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Beat Writers Report: Old school defense

Once a week we’ll have our weekly Beat Writers Report, something we did last year in which we review the previous game and have some nuggets from the locker room with a look ahead.

Enjoy.

  • Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick described what the Cowboys defense will look like in 2013: Like old school football. Scandrick said the Cowboys will play the base 4-3 defense and a nickel package consisting of an extra cornerback with one linebacker, Justin Durant, taken off the field. In a dime package, another linebacker is off the field for a corner. But with the Cowboys keeping only four corners, new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is asking his linebackers, mainly Sean Lee and Bruce Carter to cover tight ends down the field. So B.W. Webb, a rookie, will get significant snaps in the slot along with Scandrick. However, when the Giants visit AT&T Stadium Sunday night, Scandrick will pair up with slot receiver Victor Cruz.

  • Much was made of rookie running back Joseph Randle's new jersey number. Randle switched from No. 35 to No. 21. Of course, Randle wore No. 1 at Oklahoma State, the number receiver Dez Bryant held for three seasons before departing for the NFL. Randle was asked if he wanted to change numbers once the 53-man roster was determined and said yes. He couldn’t wear No. 1, something he did since he started playing pee wee football so he picked No. 21, formerly held by Deion Sanders. Randle’s jersey selections come with some pretty good company, Calvin Hill also wore No. 35. “I respect everyone who had the number before me,” Randle said. “He’s a great Cowboy and it’s an honor for me to wear it.”

  • It’s funny how an organization changes its mind regarding certain players. Sean Lissemore was deemed a valuable player in the 3-4 defense last season as a defensive end. But when Rob Ryan and his 3-4 scheme was asked to walk away, Kiffin’s 4-3 was inserted. Well, Lissemore picked up about 10 pounds to play defensive tackle then was told he picked up too much weight because the defensive linemen need quickness off the ball. With the San Diego Chargers asking about his availability, the Cowboys made the move and traded him away.

  • The cornerback position hasn’t been the most durable in recent seasons, but Brandon Carr played 98.2 percent of the plays in 2012, third-most in the NFL behind Jason McCourty (99.6) and Tramon Williams (98.6). While we’re at it, Jerry Jones and the rest of the coaching staff is raving about the potential of Ronald Leary at left guard. Nate Livings played in the sixth-most plays in 2012, 99.3 percent of the snaps last season at his position. Only two guards Chris Chester and Rob Sims played every snap last season. Livings is gone, on injured reserve because of knee surgery, so the Cowboys are hoping Leary, who is coming off minor knee surgery himself, will play nearly the entire season. Also, tight end Jason Witten led NFL tight ends in playing time percentage at 98 percent with the second-highest average salary at $7.4 million.

  • The Cowboys didn’t display a lot of their offensive packages during the preseason, namely the two-tight set, called 12 personnel. The first groupings of this set will have James Hanna and Witten. Second-round pick, Gavin Escobar will gets some snaps with Witten, too. The key for Escobar, if paired with Witten, will be his pass-catching ability. I expect the Cowboys to keep Witten in to block or chip defenders while Escobar goes out for a route because he’s still learning how to be a better blocker. But with Witten and Hanna as the grouping, the veteran Witten gets to run routes while Hanna blocks.