Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire/Getty ImagesEzekiel Elliott says his team has plenty of time to get things right. "It's a 16-game season and it's only Game 2. We can get so much better," he said.

FRISCO, Texas -- As Jerry Jones stood outside the locker room after his Dallas Cowboys were crushed by the Denver Broncos on Sunday, he wished they could play another game almost immediately.

"I'm glad we're not going into a bye, to give you an idea," Jones said. "I wouldn't want to stew in this for that long, a couple of weeks. The quicker we get back out there, the better off we are."

By playing on ESPN's Monday Night Football, the Cowboys will have to wait an extra day before they take on the Arizona Cardinals to erase the taste of the 42-17 loss in Denver.

"We definitely won't be discouraged," running back Ezekiel Elliott said after the game. "Last year at this time we were 1-1. It's a 16-game season and it's only Game 2. We can get so much better. If you're peaking right now, you're going to have a problem. You really don't want to be peaking right now. You want to be peaking at the end of the season. We just can't come out and play like this."

The players were off on Tuesday and have meetings and a walk-through Wednesday before getting into their normal routine on Thursday with their padded practice.

The extra day allows some of the Cowboys to heal. Quarterback Dak Prescott came out of the game with an ankle injury that will not keep him out of practice, but he is able to get more rehab time. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was unable to finish the Denver game because of a hamstring strain.

The Cowboys haven't suffered a blowout like Sunday's since a 32-point loss at New Orleans in 2013. Their three losses last season were by a total of 18 points, and the 14-point defeat at Philadelphia came with the bulk of the starters playing sparingly since the Cowboys' playoff seeding had been set.

"We're extremely motivated," receiver Dez Bryant said. "No guy around here is holding their head down because we know who we are. We're a damn good football team. We practice [as] hard if not harder than any other team in this league. We're going to bounce back and keep working."video


Stephen A. Smith criticizes Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for publicly defending Ezekiel Elliott at the expense of his other players.

FRISCO, Texas -- Coming off a disheartening loss to the Denver Broncos, maybe things are looking up for the Dallas Cowboys this week.

Craig Wrolstad will be the referee for the Cowboys' game against the Arizona Cardinals on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, and Dallas has won its past two contests with Wrolstad as ref.

The Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears in Week 3 last season and followed that up with a Week 12 win against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium.

Of course, it might not all be good news that Wrolstad is working Monday's game. He was the ref when the Cowboys lost to the Cardinals in 2014. Of course, that was the game Tony Romo missed because of transverse process fractures, which might have had more to do with the outcome.

The Cowboys are 2-2 overall with Wrolstad as the referee, but their opponents have been flagged more times, 23 to 18, and have more penalty yards, 198 to 157.

Last week, Wrolstad worked the New England Patriots' win over the New Orleans Saints and called 14 penalties. The Patriots were flagged nine times for 66 yards and the Saints had five penalties for 35 yards.

The penalty breakdown from the Pats-Saints game:

Facemask: 1

Offensive holding: 4

Offside: 2

Delay of game: 2

12 men on the field: 2

Defensive holding: 1

Illegal use of hands: 1

Illegal shift: 1

Quarter by quarter:

First: 3

Second: 4

Third: 4

Fourth: 3video

FRISCO, Texas -- As L.P. Ladouceur watched the Monday Night Football opener between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings, he nudged his wife, Brooke.

"Look, Zach is snapping," he said.

"What?" his wife replied.

Zach is Zach Wood. The Saints picked him up after the long-snapper they traded for, Jon Dorenbos, was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm that required heart surgery. Wood was among the Dallas Cowboys' cuts after spending the past two training camps as Ladouceur's understudy.

We know about coaching trees. Andy Reid has five former assistants as current head coaches in the NFL: John Harbaugh, Ron Rivera, Todd Bowles, Doug Pederson and Sean McDermott.

We don't know much about long-snapper trees.

L.P. LadouceurReinhold Matay/USA TODAY SportsL.P. Ladouceur has become a long-snapping guru of sorts, as three of his understudies are snapping in the NFL.

Wood is the third long-snapper who has spent a summer or two with the Cowboys and become a regular long-snapper in the league.

He had just a few practices with the Saints before he was forced into action.

