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Cowboys News And Notes: How Much Longer Before Byron Jones Is The Starter At Safety?

All the news that's fit to link. And a bunch of other stuff. Today's top headlines: leftovers from Sunday's New York supper; playoff odds; McFadden's big day; Hardy and Dez watches continue; Bryon Jones soon to start?; player tidbits; a fitting tribute to Woody.

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Since it's only Wednesday, there's still a few residual game recaps and post-game analyses worthy of our attention. Let's start with those, shall we?

Decoding Linehan: Cowboys offense found something in Giants loss - Bob Sturm, DMN

Sturm's weekly look at the offense. There is so much (so MUCH!) here to love that I could have highlighted several sections. Since that would simply be too much, I'll tell you that I'll wait here while you go and read the entire shebang. Oh, and here's some good numbers:

The Cowboys snapped the ball 69 times. That number is significant because that is precisely the number they averaged in Romo's starts. Then, for the 3 games started by Brandon Weeden, the number dropped quickly to 57 plays per game. Then, with Cassel, it pops back up to 69. Can he do that every week? Because if he can, that means a few things are happening and a few other are not happening:

Happening: First Downs, sustaining drives, eating time of possession, controlling the game.

Not Happening: 3 and outs, punts, defense being hung out to dry.

Dallas Cowboys Again Lose Toxic Differential Battle, Lose Another Game - KD Drummond, Cowboys HQ

The Noble Drummond looks at Sunday's game by comparing "toxic" plays: passes over 25 yards, runs over 10 yards, turnovers and for my purposes, special teams touchdowns. At one point in the game, after the long play-action pass to Witten, the Cowboys held a sizable +4 advantage in "toxics," but that waned and they finished -1 on the ledger. KD's analysis:

First off, you can see the reason that Dallas’ brass was quick to say Matt Cassel would start until Tony Romo was ready to return. The big play returned to the Cowboys offense in a big way. Even with their lack of turnovers forced, Dallas tallied 10 Toxic Events for the game. They had just two against the Patriots, five against the Saints and only four against Atlanta.

The Offensive Line Finally Swings the Hammer - Rafael Vela, Cowboys Nation

Raf with his post-game analysis of the Giants game, and a culinary metaphor to describe our relationship to it as Cowboys fans:

Most importantly the return of sluggo football means the Cowboys shouldn’t be out-muscled or out possessed in their subsequent games. That’s no guarantee, however, that the special teams won’t find new ways to cough up points, or that the passing attack won’t continue handing away points (that’s three touchdowns in the two Giants games via receiver fumbles, bobbles or sloppy routes).

Power running has a rhythm and a magic of its own, and that’s important, because if the Cowboys are going to keep bungling their way through the mid-season, I need a sub-plot to the game to entertain me. The improved pass rush thrills, but watching just for the rush is like binge eating chocolates. The emotional rush is immediate but temporary. The running game offers longer-lasting sustenance.

And we hungry Cowboys fans need all the meat and potatoes we can get.

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DVOA Playoff Odds Report - Football Outsiders

The fine gents at Football Outsiders release this week's playoff odds, which includes a special formulation to accommodate the Cowboys' injury situation:

There are two DAVE ratings listed below for Dallas due to the injury to Tony Romo. The first rating is used through Week 10 in all simulations. In Weeks 11-12, there is a 50 percent chance that Tony Romo returns and the simulation uses the second rating. From Week 13 onwards, only the second rating is used. Both ratings are boosted slightly to estimate the value of Dez Bryant returning soon from his foot injury.

FO week 7

They also give the Cowboys a 9.4% chance of landing a top-3 pick in the next year's NFL draft...

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Sunday's breakout performance was, of course, Darren McFadden's DeMarco Murray-like 152 rushing yards.

