NFL Nation: Mackenzy Bernadeau

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
12:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
  • What I would do with the 16th pick in the draft if I was the general manager.
  • What about a quarterback in the second round?
  • What about Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne?
  • What about the salary-cap implications of letting Kyle Orton go?

Away we go:
 
IRVING, Texas -- The working relationship between the Dallas Cowboys and DeMarcus Ware could be decided by the time free agency begins Tuesday, according to sources.

SportsNation

If the Cowboys can only keep one, whom should it be?

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    28%
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    13%
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    59%

Discuss (Total votes: 18,683)

According to a source, the Cowboys have been negotiating with Ware on a reworked contract after the team let the seven-time Pro Bowler know last week they want him back in 2014, but not at the $12.25 million base salary.

The free-agent market opens at 3 p.m. CT Tuesday. Teams and agents have been able to talk about interest and parameters since Saturday, but players have not been able to talk directly to clubs or set up visits.

Whether the Cowboys release Ware or reach an agreement on a new contract, they will gain salary-cap space. By cutting Ware, the Cowboys would gain $7.4 million in cap space.

But the Cowboys do not need to cut Ware to get under the cap. After restructuring three deals (Tony Romo, Sean Lee, Orlando Scandrick), reducing one (Mackenzy Bernadeau) and releasing Phil Costa last week, the Cowboys are roughly $2 million under the cap.

While that is enough to sign a player to a reasonable deal, it is not enough to help fill multiple holes on a defense that finished last in the NFL in 2013. It would not be enough to keep last year's sack leader, Jason Hatcher, who is expected to receive heavy interest from teams in free agency.

Ware's camp would like a quick decision so that if he is cut, he would be able to hit the open market when teams have the most money to spend.

Ware's 117 career sacks are the most in franchise history, and he earned Pro Bowl honors from 2006 to 2012, but posted a career-low six sacks in 2013. Ware, who turns 32 in July, missed three games with a quadriceps strain and was bothered by a nerve issue in his elbow that required surgery after the season.

At the NFL scouting combine, executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys would be efficient spenders in free agency. In the past, they have set the markets on players -- like cornerback Brandon Carr, who received a five-year, $50 million deal in 2012 -- only to not get enough payoff on the deals.

With Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith nearing the end of their contracts, the Cowboys want to have enough cap room to keep their two young Pro Bowl performers.
Brian Waters
Position: Guard
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $1.5 million

Waters
Summary: He was signed Sept. 4 after he and the Cowboys flirted for most of training camp. By Week 3 he was the starting right guard, but he suffered a torn triceps against the Detroit Lions and was done for the season.

Why keep him: While he was not the All-Pro performer he was in his days with the Kansas City Chiefs, Waters brought stability to the middle of the line. His strength helped with the attitude of the running game, and he remained a solid pass protector. He showed he can still play and be more than a functional piece of an offensive line.

Why let him go: He turned 37 on Feb. 18, and at the end of the season had yet to decide whether to have triceps surgery or not. He cannot play again if he doesn’t have the surgery. Mackenzy Bernadeau raised his level of play after Waters went down for the season, and the Cowboys could look to select a top guard early in the draft. Waters has made it known he is not a fan of the offseason or training camp, so he would not have time to get accustomed to the players around him. He has played only five games in the past two seasons, having sat out the 2012 season.

Best guess: The Cowboys keep Waters’ name in their Rolodex, and if they need to make a call in the summer to gauge his interest, they will make it. He has kept himself in good shape and has shown he does not need a ton of time to get ready. But this option exists only if he has the surgery.
IRVING, Texas -- On Sunday, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said stripping down the team and going through a complete overhaul is impossible in large part because of the salary cap.

If you look at the roster, however, the Cowboys have undergone a slow-rebuild -- if not a one-year overhaul -- the past few years with the idea that they can still make the playoffs, which would fall into Jones’ “compete for a Super Bowl,” credo by definition.

