ARLINGTON, Texas – Phillip Tanner didn't officially sign with the Cowboys until Thursday morning. He was their starting running back Thursday night.
That showed just how much the Cowboys trusted Tanner, who had to forget what he learned with Indianapolis without much time to prepare.
I was just picking up the offense in Indy, and it's totally different," Tanner said. "Once I picked that up, I was released, and I had to kind of put that in the back of my mind. I value myself as a smart player, a mentally tough player, so it wasn't that hard for me to jump back into this offense."
Tanner was with the Cowboys from 2011-13, but his 2014 preseason was with the Colts until a week ago. The Cowboys cut 2013 fourth-round pick B.W. Webb to make room for Tanner the day of the game, but they immediately plugged him in as the starting running back.
That showed just how much they trusted Tanner, who played a vital role on special teams during his previous tenure with the Cowboys.
The only other healthy running back on the team was D.J. Adams, who finished with seven carries for 10 yards and five receptions for 35 yards. Tanner ran eight times for 26 yards and drew praise from head coach Jason Garrett, who called Tanner an impressive kid.
"It's easy to see why he was a big part of the team the last few years," Garrett said. "He's a real pro. He has some skill as a runner, he's a reliable football player, he shows up on special teams. He wasn't with us until literally this morning and he came in and, there were a couple times the QB had to put him on the right side or whatever in the shotgun, but for the most part he came in and didn't skip a beat."
On The Corner
Brandon Carr doesn't appear too concerned about the missed time for Morris Claiborne, who didn't appear in a preseason game this year.
Claiborne dealt with knee tendinitis early in camp, but it was an AC joint sprain in his shoulder that kept him out of the preseason finale.
"For him, it's just conditioning and those things," Carr said. "But he's done a great job this year, just really being a pro and taking care of his body and taking care of things he can control, as far as conditioning, being away from the team making sure his footwork is right. So I'm confident he's going to be ready to play. When you get to this level, it's more so of a mindset. It's the mental part of the game that gets people. I think he's turned that corner as well."
The secondary's dealt with a lot of hits this preseason, including all three of the anticipated starting corners.
Carr's preseason started late after missing time following his mother's passing, Claiborne's been hurt throughout different parts of camp and Orlando Scandrick's suspended for the first four games of the season. Then Jakar Hamilton got suspended for four games as well.
But Carr said his confidence level with the secondary is still high.
"This is year two of the secondary being together," Carr said. "The chemistry is there. That brotherhood is actually forming now, and you can see it both on and off the field, which is going to help us late in ballgames and through any type of adversity. We're still growing as a secondary, but there's a lot of good things you see as far as guys being more vocal and being more comfortable in their positions."
Henry Melton was expected to get some work in Thursday's preseason finale, but he was held out.
Executive vice president indicated this week that Melton was likely to get some work, although he said that decision wasn't final. Melton was recovering from his ACL surgery and practicing with the team before a groin injury set him back. [embedded_ad]
Head coach Jason Garrett said Melton wasn't likely to play much, anyway.
"We had him slated to play possibly, at most, six to eight plays, or simply just warm him up," Garrett said. "We decided after the warm-up just to not play him. Similar situation with Mo Claiborne. We wanted to give those guys an opportunity if we could to just come out and have a little game action. But we've had this situation a number of times in the past. We just made a decision that says, 'Let's not play him in this kind of a situation.'"
While the decision to sit Melton may have been made after the warm-ups, Garrett said it wasn't necessarily a setback or something worrisome the team saw during that time that changed their tune on getting their defensive tackle some game reps before the regular season opener.
While Melton sat, Brandon Carr and Ronald Leary both somewhat surprisingly played. Claiborne and Gavin Escobar weren't expected to play, and they both sat.
"We were going to be cautious with those decisions anyway," Garrett said. "If they felt really, really good and were ready to go, we were going to give them the chance to do it. If not, give the younger guys a chance to play."