clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Dallas Cowboys News And Notes: Witten: Cowboys Starting From Square One

All the news that's fit to link. Today's top storylines: Witten: start from scratch every year; OTA practice reports; young bucks getting better; Dustin Vaughan in a good situation; any future head coaches on Cowboys roster?; Sturm on 2014's sacks.

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Starting today with a piece about starting from scratch seems somehow appropriate.

Witten Not Interested In Building Off Last Year; Wants Team To "Start Over" - Nick Eatman, The Mothership

Although the Cowboys were able to finally get over the proverbial hump last year to record a 12-4 mark, Jason Witten is having none of "building on last year's success" talk. He knows each team starts anew, from scratch:

"To us, I think it’s easier for (media) to say ‘they’re building on something.’" Witten said. "But you don’t build, you start over. You go do it again. When it’s 8-8, you start over. When you’re 12-4, you have to go back and start over again. I think the teams that have done a really good job with Coach Garrett’s message and our guys with the way we work that we’re going to go prove it and get better."

Of course, I'm inclined to agree...


As was the case last week, there are some leftover practice reports...

Dallas Cowboys OTA notes: Lance Dunbar steals show - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Archer posts his thoughts from Wednesday's OTA doings. Here's one shrewd observation:

The Cowboys have not used a dime defense -- six defensive backs -- very much since moving to the 4-3 scheme two years ago, but they were in it a lot on Wednesday. The Cowboys had veteran Orlando Scandrick and rookie Byron Jones working the slots with Brandon Carr and Tyler Patmon working outside with safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox covering the deep part of the field.

Scout’s Eye: Martin’s Adaptability, Early Impressions Of Keith Rivers, More - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership

The Broad One shares a three-fingered handful of observations from Wednesday afternoon's OTA sesh. Here's one of them:

I honestly didn’t give Keith Rivers much of a chance to make this roster, especially after adding other pieces through the draft -- but I have to say I am impressed with the number of snaps that Rivers is getting with the defense as a nickel linebacker...In going back and checking my notes when he was signed, I wrote that I thought one of his best traits was his ability to play with intelligence and use those smarts in coverage. There were several snaps where Rivers was exactly where he needed to be, position-wise, to keep the ball from being thrown underneath. Where Rivers is going to struggle -- and I put this in my notes, as well – is that I just don’t see the quickness or the technique to be an effective blitzer and that was the case on Wednesday.


Devin Street getting chances to grow role; Garrett sees stronger, quicker, faster Cowboys WR - Rainer Sabin, DMN

Sabin writes that, despite his thin stat line, second year WR Devin Street had a good rookie year. As a result, he's poised for a breakout sophomore campaign. Here's his position coach:

"I think he is excited about this opportunity he’s getting with Dez not here," receivers coach Derek Dooley said. "He is a very mature player. He is smart. He understands, but he also wants to be in there like all receivers do. One of the biggest things he needed to improve upon was his play strength, and he’s gotten a lot better in that area. I think he has improved as much as anybody and he still has got a lot of room for improvement ahead of him. He’s doing great five practices in and he needs to stay on that path."

Dallas Cowboys are prepping Lance Dunbar for bigger role as third-down back - Clarence Hill, Star-Telegram

Based on what happened during the two-minute offense period at Wednesday's OTAs, Hill writes that the stage is set for Lance Dunbar to be the team's third-down back. He does make an interesting point:

Dunbar thought he was going to have a role last year and it certainly seemed the Cowboys were prepping him for that in training camp and the preseason when they treated him like a starter by limiting his time in games along with Murray.

But once the season started, it was Murray all the time. Dunbar carried the ball 29 times for 99 yards and had 31 receptions for 309 yards.

A healthy Sean Lee wants to show Dallas Cowboys he's ready - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Continuing with yesterday's headliner, Archer writes that the coaching staff has had to dial down the ever-eager Lee, who wants to go full-tilt-boogie from the outset:

"You know him," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "Boy, he’s on every screw. He’s tightening every screw."


Seems there’s a great divide between Dez, Cowboys … but why? - Bob Sturm, DMN

In a sampling of Cowboys questions from Sturm's Thursday chat, he gets one about the exorbitant money paid to quarterbacks. I found his answer enlightening (and also said several hosannas in praise of the "Romo Miracle"):

This is a big topic for sure. First, there is no issue at all with a QB getting massive money in my mind. When you take the Top 10 QBs in the NFL every year, odds are really good that 8 or 9 are also playoff teams. This is not an accident. The position is easily 25% of the reason a team is successful, so to then give them 15-20% of the salary cap does not seem odd to me....Now, does Cam Newton belong in that conversation? Ryan Tannehill? Sam Bradford? Andy Dalton? Colin Kaepernick? Well, here is the issue. If you don’t have one of these top 10 guys, then you are trying to figure out how to get one. If you have a QB who is between 11-20, you are asking yourself how much better that is than getting the 25th best. That is why these contracts are no-brainers. Teams realize they can do better, but also that they can do worse. And in the case of Cam Newton, they invested 4 years in him, built the team around him, have gone to 2 playoffs already and won a game. You can do much worse than Cam Newton.

