All your Cowboys-lovin' news for a Thursday morning. Today's headlines: Mo Claiborne leaves and returns, Cowboys looking thin at DT; Romo rests; Rams analysis; Saints previews.
Today's top story began its life Tuesday, grew up big and tall over the course of the day on Wednesday, and then quickly became a frail, aged non-story by sundown. Here's a thumbnail recap:
Morris Claiborne returns to Cowboys practice facility one day after walking out - Dave Halprin, BTB
The disgruntled corner returned to the facility on Tuesday night. What was still unknown at that point was what, if anything, the Cowboys would do about Number 24's behavior. We soon learned, however....
Jason Garrett: Morris Claiborne understands he made a mistake; he'll be disciplined in-house - Jon Machota, DMN
Garrett told reporters during his Wednesday morning presser that Claiborne returned to the facility around 8 p.m. on Tuesday and the two had a meeting:
"He didn’t take that news very well," Garrett said. "We’re going to discipline him, but we’re going to keep how we discipline him in house, and we’ll move forward. It’s behind us."
Although the local Dallas press will continue to ensure the incident has a long half-life, it appears the players agree with Garrett and are moving forward.
Teammates respect Morris Claiborne's apology - Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas
Mo delivered an apology to his teammates before Wednesday morning's practice. Justin Durant gets the titular quote:
"I’m OK with just trying to move past it," said linebacker Justin Durant, a defensive captain. "It’s a tough situation. At the same time, he’s a man. He handled it the way he did. He came back, he realized what was wrong and he apologized. So I’ve got to respect that."
Cowboys players back Morris Claiborne: "we're all brothers," says Brandon Carr - David Moore, DMN
I'll give Barry Church the podium here:
"He heard some news and said he needed some time to clear his thoughts,’’ Church said. "I had no problem with that. And then he came back in today and talked to us as a team, apologized for it and everything after that was like a regular day here.
"That was the gist of it. It was, ‘hey, I had to clear my thoughts. I’m here with your guys. I have your backs 100 percent.’
"And we have his.’’
Pro Football Talk on Mo Claiborne - Barry Horn, DMN
Horn cites former Steeler WR Hines Ward on the Claiborne sitch. Funny how's he has more perspective than the Dallas-area media, eh?
"I can understand his frustration…no one else is losing their jobs or being demoted, but you still have to be a professional, and prove yourself when you have an opportunity. They’re still 2-1. The whole thing is an overreaction…of course (he’s) disappointed, but he’ll get another opportunity."
Cowboys a bunch of quitters? - KD Drummond, Cowboys HQ
In a long think piece, KD takes a look at four Cowboys who have quit on the team in recent years - Cole Beasley, Jay Ratliff, Kyle Orton and Mo Claiborne - and tries to connect the dots. His conclusion:
Whether die-hard fans want to admit it or not, and most do with the caveat they know that things probably will not drastically change for a number of years, the Cowboys have had a dysfunctional structure....Dallas has made strides to correct the hierarchy structure with this regime, but it’s not all lollipops and gumballs just yet. It certainly hasn’t been a smoothly run machine for several years.
Maybe this uncertainty of who is in charge leads to players not being fully committed to the task at hand.
Really interesting take by The Drummond. I'm wanting very much not to believe it.
News from the practice field...
Practice Update: LB McClain, Romo sit out; Durant returns - Nick Eatman, The Mothership
The article's title belies the fact that most of the news was actually about the defensive line. To wit:
The Defensive tackle spot was rather thin Wednesday as Henry Melton (hamstring) was not practicing. He suffered the injury early in the game Sunday and tried to fight through it until taking himself out at the very end. Defensive tackles Terrell McClain and Davon Coleman (calf) were not practicing as well.
Defensive end Anthony Spencer continued to practice as he rehabs from a microfracture knee injury. The Cowboys will monitor his work this week but there is an outside chance he plays Sunday night in a limited role.
For the first time this season, rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence was on the fields, although off to the side doing conditioning work. He remains on IR-to-return and will miss the first eight games.
Terrell McClain has concussion - Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas
The mystery ailment that kept McClain out of practice was here disclosed. McClain did not practice Wednesday because of a concussion, and will have to pass the NFL’s concussion protocol before being cleared to practice or play in a game.
Dallas Cowboys LB Justin Durant "feeling pretty good" after returning to practice - Jon Machota, DMN
On the positive side of the ledger, Durant was a full participant in Wednesday's practice, a good sign that the Dallas Cowboys’ veteran linebacker should be able to play Sunday night against New Orleans. And his groin appears to be holding up just fine:
"I’m putting pressure on it. I’m not going to go out there with any doubts. I’m putting pressure on it right now to see if I’m going to be all right."
With Rolando McClain almost certain to be out on Sunday night, the Cowboys are going to need Durant's experience Sunday night. If last year's New Orleans beat-down is any indication, the first order of business against the Saints is to stop the run. That's looking like an increasingly tall order, with the three interior starters - Henry Melton, Terrell McClain and McClain - all questionable or worse.
