Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden preview the "Monday Night Football" matchup between the Redskins and Cowboys.
IRVING, Texas -- For the first time this season, Dallas Cowboys defensive end Anthony Spencer went through every day of practice leading into a game.

Spencer had been sitting out the “Friday” practices that are typically red-zone and short-yardage days to give his surgically repaired knee a day of rest. Spencer missed all but one game last season and all of training camp this summer as he recovered from microfracture surgery.

He is still looking for his first sack after four games but has been credited with eight tackles and four quarterback pressures.

He is listed as probable for Monday’s game against the Washington Redskins.

“We just believe in practice,” coach Jason Garrett said. “It’s important for guys to get back to practice. You’re obviously trying to get them to be ready for Sunday, and there’s a lot of different ways to do that, but the base way to do that is to make sure they practice as much as they can. We have different guys with different injuries that you have to monitor and work out what the best schedule is, but for the most part we want guys out there practicing regardless of how much you played and we want to make sure we do that with Spence this week.”

Right tackle Doug Free will miss his second straight game with a small fracture in his right foot. The initial diagnosis was that Free would need 3-4 weeks to recover from the injury suffered late in the win against the Seattle Seahawks two weeks ago.

“We’ll see how he is next week when we start off on Wednesday and we’ll go from there,” Garrett said. “Initially it was a three- or four-week type thing. He traditionally heals fast. He’s a tough guy, and we feel like he’s coming back relatively well. We’ll just see how he does next week when we start practicing again.”

Linebacker Bruce Carter, who has missed the last three games with a quadriceps injury, is probable for Monday night, as are: quarterback Tony Romo (back), tackle Jermey Parnell (chest), wide receiver Dez Bryant (shoulder) and safety Jakar Hamilton. Defensive end Jack Crawford will miss his third straight game with a calf injury.
IRVING, Texas -- Orlando Scandrick was disappointed when New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was lost for the season because of a knee injury and could not play last week against the Dallas Cowboys.

Scandrick wants to compete against the best. On ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” this week, Scandrick will get the chance to compete against a longtime NFC East foe, DeSean Jackson, who is in his first season with the Washington Redskins.

In 10 career games against the Cowboys, Jackson has 35 catches for 663 yards but just one touchdown.

After missing the first two games of the season due to a suspension, Scandrick has solidified the Cowboys’ secondary. He has an interception and four pass breakups, playing equally as well in the slot as outside.

“O can really cover now,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “He’s good at man to man. He’s a good zone player. He’s just to me really emerging. He’s a terrific tackler, great instincts and he’s good inside. You just see him growing and growing as a player.”

Scandrick came to the Cowboys with a chip on his shoulder as a fifth-round pick in 2008. He outlasted 2008 first-rounder Mike Jenkins and beat out 2012 first-rounder Morris Claiborne. The edginess Scandrick had when he showed up has not dissipated.

“He is a physical player,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He is aware. He is instinctive. He seems to be around the ball a lot. I just think he's gotten better and better. He has a lot of confidence defending inside and outside. He's got a lot of athletic ability. He is long. He's quick. Again, his instincts for the game are probably his best trait.”

Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 2

October, 25, 2014
Oct 25
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready. In it we discuss: If you want to see Part 1, click here. Away we go:

@toddarcher: He should be at the top of the discussion. I think he should be the guy so far. The Cowboys had no expectations. Even the most ardent supporter, Jerry Jones, wasn't willing to go out on a limb and predict much at the start of the season. He acknowledged things will be a challenge this year. So Garrett deserves a ton of credit for the team's start, the team's approach and the team's ability to overcome. They are all things he has stressed since taking over. But I don't think he would be the only candidate. Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians and Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell deserve some talk too. I don't know that those guys have done a better job than Garrett, but they would deserve attention too. But again, the Cowboys had the lowest expectations of those three teams, to me, at the start of the season, so Garrett would get my vote. And I don't have a vote.

@toddarcher: I don't want to knock what DeMarco Murray has done. No other running back in the history of the game has come up with seven straight 100-yard games to open a season, so he deserves everything he is getting. I wouldn't think you could plug in any back in there and do something like that. But I do think the Cowboys would have a good but not great running game without him. I wondered this a few weeks ago: Would Joseph Randle get 1,200 yards behind this line? Perhaps. Mike Shanahan used to be able to plug in backs every year and get 1,000-yard seasons out of them, but he didn't have a special team without Terrell Davis. He had a good run with Clinton Portis until he traded him. He had a good runner in Washington too with Alfred Morris. There is something to be said for having system backs, but I think Murray is more than just a system back.

