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Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Five Wonders: Easing Spencer back in

By Todd Archer

IRVING, Texas -- If it’s Tuesday it’s time to wonder about some Dallas Cowboys-related topics.

In this week’s installment of Five Wonders, we wonder about the cornerback play after Sunday’s game, Phil Costa’s gameday future, and Anthony Spencer's involvement on defense.

And away we go:

Anthony Spencer
Dallas might opt to use Anthony Spencer in a rotation as he recovers from offseason surgery.
1. I wonder when Anthony Spencer will be, you know, Anthony Spencer. He was encouraged by some of the running he did late last week, but the defensive end has not done much since July 25 knee surgery. Can the Cowboys realistically expect him to come in and play 60 snaps a game with limited practice time? To me, that’s asking too much. I wonder if they will work him in slowly in passing downs and allow George Selvie to take the run downs, setting up a three-man rotation at defensive end along with DeMarcus Ware. That would be the smart thing to do, especially if Selvie plays as well as he did against the Giants. I was skeptical of Selvie after his two-sack performance against Miami in the Hall of Fame Game, but I might have been wrr ….. wrr … wrong about him.

2. Worry is a word Jason Garrett abhors, but I wonder if at least some people worry about the cornerback play Sunday. The Giants had three receivers go for more than 100 yards, and Eli Manning had 450 yards passing. It was just too easy for Manning to throw slant after slant after slant to Hakeem Nicks or Rueben Randle or Victor Cruz regardless if Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne or Orlando Scandrick were in coverage. The Cowboys kept linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter hugged to the A gap at the snap, and the cornerbacks gave free releases mostly at the line to allow easy completions. With some good, accurate passers coming (Peyton Manning and Denver in a month), the Cowboys will have to tighten that down or live with not just a bending defense, but an entirely too flexible defense that gives up too many big plays.

3. With Brian Waters getting more acclimated to the Cowboy Way, I wonder what happens to Phil Costa. Somewhat surprisingly, the Cowboys dressed eight offensive linemen on the 46-man roster Sunday, with David Arkin joining Costa and Jermey Parnell as the backups. The Cowboys normally like to keep seven linemen active to increase their flexibility in other spots. If they revert to that old form, then Costa would appear to be the odd man out (as well as Arkin) because Mackenzy Bernadeau can play center. The Cowboys would be covered in case of injury at any of the three interior spots, making Costa a little superfluous. But before you start wondering about a trade involving Costa to, say, Pittsburgh, who lost Maurkice Pouncey for the year, I would offer some hesitation that a strength today might be a weakness in the future. Costa is a low-cost insurance policy in case something was to happen to Bernadeau, Travis Frederick or any interior linemen.

4. The Cowboys ran 74 plays against the Giants. They ran that many in a game just four times last season and went 1-3, losing to Baltimore (79), the Giants (83) and Washington (75), and beating Cleveland (78). Much has been made about Chip Kelly’s offense in Philadelphia and how many plays he wants to run per week. I wonder if the Cowboys have a similar philosophy, but just haven’t told anybody. The more plays you run, the more the other team is off the field. The Cowboys had the added benefit of four takeaways by the defense that allowed them to run more snaps and hold the ball for 37:10. The Cowboys had only two games last season in which they held the ball for a longer amount of time (Baltimore, Cleveland).

5. I wonder if the Cowboys will get that conditional seventh-round pick from Chicago in next year’s draft. In order for it to happen, tight end Dante Rosario will have to be on the Bears’ 46-man gameday roster for eight games this season. Rosario was inactive in the Bears’ win against Cincinnati, but the Bears released Kyle Adams on Monday, which would seem to clear a spot for Rosario. A wonder inside the wonder when talking trade: I wonder if the Cowboys will have to fork over their seventh rounder in 2015 to Indianapolis for Caesar Rayford. For that to happen, Rayford will have to be on the Cowboys’ 53-man roster for five weeks. Rayford was inactive against the Giants and will need time, but pass-rushers are hard to find. If I’m a betting man (and I’m not, unless it’s for entertainment purposes only), then I think there is a better chance the Colts pick up that extra selection rather than the Cowboys getting that pick from the Bears.