NFC East: phillip tanner

IRVING, Texas -- In many ways a successful draft is measured by how well a team does in the later rounds.

Ben Volin of The Boston Globe put together a story about teams that draft well and poorly with an interesting graphic.

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Who would be the best first-round pick for the Cowboys?

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The Dallas Cowboys are one of six teams not to have a current starter they selected in Rounds 5-7, according to the chart, which means Volin did not count Orlando Scandrick (fifth round, 2008) as a starter even though he started most of the 2013 season. If Morris Claiborne performed up to capabilities and was not hurt, he would have been the starter. If you count Scandrick, then the Cowboys would be one of 12 teams to have one starter from Rounds 5-7.

The other five without a starter were the Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears.

Since 2010, the Cowboys have had 12 picks in Rounds 5-7 and only Dwayne Harris, James Hanna, Joseph Randle and DeVonte Holloman remain.

Hitting on late-round picks is guesswork in a lot of ways. In 2004, the Cowboys hit on three seventh-rounders in Nate Jones, Patrick Crayton and Jacques Reeves. They all had productive NFL careers and earned second contracts.

That’s the goal: find players who can fill roles. The Cowboys kept Crayton for a second contract, but Jones and Reeves left after their rookie deals expired.

Teams build their depth through late-round picks and the Cowboys have not hit enough in the late rounds to fortify their depth. The Seattle Seahawks had an NFL-best five starters from Rounds 5-7 in 2013. The Philadelphia Eagles were next with four.

Also in Volin’s chart is a look at undrafted starters. The Cowboys had a league-high five in 2013 with Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Barry Church, Ronald Leary and Jeff Heath. The Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins had four apiece to tie for second.

For years the Cowboys have excelled in finding undrafted free agents. In the last three years they have landed Dan Bailey, Phillip Tanner, Chris Jones, Ben Bass, Cole Beasley, Leary, Heath and Cam Lawrence.

They make up for the misses in Rounds 5-7 with hits in undrafted free agency. With three compensatory picks in the seventh round this year, the Cowboys will have the chance to draft what would have been their priority undrafted free agents.

They only hope they’re not just making up for misses in Rounds 5-7.

Cowboys free agents: Phillip Tanner

February, 24, 2014
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Phillip Tanner
Position: Running back
Free-agent type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $555,000

Summary: Tanner had nine carries for 12 yards and a touchdown in 2013 on offense and made nine tackles on special teams in 16 games.

Why keep him: He is everything Jason Garrett wants in a teammate. He is tough, dependable and trustworthy. He will do whatever it takes for the team to win. He is an excellent practice player. He knows the offense and can contribute on every special teams’ unit. He can be a useful short-yardage back.

Why let him go: There comes a time where the cost of a player outweighs his usefulness on the roster because of price. Tanner was set to make $1.389 million as a restricted free agent, but a source said the Cowboys will not tender him an offer, making him an unrestricted free agent With DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle, who is entering his second year, there just isn’t enough snaps for him on offense.

Best guess: Danny McCray was a restricted free agent last year and the Cowboys chose not to tender him an offer, giving him a $100,000 signing bonus and $630,000 base salary instead. And he was their best special teamer. The Cowboys could choose to do the same with Tanner this year, minus the signing bonus. In this scenario his base salary would be a non-guaranteed $645,000.

Cowboys won't tender Phillip Tanner

February, 23, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Dallas Cowboys will not tender a contract to Phillip Tanner, making the running back an unrestricted free agent, according to a source.

Tanner was the Cowboys' only restricted free agent, which meant they would have had to tender him a deal worth at least $1.389 million. It is possible, if unlikely, that Tanner could be re-signed for the veteran minimum for a fourth-year player.

Tanner made the Cowboys as an unrestricted free agent out of Middle Tennessee in 2011 and had 56 carries for 149 yards and nine catches for 93 yards with two touchdowns in three seasons. He was also a valuable special teams contributor.

