- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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The bye week is over and it's time to get back to work. Here's our weekly Beat Writers Report.
• In 2012, the Dallas Cowboys signed Brandon Carr to a $50.1 million contact and moved up in the draft to select Morris Claiborne sixth overall to play cornerback. But the best corner on the team in 2013 isn't either one. It's Orlando Scandrick. Carr has played well this season, but according to Stats LLC., he's been burned 40 times by receivers, second-most in the NFL. Now you can blame Calvin Johnson for a good portion of that, but Scandrick has been beaten 26 times, tied for 36 in the NFL. Scandrick has taken over Claiborne's spot at corner and his versatility at playing in the slot and outside makes him an effective defender against three receiver sets. Sunday's opponent, the New York Giants, employs three receiver sets and Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz are two receivers Scandrick might have to deal with at times. Quarterbacks aren't focusing their attack at Carr but rather rookie B.W. Webb and when he's playing, Claiborne. Scandrick gets his bulk of attention too, but he's been very productive. He's allowed just 315 receiving yards according to Pro Football Focus, lowest among the top three corners on the team.
• The Cowboys ran a franchise-low nine times in their victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 3. The next week the Cowboys rushed 16 times, all with DeMarco Murray, for 89 yards. Looking ahead the Cowboys lack of a commitment to the running game, 199 carries, second-fewest in the league, has to change. The Cowboys have road games in climate-challenged places such as East Rutherford, N.J., this Sunday, Chicago on a Monday night and at Landover, Md., against Washington. Quarterback Tony Romo talked about the windy conditions at Philadelphia on Oct. 20 which led to a 59.6 completion percentage. The Cowboys did run the ball 26 times that day and won. If the Cowboys are going to achieve their goals -- playoffs -- running the football is vital to success. Will offensive coordinator Bill Callahan call more run plays, especially on the road where the weather might not be favorable to pass?
• Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher's return this week from a stinger should help the pass rush take pressure off defensive end DeMarcus Ware. Double-teams and his nagging thigh injury, hurt Ware against the Saints. Hatcher should curtail some of the double-teams on Ware because the interior of the line has to worry about him. Hatcher switches defensive tackle spots and when he lines up next to Ware it puts offensive lines at a disadvantage. If you double Ware, then Hatcher causes problems. If you double Hatcher, Ware becomes a force off the edge. The other end, George Selvie should also see more plays in the backfield with Hatcher's return. Selvie has been a pleasant surprise for the Cowboys this season and he's gaining attention from opposing tackles and tight ends in pass coverage.
• If you want to talk about the future of several players the next six weeks, think about some coaches as well. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is 73 and after a year like this, where the defense has given up franchise records in first downs, total yards and 400-yard passing games and a 300-yard receiving effort, this could be it for him. It wouldn't surprise me if Kiffin retired after the season. He seems to have plenty of energy, but there are questions about him long-term in regards to his defense. Several Cowboys' players liked the scheme employed by previous defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, as complex as it was. Kiffin's scheme is easier to pickup compared to Ryan's but it doesn't have the same affect. Bill Callahan is another man where the next six weeks will determine plenty about his future. He was asked to call plays and there was a thought he would improve the rushing attack and he hasn't done so. The passing game has regressed the last month and despite the increased role for Romo in the game plans, it doesn't seem anything is working right now.
• Like Todd Archer, I wonder too about Lance Dunbar's role. He was this speedy running back that impressed everyone in training camp. He emerged as the No. 2 man and kept Joseph Randle from moving up the depth chart. Dunbar was supposed to a change of pace back, health, he's missed three games to injuries, slowed him down. At this stage of the season, I figured Dunbar would have more than 19 total touches. Callahan has to find a way to get him the ball more the next six weeks.