@toddarcher: Why shouldn't he get praised? You can't kill him only when things go poorly and say he has no clue as to what he is doing and then ignore the good. That would be hypocritical. He deserves credit. Maybe not all the credit, just as he shouldn't shoulder all the blame either. I've said this before, but he is not a general manager the way, say, Ron Wolf, was a general manager. Jerry takes the consensus and makes decisions. He designates people to bring him the information, listens to them and makes a decision. Sometimes he will go off on his own, but there are a lot of times he doesn't. The Zack Martin decision stands out as an example. He is a product mostly of the information he gets from the personnel department. When they hit on players, Jerry hits on players. Criticize the structure the Cowboys have in place, but with the success of the team's current run, Jones deserves credit too.

@toddarcher: They won't get any compensatory pick for DeMarcus Ware. They cut him. They could get a compensatory pick for losing Jason Hatcher as an unrestricted free agent. The Cowboys' signing of Henry Melton could mitigate just how high of a pick it is, but they should get something for Hatcher. That is always something lost when we talk about teams not re-signing free agents. There is a convoluted formula the league uses to figure out compensatory picks based on players lost, players signed and how those players fared, but teams can earn extra picks if they work the free-agent market wisely. Even if it's just a sixth-round pick, the Cowboys would be able to make up a pick they will likely lose to the Tennessee Titans for the Lavar Edwards trade.

@toddarcher: It's kind of the great unknown. He has not played in a football game since December 2012. He has only been around the Cowboys for about a month. Despite all the working out he did on his own, it wasn't going to be as productive as it would be under the team's watch. I think we need to be careful, however, in expecting too much from Brent. He was solid. He was good. But that was a long time ago in terms of football time and it came in a different scheme. He will have about four weeks of practice before the Cowboys make up their mind. He can start practicing next week and up through the team's game in London. Then the Cowboys can seek another two-week roster exemption. They should use all the time necessary to make sure Brent is not only in good shape but in decent football shape before getting him in a game. As far as pass rush, don't expect much. He is not that type of player. If he can help shore up the run defense, then that should be considered a bonus. 

DeMarco Murray's 3-4 success in focus

October, 25, 2014
Oct 25
IRVING, Texas -- Monday's game against the Washington Redskins will be the fifth time the Dallas Cowboys have seen a 3-4 defense.

While DeMarco Murray has run well regardless of the defensive front he has seen this season, he has had incredible success against 3-4 schemes.

Against the San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans, Murray has 106 carries for 570 yards.

"There are some similarities but the players are different, the scheme is always different," Murray said. "We've had a lot of 3-4 teams this year so we're used to it. A lot of our previous games we've had some success against it but it's definitely hard to go against. They have some great players on the other side. We'll have our hands full and we're excited about the challenge."

Not all 3-4 defenses are created equal. Coach Jason Garrett said the key is to trace the roots of Jim Haslett's defense. Like a lot of 3-4 schemes, it goes back to Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. So too does the 3-4 San Francisco used, as well as the 3-4 the Titans used, but the Redskins' defense is more like the Titans in how defenders move around.

"The way they play their techniques up front are similar to what we've seen at different points this year and certainly similar to what we've seen from them in the past," Garrett said. "They're not all the same. I think you have to understand what the nuances are and attack it with that knowledge."

Past success can often predict future success, but center Travis Frederick does not look at it that way.

"It gives us something to look back at and get better and improve upon, but you're starting from zero every game," Frederick said. "Every game is different, and every team is different."

Todd Archer and Jean-Jacques Taylor discuss why the Dallas Cowboys have been a big offensive threat this season.
IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray deflects questions about the amount of work he has received this season like defenders.

He doesn’t much care that he is 31 carries away from the most he has had in a season and that Monday’s game against the Washington Redskins is just the eighth game of the season. He says his body feels good.

Part of it has to do with what he did in the offseason. Starting in March, before the official beginning of the Cowboys’ offseason program, Murray became Jason Witten’s workout partner. For the next two months they were together at Valley Ranch for hours, running, lifting and sweating.

“It helped a lot, obviously with the stamina aspect just building a good armor for your body so you can take some hits and take the pounding of a long season,” Murray said. “He's done it for a long time and he's someone who has had a lot of success in this league and he knows what to do to take care of your body in season and out of season, so it helped extremely a lot and I have to thank him and we're still working together.”

Witten has missed one game in his career. Witten has played in 178 straight games, the longest active streak for a position player.

