NFL Nation: raymond radway

A look at how the St. Louis Rams fared in five areas worth watching in Thursday night’s 27-19 loss at the Cleveland Browns in the preseason opener.

Running back breakdown

As expected, Daryl Richardson got the start and did nothing to jeopardize his chances to get the next one. He carried four times for 24 yards, helping set up the only touchdown scored by the first-team offense before calling it a night.

[+] EnlargeDaryl Richardson
Rick Osentoski/USA Today SportsDaryl Richardson is expected to get the bulk of carries this season for St. Louis.
Isaiah Pead also got work with the first team but got off to a rough start when he coughed up a fumble to kill the offense’s first drive. Ball security was an issue for Pead in limited opportunities in 2012 when he fumbled twice at San Francisco, losing one. He showed some resiliency by posting 16 yards on his next two carries to finish with 18 yards on three chances.

Rookie Zac Stacy, who didn’t practice on Monday or Tuesday, did play and had an up-and-down start before getting it going in the second half. His first three snaps consisted of a catch for 6 yards, a drop and a stout blitz pickup.

Stacy looked more comfortable in the second half though he wasn’t at full speed and finished with 23 yards on seven carries.

Benjamin Cunningham and Chase Reynolds came in for mop-up duty late. Cunningham showed some juice with a late 6-yard run that drew praise from Rams analyst Marshall Faulk and later tacked on a 36-yard kick return to set up the Rams’ final touchdown.

Terrance Ganaway, who appeared to tweak his leg near the end of Tuesday’s practice, was a pregame scratch.

Backing up Bradford

After spending the first couple weeks of camp rotating with Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis got the first opportunity behind starter Sam Bradford.

Davis struggled to gain traction before connecting with receiver Brian Quick for a 16-yard gain to set up a field goal. He was up and down the rest of the way behind spotty protection, finishing 9-of-16 for 96 yards.

Clemens entered with around seven minutes to go and the Rams backed up to their 1-yard line. After he completed his first attempt for a first down, Browns defensive lineman Justin Staples intercepted Clemens to set up the Browns’ final points.

Clemens got those points right back with a 53-yard touchdown pass to receiver Raymond Radway after escaping the pocket and dropping it off to Radway. He finished 6-of-13 for 116 yards with the touchdown and two interceptions.

All told, Clemens looked sharper than Davis as he nearly engineered a rally from down two scores to give the Rams a chance to tie. This battle is far from over, though.

First look at Austin

Rookie receiver Tavon Austin was probably the player everyone was most excited to see debut in the opener. The wait will have to last longer for those hoping to see him with the ball in his hands.

Bradford targeted Austin once and the rookie wideout couldn’t corral a seemingly catchable ball to convert on third down. It was the only time Austin had the ball thrown his way on the evening.

Austin also dropped back to return a punt but the kick came up well short of him and he didn’t get the chance to catch it.

Left guard looks

Chris Williams got the start at left guard over Shelley Smith, though both got their opportunities. Williams was on the field for the first-team offense’s touchdown drive and helped open holes for Richardson to gain 18 yards on two carries to set up the score.

Smith played the majority of the snaps in the second half.

Rookie defenders

The Rams' first-team defense struggled to get off the field, allowing the Browns to convert three third downs on their opening drive and once more for a touchdown on their second.

At the heart of those struggles were the Rams’ two rookie starters. Linebacker Alec Ogletree scuffled in coverage as Browns tight end Jordan Cameron and running back Dion Lewis beat him for big plays. He finished with two tackles in unofficial statistics.

Safety T.J. McDonald got off to a difficult start when he whiffed on a tackle to allow Cleveland’s first drive to continue. He did bounce back to post five tackles, according to unofficial statistics.

Eight in the Box: WR status check

March, 29, 2013
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NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each team look at wide receiver and what still needs to be done?

Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd comprise a solid top three. LaRon Byrd and Kerry Taylor are the only other receivers on the roster. First-year coach Bruce Arians has said receiver is one position he doesn't worry about. Floyd's continued development after an encouraging finish to the 2012 season will be important. The former coaching staff envisioned moving Roberts to the slot, with Fitzgerald and Floyd on the perimeter. That could still happen. Arians also plans to move Fitzgerald around the formation the way he moved Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis last season. Drafting a receiver for depth would make sense, but there's no need to chase one early. The Cardinals released veteran Early Doucet, who struggled with drops last season.

St. Louis Rams: Chris Givens, Brian Quick and Austin Pettis are the top three. Nick Johnson and Raymond Radway are the only other receivers on the roster. The Rams are eager to develop young players. Givens had five receptions of at least 50 yards during his 2012 rookie season, matching the combined total for wide receivers from every other team in the division. Pettis made a difference around the end zone. The Rams still must add to the position after letting Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson leave in free agency. Having two first-round picks should give the Rams an opportunity to consider a highly rated prospect at the position. It's clear the team is committed to youth regardless. We should remember, too, that recently added tight end Jared Cook lines up at receiver quite a bit. He made all but six of his 42 receptions from the slot last season.

San Francisco 49ers: Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin are clearly the top two receivers. Mario Manningham is coming off ACL surgery, took a pay reduction recently and might not figure prominently this season. The 49ers, like the Rams, could use more contributions from a receiver drafted early in 2012. A.J. Jenkins, chosen 30th overall and three spots before the Rams selected Quick, did not catch a pass during his rookie season. What's ahead for him? The 49ers aren't saying much. No one is quite sure. Coach Jim Harbaugh recently sounded more excited about former practice-squad wideout Ricardo Lockette, whose size-speed combination sets him apart from most prospects. Lockette flashed ability with Seattle previously, but his career never took off with the Seahawks. Kyle Williams, Chad Hall, Joe Hastings and Marlon Moore are the other receivers on the roster.

Seattle Seahawks: The addition of Percy Harvin changed the outlook for the position quite a bit. He and Sidney Rice appear to be the top two receivers, but Golden Tate is gaining momentum heading into his contract year. Rice and Tate each caught seven touchdown passes last season. Both averaged 15-plus yards per reception. Doug Baldwin needs improved health to factor as a slot receiver. Even then, opportunities could be scarce. The team thinks Phil Bates and former Cardinals receiver Stephen Williams have the potential to become contributors. Bryan Walters, Charly Martin and Jermaine Kearse are the other receivers on the roster. Drafting for the position would help for long-term planning given Tate's contract situation. Also, injuries have limited Harvin, Rice and Baldwin at times in recent seasons. Rice did stay healthy last season, however.


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys wrapped up the preseason with a 30-13 win over the Miami Dolphins at Cowboys Stadium on Wednesday night. Unlike last season, when wide receiver Raymond Radway was injured in the closing seconds of the preseason at Miami, there were no such major health issues coming from this game. This was the last chance for several players to make an impact on the coaches and scouts, and join the 53-man roster.

What it means: The Cowboys finish the preseason 3-1 and have to make some hard decisions regarding the No. 3 quarterback spot, whether to keep a fourth running back or which running back to keep, whether Orie Lemon and Mario Butler make the team, and whether Danny Coale and Matt Johnson should earn paychecks in September.

McGee vs. Carpenter: There is this battle for the No. 3 quarterback position. Stephen McGee played the first half, led one touchdown drive and converted 13 first downs. He completed nine of 18 passes for 124 yards. The Cowboys led 20-6 at the break. Rudy Carpenter also led the Cowboys on a touchdown drive -- capped by a 58-yard run by Lance Dunbar -- and finished 4-of-10 for 48 yards. In addition, Carpenter had a 21-yard scramble. But it would appear neither quarterback did enough to secure a spot on the roster.

Only one starter plays: Between both units, only center Phil Costa played. Costa missed the first three preseason games with a strained lower back, and the Cowboys wanted to give him some snaps before putting him in a regular-season game. Costa didn't have any bad snaps, and it's unknown whether he had any blown assignments. David Arkin replaced Costa.

