Cowboys work on hard counts in practice

IRVING, Texas -- Of the Cowboys' 86 total penalties, 12 have been defensive offside calls, the third most penalized item on the team.

Last week at Philadelphia, things reached a breaking point for the Cowboys with cornerback Morris Claiborne jumping offsides on a hard count. Jason Hatcher was flagged twice for defensive offsides and Anthony Spencer got one, too. You can blame some of these penalties on hard counts where the quarterback tries to force the defense to jump offsides with his cadence.

During the Eagles game, coach Jason Garrett turned to backup quarterback Kyle Orton and told him to use the hard count a lot as the scout team quarterback in practice this week in preparation for the Cleveland Browns game Sunday.

"You always like to use it on big downs obviously any time you can get a free first down off it," Orton said. "Third down less than five, we got a great pass rush on defense, so anytime those guys are revved up on third down, key passing situations, you're thinking about using the hard count to get a free five yards."

The offsides penalties upset coaches because they can be attributed to a lack of concentration by the defense. But the Cowboys have such fast pass rushers, such as DeMarcus Ware and Spencer, who fly off the ball quickly, sometimes they can anticipate the snap count. But if those players are a second late, it could cause a penalty.

"We've used it a lot this week," Orton said. "They know when another quarterback comes into the meeting room, let's hard count these guys in practice this week. Not only cause of couple of penalties we've had, but the pass rush is so good you got to use the hard count to keep them off balance."