DeMarco Murray's role to expand

December, 3, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Lance Dunbar had surgery on his left knee on Tuesday. Now the Dallas Cowboys have to figure out how to replace him.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray, Tony Romo
AP Photo/Tim SharpCoach Jason Garrett has high hopes that DeMarco Murray can continue to carry the Cowboys out of the backfield.
"DeMarco Murray is our lead back, has been our lead back all year long, has done an excellent job for us, did a really good job in the game the other day again," coach Jason Garrett said. "He'll be the lead dog. The other guys, Joseph Randle and Phillip Tanner will have to step up if they have an opportunity if DeMarco can't go."

The "if they have an opportunity," comment stuck. The Cowboys plan to ride Murray as much as they can, despite the belief that the NFL is a two-back league nowadays for guys not named Adrian Peterson. And it's not as if Dunbar morphed into an irreplaceable part on the Cowboys' offense.

Before carrying the ball 12 times for 82 yards against the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving, he had 18 carries for 68 yards for the season.

With Dunbar out earlier in the year with hamstring injuries and Murray slowed with a knee injury, Joseph Randle got his first action. He had all 45 of his carries for 111 yards and a touchdown in a four-game stretch, but has not had a carry in the past three games. Tanner has not had a carry in the past four games.

"We'd like to get the other backs in, give them a role, give a chance to give DeMarco rest, play a series, whatever that is," Garrett said. "We'll come up with what those substitution patterns are as the week goes on. We certainly feel confident in putting those other guys in the game though."

They might, but the proof will be on the field.

In his last three games, Murray has 238 rushing yards and four touchdowns (three came on Thanksgiving against the Raiders). He has eight catches for 79 yards in the last two games.

"If you look at the last couple of weeks, both in the Giant game and also in the Oakland game, he's one of those guys who makes a lot of dirty runs," Garrett said. "There were a number of runs in that game the other day where I'm standing there on the sideline saying, 'Boy, it's going to be second-and-10 here, he's not making much,' and somehow he kind of works his way through the hole and makes eight and it's second-and-2. I think that happened a lot. It happened in the red zone a couple of times in the game. Those were well-blocked plays but he found the holes and got himself into the end zone. I just think he's been a very productive back for us. He always has been and I think the thing where he's taken a major step is as a receiver. We felt really good about his receiving ability coming out of school. He was very productive in that regard and just his production, every week you throw it to him three times and he catches it three times for 38 yards. You throw it to him five times and he catches it five times for 42 yards. Sometimes those become those non-descript plays that nobody ever talks about, but they really make an offense go. When we throw him the ball or hand him the ball, usually good things happen. He's been a real good back for us."

Cowboys flunk situational football late

October, 29, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has preaches the importance of situational football every day. The Cowboys did not do well in situations in the 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions.

The Phillip Tanner run was chronicled on Monday evening. Garrett said Tanner should not have bounced the third-down run to the left, which forced a holding penalty on left tackle Tyron Smith.

But there were two other late-game situations where the Cowboys did not perform well.

On Matthew Stafford's game-winning leap, several defensive players did not come off the ball, believing Stafford was set for the spike. As a result, Stafford was able to reach the ball over the goal line.

“We have to handle that situation better and that goes to coaching, that goes to playing, everyone has to understand the possibility in that situation,” Garrett said. “Certainly I think there was an anticipation in some way, shape or form that they were going to spike the ball in that deal, but it’s not for us to decide that they’re going to do that. We have to decide to play football, get in stances, defend them if they want to run the ball. The quarterback sneak was one logical thing they could do there if they didn’t want to spike it. That’s just a great lesson for everybody and there’s a level of readiness you have to have. In some ways you think you’re ready for that kind of situation but you have to be down, you have to be ready and we weren’t and we have to do a better job of that in that situation.”

On the ensuing kickoff, linebacker Kyle Bosworth fielded the ball at the Cowboys 33 and ran out of bounds, running a handful of seconds off the clock.

