Wide receiver Dez Bryant is unlikely to play Sunday after missing practice all week with a foot injury. The Dallas Cowboys list him as doubtful, giving him only a 25 percent chance to see the field against the Buffalo Bills.
Bryant fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot during the season opener and underwent surgery, keeping him out of the next five games.
Bryant returned for the Seattle Seahawks game on Nov. 1 and has played the past eight games, though he also has appeared on the injury report with ankle and knee injuries.
Until this week, the Cowboys had listed Bryant as a full participant in practice since Dec. 4.
The Cowboys have insisted they aren’t going to “shut down” Bryant. However, since they are out of the postseason race, there seems no reason to risk Bryant to further injury next week in the season finale against the Redskins.
Bryant, who earned All-Pro honors for the first time last season, has 31 catches for 401 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Receiver Cole Beasley (knee/illness), cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring) and linebacker Kyle Wilber (shoulder) are questionable for Sunday’s game. Wilber was limited in Friday’s practice, and Claiborne and Beasley missed for the second time this week after each were limited Thursday.
Safety Jeff Heath (shoulder), punter Chris Jones (left knee), defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (chest), linebacker Rolando McClain (concussion) and tight end Jason Witten (chest) are probable. Jones and McClain were full participants in practice Friday, while Witten, Heath and Lawrence were limited.
Showers gets shot
Former Texas A&M and UTEP quarterback Jameill Showers gets a shot on the 53-player roster this week. The Cowboys added Showers, who has been working on the special teams units as well as serving as a scout team quarterback, and defensive tackle Casey Walker to the active roster from the practice squad.
They placed quarterback Tony Romo and tight end Gavin Escobar on injured reserve Friday, officially ending their seasons.
The Cowboys drafted Byron Jones for his versatility, but it’s his versatility that’s stunted his development at safety.
Three times this season, the Cowboys have needed Jones to play cornerback in place of Claiborne. Jones had not practiced at the position since training camp until moving over in Week 11.
“When I played against Miami, I gave up a couple of deep shots on that one,” Jones said. “I did better against Carolina, and then of course, I gave up the big one against the Jets on the sidelines. It was tough. It was one of those things you’ve got to learn from. The margin of error at corner is very small. It was definitely a tough ballgame.”
Jones gave up a 47-yard pass play to Miami’s Jarvis Landry in Week 11, allowed only two catches on four targets with two pass breakups against Carolina, and then let Jets receiver Kenbrell Thompkins get behind him for a 43-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal last week.
Jones was one-on-one with Thompkins but was supposed to be playing off-man instead of press coverage.
“Going back to corner last week was tough on him,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “But he’s the next available at that point because there are so many details that don’t relate. There are so many things that do not relate at all, and, boy, he’s been good at it going in and doesn’t make a lot of assignment errors. The technique stuff can get to you.”
Jones has played better at safety than at corner this season, and safety likely will become his permanent position moving forward.
“He’s got such range in the middle of the field,” Marinelli said. “That kind of height and leverage and reach and speed in the middle, he’s kind of a sweeper back there. And he can go down on any guy back there and play man on the tight end, and he matches up real well. As he moves forward, hopefully we can keep him at one position.”
Jones is just happy to have played as much as he has this season. He has played 743 of 927 defensive snaps, making 65 tackles and breaking up a team-leading 12 passes.
“For me, being a rookie, just being on the field has been beneficial,” Jones said.
Jones will start at safety if Claiborne, who is questionable, returns to action. If not, Jones will start for Claiborne at corner.
Center Travis Frederick constantly works on the little things. He particularly focused on trying to eliminate as many penalties as possible going into his third pro season.
So far, so good.
Frederick has committed only one penalty, being flagged for a false start two weeks ago at Green Bay. That’s a significant improvement from a season ago when he made his first Pro Bowl, but had been called for six penalties. As a rookie in 2013, he was flagged three times.
“You try and eliminate negative plays,” Frederick said. “Even if you have a play that you don’t win on — if you’re losing, the people around you can make up for it. It’s kind of something that I’ve tried to improve on. I had some penalties my first year and in my second year, and hopefully I’m trying to get through this year as clean as possible.
“We have playmakers. We have a ton of people that can make those plays, but we just have to give them the opportunity.”
Frederick, who earned Pro Bowl honors again this season, remembers the exact play in which he drew his lone penalty this season. It happened in the fourth quarter on a damp playing surface at Lambeau Field, an illegal snap to Matt Cassel.
“It was a mixture of things. It was a slippery ball, I didn’t get it up,” Frederick said. “I didn’t see the illegal snap — to be honest. I thought it was a legal snap and a fumble. But I guess out of those two, I’d take the illegal snap penalty.”
Outside of that penalty, Frederick has had a seemingly flawless season. He has not allowed a sack, and has been a reliable center regardless of the Cowboys using four quarterbacks during the season for only the second time in franchise history.
“He’s such a solid, steady guy,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s a great leader for that offensive line unit. It’s great to have that at the center position, in the middle of your offense. He doesn’t say a whole lot, has great leadership qualities though. Those guys follow him, they listen to him, and he has great credibility in our locker room.
“And then he goes and plays well. I think his attention to detail in terms of technique probably has a lot to do with that [low penalty numbers]. He’s always in good position, has really good hands and really good feet, and he works very hard at refining those skills.”
Staff writer Drew Davison contributed to this report.
Cowboys at Bills
Noon Sunday, KDFW/4