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Blog: Lee Hoping To Build Toward Playoffs

Sean Lee Hoping To Build Toward Playoffs

(Dec. 28; 2 p.m.) – With the playoffs approaching, Sean Lee hopes to ramp up his workload in the regular-season finale against the Giants.

The defensive captain is officially listed as questionable for the game, but he has practiced on a limited basis this week. He played seven snaps two weeks ago against the Colts.

“Hopefully I can build off this game and move into the playoffs and feel really good about it,” he said Friday.

Lee has missed eight games this season due to hamstring injuries, and he was inactive last week against the Bucs because of a numbers crunch at other positions on the roster. The Cowboys have been managing his snaps and didn't plan to play him more than maybe 8-12 plays.

Young linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have blossomed this season with larger roles, and Lee has done everything he can to help them when healthy and while sidelined.

“I’m just so excited to be part of this linebacking crew and even this defense,” Lee said. “This is something we’ve been building towards. Just having a role in any fashion, being able to play in the playoffs, is a dream come true for me. That’s my focus. I love playing with these guys, and it’s been an inspiration to play with two young guys who love football like they do.”

-Rob Phillips

Marinelli Ready To Face “Bigger Barry Sanders”

When the Giants drafted Saquan Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick, the Cowboys knew right away the talented running back would be quite a handful to deal with twice a year.

In fact, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli sees a huge challenge with Barkley not only as a runner, but a receiver. Head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t like to compare players, but Marinelli didn’t mind comparing Barkley to one of the greats.

“He’s a lot like, a bigger Barry Sanders, as a I see it,” said Marinelli, who coached in Tampa Bay for many years and had to face the great Lions tailback. “(Barkley) has got that great jump-cut. You can go into a game and you’ve think you’ve done a great job on him for the first 25 plays, and then the last two, he goes right by your for a touchdown. This guy can score a touchdown every time he touches the ball. We’ve got to make sure we’re on our screws. We have to keep playing the run. Teams you start to see (in the playoffs) all have great running backs.”

Barkley rushed for just 28 yards on 11 carries in the Week 2 game, but he caught 14 passes for 80 yards as the Giants were playing most of the game from behind.

-Nick Eatman

Elliott: Team Goals ‘Most Important’ Over Rushing Title

(Dec. 26; 3 p.m.) – With one game left in the regular season, Ezekiel Elliott is closing in on his second NFL rushing title in three seasons.

Elliott (1,434 yards) is 183 yards ahead of the next-closest rusher, the Rams’ Todd Gurley. And, echoing Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, Elliott deflected questions about whether starters should rest this Sunday against the Giants since Dallas is locked into the No. 4 playoff seed in the NFC East.

“The plan is to go out there and play,” Elliott said. “We’ve just got to approach this week the same way we’ve approached the past upcoming weeks. We’ve got to make sure we come out there and we’ve got a lot of intensity. We’ve got to be ready and build some momentum going into this wild-card week.”

Last year, Elliott ranked 10th in rushing (983 yards) despite a six-game NFL suspension. This year, he has put together another all-around season as the engine for the Cowboys’ offense.

He leads the group with a career-best 77 catches, and with 2,001 scrimmage yards, he joins Emmitt Smith and Herschel Walker as the third Cowboys player to eclipse 2,000 in his first three seasons.

Elliott said a second rushing title would be “a great achievement” and thanked his coaches and teammates for putting him in position for such an honor.

But, as always, he’s focused on team goals first.

“I don’t really like talking about these other little things,” Elliott said. “We all know what the big goal in mind is and I think that’s what is most important. I think that’s what should be talked about.”

-Rob Phillips

Remaining Cowboys Playoff Tickets On Sale Now

(Dec. 26; 12:00 p.m.) – The Dallas Cowboys have put all remaining 2018-2019 playoff tickets for the Wild Card round on sale to the general public today.

Ticket prices range from $115-$560 per seat. The Standing Room Only (SRO) tickets, starting at $50, and also available for purchase.

Due to the large season ticket base for Cowboys games, there are a very limited number of playoff tickets available for purchase.

Tickets can be purchased by visiting DallasCowboys.com or SeatGeek.com. SeatGeek is the Official Primary Ticketing Partner of the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys opponent, date and time for the Wild Card round is still to be determined following the conclusion of all upcoming NFL games in Week 17.