“There are two things we should’ve done in that situation: simply run north and south and get down or simply get down immediately,” Garrett said. “What you don’t want to do is you don’t want to bounce and go to the sidelines and chew up that time. It probably would’ve been two or three seconds difference. Maybe that gives us another play. That’s how we could’ve handled that situation and we addressed that.”
IRVING, Texas -- Lost somewhat amid the hubbub surrounding Dez Bryant's sideline actions and Calvin Johnson's on-field actions in Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions was the holding penalty by Tyron Smith in the fourth quarter.

Tanner
Smith was correctly assessed the penalty on Phillip Tanner's run, but according to coach Jason Garrett, Tanner never should have bounced the run to the left. The result put Smith in a bad leverage position, which created the penalty.

After taking over on downs from the Lions with 1:24 to play, the Cowboys ran the ball three straight times to get the Lions to use their final timeouts. Smith's penalty, however, stopped the clock with 1:07 to play.

“I don't want to be critical of a player right here, but the design of the play was to stick it up in there and get what you can get,” Garrett said. “We're on the 35-yard line and you just want to go north and south and handle the situation that way.”

Detroit loaded the line of scrimmage knowing the Cowboys were going to run. Tanner used his instincts to bounce the run and picked up 9 yards. The Lions declined the penalty because time was more important than yards in that scenario.

In the Oct. 6 loss to the Denver Broncos, quarterback Peyton Manning told Knowshon Moreno not to score a touchdown before a third-and-1 run from the Cowboys 2. Moreno picked up the first down and the Broncos were able to kick the game-winning field goal on the final play.

The Cowboys did not instruct Tanner to just barrel his way into the line.

“Certainly you can try to go man for man and tell him exactly what you want him to do but when we design that play from that personnel group that's where that play hits and typically that's where it goes,” Garrett said. “That's why we call it and he instinctively saw some daylight and green grass and bounced the thing all the way back and I think that contributed to the holding penalty.”

Rapid Reaction: Dallas Cowboys

October, 20, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys17-3 win against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday:

What it means: With back-to-back wins for the first time this season, the 4-3 Cowboys have taken control of the NFC East. They are 3-0 in the division for the first time since 2007 and just the seventh time in franchise history. They also won on the road for the first time this season after losses to Kansas City and San Diego. After allowing 1,456 yards in their last three games entering Sunday, the Cowboys kept the up-tempo Eagles in check (278 yards) and came up with three fourth-quarter interceptions of Matt Barkley -- by Sean Lee, Barry Church and Brandon Carr. An interception of Nick Foles was negated by a replay review. The third-down defense was particularly strong, holding Philadelphia to just four conversions in 18 tries.

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Who was most impressive in the Cowboys' win?

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Stock watch: Rising -- Monte Kiffin. The defensive coordinator was falling two weeks ago when his defense allowed 51 points to Denver. When he was at USC and faced Chip Kelly's offense at Oregon, Kiffin’s defense allowed 50 points and 601 yards per game. The Eagles had scored 30 or more points in four of their first six games, but managed only a field goal thanks to strong man-to-man coverage from the Dallas cornerbacks.

Tony Romo at 100: The quarterback was starting his 100th regular-season game for the Cowboys and improved to 59-41 as a starter. It wasn’t a vintage Romo performance. He had his first multi-interception game of the season, even if the first pick was on an end-of-half Hail Mary. But when the offense needed him most, Romo came through. On Dallas' fourth-quarter touchdown drive, he completed 7 of 8 passes for 69 yards, capped by the clinching touchdown throw to Terrance Williams.

Big names missing: For the first time in his nine-year career, defensive end DeMarcus Ware missed a game. Ware did not play because of a quadriceps strain and was replaced in the starting lineup by Kyle Wilber. The Cowboys still managed decent pressure on Foles (three sacks). The Cowboys were also without DeMarco Murray (knee). It was the 10th game Murray has missed in three seasons. His replacement, Joseph Randle, ran for 65 yards, and Phillip Tanner added a touchdown run, giving the Cowboys a rushing score in their third straight game.

What’s next: The Cowboys remain on the road with a trip to Ford Field to take on the Detroit Lions next Sunday. While not as important as a division game, it could come into play later in the season in a possible wild-card race. The Cowboys won 28-27 in their last visit to Ford Field on Dec. 9, 2007.

