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Dallas Cowboys News and Notes: Doin' The Linebacker Shuffle

All the Cowboys-centric news you'll ever need on a Thursday morning. Today's top stories: Dallas' most versatile linebacker out for a stretch; defensive news and analysis; Romo says problems Sunday were mental.

Christian Petersen

With apologies to the Jump 'N' the Saddle Band:

Some time during last week's Cowboys game
Durant made a play and then came up lame.
You know with this D, it's always a struggle,
Now Eberfluss is doin' the L-B Shuffle

Hey, Tone, hey, Tone.
Just a rook-rook-rook-rook
Well, now is your chance
To step up and dance
And do the L-B Shuffle

Cowboys lose another key linebacker: Justin Durant out 3-4 weeks with groin injury - David Moore, DMN

Justin Durant has been the key to putting this linebacker corps together in the wake of Sean Lee’s season-ending injury, Moore writes, but now he'll miss about a month with an injury suffered celebrating after making a play.To wit:

The veteran, who was named a defensive captain, began camp at middle linebacker and played well. But with the emergence of Rolando McClain, and the struggles of Bruce Carter on the weakside, the coaching staff decided to experiment. The Cowboys put McClain in the middle, moved Durant to the weakside and pushed Carter to the strong side.

Now, another round of shuffling begins:

Cowboys' options for Durant's absence - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Toddzilla offers a simple calculus:

the Dallas Cowboys have to decide whether they want to make two moves for one spot....If they do, then Bruce Carter would slide back to weak-side linebacker with Kyle Wilber taking over on the strong side. If they don’t, then Anthony Hitchens would replace Durant.

Hitchens next man up with Durant down - Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas

T-Mac seems to favor the Hitchens option. The Cowboys rookie ("Hey Tone, hey Tone") practiced at weakside linebacker  with the first team on Wednesday. Luckily, he always studies and prepares as if he were the starter. Frankly, with the amount of three-receiver sets Tennessee is likely to run, the Cowboys should expect to be in nickle most of the afternoon, which would relegate Hitchens to the sideline.


Terrell McClain ready for his season opener - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

The football gods giveth and they taketh away. As we wave farewell to Justin Durant, we welcome Terrell McClain back to the fold. It looks like TMC will get most of his action on running downs (welcome news; the Titans ran 38 times for 162 yards in their win over the Chiefs):

"I expect to get a little more of the plays against the run than the pass because I feel like with pass rush it might be a little more difficult to get back into because of the injury," McClain said, "but I feel I'll be able to come in and help the team out."

Can Mincey provide needed pass rush? - Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas

Although he had a surprisingly good showing in game one, Jeremy Mincey is frustrated by one that got away: the almost-sack of Colin Kaepernick. His take on that play is interesting; he sees it as an example...

...of poor pass-rush discipline hurting the Cowboys, allowing Kaepernick to leave the pocket because lane integrity broke down on the left side of the field. Discipline is especially key for a defense that doesn’t feature athletic freaks on the front four.

"Focus on making the plays you can making rushing hard, rushing smart, rushing four as one," Mincey said. "Smart teams usually win the rush. I take it back to what I said about Seattle once again. Those guys just rush smart and they play really hard. That’s why they have the No. 1 defense in the league, because that’s what they do.

"That’s why we’re trying to use that same type of energy and effort. It will become production sooner or later."

Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick awaits results of vote on revised NFL drug policy - David Moore, DMN

If the player reps accept the proposed alterations in the next 24 hours, Scandrick could have his case reviewed and be eligible to play Sunday afternoon against Tennessee. Fingers crossed, everybody; the Cowboys really need Number Thirty-Two against the Titans' three-receiver sets.

Marinelli Report - Bob Sturm, Live from Lewisville

Bob Sturm is always an superb read; in-season, he goes into beast mode. On Wednesdays, we'll be treated to in-depth looks at the Cowboys' defensive performance, with expert analysis, a look at splash plays, detailed passing charts, and a smattering of tasty statistical tidbits. He'll wrap it all up with succinct summaries; here's a taste from this week's wrap-up:

If they can get Melton playing more and Selvie back to 2013 form, you can see how they are optimistic that they may not have as much "top end" talent on the front, but they seem to have 6-8 defensive line options that are good enough to consider as a workable DL rotation....In other words, they are anonymous, but Marinelli might be building something right under our noses that he is not upset with.