"What L.P. was able to teach me was how simple it is and how easy it is to get caught up mentally," he said. "And that's when I feel like snappers screw up is when they think too much and all that. So he kind of helped me get in a routine, get in a mentality of, 'I can do this. I've been doing it my whole life. And I should be confident in this.'"

Before last week's game, Ladouceur spent time talking with Casey Kreiter, whom he helped tutor in 2014-15 before becoming the Denver Broncos long-snapper last season.

Charley Hughlett spent two summers with the Cowboys (2012-13) before Kreiter. After bouncing around with three teams in 2014, he landed with the Cleveland Browns. In February, he became the NFL's highest-paid long-snapper with a six-year deal that averages $1.9 million a year.

"L.P. was a great influence," Hughlett said. "He was a long-time vet when I came in. I think when I came in he was in his eighth or ninth year. The first thing I realized about him was just how talented he was as a snapper. He's probably one of the best I've ever had to go in and compete against."

Ladouceur is in his 13th season with the Cowboys and has never had a bad snap on a field goal attempt or punt in his career. That's 1,747 snaps -- 842 on punts, 526 on PATs, 379 on FGs. He has helped kickers Nick Folk and Dan Bailey and punter Mat McBriar make Pro Bowls. Only Jason Witten has been with the Cowboys longer than Ladouceur.

"It's really cool to see these kids getting a chance," Ladouceur said.

He said special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia deserves most of the credit because of how he runs practices. Bisaccia has three punt teams working in the offseason program and training camp. Having two snappers is a requirement.

"I couldn't take 15 reps in a row," Ladouceur said. "I mean I could but you'd rather not, right? But that means the other guys that come in get a lot of work. It's not like some places where they don't really do that much in the preseason, but we do a lot here."

The competition for roster spots can be cutthroat in the NFL. Teams only keep one long-snapper, but that never stopped Ladouceur from offering tips.

"He was so good to me," Kreiter said. "He helped me out if I had questions. And in my role now, when younger guys come in here and being the veteran per se, I think back, 'How did L.P. handle that?' And I can take that from him and it was a really, really good experience."

The evolution of college football to spread offenses has affected how teams evaluate almost every position -- that includes long-snappers.

"At our position, it's gotten a lot harder for kids out of college because a lot of the spread formations that they use now," said Ladouceur, who was a defensive lineman at California. "They get here and they haven't had to block anybody, so you kind of try to teach that. You've got to still move your feet and get those blocks. You will get turned a couple of times. It happens. You're going to get behind, but it's when you do get behind, what do you do? What's the technique? There are certain things you can do, and that's what I try and teach them and tell them."

Ladouceur is 36 and set to be a free agent after the season. As much as he has enjoyed his mentor role, he is not ready to give up his job just yet.

"It's cool to see some of the guys that have been here move on and actually play," Ladouceur said. "It's kind of cool. But it also means that they're getting guys in here that are good too and they're trying to push me.

"And I won't let them push me."

NFL Nation reporters Mike Triplett, Pat McManamon and Jeff Legwold contributed to this story.

FRISCO, Texas -- With defensive end Damontre Moore returning from a two-game suspension this week, the Dallas Cowboys waived linebacker Jayrone Elliott, who was acquired in a trade from the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 3.

Moore has been able to work out at the Cowboys’ practice facility because he was suspended under the substance-abuse policy, but he has not been able to take part in meetings or practices. He had two sacks in the preseason. The Cowboys had a roster exemption through Wednesday for Moore, who could help the pass rush immediately, but opted to make the move today.

Elliott dressed for the season opener against the New York Giants but was inactive last week against the Denver Broncos.

Per the terms of the trade with Green Bay, the Cowboys will now keep their seventh-round pick in 2018 unless they re-sign Elliott in the future and he is on the 46-man roster for at least two more games.

With the trade presently wiped out, the Cowboys will have all but their fifth-round pick in next spring’s draft. They gave up that pick to the New York Jets to take safety Xavier Woods in the sixth round. The Cowboys could also gain a number of compensatory picks for their free-agent defections.


Cowboys owner Jerry Jones addresses being a part of Roger Goodell's contract negotiations.

