Davon Coleman strains calf

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
6:35
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Despite being on crutches Tuesday afternoon because of a calf strain, rookie defensive tackle Davon Coleman is hopeful he can play in the Dallas Cowboys' meeting Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.

Coleman said he injured himself in the weight room on Monday doing squats.

“It shouldn’t hold me out too long,” Coleman said.

Coleman, an undrafted free agent, started the opener against the San Francisco 49ers and played in a reserve role in the Week 2 win against the Tennessee Titans. He is second among Cowboys’ defensive linemen in tackles with four, trailing Nick Hayden by one.

The Cowboys released safety Jemea Thomas from the practice squad on Tuesday and re-signed fullback Nikita Whitlock, who was cut last week when the Cowboys added wide receiver Reggie Dunn.

Defense ready for Scandrick's return

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
6:31
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick is waiting for his formal reinstatement once the NFL and NFL Players Association come to an agreement on a new drug policy, but his teammates can’t wait for his return.

Scandrick has missed the first two games as part of a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy after testing positive for amphetamines in the spring. Under the terms of a new policy, Scandrick, as well as other players, like Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, will be allowed to play immediately.

Scandrick
“In the secondary right now, guys are playing pretty well,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “With Scandrick, he's going to fit easily back into the puzzle as far as our chemistry on the back end. He's that guy that has a chip on his shoulder. I know he's going to come back ready to prove some things to us and to the rest of the world. I'm ready for him to come back, man, just get him back into the flow of things. We want all of our pieces up when it's time to go to war. We'll be happy to get that guy back.”

Morris Claiborne has started the first two games opposite Carr, and Sterling Moore has manned Scandrick’s role in the slot and earned the coaches’ praise.

“All I can do is go out there and make plays on the plays I have an opportunity to make,” Moore said. “I think I’ve done that so far, but it’s out of my hands whenever he comes back.”

Scandrick had two interceptions last season and was the Cowboys’ best cornerback in 2013. He had a solid preseason and training camp as well.

Linebacker Bruce Carter said Scandrick brings an attitude to the defense.

“Our spirit on defense right now is real high,” Carter said. “Everybody is flying around and just having run and a guy like Orlando, for me, I feel like he loves to talk. He’s always talking junk to somebody, so I think it’ll add more flavor to our defense. We’ll be happy to have him back.”

Cowboys will need more than one formula

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
1:45
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – Jason Garrett likes to say the history of the NFL gets written each week.

It’s a poke at the wild week-to-week proclamations made by media and fans after a win or a loss. After the season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Cowboys’ season was over. Tony Romo’s best days were gone. The defense was not any better. Who will the Cowboys take with the first pick in the 2015 draft?

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
AP Photo/Mark ZaleskiDeMarco Murray's big day against the Titans can't be the only blueprint for the Cowboys to win.
After their Week 2 win against the Tennessee Titans, the Cowboys are now the best ground-and-pound team in the NFL. DeMarco Murray will set league and franchise rushing records. The defense just might be better than anybody imagined. The Cowboys will be a hard out in the NFC East.

That’s the new history anyway. But in the NFL what is true today won’t necessarily be true tomorrow.

To expect the Cowboys to run the ball 43 times for 220 yards, like they did against the Titans is folly. To expect them to win many games with Romo throwing for 176 yards is not wise. To expect the defense to limit an offense to 68 yards in the first half is crazy, especially with the quarterbacks and offenses the Cowboys will see down the road, though not this week in the St. Louis Rams.

“If you decide that, ‘This is the way we want to play,’ it’s hard to guarantee you’re going to be able to do that week in and week out,” Garrett said. “So you try to be balanced enough on offense to be able to play the way you need to play to win the ballgame and certainly you want to have the success that we had on defense, a lot of different situations that allowed to get us off the field and do the things that we did throughout that game. It’s certainly a good formula, [but] hard to guarantee it every week.”

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Garrett isn’t doing a Bill Parcells and attempting to dampen the mood after a solid win. He’s merely being a realist.

Have you seen the Cowboys over the last, oh, 17 seasons? They are 25-25 in this last 50 games, the epitome of win one, lose one.

For the Cowboys to sustain the formula displayed last week, they will need timely play by the passing game. For all of the good the running game did in the first half, their 16-0 lead was down to six points before the third quarter was half over against the Titans.

Romo responded with a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in which he was 6-of-9 passing.

