Dallas Cowboys Preseason Live

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
9:00
AM ET
Welcome to Dallas Cowboys training camp! ESPN.com Cowboys reporters Todd Archer and Tim MacMahon have live updates and the latest news from Oxnard, California.

Morris Claiborne has a new demeanor

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
10:00
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OXNARD, Calif. -- Throughout the offseason, Dallas Cowboys teammates, coaches and staff noticed a difference in Morris Claiborne.

On the first day of full-padded practices on Saturday, Claiborne showed part of that difference for everybody else to see.

On his first snap of one-on-one drills against wide receiver Terrance Williams, he fought, clawed and talked back. On the second he pushed Williams to the ground, yelling, "Get Dez over here," which prompted some more talking with a perturbed Williams.

Later Claiborne was beat by Bryant on one deep ball, but he broke up a comeback to Bryant and a deep ball to Devin Street before cramps knocked him out of the final team session.

[+] EnlargeMorris Claiborne
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports"A lot of things happened in my life that you had to face and had to make changes," Morris Claiborne said. "For that, I feel like I'm a better person from it even though it might've hurt at the time."
“I’ve got a different approach just from football, from life period,” Claiborne said. “A lot of things happened in my life that you had to face and had to make changes. For that, I feel like I’m a better person from it even though it might’ve hurt at the time. I feel like I’m a better man after it and it’s carried over to football.”

In a span of only a few days last December he experienced the birth of his daughter, Madison, and the death of his father, Robert Owens. He alternated from joy with the birth of his second child to sorrow to the death of his father, who was 64.

He could not go to his escape on the football field because he was dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him out of six games last season. He used the word “funk” to describe what was happening.

“Life,” he said. “Not being able to play football because you’re injured. You got people saying this and people saying that, so now you’ve got so much pressure and you can feel it from coaches and players. You can feel that pressure and all of a sudden to go back and have somebody close to you taken away from you and you’ve got to deal with that too. It’s hard. You’re family has changed so now you’re the head man in charge and everybody is looking at you now because the head man pretty much died. Then you have a baby. I couldn’t hide from it.”

Time has helped, and, in his mind, he speaks regularly to his father.

"Anybody can feel different, but that’s my belief,” Claiborne said of his conversations. “That’s my feelings.”

He also keeps a tangible part of his father with him -- a rubber Cowboys bracelet. Owens got the bracelet when his son was picked in the first round of the 2012 draft. The Cowboys moved up to the sixth pick to get Claiborne, whom they called their highest-rated defensive back since Deion Sanders.

Claiborne’s first two seasons have not gone the way he wanted, the way the Cowboys wanted or the way the fans wanted. It's not what any of them expected. He intercepted just two passes in his first two seasons. He battled through wrist, shoulder, knee and hamstring injuries. He missed a game with a concussion and busted lip as a rookie.

The confident player that roamed the LSU secondary was replaced by someone unsure of himself.

“I don’t need to really remind him or anyone the commitment we made and the commitment he made,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “He’s got a lot of pride. He’s certainly got some things you can point to the last couple of years. But if he can get out here and be the player, he has the skill level ... (He has to ) work through just this kind of thing (in practice), have good things happen, get tired, have things go against him a couple of plays, if he can work through that, he’ll be an improved player and be the guy we want to have out there.”

At the first team meeting of camp, coach Jason Garrett highlighted Claiborne’s work in individual drills to the rest of the team.

“His approach mentally has been outstanding and I think it’s going to reflect in his play,” Garrett said.

One practice does not reflect a complete change, and Claiborne knows it. It’s about doing his job every day, which is something he learned from his father.

“I feel like I have something to prove to myself,” Claiborne said. “It starts with myself. I have to prove it to myself. I’m very comfortable where I’m at now.”

Cowboys wake-up call: Day 5

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
9:00
AM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- Every day of Dallas Cowboys training camp we’ll offer up a wake-up call that offers a quick review of the previous day and a preview of the current day.

Today’s schedule: The Cowboys will have their first off day of camp before returning to practice on Tuesday. Their second off day comes on Friday as they try to maximize their work before the Aug. 7 preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers with their mandatory practice schedule.

