NFC East: Cameron Lawrence

Cowboys LBs a mixed, matched unit

December, 18, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- At the beginning of the season the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line was hit by injuries and they have been forced to add new players all season. On Sunday Frank Kearse could be the 19th different defensive lineman to play in a game for the Cowboys.

Now the Cowboys' linebacker corps is as thin as a piece of paper as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins.

“You always have guys who are at certain points with their health over the course of the week and you've got to make your judgments,” coach Jason Garrett said. “The big thing we try to do is make sure we have all of the contingency plans in place. If this guy is not available, who is playing? What happens if he gets hurt, who goes in and all that stuff. We have a lot of discussions about that as coaches at all positions with all injuries. You deal with them the best you can and you go forward.”

Sean Lee is expected to miss his second straight game with a neck injury. Ernie Sims did not practice because of a groin injury and his availability for the Redskins' game is in doubt. Justin Durant's season ended on Tuesday because of a hamstring injury.

Bruce Carter said he will return after not playing last week against the Green Bay Packers. DeVonte Holloman could start his first game at middle linebacker. Kyle Wilber, who was a defensive end last month, will start at strongside linebacker. They have Cameron Lawrence and Orie Lemon as backups. Defensive end Edgar Jones has some linebacker experience from his 3-4 days.

“Right, we understood we don't have really any depth right now at linebacker so if we can get guys back healthy like me, try to get Ernie there, he's been banged up,” Carter said. “We just need to get anybody really.”

Before the loss to the Packers Holloman had never played middle linebacker in a game.

“Just knowing what to look for before it happens,” Holloman said. “Guys that have been in the fire before, they can see things coming a lot faster than guys just thrown out there or their first time out there. So just seeing a couple of things before they come at you.”

When the Cowboys lost Durant and Sims last week, they had to rely on hand signals from the coaches to the players since only two communication devices are allowed in players' helmets. Carter will be the signal-caller Sunday with Holloman serving as the backup.

It does not help that the Redskin feature the NFL's third-ranked rush offense, led by Alfred Morris.

“We know we've got a little extra tutorship going on and things like that,” defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. “We've just got to do the best we can. We're going to show up and we're going to play hard and whoever is out there is going to do a heck of a job. When we walked into that meeting this morning, ‘Man, we're upbeat. Let's go. Let's go, man.' We've got a couple of games to go and hopefully another one after that. But you only play one at a time. You've got to play 60 plays, 65 plays, whatever it is, so don't worry about the second game. Don't worry about Philadelphia. Let's play 60, 65 plays at the very best of our ability and then play hard. That's what we've got to do.”

Upon Further Review: Cowboys Week 15

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- A review of four hot issues from the Dallas Cowboys' 37-36 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

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Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDeMarco Murray and the Cowboys are focusing on winning out and attempting to make the playoffs.
Recuperative powers: If the Cowboys win their final two games, they will make the playoffs. If there is a message Jason Garrett is looking to sell as the team looks to rebound, that's it. The Cowboys' final two games are against the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, teams they outscored 48-19 in meetings earlier this season. It's not the message a lot of fans want to hear, but it is what matters most as the Cowboys look to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

"I feel good that we have a chance to beat the Redskins, and if we do that, we'll get a chance to play Philadelphia with an opportunity to get in the playoffs," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "I know when I see us lose a game after having a lead like we had at halftime, anything can happen one way or the other."

Pathetic work: On a day in which the offense gained 466 yards and 27 first downs, you would think everything worked well. It didn't. The third-down offense continued its season-long struggles as the Cowboys converting on just 2 of 9 chances. It was the third time this season the Cowboys converted on less than 30 percent of their third-down tries in a game. They are 56-of-159 on the season. Tony Romo said he has to be better on third downs, the receivers have to win in man-to-man situations and the blocking has to be better.

"We haven't done that well," Romo said of the third-down woes. "We have to do a better job."

No chance on D: At one point, the Cowboys fielded a defense that had three players who were not with the team when training camp started (George Selvie, Everette Brown, Corvey Irvin), two undrafted free agents (Jeff Heath, Cameron Lawrence), a sixth-round pick (DeVonte Holloman) and a cornerback (Sterling Moore) who was out of football until Nov. 25. Matt Flynn became the fifth quarterback to throw four touchdown passes against Monte Kiffin's defense, joining Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Josh McCown. Flynn and McCown are backup quarterbacks, and the Cowboys will see another backup next week at Washington with Kirk Cousins quarterbacking the Redskins.

Still producing: Jason Witten caught 110 passes last year, an NFL record for tight ends in a season, but he had only three touchdowns. He has 59 catches this year and eight touchdowns. Witten needs one TD in the final two games to equal his career high. His eight from Romo this season are the most the duo has combined for in a season together. With 59 catches for 703 yards, Witten is averaging 11.9 yards per reception, which equals his career best so far. He might not have the starry numbers of the past, but at 31, Witten is not slowing down yet, either.

Bruce Carter, Ernie Sims fined by NFL

November, 15, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- The bye week is a good thing for the Dallas Cowboys, considering their injuries, but it will be costly for linebackers Bruce Carter and Ernie Sims.

