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Dallas Cowboys News And Notes: Can London Be Oxnard Redux For Cowboys?

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All the Cowboys news that's fit to link, y'all. Today's headlines: Is London training camp, redux?; Hitchens rocks; the Romo watch continues; Cowboys-Jags previews; reports from the enemy camp

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

This morning, we'll take care of a few leftovers from last Sunday's game before turning our gaze to London Town. And away we go...

Xs and Os: Analyzing the Cowboys 4th down DeMarco Murray Run collapse - Bob Sturm, DMN

Since Sturm started posting his pieces at the DMN, the headlines have changed markedly. As per usual, he looks at several plays from the game, although one wouldn't know it from reading the hype-mongering headline. He looks at the 18-yard Weeden-to-Witten pass down the seam; Henry Melton and Anthony Spencer's sack of Carson Palmer; and, of course, the titular fourth down stuff. Sturm scores a direct hit in his analysis of the Melton sack:

This is why statistics are not practical on defense. Most of the time when you see a big defensive play, you can see someone other than the credited party doing something great to make it all possible. This is Tyrone Crawford’s play, but his name is not even on the stat sheet for this. Melton is untouched.

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London trip a chance for Cowboys to build camaraderie - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Archer makes the point that the team gets to be together all day, as they do during training camp. During the regular season, the players are done with work by late afternoon. This week, it's different:

Church said the defensive backs were scheduled to go to a dinner on Wednesday night. Dez Bryant was getting together with the receivers to celebrate his birthday earlier in the week. Jeremy Mincey said he hung around with 12 teammates on Tuesday night.

Hitchens is fourth round gem - Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Dallas

As JJT points out, the fourth round of the NFL draft is a bit tricky. Teams can find good players there. In recent years, the Cowboys have found Bradie James, Marion Barber and Doug Free in round four. Well, it looks like we can add Anthony Hitchens to that list.

Which reminds me of this article that came out just after the draft:

Why were Cowboys high on Hitchens? - Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas

Timmy Mac asked what Dallas’ scouts might have seen in Hitchens that others might have missed. Jones the Elder responded:

"We saw a guy who could run with size, and we saw one of the few inside linebackers that we thought could come in here and help us if we lost Sean Lee...So we saw a guy who could definitely improve us from where we were last year when we lost Sean Lee."

With Rolando McClain likely to miss the game, I have one thing to say: eerily prophetic, your table is ready...

Instinctive Tyler Patmon earning playing time - Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Dallas

The undrafted Patmon doesn’t have the measurables the NFL wants. He’s only 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, and he’s not particularly fast. Patmon, though, has excellent instincts and he’s earned his spot on this team:

"He’s one of those guys who’s really good for your team," coach Jason Garrett said. "He just came in and showed us that he deserved to play. All throughout training camp and the preseason he just showed us that he needed to be part of the team.

Jerry Jones: Dallas Cowboys need a win in London to lift team's psyche - Jon Machota, DMN

"Yes, we needed to win those two that we lost, and we needed them badly," Jones said. "We got a tough schedule ahead of us....But we also need a win from the standpoint of a psyche of the team and this has been disappointing to have lost these last two games, both of these games. Just as we were building, we don’t want to build in the wrong direction or go in the wrong direction."

Hey, the fans need a win for their psyches as well, boys...

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In a shocking development, yesterday's practice reports focused on Number Nine.

Cowboys QB Tony Romo: back "loosened up a little" during practice - David Moore, DMN

Romo was cautious to begin practice but pushed it more as the session unfolded. He told reporters that his workload was comparable to what he’s done on every other Thursday this season:

"It’s sore,’’ Romo said. "It loosened up a little bit as we moved through it, I think. Then, it just gets sore....The normal stuff.’’

Tony Romo gets advice from Brad Johnson - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Romo got a text message about his back from former teammate Brad Johnson. The former Cowboys backup suffered a similar injury, and told Romo that he started feeling better after 10 days and just about ready to play after a full two weeks. If Romo plays on Sunday, it will be just over twelve and a half days since he was injured. More:

"When you’re ready, you’re ready," Johnson said he told Romo. "Your body will let you know, and no one else knows the pain you feel. If you’re able to play, then play. But if you cannot protect yourself by moving around, then buyer beware."

Teammates happy to see Tony Romo practice - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

It wasn’t so much what Romo could or could not do in practice that helped., Archer writes:

"It always helps whenever Tony is out there," Bryant said. "He’s our guy. He’s our leader. Whenever he’s out there, it makes everybody feel that much more comfortable and he knows how to lead us in the right direction and that’s what he’s going to do Sunday."

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It's Friday, and you know what that means. Scouting reports!

Cowboys vs. Jaguars preview - Todd Archer and Michael DiRocco, ESPN

Archer's weekly question-and-answer preview piece the ESPN beat writer for the opposition. When asked if he expects other teams to stack the box as the Cardinals did last Sunday, especially if Weeden has to play, Archer lowers the boom:

Every team has stacked the line against the Cowboys, even with a healthy Romo, so it's nothing really to do with Weeden. Teams want to stop the run and haven't been able to do it. Murray had his 100-yard streak stopped by Arizona, but he still gained 79 yards. The bad part for the Cowboys is they have not been able to make plays in the passing game the past two weeks with the defenses paying so much attention to the run game. Dez Bryant has been limited to one catch of 20 yards. He is their prime big-play threat and he didn't have a catch until late in the fourth quarter last week. Terrance Williams was also held in check.

