NFL Nation: Micah Pellerin

Upon Further Review: Cowboys Week 9

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- A review of four hot issues from the Dallas Cowboys' 27-23 win against the Minnesota Vikings.

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

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

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

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

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

Changing their ways: After seeing Cordarrelle Patterson return kickoffs 8 and 9 yards deep in the end zone, the Cowboys altered their game plan on the Vikings' return specialist. Dan Bailey’s opening kick of the second half was high and barely to the end zone, which Patterson booted out of bounds. They squibbed their next two kicks, including the final kickoff after taking the lead to make sure Patterson did not beat them. Bailey had been a touchback machine in the first eight games, but the Cowboys were wise to make the switch on Patterson if he was going to continue to flip field position.

W2W4: Five things for Texans-Cowboys

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
12:30
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys meet the Houston Texans in the preseason for the first time since 2010 at AT&T Stadium. Intrastate pride might be on the line for the fans of both teams, but little else.

With 75 players on the roster, some jobs remain but most are filled. Here’s what we’ll be looking at tonight:

Job fair: With 18 roster moves to make by Saturday’s cut-down date, most of the decisions have likely been made. There are perhaps two open spots with as many as eight guys looking to fit the square peg. Would the Cowboys carry five tight ends? How about six receivers? Nine defensive linemen?

Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore, tight end Andre Smith, wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, cornerback Micah Pellerin, tackle DeMetress Bell, guard David Arkin and guard Kevin Kowalski can make their cases tonight. Linebacker Brandon Magee (concussion), safeties Eric Frampton (calf), Danny McCray (hamstring) and Matt Johnson (foot) will have to watch and sweat out the final decisions.

Tanney time: Maybe Kyle Orton opens the game, but the Cowboys will give Alex Tanney most of the work.

With needs at other positions and injury questions going into the opener, Tanney is looking more like a practice-squad fit than a 53-man roster fit. If he plays lights out, he could change the equation or at the very least get another team to keep him on the 53-man roster the way Matt Moore did a few years ago.

Check out the Texans: Last year the Cowboys closed the preseason against Miami and traded for veteran offensive lineman Ryan Cook a few days later based on what they saw in that game.

With the Cowboys moving to a pure zone blocking scheme this year, check out the Texans’ offensive linemen. Assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack spent five years with the Texans (2007-11) and will have a good idea of what would be a good fit with the Cowboys.

As unsettled as the Cowboys are with their starting offensive line they’re more unsettled with the backups. A case could be made they don’t have a ninth or 10th guy (if they choose to reach double digits) on their current roster to fill out the line.

Earning practice squad jobs: Tanney has been talked about, but there will be seven other spots to fill. The Cowboys like to keep receivers and defensive backs on the practice squad because of the amount of running in practice, so guys like Danny Coale, Tim Benford and Pellerin bear watching.

And the line play will have candidates to, like defensive end Jerome Long and offensive tackle Darrion Weems. Linebacker could be another spot of interest with Cameron Lawrence and Taylor Reed.

The digital board: Chris Jones hit it last week with a punt against Cincinnati and the Bengals returned the re-kick 75 yards for a touchdown, continuing a preseason-long issue of special teams’ miscues. Jones is unlikely to hit it again, but watching it to see the clock tick down will be more important because it brings us closer to the start of the regular season.
About an hour after we noted the Green Bay Packers had turned their attention toward the composition of their roster, the team announced five roster cuts. By far the most notable name was defensive end Anthony Hargrove, a rare free-agent acquisition who learned a few weeks after he signed with the team that he would be suspended eight games as part of the NFL's discipline for the New Orleans Saints bounty program.

Hillis
Hargrove
The Packers had the option of carrying Hargrove on their suspended list once the season began. He wouldn't have counted against their 53-man roster during that time period, but it was also clear that the looming suspension had created a roadblock. The Packers gave him only a handful of snaps in team periods, acknowledging they needed to distribute them instead to players who were eligible to start the season. In many ways, the Packers were forced to move on.

I don't blame the Packers for taking care of the team first. But for what it's worth, I agree with a thought tweeted out this evening by Albert Breer of the NFL Network, who suggested the release "could raise some legal liability for NFL tied to the Saints' bounty situation."

We've spent a lot of time picking through the evidence the NFL presented against Hargrove, most of which was easy to poke holes in. In the end, it was difficult to understand explicitly what exactly Hargrove was suspended for.

A reasonable person could put two and two together and suggest Hargrove wouldn't have been released Friday if he hadn't been suspended. In other words, the bounty discipline has significantly impacted Hargrove's career. We'll see if that leads anywhere from a legal perspective.

Note: The other four players released were receiver Andrew Brewer, safety Micah Pellerin, tackle Herb Taylor and cornerback Dion Turner.

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