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Dallas Cowboys News And Notes: Cowboys Getting Acclimated To Merry Olde England

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All the news that's fit to link. Today's headlines: midseason reports; Cards reviews; Carter in a battle?; Cowboys touch down in Merry Olde; early looks at the Jaguars.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Today's collocation of delicious linkies begins with some mid-season evaluations of our brave Boys in Blue...

Midseason report: Dallas Cowboys - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Toddzilla breaks out his midseason review a week later than might be expected, likely in order to build up anticipation. As with all his work, it's worth the wait. Not only does he dole out grades (in a bold move, he gives the defense a better grade than the "O"). Here's a taste:

Best moment: Individually, it might have been Tony Romo spinning away from J.J. Watt and finding Terrance Williams for a 43-yard touchdown, but this season has been about the team. So a 'team' moment wins out. Tom Brady couldn't do it. Peyton Manning couldn't do it. Drew Brees couldn't do it. Romo, on his second try, was able to do it -- winning at Seattle's CenturyLink Field. Russell Wilson won 18 of his first 19 career home games before the Cowboys delivered their best performance of the season.

Shoddy special-teams moments kept the 30-23 final closer than it should have been, but the victory offered an indication the Cowboys might be for real.

NFL at the half: breaking down the numbers - Bill Barnwell, Grantland.com

Grantland's resident Footballogist breaks down several statistical categories that pertain to winning, offering top and bottom fives in each of these. The Cowboys, or their key opponents, figure into several of them. To wit:

Pythagorean expectation:
Luckiest team: Cardinals (7-1; should be 5-3); unluckiest team: Raiders (0-8; should be 2-6)

Performance in close games (decided by seven or fewer points):
Luckiest: Bills, Cowboys, Lions (all 3-1); unluckiest: Buccaneers (1-5)

Fumble recovery percentage:
Luckiest: Titans (75%); unluckiest: Giants (30.4%)

Red Zone performance:
Best defense: Ravens (4.0 points per red zone trip); Worst defense: Jets (5.8)
Best offense: Broncos (6.1); worst: 49ers (3.9)

Strength of schedule:
Easiest schedule: Browns (Cowboys 5th easiest); Hardest: Broncos

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Wrapping up Sunday's loss to Arizona:

Marinelli Report - Dallas is not forcing enough field goals - Bob Sturm, DMN

The Sturminator's weekly peek at the Cowboys defense directs its analytical laser at three key defensive statistics: takeaways, 3rd Down Defense, and Red Zone defense, and then offers smart takes on each of these:

...through 9 weeks, we see that the Cowboys a 4-0 when they generate multiple takeaways. Incidentally, they generated multiple takeaways 3 times in September in 4 games, but just 1 time in October in 5 games.

Now, let’s look at the situational football. 3rd Downs are slowly creeping back down to the bottom in the last few weeks, and the Cardinals were just killing Dallas on 3rd Downs with 9 gutting conversions, but they still linger around the league average (44% Dallas, 41% is NFL average).

The big concern is this red zone defense. The Cowboys are not forcing enough field goals when a team breaks inside the 20 yard line. In fact, the last 8 times the opponent has been in the red zone, they have left with 7 points. 8 in a row!  That will get you beat.

Consider: in their three-game home stand, the Cowboys defense was 0-8 in red zone stops. Yikes! And Sturm gives us a bit more disturbing news:

...from halftime of the Washington game until now, the Cowboys have just been slaughtered on 3rd Down. Add in the 4th down conversion the Skins obtained, the Cowboys have been hit for 16 conversions in 26 attempts. 62%? That won’t beat anyone. They have to get off the field and in the last 6 Quarters, they haven’t come close.

Brandon Weeden ready to move on from last week - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

As are we all, sir. As are we all.

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The state of the Cowboys? I'm glad you asked...

Source: CAA agent Tom Condon will represent Dez Bryant in contract negotiations - Jon Machota, DMN

According to a source, CAA agent Tom Condon will be representing Bryant during negotiations.