Ware
Spencer
The 8-8 finishes the past three seasons have prevented the Cowboys from making the playoffs, but the roster overhaul has happened and the cleaning up of the cap, as Stephen Jones likes to call it, is in midstream.

The offensive line has been remade since 2011 with only Doug Free remaining. They have invested in three younger cornerbacks, although they have yet to see the payoff in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. They have two younger receivers to build around in Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams.

The rebuilding of the defensive line has to start this offseason, especially if DeMarcus Ware does not return.

The Cowboys have gotten younger. They have seven players under contract for 2014 that will be 30 or older by the time the season starts. Only Tony Romo, Free, Jason Witten and L.P. Ladouceur are guaranteed to be around this season. There are cap questions around Ware and receiver Miles Austin, and quarterback Kyle Orton has to decide whether he wants to continue to play.

Free agent defensive linemen Jason Hatcher (32) and Anthony Spencer (30), and guard Brian Waters (37) will be allowed to test the market and sign elsewhere.

The Cowboys have 27 players signed past 2014 who finished the year on the 53-man roster in 2013. Only 10 have significant financial commitments, including Austin and Ware, who could be gone before this coming season. Players such as Carr and Mackenzy Bernadeau could be part of a recycle in 2015.

Bryant and Tyron Smith stand to see steep pay increases over the next 12-18 months, with their contracts expiring over the next two seasons. Perhaps the same could happen with running back DeMarco Murray, who is in the final year of his deal.

Rebuilding is not a word Jones will use. Reloading does not apply to a team that has one playoff win since 1996.

Maybe retooling is the more apt description.

But will that guarantee anything more than 8-8?
IRVING, Texas -- Now comes the fun part for the Dallas Cowboys.

With their projected salary cap of $127.6 million in 2014, they have to find a smart way to shave nearly $25 million to get under the cap. Preferably they would cut more than that in order to have room to sign players in free agency.

The task might seem daunting, but with a couple of clicks on a computer, they can get that $25 million pretty easily.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware has reached double-digit sacks for seven consecutive seasons, but he'll need four sacks in the final three games to keep the streak alive.
AP Photo/James D. SmithHow to handle DeMarcus Ware's contract looms as a big decision for the Cowboys in the offseason.
The question is how much money do they want to push into the future on veterans?

“We’ll have extensive personnel meetings in regards to (the cap),” coach Jason Garrett said. “When you put that together with the financial part of it, the salary cap part of it, we think it’s really important to do the football evaluation thoroughly independent of that. And then you add that as an element. It’s an element that’s alive and well in the National Football League. Money matters in the salary-cap era we’re in right now. But I do believe the football evaluation is primary, and then you add that element into it, and then you make your best decisions for your team in regards to that player and how he fits in your team.”

The Cowboys will restructure the contracts of Tony Romo and Sean Lee. Those two moves will create about $13.4 million in salary-cap relief, while also increasing the cap numbers on those players in future years. However, when the Cowboys signed these deals, this was their only option.

In the past the Cowboys have restructured DeMarcus Ware's contract with no questions asked. He was putting together Pro Bowl seasons, and it was worth it. Now coming off a six-sack season and turning 32 in July, is it worth it to do it once more?

He is to count $16.003 million against the cap with a $12.25 million base salary. If they simply restructure his contract again, the Cowboys would gain nearly $8.6 million in cap space. But they have to factor in future cost, age and performance when making the move. Ware has said he would restructure, but clarified his “pay cut” stance after the season. If the Cowboys choose to cut Ware, they would free up $7.4 million in room.

The Ware decision looms as the Cowboys’ biggest of the offseason, especially if he does not take a pay cut. They do not have an in-house candidate to take his spot, and could gamble that he returns to form in 2014.

Brandon Carr will have a $12.217 million cap number. Restructuring his deal made sense before the season started, but might be a question now because of how he played in 2013. If they redo his deal like they did in 2013, then they are adding to his cap figures down the road, which would make it harder to release him.