The running game is strong: There are no questions regarding the status of DeMarco Murray as the starter. Felix Jones has been guaranteed a roster spot by owner/general manager Jerry Jones. We thought the No. 3 running back gig was going to Phillip Tanner, but Dunbar came on strong Wednesday night. Dunbar ran with a burst, scoring on a 58-yard run. Let's not forget about Tanner, who burst up the middle for a 1-yard score. Dunbar rushed 15 times for 105 yards, and Tanner rushed for 48 yards on nine carries.

Lemon made his case: If linebacker Lemon was a bubble player, he should make the roster. He returned an interception 26 yards to give the Cowboys a 10-6 lead in the second quarter. Lemon was active on defense and, given what he does on special teams, should make the 53-man roster. Adrian Hamilton also was fighting for a roster spot, but he hasn't shown his pass-rush abilities on a consistent basis with the Cowboys.

Cowboys lose three players: Guard Derrick Dockery left the game for personal reasons, and fellow guard Daniel Loper suffered a hamstring injury. Cornerback Lionel Smith departed the game with a concussion. None of the three returned.

Who played well: Tyrone Crawford, Orie Lemon, Phillip Tanner, Lance Dunbar and Dan Bailey.

Who didn't: Teddy Williams, David Arkin, Stephen McGee.

Bailey is perfect: Kicker Dan Bailey finished the preseason 8-for-8 on field goal attempts. Bailey made kicks of 25, 30 and 26 yards Wednesday night. The Cowboys didn't have any concerns about him heading into the preseason, but unlike last season when the team had a kicking competition, nothing was going on here. It was all Bailey. The longest kick of the preseason by Bailey was 49 yards.

Ryan Tannehill makes the start: The eighth pick of the NFL draft, quarterback Ryan Tannehill made the start for the Dolphins. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 35 yards. The former Aggie played with a presence and threw some strong passes, but he still has a ways to go to help the Dolphins.

What's next? The Cowboys must cut their roster to 53 players by Friday night and then finalize their practice squad roster with as many as eight players. The team will practice over the weekend at Valley Ranch and prepare for the regular season opener at the New York Giants.
OXNARD, Calif. -- For you East Coast night owls, or for you Dallas Cowboys fans out here on the West Coast, I hereby offer one man's take on what he saw at Cowboys practice Monday afternoon here. As always, you can follow the hard-working fellas at ESPNDallas.com for more. I can see them all right now as I type, sitting in the row in front of me in the press tent. They're busting their tails for you guys. But you know, I'm here, and you seem to want to know what I think too, so here you go:
  • If you didn't know anything about his off-field issues and you just showed up to watch a Cowboys practice, you'd think Dez Bryant was one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Yeah, there was a play on which Brandon Carr carried him on a route and took the ball away from him for a nifty interception. And there was another on which he didn't turn and look when Tony Romo threw it to him on a hot route. But Romo throws the ball to him a lot, and you can see why. Bryant creates a physical mismatch against any defensive back that tries to cover him. (Carr beat him with guile and timing.) Romo can throw it high if he needs to and knows Bryant will out-jump his man. He can be confident in Bryant's ability to use his body to shield the ball from the defender. He can throw deep to him. He can hit him on an underneath route and feel good about his chances to shake a tackle and turn it upfield for a big gain. He can hit him, as he did, on a fade route in the end zone from the 1-yard line. If he can stay out of further trouble and on the field, there's little reason to believe Bryant can't have a huge season.
  • The first team offensive line, left to right, was Tyron Smith, David Arkin, Phil Costa, Ronald Leary and Doug Free. Arkin also got snaps at center with the second-team line, which featured Derrick Dockery and Daniel Loper at guard with Jermey Parnell and Pat McQuistan at tackle. The offensive line looks like a major area of concern, and there's little depth with so many potential starters out.
  • Smith is the one player on the line to feel great about. Coach Jason Garrett said he was "still learning how to get out of his stance on the left side," which makes sense since Smith played right tackle throughout college and during his excellent rookie season last year. And it's not 100 percent fair to judge a guy against DeMarcus Ware. But once he gets his hands on the defender, there's no getting by Smith. Once the footwork and everything on which he needs to re-train himself becomes second nature on his new side, he should be just fine.
  • Everyone on Twitter is asking me who has the edge in the No. 3 receiver battle. I didn't think anyone looked that great. Andre Holmes and Dwayne Harris dropped passes. Raymond Radway got yanked off the field for bad body language. Kevin Ogletree didn't really stand out. The best down-roster receiver Monday was Cole Beasley, who made three catches including the touchdown in the two-minute drill with the second-team offense led by Kyle Orton. Safe to say No. 3 wide receiver remains wide open. Here's Tim MacMahon on why DeMarco Murray could help make that less important.
  • Murray, by the way, looks fantastic as a runner and natural as a pass-catcher. Also, it really hurts when you shake his hand. He's got that Adrian Peterson/Oklahoma vise-grip thing going. My hand is still throbbing.
  • Inside linebackers Sean Lee and Dan Connor looked tough and aggressive blowing through blocks. Connor made one impressive stop on Felix Jones behind the line of scrimmage. I thought Bruce Carter looked good in coverage a few times. Lee's the superstar in that group, but the Connor/Carter fight for the other starting spot could be interesting.
  • I'm back out here for one more day tomorrow, watching practice and doing more interviews. I'll have more posts from here tomorrow and throughout the rest of the week, with the Cowboys "Camp Confidential" scheduled right now for Friday. But this ought to hold you for now.