“I think [Sunday] is the kind of day when you play defense like that and can run the football like that, the Seahawks proved there is a certain way to go about that,” Romo said after the game. “You just need to do a good job, move the chains, do the job on third down when you have the right down and distances then give your team the chance on the one or two drives that make a difference in the game. I think we did that.”

But there will be games where Murray is being stifled and the blocking just isn’t there. In those games, Romo will have to make plays through the air for the Cowboys to win.

It might happen Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.

Three thoughts on Cowboys' win

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
1:00
PM ET
Three thoughts on the Cowboys' 26-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

1. Tony Romo can give me a million different explanations about why some of his passes wobble or lack zip, and I’m probably not going to believe him. He just doesn’t look right. I’ve seen 109 of the 110 NFL starts he has made in person, and I’ve never questioned whether he had a strong arm. Now, I do. Maybe, he’ll get stronger as the season goes on. Perhaps, he’ll adjust the way he plays to protect his back and to limit his deep balls. He can still help the Cowboys win games, but I don’t think he can do it as the focal point of the offense.

McClain
2. Rolando McClain showed me something by playing all but one snap of Sunday’s win over Tennessee, especially when the Titans spent a lot of the game using formations with three receivers. That means McClain spent a lot of time in the nickel, and he seemed to operate just fine. Each of the first two weeks, he has put a hit on an opposing player that we haven’t seen around here lately. He’s tackling with bad intentions. The Cowboys haven’t really had a player do that since Roy Williams.

3. Sterling Moore is the kind of NFL player who’s not quite big enough, fast enough or quick enough to excite the coaching staff. But every time they have to use him, he does a pretty solid job. Jason Garrett wants us to believe it doesn’t matter where you came from or where you were drafted. Well, when Orlando Scandrick returns this week, it’ll be interesting to see how much they use Scandrick on the outside and Moore in the slot, while Claiborne heads to the bench when the Cowboys are in their nickel defense.

Key stat: 12-1

The Cowboys improved to 12-1 when DeMarco Murray gets 20 carries or more in a game. Murray gained 167 yards on a career-high 29 carries against Tennessee on Sunday. It’s no surprise the Cowboys have a winning record when he gets the ball that much because it means the Cowboys are controlling the line of scrimmage and the game. All of that means they can keep handing the ball to Murray. But if all it took was 20 carries to Murray to win the game, then they’d just give it to him the first 20 plays of each game. Zack Martin has given the Cowboys three quality offensive linemen -- Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick are the others -- and two solid players in Doug Free and Ron Leary. The Cowboys feel comfortable running off left or right tackle as well pulling each each guard as well as running wide to each side. That makes their running attack versatile and dangerous and it should result in more games with 20 carries for Murray.

Player to Watch: Joseph Randle

A lot of folks were disappointed when Joseph Randle made the Cowboys’ final roster and Ryan Williams didn’t. You should understand the decision now. Williams is every bit as good as Randle as a runner -- some would argue he’s better -- but there’s no comparison between them as a pass protector or special teams contributor. Randle has been a good special teams player the first two weeks -- not just a guy along for the ride -- and he’s been a much more explosive runner than we was as a rookie. He looks like a player who understands his role, has accepted it and is trying to persuade the coaching staff to give him a bigger role.

Cowboys banking on Murray's health

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
12:00
PM ET
video
IRVING, Texas -- Through two games, Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is on pace for 408 carries this season.

It's too early to say Murray will challenge Larry Johnson's NFL regular-season record of 416 carries for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2006. It's probably too early to say Murray will push for Emmitt Smith's franchise record of 377 in 1995.

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But Murray's 51 carries are the most he has had in a two-game span in his career, and he has never had more than 217 carries in a season.

As a rookie in 2011 he had 47 carries for 160 yards in a four-day span in Cowboys' wins against the Washington Redskins (Nov. 20) and Miami Dolphins (Nov. 24). He has not had more than two games in a row with at least 20 carries since his rookie seaason when he went a span of four straight games with at least 20 carries.

This is the first time Murray, who had a career-high 29 carries for 167 yards in Sunday's win against the Tennessee Titans, has had back-to-back games with at least 20 carries since Week 13-14 against the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals in 2012.

