Sean Lee, Aaron Rodgers and Monte Kiffin among the Dallas Cowboys stories to watch
By Matthew Postins
The Dallas Cowboys (7-6) host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Wednesday marks the traditional start to the NFL work week. So here are the five stories you should follow leading up to the game:
Monte Kiffin. Monte seems to have everyone’s support in the wake of Monday night’s dismal performance against Chicago, a game in which the defense gave up at least 490 total yards for the fifth time this season. Jerry Jones said he couldn’t see anyone else leading this defense right now. Jason Garrett said Kiffin is “absolutely” the right guy for the job. The players are behind him too. But the results in the wake of Monday’s loss point to Kiffin not being in Dallas after the 2013 season. No, I don’t think anyone expected Kiffin to turn the Cowboys into a top 10 defense right away. But it’s clear that Jones underestimated the talent he had on hand in order to make a quick transition from the 3-4 to the 4-3. The defense is beat up, but the execution is clearly lacking, with the exception of a few players. The drama will certainly seep into this weekend’s game with the Packers, as the Cowboys must play a better game defensively, especially if Aaron Rodgers is able to return at quarterback. Speaking of …
Aaron Rodgers’ status. The Packers quarterback is working out this weekend, but hasn’t been medically cleared to play yet. This could impact how the Cowboys’ defense is able to prepare. Will they get Rodgers or backup Matt Flynn? And how much time should they devote to preparing for each player? Yes, the system isn’t much different, but the players are. And the way the Cowboys’ defense played on Monday night they can’t afford to have their attention split between preparing for two quarterbacks.
Romo’s numbers. Chances are Tony Romo is going to start taking some heat this week. The fact is his numbers don’t measure up to last year’s. He hasn’t had a 300-yard passing game in a month. In fact he’s had only two 300-yard passing games in the last eight games. In four of his last eight games he’s failed to reach a 60 percent completion rate. If you watched Monday night’s game you saw a Romo that was definitely out of sync with his receivers on several plays. Some of that could have been attributed to the cold weather. But some of it is Romo, who has been in a funk ever since the Denver game. It’s as if putting up the best single-game statistics of his career and losing took the wind out of his sails. Aside from the comeback wins over Minnesota and the New York Giants, you could argue this is the most average 8-game stretch of Romo’s career.
Sean Lee. It sounds like Lee will be able to play on Sunday, but it’s worth following his progress this week after the neck injury he suffered against the Bears. His MRI was negative. It seems Lee, the defense’s best all-around player, can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to his health. But I think the Cowboys knew that when they handed Lee that contract extension earlier this year.
The hamstring. It’s the peskiest muscle the Cowboys have dealt with the past two years. There’s been a rash of hamstring injuries this season, prompting Garrett to address the situation for the second time in three weeks. Dwayne Harris re-aggravated his hamstring injury on Monday, while linebacker Bruce Carter now has one. That brings the number of Cowboys to suffer a hamstring injury this season to 10. What’s the cause? Garrett says there is no specific reason and he sort of talked around it earlier this week. Every NFL team deals with hamstring injuries, but it feels like a rash with the Cowboys. It’s worth
watching both Harris’ and Carter’s progress this week, and it’s quite possible we could see another Cowboy fall victim to the malaise this weekend.