The feeling is they will bite the bullet and re-work the deal, creating about $4.7 million in room.

Restructuring Jason Witten's deal will create $2.6 million in room.

If you look at Romo, Lee, Carr and Witten, that is nearly $21 million in room. The decision on Ware could create as little as $7.4 million, and as much as $8.6 million.

Wide receiver Miles Austin figures to be a June 1 casualty, which will open up $5.5 million in space, but would carry more than $5 million in dead money in 2015. Most of that money will be used to sign the draft picks.

The Cowboys have other avenues to create space (Doug Free, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Kyle Orton) in varying ways.

Getting under the cap will not be an issue. Getting under the cap enough to be able to make upgrades in free agency is another story.

Teams have to overpay in free agency. Signing Carr to a five-year, $50 million deal two years ago is proof, but that was the going rate for a top cornerback on the market. It is rare to get the on-field value to match the contract in free agency.

The Cowboys would be better served to be bit players in free agency and keep their own, like a Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and Dan Bailey, with longer-term contracts.

Dallas Cowboys season wrap-up

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
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Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final power ranking: 17
Preseason power ranking: 20

Biggest surprise: The Dallas Cowboys did not believe they could have a worse defense than the one they fielded in 2012. They were wrong.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan lost his job after the Cowboys finished the year ranked 19th in defense and allowed 400 points. The Cowboys not only switched defensive coordinators, they switched philosophies, bringing in Monte Kiffin to run a 4-3 scheme.

It never worked.

The Cowboys allowed 6,645 yards, 432 points and failed to deliver most of the time. They were hit by injuries, just as Ryan’s defense was, and poor play from big-name players such as DeMarcus Ware, Bruce Carter, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr. Sean Lee was having a Pro Bowl-type season but hamstring and neck injuries forced him to miss most of the final seven games. Only Jason Hatcher, Orlando Scandrick and Barry Church had representative seasons.

Biggest disappointment: It’s hard not to go with Ware, who had a career-low six sacks. For the first time he did not play in every game in a season, missing three games with a quadriceps strain. He also played with injuries to both elbows, a back strain and stinger. But the pick will be Miles Austin. Like Ware, he suffered through injury. He missed five games with a hamstring injury and was held without a catch in two games as he attempted to play through the strain. He finished the season with 24 catches for 244 yards and no touchdowns. It was the fewest catches he had since 2008 when he was a bit player and first time since 2007 he did not score a touchdown. The Cowboys hoped for a late-season boost when he returned but it never came.

Biggest need: The easy answer is to say upgrade the entire defense. They need help at linebacker and safety. The defensive line needs an overhaul. We talked about Ware’s status, but Hatcher, who had a career-high 11 sacks, and Anthony Spencer, who is coming back from microfracture surgery, are set to be unrestricted free agents. The Cowboys used 19 defensive linemen during the year and found solid contributions from players such as George Selvie and Nick Hayden, but optimally they play in reserve roles. The hits on the line started in April when the Cowboys passed on Sharrif Floyd, their fifth-ranked player, at No. 18 and traded down and continued when Tyrone Crawford tore his Achilles on the first day of camp. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said in the offseason the defensive line was a strength. There is no way he can say that now.

Team MVP: By process of elimination it cannot be a defensive player because the unit was the worst in the NFL. DeMarco Murray would get votes for a second-half MVP. The contest comes down to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Romo missed the final game because of back surgery, but threw 31 touchdown passes and was intercepted only 10 times while throwing for 3,828 yards. Bryant earned his first Pro Bowl berth and finished with 93 catches for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns. They made big plays at big moments. They had mistakes at big moments, too. As a result, they split the award.

