Big day in the news for the NFL, as Week 15 gets set to kickoff tonight with a game that has NFC Wild Card implications. Atlanta hosts Jacksonville, who is fresh off shellacking the Cowboys next opponent, Tampa Bay. The Falcons are currently one game ahead of Dallas in the wild card race. In preparation for the next game, Dallas' offense has returned to potency, but still has a question mark as to who will be providing Top 4 quarterback Tony Romo (Football Outsiders) with the snaps.
Phil Costa practices, but Kevin Kowalski could start (ESPN). Kowalski had a positive grade in run and pass blocking according to Pro Football Focus, but was penalized for a false snap that moved a 3rd and 4 back to a 3rd and 9 that Dallas didn't convert. His overall grade was a -0.1.
On the flip side of the ball, there is discussion today about injuries and defensive communication. Rob Ryan said today (via ESPN) that he will alter the way he sends in his calls to the defense.
“We’re signaling from the sideline as well,” Ryan said. “They give you this headset that you talk into and one guy gets the call and you can’t line up and you can’t huddle. We’re not getting it communicated across, so it’s obviously a problem. So we have to get that done.”
“Two-minute situations have been our Achilles’ heel all year,” Ryan said. “We can look at anything else. That’s the facts. That’s on me. That’s exactly what happened. We’ve addressed them. We’re watching all the two-minute in the film as an entire defense now. We’re signaling now. I think we have a better approach, and I think it will help us.”
So all appears well, right? Well...
It seems Ryan is taking responsibility and providing information about the fix they plan to implement.
Then, I find this quote, where injuries (which we all know affected this team during Sunday's game) get referenced for some player's performance that fans weren't aware were hurt.
"We were playing a 'bunch' coverage," Ryan said. "We didn’t execute the coverage the way it should be run. But we have corners who have been delicate cause of injuries. They are not delicate. They are [playing hard]. We got [guys] with hamstring. We got guys with shoulders. Most guys won't come out there. That is why there is so much substitution. It looks like hockey. Got guys coming in and out."
When asked if Newman is hurt, Ryan said, "I don’t know. He is playing as best he can."
OK, so is Newman hurt, or do you just not know why he is asking to be subbed out in crucial situations?
Newman came out for Alan Ball on a third-and-7 from the Giants' 32-yard line. On the play, Eli Manning completed a 64-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks, who ran between Orlando Scandrick and Ball to catch the long pass. He was tackled at the Cowboys' 4-yard line.
The biggest news circulating around the NFL and the Twitter Universe today has centered around former Cowboy WR Sam Hurd and his arrest on federal drug charges. Hurd was arrested after agreeing to purchase 5 to 10 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 pounds of marijuana from an undercover Homeland Security agent, met through a confidential informant. Hurd played for Dallas for five years before signing a free agent deal with Chicago in the offseason. His contract for 2011 paid him approximately $1.8 million, matching the amount he made as a restricted free agent with the Cowboys in 2010.
For those scoring at home, $3.6 million is approximately $100,000 a year from age 25 to 62 for the average worker.
Players from both the Bears and the Cowboys seemed shocked that Hurd would find himself in such trouble. The story seems to be spiraling when SB Nation broke the news that Hurd has a list of customers that apparently includes several NFL players. It has not yet been released whether or not current members of the Cowboys are included in this list, but you'd have to imagine that several players across the league are going to be a bit distracted this coming weekend. Of course, just being on a list doesn't necessarily mean you will or can be charged with criminal conduct. That won't stop the media frenzy or possible league sanctions that would come along with that, however.
Hurd, a native Texan, attended Northern Illinois University, was arrested outside a Chicago restaurant, but the federal charges stem from Dallas.
Normally I shy away from ProFootballTalk and their gossip-leaning site, but here they do a good job of detailing the gist of the criminal complaint against Hurd.
1. Hurd told an undercover agent Wednesday night that he was looking to buy ”5 to 10 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 pounds of marijuana per week for distribution in the Chicago area.”
2. Hurd negotiated to pay $25,000 per kilogram for the cocaine and $450 per pound of the weed. So Hurd had the cash flow to pay for $575,000-$700,000 worth of drugs per week. That’s well over $2 million per month. (We’ll let you imagine how much he was bringing in or planning to bring in.)
3. The money Hurd was willing to spend was on top of what he was already purchasing elsewhere. Hurd told the informant that he currently distributed ”four kilograms of cocaine per week in the Chicago area, but that the supplier could not supply him with enough quantity.”
4. Hurd first came on the police’s radar in July. After receiving a tip, police found a man with a bag filled with $88,000 in a canvas bag. The man said the money and car belonged to Hurd. It was Hurd’s car, and the receiver still attempted to get the money back.
5. Hurd was looking for Mexican cell phones, because he believed authorities didn’t have the ability to track them.
6. This wasn’t a small operation. Hurd only dealt with “high level” deals; a co-conspirator handled more day-to-day stuff. Hurd allegedly had business as far away as California and had a fleet of vehicles.
Back in gridiron news, here are some more headlines for discussion.
- DeMarcus Ware: "I'm Fine Now" | NBC DFW
- Garrett on Phillips: "Our thoughts and prayers are with him" | NBC DFW
- Playoff Probabilities | Advanced NFL Stats
- Analysis Notebook Week 14 | Pro Football Focus (link includes screen cap w/ routes & responsibilites)
Dallas backup tight end, John Phillips, scores a 12-yard touchdown as the Cowboys take a 7-5 lead.
Why it worked:
This play is a nice example of a play fake combined with hitting the defense with the last weapon anybody would expect. Dallas lined up in ’12 personnel’ (one running back, two tight ends), with a receiver split wide to either side of the formation. Before the snap, Phillips shuffles towards the center of the line of scrimmage from his tight end position, as if setting up a lead block up the middle or a wham block on a defensive tackle. The Cowboys then run a pretty weak play action fake, but move the offensive line to the left and roll quarterback Tony Romo out to the right side of the field. Felix Jones releases to the right flat and RWR Miles Austin heads to the corner to give Romo a pretty conventional high-low read on that side of the field. As soon as the defense recognizes that, they swarm to try and cover that route combination, but that isn’t what the Cowboys are running. Phillips continued his shuffle and moved with the offensive line until he was able to drop back and give Romo a wide open screen to the far side of the field.