2010 Season

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Dallas 27, Miami 25: McGee and Buehler Get to Play Hero Roles

The majority of the Cowboys’ starters did not play against the Dolphins on Thursday, while Miami played most starters for much of the first half.  Nevertheless, the Cowboys were able to come from behind several times in the game and won on David Buehler’s 31-yard field goal as time expired. It was Buehler’s fourth field goal for the game.

Stephen McGee played the entire game and completed 27 of 42 passes for 304 yards and a 43-yard touchdown pass to Sam Hurd. Kevin Ogletree had six receptions for 51 yards, while Manny Johnson had three catches for 50 yards, including a 33-yarder that set up Buehler’s game-winner.

On defense, Victor Butler and Sean Lee each recorded two sacks. Butler also caused a fumble by sacking Chad Henne early in the second quarter. Lee recovered the fumble and returned it 11 yards. On the ensuing drive, McGee hit Hurd on the TD, which gave Dallas a 7-3 lead.

The Cowboys finish their preseason at 3-2. The team will announce its final roster cuts by Saturday.

Houston 23, Dallas 7: How to Forfeit the Governor’s Cup

Houston wins the Governor's Cup thanks to a 23-7 drubbing of the Cowboys on Saturday night.

Forty percent of the Cowboys’ starting offensive line was out of tonight’s game against Houston. There’s one excuse for tonight’s 23-7 loss at Houston. Beyond that, forfeiting this game might have been less distressing to witness than what actually happened.

The Cowboys ran the ball 12 times for 13 yards. Meanwhile, second-year back Arian Foster ran all over the place, gaining 110 yards on 18 carries. Tony Romo completed 13 of 18 passes for 146 yards, but he was also sacked twice, with both sacks coming on third-down plays. He also threw an interception that killed another drive.

The Dallas starters played the entire first half but only managed one long drive. That drive ended with Felix Jones missing a pitch from Tony Romo. The ball ended up 20 yards in the other direction, and Houston recovered. Houston turned around and kicked a field goal to take a 13-0 lead.

The comedy continued in the third quarter. After Houston drove 74 yards on its opening drive of the second half, DeMarcus Ware appeared to strip Matt Schaub and recover the ball at the Dallas 15.  But Jason Williams was flagged for illegal contact, giving Houston a first down. On the next play, Foster scored to give Houston a 20-0 lead.

Dallas responded with a decent drive, starting at its own 27 and moving to the Houston 17. On a 3rd-and-14 play, though, Romo’s pass attempt to Jason Witten ended up in the hands of  Kareem Jackson, who returned the ball 64 yards. Houston kicked a field goal on the next drive, ending the Texans’ scoring.

The Cowboys’ lone score came when Jon Kitna hit Keith Ogletree on a 24-yard pass early in the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys’ final preseason game is Thursday night against the Dolphins.

Dallas 16, San Diego 14: Late Safety Is Enough for Win

Miles Austin caught a nine-yard TD pass from Tony Romo in the second quarter.

Linebacker Victor Butler made the play of the game Saturday night when he sacked San Diego quarterback Jonathan Crompton. The third-string QB fumbled the ball into the end zone, where was recovered by a Charger lineman for a safety. The two points was enough to give Dallas a 16-14 win.

There was some good news on the offensive side of the ball when Tony Romo hit Miles Austin for a nine-yard touchdown pass with just over two minutes remaining in the first half. The TD was set up when Bradie James stripped Darren Sproles and Dallas safety Barry Church returned the ball 80 yards to the San Diego 8.Austin’s touchdown was the first offensive TD for the Cowboys this preseason.

The bad news for the starting offense: Dallas only managed 49 net yards and three first downs in the first half. Romo only completed three other passes and was picked off once.

The starting defense likewise didn’t look especially strong. San Diego moved the ball effectively for much of the first half, but Dallas managed two turnovers, including the Church fumble recovery and an interception by cornerback Terence Newman. The Chargers had 205 total yards in the first half to the Cowboys’ 49.