All-NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
10:00
AM ET
NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

 
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys had eight players on the All-NFC East team with Tony Romo being the biggest snub.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles won the vote of the four NFL Nation bloggers that cover the NFC East. Foles had a terrific season taking over for Michael Vick, finishing with 27 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. Romo also had a terrific season with 31 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in 15 games before back surgery knocked him out of the finale.

To the victor of the NFC East go the spoils, so Foles got the nod.

Wide receiver Dez Bryant, tight end Jason Witten, left tackle Tyron Smith and left guard Ronald Leary were named to the team. Bryant was dynamic. Witten was Witten but his opportunities were down. Smith might have had the best season of any left tackle in football. Leary’s inclusion might speak to the dearth of good offensive line play in the division. Mackenzy Bernadeau played better.

Normally a case could be made for DeMarco Murray, but not so much in a division with LeSean McCoy and Alfred Morris.

The Cowboys had the worst ranked defense in the NFL and had two players on the division’s defensive squad. Jason Hatcher was one of the two defensive tackles after he finished with a career high 11 sacks. Sean Lee missed five games with hamstring and neck injuries but still showed he was the best middle linebacker in the division. If he can stay healthy he might be able to show he is among the best in the league.

If there is a snub on defense it would be cornerback Orlando Scandrick. He did well versus Victor Cruz and DeSean Jackson this year and came up with the biggest play in the win at Washington when he took on Pierre Garcon for a third-down deflection. But he had only two interceptions and missed a few others.

Dan Bailey missed only two field goal attempts on the season and was named the division’s best kicker. There should have been little doubt here. Dwayne Harris averaged 30.6 yards per kick return with a long of 90 yards and 12.8 yards per punt return with an 86-yard TD against the Redskins. He has a great feel for the return game.

IRVING, Texas -- Since moving back into the starting lineup on Nov. 3, right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau has quietly done a nice job in replacing an injured Brian Waters, whose season ended because of a partially torn left triceps.

Bernadeau
“He had some experience playing for us as a starter last year, and then sometimes when you get out of that role and you’re a backup you can watch and you can learn,” coach Jason Garrett said. “I think he’s just getting better and better. The more he plays I think he gets more confident.”

Bernadeau started every game he played in 2012, and the first three games this season before Waters took over.

The Cowboys have had two of their better running games in the past two wins, against the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders. They have 251 yards rushing on 50 carries in the past two games. In Bernadeau’s first two games back the Cowboys' running numbers weren’t bad -- 125 yards -- but they just did not run it much -- 25 carries.

“I feel like I learn something every week and have learned something since I’ve been here,” Bernadeau said. “Obviously I didn’t want to be taken out, but I was. Even when I was playing the first couple of games, I was learning and trying to get better. Even when Waters was in there I was trying to get better. In my mind it was a second chance, but I had the same mindset of just trying to get better every week.”
IRVING, Texas -- Try as Brian Waters and the Dallas Cowboys might, keeping the veteran right guard on the 53-man roster might be too tall of a task.

Waters
Waters is seeking multiple opinions on his triceps injury in hopes of playing again this season, but the Cowboys are in need of a roster spot and might be unable to wait.

"Doing a little more diligence and then we’ll make a decision probably, hopefully before the day is out," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

Waters wants to attempt to play even if surgery is the inevitable option, but with injuries at other spots on the roster, like cornerback, the Cowboys are looking at placing him on season-ending injured reserve.

"He’s a pro,” Jones said. "He didn’t come back to get the proverbial check. I think he really came back to compete and make a difference, and he’s made a difference for us. Even if we don’t have him again, I think he’s made a huge difference in our room and made the guys around him better. Obviously glad we signed him. Very unfortunate what’s happened to him. But obviously we’re looking and seeing and making sure he wants to (see), if there’s any way he could play through this. But obviously, not totally optimistic there."

The Cowboys signed Waters on Sept. 4 to a one-year deal with a $1.5 million base salary. He could earn another $1.5 million in incentives. He has started the past five games, but will be replaced by Mackenzy Bernadeau.