More observations from Sunday’s practice:
  • On Saturday Jeremy Mincey learned how strong Tyron Smith’s hands were in a one-on-one pass rush drill in front of the entire team. On Sunday he got a little revenge, swatting Smith’s hands on an outside pass rush move to get to the quarterback in offensive line-defensive line drills. On the next rep, Mincey was able to use his power to back Smith up in the pocket.
  • Running back Lance Dunbar showed just how quick he was in space by leaving rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens grasping for air in one-on-one drills.
  • After getting beat by Terrance Williams for a completion, Morris Claiborne heard this from secondary coach Jerome Henderson: Come on, got to be intense the whole day.”
  • Can Tony Romo still move? He was able to sprint away from George Selvie’s pressure in team drills to throw the ball away to live another day. It was the first time in two days Romo was forced from the pocket.
What I’m watching: It is the Cowboys first off day of training camp so it might be a movie.

Some of the players might be off to the movies as well.

The Cowboys have had just two days of full-padded practices but league rules require a day off and Jason Garrett is attempting to adjust the schedule correctly before they play the Chargers.

“Even with pads or no pads you’re still out here running around,” linebacker Bruce Carter said. “It’s still wear and tear on your body. Guys are going hard, so I think it’s a good idea. We had a ton of injuries last year going into the season, so I think it is a good thing.”

Rookie DeMarcus Lawrence will opt for the more veteran move of getting in the ice tub to rejuvenate his legs, but …

“I’m ready to go,” Lawrence said. “If coach tells me to go, I’m going.”

They said it: “It was good to see them out there in shoulder pads and football pads and looking like real football players and I think they competed the right way. I think if you look at a lot of the different competitive parts of practice it was really impressive. Not to say that it’s any good yet, because it’s not, but the approach is right and we’re going about it the right way and we have guys on this football team who love to play and love to compete against each other and that’s going to be good for everybody in the long run.” -- Jason Garrett on the Cowboys’ first practice in pads.

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
8:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)


Romo's health will be something that will be monitored throughout camp and perhaps it could force the Cowboys to carry a third quarterback on the 53-man roster as insurance. That would benefit Caleb Hanie, who joined the team in April, or undrafted rooke Dustin Vaughan. The Cowboys haven't kept three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster since 2011, but they don't want to get caught needing a quarterback if something were to happen to Romo and Weeden had to start. For now, however, the plan is to stick with two on the 53.

RUNNING BACKS (4)



Murray had a fumble on his second carry of team drills, but ball security has not been an issue for him in his career. Dunbar has shown up well. Randle's vision and quick feet give him an edge, to me, in this system. He makes it to the hole quicker than Ryan Williams, who is built a little more powerfully. Both players will have to work on pass protection. The fullback role remains in Clutts' possession. It's been too early to see much from the fullbacks.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)


These five remain unchanged, but Jamar Newsome bears some watching as camp goes on. He looks the part. He has decent speed and he has decent hands. It will be interesting to see how he handles the preseason games.

TIGHT ENDS (3)



The Cowboys added Dallas Walker before coming to camp, but he is more about saving the legs of the top three guys. There is a clear gap from Hanna and Walker and Jordan Najvar. I believe the Cowboys will still be looking for more of a blocker as camp goes on.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)


Nwaneri takes the final spot over Brian Clarke from the first projection to open camp. This will likely flip flop throughout camp and the preseason. A lot of it will depend on injuries among the top eight linemen and cost. If a younger player emerges, like Clarke or Ronald Patrick, then they could win that last spot. Leary is battling a hamstring strain that has kept him out the first few days of camp, so Bernadeau is getting the jump on the left guard position with the first team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

Sticking with the same 10 players for now. Gardner injured his shoulder in the first practice and could need some time to heal before he gets back to practice. That could hurt his chances and help somebody like a Ben Bass or Caesar Rayford. Coleman could be the latest of the Cowboys' undrafted finds. He is active but before we get too carried away we need to see how he performs against better than backup competition.

LINEBACKER (7)

I don't like carrying seven linebackers right now, but I'm sticking with it. McClain took second-team middle linebacker snaps, which was surprising considering he was not with the club in the offseason. The Cowboys will give him every chance to show his potential and are hoping the talent is there. He made a tackle on his first snap in team run drills, shaking off a block and bringing down the runner.

CORNERBACK (5)


Carr has not been at camp as he tended to his ailing mother. Claiborne came out as fired up as he had been in his first two years on the first practice. He knows the importance of the season. For now I've got five corners, but I'm going to look to see if it is worth keeping a sixth. Tyler Patmon and B.W. Webb would be in that mix.

