NFC East: Oakland Raiders

Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT, for NFL Nation TV’s Spreecast episode No. 11. Host Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guests John Keim (Washington Redskins reporter) and Scott Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers reporters) discuss a range of topics from the team nickname under fire in the nation’s capital to the passing of a legend in Chuck Noll to Michael Vick thinking very highly of himself, among other timely issues. Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

OAKLAND -- And now, the waiting game begins.

A second consecutive 4-12 season for coach Dennis Allen, in which the Oakland Raiders lost six straight to end the season and eight of nine overall, would have spelled doom under the late Al Davis. But with Mark Davis as a more “patient” owner, and a general manager in Reggie McKenzie who has called Allen “my guy” from Day 1, you have to wonder.

Does Allen, who was a rookie coach as Oakland began its self-described two-year “deconstruction” period in 2012, deserve a shot at returning, despite his platform of progress and discipline being shelled since Thanksgiving?

“Deserve” might be too broad a term; “fair” might be more accurate.

Davis said this week he was going to take a “wait-and-see” approach, that no decision had been made and he wanted to see how the Raiders played this weekend.

In the Silver and Black spectrum, the Raiders outscored the Denver Broncos in the second half on Sunday, 14-3.

In the Silver and Blechhh spectrum, they trailed at halftime, 31-0 (which is when Peyton Manning left the game), and fell to the AFC’s top seed, 34-14.

Allen anticipates sitting down with Davis and McKenzie in the very near future, and believes he “deserves” to return.

“Yeah, I do,” he said. “I expect to be back, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to come back. Those are decisions that somebody else is going to make, but yeah, I expect to be back.”

Asked if he considered the possibility that he was done, Allen did not flinch.

“That’s a decision that’s made over my head. I fully expect to be back. I fully believe that I deserve the opportunity to come back here and get a chance to, as we said, go through the deconstruction phase. I want to be part of the rebuilding phase.”

Said quarterback Terrelle Pryor: “Personally, I love Coach Allen. He’s a great leader. He’s a great leader. The thing I really liked about him, he didn’t change. When we started losing, he didn’t change one bit. A lot of guys crack under pressure. I think coach Allen handled himself. We look at that stuff (as players). I think he did a phenomenal job this year. I have a lot of respect for Coach Allen ... I respect coach Allen, but that’s really not my call. That’s Mr. Davis’ and Reggie’s, and really, Mr. Davis’."

Left tackle Jared Veldheer, who will be an unrestricted free agent, said he also endorsed Allen.

"One of the biggest things we need is continuity," Veldheer said. "It would be very tough to see massive turnover."

Live blog: Raiders at Cowboys

November, 28, 2013
Join our NFL experts as they break down the Oakland Raiders' visit to the Dallas Cowboys. Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET. See you there.

Double Coverage: Raiders at Cowboys

November, 27, 2013
Romo-RoachAP PhotoTony Romo's Cowboys host Nick Roach and the Raiders in a Thanksgiving Day duel.
IRVING, Texas -- For the second time in five years, the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders meet on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium.

The Cowboys won the 2009 matchup 24-7 with Tony Romo throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns and Miles Austin catching seven passes for 145 yards. Since that game Austin has had more yards in a game just twice.'s Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Cowboys reporter Todd Archer bring you this week's holiday version of Double Coverage.

Todd Archer: The Cowboys are bad in most areas defensively, but they have given up 200 yards rushing in three games this season. The Raiders' strength, from afar, seems to be their running game. What makes it so good and how has it differed with Terrelle Pryor out?

Paul Gutierrez: Hey, Todd, it's not just Pryor being out, but also Darren McFadden, who has missed three straight games and four overall with a strained right hamstring. He said Monday night he hopes to play after practicing (limited) for the first time since Nov. 1. The run game, though, has not missed a beat with underrated Rashad Jennings picking up the slack. In the past four games, he has run for 413 yards while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. In fact, the running game has been so surprisingly solid without McFadden and Pryor that the play-action pass game has picked up with undrafted rookie Matt McGloin under center.

Speaking of passing games ... no doubt Tony Romo can rack up stats, but has he decided to assume more of a leadership role yet as the QB of America's Team, or is that just not in his makeup?

Archer: He has developed over the years as a leader, but there's no question that this has been "his" team the past three seasons. He is the veteran. He is the guy the Cowboys look to. The guys on this team now don't know of the Romo who burst on the scene in 2006 or had to deal with the Terrell Owens stuff. He's the guy who led the lockout practices and has been the big voice in the room. This year he has been given the added responsibility of being more involved in the game plan. The Cowboys' past two wins have come on last-minute drives led by Romo to beat Minnesota and the New York Giants. I don't think there's anybody questioning his leadership anymore. And if they did, well, the $106 million extension Jerry Jones gave him in the offseason should be more than enough proof to those guys that this is Romo's team.

Let's stick with the quarterback theme. Before the Cowboys lucked into Romo, they ran through a ton of guys after Troy Aikman's departure. Is there any reason to believe McGloin or Pryor can be a solution or do the Raiders need to go after one of these guys in next April's draft?

