Durant, Sims competing for a starting job

OXNARD, Calif. -- One thing emerged after the Cowboys' second preseason game: There is a competition for one of the outside linebacker spots between projected starter Justin Durant and veteran backup Ernie Sims.

Both players received snaps with the first-team defense in Sunday's practice until Sims suffered a groin injury.

"We're trying to find exactly what we're going to do with a pair and a spare," Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said. "That's what we're doing. There's always going to be competition. I got four good guys that I feel really good about. Then I got some younger guys that are still competing and working hard on special teams and all that. It's important we find the right balance and the right mix for our depth through the entire season."

If you're wondering what's a pair and a spare, Eberflus is seeking the best combination of players to "pair" with starters Sean Lee and Bruce Carter at the strongside linebacker position. The "spare" would be the backup at that position.

When camp started, Durant got the most snaps with the first-team, and he was the lone starter to play in the Hall of Fame Game. He also started the Raiders game, but Sims received significant snaps, too. Sims has played in the Tampa 2 scheme before, so his comfort level helps him.

The competition at strongside linebacker is a surprise given the team signed Durant this offseason and Sims was expected to battle for a roster spot and contribute on special teams to get it.

"You got to do it as a coach," Eberflus said. "You got to make sure you're getting the right combination of players practicing at the right positions."