Several players had good games worth mentioning:

LB Sean Lee: The second-round pick finally saw action, and he was impressive. Filling in for an injured Keith Brooking, Lee recorded a total of eight tackles. With just under two minutes remaining and the Chargers facing a 4th-and-1, Lee split a gap, took on the lead blocker, and tackled running back Marcus Mason for a one-yard loss.

LB DeMarcus Ware: The team’s best defender had five tackles, three tackles for losses, a QB hurry, and a half-sack along with Anthony Spencer.

CB Cletis Gordon: Announcers Brad Sham and Babe Laufenberg were impressed with Gordon, who had a pick. He is trying to earn the fourth CB spot.

TE Martellus Bennett: Bennett had four receptions for 40 yards and a nice-looking touchdown grab on a pass from Jon Kitna.

WR Sam Hurd: There is some speculation that Hurd could lose his roster spot, but he looked pretty good in catching four passes.

Oakland 17, Dallas 9: Touchdown Woes Continue

More than 72,000 showed up to see the first preseason game at Cowboys Stadium.

The first- and second-team defensive units for the Cowboys were mostly dominant on Thursday night, generally shutting down the Oakland offense and holding the Raiders scoreless for three quarters. The Dallas offense had success between the 20s, though Tony Romo was sacked three times in a quarter of work. The real problem was that the Cowboys could do very little in the red zone.

The Cowboys moved the ball inside the Oakland 20 four times but could only come away with three field goals and a failed attempt on a 4th-and-1 play. A really ugly stat: the Cowboys ran a total of nine plays inside the red zone and picked up a combined total of zero yards on those nine plays.

Otherwise, this was not a terrible game, given that the Cowboys had so many starters out and that the team had just played the previous Sunday night.  Some fans at the game were a little bit upset at the loss, as were a few radio callers. The most comical was one caller who thought this didn’t look like a Super Bowl team because it gave up a big lead in the fourth quarter.

The Raiders in the game during the fourth quarter included quarterback Kyle Boller, who was once a starter for the Baltimore Ravens. The Oakland running back was Michael Bennett, who was once a 1,000-yard rusher for Minnesota.  Their counterparts on the Cowboys included quarterbacks Stephen McGee (zero career regular season snaps) and Matt Nichols (rookie free agent), along with running backs Herb Donaldson and Lonyae Miller.

Even with a good excuse to lose, the Cowboys still had a good chance to win this game. With Dallas leading 9-7 and only 2:34 remaining in the game, Boller tried to hit Johnnie Higgins on a slant. The ball popped in the air and apparently right into the hands of Leon Williams. However, Williams could not haul the pass in (he also completely whiffed on a tackle in an earlier series), and the Raiders kicked the go-ahead field goal.

On the next drive, Nichols moved the Cowboys from the 6 to the 37, but a pass attempt to Manuel Johnson bounced into the hands of Raider safety Jerome Boyd, who returned the pick 48 yards for a touchdown that put the game away.

Disappointing (especially for those of us at the game) but hardly a reason to think this can’t be a Super Bowl team.

It was a good day for special teams in general. David Buehler was voted by fans in attendance as the MVP of the game, as he hit three field goals. Mat McBriar averaged 48.1 yards per kick, including a 68-yard punt from his own end zone.

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Depth Chart Review: Cowboys Hurting at TE

Rookie Brandon Sharpe scored on a six-yard interception return against the Bengals.

Most who follow the Cowboys know by now that backup tight end John Phillips is out for the season with a torn ACL. The team has announced the signing of a new backup tight end and the release to two other players. This move will affect the depth chart for a few of the positions discussed a few days ago.

Offensive Line

Free vs. Barron: Doug Free looked very solid at left tackle. Backup Alex Barron didn’t. Here’s a clip showing some of Free’s better plays in the opening series:

Second-Team Lineup: The Cowboys’ starters only played one series in the first quarter. The second-team line consisted of the following: C Travis Bright, LG Mike Tepper, RG Pat McQuistan, LT Barron, and RT Robert Brewster. McQuistan was beaten by a spin move on one play, and Barron had trouble with a speed rush that led to a sack late in the first quarter. Brewster also almost gave up a sack in the first quarter.