What to do with Laurent Robinson?

February, 8, 2012
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The Dallas Cowboys didn't see Laurent Robinson coming last summer, but thanks to Miles Austin's hamstrings and the speed with which he and Tony Romo developed a red zone rapport, Robinson became an important part of Dallas' offense. Now, he's an unrestricted free agent, and the team faces a difficult decision on what to do about him.

In the third installment of their position-by-position look at the Cowboys, ESPNDallas.com tackles the wide receivers. Bryan Broaddus acknowledges Robinson's contribution but "would not be surprised if the front office allows Robinson to walk."
He's made it clear that he wants to return to Valley Ranch and has indicated that the Cowboys wouldn't necessarily have to be the top bidders to keep him. What the Cowboys would be willing to pay for a No. 3 receiver who has proven he can be a quality fill-in starter isn't clear. If the Cowboys don't re-sign Robinson, they'll need to find another third receiver, whether it's in the draft or another free-agency bargain.

I remember No. 3 receiver being a concern for the Cowboys last August in training camp, and I remember talking to Bryan about this issue. At the time, we agreed that it was a small concern, in part because there was always a chance they could find a decent No. 3 wideout on the street (as they did) if they didn't like their internal options, and in part because of tight end Jason Witten's abilities as a receiver.

Witten this past season posted his lowest reception and yardage totals since 2006. I believe part of that was due to the emergence of Robinson, especially as a red zone option. I also think it had something to do with the Cowboys' offensive line struggles, which may have required Witten to spend more time as a pass-protector than a pass-catcher. It's entirely possible that, should the Cowboys let Robinson go, they can replace his production by throwing to Witten as much as they did in prior seasons. And if that's the case, internal options such as Jesse Holley or Raymond Radway might be sufficient replacements. Or they could find next year's Robinson in the free-agent bargain bin again.

The Cowboys need to spend money to upgrade the line and the secondary, and they could stand to spend some on a pass rush. If Austin and Dez Bryant can stay healthy, their concerns at wide receiver are small compared to those in other areas. So if Robinson wants more than No. 3 wide receiver money, or if he wants a long-term commitment, I'm with Bryan in that I wouldn't be surprised to see them let him go.