SAFETY (5)

Dixon gets the final spot, but he would be out if I do go with six corners for the next projection. And he also needs to watch undrafted rookie Ryan Smith. He's splitting time on the third team with Dixon right now. This spot won't shake out until the preseason ends.

SPECIALISTS (3)


No change here. Not sure there will be a change all camp.

Cowboys to be patient with Murray contract

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
10:36
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- The Dallas Cowboys have let it be known they want to sign Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith to long-term contract extensions. They don’t have the same sense of urgency with running back DeMarco Murray.

Murray is entering the final year of his rookie contract, just like Bryant. The Cowboys picked up the fifth-year option on Smith’s deal in the spring for 2015 but want to lock him up before they get to next season.

Just because the Cowboys do not anticipate an extension for Murray does not mean he is not part of their future.

“I think we’ll see kind of how his year goes and go from there,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “He’s the type of player we want on our team. He’s young and he had a good year last year. But I’d imagine that he’s going to have a great year too and I hope he does.”

Murray ran for 1,121 yards last year and was added to the Pro Bowl despite missing two games. He has yet to play a full season, but he is critical to the Cowboys’ success. The Cowboys are 11-0 when he receives 20 or more carries.

But he plays a position that has been de-valued in recent years. The largest free-agent contract signed in the offseason averaged $3.5 million a year. The last time the Cowboys paid a running back big money was Marion Barber, who signed a seven-year deal worth $45 million that included $16 million guaranteed in 2008. The Cowboys cut Barber after the 2010 season.

Jones said contract decisions are made on individual basis, not on how good or bad a deal worked with a player at the same position in the past.

“Running backs, that’s kind of evolved in this league,” Jones said. “It’s tough for running backs to have a lot of longevity. But there’s ones that do. DeMarco is a leader. He takes good care of himself. I think his best football is ahead of him.”

Cowboys Camp Report: Day 4

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
10:20
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Dallas Cowboys training camp:
  • Tony Romo averaged just 7.2 yards per attempt in 2013 as the field shrunk on the Cowboys. Through two padded practices Romo is looking to get the ball down the field. On the first play of team drills he connected with Dez Bryant on a deep ball after Bryant left cornerback Morris Claiborne. In seven-on-seven drills he led Terrance Williams for a big gain with Williams out-jumping B.W. Webb for the completion and getting his feet down before he went out of bounds. In team and seven-on-seven drills Romo completed 13-of-17 passes. He was intercepted for the first time in camp when Devin Street slipped, allowing Sterling Moore to make the pick.
  • DeMarco Murray showed a burst of speed on a run up the middle of the Cowboys’ nickel defense that had running backs coach Gary Brown oohing and aahing. After seeing the hole open in front of him, Murray accelerated through the line untouched and then received some down-field blocking help from Bryant. Later in third-down drills, Murray caught a Romo dump off for a first down working his way through cornerback Orlando Scandrick for the pickup.
  • Injuries are always a worry early in camp and the Cowboys lost Matt Johnson (hamstring), Terrell McClain (ankle) and DeVonte Holloman (dehydration), and it could have been worse. Safety Jeff Heath jammed his right wrist while attempting to tackle Lance Dunbar on a run. He was examined by the medical staff and was able to return after a tape job. Bruce Carter left briefly during one-on-one drills with a sore knee but he returned and said after practice he was OK.
  • There could be something of a rotation in the battle to be the Cowboys’ third running back. Ryan Williams took the third-team snaps over Joseph Randle, who took that work on Saturday. Williams showed great patience on a screen pass from Brandon Weeden in third-down drills. He nearly came up with a Dustin Vaughan throw on a wheel route after beating linebacker Dontavis Sapp down the sideline, but the pass was just out of his diving reach.
  • Dan Bailey made five of six kicks in his first live work of training camp. Bailey made kicks from 34, 38, 41, 44 and 48 yards. His one miss came from 51 yards in which he hooked the ball left. An interesting note with the first-team field goal protection team: center Travis Frederick lined up as the left wing. Normally that position has been reserved for a tight end or defensive lineman. And for some reason the Cowboys keep Witten on the field goal unit as the right wing.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Head coach Jason Garrett pretty much guaranteed an elite performance by Dez Bryant during Sunday’s practice.

