Tag Archives: Jason Garrett

A Tale of Two Successful Rookies: Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott

28 Oct
7l8f0547-copy

Carson Wentz shares a few words with Jordan Matthews during the Eagles win over the Minnesota Vikings. Photo by Webster Riddick

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Carson Wentz in the first round and the Dallas Cowboys selected Dak Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, most pro football observers thought that both rookies would have to spend time holding their team’s clipboards.

dak

Rookie Dak Prescott has led the Dallas Cowboys to a 5-1 record and first place in the NFC East.

But a funny thing happened on their way to their apprenticeships.

Both Wentz and Prescott became starters. Granted, the circumstances that put them there were kind of strange, but hey.

The Cowboys not only lost starting quarterback Tony Romo in the third game of the preseason, but also backup Kellen Moore. Prescott, who had a solid preseason, was thrust into the starting quarterback role.

Meanwhile. Wentz was thrown to the wolves eight days prior to the start of the regular season when the Eagles traded Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings who had lost their starter Teddy Bridgewater to a broken leg.

Usually, rookies struggle under such conditions.

But Wentz and Prescott haven’t played like rookies.

Because of this, the two rookies will take the field for NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcast to fight for control of the NFC East. The Cowboys are in first place at 5-1 with the Eagles nipping at their heels at 4-2.

Prescott has completed 68 percent of his passes and has seven touchdown passes against one interception. He has thrown for 1,486 yards and has quarterback rating of 103.9.  Wentz has eight touchdown passes with three interceptions and has completed 63.8 percent of his passes and has a 92.7 quarterback rating. He has 1,324 passing yards.

“They know how to win. They know how to lead their teams. Nothing seems to be too big for either one of them,” said Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. “They take it in stride. The ability to protect the football through these first six, seven games has been crucial.”

One of the things that both Wentz and Prescott have in common is that they are both athletic, mobile quarterbacks that can make plays with their legs.  The work that both players have put in has paid off to the point that Prescott and Wentz have looked like poised NFL veterans.

“I think in our case, how well he [Wentz] prepares himself during the week, his leadership ability,” Pederson said.  “And all that is just taught at an early age and you kind of just have it, and some guys have it, some guys don’t. Both of these guys have it.”

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett coached Wentz during the Senior Bowl and was high on him because of his work ethic and his football IQ. Even though he was the third-string quarterback, Prescott prepared for his moment on the stage.

“It’s starts with his preparation. He always ready,” Garrett said. “Always was able to handle the offense, call plays and handle himself at the line of scrimmage. You can tell he was prepared.”

At one point during this season, Wentz and Prescott were trying to break the NFL-record for the most passing attempts without an interception. Wentz went 135 pass attempts without tossing interception. Meanwhile, Prescott did eventually break Tom Brady’s NFL record, making 155 pass attempts without an interception.

Prescott and Wentz met during last year’s Senior Bowl and again during the Scouting Combine. Both players praised each other for the success they’ve had so far.

“It’s exciting to see that he’s having been have some successes as well,” Wentz said. “It’s going to be fun to go see him play.”

Prescott said he’s not surprised at how well Wentz is performing as the Eagles starting quarterback because of his intelligence and his work ethic.

“He’s a smart guy, great player, a great athlete,” Prescott said. “He’s doing exactly what I thought he would do. I figured he’d be a good player in this league. He’s been doing well.”

In an age of trash talk and obnoxious self-promotion, both Prescott and Wentz are a breath of fresh air and are humble in their approach to Sunday’s game.  When a reporter asked Prescott about going up against Wentz, he quickly deflected the question to emphasize team.

“It’s Cowboys versus Eagles.” Prescott said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boys are Back in Town: Dallas Is Hot, But Can They Keep it Going?

17 Oct

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray leads the NFL in rushing.

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray leads the NFL in rushing.

PHILADELPHIA—Like it or not, love them or hate them, the Dallas Cowboys (5-1) are among the league’s best teams and no doubt one of the NFL’s biggest surprises so far in the 2014 season. Much to the chagrin of Eagles fans, the Cowboys are tied with the Birds for first place in the NFC East and for the league’s best record.