"At one point, we were totally counting on Mackenzy," Jones said. "It’s great to have him. That’s one of the things that Waters brought to the table when we ultimately got him, was, it not only solidified the front, but it solidified our depth. We think Mackenzy can go in there and do the job."

Cowboys' cap jail not life sentence

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
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IRVING, Texas -- As Adam Schefter reported on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys are projected to be over the 2014 salary cap by a league-high $31 million, but it’s not as if the team did not know it.

Romo
With the quick work of the calculator, the Cowboys can shave nearly $37 million off the salary cap with six restructures and just two roster moves.

When the Cowboys signed Tony Romo to a six-year extension worth $108 million last offseason, and Sean Lee to a six-year extension worth $42 million last summer, they did so knowing they would re-work the players’ deals in Year 2. The Cowboys can create roughly $13 million in salary-cap room just with those two moves alone.

Restructuring the deals of DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Carr, Jason Witten and Orlando Scandrick could create another $17 million in cap space.

They can get another $5.5 million in salary-cap space by making wide receiver Miles Austin a post-June 1 cut, or could come up with less savings by asking Austin to take a pay cut the way right tackle Doug Free did in 2013. The possible release of Mackenzy Bernadeau would give the Cowboys $1.4 million in space, but create a hole on the line, especially if Brian Waters does not want to continue to play.

The downside of restructuring the deals of veterans is that it increases their cap figures in the future. Romo’s 2015 salary-cap figure would balloon to more than $27 million, but the team would simply re-work the contract again and push the due bill out again.

Teams expect a spike in the salary cap in 2015 or ’16 that could make it all more palatable.

By then the Cowboys will have to make decisions on free agents like Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and possibly Bruce Carter.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones, who is in charge of the salary cap, says the same thing every year when it comes to free agency: the Cowboys will be able to do what they want to do in free agency.

And 2014 should not be any different, even if it looks daunting right now.
IRVING, Texas – There was a time when QB Tony Romo knew for the most part that Flozell Adams or Doug Free would be his left tackle, Marc Colombo his right tackle, Kyle Kosier his left guard, Andre Gurode his center and Leonard Davis his right guard.

But that was so 2007-10, when Cory Procter (11 starts in 2008) was the only other offensive lineman to crack the lineup on a consistent basis, and that came about because of a Kosier injury.

Now Romo enters a season not knowing who will be where or for how long.

[+] EnlargeRomo
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesTony Romo will again take the first snap of a season behind different starters on the offensive line.
For the fourth straight year, the Dallas Cowboys will open the season with a different starting five when they host the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Four days before kickoff, the Cowboys are still kicking around O-line options.

The only locks are Tyron Smith at left tackle and Travis Frederick at center. It sure looks like Ronald Leary will start at left guard, with Mackenzy Bernadeau at right guard and Free at right tackle. But it is possible Free could be the right guard and Jermey Parnell the right tackle.

In Week 2 you could see Brian Waters at right or left guard against Kansas City.

“I think you’ve just got to trust your offensive line, and then you adjust obviously as the game moves on,” Romo said. “But if you go into it thinking some guy’s not going to do his job, then that doesn’t help anybody and you find yourself trying to do too much. I don’t think you can do it that way.”

From 1992 to '95, Troy Aikman had only four new faces on the starting line, with Mark Tuinei, Nate Newton, Mark Stepnoski and Erik Williams the constants in three of those four years. The right guard changed every year, from John Gesek to Kevin Gogan to Derrek Kennard to Larry Allen. Ray Donaldson was the center in 1995.

For most of his career, Roger Staubach knew he would have Ralph Neely, John Niland, John Fitzgerald, Blaine Nye and Rayfield Wright protecting him, with mixes of Dave Manders, Herb Scott, Tom Rafferty and Pat Donovan over the years.

 
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cowboys had a hard time getting much of an advantage at Cowboys Stadium with a 17-15 regular-season record in the $1.2 billion home.