Gutierrez: Well, the way I put it earlier in the season, before Pryor hit his purported ceiling and sprained his right knee, robbing him of his greatest strength (running) while accentuating his biggest weakness (passing), if Pryor was not the Raiders' Mr. Right, he was their Mr. Right Now. McGloin is a pure quarterback, a pocket passer whom Dennis Allen prefers for what he wants to accomplish offensively. It's hard to give Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie much credit for their evaluation of QBs, though, what with their misses on Matt Flynn and Tyler Wilson, not caring much for Pryor early on and then, similar to the Cowboys with Romo, stumbling upon McGloin. But it's hard to see them going all in with the undrafted rookie from Penn State, too. At least hard at the moment. Unless McGloin continues to improve and wins a few games, it would behoove the Raiders to draft another QB if they see one as a can't-miss prospect. I know, I know, they really wanted USC's Matt Barkley but Philadelphia traded in front of them so they traded back and selected Wilson. Oops. There is no doubt, though, that this Raiders regime prefers McGloin as a prototypical QB over the more electric Pryor.

No matter who is under center for Oakland, though, the Raiders' QB is going to have to keep an eye on DeMarcus Ware. Is he rounding back into shape as a dominant pass-rusher, or is he more decoy as he rehabs from his quad strain?

Archer: I think he's still feeling his way through it. The fact that he made it through the Giants game healthy was a plus. He has been dinged up in just about every game with stinger and back strains earlier in the season before the quadriceps injury. We'll see how he fares on a short week, but the defense is a lot better with even the threat of Ware on the field. Jason Hatcher had two sacks against the Giants at least in part because of the attention Ware received. Ware has talked about wanting to make up for lost time. He has five sacks so far, his fewest this late in a season since his rookie year in 2005. Thursday would be a good time to look like the DeMarcus Ware of old.

This game is a homecoming of sorts for guys like Mike Jenkins, Andre Gurode, Kevin Burnett and Tony Sparano, but it's a real homecoming for Dennis Allen. How is he perceived in Oakland and will McKenzie be more patient with him than, say, Al Davis would have been?

Gutierrez: The jury, so to speak, is still out on Allen in the streets of Silver and Blackdom. Of course, when the Raiders win a game, he's the man. When he loses, the fans turn on him and start pining for Jon Gruden ... again. But isn't that the nature of the beast? Even Allen himself said this was a results-oriented business. Of course, he was referring to the quarterback position at the time, but it still applies. Make no mistake about it, Allen is McKenzie's "guy" and he's going to roll with him and have patience with him. The plan coming in was to give Allen at least three years to right this ship and really, the only thing that could damage Allen's chances of lasting another year would be if the team quit on him, like it did last November before playing hard again at the end. Then again, it might not be McKenzie's choice. Owner Mark Davis is a more patient owner than his father and wants McKenzie to handle all football-related decisions. But a year after stating he was fine with just about anything but regression, Davis wants progress. Stagnancy won't cut it, either. So, stay tuned.

Sticking with the coaching theme, is Jason Garrett in Jerry World for the long haul, or was Jerry Jones' support merely the dreaded vote of confidence?

Archer: Jerry has publicly backed Garrett, but he's also been a guy who's said, "Just because I say something, doesn't mean it's true." I do know this: He wants Garrett to be the guy. He desperately wants it to work. I really believe that. He believes in Garrett's approach and how he builds a team. Garrett will provide some blow-back to Jerry but not as much as, say, a Bill Parcells. Garrett knows what makes Jerry work and knows how to work around it to a degree or push Jerry in a certain direction. Honestly, Cowboys fans should want the Garrett deal to work out because it might be the best combination to mitigate the bad parts of Jerry and keep the good parts of Jerry.

Live blog: Raiders at Giants

November, 10, 2013
Join our NFL experts as they break down the Oakland Raiders' visit to the New York Giants. Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 1 p.m. ET. And, be sure to visit our NFL Nation Blitz page for commentary from every game, as well as fan photos and the latest buzz from Twitter. See you there.
Eli Manning and Charles WoodsonGetty ImagesEli Manning's Giants aim to maintain their momentum when Charles Woodson and the Raiders visit.
It will be a battle of teams looking to climb out of the cellar of their respective divisions as the 2-6 New York Giants host the 3-5 Oakland Raiders at 1 p.m. ET Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants have won two games in a row after an 0-6 start and are coming off their bye week. The Raiders just suffered their most embarrassing loss of the season, 49-20 at home to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Which last-place team will get the win Sunday at the site of Super Bowl XLVIII? Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Giants reporter Dan Graziano break it down for you.

Dan Graziano: Paul, I was a little surprised by how poorly the Raiders played Sunday. I knew they were a sub-.500 team, but I didn't think they were a terrible one. What was up with that defensive effort against Nick Foles and the Eagles?

Paul Gutierrez: Dan, you're not the only one who was surprised by what the Raiders in general, and the defense in particular, put on the field against the Eagles. Everyone from coach Dennis Allen to veteran safety Charles Woodson wondered out loud if the defense got caught reading its clips from the week before. After all, the Raiders' D was playing lights out and was the team's strength, entering the game with the No. 10-ranked defense, despite 10 new starters.