Greg Hardy wouldn't be on my team - Babe Laufenberg, DMN

Laufenberg's weekly post-game Q&A. He answers a slew of questions, including this one about whether or not Run-DMC has seized the lead back's role:

Absolutely. You will hear a lot of smoke coming out of Valley Ranch about giving guys touches and nothing has changed, but everything has changed after yesterday. The Cowboys have been dying for someone to grab the position by the throat, and McFadden did just that. Ran hard. Broke tackles. Showed a burst. For a fleeting moment, I thought DeMarco Murray had returned to the backfield.

McFadden Feeling Good After His Largest Carries Total In Nearly 3 Years - Rob Phillips, The Mothership

The last time McFadden had more than 29 carries, Phillips reports, was Dec. 16, 2012, with the Raiders. In fact, he’s only had 12 career games of 20-or-more carries. But there's almost certainly more opportunities on the horizon:

Joseph Randle, who led the running back committee for the first five games, is dealing with an oblique strain this week that limited him to two carries against the Giants. Randle’s injury status for this Sunday's home game against the Seahawks remains to be seen, but head coach Jason Garrett and team owner/general manager Jerry Jones have said McFadden has earned more carries.

Will Dallas Cowboys change their RB-by-committee approach? - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Archer weighs in on the state of the RBBC approach. He, too, wonders whether the injury-prone McFadden can continue Sunday's historic workload:

The 29 carries were the second most he has had in his career, and it was the first 20-carry game he has had since midway through the 2013 season. He hasn’t had back-to-back games with at least 20 carries since 2011. In fact he’s had 20 or more carries in consecutive games twice in his career.

RB Darren McFadden on Jerry Jones backing him: 'I want to step in there and just try to take over that role' - Brandon George, DMN

The veteran runner's body certainly registered Sunday's heavy workload:

"I definitely knew once I got home and sat down a little bit that I had those carries," McFadden said. "I feel pretty good, normal soreness and things. No injuries or anything. Just keep preparing and getting ready for this week."

Injuries expose Cowboys' inability to evaluate own talent - Rainer Sabin, DMN

The usually sober and level-headed Sabin opts to extrapolate a global assessment from a small, local sample size:

But why did it take this long to make this determination? Why did it necessitate Randle getting hurt to see McFadden unleashed? Before Sunday, McFadden had only 37 carries. Then, against the Giants, he was handed the ball 29 times.

The emergence of McFadden and the immediate rush to promote him implies the Cowboys may have been wrong in their assessment of their own running backs, which isn't a surprise for a team that formulated an inaccurate appraisal of Brandon Weeden.

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Of course, the Greg Hardy saga persists. In cases such as this, people's positions reveal much about themselves...

Show some backbone and control your Cowboys, Jason Garrett - Rick Gosselin, DMN

The Goose does his best Walter Matthau impression - you know, from Grumpy Old Men:

I doubt Jimmy Johnson would have stood by watching if a player got into the face of one of his assistants right in front of him....I doubt Bill Parcells would have played spectator to the Hardy-Bisaccia confrontation, either. Mike Ditka? Nope. Bill Cowher? Unlikely.

Take command of your team. Reach in, grab Hardy in the scrum, tell him you've still got a game to win and then order him off the field and back to the bench area. Or, as Mike Singletary did to his Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis a few years back, send him in to the lockerroom. Show some backbone. No one player is bigger than the team, especially when there is still time on the clock for a game to be won.

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett maintains consistent approach - Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Dallas

JJT, of all people, turns out to be the level-headed one, as he writes about Jason Garrett and the process, which allows him to be remarkably consistent:

Garrett’s approach and the culture he’s created at the club’s Valley Ranch training complex is designed to help the players ignore the noise from outside the building. You’ll never hear Garrett talk about expectations, or hear him react angrily to someone else’s opinion about his team.

He doesn’t care what you think about Hardy’s sideline antics, or whether Dez Bryant is rushing back from his broken toe.

He’s secure enough in himself and his program to ignore you. He'll ignore me, too.

That last sentence is affirmation that Garrett is a smart man, indeed.