Welcome to Lincoln Financial Field

October, 20, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- Welcome to Lincoln Financial Field where the Dallas Cowboys take on the Philadelphia Eagles with first place in the NFC East on the line.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the NFC East had a team that was only one game over .500 hold sole possession of first place this late in the season was in 2001 when the Eagles were 4-3. They went on to win the division that year with an 11-5 record.

Slow-down the Eagles: Monte Kiffin’s struggles against Chip Kelly while the two were in the college game have been well-documented.

What’s more relevant is how Kiffin’s Dallas defense is struggling against any offense right now. In the last three games, the Cowboys have given up 1,456 yards. The San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos shredded the Cowboys through the air, and the Washington Redskins did it on the ground.

The third-down defense has been particularly bad, allowing 22 first downs on 41 tries in the last three games.

The key will be red-zone defense. The Cowboys can give up the yards and even field goals, but they need to make stops deep in their own territory. It’s what they did last week against Washington, stopping them on three red-zone trips.

Randle
And they will have to do it without DeMarcus Ware, who has a quadriceps strain.

New-look run game: Rookie Joseph Randle will take over as the lead running back with DeMarco Murray out with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

“I think whenever you lose a valuable player, like Murray, that obviously affects the team,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “At the same time, I think Randle will step in and do a good job. (Phillip) Tanner has shown us what he can do, so he’ll do a good job as well. We’re excited to see those guys.”

But how much?

The Eagles are allowing the most yards per game (420.2) and 29.8 points per game, which is 29th in the NFL.

Bryant
Bryant
In the last two games the Cowboys have been effective with their empty package, spreading the field. The Eagles have allowed 13 touchdown passes, but they have picked off six passes and sacked opposing quarterbacks 13 times.

Knowing Dez: The division games have not been kind to Dez Bryant so far. In wins against the New York Giants and Redskins, he has nine catches for 58 yards.

In the four non-division games, Bryant has averaged 6.3 catches for 100 yards and has all six of his touchdowns.

The Eagles have a new defensive staff with new cornerbacks. Perhaps that makes this closer to a non-division game.

Cowboys sign RB to practice squad

October, 15, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- With injuries to DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar, the Dallas Cowboys signed running back Davin Meggett to the practice squad.

Murray is not expected to play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Dunbar missed the Washington Redskins' game with a hamstring injury and was unsure he would be able to practice this week.

Rookie Joseph Randle and Phillip Tanner are the only healthy running backs on the 53-man roster. Randle is expected to get the bulk of the work in Murray's absence. He had 11 carries for 17 yards and a touchdown against Washington.

Meggett was with the Indianapolis Colts in the summer but was cut in August. He was with the Houston Texans for a time in 2012. The son of former NFL running back Dave Meggett ran for 2,411 yards at Maryland.

It is possible he could be a late-week call up to the active roster if the Cowboys want to have a third runner on the game-day roster.

Ernie Sims to replace Justin Durant

October, 6, 2013
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Ernie Sims-Bruce Carter debate that went on during the course of the week meant little with strongside linebacker Justin Durant out of Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos because of a groin injury.

Sims will replace Durant and Carter will be the weakside linebacker.

But Sims figures to play more with the Cowboys expected to rely on their nickel defense against the three-wide-receiver-heavy offense of the Broncos. He replaced Carter in the nickel in the second half of last week’s loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Miles Austin is also inactive, missing his second straight game. Terrance Williams will replace Austin.

Defensive end Edgar Jones is inactive with a groin injury and will be replaced by Caesar Rayford. For the second straight game the Cowboys have all four running backs -- DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner and Joseph Randle -- active.

Center Phil Costa is active after he did not dress last week with the Cowboys choosing to go with an extra offensive lineman over a fifth cornerback in Chris Greenwood.

Five Wonders: The running game woes

September, 17, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- For the first time this season, Five Wonders comes after a Dallas Cowboys defeat and these are always a little more troubling because of a how-will-they-ever-win-another-game mindset that follows.

