Offseason Surgery For Antwaun Woods
(Jan. 17; 9:15 p.m.) – Defensive tackle Antwaun Woods had surgery to repair a torn labrum he suffered in last Saturday’s divisional-round playoff loss to the Rams.
Woods was among the best stories of the 2018 season. Undrafted in 2016, and a backup with the Titans in 2017, the 26-year-old earned a starting job with the Cowboys in training camp this past August.
He started 15 games this season, collecting 34 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
While the team hasn’t announced an official timetable for Woods, a return to football activities at some point this offseason is likely a realistic target.
Cowboys Staff to Coach 2019 Pro Bowl
(Jan. 13, 7:05 p.m.) – For the third time in five seasons, Jason Garrett and his staff will coach the NFC in the Pro Bowl.
That became official on Sunday after New Orleans defeated Philadelphia in the other NFC Divisional game.
The NFL sends the highest-seeded losing team in the Divisional round to coach the Pro Bowl. Had the No. 1 seeded Saints lost to the Eagles, Sean Payton’s staff would be headed to Orlando for the Pro Bowl game, which will be played on Jan. 27.
Instead, Garrett and the Cowboys will now coach the NFC against Anthony Lynn - former Cowboys RB coach - and his Chargers staff.
Garrett and the Cowboys coaches the Pro Bowl following the 2014 and 2016 seasons.
The Cowboys currently have Pro Bowl players in the game in offensive tackle Tyron Smith, guard Zack Martin, cornerback Byron Jones, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Sean Lee To Weigh Options On Future
(Jan. 13, 12:05 p.m.) – From the time Leighton Vander Esch stepped into his starting job, there have been questions about Sean Lee’s future.
With the Cowboys’ season officially in the books, those questions are bound to intensify. Within minutes of Saturday’s loss to the Rams, Lee was already fielding questions about what the future holds for him.
"Obviously, I'll talk to my family and see what the deal is," he said. "All I know is I'm blessed to be here. I love being here. I love playing football. Got to figure things out."
Lee had been one of the focal points of the Cowboys’ defense for much of the last decade, earning to Pro Bowl trips and a first-team All-Pro selection in the process. However, as has been well-documented, injuries have also severely limited him. Over the course of a nine-year career, Lee has only appeared in 93 of a possible 144 games due to various injuries.
Those problems reared up again in 2018, as a hamstring injury limited Lee to just seven appearances in the regular season – opening the door for Vander Esch.
With all of that in mind, it wasn’t surprising to hear Lee list his health as a major factor in this upcoming offseason.
“Obviously, the health is a major issue. Trying to stay healthy is something that I need to do if I want to keep playing,” he said. “But I do love the game, I love this organization. So we’ll figure out the future.”
Cowboys Optimistic Beasley Can Play
(Jan. 11, 10:50 a.m.) – If ever there was a time to gut through an injury, it’s probably the playoffs.
That seems to be the situation for Cole Beasley, who missed all of the Cowboys’ practices this week while working through injuries to both his foot and his ankle.
To hear it from owner/general manager Jerry Jones, though, the Cowboys are optimistic their slot receiver will be able to suit up Saturday night against the Rams.
“My feeling right now is to play with Cole Beasley,” Jones said to 105.3 FM The Fan on Friday. “He’s given every indication he can force himself through it. Right now, we’re planning on having Cole Beasley.”
If Beasley can gut through the injuries, it’d be a big boost for an injury-riddled Cowboys receiver corps. Allen Hurns was lost to an ankle injury last week during the win against the Seahawks, so Beasley’s injury has left Tavon Austin as the only viable option to work in the slot.
The Cowboys will likely carry the Beasley decision all the way up to game time, but it’s still encouraging to hear he might be ready.
‘Quiet Before The Storm’ For Lawrence, Dallas Defense
(Jan. 10; 3:30 p.m.) – Kickoff is still two days away, but DeMarcus Lawrence and the Dallas defense are primed for Saturday’s divisional-round matchup against the Rams.
“Quiet before the storm,” he said with a smile. “Just let everything play out, and when it’s time to rock and roll, we’re going to hit.”
Lawrence, the Cowboys’ Pro Bowl pass rusher, was his typical engaging self in Thursday’s visit with the media. When asked his thoughts on Rams quarterback Jared Goff, he said, “He’s a quarterback. I don’t like quarterbacks. My impression is the same: I go into every week wanting to take the quarterback’s soul.”
