“Don’t want to hurt the spleen, you know?” Witten joked, referring to the shot he took last year in the preseason.

With so much discussion about the Cowboys using the two-tight end personnel grouping more in 2013, the tight ends have only nine catches in three preseason games. Gavin Escobar leads with six, and five came last week against Arizona. Dante Rosario has two and Colin Cochart has one. Like Witten, James Hanna is without a catch.

The Cowboys have not used the “12 personnel” package much with the regulars. Of the 16 snaps by directed by Tony Romo against the Cardinals, 10 came with “11 personnel” or three wide receivers.

Witten said the Cowboys are not hiding what they’ve worked on in preseason games, saying that is just how the games have worked out.

“I think there are some things you are trying to protect, protections and plays you probably get away from or you don’t want to show, but for the most part, I think we just kind of run it,” Witten said. “I think they know we’re going to run the little 10-yard option route and the different things that we do. But I think there’s time and place.

"Even more so, things we say, ‘Hey, we want to work on this in the preseason and see how this holds up.’ There are things that I’m sure you probably don’t want to show, but for the most part, everything is in for us.”

The Cowboys’ starters will play more Saturday against the Bengals.

Witten, by the way, isn’t worried about getting the ball when the games matter.

“You work on it in practice doing that stuff, and this is the same system even though it’s a different playcaller, I’m sure that will all work out,” Witten said. “Look forward to playing a little bit more to see what happens this weekend.”
OXNARD, Calif. -- Goal-line drills often are the closest thing to real football in training camp because of the intensity that is required.

There is no tapping of the offensive players by the defense in this drill.

The Cowboys’ No. 1 defense beat the No. 1 offense in their three plays Tuesday.

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Phillip Tanner was stopped short by DeMarcus Ware on a run to the strong side, and Ware got a little help from Jason Hatcher. On second down, the defense covered everybody on a Tony Romo pass, forcing the quarterback to scramble into linebacker Sean Lee. On the third, tight end Gavin Escobar was out of bounds on a sprint to the right by Romo.
  • While it was a good day for the No. 1 defense, the No. 2 defense gave up three straight touchdowns. RB Joseph Randle ran it in for the first two scores, and Kyle Orton hit Dante Rosario on a play-action pass across the back of the end zone.
  • The No. 1 offense rebounded in its situation work to close the practice. Needing a first down to kill the clock with a three-point lead, Romo connected with Miles Austin on a third-down rocket screen to end the game.
  • After missing two days with a quadriceps bruise, WR Cole Beasley returned to practice Tuesday and dropped two passes. He was so upset with himself that he spent extra time on the Jugs machine catching passes after practice.
  • Rosario had a solid practice. He lined up more at fullback and was able to make a handful of catches from Orton.
  • WR Anthony Armstrong broke off a route for a back-shoulder throw from Orton, reaching for the pass and getting his body between the ground and the ball for extra security. The play resulted in a first down.
  • At the start of the practice, the defensive coaches said they wanted turnovers. They didn’t get any interceptions, but they did get two fumbles. Safety Matt Johnson forced the ball loose on TE Andre Smith after a catch by the sideline, and safety J.J. Wilcox recovered. Later, safety Will Allen forced a fumble on Escobar.
  • Receiver Terrance Williams has earned praise for his play on offense, but he got more for his work as a gunner on the punt team. Williams split cornerbacks Devin Smith and Micah Pellerin with an inside jab and was able to help force a fair catch.
  • Cornerback Sterling Moore had back-to-back solid reps in one-on-one drills. On the first, he broke up a back-shoulder throw from Romo to Austin, jumping as Austin reached back for the ball. On the second, he came down with an Orton throw after snuffing out Beasley on an out route.
  • Kicker Dan Bailey had his first multiple-miss day of camp. Bailey went 3-of-6 with misses from 44 yards (right), 45 (left) and 47 (right). He closed his team work by drilling a 50-yarder.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

One key positional battle for each NFC East team as training camps get underway.

