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Cowboys News & Notes: In Texas, Even The Sky Throws Up An "X" For Cowboys

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Latest Cowboys headlines: Unrealistic expectations for Tony Romo?; Jason Witten approaching history; Robert Turbin likely to play tomorrow; Greg Hardy to get extension?

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Fan flies 'X' over Dallas Cowboys practice - Alex Butler, UPI.com
On Friday, a Cowboys fan flew a plane over Valley Ranch and left trail forming the letter "X" above the Cowboys' practice.

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Dallas Cowboys have missed Tony Romo most in fourth quarter - Todd Archer, ESPN
Archer notes that the Cowboys have found themselves in all but one game late in the fourth quarter. If you think Romo is worth at least one extra TD per game, many of those games could have ended very differently.

While the Cowboys have missed every little thing about Tony Romo, perhaps nowhere have they missed him more than in the fourth quarter.

That’s where Romo has shined the most. He has the second-highest passer rating in NFL history in the fourth quarter (102.4) -- only the PackersAaron Rodgers (103.2) is higher. For his career, Romo has 74 touchdown passes and just 30 interceptions in the fourth quarter with 9,156 passing yards.

NFL teams can collapse after losing QB, just ask 2014 Cardinals | Bob Baum, WBAL Radio 1090 AM
Baum writes that losing an elite quarterback can be devastating for a team, but it's not just the offense that suffers.

Nobody has to tell Dallas Cowboys fans that. Dallas went 0-7 after Romo broke his left collarbone. They lost the first three with Brandon Weeden at quarterback, then they signed Matt Cassel and lost four more.

When the quarterback is hurt, the team's defense feels it.

"If you don't have your starting quarterback naturally a lot of pressure does fall on the defense," Arizona safety Tyrann Mathieu said, "to swing field position, force more turnovers, do everything 'extra.'"

Boomer Esiason: Expectations for Romo are unrealistic, but if Cowboys can win next two games ... | SportsDay
Esiason joined KRLD-FM 105.3 to talk about the Cowboys. Here's an excerpt.

Question: Do we have unrealistic expectations to think that Tony Romo can snap the fingers and get this offense back to scoring 27 points a game?

Boomer Esiason: The Dallas Cowboys pretty much have fought tooth and nail to stay in every single one of these games. And they have been in every single one of the games. What is the one thing that every team needs late in a game? They need a Hall-of-Fame type quarterback to make the key play, to make the throw, to calm everybody down. I think the moment that Tony steps into the huddle on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, everybody around him is gonna raise their level of play. Dez Bryant will have an uptick in his game. There's no question that he will have an immediate impact, just from the mental side of the game. If they get off to a good start and he's rolling and they feel really good about what they're doing, then I think they have a chance to do something special here the next two weeks. If they can just win the next two games and get to four victories, the whole dynamic chances surrounding this football team.

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Vilified, Vindicated, Victorious: La'el Collins Is a Man on a Mission | Dan Pompei, Bleacher Report
Pompei offers an excellent read on how the Cowboys benefited from "something very unfortunate" and landed a phenom in rookie La’el Collins, the most sought-after undrafted FA ever.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not how he acts when everything is great," [Collins] said. "It's what he does when he faces trials and tribulations and adversity."

If you read only one article from today's collection of links, make it this one.

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Jason Witten approaching history again with Cowboys, NFL - Todd Archer, ESPN
On Sunday, Witten will set the Cowboys’ record for most consecutive games played at 197. There's also a chance he reaches another career milestone, as he's eight receptions shy of 1,000 receptions for his career, which would make him just the 11th player in NFL history with 1,000 catches.

Sean Lee changes helmets after second concussion, no plans to change how he plays | Jon Machota, SportsDay
Lee passed the mandatory concussion protocols and practiced all week, which means he'll line up against the Dolphins. But he'll do that with a new helmet that has a slightly smaller face mask.

"I think the hit that I took was just wrong place at the wrong time, falling, wasn't able to really protect myself," Lee said. "Kind of falling over the running back. You still got to go hit and tackle the right way, with the right form.

"There are certain things you're not going to be able to avoid. I think if you try to play a different way, it would lead to more injuries, probably."

Byron Jones looking at third different starting position - Dallas Cowboys Blog- ESPN
Lauded for his versatility, Byron Jones will start at right cornerback with Morris Claiborne out.

Jones has started as a nickel cornerback against the New England Patriots, lined up over Rob Gronkowski. He started the last three games at free safety. When the Cowboys play the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, the first-round pick will start at right cornerback with Morris Claiborne expected to miss the game with hamstring and ankle injuries.

Robert Turbin Making Quick Case For Playing Time vs. Dolphins | David Helman, Dallas Cowboys
Looks like Turbin will be active on Sunday, and could get his first snaps just four days after joining the team.

"He has made a great impression," Linehan said. "This guy is a veteran. He’s played. He can make that transformation because of that veteran-ism to flip what they call protection – he’s been in a couple places now – to what we do."

"I would not put it past him being up this week though. I’ve seen enough so far," he said. "We’ll see. We’ll make that decision Saturday. He’d be a guy we could certainly lean on if we call his number, even in this short period of time."

