Dallas Cowboys: Darrion Weems

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
7/18/14
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IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

The Kyle Orton watch is over now that the Cowboys released the veteran backup. The timing of it is a surprise, and Jason Garrett spoke optimistically all offseason about Orton’s return. Now the Cowboys turn their attention to Weeden as Romo’s backup. Weeden had a productive spring, running the first-team offense as Romo recovered from back surgery. The Cowboys haven’t kept a third quarterback since 2011, and Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughan will have work to do to crack the 53-man roster

RUNNING BACKS (4)


The last two spots could be up in the air. Randle, a fifth-round choice, will be pushed by free-agent pickup Ryan Williams in the preseason. Williams, a former second-round pick, was not able to stay healthy in Arizona. The Cowboys have given him a chance to win a backup job. Clutts did a nice job as a late-season pickup in 2013. He is more versatile than undrafted rookie J.C. Copeland, but I don’t think having a fullback on the 53-man roster is set in stone.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)


I debated whether to go with a sixth, but later on you will see why I stuck with five. It is possible the Cowboys will look for a veteran in the final cuts if they feel limited by their depth because of injury, but I think they like the overall group. They will work their No. 3 receiver role on a rotation basis, but Beasley could emerge as a bigger threat on third down. There will be a lot of eyes on Williams, who takes over the No. 2 role on a full-time basis. Bryant is set for another Pro Bowl-type season.

TIGHT ENDS (3)


Witten remains near the top of the game at his position. His total catches were down last year, but his touchdowns were up. Escobar’s role figures to expand, especially as a No. 3-type receiver. Hanna has the inside track on the third spot, but I have a feeling the Cowboys will be looking for more of a traditional blocker, especially if they want to get away from the fullback spot to open up a role elsewhere.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

The top six are set, with Bernadeau or Leary fighting it out for the left guard position and the loser becoming the top backup on the interior. Parnell is in the final year of his deal, and if Weems develops, I wonder if the Cowboys would look for a trading partner. They have invested a lot in Parnell in time and money for him to be a backup, so it would be a risk, but perhaps one worth taking. Weems had a decent offseason. Clarke gets the nod as the No. 9 guy right now, but veteran Uche Nwaneri could work his way into the mix.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

I think the Cowboys will go heavy here, especially considering what happened last year and the numbers they have thrown at the position this year. Four of them are rookies -- Lawrence, Gardner, Bishop and Coleman. I believe Anthony Spencer and possibly Amobi Okoye will start the year on the physically unable to perform list, so they don’t make this 53-man roster with the idea that they join the team after the sixth game of the season. Wilson garnered the last spot over a 2013 starter, Nick Hayden, but there will be a few players in the mix for the final few spots, including Ben Bass.

LINEBACKER (7)

Carrying seven linebackers might be a little heavy, but I have special teams in mind when it comes to Will Smith. He benefits from having only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. The Cowboys spent the offseason telling us games are won and lost up front, so carrying an extra offensive or defensive linemen could get in this mix as well. McClain gets a spot only because of his experience. Backups of Holloman, Hitchens and Smith would be tough considering their youth, and I can see the Cowboys looking for veteran backup help around the final cut dates.

CORNERBACK (5)


Carr and Claiborne have to play exceptionally well for this defense to have a chance, and they might have to do it without much help from a consistent pass rush. Scandrick is coming off his best season, and Claiborne will have to beat him out to reclaim the starting spot. Moore can play inside and out. Mitchell showed in his limited offseason work that he can make plays. Last year’s fourth-round pick, B.W. Webb, will have to fight for a spot. Based on his offseason work, he did not make the cut for this roster.

SAFETY (5)

Church is the only player without questions. The Cowboys are projecting the other four with their biggest bet on Wilcox. He enters camp as the starter, but he could be pushed by Heath and Hamilton. Dixon will be more of a special-teams threat if he is to make the roster. Hamilton showed some playmaking in the offseason. No Matt Johnson? Not right now, especially after he couldn’t practice -- again -- for most of the offseason.

