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Dallas Cowboys News and Notes: Ground Game Has Been A Priority Since January

Delicious links for your Friday breakfast. Today's headlines: running game a long-time priority; Seattle wrap-ups; monitoring Murray; practice reports; news from the enemy camp.

Tom Pennington

We start today's tour de football back in January, just after the Cowboys hired Scott Linehan to be their de facto offensive coordinator and playcaller...

Linehan: ground game was Garrett's top priority when I signed on - David Helman, The Mothership

The Cowboys first year offensive coordinator took reporters back to this initial meetings with Garrett back in January:

"He said ‘the No. 1 thing we’re going to do is we’re going to get this run game like the old days,’" Linehan said of Garrett. "He was thinking of the days when he was wearing a uniform here. That was loud and clear, and we were all-in, I was all-in from the get-go."

And remember: that was way before they drafted Zack Martin...

And it may even have been going on a lot longer than that:


One last delicious look back at the Seattle game, courtesy of the sports nerds' patron saint:

Xs and Os: things to examine from week 6 - Bob Sturm, DMN

Sturm's weekly look at the tape presents an in-depth look at three key plays from Sunday's win in Seattle: the blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown; a ten yard DeMarco Murray run to the right behind two pulling guards; the miraculous 23-yard Romo-to-Williams pass on third-and-20. I have to agree with Bob's assessment of the last of these:

I have watched this play dozens of times and it doesn’t get any less impressive with each viewing.  Romo is a special talent who appears to have the ability to still make plays that most QBs wouldn’t even attempt.

In other words, Bob, his back is doing fine.


Difference in these Cowboys? Handling injuries - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

The Cowboys are doing something this year they have not been able to do in the past. Win games? Well, yeah, but they have been able to withstand injuries.

That's what the good teams do. Jason Garrett has long preached the next-man-up philosophy, just like every other coach in the NFL has. It's just taken time for the Cowboys to have the next man up actually be worthy.

Dallas Cowboys role players state case - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

While the Cowboys offense is driven by its star players, they are starting to see big contributions from their role players. To wit: Against the Seahawks, Escobar (24), Randle (10) and Tyler Clutts (14) had season high snap totals, and Dunbar’s 13 snaps were the second most he has had in a game. But it's not just the number of plays: Terrance Williams has two of the bigger catches in recent memory; Dunbar and Cole Beasley have been deadly on third downs; and Randle had more rushing yards against the Seahawks (52) than Eddie Lacy, Ryan Mathews, Montee Ball or Alfred Morris could generate.

Nick Saban praised Rolando McClain; Rod Marinelli says Cowboys rally around standout LB - Jon Machota, DMN

Rod Marinelli said he’s not concerned about Ro-Mac missing two practices:

"He’ll be great," Marinelli said. "He’ll come in and get his walk-throughs and he’ll be locked in. How he hits and how he plays, that’s how we want him to play. I just think he leads with his play. He’s got rare ability. He is really a terrific leader in his own way. Guys seem to rally around a guy like that, physical presence. He hits. He runs. He likes to practice. He practices hard. He leads by what he does."


Cowboys not concerned, but continue to monitor Murray's rushing attempts - Nick Eatman, The Mothership

Head coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys will continue to give Murray plenty of reps, but he will share the load like he did last week in Seattle:

"The biggest thing is you want to continue to run the ball well. And DeMarco’s a big part of that," Garrett said. "But at the same time, we’d like to get the other guys some opportunities. We did some of that the other day. And we think that’s good. We think that’s good for the individual guys, DeMarco included, but also getting Joseph and Lance chances out there because they’ve done well with them. It obviously keeps him fresher during the game and over the course of the season.

It's about DeMarco Murray's plays, not carries - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

The Cowboys want to limit Murray’s touches, not just his carries, per Scott Linehan:

"At the end of the day, if you’re playing the way you expect to play and the way it needs to be it’s going to get in that number fairly often....Every game is different. We’ve been able to do it so far and it’s certainly been a good formula for us at this point but these other guys are going to continue to play more; we’re certainly not saying DeMarco is done after so many carries. He’s been, I thought he really looked stronger in the fourth quarter this week with maybe less plays opposed to less carries."

And that's why it would be great if they had another back who could pass block...


News from the practice field:

DeMarcus Lawrence looking quick, explosive; Cowboys expect rookie DE to be a "significant contributor" - Jon Machota, DMN

A couple of comments on the Cowboys' second round pick. First, Marinelli:

"He has fresh legs now. But he really looks quick and explosive. Now he has a chance over the next couple of weeks to hone in on his skills, hopefully we will get him going."

Then Stephen Jones:

"Our trainers actually said it’s probably good for him [that he had some time off]. He’s reshaped his body. But he’s got two weeks here to get ready to go. I fully expect him to be a significant contributor starting right after Week 8."

Dallas Cowboys practice report: Romo, Murray, Tyron Smith, Spencer all return - Rainer Sabin, DMN

Well that's good, if not unexpected, news.


