2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Romo has big contract, Cowboys want big results

By SCHUYLER DIXON - AP Sports Writer
    2013-07-18 16:12

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Tony Romo is rested and ready. He has a big new contract and big new responsibilities.

Now the Dallas Cowboys head to training camp trying to break out of a cycle of mediocrity that dates back to 1997. They're .500 since the start of that season, including a pair of 8-8 records in Jason Garrett's first two full seasons as coach.

Dallas hasn't been to the playoffs since 2009, with each of the past two years ending in a loss to an NFC East rival with a playoff berth on the line.

Even though they were that close to the postseason, the Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and replaced him with Monte Kiffin. They made several other changes to the defensive staff and a couple on the offensive side.

Garrett is giving up play-calling duties for the first time since owner Jerry Jones hired him as offensive coordinator in 2007.

There won't be many changes in personnel, though. All the key players are back, first-round pick Travis Frederick looks like the only rookie with a chance to have an impact.

Five things to know as the Cowboys prepare to open training camp with their first practice Sunday in Oxnard, Calif.

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1. ROMO'S READY: Romo missed all the offseason practices after a procedure to have a cyst removed from his back. He is ready to go for the start of training camp, so Sunday's workout will be his first since signing the richest contract in franchise history. The six-year, $108 million deal has $55 million guaranteed, or about $3 million more than Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco got from Baltimore. Some of the national reaction was less than flattering, considering Romo's 1-6 record in elimination games and a penchant for critical mistakes like a late interception against Washington with a chance to rally and make the playoffs. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made it clear the day Romo signed that the nine-year veteran would go into his seventh full season as a starter with a much stronger voice behind the scenes.

2. LET THE JASON GARRETT WATCH BEGIN: If an overhaul of a coaching staff doesn't work, the head coach is usually next. That's part of why this is viewed as a make-or-break season for Garrett. Plus, the perception is he was desperate to keep the job because the hiring of Kiffin and the switching of play-calling duties to Bill Callahan were seen as moves orchestrated by Jones. Garrett disagrees with those views, of course. The only way to show that he hasn't become a Jones puppet in the mold of Barry Switzer, Dave Campo and Wade Phillips is to win big.

3. THE SECOND (AND THIRD) OPTIONS AT SKILL POSITIONS: Miles Austin is paid like a No. 1 receiver, but he's essentially lost that designation because of his troubled hamstrings and Dez Bryant's breakout season in 2012. If Austin stays healthy, it's possible the Cowboys could have a ``1'' and ``1A'' with a pair of receivers who have proven they can produce. Now it's time to find out where rookie Terrance Williams of Baylor fits in after the Cowboys drafted him in the third round with the extra pick they got from trading down in the first. There's no established backup for injury-prone running back DeMarco Murray, but the Cowboys think they found the answer in the fifth round of the draft with Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle. Thumb surgery sidelined him during the offseason.

4. SAME PLAYERS, NEW DEFENSE: With a switch to the 4-3, all the leaders are holdovers getting used to new roles. DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer are ends instead of outside linebackers, and they now don't have to worry about much besides getting to the quarterback. Sean Lee and Bruce Carter shared the inside at linebacker last year, but now Lee will likely be in the middle and Carter will be at a weakside spot that basically means he will rely on his speed to make plays. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne will be closer to the line of scrimmage most of the time.

5. IT ALL STARTS UP FRONT: Tyron Smith starting at left tackle is the only certainty for the offensive line after one of the worst rushing seasons in franchise history and spotty protection for Romo. If offseason workouts are any indication, rookie Frederick is going to start at center, but he can play guard. Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings came in as starting guards through free agency last year, but their jobs aren't secure. Doug Free had a rough year at right tackle and ended up sharing the spot with Jermey Parnell, but then Parnell sat out most of offseason workouts with injuries. Since Jones is intent on finding ``that extra half-second for Romo,'' the offensive line will be a big priority.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Thaddeus LewisJul 22 10:33a

Buffalo Bills QBs Jeff Tuel and Thaddeus Lewis are alternating series with the second unit in team drills Tuesday, July 22.

Tyler BrayJul 22 09:13a

Kansas City Chiefs QBs Tyler Bray and Chase Daniel are likely to compete for one roster spot with QB Aaron Murray likely to make the team behind starting QB Alex Smith.

Navorro BowmanJul 22 12:13a

San Francisco 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman (knee) will likely return to action in Week 9 after the team's Week 8 bye, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.

Jacques McClendonJul 21 11:03p

Jacksonville Jaguars OG Jacques McClendon is the frontrunner to start at right guard heading into training camp, according to Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. OG Brandon Linder is the other candidate for the starting job.

Aaron ColvinJul 21 10:53p

Jacksonville Jaguars CB Aaron Colvin (knee) will begin training camp and the regular season on the Physically Unable to Perform list as he recovers from a torn anterior cruciate [ More ]

Jeromy MilesJul 21 10:03p

Baltimore Ravens S Jeromy Miles has seen some reps with the first-team defense this offseason and is a dark horse candidate to win the starting free safety job, according to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley.

