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Cowboys news: Scott Linehan, Rod Marinelli defend their schemes and play-calling

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With the Washington game tonight, let’s dig into the headlines.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

It’s game day! Or night. Here is your daily sample of Dallas Cowboys news.

Scott Linehan, Rod Marinelli believe in systems as numbers worsen - Todd Archer, Dallas Cowboys Blog- ESPN
It's a fine line between sticking with what you know because it works, and refusing to adjust because you are stubborn and don't see the issues. This article is full of hints that the latter is the case in Dallas, especially with Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli.

The Cowboys have not been able to find answers on either side of the ball.

“I get to something I believe wholeheartedly so much, and I’ve been around it when it’s had unbelievable success, and I’ve been around it when it didn’t, and once you vacillate you are done, to me,” Marinelli said. “Especially when you have strong convictions. You vacillate, I would lose all respect.”

Dak Prescott And The Dallas Cowboys: A ‘No-Finger-Pointing Fantasyland’? - Mike Fisher, Cowboys HQ
Why are Cowboys fans so down on the coaching staff? Well, looking around the league gives some reasons.

Can a bad franchise that cannot score become a good team breaking scoring records, simply by changing head coaches? The Rams’ Sean McVay says “hello.’’

Can a mediocre team that loses its star running back and star quarterback still emerge as a power? The Vikings’ Mike Zimmer says “hello.’’

Can a second-year QB team with a second-year head coach to storm through the NFC East in the exact same way Dallas did last year? The EaglesCarson Wentz and Doug Peterson say “hello.’’

In the NFL, coaching staffs are graded on a curve. There are only so many “A’s’’ to hand out. And they go to coaches who oversee powerhouses, or coaches who oversee significant turnarounds. There is every reason for fans, media and yes, owners, to wish to see the top of the curve.

Jerry Jones is saying Jason Garrett is on the hot seat ... just not in those exact words | Tim Cowlishaw, SportsDay
Cowlishaw has always been a "glass is way less than half full" guy about the Cowboys under Jerry Jones. But his words do make some sense here.

But the point is that Jerry is now calling for good coaching. He is telling us not only that is what we will see against the Redskins, but it’s what he needs to see over these final five games to feel secure about Garrett returning for his eighth full season in 2017.

While anyone who has spent time around Jones knows that he believes in Garrett and is loath to making changes despite a history of having done so, that faith is being tested. No team should collapse so quickly while missing an elite running back and a Pro Bowl linebacker. Garrett’s team has failed to compete, losing the second half battle 72-6 the last three games while reducing its wild-card hopes to roughly 5 percent, according to the computers.

Finally Healthy Again, Awuzie Getting Another Shot To Prove Himself at CB | Nick Eatman, Dallas Cowboys
After a rocky start to his career, and some shifts back and forth between corner and safety, it looks like Chidobe Awuzie is finally getting his chance to make an impact.

One of the moves appears to be with Awuzie, who has played both corner and safety this year, but has now moved back to cornerback and could start this week against the Redskins.

More than anything, Awuzie said he’s just excited to be back on the field consistently. A hamstring injury that began early in camp, sidelined him until the start of the regular season. Awuzie then went down in Week 2 vs. the Broncos, forcing him out for two games. He came back for the Packers game but couldn’t finish the game before re-injuring the hamstring. This time, he missed four more games before returning to action against the Eagles. He’s played two straight games without a setback, and in that span, also made what appeared to be a permanent move to safety.

Scout’s Eye: Cowboys’ Secondary, Redskins’ Front Will Be The Units to Decide This Game | Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
Broaddus gives his expected keys to the game, and he has Awuzie with a big role to play.

If the Cowboys are going to win this game as much as I want to say it has to be on the offensive side of the ball, it’s their defense that’s going to have to come up big.

Look for Cousins to attack this Cowboys defense, not by running the ball, but through the air. Cousins is going to come out and test these adjustments in the secondary. He is going to find out quickly if Chidobe Awuzie can play on the outside or if Xavier Woods is good enough to hold up on the inside against Crowder.

This is Fine: Cowboys’ secondary feeling optimistic despite struggles | Aaron Carney, Cowboys Wire
Despite their struggles of late, the defensive backs for the Cowboys are staying positive, as Byron Jones revealed in an interview with Drew Davidson of the Ft Worth Star Telegram.

It’s no secret the Cowboys’ secondary has stunk over the last few weeks, headlined by a 434-yard, three-touchdown Thanksgiving performance by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. Yet Jones said that he thinks the unit is far better than what they’ve shown, and he thinks they will show that this week against the Redskins.