SPECIALISTS (3)


Perhaps Cody Mandell can push Jones, but Jones is the more consistent punter and has a good rapport as a holder for Bailey. Ladouceur remains one of the best long-snappers in the game. This group won’t change during the summer unless there is an injury.
Constructing a 53-man roster is a difficult process, piecing together 10 positions groups and matching up present needs with future production of older and younger players. This week we take a look at constructing the Cowboys’ roster.

Offensive line

Smith
On the roster: Tyron Smith, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Doug Free, Jermey Parnell, Ronald Leary, Darrion Weems, Uche Nwaneri, John Wetzel, Josh Aladenoye, Brian Clarke, Andre Cureton, Darius Morris

Locks: Smith, Bernadeau, Frederick, Martin, Free, Leary, Parnell

Inside track: Weems, Nwaneri

Need help: Wetzel, Aladenoye, Clarke, Cureton, Morris

How many fit? The Cowboys had 10 offensive linemen on the 53-man roster to start last season and through attrition ended with eight on the final 53-man roster of the season. Eight seems too light, but the Cowboys have carried just seven to the game for the past few seasons. Ten might seem like too many but finding offensive linemen can be tricky and the future has to be factored in with Free and Parnell entering the final year of their contracts.

As the Cowboys head to Oxnard, California, for training camp, I believe nine is the magic number. The top six are without question Smith, Bernadeau, Frederick, Martin, Free and Leary. The Cowboys could have their best line since 2007 when Flozell Adams, Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis made the Pro Bowl. The Cowboys invested three first-round picks in Smith, Frederick and Martin. Free rebounded with a solid 2013 season. Bernadeau and Leary are good enough to win with.

The questions are with the backups.

With Parnell entering the final year of his contract, could he be trade bait late in camp provided Weems shows he can be the swing tackle on game day?

There would be some salary-cap benefit, saving $1.5 million, especially if Parnell isn’t viewed as a starter in 2015 or beyond. The Cowboys could choose to extend Free’s deal, which could make a Parnell move possible. It’s all predicated on Weems, who had some good moments in the offseason.

The interior depth is a little in question. The loser of the left guard battle between Bernadeau and Leary becomes the top backup with Bernadeau serving as the backup center. Nwaneri has a lot of experience. Clarke could be a guy worth grooming for the future after what he showed as well. Wetzell might have some position flexibility as well at tackle and guard.

The series:

Quarterbacks
Specialists
Running backs
Safeties
Wide receivers
Cornerbacks
Tight ends
Linebackers

Minicamp notes: Good day for Bruce Carter

June, 19, 2014
6/19/14
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IRVING, Texas -- Let's start the final day of the Dallas Cowboys' minicamp with some observations from Wednesday's team and 7-on-7 drills.
  • All eyes will be on Bruce Carter this season. If he can cover the way he did in this session, then he will be greatly improved over 2013. He blanketed Jason Witten on a corner route in the end zone, forcing an incompletion when Brandon Weeden's pass wasn't perfect. He also intercepted Weeden at the goal line, reading the quarterback's eyes as he tried to fire a pass low. After the play defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli challenged Carter by saying, "Do it again."
  • Weeden's best throw came on the first play of 7-on-7 drills when he put just enough air and just enough speed on a throw over safety J.J. Wilcox to wide receiver Terrance Williams by the goal posts. Williams was able to make the athletic grab and get both feet down for the touchdown.
  • Tempers flared when center Travis Frederick and defensive end Tyrone Crawford got into a scuffle. Rookie guard Zack Martin lost his helmet in the fracas.
  • Crawford had an active practice, but DeMarcus Lawrence also performed well hours after signing his first contract. He trapped Lance Dunbar on a shotgun run versus the first team. To close the day he drew a holding penalty on Darrion Weems and had a would-be sack of Vaughan.
  • Rookie cornerback Terrance Mitchell has wasted little time making a good impression. He had an interception of Caleb Hanie on a slant, forced a fumble that went out of bounds and broke up a Dustin Vaughan pass to LaRon Byrd.
  • The defense had some poor situational football on a fourth-and-long play. Tight end Gavin Escobar was able to come up with a first-down on a seam route with the linebackers and safety getting separated in their coverages.
  • Rookie safety Ahmad Dixon ended practice with an interception on a Vaughan overthrow of tight end James Hanna. Dixon sprinted up the field but heard the coaches and teammates yelling for him to get down because the turnover ended the game. No need to risk a return and have something bad happening.