Last Sunday, the Cowboys raised more than a few eyebrows with a stunning road upset of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Not only did Dallas escape with a 30-23 win, they did it by rolling 401 yards of offense against one of the league’s most physical defenses.

Much-maligned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo likes the balance on offense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Much-maligned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo likes the balance on offense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

The reason for the Cowboys success so far this season was best exemplified in the win over Seattle when they ran the ball more than they passed it. Dallas has shown a tremendous amount of balance on offense so far this season and that’s taken some of the workload off quarterback Tony Romo.

“The best thing that we’ve done as an organization is we’ve very purposely tried to take the burden off our quarterback,” said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett during his Monday after-game press conference. “At different times in his career in Tony’s career, he’s had a lot of burden on him—we haven’t played good defense, we haven’t been great on the offensive line, we haven’t run the ball well.”

The Cowboys rushing attack gained 162 yards against the Seahawks with 115 coming from running back DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher. As a team, the Cowboys are averaging 160 yards per game, which also leads the league.

That’s thanks to the outstanding performance by the Dallas offensive line which was so good against the Seahawks that left tackle Tryon Smith garnered NFL Offensive Player of the Week honors. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound tackle helped to open holes for Dallas runners and allowed just one sack of Romo.

Murray, who has 785 yards rushing, is the Cowboys closer late in the game. He scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the game through a tough Seattle defense.

With the Cowboys running game chewing up yardage, Romo has been more efficient in the passing game. Since tossing three interceptions in the season-opener against the San Francisco 49ers, Romo has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,229 yard, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

When they do pass the ball, Romo has been effectively getting the ball out to Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams, who leads the team in touchdown receptions, and Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten. He also has better protection because teams have to respect the run.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the performance of a Cowboys defense that all the experts said would be the worst in the league. Granted, they’re not the second-coming of those great Cowboys defenses of the 1970s or the 1985 Chicago Bears, but they’re getting the job done.

They are 21st in total defense (12th against the pass and 18th against run) and eighth in scoring defense, a vast improvement from last season.

“We really emphasized the importance of team defense,” Garrett said. “I just think everybody does—gap discipline, tackling, coverage responsibility, doing your job, playing with the right spirit and mentality. I think we’ve done a lot of those things. We’re a work in progress on defense and offense throughout our football team.”

In their latest NFL power rankings, ESPN elevated the Cowboys to No.3 behind the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos. The challenge for the Cowboys is not to get ahead of themselves or get caught up in the hype of their own headlines.

“It’s such a long season,” Romo said. “When you win you enjoy it that night and move on to the next game. When you lose, you’re disappointed that night, you move on to the next game. You find that if you keep doing that over and over again, you give yourself the best chance to succeed. That approach has been there all season.”

The Cowboys have a home game against a New York Giants squad smarting from an embarrassing shutout loss to the Eagles. The G-men will no doubt be fired up to redeem themselves.

“I know they’re coming to play,” Bryant said. “We know it’s going to be a battle and we’re going to come out there and put it on the line.”

Contrary to owner Jerry Jones belief that the team should smell the roses and enjoy the win over Seattle, Bryant said his teammates are doing no such thing, especially considering the team’s failures in December over the last couple of years.

“Aw, man nobody’s smelling the roses,” Bryant said. “Man we all know in this locker room that we haven’t done nothing, we haven’t achieved nothing. It’s just a 5-1 record. We have to continue to play that we playing the way we’ve been playing …Hoping that we come out on top on Sunday.”

Garrett Holding Out Hope for Romo, Orton Says He Ready to Go Just in Case

26 Dec

by Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Kyle Orton has been getting first team reps for the Cowboys with Romo trying to get relief from a herniated  disc in his back.

Kyle Orton has been getting first team reps for the Cowboys with Romo trying to get relief from a herniated disc in his back.

PHILADELPHIA–With all the reports saying that Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo will probably miss Sunday night’s game for the NFC East crown against the Eagles, head coach Jason Garrett still is not ruling his starting quarterback out just yet.