Amid this drama, why would Jerry Jones talk about an extension for Hardy? Here's why - David Moore, DMN

In this piece, Moore shows why he has earned the right to open every press conference at Valley Ranch. He cuts through the hype with a plain, clear statement of the bottom line:

Let's say the Cowboys were 5-1, which they were after six games last season. Hardy would still be a story, justifiably so, but he wouldn't dominate the news cycle the way he does now. He would only be part of the overall narrative.

Victories help build a firewall. Wins redirect interest. That doesn't make it right, but it's a reality.

Negative images or episodes during a four-game losing streak take on more weight. They come to symbolize what's gone wrong, even if they're separate from the personnel or performance issues that truly underscore the problem.

That's one reason Hardy remains in this unflattering spotlight and has drawn Jones and Garrett in with him.

Football Is Different Than Your Job, Hardy Is Different Than You - Cory Maegors, CBS Dallas

One half of 105/3's K&C Masterpiece pens a piece that offers a hard look at some questions we as fans don't often want to think about. Here's his opening gambit:

We seem to love gladiator sports, the numbers prove the NFL is the most beloved. MMA is quickly gaining steam, boxing still draws big time money and in hockey everybody wants one thing to happen when they show up to the rink, fights.

Now for some reason, we expect when guys are hitting each other on the field, they shouldn’t get emotional. They should always be mild mannered and tame.

But that’s not the case is it?

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Dallas Cowboys believe the more Matt Cassel plays, the better he will - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

The Cowboys think Matt Cassel will continue to get better. He certainly made a couple of plays that we hadn't seen from Brandon Weeden. To wit:

Cassel delivered two plays that stood out to Garrett. On third-and-9, he stepped away from trouble and hit Terrance Williams for a 21-yard gain on the sideline. On the next play, he rolled right and hit Devin Street for a 25-yard touchdown with the receiver doing a great job of getting his feet in bounds.

Of course, both of those required ridiculously good catches from those respective receivers; Street's was - and may well remain - the best of his career.

Michael Irvin: How the Cowboys should be handling Dez Bryant's injury situation - DMN Staff

An interview with The Playmaker. Here, he responded to a question that I have been thinking about: is there a newfound appreciation among Cowboys fans for Romo after watching Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden struggle:

"It's a shame and it's sad that we had to go this route for Tony Romo to get the respect and the just that he's due. I bet you now they (the fans) appreciate Romo."

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Jerry Jones: Cowboys feel good about Dez Bryant's recent workouts, no lingering effects - Jon Machota, DMN

Ho hum. It's week two of the Great Dez Watch. Let Jones the Elder, who is not more a doctor than I am an astronaut, offer the medical update we have all been slavering for:

"He had good results," Jones said Tuesday morning on 105.3 The Fan's Shan and RJ show [KRLD-FM]. "He had a good weekend of working out. He worked out real hard Sunday before the game. He didn't have any lingering effects yesterday. So that means we feel good about what he gets done today.

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Only matter of time until Dallas Cowboys' Byron Jones starts at safety - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Archer's weekly "Five Wonders" piece has him thinking about topics ranging from further trades to a long-term deal for Greg Hardy. Here, in his titular speculation, he thinks aloud about Byron Jones's status going forward:

I wonder if it’s just a matter of time before Byron Jones becomes a full-time starter at safety. In last week’s loss to the Giants he saw action in the base defense in both halves, splitting time with J.J. Wilcox. He had a nice deep-ball breakup on a pass from Eli Manning to Rueben Randle after Jason Garrett said he initially lined up incorrectly. Jones’ athleticism allowed him to get back in position to make a play. He has played a lot because of the way the Cowboys use their sub packages anyway, but it could be on an every-down basis soon.