OTA observations: Pump up the volume

June, 10, 2014
6/10/14
5:49
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys pumped up the volume at Tuesday's organized team activity, playing music throughout the workout, ranging from Run DMC to heavy metal.

Coach Jason Garrett said he has used music in past OTAs in 2-minute situations, but this was the first practice in which the music played almost through the entire practice.

"It puts you in the game," passing game coordinator Scott Linehan said. "You've got to communicate in the game. It's not always perfect. When you're out here in the spacious practice facility with nobody yelling or screaming at you it's like golf. You don't have to worry or think about distractions. You've got to learn how to play when you've got 100,000 people screaming down your neck and doing it without letting it bother you, so I think it's really good work."

On to some more observations:
  • Linehan said Brandon Weeden has had his best week of practice. With Tony Romo sitting and Kyle Orton absent, Caleb Hanie had his best day in the sessions open to the media. He completed all but two of his throws in team drills and one was a throwaway while he was under pressure. He connected with Devin Street near the sideline, putting the ball on a dime to where Street could keep his feet inbounds.
  • Weeden's best throw was a play-action dig to wide receiver Terrance Williams, putting the ball just a little low to keep it away from cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who was trailing on the play.
  • The timing Romo and Jason Witten have is almost always impeccable. You can see the small difference when Romo isn't in there. Weeden was unable to get enough loft on a corner route to Witten with linebacker Bruce Carter in coverage. The throw was more on the line and Witten couldn't get both hands on it. With a little more air, Witten would have made the catch.
  • The struggles continued for cornerback B.W. Webb. On two of three passes he was beaten by Tim Benford and Cole Beasley. On the second play Beasley was able to change direction so quickly that Webb lost his leverage and gave up a big gain.
  • Backup left tackle Darrion Weems did a nice job of kicking out defensive end Martez Wilson on a Lance Dunbar run to beat a blitz from the defense.
  • Backup tight end Gavin Escobar had a good day after missing the open session last week with what he described as a tweaked back. He plucked a Hanie pass away with Jakar Hamilton closing fast, making sure the safety did not have a chance to break up the play. Later working in motion he was able to get inside leverage with a hard sell to the outside for a decent completion from Dustin Vaughan.
  • DeVonte Holloman and Anthony Hitchens did not take part in team drills. Holloman has been slowed by a hamstring strain. Undrafted rookie Dontavis Sapp was able to get more work at backup middle linebacker.
  • Receiver Dwayne Harris was kept out of team drills as a receiver as he continues to come back from offseason shoulder surgery. He was able to handle the punt return duties. Harris said he will not do any team drills on offense until training camp.
  • The Cowboys signed defensive end Dartwan Bush, who attended the rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, and will place cornerback Jocquel Skinner on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 2

May, 24, 2014
5/24/14
12:00
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Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys’ Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:


Away we go:

 

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

March, 28, 2014
3/28/14
12:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys Twitter mailbag is ready. In it we discuss how the offense will look with Tony Romo coming off back surgery, who the real general manager of this team is and whether some offensive line help could be coming in the future.

Part 2 will come out on Saturday. Remember if you have questions for me via Twitter (@toddarcher) use the #cowboysmail hashtag.