The Cowboys have locked in the No. 4 seed for the NFC and will host the No. 5 seed. Currently, the Seahawks are the fifth seed and can clinch that spot with a win Sunday vs. Arizona. If Seattle loses and the Vikings beat Chicago, Minnesota would be the No. 5 seed and would travel to Arlington to face the Cowboys.

-DallasCowboys.com

Injury Updates On Crawford, Brown; More

(Dec. 24; 3:45 p.m.) – Defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford was back at The Star in Frisco on Monday after test results on his injured neck were negative, head coach Jason Garrett said.

“I do know that everything up to this point has been he’s checked out fine,” Garrett said. “He seems to be walking around and functioning normally.”

Crawford was carted off the field at AT&T Stadium on Sunday after getting hurt on the second play against the Bucs. But tests at a local hospital showed no structural damage and he was able to go home Sunday afternoon.

Other injury updates as the Cowboys enter the final week of the regular season:

-Garrett said cornerback Anthony Brown’s back is improving and there doesn’t appear to be any structural damage. The Cowboys kept Brown inactive against the Bucs due to spasms that flared up last Thursday.

-Wide receiver Tavon Austin (groin) has practiced on a limited basis the last two weeks and appears to be moving closer to a return, possibly as early as this Sunday against the Giants. “Certainly we want to get him back in and get him some game action,” Garrett said.

-Garrett said Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin (sprained knee) appeared to get through the game fine after practicing on a limited basis the final two days of the week.

-Rob Phillips

Zack Martin 'Hopeful' To Play Sunday vs. Bucs

(Dec. 21; 3 p.m.) – After practicing for the second consecutive day this week, Zack Martin (sprained knee) is “hopeful” he’ll be ready to return to the starting lineup Sunday at home against the Bucs.

“It’s feeling better every day,” Martin said.

The Pro Bowl right guard is officially listed as questionable for Sunday.

“The trainers have been great, kept me on a plan," he said. "I’m just going to keep listening to them and doing that to get ready.”

Martin missed the first game of his NFL career last Sunday, a shutout loss to the Colts. He’s been playing through a sprained knee for weeks, and a week off appeared to help.

“It was difficult for me for sure, especially being in my hometown (Indianapolis) and everything like that,” Martin said of being inactive. “But that’s behind us. This team has forgotten about that. We’re moving on here to Tampa, so that’s all we’re focused on.”

-Rob Phillips

Blog: Breaking Down The Tackling Problems

(Dec. 20, 4:31 p.m.) – What contributes to missed tackles? Rod Marinelli will gladly tell you.

Understandably, the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator was asked about his unit’s woeful tackling last weekend in Indianapolis, and the answer seemed straightforward enough.

“A lot of times it was angles and space, overshooting the ball – everything that’s correctable,” he said. “A big part of it is mindset, intensity. That’s how we play.”

The Cowboys have been marked by that intense approach all season long, up until Sunday’s 23-0 loss to the Colts. Marinelli also pointed out that the Cowboys have also made a living off of gang tackling this season, which is another important component of their game that didn’t travel to Indianapolis.

“Usually if one guy misses, there’s somebody else there,” Marinelli said. “As coaches and players, we didn’t have the pursuit that we’ve had all year. That’s a big part of it.”

Marinelli was asked if it’s natural to experience a letdown when a team plays with high intensity over the course of several weeks, but he wasn’t buying it.

“I know what you’re saying, I just don’t accept it,” he said.

Instead, he said the only way to correct the issue is to practice with the same intensity you bring to a game.

-David Helman

Ezekiel Elliott On Red Zone Woes

Something has to give this Sunday when and if the Cowboys get down into the red zone.

Obviously, the Cowboys are struggling inside the 20-yard line, ranking 31st in the NFL with a 44.2 touchdown percentage (19 of 43 attempts). They’re dead last in overall scoring down there, putting points on the board just 79.1 percent of the time.

Last Sunday in Indy, the Cowboys got inside the 5 and couldn’t score yet again.

However, this week’s opponent is actually the worst in the NFL in stopping teams inside the 20. The Bucs rank 32nd in red-zone defense, allowing teams to score TDs 40 of 51 attempts.

Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t always gotten the ball when the Cowboys are down there and was pretty blunt when asked if he wants it more.

“You know it,” said Zeke, who also understands the offense has missed opportunities across the board. “We’re working on getting me the ball. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. We’ve had opportunities that we’ve missed on ourselves, that we’ve done to ourselves in that red zone. I can think of a couple of drops that we missed. There’s been some pressure on the quarterback and there’s a guy wide open that could’ve scored. We have to stay locked in when we get down there and really understand how important it is to come out of there with points.”

-Nick Eatman

Su’a-Filo Improving After ‘Scary’ Eye Injury

(Dec. 19; 2:20 p.m.) – When Xavier Su’a-Filo’s left eye swelled shut after the Cowboys’ loss to the Colts, Tyron Smith was there for his offensive line teammate.

Smith lent Su’a-Filo the sunglasses he brought to Indianapolis.

“I told him just give them back whenever he’s done with them,” Smith said, joking that they’re pretty expensive.

Su’a-Filo was still wearing them during Wednesday’s open locker room session. But he was able to practice on a limited basis and says his vision is improving now that the swelling has subsided.

Does he expect to play Sunday against Tampa Bay?

“Planning on it,” he said.

The injury occurred on a fourth-down play in the second quarter against the Colts. Su’a-Filo went to the locker room with the athletic training staff to get the eye examined and did not return to the game.

“I was in the game and I went down and somebody hit my eye,” he said. “It was a complete accident. The next thing I know, I couldn’t see out of my left eye. I just wanted to make sure it was all right and grateful it wasn’t more serious than it was.

“You’re just afraid of the unknown and you’re worrying why your eye can’t open. Once you figure it out, you’re good.”

Su’a-Filo said he wore a visor in Wednesday’s practice. He wore one during his high school and college career but not in the NFL to this point.

-Rob Phillips

Lee Excited To Have ‘Any Role’ At LB

(Dec. 14; 3:30 p.m.) – Linebacker Sean Lee is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Colts, but the Cowboys’ defensive captain said he had a “great week of practice” after sitting out the last six games with a hamstring injury.

“We’ll see how the next couple days go,” Lee said.

Lee was a limited participant in all three practices this week. He credited the athletic training staff for helping him return after he aggravated his hamstring in the Cowboys’ Nov. 5 loss to Tennessee.

Rookie Leighton Vander Esch has played well as a starter in Lee’s absence, creating outside speculation about what the linebacker rotation will be once he returns to game action.

“It’s a non-issue. I’m just excited to have any role that I have to be part of this team,” Lee said. “We have such a great group defensively and also within the room. Our linebacker room is unbelievable with guys that love to work with each other, love to play. It’s as good a room as I’ve been around.”

Lee’s teammates were excited to see him back this week.

“You’ve got to love the guy and the intensity that he brings to the game,” Vander Esch said.

Said defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence: “Everybody on that defense loves playing with (No.) 50. 50’s going to bring it every chance he gets.”

-Rob Phillips

Dak: Amari Cooper ‘Makes My Job Easy’

(Dec. 13; 4:30 p.m.) – Amari Cooper’s transition to the Cowboys’ offense has gone smoothly, to say the least.

Since his Cowboys debut six games ago, Cooper leads the NFL in receiving yards (642) and first downs (32) and he’s tied for the lead in touchdown catches (6). The Cowboys’ record in that stretch: 5-1, including five straight.

Prescott can’t say enough about the way Cooper has worked his way into the offense.

“He runs good routes, he gets open, he studies his opponent, he knows what to do against them, and he makes my job easy,” Prescott said. “To see the guy week in and week out run after catch and all the other things he’s done, I’m thankful to have him.”

Cooper says he and Prescott have skills that complement each other well. He likes the way Prescott throws the deep ball, allowing him to run underneath and go get it, and he appreciates Prescott’s approach to the game.

“I think they’re two really good players,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “Amari’s the kind of guy that probably blends well with any quarterback he plays with because he does such a good job of getting open. He gets open in man coverage running a variety of routes. He’s very quarterback friendly in zone and typically he gives the quarterback a good place to throw the football. He’d be friendly with any quarterback he’s playing with.

And really the same way with Dak. The comfort level they have, the way they communicate with each other and the way they see things the same way, I just think they’ve really benefited from being around each other.”