Dallas Cowboys use day off to work out players

September, 19, 2017
Sep 19

Former Chargers defensive tackle Caraun ReidJake Roth/USA TODAY SportsFormer Chargers defensive lineman Caraun Reid is one of many players the Cowboys worked out on Tuesday.

FRISCO, Texas -- With an extra day to get ready for Monday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys are using it to work out a number of players they could need in the future.

The Cowboys do not have a practice on Tuesday and will return to their normal practice schedule on Wednesday with meetings and a walk-through. They will hold their padded practice on Thursday.

Among the group is former fifth-round pick of the Detroit Lions, Caraun Reid, a defensive end. He was among the final cuts for the Los Angeles Chargers and has three sacks, 36 tackles and two touchdowns in three seasons.

Cornerback D'Joun Smith, a third-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2015, is also working out. He was among the final cuts made by the Tennessee Titans. Defensive backs Chris Lewis-Harris, Jacorey Shepherd and Ian Wells are also working out, as is linebacker Tre'Von Johnson, who reached an injury settlement with the Arizona Cardinals at the time of the final cuts.

Offensive linemen Michael Dunn, Jake Eldrenkamp, Jarron Jones and Kaleb Johnson are also working out. The Cowboys played against Dunn and Eldrenkamp in the preseason when they were with the Los Angeles Rams. Jones was a defensive tackle at Notre Dame, but the New York Giants moved him to offensive line over the summer.

FRISCO, Texas -- A week ago, the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t lose. Today, they can’t win.

That’s how it goes in the NFL on a week-to-week basis, and I never cease to wonder at the overreaction of one win or loss in determining the bigger meaning over the course of a season. Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos was simple: The Cowboys played poorly.

I don’t wonder if the Cowboys will play better, but I do have Five Wonders.

Away we go:

Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsWith Darren McFadden a free agent after the season, the Cowboys could be looking for a backup to Ezekiel Elliott in 2018.

  • It was interesting to hear owner and general manager Jerry Jones take the entire offense to task when speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas Tuesday when he was asked about Ezekiel Elliott’s lack of effort in covering two interceptions. “I think you can point to Zeke, but you can look at the general effort by most of the people on the field,” Jones said. I wonder why in defending Elliott, Jones would go after everybody else. And, to be honest, Elliott’s lack of effort on those two plays meant nothing in the outcome of the 42-17 loss. It was poor form and inexcusable from Elliott, whose pass protection efforts in the game were rather good, but there should be more focus on the 25-point loss. On the list of reasons the Cowboys lost, Elliott’s lack of effort wouldn’t make the top 15.
  • As we wait to see whether Elliott will be suspended six games this season or next season, let’s talk about the 2018 draft for a moment. I wonder how early the Cowboys will select a running back next spring. Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris will be free agents after the season. I can envision the Cowboys saying goodbye to both veteran running backs. They like Rod Smith, but I don’t believe they like him well enough to be content with him as Elliott’s top backup just yet. We are seeing rookies Kareem Hunt and Tarik Cohen, third- and fourth-round picks, have success early on, so the middle rounds would make sense to find Elliott’s backup. But he might need to be more than a backup if Elliott can’t stay out of trouble in the future.
  • C.J. Anderson was able to run through the Cowboys for 118 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown. Jamaal Charles added 46 yards on nine carries. I don’t wonder whether it’s time to wonder about the Cowboys' run defense. I do wonder if they are catching a break of sorts this week with David Johnson missing the game. And the next two opponents following the game against the Arizona Cardinals are the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers. Neither team is ranked in the top 20 in rushing. The Rams’ Todd Gurley is averaging 3.7 yards per carry. The biggest challenge in the next month will be Carlos Hyde, who is fourth in the league in rushing at the moment with 169 yards for the San Francisco 49ers, whom the Cowboys play Oct. 22.
  • Orlando Scandrick is signed through 2019, but I wonder if the Cowboys look to extend his contract with how the cornerbacks played in his absence. I’m only partially joking, but Scandrick has a lot of value to the defense. He was missed Sunday, but he should be back this week against the Cardinals with that broken hand. The Cowboys made second- and third-round investments in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, and they like the progress of second-year corner Anthony Brown. Scandrick is 30, and he has missed games with injuries the past three seasons, but if Jason Garrett is talking about “fight” after a loss, that’s where you see Scandrick’s biggest value.