Like boxing, styles make fights, and the Eagles' high-octane offense worked to near-perfection and dropped Oakland early and often. The Raiders were a step behind all game long, especially top draft pick D.J. Hayden, who was given the Elvis "Toast" Patterson treatment (I'm sure that name will elicit varied responses from Giants fans) by Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson and gave up three completions to the two for a combined 139 yards and two touchdowns. In short, it was a complete meltdown by the entire defense, which had been feeling itself a little too much.

The Giants, though, seem to be heading in the opposite direction after that ghastly start. Do you get the sense they have righted the ship, or is it fool's gold after beating the hapless Vikings and then-hopeless Eagles?

Graziano: It's unquestionably fool's gold. They beat the Vikings when Minnesota foolishly and inexplicably started an unprepared Josh Freeman at quarterback and beat the Eagles when they started a clearly injured Michael Vick and had to replace him with unprepared Matt Barkley. And it's not as though they looked especially good in either win. Eli Manning hit clumsy Minnesota defenders in the hands three times in that Monday night game and somehow still didn't get intercepted, and the Giants didn't score a touchdown in that 15-7 victory over the Eagles. They are a bad team with major problems at almost every position, and the fact that they've won two in a row after starting 0-6 doesn't make that go away.

That said, it's possible they'll get a gimpy Terrelle Pryor this week, right? (And maybe an Aaron Rodgers backup next week.) Pryor left against the Eagles with a knee injury. Do you expect that he'll play, and assuming he does, what kind of special problems does he present for a Giants defense that has been getting fat on the likes of Freeman and Barkley?

Gutierrez: Pryor said after the game that his knee was fine, that treatment and ice and the like were all "precautionary," that his knee was not "wobbly" or anything like that. The Raiders were going to take him out of the game for those last two series of a blowout anyway. While Pryor did not speak at the facility Monday, he was walking around the locker room and was not wearing a brace. He should be ready to go.

Then again, if there is even the slightest hitch in his giddyup, that could spell trouble since his running game is his strength. The problems he presents defenses are not unique for a team like the Giants, who already face the read-option from Washington's Robert Griffin III (when healthy). But Pryor's combination of size and speed is what makes him unique, or did you miss his 93-yard touchdown run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in which he looked like he was coasting but actually was pulling away from defenders? Earlier in the year, the Raiders' coaches wanted him to run more to take advantage of his strength. Now, Allen said Pryor has to trust the process more, from the protection to his reads. This should be interesting to see how Pryor soaks it all in.

Then again, it will be interesting to see how the Giants' defense responds to Pryor. The Steelers and Eagles had some success in keeping him under wraps by putting a spy on him, challenging him to beat them with his arm. Would the Giants employ such a tactic and who would that spy be, or would they rather play him straight up?

Graziano: It's a good question, though they don't seem interested in giving away the answer just yet. In the past year, they have played guys like Vick and RG III without a spy and have paid the price. Vick ran for 79 yards against them in the first half in Week 5 before pulling his hamstring.

If they do change it up and decide to spy Pryor, the most likely candidate would be linebacker Jacquian Williams, who has good sideline-to-sideline speed. They tend to like to use him to cover tough tight ends, but it's possible that the Raiders' receiving options will allow them to get everyone covered with their nickel-safety or nickel-corner package with Week 8 NFC Defensive Player of the Week Terrell Thomas covering the slot. That might free up Williams to spy Pryor, which I think would be a good idea. But the Giants can get stubborn at times, and it's possible they'll decide to play him straight up. I would like his chances of picking up yards on the ground on the outside if they did.

Manning hasn't thrown an interception in his past two games, but he still leads the league with those 15 he threw in the first six weeks. The Giants have been vulnerable to A-gap pressure due to the fact that they're using backups at center and right guard, and as a result, Manning has been uncomfortable in the pocket all season. The lack of a run game has hurt his play-action passing game too. Are the Raiders going to be able to pressure him better than they did Foles? Or will Eli have an easy day?

Gutierrez: Using the past-is-prologue approach and sprinkling in the notion that hindsight is always 20/20, the Raiders simply have to put pressure on Manning. Allen acknowledged the Raiders did not bring enough pressure to disrupt Foles, and when they did, he simply rolled out and found a target downfield. The Raiders seemed to have learned their lesson, but we'll see. Against the Eagles, they went away from being their normal, blitz-happy selves by rushing just three at times and sitting back in coverage. Foles ate them up. And Foles is no Manning. (You can't spell "elite" without "Eli," right?)

I would expect defensive coordinator Jason Tarver to dial up the blitzes again and send anyone at any time -- unless the Giants start running a no-huddle, hurry-up offense to rattle the Raiders. Keep an eye on right defensive end Lamarr Houston, who leads the Raiders with four sacks but was slowed by a right hamstring issue against the Eagles. In fact, 11.5 of Oakland's 23 sacks have come from their front four.