“For us, we’ve shown sparks, we’ve shown glimpses of good defense,” Jones told Davidson. “Then there’s some times where we fall apart. That’s not characteristic for us. We work too hard for that, so we’re just trying to keep it together going forward.”

It’s Tricky To Find Real Solutions To Cowboys’ Complicated Problems | Brad Sham, Dallas Cowboys
Sham adds his two cents' worth to the debate about whether the Cowboys need to clean house on the coaching staff.

Sometimes your playing talent is so exceptional, average coaching can’t stop it. Sometimes coaches who can’t see problems coming before they exist wind up getting caught behind the curve. Sometimes you have key players you’re counting on take a step back and they’re not the players you thought you had. The whole plan is now flawed. The best coaches see those problems coming and are able to stay one step ahead of them.

And sometimes coaches and coaching staffs have bad years, like players do. They’re just harder to measure. We know what the best coaches do. Bum Phillips once said about Bear Bryant (and it’s been said by others and about others), “He could take his’n and beat your’n. Or your’n and beat his’n.” There aren’t a lot of those, not in the 21st century NFL.

Ratings might not even save Dallas Cowboys from prime-time switch - Todd Archer, ESPN
In his "5 wonders" piece, Archer provides some info on a player many have been asking about.

We’ll change up an "I wonder" for something a lot of fans have wondered about. For those wondering when or if Rico Gathers will play this season after suffering a concussion in training camp, just know that he has not practiced with the team at all. He is working through rehab on the side and is in meetings now, but to expect him to be able to come off a three-month layoff, without much or any practice, to play in a game that he has a limited background in, seems a bit much. If there are injuries down the stretch at tight end, perhaps Gathers could get into the mix, but it appears as if the Cowboys are stashing him away for the future.

Cowboys' Dak Prescott-to-Dez Bryant connection needs to flourish soon - Todd Archer, ESPN
A lot of people are pointing to Dez Bryant for failing to help the Cowboys enough. But a closer look indicates that the problem is more than him.

There were signs at the end of last season that the Prescott-to-Bryant connection would thrive. Bryant had six of his eight touchdown catches in the final half of the season. He had just one full game without at least 70 yards receiving. He played only three series in the 2016 finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, he caught nine passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns.

But this season, Bryant has 53 catches for 578 yards. His 10.8-yards-per-catch average is the worst of his career. He averaged 12.5 yards per catch as a rookie but entered the season averaging 14.3 yards per catch in his career. Not only is Bryant’s per-catch average down, but so are the averages of Terrance Williams (11.7), Cole Beasley (7.6) and Jason Witten (8.6)

#WASvsDAL Injury Report: Jordan Reed Out - Stephen Czerda, Redskins.com
Washington is having a hard time coming up with 46 healthy players for tonight's game.

Jordan Reed (hamstring), along with center Chase Roullier (hand), defensive lineman Terrell McClain (toe) and safety Montae Nicholson (concussion) will be out for Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Tackles Trent Williams (knee), Morgan Moses (knee and ankles) and Ty Nsekhe (core muscle), guard Brandon Scherff (knee), defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis (hand/ankle) and linebackers Martrell Spaight(ankle) and Zach Brown(shoulder/Achilles) are questionable for the contest.

The Cowboys: ‘Blue-Chippers’ Or ‘Orphans’? An ‘Identity’ Lesson In NFL Parity « Mike Fisher, CBS Dallas / Fort Worth
Fisher considers the identity of the Cowboys, and concludes they really are kind of like most other teams.

The Cowboys don’t, as a result of their drafts, have more “superstars’’ than anyone else, nor do they have more “orphans’’ than anyone else.

The 5-6 record — and the mathematically chance to be 8-8 or even 10-6 bears all this out, obviously. There is no “Dallas-superstar’’-driven reason why the Cowboys themselves, or Cowboys Nation, should think this team is automatically better than the Chargers or the Redskins or anybody else. And there is no “Dallas-orphan’’-driven reason why the Cowboys and their fans should think this team is automatically worse than the Chargers or the Redskins or anybody else.

Outlining Blueprint for Successful Offseason | Marcus Mosher, Bleacher Report
The at times curmudgeonly Mosher has some interesting ideas to share here, including this.

As strange as it might sound, one of the most important things the Cowboys have to do this offseason is keep running back Ezekiel Elliott out of trouble.

After being suspended for six games this year, the Cowboys are painfully learning just how much he means to their offense and their team. Without him on the field, the rest of the roster crumbles; they are now 0-4 in the games he hasn't played in and 18-5 when he's been on the field.

With the national spotlight on him, everyone will be watching Elliott's every move this offseason. That should make Cowboys fans nervous this offseason.