"We feel like DeMarco is a durable football player who can take the pounding of being the primary running back for the Cowboys, so we're going to give him opportunities to do that," coach Jason Garrett said. "We like the other guys. If we ever get to a point where we feel like we're wearing them down, we say, 'OK, let's play the other guys a little bit more.' But we don't feel like we're to that point by any means. He seems to handle the work. He seems to relish in getting the work, and that's a good thing. He seems to get better as the game goes on with more carries, and that's what all the good backs that I've ever been around have. That's part of their demeanor. So we'll certainly be mindful of running him into the ground, just like we would any player on our team, and be willing to use the other guys and trust the guys to carry the ball behind him."

But Murray has yet to play a full season. He missed three games as a rookie with a fractured ankle. He missed six games in 2012 with a foot injury. He missed two games last year with a knee injury.

Garrett clarified what he meant by durable when Murray's injury history was mentioned.

"It probably was more than we don't feel like he wears down, you know what I'm saying?" Garrett said. "We feel like at the end of that ballgame, he was strong. It wasn't like, ‘Boy, he's breaking down, he doesn't look like himself.' I thought he got stronger as the game wore on."

Jerry likes Romo in complementary role

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
11:30
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- You don’t give a quarterback a $108 million contract extension to be a bus driver.

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But owner and general manager Jerry Jones insists he’ll be pleased if that is his return on investment for Tony Romo’s contract, as long as the Dallas Cowboys keep dominating with the running game.

Romo played a complementary role in Sunday’s win over the Tennessee Titans, when the Cowboys chewed up 220 yards on the ground, with DeMarco Murray doing most of the damage. Romo completed 19 of 29 passes for 176 yards, tying for his fourth-lowest yardage total in a win during his career.

“I’m probably the one that’s standing right behind Tony and saying, ‘Yes, we like seeing that,’” Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. “When you can have that balance – and that’s a word that’s overused, balance, and the other day we had more of a lean to the run – we’ll take it. That offensive line played lights out for us, but when you can have more of a balance, which means that you’re not sitting there with a highway show of passes for Romo, then I think we’re seeing you have a better chance for your defense to be more effective, play less plays, better field position. All of it works together.

“So the way that we played Romo the other day fits me just fine and fits him just fine. It’s called winning, and that’s what we’re here for.”
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Ed Werder has the latest on the NFL's new drug policy, which will likely be finalized on Tuesday, and how the reclassification of certain drugs will allow players to be reinstated.

Five Wonders: Cowboys CB roles

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
10:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas – It's time for Five Wonders as the Dallas Cowboys keep their historic run at four straight 8-8 finishes in place with Sunday's win against the Tennessee Titans.

In this segment, we'll wonder more about just the final record for the forever .500 Cowboys.

Away we go:
  • With Orlando Scandrick due back this week once the NFL and NFL Players Association finalize their agreement on a new drug policy, I wonder what happens to Morris Claiborne. Jason Garrett likes to say the best players will play, regardless of where they came from or how much they are paid. This will be a true test. If the Cowboys are going to evaluate players on the merits of what they do, then Sterling Moore does not deserve to go to the bench. Moore was one of the Cowboys' best defenders against the Titans. He was aggressive in coverage. Scandrick was the Cowboys' best cornerback in 2013 and perhaps he gets worked back into the lineup slowly after missing the first two weeks of the season due to his suspension but his absence wasn't so prolonged that he couldn't play at least a full-time nickel defense role. Claiborne missed a chance at an interception and failed to wrap up Delanie Walker on what turned into a 61-yard touchdown.
  • Speaking of Walker, he had 10 catches for 142 yards against the Cowboys. He was able to exploit the middle of the field, but he also took advantage of J.J. Wilcox in coverage a few times. The Cowboys will face a bevy of good tight ends this season and Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints is looming in two weeks. This week they get the St. Louis Rams' Jared Cook, who has eight catches for 102 yards in two games and caught five passes for 44 yards last year against the Cowboys. The Cowboys will also see Brent Celek and Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles, Martellus Bennett of the Chicago Bears, Zach Miller of the Seattle Seahawks as well as Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener of the Indianapolis Colts. If defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is looking to tighten up one area of concern, it should be defending the tight end.
  • Jason Witten caught at least 60 passes in 10 of his first 11 seasons, topping out with an NFL record for a tight end 110 receptions in 2012.He has had at least 70 catches in the last seven seasons. In 15 games with Tony Romo last season, Witten caught 61 passes. He got over the 70-catch mark with Kyle Orton looking at him 12 times for 135 yards in the season finale against the Eagles. I wonder if we see an end to Witten's 70-catch streak. After two games, Witten has six catches for 46 yards. It's entirely too early to extrapolate those numbers over a 16-game season (48 catches by the way), but with the emphasis on the running game, Witten might not get as many chances this year. And if the pass protection does not improve, he could be asked to help keep Romo upright more in the passing game than to be his normal security blanket.
  • I wonder if Dan Bailey is taken for granted. The Cowboys understand his importance. They gave him a seven-year, $22.5 million contract in the offseason and were chided by several who couldn't believe they committed that kind of coin to a kicker. Those people were evidently unaware at just how many close games the Cowboys have played the last few years and needed Bailey to kick either tying or winning field goals late in the fourth quarters. Bailey has made 26 field goal attempts in a row and will have a chance to tie or break the team record of 27 set by Chris Boniol in 1996 this week inside the Edward Jones Dome.
  • Let's keep it on a special teams' bent here for a second wonder. I wonder if Bruce Carter will block a punt this season. He had a blocked punt taken away from him in the preseason against the Miami Dolphins because the officials incorrectly asserted the Cowboys lined up illegally. Against the Titans, Carter deflected a Brett Kern punt in the first quarter. The ball still traveled 41 yards, which was somewhat amazing, but Carter has shown a knack for getting around the corner quickly. In case you were wondering, Carter has the Cowboys' most recent blocked punt. It came Dec. 24, 2011, against the Eagles. After searching for the proper role for Carter, maybe the Cowboys have found one: designated punt blocker.