The Raiders -- Hayden in particular -- had problems in coverage against the Eagles. Whom would the Giants deploy to take advantage of Hayden, who usually plays on the outside in nickel packages? Might the Giants put the physically imposing Hakeem Nicks out there?

Graziano: Yeah, Nicks plays on the outside with Victor Cruz in the slot and Rueben Randle on the other side when they go three-wide. But Nicks hasn't been himself. He's still capable of outfighting defenders for the ball and could be a tough matchup for Hayden, but he doesn't seem able to separate anymore and has had uncharacteristic issues with drops. He won't admit it, but he's playing like a guy in his walk year whose long-term future is on his mind. It's been one of many problems the Giants didn't anticipate, and if he has a big game against the Raiders, it'll be his first. He still doesn't have a touchdown this season.

Anyway, nice chatting with you, Paul. Travel safely, and I look forward to seeing you at the game Sunday.

OAKLAND -- While the Cowboys' offensive line was being praised for a solid job in the 19-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders, there still could be some pending moves.

Multiple sources indicate the Cowboys have an interest in guard Brian Waters, who hasn't played since 2011. The Cowboys have turned to Waters after guard Brandon Moore backed out of a verbal agreement and decided to retire.

Injuries and ineffective play have forced the Cowboys to search for some help.

"Again, it's just an overall look see on what we are doing in the interior, and he is an outstanding player," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Friday night about Waters. "That's about all I can say about that."

Jones said he's not concerned about trying to sign a player who is retired, especially after missing out on a player who elected to retire instead of playing.

"Well, I would just say that the quality of the people we are talking to, if they decide to come play, they will play," Jones said. "That's not a concern of mine at all. Fact that they are considering not playing, knowing the quality of the people we are talking to, I respect that. I also respect the fact that if they decide to come, they will come and be a good player for us."

If Waters signs, he could move into the right guard spot, currently held by Mackenzy Bernadeau, who made his preseason debut against the Raiders after missing the first game last week against the Miami Dolphins.

"I'm just going to continue to work hard and be the best player that I can be no matter who they bring in or who they don’t bring in," Bernadeau said. "I'm going to work hard and of course they have to do what they have to do. We're short on the offensive line so, I can only worry about what I can control."

OAKLAND -- The Dallas Cowboys suffered their first loss of the preseason, 19-17, to the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on Friday night.

It was the debut of several key players, including Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee and Dez Bryant, among others. The first-team offense produced just three points and had a field goal attempt blocked. The second-team offense picked up a touchdown and the special teams units struggled with a muffed punt, penalties and a long kickoff return.

Romo makes debut: After sitting out the preseason opener, Romo completed 6 of 8 passes for 88 yards with no touchdowns, no interceptions and one sack. On the first possession of the game, Romo, with plenty of time, missed a wide open Miles Austin in the middle of the end zone and took a sack. But overall, Romo played well with the offensive line giving him time. He completed some good passes to Bryant, who caught three passes for 55 yards.

Red zone woes: The Cowboys' first-team offense had the ball at the Raiders' 16 after a turnover but failed to score, continuing a problem they had last season. Jason Witten was called for holding, Romo had a screen pass knocked down and he was sacked for a 5-yard loss and Dallas settled for a 38-yard field goal. The Cowboys got back in the red zone on their second possession, but Romo's dump-off pass to Murray on third-and-12 came up a yard short of a first down. Instead of going for it, coach Jason Garrett elected to attempt a 26-yard field goal, which was blocked.

"It was good," Romo said of the drives overall. "We had couple penalties that put us in a hole that cost us some points, I think. That is something that we are going to correct real fast. You just can't overcome that stuff in the red zone.

"Other than that, I thought the guys did a really good job and it's been going just how it was in training camp. It's been good.”

The second-team offense was able to convert in the red zone as backup quarterback Kyle Orton found Cole Beasley down the seam for a 15-yard touchdown reception.

Kiffin’s defense making plays: The Cowboys have forced four turnovers in the first two games of the preseason. Lee forced a fumble when he hit Matt Flynn on the blitz and Jason Hatcher recovered the ball. Safety J.J. Wilcox recorded an interception midway through the first half when Terrelle Pryor made a terrible throw on the run.

Ware plays defensive end: For the first time as a pro, Ware lined up exclusively at defensive end. Ware moved from outside linebacker to defensive end this season when the team moved to a 4-3 defensive alignment.

"Lining up at defensive end is easier,” Ware said. “You are down in the trenches. There is no difference than playing outside linebacker, you are out wide. But when you are in the six technique, there are a lot more techniques you have to work on. But I felt like I did really well for the first game."

Webb struggles: Fourth-round pick B.W. Webb had a long night. The rookie cornerback muffed a punt in the fourth quarter, leading to a field goal, missed two tackles and looked like he didn’t have much awareness on pass coverage. It’s only two preseason games, but Webb is off to a slow start.

Injuries: Cole Beasley suffered a left foot injury in the third quarter and underwent X-rays. The results weren't available as the game came to a close.