Offensive Backfield

Jones’ Fumble and Barber’s Fist-Pumping: Felix Jones had only one official carry, with two other negated by penalties. His final run looked like it might be a touchdown, but he fumbled into the end zone. Fortunately, Cincinnati was called offsides on the play. Marion Barber rushed twice, including a two-yard gain on third down that gave the Cowboys a first down. Barber, of course, provided his signature “go crazy folks!” routine for his two-yard effort.

Tashard Choice: Choice saw the most action with seven carries for 41 yards. He had a couple of decent runs, including an 11-yarder that gained a first down.

Herb Donaldson Doesn’t Impress: It would be hard enough for Herb Donaldson to make the team, and his fumble in the second quarter didn’t do him any favors.

Receivers

Tight Ends Look Good Before Injuries: Dallas quarterbacks targeted tight ends John Phillips and Scott Sicko 11 times and hit on 9 of those passes for 104 total yards. However, Phillips is gone for the season, and Sicko suffered a concussion. Dallas on Tuesday signed rookie Dajleon Farr, who played in college at the University of Miami and the University of Memphis.

Roy Catches the Ball!: On the opening drive of the game, Tony Romo threw a high ball over the middle to Roy Williams, who typically finds a way to drop such passes. However, Williams pulled the ball in for a 21-yard gain down to the Cincinnati 19.

Ogletree vs. Holley vs. Hurd: The entire receiving corps from 2009 is back, but the team has added rookie Dez Bryant. This means that there is probably only one slot open for Kevin Ogletree, Jesse Holley, or Sam Hurd. All three caught passes against the Bengals. The stats:

Ogletree: 7 targets, 2 receptions, 25 yards.

Holley: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards.

Hurd: 3 targets, 1 reception, 4 yards.

Defensive Line

Stephen Bowen: Stephen Bowen had an impressive game with a sack and three QB hurries.

Good Depth: The Bengals only managed 43 yards on the ground for the entire game, even with the Cowboys relying on backups along the defensive line. Jason Hatcher and Junior Siavii were solid last year and looked good against Cincinnati.

Linebackers

Lots of Williams: Jason Williams and Leon Williams combined for 11 total tackles against the Bengals. And Brandon Williams picked off a pass and returned it 36 yards to set up a field goal.

Welcome, Brandon Sharpe: Brandon Sharpe appears on the third team on the team’s depth chart page, but his bio is completely blank. He is a rookie free agent from Texas Tech who made a big splash by returning an interception six yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Sharpe played the majority of the game.

Defensive Backfield

We Didn’t Shut Out T.O.: Terrell Owens was the target of four passes, and he caught two. One of his receptions came when he was matched up against Mike Jenkins. The second came against Jamal Wall. Owens would have had a third in front of Terence Newman, but the play was negated by a penalty.

Reserves in the Secondary Frustrate Bengals’ Backup QBs: Several younger players saw considerable action against the Bengals, including Wall, Cletis Gordon, Michael Hamlin, Barry Church, Bryan McCann, and Danny McCray. Backup QBs J.T. O’Sullivan and Jordan Palmer struggled against the Dallas reserves, combining to complete only 14 of 31 passes for 135 yards and three interceptions. McCray picked off a desperation pass on the last play of the game.

Special Teams

Buehler Passes His First Test but Misses Long Attempt: [Note: this has been corrected]: David Buehler’s long field goal was 34 yards, and he missed a 49-yarder after the opening drive of the third quarter. Two of his five kickoffs were also downed for touchbacks.

Church and McCray Active on Special Teams: McCray not only picked off a pass, but he also recorded two special teams tackles. Church had a total of three tackles on defense plus a special teams tackle.

Titus Ryan is Injured, Then Released: Titus Ryan opened the game with a 38-yard kickoff return. However, he suffered a broken thumb and was released on Tuesday.

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Dallas 16, Cincinnati 7: Backup Linebackers Come Through

Tony Romo cheers on linebacker Brandon Sharpe, who scored in the fourth quarter on an interception return.

