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Dallas Cowboys News And Notes: Fixin' To Battle For NFC Supremacy

All the news that's fit to...well, you know. Today's headlines: the Marinelli report; D-Law returns; Romo injury updates; Cowboys-Cardinals previews; who will be under center on Sunday?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Thursdays offer a particular yet predictable smorgasbord of articles: a few final looks at the previous week's game; a smattering of practice reports; and looks at the matchups with the upcoming opponent. Indeed, today's collocation of linkies follows this well trod path. So, we start with a must-read wrap-up from Monday's shame-fest.

Marinelli report: Cowboys lost, but two Dallas defenders had their best games - Bob Sturm, DMN

The Sturminator's weekly look at the Cowboys defense looks at the usual stuff: video recaps; defensive snap counts; splash plays; passing charts; blitzing reports; and a nice little summary, which includes this heartening observation:

However, I thought we saw the best performances of the season from Henry Melton, JJ Wilcox, and maybe even Justin Durant and Tyrone Crawford. I hesitate to say that about Crawford because he is routinely amongst the best defenders every game. I am starting to think they really have a star in big Tyrone who is doing everything that Jason Hatcher might have done last season.


A few general tidbits:

Scouting report: New LB Dobbins brings physicality, experience - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership

A look at the new LB signee:

Showed awareness to play in coverage. Was able to take the tight end in the flat. Struggled a little in coverage not in giving up plays but with his technique. Was fine when the ball was underneath but when he had to carry a man down the field he was clutching and grabbing the whole way due to his lack of foot quickness but worked hard to stay in position.

DeMarcus Lawrence has simple plan in return - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Archer writes that the Cowboys need Lawrence in a bad way. Sure, they were able to come up with three sacks in Monday's loss, but they have not been able to come up with a consistent pass rush and have not affected the opposing quarterback enough. Lawrence disagrees,however:

"I ain't going to say they need me because they've been doing it and winning games off of me not being there," Lawrence said. "I just say I'll be a help to them when I get back."

Smart answer, rook.


News from practice. The lead story is a huge surprise, I know...

Tony Romo (back) misses practice - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Number Nine did not take part in Thursday's walkthrough and will not practice, but Jason Garrett remains hopeful he can play on Sunday against the Cardinals:

"He's not ruled out for this game by any means," Garrett said. "He's getting himself mentally ready. He's in the meetings. He's a part of our football team, and hopefully as the week goes on, it feels better and he can function and it'll give him a chance to play."

Bruce Carter breaks finger during Thursday's practice - Jon Machota, DMN

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter suffered a broken left ring finger in Thursday’s practice, after getting his finger got caught in Lance Dunbar pads. He told reports it wouldn't affect his playing on Sunday:

"We went to the hospital and let the doc look at it," Carter said. "He said it looked fine. … I’ll be fine. They’re just going to use kind of like this splint I have now. Wrap it up and I should be fine."

Just put some 'tussin on it, son.


A bunch of terrific looks at the upcoming game:

Cardinals vs. Cowboys preview - Todd Archer and Josh Weinfuss, ESPN

Archer joins Weinfuss, who covers the Cards for ESPN, for a little Q & A on the upcoming battle. Here's Archer:

The Cowboys are a run-first team, so if they’re playing the top run defense or the worst, they will attack the way they have attacked all season. They always say, "It's about us." Well, the Cardinals offer a great challenge to the running game. Teams have been committing eight guys at the line to slow Murray, and they haven’t been able to do it for four quarters...the Cowboys eventually figure things out and get to the runs that produce big plays. Then they work the pass game off the run game.

And here's Weinfuss on Tod Bowles, Arizona's defensive coordinator:

Bowles hasn’t won so much with his players as much as his scheme. He’s playing with just two of his front seven from last season -- and that number was one for the past couple of weeks while Calais Campbell was out -- so while players help, it’s what Bowles has been able to do from a schematic standpoint that has been the deciding factor....No. 1 was a slight change to the previous 3-4 scheme Arizona ran, and that was getting rid of the multiple-gap responsibility. This is now a single-gap scheme, and guys love it. And No. 1A is pressure. Bowles loves to blitz...

Indeed, the article notes that the Cards have blitzed on 47 percent of snaps - the highest total in the NFL. To wit:

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

Toddzilla's weekly statistical preview is chock full of numerically-based goodness, including this juicy morsel from the "something's gotta give" department:

The good and the bad: The Cowboys have won 14 straight regular-season home games against the Cardinals, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau is the second-longest active home win streak against a single opponent. The last time the Cardinals won a regular-season game in Dallas was Oct. 29, 1989 and the Cardinals head coach was Gene Stallings.