What about Dak Prescott, then?
“Dak’s my teammate," Lawrence said. "If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t like him either. He knows it.”
Down to serious business, though, it’s clear the defense has plenty of respect for Goff and the Rams’ second-ranked offense. Lawrence said the key against L.A. will be “playing to our tempo and don’t let them try to dictate the tempo of the game.”
“We’ve just got to be more disciplined than them,” he said.
Finding A Role For Lance Lenoir?
(Jan. 9, 12:37 p.m.) – This opportunity could be bigger than the others for Lance Lenoir.
Facing multiple injuries in the wide receiver corps, the Cowboys are calling Lenoir up from the practice squad for the second time this season. Lenoir takes the place of Allen Hurns, who was moved to injured reserve after suffering a gruesome ankle injury against the Seahawks.
This is Lenoir’s second stint on the active roster, where he has mainly played special teams. In seven appearances this season, he played a whopping 106 special teams snaps, accounting for 52 percent of the team’s total. That said, he only played in eight offensive snaps in that stretch.
Could this week be different? It probably depends on how the rest of the week plays out. In addition to Hurns’ injury, Cole Beasley has also yet to practice this week after tweaking his ankle against Seattle. If Beasley is unable to go, the Cowboys could be severely short-handed – especially in the slot.
Lenoir could help with that. He has the versatility to play inside and outside the formation, as he demonstrated during training camp.
Whether that plays out is something to watch as the week goes along. But Lenoir at least gives them another option.
Cowboys Did Pre-Draft Homework On Rams’ Goff
(Jan. 8; 4:30 p.m.) – Two quarterbacks from the 2016 draft class, Dak Prescott and Jared Goff, will face off Saturday night at the L.A. Coliseum.
Goff went first overall to the Rams. Prescott, of course, rose from fourth-round pick to starting quarterback in Dallas.
But the Cowboys, holding the fourth overall pick, also did plenty of homework on Goff that year. They had him in for an official visit and worked him out at his college campus (Cal-Berkeley).
“Not a surprise to anybody he was drafted as high as he was,” Garrett said. “A really good college player. I think everybody felt he was going to be a really good pro.”
Goff ended up going No. 1 to L.A.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott and Prescott went to Dallas at No. 4 and in Round 4, respectively.
It’s worked out well for both teams.
Looney Ready to Face NFL’s “Best Duo”
(Jan. 7; 5:33 p.m.) – When the NFL Awards get announced next month, there will be no surprise about the Defensive Player of the Year. Go ahead and book that one for the Rams’ Aaron Donald, who had 20.5 sacks as a defensive tackle. And when you pair him with fellow DT Ndamukong Suh, it’s one of the best defensive fronts in the league.
Cowboys center Joe Looney doesn’t think you need to say “one of.”
“Those guys are probably the best duo in the league,” Looney said. “We as an offensive line have got to bring our A-game against these guys. Any time you’re going up against two guys like that, that have so many accolades, you’ve got to go out there and execute with your technique.”
So what does that mean for the Cowboys? Looney said it comes back to what this team has done all year and the preparation and practice regiment that led them here.
“You really just got to trust your technique,” said Looney, who has started every game this year after replacing the injured Travis Frederick. “Everything you’ve been working on throughout the year, you just continue to work on it and prepare and make sure you’re ready for Saturday.”
The Rams went out and grabbed some top names across their entire defense this year to join Donald. Cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, along with Suh and former first-round pick Dante Fowler, give the Rams a lot of heralded players on that side of the ball.
However, the Rams rank 19th in total defense and are dead last in the NFL in yards per rush, giving up 5.1 yards per game.
But they find a way to get the ball, forcing 30 takeaways, which ranks third in the NFL and first among remaining playoff teams.
And most of what the Rams are able to do defensively, starts with Donald, whom Looney said finds a way to show up everyone on the tape.
“The effort he brings to the game. This guy is flying around everywhere and doesn’t take any plays off,” Looney said of Donald. “He plays the game the right way, so we’ve got to match that intensity.”
With Divisional Round Set, Cowboys 'Locked In' On Rams
(Jan. 6; 7:45 p.m.) – Like the rest of the country, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett had an eye on Eagles-Bears Sunday afternoon.
Garrett and his staff spent the morning reviewing the tape of Saturday’s wild-card victory over Seattle. In the afternoon they did homework on the Rams, knowing there was a chance they’d face the NFC's No. 2 seed next weekend.