  • I wonder if last week will be the only time the Cowboys dress six wide receivers. Noah Brown was active because the coaches wanted some protection at the position with Terrance Williams suffering an ankle injury. Awuzie was a little banged up going into the game, too. Lewis had three full practices under his belt going into the game. What about protection at cornerback with Scandrick out? The Cowboys made a trade for Bene Benwikere at the final cuts, but he has been inactive so far. For the Cowboys to give up a sixth-round pick in 2019, he needs to be on their 46-man roster four times. I can’t believe that would prevent the coaches from dressing him, but it sure seems like the Cowboys could have gotten by offensively if one of their receivers went down more so than the defense losing a cornerback.

Stephen A. Smith recalls Ezekiel Elliott pouting because Urban Meyer didn't give him touches when Ohio State faced Michigan State in 2015.

Jason Witten's mood tied to wins, not records

September, 19, 2017
Sep 19

FRISCO, Texas -- Another week and another milestone for Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

Witten became the franchise leader in most games played in a Cowboys uniform with 225, but he also became just the second tight end in NFL history to eclipse 12,000 yards.

Tony Gonzalez put up 15,127 yards in his soon to be Hall-of-Fame career. Witten reached 12,000 yards on a 28-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of the 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Witten’s mood was more in line with a 25-point loss than another accolade.

“My mind is just so focused on helping this team win, and it’s so much bigger than just me,” Witten said. “Certainly I recognize the people that have helped me along the way to get to a point like this to achieve something like that, but, you know, it’s kind of hollow right now. Even though I know how much respect I have for all the tight ends that played, and there’s been some great ones. So I tip my cap to those men that I’m able to kind of pass and join, in Tony, but certainly my focus is on improving, and they’ll be a lot of things I can get better from in this game. That’s kind of where my focus is.”

Witten was upset he was unable to hang on to another touchdown catch later in the fourth quarter, but he finished the game with 10 catches for 97 yards. He moved past Cris Carter (1,101) and Marvin Harrison (1,102) for fourth place on the NFL’s all-time receptions list with 1,106 catches.

Only Jerry Rice (1,549), Gonzalez (1,325) and Larry Fitzgerald, who will be on the opposite sideline when the Cowboys play Monday against the Arizona Cardinals, have more catches than Witten. Fitzgerald had 1,134 receptions.

Witten has 11 games with 10 or more catches in his career and his touchdown was the 65th of his career, which tied Michael Irvin for the third-most in team history.

FRISCO, Texas -- In a year, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have become the faces of the Dallas Cowboys.

Prescott was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year after leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record last season. Elliott led the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards and was named an All-Pro.

After Sunday’s 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos, Prescott and Elliott have to show they can rebound from poor performances in a lopsided defeat.

In two of their three losses last season, the Cowboys were driving for potential winning or tying scores in the fourth quarter. The third loss, in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys fell 27-13, but Elliott did not play and Prescott played in two series.

Sunday’s loss was something new, and questions swirl around both for different reasons.

Rich Gabrielson/Icon SportswireCowboys coach Jason Garrett was very impressed with the way Dak Prescott hung in there after taking plenty of lumps against the Broncos.

For Elliott, it’s about a lack of effort in chasing down Broncos defenders on Prescott interceptions. For Prescott, it’s about failing to make things happen when the run game was stalled.

The average age on the Cowboys’ roster is 26.02, younger than the league average. They have 10 rookies or first-year players on the roster, which falls in line with the league average. They have seven players 30 years old and up, which is less than the league average.

At their core, the Cowboys remain a young team that faced some adversities a year ago, but nothing like what they face this week, in which everything -- everything -- gets questioned.

“You want to have mentally tough guys on your team,” coach Jason Garrett said. “You want to have guys who are the right kind of guys, who are going to compete through some challenging situations. So you’re always evaluating that.

“That’s the nature of our game. Every time we break the huddle, the guys across from you, that’s adversity. They’re really good in this league, so your ability to respond to that again and again and again, that’s what separates the best players.”