Playing under the AT&T Stadium name for the first time, the Cowboys were able to overcome a tepid start to beat Cincinnati 24-18.

What it means: The Cowboys got what they wanted in their final showing of the preseason from their regulars on offense and defense.

The Cowboys have not played their starters in the last preseason game since 2006, and Jason Garrett will not want to risk the likes of Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee and Brandon Carr on Thursday against Houston.

To avoid their first losing preseason since 2001, however, the Cowboys will have to beat the Texans.

First-team offense gets in end zone: In their first five drives of the preseason, the Romo-led offense failed to get in the end zone. They started 0-for-2 on Saturday before Bryant took matters into his own hands with five catches on a 12-play drive that ended with Romo hitting Bryant on a bullet fade over cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.

The Cowboys closed the first half with an eight-play drive that covered 52 yards with Miles Austin being the featured target. Austin had a 23-yard gain on a third-and-6 and closed the drive with a 12-yard score going across the back of the end zone for a Romo throw.

Offensive line moves: For the fourth time in four preseason games, the Cowboys rolled out a different combination on the offensive line with Doug Free playing right guard, Jermey Parnell at right tackle and Mackenzy Bernadeau at left guard. Only left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick played in their original positions.

Romo was sacked on the first play of the game for an 8-yard loss and the running game averaged only 2.5 yards per carry in the first half. The first-team line played a series into the third quarter before calling it a night.

Will this be the combination the Cowboys roll out for the Sept. 8 opener against the New York Giants? Possibly, if Ronald Leary is unable to return from surgery to his right knee. The Cowboys are confident Leary, who has never played in a game, can return in time, but they might choose to go with this grouping.

Defense continues to take it away: The offseason emphasis continued with two first-half takeaways from a defense that might bend but has yet to break.

For the third time in four preseason games, the Cowboys came up with a takeaway on their first drive of the game. Safety Barry Church poked the ball free from wide receiver Marvin Jones and cornerback Brandon Carr came up with the loose ball at the Dallas 4.

In the second quarter, rookie cornerback B.W. Webb came up with a pick of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on a seam throw to receiver Mohamed Sanu. Undrafted safety Jeff Heath forced a fumble in the third quarter.

The first-team defense did not allow a touchdown in three preseason appearances totaling roughly three quarters.

Digital board gets plunked: In the first football game at AT&T Stadium, on Aug. 21 2009, Tennessee’s A.J. Trapasso hit the center-hung digital board with a punt. It was not hit again by a punt until Saturday, when Cowboys punter Chris Jones hit it in the first quarter.

There have been 274 regular-season punts at AT&T Stadium since its opening that have not hit the board.

It might bear watching this year.

On Jones’ re-kick, Cincinnati’s Brandon Tate scored a 75-yard touchdown for the Bengals’ only first-half points.

Who didn’t play: Cornerback Morris Claiborne (knee) missed his fourth straight preseason game -- and third because of injury -- but the hope is that he can practice some next week and possibly play in Thursday’s finale against Houston. WR Cole Beasley (foot), RB Lance Dunbar (foot), S Matt Johnson (foot), S Eric Frampton (calf), LB Brandon Magee (concussion), LB Ernie Sims (groin), OL Ryan Cook (back), OG Ronald Leary (knee), OG Nate Livings (knee) and DE Anthony Spencer (knee) did not dress for the game.

What’s next?: The Cowboys will have to pare down their roster from 88 to 75 by Tuesday’s deadline, two days before they play their fifth and final preseason game of the summer. Former head coach Wade Phillips (2007-10) makes his return to AT&T Stadium on Thursday as Houston’s defensive coordinator. The final cut to 53 players is Aug. 31.

Doug Free gets work at right guard

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
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IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys’ search for their best combination of offensive linemen has led Doug Free to slide inside to right guard.

Free, a tackle his entire career, has been getting reps at right guard this week. He worked there with the first-team offensive line during the early portion of Wednesday’s practice that is open to the media.