Bryant
Bryant
Garrett made sure to get under Bryant’s skin the previous afternoon, throwing another log on the Pro Bowl receiver’s competitive fire. The head coach loudly provided some intentionally inaccurate color commentary after Bryant got wide open but was overthrown on a pass during 1-on-1s, barking that cornerback Orlando Scandrick had kicked Bryant’s butt on the rep.

“I had my reasons for saying what I said, and so, Dez Bryant’s going to be ready to go today,” Garrett said before Sunday’s practice. “Trust me.”

Not exactly a bold prediction, but it proved to be true.

Bryant actually got off to a bit of a slow start in 1-on-1s, as cornerback Morris Claiborne had pass breakups on their first two reps. Claiborne would have been called for holding on a curl route, but he made a nice play to bat away a deep ball on the second throw.

That didn’t sit well with Bryant, who responded in spectacular fashion, torching Claiborne on a slant-and-go the next time they matched up.

Claiborne was toast as soon as Bryant made the double move, having bitten hard on the slant. Claiborne was at least 15 yards behind Bryant as he caught the pass and sprinted into the end zone.

In team drills later in the practice, Bryant put another highlight on the reel at Claiborne’s expense, burning him on a go route for what would have been another long score.

Claiborne had taunted Terrance Williams during 1-on-1 drills Saturday, shouting that they better bring Bryant over to compete against him.

Be careful what you wish for, especially after the head coach has been talking trash to the No. 1 receiver.

Matt Johnson hurts hamstring again

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
9:55
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- Once again Matt Johnson was unable to make it through a training camp practice because of a hamstring injury.

Johnson has been beset by hamstring injuries since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. He missed most of his rookie season with recurring hamstring injuries. He missed most of the offseason program in the spring with a hamstring injury. He has yet to play in a regular-season game.

“You hate it for Matt,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “He’s done everything right. ... I’m sure no one is more frustrated than him.”

The severity of the injury is not known. He got hurt in team pursuit drills in the early part of Sunday’s practice. He immediately grabbed his leg and was checked out by an athletic trainer before heading inside for the day.

Johnson wasn’t the only injury. Defensive tackle Terrell McClain left early with an ankle sprain. DeVonte Holloman was having dehydration issues. Linebacker Will Smith (groin) and offensive lineman Darius Morris (hamstring) did not practice.

The Cowboys have their first off-day of training camp on Monday.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Three thoughts on Day 4 of Dallas Cowboys' training camp:

1) It was one play, just about as meaningless as can be, considering it was the first day players wore pads, but Morris Claiborne wanted to establish a tone.

Claiborne
First, he locked down Terrance Williams, forcing an incompletion. Then he jumped up and started woofing. Eventually, the players were separated.

It was the first time since he arrived that we’ve seen that type of feistiness from Claiborne.

Hey, whatever it takes. He’s been the epitome of a bust his first two seasons, allowing 70 completions in 117 attempts with only two interceptions and 13 pass deflections.

For a guy who was supposed to be the best defensive player in the 2012 draft that’s not nearly good enough.

Jason Garrett said he’s improved significantly during the offseason. It’s time for him to take it to the field.

Better secondary play is the fastest way for this defense to improve, since their pass rush remains suspect.

Smith
2) The Cowboys are moving closer to a long-term agreement with left tackle Tyron Smith, who’s going to deserve every nickel of whatever he gets.

Smith is man-handling the defensive ends on this roster, the way DeMarcus Ware used to destroy tackles, including Smith, during training camp.

Smith is only 23, so don’t be surprised if he signs a deal that’s nine or 10 years long. When he does, it’ll be interesting to see if Dez Bryant can continue to ignore his contract situation and play well.

After all, the club has already taken care of Sean Lee, who was drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft. Bryant was the Cowboys’ first-round pick.

3) Kyle Wilber spent his first two seasons bouncing around between outside linebacker in the 3-4 and weakside defensive end.

Injuries last season created some playing time for him at strongside linebacker and the Cowboys suddenly found a player.

Wilber has the strength to hold the edge and consistently force running plays inside, in part because of the time he spent at defensive end, and he made several important plays for the Cowboys last season.

He finished the season with 44 tackles and two sacks, while starting six games.

34

The Cowboys were tied for 25th in the NFL with 34 sacks. Only five teams had fewer.

Their sack total was 10 fewer than the average 2013 playoff team.

Teams that don’t get many sacks often say they’re overrated. Well, they’re not. Pressure is good, but sacks are a momentum-changer and usually result in a punt at the end of the drive.