Away we go:

 

Officially, Tony Romo is inactive tonight

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
7:35
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Since he remains on the active roster, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is officially listed as inactive for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Romo had back surgery on Friday but the team did not make the formal move of placing him on injured reserve. If the Cowboys win tonight, then they will place Romo on IR and add a player to the active roster for the playoffs. If they had made the move already and gone with just 52 players on the active roster, they would have lost some practice squad players.

Joining Romo on the inactive list are: B.W. Webb, Jakar Hamilton, Sean Lee, Ernie Sims and Darrion Weems.

This is the first game Webb has been inactive all season, but he lost his playing time to Sterling Moore and the return of Morris Claiborne means the Cowboys do not need to carry five cornerbacks.

Pondering the 46: Down to the corners

December, 28, 2013
12/28/13
12:00
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have yet to place Tony Romo on injured reserve. They really don't have the need to make the formal move just yet, so as we Ponder the 46, Romo will be one of the inactives.

Sean Lee is out with a neck strain. Ernie Sims is doubtful but he has not practiced the last two weeks because of a groin injury. Darrion Weems and Jakar Hamilton will also be inactive. Martez Wilson has been inactive the last two games, so he is likely to be down for his third straight game.

That leaves one spot and with Morris Claiborne coming back from a hamstring injury, rookie cornerback B.W. Webb is in the crosshairs.

Webb has been active for every game, but he lost his playing time to Sterling Moore the last few games. Maybe the Cowboys cover themselves by bringing a fifth cornerback to the game in case Claiborne aggravates his hamstring again, but they have had only four active for the season.

Perhaps they could go lighter on the defensive line, but with LeSean McCoy running and DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Jarius Wynn and George Selvie all nicked to some degree, that doesn't seem to be the wise choice.

So the inactives will be: Romo, Lee, Sims, Weems, Hamilton, Wilson and Webb.

Cowboys on 6th different LB trio

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
12:08
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LANDOVER, Md. -- With Sean Lee (neck) and Ernie Sims (groin) inactive for Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins, the Dallas Cowboys will be starting their sixth different grouping of the season at linebacker.

Rookie DeVonte Holloman will start at middle linebacker for Lee with Bruce Carter at weakside linebacker and Kyle Wilber at strongside linebacker. Carter is returning from a one-game absence due to a hamstring injury.

The other pairings used this year (from strong to weak): Justin Durant, Lee, Carter; Sims, Lee, Carter; Wilber, Sims, Carter; Wilber, Lee, Carter; Wilber, Durant, Sims.

Wide receiver Dwayne Harris, safety Jakar Hamilton, cornerback Morris Claiborne, defensive end Martez Wilson and tackle Darrion Weems are also inactive.

Pondering the 46: Room for Spurlock?

December, 21, 2013
12/21/13
12:00
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IRVING, Texas -- Sometimes when Pondering the 46, you have to figure out how to get a player to the game and not how to come up with seven inactive players.

That’s the case with receiver/returner Michael Spurlock this week against the Washington Redskins.

The Cowboys would not have signed him this week if they were pleased with their return game in Dwayne Harris' absence. Even if Terrance Williams didn’t have a strained hamstring, Spurlock would be here.

But how does he make it to the 46?

We know Dwayne Harris, Sean Lee and Morris Claiborne are out with injuries, even though Claiborne is officially listed as doubtful. Ernie Sims is likely to be out, too, but he is doubtful with a groin injury. We know Darrion Weems and Jakar Hamilton will be inactive.

Williams is listed as questionable. If he can’t play, then Spurlock gets that spot. If he can play, then the Cowboys will have to figure out where they go light.

It can’t be at linebacker. They have only five healthy linebackers. It can’t be on the offensive line. They have to take seven to the game. It can’t be quarterback, tight end, secondary or the specialists either.

We’re down to running back and defensive line. Phillip Tanner has special teams value, and if they need to run out the clock late I would think they would go with him if something happened to DeMarco Murray.

