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5 Wonders: Changes on D, 1,000 yards, vet QB

12/27/2011

IRVING, Texas -- It’s Week 17 and it’s the NFC East Championship Game Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants, but I’m still wondering about some things.

Here we go:

** Maybe it would be too much of a sign of desperation, but I wonder if the Cowboys need to make a change at left cornerback for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants. I asked Jason Garrett if Terence Newman would be the starter and he said he did not anticipate any changes. Maybe if Orlando Scandrick was playing better the Cowboys would consider making a move there. For as well as Newman was playing earlier in the season, he is simply struggling badly at the wrong time of the year. He is not on the injury report, so we can’t say he has anything other than minor bumps and bruised that every player has. He is not playing as aggressively as he did earlier in the year and receivers are having their way with him. Earlier in the season I wondered if Newman could return in 2012 with the same cap number or altered contract. Now, I don’t think the Cowboys will bring him back. That would make Scandrick the starter in 2012, but I wouldn’t rule out an early-round pick or free agent signing to challenge him.

** If you were wondering the last time the Cowboys did not have a 1,000-yard rusher or a 1,000-yard receiver, turn your mind back to 2004. Jason Witten would need 127 yards receiving against the Giants on Sunday to reach 1,000 for the year. Dez Bryant would need 142 yards. Against the Giants’ secondary anything is possible. In 2004, Julius Jones led the Cowboys with 819 rushing yards. Keyshawn Johnson had 981 receiving yards and Witten had 980. The Cowboys have had one 1,000-yard rusher since Emmitt Smith’s departure following the 2002 season when Jones had 1,084 in 2006. DeMarco Murray would have had a chance at cracking 1,000 yards had he not broken his ankle. He finished with 897 yards and had three games left to play.

** The Cowboys were never going to add a veteran quarterback of any consequence for Sunday’s game even if Tony Romo would be unable to play. They would’ve started Stephen McGee and gone with Chris Greisen as the backup. You would not have been able to find a veteran worthy of a call at this time of the year that would have been able to get up to speed quick enough. But now that I’m thinking about it, would the Cowboys have made a call to Bret Favre? I kid, I kid. But I do wonder if Greisen will get called up from the practice squad even with Romo healthy enough to play. They did it last year when Jon Kitna had a hip problem and McGee started. The emergency quarterback last Saturday was tight end John Phillips. I understand you’d be in a world of hurt if you’d need Greisen to play Sunday against New York, but I’d rather have him take snaps than Phillips.

** I wonder how much change there will be on the Cowboys’ defense in 2012. Anthony Spencer, Bradie James, Keith Brooking, Abram Elam, Alan Ball and Frank Walker are regulars on the defense and are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in 2012. Terence Newman is signed through 2014 but is scheduled to count $8 million against the salary cap next year. Kenyon Coleman has started every game but is only signed through 2012. That’s seven regulars that could be gone next year. That’s a lot of turnover on one side of the ball. The Cowboys are likely to look to Bruce Carter, Victor Butler, Barry Church and Sean Lissemore from inside the building to play larger roles next year, but there will be plenty of work to do to improve. I can’t see Jerry Jones believing the talent level on that side of the ball is fine.

** I wonder how happy Fox is in losing Sunday’s game between the Cowboys and Giants. The Cowboys are the closest thing to must-see TV in the NFL and Fox will not have either matchup with the Giants this year. That can’t make them happy and I wonder if they try to flex their NFC muscles next year in keeping more Cowboys games, especially against NFC East foes. They had only two of the Cowboys’ six NFC East games (Washington, Philadelphia). But I do give credit to Commissioner Roger Goodell for altering the schedule makeup by making sure the final games of the year are intra-divisional. Imagine how uneventful it would’ve been this year if the Giants and Cowboys were playing NFC West opponents in Week 17. This game should be a huge ratings draw, and that will make Fox even more upset.