Next up for the Dallas Cowboys is a trip to the NFL's version of Death Valley, the Seattle Seahawks. With an excellent dual threat quarterback in Russell Wilson facing them, it is not good for the Cowboys to have both Rolando McClain and Bruce Carter out with injury. Carter is still very questionable for the game, but the outlook on McClain is a bit brighter.
"Roland looks good, according to our trainers," said Jerry Jones on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday. "Yesterday, he came in, we were pleasantly surprised but we'll see when he really stars working in. He'll have some limitation in practice, but there's a possibility."
Later in the day, Carter verified he is not going to be able to go.
Cowboys starting linebacker Bruce Carter (quad) said he won't play in Sunday's game at the Seattle Seahawks.
It is a bit of a Captain Obvious call, but still it is nice to see the defense that was so maligned prior to the season getting some much deserved credit.
The Cowboys wouldn't share the NFL's best record with Philadelphia and San Diego if it weren't for the performance of their defense. This team wouldn't be 4-1 as it heads into Seattle if this suspect unit hadn't exceeded expectations.
This is the one troubling area for the defense, although, as head coach Jason Garrett says, the team does seem to be benefiting from pressure even without the sacks. (Note: It's a quote. I am aware it should be "affect", not "effect". And I bet you that the redhead with the Princeton education meant it correctly, too. This is what we get from modern "journalism".)
Yet, pressuring the pocket is the key to any defense's success.
"Obviously we haven't had huge sack numbers, but I do think we've affected the quarterback," coach Jason Garrett said. "I think that was the case a little bit (Sunday vs. Houston) as well. We didn't have the big dramatic losses, but we were around them, trying to make him feel uncomfortable. We use the word effect a lot, you got to effect the quarterback. You effect with individual pass rush, we effect with dogs and blitzes that you would bring. I think at different times we were able to do that, force (Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick) to hurry a throw, maybe throw from an uncomfortable position. I think we were able to do that throughout the game even though we didn't have the sacks."
Visions of a starting trio of Sean Lee, Rolando McClain and Bruce Carter in 2015 dance in our heads, but Dallas would have to work out the financials and manage the cap impact. However, the numbers they came up with here do make you go "Hmmmmmm."
To get a sense of his potential value, Around The NFL polled several agents and offered them a chance to weigh in on their starting point, and what some of the potential pitfalls might be.
Given his age and ability level, McClain could be somewhere between the $3 and $5 million mark per year, though the deal would be full of redeemable money given his past. We would see a signing bonus chopped up over several years, and a sizable amount of money tied to active roster bonuses.
This points out that keeping McClain could cost Carter his spot with the team. Both Bryan Broaddus and David Helman agree. Here is part of Helman's comment.
Personally, I'd put a lot of emphasis on keeping McClain on this team. I'm not so sure they can afford to keep Carter around if they do that, but the duo of McClain and Lee - not to mention
Anthony Hitchens- sounds like a good starting point to me.
While we are on the subject of linebackers, the Cowboys are getting an awful lot of mileage out of the fourth-round rookie. (And, yes, I know he is really only five games in. More modern "journalism".)
Hitchens is six games into his NFL career and he has already started at middle linebacker, weak-side linebacker and in the overtime victory against the Houston Texans he started at strong-side linebacker.
Pretty rare. (Another pithy article that is almost shorter than the title.)
According to STATS, the Cowboys are now 30-166-3 all-time when they've had at least a minus-2 turnover differential in a game.
Bryan Broaddus had a couple of posts up where he looks at some players that you may not have noticed so far in the season. In this one, he looks at how a player many thought was the weak link of the offensive line, Ronald Leary, turned out not to be when he faced J.J. Watt.
Watt had no answer for Leary when it came to trying to rush him. Leary's technique was outstanding and his ability to sit down on Watt and neutralize him with power was impressive -particularly because of how much upper body strength that he plays with. It is rare that you see a pass blocker show the ability to stay in front of Watt and keep him along the line of scrimmage, but that's exactly what Leary was able to do to Watt.