So now we’re down to the defensive line. Two weeks ago Everette Brown did not dress. Last week it was Martez Wilson. Jarius Wynn is questionable with a chest injury. They need to get after Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, so pass rush will be at a premium. I think they will carry all of their ends. That leaves newcomer Frank Kearse. Signed on Wednesday off the Tennessee Titans practice squad, he brings some size to the line, but that might not be enough to get him on the 46.

The inactives: Lee, Harris, Claiborne, Hamilton, Weems, Sims, Kearse.

Cowboys receiver Dwayne Harris is active

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
7:43
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CHICAGO -- Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris is active, which could be a big boost to the special teams, but linebacker Justin Durant is inactive.

Harris
Harris missed the Thanksgiving Day game against the Oakland Raiders because of a hamstring strain and was only a limited participant in Saturday's practice. Durant will miss his third straight game. He was probable entering the game. He has been working his way back from a hamstring injury.

With Durant out, Kyle Wilber will start for the third straight game at strong-side linebacker.

Cornerback Morris Claiborne, safety Jakar Hamilton, linebacker DeVonte Holloman, defensive end Everette Brown, tackle Darrion Weems and linebacker Orie Lemon are inactive.

Harris is averaging 14 yards per punt return and 31.3 yards per kickoff return. Terrance Williams fumbled the opening kickoff against the Raiders and saw it returned for a touchdown. Cole Beasley served as the punt returner.

Ponder the 46: Can Clutts get on the field?

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
12:00
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IRVING, Texas -- Now that fullback Tyler Clutts is here to save the Dallas Cowboys running game, can he get on the game-day roster?

Let's take a look as we Ponder the 46 for Monday's game against the Chicago Bears.

First, let's go with the knowns: Darrion Weems and Jakar Hamilton will be inactive. A hamstring injury will keep Morris Claiborne out. The returns of Sean Lee and Justin Durant will give the Cowboys extra linebackers, so Orie Lemon and DeVonte Holloman are the top picks to be inactive.

Dwayne Harris is officially questionable and was limited in Saturday's practice. If he plays, the Cowboys might have no choice but to make Clutts inactive. The Cowboys have been conservative with hamstring injuries all year, so maybe they give Harris another week to feel better.

That brings us down to the defensive line. The Cowboys have nine of them. Can they dress them all? Sure, but then you have to find another spot to go lighter. Perhaps they go lighter at defensive back, which would put Sterling Moore in the conversation, but with Claiborne out, they need another cornerback.

The Cowboys are heavy with ends. Martez Wilson is the newcomer but he played against the Raiders with little practice. The Cowboys like his pass rush. Jarius Wynn and Everette Brown have been quiet the last few games, but know the system better.

So with that, here's the guess at the inactives: Weems, Hamilton, Claiborne, Harris, Lemon, Holloman and Wynn.

Why a fullback doesn't make sense for Cowboys

December, 4, 2013
12/04/13
10:55
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys seemed to make a lot of fans happy on Tuesday when they signed a fullback. It wasn’t Lawrence Vickers, which still had some upset, but at least Tyler Clutts actually has played fullback in an NFL game.

To me, however, the signing does not make a lot of sense.

The Cowboys’ pro personnel department deserves a lot of credit for finding guys. George Selvie, Nick Hayden and Jarius Wynn have all helped this year. You can go back to last year for guys like Ernie Sims, Sterling Moore and Eric Frampton. And who can forget the Laurent Robinson signing?

This is not a knock on Clutts, who was described by a personnel chief as a “workmanlike lead blocker.” He might be another solid find. I just don’t see how he fits in what the Cowboys do well in their running game.

The weather will be cold in Chicago on Monday. It could be cold when the Cowboys play the Washington Redskins. And Jason Garrett keeps saying you want to be a physical team in December. I get all of that, but what the Cowboys do best when they run the ball is spread the field with three wide receivers.

