NFL Nation: Orlando Scandrick

IRVING, Texas – For a variety of reasons the Dallas Cowboys need their cornerback trio of Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne to play better in 2014.

One reason is the addition of DeSean Jackson to the Washington Redskins.

We documented Jackson’s efforts against the Cowboys while with the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s scored just one touchdown against the Cowboys and averaged 3.5 catches a game in the regular season.

Maybe things become a little different now that he is with the Redskins. He will have a first-time head coach in Jay Gruden, who loved to throw it when he was the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. He has Robert Griffin III trying to recapture the magic of his rookie season. He has Pierre Garcon, who lit up the Cowboys, and free-agent pickup Andre Roberts.

Carr struggled badly with Garcon (11 catches, 144 yards) in the second meeting of the season last year at FedEx Field so much that Scandrick moved in late in the game when the defense made a stop. Roberts has played twice against the Cowboys with the Arizona Cardinals and has two 100-yard games.

He caught five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals’ 27-26 win in 2010 and six passes for 111 yards in the Cardinals’ 19-13 overtime win.

New defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will have to blend what Carr, Scandrick and Claiborne do well into the scheme better than last year’s coordinator, Monte Kiffin. Carr and Claiborne have to play better to give Marinelli options.

Jared Allen option not likely now

March, 19, 2014
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Allen
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' search for defensive line help is not over with the addition of Henry Melton, but their push for Jared Allen will not be quite as intense, according to sources.

Allen wrapped up a visit with the Cowboys on Tuesday before they agreed to a deal with Melton.

Allen would be the Cowboys’ best defensive end, but at what price? He has had seven straight seasons with at least 11 sacks, but he turns 32 in April and the Cowboys were not willing to pay a hefty price for DeMarcus Ware or Julius Peppers.

With Ware and Jason Hatcher gone, George Selvie is the leading returning sacker from 2013 with seven. Jeremy Mincey, who signed a two-year deal worth a maximum of $4.5 million last week, had two sacks with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos in 2013. Kyle Wilber, DeVonte Holloman, Bruce Carter and Orlando Scandrick had two sacks apiece for the Cowboys.

Allen has also visited with the Seattle Seahawks.
IRVING, Texas -- Earlier today my guy, Calvin Watkins, brought you a post that says the Dallas Cowboys are rebuilding.

I don’t want to say Calvin is wrong, but, well, um, well, I don’t agree with that premise.

Romo
It’s not a rebuild the Cowboys are going through. And if you want to call it a rebuilding job, what exactly are they rebuilding from? They have won one playoff game since 1996. Teams that rebuild at least go to conference title games or Super Bowls -- and win Super Bowls.

I just don’t think you rebuild when you have a franchise quarterback that will turn 34 in April and is only in the second year of a six-year extension.

What the Cowboys have done the last few years -- and I wrote about it -- is re-tool. The departures of DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin and Jason Hatcher are more evidence that the Cowboys are re-tooling. With Tony Romo, the Cowboys still need to win now. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said as much at the NFL scouting combine.

He doesn’t have time to wait three or four years to rebuild with Romo as his quarterback.

What the Cowboys are doing is changing their core. While Romo and Jason Witten are still the focal points of the team because of their play, status and production, the core of the team has moved on from guys like Ware, Jeremiah Ratliff, Austin, Andre Gurode, Marc Colombo, Bradie James and Terence Newman in recent years to newer players.

The core now is Sean Lee, Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, DeMarco Murray, Orlando Scandrick, Travis Frederick, Terrance Williams and Barry Church. They would love guys like Morris Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford and Gavin Escobar to join this list but they have not proven they can play yet.

The Cowboys have to maximize what they have left with Romo and Witten but not to the point where they are left in salary-cap shambles for when the “new guard” is in their prime.

Rebuilding, to me, is starting over. The Cowboys aren’t going to start over with Romo and Witten and they’re not exactly moving back to ground zero either.

What they are doing does not guarantee success or even something better than 8-8, but they are in the process of passing the torch, so to speak.
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.

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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.
IRVING, Texas -- As Jerry Jones spoke on his bus from the NFL scouting combine recently, you could hear the Dallas Cowboys' owner and general manager go through a checklist when talking about draft needs.