The Cowboys saw their six-game win streak end on Monday and need to bounce back quickly, but they have struggled in the game's following an appearance on "Monday Night Football." In the five seasons prior to this one, the Cowboys have played one "Monday Night Football" game each season and lost their next game each time.

Cowboys face tough test against Cards' D - Zachary Rodgers, ESPN Stats and Info

More eye-opening stats from the "something's gotta give" department:

Dallas ran 14 plays with 3 yards or fewer to gain. Only two were rushing plays, and both resulted in first downs. On the 12 pass plays, the Cowboys went 3-of-10 passing with two sacks taken. This season, the Cowboys have gained a first down on 81 percent of rushing attempts with 3-yards-or-fewer to gain, the highest rate in the league. Arizona’s defense has held opponents to a 52 percent conversion rate with 3-yards-or-fewer to gain, the second-lowest rate in the league this season.

Cowboys-Cardinals tale of the tape - David Fleming,

Fleming looks at the tape, and comes away thinking that Arizona is better in almost every category. Here's his take on Arizona's defense against Dallas:

The Cardinals are one of the few teams (maybe in history) that actually like to blitz more than that. The last two seasons, they've blitzed on an NFL-high 47 percent of pass plays. Arizona can take those risks because of the way Patrick Peterson, the best cover corner in the game, can protect them downfield. Peterson was knocked out of the Eagles game but was given clearance Wednesday to return to practice. He's the key, and right now it looks like he'll be back.

Cardinals pressure presents Cowboys with another challenge - David Helman

Asked about Washington’s success in sending blitzes on Monday night, Travis Frederick told reporters that he expects to see a lot more blitzes - and sooner rather than later. Arizona has developed a reputation as one of the best blitzing teams in the NFL, and it’s not something Cardinals coach Bruce Arians tried to downplay:

"We are a pressure defense – I don’t know the statistics, but I’m sure we’re in the top two or three in the number of calls," Arians said. "But that’s just what we have to do for our players to help them succeed."

Rod Marinelli gets the Cowboys defense ready - Calvin Watkins, ESPN Dallas

Hot Rod says it will be a simple equation:

"Usually what it comes down to is alignment, assignment, key and technique," he said. "Every defense, every call. If we’re on our alignments, we’re on our keys, we’re on the proper technique and we’re hustling, we’ll play good. So it’s consistent throughout. Some you can see bigger than others. Sometimes we’ll see a guy get hooked for a 5-yard run, shouldn’t happen. Alignment."


If he plays, Tony Romo will wear extra protection - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

The Cowboys’ equipment staff is sewing added Nike Combat gear protection into the undershirt Romo wears on game day. Romo has worn a Kevlar-fortified rib protector, a specially designed vest and a longer-than-normal back plate in the past.

If needed Sunday, Weeden confident he can "keep the train on the track" - Nick Eatman, The Mothership

"My job as a quarterback is to keep the train on the track – keep it rolling," he said. "I think the nice thing about this offense is we have so many weapons around us. As a quarterback, you look out there and you’ve got great receivers, 10 other guys are great players....I’m just going to go out there and try to be efficient. Get the ball in their hands and let them do the hard work, and see if we can go out and be successful offensively."

Of course, that train's engine is named DeMarco Murray. As long as that big engine is churning, Weeden will be okay.


I'll end with this little gem:

The 2013 NFL Redraft - Bill Barnwell and Robert Mays,

The Grantland staff reboot the 2013 draft's top 20 picks, and several Cowboys figure prominently. To wit:

10. Tennessee Titans: (Mays) C Travis Frederick (2013: first round, 31st overall) We’re on the same page with the Titans needing an interior offensive lineman, so I’m giving them the best one from this draft. People laughed when the Cowboys took Frederick 31st overall. They aren’t laughing now. He’s been the anchor of the league’s most dominant rushing game, regularly handling nose tackles one-on-one, allowing his guards to worry about the second level and pave the way for DeMarco Murray to grind defenses into human dust. I’m not sure there’s a center in the league I’d rather have in the run game right now.

18. San Francisco 49ers: (Barnwell): C Travis Frederick. The Cowboys probably drafted Frederick a round too early, given that he reportedly had a third-round grade, but the likelihood they could have gotten him later doesn’t affect Frederick’s talent. He’s been an above-average center from the moment he stepped onto an NFL field, serving as the pivot on what’s been the best offensive line of 2014. The 49ers under Jim Harbaugh have built their offense around their dominant offensive line, but the once-fearsome five-man group has looked mediocre this season, especially on the interior. Frederick would solidify the group.

No, they aren't laughing now. I'll agree with Mays on this one: I’m not sure there’s a center in the league I’d rather have in the run game right now.

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