Maybe it’s the curse of Tony Fiammetta, another pro department find who helped DeMarco Murray bust out in 2011. The fullback is a revered spot around here, going back to Walt Garrison and leading us to Daryl Johnston.

But it is also a dying position with offenses designed to pass the ball more or run out of “11 personnel,” like the Cowboys.

The Cowboys offensive line is not the ‘90s version of the Cowboys’ line. They do not overpower people. The scheme is not really a power scheme. They look to create creases, not gaping holes. Nate Newton and Larry Allen are not walking through that door to do that.

Murray is averaging 5.5 yards per carry for his career when he runs out of three-wide receiver looks. This year the Cowboys have gained 531 yards on 114 carries and scored five touchdowns out of 11 personnel. Against the Raiders they had 92 yards on 11 carries in 11 personnel. Lance Dunbar’s 45-yard run came out of 11 personnel. Even without that run the Cowboys averaged 4.7 yards a pop when they ran out of three-wides.

So this brings me to Clutts. Will he play five snaps a game? Is it worth it? Was using a tight end or linebacker Kyle Bosworth at fullback that bad? Not really.

The Cowboys could have gone a number of different ways in replacing Dunbar, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a knee injury. They worked out Clutts and a handful of other runners that have barely made their mark in the NFL. Would any of those guys helped? If you’re going to look for a runner, find a tested runner -- even one that has not played this year -- who might have six weeks left in him.

The better move would have been to poach from a practice squad. They did it late last year with tackle Darrion Weems. Maybe he develops into a backup. Maybe he never develops. But they at least had the chance to develop a player. They could look at any position really. In my Five Wonders post, I wondered why they don’t add a No. 3 quarterback for the stretch run. He’d be inactive for the final four games anyway, so at least get a guy in here to learn how they do things as they head into the offseason.

Maybe Clutts will help the running game, but statistics suggest otherwise.

Newcomers active for Cowboys

November, 28, 2013
11/28/13
3:32
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Signed on Monday and Tuesday, cornerback Sterling Moore and defensive end Martez Wilson are active for the Dallas Cowboys today against the Oakland Raiders.

Moore was signed with Morris Claiborne out with a hamstring injury. Wilson, who played three games earlier in the season for the Raiders, took the roster spot of Everett Dawkins.

Tight end Gavin Escobar, who was added to the injury report on Wednesday with a hamstring injury, is active. He was listed as questionable.

Sean Lee, Justin Durant, Claiborne and Dwayne Harris, who have hamstring injuries, and DeVonte Holloman (neck) were ruled out Wednesday. Darrion Weems and Jakar Hamilton joined them on the inactive list.

Ernie Sims will start for Lee and Kyle Wilber will replace Durant.

The Cowboys are hopeful Lee will be able to return Dec. 9 against the Chicago Bears.

Former Cowboys receiver Andre Holmes will start for the Raiders.

Pondering the 46: Easy pickings this week

November, 28, 2013
11/28/13
8:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The short week and the unwillingness to put starting players at risk of re-injuring hamstring strains makes predicting the Dallas Cowboys’ inactives today against the Oakland Raiders a little easier.

As we Ponder the 46, the Cowboys have already ruled out Sean Lee, Justin Durant, Morris Claiborne, Dwayne Harris and DeVonte Holloman.

The Cowboys want to make sure they are all ready for a stretch run of four straight games against NFC opponents, including what will be two critical NFC East games in the final two weeks of the season.

So that leaves tackle Darrion Weems as the sixth inactive and safety Jakar Hamilton as the likely seventh.

Cornerback Sterling Moore signed with the Cowboys on Monday and will be active with Claiborne out. If B.W. Webb struggles, then Moore could get more playing time than expected. He had one day of work before playing last year when he signed with the Cowboys. This time he will have three days, so that would help.

Defensive end Martez Wilson should be active after joining the team on Tuesday. The Cowboys need pass-rush help and hope Wilson can bring some energy to the front line against his former team.

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