Who didn’t play: Wide receiver Terrance Williams (concussion), guard Nate Livings (knee), guard Demetress Bell (conditioning test), guard Kevin Kowalski (knee), guard/center Ryan Cook (back), guard Ray Dominguez (shoulder), defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (hamstring), defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee), cornerback Morris Claiborne (knee), linebacker Alex Albright (back) and safety Matt Johnson (foot) didn’t participate. The Cowboys expect Albright, Williams and Claiborne to return next week at Arizona.

What’s next?: The Cowboys will have Saturday off and will practice Sunday afternoon in Oxnard, Calif. The final preseason road game will be next Saturday night at Arizona.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Before Wes Phillips showed last year’s preseason game at Oakland to the rest of the Cowboys’ tight ends in preparation for tonight’s game against the Raiders, he sought out Jason Witten.

“Hey, are you superstitious or any of that stuff?" Phillips asked. "Because we’re going to be watching the film.”

At first, Witten wasn't sure what Phillips was talking about. Then, it clicked.

“Oh,” he said, “the play.”

Yes, the play in which Witten nearly had his 2012 season end after six preseason snaps. Turning as he made a catch of a Tony Romo throw, Witten was slammed by Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain. He was slow to get up, but it was not one of the biggest hits the eight-time Pro Bowler had taken in his career.

He was sore but actually returned to the game and caught another pass before his night was over.

It wasn’t until the plane ride back to Oxnard, Calif., where he realized he did not just get the wind knocked out of him.

“On the plane, it was, ‘Man, this is more than a shot in the gut. This is something a little bit more,’” Witten said. “It wasn’t til the next day we got back and I had a CT scan and the trainers and doctors said, ‘Hey, we need to get another one. This time we’ve got to get the IV going to light you up.’ They must not have liked what they saw if they’re sending me back in there. That’s when I began to get a little concerned.”

Witten suffered a lacerated spleen, though the benign “slightly” was used as an adjective, which is easy to say when it’s not your spleen. Witten came within whiskers of having his season end. If the spleen needed to be removed, he would not have played in 2012.

“The toughest thing, other than it being an organ and not a sprained ankle, was just the uncertainty of not knowing and nobody being able to tell me, ‘Here’s the date where you can be back,’” Witten said.

While he hoped to play in the season opener against the New York Giants, he was wondering if he would miss the first month of the season. For two weeks he had to lie in his hotel room bed while his teammates practiced.

“You hear the horn go off and practice starts and I can’t even get out of bed,” Witten said. “I think you appreciate being able to play through a tough injury.”

Even Witten might not have truly believed it at the time, but he told coach Jason Garrett not long after hearing the diagnosis that he would play against the Giants in the regular-season opener.

“I just looked at him and said, ‘What are you going to do the next couple of weeks?’” Garrett said. “He said, ‘I have to be motionless in my bed for two weeks.’ I was like, ‘Huh, this will be interesting timing.’ But he’s an amazing guy.”

Witten was cleared by a New York doctor the night before the opener and caught two passes for 10 yards in the Dallas win.

Witten had a slow start to the season with a number of uncharacteristic drops, not because he was hurt, but because he could not practice. He finished the year with 110 catches, an NFL record for a tight end in a season, and was named to the Pro Bowl for the eighth time.

“Forget all that stuff,” Garrett said. “When you tell the Witten story, I start with (the Giants game) because I think he showed what he’s all about and what he’s been doing for a long time in this league. I think it’s a great example for the rest of our football team and really for the rest of humanity in the whole NFL. That’s how you do it. He’s really a tough guy, an amazing guy and we’re lucky to have him.”

Because of his status on the team and his desire to win, Witten said he felt obligated to get back so quickly.

“It was a long three weeks, I know that,” Witten said, “but I’m a better person and player because of that.”

With the return to Oakland tonight, Witten said he “hopes and prays for a different outcome, that’s for sure.”

And that brings us back to Phillips showing the play on Tuesday.

“He went fast on it,” Witten said. “We watched it, but there wasn’t much rewind to it. He fast-forwarded it pretty quick.”
OXNARD, Calif. -- Dallas Cowboys starting cornerback Morris Claiborne didn't participate in the walkthrough practice Thursday morning because of a sore left knee, raising concerns about his availability for Friday night's preseason game at Oakland.

Claiborne jammed his knee in Tuesday's practice and tried to get some work in Wednesday. But he said the knee felt tight and the training staff didn't want him to risk further injury. It's doubtful Claiborne will play.

Also, rookie wide receiver Terrance Williams missed practice as he recovers from a concussion. Williams ran sprints with some other injured players during the Wednesday walkthrough. Williams most likely will miss the Raiders game.

Kevin Kowalski (knee), Jeff Olson (concussion), Ray Dominguez (shoulder), Nate Livings (knee), Demetress Bell (conditioning), Matt Johnson (foot), Alex Albright (back), Ryan Cook (back), Jay Ratliff (hamstring) and Anthony Spencer (knee) did not practice and won't play against the Raiders.

Update: The Cowboys released Olson after the walkthrough practice. He did some work in the rehab session Thursday morning.