-Rob Phillips

Zack Martin Continues To Rehab Sprained Knee

(Dec. 13; 3:45 p.m.) – Starting left guard Zack Martin missed a second straight practice with a sprained MCL in his left knee.

“Just taking it day by day,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “Obviously he’s knee deep in his rehab and getting everything done that he needs to. Just see how he feels every day waking up, see if it improves and give him an opportunity to go as the week goes on.”

The Cowboys have one more full practice this week before facing the Colts on the road this Sunday.

Martin has been battling a left knee sprain on and off for weeks. He went to the locker room in the second half of last Sunday’s win over the Eagles and did not return. Rookie Connor Williams played well at left guard the rest of the game, Garrett said.

-Rob Phillips

Dak Prescott Earns Weekly Award

(Dec. 13; 3:30 p.m.) – Fans have voted quarterback Dak Prescott the FedEx Air Player of the Week for Week 14.

Prescott threw for a career-high 455 yards and tied a career best with three passing touchdowns in last Sunday’s 29-23 overtime win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott (192 scrimmage yards) was nominated for FedEx Ground Player of the Week, but the award went to the Titans’ Derrick Henry.

-Rob Phillips

Zeke Worried About Wins Over Rushing Title

(Dec. 12, 4:28 p.m.) – Ezekiel Elliott wasn’t about to lie.

With three weeks left in the regular season and a 59-yard lead on the nearest competition, the Cowboys’ running back has a good shot at winning a second rushing title in his three NFL seasons.

"I would say that's important to me," Elliott said Wednesday. "Yeah, it would be cool.”

Elliott currently sits on 1,262 rushing yards, just ahead of 2017 rushing champion Todd Gurley. While it seems unlikely that he can surpass his rookie total of 1,631 yards in the next three weeks, another rushing title would be a nice addition to what has been a sterling career so far.

That said, Elliott has larger goals than personal achievements. That starts with securing an NFC East championship – and hopefully beyond.

"I want to go out here and win ballgames,” he said. “I want to make a run deep into the playoffs. I want to have an opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl, so I mean, I'm just going to keep working and whatever happens, happens.”

-David Helman

Tavon Austin Excited To Be Back On The Field

(Dec. 12; 4:45 p.m.) – Wide receiver Tavon Austin practiced on a limited basis Wednesday for the first time since injuring his groin two months ago against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“I’m real excited, just being out there, the energy level,” he said. “That’s what we love to do, to be out there.”

Back on draft weekend in April, the Cowboys traded a sixth-round pick to L.A. Rams for Austin to bring speed to their offense and the return game. He did that in the first six games before the injury.

He’s been anxious to get back ever since. Surgery was an option, he said, but ultimately he and the team decided to let the injury heal on its own.

Asked if he might be able to return to game action as soon as Sunday at Indianapolis, Austin said he’s making progress but will listen to the athletic training staff.

-Rob Phillips

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott Up For Weekly Awards

(Dec. 12; 12:10 p.m.) – Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have been nominated for the Week 14 FedEx Air and Ground Player of the Week awards, respectively.

Prescott threw for a career-high 455 yards and tied a career best with three passing touchdowns in last Sunday’s 29-23 overtime win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Elliott had a career-high 40 touches against Philly: 28 carries for 113 yards and a team-best 12 catches for 79 yards.

-Rob Phillips

Lee, Austin May Practice This Week

(Dec. 10, 6:07 p.m.) – The Cowboys could be getting some key reinforcements when they return to practice on Wednesday morning.

At the conclusion of his Monday press conference, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said that two key veterans might return to the practice field as the team begins preparations for Indianapolis – starting with Sean Lee. 

“Yeah, we anticipate him being limited in practice starting on Wednesday,” he said.

Garrett said the same thing about Tavon Austin, who had 243 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns for the Cowboys before injuring his groin earlier this year.

Having those two back for the final stretch of the season could be a big boost for this team, which is clearly hitting its stride in the midst of a five-game win streak.

Lee has been limited to just five games this season due to recurring hamstring injuries, but he did tally 27 tackles and half a sack in that stretch.

Garrett also said that David Irving could “possibly” be in the mix this week after missing the last six games with a high ankle sprain – although that will be a wait and see situation. He also added that Ezekiel Elliott doesn’t appear to be dealing with any further effects from the stinger he suffered on Sunday against Philadelphia.

With three games left on the regular season schedule, the Cowboys appear to be getting healthy at just the right time.

Limiting Sacks On Prescott Is A Collective Effort

(Dec. 6; 2:30 p.m.) – The Cowboys’ offense has risen in several rankings during a four-game win streak that started with a Nov. 11 road victory over this Sunday’s opponent, the Eagles.

Yet, through 12 games, Dallas also ranks atop the league with 45 sacks allowed. With a month left in the season, that’s already a career-high total for quarterback Dak Prescott, who was sacked a season-high seven times in last Thursday’s win over the Saints.

“Everybody’s got a piece of that, and we’re working hard to improve that,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “It’s not the (offensive) line protection or Dak holding the ball or any of that stuff. All of those at times are a part of that, but everybody’s got to be on the same page.

“We missed a couple opportunities where we were thinking a guy was going to be somewhere and it surprised the quarterback. So we all have a piece of that, me No. 1, and we’re just working hard to improve that area, especially these last four games.”

Prescott says the pass protection is a collective effort that “starts with me” in getting rid of the ball at times when possible.

“I wouldn’t say I’m ever just willing to surrender like that and take a sack,” he said. “If anything, it’s about taking care of the ball, and if I’ve got a guy taking me down and that’s my best option of taking care of the ball, then yeah, I’ll do that. But it’s as simple sometimes as just throwing the ball away, throwing it over a guy’s head, getting it out to the (running) back, whether it’s complete or not.”

Overall, the offensive line has made improvements since Marc Colombo was promoted to primary position coach. The run game has found its stride, in particular, with Ezekiel Elliott averaging 117.3 yards during the win streak.

And despite the sack totals, Prescott has completed 74 percent of his passes with 4 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

“I think the identity of our room has changed over the last five weeks or whatever it’s been,” guard Zack Martin said. “I think we’re getting back to some of the things in the run game. We’ve got to do a better job in protection. But guys are working to get better each week and really grinding at practice, which is what you want to see.”

-Rob Phillips

Beasley On Sprained Foot: “I’ll Be Fine”

(Dec. 5; 2:30 p.m.) – Wide receiver Cole Beasley is optimistic he’ll be ready to play Sunday against Philadelphia despite spraining his foot in the fourth quarter of last Thursday’s win over the Saints.

“It was sore after it happened but I wasn’t really that worried about it,” Beasley said. “I’ve had a foot injury worse than this one before, I think in my second year, just pain-wise and feel. I’ll be fine.”

Beasley practiced on a limited basis Wednesday.

-Rob Phillips

Good Luck Charm For Dak & Zeke?

(Dec. 5; 2:30 p.m.) – The Cowboys’ four-game win streak began on a chilly Nov. 11 night in Philadelphia.

It was also the first time Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott wore long sleeves under their jerseys.

Coincidence or a new superstition for the Cowboys’ young leaders?

“It’s really funny, because me and Dak were like, ‘Man, we’ve got to get something going. We need some new juju or something. Let’s wear long sleeves this game,’” Elliott said. “And that was that Philly game and that was the start of this win streak.

“So hopefully you’ll be seeing long sleeves through the rest of the season.”

-Rob Phillips

Jones Optimistic About Tyron Smith Returning vs. Eagles

(Dec. 4; 10:30 a.m.) – Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones is confident left tackle Tyron Smith can return to the lineup this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Smith did not play against New Orleans or Washington due to a stinger. Veteran backup Cameron Fleming has been solid starting in his place.

"Well, I think that I'm just amazed that we were able to play just as well without Tyron against the Saints when I look back over the last couple of years when we haven't had him and how we've had to make due,” Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. “Now that

I feel we're going to have him, and I do (based on) everything you can evaluate right now, then there's no question that should give us a lift for our offense."

The Cowboys return to practice Wednesday.

Jones was asked about the status of defensive lineman David Irving, who has missed the last five games with a high ankle sprain.

“There's no rushing that one back early,” Jones said. “It's just a function of when it's ready and when you can push off on it and when you can have strength in it and all the things that go with a high ankle sprain. Make no mistake about it, he had a serious high ankle sprain. So, we're waiting on that to get better."

-Rob Phillips

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