On to the wonders:

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Denny Medley/USA TODAY SportsWill DeMarco Murray reach the 1000-yard benchmark this season?
1. I wonder if I need to re-visit my claim that DeMarco Murray will rush for more than 1,000 yards this season. I cited Bill Callahan’s involvement as the playcaller and the last time the Cowboys had an offensive line coach as playcaller came in 2006 when Tony Sparano directed the offense and Julius Jones went for more than 1,000 yards. Jones is the last Cowboys back to have a 1,000-yard season. After two games Murray is on pace for 888 yards. For a mini-wonder inside a wonder: I wonder about Murray’s vision sometimes. The easy thing to do is kick the offensive line for a poor running game. I’m not saying the blocking was great against the Kansas City Chiefs, but I believe Murray left a lot of yards on the field.

2. Sticking with the running game in the second wonder. I wonder when the Cowboys will give Joseph Randle some work. The two backup runners, Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner, have fumbled in consecutive weeks. Dunbar after a catch versus the Chiefs for the Cowboys’ first takeaway; Tanner on a run versus the New York Giants that tight end Gavin Escobar recovered. Randle was inactive against the Chiefs and didn’t get a snap against the Giants. The Cowboys wonder about his ability to pick up the pass-protection schemes, like they do for all rookies, but his speed and vision might be the best fit for this cut-back scheme. Randle showed the ability in the preseason to gain yards when only creases were there. Maybe his time is coming. I mean if the running game continues this way, don’t they just have to try something new?

3. Jason Garrett always talks about Morris Claiborne's ability to make plays on the ball. I wonder when that manifests itself because we haven’t seen much of it so far in games. He has one interception as a rookie and eight pass deflections. Maybe it happens in practice but even over the summer the number of plays Claiborne made on the ball was not more than a handful. He showed toughness by playing with the shoulder injury against the Chiefs and it will be something he has to deal with for the foreseeable future. It’s one thing to talk about what Claiborne did at LSU when he was the Jim Thorpe Award winner and had six interceptions in his last season but he has to demonstrate that ability with the Cowboys. And soon.

4. I wonder if the sports hernia injury keeping Jay Ratliff on the physically unable to perform list for at least the first six games of the season is the best thing that happened to Jason Hatcher. Hatcher, who has never had more than 4.5 sacks in a season in his career, has two in two games this season, playing the vaunted three-technique in the Cowboys’ new 4-3 scheme. If Ratliff had been healthy, Hatcher would have played the one-technique, which is more of a plugger role in this scheme than a play-making role. Hatcher was excellent throughout training camp, did well in the limited preseason work the starters received and is off to a strong start to the regular season. It’s not a bad start to a contract year for the 31-year-old. If he keeps playing this way, the Cowboys’ price to keep him will only go up and would they pay large dollars to a player of his age?

5. You can rarely go through the Wonders without a special teams’ thought. I wonder what happens if something happens to longs napper L.P. Ladouceur. In recent years the Cowboys had backup tight end John Phillips as Ladouceur’s emergency fill-in. Phillips now plays for the San Diego Chargers and I haven’t seen anybody else work as a snapper in practices. Ladouceur took a shot to the back in the opener against the Giants and was able to continue to play but he was in a fair amount of pain and stayed in constant motion between series. He wasn’t bothered at all against the Chiefs, but it’s something that needs to be watched in the future.

DeMarco Murray mum on benching

August, 25, 2013
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- In a stunning development, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett benched starting running back DeMarco Murray in the first quarter after he fumbled against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday.

Murray recovered his own fumble during a 2-yard run on the second possession of the game and stayed on the field, finishing the drive with a 7-yard catch on third down. When the Cowboys got the ball a third time, Murray was on the sideline and Phillip Tanner was in his place.

Murray
Murray wasn't hurt, and stood on the sideline with his helmet on and his hands on his hips.