Observation deck: Cowboys-Raiders

August, 14, 2012

Of all the football games I've ever watched, the Dallas Cowboys' 3-0 preseason victory over the Oakland Raiders on Monday night was definitely ... well, it was one of them. It was a sluggish, poorly played game by two teams that obviously weren't at full strength or interested in showing a national TV audience very much of their playbooks. At the time it ended, nine Major League Baseball teams had outscored the two NFL teams' combined total.

But it was a game a defensive coordinator could love, and surely Dallas' Rob Ryan will use it as a rallying point for his defense in the days and weeks to come. As we say all the time here, there is little or no predictive value in any of these games. Some teams game-plan for them, many don't, and there's no way to really know what you're watching in terms of who's trying and who's not. But if you're a defensive coordinator, you'd better believe you can hold up a 3-0 victory and shout at your guys about what they're capable of if they play hard. Can't hurt, could help, you know.

The Cowboys' offense ... won't have as much fun watching film of this one. Let's get to what we saw from the Cowboys in Oakland on Monday night.

1. The interior of the offensive line is not good right now, and it affects everything the offense tries to do. Tony Romo had no time to throw, DeMarco Murray had no room to run and the No. 3 wide receiver candidates who were running with the first team had no opportunity to show what they could do. David Arkin started at center in place of the injured Phil Costa, and in the first half he got abused by Tommy Kelly for one sack and was also called for holding. The good news for Arkin is that he didn't botch any snaps, and he did look better as he continued to play into the third quarter (and the Raiders kept taking out first-team and second-team defensive players). Mackenzy Bernadeau, who started at right guard, is likely to get snaps at center in upcoming preseason games, but since he's coming off an injury the Cowboys are trying to work him in at guard to get him acclimated. Derrick Dockery started at left guard, and Ronald Leary struggled with the second and third teams. Now, the key things to remember are (a) this isn't news and (b) preseason games are about figuring out what you need to improve. There's no reason to think the Cowboys' offensive line will look worse at any point this year than it does right now, and they've known for a while that they have issues there. If they can get Costa and Nate Livings and Bernadeau healthy, they'll at least have the crew with which they planned to go into the season. I'm just not sure that's good enough -- or that they have anything behind the starters that can help in case of injury. And it's worth mentioning that right tackle Doug Free didn't look good either.

2. Andre Holmes had a good night. Of those No. 3 wide receiver candidates, Holmes stood out the most, with 40 yards on three catches. Holmes' asset is his size, and he looks like he's doing a good job of using his big body to shield the ball from defenders and make catches in traffic. Long way to go and a lot to see, but Holmes helped his case. Kevin Ogletree likely remains the favorite and got the first crack at it, starting in place of the injured Miles Austin. Ogletree caught the only ball thrown his way, for 12 yards, and had a goofy moment when he fell on his face trying to make a block and slipping on the infield dirt at the Oakland Coliseum. Expect to see more from Dwayne Harris, Tim Benford, Cole Beasley and Danny Coale in upcoming games. Beasley was the slot receiver with the first-team offense but didn't see any action. Interesting that Dez Bryant did start in spite of his hamstring injury and made one excellent 24-yard catch before taking a seat.

3. The defense did look fired-up and kind of deep in spots. Defensive end Marcus Spears played like a man who knows he needs to win a roster spot. Safety Gerald Sensabaugh came up with an early interception on a play on which cornerback Orlando Scandrick had his man well covered. Kyle Wilber showed some ability to generate pressure on Matt Leinart on a third-down play, though he did leave the game with a broken thumb. Tyrone Crawford pushed the pocket a little bit during his time in there. And I think that inside linebacker spot is going to be a real strength, as Sean Lee and Bruce Carter both looked good. Yes, the Raiders ran the ball effectively against the first-team defense, but that first-team defense was without starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff as well as defensive end Jason Hatcher and outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. So I imagine they'll be better once those guys are on the field.

4. Not-so-special teams. The Cowboys were called for penalties on two punts and one field goal attempt, each time allowing the Raiders to keep the ball. That needs to be tightened up, clearly, and it's the kind of thing that just infuriates coaches in these preseason games.

5. Miscellany: Adrian Hamilton, the undrafted linebacker who had 20.5 sacks at Prairie View last year, looked active and quick. Remains to be seen whether he has the size and speed to play against NFL offenses. ... Rookie tight end James Hanna showed good hands as a receiver and looked good on kick coverage. ... Dwayne Harris was called for holding and, yeah, that can work against a guy who's trying to get a job as a No. 3 wide receiver. ... Yes, you like what you see from Victor Butler, as you always do in August. Still need to see whether and how the coaches find more ways to get him on the field once the real games begin. ... Seemed like punter Chris Jones was fine.

Cowboys preseason has a West Coast feel

March, 31, 2010
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has all but confirmed that his team will spend a portion of training in Oxnard, Calif., but today's preseason schedule announcement pretty much seals the deal. The Cowboys' third preseason game will be in San Diego, which means the club will likely spend the previous week a couple of hours down the road in Oxnard.