Can Cowboys QB Tony Romo still let it rip?

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
9:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo insists he's throwing the ball better than ever.

"As far as down the field, I'm throwing the ball really well," the Dallas Cowboys quarterback said. "I'm excited about that."

[+] EnlargeDallas Cowboys, Tony Romo
William Purnell/Icon SMIThrough two games this season, Cowboys QB Tony Romo has 42 completions on 66 attempts.
The statistics, as well as your eyes, must be lying.

Romo, who attributed a couple of passes that fluttered to poor body positioning and not decreased arm strength after two back surgeries, hasn't taken many shots downfield this season. He attempted only five passes that traveled farther than 20 yards in the air during the Cowboys' first two games. He completed one -- a 56-yard gain by Dwayne Harris, who had to wait for a severely underthrown pass and outjump a defensive back to make the catch -- and was picked off once.

"We've been an explosive pass offense for a long time," coach Jason Garrett said. "That's not something that concerns us terribly."

The Cowboys have been an explosive pass offense for a long time. Is that in the past tense with Romo at quarterback?

Romo averaged 7.2 yards per attempt last season, by far a career low. That has dropped to 6.9 this season.

Romo, one of the league's premier vertical passers for most of his starting tenure, simply hasn't been as effective attacking downfield as he used to be. This isn't just a two-game sample size. It's a trend that dates to October 2013, after his 506-yard performance in the shootout loss to the Denver Broncos.

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Since that game, Romo is 11-of-38 (28.9 percent) on passes that travel 20-plus yards in the air for 374 yards with only one touchdown and one interception. Compare that to his numbers on 20-plus-yard passes in 91 games from 2006 to 2012: 137-of-356 (38.5 percent) for 5,179 yards and 50 touchdowns with 23 interceptions.

Romo doesn't take as many risks as he did earlier in his career, which is an especially smart approach during games like Sunday's win against the Tennessee Titans, when the Cowboys needed their quarterback to be a bus driver to complement a dominant running game.

When the Cowboys need Romo to let it rip, can he still do it?

"He, like everybody else, is a work in progress, particularly when you're coming back off an injury," Garrett said. "Hopefully over the course of time, you just heal up more and more as you get going."

At some point, the Cowboys will need better from Romo, if not better than ever.

Officials breakdown: Clete Blakeman

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
8:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas – Clete Blakeman’s crew will work Sunday’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams.

It is only the third time since 2010 the Cowboys will have Blakeman serve as the referee. In Week 15 of the 2012 season, his crew worked the Cowboys’ 27-24 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers were not called for a penalty in that game. The Cowboys had eight for 61 yards. He also refereed the Cowboys’ 35-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 8 of the 2010 season. The Cowboys were penalized three times for 20 yards and the Jaguars had six penalties for 36 yards.

Last week Blakeman worked the Miami Dolphins-Buffalo Bills game and had 10 penalties. Nine of the penalties were accepted for 60 yards. The visiting Dolphins had three penalties for 20 yards. The Bills had six penalties for 40 yards.