“I just asked him one day,” Witten said. “Don’t remember exactly how it went down, but we’re going to work out together.”

In every way, Witten is the conscience of the Cowboys. He is their leader. Murray called him “the big dog.”

“I couldn’t say no,” Murray said.

No player has caught more passes as a Cowboy than Witten. He has played in nine Pro Bowls. Not only does he not miss games, he does not miss practices, either.

Murray has missed 11 games in his first three seasons with ankle, foot and knee injuries. He missed a day of practice last week because he was ill. He sprained an ankle in the second quarter of last week’s victory against the New York Giants but finished the game with 128 yards on 28 carries.

Witten turned 32 in May, in the middle of the offseason. Murray is 26.

“I knew it was good for me to be with a young guy that can push you,” Witten said. “Obviously he’s physically talented. I kind of known that was the way our team was going and what we were trying to mold ourselves into. Even since he’s been a rookie, he’s always kind of latched on to certain people and asked questions, eager to learn. The thing I like about him since an early age was you could always see that he wanted to be really, really good. He had a great offseason. There were many days where I was really sore and we’d come in and say, ‘Are you sore?’ And he’d tell me, ‘Nah, not really. What about you?’ ‘Nah, I feel all right.’ He’s everything you want in a teammate from that standpoint. It was good to work out with him that way because I kept telling him, November and December this will pay off for us, the work that we put in. You can see it in the way he’s playing.”

Witten is not taking credit for Murray’s season by any stretch, but Murray believes the workouts have made a difference.

Said Murray, “Whenever you talk to a guy like that that's had the success like that and played so long in this league and done some of the things he’s done, you definitely try to take as much information as you possibly can from him.”
IRVING, Texas -- DeMarco Murray insists that he does not care about setting records and hitting milestones.

But his Dallas Cowboys teammates definitely care about Murray making history.

"I'm pretty sure it's not [his goal], because he never talks about it," receiver Dez Bryant said. "Never talks about it at all. But the other guys around him, we all notice it and think about it. That's why we practice hard, so we can give him that opportunity to reach that. That's a big deal."

Murray has already broken Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown's record for 100-yard games to start a season with seven. He's halfway to Barry Sanders' record of 14 consecutive 100-yard games.

Emmitt Smith's franchise record for rushing yards in a season (1,773 yards) is well within the sights of Murray, who has gained 913 yards through seven games. He's on pace for 2,087 yards, so he could challenge Eric Dickerson's NFL record of 2,105 yards.

Only seven backs in NFL history have broken the 2,000-yard barrier.

"I think he can do it," Bryant said of Murray. "I honestly think he can do it."

Jakar Hamilton returns to practice

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys safety Jakar Hamilton returned to practice Friday after attending the funeral of his cousin.

"Pushing through it one day at a time," Hamilton said after practice.

Hamilton hasn't played in a game after serving his four-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy.

Defensive end Anthony Spencer was a limited participant in Friday's practice with a sprained foot. Tackle Doug Free (foot) and defensive end Jack Crawford (calf) didn't practice and won't play in Monday's game against the Washington Redskins.

Quarterback Tony Romo (back), tackle Jeremy Parnell (chest), wide receiver Dez Bryant (shoulder) and linebacker Bruce Carter (thigh) were full participants.
video's Jean-Jacques Taylor and Calvin Watkins break down the latest Cowboys news entering Week 8.
IRVING, Texas – At some point over the next few days, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and some players will have production meetings with ESPN, leading into the "Monday Night Football" matchup against the Washington Redskins.

Asking those questions and observing practice will be analyst Jon Gruden, who just so happens to be the older brother of the Washington Redskins’ coach, Jay Gruden.

Could that lead to a little awkwardness?

“As you know, we’re probably a little bit guarded with all media people,” Garrett said. “That’s a dynamic that really happens every week. You have to be careful with what you’re sharing with people. You want to certainly help the media do their job as well as they can do it by giving them information, but it’s always short of compromising yourself and creating a competitive disadvantage, so I don’t think it’s different. I know Coach Gruden fairly well. A lot of guys on our staff know him fairly well. He’s a pro. He’s always been a pro, so we don’t think that will be a real issue.”

Jon Gruden coached Garrett for part of the 2004 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has the same Super Bowl XXXVII ring as defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, special-teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and assistant head coach/defense Monte Kiffin.
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said it will be difficult for the franchise to bid on a Super Bowl because of a new rule that says NFL teams that are awarded the championship game will lose a regular-season home game.

