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Reduced Role For James Signals Changes

Bradie James was on the field twice last week against the Bills.

The first time, he helped tell the officials his team wanted the ball after the coin toss. The next time was an actual defensive play.

After that, it was a slow day. James, an eight-year veteran and one of the defensive captains, played just one snap in the 44-7 win over Buffalo.  He has not been on the injured report since earlier in the season.

Clearly, things are changing for the Cowboys, who used Sean Lee, dislocated wrist and all, for most of the game in the middle. Keith Brooking got considerably more snaps than James, but not a whole lot.

And even Alex Albright, the undrafted rookie from Boston College who played defensive end in college and then switched to outside linebacker in this scheme, got 12 snaps, some of which in the middle.

James has said several times this year that he understands his position with the team and even seems to realize his future with the Cowboys is short-lived, seeing that this is the final year of his contract. Still, I'm sure he never thought it would come to playing just one snap against Buffalo.

Now the score of the game probably contributed to James' playing time. With a big lead, the Cowboys went to more of a nickel defense and that is typically when he exits the field. The Cowboys used more safeties – Barry Church and Danny McCray – as dime-backers than the conventional linebackers on passing downs.

James is the only player in Cowboys history to lead the team in tackles six straight years. No other player has ever done it in three consecutive before James' run, which started in 2005 through last year, including a 202-tackle season in 2008, the second-highest in club history.

But that run will undoubtedly end this year as James currently ranks eighth on the squad with 30 tackles, 48 behind team-leader Sean Lee.

Earlier in the season, James volunteered to play special teams because of his reduced role, but in recent weeks he hasn't been on any special teams units.

Captain or not, James has been around long enough to know that playing just one snap is hard to justify even being activated for a game, especially with a rookie like Orie Lemon on the practice squad and probably a much better option to cover kicks and groom for the future.

We'll see if that was a one-week thing or a continued trend.

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