Romo has not practiced all week and, according to the Dallas Morning News, hasn’t attended meetings this week as well. Garrett said there are some players who can step in play without practice. If Romo, who has a herniated disc in his back, is feeling better by Sunday evening, he could play.

“We don’t have any hard and fast rules that if he doesn’t practice by this day, he can’t play,” Garrett said during a conference call with the Philadelphia media.  “We don’t believe in treating everybody the exact same way in that regard. Certainly a more experienced player is more comfortable and you give him more of an opportunity if he hasn’t practice. Tony would certainly fall into that category.”

That leaves open the possibility that Romo might give fans at Cowboys Stadium a Willis Reed-like moment circa the 1970 NBA Finals. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, back-up quarterback Kyle Orton, who has started 69 games as a pro with 35 wins, said he’s confident because he has weapons like running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten to help him out.

“You just ease your way into the game a little bit and get the ball to the guys that can do great things,” Orton said. “We’ve got plenty of those guys. I’ve been here for a couple of years and so timing is not too big of an issue, so we went out and had a good practice today.”

Though he’s only thrown 15 passes in a Cowboy uniform, Orton told the Dallas media Thursday that he’s no spring chicken and has worked extensively with the starters during minicamp and organized team activities back in May and June while Romo was rehabbing from another injury.

“I’ve been here for a couple of years it wasn’t like I was just walking through the door,” Orton said. “I’ve had plenty of experience with these guys and like I said these guys are great players and they get open.”

With the memory of getting picked apart by a Minnesota Vikings squad playing with a back-up quarterback still fresh in his mind, Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said the Birds are not taking the Cowboys lightly.

“We saw what happened to us the last time we faced a back up,” Barwin said. “There’s nobody taking anybody lightly this week.  … I think (Orton) is hard to get to because he gets the ball off fast. He doesn’t mess around back there. It’s important for us to get our hands up and in get in the way of those.”

On Thursday linebacker Sean Lee was ruled out and Dez Bryant left practice early because of a sore back. With all the injuries cropping up in Cowboys camp these days, it’s easy to say that Dallas has an uphill climb to win on Sunday night against resurgent Eagles squad. Witten said his team doesn’t have time to dwell on their injury woes.

“Obviously, it’s been tough, but now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself,” Witten said. “We’re going out there and so we’re going out there and preparing because we have a tough opponent in the Eagles.”

It would be also easy to say the Cowboys are even more fired up for this game after missing the playoffs in the last two years because they lost in week 17. Witten said the team can’t get too caught up in the emotion of the last two years.

“There’s no question that being in this situation and experiencing what we did the last two years and obviously we came up short, it sits deep in your gut and you feel that,” Witten said. “I really think you have to take the emotion out of it because it’s a new year, a new team.

“What our focus has to be on and needs to continue to be on is what’s going to allow us to execute in a game against a tough opponent?”

That’s a question both teams will know the answer to come Sunday.

NFC Least: Bad Play-Calling Defined Eagles, Cowboys losses

16 Dec

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw two fourth-quarter interceptions in Sunday's loss to Green Bay. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw two fourth-quarter interceptions in Sunday’s loss to Green Bay. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—After witnessing the play-calling in Sunday’s games involving NFC East teams, I have come to the conclusion to every armchair quarterback, every Madden video-game junkie, retired ex-jock (regardless of sport) and every football beat writer will now think they’re better play-callers than the coaches who get paid to do it.

  With the bad play-calling by coaches in some of Sunday’s games, it is easy to understand why folks would have that delusion.

Let’s start in Dallas where the Cowboys blew a 23-point halftime lead to a Green Bay Packers squad that was without Aaron Rogers. Now granted, we all know that Dallas’ defense is just awful in every aspect of the game and we’re not all that surprised to see them give up points.

The Cowboys had the ball and were leading 36-31 with 4:17 left in the game. Football 101 says you run the football and make Green Bay use their time outs.