The matchup was so tough for Watt that the Texans defensive coaches moved him away from Leary and took their chances with
Tyron Smithto try and get him home on the rush.
And in this one, he looks at the contributions Jeremy Mincey has made this season.
His ability to play against the run was his calling card, but he has shown the ability to give some pass rush off the edge. His rush on Fitzpatrick in the overtime period on third down was a game-saver for this club. Of all the defensive linemen, I believe he plays with the best technique and is the most consistent player they have down after down. Through five games he has been an outstanding get for this personnel department.
It is almost getting to be automatic that DeMarco Murray shows up as a nominee for this award every week. But don't forget to go give him your vote.
Sturm cheats a little and copies and pastes some stuff from his previous post, but there are still several other things that are worth your notice, like this.
DRIVE STARTERS - The 1st play of each drive can often reveal the intent of a coach to establish his game plan. How committed is he to the run or pass when the team comes off the sideline? We track it each week here -
Wk 1 - San Francisco: 5 Run/5 Pass - 50% Run
Wk 2 - At Tennessee: 8 Run/3 Pass - 72% Run
Wk 3 - At St. Louis: 7 Run/2 Pass - 77% Run
Wk 4 - New Orleans: 9 Run/2 Pass - 81% Run
Wk 5 - Houston: 8 Run/3 Pass - 72% Run
2014 Total: 43 Drives - 37 Run/15 Pass - 71% Run
Wow. Look at these numbers compared to the last 3 years!
2013 Total: 176 Drives - 84 Run/92 Pass - 47% Run
2012 Total: 173 Drives - 76 Run/97 Pass - 44% Run
2011 Total: 181 Drives - 79 Run/102 Pass - 44% Run
Anyone still doubting the commitment to the running game?
Another writer chimes in with a variation on the "learning to win" theme that our own Dawn Macelli looked at.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Cowboys' season is the way they've been able to build the record so far. After being drubbed by San Francisco to open the season, they've managed four wins in four different manners. They dominated defensively against Tennessee, they roared back from a huge deficit in St. Louis, they fired on all cylinders in a primetime beating of the Saints and they overcame self-inflicted wounds to beat the Texans.
The evidence keeps growing about just how much Dez Bryant has matured as a player and a person.
Me: "Have you looked forward to Seattle? Have you thought about Richard Sherman?"
Dez: "It's gonna be a lot of fun, man. Sherman is arguably the best corner in the game and I know I've got to prepare the best way that I need to prepare for this challenge. I can't wait. I love challenges, so hey, I'm ready to go."
Just a sample of the 'tude that the Seahawks' fan base has, to whet your appetites a bit. But their confidence is not without reason.
On Monday night, following Seattle's 27-17 win in which (Russell) Wilson threw for a pair of touchdowns and rushed for another score, along with a career-high 122 yards, another opposing defensive back was heaping even greater praise upon Wilson.
"We got beat by a better team," safety Ryan Clark told the Washington Post. "We got beat by, as far as I'm concerned this weekend, the best player in the NFL. Russell Wilson made every play he had to make for his team to win, and we didn't."
Finally, one bit of roster news, just to keep you up to speed.
The Dallas Cowboys made two practice-squad moves Tuesday, re-signing linebacker Keith Smith and adding wide receiver LaRon Byrd.
To make room for Byrd, the Cowboys released Tim Benford.
Pick 256 is a season-long contest in which BTB members and readers get to pick the straight-up winners for all games each week. If you haven't yet submitted your picks, now would be a good time, here's the link to the entry form.
If the link above doesn't work for whatever reason, use the following alternative, which does not autofill your BTB user name into the entry form.
Through the wee hours of the morning, we've logged about 170 entries, of which 60% favor the Cowboys over the Seahawks on Sunday. You can review the full Week 5 standings and the season leaderboard of our Pick 256 challenge in this fanpost by BTB-member Hookerhome.