"We took DeMarco out in the first half because he put the ball on the ground," Garrett said. "So we gave Phillip Tanner a chance to play with the [first team] in the first half then talked to DeMarco at halftime. We gave him a chance to play in the second half and I thought he did a good job of bouncing back."

Murray, who declined to speak to a reporter after the game, started the second half and finished the game with 51 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown reception. His two best plays were vintage Murray. He stiffed-armed Bengals defensive end DeQuin Evans on the way for a 15-yard run. And Murray made his best move of the game when he caught a short pass from backup quarterback Kyle Orton, spun past Dre Kirkpatrick, juked by safety Shawn Williams and slipped past linebacker J.K. Schaffer before landing on his back in the end zone as two more defenders converged on him.

The score gave the Cowboys a 21-10 lead with 2:57 to play in the third quarter. As Murray walked back to the sideline, most of his teammates slapped him five and Garrett gave him a half-hug.

"Just like you would expect, he's just a man," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said of Murray's response to the benching. "I mean, he's a man. There's no doubt in my mind, if challenged, he's going to step up and meet that challenge and he met it competitively and that was expected. And I'm sure everybody had in mind, you put the emphasis on turnover, that we would do a little extra if we got a turnover situation. I think it inspired the whole team. I was glad he was able to do it and show everybody and not get nicked up."

During training-camp practices, Garrett has pulled starters and backups for mental mistakes and gotten on players for physical mistakes as well. Last week, the Cowboys committed six turnovers in their loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Garrett said after the Arizona game that turnovers aren't championship football.

"Thought he did a good job. He’s a pro. He’s a damn good football player," Garrett said. "You can’t let not taking care of the football when you’re a running back diminish you as a player. And he’s just not going to do that. He’s not going to put the ball on the ground, and I thought he responded well to it."

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dreadful. Just dreadful. The Dallas Cowboys (1-2) completed the West Coast portion of training camp with a 12-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals (2-0) on Saturday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Cowboys' first-team offense was able to move the ball but failed to score, in large part because of turnovers that gave the Cardinals prime field position.

Here are some thoughts on the Cowboys' loss:

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers: The Cowboys committed six turnovers against Arizona. Kyle Orton threw two interceptions, both on bad throws. Lance Dunbar and Dez Bryant fumbled after long receptions, and for the second consecutive week, the Cowboys' special-teams unit muffed a punt. This time, it was Dwayne Harris losing a fumble. Alex Tanney also threw a late pick. But Arizona managed only 12 points (four field goals on five tries).

First-team offense shut out: Tony Romo completed 7 of 10 passes for 142 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions during three drives. Romo looked in tune once again with Bryant, who caught four passes for 74 yards. But the Cowboys' two best plays led to turnovers. Romo connected with Dunbar on a catch-and-run, but the running back fumbled while being tackled after a 43-yard gain. The play would have given the Cowboys the ball at the Arizona 7. Bryant fumbled on the next possession after making a catch in the middle of the field. He was stripped by cornerback Jerraud Powers while being pulled down, giving the Cardinals the ball at their own 24.

Arkin starts at left guard: With Ronald Leary out while recovering from right knee surgery, David Arkin got the start and played a little more than three quarters. Arkin did a nice job as a run- and pass-blocker. There did, however, seem to be confusion on a pass play when Arizona's defensive linemen used a stunt against Arkin that resulted in a sack.

Tanney leads scoring drive: After not scoring for three quarters, Tanney connected with Gavin Escobar on a 5-yard touchdown pass with 10:55 to play in the fourth quarter to bring the Cowboys to within 9-7. The score ended a 16-play, 89-yard drive that lasted just under 10 minutes. Tanney had two chances to give his team the lead in the final five minutes, but one drive ended with a punt and the other on an interception. Tanney finished 14-of-19 for 136 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Surprise decisions: Jermey Parnell, who returned to practice late last week from a strained hamstring, was a healthy scratch. Demetress Bell was the right tackle with the second team in the second half. Darrion Weems was the left tackle. The Cowboys might have played Bell just to get a good look at him against another opponent. He was signed after camp started but failed the conditioning test. Coach Jason Garrett said Bell needed to get in shape. Phillip Tanner, who was getting snaps behind starter DeMarco Murray and Dunbar at running back, didn't get any snaps Saturday. Instead, rookie Joseph Randle was the running back with the third team. Tanney took all the snaps after Romo and Orton were done for the day. The Cowboys didn't give Nick Stephens any snaps in the second half. It's doubtful if the Cowboys go with three quarterbacks, but Tanney played better than Orton.