Now it’s official: With the victorious Eagles heading to New Orleans next to face the top-seeded Saints, the Cowboys will play at L.A. Saturday night in the divisional round. They’ll start their practice week Tuesday.
“Little bit of a funny day today not knowing who you play and when you play,” Garrett said. “But as soon as that game ended it kind of kicks into gear. We’re locked in as a coaching staff on getting our preparation right for this team. Our players will be in tomorrow and we’ll focus on having a good day tomorrow.”
The Rams (13-3) finished the regular season with the NFL’s No. 2-ranked offense in yards per game (421.1) and points per game (32.9), led by quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley.
Defensively, former Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips coordinates a Rams group that features powerful defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. L.A. ranks 14th in total defense (358.6) and 13th in scoring defense (24.0).
Obviously, controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides will be critical.
“They’re an outstanding offense. They’re very balanced,” Garrett said. “They run the ball very well, they throw it well. They’re efficient. They make big plays.
“Obviously they’re really good on their defensive front and they’ve got a lot of good rushers, both inside and outside, and not only the guys they start but the guys they rotate in. And that’s a big part of what they want to do defensively, and they’re very good at it.”
Jaylon Smith Finalist For Butkus Award
(Jan. 3; 8 a.m.) – Jaylon Smith could become the first linebacker to win the Dick Butkus award at three different levels: high school, college and now the NFL.
Smith is among six finalists for the NFL version of the award, given to the league’s best linebacker. The second-year Cowboys linebacker has posted a career-high 150 tackles (five for loss) and ranks fourth on the team with four sacks.
The other finalists are Carolina’s Luke Kuechly, Indianapolis’ Darius Leonard, Chicago’s Khalil Mack, Denver’s Von Miller and Seattle’s Bobby Wagner.
The Butkus award, named after the all-time great NFL linebacker, expanded to the high school and pro levels in 2008. Smith won in 2015 at Notre Dame and in 2012 at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Zack Martin Ready To Go For Saturday
(Jan. 1, 2:40 p.m.) – It shouldn’t come as a big surprise, but Zack Martin is ready for the playoffs.
“I feel good,” he said. “Felt good moving around today. Locked and ready to go for this week.”
The All-Pro guard spoke to reporters on Tuesday after going through the first practice of the week. Having sat out of Sunday’s game against the Giants, Martin said the down time has been a big benefit for his injured knee.
“I think it helped, and then even in the Tampa game, not re-aggravating it helped,” he said. “I think I feel as good as I can at this point, and I’m looking forward to playing Saturday.”
The injury has been a consistent problem for Martin this season. Going back to October, he has been forced out of several games, and he missed his first career game on Dec. 16 against Indianapolis.
Adding the five-time Pro Bowler back into the lineup should be a big boost for the Cowboys’ No. 10 rushing offense, as it faces off against the Seahawks’ 13th-ranked rushing defense.
“They’re a very good defense, obviously a bunch of really good players – Clark, Wagner, Wright and all those guys,” Martin said. “It’s always a tough game versus those guys. It’s kind of a bone-on-bone game. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’re excited for the challenge.”
Interest In Richard Around The League?
(Jan. 1; 11:45 a.m.) – The Cowboys’ coaching staff is locked in on preparation for Saturday’s wild-card playoff matchup against Seattle. Meanwhile, several non-playoff teams now have head-coaching vacancies – and it appears Cowboys defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Kris Richard could be on short lists around the league.
According to national reports Monday, the Dolphins and Jets have interest in interviewing Richard, who has helped the Cowboys rise to seventh in total defense in his first season on head coach Jason Garrett’s staff. Safety-turned-cornerback Byron Jones has made his first Pro Bowl this year on Richard’s watch.
Cowboys chief operating officer/executive vice president Stephen Jones was asked Monday on 105.3 The Fan about teams’ potential interest in Richard.
“I think it’s premature to talk about who’s calling about who, but certainly Kris has done a great job,” Jones said. “Certainly will not be surprised at all if we get several calls on Kris before it’s all said and done. He’s done a great job for us this year working with (defensive coordinator) Rod (Marinelli) and we certainly want to keep him. That’s an important part of what we’re about on the defensive side of the ball. But we also realize that when these assistants get head coaching opportunities, they have to look at that.”