clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cowboys News & Notes: Cowboys To Unleash Matt Cassel Version 2.0 On Unsuspecting Redskins

Latest Cowboys headlines: Why Matt Cassel will be better second time around; turnover ratio has to improve; Jason Witten' Hall of Fame case.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys, Matt Cassel hoping things are better second time around - Todd Archer, ESPN
Cassel was 0-4 in his first stint as a starter for the Cowboys. Now he gets a second chance to win a game, or five.

But the Cowboys hope the experience Cassel gained by watching Romo in 104 snaps against the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers will help even more. While Romo's performances weren't flawless, they gave Cassel a chance to see how Romo orchestrates things in an offense he knows so well.

When Cassel took over for Romo against the Panthers, he completed 13 of 19 passes for 93 yards and threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Cole Beasley.

"He’s an experienced guy, been around a lot of offenses," coach Jason Garrett said. "He’s played a lot of football, but understanding how we do it and understanding the guys he’s playing with his critical. I think we’ve seen him grow and develop in so many areas over the course of the four games that he played. He got better and better because he was more experienced in this environment."

Why Cassel will be better second time around - Jon Machota, SportsDay
In a recent chat, Machota explained why he expects Cassel to be better in his second stint as the Cowboys' starter.

What do I expect from Matt Cassel? I expect a much more confident player and not only because he now has more experience in this offensive system. I expect him to be better because he has a healthier Dez Bryant who he has been able to throw to in practice. Cassel and Dez being on the same page is huge for this offense. I also think the defense has played better recently. I understand, Cassel's name is next to the 4 losses in the 4 games he started, but it wasn't just his fault. If the defense can force a couple of turnovers and get him some short fields to work with, I think he'll look much improved.

Hasselbeck More Than Makes Up For The Colts' Loss of Luck - Alison Fu, The Sports Quotient
Where Cassel is 0-4, Matt Hasselbeck (who is the oldest non-kicker in the league) is 4-0 as a stand-in for Andrew Luck, though that is an unusual record for a backup QB.

When the franchise quarterback is sidelined, teams often go into disarray (see: Dallas Cowboys) due to the incompetence of the backup. There have been notable exceptions, such as when non-Brandon Weeden backup Steve Beuerlein led the 1991 Cowboys to four straight wins and a playoff berth when Troy Aikman was out with an injury, and when Earl Morrall won nine games backing up Bob Griese in the Miami Dolphin’s history-making 17-0 season.

Cowboys trust in Matt Cassel, hoping finally to win a game with backup QB - Charean Williams, The Star-Telegram
The Cowboys expect that more time in the system will produce better results with Cassel.

"It’s not easy coming in the middle of the movie, so to speak, picking things up the way he has," Linehan said. "He’s worked really hard at it. Then, there was a time period there where Tony was back, where he was able to catch up on some things that we do prior to that that we really didn’t do as far as some of the mechanical things on the line and things like that. He’s way ahead of where he was the first go-round, and that’s a positive for us."

The Cowboys’ hopes, however slim, rest on Cassel’s right shoulder.

"There’s definitely more of a comfort level, I think," Cassel said. "Each week I’ve felt more and more comfortable. But then you also get to step back. You can go back and critique yourself over the last few weeks, and at the same time, get ready to go and step in. But my comfort level from my first start to where I am now is night and day."

More starts can earn Matt Cassel more cash - Todd Archer, ESPN
Because of incentives in his contract for playing time, Matt Cassell could as much as double his salary if he takes enough snaps for the Cowboys.

He has played in 40 percent of the snaps so far this season (290 of 727) and could project to up to 55% over the rest of the season that would earn him an extra $1.2 million.

Cassel will earn $400,000 for 35% of the snaps and $800,000 for 45% of the snaps. He could earn $1.6 million for 65% and $2 million for 75%. If Cassel can reach 60% of the snaps and play in 60% of the snaps of a playoff game, he would earn an extra $150,000.

First things first with Cassel: He needs to win a game.

If things don’t go well, they might want to give Kellen Moore a look at quarterback. It would save them on Cassel’s incentives and allow them to carry over more salary-cap space in 2016.

Back On The Active Roster, Kellen Moore Ready For Any Chance He Gets - David Helman, Dallas Cowboys
Moore is back on the active roster, and Helman writes that with the way things have gone for Dallas quarterbacks this year, perhaps Moore’s opportunity is next.

"Yeah, if it comes to that I’ll be ready," he said. "Obviously, I feel like it’s been a good week. It’s been nice just getting reps – it’s as simple as that. Just getting out there and playing."

As for those clamoring to see him get his shot – be they Boise State fans or not – Moore could only smile.

"Backup quarterbacks are always everyone’s favorite, right?"