"That makes a lot of sense," said Bryant, who is in the final year of his rookie contract. "It’s really more that I want to show the world who I am, who I really am. The world, they’ve only seen glimpses. I’m really not a bad person. I really focus on trying to help others and let younger guys who have been in my situation before understand that there’s really a way. I’m going to continue to keep doing that. That’s one of my dreams is helping others."

Cowboys LB Bruce Carter appears to be in a fight for starting job - David Moore, DMN

Carter played 34 snaps against Washington without recording a tackle, which might have to do with the fact that he played just 16 snaps against Arizona. Against the Cardinals, he finished with three tackles, but played 11 fewer snaps than backup Kyle Wilber. Here's his head coach:

"We were playing a lot of different guys at linebacker, a normal rotation and also having to deal with some injuries,’’ Garrett said. "Kyle Wilber deserves some opportunities to play. We’re going to play the best guys and when you have a few different options....That’s good for your team because you’re creating competition for roster spots and creating competition for playing time.’’

Dallas Cowboys need Harris to impact game as punt returner - Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Dallas

In 2014, Harris is averaging just 8.9 yards per return, a significant drop from last season’s 12.8 average and a humongous dip from his 16.1 average in 2012. Against Arizona, however, he had returns of 16 and 27 yards, the latter of which was his first of more than 20 yards since week four. Harris had four returns of 20 yards or more last season, and a league-leading seven in 2012.

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In case you haven't heard, the Cowboys are in London...

Cowboys acclimate to London quickly - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

After the overnight flight on Monday from Dallas, Archer reports, the Cowboys were told to stay awake for as long as possible in order to avoid jetlag, which would lead to a poor Wednesday practice. Barry Church, for instance, said he stayed awake until 11 p.m. playing video games with some teammates. To avoid boredom, he walked around the team’s hotel.

Since I'm flying to London on a similar overnight flight, I'll make sure to bring my gaming chair. Clearly, there's no other way to get acclimated...

A special homecoming for Jack Crawford - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Born and raised in north London, Crawford can truly call this week’s game a homecoming - but it was touch-and-go there for a while. He was initially planning for a return to London with the Raiders this season, but he was among their final cuts:

"In the summertime when [the NFL schedule] was announced people were talking to me and I was like, ‘You don’t understand, this is the NFL. It’s not guaranteed. I don’t know if I’m going to be on the team, don’t go and try to make plans.’ When I got released by Oakland, everybody was upset ... Even when I first (joined the Cowboys) I wasn’t sure I’d still be on the team by the time the game comes."

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And, while in London, they are practicing:

Cowboys practice report: Tony Romo, key defenders miss practice; two OL return - Brandon George, DMN

Romo (back fractures) and Tyrone Crawford (knee sprain) didn’t travel with the other players to their practice field; rather, they stayed back at the team hotel to get treatment. LB Rolando McClain (knee) and DT Nick Hayden (shoulder) were on the sideline at the practice field doing some conditioning work. On a brighter note, RT Doug Free (right foot) and LG Ron Leary (groin strain) both returned to practice.

Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens limited in practice - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

The Cowboys’ injuries at linebacker continue to pile up. Now, we hear that rookie LB Anthony Hitchens was limited in Wednesday’s practice because of a chest injury.

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And, finally, an early look at Jacksonville...

Scout's eye: rookie receivers have starred for Jags - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership

The Broad One's weekly look at the upcoming opponent selects three gents from the Bold City: RB Denard Robinson (weapon); DE Chris Clemons (Nemesis); and WR Allen Hurns (under-the-radar). Here's what he says about Robinson, the former Michigan quarterback:

The Jaguars selected him in the fifth round, which traditionally is the spot that teams begin to start to draft those players with certain traits but lacking in measureables. What is interesting in studying Robinson today is that he has shown the ability to be more than just a gadget player. He is tougher than you think running the ball and it’s just not on the edges. He will run with his pads down and finish. You see him bounce off tacklers and continue to keep his legs moving.

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Don't forget to submit your picks for the BTB Pick 256 Challenge

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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.

Alternative Pick 256 Entry Form

By early this morning, we've logged a little over 200 entries, all but two of which are picking the Cowboys.