As we already knew, the Cowboys will open the preseason against the Bengals in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 8, in Canton, Ohio. They'll host the Oakland Raiders the following weekend at Cowboys Stadium and then likely depart for Oxnard. The fourth game will be Saturday, Aug. 28, in Houston. This game will be for the famed (wink) Governor's Cup.

The Cowboys will close the preseason at home against their old pals, the Miami Dolphins. They'll be able to reconnect with former coaches Tony Sparano, Bill Parcells, David Lee, Todd Bowles and Kacy Rodgers, as well as current Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and his right-hand man Brian Gaine.

Is anyone actually stoked about the preseason? Let me hear from you.

What the Eagles are demanding for McNabb

March, 26, 2010
The Philadelphia Eagles will only consider trading quarterback Donovan McNabb if the deal includes a pick among the top 42 in April's draft, according to the Associated Press. The Raiders, Bills and Rams each have two picks among the top 42, and all of them need help at quarterback.

Of that group, I think McNabb would prefer the Rams because of his familiarity with their coaching staff. Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur served as quarterbacks coach for the Eagles and head coach Steve Spagnuolo was a secondary coach under Jim Johnson in Philly. We won't know if the Minnesota Vikings are in play until Brett Favre makes a decision regarding his future.

The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that McNabb's first choice would be the Vikings, which makes sense. Minnesota head coach Brad Childress was the offensive coordinator for the Eagles and he runs the West Coast offense that McNabb's accustomed to. It would be a nice fit, but the Eagles can't afford to sit around and wait on Favre. According to the Inquirer report, McNabb's not thrilled about going to the Rams, Bills or Raiders. And why would he be? The only upshot to any of those teams is that McNabb could probably sign a lucrative extension, including a healthy signing bonus.

We'll keep you posted on any developments as the day unfolds.

Cowboys making the right Choice?

September, 30, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- With Cowboys running back Felix Jones likely out with a left leg injury and Marion Barber still fighting a left quad strain, there's a good chance second-year back Tashard Choice will get the majority of the carries against the Broncos on Sunday. When Choice arrived at his locker Wednesday, a large group of reporters were waiting. He was very animated and said the fact that he slipped to the fourth round of the '08 draft remains a constant source of inspiration for him.

Choice admitted that he's pressed a little bit when he knows he's only going to get three or four carries and talked about how much better he performs when he can get in a rhythm. And he showed that last season during a three-game stretch against the Steelers, Giants and Ravens in which he rushed for 279 yards. It's obvious that Tony Romo already has a ton of confidence in Choice because he looks for him a lot when he's in trouble. Here's what Choice had to say Wednesday when asked about being drafted in the fourth round.

"It pisses me off to be honest with you," Choice said. "It pisses me off all the time. My mindframe is to show them you messed up on Tashard."

Even though he's the third running back, Choice carries himself like he's a starter. He moved his stuff into T.O.'s old locker and replaced him as the team DJ. He has a ton of confidence and he may end up being the team's best all-around back. Marion Barber is obviously a punishing inside runner and Felix Jones is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.

Choice has the power to run inside, but he also has deceptive speed and acceleration. The fact that he catches the ball so well also is a big part of the offense. And fortunately for the Cowboys, there appears to be no jealousy among the running backs. When Felix Jones was sidelined with a knee injury against the Panthers, he continued to encourage Choice every time he came off the field.

Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete had this to say about Choice:

"He was one of the most complete backs in that draft. Everyone said he lacked speed, but he’s capable of doing just about everything. He’s an inside runner, he’s an outside runner, he’s capable of [pass] protecting and obviously he can run pass routes and catch the ball. The only knock he had coming out was that he was not a burner, but there have been a lot of good backs in this league who were not burners."

Peete has some experience when it comes to managing talented running backs. At one point he coached Tyrone Wheatley, Charlie Garner and Napoleon Kaufman with the Raiders. Peete told me in training camp that Choice would have a chance to make a huge contribution this season. It's just happening sooner than some of us thought.

What's in Mosley's Mailbag?

September, 19, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

Each week, thousands of readers leave questions in the NFC East mailbag. Let's take a look at what folks are talking about this weekend.

Don from Ohio writes: Has anyone ever lobbied to have the Skins and Cowboys play on Thanksgiving? I think it would be a great thing to see arguably the biggest rivalry in sports on Turkey Day. I'd much rather see that than meaningless matchups like the Raiders and Cowboys. They should at least have Dallas play an NFC East team every year. They could rotate it every season. Just a thought.Thanks for the great work.

Mosley: Thanks for checking in, Don. I couldn't agree with you more. Al Davis and Jerry Jones might be close friends, but that doesn't make for a great Thanksgiving game. If the league can make sure the Giants open the season in Jones' new stadium, then it could send a division rival to Arlington each Thanksgiving. I'm totally with you, Don. Always have been.