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Scout's Eye: Third Down Defense, Running The Ball Are Cowboys' Keys | Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
The Broad One with the lowdown on the Miami offense.

The Dolphins are one of the worst offenses in the league when it comes to converting on third down -- no matter the distance.

The Dolphins will also struggle with their protection along the offensive line. They are ranked 28th in the league when it comes to sacks per attack. For Dallas to win this game, they are going to need to be able to play well on first and second downs then attack Ryan Tannehill and this Dolphins offensive line.

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Week 11 Notebook: What really happened with Hardy in Dallas last week - Albert Breer, NFL.com
Hidden way down in an article headlined by Mike Zimmer and Bruce Arians is some insight into what exactly was going on with Hardy last week. It's very likely that none of the people protesting the Cowboys' handling of Hardy last week in bold, outraged headlines will pick this up. An excerpt.

After Hardy's social-media mishap on the preceding Wednesday, he was summoned (again) by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett to talk about his behavior. His feelings coming out of the meeting explain why he didn't show up on Thursday morning. Hardy told others in the organization he was humiliated after messing up again, apprehensive about facing his teammates in the aftermath and needed the extra time to "get his mind right."

After arriving at the facility, he and veteran linemate Jeremy Mincey sat down for a 15-minute man-to-man, and they went deep into the sordid recent past of Hardy.

"In the end, no one knows the truth [about the domestic incident of 2014] except the people who were there," Mincey told me. "We can all speculate and say it was this or it was that. I just know he's working hard on being a better person. We had a heart-to-heart -- I know he feels like the world's against him."

"He has great intentions," Mincey continued. "We're trying to give him a good support system. I believe in him as a man: He's strong-willed and strong-minded. And the things he wants to get accomplished, he can get accomplished. He just needs to start looking at things from a positive perspective, and all these things will start falling away, and eventually he'll be forgiven by people."

KD Drummond summarizes my feelings exactly.

Op-ed: NFLPA responds to columns about Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy - George Atallah, USA Today
Atallah, the NFLPAs PR guy, writes an op-ed piece on why articles condemning the defense of Greg Hardy totally miss the point. His first sentence had me laughing hysterically:

At a minimum, we expect our sports columnists to provide opinions rooted in fact and reality.

How can the guy in charge of PR for the NFL so fundamentally misunderstand the media landscape surrounding every NFL team?

Atallah goes on to defend the union's role in defending Hardy, and while he's factually correct in what he writes, having your PR guy write an article inevitably feels like a defensive move.

Why I think Greg Hardy will be with Cowboys in 2016 | Jon Machota, SportsDay
Machota thinks there's a good chance Hardy is in Dallas next year.

I think he's rubbed enough people the wrong way nationally that his stock won't be too high. (Well, unless he averages two sacks a game for the rest of the season.) The Cowboys have demonstrated that they're willing to put up with the off and on the field distractions Hardy can bring. The other part is that I think Hardy really enjoys playing in Dallas and playing for Rod Marinelli and Jason Garrett. If everything is relatively close in terms of contract numbers, I think he'd give the Cowboys the edge.

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Twitter mailbag: Coaching changes looming? - Todd Archer, ESPN
A reader wonders whether the coaching staff should be held accountable for "this terrible year," and Archer provides some perspective.

It should be held accountable. Does that mean you'll see wholesale changes? I wouldn't think so. Jason Garrett isn't going anywhere. The Cowboys signed Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli to new deals last January for a good chunk of change. They also extended most of the other assistants too.

But if the Cowboys are being honest, they need to look at the play everywhere on the roster and question not only the players but the coaching from quarterback to offensive line to defensive line to secondary. They can't just look at this season if it ends up without a miracle finish and say, "Well, we didn't have Romo but we were close in every game so everything will be fine next year."

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NFL Reverses Tradition, Will Vote To Allow Comp Picks To Be Traded - KD Drummond, CowboysHQ.com
As we wrote in early March, it's going to rain compensatory draft picks for the Cowboys in 2016, and the Cowboys are expected to receive the maximum of four comp picks. And these extra picks can now be used as trade collateral.

No longer will teams be "forced" to select a player with these selections. Teams will now have full control over those picks that are awarded and be able to trade them, just like the draft picks they are assigned based on where they finished the previous season.

Enough with losing teams in NFL playoffs - Nancy Armour, USA Today
A record 20 of 32 teams are below .500 entering Week 11, which raises the very real possibility of at least one division winner making the playoffs with a losing record.

And therein lies the problem.

The playoffs should not be the equivalent of a participation trophy. It’s ridiculous that a team with a losing or even .500 record can make the playoffs over a better team just because they have the good fortune to play in a weaker division.

So long as division winners are guaranteed a playoff spot, however — with one of the top four seeds, no less — there exists the possibility of that happening.

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Cowboys 'Color Rush' Uniform Unveiled | Todd Davis, NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

On Thursday, Nike revealed the 'Color Rush uniform the Cowboys will wear during their Week 12 contest against the Carolina Panthers on Thanksgiving. Some background:

This season, eight NFL teams were scheduled to wear Nike Color Rush uniforms, which are saturated head-to-toe by one of each team’s current or historic primary colors and are worn exclusively during Thursday Night Football games.