And here's DiRocco, telling us why the defense has been better of late:

As for why [the Jaguars' high sack total] hasn't translated to better success, you have to look at the secondary. The unit really struggled with missed assignments and blown coverages early in the season. It gave up 25 pass plays of 20 or more yards through the first four games, the most in the NFL. Since, they've allowed only 14, which shows how much better the defense has been playing over the past five games. Until Sunday's 33-23 loss at Cincinnati, the defense hadn't allowed more than 13 points in four games. That's why the Jaguars have been more competitive in that stretch.

Advanced stats notebook: Cowboys at Jaguars - KD Drummond, Cowboys HQ

The Noble Drummond breaks out his notebook, finding all sorts of fascinating numbers-based takes on the state of the Cowboys. Here's a bitter pill:

According to Weighted DVOA, Dallas is the 7th best team in the NFC, trailing two teams they’ve defeated in New Orleans and Seattle. That’s how bad their performance has been the last two weeks.

In addition, they are:

1st in the NFL in 3rd down conversion percentage
24th in defensive 3rd down conversion percentage
13th in passer rating differential
14th in A/NYA differential
15th in DVOA

In short, it looks like they are about middle of the road, save for their historic conversion percentage...

Scout's eye: The matchups against Jacksonville center around the lines - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership

The Broad One directs our attention toward two matchups to watch on Sunday: DE DeMarcus Lawrence vs. OT Luke Joekel and OT Doug Free vs. DE Red Bryant. Here's what he has to say about the latter of these:

A key for me in this matchup will be in the Cowboys running game, off that right side, and how well Free can get movement on Bryant or secure him inside to allow the ball to get to the edge. When this offense has had success running the ball, it has largely been due to Free, Zack Martin and a combination of Jason Witten or James Hanna all working together on that right side.

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What to watch: Cowboys-Jaguars into focus - John Oehser, Jaguars.com

Oehser offers up a few thoughts about the young but improving Jags. Here's one:

If there has been a surprise for the Jaguars’ offense this season outside of Denard Robinson, it has been rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns. After signing as a collegiate free agent shortly after the 2014 NFL Draft, Hurns has looked the part from the start, playing well enough in training camp and preseason that his spot was a forgone conclusion when the Jaguars cut the roster in late August. Hurns has approached the season with maturity beyond his experience, and said he gained confidence as he learned from wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan.

Cowboys see former Jaguars problem as a defensive leader - Darin Gantt, ProFootball.Talk.com

Cowboys DE Jeremy Mincey was in London last year - as a member of the Jaguars. It’s been a strange last year since his last trip across the pond: he was run out of Jacksonville for being a persistent headache, ended up getting a trip to the Super Bowl out of the deal when the Broncos signed him as an injury replacement, and then signed with the Cowboys this offseason. And there's this:

The Jaguars obviously didn’t see him in the role of a leader. Then again, they’ve gone 1-11 since cutting him, while Mincey’s 10-4 with the Broncos and Cowboys since the transaction.

Denard Robinson's running continues to be rare bright spot for Jaguars - Hays Carlyon, Florida Times-Union

The former Michigan quarterback now has 423 rushing yards on the season, and 329 in the last three games:

"He’s been running really well, and the offensive line has been blocking really well," Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said. "He’s been hot, and we’ve been riding him. He’s been able to produce and run confidently. It’s been really good for our offense to run the ball like that."

Bortles has clear target: limit the bad throws - Gene Frenette, Florida Times-Union

Good news for a Cowboys team that has been on the negative side of the turnover ratio in four of the past five games:

Bortles is too much of an interception machine, with one of every 18.5 passes (worst in NFL, minimum 100 attempts) going to the wrong team. His 13 interceptions are more than rookies Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr combined, and they’ve attempted twice as many passes between them.

Jaguars keep shuffling deck at linebacker spots - Hays Carlyon, Florida Times-Union

Pro Bowl middle linebacker Paul Posluszny was lost for the season on Oct. 20. His replacement, J.T. Thomas, was then moved back to the "Otto" linebacker spot when Dekoda Watson missed last week with a hamstring injury. The new MLB was rookie Jeremiah George, who suffered a high ankle sprain on the opening kickoff and could only log 10 snaps on defense before having to leave the game. Now Thomas is back in the middle, with Watson at Otto...whew!

Jags already better than last year - Alfie Crow, Big Cat Country

Crow, one of the guests on or recent podcast, writes that, although 1-8 on the season, the Jaguars are much improved from the 2013 model:

...the team is more competitive than they were last season through the first nine weeks. Last year the Jaguars had a 178 point differential through Week 9 (in only 8 games) while this season it's just 110, with an extra game factored in. They've given up 68 less points at this point, even though the start of the season was so awful.

This might be a much tougher game than we think...