Jon from Westchester, N.Y.: Hey Matt, I'm a big fan of yours. I check your blogs a few times a day and I really have learned a lot from your blogs. Keep up the good work.I have a question regarding the Giants, but not something that I have heard a whole lot about. I am very happy with the defense. I feel that the secondary is very good but doesn't receive the respect it deserves. Kenny Phillips is going to be a top safety in the few years and Michael Johnson is underappreciated in the eyes of the league. The line is amazing and that's all I will say on that, but I am a little worried about the linebackers. I know Michael Boley was brought in and I am hoping he helps out a lot. But what about Pierce? He is a very smart player but he is getting up there in age. Are the Giants going to draft someone this year that can learn from Pierce? Also, I know we drafted Clint Stintim, but are the Giants going to upgrade that position also? I like Blackburn and the other guys, but I feel they are very good backups and not so much stater material.

Mosley: Jon, thanks for stopping by The Bag. Pierce will turn 31 in October, so you're right to a bit concerned about his age. But there are linebackers in this league still performing at a high level on the wrong side of 30. Obviously Ray Lewis comes to mind. Pierce is the backbone of this team. He's an inspirational leader and he still has plenty left in the tank. He looked really old last season because he got in one-on-one matchups with Brian Westbrook in December and January. That's why the Giants brought in Michael Boley, a guy who can help them stay in their base defense more often because of his cover skills. And don't worry too much about the depth. Chase Blackburn is a really good football player and I think he'd start for a lot of teams in this league. Throw in talented players such as Bryan Kehl and Gerris Wilkinson (injury prone) and I think you're doing OK with depth. Clint Sintim needs to get back on the field. He's got the long arms and size that Tom Coughlin loves in a linebacker. He just needs to get healthy.

Matt from Texas writes: Matt, I wanted to check to see if you have your bags packed? Come Monday, most of the media will be trying to jump off the extremely overrated Eli/Giants bandwagon and onto ours. I figured I would give you first dibs. Before you developed a giant-sized man crush on New York, you used to respect the Cowboys. See you on the 'Wagon!

Mosley: Matt, I actually picked the Cowboys to win this game, 28-24. Michael Boley is coming off a long layoff and the secondary's banged up. I think Tony Romo can make plays downfield against reserve corners Terrell Thomas and Bruce Johnson. But I'm still driving the Giants bandwagon. This loss won't knock them out of a Super Bowl trip.

Oscar in Dallas left this note: Some guys at were passing this link around. Its a Mic'd up video of Tony Romo during the game last week. For those who think he can't be the leader, you need to watch this video.

Mosley: Oscar, thanks for sharing. Looks like Romo was having a lot of fun last Sunday. Loved the look on Jason Garrett's face when Romo offered to kiss him if he'd call a seam route.

John from Silver Spring, Md. is concerned with my Albert Haynesworth analysis: Mosley, I have to disagree with your statement that Albert Haynesworth is falling. He was personally responsible for both times the Redskins stuffed the Giants on 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1. He made the tackle on 4th and 1 and he blew up the middle so LaRon Landry could make the tackle on 4th and 1. Not to mention the fact that he ripped into the backfield and tore of the helmet of Ahmad Bradshaw as he threw him to the ground.Also, I'm not sure what game you were watching, but they kept showing replays and Troy Aikman kept talking about how Haynesworth was pushing Seibert all over the place.The mark of whether or not Haynesworth is having an impact will not always be found in the stat sheet. You will know if he's having the impact the Redskins expect if he is clogging up the middle, as he did on the two short yardage stuffs and if you see him pushing 1-2 guys into the backfield so the QB cannot step up to avoid a rush off the edge.For someone who covers football, I'm disappointed that you rely so heavily on stats to determine a players worth, especially a defensive tackle.

Mosley: John, I appreciate the note. I may be holding Haynesworth to a ridiculous standard ($41 mil guaranteed), but what I focused on was that he looked completely worn down at the most important juncture of the game. When the Skins were actually hanging around in the third quarter, Haynesworth had to keep making his way to the sideline to catch his breath. Yes, he made some plays in the game. But when Washington truly needed to clog the middle, Haynesworth was sucking wind. Was I too hard on him? Maybe so.

Mike from Atlanta is concerned about where the Eagles are ranked: OK, first off I am a full-on Eagles fan. So this may come off as a little homerish, but how can the Eagles be ranked below the Giants when we absolutely crushed a supposed NFC South power while the Giants let the Skins stay in the game a lot longer than they should have. As well, how in the world can anyone seriously allow the Cowboys to rise in the rankings after beating up on a team that until five minutes before the game even knew who their QB was going to be?! Granted, a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point. And to top that off, the miserable Bucs manage to rack up over 450 yards of offense. Anyone with a reasonably decent offense then should be able to hit what, 600 yards and blow them away? And yes, I cannot wait to see us crush the Cowboys yet again. Come to think of it, I'm looking forward to the Giants doing it, too. The sooner we beat them both, the sooner no one can argue we are truly the Beast of the East!!

Mosley: I certainly didn't have the Panthers as an "NFC South power." I think the Redskins are better than Carolina. Jake Delhomme was just dreadful, and that's becoming a trend. We should let this quarterback situation settle down a little bit and then see where the Eagles are. I have them beating the Saints behind the strong arm of Kevin Kolb. Don't worry about where the Eagles are ranked right now. Let's see where they are at the end of November. OK, you guys have a great Saturday.