He said drafting a corner “could be stacking it up,” too much with Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne. He said tight end would not be a position of need with Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar. He said “not necessarily” wide receiver, either. The Cowboys like DeMarco Murray a lot, but “that doesn’t mean we won’t bring in another potentially very competitive running back in at all.” He said a strongside linebacker would not be much of a need because of its lack of importance in the 4-3. He mentioned liking what they have at safety but would not rule out a draft pick.

What does it all mean in early March? Not much.

The question was about drafting solely defensive players considering how much help the Cowboys need on that side of the ball.

“We’ve got to be careful foregoing a really top offensive lineman,” Jones said. “I’d head scratch about that, all things equal, same quality.”

The follow-up question was specifically about defensive line help.

“It’s certainly where we were almost bankrupt last year in terms of what we had personnel wise,” Jones said. “As you’ve noted and I’ve mentioned, I thought that was our strength going into the season. And by the way, I was up here talking to Monte Kiffin earlier and Monte was talking about how [Anthony] Spencer, how we were doing with [Jay] Ratliff not out there, but how well we were playing at Oxnard in that defensive front. That was without Tyrone Crawford, who got hurt the first day. Still we were creating some havoc out there and we, of course, really lost that. But that is certainly an area of need. I’m not being evasive, but don’t discount a good offensive lineman that is high on your board.”

That was twice Jones mentioned an offensive lineman. The Cowboys have hit on their past two first-round picks on the offensive line in Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick after not previously drafting one in the first round in the Jones era.

Just something to note.

Dallas Cowboys season wrap-up

January, 2, 2014
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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
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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.

How did Dallas D dominate Eagles?

December, 26, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- It’s one of the biggest mysteries of the NFL season.

How did this Dallas defense dominate that Philadelphia Eagles' offense? How did Monte Kiffin’s vulnerable bunch shut down Chip Kelly’s explosive group?

The Cowboys rank last in defense, allowing an average of 418.6 yards per game. The Eagles average 420.7 yards of offense, ranking second in the league. Kelly’s Oregon offenses put up an average of 601 yards and 50 points in three Pac-12 matchups against Kiffin’s USC defenses.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
Elsa/Getty ImagesThe Cowboys were able to contain LeSean McCoy in their first meeting with the Eagles this season.
But the Cowboys limited the Eagles to 278 yards and a field goal Oct. 20 in Philadelphia, keying a 17-3 Dallas win that was critical to making Sunday night’s rematch a win-or-go-home affair.

“We hustled and just really played well that day,” Kiffin said. “We have to do it again. They’re better now.”

The Cowboys defense, to put it kindly, is not better now. Middle linebacker Sean Lee, whose outstanding performance against the Eagles earned him NFC defensive player of the week honors, is sidelined with a strained neck. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher hasn’t recently resembled the dominant force who wreaked havoc that afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field. Cornerback Brandon Carr, who frustrated Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson (three catches, 21 yards), has been struggling.

The Eagles offense, on the other hand, is better than ever, coming off a 54-point explosion in last week’s win over the Chicago Bears.

It appeared on Oct. 20 that Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles, who was still considered Michael Vick’s backup at the time, was exposed. However, his poor performance (11-of-29 for 80 yards) turned out to be the exception.

Foles has the NFL’s highest passer rating (118.8) and has thrown 25 touchdowns and only two interceptions, putting him in position to set the league record for touchdown-to-interception ratio. He has averaged a league-high 10.0 yards per attempt since looking so bad against the Cowboys, leading to some speculation about when he actually suffered the concussion that caused him to leave that game in the third quarter.

“I felt like he just missed a couple of throws that game,” said Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who repeatedly referred to the Eagles offense as an “extreme challenge.”

To the credit of the Cowboys’ front four, it affected Foles frequently that afternoon despite DeMarcus Ware missing the first game of his NFL career. But the Cowboys haven’t been able to generate a consistent pass rush often, ranking 31st in the league in sacks (29) and last in sack percentage (4.5).

Defensive end George Selvie had two sacks in that Week 7 win. He’s had two sacks since.

Hatcher had seven tackles, a sack and four pressures in that game. He has a total of seven tackles, zero sacks and five pressures in the Cowboys’ past four games.