Garrett did not question his quarterback's effort Sunday, but he did question his execution at times. He thought Sunday might have been one of Prescott’s best games because of how he stood in the face of adversity. It’s the same reason he believes Tony Romo’s five-interception game against the Buffalo Bills in 2007 was his best, and Troy Aikman’s performance in the 1994 NFC Championship game was among the Hall of Famer’s best.

“If you get a chance, go back and watch the tape of No. 4. No. 4 is a special player,” Garrett said of Prescott. “It was not an easy game for him. Got knocked around a little bit, got banged up early. And talk about a guy who battles. Talk about a guy who fights. Talk about a guy who leads the team under adversity, under duress. It was special.

“I reflect back on the best quarterbacks I’ve been around. Oftentimes the games I remember most are the ones that the situations are the most challenging. And you see how they respond. How they respond to a turnover, how they respond to guys hitting them in the face over and over and over again. You’ve heard me say this before: My old man says you can hit him in the face with a shovel and he keeps coming back. That’s what Dak Prescott again demonstrated.”

Garrett’s mind turned to an 11-yard run by Prescott on third-and-14 with the outcome already decided late in the fourth quarter. He scrambled away from trouble and lowered his shoulder on a Denver defender looking for extra yardage.

“He’s a great competitor,” Garrett said. “He fights. He scratches. He claws. He’s a great leader for our team.”

It makes the perfect contrast to how Elliott responded to adversity. He stood with his hands on his hips after Chris Harris Jr. picked off Prescott in the third quarter. Garrett was not pleased with Elliott’s effort on Aqib Talib’s 103-yard interception return late in the game, either. Prescott was the last Cowboy trying to track down Talib, to no avail.

Elliott’s longest run against the Broncos was five yards. He is not accustomed to being slowed, let alone being stopped in the first 16 games he played in the NFL.

The Cowboys need Elliott and Prescott to respond against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night.

“One of the things that is the foundation of our football team is fight,” Garrett said. “We’re going to compete and fight and scratch and claw. That’s what we’re going to be. That’s one of the reasons we love Zeke Elliott. That’s what he is. Watch him play. He competes. He battles.

“Urban Meyer told us he’s the best player he’s ever had when the ball is not in his hands, and so he’s made great blocks throughout his career with us. That’s just what he’s all about. Again, those plays were uncharacteristic of him. We’ll certainly address it with him, but we have to address that with our entire team. That’s not the way we play.”video

Dak PrescottIsaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY SportsDak Prescott completed only 30 of his 50 passes against the Broncos for just 238 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Two weeks down now in the NFL season, which means we have more information than we did a week ago. Twice as much, actually, if you want to get all first-grade-math about it.

But while I know nobody wants to hear it, it's still early. Too early, quite frankly, to know which teams are good and which ones can start scouting the top of the 2018 draft. You might think you know, but you don't know. All we can do is make guesses based on what we know, which isn't much, but again, is twice as much as we did this time last week.

So this week's "What we learned" column is a bunch of "slightly more educated than a week ago" guesses. We're examining a few of the early-season storylines for legitimacy and/or sustainability -- of what's happening so far this season in the NFL, what's real and what might just be a mirage.

The Cowboys are in trouble

Best guess through Week 2: Mirage

Dallas should still be a good team -- especially if Ezekiel Elliott

(Read full post)


FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett will meet with Ezekiel Elliott to discuss the running back's lack of effort in two plays during Sunday's 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.

On Dak Prescott's two interceptions, Elliott did not attempt to track down Broncos cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib. On the Harris interception, which came after Dez Bryant could not hold on to a Prescott pass, television replays showed Elliott standing with his hands on his hips as Harris turned upfield.

On Talib's 103-yard return for a touchdown with 53 seconds to play, Elliott dove at a Denver blitzer to protect Prescott, but he was not seen in the chase on television replays.

"One of the things we preach to our team on both sides of the ball when there is a turnover is everybody's involved," Garrett said. "If you're an offensive player, you become a defensive player on a fumble or an interception. Zeke is one of the most natural competitors that I've ever been around. He loves to play. He loves to practice. I think we've seen that through his first year playing, and those two plays are not indicative of the kind of competitor that he is, and we have to get [that] addressed."

Elliott finished with a career-low 8 yards on nine carries as the Broncos bottled up the Cowboys' running game and forced Dallas to rely on the passing game.

(Read full post)