Dallas Cowboys: No. 2 tight end

The Cowboys used a second-round pick on tight end Gavin Escobar, even though starting tight end Jason Witten isn't going anywhere, and they liked what James Hanna showed as a receiver during his 2012 rookie season. They also signed veteran Dante Rosario and continue to look out for a more blocking-oriented tight end. What this all means is that the Cowboys would like to use more two-tight end sets in 2013 (and presumably beyond), largely eliminating the fullback position from their offense and offering quarterback Tony Romo a greater variety of options in the passing game. Training camp will help reveal the depth chart and the ways in which these guys all can expect to be used. Was Escobar drafted because they liked his ability to do something specific? Can Hanna hold him off for reps? How does Rosario factor into the mix? Change is afoot in the Cowboys' offense, and the tight end position is a big part of it.

New York Giants: Starting running back

David Wilson, their first-round pick from the 2012 draft, emerged as an electrifying kick returner in his rookie season and flashed big-play ability out of the backfield. He is the odds-on favorite to seize the starting running back role following the team's release of Ahmad Bradshaw. But, as is often the case, things aren't that simple. The Giants liked Andre Brown a lot as a goal-line back last season and used him a couple of times as a starter, with some success. He's back, and he doesn't intend to hand the job to Wilson without a fight. The Giants' backfield depth chart also includes veteran Ryan Torain, third-year fan favorite Da'Rel Scott and rookie Michael Cox. And these are the Giants, remember -- a pass-first offensive team that needs its running backs to pick up the blitz and help keep Eli Manning safe. Wilson offers the most upside as a runner, but it's entirely possible he could lose the starting job to a better blocker during this camp.

Philadelphia Eagles: Starting quarterback

What else is there? This is the big story of the Eagles' camp and will be one of the big stories in the NFL for the next month. Veteran Michael Vick has the experience, the foot speed and the arm strength, but new coach Chip Kelly wants a quarterback who can avoid turnovers, get rid of the ball quickly and make good, fast decisions in tight spots. These have not been Vick's strengths, which is likely why he faces a challenge from second-year quarterback Nick Foles and maybe even rookie Matt Barkley or veteran backup Dennis Dixon. Vick has to show that he's capable of running Kelly's offense the way Kelly wants it run -- and that he won't revert to his career-long tendencies to try to extend plays and make something happen with pure athleticism. If he can rein it in and operate the offense efficiently, it's his job. If he can't, one of the younger guys could snatch it from him and cost him his roster spot entirely.

Washington Redskins: No. 2 wide receiver

This would be the "Z" receiver in the Redskins' offense. Pierre Garcon plays the "X" position -- the outside receiver who lines up on the line of scrimmage. Santana Moss likely plays the slot again. The "Z" is the outside receiver opposite Garcon -- the "flanker" who lines up off the line of scrimmage to keep the tight end eligible and motions to different parts of the formation if that's called for. The candidates here are Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan and Aldrick Robinson. Morgan is the most polished and well rounded of this group, but he has trouble staying healthy. Hankerson is the one the coaches believe has the most upside, but he hasn't been able to develop consistency in his game. If he could, he'd be a valuable piece, because the Redskins believe they can use him in the slot as well. Robinson showed a lot of potential as a favored deep threat last season for Robert Griffin III, but he also has a lot to learn before he's a complete enough player to be used reliably here. Watch to see if Hankerson shows drastic Year 3 improvement in camp. If he does, it's likely his spot to lose, especially if Morgan is banged up as usual.
ESPNDallas.com's position series on the Dallas Cowboys takes a look today at tight end, where Jason Witten remains one of the best in the NFL but there is change behind him on the depth chart. As Tim MacMahon writes, the Cowboys took tight end Gavin Escobar in the second round this year not as an eventual Witten replacement but in the hope that he could complement Witten and give them the ability to use more two-tight end sets. One of the interesting effects of this -- as well as the addition of Dante Rosario and the development of 2012 sixth-rounder James Hanna -- is that the Cowboys could eliminate the fullback position from their running game:
Late free-agent addition Dante Rosario and fullback Lawrence Vickers, who missed offseason workouts after undergoing back surgery, are probably competing for a roster spot. The Cowboys are seriously considering phasing out the fullback position, although they’d have to figure out a way to fill the lead-blocker role in short-yardage situations. Fullback has been a part-time position, with Vickers averaging less than 20 snaps per game last season.