The consensus opinion among the Cowboys is that containing LeSean McCoy, the league’s leading rusher, was the key to their defensive dominance in Philadelphia. McCoy gained only 55 yards on 18 carries, about half his average in the rest of the Eagles’ games this season.

“We just ran and hit and got to the football,” Hatcher said. “There’s nothing different. We’re just going to go and get after the football, contain 25 and affect the quarterback.”

The Dallas defense did that miraculously well in Philadelphia. We’ll find out Sunday night whether that was a fluke.
PHILADELPHIA – It was a game the Philadelphia Eagles would love to forget but can’t. There were too many lessons in their 17-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 20 that could help the Eagles in Sunday night’s virtual playoff game.

The shorthand on that game is that quarterback Nick Foles simply had a terrible day. And he did, completing just 11 of 29 passes for 80 yards before leaving with a concussion at the end of the third quarter.

But there was plenty of terrible to go around for the Eagles' offense, which failed to score a touchdown against a Dallas defense that has allowed an average of 29 points in its other 14 games.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
Rich Schultz /Getty ImagesThe last time they faced Dallas, Nick Foles and the Eagles' offense couldn't seem to get anything right.
“I don't think any of us played well the first time we played Dallas,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “I look back on it now and I don't recognize some of what happened. We dropped balls, we weren't on the same page with who we blocked. Certainly Nick had some inaccuracies. We did a poor job coaching and playing. I think we're a different team now.”

We’ll focus on Foles again in a future post. But Shurmur is correct that blame for the performance can be spread around.

On the Eagles’ first offensive series, Foles was sacked once and forced into an intentional-grounding penalty. That kind of immediate, in-your-face pressure makes it tough for any quarterback to feel comfortable in the pocket, and Foles never did quite settle down.

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson seemed to have trouble shaking Dallas cornerback Orlando Scandrick. When Jackson did get open, Foles missed him badly on a couple of throws.

Running back LeSean McCoy made poor decisions, taking the ball inside when there was room outside and vice versa. Center Jason Kelce said at the time that McCoy and the offensive line were “not on the same page” for several weeks, including the Dallas game.

It wasn’t a great week for coach Chip Kelly and his staff, either. The Cowboys copied the disruptive run-defense approach used by the Giants two weeks earlier (and by the Giants again a week later). They moved interior linemen around just before the snap and attacked at unexpected angles, and the Eagles had trouble adjusting.

Kelly also opened the game with both McCoy and Bryce Brown in the backfield, a look the Eagles hadn't shown much of before or since. It may simply have been one of those ideas that looks good on the dry-erase board but fizzles on the field.

Bottom line: The Eagles' offense was terrible that day. It wasn’t any better with Michael Vick and Matt Barkley at quarterback against the Giants the next week.

The offense has been excellent ever since.

“I was telling somebody it's like my early schooling, where you could throw one test out,” Shurmur said. “I wish we could have thrown that one out. It was a bad day. We didn't play well on offense, and the game was close enough where if we had just gotten out of our own way, we could have maybe affected the outcome more.”

Rapid Reaction: Dallas Cowboys

December, 22, 2013
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LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' 24-23 victory over the Washington Redskins:

What it means for the Cowboys: They’re alive. For the third straight year, the Cowboys will play a Week 17 game for the right to win the NFC East and make the playoffs. Somehow.

Trailing 23-14, the Cowboys rallied on Tony Romo's 10-yard touchdown throw to DeMarco Murray on a fourth-and-goal play with 1:08 to go. The defense was able to come up with a stop, and now the Cowboys welcome the Philadelphia Eagles to AT&T Stadium next week to try to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Cowboys are 5-0 in the NFC East for the first time since 1998 and snapped a two-game losing streak.

It was not pretty, but it will do. It also continued to show the team’s ability to bounce back from tough losses. The Cowboys did it earlier in the season against the Redskins after their 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos, and they did it after their 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions when they beat the Minnesota Vikings.

Stock watch: Terrance Williams, rising. On the winning drive, Williams caught two passes for 66 yards, including a 51-yarder that set up Murray’s touchdown catch. Williams finished the day with four catches for 84 yards, which is his second-most in a game this season.

Murray hits mark: It should have happened last week against the Green Bay Packers, but DeMarco Murray went over 1,000 yards on the season with a 43-yard run in the second quarter.