The Cowboys are situated well at the linebacker position, with DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer wreaking havoc on the outside and Keith Brooking and Bradie James providing leadership for the entire defense. Two backup linebackers, though, had the biggest highlights in Sunday night’s 16-7 win over the Bengals.

With the Cowboys leading 6-0 in the third quarter, Brandon Williams dropped back into coverage and picked off Jordan Palmer‘s pass. Williams returned the ball to the Cincinnati 9. Dallas could not punch it in, but David Buehler‘s third field goal gave the Cowboys a 9-0 lead.

Here’s a clip of the pick:

Early in the fourth quarter, with the lead still at 9-0, receiver Manuel Johnson saved a punt from going into the end zone, and the Cowboys downed the ball at the Cincinnati 1. Two plays later, linebacker Brandon Sharpe picked off Palmer and returned the ball six yard for the Cowboys’ only touchdown of the game.

Dallas took a 6-0 lead in the first half. The offensive starters drove the ball 63 yards on 14 plays.On first and goal from the 5, he appeared to be headed for a touchdown. He was stripped of the ball, though, and fumbled into the end zone. The Bengals were called for offsides, negating the play. Dallas was unable to punch it in from the 2 and had to settle for a field goal.

Jon Kitna played three series but could not lead the Cowboys to a score. Stephen McGee came in midway through the second quarter and drove the team 39 yards in eight plays to set up a second field goal.

McGee completed 12 of 22 passes for 116 yards. He was sacked four times, though, and at times appeared uneasy in the pocket. Romo completed 5 of 10 passes for 59 yards, while Kitna completed 4 of 7 for 56 yards.

Neither Marion Barber nor Felix Jones saw action after the first quarter. Tashard Choice led the team in rushing with 41 yards on 7 carries. Backup Herb Donaldson had 19 yards on 6 carries, but he didn’t help himself by fumbling in the second quarter.

Backup tight ends John Phillips and Scott Sicko combined for 9 receptions and 104 yards. Phillips looked especially good before leaving the game with a knee injury.

Doug Free looked solid, especially in pass protection against Antwan Odom. New arrival Alex Barron looked shaky, though.

The Cowboys have only  four days before they host the Oakland Raiders at Cowboys Stadium.

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Some Names to Watch on the Cowboys’ Depth Chart

Miles Austin and the Cowboys open their preseason on Sunday.

The excitement that comes with the start of preseason will evaporate after about a quarter of Sunday’s game between the Cowboys and Bengals when the starters come out, but at least we have football.

There are few positions on the team where the starters are in question. What is less certain is the status of several of the backups.

Here’s a look at the names on the Cowboys’ depth chart on the eve of the first preseason game.

Offensive Line

Players lost from 2009: T Flozell Adams, C/G Cory Proctor, C Duke Preston

New starter: Tackle Doug Free, who filled in for Marc Columbo at right tackle for nearly half of the 2009 season, replaces Flozell Adams at left tackle.

Backup center: News from the Cowboys is that starting guard Kyle Kosier will be the backup center, with Montrae Holland moving to guard to replace Kosier. With the team losing Cory Proctor and Duke Preston, the team doesn’t have a true backup center on the roster. The depth chart now lists two reserve guards in the backup center position– Travis Bright and Phil Costa. Bright was on the practice squad last year.

New backups at guard and tackle: The Cowboys acquired Alex Barron from St. Louis in a trade for linebacker Bobby Carpenter, and Barron will be the principal backup at tackle. Pat McQuistan has been a tackle since entering the league in 2006, but he is now listed as a backup at right guard.

Draftees to watch: Robert Brewster was a third-round pick in 2009 but missed all of last season with an injury to his pectoral muscle. List on the third team behind Brewster is a sixth-round pick from 2010, Sam Young.

Other rookie free agents: In addition to Bright and Costa, two others (both rookie free agents) will try to make the team: Will Barker and Mike Tepper.