Mackenzy Bernadeau shifted over to left guard, with Jermey Parnell filling in for Free at right tackle. Left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick remained in their regular spots.

During the offseason, owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Free might play guard, but the lineman focused solely on right tackle throughout training camp.

This could be the Cowboys simply working on a Week 1 contingency plan if left guards Ronald Leary and Nate Livings have not recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery.

More to come after coach Jason Garrett’s news conference.
PHOENIX -- The Cowboys play their third preseason game Saturday at Arizona against the Cardinals.

Here are five players to keep an eye on:

David Arkin: He's going to start at left guard with Ronald Leary possibly out for the rest of the preseason recovering from knee surgery. Arkin battled Kevin Kowalski for playing time at the right guard spot when Mackenzy Bernadeau was down with an injury. Arkin is going to get a chance to show the coaches he can be a productive player, which is important because the Cowboys like to run off the left side where Tyron Smith resides.

George Selvie: After a productive first preseason game where he picked up two sacks and six tackles, Selvie was inserted into a starting role at defensive end in the second game but slowed down with just two tackles. Selvie will start again against the Cardinals, and a solid game should help his chances of remaining with the club.

B.W. Webb: He wants to forget about what happened in the second preseason game at Oakland where he muffed a punt, missed a tackle and had a few mental errors. In practices after the Raiders game, Webb handled punts with no issues and is doing a better job in pass coverage with the second and third teams. Webb should make the roster, but it's unclear if the Cowboys would try to release him and maybe get him through waivers and place him on the practice squad.

Terrance Williams: The third-round pick from Baylor missed the first two preseason games while recovering from a concussion. He makes his debut here as the No. 3 receiver. Williams has looked good in practices and is developing a strong command of the playbook. He is turning into a pretty good threat in the deep passing game.

Gavin Escobar: It's been a tough two weeks for the rookie tight end. Escobar is still behind James Hanna on the depth chart and continues to struggle as a blocker. He's a good receiver, but the Cowboys need their tight ends to block if they're going to increase the number of attempts in the run game.

Tony Romo excited for first start

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
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OXNARD, Calif. – After 15 training camp practices or walkthroughs, Tony Romo is looking forward to playing in his first preseason game when the Cowboys play at Oakland on Friday.

Romo did not play in the Hall of Fame Game against Miami, spending the time listening to the coaches call in the plays to Kyle Orton, Nick Stephens and Alex Tanney.

Romo will likely play a series or two against the Raiders in his first work against an opponent since undergoing surgery to remove a cyst from his back in April.

“I think we’ve had a great training camp and I think the guys have worked real hard," Romo said, "and it’s just going to be good to go out there and hit someone new.”

Romo won’t be doing the hitting, and he hopes to not get hit. The first-team offensive line Friday -- Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Doug Free -- could look like the line that opens the regular season against the New York Giants.

The Cowboys have made no secrets about trying to upgrade on the interior of the line. Romo said he was not involved in the personnel meetings with that.

“I’m just the quarterback,” Romo said. “I’m just trying to get out there and lead the team.”

It will be Romo’s first game with Bill Callahan as the playcaller.

“Jason’s done a great job of simulating the way we’re going to do it in the game while out here,” Romo said. “We’ve been doing it for a little while, but obviously in every game you can find little things here and there that will be a good thing for us.”

Romo said the Cowboys will not break out many if any of the new offensive wrinkles that were implemented in the offseason.

“I think sometimes we all jump to conclusions, us as well as you guys, ‘We’re going to be good, we’re not going to be good,’” Romo said. “More than anything, you just want to have good execution. Sometimes the calls, you’re not game-planning, per se, and having the stuff you’re really going to attack certain coverages and certain teams certain ways, so you get a little vanilla with what you may call. You’d like to get into a rhythm, but I just think we need to go out here and execute the right way.”

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