Murray finished with 96 yards on 22 carries and enters the final game of the season with 1,073 yards, which is even more impressive considering he missed two games earlier in the season with a knee injury. He is the first Cowboys running back with 1,000 yards in a season since Julius Jones had 1,084 in 2006. Murray also had his ninth rushing touchdown of the season when he bulled his way in from the 3 on the Cowboys’ first drive. It’s the most rushing touchdowns by a Dallas back since Marion Barber had 10 in 2007.

Oh, by the way, he scored the winning touchdown.

Defense comes up with stops: The offense did the defense no favors by starting out the second half with turnovers on consecutive possessions that led to Washington touchdowns and a 20-14 lead.

The Cowboys were able to overcome a bad penalty by J.J. Wilcox on a third-down play to hold Washington to a field goal, then came up with the only punt of the second half when Orlando Scandrick broke up a Kirk Cousins pass to Pierre Garcon. They also flustered Cousins into poor throws on the final drive.

What’s next: The Cowboys close the regular season at AT&T Stadium against the Eagles. The Cowboys beat Philadelphia 17-3 on Oct. 20 at Lincoln Financial Field with what was their best defensive effort of the season. They kept LeSean McCoy in check (55 yards), limited Nick Foles to 80 yards passing before knocking him out of the game and intercepted Matt Barkley three times in the fourth quarter.

Slumping CB Scandrick seeks to rebound

December, 19, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Orlando Scandrick has been the Dallas Cowboys' best cornerback most of the season, but he's been awful the past two weeks.

Scandrick isn't hiding from the fact. The film doesn't lie, and neither do the numbers.

Scandrick
The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers targeted Scandrick a total of 17 times, completing 14 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns, according to ProFootballFocus.com. By comparison, teams completed 41 of 72 passes for 397 yards and three touchdowns when targeting Scandrick in the Cowboys' first 12 games.

Scandrick, who has been the victim of highlight-reel catches by Chicago's Alshon Jeffery and Green Bay's Jordy Nelson the last two weeks, is trying to find ways to regain the form he's had most of the season.

“Obviously the last couple of weeks, I would have loved to play better,” Scandrick said. “I haven't played up to the standards I set the first 12 weeks. But I don't want to start thinking about like, ‘Oh, no.' I don't want to be afraid to make a play or afraid that it's going to happen again.

“I mean, it's not like I'm going against no-name guys, but that's not an excuse. I've got to figure out a way to make those plays. ... Nobody wants it more than me. I've just got to keep grinding and banging away and figure out a way to make it.”

With the Cowboys ranked dead last in total defense and having already set the team record for yards allowed, Scandrick has plenty of company among defenders searching for solutions. Career backup quarterbacks Josh McCown and Matt Flynn have combined for 647 yards and eight touchdowns on 53-of-75 passing against the Dallas defense the past two weeks.

Scandrick mentioned the need for the Cowboys' healthy defensive starters, particularly in the secondary, to do more with injuries eroding the front seven.

“There is no damn fine line,” Scandrick said when asked about the balance between trying to do more and attempting to do too much. “I feel like I can't let people catch balls on me or, oh, no, we don't have a shot. Clearly I can't have an off day or somewhat off day, because it's all magnified and you see the results.”

Scandrick deal a win for player, Cowboys

December, 13, 2013
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IRVING, Texas – The first reaction to the Cowboys extending Orlando Scandrick's contract two years might be confusion.

But when you look at what the Cowboys and Scandrick agreed to with the deal, then you will see it will help the team create salary-cap room over the next three years when it will need it most.

Scandrick is guaranteed $9 million on the two-year extension, but only $4.5 million is fully guaranteed at this point.

The Cowboys added $1 million to his base salary in 2014 to bring it to $4.5 million and increase his cap figure to $6.601 million. Oh my gosh, why did they do that? Well, they were planning on restructuring Scandrick’s deal anyway and this allows them to spread out the base salary that will be turned into bonus money over five years.

That move will save the Cowboys about $2.6 million in 2014. Without the extension, the Cowboys could have saved about $1.5 million.

In 2015, Scandrick has a base salary of $1.5 million. He was scheduled to make $5 million. In 2016-18, he has base salaries of $3 million each year. He was set to make $10 million ($5 million each year) from 2015-16.