Offensive Backfield

Few changes: There is virtually no change in the offensive backfield from 2009. The Cowboys’ site still lists Marion Barber as the starter, though news during the offseason indicated that Jones would be the starter. Tashard Choice should see more action this year as well. Quarterbacks are, of course, Tony Romo, Jon Kitna, and Stephen McGee. With Kitna not looking especially impressive last preseason, and with him not playing a down in 2009, some eyes will be on McGee to see whether he might be ready to step up in front of Kitna.

Rookie: The only new name that shows up on the depth chart for now is a rookie fullback named Chris Gronkowski.

Receivers

Depth chart without an injured Dez Bryant: The biggest question about starters has focused on receiver, where many want rookie Dez Bryant to supplant Roy Williams in a starting role. But with Bryant out for four to six weeks with high ankle sprain, the lineup at receiver looks the same as 2009. The talented list includes Miles Austin and Patrick Crayton at receiver, with Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett, and John Phillips returning at tight end. Bennett hasn’t made many friends among fans, and several have called for Phillips to move into the second tight end role.

Hurd ahead of Ogletree? : Sam Hurd was good on special teams last season, but he only caught seven passes in 2009. Kevin Ogletree saw more action towards the end of the season, and it’s not a bad bet to think he has a better chance than Hurd to make the team.

Rookie: One new name that shows up at receiver is Titus Ryan, who played in Canada in 2009. At the moment, Ryan is listed as the principal kickoff and punt returner.

Defensive Line

Same starters: The Cowboys brought back defensive end Marcus Spears to match up once again with opposite end Igor Olshansky and nose tackle Jay Ratliff. However, Spears sprained a ligament in his knee and will miss the entire preseason. His backup is Jason Hatcher, who had a solid season in 2009 as part of the defensive line rotation. Also returning are backups Junior Siavii and Stephen Bowen.

New names: The Cowboys have three new names for the defensive line on the current roster– seventh-r0und pick Sean Lissemore, former practice squad member Marcus Dixon, and rookie free agent Josh Brent.

Linebackers

Starters return: The Cowboys have a strong corps of linebackers, with starters DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Keith Brooking, and Bradie James returning.  The 2010 season would (barring injury) mark the first time since the Cowboys ran a 4-3 defense in 2003 and 2004 that the team would have all of its starting linebackers return for a second consecutive season.

Promising backups: Three of the Cowboys’ backups were draft picks in 2009: Victor Butler, Jason Williams, and Brandon Williams. Butler and Jason Williams saw action in 2009, but Brandon Williams missed the entire season with a knee injury. A third Williams– Leon Williams— also signed with the Cowboys in the 2010 offseason. Two other members of the 2009 team– Steve Octavien and Curtis Johnson— also remain on the preseason roster.

Rookie draft pick: The team’s site lists second-round pick Sean Lee as a third-stringer, but he will likely move past Leon Williams as a backup inside linebacker. Lee will likely miss the preseason opener with a quadriceps injury.

Defensive Backfield

New free safety: With the Cowboys releasing Ken Hamlin, the new free safety is Alan Ball, who has been with the club since 2007. Otherwise, the backfield remains largely intact, with Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman in place at the corners and backed up by Orlando Scandrick. Gerald Sensabaugh returns for a second season at strong safety.

Backups: The “other” Hamlin from 2009– former fifth-round pick Michael Hamlin– appears to be the primary backup at safety. Patrick Watkins remains on the depth chart, but he is current listed on the third team. The other veteran backup is Cletis Gordon, who saw action in one game for the Cowboys in 2009. Other backups are rookies: fourth-round pick Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, sixth-round pick Jamal Wall and free agents Bryan McCann, Danny McCray, and Barry Church.

Special Teams

All eyes on David Buehler: David Buehler showed he was a great kickoff specialist in 2009, but now he will need to show he can make field goals. Word is that he has been generally accurate during camp, making 20 of his first 24 attempts as of last Monday.

Returner? The Cowboys have a number of players who can return punts and kickoffs– Felix Jones (kickoffs), Patrick Crayton (punts), Kevin Ogletree (kickoffs), Terence Newman (punts). Right now, though, the name that shows up for both returner positions is Titus Ryan. We shall see.