You must rush the passer and put quarterbacks under duress, or it’s hard to force turnovers and win games.

The Cowboys are counting on defensive Henry Melton, who missed the last 13 games with a torn ACL, to provide pressure up the middle. He has been a terrific pass-rusher, and they need him to command double teams to help other players get to the quarterback.

Player to Watch: Gavin Escobar

The Cowboys wasted Escobar’s rookie season. Hopefully, they’ve learned their lesson.

It’s dumb to ask a tight end who should excel at working from the slot and creating mismatches with his size to be the same type of player as Jason Witten.

Escobar can help this team by making plays downfield and giving Tony Romo one more vertical threat.

He caught nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He can be a playmaker, if Scott Linehan gives him a chance to do it. If not, he’ll be a wasted pick.

Rod Marinelli's love of football

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
3:00
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- Rod Marinelli never had a backup plan. He was going to be a football coach.

The Dallas Cowboys’ defensive coordinator is in his 19th season in the NFL and second with the Cowboys. He has been coaching since 1973.

What would he be doing if he wasn’t on an Oxnard, California, practice field at the end of July?

“Doing this,” Marinelli said. “Free some place.”

He turned 65 on July 13 and he inherits a defense that was last in the league. Others might blink and shy away from the opportunity, but Marinelli embraces it. He wants his players to embrace it. The last time he was a defensive coordinator he had Pro Bowlers like Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers, Tim Jennings and Henry Melton.

With the Cowboys the only Pro Bowler he has is Melton, who is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. There are questions at every level of the Cowboys’ defense, but nothing can take away the juice he gets from being on a field.

“I love practice,” Marinelli said. “I love the physicalness. I love the fundamentals. I love the competition. And you like to see men grow and develop. That’s as much as anything. And then the schematics of it. It’s fun. I mean it’s all good. It’s a great sport.”

He might walk slowly but it does not hinder the energy he has in practice or the feelings his players have for him. Marinelli was one of the main reasons Melton chose to sign as a free agent with the Cowboys.

“He’s got the credentials and he actually cares for you, not just as a football player but as a man,” Melton said. “Even in the offseason, not necessarily call or text about football, it would be about family. He actually cares about your success.”

Marinelli said he coaches the man first, the player second.

“Responsibility, accountability, all those things first,” Marinelli said.

Marinelli and the Cowboys hope that approach leads to results. He is in the final year of his deal with the Cowboys, but he knows he will be coaching somewhere in 2015 if he is not back with the Cowboys. Retirement is not in his mind.

“I don’t think that far,” Marinelli said. “I don’t. I like it. I can’t tell you, but I just like it. I can’t see being home, my gosh.”
OXNARD, Calif. -- Cole Beasley wants to prove he’s more than just a slot receiver after feeling like he’s been pigeonholed in his NFL career.

“That comes with being 5-8 and 175 pounds,” Beasley said.

 The Cowboys plan to give Beasley every opportunity to prove he can make plays as an outside receiver. It’s not just about expanding the role of a receiver who emerged as a significant contributor in his second NFL season, catching 39 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns. If Beasley can do more than just play in the slot, it opens up possibilities for the Cowboys coaches to create mismatches with their most dangerous weapon.

For the first few seasons of his NFL career, the Cowboys featured Dez Bryant solely as the X receiver, keeping his role as simple as possible. They moved him around some last season, and he’s mentally prepared for much more of that entering his fifth year, often working out of the slot in three-receiver sets with Beasley outside.

“I think there’s really no limit on what we can do with him, and I believe that,” receivers coach Derek Dooley said. “We started moving him around last year, and that’s the only way to continue to get him the production that he needs to get because defensive coordinators are too good. If they know where he’s going to be, it’s going to be a long Sunday.

“So the sky’s the limit. It’s a matter of repping. To your point, moving him into the slot, we’ve got to figure out what Cole’s role is, so that’s what we’re working through right now.”

It’s a challenge that Beasley embraces.

“I’d just say [I am] more confident after being in the last two seasons and getting some time to actually play,” Beasley said. “Knowing I can do it and knowing how good I can be, that really excites me. I wouldn’t say I’m a different player. I’d just say with more opportunities, I’ll get better and better.”

Rolando McClain impressive in debut

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
12:00
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- Linebacker Rolando McClain got thrown right into the fire in his return from retirement.

