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5 Wonders: FB return, blocks, Hatcher, captains

IRVING, Texas -- There might be a 24-hour rule in the NFL but not here. Here are five things that have me wondering as the Cowboys look forward to Week 2 at San Francisco:

** Third-and-1 plays have been a bit of an issue for the Cowboys and Tashard Choice getting stopped in the fourth quarter might mean it wasn’t always on Marion Barber the last few years. In 2007, the Cowboys converted on 10-of-12 third-and-1 tries on the ground. From 2008-10 they went 11 of 15, 13 of 18 and 15 of 21.

Could Tony Fiammetta return this week? The Cowboys did not go with a true fullback on the roster for the opener vs. the New York Jets. I’m not saying that’s why they only ran for 64 yards. That’s more on the “Bear” defense the Jets used that covered up the guards and centers. But the Cowboys used tight end John Phillips and nose tackle Josh Brent at fullback in that game. Fiammetta got caught in a numbers’ game on the opening week. I wonder if the numbers favor a return this week.

** Every time Mat McBriar has had a punt blocked in his career it’s been returned for a touchdown and come at huge moments. In 2008, Arizona won in overtime. Last year at Indianapolis Taj Smith picked up a block for a go-ahead touchdown. Then Sunday vs. the New York Jets it happened again with Isaiah Trufant running it in from 18 yards out in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys have had at least one punt blocked in a season 18 times. The last time they had multiple punts blocked came in 2001 when they had three.

** Jets’ running backs and tight ends combined for 13 catches for 174 yards against the Cowboys. LaDainian Tomlinson had six receptions for 73 yards, marking the second straight year he led the Jets in catches vs. a Rob Ryan defense. He had six for 53 last year vs. Cleveland. Defenses loathe to give up the big play and Ryan apparently will gladly give up the underneath stuff. Last year with the Browns, receivers and tight ends caught 142 passes for 1,467 yards. Just something to think about as the season goes along and running backs and tight ends have big days vs. Dallas.

** Will Jason Hatcher start at right defensive end for the season? Marcus Spears missed most of the preseason with a groin strain, so maybe it was a way to work Spears back into the lineup slowly. But Hatcher, who was credited with three tackles, held up well in only the second start of his career. I didn’t believe Hatcher would be back after he was allowed to test the market, but he remained even after the team re-signed Spears and added Kenyon Coleman in free agency. If he plays like he did Sunday, then he might be hard to remove.

** The Cowboys elected Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Bradie James, DeMarcus Ware and Mat McBriar as captains for the season. Only McBriar is new. He replaces Sam Hurd. With Romo winning the toss on Sunday, I wonder if he continues to make the call for road games until he is no longer successful.