Scout's Notebook: Shuffling The Linebackers; Scandrick's Job


IRVING, Texas -- Some final thoughts from the Scout's Notebook:

Linebacker Shuffle

When the news came down Friday morning that Sean Lee missed practice due to the MRI results of a sprained neck ligament, the wheels were in motion of how the Cowboys on defense would adjust to his loss for the game against the Packers.

In knowing what I know about these linebackers and how these coaches like to play them, look for Justin Durant to start at the Mike, Kyle Wilber at the Sam or strong side and Ernie Sims at the Will or weak side.

The Cowboys will also be without the services of Bruce Carter, who normally lines up at the Will, but he too will miss the game with a hamstring injury. DeVonte Holloman should be active this week after missing the last several games with a neck issue of his own.

The backups for the game will be Holloman, Kyle Bosworth and Cameron Lawrence. Orie Lemon is currently on the roster as well but could be a roster spot casualty when defensive end Edgar Jones is activated off the injured reserve list.

In watching the game Monday, it was clear that when Lee went out of the game, that Bears decided it was the right time to hammer the ball at Sims and the middle of this Cowboys defense, and they did it with great success. I expect the Packers to do the exact same thing with Eddie Lacy in order to try and protect Matt Flynn at quarterback.

Going Deep

You have heard me say this a lot about watching the Packers -- they play with an aggressive set of cornerbacks.

Tramon Williams is the best one, in my opinion, over Sam Shields. Both run well, but Williams is the better cover man, and I would expect Dom Capers to try and match him up with Dez Bryant. What I have learned over the years in the NFL is if you play against aggressive corners, take some shots on them down the field.

The Packers like to play man coverage with their corners and when you do that, double moves and pick routes are great beaters of coverage. This Cowboys offense has played this season with the attitude of taking what the defense gives them, and these corners and the way they play, makes you want to go down the field because there is a chance here for some big plays.

I believe you will see these Cowboys receivers in some longer routes if the protection is able to hold up.

Running On The Edge

Since the Minnesota contest, this Cowboys offense has been an efficient unit when it comes to running the football. The questions of DeMarco Murray and his inability to find the hole because of his vision issues is now an afterthought.

This offensive line and group of tight ends have done a much better job at the point of attack, and Murray has rewarded them for their effort. Against this Packers front, I believe you can run the ball as well, but it is going to have to come more in the form of it going off the tackle than up inside.

It's a 3-4 front that has tremendous size at all three spots along the front. BJ Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly are strong, massive, powerful defenders that can hold the point of attack, but having them have to move laterally is an issue for them. It's very difficult to get push on them, so shielding them or staying between them and the ball carrier is the right way to block them.

In this type of front, you are going to see some traps, angle blocks and quick hitting plays. There are all points along this offensive line where the ball could hit with Murray, but the most productive will continue to be on that left side with Tyron Smith and Ronald Leary, where the club has run to the ball in that direction 131 times for an average of 5.1 per carry.

Important Role For Scandrick

It was a business decision for both Orlando Scandrick and the Dallas Cowboys on a two year extension that gives him guaranteed money and frees up $4.5 million for the next three years. [embedded_ad]

Scandrick, to his credit, has been playing well and it does add years to a player that is still a young man and should continue to grow as a player. Putting all this behind him, Scandrick will be called on to play a very important role in how this game against the Packers will shake out.

The Packers even with Matt Flynn at quarterback will still play a great deal of "11" personnel, which means the Cowboys nickel package will be on the field during that time. Scandrick will have the job of dealing with Jordy Nelson, who is the best Packers receiver, where he does some of his best work.

Nelson is one of those guys who doesn't look like he is moving fast initially, then you see him covering a great deal of ground. He is the best route runner on the Packers and will catch the ball no matter where it is thrown. Nelson is very similar to what we saw with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in his ability to snatch the ball on the move and out of the air.

He has outstanding sideline awareness and is a big time threat in the red zone. Scandrick has the quickness to hang with Nelson, but where he can't give up on him is how he uses his body to physically push off for separation. No matter who is the quarterback for the Packers, Jordy Nelson is the direction in which they look to make a play.

Orlando Scandrick needs to make sure he is there so that doesn't happen.

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