Cowboys point to one aspect in explaining why they haven't won without Tony Romo - Brandon George, SportsDay
Blaming all the losses this season on the backup quarterbacks may be convenient, and speculating about what the Cowboys will do at QB in 2016 - or should have done in 2015 - has and will generate a lot of click-baiting headlines, but largely ignores the core issue that has plagued the Cowboys this season:

"The most important statistic for our football team this year has been the turnover ratio," Garrett said. "Regardless of who is playing quarterback for you, if you have success in that area, the chance of you guys having success winning ballgames are high. And certainly if you don't, it's much more difficult to win games. That's one of the best things we did last year, we took the ball away, we were second in the NFL, and obviously we haven't done as good of job at that."

"If we had [forced a turnover] in six of these eight games that we've lost that we had great opportunities to win the game at the end," Garrett said, "it certainly could tip the balance of those games."

Chiefs pile up wins by cutting down on turnovers - Lindsay Jones, USA Today
The Chiefs might be a good example for the Cowboys. They started 1-5, are now 6-5, and are "arguably the hottest team in the NFL heading into December."

So how did the Chiefs get here, from the edge of NFL obscurity in October to relevancy in December? And how did they do it without their best offensive player, running back Jamaal Charles, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament Oct. 11?

The simple answer is turnovers.

Only the undefeated Carolina Panthers, at plus-16, have a better turnover differential than the Chiefs (plus-12). It's a credit to an efficient offense, led by quarterback Alex Smith, and an opportunistic defense that has recorded 14 interceptions and six recovered fumbles. Fourteen of those takeaways have come during the current winning streak.

Smith has thrown only three interceptions — none since Week 3 — a streak of 283 passes, fourth-longest in league history. The Chiefs have also lost only five fumbles, and none during the winning streak.


Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant limited Saturday, but listed as probable - Todd Archer, ESPN
Bryant practiced on Thursday and Friday, but was limited yesterday. Archer writes that may have been more a precaution than anything else.

The Cowboys have looked to manage Bryant’s health since he has been bothered by foot, ankle and knee injuries for most of the season. On Thursday Bryant said this is the best he has felt since the season opener.

During the portion of practice open to the media on Saturday, Bryant did not appear to be limping or troubled at all.

Cowboys add safety Jeff Heath to the injury report - Charean Williams, The Star-Telegram
Jeff Heath is listed as questionable with a shoulder injury for the Redskins game.

Heath has been a big part of the defense the past five games. He played a season-high 50 snaps against the Panthers on Thanksgiving. For the season, Heath has 26 tackles and two interceptions.

Cowboys rookie DE Randy Gregory back near full health, wants first NFL sack - Brandon George, SportsDay
Gregory impressed in the preseason with three sacks and wowed with his performance in the season opener, but a shoulder injury and a high ankle sprain derailed his rookie season.

Dallas Cowboys rookie defensive end Randy Gregory is as healthy as he's been since the season opener and wants more than anything to record his first NFL sack.

How frustrating has it been not to get that first sack?

"It's tough. It really is because I know how much I'm working throughout the week and I expect myself to go out there and produce and I'm not putting up the stats that I feel like I should be doing," Gregory said. "I got to attack it a different way, go back on film and figure out what I'm doing wrong."


Witten Hall of Fame case - Bart Hubbuch, New York Post
Hubbuch makes a case for The Senator.

Jason Witten never has played in a conference championship game, much less a Super Bowl, in 13 NFL seasons. That appears to be the main reason why you rarely see "future Hall of Famer" mentioned in the same sentence with the Cowboys’ tight end.

It’s past time for that to change.

With two catches Monday night in Washington, Witten will join Tony Gonzalez as the only tight ends in NFL history with 1,000 career receptions.

Not only that, but the 33-year-old Witten would become the youngest tight end in history to reach the 1,000-catch mark. The since-retired Gonzalez was 34 when he became the first to crack that barrier.


Morris Claiborne open to return in 2016 - Todd Archer, ESPN
Claiborne is playing out the final five games of his contract in Dallas, but his play this season could land him an offer to stay in Dallas, writes Archer, and it looks like Claiborne is not disinterested in staying.

"I wouldn’t rather be nowhere else," said Claiborne.

The Cowboys have been impressed with Claiborne’s ability to come back from the serious injury and play well in his nine starts this season. He has missed the last two games with ankle and hamstring injuries but will return Monday against the Washington Redskins. He has been credited with 38 tackles and is second on the team with eight pass deflections, but he is still waiting for his first interception.


N.F.L. Playoff Simulator - The New York Times
How can the Cowboys make the N.F.L. playoffs? It’s a simple question, but answering it can be devilishly complicated. The New York Times has released a playoff odds simulator that shows you how every single game can swing a team's playoff odds.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys