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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Five Weeks In, "Cowboys Surprising Everyone."

All the Dallas Cowboys news, analysis and feelgood stories that are fit to link, plus a little gratuitous snark for our NFC East rivals.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Rolando McClain practices; Jerry Jones says McClain will play - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
A collective sigh of relief went up from Cowboys Nation when Jerry Jones said yesterday that Rolando McClain will play against Seattle Seahawks.

Romo Gearing Up for the Seahawks Test | Scott Crisp, NBC 5 DFW
Tony Romo believes Sunday's matchup with the Seahawks will give the Cowboys a good idea of where they stand as a team.

"I think we’ve seen plenty of times that one game isn’t going to define your season at this point. However, there are very important games and you know this game is a game that is a great test for us," Romo told the team’s website. "It’s going to be good to see our team come out with great energy and great enthusiasm and really see how we stack up."

Skeptical Football: DeMarco Murray Is Way Better At Running Than Alex Henery Is At Kicking | FiveThirtyEight
"Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is kinda killing it this year." Can't help but like an article that starts with a sentence like that. The article also has an interesting take about "winning on first down," an idea that that we've also been throwing around on BTB lately.

One of my favorite mini-stats from the Murray first-and-10 data is that Murray has five runs this year of exactly 9 yards, and none of exactly 10 yards.

This is smart! Running for 9 yards on first-and-10 outside of 25 yards from the goal is pretty much always better than running for 10. Getting to second-and-short is more valuable than getting a first down because it leads to a flexible situation and forces the defense to prepare for a wider variety of plays.

Here’s the easiest way to understand this: A team is trading one down and one yard for the privilege of having only one yard to gain. Since the team will gain that one yard a high percentage of the time, it has a lot of flexibility: It can rush or sneak to try to pick up the first down (and collect bonus yards in the process), or it can launch a deep pass knowing that, barring a sack or a turnover, it will likely still have a short-yardage play on third down. The opponent has to defend everything from short-yardage runs to deep passes at once, meaning it defends each a little worse than usual.

Dallas Cowboys surprising everyone -
Nobody saw the Cowboys rolling into mid-October at 4-1 and raring for a showdown with the defending champion Seahawks in Seattle, writes Albert Breer.

Amazing, then, to think that the expectations around the Cowboys entering the 2014 campaign were about as low as they had been since the Dave Campo era. All that raises a pretty simple question: How the heck have the Cowboys gotten here?

"Everyone probably gave us that the offense would be a good, solid offense, that we were gonna win some games by outscoring the other guys," [Stephen] Jones said. "What people missed? I read it everywhere, it was gonna be the worst defense in the history of the league. That's what people missed. We felt all along we'd be improved from last year."

According to those at Valley Ranch, Marinelli is big on the "Aikman Rating" system, and his group has come to embody the qualities that push a defense up those charts. Offensively, coordinator Bill Callahan wasn't exactly thrilled in January when Scott Linehan was brought in to call plays, but what could've been an issue isn't one at all. And both guys -- along with head coach Jason Garrett -- have invested in the run game, first as a way of trying to help Romo return to form, and now as a legit strength of the team.

The All-22: Dallas Cowboys' young offensive line could rival those of early 1990s - NFL -
Doug Farrar takes an in-depth look at the Cowboys O-line, and quotes Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll:

"They’re going to get so much better as they grow together with just the young group, but they’ve made an obvious commitment," Carroll said of this line. "Zack looks like he’s going well and Frederick is good, and we already know about Tyron and the rest of those guys; they’re playing. They’re running game is very consistent and they’re very strong upfront and they’re just going to improve like crazy. We’re fortunate we’re getting them this early -- because a year from now, or by the end of this season, these guys are really going to be something."

Farrar concludes:

In the end, I think Carroll's point about this line's age and development curve is spot-on, and the reason the Cowboys' new front five could one day rival those great lines of the 1990s. Like those Super Bowl lines, it's young and homegrown, and it's being filled with the kinds of foundation players that can define a team over time.

How much credit should Bill Callahan get for Cowboys' improved rushing attack? | Dallas Morning News
The Bill Callahan-supervised running game has turned from one of the team's most noticeable weaknesses into perhaps its greatest strength.

"Bill and Frank [Pollack] do such a great job putting together some ideas for the run game," Scott Linehan said. "The concepts are very sound and fit very much what our offensive line does well and our running back does well. We have been building on that."

So how much credit does Callahan deserve for Dallas’ early-season success?

"A lot," Murray said. "Yeah, a lot."

Will Cowboys give new contracts to Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray? | Rainer Sabin, DMN
Yes. But maybe not right now.

"It’s not anything that we worry about," Jones said. "I don’t think [Cowboys owner Jerry Jones] or I worry about it in terms of, if we don’t get it done one way or the other by the end of the season it certainly doesn’t mean that we’re ultimately not going to get it done. We’re going to be doing everything we can to keep the best players we can and certainly they’re at the top of the list."

DeMarco Murray of Dallas Cowboys and team have discussed contract extension - Calvin Watkins, ESPN Dallas
I was alerted to this story by a friend, who wrote that "if Calvin Watkins finally gets wind of something like this, it must have been in the works for quite some time."

Cowboys officials have held preliminary talks with the agent for running back DeMarco Murray regarding a contract extension.

Dan Bailey set to make NFL history - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Dan Bailey of the Dallas Cowboys is set to make NFL history as its most accurate kicker with his next field goal. To date, Bailey has made 99 of 109 attempts for a 91-percent success rate, significantly ahead of the current record holder, Mike Vanderjagt, who holds the record at 86.5 percent.

Bailey has been so good that he could miss his next five attempts and still surpass Mike Vanderjagt’s mark.

Marinelli: Dallas Offense Is Good Practice For Seahawks - David Helman,
Helman writes that the Cowboys offense, itself nothing to sneeze at, is similar to Seattle's offense in that it uses a zone blocking scheme with a big, physical running back. Rod Marinelli said the similarities have helped the defense prepare for the Seahawks.

"The one thing that I think, in our favor, we’ve been playing against our offense since training camp – same zone team, same physical running back, all those things," Marinelli said. "We work against our guys every Wednesday in tough situations, so again, it’s about us and what we’re trying to accomplish."

Advanced Stats Notebook: Cowboys At Seahawks - KD Drummond,
KD Drummond offers a Tour De Force through a boatload of advanced metrics to see if there's any indication of who could win Sunday's game.

Final Thoughts: An Opportunity For The Dallas D-Line - Bryan Broaddus,
The Friday injury report - from both teams - cleared up a few things for Broaddus. Broaddus expects Orlando Scandrick to trail Percy Harvin all game, expects more running back by committee, sees some upside if the the Seahawks have to play their reserve center, and hopes the defensive line will play with discipline:

The key this week for the Cowboys defense is that they are going to have to play with unbelievable discipline. As a group, they are going to have to resist the urge of crashing down hard inside and having Wilson pull the ball only to go untouched around the corner for a sizeable gain. George Selvie, Anthony Spencer and Jeremy Mincey are all veteran players, but for this defense to survive they must be able stay square along the line, squeezing the gap and keeping the ball inside.


Dallas Cowboys pro scout Henry Sroka moved to tears after receiving game ball last Sunday | Dallas Morning News
This is the feelgood story of the day. Pro scout Henry Sroka had tears in his eyes when he received the game ball after Sunday's game for his contributions during the previous week of practice.

"The other day we have a ball security drill that we do and sometimes we get different people involved in it to try punch the ball out," Garrett said Friday. "We film all that stuff. We’re watching the tape of it and he’s the first guy. DeMarco Murray is up and here is Henry Sroka three times DeMarco’s age, he’s got a little hand shield on and he’s bent down and it’s like he’s Rocky Marciano knocking the thing out, and he did it.

"And I told our guys. I showed them the drill and it was a spirited drill, a good drill, the involvement of all of the different people and how they got involved and the passion with which they did their jobs is really something we strive for. Henry was a great example of that. I think our players recognized it before I even did. Once I put that tape up there they all started laughing saying, ‘Look at Henry, look at Henry.’ They all know him, they all love him and it’s really a big part of what we’re trying to get accomplished here, the kind of culture we want to have."

You'll appreciate this story even more if you watch the video of Garrett handing Sroka the game ball (starting at the 1:50 mark) and listen to what Sroka had to say after receiving the award (and after regaining his composure).


Busy day for Dallas Cowboys scouts -
These are some of the games Cowboys scouts will attend today:

  • TCU at Baylor
  • Auburn at Mississippi State
  • Ole Miss at TexasA&M
  • Alabama at Arkansas
  • Louisville at Clemson

Ranking how 2014 NFL first-round picks have played. |
It may take three years to properly judge a draft class, but that isn't stopping Sheil Kapadia from ranking the 2014 first-round picks so far. Zack Martin is ranked 6th overall among a nine-player strong top tier Kapadia calls "The Difference-Makers."

As we wrote about last week, he's been a starter on arguably the best offensive line in the NFL. The Cowboys are built to run the ball effectively, and Martin is getting it done at right guard. He hasn't missed a snap all season.


NY Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul: ‘Eagles are 4-1, but they could have easily been 0-4’ - NY Daily News
The math may not add up, but the disdain the Giants have for the Eagles most certainly does.

"I don’t like Philly," Pierre-Paul said. "I don’t care at all about Philly. I don’t like Philly, you know what I’m saying?"

"At the end of the day, yeah, they’re 4-1," Pierre-Paul said. "But they could have easily been 0-4. The games were that close. You know it too! I watch TV. You watch TV. I feel like we shouldn’t go out there and make it a close game."

Jason Kelce thinks JPP and the Giants are dumb | ProFootballTalk
Eagles center Jason Kelce didn't waste much time or original thinking in coming up a reply, basically calling everybody dumb.

"Well my response to that is, I don’t think Jason Pierre-Paul is smart enough to come up with that statement on his own," Kelce told Angelo Cataldi of WIP, via the New York Daily News. "I think he’s the type of guy that just reiterates what his coaches have been telling him. So, I’m a little worried about Tom Coughlin’s math because I feel like maybe that’s where it was screwed up. Maybe it was just relayed to him."

And when asked to clarify if he meant the entire team wasn’t smart, Kelce replied: "That is correct. They are a good football team, but yes."

Eagles can't keep playing this way - Bill Barnwell, Grantland
In his Week 6 game picks Bill Barnwell argues that the Eagles' luck is about to run out.

The return touchdowns are masking a struggling Philadelphia offense. The Eagles lead the league in points scored per game, but take the return touchdowns out of every team’s totals — only include points scored by the offense — and Philadelphia falls to 18th. The Eagles are 22nd in offensive DVOA and would surely rank even worse with stronger opponent adjustments, having played the Jaguars, Rams, and Washington. The offensive line injuries have sapped the strength of the running game, and Nick Foles has struggled to throw downfield.

Will it all come back to bite them? In the long run, they can’t keep playing this way, because the return touchdowns are going to run out.

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