IRVING, Texas -- If you were wondering why Five Wonders wasn’t at its normally scheduled time and day, then you can thank “Monday Night Football.”
But after a little bit of a delay, here are the award-winning Wonders.
Away we go:
** I wonder if people realize just how big of an impact the loss of linebacker Justin Durant will have on the defense. For all of the talk about Rolando McClain’s high level of play, Durant was playing at a level just as high. The Cowboys had been fortunate to a degree with their injury situation at linebacker, and, no, I have not forgotten Sean Lee. For the exception of the St. Louis Rams game, the Cowboys have had two of the Durant, McClain, Bruce Carter trio available. As much as they profess to like what Anthony Hitchens has done, he is still a rookie. As much as they will build up Kyle Wilber, he is still a guy with little experience. Durant entered Monday’s game as the Cowboys' leading tackler and he was all over the place against the Washington Redskins. He will be missed. He was a natural fit for the weakside spot. Now Carter takes that role over on a full-time basis. He will have to match Durant’s level of play to keep the defense going forward. If something were to happen to Carter or McClain that would keep them out for multiple weeks or the season, then this defense would be in a world of hurt.
** I wonder if Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals will mark the end of DeMarco Murray’s 100-yard streak. The Cardinals have had the NFL’s best run defense over the last two seasons. They allowed 84.4 yards per game on the ground in 2013 and are allowing just 77.9 yards per game on the ground, which is third best in the NFL this season. In 16 of Todd Bowles’ games as defensive coordinator, the opponents have failed to run for at least 100 yards as a team. Arizona has an active, athletic front. It has speed and power. The Cowboys seem to have the right mix for any defensive front with their line. They can match power. They can match speed. At some point Murray’s streak would have to come to an end. Maybe it’s this week. Or maybe the challenge of seeing such a strong run defense will serve as the motivation for the line and Murray to keep the streak alive. Plus, add in the unknown condition of Tony Romo’s back and even more of an emphasis is likely to be on Murray.
** Jason Garrett lives in the one-day-at-a-time world as the Cowboys' coach, but I wonder if he at least peeks at the schedule to find the best way to keep his team fresh. The Cowboys will have a short week to get ready for the Cardinals and then on Nov. 3 will travel to London for a week of practice before taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars. That will be followed by the bye. And here’s the wonder: I wonder if Garrett will give his team the entire week off. It would break from his custom, but the Cowboys will have three games in an 11-day span after the bye. The NFL did them no favors by having to play a Sunday night game at the New York Giants on Nov. 23 and then the Philadelphia Eagles four days later on Thanksgiving. They won’t get back from New York until early Monday morning and have a quick turnaround. I believe the Cowboys should play a road game before Thanksgiving, but not a night game. After Thanksgiving, they play the following Thursday at the Chicago Bears. It’s a daunting schedule mostly because of the pace of games. Garrett will have to navigate it smartly.
** I wonder if the Cowboys will keep an eye on how the Houston Texans use No. overall pick Jadeveon Clowney in his return from knee injury in comparisons to DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys’ second-round draft pick will be eligible to play against the Cardinals after opening the year on short-term injured reserve because of a fractured foot. The Cowboys are clearly hoping Lawrence can have a huge impact on their pass rush over the final half of the season. It’s a tall order for any rookie to be handed such responsibility, but working him in slowly makes the most sense. Clowney played 32 snaps in the Texans’ win against the Tennessee Titans. He had one tackle. He said the knee felt fine, but he did not feel as strong as he needed for his counter moves. Lawrence has added 10 pounds to his frame and said he still has the same speed he displayed in training camp. There is no real way of knowing just how it will all translate to game action, but he believes he will be ready. The Cowboys, however, will continue with their defensive line rotation to make sure everybody is fresh. The bet is that Lawrence will get 17 to 25 snaps early on in his return.
** I wonder how the grass at Wembley Stadium will hold up when the Cowboys play the Jaguars there in two weeks. The field was sloppy in Sunday’s game between the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions. The condition of the turf has long been an issue with the London games. Teams have felt like the footing has been bad for years. With a quick turnaround between games, it wouldn’t seem like the field will be re-sodded in total or at least between the hashmarks. The Cowboys are preparing for the worst and will have the five-studded shoes ready for the skill-position players so they can get better grip to get in and out of their cuts. Leading up to the game the Cowboys will practice on artificial turf at Saracens Rugby Club’s Allianz Park.