Cowboys Headlines: How Accountability, Leverage And Full Pad Practices Helped The 'Boys

Here are a few clippings about the 'Boys for your reading and discussion pleasure.

In this morning's headlines, we look at how Andre Gurode's knowledge of the NFL rulebook may have been a key to the victory over the Colts. We also have good news on the injury front for Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee, as well as good news on the financial front for the injured Dez Bryant. And we look at some of the reasons why the Cowboys under Garrett are having their current run.

Cowboys Center Andre Gurode occasionally may have trouble snapping the ball, but has no trouble at all in understanding obscure league rules. The game-changing leverage penalty called against the Colts late in the fourth quarter had a bit of a lead-up to it: It appears that Colts defensive tackle Daniel Muir had already tried that exact same move in the third quarter on another field goal attempt. Charean Williams from the Star-Telegram writes how events unfolded:

Gurode argued with umpire Rueben Fowler that Muir should have been penalized for leverage. "The guy dove over the top of me, and I asked the referee if that was leveraging," Gurode said Wednesday. "He said, ‘No, he dove over the top of you, but he just landed.'" In the fourth quarter, with the Cowboys trailing 28-27, defensive end Eric Foster was penalized for jumping on Gurode’s back. It gave the Cowboys a first down, and they scored a touchdown and a 2-point conversion.

"I was sitting there pointing at the ref, like throw the flag; that is leveraging," Gurode said. "He kind of had head’s up before the play came."

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A bit of good news for the recuperating Dez Bryant: Foxsportssouthwest reports that Bryant netted a one-million dollar bonus despite his season-ending injury. Bryant reached his contract incentives of playing on more than 35% of the snaps for the season and exceeding 41 catches. The fact that Bryant will miss the final four games does not impact these contract clauses as they are tied only to games in which he was active. More good news for Bryant: By achieving these incentives, a contract clause has been activated which makes him eligible for a $1.4 million roster bonus in 2012.

While we're on the topic of good news, here's more: CBSSports.com reports that both Scandrick and Lee look to be ready for Sunday:

--CB Orlando Scandrick passed his concussion tests and will return to practice Thursday. If everything goes well, he will play Sunday against the Eagles.

--LB Sean Lee limited in practice Wednesday with a sprained shoulder. He should practice Thursday and play Sunday against the Eagles.

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Jason Garrett is suddenly a hot commodity. His name pops up in virtually every discussion about an NFL team potentially looking for a new coach. The 49ers, Panthers, Broncos and many more teams are likely to be looking for new coaches next season, and Garrett is one name that's bound to be high on the list.

Jerry Jones is aware of that, and seems to be proactively trying to drive down Jason Garrett's price with reminder of the offense's early season woes. SportsDayDFW.com writer Gerry Fraley chatted with fans on Monday and talked about how Jerry Jones reminded everyone that Garrett's offense was a big part of the early season woes that will make this team a disappointment no matter where it finishes. Fraley argued that perhaps Jerry was trying to drive down Garrett's price, or scare away other suitors.

Well, good luck with that strategy.

With four games to his credit as a head coach and a 3-1 record, the changes that Garrett has brought to the team are noticeable.

For one thing, the running game seems to be working again. Todd Archer, who recently moved to ESPNDallas.com argues that practicing in pads has been key to re-establishing the running game and quotes Marc Colombo.

 "Football is a game of confidence and when you play with confidence things start going well," right tackle Marc Colombo said. The Cowboys have picked up 595 yards on the ground on136 carries in the last four games. They had a similar stretch to close the 2009 regular season with 564 rushing yards on 125 carries against San Diego, New Orleans, Washington and Philadelphia.

Colombo does not believe it is a coincidence the running game has improved since Jason Garrett instituted full padded practices on Wednesday and shoulder pads only on Thursday. "I think offensive line-wise it does help because it gives us better looks," Colombo said. "Our show team, the scout team, we’re really getting good looks from them. They’re coming hard, like we see in games and it’s paying off as an offensive line. And I’m sure it’s paying off in other areas."

Accountability is another theme that has seen a resurgence at Valley Ranch, and Darren Woodson argued exactly that in a radio interview on Tuesday, saying he sees the team being accountable:

"That just shows you there's an accountability factor right now and maybe a little fear factor from Jason Garrett. I mean, I think the one thing that you've seen is this team has been accountable; they've played well over the last few weeks. They've been a much more disciplined football team the last three or four weeks, and I think that just goes to show you that guys understand that Jason Garrett is not going to take the nonsense. It's a no-nonsense policy over there with the Cowboys and I think it has something to do with that."

The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that Garrett cites preparation in the Cowboys' turnaround, a theme we have become intimately familiar with by now:

"The most important thing for any football team is just to come to work every day and work hard in your preparation, both in the meeting rooms and on the practice field. And hopefully that preparation carries to the game," Garrett said Wednesday as he spoke to Philadelphia reporters about Sunday's game against the Eagles.

"You just come to work every day. That's really the most important thing that we try to preach is, be your best each and every day that you come to work and try to put those good days on top of each other, and that will give you a chance to be your best on Sunday."

Finally, Garrett has been churning the roster at an unprecedented tempo. Since Nov. 24, the Cowboys have made at least 11 roster moves involving players on the active roster or practice squad. Here's a sampling, and I may have missed some in all the flurry of activity:

Nov. 24: Released Alex Daniels from practice squad. Signed Andrew Sendejo to practice squad.
Nov. 29: Released Jimmy Saddler-McQueen. Signed Andrew Sendejo to active roster and Alex Daniels to practice squad.
Dec. 1: Released Scott Chandler. Signed Martin Rucker from practice squad.
Dec. 3: Signed Lonyae Miller from practice squad.
Dec. 6: Signed Kelvin Smith to the practice squad.
Dec. 8: Signed Kenwin Cummings to the active roster, signed Jason Pociask to the practice squad, signed Clifton Geathers to the active roster, released Jeremy Clark.

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Rick Gosselin has an interesting article up in the Dallas Morning News in which looks at how a redraft would look for the Class of 2010. In April, the real draft board was based on potential. Gosselin's December draft board is based on first-year productivity, and has Dez Bryant as the number five overall pick.

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