Carter was fined $15,570 for a horse-collar tackle of New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles, and Sims was fined $7,875 for grabbing the face mask of Saints running back Mark Ingram. Both penalties came on New Orleans’ third-quarter drive that ended on Ingram’s 4-yard touchdown run. The Saints did not throw a pass on the eight-play drive.

Cornerback Orlando Scandrick was not fined for a second-quarter face mask penalty.

Carter and Sims are the fourth and fifth Cowboys to be fined this season. Dez Bryant was fined $7,875 for a throat-slash gesture versus the St. Louis Rams. Safety Barry Church was fined $5,250 for throwing a football into the stands after his touchdown versus the New York Giants. Linebacker Cameron Lawrence was fined $21,000 for a blindside block against the Washington Redskins.

Cowboys LB Justin Durant active

October, 13, 2013
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Dallas Cowboys strongside linebacker Justin Durant is active for Sunday night's game against the Washington Redskins after missing last week’s game with a groin injury.

Durant
Durant did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday, and was limited on Friday, which could mean Ernie Sims takes the bulk of the snaps. Bruce Carter will return to his first-team base and nickel defense role after splitting reps in the sub package last week.

The Cowboys have seven linebackers active with Cameron Lawrence getting called up from the practice squad on Friday.

Running back Lance Dunbar, cornerback Chris Greenwood, defensive end Edgar Jones, guard David Arkin, center Phil Costa, tackle Darrion Weems and tight end Andre Smith are inactive.

With Costa out, linebacker Kyle Bosworth will serve as the short-yardage and goal-line fullback if the Cowboys go that route.
IRVING, Texas -- Week 4 of Five Wonders will focus on the makeup of the Cowboys’ 53-man roster, and I’m holding off on Alex Tanney for a post later, so he will not be in the following paragraphs.

The first set of cuts comes Aug. 27 when they have to pare down from 87 to 75 players. The final cut to 53 comes Aug. 31.

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  • As Jason Garrett has said two or 200 times, injury provides opportunity. The season-ending back surgery for Alex Albright, who will go under the knife on Wednesday, opens up a roster spot for a linebacker. I wonder if the Cowboys can still go with seven linebackers for the opening week. Undrafted rookie Brandon Magee finally showed up and made some plays last week at Arizona. He can also play some weakside linebacker. Caleb McSurdy played some at strongside linebacker and has inside linebacker experience. Taylor Reed also has position flexibility. But here’s one name that hasn’t been talked about much: Cameron Lawrence. He got some work on the early special-teams units against the Cardinals. When you’re down to the final spots at linebacker, special teams can be the great separator.
  • Garrett won’t offer up opinions on players unless he is asked specifically about a guy, so I took notice when he brought up “92,” Landon Cohen, when asked about some surprises on the defensive line. I wonder if Cohen, a training-camp pickup like George Selvie, can play his way onto the roster. The first thing Rod Marinelli wants for his defensive linemen is to get off the ball. Cohen can do that, and in fact he did it too fast with a couple of offside penalties in the first two preseason games. He has the look of the traditional one-technique in this scheme: short and squat, but he also has some quickness. Garrett went on to say Cohen has “some snap” to his game.” It's another name to keep an eye on. 
  • I wonder if the foot injury suffered by Lance Dunbar took the sixth wide receiver off the table. Dunbar is looking at a 3-4 week rehab, which puts him in doubt for the Sept. 8 season opener against the New York Giants. It was not a good injury for Anthony Armstrong, who I’ve had as the No. 6 guy on my roster projections. He has done nothing to get cut. He has showed up on offense. He has done a nice job on special teams. He has speed to burn. I just wonder if he is caught in a numbers game because now the Cowboys almost assuredly have to keep four running backs for at least the opening week. Could Armstrong jump Cole Beasley, who has been slowed by a foot injury of his own? I don’t see it right now, but Armstrong will be a tough call.
  • I wondered last week about the possibility of an undrafted rookie not making the roster this summer, and I threw a dark horse in there with Jeff Heath. He has taken some first-team special-teams snaps and was a second-teamer on defense last week because of injuries. He did not look out of place, but I wonder if he can beat out Matt Johnson. And, yes, I wonder if Johnson can not only get healthy but stay healthy as he battles a foot injury suffered in the Hall of Fame Game. He’s not going to play this week, so all of his eggs will be in the Houston game, provided he can get on the field. I wonder if the Cowboys would give up on a fourth-round pick from last year despite the apparent chronic injuries. After putting in all the time with Johnson last year, I’d be a little surprised if they would cut him loose now.
  • What to make of Demetress Bell? The Cowboys signed him even though he was in extremely poor condition at the start of camp. They were patient with him, and he finally got on the field last week in Oxnard, Calif., and played against Arizona. When he signed, I viewed it as a move to just help the backup quarterbacks get through some preseason games. But when the Cowboys stuck with him, I wondered if they looked at him as future development guy. It’s hard to find big guys who can move and have some experience. He was bad last year at Philadelphia, but he wasn’t bad in Buffalo.

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