What's next? The Cowboys finally come home after a month on the West Coast. They will be off Sunday and resume practices at 8 a.m. Monday in Irving.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Dallas Cowboys' first-team offense produced just three points in Friday night's 19-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum.

The Cowboys defense set up the offense by forcing a turnover, but penalties, a hold on Jason Witten, a deflection on a screen pass and a sack forced the Cowboys into long down and distance. Quarterback Tony Romo completed an 11-yard pass to Miles Austin that set up a 38-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/Ben Margot"It was good," Tony Romo said of the Cowboys' first-team offense. "We did what we've been doing in training camp and moved the ball real well."
Romo said he was hoping for another chance, and he got one, producing a drive that got to the Raiders' 19-yard line. But DeMarco Murray came up a yard short of the first-down marker on third down to force a field goal try that was blocked.

Romo finished 6-of-8 passing for 88 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He was sacked once but felt the line, in general, gave him solid protection. He got great protection on the sack, but he missed a wide-open Austin in the back of the end zone.

"It was good," Romo said of the first-team offense. "We did what we’ve been doing in training camp and moved the ball real well. We were holding back on a lot of our stuff, red zone stuff and some other things. We would have liked to have scored a touchdown, but we got hurt by penalties more than anything, and that aspect of it is just going to hurt you no matter what. So we have to avoid that [and] stress that this week, and we’re going to make sure that stops."

Coach Jason Garrett was happy with Romo's play but noted that the run game wasn't as effective as in the first preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys ran for 70 yards on 20 carries with Phillip Tanner's 25 yards on seven carries leading the way.

"I thought Tony got into a little bit of a groove with that second drive throwing the ball to Dez [Bryant]," Garrett said. "And I thought Miles did some good things. I thought we protected well. We didn’t run the ball quite as well as we did last week. We seemed to throw the ball a little bit better."

The Cowboys have stressed that they will use more two-tight end sets this season, but they didn't use one Friday until their ninth offensive play. Instead, the Cowboys employed more three-receiver sets on their first two possessions with the first team.

The first touchdown of the game came from the second unit as backup quarterback Kyle Orton connected on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Cole Beasley.

It was progress, but the Cowboys know they have work to do.

"We got to work on a bunch of things," said Austin, who caught two passes for 22 yards. "That's what we're going to do."

Round 2 for Joseph Randle

August, 9, 2013
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OXNARD, Calif. -- Rookie running back Joseph Randle led the Cowboys in rushing with 13 carries for 70 yards in the Hall of Fame game last Sunday.

Now Randle, the fifth-round pick from Oklahoma State, gets another shot to prove himself Friday night when the Cowboys face the Oakland Raiders in their second preseason game.

"This is the next step," Randle said. "I'm just trying to establish myself as a hard-working guy and earn the respect of my teammates, all the things new people try to do. You earn respect from your teammates by what they see you doing and they see you working hard in practice, all the things that really matter in order for me to stay on the team. I have to be in order to do my part."

The Cowboys have a solid running back corps led by starter DeMarco Murray and followed by Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner. Randle is fourth on the depth chart in terms of reps he gets in practice, but coach Jason Garrett has said the rookie will get plenty of carries in the preseason.

"We got a lot of good running backs," Randle said. "That's good because we're all pushing each other and it will make us better."

Randle feels he can improve this week by working on the little things in the game. The speed of the game doesn't seem to bother him and he runs with good vision and power.

"I felt like I could have done some things better. It was the first game (and) it was a good day," he said. "I can't take (anything for granted). I have to keep getting better."

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