So the Cowboys have saved $4.5 million over the next three years on the deal and Scandrick has gained as much as $9 million in guarantees, knowing he will be in Dallas and not a cap casualty in the near future.

Scandrick has had his best year, though the Chicago game was not a shining moment. He has shown he can be more than a nickel cornerback and has not given the job back to Morris Claiborne. Scandrick is in his fifth season and is just 26. The team hopes he can continue to play at this level for the next couple of years, which would make this move even better.

The Cowboys will be in a tough salary-cap position and will have to restructure contracts (Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Brandon Carr and potentially DeMarcus Ware) and have decisions to make on players’ futures (Miles Austin).

With Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and Dan Bailey needing new deals over the next two seasons, the added cap space will only help the Cowboys. Bruce Carter had been in the list of players in need of contract extensions, but he has played his way off the list. Perhaps DeMarco Murray, who is also signed through 2014, can play his way on to the extension list.
IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick signed a two-year contract extension on Friday that guarantees him $9 million, according to multiple sources. Scandrick signed a six-year, $28.2 million deal in 2011, but this new extension will make him a Cowboy until 2018.

The Cowboys guaranteed Scandrick's salary for the next three seasons.

On the season, Scandrick is tied for the team lead with 14 pass breakups and is third with two interceptions. Scandrick has taken over the starting cornerback position from Morris Claiborne and has been one of the more productive defensive backs on the team.

Barry Church: Defense should study more

December, 12, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Much of the external blame for the Dallas Cowboys' dreadful defense is being directed at coordinator Monte Kiffin, but the players aren't pointing fingers.

Church
As awful as the Dallas defense was while letting the Chicago Bears score on every drive until a kneel-down in the final seconds, there were several instances in which the scheme worked perfectly and the players failed.

Cornerback Orlando Scandrick dropped an interception in the end zone early in the third quarter. Linebacker Bruce Carter dropped a pick the next series.

"We have to figure out a way to make more plays and execute," Scandrick said. "As a defense, as a team and as individuals, we all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and think what we can do to better help this team."

The X's and O's obviously haven't worked well enough for a defense that ranks last in the league by a long shot. Same goes for personnel. But the players are focused on the parts of the problem that they can control.

Defensive end DeMarcus Ware stressed the importance of playing sound fundamentally. Safety Barry Church is challenging his teammates to watch more film.

"I think as a whole unit, we need to study more on our opponents," Church said. "Not even just the concepts, but just read what our one-on-ones are, what the receivers like to do, what the quarterbacks like to do, who he likes to throw it to on third down. We've just got to win situational football, and hopefully we can do it this week."

There is also the challenge of trying to remain confident when the results have been so disastrous.

"We have two choices," Scandrick said. "You fold it in and get ready for the offseason or you try and forget the last one and move forward."

Church admitted to a violation of the 24-hour rule, saying the blowout loss to the Bears was still on his mind during Wednesday's practice.

It'd be one thing if that outing was out of character, but it's the fifth time the Cowboys have allowed at least 490 yards and 30 points in a loss this season.

"It's tough," Church said. "We've given up a lot of yards, not only against the run but also against the pass. The whole defense, we've just got to look at ourselves in the mirror and say, 'We've got to get the job done.' Hopefully, we can get it done. That's all I can really say."

Double Coverage: Packers-Cowboys

December, 12, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- The Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys are two of the most storied franchises in NFL history, but with three games to play in the 2013 season both are on the outside of the playoff chase and in need of a win.

The Packers have fallen on hard times without Aaron Rodgers but won last week against the Atlanta Falcons. The Cowboys are coming off a humiliating loss to the Chicago Bears and have a short week to get ready.

ESPN.com Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and Cowboys reporter Todd Archer debate the matchup in this week's Double Coverage.

Archer: I'll skip the "What's Aaron Rodgers status?" and ask about Ted Thompson's approach to the backup quarterback. The Cowboys pay Kyle Orton a lot of money to hopefully never throw a pass. Is there any regret form the Packers that they did not have a better backup quarterback situation behind Rodgers, considering their struggles without him?

[Editor's note: Rodgers was officially ruled out for Sunday's game on Friday.]