Rosario has an edge over Vickers for two reasons not related to the Valley Ranch tight-end craze.

First, Rosario has proven himself capable of being a special teams contributor while playing for new special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia the past two seasons in San Diego. Rosario had five tackles, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt on special teams for the Chargers last season. Vickers had only one special teams tackle for the Cowboys.

Second, the Cowboys can create $1.2 million in cap space by cutting Vickers, money that could be useful for linebacker Sean Lee’s long-term contract extension. Rosario would only count $620,000 against the cap.

Valley Ranch isn't the only place in the NFL where there's a "tight end craze" these days. Increased emphasis on that position is a league-wide trend, as coaches continue to find ways to use tight ends to diversify their passing offenses and create mismatches at the second and third levels of opposing defenses. The Cowboys will need to get creative in order to make this work. They'll need Escobar to develop quickly. And they'll need someone in their tight end meeting room to develop as a reliable blocker in the run game. But if all of those things come through for them, this could be a significant and beneficial change for the Dallas offense as early as this season.
Morning. Going back over Monday's content, it seems as though I was a tad grouchy. I hope you at least found it entertaining. I can't really explain it. I was in a fine mood all day, met my wife for lunch, coached a Little League playoff victory at night ... fine day all around. Can't tell you why the blog was grouchy. Perhaps today my output will reflect my mood better. Links.

New York Giants

So a few hours after the New York Daily News reported that he was in talks about his own reality TV show, Victor Cruz went on Twitter and denied that this was the case. Which was weird, since the News' story used Cruz himself as its sole source and quoted him on the topic extensively.

Wondering which current Giants you might see on TV or hear on the radio when their playing days are done? Current Giants Ramses Barden and Steve Weatherford are two of the players who will go to "NFL Broadcast Boot Camp" in Mount Laurel, N.J., later this month. Pretty cool program, that. They do it at the NFL Films offices and put these guys through all the paces. I went and did a story on it a few years ago for my previous employer, and it was fun to watch.

Philadelphia Eagles

Voluntary means voluntary, which means any grief Cary Williams has taken for missing any Eagles workouts so far is completely unfair and unjustified. But mandatory means mandatory, which is why Williams is skipping the Super Bowl champion Ravens' White House visit this week so he can attend minicamp with his new team, the Eagles.

Sheil Kapadia has an in-depth look at the Eagles' offensive line personnel. I think it's important to monitor the snaps people get this offseason, as the up-temp offense Chip Kelly is installing likely will lean hard on offensive line depth, and they'll likely need more than five guys they feel good about using.

Washington Redskins

London Fletcher doesn't want this season to be a victory lap. He says he still has much to give to this Redskins team, and the way he played in the second half as he got healthier backs him up.

Jason Reid is happy to know that Brian Orakpo feels fully healthy this offseason, but he thinks the point with Orakpo is that the sack total still needs to go up. I think Jason is right, and that whether it does or not will determine a great deal about this Redskins season.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys' signing of tight end Dante Rosario is interesting, mainly because I thought they were looking for a blocking tight end to help supplement guys like James Hanna and Gavin Escobar, who are receivers first and foremost. Rosario isn't a blocking tight end, so they may still be on the lookout for another. But it's clear the Cowboys want to make use of two-tight end sets as much as possible this year, so they can't have too many.

If you saw the Blogging the Boys item on the Cowboys' draft board and concluded that Jerry Jones had once again overruled his scouts, Randy Galloway explains why you're wrong and why Jones actually stayed true to the board this time.

Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 21, Panthers 7

September, 28, 2009
9/28/09
11:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


ARLINGTON, Texas -- After a dreadful first half, the Cowboys finally did enough to separate themselves from one of the worst teams the NFC South has to offer. Both teams slopped around in the first half but the Panthers caught fire on consecutive passes to tight end Dante Rosario, the second one going for a 25-yard touchdown.