There was no acclimation period for McClain, the 25-year-old former eighth overall pick who sat out last season and missed the first two practices of the Dallas Cowboys' training camp to attend his trial on two misdemeanor charges in Alabama. He put on the pads Saturday afternoon and got to thumping.

In fact, McClain hit a little too hard on his first rep of team drills, tackling running back Lance Dunbar to the ground, something that isn’t supposed to happen in practice.

The 6-foot-4, 259-pound McClain worked as the second-team middle linebacker but will have every opportunity to win the starting job with Sean Lee out for the season. McClain displayed the talent on that snap that made the Cowboys decide he’s worth the risk despite his red flags. He shed a block by tight end James Hanna and stuffed Dunbar for a short loss.

“I was glad to see him,” owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. “I was impressed that they put him right in. I really thought they might ease him in, might need to since he hadn’t had OTAs, hadn’t had the kind of drills. The deal with him, and because of the issue retiring, what you want to see is what you were seeing when he wasn’t in the drill. He was back over there, his body language was great.”

Nobody has ever questioned McClain’s ability. He’s big, athletic and has great “functional intelligence,” as linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said. It’s his commitment, or lack thereof, and off-field behavior that has derailed his career to this point.

Those are also the reasons the Cowboys were able to get McClain, whose most notable stats since leaving Alabama are two retirements and three arrests, for next to nothing. “An excellent signing,” Jones called it.

“We have such a need with our linebacker and here you got a guy that has shown up enough to be drafted in the first round and has shown he was certainly a top college player and he’s shown flashes of that while he’s been in the pros,” Jones said. “That’s good opportunity when you’re in this business to be able to go get a guy that has that kind of skill and those kinds of issues. You don’t get them if they’re free of issues.”

Lance Dunbar still carries undrafted chip

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
10:00
AM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- In some ways Lance Dunbar still carries himself as an undrafted running back from North Texas.

It doesn’t matter that this is his third training camp with the Dallas Cowboys. It doesn’t matter that he already has a role as the third-down back. It doesn’t matter that he could be a core player on special teams.

Dunbar
“I wouldn’t say I like it that way better, but it kind of pushes me, made me work harder, made me the guy I am today,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar is not established the way DeMarco Murray is established. He had just 30 carries last season and caught just seven passes before suffering a knee injury last Thanksgiving against the Oakland Raiders. But it was what Dunbar did in that game -- 12 carries, 82 yards; one catch, 12 yards -- that has many intrigued about his role in 2014.

“This league has kind of evolved into a two-back type league, meaning two marquee backs instead of that one bell cow,” coach Jason Garrett said. “That was the case in this league for a number of years, but very few teams have that one guy who is going to get it 25 times a game. We want to make sure DeMarco Murray gets his touches. We play well on offense, we play well as a team when we hand him the football so we’ll keep trying to do that, keep trying to get him the ball in the passing game too. But anybody who has followed our football team the last couple of years sees that Lance Dunbar can contribute and he continues to get better and better.”

Dunbar’s recovery from knee surgery went better than anybody could have expected. He was not limited in his offseason work and there won’t be any rest in training camp. Garrett said the scores Dunbar put up on tests – benching, squatting, change of direction drills, vertical jump - this spring were better than they were a year ago.

“I couldn’t feel sorry myself,” Dunbar said. “I had to do it myself to get better each and every day. I just pushed myself and I came back stronger and a better player.”

Cowboys wake-up call: Day 4

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
8:00
AM ET
OXNARD, Calif. – Every day of Dallas Cowboys training camp, we’ll offer up a wake-up call that offers a quick review of the previous day and a preview of the current day.

Today’s schedule: Coming off their first practice in pads, the Cowboys will not have a walk-through this morning with their second full-padded practice scheduled for 3:45 p.m. PT.

More observations from Saturday’s practice:
  • Coach Jason Garrett likes to break up practice with some one-on-one drills between the offense and defense. After the first day in pads, the offense and defense have one win apiece. Orlando Scandrick won his matchup with Dez Bryant in part because the receiver pushed off and should have been called for a penalty. And the pass from Tony Romo was incomplete. The offense got its redemption when left tackle Tyron Smith smothered Jeremy Mincey in a pass-rush drill.
  • Romo
    Romo completed 7 of 8 passes in seven-on-seven drills, with his only incompletion coming after tight end James Hanna floated too far to his left on a check-down. Romo pump-faked, which drew Hanna a little outside, but the pass went inside.
  • Wide receiver Cole Beasley had a good first day in pads. The defense could not stay with him in the slot. His best catch came after Romo had to throw around linebacker DeVonte Holloman. Beasley was able to adjust and make a diving catch.
What I’m watching: With Romo coming back from his first full practice since back surgery, he will be on this list for a while. How will he recover in Day 2 with pads? If Romo has some soreness, then he will make the call as to how much or how little he practices.