Tony Romo gets another Wednesday off - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Archer's lead pretty much sums it up: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will not practice for the second straight Wednesday as he and the team continue to look for ways to keep him fresher for the games. Instead of donning pads and working on the running game, he spent time with strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik in the weight room, strengthening his core and legs.
Tony Romo's rest more than superstition - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Romo certainly felt the benefit from a similar weight room day last week against the Rams:
"I definitely felt better Sunday," Romo said. "I think there are multiple reasons. I think I’m continuing to get stronger. I think everything firing, you know, activating things. I didn’t have quite the strength I wanted to explode off in the first couple of weeks. And last week I was able to during the week, due to some changes we made, and I think it’s going to only continue to get better. Last week I was pretty excited about the way I was moving and feeling. So, I think I’ll continue to feel better each week and playing [sic] your best football as you continue on."
A couple of looks back at the St. Louis game before our complete focus turns to the Saints...
Marinelli report: Week 3 - At St. Louis - Bob Sturm, Live from Lewisville
Sturm's regular Wednesday look at the Cowboys' defense. As usual, he offers a healthy dose of perspective to go with the heapin' helpin' of awesome:
There are two ways to win football games as a defense in the NFL. You can either shut them down or you can make a few key plays. Now, surely, the preferred method is to humiliate your opponent into surrender by tossing them from sideline to sideline for 3 solid hours and laugh as you load the bus and travel to the next village to plunder.
But, that is not necessarily an easy task - to assemble a defense that cannot be defeated. Seattle has done it, but usually, the league must take the other route to defensive victory. That route, where you hope you make just enough plays to get out of Dodge with a narrow victory despite damaging blows being landed on your face for much of the fight, was how the Cowboys defense left St Louis.
Yep, pretty much.
On Bryant TD, Witten's blocking shines - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
If you want to see Witten’s determination as a blocker, Archer proposes, rewind Dez Bryant’s 68-yard touchdown catch against the Rams:
The Cowboys are in 12 personnel with Witten at tight end and James Hanna lined up next to him. At the snap, the Rams brought seven rushers. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is notorious for his blitzing schemes and the Cowboys were ready with eight blockers. Only Terrance Williams and Bryant went out on routes.
Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree was one of the blitzers, trying to go inside of Witten. Witten quickly redirected him outside, which pushed defensive end Ethan Westbrooks out of the way as well.
It might have been the cleanest pocket Tony Romo has had all season...
With half a sack, it's "hard to look in mirror" for Cowboys' defensive linemen - Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas
As Tyrone Crawford, who leads the Cowboys with nine quarterback hurries but is still hunting for his first career sack, relates, he and his defensive linemates aren't living up to Rod Marinelli's "rushmen" moniker.
"It sucks for us because we know we've got to go in there and report to him every day. We know that he wants these sacks just as much as us. So it’s kind of a crappy feeling not to have gotten any yet."
We all feel crappy about this, Tyrone. We all do.
And the New Orleans previews and feature pieces are starting to trickle in...
Cowboys preparing for big Saints turnout - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
As Archer writes, paraphrasing Paul Revere, "the Who Dats are coming. The Who Dats are coming!" The Saints travel well and, if week one is any indication, Cowboys fans area all too happy to sell their tickets to high bidders. Not a recipe for a home field advantage.
Scout's Eye: finding a plan for dealing with Graham - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
In his weekly "Weapon, Nemesis, Under the Radar" get-to-know-the-enemy post, The Broad One offers up two familiar names: Drew Brees (weapon) and Jimmy Graham (nemesis), as well as one not-so-familiar name: LB David Hawthorne. Here's what he has to say after watching tape on the Saints inside linebacker:
He plays with outstanding range, with good lateral quickness and agility. What I really like about his game is how instinctively he plays. When he reads a block he is quickly off it and off to
the ball. He does a nice job of playing on his feet. You do not see blockers knock him back. His contact balance helps him get to plays. Blockers have trouble getting to him because of the way he reads and reacts. Hand use on blockers helps. These Cowboys offensive linemen are going to have to be careful with how they handle Hawthorne because of his ability to get to the ball and make plays.
Tony Romo says Saints DC Rob Ryan "helped us offensively a lot" during time with Dallas Cowboys - Rainer Sabin, DMN
As Sabin notes, in Ryan’s final season with the Cowboys, Dallas lined up in 30 different formations - thus giving opposing offenses a lot to study. Tony Romo would concur:
"I think Rob has a unique perspective on the game that provides trouble to opposing offenses," Romo said. "They will be a lot of different stuff he’ll throw at you that you got to be prepared for."
The Cowboys certainly weren't prepared last year, when they went down to the Big Easy and got spanked. Will they be able to avenge Rob Ryan's revenge? It will be interesting sports theatre, to say the least...
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.
If the link above doesn't work for whatever reason, use the following alternative, which does not autopopulate your BTB user name into the entry form.
Alternative Pick 256 Entry Form
Through the wee hours of the morning, we've logged about 240 entries, of which 63% have picked the Cowboys for the win over the Saints on Sunday. You can review the full Week 3 standings and the season leaderboard of our Pick 256 challenge in this fanpost by BTB-member Hookerhome.
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