Brandon MosleyJul 21 09:43p

New York Giants OT Brandon Mosley will be given the first chance to start in place of OG Chris Snee when the first-team offensive line takes the field Tuesday, [ More ]

T.J. GrahamJul 21 09:23p

Buffalo Bills WR T.J. Graham had a pass fall through his hands after beating his defender on a deep route in camp Monday, July 21.ESPN.com's Mike Rodak believes Graham [ More ]

Sammy WatkinsJul 21 09:02p

Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins made several big plays in practice Monday, July 21, according to ESPN.com's Mike Rodak. Watkins beat CB Leodis McKelvin deep, hauled in a pass [ More ]

Marvin JonesJul 21 07:03p

Cincinnati Bengals QB A.J. McCarron (shoulder), WR Marvin Jones (ankle) and CB Onterio McCalebb (knee) have been placed on the Non-Football Injury list.

Devon StillJul 21 07:03p

Cincinnati Bengals OG Clint Boling (knee), LB Marquis Flowers (hamstring), P Kevin Huber (neck), WR Colin Lockett (hamstring), DT Zach Minter (back), DT Devon Still (back) and WR Ryan [ More ]

Cordy GlennJul 21 06:53p

Buffalo Bills OT Cordy Glenn (illness) does not have a timetable for his return at this point, according to head coach Doug Marrone. 'I don't know that. It's a [ More ]

Mike CaussinJul 21 06:43p

The Washington Redskins have signed free-agent TE Mike Caussin (Bills). Terms of the contract were not disclosed. The team also waived LS Kyle Nelson.

Cheta OzougwuJul 21 06:32p

New Orleans Saints DE Cheta Ozougwu (undisclosed) and DT John Jenkins (pectoral) have been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Brennan WilliamsJul 21 06:22p

Houston Texans OT Brennan Williams (undisclosed) has been waived with a failed physical designation.

Brian CushingJul 21 06:22p

Houston Texans DT Louis Nix (undisclosed), LB Brian Cushing (undisclosed) and LB Trevardo Williams (undisclosed) have been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Eric HaggJul 21 06:13p

Denver Broncos SS Eric Hagg has informed the team that he has decided to retire from professional football.

Dominique EasleyJul 21 05:23p

New England Patriots DT Dominique Easley, RB Roy Finch, LB Deontae Skinner and OT Chris Martin have been placed on the team's non-football injury list.

Alfonzo DennardJul 21 05:23p

New England Patriots CB Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder), WR Aaron Dobson (foot), WR Jeremy Gallon (undisclosed), DT Tommy Kelly (knee) and WR Matthew Slater (undisclosed) will begin training camp on [ More ]

Leon HallJul 21 05:12p

Cincinnati Bengals DT Geno Atkins (knee) and CB Leon Hall (Achilles') will begin training camp on the team's physically unable to perform list.

Jon BeasonJul 21 05:12p

New York Giants LB Jon Beason (foot) will begin training camp on the team's physically unable to perform list.

John JerryJul 21 05:02p

New York Giants OT William Beatty (leg), OG John Jerry (knee) and WR Mario Manningham (knee) will be limited when training camp starts.

Kraig UrbikJul 21 04:33p

Buffalo Bills OT Chris Hairston and OG Kraig Urbik saw first-team repetitions at right guard Monday, July 21.

Dezmon BriscoeJul 21 04:03p

The Dallas Cowboys signed free-agent WR Dezmon Briscoe (Redskins), according to his agent. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Phillip HuntJul 21 03:12p

Former Philadelphia Eagles DE Phillip Hunt (knee) has recovered from anterior cruciate ligament surgery and should begin workouts with teams in the near future.

Chris ConteJul 21 02:12p

Chicago Bears FS Chris Conte said he feels good as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but is unsure of his availability for the start of training camp. He could [ More ]

Alameda Ta'amuJul 21 01:53p

Arizona Cardinals DT Alameda Ta'amu (knee) and FS Tyrann Mathieu (knee) are candidates to be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list at the start of training camp.

David WilsonJul 21 01:42p

New York Giants RB David Wilson (neck) should be able to help the offense if he is able to stay healthy this upcoming season, according to former offensive coordinator [ More ]

Chris SneeJul 21 01:42p

Updating a previous report, New York Giants OG Chris Snee has officially announced his retirement from professional football.

Garrett CelekJul 21 01:22p

San Francisco 49ers TEs Derek Carrier and Garrett Celek will compete for the No. 3 tight end spot during training camp.

De'Anthony ThomasJul 21 01:22p

Kansas City Chiefs RB De'Anthony Thomas spent most of his time with the running backs during practice Monday, July 21. Thomas run a lot of passing routes out of [ More ]

Christopher OwensJul 21 01:13p

Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee), WR Kyle Williams (knee), WR A.J. Jenkins (hamstring) and CB Christopher Owens (hamstring) participated in practice Monday, July 21.

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