"That will put a difficult caveat to our bid," Jones said on 105.3 The Fan on Friday. "We probably will make a bid. They tell you what they want in a bid, but you can make a bid without what they want in a bid. So when you say, 'They're not going to give it to you,' the owners still get to vote. That's pretty much limiting, and our home games are so important to us. At this time, I'm not sure how we'll handle a bid; we'll make a bid for a Super Bowl in the future. But that's a head-scratcher: if I would do it at a cost of a home game."

The Cowboys hosted Super Bowl XL in 2010 between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite a massive ice storm leading up to the game and a seating fiasco that prompted a lawsuit against the league and the Cowboys, the NFL owners did make money.

This year's Super Bowl is in Glendale, Arizona, home of the Arizona Cardinals, and the next available game for a bid is Super Bowl LIII in 2019.

Under these new rules, if an NFL team wins the bid, it will have to play a game in London.

"We're playing Jacksonville in London and we would not have played in that game if it cost us a home game, and we just wouldn't do it, and haven't done it," Jones said, alluding to the Nov. 9 game. "That's not being mean in any way or [not] being a team player. We made too big of a commitment to our fans and to our organization to play our 10 games here."
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys’ health keeps improving.

With quarterback Tony Romo returning to practice after sitting Thursday’s workout, only right tackle Doug Free and defensive end Jack Crawford were missing from practice.

Free is expected to miss two more games with a small fracture in his right foot. Crawford has been battling a strained calf for the last two weeks. Safety Jakar Hamilton returned to practice Friday after missing Thursday’s session to tend to a personal matter.

Linebacker Bruce Carter is practicing for the second straight day, as is defensive end Anthony Spencer, who is looking to practice all three days leading up to a game for the first time this season.

Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is eligible to return Nov. 2 against the Arizona Cardinals and has looked good in practice since he returned last week from a broken foot. Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who started the year on the non-football injury list, is practicing for the second straight day. The Cowboys have until the Nov. 16 bye week to activate him to the 53-man roster, keep him on the non-football injury list or release him.

The Cowboys are keeping a close eye on Okoye, who is attempting a comeback from anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a brain disease that left him in a coma in 2013.

“We’ve certainly got our arms around where he came from and we’ve been very judicious in bringing him back,” Garrett said. “He’s worked very hard to get back. He was a good player when he was playing before and we want to get him back to that level, but it was a good start for him, good to see him in a uniform, moving around as a football player. He’s worked very hard on the side to get himself there and we’ll monitor his progress and see how he’s doing.”

Prediction: Cowboys keep it rolling

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
IRVING, Texas -- This game will be more difficult than people believe. But the Dallas Cowboys are built for “dirty” games. Not dirty in the sense of temperament, but dirty in terms of how they will need to gain yards. DeMarco Murray has been able to handle the dirty work the last two games against the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants while also putting up eight runs of 10 yards or more. Of note: Murray does not have a 100-yard game against the Redskins in five tries.

This will be the Cowboys’ fifth game against a base 3-4 defense. In the first four games, Murray has averaged 26.5 carries and 142.5 yards per game. The Redskins have allowed two 100-yard rushers and were dominated on the ground by the Giants and Seahawks. In the last two games, however, they have held their opponents to 150 yards total on the ground.

But they haven’t faced a running game as committed and as coordinated as the Cowboys’.

The Cowboys have more wins (64) against the Redskins than they have against any other team in the NFL. They’ll make it 65 on Monday.

My prediction: Cowboys 27, Redskins 17

Tony Romo shining in second halves

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
IRVING, Texas -- When Tony Romo's second-half numbers were mentioned to Jason Garrett on Thursday, the Dallas Cowboys coach pointed out that Romo’s four-quarter numbers are pretty good, too.

Garrett is correct. Romo leads the league in completion percentage. He is fourth in quarterback rating and yards per attempt. He has the fifth-most touchdowns. Aside from the three interceptions in the first half of the season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Romo has been pretty good for all four quarters.

It's just that he has been exceptional in the second halves of games.

Romo has the NFL’s best Total QBR at 95.7 in the third and fourth quarters, plus overtime. His 10.1 yards per attempt is first. He has completed 71 percent of his passes, which is second. His eight touchdowns passes are tied for second.

In the second half last week against the New York Giants, Romo completed all nine of his passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.

“I think in the second half, playing teams, you start to get an understanding how they want to attack you,” Romo said. In those possessions, it matters more so with the outcome of the game so you just want to make sure you do things exactly right and go out and execute.”