A few looks ahead at Sunday's opponent:

Scout's eye: Cowboys guards could have hands full with Jenkins - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership

The Broad Ones' weekly match-up post features two to watch: the Cowboys safeties against Giants tight end Larry Donnell and Dallas' guards versus New York DT Cullen Jenkins, who has been a Cowboy killer in the past with other teams:

What Ronald Leary and Zack Martin have to guard against in playing Jenkins is not finishing their blocks, because his motor and effort will get him to the play. It is also important that they have to be ready for some quick technique moves that will get them off balance.  With the way the Giants like to squeeze the edge of the pocket with their ends, having a place to Romo to slide forward will be huge. Both Leary and Martin will need to be able to handle Cullen Jenkins and keep that area clean.

Stats-eye view of Cowboys-Giants - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Every Thursday, Archer treats us to set of statistical factoids pertaining to the upcoming game. I thought this wee tidbit was interesting:

Better than you think: Critics have pointed to a soft schedule as the reason for a hot start defensively. But it's worth noting that every quarterback the Cowboys have played this season had a 2013 QBR above league average, with the exception of Austin Davis (played his first game in 2014).


In preparation for Sunday's first division game of the season, we give you news from the enemy camp:

Giants' offensive line hopes to bounce back vs. Cowboys after giving up 8 sacks in loss to Philly - DMN

Against the Eagles on Sunday night, the Giants were shut out, giving up eight sacks and seven quarterback hits. That's embarrassing:

Right tackle Justin Pugh, who was beaten repeatedly, issued an apology on Twitter. Right guard John Jerry was called for three penalties and refused to talk to the media on Wednesday. Center J.D. Walton was overwhelmed and outnumbered time and again. Left guard Weston Richburg got a costly unnecessary roughness penalty and left tackle Will Beatty had a holding call that cost the Giants a touchdown.

Anyone have a problem with a repeat performance?

Tom Coughlin uses Patriots as an example of how NY Giants can bounce back from blowout loss - Ebenezer Samuel, NY Daily News

"Coach Coughlin gave a great example of bouncing back, of kind of what the Patriots went through that Monday night when they played the Chiefs," safety Quintin Demps told the Daily News. "And how they bounced back (the next) Sunday night against the Bengals."

To paraphrase Jimmy Johnson: we're not the Bengals.

Cowboys dangerous run game will test Giants' defense - Michael Eisen,

After a stinker against Philadelphia, during which they surrendered 203 yards on the ground, the Giants realize they have to step it up to compete with Dallas:

"If you want to be the best, you have to do it against the best," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "They’re clearly the best running team in the NFL now. If we want to be the best defense and the best run defense, we have to be able to step up to the plate against a good running team."

Giants injury report: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hoping to play Sunday - Ed Valentine, Big Blue View

Although cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie missed his second straight practice on Thursday, he told reporters that he still hopes to practice on Friday and be able to play Sunday against the Cowboys. What, exactly, is ailing him?

"Problems down my leg on the entire right side," Rodgers-Cromartie said Thursday.


Hey, the Giants media sites do scouting reports, too...

Scouting report: breaking down the Cowboys - Michael Eisen,

An impressive, comprehensive overview of the Cowboys from the Giants perspective.

Giants-Cowboys scouting report: when the Giants have the ball - Ed Valentine, Big Blue View

The head honcho over at our sister site pens a lengthy piece looking at the Cowboys' defense and the expected matchups with the Giants' offense. A taste:

After playing horridly a week ago, the Giants offensive line will have to deal with a Dallas team that appears rotate players effectively. Dallas has only seven quarterback sacks on the season, led by 1.5 from defensive tackle Henry Melton. Melton (+8.5) and defensive ends Tyrone Crawford (+7.4) and Jerome Mincey (+4.9), however, all have excellent pass rush grades from Pro Football Focus. After surrendering four sacks a week ago, Giants right tackle Justin Pugh will likely be matched with Crawford or George Selvie most of the time.

Giants vs. Cowboys critical match-up: Giants' offensive line and Cowboys' defense - Raptor22, Big Blue View

A similar match-up post, looking at the same sides of the ball. This one focuses more on the Giants' O-line, from its poor performance on Sunday night to its upcoming task.

Strategy with Carl Banks: assessing the Cowboys -

Former Giants linebacker Carl Banks goes to the telestrator to diagram a couple of plays from last Sunday. The takeaway? It's imperative to maintain gap control against the Cowboys offense...

Zack Martin: what the Giants see from the Cowboys first round pick - Nick Powell,

A look at the Martin specifically and the Dallas O-line generally. Looks like they might alreadybe in the New Yorker's heads, courtesy of defensive end Robert Ayers Jr.:

"We're worrying about what we gotta do, they're gonna be a big enough challenge we can't beat ourselves up worrying about what they do. We gotta worry about what we do, we gotta worry about setting the edge, we gotta worry about handling the line gaps, being in the right position, executing our game plan."

Sure is using the word "worry" a lot for a guy who's not worrying about the Cowboys...


And this little gem to close out today's compendium:

Pierre-Paul freaks our teammates with bloody zombie skeleton - New York Post

A couple of embedded videos detailing some pre-Halloween prankery from the Giants locker room, with the prime target being DE Damontre Moore, who falls to the floor, terrified. It finishes with this gem:

I’d be remiss to point out that as the Giants take on the Cowboys this Sunday, a cardboard cutout of Dallas running back DeMarco Murray may have caused the same horrified reaction by Moore.

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