Tony Romo: mentally, I wasn't as sharp as I need to be against San Francisco - Jon Machota, DMN

The good news for the Cowboys is that, although he was roughed up a bit, Number Nine didn’t feel any lingering physical effects after the game:

"I think that was part of the positive that came from the game," Romo said. "Physically, I did a lot of things well. Mentally, I felt like I wasn’t as sharp as I needed to be in the football game. That’s what stood out to me."

Why Cowboys trust that Tony Romo is past his mental rust, ready for Titans - Brandon George, DMN

George adds an extended quote from Romo about the mental aspect of the game that suffered on Sunday:

"The stuff that obviously gets affected is your checklist, and mental for me is probably the most important thing because there are multiple things that you need to go through before you ever take a snap," Romo said. "Situationally, when you’re in it, you need to be boom, boom, boom [when] you go through it and after the snap. Without them, you’re just playing. And if you’re just playing over the course of 30 throws you’re going to have some you don’t necessarily feel comfortable with. Each one needs to be the most important throw of the game, and you need to have that mental thought process among some other things that give you the advantages.


In anticipation of gameday, some news on and from Tennessee...

Scout's Eye: Casey's versatility bolsters Titans' pass rush - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership

The Broad One looks at some of the top threats on the Cowboys' upcoming opponent, offering a couple of paragraphs each on RB Dexter McCluster, DE Jurrell Casey and WR Justin Hunter. From the section on Hunter:

He has an outstanding frame. In college he tended to catch the ball along his body, but in the pros has done a better job of extending his hands and making adjusting catches. In college he did catch the ball in traffic and this has carried over. He has the ability to make the contested catch. When he wants to run a vertical route, he can get some separation. He can cover some ground with his stride....Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr have to be ready for Ken Whisenhunt trying to get Hunter down the field, and they have to find ways to get their hands on him before he gets going up the field. They’ll need to make him fight for space and prove that he can consistently get off the press.

Titans-Cowboys Podcast- Music City Miracles

Yours truly went on with the fine fellows at SBNation's Tennessee Titans site to discuss the Cowboys. Give it a listen, if not to hear Ol' Rabble go on about Dez Bryant's awesomeness, then to bone up on all things Titans in preparation for the upcoming game.

Jason McCourty off to strong start with two picks - Teresa M. Walker -

Titans cornerback Jason McCourty got his season off to a strong start, picking off Chiefs QB Alex Smith twice and tipping another ball to safety Michael Griffin for a third interception. To win on Sunday, the Cowboys and Tony Romo will have to ensure that he doesn't have a repeat performance.

Titans-Cowboys: the last time Dallas came to LP field - Jimmy Morris, MCM

Morris offers a recap of the Cowboys visit in 2006 - a game made infamous as the one during which Albert Haynesworth stepped on Andre Gurode's face. Jimmy has all the details in this piece...

Don't underrate the Dallas Cowboys - Daniel R., MCM

The author reminds Titans fans that the Cowboys aren't going to be a pushover. His primary points of emphasis are 1) Romo won't throw three picks two weeks in a row; 2) that Dallas has a lot of offensive firepower. Can't dispute either of those points...


Devin Street not awed by first game - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

The Cowboys rookie wideout wasn't sure how much he'd play against San Francisco (it turned out it was 20 snaps). Whatever the case, it was water off a duck's back for the Pitt product, who made two catches for 18 yards. The part that made me smile was this: when he was asked about getting his first NFL catch, Street replied, "My goals are so beyond just one catch." I like this kid...

Escobar expected more reps; Garrett explains lack of use - Rowan Kavner, The Mothership

After having a marginal role as a rookie, it appeared that Escobar’s involvement in the offense would be increased in 2014. But that didn’t materialize Sunday, as he was limited to 10 snaps. His head coach explains: "When you get behind like that, you get into more of a three wide receiver mode and that’s what we did."

Groucho: Well then, stop getting behind like that...

Curly: nyuk, nyuk, nyuk...


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


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.

As of about 4:00 am this morning, 315 entries have been submitted. 87% of the entries like the Cowboys over the Titans on Sunday.

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