With how emotional Morris Claiborne was early in practice and how drained he was at the end, how will he recover in his second day? Claiborne understands how important this season is to him and came out fired up in one-on-one drills against Terrance Williams. But he expended too much energy and was cramping up by the end of the workout.

A big key to the Cowboys’ success this year will be the pass rush. Where will it come from? The Cowboys do not have a healthy pass-rusher with a double-digit sacks season to their credit. Sometimes the one-on-one pass-rush drills become unrealistic because of the paths the defenders take to the quarterback, but Mincey, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and George Selvie will be under the microscope.

They said it: “Life is about struggling. Life is about getting knocked down. You’ve just got to get back up. These things I’ve been going through, it’s no different than anything else I went through in life from a young age. So it’s just adversity. You learn to fight through it. Help you grow. Become a better man from it. I just learned you’ve got to take it for what it is. It’s a great opportunity. You just think about how many kids from your neighborhood say they’ve got a dream; they want to play in the NFL. I’ve got great God-given ability, football \-wise. I feel like I’ve got another talent, just being able to touch some younger kids with my time away. I realize I like coaching. I like being able to give back to the guys, just being around the university. I feel like I’ve got some knowledge and they want to listen. You want to be that person. You don’t want to be a distraction to any team.” – linebacker Rolando McClain

Dez watch: Couple of circus catches

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
10:45
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- You can pretty much count on a couple of circus catches by Dez Bryant per training camp practice.

No. 88 met his quota during the first full-speed practice of the Dallas Cowboys' camp this season.

Both of Bryant’s “wow” moments were leaping catches over cornerbacks on deep balls from Tony Romo. The plays made the crowd ooh and ahh, but they seem almost routine for a guy who is arguably the best jump-ball receiver in the NFL.

The first came on a deep fade route down the right sideline in a 1-on-1 rep against Sterling Moore. Romo threw the ball high and to Bryant’s outside shoulder, allowing the Pro Bowl receiver to soar over Moore to make the catch then continue sprinting down the sideline.

The second came on a go route down the left sideline against Morris Claiborne in 7-on-7 drills. Both players went up high for the ball, but the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bryant overpowered and outjumped the 5-foot-11, 192-pound Claiborne.

“I mean, a big guy like that, once he’s exploding in the air and he’s already looking back at the ball, it’s hard,” Claiborne said. “But it’s good competition at the end of the day.”

It’s good entertainment, too.

Cowboys Camp Report: Day 3

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
10:39
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Dallas Cowboys training camp:
  • All eyes were on Tony Romo as he practiced in pads for the first time since Week 16 last season because of a back injury. Romo completed nine of 12 passes in team and seven-on-seven drills. The offense attacked downfield with Romo opening the seven-on-seven drills with a back-shoulder throw down the seam to tight end Jason Witten. He connected with Dez Bryant on a deep ball in seven-on-seven drills but overshot Bryant on a deep throw in team drills.
  • The Cowboys threw Rolando McClain into the action right away. He took some of the second-team middle linebacker snaps despite not being acquired until earlier this month and missing the first two days of camp to stand trial in Alabama. On his first play in team run drill, McClain shrugged off tight end James Hanna and tackled running back Lance Dunbar for a short gain. McClain’s conditioning will have to be watched since he was not in football during the spring.
  • Owner and general manager Jerry Jones was impressed with the work of defensive tackle Henry Melton. The Cowboys will limit his work in team drills as works his way back into form from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. After one play defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli yelled, “Go to the ball, Henry. Every play is your play.”
  • Rookie defensive end Ben Gardner suffered a shoulder injury in practice and will have an MRI. He was the only player injured in camp. During the pre-practice festivities a Cowboys cheerleader suffered a knee injury and needed to be carted off the field.
  • Like they did in the June minicamp, the offensive and defensive linemen were required to wear knee braces. The Cowboys want to limit the possibility of injuries with players falling to the ground. The offensive linemen are more accustomed to wearing the braces. The second the first-team defenders were done with team drills they unfastened their braces.

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