The Cowboys found a sense of urgency in the third quarter, taking a 10-7 lead on Tashard Choice's 5-yard touchdown run. A week removed from one of the worst performances of his career, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo did a relatively nice job of managing the team. He wasn't called on to make a lot of plays, though his school-yard toss to Choice on third-and-8 late in the third quarter kept a scoring drive alive.

The Cowboys desperately needed a win Monday, but they certainly won't get any style points for this one. They let a bad team hang around until the last five minutes and it took way too long for the offense to find any rhythm. The most positive sign for the Cowboys is that the defense finally caused a couple of turnovers.

Second-year cornerback Mike Jenkins picked off an awful pass by Jake Delhomme in the first half and Terence Newman put the game away with a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys came into the game as the only team in the league without a sack or caused turnover. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff finally got the Cowboys' first sack in the second half and the Cowboys did a nice job of putting pressure on Delhomme.

Panthers coach John Fox helped the Cowboys out by abandoning the running game when his team was only down 10-7. It was a curious move against a defense that allowed 174 rushing yards by the Bucs two weeks ago. It's still early in the season, but it's hard to imagine the Panthers having a turnaround. They were missing two starters on defense and the Cowboys' offensive line finally started to wear them down in the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys will take the win, but they obviously have a lot of things to work on. What was Jason Garrett thinking when the Cowboys had second-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter? He had Tony Romo throw consecutive passes into the corner of the end zone. And it's not like the Panthers had slowed down Choice and Felix Jones.

Jones left the game with a knee strain in the third quarter. He returned briefly, but then limped off the field. It's certainly something you worry about with a player who missed a lot of the 2008 season with toe and hamstring injuries.

First-half analysis: Cowboys were awful

September, 28, 2009
9/28/09
10:18
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


ARLINGTON, Texas -- I'm sorry you guys had to watch that first half. The Cowboys had a chance to come out and score right away, but they stalled in the red zone on their first possession. You had Felix Jones shredding the Panthers defense -- and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett inexplicably went away from him. Nick Folk missed a 40-yard field goal wide right and the Cowboys never really recovered. Here are some other quick-hit observations:
  • I'm really impressed with the work left tackle Jordan Gross is doing on DeMarcus Ware. And I'm baffled by how seldom the Cowboys are matching up Ware against right tackle Jeff Otah. They finally flipped him over to Otah's side in the second quarter.
  • The Cowboys finally got a turnover in the first half. Mike Jenkins made a play on a moon ball from Jake Delhomme. But the Cowboys didn't capitalize on the turnover.
  • When the Cowboys backup nose tackle Junior Siavii is on the field, he's getting absolutely no push up the middle. Delhomme didn't see any pressure on those two nice passes to Dante Rosario. When Jay Ratliff's off the field, I think the Cowboys lose a lot.
  • I was very impressed with the way Keith Brooking played in the first half. He did a nice job fighting off blocks and he's pretty solid in coverage. It looks like Brooking and Bradie James are doing a pretty nice job communicating. I think Brooking is a definite upgrade over Zach Thomas.
  • Jason Witten had a big first half. He was Tony Romo's target on eight passes -- and he caught all eight. He has 71 yards receiving. The Cowboys wide receivers combined for two catches in the first half. That's not going to get it done.
  • The Panthers obviously have a tough time stopping Felix Jones. So why aren't they feeding him the ball?

Delhomme strikes quickly to Rosario

September, 28, 2009
9/28/09
10:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Just when you thought Jake Delhomme didn't have an arm, he completed two gorgeous passes in a row to tight end Dante Rosario. Cowboys inside linebacker Bradie James had decent coverage on Rosario on the first pass, but Delhomme dropped it in the perfect spot. That play went for 25 yards.

On the next play, Dawson beat rookie cornerback Mike Jenkins for a 25-yard touchdown. It was a brutal half for both teams, but the Panthers suddenly came alive late. This just in from ESPN Stats and Analysis: The last time the Cowboys were shut out in the first half was Nov. 19, 2006, against the Colts. The Cowboys won that game.

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