On first down from the Cowboys 20, Tony Romo tried to hit Dez Bryant on a fly pattern that was incomplete, forcing a stoppage of the clock.  On second down, Romo gets sacked, loses two yards while the Packers call their first time out.

Luckily, on third and 12 from the 18, Romo hits Bryant for a 13-yard gain to the 31 and a first down. On the next play, Romo hands off to DeMarco Murray, who was averaging 7.4 yards per carry, for a four-yard gain that forced Green Bay to take their second time out with 2:58 left.

With the way Murray was running the football, you would think that the Cowboys would put the ball in his hand to further melt the clock and force Green Bay to take their last time out.

On second and six from the 35, Romo, according to head coach Jason Garrett, audibled to a pass play instead of a run. The pass was thrown behind wide receiver Miles Austin and intercepted by Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields.

“I think (Romo) be the first to tell you that he should have run the ball in that situation,” Garrett said after the game.

You can blame Romo’s penchant for tossing interceptions in key situations and for being dumb enough to call for a pass play when you need to run out the clock. To tell you the truth, I blame that on Garrett and his lack of leadership.

At that point, Garrett and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, should have made it clear to Romo that it was more important to run out the clock, especially when Murray was killing the Packers in the running game.

Football 101—whether we’re talking Pop Warner, high school or college, says when you have a lead with under five minutes, you milk the clock and make your opponent use his timeouts. You don’t risk a pass there because an incomplete pass stops the clock and an interception or a fumble gives the other team an opportunity to rise from the dead.

The Packers did exactly that and won the game 37-36.  If the Cowboys don’t make the playoffs and Garrett is fired, he will look back on this game and have only himself to blame.

Thanks to the generosity of the Cowboys, the Eagles (8-6) are still a game ahead in the NFC East after a bad 48-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made some questionable coaching moves in Eagles loss to Minnesota. Photo by Webster Riddick

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made some questionable coaching moves in Eagles loss to Minnesota. Photo by Webster Riddick.

While not as egregiously bad as Garrett’s play-calling, Chip Kelly had his own unique contribution to why coaches do stupid things.

In the third quarter with the Eagles down 24-9, they faced a 4th and one situation at their own 24. Common sense or conventional wisdom says you cut your losses and punt for field position.

But Kelly decided to go for it and they Eagles didn’t make it. To their credit, the Birds defense held the Vikings to a three and out and a field goal.  If they had punted and held the Vikings to a three and out on Minnesota’s half of the field, you wouldn’t have given up any points.

Once again, we have to remind Kelly that this is an NFL game in December, not Oregon versus a Washington State squad in the Pac-12. Even the worse teams in the league will stop you on fourth and short deep in your own territory. If he doesn’t believe that notion, give him Barry Switzer’s number.

Of course, there were a couple of other bonehead decisions in this game by Kelly today. When you have the NFL’s leading rusher at your disposal, shouldn’t you use him a little bit?

LeSean McCoy had just 38 yards (4.8) on eight carries while quarterback Nick Foles led all rushers with 41 yards. Really?

One week after rushing for 217 yards against one of the league’s best interior lines in a few inches of snow, McCoy became a forgotten man in the Eagles attack Sunday even before the game got out of hand. He got just four carries for 19 yards in the first half.

Trailing 17-9 going into the third quarter, you would think they would put the ball in McCoy’s hands on their opening possession of the second half to establish some rhythm . But on their first three plays of the half, they passed and went three and out.

The Vikings didn’t stop McCoy, the Eagles coaching staff did.

On special teams, Eagles placekicker Alex Henery was pooch kicking the ball short to keep it away from the Vikings dangerous kick-returner Cordarelle Patterson, who has a 109-yard kick-off return. All that did was give Minnesota the ball in good field position to launch scoring drives.

The most glaring example was the kickoff after the Eagles scored a touchdown to cut the Vikings lead to 27-22 near the end of the third quarter. Henery short-hopped the ball into the arms of tight end Chase Ford,  who took the ball from  his 31 and returned it to the Vikings 46.

It took the Vikings six plays to score the touchdown that extended lead to 34-22. The Eagles would come no closer.