Some thoughts after the Cowboys' fourth game of the season, a 34-18 loss to the Bears:
As we head into the bye week, we're hearing nothing negative about the play of cornerback Mike Jenkins. It's funny how several people thought Jenkins was a terrible corner in 2011. He was a Pro Bowler who just so happened to be the team's best cornerback last season. Jenkins didn't get enough credit for playing through numerous injuries last year; it appears he could barely tackle the last half of the season with a shoulder injury that took nearly eight hours to repair during surgery. Jenkins is playing free safety, cornerback and special teams with no complaints. (He played 15 snaps at free safety against Chicago on Monday.) All he does is play, and while that might not be enough to get a new contract from the Cowboys, it will merit him a new deal somewhere else.
The best run on Monday night game came from an unlikely source: Felix Jones. He made a nice little cut and then burst through the line for a 13-yard gain. This is not to say DeMarco Murray should get benched or get fewer carries, but if Jones is your change-of-pace back, then give him some carries at least. Maybe Jones is in better condition now, and that run against the Bears is a sign of things to come.
Dez Bryant is a talented receiver but still not polished, and this is where quarterback Tony Romo and coach Jason Garrett enter the picture. Garrett has to put Bryant in better situations to succeed. If you don't trust that Bryant can make sight adjustments on the field, then stop going his way. Romo has confidence in Bryant but after a miscue on Monday night in which he threw a pick to Charles Tilliman, it begs a question: Would Romo do it again? Better yet, should Romo stop looking at Bryant if an adjustment needs to be made? Bryant is smart enough to know an adjustment is needed if the defense makes a coverage change. But he's just not consistent enough.
Inside linebacker Dan Connor had 14 defensive snaps in the loss to the Bears and didn't record a tackle. Why do we care? With Bruce Carter out nursing a hip pointer (he did record three tackles), it gave Connor a chance to make a few plays. He was near the ball, but it's clear why Carter is the starter and Connor gets more snaps on special teams. Carter is strong against the run, quick and fast to the ball and is good against the pass, through he will have a few lapses. Carter's becoming an all-around player, and that's giving him more full-time consideration over Connor.
The 52 defensive snaps by outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware were his second-lowest totals of the season. In Week 1, he played 50 snaps, missing just five plays. Ware hasn't played every snap this season because he gets tired and needs a break with his hamstrings issues. The Cowboys have to be delicate with Ware given his health. They need Ware on the field, but there are times he sits out a few plays with good reason. But down the stretch the Cowboys are going to need their best defender fresh, and this upcoming stretch of games, four of five on the road, could determine if December will mean anything for the Cowboys.
Notes: The bad thing about the two losses for the Cowboys is that they came within the NFC. So in tie-breaking procedures if conference record comes into play, the Cowboys are already 0-2. ... Miss Phil Costa yet? ... We know you can't think about the draft right now, but in 2013 the Cowboys might go back to where they started and look toward upgrading the offensive line again. Todd McShay's Top 32 has guard Chance Warmack from Alabama as the fourth best player overall and Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina at No. 15.