Babe Laufenberg: Cowboys should have drafted a QB; why Eagles are not NFC East favorite - DMN Staff

A quarterback-specific Q&A with former Cowboys QB and current radio color commentator Laufenberg allows you to come for the schadenfreude (Eagles QB situation not good) and stay for the knowledge. Here's what he says when asked about why this is a good spot for Dustin Vaughan:

The Cowboys are a great spot for a young quarterback to be. You got (Scott) Linehan in the room, Wade Wilson who played 17 years, you got Jason Garrett who played 12 years and Tony Romo who’s coming into his 13th year. You just go in there and be a sponge. Many times you got one guy who can coach a position on a team. The Cowboys have four.

And speaking of Vaughan...

Jason Garrett: Dustin Vaughan ‘a lot better’ in Year 2; ‘He wants to be a great player’ - Jon Machota, DMN

This is the time of year when we hear from players like Dustin Vaughan (since we hope never to hear his name uttered from September to February), so lets give the kid some love. Here, he talks about what Jason Garrett told him before the second week of OTAs:

"He encouraged me to go out and have a smile on my face, to have fun, but to be a leader, to be a communicator on the field and to be confident in what I say and what I do on the field, whether it’s wrong or right," Vaughan recalled Wednesday. "Be confident, get everybody on the same page. He’s really big about that. He’s really helped me kind of develop into that quarterback that I’m still trying to develop into.

"It’s more demonstrative, more getting everybody in the huddle like they’re supposed to be in the huddle, and looking for perfection. Whether you meet it or not, it’s looking for that perfection."


Randle says he didn’t talk to Garrett, but message delivered to Cowboys RB in wake of Murray comment - Rainer Sabin, DMN

Joe Randle's "meat on the bone" quote prompted the staff to meet with him, although the third-year veteran said he didn’t directly discuss the comment with Garrett specifically. Apparently, he ingested the lesson.

Cowboys rookie La’el Collins: Nicest restuarants I’ve been to don’t even compare to dinner at Jerry Jones’ house - DMN Staff

The Morning News shares some of the best quotes from a recent radio interview with La'el Collins. In addition to his account of the grand dinner at Chez Jerry (steaks, big shrimp, potatoes), he had interesting stuff to say about Tony Romo's contribution at the dinner:

"He was sitting right across from me. He just shared a couple of stories with me how he felt. How the draft process was for him and how he felt he should have been drafted and things like that so we just kind of went in depth that away and he just told me I had to work for everything I got. He really went into detail — he loves to go into detail — he just really went into detail into how he got where he is and how he became the leader he is today. For me it’s just nothing but respect for him. You can’t become the player that he has become overnight or by just doing what the coach tells you to do. You’ve got to spend time and you’ve got to really put time into it to know exactly what you’re doing, especially at his position and be successful at it."


Any future head coaches on Dallas Cowboys' roster? - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Toddzilla references an ESPN Insider piece that wonders which current or recent players might make good NFL head coaches. Because there are no Cowboys on the list, Archer comes up with four current players who he thinks fit the bill: Orlando Scandrick, Jason Witten, Danny McCray, and Sean Lee. Here's what he has to say about the most surprising of these names:

McCray, who re-joined the Cowboys this year as a free agent, has been a top special teamer since he came to the Cowboys in 2010. He has also played spot duty as a safety, but has made it in the league as a special teamer. On special teams, he has mixed with offensive and defensive players, so he knows the dynamics on both sides of the ball.

McCray is mostly quiet, but so was Todd Bowles as an assistant with the Cowboys and he’s now the head coach of the New York Jets.


Key to the franchise: The NFC's most influential figures, team-by-team - Jason LaCanfora,

La Canfora determines the most influential figure for each team in the NFC. Of course, the only one we care about is who he chose for the Cowboys:

Dallas Cowboys
Stephen Jones, owner: His dad, Jerry, gets all the pub, but Stephen is calling a lot of the shots now and keeping Jerry from doing some very Jerry-like things (like draft Johnny Football). Dallas is still taking risks, like signing Greg Hardy and drafting Randy Gregory, but they are much more calculated and we'll see what kind of hand the younger Jones has if adversity strikes this season (which could well be the case given the state of the running backs room, etc). If they don't retain their division title, could heads roll? Jones has been very impressive thus far, and could be the Cowboys are ushering into a new era of sorts.


In case you want dessert for breakfast, you're in luck: I've saved the best for last:

2014 Cowboys Sack Registry Part 2 (Weeks 5-8): Redskins loss was unmitigated disaster- Bob Sturm, DMN

The eagerly-anticipated second installment of Sturm's study of each of the sacks yielded by the Cowboys in 2014. Here, he examines all the QB take-downs in games 5-8, which happened to be the 4-game split in the season where the team conceded the most sacks (nine) in 2014. Not all of this is on the O-line, however:

A QB can and should be blamed for sacks as often as the men in front of him, despite the fact that we seldom see a QB do something physically incorrect (like you will see from those who must protect). This is because a QB pass protects mentally. Peyton Manning has many great attributes in his skill-set, but perhaps the one that is presented to QBs at all levels for them to attempt to emulate is his uncanny ability to avoid sacks...

So, insisting on getting the ball out quickly is a real key (with proper route designs that allow for this) but the 2nd important way a QB assists with a vital role in pass protection is knowing that sometimes, he has a guy [that he is responsible to avoid]...How does a QB deal with a team blitzing more than you can protect? 2 ways: 1) get the ball out quickly or 2) make the extra man miss. We have seen Romo try both over the years with mixed results. But, these situations are often where a sneaky spin can open up an amazing throw down the field.

So, yes, QB’s are often to blame for sacks. Get the ball out and live to fight another day.

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