Camp Confidential: Dallas Cowboys

August, 21, 2011
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' coaches don't just announce drills during training camp practices, hollering out "9-on-7s!" as the horn blows and players shift from one field to the other. They're calling out situations. Two minutes to go, one timeout left, second-and-6 on your own 35. The players either huddle or hustle between plays, depending on what the called-out situation calls for. While these are drills only, they're intended to simulate game conditions as closely as they possibly can.

"Will we ever be able to completely re-create a game situation? No," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "But we're going to try our best in practice, and I think all these situational periods had been really good for us. Not only have we created initial situations, but stuff comes up that isn't scripted, and I think our team has handled those well also."

What strikes you when you spend a few days in Cowboys camp is how normal things seem, how businesslike. Sure, they were in San Antonio for a while and now are splitting practice time between the steamy outdoor fields at Valley Ranch and the air-conditioned luxury of Cowboys Stadium. But it's nothing like last year, when they spent August bouncing between those places as well as Canton and California, brimming with the highest possible expectations, proclaiming with confidence the goal of being the first team ever to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium.

A 6-10 record and a new coach can humble you, for sure, after a summer like that, and there's no doubt these Cowboys are humbled by the way things went in 2010. But if the end result is the atmosphere Garrett has created in his first training camp as head coach, there are worse things.

"We certainly want an atmosphere where guys like to coach and play football, but we absolutely want to be organized and prepared," Garrett said after Friday morning's workout at the stadium. "We want it to be businesslike when we're out there doing our work, out there on the field and also in the meeting rooms. We want to create a nice, professional atmosphere where we feel like we can function the best."

Garrett exudes both confidence and competence. He has waited his whole life for this chance, but he doesn't seem over-eager or phony about the way he's putting his long-held ideas about how to be a head coach into practice. He is smart, knowledgeable and self-assured, and it's emanating throughout the building. Around a team that often, throughout its history, has been known for something of a circus atmosphere, the mentality this August is straight lunch pail.

"Everybody here knows, whatever we get, we're going to have to work for it," right guard Kyle Kosier said. "Whether it's your spot on the roster or in the starting lineup or a Week 1 win or a playoff spot, it's about putting in this time right here and working. And that's all that's on anybody's mind right now."

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeRob Ryan
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireRob Ryan will be expected to improve a defense that was one of the worst in the league last season.
1. Can the defense learn Rob Ryan's scheme in time? The Cowboys brought in Ryan to be their new defensive coordinator. And while they signed free-agent safety Abram Elam and free-agent defensive end Kenyon Coleman -- both played under Ryan in Cleveland the past two seasons -- the group they're bringing back on defense is otherwise the same as the one that allowed the second-most points in the league last season. Ryan is charged with fixing that, but of course the lockout denied him the opportunity to use spring minicamps and organized team activities as part of his installation process. The defense is trying to cram a whole offseason's worth of learning into one month, and there's a lot to learn. Ryan's defense is based on multiple and ever-changing looks, and a complexity designed to make things as confusing as possible for opposing offenses. But Garrett said he has faith in the quality of his defensive personnel and the ability of his flamboyant new coordinator to teach.

"It's difficult. There are a lot of looks," Garrett admitted. "But the other part to that, too, is that I think he grew up in very fundamentally sound system in the NFL -- linebacker coach for New England for four years during their Super Bowl era in the early 2000s. So he has a very good feel for base defensive football, and then he has an ability to evolve in different situations and make it more difficult for opposing offenses. So we feel excited about that, and we're excited to see our players play within this system."

2. Can they put together an offensive line? There are some new and inexperienced pieces here. Rookie Tyron Smith, the ninth overall pick in this past draft, will start at right tackle. Every day Smith gets an extra tutoring session with offensive line coach Hudson Houck and a series of rotating instructors that has included Kosier, linebacker DeMarcus Ware, left tackle Doug Free and others. Smith is ultra-talented but needs work on his footwork and learning the schemes. And as with the players learning the new defense, he has to cram. The Cowboys moved Kosier from left guard to right so he could work more closely with the rookie, but now they need a left guard. And while that still has a good chance to be Montrae Holland or Phil Costa, later-round rookies David Arkin and Bill Nagy have been getting first-team reps lately and one of them could end up starting Week 1.