Demovsky: Thompson admitted at the end of training camp that he probably should have signed Vince Young much earlier than he did, although after watching Young for about a month, I'm not sure he would have been any better had the Packers signed back in the spring. Where they probably erred was in not drafting a quarterback. They overestimated what they had in Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman, and neither one developed enough. When Ron Wolf was the GM, he made it a regular practice to draft a quarterback in the middle-to -late rounds. Not all of them worked out, but guys like Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks all came up through the Packers' system.

Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Tony Romo is "playing probably as good as he has in his career." Do you agree with that assessment?

Archer: I'd agree with that, sure. It's hard to argue against his numbers. He has 3,244 yards passing with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He's taking care of the ball. He had one really careless throw and it cost the Cowboys big-time in their loss to the Denver Broncos. Romo gets most of the blame for the December/January woes this team has had, but in his last 16 games he has 34 touchdowns and seven picks. It's hard to play better than that. But you know what? He has to. This defense is so bad that Romo has to be nearly perfect. There can be no poor drives. If they don't get points they at least need to chew up time because there's not an offense the Cowboys can slow down right now.

When the Packers won Super Bowl XLV at AT&T Stadium they were able to overcome so many injuries, especially on defense as we talked about. The difference this year is Rodgers missing time, but is there anything more to it than that?

Demovsky: They did end up with 15 players in injured reserve in their Super Bowl season, and then during that game itself they lost Charles Woodson to a broken collarbone. But you know what? This defense played fine early this season and even during the stretch Clay Matthews missed because of his broken thumb. Capers said last week that losing Rodgers had nothing to do with the Packers' defensive slide, but I'm not buying it. The Packers' defense got four turnovers in the Thanksgiving game at Detroit and still got walloped 40-10 because the offense couldn't do a darn thing with them. To be sure, there are issues on defense. Their failure to address needs at safety has hurt them up the middle, where their inside linebackers also haven't played well enough.

It sounds like Monte Kiffin is already taking heat, but how much of it is personnel? When I saw Packers castoff Jarius Wynn playing Monday night against the Bears, to me that was a red flag that there are talent issues, perhaps some of them caused by injuries.

Archer: There are talent issues and there are depth issues. Blame the owner and GM who constructed this team. Blame the coaches -- Kiffin and Rod Marinelli -- for saying the line was a position of strength. The Cowboys thought they had pieces to fit Kiffin's scheme at the start of the year. DeMarcus Ware has not been DeMarcus Ware in part because of injuries, but he acknowledged he has to play better. Bruce Carter was supposed to be the ideal weak-side linebacker and he just has not made any plays. The corners are more man corners and Kiffin has tried to play more man but all of them -- Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick -- have had issues. Sean Lee has been hurt and could miss Sunday's game with a neck injury. He's been good but the defense has been lit up with him on the field, too. It's just a mess. Until Jerry Jones realizes he needs better players, not necessarily better schemes, it will be a mess.

Let's stick with the defensive coordinators. From the outside looking in, it appears Capers is catching a lot of grief too. Are the Packers committed to the 3-4 regardless or could they pull a Dallas and move to a 4-3 in the future?

Demovsky: When the cornerstone of the defense is Matthews, an outside linebacker, I would think they'd have to stick with the 3-4 even if they part ways with Capers, which I'm not sure will happen anyway. Mike McCarthy has continually praised Capers and the defensive staff. It's probably more about personnel. They need a few more playmakers to help out Matthews. They haven't gotten enough production from their defensive front. I'd look for an overhaul in personnel more than a coaching change.

Knowing the temperature in the Cowboys locker room like you do, how do you think they will react to getting steamrolled Monday night? Is this a group that will fight? Or will they pack it in?

Archer: This is where I have to give Jason Garrett credit. This team has fought. Maybe they didn't fight all that much in the losses to New Orleans and Chicago, but they have not packed it in. You saw the last time the Cowboys packed it in in 2010 at Lambeau Field when Wade Phillips was the coach. The Cowboys lost 45-7 and were completely disinterested. Phillips was fired the next day and Garrett took over. There is some gumption to this team. They do work hard. They do the right things. I'll say it again: Most of it is a talent issue. I'd expect the Cowboys to come out with the effort Sunday because they're still very much in the playoff chase. But do they believe they can really make a run? I don't know about that.

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