Look for the Cowboys to shake up the defensive status quo - Rick Gosselin, DMN

Old Man Gosselin agrees; in a recent Q&A at the Dallas Morning News, he responded to a question about the Cowboys' safeties thusly:

I would expect to see Byron Jones become a starter soon. He's stood out in recent games in coverage. He can play either corner or safety and his value to this team right now is at safety. This team is in dire need of defensive takeaways and Jones has the athleticism to create them. With a four-game losing streak, I'd be looking to shake up the status quo. What the Cowboys are doing isn't working right now. Safety might be a good place to start.

NFC East: Three up, Three down for Week 8 - Dan Schneier, FOX Sports

Schneier's weekly NFC East stock report, with three stocks on the rise and three that are watching their value decrease. One of the latter wears a star on his helmet:

Rolando McClain, linebacker, Dallas Cowboys

After missing the first four games with a PED suspension, McClain has not been the same dominant inside linebacker that he was during the Cowboys' 2014 regular season run. An offseason knee scope could be playing a role, but McClain has struggled as both a run defender and pass rusher. In two games, McClain has almost as many missed tackles (1) as total quarterback pressures (2). He is being consistently dominated at the point of attack, and the Cowboys' run defense has taken a step back overall since his return to the lineup.

Oh, if only evaluating MLB play were as easy as looking at missed tackles and quarterback pressures...

Lucky Whitehead gives Dallas Cowboys' offense much-needed juice - Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Dallas

On Sunday, JJT writes, the Cowboys unveiled their "secret weapon":

Lucky Whitehead. The diminutive reserve wideout carried the ball four times for 35 yards. As it turns out, that's some kind of record: It was the most carries for a receiver in franchise history and it was the most...since Kevin Williams had three in 1995.

Record-setting performance!

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Five reasons the Dallas Cowboys will beat the Seattle Seahawks - Thomas Duck, Cover 32

The Duckman with his weekly (and eternally hopeful) "Five Reasons the Dallas Cowboys will beat..." post. This week, one of his five concerns the Seahawks' road struggles:

4. A Tale of Two Cities - One of the biggest upsets of the 2014 season was when the Cowboys went up to Seattle in week 6 and defeated the Seahawks on their home turf. That win announced to the league that the Cowboys could beat any team, anywhere, anytime. The reason that the win was so impressive is that the Seahawks have been nearly unbeatable at home over the last few seasons, with a regular season record of 24-3 at CenturyLink Field since 2012.

Their record on the road is a different story however. Seattle is just 15-13 on the road over the last four regular seasons. This season the Cowboys get the ‘Hawks in Arlington. Without their home fans behind them, the Seattle defense is far less intimidating and can be exploited. Dallas will take full advantage on Sunday.

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A fitting ender: a tribute to Darren Woodson.

Often Overshadowed, Woodson Finally Getting "His Day" - Nick Eatman, The Mothership

"Woody’s Week" continues over at the Mothership. Today, Nick Eatman offers a profile of the soon-to-be Ring of Honor member, whose career started when Dave Campo went to Arizona State's Pro Day to work out Sun Devils cornerback Phillippi Sparks:

Campo, who was the team’s defensive backs coach in 1992, admitted he had his eyes on Sparks at first, but Woodson, who was considered a "tweener" between linebacker and safety, needed a little more than four seconds to catch his eye.

"Here comes this linebacker-looking guy who runs a 4.37 in the 40," Campo recalled. "He was like a runaway bullet-train. I was like, ‘Oh wow.’ So I went up to him and asked him to run some defensive backs drills with me. I worked his tail off, but he kept coming back for more. I remember thinking, ‘This guy might be a gem in the rough.’

He was indeed a gem, Camps. And he's soon to be set in a ring with the shiniest jewels in the Cowboys' pantheon.

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Get your picks in for the BTB Pick 256 Challenge!

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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

We have about 110 participants who've already submitted their picks for Week 8, and 68% currently favor the Cowboys over the Seahawks. If you haven't submitted your picks yet, you still have until 8:25 pm EST on Thursday to submit your picks.

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