3. Who is the No. 3 wide receiver? One of the first things the Cowboys did when the lockout ended and free agency began was cut receiver Roy Williams to help create cap room. That also created a vacancy at the No. 3 wide receiver spot behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Kevin Ogletree appears first in line to grab the opportunity, though Raymond Radway and Dwayne Harris have shown flashes. Some have suggested the Cowboys need to go out and get a veteran to fill the spot, but with tight end Jason Witten a near-lock for 90-plus catches, running backs Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray potential factors in the passing game and depth at both of those positions, the Cowboys feel as though the No. 3 wide receiver might be the No. 5 target for Tony Romo for most of the season.

THE BUTLER CAN DO IT

Third-year linebacker Victor Butler has been an eye-opener in camp, and some have suggested he might be a threat to Anthony Spencer's starting spot on the side opposite Ware. More likely, he's a guy to add to the pass-rush mix and give them depth and the ability to vary those looks even more. If anything, the camp Butler is having could serve to motivate Spencer to return to his 2009 form after a disappointing 2010.

"You can never have too many pass-rushers on one team," Ware said. "When the Giants won against the Patriots, they had several really great pass-rushers. Pressure is what gets things going. So to be able to develop another third-down guy will really help us out a lot."

TURNING UP A CORNER

[+] EnlargeOrlando Scandrick
John Albright/Icon SMIOrlando Scandrick has been a surprise in training camp and could provide much-needed depth in the Cowboys' secondary.
The Cowboys did not sign free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, though they tried, and they'll go with Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman as starting cornerbacks again. The problem is, injuries have kept both Jenkins and Newman sidelined so far in camp, and Newman is out until at least the regular-season opener. This is a spot where the Cowboys struggled mightily in 2010, and they're not going to have their defense the way they want it until they get Jenkins and Newman back on the field. The one positive to come out of this is that backup corner Orlando Scandrick has looked very good in a starter's role so far in camp, so maybe they have some quality depth there that they didn't know they had.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The Cowboys might have more at defensive end than we thought immediately post-free agency. Coleman looks as if he's poised to steal Igor Olshansky's starting spot from him, and Jason Hatcher has looked rejuvenated and been an asset in the pass rush. Letting Stephen Bowen go to the Redskins felt like a loss at first, but re-signing Marcus Spears and Hatcher and bringing in Coleman might have made them deeper than they'd have been if they'd stayed pat.
  • The kicking competition looks miserable, with neither David Buehler nor Dan Bailey having seized the opportunity and Kai Forbath unable to get on the field because of injury. Don't rule out the possibility that the kicker the Cowboys go with this season isn't on the roster yet.
  • Jones and Romo aren't new or exciting names around here, but they look as good as anyone in camp on offense. When I watched them practice against the Chargers on Thursday, the Cowboys were using Jones around end a lot, and he looks like he has great burst. The offensive linemen I spoke with all hope he gets a chance at full-time carries, because they believe he and Bryant can be "spark plug" guys.
  • Elam was a critical signing, as he'll be responsible for the secondary calls and has been vitally important in helping the holdover players understand the language Ryan is speaking. I'm interested to see if the secondary looks more organized Sunday night having had an additional week-plus practicing with Elam.
  • The Cowboys are serious about Nagy, who was a seventh-round pick after not playing much in his senior season at Wisconsin. He was seriously hurt in a moped accident as a junior and then was passed on the depth chart by a few other guys, so much of the action he saw as a senior was actually at tight end. But the Cowboys love his athleticism and maturity. They could start him at guard early in the season, and there are some who think he could eventually start at center for them down the road.

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