The breakdown:

Offside on free kick – 1
Illegal contact – 2
Delay of game – 1
Offside – 1
Unsportsmanlike conduct (sideline interference) – 1
Offensive holding – 1
Defensive holding – 1
False start – 2

Quarter by quarter:

First – 1
Second – 2
Third – 7
Fourth – 0

Spencer will do 'some football' this week

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:41
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Anthony Spencer's journey back to a football field after microfracture surgery on his left knee last fall is getting closer.

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Spencer will “in some form he’ll do some football,” this week practice. Spencer has not practiced in more than a year after playing in just one game with 34 snaps against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2.

Spencer
Spencer has steadily increased his rehab work from the spring through the summer and has not reported any added soreness or complications in his comeback.

“He’s really worked hard and he looks good but he have to be mindful about where he’s coming from and just take it day by day and see how he handles the work,” Garrett said.

The Cowboys kept Spencer on the 53-man roster instead of putting him on the reserve physically unable to perform list because they thought he could be back before the Oct. 12 meeting at the Seattle Seahawks. Had he been placed on PUP, Spencer would have missed the first six games.

Garrett said Spencer could get most of the work on the side with the athletic training staff or go through a limited portion of individual drills. When Spencer returns, Garrett said he would play right defensive end. The Cowboys would work him in slowly as a designated pass rusher in nickel situations as he builds his strength and conditioning.

Shoulder could limit Bryant's practice work

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:35
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The injury to his right shoulder didn’t stop Dez Bryant from returning to Sunday’s game and finishing with 10 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown.

Bryant
Bryant
It remains to be determined whether it will prevent Bryant from being a full participant in practice this week.

“Dez is a very, very tough individual,” Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s physically tough and he’s mentally tough. We went to him a number of different times in the game, and over and over and over again he made the plays. Made plays to keep drives alive. He made big plays. Scored the touchdown down in close. Again very productive once he came back.

“Anticipate taking his injury day by day. Hopefully he’ll be ready to do something Wednesday in practice. And then we’ll have a good week of preparation for St. Louis.”

Reserve running back Joseph Randle will have to pass the NFL’s concussion protocol tests after exiting in the third quarter of Sunday's win over the Tennessee Titans.

The Film Don't Lie: Cowboys

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:00
PM ET
A weekly look at what the Cowboys must fix:

The St. Louis Rams might not be built to run a hurry-up offense without Sam Bradford, but they should notice the success the Tennessee Titans had against the Dallas Cowboys' defense by speeding things up.

The Cowboys allowed only two first downs and 68 yards in the first half, but the Titans came out in the second half with the no-huddle and scored on their first two possessions. Tight end Delanie Walker scored on a 61-yard pass and caught 10 passes for 142 yards, which should raise concerns about the Cowboys' ability to slow a tight end.

The Rams had 11 first downs and 246 yards in the second half without huddling.

"The challenge is just getting lined up," Cowboys safety Barry Church said. "They do that mostly to see what defense you're in. You definitely have to show your cards more. It got us out of disguising things early and they were able to pick us apart a little bit. Once we settled down, I thought we did a better job against it."

Cowboys defensive playing time

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:00
PM ET
Here's a look at the snap counts for each of the Cowboys' defensive players on Sunday:

Rolando McClain erased any doubts that he’s just a two-down linebacker with his performance Sunday against Tennessee. With Justin Durant (groin) out for a few weeks, McClain was on the field for 48 of 49 plays. It’s impressive because the Titans used a lot of formations with three receivers, which is why Sterling Moore played 44 snaps. Defensive lineman Jack Crawford saw his first action with the Cowboys, playing 12 plays. Kyle Wilber has lost his starting strongside linebacker job to Bruce Carter, but he’s getting playing time as a pass-rushing defensive end. He played 12 plays against the Titans.

Bruce Carter: 49
Brandon Carr: 48
Rolando McClain: 48
Barry Church: 45
Morris Claiborne: 45
Sterling Moore: 44
Jeremy Mincey: 43
J.J. Wilcox: 41
Tyrone Crawford: 30
Henry Melton: 26
Nick Hayden: 25
George Selvie: 22
Davon Coleman 19 Terrell McClain 18 Jack Crawford 12 Kyle Wilber: 11
Jeff Heath: 10
Anthony Hitchens: 9

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