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7th Round: Cowboys Take DT Sean Lissemore

7th round pick Sean Lissemore

With their final pick in the 2010 draft, the Cowboys picked up a defensive tackle from William and Mary named Sean Lissemore. Not knowing anything about Lissemore, I used my “insider” subscription at ESPN.com to learn more. Turns out that ESPN doesn’t know much more than me, except that he was projected as a free agent prospect.

The best scouting report I could find came from a Jacksonville Jaguars blog. Here is the summary:

One of the more popular of the William & Mary recruits is defensive tackle Sean Lissemore. Lissemore has to be one of the only, if not the only, defensive tackle to enter a draft as a former track star in high school. His 11.20 seconds in the 100m made him one of the best sprinters in New Jersey. A high school linebacker at 6’3, 240 pounds, Lissemore has since gained 50+ pounds yet managed to keep his linebacker speed. His 4.83 40 yard dash would have placed him among the fastest DTs at the combine if he had received an invite.

With all that speed, the next, logical step is to question his strength. His 36 reps on the bench press would have earned him third amongst the defensive lineman at the combine. His 30 inch vertical is very respectable for anybody near the 300 pound weight range. Clearly Lissemore is an athlete with the necessary NFL measurables.

At 298 pounds, Lissemore is not the big nose guard that many Cowboys fans want. It is possible, though, that he could continue to get bigger.

6th Round: Dallas Takes CB Jamar Wall of Texas Tech

Dallas took CB Jamal Wall in the 6th round.

The Cowboys added another defensive back in the 6th round by taking Texas Tech CB Jamal Wall in the 6th round.  With Alan Ball slated to be the team’s free safety, the Cowboys are left with Orlando Scandrick and Cletis Gordon as the top backup corners. Wall should provide some depth should things work out.

Here is his summary from CBS Sports:

One of the more underrated players at his position, Wall was named second-team all-conference after he made 58 tackles, intercepted two passes, broke up 15 others, and forced two fumbles.

Wall had very similar numbers with five interceptions and six pass breakups as a sophomore. As a true freshman he contributed primarily on special teams, but stepped in because of injuries to deflect two passes.

Wall is a good athlete who had a storied high school career where he ran for over 2,000 yards in both his junior and senior seasons.

Though a bit shorter than scouts prefer, Wall’s stocky build, athleticism, aggressive play and sure tackling make him a potential starting zone corner in the NFL and worthwhile Saturday draft pick.

The guy can apparently hit. Or at the least, he could hit Jake Sharp of Kansas:

6th Round: Cowboys Pick Up a Tackle

The Cowboys took Notre Dame tackle Sam Young in the 6th round.

The Cowboys addressed the tackle position in the 6th round by taking Notre Dame tackle Sam Young.  At 6’8″, 320 pounds, he has the size. However, at least one site says that he can’t play left tackle.

Too big to be very effective blocking in the open field and on the second level. Doesn’t have the quickness or athleticism to play left tackle. Sometimes plays too upright, loses leverage and allows rushers to walk him back. Loses control at times and drew a number of personal fouls this season, something which must be tempered.

Here is more on Young from Notre Dame’s site:

Notre Dame’s top returning offensive lineman enters his final season with the possibility of setting the school record for most starts in a career … has started all 38 games of his career and is the only Notre Dame offensive lineman to have started every game since his freshman year … became the first Irish offensive lineman to make his debut as a freshman in the season opener since freshmen regained eligibility in 1972 … veteran leader of the offense has more starts under his belt than any other player on the roster … started 28 games at right tackle and 10 games at left tackle in his career … started the first 15 games at Notre Dame at right tackle and started all 13 games in 2008 on the right side as well … one of four returning starters on the offensive line in 2009 … selected to Phil Steele’s preseason All-America second team in 2009 … ranked by Steele as the fourth-best offensive tackle in the country … Lindy’s tabbed him the seventh-best offensive tackle in 2009 preseason … key reason why Steele ranked Notre Dame’s offensive line as the fifth-best in the country.